and away we go...

Title: The Price They
Paid Author: Voracity
Rating: NC17
Pairing: Xander/Oz, Willow/Other, Diana Tregarde/Andre (implied)
Fandom: Xover: Buffy/Mercedes Lackey _Jinx High_
Archive: I leave it up to Peja, and we've talked so it's all good now. Warning: het and slash sex involved/implied. Angst, long (I don't do short, sorry)
Summary: Giles leaves on vacation and things start to go to Hell, literally for one person.
Disclaimer: Not mine, none of them, though I wouldn't mind taking a few of them with me, my dorm room is really small at the moment. I know not exactly who owns any of these people, besides Ms. Lackey, who of course owns her original characters and some guys in suits own Buffy et al.

Note: Answer to BigBuck's challenge to merge Buffy and Diana Tregarde from Jinx High.

Setting: Somewhere after Oz turns fuzzy, but before the illicit smoochies and Buffy leaves. Angelus is here though, for a while.

The Price They Paid.
by Voracity.

Giles paced in front of the meeting table in the library, eyes closed as he muttered to himself.

"Sorry," Willow said as she walked in, taking her usual seat. "Snyder got me."

Since she was the last one, Giles turned to look at his students. "I'm taking a leave of absence," he held up a hand to stop Buffy's comment. "I've called upon a friend to take my place during the month I'll be gone. I expect you to treat Diana with the same respect you do me, or more actually. During this time, she will train Buffy and Willow both, and work with Xander to keep everything else running smoothly."

Everyone looked over as the library door opened and a petite brunette woman walked in. Jeans and a scooped necked leotard under a blazer, long light brown braid down her back, and a big smile was what they saw first. "Rupert," she said, hugging him. She stepped back. "No Gods, right?" He shook his head with a small smile, the first in days. "Good, now go regain your sanity." She waited until he had picked up his bag and left to turn on the five students looking at her. "Okay, truth here. I'm Di, you guys drove Giles insane, and he's called on me to help. He's told me about each of you so I plan on sitting down individually to get to know you better." She put her briefcase on the table, smiling now. "I'm a Witch, and a Guardian. That means I have to help if asked, but I don't have to put up with attitudes." She looked directly at Cordelia, who she had pegged for the egotistical one of the group immediately. "Are we clear?" she asked with a small smile. The former May Queen nodded. "Good."

Willow hesitantly raised her hand. "Can you teach me too?" she asked. "Instead of just Buffy?"

"Most definitely, that's one reason I was asked. I'm also a fourth degree blackbelt, know something about weapons, and I'm a writer."

"Like horror?" Buffy asked, her brow wrinkled.

"No, like romances," Xander said. "My mom reads all her stuff." She smiled at him. "So, problem of the day, if we're here for that too?"

"Too quiet," Buffy said. "No slayage necessary for three days."

"I'll get the prophecy books, Xander, get the Chronicles," Willow said, heading for the office.

Di sat down to watch the other three. Cordelia examined her nails, Buffy picked hers, and Oz pulled out a book on werewolves. "Not helping?"

"I suck at research," Buffy said with a small shrug. "Giles told me yesterday if I touched the Chronicles again, he'd break my hand."

Oz pulled out another book, sliding it across the table without looking up from his book. "Find the underlined reference for me? I need to look it up." He knew she made a face. "If it works, you won't have to watch me." He shifted to get more comfortable as the pages started to turn.

Xander and Willow made it back to the table together, sitting across from each other to do the real work. "Hand me one," Di said. She accepted the book from Xander, watching as he got another one from the cage. "What are we looking for?"

"When we have a lull," Willow explained, "it usually means we have a major meeting to open the Hellmouth or just a build-up to future badness." Oz nodded, patting her arm. "So I guess look for anything that would be that."

Xander sat back down. "This is almost a meeting build-up though. They're here but not feeding? Smells of snacking over battle plans to me." Buffy snorted. "What? The Master was the last one." He dodged the punch to his arm but not the stomp to his foot. "Sorry." He got up, switching tables.

Buffy caught Di's glare and shrugged. "We don't talk about that one. I turn freaky and evil." She handed the book back to Oz. "That one?" He looked then nodded. "I'll go see if he has it back there somewhere." She headed back into the stacks.

Di watched as Cordelia got up, yawning. "Tell me if there's any real work to be done." With that, she left.

Xander cleared his throat. "Is the second Wednesday of April once a century close enough?" He walked back over, putting the book down so Willow could read it. "Or has this gone by?"

"The year of the third no-full-moon?" Willow snapped her fingers. "That could be about eclipses but that's not until next year. The science teacher remarked about it yesterday. Mark it for later study."

He nodded, going back to his reading, absently sitting down after putting a post-it note on the page. "Oh, hey, right below it." He handed it back over to Willow, who smiled.

"I'll get on demon chat tonight and lurk. Maybe I'll run into that guy Doyle again. He seems to know about those things."

"What?" Buffy asked as she walked down the stairs from the stacks. "Sorry, Oz, not back there." He nodded and shrugged.

"It's a prophecy of a new Master rising," Willow said, reading. "He should be gathering followers about now." Buffy shuddered. "Sorry, but it looks like he's the Pat Robertson of vamps."

Di shook her head with a muttered, "Scary thought." She looked up when she felt the stares. "Him being an eternal vampire is a fear-inducing thought for many people like me." They all went back to doing their own things. "Oh, and Buffy, I need to test you tonight to see what you can do."

"Sure, anytime before patrol." The blonde stretched. "I'm going to eat and nap before work. Later?"

"We'll be here," Willow assured without looking up.

"Maybe all night," Xander added.

"Can't ditch that paper," Oz told him, making the younger man groan. "It's not that bad. Interview her for it."

"Paper?" Di asked.

"English," Xander said. "I still have to do mine. I need to write a report about something I don't know about."

"Really good writing would be one of those," Willow said absently.

Di saw the hurt look flash across the dark eyes and vowed to help him. "I'd be happy to help, Xander, right?" He nodded. "I wanted to talk to you individually anyway so I know who does what when I start to have a problem so why don't we go into the office now and do both?"

He hopped up, grabbing his backpack and followed her in there, shutting the door. "You're not a big bug, are you?" he asked as he sat down, shaking his head at the laughter. "Hey, it happened. I have the nightmares to prove it after almost becoming a sacrificial snack."

She sat down hard. "It did?" He nodded, pulling out his papers. "Lady Bright," she swore softly, "Giles said strange but that would be beyond the normal limits of the word." He shook his head again. "No?" she asked weakly.

"Not really. Toward the top of the scale but not off it." She shuddered. "You could leave," he suggested quietly. "We'd understand." He rearranged his papers while she thought.

"I can't do that," she said equally quiet. "I have to help, it's the nature of my powers." He nodded, still not looking at her. "Why don't we get to the interview first? You can learn a lot by what questions someone asks." She tried to put him back at ease, and it seemed to work, but she saw the little signs that spoke of being uptight.

"Then you'll know a lot about the teacher," he said cheerfully. "She gave us a mandatory list." He handed it over so she could look at the questions.

Di frowned, getting deeper with each question. "You're sure this isn't Home Ec? All these questions are about my personal life." He shrugged as she looked up. "Okay, but I gotta warn you. You'll have to edit some of it. My boyfriend's a vamp." He shuddered, her stomach sinking. "What?" she asked hesitantly. "Problem for the group?"

"No, so was Buffy's but he went soulless at the first moment's happiness so we're all being hunted right now."

Di leaned back in the desk chair. "Andre said that not all vampires are evil, most are like they were as humans."

"Um, word of advice, don't say that out there," he pointed toward the library. "Even if it's true, Sunnydale pulls the bad guys. Buffy does her job because she can see them as demons, not unliving people."

She nodded slightly. "I can understand that. Let's start this now so I can get back to my real job, okay? Let's see, I'm unmarried but I have a live in boyfriend, Andre. We've been together since the mid-eighties. We may never get married because I'm dragging my proverbial feet. I'm from Hartford, CT, and the surrounding areas. I went to Yale, where I double majored, on scholarships."

"Hometown girl does good?" Xander suggested, writing.

"Yup, that's me. I use my knowledge to help the Hartford P.D. look for serial killers sometimes, and the rest of the time I write."

"How often?"

"Every day, eight to ten hours a day." He gave her a stunned look. "Hey, I do three books a year at the least. I don't have time for vacations. Matter of fact, this was supposed to be one," she said wryly.

"Okay," Xander said slowly. "And you're here why?"

"To fill in for Giles while he's on vacation. I'm basically an unpaid temporary worker for the school board." He nodded, writing again. "I left Andre at home playing with our broken VCR, and in case I need something from there of course. While I'm here, I'm staying at Giles to save money."

He stood up. "I'll go write this and let you see it," Xander said, walking out to the computer.

She smiled at his back. "Nice try kid," she muttered. "You know all about me and I know nothing about you. Very wise." She got up to meet whomever was walking through the doors, surprised when it turned out to be a troll with a usual troll attitude. "May I help you?"

"Yeah, where's the person filling in for the Brit?" She smiled. "Oh, great, from one flake to another." He looked over her outfit. "We have a dress code," he started but she interrupted in that sweet, sensible tone of hers that had wrapped many a person around her little fingers.

"Yes, and if you paid me, I'd meet it." She smiled sweetly, turning him around. "Was there some reason for this impromptu visit? As you can see, he put all his helpers to work before he left and I was about to pull out my computer to start on my real job also so if there's nothing else, I'll see you at the staff meeting in the morning." All through her speech, she had walked him back to the doors, letting him out as she finished. She wiggled her fingers at him, watching his ears smoke as he stormed off. She turned to the sound of applause.

"And I bet you thought things like that only lived under bridges," Xander quipped.

Di laughed, sitting down at the meeting table and taking out her laptop so she could do some paying work.


Diana smiled as Xander walked back into the library after the dinner break she had called. She checked her watch, looking at him. "Didn't feel like eating?" she asked.

"Nope, not hungry yet. Grabbed an energy bar from Seven-Eleven." He sat down across from her, looking at her. "So, why are you really here?"

"Because Giles asked me to. With everything that's happened recently he's not had time to recuperate mentally. He and I have known each other for a few years, running in the same circles for a while, so he called on me to come take his place while he went to break down in peace."

"So, this is about Jenny?"


"Giles' girlfriend. Buffy's ex, the now bad vampire, killed her and put her in his bed to torment him. Fortunately, we've learned how to restrict his access to anyplace we live so you're safe."

She shook her head, tossing her braid back over her shoulder. "He didn't tell me about that, just that he desperately needed a break before he snapped and killed all of you in a fit of rage." Xander simply nodded. "You knew he had a temper?"

"Everyone has one and a breaking point, Giles' was just hidden deeper." He shrugged, leaning back. "So, what can I do for you? I'm a usual research person and appointed food-handler to the Scoobies. Just tell me and I will."

"You act very well for someone you age," she said with a faint smile. "Very good defensive shielding." She pulled out her wallet, tossing it at him. "You can call Hartford to check me out if you want, the number's on the back of the ID." He looked them over carefully, then slid the wallet back down the table. "Xander, I'm more than capable of handling all this. I've recently dealt with an Aztec God and a Witch using reciprocating immortality to stay young, rich, and popular. The average demon or vampire is nothing more than easy for me."

"We don't deal in average," he reminded her. "The Hellmouth pulls only the worst." He stood up. "I'm gonna go join Buffy on patrol. We'll be back later and Willow should be back in about ten minutes. She's the dependable one and the computer one. Oz is doing his own thing right now because of his problem, and Buffy, well she's the Slayer so you just have to make allowances." He walked out, sliding off into the night to go be with his friends.

Di's shoulder's slumped. "Rupert, you never told me I would be the ultimate outsider," she said. She closed the window of her word processing program, getting on the net to do some searching.

Xander ran into the rest of the crew at Buffy's house, walking in to sit beside Willow. "Giles had to take a mental journey of healing," he said. "Though he didn't say it was about Ms. Calendar specifically." He leaned back as Buffy nodded, mouth full. "I have the number on her Hartford P.D. access card if you want to call, she's real open about letting us check up on her."

Willow leaned back from her plate of food. "That's a good sign though. And Giles, he trusted her. He called her in."

"I say we give her a chance," Oz said. He looked at Buffy. "She may be a nice change from Giles. Maybe a softer edge to the task."

"I'll try," Buffy said, "but I won't instantly like her. She feels weird to me."

"Well, that could be her Guardian powers," Willow suggested. "It's like having an extra source to draw from when you absolutely need it, but only if you're protecting. If she's one then she's good. I checked with some of the people online that are Wiccans, she's well known and highly respected. Matter of fact, she might even understand about you and Angel since her guy's a vamp too, but he's a nice one," she hurried on at the scowl.

"Andre," Xander said. "Looked him up earlier on the list Willow put online. He's about two hundred, good guy but not souled, never killed to feed. He's well respected and liked by the Gypsies and in New York for most of the eighties." He weathered Buffy's frown. "Hey, I checked so you don't have to. But she did say he's at home in Hartford."

"Which is a nice town," Willow added.

"She went to Yale," Oz noted, nudging Xander's report with her foot. "Anything else?"

"Yeah, she's a good woman," Xander said. "I can tell she's not here to harm us, she's not bad. When I left, she was doing the whole 'I'm upset because I'm not welcome here' thing in front of her computer."

Buffy finished her juice. "Whatever, but I'm still not going to trust her until she proves me wrong."

"Wrong thinking," Oz told her. "She can only prove you wrong if she's bad."

Buffy nodded. "That's what I meant." She picked up her plate, leaning back in her chair to finish eating.


Di watched Buffy fight from her position on top of a tombstone, making mental notes. When the Slayer walked over to her, she smiled and wiggled a hand in the air. "I want to work with you on some form problems you seem to be having." She hopped down. "When would be a good time?"

"Um, never?" she suggested, looking at the tear in her shirt. "Mom's going to kill me."

"No she won't, you'll just sew it back up." Buffy gave her a look that could only mean 'huh'. "Can't sew, huh?" She patted the younger woman's arm. "We can fix that too." She nodded toward her car, a very nice little sedan, very sporty, very fast, and very much illegal with some of the modifications it held. "Come on, I'll drive."

"I still have three cemeteries to do," Buffy told her coolly.

"You may but unless you're going to flash them all, I'd say you probably want a different shirt." She pointed at where the majority of a breast was now hanging out. "Come on, I'm sure you have some clothes stashed somewhere in the school."

They walked back to the car, Di flipping on the lights while waiting for her present charge to buckle up. "Like it? A friend in Dallas got it for me." She started the car, pulling slowly out into the street. "It's a former Police Interceptor." She glanced over and saw the blank look. "The cars that the cops use to chase the Ferrari's down the interstates." Buffy nodded. "So, tell me how you want to work this, Buffy," she said after five more minutes of silence, stopping the girl from getting out when she parked. "I'm here for a month so Giles can go recuperate. What do you need me to do?"

"Giles did the research stuff. He had the prophecies and things all memorized so he only needed the books on occasion." She turned to look at the older woman. "What's so special about you? Why did he pick you?"

"Because he knows I can handle anything that might come up, even if I'm not as knowledgeable about your role or those books inside. I'm well trained to be able to track and handle the bad guys, and more than able to stop them. If you'd like, you could see my personal files about my most recent case. It was in a high school in Oklahoma. It was about a Witch who was using her children to stay young and rich forever."

"Been there, done that," Buffy said, with a small sideways shrug. "Amy's mother's now a statue in the commons."

"Ah, but this one had been switching bodies since before the American Revolution."

"That's ... a long time. Didn't anyone notice?"

"No, her daughters died right after she switched usually, her old body having an accident. Then the new, teen, body would start all over again and attract a rich husband, who's only purpose was to give her a daughter so she could do it over."

"Is she dead?"

"Not real sure. Her old body was still living, in a mental institution actually, but it was reaching late thirties so she may not be able to have another daughter for a while, if at all, and I'm sure she won't get a good husband this time." Di smiled gently. "She's stuck for a while, even if she is still living, and the demons that were helping her probably aren't real pleased with her at the moment."

"So she's just stuck," Buffy finished with a smile. "That sounds cool. What else have you done?"

"Well, let's see. Want to hear about Aztec Gods, or different vamp species?"

"Um, there are different ones?"

"Oh, yeah, many different types. Of course I didn't know that until after I met Andre, but he showed me a lot." She pulled out a locket, showing her the small painting inside. "That's Andre."

Buffy smiled. "Gee, dark and handsome, just like mine was." Her smile faded as she let it go. "We're not bonding."

"Not necessary for your survival, but a little easing of the tension wouldn't hurt."

"Point," Buffy said. "Come on, let's go see what they've dug up for us."

She and Di got out, walking back inside, stopping when she heard the hiss. "Gas or snakes?" Di asked.

"Snakes," Buffy said, jogging to where the sound was. "Um, go find a really big empty fish tank or something. The Biology Python got loose. Eww! Get off!" she yelled, shaking her leg as the snake started to wrap around her.

"Willow," Di said as she walked into the library a moment later. "Go help Buffy corral the python, would you please?"

"Python?" Oz asked. "Peaches is loose?" He got up, patting Willow's shoulder as he passed. "On it."

He and Buffy came back a moment later with said snake in a big bag. "He got loose," Buffy said, face still wrinkled in disgust. "But the lab has no more mice."

Willow looked sad. "My Mortimer's gone?" She poked the bag. "Bad snake, eating my Mortimer. I was going to steal him and release him into the woods. With permission of course."

Oz walked the bag into the cage, setting it in there. "He'll be fine until tomorrow. Buffy wrote a note on the board."

"Yes," Xander shouted, standing up.

"Religious experience?" Oz asked, one side of his mouth twitching like he wanted to smile.

"No, I found it." Everyone looked confused. "*It*!" He handed Willow the book. "Tell me that's not now."

Willow read carefully. "Actually, it could be now or it could have been a hundred years ago." She passed it back. "But I'd guess now since cars were pretty rare back then."

Buffy took it from Xander, sitting down to read it. "What's a...Vor...plas...ic..nics demon?"

"Um, really sickening," Di said, sitting down with a shudder. "Really gross." She grabbed the book Willow handed to her, flipping through it until she came to the mention of one, handing it back. "That kind of gross, only with mental powers."

Willow read it and her face turned green. "Eww!" She handed it off to Buffy, who turned really pink. "Not eww?"

"No, very eww worthy," Buffy said, handing the book off to Oz, totally ignoring Xander, who was standing beside her now. "But it could be worse."

"Um, would dreams be worse," Di asked. "Of the plaguing you until you're ready to jump off a cliff just to make them stop variety?"

Xander nodded. "Yeah, that would be worse. Oz, the book?" he asked. He got it and looked, sitting down. "Um, would these dreams include really graphic content?" He looked up to see their temporary Watcher nodded. "Then we've got a problem, it's here."

"It's early?" Willow asked, typing it into her computer. "Why would a demon be early?"

"Watch running fast?" Xander suggested, putting down the book. He looked at Di. "I'll tell you about them sometime not now." She nodded. "Thanks."

