Disclaimer: I own no marketable intellectual properties, but a few unmarketable ones you could probably get me committed for.
An Exchange of Favors
Anita checked the rounds in her Firestar. “All we know for sure is that it’s a major summoning ritual. We're looking at a dozen nuts with more money than brains, who've gotten their hands on the Ne'gar'glemek – a tome that is the magical equivalent of a nuke.”
Dolph who had been tightening the straps of a bullet proof vest paused for a moment. “Nuke?”
“Yes, nuke,” Anita confirmed. “As in able to summon something so powerful it’s as destructive as or requires one to put down.”
“Shit,” Zebrowski said, summing up everyone's feelings on the matter. “Well I guess that explains the zoo crew then.”
Jean-Claude would have rolled his eyes if he didn't consider such behavior beneath him. A couple of the weres however found the detective's comments funny and were snickering.
“Do we have any ideas at all? I don't want facts, just a rough idea of what we're likely to face,” Dolph asked.
Anita sighed. “They have a book that would allow a novice to summon anything short of Satan and give them a good chance of controlling it, provided they have the appropriate sacrifice.”
“So … Kill anything that moves?” Zebrowski suggested.
“We are going in to stop an illegal ritual, not murder a bunch of nutcases,” Dolph growled. “But if it comes down to it, we do what is necessary.”
* * *
“It’s Tuesday, which means I'm patrol leader – meaning I get to hold the scythe,” Faith claimed, making her bid for the favorite toy of the Slayers.
“Not so fast,” Buffy broke in. “It’s Tuesday, meaning Dawn is due to be kidnapped, which means I get to hold the scythe.”
The two slayers glared at one another while Dawn smirked in the background.
The two oldest slayers had hogged the scythe, using every trick in the book to keep ahold of it, even though everyone was supposed to get a turn and after the first few weeks of nonstop bickering between the two and monopolizing a weapon they were all supposed to share (for some mystical reason that only Giles understood) Dawn had, had enough.
A new house rule had been slipped past everyone at the meeting last week and Dawn had just sent one of the baby slayers to ensure it bore fruit.
If she'd thought she could get away with it she'd have cackled maniacally as she heard Xander being rushed into the room.
“I don't see why I couldn't put on pants first,” Xander complained as Molly drug him wearing only a towel into the kitchen.
Taking in the sight of the two oldest slayers about to come to blows he sighed and wondered how he was supposed to break things up this time, until he saw Dawn pointing at the list of rules posted on the fridge.
Running his eyes down the list trying to find one that fit he came up blank until he hit the very end. “Any item argued over for more than five minutes will be confiscated by Xander for the next 24 hours,” he announced, picking up the scythe.
Buffy and Faith's fight quickly sputtered to a stop. “But-but she... You gotta be kidding!”
“The item of chaos shall be removed for a 24 hour period. Bad slayers,” Xander said formally, repeating the standard quote for the invoking of the rule.
Buffy recovered quickly. “Yes Xander, I've been a bad slayer – but instead of taking away the scythe wouldn't a spanking be in order?”
Xander stood the scythe in front of himself to block the view while Faith cursed the fact that she was with Robin so she couldn't vamp Xander for the scythe.
“Rule number three!” Dawn called out, annoyed at Buffy hitting on her … on Xander.
Rule number three was of course that no one was allowed to seduce Xander without being certified free of influences: A) External, original rule. B) Homicidal, Faith's addition, C) Matrimonial, Xander's addition (not ratified).
Willow had either found or made a spell that was simple enough for a novice to use that would cause a friendship bracelet to glow for a day if the person was uninfluenced and didn't want to kill Xander.
Needless to say, teasing Xander was the main result of the rule. Faith and Robin had even gotten matching bracelets once just to see the look on his face.
Dawn always had one on and Willow used the spell herself occasionally to make sure she herself was free of foreign influences, something that made Kennedy a tad touchy.
