Note: Off-screen Major Character Death. Complications of Life.
Xander picked up his necklace, the one from his aunt, and stared at it as he rocked his son to sleep. He knew it had come with some problems, but he had no idea what to do now. Everything was falling apart at the seams in his life and he needed someone stronger to tell him what to do. Even if they only gave him a hint. He looked up as the door opened, smiling at his daughter. "Hey, Miri," he said quietly, nodding for her to come in and sit on the bed. "Whatcha need?"
"I wanted to look at brother," she snorted, leaning over to look at him. "He nap finally?"
"Yup. We just ate and now he's napping." He pointed at the bed with the hand holding the necklace. "Go sit and you can lay beside him." She crawled up onto the bed and he stood up, coming over to lay him next to her. "Be gentle with him. William's just a little guy and he's very fragile."
"Okay. I like babies. Just not like the twins. They gross." She grinned up at him. "Can they move and he get their room?"
"No," Xander said firmly, leaning down to kiss her on the forehead. "They're staying. You'll learn to like them better when you're all older." He hobbled back to his rocking chair and sat back down before his weakened leg gave out on him again. He had been hurt when part of a house he had been working on had collapsed on top of him, shattering his right knee and injuring his back. The strain of William hadn't helped him any, so he now limped and used a cane, but he was still getting stronger. It had only been two months since he'd gotten out of the hospital, he still had some time to heal. He yawned and stretched upward, wincing and relaxing suddenly as his left leg began to cramp. "Okay, didn't really want to do that anyway." He looked over at his children, smiling when he saw that Miri had fallen asleep clutching William like her personal teddy bear. He really wanted to take a picture of this but the camera was downstairs and by the time he got it and came back up, they would have moved. So he enjoyed them as they were for however long it lasted.
Oz tapped on the door and stopped to look at the kids on the bed too. When Xander's curiosity got the better of him, he reached over and touched Oz's hand, bringing him out of his reflections. "Hey," he said quietly, squatting down beside the chair. "Wanna go talk to me?"
Xander nodded and accepted the help up from the chair, grabbing his cane so he could walk down the stairs. He noticed Oz studiously ignoring the cane, but he was used to it now. It hurt Oz that he used it, and he understood that, but it was something he could live with for now. Oz would get used to it too. They flopped down on the couch in the living room at the bottom of the stairs. "So," he said, shifting to look at his lover. "Is this about Rupert or is this about something else?"
"Both," Oz said calmly. "First, let's go to the something else. Okay?" Xander nodded. "I saw your doodles on the paper that you left on the table. Can you do that? Go for the cabinetry and stuff?"
Xander grinned. "Yeah, I can do that easily. I can actually get part of it out of my Voc class when I go back next year. I've already talked to my teacher, Mr. Kendricks, and he thought it'd be the best thing yet. He's also got a friend who works with furniture and things that said I could come work for him after I get done in January."
Oz nodded. "Cool. Sounds good. What about the hours?"
"Same as I was working before. He runs a shop that's accessible and it's safe. My teacher talked to him for me and he was impressed with the cabinets I was working on before I left to go work on the site. And I got a great reference from my old boss." He reached over and touched Oz's hand. "I like this side of the work, as long as it's not cookie-cutter stuff. I like making the cabinets."
"As long as you're happy,"Oz told him, leaning over to kiss him lightly. "Now what about Giles?"
"I'm willing to talk to him with Blair so he can figure it out, or I'm willing to lay down rules for our relationship with him. That's as far as I'm ready to go right now."
"Okay. Want me to pass that on?"
"I sent him a note with the twins yesterday, when they had the picnic outside. I don't want you in the middle. The reconstruction of our relationship would get hurt when Giles and I worked it out because you'd be in the middle again. I don't want what we're building to be hurt by that."
Oz took Xander's hand to hold, giving it a little squeeze. "Then I'll stay out of it unless it involves me. I'll take over the kid duties while you guys are going at it." He looked out the window. "Where's the twins?"
"They're with Willow's mother. She called and asked to take them to her house for a celebration today. I didn't think anyone would mind them knowing the Jewish side of their heritage."
"Nope, not at all. I don't think Rupert would either." He looked back at Xander. "Why do you think he did this? All the snotty attitude toward you and everything?"
"Easy, he couldn't control me anymore." Xander looked down at their joined hands. "When we first got together, we were closer because I needed to lean on you guys."
"Yeah, I remember. And I got really happy when you started to become more independent."
"Yeah, but he didn't. To him it seems like I'm taking away part of his purpose, or at least that's what I'm guessing. When I asked Blair, he said it was a lack of control problem. For once, Giles isn't in control of anything anymore. Not of me especially."
"So, you're the target of his pissed offness because you don't need him anymore?"
"Basically, yeah." Xander leaned closer. "Oz, if I start making furniture, and this guy makes the handmade stuff, will you be enthusiastic about my first piece?"
"Sure. I loved your cabinets when I saw them last week. I'll love anything that you make. Even if it won't fit in this house."
"Good." Xander gave him a grin. "I really want to do the furniture stuff. I like doing the designing and the making of it. That's why my teacher recommended me for this job. He really liked my drawings for my cabinets and how I made them progress into what they were going to become."
"Coolness. I'll support you no matter what." Oz looked at his watch as he stroked through his lover's hair. "Xan, got therapy in a few. You've got to go."
"Nope. I'll do the kids thing. I'll come during your next one, okay?" He kissed Xander before he could sit up, watching as he headed toward the back of the house and his SUV. As soon as he heard the car drive off, he reached under the couch and turned the tape recorder off, putting it into his pocket before going up the stairs to check on Miri and William.
Giles clicked off the tape player and looked around the trailer. Xander had fixed it up for him, he had even worked on the weak spot on the floor, but it still wasn't the spacious house he was used to. He sat down in the shabby recliner and thought about what he had heard. Was he controlling?
He jumped as the phone rang, picking it up after the second ring. "Hello?" He grimaced. "No, Ethan, this is my house, not the main house. What? No, I have no idea. Why?" He sighed. "Fine, come out then." He hung up and checked to make sure the trailer was immaculate, as usual.
Xander dried the back of his neck off as he looked up at his new Physical Therapist. "So, any chance of me losing the cane?"
She sat down beside him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. "You might be able to use it less with time, but you'll never be fully free of it." Xander nodded. "Hey, you knew that was a risk when you had William."
"Yeah," he sighed, pulling the cane over to look at it. "Well, I guess I can live with it. I said I would and I will."
She pulled him over for a hug. "Be good when you get home, go take a long, hot bath to ease the ache you're gonna feel soon, and give your babies hugs." She got up. "If you need me, call. We'll do your next one out at the farm?"
"Yeah," he said, giving her a grin. "I'd like that. That way my kids and Oz can help. I'll call later this week and schedule it." He stood up with a grunt and walked toward the doors, his towel draped around his neck. "Later, Mary."
"Later," she called, smiling at his back. "I like him, he's very oriented." She went to clean up before her next patient could show up.
Xander walked through the back door and looked around at all the boxes. "Um, hello?" he called. Giles walked down the hall. "Hey. Needed to raid the cabinets?"
"Yes, I was running out of a few things." He looked Xander over. "How did your treatment go?"
"Fine," he said, hobbling over to hop up onto the counter, rubbing down his left thigh. "She's working me really hard, but it's a good thing. With some more work, I'll only need the cane to brace against instead of how much I need it now."
Giles nodded, turning to start grabbing cans out of the pantry. "I'm glad for you. You seem ready to do what you have to do to get rid of that."
"Nope, won't ever get rid of it," Xander told him, losing his smile. "I won't need it as much with some more work, but I'll always need it some." He lifted it up to look at it. "Besides, it's neat." He grinned at his elder lover. "So, how are you and Blair doing?"
"Not very well. I'm about to go to someone else. Just for a less sunny perspective."
Xander grimaced. "Will they help you though? Blair knows all we've been through, what are you going to tell this person?"
"Everything if I have to." Giles finished loading his boxes and looked at Xander, really looked at him. "I don't think that Blair's the right person for us."
Xander shook his head. "I'm staying with Blair. I like Blair, he understands. He even understands this," he shifted the cane, laying it across his lap. "I wouldn't feel comfortable going to see someone else. Not with what we went through to find Blair."
Giles' face went blank and then he nodded. "Then we'll have to work this out, won't we?" Xander nodded. "I'll tell you later what I've decided. Where are the twins?"
"With Willow's mom, they'll be back this afternoon. She wanted them to celebrate a holiday with yesterday and decided to keep them last night too. I didn't think you'd mind her showing them the Jewish side of their background."
"No, no, not at all." He gave Xander a reassuring smile and walked out of the kitchen and down the hall, heading out to his trailer. "I'll see you later," he called.
Xander nodded. "Okay," he called back. He looked around the kitchen, trying to figure out what to make for supper. Giles had taken a lot of things, it looked like he was going to have to thaw something out. He slid carefully down the counter and braced against it so he could pick up his cane. Then he walked over to the refrigerator to see what was left.
Xander looked out the living room window, staring at the trailer and the barn. He jumped as he felt little arms go around his waist, smiling down at his daughter. "Hey, you. Why are you out of bed?"
"Not sleepy," she said, climbing up into a nearby chair to stand up and look out the window too. "He not sleepy too?"
"No, Daddy Rupert's not sleepy too. He's probably reading."
"He read me?"
Xander slid over to give her a hug. "Maybe tomorrow. You can ask him to read you a bedtime story tomorrow."
"Ah-ha, thought I heard someone sneaking out," Oz said from the stairs. "Both of you, bed."
Xander grinned at him. "I was watching Bump and Caliber play in the paddock."
"Cool, but it's bedtime. Especially for the Miri." He walked down the last few steps and picked her up, swinging her up onto his shoulders. "Come on, you too, Xander. Time for all good little people to be in bed."
Xander nodded and worked his way back between the chairs, slowly going up the stairs with Oz behind him. He went into their bedroom and sat down, pulling his pajamas out of the bedside table to pull on. By the time he was under the sheets, Oz was back in bed with him and he was being cuddled. "Did I tell you that my next therapy is going to be done here? Mary said she'd come out so you and the kids can help me with it."
Oz lifted his head to look down at his lover. "Really? When?"
"I have to schedule it. I didn't want it to conflict with your stuff so I left it open."
"Cool. Let me look at my planner tomorrow and we'll call her together. Are we doing the horses?"
"That, some of the lifting and cleaning exercises, and a little riding. I told her how I had to strap my left leg in and she wanted to watch me to see if there wasn't another way."
"Ah. Okay. We'll figure it out tomorrow." He reached over Xander to click off the light. "Night."
"Night, Oz." Xander snuggled into the warm arms, comforted by the knowledge that he wasn't alone in his recovery.
Miri snuck down to the trailer and tapped hesitantly. Daddy Rupert hadn't seen her too often since he had moved out and she wanted to see him and get a hug from him, and if he was being really nice a story too. She grinned up at him as he opened the inside door. "Hi," she said, waving. "Can I have a hug? I no sleepies."
Daddy opened the door and sat down on the steps, giving her a hug. "What are you doing out of bed, Miriam?"