"Hey, not a problem as long as they're not affecting you yet."

"No, they just started last night."

"Then he's not early," Willow said. "That would be on time." She looked at Buffy. "But the other bad guys would hide from him so he's not affected."

"Then why would Xander be affected," Xander asked.

"Hyena?" Oz suggested.

Di shook her head. "Giles told me about that, asked my advice, and no, that's not a factor. He has to be actively touched by the dark side to be affected. This sort of demon can actually be a life *saver* if none of the good guys are touched by demons in any way."

"So why Xander again?" Xander asked.

"Don't know, but we'll figure it out," Di told him. "Start by making a list of all the things that have touched you personally. Not the things you fought unless they possessed you too. Just the things that may have left a taint on you." He nodded, taking out some paper. "Willow, would you please do some research on this particular sort? They're fairly rare so we should be able to narrow it down and block him somehow from harming him. Buffy, be on the lookout for anything that looks like a six foot, snot-colored slug, but don't hurt it. Those things are almost impossible to kill but if they're mad, they can broadcast to everyone in town and the people would start on a killing spree." Buffy nodded, grabbing her jacket and pulling it on over her new shirt. "Oz," Di said, "I wanted to talk to you separately. I think I may have some books that might help." He nodded, sitting down next to her. "No, later. Maybe tomorrow? I'm sure if you felt safer, Willow or one of the others could come too though," she hurried on.

"You're not evil," Oz said, getting up to go back to his reading.

Xander handed over the list. "That's all I can think of." Di led him off to another table so they could talk quietly. "I mean really could think of."

"No demonic possessions? No near misses with the vampires and being almost eaten? None of that?" He shook his head. "Okay, let me think and read this, do some checking of my own. I may be wrong about the hyena part but I'm pretty sure I'm not."

"Oh, the love spell," Willow called. Xander groaned. "Would that do it?"

"Love spell?"

"One of the local witches was helping me get even with my girlfriend by supposedly allowing her to love only me so I could dump her, show her what it felt like, but everybody but her reacted."

Di shook her head. "No, wouldn't be it," she called. She pinched Xander's arm. "Don't do that again, it's easy to step over the line once and be stuck." He nodded, looking down. "I understand the sentiment," she said softly, "but it was very bad and could easily have marked you as evil."

"Is that it then? It marked me?"

"No, that wasn't this. That sort of mark wouldn't go deep enough. This would be something that would have possibly changed you fully over to the dark." She sat him down, looking and 'looking' him over. "Without doing some major magic around you, I'd say there's no logical reason for this to happen." He bit his lip, thinking. "But that means that it's probably one of three of them." She patted his shoulder, handing him back the list. "Willow, cross reference them with predators. There are only three of those, most of these demons are unable to control their emissions, but a few are just out using them to hunt."

Willow nodded, typing in the search string. "Got them." She turned her laptop around so it could be seen. "Which one?"

"I was thinking of a particular one." She scrolled down, pointing and clicking on one name. "That one." She read then looked at Xander, then back at Willow, who was frowning at the monitor. "Fit?" she asked quietly. Willow nodded so she went back to where Xander was sitting. "Hon," she said, sitting down next to him, "it's a predatory one we think. Tonight, I want you to record your dream for me. This hasn't gone that far yet and we can stop it, just not without some more information. And I promise the only one that will see it is me." He nodded, getting up. "You could stay and help if you liked."

"No thanks." He walked out, dropping the paper in his hand into the trash.

Willow looked toward the door when she heard it open but otherwise went back to her research. Which worried Di more than anything at the moment. If Giles had been telling the truth and those two had been friends since early childhood, then she was sure something was wrong now.


Xander woke up from another disturbing dream, sweating profusely and shaking. He took a moment to calm himself then did as Di asked, writing it down, or as much as he could remember. He got up, taking a shower, and headed off for another day at school. By the time he got there, he knew something was wrong, he could feel it. He looked around, and not seeing anything, started to walk faster, but the feeling something bad was going to happen stayed with him, even as he walked into the library. "Hey," he called. Di popped out of the office and he handed her the account of his dream, not mentioning what else was going on.

She sat down, looking from the paper to him and back then balled it up and threw it away. "Okay, that's gone so no one else could see it." She saw his confusion. "I memorized it and I'm sure you can't forget it so we're all fine here. No one else has to know the details, they aren't pertinent." She stood up as she saw Oz walk in, frowning as she walked out to meet the boy. He was breathing hard and sweating, leaning against the check-out desk, all of which was unlike the man she had seen yesterday and Giles had told her about. "Problems?"

"Yeah, big ones." He handed over a paper, nodding at Xander. "Not alone man, but it'll be fine."

Di read it and balled it up. "The rest don't need to know the exact details but they were incredibly similar." She nodded back toward her office, leaving the door open so she could hear if anyone walked in. "Okay guys. Your dreams are almost the same, but it's from two different viewpoints." They both shuddered. "So, what commonality do you share? That's how she's getting to you."

"She?" Xander asked.

"This one is female." She got up as the outer door opened, going out to meet the little balding man. "The Biology teacher?" she guessed.

"Yes, I believe you found my Peaches?" He smiled at Oz. "Did you capture him, Mr. Osbourne?"

Oz nodded. "After he ate all the experimental mice." He walked into the cage, grabbing the bag and looking down inside it. "Hey, Peaches, daddy's here," he told the snake, pulling it out.

The Biology teacher smiled, walking over to grab it and wrap his friend around him. "Oh, Peaches, how did you get out?" he cooed, walking out with her. "Thank you," he called as he walked out.

"No problem," Di called after him. She shuddered. "Not real fond of snakes." She and Oz headed for the office, finding Xander asleep on the couch. "We have one problem, Oz," she said quietly. "The females don't sleep when they're in heat, which apparently she is. She can broadcast to you at any time of the day or night." He nodded, sitting back down, accepting Xander's feet into his lap. "But we need to find out why she picked him. Your own problem would be enough to call out to her and make you susceptible, but it's not necessary if she's in heat. It works better, but it's not necessary."

"So, Xander's either got something he's not telling or it's just us that she wants." Di nodded. "How do we stop her?"

"We have to get a small silver stake into her heart, which is buried about a foot inside of her from any direction." She swallowed some of the tea in her glass. "There's also the problem of location. The easiest way of hitting it would be to send it in magically but she projects a null magic field. The only other tried and true method involves letting her possess one of you and then staking *him*." Oz shuddered. "Not my most pleasant option either. There's supposed to be a hack and slash method available but that's only if you can catch her in an unguarded moment and you about have to hit the right inch to knock her unconscious."

"But she doesn't sleep," Oz finished.

"No, she won't, so the only other way is to do it while her attention is focused elsewhere, like she's possessing one of you."

"Can't be me," Oz said, "silver would kill me."

"I know, but I doubt he'd be strong enough. So which option do you prefer?"

"I would almost rather be sacrificed to her," Xander said, sitting up some, smiling at Oz as he removed his feet. "So, we get me possessed how?"

"That may not work," Di told him. "You account wasn't from the... how do I put this delicately? These females don't carry their young, they implant them." Xander nodded slowly. "And I think she chose you."

"What's going on in here?" Snyder yelled as he walked in. "Dreams?" he sneered.

"Yes, dream research, I'm very involved in it," Di said. "Why, did you need some help in that area?" He scowled at her. "Next time knock, Principle Snyder, I'm not here to make your life easier."

He glared at the students, but neither of them moved. "Class," he reminded them.

"Free period," Oz said.

"Me too," Xander said. "Changed my schedule yesterday." He shrugged at the small growl. "I don't do mornings."

"Go sit in the lounge then. That's where *you're* supposed to be."

"Yay," Di said acidly. "I asked these two to help me with my research. I've given them permission to be in here, as has Mr. Giles. If you have a problem, I'm sure we can take it up with the school board."

Snyder hit the open door. "I will *not* be talked to by an employee, even an unpaid one."

"If I leave, that door gets locked," Di said calmly. "Per Mr. Giles' orders. I was asked to be here by the school board when he suggested me, and I will do my job to the best of my abilities, but I am not putting my actual life on hold while I do it. If you have a problem with me, I'd be glad to go with you to the school board, who will tell you I'm under their control, not yours. I'm not a teacher, nor am I a regular employee of this school. The only person who can say anything to me about how I do my job is the Superintendent and I believe he's in El Paso this week." She finished her glass of tea. "Was there another matter you wanted to discuss?" He stormed out and she turned to find both young men looking very impressed. "Dealt with an editor like him for almost three years," she told them. "Never let him see you sweat."

"So *that's* how you do it," Xander said, putting back on his cheerful persona. "Okay. Got to remember that."

"Ease up on the real you, kid," Di told him. "We really would like you."

"Maybe you," Xander countered. "But that's not the general opinion."

"I wouldn't mind," Oz said quietly. "Humor is good, but not now." He nudged the tense arm. "Be scared, I am."

"Yeah, I am too," Xander admitted. "And no offense, Di, but I really want Giles here right now."

"Hey, none taken. It's a natural thing to want your friends and family when things start to look bad. If I knew how to contact him, I would." She shrugged. "All he told me was that he would be out of contact and absolutely unreachable for the better part of the month but that he might visit the Watcher's Council near the end."

"So, why do all the bug things like Xander?" Oz asked, wincing at the groan. "Sorry, but the praying mantis then this? It's a bug thing."

Xander groaned again, holding his head. "Just don't tell the others," he begged. "I know what they'll say." He looked up to see Buffy in the doorway, the reason for the sudden quiet. "Hey, what's up? You get dreams too?"

She shook her head. "No, I got pulled out of class and told to come down and menace you three." She walked in, closing the door. "So, dreams, again?" she asked. "Same demon?"

"Female," Di said. "Unsleeping, very hard to get rid of without killing Oz."

"So, what are we doing about it?"

"Finding it might be good. Have you seen the snot-colored slug?" Xander asked, looking up, watching as Buffy shuddered. "Hey, here's a thought..." He stopped when Oz put a hand on his arm. "Sorry, majorly wigged here."

"S'okay," Oz said. "Not alone in that." He looked at Di. "So, what do we do?"

"We find it, that's always a good start. And since it doesn't need to sleep right now, it could be anywhere a six foot slug could be."

"This is Sunnydale," Buffy pointed out. "The options are limitless on that one. Wanna narrow the field?"

"Hmm, true," Di said, twisting the chair a little. "She has to eat. She's an herbivore by nature but will probably need some sort of protein additives right now. And if I remember right, it'll take about twenty pounds of greens to feed her daily."

"Okay, that I can do," Buffy said. "Look for places that sell lots of veggies at once."

"No, greens. Collard, mustard. Leafy things that she would normally find on the ground. Iceberg lettuce would be a poor substitute, but Romaine might do."

"Okay, so I go look for places selling lots of weeds?"

"It's actually food," Oz said. "It's a Southern thing mostly." He looked toward Di. "I want to take him home."

"I can understand that..." Di started.

"No!" Xander said, jumping up. "Safety in numbers. She can't get us in here." He started to pace around the office. "I don't care if you do want me to go home, I can't, I need to be *here*."

Oz nodded, just once, then stood up, hitting Xander. Then he watched his friend fall down unconscious. "I'm taking him home. You know where?" Di nodded at Buffy. "Okay, or get Willow to tell you. We'll be fine." He picked Xander up, heading for the back door.

Buffy watched them for a second then shrugged. "So, big green slug?"

"Yup," Di said. "Big green slug that can project bad things into people's heads." She smiled slightly. "Go find the demon, Buffy, let me worry about them; but tell Willow if you see her."

"Yup, can do that," she said, walking out. She met up with Willow in the common area, sitting beside her. "Where would I go look for greens, like mustard and stuff?"

"Um, food store?" Willow suggested, looking up. "Did you find them?"

"Yeah, and Oz had to knock Xander out because he was panicking." Willow frowned. "Sad, but true. He didn't want to leave the library, said it was safe in there."

"Nowhere is safe from it," Willow said as she passed over a piece of paper. "Pertinent details of what you're looking for. Though Di's suggestion of tracking its food is a good one."

"Then what?"

"Well, then we do it in." She patted the Slayer's arm. "That's your job."

Buffy nodded, heading for a door she knew was never guarded so she could sneak out.


Di knocked on Xander's door, walking in when he opened it. "Let me see," she said, removing the ice pack. "Nice bruise but it should go away soon." He closed the door behind her, following her in. "Oz, good. I had hoped you hadn't left him. Found something else out."

"What?" Xander asked, sitting down to look at her, narrowly missing his friend's leg. "Good or bad?"

"Bit of both," she admitted. "Bad is that she's stuck on you two. No others picked, which is also good because we don't have to worry about it in seventy months when the thing is done gestating."

"Good?" Oz prompted.

"Is that there is another way to kill it, but it's also part bad." She handed over the paper, watching blandly as they both read it. "As you can see, I'd rather not go that route with you two either."

"'Scuse me," Xander said, running up the stairs to be sick.

"Let me second that," Oz said, handing it back. "That is not an option."

"Unless you could get her to focus on someone you don't like, right?" she asked with a small smile. Oz nodded, grunting as the bathroom door opened. "You okay?" she called. The bathroom door shut again and they tried their hardest not to listen to Xander being sick.

"So, if that works, hypothetically, we could do something else to distract her?"

Di sat back, frowning. "Not too many things distract this slug. She has no eyes, no ears, no limbs. But, while she's doing this," she wiggled the paper, "she won't let you know it's her, she'll project an image of the one she's chosen to be her surrogate."

"So, theoretically, Xander's already infected?"

"Possibly, but I doubt it. See, she'll send out a test dream, see who she can get, then she'll select a few and focus on them. The dreams lead up to her coming in, usually leading them someplace else so she can get free and clear access. Now, she'll come in and do her part, then over the next three nights, she'll call her surrogate to her chosen one to fertilize her offspring."

"And if it hatches?" Xander asked, walking back down the stairs and sitting down next to Oz again.

"Then I'd imagine it wouldn't kill you. When it's born, it's only about six inches long and it'll come out by nearest orifice. You probably won't notice it at all because you're usually asleep. Within six hours of being born, the baby slug-slash-demon will leave it's surrogate and go hunting for food and shelter, and it'll stay there for almost a hundred years."

"So if I was, I wouldn't know?"

"You might gain some weight," Di offered. "The demons around here would definitely start to leave you alone. Otherwise, no. No change." She shrugged at the incredulous look. "Actually, you'll start to eat healthier, lots more fruits and vegetables, and you'll start to feel incredibly healthy because the thing will *protect* you."

"So the only really bad part is the being impregnated by the slug thing?" Xander asked, brow wrinkled. "Why do I doubt that?"

"Because as soon as Buffy noticed it, you'd be dead," Di told him. "It will broadcast, she will feel it. And she will do her duty, somehow."

"And what about Oz?"

"Only if she wants twins, in which case, it'll be reversed." Oz shuddered. "Sorry."

"Hey, understand. Not a big." He looked at Xander, memorizing his face. "We should leave, separately."

"It's too late for that," Willow said as she walked in. "She's got you. She can call you back."

Di started to look at Willow like she was trying to see through her. "Thanks for the info, now who are you?"

"I'm Oz's girlfriend," Willow said, pouting.

"Nope, she doesn't make that face," Xander said, standing up. "Are you her?"

"No," the not-Willow said, shifting to form a young woman with delicate pointed ears. "I'm not the demon." She smiled at Di. "Very good, Guardian. But I mean these two no harm."

"Then what do you mean them?" Di asked, relaxing. Even she could tell a messenger when she was faced with one. Even if you usually had to figure out the messages they were given because none of them actually said what they were trying to say. As a matter of fact, the very form she chose could be the message in this case, or it could be nothing.

"What will be is," the messenger said, disappearing into thin air.

"Damn," Di swore, staring at Xander. "Sit." He did. "How long have you been having these dreams?"

"Three days," he mumbled.

"And how often are you sleeping?" Oz asked, swatting him when there was no answer. "How often, Xander?"

"Twice a week or so," he admitted. He started to open his mouth to justify it to Oz but the older man just laid a hand across it.

"How do we fix this?" Oz asked calmly. "Since, from what the person said, he's already there."

"Disney truth?"


"Only you can decide that. The embryo, if left unfertilized becomes a different sort of demon, a cousin is about the closest description. Not many of them survive to birth."

Xander nodded, getting up and going into the kitchen. He was opening the bottle of lighter fluid when Oz took it from him, putting it down. "Need that," he said, trying to get it back but not winning. "Need that," he said a little louder."

"No you don't."

"Need that!" Xander said, slapping his friend across the face. Oz simply hugged him. "No, need that," he argued weakly.

"No, you'll be fine. I'll make sure of it."

"No, won't," Xander said, just a little too calmly. "Need that."

"No, Xander, you don't need that," Oz said into his ear. "You need other stuff but not that. Never that." He made the younger man look at him. "Never that," he repeated, nodding.

"Why me?" he asked, sounding just like a scared little kid.

"Because fate likes you. She wanted you to be a daddy."


"You don't have those parts. You'd still be a daddy."

"Like with Junior?"

"Yup, just like that movie." Oz eased his friend toward the table. "Di said you have a few days. Want to talk now?" The younger man shook his head. "No?"

"No, I'm a demon mommy. Doesn't take talking. Just lighter fluid."

"Xander, what did you dream last night," Oz said quietly. "Was it me or her?"

"You." He looked up, seeing the small amount of hope. "Why?"

"Because I dreamed about you too, no slugs in it." He brushed across the bruise he had put on his friend earlier. "I'm sorry about that."

"Needed to hurt me more," Xander said, looking back down at his stomach. "Why do giant bugs like me again?"

"Because you're very likable. They just see stuff we don't look for." He patted his friend's hand. "Now, go rest. I'll be up to talk to you in a few minutes."

"No. Sleep hurts."

"I know," Oz said, hugging him. "I felt it too."

"You did?" Xander asked, pulling back. Oz nodded. "Really?"

"Yup, hurt lots. That's what scared me this morning. Now go sleep. I'll be up soon."


"Has somebody new."


"Yup, caught her dreaming about him." Xander nodded, heading up to his room. Oz turned to find Di in the doorway. "Lighter fluid," he said.

"I heard. Nice save, kid." He nodded. "So, now what?"

"Now we need information. Lots of information."

"I'll call Andre tonight and see what's in my library." She smiled briefly then walked out.

Oz put his head down on the table, thinking about all he now knew and what it really meant. "Explains the blood," he whispered, getting up and heading up the stairs. He sat down in the chair beside Xander's bed, watching him sleep.


"Andre?" Di asked, juggling the phone and the hot plate she had just taken from the microwave. "No, snot-green. Yeah, them." She winced as she put the plate down, picking up a fork and eating. "What do I do about it?" she asked with her mouth full. "Really? How?" She nodded, making a note on the pad beside her. "Okay, want to send it to me? I'll get it by email."

Buffy knocked on Xander's door, frowning when she saw Oz through the window but no one answered. She read the sign that got propped in the window next to the door, glaring at it as she pounded again.

