Xander hid behind Giles as he walked in the door. "Save me?" he asked.
"Catch moving-too-fast-to-catch boy for me," Oz said, reaching around Giles to grab Xander. "He needs punished."
"I was being good," Xander protested, giving Giles an innocent look.
"Whenever you give me that look, I know you've just told a lie," Giles told him, getting out of Oz's way, watching the tickling progress until Xander begged Oz to stop. Then he stepped in and removed Xander, putting him on the couch. "What did you do this time?"
"I was practicing," Xander defended once he caught his breath. "Oz got mad because I was levitating his stuff and he attacked me unfairly."
"I broke his concentration to get my sheet music back," Oz countered. "He was being fast and levitating."
"Really?" Giles said, looking interested. "How good was he at that?"
"Really good, I couldn't catch him for an hour," Oz grumbled, sitting down to work on another song from their shared mental time. He had joined Xander in fixing a mental problem and had received a lot of music that he needed to write down for the band. "Keep him away from my writing stuff please."
"Of course." Giles nodded at the kitchen. "Go chop vegetables for tonight's dinner if you wouldn't mind."
"Sure," Xander sighed, going to do as he was told. He could show off again later, and maybe this time someone would tell him how he was doing it.
"This is your skills coming out," Oz called out.
"That doesn't tell me a whole lot," Xander countered, not looking up. "How was I able to be both fast and levitating earlier?"
"Not sure," Oz admitted, getting up to come help him, "but we should figure that out, huh." He pinched him on the side. "Next time, don't use my music stuff."
"I could have used you," Xander told him, giving him an impish grin.
"I think that would have been a bit too large," Giles admonished gently while Oz shook his head. "He'll have to stick with smaller things for now, but not your musical apparatuses," Giles said quickly. "Maybe we'll go back to chess pieces and the like. Or fruit, that would work well."
Xander grimaced. "No fruit. That's all I've eaten for the last few days and I'm sick of fruit." He pulled out a knife and the bag of vegetables from the refrigerator, and started to chop, letting his mental powers do the work for him.
"Physically," Giles admonished gently. He looked over at Oz. "Was he moving very fast or was he just levitating and running fast?"
"He became a big blur and was levitating or juggling, depending on what he had," Oz told him. "I think you need to give him real lessons now, Giles, before he hurts himself trying something."
"Yes, I think we should start that." He looked back at the kitchen, watching Xander as he ran around, doing his thing as usual. "Xander, slow down or I'm going to call Angel to get something to calm you down."
"You should do that anyway," Oz said quietly. "He'd know how to train him best."
"Yes, he might at that," Giles agreed, giving him a smile. "An excellent idea. I'll do it after supper." He watched Xander struggle with doing things the normal way, shaking his head. "The first thing is to get him worn out so he has to slow down."
"This isn't a matter of energy," Xander called. "This is a matter of storing too much and now I'm trying to let some of it out." He pulled down two plates while he stirred the vegetables, mentally setting the table. He yawned and fell over, the plates crashing down but thankfully not breaking.
Giles sighed as he stood up and went to finish supper. "I tried to warn you," he told the still body. "Next time, you should listen."
Xander mewwed and rubbed his head against Giles' leg, slipping from unconsciousness into sleep.
Oz shook his head and grabbed the phone, dialing a now familiar number in Los Angeles.
Angel and Spike walked into Giles' apartment and looked down at the sleeping figure. "What happened to him this time?" Angel asked.
"He's been storing energy again," Oz said from his corner. "He thought he had to burn some of it off, but he didn't keep any in reserve." He looked up. "He got fast and was levitating."
Spike looked thoughtful. "Maybe we should work on building his stamina." His sire nodded. "Want me to wake him?"
"Wake who?" Xander mumbled, blindly reaching out a hand, trying to find something. "Shoot." He opened his eyes and blinked up at Angel and Spike. "Well, I knew I wasn't in bed, but when did you guys get here?"
"Just a minute ago," Angel said quietly. "I want to evaluate your abilities, would that be all right?"
Xander nodded and pushed himself up, taking the glass of juice Giles handed him. "Am I in trouble for what I did?"
"No, you're in trouble for how you did it," Giles told him. "You really must keep a reserve of your energies, Xander. It's most important."
"I thought I had one," he complained, drinking his juice. "I used to have one."
"Being possessed may have burnt it out," Oz told him, getting up to come sit beside him. "So we called Angel to look you over." Xander nodded and shifted so he could sit closer to his lover. "Thanks, but you really do have to do a little training."
"I know," Xander sighed. "And I probably need to go back inside myself and look at the jello monster again too."
"That might be a very good idea," Giles agreed. "We'll go do that after Angel and Spike take a look at you."
Xander finished his juice and handed the glass back. "Okay, let's go do this part. I need to find out...." He yawned. And promptly fell back asleep.
"It's a clog in the line of power," Oz told them. "That's what he was thinking anyway." He went back to his music.
Giles sighed. "Angel, I'm sorry. I had thought he'd be all right by tonight."
"It's okay," Angel told him. "It's kinda funny really," he said with a smile. "So, what exactly was he doing earlier?"
Oz held up the report he had written out for them. "Not too much, but it was together."
"Which will be useful during fights," Spike noted. "Wish I'd been able to do that a few times."
Angel glared at him. "Yes, but I'm very thankful that you can't. Don't even try it, Spike."
Spike raised one eyebrow but he didn't dignify that with a response. He nudged Xander, making him get up. "Wakey, wakey," he growled, pulling him up and shaking him. "Your teacher said you're to go find the problem with your power base and then we're to train you."
Xander blinked at him and nodded. "But I can't do that while you're holding me," he told his half-brother. It had been a minion of Angelus' that had partially turned him, so technically Spike was now his family. "Put me down so I can meditate and let Giles make you comfy for a while. I think I need a mental roto rooter." Spike put him down. "Thanks," he sighed, looking at Giles. "Can we do this so I don't do that again?"
"Of course," Giles said, going over to his box of candles and pulling one out. "This one today?"
Xander shrugged. "I need a physical focus, it usually doesn't matter which one. Pick one of your smelly candles if you want." He got up, moving the coffeetable out of the way, and sat down in the cleared space, accepting the lit candle. He put it on the rug in front of him and stared at it for a few minutes, trying to will himself calm. He sighed when it wasn't working.
Giles got down and started to rub his back again, calming and soothing his student. Within minutes, he was under. He looked up at Angel. "This seems to work best," he said quietly.
"I'll do it," Oz offered, getting up.
"No, I've got this. Why don't you go help Angel prepare a room. You did say you were leaving Spike with us?"
"What?" Spike asked.
"Yes, I am," Angel said, looking at his childe. "He needs training, Spike, and you always did do better with the fledglings."
Spike snorted. "You just want me out of the way."
"True," Angel said with a smile, "but I can make it an order if I have to."
Spike shook his head and scuffed one shoe on the floor. "Fine, but I'd better be fed," he said sullenly.
"You will be," Angel said, reaching out to his injured childe. He still hadn't figured out how to remove the chip the Initiative had put in him, and it was hurting both of them because it had started working not a week after Xander had shorted it out. Spike used to be so vibrant, now he was surly and even more cruel when he could get away with it. "I'm going to evaluate him tonight, if you want me to, or you can do it."
"It may take him a while," Oz told them.
"We would have warned you if we'd known this was going to happen," Giles explained. "If I had known that he needed to do this first, I would have had him doing this tonight and called you in a few days."
"Why a few days?" Spike asked.
"Because last time, it took him three days to tame the jello monster," Oz said dryly. "Right after lighting the bed on fire a few times."
Spike sighed. "He's a right mess then."
"No, we fixed that problem," Giles told him. "That was before that disastrous spell was preformed. It's now that we're having the problems with."
"Good," Angel said. "Then Spike can definitely help you with that. He's very good at that sort of training. He'll need to know how to fight, right?" Giles nodded. "Good. Let Spike handle the beginnings and if he needs it, I'll handle the harder things." He looked around. "Where's Buffy?"
"With Willow, working on their bond," Oz told him, giving him an amused look. "They're bonded like we are."
Angel snorted. "Willow must be pissed," he said happily.
"Buffy was worse," Oz said, holding up a tape he had pulled out from his stash. "Want to hear something funny?"
"Oz, I doubt Angel wants to hear Buffy speaking Valley for a day," Giles sighed.
"Hey, it was funny," Oz reminded him. He looked up at the vampires, who were walking over. "Xander found a mild curse spell and wanted to see how it affected things, and how to remove it. So he cursed Buffy to speak Valley all day long."
"Were they bonded then?" Spike asked, taking the tape to go put into the tape player.
"Use the small one and play it in the bedroom," Giles told them, rolling his eyes at Spike's mirth. "That way Xander isn't affected by it."
