Thanks to a Loyal Fan, Bigbucks, who gave me some great suggestions and who was very instrumental to the way this turned out. (starts next morning after last part)

New Beginnings, A Starting Point

Xander woke up, yawning into the warm denim he had been laying on. "Morning," he whispered, scratching his bristly cheek on the soft material. He shifted so he was looking up, giving Giles an answering smile. "What're you doing?"

Giles put the paperwork down on the nightstand. "Just looking over a few things, thinking about trying for my Ph.D."

"If I say I'm impressed, would you not beat me with a pillow?" Giles nodded, still smiling. "Then, wow, I'm impressed." He blinked as the pillow hit his head. "Hey, you promised," he complained weakly.

"Verbal agreements don't usually hold up in a court of law," Giles told him, "and nods even less so."

"I should torment you by going back to sleep on you for a few more hours."

"If you need it, please do so."

"Nah, I'm good." Xander sat up, looking at the clock. "That looks suspiciously like it says eleven a.m."

"Almost," Giles agreed. "It's set a little fast so I get up on time." He patted the now tense back. "It's Sunday, you've slept about fourteen hours, and you have until tomorrow afternoon to rest and recuperate from your meditation." The younger man nodded. "Xander?" he asked softly.

"Hmm? Oh, just thinking." He turned to face his host again. "Sorry if I was pushy or clingy."

"Well, you did have a few moments of both, but you generally just laid there and snored." He patted the prickly cheek. "Now I believe you should be ravenous so I'll go fix you a decent meal while you bathe." He slid out of the bed, heading downstairs. "And do shave please," he called over his shoulder. "You look most unlike yourself."

Xander shook his head, sliding off the bed to stand on wobbly legs and make his way downstairs. "I hear and obey," he said as he walked past Giles on his way to the bathroom, making him laugh. He closed the door softly behind him, looking around the familiar room before letting his body dictate his morning routine. After he was done relieving himself, he turned on the shower and stripped, looking at himself in the mirror as he waited for it to become hot. When the mirror was fogged over, he climbed in, adjusting the spray so it hit all the sweet spots as he turned, and picked up the bottle of soap, smelling it and frowned. "Where's mine," he muttered, looking around at all the little nooks and crannies that it could be hiding in. He finally spotted it, empty in the trashcan, so he shrugged and used his teacher's. He poured some on a small sponge, working on his chest.

Giles opened the bathroom door to check on his student, gasping quietly when he caught sight of the shadow on the shower curtain. Xander was slowly moving to the tune he was humming, some old jazz tune it sounded like, his hips wiggling sensually behind the thin covering. The former Watcher licked his dry lips, watching his student move just for him, sparking many fantasies in just those few seconds. He withdrew, closing the door quietly so Xander would never know he had watched.

Xander looked over his shoulder as he felt the cool breeze stop, then went back to his cleaning with a huge grin.

Xander walked out of the bathroom in the boxers Giles had bought him and a clean t-shirt he had found in the linen closet, looking around when he found himself alone. "Giles?"

"Up here," the older man called from the bedroom. They met on the stairs, Giles carrying an armful of laundry but glancing over the younger man's body. "I had wondered where that went."

"It was in the middle of the towels. Want help?"

"No, this is just the day I do these things." He continued on his mission. "Get dressed."

Xander nodded as he walked into the bedroom, looking around for something of his to put on. He saw his jacket but nothing else so he walked over to the dresser, grabbing a pair of jeans. Working as Giles' houseboy definitely had some knowledge perks at the moment. He slid into the snug material, straightening up to do them up, and grabbed a pair of socks. "Giles, hope you don't mind me mooching clothes," he called as he walked down the stairs. Unfortunately, he found Giles' two-day-early girlfriend in the kitchen and no Giles. "Hey, Olivia." He sat on the couch, mentally cursing himself. "He went to do laundry and this, me, isn't what it looks like." He turned to look at her, seeing the small smile. "We were doing something about my sleep-spell casting and I collapsed. I just didn't have any more clothes." She nodded, still smiling. "So, can I start some breakfast for you?"

"No, thank you," she said, her voice very cultured but heavily accented. "What was he fixing for you?"

"I had to get in touch with my power and control it instead of the other way around," he said, heading into the kitchen. "Took a few days of constant meditation so 'scuse me while I eat the cupboards bare." He smiled as he walked past her, even though he didn't like or trust her. It was always good to be nice to Giles' girlfriend. "This wasn't a planned activity, it was more of an emergency after I set a bed I was napping in on fire." She hissed. "Small one, he caught it." He slid two pieces of bread into the toaster. "The last week was just killer and he's been real protective."

"Ah, Xander," Giles said as he walked back in. "Good. I see you did have clothes."

"Nope, yours," Xander said, taking his toast out to butter. "That pair you swore you were going to get rid of because they shrunk too much." He looked at his teacher. "I'll wash them and bring them back."

"Fine." Giles patted his shoulder as he kissed Olivia's cheek. "Xander's had quite a week so we've been working non-stop," he explained.

"So he said."

"So, we working again today?" Xander asked into the silence that had grown deadly.

"What? No, no, that's all right. You can go home for a bit," Giles told him, not looking at the younger man.

"Okay." Xander walked out of the kitchen, heading for where his shoes were sitting beside the door, slipping into them. "Later." He wasn't sure if either of them heard him or not. He finished his toast as he walked up the stairs, stopping Buffy by grabbing her arm. "Olivia," he warned. He snapped his fingers, patting his pockets down. "Need my keys. Grab them and my jacket please? I'll wait here."

She nodded, heading inside shaking her head as she made it into the apartment. "Think he needs more sleep," she said. Giles frowned up at her from the couch. "Sparring," she reminded him. "But Xan said he forgot his keys too." The older man shook his head, rolling his eyes. "Okay, let me get them for him and I'll go. Call when you're ready to train." She ran up the stairs, the last place she had seen his jacket.

Giles got up, writing out a quick note as he gathered things for Buffy to bring to his student, barely remembering to add his paycheck which was lying on the table. "Here," he said, handing it off. "Tell him I'll pop in tomorrow at his job." His Slayer nodded, wisely just taking it without a word. "Grab the Compendium for him also."

"Gee, extra credit too," she muttered, grabbing the thick book and piling it onto her stack. "Later." She walked out, taking a deep breath as the door was locked behind her. "Xander?" He jogged down the stairs. "Here, note's in there," she said, handing it over. She patted the jacket she had slipped on and took back the Compendium. "I'll walk you home. I could use the exercise since he's not going to be training with me for a while."

Xander looked at the stack. "Guess he'll be busy for a few days." He followed her up the few stairs out of the common area. "Buff, grab the loose stuff before it blows." She grabbed it, stuffing it into one of the notebooks, waving his check a few times. "Thanks."

"No prob." They walked the few blocks in silence, Buffy unlocking the back door when they got to his house. She watched as he dropped the stack of work Giles had gathered, then handed him the check, book, jacket, and keys. "Be good," she said, walking out.

Xander sat down table, flexing his injured shoulder as it started to hurt. "Of course," he muttered, pulling out the note, "what else could I do with this much work?" He winced as his shoulder started to throb, getting up to take some painkillers. He pulled out the t-shirt, looking down at the bandage, not seeing any blood thankfully. "Just have to be more careful," he told himself, heading back to his homework.


Xander looked up at the clock and frowned. "Supper," he said, getting up and heading for the freezer. He frowned at its barren state, but shrugged and headed for the cupboard. "Hmm, canned meat, saltines, and creamed corn." He pulled down the can of meat, checking the expiration date and promptly tossed it in when saw the 1985 stamped on it. He pulled open the other cupboards, then went through his jacket. "Great, twenty-five cents and the store's closed so I can't cash my check." He pulled the last soda from the fridge and sat down again, sipping slowly.

It was a few hours later when his whole arm went numb, all at once. He looked at it in disgust, getting up to head for the bathroom. He pulled off the borrowed t-shirt one handed, and winced as he pulled off the bandage, glaring at the mirror as he saw the large bruise that hadn't been there earlier. "Yup, just what I need," he told his image.

"Yes, isn't it," the mirror said back, making the real Xander jump.

"Nope, not happening," Xander mumbled, checking his forehead, which felt normal. He pulled on his shirt as he headed for the back door, picking up his keys as he walked past the table.

He ignored the bad feeling he had, running out of the house and heading for the hospital.

Oz woke up, panting. He looked around his room then down at Willow, who was sleeping. He lay back down, closing his eyes and using his slightly heightened senses to check his environment. As an afterthought, he checked Xander, whom he couldn't feel. That got him out of bed and dressed faster than he had in his life, sitting in the van before he knew it.

Without knowing why, he headed toward the hospital. And the park that was on the way.

