Willow woke up to her girlfriend getting out of bed. "Huh? Whassup?" she muttered, making a grab for a slender arm. "Stay."
"I have to get something," Tara told her gently, taking the hand off her wrist. "Go back to sleep, Willow."
"We went shopping day before yesterday." Willow blinked at her girlfriend. "What did we forget?"
"I'm not sure, but I know I have to get something." She shrugged. "I get like this sometimes." She got out of bed and headed for the dresser, pulling on one of Willow's t-shirts and a pair of her pants. "I'm borrowing," she called as she headed for the door. "I'll be back in a while." She left the apartment building, heading out to walk. After all, it was daytime, nothing bad could happen to her now.
As Tara walked down the street, she saw almost half the people that passed her walking very slowly, seeming to almost drag themselves around. She shook the notion off, heading for the grocery store. She walked past a mother with a child in the cart. The child wouldn't quit crying, but it wasn't really able to reach out to her.
"I don't know what's wrong," the mother said, giving the witch a worried look. "He's just been crying all day for no reason."
Tara shook herself and headed for the back where the meat was. She didn't really eat meat, but for some reason she wanted to look at it. What she saw sickened her. Mixed in with the packages of hamburger and steaks were infants. Unborn, pre-term, not fully developed infants. Like the ones she had been forced to watch in those horrid health class movies. She shuddered and turned around to find everyone staring at her. "What?" she pleaded. "What does it mean?"
"You screwed up," the mother with the baby hissed. "This is your fault. If you hadn't messed with the natural order, we wouldn't be like this now."
Tara covered her ears and screamed, waking herself up. "No," she cried, hugging herself. "No, I didn't do that." She shoved Willow, trying to get her to wake up. "We hurt people!" she yelled when her girlfriend woke up. "We hurt innocent people!"
Willow sat up and pulled Tara into her arms. "It was just a dream," she whispered, trying to soothe her girlfriend, trying to get her to calm down and make sense. "What did you see, sweetness?"
"I saw people," she sobbed. "All hurt because of what we did. A...and babies in those little meat trays in the supermarket. And babies that wouldn't quit crying." She pulled back. "We hurt innocent people, Willow. We have to fix it."
"There's not a reversal for it," Willow reminded her. "We never made one, Tara."
"Then we h...have to," she stuttered. "Now!"
"Tara, it's four in the morning."
"So? We have to! My dream was clear." She got out of bed and grabbed her robe, walking over to open the curtains, pulling back with a scream when she saw the body glued to it.
Willow ran over and shut the curtains, turning Tara away from the sight and getting her into the bathroom. "Shh," she whispered, holding her again. "I'm sure that was some sick joke. It wasn't a person," she soothed.
"It was!" Tara said. "Someone knows."
"Then Giles must have told someone," she reasoned. "Buffy will protect us. She's sleeping on the couch, remember?"
Tara nodded, getting free and heading out to wake the Slayer. She stopped when she saw the blood. "Willow?" she whispered, stepping away from the couch.
"What?" Willow asked, walking out as she put on her robe. "Buffy?" she called, shaking her. "Get up. We've got problems." She looked at her girlfriend, who was very pale. "What?"
"Blood," Tara said, pointing.
Willow looked and shook her head. "No there's not."
"I can see blood," Tara said again.
"Um, dear, there's nothing there."
"Then why isn't she waking?" Tara asked, starting to get hysterical.
"Because she's like this," Willow said with a shrug. "Or at least she was while we were sharing a dorm room." She shoved the Slayer harder, getting a mumbled answer. "See?" She looked up but Tara had left. She searched the small apartment, but somehow Tara had managed to make it outside without her seeing her.
Across town, a pale but beautiful man checked his wings in the mirror he had ordered to be put up. "Yes, my pretty little witch, come to me. Let me show you the product of your hubris." He fluffed his wings out, giving his reflection a smile. "You'll be the first to realize your mistake. And justice will be done for the wrongs you have caused."
"Amen," one of his new minions said respectfully, bowing as he backed out of the room. "I'll have her shown in, Master."
"Thank you," he said, flicking his fingers to dismiss him.
Angel tapped on the trailer's door, not expecting to have his back tapped on. He turned to find Xander standing behind him. "I got told to come," he said quietly. "I didn't mean to wake you up."
Xander nodded. "You didn't. I just got a horrible dream and I wanted to check on Doyle to see if he got a vision." He held up a key with a smile. "I didn't figure he'd be in any shape to open the door if he did."
Doyle opened the door and leaned against the door frame. "What?" he asked, his voice rough with pain.
"Vision?" Xander asked, walking in and heading for the kitchen. He pulled the whistling tea kettle off the stove and turned it off, pouring the water into the ready cup. He stirred the instant coffee and handed it over to the seer. "What's wrong?" he asked quietly. "Did you see Tara and Willow too?"
