Double Teaming.

Xander looked up as he woke, staring at the letter hanging over his head. He reached up, then frowned when he realized it was strung to the ceiling by a piece of dental floss. He stood up, taking it down by ripping into the envelope, and read the contents, snorting. "Oz," he said, nudging him. "Wake up."


"Spike went home last night."

"Why?" Oz opened his eyes and looked up at the piece of string with a little piece of envelope attached. "How did he do that without waking us up?"

"Not a clue," Xander admitted, handing over the letter. "Seems Angel's in trouble, again."

"Wonderful." Oz pushed himself up. "Do we have to go?"

"No, but Doyle and Cordy may be up here before the day's out." He looked out the porch door, smiling at the woman outside sunbathing. "Actually, I believe they're here already."

"Yay," Oz said listlessly, getting up to go to the bathroom. "Your turn to muck or mine?


"Cool. Go get her up?"

"In a few. It's only seven." Xander grabbed his cane to help him stand and walked out, startling Cordy as the door opened. "Hey, needed a sunny refuge?"

"Yeah, Angel got freaky again. We're all up here. Oh, Doyle said to tell you that he's mucking out the stables because he's pissed. His boys are in with your twins." She pushed her sunglasses down a little, looking him over. "The rehab's working well," she congratulated.

"It was a new treatment. A needle full of golden-looking, shimmery stuff into my knee. It's strengthened a few of the muscles for me so I have the ability to work on them." He hugged her. "Oz said I could have a pool."

Oz walked out and looked at Cordelia. "He lose his soul?"

"Not quite," she told him, swinging around to sit up. "More like it's barely hanging on. He's gone split-personality boy on us."

Oz grunted. "I need coffee for this. Did I hear right, Doyle's doing the barn?" She nodded, giving him a smile. "Good. Miri's not going to be getting up anytime soon. She's not in her room." He walked back in and shut the door.

"Gee, not a happy camper this morning?" Cordelia asked.

Xander grinned. "Grad school has made him appreciate caffeine."

"Ah. Have fun." She wiggled her fingers. "I'm up here until the boys get up."

"We've got sun screen if you need it," he told her, going back inside to get ready for the day.

Cordelia sighed. "It's not got enough sun for sun screen yet. I'll get some later," she told herself, closing her eyes. "This is one killer porch. I'm going to have to tell him that later and get the name of the contractor to fix my wall."


Xander walked into the kitchen, taking the coffeepot from Oz's shaking hand and pouring him a cup. "Here you go. Go sit. What's for breakfast?" he asked his girls.

"Cereal," they said together, holding up their spoons.

"Is it really that bad? They had to evacuate because of that?" Oz said quietly.

"Yeah, they did," Xander told him. "Angel's going to slip his soul any time now probably. Would you want Doyle, Cordy, and the boys there?" Oz shook his head. "Besides, Angel probably told them to come up here."

"Not quite," Doyle said as he walked in. "He ordered us to leave and burn the building with him in it." He smiled at Oz. "Don't worry, I've got everything set up for the school to start getting set up. We'll be out there in a few days." He gave Xander a hopeful smile. "Is the black one broken in?"

"Yeah, but he likes to stay close to the white one. It's a daddy thing." He grinned. "He's a good ride, but a little fussy."

"Tha's fine," Doyle said. "I'll try to take him out later with the boys." He waved at the twins. "Hey, girls. How's your day?"

"Good so far," Oz said, looking at him. "What's really happened?"

"Angel's not lost his soul, it's living side-by-side with his demon now. He's tearing himself apart to try and get both parts out."

"Where's Willow?" Oz asked. "She can fix that."

"We called her before we left. Xander was right though, he did order us to leave. Right after trying to cut off his left hand."

"No wonder Spike went back," Xander said, looking around the kitchen. "Oz, for a few days?"

"Yeah, a few days is fine," he said. He looked at Doyle. "If he comes up here to fight, I want you to take the kids and leave. Go hide them in the woods or something." Doyle nodded. "Good. Yeah, go ahead and ride. We won't be able to do it for a while. The crew's coming to put in the last of the fences today."