Xander looked away as the doctor stuck the straw-like needle into his wound, flinching as it pierced. He needed help sitting up, the room starting to spin again. Just like it had in the park as he crossed it, right before he had passed out. He watched the accumulated blood flow out, holding the meager contents of his stomach down.

"Definitely infected," the doctor said.

"I've been wiped recently," Xander lied. "I've slept the last five days straight."

"That would explain your bloodwork," he said, sitting down. He looked over the forms in the injured man's folder. "Archery accident?"

"Yes, one of my friends was teaching another one and I got in the way when they missed." Xander shrugged his good shoulder, looking down at his arm. "Stopped," he said.

"Give it a few minutes," the doctor said gently. "When was the last time you ate?"

"Um, noon? Some toast?"

"Before that?"

"Not real sure," he said slowly. "I'm not real clear on those five days."

"I want to admit you."


"You need..."

"No," Xander interrupted, "I need to work tomorrow so I can pay you. I don't want to be admitted. Just give me some antibiotics and I'll go home to my Tylenol."

"I wouldn't recommend..." the doctor started but stopped at the glare. "You're sure?"


"Then we're going to make you eat."

"Whatever," Xander said, lying back down. "Just so long as it's edible looking and identifiable."

Oz paced the waiting room, glaring at Giles when he walked in. "What happened," he growled. He saw the shocked look on the older man's face so turned away from him.

"Down boy," Xander said as he walked out. Oz spun to frown at him then closed his eyes and took a deep breath when he saw the bandage. "You okay?" he asked, opening his eyes to look at his friend, who was nodding. "Ride? Since I brought you in."

"Yup." Xander stopped in front of Giles, who was still staring at the bandage and the little spot of blood that was growing. "I forgot my meds." His teacher nodded, patting his bare arm

Oz and Giles shared a look as they walked out into the night.


Xander settled back into his old bed, staring at the ceiling. When sleep still wouldn't come, he pulled over a notebook, looking at the next symbol he needed to work on. When even that couldn't hold his attention he flipped through the pages idly, stopping at one that caught his attention. He pulled over some blank paper, tracing it first with a pen then his finger.

//Need to sleep instead,// he told himself. He stopped when he felt the power building, tracing it in an opposite direction, the way he had countered the others he had worked on. Between one breath and the next, all the energy in his room, in his house, in his town, and in his body left, heading out to do something he didn't want it to.

"Oops." He dropped the notebook and the symbol onto the floor, scooting down in the bed and pulling the covers over his head before someone, like Giles, came looking for him.


Willow woke up and looked around in confusion. The bird that usually woke her up wasn't singing. She checked Amy's cage but the former witch turned rat was sleeping too. She climbed out of bed, waiting for Oz to wake up as usual, but he didn't. She grabbed the phone, dialing Giles but got his machine. "Giles? Willow. There's something freaky going on. Get up!" She waited a few more seconds then hung up, dressing quickly when she didn't get an answer. "Buffy," she said, walking out the door. "Must be a demon, have to get her up."


Xander woke up in alarm, looking around his old room. No noise. No cars, no kids, not even a dog. He looked at the symbol he had cast last night and blanched, picking it and his notebook up and dressing as fast as he could.

He walked out of the house, looking around for any signs of life. He started to jog for Giles', beating his personal best when he saw a demon out on the ground, grunting and humping an anthill. He used his key, going inside. "Giles? I screwed this badly!" When he didn't get an answer, he ran up the stairs, frowning at the sleeping couple on the bed. He headed back down to the table, picking up his notebook. "Please let this be another hallucination," he prayed quietly. He jumped as the door opened. "Willow! Thank God. I screwed up majorly."

She punched him. "*This* is why you shouldn't play with magic!" She picked up the paper the glyph was on, crumpling it. "That wasn't even close to right. Go home and be a poser there and let the real users do the work."

Xander got up. "No, that's what did it." She snorted. "Truth. Giles is teaching me special glyphs. The first was a major wish one." He snapped his fingers, drawing the wish glyph in the salt he spilled on the table. "Let Giles wake," he wished quietly.

Their teacher snorted. "Dear God!" floated down from the bedroom.

Willow grabbed for Xander's books but he stopped her. "No, you have yours and I have mine. GILES!"

The former Watcher walked down the stairs. "Tell me one of you didn't do this." Xander hesitantly held up his hand then dived for the original symbol, neither of them noticing Willow grabbing for his notebook and putting it into her backpack. "This one. I was following your note when I couldn't sleep." He smoothed it out, getting out of Giles' way. "I tried to counter it like the others but it took the wish one to wake you."

"Where's your book?" Xander looked around then shrugged, brow wrinkling in confusion. "Doesn't matter. What were you thinking when you were working on it?"

"That I needed to be asleep. I felt the power building so I tried to trace it backwards like the others but I guess that's when it went off."

Giles nodded. "Willow, get me the blue book on the second shelf." He patted his student's shoulder. "This was an accident. We'll counter it and make note of it. It may have some offensive use." He took the book, sitting down to flip through it. "Ah, here it is. Put the paper on the metal tracing plate and gather these herbs," he said, handing Xander the book. "I need to get dressed. Don't start without me." He headed back up to his room.

"Give me that," Willow growled but Xander glared at her. "It's not like you can do that."

He got up, heading for the herbs, bringing them back to the table. He reread the instructions, getting the mortar and pestle, carefully measuring the herbs to crush. When he got done, he stood up, sprinkling the mixture on the paper. "Great one," he said reverently, "hear me. Cancel the spell I mistakenly cast, free the people from my grasp." He drew another wish symbol, laying it on the other paper before lighting it. "Free them, erase my mistake." He drew the last dot, careful to step back before the flash fire caught him, mind clear of everything but the desire of letting everyone wake up. "Let them rejoin life," he said quietly, pouring the rest of the herbs into the metal plate.

Olivia moaned from upstairs.

"Blessed be," Xander said quietly, blowing on the ashes. "Thanks be to you." He stepped back, directly into Giles' arms.

"Didn't I say to wait?"

"Yeah, but it's almost eight. Now everyone can just say power outage and get away with it." He handed back the book and gave his teacher a hug. "I'm *so* sorry," he whispered.

"It was an accident," Giles said gently, "not an intentional spell. We'll just have to wait until you're healthy and here to work on those. We've proven that doing those glyphs without supervision when untrained, even by someone talented, makes them go wrong." Xander nodded. "Now, go to work." The young man left. "Willow, did you need something?" She shook her head and ran out, taking her backpack with her.

Giles finished his trek to the kitchen. "Olivia, breakfast?" he called. It was always best to get back to a normal routine after an incident like that.


Xander sat next to Giles on his couch later that night. "I can't find the glyph notebook," he said. "I brought it with me but it's nowhere." Giles patted his arm, his mouth full. "I cast a location and calling spell. It's not at my house."

Giles shifted to look at him. "Have you retraced your steps?" That got a nod. "Then where is it?"

"Actually, I have a better question," Xander said. "If the spell affected you and Oz, why not Willow?" The older man frowned. "That's what's been bothering me all day, Giles. Why was she awake when the man I'm bound to, the one that can manipulate my energies if he knew how, wasn't?"

Giles sighed. "I don't like to entertain those thoughts," he admitted.

"Then here's another one. When we were roadtripping, the night we called, she cast on me to make me suddenly sober. That was part of the reason Oz and I fought, and I witnessed the shooting because Oz and I fought," Xander said quietly, not looking at him. "I don't want to think it either but I have to." He finally looked at his teacher, touching the bruise on his cheek. "This was her, before you got up. She tried to tell me I was wrong and called me a poser."

Giles coughed lightly, remembering his own fights with another student. "I see. What do you want to do?"

"I want to go get my book and then I want to plan how to do this stuff without her knowing." Xander looked into the all-knowing green eyes. "I shouldn't have let her know this morning."

"I had noticed that she just watched, with a sneer or a smirk, I couldn't tell which." He patted his student's arm again, needing the contact before he took this very big step. "So be it. You'll learn without her knowledge. But only if you can prove the allegations."

"Drive me over, let me call my book." Giles nodded so he walked out to wait beside the car.

Willow looked up as her door opened, smiling at Giles. "Hey, what's up?" She frowned as Xander walked in behind him. "What? Gonna screw up again?"

Xander closed his eyes, heading for where he could feel his book was hidden.

"Hey!" Willow yelled, jumping up to stop him. "You can't do that."

Xander looked at her, quietly activating the spell he had worked earlier, freezing her and making her open to suggestion. He got his notebook, and another book, one of Giles' spell books. He silently handed them off, moving to stand in front of her. "You will forget my abilities, Willow," he whispered, looking into her eyes. "You will forget I ever practiced. You will never use your powers to hurt Oz, Giles, or myself either. Go on with your life and forget the Chaos powers exist." He picked up her notebook and the spellbook on the bed, handing them off before gathering himself, putting on his usual expression, and releasing her. "Hey, Will. Want to go to the Bronze? I need to celebrate a new job."