Buffy growled and stepped away from Xander, casting coveting glances at the scythe which looked completely different to Kennedy who had just stepped in for a snack considering where it was positioned.
“I should go on a vacation far away from the Hellmouth,” Xander muttered.
“I wish,” Kennedy replied, and to everyone's horror Xander vanished without even a puff of smoke or flash of light to mark the event.
* * *
“We're too late!” Anita yelled as they burst into the warehouse and saw the summoning circle, a seven layered Seal of Solomon, beginning to crackle with power and fill with smoke.
The red robed figures turned towards their black robed leader who quickly called out, “Delay them! I have to start the sacrifice quickly or I don't have a chance of controlling it!”
Xander waved the smoke out of his face and quickly headed for the voice calling for a sacrifice only to run into what felt like a glass wall.
“He is here!” the black robed man yelled excitedly. “The lord of battle and blood, the hanged man, the one eyed god! Ruler of Asgard who sacrificed an eye for knowledge!”
The smoke cleared, showing Xander a mess of people; some clearly not human, a bunch of restrained people in red robes, and one man in black with a knife to a young girl's throat and using her as a shield while everyone tried to keep him calm.
“I kill her and he's mine to command!” the man roared. “I'll have him kill you all!”
“Calm down,” Dolph said, putting his gun away and moving toward the man slowly while waving everyone else back. “We haven't killed anyone. All your friends are alive and as long as no one dies in connection with the ritual we can't charge you with anything that carries more of a penalty than jail time.”
“Why are you only wearing a towel?” Zebrowski asked the man inside the circle.
“I was enjoying a nice hot shower before everyone and their mother decided they needed my presence,” Xander replied, drawing everyone's attention.
“That's a god?” one of the weres asked in the sudden silence.
“Don't be fooled by appearances,” Anita warned. “He could just want everyone to underestimate him.”
“Anyone mind letting me out?” Xander asked absently, his eye locked on the young girl. Silence stretched on for a moment before Xander replayed what had just been said and sighed. “That’s a no then I take it?”
“With the vessel's blood I call …” the black robed man began as everyone tried to figure out how to get to him without harming the girl.
“You harm the girl and I'll kill you,” Xander promised. He might not know how he ended up here, or why they thought he was Odin, but he knew he couldn't let some nutball kill a girl if he had any say in the matter.
“Sorry, milord, but by sacrificing your chosen you'll have no choice but to obey me,” the black robed figure swore. “The Seal of Solomon is powerful enough to even chain a god.”
Xander studied the circle he was in and began to chuckle, startling the black robed man.
“What?! The circle is perfect, I checked it five times!”
Xander swept the towel to the side and started peeing, washing away part of the chalked circle he was trapped in. “Most people think it requires heart's blood to break a circle you're in, but really it all depends on what the circle is made of,” he said conversationally as he gave himself a final shake before letting the towel fall back into place.
Everyone backed away fearfully as Xander stepped from the broken circle and approached the pair.
“Let go of my chosen and turn yourself into the police and I swear by all that I hold holy I'll let mankind's justice decide your fate,” Xander said, trying to take advantage of the man's delusions.
The knife dropped from his hand and he raised his arms into the air, leaving the girl free to make a beeline for Xander.
Dolph quickly cuffed him.
Tensions eased with the cultists all in custody, although Xander was still being viewed with a certain amount of trepidation as he held the crying girl.
“It’s ok, he won't hurt you again,” Xander promised as she cried out her fear and pain.
“I – I wish I was stronger,” she sniffed as she recovered.
The scythe began to glow and Xander found himself speaking almost against his will, “Beauty and grace thou hast in abundance, both in body and spirit. I grant you strength and skill at arms to equal it.”
“What did you do to her?” Anita demanded with a growl, bringing her gun up only to have the newly rescued girl nail her with a right cross that knocked her on her ass.
Xander was surprised to find he knew what was going on like someone had stuffed the information in his head when he wasn't looking. “Well my little valkyrie, what do you think?”