Doyle shook his head while he drank. "I saw a fallen angel. He's running the show now." He looked over his shoulder as Angel carried in the other part of his vision. "He okay yet?"
"Not yet," Angel said. He nodded down the hall and went to put Spike down on a bed.
Cordelia walked in and looked around. "Not much better than it was the last time we were here."
"No more raccoons in the ceiling," Xander told her with a smile. "So, how can I help? Giles is worn out because of the spell earlier and ...."
"Excuse me? *He* cast that horrible thing?" she screeched.
"No, Willow and Tara did," Doyle told her quietly. "Giles was working on a counter with Ethan and someone else. Who wants to talk to us by the way." He finished his coffee, looking Xander over. "Can we get you to watch over Spike? We'd need someone to do that, and watch the kids, if we're gonna go fix this. It's our turn now," he said at the frown. "You've done your part."
"Then why did I just have a dream about Willow and Tara being punished?"
"I'm not sure," Angel said as he walked back out, "but I want you to stay with Spike, Harris. I trust you and I know Spike does." He looked him over then looked at Doyle. "You ready?"
"Yeah, mostly." Doyle rinsed his cup and left it sitting in the sink. "Let me kiss the little ones." He walked into the master bedroom and came out a few minutes later with his jacket on. "C'mon, let's go do this. They're asleep and probably'll stay that way. There's blood in the fridge for Spike when he's ready for it." He followed Cordelia out the door, closing the trailer door behind him.
Xander peeked in on the kids and then went to look at Spike. He touched his arm gently, sitting down beside him when he saw his eyes open. "Hey, I've been ordered to take care of you while you're down. We've got blood if you need it." He brushed across the extremely pale forehead, much more pale than usual. "Did the spell get you again?" Spike's eyes looked at him. "Yeah, we tried to counter it but apparently we weren't fast enough or it didn't reach far enough." He stood up. "Will you be okay for a minute? I need to go find Ethan's number and call him." Spike barely nodded. "Okay, just stay there and I'll be back in five minutes or less." He jogged out of the trailer and up to the house, going to his office and the small address book he had. He picked up the cordless phone on his way through the kitchen, along with some food and something to drink, and hurried back out to the trailer. He checked on Spike, who was still in the same spot. "Hi," he said, sitting down and dialing the phone. "Hey, Ethan, it's Xander. Yes, I know what time it is. Major flumox on the spell though. No, it reached to LA. No, Angel and his crew came up with Spike, who's now doubly affected. Nope, he can't talk." He nodded and hung up. "I'm going to warm you up some blood and I'll be right back." He headed into the kitchen to find some blood, frowning when he couldn't see any. "Doyle said that there was some." He shrugged it off and headed back into the back bedroom. "Doyle must have been mistaken," he said as he sat down again. "Can you bite?" Spike's eyes rolled. "Okay, maybe not." He looked down at his wrist then took the small knife that was attached to his keychain and tried to slice himself. It hurt, but it didn't work. "Shoot." He got up and went to the kitchen for a knife, stopping to let Ethan in. "Do you have a sharp knife on you?" A pocket knife was handed to him. "Thanks. Spike needs to eat." He walked into the bedroom, already picking out a place to cut himself. He sat down after doing it, wincing as he saw the blood welling up. "Open up, Spike," he said quietly. He smiled as the pink tongue came out to lap at him. "You know, I wouldn't be doing this if you weren't our favorite babysitter."
Ethan snorted from his position in the doorway. "You let him sit Miriam?"
"Yup, he and Willow did it together all the time when it was just Miri." He pulled his wrist away but Spike's head followed so he let him have it for a few more minutes. He wasn't losing that much blood. "He's been affected before, he was the guinea pig, but I'm thinking he got it a second time. Oh, and Doyle's last vision? He said there's a fallen angel in town. I saw Willow and Tara being punished in a dream."
Ethan shook his head. "I hope they know what they're doing." He walked over and laid a hand on Spike's head, saying the same words he had over Homer and Doyle earlier to try and help. Spike grabbed his hand and sucked harder on Xander's wrist, finally letting it go. "There, that should help him some," he decided, backing away. He looked at Xander. "Go sit in the living room, Xander."
Xander stood up and wobbled out, going to lie down.
Ethan looked down at Spike. "How far did you drain him?"
"Not more'n a pint," Spike said weakly. "Can I have s'more?"
"If you need to. I won't be here to guard this family for a bit. Are you willing to guard Xander for me?" Spike nodded. "Good." He held down his wrist. "Drink but don't take more than a pint. I'm going to need my energy for later."
Spike bit in and reared back, looking at him. "You're a powerful one, even more'n the whelp is."
