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Actions Have Consequences

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Summary: My own follow-up to the first chapter of Manchester's 'Scram, You Little Flying Bastard', which you can find here: http://www.tthfanfic.org/Story-27015/Manchester+Scram+You+Little+Flying+Bastard.htm, and which is authorized by the original story's author.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > GeneralGreywizardFR1817,0700192,73623 Oct 1223 Oct 12Yes
Disclaimer: They all belong to Crack-Head Joss and ME, John Schulian and Robert Tapert, or Christian Williams. Deal with it. I have.

Time Frame: Post 'Chosen.'

Spoilers: Possibly some general spoilers for the entire run of 'Buffy,' but nothing significant for 'Xena' or 'Hercules.'. At least, that's my opinion.

Character Bashing: None for anyone who matters.

Feedback: Of course!

Archiving: Talk to me first, please.

Author's Note 1: Many thanks to Bill Haden and Theo (Starway_Man) for beta-ing this story.

Author's Note 2: As usual, "word" indicates speech, :: word :: indicates mental communication and { word } indicates a character's thoughts.

~~~

Cleveland Slayers House
Cleveland, OH

February 15, 2006
Early morning


Willow Rosenberg smiled sleepily as she gradually awoke from the depths of slumber to full consciousness, feeling the satisfied semi-ache in her pelvic area that invariably followed a night of energetic, fun-filled festivities with her girlfriend, Kennedy.

{ Goddess, but what could have made me dream about having sex with Xander, especially after all this time? I haven't had any sex dreams about him for years, now, } Willow thought sleepily as she smirked to herself in nostalgic amusement.

{ Not to mention that the dream also involved Kennedy, Buffy, Dawn, Faith and some of the House's newbie Slayers, too? I'm not into the whole female orgy thing – I'm a one-woman kind of girl, and that woman is Kennedy, } Ms. Rosenberg reminded herself.

{ Still – what kind of horndog must I be, deep down, for my subconscious to have come up with a sex-a-thon scenario like that? } the daughter of two psychologists asked herself, somewhat guiltily, as various – quite stimulating – images of multi-person couplings quickly flitted through her mind.

Willow was subsequently distracted by a low moan coming from off to her left, so she grinned to herself as, eyes still closed, she cooed, "What's up, baby? You ready to maybe go another round?"

The redhead's eyes abruptly flew open in mixed shock and astonishment as she heard an unquestionably male voice groan, "Nooo! Please – no more. I can't! No…"

Snapping up into a sitting position, Willow stared down in disbelief at the sight of a very naked Xander Harris lying next to her in her bed.

As well as the equally very naked bodies of her lover, Kennedy Montesi, Buffy Summers, Dawn Summers, Faith Lehane, Rona Matthews and Vi Neilson, who were all sprawled across the witch's massive, ultra-king-size bed.

Unlike the various women's sweat-sheened bodies, however, Xander's sweat-covered body was also covered with a mottled assortment of black and blue discolorations and purpling bruises, making him look as though he'd been viciously beaten up by a gang of street thugs.

"XANDER?!" Willow half-screamed in horror, simply unable to believe that what her eyes and ears were telling her was real. The protesting half-scream torn from the witch's mouth was unconscious and reflexive, as the horrifying sight of her oldest friend shook her to her core.

It also served to wake up the other six women scattered across the mattress, and a bare three seconds after her exclamation, Willow was surrounded by a bevy of naked beauties, wide-eyed and searching the room for whatever might have prompted her outcry.

"Willow, what's – oh my GOD! What happened to Xander?"

"What the fuck's going on?!"

"What's the problem – holy shit!"

"Oh, goddess, what happened to Xander?"

"What the HELL am I doin' in your bed, Red?!"

"Who or what beat up Xander? And why are we all naked here together, honey?"

The final exclamation/question from Kennedy made everyone else present stop for a moment and take stock of their situation.

"Holy God! That wasn't a dream!?!"

"Shit! That was all real?!"

"Oh my God! We all really did have sex with him? That wasn't just some crazy fantasy?"

"Buffy, we need to get Xander to a hospital – right away!"

Willow's frantic order cut through the blonde's befuddled thoughts as Buffy stared down at her best male friend, and the sight there spurred her into action.

"You're right, Will," Buffy agreed as she began searching the floor for any of her clothing she could find, or something she could at least slip on, for the moment. "You teleport him there, and we'll meet you there as soon as we can, okay?"

