We All Need A Bit of Help Sometimes.
The younger man walked into the bar he had been summoned to, spotting his target at the bar easily enough. He was drunk enough to be loose but still very uptight. "Hey," he said, sitting beside him, putting a hand on his knee. "You rang?"
"I did. I...." He gulped the rest of his beer. "I probably shouldn't be alone tonight."
"I get that."
"He your boyfriend?" the bartender asked.
"No, I'm his therapist," Xander said with a smile. "He knows I'll come pick him up and put him up for the night." The bartender handed over the keys he had confiscated. "Thanks. C'mon, Clint, let's go back to my place."
"Natasha's going to be mad."
"Nah, she knows you crash at my place sometimes. I won't even let you drunk call her this time." Clint winced. Xander grinned. "C'mon." He hauled him up and out to Clint's car. Xander had cabbed because he knew Clint would've driven. It wasn't the first time he'd answered this call. Clint got in the passenger's side, shifting to lean against the doorway. Xander got in to drive, checking the car over before starting the engine and pulling out of the parking spot. "Wanna tell me what happened?"
"Yeah, I guess I should," Clint sighed. He pouted. "He came back from the dead. But you knew that."
"I did see Phil, yes." He glanced at him at a stoplight. "I hinted."
"I realize that now. That whole 'coming back from the dead isn't a great thing' story."
"Um-huh." He got them to his house, parking and getting out. Clint got out to follow him inside. "C'mon, I'll even cuddle tonight. I won't let you drunk call Natasha or anyone. I won't even demand favors," he teased with a grin. Clint hugged him. "I understand. I really do." He led him upstairs to the bedroom, letting Clint strip down while Xander got down to his boxers so they could nap. Clint needed tactile expressions of peace. He had never been touched by someone who just wanted to hug him. It was sad, but that was another thing Xander understood all too well. So he cuddled Clint. That way he'd sleep without nightmares for a change. They could talk in the morning.
Of course, morning came much earlier than expected and in a noisy manner that probably would've made the neighbors complain. It came with the security alarm warning him people were coming up the front stairs. He put on a robe and headed down to answer the door before someone pounded on it for too long. He nodded at two of them. "Let him sleep, Natasha. He's had a crappy night. I had to pick him up from the bar."
She grimaced. "I've seen that. We can talk later."
"Thank you. Steve, go ahead up to your painting spot if you want." He grinned as he headed up the stairs. "Let Clint sleep. He needs it." He tightened his robe's belt, staring at the other guy. "Mr. Stark, why are you here?"
"You have possession of our archer."
Xander grinned. "Yes, he needed a hug. I'm his therapist." Stark gaped. Xander grinned. "We've had some comparing stories that've made him freak out at times."
"You're not one of us."
"No, I wasn't. I was doing other insane stuff to save the world." He pointed at the pictures around the hallway. "This is my directory of nightmares. I'm sure you recognize at least one's point of origin." Stark looked, staring at one that had the guy with a battle axe staring at a huge demon's head. "Hmm, that one. Not all that fun." He walked off. "I'm starting some coffee. Want some?"
"You...they all left," he said, following him.
Xander turned and held up a hand. "Two of us weren't in the house and they only took the *girls* who were out of the house. Giles had called a Council-wide meeting. We, me and Andrew Wells, were outside the house handling something bigger so we were running late when Willow cast the spell so humanity wouldn't be bothered with any more demon problems. He's presently working with a group that helps peaceful demons have rights. I'm being a therapist because I've seen worse than this." He shrugged but grinned.
"I've seen stuff that would make your last battle look like a playground date. Actually, I saw that last battle with the robot guy. I'm the one that had to reset the bomb at the last minute. He really needed to clean that nasty metal ass of his." Stark made whimpering noises. "The one who built it is Andrew. He went to law school. I went to school to be a counselor for guys just like we are. Not like normal therapists will handle hearing about battle nightmares." He went back to walking toward the kitchen. "Was that a yes on coffee?"
"Please," he said, following him. "Then how did you meet Hawkeye?"
Xander looked at him. "I've seen many agents over the last few years. For many reasons. He got referred to me after he got possessed. Which I've had happen so I could help him work up protections against it happening again plus help him rationally look at what happened." He started the coffee maker, pulling down a few cups. He looked up. "I told her to leave him alone. He's going to wake up upset." He poured a glass of water from the fridge and grabbed the first cup of coffee then walked off. "I'll be back in a minute." He carried them upstairs, handing Natasha the water before kicking her out of his bedroom. "You'll upset him. Stop it. Friends don't do that shit to each other unless your name is Buffy." He slammed the door in her face, which woke Clint up. "Natasha's here."
"You called her?" he moaned, not opening his eyes.
"Stark brought her and Steve." He handed over the coffee, getting a grin for it. "Stark's a bit confused. Steve's up in his painting corner. I just kicked Natasha out before she broke out markers or something else Buffy-like." Clint sat up with a moan, taking a sip of the coffee. "You can stay here for the day if you want," he reminded him quietly. "Sometimes it helps just having someone around you." He nodded, not looking up. "Of course, we could talk like normal therapist and client." He sat on the foot of the bed. "Up to you."
"Why am I naked?"
"You got naked and slept all night, since about two," Xander said with a grin. "It's a great, comfy way to get cuddles."
"Yeah, I guess it would be." He found his boxers to put on then settled on the bed again with the coffee. "I don't know. It just.... It caught up with me last night."
"You mentioned Phil in the car."
Clint nodded, looking up at him. "I spotted him at something." He sipped the coffee, grimacing. "Weak."
"Sorry, bottom of the container."
"It's fine. It's caffeine." He slumped, staring at him. "Did you know?"
"Yup. That's why I told you that story about friends who suddenly show up again after being dead."
"I figured that out."
"I couldn't break that confidentiality."
"I know. At least you hinted. It wasn't out of the blue and a horrible shock that would've gotten me dead in the field."
"Were you injured?"
"Stunned stupid for a few minutes but something fired on us so I snapped out to battle mode." Xander nodded, leaning over to pat his hands. Clint gripped his, staring at him. "It's one fucked up mess sometimes."
"It is," Xander agreed with a smile. "Then again, that's most everyone's life at times."
"True. Was he dead?" Xander nodded. "How did he come back? Magic?"
"No. It was techno-bullshit level of tech. Did you tell the others?"
"I thought they might've seen him."
"You can make sure later." Clint nodded, finishing the coffee. "What else was bothering you?"
"I saw Bobbi. She was working for him."
"Hmm. Bobbi's still a sore spot in your life." Clint nodded. "Now she's your handler's pet?" Clint grimaced but nodded. "Are you jealous of her or of him?"
"I don't know," Clint admitted. "Things weren't always great with Bobbi but she used to be mine, ya know."
"Kinda. The last time I was serious about someone I gave her up for her own good and then she died about a year and a half later, but we got back to being friends."
Clint blinked at him. "That far back?" Xander nodded. "I can't say anything, it's been that long since I dated."
"I think you have a romantic partner there but you two don't do dating the same way anyone else does, Clint. Or else she wouldn't worry about you." Clint stared at him. "Don't you love her?"
"More than anything. She's like my family."
"Is it romantic or otherwise?"
He snorted. "That might depend on the day with her."
Xander grinned. "Sometimes it does, yeah. There's plenty of days I was done with dealing with Anya so I walked off. It let her bother other people in the group."
"What would you do if one of them showed back up?"
"Willow was in scary goddess mode. She was going to sacrifice myself and Andrew to finish taking off the links to this realm. I about killed her but he banished her so I wouldn't have to take out another friend who had turned."
"Damn. That sucks."
"Yup. Wasn't totally planned but he was my first staking," he said quietly, staring at his client. "So yeah, I understand. It's a horrible thing when it's a friend that's the bad thing. But hey, Phil probably isn't the bad thing. He might be a bit cranked. After all, he's been stuck on a plane with some people that are a bit...my sort of date." Clint grimaced, shaking his head. "That one's a spunky little angry spitfire."
"Hold on," Clint said, sitting up straight. "Oriental?"
"Yeah, her." He grinned. "Saw you two in a picture in your wallet once."
"I'll be fucking damned," he said. "NATASHA!" She opened the door a second later. "Did you know Coulson's alive?"
She sipped the water, staring at him. "Are you still drunk?" Xander shook his head. "We are certain?"
"Yeah, he's been stuck on a plane with some spunky little people, and a hacker that reminds me of an angry Willow without magic," Xander said. "I could not tell him directly because hey, client confidentiality."
"The nice Asian lady in that picture has been with him," Clint said dryly.
"Melinda," she purred coldly. "Oh, dear." She sipped the rest of the water as she walked off. "Why have they been together on a plane?" she called.
"Because he's now in charge," Xander called.
"I saw him with Bobbi, Nat," Clint called after her. She came back to stare at him. He nodded. She stared at Xander, who nodded quickly. "He's in charge?" Clint demanded, realizing what Xander had said. Xander nodded. "Oh, fuck no! He could be compromised by however they brought him back or whatever!" He hopped up. "We have to find him and test him."
She nodded. "Yes, we shall. Thank you, Xander." He shrugged but smiled. "And for helping Steven find some steadiness in this time period." She walked off again to talk to Steve. She tapped before walking into the small attic space he had fussed up to be his art area. "Clint went drinking because he saw Agent Coulson alive."
He carefully put down his mixing brush and looked at her. "Excuse me?"
She nodded. "Xander verified it."
"I do not know but I know how to find him to ask. I know two agents who have been around him."
"Let's go chat, shall we? Xander knew?"
"Interesting." He went up to the bedroom area, somewhere he didn't usually go. "Xander? Clint?" he called as he walked. Xander opened the door pulling on a shirt. "He's alive?"
"I saw him, Cap," Clint said. "That's one reason why I went drinking last night."
Steve nodded. "That's a great reason. Especially with all that on the helicarrier." He looked at Xander, who shrugged slightly. "Any idea where?"
"I see one as a client. Sorry."
"Is it Coulson?" Clint asked.