Ethan smiled. "Of course I am, I'm a Chaos sorcerer." He waved his wrist. "Last offer." It was taken and sucked on for all Spike was worth. By the end of the feeding, Spike was sitting up. "That's enough I think," Ethan said, pulling away. He had to cuff Spike across the head to get him to let go. "Thank you." He licked the blood off his wrist and stepped away from the bed. "How do you feel now?"
"A bit better," Spike croaked. "Could use some more."
"Yes, well, that's not an option right now unless you can find out where Doyle hid the blood." He nodded at the living room and helped the vampire up, leading him out. "Xander," he said, looking down at his son as he slept. He looked at Spike. "The boys are both here also. Are you fit for that?"
Spike nodded. "Take care of them a lot," he said as he sat down in the broken down easy chair. "Go, I'll be fine. I can always wake someone up." He looked at the window as a shadow walked past. "Someone heard you."
Oz walked in and looked at Ethan. "What's going on?" He looked from Spike to Xander and back. "Explanations would be good from you too."
"He offered," Spike whispered.
"The spell got him twice," Ethan told him. "The boy's are all fine." He walked past Oz, heading for his car. "I'll be up in a few days to check on Spike, but he should be fine."
Oz looked at Spike. "You more okay now?"
"Enough," Spike agreed. He nodded toward the master bedroom. "Bring the tots out? I don't wanna move."
Oz shrugged. "I can bring them up to the nursery if you'd like."
"Doyle told me to watch them," Xander said as he pushed himself up. "I always take a nap after donating blood." He yawned and looked around the trailer. "I really should have cleaned after Buffy left."
"We'll do it once Doyle doesn't need it," Oz told him. "You sure? I can easily take the boys. They can sleep in the playpen."
"No, I got it." Xander looked his lover over. "Giles still asleep?"
"Yeah. What was Ethan doing here?"
"I called him. He was more energetic and the spell reached to LA." He checked his wrist. "Doyle said he saw a fallen angel and I saw Willow and Tara being punished," he said quietly. "I was pretty sure that if someone like me, who doesn't have visions, saw that, then Doyle was probably curled up on the floor after having a big one." He looked up at Oz. "Angel and Cordy took Doyle with them to go fight the fallen angel."
Oz sighed. "I'll go wake up Giles."
"He's not gonna get up," Xander told him. "He's too tired. That's why I called Ethan."
"He'll get mad if we don't at least try," Oz reminded him. "I'll wake up Sileya and Homer too." He looked at Spike. "You really want to watch over him?"
"Yeah, I think he'll be a pretty good gauge of when everything's broken."
Spike roared and held his head, leaping up to grab Xander, trying to bite him.
Oz pulled him off and shoved him back down into the chair, holding him there. "Xan?"
"Fine," he panted. He held onto the bite on his collarbone until the bleeding slowed. "Let him go, Oz, he's back in control. That was the spell being removed."
Oz backed away from the vampire slowly, staring him down. "If you say so. I want to move the kids."
"He won't hurt them," Xander promised, standing up to give him a hug. "It was a reaction to the spell. He needed blood to help him come out of it." He turned Oz's face to make him look at him. "I can handle Spike. Go get Sileya and Homer up."
Oz nodded and walked out, checking on Xander a few times before the door closed.
Xander turned to look at Spike. "That was stupid! He would have staked you."
Spike grinned at him, much more himself now. "I know, but right then it woulda felt good." He patted down his pockets. "Bleedin' git took my smokes."
"You shouldn't smoke around the kids anyway," Xander told him. "Doyle said that there's some blood somewhere in the kitchen. Go find it while I check on the boys." He walked back into the master bedroom, closing the door behind him.
Spike smiled. "I knew there was a reason I liked him," he said as he stood up. He followed the smell of old blood to a few bags hidden in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, tossing one into the microwave. He really could use a snack. He licked his lips, remembering the taste of the potent bloods he had tasted earlier. *Those* were what he really needed. Maybe Giles would agree to feed him too, it'd be an interesting comparison.
Angel walked into the place where he had been told to go, making sure Cordelia was behind him and Doyle hadn't made it out of the car yet. He pushed aside the minor demon that tried to get in his way, forcing his way into the inner room. "You told me to come," Angel reminded the fallen one sitting in the chair beside the mirror.
"Yes, I did," he said, motioning him over. "Leave the woman, she's safe but this is about your childe." He showed Angel the mirror. "You desired them punished," he reminded the vampire when he hissed at the scene of Tara's nightmare. "This is only the first step. She now knows."
"What's going to happen to her?" Angel asked quietly.
"That will depend on what she asks for when she shows up." He turned and looked at the doorway as Tara walked in, smiling as Cordelia slapped her.
"Bitch, you could have killed my son!"
Tara teared up. "I didn't think it'd hurt the innocent," she whispered. She looked over at angel, and the angel, then fell to her knees. "How do I fix this? I have to fix this?"