"Okay," Willow nodded as she made a quick gesture and clothed herself, while a bruised and battered Xander – who had by now drifted back into a state of unconsciousness – levitated up off the mattress and a tee shirt and a pair of gym shorts appeared to cover his nudity.

"I'll see you there, Buff," the still rather shocked and bewildered Slayer heard the Council's head witch say, an instant before she and the unconscious male in the group abruptly disappeared with a flash of light.

"Okay, all of you, listen up!" Buffy half-shouted, interrupting the frenzied babbling/clothing search which had begun an instant after the pair disappeared.

"I know everyone here is probably upset, or at least way emotional about what happened in here last night," Buffy said, her cheeks flushing a bright red as fragmentary (not to mention, pleasure-filled) memories of the previous evening momentarily filled her mind's eye, "but we can't let ourselves get all Oprah over this, at least not right now.

"Something like what happened last night doesn't just happen without a reason," the oldest Slayer pointed out to her companions, who were all now staring at her with complete attention, "and we need to figure out exactly what that reason is, ASAP, or we could all end up in serious trouble. If it was some sort of enemy action, which it almost certainly was, we also need to figure out how to prevent something like that from ever happening to any of us again.

"Faith, you contact the other Slayer Houses and find out if anything strange happened at any of them last night, too, or if there's anything out of the ordinary going on today," Buffy commanded, her eyes now hard and gleaming with a fierce light as she focused her attention on a specific purpose. "That blonde bitch who zapped us and made us all crazy-horny enough to attack Xander like that, she musta had a reason for it – and I want to know what it is.

"Dawn," Buffy continued, turning her gaze on her sister as the blonde Slayer finally found a relatively intact tee shirt from among the items of clothing scattered around the room, and pulled it on, "I want you to concentrate on identifying exactly who that woman who zapped us is, and I need you to find out what possible reasons she could have had for using that lust spell on us, and making us focus most of our attention on Xander.

"Kennedy, Vi, you guys get together everyone else who's based here at the House, and find out if anything else out of the ordinary happened, or if something unusual is going on right now," Buffy ordered the two other Slayers, who nodded their understanding of their task. "I don't want us getting blindsided like that again, by *anything*, so be as thorough as you can, okay?

"Rona, you can either help Vi and Kennedy – or if you want, you can come with me to the hospital to find out exactly how badly hurt Xander is," the Head Slayer said as she slid a pair of jeans over her slim hips. "He looked like he'd been worked over by a nest of Fyarls, and then got dragged along the ground by a car once they were done with him.

"And that's because of what all of us did to him, no matter what kind of spell we were under," Buffy said, looking down at the floor for a moment in a combination of shame, embarrassment and self-directed anger.

"That evil bitch *raped* all of us last night, mind and body, when she cast that damned spell of hers," the petite blonde stated, angrily and with unwavering conviction, as the Summers woman then took a moment to deliberately look each of her companions in the eye.

"And once we figure out who she is," Buffy declared, a determined set to her jaw and a burning light in her eyes, "I'm going to make sure that she never has a chance to do that to us, or anyone else, *ever* again,"

~/~/~

Cleveland Slayers House
Cleveland, OH

Later that day


"Are you *sure* you're okay, Xand?" Willow asked for the fifth time as she hovered over-protectively around him as the young man made his way up the front porch steps.

"Yeah, Will, I'm fine," Xander nodded, even as he winced as he slowly made his way up onto the porch. "I just need a little rest, that's all."

"Xand, come on – you're *not* fine, and we all know it," Buffy told him bluntly as she anxiously watched him climbing the stairs in much the same way a mother would be watching a toddler doing the same type of activity, hyper-alert for any indication of an impending fall. "The doctors said you were suffering from extreme exhaustion and dehydration, and that you had stress fractures and deep tissue bruises all through your pelvis and upper torso, and that you need to be very careful about everything you do for the next couple weeks, until you're completely healed."

"Yeah, but I'm not dead or incapacitated – so both of you can damn well *stop* with the mother henning act you're doing, all right?" Xander growled, unable to keep a civil tongue in his head any longer.

He knew that the petite blonde's hyper-attentive actions were based on actual instructions the ER doctors had given her regarding his injuries, but the memories of exactly what Buffy – and the other women currently present in the House – had done to him last night, plus the always annoying 'we just don't want you to get hurt' act – something that reminded Harris far too much of his senior year in high school – had exhausted his patience with the Head Slayer completely, at the moment.