"No." He smiled. "Nice guess though."
"I.... Yeah, we can go looking for him." He walked off with Clint following him. "Stark?" He looked over from staring at the pictures on the walls. Steve stared at one. "What is that?"
Clint looked then shrugged. "Xander said not to ask, it'd give him horrible nightmares that would make him get drunk to have nice, screaming nightmares instead of worse ones."
"Don't remind me," Xander said as he walked behind them. "I don't need those memories today."
Stark spun to stare at him. "Was that a battle?"
"Yes. In Sierra Leon." He stared at him. "It was so screwed up it wasn't funny. Thank you for reminding me." He went into the kitchen. "I'm probably making more coffee. Anyone need a refill?"
Stark was looking up battles in Sierra Leon, shaking his head. "Stark, they covered it up," Clint said quietly. "Just...stop." Stark put his phone away but rolled his eyes. "Thanks." He took his usual cup of coffee, smiling at Xander. "Thanks."
"Welcome. This is what I do. You're not nearly as hard as many of my patients." He gave him a hug. "Do you need the basement or attic to talk to him in?"
"Don't know," he admitted. "We'll see." He sipped his coffee. "The good stuff. Thanks, Xander. Guys?"
"I want to find this reanimated one," Stark said. "Since I heard you talking about it. Just to make sure of him." The others nodded and left. He looked at Harris. "Are you a doctor?"
"No," he snorted, waving a hand. "I didn't want that extra paperwork. I have a masters in Counseling." He grinned. "I only handle people who have problems that I understand a lot. Agents, officers, those sort that have problems from the stress of the job." He smiled. "Though I do have a partially open schedule if you need to talk about stuff."
"No, thanks. I have Pepper for that." He followed the others.
Xander shut the door, going back to the kitchen to make himself some breakfast. Clint and the others would be back later. Clint would need to rant and scream about not knowing his former handler was alive.
Bobbi Morse looked up and around at the noise she had heard. The warehouse was echoing, she had flinched at bird noise earlier. There, she heard it again. Not quite a footstep but maybe a stumble? She looked up at the rafters, frowning when she didn't see anyone. Then she was suddenly woozy, falling down but someone nice caught her before she hit the concrete. She caught a glimpse of red hair. She knew now. Poor people between them. Yup, there were familiar boots walking past her. She moaned. The man in the boots leaned down to kiss her on the temple then walked off. Oh, hell.
Director Phil Coulson looked up at a noise then flinched when he saw who was standing in the doorway. "Natasha." He was carefully moving toward a weapon but trying not to make it obvious. Not that it'd do him much good.
"Um, director," someone female said from the side.
"Shut up," Clint ordered. "Just...shut up." He stared at her. "Really, Skye. Just...stop."
"Leave her alone, Clint," Coulson ordered, standing up. "Your thing is between us."
"Actually it's between us and my therapist since I thought being possessed by Loki had gotten you dead," he said bluntly. "Someone could have told me that you weren't. I'll be talking with the other source later."
"We just ran into her recently. Bobbi is not to blame."
"She still could've told me." He stared at him. "Do you want to come talk to us quietly or not, Coulson?"
"I'll come chat with the team, yes. Skye, sit," he ordered.
"Hell no!" She stood up, pulling up her new powers.
"Sit down, Mini Willow," Xander said as he walked in. He shot something at her, making her shriek as it went off. "No using your powers that way! That's not on the Light's side." He stared at her. "I'd know since I stopped the last one." She whimpered, backing away from him. "What is it with hackers and powers and believing they're always right?" He looked at Clint. "You set off someone's health sensors." He looked at Coulson then shrugged. He walked off sighing. "He'll never understand the harm he caused, Clint. He's like Fury."
Clint nodded. "Could be." He stared at him. "Come on. Now please." Phil followed. "Any other dogs we should worry about?"
"Melinda's in the field."
"No, she's in the van," Natasha corrected. "Pity she's unconscious." They stopped to pick up Bobbi, Clint carrying her out to the van. Xander took her from him to tuck into the back comfortably. Then he walked off smiling. "Thank you," Natasha called.
"Not a problem. I like my clients. Even her. That's why I have the sensor for her."
Phil stared then at Clint. "Where have I seen his picture?"
"He's one of the survivors of the Council."
"Oh, that's him." He stared then at Clint. "He's your therapist?"
"Yup." He grinned. "He's really good." He pointed. Coulson climbed in. Natasha climbed in to drive, Clint got in to guard them.
They got back to the tower and Steve opened the door. "Guys." He stared in the back then at Clint. "Who're they?"
"The blonde is my ex-wife," Clint said with a grin. "I was gentle with her, so was Natasha."
"I respect Bobbi," she said. "The other we have an...issue with." They walked inside, Clint carrying Bobbi, Natasha and Steve walking Coulson to the lab floor. Clint laid Bobbi on a couch then went down to the labs.
"Must we really scan me?" Coulson asked.
"Yup. It picks up Loki taint and other issues," Stark said as the scanning stopped. "Hmm. Alien DNA?"
"It's part of what saved me," he admitted. "After many weeks of doing things." He sighed. "I did not want him to do what he did to me," he told his former agents. They stared at him. "I begged him to let me go a few times. He wiped my memories."
"Sounds like him," Stark said dryly, staring at him. "Anything else to declare before I let them beat the living shit out of you for not telling them you're alive?"
"I thought they would have heard or found out. Especially with the destruction of the original SHIELD."
Natasha shook her head. "We have been busy with HYDRA."
"So have we," Coulson said mildly. "Melinda's going to be mad when she wakes up."
Clint shrugged. "That gives me an excuse to kill her."
Natasha nodded. "Or be more mean to her if we choose." She sat down, crossing her legs. She looked imperial doing it and Coulson almost shivered at the ice she was putting out. "So, tell us what has been going on, *Director* Coulson."
"You're going to make me suffer, Natasha. We both know that."
She smirked. "Not at this moment. What I hear will set my limits of anger. My disappointment will never get any higher."
He sighed, pulling over a stool to sit down. "It's a long story. Clint, sit down?"
"Sure," he agreed. "I wouldn't trust me either." He looked at them then at his idol, who was giving him that Captain Bitch Face look that he gave to dirty agents. Stark was looking pissed off. He saw Pepper up the hall pause then stomp his way, wincing a tiny bit. She stomped in. "They brought me back."
"Why didn't you tell me?" she demanded. "Or them?"
"I couldn't. It was rated above their clearances. I expected them to hear the gossip and find out that way. Then show up to beat me to death," he admitted. He sighed, glancing at his two touchy agents. "I was going to approach you both to rejoin under me," he said quietly. Behind Clint something glass broke. "Clint, don't...." He stood up and walked over to pull him away from the table, sitting him on the stool. "Sit. Just...calm down. It took weeks. I thought you would've heard somehow."
"I didn't," he growled.
"I can see that. I'm sorry for that. I never meant to upset you."
Clint hopped up, staring at him. "I thought I had gotten you killed. That's not going to not upset me."
"He used experimental things on me that were close to torture. I wasn't fully right until about a month ago, Clint. Melinda was to watch me for aberrant behavior." Clint glared. "I thought you two knew."
"Fury kept secrets. It's not like it's a huge shock," Stark said. "Really, I'm not shocked. I wouldn't have been shocked if you had been a clone." Coulson shook his head quickly.
"The cloning program fell to many defeated messes," Natasha admitted. She leaned back, staring at him. "That does not explain why you did not tell us."
"I wasn't allowed."
"And yet, we would have informed you," she said simply. He slumped, leaning against a table. "I do not believe I could hire on with a group I could not trust to keep such things from me. I had my doubts about SHIELD over the years, but this goes well beyond that."
Clint nodded. "Me too. This isn't right, it's not going to be right. I can't trust people who do this."
Coulson winced. "That is not what I meant to happen." He looked at Natasha, then at Clint. "I'm the same handler I was before. I'm stumbling with the directorship." Someone burst in through the door. "No, Melinda." Before he finished, she fell to Pepper hitting her with something. Coulson blinked at her. "Miss Potts?"
She smirked. "Not like I'd tell someone like Nick Fury." She looked at the singed woman. "Should I have her tied up?"
"Dum-E, Butterfingers, tie up the agent lady," Stark ordered. The robots came over to tie her up for their master. "Use the glue stuff." Dum-E got that spray canister and used it all over the downed body. She was thoroughly covered with goo and ropes.
Coulson shook his head, staring at Stark. "She wasn't going to hurt anyone."
Clint snorted. "Yeah, right. We would've taken out the whole room to rescue you."
"Point," he agreed. "Though she doesn't have the temper you do. All this mess has tempered it."
"Yay," Natasha said dryly. Coulson flinched. She arched an eyebrow up then calmed herself down again. "So, tell us how things have been."
He nodded, going over what his team had been doing. When Bobbi wandered in, Natasha pulled out a seat for her and she flopped down to watch this going on. She'd guard him but she wasn't going to take on her ex-husband for him. When Melinda woke up she groaned but couldn't move. The robots had done a good job.
Clint showed up that night at Xander's, nodding at the other client there. "Hey."
"Clint, go start some coffee," Xander said quietly. He nodded, heading for the kitchen. "He's had a bad week."
"I've had those myself. Thank you, Xander."
"You're welcome." He gave him a brief hug and let him out the door. He went into the bathroom to wash his hands then to the kitchen. Clint was making sandwiches as well. Xander hugged him from behind. "Are you okay?" he asked.
"No," he admitted. "I'm not." He looked back at him. "Do you see my ex?"
"I can't talk about other clients."
"Sorry, I know that." He turned, letting Xander cuddle him all he needed. "Did the last guy have sex?"
"Whatever I do with him works for him the same as you work better when you're cuddled." He looked up. "We each have our quirks that help us. Though I don't have sex with my clients. It's against the rules."
"Good point." He gave him a squeeze then turned back around to making sandwiches, handing Xander one. "You probably haven't eaten all day."