Once more he had a crying girl attached to him, but now she was crying happy tears. He rubbed her back, surprised that with her newfound strength she didn't even bruise his ribs and while looking around found more knowledge about where he was, what was going on, and the people around him.
A very pissed off Anita Blake was being helped to her feet by a vampire that was seriously over dressed for the night's events.
“So what's your second wish?” he teased.
“Can I have a pony?” she asked brightly.
The clopping of hooves as a winged horse pushed its way into the warehouse made her squeal with joy as she rushed over to the horse and began fussing over it.
“Are you really Odin?” Zebrowski asked.
“Whole lotta no, little yes,” Xander replied. “It’s probably easier to think of me as a legally designated representative. I can sign contracts and cash checks for him, but I'm not actually him.”
“How'd you get a job like that?”
Xander chuckled as the answers hit him. “Well the old gods have pretty much agreed to step aside to let mankind grow and expand, so Odin had to send a representative in his place. Now the gods kinda use a version of the good old boys network to get things done.”
“You're kidding?” Zebrowski asked in disbelief.
“Nope, they like to trade favors back and forth. Now a roman god by the name of Janus likes to watch me, because my life is pretty entertaining by an outsider's perspective, and because I preach free will in a manner of speaking.”
“In a manner of speaking?”
“I tell people that the future isn't written in stone no matter what some Seer says and that the most important decision you can make is to make your own decisions.”
“Works,” Zebrowski said, nodding.
“So Janus decides I can use a vacation and notices that Odin needs a stand in who will ensure a chosen is alright. So bam! Here I am in only a towel.”
“So Janus loaned you to Odin to protect one of the chosen of Odin?” he asked, wanting to make sure he had it right.
A dark haired missile impacted Xander, babbling thanks at a hundred miles an hour.
“So have you decided on your third wish?” Xander asked.
“I want a home,” she said hopefully.
Xander smiled gently at her. “Granted, I'll take you there in a minute. I just have a couple of things left to do here, Abby.”
“Ok,” Abby said, practically walking on air as she returned to her 'pony'.
“Janus and Odin don't have any claims on me, so by doing this they owe me a favor.”
“Two gods owe you favors?!” Zebrowski burst out. “Any idea what you're going to ask for?”
“Sure,” Xander said cheerfully. “I'm going to ask that Abby gets a home and is safe and happy.”
“Didn't you just grant those as wishes to her?”
“Yep. She may be one of Odin's chosen, but she's one of mine as well.”
“I thought you were human?”
“Then how do you rate having chosen ones?” Zebrowski asked.
“Because I chose them. When I was fifteen I discovered that there were girls about my age whose destiny was to fight things that would give your monsters nightmares. I chose to stand beside them and do what I could to make sure they lived long and happy lives.”
“Huh,” Zebrowski remarked, not really having anything to say to that.
“Anybody have a spare pair of pants?” Xander asked, knowing that everyone had been listening.
While one of the werewolves went to grab a spare pair of pants, Xander picked up the book that was used to summon him and paged through it, idly changing the language into a combination of pig Latin and Klingon that should stop anyone from deciphering it.
“Pants for the book?” Zebrowski offered as Dolph had decided that since he got along with the 'being' that he'd be the one who'd deal with him.
“Sure,” Xander agreed, frowning slightly when he saw they were black leather, but handing him the book and putting them on anyway before slinging his towel around his neck. “Hey Abby, ready to go home?”
“Ummm...” Zebrowksi was wondering how to phrase things so as not to cause problems while Anita was still being restrained by Jean-Claude.
Xander pulled a stack of papers out of thin air and handed them to the detective. “Adoption papers for one Abby Winters, age thirteen. A signed statement on events that occurred and tickets for the superbowl. Box seats.”
“Have a nice trip!” Zebrowski said.
“Zebrowksi!” Dolph yelled, turning to Xander. “Listen you just can't appear out of nowhere and run off with a young girl.”