Both Willow and Buffy flinched at the ugly tone of voice Harris had used. "Xander..." they both trailed off in near-unison.

"I just need to rest to get my strength back and let the bruises heal, that's all," Xander proclaimed as he entered the main hallway of the house.

"I'll just kick back for a few weeks and relax, and then everything can just damn well go back to normal," Harris declared as he gave the two women a pointed look. "Okay?"

His attempt at reassurance would have been much more believable if the two women hadn't noticed the momentary flash of mixed fear and fury in his eye as Harris hesitated for the briefest moment before entering the house, or the almost imperceptible shaking as he faced off against all the emotionally-conflicted women waiting for him inside.

~/~/~

Cleveland Slayers House
Cleveland, OH

A short while later


"Okay, people, talk to me – what do we have so far?"

The grim and unsmiling expression on her big sister's face was one she hadn't seen very often, Dawn reflected to herself as she settled into her chair, while taking care to not actually look any of the other meeting attendees in the eye.

Yeah, Buffy was absolutely right about all of them having been basically raped by Aphrodite when she had enspelled them into engaging in wild monkey sex – well, non-consensual sexual assault, if you really wanted to be specific – with Xander.

The problem facing everyone, though, was that since Xander had only been able to – deal with – two women at a time, and the lust spell hadn't really been all that specific about what the women needed to do to relieve their – frustrations – while they each waited for their turn with him... Well, throughout the night the female participants who hadn't been 'involved' with Harris had found – alternate – methods of achieving sexual gratification. Methods which most of them hadn't actually explored prior to that night, to judge by the general inability of most of the women present to look each other in the eye right now.

Not that some of them hadn't found the experience enlightening, mind you; it just wasn't the sort of thing one wanted to discover in the midst of an all-out orgy with people you had to work with on a daily basis. Like what her sister’s O-face looked like.

In any event, now definitely wasn't the time to be considering possible alternative life styles, Dawn reminded herself as she listened to the rest of the group begin making their reports. Now was the time to deal with the consequences of one's actions.

Fortunately, none of the other Houses had experienced any 'unusual' incidents the previous night, aside from the usual expected demonic activities; so it seemed that Aphrodite hadn't cursed anyone aside from the residents of this particular dwelling as a result of her little fit of pique, as one might have guessed.

And, also fortunately for them, it didn't seem as though any of the resident demon clans had noticed the Cleveland Slayers' – preoccupation – the previous night, so there hadn't been any noticeable spike in the typical night life statistics, either.

Unfortunately, at least for Dawn, there also didn't seem to be anyone else who had anything to report, so she was now the one everyone else was looking at, waiting for her report.

Her report on who their assailant from the previous night might be, and why she had done what she had done.

Her report that identified Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, as having been the being who'd raped them all.

And that she had done so because she, Dawn Summers, in concert with Faith Lehane, had used a summoning spell to annoy Xander by repeatedly summoning one of Aphrodite's minions, one of those cute little Cupids who catered to the goddess's every whim, until Xander had, finally, inadvertently insulted Aphrodite, herself, by shooting her with a rubber band – on Valentine's Day, no less! – and thereby, bring her wrath down on the entire House!

{ This definitely isn't going to go down well, no matter how I try to paint it, } the Key thought to herself morosely. She also realized that there was no point in trying to minimize, lie, or just keep quiet about what she and Faith had done; because the truth would eventually come to light, regardless of whether they wanted it to, or not. And the longer it stayed hidden, the worse the eventual results would be. *That* was one thing she was completely certain of.

Clearing her throat nervously, Dawn glanced over at Faith, who gave her an almost imperceptible shrug of her shoulders in response to the younger woman's unspoken question.

Okay. It was time to face the music.

"Uh, Buffy..."

~/~/~

Xander's bedroom
A short time following the above meeting


"Dawn, I don't want you to ever doubt that I love you with everything I am, okay? But right now, I *really* don't like you. At all."

"Xander, please – I just want you to know just how sorry –"

"And while I doubt these feelings are gonna last forever," Xander continued speaking, as though he hadn't heard a single word Dawn had said, "for the time being, I'd much prefer to not even talk to you, let alone be in the same room with you. So don't talk to me, don't look at me, and even though this pretty much goes without saying – don't even *think* of touching me again until I say it's alright."