She frowned at him. "Me no sleepies," she said again. "Not want to without a story." She pulled her thumb up to suck as he continued to frown at him. "You no love me?"
"Yes, of course I love you," he said, pulling her in closer to give her a hug. "I'll always love you, but I know that your father doesn't want you down here."
"He said he ask you to read to me tomorrow."
"I see. But why did you get out of bed to tell me this."
Miri slid out of his arms and faced him, her hands on her hips and her best glare focused on him. "You're my daddy, I'm supposed to want to see you." She huffed and ran up to the house, going to find someone to give her a loving hug.
Giles stood up and walked back into the house, mentally berating himself for being so cold to his daughter.
Xander looked out at the trailer and frowned. Then he looked up at the house and his frown got deeper. He grabbed his cane off the fence and turned, heading up to the house.
"Daddy, watch me," Miri called.
"In a minute. I can't hear the twins, they're not on the porch."
"Daddy Rupert take them," she called, walking Strife over to the gate in the fence and letting them both out, using her telekinesis since she wouldn't be yelled at for it because her daddy didn't see her. She and the horse walked up next to him, going up to the house with him. "Daddy take them for icie creams."
"Then why didn't he take you?" Xander asked her, looking up at her. He patted Strife's nose when it nudged him. "Yes, you too." He smiled as he stroked down the velvet nose. "Go ride in the circle and I'll be back in a minute." His head popped up as he heard a door slam on the other side of the house. "Rupert, is that you?" he called.
Oz walked around the house and looked up at Miri. "Unlike Arwynn, Strife can't go in the house," he told her, patting Strife on the side. "Nope, me," he told Xander. "What's up?"
"Rupe took the twins for ice cream."
"Oh." Oz shrugged. "I didn't see his car, but I wasn't really looking for it." He hopped up onto the porch and sat on the edge of it. "Go ride, Miri, we'll be up here."
"Okay," she sighed, turning Strife around to lead him back to the practice ring.
Oz looked over at Xander, patting the porch beside him. "Come sit," he said when the hint wasn't taken.
"I've had an asleep leg all day," Xander told him, leaning in for a kiss. "I'm tired of the waking up pins and needles."
"Okay." Oz shrugged. "Sileya called me on break and said that she was going to Ethan's tonight while Homer is packing up the rest of Willow and Tara's apartment."
"Okay. Anything else?"
"Yeah, I got a call from Blair. Did Rupert tell you he was going to someone else?"
"He said he was thinking about it and I told him I didn't want to switch. He said we'd work around that."
"Ah." Oz nodded. "Okay. Blair told me about Faith too, if you want to hear about it?"
"Sure, what's she done this time?"
"Not a thing. She's been totally clean. Wes and she have hooked up and he's working with her to get her back into shape. She's been doing the slayage stuff in LA beside Angel." Xander grimaced. "She's said she doesn't want to come up here at all. Not even to run to us for help if she needed it. Apparently she's really sorry about what she did to you the last time you two met."
Xander leaned against the edge of the porch. "I'm not sure how I feel about that," he admitted after a few seconds thought. "But I guess it's good that she's gone good-girl again." He looked up at Miri. "Does she want to see her?"
"She's been getting pictures off Wes, but she doesn't want to visit from what Blair's heard. She may change her mind in a few months though."
Xander nodded and stood up. "I'll deal with that when and if it happens." He gave Oz a smile. "We need to figure out when Mary can come up and work with me."
"I've already called her to schedule for tomorrow and I've got next Tuesday free of tests. My schedule is absolutely free for you, unless something comes up."
"Cool." Xander whistled. "Miri, put him up now. He's had enough exercise. Wipe him down and take out Steel."
She nodded and hopped down off Strife's back, walking him over to where she had everything set up to cool him down.
Xander looked over his shoulder at Oz. "You really didn't see Rupert's car?" Oz shook his head. "Shoot. I need to know if he's taking them out to supper too."
"I'm sure they'll be back soon. Or we could try his cellphone," Oz suggested.
"Yeah.! Go do that for me?" Oz nodded and headed into the house while Xander went to go cool down Strife so Miri could exercise another horse.
Xander tossed his book down onto the coffeetable and stared at Oz. "It's past their bedtime and he's not back yet," he said quietly, not wanting to upset Miri, who was staring out the window.
"They're fine," Oz told him, looking at his watch. "Maybe they're with Joyce."
"No, they're not with Joyce," Xander said, heaving himself up off the couch to walk over and take Oz's book so he had to look at him. "Oz, it's been six hours since Miri told me they left. They're not with Joyce."
Oz rubbed down Xander's left thigh. "They're fine," he repeated quietly, looking into Xander's eyes. "They'll be home soon. If not, then we'll deal after Miri goes to bed."
Xander nodded, sliding down onto Oz's lap. "Yeah, I'll wait that long," he agreed, getting a hug.
Oz took back his book and pushed on Xander's shoulder. "Off, you're not that little."
Xander grinned as he stood up. "Are you saying I'm *fat*?" he asked mischievously.
"Nope, just big boned."
"All right, that's okay then," Xander said, slowly shuffling his feet back over to the couch. He saw Oz's wince as he sat down and his chest felt heavier. "You okay over there?" he asked quietly, getting serious again.
"Yeah, you know how much I wish you had gotten fully better." Oz tossed his book down and looked his lover over. "I'd give almost anything to have you be fully back to normal again, Xander. It *hurts* when I see you limping or doing what you just did."
Xander gave him a little smile. "Hurts me too, Oz. Really."
Oz groaned and tossed a pillow at him. "Yeah, but mine's not in my legs or my back. It's in here." He touched his chest. "I really wanted you to get better."
Xander got back up and tried to walk normally over to sit in his lap again. "See, I'm getting better," he whispered, giving him a hug. "I'm not bedridden, I'm not in a wheelchair, and I can handle the cane. If you can."
"I can," Oz agreed, looking into his eyes. "But I don't want to have to."
"Me either, but nothing could have made it different, probably not even William not being born would have cured it totally." He looked up the stairs. "Speaking of which, he's been too quiet."
"He's sleeping in your office," Oz said, giving him a poke to the side. "Are you really okay with the cane?"
"Yeah, I said I would do that to have him and I will. I'll be fine with it."
"If you want to talk, I'm here," Oz reminded him, patting him on the rear. He looked over at Miri, who was watching them. "They home yet?"
She shook her head. "Where'd they go, Daddy?" She turned around in the chair to look at them. "And why does Daddy not like the cane? Doesn't it help him walk?"
"Yup, it does," Xander told her, giving her a bright smile. "But it's something that might not have happened if we didn't have William."
"Oh." She looked at his knee. "Would the ceiling have hit you if you didn't have him?" He shook his head. "Then why don't you like the cane?"
Oz smiled at her. "Sweetness, that's a very good question, but it's all a matter of his mind. And my mind. Sometimes we don't like things that are necessary for us to be okay."
"Like you don't like beans, but you have to eat them," Xander explained. "I don't like using the cane, but I have to."
"Oh." She smiled. "So don't use it."
"Then he can't walk," Oz told her.
She frowned at him. "Things aren't this difficult in stories."
"Yeah, we know," Oz said, nodding at the stairs. "Go take a bath so you can go to bed."
"But I was supposed to get a story tonight," she complained.
"If Daddy Rupert doesn't make it home tonight in time to read you a bedtime story, you can have one tomorrow," Xander told her, holding out his arms. She hopped up and gave him a hug then went up to her room. He looked down at Oz. "You were saying, about him coming back?"
"He'll come back," Oz assured him, pushing him off his lap. "Go read. I need to learn this stuff." He reached around Xander to pick up his book, kissing him on the thigh. "Go sit down."
"I'm trying to get my balance," Xander said, looking down at his feet. He slowly moved over to the couch, holding his arms out in case he fell.
Oz curled up in a little ball in the chair, refusing to let himself watch that.
Xander looked up as Oz walked into the kitchen, giving him a cold look. "They're still not back," he hissed, handing him a bowl of cereal.
Oz held up a hand. "Coffee first, then complaint," he muttered, heading to the coffee maker to pour himself a cup. "Long study session last night." He took his first sip and looked over at his lover, who was standing so stiffly not even a hurricane would move him. "They didn't come home?" he asked.
"Nope. I checked the trailer when I didn't see his car. There's stuff missing." Xander slammed a frying pan onto the stove. "And I bet there's nothing we could do about it either."
"Not really," Oz said, looking out the window. "Huh. I'll ask today at school to make sure but I don't think that we can do too much. They're his kids."
"That's what I thought," Xander sighed, turning to look at Oz. "I want them back, Oz, they're *my* kids. I raised them."
"I know," Oz told him, reaching over to touch his arm. He moved closer, wrapping Xander in one of his arms for a hug. "We'll figure it out, even if we have to go to LA and have Angel find him." Xander nodded so he let go. "I've got to go to class," he said, tipping the younger man's face down so he could see it. "Stay near the phone?"
"Yeah, I'm gonna do that. I'll have the cordless and the cell with me if I leave the house." Oz nodded so he gave him a kiss. "Be careful on the way to class and have a good practice trial."
Oz stole another kiss and walked out the door with his bowl, his cup, and his backpack.
Xander looked at the hot pan on the stove and turned it off, going to fuss over William since he was up.
Giles, a very haggard Giles, knocked on the door in front of him. He blinked at the man opening it. "Doyle, I need to speak to Wesley."
"He's out of town," the Irishman said, leaning out to look down the hallway. "What's up? Can I help?"
"No, I've royally screwed myself," he said softly, taking his glasses off to polish them. "There's no way I can get past this mistake. I'm not even sure why I did it. Or why I'm here."
Doyle nodded and opened the door wider. "Go get whatever it is that's worryin' ya and come in." Giles looked up, showing how startled he was. "A man doesn't look like that without reason," Doyle told him. "Now go get it and I'll make you strong tea." He left the door open and headed for the kitchen.
Giles walked away, heading out to the car.
Doyle looked over at the twins then glared at Giles. "You've got to call and tell the boy they're okay. Xander's got to be sick by now."
"He may well be, but I can't talk to him."
"Fine, I'll do it," Doyle said, grabbing the phone to dial. "Xander, it's me," he said a few seconds later. "No, they're fine. They're here for now and they're fine." He glared at Giles, one eyebrow going up. "What? Nah, I can't do that. Yeah, that I can do." He hung up and swung at Giles, knocking him down. "Xander said he may not be able to get you for custody but he'll find them if you take them farther."
Giles thumped his head on the floor a few times. "That's my dilemma. I can't go back to them, not now, not after this."
"Fine, then let me call someone to find you someplace to go think?" Giles gave him a grateful smile. "Mind you, if they were mine, you'd be dead already."
Giles got up and held his hand out, pulling it back after a few seconds of it not being shook. "I'll go wherever you say, Doyle, I can't let this go on."