"Saw that. Guess you needed the space and all." Doyle grinned at Xander, until Oz turned around, then he gave him a worried look.

"I'm fine," Oz sighed. "Just going back to the person I was."

Blair walked over and tugged on her father's shirt. "Daddy, are you not happy? Can I make you happy?" She gave him her best smile.

He got down where she was, sitting on the floor with her in his lap. "Honey, this has nothing to do with you." He broke down and smiled at her smile. "Yeah, I like to smile now," he said, looking up at Xander, who was misting up. "Don't do that." He held out an arm and Xander came down for a hug. "Daddy was trying to figure out how much he had changed since he had been a boy," he told his daughter. "I almost never smiled back then, even when I was happy."

"Oh." She shook her head. "Why not?"

"Because that's who he was," Xander told her. "Daddy Oz was always very calm, even when he was happy or something really big was going on." She smiled up at him. "You are so much like him, but you're so full of smiles," he told her, pinching her on the nose. "We'll all figure it out soon enough. I promise." He kissed Oz on the cheek. "Would you like cereal too?"

Oz nodded. "Sure. I like cereal. But can I have toast too?"

"Sure," Xander told him with a grin. "You can have toast, I'll have a bagel, and everyone else can have cereal. If there's any left." He stood up and went to check the cupboards, coming back with a box of cereal. "Last one."

"Hmm, stale granola or toast?" He looked down at his daughter. "Which one should I eat?"

"Cereal," she said happily, getting off him to go back and finish her food. "Doyle, you eats?"

"I did on the way up," he told her, walking over to give them both hugs. "Were the boys still sleeping?"

"They play boats," Tigger told him, nodding.

"Shite," Doyle muttered, running from the room to go stop his sons before they flooded the house.

"Not quite swearing," Oz noted as Xander put down a hand to help him up. He took the box of cereal and the milk, going over to sit with his girls.

Xander started the more grown-up part of their breakfast, making sure his bagels weren't burning.


Chloe got out of her mother's car and started up the driveway, stopping to look at the work going on in the new paddock. The few days with her parents had been good, but she didn't want to be there for another long time. They were getting too intense for her again. She jogged up to the house and through the door, stopping when she saw the gun in Oz's hand. "Gee, and mom said I'd be safer here," she quipped lightly.

Oz put the gun away. "It's a tranq gun, the only type we keep around here." He nodded her inside. "We've got an insane vampire possibly on his way up."

"How would he be traveling in the daytime?" she asked.

"Easy, he ate a limo driver," Xander said from the refrigerator. "We got a call from Jim." He looked at her. "Go find Doyle, he's in the barn with the kids. Help him keep the kids safe." She nodded. "Welcome back, Chloe," he called after her. He looked at his lover. "When do Wes, Sileya, and Homer come back?"

"Tonight," Oz sighed. "I forgot about them."

"I was wondering if it was tonight or tomorrow," Xander admitted. "Are we supposed to go pick them up?" Oz shook his head. "Okay then." He looked out as a limo started up the drive. "Looks like Angel's here." He grabbed the second tranq gun and walked out onto the porch, nodding at the foreman, who knew a little about what was going on in this town. Who got out of the limo though, made his jaw fall. "Giles?" he asked in surprise.

"Yes." He leaned in the window and paid the driver. "Thank you." He grabbed his bag and walked up to the porch. "I take it those aren't for me?"

"No, those are for the schitzo Angel," Oz told him, walking out. "What are you doing back?"

"Oz, may we talk a bit? I can wait until after we deal with Angel if I have to."

"I'm dealing with Angel," Xander told him coldly. "You want to help, go find a way to make sure his two sides aren't fighting." He turned to look at the driveway, making sure all the workmen were on the other side of the field working. He stiffened as a car started up the drive way. "It's Sam," he called.

"I'll go," Oz told him, hopping down the porch steps. He leaned in the car window and had a quiet word with her. She parked the car and walked around the house while Oz was coming back up. "She's not letting Chloe do this alone."

