Halfway Down. (happens around Portal series)

Xander picked up the phone and dialed the first number he could think of. "Father Philip?" he asked, panicking. "You've got to come up. Miri just went through a shiny... thing." Philip's voice calmed him down. "Yeah, a portal. Please, hurry up? I can't deal with this. Huh? Call Giles? Why?" He nodded and swallowed. "Okay, I will. Hurry though?" He hung up and dialed Oz's cellphone number, Giles had it today. "Giles, me, Miri was just sent through a portal. Why am I calling? Our daughter's *gone*! That's why! It's magical and you have to come home now!" He hung up and dialed the main number at the school. "I need to get in touch with Daniel Osbourne at once! Yes, it's an emergency, his daughter's gone!" He took a deep breath, just like the voice on the phone said. "Yes, now please." A short pause while he was transferred over to the security office. "This is Daniel Osbourne's lover and our daughter's missing, I need to get in touch with him right away. Um, the big one with the bricks and the social sciences. Yeah, I think that's it." He nodded. "Good, so you can find him and make him come home? Yes, please, right now. Thank you." He hung up and looked around the room. "Sileya, we need Sileya," he muttered, sitting down and looking up the number for the high school.


Sileya and Homer walked into the office together, frowning at the Principal. "What did we do wrong?" she asked.

"Nothing. We got a frantic phone call from one of your guardians. Your sister's missing. Something about something shiny that took her away."

Homer caught Sileya as she started to sit down without a chair behind her. "Am I excused too?"

"We know you're living out there now. Go. Before he calls again." "It must have been Xander," she said, making sure she had her purse. "We'll make up our tests in the next few days." She hurried out to Homer's car, with him right behind her.


Oz looked up as the security guard leaned down beside him. "What?" he whispered, dropping his pencil.

"Sir, we just got a frantic call from your house. Your daughter's missing. They need you at home right away."

Oz went pale and nodded, gathering up his things. "Thanks," he whispered, getting up to take his test booklet up to the teacher. "My daughter's disappeared. I'm needed at home."

"As long as you take the test in the next few days," the teacher said, giving him a pat on the arm. "Hopefully, she's fine."

"Yeah, I hope so. I don't think Xander could take losing her." He ran out of the room to the parking lot next to it, slinging his things into the back as he got in.


Giles looked over the spell. "She's somewhere safe at least," he said, and Xander slumped into Oz's arms. "You said the ghost did this?"

"All I know is that the ghost came up to tell me and Miri was walking through the portal." He looked out the window as he heard brakes squealing. "Everyone's here that I called," he said, heading for the back door. He ran into Sam, who gave him a hug. "She got sent," he told her, squeezing her. "The ghost sent her away."

Blair stopped in his tracks. "The ghost did it?"

Oz walked out and patted him on the arm. "Yeah, it looks that way. The ghost sent her to another realm because she was bored." He looked at Sam. "Who called you?"

"Father Philip. He wasn't making much sense," Sam said, letting Xander go. "Are you okay?"

"My baby's gone," Xander said, sniffling. "I don't know where she is or if she went somewhere okay or not."

Oz grabbed him and led him away. "We're going to go sit down. Why don't you call off the missing kid search?"

"It's not on yet," Blair said, tying back his hair. "Magic can do that?"

"And a lot more," Father Philip said as he walked out of the library. "I tried to call but you'd already left."

"We tend to rush into things when it concerns them," Blair said with a wry smile. "They get into some of the strangest situations."

John walked in and looked around. "Where's the rest of the family?"

"Giles is in the library and Oz just took Xander to hold down," Philip told him.

"Now's not the time for that news, John," Blair said. "Miri went through a portal, she didn't get kidnapped."

"How'd the squirt do that?"

"The ghost," Philip said with a shrug. "She said Miri was bored."

John groaned. "And I thought the magic-using stalker was bad."

Sam patted him on the chest. "It could be worse. We could have to try and go after her."