"Go away," Xander called. "You can't kill us."

"Bet me." She looked around, checking for a spare key. When she found it, she walked in, glaring at the two men. "Gee, not contagious after all?"

"Yup," Oz said, scratching his side. "Still am."

"But Di didn't say anything about..." She looked from him to Xander and back. "Okay, what did you do now?"

"Nothing," Xander mumbled, turning to lay down. "Need a nap."

"Just got up."

"Tired anyway."

"Sleep, I'm here," Oz said, patting his leg when it landed in his lap. "We're not fine but you shouldn't be here."

"Yes I should."

"Leave, Buffy," Xander said, not opening his eyes. "I don't want to be staked tonight."

"Whatever," Buffy said as she looked at them and shuddered when she caught on. "Just for tonight, we'll work on this more tomorrow. Just call when you're normal."

"Seventy-months," Oz told her. Buffy shook her head, walking out.

"Want to be Daddy one or two?" Oz asked.

"Mommy," Xander said.

"Can't be, no breasts."

Xander looked at the door and shook his head. "You're strange. Want to lock it?"

Oz nodded. "We should be alone."

Buffy walked back in, face scrunched up, reading the paper Willow had given her as she had run past toward her house, muttering about being late. "Are you going to..."

"What is the unfertilized like, Buffy?" Oz asked quietly.

"Very bad for you. It's acid based, tends to eat through the person carrying it. It's also a shorter gestation, only ten months, but it comes out about three feet long and about a foot around. Through the shortest distance, which is usually the stomach wall. So says the word of Willow."

"I liking the long term plan, how about you, Oz?" Xander asked.

"Very much." He patted the leg. "Buffy, are you upset?"

"Why, this isn't you." She shrugged. "And if you feel paternal towards it then I'd understand." Both men nodded. "Just do me a favor and *don't* tell me. Or Willow. She would kill you both." She left again, muttering to herself.

"Know that," Xander said. He looked up at his new best friend, whom he had bonded with through adversity over the afternoon. "I want to go do something stupid. Want to help?"

"Wow," Di said, walking in. "You guys pissed off Buffy."

"Yup," Oz said. "We were going to go have fun."

"Well, I have some good news for you both," she said, sitting down. "Not only is there a way to get rid of it, but it's fairly simple and something you guys probably know about. And this wasn't the prophecy that's been making the town too quiet. It's a different thing but we'll need you in top shape for it."

"Alcohol?" Oz guessed. Di nodded. "Could do that."

"So I suggest you pick a designated driver and go cure yourselves before you die. And no, I do not endorse underage drinking but this is an emergency situation." Xander got up first, heading up the stairs, Oz following after a few seconds. Di turned to look at Willow as she appeared in the kitchen. "Are you going to let him go?"

"He's no longer mine," Willow said softly. "I'm meant for another."

"So I noticed," she said dryly.

"They've been talking to me." Willow smiled, hugging Di then left. "I'll be in tomorrow," she called as she walked out.

Xander and Oz both walked down the stairs with a bag in hand, waving at Di before they left. She followed them as far as the door then watched them leave. "Have fun, boys, and be safe. We'll deal with the real prophecy tomorrow."


Oz walked into the cheesy motel, signing them in. "We're on leave," he told the cashier. "We'll come back later." He took the key, heading back out to his van and letting Xander out, the passenger's side door's inside handle being broken at the moment. "Come on, let's go get ready to have some fun."

"Why do I think this was an excuse to get us out of town for the night?" Xander asked.

"'Cause it was. She probably didn't want to tell us the real reason behind it." Oz led the way into the small room, shaking his head at the single bed. "We'll be unconscious," he justified at the small frown.

"Yup, hopefully. I really don't want to be a slug's mother."

"Never know, might be good for you."

"Or I could decide I like it, I'm strange like that," Xander said as he shut the door. "Want first or second shower?"

"Want the wet towel or second?" Oz asked. "I'll take the first, you have the wet towel tonight." He carried his bag into the bathroom, shutting the door as best he could, which left it open a crack. He unzipped the bag, laying his clothes out on the toilet lid so he could change and not get everything wet after he was done, and laid out one last thing, a small necklace Di had slipped him in the Library. He looked at it and smelled it, trying to figure out what it was for but it didn't register as anything other than a chain with a blue stone on it so he put it with his clothes. He started the water as he stripped, climbing in, grabbing the wall before he fell. He wet his hair down, bending forward to get the back as he poured some shampoo into his hand.

Xander knocked on the door. "I'll just take a minute," he warned, trying hard not to look at the body shadowed behind the flimsy white curtain as he used the facilities. He flushed, blushing at the small yell as all the cold water left for that split second, and ran out with a small, "Sorry," floating after him.

"Yes you will be," Oz called after his friend. He finished washing his hair, bending backwards to rinse and stretch his back, sore from the long drive. He shrugged as he smelled Xander at the door again, ignoring him. If he wanted to watch, then he could watch.


Di looked at Buffy as she walked into the library. "Didn't find Willow?"

"Nope, why?"

"Because the slug wasn't the prophecy." She slid over a paper, a print-out from the email Andre had sent her. "I was given this by a friend, who was looking for trouble to occur." She watched as Buffy sat down, seeing her worry. "Now you see why I sent the guys off to go have fun?"

"Because the thing is going to kill them?" she guessed.

"No, because this thing will take Xander and make him the sacrifice instead," Di said, tapping the paper. "How many people does that description fit?"

"A subdued predator hidden in the body of a virgin male? Could be any number of teenaged guys." Buffy looked up. "You're sure?"

"Yup, as sure as I can be. This person, whomever it is, will be sacrificing someone tomorrow night and if Xander's here, he'll be it. We just have to keep him away."

"So, why send him tonight?"

"Desperate plan to fix the situation."


"Reread the description," Di said. Buffy did and shrugged. "I think a night in LA should fix that for him. Or it will if I'm any judge of character."

"Okay, so you sent Xander off to have sex so he wouldn't get eaten by the demon?"

"Not eaten, taken as a gift. This sacrifice is a living gift, one that will appease the demon so it will grant the person giving it a lot of power." She opened a book to a point she had marked earlier, handing it over. She watched as Buffy gently handled the pages, not really touching them as she turned them. "Get it now?"

"Demons are really kinky and it wants Xander to play with so you sent him to go play in hopes that the demon won't want him anymore?"

Di thought for a second then nodded. "Yup, just about. Do you have problems with this?"

"No, but why try to find Willow?"

"Because I'll need another witch to help close the portal and it'll take something she might be willing to give." Buffy started to look confused again but she shook her head. "Don't worry about it. Your job is to save the sacrifice. That's it. Distraction by saving the gift."

The Slayer nodded. "If you say so, but I'm able to do more."

"Can you cast?" Buffy shook her head. "That's the only other job."

"Ohh!" Buffy said, jumping as a thought hit her. "Amy! She's a witch! She's been teaching Willow."

"Can you get in contact with her?"

"Yup, let me call." Buffy got up, heading into the office, leaving Di to work on her battle plans, something she had had a bit too much experience with recently.


Oz watched his friend from across the floor, ignoring the person he was moving against to keep track of him. He flinched at the feeling of lips against his throat, pulling back to look at the girl and shaking his head. She pouted and tried to yell over the techno music enveloping them but he didn't understand a word. He just walked away, going over to where Xander was getting very happy in his drunkenness. "Hey," he shouted in the younger man's ear. "Fun?"

"Very," Xander shouted back, heading nodding in time to the heavy beat. Then it started moving side to side, and pretty soon his whole body was moving again. He grinned as Oz fell in step, letting the women around them dance with them both. They ended up facing each other again a few minutes later, Oz raising an eyebrow at Xander's pout. "Want to play," Xander shouted.

Oz nodded, grabbing one of his hands and leading him outside. "Play?" he asked, wiggling a finger in his left ear, hoping to stop the ringing. "Where would you like to play?"

"That bar on the corner," Xander said, heading for it, pulling Oz. "Some really interesting looking people were heading down there. He felt his friend hesitating so tugged once to make him catch up. "Come on, they won't hurt us." He paid their cover, smiling at the man guarding the door.

Oz's swallow as they walked down the stairs was audible to Xander, who was still happy. He turned to his friend after noticing the whips and restraints decorating one wall. "We are in the *wrong* place, Xander, let's go find a more 'us' activity."

Xander shook his head, heading up to the bar. "Hi," he said, smiling at the man behind it.

"What can I do for you?" he asked, sitting a napkin down in front of them. "Are you here for the special tonight?"

"Maybe," Xander said. "What's going on?"

"A very nummy virgin scene," the bartender said. "An initiation ritual."

Oz shook his head. "Not really." He looked at his friend, then at where he was looking, his eyes becoming stuck on the sight as a man sat on the stage, a naked man beside him on the floor. "Xander," he whispered, tugging on his arm.

"Oh, hey, show," he said, turning around to watch. He hummed quietly, sipping the beer that appeared in front of him. "Thanks."

"The guy at the end of the bar thought you might like it," the bartender whispered. "Just be really quiet." He headed back down the bar, going to serve someone else.

Oz's eyes opened as wide as they could as the naked man laid across the sitting man's lap, spreading himself open for his attention, and the sitting man picked up a bottle and squeezed some out on his hand. He nudged his friend, who nudged back. But they both were stuck on the sight of the man on the stage preparing the other one. Pretty soon two fingers were in the prone man's body, and he started to moan.

"Who will be the first to break in my new possession?" the man doing the preparation called. Some guy at a table close to the stage raised his hand, standing up and heading up to join them.

The boys watched in amazement as the man from the audience slid into the man laying across the lap, their mouths about hanging open, matching bulges in their pants as the sitting man and the man on top kissed hard and fast.

Xander pulled his eyes away as all three men groaned, gulping the cool beer before realizing what it was he was drinking. "Home?" he whispered to his friend.

"Yup," Oz agreed. He waved the bartender over. "How much?"

"It was a gift but surely you two aren't leaving," he said with a small pout. "It's not often we get *new* people here." He watched as both men moved closer to each other, taking in their obvious conditions. "Never mind guys, I can understand the need to take care of that in private. Some people have that exclusive thing going." He winked at Xander. "Take good care of your boy." He walked away.

Oz followed Xander out the door, stopping the first cab they saw. "Motel?" he asked.

"Very," Xander said then shook his head. "I meant please."

Oz pulled out his key. "Here please."

"Fare up front," the cabbie said, pushing her hat back. "Twelve bucks."

Oz paid and they were off, the young men sitting as far away from each other as they could. "We were in the wrong place," Oz said finally. Xander simply nodded. "But it was funny that he thought you controlled me."

"I can be dominant," Xander said quietly. "I'm not a doormat."

"No, you're not," Oz agreed. He waited until they were inside their room to add more. "I can see it actually. I don't like to always lead."

"I would like to for once," Xander agreed as he locked the door behind them. "So."

"So." Oz looked around, trying hard not to look directly at the bed, but it was the focal point of the room. "Want the bathroom first or second?" he asked.

"First," Xander said, hurrying in there and closing the door as much as he could. "No peeking," he called.

"Whatever." Oz lay down on the bed, trying to relax and let his mind not settle on what they had seen earlier but the soft noises from the bathroom were about to make him explode where he lay. He closed his eyes, trying hard to find his center of calm to relieve his own erection before it got a life of it's own and went in there. "Xander," he whispered."So unfair."

Xander blinked as he heard his name, the stroking hand slowing down. He closed his eyes and in his mind the picture from earlier changed. Now it was him on the chair, Oz beside him. It was Oz that was across his lap, ass sticking up and opening for him. The hand on him sped up, his lips spilling his thoughts without his permission. It was Oz who stood up, looking down at him when he asked for volunteers and said one word, 'you' as he sat down in his lap. Xander whimpered, coming hard as the Oz in his mind sank down onto his suddenly bare body, holding him close as he shuddered.

Oz smelled the cum his friend had released and his own desire surged, the quiet words coming from the soft lips in the next room sending him over the edge as well. "Xander," he murmured, closing his eyes to recuperate until he could have the bathroom.

Xander walked out, blinking as he saw his friend wantonly sprawled on the bed, the wet spot gracing his front telling him all he needed to know. He seemed to drift over to the bed, their clothes seemed to melt away, and they were cuddled together before any version of sense came back to him. "No," he whispered. "Can't do this to him."

"Not," Oz said, opening his eyes to look at him. "Though, the almost asleep look you had when you pulled off my clothes was priceless." He brushed a finger over the pinkening cheeks. "You saw us?" he asked, needing to know.

"I saw us," Xander agreed. "You on my lap."

"That's what I saw too," Oz said, kissing his friend. "Tell me no and I back off," he said at the stiffening body.

"I'm not real familiar with this stuff."

"Neither am I but I've read."

"So, how?"

"Well, first, relax." The hand that had been brushing over a cheek went down to the tense arm. "Know I would never hurt you."

"I know," Xander agreed. "But I'm guessing that would hurt no matter how careful you were."

"Only for the first few seconds," Oz assured him. "From what I've read, I just have to stretch you really well."


"Yes, you. You can do me later, after we've figured it out."

"Okay, reasonable, you have all the knowledge here." Xander flipped onto his stomach. "Like this?"

"Nope, side, and we need slippery stuff."

"Conditioner or soap?"

"Question, how would you get it out?"

"Um, one of us runs to the front desk and asks for Vaseline or something?"

"Hmm, almost like the conditioner idea better." Oz got up, heading for his little bag. He came back with a small bottle of scented oil, what he wore instead of cologne. "This work?" he asked, handing it over.

"Should," Xander whispered after testing a drop of it between his fingers. "What else do we need?"

"Depends." Xander looked up at him, handing back the bottle. "Condom?"

"I'm clean," Xander assured. "And couldn't be any other way."

"So am I, I'm tested regularly because of some sophomore naughtiness." Oz lay back down, stroking down the retensing back. "Relax," he told him. "Or I'll stop."

"No," Xander whispered, laying his head down on his arms. "Don't stop. That's nice."

"How drunk are you?"

"Two beers. Not impaired."

"Just checking." Oz leaned down, tasting the skin under his hand. "Hmm, nice," he said, doing it again, this time dragging his tongue all over the back. The bottle of oil was put aside as he got into the mood to explore this new thing, new person. He made it all the way from the back of his friend's neck to the bottom of his knees before heading back up, stopping to nip at a firm buttock that was spread slightly. "Okay?" he asked. Xander nodded, spreading his legs a little more, his flush starting to come back. "You sure?"

"Yup, liked it so far," Xander said, turning his head to look at his friend, shifting one leg so it was hanging off the bed and Oz had absolute access to anywhere on him. "Better?"

"Were fine before," Oz told him, moving closer to the rear pointing up at him. He grabbed the bottle of oil, letting a few drops coat one finger, which he used to tease the dark area between the tight cheeks. "Relax," he reminded.

"Am," Xander grunted, pushing back. "Tease."

"I could," Oz warned. Xander gave him a dirty look. "But I won't." The younger man's head turned again so he let a little more oil drip out, letting it run down his finger to the hole he was going to open next. As the oil dripped, he slowly pushed his finger through the spasming opening, watching as some of the fluid ran down inside. He put the bottle aside, wiggling his finger a little where it lay. "How's that feel?"

"Really good," Xander admitted, pushing back against the finger. "Could you try more?" he asked. The finger in him pushed in a little more and his eyes went closed. "Thank you."

Oz nodded, working the oil back and forth through the little flaps of tissue, then around the walls. "I'm going to switch to my thumb," he warned, doing so. He heard the little gasp so stopped.

"No, more," Xander panted. "Really starting to like this."

The older teen nodded, using his thumb like he had his finger then, not telling him, switched to two fingers which got a loud moan. "I'm guessing it's all good?" he asked.

"Shut up, more," Xander said, wiggling his hips to get them deeper.

Oz tried to wiggle the fingers apart but the muscles surrounding them were too tight. "Relax," he reminded, getting them to move just a fraction of an inch now. Xander had his eyes closed, his whole body vibrating in time with his fingers. "You okay?"

"Very good," Xander mumbled, looking back. "Can we try?" he asked. "Am I ready?"

Oz looked at the hole he was playing in then at his own cock, which looked bigger than his fingers were together. "I'm bigger than that," he said. He tried to move his fingers apart more but they wouldn't budge. "Can't go farther."

"Just push in slowly," Xander told him, going up to his knees. "Please?"

"First times should always been seen," Oz said, pulling his fingers out and patting a cheek. "On your side or your back." The younger man obediently flipped over, looking up at his friend's face. "You're sure?" he asked one last time. "If I start, it'll probably hurt for a few seconds."

"If it gets too bad, I'll tell you and you'll pause," Xander reasoned. "Please? This is cruel to me." He spread his legs, wrapping them around his friend's waist.

"No, on my shoulders," Oz told him, putting them up there. He leaned forward, positioning himself where he needed to go. "Coming in," he warned, starting to push. He stopped when he saw the flash of pain. "No?"

"No, more. Just have to get through that part."

"True, but this is the big part." The older man pushed against the opening again, closing his eyes as he felt it start to give way so he wouldn't have to see the momentary pain he was causing.

"Look at me," Xander whispered, reaching up to rub over the arm holding him up. "Please? Need to see your eyes."

Oz opened his eyes, looking down just as he breeched the opening, both of them gasping at the feeling of him starting to slide inside. He paused to savor it, working his way a little farther in after a few seconds. He savored each new depth to his friend's body, his whole mind opened by the sensations of being in someplace so tight and new. "Tight," he whispered, pulling back to take that all important first stroke. "Ready?"

"Yup," Xander panted with a grin. "But I'm so gonna have you later."

"If you'd like," Oz agreed, pushing slowly back in, only to be met by the hips pushing back. "Okay," he whispered, starting to pick up the pace when he saw the approval and happiness in the expressive dark eyes. "Faster?"

"Yup, please." Xander wiggled off him, sitting up to kiss him. "But I want to try something too." He went back to his knees, wiggling his tight butt at his friend and now lover. "Wanna try it this way."

Oz shrugged, sliding slowly back in, slowing down farther as he felt himself sink in deeper. "Like this," he admitted. He pulled back, going a little faster, a little harder this time, winding himself up to really give him a good ride.

"Oww," Xander complained. "Gentler on my virgin hiney." He looked over his shoulder. "Not so hard."

"Sorry," Oz said, slowing down. "Don't want to hurt you."

"You weren't, it was just a little much. Little stinging and burning when you went that hard."

"Okay." The older man added a little push up at the end, feeling a small bump in the channel, at which point Xander screamed into the pillow, burying his head under it, as his whole body vibrated in pleasure. So he did it again, wanting to see what would happen. What did happen was Xander going over into his orgasm, his muscles clamping him so tightly he couldn't move. He rested against the firm back, placing little kisses on it, waiting until his friend was back down to simply panting. "Okay for me to do more?"

"Please," Xander said hoarsely. "Now?"

"Yup." Oz straightened up, pushing back into the now looser hole, working his way back up to a pleasurable speed for him, grunting as he rode his friend hard. He came with a small growl, resisting the urge to bite by the slimmest of margins as he went back using his friend as a mattress. "Think we like this?" he asked when he was capable of coherent speech.