"Whatever," Xander said with a shrug. He pointed as another Explorer like his came up the driveway and pointed around the house. Jim and Blair both got out, with John a few seconds later, Blair running after Sam while the other two agents came up to join them. "Hey, come to join the party?" he asked.

"Yup. I told Sam what I told you and she threw a fit," Jim said calmly. "Where is he?"

"Not here yet," Oz told him. "But Giles is."

"Wonderful," John sighed. He led Oz inside the house, going to catch up with him.

Jim looked at Xander. "Can you do this?"

"I kept information from Buffy that sent him to Hell," Xander said simply.

Jim nodded. "Okay. You can do this. I'll take Oz's place so he and John can be backup or do a shift later if there's a need."

Xander grinned at him. "Which pleases me greatly. Oh, we got two new horses to board for a few months. Ones a lot like our Strife was."

Jim patted him on the shoulder. "I'm sure Sam's glad of that. Don't you have someone in town that you can call for information?"

"Nope, most of my graduating class left right afterwards. The lack of denial on their part got to be too much for them so they fled for safer grounds." Xander put his feet up, letting his swelling ankles get some rest. "If he's not here in an hour, he won't show up until tonight. He's stopped to feed and get some more help."

Jim nodded and sat down beside him to watch for the bad guy to come.


"Harris, get down here, I'm tired of playing this game," Angel called up to the house. "Never mind, run!" he yelled a second later, then slapped himself.

Oz walked out onto the porch and pointed his tranq gun down at the vampire. "Leave," he called.

"Bullets don't hurt me," he sneered, taking a step closer. A dart landed at his feet. "Okay, never mind," he said, backing back up that step. He looked up at Oz. "You'd actually do that to me?" Oz nodded. "Thank you," he said, breaking out in a smile. The smile got a little more insane. "But you could always come down here and stick me with it," he offered.

Oz groaned and shot Angel in the leg, but the dart wasn't enough to do more than slow him down. He made it back inside the house as the vampire made it to the doorway and banged into the barrier. "We removed the invitation," he told him. Angel looked grateful. For an instant, then he looked really pissed. Oz shrugged both of them off. "You can't come in."

"Why not?" little Blair asked from behind him. "We like him." She looked upset. "Why he not come in?"

"Because he's being bad right now," Oz told her. "He can't come in until he's being good again."

"Oh, okay," she said, smiling at him. "I hope you be gooder soon," she said cheerfully. "Me like your stories." She waved at him and walked away.

Oz groaned as he leaned against the counter. "Angel, go back to LA and let someone witchly help you. Attacking us won't get you the help you need."

"No, but it'll be fun," he said cheerfully, trying to get in. "Come on, Oz, you know me," he wheedled.

"No," Xander said as he walked in. He lowered his pellet rifle and shot Angel in the head, up in his hair. The enraged vampire backed away from the house.

"That's cruel, man, you know how much he loves his hair."

Big Blair coughed as he walked in with his wife, heading for the coffeepot. "How long before one side breaks down and lets the other have its way?"

"Within an hour and the soul will lose," Doyle said from behind them. "Kids are all down, Oz."

"Thanks," Xander told him. "You really think the soul will lose?"

"I know it will," Doyle said, pulling down a coffeecup for himself. "Thanks, Sam," he said, giving her a smile. "He hates his soul, remember? And his bad side especially hates his soul."

"Point," Oz conceded. He looked out the window. "Xan, you're going to have to fix the fence tomorrow."

Xander walked out onto the porch and shot at Angel's hair again, making him get away from the fence. "I've got enough of this to keep going until the morning," he called cheerfully then waved and backed inside.

"Which might be the only solution," Blair reminded them grimly. "He might not be able to be fixed."

"Give him Spike's old soul," Oz offered. "It used to drive him nuts."

"He still has it," Sam told them. She smiled at Miri as she followed her cat into the room and caught it. "You shouldn't be going outside tonight, sweetheart."

Miri looked up and her then frowned at the vampire in the doorway. "You bad," she said, pushing him backwards with her mind. She picked up her daddy's cane, he had let it go because Daddy Oz was cuddling him hard, and made it fly at the bad guy. "You used to be nice but now you a bad guy!"

