The Ones They Want. by Voracity2
Summary: The Council wants Xander dead or out of the way, so they try to take him out by kidnaping. Other people wanted Tony Stark out of the way and kidnap him. They're given to the same people and then they have to learn to work together. Because with them, there's always a complication that'll lead to hell down the road.
Categories: Buffy Stories & Crossovers > Avengers, Buffy Stories & Crossovers > SG1/SGA/SGU Characters: None
Series: None
Chapters: 5 Completed: Yes Word count: 88402 Read: 188778 Published: 07/01/2013 Updated: 07/01/2013

1. Part 1 by Voracity2

2. Part 2 by Voracity2

3. Part 3 by Voracity2

4. Part 4 by Voracity2

5. Part 5 by Voracity2

Part 1 by Voracity2
Notes: yes, he's starting out tougher than he should be. That'll be explained during the time flip you'll see in a few minutes. Yes, he realizes this will get him into trouble, there's a reason why he doesn't care.



The Ones They Want.






The man staring at the agents sneered. "I will set this bomb off. It's set to go off if I die. I will have the one I wanted and I'll let you have the switch. Deal?" he asked dryly.

"No, not really," the lead agent said. "We don't usually hand over hostages that way." He glanced back at his team. They were not looking happy.

"You will or I'll let this charming nuclear device go off. I'll have what's mine in hell instead." He knew very well there was no way they could get a sniper into his bunker. The agents weren't going to kill him since he had said it would go off if he died, they couldn't take that chance. The tactical thing would be to get him what he wanted and then take him down with that one as bait. Which would work for him. He just wanted him out of the way of future plans.

"What hostage are you requesting?" the lead agent asked snidely. "Maybe we'll get him to call you to say goodbye."

"You don't negotiate very well." He sneered back. "He's a hunter, a pure little brat that is in the way of many plans. This way he's not."

"We have no idea who that is without a name," the agent sneered back.

"If you look, there's at least two different prices on his head. It's not like I'm going to make it easy on you." He smirked and put his feet up. "I can wait a week."

One of the agents went out to report. The FBI had ways of tracking people that had prices on their heads. The guy hadn't given them many clues but they could start a search and narrow it down.

No one noticed a few agents in the background looking pleased at how things had went. They had to be new to be so happy looking at a hostage situation.

***

Five days later, a late teen boy looked up from patrol with his friends as dark SUV's pulled up around the cemetery they were in. "Huh," Xander said quietly. "What did we do?"

"No idea," Buffy said. "Just stay calm, guys. Those are agents. I talked to a few after I burned down the gym in LA," she said quietly.

"Mr. Harris."

"I haven't done anything to get your kind's notice," he said blandly.

"We need you to come with us."

"Why?" He shoved the guy trying to grab him. "Since I'm not under arrest, you'd better give me a damn good reason, guys."

"We need your help with a hostage situation," one of the agents said. "We think you're acquainted with the subject."

"Is he a local?" Xander asked. "Because I've never been outside of Sunnydale."

"I have no idea, all we know is he asked for you," one of the agents said.

Xander sneered at him. "I should probably point out that I'm seventeen." They all winced. "Great." He walked off with them. "I need to pick up two things. Buffy, I'll see you in a few days."

"Are you sure?" she called. Because Buffy wasn't.

"Yup, I sure as shit am." He looked at her. "Let me go pick up my phone at the library and something in my locker." He walked past an SUV. "I'm not going in that. I don't want to hear the rumors." They shoved him in one anyway and took him to the school. He walked in, past the principal, who was glaring at him. "Someone wanted me to take hostage," he said dryly. He walked into the library. "Three days or there's stuff in my locker for Willow to handle," he told Giles as he grabbed his phone off the table. It was a little prepaid thing but it had what he needed in it. "Let me get something." He called someone.

"Gus, Xander Harris. I'm breaking your lock because there's agents here who claim I can help a damn hostage situation, dude. Yep, if I don't return, ask Willow to get into my locker. She can pay you. Yeah, like literally out of a bad movie. Thanks." He hung up and got into the guy's locker by kicking the lock and finding the little baggie in there. He took something from it and popped it into his mouth. "Fuck this shit," he muttered as he walked. "Whisk my underage ass away, guys." They glared but took him anyway. It was a fairly long trip to the other side of LA. Xander got shoved into the bunker. He stared at the guy there. "You wanted what?" he demanded.

He smirked. "You to destroy as my own personal toy."

Xander nodded. "No." The man laughed. Xander called someone. "Hey, Paul, it's Xander. I know I owe you a few kittens, dude. Want the guy that wants to take me hostage? Because apparently me being seventeen works for the FBI to hand me to him for some strange damn reason. I have no idea." He listened to him consider it. "Sure, I get that it's possible they'd hurt you for it. I'll find you someone else. Or hey, go eat Angel. Make Buffy angst less. Thanks, Paul. See you soon to pay you." He hung up and shrugged, grabbing an agent's gun and shooting the guy. "I have no idea why they decided you raping me was legal enough to solve this."

"That's a nuclear weapon!" one shouted.

"No it's not." Xander walked over. "It's not even a bomb. No explosive materials in it." He looked at him. "You'd think if I could find that for a class project, you guys would've called someone to look at film of it." He kicked the guy over and took his picture with his phone. "Wonder who you were," he muttered, tossing the gun back as he walked off. A few agents tried to stop him. Xander glared. "I'm still seventeen." They hadn't apparently known by their wincing. "I'm not bait. I'm not expendable. I'm not a toy."

"He cited three different prices on your head," one said.

Xander nodded. "I know that. Just because I help their chosen warrior who's supposed to be heroically lonely and die tragically young and hasn't." He stared at him. "Handing me to him was a critical mistake. Because a, underage. B, not going to play that way. C, even if the drugs wore out I would've killed him. You don't go staking bad things in my town without realizing that there's bad things that look human." He walked around him. "I'm going home." He waved. "You guys are obviously stupid and not worthy to play with."

"Freeze," one of the agents outside said.

Xander looked at him. "Me or your idiots who tried to hand me to someone?" he demanded back. "Do you usually use seventeen-year-old guys as bait to get them raped?" The agent winced. "You're damn lucky I haven't called reporters yet."

"We can arrest you for that."

Xander snorted. "You go right ahead. And the first thing I'll do is start talking to people. Lots and lots of people. I have rights to a lawyer. Lawyers who can sell this story for huge money to fund my defense and their fees. Which I'd gladly give them eighty percent of to handle it." He smiled slightly. "Beyond that, fuck you." He walked around him. "Are you really agents or just training to pretend to be ones? I've seen vampires with better crackhead plans."

"No, we're not," one said, pulling a gun on him. "But it's nice we have you now, Harris."

Xander smirked. "I thought I smelled tea." He stared at him. "Well? You have me, Mr. Watcher. What are you going to do about it?" The guy firmed his stance. Xander held out his arms. "You go right ahead. It won't matter. There's others who're going to help her. Others already know I'm here." He smiled. "And beyond that, not the bitch to fuck with." He smirked and pulled out something from his pocket. He held it up. "Got it for halloween." The man blinked at it. "Yeah, that halloween." The man backed up slowly and carefully. "The things you learn when you're possessed by a guy who was a Ranger in Vietnam." He walked off shaking his head again. "Fucking morons."

"Freeze, we are the FBI, Mr. Harris." He stomped over to turn the guy around.

Xander stared at him. "Good for you, baby. I'm still seventeen. You still brought me here to hand me to someone psychotic. Did you think that was going to play well? Did you actually think that me being raped, and you handing me over for it, was going to be less hard for higher ups to take then you shooting him?"

"He had a kill switch."

"That's. Not. A. Bomb," Xander said slowly and clearly. "No explosive materials." The guy gaped. "I know you're not from the LA office. They're better trained than that due to it being LA." He snorted, shaking his head. "Did you think I was going to be happy and just cry a bit?"

"We were going to use you as bait."

Xander snorted. "No thank you. And it might've been nice if you had said something in the SUV." The agent winced. "Beyond that, no. Not only no but hell to the fuck no." He stared at someone as they drove up. "Hey," he said, nodding at him, walking that way. "Whisk me away?"

"You sure?"

"Yup." He got into the SUV and buckled up. "He mad?"

"He just heard and he's on a swearing rant."

Xander laughed. "Oh well." He rubbed his forehead. "I hate coming down."

"What did you take?" he demanded as he backed off and drove them off at a higher speed.

"Some liquid courage in pill form," Xander said dryly. "Sometimes you gotta have balls, even if you're seventeen." He leaned his head against the window. "He really freaking out?"

"He shouted so much they tried to get Pepper to calm him down," the driver said quietly.

Xander snorted. "Well, at least we know it's the same sort that got us."

"What did happen? All I heard was a rescue had to be made and there was strange idiots involved."

"Well...."

***

Six Months Earlier.

***

Xander Harris got to blink right before he got knocked out. Not by a vampire but by a guy wearing a knock-off ninja outfit. That'd be the last thing he knew for a few hours at the very least. He almost woke up once, enough to hear people complaining that his bloodwork had come out wrong somehow. They spotted it though and knocked him out before he could do anything, even groan.

When he woke up again he was in a cell with another, older guy. Xander and the guy were both wearing what looked like hospital scrub pants and no shirts. They had hospital bracelets on their right wrists. Xander had a headache from hell. He rubbed the sore spot with a wince. "They couldn't have been a tiny bit nicer?" he muttered. "I'm going to have someone eat their asses."

"If you could do that, we'd all be happy," the guy said, looking at him. "You okay?"

"Headache. Bit hungry. Where are we and who are you?"

"At least you didn't ask who you were."

"I'm Xander."

"Your bracelet says Alexander Harris."

He looked and nodded. "They got my birthday wrong. That's charming of them." He looked at him. "Who're you?"

"Tony Stark." He held out a hand.

Xander shook it. "Xander. Any idea why we're here?"

"No. I haven't seen anyone since I woke up. They made sure we didn't have a thing on us to help us get out of here."

Xander looked around the room. No air vent, no grating, doorway looked like a jail cell door with a closed off window. "They should at least tell us what's going on soon."

"That might be nice." He leaned on his bed, staring at the doorway. "You sure you're okay? You're kinda pale."

"I do a lot of work at night. Not a lot of time in the sun recently." He shifted to curl up with his back against the wall and his knees pulled up. "Any idea where we're stuck? I've never been outside Sunnydale so I can't tell geography too well by sight."

Tony shook his head. "The tiny almost window looks on a concrete wall." He looked at him. "You in college?"

Xander snorted. "College isn't for guys like me when I get there." Tony winced. "I'm a hands-on guy, Tony," he said quietly. "Meant to be menial labor, not a college guy." The door opened and two guards with guns walked in. "Do you think that will save you?" he asked dryly.

"You should cooperate," the man in the labcoat said, staring at him. "What is wrong with your bloodwork?"

"You're an idiot, that's what's wrong with it," Xander said bluntly.

"You're expendable."

Xander smirked. "I doubt that. Anything else you wanted to talk about, like why we're in your less than charming company?"

"You could behave," he sneered.

"I can find a way to blow your ass up too. Why. Are. We. Here?" he asked again, staring at the guy. One of the guards shifted. Xander ignored him.

"You're here because you're in the way of some grand plans, both of you." He smirked. "Therefore you're going to stay here. Even if you get out, there's a small capsule with an explosive in your bloodstream that will explode if you get more than ten thousand feet apart." He smiled. "We'd prefer it if you two *bond*."

"I'm sure he really wants to face a statutory charge," Xander said dryly. "I'm sixteen, that's illegal in my state." He yawned. "Beyond that, what makes you think I want gay sex?"

"It's an improvement over your history," he sneered.

"Yay me, I like pretty, deadly things." Xander stared at him. "You're still not going to be happy."

"You're going to stay right here. The more bonding you do the more distance you can go."

"Or we can find it and rip it out," Tony quipped dryly.

"I doubt that, Stark. Not even you can do that." They left, the guards last, and locked the door again.

Xander looked at Tony. "I had no idea helping the really high death rate in my town would get me such notice. I thought the British cranks trying to kill me were fun," he said dryly.

"Who are you?" Stark asked. "You're awfully calm."

Xander nodded. "I'm mentally freaking out. Have you ever heard of a group called the Watchers Council? Or the International Council of Watchers in a prior incarnation."

"Yes. They're secret society sorts. The family had a guy that was family to them and we found out what they did when they tried to blackmail him into coming back home."

"They really hate it that I'm helping one of their girls in my town of hell," Xander said quietly. "Even if she's on a kick to get me to go away at times because she says I'm normal."

"Fuck."

"Yeah. They hate her anyway," Xander admitted, looking at him. "Especially now that there's two thanks to me and CPR." He grimaced a tiny bit then shrugged slightly. "This microcapsule thing? Since I recognize the name from many happy geek moments?"

"It's possible. It'd have to be a radio wave signal."

"Well, if we can get out of here, we can stay close together until we can find it and cut them out."

"You're still too calm."

Xander stared at him. "I've been helping thin the nightlife population for the last two years, Mr. Stark. I've seen a few bigger battles, been at them, and a few smaller ones. Crackheads with ideas? This isn't even as good as a vampy vamp's crackhead plot to take over the world." He shrugged again. "Between that and a few other issues in my life, I'm freaking mentally. We can get out of here because someone will probably want to rescue you." Tony smirked and nodded. "Then we can cut these things out and go back to our normal lives."

"You're awfully ballsy."

Xander nodded. "They gave me something. I'm not usually this blunt." Tony smirked a tiny bit. Xander shrugged. "Apparently they thought I'd panic and jump you or something. Gay sex doesn't sound all that fun to me. There's no breasts. I always imagined breasts would be nice to play with."

"You're a virgin?"

Xander nodded. "I'm not exactly high up on the status pole," he said dryly. "My parents are poor, I'm not a jock, I'm not a brain, and I hang out with weird people."

"Oh, one of them. Okay, I get that." Xander grinned a tiny bit. Someone shoved in two food trays. "Do they really expect us to eat that?"

Xander looked and grimaced. "Wow, they hired lunch ladies to fix their slop. I'm not eating that shit!" he yelled. "I get enough of that at lunch! My mother can cook better even when she's drunk!" He looked at Stark again. "Go ahead and have mine." He laid back down. "Let me cure this headache before the foul mood means I chew on someone." He faced the wall and closed his eyes so he could rest. His inner soldier from last halloween was screaming at him about that move and about hostages that were planted to make you complacent. Xander mentally told him to shut up, he had a headache, and he was pretty sure the guy wasn't since he was a billionaire inventor of all sorts of happy weapons that the military panted, begged, and bent over to get.

Tony heard the mumble and shook his head. That pretty well did describe his life, yeah. He looked at the slop. Maybe the bread was edible and they had water from the sink. He could handle this until his security team got them free. Hopefully it wouldn't take too long.

***

It took two days for Xander to find his temper. Two days of headache, of bad food, of no privacy, of worrying about Buffy and Willow handling things without backup, and of trying to act calm and reasonable. So when the door opened he was up and in one of the guard's faces. The guy threatened to shoot him but Xander snorted and shoved him back out the door. "Really? You go right ahead. I'm sure that'd make some people really happy." The guard growled and raised his gun.

Xander's instincts gained from possession clicked into place and that was not a good thing. For anyone really. The guard did try to shoot him in the arm. Xander snapped his neck and moved after the other one. That one tried to hit him in the thigh, hit his outer thigh as Xander kicked him. It was an easy shot since that was the leg that was kicking. Xander yelped but oh well. Stark came out and grabbed the guns. Xander growled and stomped off. "Let's see if the elevator goes up."

"It's not tactically sound, Xander," Tony yelled after him. "Get back here before those things go off."

Xander sighed and came back. "If they're waiting, I'm going to kill people."

"I'm tired of this too," Tony said, starting to lose his temper.

Xander nodded. "Then how do you want to get out of here?"

"Stairs?"

"Probably as likely for a welcoming committee." He pointed at a camera. Stark shot it then looked at him. "Sweet. Thanks. It was humming."

"Still have the headache?"

"Yup." They looked up and down the hallway. "Elevator?" he said but pointed at the emergency exit. Tony nodded and they headed that way then down when they found it was an option. Xander wasn't sure why, it seemed counterintuitive to him but Stark was really smart. They found a few guards. They found an office. They could barricade themselves in there while Stark called for help.

"It's Tony Stark. I know that!" he shouted. "We're presently holding off the person that has us hostage! That's what I'm doing. Can you trace this?" He listened to them starting that. "Five minutes," he mumbled.

Xander looked around the office. "Looks like the doctor idiot's place of residence." He looked at a few things, finding the bathroom that had a shutting door. That helped if they had to stay in here. Better than the cell. He hadn't wanted to crap in front of anyone. Tony smirked a tiny bit. "A guy's gotta have privacy sometimes."

"Yup, I fully agree." The door rocked and Xander shoved a filing cabinet over in front of it. Tony put down the phone so it could run. The filing cabinet would hold just about long enough for the Stark security team to get there. They were being led back to a cell when they stormed the building.

"Mr. Stark, let's go," one of them said, grabbing him and pointing a gun at Xander.

"Take him too!" Tony snapped. "He's a hostage."

"This is a mental hospital, Mr. Stark."

"Yeah but he's here because of me and there's an explosive in our blood if we're too far apart." Xander got grabbed and helped out. He looked at Xander once they were in the helicopter. "So, where do you want to go?"

"Get this thing out and I need to hit home to help with patrol," he said as quietly as he could, getting a nod of understanding. They had talked about that stuff last night. Xander watched the pretty scenery. "It's pretty country."

Tony looked then at the guards. "Canada?"

"Upper Montana, sir," one reported.

"So still in the US at least." They got taken back to the main Stark Enterprises building and whisked into their medical bay. It was a long ride and they were both tired but it'd be okay. The doctors on staff stared at Xander then at Stark. "There's a small explosive in our blood system. It has a ten thousand foot radius from what they said."

"We can find it," one of the doctors promised. "Sir, what's your name?"

"Xander Harris. Most of my medical records are at Sunnydale General Hospital." He saw the grimace and smiled. "Yes, we know about their high death rate. I'm lucky I survived them screwing up my appendix removal." The doctor nodded at that, calling up there to get his notes. Xander looked at the phone. "Can I...." They let him call. "Giles, me. Yes, I'm alive, Giles. No, some freaky idiots took me hostage and put me in a cell with another guy they wanted out of the way of things. Getting medical attention. Might be a week, not sure yet. Tell them I'm okay. Thanks." He hung up. "That way no one has to keep worrying because I'm pretty sure Willow did at least a tiny bit."

Tony looked over from his bed. "Your friend Willow?" Xander nodded. They had each talked a bit about their usual lives to pass the time. "Shouldn't friends worry a lot?"

Xander shrugged. "Probably. Things have been going...in the bad direction recently though. They keep thinking I'm *normal* and *worthless* so I'm about to forget she exists. It's.... it's like mental hammers breaking at you at times. So I'm guessing there was a tiny bit of worrying but probably not tears."

"When you get out of there, you should find real friends, Xander."

Xander nodded. "Then Buffy could easily die."

"Point. That's a fucking bad choice."

"Yeah, well, sometimes life sucks that way." He shrugged. "Something shifted under my shoulderblade." They took the hand-held metal detector to that area, finding something, and one near his ankle. "That may be shrapnel. I got hit with some a few months back."

"Okay," the doctor agreed. "We can take pictures of those to make sure." That helped them find Stark's and where it was drifting around his body. They glared at the redhead that stormed in to nag Tony. "Not now, Miss Potts."

"Pepper, I'm okay. They kidnaped us to get us both out of the way," Tony said quietly, staring up at her. "I'm okay."

Pepper sighed. "What are they doing?"

"Small thing to make us sorry if we get too far apart," Xander said. "Hi, Xander Harris."

She shook his hand with a nod. "Was Tony okay?"

"He was fine. He ate the slop they provided us. He called people who could come get us since I don't have someone who can do that." He shrugged a bit and grinned. "I'm still getting over the headache from whatever they gave me." A nurse came over to draw blood. "They complained the entire time that my bloodwork was screwed up," he warned with a grin.

"We can figure out why," she said with a grin back.

"Pretty sure it was foreign DNA," he admitted. "There was a swim coach and a sauna... and kids that got really sick from it." She nodded, making that note. Pepper was back to trying to look like she wasn't having a breakdown at Tony about him being kidnaped. He looked at the doc and nodded slightly at the curtain, getting a nod and her pulling it. He grinned. "I thought they might want privacy," he mouthed.

"Probably." She finished up her scans. "Let me check your head. Any ringing in your ears?"

"I have a slight concussion, nothing huge. I've had a few from tripping into gravestones a few times," he said quietly. "Nothing affecting more than a headache."

She nodded, making a note and checking his eyes. "Do you have training as a paramedic?"

He snorted but smiled some. "My friend Willow's mother has medical texts from her training and Willow used to play doctor out of them whenever I needed things like stitches." The doctor pulled back to look at him, scowling. "It helped."

"The ER?"

"With the high death rate? No thank you."

She sighed but nodded. "I can see that." She went back to her checking on him. "You look okay. We'll monitor it for tonight." Xander nodded, laying down with her help. "Try to rest, Mr. Harris." She walked over to look at her boss, who stared at her over Pepper's shoulder. "He's going to be fine, Mr. Stark. It's your turn."

"Sure, I can do that. Pepper, they have to find the little explosive thing." She shuddered and walked off. "I'll talk to you when I'm out of here later," he called after her.

"Tomorrow," the doctor corrected. "We need to do some bloodwork to make sure they didn't give you anything."

"Please. I know I'm missing at least a few hours." The nurse drew some blood and the doctor used the little scanner. "He good?" he asked quietly.

"He was giving you some privacy with Miss Potts, Mr. Stark." She smiled. "He seems like a pleasant enough young man. Should we call his parents or anyone?"

"I doubt his parents want to be called," he quipped. "He called someone there." She nodded and got back to work. He knew by now Pepper had the security teams looking at Xander's background to see who he was. She was like that about Tony's welfare, which admittedly he paid her a very high salary to do for him. He let them do the minor surgery to remove the little capsule then stitch him back up before letting him nap off the rescue.

He'd be woken a few hours later by 'fish dna' being yelled about. He shook his head and went back to sleep. He wasn't going to wonder yet. Someone would tell him why that was important.

***

Xander blinked awake when someone touched his foot. "Miss Potts. Is there a problem?" he asked, glancing outside to see it was really dark, then back at her.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"Alexander Lavelle Harris."

"There's a whole lot of strange things...."

He held up a hand. "My town is a whole lot of strange things." She grimaced. "There's interference by British people who want to kill me for jumping into their chosen, special girl's battles. There's huge problems with the city's death and disappearance rate that I help her lower. Nothing about me is normal."

"I'd guess that's why the doctor is scowling about fish DNA."

"Probably," he agreed with a slight grin. "There was a swim coach and a sauna...." He shrugged. "All the wacky that is my life."

"You're sixteen."

"I know that." He smiled. "I'll be seventeen in two months. They wanted us to *bond*."

"Oh, dear."

He grinned. "He may be hot but only deadly, pretty things like me that way," he said sarcastically. "The rest think I'm the king of cretins at times."

"I noticed you weren't listed as a popular kid in the high school."

Xander shook his head. "Not by a long shot." He shifted to cross his feet in front of him so he could lean on his knees. "What did you want to know?"

"Did anything happen?"

"No. I've been in a goddess-fucking foul mood," he admitted, making her flinch a bit. "Sorry to be blunt but headache, no privacy, kidnaped, will *never* hear the end of this from the girls." She smiled a tiny bit. "They thought it was bad when the bad girl society members liked me." He shrugged again. "It happens to me."

"Did they ask anything specific?"

"They didn't ask me a thing that I know of. I almost kinda heard some of the doctors complaining about my bloodwork once but otherwise nothing. They locked us in a room. When I woke up the doc came in to gloat at us that we were both out of the way of problems that they wanted us away from. He said that us bonding would make the range longer on the capsules."

She nodded. "How did you know it was a capsule?"

"The idiot doctor said so."

"Oh. Okay. Where did they take you from? There's no missing persons report."

Xander snorted, shaking his head with a slight grin. "Miss Potts, my parents are both diehard alcoholics. The only person they'd realize was missing would be the guy who works at the liquor store who always has their favorites next to the register on their usual days to come in so they don't have to stumble into the displays to break them again. Last time they broke over a grand worth of whiskey." She winced at that, shaking her head slightly. "Willow might've tried to report me as missing but our local police are so pathetic and so dirty they wouldn't care. They never do. It keeps down the official count. They only care if the Mayor cares about it or it causes too big of a mess that gets attention. Or they can use it to bully or blackmail someone."

"We can help you get into the social system so you can be moved."

He grimaced. "The girls might not want to consider it but I'm kinda needed there. It's not much and it sucks money ass at times, but it's home and they need my help. Otherwise Buffy would die. Again."

She frowned. "Again?"

"She drowned."

"Oh. And you revived her?" Xander nodded, smiling some. "That's nice of you."

"You do for friends. Even when they hate you later on."

"True." She patted his foot. "You should be able to be released tomorrow but there's agents that want to talk to you."

He nodded. "I'll let them give me a ride back home." He smiled. "Thank you for the hospitality and the nice infirmary time."

"You're welcome." She smiled and went to check on Tony instead. He was awake and staring at the curtain separating them. "He wanted some privacy," she said quietly.

"He pulled it so we could have privacy, Pepper," he shot back. "You better?"

"I'm fine. How are you feeling?"

"Really mad. What did they want me out of the way of?"

"I'm not sure yet. We're looking into it. Agents will be here in the morning. I've got you clothes picked out." He smiled. "Is .... should we be sending him home?" she asked quietly.

"As he told me, sometimes it sucks but that's your life and you have to do your duty."

"Duty?"

"There's a lot that we'll never know but I know some of what he's doing there thanks to someone who used to work for the family back when my father was alive." She nodded, relaxing at that. "They couldn't find anything?"

"Not really. His birth certificate took some looking up as the State office doesn't have them. The local town's office apparently doesn't send them? I thought they had to."

"Sunnydale's weird that way," Xander called quietly. "The Mayor said so and he's got a lot of weird people in a lot of very bad places."

"Great," Tony quipped. "Why?"

"We're not sure," Xander admitted. It'd be better not to freak people out too much.

Pepper looked at Tony, who shrugged. "I'll tell you later," he mouthed, getting a nod and a smile. "Anyway, I'm fine. Let the agents come nag."

"I can do that. They were really upset."

Xander snorted. "Probably dirty too," he said. He shifted and drifted off again thanks to the medicine the nurse put in his IV.

Tony nodded. "Could be. We'll see." She nodded and let him nap. He laid back and considered Xander. Something had to be really wrong around him for him to be that cynical at sixteen.

***

Xander blinked at the agent walking into the infirmary. "They're here," he called out. Stark snorted but looked up from the reports Pepper had made him read.

One of the agents stared at Xander. "We should arrest you."

"For?" Xander asked, staring at him. "What did I do wrong?"

"You should not have been there."

"Hey, yell at the people who kidnaped me," he said dryly. "That wasn't my choice. I had shit I needed to do that night."

The agent snorted. "You'll never do anything, Harris."

"Yay me. Maybe the next apocalypse battle you guys should handle then instead of letting a few teenagers do it. You know, we have film." The agent backed up looking scared. "I didn't ask to be kidnaped. Or given a small concussion. I didn't ask to be put into a cell with someone I didn't know more than a few newspaper articles on and be told to fuck him. Or to let him fuck me." The agent shuddered. "And by the way, still sixteen so yeah, underage by this state's laws." He stared at him. "Thankfully I held off," he said sarcastically. "So you can't charge either of us with that. Now, anything else, you puss sucking little bitch?" The agent glared and Xander kicked him, knocking his mask off. He grinned. "You think you might remember to mask that scent, dude. Not like I haven't smelled it before. My chem partner was half one of you." He stomped off. Xander smirked and waved. "You have a *great* day." He looked at the other agent.

"Who are you?" he demanded.

"Xander Harris. Just a sixteen-year-old guy who jumped in to help a pretty girl because it was the right thing to do." The agent shuddered. "By the way, how much is the Council's price on my head?" The second agent blanched and backed away slowly. "Really, I'd like to know. I've heard rumors of three mil."

"Um.... five." He fled.

Xander nodded. "Good to know. Hey, nurse, can I please have something I can go to the grayhound station in? That way they can't possibly harm you nice people."

"Sit," Tony ordered. "Stay." Xander looked at him. "How did you do that?"

"Which that?"

"Don't play dumb, Xander." Tony stared at him. "You may not be a genius and you may not be book smart but some of us can find the intelligence in everything."

"Did you have to look hard? Willow says she does most of the time."

"Don't try that either." He stared at him.

Xander shrugged. "Demon guy or the Council guy?"

"Fuck," Tony muttered.

Xander grinned. "I've felt that way about the Council a few times too. I mean, you do CPR to bypass a stupid prophecy that wasn't absolute and made no sense not to, and suddenly everyone wants to kill your ass. I should probably go before they try again."

"Stay," Stark ordered more firmly. "You're not moving." Xander sighed and slumped, grabbing a magazine to look through. Stark called Pepper. "The agents turned out to be plants here to kill Xander." Xander shook his head with a snort. "Or at least piss him off until he gave them a reason to arrest him." He listened. "Yeah, we need to do some searching," he said, looking at Xander. Who shrugged but didn't look up. "There's apparently a huge price on his head at five mil."

Xander looked over. "There's a bigger one from a demon source that hates me because I was there during a huge battle and helped during it, which took out their future power attempt." He went back to reading the magazine. "I really should go home."

"Shut up, Xander." Xander huffed. Pepper said something. "That'd be great. Thank you, Pepper." He hung up and looked at the doctor on shift. "Let me get us both upstairs." They nodded, getting them stuff to wear to a guest suite or home. Xander followed because Tony made him.

***

Pepper decided some in-person intelligence gathering was in order. She had Tony's driver Happy Hogan take her up to Sunnydale. It was a charming looking town. Very neat and tidy. If she hadn't seen their death statistics she'd think it was a pretty nice place. She walked into the school, staring at the secretary. "I need to speak to Miss Willow Rosenburg please."

"Only family members can sign her out," the secretary said but she looked very tired.

Pepper smiled. "I'm not checking her out of the school. We need to have a chat about someone she knows to see what's going on with them."

"She's got lunch in twenty minutes," the secretary said. "She'll probably be outside with Summers." She pointed. "Stone tables."

"Thank you." She went that way. Happy was shadowing her protectively. She looked at him.

"Something weird's around here," he said quietly. "It feels wrong."

"It does," she agreed. "This is where Xander comes from."

"I've only heard rumors, Pepper."

She smiled. "He's a bit tough and cynical." She heard the bell and watched. Willow Rosenburg looked like her state ID picture. She walked over to her. "Miss Rosenburg, I'm Pepper Potts and we need to talk."

"I haven't hacked anyone at Stark," she yelped, looking scared.

Pepper smiled slightly. "Tony said it was a nice attempt and it made him giggle but not why I'm here. I'm here about Xander."

"Is he okay?" she demanded, staring at her. "Where is he?"

"He's been rescued but a few things have come out that we'd like to know about." She walked her off to the car so they could talk privately. She looked at the young redhead. "Why would they kidnap Xander to get him out of things?"

Willow blanched then cleared her throat. "Out of things?"

"We've already had a few charming people from the Council there," Pepper said, fibbing a bit. She had tried to look at them and found a few crackpot sites. Nothing concrete. "Including one pretending to be an agent and one agent that was wearing a disguise to make him look human."

"Dirt," she muttered. "Then it must be about Buffy and her duty. We've been trying to keep Xander out of it. He's normal and he keeps getting hurt. He's never going to be able to help us patrol because he's not special."

Pepper stared at her. "Really? Because he seems to handle emergencies fairly well."

"No he doesn't."

"He was totally calm and able to handle things very well from what Mr. Stark said when they were kidnaped and put into the same cell."

"That must be from the soldier. Last halloween Xander was kinda possessed by a soldier. We were all mostly possessed by our costumes thanks to Ethan Rayne and Xander went as a soldier. I'm guessing he's somehow managed to remember some of that, even though none of us do." She paused. "Or did his eyes glow yellow? Because if that's the case, somehow the hyena came back and Giles said that he penned her up fully," she babbled. "She's really bad news and she tried to attack Buffy and maybe rape her or maybe just kill her."

Pepper blinked. "I'll ask him about them to see if he's going back to those states. What, exactly, is going on that a group of people in another country have a five million dollar price on his head? They don't usually do that to teenage boys."

"Like I said, he helps here, even though we don't want to let him. They don't like people helping their girl." She shrugged. "I can't tell you more than that, Miss Potts. You'd have to ask Giles."

"I see. Anything on the other prices on his head? We've noted three total, and Xander quipped that one was from a demon."

"I don't know anything about those and Xander would never know either. He's not like that. He's not smart or anything. Why did they stick him with Mr. Stark? To hobble your boss's escape plans?"

Pepper stared at her. "Miss Rosenburg, Xander was more than able to help him escape. Including taking out two of the guards before Tony could."

"That must be the soldier then. He was like that. He was a PFC in the Army."

"I'll talk to him about that. He'll be back in a few weeks if you could gather his homework for him?"

She snorted. "Not like the teachers here care. He can do everything perfectly and still get D's. The principal doesn't like him very much."

"Hmm. We'll see what happens when he's out of our infirmary."

"He's injured? Tell him we miss him?"

"I can do so but he's not injured. We had to remove a small tracking capsule they had implanted in his back."

"Aww, poor Xander. Thank you for letting us know he's okay. We were worried that some of our bad things had gotten him."

"He called."

"Giles said that but he could've been lying to trick us into a trap to get Buffy."

Pepper nodded. "I doubt that. He called from our infirmary." She smiled. They heard the bell ring. "You have a good day, Willow." She nodded and shook her hand then ran inside before she was late. Pepper huffed, looking at Happy through the window to the front seat. "Maybe we can find Xander a foster family."

"Maybe," he agreed. "Want to stop at his house?"

"Sure." They went there. It was a bit run down. It was ringing with shouting. The trash on the curb was full of names from the List For Cheap Beer Drinker's Guide - Tony had gotten a gag copy of that in college. Pepper watched for a minute then got out to go knock on the door. She smiled pleasantly at the man who answered. "Are you Xander Harris's father?"

"Why? The kid steal your shit?" he sneered.

"No, he's in our infirmary. He wasn't badly injured but it'll be a few days before we release him."

The guy snorted. "He's got a medical card and they'll pay you, lady."

"I'm not worried about that or the state of his insurance. I'm more worried about him being able to come home while he's got a few stitches."

"He's handled them before," he sneered. "Little bastard can do it again."

"I see. Then we'll talk with Xander about how to bring him back if he needs more care than bandaging. Have a pleasant day." She walked off. She got into the car and resisted the urge to grab the hand sanitizer and rub it all over her body. "Happy, let's go before that stench infects me."

"Gladly." He drove them back to the office. They got back to see Xander kicking the shit out of someone and yelling about 'next time don't grab me' and Tony trying to get the kid to stop it.

Pepper got out. "Xander!" He looked over at her. "Please leave Rhodey living. He probably thought you were a threat to Tony."

Xander gave her an incredulous look. "Really? Is he more dumb than I am? I was being hauled behind Tony by the wrist," he said, shooting a glare at Stark, then at her. "And he grabs he me like I'm his toy to break. Hell no! I don't let anyone do that anymore."

"Good." She smiled. "I talked to Willow."

He rolled his eyes. "So I guess you know I'm normal and just a guy now?" he said bitterly. "Great. Let me find some real clothes somewhere." He walked off.

"Freeze," Tony ordered. Xander shot him a glare and walked off. Tony grabbed him by the shirt. "Stay."

"Still not your dog, Stark."

"Uh-huh." He stared at Rhodey. "Why did you grab him?"

"For all I knew he was a threat!" he defended, getting up. "You're going to pay for that."

Xander shrugged. "You think so? Bring it."

"Enough," Stark ordered. "I was yanking him along, Rhodey."

"I didn't see that part."

"Fine, whatever. Apologize to each other." Rhodey snorted and Xander walked off again shaking his head. Pepper went after Xander to calm him down. Tony glared at Rhodey. "Are you happy that you can add assaulting a sixteen-year-old kidnaping victim to your resume?" he asked sarcastically.

"He's sixteen?"

"Yup."

"Damn."

"You might be. Pepper can talk him out of pressing charges."

Rhodey sighed. "Thanks. Who is he?"

"He's the guy that they took at the same time as they had me and shoved us together. Then we had fake agents showing up to get him to do something so they could take him out. Probably due to one of three prices on his head." Rhodey winced. "He's also involved in some really bad things going on in his town by helping a few friends protect the kids caught in the center." Tony stared at his oldest friend. "I'm pretty sure he's not the bad guy here."

"No, maybe not," Rhodey said. Pepper came out with Xander, talking quietly to him. The boy didn't look happy but oh well. "I didn't see Stark pulling you," he told him.

Xander looked at him. "I'm not pressing charges unless you do, Colonel. Pull the stick out of your ass." Rhodey flinched. He looked at Pepper. "Why did you talk to my parents?"

"Because by law I'm supposed to."

"Hmm. Yeah, that law doesn't get observed very often in Sunnydale either. Our school's just a fattening pen really." He shrugged. "Thank you for trying." He looked at Stark. "When do I get to go back to my version of hell?"

"Next week or so, once we figure out why they took you."

"To get Buffy," Xander said bluntly. "Or to get me away from Buffy. Same thing really."

"How would a guy that wanted something from Stark Enterprises want something from the Council?" Tony asked.

"Maybe they gave him a research grant. Who knows. If Giles reported stuff like the swim team incident they probably consider me a thing anyway. Good thing that all my important stuff is away from everyone like Willow and my family." He looked around. "We have SUV's at the gate."

Tony looked. "Pepper, go lock him in the safe room." She nodded, walking him off. He looked at Rhodey. "See the blond guy? He's the one that Xander took the mask off of to show he wasn't human," he said quietly.

"What? Stark, did they drug you?" he demanded.

"Yup. Got both of us. It's giving Xander steel balls and me a really mean streak." Rhodey shuddered. The agents parked and got out to storm over. "You can remove the non-human and the member of the secret society from my compound," he told the agent in front. "Now."

"You're clearly drunk," the lead agent sneered.

"No, I'm not. Haven't had a drink in days." Tony stared at him. "This is private property."

"We're the FBI."

"Yay."

"We have a warrant for one Alexander Harris and we know you're harboring him."

"For?" Rhodey asked.

"Injuring two agents here to take a statement from him."

Tony laughed, calling up the video on his phone to show them what had happened. The lead agent grimaced. "No. I don't think so. He's not here."

"We saw him, Stark. You don't want involved in this."

"I already know what the Council is. We had a butler who had relatives there when I was a kid. They showed up and my father nearly killed them."

"Thankfully he can't do that now," one of the agents said dryly.

"Do you think I can't?" Tony asked, smirking at him. "Remember, I may design weapons but that also means I have to be able to use them." The agents all stepped back. "Your fruitless search is annoying me. Get off my property. I doubt that warrant's valid. Even if it was, he's not here." Tony waved the waiting security team over. "They're leaving. Because even if Xander was here, we have an *excellent* legal department. Your agents threatening him to fulfill one of the three contracts on his life isn't exactly legal and I'm pretty sure my legal team can make a moving argument for PTSD that would make the judge and jury cry about it."

"There's a what?" Rhodey and the agent in the lead demanded.

Tony nodded. "Three. One from the Council, one from a being in Sunnydale, and one without a name attached. We're not sure which one got him kidnaped and shoved into my life yet." He stared at the head agent. "Leave. Now please."

"We still have to arrest him, even if that's true."

"If he was here that'd be different," Tony said dryly. "I'm pretty sure that many people I know within the DoD would *love* to search for him to see what I'm tinkering with in the labs." The agent backed off at that note. "You have a pleasant day on your way back to your office." He walked off, Rhodey following him. Once they were safely inside he looked at him. "Get me a real agent, silently, to talk to Xander." Rhodey nodded, calling his contact within the DoD to arrange that. Tony went to talk to Xander. Who was resting his head on his knees and muttering something. "Praying?"

"God's a myth and she's an evil bitch." He looked at him. "I can go. They can't keep me."

"They aren't arresting you. I'm having a real agent come look into this, Xander."

Xander nodded. "The infirmary called Miss Potts down to look at something immediately about whatever was in that capsule," he said quietly.

"Great." He helped him up and down to the infirmary so they could both hear it. "What's happened now?"

"The drug they gave you was like Rohyphnol on steroids," the doctor said, looking at them. "It's long lasting, barely traceable, and it's apparently making you both super aggressive."

Xander shook his head. "I have days like this," he said dryly.

"It's working differently on you thanks to that weird DNA contagion you have." He nodded once. "It's making it last longer."

"Would the normal stuff do the same thing? Not that I'm probably going to be hit with it since only evil bitches like me, but you never know."

"Yes."

"Okay." He looked at Tony then back at her. "How long before it's out of our systems?"

"At least a week. Mr. Stark, that increased aggression...."

"Is more about being pissed off," he assured her. "Pepper, anything on the why of the kidnaping?"

"Not at this moment," she said. "I can't figure out what you're in the way of, Tony. Xander....."

"I already know they're trying to get me to leave Buffy's side, which would get her killed so a *proper* slayer can be called."

Pepper gasped. "I read that on some crackpot's site," she said, staring at him.

Xander nodded. "Buffy is. I've been helping her on patrol. Unfortunately I'm a guy and therefore worthless suddenly." He sighed and rubbed his neck. "Whatever. I need to get back there. I can hide in Sunnydale better than anywhere else. I've been finding the stupidest things there since I was a kid."

"No," Tony said slowly and clearly.

"It's not safe for me to be here. They might try to take you out too."

Tony snorted. "I doubt they'd manage it."

"They managed to find all the dirty agents to try," Xander shot back, staring at him. "If I go missing, no one's really going to mind. Them taking you out would possibly mean we lose the next war the US is in. I'm not stupid, Stark. I know what 'expendable member' means." He looked at the doctor. "Anything else I have to hear before I head home?"

"Yes," one of the security team said. He handed a file to Tony. "Sorry, kid."

Tony looked at it, blinking hard. "What the fuck?" he demanded, staring at that security guy. "When did we find that?"

"Two hours ago, sir. We've been verifying it's real."

Xander leaned over to look at the pretty piece of formal paper. "Is that actually legal there?"

"Barely by six months," the guard admitted. "It's the only country so far." Xander grimaced but nodded then huffed and crossed his arms over his chest. "We're not sure what's going on yet, Mr. Harris."

Xander looked at him. "The three prices on my head, as far as I know, are from the International Council of Watchers, or the Watchers Council in more modern times. They're a bunch of paranormal researchers out of England that lord over and train their chosen female warrior as soon as they find her, even though they enjoy turning her into a little robotic warrior wench who'll willingly die young for the cause." Pepper flinched. "There's one by a higher vampire master in Sunnydale. He's mad that I help my friend Buffy. We apparently took out someone important to him during one of our yearly apocalypse battles."

He swallowed hard and took a deep breath. "The last one has to be supernatural but I don't know the absolute cause and if I'm right it probably leads backward to a hidden part of the Council for some reason. I'm not sure why or how but all I've heard from the kitten poker circuit is 'high level magic user' and 'thinks bad things will come from me'." The guard took that down. "Maybe they have visions of me being taken and turned then going after the slayer line. Who knows." He shrugged. "I doubt it'd happen. I'm not like that."

"Why didn't you tell us this a few days ago?" Pepper demanded.

Tony shrugged. "I knew." Pepper blinked at him. "We talked there, Pepper. I asked him about who might be behind him being taken. He was honest about it. I've known something about the Council and I mentioned them to you as a source too." He looked at Xander. "What do you want to do about that certificate of ownership?"

Xander snorted, smiling some. It was the first one they'd seen from him. "You're cute and all but I'm still thinking that breasts might be fun some day. If we don't ignore that I'll never find out and that might be a shame."

Tony nodded. "Breasts are fun." He looked at his guard. "Hand that to the legal department. Let them fight it." He nodded, walking off with it. "Breathe, Pepper."

"That's not reality, Tony," she complained, glaring at Xander.

Xander looked at her and shrugged. "It's my reality, Pepper. The whole town's like that up there. There's an energy hole in the middle of the library floor that draws it there."

"Energy hole?" the doctor asked.

"It's called a hellmouth. It's a weak spot between hell dimensions or whatever. Our group meets beside it most nights."

The doctor got a few things. "We're going to test you for energy contamination like radiation."

"Sure," he sighed, letting them lead him off. "Can I have lunch later?"

"We'll make sure you get something, Xander." The doctor grinned. "If you're not irradiated in a harmful way I'll even let them give you pudding."

"I like me some pudding. Chocolate's one of the few goddesses I admit exist. The other is the Goddess Twinkie."

She laughed and patted him on the arm. "My son is four but he prays to the same two gods, who then hand him to a chaos one."

"According to Ethan, Janus is fun. That's why he does neat things like turn us into our halloween costumes last year." Pepper gaped at him then at Tony.

"I didn't hear a thing about that," he defended.

"Willow said that tough guy thing had to come from the soldier he went as," she said more quietly.

"Yes, it does," Xander quipped. "And if she mentioned the hyena it was trying to get Buffy to join the pack or drive her off as an unaligned female in her territory."

"That explains what she said about it," she decided.

Xander looked out with a grin. "You should hear them going off about the shape changing science teacher we had that wanted virgins and Ampata. I'm surprised she didn't." He got pulled back into the exam room.

She mouthed that phrase then shook her head quickly. "I don't want to know." She walked off.

"I would've cured the virginity if things like that come for it," Tony said dryly, walking after Xander to see what was going on.

"Not like girls like me, Stark. Girls think I'm a degenerate waste of slime for the most part. Then again, most of them are snotty bitches at the school who only care about their status and clothes."

"That's always been high school and the first year of college," Tony assured him with a smirk. "Hooker?"

"They tend to be undead in Sunnydale. I'm not Buffy and I don't sleep with walking corpses."

"Eww," Stark and the doctor both complained.

"Buffy has *lusties* for Angel because he *understands* her," Xander snorted. "The guy's over two hundred, likes to be cryptic, is a coward, is known to have tortured a bunch of people before he got a soul stuck back in him, and he's a pathetic loser."

"Tell us how you really think, Xander," Tony quipped, staring at him. "Jealous?"

"No. I had a crush. She killed that within months by being her charming self."

"You need new friends," Tony said bluntly.

"There's no one in town that would. Then what, they die from it?" He shrugged. "I've already buried too many friends, Stark."

"I can understand that." He looked at the results from the radiation sensor. "You have non-harmful radiation. A lot of non-harmful radiation."

Xander nodded. "Great. I love my hellmouth and it loves me more than any girlfriend ever will," he said dryly. "Just the sort of relationship I wanted in my life. I wonder if it'll form breasts for me, though not on the kraken Giles said is on top of it."

Tony shook his head quickly. "That's just wrong."

Xander shrugged. "I'm a practical guy sort. All I really care about are comics, staking vampires so I don't bury more friends, food, sexy time thoughts, and avoiding the 'rents."

Tony nodded. "Pepper nearly had a hissy fit about your father."

"He does that to many. I'm guessing Mom was a drunk before they got married. It's the only excuse I can think of for why she took him in since I came out fourteen months after they married and they haven't had sex since then."

"I don't have that problem," Tony quipped.

Xander looked at him. "You didn't have my mother complaining that she had gotten pregnant and her figuring out how to use the stove for the first time by heating a pan with oil and then pouring it on his crotch for making it so she had to drink less for eight months." Tony winced and grabbed himself. "My father told me about that once, said I was the worst thing he had ever done because it had broken his dick with the scar tissue. Not even the hookers in town would touch it with that many scars. Which... well, I'm not sure if I'd be willing to let him be eaten by a vampire or not." He shook his head quickly.

"You're not going home yet," Tony assured him. "We'll get your friend help. Rhodey knows a whole bunch of people who want to be heroic and volunteer to go into dangerous situations to save pretty girls." He walked off to talk to him. Rhodey was verifying things for them all through the Department of Defense. They knew about Sunnydale. They had a file on it and were more than willing to share since it meant that Stark would cooperate with them for a new weapon they could blackmail him into undercharging them for.

Xander grinned at the doc. "You're really nice."

"I'm married or else I'd make sure that your little stigma wouldn't draw another one, Harris."

He hugged her. "I like some of your clan. They play good kitten poker." She winced. He grinned. "I'm not going to bust you," he said quietly. "I can tell the difference."

"Mermaid DNA?" she demanded quietly.

"Swim team."

"Damn. Even we heard here in LA."

"Slightly." He grinned. She swatted him and got back to checking his radiation levels. The kid should be glowing by what she saw. They had to weed that out of him.

***

Xander looked up from his mindless tv staring when a knock hit his guest room door. He got up to answer it, nodding at Pepper and Rhodey, and the guy behind them that looked way too uptight to be anything but an agent. "Is he a real one?"

"Yeah, he is, kid," Rhodey said. He looked at him. "Be nicer."

"If he's not here to take me out for that price on my head or trying to screw with me, of course I am." He looked at the agent. "It's been a long week."

"We've heard." He got him sitting down and turned off the tv. "I heard you have some attention issues." Xander nodded. "Okay, let's start with the kidnaping. Where were you?"

"On patrol. I turned because I heard someone walking up behind me and got hit by someone in a knock-off ninja costume."

"Ninja costume?" Pepper asked.

"All covering black jumpsuit with a mask and head covering. Looked like a cheap halloween version of it."

"Okay," the agent agreed, taking that down. "Where were you when that happened?"

"Heaven's Rest cemetery. Near the new section. Like I said, we were on patrol."

"I've found out a bit about that...lifestyle." Xander gave him a dirty look. "How did you get involved in all that mess?"

"They took someone close to me," Xander said, staring at him. "Beyond that, why should one little, tiny, bitchy cheerleader have the duty to save everyone if you can jump in and save yourself?"

"Good point. I wouldn't let anyone else handle it if I was threatened." He went back to his notes. Then looked at him. "What do you remember first about waking up?"

Xander shifted to curl up some. "I heard someone complaining about my bloodwork but I couldn't open my eyes. It was like I was half asleep. Then I passed back out or was drugged, whatever. The next thing I knew I woke up in a cell with Tony Stark staring at me."

"How long were you there?"

"Three days, two nights. We had a tiny window that looked at a concrete wall."