"You will," the angel said, standing up. He smiled down at her and held out a hand. "As you have made them suffer, so shall your suffering heal them." She touched his hand and then screamed as the blood flowed out of her body.
Angel looked at the newly created vampire and shook his head. "That might not have been wise. This means that she'll have a very long life to play around with that spell."
"I can't touch the energy," Tara said, lifting her head up. "Not ever again." She looked at Angel. "I'm sorry," she said, picking herself up and running out into the night.
Angel looked at Cordelia, who was glaring at the fallen one. "Maybe we should go find Spike."
"He's been helped but the spell is not fully gone. Mostly it's been cured, but her pain wasn't enough to finish the duty." He looked at Doyle as he walked in. "Would you like to go gather the other witch?"
"No, she has to come on her own," Doyle said, glaring at Angel. "So this is why you came?"
"I got told to come," Angel told him. "It was the only way to fix Spike."
"Spike's fine, he just said so," Doyle reminded him. He looked at the angel. "What are you really here for?"
The angel laughed. "Oh, my, you mortals are always so cute." He smiled at Doyle. "For the same reason I fell. To have some fun."
Giles walked into the trailer and looked at Spike, then looked toward where the vampire was pointing. "Is he asleep?"
"Nope, was singin' to them." Spike looked him over. "You look decent enough. The whelp said you were worn out."
"I was. Actually, I still am." Giles walked back and tapped on the bedroom's door. "Xander?" he asked.
The door opened and Xander stood there with Buffy's, and now Doyle's, son. "He didn't want to keep sleeping." He handed him over, smiling as the baby's spikes came out. "Shh, he's not a scary guy. He held you when you were littler." He soothed over the prickly forehead, calming the baby down. "We're not happy that daddy's not here," Xander told him. He pulled on the jacket that Spike held out. "Hold down the fort, I've got to go help them. Oh, and Spike, you're to guard the children first and foremost. No matter what." He walked out with that cryptic order, heading for his SUV.
Giles glared at Spike. "What did you tell him to do?"
"Not a thing! He's havin' visions. No headache, but the dream sort. Maybe he'll remember to bring me smokes," Spike said wistfully, getting up to take the child. "You, hush. I'm not dealin' with you two tonight." The baby babbled at him. "Thanks. I'll take that advice when my head stops hurting." He looked up but Giles was gone. "Huh. Maybe he does care some." He sat down with the baby, comforting him, just like he had done many other nights recently.
Xander walked into the lair where he had seen everyone, frowning at the creature in the seat. "You, you are a royal pain in my ass," he announced, walking closer. He got free of Angel, and Doyle just stared at him. "I know how to beat you," he told him, smirking at him. "Same as I know that you're not going to take over this town." He snapped his fingers. "Just like that, you can be sent away to somewhere even you can't get free of." He stepped closer to the chair and pulled the fallen angel up by one of his wings, punching him in the nose. "You are *so* not welcome here anymore."
"Xander!" Cordelia screamed but Doyle held her back. "That thing's going to kill him! We've got to help him!"
"He's got it," Doyle told her. He glared at Angel. "You had to encourage him to change things, didn't you?" He went back to watching the fight.
Xander was now standing over the prone body, panting. He spit on it's chest. "You aren't worth the energy I'm wasting on you but I'll be damned if you're going to take over this town." He kicked it in the ribs and reached down, grabbing an arm and ripping it off with a sound like tearing paper. "Ha! It was right!" He tossed the arm away. "Rip that up, the only way he can be stopped is by physical mischief."
"Xander, stop!" Ethan called out as he walked in. "You can't harm one such as him by simply dismembering him. Not that you should want to, he's a very powerful being."
"Good, then he can make Willow pay and then *leave*," Xander hissed.
"She has to come to me for punishment," the angel sneered. "What does a mortal like you know about punishment anyway?"
Xander stepped back and held out his arms. "Mortal am I?" he asked quietly.
The angel stood up and looked the possessed boy over. "My, I had no idea that you were roaming around this plane, old friend."
Ethan looked at Xander and sighed. "I never imagined that asking for help would entail getting him possessed." He looked at Doyle. "Well? Go stop the boy before the one taking him over ruins his body."
"No," Doyle said. "Xander, or whoever, was right. I saw it too." He smiled. "Don't worry, it'll be done soon enough, sorcerer."
Ethan, Angel, and Cordelia all stepped away from him, each of them considering going to find Willow to get this all over with faster.
Xander smirked at the entity in front of him. "You're in *my* town," he said. "Get out."
"No. I find this place quite fun." The angel fluffed his wings. "Isn't that why you're here?"
"Nope, I'm vacationing." He smiled. "In a great form too. I have a whole new appreciation for mortals right now." He snapped his fingers. "Go, Alada. Now. *Before* I get pissed."
"Ah, but I miss your temper tantrums, Strife," he said quietly, slinking over to the possessed body's side. "I really do miss it."