"No, not really." They went to the sitting/office area to eat while watching some tv. Clint relaxed next to him, then finally felt like he could spew. "He didn't tell me because he thought I'd hear." He ate a bite of the sandwich he had been staring at.
Xander nodded. "Was he trying to protect you?"
"No. He just thought we'd hear." He ate another bite.
Xander patted him on the arm. "Did it hurt him to see you?"
"Maybe," he admitted. "Natasha's turned back into ice."
"If she needs to come talk, she can do that too. You know I can handle it, even if she can only talk while sparring I can handle it."
"I know. I'll let her know." He leaned on Xander's shoulder, getting comfort. "You cuddle nicely."
"Thank you. It took me time to learn." Clint glanced at him. Xander shrugged. "Not like my family would cuddle. It'd take them away from their beer."
"I know that feeling." Xander smiled. "Seriously?"
"Yeah. They didn't even realize when I started to hunt vampires. Willow did an okay job raising me since they were like zombies who craved liquor instead of brains."
"Eww. I definitely know that feeling." Xander kissed him on the head, making Clint grin. "Bobbi used to do that."
"It's a good thing. I did it to my slayers a lot."
"Do you miss them?"
"Some of them. Some of them...not at all." Clint laughed. "I had good working relationships with a few of the girls. Including a few that started out being snotty bitches until I saved their asses during a battle while nearly dying. That straightened them up real fast. Some of the others still had snotty attitudes about me being a guy who did the same thing they did."
"Huh." Clint nodded. "I can understand that. That'd be like Cap looking down on me for being a normal guy with training."
"A few of mine didn't even want to admit I had training, Clint. They weren't into that."
"It's okay. We all have coworkers like that."
"Point." He shifted to get comfortable. "Is Bobbi okay?"
"Sorry." Xander grinned and yanked on Clint's hair gently. Clint grinned back, going back to the tv and the sandwich. He did need to eat. He slowly relaxed, thinking about Phil Coulson. The Phil that used to handle him in the field. The one he had trusted to watch his back. The guy who had recruited him and taught him to be an agent. Now, all that was gone. The one who had taught Natasha how to trust him, that was all gone. Clint wasn't sure if he was more mad for himself or her. "Is it strange that I'm mad on Nat's behalf?"
"No. You were part of the saga of getting her used to more normal things," Xander said quietly. "That's not weird. You're mad on her behalf as much as you are on yours because you know she can't be mad like that. She can't purge it or let it go in any manner." Clint nodded that was true. "It's okay to grieve for her innocence she worked so hard to get back going away again."
"I hadn't thought about it being innocence."
"Only innocents trust, Clint. People who're very jaded can't trust. It takes some remaining innocence to trust anyone."
"It would," he said after thinking for a second. "I couldn't before Phil recruited me. I didn't know how either."
"Yeah," Xander agreed. "I still don't in many ways." Clint looked up at him. Xander shrugged. "You got to heal, and it's wrong that he ripped that from you. It's wrong on a lot of levels. If you weren't mad, I'd be doing a depression check."
Clint grinned. "Thanks."
"Welcome." He petted him a few more times then let Clint relax. He'd talk when he wanted to. When someone else showed up for help, Xander moved them down the couch to give her his other side. Bobbi sank down next to him, hugging him. Xander used his free hand to pet over her hair. Clint reached over to hold her hand on Xander's lap. She gave his hand a squeeze so it was okay.
"I asked if he saw you," Clint said quietly. "I was hoping you had someone great to complain to about stuff like us."
She gave his hand a squeeze. "I only see him now and then. Not constantly." She looked at him. "You come because of the possession?" He nodded. She smiled. "It's good you have someone to talk to. I expected you to show up on my couch to talk."
"I would've but you were somewhere else," he admitted. Xander gave them both a cuddle. "He's really good at this."
"I can tell. Usually I need to spar." Xander grinned at her. "It's good you get to cuddle though." Clint smirked at her. She grinned back. "Rest. It's going to be a long day making Natasha calm down."
Clint shook his head. "He broke her trust."
She winced. "Damn."
Across town, Steve walked into a sparring gym, picking up a staff weapon to face off against Natasha. She had already broken two practice forms. She stared at him. He waved a hand. She nodded, attacking him. He could handle her. She was still in that cold, clinical place with her fighting. "You know how many problems I had when I first woke up," he said quietly, blocking her blow and attacking back. She nodded once. "What Xander did is showed me that it's not all that much different. I kept saying that everything was so different, so wrong.
"He pointed me at my painting window, we were up there straightening out the attic's former weapons storage area. He told me to name three things that are different than they were when I was younger. Before the war." She frowned slightly, cocking her head some. "His whole street of old brownstones was real familiar. So were the trees. I got to see that underneath all the new things were the same things. The people were the same, just a bit more busy with stuff that took their attention.
"Trees were still trees. Houses were still houses, even if they were painted in ugly colors I hated to stare at or had features that I didn't really understand the need for." She smiled slightly. "I decided I wanted to draw again. He handed me a regular pencil and some copier paper. Told me if I needed something more artsy formal as he put it, to bring it next time." He smiled. "It helped a lot. I know he works with each of his clients in different ways. A few he cuddles. One he punishes because that's what he wants and thinks he needs. He spars with a few of us.
"One showed up after a really bad mission so he went down to spar with them while I painted upstairs. It was nasty sounding. I heard the poor lady scream at one hit but she cried and he comforted her, then got her talking in the kitchen. I accidentally intruded on my way to the bathroom but ran back upstairs. She came up to tell me it was okay." Natasha backed off to stare at him. "People are people underneath it all, Natasha. You're you, no matter that he broke your working relationship. You can talk to us, or you can go to someone like Xander. He's kinda unique in how he sees things."
"What did he do before being a counselor?" she asked, leaning on her staff. "I've only really met him through Clint when he needed something."
"You heard about those Council people?" She grimaced but nodded. "He hunted with one of them, then he ended up training a bunch of the girls after the mass calling. He's been in battles that even he can't talk about. He's seen such horrible things that he can only drink it away. He turned all that experience into being a counselor for those of us who see the same things, even if it's not against demons."
"I can talk to him tomorrow."
He smiled. "I just want you to be okay. I know he's got a good gym in there to beat things up on. He's used to faster, stronger, mouthy women. Not that I think you're mouthy," he said with a grin. "Most of the time."
"Perhaps not in public," she said dryly. She pulled up her staff. He did the same, them getting back into the sparring practice. It was helping. "Do you show your pictures?"
"Sometimes. They're not all good. Some are just blobs that I was getting stuff out of my head with." She nodded. "Some are kinda pretty. I've painted a few of them. They're in my suite if you wanted to come look. He took me to the park and made me draw there once. Those came out prettier." She smiled but nodded. "Even if it's not him, you can talk to me or Bruce or any of us."
"I know. I did not want to inflict this on anyone else's problems."
"We all have things going on in our pointy heads as Xander told me." He grinned, ducking a blow at his head and trying to trip her with his own staff. "Even if it's so different it won't hurt us to talk about stuff. My friend in DC, Sam, he does that for the VA if you want his number instead."
"I have it," she reminded him. He grinned. "I will consider it."
"That's all I'm asking, or you can come rant at me if you want."
"I may do that as well some day." He nodded. She attacked again so he defended, letting her work it out in her own way.
Xander opened up the door, holding a finger to his lips. "Clint's asleep on the couch in the office," he said quietly, pointing toward it. "Come to the back gym with me. It's soundproofed." She nodded, going with him. He tossed her some boxing gloves and put on some hand boxing pads to catch blows. He waved her on with one. "Let's talk."
"How did you know I came for that?" she asked, watching his stance. "I would knock you over."
He grinned. "Natasha, I'm very good at what I used to do, which is training the slayers. There's nothing you can do that I haven't seen one doing, helped correct, and taught her better. I'm used to multiple times stronger young women trying to take out pouty moods on me because I broke up their dates with the guys who wanted to eat them."
She snorted. "I read up on the slayers last night." She moved closer to punch at the pads. He swatted her with one when she was pretending to be weak so she let herself actually work against him. He could handle her, which was good. She only managed to bruise him once with a blow to his upper arm with her foot while he was deflected her punch. He only grinned and kicked back, making her dance out of the way. It was good. She was sweaty by the end of the sparring session. She was slightly out of breath. He dropped the pads, going to the small fridge in the corner to get them both some chilled water.
"Usually I ask if you want to talk," he said, staring at her. "But you're more fascinating than a slayer or a regular agent. You're a woman who uses others but doesn't let them use her back. You're a strong woman, who really could use a day of softness now and then." She stared at him. He grinned. "So tell me something that I haven't read out of your files or your body language."
"I used to dance."
Xander smiled. "That explains the grace when you kick. Ballet or something else?"
He nodded. "It did you good. It's an unexpected method that added into your fight training. The same as Buffy used a lot of cheerleading moves that freaked out vampires repeatedly. Especially since she was usually in a skirt and go-go boots."
He walked her to the tv room/office, turning on a battle he had on file as an example. "That's Buffy. The dyed blonde bitchy one in front." He grinned at her. "You can see how the cheerleading helped her style."
She stared. "I would not be in that outfit. I've had to fight in skirts but not that kind. Usually I also had on tights."
Xander grinned. "She dated two different vampires too."
"She was seriously weird," Clint said. "Who's the brunette?" Xander pointed. He shook his head. "The other one."
Xander looked then at him. "That's Kennedy, Willow's former girlfriend. It took me saving her ass and nearly dying doing it for her to respect me." He grinned. "She was born a princess. Her daddy talked the old Council into letting him have her trained privately so the family money wasn't wasted." Clint rolled his eyes and shook his head. Bobbi just snorted.
Natasha watched. "Were the ones in the back trained by you?"
He pointed at them. "I trained these. They got called up for that battle. Those two I only had six months with. The slayer spirit gave them a download of fighting styles and weapons they had to learn how to use."
Natasha shook her head. "Wow."
"Basically. The slayer spirit held a kernel of each and every slayer that came before them. Including Buffy, who used to think I was normal."