"Okay." He made a note of that. "Why did you guys go down instead of up?"

"Tony decided that. We both thought there might have been a welcoming party. Tony shot the camera too." That got a nod of understanding. "We found an office, holed up in it for as long as we could while he called someone he knew for help, and were being dragged back to our cell when his people rushed in. Then Tony had to tell them to take me too so the capsules in us wouldn't explode."

"I heard about that." He made notes and looked at him again. "Then what?"

"There was a helicopter ride, it was my first," he said with a slight grin. "I still had a headache from the mild concussion. We came back here to the infirmary where Miss Potts had a panic attack on Mr. Stark for being kidnaped. The doc and I closed the curtain so they could have some privacy." Pepper blushed and looked down. Xander shrugged. "Friends do that I guess." He looked at the agent again. "They found the capsule thingy and took it out. I rested then the next morning an agent showed up to try to taunt me into taking his demonic ass out. The other was somehow liking the Council's ideas since he went totally pale when I mentioned them."

"I've heard about that." He made more notes. "Did you hurt the agent?"

"The demonic one? I kicked his mask off because he was taunting and threatening me. If he had actually touched me I would've probably taken his head off. I'm a bit firm on that problem thanks to what I've been doing for the last two years."

"And you know that in most of the US that's not acceptable behavior?" the agent asked.

"I've never been out of Sunnydale but I pretty well knew that the whole world wasn't as screwed up as we are there. They don't have our mayor or our vampire problem," he said dryly. "Or the denial problem the town loves."

The agent stared at him. "If it was anywhere else, hurting that agent, even if he's taunting you but not physically harming you, is considered a felony, Mr. Harris."

"If he's inciting me to commit suicide he's probably going to get it anyway," Xander said firmly.

"I get that," the agent agreed. "Just...never again unless you have to." Xander sighed but nodded. "Thank you." He went back to his notes then looked at him. "What are your present plans?"

"I've tried to spare them the drama by going home a few times. They won't let me."

"I doubt Stark's holding you hostage," the agent snorted but he was smiling slightly.

"I never said he was. He won't let me spare them the drama by going home. Miss Potts talked to Willow and apparently my worthless sperm donor. Well, supposed one. Mom said a few times he wasn't her only dick in life."

"Our infirmary doctor said that the drugs they gave them was making Xander a bit blunt and too tough for his own good," Pepper said.

"Guys like Xander is turning into are always tough guys, Miss Potts," the agent said dryly with a smile for her. "Sometimes they turn into agents."

Xander shook his head. "I know the Mayor's screwed up my files somehow. The principal too probably."

"Probably," he agreed dryly, smirking at the kid. "You're listed as part of a violent gang that goes around causing problems for the town."

"Well, we knew he was some sort of bad guy," Xander said dryly. "Yay for us."

"Do you think we could stop the bad guy?"

Xander snorted, staring at him. "Have they yet?"

"No. A lot of people don't look at it that way."

"And yet our extremely high death rate keeps going on and on," he said sarcastically. "And no one's said a word about it. Not the state, not the feds, no one."

"You think he's got a way to block it?"

"Don't really know," Xander admitted. "Not sure if it'd help even if we could figure out how he's doing it. It might just make people more mad and make them attack us for finding out and taking away their blinders."

"That is a possibility," the agent agreed. He made a note to look into that. He looked at Xander. "I've had the warrant to arrest you removed." Xander nodded his thanks and grinned. "What are your current plans?"

"Gotta go back up the slayer," he said quietly. "Before she dies again."

"If you can't go home?"

Xander stared at him. "Sunnydale's denial problem means that no one would realize I was in trouble. They don't realize it when their own kids come home dead. They'll just think I was at some sort of camp or blood told and I ended up in a cell for a few days."

"That's possible," the agent agreed. "I'll let you and Stark handle that." He stood up. "Try to relax?"

"I'm not worried about those sort. If they come they do. If they don't, there's always another bad thing going on."

"Good point." He left, going to talk to Stark and Potts together. Then his boss. He had taped the interview. His boss called in those first agents and the agent with the statement removed the mask on him, making the demon attack him. His boss wasn't pleased but he wasn't going to bother the kid for being kidnaped or defending himself. Those agents.... They probably needed to quickly find a new job somewhere else. Before he told the higher ups about it.

***

After the earlier incident.

***

Xander walked into the office, nodding at Pepper. "You wouldn't believe the idiots in this world."

She grimaced. "I would. I deal with a lot of them, Xander. What happened?"

"Another fake move by the Council to get me," he said dryly. She huffed. "Fake bomb, mostly fake agents, handing my underage ass over to the supposed hostage guy."

"Oh, dear," she sighed. "Will we need to intervene with more agents?"

Xander smiled and tossed over his phone. "That might help."

She listened to the tape and nodded. "That proves you're turning into an asshole." She smiled at him.

He grinned back. "I was already there, Pepper. Sometimes I have to prove it."

She nodded. "You did."

He grinned. "Thank you for sending Happy to pick me up."

"Not my doing."

"Ah. Well, thank him then." He grinned. "Let me get to grayhound." Happy made a complaining noise. "It's the middle of the night, Happy, and you need to rest. I can take a bus for the two hours it'll take to get to Sunnydale."

"No you can't. The boss said you're staying here today."

"Fine. I have to make sure Willow doesn't get into my 'in case I disappear' stuff after all." He called her from his phone. "It's me, I'm alive, the guys who took me are all suffering greatly and tell Buffy they sounded a lot like Giles?" He grinned. "Hi, Mr. Rosenburg. No, actually, fake agents trying to hand me to someone earlier. Totally unreasonable. Apparently he thought I'd make a nice toy," he said dryly. "Willow has my locker combination to get my 'in case I disappear' letter. I told her earlier in case she needed into it." He listened. "Exactly and I'm okay but I'll probably be back late tomorrow. LA at the moment."

He snorted. "Like the Sunnydale PD is going to do a thing about anything my family does," he said sarcastically. "If they won't come out when my father was chasing Uncle Rory up the street with a carving knife, I doubt they're going to care about this. Exactly, which is why I warned Willow in case I disappeared," he finished dryly. "No, I didn't think you'd be home until tomorrow. That's what she told us. Sorry to have woken you as well." He hung up and shook his head. "Her parents are such pains," he muttered.

"They seem nice," Pepper said. "I've seen a few interviews with them."

Xander looked at her. "Which Willow was patiently waiting at home alone while they did," he said. Pepper winced. "Yeah, not really good at it. Then again, like mother like daughter in their case because they both whine about things that don't really matter and nag about things that never did while ignoring the important stuff." He shifted his weight. "Willow probably complained that I got taken from patrol, which they didn't want me on anyway, which left Buffy all alone out there and she might have gotten hurt without anyone to make sure she was helped."

"If they didn't want you there," Happy said.

"I'm not *special* because I'm not a girl," Xander said with a grin for him. "Or Giles. Apparently my training on the job doesn't count."

"They're girls and therefore cranky a week every month," Happy offered, getting glared at by Pepper. "Most are at their ages. They mostly grow out of it later on."

"Then explain the rest of the month's problems?" Xander asked.

"Can't do that," Happy admitted. "You sure you want to go back there?"

"And who's going to help and backup Buffy? Miss Float A Stake? She who thinks that demons are the only bad things in the world?"

Happy grimaced. "That's a sucky choice."

"Yeah, but it's a duty," Xander sighed then shrugged. "If I'm not there, no one else seems to want to help most of the time. So we do what we gotta do."

Happy nodded. "I've had many days of doing the duty even though I didn't want to." Xander grinned. Happy looked behind him. "Rescued him, boss."

"Thanks, Happy. Xander, can't you stay out of trouble?"

"They're the ones that set it up."

"I heard. I talked to some local agents and they heard. They're not real happy."

"With me?" Xander asked dryly. "Wow, it's almost a track record now." He grimaced.

"No, with them. You were called inappropriately mouthy but they saw the last file too." Xander grinned. "When did they show up in Sunnydale?"

"Few weeks back." He smirked. "Buffy killed a robot pretending to be her mom's boyfriend. Got arrested for it too."

Tony winced. "For some reason I feel the need to take something for this new headache." He got into Pepper's desk drawer to find something. He took it and looked at him. "Robot?"

"Named Ted. Kinda looked like the guy on _Three's Company_."

Tony considered it. "I know him. He was a robot? Not that I'd be shocked since he wasn't really able to deal with people." Xander wrote down the guy's address and handed it over with a grin. "Thanks. We'll see since he used to be one of ours that got fired." He looked at Pepper.

"He was going to find grayhound. Did you know Willow's parents were absentees?"

"Yeah. Her school record has almost no absences and they travel on and off throughout the year. She doesn't have a nanny or anything either."

"They've been doing this since she started school and couldn't travel with them anymore," Xander said. "Back then they'd leave for a day or two and leave her food in the fridge in tupperware. When they caught her trying to make cookies at seven her mom taught her more and they went on longer trips since she could handle things."

Pepper grimaced. "There went any respect anyone should have for them."

Xander nodded. "No one pays attention to that stuff in Sunnydale." He shrugged. "It's the way it is. Blame the Mayor since we've just found out he helped set up the town."

"Isn't Sunnydale nearly a century old?" Tony asked.

"Yeah it is." Xander smiled. "He's been our only mayor."

"So he's really a bad thing, not just a bad guy," Tony said. Xander grinned and nodded. "Hell."

"Basically, yup." He smiled.

"You're way too happy about that."

"It's like the thread we were missing in the tapestry of the town," Xander said. "Kinda wraps things up nicely in the same ribbon."

"I guess it does." He blinked a few times. "You don't have to go back."

Xander stared at him. "That leaves two problems: me doing what, and Buffy being backed up by who?"

Tony smirked. "I don't think the Doctor would like patrol too much."

"No, probably not," Xander agreed. "It's pretty much a violent thing and he's more a non-violent guy instead unless you're at least partially robotic."

"Any idea why he's been doing this so long?" Tony asked.

"No clue. We're still looking into it."

"Huh." He grimaced, looking Xander over. "You're losing weight? At your age I was gaining."

"Gave myself food poisoning last week." Tony stared at him. "Not like my mother cooks, Tony. I had some bad ranch dressing."

"Eww, but did that in college."

"Not a place I'm going to visit so I'll do all that wild and wacky stuff now," Xander quipped with a smirk for him.

"You could go," Pepper said blandly. "You're a smart guy, Xander." She had gotten used to Tony and Xander quipping back and forth at each other instead of holding an actual conversation.

"Yeah, but I learn best by doing, not by reading or lectures that knock me out." He stuck his hands in his pocket. "That's not the guy I am, Pepper. Some guys like things simpler."

"They do," Tony agreed. "You'll miss out on some of the fun stuff though. You could go to get a few credits here and there."

"I heard what frat parties are like from Buffy and Cordy when they snuck out to one. I don't think I want to be sacrificed to the demon under one of them like they nearly were."

Tony blinked. "I've been to many frat parties in my day but never seen one with that.... Addams College," he said. Xander smirked. "We wondered what was going on with them all suddenly being disgraced."

"The demon under their frat got killed."

"I'm so glad I never rushed a frat," Tony decided, smiling at Pepper.

"No, you have honorary membership in a few sororities though," she quipped back with an evil smirk.

"They're great to me." He grinned. "That's something you'll miss, Xander. College girls."

Xander snorted. "With the way the girls are around me, I'm starting to see the point of gay sex," he said blandly. "Because I'd never date a bitch like them." Tony burst out laughing. "Seriously! If there was ever a reason to be gay, it's Buffy and Willow. Though I'm not sure Willow didn't subtly drive another kid to suicide the other day. Because one of her tutoring cases did after a session and he was doing better." He shifted his weight again. "We're not sure what happened there but Willow got pouty about it for a day then huffed a bit, then apparently she's a carrier of the Sunnydale Denial Disease because the next day neither she nor Buffy understood why we were having a moment of silence for him." Xander shook his head. "At least there haven't been any more memorial services this year," he muttered.

"You guys had memorial services?" Happy asked.

Xander looked at him and nodded. "Every few weeks."

"Why?" he demanded.

"Because our class started kindergarten with just about two-hundred-fifty kids. We've got one-thirty-two at the moment. Not all have died, but a good number of the ones we dropped have." Happy slumped. Xander shrugged. "That's why Buffy patrols and I back her up." Pepper shuddered. "The town has the highest prescribing rate of psych drugs too, for those that the denial problem doesn't work for."

Tony shuddered. "That's just .... that's really horrifying, Xander."

"Well, yeah. But welcome to Sunnydale, home of a hellmouth and a ten percent vampire population," he darkly quipped with a slight smirk. "It's got everything you need so you won't have to try to escape the town."

"Damn," Tony said. Xander nodded. "You sure you want to go back there?" Xander stared at him. "I get why." Xander nodded. "Want to spend a free day?"

Xander smiled. "I should go back before Willow gets into my locker anyway to see what I have in there."

"I can have you driven."

"I'm good, Tony. I can take grayhound. One gets there about six in the morning so I'll even make classes."

Tony stared at him. "Don't argue."

"Happy's tired," Xander said more firmly. "He had to go about an hour away from here to pick me up from the supposed agents."

"Fine. We'll have one of the security guys bring you."

Xander nodded. "I can accept that. Thanks."

"Welcome. Still working on the annulment."

"I know. You're meant for pretty, big brained things, not guys like me."

"Quit putting yourself down before I have Pepper spank you," Tony shot back, staring at him. "That's a really annoying habit, Xander."

"In some people it's seen as reality. Guys like me don't get girls like Pepper. Guys like you get girls like Pepper. I get girls who work at fast food places." He shrugged. "It happens like that."

"Not always."

"No, then people wonder how you did it," he shot back with a grin. "I'm not a porn star, they're not going to get with me for that." Tony snorted but batted him on the arm. Xander smiled back.

"Go take a nap on the break room couch. We'll get you up about shift change," Happy said. "One of the guys lives about an hour from there, Xander." Xander looked at Tony, who nodded that was a good plan. Xander grinned at him and let Happy lead him to said couch.

Tony looked at Pepper. "He needs a self esteem shot."

"He could, yup." She looked at him. "How is that going?"

"They don't want to admit that someone took a bribe to put the wedding into the files without us being there. Therefore they're saying that it's legal and they can't do a thing about it. Even with paperwork from both of us."

She grimaced. "So if they won't openly admit it's happened....."

"They won't undo it. Someone actually said it was to protect me from the harsh glare of the press that follow people like me around."

"Hmmmm," she said dryly. "Not likely. We can spin it if we have to. People know you were taken for a few days. The FBI leaked it."

"I heard," he complained. He walked off shaking his head. "Make sure he gets home okay, Pepper."

"I will, Tony." She made sure Happy had talked to that guard then went to her own home. Xander brought a lot of frustration to their lives but it wasn't really the boy's fault. He didn't do it on purpose and he hadn't wanted to be married off to Tony Stark. It was mostly because it was highly apparent that Xander didn't fit into Stark's lifestyle or life in any way possible. Tony Stark would never go for anyone without a college degree.

***

Xander walked up to his locker and took the letter from Willow's hand. "I told you I'd be back." He shut the locker door and smiled.

"In case I've been missing for three days and probably turned or dead?" she demanded.

"Yeah, that way you can make sure that things like my photo album don't get burned." She blanched. "Not like my parents would care. It won't make them money."

"Good point I guess."

"I can name someone else, Willow."

"Who?" she snorted.

He glared. "I do know other people." He walked off. "Going to get something to drink for breakfast."

"Where were you?" she demanded.

He looked at her. "There was a guy who demanded me so he could have that *charming* price someone British put on my head." She went pale and shook her head. "Yeah, it was." He shrugged. "It's handled and if there's more pretend agents we'll see what happens." He turned and found the principal sneering at him. "It's sad that you couldn't tell they were fake agents," he said dryly. "Even I caught that." He walked around him.

"Why did they want you, Harris?"

Xander looked at him. "Because there's some English guy that's decided I'm worth a few mil to him. Not sure *why* he thinks that or why me." A lie but oh well. "But they were trying for that." The principal's mouth fell open. Xander shrugged. "Personally I think it had to do with the last guy that took me and had me hostage with someone else for a few days." Willow squeaked. "So who knows. Right now, I need a soda before classes start so I can do my best."

"Not like it'll be good enough," the principal sneered and stomped off to report that.

"He might call someone to get you," Willow hissed as she caught up to him.

Xander snorted and got a soda out of the machine. "I'm sure he'd like that but I doubt it. He'd never be able to do it himself and anyone like that would take him out to get all the money for themselves." He shrugged. "I'm not worried about him." He walked off sipping his soda to go to home room.

"No books, Xander?" the teacher asked.

He took a drink of soda. "Would it do any good?"

"Probably not. You could get out of here and do things."

Xander stared at her. "Even if college was an option with my grades, do we actually see me doing good there?"

"No," she said honestly. "Well, maybe a trade school."

"I've had that thought, and if we had one here I'd go." He sat down.

"It's strange that we don't have a vo-tech program." He grinned and settled in. "Long night?"

"Yeah, super long night." She nodded, accepting that. Not like everyone didn't know that his parents drank.

Willow and Buffy walked in. Buffy looked at him. "You made it home already?"

"Yeah, the fake agents that showed up to get me for that stupid British guy were handled." Someone else came in and he paid them the few bucks in his pocket. "Thanks, man."

"Welcome, Harris. What happened?"

"Huge issue." He waved his soda can. "There's a crackhead somewhere wanting their fairytale back." The other guy snorted but nodded at that. The bell rang and the school day started. Another day of fun learning on the hellmouth, where you learned absolutely nothing.

Giles looked at Xander during lunch. "You look stiff and uptight. Is there still a problem?"

"During the last kidnaping I was exposed to something and it takes a few days to wear out of my system but it brings up the soldier," he said quietly. "Last night, thanks to some fake agents that wanted the price the Council put on my head, I took something to renew that feeling so I'd have a slight edge. So I'll be semi-soldier Xander for a few days." Giles gaped. "Sure as hell beats being killed," he said dryly. Giles' mouth shut and the older man nodded. "I think it's sad your people had some actual agents messed up in that. Their poor careers will probably never be the same." He walked off. "Going to patrol."

"No you're not," Buffy said.

Xander looked at her. "Yes I am and if you want to join me, you can do that." She gaped. He grinned. "The soldier's back out. It helped with last night." He walked off.

"Does that mean you took a stupid pill with it?" she demanded. "I'm the slayer, Xander." He turned and punched her, knocking her out.

"Huh," he said, then looked at Willow, who backed off slowly. "Maybe I'm still affected by it a tiny bit. It does tend to make me intolerant of bitching." She fled. He looked at Giles. "Sorry." He grabbed his crossbow. "She's been bitching at me about things that aren't my fault all day long again. Even I have a limit." He walked off.

"That was uncalled for," Giles complained.

"Then trade places with me for a day, Giles. I'm sure Ethan could do that for you," Xander shot back before the door closed.

Giles came over to check on his slayer. She was waking up. "He took something to bring up the soldier," he reminded her when she blinked at him. "He's reacting a bit meanly due to it."

"I'm going to break his arms," she said, sitting up.

"I doubt that will solve anything. He'll apologize once he's got it out of his system." She glared. "If it was take that or death due to the Council," he said quietly.

"I guess I'd take it too. I'm still breaking his arms."

"I'm sure you will." He helped her up. "He left with his crossbow."

"He'll never get anything done," she said dryly. "I'll go behind him and patrol later." She rubbed her cheek. The pain was already fading due to her faster healing. She sat down and pouted. Xander had turned on her. "All guys suck."

"He said you've been picking on him all day?"

"No!"

He stared at her. "Are you certain? Boys like Xander don't snap for minor things, Buffy, and your attitude toward him has gotten a bit outrageous."

"He's *normal*!" she complained with a point at the door. "He's going to get hurt. He doesn't have any training or anything else. Angel agrees with me too!"

Giles grimaced. "Not that I'd take Angel's word for anything," he said bluntly, making her back down. "Xander has been helping you for years."

"So?" she snorted. "That's gone now." They all heard something explode and went to look. There was a burning car in the parking lot but no sign of anyone. "You don't think that was Xander, do you?" she asked quietly.

Giles looked as he called for the fire department. "No, I see feet from under the back bumper," he said with a point. "Those aren't his." She huffed and went back inside. He'd talk to Xander in the morning about apologizing to her. It was really out of Xander's normal character to be so mean to Buffy.

***

Buffy cornered Xander the next morning. "You had better apologize, Mister. Now."

Xander stared down at her. "For what? Giving back what you keep putting out? Did you think you could keep pushing and not get it back?"

"That wasn't pushing."

Xander nodded. "You're right, that wasn't pushing. Me pushing you would get you out of my face."

She glared harder. "You still up there?"

"No. It's been gone since last night." She gaped. "Some of us are just tired of a lot of things." He walked around her. "Including the bait outfit you wore to school. Not like he'll show up here to appreciate it, Buffy."

She sneered. "Not like you'd know anything about that, Xander."

He looked back at her and shrugged. "Mine have been kinda pathetic. So?" She gaped. He went to his locker and then to class. Willow was already glaring at him. He stared back until she backed away slowly. "Thank you for getting out of my seat." He sat down.

The principal sneered as he leaned in. "Harris, weren't you in the parking lot last night?"

"I was halfway to the Bronze when someone blew up the teacher's car, Principal Snyder. I believe they found the reason when they put out the fire since she was mumbling about drilling into her gas tank to put something on it as I walked past there." Snyder growled. Xander shrugged. "I didn't set her car on fire. I don't carry matches." Snyder stomped off. Xander waved at the doorway.

"She was?" the home room teacher asked.

Xander nodded. "She was mumbling about emission controls they gave her a ticket for not having."

"Oh, dear. She did say that." The principal didn't come back so apparently Xander had been right. The kids went to their later classes.

"I don't even know why you try with how badly you do," Willow said bitterly.

Xander looked at her. "And yet, I got an A on my last test," he said quietly. "I already know what I can and can't do, and I'm not going to let some pathetic loser like the principal tell me that." She flinched. "Or anyone else." He looked at the teacher.

"He adjusts everyone's grades when we submit them," the teacher agreed. "He has since he got appointed vice principal." Willow slumped. "If he hasn't touched yours, that's because he thinks you're not worthy of the time and effort, Willow. Be thankful. He could have done a lot of harm to your future career." He looked at Xander. "You're a bit bitter today."

"It's fine."

"You sure?"

"Yup." The teacher nodded and handed out the pop quiz. Xander stared at it and considered not doing it but sighed and did it anyway. The teacher smiled at him. "Not like it does any good."

"No, but maybe you'll get out of here one day and it will."

"That'd be a nice future."

"You can always go," Buffy said dryly.

"Sure, and I can also end up in social services custody since I'm a minor," he shot back. She slumped. He looked at the teacher, who suddenly understood why Xander was icy and snotty to the girls. They had started it. Again. The teachers had remarked a few times on the girls starting on him again and how they were all looking forward to Harris blood telling when he beat them both.

"Miss Summers, please adjust your seating," the teacher said firmly. "I did not need to know that much about you." She blushed and pushed her skirt back down. "I think that skirt's a bit out of dress code, don't you?"

"I didn't get a chance to do laundry last night. Sorry."

He handed her the slip to go to the office. He stared at Willow, who slumped down. "At least we never have that problem with you, Willow." He went over their new material for the day. Xander looked interested, that was a good thing, even though they were going over acids.

***

Buffy went to whine to her mother, who gave her a confused look. "I got put into detention for my skirt. Xander's mean and evil."

"He's not."

"He hit me."

Joyce stared. "He did what?"

Willow huffed in. "My mother's back. Someone noted to her that she was abandoning me and that wasn't a good thing for her career."

"Xander hit her?" Joyce demanded.

"She was trying to make Xander quit going on patrol again. He's *normal* and he's going to get hurt."

Joyce stared at her daughter. "It was my understanding that you'd be dead right now if it wasn't for him, Buffy." Buffy flinched. So did Willow. "So why the sudden change?"

"He's *normal* and he's going to get hurt."

"Well, apparently he can handle you," Joyce said dryly. Buffy stomped off. "And change that skirt! You grew out of it last year!" She looked at Willow. "How often is your mother not home?"

"Um.... they have to do book tours?" she said hesitantly.

"Willow, go look up what child abandonment means."

"I'm not a child!"

Joyce stared at her. "By law you are until you're eighteen or emancipated."

Willow sighed but went to look that law up so she could refute her mother's claims and send her away again. Everything was easier without her mother.

Joyce went to find Xander to talk to him. He had a part-time job, she knew that. He was at it and came out to talk to her. "You hit her?"

"Yup. Because I'm tired of being told I'm worthless. I get enough of that from other sources. Your friends shouldn't be one." Joyce winced. "I don't know what's wrong with her hormones but it's been constant for over a month, Joyce. I love your daughter like a sister but *damn*."

"Language," she warned.

"Sorry."

She looked at him. "Are you on something?" she hissed.

He walked her off further, sighing some. "Did she tell you about the fake agents that showed up?" She slowly shook her head. "Thanks to helping her, the Council so nicely decided they want to kill me. So some agents showed up the other night to try that in a complicated, messy manner. Thanks to that Halloween...."

"I remember that. No one... you remember?"

"If I take something like rophies, yes. Which I did because fake agents showed up to kill me," he said more quietly, glancing around then at her. "Personally I think it was a really good idea."

"It was if it helped, but... that only lasts for a few hours."

He nodded. "It did. It also showed me just how much bitching I've been putting up with. The soldier, he's not happy. I had many dreams of 'maybe you should let them do it if they want it so much'." Joyce winced. "Which I can't and won't do. It's my choice to jump in and do things to protect myself even if your daughter doesn't like it."

"Harris," his boss called.

"Be right there, this is Buffy's mom and she's been acting strange," he called without looking. He looked around then at Joyce again. "You should go. That car has one of the fake agents," he said quietly. She looked and nodded, heading home to talk to her daughter. Xander went back to work.

The fake agent stomped in. "Mr. Harris," he sneered. The boss came over so he flashed his ID.

Xander took it to look at. "That's not proper Latin."

"You read latin?" the boss and the fake agent demanded.

"Yeah." Xander tossed it back. "I do." The fake agent stepped back looking scared. Xander grinned at the Sunnydale PD officer who showed up to gloat. "Hey, guys, his ID's a fake one." The officer looked happier at that. "The Latin's totally wrong and the words are the wrong color."

The officer took the ID to look at and nodded. "It is. Thanks, Harris."

Xander grinned. "Doing my civic duty."

The officer snorted, staring at him. "At least you don't drink."

"I don't really like drinking. It makes you dumber than you already are." He looked at the fake agent, smiling some. "He tried to remove me from town a few days back."

"Kidnaping too. We heard Rosenburg tried to report that." He walked him off. That made the guy very interesting and the Mayor would like to hear about that, which would get him a bonus.

Xander smiled and waved. "You have a great life, however long it lasts." He went back to work. His boss was looking worried. "Totally came up to me while I was hanging out and tried to have me removed from town, which made Buffy and Willow act weird. Which meant her mother showed up."

"Kids are like that when they're stressed out. You're acting a bit tough."

Xander nodded. "Sometimes you gotta."

"Yeah, you do." He patted him on the back. "Get back to work. I won't count you off for that."

Xander grinned and got to work. That was a nice extra break.

***

Xander walked into Tony's garage without warning. "Red or blue?"

Tony didn't look up. "Blue. You look better in blue. For the prom?" He looked over. Xander held up the wires. "Blue please." He took it with a smirk. "Social call?"

"I got told to leave the town forever more by Buffy. Of course that was after she had been told that she nearly got blown up by someone trying to get the school." Tony winced at that. "And that I was there. I pointed out I stopped the bomb, I didn't plant it, and nagged until Willow hacked the security footage to prove it. She's still huffy and insists I have to leave my own town. I pointed out I was there first and she should probably move if she wanted to quit looking at me every single day."

"Still trying to push you out of patrol?"

"Yup, and did that last night too." He sat down on one of the rolling stools. "That's not why I'm here." Tony turned to look at him since that sounded serious. "When I was disarming the bomb, which I have never seen before, somehow I knew what I needed to do."

"What sort was it?"

"Stump removers on top of propane barrels."

Tony grimaced. "Knew how?"

"Like I looked at it and up popped the thought of 'that wire's critical'."

"They didn't tamper with you there."

"That we know of."

"True, they apparently had you for three days before they sent you into the cell. Do you think they tampered?"

"I'm not sure if they did something to make the soldier more prominent all the time or not. I'm not sure if he knew explosives or not. I know I realized I was doing military PT this morning."

"That's not a bad idea with your current unpaid job," he said dryly, getting back to work.

"The soldier guy, I looked him up, was a Ranger."

"So possibly some special skills."

"He was a radio guy." Tony grimaced. "So probably not that much. And somehow I know more medic training too. That was probably him. That's something I'd do before I went to a war zone."

"Me too. How much do you know about him?"

"I used that new site, Google, to look up his name. Found his death announcement." Tony stared at him. "His mom used to live outside of town after he died. She died during a huge storm, which I'm not sure if it was a coverup or not, and all her stuff got sent to the thrift store locally."

"Which is where you got them," Tony said. Xander nodded. "Need me to ask Rhodey if he can find anything on the guy?"

"I'm not worried about him. I was more hoping your people had thought to grab any records from the lab."

"No, not really. If they had found us in a lab they would've. I can ask Rhodey if anyone went back there."

"Thanks." Xander tossed down an envelope. "Since I no longer have a 'please make sure no one destroys certain things' person in Willow, that's where my safety deposit box is in LA. I had to lie like hell to get it since I'm only seventeen but it's got things like my picture albums and stuff. Make sure my parents can't claim it?"

"I can do that." He stared at him. "They've still got it buried."

Xander shrugged. "It'll matter more to you than me, Tony. I'm realistic. There's not a lot of chance you won't end up being a widower."

"That's kinda depressing, Xander."

"Yeah, well, we're coming up on something bigger again. We might have to make peace to deal with it."

"You could leave after that."

Xander nodded. "I'm going on a road trip." He grinned. "See some of the US, all that. My parents even made me buy a boat from Rory since he wanted to sell his old car."

"Boat?" he joked. Xander pointed. He walked over to look at it, nodding. "That's a huge, gas guzzling boat."

"That has a lot of rust," Xander said dryly. He smiled. "It should get me far enough and if I get stranded, I'll figure it out."

"You sure?"

"Yup, I'm kinda looking forward to getting the hell out of dodge after graduation and seeing some of the prettier version of reality where people don't get eaten because they ordered a pizza."

"That does suck." He looked at him. "You going to be okay on it?"

"Yeah, it'll be a relief to get out of hell for a bit. Then I'll decide if I'm going back or not."

"That's kinda smart. You're sounding burnt out."

"I am. I know I am. It's been three years and we've made a dent, a tiny little dent, but nothing else. Though, and this was cute, they awarded Buffy a special umbrella thingy for making us the largest graduating class since the school opened."

"Did you and Willow...." Xander shook his head. "At all?"

"No. I'd never expect them to. Not like they see the real me either. If Willow, who's known me forever, can't, the others certainly won't."

"Why do you have a D average?"

"Snyder can't lower it any more than that without keeping me there forever," he said with a grin. "Since he can't make me quit or drop out he doesn't want that."

"He should be fired."

"He's one of the Mayor's flunkies, Tony. Of course they're not going to fire him. He helps cover up stuff and gets his power kick jollies off at the same time. Even if he does try to blame everything on the group. Since I'm fray adjacent I'm an easier target but not that much. Oh, fake agent guy showed up the other day. His ID was so fake. Wrong Latin, wrong text color."

"Great," Tony said sarcastically.

"The officer that showed up to gloat about another Harris going down got all happy that they had a fake agent to turn in." He grinned.

"Your town's so screwed up."

"Yeah, it kinda is." He shrugged. "If I die during the whatever it is this spring, don't destroy the photo albums please. They're the last ones in existence."

"I can do that." He clapped him on the arm. "You in for a long visit?"

"Nah, just came by to ask that and hand you that. I'm destressing. It's a pretty day and I'm going to be ignored by pretty girls on the beach who think I'm basically slime." He got into his car and started the engine. He saw the wince at his engine and shrugged. "What did you expect?" He drove off.

Tony sighed, sending Xander a car manual so he could tune up that wreck of a car his parents had made him buy. He put the envelope into his safe with Xander's name and 'pertinent documents' on it. Pepper would understand that if she had to use it. He got back to work after sending a text to Rhodey to look into that. That was a bit weird, but then again Xander dealt with weird things. Who knew with Sunnydale.

***
Part 2 by Voracity2
Buffy had talked to Giles about the upcoming problem and she realized she had to be a big slayer for a change. She had to own up to some mistakes and push them aside. She found Xander at lunch reading a comic and sat down across from him. "We need to talk."

He looked at her. "Yes, I'll be at graduation, one way or another."

"Giles thinks you have tactical thoughts?"

"I do." He smiled slightly. "I can work on that. I'm already working on it." She nodded. "I need to know what's going to happen. You guys have kept me out of the loop."

"Something huge. Come to the meeting tonight, Xander. It's all Scoobies." She got up and walked off. Buffy mentally sighed. It was hard but it was the right decision. Even her mother had said that. She couldn't really refuse to listen to her mother.

Xander went back to his comic book. He could help. He had been helping.

***

Xander was at his part-time job, and winced when he saw the news story of the day. He pulled out his cellphone and walked off. "Taking a break," he called. He called someone. "It's Xander. What happened? Yeah, about that. I know you guys heard." He listened and nodded once. "Okay. I'll need to hear if anyone hears anything that could help. They can talk to me about repayment if necessary. Thanks, guys." He hung up and made the harder call.

"Pepper, it's Xander," he said quietly, leaning against the building. "Can I do anything to help?" He listened to her sound sniffly but say there was nothing to be done, Tony had been attacked in Afghanistan. "I talked to a few poker contacts. Yeah, that sort. They said he's alive. They said it was Stark Tech that took out the convoy. That's what they heard, yes." He listened.

"Okay, well, if you need me for something, legal, not, whatever, call. Oh, except for graduation. We're having our usual spring problem that day," he sighed. "But if you need me for anything else, let me know and I'll keep nagging my poker buddies to tell me if they hear anything."

He listened to her complain. "I think that's why I usually play poker, Pepper," he quipped. She calmed down. "You need to rest. You being worn out won't find him any sooner. Take five minutes to calm down. You know he hates to see you cry." She sniffled but agreed. "Let me know." He hung up and took a few calming breaths. That was not a good thing.

***

Xander looked up as Rhodey walked up to where they were on patrol. "Behind you," he warned. Xander shot it with a crossbow when Rhodey moved, even though he didn't seem too weirded out to see a vampire go to dust. "What's up? The poker circuit here hasn't heard anything new."

"How did they hear anything?"

"There's a great demon underground for information and they're in all countries. I know a few get emails from people." Rhodey slumped. "I don't know their sources. All I know is what they've told me and they've agreed they want to see him make more stunning things that they want to steal to go fix their home worlds." He glanced around then at him again. "Is Pepper okay?"

"She's holding up."

"She needs to be taking care of herself too."

"She is, kid." He stared at him. "I found out something about the guy you wore to Halloween." Xander nodded. "He didn't have any EOD training." Xander grimaced. "Stark told me."

"Okay. I figured he would. Did they find anything at the lab?"

"No one went to look."

"Okay." He nodded. "Then it's an anomaly. All the hot girls call me that anyway." Rhodey snorted, staring at him. "We'll figure it out later."

"Want to join the service?"

"I've already got one that doesn't come with a uniform, a paycheck, or any bennies. Why would I want to switch?" he asked, sounding a bit bitter.

"We can find you a good recruiter, Xander. Any branch we can get you into."

Xander shrugged. "Ask me after my road trip. I'm going to see normal things after graduation."

"I get that. If you hear more, let us know."

"I can do that. And if I die this spring, Tony has my will, my pertinent documents, and my safety deposit box in one of his safes at the house," he said quietly.

"I get why but it sucks when you think about it at your age."

Xander nodded. "It could've happened sooner. If they had managed to push me out, I'd have been a riper target." He shrugged a tiny bit. "It's the life I chose because I should be responsible for saving my own ass. Not some young, bouncy, loud teenage girl."

Rhodey looked over at her. "Hi, Colonel Rhodes." He looked at Xander. "You sure?"

"Talk to me again when I've survived my road trip."

"I can do that." He shook his hand. "Let me know."

"Definitely. Make her rest."

"I can do that." He walked off, going back to the corporate compound. Pepper did look exhausted. "You need a nap," he said from the doorway.

"I don't have time....."

"You having a breakdown or getting sick won't help anyone, Pepper." She nodded with a sigh. "I talked to Xander. He's not sure how his demon poker contacts get information."

"Were they right?" Rhodey nodded. "Damn it."

"We'll figure it out."

"I know. Tony's probably trying to find a way out himself," she said, sniffling. She made it stop and looked at him. "How is he?"

"Worried you'll make yourself sick. Planning on a road trip after whatever's going to happen at their graduation. He said Stark's got his will and stuff in one of his safes just in case."

"I'll remember that. Can we subtly get them help?"

"No one really wants to believe in demons. Or else I'd try. I'm going to try to get Xander into the military."

"He's got good skills for it but he's mouthy and too tough for his own good, Rhodey. He's probably ever instructor's nightmare."

"Maybe but they can wear that out of him too. They did mine." He grinned. "Take a nap." She nodded, logging off everything and heading home for the day. He even drove her to make sure she got there safely. Rhodes went to think about things. Where were demons hiding in Afghanistan? It seems like the locals would've put them to death a long time ago.

***

Xander called Pepper before graduation. "It's me. I just heard a tiny bit. The people who have him didn't steal the tech they used to get him, they had a patron, and they stressed patron," he said in greeting. She said something quietly. "Yeah, that's what they said. They also said he's in a protected valley cave system that's kinda hard to get to. They said they wanted him for what he could build them, which he just showed off. I'm not sure if any of that helps or not, but that's all I've heard." He looked at the place where there would be a battle later.

"Other than that, just checking in before grad. Yeah, I'll be safe, Pepper. You too and maybe it'll help some. I'll call and make sure you know I'm alive later. Unless I'm in the ICU or something. Sure. Oh, I think it will be, yup. Be safe." He hung up and put his phone into his pocket. Then took it out and turned it off. With his luck, the phone would ring and get the demon worm's attention at the wrong moment. Xander slipped into his graduation robe and nodded at the others coming their way. He and Buffy had mobilized most of the class. "It's ready," he said quietly.

"Good." She patted him on the arm. "We can handle this."

"Of course we can. We've handled all the other ones. This one's just a bit more nasty and less slimy." She smiled. "Your mom?"

"Out of town."

"Great."

"Yours?"

"I could care less," he admitted. "Willow's are in Montana." Buffy rolled her eyes. "Basically, yup." He looked around again then at her. "My car's packed for my trip so after this I'll clean up and rest tonight then head."

"That's good. Send us postcards?" He nodded. They went to the lining up spot and took their spots.

The principal walked past Xander sneering. "You sure you should be here, Harris?"

"Yup, sure am," he quipped with a grin. "Otherwise you have another year of me."

Snyder shuddered. "We don't need to see you ever again."

"Just think, some day I'll have kids going here." Snyder walked off shuddering. A few of the other students laughed at that. The music started and all the parents that were attending hurried in to their seats so the students could tromp their way in. They listened to the principal sneer about their weak futures and then the Mayor stood up. A few in the students shifted, some looking at their parents. Xander knew where his weapons were.

He leaned forward so he could get a head start on the rush of people so he could grab them. Then the latin started with the sky darkening. Xander moved slightly. Buffy was tense. The Mayor started to change. Xander dove for his weapons. Buffy dove for hers. The others ran or stared. Xander nudged some. "Let's go!" Xander shouted. "People, that way!" he shouted with a point. They ran that way, no longer frozen by the giant snake demon. The groups to defend everyone moved in. Buffy was with them for now. It was going to be nasty.

***

Two hours later, Pepper's assistant came rushing in. "You said to keep track of the news today, Miss Potts. Is this why?" She turned on CNN, which was covering an explosion at a nearby graduation.

"Yes, it is." She pointed. "That one there, that's Xander. If he shows up, I'm to see him." She nodded at that. They watched what was being covered. She called Rhodey. "Turn on CNN. No, not Tony. Xander." She hung up by feel and watched. "Gas explosion?" she snorted. "Really?" Her assistant looked at her. She shook her head. "There's probably no gas lines outside the school."

"You know him really well?"

"Tony met him during something and kinda talks to him now and then about things."

"Oh, okay." They watched. "Wouldn't there be something like footage from a parent's camera by now?"

"Yes, there should be." She looked at her email. Nothing. They had seen Xander walking. The news people were reporting a few deaths. Pepper winced at that. She texted Xander.

She got back a simple //Ow.// She tried it again and got back //Ow//. Then a second later //Sorry, I'm doing my stitches and for some reason my phone's responding to voice cues. It never has before but is now.//

"Do you not know what an ER is?" she muttered as she typed that in.

//Sure, let me go to the place that kills about twenty-seven percent of their patients for blood, parts, and other nice things for demons that like bodies.// A short pause. //I only need 12, 16, ow, stitches so I'm okay, Pepper. Thank you for worrying. Ow! Sorry, I'm okay though.//

Pepper stared at the phone. //Who's doing your stitches for you if you're not in the ER?//

A short pause. //Me. I've done a lot of mine and I don't trust Willow to do them anymore. Why?//

"Xander, you're not a doctor," Pepper complained as she typed.

//I know that. I learned from Willow's mother's medical texts, the same way Willow did. That's who's done most of my stitches since I was a kid.//

She huffed. //Your whole town needs shut down.//

//The reason for most of the badness just went sploosh,// the next text back said and it sounded a bit smug to her. //So try now.//

She snorted but sent back a //Let me know where you are while you're traveling in case you run into those agents again, Xander.//

//Yes, ma'am, Miss Pepper. I'm heading south tomorrow.//

"Good luck," she muttered, sending that as a text as well then put her phone down. Her assistant was staring at something new. "What is that?" Pepper asked.

"I don't know but they were carrying it from the wreckage. Maybe some sort of art project?"

"Eww." Her assistant nodded and went back to her desk. Pepper sat there and watched it some more. Rhodey finally texted and she had to laugh at his complaining the kid was an insane smartass. She had to agree with that.

***

Xander looked up from his last set for his first night on the stage as a stripper and found what had to be an agent. Light hair and eyes that made him look washed out and miscolored against the dark blue suit he was wearing. Xander teased him with a grin. "You don't look like you're having fun." The agent scowled so Xander went to tease someone else. He sucked hugely at this but hey, it paid the bills. When he was done he cashed out for the night, tipped everyone they had told him he had to, and headed back to the motel.

"Mr. Harris," the agent said.

Xander turned to look at him. "What?" He made sure he was in the lights scattered around the parking lot. Way too many dark areas out here.

"There is a good push to find out what happened at your graduation."

"Really?" He grinned. "You mean no one found anyone's video camera? I know I stepped on one during it."

"No, we have a few of those but it's not really believable."

Xander nodded. "Why would I know? I wasn't friends with the Mayor. He tried to say I was an arms dealer once, dude." The agent growled. Xander grinned. "He was a bad guy. That kinda proved it. Did you want us to die?"

"No!" He stared at him. "You should have called officials."

"Yeah, because they'd believe that," Xander said with a nod and a smirk. "I'm pretty damn certain that if I had called in a report about our Mayor going to change into a giant demon worm, that I would've had a whole different sort of agent visiting." He stared at him. "Beyond that, the last time I talked to an agent, they wanted to kill me for the price on my head."

"Yet you're working here?" the agent sneered.

"My car caught on fire, dude. Gotta pay the bills somehow and I'm not doing it on my back. Tonight I had to fill in instead of being in the kitchen." He shrugged. "It happens sometimes. I'm a practical person." He walked off. "You have a nice night. I need to go work out some muscle cramps in my legs."

"We still need a statement, Mr. Harris."

"You have it. Go find one of the video cameras that got dropped." He waved and made it to his motel room, locking himself inside so he could shower. The agent drove off after a fruitless half-hour of waiting on him so Xander shrugged and let it go. He wasn't helping anyone official do anything about graduation. It'd probably end up badly for him with him in a cell or something.

***

Xander looked down from his most current set, smiling at the woman standing there, mouth open. "Hey, Pretty One." He winked and nodded. "You look like someone I know. Buy me a drink in about two minutes?" She nodded numbly and walked over to a table. He finished and went to wipe off the sweat then came out to sit across from her. "Car exploded," he told her.

Pepper shut her mouth. "You never said a thing about any of this, Xander."

"Not like this is what I wanted to do on my roadtrip." He grinned. "But it's paying for the car to be fixed so I can go back on it, and giving me enough to pay for the motel."

She considered it. "I could've....." She waved a hand around. "This isn't good."

"It pays better than fast food and I never go into the backroom." She slumped but nodded. "I'm not selling it, Pepper," he said more quietly. "Mostly I work in the kitchen but now and then I have to fill in. I'm still awkward and no one wants me to do that in their lap." He sipped his soda that got brought, looking at the manager, who shrugged. Xander looked at her again. "Beyond that, I didn't take you for the sort to come to strip bars way far away from the company."

"One of my assistants is getting married and I was going to hire one for her party. She lives out this way."

Xander grinned and pointed across the room. "That's Randy, he does a pretty good job and has a lot of local girls squealing whenever he's on."

"That's....sure, I'll make sure he's okay. We can leave."

"My car's not going to be fixed for another week," he sighed. "The engine caught on fire just outside of town."

"The same piece of crap car Tony said your parents made you buy from your uncle?" He nodded, sipping his soda. "Oh, dear."

"Oh, yeah." He grinned. "I am learning a lot. I learn a lot about people doing this." She slumped. "Still not handing it out though."

"We can get you to LA so you can go from there."

Xander shrugged. "I'll be going in about a week and a half, after the next payday. Then we'll listen to the underground to see what's going on. I've been hearing complaints about home again."

"Oh." She grimaced. "Are you okay?"

"I'm okay. It's tiring and it's exhausting, I suck at it, but I'm okay." She nodded a tiny bit. "I know I'm not King Rhythm," he said dryly but grinned at her for it. "Like I said, I should be doing the dishes but someone didn't come in." He finished his soda. "Let me get back to work."

"If you need help out of here, let me know?"

"Of course. I haven't seen a single problem outside one agent wanting to know what happened at graduation. He left in a girlish huff after I told him to find a fallen video camera."

"That looked bad."

Xander nodded. "It was bad." He patted her on the shoulder as he walked past her. "Let me go clean up the kitchen."

"Please." The manager looked him over. "She wanted something?"

"She met me in high school over something that went on."

"Oh."

"She's looking for a bridal party stripper."

"I can set Randy up there sooner," he decided, motioning him to get ready. He nodded and went to change.

Pepper sent a text message to Rhodey, who sent back he was choking. So apparently he couldn't see Xander being a stripper either. Pepper wishes she hadn't. Tony would be *so* upset over this.

***

Six months later, Tony had been found. He was back home. He was hiding from everyone. No one had seen him for over a month. Xander was struggling with his urges to kill people. So he went to visit. He walked in through the garage like before, staring at what Tony was doing. "I heard you're turning into me."

Tony flinched and winced. "Not really. No bitchy friends." He went back to what he had been tinkering with.

"Trade you for 'em. Pepper seems a lot nicer than mine." He flopped down on the couch in there, staring at him. "Want to talk?"

"Do you?" he asked, looking at the younger man. "Pepper told me about your roadtrip."

Xander shrugged. "The car caught on fire." Tony grimaced, shaking his head as he got back to work. "Had to pay the bills and the car repair bill. Still didn't sell it." Tony grinned slightly. "The look on her face when she saw me was really amusing though."

"I bet." Tony looked over. "Why did you show up?"

"Because everyone in the known world is worried about you. Including some middle manager agent who showed up yesterday in Sunnydale to talk to me about you. I totally drove him off with an airhead act worthy of Buffy. He didn't do his homework. All he had known about was the roadtrip. He thought you were my mentor."

Tony nodded once then shook his head. "I'm fine, Xander."

Xander stood up and walked over, staring at him. "Want tips on how to go on patrol?"

"No." Tony stared at him. "I'm fine."

"I know. Still, sometimes you gotta vent."

"I have JARVIS for that." He gave him a dirty look.

Xander grinned. "JARVIS is great, but there's hell and then there's hell." He stared at him. "And if you need to talk about hell, I can listen."

"You've been kidnaped by others?" he said, trying to for light and teasing.

"Not exactly. Beaten repeatedly, turned into a slave by Willow. By the way, did you know there's an actual case for magic addiction?"

"Like alcoholism?" Tony asked.

Xander nodded. "Oh, yes. Will spells and all."

"Like....I have power over you?"

"Yup." He stared at him. "I ended up being the butt of her usual 'you're a demon magnet' thing. She nearly made Spike and Buffy marry. She was feening for Oz since he went to get control of the werewolf at a temple in Tibet."

Tony considered that. Xander usually had a point when he babbled about things other than the topic at hand. "That doesn't surprise me. That Tibet has a temple that can teach you that. Isn't Spike a vampire? You mentioned him and Dru before."

"Yeah, same Spike. The military weenies acting up in Sunnydale put a control chip in his head so he can't eat humans." Tony dropped his wrench he was fiddling with to stare at him. Xander nodded. "There have been more than a few missing notices at the kitten poker hall. Reports of commandos running around town tazing demons. Buffy ran into them once but didn't say anything about them. Of course, I'm back to being normal again so how would I know unless they come for me due to the fish taint."

"Shit," Tony said, rubbing his face. "You need help."

"No. If they come for me I'll destroy their asses as grandly as I can, even if it means I sink the fucking town doing it." He grinned. "I found the Mayor's self destruct recently." Tony stared. "By the way, it's listing itself as a Stark model." He showed him the picture of it. "Don't know if he rebranded."

"No, that's part of a weapon that was meant to be a bunker buster," he said bluntly.

Xander smiled. "Good to know. He probably wanted to erase all evidence of him after he turned and killed everyone in town."

Tony inhaled then let it out. "Probably. I'll send someone up to confiscate it."

Xander grinned. "Remember, there's others that like heros. Like those of us who studied comic books for *years* and play sidekick pretty well if you want to vent." He gave him a pointed look then grinned again. "Beyond that, I heard Rhodey's name mentioned by one of the commando weenies. Apparently they think he's hot shit."

