Settling the Old Business.

Xander bounced nervously as the last horse was put into the old stalls, giving it a smile when it snorted at him. "Hey, welcome," he said, rubbing down it's nose. "Don't worry about the little people, just don't hurt her kittens." His neighbor, Mr. Anderson, chuckled. "Miri's seriously attached herself to those kittens," he said, pointing at the shadow they were hiding in. They had never gotten used to people - besides her. He focused on the silky nose in front of him. "Which one is this one?"

"That one's Rose, she used to be my wife's horse until she was in that accident." He wiped his forehead. "All of these are broken in for riding if Miri wants to take a spin on one. She's good enough to do it around the paddock you three set up for them." He patted Rose's shoulder. "She and Bump over there are good together but the gray one, Steel, is storm shy. Just treat them well and it'll be fine. Horses are hardy creatures with a little attention." He patted Xander's shoulder. "Should I bring the pony over too?"

"Um, no. Miri's gotten used to not having her so we'd rather not have her getting upset again." He gave Rose one last pat, going over to the first horse they had brought over, a red colt that was dancing nervously in his box. "Shh," he said, holding out his hand for the horse to sniff. "It's okay."

"He's not real broken in yet. Strife there needs a gentle hand but he's not mean. Got the sweetest temperament if he likes you." He waved at his horses. "You guys be good and I'll be back in the morning to check on you." He walked out, passing Miri and Oz. "They're all in. Watch the red one, he's not fully people trained yet."

"Okay," Oz said, following his daughter in. "Tomorrow?"

"Bright and early."

"Eww," Xander said. "Early?"

"Yeah, about dawn usually."

Xander shook his head. "We'll just have to get you used to eight instead," he told them, picking Miri up. "Wave the nice man goodbye for now."

Mr. Anderson smiled. "Don't worry, you'll get used to dawn." He waved at Miri and walked away, leaving them alone to get used to the horses.

Xander sat her on the gate of one of the stalls, letting Bump, a small brown horse, walk over to sniff at her. "We're going to be good around the horses, okay?"

She nodded. "Me like Bump." She leaned over, kissing the horse's nose. "We ride later," she promised, wiggling to get down. She walked over to where Strife was leaning over the stall gate to pat him on the nose. "You be good too or no treats." She smiled at her father. "Me help?"

"Sure," Xander and Oz said together.

They watched as she ran out to go tell everyone else about the horses, Oz slipping a letter into Xander's hand. "This came for you today."

Xander opened it and sat down on a bale of hay. "Giles is going to throw fits," he said, holding it out to his lover. "This isn't what I wanted to see today. This is supposed to be a happy day." He reached over the gate and patted one of the noses waiting on him. "We finally have horses."

"And we may be keeping them," Giles said as he walked into the barn. "What's that?"

"The preliminary test results," Oz said, holding Xander while Giles read.

"I'm sorry," Giles said, giving Xander a hug. "So very sorry."

"You're not leaving, are you?" Xander whispered, searching his face, which started to frown. "You promised not to treat me any different."

"And I won't," Giles assured him, pulling Xander closer to hold him. "I'm not going to abandon you because Ethan donated sperm into your family."

"Um, looking at those, it may be a little further away than father," Oz said, picking up the results that had slipped from his oldest lover's fingers. "It says that they're a forty percent match, which is siblings." He looked up. "The doctor explained it so that it could also mean that they were close cousins. Maybe first or so."

"It's possible," Giles agreed. "Ethan does have a number of male cousins who are just as randy as he is." He kissed Xander's cheek, slowly letting him go. "Are we all right now?"

Xander nodded, giving him a little smile. "Why does everyone say I look like Sileya?"

"Because you've got the same facial features and hair," Giles told him, wrapping a strand around his fingers. "I was trying very hard to ignore it, but it seems I can't do that anymore."

"Okay, but no looking at me and remembering Ethan," Xander said firmly. "No ex's in our bed."

"Of course not," Giles said gently, giving him a kiss. "Now, let's see these specimens we're housing." He looked at the horses, stopping at the gray one. "Which one's this?"

"That one's Steel." Xander pointed at the card next to the stall door. "Mr. Anderson said he was storm shy."

"That means he panics during them. We'll have to remember that." Giles finished at Strife's door, giving him a long look. "You're finely conformed," he complimented it. "A very good looking horse."

Xander grinned at him. "He's not totally people broken yet but apparently Miri and he know each other. She promised him treats if he was good and he settled down." He watched as his daughter walked in wearing her 'riding outfit' that her aunt Buffy had helped her pick out.

She walked right up to Strife's door, trying to open the lock in front of her stunned fathers. "Me ride," she said firmly, pointing at the lock. When none of the adults would help her, she concentrated, squinting at the lock as it opened. "Me ride," she said, grabbing Strife's bridle, which the horse lowered so she could do so. "Come on. We pretty."

"Hold on," Giles said, stepping in front of her. "I don't think that you're going to ride that one. He isn't rideable."

"You shh," she said, glaring at him, dropping Strife's bridle to put her hands on her hips. "Me ride him, we pretty." Her daddy Giles shook his head so she stomped her foot. "Me ride!" Strife nuzzled her back. "We friends."

