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Xander looked up as his meeting walked in, nodding politely at them. "You rang?"

"We needed to see Mr. Giles," Fury said, sitting down like the chair was his throne, complete with a toss of the bottom of his trench coat so he wasn't sitting on it.

"You won't be seeing Giles. At all."

"Is he missing?" Maria Hill asked.

"No, he's ill."

"We can hold it off for a week or so," Fury said.

"He's sick as in probably not getting out of the medical bed," Xander said more bluntly, staring at him. "One of the demons during the battle in Houston did something that activated or started some kind of intestinal cancer. He's under treatments but they're saying it's not real hopeful." He stared at him for a minute, seeing the almost-wince. "So you get me or you get Buffy and Willow together. Because we still don't trust you not to mind fuck our people, Fury. So what did you want?"

"Who becomes the head of the Council?" Maria asked. Xander grinned. "We're in so much trouble," she sighed.

"I've been doing it since I got back from Africa, right after they found the cancer that I had the vision about and came back to tell him he had," Xander said dryly. "The old line are pissy about it but yay." He stared at her then at her boss. "What's up that you needed our help?"

"Two things," Fury said. "Mostly due to one problem."

"The HYDRA issue?" Xander asked. Fury nodded. "Okay, how is that going to impact us?"

"It means we're down about a third of our agents."

"Which would impact the next huge battle, that's in six weeks or so," Xander said. Maria winced. "Phone?" She handed it over. He looked up something and showed her. "That is from the old building, the one that got blown up. Giles had teams going over to excavate it and the other old buildings for anything they could salvage. Including the old filing cabinets." Fury nodded once. "At one point in time, a single researcher was working with their research teams, after the war. They wanted stronger slayers, or something to enhance the slayer so they lasted longer than a few weeks.

"Not much benefit for a lifetime of taking care of them and training them as they put it." Hill grimaced. "When the old head, two before Travers, found out he had them killed. Everyone but three tiny kids in the family. Cousins and all. Though, the team did kill a child that was not of the family thinking it was the elder teenage daughter. It was actually a friend of hers staying over the night. The girl was out on a date and the cops found her first." He looked at Maria. "I do believe that was your grandmother."

"How did you know that?" she asked.

"We did the scrying version of a background check when we found out another girl had a mother who's a spook," Xander said. "It freaked out Willow so she did it and made notes on everyone's relatives." Hill rolled her eyes. He looked at Fury. "We're not exactly the sort HYDRA would adore, Fury. They don't want to deal with demons. They might want to do what the Initiative program did but not fight them like the girls do. They know that the slayer essence is what activates a slayer.

"We've been handy in getting that information out so people could protect the girls who needed it." Fury nodded once. "We've had a few extremists but it was more of the 'all demons must go' sort than the 'remake the human race'. They're more humans first and only. We've since run them out of the research council for trying to come up with a weapon to make sure of it."

Fury smirked a tiny bit. "At least you're proactive on that stuff."

"Yes, I am. And warlords." He grinned. Fury stared. Xander stared back then grinned. "You can tell my uncle to quit trying to be in six places at once too. Willow never gave him that ability and does he really want her to make him magical clones?"

"I can pass that on," Maria said. She texted that to him, smiling at the answer back. "He said he'd like one that could do paperwork but then someone like Stark would get hold of them to test the magic." She looked at him. "The upcoming battle?"

"We sent you the vision," he said. "It should be in your inbox." She looked and found it, nodding and sharing it with Fury. "We should be able to handle it on our own but if there's agents who want to jump in, go for it. Even the bad type can help in battles then disappear."

Fury nodded. "They'd have to because we'd arrest them on sight. Not during the battle if they were helping, but as soon as humanly possible."

"That's your shit, Fury. It doesn't involve us at all. Not like we like to hire agents to be field watchers. The ones we've hired have complained that they felt discriminated against."

"Which makes sense," Hill agreed. "Have you done Suzette's yearly check?"

"Yup. She's good until we do one in a few months. She's coming to camp."

Hill nodded. "Camp is good for them." She stared at him. "If we wanted to add a person there to guard the girls?"

Xander snickered, shaking his head. "Council only and if you're coming you have to talk to Willow."

"Fine," she agreed. "I'll see how that works out. We do employ one other slayer."

"We know." He grinned. "We know were all the girls are and the tree of baubles makes sure we realize when they need help."

"What's that?" Fury asked.

"It's a little sculpture full of bubbles that act as a wellness check. Like the clock in the _Harry Potter_ series."

"Oh. That makes sense. Probably how you know to check on some girls that aren't anywhere near civilization."

"Civilization is everywhere. Even the slayer that's in a headhunter tribe has civilization. They may not have technology but that's a whole different thing."

"Yes it is," Fury agreed, staring at him. "If you or your girls find anything about HYDRA we want to know first."

"If we don't have to destroy them," Xander agreed. "Like Syvette did this morning." Hill looked up the bulletin board. "She told us personally. An agent in France had gotten her out of bed early last night to come look at a demon situation. The researcher had been trying to extract a Mohra's healing blood against his will so others of his clan were massing to stop them. She stepped in to ask if they needed human help to get in and they let her do the things they couldn't, like lock picking, then they took out the researcher and all his people. The agent moaned over that and one of the demons made him admit he was working with him so they stabbed him a lot and let her go tell other humans in charge as they put it."

"Eww," Hill said. "Any idea on the agent?"

"She called her contact in Interpol to hand him over and make the report." She nodded, sending him a request for information. "He wasn't SHIELD Europe that she said. She said he was a French intelligence agent."

"We didn't think they spread that far," Fury complained. "Hill?"

"No answer yet, sir."

"Fine. Let me know when you do." He looked at Xander. "So from now on we talk with you?"

"Unless you want to talk to Buffy and Willow, probably. You can talk to Andrew. He's the housemother and he'll gladly come talk to you with Faith."

"I might. Rosenburg and Summers give me headaches when we have to talk about things," Fury said. Xander smiled. "I know, they do it on purpose." Xander nodded. "How did they get along with Stark?"

"Why would they have?"

"Over Suzette," Hill said. "Or the two that Stark helped heal."

"No need for them to. Andrew and I handle the minis. They weren't in on the rescue of the girls. They didn't need to give Stark any information on them. Stark's people sent them over via the coven so they didn't have to fly. I'm pretty sure his AI talked to the coven instead of him."

"That's fine. I'm not sure if he could handle magic," Fury said.

Xander shrugged. "He didn't seem to be bothered by it during the raids when some went on around him."

"Point." He looked at Hill then at him. "What about weapons?"

Xander smiled. "What weapons?"

"Don't play stupid with me, Harris. You have boyfriends who give you weapons."

"I have a few girlfriends who do too," he said dryly. "And one who helps me fix them." Fury stared at him. "They're a precious thing, especially since it means I'm not alone."

"Does Rosenburg like them?" Hill asked.

"She considers it practical and that it's better if I'm not miserably alone as she put it. So she puts up with them. I do try to keep them apart since a few have wanted to protest to Willow on my behalf. Especially since I was in the middle of sex when I got turned into a black cat by one of the mini witches she was training."

"I can only imagine the fit I'd throw if that happened," Hill said then shuddered.

"You're not my type, Hill. You're not dangerous enough to be one of mine," Xander quipped, smiling at her. "Aren't you happier that way?"

"I'm more than dangerous enough, Harris, but yes I am."

Fury snorted. "You're not as dangerous as the one who he kissed and took the biological weapon from last year," Fury said, staring at Xander. "Or the one with the dirty bomb."

"That was real handy closing the hellmouth in Brazil," Xander quipped. He smiled. "It meant the demons on that plane aren't going to try again anytime soon."

Fury sat up, staring at him. "You used it to close the hellmouth?"

"Yup. Rearmed it and shoved it through during the fight. Plansa did the shoving during the battle." Fury groaned, shaking his head. "The biological one got turned off and is in a corner unless we need it someday for a similar thing."

"Fuck," Fury said. "No. We can get you something better."