She shook her head, holding it. "No thanks. I suddenly have the grossest headache." She lay down, pulling the covers over her head. "Night."

"Night," Xander said, walking out. He looked up at his teacher. "Yelling?"



"You probably should, to be safe. Are you sure?"

I'll leave her an 'in case of emergency' clause."

"Then I have no other objections." Giles kissed his forehead. "In truth, that was much more delicate a spell than I used when I faced the same problem many years ago." He smiled at his student. "Come over afterwards, we'll do a spell cleansing to rid you of any others she may have cast." Xander nodded so he walked away.

//Oz!// Xander sent through their bond. //Walk me from Willow's to Buffy's? We need to discuss.// He headed for the dorm's front door, meeting his bond-mate on the front steps. "I blocked all of my skills from her," he said as they walked, "and took my glyph notebook, one of Giles' spellbooks, and a Chaos book from her."

Oz nodded. "I heard. I agree. You doing the blonde?"

"Yup, then going back to Giles'." He stopped them on a wooded part of the walking trail. "She won't remember I even started," he said, looking into the deep gray eyes. "All I ask is if it becomes necessary, you don't mention today." Oz nodded, shrugging. "You'll help?"

"Yeah, I'll help." He hugged his friend. "Just be careful," he whispered, turning to walk away. "Night. And eat!"

"I will," Xander called. //I'll miss you too,// he sent, letting the shielding wall they had built on their roadtrip drop, possibly for good, before continuing on to Buffy's room.


Giles looked up as Xander walked in. "Are you ready for the spell cleansing?" he asked formally. It was a fairly serious event to remove all the spells around a powerful sorcerer such as Xander could become one day. This was a ceremony he had written earlier, before his student had went home to prepare himself and to remove all the evidence he needed so Willow would never suspect.

"Yes. I have altered her lifeline and we will protect her from the harmful knowledge of her actions," Xander replied as he stepped into the sacred circle. "Cleanse me, my Master, my Teacher, so we may all heal." He knelt in front of Giles, closing his eyes and tipping his head forward to give him the best access to where the spells would rest on his aura. "I am ready."

"Then we shall begin." Giles closed the circle and closed his eyes, starting the first chant.

Giles sat next to his true student. "Do you know what I removed?" he asked as he handed over a can of soda.

Xander nodded. "I felt the one that let her know when I cast and shielded her like she was me."

"There was also another block, stronger than the one she put between you and Oz." He sipped his scotch. "For us."

"So we couldn't form a teaching bond?" Giles nodded. "Anything else?"

"Some sort of illusion so you would, probably one on each of us come to think of it, would only see her as she wanted."

"Innocent little Willow?" Xander asked, exchanging drinks. His teacher smiled tolerantly. "Then there was the 'fade from view' thing that made me invisible to the group. Or nearly so," he amended, sipping the scotch. "Ah, the good stuff. We really should check Oz too sometime."

"Very true, to both statements," Giles said, smiling now. "How do you want to do this?"


"Hmmm, an acceptable idea as I'm doing some translating work there over the next few months." He stroked down his student's cheek. "What about you?"

"I'm going to pretend to forget part of this summer, so will Oz. We'll go on like nothing's changed." Giles nodded for him to go on. "She'll believe whatever I tell her about work and I'll be careful not to be seen at the magic shop when you send her in for things." Xander looked at his teacher, turning to face him. "Us?"

"You've matured so much tonight," Giles said quietly, "and you are still my favorite student." He kissed his forehead. "I won't fight the process but I won't push it either."

"Deal," Xander said, kissing him for real. "I need to go eat and take medicine. I'll give you my schedule tomorrow." He stood. "I do feel better."

"As do I. It was necessary, before she hurt someone else."

"Teach her, Giles, she needs it."

"Oh, I plan on it," he said, drinking the soda. "Goodnight, Xander," he called as the door closed.

Xander walked into his house, sighing at the emptiness. "I'll fix it if someone comes over," he decided. He headed down to his newly cleaned basement, tossing his jacket on his chair. "I can pretend," he told himself. "It's not like they'll notice." He looked at the shelf that had held his books, all of which were now in his room in the back of the Magic Shop. He flipped on his tv as he lay down on his bed, relearning how to be normal again.


Xander looked up as his teacher walked into the Magic Shop, grinning at him and putting his pet project aside. "Hey, what's going on? You've been absent recently." He patted the countertop in a nice, quick rhythm. Giles smiled at him and pointed toward the backroom they used to teach the younger man magic. "Can't, Elizabeth's on break. Give her five more and I can, though."

"Very well, I can wait that long." He looked toward the door as Oz walked in. "Oh, good, you did get my message."

"Yup, always." He ruffled Xander's hair. "How much longer?"

"Five minutes," Giles said, "go back and prepare the room if you wouldn't mind please, Oz." The werewolf walked back toward the backrooms, and the sound of a door shutting was heard a few seconds later.

"Okay, what's going on," Elizabeth said in her slow Southern drawl as she walked in sucking down her shake. "Can't a nice girl have a naughty lunch and not get called back to work?" She winked at her coworker. "So, Xander," his name just rolled off her tongue, "what's this I hear that you've figured out a new glyph?"

"Yup, a...," he checked around the shop to make sure they were alone, "a joining one. I can join wood pieces without nails or glue. And stones, really pretty ones too." He reached down into his pocket, pulling out a small velvet bag. "Wanna see?"

She nodded, taking it and looking down inside it. "Oh, my, those are pretty." She looked up. "Can you make me one?"

"Actually, I left one for you under the register. It's a resonating crystal now." He smiled, very proud of himself. "I just thought it was pretty but that happened." He took back his bag, nodding for her to take his place. "Gotta go see the teachers."

"Have fun," she said, winking at him, picking up the small Crown Royal bag. "Ooooh, I *love* it," she called after him.

Xander was still smiling as he walked into his learning room, but his breath quickly left him as he took in the sight of the candles burning brightly. "Wow. And I thought my present for your birthday was nice." He walked over to Oz, kissing him gently and handing over the bag of joined stones. "I made them for you," he whispered, stepping back. He came to rest in Giles' arms, looking up at him as he was held still. "Hi."

"Shh," Giles said, nodding at Oz.

They both watched as the young man unwrapped his birthday present, a rare smile coming out at the sight of the multi-toned semi-precious stones that Xander had transformed from normal stones that you could get at any nature store to something that was truly extraordinary and original. "Wow," Oz said, looking into his friend's eyes. "I'm speechless." He walked over to the couple, kissing the young apprentice sorcerer gently. "I love them, thank you." He held up the one that had really caught his attention. "Can I have this one fixed as a pendant?"

"If it pleases you," Xander agreed. "If someone asks, tell them it's colored glass. Or magic, I'm sure they'll just nod politely and leave you alone." He looked up at Giles again. "So, since this is his birthday, or tomorrow is anyway, why are we doing the candle thing?"

"Because I wanted to," Oz said, stepping up to his bondmate and kissing him again. "Please?"

"Oz," Xander groaned, all the old feelings that had been buried between them coming back now with a vengeance. "All you have to do is ask," he whispered, pulling his friend to him kiss him again, letting himself get lost. "Um, Giles," he said against the soft lips.

"No, I'm taking notes." He ran a hand down Oz's satiny cheek. "I accept what you two have but he is mine."

"Yours," Oz agreed. "But you'll share?"

"Most definitely. I don't think I could deal with him all by myself for too long." Giles leaned forward, kissing Oz. "Thank you for coming up with this idea." He turned Xander around, looking deep into the eyes he was coming to know so well. "We've come to a decision. Your bondmate and I are going to share you, and our teaching bond will be fully realized soon." Xander held his breath. "Yes, I do intend to take you soon, but first we have some preparation to do to ready you for the mental assault."

Oz slid up behind his friend and occasional lover. "We've agreed that you're his by nature of your growing bond, but that I can come and go when I need to. You have a say but we expect you to accept blindly."

"Hmm, the fulfillment of my dreams and fantasies or nothing so I have to go back to dreaming. Gee, wonder which I'm going to pick," Xander said, smiling up at Giles. "What took you so long?"

"I had to check with some people. Your talent was most extraordinary and I needed to make sure I could teach you all you needed. Some other sorcerer wouldn't have half the scruples I do about your precious innocence." He kissed his student, then stepped back. "But you have to ask, it is not my job to offer."