Xander groaned, shaking his head. "We can always watch to make sure they're fine together, Rupe, give it up for now. Besides, she probably knows a lot more than you do about him." He looked the horse over. "Where's his saddle?"

"No want one. He no like." She patted his leg. "Pick me up?" She gave him a bright smile.

"Oh, my, a beautiful specimen," Sileya said as she walked into the barn. She patted the horse on the neck. "Very beautiful indeed." She blinked hard then looked around, but no one had seen what she had apparently. "Well, Miri, shall I watch you ride him?" She got an enthusiastic nod so put the little girl up on the horse's back. "Hold on tightly with your knees, dear. That's a good little one," she praised, leading the pair out to the improvised paddock. "Go around slowly for me so I can watch you please."

"Have you had lessons?" Giles asked her.

She smiled at him. "It was one of the suggested electives for after school activities when I was younger. It was that or dance and I have a horrible sense of rhythm." She turned her attention back to the pair, smiling at them. "Grip with your knees, Miriam. That's a good girl." She turned back to Giles, who was staring intently at his daughter. "My teacher was a bit rough with her own animals but I got the message clear enough about how to treat them." She hopped up onto the top of the fence, patting her knees as the pair walked closer to her. "Come here, loves." She hugged Miri, who reached out for her. "You do that very well, Miriam. Who taught you?"

"Mr. 'Son," Miri said with a nod. "He teach me on Bump." She smiled at her fathers. "I ride."

"So we see," Giles told her, reaching over to kiss her cheek. "You did it very well. When you want to ride from now on, you have to make sure someone can come watch you, that's all I ask."

"'Tay, me ask first." She wiggled until she was back on Strife's back. "Go, Strife," she said, giggling as the horse turned to look at her. "We go again." She kicked him gently. The stallion moved away from the fence, heading into a light trot.

"Please slow down," Giles called.

"She's fine," Sileya said, watching over them. "She's got a proper seat and posting technique. She's a natural at it, I'd say." She looked at her teacher. "How many do we have?"

"Four, I think."

"Five," Xander said, wrapping an arm around his lover's waist. "Bump, Steel, Strife, Rose, and Mercy, who is hiding in the shadows of her box. Only Bump and Strife are males, but Bump's been fixed."

"Ah. That relieves me quite a lot. What about the females?"

"Well, their owner did say that Rose might be going into heat. Of course, he also said that Strife wasn't interested in the last mare that went into heat around him so maybe he won't go after her this time." He shrugged at Sileya's questioning look. "Not a clue. He said Strife was sitting out in his field one day. He tried to find his owner but no one came forward."

"Ah." Giles looked toward the barn. "How is Oz doing with the plans for our cage?"

"Better," Xander admitted. "This month you two are going into a temporary cage in the basement, we'll be moving the old one down there and strengthening it. We're going to start laying stones for the real one this week though."

"Which will take how long?" Sileya asked.

"Maybe three weeks, or so Oz thinks. The landscaping will take a little while too; he wanted the inside to be as natural as possible so there was less chance of them breaking out. Some small trees and things." Xander smiled at his daughter as she came closer again, watching as she rode past. "We're putting the first line of the foundation in the ground by about five feet and building up the floor by at least a few inches besides the plantings."

"Sounds like a project for you," Sileya said as she slid off the fence, heading into the barn. "May I ride with her?"

"Of course you may," Giles called after her.

"Rose is used to a female rider," Xander told her. "Used to be Mr. Anderson's wife's horse."

"Thank you." Sileya waved as she walked into the barn, leaving them alone for a few minutes.

"Miriam is really a very good rider," Giles commented, watching her critically.

"You said we could have horses someday," Xander reminded him. "She loves all animals though."

"Yes, I know, that's why we have to be careful about how many we bring in. I'm afraid of what she may do if we allow her to adopt every animal she finds."

"She's good with them though," Xander reminded him. "Maybe she could be a vet."

"As long as the Council doesn't try to make her into a Watcher," Giles said softly. "If we could get her to go into a more scholarly direction, we could have her specialize in one of the many areas of demonology and she wouldn't be made to be a field Watcher. I almost wasn't put out in the field, but there wasn't anyone else that could leave on so short of notice." He squeezed Xander's shoulder and looked toward the barn as Sileya rode out, smiling at her. "At least she's found another point of contact in the house."

"You really are hard on her," Xander said softly. "She thinks she's your duty but that you hate her for being forced onto you." He looked up, seeing the sadness. "Is she right?"

"Some days that is what I feel. I was prepared to enjoy my retirement from the Council. Now I have to train her, something I'm not able to do as well as I once did."

"You think Buffy mostly trained herself?" he asked, turning to hug Giles tightly to him. "Rupe, you trained her mind. Merrick may have trained her body while he was still around but you trained her mind, taught her how to hunt and survive. Sileya deserves the same treatment."

"I was never any good at the physical training aspects," he admitted softly, looking into Xander's eyes. "I can't teach her how to fight... or survive if I have to."

