Xander Harris, roaming problem solver, walked into a meeting room. "Sorry I'm a tiny bit late. Traffic's being a royal pain today. No, you stay there for two minutes," he told the figure in the hall.
"She can come in," the blond man at the meeting table said, staring at him. He couldn't see more than the edge of a piece of pink clothing.
"In about two minutes. Let me introduce things and let you have whatever sort of freak out you need to have without her seeing you." He put his pack on the table. "I'm Xander Harris. I'm with the New Watchers Council. Do you know what that is? I can give you an overview if you need me to."
"I've read the intelligence reports."
Xander grinned. "Great, though they probably look a tiny bit insane."
"Just a bit."
Xander nodded. "I'm the guy that works with the foreign slayers and helps them handle bigger problems that they need support for. One of my girls ran into a lab in lower Russia, near the Black Sea." The guy nodded again. Xander pulled out two files, tossing them down at him. "They liked you a lot."
He looked them over, his face going cold. He stared at him. "How did they get my semen?"
"No clue. Wasn't noted. That's all the file we found on that. The second one's a bit more weird." The guy switched to it, staring at him finally. "There's a but clause to that." He handed down one last folder. "Her slayer tests," he said quietly. "She is one. Not artificially added. It's a natural calling. I've talked to the slayer spirit...."
"The what?" he asked, shaking himself out of shock.
Xander sat down, staring at him. "The way a slayer is noted first is the mole on her shoulder." That got a slow nod. "It means we do three blood tests. One is a simple drop on a cloth with stuff put onto it. I'm not a chemist, I don't know what's in the tube." That got another, faster nod. "If that one's positive, we do two others. One establishes her relative strength. She'll get stronger as she's older but this measures how much of the slayer specific antigens is in her blood. That's the top sheet. The second is a DNA profile in this case. We don't usually. The third sheet is the second test we do. That one's called a Graham test. It measures a few things, including relative bone density and things that will be important to her health as she grows. All the tests are hold-overs from the old Council. We just inherited them when we took over."
"All right." He considered it. "I have a daughter."
"Who is about five," Xander said with a grin. "And waiting in the hall because she didn't need to see you freak out."
"I'd... One question. What does this mean?"
"Slayers now, they're raised at home. Many of them do most of their training at home when they're fully activated at sixteen." He handed over the brochure. "This is given to all new slayer parents. It explains a lot and how we can help you help her be the best, longest lasting girl she can be. We want all the girls to be normal, have happy lives...." He heard something and got up, glaring at the woman there. "Back the fuck away from the child, lady. She's waiting on someone to have a freak out and doesn't need evil bitches around her.
"And yes, I know exactly who you are and what they were trying to create with you." He pointed at the girl. "Back down." The woman glared. Xander stared at her. "Suzette?" She smiled. "You don't have to be afraid of her. Ever. If she hurts you, I'll take her out so fast heaven will wonder how she got there." The girl laughed and hugged him. He stared at the woman then walked in and shut the door with a kick. "Let's get you away from the evil ones. Where's your bag?"
"She has it," she said. Xander walked out to grab it and carried it back in. "Thank you, Uncle Xander." She stared at the other guy. "Is this my Dad?"
"Yup. Steve Rogers, this is your daughter Suzette. No last name on file. No birth certificate filed." He sat down and patted a chair. She climbed up and put her bag on the table. "The big slayers made her a traveling bag. They've got her bags of clothes and stuff waiting on you if you're set up to take her tonight. If not, we'll be in a motel for a few days so you can get things set up to have long term family in." Steve stared at him instead of his daughter. "I've had to do this a few times, Mr. Rogers. I'm pretty sure you probably don't have a room set up for kids."
"No, I don't. I had no idea I might have a daughter." He looked at her. Then at Xander. "Is she the only one?"
"No clue. There's an associated project. The Russians aren't being forthcoming and I swore up and down if there were more kids, like a brother for her, I'd be jumping down their throats so far their spines would be compressed in their little toe." He smiled. "Considering I banished the demon eating two churches the other day, they know me."
"Is that who told you about me?" Suzette asked.
"No. Visily told me about you. He had heard about the program and told the slayer to get me there." He petted over her hair. "I didn't do a bad job on it today." He grinned at the father. "Her hair's a bit fly-away at times. It's got bad static cling."
"I've had that sometimes."
"Is Visily the one that kissed you?"
"Yup, he was." He glanced at the father. "He's a long ago ex. He's also not the first intelligence agent they've tried to put into the Council, old or new." He pointed outside. "That's how we found out what they were doing. It's in the old files." That got another nod. "They wanted to make a slayer of their own because the lineage was trained and controlled by a bunch of British guys. They weren't really friendly toward Communism or the ideals of Russia's version of it."
"I can see why. Do we still have those records?"
"I have someone excavating the old facilities. The New Council took over when the old one got blown up by the people who caused the apocalypse that sank my whole town. We had all the minis to train and keep safe. We had the highest watcher left. We took control and rebuilt things. That's why we're different. We were all in the field in Sunnydale."
"You're awfully young."
Xander laughed. "I spent my teenage years hunting with a slayer, or three. We had three overall. Well, one and then the other two that got called." He looked at her then at Steve again. "We can get you a better history lessons so she can learn it too. There's a nicer book that's given to the girls around the age of ten that explains where the slayer lines come from, where they've diverged in the past, some of the notable slayers, the old line of watchers. All that." He nodded. "We kinda encourage the parents to read it first because it's not really a happy topic."
"Can I get that sooner?"
