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Steve watched the video again, staring at it. He had seen it three times before his stomach quit wanting to rebel. Now he was watching it in Washington, DC with a bunch of senators. He looked at them. "Xander said that used to be the mayor out there. The one that set up the town to take advantage of the hellmouth."

The President of the Senate grimaced. "There's been a lot of stories about Sunnydale."

"Including mermaids?" Steve asked. "Xander said his high school swim coach chopped up one to make the team faster by tainting them."

The other senators looked at each other then at him. "Is that really relevant?"

"Yes. They're still there. They come up onto the land to find food, which would be a person."

"Any businesses there would have security," one senator said.

"How would that work against the hellmouth itself?" Steve asked. "It's still radiating. The meter on it is actually in the red as of last night. That's where Xander is, he's out there making sure it's staying closed since someone reported a tentacle."

"Is he making it worse?" one asked dryly.

"Xander doesn't have magic," Steve said, glaring at him. "Frankly, if he was capable of what you were accusing him of, he'd do it easier in Cleveland." That senator shuddered. "We've stopped a few groups trying that already."

Xander walked in with someone in chains being dragged behind him. He dropped him in front of the senators. "He's the one that was trying to open the hellmouths. Including the one that's open, fully open, in Belgrade. Thankfully the Devon coven is over there already to handle it for them." They all stared at him. He looked at himself then shrugged. "He had a partner that was sacrificing people." He pointed behind him. "Ask the SEAL guy that the Navy once sent to try to kill me."

McGarrett walked in tucking in a clean t-shirt. "Sorry, I took the time to change. This is the arrest report from the CHP and the FBI about the attempt to open the hellmouth in Sunnydale to call the slayers back to handle the mistake you're about to make. They were willing to possibly kill half the slayers to get them all back here." He put the report in front of the chair's seat. "The rest of their group of magic users is being talked to or arrested in the various countries of origin or hiding."

"Are you still a SEAL?" one senator asked.

"I'm now on detached duty to the Honolulu Police Department so I can find the bad elements in Hawaii while finding out who killed my father," he said. "He was an officer there."

"I've heard about you," one said quietly. Steve smiled slightly and nodded his head. "What about Mr. Harris' part of this problem?"

"All he did was stop it. He doesn't use magic, it tends to bend into a rainbow around him. He doesn't want the hellmouth to open because that means he'd be there to fight it without a whole lot of help. Not like the military is trained in how to handle it, still. The few of us who asked to take that training and have done it would be there but we're spread around to various bases in and out of the US. I probably would've been closest."

"Patrick O'Mara is in Oregon somewhere," Xander said more quietly. "He's in a wheelchair thanks to that shot to the spine but he'll show up with artillery."

Steve nodded. "I would too. You can't let things like that start or they'll never end without a lot of damage." He looked at the senators again. "You've managed to panic this group and others so they acted to try to protect humanity by calling slayers back."

Xander nodded. "They started with Willow but she's presently trapped in the spell. We think she can fight to stay there with the slayers. She's the only witch with them."

"Did they manage to summon any slayers?" one senator in the back asked.

Xander shook his head. "They managed to kill two trying." The man on the floor whimpered, moving away from Xander. He looked down. "I understand the panic. I understand the urge. The execution is sucky and we're *so* going to talk about this later unless you're in jail." He looked at the panel again. "Unfortunately the hellmouths aren't going to be fully closed again. It'd take more magical power than we presently have. Willow logged herself into the hellmouth and used it against itself."

"Can't that coven do that?" the chair demanded.

"No," Xander said. "That's what led to Willow having too much power that clouded her and made her become addicted to her skills. Even if multiple witches picked up the hellmouth that way, it'd still overpower them and possibly kill them. Willow was young, stupid, and believed she could do it. The older witches know what goes on when you do things like that. Knowledge will prove it to be so. Wishing and hoping and being *sure* something can happen because you will it to be so is for idealistic young ones without training. The same as you think you can do something and you manage it but once you learn how to do it you do it differently. I learned that real well because the first time I had to bust into somewhere to rescue someone, I did it differently and hoped it'd work. Once I learned how to do it correctly I do it differently and end up with better results."

"Like a young kid who stole a car but can't drive may manage to drive well enough not to wreck but once they're taught they know what they're doing and how to do it without wrecking," one said. Xander nodded. "So what can we do?"

"Evacuate Cleveland," Steve McGarrett said simply. "Before that one pops fully open. It's already halfway there."

The senator from Ohio stood up. "It is?" he demanded. "Why didn't you say that at first?"

"We had to report on why," Xander said. "Otherwise you wouldn't have listened." He stared at him. "I've already talked to the city council there. The ones they hired to handle it are on alert to watch for anything. The two magic members who were going to bolster that one into a safer state because there's still people there to help make sure it stays closed. Cleveland arrested them and the judge agreed that was their sentence at that time. Cleveland is almost safe at this moment. They've told the citizens that there may be a hellmouth opening event soon. They've put the city under emergency rules. They know that they may be told to evacuate certain areas at a moment's notice. So far they've went with the emergency plans they made with us when they first figured out why the whole slayer cadre was there. Which was after the first LA invasion."

The senator from Ohio took a deep breath then nodded. "So Cleveland's safe?"

"At this time it's in a prepared for emergencies state," Steve said. "If it opens and they can't get it closed fast enough, there may be some damage. They're working on it. I suggested they evacuate the immediate area due to the visible fluxing of the hellmouth and the possibility that it may not be able to be closed permanently again. They're considering it."

Xander nodded. "They've got a military unit from a nearby base on the way there to help guard the area. They're handling it but it may come down to an evacuation order. It's very likely at this moment. If so, the military unit has weapons. A lot of weapons. They stock that base that way on purpose thanks to that hellmouth."

The senator from Ohio nodded quickly. "We do, yes. So we're looking at a temporary evacuation most likely and some damage but no more than a tornado?"

"That depends on what comes out," Xander said honestly. "Right on top is a kraken. If they can close it while that's trying to get out, probably just the park being ripped up like the last few times. Anything else and it's a crap shoot. There's thousands of demons trying to get past the guardian kraken. It just depends on who makes it there first."

"Okay," that senator agreed. "Excuse me, I need to call there. Is there anything that could help with that?"

The magic user cleared his throat. "Some of us think that one of them opening may well ease some of the others," he said. "That's why we were going to open Sunnydale fully again. That and to make sure the town wasn't reopened so no one else tried what Wilkins did."

"We saw that incident," the chair said, covering his mouth for a moment. "What is that called?"

"An ascension." Xander smiled. "It's something that got covered up in Ghana that time, Senator. We nearly died to keep that secret until they realized that there was a huge amount of demons we still had to handle so their people were safer."

"I never heard about that."

"No one heard about that," Steve said. "We got sent to take him out for not being under firm military control about a week later. The government down there was still threatening and jailing anyone who had seen it to cover it up. My whole SEAL team nearly got caught up in that but Harris saved us by running to us for help and weapons he needed to handle something huge that showed up to eat everyone in the country."

Xander grinned at him. "You guys screamed nicely but were very helpful."

Steve scowled. "We didn't scream."

"Yeah. Sure ya didn't. Then again, I screamed when I saw the three story tall naked demon who was nibbling on a kid that was tied to a goat so it made a sandwich."

Steve nodded. "That would've been a good reason but SEALs don't scream, kid."

"Sure. That's cool. Must be part of the training." Steve nodded it was.

The chair cleared his throat. "Did anyone get anything on that incident that can be viewed?"

"Well, I have files," Xander said. "Of all of it. I had the baby slayer that was local there taping it for the others while me and the bigger ones handled things. I was told if I let it out they'd be killing me in as horrible of a manner as they can manage."

"We're going to view it without showing it to everyone else," another said. "That way it protects their reputations." Xander walked off calling home. James got into those files and sent it to his phone. Xander waited while they cleared the hearing room, letting them hook the file up. He selected which one it was and let it run, sitting down beside Steve Rogers. McGarrett was definitely not watching it from the seat behind him.

One senator heaved. Xander looked then at him. "That's really mild. In about ten minutes it's going to get worse. Then on the next day's it's going to get nauseous even for me." He looked at Rogers again, letting him watch it. That Steve gagged at something. Xander patted him on the arm. "It'll be worse when the day switches," he said quietly. The day switched but the things were quiet for a few minutes. Then the huge demon showed up with his snack. A few more senators gagged. Then one threw up. McGarrett got him a trash can then went back to not watching it. Steve Rogers gagged and almost heaved. Xander took his hand to work on the wrist pressure points.
A senator paused it, looking at them. "Does it get worse, Mr. Harris?"

Xander nodded quickly. "Yeah, I had her turn off the sound for a good reason in about an hour's worth of battle. Because that one's sister found a school." Rogers shuddered. "We killed her. She had been there for about a half-hour but we hadn't heard. As soon as we spotted her, the air support we had blew her head off. It was still a mess. She was laying eggs that would be hatching in another day switch's time. It makes the scene from _Alien_ look nice. The full tape is probably another two hours since we edited it for quiet times."

They restarted it after getting things to drink. Xander fixed both Steves something herbal he carried with him. "Here, something to keep it down," he said quietly. They drank it when their stomachs churned so they didn't throw up again.

"Oh my god," one moaned, then ran to get sick.

Xander looked then nodded. "Yeah, that was the school when we found her."

The chair fast forwarded through it, and it was still bad. The eggs bursting open made them all heave again so they stopped it so Xander could have his phone back. "Thank you for your service, Mr. Harris."

Xander nodded. "I'm just glad they never showed up in Sunnydale. No one would've tried to protect anyone there because the whole town was a food farm basically. We wouldn't have had military support or anything like it. Now you're planning on making another food farm only with industrial instruments for them to play with. If so, I hope whatever military unit is put there has really great luck. Because sometimes it's not training, it's pure dumb luck."

The senators nodded. "We can see what concerns you. What if we put certain types of high security businesses there?"

"Ma'am, we took down seven vampires to get to the hellmouth," McGarrett said. "The former town had a huge set of tunnels underneath it thanks to Wilkins. The town was set up to fully cater to the demon communities. There's even a condo complex underground."

Xander nodded. "It was built that way. The sewers were larger than some emergency tubes under bases. The old base under the college is still there but not in use. Some demons have moved into what remains of the town as well. Plus into the old college's dorms. Thankfully that cult wants the hellmouth to stay closed. They're meditating to keep it closed if at all possible by their higher power's will. They're the ones who called about the sorcerers opening it."