Spike shrugged and walked into the back bedroom with the little tape player they used to dictation.
It only took seconds for laughter to come out, and it was definitely Angel's.
Xander looked at his poor jello monster of power, reaching out to stroke across it. "You don't feel good," he told it. "I know, it sucks to be possessed. We've been through this before." He looked at the burnt edges of the effigy that represented his powers. Then he looked down at the spider webbing across his body to check it for any blank spots. He found a few and decided to pull out a little more of his powers to link to the network he already had.
He touched his power block, a thrill going through him. "Huh, you're not being good today," he told it, reaching out to grab a strand. He hitched it to his network, watching as it flowed through him and back to the block. The block started to change colors, but he felt worse. And the more he cleaned of his powers, the worse he felt. When it was mostly done, he forced himself to come back, and got up, running outside.
Giles put out the candle before it could burn the rug and went running after him, as did Angel, Spike, and Oz.
Xander backed away from them, holding out a hand. He sneezed violently and a fireball exploded near his feet. "The power was burnt," he called, right before doing it again.
"Dear God," Giles said in admiration. "I've never seen anyone do that before." He looked at Angel, who looked mystified.
"I think we should find him something easier," Oz said. He thought about it and slowly walked forward, dodging another sneeze. "Xander, wear it out like you did earlier," he said, tossing a pencil. Xander caught it and looked at him. "Hey, I can play tag. So can Spike."
"As long as he bloody well doesn't sneeze on me and fry me bits," Spike grumbled. He walked forward. "C'mon, let's do this."
Xander looked at Oz, who looked smug. "Okay," he said, stopping to sneeze. He turned towards Spike and became a blur as he ran toward him. Then he picked up Giles to bounce in the air while he ran around, trying to keep tagging the Oz, who was moving pretty fast on his own.
"Hey!" one of the neighbors called. Her window slammed shut and her drapes were pulled as soon as she looked outside.
"Put me down," Giles complained. "Lift Angel." He found himself gently sitting on his little iron table, and smiled as Angel started to bounce in mid air while Spike and Oz ran around letting Xander tag them.
It was almost an hour later when Xander stopped everything to sneeze, dropping Angel. "Well, it almost worked," he sighed, leaning against Oz until the both cooled down.
Oz panted harshly. "Maybe Spike knows a way to make it better."
"Maybe I do," Angel said, rubbing his now sore rear from where he had been dropped. "Are you going to do that again?" Xander shook his head. "Good. Thank you." He looked at Giles and opened his mouth, then shook his head and closed it. "What boundaries does he have?"
"You're as heavy as I want to lift," Xander told him, straightening up. "I can do fast for a while longer, but I'm too tired to lift too." Angel nodded, motioning him to go on. "If I'm actively casting, then I have to slow down to a normal speed, and I can't be levitating. If I'm working with my glyphs, I might be able to run fast and cast those as there's not a lot I have to do with them usually. It's more of a mental desire and a drawing thing."
Angel looked thoughtful. "Why don't you get a drink, Harris. You probably need one to restore you a little bit." He watched as Xander trotted off and sneezed again, noticing that the fireballs were getting smaller. "He's getting better at least," he told Giles, who was shaking his head.
"Yeah, but if this is what's going to happen every time he gets a cold, we're going to need to have a fireproof room," Oz said lightly, following Xander inside.
Spike walked over to them. "You never said he could do that," he pouted. "Why can't we?"
"Because his whole nature is now magical," Angel told him. "He's no longer really a part of the physical realm." He wrapped an arm around Spike's neck to squeeze it. "Think of him like a unicorn, Spike. They're physical, but they're mostly magic. That's why they can run *very* fast away from us."
Spike grunted. "Never gonna let me live that down, will ya," he complained as he got free and went inside. "Use that for somethin' useful, whelp. Do a steak for everyone." He screamed a second later as a fireball was aimed at him. "Hey!"
"Don't do that in the house." Giles got up to hurry inside and examine the apartment for any damage.
Angel groaned and disappeared into the night. His children had it and he had work to do.
Spike got settled into his room and looked up at the white ceiling. "Why do I let myself be talked into these things?" he muttered. Writing appeared on the ceiling.
//Because you care too much, even when you're hiding it.//
"Not me," he protested.
//Do so. You couldn't refuse a chance to come back up here and train the boy. Angel thinks too much of him, and you thought you saw a spark of something you'd like in him when you were fighting together.//
"Maybe," Spike temporized. "Who're you?"
//Who do you think I am?// A smiley face appeared after the words.
"Bloody git who's supposed to be taking a nap, I bet," Spike told it.
//Wrong one.// It disappeared.
"Hey," Spike complained, reaching up to touch it. "Come back here." But the words were gone. He got comfortable and pushed the incident aside, planning on what to teach his newest student first. The boy needed control, so maybe leash training was in order. He shook his head. "They won't go for that. Too bloody precious to them." He flipped onto his side. "At least I can get the Watcher's help to train 'im. Too much for me."
"I'll help too," Oz said from the doorway, dangling a packet of blood. "These came for you." He tossed it over. "Who were you talking to?"
"A few lights that came and wrote to me." Spike looked at the bag and sniffed it, frowning. "Cow?"
"You'd rather have mouse?"
Spike grinned. "Ah, sarcasm. Good to be back home again." He ripped into the bag, slurping down the contents. "How many of these do I have now?"
"Six. They're in the fridge, in the bottom drawer." Oz walked out, closing the door behind him. He slowly made his way up to the room he shared with Giles and Xander, looking down at the sleeping wizard. "Spike got ceiling writing," he said when Giles walked in from the bathroom.
"I was wondering who he was talking to." He climbed into his side of the bed, laying still so Xander could fit himself to him. "There we are. It should be safe for you to climb in now."
Oz stripped down and climbed in, and was pounced by Xander, who stuck his butt up in the air once he was comfortable. "You were saying?" he asked, throwing the blankets up over the airborne ass.
Giles snickered but he got comfortable. Xander would switch back to him, he always did. The boy was positively clingy when he slept, and very active. He turned off his bedside light and closed his eyes.
Oz tried to push the butt down, but there wasn't any use. Xander was going to be sore tomorrow. He tried to get to sleep, but the rear kept drawing his attention.
"I'm sore," Xander complained as he walked down from his shower. "What did I do last night to my back?"
"You slept with your butt up in the air for almost an hour," Oz told him. "You're part of a song now." He walked around him, giving him a short hug on his way to the table.
"Oz, tell me you didn't write me into a funny song," Xander complained as he poured himself some coffee, the pot was his contribution to the house. He leaned against the counter while he stirred in sugar.
"Yup," Oz said, digging into his cereal. "It made Giles laugh. You're a kitty cat sleeper."
Xander groaned but he came over to sit next to him. "How do you do that to me and not piss me off?"
"Because you think it's funny too," Oz reminded him, pointing with his full spoon. Which Xander ate the contents of. "Hey, get your own." He pushed him lightly.
"Yeah, I can handle food now," Xander said as he drained his first cup of coffee. "I wonder if a good caffeine high would make me faster," he mused as he poured himself some of the cocoa puffs.
"We're not finding out," Oz said firmly. "I won't put up with you when you're in that mood."
"In what mood?" Giles asked as he walked out of the bathroom. He looked at Xander, who had his tongue sticking out while he poured his milk. "Why do you do that?" he asked with a smile, coming over to give him a kiss. "You look like an innocent little child to me when you concentrate that hard."
"I am an innocent little kid," Xander reminded him with a grin. He picked up his bowl and brought it out to the table, sitting down in his spot. "Oz said I can't have caffeine to figure out how it affects my being fast."
"I don't think we need to know that just yet," Giles said calmly, making his own breakfast of toast. "What else did you have planned for today?"
"Not much. I have a few spells I want to look at. They're in the books my former bosses left for me."
"I see," Giles said lightly. He walked over and sat down with them. "I'll gladly help you do that if you wish."
"*You* have a school board meeting today," Xander reminded him. "And Oz is going to do something about his latest funny song."
"Yup, I'm going to write a second verse," Oz said, giving him a look. "It's going to be about people who eat like dogs."
"I do not!"
"Who said the second verse was about you?" Oz asked, watching as Xander lapped the last of the cereal out of the bowl while he drank the milk. He handed over a napkin, letting the younger man clean up his own mess. "What am I doing today besides that?"
"Band practice I do believe," Giles reminded him. He looked at Xander and handed him another napkin. "Get the milk on the table too, please. Maybe you should make it about people who eat like a goldfish."
"Eww. Do you know what fish food is made of? Littler, pressed fishies."
Giles patted him on the shoulder. "I meant the mouth action, Xander. Buffy does that if you watch her closely enough."
Xander did his goldfish impersonation, then laughed like Buffy, the high-pitched laugh.