"Bring that back," Oz said quietly. "Now, Miriam."

She brought it back and caught it, handing it back with a smile. "I no hurt him with it. Just give him pokies."

"Which could hurt him if you poked him in the wrong spot," Xander pointed out. He gave her a smile and a pat on the head. "Take Arwynn upstairs, Miri. Let the adults handle this."

She snorted and took the cane back, poking Angel in the ass with it, and driving it a few inches into his body. "Huh!" she shouted, running away.

"Well, that's another interesting strategy," John said as he and Jim walked in together. "We could remove that for you," he offered.

"And Miri's going to help me clean it," Xander muttered. He walked out by leaning on the counters and grabbed the back of his cane, bracing against the counter while he pulled the cane out. He fell on his butt but his cane was back with him. "Oz, a little help?" he squeaked as Angel grabbed his foot.

Oz picked up the pellet rifle and shot Angel in the pubic mound. "Crap, I'm a lousy shot," he said with a wink to the vampire. Angel let go of Xander and went back to his minions that had surrounded the house.

Blair helped Xander up, holding him steady until he was able to stand on his own. "You okay?" he asked.

"Fine," Xander told him with a grin. "It was a brilliant baby plan," he told his lover, who nodded.

"Yeah, but it was also dangerous and disgusting. You're going to have to talk with her about appropriate places to hit people with sticks."

"Okay, as long as I get to tell her that if she's kidnapped again then she can do whatever she needs to."

"Fine with me," Oz told him. He looked around as Giles walked in with a book. "Is that a helpful book?"

"More or less. It's got the nature of souls in it." He took the coffeecup Blair handed him, taking a sip. "Thank you, that's perfect," he said, not looking up. So he missed Xander's and Oz's look, and Blair's worried look at them. "There is a clause in there that would allow his soul to come up and spiritually fight with his demon, but I haven't come across a counter yet."

Xander snapped his fingers and walked into the library, pulling down a book he had been sent by the Council. He thumbed through it, stopping at one spell. "Do this one," he said when he found Giles behind him.

"Xander, I doubt he needs two souls."

"That wouldn't do that if he already has one," he pointed out. "Read the fine print."

Giles read it and slowly started to nod. "Yes, this can be done. Do we have all the ingredients handy?" Xander beamed as he got out of Giles' way so he could search for everything they needed. He walked into Oz's arms and got a hug for it. "I found a solution," he said proudly. "It'll either take his soul, which means we can stake his butt, or it'll bolster the soul's powers and put it back in its proper place."

"Good job," Oz praised, giving him a kiss and an extra little squeeze. "What spell is it?"

"The soul restoration spell. It was included in the newest Watcher's Handbook." He grinned at Blair. "I found it."

"Good job," Blair said, clapping him on the shoulder. "Jim, how's the front of the house?"

"The...ones near the barn won't go any closer. Every time they do, one of them suddenly turns to dust."

"Cool," Xander breathed as he walked into the living room, watching as it happened again. "Wow. I wonder what's doing that?"

"Miri and the magical flying stick?" Sam suggested with a smile. She watched then laughed. "See, there's a flying stick. It's hovering in mid air about a foot in front of the one with green hair."

"Very nice work," Oz noted as he sat down. "How long before he can do the spell?"

"Depends on if we have an orb. We should have everything else still. I haven't touched it since the last time he stocked."

"Which pleases me to no end," Giles said as he walked out. "I need a big, clear space."

"Unless you're using the porch, try the hall," Oz suggested. "Or your office."

"My office is a bit too cluttered," Giles told him gently.

"Try the dining room," Xander told him. "The addition gave us some more footage so we shifted the table over."

Giles nodded and took everything he needed into the dining room, closing the door so he wouldn't be interrupted.

Everyone else looked around until Xander coughed. "Okay, we've still got minions out there. Oz, where's the crossbows? I know we have at least one."

"They're in the bottom of the trunk in the attic," he said, giving his lover a smile. "Along with all our old fighting stuff. Jim, come on. John, you too." He jogged up the stairs, heading for the trapdoor to the attic.