Seeing her little sister rushing out of the bedroom with tears streaming down her face, Buffy reflected that, while Xander's words might be somewhat harsh (but still a lot less harsh than she deserved), she really couldn't say that his attitude was at all unreasonable.

The emotional and psychological damage her best guy friend must have undergone after learning that he had been betrayed – well, maybe that was too harsh a term, but it probably fit in Xander's mind right now – by two women he'd trusted completely, was probably worse than the physical damage he'd suffered as a result of last night's orgy.

{ Hell, it wouldn't surprise me if Xand doesn't let another woman touch him again for the rest of his life, } Buffy thought to herself, staring at the doorway of her currently bed-ridden friend's room for a short moment. { You hear all those stories about what happens to female rape victims after getting assaulted by their father or uncle or whatever... so what Dawn and Faith did, it might have been enough to *seriously* screw Xander up for a long time. If not for good. }

Letting a quiet sigh escape her lips, the Head Slayer headed off after her sibling, to try and offer some small degree of whatever comfort she could with regard to how badly Dawn had managed to screw up her relationships, not only with Xander, but with pretty much everyone else currently living in the House as well.

~/~/~

The same place
Ten minutes later


"Hey, Xander, I heard what you said to Dawn, and I just wanted to tell ya that it was originally my idea to –"

"I'll tell you the same thing I told Dawn, Faith – for the time being, I'd much prefer to not even talk to you, let alone be in the same room with you. So don't talk to me, don't look at me, and if you so much as lay one finger on me – I'll do to you what you almost did to me in your hotel room, that night Dead Boy hit you over the head with that baseball bat."

"Hey, c'mon –"

"Go away, Faith."

"Xander –"

"What part of 'go away' wasn't clear, Faith?"

"Okay, fine. I am sorry, though."

"I heard you. Now, get out."

~/~/~

Cleveland Slayers House
Cleveland, OH

February 16, 2006


"Looks like we royally fucked things up, doesn't it, Li'l D?" the Boston-born Slayer asked, briefly looking around the room – and seeing how everyone was keeping their distance from her, as if she was a leper or something.

"What was your first clue, Faith? The way no one will have anything to do with us, or that no one will even speak to us, unless it has to do with 'business'?" the younger brunette asked, the bitterness in her voice obvious even to a deaf person.

"So, I guess it's up to us to fix things, then," Faith shrugged. Xander's death threats yesterday had definitely made a big impact on her psyche, much more than the impact his tool had made on her pussy the preceding evening (delightful though that impact had been).

"How the hell are we supposed to do that, short of finding a way to go back in time and prevent ourselves from being such completely dumb assholes? Huh?" Dawn wanted to know.

"Well, since Aphrodite was the one who actually cast that goddamn spell that led to this whole fucked-up situation we're in, I kinda figured that offering X her head on a silver platter as an apology certainly couldn't make things any worse."

Dawn opened her mouth to make a sarcastic reply, before she paused and pondered that statement more carefully for a moment.

"Actually, Faith, that's not a bad idea, at all!" the Key agreed, thoughtfully. "After all, it's not like we haven't killed a god before.

"Let's see, now, what would we need to do something like that. Off the top of my head, Hind’s blood, but I don’t know where to find any. Alright, there is another option… "

~/~/~

Sunnydale Crater
Sunnydale National Park, CA
The site of the former town

February 18, 2006


"So, you wanna explain to me exactly why we're standing here looking down at a big fucking hole in the ground that used to be a Hellmouth, *again*, Li'l D?" Faith demanded as she gave the younger brunette an annoyed glare as the two stood by the edge of the chain link fence marking the perimeter of the still-scientifically-inexplicable disaster site.

"And it sure as hell needs to be a whole lot more informative than 'It's really important we do this'," the second most senior Slayer noted.

"Okay, Faith. I guess that's a reasonable enough request," Dawn nodded, not looking up from the electronic tablet she'd enchanted (with a little help from a techno-coven she chatted with online).

"Did you ever hear about Anya's old boyfriend or whatever, a troll named Olaf, when he got free from that crystal a group of witches had trapped him in?" the younger brunette asked.

Seeing Faith's negative shake of her head, the Key said, "Okay then. Back when she was human elven centuries ago, apparently Anya was married to this big, idiot Viking guy. Long story short, she cursed him and turned him into a troll after she found out he'd cheated on her with some bimbo barmaid, or whoever. Then, sometime after that happened, he got this huge enchanted troll-god hammer.