"Don't, please," Oz groaned. "They'll show up."
"Who will?" Buffy asked from the door. She smiled at Xander. "I got a visitor last night, and a rose." She held it up so they could see it. "It's cloth, but that's okay because that means I can't kill it." She gave Giles a hug. "I'm a happy girl."
"Who should have class about now," Oz reminded her.
"We have today off." She sat down in the spare chair, looking around. "So, what's on the agenda for tonight? We need to research or is it a free night?"
"It's a training night for me," Xander told her with a shrug. "Angel sent Spike up to help me learn stuff."
"Ah." She looked around again. "Is he still fixed?"
"Yup." He dumped the wet napkins into the bowl. "Are we having a Hellmouthy thing?"
"No, it's our planned night for get togethers,"she reminded him. "We said we'd do that more often now."
"Point," Oz agreed. "We could do movies while Xander trained."
"I could help Xander train," Buffy offered. "You could be yelled at by Spike and beaten up by me."
Xander grinned. "But I'm *fast* now. I caught Spike a lot last night."
"Got me too," Oz agreed. "All while bouncing people."
"Yes, that would be most disconcerting in a fight," Giles said, smiling at his lovers. "If you'd like, you can help Xander train tonight," he offered. "I'm not sure what Spike has planned, but if not, I'll gladly work with you for a while."
"And then we can watch movies," Oz added, much to the delight of Xander.
"Coolness," Xander said, looking at the kitchen. "Was there any more bread?"
"Of course. Go fix yourself some toast. Just leave a little bit of the cream cheese if you're eating it."
"Thanks," Xander said, halfway to the kitchen before the first word was out of his teacher's mouth. He hummed a tune Oz had been working on yesterday as he cooked, wiggling his hips in time with the music.
Buffy pulled her gaze away from Xander's shaking hips and looked at Oz. "So," she said, "what's going on over here?"
"More music to be written and a lot more training to be done." Oz scraped his bowl and pushed it aside. "Is Willow coming tonight?"
Buffy closed her eyes then shook her head. "She said we have a test tomorrow." She shrugged. "I don't know in what though." She went back to watching Xander. "How are you going to train him?"
"I thought I could start by learning undead judo," Xander called out. "And then I'd progress upward to undead karate and ninja stuff." He brought his plate and the jar of peanut butter out, going back for a knife. "Okay, I'm ready," he told himself. "Maybe that would help me coordinate things better."
"Coordinate?" Buffy asked, looking at his outfit. "You're doing much better at that now."
"I think he means the magic and fighting stuff," Oz told her, patting her on the arm. "His clothes are less loud because most of them burned in the fire and Giles won't let him get another Hawaiian shirt."
"Which is totally mean of him," Xander protested. "I like my style."
"Yes, we're working on getting you one now," Giles told him, giving him a smile. "Now if only we could get you into tweed..."
Xander shuddered and glared at him. "No," he said slowly, hoping his teacher got it. "I don't care how much students have to follow their teacher's orders, I'm not wearing tweed." He buttered a slice of toast and stuck it in his mouth, then stuck out his dirty tongue.
"Keep it up and I'll make you clean the house today," Giles warned with a smile. "That being fast property should make scrubbing the bathtub easier."
Xander groaned, "I'll be good," through his food and looked down at his empty plate. "Hey, I know I had food!" He looked at Oz, and Buffy, who were eating some of his toast. "You could have asked.
"It was the plate-monster, Xander," Oz told him. "It ate it all. You forgot to feed it again today so it stole your food." He finished up his slice of toast and looked at Giles. "I'm going to work some more. Want me to work with him until Spike gets up?"
"Sure, I can help with that," Buffy said.
"Good," Giles said, standing up to take his dishes back into the kitchen. "You all can clean the house then." He smiled as he saw Xander go running past him and heard him sneeze again. "Thank you," he called, heading up to get ready for his meeting.
Oz got up to look at the scorch mark, and frowned at the fireball that was still sitting there. "Giles, I think he needs some of your special expertise," he called, sitting back down to finish his milk.
Giles jogged down the stairs and looked at the fireball, then at his student. "Was that the last one?" Xander nodded, giving him a pathetic look. "Go get a mason jar, we'll keep it for a bit." He took the jar Buffy handed him and carefully scooped it up, bringing it inside. "Xander, go chip some wood to feed the poor dear."
"What is it?" Buffy asked, looking at it. "It's not hot?"
"It is, but not when you're taking care of it," he told her, handing her the jar. "Xander sneezed up a baby fire elemental." He took the stick and broke it into small pieces, dropping one down to feed it. "Give it about half an inch of wood every hour or so," he instructed, handing Xander back the stick. "You may treat it by giving it bark every now and again. We'll try to find it a home tonight." He walked back upstairs, going back to his dressing for the day.
Oz looked at his lover and bond-mate. "Only you," he sighed as he got up to go back to his song writing.
Buffy sat down, staring through the glass. "It's cute," she admitted, "in a candle flame sort of way." She set the jar down and took a piece of bark, dropping it down to give the poor thing a treat. "How did you sneeze it up?"
Xander shrugged and went into the kitchen to make himself some more toast. And this time, he wouldn't share, no matter how much the plate monster tried to steal his food.
Spike walked out as Xander was feeding his pet elemental, stopping when he saw it. "How'd you get that?" he asked, sitting down to stare at it.
"I sneezed it up," he told him, sitting down to look at the poor baby. "It's going to need a bigger glass soon. I've been overfeeding it." He looked over at Giles, who was smiling. "What do we put it in next?"
"Next, we put it out so it can go find a place to live."
"But it's a baby!" Xander protested.
"Yes, that's why we'll put it near a fire so it can find it's own kind," Giles told him. "As a matter of fact, go build a fire in the courtyard."
Xander glared at him. "But it's anti-fire season. We'll get fined."
"Not if you do it magically," Giles pointed out. "And in a drum. There's one out back." He turned his page. "That spell was in the book you were supposed to be reading today."
Xander got up to grab the book and do as he was told. He came back for his baby elemental, bringing it out to show it what he was doing.
Giles smiled at Spike. "It's not such a horrible thing, but he can't keep it. Within a week, it would need a house a day to survive."
"That's a good reason," Spike agreed, getting comfortable. "Heard Buffy," he said cordially.
"She was here earlier. She left a while ago to go back to the dorms after a short patrol."
"Which is why I came out now," Spike pointed out.
"Ah. Well, she won't harm you as long as you're working with Xander. I think I got her to see that it was necessary for you to be here so she should be all right about it." He put aside his book as he heard the 'whoosh' of the new fire starting. "Wait for me," he called, walking out to look at the fifteen foot flame. "That's a bit large," he complained.
"It's another elemental," Xander told him, holding up the baby elemental. "We wanted to return it, but he made me wait," he told the big one. "We've been taking good care of it. Gave it plenty of bark too."
The fire elemental shattered the glass and took it's baby from Xander's hand without burning him. Then the whole fire disappeared.
Spike clapped. "Good job. Woulda been nasty if it'd been pissed at ya." He walked out and looked Xander over. "What did you do today?"
"I worked on spells and I worked on cleaning the house." Xander stuck his tongue out at Giles' back. "I even scrubbed the bathtub."
"Good," Giles said, straightening up after examining the drum. "You did that very efficiently. If Spike doesn't want you, you may rest for a bit or go to bed."
"We need to rearrange his sleep schedule," Spike pointed out. "It won't do if I only get two hours of him a night."
"We can start that tomorrow," Giles told him, waving Xander back inside. "For now, we'll discuss what you're going to be training him to do." He led the vampire back inside and sat them both down on the couch.
Xander peered down from the opening in the bedroom, watching them talk about him. He had a right to know after all. At least he was paying attention to them until someone licked the back of his knee. "Oz!"
"Boys, please be quiet," drifted up.
Xander turned and pounced on his Oz, right there in the middle of the floor. "Did you need a distraction?"
"No, you did." Oz rolled them over, pinning Xander to the floor. "Shh," he whispered, leaning down to kiss him. "Complain and I stop," he reminded him, shifting his hips back so he could bring them both off by rubbing their cocks.
"Oz," Xander moaned, rubbing up against him.
Giles walked into the room and looked down at them. "Wouldn't the bed be better for that?"
"Nope, I wanted a quick off," Oz said, continuing to rub against Xander's cock. He came with a few more strokes and leaned against his lover's body. He looked down, reaching down to tweak the hard cock. "You still need more," he noted.
"Leave him," Giles said. "I'll take care of that in a bit." He left the room, coming back after a second. "Here, put this on him and be careful not to pinch him in it." He left, closing the door behind him.
Oz looked at the cockring, then at his lover, shrugging as he went down to put it on him. After he cleaned him up a little. Leather and cum didn't always mix very well.
