Death of Minor Character Warning! A Different Form of Protection.

Spike, who had followed Giles on his sneaking out to the bar, smiled cruelly as he watched the human order a sixth glass of scotch. He got up and slowly strolled over, shaking his head at the bartender, then nodding toward the back door. He grabbed Giles before the man could protest and dragged him out in back of the club.

"What?" Giles slurred. He pulled his head back to look at Spike. "Oh, you. Bugger off."

"Not likely," Spike said, shoving the human as hard as he could into a wall. It hadn't been a good time when Willow had bespelled him that last time, but it had damaged his chip. What the Initiative had done to him had been cruel, Willow's spells were even worse, but the two had counteracted each other and now he was free. He smirked at the confused look the human had on his red face. "So, you come here to hurt the boy, huh?" he asked, walking over to stand on one of Giles' ankles. It gave a satisfying pop, but it wasn't more than the joint flexing. "Answer, stupid," he growled, going to game face.

Giles laughed. "You can't hurt me, Spike, your chip won't let you." He quickly found himself being held up by the hand squeezing his throat and made croaking, pleading noises.

"You think?" he said coldly, dropping Giles, and this time standing on his hand, smiling as he heard a few bones pop out of place under his boot. "You will *not* harm that boy," he told him. He squatted down, moving the pressure to another spot on Giles' hand. "You will never harm that boy again," he instructed quietly. "If you do, you're mine." Giles opened his mouth and that was the last move he made for a while. At least the last one on his own.

Spike slammed his fist into Rupert's sternum, just barely not hard enough to break it - Spike knew the best way to give lots of pain without a lot of damage. He stood up and kicked a few of his ribs, breaking one, and then stood on the guy's knee. He jumped once, landing on either side of it as Giles shrieked in terror. "There are too many of us who protect the whelp," he growled at the human, doing the jumping thing again and again missing. Giles flinched away from him. "If you don't be honest with them this time and admit what a fucker you are, then we'll have another talk. You, me, and a friend that also happens to like Xander. One who's going to have much more fun than I am." He kicked Giles in the stomach as hard as he could, making him roll onto his side to protect himself. "Do you hear me, fucker?"

Giles looked up and nodded. "I understand. Have you claimed him?"

"No, I *protect* him," Spike told him, losing his game face. "Same as I will the kiddies and Oz. If you get in their way again, I'm gonna have *fun* with you." He kicked Giles in the stomach again, hard enough to make the human start to throw up. "This was just a taste," he said, pulling him up by his throat and holding him up. "Never hurt the boy. Never fuck with his head. Do you understand?"

Giles nodded and went limp.

"Good," Spike said with his cold smile. He dragged Giles from the back of the building and put him in his car. He walked back inside and leaned across the bar. "He's gonna need someone soon enough, but let him stew for a few minutes. He's been playin' head games." He put a twenty down on the bar and left, taking Oz's car back to the farm - with a stop on the way.


Giles looked up the police officer tapped on his door and got out, hugging his legs. "Help me?" he begged. "He'll come back."

The officer got free of the man and looked him over. "I'll get you an ambulance." He walked back to his car and leaned in for the radio, saying something quietly.


Xander woke up to an unusual sight, hanging above him was a present. A big present. He reached up and touched it but it was pulled away by Oz. "What's that?" he asked.

"Spike picked you up something to do last night," Oz told him, handing him the box. He sat on the edge of the bed and watched as Xander opened it and grinned. "Oh, another cane?"

"Yup, not like my old one." This one had fish on it instead of the dragons the last one had. He opened the note and laughed, handing it over to Oz, who snickered.

"Hey, as long as you beat them off before I get to that horde of women he's threatening you with, then we'll be fine." He helped Xander sit up and swing around to stand up. "Which cane?"

"This one," Xander said, standing up with it. He tested it. "Just a little higher than my last one, but it feels okay," he told Oz, taking a careful step toward William's cradle.