"Yeah, not a problem." He smiled at Suzette then at him. "At her age, we expect slayers to be at home, being normal girls, and maybe learning some self defense stuff so it's easier on them when the slayer spirit comes to her at sixteen. It'll happen within two months of her birthday. There's mystical reasons for that and it's all BS as far as I can tell, but it's the way it happens and I just gave up on some of our witches explaining *anything* to anyone."
"You guys have witches?"
"We have four on staff and we have agreements for helping during problems with another four covens, plus the Devon Coven, who used to be the magical arm of the old Council."
"Interesting. What can magic do?"
Xander grinned. "I'm not the guy to ask that. I'm a nice, simple warrior sort who jumped in because a pretty girl shouldn't have to save the world herself. And then they took a friend." He stared at him. Then he smiled again. "It's cool. I know you want to know everything. Let's get her settled first. I'm the only person you're going to be seeing until she's ten. I do a yearly checking on her to make sure she's okay."
"Like a social worker would?" Steve asked.
"Yeah, basically. We had two social workers. One got fired because her boyfriend talked her into joining a communion with a demon, she claims against her will but it made her have roaming anger issues that nearly got her killed when she attacked a few of the slayers for it. The other got vamped. We can't have them eating the girls. So I took that duty over too since I check on them anyway." He hugged Suzette, covering her ears. "We had one parent that decided that his daughter was the ticket to him having wealth and sold her for research. A few other choice parents that decided being a slayer was against their religion and we had to call regular social services on them. We blatantly took one of them to hide from her family, even though we got told it's their right to perform exorcisms that put their kid in the ICU because of freedom of religion. So far the judges have sided with us on that once we got above the local level." He let her go.
She looked up at him. "You're breathing funny and I'm a big girl, Uncle Xander. I can hear some bad stuff."
"You don't need to hear that bad stuff. That stuff's really horrible and you don't need to know about people like that yet."
"Oh, I guess." She huffed, looking at her father. "Are you like that?"
He smiled. She had such a grown up expression on her face. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure I will be. There's some things kids shouldn't have to know."
She pouted. "That sucks." Xander smirked at her. "Fine. You're still breathing funny."
"I'm still healing the broken rib from a few weeks ago. It happens sometimes when you're in a car crash."
"Not a demon?"
"No, not a demon."
"Oh, okay." She looked at the two guys coming in the door. "I've seen pictures of you," she told one, smiling at her. "Hi, I'm Suzette. I'm five." She held out a hand.
"I'm Tony Stark." He shook it with a smile. "And you're the guy from the Council," he realized.
"Yes I am and if he wants you to, you can go over the records we found on her when we found her in a lab." He pointed at the folders. Steve handed them over. He looked at the other guy. "One of the almost slayers knows you."
"Who?" he asked.
"Kate Bishop. She's the best friend and hunting buddy to the slayer assigned in Queens." He held out a hand. "Xander Harris. Council problem solver."
"Clint Barton." He shook it. "What's with you and her?"
"The redhead?" Clint nodded, looking less than impressed. Xander got into his bag and pulled out a file, handing it over. "I knew she'd be here. We're well aware of why they were doing that to her and what they told her about us. We're the *new* Council. And I won't let her hurt a child. She had decided to interrogate her and confiscated her bag." He stared at him. "We know *very* well what they were going for," he said quietly. "We found the records from the old Council on it when some of her co-students were sent to spy on methods and research." Clint winced. "If she hadn't overreacted it would've been nice but she highly overreacted and I stopped it before she hurt Suzette."
"The research, can we get it?" Stark asked.
"It's in the old building. I have two excavation teams going to the five campuses. They're compiling everything and it's going to MI-5 because they asked and we have a trusting relationship with some of them. The agents that helped us and have worked with us in the past are overseeing it. Frankly, the first words out of their mouths when Giles reformed things were prayers of thanksgiving for the old line being out."
"I can see that," Stark said. "Got a contact person? So she can look at them?"
"Abrington is the one I usually see. He's the guy they send to annoy me over past dates." He grinned. "And occasionally a present date."
Stark nodded, writing down that name on the front of the file folder. "I can find him."
"He's in the London office," Barton said. "We've worked with him before." He looked at Xander. "I looked you up."
Xander laughed, nodding. "I knew I had a file and Willow was tampering with it again to make me look normal and like a guy." Clint sighed, shaking his head. "The only one she hasn't is in New Guinea and it's about half right. They at least respect me but they think I talked people into eating a demon for their own protection. I didn't, I used some herbs to make the protections and put it on some pork."
Clint nodded. "I can look that up too." He looked at the staring kid. "She's adorable."
"She's mine," Steve said quietly. "I had no idea."
She reached over to pat him on the hand. "It's okay. They probably didn't want you to."
"No, I don't think they did. I need to set up stuff for you."
She grinned. "We can stay at a motel and you can come talk to me until you get it set up. That way I get to know you and make sure you're not a mean parent like one that Uncle Xander had to yell at in the airport."
Xander shook his head with a sigh. "Pulling their kid up the walkway by her hair," Xander said quietly. "I had jet lag. They got yelled at and arrested so I'd quit yelling at her parents." He grinned. "I hate bad parents."
"I'd have hit 'em," Clint said.
Xander nodded. "I had hold of her hand so I just yelled. A lot." He smiled at her then at the guys. "We can stay at the Raddison tonight. Let her dad have the afternoon to set things up. As long as Willow hasn't decided to cancel my credit card on me again. Then I've got a paycheck and I'll beat Willow."
Suzette looked up at her. "Wasn't she the redhead who yelled about you finding me?"
"Yup. She's having witch problems again."
"Oh. Will I have those?"
"No. You're not a witch. Sometimes slayers have bad days but you work through those and you deal with the big things and then you sigh and have ice cream." She grinned, hugging his arm. "Yup, just like Faith was."