"Giles," Xander said the official words he had looked up many months earlier, looking up at him. "Take me as your student? Officially take me and mold me as you see fit so my potential is realized." He took a deep breath, stepping closer. "I will myself to your capable hands and your stronger will so I may be the sorcerer I need to be to prosper and do well. And so that no more accidents happen and the town doesn't fall asleep again too," he added with an impudent grin.

"Imp," Oz teased, stepping up behind his bondmate and holding him close to his chest. "I also ask his teacher to think of our bond, to include our specialness in his plans for my bondmate so that our lives are not separated."

Giles coughed lightly. "I accept the challenge you have brought before me. Come, my students, let me teach you all that you need while you fulfil my own needs so I do not waste time outside of your training." He smiled at Xander, holding out a hand. "Come, student."

"I hear and obey," Xander said, taking the hand and walking forward, kissing Giles hard. "I am yours as you are mine."

"You are mine but I may be yours," the older man corrected. "As are you now," he said, holding out a hand to Oz, who walked in to hug him. "On the morrow, you will be of legal age. I leave it in your hands to teach my student, who is not legally mine yet, all that he needs to know and all that I may expect of him."

"I will help you train him," Oz said quietly, stroking down Xander's back. "He is ours."

"He is ours," Giles agreed.

"Hey, sounds good to me," Xander quipped, stealing a kiss. He backed away from his two teachers. "Now what?"

"Now, imp, you go home and get ready for us. For the night after Oz's birthday." Giles stepped closer to his student. "Xander, you know what this entails, all of the clauses?"

"As a student it is my privilege and my honor to serve you in whatever capacity you may request or desire. All of my wants are now yours to decide and my body is yours to command." He looked up into the all-knowing green eyes. "I read that part, teach, when can we get to the good part? You've kept me waiting, both of you, for too long."

"Been two weeks," Oz noted.

"Which is a long time to guys our age."

"Point," Oz conceded, "but it's just us. From now on. I may act like I'm with Willow. You may act with Anya. Giles may french and fuck Olivia since he's getting some, but this is only us."

"Only us," Giles said a smile. "I do like that." He turned back to his student. "Xander, we had to be sure. A teaching bond is not undertaken lightly, not by anyone. This is the most serious thing a sorcerer of our levels can ever do. Training you is one of the biggest responsibilities of my life. Not even my calling to aid Buffy was that important. There are differences between us and the lower levels of magic users, such as witches. We have the potential to become very great but we also have a great many temptations at the same time. Everything in your life from now on will reflect on me. From the way you dress to the style of your haircut to the spells you choose to cast and the people you choose to help will all say things about me. Even after our bond is long gone."

"Then I guess I had better not mess up then, huh," Xander said, smiling at his teacher. "Relax. I'll be a good boy. You're a great teacher. And Oz is ours." He shrugged. "I'm complete here. You worry too much."

"That's my job," Giles said dryly, which made Xander laugh.

"That may be but it's my job to make you loosen up." He stepped forward, possessing his teacher's mouth. "There," he said after pulling back, "much better."

Giles shook his head, pulling his student closer to kiss him. "No, like this," he said, taking control of the mobile lips. They parted again, the younger man just starting to breathe hard. "From now on, this is always my choice. If you're horrid again, I can chain you up on the floor if I wanted and no one would say anything. Or I could reward you with great thrills of pleasure." He and Oz shared a look. "I'm not that strict though, and you won't have to expect punishment from me, more than yelling anyway." Xander nodded. "Good, now rest." He waved his in front of the younger man's face, making him sleepy. "We'll discuss this more again in the morning."

Xander woke up and looked around his room in the back of the Magic Shop. "Damn, not real still," he mumbled, getting up to head for the small shower Liberty kept in the back to clean up before and after spells. After he was done, he headed back into his practice and learning room, grabbing a notebook and pen, then walked out to the front of the store. "Hey," he told Elizabeth.

"Fell asleep again, didn't you?" she asked, tweaking the end of his nose. "Such a bad boy."

"Am not. I was working on my Giles-to-Xander interpretational dictionary." He smiled at her, nudging her hip with his. "It's not like I was supposed to be working." He set down his notebook and pen, looking around the store. "Not a busy day?"

"No," she sighed, her shoulders slumping. "Not at all. Seems those cammo boys have been keeping our kind at bay as well."

"Damn," he said, turning toward the back as a familiar tingle went up his spine. "Willow."

"Hey," Willow said, walking in. "Xander?"

"Yup," he said, turning around, smiling at her. "Giles wanted me to come down and help him with his transcribing of an old book." He looked around the store. "What're you here for?"

"Um, Foxglove."


"Foxglove, it's an herb." She headed for the plastic containers of herbs, measuring some out into a bag. "Need a pound," she said.

Xander picked up the phone, dialing from memory. "Giles?" he asked quietly. "Foxglove? You know that causes heart attacks, don't you?" The mumbled answer he got on the other end worried him. "Giles?" He shook his head and hung up, giving his co-worker a pointed look then back at Willow.

"Um, honey, did he send you down with money?"

"Nope, he said to put it on his account," Willow called back. "Why?"

"Because his account's past due and I can't do that." She walked back to see what the young Witch was doing. "Hmm, take that big piece out and try two smaller ones and it might be exact," she said doing so. When the scale said a pound exactly, she took the bag, tying it closed and handing it back. "Here, sweetie." She walked her back to the register, ringing it up. "Sorry, but boss' orders."

"Oh, I understand," Willow said, digging in her purse for some money. "How much?"

"Herbs are all on sale, ten percent off this week," Elizabeth said. She turned the screen so her customer could see it and took the money, handing her back the change. "Thanks, come again," she said happily, taking the phone from Xander's fingers. "Mr. Giles?" she said, biting her lip. "No, could you please come down here and talk to your student? What? No, not about that. About the things they've been buying on your account." She hung up, frowning at the man next to her. "That is one dangerous herb and no one needs a pound of it. Not for any spell I've ever heard of."

Xander nodded, going back to his writing. "Then we'll talk with him. If he can understand us still. He sounded pretty out of it."

"Do you have his book with the cleansing spell?" He nodded, chewing on his pencil as he looked at the paper. "Good, you may need it. And how do you know when it's her?"

"I put a warning on the trees outside the door. She was running today and I wasn't fast enough to make it into the back." Xander looked up as Giles walked in, tugging on a black curl as he walked around to look at his teacher. "Hey, Giles," he said, looking him over. "You look out of it."

"What did she do now?" he sighed, ignoring his student completely and focusing on Elizabeth. It was like Xander wasn't even there.

"She bought a pound of foxglove, and tried to put it on your account," Elizabeth told him. "But I think we have a more immediate concern. Xander, take him into the back and see if you can't free him from whatever's wrong with him." She frowned at their backs as they walked away. "Those two see more trouble than the rest of the world," she muttered.

Xander walked Giles back into his room, closing and locking the door behind them. "Giles," he said, waving at the lone chair. "Sit, man, we need to talk." He lit a candle, silently chanting over it before handing it to his teacher. "Here, hold this for a second."

"Xander," he started, then started to shake. The young man took the candle from him, putting it on the table behind him. "What I thought." He looked into the green eyes, seeing the confusion in them. "She did a spell on you," he said quietly.



"She can't. She's not that strong."

"Maybe not, but you're under a spell. I can cleanse it, all of you, but you have to allow me to. Will you allow me to?" He picked up a bag of salt. "Please," he said at the hesitation.

"You'll need chalk."

"I know, but I don't have any." He started to pour the salt over the small circle embedded in the floor. "Come sit in here, teach, let me do this."

Giles yawned and stretched as he canceled the sacred circle around him. "Thank you," he said, kissing his student's forehead. Xander just smiled. "You did that very well, even though you did change some parts to suit yourself and your abilities. Or at least I hope that's why you did it that way."

"Yup." Xander hugged the older man, closing his eyes as the strong arms came around him. "Do you remember sending her over here," he whispered.

"No, what did she get?"

"Foxglove. A pound of it."

"My God," Giles said, closing his eyes. "I'll stop her, you stay here and be safe."

"I could help."

"No, stay here and be safe." Giles pulled back, looking down into the half-open bottomless brown eyes. "Xander, I know you can help, that's not the point. This is between her and myself and I need to handle this. I'm sure she's not turned toward the dark again, just that she's possessed or something." The younger man nodded, but didn't look happy about it. "Thank you. Now, come, walk me to the door and I'll be back later to help you."

"Okay, but I want to show you something later so you have to come back."


"Well, I'm working on Oz's birthday present and I wanted your opinion, but I also wanted your opinion on something that I saw recently."

"Hmm, magic related?"

"Very. A dragon statue, with eyes that followed you. Like the Cheerleader one Amy's mom ended up in."