"And no, that's not a euphemism for any of his body parts," Dawn added with a lascivious smirk, as her companion opened her mouth to make a rude comment.

"Anyway, after Buffy beat him into the ground for trying to kill Anya and Willow, Willow magicked Olaf into some other dimension, and we never saw him again," she elaborated.

"Anyway, his hammer got left behind when Willow zapped him away," Dawn went on, "and we stored it in the basement of the Magic Shop.

"And then, a few months later, when Glory came looking for me and was going to sacrifice me to open up a gateway back to her home sweet Hell dimension, Buffy used the troll-god hammer to beat the crap out of her, so I figured..."

~/~/~

Mount Olympus, Greece

March 14, 2006


"So, exactly what the fuck is it we're looking for, again, D?" Faith asked, as the pair carefully made their way up the side of the mountain. They had deliberately stayed away from the popular tourist track, not wanting anyone to see what they were up to.

"Well, the first thing we're looking for is the Chains of Hephaestus," Dawn answered as she checked the screen of her enchanted tablet again. "They're chains – duh! – that were supposed to have been created by Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire and the forge, and they're pretty much the only thing I know for sure can bind gods or other immortals.

"The other thing we're looking for is the Rib of Kronos," the one-time Key went on. "Kronos was one of the original Titans, see, the father of the Greek gods – and this thing is, literally, one of his ribs.

"Kronos used it to kill his father, Uranus. And then Kronos' son, Zeus, used it to kill him. And eventually Hercules, Zeus' son, used it to kill his own dad when he went batshit crazy and tried to kill a baby, at least according to the scroll I read," Dawn detailed the rather depressing history that particular artifact possessed, concluding her explanation by saying, "So that's one of the few things we can be completely sure can kill a god – one of that pantheon, anyway."

~/~/~

An abandoned Greek temple on the lower slopes of Mount Olympus
Near the town of Litochoro

March 27, 2006


Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation, smiled to herself with satisfaction as she heard the call and began shifting herself to the mortal plane.

Finally, after several *extremely* boring decades of being ignored by the rude, ill-bred and completely misbegotten masses of mortals infesting the planet, someone with at least a modicum of intelligence had not only had the idea of calling upon her favor, but actually also had the intelligence and wherewithal to determine the proper forms required to summon her!

The woman – well, she was female in appearance, anyway – was bored enough from the long and extremely dull centuries of watching the moronic rabble interact with each other that she was actually almost grateful to whichever one of these insipid creatures it was who'd called upon her. Enough that she was halfway inclined to grant whatever request they intended to ask her to intercede in, on their behalf.

As she materialized at the site of the summoning ritual, Aphrodite smiled down at her would-be acolyte, who was crouched in an entirely appropriate pose of supplication at the base of a surprisingly quite properly designed and laid-out altar.

"What is your wish that you've called upon me?" Aphrodite asked the brunette kneeling by the sacrificial fire, feeling somewhat magnanimous towards her new believer.

"I desire vengeance on the one who wronged me and the people I love, my Lady," the goddess heard the young woman reply, and she frowned at the answer.

"What? I'm Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love," she informed the idiot child with a frown, dropping the formalities and adopting the more casual tone of voice she'd employed with the Greek mortals over two millennia ago. "Love, not vengeance.

"If you want vengeance, you should be calling upon Stregna. Y'know, Goddess of Vengeance?" Aphrodite said, her annoyance and disapproval clearly evident in the tone of her voice. "Goddess of Uptight, too, if you want my opinion; but either way, I'm not the one you want to see about vengeance."

"No, you're definitely the one we want to see, bitch," Aphrodite heard a second voice – this one coming from behind her – say in reply to her statement.

The buxom blonde spun on her heel with outrage, wanting to see exactly what sort of foolish mortal would have the audacity to speak to her in such manner.

Unfortunately for her, however, Aphrodite only managed to catch a glimpse of what appeared to be a large metal block – an instant before Olaf's troll-god hammer smashed into her face, directly between the eyes.

***

"Well, looks like things are actually working out the way we hoped they would, Li'l D," Faith commented with a smirk as they looked down at the unconscious form of a rather arrogant Greek goddess, who was sprawled limply on the temple floor at their feet.

"Shut up before you jinx us, Faith," Dawn snapped irritably at her co-conspirator. "Now get the chains out, will ya? I want to have this bitch manacled tightly before she wakes up!"