"She's so cool. She had leather pants," she told her father with a grin. "She was pretty and she had been on patrol. She said the girls had been yappy but they had done good on patrol and she had ice cream."
"Ice cream's a great treat," Steve agreed with a smile back. "I like it sometimes." The girl wiggled. He looked at Stark, who shrugged and nodded. "We can probably put you guys up."
"Sure, we like free. It means no waiting for reimbursement from Giles. Who has Willow do his paperwork." The guys all smiled. "Willow, I need my bag and her bags," he called. Her two bags fell. "Woman! Don't you start in front of normals." His two bags and a bigger thing fell from nowhere and clanged onto the floor. "That was probably my laptop." He got into it to see. "Yup. I'm so going to smite her when I get there." He put things aside, pulling out the new parent kit. "I usually give this on the second day, after the shock's worn off." He opened it in front of him. "That's a list of what slayers traditionally have downloaded when they're sixteen. We used to think it was all weapons and all fighting styles but we found some weren't so we had the girls test it." Steve nodded. Xander pushed out a slim folder inside it. "This is what makes a slayer a slayer. The slayer spirit and all that. That's the factual account of what happened. Not at the ten-year-old kid range. This is for parents so we didn't have to pretty anything up."
"Pretty them up?" Clint asked.
"Yeah." Xander got the first few books out. "These are the suggested reading on the history of the Council and the slayers." He put one down on the table. "This one's on classifications." He put that one down and it was thicker. "It's compiled from the library and condensed. There's over three thousand books on the various demon species. Some are rare enough that we put in a 'call the library' about it to save space if no one's faced one in over a hundred years. We occasionally put out updates for it." He put down the last one, which was thinnest. "This is on the current Council. The major people and their short biographies. Plus the contact phone book and the slayers on duty book."
He slid that over to Clint. He looked up a name. "Yeah, Kate's in there because Beth keeps forgetting she uses major minutes on her phone and never buys enough. Drives Giles batty when he calls her for reports so I put Kate's number in there with her permission." He pointed. "It's broken down by region and then later by name. These are the three slayers in this general area. Within fifty miles." Clint nodded. "As there's now over six hundred called, and another fifteen hundred in waiting all over the world, we let them spread out.
"Most of the girls are in college so there's a lot of them listed near major universities. And a few of the girls only schools. A few are nearly nuns with their outlook. Including the Buddhist nun in training we have in India." He looked at Steve. "We don't dictate anything along the lines of faith but all the girls do learn something about Wicca because they'll have to work with a witch sometime and it's easier if they're not startled. It's like a weekend workshop on how to deal with some of the others. Since we run summer camps for some of the girls who want it, they do that during that when they're old enough to understand the differences."
"Yeah. That way the girls can get together, get to know the ones they'll be working with some day, we can make sure they understand some things like how to get away from an attack until they're old enough to defend themselves. We run a three week summer camp every year in Canada."
"Oh. That's kind of...I guess it's good for the girls."
"A lot of them become penpals and it lets them get used to the other girls." He looked at Suzette and then at him. "It's not mandatory. It gives parents a break." He grinned. "The girls get to run, jump, play, and eat. And swim, we have a pond. Pre-slayers eat a ton. Fully called slayers eat even more. The fully called ones are faster, stronger, and have advanced healing." Steve winced. "The pre-called version don't have much of that but they have a lot of energy. This lets them just cut loose and make friends that'll understand that sometimes you worry about what goes on. Especially after an apocalypse battle.
"It's also healing for the big slayers who work with me during it. It reminds them of the ones that will come after them and why they wanted to go on patrol. It's voluntary except a year of service to make sure you know what you're doing if you're attacked. Which is usually club hunting in your freshman year of college." He grinned. "The girls all like that and they have a mentor nearby to help them with it. Before then there's all sorts of training patrols and all that. If the girls physically *can't* stand patrol for some reason they're excused.
"Some girls don't want to hunt, they go on to have a totally normal life and end up doing things like helping the slayers that are being reassigned to an area get acclimated or even just being the big sister shoulder to sob on sometimes. We had two that went to sob on one of our newly retired due to a shoulder injury because their boyfriends were di...bad. The girls appreciate them and that there's mom types out there that can do the same job. A lot of them say things like 'if that slayer that's retired can find a husband at least I can find a decent boyfriend' at times. We're a support network fo this unusual genetic condition that makes you really cranky at daylight at times."
"I guess slayers would work at night," Stark said.
"Mostly. Some things are easier to take out when they're napping. Things like nests of vampires, like the one in Delaware. The Council and slayer way is to only handle the things that are hurting humanity. There's a huge demon community that's peaceful and we work with them. We've got peaceful relations with a good lot of them. Everywhere but Detroit. We don't let a slayer go there at all because they have a demon gang that's got a take out on sight order."
Stark nodded. "There's a few there that'd like to do the same thing to me."
Xander grinned. "You know one of the slayers that's retired and is military. You've worked with her boss."
"She moved to another guy."
"She got moved back. The other guy smacked her on the butt so she shoved him through two concrete walls for it. Then she politely requested to get away from the harassing older officer who was married so could she go back."
"I'll have to write him to tell him congrats on her coming back. He said his last one was a bit mean and had no idea where anything was."
"Hannah had a talk with her about being from a harmful species and why she was in the Air Force. She joined of her own free will but she's got urges to take down anything efficient. Thankfully she's in the US military and it's not that efficient sometimes."
Stark shook his head. "That makes so much sense."
Xander grinned. "Often. We have a few of them around the world. One's the assistant to the guy at the FBI who hates us with everything in his blackened, serial ...nasty guy soul." He glanced at the kid then at Stark again. "He's the one that filed the orders to have me taken out on sight because I managed to get hostages away from him on purpose before he got them hurt."