"Then I'll be back tonight." They walked toward the front, both smiling as Elizabeth put down the papers Xander had been working on with a guilty smile.

"What? I thought you were kidding?"

"Nope, it's a Giles-to-Xander dictionary." The young sorcerer grinned at her, then at Giles when he started to laugh. "Hey, it's necessary sometimes."

"Very true," Giles said, walking out with a smile, still ready to laugh. He hurried home, leaving the door open when he smelled the fumes wafting around his apartment. "Willow, what are you doing?" He leaned against the bar separating the living/dining room from the kitchen.

"Just brewing some herbs. Spell stuff," she said, not turning around. "Why? And did you get your account at the Magic Shop fixed?"

"Yes, quite. Turn that off and come over here." She turned to frown at him. "I know what you bought earlier and unless you're going to start killing someone you didn't need that amount."

"It's part of the liquid base for a spell."

"I'm sure," he said dryly. He walked back to where his fuse box was, flipping off the one for the kitchen, but leaving the others alone. He walked back to find her in the doorway, scowling. "No student of mine will ever brew such a harmful mixture, especially not indoors as the smell alone is enough to kill one." He pulled her out to her bag. "Now, show me the spell and I'll tell you what you're doing wrong."

"I don't have to," she countered, hands going to her hips.

"You do if you want to continue to work with me and to have my help." He stared her down and she got her bag, opening her notebook to show off the spell. Which he ripped out and tore up. "No, that's harmful. There is no earthly reason you should be trying to kill a mass of people."

"The commandos," she said, starting to pout. He shook his head. "Then what are we going to do about them?"

"We'll figure something out that doesn't entail mass homicide." He turned her, pushing her toward the door. "I think you'd best go for the day while I clean this mess up."

She dodged around him, going for the kitchen, pouring the mixture into some glass jars. "Fine," she said, heading for the door again, "just see if I come help you anytime in the future." She slammed the door behind her.

"Spoiled brat," Giles spat, heading for his fuse box, after checking the kitchen.

Xander looked up from the circle he sat in, blinking at his boss. "Sorry, listening to Giles and Willow."

"She possessed?" Liberty said, brushing her red hair back behind her ears. He nodded so she frowned. "Do you know by what?"

"Well, she's been weird recently and she just wanted to commit mass homicide on the commandos. I don't know enough about demons and dark things to know what did it. I was just going to put a telltale on her to let me know when she started to cast." He stood up, stepping over his circle. "Want to help?"

"Hon, that's your teacher's job, not yours," she reminded him. "You're not good enough yet to do that and it's not your right or responsibility."

"She's my..." She held up a finger in warning. "Yes, ma'am, it's not my job." She patted his shoulder, heading out into the store. "Did that stuff come for my Giles birthday present?" Elizabeth handed over the wrapped package of blank books. "Thanks." He ran a finger down the outside. "Let me go drop them in there and I'll be right back."

Liberty looked at her partner, who was smiling. "What's he up to now?" she asked, sighing in exasperation.

"He's found a lot of Mr. Giles' books are about ready to crumble so he's gifting him with some translations."

"Those aren't real popular."

"Ah, but I'm sure he'd love to go over them and check them, and I warned him about that." Elizabeth spit the piece of hair out of her mouth as their young helper came back. "So, what did you want to show us?" He pulled out a small velvet bag, pouring the contents out on the counter. "Oh, pretty," she said, picking one up to look and 'look' at it. She looked from it to the creator and back. "How'd you do this?"

"The last glyph we worked on was a joining one. I wanted to give these to someone for a present, but I'm not sure if it's an okay idea, and I didn't want to bother Giles with it."

Liberty picked up a blue and purple stone, turning it around in the light. "How did you do this?"

"It's like merging them. Making two things or more one. I can do wood boxes too, that's what we started out on, so I don't need nails." He shivered. "Wow, déjà vu. Same as when I was merging and I almost fell over from the strain."

Liberty smiled, shaking her head. "I don't see a problem. Does this person know you work?" He nodded. "Then what's the problem?"

"It's Oz."

"Hmm, he might be able to feel the unnaturalness of them but I can't be sure what werewolves can do in that area." Elizabeth put them down, looking at her newest friend. "I don't see a problem with it, just be careful about who you tell about being able to do that."

He nodded, picking up the stones and the phone at the same time, dialing as he tied the bag. "Oz? Me. No, good thing. Well, maybe, you'd have to ask Giles about that. No, I have an early birthday present for you and I wanted to give it to you now because I feel like something major's going to change soon." He nodded and hung up. "He'll be down later." He looked at his boss. "Last personal call, promise."

"Good," Liberty said, patting his arm. "When there's not much else to do, we understand. Just don't make them long distance and don't do it when we're busy."

"Nope, I'm a considerate employee." He smiled at Oz as he walked in, nodding him toward the back. "Five?"

"Sure," Elizabeth said. "You haven't taken lunch yet." She waited until the younger man had run after his friend to look at their boss. "It's nice to have him here most of the time. Even if it is a nightmare of bookkeeping for you."

Liberty smiled, patting the side of her partner's face. "He's here when you need him, just keep him on a nice, short leash." With those words of advice, she left for the day.

Xander walked into his room, closing the door behind him. "Hey," he said, handing over the bag. "Haven't see you in a while."

"I know. Sorry. Been busy thinking." Oz sat down in the lone chair, opening the bag and pouring the contents out onto the table. "Huh, very pretty." He held up the one that Liberty had been looking at, looking through it at the light. "How did you make these?" Xander silently handed him the box he had practiced on, watching as the joints were examined. "Ah, very smooth." He stood up, looking at his friend. "I love them, thanks." He hugged his friend tightly then stepped back. "How are you?"

"I'm fine," Xander said, messing up the presently violet hair. "I just wanted to give them to you before you did something that was going to change things."

"Seeing the future now?" One red eyebrow went up slightly.

"No, actually just a feeling I've been having." He frowned, heading for his bedroll to start his path of pacing. "Oz, I know things are going to change eventually, but remember I'm here for you, okay?" He turned to find his friend looking at him with a worried look. "What?"

"Giles said the same thing. Am I about to bite the big one? No pun intended."

"No, but I'm not sure if he knows either. I had to clear some spells off him earlier." He stopped his pacing to look at the slightly older man. "All I know is that you're going to change things. It's not a dream, or a prophecy, just a bad feeling. So I wanted to give you your present early, in case I was right. And it will save some embarrassment later when we have your party if I'm wrong." He smiled weakly. "Just, if you leave or something, send postcards."

"Xan," Oz started then shook his head. "You worry like no one else." He wrapped the younger man in his arms, kissing his cheek. "But if that happens, I'll write often. Okay?"

"Very okay." They stood there for a few seconds then Xander pulled back, looking down at his friend. "I have to go back to work but I'll be at the Bronze later when you're playing."

"Not, some chick named Veruca and her band is playing tonight. Had to cancel when the drummer broke a finger yesterday." Oz shrugged. "But you're more than welcome to come sit and watch them with me and Will."

"Could, but gotta warn you, she's been buying some dangerous stuff." Oz frowned at him, actually frowned. "Hey, foxglove is deadly."

"Then I'll watch what I drink." He patted his friend's arm, taking his present and leaving.

Xander gathered his shields around him, closing his eyes as he followed the older man out of the shop without his knowing. "Just be safe, Oz," he whispered. "I'll be listening." He shook himself out of the small semi-trance and headed back to work. "Enough slacking from me today," he told Elizabeth. "Want to go do lunch? I promise to be good and actually work."

"Nah, I have a dinner date later." She winked at him. "But then, so might you."

"Nope, his girlfriend is jealous."


Giles walked into the Magic Shop for the second time in one day, this time smiling at his student. "Ah, Xander, I see you're still working on something." He took the paper to read but it was snatched back. "Something I shouldn't see?"

"Yes, a present." He grinned up at his teacher. "So, did you fix her?"

"Mostly. I know what possessed her and I've removed it so Willow should be fine now. But her idea was most discomforting."

"You know, the idea of doing vamps that way isn't such a bad one, offensively speaking." Giles frowned, looking over the rim of his glasses at his student. "I mean something like a sun-bright flash or something during a planned attack when we're heavily outnumbered," Xander explained. "Something one of us could do from behind the front line before we jumped in but that wasn't too draining."

"It's a good idea, but I'm not sure of the ethics involved. That would still be mass homicide." Giles leaned on the counter, looking down at the items under the glass. "It's feasible to do, and certainly might help in certain situations, but it would give us an unfair advantage."

"Only if we could mimic UV light, which we can't, so we don't have to worry about the dusting part," Xander pointed out, raising a finger. "See, even just a bright flash would be enough to stun them, make them turn their heads. Which could deter a group chasing us during a retreat or when we enter."