Xander woke up and looked around the dark bedroom, frowning at his lower body. He glared at Giles, who was sleeping next to him, then at Oz, who was mumbling in his sleep. He got up and went to the bathroom, going to take the damned ring off and fix what was left of his desire. He came out about ten minutes later, refreshed and cleaned up, and stopped to glare at Giles. "That wasn't nice," he pouted. "I didn't need to be left like that."
"Xander, if I say you're to be left like that, then you are," Giles reminded him.
"Yay. Nothing in the student's handbook that you gave me said I had to give in to torture." He crossed his arms on his chest. "I don't have to and I won't," he said firmly.
Giles smiled at him, coming over to put an arm around his shoulders, stunning him with a spell at the moment of contact. "You will do what I say or I will kick your butt out," he reminded quietly. "Never go against my orders again, Xander."
Xander fought against the spell, eventually breaking it. He glared at his teacher. "You already taught me that counter," he said coldly, stepping away from him, his hands balling up at his sides. "You're not Giles," he accused.
"What's going on?" Oz asked from the bedroom. He walked down, looking at the tableau that met him. "Uh-huh. Problems?"
"Xander's just gone against an order," Giles said simply.
"This isn't Giles," Xander countered. "Giles would never stun me for going to take off the damned ring."
Spike stuck his head out then walked out, sniffing at everyone. "Boy's got a point," he told Oz. "That's not the Watcher." He punched Giles, sending him to the floor. "Thought he smelled different when he got back today. Roast him, boy, before he gets up."
"We'll need information from him," Xander said coldly. He bent down, touching the spot under the older man's chin, freezing him. "Giles taught me that *months* ago," he whispered. "Who are you?" He let his voice drop down into that seductive range again, staring into the brown eyes. "Who are you and where's Rupert Giles?"
The body shuddered, fighting against both spells. "No!" he screamed, breaking free and getting away from the boy. "I'm your teacher, boy!"
"No, you're not," Oz said, walking over. "Xander, can you disable his illusion?" Xander shook his head. "Not up to that yet?"
"No, I've been learning offensive and defensive magic. I suck at illusions." He thought for a second then whispered a word and made a tossing motion to the older man, who jerked and struggled but he was fairly caught this time. "Net spell."
"Cool," Oz said, walking over to sniff at the man. "He doesn't smell right," he admitted. He looked at Spike. "How long have you known?"
"I had a feeling earlier when he sat me down and was tellin' me how to train the boy," Spike told him. "After all, I doubt the real Watcher would be a big enough git to have him sub trained."
"Sub trained?" Xander asked.
"Have you trained as a submissive subject," Oz filled in. "It was in a few of the books about some of the old sorcerers." He looked at the man impersonating their teacher and lover. "Now what?"
"Now, we find out who he is," Spike said, looking at Xander. "Can you divine magic?"
"Nope," Xander said, shaking his head. "That's my major liability."
"Is that because no one taught you?" Oz asked.
"No, I can't feel the power flows at all. All I can feel are my own and the ones from the teaching stones." He snapped his fingers and went to get his calligraphy set, starting to draw out one of the wish glyphs. It flamed up and the man's illusion briefly flickered. "Ethan?" he asked in shock. "You hate me!"
"Yes, but you're useful," Ethan pointed out, finally getting free now that the boy wasn't concentrating any more. He banished his illusion and stood there in front of them. "Ripper had to leave suddenly and he called on me to take his place."
"Not," Oz said. "He would have told us."
"Boys, you really are a rather large imposition on him," Ethan pointed out. "He wouldn't have told you."
"Yeah, he would have," Spike countered. "He would have at least told Angel or me."
"I called you," Ethan sighed. "I've been here for a good week. The scent part of the spell started to wear off earlier, I was going to put it back on tonight."
"We should have noticed," Oz told Xander. "Giles doesn't deal with elementals very often."
"Point," Xander agreed. "Out, Ethan, and never return. I've got my training in hand." The older man didn't move. "Now, or I'm going to bring out one of my major spells and make you look and sound funny for weeks."
Ethan snorted and walked out the door. "I'll be at the motel when you're ready to see that you can't do this on your own," he said before slamming the door.
"Great," Xander sighed, sitting down in a dining room chair. "Now what?"
"Now, I sleep. We'll figure this out in daylight," Oz told him. "Or in the afternoon." He nodded at Spike. "Can you work out with him in the house?"
"I can," Spike agreed. "Gonna take a little bit of rearranging." The couch and chairs all moved, giving them a clear practice space. "Handy trick, that," Spike said, giving the boy an admiring look. "Go sleep, boy, before I train you my way."
Xander nodded and followed Oz up the stairs, going back to bed. He lay on his lover's chest, staring at the wall. "Do you think he's okay?"
"Probably. I didn't smell a lie," Oz pointed out. "I've got to change tomorrow," he reminded the young man. "Can you handle Spike on your own?"
"Sure," Xander sighed, giving him a hug. "How are we going to find Giles?"
"He'll come back. He has to. Everything of his is here." He smoothed down the soft back. "Sleep, Xander. You're going to need it to train tomorrow."
Xander nodded and slowly closed his eyes, falling asleep in the warm embrace.
Oz stared at the ceiling, wondering what he was going to do about this. He was now the responsible adult in the house, which was really scary when you thought about it.
Xander looked up from his yoga exercise, glancing at Oz's still form. It was Oz's idea that he needed to be more centered, hence the getting bendy on the floor moment they were having. This was really more for Oz though, he needed the calming influence. It had been two weeks since they had found out that Giles had left them alone and the stress was showing on Oz's face. Xander copied Oz's switch in position and stretched his back and arm muscles this time. "Oz, what should I do to find him?" he asked quietly, not wanting to break the mood.
//Got a spell for that?// Oz sent over their mental bond, a remnant of their first spell together.
"Nope. Not that I've seen. Maybe in the books that I'm not supposed to be touching."
"We'll check. It won't hurt you to check," Oz said out loud, turning his head to look at Xander. "We shouldn't worry. Giles is more than capable of taking care of himself."
"Maybe," Xander agreed, "but I'd feel better if I knew where he was and why he didn't tell us."
"Point," Oz conceded. "Let's get back into the proper mindset. This will help you with your magic. You need to be centered and calm to work."
"Yeah, I do," Xander said, reassuming the position and clearing his mind of most thoughts. Oz would figure it out for him. He was the smart one.
Xander picked up the book he knew was his, but that he wasn't supposed to be touching, flipping through the pages to see what it contained. "It's funny," he told Spike, who was at the other end of the couch resting between lessons in fighting dirty. "Before I got turned, I was meant to be a teacher. Now, I don't feel that same spark from the book. I guess I really have changed too much for my old life to continue." He stopped and sat up, reading the spell in front of him. "I think I found it," he said, showing it off. "I can do this."
"Not without some help," Spike reminded him. "You agreed, no magic in the house."
"So I'll do it outside," Xander said with a shrug.
"You'll get the witch's help," Spike countered.
"We're not speaking," Xander reminded him harshly. "Not after she betrayed me that way."
"Point, but you gotta get some help. The Watcher wouldn't have kept it from you if he had thought you could do it."
"I'll ask Oz in the morning," Xander told him, marking the spot and putting the book aside. "More fighting?"
"Whenever you're ready, pet," Spike said as he got up. "You've been doin' good, for a halfling."
"Yeah, I have," Xander said with a grin. "It's good to be good."
Spike snorted. "Not yet, you're not." He lunged at the boy, testing the earlier lesson they had done. He found himself on the floor and Xander was rubbing his shoulder. "Hurt?"
"Muchly," Xander whimpered, sitting down. "I think I hurt it this time," he complained.
Spike got up to look at the shoulder, frowning at the swollen, tender muscles he could feel. "Huh. Found a limit I guess." He went to the kitchen to get the boy some pain killers and an ice pack. "Here, use this," he said gruffly, sitting down and picking up the phone. He dialed his Sire's number. "Yeah, it's me. No, we found a limit. My weight, physically."
Xander nodded at the upstairs, trying to tell Spike something.
"Yeah, I'll tell 'im. Go bathe or somethin'," he ordered. He watched as the boy left to go take a long bath, shaking his head as he heard music start in that room. "The git's gone," he said quietly. "No, before I got here." He snickered. "I wouldn't worry about it. The boy's doing good. We found a limit tonight. Wrenched his shoulder, he did." He laughed. "Good. Can you find him so the whelp doesn't use a spell?" He nodded. "Good. Yeah. Thanks." He hung up, looking up at the balcony where Oz was standing. "Angel'll look for us."
"Okay. I'll look at that spell in the morning." He disappeared, going back to the bed.
Spike got comfortable and turned on the television, grimacing at the lack of volume the old set got.