"Dangerous?" one asked.

"Only if you bother them," McGarrett said.

"Understood. What about a weapons maker?"

"Unless someone comes up with a biometric scanner that would tell that someone woke up dead, how would they keep a vamped worker out?" Xander asked.

"Is there such a scanner?" Xander shook his head. So did McGarrett.

"Could someone like Stark build one?" Steve Rogers asked.

"There's probably a lot of businesses that would like it," McGarrett told him. "If he manages it, I'm pretty sure it'll have a wide audience."

"I can suggest it to him when I get back there."

"He was called in to testify," one of the senators said. They shared a look. "Is there a way to make that area safe?"

"Only if someone like Stark figures out how to heal the hellmouth," Xander said. "Then to leach the radiated power out of the very ground. They might also have to dig up some things like the temple to the dark goddess that Willow Rosenburg almost used to end humanity. It's just outside town."

"Is the temple there because of the hellmouth or did they put the temple there after Wilkins formed the town?"

"The temple is actually ancient," Xander said, smiling slightly. "From the original demon societies. It's underground, fully hidden. It has to be pulled up by magic. As far as I can tell the hellmouth formed there after the originating demon societies died off. It had no reason to form near the temple beyond that it's a thin spot. That whole area was a neutral grieving area according to some of the writings we found after the city fell in. One of our former people was an archeology sort and he found evidence of the old grieving temple near there. No power but just grief, which that temple was part of."

"Oh. So coincidence?" Xander nodded. "Interesting to note. Is there anything else like that?" Xander nodded, pulling up an inventory list he carried. She stared. "Are those cursed artifacts?"

"Yup. Wilkins and other demons there collected them for power. They're mostly still there. They temporarily got moved to Cleveland but the hellmouth there reacted to that power so we reburied it out in Sunnydale. I could go dig it up to sell it but there's a lot of danger in that. How many tainted or possessed artifacts can really go into the underground at once?"

"That is an excellent point," the chair sighed. "Is there any way to reopen Sunnydale's boundaries without causing problems?"

McGarrett shook his head. "We saved most of the people trying while we were out there. The vampires had acted to keep their safe area safe."

"How many?" the chair demanded. Steve pointed at the report so he picked it up to glance through it. "Oh, dear. Is that the governor?" he asked, looking up.

"I only know Hawaii's," Steve said.

Xander shook his head. "Lieutenant governor the last I knew. Then again, he had been sacrificing some of the workers there over the hole when we found him."

"Shooting him with a crossbow meant the magic backlashed so he's not going to be doing it again," McGarrett said. "Which is why we came in...messy."

"We managed to save the people he had tied up, including a former state senator that may be the governor now," Xander added. "His helper was arrested by the CHP."

They went over the rest of the report, nodding. "How do we keep people like that from opening the hellmouth out there?"

"Guards, a really high gate, making a deal with the current denizens to guard it," Steve McGarrett said.

Steve Rogers cleared his throat. "Xander has many contacts still among the peaceful community. They may be able to set up a guard unit there of beings who won't be bothered by the power or the vampires. I'm sure there's some that vampires won't eat?"

Xander nodded. "They're usually used for other fun instead of food but the vamps that took over Sunnydale aren't the usual stupid minions. They would probably appreciate an honor guard for the hellmouth so the few that want to move there peacefully could."

"Could we make it a peaceful demon commune?" the one from Ohio asked quickly.

"No," Xander said. "The power there can drive multiple types of species nuts. Very few species can reliably live on a hellmouth without having something wrong start. Some will try anyway because it'd hide them easier but even in Cleveland it's caused a few cases of birth defects or power madness. That's only been a few in the last few years that it's started but there were healers in Sunnydale who'd probably be able to give you statistics."

"Would they act like the health departments do for that?" the one from Ohio asked.

"That and they do the census plus they've got the record keepers about births," Xander said. "Even places that have peace councils for the area let the healers do that. It basically became their jobs over the last few centuries"

"I'll gladly ask the ones in Cleveland about that. Maybe there's a way to set them up somewhere safe they can live."

"Most of the peaceful clans have things like jobs," Xander said. "Not always great jobs, especially if they look a bit odd, but most do support their families with jobs. A few are here to go to college."

"Also, the things that happened with the Native Americans," Steve Rogers said. "That might cause more problems."

"It would," the senator from Ohio agreed. "I'd just like them to have somewhere they're not scared to live and people aren't scared to have them live there either."

"That's a PR problem," Xander said. "You should talk to Andrew Wells."

"I hadn't thought about their group. Wasn't he one of you?"

"Yes. He was the housemother at the Council," Xander said, smiling. "I really adore how Andrew's helped the community and the guy's like a good brother to me."

"That's good," the senator from Ohio agreed. "I can talk to him about any ideas to see if they have some. I know he works with a demon rights group." Xander nodded. "That's good of him." He looked at the others then back at the trio. "Mr. Harris, how many weapons do you have?"

"Enough that if I could have, I would've went to rescue the girls," he said bluntly. "Or if we have a huge problem happen I can handle it while the regular humans run. The same as I had in Africa, sir."


"Do agents know about that?" the chair asked. Xander pointed at Steve Rogers. "He's not an agent, Mr. Harris. Not at this time."

Xander stared at him. "No but if something happens I'd expect Captain Rogers to be there when I'd expect agents to either be running for their lives or helping others run for their lives. Yes, I know some of my therapy clients do know I have weapons. Most of them think it's a good idea. Especially since I had to hold off Russian agents a few months back because they came to attack me for daring to be a therapist for one of their sort of agents. Though I am fairly upset that someone has my house bugged. It doesn't lead to good confidentiality for my clients."

"I'm not aware of that incident," the chair said. He looked at the others, who all shrugged. McGarrett looked it up and handed his phone over with a cough.

Steve Rogers grinned at him. "We found that and ended it, Xander." Xander punched him on the arm with a grin. "When are you going to change the attic back?"

"I might keep that up there. That one wasn't the first one that felt he needed punishment for what happened when a mission went FUBAR. The same as a few feel better in the bar area downstairs or in the sparring gym."

"About the weapons," one said.

Xander looked at him then called up another file to show them. It was him arguing with a US agent about needing weapons so he could handle the incident that they had called him about. Which then ate the agents, Xander ended up borrowing weapons suddenly, and then the local peaceful demons had been highly impacted so they had held a huge protest of those agents. He stared at the senators. "That was the second time. If there had been a third, I would've used the agents as bait. I have what I need to handle things that I need to handle for you guys or them. I may have a few extra things but I also know that in my hands, they're just pets. I even have a few named because I've had them since Sunnydale." He smiled. "If some agents don't like it, the offer for them to handle those sort of things themselves is still in play."

"I believe you having weapons is a great idea," one of the senators in the back row said. "Because it probably makes you safer." Xander nodded. "Do you generally see patients?"

"I see agents and those sort, Senator. Guys like me who had crappy missions. I don't handle the usual clients, but the ones who've been there, done that, and came back with the ripped up t-shirt to prove it."

"He helped me when I was dethawed so I had an anchor in the modern era," Steve Rogers said. "It helped me a lot. He's helped some agents I know as well."

"That makes sense. If anyone knows how bad things can go, you do," Steve McGarrett said. Xander handed him a business card, earning a smile. "I know a few SEALs who could use you." He tucked it into his pocket.

"Are you a psychologist?"

"Masters in Counseling," Xander said. "I couldn't stand more lecture classes to get the doctorate in psychology. Especially since guys like me don't do well with normal methods of talking it out. Most of the guys like me won't talk about things but it'll come out during other things."

Steve nodded. "I've talked down a few SEALs over beers in a bar playing pool."

"My pool table is pitiful according to a few people. I do have a bar area in the basement for safe drinking. I have a client that really needed it on the anniversary of his wife's death. That way he's not getting drunk in public. I have clients that can only really talk about things during sparring practice."

"So you handle people like you that protect us all but aren't the sort that traditional methods work on," the chair said. Xander nodded. "Interesting. How do they hear about you?"

"Other clients. My first one was an agent I had run into all too often after an apocalypse battle that got covered up. He was shaking hard. I was still in my training time but I got him helped. I've seen him a few other times. I saw his partner when he needed me. It spread from there."

"That's good then," the chair decided. "We need our agents to be on good mental footing. Apparently you do that for them. What sort of weapons do you have?"

Xander smiled. "Things to handle a battle if I need to handle one. From swords on up."

"Oh. I forgot your people tended toward archaic weapons."

"It's really hard to behead something with a gun," Steve Rogers said dryly. Xander nodded. "I've done it but it took a lot more bullets."

"I figured it would," he said, grimacing. "Have any agents shown up to talk to you about learning demon classification or anything you used as a watcher?"

"Yes, a few have. I gave them the same fast training that I gave the girls and told them to come back to learn sword work better or when they needed things. I condensed the major things down to six months worth of books plus weapons training. Most of them are up to date on all that. Most have also found people in their local areas to help them get better with sword and crossbow work. I train anyone who asks because if there's another portal opening, we're all screwed if it's just me."

"The military would fall in," Steve Rogers said. Xander and McGarrett both shook their heads. "They didn't?"

"No," Xander said. "We had one slightly open in New York. We argued for the three days before when it was trying to open, but the military said it wasn't their job." He grimaced. "I ended up handling it with a few military guys who went AWOL for the battle plus the NYPD special units and some of their officers that were former military. Thankfully the coven was fighting against that one so we only got about a fifth of what could've come through."

"I know a guy who was there. It took nine hours once it opened," McGarrett said. "After six hours the military finally showed up to complain to their people, who handed over their weapons to their commanders so they could join the battle. The commanders looked and groaned but got people there. They tried to yell at Xander about it but he pointed out he had been arguing for three days about it with the higher ups."

"Where was I?" Rogers asked Xander.

"Cambodia rescuing a hostage if I heard right."

"Oh, during that mission. I didn't even hear about a problem."

"New York made sure it didn't get covered," Xander said dryly. "We saw Natasha during it. She showed up to help through most of the battle, except when she got a small stab wound to her arm so had to get stitches because they had poisoned claws."

"Huh. Next time, call me directly."

"Not like you could've gotten back from Cambodia that fast," McGarrett said. "I know other SEALs told him the same thing and he told them that same thing, they couldn't have gotten there in time."