"I'll let him know he's about to be compromised. Are they Air Force?"

"Army. Rangers."

Tony grimaced. "I don't know why they'd know each other."

"There's a heavy geek contingent doing *research*."

"That's probably how. They're probably going to recruit him or something." Xander nodded. "You sure you didn't come for help?"

"No, I came to see if you needed to talk to an experienced sidekick so you could figure out some plans on how to secretly handle shit around LA for Angel and Cordelia."

"Your ex?" Tony asked, looking confused. "And her ex?"

"Yup. He's being a Champion here in town against the supernatural and she's his secretary."

Tony groaned and winced a tiny bit. "I'll keep that in mind if we have demon problems."

"Every. Single. Spring," Xander reminded him. "Also, she slipped something up about Wolfram and Hart being evil bad guys."

"They're a law firm. Stark Enterprises has one company we have agreements with that use them."

"According to Cordy, they're the law firm for demons doing bad things. They've tried to take out Angel a few times already to keep him from stopping their plans."

"Shit."

"Yup." He grinned. "So, fair warning about bad guys. She's not sure how far they go."

"I'm going to have someone go over their contracts with us with a mesh strainer that has nanite-sized holes."

"You might want to look at the other company's contracts. It might not hit yours."

"Yeah, I can do that. Tell them I want to look into them for some legal work and ask to see if they can give us samples." He sent that email and looked at Xander. "You sure you don't want help?"

"I'm taking a day free before I go set off that self destruct just because they're bitches," he said bluntly then smiled. "You're good at distracting me."

Tony snorted but looked happier. "Thanks, kid."

"Welcome. You sure you don't want to vent?" Tony stared at him. He nodded at Tony's chest. "Usually when you glow unnaturally you're possessed but nothing's come near me yet to try to suck me in like every other spirit," he said quietly. "And I do kinda know a thing about suddenly not feeling very human due to sudden changes in your anatomy. And let me tell you, the spirits from Thanksgiving sucked ass."

"More?" he demanded, shying away from that topic.

"Yeah, this time Natives. I fell into their burial chamber and they got to give me a 'fuck you for killing us all' present for Thanksgiving. Which means I should ask if you know someone who might want to check my blood for long dead samples of their diseases."

"They did? How do you do things like that?" He wasn't going to shout even though ghosts giving Xander a disease were far away from his usual area of normal.

"Apparently I was dying of smallpox before they finally gave up and left. And maybe an ancient form of syphilis. Actually, that's the other reason I came here. I don't want more of the assholes in camo to find out."

"Can they?"

"I have a really strong feeling that Buffy's boyfriend is one of them." Tony winced. "Like almost certain."

Tony nodded. "I can get a doctor to draw some."

"If they can use it to make new treatments I'm good with that. Just let me know what I have so I can take precautions and update my will." He rubbed his forehead. "And maybe make Anya cry and stomp off about not getting sex again."

Tony grinned. "She came back?" Xander had called to complain about her right before he had gotten kidnaped. She had sounded like Xander's sort of woman.

"Just as back wrecking as before," he said dryly, grinning back. "And moved in." Tony slumped and shook his head. "It's.... going complicated places, Tony. I have no damn clue."

"At least you're not a virgin anymore."

"Yeah and she keeps trying to force me into going gay so she can watch."

Tony nodded. "You never want to date girls like that, Xander. Especially not going farther than dating. They tend to be money grubbing...." Xander nodded at that. "They can also kill you for that."

"I don't have anything that big she might want, Tony. Though she does demand a lot of presents." He slumped some. "I haven't gotten more than three hours of sleep in months. I love my new stamina. It made her quit complaining in public about only getting four orgasms a night."

Tony gaped. "Four?" he demanded.

"Yeah, after work at the site and then patrol."

"Dump her. Today."

"I can't. She'll get her job back."

Tony grimaced. "I'll ask Pepper for an idea. She was over what?"

"Women scorned."

"That's pretty broad and dangerous," Tony decided. He sent a message to Pepper to give him ideas for Xander. He grinned. "Take something to become impotent for a week or so?"

"I made the mistake of teaching her that oral sex was great and gave her some of the orgasms she wanted, and that's all she ever calls it, orgasms."

Tony nodded, adding that to Pepper. He got back one. "Pepper said to dump her too."

Xander nodded. "I might but *damn*."

Tony nodded. "Yes, you probably are."

Xander picked up something and pointed it at the tv, changing the channel. He handed Tony the remote. "Being damned is okay for the right reason. Anya's not.... but the sex is nice enough I guess. She won't give a blow job though. I've always wanted one of those." He left. "Let me know if you need help."

"I can do that." He stared at the tv. It was one of those robot-centric animes. He looked at his plans for his tech suit and decided he needed to do something more Starkish instead of something more subtle. He sent Pepper a message about Xander's blood too and one to Rhodey about those commandos, just in case.

***

Xander looked over from his current job on the construction site at his boss grunting in displeasure. He looked at him. "I have no clue," he admitted when the boss stared at him. "If he's here for me he can wait until I'm off the clock," he said loudly enough to be heard then gave the agent a pointed look. "I'm not getting fired for this shit." He got back to work. The agent wasn't pleased looking. Yay. He called that in and another one showed up that afternoon instead when Xander logged out for the day. Xander walked over to him. "What can I do for you, Agent....."

"Coulson."

"Okay. What can I do for you, Agent Coulson?"

"You're listed as an acquaintance of one Tony Stark."

"I am. We were kidnaped at the same time."

"There's no notes in the files on that."

Xander considered it then nodded once. This agent gave him good feelings instead of the usual bored or creepy ones he got. "Check the LA FBI office for my file with them. The reason I got taken has to do with why they had dirty agents."

"I have looked at those. They're annoyingly brief," he said mildly. "Have you talked to Mr. Stark?"

"Yes. I went to talk to him about my present girlfriend." He walked off. "He thought I deserved one who was nicer."

"Did you talk about his last kidnaping, Mr. Harris?"

"Not really. I offered if he wanted to." He shrugged a bit. "He didn't want to." He got into his car and went home to shower and change for patrol. If the agent wanted to follow, that was fine. It'd probably make him look a bit too dangerous to screw with. Or pathetic if the girls were nagging tonight. He came out to find Anya scowling. "What?" he sighed.

"You talked to someone about us?"

"Yup. I've talked to him about a few of my dates in the past. Why?"

"He's mean."

"No, he's dated a lot more than I have, Anya. He's a bit blunt." She scowled. He stared back. "Not like you're the normal girl."

"No, I'm not."

"Which he thinks I could use." He walked around her. "Going out for patrol."

"Fine," she huffed. "I need you here, Xander. I have needs."

He looked at her. "Unless you *need* to have the town overrun, it's going to wait like every other night, Anya." She glared. He stared at her. "Sorry but it's a duty."

"They don't want you there," she said smugly.

He shrugged. "Since when do I give a damn what they want?" Anya slumped. "Unlike some, I'm not part of the bitchy girl patrol." He gave her a pointed look. "You might try something in that bottle in the medicine cabinet that says 'Pamprin' on it. That's why I got it for you." He pulled on a shirt then his sneakers and grabbed his weapons. He blew a kiss. "I'll be back later for your orgasms." He shut and locked the door, walking off shaking his head. Willow scowled when she spotted him. He stared back. "What? Is it a permanent PMS spell?" he asked dryly.

Buffy snorted. "She got a call from someone wanting to know if Anya was really a good girlfriend."

"Probably a friend of Tony's. I asked his opinion. He all but called Anya a money-grubbing ho."

"Welllllll," Buffy said, considering it. "She does love money and sex."

Xander nodded. "Yeah, she does." Buffy huffed. "I don't know," he muttered. "Which way?"

"It's a free night," she said smugly.

He stared at her then at Giles, who shrugged, then back at her. "You go Bronzing. I'll...." He waved a hand. "I need the stress relief before I go home to Anya's demands." He walked off. Yeah, there was a PMS spell on Sunnydale.

"You can't do it on your own, Xander. You're a normal," Buffy complained, stomping after him. "I want the night off."

"Then go take the night off, Buffy. Not like it's my first patrol on my own," he said dryly. "Or don't you remember calling off for dates?" He shot her a look. "Go. Shoo. Have fun with Riley."

She snorted. "You're jealous? Figures."

"Hell no!" he snorted, staring at her. "Not even in some bizarre alternate reality am I jealous of him. I've seen better soldiers." She flinched. He grinned. "Yeah, realized it." He stared at her. "Realized you've been risking mine and Willow's life too," he said more quietly. She snorted, glaring at him, arms now crossed over her chest. "Swim. Team." She flinched. "Beyond that, it's creepy that you're dating one of them." He walked off. "You have fun with your commando." He waved. "If I run into Spike I'll talk him into going with me for shits and giggles."

"Whatever," she muttered, stomping off. She and Willow went to the Bronze. Riley was there waiting impatiently. "Had to talk to Xander about why someone we don't know called up asking about Anya."

"Anya is a bit weird and I'm sure Xander met some people when he was on his road trip," he said, smiling at her.

Willow stared at him. "Was Xander right?" she demanded quietly.

"Willow!" Buffy complained loudly, then ducked her head when a few people looked at her.

"Are you one of the commandos?" Willow demanded.

"I'm not allowed to talk about anything relating to any military operation I've ever been involved in," he said. "How did Harris know that I was military?"

"He got possessed by the spirit of a PFC one Halloween due to a chaos sorcerer," she said with a smile. "He recognized a few things."

"PFC's are plebes," Riley said.

"Yeah but the guy who was the PFC ended up being a Ranger in Vietnam," Willow said. Riley winced. "Are you?"

"No. Comment."

"Then get the heck away from my friends, before I make you," Willow said.

Buffy glared, getting between them. "Is this pick on my boyfriend day?" she demanded.

"Yup. Because they took one of the campus wicca group members," Willow said. "I'm not going to put my life on the line with him around. For you, yes. For him, no."

Buffy gaped. "You...." She looked at Riley.

"As far as my people are concerned, magic is a myth," he said.

Willow smirked. "Really?"

He backed up at the look on her face. "I don't want to know if it's not."

"Then I'd scoot." She pointed at the doorway. "Since another of us showed up just now." He stomped off. She looked at Buffy. "He's worse than Angel. That's saying a lot since Angel killed Miss Calendar." Buffy huffed off. Willow went to talk to Joyce. Someone had to have some sense and maybe, just maybe, Joyce could talk to Xander about Anya and his road trip friends calling her to nag her about Anya. She knocked and got let in. "Miss Summers, can we talk?"

"Sure, Willow. What's wrong? Is there a lot of problems on patrol?" she asked, sitting her down in the living room with her.

"No, it's .... well, yes, but no. Have you heard anything about the commandos around town?"

"Some from Rupert."

"Riley's one. Xander found out."

"Oh, no," she sighed. She slumped. "Buffy's enamored of him?"

"Very. Even after he tried to cover and say he wouldn't want to take me, or Xander, or Oz in."

"I can understand Oz, and maybe you to see what magic could do, but Xander?" she asked.

"Did she never talk about the swim team?" Joyce slowly shook her head. Willow summoned her journal to let her read it. Joyce stared at her. "That way if he's put anything around here they can't overhear it."

She took the journal to read over, grimacing at that. "That poor guy."

"Basically, yeah. Xander told her the same thing I did. We're willing to risk our lives to patrol and for the good of the town but not around him, and we know he's spotted Spike at least once. And can you please talk to Xander about not telling others about Anya so they don't call me to talk about her?" she begged.

"Anya's...interesting. He had someone outside of the group call?"

"He apparently talked to someone he met on his road trip or whatever and she called me to talk to about them."

"Oh. What did she say?"

"That Xander should dump her, even if he was helping her get used to being human again. That it'd only end up in pain and misery for both of them."

"I can see that," Joyce agreed, considering that couple. "I probably would've had a talk about her openness in public more than once by now."

Willow sighed. "I think she'll do Xander good. She's not normal but she'll keep him out of trouble and out of the biggest problems."

Joyce stared at her. "If people like that boyfriend's group want him, he's not normal and that probably got old at least last year, Willow."

Willow stared, mouth slightly open. "He is!"

"He's not. If only because he has enough patience to have come back from escaping here."

"I heard he did bad things," she said with a blush.

Joyce shrugged. "That's what you do on a post-graduation road trip. Mine, I went to Paris and met a few poets who had some very interesting ideas about inspiration and wine." Willow was now bright red. "I'll talk to Xander, see what he's thinking is going on with him and Anya," she promised. "I know he hasn't had many relationships so he might be confused." Willow smiled and nodded. "And my daughter about her taste for predators." Willow hugged her then ran off to go do something at the dorms. Joyce sighed, putting Willow's journal safely into a locking drawer and going to make herself some tea. She called Rupert to come over for tea so they could talk. This had to be a united front or her daughter would get huffy and mean.

***

Xander looked over his shoulder at the feeling of being followed. "Pretty night, Agent Coulson." He spotted Spike. "Hey, Fangless!" Spike glared at him. "Buffy's with *him* at the Bronze. I need some stress relief."

"You're not my type," he snorted.

"Is that why your batty ex keeps sending me letters about collars and fur?" Spike glared. Xander grinned. "Got another one the other day and Anya nearly freaked out."

"I heard." He looked at the guy then at Xander, who shrugged. "You sure you have to go out?"

"Yeah. I'm sure." He rolled his eyes. "Where are they tonight?"

"Cedar." He pointed. He lit a cigarette and went to vampire face. The agent barely blinked at that. He smirked. "I like you. I should mentor you as a childe," he purred, moving closer to him.

Xander pulled him off. "Leave the agent alone, Spike. The last thing we need are more government sorts here." He looked at him. "Is it still true that commandos working in the US is illegal?"

"Yes, I believe it is." Apparently this was not what the agent was expecting to have happen tonight.

"Great. Let's go talk about them."

"Can we talk about Mr. Stark at the same time?"

Xander stared at him. "What do you think is going on there?"

"I'm worried that he's changed due to mental breaking down and reprogramming."

"Tony?" he snorted with a laugh. "Really? Do you know how hard it is to break someone like him?"

"Yes."

"Done it?" Xander asked.

"Yes."

"Are you forgetting that the incident in question wasn't his first kidnaping?"

"None of that is noted, and any rumors of them have said they were all short term, Mr. Harris."

Xander nodded. "Probably. Then again, guys like Tony aren't like guys like us. Maybe girls like Buffy only less cranky, but not guys like us." He walked off. "Want credible proof that they're working here in town?"

"Are they terrorists?"

"Depends on your species," Xander said. "Spike?"

"Bloody punters put a control chip in my head," he said bitterly. "Done it to others."

Agent Coulson nodded. "Does it make you do things?"

"Doesn't allow him to feed," Xander said, staring at him. "Which made him at their mercy for feeding, drugging, testing, torturing, all that neat stuff."

"I'd like to see proof," Coulson said, following the duo. That was interesting and nothing they had on this town said anything about commandos or anything strange. "May I ask about your graduation?"

"That was the Mayor," Xander said dryly.

"Wilkins wasn't it?"

"Yes. He was the only mayor we've had."

"He looked too young for that."

Xander looked at him. "I know very well someone somewhere has footage from graduation. I know I stepped on a camera during the evacuation moment." He gave him a pointed look. "At the very least there's some on the shrine to him at City Hall." Coulson nodded once at that, making notes on his phone. Xander and Spike led them to the only base entrance they knew, the one that Spike had gotten out of. Coulson watched the commandos dragging in a demon, who was sobbing and begging for mercy. Xander and Spike shared a look and then Xander threw rocks at the guys to piss them off. Then he took off running. Spike grabbed the demon and took off in another direction to get them safely away.

Coulson snuck onto the base to check things out. By that morning when he snuck back out, he had almost totally forgotten about Stark. He called for backup. He went to the local motel to take a shower, because he felt slimy after seeing that. Then he went to 'browse' at City Hall as the parent of a prospective college student. The cover story held and one of the secretaries there told him about Wilkins and about the 'mass hallucination from the gas explosion' that explained why there were pictures of him turning into a giant snake demon. Coulson had recorded it for his boss when he got there. He left to talk to him, looking thoughtful. "Sir."

Nick Fury, Director for SHIELD, stared at his senior agent. "What is that disturbing? You have never called in that level of emergency code before, Coulson. Usually you'd handle it with a few agents even if it was a real battle against an army."

He held up his phone to show the video. "Commandos torturing species we don't have noted. The graduation 'gas explosion' that was noted wasn't."

"Excuse me?" He listened to that file and grimaced. "What actually happened?"

"Go to City Hall, sir. They have a video there on one of the cameras." Two of the agents slipped away to get it. He drew a map to the underground base. "I talked with a victim last night and he led me to them with another person that was on patrol with him, carrying a crossbow for some reason." Fury snorted, shaking his head. "Said victim did not photograph. At all." Fury stared, blinking his good eye. He showed him. "That is Alexander Harris, who is tangentiality related to Stark. Beside him, that shadow is one he called Spike, and Fangless, and he does not photograph."

Fury looked at the picture then at him. "So, what are you thinking?"

Coulson flipped the picture. "The being they saved from the commandos, sir."

Fury looked at that green and orange being. It looked like a walking, short haired green and orange tiger. He opened his mouth then looked at Coulson. "So we think ....."

"I think this town should be investigated." Someone shouted but they went to dust as a stake entered their chest then the blonde huffed and moved on. "Miss Summers, may we have a word?"

"Are you Watchers?" she asked.

"No, we're agents," Fury said. "We're involved in the defense of the United States, young lady."

She grimaced. "That depends on what you want to know."

"Where is the information on the former Mayor?"

"Beyond the shrine? You might check his house. No one's ever cleaned it out. Or his office. Not sure if they've cleaned that out. Or there's bits and pieces of him still littering the old high school's site." She shrugged. "I don't know, why ask me?"

"We've just become aware that things aren't normal here," Fury said, walking over.

She snorted. "You really suck at protecting the US then since we've had at least a fifteen percent homicide rate here." She walked off shaking her head. "Sorry, gotta patrol. You should leave town before they get you too. It's only safe during the day."

Fury looked at his agents and pointed. Two followed her subtly. Fury looked at Coulson. "What the fucking hell is going on here?"

"I do not know, sir. That's why I made the preliminary report that I had to go off target."

"Did that kid talk about Stark?"

"He thinks we underestimated how easy it is to break someone."

Fury snorted. "How would he know?"

"They were taken together at one point in time. I'm still trying to find why."

"Was he bait?"

"No," another agent said, walking up to them. "Looking up his file leads us to a lot of supposition laid by the former Mayor Wilkins, but also three prices on his head," she said, showing them. "He was probably taken due to one of them."

Coulson looked. "That's the same thing Miss Summers said, sir."

"I realize that. Who are they?"

"Secret society of paranormal researchers out of England who claim ownership of a line of specially chosen female warriors against the vampire menace and other problems," she said.

"I was hoping we weren't going to go there," Fury said. "It's a pretty little town. Can our hackers get anything?"

"Wilkins barely had any files on his system, home or office. There's two online videos of the graduation ceremony, one altered and one not. The altered one has people fighting a giant snake."

"Which is what the pictures at City Hall showed," Coulson told her. She stared at him. "The secretary that told me what happened explained it as a mass hallucination due to the gas leak that caused the explosion."

"By the remains we've looked at, the school blew up from inside," one of the other agents said as he walked up to them. "Graduation was on the side lawn." Fury stared at him. "There were a few fliers still on telephone poles on the way, Director." Fury nodded once. "There are remains." He held up a baggy of something that looked like part of a snake. "The remains go from the podium with the microphone set up still on it to the school, through the school, and outside the side."

"So we really had a huge snake demon?" Fury demanded. His second-in-command complained at that.

"Possibly. Permission to have some of our geeks look?"

"Definitely." He called the science team in. He looked at his second-in-command. "Hill, there's commandos here with unknown species."

Coulson showed her the map. "There may be an entrance at the college. I didn't have time to scout that far. Frankly, I nearly shot a few for the way they were torturing some of their hostages I was so disgusted."

Fury nodded once. "That bad?" Coulson showed him the video of the torture room he looked in. Fury turned a bit green. So did Hill. "Stop that shit," he ordered. "Any agency overseeing them?"

"I saw science groups and Rangers," Coulson said.

"Lead the way," Fury ordered. Coulson led them back to the base opening and let them sneak in.

***

Coulson finished taking a new shower and got dressed again, coming out to find Fury glaring at his phone. "The president isn't allowing us to act?"

"No. He ordered it," he said with a grimace.

"Our orders, sir?" Hill asked.

"Shut them the fuck down," he said, looking at her. "I don't give a damn if they're all dangerous and trying to end humanity, shut it the fuck down."

"The hostages?" she asked.

"There's a clinic downtown," Coulson said. "I noted that earlier when I was looking around. It's not for humans as the languages on the sign aren't any human one that I recognize."

She nodded. "We can arrange for them to find them." She called in her favorite strike teams to handle things. She left to oversee it while their geeks looked at the records of the town, the graduation explosion site, and broke into the systems on that 'base'. Even the most hardened agents looked pissed off at that. The ones that had been military before joining SHIELD looked like they were going to rip them to molecules for disgracing the US and uniform. She told them they could not do permanent harm, they wanted them to face charges for the most part. She told the director when they ran into another agency's people but he said they could go down too. Pity for them.

***

Agent Coulson walked up to Xander a few days later when he was on patrol. "Thank you," he told him.

Xander nodded. "No, thank you." He stared at him. "Anything else you wanted to meddle in?"

"We still need to evaluate Stark's mental status and if he's changed sides," he said quietly.

Xander burst out laughing. "I doubt he'd do that. Considering my poker contacts locally said that they used his stuff to get him." Coulson almost flinched at that. "I think you're barking up the wrong forest, Agent Coulson, and I'm not going to let you hurt Tony. I'm pretty damn sure that within weeks it's going to be apparent what he's doing." He walked off. "You have a great night and watch your neck."

Agent Coulson grimaced, going back to LA to work on Miss Potts again. She was still stonewalling him but she was starting to break. She actually talked to him when he met her in the lobby of Stark Enterprises and had him walk her off. What he found out horrified him. No wonder Harris had hinted. Stark was turning onto his own side.

***

Fury looked at his people a few days later. "What the hell?" he demanded.

"Stark, sir," Coulson said. "I had no idea he was going to react that strongly. Neither did Potts. The only one who seems to have gotten that clue was Harris."

"Is Harris some sort of idiot savant?" he demanded.

"No, but we did find out that the former principal was known for changing grades before they were submitted," Hill said from her seat. She put that paperwork down. "Also, we've found a hint of something that's hidden overseas, where neither he nor Stark have been, but both have paperwork on file with the judiciary. It's sealed and we cannot get copies. They refuse."

"Like they're hiding something?" Fury said.

"Like someone took a bribe and is now covering it up," Hill said.

Coulson nodded. "Looking at the FBI file again, there's a note of the same country and a legal challenge during their joint kidnaping."

"Do we think they had Stark adopt Harris?" Fury snorted.

"No, I think they had them married," Hill said. Fury sat upright and stared at her. "That's the only reasonable explanation I can find for that level of secrecy and I do believe it was someone taking a bribe as they've both put in legal challenges to something in their country."

"Looking back at surveillance footage of LA, Harris has met with Stark a few times. He's met with Potts at a strip club he was working at after graduation. His car had been set on fire and he was working in the kitchen, but there's evidence he had to strip at least once to fill in on a weak night." Fury grimaced and shook his head. "There's evidence of Potts and Harris talking after his graduation, a series of text messages by the phone company records."

"So Potts knew about Harris?"

"I think she knew something but chose not to know more," Coulson said. "I think she's a bit too straight and narrow for Sunnydale to ever do more than give her a headache. Stark seems to know."

"Okay," Fury said. "How do we know this?"

"Harris has listed an official will on file. We snuck a look at his safety deposit box with a secret warrant," Coulson said. "He made Stark his beneficiary of any life insurance and/or bank accounts he might have at the time of his demise but said he was not responsible for any bills he might owe or his burial expenses."

"Basically, he made him his power of attorney and executor," Fury said. Coulson nodded. "Stronger for the idiot kidnapers married them theory."

"Stark hasn't changed his will," Hill said. "We do know that agents have intervened thanks to Stark twice when dirty or fake agents tried to take out Harris for the prices on his head."

"Stark hasn't changed his will since he was twenty-four," Coulson noted. "When he listed Potts on it."

Fury considered it. "So they chat."

"Now and then Harris seems to check in with him."

"Do we think they know they got married off?"

"Stark legal filed both challenges," Hill said. "I'd say yes, sir."

Fury nodded. "This is going to be bad."

Coulson shook his head. "It's clear that it's not their idea but Harris seems to look up to Stark at least. Perhaps we can handle things."

"Maybe," Fury said. "Give me a comprehensive background on both of them. Ours are shitty." They handed them over. "Dismissed." They left him to contemplate his newest headaches.

***

Six Years Later

***

Xander hung up and walked off. "Willow, I need to hit New York now," he ordered.

"It's shut down! Even you saw that battle and you can't help! You're not a hero!"

"I have friends up there, they were injured," he said, staring at her.

"Who?" she snorted. "Your only friends...."

"I have other friends, Willow. Send me now so I don't have to use the demon network?" She glared. "Fine." He grabbed a few things and left the slayer house in Cleveland. The poker circuit was happy to get him up there. He knew where he was going. They knew where he was going. He walked into the infirmary and around a few people.

"Who are you?" someone demanded.

Xander looked at them. "Shut. The. Fuck. Up." They flinched back. "I'm a next of kin." He walked over to Tony, tipping his face up. "You turned into me. Or Buffy, one of us."

Tony snorted. "Pepper's my next-of-kin, Xander."

He smirked. "You sure of that? Pepper changed it recently."

"She didn't tell me that."

"I think the board made her." Tony nodded then winced. Xander grinned. "Wanna come let the girls fuss?"

"No."

Xander grinned. "You sure?"

"Definitely." Someone stomped in and Xander beat them back until they ducked out of the room. "Nice," Tony said dryly. "A bit overprotective?"

"Yup. You should've called the house."

"No time."

Xander nodded. "Yay. We have girls up here."

"I saw them helping." He grinned slightly. "I'm fine." Xander dialed into his voicemail and let him hear it. "Fuck," he said.

Xander nodded. "I need a liaison. The poker circuit said the one that comes around to annoy me now and then about you can't," he said quietly.

"Romanoff, go with Harris and help the slayers."

"Excuse me?" she demanded, staring at him.

Xander looked at her. "I'm one of the new Council's trainers, Agent Romanoff. We've got slayers local and they said that the portal that closed, it snapped open a hellgate upstate. I need a liaison who can get people off my girls' backs while they handle it."

She shuddered. "I was in Sunnydale when you were found." He grinned slightly. "We're all tired."

"I get that. I only need someone who can shove, not fight. The girls won't let anyone, even me, get in there. Buffy told them we're all normal if we're not slayers." She snorted at that, shaking her head. "That's my feeling too. That and I need the huge paddle I have in my office." He grinned. "May we borrow you or someone you choose?"

Fury stomped in. He paused. "Harris."

"Your portal closing opened a hellgate. I've got three girls upstate. I need a wall between us."

"Hill, get the slayers a wall."

"I'll go," she promised, looking at Xander. "Nice to have you stateside, Harris."

He stared at her. "I still think Spike should've taken you as a toy, Hill. It might break the stick up your ass." She snorted and gave him an evil look. "C'mon. I'm driving since you have injuries." He looked at Tony. "You might want to see how badly Pepper screwed up your paperwork, Tony. Really." Tony groaned but called her. Xander walked out with Hill. "I've got three girls. It should be enough but if not, Willow can get us more."

"Agreed," Hill said. "I'm driving."

"You have a concussion. Shut up." She glared but he was in a bitchy mood. He got in to drive, the keys were in the ignition. She slid in since she didn't have a choice and they went up there. He got out and found the girls battling something that wasn't a kraken but it looked like a stringy mess of wires. Xander looked at it, tipping his head to the side. "I need a taser." Hill handed him hers. "Thank you." He walked over to help while she went to talk to the staring officers and agents.

He fired it at the mouth of the creature, making it scream. "It takes an energy weapon, ladies." They managed to make one with the taser and a few of their regular weapons, sending the electricity down the swords instead of the wires. It meant the two of them had to stay together but the spare one and Xander handled the other things that were trying to sneak past the battle and come out.

Hill looked at them then at the agents. "I'm with SHIELD. I'm the Executive Officer of SHIELD," she said at one agent's horrified look. "Leave the slayers alone please." They slowly backed off. "The earlier emergency in New York opened this one." The local sheriff shifted and looked displeased. "If possible, we'll render it unopenable."

"Please do," the sheriff agreed. "We had no idea about this."

"Neither did we until their trainer showed up to talk to an asset we have," Hill admitted. "They couldn't get through during the emergency." That got a nod of understanding. "Harris, do you need help?"

"Nope," he said, then stabbed something, slinging it off the sword. "Stomp that into a greasy spot if you want. It has to be dismembered and the one it was pulling is poisonous to humans. Back off, Bethany."

"I'm a slayer."

"Now!" he snapped. She backed off. She stomped on the little thing while Xander got the other thing. He glanced over at the sound of a jet. "Great. Ladies, more agents."

"They're still not slayers either," one snorted, lunging to kill the creature. It got her bitten. Xander took her sword and the other one to handle it for them. "Hey!" she said weakly.

"Your ass, training room, tomorrow," Xander said, killing the creature after a few minutes. He panted, looking around. "We miss any, Beth?"

"Not that I can see, Xander." He nodded and they stepped out of the gateway. "How do we destroy this?"

Xander pulled something out of his vest and bounced it in his hand, looking at the outline of the gateway. He put it where it'd do the most good. "Big explosion," he warned, backing the slayers off. It exploded and crumpled. The gateway collapsed with a sucking noise. Xander let the girls test it. "Closed?"

"Nearly fully," the first one reported. "I can feel a touch of dark magic but it feels like it's naturally shrinking in on itself."

Xander nodded. "Beth, your post is here to check on it every week," he told her, looking over. She nodded. "Let us know if there's any change. Make sure the locals have your number in case." She walked over to talk to them about it. Xander looked at the other two. "Out of practice?" They groaned. He smirked. "Trade out for fresh ones, I heard you were helping earlier." They nodded, smiling some. "Then go home and train your asses." He gave them pointed looks. "Unless you want me to do it?"

"No," the girls said in unison.

"Can we have Faith?" one of them asked.

"I'll see." He called. "Buffy, me, Beth, Amber, and Killia. One hellgate that they reported is now down and mostly sucking itself closed. Beth is to check on it each week. The girls were helping earlier during the New York battle to move civilians and defended an area that had daycares and the like. They need some relief pitchers."

"I can do that," she said on the speaker. "Good going, girls."

"Xander helped," they said.

"Of course he did," she sighed.

Xander glared at the phone. "There was no kraken but the stringy, wire wannabe kraken was on top here. We had a few nasty little germ motes and the one that reminds you of a pokemon trying to sneak past it."

"Got it, I wrote it down for Giles. Have Beth send us a report weekly on it."

"Can we have Faith?" one of them asked. "She'd be calm in case New York has more problems."

"Yeah, you can," Buffy agreed.

"Buffy, rewatch the footage with Giles," Xander ordered.

"Why?"

"Do it, and then have Giles call his former coworkers." He hung up and looked at them. "You did okay. Ice cream for dinner?" They smiled and hugged him, bouncing over to their stolen car. "Ladies, we do not keep driving a stolen one," he said bluntly.

"You did," Agent Hill said smugly, taking the remains of her taser back.

"It was SHIELD's SUV and I had a SHIELD agent with me," he shot back. "Therefore, not stolen." He walked off, nodding at the other agents. "It's handled, guys."

"Who are you?" one of them demanded.

Xander grinned, which made the girls back off. "I'm the trainer for the new Council of Watchers. We're under new management and we don't suck, steal the girls, or treat them like expendable robotic warriors. I'm the one that makes sure the ones that need to stay at home get trained so they don't die. If you want to know more, ask Hill or Fury." He walked around them. The agent growled but Xander turned and beat him until he was groaning on the ground. He looked at Hill. "He needs to train with the girls. The tiny minis would *adore* using him as a training aid since they're on his level."

"Don't insult my agents, Harris. Your tiny horrors on the supernatural are menaces."

He grinned. "They'd adore that compliment. Thank you." He got the girls into the SUV and drove them back to the city. "Are you girls able to hit your house?"

They groaned but shrugged. He nodded he'd try then take them to the training center if not. They grinned, the training center was a great, relaxing place. Xander had made sure of it. Yup, their block had a few fires and they weren't allowed in until they were contained. So Xander took them to the training center. It wasn't that far away, only in Port Chester, so maybe a forty minute drive at the most on the bad days if you weren't going the same direction as everyone else. He pulled into the driveway and put the code into the gateway driving in once the iron gates opened. They closed behind the car and all the girls sighed in relief. He grinned at them. "Five minutes."

"We know," they agreed. They watched the trees. There were a few harmless species of animal demons here as a refuge. They liked to dart out to pet Xander so they had to go very slowly. They pulled up outside the house, which looked like a solid blank wall with two gold and red doors. The handles on the doors were sterling silver. The gold paint was decorative but held little runes of protection. They walked into the open entryway. It had no real ceiling but in the center was a garden table next to a small pool.

The girls knew the rules and paused to take off their shoes and use the water, which was from a blessed well on the grounds, to wash their hands, faces, and feet. Xander did the same then they walked through to the kitchen, one of the seven doors off the entryway. The kitchen smelled good. The housekeeper was teaching the Tiny Terrors about carrot cake and other vegetable-based sweets. They ranged in age from almost newborn to eight. At eight, the girls moved to another wing to train and go to school in Port Chester at a girls school Xander had picked. Willow didn't like it but they had said Xander was over training so yay. Giles had agreed with Xander's choice after looking at the local options and said it was an excellent school.

Xander smiled at the housekeeper, kissing her on the cheek. He winked and stole a carrot cake cookie on his way past. "Girls, hit the bunks." They ran for the upper level slayer rooms. They had some for ones that were injured or needed help retraining after injuries. They could use those. The minis bounced around Xander to ask him about the battle. He settled in to watch it with them and go over what had happened. They all smiled at the bigger slayers and congratulated them on helping subtly until the hellgate had opened.

By then it was dinner and the girls ate like they were starved, they all did. Xander took his turns with feeding the tiny mini ones. Xander looked at one who pouted at him. "I'm sorry your mommy's still in Asia, Daphne, but you have to eat." He shoveled more oatmeal into her mouth and she grimaced but ate it. He grinned. "Good girl, Daphne." He fed her more.

"If we have kids will they be slayers?" one of the five-year-olds asked.

Xander nodded. "It's possible." They sighed but knew the others would help them. They always did. They pestered the girls for a story about hunting then got tucked in. "Night, ladies."

"Night, Xander," they called as a group. Xander grinned, watching them go tuck each other in. The housekeeper helped because Xander did not go into the girls' rooms. It wasn't appropriate to his mind and he didn't want to hear someone try something. He got the babies down and tucked in for the night after their baths and changes. Xander went back down to do the formal report and send it to Giles, via Willow since Giles still didn't like computers. Willow sent back a huff of noise but yay.

***

Tony got out of bed the next day and blinked at the people staring at him. "What?"

"That mouthy bastard?" Natasha asked. "How do you know him?"

"We got kidnaped together once." She groaned. "Xander's a good guy. With all he's done, he should have a uniform, as well as some of the slayers." He stretched with a wince. "I'm going to stay with him until the tower's fixed. You guys can probably come have the guest house. There's rules. Including that all the mini slayers live there with the housekeeper." They all just nodded at that.

"What's a slayer?" Steve Rogers asked.

Tony looked at him. "Long story. I'll tell you on the way. I want to get out of here." They nodded. Tony led them out to his limo. He was too exhausted to drive and so was everyone else. He leaned back. "All right, first of all, slayers are mystically chosen female warriors. Back in prehistoric times, back during the grunting and pointing days according to Xander, the original Council made a slayer by pushing some essences into her so she could protect humanity from demons." Steve snorted, shaking his head. "They're real, Rogers. Xander's been hunting the bad ones since he was fifteen." The others slumped.

"The original Council, since it appears there's a new version," Bruce Banner continued. "Used to take custody of their future warriors by whatever means was necessary so they could have absolute control over their lives and training."

"Xander and Giles forbid that," Tony said. "There's a few orphans though. The thing that got all the slayers activated was what took out that town in California by suspicious earthquake."

Bruce nodded. "I saw that and wondered."

"There was something there called a hellmouth," Natasha said. "We found that out later, when Coulson found out about the demons and told everyone else. He was supposed to be talking to Harris about Stark's mental state." Tony snorted at that. "It was described as a thin spot between dimensions."

"It was, and it had a lot of radiation. I took a lot of readings from it when I wondered," Tony told Bruce, who was a scientist and would understand. "When that happened, they were fighting something called the First Evil, Bruce. At that time, the bitch's minions were going out to kill the uncalled slayers. From babies up. So there's a lot of orphans that managed to be hidden or sent away for their own safety. After the battle, Xander went to Africa to grieve for his lost former fiancee until everyone kind of ...imploded about the kid and orphan issue. Then Xander quietly showed up, set up a house, and told everyone that the kids were coming to him. There's protections. There's a few demon, slightly demon, and mystical creatures on the grounds. There's a lot of safety for the kids. He has them from baby aged up. He's their trainer."

"So they can't have a foster family?" Clint asked quietly.

"If they could find one, yes," Tony said. "Xander's vetted a few to go to foster families if they thought they could handle the girls and their gifts. The stronger, faster, quicker healing...." Steve stared at him, mouth slightly open. "Yeah, they were trying to make male slayers for the military," he said dryly. "The senior girls rotate in and through the main house in Cleveland, where the most open hellmouth is. The girls choose their own assignments and where they want to go. I know Xander was fussing at one's kids for her while she was on assignment." Bruce grimaced.

"Three things you have to know before we go in. The house has protections. They're important. When we get there, there's a blessed pool. You wash your hands, face, and feet with the water in it to make sure you do not track in anything horrible." He stared at them. "Or else you don't get past the doorway. The house itself will keep you out." They just nodded at that. "The housekeeper is from a peaceful demon species. She's really tough and can bend Romanoff into an ogre pretzel easily. She will to protect the girls. Third, the girls are *girls*. They pounce, squeal, babble, all that. They're interested in hearing about hunting and battle things, so don't upset them. Just say I can't talk about it yet. They've seen the senior girls coming home hot and injured."

"Do they get more than training?" Bruce demanded.

"Yeah. Xander got them into a fairly good girls school. Good academics, good language and history program, great admittance rate to college, and the girls are expected to go to college." Bruce relaxed and nodded at that. "They saw the old Council screwing up time and again, Bruce. They will not and are not like them. I've seen Xander punch someone for accusing them of that."

"Okay," Steve said. "We can understand that."

"The really tiny ones don't live on the same floor as the older girls," Tony told Romanoff. "They get to be kids. They run around, play with the demonic bunnies, all that. No one gets *any* sort of training in anything until they're at least eight. That's when they start school and slayer identification classes. Before then, they only leave the house with a knowing, trained guard and they have regular self defense classes for kids their age each Saturday. They get out about twice a week for playtime but they try to keep the really mini away from people who would take them to use. Xander had to defeat a few fuckers in the military again recently."

She nodded. "I know of their sort."

"He's protecting them from that sort. He does a pretty good job. Every year I get a request from the girls to talk to them about technology and their areas of expertise to see if I can find uses for more modern weapons for them. Buffy hates it but oh well." He smirked slightly. "There is no alcohol anywhere on the campus. Xander had alchie parents, he refuses to let any be anywhere on the campus." They all nodded at that. "One of the girls had to ask him what that beer stuff her friend at school told her about. The girls are all highly anti-alcohol, anti-drug, anti-smoking, but squeal heavy." Natasha almost smiled. "At one time, he asked my opinion on getting someone from SHIELD in to help him train the girls. It never happened."

"So they're trained to be mini soldiers?" Steve asked.

Tony stared at him. He pulled out his tablet computer to type into a private database, letting him read it. "That's on Sunnydale." Steve read, his face going slack and pale. "The girls are *called* to that duty by some sort of chess-playing mother fuckers to borrow a Fury-ism. That's what he calls them too. They're meant to be the main warrior against that sort of problem. If Thor was still here, he'd probably know."

"He probably would," Clint said quietly. "We heard rumors about the Sunnydale op. I was in Belize."

Natasha nodded. "I helped hack into some of the information and get the commandos down."

"Thank you," Tony said, staring at her. "We were horrified when we found out. Xander had mentioned commandos and they liked Rhodey, but not how bad they were. If I had known, that whole thing would've been killed." She smiled slightly and tipped her head. "Pepper only told me last year she heard about graduation and how it had went."

"We hacked film of it," she said. "It was not pretty. Hill thought that the actual footage was tampered with."

"I don't take her as being able to really handle the supernatural," Tony said dryly. They pulled up to a gate and Tony leaned out to tap in a code. The gate opened and they drove through. Tony shut and locked the bar.

"How did he afford something this nice?" Clint asked quietly.

"Partially poker, and I gave him a slight loan he's paid back," Tony admitted. "The girls needed the safe space. The house was already here, he just had to renovate and protect it." They all nodded at that. When they parked he got out first, looking around. He smiled and pointed. "Steve, not sure if you can pet her or not."

Steve looked and blinked. "That's a unicorn."

"Hmm, yes it is." He walked over to the doors. "Anyone got a problem with silver?" They all shook their heads so Tony opened the door and let them in. He took off his shoes and did the bathing. Bruce tried to enter without it to see what happened and couldn't. There was an invisible wall holding him back until he did it.

Natasha checked it before she finished her washing. "That's amusing."

"It's protective," Tony said. "Most everything that can't touch the blessed water is going to be bad for the girls." He walked them into the kitchen. "Marta?"

She turned, blinking at him. "Mr. Stark." She stared at the people then at him. "Xander's in the study reading to Daphne and Glenda. They had a few nightmares."

"That's fine. We need the safe area after the battle. My tower's in a few thousand pieces."

She pinched him on the cheek. "I know you do. The senior guest house is all cleaned up and I've removed Buffy's leftover wardrobe so you didn't have to look at it." He grinned as he walked past her, stealing a cookie. "Those are for the girls," she chided.

"They're great carrot cake cookies," he said with a smile. "This is Romanoff, Barton, Bruce, and Steve," he introduced. She smiled and let them have cookies too. Tony took them to the study, knocking before barging in. Xander put back down his weapon. "Not like many people can get past the protections."

"Yeah but I'm paranoid after Africa," he admitted, going back to reading.

"They're already called?" Bruce asked.

Xander stared at him. "Their mother left them with me while she went on her chosen rotation in Asia. She thought it was too dangerous right now. Though, yes, both girls are future slayers." He went back to reading the story because Glenda was poking him. He smiled at her. "Pushy." She beamed and nodded. He finished and put her down then put Daphne into the playpen beside him. "Sit and tease your sister because she's in the baby jail." Glenda gave him a wicked smirk and cackle, doing that with her shiny toy.

Xander looked at Bruce again. "I've found homes for ten of the girls. Most parents don't want a daughter that has super strength and super agility. They tend to be scared of it or of something coming for the girls. The old Council didn't keep records on where they came from outside of one vault, which got blown up too. Even with DNA testing we couldn't find most of their families. The Bringers got a lot of them trying to get the girls." He looked at Tony. "The senior guest house has seven rooms so it should fit you. The New York team is here until their building's cleared sometime tomorrow."

He looked at them then back at Tony. "You guys can wander, use the senior gym, all that if you need to. Just ....don't upset the girls too much. They're *girls* and they're still susceptible to crushes and hero worship. I know a few that hacked into SHIELD last year thought Agent Romanoff was meant to be their goddess." She jerked a bit, looking startled. "It's not every woman who can keep pace with a slayer. You can do that and more. They may ask you to spar with them."

"I'd be pleased to test them against my skills."

Xander grinned. "Thanks." He looked at them again. "Let me show you where you're bunking down. Glenda, let's go for a walk. Find your shoes." She held up her feet. "I know they're bare. Go get shoes. We're going outside." Glenda got up and ran off, ducking between Bruce's legs to get to the door. "We're going out to the senior house," he yelled. There was a mass squeal. "I love happy girls." He grinned and got the baby out and into her carrier on his back. She liked that, she grinned and kicked and tangled her fingers into his hair. He put on the front carrier for the other one.

"C'mon. If you're lucky, Marta put up all of Buffy's pink stuff so you're not horrified," he told the one on his front. She was nearly a newborn. He walked out. "Ladies?" he called as he walked. They all ran for the front door. "Back door!" They ran that way as a group, nearly running everyone over. "Easy, ladies, I have the babies." They got waved at and Daphne waved and cooed back. The front one just huffed. "Senior guest house, ladies. Pet the demon bunnies later." They laughed but carried a few that way. They loved the demon bunnies, they were really soft. One of the younger girls held one up for him. "No, Daphne and Melissa are too young to pet them. They don't know how to pet yet. You can teach them later." She nodded and petted her own bunny on their pouncing, playing tag on the walk out there.

Tony looked at Melissa. "She's new."

"Her mommy's in jail in Nevada. Her boyfriend got drunk and yelled at her, then threw a book at her, so she sent him to the ICU in full body traction." Tony winced. "Giles is presently dealing with her and I have Melissa since she can't do that in jail in this country." Natasha looked over. "There's many countries where mothers get to bring their kids until a certain age."

"I've seen that." She looked at Daphne. "She's thinking very hard."

Xander looked over his shoulder. "Give me two minutes and I'll change you. Don't encourage Melissa to do the same thing until Marta goes shopping, okay? She's only got three diapers left." He opened the door. The girls ran into the kitchen then one of the older young ones ran back to the main kitchen to tell Marta they needed food. That worked and she brought them out plus the diaper bag he had forgotten. She even took Daphne to change, making him grin. "Thank you, Marta."

"Welcome, Xander." She took both babies back with her. "C'mon, you two. We're going shopping and it's about time you learned that art too."

Xander smiled. "She's amazing and when the girls get too old for me to help with baths and stuff, she's always there." He showed them where things were with the girls, and their bunnies. Though a few got free in the house. "They only bite if they're in heat," Xander said, catching one to put outside. He showed them the senior gym and introduced them to the New York slayers team. The girls gushed over them and asked Natasha if she'd spar with them so they could learn new things. She promised they could the next day and the girls got happy and bouncy too. Xander went back to his study to go over the next major problem the slayers were going to face. It was in LA yet again and pretty darn bad even if he had to say so himself.

***

Tony woke up to a bunny staring at him, blinking back at it. "Now I know why he said Anya considered you guys creepy," he said. The bunny blinked and nibbled his t-shirt. "No, you can't eat my shirt." He put it onto the floor, facing toward the door, and gave it a nudge on the tail. It hopped off quickly. "Thank you." He saw the door was open, even though he had closed it. He sat up to look around, finding the other staring thing, which had probably woken him up. "Miriam."

"I led him to the grove," she said quietly. "He needed it. He hurt."

"Thank you for helping our archer."

She grinned. "Him too. He's not there, he's in the gym. Nadia found him lifting weights and decided to taunt him by doing more than he is. I think she has a crush." She giggled as she ran out.

"Thanks," Tony called after her. He got up and put on pants over his boxers, heading outside. He wasn't sure if Bruce or Steve was in the Grove. They could both use the contemplation that was there. He headed for the gym instead, looking at Nadia. Then at Clint. He gave Nadia a pointed look, getting a huff back. "You can taunt him by doing it better than him but listen to him about weapons, okay? He's an expert marksman."

She grinned. "That's always a great thing."

"I doubt he's going to be dating anytime soon."

"Shoot."

Clint blinked at her. "Huh?" She pouted. "Oh, that was flirting. I thought you needed the quiet workout time too. Sorry for misunderstanding."

She got up to hug him. "It's all right. We all miss things. I spent a lot of time locked in here when my twin died due to the last apocalypse while I was laid up with a broken hip. Xander saw me ready to lose it and locked me in here until I wore myself down to the point I was ready for hugs." She stared at him. "C'mon." She helped him off the weight bench, escorting him properly with her arm on his outside. "There's a few spots all slayers eventually have to find. The gym is one because it helps us save ourselves and when we're angsty it helps us work out our thoughts, but sometimes you have to think instead of working yourself to sleep so you can remember." He flinched.

She patted his hand. "Remembering is hard but if you don't remember, then no one else will. Then they're forgotten." She looked up at him. "Being forgotten sucks, at least to us. We never get notice for what we've done. It's kinda forbidden, even after the hugest of apocalypse battles we're not allowed to see reporters. It'd get us hurt or killed by people who hated the supernatural existed or people looking to score favoritism points with their demon of choice. That's when we come here. We always hold a ceremony here, every apocalypse and once a year on the anniversary of the Great Calling."

She walked him through the white wooden gateway and into the Grove. It was a large circular area that had stone plinths around it. "This is since the First Evil started to come out," she said quietly, leading him to the first one. "These ones the Bringers brought down." She touched a few names. "Our families were honored too," she said, choking it back down. He gave her hand a pat. She smiled slightly. "Thanks. We had a baby sister." She walked him on to the fourth one. "These ones fell during the battle of the First. All those who fought and fell were noted as honorably gone and missed." She pointed. "That's Xander's former fiancee Anya. She died during the battle. She wasn't much of a fighter but she was scrappy and helped where she could, even though she was kinda warped from being a demon for over a thousand years."

She walked him on. "This was our first major apocalypse, the demon invasion of LA." She looked up at him. "I was laid up with a broken hip. The Bringers brought down the house on top of us with explosives. My sister escaped with a concussion and bruises but she had been in the basement. Thankfully I was in the tub. They found me a few days later." He nodded, patting her hand again. "Then she made it to here." She pointed, touching the name. "Her and her roommie at the main house. We didn't have this then. Xander set this up afterward because Buffy and Giles didn't know what to do when we needed to remember and Faith knew we needed something but not how. There's a mirror of these at the compound in Cleveland."

She pointed at another name. "That was the LA team's last real member before they had to reform. Angel was Buffy's first boyfriend and a vampire with a soul restoration curse. We were told he was kinda broody and all that but she thought she loved him. Then he lost his soul." She grimaced. "We never take dating advice from Buffy." He smiled. She walked him on. "This is from our last one. We only lost three. I'm so happy we only lost three. There were huge demons that wanted to eat us and they were sending out waves that made us dizzy until Xander broke some major laws and got some heavy weapons. See, it only radiated at the slayer spirit, which he doesn't have. Xander's kinda like a big brother and kinda like our normal guy hero because no matter how hard Buffy and Willow tried, he was always there when they needed him, even if they didn't know." She touched the newly carved line. "The rest of these will honor us some year, hopefully far in the future."

