Maribelle and Melvin, the Godly six year old twins of Ares, God of War, Xander, God of the Overlooked, Giles, God of the Paranormal, and Oz, God of Computer Technology and Rock Bands, looked at each other and sighed. They were bored. It was nice playing with Bliss, Cupid's son, but he was with his mother this weekend and there weren't any other kids on Olympus around their age. Then, Maribelle got a bright idea. "Daddy kept talking about a little girl a few months ago," she told her brother. "A Miri person."
"Is she one of us?" Melvin asked.
His sister shrugged. "I don't know. Xander said she traveled a lot to where she wasn't supposed to be. Maybe, if we can find her, she'll play with us."
"Maybe," Melvin agreed. Life was looking up a little bit now. There might be a new kid to play with soon and his sister was willing to help him get into trouble. "Can we find her?"
"He said she ripped a lot of stuff, so maybe if we look for big rips, we'll find a way to get to her." She scanned the local area, Aphrodite's garden, and frowned. "No rips here," she pouted.
"Maybe they on the edges, like where the daddies go to think."
"Maybe," she said, cheering back up. She got up and followed her brother, going out to look for big holes in the fabric of their world. They found them in their own backyard, literally, at the end of their garden. They joined hands and looked through the rips, blinking in surprise when they saw all the kids. "Wow," Maribelle said, leaning into her brother's side. "They'd be neat to play with."
"We'd need somewhere to play with them in," Melvin suggested. "They can't come here, Daddies would find out and yell something terrible."
Maribelle looked at her brother, reading his mind easily, and nodded. "Okay. Can we do that?"
"I don't see why not, Daddy Strife said all we had to do was wish for something hard enough and it could be made. We've made ice cream, how much harder is a playground for all of us to play in?"
Maribelle considered this then nodded. "Okay," she said, joining minds with her brother so [that] they had to do this together. She took his idea for the playground and built upon it, creating a wonderful fairytale castle. Just like in her books, only between the realms where no daddies should be able to go. She turned her attention to the kids she and her brother had seen, wishing they would come with her to the castle. She pouted when she felt her brother bringing their parents with them. "Why?"
"Because they might get scared. Remember the last time our Daddies got lost in the mall?"
"True," she agreed, taking the fateful step onto their newly created plane, Playground. They ran up to the castle to meet their new friends.
Derek and Alex both looked up in alarm as they felt a shimmer of magic wash over the house. They started to run for where they knew the children were, but by the time they made it to the door, they were somewhere different. A very white place, made of white marble. They could hear voices from the room next door and went to see if that was the rest of their house and the children, not expecting at all to see a familiar little girl and her family.
Xander and Oz clutched each other as they felt the shift of the magic, visually checking the children who were sitting around them in the library. They jumped up, ready to defend their kids, as the door opened, but stopped when they saw someone familiar. "Derek?" Xander asked, coming over to shake his hand. "Long time, no letter."
"Miriam," Derek said, getting free and walking over to look at her. "Did you do this?"
"Nope, great big magic ball," Oz said. "Um, Xander, I don't think we're in our own home," he said, pointing out the window at the giant playground.
Xander looked confused. "Then how did we get here?"
Derek stood up. "I think Miriam might have an explanation."
Xander and Oz clutched Giles and their animals as they felt the magic wash over their manor house. "Whoa," Xander said, nodding at the solid decor. "Very bright." He looked outside and squealed. "Oz, look, a playground." He grinned at his husband. "Wanna go play on the swings?"
"Later," Oz said, tipping his head off to the side. "I think we should go join the voices." He pulled Xander up with him, noticing what he was wearing. "We may have a problem," he noted, pointing down at Xander's dance pants. "Those are really thin and I'm thinkin' about a little girl that came to us last time."
"They're fine," Xander sighed, untucking his tank-top so nothing would show through the thin material. "Come on, I want to see if it is Miri, she needed lots of hugs last time." He carried his kittens out into the hall, ignoring the two men still huddled together in the corner. He walked into what looked like a large library, staring at all the people in there, especially the other him. "Hi," he said, waving. He grinned down at Miri. "Did you do this," he cooed, reaching down to give her a kiss.
"Nope," she said firmly. "I did not do this!" She stomped her little foot and glared at all the adults. "I didn't. My holes, but me no do this." She nodded and looked at her fathers. "We go play on playground? We hardly ever get to go to the park these days."
"In a few minutes," her father Xander sighed, looking at his facsimile. "Hey, at least you're not a vampire," he said lightly.
"Nope, not at all," Xander said, looking around the room. "You guys still do the paranormal?"
"Sometimes," Miri's father Oz said, looking at the Oz who just came through the door, the one who put an arm around the new Xander's side. "Um, which one were you from?"
"We're the ones who gave her the stones," Xander said, grinning. "Did your daddies put them away for you?"
"Yes, we did," Miri's father Xander said quietly. "Um, been wanting to talk to you about that. How did you get them?"
"Enough," the Derek said quietly. "This is more important. If Miri didn't get us here, who did?"
"Kiddies," Miri said, staring up at him. "I sawed them. They looked through the holes." She looked at her fathers. "Me go find everyone else, bring them here?" Everyone nodded, after all, they all knew her. She squealed and ran out, going to find everyone else.
Xander grabbed his head as the vibration of his studio started to pick up, leaning into Oz's body as he came over to comfort him and their kittens. He knew Jim and Blair were just a few feet away, but Oz was his Guide and that was a good thing because he could stop the pain. When he opened his eyes, everything was blindingly white. "Eww, no sense of color," he complained. "Who decorated this place?" He looked over at Blair who was staring at him. "What?"
"I think a better question is where are we," Blair said gently, trying to make his student see sense.
"I think we're about to get an answer," Jim said, pointing at the door. "I hear a kid, or someone very small running very fast."
Blair stood up, wanting to meet this challenge on his feet too, no matter how bad his knees were shaking.
Xander growled and vamped out, as much as he could, as he felt the magic shifting the whole apartment. "Not funny!" he called, looking up. His Oz was at his side immediately, trying to get him to calm down. Spike was lounging on the couch, sipping a mug of blood. Xander stared at the now white walls and looked at Spike. "You better hope someone around here can feed you," he noted, going over to pull open the door. His mouth fell open when he saw the little girl standing on the other side, who was giving him a cute and helpless look. "I remember you, we sent you home." He looked around again. "This isn't home, right?"
She giggled and grabbed his hand, pulling him into the hall. "Nope, not home. We all be taken. Meeting time."
"Crap," Oz muttered, following them out the door, dragging Spike with him.
Miri made another stop at another door, tapping on it gently. "I no know you," she said happily. "Meeting time. Daddies say so. We be brought here." She smiled at the Xander, who looked a little panicked. "What's wrong?" she asked him.
"It's okay," Oz, the one she had been dragging, said, walking in to talk to them. After a few seconds of talking with himself, they all filed out after her, going to find everyone else in a very comfortable library. Miri ran off again, going to see if she couldn't find anyone else, coming back very quickly with a bunch of children, another Xander and Oz pairing, a Giles, and a few people that they didn't know. Oh, and a pissed off Buffy.
Miri sat down and counted. Five daddies Xander and Oz. Two daddies Giles. Two unclie Spikes. One unclie Wesley and her new nanny Kaiya, the kitty cat demon. One of the people she had met before: Derek, Alex, Nick, and a Buffy was with them. Two unclies Methos', one of which she knew was a butler no matter what the other one said, the other was wrapped around some strange guy. And two other strange guys she wasn't quite sure who they were. Oh, and the other kids. Her friends were all with her, and it looked like there was a few more than usual, but they were all playing with animals that had come with the nice other Daddy Xander, the one who had given her her pretties. She walked over to the set of twins and tapped the little girl on the shoulder. "'Scuse me, do I know you?" she asked, her voice stopping all the greetings in progress.
Everyone looked at the twins, who waved. "We just wanted to play with the kids," the little girl, Maribelle, said. "We didn't mean to cause trouble."
"But our Daddy's Strife so maybe it's just us," Melvin said with a shrug and a grin. "Welcome to our playground. Can we play now?"
A few of the adults gaped, and a few of them restrained themselves from yelling, but one of them didn't. "Do you have *any* idea what you just did," one of the Xanders, a darker more dangerous Xander asked. "That sort of power is *not* supposed to be in children's hands. Where're your teachers?"
"Freeze," the sitting down, fatherly, Xander said. "They're just kids. More than likely, their teacher's looking for them. If they have one." That stopped the other him. "If they don't, then there's some people who look out for our oldest daughter who will probably come looking for us very quickly." He stood up and got into the other Xander's face, poking him on the chest. "You *never* speak to a child that way," he hissed. "No matter how badly they've just abused their powers, you do *not* speak to a child that way. Doing so means that the child may never find the ability to fix it!" He shouted the last, glaring at his other self.
"Chill," one of the Oz's said, laying a hand on his arm. Another of himself coughed so he removed it. "Sorry. He's right," he told the first Xander. "But so is he," he told the fatherly one. "We need to get this fixed, not argue."
"First, I think we need to finish the intros and figure out where we each stand," fatherly Xander's Oz said from his seat. "We've got to have different skills."
"True. Who watches the kids?" one of the strange men asked.
"Ray, why don't we let the parents take a turn," his Xander suggested, snuggling back into his Oz's arms. "I'm not so good with kids, but if they're fathers then they must have some skills."
"I'll go for now," the fatherly Xander said, looking down at the kids. "Miri visited the rest of you, right?" They all nodded. "Cool, I'm her daddy. Let's go play." The kids all shrieked and ran out, with him and his nanny right behind them.
Aislin, newly born and matured God of Reconciliation, was looking for his siblings. His parents wanted to talk to them about how to use their powers, but he had a suspicion that it might be too late. He found the larger rip at the end of the garden and called on his coolest father, Oz, mentally to come join him. Oz appeared beside him and Aislin pointed at the rip. "Feel that."
Oz laid a hand next to it and nodded. "The twins," he said, turning around and sending a calm, mental scream throughout Olympus, bringing everyone, and their families. "The twins pulled something," he said, calming everyone down.
"Oh, no," Xander sighed as he walked up to the rip. "Yup, they're there. And we can't go in." He got out of Hera's way, watching as she tested the hole. "Can we fix it?" he asked her.
"Not with the people in there," she said, looking around. "Cupid, come here, maybe you can get through this."
He walked up and touched the hole, flinching back. "Nope, they've got a no adult thing going on." He looked around the gathered people. "And there's no other real kids among us," he said, losing hope pretty fast.
Zeus walked up to the hole and tested it too. "We might be able to reign it in a little bit at a time, sending everyone back to a neutral spot until we can get it fixed," he suggested mildly. "But if we pull too hard, it could close up and trap them there." He looked around. "What happened to make it this way?"
"The twins," Xander told him. "They were playing in the garden while we were trying to figure out how to curb some of their powers back." He glared at Cupid, who had already botched it once and had almost killed Melvin in the process, he still hadn't forgiven the God of Love for it. "Again," he added on.
Zeus sighed and looked around. "Everyone not involved, or having a solution, go home." Almost everyone disappeared, except the family and Cupid, who was acting in Zeus's place until he could get his powers back safely without the taint. "All right. What happened up until this point?"
"See, I tried to block them," Cupid told him, manifesting a chair to sit on. "And it worked, but then we had to unblock them because there was a problem, so what do I do, but I freak and kill the blockage. Almost killing Melvin. So they're totally at adult levels."
"Which is why we've been trying to figure out how to curb them," Xander said. He stared into the hole. "I wish I had felt them doing this."
"I didn't feel them doing this, and I'm the God over magic," Giles reminded him gently. "We'll get them back and punish them to the best of our abilities." He looked at Hera. "Are there other rips inside it?" She nodded. "Then you can't pull it closed, it will tear those other rips and turn them into void."
"No!" Xander shouted, hopping up, only to be caught by Ares as he tried to go for the rip. "I have to get to them."
"No, you have to calm down, Xander," Ares told him. "Sit." He made a chair for all of them. That's when he realized that two of them were empty. "Strife? Aislin?" He looked at his sister. "Can you feel your son?" She pointed at the rip. "Really?"
"At least one of him."
"If they're in there, then we can get information from them so we know what is best to do," Hera said reasonably, not wanting to see Xander ready to rip into his son for doing this.
Aislin had realized that no one was paying any attention to him, and that he could make it through the rip by himself, so he left through it, wanting to go be with his brother and sister. He felt someone coming through with him but he didn't care. Strife was the coolest of all the Gods. "Hey," he said, turning them invisible. "Think they'll let us play?"
Strife shrugged. "Who knows. Like I'm gonna ask." He patted his cousin on the shoulder. "Maybe Mom can get through." He sent a message back to Discord, and she appeared beside them. Then the rip closed tightly. "Shit," he muttered, stomping his foot. "Had to happen."
"We'll fix it from this side," Discord told him. She looked at the giant fairytale castle, one eyebrow going up. "Well, we know who decorated this," she said dryly. She felt a tugging and frowned, but she couldn't fight the expulsion.
Strife and Aislin quickly went invisible but when neither of them were ejected from the realm, they looked at each other and nodded. It was up to them to tell everyone else what was going on and how to fix it. They started up to the castle, knowing that any overt use of their powers would get them tossed out too.
Strife tried not to think about why he was allowed in, but if the kids liked him it might come in handy.
Everyone in the library had somehow found a seat. The Xander/Oz/Giles trio were cuddled together in a large chair, their Methos and Ray curled up next to them on the floor. The Xander and Oz with the four kids were cuddled together in another chair, their baby in Oz's lap cooing at everyone and their Wesley staring out the window with their Spike. The Derek, Nick, Alex, Buffy, Xander, and Oz grouping were all together on a couch, with their Methos sitting on an arm, staring at the Xander that was pacing and muttering about glyphs and feeding. His Oz and Spike were watching him with fond tolerance. The last Xander and Oz weren't curled up together, the Xander was resting his head on his Oz's lap, getting his hair worked through by gentle fingers and being told very quiet things by the other two men with him. The Derek cleared his throat first.
"We need to find a way to distinguish between all the Xander's and Oz's. If only so that we don't call them all at once," he said with better humor than he had been in. Little Godlings were very odd, even for what he usually dealt with in the paranormal, but they seemed harmless enough. "I would know my set anywhere, but I have no idea what the rest of you are like." He glanced at the one who had been pacing, who was now staring at him. "You can start if you'd like?"
"I'm a Xander that's been cursed by a friend with the Shearpman spell," he said, earning hisses from the Giles, Wesley, both Spikes, Derek's whole group, and the family Xander. "I'm not fully turned, not blood dependant, but I do need a little bit of hormones every few days."
"We can handle that," the Buffy said gently. "I've got them and so does Alex. How much do you need?"
"Just a few drops, I filter feed," he told her, relaxing a little bit. He was always nervous around the Slayer, especially when it wasn't the one he knew. "I'm also a sorcerer in training."
Derek smiled at that. "Goot," he said, clapping his hands. "Are any of the other Xander's magical?" He saw one whisper to his Oz, but the Oz shook his head so he didn't raise his hand. "All right, then we'll designate you Sorcerer Xander for now. All right?" That Xander nodded. "Goot. We'll designate your Oz the same as you, and your Spike as there's more than one."
"How do you now me?" Spike asked from the window. "You're too alive to have really met me."
"Um, we killed you," the Xander that went with the Derek said quietly. "You came after Dru, who had put a spell on our Giles to bind them together. It wasn't a great fight, but Oz and I both ended up in the hospital for a few days and you were gotten by a crossbow from the back porch before you could kill all three of us."
Spike nodded. "At least I went out fighting." He went back to watching the kids, testing his hand on the weak sunlight. "It doesn't burn," he told the Wesley beside him.
"I still need my sunglasses," Sorcerer Xander sighed. "Light's still okay for me but I really need sunglasses."
"Unless you want to watch the kiddies," his Spike said, "I don't think you'll have much need for them." He looked at his other self. "Oi, it don't burn at all?" He shook his head. "And what're you doing with the bints? I hate kiddies."
"I protect them," Spike said, turning to look at himself. "The family saved me from my chip and from Willow, and I owe them my loyalty." He grinned. "Besides, Miri's just a kicker. A real chip off the old block if I do say so myself."
"Well, you did used to babysit her," their Xander said, shooting him a grin. "Wes, you feeling okay?" he asked. The young vampire shook his head. "Blood lust?" He got a frantic nod. "Okay, um, Melvin?" he called, bringing the little boy with a flash of light. "Hi." He smiled down at him. "This is great and all, but humans need a few things, including food and bathrooms. Can you make some of those? And some blood for the vampires?"
Melvin considered it. "I'm really good at ice cream," he offered with a grin. He frowned as table full of food appeared, complete with silver chalices at one end. "Oh, someone's here," he pouted, flashing out to go find them and make them go away before they ruined the fun.
The Spike by the window walked over and sniffed at the blood, then nodded and forced Wesley to take one of the silver cups. "Drink it all or I'm gonna force feed ya," he warned the young man, not wanting to restart the constant argument between Wesley's demon and his former human self, which meant Wesley wasn't feeding when he needed to. "Oi, blood," he called, holding up another glass.
The other Spike came over and sniffed at it, handing it to his Xander. "That's yours," he said gruffly, then picked up the last one. "Human," he said in appreciation after a sip.
"At those tender teen years," the other Spike added. He took another sip. "Virgin even. Good job," he called, looking out the window. The little Gods waved up at him.
Wesley took a sip with a sigh, then looked up in shock. "I can't taste the blood."
"Of course you can," the Sorcerer Spike complained.
"He can't feed. His mind and his demon don't get on well," Spike told his counterpart. "Angel turned him and refused to teach him how to hunt or to break 'im." Both Spikes rolled their eyes, but they watched as Wesley carefully sipped at the not-blood tasting blood.
The family Xander got up and checked on the table, smiling when he found some smashed up veggies for his son, bringing the bowl over to feed him.
"You're very good at that," Derek said calmly, ignoring the vampires for now. "How old is he?"
"Just about eight months," Xander told him. "We're crawling and just starting to walk with assistance from the furniture." He looked up and smiled. "Yours?"
"Just over a year, but he's talking now also." He patted the little boy on the head. "What's his name?"
"William," their Oz said. "We should warn you, all of our girls are very overprotective of him. They used to routinely attack the daycare workers when they tried to take care of him because the girls didn't like them."
Derek smiled. "I can understand that. Precious might have done the same for our Junior." He looked back at his family. Then at the trio cuddled together. "So, what do you do?"
"Um, I'm a member of GHS," that Xander said, getting blank looks. "Greedy Hedonistic Sluts Society?"
Derek and the Xander feeding the baby blinked hard. "Oh, wow," that Xander said. "What else do you do?"
"I'm learning about making jewelry." He kissed Oz's cheek. "I'm writing a sex manual for demons at the moment. And I'm loved."
"Good. Then we'll refer to you as...." He looked at his family for a clue but that Oz raised his hand. "Yes?"
"Some of us are immortal, including Xander for as long as I live." The man on the floor glared at him. "Hey, they're not gonna tell. And who knows, there might not be any of us on their plane."
"True," the Methos agreed, looking at himself. "And you?"
"Oh, I am. But I'm a teacher to the troop outside right now." He looked at the Xander dryly. "What else can you do?"
"I can dance," Xander said quickly. "And I'm a pretty fair swordsman now. Oh, and I'm an anchor for the Gods on my plane."
"All right," Derek said, shaking his head. "We'll refer to you as the Dancing Xander, all right?" He nodded, grinning. "And all the rest of you as well. Um, what is your friend's name, Methos?"
"This is Ray, he's a police officer in Sunnydale now, used to be in Chicago."
"He's a sweetie," Xander said fondly, reaching down to stroke through Ray's hair.
"Get off," Ray said, pushing him away. "None of that now." He glared up at him and got an unrepentant grin in return. "Later."
Derek smiled. "All right, as myself and my group deal with the paranormal..."
"You're Brandon's father," Dancing Xander and the Xander with the baby said in unison. They laughed and waved.
"True," Derek agreed with a smile. "Is that how we should be known?"
"Fine by us," their Xander and Oz said together.
Buffy shook her head. "That doesn't really work for some of us."
"You're his aunt Buffy," her Oz reminded her.
"Point," she said sullenly. Oz leaned over and whispered something in her ear and she smiled a little. "What about them?"
"I'm a sentinel," the Xander against the wall told them. "Oz is my guide. Jim and Blair are our teachers."
"Okay, are you willing to be known as Sentinel Xander and Guide Oz?" Derek asked them. Oz nodded placidly. "Then that's your designation." He looked at the remaining Xander. "How about you?"
"Well, I'm a Watcher to a new girl, Sileya, who was thankfully at school," Xander sighed, leaning against Oz's body. "I do carpentry, but I also..." He looked around. "My cane's not here," he told Spike, who frowned at him. "Um, can anyone see a carved wooden cane? I kinda need it."
"Why don't we call him the family one?" Buffy suggested. "He's way paternal and all the kids seem to like him."
"That or Miri's," that Oz suggested.
"Either's fine with me," Xander said, still looking for his cane. A beautiful swirled jet and amber one appeared beside him and he picked it up to look at, careful of the carved ebony wood handle. "Wow," he said, showing it to his Spike, who had bought both of the ones he had so far.
"Fancy," Spike agreed, smiling at him. "I don't mind. I'm sure it's lyin' somewhere at home."
"Probably. Oh, man, Sileya's gonna freak when she gets home from school."
"Maybe, but I think she'll realize it's being worked on," Buffy said helpfully. "Am I there?"
"You were," Family Oz told her. "You died about six or seven months ago. Sileya's out of Faith's line; who's out of jail and has her soul, so now we have three."
"We have her out of jail now too," Dancing Oz told himself. "She's already killed someone and is causing no end of grief. She's attacked our newest girl too." He looked at Buffy. "In ours, you were turned by Spike for fun, he found you lying almost dead anyway, but you were drugged and tried to stake Angel so you staked yourself about two weeks ago."
She blinked. "Eww. *Spike* turned me?"
"For fun," the one by the window said, leering at her. "I can see that." He looked at his other half. "You?"
Sorcerer Spike shook his head. "Nope. In ours, she's bonded to Willow. Don't wanna 'em both. Not with the nasty bint *she* became."
"She's reformed," his Xander told him. "She's playing Watcher right now though."
"Ah," Family Xander said quietly. "I remember that state." Everyone looked at him. "Our Giles pretty well got Sileya dumped on him by our father, Ethan, but he didn't do very much so I took over. After Buffy's funeral, I was named her official Watcher. The Council gave me the handbook and everything."
"Our Giles destroyed the Council," Buffy said proudly, beaming at her former Watcher.
"I think ours is presently being held captive by our Council," Sorcerer Xander said with a shrug. "We're working on a rescue plan."
"We're separated from ours," Family Oz told them. "He was an ass to us."
"You were a trio then?" the Dancing Giles asked.
Xander nodded. "Yup. We were. And then he did his best to wreck everything good that we'd ever had. Even therapy didn't help." He shifted uncomfortably. "He's actually the father of our set of twins."
"And Miri?" that same Giles asked.
"Mine," Family Xander told him. "And Faith's," he sighed. "Don't ask, please."
"We won't," Buffy said quickly. "But Miri did tell us about her."
Family Xander waved his hand. "That's okay. Miri's threatened her recently."
"Put her to sleep," Family Oz said. "That's one of her main things, that and her telekinesis."
"And Tigger's, but she's got a very little limit," his Xander added. "Blair, and we think William, are broadcasters." He looked at Derek. "Miri said you dealt with that sort of stuff. Is there any way you can test them all?"
"If we were at home, certainly," Derek said, giving them a smile. "But we have to have the equipment to do so."
"Okay. Maybe after this is all straightened out, we'll see if we can find the Derek in our plane and ask him."
"That wouldn't cause any problems, right?" Family Oz asked.
"No," Derek assured him. "The most that we would do would be to put you into our confidential database and make note of their skills in case we ever run across them. No one gets into our files," he promised them, seeing the uneasy look.
"Yeah, but we've had run ins with the Initiative recently," Oz told him. "We're really wary of things like databases."
"It's purely for our organization's reference," Buffy told him. "Really, no one gets into it, and we are *nothing* like the Initiative."
"Well, they chipped normal people in our plane," Family Xander said, leaning a little more into his Oz's chest. "They got an empath we knew. She died in front of us because she told us what was really going on."
"We think they were watching Miri at daycare," Family Spike told them all.
"You got past your chip how?" Sorcerer Spike asked himself.
"Lots of spells layered on each other. It finally broke under the strain." He sighed, finishing his cup of blood, which refilled as he watched it. "Neat trick that," he said, showing it off to himself. "Need this at home." The other Spike nodded. "Mostly, it was Willow's last spell. She took the will from every demon in a three county area, including part of LA. When it was removed, the chip shorted out."
"It seems Willow was destined to join Chaos, no matter which realm," Derek said quietly, looking at his family.
"Not in ours," Sentinel Xander spoke up. "Here, she's a college student. She's dating a girl named Tara." Family Xander and Oz nodded. "But they're both so sweet."
"They were here too, but then they decided to work an offensive spell on the demons and our Angel asked for vengeance from a fallen angel. Willow lost her soul and Tara became an all seeing vampiress because of him." Family Oz squeezed his Xander and his son. "It's good to know that she stayed straight somewhere."
"Yeah, I guess it is," Sentinel Xander said, looking at his Oz. "Can you hear anything? I'm getting a lot of noise."
"Kids screaming in joy. And one crying," he noted. He looked at Derek. "Sounds like one of yours instead of Miri."
"Oh, dear," he said, running out to check on them. He came back a few minutes later to absolute silence, carrying a small, crying child in his arms. "We fell," he told Xander, handing her over to his son.
"Shh, Xandra, it's all right," Brandon's Xander cooed at his youngest daughter. "Daddy promises, it's okay." She clung to him, stopping her sniffling and looking around. She looked up at him and he smiled. "Yup, you're seeing a bunch of daddies." He let her down, watching as she walked over to look at the baby. "Be careful, he's younger than Junior is."
"I know," she said, smiling at the baby's father. "Me play wif him?" she asked.
"No, I don't think he's up to playing yet. He just likes to crawl after tails." He heard choking and looked over at Dancing Xander and Oz, smirking. "Horse and cat tails, guys. Not human ones."
"People no have tails," Xandra told him seriously.
"Don't worry about it," her father said, waving it off. "She'll understand it some day." He looked around, then at his daughter. "Where's the Strife cat?"
"With Junior, like always," she said, rolling her eyes.
"Hey, we had a Strife horse," Xander said happily. "He's a ghost now, he came back to play with this little guy here out in a paddock."
Derek choked. "Yes, Miri told us about him," he said lightly, staring at his son. He looked behind them. "You?"
"We have a Strife-person that we anchor for," Dancing Oz told him.
"Ah, I see." Derek looked at the other two but they both shook their heads. "Then why were we brought here?"
"Because Miri traveled to all of us," Sorcerer Xander pointed out. "There's easy access holes between our realms."
"Not ours," Guide Oz said. "We've never met her."
"So you guys were just sucked in because you had a Xander and an Oz?" Sorcerer Xander suggested. That Oz shrugged. "Okay, whatever. How do we fix this and get home?"
"Sit, first of all," Family Oz told him. "Calming down would also be of the good." He looked around. "First, we need to set up a schedule of people to watch the kids." He squeezed his own mate, whom the nanny had sent back in with William after a few minutes. "Any volunteers?" A few people raised their hands. "Okay, you get with our nanny and talk to her about that. The rest of us," he waved a hand around the room, "have books."
Everyone nodded and got up to check and see which books were available, getting both Giles' and Derek's opinion on which would be most helpful.
Miri looked at all the kids, who were staring at each other, and sighed. "Me introduce," she told everyone. "Me Miri." She pointed at a set of quads. "They Precious, Brandon, Timmy, and Serena. They from big house with big garden. Xandra and Junior their brother and sissy," she said, pointing each one out. "These my sissies, Blair and Elizabeth."
"Tigger," Elizabeth said, smiling at her nick name. "Daddies say me bouncy."
"True," Miri agreed, grinning at her. "We have baby but he inside with the daddy." She pointed at the little woman watching them. "That Kaiya, she our nanny. She big green kitty cat when she wants to be." She smiled at the twins. "Who you?"
"This is Melvin," Maribelle said, "and I'm Maribelle. We're Godlings." Her brother shoved her. "What? We not 'posed to tell?" He glared at her. She shook her head and smiled at Miri again. "He boy, I don't understand him." She smiled at Kaiya and waved. "Where did you get kitty cat nanny?"
"Unclie Spike found her," Miri said proudly. She loved her Unclie Spike and was always ready to talk about him. "She owed him."
"Wow," Precious said, looking back at her. "We have a Jon but he must not have come with us." She looked at her sisters, who were talking together. "What?"
"We wanted to talk to the kitty cat demon," Serena said. "Xandra thinks daddy will be mad."
"We'll ask later," Brandon told them. He grinned at Miri, walking over to give her a hug. "We missed you. You been good?"
"Mostly," she said with a grin. "Daddy falled though." She looked up at the house and waved at Spike. "He falled and hurt his knee, and then he had William."
"Oh, new baby?" Precious piped up. "We like babies." She glared at her youngest brother, who was playing in the sand. "Until they get big."
Xandra glared at her. "Junior nice," she ground out. "You no say bad things." She stomped her foot. "Apologize."
"Children," Kaiya called softly. "Why are you arguing when there's a *huge* playground next to you?"
The kids all looked at each other and shrugged before running over to play, everybody but Junior, who was happy playing in the sand. Even he looked up as the kids all screamed in happiness, clapping at the one going down the long slide.
Everyone stopped reading as the children were trooped in, each of the father's giving their kids a hug and asking them quietly about playing. Each of the kids yawned and said they were too tired to play anymore so they wanted a good spot to nap. And Serena pointed out that the twins had created a very large room with a big pillow floor, Melvin had told her about it. Everyone followed her to it, smiling at the thickly padded floor and the pillows and blankets scattered around. They all got the kids tucked in, the non-parental people going back to the books to see what they could find.
Pretty soon though, even those adults wandered into the padded room and picked corners, all of the animals lying down with them.
Aislin looked at his handiwork and sighed, glad he had managed to get it done. He grabbed Maribelle as she popped in, holding her up to look at her. "You are in *such* shit when we get home," he told her.
"No swearing," one of the Xander's muttered. "Not good."
Aislin glared at him, considering doing something worthy of his adoptive father Ares, but he decided against it. He looked at the little girl again. "This was so wrong," he hissed, teleporting them out and back into the library. "There is no way you're not going to be grounded. Even *Hera* thinks you should be grounded."
Maribelle started to cry, sobbing pitifully. "We only wanted to play," she wailed, and a daddy- type person appeared.
The Xander picked her up and held her, glaring at the winged kid. "Which one are you and why are you tormenting her? She's a perfectly normal five year old." He hugged her, walking her back into the sleeping room and putting her down with the rest of his and the Dancing group's animals. "There," he whispered, soothing her. "It'll be okay. I promise. We'll fix this minor screw up and explain everything to your fathers so you won't be punished so much."
His Oz opened and eye and looked at him. "Who's her father?"
"Ares, and you, and a Giles, and another Xander," she said proudly. "We a big family. Oh, and Martna, she's the baby." She wiggled over, hugging Dancing Oz gently. "Can I nap between you?"
"Sure," he told her, looking over at his husband, holding out a hand to bring him over. "We'll all nap together. How's that?" They smooshed her between them, cuddling her the best they knew how.
Aislin, who had returned to being invisible, stared at the group in distaste. "Eww," he muttered, flashing back out to the play area. "Strife?" he called softly, bringing a cat, a horse spirit, another Strife, and his Strife. "The twins are being coddled and praised for this."
"Nah," he said, sitting down on the swing beside the little boy. "They're just tryin' ta make them not feel bad about it. It's a daddy thing," he said with a slight shrug. He looked at the other Strifes and waved. "Hey, all. Nap time being enforced?"
"We thought it'd be nice ta talk and all," the human Strife said dryly. "Your twins did this?"
"Technically, their Deimos' but I've claimed them so they don't get shit about him, or him them." He started to swing slowly. "Got a plan yet?"