"Yes, we should," Xander said from the living room, but he was quieted down again. "But I should be going after her," floated out of the living room a few minutes later. "She's my daughter."

Blair headed for the living room, he could always get Xander calmed down. Let Sam and John do the hard stuff for right now.


Blair looked across the couch at Xander, who was mildly sedated at the moment, then at Oz, who was being his most supportive to date. He coughed lightly to get their attention. "Guys, could a criminal *spell* their way out of prison? Say get parole really early using magic?"

"Yeah," Xander said, trying to sit up but he was too tired so he flopped back down onto Oz's body. "It's possible. Who did it?"

"Not important," Blair said quickly. "We have a criminal who *might* have done it with some outside help but we weren't sure how."

"Easily, a confusion or a will spell would be most likely," Giles said quietly, watching the twins sleep on the floor in front of his chair. "Possibly a thrall spell depending on how many people it would have had to cover."

"Six," Sam said.

"A will spell," Oz told her. "A general broadcasting to make them do what you wanted. It basically lets whomever turn them into puppets for a short length of time."

Sam nodded and looked at John, who nodded also.

"It's Faith, isn't it?" Xander asked, making it upright this time. "She's out?"

"We didn't want to worry you," Blair said calmly, reaching over to give Xander a hug, but he fought it off. "Okay, I won't hug you then. All we know for sure is that she's out."

"We know a bit more," John told him. "We got some information as I ran after you, Jim called and gave it to me. Faith got a request made for a special 'religious' ceremony a few weeks ago. A blessing ceremony. A young woman with red hair came up to the prison and asked very politely for permission. She had a nice, very old book that had the ceremony in it in English, and she had a knife."

Everyone looked at Xander, who was pale. "Willow?" Xander asked.

"Spike said she hadn't put Faith's soul in him," Giles said calmly. "Is Faith out?"

"Yeah. As of this afternoon. Since we were involved, we got a courtesy call," John told him. "And yes, Xander, it did sound a lot like your friend Willow. Do you know where she is?"

"No," he said quietly, looking at the twins. "She left right after she got cursed by the fallen angel."

"Um, the what?" Blair asked.

"It's a long story," Giles sighed. "Starting with Willow wanting to do an offensive spell to help Buffy. What it did was what happened to Spike, only for the whole town and into LA. We countered it but not all the way and Angel asked for vengeance for his childe. It awoke a fallen angel hidden under Sunnydale. Which we all fought." He glared at Xander. "Though some people were a bit possessed at the time."

"Whatever happened worked," Philip told him firmly. "We're not gonna go over that part again." He looked at Xander, giving him a smile. "You were fine afterwards."

"Still am," Xander said, leaning back into Oz's side. "Why does this stuff happen to us?"

"Because we're lucky like this," Oz told him, patting him on the stomach. "Why don't you go to bed, we'll be up in a while." Xander shook his head. "In our room," he added quietly. "I know you'd like a hug right now." Xander nodded and stood up, wobbling for a few minutes. Blair stood up and helped him up the stairs, going to put him in bed.

Sam looked over at Oz. "Are you three fighting again?" Oz nodded. "Why?"

"Lots of stuff, most of it really big and not my fault." He looked over at Giles. "Why don't you tell them, Rupe?"

"I'm still not sure what Xander was going on about. Or why you still own that horrid store."

"Because it makes me money," Oz said simply. "Besides, it means I get a discount when we need new toys, which you happen to like." He looked over at Sam. "It started with Xander's forgotten birthday."

"It started before that," Philip told him. "It started the night of the fighting with the angel." He looked at Giles. "You were frigid to him then and you haven't changed back yet."

"That's very blunt," Sam said, giving him a nod. "That never seemed to work too well for Blair."

"I can get away with it," Philip said, touching his collar. He stood up and stretched. "I'm for bed too. Am I out in the trailer or not?"

"Not. You can have your usual room," Oz told him. "Night."

"Good night," Philip said, heading up the stairs.

"Oz," Giles started.