Clint swallowed. "I hope it's really far in the future."

She smiled and patted his hand. "For some of the older girls, ancient was eighteen. Before Buffy, the girls hardly ever got there unless they were called at seventeen." Clint flinched. "It used to be that we got chosen singly, did our duty, and then died from it within a year or so. Some of us lasted weeks," she said quietly. "We changed that, she changed that for us. We may not always like Buffy, because she's kinda a bitch at times, but we love her like a big sister because she's made it to twenty-five. That's unheard of for us," she said quietly.

"She's the longest lasting yet and we all hope to break her record, but no one sugar coats it for us. They tried and we rejected that. Giles tried *so* hard to make it seem like we were normal teenagers who went to school, dated, went to plays and the band, or dances. And it was but it's not. There's an invisible wall because the other kids would never understand. Xander pointed out where the wall had a doorway and why Buffy lasted, because he and Willow helped. That let us know that we could make friends, that we could trust some others with our secrets and they wouldn't turn us in to agents who wanted to dissect us like science experiments. The NID *really* have to go away for good." She patted his arm again. "Do your people have one of these?"

"Not that I'm aware of," he said quietly, staring at the line that was drawn for the next group that died during an apocalypse. "What if it's not an apocalypse?" She walked him to that large, square plinth in the center of the round bench. "This is....wow." He stared. Names with dates. The names started at the top and worked their way down. "Buffy died?"

"Twice now, yeah. Once Xander brought her back and once Willow did, which caused the First Evil bullshit." Clint grimaced. "She lied to do it too. We.... she's turned back to our side but a lot of us look at her like she's contaminated. Xander doesn't like that but we're really kinda scared of her. Dawn's great and nice, and kinda weird but she looks at Xander like a big brother and she's Buffy's sister so that's kinda a DNA contamination I think." He grinned at that. "Xander made sure that no matter what, we're all honored. Even if Willow falls she'll end up on one. We're all deathly afraid of what happens if Xander dies on us. A lot of us aren't sure we can keep going on without him being the cheerleader behind us as well as the big brother, voice of reason, and the guy who reminds us what shitbags boys are when we're ready to date."

"Guys can be, yeah," he agreed quietly, staring at the plinth. "What did Willow do?" She settled them on the bench and told him about Glorificus and how Buffy had died defeating her. Then how Willow had a magic addiction and how it had taken out her common sense gene for a while. How she had lied and pulled Buffy back from heaven. How it had nearly destroyed Buffy for a bit too. Then the dreams of the Bringers started. She paused and swallowed, telling him how slayer dreams worked. He shivered. She squeezed his hand and went on. At the end, he nodded, head down. She kissed him on the cheek and left him there to think. Clint stared around the grove. He noticed there was a little fountain and meditation bench in front of it, with Bruce meditating on it. Clint looked at the plinths again. "We need one of these."

Xander cleared his throat. "There's a memorial park being put up," he said quietly. Clint looked at him. "For those lost during the battle. One of the smaller parks that's not Central Park is going to host it." That got a nod. "But...." He sat on the bench and pointed at one. "That is not the end of everything." He looked at him. "For some it's a reason, for others it's a curse, for a few it's why they break and never heal." He shrugged.

"I broke years ago and never healed. That's why I make sure the girls are as protected as humanly possible and I'm very hard on their training to make sure they don't join their former sisters. As for SHIELD's, they should at least have a wall. The CIA has a wall. No one says that you can't start one. There's a mystical glade farther back but past that is the back emergency gate; I can move the fence forward and give that area to you guys if you wanted to put up a remembrance wall. That way they don't get to pass the wards but they can have their own safe space." He walked off.

"Thanks," Clint said.

Xander nodded. "It's horrible when you realize you're not strong enough, tough enough, fast enough, good enough to save the ones you love, even if you're standing next to them," he said quietly. "This was my therapy in some ways but the girls needed it too. I carve each and every name because that's my penance for not being good enough to help them survive another day." He left him with his thoughts.

Clint could understand that feeling. He had that feeling a lot right now. Maybe the wall was a good idea. He was still sitting there when the sun started to come up.

Steve sat next to him. "If Fury won't let us put one up, I'll talk Stark into it," he said quietly. Clint looked at him. "They should have something to remember them by."

"Fury might hate that."

"I think we can shout him down about it."

"Probably," he agreed. "Stark might."

"Stark would," Stark said from behind them. "I'm also sponsoring the one in Gramercy." He sat down on Clint's other side. "I saw Xander when he started this. He was silent, not really able to move, had nearly given his own life to save some of the girls he couldn't save, and would have if he could have. Buffy made the right call to have him removed because of his injuries but he still hates her for it. It might have meant a few less names. He's not sure and it's a doubt he always thinks about." He looked at him. "Being here means you can work all that out in your own head. Even if the girls do flirt."

"I...."

"They could use the practice against someone else. You, Romanoff, and Rogers are all good enough to go toe-to-toe with them and hold your own. It'll help them stay alive longer and you guys too. Who knows, you might be able to work on it while you spar."

Clint nodded. "I guess. I was in the gym."

"We know. Miriam thought it was a good thing. She let one of the demonic bunnies into my room." He stood up. "It's breakfast. The girls going to school are eating. Marta usually makes a second breakfast for the others." They nodded, walking back with him.

"How do you know so much about the house?" Steve asked.

"I've talked to Xander a lot."

Clint looked at him. "Is he like the secret boyfriend?"

"Not exactly and it wasn't our doing," Tony admitted. "See, there was a kidnaping back when Xander was sixteen thanks to the old Council trying to kill him, and I was in the way of something so others took me and gave me to the same guy. Then suddenly there was bullshit going on. I found out what Xander was doing with Buffy after hours. Though it was nice that it was Coulson who found out about demons and Sunnydale when he went to ask Xander if I was going to the other side and had been broken by Afghanistan." He held the door open. They walked into the kitchen. The girls were in their uniforms. "Morning, girls." They smiled and/or waved, but a few were bent over workbooks. "Didn't do it last night?"

"My teacher's an unreasonable bitch," one muttered. "I have twenty pages of homework a night and unless I'm up until midnight I can't get it all done. None of us can." She looked up at him. "Can't I slay her?"

"Is she human?" Tony asked.

"Unfortunately."

"Then you already know the answer."

She sighed. "It's so unreasonable. Even the kids who do nothing after school can't get it all done."

"Then lodge a complaint," Tony said.

"We tried. We got told it was good for us."

Xander snorted as he walked out, taking her pencil. He grinned. "I'm talking with the principal later." She hugged him. So did the other two in her class. "Guys, eat. Now." They dug in, ignoring the rest of their homework. Xander got some coffee and walked off. "Let me go put on real clothes and I'll follow you guys to school." He got their assignment sheets from last night, which he had copied off. He slipped out the side door to follow the bus to the school campus, smiling at the guard. "I need to talk to the headmaster."

"He's in the office, Mr. Harris. One of the girls being a pain?"

"No, not really." Xander walked into the office, smiling at the secretary. "He up and awake and all that?"

"He's not happy."

"It's not going to make his day." Xander walked in after knocking. He put down the pile of papers. "Why are my girls doing that much a night?"

He looked at the stack. "That's one night's?" he asked him.

"Yeah. Miss Beilinar assigns them between fifteen and twenty-eight pages a night, depending on the pages. I've taken them off nightly training but this is all last nights' from one kid." The headmaster looked through it, grimacing. It was all long answers and essay-type questions. "They're in fourth grade. Is that really reasonable? I'm seeing them skipping meals to try to get more of it done for her. They don't need to be skipping meals, pushing back bedtimes, none of that. It's not going to improve their test scores; they're too tired to take the test and do well."

"I remember a few kids coming in complaining." Xander nodded. "They had ten sheets."

"That had to be months ago. She moved from ten to at least fifteen three weeks ago. They aren't in college. They aren't in Honors classes, though I doubt they could do that much work."

The headmaster looked through it again. "None of this is leftover?"

"No, she yells at them for the first few minutes and gives them twenty minutes to finish then flunks whatever they don't get done. Which is why everyone's grades are down too. I'm all for homework and doing well, but not this."

He sighed, turning on the video camera to her classroom. Indeed, she was sneering at them about being behind. She ordered them to finish up and sat down to red-pen a few papers. "She reminds me of a movie teacher," the headmaster said.

"If she were a bit more greasy I'd say she was Snape against the Gryffindors," Xander said dryly. He grinned. "Please, just find a way? The girls aren't going to do anything tonight. They need their rest and they're having the night off. If she doesn't like it, I don't really care."

"I'll talk to her, Mr. Harris. Are any others having problems?"

"Miriam's still needing a tutor. Her reading's not great and I'm worried. Her eyesight's fine but we're not sure if it's a slight learning disability or not. If so, I don't want her in that one's class." The teacher on the video had hopped up to scream at one of the slayers for daring to nod off. Xander looked at him then walked out to go talk to the teacher. He walked in and glared at her. "Maybe if they didn't have to stay up late doing all the shit you pile on them, she wouldn't be tired. Ladies, let's go. You have a free day." They cheered and ran for the minivan. He stared at the teacher. "I don't know why you suddenly want them so overloaded they miss out on sleep but I've already sent up a complaint." The teacher sneered at him. "If we have to, we can talk to the head of the Council about moving them to a better school without you."

"I'm sure those *girls* of yours are going to be useless anyway. Not good for much but their muscles are they?"

Xander smirked evilly. "You mean like the one that just got a Rhodes scholarship last year?" She flinched. "The three that got academic full rides to ivy leagues? Including two that graduated early from here? No, my girls are going to have a full, long life outside their duty. I fully expect them to have excellent lives. If that's why you're pushing them then why are you punishing the other girls?" He walked off. He walked past the headmaster. "They're having a free day."

"That's fine, Mr. Harris, and I fully agree they need it and you're right, she is punishing them for something." He walked in and pointed at the hall. "Let's talk, Miss Beilinar." She stomped out there. "Girls, let's relax. You've done your homework for last night and today already." He shut the door, still smiling until he looked at his teacher. Then he let her have it. She was becoming a disgrace to their ideals and school. That wasn't allowed. Ever.

In the classroom, the girls sighed in relief, rubbed out hand cramps from their pens, and most of them decided they needed a nap.

***
Part 3 by Voracity2
Tony found Xander on the porch later that afternoon. The girls were all home from school and playing tag in the yard. "That's interesting."

"It's increasing stamina and letting them run and play like girls should," he said. He looked at him. "You okay?"

"No."

"Yeah, I didn't think so." He pointed. "Tea?" Tony sat down and got some of the iced tea. The girls switched from tag to pounce. "Hey," Xander yelled. "No picking on her."

"She's being a brat," one complained.

"So are you," Xander shot back, giving her a look. She pouted. "No picking on the other girls. They're your sisters in all but blood. I do not allow the inter-family picking or bullying." The girls sniffled, coming over to get a hug. "Why were they pouncing you?"

"One of them likes a boy and I said so." She pouted.

He stared at her. "While it's cute to see, it's not good to pick on the others. You know that." He looked her over. "What's wrong with your arm?" She shrugged and tried to hide it behind her but he gently pulled it closer to look at. "When did you do that?"

"Gym," she sniffled. "He said I sprained it."

"He's a lying sack of shit." She whined. "C'mon, we'll get you a cast."

"Then I can't do stuff," she whined.

He stared at her. "For two whole weeks? Really?" She slumped. "You can go back to it after it's healed because if it heals like that, you're never going to be able to do things. So we're going to the ER even if you pout. Anyone else got booboos or injuries?" A few ran over to let him kiss scraped knees and one elbow then they giggled and ran off. "Tony, can you herd?"

"Yup. Have fun at the ER." Xander nodded, picking her up and carrying her inside. Tony smiled. "Go get Romanoff to teach you girls how to tie knots." They ran off to find her and bounce around her until she joined them outside in the sun to do that. He sipped his tea, smiling at the girls. They were good girls, just a bit bouncy and hyper.

Xander waved her arm at Marta, who huffed. "The PE teacher said it was sprained."

"It was until I got pounced," she pouted.

"Yay, Gwennie."

"But I'll miss out on stuff," she whined.

"You can watch and do what you can. I'm not excusing you from playing because of your arm." She pouted but nodded. "It just means you can't use the jungle gym as much." He rolled his eyes but took the car keys from Marta, who kissed Gwennie on the head. "We'll be back. Save us dinner."

"I can do that."

Xander took her to the ER. The nurses there knew who they were. They had seen the senior girls after incidents when they got evacuated to him and the Council's main docs hadn't done more than field treat because they had bigger things to worry about. The check-in nurse stared at him. "Sprained in gym class then the other girls pounced her for picking on a girl who likes a boy. It's broken but not a compound."

"We can handle that," she promised, taking his insurance card for the girls and signing them in with all the usual checks. "Yeah, with that bruise it's probably broken."

Gwennie pouted. "Then I don't get to play or learn from Mr. Hamit this weekend."

Xander snorted. "You can do what you can but not spar. You've got a few years to make up for the missing sparring time." She nodded, still pouting. He rolled his eye. The nurse smiled. "I pointed out she could still play and all that, just not use the jungle gym."

"Air cast?" the nurse asked.

"Only if you want her to remove it all the time."

"No, probably not a good idea." She got one of the nurses for them. They weren't busy yet. There was a car crash but they were already being taken care of, and one person who seemed to have food poisoning. It was the beauty of a small hospital.

One of the nurses came out to stare at the pouting mini slayer. "Isn't this her second broken bone?"

"Yeah. The doctor said her bone density was a bit weak and we're giving her extra calcium and stuff for it." He handed her over to the nurse. "Sprained earlier then pouncing broke it."

"That's what Helen said." She smiled at Gwennie. "You can still play."

"But I want to spar this weekend," she whined. Xander cleared his throat. She ducked her head and pouted instead. "Sorry. Slayers should have good girl manners."

"They should but you're allowed to be pouty when you have broken bones." The nurse got the x-ray machine in to do her arm and they got to pick a cast color.

Gwennie looked and pointed. "That'll go best with my uniform and the girls can all write on it."

"We'll pick up a white marker," Xander said, rolling his eye where she couldn't see them about the black casting plaster. When the mini slayer looked at him he adjusted his eye patch. The nurse smiled, getting it ready. The arm bone wasn't out of place.

"Now, you may not remove this until we have an x-ray that says it's healed," the nurse reminded her as she worked. The girl let out another whine until Xander poked her on the shoulder. "No breaking it, no intentionally getting it wet, nothing like that because then it won't heal straight and we'll have to rebreak it on you to straighten it out." She nodded with a huff. "It could be a lot worse."

"I know." She pouted at her arm. "Mean."

"You see Doctor Glen next week, we can talk about it then," Xander said patiently. Gwennie hugged him. "Thank you."

"I'm sorry I'm whiny."

"It happens to all of you, even if you do drive me nuts sometimes." He cuddled her back. "We'll handle it and I doubt you won't be learning new stuff, just not sparring."

"Fine." She went back to pouting. Pouting about injuries got you extra dessert from Marta and usually being able to choose the bedtime story from Xander. She'd get to milk it for all it was worth. The nurse smiled at Xander over her head.

"When is your next book trip?" the nurse asked as she worked. "My son ran into them last time and he was happy that all the girls loved books enough to fight over one of them."

"Next weekend," Xander said. "I've already warned the store." She smiled at him for that. "We'll see if Tony can help chaperone."

"Think he'd let us get more than three books each?" she asked.

"No, he's not allowed to. You know what a library is."

"Good point but it's better when you get to own them."

He nodded. "Sometimes, yeah." She got finished up and the nurse got them checked out. Xander drove her home. Marta had saved them dinner so she got to eat with the adults.

"Mr. Tony, can you chaperone our bookstore trip next weekend?" she asked him once they were eating.

He looked at her, smiling some. "Bookstore trip?"

"Xander lets us get three books a month at the bookstore and it's our usual trip."

"Only three?" Tony joked, smiling at Xander.

"They know what a library is. They can use it for the other ones. That way they don't live in libraries like Giles does."

"Eww, I'd never dress like Mr. Giles," Gwennie said. "He wears *tweed*." She shuddered and got back to eating, using her best table manners. These guys were like slayers only they handled things the girls couldn't. She'd be an impressive future slayer.

"Hamit's coming Saturday afternoon," Xander told Tony. "I've already warned the bookstore about next Saturday morning's trip. And can you please unscrew Amanda on philosophy? She's at the hair pulling out stage again because she can't decide where it's right and wrong."

He pointed his fork at Bruce before eating the food on it. Bruce smiled. "I talked to her earlier. She caught me meditating and I helped explain some of the higher concepts. She's still confusing some of them but she's got a good mind."

Xander nodded. "We're all looking forward to her going to college until she drops out for a beat poet asshole boyfriend to have babies with," he said dryly. "Then she'll go finish a degree when he leaves for his drug dealer." Gwennie cackled, swatting at him with her bad hand then going back to eating. "Helena did."

She nodded. "We heard. Mr. Giles was yelling so hard you didn't even need the speaker to hear him."

Xander nodded. "Yeah, seriously. I had to go up to threaten said boyfriend and she yelled at me for it until I pointed out that I caught him shooting the drugs in his arm around her, I was going to rip his head off, and adopt her kid on her. She's back in college this semester and the baby's doing a lot better." He grinned and ate another bite of dinner.

"A beat poet?" Clint asked.

"Yup, old style, wanted to travel to different poetry slams, beat poet. Unwashed, hitchhiking, dumbass of a beat poet and former english major who decided some day he'd grow into TS Elliot." Clint groaned. Natasha winced. "And on two different drugs in the same needle at a time. No, we had a big brother fit." He grinned again. "Then we told Giles. Who yelled and screamed and had a talk about responsibility and choosing good boyfriends until Buffy admitted she had thought he was sweet when they Skyped." Tony snickered, shaking his head.

"I pointed out what she didn't know to save her from being paddled by Giles. She's back in Cambridge after only missing a semester to have the baby. The last I heard the boyfriend got arrested in France for an unauthorized airing of his supposedly political defiance poetry that he forced the citizens to listen to. Since most of the complaints about him cited him for doing really bad poetry, I'll let the French keep him. Maybe he'll learn a few things that'll help him in prison."

"Maybe he'll learn more about life to expand his poetic reach."

"Rhyming would help too," Xander noted.

"Some day I'm going to marry a doctor," Gwennie said.

"Of what?" Tony asked.

She shrugged. "I don't know but I want him or her to have a doctorate at least. That way I'm not marrying a dumbass." Xander gave her a look. "Sorry, shouldn't swear, good girls don't," she sighed.

"What about you getting a doctorate?" Bruce asked.

She shrugged. "I hate school." Xander rolled his eyes. "I want to own a massage and that pampering stuff spa."

"That's a good future goal," Xander agreed. "Pretty profitable. Can start simply then move up. You need business lessons."

"Which I can take in vo tech," she said happily.

He grinned back. "Or get an Associate's Degree, or use one of the community colleges."

"Point. Maybe."

"You can learn the massage stuff at some of the community colleges," Tony said.

"Huh. That might be nice." She nodded, digging in again. "Agent Romanoff, can you tell us a bedtime story tonight?" she asked with a grin.

"I have never done that."

She smiled. "We like hearing how heros defeated big, bad things. And sometimes date them like Buffy did." Xander choked, shaking his head while Tony pounded him on the back for it. "She did! She told us about Spike."

Xander gulped his water, wiping off the tears from the choking. "I'm so padding Buffy. You have better taste than Spike."

"Fine. So can you please, Agent Romanoff?" she begged, even unleashing the puppy eyes.

"I do not know many stories that are acceptable to children."

Gwennie snorted and shrugged. "We're future slayers. Some of the older ones told us about what they were fighting last. You can tell us about the space whales you just fought. We saw it on tv and Beth told us how they helped save a few buildings from them. Including a daycare."

Agent Romanoff nodded. "Perhaps not that one but I can think of a few I can tame down." Gwennie beamed and finished up then excused herself and ran off to tell the other girls. She looked at Xander.

"If we try to sugarcoat it, they yell at us. We don't give *detailed* stories but they know the bigger slayers handle bad things that can hurt people and sometimes have to get into fights with them. And occasionally this one sorcerer asshole who keeps trying to make Faith a princess in a tower. Thankfully he's got to rebuild the shit now since I blew it up to rescue her last time because Buffy was giggling her ass off about it."

Tony moaned, shaking his head. "I heard about that. Pepper had so many mai tai's about that." He stuffed his mouth again.

Xander looked at her again. "Just make it kinda have a point and not gory. The girls all hate horror movies, said it's too much like homework, but any action movie I get begged about from even the three and four-year-olds. Or any Disney movie."

"I want to be Cinderella for Halloween," one of the girls shouted.

Xander looked at her. "We need to see if trick-or-treating is actually on Halloween," he called back. "If so, then you're going in Cleveland if theirs isn't because you know we all hide from the sorcerers on Halloween."

"Oops. I forgot about chaos sorcerers." She popped over to hug him around the arm with a grin. "Is Janus still trying to get us to hype his fun?"

"Yup. His priests tried again last year. Nearly got Buffy too. And Willow." She grimaced. "I know but you have to at least respect her for her position even if you don't like her or trust her."

"I get that. We all do. We just don't like to be around her. She's creepy." Xander hugged her. "Can I go as Cinderella?"

"Find out when trick-or-treating is. If they're both on that day we'll see if there's a school thing and make everyone protection amulets." She squealed all the way back to the family room to look it up. He groaned. "Damn," he muttered.

"Janus?" Bruce demanded.

"Back when I was in high school, Janus' high priest, Ethan Rayne, decided to open a costume shop." He ate a bite of dinner.

"He did a spell that night to turn everyone into their costumes, including the kids and the teenagers who got roped into taking the hordes of kids on candy stroll," Tony finished. Xander nodded. "Usually the supernatural takes that night off."

"All but chaos sorcerers," Xander agreed. "Last year we had the high priest of Coyote. He awakened ancient spirits to prank the girls and to help teach them things they should know. It was fun, but not really. The First Slayer was not pleased and nearly beat Buffy over the head for it. She tried to kill Willow too." He stuffed his mouth again.

Bruce looked at Clint then at Xander. "Any other ones? We've recently run into Loki."

Xander nodded once then grinned. "He's only got one small cult to him. They're *really* afraid of me and Faith, and they'd never act against the slayers because there's a prophecy saying that some day the slayers would save their asses and hand them to Loki. We're not sure when or if it was from heartburn but there's a pretty strong one and they respect the slayers. Then again, they didn't realize Faith and I were working as slayer and watcher until they tried to pounce Faith to convert her by force so they could have a girlfriend, and she nearly killed them all, and then I had a talk with the ones who came to rescue them." He grinned. "They heard 'slayer' and ran." He gave them a smug look and ate again.

"Where is their cult?" Steve asked.

"Melinda, get my green journal," he yelled. One of the girls ran off and brought it to him. "Thank you, Tiff. Melinda busy?"

"She's lost in a word puzzle book," she huffed. "You know how she gets." She went back in there after stealing some of his veggies. He wasn't eating them so they were fair game from Xander's plate.

Xander shook his head. "Ask. You have manners." He found the right section and handed it to him. "That's their town and their main base was outside of it. I don't think they've moved it, or at least I haven't heard they had."

He looked at it, then let Romanoff take it. "I know that town. I always wondered why they had those skald wannabes."

Xander nodded. "Them," he said with an eyeroll. "Almost as bad as the idiot beat poet." He took the journal back. "We need more, guys?" They shook their heads. "There's leftovers." The girls ran in to grab anything left and took it to the family room to eat. "Slayers eat a lot because they bounce it all off."

"We saw them being bouncy earlier," Clint said with a slight grin.

Xander grinned back. "They were showing off to impress you guys. You guys handled things that they'd normally be called to deal with."

"I hadn't thought about that," Steve said.

Xander smiled. "They like you because you have manners. They said so." Steve blushed. "They're girls. They're realistic girls who know they have to train for future bad things and then college, but they're still girls."

"They do an admirable job of finding a balance," Bruce said. Xander smiled. "When do they learn the harder patrol things?"

"Eighteen. With so many there's no need outside of apocalypse battles. Even then, no one below sixteen goes and they only if it's critical or they demand to go and have passed all their skill levels, which usually means seventeen instead. A few, we've needed more hands on deck but they handled it by calling in the ones from the Europe and Asia."

"How many are there now?" Bruce asked.

"When Willow called all the slayers before the battle of Sunnydale so we'd get the seven we needed to stop her, which she really didn't intend to do, she activated over eleven hundred slayers." Bruce gaped. "The Council had missed a lot because they went after the ones that were higher up and more likely to be called. The ones that had a physical infirmity wouldn't be called until the last possible one and the higher ups would usually skip them over. We have two that are in a program for the mentally disabled due to their Downs Syndrome. It's a great art and practical teaching program to teach them how to handle their own lives. They were in it before they got activated. Giles went to talk to their parents and their teachers about things.

"We can't unactivate it but they know and understand that they have special gifts beyond the ones being born special gave them. That they can't really use them and if they sense or feel something coming for them to warn us." He put his fork down and took a drink of water. "Willow meant to activate the ones with us and maybe if she had to the nearest ones to us, the ones that would get called if one of us fell. She ended up activating the whole line, even those that should have been passed over. Including two in comas and one serving a life sentence for killing a few people. She's in her fifties."

"Why did she have to?" Steve asked.

"Because if she didn't, the First Evil would've taken over," Xander said simply. "It took seven fully activated slayers to pen her back in. By the old way that means we would've had to sacrifice them on the altar to call the next one while holding off her army of pretty hard to kill super vampires." Steve shuddered. "Willow activating them all meant that they only had to bleed onto the altar and most of them had injuries from the battle to get to the altar. We were inside the hellmouth for that battle. We had twenty-three girls with us at that time, the ones who had made it away from Bringers and to Sunnydale."

"So she meant to make it those twenty-three and maybe ones that were still running toward you so they could help," Bruce said. Xander nodded. "And it went farther."

"The only thing she knew to do was push power at the spell that called new slayers. She kinda channeled the goddess to do it, bleached her hair and all that with the power she was channeling, but everyone would've died if we hadn't won."

"Which was because she pulled Buffy back," Clint said quietly. "One of the girls told me."

Xander nodded. "I heard." He sighed. "Sunnydale at the time was turning into a disaster area. No one and nothing was safe while Buffy was dead. We had up over a forty percent disappearance rate during those six months." Clint shuddered. "We did what we could as the team to reduce it, we managed some but without a slayer bigger and badder demons were moving in to take advantage of it. There wasn't a lot we could do. We didn't scare the bigger ones away, the ones that stayed away because there was a slayer there. We took out a lot of it, but we were also trying to guard non-combatant members like Dawn.

"We were all stumbling with the bullshit in our lives at the time. Missing Buffy and her mom within a month and a half seriously screwed with the group. Giles went home to grieve for a while. We did what we could. Then Willow announced she had scried Buffy and told us she was in hell for being a slayer. So, none of us really fought too hard against the idea since we all knew she wasn't supposed to be there."

"Instead, she was in heaven and pulling any spirit back can bring back the wrongness that clicks the locks on the First's seal," Tony said quietly. Tony had heard this because Xander had come to him after Buffy had been raised to get an ethical butt kicking and to have someone tell him he wasn't wrong to do it.

Xander nodded. "Yeah, and we had no idea that it could happen. Willow never researched it. She decided it was like putting Angel's soul back. I had a tiny bit of fault in that. She needed me to do one tiny little corner of the rite and I did it because I thought Buffy shouldn't suffer that way. She had saved the world at least four times a year every year for six years. She didn't deserve that spot in hell. We were college aged kids who made an emotional choice. And we're really honest when the girls ask us what happened."

"It's a decision many of us would have made," Natasha said. "Screw one to save the world."

"The only alternative was to somehow get Faith out of prison. She had a friendly fire incident during a fight in high school and it let her slip to the dark side for a while. She healed and realized a few things while she was in there so she's back on even footing. If we could have gotten her out, I would've stopped Willow. No one could even talk to her, they had her on solitary because they discovered she was extra strong, so therefore a danger if someone pounced her."

"So it was screw Buffy's afterlife to save the world, or let the hell in Sunnydale spread and end up taking over," Clint said. Xander nodded. "I can't say I wouldn't make that same choice."

"We thought it was the only possible one. We thought Willow had done more research instead of warping the one that she used to put Angel's soul curse back when he lost it."

"Soul curse?" Bruce demanded.

Xander leaned his elbows on the table. "Back before the turn of the last century, Angelus apparently messed with a gypsy tribe and ate some of them. Someone they called a favored daughter. I've never heard of that designation at any other time but it's possible she had a seer's gift or something so she was counted as special. Some members of her clan cursed Angelus to have a soul implanted. It'd make him think before he destroyed more lives basically. If he ever had a moment of pure happiness, it'd be broken.

"Apparently his moment of pure happiness was boffing Buffy for her seventeenth birthday. The curse broke and we went from Angel, who was helping us, to Angelus, who liked to torture and torment us. He did neat things like draw Buffy while she was sleeping and leave it on her pillow. He killed Willow's pet fish and left them on her pillow on a fishing line. He killed Giles' girlfriend and left her on his bed." Bruce shuddered. "He was Buffy's first love."

"She couldn't stake him," Steve said quietly.

"No. She couldn't. It got to the point where Willow found out how to resoul Angel and tried, and didn't make it. Angelus was torturing Giles. Willow was in a coma for a day then woke up and decided she'd try it again. I made an executive decision that said 'Willow couldn't do it before, she's just out of a coma; Buffy can't beat him, she's tried a few times and lost, so therefore I'm going to lie and not tell Buffy that Willow's going to try it again'. We have no idea *how* Willow managed it. Of course, he had just opened a portal to hell with his own blood and had to close it with his own blood. So he went to hell for a bit to repent for his almost a year without a soul rampaging around town and I got blamed for it. Having teenagers save the world is like a soap opera at times."

Bruce nodded. "I would've lied too. How did she manage it?"

Xander shrugged. "We don't know. We have no idea how she managed it. We have no idea how anything got managed. We know a few years later Willow was going to a dealer to get shots of black magic. I'm not sure if it started then or not. I know after that and a few other things, I was apparently *normal* and *worthless* to the girls. A lot. Until they needed something."

"They kept going 'he'll get hurt because he's normal' when Pepper talked to Willow," Tony said. "She almost called a social worker to have you taken away from them," he told Xander.

"Then we would've had problems when the only slayer was Faith. Because after that, Buffy nearly got blown up while I was fray adjacent and I had to stop the zombie trying to blow up the school." Steve shuddered. So did Clint. "They had no idea it was me and at that time I was okay with that. And the idea that silence is actually okay."

"Then he came to talk to me again," Tony said. "And I pointed out that it wasn't."

Xander nodded. "He was kind of an external stress point. When he first got back from Afghanistan I asked him if he was going to turn into me or needed tips from an experienced sidekick." Tony gave his head a shove with a grin. Xander grinned back. "I should've taken a picture of Pepper's face when she caught me stripping because the car blew up. You would've enjoyed that."

"I would have." He stared at him. "You gave her information."

"Anytime I heard stuff from the kitten poker circuit, I did. That's how we knew you were still alive and kicking."

"Thanks."

"Welcome." He shoulder nudged him with a grin. "For some reason I got a warning call from Colonel Stick-Up-His-Ass."

"Warning you about what?"

"He's showing up tomorrow."

"I'll talk to Rhodey."

"I had the people who laid the protections lay one to protect your suit if it's here, not his. You might want to warn him what happens when he has a major mechanical failure for crossing the wards? I tried and he laughed it off."

"I'll warn him. He doesn't believe in the supernatural even after nearly being eaten last year."

"I remember him fussing that I staked someone that was attacking him and walked off. He asked if you had sent me."

"I don't send you anywhere, Xander."

"I know." He grinned. "He's clearly had a few too many head injuries."

"Yes he has. I'll talk to Rhodey tomorrow. I'll bring SHIELD's SUV back for them."

"Sure." He grinned. "Hill might like it back. I haven't heard from her since she tried to sneak in and got bitten."

"They're in New York. We gave our location and Fury grunted," Natasha admitted.

"That's because he can't get in here," Xander said. "At all. I purposely excluded him and his Dumbledore tendencies. The girls aren't part of his plans and aren't allowed to be part of his plans. He may have found out about us but he's not allowed to use us. He's tried to coerce a few into being agents and got stomped on by the President for it. And once by me because she was vulnerable and a bit suicidal because her long term boyfriend had just decided she wasn't going to be his wife, a week before they planned to elope, and left with his long time other girlfriend she hadn't known about. She was a bit emotionally destroyed and we were all watching her for complications beyond diabetes from the chocolate she was inhaling."

"Why not let one of the other girls do it?" Steve asked.

"Slayers aren't supposed to harm humans," Xander said. "Their gifts are to harm demons who are causing problems. Humans causing problems are a whole different matter and it can break a slayer in ways that no one wants to see repeated. Faith gave them that talk. So it was up to the normal people to go stomp on him for it. That's how I knew who Hill was. Usually I liaisoned with Coulson. He didn't irritate me to no end when there wasn't a reason. He actually did a background check," he told Tony. "He found the lawsuit and all that."

"He told me that once." He sipped his water.

Xander nodded. "He couldn't get her free of Fury because he was in Columbia and not due home soon. He said out of the country but the kitten poker circuit knew where he was and told me when I had them help me get in there. They all thought he was great and a good helper for the Council. I came out of the portal, got her out of the room, and when Fury and Hill showed up to complain I hit him a few times and then knocked him into a wall to stomp on him before getting her home. The paralytic gas I had with me worked really well." He grinned slightly. Clint gaped. Xander smirked. "I'm not stupid. I only go in with stuff I need. She got an apology letter from the President and he assured her Fury was going to stop it. He hasn't come near us since then. Though I'd hate to see my file."

Tony shook his head. "I removed it last year." Xander grinned at him for that. "Coulson had a hard copy in his safe probably. I know at one time he asked me how anyone dealt with you. I said it wasn't hard if you weren't on the wrong side. I never had any problems." Xander smiled at him.

"There's secretive bullshit behind that, right?" Clint asked. "We've noticed hints of it."

Xander nodded after a glance at Tony and a nod from him. "Yeah. Back when I was sixteen, the Council was trying to kill me. Again. Their people kidnaped and dropped me on a psychotic geek, who kept getting frustrated with my blood. Then I ended up in a cell with Stark. We got out a few days later and Stark had to bring me with him because had nicely given us matching little explosive capsules as a wedding present. Not that we signed anything or were there......"

"We're still trying to get it annulled or divorced," Tony said.

Xander nodded. "They've since denied that there is a license, even though we have copies of it. Apparently someone was taking a lot of bribes and got scared when people decided they were idiots." He looked at Tony. "I actually almost got sent to help them when their capitol was taken over by a demon. Then I told Giles why I was laughing my ass off at it since it was probably the same person. He groaned and sent someone else."

Tony smiled. "Good idea."

"I would've let it have the politicians because maybe the next set would've helped."

"No, they haven't." He sipped his water then sighed.

"So, technically he's married to you," Steve said.

Xander nodded. "That technicality has made a few of my dates shriek when they found out."

"Xander, you were dating assassins," Tony said bluntly. "Stop dating. Pepper heaves a fit every now and then about things," he told Steve. "She knew when I found out." Xander nodded. "Rhodey too."

"Colonel Rhodes was acting like a jealous boyfriend now and then too. He tried to ask me what my intentions were toward you and I said none. He didn't like that answer."

"He was trying to help me relax," Tony admitted. "He never got the point of having an external being you could talk to about stuff. He thought you'd be a danger to Iron Man and me, plus the company if anyone found out."

Xander nodded. "I'd keep whoever you wanted there unless Pepper set up a huge fit at me for having to deal with shit."

"I've redone my will." Xander grinned. "Yes, finally, after you nagged."

"Did you check into what she did?"

"And undid it on her then told the board to bite me. She's my heir for the business unless I somehow spawn. One suggested she had to be my wife and I bluntly said 'then go tell that one country to grant me a divorce since they had me married off against my will and won't even try to cooperate'. Then I dumped the paperwork file on them. They were not pleased and do not know who you are."

Xander grinned. "That'll help. Then again, I'm also a majority stockholder to back you up if you needed it. That's what I used my insurance for my eye to do."

Tony grinned. "I noted that."

Xander grinned back. "Better to have you in good hands than theirs or Fury's. Because his lawyer sent an offer to buy the stock from me."

"Thank you."

"Welcome." He patted him on the arm. He looked at the others. "We've worked it down to a case of friendship and the rest we're still fighting against. Frankly, he'd drive me nuts and I'd end up tying him to the bed to keep him out of the lab when I wanted to talk to him. That's not healthy for either of us."

"I still say you should have dumped Anya before she taught you things like that," Tony said, going back to his dinner.

"I could've seen marrying Anya but her friends decided to tell us how horrible we'd have been together. That's how she got her powers back."

"Anya?" Bruce asked.

"Formerly Anyanka, Vengeance for Women Scorned," Tony said bluntly then stuffed his mouth.

"She had gotten fired," Xander said. "I took her to the prom. After my attempted road trip that went so poorly, she kinda came back and moved in to get a lot of sex."

Tony nodded. "She *demanded* in public to have more orgasms every day," he told Romanoff, who shuddered. "Put it just like that, demanded at least five a day and he was falling down because he was working all day at construction and then patrolling with Buffy."

"I did get a lot of stamina from dating her," Xander said. "It helped when I was training the girls in Africa and Asia."

Tony shot him a dirty look. "You asked me where to get her the wanted birthday present of a two thousand dollar platinum vibrator, Xander."

"I figured you or Pepper would know," he defended. "And it was an important one. She turned 1150. You get the special, huge presents for the important birthdays."

"You're not joking," Steve said.

Xander grinned and shook his head. "No, not in the least. She was a vengeance demon for over a thousand years. She had a bunny phobia. I think that's why I let the demonic bunnies hop around here, in case the Powers send her back as a messenger of doom. Cordelia kinda freaks out at the three unicorns we have. That way I don't have to hear the bitching with the news."

"It was still a two grand platinum vibrator," Tony reminded him.

Xander nodded. "It was that or a fake engagement ring. We had to have that talk about how I couldn't legally marry her again so she changed to the vibrator. She had over a hundred of them when she died. I'm just glad I introduced her to oral sex before she killed my back one night. Sorry, Rogers," he said at his blush. "I learned how to be blunt from Anya too."

"She ran into Pepper once at a Starbucks in LA," Tony said. "She told Pepper she needed to bring Xander home and tie him down for me so I could do my husbandly duty properly, that way Xander would quit having bad ideas. Only she was more graphic and went off on what she'd like to be able to watch."

Xander nodded with a sigh and a slight grin. "She tried it a few times with me too."

"Pepper came home and emptied one of my really expensive bottles of rum then came to ask me who that was," Tony said with a grin. "When I told her she went on a fit about finding you someone proper and easy but not slutty. She kept going on about how she knew that Anya wasn't nice enough for you."

"Anya would've loved that. She loved expensive things. Said only the best stuff should be consumed that way."

"Even after all this time, if you mention anyone named Anya around Pepper, she gets this little eye twitch on her left eye," Tony said with a grin for him. Xander smirked back. "I know, Anya would've been proud."

"Probably."

"I've never met anyone that blunt," Steve said.

Bruce shook his head. "Me either."

"I'm just glad my ex never called on her," Clint said.

Natasha smiled. "I would never call on anyone like that. I'd take matters into my own hands. Your ex as well." Clint nodded that was true.

"Yeah but you can't do what she did to them," Xander quipped with a grin. Tony covered Xander's mouth and shook his head. "Sorry, he's still eating."

"Let's just say if the girls said something like 'eat shit and die' she'd probably have asked whose to use," Tony said dryly.

"She could get creative," Xander agreed. "I actually checked on one of them when I was in Central America. He's still there and working. He kept making noises that sounded like 'burn me down'."

"Why?" Natasha asked.

"Some guy's wife beat her for not putting the toilet seat back up for him. So his wife wished him to be a working flush toilet in a village that had none." Natasha's mouth flopped open then she shuddered. "Small village. Only about eighty people plus kids."

Bruce shuddered. "I think I know that village." Xander grinned at him. "That's definitely a strong lesson for the other men around them." Xander nodded with a smile. "If I remember right, a few sons who were turning into bullies got sent to school for plumbing training." Tony dropped his fork and gulped his water. "Sorry."

"Anya didn't get much repeat business in towns," Xander said.

"I wonder if she had anything to do with that horse," Natasha told Clint.

Who nodded. "Probably." He looked at Xander. "Russian mobster into a horse?"

Xander nodded. Everyone stared at him. "There was a guy who was stringing along six or seven different girls. He was a wannabe Russian mobster. One of them called her when he dumped her for demanding more of his time since she was pregnant. She said 'his name is Horse in the underground; perhaps he should be so the sluts that want him can screw him' from what we heard happened."

"Oh, dear," Bruce said simply.

Xander nodded. "She told me about him. She said it wasn't really a great wish since it meant the others couldn't counter-curse him as well. She was hoping to get them all to curse him so she could do something really special. That was around that birthday. I still miss her and Hallie."

"What was Hallie over?" Tony asked.

"Childhoods." Tony winced. "Pretty much, if there was a 'serial killer' that got a whole family but the kids, it was her. She didn't get to do the fancy stuff most of the time."

"I would've loved to have met her at one point in time," Clint said. "To see if I needed to thank her for the circus."

Natasha patted him on the hand. "Perhaps." She looked at Xander. "Did someone take her place?"

"Yeah. I've seen her a few times over the slayers. There's been a few families that have gotten a bit...upset that their daughters suddenly had super powers to their viewpoint. We've stopped exorcisms, and a few burnings. One in Arizona wanted to burn her daughter at the stake for making demonic deals even after we told her what was going on. She went on a rant that her daughter had abandoned God and this was her punishment. She was from a tiny little village down by Panama, just below the canal. Needless to say, when her replacement sent me there because she was handling something, the mother was not pleased and the priest trying to stop her started to pray since I appeared with my battle axe in hand. She's now safely at Boston College studying psychology."

"No officers?" Clint asked.

"They couldn't get near her. She had already poured the gas on Rachel and had a lighter in her hand. They were trying to talk her down with the family priest. Then I showed up and she screamed in fear and hid behind the priest. I took Rachel with a word to the officers that I was with the Council, she was a slayer who had chosen to train at home, and they sent a social worker to talk to me the next day, then her. No one was going to say her mom was *fit*." He considered it. "I think her mom gets out of jail next month." He pulled out his phone to find her name and number, texting her. "She might have to do a restraining order." He sent another message to the main house to get that file sent up. It landed on the table with two others. He looked at them. "Rona's last shitbag and Emily's husband of doom." He put them on the floor beside his seat. "I'll handle the paperwork to renew their restraining orders in a few hours."

Another file fell, this time on Stark's plate. He handed it over. "I think that was for you. I don't usually have people magicing me files."

Xander looked at it. "We have a new slayer. I guess when Emma died last month she called her. She's nearby. That's good." He put it down there too. "I'll go visiting tomorrow. It says she's in the hospital." One of the girls leaned in with a smirk. "No."

"I can help by showing off."

"You have a math test."

"Oops." She grimaced. "Can't I skip?" He snorted, giving her a pointed look. "I suck at it, Xander."

"So? Try your best and if it's a C then so be it."

"It's more likely to be an F, I don't understand math."

"I'll see if I can help."

"You don't understand math," she quipped with a small grin. "Please?"

"No."

"Fine." She pouted. "Are you bringing one of the Tiny Terrors?"

"Yup, probably. They're cute and harmless, so they won't alarm parents." She nodded.

"I wanna go!" a tiny voice shouted. "Please!"

"Fine. Make sure you have something nice to wear." Xander shook his head. "She loves showing off. I've got to get her into theater when she's in school."

"She's cute too." Xander grinned. "You need help?"

"Probably not." He looked over the file again. "The social worker at the hospital called Giles. So, no."

"Suspicious injuries?" Bruce guessed.

"Yeah, that's why the doctor had the slayer test done. He's seen a few of us over the years. He spotted the mole by the statement and had her call. She was probably attacked by something testing her, acted on instinct, and got a bit roughed up." He put the file back down and shrugged. "We can handle it. I've talked to many new slayers."

One of the older girls bounced in. "Ems just called." Xander stared at her. "She said that myth up in Boston isn't a myth, they spotted her working and asked what the hell she was doing so she pinned them to talk to them about shit, her words before I get grounded, and they're going to tell her if there's problems."

"Okay, that's good. Did she file a report?"

"She'll do it later. She called in while talking to them."

"Okay. I'll call her tomorrow." She grinned and headed off again. "It's nearly bedtime." Natasha went to tell the girls a story. Clint followed. Xander looked at Tony. "Have you called Pepper?"

"I texted her earlier. She's still having a hissy fit about all that and calming down."

"Okay, then I'll expect her to storm in here tomorrow." Tony smiled and nodded. "Remember to talk to the Colonel before he crashes and the bunnies think he's a playmate. He didn't really like the demonic bunnies or ferrets last time." He got up to go to his study. "After the story, it's bedtime." The girls moaned but oh well. He filled out the files while the story went on and on, then shooed them up to bed with Marta's help.

Tony looked at Steve. "It's really complicated and neither one of us is inclined to act on the legality. Personally, I'd like to see Xander date a *nice* dangerous sort since they're the only ones that like him." He got up and went to help clean up the kitchen mess for Marta. Steve and Bruce helped by clearing the table for him.

***

Xander grinned at the family in the hospital room. "Hi, I'm Xander Harris, I'm with the new Watchers Council."

The mother blinked. "They explained some of it to us."

"That's what I'm here for. This is Amber, she's a mini slayer who begged to come along so she could get out of school shopping."

"I don't want to go to school," she reminded Xander, who shrugged. "I know," she sighed. "No slayers are allowed to be dumb." She climbed up onto the hospital bed, looking at the older girl's bruises. "Were they green or yellow?"

"Yellow."

"I saw one of those. They came for me when the Bringers took down my house. They weren't very nice either but there was my watcher and he saved me." She settled on the bed. "Back when I was a baby, all the slayers got activated. Xander...."

"Because she was so far down the list she probably got activated in that second wave after LA. We know the slayer spirit had ignored some that were marked but found them then. It probably hasn't needed to hit her until recently." He looked at the parents, smiling slightly. "There's all sorts of stuff we need to go over. Including you guys deciding if she's going to train at home or with us." The mother relaxed. "The old Council, they were like that. We're not. They got blown up by the First Evil. We reformed under people who had sense, including common sense usually."

He smiled and handed over the new slayer packet. "This is us. This is the training center, which I run. She's welcome to find refuge there, or just show up whenever she wants some other training time. We have suggestions on what sort of training she should be taking if she's going to stay at home. Including which martial arts should suit her best." They nodded, going over the packet with him. The girl put in a few ideas.

So did Amber, who told her about the training center. The mother looked over. "My mommy died with the Bringers. I was barely born when they took out my house. I have a great memory for demons because of the slayer gifts so I remember some fuzzy things about it. My watcher got me to Mr. Giles and Sunnydale so I'd be safer. Then Xander moved all of us tiny ones out of harm's way to the training center he set up so the bigger slayers that had patrol duties could do that without worrying about us."

Xander nodded. "I did. It needed to be done after LA." He looked at the parents. "She's an orphan. We have a lot of those thanks to the Bringers. We have some that their moms are on rotation so we took them in. The girls are all allowed to be girls. They run, jump, play, tease the demonic bunnies that have adopted the training center as a refuge. Occasionally play tag with our three unicorns." The father blinked. Xander grinned. "We've let a few harmless or protective species find refuge on our ten acres of woods. They don't need harmed and the girls like the animal time. We let a few vet trainees that want to come in from U-Conn to look them over every year.

"I've made it so the girls have a home there, and they get to be girls, even if on the weekends they do get self defense lessons from certain trainers and they do learn a lot without realizing it. As they get older and the danger gets bigger, they learn and train more. Generally, demons want to take out baby slayers because they're easy, or ones past puberty because then the gifts start to really manifest in them," he said more quietly. "It makes them eligible for some species' sacrificial rites and the like." They both shuddered. "Which is why I'm a super protective, boyfriend threatening big brother to the girls in the center. They need the support my housekeeper and I give them."

"A female?" the mother asked.

"Marta. She's from a peaceful demon species. She's a great cook and she's helped with the girls a ton when they get too big for a guy to help with bath time or diapers."

She smiled. "I can understand that. How many girls are there?"

"Right now we have sixteen under school age. They get to go to school at eight as we go through a private school. We home school in the basics before then. Which is why all the girls get latin, because a lot of the books are in it, before they enter school. We have twenty-three in school, and the New York City slayers in due to the emergency the other day. Their house caught on fire. We have injured and retraining slayers in and out all the time because it's safe to be limping and weaker there."

"So it's really all ages and more like a sisterhood," the father said.

Xander smiled and nodded. "Oh, they fight sometimes," he assured him dryly. "We had one this morning over who was using who's hair things." Amber giggled. "Marta and I got to pull the fight apart and put them into corners for breakfast. I said if they didn't quit it I was going to color code everyone's things. Each girl would get two colors and that was it. They pouted and said they'd quit fighting."

The mother smiled. "That might be helpful."

Xander nodded. "It could be. I really need to start that with the few toddlers we have. And one really tiny baby. Her mom's in jail for abusing her abusive boyfriend back."

The mother smiled. "I would've done the same thing."

"Me too," Xander agreed. "So we're working on it and I'm watching her daughter too."

"Melissa's kinda slobbery," Amber told them. "She drools a lot."

"She's cutting teeth. You did the same thing and teethed on Willow's ear for a bit."

"I still say she used magic to make me quit fussing."

"I think she used herbs instead of magic," Xander said dryly. "A tiny bit of them pressed into alcohol."

"Eww, you mean I drank?" she demanded.

"No, you never got more than a drip on your gums. You maybe got enough to coat a finger a few times."

"Eww!"

"Hey, no more cutting teeth," he said with a grin. "When your adult teeth come in, you can decide if you want it or not."