"The only thing I can think of would be to move everybody back wherever was most convenient and rotate them until they found the right house," the cat Strife said.
"I'm not sure we can do that," the local Strife said thoughtfully, starting to go higher. "I can check." He sent a thought out, hoping to catch Xander. He was their group's idea guy most recently and it would save time to get him. "Shoot, I can't reach him," he sighed, looking at Aislin, who was sulking. "Can you reach any of your parents?" He shrugged. "Well, try, so you can play too." That was one way too serious kid. Aislin needed some play time if anyone did.
Aislin concentrated on his daddy Xander.
Xander sat up straight, listening to the small voice in his mind, making writing motions until someone thought to give him a pen and paper. He wrote everything in the prayer down, sending back one of his own to wait for a few minutes while they talked it over, but to go ahead and let the families wake up. With that many minds working on it, there had to be a solution somewhere. He looked up, finding Ares and Hera staring at him. "It's Aislin. He prayed the message to me." He handed it over, wincing as Ares' nails got him. "You're getting a manicure tonight," he told his lover.
Hera sat down as she finished reading the message. "So, they know the children are Gods, and children. How likely are they to take advantage of them?"
"Not at all," Xander said cooly. "These are alternate me's and Oz's."
"They'd want to get home first," Ares agreed, rereading the paper. He looked at Xander. "Do they know what they're in?"
"Aislin didn't say. It was a prayer so I've got to send one back. I'm waiting for all questions before I do so though. Oh, and Maribelle's being cuddled between some of the Xander and Oz's. Seems Aislin yelled at her."
"As well we all should," Hera said archly.
"Hello," Xander said coldly. "It's not like they had other people to play with. You and your line never take the time to play with those two, or with Bliss. Of course they were bored. They're five and there's no one for them to play with and most of the adults around them see them as a nuisance so they can't even go to them for entertainment. What did you expect them to do?"
Hera glared at him. "I have no trouble finding time for those two."
"And when was the last time you saw them? When you babysat and you made Melvin cry because he played with all the little statuettes you have in your temple? They're too scared to come and ask you to tell them a story, much less play with you."
Oz laid a hand on Xander's shoulder. "We knew this was coming to a head," he said reasonably. "They don't have anyone but Bliss and those of us affiliated with Ares. They know a number of the minor Gods want them to be dead or back on the mortal plane alone and parentless. They've been trying so hard to be good that we knew it was going to snap. They finally decided that they needed some more friends, people who wanted to play with them, so they found them."
"It is quite amazing how they did it," Giles said, giving Hera a smile. "If you think about it, how many of us would have thought about taking an inane comment and following it up months later to find happiness. And what they did with that world so far is gorgeous from what I could see through the portal."
"Aislin said it's a bit white on the inside," Xander said, grinning at Giles. "But the rooms that he brought from everyone's home seemed to liven it up a bit. They're all napping right now in a large padded room. Aislin said it was sweet and nauseating."
"He's not into cuddling at his age," Oz reminded him. He sat down beside Xander, looking up at Ares. "So?"
"With as many Strifes as are there, maybe we can move everyone back to a central location. Or possibly to two, maybe three at the most." He handed the letter off. "It wouldn't be that hard, but it'd take some of us to channel through Aislin to help them." He looked at Hera, who waved a hand in agreement. "I think that's the best plan yet."
Xander closed his eyes and thought about his son, sending him their plans.
Aislin opened his eyes and looked at the gathered Strifes. "They agreed, but they were thinking about two or three spots instead of one. They think it'll take too much power to move them all back home directly and then sort them out."
"Ah." The local Strife nodded. "I can see that." He looked at his counterparts, who all shrugged in various forms. "Okay then, we do that?"
"You do what?" a Xander voice said from behind them. They all turned, finding Sorcerer Xander standing there. "Who are you and why are you here too?"
"I'm Aislin," he said, standing up. "I followed my bratty brother and sister through the portal to see what they were doing. Only kids were supposed to be allowed." The Xander nodded. "These are Strife. Each realm has one of their own. We've decided on a plan to get you back home."
"It'll take a few days to fully sort out," Strife told him. "See, we can't move ya directly back to your homes, but we can move ya all to a few of the houses and sort things out from there."
"Including the animals?"
The Strife cat considered this human and sent his thoughts to the others, who all nodded. The local Strife stood up and looked this boy over. "Also, we've been told that when we sort things out that you'll need a little further help from our kind. We'll be talking to the Strife in your realm about your town." He looked at all the other Strifes, who nodded in agreement. "All right, let's go bother the sorcerers." He clapped and they all disappeared.
Xander looked up at the collective scream, shaking his head. "Show offs," he muttered, going up to join in on this gig.
The move was started by all the magic users in the group conjuring small scrying pools of their homes. Three Xanders, two Giles, and a Derek later, they had figured out which houses they were going to start with. Everyone was sorted by proximity, but things were bound to happen.
First, the children all hid inside the playground, no matter which Xander was asking, or ordering, them to come out. They wanted to take it home with them. Family Xander finally had to agree to make them all playsets so they would come out of this one.
Then Maribelle and Melvin decided that they didn't want to dissolve everything once everyone was back home. They wanted to keep the castle. Aislin came up with a solution for that one, promising to turn it into a bubble with the castle inside it. That soothed that mess.
Then the animals all decided they didn't want to part. They were happy as a large family. It was decided at the last minute to send them all together and they could easily be relocated during the house swap.
When it was finally time to do this, everyone had went back to their rooms, everyone but the kids who were talking in the hallways. They liked being together. Nobody took this into account when they moved everyone to the three houses: the Legacy house, the farm, and the manor house. So, all the children got to take a field trip. To Mount Olympus.
Hera screamed when she saw all the children, glaring at Xander and then at Aislin, who was following them in. "Where did they come from? Did those twins create people?"
"No," Xander said, smiling and waving at Miri. "These are the kids they wanted to play with." He held out his arms and gave them all a hug. "Hi, guys, I'm Xander. I'm one of Maribelle's and Melvin's daddies. Welcome to our home for a few days."
"Can we play on the playground?" Melvin asked. "They'd like to," he told Hera when she snorted.
"They weren't bad," Maribelle seconded. "We won't go play if you want," she said pitifully, turning up the 'poor orphan' look that Hera couldn't resist.
"Whatever," Hera said, disappearing.
Xander looked at Ares, who glared at him. "Okay, all the kids get to go play on the playground until we can decide what to do with our two." Everyone got out of the stampede's way, watching as they ran out to play in the transplanted area. "We've got to send their parents notes," Xander noted.
"I'd be freaked royally," Oz agreed, looking at Hermes, who just appeared. "Hey, want to do the whole message to the parents thing?"
"Sure," he sighed, handing one to Xander. "From Cupid, who's not allowing Bliss to come over until their grounding is done."
"We're waiting on that until the kids get to go back home," Xander told him, reading the note. He handed it to Ares and walked outside, going to play before the anger in him burst open again and this time he tore one of Cupid's wings off.
Ares sighed and shook his head. "There's two main parents that we know of. Just send them a message however," he said, disappearing so he could go bitch at his son. "First, we're not grounding them until the other kids are gone, so Bliss can and will come over so he can play too. Second, if you *touch* those children again, Cupid, *I* will rip your wings off, not Xander and not Oz." He glared at his son, who had suggested that they take all of the twins powers away, trying to make it an order. "And until you realize that this could have been prevented, stay away." He went back to his own temple, going to sit outside and watch the kids so Xander could go calm down.
Both of the daddy Xanders looked up as little bits of paper floated down around them, picking them up to read what was on them. "Well," Family Xander said dryly, "at least we know they're not in trouble right now and that none of the non-parental people have to deal with them."
"It could have been a worse place to put them," Brandon's Xander agreed, walking up to their house. "So, what's your farm like?"
"Big. Has horses. Is getting a pool soon so I can do my therapy in there." He leaned heavily on his new cane, but was trying hard not to lean too hard on it so it wouldn't break. He felt a hand grab his arm and went with the steering him to a bench. "So," he sighed, rubbing down his thigh. "This kinda sucks."
"I don't think it'll break," Brandon's Xander noted, waving a hand at the injured leg. "May I?"
"I've got my brace on. I'm just stiff and sore, the normal problems I get these days." He shifted, putting his injured leg out so he could look at it. "Play all ya want," he offered with a grin, "there's no feeling in a good half of my lower left leg anyway. The right had some nerve damage in the beginning too but eventually the feeling came back in it for the most part."
Xander squatted down to look at the injury, gently touching the brace-encased knee. "How did it happen? Miri was here before this, right?"
"Very," Family Xander agreed. "A ceiling fell on me while I was pregnant with William. Fortunately, even though I was pregnant, they found some drugs that took down the spinal swelling fast enough so I only had a little permanent damage."
"Was recently re-replaced. My first one got a crack in one of the replacement plates. This time it's titanium and guaranteed forever." He sighed as his muscles started to twitch in protest. "I've got to walk this out," he told himself, standing up with a lot of help. "It's not so bad. The therapy this time is a little easier and Oz is helping me through it. I'll still get to finish my schooling at the end of this year." He leaned heavily on his cane, prepared to catch himself when it broke, but it never did. "Wow," he said, looking down at it. "My wooden ones would have at least creaked in protest if I had put my full weight on them."
"But consider who made this one," Brandon's Xander pointed out. "I bet that thing will never break." They continued up to the main house of the Legacy, heading for the kitchen.
Sileya jumped up as Homer frowned out the window, going out to check and see what was going on. She came back with a slightly familiar person in tow, and some people who were *definitely* not her family. "I found someone," she told her boyfriend.
Homer looked them over, then shook his head. "This is like when Miri traveled, right?" he asked them. Sileya slapped herself on the head.
"Kinda," the Xander noted, smiling at them. Dancing Xander could charm anyone he wanted to, even when his mate was somewhere else.
"I'm back," Family Oz yelled as he walked in the door. He walked into the restored library, patting Dancing Xander on the back. "Any idea where my mate went?"
"Not a clue," Dancing Xander admitted with a sigh. "I hope he's with my Oz and Giles. That one me was kinda scary."
"It's probably a side effect of the spell that was put on him," Guide Oz said reasonably. "I don't think I could be that snarly, yet calm if I had to."
"I think it'll work out okay for him," Family Oz said as he sat down on one of the soft couches. "So, any idea where my Xander is?"
"Not a clue," Dancing Xander sighed, sitting down next to him. "Hey, I like this."
"Xander, my Xander, did it," Oz said proudly. "It was while we were forcing him to stay at home with the kids, so he made the best of it for a while." He frowned. "That really sounded horrible."
"Was that while he was healing?"
"No, that's more recent. The whole 'staying at home with the kids' thing started when we first moved out here. Our Giles was convinced that Xander had to stay home and could not be acknowledged. That's what started our problems off." He shifted uncomfortably, looking over at Homer. "Anyone check on the horses?"
"Yes," Sileya sighed, rolling her eyes. "You aren't even going to tell us what's going on, are you?" She looked at the Oz and Xander that definitely weren't part of her family, trying to figure out exactly what was going on without giving herself a headache.
"It's not a Hellmouth issue, it's actually more a matter of faith," Guide Oz told her gently.
"Not the Slayer one," Xander put in.
"True, not her." Oz looked up at the older kids. "We're all good and our Xander will be back in a few days at the most, probably around the same time as the kids and Kaiya. They'll probably be here for about as long."
"Oh, okay. Do I need to go fix up a room?" She looked at Dancing Xander. "Or two?"
"Please. Go ahead and fix up the vamp-safe room just in case too, okay? Wes and two Spikes were with us." She just nodded slowly then turned and headed up to do what he had asked her to. As soon as Homer joined her, she hugged him as hard as she could, letting him deal with all her confusion
Dancing Xander looked at the two men he ended up with, giving them a faint smile. "So, what do you guys do for fun around here?"
"Horses," Family Oz said, pointing out at the paddock. "And my Xander makes candles and is in therapy for his leg. It's a full time job with the kids."
"And what do you do?" Guide Oz asked.
"I'm in grad school, but I'm seriously considering how much of a stress it is on me right now."
"Going full time?" Guide Oz asked, looking like he understood.
"Yeah, and helping Xander with his therapy, and dealing with the kids. And helping in the barn and around the house," he added as an afterthought. He glanced up at the only picture in the house that had Giles in the same picture as the children. "There are many days when I miss having three of us here."
"But was he really helping?" Dancing Xander asked mildly. "From what you said when we were doing the introductions, he wasn't treating you right." He smiled at Guide Oz. "He's apparently not at all like my Giles. He's a sweetie to me and he tries *so* hard to understand me."
"Is he like you?" Family Oz asked.
"He is, but I'm much more GHS than he's ever been or could be." Dancing Xander relaxed back into the soft couch, getting comfortable. "I've been told that GHS like I am are very rare these days, that most of them are like my Giles, they enjoy it but they move in and out of being GHS throughout their lives. Whereas I live for my GHSness all the time." He ran a hand over the soft fabric. "I think your Xander and I have a lot in common. Do you cuddle him all the time?"
Family Oz shook his head. "We're working on our relationship right now." He shifted uncomfortably. "He, my Xander, wants a much closer relationship than what we've had. So we're working on it right now." He looked at Guide Oz, who looked like he was about to laugh. "You too?"
"No, me and Xander have discovered we do a lot better when we have someone between us. I get snarly at him and he runs away."
"Yeah, my Xander's done some of that too," Family Oz agreed, looking out the window. "I wonder how much of this is our Strife horse's doing. He was always there whenever Xander needed him."
"Is he not here?"
Family Oz shook his head. "He died. We buried him out in the woods. Miri really missed him, but then one night, she just changed." He shrugged. "Kaiya's said that he's come back a few times."
"Did you know that there was something different about him?" Dancing Xander asked.
Oz looked at him and nodded. "Definitely. Especially when he kept trying to protect Xander from Giles." He gave him a grim look. "Those were some very difficult times, Xander."
"I'm sorry," he said, leaning over to touch his hand. He winced at the shock that went between them. "Um, sorry about that too."
"It's okay. We're still very used to the strange around here." Family Oz stood up and nodded toward the back of the house. "Food?"
"Please," Guide Oz said, standing up and following him back there. "Oh, hey, you have real food."
"Yeah, we kinda had to. Eating like college students doesn't go with kids very well." Family Oz pulled down a box of microwave popcorn and handed it over. "Put one of those in the microwave please?" He opened the freezer and looked inside, shaking his head at all the ice cream in it. "And then Sileya's been having a bad day again." He shut it and turned, opening the stand-alone freezer in the island, pulling out a few individual steaks. "Anyone mind cow?" he asked, holding them up.
"No, that's good," Guide Oz said, scratching his arm. He looked around. "Calendar?"
"Hallway bulletin board. We might have another day, depending on how time ran there."
Guide Oz walked out and came back after a second, shaking his head. "We're in the middle of the cycle. Where's the cage?"
"Look outside, it's the concrete building." Oz tossed the steaks into a pan and turned it on, slamming it down on the stove, leaning over it. "Okay, I'll try not to kill you tonight," he said quietly. He never expected the hug, especially not from Dancing Xander. "How does your Oz do it?"
"He doesn't," Xander said quietly. "His contagion is almost totally gone because of what he is." Family Oz nodded, relaxing in the warm arms. "Don't worry. I'll watch over you both."
"Cool. We've got a security system in the cage," Oz said, standing up and getting free. "I'll show you where the monitors are after we eat." He flipped the smoking and sizzling steaks, pointing at the fridge. "Soy sauce?"
"Sure," Guide Oz said, walking over to get it for him, handing over the cold bottle. "Is that good?"
"I don't need salt if I do it this way." He looked at his other self. "Xander's still got a big problem with swelling and he's not supposed to be having a lot of salt." He dumped some of the soy sauce into the pan. "That's why we use the low-salt soy sauce," he said, handing it back. "Xander's got a few food restrictions, salt is just the most obvious one." He flipped the steaks again, letting the meat soak up the sauce as it cooked. He got out of Dancing Xander's way as he felt the tingle of magic coming from outside. "Incoming," he said, pointing.
Sileya and Homer ran outside, wrapping the now-smoking figure in a large blanket so he could be brought inside. "It's a Spike," Sileya called.
"Get him into one of the safe rooms," Oz called out. He watched as the man who looked like what his Xander could have become if he hadn't had kids cook, his chest starting to ache. "How did you find out that you're ... GHS?" he asked quietly.
"Willow brought it to my attention," Xander said carefully. "She and Oz both helped me see that I needed to go back on my roadtrip to finish finding myself." He flipped the steaks, then turned to grin at Oz. "I found myself working at a demon brothel. I worked with a lot of demons, but through it all, I was trained by Adam. He was great about helping me see what I was. And when I was done, he had my membership card for me." He shrugged, going back to his cooking. "Anyone want medium rare?" Both Oz's grunted so he pulled all the steaks off and let Guide Oz dish them up. "How is your Xander, Oz?" he asked, walking over to the table to sit down. "Will his leg be okay?"
"Maybe eventually, but he's always going to limp," Family Oz told him, coming over to sit down across from him. "A ceiling crushed his knee, he's on his second replacement. Titanium this time." He looked at the doorway at the Spike, giving him a faint grin. "Come on in, you know where the blood is."
"Thanks. Didn't think you'd have any." Family Spike walked over and opened the fridge, pulling out one of the crisper drawers. "Any word on anyone else?"
"Just us so far," Family Oz told him. "Oh, and we're in the middle of the cycle," he noted.
Spike nodded. "I'll deal."
"If you'd let me, I'd like to help," Xander offered.
Spike grunted as he tossed the baggie into the microwave. He tossed the bag of popcorn onto the counter, then looked up at them. "Okay. You can watch while I catch a smoke." He looked at the Oz's. "Where's Wes?"
"We're not sure where everyone else ended up," Family Oz told him. "But all of us do know how to feed a vampire."
"Yeah, but not one with his problems," Spike grumped.
"Maybe he ended up with Derek and his group," Dancing Xander offered. "I know Adam knows how to do hypnosis if it comes down to forcing him to eat."
Spike smiled at him. "Good. Haven't thought about that yet." He brought his mug and the popcorn over to the table, taking a seat beside his Oz. "So, how long?"
"Hour or so," Guide Oz said, trying hard not to stare at Spike dunking the popcorn into the blood. Family Oz nudged him. "That's gross," he stage-whispered. Spike snorted but drank his blood without anymore help from the popcorn. Oz took another bite and looked at Xander. "Do you remember how to use a tranq gun?"
"And a sword," Xander said proudly. "I had to learn, I'm very kidnaped."
"Ah." Guide Oz looked at Spike. "Is there anything I should know?"
"Don't piss on the cameras, it hurts," Family Oz said dryly.
Spike snorted. "You'd know. You do it almost every month." He picked up a piece of popcorn and munched it while he thought. "Not much. Rupes shouldn't be out tonight unless the kiddies called him."
"Yeah, let's not let him in the cage," Family Oz said dryly. "Sileya?" he yelled, bringing Homer at a run. "You guys haven't let Rupert come back to the cage, right?"
Homer frowned. "No. Has he called?"
"Once," Oz said quietly. "If he comes out tonight, keep Sileya out of it, okay?"
"We're deeply grateful to let you fight that battle," Homer quipped, turning and leaving them alone. "We're curled up doing homework."
"Have fun," Xander called. "He's very nice."
"Yeah, he is. And Sileya likes him a lot. They make a good team." Family Oz stood up, carrying his plate over to the refrigerator to chill his leftovers. "Let's go. I'll show you the cage. Spike, do the monitors." He and his doppleganger walked out together in companionable silence.
Spike looked at the Xander sitting across from him. "At least you're different," he noted. "What are you?"
"Ah. Heard of your type." Spike shrugged. "As long as you're happy."
"Yup, I am," Xander said with a grin. "And I'm loved."
"Good for you." Spike stood up as he felt the magic ball start again. "Here comes another one." He walked over to look out the window with the overhang. "Huh, they got me onto the porch this time." He walked to the front of the house and opened the door. "Oi, in here. Got blood and all." He held the door open, watching as Sorcerer Xander and his other self walked in. "At least you two are together."
"Who else is here?"
"This house's Oz, the slinky Xander, the quiet Oz, and us."
"Ah," Sorcerer Xander said, heading back to the kitchen. "Hey, me," he said, waving. "Got food?"
"Both Oz's put the remains of their steaks into the fridge," Dancing Xander offered. "Or there's a freezer full of food behind you."
Sorcerer Xander grunted and opened the freezer, pulling out a pork chop. "Good job," he muttered as he searched for a plate. When he found one, he tossed the pork chop into the microwave, watching as it spun round and round as it cooked. "So, any potential problems?"
"Their Giles," Spike said as he walked back in. "That and monitoring the wolves."
"Okay," Sorcerer Xander agreed. He looked outside, staring at the driveway. "Someone's standing out there."
"Yay," Family Spike said, slamming the door. "It's either him or it's Willow. She's tryin' to get little Blair to help her fix her fuckup."
"Okay, I can deal with that," Sorcerer Xander agreed. He looked at himself, looking over his clothes. "Cold?"
"Nope," Dancing Xander said with a grin. "Not at all."
Both Spikes shook their heads and went back to drinking their blood with the popcorn they shared. Sorcerer Xander continued to stare out the window, his eyes narrowed. "I think I can do something good for myself," he noted as he walked out, heading down to where he could feel some magic starting to go off. He grabbed the man standing in the bushes by the throat and pulled him out, looking him over. "Gee, you look like someone I want to take down," he growled, what little he had of a feeding face coming out to threaten this Giles. He didn't know what had went on in this trio, but whatever it was, it had to have been bad for him to have dumped Giles the way the other Xander has said they had. He shook him lightly before dragging him up to the house by his throat. He tossed the nearly unconscious man at the Spikes, who were waiting safely out of the sunlight. "He was working a spell," he said as he walked over to grab his pork chop from the microwave. "Save some for me." He grabbed a knife from the butcher block and cut the pieces up, eating it off the tip of the knife.
"Why're you gonna hurt 'im?" Family Spike asked.
"Because," Sorcerer Xander said, pointing the knife at him, "if a normal me dumped Giles, it must have been pretty damn bad." His Spike nodded, looking proud of him. "Besides," Xander said, grinning at his Spike, "teacher over there said I needed to practice my skills more often. I figure I now have a practice dummy."
Family Spike snorted. "Maybe," he agreed, slamming Giles down into a chair before knocking him out for a while. "There, now we can plan what to do."
"He's a were," Dancing Xander told them.
Family Spike hit himself on the forehead.
"No prob," Sorcerer Xander said dryly, giving him a wicked grin. "I've fixed my Oz recently. I can fix him too."
"You don't got much time," Family Spike pointed out.
"Not a big either," Xander noted, walking into the library. A few minutes later, a 'bang' and a gust of wind issued out of there, floating out until it wound itself around Giles' unconscious form. The body jerked and screamed as it woke up, but it quickly passed back out. Sorcerer Xander walked out a few minutes later. "It's temporary, it'll only last for six months. Hurts like a bitch too," he noted as he walked over to pick up the rest of his dinner and eat it. He glanced around. "Do you think this is all of us?"
"No," a weak voice said from the hallway. "Not yet." Father Philip walked in and looked at them. "What's goin' on?" he asked, pointing at Giles when everyone gave him innocent looks.
"He's a bastard," Family Spike said with a shrug. "He hurt the best thing in his life by being cruel to it."
"He hit me?" Dancing Xander asked, his voice dropping down to an icy, scary range.
"Nah, just emotional and mental like," Family Spike told them. "Never acknowledged him, never appreciated him. Never even really wanted him as more than a convenient sex toy and baby raiser once they had Miri."
Philip frowned, shaking his head. "Physical abuse I can almost understand, but emotional and mental abuse are much more cruel. Just don' let me see it, boys." He walked over to the table and gave the Xander still sitting there a hug. "You okay, pet?"
"Very," Xander said, grinning at him. "But I'm still faithful to my Oz and my Giles."
"Goo'," Philip said, sitting next to him. "Monogamy is too rare these days. Especially among the young. It's good to see a workin' relationship." He looked at the three vampires, giving them a smile. "What? Thought I was gonna be clingin' ta Derek when we switched?"
Dancing Xander shook his head. "Nope, not at all. Just wondering why you were sent here."
"It's all a matter of cosmic balance," Philip said wisely.
Brandon's Xander and Family Xander both looked up as they felt magic dump more people out in the garden. They watched as a smoking blur ran in through the doors and headed for the nearest closet. After a few moments Dancing Giles, Kaiya the nanny, both Methos' and the one's Ray followed the smoking blur. A few minutes later, there was another surge of magic and Blair and Jim walked up and joined them in the kitchen.
"Hey, all," Blair said, waving. He looked around, frowning. "I hope Xander and Oz were together," he muttered. Jim just nodded, his arms crossed as he stood behind his Guide. "Relax," Blair said, thumping him on the arm. "No one here is going to hurt us."
"True," Kaiya said as she opened the closet. "You okay?" she asked the young vampire inside.
"Is that Wes?" Family Xander asked. She nodded. "Tell him he can come out, there's great big patches of no direct sunlight."
She opened the door and pulled Wesley out, forcing him to acclimate to the room. "Much better," she said with a shy smile. She walked over to the table, where everyone was starting to gather. "Any idea who has the kids?"
"They're on Mount Olympus with Maribelle and Melvin," Family Xander told her with a shrug.
"That's okay though," Blair pointed out. "That means you don't have to worry about them being with someone who wouldn't know how to feed them."
"True," Brandon's Xander said, shooting him a grin. "So, I should probably go check messages. Feel free to eat or whatever. The library's down the main hallway and up the stairs at the other end. TV's on this floor, also towards the front of the house." He jumped up and headed for his father's office. It was never good to leave the Legacy alone for too long. Things tended to happen. He locked the office door and turned on the teleprompter, holding up a finger before the London Precept, who had control if anything happened to Derek, could say a word. "We were all kidnaped to another plane by some very powerful children who wanted to play with ours. I'm the only one of this house here, but I've got a few other me's and their partners from other dimensions here with me. The kids are all up on Mount Olympus if you can believe that but they'll be back in a few days, as will Dad."
Tyler, the London Precept sighed and shook his head. "I really would like a longer explanation but I fear my head would explode." He snorted when he saw Xander nod. "Is everyone okay?"
"Fine. There's another me here, Miri's father actually, and another Giles, who's me is something called GHS. We've gotten back our teacher, Adam, and that Giles' Adam, plus his lover Ray who used to be a cop. We have a young vampire who has trouble feeding and a cat demon who's a nanny for that other Xander that's here, plus something called a Sentinel and Guide pair. So, what do I have to clear up?"
"Slower," someone behind Tyler said. "And a little more coherent please?"
Tyler nodded. "Please, Xander. I got the part about Miri's fatherly version of you. And the Sentinel and Guide pair. They're listed in the Posicyon Manuals. Don't worry about them, they're guardians. What was that about your teacher and his counterpart?"
"We got our teacher and his counterpart, and his counterpart's lover Ray, who used to be a cop in his dimension."
"Oh. From where?"
"Chicago...." Xander frowned at the kitchen. "It's the same as our friend Ray. I forgot about him." He looked at the London Precept again and shrugged. "He's the same person as our friend Ray, the one we had to turn the child over to from the first Florida dig."
Tyler checked the person typing all this in, who nodded, so he smiled at Xander. "Good. And who else came with you? I distinctly heard the word vampire and demon."
"Have you ever met Angel's helper Wesley?"
Tyler frowned for a second then nodded. "We met during that whole 'Buffy's going to have to die' episode a few years back. Is he the same one?"
"Yup, only from Miri's dimension. And the demon is a cat demon, who is Miri's nanny." Tyler's mouth fell open. "Actually, she's very good," he noted. "She's got some patience with the kids, but she's also very good at getting the kids to do stuff, including chase her around to wear them out."
"I see," Tyler said slowly. "Do they pose a threat?"
"Wesley can't feed for some reason. One of the Spikes' that was with us said something about conflicts in his head between his demon and his mind."
"Ah. So no threat there?"
"Nope. Not a threat from either of them."
"Good. And who else?"
"There's a Giles here, his lover's something called GHS?"
"I've heard about them. He's probably fine also."
"Well, he's somehow an immortal."
"Which would still be fine, as long as he's not shown any aggression so far."
"No, not as far as I know. He came to the plane we all got warehoused on with a lot of animals and his own Xander and Oz."
"Oh." Tyler blinked a few times. "I'll continue to take control of the houses of course, but you'll need to call Kyoto, they're having a bit of trouble right now. Please fill out a comprehensive report for us on what's happened and forward it to me as soon as it's done, Xander. Tell your father the same as soon as he gets back. And have fun, it's not everyday that you get to meet other versions of yourself and see what other paths you might have taken." The screen went blank.
Xander leaned back and grinned. "Good, that's what I wanted him to do," he smirked. "I didn't want to have to deal with everybody while this was going on." He stood up and remembered Kyoto, dialing them next. "Hey, I'm back. Nope, another plane," he said, listening to the voice on the other end of the phone. "Okay. No, the spell for that's in the Necrinomicon actually. Someone must have released it. Want me to tell Tyler to send you someone...." His voice trailed off as he listened to the excited voice on the other end. "Cool. Just remember to seal the book and mark it as holding a demon, and what sort if you can," he said gently. "We really don't want someone in fifty years to open it by accident and have a royally pissed off demon coming at them." He smiled. "Cool. No, I'm the only one back so far. I'll have Derek call when he gets back, but it's gonna be a few days. No, I don't mind. Really. You're a split house and it only makes sense that you want to talk to Dad too. Just mark the book for now and seal it shut, and then put it in a big, marked box." He snickered. "I'm sure. Have fun." He hung up and unlocked the office door, walking out into Jim's chest. "Problems?" he asked lightly, walking around him.
"We really are all guardians. I would know if we weren't."
"Cool," Xander told him, giving him a smile, "but that's not what I was doing. My organization demands that I make reports about strange things. That's all." He jogged toward the library, sure he was being trailed. "Hi," he said, smiling at Ray. "I totally forgot, I know the you here. He's got a little boy named Benny Junior."
Brandon's Adam sighed. "I had forgotten about him also. We haven't seen him recently."
"Which is probably a good thing," Xander reminded him. "That means that he hasn't needed our help recently. Have you checked the messages yet? I made the report."
Brandon's Adam snorted. "Yes. Including one from the local cops for some help last night."
"I'll call them in a few," Brandon's Xander said firmly. He looked at their butler/teacher who nodded. "Cool." He clapped his hands, bringing everyone's attention to him. "Guys, I might have to go work tonight, if not, Adam can make room assignments. Um, have fun and be careful around the house."
"Breathe," Jim and Blair said together, not looking up.
Xander took a breath. "Sorry. It's just that I gotta go, I think." He waved and jogged out, heading back to the office to call the local cop that they worked with. "Hey, it's Xander Harris," he said in greeting. "We just got back and I noticed a message?" He looked startled. "Really? But he hates us." He snorted. "Good deal. I'll be down there in a few hours. No, as in literally just got back. Give me some time to change and grab my keys." He hung up and wrote down what he had been told, then headed over to his and his mate's house to change clothes. It was probably hard enough for this particular cop to call on them, him showing up in a t-shirt and shorts would just make this all harder.
Hera screeched as a cat jumped into her lap, disappearing before the monster could attack her again.
"It was just a cat," Oz called, reaching over to soothe the scared animal. "Hey, you. Where did you come from?" He pulled her into his lap, petting her cream colored long hair. "What's your name?"
"Ribbon," Miri said, her head popping up over the arm of the chair. "I was trying to keep her with us."
"Ah." Oz patted her on the head, using a little of his Godly abilities to calm her down again. The last thing Olympus needed was 11 hyper children. "Where did Ribbon come from?"
"From the Daddy Xander that gave me pretties."
"Oh. Them." Oz nodded, looking down at the cat he was still petting. "Why don't you take Ribbon outside so she can use the bushes?"
"I don't think she knows how," Miri said quietly. "Most of them don't, or they won't anyway."
"Okay. Well, we can send the animals somewhere they'd be more comfy if you'd like." Miri brightened up at that. "Okay, which house should we send them all to?"