Xander looked around to make sure he was alone in the park, then set out his equipment. He groaned as Oz appeared behind him, shifting so his bondmate could sit beside him. "It's a simple scrying spell," he said, pointing at the plate of water. "It'll show us where he is."
"And what if he's doing something that he doesn't want us to see?" Oz asked.
"Then I'll cancel it right away," Xander promised. "But if he's in trouble, then maybe I'll be able to get a location and we can go save him."
"Hmm. Risky," Oz pointed out. "Giles wouldn't want you to do this."
"Yeah, he would," Xander countered. "He wouldn't want to be held hostage."
"We're not sure that he is," Oz told him. "We're not sure of anything, Xander. It's not right to do this yet."
"Then when is it?" he asked hotly. "When is it going to be the right time, Oz? When he hasn't called for another month? When he's found dead? Tell me, when is the right time?"
Oz pulled him into his arms for a hug. "I know, it's frustrating me too," he whispered, soothing his lover. "We'll do it in a week if Angel hasn't heard anything," he decided.
"Okay," Xander agreed quietly. "Can I practice the spell? Try to find people I know?"
"Sure," Oz agreed, waving a hand at the setup. "I'd like to see you do it actually, just to make sure you're not going to blow us up."
Xander grinned weakly at the joke. It was an ongoing joke between them that Xander could do little works of magic, or he could do humongous, powerful works of magic, but nothing in between. He looked at the watery surface, concentrating like the spell had told him to. A blurry image appeared, and then it focused into Willow. She was studying at a table. Xander pulled the image back, looking at the room around her. "College library," he identified. Oz patted him on the back and the image disappeared. He blinked a few times and concentrated again, and the picture started to form, showing Spike singing in the shower. "Um, not wanting to see that," he said as he banished the image. He rubbed some of the sweat off his forehead and tried something that shouldn't work. His mouth fell open. "I can access other dimensions," he whispered, pointing at his mother's face in the watery surface.
Oz's mouth fell open. "Get a fix, Xander. Find out where she is."
Xander concentrated, pulling the picture back. It was a cave but it didn't have any identifying marks. "I can't," he said and the image disappeared. He leaned into Oz's side while he recharged. "She's alive," he whispered.
"Maybe, but she could be somewhere else," Oz reminded him. "Alive doesn't mean on this plane."
"Point," Xander agreed, sitting up on his own again. "But she showed up," he said. "That means that she's not dead."
"Maybe not," Oz agreed. "Let's go check this out with your old bosses and see if they can verify the spell." He stood up, holding out a hand. "Come on, Xander."
Xander dumped out the water and gathered everything up, putting it all into his backpack so he could follow Oz to the magic store he used to work in.
"Elizabeth?" Xander called as he walked through the door. She walked out of the stacks, looking at him. "I need some help," he said quietly, holding out his book so she could see the bookmark. "I saw my mother in a scrying spell."
She pulled him into the back rooms, settling him into their major working area. "Where were you doing it?"
"In the park," he said, sitting down next to her. "I was going to try and locate Giles."
"Ah. I was wondering why you came here. How long has he been gone?" the redhead asked, brushing some of the shoulder-length hair back.
"Almost a month," Oz told her from where he was leaning against the wall. "Ethan Rayne showed up to pretend to be him, but we kicked him out." She nodded for him to go on. "All he said, and we can't be sure if it's a lie, is that Giles told him to come fill in for him." He shrugged. "No real info involved."
She sighed and took the book, looking at the spell where the bookmark was. "This would reach across dimensions," she agreed. "Where did you see your mother, Xander?" She drawled out his name the same way she had when he had been working under her and living in the back room.
"She was in a cave," Xander said calmly. "She wasn't looking up or anything, her eyes were closed, but she was definitely surrounded by stone." He swallowed. "She could have been dead, huh?" he asked.
She reached over to pat his hand. "Anything's possible with that sort of spell." She put the book on the altar behind her. "There's other scrying spells, boys. Why not use them to find your teacher?"
"That's the only one I've seen," Xander admitted.
She smiled and nodded. "That makes sense at least. Let my boss and I work on this tonight, okay?" Xander nodded. "We'll even see if we can't find Rupert for you too. You're still leaking magic," she told the young sorcerer. "You shouldn't do that spell while you're leaking. You might create an inadvertent portal." He went pale. "Yeah, that's why he was keeping this class of spells from you." He nodded again and her smile got brighter. "Do you have something of Rupert's?" He reached into his backpack and lifted out a handkerchief. "This'll do," she pronounced after feeling the residue left in it. "Go home, Xander, and finish your other lessons. We'll work on this together if he isn't back soon."
He leaned over and gave her a hug. "Thank you. I knew you'd understand." He got up, grabbing his bag and walking out.
Elizabeth stopped Oz by putting a hand on his arm. "He needs to shield himself more. He's sending out 'helpless creature who's tasty' vibes again."
Oz nodded. "I've been trying to get him to do yoga with me, but he's not very willing." He shrugged at her amused chuckle. "I know nothing about magic," he admitted. "Spike might be able to help us a little bit though. I'll talk with him. Thanks." He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek, then followed Xander out to his car.
Liberty, Elizabeth's boss and partner, walked out of the other back room. "You think he's serious?" she asked.
"Yeah, I do," Elizabeth said quietly. "I think he saw his mother."
Liberty shook her head. "If he did, then he's more powerful than we thought."
"And he's not being trained," Elizabeth pointed out. "Are we taking up some of the slack?"
"If he's not back in another week or so, then we'll start to give him a few subtle lessons," Liberty agreed with a sigh. "It'll have to happen. The boy's dangerous with what little training he's got and the sort of power he has." She looked at the book. "When did he get that?"
"Last summer, during an auction," Elizabeth said with a faint smile. "He told us about it." She got up and went back to dusting the shelves in the front, letting her partner figure out what to do.
Xander looked around the empty living room and grimaced. "Where did all the furniture get put?" he called out to Spike, who apparently went with the furniture. All he had been wanting to do was *move* it! This was getting frustrating. The harder he tried, the more out of control he became.
Oz looked down from the bedroom and blinked a few times, trying to wake up enough to understand it. "Um, maybe you should try that wish glyph," he suggested, looking around the empty space. "Before we get an intergalactic yard sale going."
Xander nodded and pulled out some paper, using one of the more powerful glyphs, wishing that he knew what he had done and how to counter it. He blinked as the answer came to him and he worked on casting that glyph, drawing it over and over in the plate of sand first, just to get the feel of it. Finally, he wrote it out, saying the word that kept popping up in his mind, the remains of when the Teaching Stones had tried to give him the key to all the glyphs but he had been woken too soon. With a flash, the rest of the furniture reappeared. Xander looked around, then up at Oz, who shrugged. "Spike?" Xander called.
The vampire lifted himself off the floor from in front of the couch, glaring at his student. "Do you *know* where you sent me?" he asked harshly.
"I only meant to *move* it, not to displace it," Xander pouted.
"Well, you didn't," Spike growled, hopping the back of the couch. He grabbed Xander and shoved him against the bar between the dining area and the kitchen. "You sent me," he said coldly and slowly, "to another plane. One where your furniture was about to be declared demonic and *burned*. With me on it!" he shouted, shaking the young man hard.
"I'm sorry," Xander said, getting free. "I meant to *move* it, not displace you. I had no idea that it was going to move you so far, I only meant for you to go across the room so I could clean the floors like you asked me to."
Spike let him go with a growl and looked up at Oz, who shrugged. "I'm goin' out," he told Oz. "Don't let him do anything." He grabbed his duster and walked out into the night, slamming the door behind him.
Oz looked down at Xander. "Maybe you should practice shielding yourself some more," he suggested before going back to bed.
Xander sat down on the couch and considered his shields, trying to reinforce them. "But I can't see them," he whined, curling up on the couch. "This is hard!"
"Yay," Oz called down.
"But I can't see my shields. I can't sense them and I've never been able to see magic."
Oz walked down and smacked Xander across the back of the head. "Then figure out how to get around that," he said, getting down into Xander's face. "There have been many sorcerers who couldn't sense the magic that they used and they managed not to blow up the town while they pouted. You can to." He walked into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. It was going to be a long night and he'd need it.
Spike walked in with a cloaked woman and slammed the door, waking up Oz, who was sleeping with his head on the table. "Where's the git?"
"In the bathroom. He managed to turn himself cold." Oz looked at the woman under the cape and waved. "Hey, Liberty. He displaced the furniture instead of moving it around the room."
She pushed her hood back and frowned at the room, then at Oz. "How's his shielding?"
"Almost non-existent," Xander said from the hallway, peeking around at her. "I still can't touch or feel the magic around me so I don't know how to reinforce them."
She nodded and pointed at the couch. "Sit."