"Not likely," Bobbi said dryly. She got up with a stretch. "Let me make coffee." Clint grinned at her. "I know you're a caffeine whore, Clint." She strolled off.
Xander let Natasha have the remote. "That whole folder has slayer apocalypse battles. Including a few that their countries wanted to have covered up. Watch what you want. Come find me when you want to talk." He walked off.
Natasha got into another one, staring at it. It was Buffy and two other girls fighting a larger demon with horns. "She really did wear go-go boots."
Clint laughed. "Yeah, she did. He has a few pictures of them in those sort of outfits. She could've used someone like you to mentor her."
"Yes, she could have," Natasha agreed. "Or even Bobbi. She can dress nicely when she feels like it."
"Thanks," she called from the kitchen. "Who is it?" she yelled, heading for the front door. "Xander, did you order in the guy with the guns?" she called.
Xander came out to look at him. "Hi, Paul." He kissed him, frisking him at the same time. "Thanks, I needed a new toy." He grinned. "Did you need to talk too?"
The guy stared at him. "There's a demon problem."
"No there's not. That's why Willow did the spell."
"There's one that showed up."
"The spell means that he'll be sucked there."
"It's been two days and he's laughing he won't be."
"Well, shit. Let me change clothes." He walked off with the weapons, taking some coffee with him to change clothes. He came down the stairs fixing the magical bag full of weapons as he walked. He grabbed his jacket. "Guys, I'll be back later. Watch the house if you're staying. Don't eat all my donuts or replace them please. I know they're a day old." He walked out with Paul, being whisked away to the demon problem.
Stark watched the news that night. "I thought they were all gone."
"He has a protection," Steve said, watching Xander cancel it out. Then he blew up the demon with artillery. "Wow. I didn't know he still had those."
"Still?" Stark asked, turning to stare at him. "Still?"
"According to his file, he used to get the girls things for battles." He bit his lip then nodded. "Wow. Hold on. Can we zoom in?" Stark nodded, putting it in replay mode to do that. "Lower left quadrant, about two squares up." Stark zipped in. "Right about three people." He stared. "Bucky." He stood up, getting closer. "It's him. He was there. That's in DC?"
"Yeah, it was in DC," Stark said quietly. "Call Xander. Maybe he spotted him?"
Steve called. "Xander, Bucky was there!" He listened. "He is? Oh, thank you, God.... He still doesn't have all his memories? Damn it!" He paced while he listened. "Please? Thank you, Xander. Yeah, I can do that. Thanks." He hung up. "Bucky asked him something so he picked him up." He took a deep breath, like Stark was prompting him to do. "Xander has him, he's bringing him back up here to help him. Sam's with him." He took another deep breath. "He'll be okay with Xander. Xander can help him."
"Good. Sit down, Capsicle," he said, helping him into a chair. "Clint's there at his house. Warn him?" Steve called to tell him that. Stark got Steve a drink to calm down with. This was going to be an emotional wrench. The others could cushion Steve while this was going on.
Steve walked into Xander's house the next morning, heading upstairs. Xander looked up from helping Bucky's hair get brushed. "Xander?"
"He's okay, Steve, but he insisted on the handcuffs. He thinks he's dangerous." Xander rolled his eyes. "The demon last night was more dangerous and he was a pussy but James doesn't understand that yet."
Steve nodded. "Demons can be very dangerous but I'm sure Bucky isn't always dangerous when he doesn't want to be."
"James," Bucky ordered quietly. "I'm not him, Steve."
"Okay, James," he agreed, kneeling next to the bed. "I'm not the same Steve I used to be. The war and all that changed me. All that you went through changed you. Sam helped me figure that out." He gave him a tentative hug, getting one back. "Xander's great. He helped me when I felt like everything was wrong and stupid. I'll help wherever you want me to." He stared at him. "Okay?" James nodded. "Okay. I'm going to check on Clint so I'm not turning into a crying girl." He got up and walked off, blowing his nose once he was downstairs.
Xander smiled at him. "See? I told you so." He finished up with the hair. "Want me to pull it back for you?"
"Please." He let Xander pull his hair back. He sighed, looking at his hands. "I could still snap back and hurt you or someone else."
Xander nodded, taking him down to the tv room. He got into a file the trio of agents hadn't, letting him see that file. "That was my favorite weapon ever," he said, staring at James. "It was my baby. The one I liked above all else. It took it dying during this battle to make me realize I was going to end up the same way." Bucky sat down, watching Xander and two younger slayers fight with swords against something that looked like a giant, jiggly column of jell-o that blew acid from some sort of orifice. "It's going to be eewy soon," he apologized, walking off. He still hated watching his baby die that way.
Bucky stared then slumped. "He's kind of insane," he decided.
"Like the rest of us, he did what he had to do," Sam said, sitting next to him. "We all do what we gotta do, James. Even you. Now you get to decide it for yourself."
"Thank you," he said, not looking at him.
"Not a problem. Xander's got a touch with tough guys who've had problems like bad missions and things." He patted him on the arm, getting stared at. "You're more damaged than most but you can heal. If all the others around here can heal, you can."
"I still don't remember all I need to heal from."
"We can work on that too, plus teach you how to deal with it when they pop up suddenly. There's ways of dealing with things so they don't overwhelm you when they pop up."
Xander came back in, handing them both coffee. He stared at Bucky. "There's also meditations that can help you open up memories that have been repressed. There's ways to help you guard your mind so that even if they come back, you can hide things until you choose to pull them up." He grinned. "There's also ones to keep you from turning into a mindless zombie even if someone's using mind control spells on you. I use all of them myself." James nodded once, taking his coffee to carefully sip.
Xander leaned down to stare at him. "Do you really think I'd drug you or poison you?" he asked dryly. "I don't want to see the Captain America bitch face again. I'm pretty sure doing that to you would get it given to me forever and ever." James burst out laughing. "Relax. I'm not the mean Xander today. You're not a danger to humanity as a whole. You're not an evil demon with ideas or plans. So just...let it go to quote the movie." He walked off again.
James relaxed, sighing as he watched the battle be replayed. "How do I turn that off?" Sam did it for him. "Thank you. That was weird."
"Very," Sam agreed. "He's just like that. Then he got abandoned when she did that spell. He's made himself into a great guy, but a bit weird in some of his methods." James looked at him. "It's said that some of his clients only talk when they're sparring or cuddling."
"To each their own," Xander said as he walked past the doorway. "Some guys aren't helped by just talking or can't talk. It's the macho bullshit we feed ourselves." He leaned in. "You can't get a guy like me to *talk*. We're not like that."
"I've been in plenty of battles," Sam said, glaring at him.
Xander leaned down to look at him. "I doubt you get much out of talking either." He stood back up. "Beyond that, I'm not that sort of boy and battles like I'm in are a lot different, Sam."
"It's the same thing, only I used guns."
Xander snorted. "Dude, there's a huge difference in shooting a target a few hundred feet away and stabbing someone in the heart. Especially with a sword or a stake. I can show you the last few vampires on this plane if you want to test that."
"No thank you," Sam said dryly. "It's still the same war."
"Sam, dear, guys like me aren't in a *war*. Most of the guys I see aren't in *wars*. They're on missions, they're in battles, sometimes for their lives. They're not in a long term, you're backed up by the military war. There's been a few battles where I saved whole countries with less than ten people. Got injured a lot doing it, but we had to do it. If you guys in a war lose a battle, it's bad. It could be critical. If I lost a battle, the world would've went to hell in a flaming pile of demon goo. With most of humanity being food, or possibly slaves. Bit of a difference. Okay?" he asked with a grin. "Missions are a lot like that when you're guys like Clint or Steve."
James nodded. "They could've been but we were in a war then."
"Now, he's going on missions like the other agents," Xander said, smiling at him. "Doing just as stupid of shit. Speaking of, I have got to go yell at him for jumping out of a plane without a parachute." He looked up as somewhere upstairs a door shut. "That won't save you," he called. "You bragged once that your mom had a lot of common sense. I don't know when you lost it." He went to find Steve to talk to him about that incident.
James gaped then pointed. "Steve did what?" he demanded.
"It was a drop into water."
"Yay! He used to have sense!"
Sam smiled. "I'm pretty sure it dissolved in the ice."
"Not really. He used to do that now and then," James sighed. He relaxed again. "Xander's kind of weird."
"He's kinda uptight," Clint said as he walked past the doorway. "We're going out for pizza. Want us to bring you two back some?"
"No thanks," Sam said. "James?"
"I'm good," he said quietly. He watched the trio walk past the doorway. "I know the redhead."
She came back to the doorway, staring at him. "You may," she said. "But I don't remember exactly how. We will both figure that out. Beyond the time that you shot me."
He nodded. "I remember that one." She arched an eyebrow up. "I needed that one. You were in the way."
She smiled. "Yes, I was. That was my job." She walked off. Clint grinned at her. "I feel like I should trust that one."
"James had that gift a lot with the dames," Steve said. "Real often in the old days before the Army."
They paused when someone stopped in the middle of the sidewalk staring at them. "It's fine, Skye," Clint said dryly. "We've been helping Xander with someone who just came to talk to him."
"Who did he compare me to?" she demanded.
"Rosenburg," Natasha said. "We can look up her dossier for you. I believe he's worried about your lack of attention to your skills." Skye huffed but followed them so Natasha could educate her. Bobbi was still back at the brownstone guarding Xander. Skye read over Willow's file, getting a bit sniffly toward the middle. The spies ignored it. Steve patted her on the arm. He was like that with crying girls.
James watched the goings on with some amusement. Sam was creeped out by Xander. Xander was amused at Sam. James was amused with all of them. Steve was not hovering. He was popping in at random intervals to go paint upstairs. Without seeming to come check on him. Xander was amused at that too. The cute blonde agent was sparring with Xander now and then to have some time to talk to him alone. James agreed with that method, even if he didn't really understand her stick fighting approach. It looked too complicated to him. She seemed good at it though. Very tough.