"Save it, I'm siding with Xander on this one. You're an ass." He looked at Sam. "After that fight, it degraded into a sniping contest on Giles' side. He forgot Xander's birthday and didn't remind me. He tried to throw my gift away a few times. He even conveniently forgot to give Xander a phone message saying he had a job at the store."

"Store?" John asked. "The one you own?"

"Yeah, the one here in town. Which is still under attack." He shrugged at Sam's appraising look. "I find it convenient to own a porn store chain." He grinned. "Six stores now."

"At least you're happy," Sam told him. "Have you thought about sitting down with the leaders of this church group?"

"Yup, tried to ask for that, they ignored the request. I gave up and got a restraining order after they cut the power lines." He put his feet up, stretching down the couch. "We'll deal, we always do. If I have to, I'll close this store and keep the rest open. Xander can find another job again, I'll help him."

"As long as it's not stripping," Giles said coldly. "Why do all his jobs have to do with his body?"

"This time, he's just taking money," Oz told him. "He rings up sales, same as anyone who works at Seven-Eleven. Get over it." He turned back to Sam. "As you can see, it's all out of whack again. Xander's moved fully down across from Sileya and Homer. I'm guessing he'll be in our room tonight but I'm not sure who else will be in there."

"It's my room too," Giles pointed out.

"If you say one thing to upset him," Oz warned, "I will make your life miserable for the next few weeks. You'd better change and fast, Giles, I'm not putting up with it anymore either."

Sam clapped twice. "Good, but this isn't the time for this. You should be worried about your daughter, not fighting with him."

Oz nodded. "I'm doing that too. I'm a multi-tasker." He stood up. "I'm going to go help Blair put him to bed and get cuddles. He probably pulled Blair down onto the bed with him." He headed up the stairs at a trot.

Blair came down a few minutes later. "He's all tucked in next to Oz." He looked at Giles. "Man, you've got to lighten up. Xander's ready to leave the farm totally." He sat down in Oz's spot. "We'll set up an appointment for you guys to come in after this is all over, just so Xander can figure it out," he said at the hardening face. "If you don't, I can assure you Xander will leave. He's had enough. He was just crying because he can't take both pressures anymore." He looked over at Sam. "I told him I'd help him look for an apartment if he moved out."

"That would be fine," she said, giving him a smile. "Oz wondered why you were taking so long."

"He needed held," Blair said with a shrug. "He's very confused right now." He stood back up. "I'm going up to our room. Sam?"

"Coming," she said, accepting his help up from the comfortable and deep chair. They walked up the stairs together, whispering to each other.

John coughed and stood up. "I guess I'll go up too. I'm taking Xander's room?"

"If you'd like. Or we could fix you a bed down here," Giles offered, waving a hand at the couch.

"I think I'd rather have a bed, my back's bad enough." He walked up the stairs, smiling at the little body in the hall. "Hey, Tigger, what's going on?" he asked, bending down to pick her up. "Why are you out of bed?"

"No," she said, shaking her head vigorously.

Giles came up the stairs and frowned at her. "What are you doing out of bed?"

"No," she said again, smiling at him.

"I don't think that she's ready for it yet," John said, handing her over.

Xander walked out and gave her a hug. "Go to bed," he said quietly. "Now please." She kissed his cheek and got down, crawling back to her room. "Night," he said, patting John on the back. "Sleep well, the bed's made." He walked back in and shut the door, locking it.

Giles glared at the door. "That will not happen," he promised, searching his pockets for the key to his door. He found it and walked in, slamming the door.

John sighed as he walked down to his room. "Guess that's better than nothing," he told himself. "It could be worse, it could be physical abuse."

Blair stuck his head out of his room and shook it. "Not at this level. Xander's not even the same person that he used to be. Night."

"Night," he said, waving at him. He stopped and considered both doors, tapping on the one on the left.

"The other one," a female voice called.

"Thanks." He walked into the other one, smiling at the messy bed. "Yeah, the kid lives here." He closed the door and took off his standard black sports coat to hang up.