"Yeah, ya can't," Doyle muttered, opening a drawer to pull out his personal phone book. He flipped through it and dialed a number, humming at the person on the other side. "Needed your man actually. Yeah, it's a right emergency now." He looked over at Giles. "Nah, it's me. Did you know that some people need quiet places to go think before they become worse assholes?" He laughed. "Yeah, that'd be the one. Where do I send him?" He grabbed a piece of paper and a pen, writing quickly. "Yeah, thanks. Tell him I said hi?" He laughed and hung up. "Blair said for you to go here," he said, handing over the paper. "Jim's up there right now but he's callin' him. Give it ten minutes to make sure you can go up." He looked down at the twins again. "I'd not be here if I were you. Xander's not gonna stop like I did."
Giles walked out, closing the door gently behind him.
Doyle grabbed the phone and called Blair again. "He's going there. Jim said it was okay?" He smiled. "Of course. They're here right now. Xander's probably halfway here already." He chuckled. "Yeah, I'd do that too." He stopped as his door opened and Faith walked in. "Ah, the devil's back too." He held out the phone. "Wanna talk to Blair?" She shook her head so he hung it up.
"I just had a talk with Wesley, I don't think I could do another." She looked down at the twins. "They look familiar. Willow had a picture of them."
Doyle frowned. "They're hers but we don't mention that." He hung up and pulled the blanket up a little higher on Blair's chest. "Giles almost snatched them from home. He's gone to get right, Xander'll be here in a few though."
She backed away from the couch. "I'm not going to get near Xander. I respect the guy for all he's been through, and for beating me like that. I'm happy with just pictures of my daughter."
"Good," Doyle said. "Go find Angel and tell him to expect Xander." She left, going up to the office. "God, what a mess," he sighed as he sat down, watching the twins nap. "What happened this time?"
Xander tapped on the apartment door and smiled as Elizabeth met him. "Hey, Tigger," he said, holding out his arms to get a hug. She giggled and flung herself into them, squeezing him as hard as she could. "Oh, you're all right," he said, hobbling inside, not able to use his cane because both of his arms were needed for the hug. He flopped down in the nearest chair, letting his daughter pull back some. "What happened?"
"Daddy," she said cheerfully. "Daddy eats."
"Ah." He ruffled her hair and looked over at the couch, where Blair was still sleeping. "Why don't you go get Uncle Doyle for me, okay?" She nodded and ran up the stairs to the office. Xander looked down at Miri, who was frowning. "Come here," he said, holding out his arms.
"Me not like twins, but I'm happy their back," she said, handing him his cane as she climbed into his lap. "Me confuseled."
"Yeah, I know you are. I am too right now." He kissed the side of her head and let her go. "Why don't you go find someone to talk to while I deal with Doyle, okay?" She grinned and hopped down, running up the stairs to go find one of her favorite people. Maybe Spike was up.
Doyle came down on the elevator a few minutes later, carrying Elizabeth. "You made good time."
"He stole her!" Xander said coldly. "Did you knock him out like I asked? Spikes and all?"
"Did my best but Blair sent him somewhere to think." He patted the top of Xander's head. "Listen, the guy's a mess. He'll be fixed eventually, but he won't do it again. He'd never hurt them."
"No, he hurt me by taking them," Xander countered, looking over at the stairs as he heard footsteps. "Hey, Angel. Sorry we woke you."
"You didn't. Spike did earlier." He looked down at Blair, who was smiling in her sleep. "You have them back, that's what counts, right?" He looked at the young man and saw the ice in his eyes. "Giles was wrong, Harris, and he knows it. He's gone to get himself fixed."
"Good. Maybe I'll accept that tomorrow." He looked at his child, smiling when he saw her rubbing her eyes. "Hey, Blair. You awake?" he asked quietly. She didn't like mornings any more than Oz did.
"No," she said, pulling the blanket over her head. "Go'way."
"We will, once we get you home," Xander said, pushing himself up to come sit next to her feet. He pulled the blanket back far enough for her to be able to see. "Wouldn't you like to come home now?" She nodded. "Okay. How about you finish sleeping in the car?" She shook her head. "No?"
"No, no daddies."
He snorted. "Nope, just me. Not Daddy Rupert this time. He had to go somewhere and think." He grabbed his pocket as his cellphone started to ring, struggling to get it out. "Yeah?" he asked finally, smiling at the voice on the other end. "He left them with Doyle, I'm getting them right now. No, Miri's upstairs trying to bug Cordy into doing her hair probably." He looked over at Angel, who looked embarrassed. "Then we'll deal. She won't hurt Miri, not here." He snorted. "Yup, we'll start home in a few minutes or so." He hung up and stuffed his phone back in his pocket. "That was your Daddy Oz and he wanted you to come home right now so he could have a hug."
Blair grinned and the blanket came down farther. "Really?" Xander nodded. "We home." She sat up and looked around, frowning. "Tigger!" she screamed.
"She's upstairs," Doyle told her, helping her get untangled from the blanket so she could run up and find her sister. "They've been nappin' since he brought them," he said quietly. "Let them give hugs."
"Sure," Xander said, getting up and taking his cane from Angel. "Thanks, guys, really." He smiled at Doyle. "Thanks for hitting him for me too."
"No problem," Doyle said, heading for the kitchen to hide his blush.
Angel nodded at the elevator. "Want to go get them all?"
"Sure. After you." He walked after the vampire, doing his best to look normal.
"Relax," Angel said as he closed the gate. "Don't pretend, I'm not really that upset by you limping. That's Spike."
Xander punched him on the arm. "You don't like me?" he joked.
Angel looked at him. "I like you well enough, but not that much." He pushed the button and they went upstairs.
Xander walked off the elevator first, looking around for the little people. "Cordy, did you drag them off already?" he called.
"Nope, they're sharing a candy bar," she called back.
He followed her voice to the outer office, smiling at the mess his children had made with a simple Hershey bar. "Oh, goody, we need a camera," he said cheerfully.
"Daddy," Miri sighed. "No cameras. No need pictures." She kissed Blair's cheek. "Me like you, today, you coming home?"
"Yes, love, they're coming home," Xander said, walking over to look down at the three. "Let's go, okay? Daddy Oz is coming home soon and so's Mary, the lady who helps me walk."
"'Kay," Miri said, standing up. She pulled Elizabeth up with her, Blair usually followed her sister's lead. "We go now?"
"Yup. Say goodbye and thank you."
"Bye," Miri said, giving her Auntie Cordy a smile and a wave. "Thank Auntie Faith for the candy bar."
"I will," Cordy said, looking at Xander. "It was okay when I bought it earlier," she said quietly, mostly to make him calm down again. "She's been really good recently. Much better than I expected she could be."
"Coolness," he said, but it was forced. He got the kids moving toward the car, trusting Miri to make sure Elizabeth wouldn't walk out into the street once they were outside. "Thanks," he said from the doorway.
Faith walked out of the second office and looked at Cordelia. "What happened to him?"
"Ceiling fell on him," the secretary said, going back to her book. "He had to have his knee replaced and now he limps because of the swelling he had."
"Oh." Faith stared at the door. "And he's still a good dad."
"Yeah, he is," Cordelia said, not looking up. "All the time actually. Even while he was in the hospital, they came up to see him. I guess they're going to be in his therapy session today too." She glanced up but Faith was gone. "Maybe she'll figure it out," she muttered, going back to her reading.
Xander pulled up behind the van and winced as he saw what time it was. "Mary?" he called as he got out, opening Blair's door so she could get out and let everyone out her side. His PT came around the corner of the house, pointedly looking at her watch. "Sorry, I had to go get the kids. Rupert took them to LA and had to leave suddenly." He gave her a shy smile. "Forgive me?"
"Sure. I've been having a nice talk with your man." She watched the kids run past her, shaking her head. "They're energetic."
"They're young," he said, grinning now. "Let me go park the car and we can start."
"Sure. I cleared most of this afternoon for you." She watched as he walked away, evaluating his stride. "Quit pretending," she called. "You'll get cramps. Be natural." He shook his head and she walked back to where Oz was sitting, shaking her head at him. "He really wants to walk again, doesn't he?" she asked as she sat on the steps beside him, making sure she wasn't going to sit on anyone's foot.
"Yeah, we'd both like him to be walking normally again," Oz said quietly. "It hurts, ya know?"
"Very well. Give him time, it will get better." She waved at the little girl who was looking at her. "Hello, which one are you?"
"That's Tigger," Miri said. "Where's William?"
"He's with Auntie Joyce, who called and told me she had him so Daddy could go get you guys," Oz told her, brushing back some of her hair. "Why don't you go get Strife and saddle him? I know Xander wanted to ride today." She wiggled down and jogged to the barn.
"You've got a good handle on those kids," Mary said, slapping him on the back. "Good job." She stood up as she heard Xander coming through the house. "Ready?"
"Almost, I need to stretch." He carefully walked down the stairs under her watchful gaze and started to stretch against the stairs. "I sent William to Joyce earlier today so we wouldn't have to stop my session to feed him," he said quietly. "That was before I got Doyle's call."
"Oh." Oz brushed a kiss across Xander's cheek. "That's a very good reason." He stood up, putting the twins down. "Why don't you two sit on the porch swing for now? Daddy and I are going to be in the grass." They nodded and climbed up to go sit and nap in the swing until they were needed. Oz steadied Xander as he stood up, stopping the wobbling he was doing. "You okay?"
"Yeah, too fast." Xander grabbed his cane and moved a little ways away from the porch, over to where Mary was. "Okay, what's first?"
"First, we stretch you out properly with Oz to brace against." She waved a hand. "If you wouldn't mind?"
Oz sat down in front of Xander and helped him down onto the ground. "C'mon, just like we do most mornings."
Xander gave him a grateful smile and settled in to stretch properly.
Oz looked over at his lover, grimacing. "Xander? Can I have more than cuddles tonight?" he asked quietly. He watched as his lover blanched. "Okay, I guess not."
Xander put down his book and turned to look at Oz, giving him a pitiful look. "I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet."
"Hey, we can do it all anally and with the lights off if you want," Oz offered hopefully. It'd been too many months since he had touched Xander and he wanted to make sure he was really back and okay, something he hadn't been able to do for the last two months.
"Yeah, okay," Xander said, scooting closer. "I can do that if you're ready."
"More than," Oz breathed, stealing a kiss. He got them both lying down, with Xander on top, and more ready than they had been in the last few months.
Xander pulled back to give him a smile. "You missed this, huh?" he teased, tickling his lover's stomach.
"Yes!" Oz wiggled to get away from his fingers but he was trapped and he had planned it that way. So he got to play dirty, he pushed up against Xander's cock, rubbing against him as he writhed under the tormenting hands.
"Crap," Xander muttered as the phone rang, rolling onto the floor to get it. "What?" he whined as he answered it. "Oh, hey Blair. What's up in your city?" He handed the phone to Oz and stood up, balancing on the coffee table. "I'm not listening, join me in bed?"