"I heard," Clint said. "We all heard."
"It was that or watch them die. There was a failsafe in there. If anyone opened that door it would've gone off. I tried to tell them that and they didn't want to listen. So I had an earth tunneling demon help me get in there and get them out."
Clint shook his head. "That's so weird."
"A working mind is the biggest weapon you can have," Xander said. "For anyone."
Suzette nodded. "Brains mean you last to be a really old slayer and maybe have babies," she said. "Miss Buffy said that."
"Yup. She's the longest lasting so far because she thinks a lot about some things." She swatted him on the arm with a grin. "I know. You saw her on a shallow day. Buffy and her pack of teenage trainees are why she has two bags of clothes. Buffy's fashionable."
Steve smiled. "Some girls are."
"She was an LA princess," Xander said. "And a cheerleader." Stark laughed. "Exactly. She's got a few junior slayers just like her as trainees. Faith's are mostly kids who were in social services so they understand her and each other, because so was she and she knows the way things are bent at times. Faith actually lived on the streets until her first watcher identified her and took her in. She's got a good hand helping those girls get used to normal family things instead of strange things or moving things or even crowded group home things. Faith's girls have all picked out a nice safe house on the grounds and they asked her to put on protections so they did."
"I've seen some kids come out perfectly normal," Clint said.
Xander nodded. "The lucky do. But we're talking kids with high energy, large appetites, aren't always book learning sorts." Clint winced. "Most slayers are better at hands on learning as we've found. They can study and learn from books and normal classes but they do best when they can work things out by hand or in teams. Projects work really well for that. If they come to us at the Council after they're activated, we have a prep school we've worked with and the girls all go there. They know that hands on projects for research get a lot of good results. And that half the slayers hate math with a fierce and fiery passion that equals theirs for chocolate. They had to ban chocolate from the school because of a few slayers."
"We can work on that with her," Stark agreed. Xander got the booklet out of the new parent kit to show them that one. "That's not that hard and I know a few good schools who can do that." Xander handed over a list. "One's on there."
"The local one I know of on the list had a kid taken from her parents and put on medication through social workers because of those traits until we could step in about a week later, when we heard during a witchly check on her because her light was bobbling. Then again, Buffy got to jump on them and the social worker and the judge. Who didn't appreciate it. Buffy spent two nights in jail for hitting the social worker back. The judge is now disbarred because Giles got mad." He grinned. "He found his drug habit and how they were paying for case outcomes."
"I remember that scandal," Stark agreed.
"The girl in the center of it is a slayer. She's not looking like she'll go on patrol. She's got great empathy but she's not all that strong emotionally. She feels really sorry for the frogs her brother brings in but she won't stomp on bugs because she feels equally sorry about them. At her fourteen-year eval we have a talk about things like the upcoming activation and go over things that she might see around then. We do it with her and her parents. And we also slip them a booklet on blood magic." He pulled that out and handed it to Steve. "Because sometimes it's a bit necessary." Steve glared at it.
"We have one or two a year that almost get picked. We're not for it, but we want the girls to know it can happen so they can take precautions. Things like picking your group better in one case uptown. Beth's best friend was hanging out with her brother's vampire buddy and accidentally introduced them when Beth was fifteen. Thankfully when he tried to...grab her." He glanced at the kid then at him. "She knew enough to know how to stake. That's usually taught as a just in case around thirteen and then pointing out that it's not a great idea but a lot of vampires hunt teenagers because they're easier to get.
"We give the parents facts and let them talk to their kids about it. When they come into the slayer house for training after activation, they get a talk on it from Buffy or Faith, whichever is there. Buffy shares her experiences on sneaking off patrol to go to a college kegger and nearly getting sacrificed for that same v-reason. Faith shared how a few cultists nearly got her and that's how Linda found her."
"A lot of that's probably what you'd teach a kid anyway," Clint said.
"Yup, any parent should but slayer blood is stronger than normal girl blood. It has uses in mystical things and other things like vampires are drawn to it. That's why that same booklet has something on cycles and things to suspend them if they want to talk about it, and how that can affect things. There's a few types that are a lot more useful than others. We don't know why they work better. We don't have people to study that. That was mostly found from the girls being on different things and the souled vampire we have helping now and then noticing things and noting them to Buffy."
"Souled?" Clint asked.
"Huge spell, hard spell, he took it of his own free will because he thought he loved Buffy. The only other case was a gypsy curse and he died during the huge incident in LA that got covered up a few years ago."
"Huh," Clint said. "I remember that. I was there on a mission and nearly blew my cover helping."
"The girls decided I was more important in Africa so didn't recall me." He shrugged. "Every now and then Buffy and Willow think I'm really normal and that's a bad thing to them. Then I have a fit on them and walk off to go help the other girls." He grinned. "Sometimes it's easier."
"Yeah, I get that sometimes," Clint agreed. "I'm the normal guy of the Avengers."
Xander looked at him. "I'm pretty sure you have training. They claim that I have none except on the job training. But yeah, basically." He smiled at her. "When it's you turn, treat your helpers well."
"I will. I should if they're helping me." She looked at her father, who nodded. She grinned. "Can we have ice cream?"
"Dinner?" she asked, perking up.
"Let me show you where you can clean up," Stark said, getting up. Xander took the bags and the big thing, which turned out to be a double-headed axe. Xander grinned. "That's...."
"Really a lot more handy than most people think. I've got a few swords too." He walked Suzette out. Her father was following. "Let's let you rest for an hour, get up to get pretty for dinner, and then we'll go eat? Let you and your dad talk for a few hours and then bedtime?" he suggested.