Wesley looked over at Doyle, who's head was down on the desk. "Is the little girl okay?" he asked quietly, trying to get some information about the vision. All Doyle had been able to say so far was Miriam's name.

"Better'n I am," Doyle moaned, sitting up. "She's gone across realms, the ghost sent her." He looked over at Spike, who was sitting with his back in the corner. "You're needed there to talk to her tomorrow night. She won't listen to them."

"She won't listen to me," Spike pointed out. "She'd listen to Xander, but I doubt he's going to be anything but grateful she's alive."

"Which is why they need you," Doyle pointed out. "The boy needs you anyway." He clutched his head as another vision came across. "No, not again," he muttered. "Oh, that's bad," he said finally. He looked back at Spike. "Xander's not physically in trouble, he's mentally in trouble. Blair's there but he's not catching it all. For some reason, the Powers want to intervene in their relationship now."

"So I have to go help the whelp," Spike said, standing up. "I'll try, but I can't promise." He nodded at Angel as he walked up the stairs. "Gonna go stop somethin' bad."

"Good. Be careful. Sunnydale's still full of vengeful people." He sat down in Spike's chair. "Oh, say hi to the kids for me."

"I will." Spike walked out, grabbing his duster as he passed it. He would watch and learn then figure out how to cure this little problem.


Xander looked up as Ethan walked up onto the porch. He was still hugging Miri, who had just gotten back from her ride, and he wasn't going to let her go. "Hey, sit and talk?"

"Of course." Ethan looked around. "Where's Ripper?"

"In the Library, same as usual." Xander squeezed his daughter. "She came back today."

"So I see. I got an interesting visit last night."

"Go away," Giles said from the doorway.

"I was told to come give him a message, go back to your books." Ethan looked at Xander. "Walk me back to my car?"

"Sure." Xander stood up, still holding Miri as he walked down the stairs beside his father. "So?" he asked as they got closer to the car.

"As I was saying, I got an interesting visit last night, a messenger of the Light as it happened. He told me that I was to keep a closer watch over you, that something bad was going to happen to you. Not physically, but mentally."

Xander grimaced, looking down at the ground. "I'm fine, Ethan, really." He looked around and saw Giles glaring at him. "We're fighting again, but it can be cured."

Ethan stopped and lifted Xander's chin. "I remember you having so much more fire and power within you, Xander," he said quietly. "Where did it all go? You used to be able to stand up for yourself when you needed to. You even stood up to me."

"I still can," Xander said weakly, backing away from him. "Now I pick my fights better so I'm not banging my head against a wall."

"Yes, he can be a self-righteous wall, but you've got to retain some of yourself, some of the boy that you used to be. It's important to your future and that of your children." He stroked down the back of Miri's head, flattening her hair. "You have to fight this time, son, no matter the cost. It will work out, but it has to happen."

"Get off her," Giles said, walking over to them. "I thought I told you I didn't want you near these children."

"I got a visit from a messenger of the Powers That Be, not even you can deny them their due, Ripper." He looked at Xander. "Think about it?" Xander nodded. "Good. I'll go then before I cause you more problems. If you need me, I'm here." He got into his car and drove away.

Xander looked at Giles. "He can come see me, not even you can deny me that," he said quietly, heading back up to the house. "We're going to have lunch. You can come if you want."

Giles glared at his back. "We'll see," he muttered. "I will not have that man here."

"He's my father," Xander shouted, turning around to face his oldest lover. He put Miri down. "Why don't you go find Sam and give her cuddles, okay? She's sorting books for you." Miri nodded and ran up to the house. "I will *not* be pushed around by you anymore!" he screamed. "If you want in my life, you'd better be willing to keep those few promises you've ever made to me about being a decent human being. If not, leave!" He spun around and went back up to the house, slamming the back door.

Giles was still glaring at him. "I doubt that will happen," he said finally. He walked up and headed into his house, going to find Oz. The boy had to see it his way, before his comfortable life went away.