"Blair's already claimed him for breakfast. We decided to let you sleep in." Oz took his other arm and let Xander set the pace to the kitchen. Once there, he sat Xander down and went to get him something to eat. "Cereal or oatmeal?" he asked.

"Cereal please. Some of the kid's?"

"Life it is," Oz said, bringing over the necessary items for two bowls of cereal. He fixed Xander's for him and handed it over with a smile. "How's your leg?"

"Still numb," Xander said before taking a bite. "Oh, I like the cinnamon flavored one better," he decided. "We're keeping this one."

"Cool. The kids like it too." Oz sat across from him, digging into his own bowl. "Giles isn't out at the trailer," he said quietly. "There's a message on the machine from the hospital. He got into a bar brawl."

Xander grunted. "That's his stupidity. Huh?" He looked up. "Is he badly hurt?" His expression changed to a guilty and concerned one.

"Not much. A broken rib, and one cracked one. Visible bruises on his stomach. A broken hand. Marks on his neck from fingers." He shrugged. "Nothing life threatening."

"Okay. Does Blair know?"

"He went down to get him." Oz put down his spoon. "Did you know that we can't fit all the kids and us in one car?"

Xander frowned. "Huh? Too quick on the subject change, Oz."

"Blair told me that. We can't fit all the kids safely into one car. Especially not with us in there too."

Xander shrugged. "If you want to get a minivan, have fun. I like my SUV."

"They make ones with optional third seats," Oz told him.

"Yup, they do," Xander agreed, smiling at him, "but I don't like those. I refuse to drive a minivan. I'm not the soccer mom I appear to be."

Oz snorted. "Gee, you don't remind me of one at all, Xand. Most of them can't put an addition onto the house." He winked at the grin. "Of course, we could go looking for something to use with the kids. Maybe see if we can't get a third seat put into your SUV."

"That'll cut out most of the room in the back."

"Or, there's another option," Chloe said as she walked into the kitchen carrying three glasses. "Jim said the newest Expedition has a third seat option. It's stretched so you don't lose the cargo room." She rinsed out the glasses and put them in the dishwasher. "We're playing on the porch. Spike's upstairs. He went up a few minutes ago. The kids really like him." She shrugged and went back to playing with the kids.

Oz nodded. "They really do."

Xander looked over at Oz. "You don't like using my levers."

"You don't even like using your levers," Oz pointed out. "We could check into getting them while leaving on the original pedals. It should work somehow. And I'm sure we could sell your Expedition to someone who needed the levers."

Xander nodded. "I'll call the hospital in LA, they keep a listing of things like that for patients." He tapped the table a few times. "Would this be my car or your car?"

"Yours, but I get the option to drive it. I miss your SUV."

Xander nodded. "That means I'll have to drive yours."

"You said you did okay since mine's an automatic. You can use one foot for that."

"Yup, I can. We'll see, okay?"

"Sure," Oz told him. "Want to call today? See if the hospital already has one on the list?"

"Whatever you want," Xander sighed, looking at Oz. "I'm not real comfy with the subject of the levers."

"Yeah, I know," Oz said, reaching over to hold his hand. "I know you hate appearing in any way to be handicapped, but this is one of those areas where you'll need the special stuff. Besides, think about how much easier it is now to drive. No more using your cane on the clutch."

"No more trying to move my damaged leg out of the way," Xander added. "Okay, I'll do that."

"We could get one that's automatic," Oz said quietly. "Then all you'd have to have would be the handbrake."

"Yeah, maybe," Xander agreed. "Want to call them for me?"

Oz nodded. "Sure. You go play with the kids and I'll call." He got up, bringing his bowl with him to the office.

Xander finished off his breakfast and went to play with his kids.


Giles walked into the house, wincing as he heard the shrieking going on in the living room. "Is he killing them?" he asked coldly.

"Nope, they're playing tag," Oz said from the table. "Good idea, Blair, thanks. The hospital keeps a list of things like cars that have the hand levers and they knew someone who needed one. We're selling ours to her and we're going car looking tomorrow." He pointed at the other side of the table. "Sit, Rupert, you look rotten."