"Call me before and I'll figure it out," Rogers said, staring at Xander.

"I tried. Your boss said you were in Cambodia and it was more important than us fighting against a small demonic force."

"Wonderful." Rogers shook his head with a sigh. "Would you call groups like that one we had to save from the arms dealer that they're trying to cover up now?"

"Yeah, I would've called Colonel Clay's team in a heartbeat," Xander said. "They could've helped a lot. It might've kept them away from Max's idiocy that got them declared treasonous as part of a plot."

The chair cleared his throat. "What now?"

They smiled at him. Xander pulled up files for them to view. "We had to help the team," Steve Rogers said. "The arms dealer had compromised a few teams, that one just managed to fight back because they didn't die like he had planned. We helped capture them and the higher few minions recently."

The senators looked it over. "The army's doing what?"

"Trying to cover it up," Xander said dryly. "They're presently trying to court marshal the team for daring to survive and fight back like real soldiers would."

"Let us look into that." Xander coughed and pointed at one.

"No, I'm going to recuse myself, Mr. Harris. I'm well aware of who was blackmailing my wife," that one said. They all stared at him. He nodded. "So was the Secret Service."

"We had started to look into him. Agent Romanoff was doing so but when SHIELD fell in the agents in other agencies felt it wasn't their duty to stop him any longer," Steve Rogers said.

"Wonderful," that same senator said. "We'll look at that as well." The panel of tough guys smiled. "Dismissed. Unless there's other matters someone should look into?"

"Can you please ask someone at the FBI why they expect me to keep track of others who're trying to ascend like Wilkins?" Xander asked. "I thought that'd be their job but they said it's mine."

"I can do that," he promised with a smile. "We don't want that to happen. I'd dare say it'd happen around here."

"Yes, it would've next year if I hadn't found a way to get two of your coworkers arrested last year," Xander said dryly. That got a few moans. Xander smiled. "You're welcome." They got up and left.

They ran into Stark in the hallway. "Yeah, I can work on a sensor like that, guys." He stared at Xander. "I'm getting into all those files you have. That way I know who to avoid."

"Most of them were covered up battles, Stark, and a lot of those are dead now."

"Still. I'd rather know. It would definitely keep it from happening again."

"You can't stop a higher demon from shifting to this plane or into a country. Neither can the coven. You just gotta handle it when it happens. That'd probably get a lot of people very upset if you did. Plus cause a run on the liquor store. Natasha saw me transferring a file over to another safer drive so watched it over my shoulder. She got seriously drunk that night."

"Romanoff?" Stark demanded.

"Yes, her." He stared at him. "Ghana wasn't the worst on there, Stark. Top ten but not the worst." Steve Rogers gagged. "So you may not need to do that."

"Still, better it can be known if something happens like they try to take you out for being somewhere."

"The US tries that," he said dryly. "McGarrett got the sniper that was trying to take us out in Sunnydale and he was FBI."

"Crap," Stark said. "Still?" McGarrett nodded. "Then thank you for that."

"Not a problem. I learned why you respect guys like Xander thanks to the Navy sending me to kill him."

"They thought I was rampaging around Africa like a warlord when I was handling things and setting up emergency plans," Xander quipped. "That was during Ghana."

"Then maybe I don't need to know but I'll be storing a copy just in case they virus yours." They walked over together. Press people tried to rush them but Xander glared and they backed off. Stark looked at him. "Teach Rogers that trick please?"

"They think he's pretty," Xander quipped. "They know I'm not pretty and I have at least a sword on me at all times. Startling me is *real* bad." He headed for the cabs. McGarrett pulled on his arm, taking him to their hired ride. It was safer and he could drop Xander at the hotel on his way to the airport.

Stark and Rogers got into Stark's limo. Tony looked at Steve, shaking his head. "Xander's real unique."

"He's a really nice guy."

"I'm sure he is. So is Barton most of the time. They're a lot alike from what I've seen."

Steve nodded. "They are only Xander drinks less coffee and doesn't have an ex-wife."

"I guess that's good but a good woman might help him a lot. Or even a nice guy to date I guess."

"From what I've heard about Xander's ex's, those aren't the types that like him."

"Then maybe someone will start to introduce him to some former agents. Is he staying here?"

"Yeah, he's going to check on a few clients then go home tomorrow."

"Is that safe?"

"Probably not but it's likely it's going to happen up there instead of so fast." Steve shifted. "There's people here to watch over him."

"That's good. You think they'll take the obvious hint to handle that Army thing?"

"Yup. Max had files on a few of them, not just that one. They'll want to make sure it's not going to ever come out because their careers would be gone."

"Good point." They got to the airport and onto Stark's private plane, heading up to the tower.


Xander walked out of the hotel the next morning and was nearly grabbed by someone but a stick broke the guy's hand. Xander grinned at the blonde next to him. "Thank you, dear."

"Welcome, Xander." She smirked back. "The boss nearly had a fit that you were here in the city all alone."

"I figured they'd retaliate against me back in New York where more people knew me. It'd be more embarrassing."

"Quite probably so we're going to watch over you again."

"You guys have too much to do and not enough people to do it with."

She patted him on the cheek. "You have clients who had no idea you'd be here." He winced. "Yeah, not all that happy but happy you stopped that plan cold." She walked him off. "Got everything?" He pointed at his bag on the trolley then grabbed it, letting her walk him off to her rental car. "Better idea, right?"

"Much nicer than most cabs," he agreed.

"Good." She drove him off, taking him to the airport outside Baltimore. Smaller flight but safer airport. Even if they did have to ride in a puddle jumper sized plane to New Jersey.


Colonel Clay sneered at the con bothering him. "I hope like hell I never get to the point where I leave kids in a building that's about to be destroyed. If the Army didn't like that, then they're not the ones I want to work for anyway." The con shuddered. "All that was Max's plan to discredit us then take us out."

"You're not the only ones here that got screwed by a mission on purpose to cover up something," another of the cons said. "There's whole teams here who're here for the same reason, without the higher powered puppet master in the background, Clay. Though you might want to calm Jensen down. Someone stepped into his face earlier. Even if a miracle happens that'll look worse on him."

Clay looked around. "Corporal, do I need to beat you to death?" he called.

"No, Clay. I'm good," Jensen said coolly, staring at the guy in his face. "Aren't we?" The guy backed off.

One of the guards sneered. "We have meds for guys like you."

Jensen smiled. "Sure, you do that. Watch me go fully homicidal and start taking out the guards. Someone tried that once when they had me captured. Didn't work that well for them when the team found the remains and me giggling in the center of them while I ate candy." The guard shuddered, backing off.

"Don't remind me of that, Jake," Clay ordered. "Damn that was a nightmare." He shook his head. The others in the jail left them alone. Even Cougar. They had trimmed his hair but it had regrown somehow. No one was sure how but it'd be amusement until it was fixed.

The warden walked out. "There's a tour by the higher ups coming, you maggots. Be on your best behavior or suffer for it."

One of the other cons snorted. "What're you going to do? Most of us were trained how to hold off torture and you're not that good at it."

The warden stomped off again. He'd have to stop whatever problem plan this was in the making.


Xander looked at the wish demon he was having over for lunch. "Surely the Pentagon has a fully unredacted copy of their records."

"Teams like that they shred, Xander." She sipped her water. "I wish it were so but that won't happen. So how are you going to help them?"

Xander smiled. "What about on the nearby realms?"

"Nope. They don't exist on the three nearest." Xander grimaced. "The further out the more changes as you know." He nodded. "Though there's one where they're working on Atlantis."

"Huh." He considered it. "Mirror?"

"Not admissible."

"Former members?"

"Mostly dead. There's a few but the army would shut them up."

Xander considered it. "Are the ones sending them in debt to anyone?"

"Two of the usual seven. Them going on those missions would look worse on them, even though they were ordered. The higher ups would never allow that to get out because it'd dirty the uniform and a government agency."

"Okay, then how should I use that poker debt to help them?"

"You can wish them to be found innocent."

"I'm pretty sure they're not the only ones there in that situation."

"No but they can work on it from the outside." She looked toward that jail then smiled. "The warden's a possible stressor point. They put him in there on purpose." Xander grinned. "It wouldn't help all of them. He could conveniently get loudly drunk near a reporter. They'd both probably get dead for it."

Xander considered it then sighed. "They're going to hate me for this." He got up to pull a file out of storage, bringing it back to hand to her.

She read it over, frowning. "How would this help?"

"Look at who handled it."

She looked. "Before they got their geek but that's nasty. How did you get that?"

"It was part of a poker debt. I wanted physical files on anyone who I might have to save for the next ten years. That was three years ago. I'm fairly certain that's the only one on that group."

"It'd still look worse on the team for doing the job they were ordered to do. Unfortunately. If I had known that I would've rewarded them a few years ago." She put it on the table. "I'll see what I can come up with. That file proves I owe them a few."

"Actually, a few others owe them a few." He opened it to point. "That's near that temple to D'Hoffryn." She looked and gasped, staring at him. He nodded. "Which means they saved the last known physical power point to him and a few others down here."

She looked up and her boss appeared, reading over that file. "That is true," D'Hoffryn agreed. "I would owe them for that. I can get them out of there."

"They're not the only ones unjustly imprisoned," the vengeance demon said. "That whole prison yanks on me each time I look that way."

D'Hoffryn stared at his vengeance demon over unjust punishments, grimacing. He checked that prison, sneering. "That's not uncommon but it's very wrong. I will work on it, Harris, but you must give up the last ball of power Anya held."

Xander stared at him. "It's in the safe."

"It's still around. It could be used to call her back."

Xander shook his head. "She made it while she was human, D'Hoffryn." He got up to get it, letting him test it. The vengeance demon slumped. "Her power center's remains are in there too but it can't be used to pull her back."

"You have a power center?" he demanded.

"I have like seven," he shot back with a grin. "You wondered what happened to Scotty's? Poker." The head vengeance demon growled. Xander led him to the special safe of mystical things. He laid out the seven of them, making the other vengeance demon moan as she touched one. He looked at her. "That was left to me in his will. His whole collection was left to me in his will. Because he knew I could keep it safe."

"I could use that one," D'Hoffryn said with a point. "The world could use them back."

"Yeah but the only people you could appoint over it would be psycho," Xander said dryly. "The world doesn't need a psychotic vengeance demon over evil plans. Otherwise I would've recommended Willow for it."