The one hovering was Clint but he had his own problems to work through. Xander helped him a lot. He didn't seem to care about James ghosting around the house but he knew both agents and Steve kept track of his location by rote. Even if they weren't consciously tracking him they knew where he was. Xander was still pleased how things were working out. He stayed pleased until one agent showed up looking like he was a frozen block of ice. Then Xander quit sparring with Bobbi to go hug the guy. He got shoved off so Xander took him down to the bar in the basement to talk to him in private. They stayed down there all night and half of the next day but the guy left looking much more relaxed.
Sam didn't look all that pleased with whatever had happened but they did use different methods. Sam cornered Xander in his office while he was making notes. "Xander, did you sleep with your client?" Sam demanded quietly.
Xander didn't look up. "He's not that emotionally stunted, Sam." He glanced up. "I have a few who are. I have one that trained himself to only confess if he was getting off. I've moved him back to the point where he can masturbate to do that instead of needing someone else to help him." Sam gaped. "Sam, agents are trained differently than soldiers. We're all alone most of the time and we have to make calls that make guys like you uncomfortable. If you must know, his last assignment led to him having to get an orphanage out of the way of some assholes with uzis who weren't even part of his job, he just caught it going on.
"He risked his whole mission to bring down people sellers to save the kids, and managed to save most of them." Sam shuddered. "But he lost the people sellers for about three days and most of their hostages were dead when he found them again. Shit like that, you need to be held for." Sam nodded. "Like I said yesterday, guys like agents are different than soldiers. We deal with a lot of different shit that you've never had to see. I hope like hell you never have to see that sort of problem."
"Have you?" Sam asked.
"Yeah. I had to rescue a few people from one in Africa. Messiest shit ever by the time I got done and I pulled in some help from the peaceful demon communities near there. We still lost two people but the other thirty are safer now. I'm hoping that's still true about the two slayers I had to rescue who were tiny. They're young teens now."
Sam shuddered. "I can't even imagine working with tiny girls to make sure they could fight."
"I didn't. I made sure they could survive. Things came for slayers, Sam. They're always going to come for slayers. They came for the baby slayers because they were easier to kill. Also useful in some sacrificial rites." Sam shuddered harder. "It's realistic. Those of us who did this job, we're all realistic. Even if we'd love to be fanciful and think that some knight on a horse will ride up to save the girls, it won't happen. I'm as close to that ideal as the girls came and I'm not exactly a pure white knight. With the way I took down some people when necessary, I'm not that clean."
"What about what Natasha went through?"
"The original Council used to do the same sort of thing with the young slayers. They were tools to be trained to last as long as they could, then they'd be a report. That's why we hated them and not too many of us mourned them being blown the fuck up by the Bringers. In fact, a few of us cheered." He grinned. "It meant the girls were free. I couldn't do anything to help them when I was twenty-one, but then things changed and we made sure all that got changed. It stopped ages of bad things and ideas. We made sure it'd never happen again."
"What about over there?"
"We have no idea where the spell took them all. I'm sure they're on their own new Planet Cranky Bitch. They're handling it as it happens I'm sure. We can't even scry where they are to find out. I did years of mourning and anger about that spell. All the pre-certification therapy to make sure we're right in the head was to solve that anger. Which is why when Willow showed back up to do a sacrifice to stop something, I managed her problems and sent her home. Before she took out me and others."
"Crap," Sam muttered. "I had no idea."
"Which is the way guys like me want it, Sam. That way guys like you still have some idealistic innocence of how bad the world can be. Because guys like you can't do your jobs if you're worrying about the boogy man under your bed being real instead of a bad guy who's simply hiding to take you out."
"I guess I can understand that. Still, you're awfully touchy with them."
"Guys like me live without any sort of human contact for months on end, Sam. Sometimes a cuddle is the only healing thing there is. Sometimes that works, sometimes a sparring works, sometimes it's easier if I hire them a hooker then we talk." He shrugged. "I do what's best for the clients I have. The same as you do."
"Point. Thank you for helping Steve. He's stubborn."
"He needed an anchor. I helped him find one. Plus taught him how to email and stuff."
"Wow," Sam said. "Thanks." He walked off, thinking about that. Xander wasn't the sort of guy he was used to helping. His soldiers weren't as damaged as Xander was. Or as damaged as James was since he was in the kitchen trying not to lurk. "James, need something?"
Xander came out and pushed James over to a cabinet, opening it and pointing. "Food. Food is not coffee. You need solid things, not just liquid. Unless you're trying to get a girlish figure and fit into a corset dress for the spring dance?" he asked with a grin.
"Not likely," James said. He pulled down the peanut butter jar and Xander handed over the bagels. He got a look like that was heresy so handed over the bread. James nodded, making himself some toast in the oven. "Thanks."
"Welcome. There's real food in the freezers too, James," he said quietly. "Eat something. Don't make me nag. I'll have flashbacks to slayers who wanted to be fashionably thin while still needing over seven thousand calories a day." He gave him a pointed look. "None of us want me to get back there. I might not come out this time. Then I'd have to nag others. I can't imagine some of my clients liking that." He walked off after getting more coffee.
James shook his head but he was smiling. He understood guys like Xander. He reminded him of a few friends they used to have during the war. Sam got some toast of his own then James took his to the computer room so he could go back to updating himself on current events.
Xander came out when he heard the huffing noise from his front hall. "Hey, Pieter." He stared at him. "Huge problems?"
"Major. My bosses are idiots."
Xander nodded. "Yes they were. Though I heard someone handled that for you." He grinned. "C'mon, we can go down to the lab area."
"I have two others here right now hanging out for their own mental stability. Steve's here and one other."
"I don't need to run into Captain America," he muttered in Russian. Xander led him off to talk to him. He caught sight of the other guy's back but didn't recognize him. That was probably a good thing with how his bosses were paranoid about things like him coming to see Xander.
At two that morning, Xander got up to hit the security system then sighed as he headed to his armory off his bedroom. He ran into James in the hallway pacing. "Relax. They can't get in here. They're probably not HYDRA, just bad Russian agents. They're not going to be happy when they run into my security system or me." He grinned. "I'm not all that nice when you wake me up with a vision of me being attacked." He walked into the armory and came out with something that looked like a machine gun on steroids. James whimpered, staring at it like it was a new toy. Xander grinned.
"I'm not nice about it. Never have been. If you need something, you can grab it, but clean it before you put it back please." He went down to wait by the front door. Two agents tried to sneak in and got fried by the security system. Xander reset the system with a sigh. That led to a strike team trying. Local PD's SWAT team showed up to stop them. They got shot at and had to back off. Xander stepped out onto the front porch and opened fire on the bad guys' van. The van blew up at the second hit. "Bitches, I have visions still," he called in Russian. "You're that stupid that you planned this in advance?"
One of the officers waved a hand. "Thank you, Mr. Harris!"
Xander grinned and waved back. "They're bad agents. They're mad that I'm one of their people's therapist's." He grinned at the bad guys. "Fucking morons," he said. "Do you think you're worse than a demon apocalypse?" One stared at him, eyes wide. Xander smiled and waved again. "Yes, it's me. Hi. Welcome to my street." They fled, running into the waiting officers. "You guys have fun with 'em. I sure as hell will if they come back." He went inside, going to clean his gun and put it up. James was staring in awe at him. Xander grinned. "It's nothing next to a demon apocalypse. Though one of the neighbors will be showing up to stomp and complain first thing in the morning if you'd like to sleep in." He went back to bed, falling asleep fairly easily.
James put his guns back and went back to his own room to think about that. Xander was fairly horrifying with some things. Not even Steve was that crazy.
Xander looked at the people showing up the next morning. He was on the front stoop drinking coffee to spare James the screaming neighbor fit. She had shown up but wasn't happy with things when he had just shrugged and said better them than his house and hers when the fire probably spread. Now there were agents. Xander sipped his coffee, staring at the one he had dealt with before. "Hi. You again?"
"Yes, Mr. Harris, me again," the agent from the State Department said. "What happened?"
"They got mad I was a therapist for one of their agents. They've been getting freaky about him needing therapy for weeks now. His higher ups are smoking the funky drugs again." He finished his coffee. "I had a vision, put on the security system. Then I came out to prove to them they're idiots. The locals nicely handled them after I made a few scream and run for their girly lives."
"Why did you not let the locals handle it?" the other agent asked.
Xander looked at that one then at the other one. "You didn't tell him a thing, did you?"
"Actually, I've read your file," the other agent said dryly.
Xander smiled. "Really? Which one?" The agent blinked a few times. "There's a partially right in one agency and a really wrong one that got passed around to the rest. The wrong one says I have a heroic issue in case you're wondering which it was."
"We believe that's right."
"Which is why you're an idiot just like those Russians were," Xander said with a smile. "Because you have no idea what you just stepped up to." He stood up, looking at the other agent. "Bitch if you want, Agent Dude, but I don't care. They came here, they got what they deserved. If their bosses bitch, I'm going to have their demon communities come out of the closet with their soul buying. Just because she took all the big plans doesn't mean it stopped the ones who are gathering power. That's not considered evil."
The agent winced. "I had forgotten about that."
Xander grinned. "So have they. Maybe now they remember. It'd be nice if they did." He walked inside, closing the door gently behind him with a kick. "The agents are leaving," he called.
"Thank you," Steve called. "I could've helped last night."
"You needed your beauty sleep. You're falling down on it. It's my house so my duty to defend it." He went back to the kitchen to bake. "I'm making native Guinean bread."
"Thank you," James called.
Steve came down to answer the impolite knocking on the door, staring at the agent. "Yes? Are you one of Xander's therapy clients?"
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"Steve Rogers. Captain Steve Rogers."
The man blinked a few times then stepped back, falling down the stairs. "Captain?" he asked.
"Yup, it's me. Xander helped me adjust a lot when I woke up." He grinned and shut the door in his face, heading to the kitchen to make some coffee. "Thanks, Xander. Next time, let me help." He walked off. "I'm staying here at the moment so that gives me protection rights."
"Fine," he sighed. "Not that I didn't handle it well enough."
"He never gets to play with the big guns," James joked.
"Yes I do," Steve complained.