Giles sat down. "I got jumped last night."

Blair looked at Oz, then upstairs. He got a nod so left them alone.

Oz leaned closer. "Giles, I'm going to tell you this once," he said quietly, "you will not hurt Xander. Under no circumstances is he to be hurt by your selfishness or your manipulative attitudes." He looked into the green eyes and nodded. "Good, I see you're ready to treat him like an equal instead of some kid." He stood up. "They're in the playroom if you'd like to come talk with us." He walked away, going to play with his kids too. It sounded like they were having a lot of fun in there.

Giles put his aching head down on the table and shook it. "How did I screw up so badly?" he asked himself.


Blair walked into Spike's room, not bothering to knock. He shoved him hard, waking the vampire up. "What did you do?" he asked.

"Nothing," Spike said with a smile. "Was just doin' a woman on a beach somewhere." He sat up. "What's wrong, Blair?"

"Someone beat up Giles last night." Spike shrugged. "He said it was you."

"How drunk was he when he said it?" Spike asked, still smiling.

"Don't interfere," Blair warned. "Xander won't like it."

"He'll never know. I doubt that Giles would say anything to the boy, especially lies like that. I was here all night, guarding the little bits." He huffed and laid back down. "Get out, I need to go back to her. Reminds me of a woman I once ate."

Blair rolled his eyes but left the room. He couldn't do anything to Spike for following a natural urge. Just as long as he didn't do it again and no one else found out.


Xander tapped on Spike's door, waking him up. "Hey, want to come drink from a mug at the table with the rest of us?" he asked, leaning against the doorframe. Spike nodded and got up. "You've got about an hour," he noted, walking in and shutting the door. He looked his friend over then smiled. "What did you do to him, Spike?" He laughed at the innocent look. "Every time Oz said something about you, Giles went pale and Blair shifted."

Spike grinned. "I 'ad a talk with him, that's all," he said, walking past the young man. "Don't worry, I won't kill him."

"Good." Xander patted him on the arm. "We still like you, don't worry about it. Oh, and Strife wanted to know if you wanted to take him out tonight. Since I can't ride and Sileya's in England, he hasn't been getting much exercise."

Spike snorted. "I bet. I'll go see if I can't go for a trot on him later. Did you get blood?"

"We drained a steak for you," Xander told him. "None of us have been in town to get you any." He shrugged at the shocked look. "It's been one of those days to stay at home and nap. Even Oz took one with me." He opened the door and left Spike alone to get ready for the night.

Spike smiled and started to hum an old tune as he walked into the bathroom.


Spike walked into the barn and stopped as he saw the horse waiting on him. "Bigger'n the last one I saw," he told it, walking over to look the horse over. "You sure you're gentle? Been a while since I did this, you know." He patted the horse's side and got a blinding flash of vision. "Ow! That wasn't nice!" He stared at the horse as the pictures he had seen became more clear. "You're what?" He backed away, staring at the horse's eyes. "Oi, what you doin' in there then?"

The horse neighed and shook it's head, hanging it.

"Ah, lost a bet." Spike chuckled. "Had a few times of that myself." He reached over to touch the forehead. "You gonna be a good nag then?" He got glared at and laughed again. "I can not take you out, you know. The boy can't ride for another week or so." He could feel the question building so he explained before he got another headache. "His therapist tried to get him to get pissed by pushin' him down. It wrecked a muscle in his knee again." Strife kicked his left front hoof, sending up some loose hay. "Hey, go tell it to the guy! I'm jus' a messenger." He grinned. "But I got Giles good, I did."

Strife walked closer and looked into his eyes.

"Yeah, that was me," he sighed, backing away again. "Wanna go for a ride or not?"

Strife shivered and then went still, just like he was petrified.

"Oh, you wanna go do that. I'll cover for ya, have fun!" He waved and sat down next to the barn doors in case anyone, like a certain little girl, came down to the barn.