"Very," Xander said. "Or at least I do. This may have changed me for good."

"Hey, I'm there," Oz said. He pulled out, wincing at the small grunt and the few little traces of blood. "Um, bleeding?"

"Probably just a little bit where you opened me. Like a girl when you pop her cherry."

"Have had those, you didn't."

"But still probably the same," Xander said, flipping over. He pulled his friend down to hold him, stroking over his back. "I'm fine, little sore and feeling really open and vulnerable right now, but essentially the same Xander." Oz nodded. "But I seem to have this problem," he said, putting his friend's hand down on his hard cock. "That last push of yours seems to have done it to me."

"You could fix that," Oz suggested, kissing him lightly before rolling onto his stomach. "Want to experience anything that makes a man scream like that."

Xander grabbed the bottle of oil, following exactly what Oz did to him, working in first one finger, then a thumb, then two, but just barely, raptly watching his own actions. Oz was making little whimpering noises under him, making him worry. "You okay?" he asked, using his free hand to stroke up and down the tense back as far as he could reach. Oz nodded. "You're sure?"

"Just talk to me. I need to hear a voice."

"Sorry, was watching my fingers. This is the *most* amazing thing I've seen since my first magic show." He grinned at the small dirty look his friend sent him. "It is," he said. "My fingers are in you, man, and you're opening to accept me into your body." He pulled out his fingers, grinning at the heady feeling that rushed through him at the small moan of loss. "See? Your body craves me."

"Does," Oz agreed. "Start to push in, Xander." He turned his head back to lay on his arms, biting his wrist to muffle his moans as the thick head started to breech him. "Slowly," he muttered through his flesh as the burning feeling increased. The cock pushing into him slowed down just as it popped through and Xander made the most amazing sound, like Oz had just gifted him with the greatest present in the world. "Please," he moaned, pushing back.

"Yeah," Xander sighed, "push back onto me, Oz," he whispered, leaning down to get next to one of the older man's ears. "Let me see you swallow me." He smiled at the small shudder that ran through his friend but the virgin hole pushed back, swallowing more of him. "Yeah, that's it. Show me you want me." He pushed in a little, meeting the ass cheeks with his hips. "Oh, yeah," he moaned, closing his eyes as he took the first pulled out and hard push back in. "Like this lots, almost most as much as I did you in me."

"Shh," Oz said, getting up to his knees and pushing back. "More," he demanded.

"My turn," Xander told him, pushing his friend's head down as he started to ride him again, going harder like he had been asked for. When the older man started to make the whimpering noise again, he added a little spank, earning a little jump and his cock sank deeper, scaring them both out of their semi-tranced states. "Yeah?" Xander asked.

"No spanking," Oz told him. "Just drive."

Xander grinned, leaning forward to grab his friend's shoulders as he started to pound into him. "Speaking of driving," he said. "If you're too sore, want me too?"

"We'll call if I'm that sore," Oz told him, taking it and loving it, his whole body moving with each movement of Xander's, his moans starting to sound more and more like howls with each second, his whole body arching as he came, head thrown back, eyes shut, a true howl splitting the silence of the air. He felt the younger man's come fill him and smiled, laying back down to rest his now very tired body. "Sleep," he murmured.

"Let me pull out of you and I'll be your pillow," Xander offered, slowly extracting himself. "No blood," he said happily, flopping down to the mattress and sighing as he was covered by his lover's sweaty body. "We're messy," he declared.

"And noisy but I'm too tired to care." Oz closed his eyes, rubbing his head to settle his hair so he could sleep. "Nap," he said firmly. "Or none in the morning."

Xander's grin was still on his face when he fell asleep.


Di hung up the phone in Giles' apartment, shaking her head. "Okay, guys," she said, smiling. "At least that part worked well enough." She finished buttoning her shirt up to just below her spandex covered breasts and headed down to fix breakfast. Buffy was sitting down there waiting on her. "Didn't know you had a key," she noted. "Oh, and the guys are staying in LA until later. Hopefully they won't be back by tonight."

"We have another problem," Buffy said, shifting to watch her present mentor cook. "Got some info last night after you went home. Seems the person helping the person giving the gift is ..." She coughed, holding her stomach.

"Angel," Di suggested as she sat down beside her. Buffy nodded, leaning a little closer at her gentle pat to her shoulder. "Is he planning on offering another sacrifice?"

"Not that I know of, but he's definitely helping. One of the vamps I got last night sneered at me that he was going to offer me as a gift too." Buffy's head went up, chin held high. "I checked his usual hiding place this morning and he wasn't there. He probably won't be until after the ceremony's done."

"So we have a second enemy, with a probable threat to you, and we still don't know who's offering someone to the demon or who it may be?" Di thought for a second. "Well, predatory and teen males is almost the same word. It'd have to be someone that really wanted the power desperately, that's willing to sacrifice his own humanity and possibly his soul to the demon. He's probably got a little power instead of none or a lot, that's who usually seems to do these things, the ones that got a little gift but didn't get enough to satisfy them. They've tasted power and want more."

"That could be Amy then," Buffy noted. Di shook her head. "No?"

"No, Amy has all the power she wants and can handle. She knows what she can do and how far she can push it. She's very well trained actually, and people like that don't do more than occasionally wish for more power." Di got up, heading back to making herself breakfast. "Anybody else?"

"Um, an old problem of Giles," Buffy said, "but I think we kicked his butt back to his mother's lap, crying the whole way about us not playing fair."

"Huh?" Di called.

"Ethan Rayne."

"Heard of him, scumbag extraoridnare." Di walked out eating a egg biscuit. "S'not him," she said, swallowing quickly. "He'd make a deal like this, but he's not here. I'd feel him." She sat down again. "Any other candidates?"

"One," Buffy said slowly. "But it's an iffy." Di nodded for her to go on. "Well, we have this one kid on campus that really acts bad, you know, and he's always bragging about how he used to beat up on Xander." Buffy pulled a foot up under her. "I'm thinkin' him, but he's not into the whole non-physical powertrip thing."

"Probably not him but you could ask him later," the older woman suggested, wiping off her hands and standing up. "If we don't find the who, we have to find the place."

Buffy nodded. "Clear choice is the park, no interference from unnatural things like cars."

"Not necessary for this."

"So, could be in a big, closed in space?"

"Could be in someplace as small as the main part of the library," Di told her. "Demons want room but a big space might be seen as too indefensible. This is an intimate act between the person offering the gift and the demon. I'd say smaller was better unless it was the gifter's space."

"So, maybe Angelus is using his hidey-hole for it. Or the mansion."

"Could be. Have you checked in there recently?"

"Mansion? Yeah, I did. Right after dawn. No one was home."

"Hmm, so we just have to find them before they do it." Di shrugged, pulling Buffy up. "We'll deal, it's not the end of the world."

"This time."


Oz rolled over, looking at Xander after he had hung up the phone. He saw the wince of pain as the younger man rolled over, and felt sympathy but he was pretty sure he was feeling just a little worse at the second. One brown eye opened up to look at him. "Hey," he said softly.

"Sore," Xander whispered, licking his dry lips. "You?"

"Yup. Pretty muchly." Oz scooted back some so the younger man could sit up. "You okay with last night?"

"Yeah, I am," Xander said, rolling onto his side so they could talk. "I liked it, Oz, I really did. Even with the body numbing pain that's shooting fire out of my hole right now."

"Want me to look?"

"Only if you promise not to stick anything inside it bigger than a finger?" Xander asked with a small grin.

"I'll warn if I do," Oz told him. The younger man flipped onto his stomach, putting his head back down in his pillow so he didn't have to watch as Oz moved behind him again. Oz spread the pinkened cheeks gently, not sure how he had done that to him, and looked at the winking opening. "Cute trick."

"Thanks, but not on purpose," Xander whispered. "Reaction to cool air."

Oz leaned down, blowing lightly across the stretched tissue, watching it spasm some more. "Yup, is," he noted. He licked his index finger and worked it inside his friend's body, searching around the smooth walls for a sign that something was wrong. "Um, not sure if I found something," he said. He moved so he and Xander were face to crotch. "Check me and see if you find something there."

"Where?" Xander asked, rolling some to make the task easier. He felt where the finger in him was tapping so licked his finger and stuck it into his friend's body. "Nope," he said.

"Wrong direction, go up."

Xander wiggled his finger that way, searching for something unusual. "Nothing," he said, pulling his finger back out and kissing the hip his head was now resting on. "All feel the same. Springy soft muscle."

"Then I did something really bad to you," Oz said, pulling out to rest on his friend's hip. "You've got a little tear."

"So, the blood?" Oz nodded. "Is it a bad or a really bad or a 'should go jump off a building so I don't have to tell a doctor about it' bad?"

"It's a normal bad. From what I read, it happens sometimes. It means I was too quick into you."

"And I do what?"

"Personally?" Xander nodded. "I wouldn't want to use it anytime soon. Liquid diet maybe."

"Hey, Slimfast is a good meal. And if we can hit Walmart, they've got it on sale this week." Oz nodded. "So, we heading?"

"Not yet. Don't think I can sit," Oz admitted. He looked at the body he was resting on. "You're nice," he said finally.

"Um, thanks," Xander said, blushing slightly. "I think you're nice too. And very pretty, um, handsome. Sorry."

"Hey, was thinkin' the same thing."

Xander started to laugh, shaking hard. "Do ... you ... think other guys...have this problem?" he asked when he could talk. Oz nodded, giving him a small hint of smile. "Okay, just checking. Didn't want to be abnormal again."

"Nope, normal." Oz took a smell of the body under his head, and it started him on the road to getting hard again. "Sorry," he said, pulling his hips away from his friend's face.

"Hey, not a problem," Xander said. "Yell if I get one too." He kissed the hardening flesh, then being curious, took a small lick of it, earning a moan. "Tastes good," he murmured, taking another one.

"Xaaaannnnddddeeeerrrrr," Oz moaned.

"Huh? Oh, want me to stop?" Oz waved down at his body. "Thanks. Really want to figure this out."

"Hey, my body es su body," he offered.

Xander grinned, then went back to his tasting, licking everything he could reach, and when that wasn't enough, he pushed Oz onto his back and found all new areas to taste, pulling him into the middle of the bed before he fell off. "Careful," he whispered into the softly furred balls he was nibbling on. "Don't fall." He went back to his experimenting, making his way back to the part of his friend that he had used the night before. He looked up after the first taste, licking his tongue off against his lips. "That oil tastes funny." Oz started to laugh. "Well, it does." He grinned, going back to what he had been doing, working his way back up to the now hard cock. "Hmm, Ozscicle," he murmured, licking up and down it.

"Swallow," Oz groaned, pushing up into the tongue.

"Huh?" Xander asked, looking up. His head was pushed back down. "But I was licking. Did you want something else?"

"Try more," Oz said. "Liked that but not enough." He felt the nod then almost shot off the bed when he felt the teeth start to bite. "NOT THAT!"

"Sorry." Xander looked, up and gave a little shrug. "Really sorry."

"Okay, just no biting."

"Hey, I think I can do that." Xander's head went back down and he concentrated on the deflated head, licking it in little circles, ending up trying to get his tongue inside the little slit in the center. "Won't fit," he said into the flesh. "Got to find something else to do." He closed his eyes for a second, calling up all he remembered from the last porn video he had stolen off his father, and decided to try tasting the whole head. He glanced up at the groan, but Oz had his eyes closed so he licked and sucked on the head like it was a nipple while one of his hands came up to play with the shaft. The sweet moan of pleasure sent thrills up his back so he tried to take in more, eventually getting about halfway down the hard length. He worked his way back up, going back down to try and take in more, his free hand playing with the soft sac he had sucked and nibbled earlier. When the panting started, he tried to see if he could use his tongue still, and when that worked, he got a mouth full of salty, Oz-tasting stuff. He sat up, rolling it around in his mouth for a second before swallowing. "Not bad," he said. "Could handle that."

Oz's eyes closed again and he simply shook his head.


Di closed and locked the library's door behind her, heading out to her car. It was about three hours from sunset and Buffy had arranged to meet her beside it. The blonde was sitting on her hood, chewing her gum, and again cleaning her nails - this time with a small stake. "Just don't dent it," she said, going to the driver's side door. "Mark would yell."

"Mark? Thought your guy's name was Andre," Buffy asked as she got in.

"It is, Mark is a very old and dear friend that I helped take down an Aztec God with a few years back. He got me the car." Di started the engine, buckling up. "Okay, so did you find out who?"

"Nope, not anyone in the school from what I could see."

"Then we find the place."

"Park, like I thought. Amy had me guard the bathroom in the gym at lunch so she could go travel and find the prepared area."

"Hmm, smart girl." Di backed out of her space, heading for the park. "The big one?"

"Nope, little one. Turn left at the next sign." Di did so. "Okay, so let's lay it out here. We have my ex, soulless evil creature that he is right now. We have one person wanting a demon really badly at the moment and who will have to have a virginal gift to give to said creepy-creature, and we have no Willow. She wasn't in school today."

"Willow's suddenly found a higher purpose for a few days," Di said, "but I had hoped she wasn't gone yet."


"Let's just say she was called to do something and that's where she is, okay?"

"Yup, fine. When did you find this out?"

"Right before I sent you to look for her. That's why I thought she still might be here."

"Oh, okay. So, um, could we maybe be on the wrong track? Is there a way to fake a virgin? I've heard girls talking about being able to."

"The physical virginity would be necessary," Di noted, pulling up in front of the small park. "Here?"

"Yup, here. Little ways through the trees." She pointed at a path. "That way."

"Okay, so what else do we need to know?"

"Is there a way whomever could fake it?"

"Yeah, actually, there is. See, there's an old saying, if there's enough will, there's a way if you're blessed and strong enough. One of my friends from school, right before her wedding, found out that her husband's heart was set on breaking her in, literally, on their wedding night. So she sat down and wrote out a spell. Of course, she did something wrong and ended up at the hospital because he had torn her when he tried to get in, but hey, the price she paid for it." Di shuddered. "Seems the spell created a new hymen, but it also closed her very tightly. The doctor ended up having to cut it to release her." Both women shuddered. "So, yes, there's a way," Di said, getting out, "but I'd hate to be that person."

"Me too," Buffy said, nodding. She got out, standing beside the car. "We charging in?"

"Yup, just let me pull out some stuff." Di pulled a small zipped case from inside her purse, putting on her magically charged jewelry in case she needed it, and put the pouch in her pocket. "Okay, let's go." She headed down the path, the Slayer behind her. "Good thing the boys aren't here."

"Yup," Buffy said.

Xander pointed at the park they had just passed. "Hey, that's Di's car. I noticed it yesterday." Oz turned the van around, pulling up beside it. "Don't see them though. You?"

"Nope." He pointed toward the trees. "Seems to be something going on over there."

"So we go help," Xander said, getting out. Oz shut off the van, sliding down and meeting him in front of the car. "Cold, "the younger man said, touching their temporary watcher's hood. Oz nodded so they headed off down the path. Until the things jumped out at them, turning out to be vamps out a little early since it was only dusk.

Angelus walked out of the bushes, smiling at the two men that had been captured with little fuss, once they had been knocked down from behind. "Well, what do we have here?" he asked, walking up to them. "Slayer's friends. A good offering to the demon, especially since I don't want anything." He nodded for his minions to take them and head for the clearing.

Di looked up as she heard footsteps, groaning at what she saw. "He doesn't listen, does he?" she whispered to Buffy, who shook her head. They were hiding in the bushes, waiting for whomever it was to show up.

Buffy grabbed Di's arm, hanging on with all her strength. "Angelus," she whispered.

"Yes I am," he called. "And I know you're there, might as well come out. Though I wouldn't mind a good chase." Buffy shook Di's hand off and walked out. "The other one too," he said, sounding very bored. When Di didn't walk out, he sent a few vamps in to get her, but they came flying back out, whimpering in pain.

Di walked out, glowing brightly. "Why not," she said, smiling at Angelus. "Want to leave now or later?" He laughed. "Hey, your choice."

"No, the only one here is to surrender or be lunch." Angelus turned, looking at the small hooded figure walking toward the dug circle on the ground. "You called?" he asked. The figure nodded, pointing at a spot so he walked over there, having his hostages drug behind him. All but Buffy, who everyone gave a wide berth and just pushed away when she tried to get her friends.

"Why have you called me *this* time," a bored voice boomed, forming as a cloud of mist in the circle.

"We wish to give you an offering," the figure said, pushing back his hood to reveal himself as Giles. "I wish no boon, just an offering."

The mist laughed. "Bring it on then."

"Now," Di hissed at Buffy, nodding at Angelus.

Buffy got a momentary sad look but walked up behind him, kicking her former boyfriend into the circle. "Later." She turned to the other vamps. "Going," she said, kicking the one holding Oz, "going," the one holding Xander was thrown, "gone," she said, kicking another one in.

"These are not fit offerings," the voice said. "Though one may be very tasty. I need virginal flesh to live." Everyone shuddered and the mist formed into a demon, who had small horns and light tan skin, about the same color as the light brown M&M. "Why have you given me these unworthy offerings, sorcerer? Do you wish my displeasure?"

"No, I wish you to have them and another," he said, motioning another cloaked figure out. "She is for you, and she has consented freely so she may save her friend's lives." The figure walked into the circle. "You may have her, as long as you take the dark one."

The demon considered the person he could see that the others could not. "She is to my liking."

Oz got it first. "Willow," he whispered. "Willow! No!" Xander held him back, but he struggled to get to her.

"I will bring her back in a few days," the demon said smugly. "Unharmed for the most part." He looked at the sorcerer. "You should tell them next time." Everyone and everything in the circle disappeared, Oz falling to his knees in the dirt.

Giles walked over, looking down at his student. "Oz, she came to me and he can't keep her because she went willingly." Oz stared coldly up at him. "That's why she didn't tell you."

Di swallowed. "I had no idea, Rupert. Not that it was this."

"Willow," Rupert corrected gently. "But I am leaving. Until Willow comes back in twelve days time. Can you handle them?"

"Yes," she agreed, hugging Buffy as she walked into her side. "But you have a hell of an explanation to give."

"Ask Buffy," he said, walking away, putting back up his hood as he walked.

Buffy cleared her throat. "He found a prophecy, he and Will did, saying Angelus was going to open a portal to Hell and bring everyone out." She looked up at Di then down at Oz. "I had no idea, I'm so sorry." She moved closer to the hurting man. "I'm sorry, Oz, if I had known, I would have stopped her." He batted away her hand, letting Xander help him up. "So, so sorry."

"Save it," Oz said quietly. "I'm not dealing until she comes back." He looked at Xander, handing over his keys. "Home? Please?"

"Sure," Xander said, trying to soothe the hurting man. He looked at Di and simply nodded. He had understood what had driven his friend. He walked Oz out of the clearing, heading back to the van.

Buffy looked at Di. "If I had known, I would have told you."

