Hidden in the shadow…

"Let's try doing this logically," Xander said.

"It's magic, logic may not apply," Sirius countered, as they drove through a cloudbank.

"It's a good place to start," the dark haired young man replied. "We were discussing your world and *bam* there we were. We talked about mine and *bam* there we were."

"Then I'd suggest talking about the world of big breasted bisexual women who like dark haired wizards who can turn into dogs," Sirius joked.

"Recovered from Penny's celebration for getting a vault filled with gold already?" Xander asked with a grin.

"Nope, managed to convince her the celebration should be spread out over a two week period and bribed Snape for a whole lotta potions before we left," he said happily.

"Big, bad, wizard can't keep up with one ordinary girl?" Xander teased.

"Penny is many things," Sirius said proudly, "but ordinary is not one of them."

Xander laughed.

"Let's use the Black Pearl so you can get some practice with it," Sirius suggested.

"Sure," Xander replied, jumping at an excuse to try it out.

The simple brush of a thumb over a symbol on the dash transformed the car around them into a sailing ship from long ago, one with tattered black sails, and the Jolly Rogers proudly displayed. Xander spun the wheel and did donuts in the sky, the aura of cold and fear leaving trails of fog behind them.

Sirius laughed enjoying the feel of the wind through his hair, even if the air was so thin and cold that he felt a little lightheaded. "Remind me to cast some permanent comfort and safety charms," he shouted over the wind.

Xander pushed the wheel forward and they began to descend to a more comfortable level. "How about I carve some rune schemes for comfort and safety while you charge them?"

"Whatever works," Sirius said cheerfully.

"Know what this reminds me of?" Xander asked.

"Flying a pirate ship reminds you of something?"

"It reminds me of the movie Goonies," Xander said, ignoring Sirius' question. "See it was about a bunch of kids-"

*0*0*0*0*0*0*0*0*0*

"Hold on, I'm getting a call," Aphrodite said and with a wave of her hand the view shifted to an Asian girl with silky black hair and pupil-less lavender eyes.

"I didn't think they gave Asians racks that size," Mixy said peeking at her potential. "Well, barring heels and capes anyway."

"Special bloodline," Aphrodite said. "Seems like her city is about to get destroyed so she's praying for the survival of her loved ones."

"That's pretty common," D'Hoffryn said. "What made you pay attention to this prayer?"

"Because she is my sole worshiper on that plane," Aphrodite said with some surprise. "Apparently she ran across some ruins, deciphered some scrolls, and felt inspired."

Eros waved a hand and the picture changed into lines of runic symbols. The glowing green symbols compromising the lines ran from the sky to the ground with changes to the lines running down like drops of rain, allowing those present to see not only the present scene, but how it linked to the threads of fate in that reality.

"Future's pretty dark," Eros observed.

"Not much chance for yucks," Mxyzptlk agreed.

"True," D'Hoffryn agreed, "Aphrodite could send an agent to rescue the girl and her family, but the events leading to the destruction of the city are too well rooted in the past to change."

"It'll be a good test for Xander," Aphrodite decided.

"Test?" D'Hoffryn asked.

"Yes," Aphrodite replied. "He can't save everyone, so how does he choose?"

"You'll note that Busty is fixated on a guy that's kinda entrenched in the fate of their world," Mixy pointed out.

"It's complicated and potentially heartbreaking," D'Hoffryn said thoughtfully, "and anything Xander does will cause major chaos. I like it!"

*0*0*0*0*0*0*0*0*0*

"We've shifted," Sirius announced.

Xander pushed the wheel forward and the pirate ship sank through the clouds, uncovering the coast of the United States, though Xander wasn't sure which one, and a ship not much different than their own, headed out to sea. There was a group of young teens and various adults gathered on the beach along with a few police cars in a scene Xander knew well. With a grin he spun the wheel and urged the ship on to catch up with its mundane counterpart, causing quite a stir on the beach.

"One-eyed Willy's treasure ship," Xander said, as they pulled alongside the ancient ship as it sailed, uncrewed.

"OK, maybe this logic thing has something going for it," Sirius said. "You were talking about it and *bam*, here we are."

"Put the ship in the backseat, please," Xander requested with a grin.

"Loot!" Sirius cheered, before casting a familiar series of spells on the freshly unearthed pirate ship, causing it to take to the air before sending it into the backseat of the car.

"It's going to take us forever to find it if it's flying around loose back there," Xander said pulling back on the wheel causing the ship to take to the skies once more.

"Odds are we'd have the same problem if it was stationary," Sirius said. "I didn't have the heart to ground it when it just got out of dock."

"Let One-eyed Willy sail," Xander agreed, "and try not to think about the number of dick jokes we could make."

"My one eyed willy is so big it wears a hat," Sirius said without missing a beat.