Xander looked at Sam, Chloe, and Doyle, all of whom were still standing around. "Here," he said, handing Chloe the dart gun he was holding, giving Doyle the pellet gun. "Chloe, that's only if they manage to get inside somehow. It's enough to knock out any little vampire, but not Angel. If he gets in, lock yourself in somewhere." He nodded at Doyle. "You're guarding the house with Sam. Where's Cordy?"

"Up looking at the stars from the porch," he said glumly. "She thinks the protection will follow out there."

"Not a chance," he said as he started up the stairs. He met Oz halfway down, and a dragged behind Cordelia. "Good, you got her," he said, getting out of the way. He took one of Jim's crossbows and one of the extra arrow holders from John, following them down to the porch. "Anyone mind if I don't run after them?" he quipped as he walked out, already loaded and ready for the one charging him.

"Fish shoot!" Blair yelled as he walked out.

"Huh?" Oz asked as he joined them.

"As in, in a barrel," John explained. "Old saying, kid." He nodded at Jim and they got down, heading around for the rest of the vampires, the ones who had followed orders and stayed in their places.

Blair looked at Xander as he groaned. "You okay?" he asked, kicking one vampire back so he could shoot him.

"Yeah, just saw someone we knew," Xander sighed, shooting her. He stopped as he saw three dark shapes coming around the house. "Reinforcements," he said when he saw the glasses.

"Wes?" Oz called.

"Of course." He hopped up onto the porch and ran into the barrier. "Sorry, forgot that you'd done that probably. Good job. Who's dealing with Angel?"

"Giles," Oz and Xander said together. Xander grimaced when Wesley turned him around. "He just showed up today. Don't ask me." He turned to watch his Slayer in action, admiring the smooth lines of her fighting style. "Way to go, sis!" he cheered.

She looked up, startled, and had to let Homer get that one. "My, that's an enthusiastic note," she said as she jogged up to give him a hug. "Oh, you're better," she cried, squeezing him harder.

"Sileya," Homer called, fighting the vamp in front of him.

"Coming," she said, letting her half-brother go so she could go back to her duty. She staked the one that was coming up behind her boyfriend, letting him get the one in front as Angel came around the house. "Oh, look, it's an insane vampire," she said wryly. "I heard about this from Buffy."

Angel looked pained. "Stake me," he begged. "Before it takes over again?"

Giles walked out. "It won't," he said firmly. "I reinforced your soul." Angel changed to his feeding face and charged Giles.

Xander waited until Giles was down to stick a stake in Angel's lower back, severing his spinal cord. "It'll take some time for that to heal," he announced, carefully backing up. "Doyle, come get your bitch," he called.

Doyle came to the door and looked at Angel, blinking a few times at the stake in his back. "My, you were pissed," he said jovially as he walked out. He pulled Angel's limp body off Giles', flipping him over to look at him. "You feel better yet?"

Angel groaned and covered his face. "It was that last demon, he loosened the strings."

"Now they're back," Giles gasped, standing up and holding his ribs. "Wesley, how was your trip?"

Wesley hauled off and punched him, knocking him off the porch. "Much better than you will be unless you leave these boys alone."

"Hey," Oz complained. "Enough with the boys."

"Sorry," Wesley said with a smile. "But I can smell the demon on him, Oz. He shouldn't be here."

"So that's why you left?" Xander asked coldly. "Afraid we were going to stake you?"

"No, the demon was what was making me say all those horrid things," Giles told him. "I had to go get it removed."

"Uh-huh. Sure." Xander looked at Oz, who shrugged, then back at Giles. "So, I'm thinking of expanding my body again, what do you think?"

Giles stepped away from him. "Xander, it was making me say what I thought, the most dark things that I could think of. I still want you to close yourself off so we can't have any more children."

Xander made a buzzer noise. "You lose." He walked into the house and slammed the door. He grabbed Jim as he walked past him. "I need to leave for a while. Want to come with me?"

"Sure," Jim said, shrugging when Sam looked at him. "Got your wallet and keys?"