"Will go with Ribbon and the rest for now," he told her. "We'll be sorting animals out like we will the rest of the people."
"'Kay. Ribbon's Daddy has a lot of animalies."
"Cool. Let's go find the rest of the animals and send them to that house."
Hera reappeared, more together than she had been when she left. "Good idea," she said, staring down at the child. "Is she going also?"
"Not yet. We're not sure where her parents were sent. And besides, this gives the twins a chance to cut loose without getting into trouble."
"They agreed to be punished after we gone," Miri offered helpfully.
"Fine," she sighed, rolling her eyes. "Just get the creatures off this mount."
"Sure," Oz said laconically as he stood up and followed Miri out to where most of the animals were. "Let's send you all somewhere pretty cool for animals," he said, waving a hand. All but one animal disappeared.
"Him also," Hera said stiffly.
"I don't think I'll be able to move him," Oz said, grabbing the cat and holding him up so Hera could look at him. "I can't *make* Strife go anywhere."
Hera frowned at the cat. "Why do you stay with these children?" she demanded.
"Because he guard Junior," Precious said helpfully. "He always with him."
Hera looked down at her. "Oh, really?"
"Really," Precious said, her face changing. Every one of the kids backed away from her. "I don't like you," she stated firmly, stomping her foot. "You no like animalies, so you're not nice, and not nice peoplies need to stay away from kids. They're not good for us. So you go 'way," she demanded as strongly as she could.
Hera looked stunned for a second then burst out laughing. "Oh, my, you're a precocious little person, aren't you? What's your name?"
"Precious." She looked Hera over. "You still no like animalies so you're bad." She puffed out her chest and huffed, turning her back on the Queen of the Gods to look at the other kids. "We go play now," she ordered, pointing at the playground.
"Okay," Melvin said, following along happily, not caring that Hera was very ready to hit the young girl. "I like you. You be my girlfriend?"
"Boys are gross," Precious proclaimed.
"Not all," Miri countered. "Junior and William are nice."
"They're littler," Precious reminded her. "Grown up boys are gross." She looked Melvin over. "You'll do though. You'll be my boyfriend. Just remember, I give the orders." She lifted her chin and continued over until she could climb up the rope ladder.
In the background, Oz just shook his head and went back inside. Hera could deal with the kids, apparently she was a little out of practice.
In the bushes, another cat slunk through the bushes, going to find it's new friend, who's garden this was.
All the animals appeared in the manor house most of them lived in and immediately there was a rush for the litter boxes. The hissing contests brought peoples. Lots of peoples.
Everyone stepped back as all the cats hissed at them, their fur standing up.
"Hey," Dancing Oz said as he walked in. "They're okay, guys, really." He sat down in the middle of the floor and petted the animals coming out of the litter box. "See, it's okay. They're guests for the next few days." He looked at the others, whom he had appeared with. "Sit, pet an animal. They're all spoiled."
Derek was the first one down and Ribbon landed in his lap as fast as she could scurry from behind Oz's back. "Hello," he said, smiling down at her. "You remind me of a cat I used to have. She was a persian."
"Ribbon was saved from the pound, as were most of them," Oz noted. He checked all the animals over, smiling at the puppies all curled up around their mother. "It's okay, Rocky, you're home. Go take them and hide." Dancing Oz went back to paying attention to the rest of the animals, smiling as Rocky brought her puppies over for pets too. "Yes, we love you the most," he told her, giving her a kiss, and each of the puppies a gentle head pet. "Take them and go lay down, you've had a very long few days." Rocky barked and walked over, batting Arwynn out of her basket so they could all lay down.
"Your Xander must be an animal lover," Derek said gently.
"He's got a real soft spot for people and creatures that need him," Dancing Oz corrected, looking at him. "Yours?"
"He does also, thankfully we've managed to channel that urge into his work."
"Ah, but Xander's work is presently writing a sex manual for demons and taking care of us." Dancing Oz stood up and walked out, heading for his office. "I've got to check my mail, be back in a few. Play with the animals or explore."
Derek looked at his house members, who were all there but Xander and Adam. "Go relax, I doubt there's a way to check on the house or the children." A note floated down next to him and he picked it up to read it, nodding as he handed it over to Oz. "The children are safe," he told Alex, who was giving him a worried look.
"I'm more concerned about the demon issue," Alex said quietly.
"These are the type that I used to deal with," Buffy said, speaking up for the first time since the introductions had been made. "Not the ones we deal with at work, but the ones I used to deal with when I was still a Scoobie." She looked around the room. "It's good to see one of our group made good." She walked out, going to explore the house. And maybe she could get some time alone with this Oz, just to make sure this group was still okay.
Sorcerer Xander looked at the man tied to the chair in front of him. "I know that the me here would have trusted you with his life and his heart," he said coldly. "I want to know why he felt he had to send you away."
"It's really none of your business," Giles said stiffly. He had just come up to check on his family and had felt the strange magic around the house. All he had done was cast a simple spell to try and block some of the magic from touching his family. And now he was facing down some strange Xander and two Spikes. Maybe Ethan had cursed him before he died after all.
"Uh-huh," Family Spike noted, walking over. "See, the whelp said I shouldn't come after you, not if you were stayin' away, but here you are," he finished with a smirk. "Which means that I can have *fun*."
"I was simply trying to protect the family from the strange magical aura that was coming from the field."
"Yay," Family Spike sneered. "Gone and done it now. Shoulda listened back when you had the chance to make it all right."
"I did leave them alone," Giles said frantically. The look in Spike's eyes, in both of their eyes, did not bode well for his continued existence. "I've not harmed them since I left."
"Have you helped them?" Sorcerer Spike asked. Giles hung his head. "What's his crime anyway?" he asked himself.
"He's a tosser," Spike growled. "He's treated the whelp like shit for years now. I was there, even as a dog, but I noticed he never paid attention to him, never to the kiddies. He even refused to let the whelp tell anyone that they were together or to go anywhere. Even when the whelp was strippin' to make ends meet for them, Oz or I went to watch him and make sure he was fine."
"I stripped?" Sorcerer Xander asked. "When? I can't dance."
"He had to, we were all out of work and we had just moved out here to be safe." Giles looked up at him. "It was the only job he could find and I've thrown it back in his face many times." He swallowed hard. "He even picked up a serial killer while working there. And it was all for our benefit." He hung his head again. "I know I was evil to him, Spike, but not even I deserve this."
"He made the whelp slap him durin' therapy one day," Family Spike said quietly. "Xander was healin' from his leg thing and he ended up slappin' him durin' a counselin' session with Blair."
"I knew he was Ethan's son!" Giles shouted, glaring at him. "Yes, I knew. I kept it from him! I'm a truly evil bastard to Xander, I freely admit that, Spike. Let me go!"
Sorcerer Spike snorted. "Sure we will, mate. Just as soon as we're sure you've learned your lesson." He looked at his own Xander, who was looking thoughtful. "What'cha thinkin' about at a time like this?" he demanded.
"How I would have reacted to something like that," Sorcerer Xander said, crossing his arms across his chest. "Before Willow had me turned, I might have put up with it for a while before I snapped, but I would have eventually left."
"He had kids," Dancing Xander pointed out as he walked in. "He was dependant on them to help him with Miri."
"He couldn't have left," Giles sighed, slumping in on himself. "Not with the way the town was then. We moved out here because they burned us out of our old store when they found out Miri was a telekinetic." He looked up at the two Xanders, wincing at the sight of the second one. "I was horribly bad to you," he said softly.
"That's not him," Family Spike noted. "He's got cats."
"And puppies. And a sword," Xander noted, pulling it out from behind his back. "Found this pretty little baby in the library." He gave Giles a pointed look. "I'm very good with it," he purred, giving him an evil look. "Never harm the me here again, Giles. Or I will find a way to come back and to take your head." He looked down the tied up body. "Both of them." He turned and walked out, leaving the bad guys to do it for him. He really hated to fight, but he would do it in this case. No one should be allowed to hurt him, especially not with kids around.
Both Spikes walked over to the chair and looked at each other across the defeated man's head. They nodded and looked down at him, giving him a cruel smile. "Xander, be a pet and do somethin' about the chip for a few," Sorcerer Spike suggested. "We've got some fun to be had here." He looked at himself. "Xander fixed it first off and then it came back a few months later."
"Sure, I can short it out again," Sorcerer Xander said, reaching over to finish a drawing he had started earlier, activating the glyph.
A little while later, Dancing Xander picked up the phone and dialed the emergency number. "Hi, this is the Harris/Osbourne household..." He looked startled. "Yes, we have. No, apparently our former lover had been walking outside and was beaten pretty badly by someone in the woods. I think he needs medical attention." He nodded and hung up, glaring at the Spike who belonged there. "They know this house by name?"
"Had a few calls," Family Spike noted. "A were changin' off time that bit Miri. One of the kids is allergic to her shots, so she's went once. That and Xander's injury made them real well known."
"Ah." Xander relaxed. "As long as they don't know this house for another reason." He glanced around. "Can we go check on the Oz's? I want to make sure that they won't bite the paramedics when they show up."
Sorcerer Xander nodded and led him away, glaring at the Spikes, he didn't think this Xander was up to the stress of bad thoughts anymore. "So, what do you do in the town still?" He scratched his eyebrow. "Sorry, that came out wrong."
"That's okay," Dancing Xander said, patting him on the arm. "My Oz and I are still very active in protecting the town. Actually, we and Giles are guardians of the key to the Hellmouth, the one that turns it into a portal. We've just taken a more 'wait until they try to eat you' approach to protecting people."
"Which is cool," Sorcerer Xander admitted. "Do you have a lot of interaction with the demons? I overheard you talking to your Giles about your book."
"Yup," Dancing Xander said, giving him a brilliant smile as he sat down in front of the monitors. "Paramedics are here," he noted. He watched as his other self ran off to go meet them. "I'm not fragile," he called after him. "I've had to deal with dragons."
Someone, who sounded suspiciously like a female, choked.
Brandon's Xander sighed as he walked back into his house and dropped down to sit on the stairs. "I suck," he told the butler, who was coming to see who had come in. "Big case and I need Derek's expertise."
"I'm an Anthropologist," Blair offered quietly from the top of the stairs. He walked down and sat beside Xander. "I realize what you do is secretive, but I work in the police department beside Jim and I am an Anthropologist. I can keep my mouth shut."
"I'll have to check," Xander said, heaving himself up. "Give me twenty so I can go report." He walked back to the office, stopping to steal a glass of water from the butler on his way. He flopped down in Derek's desk chair, speed-dialing the London House. "Hey, we've got a case," he told the person who answered. "A big, nasty one that includes artifacts and a spiritual killer. As in already dead and using physical, magical weapons."
The man on the other side held up a finger and pushed a button. "Let us talk, Xander," he said, blanking the screen, basically putting the young man on hold.
Xander finished off his water while he waited, then decided his father had the right idea. Sometimes a snifter of brandy was the right thing after dealing with the local cops. He got up and poured himself a small amount into one of the balloon glasses, coming back just as the screen beeped for him. "Hey," he said, sitting down and taking a drink.
"Is that really necessary?" Tyler asked. He knew how Xander felt about drinking.
"Yup." Xander swallowed the last swallow and put the glass aside. "I've got a ghost wielding a dagger that steals souls. He's been stealing the souls and then torturing them for a few days before killing them."
"Which should be impossible," Tyler noted. "Is there any indication how?"
"If the first victim was killed instantly," Blair said from the doorway, "I'd say it'd have to be feeding on the souls."
Xander shrugged, then looked at Tyler, who had the classic one-brow-raised look. "That's Blair Sandburg, the Anthropologist Guide I noted earlier."
"Ah. Then by all means, have them sign the form we'll be sending over, and use him until Derek gets back. This is something we'll want stopped." He cleared his throat. "I'm doubting the police called you after the third body. Correct? That would be the only reason I could allow you to ask for outside help."
"Fifteenth," Xander said dryly. "The last one lasted almost five days without a soul."
"God," someone in the background muttered.
"Hi, Father Dominick," Xander called out. "So, yeah. And Blair has offered."
"Have him sign a security agreement, we'll fax one over," Tyler said, giving Xander a smile. "You've handled much worse, Xander, I have every confidence in you."
"Me too, I'm just tired. We're getting case files tomorrow." He waved and signed off and then looked at Blair. "You're sure? You can't tell anyone, not even at home."
"Cool by me," Blair agreed. "I deal with the strange things every day." He grinned. "Sentinels aren't exactly normal."
"Good point," Xander noted, standing up. "I'll brief you tomorrow. I need a nap. Oh, and I'm living in the other house. Ask the butler or Adam for anything you might need." He walked past the other man and out of the house, heading to his lonely bed.
Sentinel Xander looked up as he heard someone walking into the kitchen, where he was making a pitcher of iced tea. "Hi," he said shyly, not looking at the middle aged woman.
"Xander," Oz called as he walked into the dining room. "Hey, Henri, when did you get here?"
"Just a few minutes ago." She looked at the Xander. "Did something happen to your mate, Oz?"
"Long story," Xander mumbled as he put the pitcher into the refrigerator, minus a glass. He hurried past Oz to go hide in the third floor entertainment room.
"Complete with twins who can make planes and bend reality," Oz finished for Xander, grinning at his housekeeper. "That's actually another version of Xander. Ours should be home in a few days. Oh, and we have a few extra animals around. Have you seen George?"
"Not yet," Henrietta admitted. "Planes? Like the things you fly in?"
"No, planes as in other versions of reality." He walked closer and looked her in the eye. "You knew we do strange stuff. Alternate realities are just the strangest so far."
"All right," she sighed. "How many for dinner?"
"Um....nine?" She just shook her head. "We've got some frozen stuff if you're willing to heat it up," Oz offered. "Or I could if you don't want to."
"No, if I don't feed you, you'll go hide in your study." She looked over at him. "Is anyone else that's supposed to be here, here?"
Oz shook his head. "Just me and the animals. Most everyone belongs in one house though."
"Good enough," she said, going to pull something out of the freezer. "When did we buy this lasagne?" she asked as he walked away.
"Few weeks ago. Xander wanted some."
"Ah." She pulled it out and set it on the stove to thaw a little before being cooked.
Brandon's Xander walked into the kitchen of the main house and smiled gratefully at the day butler, who was holding out a glass of water and a mug of coffee. "Thanks, man." He gulped the water and then sipped the coffee, heading over to the table. "Is anyone else up yet?"
"Not quite, but one of the maids reported movement upstairs in the guest rooms," the butler said, smiling at him. "I'm sure this would make a wonderful story for the children, sir."
Xander snorted. "It's their fault it started," he noted as he grabbed a muffin, his usual breakfast. "Arnold, can I ask if you've noticed anything about any of our guests?"
"That one pair, the long haired one and the military man, are quite cute together," he noted. "Otherwise, no. Why?"
"Because I have to decide if I want to ask them for help on a case." Xander smiled at the butler's shocked look. "I have permission from Tyler in London, who's in charge since Derek's still missing, but I'm not sure I want to drag people into the worlds that we deal with."
"But aren't they already there?" Arnold suggested.
"Which is an even better reason not to drag them further into a paranormal case. Being on a plane created by Godly twins is hard enough to come to terms with. Having to help me deal with a ghost who's stealing souls is something else entirely."
"Ah, I see." Arnold brought Xander over the pot of coffee to refill his cup. "Maybe you should ask if they feel up to it. Even a day's worth of help might help save another life."
"Point," Xander agreed, giving the older man a smile. "Thanks, Arnold."
"Someone has to take care of you until Oz comes back, sir," he said graciously.
"Now, Arnold, how many times have I told you that I hate being called 'sir'?" Xander teased.
"Very many, sir, that's why I do it." He went back to fixing the rest of the breakfast buffet he would have to serve. "Should I fix anything different for the young demon do you think?"
"I'm pretty sure she eats normal food," Family Xander said as he walked in. He gratefully took the cup of coffee and gulped it. "Great," he hissed, airing out his burned mouth and throat. He sat down next to his new friend, putting his bad foot up on the chair across from him. "Hey, how was your sleep?"
"I miss my Oz," Brandon's Xander sighed. "My bed's very lonely without him."
"You'd think you two were never separated," Arnold snorted. "He says that every time Oz is more than a few meters from him." He glared at the Xander. "Feet down please."
"Drop it, he's got a replaced knee that he's in therapy for," Brandon's Xander told him gently. He patted Family Xander's arm gently. "He's fine. I'll even clean any scuff marks he puts on the chair, okay?"
"I wasn't told..." Arnold said, then he blushed. "I'm sorry, Xander, I had no idea and I have no right to judge you."
"S'okay," Xander said with a grin. "I get a lot of that at home too. Mostly from my kids." He winked at the butler. "We're cool, no big." He held out his coffee cup. "Can I have some more though?"
"Won't that make your ankle swell?" Blair asked as he walked in. "Hey, how's it hangin'?" he asked the butler as he walked around to sit under Family Xander's foot, massaging the sore, swollen ankle. "How's that feel?" he asked after a few seconds.
"You can stop anytime in this century," Family Xander sighed. "You're nothing at all like my therapist. He doesn't know how to do this."
"I only learned it recently." Blair paused. "I'm a therapist where you come from?"
"Yup, helped me through a second suicidal phase and helped me dump Giles both." Family Xander looked at him. "You work with the FBI too, as a Profiler."
Blair shuddered. "Eww. Man, that is so wrong!"
"You still get to catch bad guys," Brandon's Xander offered.
"Yeah, but you've got a beautiful wife and a lovely stepdaughter, who adores me by the way." Family Xander stopped to grin. "And Jim, whom you work beside, has three very nice wives who have decided that he needed them to civilize and soften him."
Blair snickered. "I bet. Three? How did he end up with three?"
"From what my Blair told me, the women decided on it for him."
Blair shook his head. "Hey, Jim!" he yelled. "Family Xander said that in his realm we're Feds."
Jim walked into the kitchen and looked at the three men. "Really?" he asked dryly. "Why?"
"You guys work in an anti-serial killer unit. You even stopped mine for me," Family Xander told him. "You also happen to pretend to be a receptionist for Blair's and Sam's psych practice."
"Sam would be who?" Blair asked.
"Your wife," Family Xander said simply.
Jim looked down at Blair. "You married a *woman*?"
"You married three," Family Xander said happily. "Very smart and pushy women who decided you needed, as they put it, civilized and softened." He nodded when Jim looked down at him.
Jim shook his head. "I can't even imagine that." He sat down at the table and looked at the Xander sitting at the end. "So, Blair said something about a serial killer?"
"Ghostly one," Brandon's Xander said quietly. "Before I can tell you anything though, I'm going to have to make you sign a non-disclosure agreement, if it's come through the fax."
"It has, I've made a few copies for you already," Arnold said, setting the last of the dishes onto the buffet. "Breakfast," he said simply. "And do eat more than a muffin this morning, Xander, or I'll tell Oz." He walked out to leave them alone.
Jim stood up and walked over to examine the breakfast buffet, eventually dishing himself up something. He carried his plate over to the table and Blair stole it before he could sit down. "Hungry?" he asked dryly.
"Not now," Blair said, giving him a smile. "Thanks, Jim."
Jim walked over to get himself another plate of food.
Family Oz woke up and looked around his cage, wincing when he saw the other Oz sleeping in a tree. "Hey, you okay?" he called as he stood up and walked over to the locker to get his clothes out.
"Fine," Guide Oz called, climbing down. He caught the clothes being thrown over the other Oz's shoulder and got dressed, looking around the cage in acceptance. "I need one of these," he noted as they walked out into the early morning. He stopped to watch the horses, his attention caught by a big red one that was standing out in the paddock watching them instead of running like the others. "Herd stallion?" he asked, pointing.
Family Oz looked over. "Strife," he noted. "He's dead. He just comes to play with the kids sometimes." He shrugged and waved, then headed inside. "Someone else came," he noted. "Smells like a Philip." He walked in and gave Sileya a hug. "Hey," he said, taking her cup of milk to drink for her. "Thanks."
Sileya shook her head, giving Family Oz's back a disgusted look. She held the jug of milk out to the other one. "Oz, do you know where my mouth's been?" she asked sweetly.
Oz smacked his lips a few times. "Yup. Bet Homer liked it too." He sat down at the table and picked up the paper, ignoring her shocked look. "Tell him I said hi," he called as she stormed out. He looked up as the other Oz sat down across from him. "So, what's your Xander like?"
"Very insecure. He was given a drug that gave him heightened senses by the Initiative. They dosed over three hundred people at a party." Guide Oz shrugged. "We've had it rough. We coexist and occasionally sleep together, but we're not really together, you know?"
Family Oz nodded. "Yup. My Xander and I sleep together about twice a year. He's got a very valid point about wanting to have me closer."
Dancing Xander walked in, yawning and stretching. He grunted and poked at the coffeemaker, which started to make coffee when Sorcerer Xander walked in. He smiled at his counterpart and grabbed a cup as soon as he could. "Neat trick," he said after the first sip.
"Um, clothes?" Family Oz asked lightly.
Dancing Xander glared at him.
"I doubt he does that at home," Sorcerer Xander noted. "And the kids aren't here."
"Point, but still," Guide Oz told him. "Some of us aren't interested in a hot male body."
Dancing Xander leaned down and hugged Guide Oz. "Of course you are," he whispered. "You're simply denying it." He stood back up and walked out of the kitchen, leaving everyone stunned until he came back wearing a robe. "Better?" he asked.
"Much," Homer called down the stairs. "I don't need my girlfriend to see that."
"It's not like I'd touch her," Dancing Xander called back.
"She doesn't need the thoughts either," Sileya called down. "Ow!" she called a few seconds later. "Meany!"
Family Oz shook his head. "Never mind," he sighed. He finished off the milk and took the jug the other Oz was holding out, pouring himself some more. "We're not formal here," he told Dancing Xander, who was staring at him. "Find a bowl and cereal if you're hungry."
"Actually, what I was thinking was that you might be able to use some of my experience to help in your relationship," he offered.
"Huh?" Family Oz asked. "I thought you had demons...."
Dancing Xander shrugged. "I also happen to be me, have two very human lovers, and manage to keep them worn out most of the time. And I did write a sex manual for humans too." He grinned. "Come on, it'll be fun. You can ask me questions, or just bounce ideas off me. It'll be like talking to a Xander that's able to tell you what he wants."
"Oh, my Xander tells me what he wants, he just does it by lack of response," Family Oz said dryly. He considered it then nodded. "Okay, if I come up with an idea, I'll ask you about it."
"That's *so* cool!" Dancing Xander said, lunging up to hug him across the table. "Did you hear that?" he asked his other self.
"Yup," Sorcerer Xander noted. "Oz and I are mentally bonded so I never have to ask."
Dancing Xander snorted. "You never wanted to surprise him with something neat? Or even kinky?" he amended at the dirty look.
"Not really. When's your book being published?"
"Next year sometime," Xander said happily. "I've still got to live through the official editing process."
"And the demon one?" Family Oz asked.
"About six months or so after I finish the last two chapters. I've already been promised that even if my last two chapters suck badly, I'm still going to get that one published." He grinned at Sorcerer Xander. "How about you? What do you really do?"
"I live off the insurance money I have because a major demon got my parents."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Dancing Xander said, getting up to hug him. "Was it really recent?"
"Nope. A few months back. Before Willow tried to have me turned." He cleared his throat. "They were an offering to call up a demon so I would be eaten. This guy apparently had something against me. All I know is that they're in another dimension, one of the demonic ones." He slumped in on himself for a second and then straightened up. "They probably wouldn't want to see me now either, I'm not exactly the ideal son that they always wanted."
"I'm sure they'd just be happy to be back from the demon dimensions," Dancing Xander said gently. "After all, I've been in one, and you're very normal compared to some of the demons in there."
"Point," Sorcerer Xander said gruffly, getting free. "Go eat. I need to go check on the Spikes."
"There's a vamp proof room upstairs or there's the playroom," Family Oz told him. "It's got shutters that are sandwiched between the blinds. You might find them in either place."
"Thanks." Sorcerer Xander took his coffee and walked out, wanting to be around someone from his own realm for a while.
Dancing Xander sat down and looked at the two Oz's. "You don't think I scared him, right?" he asked hesitantly. "My Oz said sometimes I can be scary when I jump up to comfort people." He looked down at the table. "I didn't want to make him relive it."
"I'm sure he's okay, just a little weirded out," Family Oz told him, reaching over to pat him on the hand. "It's scary sometimes to see the person you are turn into someone else. If that makes sense."
"Yeah, it does," Guide Oz said, nodding. "Very much so actually." He looked at Dancing Xander. "Does it bother you to see him like he is?"
Dancing Xander sighed and nodded. "A lot actually. I never knew I had such a dark streak in me." He looked at the Oz's. "You guys are so great, even though you're not my Oz." He grinned at them. "Can I borrow some clothes? I want to go check out the horses."
"Sure," Family Oz said, standing up. "I'm guessing that something of my Xander's should fit you. You're a bit more toned than he is, and a lot more lithe, but there's not much different in size." He led the way up to their bedroom and into Xander's closet, sitting back and watching as the other Xander dug through the clothes to find something pleasant to wear.
Family Oz grimaced as he heard someone knocking on the door, but he came out of his Xander's office to go answer it. He blinked a few times when he saw Jim and Blair standing there, then waved them inside. "Um, hi," he said. "What's up?"
"You know," Blair said dryly, after giving Oz a hug, "I worry when I get a call from the hospital, from Rupert, and he says that you sicced *two* Spikes and a Xander that 'wasn't his', as he put it, on him."
Jim nudged Blair, then pointed at the second Oz and the two Xanders standing in the hallway. "Maybe he was right, Chief."
Blair took a deep breath and then looked at part of his favorite patient group. "Oz, would you like to explain what's going on?" he asked sweetly.
"Um, sure. But you're gonna want to be sitting first," Guide Oz told him, nodding when Jim looked at him.
Jim nudged Blair again. "That one's a Guide."
"Ooooookkkkkkkkkaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy," Blair sighed, drawing it out. He walked into the living room and patted the seat beside him. "Come, dear, tell me what's going on."
Family Oz sat beside him and gave him another hug. "Do you believe in Gods?" he asked.
"So, you're saying that there's actually multiple realities and you all got joined?" Guide Oz nodded. "And a pair of us went with you, and they're stuck somewhere?" Guide Oz nodded again. "And what are we doing about this?"
"We're letting the Gods who screwed this up in the first place fix it," Sorcerer Xander said, still not taking his eyes off Jim. He knew the moment he did, the Sentinel was going to come over and do something to him.
Jim shook himself of his fascination for the young almost vampire and turned his attention back to his Guide. "So, what is this other me like?" he asked finally.
"He's a cop," Guide Oz said. "Very strict with me. With Xander you seem to have this soft spot. You actually let him out to go play in the park when he was feeling cooped up during his early training. He, of course, brained himself while on the swingset."
"So I'm pretty lenient with the sentinel, but not the Guide?" Jim asked. "Does that hold up for Blair?" He saw the blush and shook his head. "Never mind."
"Only with Xander, man," Guide Oz assured him. "And no, Blair and I get into some major fights on occasion about how I'm training Xander, and, well, all the problems we've had." He shrugged at Family Oz's look. "Don't ask, really. It will taint how you see Xander."
"Okay," Family Oz agreed. He looked at his family's therapist. "As for your original question, you'd have to ask someone who doesn't turn furry to see what happened to Giles." He looked at Sorcerer Xander. "Would you like to comment on that one?"
"Spike said we could," Sorcerer Xander pointed out. "He said that Giles came back around, and I did catch him working magic on you guys."
"Ah," Blair said, his eyes starting to cross. "So you're not denying that you helped beat the crap out of him?"
"No, I watched. The Spikes were having a little bit of fun," Sorcerer Xander defended. "They knew when to stop, Oz's Spike said that they could."
"I see." Blair shook his head as he stood up. "Oz, my Oz, I want to see you after you all get back..." His voice trailed off as a few of the people in the room disappeared. "Um, and that was?"
"That was probably some of them being relocated to another house," Family Oz pointed out, looking over at all the empty chairs. "Where's Jim?"
Blair spun around, then turned to glare at Oz. "What do you think happened?" he asked, trying to sound calm.
"I think they got their Jim's confused," Oz said dryly. "After all, we got Xander's and me's confused. I'm sure he'll be back soon," he soothed, pulling Blair back down onto the couch. "Relax, he's in good hands. I promise. Maybe he's even met his other self and they're chatting."
Blair started to laugh, quickly turning hysterical. "Jim wouldn't chat with himself," he gasped, clinging to his patient. "Oh, God, I am so dead when he gets back."
"Shh, I'll protect you from the big, bad Jim," Oz promised, trying to get him calmed down.
Hera looked at the Gods gathered around the scrying pool, and decided to break up their meeting. "What are you doing about all those people in the wrong plane? Every minute you leave them there, things destabilize."
Xander, God of the Overlooked, glanced at her. "We know. We're debating leaving someone in one plane that needs to be there for a few more days because he needs to be there, or ruining his life by moving him and everyone around."
"We think we can move just the people who need to be in another house," Ares said bluntly. "We're setting priorities for the moves right now."
"I see. And about this one person?"
"I think we'll leave him there for another turn," Xander decided, having a silent staring contest with Ares. Who eventually nodded. "Thanks, babe." He looked at Hera again. "We'll leave that one, it's important to his destiny. Otherwise, we'll be doing another switch tonight to hopefully get more of them into their proper realm."
"Good," she said firmly, and disappeared.
On the mortal plane, Dancing Giles was getting frustrated with all this mess. He remembered very well the spell to open the portals between the houses. He wasn't sure why they weren't all gathering together to concoct the spell's components, but this needed to be done. He walked into the library, where both Xanders were bent over a book, reading. "I don't want to interrupt," he said softly, making them both jump, "but I'd like to know why we don't simply do the portal spell again?"
"Because I don't want to mess with the magic that's so much stronger than I can ever be," Brandon's Xander said without looking up. He pointed at a passage. "You're sure that's how this knife works?"
"Yup, I took it to Faith when she kidnaped Miri." Family Xander looked over at the frustrated older man. "Relax, it'll only be a few days." He started to say something else, but the Giles that had been glaring at them disappeared suddenly. "Um," he said, then the Giles reappeared. "False start?" he guessed.
"Yes," Giles said dryly, his humor returned slightly by having cuddled the children for a few moments. "They're working on getting us to another house right now. But one of the Gods jumped the gun a bit and everyone's back in place now, I think."
"Good," Brandon's Xander said, then he chewed on his lip. "This really sucks," he decided and flung the book across the room.
Family Xander stood up and clapped.
Blair looked around as everyone reappeared in the same places they had been. "Not go well?" he suggested lightly, trying not to sound too hysterical.
"Misfire," Jim said simply, shrugging when Blair glared at him. "Oh, the kids are fine and happily screaming to drive everyone up there insane."
"Up there?" Blair squeaked.
Family Oz stood up. "Jim, maybe you should go put Blair to bed for a few minutes," he suggested lightly. Jim nodded and took the few steps so he could lift his Guide up with a grunt and carry him upstairs. Family Oz looked at the others. "Are we doing the switch thing again?"
"Some of us," Dancing Xander said quietly. "You're going to be staying here it looks like." He looked at Sorcerer Xander. "What about you? Your home isn't one of the three."
"I guess we'll get to pop around to all three and then we'll be sent home after everyone else is settled. It makes more sense, wastes less energy and there's no chance of accidentally sending people to our realm."
"Ah." Dancing Xander nodded. "Okay." He grinned at the two Oz's. "I get to see my Oz and my animals soon," he said, his mood seeming to change.
"It'll be cool soon enough," Guide Oz reminded him, reaching over to pat him on the shoulder. "Just give it a few days."
"I will." Dancing Xander grinned at his other self. "Where do you think your Oz is?"
"Not a clue. I didn't see him wherever we were."
Brandon's Xander led the way into the warehouse all the murders had happened in, letting Jim and Blair follow him in. He waved one of the cops over, giving him a hug. "Hey, Ray," he said, kissing him on the cheek. "How have you been? And how's Benny Junior?"
"He's teething," Ray sighed, rolling his eyes. "But I'm good." He looked at the men standing behind Brandon's Xander. "New members?"