"Sure," Oz said, waiting until Xander was up the stairs. "Hey, Blair. Have you fixed Rupert yet?" He sighed and got comfortable. "Yeah, that's what Xander said. Is it true?" He nodded. "Okay. Now what?" He shook his head. "That'll kill someone, you know that." He looked up the stairs. "When he's ready, we'll come to your office and scream, okay?" He nodded. "Good. Now how do I cure mine and Xander's sexual problem?" he asked quietly. "No, not that one. We haven't been. No, I don't feel like it...." He shuddered. "Not even going there. Not into Freud, man. Oh, well, yeah, I don't feel like touching him either. When I mentioned sex though, he blanched, totally white." He nodded, looking up the stairs. "Really? That's a simple one that we've done before. Coolness, thanks." He hung up and went up to start on his plan to get Xander ready for him. "Oh, Xander," he called as he walked into the bedroom, smiling when he heard the splashing. "Nope, stay in there, I'm coming." He stripped and walked into the bathroom, smiling at the candles. "Hey," he said, giving him a kiss. "Rupert's admitted that he has problems, he's deep in fixing them."
"Cool, but don't ruin the mood." Xander waved at the other end of the tub. "Want to share my bubbles?"
"Sure." Oz slid in next to his lover, curling up on his chest. "I'm comfy," he announced, "you?"
"Very," Xander said, shifting so he could hold Oz easier. "This is very nice," he said a few minutes later. "I missed this."
"You and me both," Oz murmured, almost asleep on his comfy Xander-pillow.
Xander smiled down at him and decided to stay as still as possible, Oz really needed to nap.
Oz slid up behind Xander where he was standing in front of the mirror, wrapping his arms around the bare waist. "You look nice in this light," he whispered, placing a kiss between his shoulder blades. "Can I do something?" Xander shrugged so he moved a hand down to remove the towels they were wearing.
"Not that," Xander said, stopping his hand.
"Shh, I just want to look at you. Nothing more," Oz told him, removing their towels. He looked down the injured leg, then noticed Xander wasn't looking at himself. "Hey," he said, turning Xander's head and giving him a kiss. "Look at it, babe, it's not that bad. I've seen worse." He made his lover look in the mirror, pointing at the scars on his leg. "See, they're not as horrible as you think. They're actually very small and neat." He bent down to stroke a finger over it but Xander shifted away from him. "Shh, no reason to be skittish," he whispered, sitting down beside the younger man's feet. He rested his head against Xander's replaced knee, wrapping an arm around the calf. "Can I look and have you watch?" Oz asked, looking up.
Xander swallowed and nodded. "But I don't want to look."
"So watch me," Oz suggested, kissing the largest of the scars, the one that ran down the outside of Xander's knee. He felt the shiver and licked over it, then got to his knees to kiss the fake kneecap. "See, it's not so bad," he told his lover. "I still love you."
Xander nodded, but he was giving Oz a pitiful look. "But I can't say the same about me."
"Shh," Oz said, getting up to give him a hug. "You need to get used to the scars, that's all. You still love you and I like you." He grinned. "See, it's all good, Xander. We'll be fine, all we have to do is work through this bad stuff for a little while."
Xander pulled him in closer and clung to him, almost strangling his lover by how hard he was squeezing. "Thank you. For loving me even though I'm not whole."
"Shh, you're whole. You've just had to have a replacement part put in. I wouldn't scrap a car because it needed new tires and I wouldn't do it to you because you needed a new knee." He pulled back some, looking at Xander, who was smiling through the few tears that were running down his face. "Getting it now?"
"You love me, even though I'm not whole. That's all I need to know," Xander told him, giving him a kiss. He calmed himself down and turned back to the mirror, letting Oz show him he was still loveable. "Please," he whispered, holding out a hand.
"Of course." Oz knelt before his lover and gently kissed his soft cock. "I think we need to do some of this, how about you?"
Xander nodded, watching them in the mirror. "I could go for that, but we've got to find better positions when we're in bed."
"Sure. I might even be talked into bottoming once." Oz licked over it slowly, getting it wet. He sucked it in gently, wanting to make this special for the both of them, the first time they had made love since the night William had been conceived.
Xander woke up, stretched, then screamed as his leg cramped. Oz automatically rolled over to help him up so he could stand on it, holding him steady while he got the cramp out. When the pain was gone, they shared a kiss. "United?" Xander suggested lightly.
"Forever," Oz told him, stroking over Xander's stomach. "We'll get through all this crap together."
Xander nodded and stole another kiss. "Oz, why are you still in the law program if you hate it?"
"Because I want to prove them wrong," he said with a slight shrug. "I'm tired of the crap that they tried to push off on me because of who I love." He winked and let Xander go, making sure he had his balance before going into the bathroom. "How about dinner tonight?" Oz suggested through the closed door.
"Sure. I'll get the kids fed before you get back from your night class. Want anything in particular?"
Oz opened the door. "Um, steak?"
"Sure. I can go grocery shopping too." He grinned. "I might even be talked into going the whole way for you tonight."
"Hmm, I'd like that. I miss having romantic moments with you." Oz walked out, wiping off his face. "I'm tired of shaving," he decided.
"You're not growing a beard, Oz," Xander said, frowning at him. "I can't handle a beard."
"How about a small one? Just a Fu or something?"
Xander shrugged. "We'll see."
Oz nodded. "Okay, I can do that. I understand fully, I couldn't handle you with a beard either." He went over to the closet and pulled out some clothes, tossing them on the bed. "Want something from in here?" he asked before he shut the door.
"Nope, I can get it." Xander smiled at him. "I need to start doing things for myself again. It's time for me to work on the independent thing again."
"Coolness." Oz walked over and sat on the bed, pulling on a pair of socks. "Your point about the law stuff is well taken. I talked with my Comp-Sci teacher yesterday and he was enthusiastic about me coming back into the program as a Grad student. I'm going to switch today, but I'm going to make sure that they know I'm doing it because I don't like the law stuff."
"Can you double major?" Xander asked, sitting down beside him to pull on a pair of underwear.
"I could but you'd never see me," Oz said, standing up to pull on his jeans. "How do you sit down and pull on everything?"
"Something I learned while I was stuck in the bed. If you can't stand up to put on underwear, then you're pretty well naked the whole day if you don't figure it out." Xander winked at him, then gave him a grin. "Oz, about last night? I wanted to thank you for it." He held out a hand and Oz gave him a hug.
"We'll do it again whenever you need it," Oz told him quietly, nipping him on the ear before letting him go. "I've got to go and fill out forms. You be okay doing the whole breakfast thing?"
"Definitely, just like every other morning." Xander watched him go and sighed. "I guess I should hurry down before Miri makes them all poptarts." He stood up and grabbed the bedframe to steady himself as he pulled on a pair of sweatpants. He wandered down the hall, listening for awaking people as he pulled on his shirt. As he walked down the stairs, he heard giggling and laughed, heading for where Miri was making her sisters and brother toast. "Beat me to it, huh," he joked, giving her a hug. "Can you get the bottle out of the fridge for William?"
"Already did, Daddy," Miri said, holding it up. "It's getting warm on the counter since he's still sleeping."
"Thank you, precious."
"Not call me by her name."
Xander frowned then realized what she was talking about. "I'd never call you by another child's name," he told her, patting her on the head. He grabbed the bottle and ran some warm water in the sink, letting it warm the bottle. Then he grabbed the toast and got down a plate, piling the toast up on it for the older kids. He had just put it on the table when William woke up, so he grabbed the bottle next and sat down to feed him, watching the other kids while they ate. "We're going grocery shopping this afternoon," Xander told them. "I want your word to be good in the store. Okay, guys?"
"Yes, daddy," Miri said, smiling at the twins. "When is their daddy coming back?"
"Dear, Oz and I are their daddies, same as Daddy Rupert is yours. There's no difference between you three to us. Got it?" She nodded, but she was still looking serious. "When is Daddy Rupert coming back? I'm not real sure but he will come back. He just needed some time to think things through. Uncle Blair is helping him with that and then he'll be home." He took the bottle from William and put him on his shoulder to burp him. "Hopefully it won't be more than a few months from now."
Miri nodded and went back to her toast. "Daddy, we need cereal."
"I know. We'll be getting a bunch of groceries today. Miri, while we're in the store, I want you to keep an eye on William, okay? I'll get things off the shelves and you can help me watch over him." He saw her look at the twins. "Yes, they can help you, as long as they stay out of trouble. We're going to be good today, right, girls?" he asked, looking at them.
"Yes," Blair said, smiling at him with her mouth full. "We no run."
"Good. That would be really nice of you to not run away in the store." He reached over and tweaked her nose. "If you're good, I'll buy you guys a pizza for tonight. But only if you're good."
The girls all cheered.
"Eat," he said, looking at his watch. "We'll go to Wallyworld before lunch because I don't think you guys have anything to eat for lunch."
"Got cans," Miri said, pointing at the pantry.
"Yeah, but it's not stuff that you like," he told her. "Give me enough time to make a list." He smiled as Sileya and Homer walked into the kitchen holding hands. "Hey, guys, what's on your plate today?"
"I was supposed to babysit the kids," Homer said. "Oz asked me if I would while you went shopping."
"Hmm. I was going to take them with me."
"We'll do it," Sileya said quickly. He looked at her so she added a few reasons. "If you give us an excuse, then we won't have to deal with the Principal and we can train after you get back."
"Good point," Xander agreed, nodding. "You want William too?"
"Me go with Daddy?" Miri asked.
"Sure," Homer said, giving her a smile. "What's for breakfast?"
"Toast," Xander said, giving him a smile. "We're out of most everything else and the milk's almost bad."
"Then you should definitely go to the store," Sileya told him. "We'll handle all the kids. You two and Miri go bond over vegetables."
"Okay," Miri said happily. "I wanted alone time with daddy today." She looked at her father. "That okay?"
"Sure, that's fine with me." He shrugged at everyone's happy looks. "I'll call the school in a few minutes and tell them that you're both out today." He put William down in the carrier that had taken up permanent residence in the middle of the table. "Sleepy little guy this morning, aren't we?" he cooed, tucking him in.
"He not nap a lot last night," Miri pointed out. "He cry lots more than Tigger did."
"Yeah, he does, but that's just because he has more needs right now than she did."
"Me cry?" Blair asked.
"No, sweetness, you hardly ever cried. Everyone used to tell me you were too quiet, but I told them that you'd be talking soon enough and it was all okay." He reached over to pat her on the head. "You two used to give your Daddy Rupert fits almost every night. For a few weeks, you guys only cried while he was trying to take a nap."
Miri smiled. "I remember that, I used to sing to them."
"Sing?" Tigger asked her big sister.
"Yup, she used to sneak in and sing to you two while you were trying to nap. It used to put you right to sleep."
Miri smiled. "I'm a good big sister." She looked at the twins, who both nodded. "See?" she told Sileya.
"Yes, I do," Sileya said as she sat beside her. "I think you're a very good big sister also." She looked over at Xander. "Did you open that letter yet?"
"No, and I really don't want to either," he said, losing his smile. "I don't need temporary disability. I'll be able to go back to school this fall."
"Yes, but this will pay for some of your expenses until you get to that point," she reminded him. "It's not that bad of a thing, Xander. It's not charity, it's to help you until you're back on your feet, no pun intended," she said quickly, glancing away.
"Hey, we can talk about my leg," Xander said, kicking her in the shin. "I'm open to discussion if you're freaked."
"Just a little," she admitted. "It's not that I'm *freaked*, just that I'm having a hard time adjusting what you used to be like, so lively, with the guy who has problems making it up and down the stairs." She flushed. "I'm sorry, Xander, but I still need some time to adjust my thinking. I know you're getting better, but I don't think that you'll ever be the guy that I used to beat up regularly again."