Ethan walked into his apartment and slammed the door. "I didn't think it was possible for Ripper to do that to the boy."

Spike sat up and stared at him. "Now you know why I came to you. Any hope of changin' it?"

"Not yet. Though, Xander did stand up to him after I left." He sat down in his chair and waved a hand, canceling the illusion on the apartment. No longer were the walls a delicate flower wallpaper, now it was dark blue with arcane symbols. No more was the furniture plain and drab, it was now much more like what Xander had put into his home, only with more wood. Ethan had decorated this place himself so it would do him the most good. He considered doing something horrid to Rupert, but he knew he'd feel it and counter it. He had checked into his son's life and he knew what was coming up for him. All of it would take strength of will that it looked like the boy was losing. Something had to be done, but what? He looked over at Spike, who was staring at a glyph on the wall across from him. He smiled. "Yes, sometimes fortune is the best friend of the ailing marriage." He got up and went over to work with that glyph, hoping to bring some prosperity to their relationship. Maybe then, Ripper would leave the boy alone to finish growing up.


Xander looked at Miri's new bankbook and put it away with his secret one. He'd never told anyone about his secret account, the one he had in case he needed to run again. He buried the box deep in his closet and pushed his dance clothes back over it. He checked to make sure no one was in the room then he patted the box and pushed everything else on top of it. He stood up and closed the door, turning to find Oz sitting on the bed. "You enjoy sneaking up on me, don't you?"

"Yup. What are you hiding?"

"Miri's newest bank book. I know where it is, but it's a pain to get to so I won't be tempted to think about it unless it's a real emergency." He leaned against the door. "What's going on?"

"I got a call from Howie. He understood about you taking off because of Miri, but we've decided together that we're closing the Sunnydale store." He held out a hand. "Those church people are going to be allowed to think that they win, but the one outside of town will still be open." Xander came and sat next to him. "He put in your application for out there, but it's going to go by seniority. It'll probably be a year before a position opens."

"That's okay," Xander said, looking out the window. "I looked at what the Vo-Tech offered and I want to check a few programs out at a closer range." He sighed as he felt the arms go around him. "I don't want to go back to school, but if it makes you happy then I will."

"I want you to be happy doing it," Oz said quietly, kissing him on the back of the neck. "I'll help you look if you'd like."

"Yeah, I think I'd like that," Xander said, turning in the arms to get a kiss. "You're not mad that it took me so long?"

"Not at all. As long as you find something that'll make you happy, then I'm ecstatic about you going back to school. If you can't find yourself out there, then I'll help you find another job. We won't worry about that yet, not until you've made a decision." He stole a kiss and put some space between them. "Which programs?"

"There's an electronics one, I could learn how to fix VCR's and computers. There's a food one, I could learn how to cook better. Or there's a computer class that I can take."

"Hey, whatever floats your boat. We can do that." He stood up and held out a hand. "Want to come riding with me? We don't have to be at the museum for an hour."

"Sure. But only around the paddock or I'll forget and keep going."

"I won't let you forget," Oz told him, leading him from the room.

Elizabeth crawled out from under the bed and over to the closet. She tried but she couldn't quite get the door open. She pouted and went to find something more interesting to play with. Who wanted to play with a bunch of clothes anyway? She crawled out, hoping to find her older sister. Miri was cool, she read to her.


Oz walked back into the house, followed by a triumphant Xander. "We found something that they've been looking for forever!" Xander said, hugging Sileya. "We found some old relics out by the beach."

"Congratulations," she said, smiling at them both. "Are they paying you?"

"A finders fee," Oz told her, grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge and handing it over to Xander. "So, what went on today while we were gone?"

"Buffy's here. She's in talking with Giles but she's been shouting."

Xander nodded. "I'll go find her. Library or office?"


Xander walked down the hall, sipping his water, and tapped on Giles' office door. "Hey, Buffy. Need my help too?"