"No, I don't. Alcohol is *gross* and bad for us." She looked at her new sister slayer. "You know that, right? We girls are all very much no smoking, drinking, or bad things. They do bad things to our bodies and we won't ever be really great big girls that do things like go to college if we drink and smoke. We even made Faith and Rona give it up because it was bad for them."

"They tied them in a closet for three days and came in to give them water and nag them," Xander said, rolling his eyes.

"It worked," Amber said smugly.

Xander nodded. "They did mostly give it up so you'd quit nagging and let them go take a shower."

The mother burst out laughing. "Really?" Xander nodded with a grin. "Oh, dear." She was still laughing.

"We train the girls to be strong willed, opinionated, thinking girls who just happen to have a duty at times to handle things. All the girls are girls first and then future slayers. After meeting a few the old Council trained, we vowed to never let the girls go down that path. And they haven't."

The mother nodded. "I can see that. Are there people here to train them?"

"Oh, yeah. We've got a few that train within a few miles of here. Two of our self defense trainers are from outside Hartford." She smiled and nodded. "We can set all that up for you, and we do pay for training costs. We want all our girls to make it to college so they can go on to do great things. We're honest with them about things but we know it can't take over their lives or they die sooner and they get depressed, which is usually why they die. We want our girls to be excellent role models, excellent students, very good at life, all that. Then be slayers behind that."

The mother nodded. "I could like that." She looked at her husband, who nodded.

"It's definitely not the way it was." He pulled a gun. His wife gasped. "Harris."

"Hmm, old Council. Retired due to faulty brain waves?" Amber pounced him but the guy shot Xander in the shoulder first.

"Mother fucker," Amber said, beating his ass. "How dare you shoot our Xander!" Nurses and doctors came rushing in. "He shot our Xander! Someone needs to take him before I remember that slayers aren't allowed to kill humans!" The girl on the bed pulled her out of the way. She looked at her. "Did you know?"

"No, I didn't. I swear I didn't."

"Then it's okay and your Mommy's okay if she didn't know." She hopped down. "I need his phone." A nurse tossed it over. She called the 911 number they all memorized. "It's Amber. Xander was up meeting the new slayer and there was an old Council guy up here," she sniffled. "He shot our Xander in the shoulder. He might be okay. We're in a hospital so he'd better be okay. Here, Dawn. She's got his medical records." The nurse took it to talk to her. She looked at the slayer, who cuddled her with her mom. "We can't go without Xander. He takes care of us and helps us. He's our big brother." She sniffled. "Buffy's going to be mad and yell at him. We're going to have to stomp her again before she's mean to Xander."

The nurse looked over. "This one said she's not going to tell Buffy for a few days, dear. Is there anyone who has authority to treat him?"

"Ask Mr. Tony. He's at the training center and Xander was talking last night about them having legal things. He might know. I didn't understand but the bigger girls did and they giggled."

The nurse repeated that. "Please. Thank you." She hung up and handed Amber the phone and Xander's wallet. "Hold those for him. He'll be just fine. He shouldn't need to be in here overnight." She nodded, snuggling in. They went down to the surgical floor to handle the wound.

Amber called the center. "Marta, it's Amber. A mean bastard from the old Council shot Xander in the shoulder." She sniffled. "They said he might not have to stay overnight. I'm here with the new slayer we came up to talk to. They came to get him and take him to surgery, and the guy who shot him because I stomped him flat. Please. Thank you." She hung up. "She'll tell Mr. Tony and have someone sent up." She looked up but the girl pushed her head down so she snuggled in, getting a bit sniffly.

***

Marta hung up. "Stark!" she bellowed, bringing him running with one of the girls he had been working on math stuff with. "There was an old Council member there." He growled. "He's in surgery, both of them since Amber said she stomped the shooter."

"Technically I'm his power of attorney so I can handle that. Keys?" She tossed him some. He tossed them back. "He drove, right?" She nodded. "I'll bring his car back." He went to get his suit that Pepper had sent him. He had a new portable version. He kicked it open and put it on, flying off.

The senior girl went into the gym. "Ladies," she said, getting full attention. "Someone from the old Council showed up with that new girl." That got a slow growl from Beth. "He's injured but Amber called Marta. Tony took off to help." They nodded. "Everyone make sure that Xander's got clearance to sit in bed and mope or have a fit. Let's warn the others when they get back from school, let's not give him any hell." They all nodded. "I'm pretty sure someone probably called the house or Dawn. Amber knows to call Dawn if something happens."

One of the girls was texting. "Dawn does know, she's sent them pertinent Xander medical facts. She said the nurse said he might not have to stay overnight. The new girl didn't know, she heard Amber ask her and her mom." That got a nod. "So we'll figure it out, ladies." They all nodded and got back to their workouts, looking a bit worried.

"Amber has to be freaking out," Beth said quietly to the others. They nodded and she called Xander's phone, getting her. "Hey, Amber, it's Beth. Are you okay?" She listened to her. "That's good but are you okay?" Amber sniffled and said something. "Mr. Tony's on his way up and he'll help get you and Xander home. Sure, if she wants to come this weekend that's fine. She can come back with you for all we care, you know that. There's always a free room even if it's the couch." She smiled at the others. "Okay, it'll be okay. If officers show up, you tell them honestly what happened and tell them to call Dawn about why, okay?"

She nodded. "Good girl. Relax, help the new one by telling her about all of us. That way she's not surprised when Buffy shows up to nag Xander about getting shot. Yup, you'll see Mr. Tony soon. Just relax and share slayer gossip. Get her onto our bulletin board and all that. Call us if you need help. Xander's phone has all our numbers in it. No, I think Faith's back in England so she doesn't smite Buffy or Kennedy. Sure, you can call Faith. We like to call Faith for support. She's great at it and she's not a bitch like Buffy and Kennedy." She smiled. "Sure, you call if you need us. Try to get a bit of rest." She hung up.

"Think she was hidden from us or from that second wave?" one of her fellow senior slayers asked as they got back to lifting weights.

"Xander thought second wave due to her age. He might've hidden her from the Council though. Amber said the girl's mom didn't know." They all nodded at that. They could handle that.

The remaining Avengers looked at each other. Natasha texted Pepper to let her know. Anything that affected Stark Pepper needed to hear about.

***

In New York, at the meeting with Fury and Hill, Pepper looked at her phone. Her face tightened. "There was someone from the old Council that just shot Harris," she said, sending a text message back. "Thank you, Agent Romanoff," she muttered quietly as she typed back. She put her phone back after sending a thank you text. She looked at them. "Stark's up to help him since he has power of attorney for Xander."

"I'm aware of why," Fury said. Pepper smiled. "He good?"

"Agent Romanoff said he got hit in the shoulder while talking to the new slayer that got found. So the older girls that are usually here in the city are contemplating why she just got found since she's a teenager."

"We can look into her family," Hill said. "Will he need more support?"

"No. He had one of the mini slayers with him for show and tell as he usually put it. Tony flew up to help him. She's not that far from the training center."

"That's a good indication it was a trap," Fury said. He shook his head. "The girls are going to go spastic."

"All the Avengers are there," Pepper said. "If Xander's laid low for a few days, all the girls like Tony. He talks to them about weapons." She crossed her legs. "Natasha did say that Tony told them about that one kidnaping and the license issue."

"They might have to tell the senior staff at the Council to keep them from reacting," Hill said quietly. "Summers is still in spoiled mode over Xander at this time."

"Of course she is," Pepper said dryly. She pulled out her phone to call someone. "I need the file on Harris sent to me at SHIELD's base. Thank you." She hung up. "It should be here soon if we need it. I was going to go up there later."

Fury nodded. "Please do. We need Stark under watch in case he does something stupid."

"I doubt he would." Pepper stood up. "I'll talk to you later this week, Director, and Deputy Director Hill." She nodded at them and left. The file was waiting with her driver. She smiled as she took it from him. "Thanks, Happy."

"Welcome, Pepper. The boss okay?"

"Xander got hit in the shoulder by someone trying to get that old Council bounty on his head."

Happy Hogan shook his head. "The boss is going to have someone's liver." He closed the door for her and walked around to drive. "Home?"

"Training center."

"Sure. The girls are charming." She smiled at him. It was a pretty day for the short drive. By the time they got there, Buffy was there trying to get the girls to come to Cleveland and nagging Steve Rogers that he didn't have a right to be there. Pepper walked in and handed her the certificate copy. "Xander and Mr. Stark both suggested that they need the healing time after that huge battle in New York," she said simply. "Agent Romanoff, Captain Rogers, and Agent Barton are all more than qualified to help the girls learn new things while Doctor Banner is highly traveled and can help in other things. Also, I talked to Tony on the way up," she told Buffy, who was still staring at the certificate. "Xander is fine, he is out of surgery. He should be home tonight as long as his wound doesn't start to infect. He'll be on couch rest for a few days but you know that's never kept Xander from helping the girls with homework or anything." She stared at her.

Buffy stared at her. "They're my slayers, Miss Potts."

Pepper smiled. "You don't own the slayer line, Buffy. They're slayers, yes, but they are not possessions. They haven't been since the old Council blew up."

"I need to protect them."

"From someone who also went to surgery? The police reports state that Amber sent him to surgery for multiple broken things. She told the officer he shot her Xander big brother so she stomped the idiot flat. Perhaps literally in a few places."

"She's already talking to Faith," Beth said. "We called, Buffy." Buffy stared at her. "Our house caught on fire. We've been driving in for patrols." Buffy nodded once, still grimacing.

"The few supernatural things in New York have really calmed down after a warning," one of the others said from her spot on the climbing tower. "They got the point that the people there were on the verge of a panicking moment that would get all the demons killed if they acted up."

"They all got the point that they needed to calm the fuck down and help everyone rebuild so even the bad ones looked like ideal citizens of New York that were pulling together with everyone else," Beth added. "A few of the vampire haven clubs have let people in to take showers and rest during the day."

"That's good of them. I'm more worried that there's other old Council members who will try to take you girls," Buffy said. She looked at Pepper. "When did they do this?"

"They didn't. They got taken at the same time when Xander was sixteen and they filed that then without letting them know or helping them. When we found it we've sent up legal challenges but so far they're not willing to do anything about it. So it's standing until we can make them undo it or let them have a divorce."

Buffy huffed. "He didn't tell us."

Pepper stared at her. "He told Anya. He was honest with her." Buffy grimaced at that. "Frankly, I wouldn't have told you either with the way any information passed back to Mr. Giles could get back to the people that were trying to kill him. They still have the account with the ten million in it to take him out. It earns nice interest every year I'm told." Buffy winced. "Plus the ones from the underground. He's known about them since before that kidnaping, Buffy. He did the right thing anyway because it was the right thing to do. Can you really find a better role model for your slayers?"

"No, not on that. Kennedy and I think...."

Pepper held up a hand. "Kennedy doesn't think. She's never thought about anything beyond her own pleasures and desires. She's a spoiled bitch to put it bluntly. Frankly, there's a lot of people in the know that think if you die, and Kennedy tries to take over, they'll never let her handle anything. No one likes Kennedy's spoiled bitch moments." She smiled. "However, we do find Faith to be more than capable and she understands multiple cultural backgrounds due to having been raised in the immigrant portion of Boston. She knows people and Kennedy knows shopping. Even the president has mentioned that he hopes he never has to deal with Kennedy as the head slayer."

"She's grown up some," Buffy said.

Pepper smiled. "Really? Is that why she's forced some of the non-US slayers into changing their method of comfortable dress? Xander had to call up to ask for a location recommendation to suggest for your girl Abara to go to where she'd feel comfortable but was still safe for her to patrol in. Kennedy nearly drove her to needing psychiatric care because she had no sensitivity to the fact that Abara's from Saudi Arabia and they're *very* modest over there. That they're fully covered even at home most of the time. That they do not show skin. Kennedy was the one that forced her to wear clothes that bared her throat, her cleavage, and her legs, which is a highly improper thought to her people.

"She called Xander crying about being so bullied." Buffy sighed and slumped, shaking her head. "Frankly, a lot of your girls aren't from the same background you and Kennedy share. They're not flirty, they're not immodest, they're not trained to be strong women with opinions, because none of that's allowed and if you do any of those your family can kill you for dishonoring it. Abara's mother apparently sent her a letter saying they would remove her from the family if she dishonored them by turning into you." Buffy glared. "Xander asked how he should respond during the same conversation. He talked with someone who knew about very modest clothing for her and the girl from the Orthodox Jewish family so they could have appropriate clothes for patrol that would not hinder their movements yet not upset their sensibilities and religious mandates. You could have."

"I try."

"I know. You're only one woman and you can't be everywhere. Which is a great thing to remember, and thank Xander for taking a lot of stress off you." Pepper stared at her. "For now, the Avengers need to rest and recuperate and the lessons they can teach the slayers are invaluable. They just fought an apocalypse battle the other day. The girls need to learn from them like they learned from you and Faith. That's why Xander let them recover here."

"I get that," Buffy said, looking around.

"Wouldn't matter if you didn't," Beth said with a grin and a slight wave. "We'd just tie you up in the closet again." They got back to work. "Agent Barton, my crossbow work is about two inches too low and Xander said you're a marksman, can you help me?"

"I can," he agreed. "Crossbows instead of regular ones?"

"It's easier for us to carry one on patrol," another of the girls said. "I totally suck at it. Even Xander couldn't help me there. I'm better with bladed weapons."

"Each of you has your own speciality and skills," Buffy reminded them.

"Xander made sure we knew that," Beth quipped with a grin. "He's done a great job raising us into being mostly normal young women who happen to have a duty now and then."

"He has," Buffy agreed then sighed. "I'm sorry, I was reacting. I was worried that all that would lead to you girls being attacked."

"Here?" Beth snorted. "Really?"

"Point I guess." She looked at Pepper. "You chew butt nearly as good as my mom used to."

"Some day I'll think about children." She stared at her. "Xander will probably be home later tonight if you wanted to check on him."

"I can do that. Thank you. This...." She waved the certificate.

"They didn't want it to get out. It could hurt Stark even though Xander was old enough by their standards. That's another reason Xander never shared it, because it would hurt Tony's business."

"Oh, I guess that's reasonable and all that. But ewww."

Pepper stared at her. "Not like they've ever acted on it. They do chat now and then. Tony has power of attorney paperwork for Xander with Dawn as the backup person."

"That works I guess. Thank you." She texted Willow and got brought home to talk to them. "Someone married Xander off without telling him."

Giles blinked a few times. "I'd heard rumors from the Council. They were upset at someone for stepping in their way as well and thought it would help them get them both by using them as bait for each other if I remember right."

"Yeah." She put the certificate down.

Giles stared at it. "I suppose that explains why he gives the girls their weapons lectures each year."

"Miss Potts said they've never done anything but fight against it."

"I wouldn't care as long as they were happy together," Giles said firmly.

"She also said that even the President hates Kennedy," she said more quietly.

"So I've heard. He suggested I make it more firmly known about who was going to be in charge if you or I fell."

Buffy nodded. "I can see why I guess."

Giles nodded. "The other old liners like her because she's easy to manipulate. Faith and you are too shrewd for that usually." Willow scowled at him. "She is easily led."

"Maybe but I don't like it. She's senior here."

"I'm senior here," Buffy corrected. "Faith's the second slayer as she's the next oldest. Then Rona because she leads the girls in Europe."

He considered it. "Kennedy would be in the next level down but I suppose that Maria would be higher up as she's the better field general and could lead a continent's girls."

"She has no interest in it," Willow said.

"Me either," Buffy said. "But sometimes it's the job."

Giles nodded. "I've felt that a few times." He considered it. "Kennedy would probably come after Maria but there's Gwendolyn down in Argentina who's leading all the South and Central American slayers."

"Gwen's a bear," Buffy agreed. "She could lead the head house into multiple apocalypse battles. I like her more than Maria."

"So we'll name them as you, Faith, Rona, Gwendolyn, Maria, Kennedy," Giles decided. Buffy nodded after a pause to think. Willow sighed but nodded. "Good." He smiled. "I'll post that notice to clarify things and who is after me in the hierarchy. I doubt they'll like Xander being in charge."

"Hey," Willow complained.

Buffy looked at her. "Willow, the girls don't want to be in the same room as you and you do good with the research teams but not the field ones. Xander handles both very well and he's done most of the stuff that Giles doesn't get done right now." Willow pouted. "As Miss Potts and the girls up there pointed out, Xander's their right hand of God and he's their big brother too. They would riot if something happened to Xander."

Giles nodded. "I've tried to talk him into getting a few assistants and the girls nearly did riot and threatened to start a whole new Council with him as the head until he stopped them."

Willow nodded. "I guess I can see that. I don't go on home visits or anything like that."

"There's a severe lack of people who can handle the non-research portions. The field watchers we have are good and some of them could back up the girls but not all of them and I'm not sure who I'd name after Xander and you, Willow."

She shook her head violently. "No, I'm not in line for the top spot," Willow said. "Head researcher, yes. Doing all this? I have no idea how to lead in a battle or how to train the girls, or even how to order all the food they eat, Giles."

"I can train you for the daily tasks," he said.

"I still can't lead them into battle and they need that. They need people who can handle battles and the daily patrol stuff, not the research side. We're really a separate group most of the time."

"Are you sure?" he asked gently.

She nodded. "I am. I'm kinda hurt but Buffy's right. I have no idea how to handle a real battle if Xander isn't there. Or...or you."

"I do tend to lean on Xander for that as well," Giles admitted.

"Me too," Buffy agreed. "He has to quit getting hurt."

"Or he needs to train someone to be third in command," Willow said, looking at her.

Buffy nodded. "He does. He really does. Well, apparently we can lean on the Avengers a tiny bit for right now. Miss Potts said that they had things they could teach the girls since they just had an apocalypse battle too."

"Yes, it was, and from what I saw, someone had the idea to end it by a missile. That's what Iron Man carried up into that portal." Giles grimaced. "I finally realized what Xander meant." Buffy shuddered at the coldness in his voice. "I'll be talking with a few of us later."

The girls both escaped before he did that. Willow found Kennedy pouting in the hallway. "What's wrong?" Willow asked. Buffy fled the girlfriend talk.

"They don't trust me."

"Kennedy, you do okay enough at running the house, like I do or Andrew does, but the girls have to go into battle and they can't do that with you. You don't do tactics, or battle plans, or anything like that. That's why I'm satisfied being the head researcher. I don't know a thing about tactics or battle maneuvers. How would either of us lead them into a battle if something happened?"

"They took Xander's side."

"Honey, Xander's made our battle plans since tenth grade," Willow said. "We trust him to make them. Some of the field watchers get that same sort of trust. They were usually in the military or did stuff like hunting before this." Kennedy glared at her. "Can you honestly say that if you're in charge of the next battle, most everyone will make it out okay?" she asked quietly. "Because we have one coming up again in LA. Xander's already been handed the folder since I sent it up."

"I can lead the girls."

Rona came out of the kitchen. "Sorry, Andrew summoned for someone here. Didn't mean to interrupt. New battle?"

Willow nodded. "One coming up in LA within a month."

Rona grimaced. "Giles, am I sending you any of mine for the next battle?" she called.

He came to his office door. "We might have to borrow some exceptional fighters. It's another takeover bid I believe but from a different sources. What are you doing here?"

"Someone told Andrew to summon me." She looked back as the Argentinian head showed up.

Willow's eyes went wide. "No! Go home. Andrew, get them home!" she shouted. "We just named them after Buffy and then they got summoned!" He sent Gwendolyn home and then got Rona as people burst in. "Shit, it was a plan." She raised a hand and all the bad guys turned into stone. The few places that had bulletholes were bad. Giles had one in his leg. Kennedy had two in her stomach. Willow's magic had stopped hers and stopped it from hitting Buffy.

Kennedy blinked from her spot on the ground. "You protected Buffy?" she asked.

Buffy looked at her. "She's had them on me since graduation, Kennedy. It's not personal." They called people to help. Including an ambulance. Kennedy was staring at Willow, who was helping her wound.

"I put that on Buffy when we went into the Initiative base the first time so the soldiers couldn't shoot her."

"Oh."

"I love you even when you're being a jealous bitch," Willow said, kissing her on the head.

Kennedy winced as she tried to move. "They were going to make me senior."

Buffy flinched, looking over. "What?"

"The head people were going to make me senior."

"Did you know they were going to do this?" Willow demanded.

"No! If Buffy fell, I was going to be Senior Slayer. They said there was a prophecy about her dying again in the next year."

"No," Buffy said. "Not a chance. Sorry." She didn't look at Willow, going back to tending Giles while the officers and paramedics showed up.

The officers looked at the stone bad guys. They looked around. "Rosenburg, was this you?"

"Yes," she said. "I'm not sure if I can turn them back yet."

"Can you turn back the inanimate?" one asked. "So we can get the guns first?"

"Let me get Kennedy taken to the ER and make sure she's all right. She's my girlfriend."

"Okay," the officer in charge agreed. "We'll go with you so you can stay calm and no one bothers you." Buffy shot him a look. "We don't need a repeat of that nurse problem you had the last time she was in the ER for an injury." Buffy sighed, shaking her head. Willow went with Kennedy and Buffy went with Giles.

Andrew came out of hiding. "Dawn!" he shouted. She appeared. "Giles and Kennedy got shot by the bad guys." He pointed.

Dawn walked over, separating out the guns for the officers that were waiting. "I can't undo them," she said quietly. "Willow put her back into it." They nodded at that. She looked at the mess then looked at Andrew. "What happened?" He told them what he had heard and overheard. "I hate the old Council members," she said. "We need a purge." She called her sister. "As of this moment I'm third in command," she said firmly but quietly. "Bite me if you don't like it." She hung up and called the training center. She knew who was there. She had done some of the protections. "Miss Potts, Dawn Summers. I need the name of someone who can find out who had the brilliant idea to shoot Giles and Kennedy while trying for the entire list above the girls." She listened. "That would be acceptable. No, I'm here. Neither are critical that Buffy said."

"Kennedy's might be," one officer said. "She got hit in the stomach."

Dawn nodded. "Kennedy might be so we might have to sedate Willow."

"Kennedy said the old liners told her that she'd be senior after Buffy," Andrew said. "They had a prophecy that she'd die within a year."

"Probably from their own hand," Dawn said. "Please. Yes, I am. I've told them. They apparently didn't realize. Thank you." She hung up and looked at Andrew. "I need my boyfriend to help. He's military." Andrew shrugged. "Okay." She called him. "I need a hand holder. I'm in charge until Giles gets out or Xander's out of his hospital bed. No, it was a plot. Thank you." She hung up after hearing the sound of a gunshot. The bullet froze within inches of her head, making her look at them. "Yes?" she asked him. He blinked. She smiled. "Who did you think I was?"

"That mutant little sister of Summers," he sneered.

"No, I'm not a mutant. I'm a real live girl. Sorry." She slammed him into the ceiling and let go of some of the bad mood on him. "Shut the fuck up, you moron." He was shaking. "Before I rip your molecules apart." She let him hit the floor. "We're going to have a Xander style talk. Guys, would you like to help?" she asked the officer next to her.

"We're not supposed to let you torture him," one said.

Dawn smiled. "Sure, I get that." She floated the guy back up, staring at him. "Hi." She smiled at him. "You want to tell me things, right?" He shook his head, looking scared. "It's me or Xander and I'm pretty sure he's going to be in a foul mood with his shoulder being messed up. Who knows who he'll channel this time." The guy started to heave so Dawn slammed him up against a wall. "Real men don't puke in fear." She walked forward. "Lets talk. I'm sure you can be civilized and talk like a good boy." Her boyfriend appeared thanks to Andrew. "Thanks, 'Drew."

"Welcome, Dawn, because you've become the scary bitch again."

"Yes, I am." She took a kiss from her older boyfriend then smiled. "He tried to shoot me."

"I heard that." He stared at him. "Hi. Colonel Sheppard." The guy's eyes went wide. "Lets go talk." He hauled him off with Dawn following humming a tiny bit. "Your sister?"

"Not injured. Giles has one on his leg. Kennedy in the stomach."

"Willow?"

"Probably about to blow. Andrew heard Kennedy say that the old liners were going to make her senior if and when Buffy fell again."

He hummed. "Not really a good idea." He slung the guy into the gym and locked them inside. The officers could wait. It'd let them do the paperwork before they arrested him. Half an hour later, Dawn let the officers in to get the crying, begging guy. "I'm really proud I didn't break the skin," John said. He smiled at the officers. "He's a bit...sore. Nothing broken though."

"Thank you, sir. You are?"

"Colonel John Sheppard, USAF."

"You're stationed...."

"Classified," Dawn said. "It's where I'm working too." They nodded, making note of that. They knew they could get hold of Dawn if they needed to. Dawn leaned up to kiss John as they led the idiot out. "Thank you."

"You need it. People like that keep coming for you."

She smiled. "Sometimes, but not as much as they used to. Xander kinda scared a lot of them."

He smirked. "I do that too." He walked off with her under his arm. Buffy was walking in with Giles on crutches. "Buffy."

"John. Dawnie?"

"I'm after Xander," she said bluntly to Giles. "Deal with it."

"I hadn't thought you'd want it," he said.

She shrugged. "I am and I have people I can lean on for the things I'm weak in, like John." She smiled.

"As the president and I talked about his job, I see no problem with that."

"He didn't tell me," Buffy complained.

Giles smiled at her. "It's highly classified, Buffy. He wanted me to not worry about Dawn's present job or boyfriend. Also so I could tell Xander not to threaten him."

"I met Xander. Dawn made sure of it," John said. "He stared at me then shook my hand and said I'd do. He told me how to get into the training center so I could come help the girls."

Buffy nodded. "None of mine ever got that."

"I'm not going to say a word," Dawn assured her with a grin. Buffy huffed but grinned back. "Giles, go rest. Want me to get Faith here, Buffy?"

"No. It's me, Faith, Rona, Gwendolyn, Maria, and then formerly Kennedy." She looked at Giles.

"Willow and her research team are at the other building. They will be staying there and Kennedy can be their protection. She is not coming here again. If they should break up, Kennedy can go patrol somewhere."

Buffy nodded. "I like that. It keeps me from killing her."

"Did she have an involvement?" Dawn asked.

"No, she had an expectation," Buffy said. "I asked." Dawn snorted, shaking her head. "Okay.... So, anyway. John, welcome to the slayer house in Cleveland. Can you and Dawn stay for a day or so?"

"I can. My general said it was important."

"Good. Dawn, I want to know what you know about Stark and his buddies."

"They just formed for the battle, Buffy. There's not a lot there."

"Hmm. Can they help the girls?"

"Yes. I know a few people there. They're good enough."

"Good. I guess. I'm kinda.... lost." She shook her head. "I'm going to take a nap."

"I'll get Faith here so you get a day off and video call the others," Dawn said. Buffy and Giles both nodded. She checked by texting Faith. She was fine. She got brought there and was bandaged. "Old liners?" she asked.

"Yup," Faith said then grimaced. "Why?"

"Here too. Wanted Kennedy in charge."

"Fuck no," Faith said bluntly. "I'd kill her myself."

"She's being banished to be Willow's protector," Dawn said. "Oh, this is my boyfriend John."

"Xander said she finally found someone worthy," Faith said, shaking his hand. "Let me go change shirts."

"We're holding a video talk with the others to name the lineage." Faith nodded. "Buffy's having a moment in her room."

"That's fine." She went up to her room to grab a shirt she kept here for emergencies. She pulled it on with a wince and a hiss, going to check on Buffy first. "Hey."

Buffy sniffled, looking at her. "Old liners?"

"Yup."

"I'm going to fuck them up."

"You'll have help. X will help."

"They got him in the shoulder."

"I'm pretty sure that even if he was missing it, X would find something to take them out with," Faith said dryly. "He's figure out how to fire artillery with one hand and a stick in his teeth if he had to so we were protected."

Buffy sniffled but grinned. "I can see him doing it but I never want to."

"His choice, his life," Faith said bluntly. She walked off. "We're calling around."

"Okay. I'm going to baby Giles." She went to make him some tea and lunch to bring to him in bed.

Dawn looked at the people on the screens. "Good morning. Due to the attack here in the main house, on Xander when he was visiting a new or hidden slayer, and on Faith, we're going to clarify some things." One of the research watchers opened her mouth. "Not yet." She closed it. Dawn looked at the various screens. "If Giles is taken out, the line of succession goes him, Xander, me, Perkins, who works with my boyfriend and has shown he can lead a battle unit wonderfully plus has a half-sister that's a slayer, and then Evan Lorne, who also works with my boyfriend and I've been training him with Xander's methods."

She looked at them. "Giles knows about Perkins and has agreed on me training Lorne. They're both current military and can lead the girls into battles if necessary. They also work on a project with a lot of scientists, mostly of the Nobel winning level so therefore the research council won't have a problem either. With me, as I'm weak in that tactics spot, I'll lean on my boyfriend, who is on a good project that we trust a lot. Giles has talked to the president about them all." A few slumped. "The line for senior slayer is Buffy, Faith, Rona, Gwendolyn, Maria, Kennedy, but she's being removed apparently due to the plots of some people who are a bit pathetic. You had to make up a prophecy about a slayer dying? Really?"

She stared at them. "By the way, your brother's still stone. I'm not sure when Willow can change him back." She stared at the groups again. "As of this moment, the petty bullshit stops, people. If we have to, we know people we can turn the Council over to so the girls and humanity are protected. Giles has emergency plans in case the Council implodes or gets blown up again. He's the head so of course he's never shared them with you. He holds a lot of secrets. So do I." She smiled. "Remember, I had that tiny little mishap with the demon blood myself and after two days of being telepathic inside the house...." A few flinched. She smiled. "Yeah, I heard all of it." She looked at them all again. "Any remarks now that you know?"

"What happened earlier?" one asked.

"We suddenly found a new slayer who's a teenager." The woman gaped. "Her daddy ended up being an older Council person who got missed somehow. Shot Xander in the shoulder. Faith got attacked at her house somehow. I haven't debriefed her yet but she's got a lot of bandages. I'll be getting what happened there after this to see if Xander needs to carve a new name." They nodded. "Then we had seven people here burst in with guns. We know it was seven because they're statues at the moment thanks to Willow. They shot at Giles, injuring him. They got Kennedy, injuring her."

"Where does Willow stand?" one of the researchers asked.

"Head researcher. Kennedy is her protection and her pet slayer." They nodded at that. It was a clear demotion for Kennedy. "Also, if we need emergency plans for Willow losing it again? John's people have a way. We've already talked about it with Giles and he agreed on it."

"We should know those. What if he wasn't here?" one asked.

"People, you didn't realize I was in the lineage until I called," Dawn said dryly. They slumped. "And yes, that's why we're making a few things clear. Xander knew them. I'm going to make sure a few around Xander know more because Xander could use some more help with the girls. They could use new big brothers and sisters." She tipped her head to look at one trying to hide off to the side. "Peter, questions?" He was horribly afraid to be seen by anyone due to some injuries from the Bringers.

"Not really. That's how some of us figured it would go. We know you were hidden for your protection."

"I was. And I like where I'm serving. They have a huge amount of ancient stuff I get to play with and translate." They smiled at her for that. "We have to have a conference." She looked at John.

"If you can get the president to set it up."

"I can ask." She looked at them again. "Any other questions?"

"Did Willow lose it?" one asked.

"No, she didn't. She just turned them into stone." They nodded at that. "If she had, I would've been here sooner." She smiled. "We have an alarm." They nodded. "We'll spread out some of the non-critical, hidden emergency plans later on, people. Maybe a few more need to know than we thought but then again they called some of the girls that got named to the upper levels here right before they attacked." A few winced. "Yeah, so we're going to have to figure out who else was involved. Xander has a friend who can help." She hung up. John hugged her. "I'm not happy."

"I get that," he promised.

She smiled. "You can kick as many asses as you want and spar with the girls. They could use a challenge." He smirked. "I like to watch you spar, you know that." She poked him on the stomach. "Make me hot, I'll give you a blowjob later." She winked and walked off to check on everyone.

John strolled after her. It was pretty hot watching Dawn handle things.

***

Pepper hung up. "Agent Romanoff, would you like to help the Council by finding out how many people were involved in the plot that not only got Xander shot in the shoulder but also got the main house attacked?" The girls all stared at her. "Willow stopped it, girls." They groaned. "They wanted Kennedy in charge."

"Fuck no, some of us would do the time for homicide," one of them muttered. "Gladly."

Pepper looked at the older girls. "Bad thoughts."

They grinned. "For Kennedy, yup."

"I would adore finding that out. We have questions about the Council anyway."

"Wonderful. I'll make sure you get to Cleveland tonight." She made that call and got her sent on her way. She looked at Clint then at Bruce and Steve. "Xander hates to be fussed over. Can you help the girls with sparring since he won't be able to?" They nodded, moving to help them. "Thank you, boys. Let me make sure Marta can handle things." She went to talk to the housekeeper. "I need to find ten people like you to help me at Stark International," she said.

Marta laughed. "I have a few cousins but they don't want to be in business. Sorry, Miss Potts. Everyone fine?"

"So far. Giles is injured. Kennedy's got an injury."

"Poor things. I'll tell the girls Xander will be late."

"Excellent. Does Xander need help?"

"Yes. The girls need someone else to lean on at times."

"I'll see what I can do. Perhaps the others in the line of succession should be noted to them." She left, going to call the President about that. He agreed it was a good idea. He knew who that was.

***

Tony landed at the hospital, taking off the armor even though people were staring. He walked in carrying the suit. "I have power of attorney paperwork for one Alexander Harris. He was shot upstairs while visiting."

She looked him up. "He's in surgery, sir." She pointed. "Up two floors please. Check in up there."

"Thank you."

"We've heard rumors there was a visitor with him."

"I'll get Amber in a few minutes. Let me find out what she'll want to know first." He went up there. Pepper had sent the virtual copies of the paperwork to his phone. "I have the notarized copies in LA."

The nurse nodded. "He's in stable condition. He's in recovery." She walked him that way. "Is that a briefcase?"

Tony smiled. "No, it's not. It's my battle suit." She swallowed. He grinned. "Don't worry, I like Xander. He's a nice guy." He got let in to talk to him. "Hey."

Xander blinked, eyes heavy. "They are not allowed to fuss."

"Your girls?" he snorted. "Fat chance you'll get to escape. You've taught most of them to hunt."

"I have, yeah." His head rolled to one side and he had to struggle to put it back. "Go get Amber?"

"I'll get her in a minute." He stared at him. "Are you staying?"

"Nope."

"I'll drive you and Amber back. The new one?"

"Amber asked, I heard her ask."

"I'll go talk to her." He patted him on the foot then looked at the nurse. "When he's ready to get discharged, I'll bring him home."

"That's fine, sir. The paperwork is noted on his file."

"Okay, let me go get his mini slayer." He walked off. He knew where the girl was. He walked in.

"Mr. Tony," Amber said, staring at him. "Is Xander okay?"

"He's fine. He's knocked out on the drugs they gave him."

"Eww, drugs."

"Pain killers," he told her. "He needs them."

"I know. He doesn't heal booboos like we do."

"Sometimes." He looked at her. "He'll want to go home soon."

"This is Brenda. She's one of us. Her mommy said her daddy had adopted her when he escaped the Council."

"Hi, Tony Stark."

Brenda stared, mouth slightly open. "You work with slayers?" she asked in a tiny voice.

"I know Xander and sometimes I give weapons lectures to the girls." Brenda smiled slightly at that. "Do we need to arrange for your mother and you to have security?"

"No, Dad's still in the ICU. Amber broke all his ribs."

"I treated them like a bouncy pad," she said. "'Cause he was mean. He shot Xander."

Tony hugged her. "You can give Xander a report later on. You helped but now it's time to calm down."

"Yes, Mr. Tony." She looked at Brenda. "Still coming this weekend?" She nodded. "Cool!" She hugged her. "We'll see you and your mommy then. Remember when you pull in to go really slowly in case the bunnies come to meet you." She hopped on Tony's shoulders, hugging him around the neck. "Piggy back ride?"

He grinned at her. "Sure, why not." She giggled. "Call and we'll let you in if Xander's knocked out." He left with her. Xander was up and complaining at the nurses. "Shut up," he said as he walked into recovery. "You can go home. That's why I flew up."

Xander took Amber to hold. "He's not a pony."

"It's a piggy back ride. He's a piggy bank because he's rich, he holds a whole lot of pennies." Tony snorted but smirked at that. She looked at the nurse. "Can we bring Xander home? The girls will want to fuss over him. They're going to go spastic." She looked at Xander. "I treated him like a bouncy pad for shooting you. He was mean!"

"He was but you know not to attack people."

"So?" She snorted. "He was bad to you. He deserved it." She handed him his wallet and phone. "The nurse said to hold those for you. I called Dawn and I called Faith and I called Marta."

"You did a really good job," Xander assured her.

"Thank you." She cuddled him. "Sign the papers, Xander. You're taking up valuable fussing hours before bedtime."

He signed the papers for the nurse, who was smiling at the hyper little slayer. Tony took the car keys and went to get the car so they could go home.

***

Beth walked up to Clint and looked at him. "Are you the one that Coulson told us about?"

He flinched but looked at her. "You knew Coulson?"

"He was the guy they sent to talk to us about stuff when it happened. We all liked him. He never freaked out, no matter how strange something was. He'd just go 'huh' and make notes."

"Yeah, you knew Coulson." He looked at her. "He was on the heli carrier and tried to face down Loki."

She grimaced. "Like Xander, sometimes they do things they have to."

"It..."

She held up a hand. "I heard." He stared. "Demon poker contact of Xander's called to tell us what happened yesterday."

"So you know, huh?"

"Yup, including that the shithead had you under control." He looked at her. She stared back. "Dude, there's a reason they call it brainwashing or mind control. It sucks but you need to work on the thinking stuff probably." She nodded, taking him to the senior gym. "This is the gym for the girls allowed on patrol." He looked around then at her. She hit the buttons to turn things on. "If we come in here before bedtime, the Tiny Terrors try to come help us. It was noted you were trying to wear yourself out. Use ours. It's harder." She looked at him. "We'll miss him and he'll be going up on our stuff somehow 'cause he was one of us too." She walked off.

Clint slumped, looking at this new gym. It was the same four stories that the house was. The other gyms were all single level ones. It had a lot more work that could be done. It was part obstacle course, part climbing course, had a rock wall without handholds, and looked like a bitch to handle. It looked like something he did in the field at various times. He moved to examine all the options. He had way up high ones that were difficult to get to and other options like a tightrope. He smiled. He could like this room. He'd thank the mouthy one later for showing it to him. He started to climb up one of the poles to get to a spot he could hit the tightrope from. He had to spin around the pole to duck the laser blast. He stared at the gun. "I like you too, Xander. Thank you." That helped and it helped wear him out so he wouldn't have as many nightmares that night.

***

Xander woke up the next morning to someone sitting on his stomach. "Should you be sitting there?" he asked the teenager.

"No." She grinned. "You're trying to sleep in and Marta's going to come take pictures of you with bedhair."

"How does that lead to you sitting on me?"

She leaned down to kiss him on the nose. "You usually wake up when we open your door. This time I've been here for five minutes." He winced. "Good drugs?"

"Yup." She laughed and got off him, helping him up. "Thanks."

"Welcome. You might have to pry the archer guy out of the senior gym. He's been in there all night."

"Did whoever turn it on the safe mode?"

"I think so. I didn't look. You nearly paddled me for going in there the last time." She strolled off. "He's up, Marta."

"I'm coming," he called. He pulled on a bathrobe, wincing some as it went over his sore arm and shoulder. He wandered out, taking his coffee. "Thanks."

"You're welcome, Xander."

He plopped down, looking around. "They get off to school okay?"

"They all came in to kiss you on the cheek and then left." He moaned then took another drink of coffee. "Apparently it was very good."

"Drugs can be nice that way when you need 'em." He felt tiny arms go around his waist and looked down. "Hi."

"Hi." She smiled. "Are you too sore to watch us play?"

He looked outside then at her. "It's pouring rain. I can watch you guys play in the living room."

"That's no fun. We wanted mud. All but Kelsey. You know how she is about mud."

"I know. She's a tiny bit OCD and it's growing bigger every year." He drank more coffee. "Have everyone change into old clothes that can get stained." She ran off to tell them. He smiled at the stampede up the stairs. Steve came out of the regular gym. "The girls want mud." Kelsey pouted. "You can keep me company on the porch."

"I'll get wet and that's bad."

"Then go get your dolly and go sit and read in the living room." She nodded, patting each doorway as she walked through it on her way to her stash of dolls. She had one for each subject and they were good for her. "We know," he said quietly. The herd of girls ran out. He got more coffee and went to sit out of the rain while they wore themselves out in the mud. "Someone should have a plastic bag over her cast," he yelled.

"Oops." She ran inside to get one then back outside to play again.

Xander went back to his coffee. It took about an hour but the girls got tired of being chilled and ran inside without being prompted to take warm showers and change clothes. Marta went to help them. Xander went back inside. The gym's sensors showed two missing adult people. He'd wonder but he heard where one was. He got food for him and headed into the gym. The thing fired on him so he shot it back. He checked. It was on safe mode. He made his way over to where the archer was hiding. "I tend to hide in the tree," he said with a point. "There's no lasers over there. Just darts and the mechanical snake that likes my ankle." He handed over the bag. "Food?"

"Thanks," he said quietly. He looked up. "Coulson was your liaison?"

"Yup." He sat down beside him. "He never freaked out at anything and the rest of them got driven off or got headaches. We had two others we could stand but they couldn't stand what we did."

"I've seen people like that." He looked in the bag, smiling some. Trail mix, granola bars, bottles of water, and an apple. "Thanks."

"Figured you wanted to immerse yourself in something familiar. Like I said, I like the tree."

"I'm used to urban sniping jobs."

Xander grinned. "I learned to like trees in Africa. Most snakes can't climb. At least the animal kind can't."

He looked at him. "You heard?"

"Yeah, I did. I'm also hearing a few new things and I'm not sure why. I was texting while the girls were getting in some mud time."

"Mud? Your girls?"

"All by Kelsey. She's OCD big time."

"I noticed that about her."

"We're talking with nearby therapists to see who might be able to help her. So far it's not harmful but she's going to have a problem with her dolls coming to class time next year." He looked around. "I'm kinda glad she put it on safe mode."

"There's an unsafe mode?"

"This is how the girls prove to me that they're ready to take on a patrol spot," Xander said. "There's three unsafe modes. One with robotic vampires." He grinned. "Come down when you want to talk. We'll yell if we need you. You need the healing time. Just don't let the Tiny Terrors in."

"How many are in that group?"

"Anyone but the youngest three and the oldest seven. They came later." He smirked slightly. "Giles called them that because they used to gang up to prank him in a baby way. They talked the bigger girls into helping." He got up and walked out. He reset the safe mode setting for him and it was good enough.

Clint pulled out the apple to eat, considering things. Maybe he'd like to see the unsafe modes later.

Xander leaned into the gym. "Stark?" He looked over. "Come see what the poker buddies are telling me." He came over to see the text messages.

"There's no way in hell," Stark said quietly.

"Yeah." They shared a look. "I'm pathetic with computers."

"I'm not." He smirked meanly. "Where is he?"

"Patrol gym. It's on safe mode and I made sure it won't go to the last setting." He walked off. "Let me know if you need help."

"I can do that." He walked off. "Guys, I'm going to Xander's office to look at this."

"Is it a new battle?" Steve asked.

"No, it looks like someone was hacking into my computers." They nodded, accepting that fib for now. Tony went to the office to log into Xander's computer, which he had made him get. Xander dropped something beside him then walked off again. He looked at the phone message that was up and answered it. "That's interesting," he said, his face hard. "I want to know more about that." He hacked into Fury's computer. He had the full access and it'd save him hell later on.

***

Tony walked into the senior gym. "Legolas, let's go," he called.

Clint looked down at him. "Why?"

"Because Fury's got people on ice."

"What?"

"Coulson's in stasis, not dead. They can bring him out and Xander knows someone who owes him majorly. We can help."

"You're.... Really?"

"Yeah." Clint came down. Tony turned off the lasers and they walked out. Tony leaned into the gym. "Captain, need you. Now. Stay, Bruce. We're coming back here. The medical center is downstairs. We're going to need a bed."

"Okay," he said. "For?"

"Coulson. He's in stasis." Bruce's face tightened. Tony nodded. They walked out with Steve.

Xander paused them. "Call Dawn. Tell her to tell her boyfriend this is the favor he owes me."

"I can do that on the way there. They can?"

"On Atlantis? Yeah, they can."

Tony smirked. "I like that myth they have."

"As long as we never get wraith." Tony nodded, heading out to handle this. Clint looked like he was going to kill someone. He had that non-expression going on. Xander went to prep the medical bay. He called Dawn himself. "It's me. Tell John I remember that favor and it's being called in right now. Stark's about to call." He hung up when she agreed. He smiled at Bruce. "The girls need it after battles."

"I've seen film of a few. I looked it up."

"We do a good job hiding it." That got a nod and they got a bed ready. Xander called another person and they agreed to help. They owed Xander a lot of poker kittens.

***

Stark looked at Clint once they had parked the 'borrowed' SHIELD SUV Xander had driven the girls up in. "Where and how?" He showed him what he had.

Clint pointed. "That's not here. It's the base in New Hampshire." Tony adjusted it and he nodded. "That's not on the base maps. It's all underground. Two entries, both guarded. Neither easy."

"So?" Tony asked.

"Or there's the airways but you have to be super quiet."

"Or there has to be a diversion," Steve said quietly.

"That won't work. They have automated guards, sound pickups mostly, in the air vents."

"So we divert the human ones," Tony said. That got a nod and they went in to deal with it. Steve set up the diversion. Tony knew enough medical stuff to help move Coulson but sent some tech with Steve. He also put a few things in the air vents. "Rumblers. They vibrate as they roll along. It's like a rolling bag of marbles. Drives people batty." Clint grinned at that. The human guards were reporting a disturbance and going to check. They split the other guard so they were still covered. Tony zapped one with a hand-held electronic pinpoint module. They broke the electronic lock with it too by scrambling the machine. They found the secure infirmary and the three patients. Tony looked. "Fuck." He found where Coulson was stashed. Then there was a flash of light.

Dawn smiled at them. "Good morning, Mr. Stark. Let's help you." John and his two docs looked at Coulson first then the other three. All four got taken with them. Clint and Stark disappeared in a flash of light and Steve too. They landed somewhere and then they were beamed back to the training center. Dawn grinned. "Good morning, General."

"Summers, why are you using Stargate tech without my permission?" O'Neill asked.

She pinched him on the cheek. "Because SHIELD is full of people with plots, plans, and bad ideas that are hurting others that we like." She walked off. "I don't know who those three are, Docs. Can I help with that?"

"Yes," one said. "Get me their medical records, Summers."

"On it," McKay said from where he was working at a computer. He handed over two. "I'm getting the third. They've discovered the intrusion." Suddenly something started to print but Rodney balled it up. "They can threaten all they like, I'm still Canadian." He finally printed it off with a smirk and handed it over. "That?"

"Thank you, Doctor McKay," John said with a grin.

"Morons with plans do annoy me," he said dryly, walking off to talk to Dawn. She had asked for the favor and he understood why but not how she was involved. When he heard, he burst out laughing. He had met Harris once. The guy played dumb very well and nearly drove him insane until he realized it was on purpose and the guy was more dangerous than the wraith. He had even put that in the contact report he had done on him. The general hadn't been amused but yay.

General O'Neill huffed. "I do not want to talk to the president about this, people."

"So don't, sir. We'll just offer them a better job since they were supposedly dead," Dawn quipped with a smile. "After all, they're part of a secret government agency that's supposed to protect everyone. We can't be any more weird than the Avengers."

"Probably not," he decided, walking off shaking his head. "Or your people, Summers."

"They know about our people and the one that went to the training center was our liaison until he ran into Loki."

O'Neill stopped and turned, staring at her. "Tiny alien Loki?"

"No. Big, greasy looking human Loki, yes."

"You're sure?"

She handed him the reports on what had happened. "Got 'em from Stark when I asked nicely."

He read them, his jaw setting. "No. Fuck no." He beamed to the White House, smiling at the president's secretary. "Is he busy?"

"He's off site at a meeting, General O'Neill. Is it that important?"

"Apparently there's more than one alien Loki running around?"

She called that to him to see what he wanted to do. She hung up. "He said you are talking about this with someone tomorrow at 0900 here. Expect to see the people you just rescued from and some of Miss Summers people."

"Sure. Including Harris?"

"He did not say."

"Try to get him here too please. I'd like to see why someone said he was more dangerous than the wraith."

"A few reports have passed my desk but they were classified and I cannot relate anything on that topic, General."

He grinned. "Pentagon?"

"No."

He nodded. "Thank you." He went to talk to a few civilian sources of information. Plus ones some of his contacts knew. His former general had just retired from the head of Homeworld Security. He had to know some nice people.

The secretary changed visage and grinned then changed back. She loved being the top demon in the US. Plus it meant that she could make sure her clan was protected, even if they acted up a bit here and there to cause chaos.

***
Part 4 by Voracity2
Xander looked up from fussing at one of the babies when the guys tromped up the stairs. "Bad news?"

"He's mending but awake and able to move by himself. They've healed most of the damage already," Bruce said, flopping down. "We're not really pleased with Fury."

Xander nodded. "Me either. I've never been pleased with Fury." The baby squealed. He looked at her. "Are you turning demanding already? Wow, you're way too young to be so demanding." He went back to teasing her toes for her, making her giggle.

"You're good with them," Steve said quietly.

Xander grinned. "I love the little mouthy ones."

"You could have a few," Tony said.

"Remember that yelling and screaming about my blood way back when? It's still there and still too far off human."

"Oh, yeah." He shrugged, taking the baby to look at. She grinned at him. "Hi. You're loud." She squealed and kicked, still smiling. "You're a good girl. Hug Steve. He needs cute girl hugs." He handed her to Steve and looked at Xander. "I had to destroy the notes we had. Someone tried to hack."

Xander nodded. "A few people have heard something from the underground railroad of news that Sunnydale used to be part of. I had a few blood hunters in Africa and Asia that thought I'd be a nice toy to play with. They were wrong. A lot. In many pieces."

Clint looked at him. "How many pieces?"

Xander smiled. "Depends on which one. One I told the cannibal imps I was clearing out to make a meal of before they kidnaped more people to experiment on."

"I think I saw that mess. Malaysia?"

"Yup." He grinned. "Teach them to think I'm a toy and expendable." He took the baby back. "Hi, Miss Squeal." She pouted. "What?" She pouted and sniffled. Steve smiled and took her back, making her happy. She was playing with his hair. "Okay, if he doesn't mind." He shrugged.