"Which would be less gray morally," Giles finished, looking back up at his student with a small smile of appreciation. "That is an excellent idea, my boy, one you should work on."

"But, Giles, I suck at the regular spell stuff."

"Then we'll just have to get you more accustomed to that, won't we?" He patted the fidgeting hand. "I'd heard Oz came by earlier. Did you give him the present you've been working on?"

"Yup, and he liked it too." Xander looked around then down at his teacher. "You know those cheap stones they sell in the nature store? The nicely polished ones that aren't that expensive? Well, I did that box thingy with a few and gave him the results." Giles shook his head. "Not good?"

"No, but I do wish you wouldn't be so open about your abilities."

"But this is *Oz*, he knows about them." Xander leaned down to get closer to the older man so he could talk more quietly since there were customers in the store. "He knows and he won't tell anyone about them that wouldn't already be able to figure them out." Giles nodded. "He's always been a safe guy to go to for that stuff and I'm pretty sure he'll continue to be safe that way, even if my bad feeling is right and he does leave soon."

"Then you've had it too?" Giles stood up, getting out of the customer's way, watching his student work.

"Twenty-six fifty," Xander said, ringing her up. He took the money, giving her back the change, watching while she put the items into the bag she carried. "Have a nice night," he called.

Giles shook his head. "You're very good at that."

"Well, Starbucks has that job and Burger King had me doing that job and the kitchen..." he trailed off, turning toward the door. "Willow and Oz."

"You put a warning out there didn't you," Giles asked, right before slapping the back of his student's head. "That is bad, Xander, you shouldn't need it."

"I do if she never remembers," he pointed out, shifted closer to the register. "You have me helping you translate and copy," he explained, right before Willow walked in through the door.

"Hey," she said happily, smiling at them. She hugged one of Giles' arms then smiled at him. "Thank you for fixing me earlier."

"It was my pleasure," he said, looking at Oz, who simply shrugged.

"Hey," Oz said, heading for the incense. "Need some of this."

Willow walked up behind him, pulling out a few sticks. "Let's get this, it smelled good last time."

"I almost turned when I sneezed," he told her, putting them back and picking up something he liked more. "This is the one I keep in my room." She pouted so he relented and let her get one stick of the one she liked but he got two extra of his so he could cover it up later. "You said you needed stuff?" he reminded her when she stopped in front of the herbs.

"Yup," she said, moving toward the books.

Oz walked over to where Giles was standing, nodding at Xander. "So, what's this?" he asked, picking up the notebook full of Xander's handwriting. "Looks interesting."

"Is," Xander said, "it's a translation from our language to Giles'." He nodded at Willow as she walked up to him, heading for the register. "That all?" Oz put down his incense.

"When did you start working here?" she asked.

"Not, doing work for Giles but the usual person had a date so I'm filling in." He rang her up, pulling out a bag. "Twelve even," he said, loading the bag so he didn't have to watch her fawn all over Oz.

Oz handed over a bill, taking the bag then the change. "Thanks." He nodded at Giles then they left.

"Still say the warning was a bad idea?" Xander asked.

"No, I do believe it was most prudent, especially since she's not remembered yet." He stood up, stretching. "I wonder what she needed those things for?"

"I'd say an Oz seduction, but that's just because she had lube mixed with aphrodisiacs." He shrugged. "So, what were we going to work on tonight?"

"Regular spells. You need to be able to do more than the little you can on that end and your power usage during the major spells you do is atrocious and wasteful."

"Yup, sure. Liz'll be back in a few minutes probably. Liberty hates the person she's pretending to be with."

Elizabeth walked into the store, stopping her quiet rant to smile at them. "Hi, guys," she said, patting Giles' arm as she walked past to hand up her shawl. "Anything happen while I was gone?"

"Willow came in to buy seduction stuff. And she bought the last bottle of that special lube so Liberty needs to make some soon." His coworker's face showed absolute disgust. "Hey, if it works for them," he said, walking around her. "I'm going to go learn regular spell stuff. Later. Yell if you need me." He headed for the back.

Giles picked up the notebook, looking at the contents quickly before going after his student, shaking his head with a quiet, "I thought he was kidding." He walked in to find Xander taking off his shirt and drawing a circle on the floor. "Found some chalk, did we?" he asked as he closed the door.

"Yup, put it on my account. That's all I ever get from out there it seems. Chalk and books." He looked over his shoulder at his teacher. "Empty ones of course."

"Good, I doubt you're ready for what some of those contain, and I didn't believe your paycheck was enough to buy any of the spellbooks out there anyway." He locked the door behind him, stepping over to the chair and putting down the small book that had been inside his jacket pocket. "We'll work from here tonight."

Xander walked over, picking it up to flip through some of the simple spells he knew. "Um, how about the suspending things one?" Giles shook his head. "No?" The book was taken from his fingers and turned to another page, then handed back. "That one?" Xander whined.

"Yes, that one. You need to practice the basics as often as possible or else you'll lose them. Then you'll not have a solid foundation for your other work." Giles tossed a pen down into the center of the circle, sitting on one side of the chalked line as his student sat across from him. "Now, start to focus your energies on the pen, lifting it gently to about a foot off the ground," he said quietly, not breaking the younger man's chain of thought.


Willow looked up from where she was laying on the bed, watching her boyfriend do pull-ups on a bar attached to the wall. "Why don't we do more than sleep together anymore?" she asked, stopping him mid-upstroke.

"Don't know," he conceded. He jumped down, considering this while he wiped off his chest with his t-shirt. "Just not in the mood. Why?"

"Because I thought all guys your age constantly thought about sex." She blushed slightly. "I just thought there might be something wrong."

"Nope, we're fine," he said, lying down next to her. "Just too stressed to think about it." He closed his eyes, accepting her body onto his chest, quelling his shudder and all thoughts of what she had done to him and Xander earlier in the summer. All the things she didn't remember now. "Does it matter?" he asked, not opening his eyes.

"No, I just thought there was something going on, you know, not right between us maybe."

"No, we're fine," he repeated. He squeezed his eyes shut, willing the images of Xander in her body from his mind. "I've got to go for a walk," he said, getting up.


"Yeah, now. I'm too uptight to sleep." He pulled on a clean shirt, grabbing his keys and wallet before he left his room. He headed for the park, knowing that vampires never tried to attack him unless he was with the group. Even they could tell what he was. He ran into Giles and Xander, who were chasing a pen that was floating away from them. "Uh-huh," he said, jumping up and catching it, handing it to Giles. "Problems?"

"Quite," Giles panted, putting it in his jacket pocket. "Someone seems to have tapped into the spell and was pulling the pen."

"Huh. Who?"

"Not a clue," Xander said, patting Giles arm right before the older man fell down to sit and rest. "From the store to here in under four minutes. Pretty fast for a pen." He looked his friend over. "So, no Willow?"

"No, she was thinking about us and sex and I couldn't." Oz sat down across from Giles, pulling Xander down next to him. "I need advice here."

"Oz, she doesn't remember," Giles reminded him. "Even if you do. Which I could probably fix, even if for a short time. It seems you have to be much more powerful than either of us to affect memories on a long term basis."

"No, don't mess with my head." He frowned lightly at his friend. "I don't want to do it after this summer, but she's getting worried."

"Whatever you're most comfy with," Xander assured him. "I have to force myself to let her touch me to give me hugs and stuff, and I leave it up to you. Totally up to you, Oz." Xander leaned back, lying down. "Matter of fact..."

He was stopped by Buffy clearing her throat. "Can I have a clue or join the party?" Everyone looked at Xander, who shrugged.

"Sure, join in," Xander said, waving at the grass across from him as he sat back up. He looked into her eyes, seeing the truth in them. "When did you remember?"

"Earlier." She sat down, plucking at the grass. "I don't know how to act."

"She still doesn't have a clue," Oz said, shrugging. "No idea why Buffy's broke and Will's didn't?"

"Well, I put an escape clause into Buffy's but I was also pretty tired when I did it," Xander said, considering it, looking at his teacher the whole time. "And I didn't want her to not know as much as I didn't want Will to not know so that may have weakened it too."

"Both could have done it," Giles agreed, "but there are other factors. Did you need to remember that he used," he asked his charge.

Buffy shook her head. "No, but I saw something strange a while ago and the image of Xander using magic to knead bread popped into my head. I had to sit down when the rest flooded back. It was like the dam broke."

"That would be normal," Giles told her. "Any residual headaches?" She shook her head. "Xander, I leave this up to you. What do you want to do?"

"I don't want to act, but I can't deal with her knowing, not after what she's done and said to me about it."

"Who?" Willow asked, walking up to them. She sat down between her boyfriend and her roommate. "What did Buffy say?"