"Oooo! Feeling a little kinky, huh, Pip?" the Slayer smirked as she began sorting through the duffle bag lying a few feet away. As has been said, Xander couldn't satisfy everyone at the same time during that night, and so Faith and Dawn had shared a lot after becoming outcasts within the group.

"If you're good and do what you're told, you might find out for yourself a little later, Faith."

~/~/~

Cleveland Slayers House
Cleveland, OH

April 4, 2006


Xander looked at the email currently displayed on his laptop's screen and re-read it one more time – as if to make sure he'd read it correctly the first time.

[[ Xander, I know you said you didn't want to talk to either me or Faith again after what happened on Valentine's Day, but since you didn't say we couldn't email you, I'm hoping that this is an okay way to contact you, ]] the message on his monitor's screen read.

[[ The two of us finally figured out something that we think would be the best possible way to make up for everything that happened that night, or at least try to. I know that you'll never be able to forget what happened, and you have every right to be pissed at us for the rest of your life; but still, we'd like to offer it to you by way of an apology, anyway. ]]

[ If you're willing to consider accepting our apology, please be at 738 Oak Leaf Road at 8:00 pm, tonight. ]]

[[ Hopefully still your friend, Dawn ]]

Staring down at the screen, the now-fully-healed Xander gave some serious thought to both the missive in front of him, as well as its currently absent sender and her also-absent companion, and his feelings regarding both of them.

Ever since the pair had so quickly, quietly and unceremoniously left Cleveland, just two days after the debacle in question, the founder of the Scooby Gang had been contemplating his reactions to not only the incident which had triggered their departure, but to their departure, too.

The core of the matter was that Xander knew he wasn't perfect. In fact, he'd be the first one to admit that the intentions of one's actions didn't always match up with the actual results – his summoning of Sweet, the singing and dancing demon who'd killed three people way back when, was a testimonial to that fact – something which he'd never be able to forget, even if he wanted to do so.

So, for him to hold a grudge against Dawn and Faith forever because their 'prank' has gone completely out of control – through no real fault of their own – would make him a hypocrite of proportions which would dwarf even Godzilla.

{ Not that I'm okay with what they did a few months back, because I'm not, and I probably won't ever be. But I *do* need to settle things with both of them, } Xander decided as he gave the message a final lookover. { And I guess I should call Buffy and tell her that Dawn's finally contacted someone here at HQ. }

{ I know she's been losing sleep worrying about where her little sister might be, and what Dawn and Faith have been up to, } Harris reflected. { And lord above, but I really need to do something for Buffy to get over what she did to me that night. This whole 'worried mother' act she's been doing is really starting to piss me off! If only time travel was possible... }

Shrugging his shoulders in dismissal of his admittedly distracted consideration of the myriad possible 'might have been' situations, Xander picked up his cell and pulled up his 'Favorites' list.

"Buffy," he replied to the Head Slayer, when she finally picked up on her end. "It's Xander. I called to let ya know that I just got an email from Dawn. Apparently, she's back in town.

"Do you have anything planned for tonight that you can't cancel? 'Cause she and Faith want to meet up with me at eight o'clock…"

~/~/~

738 Oak Leaf Road
Cleveland, OH

Warehouse District

7:50 pm, later that night


The silence between Xander and Buffy, as they walked along the streets of Cleveland, was not the comfortable calm between old friends; rather, it was an extremely awkward and entirely uncomfortable type of quiet, as they headed for their destination.

Where once the founder of the Scooby Gang would have been making lousy jokes in order to cheer his hero up during their travels, and the Summers woman would have been punning wittily to likewise bolster the spirits of her faithful Slayerette, now...now there was only the grim, soundless journey for two people who had seen too much and done too much, in a war that would seemingly never end. The almost two month time frame which had passed since 'The Incident' had done little to heal the chasm between them, in between all the demon fighting and enforced healing Harris had needed to do.

It also didn't help that whenever Buffy looked at Xander nowadays, she was continually reminded of the night when she had constantly impaled herself upon him, and he had given her a level of pleasure she'd never experienced before. Buffy Anne Summers had known several lovers throughout her relatively short and eventful life – two vampires among them – but none of them had made her react the way her Xander-shaped friend had.

If he could still be called that, that is.

Buffy had her doubts about exactly what she and Xander were to each other these days. After all, Harris still had issues about any woman touching him, and probably still would for some time to come.

Possibly, for the rest of his life.