He nodded. "I won't be, but I'll be a guy that you can still beat up on, just not as often, or for as long." She nodded and he opened his arms. "Come here. You need a hug. I'm the same guy, I just limp a little more now."
She stood up and gave him a hug. "I know, but it's hard to equate the two of you that I've seen."
"Sileya, trust me, equating them is nothing to equating yourself after you've been possessed. Twice." He winked at Homer. "I think that's your job now?"
"Probably," Homer agreed, giving Xander a pat to the shoulder. "Sileya, want to go spar now, before he leaves?"
"Sure," she said, standing up and letting go, following him out the door.
Xander looked over at Miri, who had watched all this raptly. "Honey, I'm still daddy, but some things have changed about how I have to do things. Okay?" She nodded. "Good." He stood up and settled himself on his cane, then went to his office. "Finish your toast, I'll be back in a minute," he called as he strolled down to his office. Using a cane had definitely made one difference, he went a lot slower now. He came back as the girls all cleaned up and put their plates in the dishwasher, watching as they ran out to go help Sileya. He sat down at the table and opened the letter from Social Security, his mood falling as he read it. "I'm official," he told Homer as he came in to get a drink, showing him the letter.
"But it's for the best, at least for right now," Homer reminded him. "It could be worse, you could be put on permanent disability." He grabbed the bottles of water out of the fridge and walked out, handing one over to Sileya, who was lying on the ground.
Xander dropped the letter and stood up, grabbing stuff to make a shopping list.
Xander swore as he saw the blue lights go on behind him, but he pulled over as soon as he could, making sure it wasn't in front of a hydrant. He rolled down his window and grabbed his wallet so he could take out his license, remembering to turn off his engine at the last moment. "Hi," he said, looking at the officer, fortunately not one he'd had a run-in with in the past. "What's wrong? I didn't think I was speeding."
"You weren't, you were a bit erratic though." He looked down at Xander's lap and frowned when he saw the cane. "Sir, could you please step out of the car?"
"Is it really necessary?" Xander asked timidly. He didn't like to walk in front of normal people, not yet. The officer nodded so Xander opened the door and slid out, leaning heavily on his cane because his foot was asleep. "It fell asleep a few minutes ago," he explained before anything could be said. "I was trying to deal with it, but the clutch got me."
The officer took off his hat and his sunglasses and looked Xander over. "Sir, I have to give you some information that you may or may not know. You can't use your cane to handle your clutch," he held up a hand when Xander's mouth started to open, "but there is a way around that. You can have hand levers put in so you can do the clutch by hand. It's a simple procedure, shouldn't take more than a day if you get in there early enough, and it's covered by your disability."
Xander sighed. "I only got my letter saying that they're considering me temporarily disabled this morning," he admitted. "I was doing okay until I decided to take this car this morning. Oz took his own instead of this one. His is automatic and I can handle the brake and gas with one foot."
"I know, sir, but you can't drive this one like that." He nodded at the inside. "Why don't you go ahead and get back in. I'll give you a warning this time, but I want you to get levers."
"Or a different car," Xander said sullenly. He hated it when he was treated like he was special just because of his knee.
"That may help, but you should still look into the levers if this is going to be any sort of long term condition." Xander nodded. "Sir, it's not a disparagement, it's for your own safety and that of your children." He pointed at the car seats in the back. "Think about trying to drive this vehicle with them in the car and your leg being like it is now."
Xander looked at him. "This really isn't some sort of funky discrimination?"
"No, sir, it's not," the officer said, pulling out his ticket book. "It's a warning only, but it should get you faster service with a mechanic. Oh, and the Voc school has that mechanic program, they could probably do the work too." He tapped his pen on Xander's parking sticker for the Vocational school. "Gives them good practice and it's usually cheaper." He took Xander's license when he held it out. "Ah, thought you might be him. We all heard about how the ceiling collapsed on you, was sorry that you were in the hospital so long too. Heard it was nasty."
"It was," Xander admitted. "Lots of spinal swelling and a new knee." He took the paper and the license back, tucking them into his front pocket. "Am I okay to go until I can get to the bank?"
"Sure. There's a new cab service in town too. Might want to drop your car off and let them take you wherever. Got to be more comfortable for you. They might even carry whatever things you have to pick up into your house." He put back on his hat and his sunglasses and went back to his car.
Xander started the engine and thought about what he had been told. Maybe the levers wouldn't be so bad. It wasn't like he had to tell everyone that he was handicapped now. He waited until the officer had pulled out to get back onto the road, going to talk to the people at his bank. He had called them yesterday about taking two of his CD's out of rotation. Hopefully, they wouldn't argue with him about it again.
Xander waved at his teacher as he walked out of the Vocational School's garage and headed over to the trailer sized house the class was building. "Ah, I remember that," he said fondly, waving at Duke. "How's the class going, Mr. Kendricks?" he asked as his teacher came over.
"Good. No one here has any major difficulties like you did, so it's been boring too." He waved Duke down and the young Asian man scurried down the scaffolding to come give Xander a hug. "Why're you up here today? You ready to start back?"
"Nah," Xander said around Duke's head. "I'm here to get levers put on the SUV. Got caught using my cane on the clutch this morning and the officer was nice enough to explain it to me." He pushed Duke back some. "Hi. What's wrong?"
"You're really better?"
"Mostly," Xander agreed with a grin. "All but the damn knee and the lack of feeling in that leg. I'll be back this fall to finish out the program." Their teacher smiled at them. "I said I'd be back and I will be, this fall if I have any say about it."
Duke smiled up at him. "We're glad that you're all right, Xander, that's what's most important to us." He looked up at the house. "I'm a crew leader this project," he said proudly.
"Congrats," Xander said, giving him an extra squeeze. "You deserve it, you always were one of the best workers on the job. Especially about safety." He looked up. "Why is that one guy not wearing his belt?"
The teacher looked up, shading his eyes. "Morgan, get your ass off that roof and get your belt on." He looked at Xander. "Can I use you as an example?"
"Sure, example me away. If it makes sure that no one else gets hurt then I'm all for it, as long as I'm not there at the time."
The teacher nodded. "Fair enough." He whistled and most everyone looked at him. "Come down here, we need to have a talk." He nodded at Duke to go back into the classroom. "Go get the safety stuff, we'll go over this again."
Xander patted him on the arm and turned awkwardly. "Have fun. I remember that lecture real well. Like I said, as long as I'm not there, it's all good to use me." He walked over to the main building, going to get the forms for his readmittance and call a cab.
Miri came down the stairs as soon as she saw it was her father getting out of the strange car; she had decided to stay home when Sileya had promised to tell them all stories. She grabbed him to hug. "Did you wreck, daddy?"
"No, sweetheart, the car needed some work so it's in the garage right now." He looked down at the back of the cab. "Go find Sileya and Homer to come help, all right?" He looked at the driver, who had gotten out. "Can I have you help me too? I'll give you a tip."
"Sure. She yours?"
"She, our twins, and the son are all ours." Xander grabbed a few of the bags and started toward the house. "Sileya," he called.
Homer walked out the back door, holding it open for Xander. "She's in the bathroom, she'll be out in a few. Cab?"
"SUV needed a little work to make me street legal again," he said lightly. He dropped the bags onto the counter and looked around the kitchen. "Who finger painted?"
"The twins," Sileya said as she walked down the hallway. "There's plastic under most of the mess." Xander pointed at the hand and foot prints on the floor. "I said most," she reminded him. She jogged out to go help get the bags.
Xander looked at the mess and shook his head. He could get down and scrub it later. Or tomorrow. He grabbed the bags the cabdriver had carried in and pushed them aside, then grabbed his wallet and took out a five, handing it to him. "Thanks, man."
"No problem. Call us the next time you need us."
"Sure." Xander watched as he left, wondering if anyone had told him about the nights around there. He accepted the bags from Sileya and handed her his wallet and the rest of his grocery list. "I couldn't get all of it with the cab," he told her quietly. "Can you finish the list?"
She looked it over and nodded. "Definitely, there's some things that I could use too." She patted him on the arm. "What happened to the SUV?"
"I got pulled over because I was using my cane on the clutch, the cop said I was driving erratically. So it's in the shop to get levers."
"Huh," Homer said as he walked back in. "Miri's got the twins on the front porch to color with them. She's really started to like them since Giles tried to take them."
"Yeah, she's feeling a little guilty," Xander told him. "Want to help her finish getting groceries?"
"Sure," he said, pulling out his keys. "Want us to take some of the kids?"
"Nope, I can handle them. Oh, and add a supreme pizza on there if they were good."
"All right," Sileya said, picking up a pen off the counter and making a note. She looked at the pen. "Oz left his lucky pen?"
"Must have been an accident." Xander took it and put it somewhere safe from the kids, in the dry erase board's marking holder. "Thanks, guys," he called as they left. "Get yourself some soda too." Sileya waved so he started to put everything up. "This is a lot easier when you have your own car," he decided, bringing two bags over to the pantry.
"We help," Miri called, running in with the twins. "Baby in living room napping, but we help." She took the cans and pulled out a box to stand on, putting the cans up on the shelves for him.
Xander kissed the top of her head. "I could have done that."
"So?" she asked smartly, taking another can from Tigger and one from Blair. "Go put up the rest."
"Okay. Want to help when Sileya and Homer get back with the rest of the stuff?" She nodded. "Thank you, Miri. You're a very good girl." He went to put up the meat, breaking up the family packs of chicken into sizes that they could use.
Oz walked into the house and dropped his backpack, sighing when he saw his pen. "Thank someone for finding it," he murmured, tucking it into his backpack. He turned as he heard a lighter go off, looking at the softly glowing candles on the table. "Wow, we really went all out." He walked over and sat down, looking at the meal set out for him. "I'm sorry I'm late."
"I figured you would be," Xander said, holding out a hand. "Want some news now or later?"
"How about now?" Oz said, leaning between the candles to get a kiss. "What happened? You smell disappointed."
"I kinda am," Xander admitted, serving his lover his dinner. "I got the letter today from the disability people. They okayed me immediately." He glanced up. "Then I got stopped by a cop for driving erratically. So now the SUV has levers for the clutch and the brake."
"Oh." Oz looked at him. "You're upset about that?"
"Very. Plus, I was too tired to finish the shopping list, so I had to send Sileya and Homer back to get all of it, especially since I didn't want to overburden the cab."
"Sunnydale has a cab?"
"It has three actually," Xander said, starting to regain some of his good humor from earlier. "I got to use one of them earlier. Really nice guy."
"Hmm," Oz said taking a bite of his steak. "This is good, Xander. You did really good." He could see the blush and smiled at the younger man. "Xander," he said, reaching over to take his hand, stopping them both from eating. "Maybe you're trying to push yourself too hard. It may be too soon for you to give up on the little bit of help that we've been giving you." Xander slumped in on himself. "Why don't I come talk to Mary with you at your next meeting and we'll figure out what level of help you still need? I could be coddling you horribly."
"Even Miri and the twins helped me today, they put up the pantry stuff for me."