"She would've been good at it too," he agreed. He touched it, sensing the ones it would call out to. "You're right, they're not good enough for it."

Xander nodded. "Some day I may put that one on just to stop some of them." The head vengeance demon choked and spluttered. Xander grinned. "It'd help stop the bad ideas."

"No, that's a fairy's job," the lower vengeance demon quipped. Xander held up that power center. "Oh, dear. We wondered what had happened to him."

Xander looked at her then grinned. "He wasn't *great* in bed but good enough. It made him fall. Sure solved some of my problems too. It was a bet too. He bet me I couldn't make him fall." He shrugged. "All it took was fairly decent orgasms."

D'Hoffryn looked in the safe then at his pain in the horns. "How do you do that?"

Xander shrugged but grinned. "Just my charming nature?"

"Apparently too charming." He stared at them then sighed. "I will repay that debt to the ones that saved my temple. And others if possible because that sort of hell isn't good for humanity either. It will cause stress that will get us more work."

Xander laid a hand on his arm, showing him something. "You might send Anya's successor that way. He drugs them so they can't call out. He knows enough to know about your people and that will cause hell to break loose if it's not carefully managed."

"Thank you for that service." He and his vengeance demon left, though she took her sandwich with her. Xander closed up the safe again.

"What's a power center?" James asked.

Xander jumped. "I forgot you were here." James was like his house's friendly poltergeist at times. He was mostly silent but Xander woke up to things having been moved on him, dishes mysteriously washed, and sometimes there was even groceries he hadn't bought in the fridge. "A power center is what appoints someone to a certain type of demonic job. It's basically like the crown naming you the queen or king of that job."

"So how did you get some?"

"Most of those I inherited from someone who wanted them out of D'Hoffryn's hands." He grinned. "A few I won at poker."

"You play poker with some really interesting people, Harris."

"Want to go play kitten poker with me tonight?"



"I... Yeah, I probably should so you're safe." Xander shrugged, walking back to the kitchen to get back to lunch. James followed, making his own sandwich so he could sit down. "What's a vengeance demon?"

"It's a type of wish demon. My ex Anya had been one for over a thousand years. She was the vengeance demon over scorned women. Abused and hurt women called on her to punish the men who hurt them. And I guess a few women as well." He ate a bite of sandwich. "She got a lot of fun using the wishes so the people were punished."

"So women who get beat call on her to get out of it?" Xander nodded. "Must've helped before the laws helped 'em."

"The laws helped some but not all can take the help. A lot of them can't do it even with the laws helping them. Laws also aren't everywhere."

"Point. I've seen it in the news." He nibbled while he thought. "So if they wished their guys hurt for hurting them she'd have to do it?"

"If the ladies were specific she did it in accordance with the wish. If they weren't all that specific she got to be creative."

"That sounds gross."

"Yeah, Anya was *real* creative at times. Remember watching the movie _Tremors_? Someone turned her ex boyfriend into that in Sunnydale. He tried to eat her and me because we had been on a date."


"Yup. One she turned into a nest of spiders that was slowly eating the woman he had been cheating on the wishing girlfriend with. Of course, that was his legal wife, but possession being nine-tenths of the law and all that."

James blinked. "That's warped."

"Yeah, sometimes. It's like natural laws in some ways."

"Very warped." He dug in again. "What was that one over?"

"Unjust punishments."

"See if Coulson can use some of those teams to go against HYDRA. He's down people and if they're like that one team you were helping, they're used to handling weird and wrong things in the field. HYDRA shouldn't be too much worse."

"It's not a bad idea." He sent that message to Bobbi's phone. She sent back a 'he thinks it might be an interesting plan'. "She likes it."

"That's a good thing for them." He finished his sandwich. "No clients today?"

"Most of the time they just show up after things have went wrong."

"That's gotta help." He walked off thinking about that. A notecard floated down in front of him. He picked it up, reading the invitation to test for a vengeance demon job. "No, thank you anyway," he called, looking up at the ceiling. "I can't be that mean." He walked off texting Steve to talk to him. Steve called so he didn't have to type back. It was like therapy that helped him go over all the HYDRA stuff.

In the kitchen, Xander grinned at the ceiling. "Thanks," he mouthed. "It'll help him a lot to talk about that stuff." He finished his lunch and got seconds then went to the office to make some notes. These would be hidden from everyone.


Bobbi Morse knocked on the office door, leaning in. "Xander had an idea, Coulson."

He put down his pen. "Another battle or are others trying to reopen Sunnydale?"

"Someone out there is still trying but everyone's ignoring him since the last one so hot on it ended up sacrificing some of their coworkers over the hellmouth." She stepped in and closed the door. "The prison that team's presently in waiting on their rigged trial is full of teams who were in the same circumstance. They did their job and the Army got embarrassed. He suggested they're the sort of team that could probably react against HYDRA without a whole lot of oversight."

He considered it. "That might work but I'm not sure we could get them past General Talbot. He's still convinced we're traitors as well."

"He just wants the weapons, Coulson. We both know that."

"We do. Has he made a move against Harris?"

"I don't think Talbot wants to die by demon apocalypse battle either." She smiled. "If so, Xander's good at baffling him with bullshit. He handled it when they went after a slayer to test on. Mostly by blowing them up. He got cleared of those charges since they had one of the tiny ones that the FBI couldn't or wouldn't go save."

"I forgot about that incident." He considered it. "I can definitely see using those teams that way. I'll see if I can find a way to get them past Talbot."

"For all I care, let Talbot take down one or two of the bases, boss. Let's see how he likes it."

"Too dangerous. They could have anything there."

She smiled. "I know." She strolled off.

He smirked at her back. "That's a bit evil, Agent Morse," he called after her. But it was a good idea. It might take out some innocent soldiers though. He considered it then decided maybe a test base would be all right. One they knew didn't have a lot of problems or tactical points. Maybe one that had hostages. That would keep them busy for a few days.


Steve Rogers was let into the meeting room at the White House, nodding at the people in there. "You wanted to see me, sir?" He sat down.

"General Talbot is having a fit about the former SHIELD people still being out of jail."

"I believe, and I'm not alone in this belief, that he's only in it to get the speciality weapons that were developed. That if they had wanted to handle the mess that it had to become that they wouldn't have gone after the clearly untainted agents while letting some with obvious taints go."

"That's very political of you," the president said.

Steve nodded. "I've seen a few cases where the general let people who were obviously HYDRA, had the logo tattooed on their bodies, get out of jail free. I've also seen him going after clear agents who have no way that they're tainted. Including me."

"You wouldn't come in for questioning," Talbot sneered.

Steve gave him a look. "It's not like I could have been HYDRA. I helped take them down the first time. I helped take them down this time."

"The most heroic actions make you look less guilty," Talbot sneered back.

"Yes, but I'm not hiding things. Beyond that, I answered to those I was supposed to answer to. You are not in my chain of command. Should you end up there, I'll make sure I retire." The general sneered. Steve looked at the president. "Sir, what did you want to discuss about the search for HYDRA's people?"

"Are there still SHIELD agents working?" the president asked.

"Yes. I'm told there's a few who have signed on to other agencies." He smiled slightly. "Including a few I know."

"Is Agent Phil Coulson one?" the president asked.

"I have no idea what he's doing, sir. He hasn't asked me to participate in any raids or anything of the like. I thought he was still dead until about a month before the congressional hearing with Mr. Harris."

"No one told you?"

"No, sir, Nick Fury did not, and if he had been in front of me when I found out he would've eaten his cigar."

"I can't blame you there. Do his former agents know?"

"He was lucky to survive them finding out, sir."

"Wonderful. How did he survive?"

"Something about a serum and something Nick Fury did to him. I'm not certain on the details. It was classified higher than he felt comfortable sharing with us."

The president nodded. "That makes sense. We always called Coulson his good left hand."

"I know he was running a special response team that handled things like the clean up after the London battle."

"That was him!" the president said, slapping the table. "That explains a lot of things about that. For a while I thought it was Harris." He grimaced. "Okay, that's putting a lot of things into perspective. How were they doing that?"

"Plane, sir. Now grounded from what I've been told."

"Ah." He nodded. "That makes so much sense." He looked at the general and the general's second-in-command. Then he looked at Steve again. "Someone suggested that there is a special military prison that holds people who could help weed down HYDRA's menace."

"The one that holds the teams that got arrested to cover up that their commanders sent them on crappy missions that they thought would embarrass them?" Steve asked. "Yes, I'm aware of it and I'm hoping that the latest team put in there is exonerated."

"What team?" Talbot demanded.

"The one that the arms dealer tried to kill to cover up his plans so they ran Max into the ground," Steve told him. "Colonel Clay's team."

"They got those kids killed!"

Steve turned to look at him. "The team rescued those children from the compound that their higher ups were about to bomb. Max had them there to make it a great target for them. They put the kids on the same chopper that was supposed to take them home, and Max blew it up thinking it was the team." Talbot's second shuddered. "That wasn't their fault. That was Max's fault, and the dirty commanders above them that make me ashamed we wear the same uniform's fault." He sneered at him. "The same as you have been, General."

"*Captain*, I believe that's a bad statement," he sneered back.

"You can think that but I can guarantee I'll go be Captain England if you try to push your bad ideas toward me. I'm sure they'd be happy to house me."

"Enough," the president said. "Rogers, they are not to come near you."

"Yet, two of his goons tried to attack me in the park last week to capture me or take samples from me. Thankfully they went down and stayed down so I didn't have to kill them. That way they can face justice."

"I said enough," the president sighed.

"Sorry, sir. Strong emotions and all that."

Someone thumped open the door and stomped in. "Sorry to intrude," Clint said, dropping someone at the president's feet. "Sir, that one was restarting the program that tried to torture demons and slayers." He handed over the information. "I doubt his boss would be of any help. The rest of his group is in the van in the driveway." He stepped back. The guy on the ground groaned so Clint kicked him to knock him back out. "The papers were signed by General Talbot, sir."

The president looked it over. "You have convenient timing, Agent Barton."

"No, sir, I've been dealing with this all night. No other agency wanted to deal with this. They seemed to think they had presidential authority."

"No, I didn't agree to that." He looked at Talbot. "You're in deep if this is all true."

"It can't be. I'd never torture anyone."