"Nah, realmal switches. They're allowed to help me while they're here." He smiled at the officer walking over to them. "You promised me files," he noted as they shook hands.
"I sent you all that I could find," he said gruffly. He looked at Jim then nodded. "Didn't know you guys had cops working for you."
"Special assignment," Blair said quietly. "Can we see the scene after the body's removed?"
"Wouldn't you need to *see* the body?" the cops asked, looking at Xander. "You always did."
"He's got a weak stomach, even after ten years in Major Crimes," Jim told them all. "He does more of the people end, I do the investigative."
"And I do the strange and wacky," Brandon's Xander finished with a grin. He and Jim walked over to where the body was draped, followed by Ray and the Captain that had called them in. "Okay, so, we're not in the ritual," he noted, pointing at the hole. "That's not the same blade."
One of the Crime Scene people held up a bag without looking.
"That's not the knife either," Xander said, taking it to look at it. "Nope, not the same guy as the other killings," he pronounced. He looked at the Captain. "The body's draped, not tied up and mutilated. The hole's the wrong size and shape, and this is *not* the knife we're looking for. Oh, and when we do find the right knife, make *really* sure that no one gets nicked by it, okay?" He turned back to look at the body, noticing the smears of something around the mouth. He leaned closer, making sure not to touch or brush the body. "Draino," he said, pointing it out.
The Crime Scene Unit person stood up, bending over so she could see it too. "Definitely some sort of acid-based liquid." She smiled at Xander. "You're good."
"No, I'm rotten, just ask my Oz." He stood back up and looked around the over-turned crates. "Who did that? The area's been pristine before."
"That's where we found the knife," the CSU worker told them. "Along with the second body, which is why you were really called."
"Oh." Xander walked over there, then stopped and waved Jim over. "That's the hole of the knife we're looking for," he said quietly. He looked over the body, then nodded. "Rage. This guy had taken over his spot."
"Definitely a lot of feeling," Jim agreed. "Rage might be too simple of a word though. Possession and defending one's turf might be a better description."
"So, what, our serial killer's territorial as hell and killed him for doin' someone in his turf?" Ray asked. Xander nodded. "What is this? A serial killer gang war?"
"Only on an individual scale," Xander told him, looking him over. "Want to come out tonight?"
"Nah, I'll be out later today though, with those files."
Xander grinned. "Cool, I've got someone I want you to meet." He walked around and looked down at the body. "Hey, Ray," he called, bringing Ray over closer. "What's that?" he pointed out a shiny coin lying under the body.
"That would be," Ray said, bending down to pick it up with the inside of a bag, "a coin." He looked at it, turning it around and around. "A ferry token?" he suggested, handing the bag off.
Blair snatched it and looked at it in the light. "Only if the killer knew Chiron," he told the detectives. "That's old, Greek, and it's a pass for a ride across the river of death." He handed it back. "Whomever is doing this, has access to some very nice old things."
"So, this is an artifact or somethin'?" Ray asked, his brow furling. "Where do you find these?"
"If you're lucky, you find *one*," Blair told him. "To an Archeologist, or an Anthropologist, those are sacred objects. We don't let them go."
"So I need ta ask around and see who's lost the coin of the dead?" Ray suggested.
Blair nodded. "Go talk to one of the more senior, but not tenured professors at any of the local Universities. They tend to keep in touch with their colleagues more often, so are often up on the most recent scandals."
"Ah," Ray said, giving Blair a blank look. "Okay." He looked at Jim. "Do you agree?"
"That's his area," Jim told him, knowing what that blank-look was like. Blair did it to him at least once every three months now, which was an improvement over every few weeks where they had started out. Now that he had gotten used to the lectures inside the Sandburg Mental Zone, he didn't have them nearly as often. The poor detective just wasn't acclimated yet, he'd learn if they had to stick around for too long.
Ray nodded again and walked away, going to tell his boss the good news.
Xander looked down at the body and shook his head. "He should have known not to copycat this one. He had the sight." He walked away from the body, going back to his car, after getting another hug and a promise of a visit from Ray.
Dancing Xander walked up behind Family Oz and gave him a hug, wrapping his arms around his new friend's waist. "What'cha thinking?" he asked softly.
"I miss my Xander," Oz noted. "I really want his homecoming to be very special."
"I'm sure it will be," Dancing Xander promised, kissing him on the back of the neck.
"I can't," Oz said, pulling away from him. "I know you need the comfort and all, but I can't cheat on my Xander. We've already hurt him enough as a family."
"It wasn't that sort of kiss," Dancing Xander said with a grin. "Purely a comfort thing, nothing further meant by it." He held up two fingers. "I promise."
"When were you a Boy Scout?"
"For about two weeks. Have your Xander tell you about it some time," he said with a wink. "It was very informative about what sort of man I never wanted to be." He nodded at the barn. "Can you come help me saddle someone to ride?"
"Sure," Oz said, following his new friend up to the barn to go saddle one of the more placid horses for him. He doubted that his Xander and this Xander rode the same type of animal.
In the house, Blair was slowly coming around. "Jim?" he groaned. He felt the hand on his head move the cool cloth around so he could look up from under it.
"Hey, Chief," Jim said, smiling down at him. "How's your head?"
"Hurts," Blair moaned as he sat up and looked around. "The farm?"
"Yeah, you got a really big shock and decided to leave reality for a few minutes. Oz suggested I put you to bed before you became hysterical."
"Ah." Blair swung his feet around until he was sitting on the edge of the bed. "And the reason I would be hysterical was....?"
"What do you remember about why we're here?" Jim watched as the color drained out of his friend's face. "So you remember it all now?"
Blair nodded, leaning forward to rest his head against Jim's stomach. "I can't handle this level of freaky," he whispered.
"It's all right," Jim said, smirking. He had never heard Blair say that he didn't like the odd, unusual, or as the younger man put it, freaky things that they dealt with. "Want to go home?" he asked, wiping the expression off his face before his Guide could catch him with it.
"Yes, I want to go home," Blair said, standing up with a little help from Jim. "Thanks, man. Let's go say goodbye to the guys." They walked down the stairs together and Blair stopped to look at the Oz reading on the couch. "Oz, man, I've got to say, you've freaked me badly here." He walked over and gave him a hug. "Come see us when the freaky shit's done with, but keep it to yourself, okay? I don't *even* want to go there." He left, Jim following behind him.
Jim shrugged at the confused look Guide Oz was giving him. "Just pass it on." He followed his Guide out the door and to their car, getting in to drive.
Dancing Oz looked up as the doorbell rang, getting up from his seat at the table to go answer it. "Hey, Richie, Steve," he said, nodding them inside. "What's up? Need a safe hidey-hole?"
"I actually needed some help teaching Steve," Richie said, not looking up as he scuffed the floor with the toe of his riding boot. "I apparently suck as a teacher."
"Ah." Oz led them into the dining room. "Well, I can help that some. Meth might be able to too, but he's found his own place in town. Oh, and Ray's on the local police force."
"Good," Richie said, giving him a grin. "Any other good news?"
"Just the strange and freaky," another Oz said as he walked into the dining room on his way to the kitchen. He stopped to look at the two new men. "Where I come from, you're an Angelic Messenger," he noted then finished his trek to get another glass of lemonade.
"Huh?" Richie asked finally, staring at the Oz he thought he knew. "Who was that?"
"We're having a small realm switching moment," Dancing Oz explained. "That Oz is from somewhere else." He glanced at Richie's jacket. "Where's Motocat?"
"Asleep in our motel room," Steve said, still looking a little shocked. "Realm switching? Do I want to know about this?"
"Probably not," Dancing Oz advised, giving him a grin. "Just accept it blindly for now. That Oz is going somewhere else in the next few hours and we'll be getting another group of us's."
"And those other you's will know..." Richie asked, letting it dangle so this Oz could finish the statement.
"Everything," Oz finished. "One of the other realms has a Methos as a butler, and apparently you as a messenger from God." His brow scrunched up for a second. "I'm sorry, but I can't imagine that."
Richie snickered. "Me either. But that's okay. I wonder who I lost to?"
"Mac probably," the Oz said as he walked back into the room. "At least that's who our Adam, whom you keep calling Meth, curses whenever he sees you coming to talk to our son." He sat down next to Dancing Oz. "So, can I help? I had to take self-defense lessons and I need something to do before I start to brood over missing my Xander."
"You could always go and read my Xander's book," Dancing Oz suggested mildly.
"I think that'll make me miss mine more," Brandon's Oz said gently. "My Xander and I both believe that things like that should be read together so you can bounce ideas off each other or be spontaneous and try them right then."
"I know it must suck to be away from your Xander," Steve said gently, "but we're trying to figure out how to train me to fight with a sword."
"The basics of that are still self-defense," Brandon's Oz pointed out. "It's blocking with a sword instead of an arm or a leg, but it's still self-defense. The offer stands while I'm here." He leaned back in the chair. "Your housekeeper is a kicker, man. She's got Nick rolling around upstairs giggling."
"She's *real* good at staving off a Xander-pout too," Dancing Oz told him.
"Which would be a bad?" Brandon's Oz asked. Dancing Oz nodded. "See, mine hardly ever pouts, and it's for things like me to not answer the phone during a backrub." He shrugged at the confused looks. "His Xander's a lot different than mine. Mine's a little harder and more sure of some things. He's been tested by fire and lived through it."
"Mine just figured himself out," Dancing Oz noted.
Steve nodded. "I remember your Xander, um, Oz." He cleared his throat. "When do you expect yours to get back, or for you to get back home," he amended, adding the second Oz to his statement.
"I think we'll be having a house switch tonight sometime," Brandon's Oz said, standing up. "I'm going to go torture my brother-in-law." He headed back up to the third floor entertainment room and Nick.
"Brother-in-law?" Steve asked.
"Apparently a few of the Xander's happen to have a few different relatives. My Xander has a brother that's a vampire, who's in love with Spike of all people. Apparently Miri's father's dad is one of our old arch-enemies. The Oz that just left's brother-in-law is upstairs. That's who Nick is."
"Who am I?" Nick asked as he walked through the dining room. "Hey, can we steal Henri when we go home? We'll give you our butler in trade."
Dancing Oz snorted. "No. Do you know how hard it is to find someone who believes we're okay because we're a trio and have a lot of animals? We actually interviewed someone who said they'd *pray* for us to become normal." He gave Nick a sweet smile. "Try and take her over your dead body."
"Okay," he said, shrugging it off. He lifted up the nearly empty lemonade pitcher. "Where's the mix? I'll go ahead and start another one."
"That's those yellow things in the bowl," Oz said, pointing at the copper bowl holding the lemons.
"Ah. In that case, have fun," he said with a grin, leaving the pitcher out. He waved at the two new people and started to walk away, but stopped and looked at Richie. "You look really familiar."
"He's who Miri told us was Brandon's messenger buddy," Dancing Oz told him.
"Oh, okay. Hey, Richie. I'm Nick." He waved and walked away.
Richie closed his eyes and shook his head, accepting Steve's pats to the back of his head. "Thanks," he muttered into the wood. "I'm going to get my cat and our stuff, okay?"
"Sure," Dancing Oz said. "At worst, you can sleep on a couch. And all the animals are here right now."
"Are you sure it's wise to bring Motocat in with them?" Steve asked. "I know cats can get territorial."
"We've only got a few extra cats right now," Oz told him. "Motocat used to be part of the family, he'll be fine. Oh, is he fixed?"
"Is now," Richie said, lifting his head. "Why?"
"Because we seem to have acquired a female cat and we can't be sure if she's fixed or not."
"Oh. Okay. Do you think I should?"
"I think it should be fine," Oz told him. "Don't worry. If worse comes to worse, she can sleep in your room instead of the animal kingdom Xander set up."
"Then I'll go get Motocat and pack our stuff," Richie said. "Watch Steve for me." He got up and left the house, trying to look like he wasn't running away.
Steve grinned at Oz. "I think you overloaded him."
"Now he knows how we felt when we woke up on another plane." He got up and headed into the kitchen, pulling out a can of lemonade mix. "I was kinda hoping Nick would play the hero and make real lemonade," he sighed as he measured out four scoops into the pitcher.
Family Oz sighed as he felt a wave of magic flow across the house, bracing himself to be taken from the house again. He relaxed when he opened his eyes and found that he was still at home. He took a quick tour through the house, smiling when he saw his Spike curled up on the bed around an empty blanket. He checked on Sileya and Homer next, but they were apparently doing sex ed homework with the liplock they were stuck in. He walked down the stairs in time to see a few familiar people walk through the door. "Hey," he said, waving. "I'm thinking about cooking, anyone want to do that instead?"
"I will if you'd like," Dancing Giles offered politely. "I've a fair hand at feeding my Xander." He stepped out of the way as another Giles dragged in a nearly insensate man and put him on the couch. "Oh, dear," they said in unison, getting down to check on the Xander.
"That would probably be Sentinel Xander," Brandon's Derek noted. "They tend to reach a semi- catatonic state when their senses are overloaded."
"His Guide?" Brandon's Nick asked.
"Was here but he just got stolen," Family Oz told him, his brow furling. "But our family's therapist said something about a Guide so maybe...." He grabbed the nearest phone and speed dialed. "Hey, Jim. No, it's kinda an emergency. When you said that other me was a Guide, would that be to something called a Sentinel? Because we've got one here and he's not real here right now. Sure." He handed the phone over to Dancing Giles. "Put it next to his ear. He's gone to get Blair."
"Ah, that might work," Derek said, smiling at him. They shook hands. "Have you seen anyone from my house yet?"
"Just Philip, he's napping in the playroom for some reason."
Nick and Derek both walked that way to wake up their lover.
Oz looked at everyone else. "Kitchen?" he suggested. "Let him have some quiet?"
"Yes, it might be for the best," Dancing's Giles said, standing up. He followed Oz into the kitchen, nodding at the hominess of the space. "Your decorator did a fabulous job."
"I'll tell my Xander that when he gets back," Family Oz told him. He looked at the group who joined him. Brandon's Derek, Philip, and Nick were talking quietly as they walked in. Dancing Giles was still looking around. Apparently Sentinel Xander was still in the living room and thankfully Spike hadn't woken up yet and realized that his other half was missing. He silently mused on what a diverse group this was, and how different Brandon's house must be. "I should probably start a stew, it's about time for us to go grocery shopping."
Brandon's Xander looked up and squealed, getting up to run out and grab his mate before he could get near to the house. "I missed you. I love you. I want to retire now please."
Brandon's Oz snorted. "Sure. What sort of case is it?"
"Um, a spirit wielding a soul-stealing blade. He's gotten sixteen people, including the guy he caught killing on his turf." He gave him another squeeze. "And Tyler said I could ask the guys that had been here for help because I was all alone and *way* out of my element." He looked at everyone else and waved. "Hi. Go ahead into the kitchen and get a drink or whatever. The butler's in there." He watched as Dancing Xander ran up and hugged Family Xander, who had stayed for some reason. He watched as they both avoided Sorcerer Xander and Oz, who were apparently talking mentally because that Xander's lips were moving but he wasn't saying anything. Guide Oz was watching them in interest but not saying anything as he followed them up into the kitchen.
Brandon's Oz turned his mate around to look at him. "Tyler really said that?"
"Yeah, it's a straight police case. Jim and Blair, the two who came with Sentinel Xander and Guide Oz, work in their police department in Major Crimes. Tyler said I could ask them and Blair volunteered. Oh, and Ray's asleep up in our old room. He and his other half were talking through most of yesterday, comparing things."
"Is snuggled up beside him," Xander said with a grin. He walked his husband up to the house and led the way inside, heading into the office. "Good news," he said as soon as someone in London answered. "My Oz is back." He sat down and grinned at Tyler, pulling his Oz down into his lap.
"Hey," Brandon's Oz said, waving. "So, what's going on?"
"Has the mess been resolved?" Tyler asked. Both younger men shook their heads. "Damn. Where is Derek?"
"Probably with Family Xander's family," Brandon's Oz noted. "He was at the same house I was last time." He looked down at his mate. "Dancing Xander has a *huge* house and it's very well decorated."
"Coolness. Maybe he'll give me some tips for our study."
"I like our study," Oz sighed, rolling his eyes. "We'll discuss this later, Xan. Work now, decorate later."
"Okay. The demon, or whatever, got a serial killer who was killing his latest girlfriend on the killer's turf." Brandon's Xander shifted until he was comfortable under his Oz's weight. "And now we have Sorcerer Xander, who was a victim of a Shearpman spell? He said his friend did it to him," he said to ease the growing frown. "The Xander that was helping me is also here. So is Sorcerer Xander's Oz, Guide Oz, and Dancing Xander."
"And none who could possibly help you with the case," Tyler sighed. He glanced around the room. "I would come, but we're swamped with the Hellmouth almost opening last night."
"We did this work long before we came here," Oz reminded him. "I bet we all remember it pretty well."
Tyler stood still for a second then sighed and nodded. "If they want to help. Have them sign a copy of the security form also, boys. Was there anything else?"
"Nope. Oh, and Sorcerer Xander said something about just needing a few hormones? That he didn't really feed."
"He never passed across?" Tyler said in shock. "He's not a powerful vampire?"
"He was walking in from the garden with us," Oz told him. "He needs sunglasses, but he's not turned."
"Well, that's certainly unusual. See if you can't talk to him about that, it would be an interesting case study to see why he wasn't turned fully. The only people in this realm who've undergone that spell did it voluntarily and they turned into some of the worst dark-side menaces to date."
"Oh." Xander shrugged. "He's a nice guy, a little edgy, but really nice underneath his snarling."
"He who snarled at me because I was in front of the coffee," Tyler started, but he was smiling.
"Hey!" Oz complained. "He's allowed. You try being awake for five days straight because of Buffy."
"Which is why I let him get away with it," Tyler said dryly. He smiled at them. "Anyway, if they'd like to help, have them sign the form and we'll deal with it. Who knows, maybe this sorcerer could help more than the police officer could." The screen went blank.
Oz kissed the tip of his mate's chin. "Okay. To work or not?"
"We've got three days before the spirit comes back and eats someone else." Xander rubbed down his husband's stomach. "We could just celebrate being back together."
"Tonight," Oz agreed, giving him a real kiss. "I missed you."
"Me too. Our bed was really big and empty last night without you." Xander yawned. "I tossed and turned all night."
"Then you should go take a nap while I get everyone settled, babe. Take the couch and I'll be back in a few, okay?" He got a nod so stood up and watched as his mate pulled the throw off the back of the couch and laid down curled up in it. He planted a kiss on his husband's forehead then went to get everyone settled. He found them in the library, looking at copies of the security agreement. "Wow, you're good," he told Family Xander. "You were already here?"
"Yeah, I stayed," he said with a self-depreciating grin. "I guess someone felt that since I'm officially a Watcher, I could help." He picked up the photocopy of the picture of the knife. "This is what the ghost is using. It steals souls."
"And you know this how?" Sorcerer Xander asked.
"I used it on Faith to get Miri back," he said matter-of-factly. Everyone in the room nodded.
Oz blinked a few times. He had no idea how he was going to deal with *four* Xanders. His own was going to take all his attention. "Okay," he said finally. "Sign those please. You can't talk about this, even at home, and Sorcerer Xander, I've been asked to talk to you. Something about getting a detailed account for our records..."
Sorcerer Xander grinned. "Really? Never would have guessed that was coming. Giles, my Giles, had never seen this before either." He stood up, looking very comfortable with himself. "We can do that later. How long before whatever's wielding this blade hits again?"
"Three days," Family Xander told him. "We know the place, we know the ritual, we don't know the why or the how to stop it."
"Stopping it might depend on what class of demon it is," Brandon's Oz told him. "We deal with more than the average 'horns and scales' sorts of demons."
"I've heard stories about the higher classes of demons," Dancing Xander said thoughtfully. "I think I met one, but it looked like a little kid."
"Oh, crap," Brandon's Oz and Sorcerer Xander said in unison, glaring at him.
Brandon's Oz turned Dancing Xander to look at him. "You met one of the top of the hierarchy of demons? Where?"
"While I was working... long story there, never mind. Let's just say I was *with* a more minor one and this one showed up to discuss something with it. Though, I think I saw it later on while I was visiting with my second adoptive family."
"Second?" Guide Oz asked, speaking up for the first time.
"Yeah, a Metharn demon adopted me so my parents couldn't harm me. Never removed me from the plane, but let it be known that I was off limits. And my father promised me to one of the people that I anchor for if they would make his head quit hurting. Strife and I get along great as far as I know."
Brandon's Oz let him go and took a deep breath. "So you do know demons?"
"But mostly of the mortal plane-born ones. I don't think I've ever run into any of the higher ones except for that one and when I destroyed a concubine holding spot that a lower demon was wrecking for them."
"You lead an interesting life," Guide Oz noted. "Gonna share that story?"
"I was kidnaped by the lower demon, I kicked his ass when he couldn't make me submit, I wrecked the controller he was using on the concubines, the higher demons came down and kicked his ass for using the controller." Dancing Xander shrugged. "I eventually got saved by the higher demons, who let me out of the safe I was hiding in."
"I'm starting to wonder if higher demons can cross planes," Sorcerer Xander said, looking Dancing Xander over. "You still fight, don't you?"
"Yup. And I learned how to wield a sword too. It was kinda a necessity," he said with a silly grin. "I have a pheromone problem that attracts people so they like to kidnap me. Even a dragon, who thought I was a knight coming to try and kill it. He was very nice, explained a lot of stuff to me."
Everyone blinked a few times then shook their heads to clear them. "Don't think that'll help this time," Brandon's Oz said, looking at the picture of the knife. "Okay, I'm going to assign rooms then I'm going to go back to watching my Xander take a nap."
"Oh, up where the Ray from here is?"
"Yeah, that'd be a good spot," Brandon's Oz agreed, giving Family Xander a pat on the shoulder. "Show them up there and let everyone pick a room. There's five rooms up there, with one being used. And we have a double guest room on this floor too." He waved and walked out, heading for where he could hear someone vacuuming. He smiled at the housekeeper. "Could you tell the butler that I've assigned everyone rooms up in our old wing and to please have something soothing for dinner? We're all a bit stretched thin." She smiled and nodded. "Thanks. Xander and I are in the office, he's napping." He left her there, going back to his mate before he could wake up.
Dancing Oz looked up as the living room filled with people. He had expected a few more back, after all, his mates were still somewhere. He waved at the few he knew, then opened his mouth to say something but Steve walked in.
"Jim?" Steve asked, looking confused. "I didn't know you knew Oz." He smiled at the others who had shown up with his brother. "Hi, I'm Steve, Oz's student."
"Only for a few days," Oz told him. "I can't teach worth a damn either." He looked at both Methos', and the Ray leaning against one of them. "Welcome back. Any idea where my mates are?"
"We were just with your Xander," Ray said, giving him a weak smile. "I'm gonna take a nap, that ride's worsna roller coaster," he muttered as he walked away, heading up to their ususal room.
Jim and Blair stared at Steve Ellison, then looked at each other. "I think there's some mistake," Jim said. "We're not from this plane."
"Huh?" Steve looked at Oz, who nodded. "Oh. Then, um, where are you from?"
"A plane far, far away from here," Blair said quietly. "Somewhere very normal, where we never thought about all this stuff."
"Okay," Dancing Oz said, breaking into Blair's burgeoning hysteria. "Rooms are up on the second floor. Steve, make sure those two get one."
He stopped when he heard a squeal, looking at the young woman and the cat that had just hissed at her.
"Aren't you *adorable*," she cooed, reaching down to pet Fluffy, queen of the harem. "And pink too, a very auspicious color."
"Mine," Methos said, picking her up. "How would you know?"
"I'm a cat demon," she said with a grin. "Wes?" she asked, looking around for him. She frowned and walked after him, taking him away from the refrigerator. "You can eat in a few minutes. They've got animals."
"And the animals have their own section of the house to play in," Dancing Oz told her, nodding at Methos. "Why don't you show her that on your way up to Ray?" Methos grumbled but he did pull the young demon away from everyone and take her so she could see the animals, leaving her squealing and cooing to the various cats and dogs. Then he went up to hold his Ray.
Brandon's Alex looked around curiously. "Can we go...."
"Sure," Dancing Oz said, not making her say it. "Up the stairs. The one with the big bed is mine..."
"I'll show her," Steve cut in, smiling at the two women. "Come, ladies, let me show you around the house." He led them away, going to give them the best tour he could, only having been here once for a party himself.
That left a Methos and Sorcerer Spike staring at Family Wesley, who was trying very hard not to look at the older vampire.
"Had enough of this," Spike decided, grabbing the young vampire and pulling him into the kitchen. He found the blood stored in the refrigerator for guests and pulled out two bags. "You will feed or I'll beat you. Your me may be nice enough to let you go on like this, but I'm not. Eat," he said, pushing a bag against the young man's mouth.
"Maybe he should have something a little more human," Brandon's Methos suggested dryly. "If he's got to eat, why not have the best?"
"Because most of the walking happy meals object to it when we eat them," Spike growled at him.
"Ah, but I'm not like that." Methos walked over and took the bag the young vampire was giving a horrified look too. "I remember what it was like to be bitten before," he said seductively, drawing the young man closer. "Try me. I'm told I taste very good."
Wesley, looking every bit like he was hypnotized, leaned forward and gently bit into the offered neck. He inhaled deeply as the rich blood hit his tongue, then started to shake as the power it held started to run through him. He came right there, and promptly passed out.
"Gee," Kaiya said as she wandered into the kitchen with the watering jug, "not getting much, Wes?" She grinned down at him when she saw the state he was in. "I guess he's one of those romantic feeders," she told Spike, the one she didn't owe a life-debt to. She could pick on this one.
"Which is bloody well inconvenient," Spike muttered. He flinched as he saw Methos disappear. "Huh, musta gone to the wrong spot then."
"Probably," a deep voice said from behind them.
Kaiya turned and looked at the owner of the voice and squeaked, "Cupid?"
"Hey, these are my boys," he said with a grin, looking down at Wesley. "And *you* need to go nap somewhere else, dude. It'd be different if it were sex, but just eating?"
"I'll take him," Spike sighed, lifting the vampire up and carrying him out of the room and up the stairs. He continued, listening to the sound of a tv, and ran into the entertainment room at the top of the stairs. "Got potential," he noted as he set Wesley down and settled in to watch the cop show currently playing.
Dancing Oz came out of his search of the living room and stopped at the sight of Cupid. "Hey, what's wrong?"
"We had to take the Methos' and the Ray, man. They needed to do *something*."
"Ah. Okay. And?"
"Just that." Cupid flashed him a grin. "Try and get your man to help that Wesley guy. Though, some chicks do go for the shy type." He shrugged and disappeared.
Oz looked at Kaiya as she slumped a little. "And here I thought he was going to be the exception to the 'vampires aren't monogamous' rule." She shrugged after a second. "I can accept that. As long as he doesn't want to share." She pulled the bottom off the watering jug and ran water into the container part, watching as it filled with cool, fresh water for her brethren.
Oz stared at her in disbelief. "Huh?" he asked finally.
"It looks like the easiest way for Wesley to eat is going to be while having sex," she said with a shrug. "I've known the type."
"But if you want to have a relationship with him...."
"Then I'll deal. Vampires never stay with a single person for very long, not even another vampire or demon. I'll take what I can get with Wesley and hopefully I'll still be around when he's ready to come back to me." She grinned. "My kind are long lived, but not that long. My lifespan's probably going to be about three hundred and fifty years, but his can last forever."
"Wow. How old are you?" Oz asked her.
"A few," she said slyly. He gave her a look. "Oh, okay," she sighed. "I'm about thirty right now."
"And you're Miri's nanny?"
"Yup. I owe the Spike in my world a life debt." She carried the refilled water dispenser back into the animal's play room. One of the puppies looked at her. "What? I said *around*, there's no way I'm going to tell him I'm actually only twenty-two and that I should be monitored to make sure I can live on my own." She petted the puppy. "You guys play or nap, I'm gonna be here." She got comfortable on the floor, watching the cat she knew was from her realm, and that hated her. They were going to have to get into it soon.
Richie walked in as dinner was being served and stopped when he saw all the people. "Um," he said, blinking a few times. None of the people he had met earlier were there and all the new people were staring at him.
"It was a house switch," Dancing Oz told him gently, leading him over to the table. "Sit. Relax. Where's the cat?"
Richie opened his jacket so the specially modified sling would release his cat, who jumped into his lap and meowed at everyone in greeting.
"Hey, Motocat," Dancing Oz said, reaching down to scratch him behind the ears. "Welcome back." He took his seat again and passed Richie the platters of food. "Eat," he reminded gently.
"Okay." Richie piled his plate full, still considering these new people. "Um, any word on Me...Adam?"
"He had to leave suddenly, he'll be back in a few days," Jim told him.
"Richie, you remember me talking about my brother right?" Steve asked. Richie focused on him, his eyes still a little wide. "Well this is another plane's version of him and Blair. You met Blair, we told him about what I was."
"Oh, yeah," Richie said, nodding. He flinched as his cat jumped up onto the table, but one of the women grabbed him before he could get more than a step and held him, petting and cooing at him. "Mine," he said, holding out his hand.
"She's a cat demon, they're communing," Dancing Oz advised him. "Steve...." he waved a hand at Richie.
"Sure," he said, getting up and helping his teacher up the stairs.
Wesley shook his head. "Surely he can't be that awestruck. We're not that exciting."
"But Richie's not into the paranormal at all," Dancing Oz told him seriously. "His strangest event to date was becoming immortal."
"Immortal?" Jim asked.
"Steve?" Blair asked, making the logic jump.
"My *brother*?" Jim asked.
"Is in very good hands," Dancing Oz told him. "Richie's been trained by some of the best that there are and Steve's under mine and Methos' protection. Relax, Jim. Your brother on your plane may not be adopted. We've discovered that the Xanders' have different lineages. It may hold true on your plane too."
"Oh," Jim said quietly, staring at his plate. "I'm going to..." He stood up and walked after his brother, going to talk to him.
Blair looked a little lost, but Dancing Oz shook his head. "Let him. This is strange for those of us who deal with this stuff daily." He gave Blair a weary grin. "Trust me, this is something I never imagined happening. Though it's kinda nice. Who knows, maybe you'll end up meeting yourself in one of the realms."
Kaiya coughed. "I often get to hear about the boy's therapist, Blair," she said quietly, not looking up. "I'm betting that if they ran into my Xander or Oz that they could get Blair up there to meet him."
Blair reached around the empty spot and touched her hand. "Thanks, I'll consider that if I'm there." He grinned, making her smile. "What is your...clan like?"
"My clan? Well, it's pretty big. We've got the alpha pairing, and then we've got a few family pairings, and then we've got all the single toms who are usually trouble, or warriors, depending on their mood. The females usually keep to themselves, helping the other mothers, helping keep some order, picking on the toms," she finished with a grin. "It's not idyllic, but it's kinda nice."
"That's actually the usual pattern for most tribal cultures," Blair informed her, warming up into his usual lecture mode. "It seems to be the most stable setup for the tribe, or clan." She nodded for him to go on. "Usually, there's a few elders that are at least advice givers, they're the grandparents who have been through it all. Then you've got the wives, who are usually wives as soon as they're women, and the single warrior types that do the hunting. The women stay at home and plant the crops, tend the farm, that sort of thing."
Kaiya nodded. "Yup, sounds a lot like home, only without the crops."
"I would love to study a clan environment." She gave him a dirty look and he sent her a reassuring smile. "I'm an anthropologist."
"But the humans and the demons don't mix except when someone already knows," Kaiya protested quietly. "It gets us killed."
Dancing Oz nodded, putting down his fork. "It does, Bl air. Demons and humans are mostly separate communities because they have to be or the demons lose out."
"Humans are predatory beasts," Kaiya added solemnly. "They kill whatever's in their way, even if in their way means just existing. We all know that."
"Not all of them," Jim protested as he came back .
Blair snorted. "No, only the white human males," he reminded his Sentinel and best friend. "Our history is full of destroying things because they got in our way or we found out we couldn't own them. Her clan is very right to be protective of getting human notice. But not all present humans are like that," he told her. "Some of us live to study and learn new ways. I, for example, wouldn't even publish anything about them, I'd just like to study the clan structure."