He blushed. "Um, let me get some clothes on first," he said, disappearing into the bathroom. He walked out a few minutes later and it was just the two of them. "Did you send Oz back to bed?" She nodded. "Thanks, he really needs his sleep." He sat on the couch, looking up at her as she walked over. "Help me?" he asked quietly. "I need a teacher and I trust you."
She laid a hand on his head and closed her eyes, then flinched back. "Oh, honey," she sighed. "You need more than a teacher, you need someone stronger than I am."
"No," she said quickly. "You're too close to the edge of going bad already. You don't need a chaos sorcerer to teach you and bring you to his side." She sat down beside him and gave him a hug. "All I can do is lock some of the power away," she told him quietly. "There's no one I know who's strong enough to teach you control."
"I was doing okay when Giles was still here," he whispered. "I was doing really well when he was still teaching me."
"That was because he was wearing you out," she reminded him. "Xander, do you know if the stones are whole again?"
"Partially," he admitted. "Why?"
"Because I think we need to take you up there. That's what was originally supposed to be teaching you, no matter if Giles was given you. I think you need its input." She stood up. "I can start your lessons again, but you've got to learn how to weave a shield around you or you'll blow the shop up." That got a weak smile. "All right?"
"Yeah," he said, standing up. "Let me get my shoes and I'll walk you back."
"Honey, there's too many bad things out there who want you."
"Yay. I can fight them off. Spike, I'm taking Liberty home," he called quietly, sure that the vampire was listening from his room. He followed her out the door, slamming it behind him.
Xander sat down in front of the stones that he had learned so much from, tenderly running a finger over the healing glyphs. "Listen, I know you've already talked to me once and I didn't quite get it all, but I need some help," he told it.
"Yes, you do," a voice said from the woods, and a man walked out holding a rifle on him. "Get up and move away from there."
"Why?" Xander asked, not moving. "I'm their guardian."
"Which is why you'd better move," the man warned him, waving his gun around. "Those things are dangerous, boy, and they need to be gotten rid of."
"They were fine until men like you screwed with them," Xander pointed out, standing up but not moving away from them. "They've been here for centuries."
"Have you seen this town and the stuff that happens here?" he shouted.
"Yup, and I've fought a lot of it," Xander said calmly. "But it wasn't the stones. It's actually the portal to Hell under the High School. This is just a neutral spot to learn."
"No one needs that knowledge." The man shot at the stones and Xander flinched but he didn't move. "Are you willing to die for it?"
"Yeah, I am," Xander told him, bracing himself when the gun pointed at him. "If this is my destiny, then so be it." He waited until the man's finger twitched on the trigger, then used his newly found speed to run over to him and take the gun, growling at him. "Listen, stupid, this isn't the problem you've seen. The problem you've seen is under the High School. Go blow it up or something." He pushed the man away and tossed the gun off into the woods. "Leave, before I'm forced to do something that I'd rather not do." He watched as the man ran off, then shook his head, breaking the spell he was under. "What did you do?" he asked, walking over to the stone and sitting down in front of it again. "You know I'd protect you." He tried to touch the energy of the stones held in the center of the Teaching Stones, but he couldn't. "Did I do it wrong?" he asked it, almost begging. He couldn't feel any of the magic anymore. He calmed himself down after a few minutes of searching and stood up, shrugging. "If that's the way you want it," he told it, turning and walking away.
Again he blinked and found himself staring at the stones. "Okay," Xander said quietly, touching the stones. He could feel them again, but it felt different somehow. "If you'd just tell me," he complained. "I'm too tired to play these guessing games anymore." The fog started around his vision and he found himself back on the smoky plane, the one where he had been given the gift of understanding the runes on the stones. "Hi," he called, hoping to bring the guy he had spoken to last time. "Hello?" He walked off into the fog and ran into something hard. He looked at the statue and frowned. "You were whole and breathing the last time we talked," he said, trying to cover up his unease with humor. "This wasn't me, right?"
The statue moved, little pieces of stone floating down from the stiffly moving joints. "No, this was not you. You are the reason we are whole."
Xander looked at him again and saw the little cracks in him, then nodded, looking back up. "Hey, I'm more than happy to help, same as the vision showed you."
"Yes, that." The statue stepped down and faced him. "We have not asked you to give up your tenuous spot in life to save us. You do not have to protect us that way. We will always reform if you will find the pieces."
"Hey, like I said, I'll do whatever you need me to."
The statue smiled at him. "Good. Why did you ask to come here?"
"Because I need more help than I'm getting," Xander complained. "Giles, my main teacher, is gone. I don't have one right now and I'm leaking energy. And since I can't touch it, I can't create a shield." He started to pace a few steps away and turned around, looking at the mists that were just starting to flow across the statue. He hurried back to it before he got lost in the mists again. "I don't know how I can protect those around me without giving up all that I am. If that would even work."
"It won't but you have the knowledge already."
"Um, not quite," Xander admitted. "I only recognize what the glyphs mean when I'm tracing them. Which has proven to be a bit dangerous recently. It's not like I can look at them and know what it means. Which I guess would be too easy, but I can't write them all down and learn them all when I'm leaking this way. I even tried to wish for a way to find control. It didn't work."
"Wishing will not bring control. Working brings control."
"Not when I'm working without shields," Xander pointed out. "Earlier I tried to move the furniture in Giles' apartment around and it moved it to another dimension. With Spike, who's teaching my other side."
"And can he not teach you the magic side?"
"Nope, he's a vampire and he hates magic. He's been trying to teach me how to harness my new gifts."
"Ah." The statue nodded, chipping up a little more as it's head fell off. "I was worried about this. You do know how to shield."
"I tried it at one time, when Giles was teaching me, but it never worked very well. I got things like mirrors talking back to me." He picked up the head and put it back onto the stone shoulders. "I've tried, really hard, but I don't know how to do it. Can't you even point me at the right glyph?"
"There is one," the statue admitted, "but it isn't for what you need. It's a cloaking glyph, to hide you from those around you."
"Which won't help me leaking magic like a sieve," Xander agreed. "Is there one to help me touch the magic fields?"
"No," the statue said sadly. "That is a natural ability, not something we can give you." He patted Xander on the head, hard. "There is something we might be able to do though." He looked off to his left, through the mists, then back at Xander. "Walk that way." He pointed the way he had been looking. "And don't be afraid."
Xander nodded and smiled at his teacher. "Thanks." He walked off into the mists, wincing as some of them started to shine bright lights at him, something he really couldn't stand since being partially turned. He kept walking, tripping over things he couldn't see in the mist, and at one time falling down. He got up and continued, he really wanted to stop leaking energy. Finally, he came to a big crevice and stood there looking across the wide width. "Um, what now?" he called.
"How?" No answer came out of the mists so Xander carefully searched the edge for a bridge or something. He shuddered when he came to a rickety bridge, not wanting to go across that. He went back to where he had first come across it and mentally cheered himself up. He took two steps back and took a running leap, trying to fly across. At the very worst, he'd die. Then no one would be bothered by his leaking magic, but he doubted that would happen. He managed to catch the lip of the other side and tried to scramble up, but he kept slipping. That's when he realized what 'don't be afraid' meant. He calmed himself and looked up, then down to try and find a foot rest. He finally found one, but it was a small one. He rested his weight on that one foot while he carefully took one hand off the rocks and wiped it off, then the other, trying to find a better hand hold. He found a good handhold and pushed off with his foot, pulling himself up a little bit. He found another foot hold and pushed himself up a little more. By the time he pulled himself over the lip of the crevice, he was shaking and sweating, but he was up there. He rolled onto his back and looked up to find a familiar statue standing there. "Hi," he said weakly. "Was I supposed to take the bridge?"
"If you had, you would have failed." The statue bent over and touched him, healing the muscle shaking and aches he was starting to feel. "Can you feel the magic now?"
"Um," Xander said, forcing himself to stand up. He concentrated on the world around him, then nodded after a few seconds. "I feel some sort of tingle."
"Then go inside yourself and find the places where that happens," the statue said, and the world of the mists faded away. "You will find teachers when you need them, even when yours has to leave for a while."
Xander found himself sitting against the stone again, his cheek resting against it. He looked up at the brilliant sun and winced, closing his eyes against it. "I need my sunglasses," he moaned, pulling himself up. He jumped as a pair of cheap sunglasses landed beside him, turning to glare at the sorcerer standing there. "What do you want, Ethan?" he asked, putting on the glasses. "Thanks for these though."
"I don't know where Giles is but you do need a teacher, boy. I might be persuaded to teach you how to control yourself without blinding every magic user in town." He crossed his arms across his chest. "I might even be persuaded to not corrupt you to my side of the fence, but you'd have to ask." Xander didn't say anything so he shrugged. "The offer does have a time limit, boy," he said snidely.