"Why were they after your blood?" Bruce asked.

"No comment." Xander walked off. "I'm not contagious but there's things that only I seem to be able to do."

"Barton has that same skill," a tired voice said.

"You should be in bed," Clint said, hopping up to help Coulson to a seat.

"He's as stubborn as I am," Xander quipped. "Want some coffee?"

"Not yet. Let my heart finish feeling like brand new first." He looked at the staring baby. "Hi." She cackled and bounced on Steve, babbling noise at him. "You are loud." He took her to hold. She patted him and cooed. "I know I was there when you were born. You were loud then too."

"Why were you there when she was born?" Bruce asked.

"There was a battle," Coulson said. "It's why I was late picking you up to go to Arizona," he told Clint, who nodded at that. "I got sent to see why they were having a battle without warning us."

"There was a demon clan taking over a town," Xander said. He came out with coffee for them and a bottle for the baby. She happily grabbed it and sucked. He grinned. "Nice. Thank you." He flopped down, wincing a tiny bit. "I got sent to help calm it down or stop it with a few of the girls. There had been a coven there that had offered a bunch of unpopular girls to the demons for power and status, and good boyfriends. When I got there, we were attacked and had to take cover for a few minutes. They had said five demons, not five hundred demons in this clan." Bruce shuddered. "We were in a store, getting ready to move up again when Coulson gets there to see what's going on.

"We were arguing about strategy to stop it when they herded a pregnant woman into the store. I still don't know how they realized she was carrying a future slayer but they did. She was in labor because of the running and the really scared chemicals in her blood. We had no way of stopping it so out she popped and then they summoned the mom while we were trying to get the baby to breathe. Let's just say the first crunch is always the worst but one of the girls got that demon with her crossbow and Coulson took the baby while we fought the rest of them. We had no way of saving the mother unless we had been laying on top of her to make sure they couldn't take her."

Coulson nodded, feeding the baby. "It was not pretty and I shot the mother as she was stolen so she wasn't killed by the demon eating her. There was no hope of killing the demon since it took specially blessed lead rounds."

"Which we didn't know we needed because the research people didn't say that," Xander said. "Their kind of demons had to be summoned and they claimed they didn't know," he told Coulson.

"I saw the report you sent me about thumping them as you put it. Thank you for saving me that duty."

Xander grinned. "My pleasure. Anyway, about an hour later we finally made it to the summoning circle. We broke it, it broke the protections on the demons and sent the weaker ones home, the ones who hadn't eaten a human. Then the girls and I hunted the rest down to make they were all gone. She was in the hospital with Coulson watching over her. The first thing he did when he saw me after that battle was point at her shoulder. Huge, hairy slayer mole. We talked to Giles and he said she could come here if she didn't have other family. We looked through the local officers but they couldn't find anyone and neither could their social services people. They decided having a baby slayer in their system was probably a dangerous thing. More demons might come for them, or they might injure another kid without realizing it. So we got her and we got Amanda, who is one of the ones in that problematic class."

"I can understand why they're worried that demons come for slayers," Clint said. "But the harming other kids?"

"If you can bend rebar at five-years-old, punching the bully that's picking on you tends to become a bit of a problem," Xander said, sipping his coffee.

"They can?" Clint asked. Xander nodded. "You're sure?"

"Miranda, Clint wants to see how strong you girls really are."

The three-year-old beamed and ran to the study to get the show off kit. It already had a bent piece of metal. She held it up. He frowned as he checked it. Then he handed it back. She cuddled it into bending more. "Damn," Clint said. He hugged her. "That's very good, Miranda." She beamed and handed it to Xander then ran off to play with the dollies again.

"Miranda, if those are Kelsey's dollies, you have to ask her," Xander said with a wince.

"Those are my old ones, Xander. I don't have those subjects anymore," she said from her corner. She smiled. "Some day I might need them back but we'll see. They can have those. I cleaned them and everything."

"I know you did, Kelsey. You're very good at that." He looked at her. "Are you out of dollies?"

"No, but I need a better math dollie. I'm going to the next class soon so I need one that's smarter than my last one was. She barely understood math with me."

"Find me one and I'll get one brought to you by the dollie elves." She smiled at him for that and took one of the tablets off the work table to look up dolls. She knew where they came from but the littler kids didn't. Some of them were silly enough to think that Xander was an elf sent by Santa. She knew he was really Santa. Xander looked at Coulson.

"Madison Traegar," he said quietly. "She's in Manhattan but she's good." Xander nodded, relaxing some. "I've had her name on my desk for about a week. Or a week before the battle anyway."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome." He looked at the baby. "Are you asleep?"

"Just quiet," Steve said, taking her to hold. "You're very sweet."

Xander snorted. "No she's not. She's loud and she screams and she hates pajamas. And bath time. She loathes bath time." Steve snorted but grinned at the little girl, who cooed up at him.

Tony looked at her then at Xander. "Maybe she just needed someone bigger and more muscled."

"Maybe. I know I'm not built like an action star. I always thought it was the eye patch."

"How did you lose your eye?" Bruce asked. "If it's not too personal."

Xander shook his head. "There was a minion of the First Evil who thought I saw too much so he was going to make me see differently with his thumbnails." Bruce shuddered. "He popped it but Spike saved me from losing the other one." He adjusted the eyepatch. "I hear about it just about every other battle from the girls." He took another drink of his coffee.

"I'd say we could use a sidekick but we have plenty," Tony said dryly.

"He'd have to bring all of us," Kelsey said. "You have a really pretty tower, Mr. Tony. We'd love to make it a fort."

He looked over, grinning at her. "So would Pepper."

"Then we'd have more girls around?"

"I'm not sure if Pepper could be a big sister or not. She has to run the business because I don't do it very well."

She grinned. "You got distracted like the big slayers do at shoes and panties."

"Yeah, I did, but mine was because of science."

Kelsey smiled and held up her dollie. "This is my science dollie. I'm studying leaves."

"That's a great area," Bruce said. "I studied that before physics and medicine." She brought her doll and her workbook over to get his help. He had some patience with kids and she was a nice kid.

Xander smiled. "Thanks," he said quietly. "I wasn't exactly a bookish sort in school."

"It might've helped if the principal didn't change your grades on you," Coulson said dryly.

"Yes it might have," Xander agreed with a grin for him. "But the giant snake demon Mayor ate him. We were all happy, the whole class cheered."

Tony shook his head quickly. "I can see why but that's really warped, Xander."

"I know but he was a troll."

"Did he have a bridge or was he a Harry Potter troll?" Kelsey asked, head popping up.

"We think he had a bridge hidden mystically so he could sleep under it," Xander said. "He was too short to be the other kinds." She laughed and got back to her lessons. Steve was looking upset. "He gave one kid detention because his belt was crooked and had missed a loop."

Steve nodded. "Yeah, he was a troll," Tony told him. "I looked into his school. It was pathetically horrible."

"He was there to get his power kicks and to help hide all the bodies we had. Not like he cared if we got educated."

"Good point," Tony agreed. "He didn't care because you guys were there to feed the nightlife."

Xander nodded. "Pretty much. Though the look on his face when he saw the zombie's bomb that morning, priceless." He grinned and finished his coffee.

"Did they ever see you had something to do with that?" Tony asked.

"Nope. Willow eventually found out by hacking the security system. That caught Jack carrying it in and me following to stop him. Jack got eaten by Oz while he was in furry form. I snuck out."

Tony nodded. "Good."

"There was a *zombie* that was going to blow up the school?" Clint asked, looking at him.

"Yeah." He nodded. "To keep the hellmouth open. The girls had me be fray adjacent so I couldn't get in their way. I had no idea he had used me to go get materials for it."

"Damn," Clint said. "You guys were insane."

"We were teenagers and we had angst and hell and apocalypse battles. It was more a soap opera at times."

"Where are the other hellmouths?" Tony asked. Xander pointed at a map on the wall. He looked. "Is that one near my other factory?"

"Few hundred miles. It's pretty quiet and calm."

"Oh, okay. That's good to know. I'll let Pepper know so we can make sure it's not going to affect things." He sent her a text message. He got one back. "We have a meeting tomorrow."

"All of us?" Bruce asked. "Steve, she's asleep."

"She's fine. It's nice to be needed," he said quietly.

Xander stared at him. "If you wanted to mentor one of the slayer teams I can set that up. They could all use mentors since half of them don't have field watchers. A lot of it's making sure that they're okay with the battles and maybe helping."

"I'll think about that," Steve said with a grin. "The girls are great girls."

"Thanks," Xander said. Dawn appeared in a flash of light. "Wow, brighter than usual," he said dryly.

"The president wants you at the talk tomorrow between my boss, our boss, and their boss," she said then grinned and disappeared.

"Sure," Xander decided. "Why?"

Coulson cleared his throat. "A few of the people on Dawn's current project consider you more dangerous than some of their enemies."

Xander leaned forward to look down at him. "Seriously?"

"Yes. One listed you as more dangerous than the wraith."

"How am I more dangerous than an alien being who eats your life force through their hand?"

"I do not know," he admitted.

"What's a wraith?" Clint asked.

"You'll be finding out soon," Coulson said. "I have modules to train you about them. You and Natasha both."

"She's helping find out who had the bright idea to attack the top levels of the Council to get them gone," Bruce said.

"Wonderful. I'm sure it's destressing for her," Coulson said. He took Kelsey to look at. "You have done five and a half hours of studying."

"I need to do five more minutes then," she whined. "I'll have to start over."

"Part of learning is taking breaks." She pouted. "During the regular school day you'd have lunch breaks and maybe even recess." Xander nodded to back that up. "Otherwise your brain goes blank."

"Oh, is that what that's called?" He nodded. She pouted. "Five more minutes?"

He pointed at the clock. "When did you start?"

She looked and counted. "I'm only one minute short!"

"And this break time is usually called clean up time," he said with a slight smile. "So clean up and get ready to put the dollie back." She nodded, cleaning up her learning mess so she could put the dollies back when the clock chimed. She sighed in pleasure and did that then went to read something fun.

"Thank you," Xander mouthed.

"We'll help you figure it out. Otherwise she'll have problems in school."

"Yeah, she will." He got up to grab one of the homework tablets to look up that therapist's name, walking off calling her. "Hi, I'm Xander Harris and I'm the trainer for the new Watchers Council. I have one of my girls who has a really strong case of OCD," he said as he shut his office door. "Ones that make her pat the doorway each time she walks through in the same place. She has a time limit on how long she has to study whenever she starts and she has to have a doll for each and every subject but if she's done with that doll she'll let the other girls play with them then pick up one later on for the higher levels of that subject. No, no eating or hygiene ones we've seen yet.

"She's six but she's starting our usual school next year due to the birthday rules so that's going to be a problem. No, she has to study straight through for five hours and thirty-five minutes. No breaks or anything." He listened. "That's what I want to do. I've been searching around and an agent I know suggested her. Yes, that her." He smiled, making a note in his scheduling book. "I don't have anything that day so that's fine. I can do that. We have film and files on all the odd behaviors we've seen her do. I've been talking to a few therapists to get ideas to help her but nothing we've done is helping. Thank you, that's a great time. I can do that. Thanks." He hung up and made a note. He walked out. "Kelsey, you have a doctor's appointment in three days at three pm."

"Three?" she asked, looking scared.

"It's in Manhattan, at that little hospital that you prefer when you got stitches. That's the only time she has open."

"I guess it'll be okay. Even if it has three in it."

"It'll be fine. I'm going with you."

"Shots?"

"No. Not shots. A doctor who's going to talk to you about your dislike of the number three and things like that."

"Oh, for the dollies?"

"That too. She's not going to make you give them up but it'll give you someone to talk to about them."

She nodded. "I guess it might be okay. We can try."

He hugged her. "That's very brave, sweetheart. It'll be fine."

"Can I pick the bedtime story tonight?"

"Sure, why not."

"Can I ask the nice agent lady?"

"If she's back."

"Oh." She looked over. "Nice archer agent guy?"

"My name's Clint, Kelsey."

"Okay, Clint, can you tell a bedtime story tonight?"

"I can try." She beamed and nodded, wiggling some and getting back to her book. "Xander, how are you moving your arm that much?"

"He's stubborn that way," Tony quipped.

"That's why we're all hovering around him," Kelsey quipped. "So he can't get more hurt. We'd hate that for our Xander." Xander kissed her on the head and sat down. "If we didn't hover he might have to take drugs to feel better and we'd all hate to have to talk to him about how pills are bad."

"Yes they are, unless they're prescribed to you because you need things like allergy medicine or important medicines for serious problems like heart problems," Bruce said.

She grimaced. "Are those drugs, Xander?"

"Kinda but not ones that make people do stupid things usually."

"That's okay then. I know one of us has to take vitamin pills and she hates it. I'll talk to her about it later," she decided and got back to reading.

"I love how the girls are always so certain," Tony said with a smile for her, getting a grin back.

"That's a great part of youth, knowing you're right and the rest of the world is wrong," Xander agreed. The other adults smiled at that. "That and the immortal tendencies of teenagers." He looked over at one that was hanging outside the window. "Did you do that on purpose?" he called.

"No. I fell." Xander started to get up but Clint got up and went to help her down. "Thank you, Clint."

"Welcome. What did you fall doing?"

"I'm supposed to learn how to rappel next week."

"Don't you take a class for that?" Xander called.

"I don't want to look stupid."

"Do it again, watch them think your parent beats you," Xander called.

"Yes, Xander. I won't do it again so you don't have to spank me." She looked at Clint hopefully.

He looked at what she had set up. "You need a real harness, not just a rope tied strategically. You need a carabineer so you can zip down."

"Crap."

"Sorry, kiddo."

She sighed. "I guess I'll wait and check it out on youtube then." She went to do that.

"I'm hearing the 'homework' song for some reason," Xander quipped.

"I just got home," she complained, scowling at him.

"With a note from what Marta said."

"Oops." She slunk off to get her homework. Marta handed over the various notes. He signed a few and handed them back. "Melinda, did you want to go to the park?"

"Please don't make me go to the disease ridden park," she begged. "Pretty please, Xander?"

He made a note on the back of the form about her allergies to most flowers and she could not take allergy medicine due to adverse side effects - usually known as being unable to be woken up for most of a day - so she should not go and to let him know if he should keep her home that day. He looked at the other three. "Ooooh, book sale," he winced. He put that aside.

"I miss those," a few of the older girls muttered.

"That was prewarning that the second grade is having one next month," he quipped. He looked at those girls, who all grinned at him. "We'll go over the order sheet when they send it so we can pick you out stuff." They cheered. "You guys get to talk Giles into it." They nodded, babbling about plans on how to convince Giles to give them a book allowance that time. "Remember, the other kids might be getting one too." The third and fourth graders all smirked at him. "Talk to Giles. He pays your bills." They got with the younger kids to work on their attack plan.

Coulson smiled slightly at them. "They've got very good tactical skills," he said quietly.

Xander grinned. "Thanks." He looked at the two other slips. "Why did someone get detention for spitting on another girl?"

"She's a whore who said I'll never get a boyfriend because boys don't like girls like me, and I'm too mentally retarded to know anything about sex," one of the girls said.

"Excuse you, language," Xander said firmly, staring at her. "Secondly, you're how goddamn old? If there's a guy between your knees, you're in the deepest shit ever."

"No! There's not one! Eww! I know the rules! It's not my fault she gets *presents* from her *boyfriend*."

"Did you note that to the teacher?"

"She said she'd be talking to her mother about it but I'm still in detention for the spitting."

"Ya think?" Xander asked, signing it and adding a note to the back. "By the way, don't you have chores?" He gave her a pointed look. "That is not how we resolve conflicts with other students. You know better."

"I do," she sighed. "I apologized to the principal, who asked why I had called her that, so I told him to look at a certain time and places's hallway video. He called her parents."

"Good! Still doesn't excuse your part of it."

"I know. I'm grounded, extra PT, extra chores," she sighed. "A week?"

"Yup." He pointed. She sighed but went to help Marta in the kitchen. He looked at the other one. "Do I even want to ask?"

"No," that girl said.

"Why were you spreading crap everywhere?"

"It wasn't mine."

"I'm not sure if it makes it better or worse," he said.

Tony shook his head. "Worse. It means she handled someone else's body fluids."

"It's a solid, not a fluid," one of the younger ones quipped. "And the teacher deserved it. She's an evil b.... um, not supposed to say that word, even about her."

Xander rolled his eyes, staring at that girl. "You were doing what?"

"The evil cunt said she was calling someone to inseminate us later so we could reach our ultimate destination earlier and easier."

Xander glared. "Really?" She nodded. "And you were....."

"Pointed out she was full of shit by spreading it on her," she admitted. "I may be expelled. There's a hearing. I admitted to it when we got caught. I'm going to take my punishment because I'll be damned, Xander."

He nodded. "You've got some here for that language too." He pointed. She ran into the kitchen. "Is that meeting tomorrow? It doesn't say."

"Yup. Might conflict."

"Okay. We'll see." He looked over there. "What are you going to do if you're expelled?"

"Home school."

"Really?" he asked dryly.

"Yup. He asked me that and I pointed out I was looking at it already due to her bullshit."

"Add another two weeks," Xander said bluntly.

"Yes, sir."

"Thank you. The younger girls do not need to hear, use, or accept such language, even if the target is deserving." Though, he and the bitch were going to have a talk about that shit. He called the principal. "I just got the note. When is the hearing? No, she's presently ruing her decision to the tune of kitchen duty at the moment. Then she and the other one that you saw today get to go clean every single gym by hand by themselves." They whined. "And then they get to go scoop the yard after the pets." He listened. "That's what I wanted to know. Was she correct at that rant?" He listened and nodded once. "Uh-huh. I see." He looked at her. "You don't have to pick up the animal crap after all." She winced. "You should've told me the rest she said."

"I couldn't air that around the little kids," she said bluntly, giving him a look.

Xander nodded. "No, probably not." He kept listening. "I'd rather she not be expelled, and I can see why she did it. I have no idea. No, I'd keep a table between us please. No, I can totally be late to my other one tomorrow. When is ours?" He made a note. "All right. Thank you. Yes, I've already noted that and signed it. Was there another one...." He looked at the other fourth graders. "Really?"

One shrugged. "We were just looking out for other teachers to support our sisters." He pointed at the kitchen. "Yes, Xander." They sighed but went in there to do some chores.

Xander smiled. "I'll see you tomorrow about them. Yes, I think it'll be okay. Thank you." He hung up and looked at the kitchen. "One of you go clean the bathrooms for Marta." They whined but rock/paper/scissors among the other three got one to do that. Xander looked at Tony then leaned over to hiss in his ear.

"I'd punch the bitch," he said quietly. "And not stop."

"That's why we were proving she was full of non-fluid human excrement," the girl in the kitchen said. "Which was nicely donated by one of her victims that she beat yesterday."

"She did what?" Xander asked.

"She went to the principal. Her parents know. They've filed assault charges since their daughter had broken skin and things."

"What did she do to warrant that sort of treatment?" Bruce asked.

"She cried at a movie." The girl looked over. "It was sad! She openly cried. The rest of us knew if we openly cried we'd be at least screamed at." Xander was growling. "Calm down, Xander. We'll get her. We will."

Xander called someone. "Dawn, I'll be late. I have a meeting with the principal at ten. It might result in me needing bail money." He hung up. "Okay, onto happier topics." He calmed himself down. That girl came over to hug him. "Why did you not tell me?" he asked her.

"Because each time she gets yelled at by parents, she just gets worse and worse. You might kill her." She went back in there.

"I'm not supposed to kill humans unless it's to protect myself or others from harm," Xander said dryly. "Clearly she needs the pretty jacket with the extra long sleeves if she thinks that's all right behavior though."

"We all thought she went off her meds," that girl admitted. "She was better at the beginning of the year then she got dumped by her boyfriend, had a few rough weeks, then calmed down for a few and suddenly snapped."

"Maybe," Xander said, rubbing his forehead. He took a calming breath then went outside to throw a fit.

The younger girls all clapped. "Whooo hoooo!" one shouted. "You go, Xander!"

"Go clean your room," he yelled back. The girls giggled but had to clean up for dinner and their rooms weren't that messy anyway. Xander came back in. "Sorry, needed to vent. The unicorns are all glaring at me for it." He flopped back down.

"Thankfully the nearest neighbor probably can't hear," Coulson said. He took Stark's phone to tap out a message to Hill then handed it back. "So they'll expecting him to suddenly show up. SHIELD tends to have a bad reaction when he shows up unexpectedly somewhere."

"They didn't in the infirmary," Steve said.

"It was too fast and everyone was still in shock," Xander said. He waved his bad hand around. "Usually they would've pulled guns and I would've pulled knockout gas. That's kinda my love note to SHIELD."

"The mean poopy head demons might like him since he's a poopy head of a different sort," one of the younger girls said, getting a few nods.

Xander leaned over to look at her. "You haven't had demon classifications yet."

"I asked Beth why she stunk when she came in last night."

"Ah. Beth?"

"Yup, two of them trying to get into an upscale club and horrifying the rich snobs. I sent a report. Buffy said Giles was stoned enough on his painkillers for his leg that he laughed for a good half-hour over it."

Xander shook his head with a groan. "Great."

"We drove them out of the city," the other slayer said. "Damned if I want to deal with them again," she muttered when Xander looked at her.

"Ditto. Especially since three of them really like Buffy's style and want to adopt her into the clan." They burst out laughing and ran off to go pee.

"They crap out ribbons," Coulson said. "Then wrap it around their heads to attract their own kind for mating."

The Avengers all nodded at that. They did not want to know.

***

Xander walked into the meeting room the next day. "Sorry," he said over the shouting the president was watching. "School talk about a teacher that got so damn dumb the girls reacted by spreading shit over her after tying her up." He sat down, watching the screaming match between Fury and O'Neill. "I had twenty bucks on O'Neill decking him," he told Dawn.

"You won that bet too. First thing." She handed it over. "And another five for Carter sneering at Hill."

"Hmm." He nodded. "Okay." He looked at the scientist with the black eye. "She's tougher than you, Colonel. They sent her to take out people by hand." He looked at Hill. "Beilinar?"

"I've heard some from the girls when we scanned their reports to the main house," Hill admitted.

Xander smirked. "Do you enjoy that?"

"No. The girls tend to complain a lot."

"She told the girls yesterday she was going to have them tied up, raped, impregnated, and then shipped off. Which made the girls break, tie her up, cover her in shit that someone nicely donated since the teacher had beaten her bloody the day before over crying at a movie. So we had a charming talk this morning with the principal."

Giles looked down. "Are they expelled?"

"There's six weeks left. They must attend counseling, though the whole class is attending it now. For the next six weeks actually. This summer they are to keep attending it for anger management issues. He apologized for not listening when the problems started and the girls complained. He thought it was solved after the last talk they had. She tried to kill one of the slayers with a knife during the meeting today. Which went into her hip when I grabbed it and her," Xander said. "She's on the psych ward in Hartford." Giles smirked at that. "The girls are all to do penance this summer, including mandatory community service hours." He slid down the agreement. "If they screw up for any reason, even having to run from an attack, they may not come back."

He looked it over. "It seems fair. The others involved?"

"Same deal. One of their parents is a lawyer and he negotiated based on what his daughter was already doing for punishment. Also, expect an email from the girls about the school book fair."

"I can do so." He slid it back. "Even if they have to run from an apocalypse?"

"Yup."

"I suppose that's reasonable as they wouldn't be going back there probably anyway." He looked at the two fighting people then at Xander.

Xander got up and went to get the visitors in there. Coulson shook his head. Hill hopped up, staring at him. "O'Neill's people helped him too," Xander said. He shoved the two people apart, looking at them both. "Shut up. Sit down. I've already had enough bitching today from the fourth grade teacher from hell." He looked at Fury, who had just snorted. "Don't make me let Hill take over, Fury. I have no problem at all wounding you seriously so she can sit beside your bed for the next six months you'll be on intubation while healing the lung shot. I've had enough." He looked at O'Neill. "Then why didn't you send people to help?" he demanded. "If it's your job to deal with aliens, deal with the fucking aliens! Even the slayers did some of that! If they had shown up to help, everyone probably would've liked it." He walked away to sit back down. "Damn, act like it's your sandbox and only you can play," he said dryly.

"Harris," Fury growled.

"I raise scarier toddlers," he pointed out. "Let's sit down and work out who to call when what happens. That way no one has butt-hurt feelings and the ball sack nibbling can end before the women in the room start to feel deprived since they can't have any of that." Fury glared. "I have knock out gas on me like usual whenever I have to talk to you, Fury. Want me to use it?"

"Please don't," the president sighed. "I know you have in the past, Harris."

Xander shrugged. "It seemed to work."

Giles looked over. "How are you moving that injury that much?"

Xander grinned. "You act like this is my first gunshot wound, Giles. I have a really high pain tolerance and I've been here before. Beyond that, a lot of wrist and elbow action you're taking as shoulder action."

"How good are the drugs they have you on?" Hill asked.

Xander looked at her. "I don't take drugs. The girls would never allow me to take painkillers, Hill. I haven't had a painkiller outside a hospital setting since I was eighteen." She slumped, staring at him. "Really." He shrugged. "It happens." Stark walked in with Rogers to sit around Coulson. "Pleasure," he said with a nod to them. He handed down the agreement.

Stark nodded. "Sounds reasonable to me." He handed it back. "Girls pouting?"

"No. They agreed it was the wrong thing to do and they should not have done it and took their punishment like women. None of them whined at all. The teacher whined when she tried to stab one. She's presently hating the pretty locking room she's in and the stitches in her hip from her knife."

Steve shuddered. "Did she go off her medicine like the girls thought?"

"Oh, yes," Xander said.

Tony nodded. "I had JARVIS look at her history. She lost two other teaching jobs due to needing medicine for hallucinations and persecution complex issues. She took a two year hiatus to find the right drugs and then promptly went off them because her boyfriend said she wasn't fun anymore when he dumped her."

"Met him too," Xander said dryly. "He was trying to break into their classroom and the girls screamed in horror at him trying to get in the window. He's not real fond of the ER I bet. Especially not in the handcuffs he went in."

"I'm proud you left his wrists able to be cuffed," Giles said with a smile for him.

Xander grinned back. "Can't say the same for his legs. Especially since he told one of the girls to come help him so she could blow him. He'll probably never get to make that offer again since I might have possibly caused irreparable harm to his pubic bone area. Oops, sorry."

"Nice," Tony agreed.

Xander grinned. "Thanks."

"Can you two quit flirting now?" Fury demanded.

Xander and Tony looked at him. "Sure, blame us for some whacko marrying us off against our wills," Stark said. "Not like I attended it, signed the certificate or any other paperwork for it, or anything else."

"If they weren't hiding ours and a few others that got bribed into being, it might be nice but they are," Xander said. "Personally that alone nearly made me let that demon eat them."

"Xander," Giles chided quietly.

"I sent someone else."

"I remember. Thank you for that."

Xander shrugged. "The average person isn't a politician."

The president stared at them. "Someone...." He flapped a hand. Tony passed down the file on the attempts to get it canceled. "Oh, dear," he said. He looked at Stark. "Your CEO knows?"

"She found out when I did, right after they did it. She's not happy."

"I'm not happy, she's not happy, he's not happy. It's a party of not happy really," Xander said dryly. "If we were gay it might be a happier party and then we'd let Pepper help but not really our things."

The president closed it and nodded. "I can see that happening." He handed it back to Stark. He looked at the fighting people. "Let's do as suggested and work out who's job it really is. We had slayers there, we had O'Neill's people helping from the edges but they couldn't get in. We had SHIELD's people there."

"No, we went in on our own, sir," Steve said. "SHIELD's top people tried to use a nuclear warhead on Manhattan to stop it."

"If they were in the air, would that have actually killed them?" Xander asked Coulson.

"Possibly but it's not a certainty. There were some on the ground but I'm not sure if they're resistant to our radiation methods."

Hill cleared her throat. "Coulson, nice to have you back," she said. "How did that happen?"

O'Neill snorted. "We helped. We can do that using some alien tech." He looked at Fury. "There's a second alien Loki running around? Does that one make clones too?"

"He'd better not. He tried to take over the world. There is?" Hill and Carter traded files on that.

"Roswell grays are real," Hill said. "Huh."

Coulson nodded. "The alien Asgard I met was quite pleasant."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Fury demanded.

"We had him under a gag order," the president said. "He happened onto one of General O'Neill's pack of bad luck happening and stopped it."

"Kinda like how you found out about demons," Xander quipped with a grin for him.

"Not quite as dramatic. There were no commandos," he said blandly. "Sir?"

"You're not under it any longer, Agent Coulson. I'll let that one go with your supposed death."

"They slapped me into stasis in time," he admitted. He looked at his boss. He pulled up his files on those and handed them over. "Those, sir?"

Fury looked at them, grimacing. "I wanted to know this, Coulson."

"The president overrules you, sir."

"I realize that." He stared at him. "Are you coming back?"

"We've offered him a great job helping me," Xander said. "The girls could learn a lot from him. Better pay, benefits, all the playing in the sun time he could want. The girls fussing over any future injuries. A unit command spot for any future apocalypse battles." He tossed an envelope down to Giles. Who read it over, nodding. "Share that with O'Neill, Giles. Some of his enemies are helping." He looked at Fury. "Can you really put out a better offer than over a hundred girls that critically need what he can teach them so they can help save the earth?"

"We have all his agents," Fury said.

"We've tended offers to any Avengers member that presently doesn't have another job." Xander smiled. "The girls really look up to Agents Barton and Romanoff, and Captain Rogers is excellent at helping them with not only their physical conditioning but also their moral and ethical education that sometimes gets a bit slippery when you're hunting. We can even put Doctor Banner on as our on-call physician for the training center." Fury gaped. Xander smiled back. "We need one."

"You do," Hill agreed. "Where is the medical bay?"

"Basement," Coulson said. "It's very nice. I almost went back to it willingly." She grimaced. Every SHIELD agent tried to escape from medical sooner than they needed to. It was a well hated department within the agency.

"Our girls adore ours," Giles said. "But we could also use another physician and probably two more nurses." Xander nodded at that.

"We could put you all under the same agency," the president said.

"I and the slayers will never work for any political group. Especially not one that wanted to nuclear bomb Manhattan," Xander said bluntly. "We would destroy them and then walk over their ashes as we went back to our lives."

The president nodded. "I can agree with that. I don't like their Security Council anyway. If I had heard before I did about that bomb, I might've had to bomb his heli carrier to make sure it couldn't leave."

"I blew up my own person and their plane to make sure one didn't but a second launched, sir," Fury said. "I tried."

"I realize that. Otherwise Harris would've had you eaten by something before you got near the slayers again." Xander nodded. "Did you have that senator from Minnesota taken out?"

"No," he said with a grin. "His granddaughter's boyfriend did because he called him a worthless piece of shit."

"Ah, so he didn't like hearing the truth. The one from Arkansas?"

"I know who did it and why but I'm not going to comment," Xander said. "I didn't ask, offer, order, suggest, anything like that. I know why and who though. When they finally figure it out, there's going to be a riot." The president glared. Xander leaned over to hiss in his ear. The president took a calming breath and hummed as it got let out. "So yeah, not commenting."

"No, I wouldn't either. I'll steer them in that direction and tell them to keep it silent."

Xander nodded. "Might be a good idea. I've already moved the slayers from that area and the other one just in case. I'm told the police in Minnesota have a clue about what happened though."

"That's reasonable." He looked at him. "Other area?"

"Um.... New Orleans. Probably within a week. I can't stop it. I've tried. The slayers have tried. It's not working."

Giles cleared his throat. "Have I heard?"

"Yes. Moira said she sent you that report."

"Oh, her. Oh, dear." He nodded. "We're keeping our girls out of that."

Xander nodded. "Yes I am." Tony looked at him. "You know Moira, Tony."

"I think I do, yes."

"You met her mommy?"

"Yup, her mom's the gypsy wannabe...oh, no."

"Oh, yes. We've already warned their PD and all that. There's nothing we can do and the demons down there don't want involved. When it goes witch-on-witch we'll need a few disaster plans but we can't stop it. It's not our job and even when we tried they told us it wasn't our job."

"Those sort won't listen to the Devon Coven or the other senior covens," Giles agreed. "They've tried to broker a peace deal."

"So did Moira," Xander agreed. "She's related to one of the sides. That's why I approved her going to Belize."

The president nodded. "The locals know?"

"We sent out our standard warning letter," Xander said. "We talked to the Mayor with Moira while she called us. We talked to the head of the PD. We're going to have to stop it when it starts and that's probably going to mean a few deaths we don't want of witches unless Willow goes down there to scare them stupid during it."

"I hadn't thought of that," Giles admitted. "I'll tell her to be prepared. She and Kennedy might like to move down there to head the research house."

Xander shook his head. "They won't like Kennedy any more than the other girls do, Giles. The Tiny Terrors consider her why the higher girls are mean. If they do decide to move down there, make them do tourist things so they 'fall in love' with the city after the fight. Otherwise they'll consider her pushing her weight around and they'll band together to attack her."

"I'll make that note. Willow's parents moved down there." Xander gave him a pointed look. "Her father's teaching at LSU?"

"Bit away," Tony said. "Xander, send down a diplomatic party."

Xander considered it. Then he grinned and nodded. "I'll send down a few of the girls with them." Tony grinned back. Xander sent that message to Beth and Faith. "Faith needs a vacation," he decided.

"Especially since she's healing many cuts and bruises thanks to an attack on her house." Xander stared at him. "The old Council."

"I heard some of that." Giles tossed him down an envelope so he could read it, and let Tony have it at the end. "Any left?"

"No. Agent Romanoff has been very helpful making sure that everyone was not involved. Thank you for the lending, Director Fury."

"I wasn't aware I had but that's fine," he agree. "They all gone?" Xander nodded. "Good! We have way too many people with plans, we don't need more."

O'Neill shook his head. "I know Summers and her boyfriend had to go help that day. We're sure everything's fixed?"

"Yup. He's been helping the older girls spar," Xander said. "Thank you for the lending, General. He's been helpful showing the girls new things. We'd eventually like to keep the ones Dawn's training to follow in my brilliant footsteps." O'Neill looked confused. "Perkins, Sheppard, and Lorne?"

"Perkins is an egotistical jackass," Carter said. "Why would you want him?"

"He grew up in a hunting family. He knows exactly what being a slayer means," Xander said. "He's got a half-sister that's one of us too." She slumped but nodded. "Sheppard has been trained by Dawn so that when she's the head of the Council, after myself, that he can be her counterpoint and handle the battles plus the training necessities. Evan Lorne has been looking fantastic to follow him there. The slayers Dawn's introduced to him seem to instantly respect him and he's got just enough crazy to have things work and enough uptight to keep the girls from slipping. We'd like to see Mitchell but we think it might drive him nuts."

"It would most of us," Carter agreed.

Hill nodded. "Most of our agency as well. That's why we let Coulson handle it."

"It has led to many interesting cases," Coulson said dryly.

"You're the only one who can handle their screwiness," Fury said to Coulson. "Or apparently O'Neill's."

"It's not every day you get to blow up a sun to take out an enemy," Stark said, looking at Carter, who had winced. "We should probably never let you and Thor meet. Just in case something bad happens and you have to team up. I'm not sure how he'd feel about your enemies beyond disliking the wraith a lot."

"Speaking as a guy who dated an actual Norse chick who was around when the Gods were around, in whichever format that was at the time, I think they'd be horrified at the Ori. They definitely do not uphold the honor codes of Odin's rule. And they wouldn't like the bad things Odin did either."

Fury gaped. "What?" he demanded. That was followed by O'Neill's echo of it.

"Anya, when she was alive and human the first time, was Norse," Xander said with a grin. "Then she spent just over eleven hundred years as a vengeance demon before she got fired and rehumaned."

"I asked her," Coulson said. "She said they were human at that time. She had met Thor once. He agreed with her about the bunnies being creepy."

"Ahn did hate bunnies," Xander agreed.

Giles shook his head. "I will hopefully never cease to wonder at the connections Xander makes," he told the other leaders there to complain at each other. "Between the ones who have wanted to date him, his kitten poker contacts, and some others I have no idea how he made," he said with a hand-wave at Tony. "It's always amusing and possibly inspiring." Xander smiled at him for that compliment.

O'Neill looked at Xander then at Fury. Then at the president. "Can we work this out without Harris?"

"Fuck you," Xander said with a grin. "Because the slayers are my girls and I'll kill you all over them in ways that will make the slayers beg to see if I'm possessed again." Tony burst out laughing. "And if he thinks I'm kidding he's wrong." Tony winced but nodded at that. "I will protect the slayers with my lives and yours."

"I don't want to hurt the girls but shouldn't soldiers be taking care of it?"

"Sure, please have each one of your soldiers adopt one of the girls so they can protect them when things come to kill them for the sin of being born with a mole that marks them for inclusion into the sisterhood of slayers." O'Neill grimaced at that. "We've had a lot of orphans so if they're worthwhile people like Colonel Sheppard, I might not mind if some of them adopted some of the girls. Of course, they would still have to meet up to our guidelines for schooling, training, and health matters but I'm not that big of a meanie on it."

O'Neill looked at him. "I know a few who are looking to adopt."

Xander smiled. "Look at what a slayer is first. Then if they're worthy and willing to take that sort of long-term view of their kids, then I'm all for it as long as they're good people and none of the sort that keep haunting your group come after them. I've already killed three NID people in the last year for coming after the baby slayers. We don't want to see any more of them."

"Neither do it," O'Neill said. Now he was seeing why the kid was scary. "How did they die?"

"The wards got them and I had to end one before she screamed loud enough to draw attention from the wards slowly eating up her legs to her head. We don't take chances on the girls' safety. The wards around the training center and the houses are *all* dangerous if breached. Being in danger on patrol is one thing. Being in danger at home is another. Speaking of, Giles, I had Dawn disclude Penelope's boyfriend last night because he's a douchebag."

"What did he do?"

"Penelope, Giles. You know Penelope."

"Oh, yes, her." He grimaced. "The poor, sweet girl has tastes like yours, Xander. How bad is he?"

"Tried to pimp her out." Giles shuddered. "She called up crying to talk to Beth so they talked then I talked to her. Then I had Dawn eliminate him so if he even touches the wards it'll attack him."

"Good. I do not like her dates." He rubbed an eyebrow. "We do need to find her a good boyfriend. Her mother would surely agree."

Coulson nodded. "She does live at home, doesn't she?"

"Yes and she's sixteen next week," Xander said. "We're sending her a great set of knives for her birthday." Giles smiled at him for that. It meant he didn't have to find her a present.

"You have wards around her house?" O'Neill asked.

"Yes. Because things come for slayers so they can't bother their plans," Xander said bluntly. "I'll be damned if I leave little girls vulnerable to shit like that without working my hardest to make sure they're protected for being born a little bit different."

"I can agree it's a good thing. Do her parents mind?"

"No. The girls who are still at home all have parents who know, who understand, who help them train or at least support them in their training. Any that were social services cases, in some cases very bad ones, we have custody of to make sure they're safe. Including one who's at Boston College now. Her mother tried to burn her at the stake for making dark deals with demons and turning her back on her mother's chosen god."

O'Neill shuddered. "Muslim?"

"Catholic. Most of the Red Slayers, as they call themselves, have pretty well banded together. Their countries do know about us, have always known about us. They've found ways of working around the restrictions or have asked to go places that are safer for them to work in. We've since stopped the bullying by one of the older girls over their attire but we've worked with a fashion designer who works with very modest fashions for Orthodox Jewish women to help design them a patrol uniform they can use as a template. He understood the needs of their duty and what it would mean if they got tangled up in their clothes.

"They've got a little support system going inside the overall support system. They write each other all the time. The two who're married have husbands who understand. Their parents weren't going to mention it but we basically got them slightly kidnaped to talk to them about what being a slayer meant. It ruined one wedding but his cousin wanted her instead even more than her original suggested spouse so everyone was happy. Their chosen religious representatives know about them and their calling in case they need help with something that requires a holy implement. The ones that are Catholic get the same sort of help when they run into religion versus duty conflicts. We have a few priests that they can talk to who know."

"That's good," Hill agreed. "I know one of the slayers in Egypt had a few troubles around the protests but she's safe?"

"She is. She wanted to take part and did when she could but they reminded her that slayers were not to be political and there would be damage done to those who were there. Which there was. She's helped on the side when she could. We fully support her helping on the side. Every one of the girls has things they feel strongly about. Her included. If she's in danger, we'll rescue her and let her pick a new spot to protect. Her husband may not like that as much but oh well."

Giles smiled. "I did talk to her yesterday. She said she's doing fine. The demon problems have been hiding from everything. Someone tried to kidnap her husband so she blew them up?"

Xander smiled. "Foreign slayer arsenals have to include things that can help them if one of us with more weapons experience can't get there. The local police know about that. Did she have a problem? I hadn't heard anything about it."

"No, she said they asked her why and she told them. Then she told them she was a slayer and outside all that mess. She had to protect everyone, even the ones she hated. Some of the more restrictive people hate that."

Xander nodded. "The offer for her to move to Tunisia, Morocco, or even Greece stands. I will go help her move."

"The people she works with are protecting her. I called a few contacts and they were promising me that if they tried to retaliate against her she'd be moved. They did not want to make you come harm the ones who harmed her like you did the one in Iran."

Xander smirked. "He deserved it."

"He did," Giles agreed. "He harmed his daughter for daring to be born." He shrugged. "His family agreed. They disowned him."

"She's fine by the way. The rehab for her injuries is going well."

"Good. I haven't had a chance to touch base with her. I'll do that later." He made himself a note.

"Are you like the avenging angel of the Council?" Fury demanded.

Xander smiled. "No, I'm their normal guy backup person. To some of the younger ones I'm a role model and hero because I'm not a slayer and I do the same job, which inspires them."

Hill nodded. "You have been an inspiration to many, Harris. Including some lower agents who got a bit mouthy but handled things as you would. Would you please show them how to use less weapons?"

"I love weapons but have they learned how to use a battle axe and a sword yet?"

Hill nodded. "I let them sign up for lessons when they asked."

He grinned. "Cool. When they retire would they make good field watchers?"

"Perhaps," she admitted. "I'll ask them if that's in their plans. If so I might help them with their retirement paperwork and the transfer over."

"We do have training manuals for agents who end up dealing with supernatural things most often," Giles said. "We can gladly give you a few of the training modules so you can train your people to aid you and those who want to become watchers can come for the more comprehensive course."

"I think some may like that," Agent Hill decided, looking at Fury.

"If it means that one female quits running into succuba, I'm for it as an optional training module."

Coulson cleared his throat. "Agent Behreva runs into them because a few are flirting with her, sir. I have noted it to her in the past and she simply blushes and walks off."

"I don't care if she's a lesbian but I don't want her to be killed by a date, Coulson."

"Not all succuba *have* to feed," Xander said. "The older ones can pick and choose when to feed. The older ones have ones that have regular jobs and date regular people, they just feed subtly when they need some."

Hill blinked. "I didn't know that. We must only run into younger ones then."

"Probably," Xander agreed. "Like older vampires, they have hunting grounds and methods set up to not draw attention to themselves. I know two succuba who work as social workers. They only feed off the ones that the system needs to take out and can't."

"That is a method I approve of," Fury said. He nodded. "Damn good idea."

Hill nodded. "I like it as well. It's just and better for humanity."

Tony smirked. "I know two incubuses within SHIELD who only feed on targets you give them, Hill."

"I'm aware of one and that's why I send him at those, Stark."

"Not the one you think," Tony said. She wrote down a name and folded over the paper so he could read it. He shook his head. "Xander?"

He looked and nodded. "He is one. I know his big brother. We play poker now and then, but he flirts." Tony tore up the paper with a grin. "He mentioned his brother was doing that sort of thing and enjoys it a lot. He thinks they taste really good."

Hill nodded, smiling slightly. "Good to know. If they could come to me I can more openly assist them in that manner."

"I'll let them know," Stark quipped. Steve looked at him. "It's them or Romanoff."

"I think that's a bad comparison, Tony." Steve shook his head. "She probably wouldn't like it at all."

"She might enjoy being compared to a succuba with age, skill, and stealth," Xander said. "Many girls do like that comparison in the bedroom." Tony nodded with a grin. He leaned over to hit him on the arm. "For sending Merideth at me."

"Welcome," Tony quipped.

Giles moaned, shaking his head. "I remember her. Please have better taste for him, Mr. Stark."

"She liked weapons and so does he."

"I got a new sword from her," Xander said with a grin. "We sharpened it together as foreplay."

O'Neill shook his head. "Are there any like you in my group, Harris?"

"He's rather unique," Giles said.

"Only two and Dawn's dating one," Xander quipped. "The other's behind him to be our future leader."

O'Neill nodded. "Sure, I can like that. Thanks."

"Welcome." He grinned.

Tony smirked back. "Rhodes wanted to set you up with one of his coworkers."

"How bad girl is she?" Xander asked, shifting to cross his feet.

"I don't know. I've never met her. I think he thinks she'll straighten you out."

"Then she'd probably never be attracted to me. Only bad girls and boys are."

Tony nodded. "Which is why I'm not. I'm a good boy most of the time."

Steve looked at him. Then shook his head. "I'm not going to comment."

"Ditto," Coulson said. "Or mention Las Vegas last year." Xander gave him a pointed look. "His, not yours, Harris."

"That was him?" Hill demanded with a point at Xander.

"The thirteen showgirls that turned out to be a coven of girls killing other showgirls to sacrifice them to stay young and pretty?" Tony said. "Yeah, that was his vacation. Well, the first week of his vacation. The second week was the commando convention, right?"

"Not a convention of them. Just a team on vacation. They thought I was funny until they found out I was the one who had prevented them from getting killed by a huge demon by trapping them in a huge pit because they were trying to kill me for the Army again. Then they bought me drinks all week and we had fun."

Hill winced, rubbing her forehead.

"Week three was the grenade juggling incident," Coulson told her.

"That was their going away party," Xander corrected. "But I did get picked up by a pair of twins. Cute blonde girls, long pretty hair, looked like they could be Playboy Bunnies. Deadly as shit," he said with a smile. "Tried to double team me to kill me in bed all week. It was a great last week of my vacation and they had fun too."

Fury looked at Hill. "The Sentra sisters, sir," she said.

"Oh, them. Aren't there three?"

"One was having a girl moment so she watched and helped them plan their attacks," Xander said with a smile for him. "I offered but she was kind of a prude about that. They even told me who had the price on my head that time. I'm told they decided they were now failures and retired to Cancun to run a strip club for tourists."

Tony nodded. "That's what I heard too and they're very pretty girls. I accidentally visited there. They hired some other pretty girls."

"Mostly ones who wanted to kill guys and couldn't," Xander said. "From their training academy mostly."

Coulson looked at Xander then at Stark. "Address?" He wrote it down for him. "I'll have it looked into in case they manage to start killing people again."

Hill took it from him. "You're not back on duty yet," she said dryly.

"Ivana, the middle of the three, really likes oral sex but the last one, Michelle, hates it," Xander said. "She only likes manual teasing for foreplay." Coulson covered Xander's mouth. "Fine," he mumbled.

"I'm fairly certain Agent Hill won't be using those methods to interrogate them but if so, you can give her tips after the meeting," Coulson said. He let Xander go.

Hill made a note of that. "I'll send down a male agent."

"Send two, yours are small," Xander quipped. "And really pathetic in bed from what I've heard hissed around the poker circuit." Tony burst out laughing. "They are! They're all grunt, get in, get out, not paying any attention at all to their partner's needs from what I've heard. At least I get my girls off first. Anya trained me well in that area. She got her five and I got mine."

Giles shook his head. "Xander, not now," he ordered.

"Sorry. I still miss her some days."

Hill was blushing. So were Carter and the president. "I've never had a boyfriend that did that," Carter mumbled.

"Carter!" O'Neill yelped.

"Sorry, sir, slipped out. Didn't mean to say that out loud."

Giles smiled at her. "I wouldn't mind if you tried to date him but do be aware that only the most deadly usually like him. We'd all like Xander to settle down with a nice girlfriend or boyfriend some year soon."

Carter blushed a bit brighter. "I'll consider that as I'm dangerous but not that way usually."

"I'll ask Thor, see if he knows any," Tony decided.

Xander smiled at him. "Thanks, Tony."

"Welcome, Xander."

"Jeez, and they save us and the world," O'Neill told Fury.

"Now I know why some of yours considered Harris that dangerous," Fury said.

"Mostly it's because Xander has went from sex to killing an intruder with some unusual object, and then back to the sex without caring," Coulson said.

"I cared but not that much and his partner was begging for help from their backup so I had some time to kill," Xander said. "Spies shouldn't barge into my room to take me out."

O'Neill looked at Fury. "Yours?"

"No. We have a 'no touching' clause on Harris. Or we did until his file disappeared," he said with a glare at Stark.

"It was wrong anyway," Tony said dryly. "Somehow they got him confused with Robin Woods a few times."

"I'm nothing like Robin," Xander said, looking confused at Fury. "How did you do that?"

"I didn't do it," he defended. "Some of my people are idiots."

"They decided Xander was less than trained so therefore he couldn't do what someone with full training could," Coulson said. "I then introduced them to why they were wrong, sir, and let them correct themselves while they were healing."

"Was that when you were testing my reflexes after Africa?" Xander asked.

"Yes," Coulson said with a slight smile. "You did a very good job, Xander." Xander grinned at him. "You took down six of the seven agents in under covert agent time and the other in under regulation time by our rules. They were all fairly well trained in different styles of martial arts and you handled their individual styles well." Xander shifted but was blushing a bit at the compliments. "I do think you should perhaps learn a few more of them so you're more widely able to handle different styles, like Eskrima or other minor weapons-based styles instead of the sword or just the hand-to-hand styles."

"I've been taking lessons with the minis."

"Good. It can only help them and you the next time you date."

"The last one wanted to puddling wrestle. Not exactly a battle." Coulson patted him on the arm.

"Yup, they're all insane," O'Neill complained.

"Says the guy with the clone, the stargate, and the aliens who want to eat him," Xander quipped back with a grin. "And the space ships."

"I wondered how they couldn't get farther back than the satellite you bounced off of to get their medical records," Fury said. "Are the others all right?"

"They're healing. It'll take a bit," O'Neill said. "That was McKay."

Hill considered it. "Doctor Meredith Rodney McKay?" Hill asked. O'Neill nodded. "We noted when he fell off the radar since some of his work looked interesting in a bad way."