Xander sighed, pulling up some ground to draw in the damp earth, muttering under his breath the words he had prepared the night he had cast the non-remembrance spell to cancel it in case it was needed. He looked up as Willow grabbed her head, blinking back the hurt tears as she reached over and slapped his face. He got up, walking away from the group.

"Xander, wait," Giles called. He looked at Willow. "Consider all you know now before you say one word to him," he told her coolly before getting up and running after his other student. "I'm not in that good of shape," he complained, catching the younger man and stopping him. "Don't leave."

"Not, was going to go back to the shop and go work on something so *I* forget." He got loose. "I just released her from part of it, the earlier this summer stuff, not that one day I screwed the world up badly." He started to walk again. "I'll be over for breakfast like we planned," he called quietly.

Giles headed back to the group, who were watching Willow turn paler by the minute. "I see you do remember what you've done recently," he said, sitting back down. She looked up and nodded, tears running down her cheeks. "Do you blame him for what he did?" She shook her head. "Then I suggest you make amends." He nodded at Buffy, who stood, and he followed her out of the park.

Oz looked at Willow, then at the ground. "What do you remember?" he asked quietly.

"This summer. The spell, switching us. The hurting you guys stuff. Him using magic and me laughing."

"Huh, he thought he had blocked that one." She shook her head. "Now you know why I can't." She nodded, getting up to run back to the dorms.

He followed her, making sure she got home safely, but knew she needed to deal with this on her own. It was her responsibility to deal with this, no matter how much he and the other men in the group wanted to protect her from herself.


Xander picked at his breakfast, watching Giles watch him. "I suck at this," he said finally, dropping his fork onto his plate. "I don't know why I let myself be deluded."

"No, everyone does badly at first," Giles said gently. "Your powers are very strong, Xander, and they'll never go away now. You need the training if no other reason than to save the rest of us from you during a cold."

That made the younger man smile weakly. "Yeah, I can see mailboxes all over Sunnyhell sneezing." Giles smiled at him as he looked up. "But I still suck at the regular spell stuff."

"Then we'll just have to focus on it a bit more." He reached over, patting the younger man's hand. "Don't worry, even I had problems dealing with the small matters at first. My teacher tied me to a bolt in the floor until I could levitate a pencil at precise heights." He withdrew to go back to eating. "Now, eat, you need your strength."

"Yeah, my stitches come out today." He picked up his fork and took a bite of scrambled egg. "Want to come with me?"

"Yes, I would." Giles smiled warmly at him. "I would also like to check and make sure that you're fine in other ways too. From your discharge papers, it looked like you were truly ill for a while."

"It was exhaustion and lack of food. Even the mirror started to talk to me. That's why I ran out of the house."

"Ah, I see. And also why you've not been back, I'd guess." Xander nodded, sipping his milk. "I'll gladly go back with you if you'd like."

"Please. Talking mirrors aren't my best subject."

"Did it really?"

"Yup, it talked to me. The me in it did."

"Hmm, you may have some sort of magical infestation then. It's possible that all the magic you've leaked while working in the basement has built up or some such thing. We'll see when I bring you home later." They both looked at the door as it opened, Buffy walking in. "Was there something you needed?"

"Nope, just a hidey-hole. Willow cried all night and I didn't get even a little nap." She kissed the top of Xander's head. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry I didn't stop her when she was hurting you."

"Buff, truth, you probably couldn't have, even if you had known." Xander got up, looking at her. "It's not your bad, it's hers." He patted her on the arm, heading for the bathroom.

Giles listened for a few seconds then turned back to his charge. "He's right, you probably wouldn't have known."

"But I could have watched her better, been a better friend and seen she was going down the dark path or something." She stole a piece of the older man's toast, nibbling on the jelly-covered half. "I should have known, it's part of the job to detect bad things."

"Ah, but she wasn't a bad 'thing' as you put it. She's your best friend and not even I saw it until it was too late." He patted her hand. "You may nap on the couch while we're gone if you like."

"Is he...Are he and you doing *stuff*?" she asked.

Giles looked confused then flushed very brightly. "No, Buffy, he's not with me. As a matter of fact, I'm going to take him home later so he can rest. The only time he's here is when he falls asleep on the couch."

"Okay. Not that I would object, even if it were my place to do so, but you two are good for each other." She closed her mouth, stuffing it with another slice of pilfered toast.

Xander came back out, looking at her. "Buffy, we're not that together. I may have a like in that direction but I leave it up to him since he's the teacher and that's the way it's done."

"Actually," Giles started then closed his mouth. "Never mind," he mumbled.

"Later," Xander promised. "And yeah, I read that book already." Giles looked up sharply. "What? I wanted information, you hesitated, so I looked it up. That's what you trained me to do, wasn't it?" The former Watcher nodded, frowning. "I read all I could about many subjects in the last few months, that was just one of them."

"Ah, I see. And what did you think?"

"I think that we shouldn't discuss this with others."

Buffy blushed. "Sorry, want me to go?"

"No, we'll do the talking thing later. He's taking me to get my new and improved stitches out."

"Thought those would be gone by now."

"Would have been if I hadn't gotten a massive infection during my mental trip." She nodded, looking confused. "Four days sitting on the rug, staring into space? Sound familiar?" She smiled now, nodding again. "Then. That night I went home I ended up at the emergency room because my shoulder went numb, the mirror started talking to me, and I passed out on the way to the hospital."

She rolled her eyes. "Only you could have that set of complications to a little wound." She stole one last piece of toast then headed for the couch. "I'm gonna nap before I die. Have fun at the doctor's."

Giles rolled his eyes, getting up to make some more toast for himself. "Would you like anything else since I'm up?"

"Some milk," Buffy asked weakly. "Please?" Fortunately she didn't see either of the men's faces when she asked in such a little kid voice.

Xander finished off his breakfast. "Broil me a few pieces of toast please," he said, grabbing the milk off the bar to hand off to her, after licking the rim of the glass. Giles shook his head, not watching them.

"Xander, why is the glass wet?" Buffy asked, looking up at him.

"Milk sweats. It's cold, the air's warm. Sweaty glass syndrome." He went back to his breakfast, grabbing the two pieces of toast Giles handed him before sitting down. "Thanks, Giles."

"How is your job, by the way?"

"Fine, but I seem to spend tons on chalk." That made the older man smile slightly. "It's almost two dollars a week now, at thirty cents a stick." The older man nodded. "I need to go grab a check too, I don't think I picked up my last one. Not having to pay rent is making me not worry so much about money since I can actually save some."

Giles got up, grabbing the phone and dialing. "Ah, Elizabeth, good morning." He walked back to the table, smiling at the groan on the other end. "No, I'm almost on my way out the door with your helper and he mentioned having to pick up a check. Is it there? He wasn't sure." He glanced at Xander. "No, he has his mouth full of eggs at the moment." He looked down at his own plate but his student simply smiled at the newly uncovered portions of it. "Do go make yourself some more if you're still hungry," he said, covering the receiver. Then he snorted. "Xander, you've forgotten to pick up more than one check it seems and Liberty is ready to shoot you, her words." He uncovered the receiver. "Yes, I'll have him stop on the way and get them. Thank you, Elizabeth. Should we bring you some tea or something? I know how much you abhor mornings." He laughed lightly and hung up. "She said to bring her a Starbucks delivery man with a tray full of decent coffee and she'd be a happy woman."

Xander shook his head. "Yes, Elizabeth and mornings do not mix. She's one of those people who were born to be vamps, they hate sunlight and live for the nights." He walked back out, bringing a pan of eggs, splitting the cheesy concoction with his teacher. "There you go, a Harris special." He put the pan down on the bar after emptying it onto his plate, digging in. "And since I don't have to pay rent now, checks go much farther these days. Though I should probably go get them. I always remember to pick them up, just not to take them home since I'm at the store so often. And they feed me too so why buy food of course." He stopped at the small head shake of displeasure. "Sorry, going back to eating."

Giles looked down at these new eggs, smirking. "Someone must teach you how to cook, Xander. Only young men eat like this, and usually only when they're in college." He looked up in time to see the glance away. "Yes, we were going to discuss me going back, weren't we?" He took a bite of the new eggs, humming in appreciation.

"I take it that you take back any and all malignment of my eggs?" Xander asked smugly.

"Yes, definitely." He looked toward the couch in shock where a most unladylike snore just happened to come from. "No wonder her roommates don't get any sleep."

"Willow mumbles and talks."

"How would you know?"

"Many sleepovers as a kid." Xander scraped his plate clean. "Come on, Giles, we've got to be there at ten."

The older man hurried up, shaking his head at the overly happy young man.


Xander glanced into his bathroom, frowning at the image on the mirror. "See, it's still here," he called.

"Of course I am," the mirror Xander said back. "But you've been gone for a while now. At least you left on the lights so I wouldn't get scared."