Clint snorted, staring at him. "This started because one came for Agent Romanoff at Mr. Harris' house. She was over sparring with him to help another agent, a Brit one."

The president licked his lips. "That team?"

"Sir, they stepped up with weapons to take out Mr. Harris," Clint said dryly. "Xander's many things but not nice about that sort of thing." He grinned. "Then he called me to come pick up the mess so Natasha could quit questioning them in his foyer."

The president nodded. "Charming. Is this all you have on them?"

"No, sir. Stark's been hacking all night." He called him. "Stark, me. What more do you have on that group?"

"Sixteen orders, including one signed by the VP, who is a graduate of a fraternity that holds a lot of HYDRA members. Not sure if he's one but if eighty percent of them for the last thirty years are singing the HYDRA theme song then I'm pretty sure we should look at the others. Also, his wife's German and was apparently born on a supposedly abandoned HYDRA base. The same one we found the twins at, Barton. There's six that are seriously warped. Press the blue button on the side and put your phone on display." Clint did that. "Now, external." He did that. "Thank you." He beamed those files to him so he could show them to the president.

"I'll be damned," the president said quietly. He looked back at his guards, who nodded they had seen it and would handle it. He looked at the others. "Why were they after the pretty agent, Mr. Stark?"

"She got something like the serum he did," Clint said with a nod at Steve. "That was part of the records put out there."

One of the guards coughed. "The file on what the Russians did to their trainees, it was horrifying," he told the president. "Including what she was trained to be and do." Clint nodded.

"Thankfully she got free," Steve said. "I'm happy she could make her own choices about that sort of thing."

"Another file," Stark warned, sending that. Clint put it up for them. Steve hopped up, nose flaring as he drew in breath. "Easy, big guy. Don't turn into Thor, Steve."

"I'm not," he growled, glaring at the general.

"He's a turn-coat."

"He fell off a train and got captured," Steve growled. "He was brainwashed. They electrocuted his brain for *decades*. He's still fighting to get half of his memories back. I'll be damned if you try to touch Bucky."

The president held up a hand. "The Joint Chiefs looked at that issue thanks to a well written request and agreed he was a victim, not someone who knowingly turned sides," he said, staring at Talbot. "I'm not really liking how you're handling things, General."

"Sir," he started.

The president held up a hand. "Mr. Stark, are there other files?"

"Ten," he said. "Not that bad, just things like materials orders that potentially show torture. Or a lot of dental work." He sent those for Clint's phone to display.

"My battery's at the last bar," Clint warned.

"Nearly done," Stark agreed.

The president nodded. "General Talbot, you're being relieved of duty and command. Go back to the Pentagon and wait for the decision of the Joint Chiefs. Captain, sit. Please?" He sat down but he was nearly vibrating in anger. "We'll work all that out. Guards, go get the people Agent Barton nicely brought us."

"They're already in our holding cells, sir," one reported. "As soon as he pulled up the outer guards gathered them and helped him drag that one in." Clint grinned. "Did any escape you up there, Barton?"

"Two. They didn't escape from Harris." Clint shifted his weight as his phone went dead. It got put into his front pants pocket. "We're a bit concerned about the cannibal imps that Xander walked off mumbling about them meeting; apparently they had been at a battle a few years back."

Steve's phone beeped. "That's Stark." He opened the text message. "Stark said, and I quote, 'Harris said to say that you don't send a consecrated virgin into a situation where they'll be sacrificed' and 'it's clear that one of the higher ups in that unit is into some heavy rituals that are a very bad idea'." He looked up. "I have his number if you want me to clarify that."

"Well?" the president asked the general's aide. "Is that true?"

"Sir," he said, starting to sweat.

"Shut up," Talbot ordered.

"No, I want him to speak," the president said. "Strip the shirt off, Corporal." The guy shook his head but the guards moved to strip it off him. They handcuffed Talbot when he tried to interfere. Clint got out of the way, taking Steve's phone to take pictures of the marks to send to Xander. He sent back what they were for. The president took the phone to look at that message, grimacing. "Wonderful," he said. He handed the phone back to the owner. "What deal did you make?" he asked coolly.

"To take down HYDRA," he sneered back.

"HYDRA probably has others that have made deals," Clint said with a shrug. "Then again, there's also the matter of off-world arms dealers that could be in contact with them. We're not sure if the wars they're supplying are just or not."

"Would that matter?" the president asked.

"If they're fighting against a dictator, yes," Clint said. "If their leader is Nero or Caligula? Sure is to me."

"That I can agree with," Steve said. "I've never asked any about those sort of things. There's almost no way I can help them and me knowing won't make it any better. If they want me to help them, they'll come to me."

The president nodded. Clint grinned at him. "One asked me my opinion on sniper rifles," he said. "They were taking down a leader that was sacrificing all their eggs to supposedly call down a higher demon. I taught her how to shoot it too."

Steve nodded. "I'd do that. Or offer to come do it for her."

The president nodded, tapping the table. "Yeah, I probably would too in that case." He sighed. Another text came in. "Oh, more than one made the deal. A list of names courtesy of the peaceful demon kitten poker community here in DC. I see three of his top people and one from another group."

Clint looked then took the phone to text to Stark about telling Coulson. He said he had. "That way if he's out and about someone higher can stop him before he gets a bright idea." He handed Steve the phone back. Steve grinned. "By the way, that one didn't die. We managed to keep all the attacking ones from dying from their stupidity. So no sacrifice in a battle." The guy in custody started to kick and struggle. Clint hit him to knock him out. "Better."

"All you freaks need to go away anyway," Talbot sneered, stomping off.

Clint grinned and waved at his back. "I'm a perfectly normal guy. Just ask the circus I trained in." He looked at Steve, sitting down. "Make the play's call, Cap."

"I've got a few ideas. Is Xander's house okay?"

"Yeah. A few singe marks but otherwise they're fine. The one he's helping most often was there to help defeat the second attempt on the back door. Then some weird things happened like a portable swamp. Andrew was reading Harry Potter apparently." He grinned. "Then the rest of the protections came up. I took James with me to the tower. Natasha helped to make sure he was safe. She was about to chew on someone instead of sneering. I actually thought she was going to rip one's throat out with her teeth."

Steve nodded. "It's bad when she doesn't reach for a weapon."

"Xander sure did. James took the higher one from him and made him use the smaller weapon against them."

The president shook his head. "This is a mess, boys. It has to be cleaned up."

"Harris did offer some cannibal imps," Clint said.

The president stared at him. "I saw the video of that battle, Barton. I never want to see a furry little ball of teeth gnaw their way *out* of someone after they had crawled inside him again."

"Agreed," Steve said, covering his mouth for a second. "Sorry."

The president smirked at him. "I asked the general that wouldn't quit throwing up if he was pregnant, Captain. It should turn your stomach."

"Then I'm glad I can only imagine it." He got up. "Permission to go handle this situation, sir?"

"Granted. Send Coulson to me so we can chat, boys."

Clint sent someone a text message from Steve's phone. "I know an agent who knows where he is, sir. Neither of us are working for him." He handed back the phone and saluted then left. Steve saluted and followed.

The president looked at the guards. "I'm guessing someone got very disappointed that they found out the hard way that he was alive."

"Probably, sir. I would be pissed too. Especially since rumors had him being Barton's handler."


Xander looked up from cleaning his present gun, smiling at the woman that paused in front of him. "Hey, pretty one."

"Xander," Bobbi said. She sat next to him on the front step. "They've been stopped."

"There's always another asshole, Bobbi. You know that." He went back to cleaning. "Any new news?"

"Two things. The president asked to speak to Coulson."

"Have fun in DC."

"Not really." She shoulder nudged him. "Are you okay?"

"Bit of a temper," he admitted, then smiled at her. "But I'm sure those other assholes are going to show up later to help me solve it."

"They never help you solve it, they only make it worse. Don't you nag me and Clint about our tempers?"

"Not Clint." She swatted him. He grinned at her. "I'm in control. My temper's fine. It's just a bit out there because I had to use some of my explosive pets."

"Idiots do tend to make you do things you hate to prove them wrong," she agreed. "You sure you're going to be okay? You're here alone."

He snorted, grinning at her. "I'm good, Bobbi. Remember the first time you saw me?" She shuddered, curling up some. "I can go back there still."

"Don't unless you have to. The neighbors would be horrified to find you fighting nearly naked with artillery, Xander." She stood up. "Be safe. Want to give me something to teach Skye with?"

"Has she even found her boundaries?"


"How can she think she'll be effective in a battle if she doesn't do that?"

"She creates earthquakes."

Xander shrugged. "If she goes to someone like the coven or Andrew, they can probably help her find a place where that sort of thing might be helpful. If she doesn't know how much energy she's using and what her overuse limit is, she's of no tactical use with those powers. That leaves just her being a normal agent like you and Clint, and from what I've seen she's not like you or Clint."

"No, not yet," she admitted. "I'll tell her that."

"It's the same thing we tell witches who want to hunt."

"I can definitely share that." She patted him on the head before walking off again.

Xander went back to polishing his present gun, putting it up after a few minutes so he could pull another one to clean. A local police officer cruised by so he waved but didn't look up. The officer stomped over a few minutes later. "I just had to defeat more people who hated me for being me, and for helping former SHIELD agents who weren't bad." He glanced up, shrugging some. "Some of your folk got to clean them up."

"Is that why you think you should be cleaning guns on your front step?"

"Yup. I don't want to let them get near the house. It'd profane it." He grinned while pointing. "That one is one of them but he escaped earlier. I'm pretty sure he's got buddies coming to prove his useless point moot with more force. You're going to be lucky if I don't have to call in to bring a mop next time."

The officer called that in, stepping off to the sidewalk to look at that threat. He was trying to leave. He hung up his phone and looked at Xander. "You need to calm down."

"Sure. They leave me alone I'll gladly do that. They're not going to leave me alone though." A car slowed as it came up the street, Xander watching it. "Officer, move," he ordered, restoring his gun quickly. The guys in the car drove off in a squeal of tires. "Fuck me. That's a group from an African country. One of them was a former presidential guard," he muttered, calling that in. "It's Xander. I just saw the former head of Ghana's guard unit in a car doing a drive by of my house." He listened. "There's an officer here and no, I'm not going to let them be threatened. He's nicely probably got a life he doesn't need to risk to them being pissy." He handed over the phone. "That's even worse than US agents being dicks."