"Me too," Di said, wrapping an arm around her student's neck. "Come on, we need to go get things ready to deal with Willow when she comes back. There's no way she's coming out normal." They headed off to her car, heading to Giles' apartment.


Oz laid silently on his bed, staring at his ceiling. "Why'd she do it," he asked finally.

"To save us all." Xander sat down next to his friend's head. "Think about it, if you could sacrifice one thing to save everyone from going to Hell, would you?" Oz shook his head. "No?"

"Not at this moment." He looked at his friend. "I'm not that good."

"I am," Xander admitted quietly. "If I had known what she had planned, I would have taken her place." He looked into his friend's eyes. "She's yours, man, I'm not going to take her place."

"Nothing's certain."

"Yeah, it is. You still love her, no matter what the demon does to her."

"She'll never be mine," Oz told him, rubbing a finger along Xander's bottom lip. "We'll deal. I'll hurt, you'll worry, and Di will deal."


"Not going there."

"Okay, we'll figure it out as a group after Willow's back." He accepted the body rolling into his, comforting him with gentle kisses to his face as he cried and strong arms holding him through it.


Di looked down at her charge, closing her eyes against the pain rolling off the young woman. "I'm sorry," she whispered, covering her with an afghan she had found. She headed up to the bedroom, answering the phone as she walked into the room. "Andre?" she asked, surprised. She smiled weakly, laying down on the bed. "No, Giles did something rotten." She briefly sniffled. "No, really bad, Andre. Like allowing a girl to offer herself to save humanity." She nodded. "I know, but she's part of the group I'm working with and she didn't tell them. Even I didn't know." She put her head down, letting that soft, silken voice soothe her as it had for the last few years.

Buffy walked up the stairs a few hours later, holding her arms tightly around her for warmth. She found Di curled up in a little ball on the bed, phone still against her ear. She picked up the phone, checking before hanging it up, and covered her Watcher before going back down stairs. She sat on the couch, staring at the books and artifacts around her, not seeing any of it as she contemplated her friend's sacrifice. "How could she?" she asked finally, the anger winning.

"She thought it was the only way," Di said, sitting down beside her. "We're just going to have to be strong for Oz." She rubbed down a smooth, cool arm. "You need to sleep. School tomorrow is going to be very long and hard."

"I'm not going," Buffy decided. "I'm going to go see my mom and hug her really tightly and not let her go be a serious person." She looked at the older woman. "So why didn't she tell us?"

"Because she knew you would have stopped her. Same as she knew about the time limit and I'm sure Giles didn't suggest it." Buffy shook her head, going back to staring at the wall. "He wouldn't, Buffy, I've known him for years and Rupert Giles would never let someone sacrifice themselves this way unless there was a very good reason and he couldn't find another way."

"Then he should have looked harder," she said, sniffling. "He just let her go." She leaned into the comforting body, soaking up the waves of emotion Di was sending at her. "You're one of those 'make you feel good' people, aren't you?" she asked, looking up.

"Yup, most empaths are." Di brushed through the blonde hair on the younger woman's head, combing it in what she hoped was a soothing way. "Sleep," she said finally, after about an hour. "You'll still need it, even if you skip."

"Will he ever come back?"

"Not unless the demon sends him back, no. He won't be able to. The only possible way would be to get a more powerful demon to take him and sponsor him." She had meant to drop the kiss on top of the younger woman's head, but Buffy had looked up at just the wrong, or the right depending on how you looked at it, moment. Both of them pulled back but there wasn't any shock involved. "Willow?" Di asked.

"Yeah, for the last few weeks." Buffy closed her eyes, savoring the feelings for a second, then got up and headed for the door. "I'm going home."

"Stay, you're too distracted to go fight," Di offered, patting the couch. "I'm going back to bed." Buffy nodded, walking back to the couch and laying down, head where the older woman had been sitting to capture her warmth.

Di shook her head, walking slowly back up the stairs to try and sleep again.


It was the day before Willow was supposed to come back when the knock came at the door. Buffy looked around those gathered in Giles' apartment before getting up to answer it. "Willow," she breathed when she saw who was on the other side, in the same cloak she had left in.

"Don't invite her in," Di said, getting up and walking over. "Let's see how much damage he did first."

"I'm fine," Willow said as she walked across the threshold without invitation. She pulled back her hood, showing off her newly white hair, which was longer. "Perfectly fine. He couldn't hurt me because I offered myself." She headed for the living room, tugging Oz up and into the kitchen with her. "I hurt you," she stated, "and I'm sorry, but it was necessary." He shook his head. "Yeah, it was. There was no way to stop this otherwise. We all would have died."

"Willow, I can't accept that," he said, looking her over. "And I don't know that I will." He looked her over again. "You're really okay?"

"Fine," she said, holding out her arms. Then remembering to take off her cloak, she turned around in front of him so he could examine her, showing off the waist-length white hair braided with a little strand of sparkly gems. "He wasn't that mean to me once I told him why. Of course he did demony things to Angel, but I just mostly watched." He nodded so she leaned closer. "Oz, they're *huge*!"

"I kinda thought that," Oz said, almost reaching out to touch her but pulling his hand back at the last second. "I...can't." He headed back for his safety, who was trying hard not to watch or listen to their conversation. "Home?" he asked. Di and Xander both nodded, the younger man hopping up. "Thanks. Later." They walked out together, Xander taking the keys automatically and hopping up onto the seat he had covered with a pillow ten days earlier. "Really, thanks," Oz said again, leaning his head back and closing his eyes.

"Hey, I need it too," Xander said, starting the van. "She okay?"

"Smelled and looked it." Oz turned his head to look at him. "You?"

"Me? I've been fine. I didn't lose my girlfriend to the spawn of Hell." He pulled out into the street, heading for the older teen's house. "She and I always work it out."

"Help us?"

"Sure?" He saw Oz's nod from the corner of his eyes. "Then, yeah, I will help you two become friends again." As they stopped at a sign, Xander leaned over to gently kiss his friend's cheek. "Whatever you need, Oz, that's me right now."

"Home," Oz said, patting his face. "Cuddle later." He closed his eyes, letting himself be soothed by the music Xander put on for him.

They were laying in his bed much later that night when Oz shuddered. "So bad of her," he whispered. Xander woke up at the sound of his voice, pulling his head up to look at him, propping it on his arm when he saw this was going to be a long one. "I mean, she runs into the arms of a demon to stop Angelus when all we had to do was follow him home one night and stake him that day."

"Wasn't bright," Xander agreed quietly.

"No, it was foolproof and genius but it was dumber than wood." He rolled to face his friend, hugging him tightly. "I just can't understand."

"And probably never will," Xander told him. "Willow can be like that sometimes."

"Women can be like that sometimes."

"Wouldn't know," Xander admitted. He looked down, rubbing through the red hair. "You didn't dye it recently," he whispered. "We should do that. You look like the anti-Oz."

Oz snorted. "Thanks."

"You do. Almost as strange as Will...ow does with white hair."

"Was peculiar." Oz looked up, raising one eyebrow. "Want to help me pick a color?"

"Mourning red?"

"Could." Oz put his head back down, sniffing at the relaxed body under his. "I can't be with her," he said into the muscles he was resting against.

"Whomever you want," Xander whispered, hand from the red hair to the older teen's back to rub the tensing muscles there. "I'll stand by your decision unless it's a bad person."


"You want to tell everyone about us?"

"Don't know. Not ashamed," he said quickly, "just not sure if the world needs to know."

"Won't make a difference to me, Oz. I can't get any more picked on than I am and being openly with you might actually make some of it stop." He smiled weakly at the shocked look he got. "Not been listening to the gossip recently?" Oz shook his head. "There was always the rumor I was gay, but now I'm doing the Biology snake, or really letting him do me." His smile got weaker. "We would just validate them and they would have to quit saying crap."

"I'd make them," Oz offered.

"I know. You're always protective."

"And possessive."

"And sometimes furry," Xander added with a real smile. "But you keep trying to grab me then too." He felt the weak tickle so went on, trying to raise the older teen's spirits. "You do. You lunge out at me and try to grab my hair or my waist and pull me back to you." The tickle got stronger. "You do. And sometimes your tongue hangs out too. Just a big puppy wanting to play."

Oz shook his head, laying back down against the wiggling chest as he really tickled the younger man. "Insane," he told him.

"Maybe, but I like you too. Even if you would drool into my ear as the wolf."

"Can't, wouldn't want to hurt you."

"You won't. I'll take over wolf duty for a while, by myself, and we'll deal. See where this takes us."

"And if it takes us both getting kicked out?" Oz asked.

"Hey, I can get a job, you have one sometimes, or at least I assume being in a band means earning money on occasion." Oz nodded. "So, we'll find somewhere cheap and live. Pretend to be roomies if you want."

"Can't hide. Not good at it." Oz looked up, seeing the understanding. "I can't keep important things like that hidden for very long."

"All I ask for is some warning."


Someone pounded on the door. "Oz! Do you have someone in there?"

Xander scooted back, sitting up while Oz got up to answer the door. "Yeah, we're talking." He opened it enough to show the younger man. "Anything else?"

"Where's your girlfriend?" the woman, whom Xander assumed was Oz's mother, asked. She looked over the dark haired man on the bed. "Though he is nice looking."

"We were just talking about her," Xander said. "About plans and stuff for upcoming birthdays." He slid off the bed, walking over to smile at her. "Xander Harris."

"Oh, I know you. Heard your mother. I won't do anything then, my son isn't gay and you wouldn't like me." She turned and walked away before she could see her son choke on his next breath.

Xander closed the door, looking at his friend. "Told ya so," he said simply, opening his arms to give him a hug.

Oz shook his head, taking the small comfort offered.


Di looked at the woman sitting in front of her. "Well, you're certainly more powerful," she said, putting the candles she had used away. "But I think you're going to need a mediator with the group. Giles too possibly."

"Xander will. We've been friends forever." Willow stood up, brushing her braid back over her shoulder. "So, now what? Buffy's gone home, you've seen I'm safe and sane."

"If you need to talk about what happened, I'm here," Di offered, standing up. She let the younger woman out of the apartment, sealing the door from intrusion before going back up to the bedroom. She had the feeling this was far from over and she needed her rest in case she was right.


Willow walked into the library, smiling at everyone. "Hi," she said cheerfully, taking a seat that wasn't usually the one she sat in. "What's going on?"

"Just talking about you," Xander said carefully. "Will...ow, I need to talk to you later." She nodded. "And we all need to discuss, as a group and as people." She nodded again. "You're awfully calm."

"Xander, I knew what was going to happen when I offered myself. This isn't a shock for me. None of it is." She reached across the table to touch his hand but he drew it away. "Di can tell you I'm me," she said, sighing at the end. "I'm not going to hurt you or anything."

"I'm sure, but my mind isn't so decided on the subject," Xander told her. "All it knows is that you stepped into the arms of that demon of your own free will and then you show up looking very strange and very not-you." He waved at her white hair, this time the sides twisted and gathered in the back.

"It happened when he touched me with his powers," Willow said softly. "When the portal closed. All the color drained from my hair and dripped away." She looked at Buffy. "But you've probably seen that happen." Buffy shook her head. "No?"

"Nope, Giles mentioned it though." She looked her friend over. "We'd like to believe you're fine, Will, but I can't do that. My slayer-sense wants me to get up and beat you to a pulp because you smell like a demon even though my heart knows better." She leaned forward, looking across Xander at Oz, who was sitting beside and a little behind him. "I don't know how the others feel, but I'm feeling *real* betrayed."

Cordelia walked in, smiling at everyone. "Hi," she called, walking up to the table and stopped at the sight of Willow, gasping. "Oh, god, did you have the guy that did that to you arrested?" She walked around touching the white hair, or trying to since Willow moved it away from her. "What's the big? I'm not demon girl of the week."

"No, I am," Willow said sadly. "Cordy, I offered myself to a demon to get rid of Angel and we're discussing whether or not I can come back to the Scoobies."

"Oh, okay then. So why the white? You look really odd." She sat down next to the witch, looking her over. "The rest of you looks normal but your hair just screams 'trauma' to me."

"It was," Willow admitted. "A power trauma. His power touched me and all the color drained from it for good." She shrugged. "The price you pay sometimes."

"So, are you leaving or not?" Cordelia asked, squinting in confusion. "I mean, that's bad and all but you're here and we could use you. And I'm sure you learned some really dirty tricks from this demon, right?" Willow nodded. "So, why aren't we using them against the evil guys, like leather-boy."

"Because the demon has him," Buffy said simply, getting up and leaving. "Later. Gonna patrol," she called from the doorway. Nobody wanted to mention it was actually daytime and she wouldn't get much out of it, she was hurting in her own way over Angel.

Xander shook his head. "Willow, this is going to be a long discussion and it can wait for a few days. We still have to deal with Giles when he comes back too."

"*I* made him," Willow said hotly. "None of this was his doing. Matter of fact, I'm not sure he could have resisted since I started the calling and made him finish while I prepared myself."

"TMI," Oz said quietly.

"Sorry." Willow looked at Di. "When you saw him, did he look normal?" Di nodded. "But I spelled him to help me do this."

"You're not that strong," Di told her gently. "Though you may be now, before all this, you weren't strong enough to hold him under a compulsion." She looked at the boys. "I need to talk to Willow, why don't you two go to the office and get the books I had Andre send to Oz." They got up and left. "You too, please Cordelia," she said when the young woman hadn't taken the hint.

"Huh? Oh, sorry, just looking at the jewels in her hair. Are they real?" Willow nodded. "Killer then, very unique." She got up, walking out too.

Di looked down the table at the younger witch. "Are you a minion or are you a willing consort?"

Willow sighed. "I went willingly, Di, I really did, but I did like what he did to me, after that first couple of times. Though time runs differently there. What was ten days here was a couple of centuries there." The older witch nodded. "I can't help but feel bad for what I did to Oz and the rest of the gang, but I'm not bad, no worse than Andre is." She looked up to make sure her meaning was clear. "Sorry if you now have a lower opinion of me, but I'm not spying for him and I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts."

"Just remember, you can come to me if you want or need help getting free," she said quietly, "and he has the right to pass you around."

Willow nodded, grinning. "I know. I enjoyed that too." She one-sided shrugged. "I'm kinky that way I guess." She stood up. "I'll go so they feel better." She headed out the back door, leaving the Library totally until she was called on to return. After Giles got back.

Di held her now throbbing head, eyes closed. She heard the door open but didn't look up, guessing it was probably one of the other teens.

"What? No dreams today?" Snyder asked snidely from behind her. "Or are we not paying you to sit around."

Di put her head up, looking at the principal. "No, actually it's just a normal headache. I get them when trolls come around to bother me." She stood up. "Did you need something or is this just an excuse to get out and bother people?"

"I saw Rosenberg come in here, I know I did. She's supposed to be out of town so that must mean she's skipping and lied to the office."

"She forgot something." Di walked around him, heading for the office. "She's gone again, just had to get her computer that I put in the office for her."

His eyes narrowed. "Why do I think there's more to this than that lie?" He snapped his fingers. "I think you're here to take over the Brit's job of seducing her. Yeah, maybe doing the whole group."

Xander coughed from the doorway. "Not really, don't like women like her." He walked in, followed by Oz. "Books," he said simply.

"Cage?" Oz suggested.

"Please," Di said. She looked at the troll...principal and shook her head. "I have a very nice *man* at home, thank you, Principal Snyder. Would you like me to try and wake him up so you could talk to him?" He shook his head. "Then I suggest you calm your innuendoes. I do not sleep with people ten years, or more, younger than I am. My mate is older than I am and foreign. I seriously doubt any teen in this school could match him so they have very little to worry about. Now, if there's nothing else, I'm going to take something for my head and you will please go and harass someone else for a change, like the English teacher that only wanted private information for that report for some reason." She slammed the office door, almost in his face.

Snyder stormed out, slamming the library door in his haste to get away from her.

"Uh-oh," Xander said quietly. "Me thinks the troll doth have a crush on her."

"Shakespeare was good for you, wasn't it?" Oz asked with amusement. Xander nodded, grinning. "I have a book of his stuff at home if you'd like to borrow it."

"Cool. Liked Shakespeare. Had a really dirty mind. Him and Byron. Only good things that came out of Freshman English." He closed the cage door behind him. "How many more days?"

"Five," Oz reminded him. "We'll get a calendar to put in here." He patted the younger man's arm, heading back to the table. "Di?"

"You living?" Xander added.

She opened the door, leaning against the frame. "Yes, but I need a distraction. Come help me move furniture on my computer."

"Bring it out here," Oz suggested. "Less Snyderly overtones." Xander nodded and she shrugged, going for her laptop.


Buffy wandered into Giles' apartment, sitting down on the couch. "I'm sorry I ran out that way," she called, bringing the older woman from the kitchen. "Really am, it just got a little too close to home."

"Hey, if it had been Andre, I would still be in bed." She shrugged, heading back to her supper. "There's enough here for left overs, want some?"

"No thanks, I grabbed a cheap burger." Buffy moved so Di could sit beside her and talk. "How did you deal with him? I mean, had I know that all it would take was happiness to kill my Angel, I would have become a supreme nag."

"Andre once told me that vampires were a lot like they were as living people. He's never killed to feed, matter of fact, when he's been injured he usually feeds off me." She took a bite of her casserole. "But, and I do stress this since I was informed of it, the Hellmouth has a different principle in operation. Here, the darkness pulls at those that are already bad. If you went to somewhere like New York, you'd never see a bad vampire again probably. Of course, almost all of your hunting would be in clubs nowadays, but still." She took another bite, relaxing. "So, how you holdin' up, kid?"

"Fine," Buffy sighed. "It's just hard. I miss him. I miss what he was, and have since he became Angelus again, but this just makes it worse. Before we might have cured him, now he's sleeping with the demons."

"Literally," Di muttered.


"Um, nothing," she said, stuffing her mouth quickly. Buffy scowled at her. "I said literally," she said finally. "That's their usual thing. Demon's have more sex than most creatures on any plane of existence."

"So, did Willow..." Di nodded. "Eww!" Buffy shuddered, wrapping her arms around her. "Seriously sickening. How *can* you be eating?"

"Easy," Di said, taking another bite. "Practice and necessity."

Buffy shook her head. "Guess that's like that does-autopsies guy that was in the paper that was found eating pb&j sandwiches over his clients." Her face scrunched up. "Gonna stop that thought right there, thank you."

Di put down her plate. "Okay, that was a little gross after all. Not even I can eat after that thought." They looked at each other and laughed. "Buffy, you're a very special girl," she said, brushing one sticking hair off the younger girl's cheek, "and one day, you'll find someone who makes you insane while he makes you happy and you'll be set. But Angel wasn't it. His curse was too fragile to withstand unless he had pulled himself away from life. As soon as he started living again, it was doomed to happen." Buffy nodded. "It wasn't you, it was the fact that he was living again. You didn't know beforehand and he did. He could have told you but he didn't. I think that means that he secretly wanted you to break it."

"Or he thought I wouldn't be the one," she said.