"Leave him alone!" Willow shouted as she walked in. She threw a ball of energy at the angel, narrowly missing Xander, but it got sent back at her. She didn't have time to duck. The energy enveloped her, making her scream as her flesh was burnt.
"I like you, witch, you made it possible for me to awaken," the angel told her, walking over. "But I can't stand what you've done to my minions. Are you ready to submit to my punishment?"
"No," she gasped, glaring at him. "I don't follow your orders and you have no right to do anything to me."
Xander walked over to look at her, shaking his head. "If only that were true. See, he can punish you for what you did to his followers since he's one of the generals of the Hellbound. But, he can't punish you without your allowing it. I, on the other hand, have no such restrictions."
"Leave them, Strife," Ethan said, stepping forward. "She deserves punishment, but the body you're in would not do well facing up to it later. He loves her like a sister."
"I see," Strife said after a few seconds. "He's tired of this also and sees the need to punish her." He snapped his fingers and Willow went deathly pale. "You are not of any group now. No longer human, no longer mortal. Not dead or alive." He stepped back and removed the energy bubble. "You may touch magic, but you will never again hurt anyone." He looked at the angel. "Now, you, leave!"
The angel faded from view, but his arm stayed.
Doyle picked it up and started to rip it up, making the fallen one scream. "Ha!" he shouted. "I knew it!" He grabbed him before he could disappear and went to work tearing the body apart. It was only a husk and the demonic entity in it wasn't in it anymore. He had passed on back to where he belonged. He ripped apart the last joint and tossed it aside, standing up to look at Xander. "It's done," he said simply, his head tipped to the side. "The next eclipse?"
"I'll be home," Xander agreed, nodding. "I've got to go back now. My time's almost gone." Xander's body fell to the floor.
Doyle's did the same.
Ethan looked at Angel and shrugged. "I don't know," he said before the vampire could even open his mouth. "They were possessed, now they're not." He threw up his hands and walked out. He had never expected this when all this had started earlier in the evening. He was going to bed after having a drink.
Angel looked at Cordelia. "Help me get them into the car, we'll take them both back to the farm. Maybe Giles will have a clue."
Giles rushed into the room with a torch and a book, then stopped when he saw who was on the floor. He looked around at all the pieces. "They ripped it apart?" he asked Angel.
"Yeah. A few minutes ago," Cordelia said. "Pick your man up and put him in the car so we can all go to sleep." She helped Angel pick up Doyle and carry him out, letting Giles pick up Xander.
Giles looked at where Willow was curled up. "Needless to say, you're not to come near the children again," he told her.
She looked up. "I can't anyway," she reminded him. She picked herself up and walked out into the night, going to see if she couldn't find her girlfriend, whom she had cursed.
Giles picked Xander up and carried him out to his car. He could get answers in the morning.
As soon as he was sure everyone was gone, the fallen one reappeared. "Gee, that was nice of Strife. He didn't send me home and he didn't bind me." He chuckled. "Maybe I'll have some fun in this town." He looked at the dropped book and snorted. "Like that'd do anything." He turned to find a Priest and a warrior for good standing behind him and faded out. "Fine, I'm going!" he said, just as the first word of Latin came out and the first drop of Holy Water hit him. "Hey! I said I'm going!" But they didn't stop. Of course, they didn't make sure he couldn't come back either, mortals could be so narrow in viewpoint and vision.
Xander woke up in the grass in the paddock and groaned, rolling over to look at the person beside him. "Hey, Doyle," he said, reaching out to hit him on the arm. "Think we're in deep?"
"Yup," Doyle groaned, forcing himself to sit up. "What happened this time? Last I remember was a vision worse'n the others." He looked around. "I'd say deep was a nice place compared to where we are," he noted.
"Guess Hypochondriac Boy came out again," Xander said as he sat up.
"Who?" Doyle asked.
"That's the name of the voice in my head. Anytime he wanted to skip school, he could come up with the most amazing illnesses and make people believe him. Like in second grade, he made up an illness called 'Macaronitis'. The teacher sent me home for three days."
"She believed that?" Doyle snorted.
"Yeah. She sent a note home to my mother saying that if I was that contagious I was *not* to be in school until I had a doctor's note saying I was better. Got beaten for it. My mother was not pleased with Hypochondriac Boy that day."
Doyle laughed. "I'd hated to have met that teacher. I'd never have fallen for anything like that." He got up and looked around the paddock. "Think we should go up to the house?"
"Nope. I think Giles is in a persnickety mood." He got up and nodded at the trailer. "Let's go check on your kids."
They walked up to the trailer together and Spike met them just inside the door. "Forgot my smokes?" he asked sullenly.
"You didn't tell me to get any," Xander told him, patting him on the side of the face.
