Xander looked at the beams that were going up on the addition to the house and shook his head. He walked over to where the contractor and the inspector were standing, looking at the contractor who had fixed his house. "You've got a guy on your crew who nails worse than I did," he quipped, trying to make it sound like a joke.
The inspector walked over to look at the beams, writing something on the form in his hands. He started a slow circuit of the beams, looking them over. He came back and handed Xander the form. "It needs some work."
"I noticed," he said glumly. He looked at the contractor, handing it over. "Man, you rebuilt this house, what's going on?" He walked away, heading to tell everyone that it was going to take even longer than it already had. The project was already two weeks overdue, this was going to add at least another month. He looked at Oz, who shook his head, and made a decision. "Oz, I want to do this," he said.
"I can't help you with that," Oz told him. "I don't know a thing about construction other than what I researched to do the cage."
Xander shrugged. "And? I've got plenty of work under my belt." He looked over his shoulder as the inspector walked in. "I know I'm not done completely with my training, but can I do some of the work myself?"
"How good are you?" the inspector countered.
Xander held up his cane. "You saw me before I got this. I'm the guy the ceiling fell on."
"Oh." He looked around the house, then nodded. "I'll come back in a week to check on the work. He's already left by the way."
"Yeah, I heard," Oz said, holding out the sandwich he had been making. "Lunch?"
"No thank you," the inspector said with a smile. "How much do you think you can have done by then?"
"Not that much, but I can get a lot of it fixed by then at the least," Xander said calmly. "I think I have a good grasp on what I need to finish the project and we have everything on order and paid for so that isn't a problem. I may need a little help putting in the windows, but I should be okay to do everything else."
"All right. Like I said, I'll come back in a week." He rubbed his forehead. "Why did you hire him? His crew's the one that left the other job unfinished."
"Oh. He fixed this house for us," Xander said. "Why did it change? He was always a great boss."
"Yes, but then he started gambling and his original crew has mostly left him." The inspector handed over another copy of the inspection form. "Get this fixed, as much as possible, and I'll see you in a week." Xander nodded and he walked out, leaving the farm.
Oz looked over at the form. "That bad?"
"Most of those beams are way wrong. I'm going to need some help with this." Xander picked up the phone and dialed the school. "Hey, it's Xander. Yeah, I know, but they messed up royally. Okay, well, how about recent graduates? Or kids that could use the time? No, it's a simple addition. The biggest problem for me is going to be a ladder and the windows." He smiled. "I wouldn't mind. No, the inspection citation is almost the whole page long. It's work like this that made the ceiling fall on me." He hummed and hung up. "Expect some people out here to help first thing in the morning." He dialed another number. "Hi, this is Xander Harris, I think we're going to need some more lumber for our addition." He hummed while he waited. "Yeah, that's us. No, our inspection citation was *very* long." He smiled. "Deal. Hold on." He took the phone away from his ear. "Oz, do we have any cash? We're going to need at least a hundred dollars worth of lumber probably, not to mention the plywood we're getting tomorrow."
"I can go to the bank for you tomorrow," Oz told him. "How much?"
"Um, seven hundred?" Xander asked, tossing over his wallet. "My ATM card is in there."
"So's your credit card," Oz reminded him.
"True. Pass it over." Xander put the phone back up to his ear. "Can you run cards over the phone?" He read off the numbers slowly, in groups of two, then waited while it was run. "Okay. Good. Um, half as many beams as we got the first time, all the plywood sheets, and the tar paper. No, we'll store it in the barn if we have to. Yeah, thanks." He hung up. "They'll be out here tomorrow. It's nice, they have our whole order on computer, including the stuff we were waiting on." He stood up and walked down the hall, going to find his toolbelt in his newly organized office.
Xander looked up as his teacher's truck pulled up into his driveway, waving at him. Oz had helped him rig up a platform for him to stand on so he wouldn't have to use a ladder. He leaned over the side. "I've fixed most of them, but I need some help doing the tops again," he called down.
His teacher climbed up and looked at the nailing job. "Who did this mess?" he complained.
"Not me," Xander said, showing off the beam he had just finished nailing. "This is where I've been fixing it." He pulled out the inspection citation and the plans out of his pocket and handed them over. "Easy stuff, but they messed up bad. The inspector said the boss was betting."
His teacher nodded. "I can see that. This isn't that ambitious."