"Yup." Xander grabbed them off the counter in the kitchen and waved them. "Let's go. I promise to tell your wives it was all my fault." They walked out to his Explorer and got in, driving away as soon as the engine started.

Oz stood on the back porch and looked at Blair. "I don't want him here if he's going to cause Xander this much harm," he said quietly.

"I'm fully prepared to go spend some time on my own, thinking about what I'd like to happen," Giles said softly from behind him. "I know that I do have a few strong opinions, but I do have the right to voice them if this is to be an equal relationship."

Oz rounded on him. "You *never* minded it until he had William," he accused. "Get over whatever thinking that you're having. If Xander wants to keep it open, it's his body. We have *no* right to say a thing about it." He pushed past the older man and went inside.

Blair nodded at the cars. "Sam and I are going back tonight. You can have our guest room tonight, and look for a place tomorrow."

Giles nodded. "Thank you, Blair. I really do want to work this out."

"I know." He patted the older man on the shoulder and walked in, taking the beer from Oz and draining it, then crumpling the can to throw it away. "Not the best of times for that," he reminded him, pulling him into a hug. "I promise, you'll work this out. He's coming back to LA with us tonight."

Chloe bounced into the kitchen, the gun still in her hands. "That was kinda cool," she said, grinning at her father. "I think I could do that more often."

"Put the tranq gun down before it goes off," Oz told her. She looked down at it then put it on the counter. "Thanks. We'll see what we can't do to get you Watcher training, if you'd like."

"Maybe," she agreed. "I thought the fight was really stimulating."

"They're all like that, until later that night," John told her, giving her a hug. "Be good, kid."

"John, are you going to ride with us?" Sam asked as she walked into the kitchen, patting her daughter on the cheek. "I can't force her to come home."

"Yeah, I probably should. Xander took off with Jim."

Sam shook her head. "At least he's protected." She looked at Blair, who nodded. "Okay, that's a full car. We got all the gear in the trunk?"

Giles walked in with a re-packed bag and gave her a hug. "Thank you. I promise I will figure this out quickly."

"You're not coming back until you've figured it out," Oz told him coldly. "I won't have Xander or the kids hurt by this." He got away from Blair, glaring at his older lover. "Fix yourself or don't come home."

"I will," Giles promised, holding out a hand, which Oz shook. "Thank you, Oz. I shall figure everything out. May I email you?"

"Sure," Oz sighed, leaning against the counter. "Just not for a few days. I think the fallout from this one's going to be too long for that."

"That's fine," Giles agreed, nodding. "I'll email you in a few days with what I've figured out." He walked out, heading out to sit beside the car.

Oz looked at Cordelia, who had followed Giles in. "He seem a lot more pliant to you?" he asked.

She nodded, rubbing her forehead. "Yeah, the Powers decided to step in again," she said with a grin. "Tell Xander I said be good?"

"You guys going back tonight too?"

"All except Doyle and the kids. We want them safe in case the spell failed." Oz nodded. "Sorry we barged in without knocking and all. We'll call tomorrow to tell you how he is." She got out of Wesley's way, watching as he carried Angel out to their van. "Love you," she said, giving him a hug. "Protect the Xander. There are some *way* strange forces floating around out here." She gave a pointed look at Arwynn, who was sitting in the corner staring at her.

"She was Godgiven," Oz explained.

She nodded. "Oh, okay. That explains all of it then. Tell Xander I said to be careful and to be good." She jogged out at the horn honk. Wesley was not known for his patience when he wanted to leave.

Oz looked around the mostly empty house and shook his head. "At least Xander's okay," he noted. "Jim won't let him get into trouble."


Xander woke up and groaned, looking up to find Oz sitting beside him, both he and William looking down at him. "What?" he groaned, then coughed. He had the worst taste in his mouth. He sat up and looked down at what they were looking at, blinking hard at the bellybutton ring and the lips tattooed around them. "Huh, I got really drunk," he said, flopping back down. "How's Jim?"

"Fine. Hungover. You?"

"Same, plus sore." Xander waved at the baby. "William, this is gross stupidity, never do it, son."

