“So, this is…” Xander looked around at the sterile room with one hotel-quality painting on the wall. “Sad. This is sad. Is this seriously a VIP quarters or some enlisted man version of VIP, because if this is actual VIP, I really, really hope that universal diplomats don’t visit very often.” After nearly a week in the infirmary and one really itchy hip, Xander had hoped for something more VIPish when Danny had made his offer. This… this came off more like the sort of hotel Giles would book, which was a couple of steps up from a Faith-level hotel, but still. Even if he only stayed a couple of nights, this place was going to give him those special nightmares where pus-filled aliens broke in through under-reinforced doors to eat your guts while wiping their claws on a really ugly bedspread.
Daniel laughed. “Cronus said something similar.”
“The god Cronus?” Xander was still trying to get his head around all this alien stuff. And here he thought he had the mother of all secrets hidden away in his past. Actually, he wasn’t sure who would win this secret slap-down because aliens versus demons… that was too close to call.
Daniel sat on the end of the bed. “You’re taking this better than most people. I think Jack’s actually a little suspicious of your whole attitude. He mentioned looking for marijuana in your bags because no one was this calm without chemical assistance.”
Xander snorted. “The colonel is suspicious of everyone as far as I can see.” That is, everyone who wasn’t on his team. Xander could respect that. Actually, Xander kinda had been that—the asshole who poked any and all strangers who got too close to the group. Yep, Xander got it. As far as he was concerned, some people even needed poking. Every once in a while he suspected he might even need a poke or two. Besides, airmen did not get to tell colonels how to treat people.
“Yeah, he is, but he has precedent on his side.”
“I’m assuming ‘precedent’ means people-eating aliens.” Daniel looked at him oddly. “Or not. Vocabulary is not my big strength.”
Daniel rolled his eyes. “Says the man who has a passable knowledge of Akkadian.”
“Hey, they have very limited vocabularies. Enki this, Enlil that, Aruru the other. They’re a little one trackish, and hey. Wait. Are those guys, you know, aliens? Because if they are, I want a do-over on all the history tests I ever failed. Yeah, I might honestly suck at history, but my history teachers have just as much suckage going on as I do. Trust me, not one history teacher ever mentioned that all the ancient gods were really aliens pretending to be gods.” Xander wondered what the original demons who had used the names thought of johnny-come-lately impersonators because there was no way in hell that the original Aruru was an alien. After their sophomore year, Giles had summoned her to try and get information after Buffy had disappeared and Angel had taken his trip to hell. She had been less than helpful in her non-corporeal demony way. Demony, not alien. And after his time with Anya, Xander knew exactly how touchy demons could get when you insulted their demoniness.
Daniel shook his head. “Not that we’ve run into. Mostly we’ve met Egyptian gods.”
“Like Osiris?” Xander knew that lots of magic-users worked with Osiris, so he was definitely still around to get offended at having his name co-opted. Xander had a quick little fantasy of dropping this whole mess on Giles’ lap and watching him polish his glasses into oblivion. It’d be worth it just to see the look on his face, but then Buffy would try to tell Colonel O’Neill what to do and Spike would test out his teeth on Teal’c and things would go downhill from there.
“We haven’t met Osiris yet, although the texts do suggest that he was a goa’uld in Egypt. He seems to have lost a fight with Ra and vanished, so he might be dead. However, he was closely aligned with Isis, so he might have left the planet with her. If that’s the case, she has to be keeping a low profile. I suspect there was some sort of conflict over the queens because a number of ancient texts include references to male gods gaining ascendancy over female ones. Aruru yields to Anu, Ra is born from Nut, and yet he takes power away from both Nut and Hathor. The gender issues could…” Daniel stopped in the middle of his sentence. “I’m boring you, aren’t I?”
Xander blinked. “Um. No. Gender conflicts vanishing queens and MIA goa’uld. I only look bored.” As far as Xander was concerned, anything that helped him understand this new enemy was of the good. If you weren’t going to be as strong or as smart as an enemy, you really had to know what you were doing if you wanted to avoid imminent ass kickage.
From the suspicious look Daniel gave him, he wasn’t buying it.