“Check the paperwork, it’s legal,” Xander promised.
Dolph examined the paperwork while Zebrowski pocketed the tickets. “It’s legal.” He confirmed.
“And we're off,” Xander said, swinging Abby up onto her winged horse before climbing up behind her so they could get away before someone else complained.
It was barely ten minutes before they landed in Cleveland, despite the distance.
Leaving the winged horse to graze, Xander led Abby through the back door and into the livingroom where a very gothic looking Buffy was giving a speech.
Buffy was way too thin and had dyed her hair black, wearing dark clothes and pancake makeup she strode back and forth speaking to the girls there. “Being the Slayer isn't fun and games, being the Slayer means making the tough decisions, decisions that may mean not everyone makes it home at the end of the day. Trust me there isn't a day that goes by that I don't wish that I wasn't the Slayer.”
“Granted,” Xander said without thinking about it, making the whole room fall silent as they took in the two new arrivals.
“Xander?!” half a dozen voices called out.
“See?!” Buffy ranted. “And badguys pretending to be dead friends to get at you.”
Xander just rolled his eyes as the knowledge that this Buffy had lost her Xander before Sunnydale collapsed and had had no one to keep her from going emo hit him.
Buffy struggled to lift the massive troll hammer that she'd had nearby. “You wished you weren't the Slayer Buff, so I granted it. Go wash off the emo and get a normal life.”
“X-xander?” Tara stuttered out softly.
“Lotta yes, little no Tar...” Xander said softly, a little teary eyed to see her again.
“Little no?” Joyce asked.
“Stay away! It’s not Xander!” Buffy warned, abandoning the hammer and rushing at Xander.
Abby instinctively raised her hands and twitched her fingers in a manner all comic book readers would recognize, sending streams of webbing to stick Buffy to the wall.
As she stared down at her wrists in confusion, Xander decided to explain. “Being a Slayer is cool, but being Spider Man kicks ass!”
Buffy slumped in the webbing. “It’s Xander.”
“Little no?” Joyce asked again.
“I'm a Xander who lived a different life, standing in for Odin and on vacation for a couple of weeks,” he explained.
“So you're not our Xander?” Tara asked sadly.
Xander shook his head. “If I wasn't standing in for a god, I wouldn't know enough to explain this, but luckily I am. I and all the other Xander's in an infinite number of timelines are the same person. The soul is infinite in a way that no mortal can understand and it exists in every version of reality.”
“I think you sprained part of my brain with that,” Robin said, drawing Xander's attention to where he sat with his arm around Kendra.
“I'm me, always. Just like you're you, always. Just think of it as being endlessly reincarnated as yourself.”
Apparently this explanation made a lot more sense to everyone, as Xander was instantly covered in Scoobs laughing and crying.
It took nearly half an hour for everyone to calm down and let go of him, excepting Tara and Willow who wouldn't let go of him and Abby who appropriated his lap.
“Can someone get me down please?” Buffy asked just before the webbing dissolved, dropping her on the floor with a thud.
“Thanks,” she said, lying face down on the floor.
“Don't mention it,” Abby replied, not liking Buffy in the least.
“So, vacation?” Joyce asked.
“How is being here, on top of the world’s most active Chaos Gate, a vacation?” Buffy asked.
“This world is a lot lighter than the one I'm from. We don't have Chaos Gates at home, we have Hellmouths, and yes they are exactly what they sound like. Fighting demons isn't a once every couple of months occurrence, it’s something we do every day.”
The scoobs and baby slayers looked horrified at the thought.
Xander nodded. “Yeah this is a vacation for me. See we lost a lot of people over the years – hell, at home a number of you are dead, but here and now I get to spend time with you.”
“I'm dead?” Buffy asked.
Xander snorted. “Not hardly, last time I saw you, you were trying to convince me to spank you.”
“How about me and Tara?” Willow asked as Buffy turned bright red.