"You've known him since you got here, right?" The younger woman nodded. "There was no way he didn't see it before you two got together. He probably had a few near misses as you two fought together and grew closer. This is not your fault." She picked up her plate. "And with those wise words, I'm off the clock unless you need me for something else."

"Nope, just wondering if I was supposed to patrol tonight."

"Do you want to?" Buffy shrugged. "I'd say, if it's quiet, go take a long bath and soak. It's a Monday, it's not payday or a holiday, almost nobody's out tonight probably so go relax and think." She accepted the hug one armed and watched as the young woman left. "Later," she called, starting to eat again. "Thank the Lady I never went through that with Andre," she said quietly.


Buffy ran into Willow outside of her house, frowning at her friend. "Mind if I agree with Cordy? The hair is freaky, it's like it's glowing in the dark." Willow smiled gently at her, patting the porch swing. "So, what's up?" she asked, sitting beside her friend.

"I wanted to come see how you were," Willow said, taking her hand to hold. "You know, reconnect on a nice level again."

"Will, we're friends, but I'm not sure how good." Buffy shifted to look at her. "I mean, you go and make a change that affects both of our lives and you don't say a word, not even a hint?" Buffy shook her head. "Never mind, that sounds like you ran off and got married."

"Buffy..." Willow stopped to gather her thoughts. "Buffy, I want to show you what I did. I want us to go somewhere this weekend and for me to show you something. Will you allow it?"

"Depends, am I gonna end up doing what you did?"

"Not if you don't want it."

Buffy shrugged. "As long as it's not harmful I guess it'd be okay. I mean, Xan and Oz went off to LA for a night and they came back normal, though Xander was walking funny there for a few days."

"There's something else you should know," Willow said quietly. "I slept with him."

"Who? Xander? Did you make him walk funny?"

"No, I think that was Oz." She cleared her throat, pulling out a piece of her hair to play with where her friend could see it.

"Oh, you slept with *him*," Buffy said, then gagged. "Um, please no more okay? My stomach can't take too much of that thought."

"Then I won't tell you," Willow said simply. She stood up. "I'm not bad, Buffy."

"Willow, you keep saying that like you're trying to convince somebody, I've been wondering who."

"Both of us," Willow said, walking off into the night.

Buffy watched her go, her face showing her sadness. "I'm sorry, Will, I should have stopped you." She sat up suddenly. "The prophecy said male." She ran inside, straight for the phone. "Di," she said. "The prophecy said male."


Di looked at the paper that held the prophecy again, silently wishing for precognition instead of empathy as a talent. She looked up to see Buffy watching her and shook her head, sipping her coffee as she reread it for about the thousandth time. "I still don't see it."

"I do, it's Willow. She's doing the offering." Di frowned at her. "She is! Who else would be ready to do this kinda stuff?"

"Just because she's the consort of a demon doesn't mean she's going to start making offerings to him. It's not mandatory. Having relations with him if he should make it back to this plane, yes, sending him virginal males, no." She got up, heading for the kitchen to renew her coffee supply. She came back out, looking at the woman she was supposed to be guarding. "If it is her, let's just make some assumptions to see where you're heading. Who would the offering be? Both men she intimately know are disqualified."

"Not really," Buffy pointed out. "Xander's still partially a virgin. I don't think he's done more than dream about women." Di frowned, leaning back and rubbing her head. "Okay, so what about her using her new powers and looser morals to make someone do it? You said she was more powerful now."

Di nodded, looking over her shoulder at the kitchen, listening to the coffee maker drip. "Very true, she could theoretically do that, but we can't just jump because she's the only one you know."

"Di, thought here. Why not just allow us to stake Angel one day while he slept to stop the prophecy?"

"So you couldn't interfere?" the older woman suggested gently. Buffy scowled. "Hey, you might not want to but your emotions can make you do some strange things, including running and telling him to be careful." She shrugged and got up to pour some more coffee into her cup. "Though, she may be the easiest choice to monitor."

"I *really* wish Giles was here," Buffy called. "He knows all about the demony stuff."

Xander walked into the apartment, smiling at the two women. "He and Oz are talking outside." He took a seat, looking at them. "What's up? Sounded urgent."

"It is," Di said, sitting back down. She looked at Giles as he walked in, nodding at him.

Giles bent down and kissed her cheek. "I was truly under her spell, but I came out of it as I was casting and it was too late, she pressed me to continue," he said quietly. He sat down beside her, taking her hand in his. "I'm truly sorry I had to delude all of you. I had no choice in the matter."

"It was all Willow," Di finished for him. He nodded, smiling sadly. "You know she's back, right?" He nodded again. "Came back after ten days?"

Giles let Di go, getting up to head for his bookshelves, pulling down one and handing it to her. He looked at Buffy. "I hope you can forgive me."

"Yup, wasn't you, not so bad a bad." She patted his arm. "Now, we have a major prophecy and we're deciding on who's offering." She handed him the paper Xander and Oz had read.

Giles read it quickly, taking the book back to flip some more pages, handing it back. "That was a faulty translation. It's not a teen, it's a young man, or a newly made man." He sat down, pointing at the symbols. "See, in Greece, there were certain things that marked you as a man."

"But the virginal thing counts?" Buffy asked, looking at the symbols and shaking her head. "Looks like math to me."

"It is," Giles said absently, "mathematicians corrupted the language for their own use." He turned the book around so they could all see it, running his fingers along the words. "A virginal newly made man in his prime shall be offered up to the Virgin Breaker and Corrupter to atone for the offering one's sins. He shall bear the marks of a man but still be underage and under tutelage to prove his manhood and she shall know him." He looked at Di and they both looked at Xander. "I'm afraid this does fit you if we're considering Willow as the offering one."

"Great, first the slug and now this?" he said, getting up and heading for the door.

"Wait," Oz called softly. Xander came back, sitting down again. "How do we fight this one?"

"We can either invalidate him or we can figure out who else it could be and eliminate them."

"Hold on," Xander said. "I've *had* sex." Oz coughed, turning a little pinker. "Sorry, oh, God, am I sorry." He hugged him.

"Hey, no big," Oz said against the firm shoulder. "They needed to know." He pulled back, shaking his head. "But only them, okay?"

"Yup, no one else needs to know." Xander brushed over a bite swollen lip before turning back to Giles. "We've fixed that problem."

"Not if this is Greek," Di said. "It was common practice for young men to ... service the older ones. The young men were usually technically men, meaning they had passed through puberty, but weren't really 'adult' sort of men. Say, late teens and normal college years."

"So I need to find a woman?" Xander asked, disgust showing on his face. "Can't we just lock me up?"

"No," Giles said, pointing at a new symbol. "The time set is for five days hence, at the full moon." He glanced at Oz, who was absolutely stiff. "If you're caged, then you're easily taken as an offering."

"What about Oz then," Buffy asked.

"Not eligible," Oz said. He squeezed Xander's hand. "We just have to fix this then." He pulled himself up, bringing Xander with him. "We'll go figure out how to fix this and talk to you in the morning."

"Oz, it may not work. If she's the one and she's decided on him, she may be able to interrupt or something similar so you couldn't 'fix' it." He looked at Xander, who was now leaning against a wall. "I'm sorry."

"Hey, got an idea," Buffy said. "Does it say how to fix it?" Giles shook his head. "And no who either, right?" He shook his head again, frowning at her. "Then we can fix it in a way that would protect Xander. All we need is someone strong enough to do that."

"NO!" Xander and Oz said together. Oz glared at her.

"Hey, emergency here. I don't want him, just offering. Would probably take ten minutes, you could be there," she blushed slightly, "but I wouldn't be pushy about the afterwards stuff. Consider it a bad moment and move on."

Oz shook his head. "I don't want that. Casual encounters like that ruin things." He tugged on Xander's hand. "We'll fix it our way." They left, not quite slamming the door.

Giles looked at Buffy, one eyebrow raised. "I do believe you scared them."

"Hey, I scare lots of men, that's why I don't get asked to things." She got up, taking Di's cup into the kitchen to get her some more coffee.


Xander stared out the front windshield of the van as Oz parked them in the forest, blindly letting his mind work for him. "This doesn't look like a brothel," he said finally, still not looking at his friend and lover.

"And it won't be." Oz brushed down the tense arm, turning his seat to face the younger man. "I know this is scary but we have to plan some things."

"I need to get laid and you need to do the change thing in a few days while I'm in danger."

"Xander," Oz said quietly, making him look at him. "I didn't want this to happen."

"Me either. I'm finally *happy* and this happens?" He laughed sourly. "This is majorly the Hellmouth trying to do crap to us." He looked down at his lap. "I don't think I could even if I had to," he admitted. "Haven't been having happies about women in a while."

"What about men?" Oz asked. Xander shook his head. "None at all?"

"Not really. I mean, I have them but I don't have a particular image and I don't usually dream about women. Sometimes other things, but not usually women."

"Hmm, then we may have a chance." He leaned over, kissing him. "What about someone who was dressed like a man?"

"A transvestite?" Xander asked, giving him a shocked look. "Wow, well, um, wow." He shook his head to clear it. "Interesting way to solve the problem." He leaned forward, kissing his lover gently. "You'd be there?"

"Yup, holding your hand if you needed it."

"Then I think I could do anything." Xander kissed him again. "Could I have some good Ozlovin' afterwards?"

"During it if I had to so you don't leave me."

"Never leaving you. The demon can try and take me but I'm not going." He brought Oz's face closer to his. "Never leaving you, Oz, get over it."

The older teen sighed, getting up to sit in the younger's lap. "Xander, I think I could really easily love you but I'm *so* thinking you're going to pull a Willow here."

"Hey, not leaving. I cling, worse than those things they scrape off boats." He grinned, nipping Oz's chin. "I have no desire to leave. Not ever. You make me happy, something that nothing else has ever done. If you asked, I'd follow you into *Hell*, Oz. There is nothing stronger than what we're building. I won't be denied my happiness, not after all the other stuff I've had."

"Okay." Oz cuddled closer. "We should go do that."

"Does that mean you know someone?" The older man nodded, lifting his head up to look at him. "Then we should do that so no one stands in our way."

"I want to do something, I found out about it in one of Giles' books."

"Is it risky?"

"Very. I want to give you a few drops of my blood. Not enough to turn you but enough to taint you so everyone knows you're mine."

Xander grinned, pulling his head up. "Go ahead," he said. "I like that idea."

"That means you can't leave," Oz told him. "Never." He pulled the head down to look in the expressive eyes. "Never."

"Yay, weren't you listening?" Xander leaned closer, nipping Oz's lip and sucking on it. "Oz, my happiness has never been a priority, but now this, us, feels really right. I can't explain it, but it's like everything before now has been getting me ready to appreciate this. You." He nipped him again. "And I want this. I'm not going to grow tired of you, want to leave you. I told you, I cling. It's how I've been trained. Even if it turns out to be wrong for me in thirty years, I won't leave because I can't." He looked up into the green eyes. "Okay?"

"Yeah. Actually it clears some things up for me." Oz got up, heading for the futon in the back, pulling it out. "Come on. Want to hold you while I do this."

"Got a better idea," Xander said, crawling back to the bed. "Make love to me while you do it."

"Nope, not mating with you." Oz patted the mattress. "Mating with people has almost always led to being bitten according to the books. I can't do that. Not to you."

"Oz, truth here. How likely is it if we stay together that I won't be exposed?" The older man's shoulders slumped and he started to move. "See, I've had major thoughts about this stuff while you contemplated Willow." He rubbed the strong arm. "And I've come to the decision that the risk is worth having you." He grinned at the shocked look. "What's really bad about it is that most of the time the werewolf thing isn't that bad a curse, only those three nights. If you could learn to control those three nights then it might be a blessing." He pulled the older man back beside him. "Do you see it now?"

"You found something?" Oz guessed.

"Remember that Psychic Fair we had a few years back?" The older man nodded slowly. "Well, I had a reading done. She said I was going to have an end to the pain and hurt when I met a very special man that made me happy. That I would find a purpose with him and that he would rule my life for eternity." He nudged him playfully. "Sounds familiar to me."

"What if she made it up?"

"That's the same one that once told Willow that her future would lie in a library."

"Ah. Same time?"

"Just after mine," Xander said. "I've never heard of her readings being wrong. Everyone else that had one done has had theirs come true. And I'm guessing that you're mine and that's a good to me."

"I'm a good?"

"You're a great. An excellent, a stupendous. And a lot of other words I don't know or use."

"You know, if we actually do this, you're not going to be able to play stupid ever again."

"Hey, I'm not that bright."

"I bet," Oz said, kissing him, laying them both back on the hard mattress. "So, you wanted to have me?"

"I'm yours, Oz," Xander whispered, "do with me as you will."

"Red flag," he warned.

"Not a bull," Xander noted with a grin, "even if you are built like one." He patted the bulge that was just starting to come up. "Just be gentle with me," he whispered.

"Never anything but unless you ask," Oz promised, stripping off his shirt. "Do you want me to rip your clothes off or are you going to actually take them off."

"No mushy stuff?"

"Tomorrow night." Oz leaned down, getting close to the younger man's lips as he whispered the rest. "Love mushy stuff before I change. Want to pet you then." He grabbed a quick kiss. "But for now," he said as he sat back up, " I want to have you then have us go fix you so I can have you again."

Xander grinned, getting up to strip himself. "Okay then. I'm so with that plan." He lay back down on the futon, stretching himself out for his lover's approval. "Okay?"

"Very nice." The older teen brushed down the naked chest. "How would you like it?"

"Long and pleasurable?"

"I meant positions," Oz said, tapping the wiggling stomach. "Ticklish?" he asked, hitting that spot again.

"YES!" Xander shrieked, rolling to get away from the fingers, making it to his knees and being tackled by his boyfriend so he could be held still while he was tickled hard.

By the time Oz had had his fill, the van was alive with the sound of laughter and happiness, and Xander was seriously ready to beg for more, which was what he wanted since his lover was still sore from their first time. He grabbed the lube, slicking himself up and pressed against the waiting hole. "Want to try something, just relax," he whispered, tickling lightly to arouse the younger man as he started to push inside his body.

Xander moaned, his whole body going limp as the head pushed through, the small burning sensation less than worthy of his attention as he felt the hard cock fill him. "Yeah," he whispered, pushing back. "Um, need more lube," he said when it hurt a little. "Kinda dry."

Oz nodded, pulling back out and adding some more lube to his cock and starting to slide back in. "Better?" he asked, holding his lover still as he came to his final destination. Xander nodded so he pulled back, thrilling at the small whimper, pushing back in almost immediately. "Want you," he whispered against the firm back, "so very much want you."

"Want you too," Xander moaned, working himself up to his knees and pushing back. "More?"

"No, slowly this time. You wanted to make love and I refuse to rush us."

"God, I made the right choice." He closed his eyes, grinning at the small nip to his shoulder. "Hmm, kinky?"

"Just a little but it's an urge." Oz pulled back out, taking a slower stroke this time, working all he had in the only way he knew how, making it as good as he could. "You're so tight," he whispered, nipping him again. "Never been anywhere this tight."

"Shh," Xander whispered. "Love your voice but want it in my ear." He flopped onto his side, forcing Oz to come with him, and snuggled back into the comforting arms. "Okay, now talk to me."

Oz laughed, shaking his head. "Goof."

"Yup, big, fluffy one. Please?" His eyes closed as the warm breath played across his ear and the strokes started back again. "Yup, definitely yours."

"Even if I make you beg?"

"Even if you remake me in your image and strip all my Xanderness from me." He turned his head at the gasp. "I meant it, Oz, I cling. You could start to hurt me and I'd still be here because it's how I'm meant to be. I shouldn't be alone and I need someone like you. You let me care and cling and help and comfort. I'm meant to do that."

"You really want that stuff?"

"Yup, I really want that stuff. I want to cling to you. No one else for this boy, not for me. I only want to cling to you. I could even go so far as to call it almost-love, only because I'd have to think through a few more things first."


"Yeah, that's what I felt that first time too." He grinned at the pinch, putting his head back down. "Where we go is up to you from now on." His breath caught on the slow pull out of his body, but his eyes closed on the even slower thrust back in. "Thank you," he whispered.

"No, thank you." Oz leaned down next to his lover's ear. "I had a reading done that day too. It said I should find the one that pushes me to be me and let him hold me."

"I'm your man," Xander panted, trying so hard not to force the pace to go faster. "Please?"

"Take it. Show me what I did for you that first time."

Xander whimpered, moving back against the firm body of his boyfriend, taking control, taking what he wanted and needed more than air, using what little leverage he had to make the pace a little harder, a little faster, but less satisfying. He slowed back down, his whole body protesting, but this is what he needed. He licked his lips as he felt something hit them, eyes squeezing shut tighter as he tasted the metallic heat of the older teen's blood. He worked himself harder and slower, then faster and gentler, doing all he could to prolong what they had, make it the best he could for Oz, but his own orgasm beat him over the head, taking over for his mind.

Everything rushed toward that one moment, that one bright moment when his mind expanded and he was one with the world. It was something he had found in his lover's arms and he would never give it up. He groaned as he came, whispering Oz's name as the first stream flew out of him, his breath coming in shudders as he finished.

"So beautiful," Oz whispered, taking a few more strokes and finishing himself, eyes squeezed shut as he clung to his new man. They relaxed for a few minutes, just holding the other and enjoying it, when Oz slipped out, earning a little catch from Xander, who rolled over to hold him. "Hey, we're together," the older teen said quietly, wiping down the sweaty back with a towel that was laying around. "You're mine."

"I'm yours," Xander agreed. He looked up, his eyes still moist. "That was incredible," he said quietly. Oz nodded so he kissed him. "I'm not giving you up, no way in any plane."

Oz just simply got a small, shy smile and hugged his lover closer.


Willow smiled at the teen she had chained up to the wall of what had been Angelus' hiding spot from Buffy. "Don't worry, precious one, you're just the first." She took off her robes, walking into the center of the diagram she had drawn earlier that day, visually checking it to make sure everything was correct. "My Dark One," she called, summoning him, "come to me for the first of your rightful offerings." She closed her eyes as the fog started to form around her, her body reacting to the cool fingers dancing over her skin.

"You've done well," her demon lover said into her ear, kissing it as he entered her. "Very well, my pet. Bring him here and let me taste him with you." He watched as she pulled off, smirking as the tight body he owned headed for his newest playmate. "Is this one willing?"

"One of Angelus' servants helped me get him. He isn't willing, but he is a fit sacrifice for you." She released the teen, smiling evilly at him as he tried to struggle and break free. "Oh, do it," she whispered, licking her lips. "We'd have a hunt, just you and I and him." She grabbed the bound hands, bringing the naked body into the diagram and pushing him down in front of the demon's massive cock. "Worship it, Bobby, it's your personal God from now on." She smiled at her lover. "Same as it is mine." She got to her knees, opening her mouth to accept whatever he wanted to do to her.