"Then we'll find her a teacher. There's got to be someone in town that can fight well enough to teach her." Xander gave him a hug. "Why don't you sit down tonight and have a talk with her about this. All she knows is that you resent her and hate her father." Xander let him go, moving to sit on the rail, flinching as he heard the wood split. Then he fell off, hitting the ground as he heard the shot, tugging on Giles' pants leg to get him down too. "Rupert!" he said sharply, looking up.

"It was people farther down the land," he said, trying to lift Xander up.

Jim ran out of the house, gun in his hand. "You two all right?" Rupert nodded. "That wasn't out near the road."

"That was out in the fields," Rupert said, pointing. He checked both of the girls, frowning at how Sileya was holding onto Strife's bridle. "Did he spook?" he asked, hopping over the fence to help Miri down. "Are you all right?" he asked his daughter, hugging her.

"Big, scary noise," she said, looking up at her father, then over at Sileya. "You 'tay too?"

"Yes, love, I'm fine," Sileya said, getting down, letting Strife dance off on his own to let him calm down.

"I was going to ask," Giles assured her when he heard the tone of her voice. He met her icy stare directly. "I was going to ask," he repeated firmly.

"Your child should be your first priority," she said, shrugging but heading for the barn with her horse. "Strife, would you like to be put up?" she asked, leading Rose out of the paddock. The young stallion followed her.

Giles handed over Miri, after a final kiss, and followed his student into the barn. "Let me," he said, taking one of the brushes from her hands. "I was about to ask you also," he told her, turning her to face him. "Sileya, I may not have originally wanted you here, but you are now a part of this family."

She got free of his hands, shaking her head. "I'm a burden to you all; and when I'm not a burden, I'm a convenient sitter for your children."

"That isn't true," Giles protested.

"It is," she said firmly. "I've not been training very much and only Xander seems to care whether or not I live. I know you don't like my father much, but I do wish you would quit holding his existence against me!" She took back the brush and went back to brushing Rose's coat.

"I had no idea I came off like that," he said, just a little stiffly. "I had no intention of holding your lineage against you, same as I don't want to hold it against Xander." He looked at his empty hands. "I'm sorry if I've ignored you or used you, Sileya, it wasn't what I had planned. If you'd like, I could call another Watcher in to train you, the Council would be most pleased if I did so."

"She's not leaving," Xander said from the doorway. "We've got to talk but she's not leaving." He gave them both a small grin. "Jim says my instincts are perfect." He hugged Sileya. "I'm glad you're okay, but we've got to talk this stuff out before you end up getting hurt." He looked at Giles. "My room, right after you three put up the horses."

"If I remember right, you were the one who wanted horses," Giles reminded him, brush held out.

"Yeah, but Miri was riding and so was Sileya, and you're the one who knows how to do this stuff. I'm not learning until tomorrow." Xander blew a kiss at his daughter, who was clamped to her other father's leg. "You be good and make sure you bring them both to my room as soon as you're done."

Miri nodded. "Me will." She smiled at Sileya. "We ride later?"

"Maybe, or tomorrow," Sileya told her with a smile. "You did very well."

"Excellent considering how long she's been riding," Giles amended. "She'd never ridden before the day you got here."

"Ah, then I stand corrected. You did excellent, Miriam." She looked at Xander. "I'll be there. You can quit hovering now." She turned back to Rose, brushing down her coat. She ignored Giles and Miri, letting her mind work over the problem while her body worked at something she knew so well.


Xander looked up from his book as Giles walked in, patting one of the chairs he had pulled in front of the bed with his foot. "Sit, let's talk before she gets here."

"Have I really been that cold and unfeeling toward her?" Xander nodded. "I need to fix that then. I never meant to hold any of this against her. I'll admit to being a bit tired of being a Watcher and training girls to go out and die, but I want to do my best for her."

"Then why haven't you been working out with her?" Xander asked softly, leaning over to pat his knee. "You haven't been sparring with her, Oz and I have been doing that. So has Buffy and Spike, but that's a different problem." Giles looked confused. "All she hears about is the great Buffy Summers and how perfect she was at the job."

"Ah." Giles shook his head. "I have many things I need to apologize for then."

"That one's not all you. Some of it's Spike. He's been waxing reminiscent about his fights against Buffy."

Giles closed his eyes, leaning into Xander's body for comfort. "I had no idea we were all that horrible to her."

"Not all of us," Xander reminded him. "I've been trying to do the big brother thing, trying to give her the truth so she'll know what's going on. I could use a little support to do it though."

"I'll try," Giles said, giving him a hug. "I really will try to do better." He sat up, looking towards the door, which Sileya was standing in. "Come in, dear, we need to get some things straight."

"You really don't hate me because of who my father is?" she asked, walking slowly over to the other chair, moving it closer to Xander. "You don't think I'm sort of burden to be dealt with?"

"No," Giles assured her, giving her a warm smile. "I never thought of you as a burden. I had thought I was done with the training and could start to concentrate on getting Miriam as far from the Council's grasp as possible. And if I've been holding your father against you, then I'm doubly sorry. I've tried so hard to see you as your own person instead of his daughter."

"You two need to work this out," Xander said, patting the side of Sileya's face. "Rupe isn't a bad guy. You were a shock to us, but we've had worse and gotten over it quickly enough to help. This time it's taking a little bit longer."