"See, they knew you were tired. This was your first official trip into town and you went by yourself." He gave the hand a squeeze and picked up a bite of steak, holding it out for his lover to eat. "See, you did good, you're just trying too hard."
"But I want to be normal again," Xander said quietly.
"Hey, I'd love you to be normal again, Xander, but it's not time yet. You've only been out of the hospital for two months. Let us help you for a little while longer, okay?"
Xander nodded and picked back up his fork with his free hand. "Yeah, maybe you're right. I'm wanting it too much." He held out a piece of cauliflower. "Here, I think you'll like. I used Giles recipe."
Oz nibbled on it and nodded. "Good." He gave the hand another squeeze but didn't let go of it. "How was your day besides that?"
"Pretty good. I'm leaving the finger paint trails until tomorrow." He pointed at the dark marks on the floor. "The twins apparently decided we needed feet and hand prints."
Oz grinned. "Leave them until I can look at them. It sounds cute."
"Oh, it is, it's a very nice trail down to the hallway. Then they disappear before they get to the carpet." He took his hand back. "Sorry, needed that to cut up the steak." He smiled at his lover. "How was your day, Oz?"
"Very bad. The president of the law school called me back into his office today and tried to use more subtle pressure to get me out of the program. I've decided that I'm going to file a complaint with the University this time. I did that this afternoon and then I had to go through the whole repeating process. Oh, I got a call about the SUV. Was that why it was in the garage?" Xander nodded. "They're doing an oil change too. It was really long past due. They said your oil looked like tar."
Xander grinned. "That's why I went to them, they can do those things well and they won't charge seven hundred for it."
"Which is always a plus," Oz agreed. "What about my car?"
"Your car doesn't have a clutch," Xander reminded him. "I wouldn't have gotten in trouble if I had stolen your car this morning."
"Want to switch?"
"Nah, not with the new hand levers. I should be okay in the SUV. I'll even teach you how to use them."
"That would be nice," Oz agreed, standing up to give him another kiss. "Water?"
"Yeah, I forgot. I'm too tired to get up and get it. I'm sorry, Oz."
"Hey, this is one of those things where you're pushing yourself too hard," Oz pointed out. He walked over to the refrigerator and grabbed two bottles of water, quickly checking the contents of the fridge before he closed the door. "You got enough stuff for furry times?"
"Yup, we should have enough meat to satisfy any craving this time. Sileya even got you a really good steak when she finished the shopping."
"I'll thank her later for it," he said as he sat back down and handed over one of the bottles. "How tired are you?"
"Only from my hips down," Xander said with a grin.
"I meant going to stand outside and watch the stars."
"If we could bring chairs, I'd gladly go with you."
"Sure. We've got that little plastic couch on the porch, I'll drag it out."
"I can help."
"I know, but I want you to rest, Xander. It's time for you to rest for a little while. You've had a really active day."
Xander nodded, looking down at his plate. "I know. I want to be the guy I once was though. I want him back."
"I do too," Oz told him. "Give him a couple more months to build up more stamina and he might be back. Or at least closer to being back. Just give yourself some more time. I'm not going to start complaining about having to get things like the phone for you."
Xander nodded. "I'll try, okay?"
"Good. Now then, I'm having a wonderful dinner with my man and I think that we should have another helping of veggies." He dished some out for both of them. "Eat, don't make me pout at you."
Xander looked at him, then licked his lips. "I've never seen you pout," he said, blinking. "Can you? It sounds like something I want to see."
"Some other time, Xander," Oz said gently. He took a sip of his water. "You really outdid yourself tonight, babe, I'm very much in awe of you again."
Xander blushed and looked down at his plate. "Thanks, Oz."
"Welcome, Xan. Now eat, don't make me feed you." He saw the shiver and decided to amend his plans. He picked up a piece of steak and held it out until Xander noticed and ate it. "I like this plan better," he decided, doing it again.
Pretty soon, Xander was holding up food for him too. It was a good dinner.
Xander rolled onto his back and looked up at the ceiling. "Mary," he said quietly. "Am I pushing myself too hard? Oz thinks I am."
"I think you are too. Most of the problems that you've mentioned wouldn't be happening if you weren't pushing yourself too far too fast." She sat down beside him and patted him on the stomach. "This isn't supposed to be easy, but you're not supposed to need a nap every time we see each other."
"I need a nap every day," Xander admitted, turning his head to look at her. "Oz is worried because I'm trying to be too independent too fast. I like doing things for myself though."
"Hmm. Before the accident, if you had asked him to grab the phone for you or a pair of pants, would you have been embarrassed?" Xander shook his head. "Then why are you now?"
"I'm not sure," Xander told her. He pushed himself into a sitting position. "I guess I need to talk to Blair again, but I think he's out on a case."
"Nope, I got a call from him this morning. He wanted to talk to me about how you were doing." She brushed a long hair off the back of his neck, freeing it from the sweat. "Why don't you go home and rest, and call him later? I'm sure you could do this over the phone if you needed to."
"Yeah, I think I should do that." He stood up and wobbled over to where his cane was laying, picking it up to help steady himself as he got his things together. He waved before limping out to go home. He had to stop at the front desk of the clinic to catch himself. He was too tired to do anything. He picked up the courtesy phone and dialed the cab's number from the card tacked next to the phone. "Hi, I need a cab at Sunnydale Physical Therapy," he requested quietly. "Yeah, this is him. No, just home. I'm too tired to drive." He hung up and walked outside, trying hard not to fall over.
Xander looked up as Sileya rushed off the porch to meet him. "Hey, want to go get Oz's car?" he asked, pulling out the keys and handing them to her. "I just couldn't drive."
"That's all right," she said, giving him a hug. "You're slowly building your stamina back up." She ran past him, heading for the old car that they had kept when they had bought the new cars. She drove off in a cloud of dust, right before Homer could walk out and catch her.
"She left?" Homer asked sullenly. "She's supposed to be helping me learn that move."
Xander struggled to get up the stairs then sighed as he turned to sit on them. "She's got to escape sometimes too," he told the young man. "Sit, talk. Maybe I can help."
"No, it's one of those physical flips that she does, the tossing someone over your shoulder thing."
"Ah, offset your weight to the other side, that was always my problem. I used to follow after them whenever I tried it." He smiled. "It'll be okay, Homer, really."
"Yeah," he said, sitting down and running both hands through his hair. "We got our butts kicked last night, Xander. And there were only three of them."
"Oh." He nodded, reaching over to give him a hug. "Trust me on this, some of the worst fights I've ever seen have been between Buffy and *one* person, not a group of people." He felt a funny current in the air and looked around. "Um, have you gotten any phone calls today?"
"Just a feeling. Go get me the cordless?"
"Sure." Homer jumped up and got the requested phone, bringing it back with two bottles of water. He had just sat down when the phone rang.
"Yeah?" Xander said as he answered it. "No, this is Sileya's temporary Watcher. Why?" He stopped moving for a second then swallowed and nodded. "Have you told her mother? No, I will. I know Joyce. No, it's Xander. Um, thanks. How? Can you tell me that much? And where?" He nodded, bending down as he listened. "Thanks. Can you get her back here?" He hung up. "Buffy was in a major fight night before last." He stood up and so did Homer. "I need to go tell Joyce."
"Xander, you're not in any shape to drive. Let me be the chauffeur." He saw the instant negation so touched him on the arm. "You shouldn't be driving anyway, not with an emotional shock that bad." He walked down to his car and opened the door, walking around to get in and drive.
Xander walked down there, going to do the one thing that he never wanted to do.
Oz walked in and was ambushed by Xander, a very clinging, sad Xander. "What happened?" he asked, rubbing his back. "Are the kids okay?"
"Buffy got it night before last," Xander whispered. "I had to tell her mom." He pulled back. "I called Blair to let him tell Giles."
"Oh, man," Oz sighed, pulling him back into his arms. "Is she coming home?"
"Yeah, it's all been arranged for a while now, ever since her mother found out. Joyce broke down in my arms."
"Shh," Oz whispered, starting to rub his back again. "It's hard to lose a child." He looked around the kitchen. "Okay, do we know when everything will be? We've got to get pallbearers."
"She asked for a few of us to do it," Xander said, pulling back. "We've got to find Willow and Rupert." He wiped his face off. "I'll take one of the middle spots and you can have the other one."
Oz shook his head. "Xander, you won't be able to, not with the cane."
"I will!" he said hotly. "I promised and I will!"
"Okay," Oz said, backing down. "You can and you will." He looked at the phone. "Did you call Angel yet?"
"No, I ... I didn't want to do that over the phone."
"Okay, we'll go down there. Homer?"
"We got the kids," Sileya called back. "Go."
Oz grabbed his keys and led Xander out of the house and down to his car. "Want me to drive?"
"Please. I'm not steady enough to do it," Xander admitted, sliding into the passenger's seat. He closed the door, his cane firmly between his knees.
Oz got in and started the car, heading down to give the bad news.
Wesley followed Angel from the room, going to make sure he was going to be all right.
"So, it's done then," Doyle said quietly. "Do we know when the service is?"
"At sunset in about three days, depending on how long it takes them to get her back to her mother." Xander leaned into Oz's side. "We need to find Willow. Buffy wanted her as a pallbearer."
"I know where she is," Cordelia said, looking at him. "I was asked, you were, Willow was, who else?" Wesley walked back in and Cordelia made room for him to sit beside her.
"Angel was, Rupert was, and we figured someone else would pop up sometime," Xander said quietly. "I called Blair to get Rupert back. It should be dark enough for Angel to come up and do this, all she wanted was a graveside service and it's at sunset."
"I'm sure it will be fine." Wesley looked at Oz, who shook his head. "If we can't find someone, I'll gladly take a spot carrying." He looked down at Xander, who nodded. "Are you holding up all right? I got a call right after they called you apparently. Did you tell them you were Sileya's temporary Watcher?"
"Giles left her with us," Oz told him. "Xander's been the one training her all this time anyway, him and Homer. Besides, it's probably for the best right now that he told them that. We don't need another Watcher showing up to try and take her away."
"No, you don't, and I made that clear. The girl's best interest in with you ....three." He cleared his throat at the obvious hesitation. Then he decided to sit down again. "You'll give us an exact date?"
"Sure. As soon as we know it," Oz agreed. He squeezed Xander's thigh to get his attention. "Ready to go home?"
"Yeah, maybe." Xander looked around. "Where's Faith?"
"Angel went to go tell her," Wesley told him, looking at him. "Would it be all right for her to attend?"
"Yeah, if we can let Willow come, she can come," Xander said, looking around. "I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be doing now but it feels like there's something."
"There probably is," Doyle said gently. "It'll come to ya at three or so."
Xander gave him a weak smile. "Probably." He stood up, bracing on his cane. "You guys want to tell Spike?"
"Yeah, I can do that," Cordelia said, getting up to give him a hug. "You take it easy, we need you to get better." He nodded and walked to the door, letting Oz say his goodbyes.
Oz stood up and hugged Cordelia, then shook hands. "Tell them I'll call with the date. I'm going to put Xander into a warm bath and then bed." He walked out after his lover, going to take him home.