"I can do that," she agreed. She looked at her father. "Is that okay?"
"I think it's a really great idea. It's been a long day already. We just met and you've got to get used to that." She nodded, hugging him around the stomach. He ran a hand over her hair. "You never have to worry about me, Suzette. I'm not going to abandon you or anything."
"That's good. Then I'd have to quit being adorable and be mean." She hugged the others and went to her room.
"She's not all that worried but one of Faith's girls told her that you had to get mean and tough if you didn't have parents," Xander said quietly. "I was napping during that talk."
"It's okay. It's probably on her mind," Steve said. "Let me go over that and I'll see you in about an hour and a half."
"That'll work. She'll want to change clothes." Steve smiled and left with the guys. Xander laid on the couch, reading a book that was in his bag. After an hour he went to get her up and get her cleaned up, letting her pick what she wanted to wear. She got dressed and he redid her hair. Then he took her hand and walked her out. She grinned at him in the elevator. "You can sit with him."
"I can do that." She came off the elevator first and ran over to hug her father again. He smiled and picked her up to hold.
"That's a pretty dress."
"I picked it out. Pants are nice but you should wear nice things when you meet new people. That way they think you're nice too."
"You should," he agreed with a smile. "Pretty braiding job too."
"I'm still learning that. Uncle Xander does it very well though."
"I learned off Willow and Buffy. They used to make me watch movies with them about girls who wore huge puffy dresses with corsets." Stark tried not to laugh. "Thankfully I could talk Buffy into action movies now and then."
"You poor, abused man," Stark joked.
"Very often. Including being a pack mule for shopping. And the approval committee a few times too." Stark walked off laughing. "I did make sure Buffy bought her pants instead of just cute dresses. She showed me all sorts of mix and match outfits. That's why she's got two bags of stuff."
Suzette spotted the mean lady and someone she didn't know. She wiggled until Steve put her down and she smoothed down her dress then walked over to the new person. "I don't know you. I'm Suzette. Uncle Xander brought me to meet with my daddy." She held out a hand.
He smiled as he squatted down on her level, shaking it. "Hi, Suzette, I'm Bruce. I work with Tony." He pointed at him. "I'm a doctor of a few things."
"Shots?" she asked with a wince.
"No, I don't give baby shots. I occasionally have to take blood if someone's sick but I don't give shots."
"I've had that done but only one was mean and dug for a vein once. Then the other nurse yelled at her because I had kicked her really hard and broke her nose for the ouchie."
"I'd never do that. I try to be very gentle."
"That's good then. Do you have to do that to Daddy?"
"Sometimes." He stood up and offered her his hand. "We can talk about that stuff." She smiled and nodded. He spotted the other visitor and lost it. "Mr. Harris."
"Just call me a stork." He grinned at her. "I do a good job delivering, right?"
"Yup. Really good job but we could have ice cream now instead of after dinner."
"Dessert is a treat and ice cream is a dessert," Steve said. "But nice try."
"But it's a special day. How many times do you find a daughter?"
"You're the first so we'll have dessert tonight." She danced around. He hugged her. "The DNA work?"
"We have a lab goddess who runs those. She just hands me who they match to."
"Oh, okay. So not the first?"
"Three custody cases, that we checked because of reasons she doesn't need to hear about. A few others that had been taken by either a group of demons or a group of humans with ideas. Not real common but I have had to deliver them to parents and explain things about why they happened. And two other labs in Europe and Asia. Then I had to deliver and tell why they had kids made without their help. And find one a foster parent."
Steve nodded. "That makes sense. A lot of people would like those gifts."
"And most don't understand that the slayer spirit is what gives it. It's what activates it and you can't channel it into someone unworthy of it or unable to hold it. Even if you summon it and try to get it to possess the target. Which, yeah, the one in Asia tried. Hard. Too hard." He sipped his water. Clint walked up the hallway. Suzette smiled and waved at him, getting a pat back. "Get hold of him?"
"Yup and he pulled up those files for us. Thank you."
"Welcome. I can be here for two more days to make sure she's settled in, answer questions, and go over things like the slayer health insurance if you want that and all those things. Then I've got to zip off to Austria to help Helen with stupid stuff that her boyfriend did." He grinned at Steve. "Helen's boyfriend did mystical stuff for a dare."
"Ow," he said with a wince.
"That was his feeling when the thing shoved him through a wall. It can only appear on the full moon so I've got three days before it can show up. That gives me a day of travel time. Of course, she'll have my phone number and the way to get onto the slayer bulletin board system. There's a section for pre-called ones and we don't encourage them to get onto the big slayer boards. There's a few that are locked if you're not over eighteen or get given a special passcode to get onto it." Steve nodded. "Mostly it's complaining about boyfriends but every now and then it turns into a therapy board." Bruce winced.
"The girls talk about everything. Including the two that went to keggers and woke up puking a few weeks later. They got retired for that." He grinned. "I'm very much the big brother sort. I show up to threaten future husbands so they make sure they treat her well. I make sure the bad boyfriends go far, far away. One I swore up and down I'd make him drown in the Danube by inhaling all of it if he didn't hike away from his girlfriend but she was thirteen and he was thirty-one so I thought it was warranted, no matter what her mother thought." He sipped his water.
"Slayers get this feeling they're all powerful, which they're not, and that they're supposed to be better than regular people because of their gifts. Sometimes you have to break that without breaking them. Ego problems are *so* bad when they first get there. It's like 'I'm a slayer now'," he mimicked with a pretend hair flip. "I can do anything." He rolled his eyes and grinned at the guys. "They soon learn thanks to the older girls being a slayer is a lot of hard work and a lot of things, but it's not something you want to do, it's a calling like any other. Within a year most egos are broken and so are the fantasies. Though there's a few.... We have one that's twenty. She thinks everything's peaceful like tree dryads. Even though she's actually talking about a type of dryad that's human eating because their demonic trees are. We're still working on Mel."