"I can probably make better, Fury. Some of the plans I found while in Africa and Asia were good for that." Fury stared at him. "Who do you think rescued the mini slayers from the bad people that wanted them for whatever reason?"

"Can we get a damn list?" he demanded.

Xander shrugged. "I don't go by names usually but you can look at my journals. Don't let my uncle do it, he'll probably complain again that he could get me into the military for *real* training so he could recruit me."

"I'd never let him recruit you, kid. You're nuts," Fury said. Xander smiled happily. "The girls need you to be that nuts so they win. SHIELD doesn't need that level of insane yet. If we do, we'll talk Stark into doing field work." Xander laughed.

"It might calm him down," Hill said.

Xander looked at her, then reached over to pat her on the arm. "He saw me taking down a rebel band to rescue one of the minis and then critiqued my use of the weapons I had on hand. Some day you can straighten him out, maybe." He looked at Fury again. "Beyond that.... Oh, Hill, Andrew made new recipes."

"I get them off the site directly."

"The newest three aren't. Including for the molecular destabilizer he's been working on." She stared at him. "He's planning on testing it during the upcoming battle in DC."

"Hell no," Fury said. "Not at that battle. Too much risk of hitting someone who'd complain. Have him let Stark test it."

"He doesn't want to ruin Stark's childlike innocence about magic," Xander quipped. "One of the girls suggested it."

Fury shook his head. "Not that battle."

"You tell him. If it's an advantage during the battle he can use it and do all the politicians who'll scream later for all I give a damn. I'm the practical one of the Council, Fury, not the idealist that Willow tries to be sometimes."

Fury huffed. "I'll talk to him."

"I will, sir, since I'm our liaison with them," Hill said. She looked at Xander. "What else is he working on?"

Xander shrugged. "I don't know. I've been out with the minis. Ask him."

"How do you run the Council when you're not there?" Fury demanded.

"Email. The research council especially likes emails. It means I don't show up and breathe on their books."

Fury shook his head as he got up and walked off. "Hill, find out about that thing tonight. Harris, good hunting."

"Thank you." He got up and strolled off, going to have some real danish. He wanted something sweet and flaky that wasn't his girlfriend of the moment. He did text Andrew to warn him to pull those journals out and about Hill visiting. Andrew promised he'd pull out the pretty things to impress her. And make sure she was eating since she looked a bit thin.

***

Six days later, Hill was dragging a large box on wheels into Stark's lab. "Stark." He looked up and stared at the box. "Andrew was tinkering. We need you to test it before the battle in five weeks in DC." She let him have the box. "It's a molecular destabilizer. It works very well but it turns things to ash at the molecular level. He said it's set too high for the tree they tried it on but then realized he hadn't put on the turn-down knob as he put it. Also, he probably tucked in more recipes for Rogers and Suzette."

He opened the crate, looking at it. "How does it work?"

She pointed. "Set it, fires there," she said. "Otherwise, no damn idea. Andrew does things like that."

He nodded once. "Sure, I can look this over. JARVIS, send me Bruce please."

"I can do so," the AI said. "Agent Hill, Suzette was bouncing around when she heard you were here. She's on the main living floor."

"I'll go see her in a minute. I have the entry key so she can be gotten to the camp." She pulled out the packet of papers, sorting through them. "Recipes, notes, slayer notes, and battle vision." She handed that to Steve when he walked in with Suzette.

He looked it over, grimacing. "That's sad."

"Yes it is," she agreed. "He sent more recipes and her entry key to the camp." She handed that packet over from her bag. Suzette gave her a hug so she cuddled her back. "You're a good girl. You won't do things like Andrew did and make a portable wormhole machine." She laughed and took the recipes to look over. She looked up to find Stark staring at her. "He was watching tv."

"I've seen that show. They could use people like them."

"Andrew asked us if we could recruit people like that." She shook her head. "They're... the main house is a bit insane at times."

Steve patted her on the arm. "It could be worse."

"Yes, I could be in residence at a house full of teenage girls who wanted clothing and dating advice since I've gone on dates."

Stark was fiddling with his screwdriver. "How many other odd weapons do they have?"

"Many. Though they do come in handy. Harris took a dirty bomb off a girlfriend and it was used at the battle in Brazil to close the portal from the demon's side." Stark blinked, staring at her. "He was very happy it was useful."

"Uh-huh," Stark said. "And Harris liked that idea?"

"I'm fairly certain it was his plan," she said dryly. "He can find uses for things like that. We know they've got at least one other weapon in that sort of group to be used at a later date in probably another invasion situation."

Stark nodded. "I'd like to look at that."

"Talk to Harris. He's in charge of the armory."

"He does a lot," Steve said. "They need to hire."

"No one wants to work with the demon community," Hill said. "Not even the PETA people want to help them. Most everyone wants them to do their job and not help them. Especially agents." Suzette was staring at her. "Most people consider demons too weird to deal with."

"I've seen that."

"It means the Council can't hire a lot of people."

"That's sad. More people need to help."

"Yes they do. If only so Harris doesn't have to do half of everything." She smiled. "Because he looked like he could use a vacation with a girlfriend."

"Awww. Maybe he'll get one after camp."

"Maybe," she agreed. She opened the packet. "Okay, on the leaving day for camp, you put that on so they know where to pick you up from." She nodded, looking at it. "That'll let their bus driver, however they do that, know to stop here. You and the others in the area can decide where to meet to catch the bus." She nodded again. "That's your paperwork if they ask at the border. You don't need a passport. That's your beginning Council ID paperwork in case you need to get across the border. Slayers on duty, or in hiding, can cross almost any border with that. There's a few where you shouldn't but I doubt you'll be in Pakistan anytime soon or in the Middle East. Or two countries in Africa." Suzette nodded at that. "So put those somewhere safe that you or your father can grab it from."

"Okay." She looked up at her father. He took it. "Your safe?"

"That'll work." She smiled. "Take the recipes upstairs?" She did that. "Thank you, Agent Hill."

"Welcome. The girls are a bit too bouncy for my tastes. They wear me out just talking to a few of the teens in the main house."

"What does Mr. Giles do?" Stark asked.

"He's ill. We just found out he's ill," she said.

"Oh. That makes more sense about Harris doing half of everything."

She nodded. "And then some." Stark looked at her. "A demon activated a cancer."

Stark shuddered. "What type so we can be aware of them?" He pulled up a digital copy of the identification manual. She flipped it to that one so they could see the picture. "We got amendments on that one I think." They were added to the copy. "Ah, I see. Okay, we'll stay far away from them."

"A great idea," Steve agreed. Clint came back in with Suzette dancing around him. "Are you hyper?" he asked with a grin.

"Yup!"

"Someone shared Nat's brownie with her," Clint said. "When do I get to teach her weapons?"

"Next year," Steve said. "Let her get better in hand-to-hand."

"Okay." He hugged the little girl. She climbed up him, making him smile. "Getting better at that, kiddo. Hey, Hill."

"Andrew made a molecular destabilizer we wanted Stark to check. He said he would've shown him but he didn't want to ruin his childlike innocence about magical tech." Stark snorted, shaking his head. "They hold a magical tech conference in two weeks in Omaha," she said, pointing at the invitation. "Write a report if you go." She looked at Suzette. "Let me check in."

"Is Uncle Xander okay? I had a bad dream about him being overrun earlier."

"He's fine. He had the same dream so he's making plans."

"That was a slayer dream?"

"Yes it was. I had the same one and checked with him."

"Oh, okay. That's good. Why did he glow?"

"I have no idea and some of that is interpretation. You'd have to email him to make sure he's okay."

"I can do that." She looked at her father.

"We can do that later," he promised.

"Good." She kissed her uncle on the cheek. "You have licorice. I can smell it."

"I do but it's mine."

She pouted. "I can't even have a tiny piece?"

"If you can do three things in the gym, I'll let you have a tiny piece." He carried her off to help her wear out the energy.

Steve looked at Hill. "Should she have those?"