Wesley looked at Doyle. "Didn't you get a hint of this?"
"A small one. All I saw was her running and headlights though."
Cordelia shook her head. "I doubt that's how she died."
"No, that was what happened before she died," Faith said, carrying the phone down and handing it to Wes. "It's the stuffy people." She looked at Cordelia, who smiled sadly. "I'm going?"
"They said it would be okay."
"Thanks. I feel like I should." She rubbed her arms. "I need to go get something. Want me to find Spike?"
"Please," Doyle said. "He's like you, one that should be there to honor her because he couldn't beat her."
Faith nodded. "Yeah, he should." She grabbed her jacket on the way out, knowing where Spike was hiding tonight.
Xander looked at his PT and then sat down. "Mary," he said quietly, "I have to be a pallbearer. Can we work on that?" She started to open her mouth but he glared at her. "I will be, she asked and I'm going to do it!"
She nodded, backing away a step. "Okay. We can do that. Want an end? It'd be easiest. Then you could set the pace."
"Yeah, maybe." Xander stood up with a grunt and walked over to where she had pointed, where there were mats piled up. "Okay, what do I do?"
"You lift a corner up by the handle, put it on your shoulder, and you carry it," she told him simply, watching as he struggled with the flimsy mats. "Let's use something more solid for now. We'll go for weight in a few minutes." She picked up one of the smaller balance beams and handed it over to him. "The casket's usually on the back of the hearse or something about as high," she said, putting it on the mats. "Okay, now lift, up onto your shoulder, and then let's walk forward." She watched him struggle, but she knew that look. Xander Harris was too stubborn for his own good, he was going to do this no matter what she said.
Faith handed the announcement to Wesley, frowning as she relaxed. "That's a funny way of wording it. 'All those who desire to mourn for her may come as long as they come in peace'."
"Well, some of those that would have mourned her have been turned," Wesley reminded her. "It also applies to you, Willow, and Rupert I would think." Wesley put it aside, making sure it wasn't covered up so Angel could find it when he got up. If he got up today. He looked over at the Slayer. "Did they say anything about going after Xander because he's been training Sileya?"
"Nope. Just wanted to know which one he was." She shrugged. "The Council kept getting him confused with Oz."
"Oh." Wesley shook his head. "I hope they don't come down on the boy, he's done the best he can and Sileya's obviously been fine so far."
"What about Giles, isn't he coming back soon?"
"Maybe," Wesley said, "but I'm going to doubt he's going to be the man he once was. Too much has happened since high school to allow him to go back to what he once was."
"They'll figure it out," Angel said from the bedroom doorway. Both people looked at him. "They will. Harris is one stubborn man when he needs to be. He'll protect Sileya." He walked out and sat down, picking up the announcement. "He wrote it?"
"I think Oz might have, it has more of a musician's touch to it," Wesley told him. "Do you think Xander will be pallbearer?"
"Yeah, I got a call last night from the mortuary, he's going to take left front. They wanted to know where I was going to be. Apparently they list our names in the program in the order we carry." He shuddered. "What was that about the Council and Sileya?"
"When Xander answered the phone last time, he told them he was Sileya's temporary Watcher. We were worried that they'd try and take her from them."
"They won't. Harris fights for his family," Faith told him. "If he could beat me, he can beat them."
"He will," Angel said with a nod. "I'm sure they won't try it, if only because Giles was out of the way for a few months." He stood up. "I need to go find clothes to wear, I have no idea which box my suit's in."
"Cordelia pulled it out already, it's at the cleaners," Wesley told him, looking up with a faint smile. "She knew you weren't up to it yet."
"Thanks." He walked into the kitchen instead, wanting to be alone with his thoughts.
Faith nodded at the door and got up to leave.
Wesley walked into the kitchen and wrapped his arms around Angel's back. "I know you loved her, but it was a clean death. I called and asked. She didn't duck fast enough that one time." He turned the older vampire around to look at him. "She didn't really feel anything, it was almost instantaneous. The vampires didn't drain her either."
"Who was it?"
"A former pro-football player named Rodney. He bragged about it a bit too much. He's been dealt with."
Angel nodded. "Thanks. Where's Spike?"
"He's headed back to Sunnydale tonight. He knows Xander's going to drive himself sick over this so he's went to watch the kids for them."
Angel smiled. "I always thought Spike would make a good dad. After all, he handled Dru very well and she was very childlike."
Wesley let him go. "I'll call the farm and warn them if you'd like."
"No, let Spike do it. They'll deal with him or he'll come back tonight. They won't stake him." Angel walked over to the refrigerator and pulled out a bag of blood. "Want one, Wes?"
"Thank you, no. I already ate." He gave Angel a slight smile and left, now sure he was going to get over this tragedy soon enough.
Xander grimaced as he saw who was walking up the back stairs, opening the door to let the vampire in. "What're you doing here? Did something happen in LA?"
"Nah, thought you'd use the help for a few days." He slapped Xander on the arm. "Angel sent me."
"Oh." Xander looked at the messy kitchen. "You can do dishes if you want."
Spike snorted. "Not. Where's the kiddies?"
"Sleeping," Oz said as he walked down the hallway. "Why are you here, Spike?"
"Came to be of help, I did," he complained, giving Oz a smile. "Angel said I had to come and protect the little bits."
"Oh." Oz shrugged as he looked at Xander, who shrugged. "Okay. Try and keep Miri inside at night. She likes to sneak out to the barn. She's been sleeping in Caliber's stall again." He held out a hand. "Xander, leave the mess for now. Come sit with me?"
"Yeah, I think I should," Xander said, slowly walking over to Oz to take the hand. "I'm really tired."
"You've been cooking all day, you're supposed to be tired," Oz reminded him, leading him out to the living room. "Kids are all upstairs," he called to Spike.
"Okay." Spike looked at the mess and shuddered. At least he didn't make all that. Angel would have killed him if he had messed up the kitchen that way. He jogged out to the living room and up the stairs because someone was yelling his name, stopping when he saw Tigger. "Why it's you," he said, picking her up and carrying her back into the bedroom. "You should be in here, not wandering."
Xander slid into his SUV's seat and sighed as the comfortable leather encased him again.
"How's it feel?" the teacher asked.
"Like I'm handicapped now," Xander said glumly. He tried the levers. "This one's a little grinding."
"That's the clutch, it's not supposed to be that easy." He leaned in and touched another lever just above it. "This is your brake." He looked at Xander. "Kid, I know you wanted to be back to normal. We can put the original pedals back on whenever you're ready."
Xander nodded. "Thanks. I should probably make sure I can handle this, right?"
"Might be for the best, yeah." The Mechanics teacher backed out and shut the door, watching as the young man tested the brake and clutch levers again. He watched critically as he backed out and winced once at the grinding of the clutch, but after the second gear shift, he had it. He waved at the guy, and Xander waved back then left. He looked over as the Carpentry teacher walked over. "His levers work real well," he said in greeting. "He'll handle them well."
"Good. How'd he look?"
"Really tired. But then again, his best friend died recently." He clapped him on the shoulder. "You actually left them alone?"
"They're on break and I shut off the machines." He looked toward the main building. "You think he'll be ready to come back?"
"If he doesn't push himself too hard. You remember what that boy was like."
"Yeah, I do," the Carpentry teacher said, nodding. "He was always a good worker."
"I'm sure he will be when he comes back. It may take him longer than he wants, but he'll come back someday."
"Hopefully. The guy's great at the work." He shrugged and went back to his classroom.
Xander walked out of Walmart with a cart full of things that they'd be needing over the next week or so. He expertly parked the cart, it was a lot like a big walker when you thought about it, and unloaded. He shut the back of his SUV and walked the cart over to the drop point, taking his cane to walk back. He frowned when he saw the back open again. So he slammed it this time. When it popped back up, he pulled it back down and pulled out his keys to make sure it was locked. The lock twitched as he put the key in and he moved it around for a few seconds. He pulled the key out and it stayed shut so he got in and drove home.
He had to pull into the driveway slowly, not wanting to hit Doyle, who was chasing Blair down to meet him. He rolled down the window and looked down at his daughter. "You don't run down to meet the cars," he reminded her. "Go stand on the grass and you can help me unload." She squealed and ran to where she was supposed to wait, Doyle right behind her. Xander parked the SUV and got out, tossing the keys at Doyle. "The button on the inside is sticking so it keeps popping open," he complained. "I had to fix it when I got in." He grabbed two of the smaller bags and handed them of to Blair, who ran up to the house with them. "When did you guys get here?"
"About an hour ago. Oz said you were in therapy today."
"I was supposed to be, but Mary's out sick. So I got a new tie and some extra munchies for tonight. I know I won't want to cook."
"Me either," Oz said as he walked down to help them. "What else did you get?"
"Got you a tie too," Xander told him, letting him get the cases of soda. He carried a few bags up to the house, expecting to go back for more of them in a few minutes, but Oz and Doyle carried everything else in. "I could have gotten it," he reminded them.
"Yeah, but you're going to wear yourself out tonight," Oz told him, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "You need to rest now so you can do...that later."
Xander nodded but he didn't look happy. "Good point." He sorted through the bags, pulling out three ties and holding them up so Oz could pick his. He picked one of the remaining ones and grabbed the bags of personal items to carry upstairs with him. "Doyle, nothing needs refrigerated. Just shove some sodas in for Sileya and Homer."
"Sure," he called, watching them go.
Xander stumbled slightly as he walked up the small incline to the site. He managed to catch himself before anyone but him noticed, but his muscles were burning. He took a deep breath as he turned to help put the casket down on the wooden boards, then gratefully accepted Oz's help over to his seat. He took his cane from Spike as he sat down, silently giving him a nod. He started to relax as the Minister that Joyce had asked to officiate started in on his speech. Finally, they were asked if anyone wanted to say something.
Willow stood up and walked forward. "Buffy was one of the best people in this world," she said quietly, staring at the casket. "She always managed to be there for me, no matter how crappy her life had suddenly become." She swallowed hard. "She'll be missed." She hurried back to her seat beside Cordelia, silently giving her a hug.
"Anyone else?" The Minister asked.
Xander stood up and slowly moved forward, ignoring his 'hurry up' look. "Buffy," he said once he faced the crowd, trying hard not to look at the casket, "was one of the best people, Willow was right about that. But she was also a good friend. A good friend to most of the people in this town. No one really knows how much she gave to this town, and we probably never will. In the end, it was her giving nature that got her killed." He turned and touched the casket. "A while ago, back when we were all in school, Buffy was gifted with a present from the senior class." He accepted the wrapped bundle that Oz stood up to give him. "Now, I think it's time we give it to her again. You deserve this, Buffy, and we'll send you off with it." He unwrapped the bundle and carefully laid the golden umbrella on top of the casket. "That goes down with her," he told the Minister. "She earned it so many times over." He walked back to his seat and sat down, rubbing down his injured leg to make it quit twitching.
Oz took Xander's hand and gave it a squeeze. "You did good," he whispered.
Joyce stood up and laid some flowers next to the umbrella. "Goodbye, dear," she said, then backed up to her seat and sat back down.
They watched as the casket was lowered into the ground, then they got up and started to file out of the graveyard.