Giles walked in, his mouth coming open at the image of Xander as he was that night he had went to the hospital. "I do believe we have a case of simple pollution. You use too much energy on the spells you cast so some of it leaks off into your environment. It just happened to collect here." He put a crystal on the counter under the glass, watching as the image faded slowly. "Ah, yes, I do believe that worked." He handed the crystal to the younger man. "This will absorb ambient magic, the part you leak off, so something of this sort doesn't happen again."

Xander looked at the crystal then back at his teacher. "I suck so bad I've been polluting the Hellmouth?" That got a small smile. "Okay, so how do I stop it?"

"You start to work on the simple things again so you can control your personal energy when you work." He patted the newly healed shoulder. "Don't worry, we all did this. Willow's plants started to talk to her one night. I had a few books that started to float around for no reason. It's a natural part of learning the higher magics."

"Okay, I can live with that." Xander, on impulse, kissed his teacher's cheek. "Thanks." Then he walked away, heading for his basement. And of course, Anya was down there again. "What?" he asked tiredly. "Can't a guy sleep?"

"No, we haven't had sex in two days." She got up, walking over to him. "Why do you have a rock?"

"It's a crystal to absorb some of the Hellmouth's energy before it makes the house glow in the dark again." She frowned at him, looking him over. "It's to absorb some of the magic floating around in the air so strange stuff stops happening." He listened as he heard a car drive off, sure Giles had heard Anya's voice and that's why he had left, not anything to do with the small kiss he had given him. "So, why are you here?" he asked, putting the crystal beside the bed and laying down. "I need a nap, I've been at the doctors already today."

"We haven't had sex in two days and you haven't answered your phone." She pouted at him. "Why were you there?"

"My shoulder."

"But that happened *ages* ago."

"But it got infected so they had to fix it." He pulled up his sleeve, showing off the pink area. "See, had to take out stitches and things." He closed his eyes, letting his shirt go. "I need a nap, staying or not?"

"Not, you're freaky today."

"Whatever. Drop your key on the washer."

"You're making me leave?" she asked, adding a tremble to her voice. "Why are you being mean to me? First you won't have sex with me and you ignore me, then you want me to leave. Are you getting rid of me?"

"No, I'm just tired of the whining. Deal with the fact that I have more important stuff to do."

"What do you have that's more important than having sex with me?"

"Life, Anya, I have one. I work and have friends and things." He flipped away from her. "Your choice."

"I'm staying," she said, crawling in next to him. "Can we have sex now?"

"How about after I take a nap? I need some sleep before work tonight."

"Will you buy me pretty things again?"

"Not this payday, Anya, I need it all to pay rent and things." So what if he lied to her, she didn't need to know his parents were gone and that he was really with Giles in all but the physical acts and he really didn't need anything with the insurance and pension payments.


"Because I do. That's the way the world works."

"Humh. I should whine. Cosmo said I should whine."

"You do enough of that, I'm growing immune. Now shh!" He braced himself for another assault but she only laid her head on his chest and snuggled in while rubbing her breasts against his side, hoping to get him interested.


Xander looked up from his writing in the blank books as the door chime sounded. "Hi, can I help you?" he asked the young man.

"Yeah," he said, pulling out a gun, "give me your money."

"What money? We haven't had a customer all day and the bank drop's already gone." Xander stood up, looking over the robber, memorizing him. "The only thing I can give you is the book I'm working on or some herbs, man." He waved around the store. He didn't want to put up an active resistance but he wasn't about to be robbed either. "Why don't you try down the street?"

"Shut up!" The robber looked around the store again then frowned. "You're one of those fruitcakes, aren't you?" he sneered. "One of those that believe rocks *breathe*." Xander shook his head. "No? Then why do you work here?"

"Because it's a job that's not fast food." Xander shrugged. "Anything else I can do for you?"

"Yeah, open the register."

"Can't, it won't work without a sale."

"Then punch something up," he said hotly, losing his patience.

"Then I'll get in trouble."

"You'd rather get dead?" the robber asked, waving the gun. "I've got a .38, you've got a bunch of herbs you don't even believe in. Who do you think's gonna win?"

"Well, you, but only in a fair fight," Xander said, levitating a copper pot over to hit the guy on the back. "Damn, knew I should practice that stuff more," he muttered, making it hit his hand this time. "See, not a fair thing at all, guess the owners must have heard."

The robber frowned, firing off into the floor. "The cash now, or it's your life."

"You want to be electrocuted for maybe thirty-five dollars? Man, if you're looking for that sort of action, I know a few places." Xander waved the gun away when it pointed at his head. "Fine, whatever. Just had to put up a protest so I wouldn't be fired."

One of the nice city patrolmen that didn't usually want to be out at night walked in, frowning at the kid with the gun. "You again? Wasn't the 7-11 enough for you?" He grabbed the gun, taking it from the kid. "Come on," he said as he pulled the would-be robber out of the store by his ear. "Your mother's waiting for you."

Xander brought the pot up to the counter, looking at it before putting it down. "I'll make a note and," he yawned, "clean it later." He was just starting to nod off when Liberty walked in. "Hey, stopped a mugger."

She shook her head, pointing towards the backrooms, watching as he went. She picked up the dented pot, straightening it out with a grunt and a thought. "Boys," she muttered, opening the drawer to count it. "He's got to learn better control. That or I have to make that spell on the register less sensitive."


Giles frowned at Xander as he walked out of the back stretching. "What did you think you were doing?" he asked hotly. "You should know better than to argue with a potential robber." He pulled his student over to him, looking at his confused expression. "Last night you argued with a robber, which was one of the stupidest things in this universe. Tell me why you did it!"

"Because he was a scared little kid and he was confused." Xander patted his arm, heading for the complimentary coffee. "Morning," he called. Liberty came out of the back. "Let me get a sip of caffeine and I'll clean that pot."

"Easy child," Elizabeth said from the stacks of books, "we did it." She walked out, handing him the rest of her cup. "Here, the good stuff, flavored and all."

"You're a true incarnation of the Goddess," he sighed, drinking it quickly. He looked at Giles, frowning. "Why were you yelling at me again?"

"Because scared children like that one end up on death row every day in this state because they shoot the people they are trying to hold up when they resist, like you did." He pulled his student closer. "Never do anything so ignorant again, Xander, promise me."

"I won't. I'll admit to being...what did he call us? Fruitcakes, that was it. I'll admit to being one of those fruitcakes and stomp his ass next time. Okay?" Giles hugged him tightly, growling at him, or so it sounded. "I'm sorry I worried you," he said.

"I'll teach you a glamour spell," Giles whispered. "That way you can give him what seems to be money but will in fact be nothing more than his imagination." He pulled back. "Can you do that? Not argue with people who want to shoot you?" Xander nodded, mouth open in another yawn. "Good, we'll work on that later tonight. Now go to work. I'm sure your boss wants to punish you just as much as I do."

"Yeah, but if Liberty wanted to spank me, I'd let her," Xander whispered to the older man, heading for the counter. "So, oh Great and Understanding Bosslady, what is my task on this day of inventory?" She laughed and handed him a clipboard. "I'll remember to bring an alarm the next time I go back home," he told her, kissing her cheek.

"Why? You're actually early this morning. Again." Liberty sighed. "That boy gives me the absolute *worst* headache when it comes to bookkeeping. Always on time or early. Working split shifts so we can cover the busy times but always in the back so he can hurry out if he's needed. The boy needs a hobby, Giles."

"Indeed," he said, "but I can't seem to find one for him. His girlfriend is a bit on the groping side but he seems to not even take breaks for her."

"For Anya?" Xander called, outraged. "Would you?"

"A very good point," Giles sighed. "We'll just have to get you someone better." He smiled at Liberty. "He still didn't remember to pick up those checks."

"I noticed," she said with a small frown. "Xander, you're going to the bank to cash your paycheck whether you want to or not," Liberty called. He came out of the herb section, frowning at her so she reached under the register to come up with three envelopes. "Paychecks," she said, like to a little kid. "Very good things, they mean that you can eat and buy more chalk. Just like pension survivor's benefits from your parents, and insurance checks." He shook his head, heading back to his job. So she handed them to his teacher. "Here, he's your problem student, you make him cash them so he doesn't screw up my books."

Giles smiled, laughing lightly. "I'm sure that can be arranged. Xander, come, lets take you to the bank so you can buy me breakfast and yourself some coffee."

"Sure," Xander muttered, pencil between his teeth as he weighed a container of herbs. "In a sec."

"Now." When five minutes had passed, he walked over, taking the pencil from between the teeth and putting it aside, right before he dragged his student out the door, checks in his other hand. "You can brush your teeth on the way back," he admonished.