"This is Officer Mayhugh," he said. He listened to the precise orders. "I can do that, sir. Mr. Harris, are any of your clients here?"

"No, none of my therapy clients are here. I'm a therapist for agents, and I'm former Council," he said at the odd look he got. The officer winced and said that. Xander glared at the threat. Who turned and ran off while calling someone. Xander threw something at his head, hitting him hard enough to knock him down. Xander strolled after him to pick him up. "Hi, let's go talk about your mealy minded ideas so I don't have to deal with them and Ghana's people." He hauled him off, slightly growling now. He took his phone as he walked past the officer.

"I'm going to go talk to this one. If you want to hangout out here, go ahead. We'll come back in a bit so you can arrest him." He hauled the guy inside and up to the attic, where he had things that a former client had needed to be punished with. Xander had spent six months learning from someone to help that client and another one later on. Now, he'd use it for other reasons. A set of chains being applied, and the guy crying, Xander taking off his shirt, and then he grabbed a riding crop. "So, let's talk."

The officer outside looked up at the wailing going on. "I have no idea what he's doing and I'm not going to ask," he decided, calling that in to his boss. His boss could ask if he wanted to know. His boss told him how Xander worked and with who, so he probably had a clue what to do to make agents cry. The officer watched that same car cruise past, taking a picture of them with his phone to send in. Just in case. When the car came back for a third time, they hopped out. Upstairs, a window opened and a 'whoom' went off right before the car blew up. The ones that had gotten out ran for their lives. The officer chased, it was his job; he'd deal with the use of artillery in his city later.


Xander looked up as the lady walked up to where he was sitting in the police station. "Lady MacBeth," he said dryly.

"Shut up, Harris." She looked at the officers. "Is he under arrest?"

"He's in protective custody before we have to watch him blow up more people, ma'am. Are you his bodyguard?"

"This is the former second-in-command at SHIELD," Xander said. "Now she works for Stark."

"Ah," a few said, nodding.

She smiled. "It's a lot less hectic." She stared at Xander. "Are you in trouble?"

"I'm pouty; I had to use a few pets. People from Ghana showed up, Hill."

"Wonderful," she said dryly, crossing her arms over her chest. "Why?"

"Congress asked to see what had happened that they were covering up."

"Are you safe?"

He nodded. "I'll be fine. The last of the agents from earlier is hopefully out of surgery now and in handcuffs."

She blinked a few times. "What did you do to him?"

"We had a talk with the stuff I learned how to do for Gregorivich."

"Eww." She winced. "Is he expected to live?"

"Miserably," an officer said then cleared his throat. "Agents need that?"

"That depends on the agent," Xander said. "Some need to feel that they're not the only sane person. Some need to be absolved of guilty feelings. Some need to spar to talk. I have one I had to hire hookers to help him and slowly move him back so he learned to talk without the sexual stimulus from outside himself. Some I spar with, some need a hug."

"That makes more sense," the one doing the report at the next desk said. "There's been incidences where I really needed a hug too." Xander smiled at him. "Ms. Hill, we really would like to have him somewhere safer but we're also aware he has a lot of weapons at his house for many reasons." He stared at her. "Could you find someone who could watch over him for you and us?"

"I probably can, yes."

"Thank you. If you can guarantee he's got someone to help him so he does normal human things again, you can take him home."

"I can do that," she promised. She helped Xander up, walking him out to her car. "How much artillery did you have to use?" she asked quietly.

"Three things." He grinned. "Not nearly enough."

"Thankfully Barton's nearly back in the city," she said.

"And he'll be busy." Xander stared at her. "I'm good with a check-in system, Hill. You know that."

"No, you're not." She got him into the car, watching as he got in before she checked for bombs or new additions to the car. Then she got in to drive him home. She called Barton once he had went inside. "It's Hill. Harris had to yet again defend himself. No, after that, Barton. Locals wanted him to have a sitter. Do you want that?" She smirked. "No, if I left Barnes here with him, they might go out as a strike team. He's guarding Stark and Potts instead." She listened. "That's fine. I can coordinate with them. I'm here until someone comes to relieve me." She hung up, walking up to the door. It was locked. She picked the lock and walked in, ducking the net that automatically came out as a defense. "Harris," she said patiently. She couldn't avoid the three darts with some substance to knock her out.

Xander came off the stairs. "Sorry, Hill, but this is normal guy work. Not agent work." He picked her up, taking her to his safe room to put her in there. It'd keep her safe if someone broke in. Even if they set the house on fire this room would survive. Then he went back to gathering things he'd need and want. He could solve at least one of the problems easily enough. He was at his car when he heard a voice say 'There's this concept of teamwork, Harris'. He turned to look at Stark. "Wouldn't know. But thanks for the lesson." He grinned. "Shouldn't you be safely somewhere else?"

"Pepper and I are pretty able to protect ourselves from this."

"I'm not handling Talbot's remaining idiots, Stark. I'm handling the ones from Ghana." Stark winced. "I'm going to talk to a few ex's actually." He grinned. "You should probably be safe. Hill's in my safe room but there's no way for her to get out of there or you to get in without my help or it'll set off some lethal protections. And she's got a note beside her saying that." He opened his car door. "You should probably go pretend to need the guards. It makes them feel better to be needed." He slid in but Stark came over to pull him out. "Let go," he said patiently.

"No. You can come talk to the fussing ones about what you wanted to do. That way they know. And let Hill out. She'll get evil."

Xander looked at him. "No she won't. She might try to get a bit mean, but I've seen evil. She's not near there." He sighed. "You guys don't need my help with that problem. And besides, most of my ex's would never dream of touching me. If they do, I'll deal with them."

"Fuck no, fuck no, fuck no," was repeated over and over as Clint walked up the street. "Your dating pity party is not a great idea, even against the assholes who hate you for saving their asses. The last time you went to them, a government needed to change hands really quickly." He grabbed the two bags, wincing at the weight of one. "Weapons are good." He hauled Xander off, making Stark grin. "Hill won't be able to get out of there, Stark. It's got magical and mundane protections. Even if they burn the house she's safe."

Stark locked up the car and went to his own to go back to the tower. Someone had the heroic one well in hand.


Clint looked at James as he walked Xander into the tower's common area, handing him Xander. He set the weapons bag on the coffee table to look inside, whistling at what he saw. He looked at his therapist. "Were you going to start a one-guy war?"

"Pretty much if that's what it took to get Ghana away from me." Xander slid off James' lap. "Sorry."

"It's okay," James said, standing up to look inside the weapons bag. "How did you do that?"

"It's magic," Clint said dryly. He pulled out the more minor things. He heard a deep moan and grinned back at Natasha. "Xander was going to go handle the guys from Ghana that tried to take him out earlier."

"I am that good," Xander said dryly, staring at him.

Clint grinned. "Why take her fun, Xander?"

"It's my fun. They want to kill me because those senators asked."

"So? Still Natasha's fun if she wants it to be. You can't deny a lady those sort of treats." He pulled out a battle axe, staring at it. "Not your new baby, so you were thinking it'd be broken?"

"They're human, I don't need a blessed or a silver spiked blade," Xander said with a shrug.

"That's a battle axe," James said, staring at Xander for a minute. "You can't use that against guns."

"The hell I can't," Xander said dryly, smirking at him. "It wouldn't be the first time. Really."

"Yeah, don't remind me," Clint ordered. He got down to the guns, laying them out on the couch in order. "Nice choices, all one caliber, three boxes of bullets." He put them beside them. "Spare, pre-loaded clips." He put those down too. Then he pulled out a piece of weapon he wasn't sure about. "Is this a laser cannon?" he demanded, looking it over.

"Um...yeah, it is. Andrew made it for my birthday a few years back." He took it to check over and turn off. "That wasn't the safety, Clint." Stark came off the elevator with Pepper. "Sorry, Clint dragged me."

Stark looked at what he was holding, taking it to look over. "That's a laser cannon."

Xander took it back. "That's not the safety, Stark."

"That's fine. I want to test this. Who made it for you?" he asked as he walked off.

"Andrew did for my birthday. Which means I'd like it back."

"Let me see how strong it is," Stark called, heading for his weapons testing area. A few minutes later the rest of them heard an alarm going off and Stark came off the elevator nodding. "Damn strong. Wow. I need to see if Andrew has more ideas like this."

"Andrew's had a lot of ideas. Now he's a good guy though." He took the laser cannon back to look over. Then he took the one from Clint's hand. "Sorry, poker debt. It's in a frozen state until someone human touches it." He reset that holding.

Clint stared at him before sighing. "Damn I need to join your kitten poker circuit." Xander smiled at him. He put on his shooting gloves and took the bomb back to look over. It restarted but Stark snatched it to disarm. "Thanks. I don't think we need that sort of international incident."

"That was a backup plan," Xander defended.

Clint stared at him. "You're a bit scary, Xander. Really."

Xander blew a kiss. "Thank you, Clint. That's the sweetest thing anyone's said to me in years since a three-year-old slayer told me that."

"You're comparing me to a three-year-old girl?" Clint asked, smirking back.

"Well, a slayer so a bit more than average. The slayer spirit did taint her with the ideas about bad things. Like you, she learned I had my reasons when I become scary." He gave him a pointed look.

"Which means I'm probably getting to the good weapons," Clint decided, digging in there again. He handed something else to Stark and then handed one to Xander, who disarmed it. "Thank you both."

"I thought I had reset the freezing spell. So someone's screwing with it. There's another one in there." He got up to find it and turned it off. It had a key. Stark snatched it to look over and huffed. Xander shrugged. "The little sister to that one closed a portal in Portland once."

"Shut up, Xander," Stark said. "How much of your armory is this?"

"Less than a tenth," James said. He looked at Xander. "Does no one consider you scary until you have to do something overcompensating that way?"

"Pretty much. The slayers decided I was their normal guy, and that's why the spell didn't take me." He shrugged.

"First, you're not normal," Stark said sarcastically. "Combat does that to you. Secondly, if you were like every other guy, the demon poker circuits wouldn't let you come play with them. They don't let other humans just jump into a game if they bring in stuff to bet with."

"Kittens," Clint said.

"Kittens then." Stark stared at him. "Third, this is our sort of job, not yours."

"No, Ghana's my sort of problem. They're after me because Congress asked to see that film."

"Which means they're mealy minded, weak willed males," Natasha said casually from her seat.

"That's usually women's work to solve," Pepper said with a smile for her then Xander.