"Ah, pet," the demon said as he ran his cock across her lips. "Very well trained, even if I do say so myself." He smirked at his new toy. "Bobby was it?" Willow nodded, giving him a pleased look. "Good. *Bobby*, do you know what you are now?" The teen shook his head, his eyes still locked on the rod in front of him. "You're now mine, a possession to do with what I want. As soon as you stepped into the inner circle, you no longer existed." He grabbed the straw-colored hair, shoving himself into the mouth that had been opened to protest. "Learn this trick well, *Bobby*, it's what's going to keep you going." He smiled at Willow. "Do you need help to stop your real offering, pet?"

"No, I just want to scare him. You said you didn't really want another virgin for the last sacrifice so I was going to let him go." She smiled hopefully. "That's okay, right?"

"As long as there is a virginal one there, yes, pet, it's fine." He pulled out of the wet mouth, smiling at his toy as he started to make them fade out. "For your service tonight, you'll get a new present." He waved a hand and a small box appeared on the floor. "It holds a sorcerer's powers, he gave himself to me too." He chuckled and they disappeared, leaving a disappointed Willow sitting on the floor.

"Shoot, I wanted some too. But at least he said I could play with the lesser demons until he was freed. I think I'll go find a Vergethnas, they're always fun." She stood up, taking the box to put on the pendant inside it as she walked out of the diagram, going to have fun until she had to get another sacrifice in the morning.


Xander looked up at the building Oz pulled up in front of just before dawn, yawning but trying to keep his mouth closed while he did it. "Wha's this?" he asked.

"This is where we fix your problem," Oz told him gently, taking his hand. "When I stopped to call they said to show up about now." He saw the small worried nibble to the kiss-swollen lips. "Don't do that, I won't be able to play with them later." Xander looked at him, his eyes getting a little wider as the small scent of fear flowed off him. "We'll be okay," he said softly, gently rubbing over the hand he held. "They'll understand. She's a witch too."

Xander nodded, looking at the building. "Something's not right," he said finally. He looked down at his lap and shrugged. "We're just going to have to do this, I guess he'll play along too."

"I'm sure I can convince him," Oz said, letting go of the younger teen's hand and sliding out, meeting Xander in front of the van and leading him inside by his hand, nodding at the people he knew, heading directly for one specific room. "Hey," he said, sticking his head inside. "Safe to come in?"

The partially dressed woman sitting on the stool in front of the mirror held up a finger, grabbing a shirt and pulling it on. "Sure," she said, his voice still kinda high but gravely, like she had smoked too many cigarettes. "So, Oz," he said, putting the last touches of his subtle makeup on and turning to look at them. "What's going on?"

"You've heard of Di Tregarde, right?" The transvestite hissed, backing up a step. "Well, she's helping us, him," he said, pulling Xander closer so he could hug him. "He's destined to be a virgin sacrifice if we can't clean him of that stigma."

Xander grimaced, looking down on his lover from his superior height. "You just had to put it that way, right?" Oz nodded, stealing a kiss which made him relax totally into the older man's body. "Okay," he whispered, "whatever."

The man laughed, standing up to walk over to them. "Jerry," he said, holding out a hand.

"Xander," he said, shaking it hard. "So, um, how..." He shook his head. "Never mind, stupid question."

Jerry smiled gently. "But I bet I've heard it before. Did you want to know why?" The younger teen shook his head. "No?"

"No, I just wanted to know how you did the makeup thing to make you look more guylike." He touched the small blush-line he could see. "It's just really pretty amazing to me that simple little makeup things can do that."

"Interested in that area?" Oz asked.

Xander shrugged. "I'm good at it but I can't do it for a living." He grinned at Oz then at Jerry. "I'm not really great with it but I taught Willow."

Oz shook his head. "At least you took the blue eyeshadow away from her." He looked at Jerry then at the bed. "Can we?"

Jerry nodded, then looked at Xander, who was blushing. "Honey, this isn't a reason to be afraid. Being given as a sacrifice is a reason to be afraid. Some of those demons can do some pretty nasty things to you with what they have."

Xander nodded. "Yup, he turned Willow's hair white." Jerry smiled. "And she said he was huge. With emphasis even."

"Yes, dear, most of the demons I know are that way. Especially the Corruptor. He's about four or five times what a normal human male is like."

Oz looked down at himself then back up at his friend, mouth open but one word squeaked out, literally, "How?"

"If they're being nice, an accommodation spell." Jerry frowned. "If they're not, well let's not go into that, shall we?" He waved at the bed. "Shall we?" Xander nodded, reaching back to clutch Oz's hand. "Shh," he said gently, "I'll be nice to you, do you real sweetly," he whispered, licking over the swollen lips. "Just relax and let it happen."

Downstairs, a small explosion went off, making everyone jump and head for the door. Everyone else was running out of the building and into the street, looking at the smoke pouring out of the windows in alarm. Oz and Xander shared a look, leading Jerry toward the van. "Us?" Oz asked her.

"Could be. I won't lie to you, whomever's planning on having him is most unforgiving." He looked around the back. "Um, Oz, does that..."

Oz nodded, waving them toward the futon in the back, climbing in after them and locking all the doors. He turned to find Xander pinned in a deep kiss and withheld the growl. Just because he knew what was going on didn't mean the wolf had to like having his person touched by another. He sat down in one of the captain's chairs in the front, watching the fire department arrive to check out the smoke, turning on the van when one started to walk over to him. "I'll move," he told him. He pulled out, slowly heading around the crowd and back toward a nearby park. By the time he had parked there, Jerry was coaxing Xander out of his clothes, but the younger man still had a deathgrip on the frame of the futon. "Relax," he called back to his lover. "Just let it happen."

Xander nodded, relaxing into the comforting rubdown he was receiving, eyes closed so he couldn't tell who it was, his mind substituting Oz for him automatically. When he felt the body lie down behind him, he sighed in relief, relaxing into the familiar body as the one in front of him worked him over. He smiled as he felt the familiar warmth of a tongue against his ear, letting go of the frame of the futon he was on to play with the silky red hair. "Thanks," he said, arching back for a kiss as he was swallowed.

Oz kissed him, sharing a look with Jerry, who shrugged and mouthed, "He's yours." He took off his pants, straddling the now ready cock and plunged down with a hiss.

Xander whimpered, holding tighter to Oz's hair as he felt himself be covered. "Look down," Oz said, prying the hand out of his hair to hold. "Savor this one time."

Xander looked down, watching Oz's friend ride him, but smelling Oz next to him, feeling him breathing in his ear, and he discovered he felt fine for the moment. He felt the interior muscles that held him in place rippling and grinned. "Okay, that kinda tickles."

"Goof," Oz whispered, nipping his ears. "Just do what you have to, babe, I'm here." He let go of Xander's hand, watching and getting out of the way, as his lover took control.

Xander flipped Jerry over, putting her under him, and his mind still substituted the smaller frame of his lover. It was Oz he was pounding into, it was him that was making those little noises that thrilled him so much, it was his lover who shouted and came as he did, squeezing him so tightly at the end. He leaned down and shared a small kiss with Jerry, realizing it was him when their lips touched, bringing him out of his fantasy and making him look down apologetically. "Did I hurt you?" he asked, withdrawing to pull back on his boxers.

Jerry shook his head, patting the younger teen's face. "I'm fine dear as long as you will be." He kissed them both on the cheek, winking at Oz before leaving.

Oz sat there and looked at his friend and lover, his heart twisting and turning with what he had just seen. "Enjoyed it?"

"Only because I thought of you," Xander said, looking down and blushing slightly. "Until we kissed, I didn't realize it wasn't you." His face was tipped back up for him. "Really, Oz, I thought it was you."

The older teen looked into the dark eyes and nodded once, pulling him closer to hold. "Now you know and can compare," he whispered.

"Not leaving," Xander told him firmly, pulling back. "Oz, I wasn't going to be able to do *anything* without the thoughts of you. Until you laid down behind me, I wasn't even hard." He looked down his body. "See, he likes you."

Oz covered the renewing erection propertarily, looking into Xander's deep eyes. "It had better like me."

"It does, and it's not going to stop liking you." He grinned. "But you promised me some Ozlovin'. Here?"

"No, we'd better move somewhere more invisible. Cops patrol here." He pulled them toward the front seats, waiting until Xander was buckled in to start the engine. "Woods?"

"Fine, as long as we aren't heading home yet. I want to go back and visit that club again." He moaned lightly at the small pinch. "That's the spirit," he said, leaning over and stealing a kiss.

"No," Oz said firmly. "No clubbing tonight. We'll visit when we come back next time, okay?" Xander nodded, laying his head on the back of his seat. "Sleep if you want to, the place I'm thinking of is about thirty miles away and no closer to home."

"Cool," Xander said, yawning. "Wake me when we get there."


Giles jumped as his apartment door opened, looking at his two male students quizzically. "Surely you know what time it is," he said, looking meaningfully at the clock.

"Yeah, but I invalidated it," Xander said, sitting across from him. Giles looked confused. "I *invalidated* the prophecy." Giles nodded then shook his head.

"Need more tea?" Oz asked, sitting next to his very tired lover, even if he did say so himself.

Giles smiled at him then looked at Xander, his face showing plainly when he got it. "Oh, I see." He smiled at the younger teen. "Are you sure?"

"Yup, she was a he but a she." Giles looked at Oz for a translation.

"Cross-dresser," he explained.

"Ah, well I'd say if it worked then it's a good thing." He stood up. "Why else were you two here?"

"Giles," Xander said, patting the table. "Need to talk to you." He looked at his lover, who gave a silent nod. "Um, can we ask a big, huge favor? See, my parents kicked me out when I came home an hour ago, threatening me with eternal damnation and an exorcism if I ever crossed their doorstep again, and Oz's mom isn't *that* liberal."

"Of course you may stay until you can find another place," Giles said gently. "It'll have to be the couch since Di has my spare bed." He looked at Oz, who shook his head subtly. "But nothing on it, do you hear me? I have no desire to listen to your repeated seduction of Oz."

"Hey, I can do that," Xander said, sitting back. "I wouldn't do that in the living room anyway, too many people could see and we both value our privacy."

"As long as it doesn't happen out there, I'd be more than willing to put you both up." He stood up. "Was there anything else?" Both younger men shook their heads. "Then say goodnight and go to sleep, Xander, we have a busy day tomorrow." He watched as the boys shared a small, mutually pleasing kiss then watched as Xander walked him out, taking note of the breath-stealing one beside the doorway. "Enough," he called quietly. "Goodnight, Oz."

"Night," he called back, stroking down the side of Xander's face before shutting the door behind himself.

"You two seem well suited," Giles said, following Xander out to help him make up the couch. "How, if I may get so personal, did this start?"

"Has Di told you about the nasty-dream slug yet?" Giles gave him a funny look. "About six feet, snot-green, sends really nasty dreams?" Giles shook his head. "You should ask her, that's how this all started. She *chose* Oz and I." He laid down, after kicking off his shoes. "Thanks, Giles, I'll start apartment hunting in the morning."

"You'll attend school in the morning," the older man corrected as he headed up to his room. "Goodnight, Xander."



Giles looked at his helper, one eyebrow raised. "A Vorplasicnics demon? Here?" He shook his head. "Now I know what Xander meant." He sat up suddenly and she nodded sadly. "They were *chosen*?"

"Yup, but I found a cure and sent them out to have fun and drink a lot, and they seemed to happen." She shrugged. "I reminded them to pick a designated driver and told them I wouldn't ordinarily offer that solution but it seemed to work, Buffy's not reacting." She stopped as she heard the outer doors of the Library open and close again, mouthing the dreaded word, "Snyder." Giles hastily hid where the contrary little man couldn't find him and she went out to meet him before he could enter the office. "What?" she sighed. "I just got rid of my headache and *you* show up?"

The Principal frowned at her. "Just a routine check for slackers." He looked around the room. "And I see you finally got rid of them. Good, I knew you'd eventually see it my way." He smiled at her and she took a step away from him.

"No, I sent them on errands but Xander will be back any moment now." She glanced around the room when he moved closer to her again, doing what she really hadn't wanted to do and calling on her power reserve to push him away. "Please don't get that close to me, I'm allergic to your aftershave." He frowned. "Sorry, but it's a very common thing." She stepped into the office, grabbing the door. "I'll see you at the staff meeting this afternoon," she said, closing the door in his face and pulling the shade, leaning against the door so he couldn't possibly come in.

Giles waited until he heard the doors close to shake his head in sympathy. "We should have a banish spell around here somewhere," he offered, waving at the books.

She laughed, sitting back down in the desk chair. "I may be tempted but that wouldn't be right," she told him. They both started as the door opened but it was only Xander.

"Hey, saw the slimy one. You're sure he's not a demon?"

Di smiled at him. "That would make sending him away a bit easier." She waved at the couch. "It seems Giles was unaware that you were due for a Vorplasicnics demon but he sympathizes greatly."

Giles patted the younger man's arm. "I am glad that you found a cure, I'm sure the dreams were unnerving to you." Xander nodded frantically. "Then it's best it's over and we'll just ignore the incident, how's that? No one else need know about what exactly happened."

"Please," Xander said, relaxing onto the couch. "That would be *way* embarrassing." He looked up as Oz walked in. "We were right, Snyder's got a crush."

Oz shuddered. "I'm so sorry," he told Di, patting her shoulder. "Okay, deal, two days until I change and three until he's snatched. What are we doing?"

"Nothing," Giles said gently. "She, or whomever it may be, won't be able to take him and hand him over."

"I watched Angel's handover," Oz reminded him. "He could still be taken."

Giles frowned. "Oz, I assure you we'll protect Xander to the best of our abilities." The two men shared a hard look. "Of course, we'll all be here that night so it shouldn't be a problem."

Oz nodded, looking down at Xander, who grinned up at him, winking. "It had better not be." He sat down on the arm of the couch, looking at Di, who smiled at them.

"Guys, I'm one of the best in defensive and protective magick. He'll be fine."

Oz looked down at Xander, who stood up. "Want to eat?"

"Yup, really hungry. Come on, let's let them talk about us behind our backs." He walked beside his lover out of the room and out into the school, staying close.

Giles looked at Di, frowning. "They seemed to have bonded over all this."

"Truly," she said, still smiling, "but it's a good thing. They're good for each other. I actually saw Xander trying to study." Giles' mouth hung open. "Really. Oz even said something about the test being in a few days but this way he could sleep the night before." Her smile changed to a wicked grin. "I can't wait to see them in action together."

"Diana!" Giles said shocked.

"I meant fighting," she said, eyes twinkling.

"I'm sure you did. Don't make me call Andre and tell him that you're becoming a teen yourself."

She laughed. "As if, as I was told to say."

Xander glanced around the cafeteria, then back at his tray. "They're talking about us, right?" Oz nodded, mouth full of sandwich. "About *us*?"

"Yup. But if we ignore them then they pretend to ignore us." He nodded at someone he knew as they walked past. "See? No bad repercussions."

"Okay." Xander finished his lunch, pushing the tray aside. "I've got to apartment hunt tonight, want to help?"

"Could. Plan on spending some time there." He nudged the younger man's leg with his foot. "Relax, there's no sign on your back."

"I know, but I hate that 'watched to see when I'm going to snap' feeling." He glanced around again and everyone looked away from him. "Okay, I want to cut now."

"No," Oz said gently. "We'll leave them later." He leaned forward. "Just relax and let it flow."

"I'm not naturally like that."

"Then I'll help you," Oz offered, "before you get an ulcer or other nasty thing."

"Like worms?"

"Very." Oz tossed down his sandwich. "Enough of that, let's go walk around. Could use the exercise."

"Where did you sleep last night?" Xander asked as he stood up, taking his tray to the cart that held the dirty ones.

"Outside Giles' house," Oz said, putting his own away and heading them towards the typically sunny day outside.


Giles watched Oz pace inside his cage, then turned to look at Xander, who was staring at the wolf in the cage, his eyes following but his mind apparently miles away form where he sat on the floor. "What're you thinking?" he asked quietly even though they were alone in the library.

"How it's almost inevitable that I'll be turned someday," Xander said quietly. "Not that I'd mind, I mean, there are worse curses in my opinion, but I'd like to hold it off." He turned his head to look at Giles, giving him a sad look. "He's worried about me."

"I realize that," Giles told him gently, "but it's not inevitable. Even if you should be bitten, there's a small chance you won't be turned if he's not in wolf form."

"Giles, think long term here okay? I'm a clinger. I'm not leaving him, ever." He turned back to his watching, following the agitated body with his eyes.

Di whistled as she came in, heading closer to the cage. "He's not too shabby, though a bit on the furry side." She smiled at Xander's growl and Giles disturbed look at the young teen. "Relax, I have my man and he's got a lot less hair. Couldn't pay the shampoo bills on that one." She sat down beside Xander, smiling still. "Giles, have you come up with anything new?"

"Not really," he said, closing the book he had been reading. "Just that we can't ward him because a sacred circle can be violated for this and that locking him up would be the worst thing."

"I shouldn't be alone tomorrow," Xander said, getting up and heading for the cage.

"Maybe you shouldn't," Giles started but Di placed a hand on his wrist, making him just watch.

Xander walked right up to the bars, reaching between them to be sniffed before he scratched behind one pointed ear. "Like that?" he crooned. He let go of the ear, sitting in front of the cage, Oz following his lead. "Yeah, I think I can handle this duty," he said, reaching back through to rub over the scratchy fur. "You recognize me so you won't eat me."

Giles glared at Di, who shrugged. "I had no idea," she said.

"Nor I," Giles said tiredly, getting up and heading for the office to make himself some more tea. "Xander, would you like something to drink? I have some water in my little refrigerator."

"Please." He took the bottle with a smile. "We've got to find him somewhere more private soon," he told the older man. "Make him a real lair sorta place."

"If you could find the spot, we'd gladly help," Giles told him, heading back to the table. Everyone looked toward the door as it started to open, then at Xander as he raced inside the cage, hiding Oz back behind a few of the bookcases.

"Principal Snyder," Giles said gravely. "Why are you here so late?"

"Why are you here at all?" he snarled.

"Because something's happened to one of my helpers and Diana was kind enough to ask me to stop back through to talk to them." He noted the now missing book from the table when he motioned the other man to sit down. "Would you like some tea?"

"No, thank you," Snyder growled. He looked at Diana, who shuddered, and smiled. "How soon will you be gone?" he asked the Librarian.

"In a few days perhaps. Once my helper's problem has been settled." Giles sat down next to Di, patting her hand. "We were just discussing wedding plans." Snyder's mouth hung open. "No," Giles said with a gentle smile, "not her and I, her and her betrothed, Andre."

Di took the hint and followed the lie. "Yeah, six months from now he's going to make me take him on as a permanent burden." She smiled at Giles, nudging his shoulder. "You, of course, are attending."

Snyder walked out in a rage, his emotions overloading Di's empathic abilities. When she came around again, she had time to gasp a name before being knocked back out. "Angel."

Angel laughed, picking both of them up and carrying them out of the library.

Xander stuck his head around the edge of the bookshelf in the cage. "Oh, hell," he muttered, looking at Oz for a suggestion


Xander led Oz through Buffy's back door, making her jump a little when she saw him. "Relax, he's under control." He waited until she had shut the door, following her down to her basement so they wouldn't wake her mother. "Angelus is back, he has Giles and Di." She glared at him. "Hey, wasn't me, I was still in the cage with Oz. Snyder had come in just before that. I stayed in because I heard the door open but when I looked out, I saw him dragging them away." He shrugged, leaning back against the furry body that had just come up behind him.