"He's our head scientist on Atlantis. How did you know about the ships and the gate?" he asked Xander.

"Poker," Xander said. "I knew before you met Dawn. That's why I suggested she might like to go there. That you guys studied things that tripped her happy switch."

O'Neill sighed, looking at Fury. "Did he do that to you?"

"Yes. We've found two agents that were suggested by Harris."

"They were part of my former pack," Xander said. "I thought it might do their remaining urges good."

"They're decent agents," Fury agreed. "What pack?"

"When I got possessed by the hyena matriarch, they got possessed by members of her pack."

"I have that noted in your file," Hill said. "I did not realize they were there." Xander grinned and nodded. "Interesting. That explains their hunting styles, sir."

"It does." He considered it. "Matriarch?"

"Hyenas are matriarchal," O'Neill said dryly. He looked at Xander. "Is that why you're the favorite house parent of the mini slayers?"

"That and I'm not uptight, I insist they play as well as do homework, I help them with problems without solving them for them most of the time, and I'm the coolest big brother ever. I let them play in the mud and the rain, I let them import new peaceful and protective demonic animal species. Hell, I let one of them bring three unicorns that hate me for being a guy."

Tony grinned. "Steve's the only one they stare at in wonder. I need to introduce them to Thor."

Coulson looked at him. "I doubt Thor could pet them, Stark. Most warrior cultures don't really prize virginity."

"I am not!" Steve complained.

"I know," Coulson said with a slight grin. "The unicorns probably like you for that same reason that boys look up to you." Steve blushed.

"Probably. That essence of wholesome goodness," Tony agreed. Xander poked him, rolling his eyes. "He knows I pick, Xander."

"Yeah, then you get punched back," he said dryly, giving him a look. "Keep it up, I'll give one of the girls the ability to be your sidekick."

"No thank you. I can't imagine an Iron Lady on the team."

"Then never piss off Willow again," Giles said blandly. "She was most upset that whoever set you two up didn't make you realize that you could be compatible."

"We're not. We're really not," Tony said. "He hates science and it's my only acknowledged Goddess. Outside Pepper at times. They were smoking the funny drugs."

"If Willow turns you into a girl, I'm pretty sure you'll at least have some fun with it," Xander said. Tony swatted him.

"Children," Coulson said. "I can't imagine how he'd do the suits while under hormonal mandates so let's not encourage Miss Rosenburg to keep thinking such thoughts," he said with a look at Giles.

"Buffy talked her out of it. Said if Xander had wanted him and he was dangerous enough for him there would've been relations by now because Xander could be like that. Apparently she considers his sex life a bit slutty and kinky." Xander looked at him. "No comments please about Angel or Spike."

"Or Captain Commando?" Xander said dryly. "Can't get much kinkier than dating a torturer."

"Or him. She's shown decent taste recently. She's dating a college senior."

"What's wrong with him?" Xander asked.

"I haven't found anything yet. It's almost worrying me. Like if you dated someone normal."

"I have dated a few normal people. What do you call Cordelia?" He pulled out his phone. "Name?" Giles handed over a picture of the guy's ID from his wallet. Xander looked him up and burst out laughing, showing it to Hill. She groaned and sent a message to him to confess who he was to his girlfriend, the slayer. Xander sent a note to Buffy's phone to talk about slaying with him since he already knew. "Well, that explains a lot," Xander decided. He put his phone away. Hill did the same and shook her head. "Is he suitable for her?"

"Probably. He won't balk at her duty and might like to go on patrolling dates."

"Cool. She could use a good boyfriend to cure the cobwebs and the pinched look she continually wears these days."

"Xander!" Giles complained. "That is uncalled for."

"No it's not."

"Yes it is."

"Fine. Sorry, everyone, that was probably TMDI to use a Fury-ism."

"Must you swear?" Carter asked politely.

"Yes. It's the first language I learned, even before English." Carter grimaced.

"That's why Pepper nearly got you put into the system," Tony quipped. "Though, don't you speak like six languages, Xander, and you had to resort to Fury's language of choice?" Xander looked at him and said something in a demon language he knew. Giles turned bright red. Tony translated that on his tablet and blushed. "Yeah, not likely. Try Barton?"

"He's nice," he admitted. "If he might like me I might not mind."

Coulson smiled at him and nodded. "I'll see if he might be thinking that way."

"He's probably in the senior gym. I showed him my spot in the tree but he likes one in the grating."

"That's his usual style," Coulson agreed.

"If so, I'll put up a harder divorce challenge," Tony said quietly, getting a grin from Xander. "If Anya had been good for you I would've tried back then."

"I know. But it was good in other ways."

"Yeah, kind of. Not fully though. Your real girlfriend should never embarrass you in public or push you into doing things that are felonies in some states in the park."

"She only ever pushed for butt sex in the park, when did that become a felony?" Xander asked, looking confused.

"XANDER!" Giles chided loudly overtop of him.

"Sorry. Slipped back into old Xander. Old Xander got to be blunt. New Xander has to be less blunt due to children being around.

"You mentioned something about that really expensive birthday present and a collar on the playground?" Tony asked dryly.

"Oh. But that was at night, no kids around when she wanted to. Of course, Sunnydale had vampires and she didn't care but I just couldn't with them staring. Not even performance anxiety, just hating vampires. The only thing that got happy that night was the stake. She pouted for days that it ruined it. I had to take her to the Merry Widow Club for that pout."

Tony shuddered. "Ewww. I know that sex club."

"It was her thing, not mine," Xander said with a hand flap in the air. "I guess over eleven-hundred years you learn stuff like that."

Coulson was even blushing a bit at that. Captain Rogers was bright red, so was the president and Colonel Carter. O'Neill and Fury both looked uncomfortable and Giles shrugged when they looked at him. "I heard worse from Anya herself pouting about things, gentlemen and ladies. She was beyond blunt about her love of that subject. However we should be talking about safety issues, not Xander's rather amusing love life traumas."

Fury looked at O'Neill. "If we have an Avengers level mission with aliens causing us hell, jump the fuck in," he said.

O'Neill nodded. "Ours tend to be off-world but if we have something going on down here, I'll call to see if you want to help." They shook hands and left, their seconds-in-command following them.

The president smiled at Xander. "Thank for you making that go more smoothly," he said quietly.

"You're welcome." He grinned at Giles. "You forgot to pay me this month. Again. Also, Coulson found Kelsey a therapist in Manhattan."

"Wonderful, thank you. We had worried a lot about her." He stood up, grabbing his crutches. "Let me hop home. Xander, I'll have that fixed later. Mr. Stark, do fight that problem of yours. We would all adore seeing Xander finally able to settle down in a real relationship if possible and since you don't seem inclined.... it's not really fair to either of you." He left.

Steve Rogers looked at Xander. "How did you use that tactically?"

"Both of them annoy the crap out of me. Both of them act like the girls are shit on a stick and not worthy of their thought when we handle a lot more than both of them do weekly. We handle more apocalypse battles, we handle more daily battles, we handle more problems. And yet, we're not worthy of their help." Xander looked at him. "The real warriors and leaders never discount an asset even if they're young, they're disabled, or they're in training. If they're that needed there then they'll find a way to work it in or for them to help the fight in some better way. Like the two girls who have Downs Syndrome. They both make a lot of stuff for the girls to cheer them on. Cards and letters and sometimes sheathes for knives for the holidays. The girls appreciate the hell out of them and they're the first ones most of the girls call after real battles that hit the news to make sure they don't worry. I do the same thing. Giles never thinks about it and Buffy just gets this goofy grin while she lets Faith handle it. Do you think Fury would do that?"

"No. He'd see the disability not the ability," Steve said.

Xander nodded. "O'Neill's a general but he's always been about the military side, not the academics. The project he's over had an enormous academic potential and yes, they needed the military advantages. They totally discounted the academic side time and again until it gave them something great and special, Atlantis. And then they ignored it some more. The ones that have gone behind their backs to study it anyway and talk to the people so they could learn their histories and their ways have made *immense* notes historically and in other areas that they still discount. Because what would a Greek war between the Gods help them any? Outside the fact that it mentions a weapon that Sheppard could find if he tried really hard that would wipe out the whole Ascended pantheon of bullshit."

He grinned. "Dawn showed him that and he thinks he's found it but it's deeply tied up with wraith that they can't get through yet. The wraith made sure the humans couldn't get it back from them. And yet, they will. Because Dawn can do things the Ancients never considered. They may have seen demons and overthrown demons that used to control this plane, but they never considered their things more than interesting. Even if they stole them to build from. There's whole weapons that they used as prototypes that they set aside because it took magic to use. Ones that are strong enough to end that war with the wraith. Dawn's found a lot and had a few geeks helping her figure out how to use them properly. And yet, it's not a military solution because it's academic."

Sam Carter walked in. "I've seen some of those. Prove magic works."

"What makes you think I have magic?" Xander asked. "Dawn has magic. Willow has magic. Magic tends to go screwy around me, Colonel." He stared at her. "Then again, you know that. That's why you have that thing on your ear." She rubbed that 'mole'. "Dawn said you needed a kick in the head. Apparently she made the foot too tiny?"

"No. That wasn't a foot, it was a mole."

"That moved on its own," Stark said dryly. "I'm the most technological person around, Carter. I've seen McKay's stuff and laughed at the weakness in his theories. And yet I've seen magic work."

Xander nodded. "That's how I got here today." He patted himself down and pulled out a small locket, looking at it before he closed it. He, Stark, Rogers, and Coulson all disappeared from their seats to land in the training center. "Let her explain that to herself," he said, tucking the locket back into his pocket and walking off. "The stuff Dawn's been translating from the demon societies is on the east wall, Stark." He pointed. "Coulson, look at the maroon book. It's a history one and has a few things you might want to look at. I have girls assigned to the spots helping college researchers that are friends of slayers." He grinned back at him. "I'll be damned if something like O'Neill runs is going to hurt the girls." He went into his study.

Coulson nodded. "He does actually do a very good job of all that." He found the maroon book and pulled it down to look at. "Ah, on the old Empires." He settled in to look it over. Bruce and Tony were looking at the other things. Steve was staring at a few that had art examples.

***

Dawn walked into O'Neill's office when he called. "You rang, General?"

"What the hell are you doing with magic in my mountain?"

"Making you a weapon that can end the wraith." She stared at him. "It's from one of the ancient demon societies that the Ancients discounted but overthrew for not being their sorts. They just used their shit to tinker from like McKay uses things from Atlantis." O'Neill's mouth flopped open. "The Council has always known about them. We've had people doing digs in probable locations under seemingly harmless supposed excavations for centuries. Thankfully the real Research Council wasn't in the building that blew up. Most of them were killed but Willow and I were able to resurrect their studies that were important to the girls today, and some side projects.

"Which is what led me to the weapon the wraith are hoarding away from us. It's meant to kill ascended that might attack Atlantis, meaning the Ori." O'Neill shivered. "We think they broke it, we're pretty sure, but I'm also pretty sure McKay can make it work if he has the original pieces. They might have removed a few they thought were important but it was based on demonic magical tech from another realm." She put down what she had. "I've kept it in the original language because you have a bunch of assholes down there." She handed over a translated copy. "That's what John's been working from to get the weapon."

O'Neill read it over. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because you're too much military to ever see the use in a weapon that's not run by bullets or some similar method," she said bluntly. "You haven't wanted to see any weapon that wasn't created by Carter for years. So we're doing it behind her back until we can prove it works by saving Atlantis and Pegasus. Which is what needs to be done."

"Sheppard still should've told me."

"And you would've called it a crackhead Ancient fairytale. I believe those were your exact words." She called her laptop in to look at that email. "Ah, there it is." She held it out so he could see it. "He had me refute it to McKay so he knew what it was in his usual version of science speak."

O'Neill blinked at his message to Sheppard. "It is."

"It's not. Rodney?" she called. He came in a minute later. "Sorry to bug you. He wants to know the status of the God Killer weapon as you've named it."

"We know it's exact location. It's underneath a defunct hive ship that they consider an untouchable space for some reason. They do not allow anything or anyone near it. They've clear-cut the area so not even dust goes there. They've turned the ground into glass." He considered it. "I'm not sure how we'd do it."

"Unless I can physically see it I can't move it," she reminded him. She looked back and floated Sam Carter away from the door. She looked out there with a grin. "You wanted to see magic work? Floating spells are the first spell our type of witches learn too."

"Quit wearing yourself out. I want to test the new hand unit later."

"Yes, Rodney." She dropped Carter into a chair. "Xander always said: use whatever skills you have as if they're weapons. A clever mind is just as much a weapon as a set of really strong muscles are. You use whatever you are competent in as a weapon because it means you live when others don't want you to."

"How do you know if you're competent?" O'Neill asked by reflex.

"You try things. I tried three martial arts before I realize I'm a sucktastic physical fighter. I can do some weapons better. That's why I trained in fencing, a petite lady's axe, and with my big goddamn stick."

Rodney laughed. "I remember when someone asked you why you were carrying something that had 'BGDS' on it. Then you twirled it, knocked him out, then twirled it back into place and said it's your big goddamn stick in case you run into something that needed hit." She grinned at him. "I like the stick."

"So do I. Having a staff has come in handy a number of times." He nodded she was right. The general was looking pissed off. "You hired me because I knew ancient languages, and I do. I know them forwards and backwards, but I also know a few others that weren't probably going to be pertinent here until I started to run into familiar areas. Then I asked the girls we know have friends who go on digs to feed me stuff they found as well, even if they didn't consider it important. Which led to an ancient demon city that housed a bazaar and a gladiator-like arena. Where we found some ancient weapons that may just be more helpful than anyone realized. Just because the Ancients didn't see a use doesn't mean there's not one. Snotty proto-humans didn't see a use in a lot of things that they destroyed. Same as some humans have." She shrugged. "We in the Council find them damn useful at times because it's our lives if we screw up."

"We do the same thing here," O'Neill said.

Dawn laughed and took her laptop to log onto a site and put in a password quickly. "This is Rodney's password." She let him see it, running the video. "That blacked out battle in LA five years ago."

He stared, mouth open. "They're what?"

"They're invading to take down the earth so it can be reverted to demonic control. We have one of those sort of heavy apocalypse battles every few years. We have one coming up and it's in LA so a lot of the girls will have nightmares. I need to get a few of these weapons figured out before then because it could mean the difference in us having a seven hour battle or having a two hour one." She shifted her weight. "That sort of battle is also why our slayers in New York just bounced into the battle up there when it happened without panicking and calling everyone on deck. Because they knew they couldn't really get there in time. They all know how to judge battles to spot a weak spot they can exploit or handle. Frankly, those aliens were bad but the ones that came through that portal were looking to nibble on humans like we're candy. I kinda think that's worse than the wraith. Being actually eaten is worse than being drained."

Rodney nodded. "It is and the first crunch is always the worst, especially if they don't start with the ears." He shuddered. Dawn patted him on the arm.

O'Neill turned off the video and looked at her. "How long have you known about us before you got here?"

"Xander told me you guys were studying neat shit that I might like in the language areas. He knew I liked it, planned on making it my career. And he was right, I do. I have since I got here and then I found sprinkles to spread on top of my happies with the languages. I wasn't a plant from the Council if that's what you're asking. Actually he was kinda hoping I'd be less kidnaped here," she finished dryly. "My sister hates it when I get kidnaped."

O'Neill shook his head. "I want to see these new weapons." She looked at Rodney.

"Meet us by the trees, O'Neill." He walked off with her. They came up topside and out into the forest around the base. He unpacked the hand unit, handing it to Dawn. "Try for a single tree. I've been fine tuning the aim."

She correctly checked it over then aimed it at a tree, changing her stance so she was more balanced in case it kicked. She concentrated and pulled up a tiny bit of magic, letting the weapon have it to blast a wide swath of trees for a good thousand meters. "We need to have someone lower powered try it," she said. "Someone more normal level." She looked back. "Willow, come try this. You can get a finer focus point on your magic."

"I can. I can hit a single candle across the room and you'd set the wall on fire." She took it to look at. "Demon tech?"

"Yup."

"Okay." She checked it over. "Would the Goddess like this?"

"You'd rather be eaten?" Dawn asked.

"No." She put it on her hand like Dawn showed her and concentrated. She hit a few trees in a smaller arc that only went about twenty feet past where she wanted. "It has an amplifier?"

"Yeah. For the barely skilled set," Dawn said. "There's a lot more that can barely light a candle or float a spoon to stir a potion than there are the powerful ones like you turned into. Someone like Belinda could use it to defend herself during an apocalypse battle without much effort and wear."

"True. Let me get her." She handed the weapon back and went to grab one of the Devon Coven witches, bringing her back with her. "It's really ancient demon, like the originating lines demons, weapon, Belinda."

Dawn pointed. "It's to defend or help during an apocalypse battle, Belinda. Just use it to hit a tree please."

"Must I?" she asked. "They're living things, Dawn."

"Okay." She spotted something. "There's some rocks. You should be able to hit them even though they're farther away." She showed her how to put it on. "Now just leak a tiny bit of power at it like you're pushing a spell at something."

Belinda tested that and nodded, letting go with it the last time she tested it. Her hand pointed at the rocks and she hit the fingertip button to fire it. It blasted the rocks and she gasped. "Oh, my!" She looked at the pile of rubble. "Oh, that's sweet. I need that for LA's upcoming one because we can close this portal by magic. I'll be able to guard the others." She looked at Dawn. Who pointed at Rodney and O'Neill.

"Yes, we can make it available for that," Rodney said. "We've got two working. The other is a staff weapon and may take more magic than not, we're not sure yet."

"There's three of us who can't really do more than float simple things, sir. It would be of immense help and allow us to help our sisters with the battles that we've chosen to help in."

He nodded. "I'll see what I can do about making more." She smiled and handed it back. "Dawn's told me some about your coven."

"Dawn's a good girl. The senior witches have never had to do more than chastize her about wearing her sister's clothes." She smiled. "Thank you, Willow. A few of us would adore being more than the bandagers this time." She patted her on the cheek. "Very sweet of you, dear. Want some tea?"

"Sure, I love tea. Kennedy hates tea." She took her home.

Dawn called out the staff weapon, checking it over then using it on a few trees. A tightly spiraled focus of power came out to blow everything to atomic motes. "It's turned up too high. That was barely a tiny bit of magic and it's turned up too high."

"We can turn it down," he said. "That way they don't hurt others." He took it to look at.

O'Neill looked at Carter, who shook her head. "We used to wonder how the Ancients came up with some of their technology, sir. I guess we know."

John Sheppard laughed. "We think it's pretty neat too. Dawn stepped onto Atlantis and she set up shrieking yells about magic but it let us into stuff they had locked up against her type." Dawn nodded. "It's helped."

"A lot," McKay agreed. "That's where we found the staff's plans."

Dawn smirked and pinched his cheek, getting swatted for it. "You found the magical vibrator too."

"I did, yes. And I promptly handed it to a few female officers who needed it." He walked off with the weapons. "I'm assuming you don't mind if I let the witches borrow things so the whole world doesn't end, O'Neill?"

"No, they can borrow, but we'll be at the same battle too," O'Neill said, staring at Dawn. "I'd like a report on all that stuff, Summers."

She grinned. "I've got a date tonight so you can have it after breakfast, General." She grinned. "And I'm not a soldier so I can kick you in the balls and then go on my date." She beamed and walked off with John, who shrugged back at the general. "I haven't had lunch or breakfast. You're feeding me."

"I can feed you," he promised with a smirk at her. "That was ballsy."

"Yeah but they met Xander earlier."

"Ah. That explains a lot."

"Sheppard, appear with her tomorrow," O'Neill ordered. "And paddle her tonight for being a mouthy brat."

"Yes, sir, she likes it like that sometimes," he quipped back. "0800, sir."

O'Neill looked at Carter. "You had no idea?"

"No, not a bit. I gave Dawn a little office at the end of a hallway by Daniel's. He might know. He's her boss."

"Let's go talk to Danny boy." They went to Daniel's office. He was looking at a projection of a ball of something. "Is that magical like something Summers pulled out of her ass earlier?" he asked.

"No, it was found on one of the Council digs earlier this week. I'm trying to figure out if it's more than symbolic."

"Did they ask?" Sam Carter asked, moving over to look. "It's like a decorative ball."

"It's in a metal I don't recognize and it's all symbols, there's no interior ball. So it couldn't have held anything and I'm leaning toward symbolic but Dawn said the words on the ball are a prayer to one of the love gods."

"Huh. One we know?" Sam asked.

"Pre-gou'ald, Sam." He looked at her and smiled. "Demon gods from other planes."

"Oh."

"This was to their version of Hera I think, if I got the classifications down right." He looked in a book. "Yeah, she was the goddess of eternal love, meaning a bonded love." He closed the book and went back to look at it. "I'm not sure if it might've been an offering or maybe it was used to surround something like an incense burner in a temple? It was found in the gladiator-like arena though. Which is odd."

"Do we have many clues about them?" Jack asked.

"Some. There's a few dimensions that have libraries that go back that far. Dawn's asked a few of Xander's demon poker contacts to see if they could ask someone for information. Right now they're considering it and why. They know of our work here, there's two of their species working on away teams, so they know it's important but they're not sure if they trust the slayers. Even though they've changed and one of their native princes is dating one of them. When I asked for cultural information and things of that nature that would help us excavate and understand cities we've found, they said that was more likely than things like weapons."

Jack nodded. "Okay, I get that. They might consider it dangerous to them."

"Yup, they do." Daniel grinned. "It's really fascinating. They've found a lot on the early Ancients that we didn't know."

"Wonderful. When were you going to report this to me?"

"Next week. I scheduled a long meeting with you for Wednesday so we could go over the things that have been found about the Ancients and their predecessors. Dawn was going to introduce hers at that time."

"We had to meet with the head of SHIELD and the two top people at the Council," Sam said.

"Ah! You met Xander." He nodded. "You know, his bullshit instinct is actually a very strong diversion weapon." Jack groaned, shaking his head. "Dawn has one too. It nearly got me for two weeks until I walked in and found her floating two books while nibbling cookies and leaning back in her chair to compare the narratives."

"We had no idea magic was real," Sam said.

Daniel nodded. "With that much mythology about it, it had to have some basis in fact, Sam. Like the mythos of the Gods did in the Gou'ald."

"I guess. SHIELD has human Asgard."

"I've heard. And saw actually. That guy that was with the aliens was said to be Loki."

"It was," O'Neill said.

"The blond guy was Thor," Daniel said with a grin. "I'm not sure how he'd take our project or if they knew about the Gou'ald or Ori."

"We might be able to ask," Sam said.

"Maybe. Thor's dating an astrophysicist." She gaped and he smiled. "Geek chat rooms I lurk in now and then when I want to remember I'm actually an academic, not a soldier. Dr. Jane Foster." She looked her up then sighed. "Classified?"

"By SHIELD."

"It figures. They've been working on wormhole stuff if I remember right."

She walked off to see if anyone knew her or her work.

"How does Harris have a better set of contacts than either SHIELD or us?" Jack asked.

"People like Xander." Daniel looked at him. "A lot. A lot of the lower geeks here would like Xander and how he protects and helps the girls. Probably a lot of the lower level of SHIELD would if it didn't include demons. Not a lot of agents can take demons."

"I can't," Jack said.

"It's that narrow viewpoint. You accepted early proto-humans but not demons?"

"Yes," Jack said.

"And yet, demons are just demons because they come from other dimensions and look funny. If they walked on two legs, looked closer to human, but still had the same originating point would you think they were human?"

"I..... I don't know," he sighed.

"A lot of people would've said yes because they aren't from here. People have a hard time seeing anything that's not their version of human as smart enough to be sentient and human. Look at how they treat dolphins. Their language is more complex than Chinese since it's not only sound and body language based but also apparently may have some scent included by recent research. Even if they spoke English they would still be seen as animals because they're dolphins."

"I get that," Jack decided.

"It's something very human about all of us," Daniel said. He smiled. "Want to see more things?"

"Wednesday. I'm starting to get that brain itch that means I'm going to have a headache."

"Xander can do that to you if you rub him the wrong way by discounting his slayers as something lesser than useful. After all, they've had their duty since we were cavemen. Now it's changed and it's better for the girls. They're supported, not hiding it in the dark, and they get to be normal most of the time. You probably put them as 'need to be protected from their own duty' in your mind and set his hackles up."

"I did. They're girls."

"So's Sam."

"Not that sort of girl. They're young girls."

"They used to get called as young teens and fight until they died," Daniel said, pulling down a book. "Sit, Jack." He sat down with a sigh and Daniel went over the slayers and what they were. Jack listened but it still upset him. Daniel smiled. "These days, the girls are girls. They're raised by someone who loves them, maybe including Xander or their own families. They're trained to protect themselves. The girls get to choose to go on patrol or just protect those around them unless it's a true apocalypse battle. They go to college, get married, have kids. They get to be normal women who have a duty to a specialty reserve unit.

"The senior girl, Buffy, Dawn's sister, got called at fifteen. Now the girls don't get to even test for patrol spots until they're eighteen. They train before then. They get a lot of things the old girls didn't get. The few girls that were left of the old style are still struggling to find a real identity for themselves at times because they were raised to be little programmed warriors. They got told they'd die honorably from before they could talk usually and that they'd be honored for their sacrifices. Now they're honored before and after for their sacrifices but they also get a lot of things that the other girls didn't. They get friends, they get school, they get sports and band and theater. They get playing time. They get pets. Xander's got a huge amount of animals living on the training center's property. Mostly demonic but there's three unicorns." Jack gave him a funny look. "The girls wanted them to join them when they found them."

"It's wrong for a kid to be a warrior."

"They're not children when they're being warriors, Jack. Any more than children in countries that have compulsory military education are. They may take some training but it's not like those countries. Xander has them in self defense and moves them up as their skills evolve to where they're comfortable and able to handle things. The girls themselves help decide that. There's plenty that only protect their families unless it's an emergency. Then they turn into warriors."

Jack considered that. "They're women."

"So's Sam and you've never had a problem with her being on the front lines. Maybe it's because they're not military women."

"That might be," Jack admitted.

"The military training wouldn't help them in their duty. The military couldn't train them in how to kill demons."

"No, it couldn't," he agreed. "Maybe I should see how they're trained. See if they're actually warriors or just able to handle the demons."

Daniel nodded. "Ask Dawn to set up a sparring match with Teal'c or someone and some of the slayers."

"I can do that," he decided. "Thanks, Danny."

"Welcome, Jack. Though, if you set Xander off, he's very invested in protecting those girls. He's nearly given up his life a few times to do that." He went back to his holographic display. "He's more rabid than you are when you have to protect your team."

"I'll keep that in mind." He went to talk to Teal'c. He wasn't sure if any of the stolen humans that had been taken were related back to the Council. Teal'c didn't know but he could ask and he decided he'd love to spar with some of the slayers. He'd set it up with Dawn in the morning.

***

Fury decided he needed to get to know this new general he had to play nice with and invited him out for beers that night. O'Neill showed up, which was a good sign. "Do you think we got played by the president and Harris?" Fury asked.

"Yup. I just found out earlier that the Council has scientific digs of old demon city sites. They found weapons at one."

"For their slayers?"

"Runs on magic."

Fury considered that. "I wouldn't want that sort of weapon at my back."

"Me either but they seem to think it's a good thing for the upcoming apocalypse battle in LA." Fury nodded at that. "I also got told that he was so headache inducing earlier because we pissed him off about the slayers."

"He's always like that to me. Then again, I'd like the slayers to retire for good."

"Then you go stake vampires," a female voice said from behind him. She sat down to look at him.

"Agent Romanoff, this is General O'Neill," Fury said dryly. "How did your fact finding mission go?"

"Very productive. Including their plot to take over the Council so that Harris doesn't finish warping all the old ways gone." She looked at O'Neill then her boss. "Xander gives those girls the stability they need and I once needed," she said in Russian, which she knew Fury knew as well. "There is a reason they survive horrific battles as young women and keep going for years, now. Before it was six, maybe ten months in most cases." Fury shuddered. "Now it's years. Which do you think is better?"

"The military doing it."

"Please do. They would enjoy that and train them how to hunt. Do you think it will happen?"

"No," Fury admitted. "I think that still freaks people out." She nodded he was right. "He's offered you a job helping them."

"If I was ready to retire, I might consider such options. They need more stability than one man who may die at any time. Especially with his dating habits."

"Stark suggested Barton should date him."

"Clint is strong enough, tough enough, and dangerous enough for Xander, plus highly protective of the children. They would be an exciting match but I'm not sure if Barton would go for it or not." She stared at him. "If you try to use the new knowledge you gained from that certificate, it will not go well for anyone. Especially since they can both go on air and get a lot of sympathy," she said in English. "They can turn whole countries against their leaders if they need to. In a few ways, Xander is like the calmer, less scientific version of Stark."

Fury considered that. "He is charismatic and a leader."

"Yes, he is. He cares deeply for those he cares for, even if he does irritate them to no end. Even Pepper Potts has come to like Xander, even though he's a slight road block to her own desires."

Fury grimaced. "I'd rather both topics were sidelined and retired."

"And yet, you can't take over either duty. The girls would kill you and if they did not, those of us who were trained like you would train them would." She stared at him. "I would never allow another program like that one to happen again," she said quietly. "He would not either. All you will do is make a martyr. Is that really what the world needs? Or the girls since he's their support network?"

"I see the point but I hate the bitching," Fury said dryly.

"Then listen to sense. If Coulson has known all along and handled it, let him. He works well with Harris, with Giles, with us, with some of O'Neill's cranky people."

"That puts your team there too," he said. "Since he's your handler."

She tipped her head. "I find myself feeling quite protective because those girls could have been me." She shrugged a tiny bit. "Clint finds them the same way and yet also healing. They have seen and done horrible things to save the world as well. My concern is that Thor would be upset when he shows back up or his brother will be intrigued."

"We need to see which it would be."

"I'll ask Barton, see if he has any idea from what few memories he has." She smirked at him. "Also, do not try to break the barriers at the training center. They are protective but quite evil. They are meant to make you beg and plead for your last few minutes."

Fury snorted. "They can't be better than guards."

She laughed. "You might ask Hill how the bite from the demonic ferret is healing." She strolled off.

"He's even made my own agents like him more than me," Fury said.

O'Neill nodded. "Harris is a leader. The girls follow him because he's their roadsign and big brother. Protections are what sort?"

"Probably mystical. They deal with the mystical bullshit."

The bartender walked over and leaned on the bar, going to game face. "You two do realize you've walked into a demon bar?" he asked dryly. "Half of us in here are probably peaceful and might even tell Harris if you threaten him or the girls. We'd enjoy the fight for however long it lasted. The rest of us....." He pointed at a few. "They respect the slayers but you're prey in here, boys." They paid and left. He looked up and shook his head. "Both big dumbasses and they're supposed to help save the world. Let Coulson do it, please," he prayed. "He knows how to handle and integrate everyone."

"Harris got him rescued and he's alive and well," one of the demons said. "He was at that meeting earlier. O'Neill just found out about magic too."

"How do you know?" the bartender asked him.

He grinned. "My sister's near the base and saw the new magic based weapons Summers was testing. That plus what they were talking about? Yeah, they just found out."

"Buffy?" one of the other patrons asked.

"No, Dawn. That's where he suggested she should go. From what my sister's heard while cleaning the halls for them, the city loves her." They mostly smiled at that. "She's got a very protective boyfriend from the project, and Xander's declared them his heir to the Council."

"Which?"

"Sheppard with Dawn and then Lorne," that one said.

"Yes!" the bartender said with a smile. "Yes, sanity plus skills!"

They all celebrated that announcement. They could like that future of the slayers. They all thought it was great that Xander was mostly in charge while Giles handled research things and the pocketbook. Dawn plus Sheppard would be just as stable for everyone. Sheppard even liked saving the world.

***
Part 5 by Voracity2
Coulson was up when the notice of visitors hit the fence. He looked at the security system. "Someone get Xander up." The girls ran that way to pounce him. "Watch his shoulder," he reminded them. He hit the intercom for the gate security box. "Sir, please drive slowly and carefully up the driveway so you do not hit any of the protected creatures here." He let them inside. Fury's car wouldn't come and he winced. "I forgot he set the wards so you couldn't come in, sir. If Agent Hill is there she may." Fury's swearing was loud enough to be heard through the closed windows but he did get out. Xander stumbled in rubbing his face with his hands. "Get dressed. O'Neill and Fury are here."

"That's going to be a nice meeting outside," he said dryly.

"Hill's in the car too, Xander."

"Fine. Let me get some coffee first." He went to do that on his way to shower and put on clothes. He came out to find Dawn had gotten Fury in. He gave her a look and she shrugged.

"This time only," she said. "It'll still block him out." She looked at her boss and shrugged. "I did some of the protections."

"I guess that makes sense." He looked at Harris. "Just now getting up?"

"We had nightmares all night," Xander said bluntly. "So I had to calm down twenty-nine girls." He slumped down and nodded.

"Specific ones?" Dawn asked.

"Thunder storms. We had a good one that shot the power out for about ten minutes. Freaked some of the younger out and some of the older had flashbacks to being attacked."

"I can see how that happens," O'Neill said. "They okay?"

"Mostly. A few are probably hiding in the gym but they'd never let us see them during school hours because they know I don't let them skip unless it's critical." He looked around. "Melinda?" Nothing. "MELINDA!" he shouted, making her jump and stare at him. "Go tell the ones skipping that it's too late to drag them there and if they skip lunch I get to spank."

"I was busy," she whined.

Xander stared at her. "Not like the puzzle's going to run away." She huffed. "Then go tell Tony and Steve we need to see them?"

"Fine." She walked off looking very unhappy.

"You can go back to your puzzles after that," he reminded her. "Though I really wish you'd want to go play."

"I like my puzzles!" she complained, staring at him, hands on her hips. "You're mean!"

He gave her a look. "You need to do more than puzzles."

"So?"

He snorted, sipping his coffee. "Just for that, go change clothes and go play in the mud." She whined and shifted her feet. "I told you I wanted you to do more than puzzles this week and that means playing and doing homework. So go play. You have an hour of mandatory playing time." He pointed. "Outside please after you do those two simple things I asked you to do."

"Can we go play?" another of the younger girls asked, bouncing around. "Please? Pretty please?"

"Change into things you can get muddy in," he said patiently. They cheered and ran up to change, dragging Melinda with them. Another girl ran to tell the big girls and the two Avengers. "She can do things," Xander reminded that one when she came back. "That was her chore."

"So? She's upset, Xander." She went up to change.

Kelsey waved from her spot. "We have my appointment this afternoon."

"Yup, we do, which means you won't have time to study." She grinned. "Go play."

"No!" she said, starting to sound frantic, shaking her head. "Not dirt, Xander! Please!"

"Then go check the flowers and the animals." She sighed in pleasure and went to do that. "Just spend at least an hour outside."

"It'll take that long to find all the bunnies." She went to change shoes to do that. She smiled at Steve. "I'm going to check all the bunnies."

"That's a really big job," he said with a grin back. "I hope you can find them all."

She hugged his leg. "You're nice." She went out to do that, umbrella in hand in case she needed it. She hated being wet or dirty.

Xander looked at the two higher ups. "She's a bit OCD," he said quietly, finishing his coffee and getting up to get more. "Marta, do we have more coffee made?"

"It's brewing now, Xander, and I'll bring it over." He went back to his seat. "I've got lunch started for the girls too. Including a picnic one for the hiding ones."

"Thanks. How many?"

"Six skipped but they're the ones you found curled up in a corner of the gym." He nodded at that. She went out to watch over the kids in the mud. They were good kids, even if they were having a lot of messy fun.

Stark sat down, looking at Fury and Hill. "Dawn let you in?" he asked. Fury grimaced but nodded. "I agree, you don't need near the slayers. Especially not the tiny ones."

"The girls have great manners," Steve said with a grin. "They apologize for burping, excuse themselves from the table, all that."

"Marta helped a lot with that," Xander said. "Including mine." Tony grinned at him. "She did. I admit I didn't grow up with people who thought manners mattered." He shrugged. When he heard the coffee pot ding he went to get it and bring it back. He glanced at the oven, nodding at the nice roast. The girls would enjoy that later. He went to the gym, staring at the group of girls. "You're hereby punished to one hour of playing in the mud with the minis for skipping," he said dryly. "You're also to eat lunch with them." They relaxed. "I realize it was a bad night. Still....." They nodded they understood they should not skip. "Good. Go." They ran out to change and go outside to play. He went back to the table. "Sometimes being the big brother is a really big job," he said at the looks he was getting.

"With the nightmares last night, I'm surprised most of them made it to class today," Coulson said. "I helped a few." Xander grinned at him. "We'll help them get over that trauma. Maybe Thor could help."

"Maybe. Not sure. Kelsey's due in at three so we've got to leave about two."

"Leave a bit early, traffic's messed up in that part of Manhattan," Hill said. Xander nodded at that. "We noted yesterday that you seem to run a lot of the Council, Xander."

"I do," he agreed. "Giles is a research guy and I'm one of the few field guys we have." He sipped his new cup of coffee. "Someone's got to run it."

"You put Dawn under O'Neill."

"They were doing things she would find interesting and it'd be safer for her there. Instead of the people here who hate witches getting her."

"Point," O'Neill said with a slight smirk. "So not planned?"

"No. It's happy coincidence that she and John decided they're mutually hot." Dawn grinned a bit but was blushing. "I did approve of him right off. I could tell he wasn't a dickhead."

"Most of the time," Dawn agreed.

"Everyone has those days," Coulson said.

"The digs?" O'Neill asked.

"We've been doing those on and off for centuries. When Willow heard there had been some and why, she looked them over, asked about those areas and how safe they were, and when she found out a few slayers were near there if they could be casually guided to helping the digging going on. Since we weren't really open in those days, some of the girls in college recommended their friends in certain programs get the hint about ancient cities and they introduced them to the other slayers to help protect them. The fact that three out of the four yielded at least a village, and the fourth was off by a mile but when it was corrected they found a *city* was a good thing to us. Now that we're more open, the kids doing the digging can get a lot more notice and credit for it. By the way, one found proof for Dr. Jackson so they quit sneering at him. She's presenting next month."

O'Neill winced. "We're still classified, Harris."

Xander grinned. "You sure about that? Considering Newsweek had something about Gou'ald in a museum."

"I hadn't seen that," O'Neill said, looking it up with Dawn's tablet. She found it for him. "Why wasn't I told?"

"You ask like I read minds," Xander said dryly. "That's not my skill. My superpower is actually common sense and being able to pay attention to things."

"I remember when that was a great power," Tony said. Steve nodded he did too. Tony looked at the article then smirked, calling up someone else's webpage to show him. "You might want to talk to him. He proved Dr. Jackson's work repeatedly."

Jack look at it, wincing some. "Is he more accepted?"

"Yup. And there's a few that are looking for Jackson."

"Great," he complained. "Fury, can we borrow Dr. Foster to look at our wormhole?"

"We'll see." He looked at them. Then at Rogers. "Does this mean the whole team's now buddy-buddy with Harris and the slayers?"

"It's been good for everyone that we've recovered here," Steve said. "It's helped the girls, because we can teach them things that we know that can someday help them with their duty. It's helped us because helping them has helped us calm down with the post-battle nerves and the like. Xander's let us each do what we need to do to heal. It's safe here so we don't have to worry about the picketing people in New York having a fit on us if they see us out and about."

"The gym here has helped a few of them work out their stress reactions," Tony agreed. "Xander was brilliant when he asked me to build it." Xander grinned at him. "I've finally finished the one for Cleveland."

"They'll enjoy that, though Buffy hates to make the girls workout."

"Sometimes it's necessary," Natasha said as she walked over to them. "I see you made the girls go play."

"Yup. They have an hour outside, unless they get chilled and need to come in." She nodded, smiling slightly. "They need time outside."

"They do," she agreed. "It's good for children. Why does the upper level of the slayer gym not work for us?"

"Because I turned that shit off," Xander said bluntly. "It has lethal responses and none of you are trained to deal with a mass staking event of vampires." He stared at her. "We've had girls that needed the ER after that and I'm not turning that on."

"I understand, we were simply wondering. The other two levels are very good. It's the first good workout I've had in years." She walked off to get something to snack on. "Should I turn down the oven?"

"Marta's outside," Xander said with a point and a grin. "I barely know how to use the oven."

She checked then went to talk to Marta, who came in to check and turn it down. Natasha went out to sit and watch the girls. She could use some time in the weak sunlight as well.

Clint strolled out, nodding at them. "Marta, are there any more granola bars?"

She tossed him the box. "Go eat them outside. Like the children, you need sunlight and fresh air, Clint." She stared at him. "Or else I'll let the girls all pounce you." He shivered but went outside to sit with Nat and have his snack. She grabbed a few of the bars from the box for her own nibbling. Marta updated the grocery list with a smile. "Xander....."

"Kelsey has an appointment later, we've got to leave a bit earlier than usual."

"Good. You could use the sunlight too."

"I know. I'm a pasty white guy again." He looked at the higher ups. "The only dig I pushed for was one in an area I spent a good bit of time in down in Africa, guys. That one I figured out there was a huge problem there and not what. We needed to find out, we talked Willow into sending some of her people, who had experience, and they took some younger students with them to train them. They found what I had sensed within days and why I sensed it, because it was a radiating hell gate.

"They got it shut down and the village that had been part of the cult that guarded that shrine was a huge find that the local government flinched a bit about because it meant an earlier history than they were used to. When we noted we were Council, one of them asked if I had sent them and they called so we talked. They liked that we had handled the problem that was there and dismantled it, plus were going to make sure nothing there might relate back to more demons. We tried to tell them about demon civilizations but they didn't want to hear it."

"Pre-Ancient ones?" Dawn asked.

"No, later. Post stone age village. Barely into farming." She nodded, looking that up. He looked over. "Other one. That's Hallie's friend's dig." She found it and he nodded, relaxing again.

O'Neill took the tablet to look at, grimacing. "Weapons?"

"No, historical cult to a God-King, well, a God-Queen actually, and important that way. We do social research as well."

"I guess you guys would," Hill agreed, taking it to look at. "Interesting."

Xander leaned over and pointed. "That's their God-Queen. We talked to Illyria and she remembered her fondly. She was a healing goddess and a fertility goddess." He got comfortable again. "She also apparently had a temper and that hellgate was her way of throwing out the bad in their society. It sent them back to her original realm, which was pretty nasty and in decay at that time."

"We'd like more information on the various realms," O'Neill said.

Xander nodded. "I've asked. It's not like I can barge in there and demand they hand over their libraries. They have their own societies and their own rules. All I could do was ask. I think one's all but agreed. One of the other sources consider humans like ants so they might not but those with magic might be more successful so I had Willow ask if they had anything on the ancient demon societies and their original realms. Them I've heard from and they came to see why the Council was still going.

"There was a slight attack but we proved we weren't the same and the one girl that got injured they healed before I blew up their king." He sipped his coffee. "They agreed we were worthy of knowing since we were looking. Then Willow showed up and nearly huffed it all to death." Dawn grimaced but nodded. "It got fixed though and they're going to send a representative to Coulson to have him set up a meeting so they can ask."

O'Neill looked at Coulson. "Jackson," he said bluntly.

"He was on my list as well as a few better known researchers in some of the upper level colleges in the world. That way it's not hidden and won't cause such a huge bit of stress."

"That's fine. It can't out the project."

"Your project is pretty well outed in the theoretical, General," Coulson said. "There's been more than one researcher who's come up with the same conclusion Jackson has, especially with the few attacks we've had down here. The Council has 'no commented' each time they come to them, even the Research Council, and said it wasn't their part of the duty."

"So we're theoretically blown open," Dawn said.

"Yes. Last month, one of the Egyptian researchers found a Gou'ald tomb while they were being interviewed by the local news. The crew shouted about it and he ran to check, and woke her up." O'Neill winced. "The charming interview was confiscated by the government."

"Welcome," Xander quipped.

"But the tomb was well seen by many people and they can't hide it for very long," Coulson finished. "Especially since it had a section that told a story about a meeting with the Asgard over the Chappa'i gates."

O'Neill winced. "That's going to be bad."

"The researcher was warned that people didn't want to know. The government made sure he knew that people would be disturbed by this. They handed him to another researcher who was in jail for causing a riot by telling people what he had found out. And that one told him where he had found it so he snuck off to go looking. I'm told the guards that saw what he had found and opened, because apparently he did have a tiny ATA gift, freaked out to put it mildly. The president himself showed up to see and said that wasn't in line with their religion but he knew that they didn't cover all history and he'd think about letting this out. I'm fairly certain that the people over that were being questioned as to what they actually know."

"Great. When were we going to know?" O'Neill asked.

"He found it the same day as the battle," Coulson said. "I only went looking at my usual sources for problems last night. I was unfortunately rather dead when they found that information, General." Fury flinched slightly. "The generals in the know over there will probably be calling soon."

He called his assistant. "It's O'Neill. If someone from Egypt calls, put them through immediately. Tell Jackson to call his sources as well." He hung up. "This is going to be bad."

Xander shrugged. "Somewhat. It could be worse. At least you have proof you've been defending the earth, not just hiding all this."

"Maybe. That might save us being skinned." He looked at Fury. "You got blown open too." He nodded. "Are your people all right?"

"A few protests, a few shouting matches from foreign governments who didn't think we were real. Nothing too horrible yet." He looked at Xander then at Coulson. "Is there?"

"No, sir. Not yet. General Ross is going to try something."

"Let him," Xander said dryly, finishing that cup of coffee. "He's tried to order us to hand over a slayer a few times. Not only has the court refused but told him to grow the hell up. He was warned if he tried again he was going to be in deep shit. Him and the NID both. Area 51 got the same warning when they started to hunt slayer genes. I have *no* problem calling in some favors to have demons start to nest up their asses in one fashion or another."

"Area 51 is important," O'Neill said.

Xander stared at him. "Then I'd give them a leash. They tried to take one of the slayers in college in New Mexico. Thankfully she fought them off and ran to get help, and a few students helped her." O'Neill winced. "She called me while they called the FBI. We've since got her under better monitor just in case. So do they. If I had known who they were then, I would've handled it differently but she didn't know until the FBI agents told her the next day."

"I hadn't heard anything but we're only associated," O'Neill said. He called someone. "Connect me to the red line."

Xander shrugged. "I could've called if you wanted."

"You know the president's office number?" Fury asked.

Xander nodded. "He demanded so we can inform him if there's going to be a huge problem. We send weekly updates on any future problems we're seeing. We fax it but we have had to call in a sudden 'oh shit' call to warn him."

"That's sensible, so he can handle it as it's going on and order support," Steve said.

Tony nodded. "Very sensible. Did you call him during ours?" Xander nodded, smirking at him. "Thanks."

"Welcome."

O'Neill shook his head as he was connected. "Sir, Fury, Harris, Coulson, and I are talking. Not only has the Stargate program been theoretically outed, but I have to report that Area 51 tried to kidnap a slayer the other day in New Mexico." He listened. "Yes, sir, I need to know what you want to do about both topics and if we need to do something about the geek squad." He listened and nodded once. "I can do that. He's right here, sir." He put him on speaker.

"Harris, can we give Area 51 some blood samples?"

"The slayer spirit isn't going to be found that way," Xander said. "It won't do them any good, just frustrate them and make them want to capture a whole one more. Which I'll destroy them for."

"I know you will and I'd expect you to do no less." The president cleared his throat. "Have I gotten notes on the outing?"

"I just found out last night, sir," Coulson said. "Egypt's not sure what they want to do. I've been working on a comprehensive report on the depth of the light being shined this morning. I was going to send it later tonight to both my director and you."

"That's fine, Coulson. I know you're healing. Get it to me as soon as you humanly can. I've told the yahoos at Area 51 how a slayer is called and noted. They don't like mystical things."

Xander laughed. "They're shit out of luck then because it's all mystical and higher powers in that case. And if they come near Dawn and Willow, there's going to be a battle. A very short, very messy battle."

"Agreed," he said. "I want Summers and Rosenburg both to be extremely safe. Is she there?"

"Yup," she said.

"When do you go back to the city?"

"Next week. John thinks he found plants from Area 51 and the NID, sir."

"Have him end them and go home sooner, Summers. We don't need you harmed or losing your temper over things."

"I can do that, sir."

"Thank you. O'Neill, she is a precious resource and you are to guard her with your life if necessary. There's special things you don't know about that I barely know about and they're damn scary."

"We're still not sure of some of them," Dawn said. "I wasn't going to test it and get noticed for it."

"GOOD!" he said firmly. "I like that!" She laughed. "Does Sheppard know?"

"He and McKay both know, just in case. So does Evan Lorne in a lesser manner because he caught us talking about it. I have not and will not tell Dr. Keller but Dr. Lam knows that I'm not the average girl and knows I have magic."

"Good. Even better. Go home as soon as you can, dear. We need you safe."

"Kennedy's been made Willow's protection slayer," Xander said.

"I heard why. What a cluster fuck." Xander grinned at the phone. "Okay, we'll handle it. Why are we meeting and where?"

"I got Fury into the training center this one time," Dawn said. "There was a feeling that Xander may be sucking them into a secret organization he's running behind the Council."

The president burst out laughing. "I thought that for a bit too and then I found out how things just happen around him. I wouldn't mind if he did, but he's not." He hung up.

Xander looked at O'Neill. "If I was, Dawn wouldn't have been the first line I'd send at you. I would've had active spies there and possibly a few slayers." He poured himself more coffee and handed Tony the pot.

"You have passive spies?" Fury asked.

"He has contacts that tell him things," Tony said. "Like the kitten poker circuit. He even heard stuff about my kidnaping by Ten Rings." Fury stared at him. Xander nodded. "It kept Pepper calm."

"I need an agent in that circle," Fury said, looking at Xander.

"You have two who play kitten poker but they're not well liked so no one talks to them." He looked at Hill. "You tried really hard."

"I did. They thought I was very uptight and possibly a government plant to try to figure out demon societies. Then one figured out who I was and asked if I worked with Coulson." He smiled slightly at that. "You play?"

"I have now and then for information. Usually if we're on a mission and something's very odd."

"So that's how you knew about Antigua," Fury said. Coulson nodded. "Wonderful. Play more often."

"I can start doing that when I'm local, sir."

"Thank you." Fury looked at O'Neill. Then at Xander. "Him?"

"He's got a few partial demons on his base in a few different capacities. They were very paranoid about what he was going to bring onto this planet. So far they've been impressed but they're still wary and don't like humans having that technology. They don't consider us advanced enough yet because we can't see that there's more than one method of powering the universe. Not the magic vs science split but other ones. And no, I don't know exactly what they meant. I'm not a science guy."