"She's not some demonic prophecy for the Hellmouth," Giles admonished. He kissed Xander's cheek. "Let's do this alone, that way you and he can talk about it later."

Sileya looked at Xander, who nodded, so she followed Giles down to his personal office, sitting in the offered overstuffed chair. "You really don't want to train me?"

"Dear, I never really wanted to train another girl. I hate sending them out to die. I'm not the best trainer in the world." She shook her head. "I'm not. I know my limitations and I know that I can't give you half the education you need to survive the duty for more than a few years." He looked down at his feet, which were up on a pulled-out drawer. "I can't fight worth a damn and I can't teach what I don't know. I was one of the more scholarly Watchers but I was the only one who could be sent to this town to aid Buffy when she came. Truthfully, her first Watcher taught her how to fight. I was the prophecy manager, the one who had the knowledge." He looked up. "I was possibly the worst choice your father ever made for you."

"No, not taking me from home would have been the worst choice my father could have made," Sileya corrected. "Leaving me in my old life would have ensured that I wouldn't have lived. And I met some of those other Watchers that were sent after me. They were more like that Wesley guy than you." She gave him a brave smile. "Can we start over?"

"Yes, with some additions. We're going to have to find someone to train you to fight. I can't do that, Buffy can't do that, and neither can Xander. But do listen to him. He won't sugarcoat his past fights as much as I or Buffy, or even Willow, might."

"He really used to fight?"

"Yes," Giles sighed, shaking his head. "Used to worry me to no end, that boy did. No special gifts like the rest of them as it turned out. No way of winning if he was outnumbered. No real way for him to have survived this long." He looked towards the door. "I really don't know how he's been this lucky. He's looked at death a number of times and fought his way back to our side, just so he could do it all over again the next night." He looked her over. "Model yourself after him, my dear, not Buffy. She's an extraordinary Slayer but no one wants you to be a carbon copy of her. We'd like you to live as long but not to take on her worse traits."

"Then it's true?" she asked.

"What is?"

"That she used to use drugs?"

Giles sighed. "Did Xander say that?" She shook her head. "Where did you hear that?"

"Spike. He said she was hooked on speed for a long time, since high school."

"She was using speed at one point in time," Giles admitted with a grim look. "That's why we aren't as close to her as we once were. Buffy's done some extraordinarily stupid things in her life. Some incredibly brave things, but some of the stupid things are so bad that they can't be eclipsed by them." He lifted up his tie to inspect it.

"Yeah, I heard all about the Buffy porn industry going around the college." She grinned as Giles sputtered.

"I'll stake him myself," Giles muttered. He cleared his throat. "You'll have to take that up with her, but please don't do the same thing. If I found out that you were even thinking about it, I would feel obligated to deliver the beating I should have given her for it." She snorted. "Even after you're chosen, believe that I will correct you. You girls tend to get very egotistical when you're not brought down once in a while. That's one area that I thoroughly messed up with Buffy, and that Faith's first Watcher did with her. I've known a few of you and it's your ego that ends up bringing you down most times. That and running into situations where you don't have the information to deal with the problem at hand."

She nodded. "That sounds reasonable." She shifted, pulling her feet up so she was curled up in the chair. "How are we going to arrange my training from now on?"

"I'd like to find you a teacher that could help you learn basic fighting strategies. I have no hope of teaching you that if you want to live. As Xander pointed out, there should be someone here in town that could do that." He looked toward the door as someone walked past quickly. "I wonder what's going on?"

"I'm sure it's just someone chasing down one of the little darlings."

"Sileya, I had no idea you were doing so much of the childcare." He stopped, shaking his head. "I have the feeling I've had this discussion before."

"Deja vu can be kind of disquieting," Sileya agreed. "Xander?"

"Yes, it seems that we've stranded him here in the house." He shook his head. "That's another matter. While you may be part of this household, you are not to get into the middle of our fights. No more so than the other children do." She opened her mouth. "I mean it. I expect you don't want me in your personal matters and I would like the same indulgence from you."

"Fine, but you'd better not hurt Xander. I won't let my only family here be hurt, not even for love." She stood up. "I'll go start a search for people that can teach me how to fight. Maybe Jim would know of someone in the area."

"Maybe, or you could call Father Philip's friend, Nick. I believe he could do the same for you as Jim could." She nodded, leaving him alone.

Sileya headed up to her room to log onto her laptop, biting her lip as she laid down on the bed. "What a rotten birthday," she told herself. "At least he's trying." She finished typing in her search string, hitting the mouse button and waiting.


Xander waited until Giles was safely locked in his office before walking out of his room and down the stairs, jingling the keys in his hand. He walked past the control room, glancing in as always to find that everyone was bent over some piece of equipment. It's almost like they heard all the members of the family when they were in the halls and made an extra effort to appear to be doing something. Of course, with Jim's heightened senses, that was entirely possible, but Xander put that thought out of his mind as he headed for the back door. He made a quick stop in the kitchen, grabbing the urn off the top of the cabinets. He hurried past Oz and the kids, all napping safely on the porch, and headed down to the car. He nearly smiled as he heard someone running after him. "Just a quick run into town," he called, hurrying so he could get to the car first. He had just got in and locked the doors when Blair caught him, pounding on the window.