"Some of us have them and some don't. I don't have many. I've only had three. A few of the minis have one about every single bad problem and we think they have latent seer genes. Unless she sees the other girls being taken out, she'll be okay. Usually the mind makes them look less lethal than they can be." Steve nodded. "Beth is one who gets them at the drop of a hat. That's most of the reason why she usually looks exhausted these days."

"I can help with that battle," Steve said.

"As Harris put it, whoever jumps in jumps," she said bluntly. "But if they're someone like an agent that's honoring HYDRA they can help and then run for their lives."

Steve nodded. "Okay. I can do that. Let me know a better date?"

"Gladly." She shook his hand and nodded at Stark. "Email Andrew if you want particulars." She left, going to calm down. All the younger slayers were bouncy and it wore her out. When she reported, she pulled out three journals and tossed them to Fury. "His."

"Did you read them?" Fury asked.

"No. I thought you'd want someone in Evidence to read them over for names." She walked off. "I'm going to rest. They're starting the pre-battle bounciness early."

"That's probably a bad thing," Fury said, sending Harris an email about that being an indication that it's a bigger fight than they'd expect. He paged his other good hand. Coulson walked in so he handed over the journals. "Find out if anyone on our watch list was taken care of. That's their hunting journal."

"Yes, Nick." He looked at them. "Council related?" Fury nodded. "When is the next battle?"

"Five weeks in DC."

"Fine. Give me a firm date so I can help." He walked off, going back to his office so he could read and make notes. He frowned after the first few pages. "Does he think he's in an anime?"

***

The next morning he was waiting on Fury when he came in. "This one needs to be taken out of the field. He's either suicidal or insane."

"How many?" Fury asked, trying not to smirk. That's how he thought of Harris too, insane.

"We've figured out most everyone but a few aren't descriptive enough. The guy with the big nose and all the guns in Botswana isn't very descriptive."

"Your nephew's dating him," Fury said. "He sent me an email last night to ignore him, he had changed after helping the slayers in a later battle, and you didn't get that journal of his."

"These..." He cleared his throat. "These are Xander's?" Fury nodded. "Damn it."

"I'm fairly certain most agents add that to his name," Fury said dryly, smirking at him. "He asked that I not give those to you because of the way you want him to get *real* training."

"I'll settle for a psychological examination and a decent lover now," Coulson said dryly. Now he felt really sorry for the kid. If he had taken Xander from his parents during that fateful visit, the guy would be normal. Or at least more normal but possibly influenced by Barton and Natasha. "Did he ever get those slavers?"

"You'd have to check the rest of his journals," Fury said. "He only handed over those three."

"Harris said Andrew only handed over those because they were the nicer version he had written for Giles' benefit," Hill said from the doorway. "I asked him how many more there were when he called last night to tell me one of the girls in Asia had run into a HYDRA base and had let the demons she was trying to fight off handle them so he'd leave the area. He said her report said they acted like a viking horde and pillaged but may have left information." She handed over a copy of that report.

Coulson read it over, scratching one of his eyebrows. "Raping, pillaging, burning, and stomping on the base. They definitely destroyed the HYDRA agents." He handed it to Fury. "Should I send Barton and Romanoff?"

"I'll send a team," Hill said, handing in that form. Fury signed off after glancing at it. She looked at Phil. "He sounded resigned that you probably had those and then quipped that at least you'd probably quit trying to get him to join the military." She walked off.

Fury looked at him. "Don't make a wish or say anything that would prompt Rosenburg to change him again," he warned.

"I won't. I'll see if I can get the real journals to see if there's more information in them." He walked off, going to a nearby park. "Xander?" he called, looking up. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it only worked for slayers. He heard the sigh and looked at his nephew as he appeared. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Tell you what? That I'm more an action hero than you are?" he asked dryly. "Because you'd give me that stupid look you're giving me right now." Phil scowled instead. Xander stared back. "Sorry you didn't like them."

"If you had told me, I could've gotten you some limited help to deal with the bigger things."

"I learned long ago not to trust most people, Phil. Especially not military or agents after that whole Initiative mess. As soon as we heard about SHIELD we knew the same rules applied to them. Especially after meeting with Fury for the first time, and that was before I went to Africa."

"You could have told me. I'm your uncle."

"I know that. You didn't talk to me in fifteen years. Why would I come to you for anything?"

Phil slumped, staring at him. "You can always trust me, Xander. I'm not ever going to hurt one of the slayers or you. Like you, nearly dying made me reevaluate some things. I wrote you a letter after that but you sent it back unopened."

"I never got one."

"Maybe it was the doctors then." He stared at him. "Can I help you and the girls somehow?"

"Not really. We manage pretty well overall. I could sometimes use an assistant to do some of the paperwork that tends to build up on me."

"For the minis?"

"For the whole Council. Giles has cancer."

"Oh, I'm sorry." He stared at him. "You're second-in-command?" Xander smirked and nodded. "I can definitely look for an assistant for you who likes to help mentor bouncy young women. I know a few I'd suggest."

"I about talked Sarabeth into it but Willow didn't like that idea because she has kids."

"Children give you a reason to keep fighting," Phil said. "And a reason to be a role model. The same as you are to the minis." He moved closer. "What did you leave out of those if that was the nicer version for Willow's consumption?"

"A lot." He grinned. "Including some sex."

"Fury gave them to me to comb for people who were on our watch lists."

"I figured he did. That's from my first year and a half in Africa."

"I thought maybe two years." He ran a hand over his hair. "May I see the rest?"

"Are you going to keep giving me that 'you poor pitiful bastard' look?" he asked.

"Yes. Though can I help you find a therapist perhaps?"

"Nah. Won't do me any good. I'm fine the way I am because I keep winning." He stood up. "Not like I turned to drugs when Jesse got killed. Or alcohol."

"I'm glad you didn't but ...we'd pull an agent out of the field if he was that burnt out, Xander."

"And now I'm dealing with little problems about to turn big and checking on the kids because I yanked myself out."

"I...good. I'm glad you could settle down some." He stared at him. "The guy in Botswana?"

"Hubert?"

"Hubert Richt?" Xander nodded. "You're right, he does have an extremely big nose. I thought he was in Belgium though."

"That's his retirement home. He hated snow and water. Said it aggravated his arthritis. Then he threw a party for getting old enough to get arthritis."

"I've seen others who did that," Phil said. He stared at him. "You?"

"I've had arthritis since the swim team incident. The mermaid taint makes my shoulders ache at times." He shrugged and walked off. "I sent them to Hill since Andrew told me he had handed those over. Still the nicer version. The others are in a bank deposit box so Willow can't steal them."

"The one you have the account with in Cairo?" Phil asked.

Xander grinned back. "The demonic bank in Libya. They know they're field reports and I have no doubt they checked them over when I put them in there."

"I'll see if I can get copies made."

"Special ink," Xander quipped.

"I could use a vacation somewhere that quiet," Phil decided, going back to the base to tell Hill that. She warned their postal office so they could direct them to Coulson's desk instead. Since it usually took four days to get mail from Cleveland to New York, he decided to go to Libya first. He hadn't been there in years. He brought Barton and Romanoff with him for protection, just in case, and so he could get a second opinion on his nephew's state of mind. Unlike Fury, he was worried about Xander for a few reasons beyond what and who he dated.

***

Four days later, Phil Coulson showed up back in his office looking like he hadn't slept. Which he hadn't. He also looked like he had been on a drinking binge in some dive bar, which he hadn't. He was still sick to his stomach but no alcohol had been involved. He found Fury waiting and stared at him. "A demon had a slayer-specific weapon and blackmailed Xander into sleeping with him so he wouldn't use it," he said quietly. "Twice. The second time, Xander managed to have the thing stolen." Fury nodded, looking impressed. "My nephew is slightly... Warped. I'll go with warped. He said it happens and went on with it."

"It does sometimes," Fury agreed. "Was it at gunpoint?"

"Nearly. Then he slept with the thief who did it for him because he didn't want paid, he wanted to know why half of his contacts got that dopey look on their faces when he mentioned Xander. Xander made it much better for him by what he wrote and now that thief gets that dopey look about him." He stared at his boss and friend. "Is it too late to save him?"