"I've talked to a few and introduced one to Rodney," Dawn said. "They like him. Called him a rude asshole but they liked that some humans were discovering things. We're now at the level of cats instead of ants. They hadn't really looked in the last decade."

"So we're pets?" Hill asked.

"To many species," Dawn said with a nod and a grin. "A lot of them like human slave pets." Hill shuddered. "The ones that were paying attention to our evolutionary level, they do know more about Ancients, I asked. I introduced a few to John, without telling him first. He got a bit upset with me but understood why when one of them recognized which Ancient had been in his family history." O'Neill sat up straight, staring at her. "We sent in a contact report, you ignored it, sir."

"Carter probably."

"No, I sent it to you."

"Damn it," he muttered. "Do they like John and the city?"

"They love the city. They hate the wraith and blame the Ancients for them. They thought John was a good step in the right direction. He told them about some of the things you guys had handled and that's why we're at the level of cats instead of ants."

"Good," he decided. "Very good. Does that make them more likely to share information about the Ancients?"

"Nope." She shook her head. "They actually quoted the prime directive at me." Xander burst out laughing. "They said it was one of the few things they liked of human entertainment, that and Mexican wrestling. Though they did enjoy Italian food." She pushed her hair back behind her ears. "Rodney got dragged into a discussion of rugby but he had to admit he didn't really follow sports because he wasn't that sort of guy. They thought he should be more well rounded but Rodney told them what well rounded meant to humans and they accepted the Greek ideal more. Overall, they're happy we're evolving but we're still at the level of cats."

"Okay, can we talk to them?" O'Neill asked.

"Probably not unless they show up."

"How...."

"Showed up," Dawn said. "This was their decade check and spotted me, so came to see what I was doing there. They only noted me as a fairly strong source of magical energy," she told Xander, who nodded. "They didn't recognize what type of magic, the source, none of that, just that I had some."

"You told Giles?"

"Yup. He said that was a nice thing and that we had moved up the scale. Perhaps in a century or so we'd be able to speak to them."

"Maybe two," Xander said. "There's still a lot of people who think the moon landing was faked."

"We talked about them, or Rodney did anyway," Dawn said. "They said each culture has their people that pull back to the old ways. We have the Amish, they have their group that study their bellybuttons as they put it. He told them about Buddhists and they liked them a lot, even if they couldn't agree with their dogma. Said they sounded familiar. John moved from there to the martial arts versions when they asked if they were all like that. They kinda liked the thought of that and Rodney offered to get someone they could talk to, like Van Damme."

O'Neill moaned. "That would have gotten everyone in trouble, Dawn."

"He decided that no one would miss him for a few weeks and we could alter his memories so he thought he had a really high fever." Xander stared her down. "Not me! Keller can do it with a plant we found up there. I saw what she did and hated it just as much, Xander. You know that."

"Just making sure," he said dryly, taking a sip from his new cup of coffee. The girls all trooped in and up to showers, mostly shivering. Kelsey was shivering a bit too so he hugged her. "We're leaving at one-thirty because traffic's a pain today." She nodded, heading upstairs to shower and get dressed back in good clothes. He leaned back again, staring at the muddy little girl still standing next to him. "Hug?" he offered.

She smiled, holding up a garden snake. "I found it. Can I keep it?"

"Absolutely not," Marta said firmly. "No snakes in the house. Go throw it into the woods." She pointed. "Now please. I do not like snakes, Miriam." She sighed but ran out to put it nicely into the woods then upstairs to shower and change clothes. She looked at Xander. "See what you let get started with the bunnies?"

Xander looked at her, grinning some. "At least the bunnies are protective pets."

"Fine." She checked on lunch and pulled out the roast to cool. It'd make good sandwiches.

Xander looked at the others, shaking his head slightly. Fury was smirking. "They are very protective. That's why you're about to be bitten."

Fury looked down, seeing about ten bunnies and a few ferrets, all with glowing eyes, staring at him. "Call them off, Harris."

"I don't tell them a damn thing, Fury. They protect the girls and apparently you were thinking unhappy thoughts about them. I just noticed them sneaking in."

Coulson looked down and snapped. "Leave him be," he said sharply. "He's here peacefully this time. Next time you can attack him." Most of them settled down and quit glowing but they still stared. Dawn picked up one that wouldn't settle down to pet in her lap. "Thank you, Dawn."

"I've always liked the demonic bunnies. They're great pets." She smiled at Fury. "They're *very* protective of the girls."

"Yes they are, and they carry them everywhere," Steve said, reaching down to pet one by his foot. "I didn't notice you either."

O'Neill checked, none around him. He sighed in relief. Xander pointed so he looked behind him. There was a ferret staring at him from the bookshelf behind him. "I'd never hurt the girls, ferret. I want them to have a normal girl life for a very long time and never have to patrol or slay anything." The ferret curled up to watch him but he wasn't looking as aggressive.

One of the ones skipping school leaned in and grinned. "We don't like you anyway, Director Fury. You're an asshole and you think we're pawns. So yeah, I'd watch out for more than the bunnies and the ferrets. Because some of us got hit with demon blood too, not just Buffy and Dawn. Being telepathic sucks ass but it can happen now and then." She smiled sweetly and ran off.

"Eat. Something," Xander called after her. "Now please. And watch your mouth!"

"Thank you!" she quipped, grabbing stuff from the counter to make a sandwich. Marta handed her a glass of milk too. "Thanks, Marta." She ran off with her lunch. That way she could eat in peace and not help with learning stuff.

"She went fully telepathic in Times Square thanks to a demon pouncing her to take her out while she was out for kiddy shots," Xander said. "We were not happy we had to hunt another one down to kill them so we could grab their heart for the reversal potion." He took another sip of his coffee.

"At least mine was mostly active in the house," Dawn said. "Though I heard thoughts I did not want to hear all too often from the older slayers. Including Faith thinking about how much potential you had way back when. And Giles thinking about Mom. Because, eww."

Xander grinned. "I know he's like your dad at times but even Dads have sex."

"Yeah, Buffy said Mom told her he was like a stevedore. I did not need to know and damn if John can't beat all that and then some."

"A good sex life is an important thing," Xander agreed. "It's good he's good to you. It means I won't have to kill him in a horrible manner some day." He smiled.

She smirked back. "Don't even try. I'll call on Anya's successor before you, Xander."

"Fine, whatever." He waved his cup around. "I'm sure you could have a lot of ideas."

"Probably. Including cannibal sewer goldfish."

Xander shuddered. "I remember seeing those things. Talk about gross."

"Canni...." O'Neill shook his head. "I don't want to know unless my colonel suddenly disappears. Can we get back on target?"

"Sure," Xander agreed. "What were we on?"

"How to integrate the slayers into the demon and earth saving when it's a problem that requires all three agencies," Coulson said.

"Maybe the leader of that supposed agency is Coulson and Xander's just his right hand," Fury joked with a smirk for his agent.

"I could do worse than that job," he joked back, barely smiling.

Gwennie snuck over to poke him, making him look down. "You need to smile more or your face muscles will lose all strength, just like arms do when you don't move them, and then what'll happen when you have to smile because you have babies?"

He smiled at her. "I don't plan on having babies and I never smile in public. It makes people worry."

She snorted, waving a hand in the air. "Who cares what people think? They're all stupid anyway for the most part."

Dawn looked over. "Is your last name actually McKay?" she asked with a grin.

"Who?"

"Someone I work with who has the same viewpoint about people." She hugged her. "Guys like Phil, they don't smile or show a lot of emotion so people don't know what they're thinking. It's like body armor for your face and mind."

"Oooooh." Gwennie looked at him. "You still need to practice more before you have babies."

"I still don't think I'll be having babies," he said.

"Sure you will. We need kids to play with who are smart and since Xander likes you so much yours will be good to play with." She grinned and bounded off again.

Xander looked at her then at Phil. He shook his head. Tony was laughing. "She has a point," Tony said. "Any kids of yours would be good playmates for the slayers."

Phil scratched his ear but nodded. "They would be. If I have children some day they'll be more than welcome to have friends among the slayers."

"Awww," Fury and O'Neill said sarcastically. Then yelped because the bunnies bit them.

"Down," Dawn ordered. They backed off and went back to glaring at them.

O'Neill rubbed his ankle. "The next meeting we have, it needs to be somewhere the rabbits aren't."

"The bunnies go everywhere with us," Miriam called from the next room.

"Why?" Hill asked.

She leaned in to grin at them. "Because they protect us. We're not big enough to beat up on bad guys if they get around Xander or whoever's with us. That way we're still protected. Xander, she has to go soon. She's staring at the clock and muttering minutes already."

Xander got up to get dressed and came down to get Kelsey and her file to take with him. "Let's go. If we're a bit early we can stare at the people." She nodded, she liked to watch people.

Fury opened his mouth then shook his head and closed it. "Being a parent has to come first sometimes," Jack O'Neill said quietly. "That's actually a great thing to me."

"I'm just happy he didn't use the paralytic this time," Hill said.

"He only brings it when he visits SHIELD," Tony said dryly. "This time you came to visit. If he wanted you knocked out that much he'd turn on the house's security system." She nodded at that. "How is your last bite?"

"It's healing well."

Fury looked at his ankle then at her. "Poisonous?"

"The ferrets yes, the bunnies no, sir. Not really toxic but it does make healing the wound difficult."

"Good to know." He and O'Neill shared a look then he stared at Coulson. "How do we handle it if it's a demon apocalypse?"

"The next one's in LA," Tony said. Dawn pulled up her copy of the battle plans. "He's got them done?"

"He handed them to Giles yesterday and Giles made sure I had a copy in case another attack on the main house happened." A few of the older, skipping girls leaned in to stare at her. "The old liners wanted Kennedy in charge because she's easily led."

One nodded. "No way in any hell dimension I know of."

Dawn smiled. "Buffy, Faith, Rona, Gwendolyn, Maria, used to be Kennedy but she's now Willow's personal slayer protection detail."

She looked at the others, who shrugged, then back at Dawn. "Can we suggest Perri? She's good."

"You can and I'll suggest that to Giles. It has to be a girl who can lead battles and houses."

"Perri could probably do that but she's more small group than the whole of all the slayers. She does good with the ones that aren't patrolling though." Dawn made that note. "If not, maybe Beth-Beth?"

"Bethany's a good girl, and she's a great leading slayer," Dawn agreed, adding that. She sent it to Buffy's phone. She got one back almost instantly so Buffy was probably watching soaps. "Buffy said Bethany's now behind Maria." She smiled. "Perri's got special leadership skills but not the whole thing so she's behind Amelia and Ems."

"We could like that," she agreed, going to tell the others. They liked that and someone told Beth, who sniffled and came in to hug Dawn then went back to the gym.

"Who runs the Council itself?" Miriam called.

"Giles, Xander, me and my boyfriend, two of the guys I work with, then Morrison," Dawn called. "They all forgot about me being Xander's heir," she finished sarcastically. The girls laughed at that. She smiled at O'Neill. "So if I have to run off suddenly....."

"You're probably there or here," he said. "That's fine, Dawn. Something like that is just as important as what we do. They like Sheppard?"

"Yes. Xander agreed he'd be good and he can fill in for my weak spots. Perkins and then Evan Lorne are both good leaders when they want to be." O'Neill looked confused. "Perkins got higher because his half-sister is a slayer."

"Oh." He nodded once. "That's reasonable I guess. I'll keep that in mind for city staffing and make sure at least one of them's always back here. I know Perkins is right now."

"Atlantis hates him anyway," Dawn quipped. "She keeps shutting off all his lights and water on him."

"I heard. Sure, he can stay for a while." He made that note to his assistant to remind him later. "Rosenburg?"

"Head researcher," Dawn said. "She likes it, she can't lead battles, she agreed that was her favorite spot."

Fury nodded. "I like her there as long as you keep her out of the weird books that might make her do more bad things."

Dawn shrugged. "How else do you look up what's going to happen during an apocalypse battle?"

"Good point," Hill agreed then sighed and looked at Coulson.

"She's vowed not to do more harmful spells without warning people and it being necessary, plus usually asked for by Giles or someone. She's not slipping again."

"Good," Hill agreed, smiling slightly. "I like that idea better."

"Willow's been doing the card catalog recently since we had all those probated estates to handle." Dawn pushed her hair back again then floated over a pen to do it up. Tony stared at her. "What? I don't have a magic addiction, thank you."

"I know that. I know why too." She smiled. "Working on the tiny things?"

"Yup. It helps at times." O'Neill looked at her. "I'm really strong magically. I can't pick off hairs with it, but I can probably grab a helicopter for a few minutes so it can't take off." He shuddered. "Which is why we wanted Belinda to test the magical weapons, because she's got pretty weak magic and she might need it."

"She might," he agreed. "I don't disagree with that. Though Carter's about to have your ass over it, Summers."

"We sent in reports. Apparently someone's either interfering with them getting to her and you or they've been happily ignored. Daniel's seen them because he comes to check on our progress."

"I heard." He looked at Hill and Fury then at her. "When we help with LA's upcoming battle...."

She showed him the battle plans and what they knew so far. "This is the current plan, subject to tweaking if new information comes forward."

He looked at it. "It's very open."

"It's in the middle of a park," she said. "Not much cover. Lots of room for them to escape."

"Good point. The locals?"

"Have already been warned. We warn anywhere that we know one will happen with a credible threat notice and then to call us. The notice has the date and probable location." She looked over as a steady beeping noise grew louder. "Where is it?" she called.

"New Orleans went early," one of the upper girls yelled back. "Dumbass witches."

Dawn stood up. "Let me go handle that shit before they destroy the city. Give me a few minutes." She disappeared and put up a shield between them. "Isn't your city already damaged enough from Katrina? Did you really need to do more destruction when it's barely getting back on her feet?" They glared at her. She stared back. "Hi, Dawn Summers, I'm with the new Council." She put her hands on her hips. "I don't want to have to evacuate your whole damn city because you two can't work out things like adults. Have some goddamn tea and talk about it, ladies. Or I'll tell Rosenburg to come make you kids!" They backed down but she had felt Willow appear. She looked at her. "Cute."

"I was doing a pampering thing with Kennedy," she said, grimacing but checking her face masque. "Ladies, she's right. We've been trying to get you two to talk this stuff out for weeks now. Why can't you?"

"You're not one of us," one of them said. "We don't follow that coven bullshit. Magic's from the family lines."

"Then explain mine since no one in my family had any," Willow shot back. "Sometimes it's not. And for that matter, the Devon Coven is only mentoring, not an overlording body. Mostly they handle the ones that have went dark."

Dawn frowned, looking around. "What the fuck was that?"

"What?" Willow asked. "I didn't feel anything."

"Huge power surge." She pointed, looking that way. "Oh, fuck." The demon blinked in and out of view as it ran toward them. She threw up a shield, grabbing Willow's hand to suck from her. Willow squeaked and helped. So did the other two witches. The demon screamed but oh well. Dawn hit her necklace. "Mayday code Alpha. Huge demon, New Orleans, phasing in and out of view, level destruction Beta," she noted calmly. A few slayers appeared thanks to Willow and the coven and they attacked the demon they could feel. Dawn and Willow helped, and the demon did die. Dawn ran over to one of the slayers that was down and bleeding. "We need an ambulance now," she ordered. Willow was calling that in. Dawn concentrated. "Willow, healing spell?"

"I can't, you know that, Dawn. I lost that gift."

One of the older witches pushed her way through and came to help. "I'm not much good at them but I can sure as shit help," she said quietly. "Thank you, child."

"It's what we do," she said weakly, staring at Dawn. "Do not let him mope."

"You die and he's going to pull your ass back to kill you," she said. "You're not allowed to die."

"I know but sometimes you gotta break rules." An ambulance showed up. "Get Nevaeh. She's injured and I'm bad."

The paramedics split to get both of them. "You're in really bad shape."

"She's one of the slayers," Dawn said quietly.

"Okay. Means we get to send you right up to surgery." He helped lift her with the witches help and they transported the other girls with them. They were all bruised and cut up.

Willow looked at the remains of the demon, setting it on fire. "I have no idea how it got here." She looked at the two warring factions of witches. "Any clues?"

"One of the local idiots was trying to summon a soul wrong recently," one of them said.

"No, not allowed," Willow said. "We don't need the First Evil again." They stared at her. "I know how it happened," she defended. She rubbed a hand through her hair. "I need to tell Buffy, Giles, and Xander." She called them. Xander's phone was off. "Buffy, me. We stopped the witch war but there was a demon summoned. Huge one. Dawn called in for backup. One of the girls is in really bad shape and going right to surgery. His phone's off, Giles. Yeah, that's what we think. I can do that. Thank you." She hung up and looked at them. "I'm being stationed here with Kennedy until we can figure out what happened and make sure it's the only one. Dawn can tell me later if there's a gateway open or something." She rubbed her forehead, grimacing at the flaky clay that fell off. "Let me head home and I'll be back tonight? And if you guys want to have tea with us and talk we can do that?" They both snorted but waved her off. She left to get a shower, get changed, and pack with Kennedy.

The witches looked at each other. "Maybe we should talk," one side decided.

The other nodded. "Might be helpful before that weird one interferes. Or the Key." They nodded and walked off to have a good old fashioned picnic and talk. They could figure out who had called that demon and end them too if they had to. Girls like Willow worried them since she wasn't a bloodlined witch. They were always trouble.

***

Dawn appeared next to Xander, who flinched, staring at her. She nodded at the therapist. "Sorry."

"Who?" Xander asked quietly.

"She's out of surgery. They're both out of surgery but one's got a few pins. Molly's got a lot of intestinal stitches and is missing some now." Xander sucked in a breath but nodded. "So we'll be moving them up to the center's infirmary tomorrow as long as you have a doctor there now."

"I might be able to ask Banner. If not, I'll call one of the ones from Cleveland. Who?"

"No clue. The witches were fighting and it showed up. I called it in, we handled it, Giles moved Willow and Kennedy down there to handle the city in case of other issues. They're families."

"Which means they're going to look at Willow like she's a kid playing dress up cowboy with real guns."

She nodded. "They recognized me. One muttered it." He shrugged. "Okay. Want me to talk to Bedford?"

"No, I hate her. She's not exactly a fussy doc sort. The girls will want fussy. I'll ask Banner when I get home and if not, I'll go talk to Dr. Herrs. She's just retired but Molly likes to listen to her when she won't Bedford."

"Okay." She hugged him then disappeared.

Kelsey looked up at him. "Huge demon?"

"Yeah. They had two warring witch families in New Orleans and one showed up."

Kelsey nodded. "Did they summon it?"

"Nope."

"That's good then. Then maybe they're good witches instead of bad ones like the chaos guys that get us on Halloween." She looked at the therapist. Who was scowling at Xander. "We don't let him sugarcoat things on us. He might not give us details but we know the bigger slayers get hurt and we know he protects us until we can do it on our own. We yell and fuss when they don't tell us things. We worry more if we don't know."

Xander nodded. "The girls threw up a holy fit about us not telling them things when the other girls got hurt," he said quietly. "So we have a happy medium of 'bad things happened to some of the older slayers' and leave it there unless it's someone very close to them and then we'd give them details."

"There's a spell so even if they're talking about it in front of us, we never hear more than who's hurt and why," Kelsey said. "Willow said it was easier than trying to get privacy to talk about that stuff in the main house."

Xander nodded. "I so yelled about that," he muttered, rolling his eye.

The therapist cleared her throat. "How does that work?"

"I get to hear who got hurt and that they're okay or not. Xander told me the rest. He's not covered by it because he was in Africa then and Willow didn't think." He gave her a look. "What? She didn't!"

"Whatever. You know better."

"I know. She's a senior member of the Council and we have to give her respect for her job title even if we find her creepy and weird."

Xander nodded. "Yes you do."

"You said it."

"I have. You're not an adult."

"Good point." She looked at the therapist. "We have rules."

"Rules can be good if they're fair. They have to respect her?"

"They have to respect her position," Xander said. "They all, every slayer but Buffy and Kennedy, find her creepy. It's not the magic, it's what she's done with it. They can sense that she had problems earlier on and they don't like to be around her. That works out okay because Willow has no idea how to handle kids or what they need. Then again, her parents are book writing shrinks."

"I've seen children of other therapists in the past," the therapist agreed. She looked at her. "Does that worry you? Does it make you do things when you worry about Willow and what she's done?"

"No, mostly she makes me hide. I saw her get mad at Buffy and Faith and turn them into puppy dogs once. I'd hate to be a puppy dog."

Xander shook his head. "I so spanked Willow," he muttered, rubbing his forehead.

"Good," the therapist said. "Does she have someone like me?"

"There's a whole bunch of old lady witches who pay a lot of attention to her," Kelsey said with a grin. "The Devon Coven love to hover over her." Xander nodded quickly. "They're good to us sometimes though. Some of them bake and stuff."

"Some are like the old liners in the Council who considered the girls expendable," Xander said. "The Coven tends to stay away from the slayers until it's a huge battle. Giles had a talk with them about how they were upsetting the girls."

"It sounds sensible." She looked at Kelsey. "Which dolly did you bring today?"

"I didn't bring any dollies. They're for studying," she said, her eyes wide. "I'd never bring one out to not study."

"You can study things outside. Like trees."

Xander shook his head quickly. "No, she can't."

"I tried and it made me cry and panic. I hate dirt," Kelsey said. "Dirty is bad. Even if the other girls like the mud it's nasty."

"Okay, I can see that. Do you get time to water the garden plants?"

Xander nodded. Kelsey smiled and nodded. "I do. I never dig with them but I'm one of the ones that goes to check on all our demon bunnies, demon ferrets, and the few frogs we have. The animals all like me so they let me check on them. The girls on punishment have to clean up the yard. Even after the unicorns and they poop a lot more than a bunny." Xander rolled his eye and shook his head. "They do."

"The bigger the creature, the bigger the poop," he reminded her. "I know you realized that when you were helping me with Melissa the other day."

"I did. She doesn't poop as much but she eats less and she's tinier."

"She's...."

"Her mom's in jail for abusing the abusive boyfriend back," Xander said. "She's one of the older slayers."

"Ah! That's a nice thing."

"She drools a lot," Kelsey said.

"Babies do that, mine did," the therapist said. "Let's go over some of the things Xander and others have noted that you do when you're doing things." She nodded, curling up against Xander's side to go over some of those. At the end of the appointment she let Kelsey go outside alone. "Any idea why they started?"

"I know she was living with her grandmother until she was two, then she got attacked. The Bringers missed her but a few of the slaver demon clans found her house. I know that Grandma spotted a demon, because we had already introduced her to the new Council and all that we could do to help her protect her. She called and I know Dawn went up to stomp on the demons. Grandma was pretty old and she talked to Kelsey about things. She decided to give us custody because she couldn't move well.

"Kelsey was already doing some of that then. Or at least when I first saw her she was doing the doll thing for different types of stories and patting doorways. Numbers started to come up more often recently. She talks to her grandmother every few days over the computer. Her grandmother's wheelchair bound right now, she's recently had a small stroke. She's still pretty spry but Kelsey went to visit her and that may be around the same time that numbers started to matter to her. The studying thing is new because we only really started on firm learning in the last year. Before then it was more hidden in things," he said.

"That's a good way and it works on most toddlers and preschool aged children," she agreed. "Do we know the source of any of them for sure?"

"No. The doll thing may have been from an uncle. She mentioned once that an uncle gave her the first doll, which is in her closet and safely stored away from all harm. I offered to put her into the vault so she couldn't get hurt even if there was a fire but she said there was no air and the doll would suffocate. We've checked and the doll isn't possessed so I'm not sure where the exact start was."

"Okay. There have been?"

"Back in high school, Buffy, Willow, and I ran into a possessed puppet during a school talent show."

"That's really weird." Xander smiled. "I think we can desensitize her from them."

"She starts school next year and we've been working on the five-hours-thirty-five-minutes of studying. We've reminded her a few times that during the school day you take breaks and have lunch. It took us a while but that time limit was what the local kindergarten kids had for their whole day, but she's only talked to some of them in the park or the bookstore."

"That's helpful and we can start there. We can work on the dolls too, that way she doesn't have a problem in class."

"The principal's already talked to us about all the kids going next year. We've been trying to help her for over a year now and couldn't find anyone that could help her without making her panic and go into fits. Most of them wanted her to stop the habits immediately and cold turkey. She had a fit so big on one we ended up replacing his office furniture. He wanted her on drugs but we pointed out he had made her panic and have a hissy."

"No, I'd never do that. It's not helpful at all." She frowned. "I saw their notes that you had as part of it. The fit was mentioned. I don't think she needs drugs."

"Now and then I do have to give her benadryl. Most slayers have horrible sleep patterns. There's a wide swath of insomnia near any upcoming problem. That's how we know one's coming. The older ones start first and it slowly trickles down to the younger and the ones that can't fight."

"There's some of those?"

"There were ones that were marked genetically or however that could never do battle. There's one in a coma that gets restless brain waves whenever there's an upcoming battle. There's one in jail for murder and she gets the same thing. We've talked with her and the warden there about those things and other issues that she might have. We have two with Downs Syndrome that are in a great life course program nearby. The girls all fuss over them. They worry a lot and the girls make sure they don't need to."

"That's sweet of them." She stared at him. "You don't have children."

"I'm probably infertile," he said. "They're like my little sisters."

"That's good. What about if something happens to you?"

"There's people behind me and they know some of them. We're working on adding more people around the training center; I've been trying to find the right people for a year or so." She nodded. "They know who they can lean on, including some that aren't officially with the Council but help. Like the liaison we have with SHIELD. They really like him."

"That's good. But you are trying?"

"Yeah, I am."

"That's good. Which school?" He pointed at the cover of the folder. She smiled. "I hadn't noticed that. It's supposed to be a pretty good school."

"It is. We've only had one problem teacher in all the time we've been there and she went off her meds recently."

"I've seen that happen. How often do you think she'd be comfortable working on things?"

"I'd say at least every two weeks. Kel, how often do you want to see her?"

"Two weeks is good," she agreed. "That means I don't miss out on game days."

"Not like I'm going to keep you from playing, Kel," he reminded her. He smiled. "The girls had mandatory punishment playing in the mud time earlier. She went to check on the animals."

The therapist smiled. "That's probably a really good idea. Okay, we can do two weeks for now." She made his next appointment and they went home. She liked the tiny slayer. She was blunt and practical but still believed in fairy tales and princesses. It was sweet.

***

Xander flopped down across from Coulson once they got home. "Doctor Herrs is showing up tonight." Bruce looked at him. "Two slayers got injured in New Orleans. One with pretty good intestinal injuries, the other with pins in a limb." He winced but nodded. "You're more than welcome to help her, Dr. Banner." He looked at Coulson again. "The therapist said it might be worrying her that there's so few adults here."

"I've got a few I could suggest," he admitted. "Including Agents Romanoff and Barton." Natasha looked at him oddly from where she had been reading. "The Avengers are presently on hiatus. As are you two until things calm down and they quit flashing your picture on the news."

"It'd be nice if they quit flashing us on the news," Clint said, sliding down some in his seat. "I've already gotten one call from someone who thought it was a great thing that they now know who I am."

"Did you report that?"

"Gave it to Hill before she and Fury left."

"Good." He stared at him. "It will be at least two months before Stark Tower is refinished."

"Three," Tony said. "Pepper and I talked to the contractor earlier. That will include fixing things so you guys each have space," Tony told them. They nodded. "I'm going back to Malibu in a few weeks at the latest. I miss my lab." He looked at Bruce.

"I can do that for now. I heard General Ross mentioned earlier?"

Xander grinned. "He really wanted a slayer. He didn't like it when we made him take 'no' for an answer." Bruce smiled. He looked at Coulson. "If they want to stay the girls would like that. They like talking to them and learning from them."

"That's fine but I'm not sure if I can handle children," Natasha said. "I've never really been around them."

"I only learned how in Africa," Xander said. "They're like my little sisters."

"That is a good way of looking at it. I'm pleased I don't have to remember how I was trained."

"No, I've heard some things about foreign training academies and the like. I'd kill everyone."

She smiled. "Thank you."

"Welcome." He looked at Coulson again. "You could stay until you're cleared."

"I can," he agreed, smiling some. "It's looking like it'll be a while before I'm cleared for duty. That means I only have to handle things if and when the Avengers are needed."

"He tried to give us to Hill and we all snorted and walked off," Tony said dryly. "I'm not being ordered around in a battle by Agent Stick-Up-My-Ass Hill."

"Ditto," Bruce said.

Steve nodded. "I'm sure she's competent but I've never seen her management style. It might be counter-productive to the unit."

Coulson smiled slightly at them. "I'm still the team's handler, Captain." Steve grinned at that. Stark relaxed. "Barton, Fury said you have to pass field clearance yourself."

"I know."

"He wanted you to start that soon."

"I will."

"He was willing to partially clear you and send you to Atlantis for a bit if you wanted."

"I'm not sure if the bow and arrow approach will work on the mutant people eaters," Xander quipped.

"People eaters?" Natasha asked.

"I cannot comment," Coulson said.

"Good thing I can," Tony and Xander said, then smirked at each other. Xander pulled out stuff to brief them on what O'Neill did.

"That's not assassination work, sir. That's a full scale 'fuck you back' battle," Clint said dryly. "Nat and I would be in the way."

She nodded. "Quite a lot." She closed out the video of the wraith. "We will make sure they cannot get here if they get past O'Neill."

"Definitely," Bruce agreed. "I'm not sure if they could feed on the Hulk or not."

"I can make armor, and I'll talk to O'Neill about armor," Tony said, staring at where the video had been. He shuddered. "Yuck."

"Definitely not something I want to see down here," Steve agreed. He looked at Coulson. "How likely is that to happen?"

"Very narrow and they have a full city that can help us defend ourselves."

"Yes, Atlantis. I really want to visit," Tony said with a grin. "Help get her back into shape." He shifted, crossing his legs. "She's got some of the brightest geeks I would've recruited on her. Including McKay."

"The screaming asshole primadonna?" Bruce asked. Everyone stared at him. "We were in the same graduate program. He was always right, even if he was wrong he was right. We all expected him to either have an early Nobel nod or an assassination within a few years."

"Probably both," Stark agreed.

Coulson nodded. "By his files, yes." They smirked at him. Xander laughed.

***

Dawn slid into Rodney's lap. He stared at her oddly. "What are you doing? This is a lab, not a trashy club and I believe you're taken."

"John told me to come dick tease you because he loves it when you go into that hissy fit mood," she said with a grin. "He told me to come sit on your lap and tell you a few things that have happened recently on earth."

Rodney smirked. "Go ahead then. Be a dick tease if you must. It's not like you do much for me as you're not my type."

She poked him on the shoulder with a grin. "Well, let's start with there was recently a conference. Well, let's start back farther. There was recently a battle on Earth, in New York."

"The slayers all right?"

"Wasn't ours." She smirked a bit meanly. "It was SHIELD's."

"Those crackpots," he snorted.

"And their new super response team. Which happens to include Iron Man."

He stood up and dumped her on the floor. "Stark?"

"Hmm, yup. Him and a Doctor Banner....."

"I saw the mess he made the last time he went into a battle."

"Considering they were fighting space aliens and their whale ships, it was a good thing and yeah, New York's a mess." She stood up. "It also included Captain America."

"They found him?" he demanded, mouth starting to flop open. He sucked in the drool. "The original?"

"Yeah. SHIELD found him, defrosted him, all that. He's a really nice guy. The slayers all love him and his manners. Xander's letting them all defrag at the training center with the two assassins that helped with the battle." She smiled. "Including that redhead you occasionally have nightmares about making good on her threat to castrate you." He shivered. She strolled closer with a grin. "There was a conference due to that. Since we handle aliens, and SHIELD sometimes does, they had to talk, and SHIELD sometimes overlaps with the girls so Giles and Xander got invited."

"I hate those crackpots in SHIELD," he snorted.

"So does Xander. He tends to use paralytic gas whenever he runs into Fury." Rodney smirked at that, moving to a board. "So they worked out how to handle the overlap during the second talk, which was at the training center. I had to specially allow Fury in for a few hours. But... Xander and Coulson were going to tell the Avengers, the special response team, about us."

Rodney turned to stare at her. "Now you're a dick tease. Stark?"

"He doesn't make weapons anymore but he is specializing in armor and energy sources. Plus Dr. Banner is very good at nuclear physics. Even if they did mess up his experiment on him while he was trying to remake the super soldier formula." Rodney shuddered. "And.... Xander told me to tease one last thing. There are real Asgard."

"Not the alien ones?"

"Alien but human looking. Thor is dating one Jane Foster." Rodney stiffened, staring at her. She grinned. "He's home but she's somewhere inside SHIELD."

Rodney moaned. "I want them."

"Talk to the bossman," she quipped with a grin. She held up a DVD holder. "On the battle they had in New York. Plus the rest of the stuff from the digs." He took it to run, watching it on fast forward. He let out a few moans but he was a geek too. Geeks mostly loved superheros. She leaned against the table. "John is still down there because he thinks you wanted him to talk to O'Neill about visitation requests."

"Hell yes," he said, looking at her. "Any other good news?"

She got into her email, smiling at the one she translated. "They hate that Xander sends all Council business in a demon language that nine out of ten down there can't translate and the other one thinks it's Latin or Ancient based, which it's not. But basically, we've got another gateway event coming up, which is on that file, and the girls said hello. And the two that want to be science geeks just like you have glomped onto Bruce and Stark for now but they sent you copies of their recent projects so you could critique and give them ideas on where they went too kiddie to dumb it down. Xander's offered John and Evan spots at the training center. He'd give you one but it'd have to be private research." She paged up. "Oh, and Bruce remembered you from grad school. Called you an asshole screaming primadonna who he expected to hear Nobel news or an assassination about."

"Both actually," he said dryly. "The one that was nominating me earlier than necessary tried to have me assassinated since my later research would discredit his. That's how science goes though." He stared at her. "Any other dick teasing news?"

"They think Coulson really runs an agency behind everything to keep things in control and Xander's one of his senior agents."

He snorted, but grinned. "I can see that. When I ran into Agent Coulson during an attempt on my life he was rather bland and unassuming. I supposed that had to do with his job instead of his intelligence."

"It did. He's our liaison to SHIELD and Fury just found out he knew about all this stuff during the first meeting, where the President let Xander give them a headache."

"He's excellent at it, like you are," he taunted.

She smiled. "You say the sweetest things, Rodney." She pinched him on the cheek, getting swatted for it. "Write the happy colonel about who you want to come visit." She looked over as the door opened. "Doctor Keller. Just telling him things that John wanted him to hear."

"We need to do some testing, Summers."

"Um, no. You're not allowed to take blood from me. You know very well O'Neill told you not to touch my blood unless I was needing critical care and then you were not to experiment, look too deeply into, or otherwise touch my blood."

"Orders have come up...."

Dawn shook her head. "No, it's not. We talked about it before I left. Him and the President both, then they asked me about a few things that General O'Neill hadn't known and wasn't supposed to know. The president let it slip accidentally and had to explain some things but he agreed that it is not worth endangering everyone here to do strange tests on my blood. Since I don't go on a field team to travel there should be almost no reason for me to end up in a critical care situation." She pulled up her special email to send to Xander. He sent back a 'calling' and then a minute later one popped up from O'Neill. She read it and held it out. "From the general himself."

"The gateway's not open," she said.

"Yes, I know." She smiled. "I'm amazing part of the time but the Council magicked it for me in case of emergencies."

"Magic isn't real," she sneered.

Dawn floated her up and smiled at her when she was making squeaky, gasping noises. "Really?"

"Put her down," Rodney ordered. "Before she becomes more hot for your blood, Dawn." Dawn gently put her down. "No, you may not test her blood. We don't want to know if something in it could cause us problems that would mean the Council had to show up to help." Doctor Keller stomped off. Dawn waved at her back. "That could backlash," he warned quietly.

She looked at him. "I'd miss you horribly when I was in the Mountain." He patted her on the arm. "Anyway, Sheppard said to let the other geeks know about the battle, he thought it might tickle them and they could use some levity." She walked off. John came out of the gateway a bit later and she was waiting on the stairs, smiling at him. "Have a nice trip?"

"No. Not really." He looked at her. "You okay?"

"I'm good. I'm staying in a lot of company just in case. I told Rodney like you told me to, he was even pleased at the dick teasing news." She grinned.

"Stark said he wanted to visit and talk about body armor. Him and Banner both."

"I'd like to see the Hulk against a wraith," Dawn said casually. He smirked at that. He had the same thought apparently. She stood up and walked over. "Keller's hovering," she said quietly. "She sneered so I floated her."

"That's what I'd expect you to do." He winked and walked off. "Doctor Keller to my office for a packet of mail," he ordered over the comms. He headed up there while Dawn left the gate room. "Dinner?" he called.

"Waiting on your greatness to finally get here," she quipped back.

"Great." She smirked at him before getting into the transporter.

John looked up from putting down his necessary office supplies he had carried back, tossing her an envelope. "From O'Neill."

She read it, grimacing. "She could be useful."

"She's very useful. She's the one gathering information from other spots in the city and on digs that some of the Council people are sponsoring. That is her job and she's very good at it," he said bluntly. "Even the president said to leave her the hell alone, Keller." He stared at her. "You can't replicate it, you can't do more than hurt others with it. So don't try."

"If she's that dangerous or contagious...."

"She's not. But things are attracted to her blood. The same way odd things are attracted to other members of the Council. That's why people have tried to kidnap her. If I find out you disobeyed that order, even earlier after it was emailed, I will kick you off this city and start court martial procedures. Am I clear?"

"Fine." She stomped off. She had the samples she needed anyway. Transporters were wonderful things.

John went down to the transporter, finding Dawn in there unconscious. "Security, go arrest Dr. Keller. Immediately." They ran off while he got her to the lab. Rodney could help more. Rodney looked over and helped him get her into a chair. "I have no idea. She was in the transporter."

"You can use them to take subtle samples," Rodney said. He went to the infirmary to see what sort of samples. He was hoping it wasn't an organ or a brain tissue one. It turned out he'd be disappointed. There was a tissue sample but it was reading as part of her pancreas. "You could have killed her," he shouted, glaring at her. "How dare you call yourself a doctor!" She was struggling so he hit her. "Take her now," he ordered. He looked at one of the other doctors. "She's in my lab." They went to grab her and bring her in to treat her. John Sheppard was now in a foul mood. A severely foul mood.

***

Xander got woken up by his phone, which he hated. "'Ello?" he muttered into it. He sat up. "She okay?" He listened, nodding some. "I'll call immediately. Thank you for letting me know. If she needs to rest, we have the infirmary." He nodded. "That's fine then. Thanks." He hung up and called the base in Colorado. "I need to speak to General O'Neill now please. I know what time it is, yes. Because I just got notice from one of his projects screwing up with the Council's people. I'm Xander Harris, second head of the Council and one of ours just got hurt."

They transferred him to the night head. "It's Harris. Where's O'Neill?" He listened. "No, that's not. Because Keller decided she was going to find a way to breach his order to leave her alone and took organ samples. Yes, that Summers and O'Neill specifically ordered, with the president, to leave Dawn alone. Well, your choice is we talk to O'Neill in the next reasonable time period or we go up to Atlantis to get Dawn, and yes, we can. There's demons who can make more stable wormholes than you guys and your gate does."

The guy choked and spluttered. "Now please. Sure, I can wait." The guy put him on hold and hung up on him. Xander smirked and nodded, calling someone else. "Go grab Dawn, Sheppard, Lorne, McKay, and anyone else she or Sheppard said to evacuate them before something comes for Dawn's blood please. Thank you." He hung up and waited. No call from O'Neill. He could talk to him in the morning. By then, Dawn would be there.

***

Sheppard looked up as demons appeared. "Why did you guys do that?" he demanded, hand going toward his sidearm.

"They hurt her, they want her back," he said bluntly. "We're evacuating before something comes."

"I can agree to that," Sheppard said. "I know Xander would protect her."

"You, McKay, Lorne, whoever else she stated," he said.

"No, if we're going to be attacked, my place is here."

"You are. There's demons coming that can travel through the time continuum." Sheppard winced. "We need to go, Colonel."

"No. If the city's attacked, I need to be here to defend her. Take Dawn and Lorne and go."

"Fuck no," Evan said from where he was waiting. "If we're attacked it's my duty too." He looked at the demon. "Take her to safety, take these three," he said, writing down names. "To the mountain if you can or wherever he wanted Dawn. They'll need to be safe. They're all pregnant." The demons nodded, taking them with them. He looked at Sheppard. "Did he overreact?"

"No, probably not." He called in an alert. That way they knew when the demons got there.

***

The demons took the four people to the mountain's infirmary. Xander had said once it was safe for Dawn here. "Doctor?" She looked and ran over to help. "We were asked to evacuate them from the Holy City."

"Why?" she asked, glancing at them then looking at Dawn. "Who attacked her?"

"She was in the infirmary and we see her as being weak of blood and a few injuries. Harris had her evacuated before the demons came for her blood. He wanted others but they said they had to protect it."

She nodded. "Thank you." He nodded and left. She called the General out of bed. He was not happy. "What. Happened?"

"This is the first I'm hearing of anything," he said, looking at the three female scientists. "Any idea?"

"Some demon grabbed us and brought us here," one said, hand on her stomach. "I know nothing else, General."

Dr. Lam looked and smiled, tossing over her phone. "It's got Council spells on it. It might reach someone up there. It usually does."

He tapped out an email with a priority message and sent it then called Harris from it. "What did you do?" Xander told him bluntly what he had been told. "Doc, Keller's in the brig. She took organ and blood samples form her." She got a hand-unit to scan her with. "That bad? Time traveling.... Fuck," he muttered. "Okay." Xander said something else. "No, he wouldn't. I wouldn't, you wouldn't, you should've known better. Oh, to do a spell to let them be on the same level. Sure, if you can get Rosenburg up there. Thank you, Harris. Here, yes. We'll protect her or we'll send her to you." He hung up. A few minutes later, Rosenburg was glaring at him in a flowered nightdress and matching bathrobe. "Can you get to Atlantis?"

"Yes. How is Dawn?"

"She'll be fine. Our doc, who she likes, said she'll be fine, Willow. Just a few bites for a sample collection and she's already healing that and the missing pint of blood they took."

Willow grimaced. "Buffy's not going to be happy."

"I know that. Xander nearly had the others pulled out too."

She nodded, going up there. The demons stared at her. She snorted and flicked a hand at them, sending them off. "Butt munchers." She walked off, finding Dawn's boyfriend. She pulled something out of her pocket to hand to him. "There's two. They do the same thing those demons do. We had to use them in the past when they came for Buffy to kill her. They're assassins." She stared at him. "Who hurt Dawn?"

"Our head doctor. She's in the brig and facing charges."

"Good. Before I have to tell Buffy." She looked back at someone appearing. "Agent Barton?"

"Xander had me sent." He held up something. "He found the one he kept." He put it on. "They're assassins, not soldiers. We're a bit sneaker," he told Sheppard.

Who smiled back. "I figured you guys were. Welcome to Atlantis."

"She's beautiful. Let's make sure the demons don't change that. Xander said they can't really change history but they can go back about twenty minutes if necessary to try to kill you again."

"I blocked them out from before I got here," Willow said. "So once I leave they can try it again." They nodded and put on the necklaces. When one demon popped up they could follow him to kill him. Willow went home to tell Buffy the bad news. She had heard, she was throwing a fit at the phone. So apparently Xander had done the bad telling this time. That was great, it meant Willow could go home to Kennedy.

***

O'Neill got to his desk before his assistant the next morning. He was looking over it for notes and found one from the night shift guy not to let Harris call through. He went to find the night shift commander. He held up the note. "No, he is *always* to get through to me. Because he deals with humanity ending things."

The guy slumped down. "Including one of our researchers being attacked last night by one of the doctors." He shrank down further. "I'd transfer and hide like hell from everyone here. I really would." The guy got up and stomped off. O'Neill went to the infirmary. "How bad? Anything new pop up?" Lam handed over the notes she had made. He read them and grimaced. "She's....."

"In the brig but they're under attack by demons who can move themselves backward in time by twenty minutes," she said. "Harris got them help and sent someone else up to help as well."

"Great! I'd like to know more as soon as I can." He walked off scowling. He called Xander to assure him Dawn was going to be okay, she was getting good care, and that he didn't need to storm the base. He knew what sort of overprotective big brother Xander was. Jack had been like that over his own kid. He set up a meeting later to talk about it and hopefully get a sit rep from Atlantis.

***

Dawn woke up and blinked at the man staring at her. "You are not the one I wanted to wake up to, Stark."

He grinned. "Tough. Sit up, drink some water." He helped her sit up. "Xander's around here somewhere."

"Figures." She sipped the water he handed her. "What happened? All I remember is getting on the transporter to head to my room to pull out dinner and then there was a flash of pain. Malfunction?"

"Nope," Doctor Lam said as she walked over. "I'm damn glad she didn't take anything vital as a sample." Dawn glared. She nodded. "She's in the brig."

Dawn looked at Stark. "He had me brought here?"

"He said you're safe here and this doctor likes you."

"She does," she agreed with a grin. "John would worry too."

"He's already worrying. He's in the office." Stark tried to send a text. "I forgot we're that far underground." Xander strolled in. "Thankfully he has big brother super senses."

"Yes I do." He hugged her. "Are you okay?"

"I'm okay. I think."

Doctor Lam nodded when they looked at her. "She is, yes."

"Want her to come back to the training center?" Xander asked the doctor.

"That's up to you."

"We have the two girls showing up today," Xander told Dawn.

"Then you should be fussing over them."

"I will when I get back. I left them a note. When did she do this?"

"After I showed her the email from O'Neill and floated her up when she got bitchy. That was after John got back, he had called her up to the office."

"She knew she was in violation of the rules," John said as he walked in. He looked at her. "You'll be okay but resting for a few days." She pouted. "You can work from bed."

"Bed at home?"

"Up to the docs," Xander said.

Doctor Lam shrugged. "No working for a week, even from whichever bed you want, Atlantis or the training center."

She sighed, looking at John. "I'm going with you," he said with a smirk. "I'm to guard you."

"I like you guarding me. Is everyone okay?"

"They almost got Miko but she managed to move and one of the other geeks shot him." Dawn relaxed and yawned. "Rest. We'll be around." They waited until she was asleep then John looked at Xander. "Training center. I'll follow."

"Okay." He looked at the doctor, who nodded that was fine. "Doctor Herrs is back in for a few days. We're looking for a new one too."

"I'll call a few people I know." She smiled. "The general want him?"

"Nope. The general is going to introduce McKay and Stark to each other and let them babble about the power issues we have."

"Someone told me about them but I didn't understand a damn thing," Xander told Tony. "I know it's not like yours and it's kinda like a void portal or something." He shrugged. He called. "Marta, me. Have Dawn brought back please. She's got a week of bedrest and I'll be right behind her." Dawn disappeared. Doctor Lam sent the medical records over by fax while Xander, Tony, and John Sheppard walked off together talking about things. They ran into Rodney, Evan Lorne, and Clint Barton in the office. "Dawn's in bed fussing for a week," Xander said.

"That's fine, Xander. We appreciate Dawn and all the wackiness I'm just learning that she's brought into our lives. When she comes back I want a report on all that wackiness so I can see how much of it is applicable here."

"I'll look it over and tell you," Rodney said. He looked at Xander.

"There's a few rooms in the guest house," he said. "Or the secondary guest house I've never decorated or done more than clean up."

"That'll work," they decided. They got sent off together by the coven before O'Neill could ask nosy questions.

Xander walked down to the infirmary, hugging the other two. They pouted. "Dawn got samples taken by a doctor against her will." They groaned. "Then they were attacked."

"You needed to baby her more," one of them decided. She shifted to let her leg feel better. "Doctor Herrs, can I please have some advil?" She got given a shot instead and sighed in pleasure. "Oh, so much nicer than the little orange pills," she moaned.

Her roommate pouted. "Me too please?" She got one too. "Thanks, Doctor Herr." She grinned at Xander. "Go pounce Mr. Tony or something."

"Going. I'll check on you after dinner." He looked at the doctor. "Please help us find someone to replace you if you don't come back?"

"I've talked to a few, Xander. Shoo, let them rest." He nodded, patting them all before going back up to the living room. The girls were staring at John in awe.

McKay looked at the girls then at John. "You really can't turn that off, can you," he said dryly. John swatted him, making the girls giggle and mob him.

"Ladies, that's Dawn's boyfriend," Xander said as he walked up the stairs. There was a mass 'awww' about that and he got extra cuddles. Apparently he was a man that Xander approved of. They had to learn what they were like when they could date.

One of the really minis, who was about four, looked at Tony. "Why can't you be a boyfriend? Are you a bad guy?"

"No, I'm not a bad guy. I'm not a boyfriend because I like science and Xander doesn't."

"Oh."

"I'll a good boyfriend to someone else. Someone who likes science too."

"Oh!" She nodded, smiling at him and patting him. "Maybe some day you'll be a good boyfriend for Xander." She went back to hugging the nice guy. "Hey, my turn!" she said, swatting one of the older girls.

"No hitting," Xander said from the kitchen, without having to see it happen. He knew how the girls were. "He's a good boyfriend but not for me," he told that one when she pouted at him. "I need someone who wants to read comics and help me with my battle axe, not go work on building new stuff. He needs someone like Moira."

"She's pretty," the girl told Tony.

He grinned back. "I'm sure she is, but I'm old enough to be her dad."

"Shoot."

"Maybe I'll have a kid and he'll be a good boyfriend for you."

She smiled shyly. "I'd like that." She ran off to talk to the guy that was being ignored. "Do you like weapons?"

"Not really. I like science and building weapons." Her eyes went wide and she stared at him then at Tony then back at him. "That's why I'm here to talk to him."

"Wow," she said. "Xander?" He hummed. "Is he a good boyfriend?"

"If you like science and you're old enough, yes. You're not old enough."

"Huh. Well, maybe some day then." She skipped off. "I'll introduce you to my favorite bunny."

"Sure," Rodney said, looking at Xander, who shrugged but smiled. "She's adorable," he told Xander. "I haven't seen too many girls that would flirt with me that way." She ran back in with two bunnies, handing one to one of the others so they could sit and pet her while talking to Natasha. She was a big girl who could do slayer things and that was great to them. She was like a step-sister in a way.

Xander grinned, watching his girls flirt and get to know real people. It was great when the girls knew what they wanted, even if they were too young to get it.

The End.
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