Tony shook his head quickly. "Are there any here?"
"There's three in Central Park," Xander said with a grin. "They got planted in the same area and they like to nibble on muggers from what Beth's said. Most dryads will protect kids so the others in the park will point any lost kids to them. The local officers know to check there first. Like they check in with the off-realm elves who are snotty royal sorts but if they find kids being hurt they'll end up there being lower caste members of their group. Ale bearers sort, not slaves. They have a peace treaty to hand over any child they take in if they want to go."
"That's sweet of them," Natasha said. "Where are the elves?"
Xander looked it up. He showed her in the contact book. "That's their general meeting hall. Where you bring any reports or requests to." She nodded. He put the book down. "One of the minis locally keeps going in there to talk to them because she thinks they're nice and decent and this way she learns from the people that she'll have to work with later. Her mommy gave her that idea. We had to make her mommy read the classification manual before her mommy walked her into a group that would nibble on them. Thankfully they got a flat tire that day thanks to one of the elves shooting it."
He finished his water. He looked at Suzette. "You got to call Miriam, right?" She nodded with a grin. "Good. She's nearly local, out on Long Island so if you get lost you can talk to her about the city and she'll help you get used to things like how trains run and all that. She's eight so she's at that age where she's a know-it-all but she's mostly a good girl. And her big sister can drive."
"That's a cool thing to do," she said, looking at Bruce.
"I know how to drive. I've driven many times when I worked as a doctor around the world." She patted him on the hand with a grin.
"When you're old enough, you can learn," Tony said. She hugged him too. "You're a neat kid. I told Pepper about you and she said she'll be here next week to meet you. That way you have more girls in your life."
"That was sweet of you, thank you," she said with a smile.
"She would've yelled if I hadn't told her. She's always wanted a little girl to help make pretty."
"Cool! Can she braid hair? I need someone to teach me."
"I'm pretty sure she can," he agreed.
"We can show you again tomorrow. We'll even ribbon braid it, okay?" Xander offered. She nodded and grinned, twirling around in circles a few times before pouncing her father again. He picked her up and she cuddled in. Xander grinned. "Sometimes slayers are like greyhounds. They go for a set limit and then become couch potatoes."
Steve smiled and nodded. "I think all kids do that."
"From what I've seen, sometimes. She's had a huge energy spike around three most afternoons. Then she drops into a nap."
"I had a friend who had that," he said, grinning at her. "Back when I was a young guy."
"You were my age?"
"I was. Once."
"Wow." She cuddled him, yawning a bit. "We should eat."
"We should. Stark, is dinner ready?" He went to look with Bruce's help. He looked at Xander. "I'm handling it okay."
"I think it's more normal for the shock to come after you try to lay down. There's more stuff to go over and I'm making sure she integrates well and you've got ideas for things like babysitting." Steve nodded at that. "You especially since most of your friends go out with you when you have to go out."
"I can find someone I trust for that."
"Cool." His phone beeped. "Sorry." He looked at it and grimaced. "Visily said hi, Suzette." She waved. "And that the other two programs are going to need a hands on approach from someone more official. Okay." He sent back one. "He's getting our MI-5 contacts into it. That way no one's hiding anything anymore. He thinks they're trying to hide three of the boys for some reason," he said, looking up. He answered back about where he was going to be. "Visily will call if they need me." He put his phone up. "So who knows at times."
She grinned at him. "Are they like cousins?"
"I'd guess you could consider them that way, or just friends you were in the same school with." She nodded, hugging her father harder. "Hey, they're not coming," he assured her, staring at her. "You know I'll stop that."
She nodded. "I know, Uncle Xander. You'll make anyone who takes one of us very sorry."
"Yes I will." He tweaked her ear. "You never have to worry about that. If you ever need saving, all someone has to do is tell me. Even if your dad can't, I'm not hindered like he is and Willow can get me nearly anywhere." He grinned. "Just like you saw me give you to Faith for a few hours so I could go rescue Samra from her family."
"She's nice." She looked at her father. "She's from Iran."
Xander nodded. "She was, yup. Her parents weren't thinking right so she's on vacation and has talked to her grandmother a lot about that. Especially since her dad wanted her to marry and she's only twelve." He sighed. "Her daddy has some sort of silly disease in his brain. Samra knows this and knows she'll be protected from it." He tweaked her ear again. She swatted at him but grinned. "What?" he asked with a smirk.
"You're silly." She leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. "Can my daddy spar with the big girls?"
"Well, Uncle Clint there knows where one of the slayers is so he can ask if she'd like to. Beth's a pretty good role model, even if she is a bit of an airhead sometimes. She's in college, she's got a fairly decent boyfriend, most of the time, and she's made some good friends that are also pretty good sounding as role models, like Kate. Plus you should always check in monthly with the local slayers because that gives you both someone to talk to." She nodded. He handed Steve something. "Her log in for the bulletin boards. She already knows how to use a computer as we found out. She was helping Buffy save stuff one day."
"It's support both ways. This way Beth knows basically where she is so she can keep an eye on any threats that might come for her. But it'll also let Beth tell her about some areas she should never go without an adult. There's unfortunately one near a school in Brooklyn. It's like checking in with a big sister once a month for an 'I'm okay, are you okay' check."
"That's reasonable. Could things come for her since she's not called?"