"Probably. He seems content to help the girls. That's his version of a holy quest." He looked at his best man. "What did you read that made you that tense?"

"You don't want to know," he admitted. "You really don't." Fury shrugged and walked off. "I'll put what's necessary into a report." He saw the other journals there and got into them. He agreed, half of what he had read, Xander should not tell anyone. Phil felt sorry for his nephew and vowed to help him heal and move on. If they both made it through the next apocalypse battle.

***

Natasha and Clint walked off the elevator, seeing Steve watching the news. "You should ask Xander if he needs help with the upcoming apocalypse's battle plans," Clint said. "He's good but you're better."

"I can do that." He used his phone to email him. Then he looked at them. "Where did you two go?"

"Coulson wanted to look at Xander's patrol journals from his training times in Africa and Asia," Natasha said. "He was a bit burnt out then."

"I figured he was. From the publically available information he had just lost his best girl and whole town."

"We think he got possessed by some sort of action movie star," Clint said, flopping down. "He did a lot of stuff no one knew about. Including taking out a few targets that was necessary."

Andrew appeared, looking at him. "Don't look at Xander differently. He did what he had to do with what he had. I don't let people trash Xander outside Willow, and I can't stop her without making her a yappy dog." He looked at Steve, handing over an envelope. "What he's already figured out. He said if you have an idea that's different to talk to him and he'd look at it but right now he's having a day of remembrance and he's a bit tipsy." He disappeared.

"There's been many I wanted to do that with," Steve agreed. He looked over the plans, frowning. "That's a bad area to pick the fight. There's a park...." He texted Xander to ask that question. He got back 'it's a donated park and they had threatened to kill anyone who ripped it up, including sending the photocopy of an unsigned warrant for their arrest for ripping up said park during the battle. The ending about the senator in question being one of the ones who had summoned the demon's egg made him scowl. "Great," Steve muttered. "Politicians and demons." Natasha snorted, shaking her head. "The park up the street from the battle was donated by a senator who has vowed to arrest Xander and the girls for ripping it up if it gets hurt during the battle, but he's one who helped summon it."

"Of course," she agreed. "They're like that." She sat down. "I have no idea what he's remembering today."

"The Council history book is on my bookshelf." He looked at her. "He's allowed to remember the bad times too, Natasha. Some of us do it that way."

"Agents are trained not to."

"Xander's more a soldier and he wasn't trained not to express emotion," Steve said simply. "If he was, I doubt he'd be as good to the minis as he is."

Clint nodded. "He outbid a few people for some of the girls but didn't marry them." Steve looked at him. "They were taking bids for bride price for a few of the girls. He paid the parents off and moved the girls to somewhere safer, letting them set up their own lives. He never let them do the ceremony. It pissed off some parents but they knew he wasn't going to marry them, just set them free. Including two girls that weren't slayers but were in bad shape and had been beaten by their parents for objecting to being married off for the good of their family. The family considered them witches for being twins." He smirked a tiny bit. "They were going for minimal prices but Xander saved them."

"Good," Steve said. "It's an honorable thing to do."

"One asked why he wasn't going to take her as a spouse and he said because he didn't do that to women. Then he called Buffy so they could chat. His journal said she got really mad at her family and praised Xander for saving the girls."

"Then she nagged about it later," Natasha said. "How he could have gotten a decent girlfriend from one of them."

"Instead of the one who tried to use him as a biological weapon incubator," Clint finished.

Steve stared at him. "Is he okay?"

"He's fine. He apparently got up off the sick bed and went back to work as soon as his fever fully broke," Natasha said. Steve looked at her. "He said he felt miserable but he was worried about people who kept coming in to stare at him. He thinks they wanted samples."

"Yes, I do," Stark said as he came off the elevator. "And to ask Andrew how he did that." He scowled at them. "What else did he do?"

"A lot of shit we're trained not to do," Clint said bluntly. "Including taking on overwhelming forces, taking out someone by screwing them because it's the only option, and a lot of other things that no one wants to know about just in case."

Stark nodded. "He sounds like he could be your kid."

Clint stared at him. "Don't say that, someone might make it so."

Stark snorted and walked off to get coffee. "He could do a lot worse than you, Barton."

"Thanks." He looked at Natasha, who smirked. Then at Steve. "Are they good plans?"

"They're decent. We can work with them and adjust as things happen. Hopefully we can sideswipe the senator who is protecting the park."

"Need a donation?" Stark asked, coming back with his new cup of coffee. Steve showed him the text message and the map. "Hmm. Well, we can always get him out of office." He walked off sipping his coffee. "Let me know when so I can get there." He disappeared into the elevator.

Steve nodded. "You guys going to come to that one?" They nodded. "Cool. We need to find out if our usual weapons will work."

Natasha pointed. "It says beheading."

He looked at the map, nodding at the notes on the side. "It does. We can work on that." They all nodded. They had been working with Suzette's weapons. They weren't too bad.

***

Steve looked at Suzette. "We'll all be okay."

"I know you will and so will Uncle Xander and the big slayers." She stared up at him. "It doesn't mean I won't fuss over every single injury when you get home."

He smiled and picked her up to cuddle. "I'd expect that." She waved at the others waiting on Steve.

"We'll be fine, kiddo. I promise," Clint called.

"You'd better or I'm stealing your bow until you're better and teaching myself how to use it."

He laughed. "I'll let you but give you lessons."

Steve put her back down. "Go back inside. Be a good girl for the agent watching you until Aunt Pepper gets out here." She nodded, skipping back inside. He picked up his bag and shield, heading for their transport. "Kids are amazing," he said once he was on board. "She's not all that upset or worried."

"She has faith we'll come back to her," Natasha said, looking at him. "Most children do not believe in truly bad things happening to their parents."

He nodded. "I try to keep it from her too." He relaxed and stared out the front screen of the jet taking them down to DC. "Stark, do you have everything?"

"It's in the crate I shipped ahead," he said, still reading something. "That senator's dirty as hell." He showed them what he had found. Steve grimaced. "We can handle it?"

"Yup," Steve agreed. "We can." Everyone else nodded. They got off at the airport and took Stark's rented limo to the hotel. Some people still gave him dirty looks because he had been in a fight against HYDRA people and it had messed up a road or four, but he was used to it after the ones he got in New York after the invasion.

Xander was strolling up the street sipping a soda and got even worse looks. He looked at one sneering woman. "The offer for you to do it your own damn self while we watch stands, lady." She hurried off. "We don't know why we save you ungrateful bitches but we do," he called after her, smiling and waving. "Make us quit, we dare you." The others staring huffed off. He grinned at them. "Have a *great* day, people.

"Remember, we're having a battle. You don't want to be trapped there. And if you are, don't complain to us because we gave you over a week of warning to find a day out of the house." He turned back around and walked into the hotel. "Hey, guys. Planning's going on in my room with the latest street scans and the local PD guys." He walked around Stark. "Andrew took his machine back and he's going to use it on that senator if he tries crap. He's got ManMS thanks to bouncy slayers." He finished his soda and tossed it out before getting onto the elevator and heading up to his room.

Stark shook his head. "I think he learned how to be bouncy from the slayers." They got checked in and went up to their rooms. Then Steve went to Xander's room to get in on the planning while Stark looked over the satellite images.

***

Xander turned at the sound of fighting behind him, staring at the being there. It wasn't one of the demons that was trying to immigrate. Instead it was a tallish furry thing. It kinda looked like a racoon. At least the guy was helping. "Guys, is he from the invading beings?" he called. "If not, let's see who and what he is."

"He's not in any of the manuals," Andrew called from his protected spot. He was using battle robots to help.

"Okay." Xander walked over once things were done with. "Hey. Did you mean to show up right after a battle when we're all paranoid?"

"I did not," he said in one of the common trade tongues.

"Great, you speak a common demon language," Xander said with a grin. "Are you natively from this earth?"

"This is earth?"

"Yes, this is earth."

"Sorry. No, I was pulled here. I mean no harm. As one of my people says, I come in peace, don't shoot me." The five foot raccoon stared at him then around then back at him. "It was messy."