Which meant there was now, or in the immediate future, little to no chance of finally making all Xander's high school fantasies come true, and entering into a full-blown relationship with him.

That ship had not only sailed, it now looked like it had been torpedoed and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Possibly forever.

She knew Xander was seeing one of the Council's in-the-know psychologists about what had happened that night – primarily because Giles had made it a requirement that anyone involved with Slaying who'd undergone *any* sort of emotional trauma needed to speak to a qualified psychologist, and then be adjudged as fit for duty before they would be allowed to do any further field work.

Although, if there were anyone who could help Xander deal what had happened to him, Buffy was completely certain that it was Dr. Sidney Freedman. The elderly psychiatrist was empathetic, insightful and just simply incredibly brilliant when it came to helping people deal with their problems.

And she didn't think that just because she was seeing him, too. And had been for the better part of a year, now.

No, that was her opinion because he'd helped her come to terms with many of the issues she'd either been ignoring, or hadn't even recognized existed, while trying to reconcile all the responsibilities she'd had thrust upon her as a teenager while trying to have a normal life. Or at least, as much a semblance of one as she could manage, that is.

But that was all irrelevant at this point in time, Buffy reminded herself. What was going to happen, would happen.

Or not.

And nothing she could do right now would affect that, except to support her best friend in whatever he wanted to do with regard to this situation.

"Why does it seem like we spend half our lives breaking into some warehouse or other, in order to prevent catastrophes or apocalypses?" Buffy sighed with weary resignation, as they finally arrived at their destination and she gave the seemingly deserted warehouse in front of them an experienced evaluation.

"Because either Murphy's got a nasty sense of humor, or Destiny deserves its reputation as an evil bitch," Xander replied in a casual, nonchalant tone of voice, as he too appraised the building with an equally professional eye.

Professional, that is, in terms of the best ways to enter it without being detected, and/or demolish it without any risk of excessive collateral damage to the surrounding buildings.

Who would have guessed that the authorities here in Cleveland were a lot less blasé than their Sunnydale counterparts about buildings and/or warehouses unexpectedly burning down to their foundations, or abruptly exploding and leaving only smouldering rubble?

Based on their prior experience with municipal authority, certainly not the Scooby Gang.

"Well, no point in just standing around out here and looking," Harris added a moment later. "I figure we should just mosey on in."

"You sure you're up for whatever it is Dawn and Faith have got in there, Xand?" Buffy asked, looking up at him with an obviously concerned expression on her face.

Cringing at the disgusted look Harris immediately sent her for that particular question, Buffy quickly apologized, "I know, I know – knock it off with the whole 'I just don't want you to get hurt' thing. I'm sorry, I just –"

"You can't help it. I know. Doesn't mean I have to like it or accept it, though," Xander told her icily.

{ Yeah, over the past two months, I'd say you've made *that* pretty damn clear, } the Slayer Matriarch thought sourly to herself before continuing her earlier observation. "Look, Xander, I know you told me you've decided to forgive Dawnie and Faith for what happened, but they don't know that; and they've obviously been busy working on whatever it is they've got in there, as an apology of some sort. I'm just saying, don't get *too* mad if they somehow screw up again, okay?"

"It's cool, Buffy," Xander nodded, calming down as he began heading towards the front entrance of the building, which was well-lit by a pair of spotlights. "There's absolutely nothing for you to worry about.

"Seriously," Xander said as he opened the door and indicated she should precede him inside, "I really doubt there's anything they've come up with by way of an apology, that I can't handle."

"Although…I could be wrong about that," Xander added an instant later, as he stopped just inside the doorway, just like Buffy had. After all, the sight of both Dawn and Faith standing a few dozen feet away, both of them looking worn and tired as they stood on either side of what was clearly a protective confinement circle inscribed on the concrete floor of the otherwise empty warehouse – really wasn't something he'd expected to find here tonight.

Especially since inside the circle was a familiar-looking buxom blonde. Someone who was wearing a short pale pink set of vaguely Grecian-style near-see-through robes, and who was manacled by several lengths of heavy chain – which the young man's Sunnydale-honed senses informed him were imbued with an impressive amount of arcane power.