Spike looked at Oz, who nodded at him to take Xander so he could go talk to Joyce. Spike put a hand on Xander's arm, shrugging at his shocked look. "Oz wants to go help Joyce and you can't walk yet. Twitches?" he suggested, pointing at the replaced knee.
"Yeah," Xander murmured. "Twitches again." He let Spike help him into the passenger's seat, watching for Oz. He saw his lover get into Joyce's car to drive so sighed and started to shift over to drive himself, but the vampire was sliding up into the seat. "I can drive," he noted.
"Yeah, sure ya can, same as you can sit there and cramp up now so that Oz won't know."
"He probably already does," Xander said, leaning his head against the door. "Willow's mother has all the kids."
"Talked to Doyle, he's gonna get them all on the way home. Him and Wes." Spike looked at the levers. "Which is which?"
"Top is the clutch."
"Okay then." Spike started the Explorer and shifted gears, grinding them a little. "That takes some gettin' used to," he told himself. He checked behind him, frowning when he saw Sileya standing there. "What's gotten into her?"
Xander looked back at her, then followed where she was looking. "Crap, Watcher's Council."
"Let Rupert deal with them. The gits should understand each other. He tapped on the horn, making Sileya jump. She got out of the way and he pulled out onto the street. "So," Spike said once they were farther away from the graveyard. "Heard you pissed the Watchers off nicely."
"Yup." Xander rubbed down his left thigh, eyes closed while he tried to work out some of the knots before they became cramps. "Spike, I don't think I can make it into the house and up the stairs."
"I'll help," Spike grumbled, but he knew what sort of problem the boy had to be in to have actually asked for his help. "You gonna cramp?"
"Yeah, badly. I need the tub and the whirlpool thing. Which is in the closet," he groaned.
"I'll get it. Won't be the first time I've helped you into the bathroom."
Xander looked over at him. "Thanks, Spike."
"Yeah, yeah, just don't ever tell anyone. Especially not the pouf."
"Hey, my lips are sealed." Xander glanced around. "How is Oz getting home?"
"The cab probably." Spike pulled onto the road out to the farm. "How're your horses?"
"Good. Strife's been very happy whenever I can get out there and ride him. He's been very good about not taking off at a dead run through the woods." He smiled. "I know this is strange, but I feel comfy asking you for help, but not Oz."
"'Course not, you always want to be strong for the ones you like that much." Spike pulled up into the driveway and parked as close as he could to the house. "Grab the cane," he said, taking the keys as he got out. He slammed the trunk as he walked past it. "What's wrong with that thing?"
"The internal button sticks," Xander said as he allowed himself to be picked up. He pulled his cane up so he wouldn't hit Spike with it, and closed his eyes as he was hurried up the stairs. "Thanks," he said again as he was put onto the side of the tub.
"No problem. Don't mind it for this. S'not like you did it on purpose."
"Well, I did insist on being able to be a pallbearer, but that's because she asked me to. Specifically asked me to."
"Which is a good reason. It's not like you were bein' stubborn and cleaned out the barn."
"Nope, did that yesterday," Xander said with a grin.
Spike groaned and opened the bathroom closet door, pulling out the attachment that made the tub a whirlpool. "How do I put this?"
"Here, let me." Xander handed him the plug. "You do that part." He laid the machine over the edge of the tub and put the mat down on the bottom, having to catch himself when he started to slip in after it.
"Hey!" Spike said, pulling him back up. "Not time for that yet. There's no water." He turned on the water and looked around. "Need anything else?"
"Just some privacy so I can get naked," Xander quipped, giving him a bright smile. "Thanks, Spike. For all of tonight."
"Hey, I like you for some reason." He shrugged and left the room, closing the door behind him. "Gonna go get the kids a snack," he called as he closed the bedroom door too.
Xander sighed and forced himself to stand, gritting his teeth. "I won't move tomorrow if you don't let me cramp up when Oz is here," he told whatever deity was listening. "I really won't. I'll lay on the couch and read to the kids." He managed to strip, but he cramped up as he lifted his leg to get into the tub. He splashed a lot of water out onto the floor, but he was in it now and it would be okay. He worked the cramping muscles as hard as he dared, trying to get them to go away before his lover got home.
When they finally went away, Xander relaxed into the soothing water, using his good foot to turn on the hot water again. He slowly fell asleep with the water on, warm, comfortable, and ready for a nap.
Oz walked into their bedroom and stopped at the growing puddle of water. He grabbed a few towels out of the wash and went in to turn off of the water and sop up the mess. He stopped when he saw how peaceful Xander looked, giving him a smile. "We'll figure it out again," he said quietly. "I really don't mind helping you be sick right now." He turned off the hot water and grabbed a few more towels to clean up the mess. Before Xander had woken up, he was out of the room and downstairs throwing the towels in the washer. He looked over at Spike, who was sipping something from a mug. "He cramped?"
"He asked me not to tell you," Spike said between sips. "Sileya saw the Watcher gits."
"I know. I saw Giles, he's talking to them tonight. He's taking the trailer again but he may be leaving tomorrow." He glanced around the kitchen. "Where's the kids?"
"Doyle and Wes are gettin' them still."
"Oh." Oz nodded. "Why does he trust you to do that for him when he won't let me help him?"
Spike snorted. "Because he loves you, you daft creature." He glared at the confused looking young man. "Listen, for you he wants to get better. That means he can't be weak. For me, I've seen him weaker. I don't matter like that to him."
Oz nodded slowly. "I can get that part, but why does he trust you?"
"Because he thinks I'm cute?" Spike joked, heading for the front door. "I'm gonna go talk to the horses."
"Fine. Make sure Caliber's inside. It's supposed to rain and he's been getting out."
"Sure," Spike called. The front door slammed.
Oz walked back up to their room, after a quick stop to get Xander and himself a beer. It was definitely a beer night.
Xander woke up when he felt water pouring over his chest. He groaned and sat up, but the warm hand touched his chest and made him lie back down. "Hi, Oz," he whispered, opening his eyes. "Oh, Rupert."
"Yes, Oz told me that we needed to talk."
"Yeah, we do," Xander said, taking the sponge from his hand. "We can't do that."
"I know, I was trying to wipe some of the sweat off." He moved away from the tub a few inches. "Xander, Blair and Jim both made me see what an ass I was." Xander nodded for him to go on. "They also made me see why I was an ass." He looked down at himself. "Unfortunately, I'm not ready to be with you yet."
"Okay. So when?"
"Not much longer," Giles said with a little smile. "Definitely after I talk to the Council. I have to go back to England for a bit."
"Also okay," Xander told him, rolling onto his side, sighing as the whirlpool hit the cramped muscles. "Oh, feels good," he groaned, shifting to get the best effect of the jets.
Giles reached out and brushed some of his hair back. "Why did you say you were Sileya's temporary Watcher?"
"Because I am. Homer's helping her with her fighting, I'm dealing with the paranormal 'this is how you kill it' part of her education. We're doing okay, but she needs a full time Watcher."
"Yes, well, she'll be getting one. There's talk of having Wesley come help you for a bit." Xander shook his head. "No?"
"No, we can handle it. You can tell them that I said that too. We're doing okay in training her." He looked down at himself. "Did they get the guy?"
"Yes. Buffy had found a Watcher nearby who had been watching over that particular nest. She told him that she'd be willing to help the new girl out a bit, give her some pointers and the like. She was trying to protect the next girl when she got hit. She didn't feel anything according to that Watcher."
"If there was one there, then why didn't anyone identify her until a day later?" he asked quietly.
"Because he was in shock. His girl came into her power moments after Buffy died; she killed the football player that killed Buffy. Her Watcher came to his senses the next morning and went to identify her. The girl had gotten him out of the area so they wouldn't be found with the body." Giles sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Xander, I know that you want to do right by Sileya, but you can't be her Watcher."
Xander glared at her. "I've been being her Watcher since the day she got here," he reminded his older lover quietly. "You never wanted to take an interest in her training."
Giles nodded. "I've noticed, but when I come back, you'll have to stop. I'll have to take over for you."
Oz cleared his throat from the doorway. "You can help him then." He handed Xander a beer. "Here, it's still kinda cold. I had to stop and get the kids to bed." He looked over at Rupert. "Listen, I don't like this fighting, but I've got to side with Xander on this, Rupert. He's been doing the job, he deserves the right to continue."
"Yes, but half of what we do is prophecy management."
"Yay, so you can do that part," Xander told him, taking a sip of his beer. "Are the kids okay?"
"Fine. They came in while I was watching Spike head for the barn. They're all in bed and everyone else is settled in for the night." He looked at Rupert again. "I'm not going to lie here, this isn't what you two need to talk about, Rupe. You two need to discuss more personal matters than Xander doing your job with Sileya."
Giles nodded. "But that's part of my problem. I don't feel like I have a reason to stay."
"Um, hello, children?" Xander suggested. He pushed himself upright and took another long sip of his beer. "That's why I stayed when everything went to hell between us." He looked up at Oz. "Are there towels in the closet?"
"Two. You left the water running when you fell asleep. There's a load in the washer right now."
"Cool. I'm gonna stay in here for a while longer."
"Sure." Oz nodded Giles into the other room, getting out of his way. He leaned down and planted a kiss on Xander's forehead. "I know you're in pain. Want pain killers?" Xander shook his head. "Okay. Yell if you need them, or anything. I'll be talking with Rupe." He gave him another kiss then walked out, shutting the door so he and Rupert could talk in private. "What's really wrong?" he asked quietly, sitting on the end of the bed.
"I don't feel like there's a reason for me to be here anymore," Giles said, looking at him. "Xander has taken over all my reasons to stay."
"Hey, you knew he was going to come into his own. Staying shouldn't depend on a role, it should depend on a feeling."
Giles stopped and looked at him. "Say that again?"
"It should depend on a feeling, not a reasonable reason, Rupe. Staying with us and fixing this isn't about you having a role to fill, there's overlap when it's just Xander and I. It should be because you want to be here."
"I ... I hadn't ..." Giles shook his head. "I'll think about that tonight. May I stay in the trailer?"
"Sure." Oz watched him go, then got up to go check on Xander, who was rolling around in the tub. "Cramps?" he asked as he grabbed the offending leg and started to massage the tired muscles.
"Yeah," Xander panted, grabbing the sides of the tub to squeeze. "I promise to sit around tomorrow."
"Good." Oz kept going until he felt the muscles give way. "I understand why you let Spike help you and you don't let me, but I want to say something. I won't look at you funny if you figure out that I'm good to help you too."
Xander grabbed his arm before he could move. "Oz, it isn't about that."
"I know, it's about being weak in front of me because you love me. Got that part." He gave him a kiss. "The real strength in life is knowing when you need help and being able to ask for it." He stood up and walked over to the medicine cabinet, pulling out a bottle and putting it on the sink's edge. "For when you get out. One beer shouldn't screw with it too much." He left the bathroom, but left the door open.
Xander thought about the prosaic words as he calmed back down again. Maybe Oz was right and he was being stubborn. Of course, even Oz was known to be wrong sometimes, but he could let his lover help him a little more without seeming too weak and starting to like the help.