"Ah, but my clan has heard that before," Kaiya said sadly, pushing her chair back some. "We were almost wiped out by some scholars in the sixteen hundreds. The legends say that they decided we were animals and that my clan's valley was ripe for the taking. So they tried to take it."
"Who won?" Blair asked.
"We did," she said firmly. "We killed them all. We also lost all but one fertile female and three of the older males who couldn't fight. There was one good human, he fought with us, showing us how to use the men's weapons against them, and then he left us alone, vowing never to speak of us again once he left the valley. Later, after he had left, we did find two warriors on the field who were very injured. The lone female initiated the mating rituals to make sure at least one of their lines was passed on." She swallowed, momentarily choked up. "They died during the ritual, but their blood was passed on through her. We've just now become strong again," she said, becoming more defiant. "I'm very criticized because I work for humans, but my clan understands about blood debts. I sent them back reports about the new Slayer and they were very impressed with our Xander and how he's raised her."
"But I bet you still get hell for it," Dancing Oz said gently. She looked at him, shocked. "I understand that. Have you told them that one of the people you live is with a werewolf?"
"Yup, but they're our mortal enemies. I've invited my mother up to come see for herself, and the Elders if they wanted to come too, but she hasn't come yet."
"And hopefully she won't until you get back," Dancing Oz said, giving her a smile. "Are you happy there?"
"Mostly," she said with a grin, changing moods quickly. "Xander's still very careful about watching me with the kids. You're pretty cool there though. And I have the woods and trees, which I miss from at home. The goods outweigh the bad, especially for a young one like I am."
"Then I hope your mother supports you," Blair said kindly.
She grinned. "I just hope she doesn't yell too loudly." She winked at him and the atmosphere at the table relaxed again.
Family Spike walked into the kitchen and looked at the people standing around the coffee pot. A wicked idea came to him, but it was a just one. The Giles from his realm was not taking a hint, he could smell the guy standing outside somewhere. Really, if he was going to bleed, he should stay away from vampires, it was a dead giveaway. He walked over to the two Giles and put his arms on their shoulders. "So, wanna hear how you bollixed up this household?" he asked cheerfully.
Dancing Giles glared at him and removed the arm from his shoulders. "Surely it can't be that bad, Spike. We would never do anything to harm the children."
"Not the bints, the whelp."
"We hurt Xander?" Brandon's Giles said in shock. "How?" He turned, facing Spike, leaning against the counter. "Did we suddenly become possessed and lash out at him?"
"In a way, he did admit to being possessed part of the time," Spike temporized, giving them a head shake. "Mostly, it was him ignoring and pretendin' the boy wasn't worth it." He sighed dramatically. "Even told someone they weren't together and the boy overheard him. Xander finally got balls when he got broken. Kicked him out he did. Even hit him once during a session with their therapist."
"Xander was that disturbed?" Dancing Giles said, glaring at the hallway. "He said things had become difficult, but he never said things had gotten to the point where physical reaction was necessary."
Brandon's Giles shook his head. "He wouldn't though, would he? Xander's never been like that, he's always hidden all his pain from those but the very closest. How difficult was it, Spike?"
Spike snorted. "Difficult? The bints asked me to be their third father after he was gone, said it'd be more fun."
Dancing and Brandon's Giles looked at each other then nodded. "We'd like to hear our side of the story," Brandon's Giles said calmly. "Do you have any idea where he is?"
"Outside by the trees. Bleedin' from the wounds we and Sorcerer Xander gave him." He smirked. "The git's fighting Xander for thing's he don't deserve from them in palimony. Even tried to get the judge to believe my Xander was touched in the head." He crossed his arms over his chest. "The judge saw through that when the boy tossed somethin' to make your hair sprout."
"I'm a werewolf here?" Brandon's Giles asked in shock.
"Yup," Spike said, nodding, hiding his smirk. "Miri let Oz out and he scratched you. Been a cunt ever since, you have."
"I see," Dancing Giles said, his face going from bland to enraged. "Then I definitely think that we should have a talk with ourself, don't you?"
Brandon's Giles nodded, smiling cruelly. "Indeed. I think much could be learned from this situation." He looked at Spike. "Where?"
"Down by the cars but back toward the trees," Spike said, pointing. "Can still smell him, but he probably thinks somethin's up by now. He's movin' closer."
"Don't worry, we'll have a discussion with him," Dancing Giles told him, patting him on the arm. "Do watch the house for us." They left together, going to search for this other version of themselves.
Spike let his smirk out and turned to find Family Oz standing behind him. "What?" he asked, mock-offended. "He came back and I *did* warn him." He walked past his Oz, going out to watch some of the fun since he had seen the three of them heading for the back pasture. Family Oz sighed and picked up the cordless phone, making sure it was charged so he could call an ambulance when it was needed again.
Outside, two Methos' appeared in the clearing behind Brandon's Giles, who was watching Dancing Giles attach another Giles to a fence. "Oh, my," Dancing Methos purred, walking over and tipping this Giles' head up. "Have we been naughty?"
"This is the one who almost destroyed the Xander from here," Brandon's Giles told his Methos, who he found standing beside him. "Emotional and verbal abuse."
"I never called him names," the Giles tied to the fence pleaded.
"But the real question is, did you ever call him good names," Brandon's Methos pointed out calmly, looking at his other self. "How do you know your Xander again?"
"I trained him to be what he is," Dancing Methos told him. "He's like a dear child to me in some ways, and an even more dear student." He glared at the man sitting on the ground, putting the full weight of his experiences behind it.
"The Spike from here said that he's actually trying to convince a judge that Xander's insane," Dancing Giles told his Methos. He of all people knew how close Methos and Xander were, which was even more so than he was to his own husband. "Fortunately, Xander decided to ruin the me from here's life by showing him as a were."
"Yes, and how *did* that happen," Brandon's Giles asked. "Last I heard, we were from one of the immune lines. Ripper, would you like to comment on that?"
The man on the ground whimpered and tried to curl up around his injuries. "I swear, I'm not trying to harm the children."
"Then I would agree with *everything* we're about to say," Dancing Methos said, squatting down to get on his level. "Trust me, it really would be in your best interests." He ran a finger over the delicate stitches on the bound man's face. "And who did these?"
"S..Sorcerer Xander," Giles stuttered, pulling his face away. "And both Spike's."
"Ah, manipulation," Brandon's Methos said, thinking of his own Xander and how much he had changed over the years he had known him. "Do to him what we did in Carthage," he told himself, who smirked and shook his head.
"Istanbul, the third time, to the slaver."
"No, that was over too quickly."
"I meant what we had planned, not what we actually did," Dancing Methos sighed, rolling his eyes. "I had some quite lovely torture planned for him if we hadn't been let go before I could get him."
"Or there was the few priests that we caught during the Inquisition that were trying to haul us in," Brandon's Methos noted. "We did enjoy them rather a lot."
"True," Dancing Methos said, nodding, looking at the body on the ground. "And they were about as injured as this one is." He looked at the Giles. "Does anyone have a pair of thumb screws? I like to start off small."
The Giles just stared in disbelief.
Ray appeared in the library of the house he had first started all this switching in. "Hey, guys, I'm back," he said, making all the Xanders look up at him. He grinned at his, who squealed and jumped up to give him a hug. "Yeah, we missed you too." He looked behind him as he felt someone else walking in, giving the Xander with him a grin. "I came back."
"Cool. We could use a cop on this one," Brandon's Xander told him, patting him on the back. "My Oz," he said happily, squeezing Oz's hand.
"You'll have to forgive him, we hate being separated, something bad always happens." Brandon's Oz looked at Ray. "You're already up to date on the case?" Ray nodded. "Your other half give you any insights?"
"Just that this thing scares us shitless."
"Good, then it's mutual." Brandon's Oz sat down at the long oak table and looked at everyone, waiting until Ray had sat down next to his Xander. "All right, we need a research plan."
"Why don't we all just search?" Family Xander asked. "That's how we do it at home. Though I usually have an idea what's in the books." He looked at all the books lining the walls.
"I have an idea, but I don't think it's in any of them," Brandon's Oz said calmly.
Sorcerer Oz held up a hand. "I'm all for scouring, that's how we still do it too."
"We do know that section twelve has books about spirits," Brandon's Xander reminded his mate gently. "We can always do the computer searches."
"True," Brandon's Oz sighed, relaxing. "Okay. Section twelve is from the thick blue book on the fourth shelf behind you, Ray, to the window. Also, upstairs there might be some books in the same general area on the third floor." Everyone nodded. "Good, we're going to disappear through the wall, so yell if you find something." He got up and walked over to the entrance of the control room, the heart of the Legacy House, and waited until his retina was scanned before walking through.
Family Xander clapped. "Neat trick, guys," he said with a goofy grin.
"Yup, it is," Brandon's Xander said, grinning back at him. He got up and went with his Oz.
"So," Ray started. "Where are the case files now?"
"In the boxes," Sorcerer Xander said, pointing. "And the butler is still in the kitchen."
Ray grinned. "Thanks, I could use some coffee." He got up and walked out, going to search for the kitchen again. He never had figured out where everything was in relation to each other. He finally found the kitchen, the butler, and the coffeemaker, giving one a grin before pouring a cup from another and adding M & M's. He shot the butler another grin as he took his treat out with him. He stuck his head back in. "Where's the library?" he asked.
"Upstairs. Walk down the hallway until you come to the stairs and then go right, sir," the butler said, holding in his smile until after the young detective had gone.
Up on Mount Olympus, the Gods gathered around the scrying pools looked at each other. "Oh, you are in *so* much trouble, Cupid," Ares smirked. "Your Xander's true nature is about to come out and he's not anywhere where that's possible."
Cupid smirked. "So you think," he countered. He winked at Oz, who was giving him a funny look. "What?"
"Just wondering what you have up your sleeve," Godly Oz said quietly, glancing at Xander, who was chewing on his lip.
Cupid's smirk got bigger. "Oh, you'll see, dudes."
Dancing Xander slammed his book shut and shoved it aside. "I can't take this anymore," he said when everyone looked at him. "I need to get out of the research gear and into another mental groove." He looked down at well-worn clothes. "And I need a new outfit," he decided. These had been washed, but he had still been wearing them for two days since they had been washed. It was time for new clothes. He stood up and looked around the table. "I've got to go into the city and do something. Got any ideas?"
"You can have Xander's Subaru," Oz told him, tossing over his keys. "It's the one on the blue ring. Tell everyone that asks that you're Xander's cousin, that'll be believed."
"Very cliche," Sorcerer Xander noted.
"Then tell everyone you're my clone. With the rumors about us, that'll be believed faster than the cousin one," Brandon's Xander said as he walked out of the control room. He had been watching on the security cameras, knowing someone was going to break soon. "And fill up the tank," he said, tossing over a few twenties, all he had on him.
"Okay," Dancing Xander said, shrugging. "Cool." He grinned at Brandon's Oz. "I'll be back by tonight."
"Last ferry runs at nine," was all Oz said, watching as he walked out. He looked up at his mate. "That's so not a good idea," he reminded him. "He doesn't have any ID."
"That's okay," Brandon's Xander said with a grin. "I'm sure it will be fine." He winked and went back into the control room, his search was running.
Dancing Xander picked up the envelope that appeared on the seat next to him and opened it, grinning at the credit card on the inside. "Oh, thanks," he whispered, looking up. "But I'm not bored like that, guys. Really. I just need to go get into some trouble." A ticket fell out of the envelope and he picked that up, his eyes widening. "Wow, I haven't tried that since I was working. I wonder if my Oz will mind...." He thought about it, then decided that his Oz might not mind, but that he might not find out. And hey, being punished and making up could be very fun.
Once he got off the ferry, he drove to the downtown area, heading for the address on the ticket.
Strife smirked at Cupid. "Let's see what he's got," he purred.
Cupid nodded. "All right, but you're gonna owe me," he noted, holding out a hand, which suddenly had a video tape on it.
Strife swallowed and took the tape so he could read the label. "He was?" he squeaked.
"Yup," Cupid said, his eyes narrowing. "Now, about my payment?" He waved a hand at his lap. "Whenever you're ready, Strife, but make it tonight, okay?"
Xander strutted out to the end of the stage and moved in time with the music. His fighting/dancing lessons had certainly come in handy in this respect. He teased the man sitting in front of him, then moved on to the other side of the stage, teasing the guy holding out his platinum card. He gyrated for this man, smiling at the younger one in front of him every now and then. He moved on as the middle of the song changed tempo, going back to stripping off his flimsy shirt.
Open tryout night was definitely what he needed.
Brandon's Oz picked up the phone and answered it. "Yeah?" He groaned and held his head. "No, it's not my husband. It's his cousin. First time in town and he's cutting loose. Yeah, I'll yell at him when he gets home. No, I noticed the stunning resemblance too. Hey, who knows, maybe this'll make people like my husband more." He hung up and went to find his husband. "Do you know what he's doing?" he asked his mate once he found him in the kitchen, apparently on the phone with Tyler in London. His Xander shook his head. "He's stripping down at the Animal Club." His Xander shrugged. "They think it's you, Xander."
"Well, I think I'd look pretty awkward," Family Xander said, pointing at his cane. Oz blushed. "But I did that job at one time too. I was pretty okay, but then again, he's much more flexible than I am." He handed over the phone. "Tyler, he wanted to ask me a question about my world and my daughter." He grabbed his cane and walked out, letting Oz bang his head against the wall a few times.
"What?" he asked quietly, hoping his head wouldn't be able to hurt any more. "No, I haven't had a chance to yet. I'll do it tonight. Whatever," he sighed, hanging up. "Why can't he come deal with this. All I want is my mate." He walked out of the kitchen, heading back to the library, where Sorcerer Xander was sitting and writing a long letter it looked like. "Hopefully, that's the answer to the questions I have to ask you?"
"Nope, writing down the strange from the last few days." He pushed over a thicker sealed envelope. "That's an account of what happened to me. Don't open until after I'm gone." He continued to write, not looking up. "Oh, and my Oz said that we're supposed to be taking the night off too. He wanted to know which real Chinese place delivered out here."
"There's two, but you have to place massive orders," Brandon's Oz sighed, going to find the menus. But the more he thought about it, the better he liked the idea of ordering out. That meant he had more time to catch up with his Xander and to make sure his mate never left his side again.
Blair burst through the farmhouse door and stopped to glare at Jim, who wasn't following him. "What?" he asked, irritated at not only being dragged back into the strange crap again, but also at having his partner go off at a time like this. "Now is not the time for territorial imperatives, Jim."
"I smell blood," Jim said, walking off the porch and around the house.
Blair rolled his eyes and walked in, heading into the playroom, where his Oz had put the sentinel Xander. "Hi," he said, squatting down to get next to the young Xander's ear. "How long?"
"He came out for a few and I got him some chicken broth heated up. He took about six sips and then started to float off again," Oz said, getting out of the way but sitting on the other side of the too-still body. "Is it always like this?"
"Only when they don't have their Guides and life becomes too much for them to deal with," Blair said, getting comfortable on the floor. "Xander," he whispered, touching the young man's bare arm. "Come on back now, Xander, it's time."
Jim walked in carrying Giles and set him down on the floor too. "I think you need to have a talk with Spike, Blair," he said coldly.
"We've already had one with him," Oz noted, looking over at his former lover. "Gee, you don't look good at all." He picked up the phone, which was lying on the floor, and dialed for an ambulance. "Hi, this is Daniel Osbourne and apparently our former lover came back." He snorted. "No, he's living. He might not want to be, but he's definitely living." He hung up and looked up at Jim. "The ambulance crew will be here in a few and so will the cops to enforce the restraining order that we've never had to use before." He looked out the doorway as Spike and two Giles walked up the stairs. "Spike, this was not protecting Xander. He'll beat you for this."
"Whatever," Spike called back. "I'll tell him myself if you want." He continued up to the porch.
Two Methos stuck their head in the door. "Really, he's fine. Actually, we even were nice enough to reset one of his ribs that had slipped back out of place," Brandon's Methos said, grinning cruelly. "But he did tell us all sorts of interesting things about your relationship."
"Like?" Blair asked absently.
"He was sleeping with one of the demons in town and caught one of the demonic venereal diseases," Dancing Methos told him.
Everyone looked at him.
"Huh?" Oz asked.
"He caught demon VD off one of the demons in town," Dancing Methos said, walking in. "Though he did say that after the primary contagion that it's not supposed to be contagious to other humans. It's apparently some way to make sure that the human this particular type of demon mates with stays with them. The demon's body produces an antibody that staves off the symptoms."
"And we're safe?" Oz asked, just a little paler than normal.
"As far as I know. I can ask my Xander if you wish," Dancing Methos offered. "He might know."
"We have it in one of the books probably," Oz said, looking toward the library. "I think I'll go in there and research it. What sort of demon?"
"I don't remember the name. Big, congealed-blood purple colored, much larger than most humans. Looks a lot like a leg muscle with arms."
"Okay," Oz said, nodding as he stood up. "I know where their book is." He walked into the library and pulled down a book, sitting down to make sure that nothing might have passed to him or Xander.
Blair looked at the Giles on the floor, then at the Methos standing near him. "You *helped* him?" he asked.
"To see the truth of his existence," Brandon's Methos told him gently. "Nothing more. And both other Giles' were there with us." Dancing Methos nodded and they walked up the stairs together.
Jim looked at the boy on the floor. "He's back," he said simply, going out to wait on the ambulance.
Blair took Sentinel Xander's hand and squeezed it. "Come on, you can come back now."
"Wow, you sound just like my Blair," he whispered, opening his eyes. "How long?"
"It's been at least two hours since Oz called us."
Sentinel Xander nodded and threw his free arm over his eyes. "Wake me when it's morning?"
Blair snickered. "Sure, but wouldn't you rather have a bed?"
"Yeah, but not one that Giles slept in." He kicked at the man lying near his feet. "He smells."
"It's probably fear," Blair soothed, helping the younger man up so they could go up the stairs.
A few minutes later, Jim led the ambulance crew in and pointed at the living body. "There he is. Oh, and someone set a rib for him they said."
The cop that had shown up with the paramedics smiled. "Good. Any idea where the terrible twosome is?"
"Oz is in the library," Jim told him. "Xander's out of town for a few more days."
"At least he didn't have to see this." The officer handcuffed Giles to the stretcher. "There, that should do until we can get him safely to the hospital." He followed the gurney out, watching as one of the paramedics briefed the hospital on the way out to the ambulance.
Dancing Xander looked up as he was joined at the restaurant table. After putting on a killer show at the Animal Club, if he did say so himself, he had decided to do a little light shopping to find some clothes he could wear, and then have a nice dinner out. "Do I know you?" he asked.
"Well, I think so," the man said, smiling at him and sitting down. "I worked with you on...."
Dancing Xander held up a hand. "I'm his cousin, I'm just visiting. That Xander's back at the house."
The man blushed. "Sorry. You two look so *alike* though." He looked Xander over then grinned again. "Here alone?"
"My husband's not here with me if that's what you mean," Xander said, taking another bite of the excellent pasta and chicken dish. "So, you work with my cousin?"
"Yeah." He shook himself. "I can't get over how much you two are alike."
Xander grinned. "Well," he said conspiratorially, "I was told to tell everyone I was his clone, but his Oz said that someone might believe that."
The other man laughed, ignoring the people who were staring at them. "I bet." He stood up. "I'm sorry for interrupting your dinner. Tell Xander Peter said hi." He smiled again and walked off.
"Hmm, I wonder if Xander knows he's working with demons." He took another bite of his dinner, going back to his book.
Outside the restaurant, Peter waited patiently. He knew that Xander had to come out some time. There was no mistaking that scent. And when he did, the Luna Foundation would be dealt a mortal blow, and he would have all the energy he needed to stay in this plane.
Down the street, a cop sitting in his squad car eating his take-out saw someone who looked like Xander Harris be snatched as he walked out of a restaurant and frowned. He called in the snatch and then called the Luna Foundation. Everyone knew something was going on out there and that Harris was the owner's son, but that boy drew some of the strangest crap to him, and it was always better not to get Derek Rayne after you.
Oz answered the phone with a sigh. "Luna...." He sat up, dislodging Xander, who had been lying on his lap. "When? Did you get a good look at him? No, it's actually Xander's cousin, but we'll be right there." He hung up and looked down at his mate. "Dancing Xander got snatched by someone."
"He did say he had a funky pheromone problem," Xander groaned as he sat up. He pulled on his shoes and followed Oz out of the house and down to the dock, letting him make the call to call in the rest of the group. Within twenty minutes, everyone was on the boat and they were on their way to the other side of the bay and the special van the Foundation kept there for just such emergencies.
Family Oz woke up and blinked at the man standing above him. "What?" he mumbled.
"Coffee?" the Methos asked, holding it out. He sat on the bed and watched as the Oz that was so unlike his woke up. "I'd like to ask you a few questions about your Xander, mostly to compare him to mine," he said.
"Mmm, make more coffee?" Oz noted.
Methos chuckled and nodded. "Of course. I'll go do that while you shower. We'll sit on the porch up here?"
"Sure, I've missed the sunlight recently." Oz got up and wandered toward the bathroom, going to finish waking up.
Dancing Methos walked down the stairs, going to fix them both breakfast. He smirked as he saw the bags of groceries that had recently appeared, putting them away as a surprise for the others. By the time he was finished making them a light meal, he was sure Oz was outside, so he went straight up there. He found himself alone on the porch though so he sat down to wait it out, propping his feet up on the railing and enjoying the view. "This is nice," he said when he heard the door close.
"It is," Oz agreed as he walked out and sat down too. "Man, you cook?" he asked, appreciating him very much at the moment. He had not been looking forward to another bowl of cereal. "When did we get new milk?" He grabbed a glass of milk and the bagels, munching happily.
"When a few bags appeared on the counter," Methos said simply, looking at this young man. "Please tell me about your Xander, Oz?"
"Sure. Anything specific?"
"I'm trying to figure out why mine is so different from yours."
"Ah. Well, for one, Ethan was his father here."
"Yes, but that might not have changed. My Xander never talks about his father."
"Mine didn't know about it until Sileya showed up and everyone said how alike they are."
"Ah, I see." Methos looked around. "But still, I can't imagine my Xander ever living here."
"Here is safe." Oz finished off another bagel and took a sip of milk. "See, we had a store, which was in Miri's name. It burnt down when the townspeople found out that Miri's a telekinetic. We had to move out here because it was safer."
"And that's when the troubles with Giles started?"
"Not necessarily," Oz countered. "We did have a few rough spots back then too. They just seemed really minor compared to Giles forcing Xander to be the one to stay home all the time, not even letting him leave the house to go shopping if he could help it."
"I see," Methos said carefully. "Is this when you found Blair?"
"No, that was back at the store." Oz played with his glass, staring at the opaque liquid. "Back in high school, Xander become suicidal. Angel and I had to stop him. Do you know...."
"Very well. He and I have had a few discussions. How is he here?"
"Dead. Wes went into bloodlust and Angel got between him and Cordy, so he drained Angel. Spike had him put out in the sun because reviving him would have been very painful."
"Oh." Methos' brow wrinkled. "I suppose it might be a bit like starving."
"No, more like Wes drained him down to the cellular level. Angel actually had a lot of ruptures in his blood vessels because Wesley kept sucking for as long and as hard as he could." Oz took another sip of his milk. "That's how we got Wes. We got Xander when Angel and I stopped him from shooting himself back in high school though." He grimaced. "And then we finally convinced him that he did like men and that he wanted us. That was after he got Miri." He took another sip. "Then we found out that he was a herm, which is fine with me, I enjoy him both ways now." He glanced up then went back to staring at the glass he was making damp rings on the table with. "Then Xander got depressed again because nothing was going right for him. He suddenly started having PMS, he started to have a lot of trouble with his hormones, we were having trouble as a trio, and it brought some of it all back to him. That's when we found Blair, on the fourth and last try."
"The others didn't work out?"
Oz finished off his milk and put the glass aside, then shook his head. "No, Miri was the product of a rape." Methos' mouth fell open. "Xander doesn't remember what she did to him."
Oz could tell Methos was rearranging all his thoughts. "I was the one who was forcing Xander to see someone the second time, and all those therapists telling him he was delusional, or just lying, hurt him worse when he really didn't need it. I called a friend that owed me and got Blair's number. It was bad enough at that time that I called Blair at two that morning and talked to him about Xander. Xander saw him the next morning and Blair's been our savior ever since." He stole the second glass of milk and drank it too. "So, yeah, ours have probably had a few different experiences."
"I have no idea what though."
"Well, was yours ever possessed?"
"Possessed?" Methos asked, looking stunned. "He was possessed?"
"Twice. In High School. Hyena and soldier."
"I'd have to ask him about that. My Xander's never said anything."
"Yeah, he can be like that. I had to find out about his possession from Willow."
"What's she like here? I know her as a vampire at home, Angel was forced to turn her during a case for whatever reason, but I'm not sure why she's not here."
"Because she decided to cast a 'will removal' spell on three counties worth of demons and halfies," Oz told him dryly. "We didn't feel that it would be the best idea to have her around because we felt like killing her." He grimaced. "She is the mother of the twins, we were close for a while, but as soon as she cast that spell, she was gone from our lives."
"That's for the best then. In our world, she never went bad, she was turned because Angel had to."
"Here Wes was turned for the same reason. Maybe it was a 'whomever was there' constant." He shrugged. "I kinda like Wesley as a vampire, he's much more confident now." He leaned back. "So, your Xander did what to figure himself out?"
"He worked in a demon brothel for six weeks. From what he told me, you, Willow, and Giles all but forced him to go back on his roadtrip to figure himself out. And one of the three of them called a demon named Devi, who runs a demon brothel. He convinced Xander to spend six weeks working for him so he could find himself and make some very good money." Oz snorted. "No, truly. His next-to-last trick paid a hundred thousand dollars for an hour of his time. I was his last," he said with a pleased smile, "and his first. Devi figured out that he was GHS as soon as he saw him and had me come take three days to teach him. I kept close contact with him throughout that ordeal and when he took me on that last night, I gave him his membership card because he had decided to not stay."
Oz whistled. "Whoa." He nodded. "Very odd, but somehow so very Xanderish." He grunted as he shifted. "We never let ours out alone for a trip. He tends to run into bad things, like serial killers and getting broke down in the middle of a drug bust."
Methos smiled. "My Xander and Oz took a long trip across Europe and part of Asia, and they were constantly in trouble. From what I heard they were almost stoned in Rome by some widows who objected to them making out in a park."
Oz shook himself, banishing that image. "My Xander wouldn't do anything like that. He's had a hard time dealing with the fact that I like to look at him, much less that other people would want to." He thought for a second. "Do you feel something off?"
"Yes," Methos sighed, looking down at the ground again. "And if I didn't know better, I'd say it was the Xanders."
"Probably," Oz agreed. "They do tend to get into trouble."
"Oh, you have no idea," Methos chuckled. "My Xander has been kidnaped so many times his Oz doesn't let him out alone anymore."
"Gee, maybe we should find that portal spell again, huh?" he asked. They finished their breakfast and then went down to the library to do some research.
Up on Olympus, the Gods were all glaring at Bane, who had just came out. "What? Like I did it," she snorted. "I like him, it's the prickly one I don't care for. I didn't cause him to be kidnaped again."
"It's okay," Ares said, calming everyone down. "We'll just have to deal with this. The boy doesn't have his usual protectors but he does have a few." He checked on the progress of the protectors and shook his head. "They'll get there in time. We won't have to worry." He stood up and looked at the assembled Gods. "Who does this throw out?"
"Me," Apollo sighed, disappearing.
"Me too," Athena said, walking away.
Artemis shrugged. "I still have one guess."
"Good, I enjoy the competition outside my family."
"Yeah, but I'm out too," Oz said, leaning into Giles' side.
"Even better, now it's a fair fight," Ares noted.
Everyone bent back down to watch the scrying pool, so no one noticed Miri coming up to them. "Hi," she said, waving when everyone jumped and glared at her. "Whatcha doin'?"
"We're watching over your fathers," Godly Xander said, picking her up to give her a hug but not allowing her to see the pool. "Why are you out of bed?"
"Because I wanted some milk," she said sweetly. "Besides, I wander at night." She craned her neck. "Is daddy in trouble? Daddy Oz says he finds trouble whenever he's not at home."
"No, it's one of the other Xander's," Ares told her, reaching over to pat her on the head. "Why don't you go find the Strife cat and play with him?"
"Sure," Miri said, getting down and trotting off, looking all around her for the Strife cat.
"That was a little too close," Hera noted, glaring at Xander. "Are you going to let her wander around up here by herself?"
"I called Heph and 'Dite," Ares said with a wave of his hand. "Besides, she lived with a Strife horse, she can probably handle herself up here."
"It's not like there's wild animals here for her to run into," Xander said, grinning at Artemis. "At least not loose ones."
"True, I chained my lion cub back up," Artemis agreed. She went back to watching the scene unfold in San Francisco.
Dancing Xander gave the demon sitting in front of him a bored look. "You know, this really isn't very smart. I mean, do you *know* how many inter-dimensional rules you've just broken?"
"Oh, whine," the demon told him. "You're from here. I've been watching you."
"Oh, really?" a Xanderish voice said from behind him.
Peter spun and looked at the three Xanders standing there, all of them with weapons, then he looked at the one he had chained up. "Oh, crap," he sighed, but he picked up the knife. "No matter, this one has enough power for me to stay on this plane." He lunged at the bound man but a shot rang out and he fell. "I'm not supposed to bleed yet," he gasped, looking at the hole in his stomach.
"Yay," Ray said, walking forward. He kicked the knife away and held the demon there. "Anyone got any handcuffs?" he said, glancing up.
"I do," Brandon's Oz said, stepping forward. "Or at least he does." He nodded at the cop they had met outside.
"I would have thought that you'd have at least a set on you, Detective Kowalski," the officer said kindly, grinning at him. "You told our whole class to always carry more than one set because bad guys never traveled singly."
"Yeah, but I was out havin' fun for a change," Ray lied. He got out of the officer's way. "And I'm not here, kid, really." He patted the officer on the back. "I'm at home with my kid and we're not going to take this collar from you. Got me?"
"Definitely," the officer said, his eyes lighting up. "Thanks, Detective. Kiss your son for me." He hauled the demon up and let someone hand him the knife, then dragged the demon out of the area. "Um, guys, we've got to get the CSI kids down here," he reminded them.
"Oh, we're going, don't even worry about that," Oz called back to him, leading his Xander away.
Ray walked over and got his Xander down from the chains, giving him a hug. "You okay?"
"Yeah, but I need to go pick up this Xander's car so I can give you some new clothes," he said, grinning at him. "And I knew you'd save me. You're very much like that."
Ray snorted. "If you say so." He led Xander out to the van and they sped away, going to drop Ray and Xander off so they could pick up the other car.
"I win!" Strife said, bouncing around and getting hugs. "I won, I won!"
"Not quite," Hera said grimly. "You did win because you had a perfect guess, but there was another who won on points." She pointed at Xander, who was still watching the pool.
"Hey, I can share," Strife said, nodding. He liked Xander and this sudden game in GodWar just made him like the guy better. All Xander had done was give general guesses, which got him less points, but he got all his right, which means he won on points. "Even though I got a perfect guess, he still won?"
"We'll let you two share it," Hera said magnanimously. "This time." She walked away, keeping her indignation in check.
Ares tossed a little flick of power at his lover, who grunted and shifted to get a better angle. "You won," he noted dryly.
"Hey, we won together," Strife said, glaring at him.
"Okay, so you won together," Ares agreed, then he really zapped Xander, making him jump and glare at him. "Did you hear any of the last minute or so?"
"No. Why?" He looked around. "Did I do something that invalidated the game?"
"No, you and Strife won. You on points and him for an absolute guess."
"Oh, okay," Xander said, nodding and going back to his viewing. "Something's going to happen," he muttered, switching the pictures. "When's the next house switch?"
"Tomorrow if we can," Strife told him, shaking his head at Ares' glare at his lover. "He's not the competitive sort, Unc, let it go. I still won." He grinned and flashed out before Ares could do something to him.
Ares groaned and leaned down, watching what Xander was. "What's wrong?"