Xander suddenly shook himself and nodded. "Oz said that would be fine, but we have to do it back at Giles' so he can kill you if you try to hurt me." He started for the trail back into town. "Coming?" he asked as he passed Ethan.
"I'll be there tonight. By then, I want to know what you've done in the *regular* magic department."
"Okay," Xander called back over his shoulder. "Give me a few hours to nap." He kept walking. Oz had said it would be okay. Though Oz had said he was in trouble for disappearing like that.
Xander sat down in his usual place for meditation and allowed Oz to help him go under. Once he was down, he looked down at himself instead of at his power and reached out for that tiny tingle that he had felt earlier. He quickly found the spots that weren't covered by the magical energy web were spots where the tingles were the strongest, but that directly over the web, the tingles weren't there. Across the back of his hands, around his head, down his back. He concentrated on the web, working on spreading it out so it went all around him. It snapped back and he grunted in displeasure, but while he was moving it around, he felt a more plastic substance holding the web in place. He tried to sense it and that's where the tingle was coming from, so he spread that around him, making sure to leave his face clear of it just in case. By the time he was done, he felt very comfortable and warm, and he didn't feel quite so panicked. He came back to himself and found himself out in the courtyard, frowning at the light. "How did I get out here?" he complained, standing up and heading for the door.
"Put yourself out," Oz called, not letting him through the locked door.
"What out?" Xander called back, knocking. He noticed the little flames running along his fingers and screamed, trying to beat them out. He looked up as Oz opened the door. "I'm on fire!"
"Yup, you are. Which is why you're not coming back inside until you fix it."
Xander concentrated on making the fire go away, then glared at Oz. "Why didn't you wake me?"
"We tried," he told him, pointing at his legs. "Check the rest of you."
Xander muttered something under his breath then looked up. "I find it really funny that fire is how I expend all this extra energy," he said quietly, figuring out how to make the fire go out all over his body. He shook himself, wiggling all the way down, and the fires as he drew the powers back into himself. "There, how's that?"
"Better," Oz said, stepping out of the way so Xander could walk back in. "Where did it go?"
"I reabsorbed it. It's a manifestation of the energy I was using." He sat down on the couch, looking over his shoulder at Spike, who was banging cups in the kitchen. "Hi," he said. "Ethan's coming back for a little while."
"I heard," Spike growled.
"Then why are you pissed?"
"Because he needs a nap," Oz reminded Xander, closing the front door. Someone knocked on it and he opened it, letting Ethan inside. He pushed the sorcerer against the wall and got into his face, staring into his eyes. After a second, he let him go and walked away.
Ethan blinked a few times, then glared at Xander. "I felt you as I came in."
"I just got my shields back together," Xander told him. "Of course, I managed to set myself on fire at the same time, but that's apparently how I send out the extra energy I'm putting off."
"We really should have him somewhere that has a fireplace," Oz noted to Spike as he walked in.
"True," Spike said, handing Xander a small tea cup. "Feed. Now."
Xander sipped at the repulsive blood, handing it back while it was still mostly full. "That has *nothing* I need in it."
"He needs hormones," Oz said helpfully, going back to writing his music.
"Guess you're hunting tonight," Spike said as he drank that cup of blood then started on his own. "What's bright boy there gonna teach you now?"
"How to manage his shields, even though he can't touch his powers."
"I can touch them," Xander told him. "I can't feel it. Big diff." He looked up at Ethan and pointed at the chair. "You might as well sit. It's too bright outside for me to be out there without my glasses and full clothes."
"Hot?" Oz asked.
"Very," Xander complained.
"You did suck in the fire," Oz reminded him.
"It's what I needed to do."
"Wait," Ethan said, stopping their bantering. "What fire?"
"Xander produces fire when he's using too much energy," Oz said, not looking up. "Or when he's playing with his powers. This time, he had lines of fire running over parts of him."
"Had him tossed outside," Spike said helpfully. He finished off his mug of blood and put it on the coffeetable, weathering Oz's glance. "Boy's got to be the oddest one'a you I've met yet."
"Of course he is," Ethan said, frowning at Xander. "The Shearpman spell would turn any being into something that's hardly ever seen on this plane. I have no idea why Rupert didn't see this coming and stop him."
"Because Willow did it to me," Xander told him seriously. "Which is why you're here instead of her. I never asked for this to happen to me. I would have been perfectly happy to have followed Giles' plan and taught others how to use their skills."
"I see," Ethan said thoughtfully. "There might be a reason for your lack of control then." He got up to look through the bookshelves, muttering to himself. "Ah, here it is." He sat back down and flipped through the book until he came to a part he wanted. He cleared his throat and started to read. "When this condition is forced on another, no clear choice has been made and the poor soul will stay in limbo until he makes a choice about his path and whether or not to accept his new fate. If he does, well you don't need to hear that part," he said, closing the book.
"What?" Oz asked, his voice icy.
"The book suggested killing that person immediately because they had chosen the darker path." He got comfortable in the chair. "Have you chosen a path, boy?"
"He has a name," Spike pointed out. Xander was his to harass, he hated it when someone tried to play with his toys.
"I chose to continue as I had started on this path," Xander told him. "I'm not leaving my former life to be turned, not even to the dark. I'm just on a more... narrow path now."
"Ah, so you chose to be neutral?" Xander nodded. "That's perfectly acceptable, but that means that you need to know both sides of the fence. To continue to fight at Rupert's side, you need to know what you're going to be up against. Which is why I was called in to help you."
"By who?" Oz asked, putting down his pencil.
"I'm not at liberty to say," Ethan said with a smirk. He found himself pinned to the chair by Xander, who was holding him by the throat. "Already slipping off your path?" he gasped.
"If you had anything to do with Giles disappearing," Xander hissed, getting down into his face, "I will make an exception for your demise and make it as bad and as long lasting as I can."
Spike clapped. "Good. That's my boy," he called. Xander and Oz both glared at him. "What? That's a real vampire sentiment there. Revenge is always best done by the family."
Xander let Ethan go and sat back down on the couch. "I don't want Giles hurt," he told Spike. "It doesn't mean I'm joining the family business."
Spike snorted. "Be better at it than the pouf is," he remarked, then got up to go get himself some more blood. "Xander, what do you need to feed on?"
"Hormones, specifically girl ones," Xander called. "I usually nibble on Buffy's finger or ear for a few seconds and get all I need."
"Then you're not blood dependant?" Ethan asked, looking shocked. "You should be."
"Giles kept him from dying that night," Oz said helpfully.
"No, with the way he was changed, he should be blood dependant by now," Ethan told them. "That's why he's having so much trouble. He needs to feed more often."
"My stomach recoils at whole blood," Xander told him. "I need a little every week or so." He shrugged and shifted to get comfortable. "It's nothing that big, and Giles was really pleased when he figured that out."
"He should bloody well be shot," Ethan exclaimed. "He's doomed you to a worse limbo, you're not that fully across."
"We know," Oz sighed. "That's why he's had so many problems with the fires coming out." He leaned back in his chair. "We know that Xander's stuck somewhere north of where he should be, but this is where he is and he needs to learn some control."
Ethan shook his head. "No, you don't understand. Xander is in an even more *unique* place than we've all believed." He picked up the phone and dialed a number quickly. "Liberty, he's not that far across. He's not blood dependant." He smiled and hung up. "This is very interesting, but Xander will either have to master his state or he'll have to be pushed across. She's got the major books on this state in front of her right now and no one's ever been in this state."
"So it's not possible for me to have real control?" Xander asked, looking at his hands.
"No, it is," Ethan said, still sounding excited, "but we've been teaching you all wrong." He looked at Spike. "Can you honestly tell me you didn't realize he wasn't even half over?"
"He's got the skills of most fledges," Spike pointed out. "We just thought he was not needing as much as they did to survive." He sipped his new mug of blood. "Come to think of it, the boy won't hunt either."
"I don't need to hunt," Xander told him. "That can push me over the edge."
"Not if you're hunting the bad guys," Oz pointed out.
The door flew inward, and a leather-clad body walked in. "Freeze," he said, pointing a crossbow at Ethan, then at Xander. "No one move."
"No movage here, Wesley," Xander said, holding up his hands. "So, who sent you to come screw with us?" he asked after a few minutes of staring contest.
"The Watcher's Council told me that you had been corrupted and needed to be taken care of." He shifted his crossbow some. "I only want him, but I won't bother to stop if you come at me," he told Oz.
Oz shrugged. "Not my deal. Xander's still a good guy and he can defend himself."
"No, he's not," Wesley said firmly. "They're not wrong, I can sense him."
"Yup, but I wasn't *fully* turned," Xander told him, standing up slowly. He tipped his head to the side. "I'd be willing to tell you what really happened if you'd listen."
"No, I'm not. I won't partake of the lies that have hurt Giles."
"You know where he is?" Oz asked, standing up. "Where? Does the Council have him?"