"Yes," she said, hopping up to give him a hug. "The Council's trying to get Doyle's adoption of Benjamin canceled."

"Over my dead body," Xander told her, leading her down the hall to his office. "Come sit. We'll conference with our attorney and Doyle. Did they serve you with paperwork?"

"Yeah, he got some too. I called him and Cordy answered, she said he's in shock."

"Okay, let's call him first and see what he's done so far."

"He's pulling in," Oz said from the doorway. "Our family attorney may not be able to handle them both but he'd know who to call for help." He got out of Doyle's way, deftly taking the screaming child from him. "Come on, little guy," he cooed, "let's go sit and read a book." He carried him into the living room, going to study.

Doyle looked at Oz, then at Xander. "This way he doesn't have to be in the middle," Xander told him, waving at the chair behind the door. "Pull it over and let's plan something."


"We're acting on the biological father's interests," the Council's lawyer said.

Buffy snorted. "Considering I don't know who the father is, that's got to be a little hard." She smiled sweetly at the Council's man. "Unless you know who stuck me with that big, long needle and whose sperm was in it, you're lying through your teeth."

"Ms. Summers," her lawyer said. "Please calm down. I know this is upsetting but please."

Her eyes narrowed. "I need to tell him something," she said, pointing at the Council's man. "Leave." The Council's man nodded so all the lawyers left, leaving her, Doyle, and him. "Do you know who the Initiative used to impregnate me?" He shook his head but he was smirking. "Gee, then I guess no one told you that the baby was demonic, right?"

He straightened his tie. "I doubt that," he said finally.

Doyle pulled out his wallet and handed over a Polaroid he had taken that morning when Benjamin had been asleep. "He's the same sort I am, a halfling."

"I see." He pushed the picture back. "I knew you were desperate, Ms. Summers, but really."

Buffy snorted. "Should I have him brought down so that you can see for yourself?" He shook his head so she stood up. "I will tell you this *once*," she said quietly. "If you persist in this stupidity, I'm going to be forced to tell everyone about what I am. If that happens, I'm not going to be the one hurt. I can escape before anything happens to me. Everyone involved with me is now safe. Who do you think's going to lose the most?"

Doyle patted her on the arm. "I'm sure it'll be fine, Buffy. They can't take him. They don't have a leg to stand on legally according to our lawyers unless they can produce the father, and I doubt they'd be dealing with my Da." He smiled at the man across the table, who looked very shocked. "By the way, whatever you've done to Miriam, I'd stop that too. The Powers are lookin' out for her now."

"These *Powers* of yours had better keep their hands off that little girl," he said quietly.

Buffy snorted. "Why would the Powers that lord over *me* need to stay away from Miri?" she asked. "Doyle's been working for them now for years. He was sent to Angel to help him. Same as Wesley was when he was at loose ends. Or did he never report that he had been having visions after graduation?"

"No, he didn't," he said sullenly. "You really work for the light?"

"Yup. I'm a seer now because of them. See, they actually believe in atonement. Unlike some people."

Buffy reached over to squeeze his hand. "It's okay, Doyle. They can't argue with the Powers. They sent you to me to get Benjamin and they want you to have him." She looked over at him. "Like I said, you're not going to win this time. I'm not some easily scared and intimidated little girl and if you want a Slayer, I'd find Faith, because I quit if you keep this up." She leaned back. "Let everyone suffer and be eaten. My family's safe now."

"That was very Faith-worthy," he said, clapping, "but you wouldn't really do that." She nodded. "No, you wouldn't."

She smiled. "Why not? It's not like I've been on patrol recently. I've been working to train Sileya and Homer as an effective team and helping her gather people to help her. I could care less about this town anymore. Matter of fact, as soon as I graduate, I'm going to do some traveling and see a few things. Maybe I'll find a reason for you to exist on my trip, but I'm doubting it right now."

"You wouldn't," he repeated, his mouth open.