Xander easily recognized the women's prisoner from seeing her approximately six weeks earlier, just before *certain events* which had landed him in the hospital emergency room, and which had put a severe strain on most of his relationships with the women he worked with on a daily basis. { You bitch... }

"Hey, Xander," Xander heard both Faith and Dawn greet him, and he pulled his attention away from the blonde-haired goddess who was apparently screaming a lot of various and extremely nasty obscenities at all four of them (all of it in vain, as a result of the silencing spell encompassing the circle). Harris then focused on the two obviously worried brunettes, who were nervously watching for his reaction to the sight in front of them all.

"Dawn, Faith," Xander nodded his head in acknowledgment, even as he began approaching the Key and the Slayer. "Long time, no see.

"I'm glad you're back," Xander nodded, as he smiled somewhat wanly. "Seriously, I am. Cleveland hasn't been the same without you. And just so you know, as far as I'm concerned? What happened that night is now totally in the past. We're okay, as far as the whole 'Cupid' thing is concerned."

He stepped back at once, though, when Dawn hesitantly started forward towards him.

"I'm not ready for the whole group hug thing yet, Dawnie. I'm sorry – but I'm just not," he apologized when he saw the hurt expression on her face at his reaction. Faith's face mirrored the same expression, too, Xander noted absently

"I still have issues about anyone touching me; and I do mean *anyone*," he noted, by way of explanation. "But like I said, as far as I'm concerned, we're cool, now. Okay?"

"Okay," both Dawn and Faith reluctantly agreed. Both of them had hoped for more – but, realistically, had been expecting a whole lot less than what Harris had been able to offer.

Buffy cleared her throat, reminding Xander, Dawn and Faith that they were not alone here. As they all turned to look at her, Buffy forced herself to ignore the glistening, tear-filled eyes of her little sister and pointed to the still-silently-screaming blonde trapped within the sacred circle. The Head Slayer simply asked, "So, what's that bitch doing here?"

As Dawn and Faith began explaining what they had decided to do in order to apologize for their part in the Valentine's Day 'incident,' elsewhere, a pair of eyes observed them doing so through a scrying pool; though those eyes were, disconcertedly, completely closed.

"So, what do you think they're going to do?" the auburn-haired woman who was, despite her eyes being closed, apparently watching intently, asked her companion.

"I know what *I'd* do, Themis," the short-haired brunette also sitting and watching with avid interest answered immediately. "But even after all these years, these humans still continue to surprise me, so I'm somewhat hesitant to predict whether to not that bimbo will survive the next few minutes."

"Fair enough. And just so you know, Stregna, as far as I'm concerned, Aphrodite brought this entire mess upon herself; so she can get herself out of it," Themis, Greek goddess of Justice, commented, looking poker-faced and continuing to ignore Aphrodite's pleas for help and/or rescue.

"If she had just taken a moment to see how much all of those women already cared about Harris, she would have realized that enthralling all of those Slayers, as well as two of Hecate's most promising adepts, would inevitably lead to disaster," Themis added scornfully.

"You're right, of course. And I have to say that, of all of the people involved, those two women who captured Aphrodite are probably the most vicious and vindictive of them all," Stregna, Greek goddess of Vengeance agreed with an approving smile and a nod of her head.

"Hand me some of that popcorn, would you, please?" she asked, as the pair of deities turned their attention back to the scrying pool, and waited to see their fellow goddess' fate.

It mattered nothing to them whether or not Xander would use the Rib of Kronos to kill Aphrodite, and thus do away with the focus for all of the emotional energy associated with love that was generated in the mortal world, as a consequence. Themis and Stregna – all of the Greek deities, really – were beyond such seeming trivialities which were not directly associated with their own spheres of influence. So they watched, as Xander picked up the weapon and strode towards the captive blonde goddess; an ugly and feral look etched upon his face.

Themis and Stregna shook their heads as they saw and heard Aphrodite literally begging for her life, as the silly ditz *finally* realized just how much trouble she was in.

But just as Xander was raiding his hand to deliver the killing blow, there was a flash of white light – as the Powers That Be intervened, and Anya Jenkins appeared right in front of him, making him stop in his tracks.

"Xander, there are some things you need to know before you kill this idiot," the ex-carpenter's deceased fiancée stated.

After all, those so-called 'higher beings' didn't want Harris to upset their precious Balance *that much*.

~/~/~

Author's post-script: I'm leaving it open-ended on whether Xander kills Aphrodite. And I also know that it's not completely accurate as far as traditional mythology is concerned, but in the Xena-verse, Themis is the Greek goddess of Justice and Stregna is the Greek goddess of Vengeance.

The End

You have reached the end of "Actions Have Consequences". This story is complete.

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