"Probably," Ethan agreed. "That would make the most sense." He looked over at the former Watcher. "Xander's a victim of the Shearpman spell, but he's not crossed the critical line."
Wesley's mouth fell open. "He is?" Xander nodded. "Truly? You're not blood dependant?"
"I need a few drops of blood and some hormones ever few days, but I can go almost a week and a half if I need to," Xander told him. "Right now, I actually just need Giles. He's supposed to be teaching me magic."
Wesley's crossbow dropped to his side. "You're serious." Xander nodded. "Then why did they send me after you?"
"Gee, for the same reason they took Giles?" Xander suggested.
Wesley shook himself. "They said Giles was there but that he had come to them in very bad shape, that you had almost killed him."
"Gee, did you set the bed on fire and not tell me?" Oz joked.
"No," Xander ground out. "Joke later, Oz. This is serious. If the Council has Giles, then we need to get him back." He looked Wesley over and held out a hand. "I'll tell you the truth if you want. You can call on Angel or Buffy and Willow to verify it if you want."
"Hey," Spike said from the kitchen.
"Or him," Xander added. "He's been a great teacher on the vamp side of things." He grinned at Spike. "Now if only he could be encouraged to let me go shopping on my own."
"No," Oz said firmly. "You're not buying another loud shirt." He looked at Wesley and sat down again. "Sit, talk. I won't bite."
Wesley walked in to sit down, his crossbow still very close at hand. "I got a call last week from the Council saying they had gotten Giles back but that his students had tried to kill him."
Ethan shook his head. "Ripper's been gone for a good three weeks." Xander looked at him. "What? I did the best I could with you, boy."
"He has a name," Spike ground out.
"Xander," Ethan corrected, glaring at him. "You're very possessive for someone who seems not to care."
"Enough," Oz said quietly. "Wes, what did they tell you? Besides that Xander was now a bad guy?"
"They said he had partaken of a very harmful spell."
"The Shearpman spell," Xander told him. "It wasn't a plan on my part, it was Willow's idea to subject me to it."
"Did you die?" Wesley asked him, turning to focus on Xander, who shook his head. "And you're not blood dependant?"
"Nope. Like I said, I need a few drops or so, but I eat normal food all the time, especially pizza and stuff." Xander relaxed into his corner of the couch, pulling his feet up. "Wes, trust me, I would never knowingly attack Giles. Setting the bed on fire in my sleep maybe, but I'd never attack my own teacher. I know better than that. I have *no* control without him."
"I can fix some of that, I think," Ethan said cautiously. "I think I have a plan to help you gain control, and it shouldn't take that long to do. Maybe a few days of intense practice." Xander nodded, looking at him. "We'd need to be somewhere more shielded though."
"The magic store?" Oz suggested. "They used to have shields on that place."
"I'll call Liberty in the morning and ask," Ethan told him, standing up. "I think my part of this has been told already. I'll bid you a good night until the morrow." He walked out, closing the door behind him.
Spike walked out and took his chair, putting his feet up on the coffee table. "So, Wesley," he said, drawing out the name. "Why'd the Council send you? You don't seem the fighting type."
"I'm a rogue demon hunter now," Wesley said stiffly. He glared at Oz when he started to cough. "I've make quite a good living at it so far."
"That's cool, I guess," Xander said, shooting Oz a thought to calm down. "But I'm not a rogue demon. Or even a demon." He looked at Spike. "Do I have a demon?"
"Nope. Not until you're fully turned."
Wesley went pale. "He's not fully turned?"
"Not even close," Spike told him. "He's nowhere near the level of a fledge, though he does have some of the skills. He's ridin' the line from what I can tell."
"Ah." Wesley stared at Xander for a few moments then held out a hand. "Touch me please," he said when it wasn't taken. Xander held his hand and Wesley concentrated, flinching before snatching his hand back. "Your shields are pitiful."
"Which is why Ethan was here," Oz told him. "Giles was teaching him, but the whole thing with the Initiative got in the way."
"Yeah, being captured must have sucked for you too," Spike said grimly.
"At least your chip got broken," Oz pointed out. "For a while."
"I can short out Buffy's whenever I see her the next time," Xander said quietly. "I think I figured out how to do it permanently. I have to have physical contact though, so she doesn't end up with her soul pushed aside like Angel did."
"All right," Oz agreed. "We'll call her before we figure out what to do with the Council." Everyone stared at him. "I doubt they're letting him go," he said dryly.
"Point," Xander said, nodding, looking at Spike, who shrugged. "I guess they're our next target of aggression."
"What? You can't go against the Council!" Wesley shouted.
"We can if we have to. Xander went against the Initiative." Spike shifted uncomfortably. "Though he was possessed at the time."
"Not a happy thought," Oz warned him. Spike flipped him off. "Keep it up," Oz said quietly. "You'd make a nice sparring partner for a wolf."
"No," Xander said, breaking up this latest round of fighting. "We've got more important things to worry about." He looked at his new glyph notebook, then at Wesley. "I have to know that I can trust you, Wes. Are you loyal to Giles or to the Council?"
"I'm loyal to what's right. You'll have to convince me that you're correct in this though." Wesley looked back at Oz. "You said Buffy was still around?"
"Yeah, I can call and bring her over," Oz offered. He got a nod so went to call the dorms.
Buffy finished telling Wesley what he wanted to know and shrugged. "Really, it's been kinda strange." She smiled over at Xander, who looked anxious. "What's up?"
"Two things," Oz said from the kitchen. "He needs to feed. And the Council has Giles."
Buffy had just held out her hand when she pulled it back as she jumped up to look at him. "What?" she shrieked. She looked down at Wesley. "Did they send you?"
"To get me," Xander said, giving her a really good begging look. "Please, Buffy? I'm really hungry. I'll even fix your chip. Oh, but there's a chance that problems could develop later, no matter what. But it has to be shorted out before it can be taken out. Oz found a way into the Initiative's files."
"Cool. Yeah, here, eat," she said, letting him hold her hand, not watching as his little fangs slid into her palm and slurped up some of her girl hormones and a few drops of blood. She wiped it off once she got it back, then looked at it. "Xander, did you take more?" she complained.
"No, I just bit you in a different spot. I still filtered. That's probably the backflow," he told her, coming back over to lick it clean. Then he went back to setting up what he needed to short out her chip. He grinned evilly and waved her over, pointing at the chair. "Sit, my beautiful food source," he cackled, making her smile.
"Which means it's gonna hurt," Oz warned her. He walked over to sit beside the phone, knowing it would ring as soon as Buffy started to feel the pain.
"Why was she chipped?" Wesley asked, standing up to come over and look at Xander's set up.
"To cooperate with the Initiative," Buffy said grimly. "They figured out I wasn't quite the same as they were and they wanted what I could do. So they Borged me." She looked at Xander then closed her eyes. "Just make it hurt as little as possible. And please don't fry my hair."
Xander pulled out the small lodestone that he had picked up a few days earlier and held it in his right hand while his left one traced a small symbol on Buffy's forehead. "Pain," he warned as he completed it, sending a burst of power at her chip, drawing it back with the lodestone, which was held up next to her ear. He pulled his hand back, cutting off the power. "There," he said, looking at Oz, who had picked up the phone on the first ring. "She should be fine, tell Wills to send a thought to her."
"Oh, pain," Buffy muttered, rubbing her ear. She glared at Xander. "You couldn't make it hurt less?"
"Nope," he said, leaning over to give her a hug, dropping the stone onto the floor before it could shock her again. "How's your hearing in this ear? Wanna go have some fun at a club?" he whispered into it. She pinched him. "Good enough," he noted, sitting up. "Buffy, seriously, you need to have the chip removed now. As soon as you can. Angel may have already set up something on that end so you need to call him. Spike's came back on after a few weeks."
Oz hung up. "Wills said she had a removal spell ready to go if you could short it out." He looked at Wesley. "This is kinda normal for us. Xander's not bad."
Wesley nodded. "So I can see. I'll gladly help you get Giles back then." He patted Buffy on the shoulder then started for the door. "Call me when it's time," he said, walking out.
Xander looked at Oz, who nodded. "Okay. So now we need to figure out how to storm the bad guys." He looked at Buffy, who had her face scrunched up. "What?"
"Nothing, just a funny itchy feeling in my head."
"Which is why you need...." Oz started. Then the chip fell onto the table. "Huh. Good work, tell her I said so." He walked over to his writing table and got back to work.
Xander shrugged. "I don't do that well with that end of the magic stuff," he told her. He picked it up to look at it. "Very tiny." He handed it over. "Make it a necklace so you can remember it." He stood up and walked into the bathroom. "Taking a bath," he called. He considered Spike's chip, maybe he could do something permanent about it too.
THE END, TBC IN THE LAST PART, PART 17.