"What happened to your wrist?" Doyle asked, grabbing it to look at it. He frowned at the young man. "I thought you were getting better."
"I was. I mean I am. This was to feed cranky." He nodded at Spike and took his hand back. "Ethan has one too. At least it was a sharp knife. "Oh, remind me later and I'll give you stuff to clean and some better silverware." He flopped down on the couch next to Cordy and wiggled his fingers at the baby she was holding. "Hey, you. How'd you do last night with Uncle Spike?"
"Same as always," Spike said, heading for the master bedroom.
"I don't think so," Doyle told him, grabbing him and turning him around to sit him in the chair. "You know what happened last night."
"Was obvious when I looked at you. Don't know who did you, though. Know who was in Xander, met him before." He smirked at the younger mortal. "Feeling okay?"
"Fine," Xander told him, relaxing into the couch. "What did Giles say when he brought us home?"
"Nothing, besides that you're not allowed near the kids until he makes sure that you're free again."
Xander smiled. "Gee, I'm going to have to talk to him then, huh?" He looked out the window as he heard the front door of the house slam.
"I don't care! They're his kids and I doubt he's still possessed!" Oz yelled. "Get over it!" He turned and headed toward them.
"Uh-oh," Spike said cheerfully as he stood up. "Sounds like trouble in happy land." He walked back to the back bedroom before Oz could knock on the door.
Angel's yell of, "SPIKE!" came a second later.
"Guess Angel lost the toss after all," Cordy said, smiling at Oz. "Here, take him. He's in a guys only mood today." She stood up and headed for the back bedroom. "Doyle, I'm going to nap. Get over it now," she said as she closed the door.
Doyle glared at the door and muttered something but when he turned back, he was smiling. "Just like a princess."
Xander nodded. "Yup." He looked up at Oz. "I'm free, you could sit. I promise I won't bite you if you tell me what happened."
"You got possessed, talked to the thing that punished Tara and Willow, then you passed out after Doyle tore it apart." He sat down and handed over the baby. "You're much better at this than I am."
"Comes with practice," Doyle told him. He looked himself over. "I look like I smell so I'm going to bathe. Catch ya in a few?"
"Sure. C'mon up to the house and we'll feed you," Xander said as he stood up. He walked out with the baby, going up to the house. "Honey, I'm home," he called, smiling at Philip and Nick, who were fixing breakfast. "Grab a bottle out of the left hand cabinet for me would you please?" He sat the baby down on the counter as he mixed up the formula, not minding at all when he felt some water hit the back of his neck. "It wasn't that sort of possession and there's nothing wrong with me," he said without looking to see who had done it. "There," he said as he finished stirring the formula and made sure the nipple was on tightly. He picked the little boy back up and stuck the bottle into his mouth, smiling as he sucked and made happy noises. "Yeah, we're going to be a good boy today and sleep with the twins." He turned to find it was Giles behind him, but he had expected that. "It wasn't that sort of possession. Doyle'll be up in a few for breakfast. Cordy's napping and so are the vamps." He handed the baby over to Nick, who had his arms out. "Good, you do that while I figure out what I'm making." He pushed past Giles, who was staring at him. "If you're not going to help, get out of the kitchen," he said after the second time of having to move past him.
Giles stopped Xander and looked him over. "You're really fine?"
"I've been fine. Where have you been? Oh, and next time, put us somewhere other than the paddock. You don't know what our bodies might have hit in the dark." He smiled at Philip, who now had the child. "You're good at that," he said in appreciation. "We needed you when the twins were younger." He cracked the eggs he was holding into a bowl and stirred them with a fork. "Nick, did you guys eat a real breakfast already or just a snack?"
"Just a snack. Derek's still asleep though."
"Okay. I'm making omelets. Come pick your ingredients and chop them up for me." He smiled at Doyle as he walked in with the other little boy. "Put them down on the table. They won't wiggle off it."
"Okay. What can I do to help?" Doyle asked.
"Sit and eat it in a few," Xander told him. He glared at Giles, who was still in the same place. "Better yet, throw this outside," he said, pushing him toward Doyle. "I think he needs some fresh air."
Giles spluttered as he was put outside but he didn't walk back in immediately. "Good," Xander said, giving everyone smiles. "After breakfast, I'm going for a ride, if anyone wants to join me, they're more than welcome. We have four saddles now." He poured the first part of the omelet into the pan Doyle had pulled out and gotten hot for him. "Okay, whose is this?"
"Mine," Nick said, handing over half of the stuff he had been chopping up. "The other's for Philip."
"Thanks," Philip said quietly. "Which one's which?"
"Um, the one in blue should be Benjamin, the one Buffy let me adopt. The other should be Robert." He looked over and smiled. "Yup, got 'em backwards again," he sighed. "Cordy redressed Bert in Benji's clothes."