"They had to be beheaded. Where are you supposed to be so we can send you home?" The alien named a set of coordinates. "'Drew?"

"I can get him home but they said they'd arrest me if I ever showed up again," he called, coming out of the van.

"Just open the portal and let him go through?" Xander suggested.

"I don't want arrested by aliens, Xander. I'll never get hot alien chicks that way," Andrew complained.

Xander sighed. "Open the portal and I'll get him home? If they bitch at me, I'll open some whoop ass again." Andrew smiled and got the witches to set up a portal around something he had created, which made for huffy witches but oh well. Xander pointed. "Let's get you home before the girls try to pet you. They'd think you were a pet and not a warrior with guns." He walked him through, handing him to a staring person. "He came through to earth by accident right as we wrapped up a battle by an invading demon plane. He's okay though."

He walked back through, ignoring the spluttering from one, choking from another, and mass screaming by a few people. The portal closed and he shook his head. "Okay. Let's go, girls." They groaned. "Hey, the hotel has showers and stuff." He pointed. They ran for the waiting rental minivans. Xander followed. "Thanks for helping, people," he called before getting in to drive. He was exhausted but he knew not to let a slayer drive him anywhere but the ER. Andrew had all his battle bots gathered into the van and left with the coven members who weren't driving the other slayer mobiles.

Steve looked at Clint, who was grinning. "Okay. No clean up?"

One of the PD people looked at him. "The fire department's coming to make that cheery bonfire, Captain. Thank you for your team's help."

"Welcome, guys. Glad we could help." They left, going back to the hotel. The few protestors were being held back by the cops. One of the slayers was out there making fun of them so Natasha poked her on the arm and pointed. She huffed but went back inside.

Xander walked out, staring at the crowd. "Then next time, *you* guys do it. We can gladly teach you how to use a sword and a stake. Willow can even impart memories so you know what slayers know. She's coming in an hour or so if you want to wait." The protestors fled. "You sure, guys?" he called with a smile and a wave at their backs. "We like helpful people and will *gladly* train all of you." He turned, finding Willow standing there. "We do."

"I'll happily give them the skills they need to fight demons so you can retire, Xander."

"Fuck you," he said in Latin, smiling at her. "And the mental hose you sucked up to get that idea. Even if I retire, I'm not retiring. I'm too young and pretty for that. I'd just go start an evil empire and bring 'Drew with me. You girls do drive us to evil real often." He walked back inside. She was huffy but yay. Stark had heard, Xander noticed him staring. He grinned and shrugged. "They do. I'm about to start my own evil empire and banish all women from it. Gay sex for everyone so they don't have to put up with nagging bitches." He got onto the elevator and went to hide in his other room. He had gotten a spare one to hide from the nagging slayers in. After every battle they all went 'but you're not a slayer and that's why you got injured' at him. Maybe seeing the real heros who were injured as well would help stop it.

Willow huffed into the hotel, staring back at Stark. "What?" she demanded. "Why are you injured?"

"Something about one of them trying to shove a news van up my ass, Rosenburg. Thankfully I fixed that problem too." She glared. He stared back. "You keep treating him like that and he's going to abandon you. Then what?"

She snorted. "He won't. He never gives up, no matter how often we encourage."

"No, guys with honor aren't going to," he said. She growled. He walked off. "If Pepper was like you, I'd give up women and doing anything for humanity too. I'd probably make a competing evil empire to his." He got onto the elevator and went up to his room. He called Pepper. "I'm so glad you're not like Rosenburg. She just nagged Harris after the battle." She said something. "No, just wanted you to know that. Bit banged up thanks to the news van but I'm good."

He smiled, laying on the bed to listen to her happy news about Suzette's math test. "That's great. Her dad will be proud. Yeah, he's fine. He's probably calming down and getting a shower. Tell her to try in about an hour or so. No, we're all at the same hotel. Thanks, Pepper. Hug the munchkin for me too." He hung up and relaxed. At least until he heard an explosion outside. Then he hopped up to look out the window. He noticed Clint sitting on his windowsill next door. "Did you have to blow them up?"

"They were planting a bomb," he said. "So yes I did." He waved at the officers responding. "I got 'em," he called.

They looked then up at him. "Thanks, Hawkeye. Nice shooting." He grinned back at them. "We'll find 'em. Warn the slayers? It's probably against them." They nodded and went to warn the girls. Who all got taken home by the witches. Except Xander. The Avengers saw him when they were leaving.

Xander was walking outside, his sword on his back over a leather jacket, t-shirt, jeans, and boots. He had on sunglasses and looked at the captured people. He stared at one. "Tell Paul I'm going to have a *talk* with him about doing that near my girls. He'll understand." The guy flinched. Xander smirked evilly, moving closer. "What was the idea?"

"Too many slayers," he said, sounding weak. "Please, Xander."

"Oh, no, baby, you get to go to jail for that. You tried to harm my girls. What did I do to that guy in Guyana that did that?" The guy turned pale and heaved. "Exactly. Feel *real* happy with the jail sex." He sniffed him and growled. "I'll see Paul later," he growled in his ear.

"I'll warn him!" he said frantically. "He's very sorry! He just wants fewer slayers on hand! One of the bigger names is trying to make it so and hired him to help us but he didn't want to! He said to tell you he didn't want to, but they had his daughter hostage!"

"I can get her free." He stared at him over the top of his sunglasses. "Who did that? That way I can go rescue her like the heroic stud I am."

"Some big guy in the mob!"

"Which mob?" Xander asked.

"Russian I think or maybe South American. I'm not certain."

"I can find out." He flipped open his phone. "Paul," he said smoothly. "I'm told I need to rescue your daughter so we can have a ...talk afterward. Who has her?" The voice on the phone spluttered and choked on a name. "I know him. Apparently he thought I was fun. Pity. We'll talk soon, dear." He hung up and looked at the minion. "It's a pity. If Willow had finally driven me to evil, I would've made you a sergeant in my new evil empire." The minion moaned, squeezing his knees together. "You have *fun*."

"Mr. Harris, we can rescue her," one of the agents said.

Xander snorted, looking him over. "Why would I need help?" The agent pouted. "Beyond that, you just want the kidnaper. I'll probably leave him tied up for you. Maybe I'll woo his second into taking over." He strolled off, touching something on his jacket sleeve. He disappeared.

Steve looked at the minion. "I think you pissed him off."

"I know I pissed him off," he said, starting to cry. "Damn it." He looked up. "Save me? Please? I'd rather have demon sex than prison sex." A demon appeared but the agents holding him shot it. "Hey! It's a better punishment! One of his ex's will get me in prison! I'd hate that more!"

"You can go to a supermax," one of the agents said, smiling at him. "No touching any other prisoner at any time." He walked their prisoners off to bring them in.

Willow huffed, having watched it all. "I hate it when Xander goes into evil mode. He scares the girls." She disappeared before Steve could say anything to her.

Stark looked at Steve. "I'm *so* glad Pepper isn't like her."

"Me too," Natasha said. "Or myself. I might have to change my hair color."

"You're scary in other ways, Nat," Clint quipped with a grin. "No one would expect you to do magic."

"Thank you. I hope I never do." She got into the limo. The others got in and Steve was still shaking his head when the limo drove off.

***

Suzette bounded up when everyone came off the elevator. "Why did two Peruvian generals commit suicide to get away from the big slayers?" she asked, climbing up her father to cuddle him. "Do you have booboos?"

"Only a few scratches, Suzette, and I don't know. I haven't seen that news story yet." He carried her off to their apartment to cuddle and calm her down. "Thanks, Pepper."

"Welcome. The news crew covering the hotel caught all that and Willow."

Stark kissed her. "Still so glad you're not like her. Even if you could do magic. Which I'm pretty sure you can because you're just that amazing." He went to get coffee then down to his lab.

Clint, Natasha, and Bruce all went to their rooms to recover. The slayers had talked to them before the battle. It had nearly worn them out. They needed a rest. Pepper was happy with the compliment and was waiting on Suzette to come back or Tony to rejoin her so they could do stuff together.