"I'd never let a woman fight all her own battles. I'm used to ones that wouldn't admit they needed help even if they were half dead so I usually just step in to help them even if they complain. Afterward I usually get nagged like I am now."

"If someone's bothering the spell work on these, could they be bothering the ones at the house?" Clint asked. "Like on the safe room you stashed Hill in?"

"No. I inscribed those myself."

"You don't do magic," Clint said, staring him down.

"Anyone can inscribe runes then I had Andrew power them."

"Oh, okay. Andrew probably won't screw with those then." Xander shook his head. "Can others screw with them on him?"

"No. Only Willow could and she's still trapped in the spell to call the slayers back."

"Your contacts checked?" Natasha asked. Xander nodded. "That's useful of them. Could she get free by pulling power from this realm?"

"No, they said it's a web and she's got to non-magically get herself free."

"That's fine. A good consideration to have," Pepper said, smiling at him. Xander grinned back. "You can't really take out the general's people."

"I'm not going to deal with them. They're not really upsetting me at the moment. The hit teams from Ghana I was going to deal with." She winced. "I'm more than capable of that. I've had to do worse in the past."

"Let agents do that," Pepper said.

Xander snorted, shaking his head. "They wouldn't care. They mostly see me as slightly in their way. They argue with me about doing anything until something happens and they need me."

"They do," Clint said. "Bobbi found one that was a threat from a group of agents for not taking out the demon in Hawaii that was warning them about that chemical spill."

"I wondered what happened to that. I was going to turn it over to their internal affairs people. Not that they'd do anything but at least it'd be on file."

"Bobbi had it handed to someone in another agency who bragged to their director that his agents were filthy." Clint grinned. "It's politics down there."

"I know but I hate politics." He sat down with a sigh. "I really can handle the hit teams out for me. Really. You guys are busy handling General Talbot's BS."

James shook his head. "I'm not handling anything and I'm pretty sure I can do that better than you can."

Xander patted him on the metallic arm. "I'm sure you could but I'm scarily creative and they're coming after me. Not you, James. It's my fight."

"I think Natasha was going to call dibs on it," Stark said, looking at her.

"I would like to see such units disbanded. It does look very bad on their country," she said dryly. She smiled at Pepper. "Could some preliminary PR work help that?"

"I told a few reporters," Xander told her. "Again, not caring because I'm not presently doing anything noteworthy. If I was a drunken starlette maybe but I'm not."

"The world needs fewer of them anyway," Clint said. "I'm just as much a target as you because they've seen me there, Xander."

Xander stared at him. "Clint, has it passed your attention that there's fandom conventions to you guys? That young kids dress up as you to honor all that you've done? Especially since all the SHIELD files became open, they've been squealing over you for weeks online." Clint blushed as he winced, shaking his head. "You should see some. There's some that change your uniform into stripper gear, some that stay true to it. A few who make their own versions and carry real bows. Archery's really picked up thanks to you." Clint walked off blushing brighter. "Sorry!" he called after him.

Stark shook his head but sighed. "I knew about the conventions. Watching the ones that go as Captain America are the most fun. That and the ones who create knock-offs of my suit out of things." He looked at Pepper, who smiled at him. "Thanks, Pepper."

"You're welcome. You're speaking at one in a few weeks. Clint, did you want me to arrange for you to go to one of them so you can answer questions?"

"Please don't," floated out of the bathroom. "I'll freeze in front of them."

Natasha giggled, giving them all a smug look. "I went to the one in New Jersey a few months back. The children were very nice. Even the middle-aged ones were nice. Though almost none of them recognized me." She looked at Xander.

"One of my clients was there with his little sister so he could threaten her boyfriend but it was driving him nuts so I showed up to talk to him."

"That's charming." She smiled at Stark. "The kids will love hearing from you. Remember to let them ask you questions instead of what you did at the expo." Stark walked off with the bombs, sighing. She got up to stop Xander from repacking things, taking the weapons bag with her to the vault. "We can use that later, Xander. For now, sit and rest. James can help you plan your assault if he wishes."

Xander rolled his eyes, looking at James. "And that sort of womanly nagging is why I'm mostly gay now."

James burst out laughing. "I can see why if you get nagged like that often."

"I do seem to yes," he said dryly, glaring at Natasha when she came back.

She smiled. "You need the nagging before you're of no use to your clients because you're dead."

"If the hit teams come here, I'm going to be just as dead, dear."

"No you won't. We would help you defend yourself." She went into the kitchen. "Clint, should I find pictures of the convention I went to?" she called as she walked past the bathroom doorway.

"No thank you." He came out, looking at Xander. "You're not being nagged like the slayers would."

"Bet me. They all thought I was incredibly normal too. Usually right before I had to do something they'd scream about to help them."

"Yeah, but we're not like that. None of us are normal and I know you're not. You do things like hoard artillery." He smiled. "Sorry but not going to make us let you handle it, Xander. And don't you even try to gas us to escape. The general's people will show up then."

"Probably true, which I'd never do anyway. The stuff I use would react poorly to the serum at least James was given." He got comfortable.

James shook his head. "How would you know?"

"It made Steve puke for six days straight," Xander said.

"Oh, that's what did that," Natasha said.


"I would like to know how you make those," she said. Xander grinned at her, shaking his head. "That way someone else could restock in case something happens to you like a broken arm?"

"No. Sorry."

"I could use such things to save Clint sometimes."


"Any of the other such recipes I could try out?"

"You'd need to find demon byproducts."

"That may be harder," she agreed. "Though I have been wondering about the poker circuit you play on. Clint's mentioned it a few times."

Xander grinned. "They eat the kittens."

"That's a good warning but I could handle that."

"We can go now if you want."

"No, it will have to wait until a better day," Clint said. "We don't want the ones after you to bother the poker circuit."

"They'd probably capture them," Xander said. "I've only had one I've given over but he was a really bad guy so I paid off a huge poker debt, because they were cheating, with him." James gave him an odd look. "He was a genocidal asshole who wanted to start on all the slayers. Win-win as they say."

"That's still not really right, but practical of you," Natasha said.

"Super bad guys who wear super bad guy suits get super bad things done to them in return," Xander quipped with a shrug.

She stared at him. "Was he ever freed?"

"They loved him so much. He had tried to take out a few clans in lower Asia before they ran him off. There was a hunt order on him anyway. Then I found him threatening my baby slayer I was showing up to check on. Pity." She smirked at him. He grinned back. "I think they still have him. The last I knew they were making him watch all the new birthings as punishment since he hated the thought so much."

"We wondered what happened to Jenris."

"Oh, no, not him. He died. He stepped into the wrong demon's face and got it munched off. No, I was talking about Servender." She sat up, staring at him. He grinned. "He really shouldn't have tried to take out the baby slayers."

Clint came out to stare at him. "That's been a great mystery of the ages. Any others that might've ended up with them? Bobbi wanted to know."

"She can go ask."

"I'll suggest that to her." He walked off shaking his head. "He was the enema bottle of the universe so I'm guessing it's better for humanity."

"His whole semi-group of morons pouted at me for it but the demons offered them sweet deals to follow if they wanted to. They ran for their lives like it'd include butt sex."

Natasha burst out giggling as she walked off. Clint grinned at her then at Xander. "Thanks, she hardly ever does that," he mouthed, making Xander grin back. He went back to making himself a snack, bringing James out a sandwich too. "Looking good with the girlish figure, James." He walked past the duo on the couch to go eat and laugh in private. His ex-wife was so giggling too wherever she had taken the call.


Bobbi Morse walked into Coulson's temporary office, smiling at him. "Clint just called me."

"Are they okay?" he asked, putting down his pen to stare at her. The only reason Clint would've talked to her now, while she was at work, was if it was important. Otherwise she wouldn't have told him about it.

"They are. He stopped Xander from going after the hit teams from Ghana by himself. Hill is locked in his safe room at the house instead of at Stark. I also heard that Xander one had to pay a poker debt with a person."

"Should we try to get them back?" She handed over the tablet she was carrying, which had his files pulled up. He stared then at her. "Seriously?" She smiled and nodded. "That's what happened to Servender?"

"Yup. He said Xander called it a win-win for everyone, and that the demons offered his group of imbeciles deals to go with him if they wanted but they ran, and I quote, like butt sex was offered too."

He smiled, handing back the tablet. "I'm wondering how many others got disposed of that way."

"Xander said that was his only poker debt payoff that way."

"Yes, but others may have done the same thing. Find out."

"I can go to the local poker hall to talk to them. Give me a list." He wrote out a list, handing it over. "I'll be back in a few hours." She strolled off, going to grab one of their cars from the garage. She knew basically where the poker hall was so it wasn't that hard to find. The only time she got lost she asked a panhandling demon but paid him five bucks for it. She strolled in and headed for a table that had demons she knew were in the demonic mafia, their sort ran it. She sat down and smiled. "You guys still have Paul Servender?"

"Why? You want to buy out the rest of his contract? He's still got a few years yet."

"Nah. We just wanted to know what happened to him and a few others. It's like a great mystery." She put the list down in front of him. "Any of those under the same sort of contract?"

He looked at it then nodded. "Could be." He smirked at her. "Who're you, pretty lady?"

"I'm Mockingbird." One of the guys at the other table moaned, staring at her. She grinned back. She grinned at the demonic mafia member again. "Hawkeye wanted to know when he found out about Servender. Made him burst out in giggles. He always called Servender the enema bottle of humanity."

"I'll suggest that punishment to them. They're running out of creative ways to make him suffer for taking out an orphanage."

"Kill him at the end for that," she said, not smiling now. "He deserves it. Anyone who takes out harmless, helpless kids deserves it." The demon smiled at her. "I was one of those once." He patted her on the hand. "So, any of the others being made to cry like babies?"

"Quite a number on the list for threatening us. This one bothered Andrew Wells," he said with a point at a name. "He was taken in for that because Andrew does important things. The knight...."

"He's helping those of us like him. He's our therapist because we can tell him anything. He's probably seen worse."

"Probably," he agreed. "Which is good since most of the protectors of your kind and mine are a bit weird."

"Weird is Skye's not training her new powers."

"Have her go see the coven. They can teach her how to safely figure that out," another demon said. "Or Andrew." He looked over then at the higher demon. "Is the one that was at Columbia the other day on there?"

"No, not yet. Though he is on my list to be dealt with."