"Yup. Just like a teenage pre-called one. Thankfully she's already got a sensing ability and she can tell bad guys pretty well. She's also shrewd about people. She can stare at someone for a few minutes and understand if they're mean, nice, or bad. That's not a slayer gift, it's one she's grown."
"That's a good thing," Steve agreed. "Would she realize it?"
"Yeah, she would. Most of them she'd be feeling an antsy feeling about. A few are real subtle. Some are human." He nodded at that. "Mostly she'll be fine. She's a pretty polite young kid. She's a good girl. She will try to cute you to death to get her way. She's got puppy eyes too." She batted her big blue eyes at her father with a grin.
He hugged her. "You're good but I'm better at that. Just ask Tony." He grinned at Xander, who smirked back. "We'll be okay."
He nodded. "Okay. Then I'll only be here tomorrow to explain all the other things to you." He sighed. "The insurance options are literally six hundred pages long. I've got it condensed down to the basic two lines of each of the hundred options." Steve winced.
"We can do her medical stuff," Bruce said.
"We have ER visit plans and all that. It comes in handy. One of her yearmates chased her cat into the street the other day, and the car hit her but somehow bounced due to a protection on her. They spent nine hours in the ER figuring out how the car bounced until they finally let in her aunt, who had been screaming for the last hour. Her mother didn't know. And they billed her for all the tests." Bruce winced. "Seventy-four thousand and change. Fortunately our insurance is used to weird stuff and protested a lot of that for the family. Then they got extra coverage in case someone takes her DNA to make something wrong with. Because there's always that sort of genius around too." He pointed at Suzette. "She kinda proves it."
"There's an anti-cloning policy?" Stark said, coming out. "It's ready." Everyone sat down. Suzette was next to her father and Bruce was on her other side. Xander let Clint sit across from her while he took farther down the table.
"Yeah, two options."
Stark moaned. "I want to see that."
"I've got the insurance stuff in the bag." He grinned. "We can go over it tomorrow in the basics and go over any categories you want to think about better."
"Sure. Thanks, kid."
"Welcome. It's one of my many jobs. That and threatening boyfriends."
"You won't have to do that for me, Uncle Xander. Daddy can do that."
"I'm sure he can. I only do it for big slayers that don't live at home anymore."
She grinned. "I have years for that."
"Yup. At least eleven of them hopefully." She wiggled and hugged her father's arm, getting a cuddle back. "Sit up and eat, silly." She did that and accepted her filled plate from Clint.
"Thank you." She waited until everyone else had food then dug in. She looked up at her father. "Do I have any cousins?"
"No, I wish you did. I was an only child."
"That's sad. Maybe I'll get a sibling some day?"
"I can't predict the future but maybe. No one's sure yet."
She looked at Xander. "Can the lab that made make me a baby brother?"
"No idea but I think it'd be better if you got one the normal way instead. People might get mad if they make more kids. They already made too many special ones."
"Shoot." She dug in again. Stark was staring at her so she looked at him. "I don't mean to be impolite."
"You're not, Suzette. You're doing very good." She grinned and wiggled a bit before eating another bite.
"Tell us if you need more," Steve said.
She nodded, leaning against his arm. She went back to eating and learning more about her new family. They were kinda cool. Even the mean lady now that she had caught her temper. She looked at her. "What's your name?"
"That's a pretty name. Do you have a boyfriend?"
"I do not really have one."
She looked at her father. "Do you have a boyfriend?"
"I'm more likely to have a girlfriend."
"That's cool too. Miss Willow told me about boys and girls." Xander moaned, holding his head while shaking it. "She was very nice and she has red hair like Miss Natasha does."
"So going to paddle Willow," Xander moaned. He looked at her. "Yes, sometimes girls can like girls or boys, the same as boys can like boys or girls, but most people do like to consider things to be boy and girl instead." She nodded. "But you can never be upset that someone's dating someone unless that someone is mad."
"Why would I?"
"I know you heard the twins going off," he said dryly.
"Yeah. One had a boyfriend and her twin brother got mad about it."
Xander nodded. "That's called jealousy and it's not a healthy thing."
"Oh. So if Daddy started to date, I can't be jealous?"
"And I can't not like them because it's Daddy dating?"
"Okay, I won't be upset if Daddy dates a boy or a girl. I might like a baby brother." She looked up at him. "Would you like a baby brother?"
"If I give you a baby brother it'd be a son for me, like you're my daughter."
"Oh!" She nodded and grinned. "That's pretty cool."
"Some day I wouldn't mind a son but I'm not seeing anyone right now so it probably won't happen for a while. If I start dating I'll make sure you and whoever get along."
"Okay. That'll be good because I don't want to get mad about it like the twins did." She looked at Xander, who waved his fork. She grinned. "Can I date a boy or a girl some day?"
"Once you're older," Steve said, smiling at her. "That's for big kids, like seventeen or eighteen-year-olds."
"Wow, I'll be really old then. Huh." She dug in, considering it. "Will you teach me how to date?"
"Yup, I sure will."
"Cool. That'll be good."
"Long before then he can teach you to ride a bike and roller skate," Tony quipped with a grin for her.
Her eyes went wide and she stared at her father. "You can ride a bike?"
"I can yes." He smiled. "And roller skate." She hugged him as hard as she could. "We'll work on that this weekend."
"Okay!" She finished her plate and looked at the food. "Can I have more of the brown stuff?" she asked with a point.
Natasha dished some up. "It's a type of sweet potato, Suzette."
"Cool." She held up her plate. "Thank you, Miss Natasha." She dug in, humming along with her food to a song in her head. Stark looked up at Xander, who nodded with a slight grin. She suddenly looked up. "Uncle Xander, what's that song?"