"Yup, and if I had healed more, I'd have done it all myself," Xander said with a self-conscious grin, "except for the windows. I'm not real sure how to do those yet. I never got to that lesson."
His teacher laughed and clapped him on the back. "Don't worry, I've got some time. It shouldn't take more than a few days."
"Cool. I got us some extra beams in case we needed to replace any. The plywood's here, it's in the barn. So's the tar paper."
"Good. You planned this very well. What can I do to help?"
"Um, this part?" Xander asked, handing over the nail gun and sitting down to rub his legs. "I've been out here since dawn."
"All right. Go take a break and give me a few minutes to look these over." He watched as Xander awkwardly climbed down the ladder and headed inside. "Kid, you've got balls," he muttered, going to inspect the beams. He picked up the nail gun and set another one of them, moving over a little to work on the next junction point.
Xander walked into the kitchen and took the glass Sileya handed him. "Thanks. Could you make a pitcher of tea and put up one of water for later?" She nodded, giving him a bland look, so he gave her a hug. "Thanks. With any luck, the outside should be finished in a few days and I'll have time to work on the inside stuff."
"That's fine," she said, giving him a few pats on the back. "How's your leg?"
"Stiff but numb. Which makes it feel very odd." He looked down at his feet. "I wasn't quite ready for this, but it's being done."
"Yeah, it's getting done. Oz did tell me to keep you from overworking yourself before he left for his deposition."
"I know," he sighed. "Don't worry about it." He walked out, after draining the glass of water, and went back to help with the work. He waited until his teacher was down from the top to show him the crank operating system. "Which way?"
"Toward the driveway."
Xander turned the crank and moved the platform, the wrong direction, so he had to start again. Pretty soon, it was moved farther over and they'd have to reach to get one of the beams, but they could do that. He headed up first, taking control of the nail gun so he could reach out and get that first beam, but it was taken from him.
"Do the ones closer in. You'll overbalance and fall." He reached out and worked on that beam, getting everything just how he wanted it before nailing it in place.
Xander did the beams he could easily reach, the work going faster now. At noon, they both took a break and looked at the amount of work they had gotten done. The rest of the framing was done and some of the plywood was on the roof part, courtesy of Xander. He looked over at his teacher and wiped his forehead off. "Can I treat you to lunch, Mr. Kendricks? It won't be fancy, but you can meet my kids."
"Sure. Lead on." The walked into the house together, and headed to the downstairs bathroom to clean up a little. Xander came out when someone started pounding on the door. "What's wrong, Blair?" he asked, picking her up to carry her into the kitchen. "Oh, hey, Chloe. When did you get here?"
"Not that long ago." She looked up from making sandwiches, giving him a smile just like her mother's. "I'm doing lunch, should I make more?"
"Please. At least two more. Oh, this is Mr. Kendricks, my former teacher." Xander sat down with his daughter, looking at William, who was napping in the middle of the table. "Have we disturbed him any?"
"Nope. He's been a good little guy." Chloe gave the older man walking in a brilliant smile and handed him a sandwich. "There's mayonnaise and mustard in the fridge if you want them."
He checked inside the sandwich and went to get some of the mustard.
"Xander?" Chloe asked.
"Plain is good for me, but can I have a pickle?"
"Sure." She walked a plate over to him. "How's the project going?"
"Good," Xander's teacher said as he sat down. "We might be done with the outside by tomorrow."
"With any luck, we should have most of the plywood up today and then I get to redrape it with plastic in case we get rain," Xander told her. He patted the seat beside him but she shook her head.
"Nope, I've still got to unpack. Oh, mom said I'm to be on my best behavior and that I'm to help you do some of the housework. She said something about men never knowing how to clean." She winked at him. "I told her she was being a pain but she insisted."
"Hey, if you want to help Oz clean, go right ahead. Mostly, we wouldn't mind if you took over some of the daytime baby watching chores. We impose horribly on Sileya and Homer."
"Hey, that I can do. It'll keep me from having any for *years* to come." She walked back over to where she had been fixing sandwiches and cleaned up her mess. "If anyone wants another one, just say something," she called, heading down the hall to the living room.
"She's a cute kid," Xander's teacher said between bites.
"Her step-father's our therapist and both he and her mom are Feds."
"What's she gonna be when she gets older then?"