“Hey, if you’re boring me, you'll know it. Trust me. I’ll be making inappropriate jokes and trying to convince you that I have a sudden and undeniable urge for donuts.”
“So, if you go for donuts, I should take offense?” Daniel sounded amused. “We might have a problem because I really like donuts.”
“Most people do. I guess I shouldn’t have told you that, huh? Buffy never did figure out why I kept running for the donut shop.”
Xander hesitated. How did he describe how important Buffy was to him? She was way more than a friend, but a lot of that bonding and love came from a mutual dedication to stopping the Armageddon of the week, and he really didn't want to go there. Until he left Sunnydale, Xander had no idea how difficult it would be to explain things to normal, sane people, and it wasn't even like Daniel was in the deep and committed end of sane. “You know how I described Willow?”
“She got you into linguistics,” Daniel agreed.
Shaking his head, Xander put it down on the table with a thunk. “Seriously, stop saying that. I am not into linguistics, and if you keep saying that, someone is going to believe you.”
“Xander, you can read some Sumerian and Akkadian, what would you call that other than being into linguistics?”
“Knowing a few random words,” Xander said. “I would call it knowing a few really odd random words.” Xander looked up at Daniel. “I don’t even know all that many words.”
Daniel laughed. “You do have a strange vocabulary. How can you know eleven different cuneiform variations of hell and not recognize ‘goat’?”
“Why would I need to recognize ‘goat’?”
“Why would you need eleven versions of ‘hell’?” Daniel countered.
Xander opened his mouth and then closed it so fast his teeth clicked. Oh, he had his reasons, but they weren’t ones that he planned on sharing with someone who had never seen demons in person. Otherwise Daniel was going to be calling in the psychiatrists. Xander could imagine how that conversation would go. They’d bury him in the deepest basement and lose the key.
With a laugh, Daniel scooted back on the bed. “Exactly. I’m starting to think that Willow was a goth girl. Hell and gods’ names and the ceremonial markers for incantations. It’s not exactly a well-balanced Akkadian vocabulary.”
“I know how to recognize the word for bunnies, too. Now that’s not goth. But that might be because I dated this girl who had a real rabbit phobia and when she saw the cuneiform for rabbits, she would shove the text at me.”
“She… what exactly were you doing with these texts?” Daniel asked.
“You know, looking for spells, checking out ancient demons, blah, blah, stupid teenage blah.”
Daniel started laughing, and Xander laughed with him. “Okay. You’re a little odd, but you’re still years ahead of anyone else.”
“Except for actual linguists.”
Daniel shrugged. “Maybe. You know the forms and you have a basic vocabulary, even if it’s a little skewed, so let’s see where we can get you with some tutoring. If nothing else, having you sort texts into primary god references would be helpful. I’m seriously short of Akkadian experts and only moderately desperate for more linguists who read Sumerian.”
Xander leaned back and propped his boots up on the bottom of the table. “So, I’m the part time dishwasher and part time Akkadian linguist?” Daniel was on the verge of laughing. He was really cute when he tried to not laugh. Painfully cute. And Xander was feeling insanely proud of the fact that he had gotten that expression out of the man.
“That is unique," Daniel admitted, "even for around here, and we don’t exactly do things by the book. So, Buffy.” Daniel settled forward, elbows on knees as if he was waiting for storytelling hour. The problem was that Xander hadn’t quite decided how to edit his stories. He hated lying to a lover, and Xander was seriously hoping they were lovers as opposed to people who had randomly had really hot sex in a closet before living in denial for the next three years. That would suck. Xander wouldn’t even mind being the secret closet buddy again because Daniel could clearly kiss just as well as Cordelia, which was high praise.
“Buffy is part three of the three musketeers. My own family… they’re not exactly supportive, and Buffy and Willow became my friend-family.”
“Then why haven’t you called them?” Daniel asked. Xander was starting to seriously hate the fact that rumors spread at light-speed around this place. It was like high school on steroids.
“I would have, only the security around here is a little on the hyper-paranoid side, which makes sense considering that technically this is like huge black-ops, covert world secret stuff. However, Buffy and Willow are not big with the trusting of the government and are even less big with the secret government stuff.”