"I have no idea. I know a few of the girls hum it all the time. And Mandy hums the theme to the Addams family." He sighed. "Which then gets stuck in everyone's head." Clint laughed. "It does."
"I've had that happen. We can look up the song somehow. Maybe there's words."
She nodded. "I don't sing really pretty but maybe. That'd be nice." Her father's phone rang and he shifted to pull it out. "Is it a bad thing?" she asked at his scowl.
"Slightly but not right now." Natasha's phone went off. She sighed and ate a few more bites while reading it.
Xander stared at him. "Want me to call and pull a string for tonight?"
Steve stared at him. "You can't do that."
"Yes I can." He pulled out his phone, putting it on the table after dialing. "It's me."
"Didn't I tell you to only call me in case of apocalypse battles?" a familiar voice said.
"I'm here at Avengers Tower with a delivery. Just call me a stork."
"The fuck!" the voice shouted. "Who?"
"I'm Suzette," she chirped. "Have I met you yet?"
"This is Mr. Fury, who is Clint and Natasha's boss, Suzette," Xander said with a grin. "He has all the stuff we found but not tonight, dear, he's got a headache."
"I... Yeah, that's more important and we have three agents who can do it instead. Have me on speaker?"
"Yup, we're eating. Suzette, sit please."
"I wanted to get closer to the phone."
"He'll meet you sometime this week I'm sure," Tony said, staring at Xander, who grinned.
"Yeah, I can do that tomorrow," Fury said. "General delivery, Harris?"
"Ask him yourself," Xander said bluntly. "And don't you dare start a file."
"I won't but I can slip teachers over to him sometimes if he wanted."
"I might ask," Steve said. "Thank you, Nick."
"Welcome, Steve. I'll see you guys tomorrow at noon or so. Romanoff?"
"I can attend," she said.
"Great. Two hours, here." He hung up.
Xander put his phone up. "We've had a few talks about watching the slayers and apocalypse battles and the like. We pointed out people could get into his files, which would let them know who the girls were. Always a bad idea." Steve nodded. So did Stark. "We help with many things when necessary." He looked at the nibbling kid. "What?"
She stared at him then pointed. "What's that? I've never had anything that tasted like that."
"I think that's a vegetable but I'm not sure. Ask the people who cooked." He pointed at Tony. She looked at him.
"That's veggies and rice pureed together to make it smooth so you can eat more of it. It's good for you and Bruce likes veggies."
"Veggies are good," she said. "Miss Willow taught me about eating properly to feed a growing slayer."
"What did she say about that?" Steve asked, getting her more of the green stuff that reminded him of baby food he'd seen.
"That we eat veggie and protein heavy because of the muscles stuff." She ate a bite and looked at it. Tony handed something for Steve to put onto it. She tasted a tiny bit. "Needs sugar. Please?" He got her some. She poured some on and nodded, digging in. "She said that we sometimes crave sugar a lot, it's just us needing extra energy and all slayers really love sugar. She said she only eats veggies but most slayers can't do that because it can make them sick or weaker." She looked up at him, eating another bite. "She also said that meat's okay but you have to be particular about it because sometimes meat's not done right."
"Sometimes but you don't have to worry about that." She grinned. "Xander?"
"About forty-forty-twenty percent for carbs," Xander said. "If they're on patrol they tend to sugar binge, even when we stop it, and it becomes closer to fifty-thirty-twenty. The extra healing means you need more protein. The two vegetarian slayers and one vegan slayer are all sick half the time. None of them on patrol but they're a bit weakened and one's anemic. Very easy for them to do."
He nodded. "We can take that into account. I tend to do about thirty-thirty-forty unless I'm injured, then I up my protein. You're a growing girl though so you need it differently than I do."
"There's some fairly well liked fruit smoothies we concocted with Andrew's help that include things like vitamins and extras to help. It can take the place of sugar binging right before dinner. Plus give her more fruit a day." Steve nodded. "That's in the green book."
"I can go over that after dinner." He looked at her. She was staring at his plate. "Still hungry?" She nodded with a grin. "What did you want more of?"
"Chicken if no one else wants it?" He handed it over and helped her cut it up. "Thank you, Daddy." She dug in.
"Who does the DNA testing?" Stark asked.
"A lab tech that's the sister to one of the slayers. She's out of the DC CODIS lab. Miriana DeSalinar."
"I haven't heard anything bad about her."
"Did she misrun something?" Xander asked.
"No. She didn't identify the mother."
"It's possible they're not in CODIS. She can only search US databases. We'd then move to someone in MI-5's lab but they're out sick for the last two weeks."
Tony nodded. "We can look at that. Would you have to tell her mother?"
"Someone should tell her but I don't have to be the one if he doesn't want me to."
"That's reasonable. We can search for her," Tony said, looking at her. "That way you might have a mommy too."
She nodded. "Mommies can be nice. I'm not against a mommy. The lady at the lab had me call her Nana."
Xander shook his head. "So arrested," he mouthed. Stark smiled. "Eat up, silly. You still have bedtime reading stuff to do."
"Cool," she breathed, looking up at her father.
"I can do that and tomorrow we'll get the stuff to set up a room for you." She squealed and hugged him then inhaled the rest of her food and some of her father's while he went to get dessert. He gave her the ice cream she had been begging for with some cake. She curled up against his side while eating, giving him happy kid looks. Afterward, she got him a book and let Xander help her into jammies and her father tuck her in. He read nicely and she fell asleep pretty fast. That helped a lot. Then Steve went to freak out in his apartment. He was a dad and had no idea how to do this. He found a book for new parents sitting on the bed and smiled. Harris came very prepared. He settled in to go over it. At least he wouldn't ruin her.
This is a repost as I accidentally erased the first one.