"Herself," Xander said with a shrug. "Blair's not real big on having her follow them unless she wants to. He's pretty cool about that stuff." He finished off his sandwich and got up to get two cans of soda. "We have really weak tea, water, and soda," he offered.
"Soda's fine. Especially if it's not diet or caffeine free."
"Nope, neither one," Xander said, bringing him over a can.
"I've got to admit, Harris, you're doing better than I would have expected."
Xander grinned. "Yeah, but I'm going to pay for it tonight. I'll spend a good few hours in my whirlpool tub after today. It's the first day that I've really done any work," he said at the hurt look. "I've been getting tired just doing dinner some days, but this has really raised my spirits a lot. This means that I might be able to go back to work full time in the near future."
"Give yourself some time," his teacher cautioned. "Like you said, this is your first day back. Give yourself a week back before you get too optimistic." He finished off his sandwich. "How're you doing the inside?"
"Well, the playroom, the one on the end toward the barn, is going to be all windows. They're coming in three days from now. We're going to have to cut the beams to fit them because I didn't get measurements on them. I gave the people who took the order the measurements of the room and how I wanted to do the room. They planned everything else." He took a sip of his soda. "The dining room, the room on this end, will have more windows than original, but we only had to order two more for in there. That wall was moved out so it wouldn't look funny. The library will be like it is now, built-in bookshelves and a few windows. That's why we really added on, we needed more room in the library."
"Hmm. Can I see inside there?"
"Sure. Giles is in there working today but he shouldn't mind." Xander finished off his soda and got up to throw his can away. "We can take a few outside with us if we want."
"Nah, it'll be good to come inside where it's cooler to get a drink." He followed Xander into the library and looked at the shelves. "These are nice. Are the new ones going to match?"
"Yeah. The Home Depot people were really nice when I brought in one of the pieces that we saved for emergencies. They asked for a picture of the room and they ordered everything to match." Xander touched one of the bookshelves. "I can only hope I do as well with the new ones."
"You should. It's just like making cabinets, only on the wall." He looked at the partially finished wall, then at the books lying around the room. "I guess you guys really did need the space."
"Yup. My father was a collector of ancient, rare books. Some of them are really odd, but they're all rare. The only difference will be that a few of the shelves will be closed in with locking glass doors. Miri has a habit of getting into the books."
"That might be a good idea," his teacher agreed with a smile. "C'mon. Let's go finish putting on that plywood. You still want the roof?"
"Yup. I can sit down up there." Xander walked out through a gap in the back wall, heading up to his perch on the new sun porch. "Think this is going to look okay?"
"It should," he called up. "What do your lovers think?"
"Oz was concerned that the porch would look funny."
His teacher laughed. "I wouldn't worry about it. With a little luck, it'll look like an original part of the house." He picked up the next sheet of plywood, putting it on the holder so he could nail it in place and cover up the gap.
Xander moaned as he tried to get up off the couch, then fell backwards as he gave up. "Help?" he called out, hoping someone besides Miri had heard him.
Miri walked in and looked over the arm of the couch. "What's wrong, daddy?" she asked, patting him on the good foot. "You 'kay?"
"No, sweetie, I'm sore. Could you go find an adult? I really would like my pain pills and I don't want you trying to find them in the bathroom."
She pouted but nodded. "Everyone napping," she told him. "Me wake up a daddy?"
"What's wrong?" Sileya asked as she walked down the stairs. She took one look at Xander and hurried down. "Where're your pain pills?"
"Bathroom cabinet. Miri, could you go get me a soda?" She nodded and hurried away. "Sileya, I'm *aching*. I'm not even sure pain pills will help. Can you help me up the stairs before I cramp?"
"Sure." She helped him up and took the soda from Miri, putting it in her pocket as she helped Xander up the stairs. "Miri, stay out of the barn until another adult's up. You can pet the horses, but not ride." She nodded, watching them.
Xander leaned between the railing and Sileya's body, going slower than normal. "Thankfully, most of tomorrow's work isn't climbing," he told her. "It's putting on the siding again." She just nodded, leading him into the bedroom. She got him settled on the side of the tub and handed over the soda, going to find his pain pills. "The blue bottle," he said, accepting it. "Thanks, sweetie. Go finish your nap."
"Sure." She kissed him on the forehead and left, closing the door behind her.