“What do you mean?” Daniel leaned forward. Oh yeah, trying to keep the big 'D' secret from him was not going to be easy. The man was sharp, and Xander... not so much. Some days Xander really wished someone would hit him hard enough on the head to make him forget all the stuff he didn’t want to know so he could have a normal life. Then again, his first shot at normalcy had landed him in the middle of an alien conspiracy, so clearly that wasn’t going really well for him.
“Buffy has had a few… troubles. Not troubles, more issues. Or issue-like points of contention. There was a gym and a fire and some accusations that may or may not have been true.” Xander watched the growing shock on Daniel’s face and tried to change verbal directions. “And Buffy is the sweetest woman in the world, assuming you don’t get between her and any clearance shoe sales, which is not smart. Trust me. But she has the worst luck. I mean, the one day I show up here you have an invasion of two bad guys with a freaky piece of tech. If Buffy ever visited, you would have entire legions of Jaffa landing on your front porch. That’s just Buffy’s luck. Seriously. We had these PCP gangs break into our school, and Buffy just happened to be in the library and the principal tried saying that the PCP gangs were really just Buffy going through some adolescent psychosis. It was a mess.” The look on Daniel’s face was getting worse. Xander put his head back down on the table. “I just made her sound like a psycho, didn’t I?”
Daniel cleared this throat. “Maybe a little.”
“Yeah. That’s why she usually doesn’t let me describe her. She knows I have diarrhea of the mouth.”
Xander squinted at Daniel from under his arm because he was still hiding his face.
“Diarrhea of the mouth is logorrhea. The root is logos meaning word or discourse, but the rhea actually comes from Latin through the French rheum, meaning flowing or stream.”
"Either you like your words or you really know how to lie really, really well."
Daniel's small little smile broke out into a wide grin. "A little of both," he admitted. "So, why aren't you calling Buffy?"
“Well.” Sitting up, Xander tried to figure out how to explain this right. “To use the phone system here, the sergeant said that they have to run a security check on the person on the other end. If Buffy found out that I put her name in front of a government agency after all the trouble she’s had, she’d pretty much kill me. I try to avoid death whenever possible. It has a really crappy retirement plan.”
Daniel didn’t even try to hide that he was laughing at Xander. “Okay. So, you’re never calling them again?”
He gave Daniel a dirty look. “I was hoping to go up and check to make sure the sun is still working and then run into town to use the phone.”
“I have a better idea.” Daniel’s grin had a bit of the devil in it. “You could stay at my place.”
Xander glanced up toward the camera. The blinking red light was a little unsubtle, so this was not the sort of conversation to be having here… unless Daniel meant staying together as in roommates, in which case Xander was about to be the most disappointed man in history. “Your place?” Xander swallowed and shifted to hide his growing erection. Oh yeah, the lust had outlived the mojo. Given that Daniel was adorable and smart and strangest of all, Daniel actually liked him… that wasn’t exactly surprising.
“Yeah,” Daniel agreed. “I never stay there, and I could use someone to play guard dog on my books. The last time I was accidentally declared dead, Jack put all my Mayan rubbings in with the Hittite cuneiform.”
“But..." Xander frowned. "But they don’t look anything alike.”
Daniel threw his hands up in the air. “Exactly. That’s exactly what I told Jack. Who mistakes Mayan for cuneiform?” Daniel's Giles-like horror was actually amusing, but then again, that had been a pretty dumb mistake. Xander might make Giles turn pale with his ability to confuse Stygian and Kwaini, but he would never make a mistake that stupid.
“So, I figured if you’re new, you can stay at my place, work on the cuneiforms, and guard my texts from Jack. I only stay there one or two nights a week since I usually use my quarters here, but I’m sure we can figure out some sleeping arrangement.”
“An arrangement?” Xander cleared his throat. Okay, this was either where he found out he was reading all the signs wrong and got his heart broken or this was where things turned out really, really good. “I don’t want to annoy you by pushing in where I’m not wanted.”
“You helped save the base, and we’re going to be working together closely, maybe for years. I think we can make arrangements without annoying each other.” Daniel got a wide grin on his face that made it very clear that he wouldn't mind a longer term arrangement. Xander had a fantasy of jumping the man right then and there. One well-thrown towel and they could block the camera… unless it had that infrared heat-vision thing, which would definitely make things awkward.