"Watch me," Buffy said quietly. "The only sound I hear is my own song, and it's really sweet right now." She stood up. "I think this meeting is adjourned. Continue on with this stupidity and see how fast everything goes to hell. After all, Sileya's protected like I never was." She smiled at Doyle. "Coming?"

"In a moment." Doyle picked up the photograph. "You can ask Wesley if you'd like, or you could have an independent person come out and look Benji over to ease your mind, but you're not takin' my son." He walked out too.

"Oh, dear, the Inner Circle never considered this happening," he said as he pulled over the phone and pulled out his calling card so he could report.


"Just give him to Spike already," Cordy sighed in exasperation. "They both go spikes-out when they go to him."

"Tried that," Doyle said. He looked down at his uncooperative son. "You could do this now, ya know," he whispered, hugging him.

Cordy stole him and smiled down at him. "How about a bubble bath with me, Benji," she said cheerfully. The baby's spikes came out, making the Council's investigator cringe and back away. "Works every time," she said, handing him back. "Neither of the boys like my bubbles."

"They smell," Spike told her, smiling at her when she flipped him off. "Maybe later, pet, but you don't want to traumatize the uptight Brit."

"Hey!" Wesley said.

"Not you, this time," Spike said, clapping him on the back. "The arse over there."

"I am not," the Council's man said stiffly. "How was this allowed to happen?" he asked Wesley, trying not to dwell on what he had become.

"Both girls were sedated while they were alone, they both woke up in the emergency room with strange needle marks and subsequently found out that they were pregnant. That's all we know for sure." He looked down at Benjamin. "Though, Doyle's identified the demonic donor as being from his family."

The Council's man nodded. "Then it's best that Buffy not be allowed to see him."

"Hold it," Cordy said, standing up. "Buffy can visit her own child whenever she wants. She doesn't work for you idiots anymore. That's right, you're all idiots. You've thrown away your two best Watchers because of *Faith*, whom you couldn't control when you had her over there and comatose. What makes you think Buffy's going to care what *you* think about her son?"

"Buffy's said that she plans on leaving Sunnydale after graduation in a few days," Doyle said calmly. "Whatever she decides about Benji is fine with us, but he's staying with me. If she wants to drop in and visit, then she's welcome to come and visit. If not, then that's her decision and we'll live with it." He looked at the Council's investigator. "You have no say in that. If you try and have a say, we'll all fight you over it. I'm not willing to have my life ruptured by someone of the likes of you." He handed the baby off to Spike, who took him downstairs to be with Cordy's son Robert, and Angel, who was doing his best babysitter impersonation. "You have no more business here. Leave, or go out through a window."

The Council's man looked at Wesley, but he didn't get any support from there. "Fine," he spat, "I'll leave, but you're not to let Buffy come near him."

"Buffy tends to make her own decisions these days," Cordelia said, taking out her pepper spray and hitting him with it. "Go shove him in traffic."

"No, don't," Angel said. "You don't want to hurt ordinary citizens." He nodded at Doyle to take the man outside. "Leave him on the sidewalk. He'll find his own way home. Hopefully before someone kills him for Buffy. There's a lot of us who happen to like her. She's a good adversary and we like that." Wesley looked at him in shock. "Think about it. If you had to fight a Slayer, would you rather have a decent fight or fight Faith?"

"Buffy. Truthfully, she's the better Slayer of the three presently activated. How did Willow manage that?"

"No one's sure," Angel said grimly, "but I'd still rather fight a person who was in it for the fight, not the glory."

The Council's man looked at them through his tears. "I'll pass that on. Keep that child from Buffy before the prophecy's activated." He walked out.

"Gee, I thought that was Miri," Cordy said, looking at Wesley, who shrugged.

"I think we should check it out," Wesley said with a shrug, heading for the bookcase. "I might call the boys later and see if Xander can't give us some help," he told Angel.

"I'll check with my sources in town tonight," Angel said, heading back down to his nap. Now if only he could keep the boys from taking over his bed again. Some days, he really wished he was still sitting Miri. She only got into his books and liked to wake him up by sitting on his chest.