"Let me in," Blair called, very pissed sounding.

"I just need a little more paint," he called back, starting the engine. He heard the doors unlock, looking in the mirror to find Oz standing there with the other keyless remote. He grinned and waved, keeping the jar in his lap firmly between his legs, even though it was shaking. "Need some more green," he called as he backed out, slowly in case one of the kids had followed him down and was behind him. He beeped as he drove down the driveway, heading into town just like he had said. Now if only he was going for paint.


Blair ran back inside, grabbing Jim and pulling him after him. "Xander's decided to be heroic," he explained as he dragged his partner out to their car. "We've got to follow him. You know how he can be." He got into the driver's seat, glancing back in the rearview mirror when he noticed Oz was sitting calmly back there. "Going to come with us?" he asked archly, one eyebrow going up.

"Yup." Oz checked the area behind them by sniffing. "Might want to hurry, the kids are about to wake up."

Jim buckled up, turning to look at him. "You're staying in the car."

"I'm sure he listens just as well as I do," Blair said, starting the car and backing away, heading down the driveway as fast as he dared.

"Daddies!" Miri called. "Me fine!" She looked up as her Daddy Giles walked out. "They leave, but me 'tay," she said, giving him her cutest pout. "Where go?"

"They went to stop your father from doing something incredibly...." He stopped as a thought struck him, walking her back into the kitchen to look at the bare place on top of the cabinets. "Xander, that will kill you, not him," he sighed, reaching for the phone.

"Oh, me talk!" Miri said happily, reaching for it.

"No, never again. Not until you're well past thirteen I think," he told her as he dialed the number in their car. "Xander? Good. No, there's a problem with your plan. That entity will attack you, not him. What? No, I'm sure that's not that wise." He growled as he hung up, not caring that his daughter backed away from him and went running for the control room. He dialed Blair's cellphone. "Blair? Put Oz on." He tapped his foot in irritation as he waited. "He took the entity in the urn. Yes, that one. No, he said he'd prove that the man was gifted with magic." He started growling again as he was hung up on, turning to throw the phone into the wall.

"You'll have to stop that soon," a familiar voice said from the breakfast nook. Ethan folded his paper. "Lucky trick, that, Ripper. When did you start to change?"

"Less than a year ago," he said, advancing on the other sorcerer. "Did you put that stupid plan into his mind?"

"No, that's all his. I would have stopped him. After all, I'm quickly running out of children." He stood up, punching Giles as hard as he could, sending him crashing to the floor. "And patience," he said, rubbing his knuckles. "I didn't ask you to destroy her, her temperament was one of the most delightful things about her."

"Daddy," Sileya sighed, walking over to hug him. "Please take me home?" she asked burying her face in his shoulder. "I like Xander, but no one here likes me."

"Me do," Miri said, patting her on the thigh. "Who you?" she asked Ethan.

"I'm her father, sweetling," he told her, giving her a smile. "I'm Ethan."

"'Tay. You bad guy?" He nodded. "Why?"

"Because that's the path I chose for myself." He pushed his daughter back so he could look in her face. "I knew Ripper had a few flaws to his teaching, and I've managed to talk someone into coming into town to teach you how to fight. Otherwise, he and I will work this out." He got a nod so smiled at his daughter. "Maybe you should remove the children, I doubt they want to witness this fight."

"Yes, Sileya, please remove the children for a bit," Giles said as he got up, shaking his head. "Ethan, still the vacant minded one I see." He hit the other sorcerer, knocking him back into the table. "I'm trying to help her, even though we've been a bit sidetracked recently." He picked his former friend up to shake him. "I have been trying but it's not easy when she looks so much like you that it gives me nightmares." He let Ethan go, standing over his slumped form. "Do leave now, thank you. I'm doing my best. As you well know."

"Ripper, if that's your best, you're out of practice. All this safety must have made you soft."

"Safety," he laughed. "With a serial killer after Xander? I seriously doubt that anything about our lives right now could be called safe." He looked around. "Get out and never come back unless you intend to take her from my care. I'm willing to train her but not if you're around."

"Hey!" Sileya complained, walking back into the kitchen. "He's my father, I'd like to see some of my family on occasion, even if you don't like him." She put her hands on her hips, glaring at both of them. "As for you, father, I do wish you had better timing. He was just starting to understand that I need better treatment. Your showing up now will make things incredibly harder on me."

Giles snorted. "No, dear, they won't." He kicked Ethan's leg. "If you stay, I don't want you here. If you want to see her, you can arrange to pick her up from school and take her to wherever you're staying. As long as it's far away from my family."

"Fine," Ethan spat, standing up. "I doubt that I want her in your company that much anyway." He walked over to where his daughter stood, giving her stiff form a hug. "I'll call you tonight as to where I am. You're welcome to come stay with me whenever you'd like." She nodded, giving him a small smile, and he winked at her. He stormed out of the house, not looking at Giles again.

Giles looked at his student, considering her. "You really had no reason to bring him into this, dear. I was willing to change without him having to be around. It's much better if he's not, for all of us." He walked out, after giving the side of her face a small pat. "But it does prove that you're a lot like him."