“Okay, so…" Xander answered.
Daniel stood up. “So Janet said you needed a good night’s sleep since Teal’c wants you to start with the trainees tomorrow, evaluating your fighting, and after you’re finished, I’ll show you back to my place.”
Xander’s cock almost drooped in disappointment when he realized he wasn’t getting an invite tonight. Yeah, he should probably rest up for tomorrow’s evaluation, but he was the official dishwasher. He didn’t exactly have to do more than show up at a combat evaluation so that the trainer could certify that he wasn't likely to shoot himself in the foot. Daniel, however, was already heading for the door. “So, when you and Teal’c are finished tomorrow, I’ll see you then. Okay?”
“But…” Xander didn’t want to agree--he wanted to go home with Daniel right now--but Daniel almost dashed out of the room, his pants showing a suspicious bulge.
Xander cursed adulthood. He hated having to be responsible and boring and not have sex in front of the Air Force cameras. Stripping off his shirt, he aimed it at the damn camera before heading into the bathroom. Maybe he could find a way to turn the alien doohickey on again. That would give them a good excuse. Since the odds of that happening were about zero, Xander and his newly healed, pink skin headed in to take a tepid bath before heading to bed.
Morning came with a long, slow wank before Xander remembered the cameras, and then with a yelp, he darted for the showers. Hopefully whoever monitored these quarters understood that some men woke up cock first. And hopefully he hadn't done something stupid like groan out Danny's name. Xander figured that Cordelia was the last person he had it this bad for. He'd nearly failed junior math because every time she touched him, he spent the next hour slowly rubbing whatever bit of skin she'd brushed up against.
However, military schedules didn't give him much time to really wallow in the Daniel-lust. Dressing in his work uniform, he reported for the late breakfast shift in the mess hall and started in on a mountain of dishes, racking them and shoving them through a conveyor washer. That led to lunch and a clean up after a Jell-O accident and then a quick change into sweats so he could get his combat evaluation.
He hadn't had time for one thought of Danny much less any serious daydreaming. Apparently anyone high enough to get secret black-ops clearance didn't do dishes and most of the guys who did dishes couldn't get the clearance to work in the mountain. It left a lot of unwashed dishes and a small but devotedly annoyed group of enlisted support staff. The fact that Xander had been ordered to report for training had not gone over well with Staff Sergeant Powell.
However, orders were orders, and dressed in standard issue sweat pants and shirt, Xander searched out the base gym. The search took longer than he'd expected, so even though he'd set out early, he ended up walking into a room already full of people. Marines and Rangers and Bad-Asses oh my. They all might be wearing sweats, but some of these guys leaked rank. Xander could taste it. The only thing worse than stupid fighting exercises that looked nothing like fighting was having to do it with officers who took offense if you slid on the ground between their feet and kicked in a general direction of their genitals. As far as Xander was concerned, any sex organs were fair in love and war, but these guys... no, these guys seemed to think that all fighting had to follow rules. Xander gave any one of them fifteen seconds tops with Buffy before she took out a can of whup-ass. Hell, knowing Buffy, it would be a case of whup-ass.
The room itself was enormous. Buffy would kill for a training room one-quarter the size. About half of it was a large open area with a jumbo sized training mat. Xander had priced those things, and he knew full well a person could get a kidney for cheaper. The other half of the room was shared by a boxing ring, a few punching bags, and a full workout gym. A few guys in Air Force shirts lifted weights big enough to make Xander's eyes water in sympathy.
Well, he just needed to have an evaluator tell him he sucked and then he could go back to washing dishes. Xander seriously had to question the sanity of making a dishwasher go through combat evaluation. Then again, considering what happened when he tried to deliver peaches, maybe they should expand their requirements to any poor schlep stuck delivering the supplies. Xander slid in place next to a man with no neck and behind a woman with corded arm muscles that suggested that she either had a gym obsession or a testosterone imbalance. It was kinda hot. Practicing his 'don't look at me' expression, Xander focused on his own shoes while the last few victims of mandatory evaluation trickled in. However, when the room went silent, Xander looked up.