She touched his wrist, smiling at him. "If he's our sort of bad guy, tell me he's been handled and how so we can note it into the system? That way I don't worry about someone like that haunting me or Xander?"

"We can do that," he agreed. He wrote out what or who had the few he knew on the list. "This one I know is dead. He stepped into a demon's face about something so it was bitten off and eaten." She shivered. "I believe she hosted her young in his body." He slid the list back. "If you need to make a deal, think of me? I'll set you up with someone nicer who'll use you properly instead of as a slave or concubine."

She kissed him on the cheek. "I can do that. Thank you for your time and your help." She got up and strolled out. She knew she looked excellent in her field suit. There was more than one demon in there staring at her ass. She went back to the base, running into Skye. "It was suggested you see the Devon coven about your new powers. That they could train you in how to find your limits and all you could do with it, but they could arrange for it to be done safely."

"I might. I was going to find that out during battles."

"Then you wear yourself out and become a liability," Bobbi said simply. Skye nodded, walking off researching the coven. She went into the office, sliding the list in front of Coulson. "I'm told there's been a problem person bothering Columbia but they're going to be annoyed at him soon."

He read the list, then stared at her. "Any other happy news?"

"I got offered help to find a good spot for myself if I ever want to take a contract for service." She strolled off.

Melinda May looked over the list, grimacing. "That explains so much in a few cases. Are we going to attempt to get them free?"

"No, I believe justice was served in those cases," he said, making notes and putting that list into a file. He smiled at her. "I would never think about interfering with justice being done for them."

She shuddered. "Still mean." She walked off to consider who else could be gotten rid of that way. She had a few on her personal list that might like their new lives as slaves.


Clint walked past Xander later that afternoon. "Why would a bigger name arms dealer be visiting Columbia University?"

"Maybe he knows someone there and is checking on them," Xander said.

"Not in his file."

"Your files aren't fully useful, Clint. They miss things. They missed both of Sava's kids until they nearly killed them by accident. It definitely made an impression when she blew up that whole station of SHIELD's." He stared at him. "I watched the kids for her because that was a dick move."

"Sava was a bad girl."

"She still is."

"She's dead."

"She's retired to keep her kids safe from guys like Fury. Every once in a while I get a post card from them as they travel. I'm one of the people on to take her kids in if she dies."

Clint blinked at him then wrote that into a text message to someone. "Fully out of the business?" Xander nodded. "Huh. Bobbi said that's better for her and if she's just being a mom then she's safe from her." He went back to wandering around on a security check of the area.

"How old are her girls?" James asked.

"The younger's almost thirteen now and the older's, I want to say, seventeen. I think."

"Is she going to go back once they're out of the house?" James asked.

"No. She's been out too long."

"That makes sense. Sometimes you have to drop back to protect what's important to you." Xander nodded. "How did you know her?"

"We dated. Not officially going steady or anything but casually dated. I used to count on her giving me a discount when I needed something huge I couldn't win at poker before a battle."

Clint came back to stare at him. "You dated Sava?"

"Yeah, casually dated. I didn't have a steady thing but I had a few I dated casually. Lovers that were good when you needed someone to be *there* or to help you calm down after a battle. Did you think I was celibate for that long?"

"No. I thought maybe some of the natives might've offered."

"That would've required marriage for most of them."

"Point." He stared at him. "Who're you dating now?"

"I have a few casual lovers but I'm not steady with anyone. They all know about each other. They pop in on a run-through. One showed up while you were talking to me that one day I was doing the back yard." Clint gaped, staring at him. Xander shrugged but grinned. "He needed lovin's and I'm great at it."

"I... Yeah, you probably are." He walked off shaking his head. "Should we warn him you're in protective custody?"

"No. He's overseas somewhere doing something horrific in the name of the Queen."

Clint shook his head with a sigh. He pulled up a profile to show Natasha, and Stark since he was in there. "He's casually dating him." Natasha gave him an odd look. "He casually dated Sava, who retired fully to keep her kids safe."

"We figured she might have." She handed back the phone and sighed. His file within SHIELD does mention he tends to date on the darker side of life."

"Apparently." They shared a look. "Can you think of any nearby that he might need help from?"

"Not right off the top of my head. I can go ask him about them so he can perhaps call someone if they would be willing to keep him with them. That way he's less edgy here." She went to talk to Xander about that idea. The only two he admitted to having in the local area were horrifying and on her shit list. She'd rather shoot them but them getting a last night of sex first would work for her. It made Xander scowl when she said that but oh well.

James was looking up those names on Natasha's phone. What he saw did not amuse him but at least Steve wasn't that dangerous.


Xander snuck out of the tower, running into Andrew, who was in his costume. "Hey." They hugged briefly, Andrew looking around. "They all know I date badasses, 'Drew. You good?"

"I'm fine. The one we're guarding is okay too." Xander grinned. "You okay?"

"It's like old times. Everyone thinks I'm too normal to handle things." He grimaced but shrugged. "I'll handle it as it comes."

"That's fine. I let the agent sort out of your safe room before she set off your alarms."

"Thanks. I was going to leave her there but she'd probably complicate things. Who're you after?"

"Your last date." He held up a picture.

"Client, not a date." He handed it back. "It was horrific and torturing him, 'Drew. He's not responsible."

"For that stuff, no. Recently though there's been someone doing the same work."

"Not James. Until today he was on my couch working on stuff."

"Huh. I'll look further. Maybe a mimic?"

"Maybe," Xander agreed. "There's a few in the city. I found one impersonating me and kicked him around until he begged for mercy."

"That's cool." He punched him on the arm. "Stark wrote me about my laser cannon." Xander grinned. "I should build more stuff."

"Do it so you're safe. If it wasn't for the guys from Ghana coming after me, then I'd be more worried about that General Talbot guy."

"I heard from him. He's in suspended animation in the office. The janitors are presently bopping him with mop handles I think." Xander laughed, giving him another hug. "Go find a new date, Xander. You're grabby and weird again." He jogged off looking smug.

"Have a good, safe night, 'Drew." He went to the bar on the corner, getting someone in there's attention. They came out of the back room to stare at him. He grinned. "Hey, Cougar." He gave him a hug. "Are you guys totally free?" He nodded. "Excellent. The others?"

"They're working on them," Jake said as he bounded out to hug him. "Thank you for the help."

"You're welcome too, Steve."

"How did you know?"

"Jensen and I got bouncy with each other one weekend at a comic convention." He smirked. "It was fun. We picked up school girls wannabes." He sipped his beer, following them into the back room. "Clay."

"Harris." He stared at him. "Are you okay?"

"I'm going to go fix my problems in a few minutes. I'm just sneaking out of the tower." He waved a hand that way. "Avoiding Clint and Natasha tracking me, all that." He winked and patted something on a wall, disappearing down the old bootlegger's tunnel to the underground and then into another bar, this time a demon bar. It took him to another demon bar and then he could relax more while planning how to be bad.

Clay shook his head. "I think he's weirder than Pooch is." The guys all nodded. He looked at Steve. "We knew. Where is our tech?"

"Helping Stark hack someone important to stop this. We agreed to switch spots so you guys would be protected too." Clay nodded that was good of him and let it go from there. They could handle things easily enough. Not like Steve Rogers was green at anything they'd get up to.


In the tower, Jensen smiled as his 'ears' on the team told him the jig was up. "Took them long enough." He got back to work, Stark shaking his head but smiling. "I found the one who's impersonating the half-tin man out there." He handed that laptop over and got to work on a different one. "They really should stop before he gets mad at them."

"Yes he should before I get mad at them," Stark said as he read. "You want a job, Jensen?"

"Ask me in a few months, after I've seen my sister and niece." He grinned. "They miss me."

"I'm sure they do." He got back to work, nodding at what they were finding. Including that Fury clearly wasn't dead. He was living off a prepaid card to avoid changing currencies since that created paperwork but it still left a small trace. Enough of one to track him with unconfirmed sightings on the underground sites. Enough of one to make him miserable to have done this to the ones that had counted on him. Enough of a trace for Natasha and Clint to find him to see why they hadn't been told about their handler being alive. Clint walked in. "The kid with his ex's?" he asked while typing.

"Demon bar let him escape to somewhere but probably." He looked at what Stark was doing, nodding. "He has a safehouse near there. We had to hole up there once because Coulson had his shoulder pierced."

Jensen looked up at him, pushing up his glasses. "Are you mad at him?"


"I would be too. I think that's pretty normal."

Clint grinned. "Xander said the same thing, Jake. Maybe you should become a therapist after you retire?"

"Maybe but the hacking is fun. Seeing what's underneath the rivers of the internet is very exciting."

"Yes it is, but it's a bit creepy usually," Stark said. "Make some coffee, would you?"

"Sure." Clint went to make them good coffee. Stark only drank good coffee. Jake would probably drink anything. "Should I touch the sacred bag of civet poop coffee?"

"No. That's Pepper's," Stark said. "I can't bring myself to drink that, no matter how much they clean it." Jensen laughed, nodding he agreed. He handed Stark something else, taking back the original laptop. "Oh, fuck you," Stark said, typing at that problem. "Seriously, just curl up and fuck yourself." Jake grinned while typing. "Hammer's out of jail."

"Charming. Can we use him as a butt plug for some huge demon?" Clint asked, nodding at the one staring in the window.

Stark looked at Clint. "Don't tempt me that way." He looked at the demon. "Yes?"

"Is the knight still here?"

"No, he left via the demon bar," Clint said. "We have no idea where he's plotting."

"I can figure it out. The local bar only has portals to so many places. Thank you, sweetheart." She walked off, shrinking as she walked.

Natasha walked in, staring out the window. "That's a nice braiding pattern she wears." She took a cup of coffee before walking off.

Stark shook his head. "Sometimes I wonder if I'm the normal one or not."

"No, you're not," Jake said. "Normal guys couldn't create a suit of armor in a cave in Afghanistan. Trust me, I tried really hard when I was trapped in one." Stark punched him on the arm but he was smiling. Clint gave them both coffee before walking off. "He seems really nice."

"I'd encourage him to date his therapist but it's probably against a lot of rules they have."

"Yeah, that could work well. Otherwise Xander might have to flirt with Clay while not seeing him anymore. Though Clay did say earlier he was having scary Roque flashbacks about Xander. Not sure if that's a good thing or not."

Stark gave him a sideways look then drank some more coffee before he could answer.

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