"Hmm," she said, considering his back. "I think the family flair for dramatics might get me in trouble yet. At least it worked." She shrugged, and picked up the present her father had left her, going back up to her room and her homework.


Xander pulled down an alley, going a way he doubted Oz knew he knew about. He pulled into a parking lot used by the maintenance workers that tidied the park up and got out, heading to where he knew his stalker buddy was hiding. After all, he had told him to meet him there. "Oh, Chastity," he called, walking into one of the little grottos set around the park for lovers to picnic in, or for vamps to bring their meals to for their sort of picnic. He glared at the man that walked out of the bushes, tossing the vase at him. "You had to ruin my serenity, right?" he asked, putting on his best defensive act.

"Technically, it's Brian," he said smoothly, walking over to where Xander stood, running a hand through his ash blond hair. "Chastity is just a stage name." He looked Xander over. "You look rough. Not been sleeping well?" he asked with a smile.

"Yes, and I'm looking at my nightmare right now." He pointed at the vase, saying one of the three words of magic he knew, something to release the seal Giles had reapplied to the lid. "Someone should have warned you not to screw with me and what's mine. They really should have."

Brian dropped it, glaring at him. "Why'd you do that?"

"Because I wanted to see how good you were compared to the other sorcerers in my life." He shrugged, pulling out the pendant his Aunt had left him, stroking it. "Apparently it doesn't actively move down my side of the family but it's always around me." He swung it a few times to show it off, making his stalker shudder. "See it now?"

"You're very well protected, but you're still so innocent," he hissed. He raised his hands and started to chant as the smoke started to flow out of the pin-sized hole Xander had created. He forced it back into the urn, draining a lot of his reserves of power. When it was done, he closed his eyes and concentrated on the ground, pulling it away from under the urn, letting it fall down into the hole. He made it close, sealing the creature into the earth. "There, happier now?" he snarled, wiping the sweat from his face.

"Much," Xander said with a grin. "But you're still not having me. I'm not ownable and I'm real hard to kill. Just ask some of the town's nocturnal residents." He grinned at the smirk. "Or you could ask the Slayer, or even my apparent father." He shrugged.

Brian waved it off. "I'm sure they're all nice and powerful but I could offer you more."

"I doubt it," Oz said, stepping into the clearing. "We will talk," he promised Xander, walking past him as he let his wolf out. The rage in him just fed the creature, letting him break the rules of his existence, letting him come out at that moment instead of during a full moon. He leapt for Brian's throat, finishing his change as he jumped.

Xander rolled his eyes. "Oz, you're way overprotective. I had it." The werewolf looked at him, his jaws bloody. "Leave him living," he sighed, sitting down. Oz sniffed at his prey then stalked towards Xander, sniffing at him. "Yeah, I know, I'm nummy too. You bite me and Miri's going to skin you."

Jim walked into the clearing, shooting Oz with a double dose of the tranqs, glaring at Xander. Unfortunately he stepped in front of Blair, who shoved him aside so hard he fell. "What did you think you were doing?" Blair demanded as he strolled over, his whole body tight. "Trying to leave your children without you in their lives?" He pulled Xander up, shaking him. "What sort of idea was this?"

"Hey, you have him and he can't hurt us again," Xander said, grabbing his head. "Easy. I've had too many head injuries in my life already." He was let go so suddenly he ended up sitting down again. "I knew what I was doing and I knew you were behind me." He looked over at Oz. "I may be living in the barn for a few months but I did plan this out." He looked back up. "I'm good at planning things, Blair, that's one of the many things I learned in my life, how to plan things that are so off the wall that they work." He stood up, brushing his butt off. "Want to cuff him now - before he runs?"

"I doubt he's going to be doing that," Jim said, pointing at the smoking body. "Something bright hit his chest and he burned."

Blair turned his glare on the body. "Make sure he's dead." He turned back to Xander, grabbing him by the ear, dragging him toward the car. "We're going to go home, bring Oz." He tossed Xander's keys at him.

"Make sure he's human first," Xander called as he was dragged out of the clearing. "He'll scare the kids."

"Whatever," Jim muttered, pulling out his cellphone to call their home base in LA. "Hi, Grace, it's me. No, our perp was on the ground and now he's a smoking mass. Yes, that sort of smoking mass. We need a crew to the Sunnydale park, west side, in one of the grotto's. I'm going to be here with it while Blair drags Xander back home." He looked down at Oz. "No, Oz is staying with me. He's presently not in any shape to talk." He snorted and hung up. "I blame you for this, Oz. You need to use a stronger hand with him. He *needs* his leash." He sat down on the grass, making sure the smell of the body wouldn't hit him too bad where he was. "Why did I stop being a cop?"


Xander looked out the car's window, sitting up straight when he saw Ethan Rayne nod at him. "Blair, stop, I need to talk to him." He got a head shake so waited until Blair had to stop at a stop sign, jumping out of the car as soon as it stopped.

"Get back here!" Blair bellowed.

Xander jogged to the small cafe, sitting down at Ethan's table. "Why are you back?" he asked.

"Because I was needed," Ethan said simply, sipping his tea. "Are you hungry?" He looked the young man over. "I can afford to feed you."