Oz picked up the paper and read the headline, then looked up at Xander. He turned the paper around, letting him read it.

Xander's spoon froze part-way to his mouth and he grabbed the paper, reading it silently. "Well, hell," he said, tossing it down. "That just ruined my day." He shoved it at a semi-awake Blair. "Why does this stuff happen around here?" he asked.

Blair looked at the headline that announced the police had managed to catch a man who had been wandering around town naked, screaming about the old Gods coming back. Then he looked at Oz. "Who's this guy?"

"His last therapist, the one who pushed him down," Oz said. He looked at Xander. "This is strange."

"Too strange for me," Xander agreed. "If I didn't have that appointment today in LA, I wouldn't leave the house."

"Yup, we get to go switch cars today," Oz told Blair. "Xander's is in and we'll be leaving our car at the hospital with the new owner." He reached across and touched Xander's hand. "It's going to be okay. The handbrake will be put on once we get home, and the original brake will still be sitting there so I can use it."

Blair grunted. "Good. Want me to follow you?"

"Nope, we've got it covered. We've even talked to the mechanic at the Voc School. We'll have the new Explorer back tonight. It took so long last time because it was a new thing for the students, and rerouting the clutch was a pain."

Blair nodded. "Good job. Want me to watch the kids?" he said happily, giving them a smile. "I miss spending time with them."

"Sure," Xander offered. "Spend all the time you want with them. We've got to go grocery shopping later anyway." He winked at Oz. "And we're going to talk about the next big thing I want from my next check."

Oz groaned. "I don't know where we'd put it," he reminded him.

"How about we expand the back of the cage and put it on the other side of the wall," Xander suggested. "It'd be really nice to be able to swim again."

Blair shook his head. "Only you would want a pool out here."

"There's no lake," Oz pointed out. "I'd be willing to put in a lake," he offered his lover.

"But I don't want a lake," Xander pouted. "I want a pool. Of the doing laps variety."

"Lake water is more natural."

"But it can breed bugs," Xander pointed out. "It gets stagnant and it can grow that funky smelling algae stuff."

"We'll see," Oz said. "Remember, your next three checks are going to your new car."

"Yeah, they are," Xander said, giving him a smile. "But I'm going to be getting checks for at least the next twenty years." He snapped his fingers. "We have to stop at the bank on the way in. I got a call, they removed some of my CD's from rotation because I was over the allowed insurance limit. I told them to do that when I first started them," Xander explained to Blair, who was staring at him. "I put in a little bit of money in each and when it went over the FDIC insurance limit, I wanted it pulled so I could break it up again."

"Wise move," Oz told him. "How many were pulled?"

"Six," Xander said casually.

"Retirement," Oz reminded him quietly.

"I'll have stuff for retirement," Xander said with a grin. "I have plenty of stuff for retirement, Oz. I want to have some fun with my money. This is the part that isn't in the concrete bunker of my retirement account. Which I recently added to again." His grin got bigger. "You can come in and look at the numbers with me if you want."

"I want," Oz agreed. "Still not getting a pool."

"But it'd be good for me," Xander told him. "And we would teach the kids how to swim. We could even lock the building with a keypad so the kids couldn't sneak in and drown."

"We'll see," Oz relented. "And it's not going next to the cage."

"Add it onto the side of the barn," Blair suggested. "Or put it where the trailer is." He finished off his coffee and got up to get some more. "Or put it on the line between the trailer and the barn. You've got trees back there to cover up part of the building." He looked at Oz. "Why didn't you put the cage back in the woods?"

"Because Xander needed to see if anything walks up to it while we're in there." Oz looked at Xander, who looked hopeful. "You're not putting in a pool."

"Hey, they have people who can do that," Xander reminded him. "If we did that, I'd have everything I need out here, until I start working. Then I'll need a workshop or something probably."