"Something's going to go wrong before this is all over with, it's been too easy."
"And the award for optimism goes to," Oz said sarcastically as he reappeared. "It's going to be fine, Xander. Really. You can quit watching and come celebrate with us."
"In a few," Xander said absently, tracing the lines of power through the group.
Ares and Oz shook their heads and went to go have some fun, they deserved to nurse their wounds and wounded dignity at losing to Strife.
Dancing Oz looked up the magic washed over him again, smiling as his husband walked in. Then his smile fell away. "Who's that?" he asked calmly.
"Who's who?" Xander asked as he sat down next to him. "I just got hugged by a few people."
"No, the strange scent. What were you doing?" Oz asked, hopping up so he could glare at his lover. "Tell me now, before I get pissed, Xander."
"Well, I stripped last night, but no one touched me," Xander said, his brow furling. "And then the demon kidnaped me for a few hours, but he was a demon." He looked up at Oz, who's face was turning red. "Breathe?" he suggested.
"You did *what*?" Oz asked, deceptively quiet.
"I did a turn on a stage. I needed to go blow off some tension and all that, but no one touched me. I told the guys that I wasn't comfortable with having the customers put tips into my thong so they had a bucket for it." He got comfortable on the couch. "Really, Oz, no big."
"Very big big," Oz countered. He checked the date on his watch. "Well, it only took you two and a half years to break your vows."
Xander's mouth fell open. "Excuse me? It's not like I went out and *fucked* someone."
"No, you just tempted them into it. And I bet that's why you were kidnaped this time too, right?"
"No, I was kidnaped because someone noticed I had more soul than most humans," Xander ground out. "The demon was stealing them so he could stay on that plane." He stood up. "All I did was get down to my thong, Oz, nothing bad! I didn't get touched, I didn't touch anyone. All I did was tease!"
"And you broke your vows by doing it!" Oz yelled.
"I was doing what my nature is," Xander shouted back.
"Whatever," Oz said, heading for the door.
"If you walk out of this house, Oz, I will change every security code and lock your car out of the gate program," he threatened. Oz looked at him in shock. "You have no right to walk away from me for this. You weren't there, I had no one I could turn to when I needed to wear my energy and pheromones out. This was the only way I could figure out how to do it and not affect everyone around me! If you don't like it, then where the hell were you!"
"I was here," Oz said calmly. "I have been since we got back. And you could have waited. You're not that bad off yet."
"How would you know?" Xander flopped back down. "It had been *days*, Oz, since I had last worn it out. And yeah, it was spiking again. Deal with it or walk away. I'm not having this fight."
Family Xander cleared his throat from the doorway. "Um, where can I go hide while you guys do this? Your housekeeper thinks I'm you."
"Go sit in the sun," Oz told him. "The pool's through the dining room." He pointed the way then turned back to his Xander. "Most people can go for days without sex," he said rationally. "Some can even go years."
"And they're not me," Xander noted. "Do I have to remind you of what happened the last time I went without for more than a week?" Oz went pale and shook his head. That had been because of their last fight and it had taken him another four days to find Xander. "Then get over it, Oz. All I did was tease. Those guys saw less of me than most of the visitors to this house have."
"But they're not strangers," Oz said, not moving, but relaxing some. Maybe they could talk this out. Maybe.
"Yay. You've accused me plenty of times of making everyone I walk past get hard, this is no different."
"You were wearing clothes then," Oz pointed out.
"And I was last night too," Xander said, getting up. "Get over it, Oz, or go away. I won't be bitched at because you and Giles weren't there, especially not when there wasn't another way I could wear the hormones out without really breaking my vows." He tapped Oz on the chest. "And if you really think about it, you'll see that it wasn't so bad, that you're overreacting for no reason. Again. I'm going to take a bath, I feel dirty."
Oz grabbed Xander and pulled him into a hug. "You should have waited," he whispered against his husband's ear. "I understand why you did it, but you did break your vows and I have a right to be pissed here." He pushed Xander back some. "I didn't want to make you feel dirty, just point out that you violated one of the most sacred things to me."
"No, I didn't," Xander ground out. "It would have been a *hell* of a lot harder for you to have dealt with me after I got out of the hospital this time, Oz." He got free and walked up the stairs, heading for his bathroom, not wanting to see the look on Oz's face from the memories he had intentionally called up.
Oz flopped down into a chair and thought about that one time Xander's hormones had gotten out of control and he had been beaten by a straight guy for making him want Xander.
Family Xander cleared his throat. "He's right. Whatever funky hormone thing he had was getting out of control. We were all hard and trying really hard not to jump up and touch him."
"Sit," Oz said, noticing the cane. He watched as this Xander sat down. "It was really that bad?" The Xander nodded. "Okay. I'll go up and apologize in a few minutes. How's your leg?" he asked, waving a hand at the cane, all the while trying to remember which one this Xander was.
"It's fine." Xander grinned. "You can't remember which one I am?"
"No, but I know you're one of them," Oz said calmly.
"I'm Miri's dad."
"Oh. Man, I'm sorry. Any word on the kids?"
"They're playing on Olympus. We got a nice note from someone up there." He shrugged. "It happens. Why are you fighting with him? I used to do that job, before this," he rubbed across his artificial knee. "He really wasn't touched by anybody."
"He had someone else's scent on him," Oz said grimly, looking up. "And I can't figure out who's."
"Maybe it was the demon who kidnaped him. Do I smell like this stranger?"
Oz took a deep sniff and shook his head. "I can catch traces of him. He really was kidnaped?"
"By a demon using a soul-stealing knife so he could stay on this plane." Oz went just a little more pale. "We rescued him, but he was really in need of comfort. He wouldn't let any of us hug him at all."
Oz heard footsteps coming down the stairs and jumped up, going to stop his Xander from leaving. He took the keys that had been jingling in the shaking hand and tossed them away as he pulled his husband into his arms. "I'm sorry, I overreacted. But I want to set a rule later."
"We don't do rules," Xander said, trying to get free. "Let go."
"No." Oz clung a little tighter. "I could have lost you for good."
"Yeah, you could have," Xander said. He rolled his eyes when he saw who Oz had been talking to. "I'm fine. They saved me."
"Yay. You were taken and this time it wasn't because someone wanted to keep you." Oz gave him a squeeze, making his lover groan. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Xander said, sitting down and pulling Oz into his lap. "Really, Oz, I'm okay. I'm used to being snatched."
"But no one ever snatches you because they want to kill you," Oz reminded him. He felt the small shudder and wrapped his arms around his mate's neck. "All I want to do is make sure you're okay. Can I do that and we'll talk later?"
"Yeah, I can do that," Xander said, relenting. He waved at Family Xander as he hobbled off toward the kitchen, then wrapped his arms around his husband's body. "I missed you."
"And I love you," Oz told him. He kissed the soft neck. "I want to go soak with you."
"Please," his Xander whispered, standing up. They walked up to their room, tightly bonded together again.
Family Xander walked into the kitchen and grinned at the housekeeper. "Thanks." He took the glass of lemonade she was holding and sipped it. "Wow. There isn't any chance we could steal you, right?"
She chuckled. "No, I don't know how those three would get along without me," she said, patting the side of his face. "Why don't you go sit down?" She saw his expression harden a little and shrugged. "I was thinking it was going to be a long time before they came down. The TV's upstairs, all the way up." She looked out the window, frowning. "What a tart," she noted.
Xander looked out. "That's Buffy. And, if I remember right, Philip, Derek, and Nick."
"I know her, she was here. Do you think they're hungry?"
"From what the butler in that realm said, Nick and the me there are always hungry," he said cheerfully.
Henri patted him on the side of the face again. "Go be good, Xander. Don't make me become a mother."
He grinned and walked outside, going to sit in the sun and drink his lemonade. This was the life he wanted.
Philip looked up at the back of the house, nodding. "'Tis a beautiful spot," he noted.
"Yeah," Nick said, looking at the Xander sitting near them. "Yours?"
"Dancing Xander's. Mine's the farm."
"Ah, yes, we were there earlier," Derek told him, giving him a smile. "Your mate was a most generous host."
Family Xander snorted. "Not my mate, guys, really. Lovers only. We've got *way* too many problems to make our relationship any more official."
"If you say so," Nick said, heading inside. "Oh, hey," he said happily, coming back out with a tray of pizza snacks. "Their housekeeper's really nice, she thought we might be hungry."
"Thank you," Derek called and took the plate before Nick could eat them all, bringing it and his lovers over to a table near a tree. "So," he asked Xander. "If this is Dancing Xander's house, where is he?"
"He and his Oz are having a long bath and talk, something about Dancing Xander stripping last night."
Derek groaned. "Oh, dear," Philip sighed. "Did anyone think it was ours?"
"Nope," Xander said with a grin. "He told them he was your Xander's cousin. But we solved the case." All three of the men stared at him. "Oh, and Tyler said that if I saw you I was to tell you that he expected a *very* long, coherent, report in explanation, and a lot of Advil as a present." His grin got brighter. "Oh, and your sons are together. They got together last time."
"Goot," Derek said, giving him a smile. "Why are you here instead of at home?"
Family Xander shrugged. "I was hugging Dancing Xander, that might have had something to do with it."
"Huggin' him?" Philip asked.
"Okay, I was catching myself on him," Xander admitted, losing a little of his good humor. "I had another cramp."
"If you'd like, I know some therapy techniques. Been there a few times myself," Nick offered between bites.
"Sure. I could use at least a good stretch."
"Deal. After the snack. Want one?" Nick asked.
"No thanks. We were eating right before we popped out. Oh, and the butler was saying something about we weren't so different than normal, something about feeding any army anyway?"
Nick grinned. "Yup, that'd be me and my bro, Xander." He finished another bite. "So, you were in our house?"
"The whole time up until this time," Family Xander agreed, stretching out. "Ow," he whined, reaching down to press down on his knee. "Time to remove this brace."
"Let me," Nick said, hopping up to come over and sit beside his knee, taking off the brace for him. He whistled. "Wow. What'd you do?"
"Ceiling fell on it. And then I had to have the replacement replaced because the old one cracked and dislocated."
Nick shook his head. "And I thought being me was dangerous."
Xander snorted, trying to cover up his grunt of pain. "Being a dad is one of the most dangerous occupations some days. She didn't mean to hop on it, we were playing ball." He groaned as Nick touched his knee. "Sore. Ow!"
"Sorry," Nick said, withdrawing his hand quickly. "You're a bit swollen. Do you ice or heat?"
"Heat or soak," Xander said, banging his head on the back of the chair. "This sucks."
"Yup, I bet," Nick said, standing up and pulling Xander up, letting him gain his balance on him. "Come on, we'll go find you a good bathtub and put you in it. Buffy and I both have therapy experience, she's actually licensed so maybe she'll help you work some of that out." He grabbed the young man's cane and brace, helping him into the house. He stopped before they got to the stairs. "You really worked on a case with our Xander?"
"All us Xanders did, except Sentinel Xander, he was missing from the group. And your Oz just showed up this last switch, so he worked on it with us and that Ray guy. Jim and Blair were helping at first. Tyler made us all sign confidentiality agreements before he let us work though."
"Was he at the house?"
"No, but your Xander kept disappearing into the office to go call and update him."
Nick nodded. "Okay. That's good actually. Ready?"
"Sure. The promise of a long, hot soak always makes me want to run," he joked.
Nick shook his head and helped Xander up the first few stairs, letting the young man shake off his help when he was ready to. He found Buffy upstairs already and gave her a grin. "We need to get him into a hot bath, which room is free?"
"Um, that one," she said, pointing. "Maybe." She shrugged. "Not a clue, Nick. What's wrong?"
"His knee's swollen."
"I just need to soak it," Xander told her. "Do you think they have any waterproof bandages?"
"Probably," Nick suggested, looking at a nearby room. "Whose is that?"
"That would be mine, and Alex's while she was here. The big room on the end is the guy's from here. The rest may be free right now."
Dancing Oz stuck his head out of his room. "What's up?"
"Xander needs a long hot bath for his knee."
"And a waterproof bandage if we've got any," Family Xander asked.
"Sure. Bring him in here. We've got the best tub and most of the first aid equipment. We'll get rooms settled in a few." He smiled at the Xander, taking the brace from Nick's hands. "Just hot, warm, or needs to soak?"
"It's swollen," Buffy said, looking at his knee. "And from the way he's stepping, he's probably having a few cramps. Hot and give me an hour so I can go find stuff to work on his leg for him." She turned and walked away.
Nick smiled at the Oz. "She's actually a licensed physical therapist," he noted, helping Xander into the bedroom. He tried very hard not to look at the naked man on the bed, concentrating on getting this Xander into the bath.
"Here," Oz said, walking in and handing over a few packages of bandages. He leaned over and started the water, throwing the plug on the tub. He got out of the way. "If you need anything more, just yell, we're going to be talking out here." He left them alone.
Xander blushed. "I can do this part," he told Nick.
"Yup, but I'm going to put the bandage on for you. I always get one side of mine off just enough to get my stitches wet."
"Mine are almost ready to come out," Xander told him, "but I still have to keep them dry." He sat on the edge of the tub and watched as Nick carefully applied the bandage. He even accepted the help up, grinning at this man. He liked him, he could see how Nick and his Xander got very close very quickly. He waited until he was alone to take a deep breath and strip, getting into the soothing, warm water. He turned on some more hot water and then found the stash of bubbles. "Can I borrow some of the bubbles?" he called.
"Sure," floated back.
So Xander sniffed the three jars and settled on the one he liked best, dumping a small amount into the water. He settled back to relax in the sinful water. Until his leg decided it didn't like the water. Then he screamed and thrashed around.
Dancing Oz and Xander came running, Oz turning off the water and Xander helping to hold Family Xander still. Oz carefully probed at the swelling leg and shook his head. "He used your bubbles."
"I'm not allergic to it though," Dancing Xander noted, helping Oz pull this Xander out of the tub and covering him with a towel. He checked the water, shuddering as his hand touched it. "Something's wrong with the bubbles," he noted, pulling his hand out to show his mate the blotches he was developing. "Where's the Benadryl?"
"Medicine cabinet." Oz dried Xander off efficiently then accepted the second towel to wrap him in. He picked up the young man and carried him out to the bed, letting Xander coax the small pink pill down his throat. "We really need Methos," he said, running a hand through his hair.
"What happened?" Nick said from the doorway. "Henri said that she heard screaming."
"Something in the bubbles that he put in the water is causing an allergic reaction."
"He okay?" Nick asked, walking in to look down at him. "Maybe he should go to the hospital."
"No, we'll stick with the non-explanation approach for now," Dancing Oz told him.
Dancing Xander looked up at him. "Can you imagine trying to explain this?"
"No," Nick sighed, but he got the point. "Okay. Now what?"
"Now, I go rinse out the tub and run him a new one," Oz said, heading in to do that.
Dancing Xander curled up next to this other self and wrapping him in his arms. "Get the blanket on the end of the bed for me?" he asked Nick, who was staring.
"Sure." Nick pulled the blanket up and spread it over them. "I'm going to be outside," he said, hurrying away before he could get any more ideas about his brother.
Dancing Xander stayed cuddled up to his other self, making sure the sick man stayed warm and comfortable until Oz could get the new bath ready. Family Xander started to wake up and he whispered in his ear, "It's okay, you had a reaction to the bubbles. Oz is cleaning out the tub right now." He rocked the younger-seeming man slowly, wanting to comfort him. What he got surprised him, tears.
"Sorry," Family Xander gasped.
"Hey, it's okay," Dancing Oz said as he walked in and climbed in on Family Xander's other side. "It's okay." He smiled at the head shake. "Not used to this?" The nod he got surprised him. "Really? I've always been a very nurturing person." He looked at his Xander and shrugged, crawling under the blankets so he could hug that Xander too.
After about an hour, they slowly released Xander, after watching him fall into a natural sleep. Oz nodded his Xander into the bathroom and shut the door behind them. "I want to talk to myself. Got any ideas?"
"Strife?" Xander said with a shrug.
"Yo?" Strife said, appearing beside them. "What's up?"
"I need to go beat my other self..."
Strife frowned at him. "It's not his fault, Oz. They're just not that close."
"And that was pain that he's been hiding for a very long time," Dancing Xander pointed out. "What he was whispering happened back when we were just out of high school from what he's told me."
"So I really need to go see my other self."
Strife considered it then nodded. "You'll get a chance. Just hold on." He disappeared again.
Xander looked at Oz, then at the tub. "Clean?"
"Enough. And well rinsed too. I'll start a hot bath and we'll put him into it." He got down to start the bath water, letting his mate deal with their new friend.
Family Oz scratched his ear, frowning. "I know that had to do with my Xander," he told his Spike, who was playing cards with him while they waited for more people to show up.
"He's probably braggin' about you," Spike noted, putting down a card and going out. "Gin."
"Crap." Oz watched as his pile of nickels was taken from him. "Okay, now what?"
"Now, I think we should probably...." Spike stopped as he felt the magic start. "Incoming."
"Cool. Maybe Xander'll be here this time." They got up and walked out to the porch, which was in shadow, but no one appeared. "You sure?"
"Very." Spike sniffed and headed back inside, going into the playroom, which now held a lot more people. And a few more were coming down the stairs.
"Um, hi," Family Oz said, waving at the new Jim and Blair, and Guide Oz, who was bending down to talk to his Sentinel. He nodded at the two Methos' as they walked in and found the Ray. Then Sorcerer Spike and Kaiya appeared, grappling with each other.
"Oi, no fair usin' the tail, bint," he complained as he landed on his butt on the floor, glaring up at her.
"I can use my tail. You tried to use your vamp attributes, I can pull your legs with my tail. It's how we're trained to fight," she sniffed. Then she grinned at her Oz. "He called me a sissy."
"Ah." Family Oz watched as a Xander appeared, but it was Sorcerer Xander, not his. He felt disappointed, but he knew his was somewhere safe at least. "So, anyone seen my Xander?" he asked.
"We were just with him," Sorcerer Xander noted, looking him over. "He's been missing you. He's not here? Most of the other couples have been joined at some point."
"No, he's not here yet." Family Oz sighed internally and got busy trying to figure out who was missing. "Anyone seen Wes?"
"He's here," Sorcerer Spike said, lifting him up from where the younger vampire had been clinging to his leg. "We've been workin' on his problem." He looked down at Wes, who swallowed. "You're gonna feed, right?" he purred.
Wesley nodded. "Yes, Spike, I will." He looked at his own Spike, who was grinning. "Do we have any blood?"
"In the fridge. I think we still have some," Family Oz said, watching as the young vampire left. "Do I want to know?" he asked Sorcerer Spike.
"Probably not," Family Spike told him, walking away to go find his new charge and make sure he was feeding.
Family Oz looked up the stairs as he heard someone else coming down, giving Blair a smile. "Well, I bet you two want to talk," he said, getting out of Blair's way.
Jim looked at his other self then nodded. "Yes, I would. Barn?"
"Barn," Sentinel Jim said, following him outside.
"We've got a trailer too," Family Oz reminded his Blair.
"Yup, you do," Blair said, hauling his other self up and towing him out to the trailer.
Family Oz shook his head and walked into the library. "Spike, I want your opinion on something," he called, bringing both vampires with him. He handed over the book that he had found on the type of demon Giles had been sleeping with.
Family Spike hissed. "Who?"
"Giles," Oz told him simply, sitting down.
Family Spike started to laugh. "Good on him. Buggered himself greatly this time." He showed the book to his other self. "Their Giles was shaggin' one."
"Ooooh," Sorcerer Spike said, rubbing his lower stomach. "I don't even want to remember those days."
Family Spike stared at him. "When did we do that?"
"I don't remember...." Family Spike hit himself in the head. "That's the night I was drunk and had a go at the local demon brothel, right?" Sorcerer Spike nodded. "Remember that now." He looked at Oz. "He really buggered himself well."
Oz smirked. "Good. We need to send him a letter telling him about it."
Both Spike's smirked. "That's what minions are for," they said together.
"Oh, Wesley," Sorcerer Spike called.
"He's not a minion," Family Spike argued. "I promised I would take him on as an adopted childe."
"Oh. Right then, do you object to him carryin' a message?"
"Nope, not at all." Family Spike looked at the doorway. "Wesley!" The young vampire stuck his head in. "You're takin' a message to the bloody idiot Watcher. He's gone and buggered a Shis'tran chippie."
Wesley shuddered. "He should have known better. Their kind was covered in the Council's classes."
"That just makes him doubly stupid," Sorcerer Spike snorted. "Glad mine isn't like this one." He walked away, heading for the kitchen.
"Did you eat?" Family Spike demanded. Wesley walked in and opened his mouth, showing him the remains of the blood he had just drank. "Good."
"Spike, he's not a naughty student. This is truly a problem for him, making him feel like a schoolboy probably isn't going to help it any," Family Oz pointed out.
"This is how it's done," Spike told him, sitting down and pulling Wesley into his lap. "This is the way it is for young vampires."
"I fed on my own," Wesley said, looking at his sire. "One of the Methos' tempted me into biting his neck." His face got a look of rapture over it. "It was truly amazing, the taste and the depth of the blood. Even better than the best wines."
Spike shook his head. "Really?"
"Really," one of the Methos said from the doorway. "And you may have another sip whenever you need it, Wesley."
"Thank you," he said, giving Methos a shy smile. He looked at Spike. "He doesn't taste like anyone I've ever had before, demon, animal, or human."
"That would be because I'm not like most any other human, demon, or animal," Methos told them, coming in and closing the door. "Being immortal can be like that."
"Immortal?" Oz asked.
"Can you help me find one here?" Wesley asked, looking very innocent at the moment.
"We'll see," Methos said dryly, looking down at Oz. "Yes, immortal."
"Oh, okay," Oz said, nodding after a second. "Coolness." He looked at Spike, who shrugged. "Welcome to the family, home of the strange and unusual. You fit right in, you can have the room next to the kitty demon...."
Methos chuckled. "Thank you. It's been a very long time since anyone's accepted me that way."
"We're kinda used to it," Oz told him.
"And what about the you from my world being one?"
"Um, that might take some getting used to," Oz admitted, turning so he could stare out the window. "How old am I?"
"Very. Ancient Greece."
"Ah." Oz shook himself. "Well, someone once told me I have a very old soul, I guess I just got put onto the reincarnation path." He looked at Methos, who was looking shocked. "What? I'll consider that later. But I'm guessing he's been very lonely."
"At times," Methos agreed. "At others, we've had quite a few friends and mortal lovers."
"Then it worked for him. I'm guessing I got to miss the boring times." He shrugged and stood up. "I'm going to go check on the horses." Methos stopped him by putting a hand on his shoulder. "I'm good, it's okay with me. I'm glad one of us is really happy that way." He continued out of the room, heading out to go think in private.
Methos took his seat. "I thought it might be of some comfort to him."
"It will be soon enough," Wesley told him, sounding wise again. Spike pushed him off his lap. "What?"
"Go write down what you know about this demon the git slept with so you can deliver it to him later."
Wesley nodded and grabbed the book off the table, and another one from the shelves, then went up to his and Spike's room.
Spike looked at Methos. "Are you addictive?"
Methos gave him a sly smile. "Only to some," he noted, then stood up and left.
Spike settled into his spot of shadow and grabbed a book off the shelves, starting to read.
Brandon's Xander and Oz stuck their heads around the side of their house as they felt the wave of magic take most everyone, waving at their Giles and Alex as they appeared, and Dancing Giles too. Sorcerer Oz appeared too, making a nice full house.
Alex saw them and jogged over, giving them both hugs. "Any damage?" she asked them.
"Only to Tyler's nerves," Xander pointed out. "But we did get the case solved."
"Case?" their Giles asked as he walked up the few steps to the porch. "We didn't have a case when we left."
"No, but we got one while we were gone," Oz told him. "Demon using a soul-stealing blade to collect enough souls so he could stay on this plane." He looked at Dancing Giles. "Your husband was most helpful in letting us find him."
Dancing Giles groaned. "He was taken again, wasn't he?"
Xander and Oz both nodded.
"Oh, dear. Is he fine?" Xander nodded. "Is he here?" Oz shook his head. "All right then, I'll expect Oz will have him then." He looked around the porch. "You have a very nice house here. I forgot to compliment you on it when I was here last."
"Thanks, we designed it," Oz told him, going back to the grill. "We're roasting chicken. Want some?"
"Let me go take a shower and change clothes first," Alex said, giving them a smile before hurrying up to the main house. Giles followed her, apparently intent on doing the same thing.
Xander handed Dancing Giles a beer and sat down at the table, watching his mate cook for them.
Family Xander woke up in a warm bathtub, not an unusual occurrence since he had been injured, but the bathroom he was in was nothing like his at home. He pushed himself up and looked around the room. Apparently he was making enough noise to bring someone in from the next room because he saw the door opening and grabbed a washcloth to cover himself. Then he grabbed a second one to cover his left knee.
"Hey, up to a little broth?" Dancing Oz asked. He saw the impromptu coverings but he didn't say anything about them. He knelt beside the bed and held out the mug. "Here, beef broth. We didn't think that you would want anything heavy after having an allergic reaction earlier." He saw the exact second Xander remembered what had happened and pasted a patient, neutral expression on his face. "It's okay. We've had them in the house before. Relax."
Family Xander took the cup and sipped it slowly, looking away from this Oz. "I didn't want to be any trouble," he muttered between sips.
Oz snorted. "Not even a bother, Xander." He ruffled the dark hair. "Just relax in the water. Your leg did a funny seizure thing earlier when you had the reaction to the bubbles." He stood up. "We're still in the other room if you need anything." He walked out and went directly to the bed, where he climbed in next to his husband. "He's embarrassed."
"We can help with that," Dancing Xander noted, putting down his book. "He's awake?"
"And has his knee covered."
"Ah." Xander looked at the bathroom then nodded. "Yeah, I can see that. I was always very body conscious before I went on my trip." He looked at his mate. "I'll have a talk with him."
"I don't think that's going to do it," Oz reminded him. "It wouldn't have done it for you before your trip."
"Actually, his Oz may be helping him stay body conscious."
"Doesn't let him run around naked?" Oz asked dryly.
"He was embarrassed when I did it, before I was awake of course."
"Maybe that's what having kids does to you," Oz said, shrugging at the hurt look. "You can't run around naked in front of them, you scar them for life."
"No one's asking him to," Dancing Xander reminded his husband.
"Actually, I never liked being naked," Family Xander said from the doorway. "Thanks for the tub and all," he said, giving them an embarrassed look and faint grin. "Um, which room is mine?"
"We haven't gotten that settled yet," Dancing Xander said, sliding off the bed and walking over to the closet. "Here, you can wear some of my clothes. We're still about the same size." He pulled down one of his pair of loose pants and a t-shirt, handing them over. "Get changed and come back out. We're working on the room situation now."
Family Xander allowed himself to be herded back into the bathroom and got undressed again, putting on the soft clothes he had been given, and his old underwear. He pulled those back off and dropped them into the pile. He could go without for a while, at least until they were washed. He walked back out and found both men dressed, Dancing Xander back in nearly see-through pants. He made sure he wasn't staring at that version of himself and let Oz lead him out of the room and two doors down. He stopped when he saw all the personal items in the room. "I can't take someone else's room," he protested.
"It's Meth's and Ray's, they won't mind," Dancing Oz told him, helping him in to the bed. "You rest." He held up a finger when Xander opened his mouth. "Take a nap, let the benadryl finish working through your system. We'll be up here for another hour and I'll come up and make sure that you get up in time for supper." He backed away from the bed. "Consider it a kid-free nap, something that's pretty rare for you, I'd bet."
Family Xander nodded. "Okay." He yawned, prompted by Dancing Xander's one. "Thanks, guys."
"Hey, anytime," Dancing Xander said, wrapping an arm around his Oz's waist and closing the door. "So?"
"We let him sleep and we figure out what we're doing tonight," Oz said with a shrug. "Come on. Let's go talk to Nick. He seems to know what's going on." They walked to the other end of the hall and up the stairs, going up to the TV room, where everyone else was. "He's napping," he said as he sat down. "Any ideas what we should be doing?"
"Besides helping him become the Xander he should be?" Nick suggested. Everyone looked at him. "Think about it, all the other Xanders are much stronger willed."
"Oh, he is, it's just turned in different directions," Philip noted. "Same as our Xander's was when he first came. It took finding Oz to make him switch over his priorities."
"No, it took horrendous pain to make him switch it over," Derek reminded him. "And he's still loyal to Willow, even with all she's done to him."
"And so is this one to his," Dancing Xander told them all. "But the main difference here is that this Xander's pain is still being held inside. Maybe yours got to let his out, I've always been able to once I found my Oz."
"Then why can't we work on getting those two closer?"
"Because you can't force someone to get closer," Dancing Oz said. "I have no idea what my problem is but I need to talk to myself and fast. Xander's just getting strong enough to throw away his only support."
Cupid appeared, clapping. "Brilliant deduction, but that might be what it takes. Xander's put forward his needs, but the you there didn't get scared. Not the way he needed to get scared and fix this stuff."
"I never needed to be scared," Oz pointed out. "I just knew I needed him."
"Yeah, but that you hasn't figured that out yet."
"Can't you get someone like Morpheus to give him a dose of fear?" Nick asked.
"Nope. Tried that already."
"Maybe you should let me worry about that," Family Xander said from the stairway. He glared at Cupid. "And you, stay the hell out of it. I have enough problems without you getting in the middle of them too." He glared at the people in the room. "No, I'm not like your Xander's, and yeah, I'm plenty strong enough to work things out with Oz on my own."
"We just want you to be happy," Dancing Xander said, getting up and coming over to stand in front of him. He ignored the little push when he tried to hug his other self. "We just want you to be as happy as the rest of us are."
"Damn it!" Family Xander shouted, pushing him away. "I've already reached my peak in happiness. Why the hell are you shoving my nose in it?" He stomped off, going to be by himself and hurt in private.
"Not quite," Cupid said quietly. "Yeah, there's no great high, but you're still not at the top." He looked at Dancing Xander. "He's supposed to have one of those comfy friendship marriages, but I never realized how depressing that can be."
"Crap," Oz sighed. "We just screwed up."
"No, he's still not there yet." Cupid disappeared and reappeared next to his latest victim. "Sit," he said, making a bench appear, and forcing the young man down onto it when he didn't follow the order. "Listen, they just want you to be happy, like they are. And yeah, it sucks that you're not going to have a true mate, but you're still not anywhere *near* the peak that you could be at. Once you hit it, you'll come back down some but it'll seem natural, dude, not forced like it is now."
"Leave me alone," Xander sighed, standing up. "I could care less right now, okay? I've got my kids and my house. I'm surviving."
"There's more to life than that," Cupid said, standing up and trying to pull the mortal into a hug. "Relax, dude, I'm not hittin' on ya."
"Yay," Xander said dryly. "I did still make a promise to my Oz." He backed up a few steps, then had to catch himself as he started to trip over an exposed root. "Damn it!" he shouted then sat down on the ground and held his head in his hands. "Why can't you guys just leave me the hell alone?"
"Because we all want you to be happy, not just to survive and exist. Trust me here, Xander, there is more to life than existing."
"Yeah, there's pain. And there's more pain when you think something's going to happen and it doesn't. Oh, and by the way," he said, glaring up at the God of Love, "whatever funky shit you put on my lovelife the last time you visited it, take it off. I don't need the shit from it, or the fallout." He got up and walked off, heading into the woods.
"Man, that is *so* not what I expected from him. He's usually so gentle," Cupid sighed. He looked up. "Yo, some help here?" he called.
Ares and Godly Xander appeared near him, and Cupid felt Godly Oz floating off somewhere nearby. "What?" Ares asked.
"He's way pissed at us and we haven't done anything," Cupid moaned, sitting down on his bench. "We're tryin' to make him happy, not more miserable."
"Well, not everyone needs your help," Godly Xander pointed out dryly, not making a move toward his step-son. "Maybe he's got it."
"Nope, he's more than ready to go it alone instead of suffering more." Cupid hit himself on the head. "That's all he thinks love is, pain."
"Of course," Xander said, staying dry. "Why would he think anything else?" He disappeared, they didn't need his help.