"She's going to hurt you if she hears you call him that," Xander said as he took the first omelet out. "Let me amend this by making them scrambled eggs with stuff, they didn't want to flip right." He handed the plate over to Nick. "Sorry." He poured some more of the eggs into the pan and scraped the rest of the stuff Nick had been chopping up into it. "Okay, Father Philip's is in. What do I want to eat?" he asked as he walked over to the refrigerator. "Doyle, are you having scrambled eggs or would you like veggies too?"
"Please, if you can find any."
"We went to the store yesterday," Xander said, holding out a bag of green peppers. "Take one and we'll split it." He came out with a block of cheese, half an onion, and three more eggs, bringing them back to the kitchen island to finish fixing breakfasts. Nick had poured the next batch out for them, giving Philip his breakfast, and everything was going peacefully until Giles came back in.
"I hope you left some of those peppers, Xander, I was going to stuff some tonight."
"I'll go pick up more," he sighed. "I'll even go before I go riding." His eye roll was caught by Doyle, who smiled at him. "Finish making out a grocery list and I'll go get it after I eat something."
"Thank you," Giles said stiffly. He walked down the hall and came back a few minutes later with Miri. "I do believe this is your child," he said formally as he walked away again.
Xander looked over at her. "What'd you do this time?"
"Me was trying to read." She climbed up into his lap, giving him a hug. "Me had a Pooh book and everything."
"Then why did he kick you out of the library?"
"Me in hall," she said, smiling at Doyle, who had taken over the omelet duties. "You back too?" she asked.
He smiled at her. "Of course. I'm gonna be here for a few days this time and then this summer, I'll be back for good." He winked at her. "Then you can come help me in the school."
"Cool. Will there be other kids?"
"Yup." He brought his breakfast over, after taking the pan off the heat, and sat down next to Xander. "Ah, sleeping, my favorite activity of theirs," he said, pointing his fork at the twins. "Good job, Father."
"It's not hard," Philip said quietly. "They're good boys." He smiled at Doyle. "Want me to baptize them since we're all here?"
"Not sure if it'd take," Doyle said thoughtfully. "They're like me and I'm not sure mine took." He shrugged. "As long as it doesn't hurt them, I don't mind."
"Maybe you should do our three too," Xander said quietly. "But we'd need Blair and Sam."
"As long as I could hear them assent then that would be fine," Philip told him. "We could do that part by phone if we had ta."
"Please, do our three then," Xander decided. "I'll tell Oz first and we'll sneak it in under Giles' nose."
"What?" Oz said as he walked in. "Hey, Nick, Father Philip. What's going on?" He stole a bite off Xander's fork. "Hmm, good."
"Thanks. Father Philip just offered to baptize the kids, he said we can get Blair and Sam on the phone to get them."
"Okay by me. Want me to tell Rupe?"
"Please. He's not happy with me at the moment."
Oz nodded. "Or last night. He's having one of those days." He smiled down at Miri. "Why aren't you reading?"
"Because daddy kicked me out of the hall."
"Oh." Oz held out his arms. "Come on, we'll go read in the living room." He picked her up and carried her out of the room. "Then we'll get you dressed pretty so we can have you blessed."
"'Kay. It hurt?"
"Nope, not at all. Just some water."
Xander looked over at Philip. "I don't want to ask, but is Giles maybe not agreeing going to be a bad thing?"
"Not really. I can definitely do Miriam today if not the twins." He smiled at Doyle. "What about Cordelia?"
"She'll agree," Doyle said. "We've been talkin' about it and she's all for it."
"You can wake her up while I'm at the store. Does anyone need anything while I'm out?"
"I could use some paper plates," Doyle said. "And maybe a few glasses."
"Okay. Father? Nick?"
"Nope, we actually packed this time," Nick said, giving him a smile. "You might want to ask everyone else though."
"Cordy keeps a bag of stuff here in case they had to come up and barge in," Xander told him. "We've had to do this before. I wonder where Wes is?"
"He's mindin' the store," Oz said as he walked back in. "Giles is uber-pissed but he agreed to do the twins. Said it was safer to do it now." He climbed over the back so he could sit next to Xander. "You okay?"
"Fine. He sprinkled me with Holy Water and then stood in my way for a few minutes." Xander pushed his plate over. "Since I have to go to the store, do you need anything?"
"I thought we went yesterday?"
"We did but I used a lot of the green peppers and he got more pissed. I'm going to pick up more. Did you forget anything?"
"Tylenol. I have a feeling I'll be needing it today." He nudged Xander. "Can I have John be a Godparent too?"
"Sure. Not a big for me. They're all together. I told Sam and Blair they could be."
"Cool." Oz looked down at the two boys. "Hey, guys. Gonna sleep up here today?"
"Yeah, it's for the best. Angel can't stand it when they wake him up," Doyle said, grinning at him. "It's just easier this way. Spike, now he doesn't seem to mind. Angel glares at them for a good twenty minutes."