Oz grunted. "We'll see about that too. You're not working at home, remember?" He gave Xander a slight glare. "Unless you really want to work from home."

"Nope. I like the idea of going and working for the furniture guy." He gave Blair a hug as he passed beside him. "I get to find out today if I can start school in August or not."

"Yay. Good. When's your appointment?"

"Three hours," Oz said, pointing at Xander's cereal. "Eat before it becomes even more mushy."

Xander slurped up the rest of his breakfast.


Xander looked at this new doctor as he shook his hand. "Why am I seeing you?" he asked as he sild up onto the exam table. His appointment had been changed when he had signed in, but he guessed it was okay. This guy seemed really nice and sweet.

"Because your regular doctors know I'm the best at healing wounds," he said with a smile. He pushed some of his just-too-long-to-look-good hair off his forehead and bent down to look at the knee. "Where did you hurt it this time?"

"Here," Xander said, touching a spot on the outside. "Everyone says it's a weak and thin muscle. This time it was a little tear." He considered this man, trying to figure out why he felt happy about seeing him. "Um, do you see a lot of cases like mine?"

"No, usually I don't see too many blown out knees. I see more of the permanently debilitating injuries." He looked up. "I like the hard cases."

"I'm definitely one of those," Xander agreed with a grin. "Um, I strained my knee a few weeks ago when I was putting an addition onto our house. The contractor didn't do a thing right, but I had some help."

"Help is always good," the doctor said, straightening up to look fully at Xander. "I want to try something. There's a new treatment that's just become available that will strengthen muscles like yours. It's been used successfully on joints and other injuries before. If you'd like to try it, it'll mean a needle into your knee three different times."

Xander looked down at his knee. "What's the success rate?" he asked.

"Almost a hundred percent improvement. How much improvement is the main key. It could only make the muscles stronger, or it could help heal a few of the other problems that seem to be starting in your knee, like the sideways drift your knee's going through."

Xander nodded. "Okay, Dr. Asclepal. We'll do that. I'd like to have it be stronger soon. I haven't been able to get therapy recently because my therapist has been sick." Xander moved his damaged leg. "And that new guy was an ass, he's the reason I have the tear." He looked up. "Is there any way you guys can help me find a different PT?"

"Well, we can do something even better," Dr. Asclepal said, pulling a chair over to sit down. "We can teach your man how to do some of the most basic things. It's mostly a matter of you building up strength in your leg now. You don't need rehabilitation so much as you do exercise."

"But I stand on it a lot," Xander told him. "It's still getting tired."

"That's only one form of exercise. You could start taking walks, or riding more often - I noticed that in your chart." He smiled. "You could also start going to a gym to rebuild the strength or even swim if you wanted." Xander smiled at that. "Trying to get him to allow you to go to the pool this summer?"

"Nope, trying to get him to let me have one put in," Xander told him. "Um, what about the scars?" he asked, his smile fading away. "I'm really self-conscious about them. I mean, they're nice and thin, the doctors did a great job, but I don't like to look at them and I don't want other people to see them either." A gentle hand was placed on his knee and he stopped babbling.

"They can be tanned away somewhat, but they'll always be there to you. You're going to have to get used to the scars you carry. Think about it this way, where would you be right now if you hadn't had that building fall on you?" He stood up. "I'll go get that treatment." He walked out, letting Xander think about that.

Xander was startled when the doctor came back, giving him a small smile. "I'd be the same place I was before this happened, only partially happy. I'd have a lover that made me miserable because I was becoming myself finally, and one that was supportive of me." He shrugged at the smile. "I wouldn't be the same person, you're right. But I'd still have my son."

Dr. Asclepal nodded. "That was noted in there too. How is he?"

"Fine. He's not that fussy, but he likes his attention. I've gotten a whole new appreciation for baby snugglers. It's really hard to juggle a baby, a bottle, and a cane. Did you know that?"

Dr. Asclepal smiled. "I've heard that it was, but I don't have any children myself." He held up the shot, watching as the young man's eyes tracked to the liquid instantly. "This is the treatment. It will burn some as it goes in."