"Have you seen in his armory?"
"Most of that is hidden from most everyone, James. You've got stuff on you that let you see through that protection," Xander called.
Both soldiers turned to look toward the kitchen. "Does that mean those were going to go to the slayers?" Steve asked casually.
Xander leaned out. "No, I spent almost a year playing kitten poker like a mad bitch so I could go find them and bring them home. I didn't find out until later that Willow had done all that. Now and then I keep my hand in so I hear interesting gossip, like that guy's bosses are smoking the funny drugs to get out of their soul contracts." He went back to mixing the bread dough.
Steve and James shared a look then went up to the armory. James could see the fake wall into the other armory. Steve couldn't. James found out how to open it and let Steve see in there. Xander came jogging up and closed it then walked off turning off something on his phone. A few minutes later someone was knocking on the door.
"Sorry, I was going to check the inventory and clean it." He grinned. "You know you're not supposed to have me hacked, right?"
The agent standing there stared at him. "I don't care what you think, Harris. We still think you're a bad influence on the US."
"You say the sweetest things," he cooed then slammed the door in his face. "Just for that, I'm going to start winning nuclear weapons next." He walked off, going back to his bread dough. "Guys, they have me bugged for that stuff. I can't find the bug or I would've taken it out already. Anytime any gun gets moved from the armory or those doors open it sets it off. That's why the locals showed up last night to help."
"Doors?" Steve called.
"What nuclear weapons?" James demanded. "There's none on the black market right now."
Xander burst out laughing. "Wow, they only told you about the human underground, didn't they?" He walked up there. "You know there's tons of demon realms that have wars, right?" They both stared. He smiled. "Plenty of off-realm arms dealers to help the rebellions or whatever fight them too."
"They have nukes?" James demanded.
Xander nodded. "They have a few types the last I knew. I don't particularly care about the wars going off-realm because I figure most of them have a good reason. If not, I'll be told and I'll help them stop those."
Steve stared. "Wow. I didn't even think about those. I guess it'd be a major reason for immigration."
Xander nodded. "It can be."
"Is there something we can help with?" Steve asked.
"Nope." He grinned as he walked off.
"Stark would want to know if any of his were there," Steve said, following him.
"Yeah, he'd probably be really mad that some not nice arms dealer found the stuff that didn't get blown up when he left his capture over there. Then that one got it stolen by the off-realm ones."
"Do we know which arms dealer stole it from the wrecks?" Steve asked.
"Yeah. He's on my shit list and if I dealt with assholes I would've already handled him. I got told that's not my job. You might ask Natasha who's dealing with that idiot. I called Clint to tell him. He said that was her sort of job."
"I can do that," Steve said, walking off texting her. She called back to tell him it was a problem case and Fury hadn't wanted her to get involved. So she had worked with the agents against him. He asked if that was still going on. She admitted it was and they had no idea how. Those agents weren't talking to her any longer. He promised he'd help if she pulled up things to do the mission with. She said she was doing it then and would meet him for lunch. He left with a nod for James.
James walked into the kitchen. "He took the hint."
Xander smiled. "Better him than one of my clients that's been trying to clear his name for years. I had to stop them by proving how bad it was going to be. I had to have them kidnaped by a poker contact too. They didn't like his drooling on them but yay." He smiled. "Eat something."
"You've lost ten pounds in the last three days. Your metabolism is obviously very high. It's probably on par with Steve's or a slayer's. He eats constantly. The girls nibbled constantly. You need to at least eat regular meals and you've been forgetting most days." He pointed at the fridge. "Make yourself something carb-y and high protein please."
"Yup, I'm damn good at it too. I warned you not to put me back into the nagging mindset." He smiled and blew a kiss.
"Not sure if I was ever into guys or not," he quipped back.
"If you find out, we can talk about it when you want to."
"Thanks." He made himself some fried egg sandwiches and went back up to the armory to find that bug in the system.
"It's probably magical," he called.
"I'll see if I can find a wrong spot then."
Xander grinned, pulling the dough over to do the first punching down.
Stark looked at the files Natasha was pulling up in his lab. She had walked in and started to pull up information. "Is this an all team event?" he asked dryly.
She smirked at him. "This is the one that stole the things you couldn't blow up when you got yourself free. They've since went to an off-world dealer for something probably necessary." Stark lost his good mood right then and there. "Unfortunately this human has caused other problems." She pointed at those files for him. "Including things we may need you to disarm for us. I know a few agents had been looking into it but are not now thanks to how SHIELD had to go down."
"Great," he muttered, moving closer to read over the information. "Six military teams he's turned?"
"Not exactly. At least one was not turned or killed in action. They're trying to clear their names." Steve strolled in. "This is all that we have on that interesting topic he mentioned."
Steve stood, arms crossed over his chest while he read. "What's a sonic version of a nuclear bomb?"
"Totally green, very bad news, and the test sank a whole island," Stark said. "I saw the tape of the testing. Horribly bad news."
Natasha smiled. "He nearly set one off in LA's harbor area. That last team he tried stopped him. Now they're on the run to clear their names and fix things."
"How very A-Team of them," Stark quipped. "Are they good?"
"They're good enough," she said. "They will probably barely manage it but not with everyone alive."
Stark nodded, looking at that information again. "Can we stop him since we're not covered by any agency?"
"SHIELD's redone group could stop it," Steve said. "They're busy with HYDRA."
"True," Stark said. "Can we work on it?" he asked Natasha. "I hate talking to agents who interrupt my work and train of thought. Coulson used to do a lot of that."
"It was necessary to make you do anything but pout or create," Natasha said dryly. "You were much worse in those days."
He grinned. "You say the sweetest things." He blew a kiss. "Where do we start?"
"We make contact with that team, see if we know anything they don't. Including where he's been for the last six days." She looked them up. They made a bit of a stir when they moved. She ran into their tech ops guy, sending him information. He asked who she was. She told him and he said he adored watching her in battles but this was dirtier than she was used to. She corrected that assumption and gave him information he didn't have yet. He thanked her for it and said they'd be going after him again later. She pointed him at their travel plans. He thanked her again then logged off the internet. "They're moving in on him."
"Thanks," Steve said quietly.
"Did he have my stuff?" Stark asked.
"It all went off-world according to Xander," Steve said.
Stark just nodded. "Great. As long as they don't hate me for it too or use it for a bad reason."
"Xander said as far as he knows most of those have good reasons. If he finds out one wasn't then he'd make sure that one didn't get any more weapons."
"Good," Stark agreed. "How many does he have?"
"Some agents have his armory spiked somehow so they know when he opens it."
"Pity," Stark said. "How much?"
"A lot," Steve admitted. "But it's safer in his hands." Stark looked at him. "He has had to use it."
"Uh-huh. Do agents mind that?"
"They would if they had to deal with the last few demon problems on this realm," Natasha said. "They tend to ignore him but watch him for bad ideas because of that service."
"Hmm," Stark said, nodding. "Might be a great idea. But we can go into that one later. Let's go help that team. I'm offended that idiot thought he could steal my stuff." They walked out together.
Steve looked up as his motel room was invaded by two minions. "Do I know you, gentlemen?" They had gotten Max arrested but handed him over to that military unit instead of agents. It had seemed just to the three of them. Now they were on their way back to New York.
"Let's go, Corporal," one of the minions sneered.
"I think you have me confused, gentlemen. I'm a Captain." He pointed at his shield. They sneered but captured him. He saw Natasha notice and tell Stark to follow. He'd find this out. Who had they confused him with? They brought him to the main minion, who was glaring at him. "Your minions had me confused with someone."
"Shut up, Jensen."
Steve smirked. "I'm not Jake Jensen. I'm Steve Rogers."
"Sure you are." He took a swing and Steve moved to beat him and the minions. The head minion groaned.
Steve smiled. "As I said, I'm Steve Rogers. I haven't even seen Corporal Jensen's intake file." He looked back at Natasha since she was coming in to help him. "Do I look like that tech ops guy?"
"Nearly identical. Made me think maybe you had been made into a clone, Captain," Stark quipped. He pointed. "Corporal?"
He walked in. "Hey. Mr. Stark, my grandmother flirted with your dad once but we're not clones. It's coincidence. I had a lot of people ask that and the Army took blood to make sure." He grinned and waved at Steve. "They're sorry they're so stupid."
"Yes, they are," he agreed with a grin back. They shook hands. "Can we help you guys more?"
"We have to get the Army to admit they were wrong," Jake said. "Which may take a bit."
Stark pulled out his phone to call someone. "Rhodey, me. Come see me right the fuck now. No, I found someone who stole the remains of those weapons from Afghanistan but he got it stolen from him. Better known as sonic nuke guy's minions." He hung up but left his phone on so he could be traced. Jake blinked at him. "I don't put up with diplomatic or bureaucratic bullshit, Jensen. It makes me sleepy and I have too much to do to deal with that shit. Even Pepper doesn't put up with it." He walked over to search the first minion. That one tried to grab him so he punched him. "Don't try. I'll ask Hawkeye to come work some of his anger off with you guys." The guy moaned but fell backwards onto the floor.
"It works for us too," Jake said. They heard the whine of some sort of jet landing, looking out there. "Is that one the other guy in the shiny metal suit, Mr. Stark?"
"Yup, sure is." He grinned. "Colonel," he said when he walked in. "These are minions of the bad guy who stole from the bad guys who had me."
Rhodey put up his visor, staring at the mess then at the new guy. "Who're you?"
"Corporal Jake Jensen. The bad minions there's boss had my team screwed over and named treasonists for fun. We've been fighting back to clear our names."
"Great. The main bad guy?"
Jake smiled. "In a closet. We're all real mad at him right now."
"Even better." He called that in. "The closest Army guy is about an hour away." He looked at Steve, who grinned. "How did you get involved, Captain?"
"Well, tonight the minions thought I was the Corporal there. They didn't believe me even when I pointed at my shield."
"Great, stupid minions," he complained. "At least Stark hires better ones."
"Hey," he said with a grin. "I don't have minions anymore. Pepper has minions now."