“You were fine,” Xander assured her. “Unfortunately we lost Tara and unlike here, Osiris didn't allow people to swap lives, so I'm alive and Tara isn't.”
“At least one of us is there for her,” Tara said firmly giving Xander a squeeze.
“Yep,” Xander said cheerfully. “So you can see why this place is my choice for a vacation, all my favorite people are here.”
“Why do you only have a pair of black leather pants on?” Joyce asked.
Abby spoke up, “One of the police officers gave them to him. He was only wearing a towel when he saved me.”
Xander shrugged when everyone looked at him. “I had just gotten out of the shower and was dragged off to settle an argument between Buffy and Faith, which is why I was only wearing a towel at the time, anyway, Odin needed someone to fill in for him and sent me, since I chose to protect the slayers and Janus thought I needed a vacation.”
“So, why was Buffy asking you to spank her?” Joyce asked.
Xander snickered. “She was trying to get the slayer scythe from me, because I'd just confiscated it from her and Faith.”
“So you won’t be giving me any grandchildren?” Joyce teased.
“Not unless Dawn has her way,” Xander replied.
“Dawn is your other daughter in my world and she's been after me since she was twelve.”
“What does the other me think of this?” Joyce asked curiously.
“We lost you during Buffy's second year of college,” Xander replied sadly. “Brain aneurysm of all things. I still blame the HMO for you being released so soon after your surgery.”
“Willow couldn't do a spell to remove the tumor like she did here?”
Xander shook his head. “Our world is a lot closer to Hell, so there are no healing spells that don't require human sacrifice or something equally as dark there.”
Willow and Tara hugged him tighter if that was possible.
“Well if I was there, I would approve of you as a son in law,” Joyce assured him.
“That’s all well and good, but can you make me a slayer again please?” Buffy asked, annoyed but not sure why.
“Nope,” Xander replied easily. “Being a slayer has made you go all emo and you obviously hate it. No, I'll find somebody else to take your place.”
“What about all the enemies she made as the slayer?” Joyce asked worriedly.
“They won’t be able to connect Buffy the slayer with Buffy Summers anymore,” Xander promised. “Buffy can go to college, get a degree; do the whole nine to five thing.”
Joyce hugged her daughter joyfully. “Isn't that wonderful? Now you can chase after the life you always wanted; two car garage, picket fence, the works.”
“And I already know who the next slayer should be, and she'll love it, because she hates the lack of purpose she has right now,” Xander promised, glad he could help two friends at once.
Buffy was just stunned speechless by the thought she could have the dreams she'd given up as a teen.
“Kendra I will apologize in advance, but she's probably going to spend half her spare time hitting on Robin.”
“And the other half?” Robin asked as Kendra squeezed him possessively.
“Hitting on Kendra.” Xander grinned at Kendra's squeak.
Abby yawned and Xander picked her up. “It’s getting a bit late, how about we continue this tomorrow, unless we have anything planned tonight?”
Robin shook his head. “Me and Kendra will hit a couple of clubs, but that’s as much for dancing as for information. We don't have anything major in the works for at least four or five days.”
Willow and Tara had already gotten to their feet.
“I'll show you where to put her,” Willow offered.
“And I'll show you where you can sleep,” Tara added as they lead him upstairs.
Tara opened the door halfway down the hall; Xander's room in his own world coincidentally, tucking her into bed he pointed out the bathroom attached to the room and promised he'd see her in the morning. She was asleep before they left the room.
“So, where am I sleeping?” Xander asked as Tara took him by the hand and led him to one of the master suites that was Willow's room in his world.
As he entered the room he noticed it was decorated similarly to the way Willow had decorated it at home, it took him a second to realize that it was Willow and Tara's room here and the sudden click of Tara locking the door seemed to echo loudly in the silence.
Xander was acutely aware of the sounds of clothes hitting the floor behind him.