"I can afford to feed myself," Xander pointed out. "Why, specifically, are you here? Now? As in at this cafe?"

"It was time for tea and I felt no desire to make some myself." Ethan put down his cup, crossing his hands in his lap. "What do you really want to know?"

"If you're my father would be a nice place to start. Did that just sound Lukeish?"

"No, he was told who his father was." Ethan coughed, watching Blair as he approached. "Why? Would it truly make a difference?"

"Not really, but I'd like to know for my own piece of mind, and Rupe's." He patted the seat next to him. "Sit, Blair, I need to talk to him."

"Why?" Blair asked.

"I think he's my father?"

"Oh." Blair nodded and sat. "Fine, but then we're going home. I'm going to be standing in the doorway so Giles can yell at you and you can't escape it this time."

"I thought I heard that the threat to their family had been eliminated?" Ethan said, picking up his cup to take another sip. "Would you like to join me for high tea?"

"No, thank you. I doubt that we could get a decent selection of tea sandwiches." Blair looked both men over. "I can see the resemblance," he admitted.

"Oh, so can everyone else," Xander said, "between me and Sileya." He looked at Ethan again. "So?"

"Yes, Xander, I am your father. Your mother was a drunken slut, in case you didn't know, and she came onto me during a trip I had been taking at the time. We were in San Francisco."

Xander held up a hand. "I don't need more of the story, and yeah, I knew she was a ho. That's one of the reasons I had a restraining order out on her." He looked his father over. "Why now? Why not show up and give over this knowledge when you first came? Oh, and speaking of which? Why let me be changed with everyone else that Halloween?"

"Because I enjoy the strife I'm putting Giles through at the moment. I did almost tell you that first meeting but he did protect you a bit strongly. I couldn't get near you unless I went to your home and I doubt that would have pleased anyone."

"Ah," Blair said. "That's an *almost* acceptable reason, the first part anyway." He looked at Xander. "He's a manipulator."

"And a chaos mage," Xander added quietly. "These things happen around here." He turned back to his father. "Why are you trying to hurt my Rupe?"

"Those feelings are nauseating, boy," Ethan warned. "They will eventually make you ill."

"No, not having them made me ill," Xander countered. "As my therapist here can tell you. I don't do well on my own." He patted Blair's leg then shifted his chair back so he could cross his feet. "Why now?"

"Mostly because you're ready to hear the truth. You've grown a great deal since the last time I saw you. It also had to be after your Aunt Jane died, or else I'd be hunted right now." He finished off his tea. "They don't do too badly for an American establishment." He mirrored his son's position. "Some of it was the intention to do Ripper the most emotional harm I could. He left me in quite a lurch when he vanished. I had no way of knowing if he was all right - until I saw him at the Watcher's meeting in London a few years back. By then, the hatred of what he had done to me was so intense that I could only bide my time. I knew he was going to be sent here, he was the only alternative, especially since the Council didn't think much of Buffy. She wasn't easily under their control so they hated her from the moment she was chosen. They couldn't get a string into her."

"She's never been a puppet," Xander agreed. "So you waited because you knew Rupe was going to love me someday?"

"I had someone read his fortune, as well as that of all my children. Sileya has to be trained by him. You have no idea how much it pained me to bring her to him and ask him for help." He looked out at the traffic. "There is nothing worse than begging your enemy for a favor."

"Yes there is," Xander said softly, looking at Blair. "There are more painful things." Blair nodded, giving him a look of approval, without a smile attached. He turned back to see his father looking at him. "Now what?"

"Now I'm here to make sure that he doesn't kill her spirit. He's been doing a good job of that."

Xander waved that off. "I've been there for her, even when he wasn't. Why are you really here? You want to see my daughter? You want into my life? You want to wreck what happiness I have? Which is impossible by the way. I'll let Oz eat you if you try."

"Good to know," Oz said as he walked up behind them. He wrapped an arm around Xander's neck, squeezing gently. "Aren't you supposed to be at home by now?"

"I had to know," Xander said, waving at Ethan.

"And?" Oz asked, pulling a chair over to sit down beside his lover.

"It's true," Xander said, squeezing Oz's hand that was rubbing his leg. "He's my dad."

"Okay." Oz nodded, looking at Ethan. "You're not having visitation with the kids."

"I have no need to do so," he said smoothly, giving Oz a small smile. "Especially since I may be the one who activates that prophecy about Miriam. Though I wouldn't mind a picture or two every now and again."

"Give me an email addy and I'll mail pics to you," Oz offered.

Ethan nodded. "Most acceptable." He stood up. "Gentlemen, I do believe you need to make sure Xander gets home all right, for once. I, on the other hand, need to finish setting up a residence here so Sileya has a place to run to when things get to be too intense." He bowed to Blair. "Do continue to protect him. I'm not going to harm him, or use him in any way, but I do want my family to live on." He tossed down a few bills and left them alone.

Blair looked at Oz, who nodded. "Home," he said, standing up.

"Home," Xander agreed, following him to the car. He and Oz shared a long look once they were in the car, Oz nodding subtly after a few minutes.