"My one eyed willy is so big it's a flight hazard," Xander replied instantly.

"My one eyed willy is so big Thor mistook it for the Midgard Serpent and tried to wrestle it," a stunningly beautiful blond woman wearing a Grecian toga that left her right breast bare added. "And it won two falls out of three!"

"Breast ho!" Sirius called out, even though they were all three less than a foot away from each other.

Aphrodite snapped her fingers transforming Sirius into Padfoot.

"Milady, how may I serve you?" Xander asked, instinctively recognizing one of his patrons.

"That's what I like about you," the goddess of love said, hugging Xander. "No bowing and scraping and excessive flowery talk, which I'm half convinced is just an excuse to look up my toga, just quiet respect and obedience."

"Well, to be fair I didn't get a chance to think of that," Xander replied, "and now I'm wondering if by not trying I'm being disrespectful."

Aphrodite laughed and snapped her fingers, causing the scenery to waver and shift into uninhabited plains and grasslands. "I have a high priestess who is praying for the safety of her loved ones. You are my answer to her prayers." Giving Xander a squeeze, she vanished.

"Who was that?!" Sirius demanded, once he'd returned to human form.

"Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty," Xander said with a blissful smile on his face.

Sirius was stunned speechless for a moment. "And she's assigned you to answer prayers in her place?" he finally asked, in a hushed tone.

"I guess so," Xander said pulling himself back together and eying Sirius' compass, which now had a golden arrow labeled DUTY in it.

"Girl who is kinkier in bed than you is also in that direction," Sirius noted.

Xander snickered.

"You haven't met any other gods or goddesses have you?" Sirius asked.

"Nope, demons and creatures of myths and legends, but none of the upper ranks before."

"And the lack of shock?"

"I've called on Aphrodite's power before, for something that was majorly stupid and shortsighted, so I recognize the feel of her power. I swore to her I wouldn't be such a putz again and that I would serve her in whatever capacity she required to make up for it."

"Good thing she didn't hand you a golden apple and ask you to judge a beauty contest between her, Athena, and Artemis," Sirius said recalling the old fable.

"That one's easy," Xander said shaking his head.

"Without cutting the apple," Sirius challenged.

"Of course. If you ask a child who is prettier, his mother or miss America, who would he choose?"

"His mother," Sirius replied.

"If you ask a ninety year old man who is more beautiful, his wife or some hot new actress, which would he choose?"

"His wife," Sirius said beginning to see what Xander was getting at.

"Love enhances beauty."

"So the answer is Aphrodite," Sirius said.

"Nope."

"What?"

"The answer is that being goddesses they are beyond what a mortal mind can judge, the only one who could judge them fairly is Zeus, and since they are his daughters, whom he loves, he'd judge them all equally beautiful."

"So if Aphrodite used her power to make it so Zeus loved her the most she would win."

Xander shook his head. "Aphrodite loves her sisters and would never do such a thing."

"So… what's the right answer?" Sirius asked confused.

"Chop the apple into sections, make up a bullshit story, and give all three a section while bowing and scraping, using the opportunity to look up their togas and spouting as much flowery praise as possible."

Sirius laughed for a minute before stopping. "Wait, weren't you supposed to solve it without cutting the apple?"

"Yep," Xander agreed, "but if you're trapped and have no way out - cheat! If the rules say you lose - change the rules."

*0*0*0*0*0*0*0*0*0*

Mxyzptlk laughed. "That's my kinda guy!"

"He's definitely got his head screwed on straight," D'Hoffryn agreed.

"Also fits his dating habits," Eros offered.

"Really?" Aphrodite asked. "I don't see it."

"You don't recall Faith, Willow, and Cordelia?" Eros asked with a smirk.

"Of course I do, but what's that got to do with anything?"

"I was using them for stand ins. I used Faith for Artemis, since Buffy only liked older men and drama, Willow was the perfect one to represent Athena, and finally Cordelia the spoiled rich princess represented you."

"That… fits rather well actually," Aphrodite admitted.

"A group of hormonal teens were responsible for keeping the world spinning and you thought it'd be a good idea to play games with them," D'Hoffryn said with a grin. "I knew there was a reason I liked you."

Mxyzptlk laughed. "The kid was also marked by Ares and Hephaestus. The soldier possession and when he almost got turned into the creature from the black lagoon's ugly cousin."

"And Hephaestus was cast into the sea for being deformed," Aphrodite quoted thoughtfully. "He is a happy medium between my two loves."

"Explains why he had such a hard time choosing," Mxyzptlk said, "and here I thought he was just a horny bastard."

"He is," Eros and Aphrodite chorused.

"There's a reason mom chose Hephaestus and Ares," Eros said with a smirk.

Typing by: Bankrupt Samurai!