Buffy smiled at her mother as she walked up the back steps to the guys' farm house. "We won. Oh, they think Benji's Miri now." She sat down beside her mother and leaned against her, head on her shoulder. "How are you?"

"Fine. I heard you plan on traveling."

"Yeah, I think it's time. I promise not to get into the same trouble Xander got into though." She looked up. "I promise, no stalkers or serial killers."

Joyce snorted. "I'm sure you wouldn't get into as much trouble as Xander did." She stopped. "Serial killers? You mean the one here wasn't the first one?"

"No, he had one that was told by the voices in his head that Xander had to be his. Dropped his pattern for it too." She shrugged as she sat up. "Xander said it was his guardian angel telling him to come home."

"Oh. Please don't pick up where he left off," Joyce said, wrapping an arm around her daughter's shoulder. "I can't afford to send you out with a lot of money."

"I'm going to ask dad too," she said. "That's what I want for graduation. A cheap car that runs okay enough and some traveling money."

Joyce nodded. "I'll call him tonight and talk to him." She stood up. "So, you won?"

"Yup, they gave up once they found out Benji was a halfie. Doyle said that the only point of contention is that I shouldn't see him again." She smiled. "Everyone there stuck up for my visitation rights."

"Good. I was going to stop through there on the way to LAX. They shouldn't mind too much."

"Nope, not at all. Tell them I said hi and thanks." She grinned. "I was going out for celebratory ice cream. Want to help me?"

"Sure." They walked down the stairs to Joyce's car, ignoring the heap Buffy was driving. They got in and drove away.

Xander watched from the porch, his eyes tearing up. He knew he wouldn't be seeing Buffy again. He walked back into the house and gave Oz a hug. "She left. She won but she left."

"She had to," Oz reminded him. "She has to go find herself. That's why she's not going to graduation." He gave Xander a squeeze. "Go sit down, I'll make you ice cream."

"'Kay," he said quietly. He sat down at the table, ignoring Giles totally as he watched Oz make sundaes. "Can I have sprinkles?" he called.

"Sure." Oz spooned some over and brought over three bowls. "Here we are." He sat down next to Xander, looking over at Giles. "I think it's time we had a talk. I'm applying for law school this fall. I still have to take my LSAT's this week, and I can't take the stress of you fighting with us, Giles," he said before taking a bite. "Um, refrozen," he said, pushing it over to Xander. "We can work this out now or Xander's going to move back down to his other room tonight and I'm going to move out too so I don't have to be stressed." He patted Xander's thigh under the table. "I won't be with him because I need the space and so does he, but we're giving you one last chance to figure out what's wrong in your head and fix it, Rupert. We're not going on like this anymore."

Giles nodded. "I understand. I thought I had been reacting better since Miriam's return."

"You have," Xander told him, "but you're still snarky and mean to me. I won't put up with it." He climbed over the back of the seat and went to the fridge for sodas, coming back with one for each of them, and Oz was nice enough to get out of his way so he didn't have to crawl out again. "Thanks, babe." Xander sat back down and looked across the table. "Oz had talked me into trying a semester at the Voc school this fall in the carpentry program. For that, I need some support too."

Giles sighed. "I'm trying to change. Why can't you see that?"

"Because all we see is the cold person that's taken your place," Oz told him. "This is our last night together if you don't agree to fix it quickly."

"I will," Giles said, reaching out to touch their hands. "I'm trying and I'll start seeing Blair, all right?"

"Thank you," Xander said quietly. "I'll stay tonight in our room." He looked over at Oz. "You too?"

"Yeah, me too," Oz decided, touching his hand to Xander's. "We'll try this one last time."

"Daddies," Miri called. "Me go see Caliber." The front door slammed.

Oz got up and went after her, mostly to make sure she couldn't take any more trips courtesy of the Strife horse.

*** (Put Mpreg here!)

The end, this story.