Xander checked the label on the bottle and grimaced, getting up to find his pills instead of Oz's old tranquilizers. He leaned heavily on the sink, knocking a few bottles into it as he searched.
"Hey," Oz said, coming in and pushing Xander down onto the toilet. "Pills?" He got a pale-faced nod. "Okay, relax, let me look." He searched through the bottles, eventually going out into the bedroom to look on top of the dresser and beside the bed. He came back with the full bottle and poured out two, handing them over with the can of soda that was sitting on the lip of the tub.
Xander swallowed them with a moan. "Bath?" he whispered. "Please, Oz?"
"Sure." Oz plugged the tub and started the bath, making it as hot as he dared. He turned and pulled off Xander's shirt, helping him stand up so he could strip the rest of him. He lifted the younger man into the filling tub, turning on more cold water as he heard the tired whimper. "Shh," he whispered, sitting beside the tub to stroke Xander's face. "Shh, I'm right here and it'll be okay," he promised. "You'll be fine by tomorrow." He checked on the level of water, reaching over to turn on the whirlpool attachment to hopefully give him some relief from the pain.
Giles walked out to meet the man walking up to the house. "Rupert Giles," he said, shaking his hand. "Xander's had a bit of excitement so I'll be helping you today."
Xander's teacher looked him over. "Robert Kendricks. You know how to do this sort of work?"
"I've done some minor renovations in my time, but never full construction. I'm good at taking orders though." He smiled as Oz walked out. "Xander will be joining us in about fifteen minutes I suppose."
Oz shook his head. "I gave him the new pain pills." He looked at Xander's teacher. "We found out last night that his pain medication was much too strong for him after we took him to the emergency room. This new stuff knocks him out nicely." He looked at the walls. "I can hammer, I can hold, and I know how to use a level. What can I do to help?"
Xander's teacher chuckled. "The boy over extended himself, didn't he?"
Oz grimaced. "He was in such bad shape last night they ended up calling down his physical therapist to look at his condition and judge what he had done wrong. Of course, they pulled her down from a higher floor."
"He quit seeing her?"
"No, she's got pneumonia. She was admitted last week." Oz shrugged. "We've been doing his exercises here but he pushes himself too hard all the time. Yesterday was just the last straw his body was willing to tolerate for a few days." He looked at the house again. "What can I do to help, Mr. Kendricks?"
"Well, seeing as you're both novices, why don't I start on the windows that we do have and you two finish putting up the plywood?"
"Good for me," Oz said, climbing up his homemade scaffolding to examine what had been done. "Windows, all of them, are coming later today. I got called about ten minutes before you showed up. I told them about lunch time."
"That's fine," Xander's teacher called back, going to look at the windows they did have so he could start getting them in. This was going to be an interesting morning.
Oz and Giles leaned against each other as they looked at the windows that had been put up already. They only had two to go, and those were in the dining room section. So far, everything looked really good.
Xander's teacher came over and clapped them both on the shoulders. "Good work, men. Much better than most novices." He nodded as he looked at the walls. "One more day should do it. We'll have the siding back up in no time."
"Cool," Oz said, rubbing his arms. "Those windows are heavy."
The teacher laughed. "Yeah, that's why I like to save them for the second semester group." He clapped them both on the shoulder again and headed for his truck. "I'll let you two go pamper your man. Tell him I'll expect him to at least look over the work tomorrow, but that he's got to rest."
"We will," Oz called after him, looking up at Giles. "I see why he's satisfied with this work."
"Yes, you can see what you've gotten done so far. It's a most rewarding feeling." He tugged on Oz, leading him toward the house. "Shall I order supper or would you like to?"
"I've got it," Homer called as they walked in. "You're paying for Chinese."
"Um, we need to go to the bank," Oz told him. "Said who?"
"Said Xander, who got grumpy when Sileya threatened to stake him to the couch."
"Oh. Where's his wallet?"
"I used his wallet, it's almost empty." Homer shrugged. "You've got forty minutes, I made them do a timed delivery so you could shower first."
"I'll hit the bank," Oz said, picking up Xander's wallet from the counter. He walked into the living room to get the code he'd need, then headed out to his car.
"I believe I'll go get presentable," Giles said, walking out and heading for the trailer.
Xander lifted his head over the back of the couch. "Homer, wanna help me build shelves tonight?"
THE END, THIS STORY. TO BE CONTINUED IN STORY 13.