Oz looked up from his current research as Family Xander finally walked into his artificial clearing. "Sit," he said gently, patting the padded settee. "I think I need to clarify something for you."
"No, you don't, I got the picture the last time," Xander said stiffly.
"Then you didn't get it at all, Xander," Oz told him, patting the cushion again. "At least sit and rest your leg."
Xander sat down as far away from the God as he could. "Who does your job in my realm?"
"No one. It's one of those missing God situations. Ares' newest child will eventually take it over as God of the Overlooked in your realm." He shifted so he was looking at the mortal. "This," he said, pointing at the injured knee, "wasn't the tragedy I was talking about. Your relationship with Giles was. Let me finish," he said when Xander opened his mouth. "I said that you had to hit a tragedy before you could find your height, and I knew that it was going to be a hard climb, but you don't have to make it any harder on yourself. You'll eventually find the comfy level that you've been seeking for so long." He ran a finger down the side of Xander's face. "You're going to have one of those comfy, been-married-too-long sort of relationships, Xander, not the true love that the rest of them have."
"Which sucks," Xander said quietly, looking away. "Why me? I didn't ask for my life to be like this. I would have been perfectly happy dying back in high school."
"And your daughter would have been raised in the same loveless environment that you were, by people who would have done the same thing to her that your Giles' was trying to do. You might have not been physically there for the apocalypse, but you would have been there spiritually. If you had died, you would have been Miri's spirit friend. And there would have been nothing you could do but watch your daughter and know that she could have had better if you had stayed around." He used his other hand to touch Xander's stomach. "You were given this in compensation for the hell you were going to go through in this life. This was a gift, and we intended you to appreciate it, not to be scared of it."
"I'm not," Xander said stiffly, "but it has almost cost me everything I've ever thought I wanted."
"No, it cost you the person who was destroying you again, Xander," Oz said quietly, staring into his eyes. "You know the truth. You have for *so* long now." He ran his finger up to touch Xander's forehead, drawing a line across it. "You do know."
"I'm the same everywhere?" Xander whispered.
"Yeah. They might not know it, but you recognize it. Part of the darkness Sorcerer Xander has in him is something you've held in check for years now. That's why you and Spike get along so well. That same flamboyance that made you so fun to be around when you were young is what Dancing Xander is living. They're just like parts of you." He removed his hands. "And now you're ready to throw away what little chance at happiness you could have because the me in your plane is so very scared. Does this make sense to you?" Xander hung his head. "See? When you go back, you need to ask your Oz what his worst nightmare is. Only you can tell when he's lying to himself, and only you can solve it for him."
"I want what they have," Xander said, looking at him. "I want what I saw Brandon's Xander and Oz have."
"What they have is because they need to be that together or they both would have died a long time ago. People who are on the front lines of the fighting get different perks than those who teach and lead. You're getting a friend, which you've always needed. You're getting your kids, and the chance to get to know them really well. They have a nanny because they have to miss out on a lot of things while fighting. This is why Derek never had children," Oz said, tapping him on the forehead.
"But I don't want..." He shook his head. "I love my kids, but I do fight."
"Not anymore you don't," Oz told him, touching his knee. "You're a teacher now, Xander, not a front line of defense. This didn't happen because of us, but it did happen and you've got to move on. You're not a warrior anymore, Xander, you're a village elder."
"No, I'm not. I may be a Watcher, but that doesn't mean that I have to sit back and watch the world go to hell."
"Then I'd pay a lot of attention to your oldest child." Oz smiled at him, a gentle, reassuring smile. "Your only task is to raise Miri right. Even what you have with Sileya is not as important as raising Miri right is. She is the lynchpin to humanity surviving in a few decades. And it's all because of you, Xander." He stood up and held out a hand. "Coming? I'll bring you back to the house."
"I want to go home."
"No can do yet. My Xander was right, something's going to happen soon and you'll be able to get there soon enough, but not tonight. Let them apologize for wanting you to have what they have, but you can't tell them why you're so different." He kissed Xander on the nose. "Just relax and let it flow, man, it's all good for now."
He disappeared and Xander found himself back in the bedroom he was borrowing. He sat down on the bed and touching his knee, wondering what other path he might have been on.
"This one, only a lot harder," floated out of the air in Oz's voice. He appeared before him. "Really, trust me on this , it's not something you want to think about. In one version of your reality, you ended up fighting in Buffy's place while Miri was waiting on you back at Giles'. You had to make a choice: let the town fall and save her, or lose her and save the town." He saw the nauseous look and abated it quickly. "Not meant to hurt you, man, but that version went to hell and you were still protected. You've got a lot of people very interested in your daughter's upbringing."
"And they're all against her growing up normal," Xander pointed out.
"Not all of them," Oz said calmly. "Yeah, there's plenty of people who might like to have control over the power she will wield, but there's even more that are more concerned about her single, life changing decision."
"Which road she takes, man, in the literal sense." He grinned. "It's literally going to come down to which way she walks home one night." He shrugged at the incredulous look. "The training you give her will matter after that. You'll be gone by then, she's going to be Giles' age or so, but she will remember." He reached over and patted Xander on the head. "I can block it if you want."
"No, I ..." Xander swallowed. "Take it off her, Oz, please."
"No can do, Xander. This is why she was born."
"Then make it someone else's problem," he begged.
"Again, I can't do that. Only the Fates can do that." He bent down and gave the young man a hug. "You've still got plenty of time and you're training her right, just because she sees you sticking it out through all of this crap. What she sees you doing is as important as what you tell her to do. Trust me?" Xander shook his head. "Okay, how about this? I want you to ask your Oz that question and not sleep with him until he gives you a straight answer. Got that?" Xander looked up at him and nodded. "And if you can do that, then everything might be good for a while." Xander shook his head. "No?"
"He's not meant to be with me. He doesn't even like me enough to sleep with me."
"That's all in his mind right now. He's *scared*, Xander."
"He's been scared for the last four years?" Xander asked snidely, getting angry. "No, this isn't fear, I know fear. This is being not interested. And I do know that. Oz, the you there might have been there for me, but we're *friends*, he doesn't see anything more in me than that."
"You are *so* wrong," Oz sighed. "Trust me on this, he does like you that way. He wouldn't have come after you when you ran with Miri if he hadn't felt something more than like."
"And did you hear my thoughts then? They're still seeming pretty valid."
"Point," Oz said, nodding, "and that is part of all this. The me there is not a passionate person. And I know this sucks big ones for you, but this is gonna be one of those times when you've got to take what you can get because otherwise you're just going to be a single father that's miserable on your big farm."
"No, I'm not!" Xander shouted, jumping up. "I'll be happy or I won't, end of sentence. That sucks ass, Oz, and you *know* it!"
"Yeah, I do," Oz said calmly, giving him another faint smile. "Feel better yet?"
"No. You planned that," he accused, sitting back down and rubbing down his aching knee.
"I know you in many forms," Oz said, leaning down to get into his face. "I know that you need to have something to fight against to get motivated. Oz is what you're fighting against and your prize is greater happiness. I wasn't kidding when I said he was scared. It's all up to you to fight his fear though."
"Nope, not it," Strife said as he appeared, waving at Xander. "Hey. At least you can ride better now." He looked at Oz. "No, Xander's right in something. Oz isn't *scared* of getting too close again. They've already been down that road. Oz just isn't seeing what he's missin'." He grinned at Xander. "Which is why you haven't made it home yet. He's got to *know* what he's missing."
"Hello, which is partially fear," Godly Oz sighed, rolling his eyes.
"Nope, Oz has gone well past fear to plain old not gettin' it." He shrugged at Xander's look. "We're workin' on that now, but Oz isn't worryin' about you comin' back yet. He *has* to before you're gonna get anywhere with him." He looked at Godly Oz and made them both invisible and not-audible for a second. "The chick Ares knocked up in their realm blessed them with more happiness than they were going to get, but still not along the lines of these guys." He pointed at the hallway. "Trust me on this, Oz-man, it's not what you think this time. I've been *workin'* on him again."
"Which might be the problem," Oz said grimly. "Too much interference."
"Can I butt in here?" Xander asked, making both Gods look at him. "Stay out of it! We've got enough problems without you two!"
Godly Oz shook his head. "Not interfering, just giving a push where it's needed."
"Sorta like soapin' the leather so the saddle don't give sores," Strife added on.
Xander shook his head, leaning back on the bed. "Guys, my life's already a wreck. I don't need more help making it go straight to hell."
Strife kicked him on the foot, making the man on the bed flinch. "Oops, meant to get the other one." He leaned over Xander, looking into his eyes. "We're doin' this for you, dude, get over it. We want you to be happy too. Okay?" Xander shook his head. "Why not?"
"Because apparently I'm not meant to be happy." He looked at Godly Oz. "What's the peak like?"
"It's one of those comfy places," Godly Oz told him, lying beside him. "It's one where everything fits right but you don't worry about whether or not you're gonna get any that night. You've just come to the point where it'll happen when you need it to."
"Sounds like I may be there," Xander muttered.
Strife laid his hand on the side of Xander's face, exerting a little bit of energy to ease the growing pain the young mortal was radiating. "You're not," he promised seriously. "Trust me on this, Xander, you're nowhere near the level of your peak. What you'll end up having is something like what the guys here have now. Only without all the bouncin' and partyin'." He grinned. "Got it?" Xander nodded. "And he's right, your Oz is whacked right now and he needs some help. Not the same sort Giles' needed, which he's gotten a lot of recently," he admitted with a smirk. "He just needs someone ta show him what he's missin' by not havin' ya. So you're gonna stay here for a day or so. Let us deal with your Oz an' make him paranoid." He winked and stood up. "It's the least I can do for one'a mine." He disappeared.
Xander looked at Oz, who shrugged. "Not a clue, man. Strife claims whomever he wants. He's just my step-nephew." He gave the mortal a hug then disappeared.
Xander flung an arm over his eyes and groaned. "Just as long as it doesn't get worse," he muttered.
Outside the door, Dancing Oz shook himself and went to tell his husband what had been said.
Godly Xander caught Strife as he appeared, pulling him out into the garden. "Give," he ordered, crossing his arms. He had heard Strife's last phrase and he *really* wanted to know what was going on.
"Well, you know what *your* lineage is?" Strife asked. Xander's brow scrunched up and he nodded. "Well, that hasn't changed from one realm to another, not like they think. They're still the product of a liaison I had." He grinned. "Just the mother...." He shook his head. "Never mind. Anyway, they're still my kids, just in a different way. Ethan is all their father, even if in that one realm it was somehow done by petri dish insteada the normal way." His grin got brighter. "Anyway. The kids are all the same, just a couple of them are more specialized in their ways. The GHS guys are just the party side. Sentinel Guys are just a more...dark but yet artistic side." He leaned in closer. "That's the side that had me get the pretty tattoos," he said quietly, then stood back up on his own. "Anyway, those kids are all the same, it's just that some of them specialized and a few have been run over by life. Which bugs the *fuck* outta me," he said with a shrug.
"So you're helping your own lineage reach it's full potential?"
Strife grinned, smirking almost. "Cool, huh?"
"Very. And it would explain Miri very well."
"What would?" Miri asked from behind them. She looked at Strife. "Does that mean you're an Unclie?"
"Or somethin' like that," he said, picking her up to give her a hug. "That okay with you?"
"Cool," she said, grinning at Godly Xander. "Does that mean my daddies will be happy soon?"
"Yup," Godly Xander said, ruffling her hair. "Go play, Miri. You won't have much of a chance in a while." She pouted. "Hey, you've got to go home soon. No one's rode your horses recently."
She gave Strife a serious look. "You come back so we ride?"
"I'll try," he promised, letting her down and patting her on the head. "Go play, Miri."
"'Kay, Unclie Strife." She ran off to tell the other kids what she had heard.
"We'll have to prevent her from telling anyone," Xander reminded Strife, heading back into the house. He could deal with the kids, Xander had something he had to do. He landed beside Family Oz and wrapped an arm around his neck. "We need to talk," he said, giving the neck a little squeeze. Family Oz gave him a panicked look. "Oh, come on, it's not *that* bad. Yet." He pulled Oz up with him and they walked into the library, closing both doors so they wouldn't be disturbed.
Family Xander forced himself to get up when the knock came at the door. "What?" he called as he walked over to answer it.
"Just calling dinner," Dancing Oz said, giving him a smile. "Coming?"
"Sure. Dining room?"
"Yup, we don't really eat anywhere else for some reason." He shrugged and watched as Xander walked down the stairs in front of him. "You're the last one, we decided to let you nap for a few more minutes while we were setting up," he explained as they hit the bottom step. "So, what did they say?"
"That my Oz is whacked." Xander shrugged. "It's something I've known for a while now. He's got his mind on a lot of other things and I accept that." He looked at this Oz. "Are you always like this?"
"Yup. My Xander gets pissy when I don't pay enough attention to him. Or he goes shopping," he said grimly.
"I wouldn't say *pissy*," Dancing Xander said from the kitchen as they walked in. "Upset. Conniving. Maybe even highly upset, but not *pissy*." He grinned at his counterpart. "Hope stir fry's okay. We really needed to go grocery shopping but I spent all day curled up in my Oz's arms napping."
"Hey, it's cool. I can still pick out the peas." He sat in the last empty seat and looked down the table. "Hey," he said, waving. "What's your Xander and Oz doing?"
"Snogging," Philip said succinctly. Nick and Derek both nodded, looking amused. "That's jus' them." He looked at this Xander, gauging his pain. "Your Oz?"
"Probably taking care of the barn right about now," Xander said, checking the sky outside. "Unless there's a big time difference."
"There might be," Dancing Xander said, bringing over a bowl. "Food," he said, sitting down.
"Who's sayin' grace?" Philip asked.
"Go ahead if you want to," Dancing Oz told him. "We don't usually. We haven't found one to the Ancient Gods yet." He sat down in his spot and smiled at his husband. "Good job," he mouthed.
"Thanks," Dancing Xander said back. He looked embarrassed at the cleared throat. "Sorry."
"Not a problem," Philip said with a smile. "I taught at Catholic School for years." He bent his head and said a quick grace in Latin, then pulled the bowl over before Nick or any of the Xander's could get it. He knew better than to wait for any of them to get the food first, he'd ended up making more quite a few times when those two got the food first. He passed the bowl to Derek, who gave him a smile. "What? If'n the bottomless pit gets it, we're all gonna starve."
"Philip," Nick sighed, rolling his eyes. "I promise, I'm not going to eat it all."
"All Xanders are bottomless pits," Derek reminded him gently, passing the bowl to Oz. "We give him and Nick the food last. This is all goot natured teasing," he told the Xander on the end.
Dancing Xander pouted at Nick. "You wouldn't eat it all, would you?" he asked, batting his big, sorrowful, puppy eyes at him.
Nick caved in and handed the bowl to him first. "Of course not. They're just teasing me." He smiled once Xander grinned. "See, not so bad."
"No, not so bad," Dancing Oz said, glaring at his mate. "How many times have I warned you about teasing poor, innocent men?"
"But I'm being good," Dancing Xander said, shooting him a naughty grin.
"No you're not," his Oz told him. "Quit being naughty or no sex tonight."
Dancing Xander instantly straightened up and become sober again. "Yes, Oz," he said, shooting Nick a grin. "You aren't going to jump up on the table and start reciting freaky poetry, right?" he asked.
"Huh?" Philip asked, looking confused.
"Happened in Paris and in Venice," Dancing Oz said absently as he started to eat. He smiled at his mate. "All it took was one little smile and we got stalked for a few days." He shrugged at the incredulous looks. "Not my fault. Xander draws people like that."
"That's why I have Giles, dear," Xander said mischievously.
"I'll tell him you said that," Oz warned.
"Okay. He's always so good about punishing me." His grin increased as Oz dropped his fork and looked at him. "What? I'm being good, just stating a fact."
Oz nodded once then stood up and grabbed his husband, dragging him up to their room to wear some of this naughtiness out of him.
Family Xander coughed, breaking in on the stunned silence. "They've got a really neat relationship, huh?" he asked Philip.
Philip shook his head. "Maybe. Either that or they're insane." He held the bowl out to Xander. "Eat. You probably had to suffer through our Xander cooking for ya."
"Nope, the butler thought I was very nice and polite so he made me many snacks," Xander said with a grin. He turned his grin on Derek, who was frowning. "Did I remember to pass on the message from Tyler?"
"Yup," Nick said between bites. "Want that?" he asked, pointing at the bowl.
Xander quickly dished himself out some more and handed it back. "I've got enough." He dug into his food, ignoring the strange looks he was getting. He got enough of them at home so he could do that now.
Finally, Philip couldn't take it anymore. "So," he said, dropping his fork. "Miri didn't tell us about an accident."
"It happened after she came back," Xander told him calmly. "Ceiling fell on me while I was working on a site."
"Oh. Are you still working in carpentry?" Derek asked, putting his own fork down. "Our Xander has no interest in the physical trades, but he did long to be a police officer at one point."
"I thought about that," Xander admitted, "but I couldn't take the uniform. Or Sunnydale with just a gun." He shrugged. "I'm back in therapy for the second replacement knee and then I get to finish my training. My Oz has been very understanding about my needing time, but we've got to move on now."
"Are you and your Oz a stable relationship?" Philip asked. He blushed lightly when Nick elbowed him. "Sorry, but each relationship seems so differ'nt and I was wonderin' where you fell into that continuum."
"We are. We're in the middle of a palimony war with our Giles, but Oz and I have decided to stay together, if only for the kids. We're working on our relationship now."
"I see," Derek said, giving him a smile. "When Philip and I needed to do so, it was always best that we got away from the house. Maybe you two need to take a small vacation together. Just a weekend," he suggested at the instant head shake.
"It's something to think about," Xander agreed. "But we don't know the nanny that well. We'd have to keep Spike up there for that weekend and he's now running Angel's agency." He yawned. "Sorry. Fully been one of *those* days, ya know?" Everyone nodded. He picked up his fork and took a bite, trying to ignore everyone watching him. "What?" he asked finally, dropping his fork.
"We were just wonderin' about something Miri said."
"William?" Xander asked dryly. Philip blushed again and nodded. "Yeah, I'm a bothie. It happens in our version of reality. A lot actually. One of the twins is one too." He clasped his hands in his lap so no one would see him squeezing them together. "It happens to about a third of our town."
"Miri seemed to think that you were going to have another one," Derek said gently.
"Yeah," he said with a forced grin, "she's full of some strange ideas. She thinks Spike is going to become the new third in our relationship too. Since I was still in the hospital when I had William she thinks all hospitals mean babies. We've tried to convince her otherwise, but even talking about where babies come from didn't help."
Philip nodded slowly. "That can be a persistent problem. Maybe your friend Blair could help with it."
"He's the one who tried the 'where babies come from' speech," Xander told him, his grin getting a little less forced. "I'm sure someone will set her straight eventually, probably in Sex Ed class in Junior High," he sighed dramatically, "but sometime."
Nick snickered. "You never know, you might have another one."
Xander frowned at him and shook his head. "My hormones will not cooperate with that. Their back to being their sleepy selves. Not even PMS anymore."
Buffy choked. "What?" She looked at the men around here. "Okay, I missed something."
"I'm a hermaphrodite," Xander told her gently. "I gave birth to our son, William."
She shuddered. "Never mind, I don't need to know. Other topics up for discussion?" she begged Derek, master of conversation at home.
"Yes, let's talk about something else," Derek said, humoring her, his face showing it so Xander wouldn't get upset. "What are your plans after you finish your training?"
"I'm going to try and get on at a local cabinet place. It's not that hard of work and they're handicapped accessible. They should be able to let me sit down and work."
"Your back's out of alignment too?" Nick asked.
"It hurts when I stand for too long," Xander told him. "Part of the muscle atrophy I had in the hospital. I still haven't been able to build it back up yet." He unclenched his hands. "I'll eventually get back to where I was, with a limp." He started to eat again, and this time no one stared at him so he got to enjoy the meal. The high point came when the Xander upstairs screamed and everyone looked up, Nick and Xander clapping.
"Eww," Buffy sighed, shaking her head. "TMI." She dropped her fork and got up to go do something else and clear her head.
Xander and Nick divvied up her plate with stereo grins.
Family Oz came out of the playroom, shaking his head. "Okay, I am *so* screwed now," he told one of the Methos' as he flopped down next to him.
"Have a talk with another Xander?" he asked, not looking up from his book.
"Yeah, a Godly version of him." That got the immortal's attention. Methos stared at him, dropping his book. "Yeah, he just explained to me what my Xander's been trying to say now for a few weeks. And I *so* screwed up with him." He leaned his head back against the couch, staring up at the ceiling Xander had painted while pissed at Giles. "Huh, he did textures," he said, pointing up. "Never noticed that before."
"What did he say about your Xander?" Methos asked him.
"Just that my Xander really needs more of *me*, not of me to just be here." He closed his eyes. "I've never been as close to him as I thought I should have, and Godly Xander just seconded my doubts on that area. He even said that if I didn't shape up soon, Xander might end up going to someone else for the sexual relationship that he needs from me."
"Well, then you have two choices, Oz. You can either decide that you want to have that sort of relationship with your husband as well as the friendship you share, or you can let him go seek that other relationship."
"I love him, Methos. More than ever, I love him. His strength, God, it's been amazing. I find him stimulating in ways that I've never felt before."
"Then you need to show *him* that, Oz, not tell me. The Xander in my realm is very much a 'show me' person, not a 'tell me' sort. You'd better be thinking of a way to show him and soon, before you end up losing him to life."
"Oh, I plan on it, I just don't know how. I try and be interested in his work. I try and be enthusiastic about everything he does."
"Then why not try honesty," Methos noted dryly. "I'm sure Xander would appreciate that more than any fake enthusiasm."
"It's not faked or forced," Oz complained. "I'm really thrilled by him. Everything he's been through is just so amazing and I love him for it. I'm just having trouble getting it up for him."
"Then try something new and different. Do you take it from him?"
"Huh? No! He's the bottom in our 'ship."
"Maybe that should change, Oz. With Xander's injuries, it must be hard for him to find a comfortable position anymore."
"Yeah," Oz sighed, agreeing. "We've had a lot of trouble with that. Not that Xander really feels in the mood for sex. We had to work on him being able to be touched again. It took *weeks*."
"Oz, those sort of injuries are things that people may *never* recover from. Many people who nearly lose a limb, or have to have one significantly altered, never allow themselves to be touched again. Part of recovering from a trauma is accepting your body again., which it sounds like your Xander never did."
"We've been working on that for years," Oz told him, turning his head to look at the old man. "We worked on him being comfy with his lower parts. We've worked on letting him see his knee didn't wreck us all. I hate all this, Methos, and I hate being the weak one."
"Then don't be," Methos said simply, standing up. "I doubt Xander would mind if you took more of a firm hand in the bedroom. I have a feeling that he's waiting for you to make a move."
"And every time I do, there's these little creatures called children," Oz complained.
Methos snorted. "You had William, I have no doubt that you can find the time to work your Xander over until he screams in pleasure and falls asleep in your arms."
"That I'd like," Oz said with a faint grin. "I'd like to see Xander so happy he passes out."
"There are many ways to do that, young man. Most of them start with knowing what your lover likes the most and finding new and creative ways of arousing him."
"Yeah. Think Dancing Xander would give me a copy of his book?"
Methos smiled. "I'm very sure my Xander would, but you could start without it. Start with exploring his body, learning every inch of it. That is the most important trait of a great lover, knowing his lover." He stood up. "I'm going to go finish some research. You consider all you know about your Xander, and think about all that you still need to know." He walked away, heading into the library, where the sentinel and guide pairs were sitting and talking in a big group. "Sorry," he said, grabbing a book from behind one of the Blair's. "I'll just go read in the sun."
"There's a *great* porch upstairs," Guide Oz said.
"The Xander from here did a lot of the work on the expansion of that side of the house," Family Blair said proudly. "Even though he was supposed to still be resting, he was insistent on getting up there and fixing the construction crew's mistake."
"I heard they were trying to get him for breach of contract," Family Jim said, frowning.
"Xander's got affidavits from a few people saying that the work that had been done was shoddy, as well as counter-suing for the money he paid in advance. Which I think is very smart," Family Blair told him. "Besides, Xander can hold the fact that the shoddy work that collapsed his knee was their fault too over their heads. I don't think that there's going to be a lot of action on that."
"I hope not. That could easily bring Xander down, a lot, when William's conception comes out."
"Point," Blair conceded. "I doubt that's going to happen though."
Sentinel Xander raised his hand. "What's unusual about William's conception. That was the baby, right?"
Family Blair nodded. "The you here is a herm."
Sentinel Xander nodded, then looked at his Guide.
"The you here is both male and female," Guide Oz told him, making their Jim and Blair smile at the ease he had with taking over the explanation process. "He probably had William himself."
"Is he both parents?" Sentinel Xander asked.
"Nope, Oz is," Family Jim said. "It was kinda sweet when Oz found out."
"He found out when Xander got hit by the ceiling," Blair said cooly. "No good surprises there."
"I meant once he had processed the fact. You said when you asked, Oz told you about the baby first."
"Point. He was very gung-ho about the baby," Family Blair conceded. "Just as much as Spike was." He saw the young sentinel/guide pair recoil. "What?"
"Spike's been stalking Xander on and off for a few months now," Guide Blair said. "He's turned their Devon and a few times they've had some serious run-ins with him."
"Hey, here he was still chipped, but Willow layered multiple spells on him that broke the chip and Spike. We've been working on getting him back to the level of able to make his own decisions."
"You are?" Sentinel Xander squeaked.
"We are, he needed it," Family Blair told him gently. "Spike was so destroyed by the Willow here that he came to me for help in regaining himself. He's done very good at finding who he had been before he was turned. He's not bloodthirsty anymore," he assured them. "He's not the same vampire he was, or is in your realm."
"As long as he's not a danger," Guide Oz said benignly.
"No, he's a favorite uncle of the kids," Jim said with a shrug. "Xander would never let him near them if he was still dangerous."
"He's been babysitting Miri since Xander got her," Blair pointed out.
"As long as he's not a danger," Guide Oz repeated.
Family Blair and Jim dropped the subject.
Sorcerer Xander looked up from the book he was reading as Guide Oz walked into the room. "What?" he asked, going back to his research.
"I want to go home."
"Ah." Oz sat down across from him. "You want do what to make that happen?"
"I want to create a portal back to my house." Sorcerer Xander looked up. "I want to get up in my own bed in the morning and have my own Oz sitting next to me with a cup of coffee."
"How would that affect the rest of us?"
"That's what I'm working on."
"Ah. Okay. Yell if you need help." He got up and went into the kitchen.
Dancing Giles looked up from his book, frowning at Alex. "Is something wrong?"
"Just your reading material," she said gently. "Giles, you can't interfere with what's going on. You can not do what a God can't."
Giles patted her on the hand. "Don't worry, I'm just researching an esoteric rumor of portals."
"All right," she sighed. "Please, come tell us before you do something though." She stood up and walked away, heading to where the rest of her house was sitting. "We may have problems," she told their Giles. "He's researching the portal spells."
"Oh, bloody hell," Brandon's Giles sighed, tossing his book across the room. "That's a sure way of buggering all the realms up." He got up and went to talk to himself, but Dancing Giles had moved and he couldn't find him anywhere.
Philip looked at Derek, who was scratching the back of his neck. "Magic?"
"Very large and coming from more than one direction," Derek said grimly. "Do you know where the magic supplies are here?"
"In Giles' room," Dancing Oz said from the doorway. "My Xander's feeling some major magic. He thinks someone's trying to cast the portal spell."
"Oh, hell," Nick swore, getting up off the couch and heading for where Derek and Philip were going, he could help set things up at least.
Up on Olympus, Miri peered down into the portal and sighed. "Daddy's not going to be happy," she told Maribelle, who liked to hang out with her. "They're casting a portal spell."
Maribelle's face scrunched up as she thought, then she nodded. "Okay. We'll help them then." She took her friend's hand. "Come help me?"
"Sure, I'd like to see the daddies again soon." She kissed her friend's cheek. "I'm not ready to go home yet though," she said to ease the growing pout "Maybe you could come home with me for a little while."
"What are you doing?" Hera asked as she appeared near them. "Who allowed you in here?"
"I did," Maribelle said, stomping her little foot. "I am allowed to watch, same as the other Gods are."
Hera glared down at the little girl. "You are in so much trouble, I wouldn't make demands, young lady," she warned.
Maribelle turned around and dragged her friend with her. "We will do what we need to," she told Miri. "I will make sure I can visit you at home." She went and found her twin brother and his girlfriend, Precious. "Your Daddies are casting spells," she told Precious.
"My Daddy?" Precious asked.
"A Giles in your house," Miri told her. "There's another Xander, the dark, mean one, that's casting one too."
"So we will help," Maribelle pronounced.
Precious nodded. "Of course. I miss my parents, but I'm not ready to go home yet," she told Melvin, who was starting to pout. She waved a hand. "Draw a circle, that's how Mommy told me to start."
Maribelle nodded and manifested a piece of chalk. "A regular circle or one with squiggles and stuff?"
"We need a book," Miri decided. "Can you bring one with the spell they used to send me home?"
Melvin nodded and held out a hand, and the book appeared in it. "Here you go. It's on page eighty-one."
Precious took it and flipped to the right page.
Inside the temple, Godly Giles looked at his bookshelf as he felt power touch it. He got up and walked over to the new bare spot, trying to figure out which book it was. He had just realized it when he felt the children, and a few other powers, cast the same spell at the same time. "Oh, hell!" he swore loudly, going to find the children before the portals became permanent. "Xander! Ares!" he yelled as he ran, not even thinking of teleporting up to where they were. Sometimes it was inconvenient to have started life as a mortal.
Dancing Xander looked up as he felt the magic wash across the house. "Maybe everyone's home," he noted as he got up, going to find his Oz. He had sent Oz out to check on the trio to figure out who was working the magic. He found them all standing in the front yard, looking at a big, shiny mirror. "What's going on?"
"Portal spell," Dancing Oz said, wrapping his arm around his Xander's waist. "They tried to stop it but it was too strong."
"It happens." He looked over as Family Xander hobbled out. "Hey, we got a portal."
"I can see that." He walked up to it and touched it, thinking about his house. Instantly, the portal split into different views. "Look, my house," he said happily. He touched the skin of the portal and watched it ripple around his hand. "It's not fully up yet," he called, and then he fell through.
"Oops," Nick said, then shrugged when everyone glared at him. "Wasn't me."
Dancing Xander and Oz stepped forward, but Family Xander reappeared before they could get to the portal. "Whoo," Family Xander called, then ran his fingers through his hair. "That's a rush." He turned to look at the portal, waving a hand at it. "It's going to go to all the homes, but you've got to think about which one you want to hit. Oh, and it won't really be up for a few more minutes." He grinned at the Oz who wrapped his arm around his waist. "I can go see my Oz in a while."
"Good. Why don't you and my Xander plan a suitable homecoming?" He handed the young man off to his Xander and stepped up to the portal, touching it. He got a mental message and flinched, backing away. "Won't be ready until tonight," he announced, heading back to the house. They were going to need some supplies.
Family Oz's 'huh' brought Guide Oz and Sentinel Xander out of the barn to watch the portal form with him. "I guess we're working on getting everyone home at last." He checked his watch. "I should probably go grocery shopping. You guys be okay?"
Family Oz walked up to the house and tapped his therapist on the shoulder. "A minute?" he asked quietly. Blair followed him into the hall. "Xander's got the only checkbook in the house," he explained.
"Ah. You need to go do the grocery thing?"
"Yeah, we just got a portal in the yard," Oz said, pointing. "I'd like to go get a lot of groceries so we don't have to leave the house for a few days."
"Good deal," Blair said, reaching for his wallet. He frowned at the inside of it. "Well, how about I come with you? All I've got is my Master Card." Oz shrugged so they walked out together, stopping so Blair could look at the portal. "How soon before they can come through?"
"Not a clue," Oz sighed. "Soon probably." He got into the car then patted down his pockets. "Shoot."
"My car," Blair said kindly, getting out to drive his own car . They pulled away from the house, both Jim's standing on the porch watching them.
"Think we should have told them about the sugar canister?" Family Jim asked.