***

Xander was nibbling toast when everyone got up the next morning. He waved at Suzette, handing her something. "Yours I do believe, young lady."

She opened it and squealed. "It's a birthday card!" She hugged him. "Are you okay?"

"I'm just fine, sweetie. I didn't get really injured at the battle and my temper's no longer mad at Willow."

"That's good. She was a butt like some of the older girls in my school." She cuddled him. "You didn't have to show up to give me my card."

"Andrew sent me to come get back his stuff Stark has." He grinned at him. "He even said please."

"We'll see." He went to start coffee and food. "When is her birthday?"

"Three days," Steve said. Xander nodded. He looked at the card, smiling at the puppies on it. "That's pretty. You should put it onto your dresser." She ran to do that. "Just for that one machine?"

"No, Andrew said he found a few other things of his that Stark found somewhere. He was doing a finding on the things agents had stolen." He held up the pictures. "Since one's a temporal gateway.... I'm actually here to close the stupid gateway since *someone* opened it." He looked at Stark. Stark had frozen, cup halfway to his lips. "We think it goes ahead of time and maybe that's what drew the alien guy."

Suzette came running back out. "Uncle Xander, why did those guys not like you and took themselves out?"

"Because they were scared I was going to sic the bouncy slayers on them," he quipped with a grin. "The bouncy ones can babble the guys to death. They're very scared of strong girls down there."

"Aww, that sucks." She ran in to get breakfast and came back out. She stood in front of him. "Do we know why I might get activated sooner?"

"Yup, we do. We think it'll be someone against SHIELD and they'll be close enough to harm you or your dad so you'll naturally activate to protect your family."

"Oh. That blows too."

"We're working to make sure it won't happen before then."

"Good." She grinned. "I got an eighty-eight on my math test."

"Congratulations, Suzette. That's a great job. I never managed to get that good of a grade in math, even when Willow cheated for me." She giggled and went back to the kitchen.

"Is it still open?" Clint asked.

"Yeah. We tracked two other aliens we need to send home here." Stark grumbled something into his coffee but stomped off. Xander followed him. Behind him, the other Avengers pulled out means of looking up little girl birthday presents. Xander grinned at Stark in the elevator. "That's why they send me to handle problems."

"I'm sure it's because you can annoy them to death?"

"Yup. Sure as hell is." He smiled. "Then again, we have one witch that drew people from a tv show's realm to help her handle a bully situation. She's three." Stark shuddered. "She was watching an action movie and he did not want to understand. Andrew still can't get him home." Stark stared at him. Xander smiled. "Andrew got to explain it. I don't handle magical emergencies except to stop the magic user sometimes. Like the one in Scotland that was summoning demons to eat the girls who wouldn't go out with him.

"We had a really long talk about how to be a real man instead of that pathetic. Including me teaching him what respect meant and how girls aren't sexual objects or for rent. He's eighteen and still hiding in a jail cell in case I find him again." Stark tried not to smile. "The cops were very happy I got there first to stop that problem. He's a very docile prisoner and he's scared to death we're going to beat him to death for disrespecting women that way." They got off on the lab floor and Xander went right to where the gateway was, closing it. He reversed it with a few twists of the crystal and the two aliens flew in and through the portal then Xander shut it off. He looked at Stark. "His other stuff? He did say please."

"I'm shocked your uncle wasn't at the battle."

"I'm not. He hates the thought of demons." He shrugged. "Some of us can handle the weirder things and some can't. He...doesn't handle that sort of stress well." He smiled. Stark got the other things packed up for him. Andrew showed up, hugged Stark then took everything and Xander with him.

Stark sat down, staring at the plans he had made of the unique creations. He hoped they were unique and no one else made a temporal gateway to the future. Then again, it was something a comic geek like Andrew would do, not something a reliable scientist would do. Maybe he should worry about who else was saving the world, because they were kind of nuts. Weird nuts in that scary way.

Willow appeared, handing something back. "Keep that away from Andrew before he uses it to pull another bimbo in chainmail." She disappeared.

Stark put the temporal gate down on the table. Andrew showed up and took it to cuddle. "She's just jealous because my hotty warrior girlfriend is cuter than her slayer girlfriend." He disappeared again.

Stark looked in his coffee then around his lab. "Okay then," he decided, going back to bed. He'd make this a weird dream. It had to be, right?

***

Steve waited until he saw on the bulletin board that Xander was reluctantly doing paperwork in Cleveland to call him. Xander appeared, giving him a hug. "Why are you so stringently watching over her?"

"Mostly to keep Buffy away from her."

Steve frowned. "Why? Is she going to say something wrong?"

"Yup." He sighed, sitting on the couch Steve was on. "Buffy has decided, in her infinite stupidity, that your daughter will some day be a squad or regional leader. Even though I've pointed out that she may not be good on patrol, and that she may not be able to patrol at all. That she may have issues with patrol or be one of the ones with the nerve problem or even just hate it that much. She's decided *someone* has to take over her spot when she dies again, and your little one is looking good for it."

"Because of me?"

"And because of where we found her and other reasons. Yeah. I've told her a few times not to start that. DNA doesn't always tell. What made you special made may not have passed over. What they were doing to her may not have any affect on patrol or may make it infinitely harder for her to patrol safely. She doesn't quite get that. Between that and the fact that she's going to activate early, and it'll be someone coming for SHIELD...." He grimaced. "There's every chance that someone like Loki being around may activate her so she could protect herself. Chaos magic will do that. Thor will definitely activate her. The hammer has that property," he said when Steve opened his mouth. "Andrew noted it one time."

"So we're looking at early activation?"

"Yup, and Willow thinks she'll lose it and go all programmed soldier instead. I told her she wouldn't but you can't tell Willow anything. Ever." Steve nodded. "So we're a bit more watching over her because yeah, she's special, but also because if there's a threat that could activate her, it's going to come for your team. Or Phil. A few of them want him." Steve grimaced. "You're doing a great job with her. I hover over three other minis that we know are going to activate early. One's Sovia. She's not supposed to activate at all but I've had three different visions stating she'd be activating because something near her is going to start off the next major big bad thing. Like the First Evil."

"Did those girls activate?"

"No. The slayer spirit didn't understand until Willow merged with the special scythe. Now she's got that ability. Willow gave it to her." Steve nodded. "Otherwise we would've lost a lot fewer mini slayers." Steve sighed. "The other two that are going to activate early, and we did not know about the one here locally, are both in Canada and we're not sure why but we know they will. Their baubles on the tree show that they're going to be activating early. It's a little purple glow in one quadrant when they start to activate and they're both showing it. Both are toddlers. One's three, one's a year-and-a-half." Steve grimaced.

"We hover over them. Andrew does them because their moms are magic people and I seem to set off some other seers into visions so they asked. I do try to hover over Sovia. Her mother's former Hungarian Intelligence and was trained by the Spetnatz to handle things. She said she can do it. The others I hover over are injured and if they get a problem near them they can't handle it. We have two that were born with Downs Syndrome." Steve nodded he knew what that was. "Neither one can protect themselves and the slayer spirit won't activate. That leaves them an easy target if we don't watch over them. The same as your little girl is because of your job, and then there's our jobs. Though I really did just show up for Andrew the other day."

"I would've wanted Stark to destroy them, just in case."

"I'm not going to destroy something that may be handy some day and makes him happy. 'Drew's had plenty of misery in his life and he doesn't need more. That's why he only wants to handle the housemother gig. He asked and he made himself that place."

"I get that it makes it easier for him but that gateway was dangerous."

Xander shrugged. "Willow's done it by accident. At least Andrew only uses it to bring warrior girls he can flirt with." Steve shook his head. "He's a comic book geek, Steve. He's not really used to human women at times and a lot of them look down on him for a few reasons, including him being such a geek. This way he can safely and easily learn how to flirt better. Some of them have also helped the slayers over the last few years."

"I get that. What can we do to not have her in that sort of danger?"