"It's pretty," Xander said, reaching out to touch the body of the needle. There was swirling gold liquid in there, and it seemed to call out to him. It fascinated him, keeping his attention, even when the needle went in the first time. He was so fascinated by it, that he didn't feel the injection at all; he even pouted when it was all gone. "But it was pretty," he said.

Dr. Asclepal stood up, breaking the fascination. "I know it was. You rest for a minute while I go talk to your man." He walked out, taking the needle with him.

A few minutes later, Oz walked in and held out a hand. "Coming?" he asked quietly.

"I got pretty stuff shoved in my knee." Xander slid carefully to the floor and broke out in his brightest smile ever. "Oz, it's sturdy!" he said, hugging his mate. "It's solid. I don't feel wobbly!"

"Good," Oz said, squeezing him. "The doctor said it should do that." He handed Xander his cane and they walked out together, Oz noticing how much easier Xander was walking now that the muscles were stronger. There had been something funny about the doctor, the same sort of funny as there was about their horse, but he didn't care as long as Xander was better. He sent a silent thank you to whomever had helped as he helped Xander into the cab. "The car lot over on the highway?" he asked. He pulled out a note and showed it to the driver. "There."

"Okay." He waited until the door was closed to drive off.


The first words out of Blair's mouth when Xander got out were, "Gee, it looks like a Fedmobile." Then he saw how he was walking and ran down to give him a hug. "You're better?" he asked in amazement.

"The doctor had this really pretty gold stuff that he injected into my knee and it made it stronger," Xander said happily, getting down to hug his kids as they ran out. "Daddy's a lot better today," he told them.

Miri hung back, looking at her other Daddy. "Strife not feel good," she told him.

"We'll go look at him in a few minutes," Xander told her, standing up. He grinned at Blair. "I get to have my pool," he said happily.

"And, when I start school again, he can come to the gym at the college with me." Oz patted Xander on the arm. "Okay, let's go look at the Strife horse," he told their oldest daughter. She ran through the house, leading them to where he was lying down in his stall.

Xander got down on his knees and hugged his horse around the neck. "Remember what they told you," he whispered. "I don't want to lose you, but if it's time, then be free." He waved Miri over. "Honey, I don't think he's going to be okay, no matter how many doctors we call in." He gave her a squeeze as she started to cry. "It'll be okay. Just like it was for your pony. Remember him?" She nodded, looking up at him. "Well, Strife's going to do the same thing he did. He's going to go to sleep and not wake up."

"He won't feel it," Oz told her, getting down to pull her into his arms. He looked down at the horse, reaching out to gently stroke his nose. "Yeah, it's time for you to go," he whispered. "Be safe on your journey."

Miri got down and laid down with her head on his neck. "Bye, Strifey, I'll miss you," she said, giving him the best hug she could. She let go finally and crawled back into her father's lap, not able to watch her horse anymore.

Xander and Miri's head both popped up a few seconds after the horse quit breathing, both hearing the same thing. "Hey, my leathers fit! I feel more like myself! And much lighter too!" Then a giggle ran through their minds and faded out.

Xander looked down at Miri, who was smiling through her tears. "See, I told you it'd be okay." He kissed her and handed her off to Oz while he stood up, taking her back to walk up to the house with her.

Oz looked over at Blair, who shrugged. "He's yours," Blair reminded him. "I'm not used to this level of strangeness." He handed over his cellphone. "Call your vet. Let him take care of this."

"No, we want to bury him here," Oz said, dialing the vet's number. "Hi, this is Daniel Osbourne. Yeah, it's an emergency. No, we think one of our horses just died." He sighed. "No, I'm sitting here looking at him and I need to know what to do." He nodded and hung up. "He'll call us back, that was the answering service." He stood up and grabbed the horse's blanket, covering him with it. "Bye, big red guy. We'll all miss you." He followed Blair up to the house.