"Uh-huh." Jeeps pulled up outside. "They a problem?"
"Yes," Natasha said, heading out to handle it. "Sorry, this is Avengers business, boys." They stared at her. "We're waiting on someone higher up in the Army, which you are not, but this has nothing to do with you."
"Ma'am, we heard there was a problem military unit here."
She raised an eyebrow. "The only one inside that has Army service is Captain Rogers." The driver shuddered. "I don't believe we need your help." Another jeep pulled up and the guys started to shoot so she shot them back. "See?" She smiled slightly. The marines backed up but nodded they'd stay there to guard them. When the general got there, she led him inside. "Boys, one Army general?"
"Hey," Stark said. "It's sad that your people let someone like Max do that to six different teams. Including this one," he said with a point where Steve and Jensen were talking.
The general looked at him then at the two, sneering. "You," he said.
"No, I'm still Captain Rogers," Steve said dryly. "We found out within minutes they weren't responsible. How bad is Army's intelligence network now, General?"
The man's eyes bulged while he backed up. "Rogers?" he demanded.
"Yeah. Apparently the corporal and I look a lot alike. The minions got us confused," he said dryly. "That was after we helped them take down Max."
The general spluttered. "He's not real!" he finally spit out.
Jake shook his head. "We've got him in a closet so we could hand him over," he said dryly. "I'm pretty sure he's real. As Clay said, there's a voice so there's a throat." He smiled. "We've already called the ones we need to hand him over to so we can clear our names, General Mitch. Thanks though. You can handle the minions if you want."
"I don't believe that'll work," the general said, pulling a gun. "There's a warrant out for your arrest." He got knocked out by Stark.
"They always forget the geek," Stark said. Then he grinned. "Are they coming here as well, Jensen?"
"Yup. The team'll be here in ten minutes." Natasha went to help them inside. Aisha was really pissed that Natasha was still around. No one was sure why but she was seriously pissed at Natasha. Clay wasn't even flirting with her. Jensen looked at his team leader. "Hey, Clay, why aren't you flirting with Agent Romanoff?"
"I like mine volatile, not deadly," he shot back with a glare. "Shut up, Jensen."
He grinned at Natasha. "I think that's a compliment. Most of his are slightly crazy."
She nodded. "I saw that in his dossier. I'm not his type. I have sanity." Clay snorted but smirked at her. Aisha was still glaring. Natasha looked at her. "You should be thankful no one has arrested you for your father's deeds," she said in Spanish. "Presently we are overlooking all that." She walked off with Max, Clay helping her. "Here, Stark."
"Hey," he said. He stared at him.
"It's sad that you ruined yourself by no longer making weapons," Max sneered. Rhodey got out of the way. Stark hit Max, making him scream when the armored glove broke his jaw, nose, and cheek.
"I don't think I ruined anything," Stark said.
Jake looked up from his tablet. "I think this general may be in Max's pay. Either that or he really wants the price on our heads. He's looking at a few lawsuits over a DUI and a few other problems." He went back to his searching. Their contact finally got there. Jake waved. "Hey. The minions got me and Captain Rogers mixed up."
"It really was rude of them," Steve agreed since the guy was staring so hard. He looked at Jensen. "Now what?"
"Now...we fight for our retirements instead. We fight if they want to charge us with something from an old mission or this one. Then hopefully we go home to our families for those of us who have them. Clay and Cougs can hang out with us though."
Steve smiled. "That's a good plan. I hope they don't try but I know the army can be vindictive these days. Especially to try to cover up something. All branches can be." Rhodey nodded. So did Stark.
The agent called in that they had Max, and a few minions. That the team had managed it with some help, plus they had a general here who had tried to interfere. People showed up to gather them and the team. Steve nodded at them.
"Let us know if you need more help, guys," Natasha said with a nod for the agents. "We had been working on Max's problem but the fall of SHIELD broke that investigation."
The agent in charge nodded. "I heard, Agent Romanoff. Thank you for helping us. Do you happen to know anything about that Council guy we have left?"
"Yes, he's a good therapist."
"Ah. We weren't aware he had done that. We've lost track of him and a few are worried he'll start being a problem."
Stark burst out laughing. "Sure, the guy who saved the world will become the next overlord sort? I'll be sure to tell him that theory so he can send you information or a card or something."
The agent winced. "I doubt he'd go that far but he does still participate in their underground."
"Yes, it gives him great information," Steve said. "Why wouldn't he? Wouldn't you?"
"Yes, but some are very uptight about that, Captain."
Steve grinned. "Then they're probably the sort that have soul deals. He said that wasn't counted as evil so many of those stayed."
"I hadn't thought about that," he said, walking off.
"I'll tell him to find you," Stark called, waving after them. Cougar was laughing. "Let us know if you guys need more help." He looked at Rhodey, who smirked and flew off again. "Let's go get a cocktail, people. We did good." They went back to the motel to rescue Steve's uniform and shield then went back to New York tonight. Stark made sure the whole team had a good legal team to help them when the coverups started to roll over them.
Xander looked up from his sharpening a sword with James as a witch appeared. "Clorisma," he greeted. "This is one of my clients."
"There's a huge demon coming up in Hawaii. We think it's harmful but not evil."
"There's been a few of those recently," he agreed. "What does it look like?"
"It looks like a river of watery, tarry snot," she said.
He considered it. "Probably salt it then."
"Can you go handle it? You know we don't take lives, even demonic ones, if we can help it."
"If you can get me there and back. I have clients coming later today." She nodded, pressing her lips together. "Sure." He got up, going to grab a few specific things and his sword that was sharper. "Here, James. Can you finish that one for me please?"
"Sure," he agreed. The witch took Xander with her. James shook his head. He was never going to get used to magic being real.
Xander looked at the monster then shrugged. "It's not really dangerous," he said loudly. "Just kind of ugly. Has anyone tried to talk to it? I think it can answer yes/no questions if you tell it how you want answered."
"No, we haven't," a male voice said from behind him. "This is supposed to be paradise."
Xander turned to look at him and grinned. "Long time no see."
"You too. What're you doing now?"
"I'm now a therapist for people like us." Steve McGarret smiled at that. "Beyond that, it's just ugly. I can kill it but there's really no reason."
"Yes there is. Hawaii lives on tourists."
"Let me go talk to it." He walked down there, sitting in front of it. "Hi, I'm Xander Harris. I used to train the slayers when they were here. Can you wave a tentacle if you understand me?" One waved. "Great." He smiled. "One for yes, two for no, okay?" A tentacle waved again. "The people here are worried you're dangerous to them. Are you?" Two waves. "Even better. Is there a huge reason you climbed up out of the water or something dangerous you spotted coming this way?" One wave and a wobble. "Was that a kind of?" One tentacle wave.
"Okay. Let's ask...was it a creature down there?" Two waves. "A ship in trouble?" Two waves. "Weapons?" Two waves and the thing was starting to change colors. Xander frowned, laying a hand on it, yelping as it got burned. "Dude, what did you swim through?" Something flowed. "Oh, I'm sorry, ma'am. I didn't realize. Is whatever's coating you the problem you came to tell us about?" One tentacle waving frantically. "Guys, she swam through something horribly chemical that's eating into her. She's warning about it. Can we figure out what it is? Medical treatment would be humane."
The governor nodded. "I have someone coming who can do that when you yelped. Do you need medical treatment?"
"Nah, I'll cream and rinse it off later. I'm good so far. They can swab it from my hand too to make sure what it is." The female demon moaned. Xander moved, grabbing his t-shirt to pull off and get wet, coming back to dampen her down. "You risked your life to come tell us and we thank you for it. That's really great of you. We appreciate that."
"We do," McGarrett said, coming down to help him with a few towels from their trunk. He sniffed her back. "That's heavy chemicals. Tell them to bring a sensor too, Governor. Maybe even a geiger." She nodded, calling that in. A short while later, a Navy team showed up and jumped out of the jeep to run down. "Guys, she swam through a huge chemical spill of some sort and came to warn us."
"That's really sweet of her," one of them said. He nodded at Xander, who grinned back. "Let's swab her skin if it's safe to use saline solution?"
"Probably not," Xander said. "Most water living creatures respond to extra salt. She's ocean living so how much higher would it be?"
"Not much. We have sterile water we can use too." They swabbed her, the two burns on Xander's hand, took fabric samples from the t-shirt and towels. "How far out is it? Over ten miles?" She waved two tentacles. "Within five? That was a no, right?" Xander nodded. "Within five miles?" She moaned again.
Xander rewet his t-shirt and Steve did the towels. She weakly waved a tentacle. "It's probably really close by with how strong it is. Can we get her into a safer bit of water?"
"Yes," one of the Navy people said, coming up to help. "We do it with dolphins. A team that helps them is coming. It was really brave to tell us. We could've seriously overreacted to her." Xander smirked and nodded. "I figured." The dolphin helping team showed up and got her into a sling to move her to a cleaner bit of water. She got strong enough to tell them where the spill was. The Navy sent out people to check it out, reporting a tanker ship had a leak they hadn't reported and they had to close area beaches that could be affected. Clorisma watched all this, moving in to help the poor thing. The demon patted her on the hand before she swam off.
Steve McGarrett looked at Xander then at the witch. "Are there harmful ones that aren't evil here?"
Xander nodded. "Mermaids might be migrating near here. I can hear one of them chirping angrily about the water. There's a lot of them that just *are*. Then again, Willow's spell specified evil so the ones that take in souls are still here." He shrugged. "Thankfully it got rid of most of Wolfram and Hart. They were behind a lot of problems. Including the LA invasion. Both of them."
Steve nodded. "I'll look to make sure none of them are here. How do we handle mermaids?"
"They just are but they eat people," Xander said. "They can also taint humans. Don't ask how I know that."
"I saw that in the file when the SEAL team was sent after you," he said quietly. Xander grinned at him. "Is that squealing noise them?"