"Nah. I'm sure his Xander was probably hiding it for some reason," Sentinel Jim said, going back into the house. If Oz didn't know about the five thousand dollars in the extra sugar canister, then they wouldn't tell him. His Xander was probably saving it for something special.
Oz walked into his bedroom and stopped when he caught sight of his bed. And the Xander strapped down to it. He licked his lips as he closed the door and locked it, walking over to look down at the apparently sleeping younger man. He checked over each of the bindings, noticing the one for his injured leg was looser and it had more room for him to shift. The one on his left wrist had a mouth-sized wet spot. He grinned. His Xander was so good to him. He sat on the side of the bed and ran his hand over the side of his lover's cheek. "Hey, it's not safe to be tied to the bed and sleep," he whispered as his lover woke up.
"I knew you'd come for me," Xander said, giving him a sleepy grin. "You wouldn't believe how mean Dancing Xander can be. He tied me down and told me to wait on you."
"Hmm," Oz said, not commenting on the story. He looked over the spread out body. "I'm going to have to cut your clothes off you know."
Xander swallowed. "Not the jeans, Oz, please. They're the only pair that fits right."
"I guess I could unchain one ankle at a time," Oz agreed, willing to play along. Actually, playing like this could be very fun and help their relationship. Just like Godly Xander had told him to. He undid the button on his lover's jeans then reached down to release one ankle. He slowly pulled the jeans down until he could release the one leg, then reattached the ankle cuff and worked on the second side. He threw the jeans onto the floor, not caring where they landed. He looked at the shirt Xander was wearing. "Didn't I buy you that one?"
"Yup," Xander said, grinning at him. "The first piece of clothing you bought for me."
"Hmm. Doesn't seem right that I should cut it off you then." He shrugged and pulled out his pocket knife, leaning up to slit up the underarm sleeve. "I'll buy you a new one."
"Oh, I can fix that if we have time," Dancing Xander said from the doorway, putting down the big box, and the padded snail-looking thing on top of it, next to the bed. "Here, some of the extra stuff we had just lying around the house," he told his counterpart with a grin. "Enjoy." He snapped his fingers. "Oz made a copy of all my dance tapes, he thought that it might be good exercise for you, and we included some clothes for you to work out in, mostly because I'm getting ready to make myself a whole new wardrobe."
"You sew?" Oz asked, looking a little confused. His Xander never did anything that domestic, or femme.
"Yup. And I do it *very* well. I make almost all of our clothes. I don't really work with leather though," he said with a shrug. He pointed at the box. "That's got some of the toys we never use, they're all very clean though." He winked at the Xander on the bed. "I overspent the last time I went shopping and my Oz told me I had to get rid of all the dicks I had bought because they wouldn't fit in the chest beside the bed." He grinned at the Oz. "That big pad is something that I thought might help. It'll support your Xander so he won't have to support both of your weights on his bad knee." He looked pleased with himself. "And it's got a removable cover so it can be washed."
"Cool," Oz said, nodding. "Anything else coming our way, like the kids?"
"No, but we do seem to have one of your animals. We'll send her back as soon as you get the kids." He leaned down and kissed his counterpart on the mouth, savoring the unique taste. "I've been wanting to do that," he sighed, then he left the room, closing the door behind him.
"He jimmied the lock," Xander said in awe. "I need to learn how to do that."
"I'll show you later," Oz sighed, leaning down to take his own kiss, erasing the too talented lips from his lover's memory. "Want to try that pad thing?" he whispered wickedly against Xander's lips.
"I'm up for it," Xander punned.
"Good," Oz purred, grabbing the padded round and putting it beside them. "Let's get you unhitched and then retied," he said with a naughty grin.
"Oh, can we watch one of the tapes? I caught Dancing Xander working out and it was so *hot*," he said, then he gulped.
"Sure. We've got the tv/vcr thing that we never use. We can start one while I work on getting you comfy." He looked through the box, stopping when he saw the variety of prosthetics that lined the bottom. "Huh, very many dildos," he noted, grabbing the tape that said '1-1' and getting up to put it into the machine. He flipped on the tv part and stepped back, tipping his head as the picture came up sideways. Then it straightened up, so did his head. He blindly stepped back as he watched the Xander on the tape bend backwards, hearing his own voice talking to the man on the tape.
"You gonna show me this?" the Oz on the tape goaded the Xander.
"Yup, I'm stretching. Give me a sec." The Xander on the tape popped up and looked out the window. "Wow, London's framed *really* nicely through the window, huh."
"Coming," he said, shooting the Oz behind the camera, and the people watching, a grin. "Ready?"
"More than. Let's do this thing so I can jump you."
The Xander on the tape started to sway, then his arms got into it.
Family Oz swallowed hard as he sat down on the bed, moving automatically when Xander kicked him for sitting on his bad leg. "Um, they want you to do *that*?" he asked, his voice breaking on the last word.
"Maybe," Family Xander said, watching the tape. "Um, Oz, hands?" he asked, trying to reach the strap to release himself. He almost chuckled as his Oz reached back and started to stroke his cock. "Not really what I meant," he noted, but he was enjoying it so he didn't want to get insistent about it. It was kinda kinky but good feeling to let his Oz take care of him this way.
Oz tore himself away from watching the tape, looking at his husband. "Okay. Let's get you on your stomach. I'm *really* looking forward to this." He quickly got Xander transferred over to his stomach on top of the pad. He admired the simple design that allowed his Xander to rest his injured knee comfortably, and the way the rounded part held up his lover's weight easily. As soon as Xander was retied, Oz was reaching down into the box for the bottle of lube that had so thoughtfully been brought over. He immediately stuck his fingers into his lover's hole, working on getting it open. "This is okay, right?" he asked his lover, who hadn't wanted anyone to touch him this way recently.
"Yeah. That was all about Giles," Xander whispered. "I wasn't comfy with him touching me there." He turned his head to look at his Oz. "You, I'm very comfy with being back there. Have fun. I miss this part." He went back to watching the tape and gasped, trying to point.
Oz's fingers stilled as he watched the Xander on the tape's sensuous movements. He started to drool and absently wiped off his mouth with the hand that had been in his lover. He grimaced and wiped his face off with the sheet. He went back to stretching his lover as fast as he could. "Babe, want me or a toy?" he panted, his eyes glued to the tv.
"Both?" Xander asked. "At the same time? If I remember right that might be pretty cool."
Oz nodded and grabbed a toy, quickly dropping it when he saw how large it was. "Not human," he noted, picking up a more normal sized one. "How do I do it at the same time?"
"Belt thingy? Dancing Xander told me he had a few of them."
Oz looked through the box and came up with a strap that the cock attached to. He looked at it, considering how to do this right. He shrugged and arranged it so that the prosthetic went into his husband's vaginal hole and he went into his rectum, then started to move them both. He gave up after a few seconds and reconsidered this particular situation. He shrugged and slid on the belt, using the thigh straps to position it in the right spot. He slid back in and his lover moaned, pushing back against him. "Tell me if you get uncomfy," Oz warned as he pulled back to thrust in hard. They both needed this.
Xander smiled, pulling a pillow over to rest on top of the built-in pillow, getting comfortable for a long, hard ride.
Oz rolled over and sighed, pulling the pillow out from under Xander's head to cover his face. "Those tapes should be in my store," he murmured through the down.
Xander chuckled. "Truly. Um, before you sleep, untie me?" he asked quickly, noticing Oz's position. He didn't want to be stuck like this, not for the hours that Oz usually slept after sex.
Oz reached up and unhitched one wrist strap blindly, then grunted and cuddled up next to his lover.
Xander undid the other wrist strap and then worked on his ankle straps, eventually getting free and rolling onto his side, letting Oz curl up against his back. The tape had long ago ended, but the static on the tv was good for now, comforting in a way.
Downstairs, everyone was getting straightened up so they could go home. All the people from the Sentinel/Guide world were gathered together, talking quietly as they checked for any last little pieces of clothing or anything else they might have brought with them. Sentinel Xander remembered his sketchbook after a second and went running upstairs for it, coming down with it clutched to his chest. He whispered something in his Guide's ear, who blushed. He nodded and his Guide shrugged. "Okay. But I think it was kinda neat. I never knew that I could move like that."
Guide Oz patted him on the arm. "When we find someone to put between us, you can try it out." They followed their Blair and Jim out to the portal, touching the silver skin of the portal and concentrating on their loft. As soon as the picture stabilized, they walked through and were home.
The Methos' watched it from the porch and then went back to their discussion. They had time to go home, they had it on good authority that the portal was going to be up for a *very* long time.
Brandon's Xander and Oz squealed as they saw their fathers walk through the portal, running over to grab a hug. Nick valiantly tried to save Derek from being pounced on but he got pushed aside by his brother. Philip helped him up with a smile and gave each of the young men a hug. "We're home," Nick announced.
"We noticed," Oz said, pulling Xander off Derek. "Tyler *really* wants to talk to you."
"Yes, we've heard," Derek sighed, walking up to the house with his arm around his son's shoulders. "So, tell me about this case, son," he ordered gently.
"We've done the reports," Oz told him.
"Goot. I'll look over those after I hear about it."
"Oh, and you need to call Kyoto. They wanted your final word on how to treat the demon they trapped in a book," Xander told him. "I gave them mine, but since they're a split house, they want both of our opinions on the matter."
"Ah," Nick said, grinning at Oz. "Missed us?"
"Yup, we really needed you guys to go rushing in to deal with the spirit stealing souls."
Philip hung his head. "Is it done?"
"The Ray shot him," Xander said happily. "He's in custody, he's stuck on this plane. No more people will die. We promised you would come down and bind him to this plane or whatever."
"Thanks," Philip said dryly. "I'm gonna teach ya that spell."
"Okay," Xander said, grinning at him. "My daddy's home. I get to go snuggle tonight."
Oz looked at the portal. "Where's Buffy?"
"I think that Dancing Xander's going to take her shopping," Philip noted. "He was loading up on stuff to take over to the Family guys."
"He made this really nice padded thing so Family Xander could be taken," Nick told them as they walked into the house. He blushed when the butler glared at him. "What? It was a very nice padded thing to rest his bad leg and his weight on."
"If you say so," the butler said, handing Derek the phone. "It's Tyler, sir. He's been calling every hour on the hour."
Derek checked his watch. "It's quarter after, Arnold."
"Yes, sir, and he's getting quite impatient."
Derek groaned and took the phone, heading for his office. "Tyler, wait," he ordered when the other man started to complain. "I'll be in my office in a few seconds. I'll call you then." He hung up and handed his son the phone. "The reports are where?" he asked tiredly.
"In your office, already filed, and Tyler's being cranky and will want to pick on you," Oz told him. "He started in on Xander, who threatened to quit if he kept it up."
"Ah," Derek sighed, going into his office, Nick and Philip right behind him. He came out a few minutes later and hugged his sons, then went back to his office.
"Tyler went off," Xander sighed. "I knew I shouldn't have been so insecure."
"Xander, looking at that case, I wouldn't have wanted it with the *full* house here." Oz wrapped an arm around his mate's waist, giving him a squeeze. "Don't stress over this one. It was a hellish case and you were stuck here without us." He kissed Xander's cheek. "Come on, let's let Dad deal with the asshole in London." He got a head shake. "No?"
"No, I don't want to move for a little while," Xander said, looking up. "Can we just sit here near Dad?"
"Sure. Always happy to sit up here and not cook. Especially since the kids aren't here." He kissed Xander again, this time on the forehead. "Want to go hide in the office on the couch?"
"Sure." Xander heaved himself up and snuck into the office with Oz, laying with his head in his husband's lap while they listened to Derek bitch at Tyler for not coming to help, silently giving his family his support.
Family Xander walked down the stairs and into a hug, smiling at their therapist and Jim. "Hey, I'm home," he said happily.
"And you look like you got quite a homecoming," Blair said, leading him over to the couch. "So?"
"So, what?" Xander asked innocently.
"So, what was all that stuff that got drug over," Jim said, looking curious as he sat near them.
"Well, the big padded thing was something so I can be on my stomach," Xander said with a faint blush. "It works really well too."
"And some of it was the excess toys that Dancing Xander was being forced to get rid of," Oz said as he walked down the stairs. He stopped to give his lover a kiss. "You okay?"
"Fine," Xander said happily. "My knee doesn't ache and my back feels great too." He looked at Blair. "It's an ingenious design, it cradles me just right and everything's very soft and padded. It's even got a pillow."
"Cool," Blair said, smiling back. "What about the other stuff?"
"We got some tapes that the Xander over there made," Oz told them. "Very good quality."
"And it's all dance. Nothing at all like I used to do when I stripped but much more arousing."
Jim 'humph'ed and Blair started to look even more interested. "Really. Think I can watch one?"
"We might let you watch one," Xander told him, squeezing his hand, "but Dancing Xander didn't say we could make copies."
"Again, cool. I just wanted an idea. It sounds fascinating."
"Oh, it was," Oz agreed, earning a smile from Xander.
Xander's blush got a little brighter. "It was definitely attention keeping."
Blair blushed. "Really?" he asked. Both younger men nodded. "Then I would love a peek."
"It's upstairs in our tv/vcr combo," Oz said, pointing. He smirked as Blair walked up the stairs, then looked at Jim. "How was your day?"
"Fine. Blair got a quick lesson in cleaning out the barn." He pointed at the portal. "How long will it be up?"
"At least another two days," Xander said, then he shrugged when Oz looked at him. "It had an automatic message saying it was going to be a long time."
"Okay," Oz agreed. "We got groceries, hungry?"
"Yeah, I am," Jim said, getting up and starting to help Xander up but Oz got there first. So he followed them into the kitchen and helped Oz prepare a meal for them all.
Upstairs, Blair was wiping more drool off and mentally figuring out how to get a copy of this tape. Even if it did have Xander in it.
Dancing Xander looked at his mates, smiling at Oz.
"No," Oz said.
"Because it wouldn't be right to take everyone shopping," Giles pointed out, going back to his reading. "So much material from one realm could unbalance the others."
"There's already an instability," Xander pointed out.
"Which is not something we should be taking advantage of," Giles pointed out.
"But I was going to be good and just take them clothes shopping," Xander said, starting to pout. "I think that Family Xander could really use it."
"Maybe," Oz agreed, "but would he accept it? He does have some money of his own."
"I'll change it into ours and take him with his own then," Xander explained. "Just the three? Family, Sentinel, and Sorcerer? I mean really, Sorcerer Xander is all but a vamp in some ways."
"Actually, he's partially turned," Giles said, turning pages on his book. "I would like a chance to go through Brandon's family's library though. There were a few books in there that I'd like to get the titles of so I can add them to our library."
"Only if you're building another room," Oz said dryly.
"Oh, hey, Xander did promise to build stuff for the kids. We could talk him into building us some new bookcases and stuff and pay him back with shopping."
"No, it will still violate the 'no contamination across the boundary' rule," Giles sighed, turning another page. He looked up, seeing the determination. "You really feel that you should be doing this, don't you?"
"Yup, I want to help them. All three of those Xanders need a little attention to bloom." Oz looked at him over the top of his book. "Okay, and Sorcerer Xander needs to be taught better, but still. I'm sure they would think it was okay if I could figure out a way to make sure it didn't sound like charity."
"*You* may go shopping," Oz said, pulling out his wallet and tossing it over. "You may even take them if you want. You may not violate the barrier with a ton of clothes for them."
"Yes, sir," Xander said, a devilish twinkle in his eyes. "Thank you, Oz," he said, getting up to kiss him hard enough to make both their eyes cross. He jogged out of the house, heading for the portals. He stopped in to check on Sorcerer Xander first, winking at the Oz sitting there with him. "I need help going shopping and I wanted to borrow your Xander," he asked politely.
"He's grounded," Spike called from the kitchen area. "His spell started all that big, sucking portal off."
"Then he can come and study under my Giles for a bit," Xander said reasonably. Oz and Spike looked at each other then Spike nodded. "Thank you. I promise, I'm going to make him suffer through being dragged with me while I go shopping too. Oz says it's a horrible punishment." He grabbed Sorcerer Xander before anyone could object and dragged him through the portal and into Sentinel Xander's loft. "Hi," he called, bringing Sentinel Xander. "I have to go shopping and I wanted to drag you with me for companionship." He nodded at Sorcerer Xander. "He's coming in punishment. Want to come?"
"No thanks," Sentinel Xander sighed, sitting down in front of his canvas. "I need to take my drawings and turn them into paintings for my art classes."
"I could swing by the big, *huge* art supply place I know of," Dancing Xander offered. He saw the hesitation and sweetened the deal. "I'll even buy, my Oz made the mistake of giving me my credit cards back." He checked the wallet and smirked. "Actually, he gave me my ATM card for the demon bank we go to." He shrugged and tucked it into his pocket, putting the wallet somewhere else. "Ready?"
"Sure. Do you know a good brand of cat food? My two are picky."
"Sure. We go to this pet warehouse and their generic brand is really good. All our animals like it."
"Is it available here?" Guide Oz asked from the couch.
"It should be. That pet warehouse place is online, it should have somewhere near here. It's a west coast chain."
"Get some and we'll search," Guide Oz said, lowering his head back down.
Sentinel Xander shrugged and got up, following the other two back through the gateway. "Are we going for Family Xander? He looked like he needed a hobby."
"He has horses," Sorcerer Xander noted. "Big responsibility."
"And children," Dancing Xander noted. "Bigger responsibility. Want to pick him up now or later?"
"Let's just make it us for now," Sorcerer Xander suggested as they walked out onto the Dancing house's lawn. He was grabbed as soon as he walked near the house and drug away by the two Giles' who were waiting on him.
"So we'll go without him," Sentinel Xander said with a shrug. "Or we can get Family Xander and be happy together. You can drag him around later," he said, laying a hand on this Xander's arm.
"Okay. Want to go grab him?"
"Sure." Sentinel Xander ran back through the portal, coming back in a few minutes with Family Xander. "Okay, we're good to go," he said, heading for the car he could see had been brought around.
"This really isn't necessary," Family Xander said quietly, stopping Dancing Xander from going any farther.
"Hey, we're buddies," Xander said, giving him a hug. "Besides, I want to shop and I want to help you shop for something cute for your lover." He grinned as he pulled away, dragging his new found friend with him to the car.
Sorcerer Xander walked back into his house the next night, his new leather trench coat swinging around his calves, his leather pants and silk shirt making him look very uncomfortable. "He thought I was Angelus," he called, bringing his Oz and Spike.
Spike nodded. "Good look on you, whelp. Heavy silk or not?"
"Not. Easily torn in a fight. But he fixed that too," Xander said, pointing at the bags he had dropped beside the portal. "He decided I needed clothes after learning that the house had burned down with everything in it," he told Oz wryly. "Including his old Discman."
"That's pretty cool," Oz said, dragging the appearing bags over to the couch so he could look through them; Giles had entrusted him with watching over Xander's wardrobe so no more big, bright prints appeared. He stopped at the fuchsia shirt, looking up at his lover.
"Then who's is that?" Spike asked, wrinkling his nose.
"Not real sure. It seemed to follow us around yesterday."
"Then it'll be a punishment for when you screw up," Oz decided, putting it aside. He looked at the other items, finally pulling out the other pair of leather pants. "And these are?"
"The twin to these," Xander said, waving a hand at his outfit.
Spike walked over and looked at the clothes, feeling a few of the shirts. "He's got good fashion sense for fightin'," he proclaimed. "We can build on this." He looked at the leather pants, then at Xander. "Only wear them when you're gonna be fightin' or you're feelin' scary, mate. Trust me here, you don't look like a pouf in them."
"Which is nice, I guess," Xander sighed, sitting down. "Oh, and did you know that things like silk can be made into *underwear*?"
"Why wear underwear?" Spike asked, going back to warming up his blood. "Got a call from our Buffy and Willow. They'll be over tonight."
"I'd change," Oz told him.
Xander took his new clothes and headed up the stairs to change before his friends could get the wrong idea.
Family Xander peeked into the house, grinning when he saw Blair sleeping on the couch. He walked in and hurried up the stairs to hide the shopping bags.
"Freeze," Oz called, coming out to meet him. He took in the new outfit, nodding. "Very cool look for you. You look tasty." He took the bags, helping his lover up to their room so he could help him put them up. As they were going through the bags, a few little strings and cloth pieces caught his attention. "What are these?" he asked, holding one up by dangling it on his finger.
"Dancing Xander swears by them," Xander explained quickly. "He made me three of them while I was sitting there waiting on him." He groaned as someone knocked on the door. "Yeah?"
Dancing Giles walked in, smiling at them. "My Xander said you forgot these, and that I was supposed to give you this," he said, handing Oz a large, fat manila envelope. "Oh, he said that your new jacket was buried under the rest of the trunk and that we'll bring it over to you once we find it." He patted Oz on the head. "Have you told him yet of what his Spike talked us into?"
"Not yet," Oz said dryly, watching as he left. He looked at his lover. "Our Spike talked them into beating our Giles."
Xander shrugged. "No more than I expected of him. How long did it take them to hunt him down?"
"He came here, Xan," Oz said quietly.
"Then he really did deserve it. He knew better," Xander said with a shrug.
Oz looked at him. "You're *my* Xander, right?"
Xander grinned. "Yup, I'm yours, I'm just tired of dealing with Giles. He knew he shouldn't have come here, especially with what he tried to pull in court. I have no sympathy if he came here and got caught snooping."
"Okay," Oz said, letting the subject drop. "What about the kids? Heard anything about them coming back yet?"
"Not for at least two days," Xander sighed, leaning back on the bed. "That was the second message that I got when I went back." He sat up suddenly. "I left something else over there. My brace."
"I'll go get it in a few," Oz soothed, dropping the remaining clothes and coming over to comfort his lover. "Okay?"
"Sure." Xander kissed him, humming in appreciation when it was deepened. "Again?"
"Definitely again," Oz agreed, climbing up on his mate to taste him deeper.
Family Oz ran into Dancing Xander and gave him a hug, pulling him into the nearest room, which must have been his with all the soft fabrics and pornographic woven hangings. "Xander said he left his brace," he said quietly.
"Yup. It's drying. He bled a little on it so we cleaned it for him." Dancing Xander pulled him down onto the sinfully soft and enveloping couch. "So, did you read it yet?"
"Just the first chapter," Oz said, swallowing. "Mine just wrote porn."
"Yeah, I'm pretty good at that stuff." He grinned and grabbed a bag from near his writing chair. "This is your Xander's too. We found a better brace for his knee."
Family Oz looked down at the brace, nodding. "Thanks. You're sure this is okay?"
"I asked the guy that I go to when I need medical supplies and he said he wore this one while he was healing from his own knee replacement. Much better support, but it lets the knee be free to move." He held up a finger and jumped up, running out of the room and coming back with a long box and three bags. "These are his too."
"This wasn't necessary," Oz sighed, looking at the clothes in the one bag. He looked up and saw the hurt look. "I'm sorry," he apologized, pulling Xander down to give him a hug. "It's really nice, but I enjoy taking my Xander shopping. He never wants to go though."
"I noticed," Xander said, rolling his eyes. "But we found him more jeans that fit well and hid the brace." He laid a hand on Oz's thigh. "Listen, I know him. He likes doing the mushy stuff, but he's still worried about what people might do. He said he's been getting a lot of pressure from one of the local anti-gay groups recently. Not to mention having trouble finding a job."
"I hadn't heard of that yet," Oz said, staring at the brace. "Thanks." He stood up, gathering up all the bags and the box. "Is this the jacket your Giles told me about?"
"Yup. We took Sorcerer Xander vamp shopping and your Xander found a jacket he loved. The whole 'hugging it to his chest' tipped me off," he said with a grin.
"Cool. Come over for dinner?"
"Or you could come here. I'm not sure what Henrietta's doing for us tonight." He stood up and gave Oz another hug. "Don't worry, we'll be over sometime in the next few days. I want to go riding again."
"Cool. We can teach you to muck out the stables too," Oz said in good humor before leaving the house. He crossed the portal and walked up to his house, running into Derek's back. "'Scuse me. The Xanders went shopping."
"Oh, my jacket," Family Xander cried, grabbing the box. "Thank you, Oz," he said, blowing a kiss. He opened the box and pulled out the soft, supple leather coat and put it on, hugging it around himself.
Oz looked over the swingy, mid-thigh length jacket and nodded his approval. "I like. And the midnight blue looks good on you."
"Yes, it does," Derek said, admiring the coat. "I came over to compare book titles," he told Oz. "I know of one that might help you a bit in training Sileya."
"Hey, cool by me," Oz said with a shrug, putting the bags onto one of the couches. "He sent these over too." His Xander blushed. "Hey, you needed new clothes, it's all good with me," he reminded his lover. "Maybe we'll be able to go shopping again soon."
Xander nodded, seeing the hard look his lover was giving him and knowing the reason. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you, Oz," he said quietly.
"Just point them out to me next time we're out," Oz said calmly, sitting down beside the bags and pulling his Xander down to sit on his lap. He gave him a light kiss. "Remember, I want to hear about these things, Xan. No matter what."
"Yes, Oz," Xander said, sounding just a little happier. He looked at the bags. "Is my new brace in there?"
"Yup, in the pink bag." He grabbed it and handed it over, watching as Xander put it on under his jeans. "Better?"
"Much." Xander looked up at Derek. "Come on, we'll go look for that book in my stacks." He gave his Oz one last kiss then stood up and stumbled toward the library, Derek following him.
Dancing Xander snuck across the portal and headed for Brandon's Xander, running into his Oz in the garden first. "Hi, I wanted to steal your Xander for a few hours and go shopping," he begged.
"He wanted to do the same thing. He's in the big house, in the library," Oz said, pointing. He got an energetic hug and had to watch as this Xander, who had way too much energy, ran off to go kidnap his mate.
Brandon's Xander jumped as Dancing Xander ran in, looking behind him. "Not something scary?"
"Only if you consider being out of skin conditioner scary," Dancing Xander said with a naughty grin. "I want to take you shopping."
"Yeah, me too," Brandon's Xander said, looking over the flimsy clothes. "Go get changed and we'll meet out by the garage in an hour?"
"Sure," Dancing Xander said happily, then ran back out.
Nick looked down from the second floor, shaking his head. "He has too much energy for just *one* person."
"I remember being that way," Xander said, grinning up at him. "Got to go get changed. Later." He walked out, heading for his house so he could go shopping with his new friend.
Up on Olympus, Strife and Godly Xander were looking down at the meetings that were going on, smirking at the expedient of getting everyone connected lightly. They both jumped as Ares growled behind them. "Hi," Strife said, moving over so he could see too. "They're making friends, which means that they'll all know what the best things about each of them is."
"Which means that they'll be able to identify those traits in themselves," Xander put in.
Ares shook his head. "You're going to have to close the portal sometime," he noted.
"Actually, not really," Xander said, waving a hand so they could see the structure of the portal. "Our twins helped create it. It's too stable to collapse totally."
"We can turn it into a mailbox and shrink it," Strife suggested. "Simple wooden box?"
"Have Family Xander build them?" Godly Xander suggested.
"No time for that," Ares sighed. "Hera's getting impatient to get the kids off the Mount. As in soon?" he said when all he got were blank looks.
"We can do that, but it's still going to take about a week to shrink that sucker," Xander told him. "We can send the kids home tonight, but the portal still won't disappear that fast."
"Then let's do that, before that one girl, Precious, snipes at her again." Ares pounded both of them on the back and walked away.
"Okay, kids coming home tonight," Xander said, weaving the message into the portal so anyone walking through it would hear it.
"Good job," Strife groaned, straightening up. "Let's go round up the kids. Its' gonna take forever to peel Melvin off Precious. She's declared him 'unicky' now."
Xander snorted. "Well, we knew he was going to have to get a girlfriend some time," he said dryly, but he smiled. They walked off to gather the kids.
Brandon's Oz squeaked as his kitchen filled with ten little people. "Huh," he said finally, counting his own kids. "Hi."
"Hi," all of them said, then they started to pout at him, in unison.
"None of that," Oz warned. "We made Jell-O."
"I want my Melvin," Precious said, stomping her little foot. "He's not icky and he's mine!"
"Oh, dear," Derek said as he walked in off the porch, they were barbequing tonight to celebrate being home. "Hello, Miriam."
"Hi, Unclie Derek. Did you know what I learned?" He shook his head and looked interested. "I learned that...." She trailed off and got a blank look, but Serena nudged her. "What was I going to say?"
"That you heard that all the Daddy Xander's had the same parents," Precious said helpfully. "And that the Strifey was like an Unclie to us all."
"Oh, dear," Derek said again, his eyes getting wider. He looked up as he heard a swear, trying to find the source, but no one appeared. "Um, children, why don't you bring Miriam and her sisters..." He checked around. "Where's Junior and William?"
"Hiding," Serena said, pointing at where the two little boys were hiding behind Oz.
"Oh, thank you, dear. Please take Miriam, her sisters, and her brother to the portal so her fathers can hug her?"
"Sure," Serena said, shrugging when she looked at Xandra, who was pouting. "Why not?"
"We want to play with them," Xandra said self-importantly. "They can't leave yet."
"You can go play with them tomorrow," Nick reminded them. He got a cheer and the kids helped in getting the younger ones out to the portal and across.
Family Oz stood up as he smelled children, running out to meet them all. He gave them all hugs, picking up Blair to give her a big one as he carried her up to the house. "Kids are home!" he yelled, bringing Xander from the barn.
Precious sniffed and stepped away from him. "Eww. Nasty."
Xandra smacked her across the back of the head. "It's like cleaning a big litter box, only for horses. You have to do that too."
"Daddy?" Miri asked, grinning shyly up at him. He picked her up and hugged her as tightly as he could, earing baby squeaks of protest.
"Oh, you're home," Xander whispered, switching children with Oz so he could have Blair, and then getting William and Tigger at once when he sat down. He hugged the other kids too, smiling at Precious' uneasiness. "Don't worry. Your sister was right, it's like cleaning a big litter box."
"With hay," Miri said helpfully.
Precious shook her head and walked off. "We come play tomorrow, our daddies say so." She looked around. "No playground yet?" She gave Xander a hurt look. "But you promised," she sniffled.
"He just got home yesterday," Oz told her, walking over to pat her on the head. "He'll start building one tomorrow while you guys play in the woods with Kaiya." Precious seemed to be mollified by that and she whistled, bringing Xandra, who called the other kids so they could go home.
"I think I need to go to the lumber place," Xander said dryly, giving Tigger an extra squeeze.
"Go ahead. We'll be here getting baths and feeding them."
"Bring us home chicken?" Miri asked happily. "No cooks tonight so we can cuddle and watch tv?"
"Sure, I'll bring home chicken," Xander agreed, happy enough to give in to child demands for right now. He handed off the children and stood up, heading up to go get clean so he could go to the lumber store out near the mall.
Within two weeks, everyone that needed one had a new playground system, and all the children were happy. The animals had all been sorted out, Arwynn happy to come home until she had caught sight of Kaiya, but she would learn to live with the bigger cat sometime. Derek had managed to call a meeting of all the Xanders and learn about Family Xander's real parentage, which both surprised and repulsed him. Jane, in the Boston House, was most pleased to learn that Xander was really her nephew and that Ethan had kept far, far away from him in this realm. The other Xanders took it in stride and left to do their own things again.
On the day the portal started to shrink, there were a few mishaps. One of Dancing Xander's puppies jumped through to come play with William. He was handed back but he managed to come back through. Dancing Xander shrugged and said that he couldn't imagine a better family for her.
The cat George, who had never reappeared, was found up on Olympus, but Giles was attacked by Fluffy, their temple cat, when he tried to send George back. So he got to stay where he was.
There was a last round of kid hugs and promises of writing and pictures.
Melvin and Maribelle promised to figure out how to come visit once they were ungrounded, and Melvin gave Precious her first kiss, making her look sickened and wipe her mouth. She kissed him right before he left though, stunning him. His fathers wondered why he was so docile for the next few days, but Strife told them about the kiss, and they understood.
Finally the portals shrunk down to the size of a letter slot and were put into wooden boxes, mostly so the kids could talk. Over the next few months, everything got back to normal and a mailing list was started between the Oz's and the Xander's, each side talking about their mates and the problems they were having.
It was nice to have the support of someone who understood you totally.