"Take out about seventy huge problems that want to end the earth. It's not *you*. It's not really your job. It's the whole SHIELD thing. Even on your own, you got attention for doing something good. You're a sign post and the guy that kids look up to. So of course the bad things want to take that down. I get a bit of that. Though I'm never going to have kids because Willow rendered me infertile when Anya asked." Steve looked at him.

Xander waved a hand. "Huge background story." He grinned. "I've got a bunch of nieces. It's close enough." Steve nodded. "If I let the girls hover over her, she'd probably like it more, but some of the girls have picked up on Buffy's BS. We don't like it, and Beth has chewed them a new one repeatedly on the more adult bulletin board. Kate got on there and nearly beat the crap out of Syvette verbally for thinking that, including how sucky it was to be a hero."

"It can be."

"The problem that we're most worried about, it's not even because of you. We're more worried about the Russians or someone like HYDRA coming for her because of who her mother is."

"I hadn't thought of that. They'd want her back."

Xander nodded. "They might. Which is why I outed her to Hill. That way she's got someone who can pull a rescue if I can't. Because there's no way they'd let you go rescue your own kid."

"I wouldn't give them a choice," Steve said.

Xander smiled. "Which is why we like you. You're like a good boy and uptight version of the guy I started out as. I pull half the stuff I do to keep the attention off the girls," he said at the confused look. "It keeps them out of harm's way."

"I hadn't thought about that."

"It's my cover story. Buffy's is the airhead society girl she used to be. Willow's just hiding so people quit looking at her like she tried to end the earth once."

"She did?"

"Grief."

"I can't say I wasn't that upset at one time," Steve said.

Xander nodded. "I've missed more than my fair share I think. Including my whole damn town." He grimaced. "Not that I liked Sunnydale but even if it was bad, it was home."

"I get that." He looked around, spotting Natasha watching. He looked at Xander again.

"Yeah, I felt her. Whatever serum they used on her tingles my slayer-around senses." He looked back at her. "You can join in." He looked at Steve again. "Mostly I'm hovering because right now, she's in a lot of danger from the HYDRA thing and whoever is going to try to get her back. That court case went away way too easily. Wolfram and Hart isn't that simple or that nice. I'm still trying to find out anything on their new plans."

"Their local office was shut down," Natasha said.

"They have lawyers on sixteen different demon planes but another six countries have major offices down here," Xander told her. "You can't end them that easily. Their head guys are all higher level demons. They're the ones that did the invasion in LA, with a few friends."

She frowned, sitting down. "Why would they want her?"

"Because they could win favor with whoever had her," Steve said.

"I'm pretty sure they have a file on her for that. I'm pretty sure it'd mirror Buffy's reasons, and the ones that Fury's got for watching her so hard." He stared at him. "Maybe if I can catch someone who's watching her I can get a few more answers and keep them off her. Or let you handle them afterward, but for right now, we've all got watch over her and Sovia. Because someone showed up on her mommy's doorstep demanding that she turn her daughter over so they could examine her spinal system." Steve frowned. "Her mommy shot him. Then she brought hell down with her former partners. We're not sure who they were, beyond stupid, but they did try."

"Do we think my serum passed on?" Steve asked.

"No." Xander smiled. "She tested out as fully normal. The way we used to find the Russian spies at the Council, by their records, was a simple blood test all new initiates had to take. It tested for non-human blood sources. Some were considered useful so kept. The serum they gave her does read on it. So does the one you were given as far as I know. Andrew said you popped positive on a magical version he did long distance one night." Steve stared at him. "He did it when he was a teenager, Steve. Long before he joined. Comic book geek and you're a living, breathing comic hero."

"I guess. Was it built on demon blood or something?"

"No. But it cranked your DNA off human normal. The same as the mermaid essence that taints me did to mine."

"Oh. The physical changes...."

"Screwed with some of the DNA. We're pretty sure it was the radiation part. Hellmouth kids, those born really close to it, have the same sort of reading due to our carried radiation."

"I had not thought about that," Natasha said. "As far as I know I was not irradiated."

"I'm thinking they did it to the serum," Xander said. "Instead of to you. You both read differently on that test according to Andrew when he was babbling at Willow about a new one that they caught sight of that glowed in the same way you do."

She considered that. "Others may have survived."

"It's a guy. That's all we know. Andrew does a search on all the hellmouth kids every month to make sure Cleveland's not making any. He said he routinely picks up you and this time he picked up one near you. Not really close but a few buildings away and all he got was male before Willow accidentally knocked him out of his trance."

"Which you think is someone here to take her," Steve said.

"My bet, yes."

Steve considered it. "Can we do this without as much hovering?"

"Yeah, I was going to cut back anyway. We're in our busy season," he said dryly. "I've got another two battles in the next week overseas and then some cult in Bolivia trying to resurrect someone we've got to stop. Since there's not that many people in the Council who can handle that stuff....it's my busy season."

"You knew I'd ask," Steve said.

Xander nodded with a grin. "I expected this talk last month."

"I was thinking it was weird."

"It is but she's still too important to risk. The slayer spirit likes her a lot. I communed with the scythe and she was really happy with her and Sovia. The same way she felt about Faith." Steve stared. "Not because of you but because of her attitude and her mind."

"Which could mean she's taking your spot," Natasha said.

"No slayer will ever take my spot. They're too valuable to risk doing the insane shit I have to do weekly to handle things." He looked at her. "I'd train agents but the only ones who want to do the job for real, instead of gathering intel on us, aren't really mentally steady."

"I can see that problem," she agreed. "I don't know many I could suggest." Xander nodded. "Are you immortal?"

"No but I live every day like I am. Otherwise I look bad to the girls. They all inherited the feeling that they're *special* and I'm normal. Buffy did that too." He shrugged and grinned. "You should see the whining when I get hurt, because if I wasn't *normal* I wouldn't get hurt."

"You're the same sort of human we all are," Steve said.

"No, you're counted as special. Even Barton is because of his training and stuff. I'm just a guy who jumped in. The slayer spirit likes me a lot more than some of the girls. I'm okay with that because there's a few slayers I'd like to sell to slaver demons." He grinned. "Including Willow's girlfriend. Who tried to have me arrested for training one of the girls. Giles kicked her out of the main house for it."

Natasha shook her head. "It's like a soap opera."

"It's mostly young adults and teenage girls," Xander quipped. "When have they not been like that?"

"Point," she admitted. "I was not but normal girls can be."

Xander nodded quickly with a grin. "Yes. They are. And I have over five hundred of them nagging me for being *normal*."

Steve shook his head. "I don't think you're normal."

"Me either but I gotta be me. Or else I'll go start that evil empire and kick all the women out of it. Willow and some of the slayers have really made me see I never want to see another woman again." He felt the magic start and looked up. "You do that," he sneered. "Watch me come back there and beat you to death." The magic stopped. He grinned. "She's scrying."

Steve shook his head. "You're nuts."

"Possibly but it's a life, ya know." He stared at him. "Would you give it up if you could?"

"No," he admitted.

"Me either. Someone's gotta do the job. Might as well be me since I'm already here. If not, I'll start that evil empire and we'll fix things." He looked up then smiled at him. "Or I'll set off a bomb that has something like an ugly spell on the main building to stop all the shit."

Natasha smiled. "Can they do that?"

"Yes. They can. Some of the teenage witches get the same stuff from the slayers. They've made very pretty plans we've stopped so far. Andrew and I are going on real vacation before the camp and they're not going to like a week of doing it on their own. Buffy forbid it but yay." He smiled. "I need one." He stood up. "Let me get back. I can feel the huffy witch feelings." No disappearing. He touched his amulet and went back to the main building, glaring at Willow. "Yes, you've turned me off women for good because then I don't have to deal with one like you forever. You've managed to outdo Anya with PMS for the bitchy award." He walked off. "'Drew, where are we going on vacation?"

"Buffy said we can't."

"Buffy can get off her ass and go solve problems for a week. She does when we're running camp." He stared at him. "Where? So I can end up near there?"

"I was thinking Panama."

"I can do that. Spot that guy for me so I can go find him?"