"The higher pitched noise is them." He listened and pointed. "There's one just below the surface there," he said. He whistled sharply and waved. It popped its head up. Xander yelled something in one of the common demon languages. Clorisma huffed and did a translation charm. Xander grinned at her for it but repeated that the water was bad due to chemicals leaking into it. That the mermaids had to clear the area because it would kill them too. The mermaid nodded and waved, heading back under the water and swimming off.
"That's so weird," Steve complained.
"Yup," Xander said with a grin. "We used to have a colony by Sunnydale." McGarrett walked off shaking his head. "If you need me, I'm right outside NYC, dude." He gathered his stuff, letting Clorisma take him back. "Okay, handled. Thank you, dear." He kissed her on the cheek. "How's Andrew doing?"
"He's doing very well. His group has put up some strong regional rule choices recently and won a good portion of them. Though we do wish he'd quit being a vigilante at night."
Xander shrugged. "Like the Shadow, he knows what evil lurks in the heart of people. He saw it up close and personal with his older brother. If it helps him to go around stopping the minor problems that people like the Avengers are too strong to handle then so be it. It makes him happy and feel useful." He shrugged.
"Fine. Whatever. Any other issues you've got to tell us about?"
He grinned, walking off and coming back with an envelope. "I've already handed it to my lawyer." He handed it to her. "Someone's trying to reopen Sunnydale."
"Excuse me?" she demanded, opening it to pull out the notice inside. "Oh, dear Goddess," she moaned. "I'll bring this to the others and Andrew, Xander."
"I already texted Andrew the night I got it. That was the night he was drunkenly tinkering and nearly blew up parts of Toronto."
"I remember that night." She sighed but sent herself to the coven to share that bad news.
"What sort of vigilante?" James asked from the couch.
"The sort that puts on a costume and goes out to handle things without being lethal. Spiderman without the webs basically."
"Is he any good at it?"
"Yeah, he's pretty darn good." He grinned. "We'll have a huge problem if they try to reopen Sunnydale. They really will. Including that the hellmouth isn't considered evil and that one's still broadcasting. I even proved it to the judge as one of the reasons why he should make them stop it." He walked off to make himself a milkshake.
"Let me see your hand," James said, following him. Xander huffed but let him see it so it could be wrapped. "Don't want you to end up in the hospital. Who knows what would happen."
"I don't go to hospitals unless I'm nearly dead," Xander said. "Not in Africa, not here. Not even when I had a two foot piece of mystical spear in my intestines. I don't trust them." He grinned. "You do that nearly as well as I do. Thank you." He handed him a milkshake. "Add in any syrup you want to flavor it."
James smiled, adding strawberry syrup. "Thanks." They went back to the sword sharpening and talking. It was good for James and it kept Xander from worrying about that problem coming up.
Stark heard about the call to reopen Sunnydale and frowned at the tv instead of the tablet he had been working on, mentally considering his options. "Hey, Pepper," he called. "We have to move the Malibu facility completely. They're trying to reopen Sunnydale."
"What?" she shrieked. She came out of the kitchen to stare at the tv report. It had Xander putting an energy sensor in the center of the destruction, proving to the watching scientists and others that the hole was still radiating. "I thought it was closed."
"Stitched but it's leaked forever," he said quietly. "The same as Cleveland's not that bad at the moment."
She shuddered. "I'll get to work planning on how to move them away from there, Tony. We needed to when we found out, now's a good time with the interest rates being so low." She got onto her tablet to talk to some people about that idea. They didn't like it but when she told them why that changed a lot of opinions.
Stark sent out a text message to the other Avengers. They had to be warned something huge was going to happen because of this. He hoped they could find out who that state senator had sold his soul to so they could get it called in to stop the stupidity.
Natasha looked at her phone, moaning loudly. Clint snapped upright from the pool table, staring at her. "Were you drugged?" he demanded, walking over to check on her. She held up the phone to show that message. He stared. "That has to be a joke." He looked at his phone. She snatched it to look that up.
"It's not." She let him see that.
Clint stared at it then around the bar that had officers and agents. "Guys, someone in California is trying to reopen Sunnydale as a place to live and work," he announced. Most of the bar choked. "That means someone is going to cause a whole lot of problems and probably start another one in Cleveland." He sighed. "Can we put this around so people start to scream about it? Before that hellmouth reopens?"
"The thing wouldn't have been considered evil so it wouldn't have been moved by Rosenburg's spell," Natasha agreed. People were already getting online to spread that information. Twitter and Facebook were going to be swamped with outrage. No one wanted that danger to come back. They didn't have slayers there to protect them any more. They weren't going to let it happen without someone to protect them. Even the Avengers and their kind couldn't protect them this time.
A few days later, Xander was pacing in his bedroom, phone to his ear. "Steve, it's Xander Harris. I have a huge favor to ask. I'm being called to DC and I know very well someone's going to try to take me out. Because I still have visions, Steve. Exactly. No, just a name of someone you'd actually trust with me would be nice. Though, I have the feeling they're going to call at least a few of your type to testify about how dangerous Sunnydale really is. I can blow that all up by showing them the truth, but they're going to freak. The people in California have subtly put out a call to have me attacked so I can't testify.
"They've put it into the underground even so it's going to be demon run. There's also a few military guys who are pissed at me for being a therapist for guys like us who understands when things go really wrong. It kept a few they wanted to force to retire by throwing them into the shitpile repeatedly until they broke." He listened. "I can do that. Please. Thank you. Yeah, you can even borrow out of my arsenal if you need to. Thanks, man." He hung up and nearly flinched since James was lounging in the doorway drinking cocoa.
"I could guard you."
"Be honest, James. They're going to try to capture you if you show up in DC. With the HYDRA stuff still being worked on they're going to consider you still theirs."
"I need you here to watch over the weapons. Because while I'm gone they may try something against the house." He stared at him. "They're dumb that way."
"They are. You could ask someone like Bobbi. She was good."
"She is and she'll be there already. They're going to try to get the new SHIELD down at the same time. They hate people who save others without a lot of political oversight."
"I can understand why. It makes them nervous that the puppets will break free." Xander nodded. "What about Natasha?"
"I figured they'd either call her, as being as close to a slayer as one can be trained to be, or they'd make sure she was far away for the same reason."
"Are there ones against reopening it?"
Xander shook his head. "Not that I can tell. They think it'll bring in a lot of money to let it become an industrial park. Which means that someone else can try what Wilkins did. Or something worse. Technically that's not considered an evil plan as long as you're only planning on using it for personal power."
"I can see how that works. Then what?"
"They're likely to try to throw me into jail but if they do there's going to be a huge battle almost immediately. That means that no one guards the city and this city is on the verge of a war at the moment thanks to some demon street gangs. They might try to hold it off for six months or so to prove I'm not needed but it'll happen within a year." He stared at him. "I'm feeling like I should prove how bad it'll be by summoning something. Probably something that owns some of them."
"Is the demon community going to have a fit?"
"They've already started but no one's covering it because it's demons protesting that they're going to draw the evil back here." He licked his lips then shrugged. "There's been a huge outpouring of 'please don't do that' from humans too. They're not listening."
"Can you make them stay there for a few days?"
"Which the higher ups would make sure nothing happened during," Xander said.
"No, will be." He sighed. "Someone will make it happen. Not me, not Andrew, not the coven, but someone will." He rubbed his forehead, then sighed. "I have no idea what's going to happen beyond that vision of agents attacking me to get me out of the way."
James came in to make Xander look at him. "Take some of your own advice. Take a deep breath, let it out, then plan to thump the assholes." Xander smiled because that had been his advice to Bobbi recently. "I'll watch the armory. Will you need Steve there?"
"He's already on to testify. He has icon status so they won't attack him. I don't."
"You'd be shocked."
"No, I know what my rep is. I'm realistic, James."
"No, you're a worrywart. Call Clint. Call Bobbi so her group is aware it's going to happen. If you don't, I will," he said when Xander opened his mouth. Then he smiled. "It's a good thing to have friends. You have a lot. Warn your clients too so they know you might be in jail if you're attacked."
James plucked Xander's cellphone from his hand to look at his contacts list, starting with the bigger, louder guns. "Barton, Barnes. Xander had a vision of the testimony in DC ending up with him attacked and possibly put in jail so he's out of the way, then an attack within a year." He walked off talking to him. "I told him to call you. He's in high worry mode. Yeah, just like a dame would."
"Hey!" Xander complained. Though he was proud how James was coming more and more into himself through handling problems. It proved he was working hard on getting back to whoever he was after the brain washing.
"You are," James called back, going to the kitchen. "Yeah, it's going to get that bad according to him. Who was Wilkins?" Xander waved him out to put on that tape. James blinked. "Damn, what is that? I'm so glad the Nazis never figured that out."
"That's called an ascension. He turned into a pure demon."
"You have to see that mess, Barton. Broke out of his skin and turned into a giant snake. Like building sized snake. Ewww." He walked off shaking his head. "Anyway, he's in a near panic. I told him to call you and then your ex to make sure they know it'll happen but he was calling to find someone to guard his back in DC. The guy he talked to in Hawaii. Yeah, he's that worried. Please do. Thanks." He hung up and looked at the other numbers. "Who's Marge?" he called.
"She's technically my assistant but she works off-site to help agents with other issues. Like they ran out of clothes in another city or other things."
James nodded. "That'd be handy to know." He found another number to call, smiling at Steve's answer of his phone. "It's me. Apparently the DC thing about Sunnydale is going to be really bad. Xander even had a vision." Steve lost his happy sound. "That's why I'm calling. He wasn't going to impose or ask. He called someone else named Steve to talk to about guarding his back. Then he admitted you'd be there and needed guarding too. I'm watching his house to keep agents from trying me," he said dryly. "Exactly. That's what I was thinking. Please. I told Barton. Did you get to see the video about Wilkins?" He grimaced. "Don't eat first, Steve." He hung up. "He and Barton will be here in a few hours," he said cheerfully, heading to the kitchen. "You're out of bread."
"I'll order groceries," he sighed, going to do that from his desk. His bank account seemed to be down so he had to use something else. They were good. They even got him good antelope steaks.
We All Need A Bit of Help Sometimes.