"What did you do to Oz?" she asked, watching the werewolf sniff the younger man for the third time since they had come into the house. "He's not normally this calm."

"We've...bonded," Xander said quietly. "Just relax about it and accept it for now. We have worse problems than a calm Oz." He glanced at the window and jumped when he saw Angelus looking in it. "Buffy," he whispered, pointing.

Buffy sighed, looking, then her mouth fell open. "Angel," she whispered.

"Angelus," Xander corrected. "Come on," he nudged her arm, "you have to do your slayer bit and protect us."

She nodded, shaking her head. "He can't get in, we respelled the doors, remember?" Xander nodded. "So, we'll just have to stay inside."

"That's great but what about how he got back here?"

"Um, can we not think about that?"

"Buffy, he's got..." Xander found his mouth covered. "Whatever," he muttered so she removed her hand. "Now what?"

"Now, you two stay down here. I'm going to go out and talk to him, see what's up. Maybe it's Angel again."

"He was..." He stopped when she glared at him. "At least put on a jacket, it's chilly," he told her, resigned to probably losing her this time. She nodded, walking up the stairs. Angelus kept watching them through the windows.

Oz looked up and growled, stepping in front of Xander and the vampire smiled, withdrawing.

Buffy came back down a few minutes later, smiling. "He's him again." Xander shook his head, backing away from her and her blank expression. Oz growled at her and she frowned at him. "Bad dog, behave," she said, trying to pat him on the head.

Xander pulled Oz away from her, backing farther away from her and toward the outer door. He checked his watch, almost midnight. "Um, Buffy, what did he tell you? About Hell and all? How did he get back?"

"He asked politely, telling them it was a mistake," she said with a small giggle.

"Please, someone," Xander whispered, "now would be good for the calvary to come in." The door behind him burst open and he ducked, covering his mate. A dark haired, suave man walked through, glaring at the Slayer. "Um, and you are?"

"Andre," he said, his voice having a light French accent. "Di called to me when she was taken. I was close by in case she needed me." He looked over the Slayer, frowning. "How did he do that?" he asked, waving a hand in front of her face.

"Careful, Angel did it."

"I know," he said calmly, then slapped her.

Buffy shook it off, glaring at him. "Who the... are you?" she asked, biting her tongue to keep from swearing.

"Di's honey," Xander told her. "You normal again?" She glared at him. "Hey, Angelus did something to your head, deal with it." He straightened back up, walking carefully over to where they were standing. "I'm Xander," he said, shaking the vampire's hand, "this is Oz. He'll say hi in the morning." He glanced at Buffy as he led him away. "Angelus has them, I was in the cage with Oz when he came in and knocked she and Giles out, and then he took them. He was just here."

"I sent him away," Andre told him, patting his shoulder. "Be at ease, I will help." They shared a look then looked toward Oz, who was growling at Buffy again because she had that look on her face again. "It's a spell but I have no way to counter it. We need to get you safe, they can do nothing without you."

Xander shook his head. "I invalidated it."

"Not necessarily. They could be interpreting it differently. They could have decided that it takes free will to do so. Those prophecies are by no means complete." The young man's shoulders fell. "Relax, I will protect you. I have no desire to do otherwise."

"Besides saving Di?"

"They should be harmonious." Andre led them back over to where Oz was sniffing at the wood. "Come, gather your mate and let us proceed to somewhere safer."

"I don't know where that would be," Xander admitted.

"Ah, but I do. There are many other types of us than you deal with nightly and we all have small communities." He led them out the back door, keeping a firm hand on Xander's arm as they walked, Oz behind them.

They ended up in front of a small house, Andre going up to knock on the door. The woman looked at them, then back at him, opening the door to let them all in. She silently opened another, smaller, door and let them go in before shutting it behind them. Andre felt around on the walls, eventually turning on some lights in the tunnel, leading the sacrifice down to a safe hiding place.

"Um, okay," Xander said, looking around the cavern. "Where is this?"

"There have been many Rom that have settled down to provide safe shelter for the others. This is one such place." He waved a hand at the bed. "Go rest yourself. Tomorrow will be trying."

"Only if I leave."

"You cannot remain cooped up tomorrow night, it will make it easier to for them to capture you." Andre patted the human's shoulder. "Rest now, we will discuss what to do later."

Xander nodded, heading over to the bed, pushing Oz over some so they could nap.


Oz woke up and groaned, holding his head. "Where?" he asked, looking around. He saw the pile of clothes laying beside the bed so picked up the shirt to pull on, looking down at the weight he could feel on his stomach. "Xander," he whispered, checking him over for signs that he had hurt his lover, scared for the first time in his life about what the wolf had done. "Xander!"

Xander sat up, looking at him. "Morning?" he asked. He saw the door at the end of the tunnel open again. "Looks like we should go for the day." He stood up, stretching. "Come on, I'll explain on the way back to the library." Oz glared at him. "You followed me around last night and protected me and Andre from Buffy and Angelus, who has Giles and Di," he said when the glare didn't stop. Oz nodded slowly. "You didn't rampage, bite anyone, and you protected me." He headed for the door. "Come on, we have to find somewhere safe."

Oz quickly got dressed, following after his friend. "Xander, wait," he called, catching up to him at the edge of the major town park. He spun the slightly younger man around, looking at him. "What really happened? Chronologically?"

Xander pulled them over to a small wall, sitting them down. "You changed," he started quietly, "Giles and Di talked while I watched you pace. I sat in front of you to calm you down. Snyder walked in so I headed into the cage with you." Oz winced. "Nothing happened and Snyder didn't see you, but before I could get out, Angelus walked in and knocked Di and Giles out and took them." He took a deep breath. "I decided that we should retreat to a safer place so took us to Buffy's. You followed me the whole way and tried to protect me against her when Angelus cast a weird spell on her. Andre, Di's honey, showed up and took us to where we just came from. He was apparently close by in case she needed him." He looked down. "He said that there may be a clause that wasn't written down, a wanting it one."

Oz stood up, looking down at his friend. "Xander, I'm not going to let you have them."

"You know, I've been thinkin' about this, why isn't it you?" Xander looked back up, frowning. "You fit the criteria too but everyone's so sure it's me that she's after."

"I've had sex."

"Are you sure?"

"Well, I was pretty drunk at the time but yeah, I'm sure I did. The condom on me was filled and was slimy on the outside. The college freshman I did wouldn't ever look at me again." Oz walked over to a nearby fountain, getting a drink, then walked back. "The point is taken though. If wanting is a criteria, we both fit now." He looked down at himself. "We need to find a safe place."

"Andre said that if we were cooped up, they'd get us easier." Oz shook his head. "I really don't think you'll need caged tonight. We did okay last night." Oz shook his head again and Xander stood up, looking down on him. "Oz, you're the last protector I have and I'm the only one you have. If being caged means that you'll be taken, I'm not allowing it. I'll find you and release you and we'll wander all over the park tonight," he told him quietly, his voice firm. "No more arguments. We can't be separated."

"Then we'll be two targets together," Oz pointed out, looking up into the brown eyes. "Why did I follow you?"

Xander threw up his arms and started to walk away. "Damned if I know but it was great to have someone that growled at Buffy for me." He made it all the way to the fountain before Oz stopped him. "Hey, I need to get to the books, we've got to figure this out."

"If they're not there, how are we going to do that?"

"Not a clue," Xander admitted. "Snyder would bother us, if he didn't have the doors locked." He smiled slowly. "The back door through the stacks."

"No, it's got an alarm on it now. Giles had them put it on."

"Shoot." Xander frowned, looking around at the trees. "Go home and shower, I'm going to Giles', see if I can't find something. Meet me back here before dusk tonight."

"Xander, we can't. I will hurt someone and it'll be you."

"No, it won't. You didn't bite me last night. You weren't more a foot away from me all night and part of that was in the library. We'll be fine. Trust yourself." He patted his friend's arm, turning and jogging toward Giles' apartment on the other side of the park.

Oz watched him go before heading for his own home, which was much closer.


Xander paced nervously as it started to get dark, jumping as he heard footsteps behind him. Oz tossed him a bag, then pulled off his shirt. "There are some bushes," he started, pointing.

"We'll be fine. Lots of people strip here. And if we get caught? Oh well." He frowned at his lover. "Xander, we're not doing this again. If you need it, there's a tranq gun in there and a pair of shackles." He tossed over his shirts, watching as the younger man put them into the bag. He undid his belt and jeans but kept them on for now. "We're going to talk in the morning."

"Hey, if we make it through tonight, I'll gladly let you do whatever makes you feel most comfortable," Xander said, looking down. Oz nudged his arm, moving in front of him. "It shows in your eyes, the feeling of this being a mistake." He looked up, seeing the same sadness. "Oz, I'll be here."


"Maybe not in this spot but when you're wanting to be around me, I'll be somewhere accessible." He stepped back as the gray eyes turned to yellow. "Time," he whispered. He accepted the rest of the clothes as his friend started to change, stepping back to let him have some space. When the wolf was once again in front of him, Xander sat down on the grass, looking around. "We'll have to move soon but I can let you rest," he told him, reaching out a hand to pet him. Oz growled at him so he pulled his hand back. "Sorry. You're pissed and upset about choosing me, I understand that. Like I said, I'm here." He glanced around again, this time turning to look behind him. When he turned back around, Oz was gone. "No," Xander moaned, standing up. "Not yet." He searched for a hint of the furry body, heading off in the direction of the trampled grass.

Oz watched the human leave from his position in the bushes, sniffing the air. He had time to grunt as the dart hit his rear, then the world went black for him.


Xander headed for the park where the original ceremony was cast, knowing he needed to be there. He stopped at the edge of the clearing, taking a deep breath when he saw Oz tied to a post in the center of a circle. He didn't jump as he felt the hand hit his shoulder. "Let him go," he said quietly.

Angelus laughed. "I don't think so. You can go with him but he's not going anywhere." He pulled Xander over to the circle, holding him still while Willow cut a hole into it so he could be put inside. "In you go, virgin." He sneered.

"Technically not true," he told them, looking at them. He walked over to Oz, ignoring the growl as he freed him. "There." He checked on Di, who was lying against the edge of the cleared space, but she was still out, the dart in her neck telling him she was drugged. He walked over to Giles, but he was drugged too. He looked at his former friend. "Want to tell me why? After all we've been through, I'd like to know why I'm going to Hell for you." He walked back over to her but Angelus growled at him. "Ah, that reason." He shook his head. "What would Buffy say?"

"She'd say we've been sharing," Willow told him, shrugging at his head shake. "Sorry, but I like them all. She's actually kinda fun." She smiled at Buffy as she was led into the clearing, her expression still saying she was spelled. "Ah, Buffy," she said, pushing her into the circle. "We're all here. How much longer?"

"An hour," Angelus whispered, taking her into his arms and kissing her. "Thank you for asking for me."

She patted his arm. "I had to have someone fun to play with."

Xander turned away from her, looking at Buffy where she stood watching the post. He walked over, slapping her as hard as he could. Then he ducked her reciprocal slap. "Come on," he muttered, punching her since she still wasn't back.

"It won't work," Willow called.

"But I'll be dead," he muttered, not ducking this swing, ending up on the ground looking up at her still vacant face. Oz growled softly from across the clearing but he shook his head, standing back up. "Come on, you can do better than that." She hit him in the stomach. "Not even close," he grunted, bending over in pain. He caught Oz's leg as he lunged for Buffy, keeping him from doing more than scraping her with his teeth. "Easy, we need to cure her."

Giles moaned. "Do stop him," he said, sitting up. He looked at Buffy as he stood, walking over to her. "I don't think having her beat on you will cure this problem," he told his student, patting the top of Xander's head. He pulled her head up to look into her eyes, saying a few quiet words, stumbling as he stepped back.

Buffy blinked, looking around. "Um, how did I get here?" She looked down at Xander and Oz, frowning at them. "Last time I saw you two, you were in my basement. What's going on?"

"Why don't you ask your lovers," Xander said snidely, standing up. He stared her down when she flinched. "Yeah, them, since we're all offerings now."

"You should have protected yourself better," Giles told him gently.

"Not if Andre was right about the consent clause," he said coldly. "Then it was either Oz or I and they got him first."

"So you naturally came to rescue him?" Buffy asked, sniping now. "Why doesn't that surprise me? Xander, to the rescue with no thought of a plan in sight." She ducked his swing. "Getting worse," she said, hitting him in the stomach again.

"Enough!" Giles shouted, pushing them apart. "This is not the time, nor the place, for this. You can argue later." He stared down Buffy until she walked over to where Di was laying. He turned to look at Xander, who was brushing some blood off his face. "Xander, you shouldn't have come for Oz."

"Giles, shut up," he said coldly, walking over to the post. He picked up the rope, looking at it, then down at himself. He checked his watch, remembering what they had said about how long they had and winced. "Twenty minutes," he whispered, looking at the rope then at what they had on hand. "Giles, go wake up Di."

"It's kinder to let her sleep," the Watcher told him.

"Do it or I will!" Giles flinched. "Good! Now go wake her up. We'll need her if we're getting out of this sometime before we make it to Hell."

Giles walked closer to Xander, trying to soothe him. "Calm yourself, this isn't doing anyone any good, Xander. There is no way to escape."

"If Di's the best in the business and you're so good that you can close the Hellmouth then we should be able to get out of this," he said, his eyes showing his desperation. "Besides, I'd rather fight than go out just sitting there watching them call up demons to play with our asses."

Giles winced at the course language while Willow laughed. "What has gotten into you?" he asked, touching his arm.

"You," Xander said, shaking him off. He grabbed the knife from the older man's pocket, slicing through the rope after a few seconds of sawing. Then he worked the post out of the ground, taking off his shirt.

"What're you trying to do?" Buffy asked.

"Not a damn clue, but I could probably use some help." Willow and Angelus both laughed. "Laugh all you want to," he called, "I am hurting you for this, Will." He turned to glare at her, slicing his palm. Buffy started to look very green as he turned back to look down at the blood flowing from him. "Help or go sit and wait it out," he told Giles, "I'm not taking that option."

The older man walked over to where Di was just starting to wake up helping her sit up. "I believe Xander's gone insane," he told her.

She frowned at him. "It's the demon," she said quietly, steadying herself. "It's got a strong will to live." She walked over to him, looking at the puddle forming at his feet. "If you were into Magic we could do something," she said, hugging him.

"Get off unless you're helping."

Buffy snorted. "Whatever." She walked over to where she had a clear view of all of them. And of Angelus.

Di picked up Xander's hand, saying a few words over it. The blood glowed briefly, but then went back to normal. "You didn't drink enough," she told him. He shrugged. "Xander, this matters."

"Not unless we make it though the next hour," he said, tying a knot around his shirt that had been filled with dirt. "Help me here, I'm not even sure what I'm doing."

"Hear us, our Lord," Willow called, walking around the circle. "We give you these offerings, some pure by your standards, some protectors that will bring happiness to your being." A small portal started where the post had been. "Great Corruptor, come to us, your faithful servants, hear us and honor our deal."

Xander shook his head, picking up the post and sticking it in the portal, watching it swirl around. Then he watched it fly away, arcing up and hitting the ground beside Buffy. His head came up, hearing a noise from the bushes nearby, eyes going very wide as he saw just what he had hoped would at least come to help him. A big, green, momma slug. She lumbered over to where Angelus was standing, landing on top of him with a shriek that held a load of outrage.

Willow frowned at it then shook her head. "You can choose another pairing, these are my Dark Lord's." She walked away from the slowly moving demon, chanting the whole time. Until the board hit her across the back of her head.

"Andre," Di sighed, closing her eyes. She walked over to the edge of the circle, laying her hand against the boundary, starting her attempt to bring it down. Within a few words Giles was beside her, his own voice raising as her's did.

Xander looked at Oz, motioning him over. "Come on, we have to leave." When the wolf didn't come he walked over, grabbing his hand and pulling him over to Giles, taking off his belt to provide a collar and short leash, handing it to Buffy. "Go," he told her. "Make sure he's safe. She won't let anything happen to me." The Slayer looked confused but nodded. He walked back over to his blood soaked earth, pulling the small flask of holy water out of his back pocket and pouring it into the mix of blood and dirty. Dirt he had stolen one of Giles' books earlier to consecrate, even though most of it was probably gone now. As the portal continued to grow, he picked up some of the mixture, tossing it into the center, hoping his instincts were correct.

"Xander," Buffy called as the shield was breeched.

He nodded, dumping some more. Giles kept her from coming after him so he continued, saying the words he had memorized earlier over and over again as he dumped more and more of the earth into the portal. When it was all gone, he said the verse one last time, backing away from it, heading out through the hole in the boundary, closing his eyes as he passed through it. He felt the world shake, falling down as soon as he was clear, pulling his legs up to make sure they weren't in there.

"I'd contain it," he said quietly, not able to move. He watched as Di walked back to the hole, starting to close it again, Giles giving him a look before he started to help too. Buffy held Oz's leash, watching as he stood up, heading off into the bushes but not following. He retched for a few seconds, then stood up, leaving the area, what he had to do to protect them all from all the demons.

*** Three Weeks Later ***

Oz walked into the small store in LA, heading for the back counter and pulling Xander around by his hair. "Not leaving?" he asked.

"Demon," Xander said slowly. "Followed me. All of them." Oz turned just a little whiter. "I had Di remove the Corruptor but the other won't go away."

"Come on," he said, pulling the young man out the door.

"I'm going on break," Xander called. A male voice from the back answered him. "I'm sorry I ran, Oz, but I had to protect you."

"You could have stayed, let us handle it."

"Andre told me it was for the best if I left, that you could always find me." Oz nodded. "Like I said that last night, I'm around when you're ready to not consider me a mistake." He headed back into the store.

Oz looked around at the traffic, watching as one green eyestalk came out of a group of trees across from the store. "Whatever," he said, walking back in. "I don't consider you that," he said, leaning on the counter to watch Xander write something. "I never did. I was reconsidering but you weren't a mistake."

"I can understand that, you changed your life in a very radical way that night." The younger man shrugged. "Like I said, I'm here when you want or need me."

"I'm sure but you shouldn't be here."

Xander put down his pen, looking up, leaning on the counter to get closer. "Oz, I'm not going to force you to stay beside me. You need to go out and explore life. When you're ready to see me as more than a misadventure and a problem then I'll be waiting. That's what I'm good at, it's all part of clinging." He straightened back up. "Until then, you need to go be free. All young predators spend some time alone to hunt and to make them learn just how lonely alone is. I know how that is, go do it. I'll be here."

Oz shook his head, patting the side of Xander's face. "You do understand, but you're wrong." He turned, walking out. "I'll be back."

"Yes, you will," Xander said, going back to his list. "The price I pay is the same as you will, some day. Though, Willow had an interesting price, wonder how she and her demon are doing?"