Xander walked directly into Giles' arms, giving him a hug. "We had to stop because I needed to talk to your buddy Ethan." He looked up, seeing the grimace. "What happened to your chin?"

"Ethan did. He and I got into a small fight in the kitchen." He sat down, pulling Xander down onto his lap. "What did you talk about?"

"How he was actually my Great Uncle. My mother, the drunken wonder, slept with one of his nephews in San Francisco right before he died." He saw Oz put a restraining hand on Blair's arm, giving him a small nod.

Giles sighed, hugging him. "Thank the Lord for small blessings," he whispered into Xander's ear. He pulled back, a stern look on his face. "What, exactly, were you thinking when you left like that?"

"That I was one of the best at planning things that looked like they were going to fail but ended up going okay." He gave his lover his best innocent look. "I had to do it, I couldn't take the stress anymore. Not without decorating the house, the barn, and your new cage."

"He had the guy trapped and mostly out of it," Oz said, sitting down next to them. "He made him deal with the creature, who's now underground?" Xander nodded. "That's what I thought he did. Of course, I was so pissed I changed and ripped out his throat, but hey, he was a smoking pile by the time I was tranqed. I didn't even need the calming herbs I was going for when I ran into them."

"When did you burn him?" Giles asked, confused. "How did you burn him?"

"Didn't," Xander said, sliding out of his lap. "I need a bath and cuddles. Can we go yell at me up there?"

"Yes, I think we should," Giles said, pushing himself up so he could follow his brave, and occasionally over-confident, lover up to their room. "Our bathroom, correct?"

"Yup, mine has a normal bathtub and I miss my bubbles." He stopped on the stairs, looking at Giles. "Rupe, we still have to work out some stuff."

"No, love, I need to work out some things. I've figured out what was wrong and now I have to fix it. I've already set up an appointment to start seeing Blair by myself for a bit." That got a slow grin. "And I've decided that I'd rather be unemployed for a while instead of working at a job I hate." That got a bigger smile. "You, on the other hand, will have to start doing something productive. Either truly start your candle business or get a real job." He patted the firm bottom. "Up the stairs with you, I'd like to relax in a bath also. I think I need to hold you for a bit and make sure that you're fine."

"Coolness." Xander jogged up the remaining stairs, heading for the bathroom, Giles right behind him.

Oz looked over his shoulder at Blair, who looked very clueless. "Some bads are things like having a biological relationship with your lover's worst enemy and former lover." He stood up, looking down at himself. "How long are you guys gonna be here?"

"Few hours, just enough time to pack up. We'll send you an invite to dinner soon so we can get back on the friends track." He gave him a hug. "Go be with them. I'll yell before I leave and the kids are great at packing." He headed for the library, smiling as he watched the ghost bother Munch. "Hey, we're going, just leave him alone." She slammed the door and locked it. "We'll come back, but only as friends next time," he promised, giving it his most winning smile. The door unlocked and more of their equipment boxes floated out of their hiding spaces. "Thank you, dear."


Giles let Xander sink down into his lap, taking the time to hold him and make sure he was all right. "Never do it again, Xander. Tell us next time you do something so stupid." He felt the nod and smiled at Oz as he walked in. "All sleeping again?"

"Had to be changed." Oz shrugged out of his robe and climbed in, moving so he was straddling Giles' lap so he could hug Xander too. "You're moving back in tonight," he said firmly. "No more sleeping apart."

"Oz, I may not be ready for him to move back in yet," Giles said softly. "There are things we still need to work on, as a group and individually."

"We can do that and still comfort each other," Xander said, looking up. "I wouldn't mind moving in, but I'm not ready for the more physical stuff. Cuddling is good though. Very comforting when you're confused."

"Yes, it is," Giles sighed, squeezing Xander as hard as he could. "If you feel you're ready to move back in, then we'll help you tonight."

"Okay." Xander put his head back down on the thin shoulder, snuggling in. "After I do some laundry tonight."

"We," Oz corrected, settling in on Xander's back. "Much better," he sighed, closing his eyes.

Giles smiled at his men, subtly shaking his head at their clinging. "I think we should rest in here for a bit," he told them, shifting so he was comfortable enough for a long soak. "Oz, can you please get me my book?"

"Nope. Relax and nap with us," Xander said, nipping at Giles' shoulder. "Rupe's should be napping too."

"Then I shall," Giles said, closing his eyes. "I'll even fix dinner tonight."

"We'll order tonight," Oz mumbled. "No working."

"If you wish," Giles said, smiling at them.

"Gee, you don't look like a genie," Xander mumbled, stopping because he was being attacked. "Guys! No fair! No tickling!" he shouted, trying to wiggle away from the four hands tormenting him.

"There, properly aroused," Oz said, kissing the back of Xander's neck as his fingers left the younger man's body. "Now we can nap."

"Uh-uh, I can't nap." Xander gave Oz his best sad look. "Fix it?"

"Shh, I'm sure it'll go away by itself," Giles soothed, pulling Xander back into his chest to cuddle. "Lay here with us, it'll be fine. I promise."

"Yeah, we both do," Oz said as he took up his former position on Xander's back.

"Okay," Xander said, closing his eyes and falling into a gentle sleep.