"I'll try later." Xander nodded, going outside to get away from the huffy witch/slayer combo stomping up the hallway. "I think it's great Xander's now firmly gay thanks to you two turning him off women. His boyfriends seem so much nicer." Buffy glared. He grinned back. "We're still going on vacation."

"I said you can't."

"I said we are," Andrew said firmly. "Xander's right, you can go help the other slayers instead of watching daytime tv." He walked off. "I'm going to get away from you two before you two ruin me for women. My girlfriend would be really upset if I quit liking women."

"I thought I said no more pulling women," Willow bitched.

Andrew looked at her. "She's in my cooking class, thank you. I can talk to normal human women." He went out back to pick veggies from the garden. "Xander, can I be your second-in-command when you start your evil empire of gayness?" he called.

"You already are, 'Drew. Talk me out of making a bomb that only works on girls?"

"A DNA coded bomb that way would be hard. We've got half the same code. Let me think about how to do it better."

"Sure. Thanks, man." He grinned from his treehouse. Someone tried to summon him but he had protections out here against all forms of magic or other versions of technology that could move him. "'Drew, the next time you pull someone, can you pull from Atlantis or something?"

"I sure can. I really like that show." He grinned. "I'd love to see the SGA teams here helping the girls. At least I'd trust them to want to save the world with us. We could hide behind Sheppard."

"That would be really great." He sipped from his canteen. It had protections too. Even against someone trying to potion it like had happened earlier. It had splashed the potion back on the user. She wasn't happy to be splashed with her lust potion.

***

Willow glared at Andrew that night over dinner. "Why are you putting out anti-magic stuff?"

"So guys can protect themselves from their girlfriends," he said dryly, then stuffed his mouth with some pork chop.

Xander looked at him. "You took what I paid you for that one bit and bought stock?"

"I did." He smiled.

"Cool. That means I paid you in stock options. That's sweet." He dug into his own dinner again. Buffy and Willow were both staring at him. "It's how I protect myself and how I make money since my tiny little paycheck doesn't cover me eating while I'm traveling and having things reimbursed is taking *way* too long. Ask Sascha, the potion repelling charms work wonders. Don't they, Sascha?" She pouted but nodded. Buffy was staring in open-mouthed shock. He smiled and ate some potatoes. "Anya always wanted to start a business like that. It was in her stuff." He ate another bite. "Our line of 'is your girlfriend a witch, we can help protect you from her' stuff is really well liked."

"But..." Buffy said. "But..buttt...."

"You're not a car, quit stuttering," Andrew said. "It's all below what we use here for protection and some of it's been really neat work." Xander nodded while he chewed. "We never sell to military sources because of that little raid problem we had for a while. It's come in real handy and makes my tiny little paycheck feel better too. My stock dividends are really nice, Xander. Thank you."

"You're welcome, 'Drew."

"Is this part of your supposed evil empire?" Buffy demanded.

"No. That's just me making money," he said. "My evil empire will need a nice place to start so I'm looking at properties now. I'm thinking maybe Montana. Lots of nicely open lands."

"Pretty country," Andrew agreed.

"No! No, you cannot do that!" Willow said firmly, standing up. "You can't do that, Xander, and it's setting a bad example for the girls!" She shot a spell at him but the necklace he was wearing absorbed it. "How did you do that!" she shrieked.

"It's one of our most popular protection pieces," Xander said with a smile. "Against judgmental bitches." He ate another bite of dinner. She stomped off.

"You're on your own if she turns you into a pet again," Buffy complained, shaking her head.

"I've got that covered too," he said dryly. "Just in case. Since the last time I nearly got eaten." Buffy shuddered, shrinking down in her seat. "Sit up and eat like a big girl, Buffy. The girls need better role models." He ate another bite. Then he looked at 'Drew. "Panama? Not the beach?"

"I could like the beach."

"One of those generals left me a cabin on one. I doubt whoever's taking over his position will want it right away. It's on a lake with a lot of trees."

"That sounds nice," Andrew agreed. He grinned. "Sure, we can do that."

"Cool."

"Girls?"

"I'm sure there's some nearby. The guy held orgies there." Andrew beamed and nodded, getting back to his dinner.

Willow stomped back in. "Giles said you can't do that," she sneered.

"Giles did some of the spellwork for me," he said dryly. "I doubt that. I also doubt he said anything since he's sedated right now after his surgery earlier. And if you pulled him out of his body again, put him back before Dru possesses him again." He stared at her. She was going red in the face. Andrew shifted. So did the slayers. She threw something more harmful at him and it got eaten too. He smiled. "I knew that'd work." He stared at her. "Feel better? I'm pretty sure you just set off the magic alarms." Witches were stomping in to handle her. "She's mad I started my protection against witchly girlfriends line."

One of the witches looked at him. "I'd get protection against her too," she said bluntly. She hauled Willow off with the rest of the coven to talk to her about her temper and issues.

Xander smiled and waved. "I'll think of you again when I start my empire of gay."

"More an empire of women hating," Buffy said.

Xander shrugged. "Not really. Just anti-bitches." He ate another bite, staring at her. She huffed. "Hey, Glenda," he called. "Can you have your daughter do an audit of the books please?" he called. "Somehow Willow's given herself a raise so she makes three times what I do and double what Buffy does."

"I'll have her come tomorrow, Xander," the witch called back from the hallway.

"Thank you."

"You make what I do," Buffy complained.

"I make half of what you do."

"Oh."

"And I do more work than you." He stared at her. "How is your soap opera?"

She huffed. "I'm going back to school."

"Sure, go for it." He stared at her. She pouted and got back to her dinner.

One of the old liners looked over. "Xander, you're not actually in control," he called.

Buffy looked up and nodded. "Him or me. Pick, Branches."

The old liners all stared at her. "Excuse me?"

"Not like you can handle a battle situation or keep the girls fed and in toilet paper," Xander said dryly. "Not one of you can handle a budget, and Anya taught me what I didn't know about them already from real world experience. None of you can handle dealing with politicians, or the threats, or anything else we have to deal with. I don't see any of you stepping up to handle the stuff Giles can't right now."

"We thought he was."

"I have been since he went to England that first time," Xander said bluntly. "Not one of you stepped in to help." They were all glaring. He stared back. "He who sits on his ass in the library has no say in anything outside of it," he said in Latin. "You chose to do that so therefore you chose your role in the new Council."

Buffy nodded. "We all agreed on that. At least Xander knows a lot and listens to the research council when they're spouting off about prophecies. He also handles all the girls in other places, the minis, the summer camp, and all that." She shrugged. "I can't do that. Willow can't do that. 'Drew picked his spot in the Council." Andrew nodded. "He's Giles' second. We all knew that. How did you not?" The girls all nodded they had known.

"But that's indecent, he's not one of us," one of them sneered.

"You're right, I've only been doing the same job as the slayers for years," Xander said dryly. "Though a few of the girls could probably do some of it for me if and when they retire."

"That's unheard of," another one snapped. "They're *slayers*!"

"And we're here to help them," Xander said bluntly. "If you don't like that mode of operation, why are you still here?" He stared at him. "For that matter, we know you guys are making plots for when Giles gets too sick. I wouldn't. Too many high ones owe him and he'll use his last breath to curse you. Which we'd all sit back and laugh about since you didn't buy anything with magic protection." He smiled. "Now, anything else, gentlemen, and lady?" They all glared but got together to talk. He looked at Buffy, who shrugged. "You're still going to be doing the roaming problem solving while we're on vacation. We deserve one."

"You do," she sighed. "But I suck at that."

"That's because you quit being a figurehead and became an airhead," Andrew said. "The girls can't relate to you."

"Fine. Maybe I'll ask someone how to do it better."

"Ask Suzette's dad. He's good at it," Xander quipped. He finished up and went up to the office to look things over. Witch Glenda's daughter was already there and going over things. He pulled out the books he wanted her to look at. "See, way more than she had been getting."

She frowned. "That's more than I make too. Let me look, Xander, and I'll report to you and Giles." He nodded, getting what he needed and leaving. She looked things over. "Talk about embezzlement."

***
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