"Spike's used to it," Xander reminded him. "He used to sit Miri when she was that age." He patted Doyle on the shoulder. "These two shall also start to crave longer naps."
"They're used to sleepin' through the night," Doyle told him, "we've just mixed them up for the last two days. It'll settle back out." He sighed. "If my Ma coulda seen them, she'd have been tickled that I'm a da. She always said I'd best have at least one, it'd make me appreciate her more."
Philip chuckled. "My Ma tried that once then she started to cry because I was gettin' ready to take my ordination." He winked at Nick. "She never did forgive me for it."
Nick nudged him. "Your brothers all made up for it," he said. "Each one of them had enough to spare you having one."
Philip smiled. "Maybe. That is the one thing I miss though. I woulda made a great father."
"Yup, you would have," Xander said, giving him a smile. "Anytime you want to sit, just come right on up."
Nick laughed. "Yeah, that'll sooth that craving for a few weeks at the least. How soon before the twins walk?"
"They're just starting to explore furniture," Oz told him. "They haven't begun pulling themselves up yet so I'd say maybe another two months."
Xander looked at the older man, and knew he knew about kids. "Philip, can you break the twin's swearing habit? Spike taught them bad words and it's driving us all insane."
"O'course. It's not hard. I could do it before we leave probably." He looked around the kitchen. "Got any treats for them?"
"No, but I can pick up grapes," Xander said calmly. "You're going to train them like people do dogs?"
"Something like that. We reward the good words and not reward the bad words. After a few hours, they'll get the point," Nick said. "We had to do it with Alex when she started to swear one month. Works really well for small problems like swearing." He looked over at Philip. "That means you can't go riding."
"I'll come up and go some other time," Philip said, patting his hand. "We Irish are patient people if nothin' else."
Doyle raised his last bite of food. "Amen."
Xander sat down on the porch next to Philip, smiling at the twins. "Hi, girls," he said, holding out a grape. "We got you a treat."
"They don't need one," Giles said from the doorway.
"Philip's agreed to break them of Spike's words," he said back. "He said it works well." He handed over the bag of grapes. "Your peppers are in the crisper. I got the same sort that we had in there already." Giles grunted and left them alone. "I really want him to take drugs," he said quietly.
Philip patted him on the shoulder. "I'm sure he'll come outta it soon." He pulled Elizabeth into his lap. "Now, little one, talk to me."
"Yes!" she said cheerfully. He gave her a grape. "Hell!" She held out her hand but she didn't get another one. "Yes?" She got one. She ate them and smiled at him, the juice running down onto her bib.
"Good idea," Xander said, straightening it out. "I have a really hard time getting grape stains out of their clothes."
"Pre-treat them," Sam said from behind them.
Xander hopped up and hugged her. "You came?" He pulled back to smile at Blair. "Hi! You came!"
"Yup," Blair said. "John went to find Oz."
"Cool. I was just going riding so I wouldn't screw up Philip's retraining exercise." He nodded at the barn. "Want to come with me, Sam?"
"Not in these clothes," she said, patting the side of his face. "Later. Before we leave tonight. I'll borrow some jeans and we'll go together."
"Cool!" Xander grinned down at Philip. "Do you really need me?"
"Nope. Go have fun. Doyle's out there with Benjamin to show them horses."
"Okay." Xander waved and jogged down the stairs. "Just yell, I'm not going that far," he called. He ran into the barn and stopped when he saw Strife waiting on him. "Hey, big red guy, what's up? You want me to ride you?" The horse snorted and nuzzled his shoulder. "Okay," he said as he swung up. "We'll go play in the woods."
Doyle handed him his watch. "I set the alarm for half an hour. Come back when you hear it beep. Philip said he'd do this in about an hour, after he fixed the girls' problem."
Xander leaned down and kissed him on the top of the head. "You are too cool. I'll be back later." He nudged Strife with his foot and they walked out, heading down the trail they were slowly building into the woods.
Doyle walked out of the barn and up to the porch, smiling at all the people up there. "Hey. I gave him my watch and alarm."
"That would be a good gift to get him for his birthday," Oz noted. "Got to remember that."
Doyle shook his head, looking confused. "Wasn't that last week? That's when Cordy said it was while she was picking out a card."
Oz groaned. "Yes." He stood up. "I'll be right back." He walked into the house and came out a few minutes later, heading down to the barn himself, not saying anything to anyone.
"I'd say that went bad," Nick said from beside Philip where he was helping train little Blair. "Talk some more, cutey, and you can have more grapes." She babbled at him, waving her arms around. "Good girl," he said, handing her three grapes because she hadn't said any bad words.
Philip smiled at him. "If I have children, you're comin' over to sit for them."
"Sure," Nick said with a grin. "If that happens, then I'll gladly come sit for you."