Once again knowledge he shouldn't have known popped into his forebrain, Tara had begged a favor of Hecate. Willow and Tara wanted children, but there was really only one man that Tara could ever consider doing anything intimate with and he'd died to save her life years before.
Xander found himself agreeing to Hecate's favor, and his favor in return would be that his girls would get what they want.
Yeah, having Xander grant wishes for any of his girls was like asking water to flow downhill, a given but with odd turns here and there.
* * *
The Scoobs were worried, it had been a whole week since Xander had vanished and they didn't have a clue as to where he was.
The entire house was gathered for a meeting with the exception of Kennedy who Willow had pushed into the shower when the lights started flickering and they heard Kennedy scream, “Xander!”
Everyone rushed up the stairs to the room Willow and Kennedy shared and threw open the door, revealing Xander with Kennedy on his chest crying her eyes out and a dark haired girl who couldn't have been more than thirteen on his back and they were all three naked. “I can explain this, really I can,” Xander claimed.
“Naked threeway with a lesbian and jailbait?” Faith teased, covering her joy at seeing Xander return with bravado. “This I gotta hear.”
“I notice you aren't trying to climb down,” Dawn remarked to the naked girl, who seemed perfectly content to remain on Xander's back.
“Dad said I'm much too young to get a Brazilian,” the girl replied in seeming non sequitur.
“Do I have to separate you three?” Buffy asked, trying to calm everything down enough to find out what was going on.
“Step three feet to the right,” the girl told Buffy.
Buffy complied, curious about what the girl wanted.
“Now it feels like home!” the girl said, having just webbed Buffy to the wall.
“Abby I love you dearly, but stop webbing Buffy to walls. This Buffy isn't like the last one,” Xander said, holding a sleeping Kennedy as she'd fallen asleep holding him, dark circles under her eyes showing how much she needed it.
“Sorry, dad,” Abby apologized. “I'll get to know this one, rather than judging her on the other one.”
“Dad?!” Willow and Buffy burst out.
“Hi, mom!” Abby said and waved at Faith.
Xander groaned, “I would so spank you if you weren't glued to my back right now.”
Abby laughed, “Which is why I chose this position.”
“Faith is your mom?” Willow asked wide eyed.
“I was just teasing her mom,” Abby replied.
Willow threw her arms around the three of them. “I'm a mom!”
“You should have taken off your clothes first. This is a bonding experience,” Abby said.
“Ooh? Skin to skin parent child primal bonding?” Willow asked.
“More like crazy glue,” Xander replied to Willow's confusion until she realized she was stuck.
“Anyone else want to join the naked huddle?” Xander asked sarcastically.
“Sure,” Faith replied as she appeared from the side opposite Willow and joined the hug- Naked.
“Is anyone concerned that I'm stuck to the wall?” Buffy asked.
Abby laughed, “I only set the webbing for an hour.”
“I think introductions are in order,” Robin suggested, amused at Faith's behavior and glad to see Xander back.
“I'm Xander Winters,” Xander introduced himself.
“And I'm Abigail Winters, his adopted daughter,” Abby introduced herself.
“And I'm Faith one day soon Woods,” Faith said.
“And I'm Willow Rosenberg. Kennedy would say something, but she's been up for a week.”
“So how long is the webbing set for?” Xander asked as everyone laughed.
“Another hour,” Abby replied.
“So why were you three webbed together?” Willow asked, finally noticing the almost invisible strands around Xander and Abby. “Where were you and how did you get a daughter?” she quickly rattled off more questions.
“And how and why did she web me to a wall?” Buffy added.
“Let me start at the beginning,” Xander said. “Odin wanted me to stand in for him...”
* * *
The scythe and their luggage eventually caught up with them on hundreds of tiny feet, though Odin kept Abby's pony, since Abby preferred being Spider Girl to being anyone's chosen but Xander's.
As for the reason they showed up naked and webbed together … that’s a much longer story.
AN: Typing by Godogma!