Oz put the baby down on the bed, making sure he was okay before reaching over to hand Xander the mirror. He wanted to make sure his lover knew the true depth of his stupidity last night.

"Hey, that's cute," Xander said, looking at the flying unicorn spitting fire and trotting up a thorny vine on his injured thigh and calf. "I kinda like that one." He looked up at Oz, who shrugged. "You don't like it?"

"I like it a lot better than the Kermit on your lower back," Oz said dryly. Xander flipped over and handed him the mirror, looking at it. "See?"

Xander had turned a little green. "Um, that's gross," he complained. "Why did I get Miss Piggy and why is she spread out like that?"

"Apparently Kermit got feral," Oz said, shrugging as he removed the mirror. "I've sent Homer out for some waterproof bandages, you'll have to shower with them for about three weeks."

"Okay. Where did I go? There's no tattoo shop in Sunnydale."

Jim coughed from the doorway. "You got done by a demon. Big blue guy with gills? Had water packs around them?"

"Oh, one of them," Xander said in confusion, lying back down. "Okay. Your head okay?"

"Yeah, and I resisted your taunting all night," he said with a faint smile. "Have you checked your other rings yet? I think one of them is a little too close to the surface." He walked away, snickering.

Xander pulled out his shirt, then took it off. "Hey, Oz, look, I have a nipple ring." Oz groaned. "Where's the other one?" The mirror was handed back to him and his crotch was pointed to. "Ouch!" Xander yelled in belated shock. "That had to hurt."

"Yeah, probably." Oz leaned down for a kiss. "You're never drinking again," he said quietly, getting up and taking William with him. "I'd put on something loose. It'll be about an hour before you get the stuff to do a shower." He pulled the door closed behind him.

Xander looked at the ring embedded between his balls, considering it. "I wonder if it feels good," he muttered, reaching down to touch it. He shuddered. "Nope, not feeling good. Oz, how do I take this out?" he called.

"I'll do it later," Oz called back. "It's your turn to muck the stables."

Xander groaned and got up, finding his loosest pair of underwear and jeans to put on.


Xander slid the ring he had Oz take out for him onto the necklace Homer had bought him as a reminder. He put it on and showed it off to his family. "Better?" he asked lightly.

"Much," Oz agreed. "We're never doing this again, right?"

Xander nodded frantically. "Never doing that again," he agreed quickly. "Never, ever doing that again. I'll let you spank me first."

"Good," Oz purred, leaning over for a hug. "I wish you had kept that one in."

"It hurt," Xander complained.

"It was in too shallowly then," Oz told him. "We'll think about getting you a new one." Xander shook his head. "No?"

"No," Xander said firmly. He patted his lap and Miri climbed up into it, giving him a hug. "How are you this evening?" he asked her.

"Okay. Me have strange dreamies last night though. About a little kid." Oz groaned. "What?"

"Remember when you had them about Sileya?" Oz asked her. She thought for a minute then nodded. "Was this the same kind?"

She nodded, grinning. "It was about a kid named Aislin."

"Which means dream or vision," Homer put in. "I looked it up on a baby naming site when she told us about it earlier."

"Certainly fits," Oz said, looking at Xander.

"Hey, I've got the home hormone test upstairs and I took it earlier. I'm negative on the whole hormone front."

"Okay," Oz said calmly. "Let's stay that way, okay?"

Xander nodded. "Yeah, I agreed with that already."

"As long as we're agreed on that part," Oz told him. He patted Miri's head. "Did you have fun today?"

"Yup, though Unclie Jim wasn't that much fun to play with while he was here. When is Spike coming back?"

"Not for a while," Xander told her, giving her a hug. "Why don't you get a book and I'll read to you?"

"Or you could read to us," Homer offered.

"Or me," Chloe offered. She smiled at Homer. "I can do this. You guys are probably really tired."

"Yeah, we are," Homer said, giving her a smile. "We're going to go take...a nap." He pulled Sileya up as he got up, dragging her up the stairs.

"No competing," Oz said quietly. She nodded and stood up, heading for the kitchen. He looked at Xander, who was examining the tattoo on his leg. "Does it cover up all the scars?"

"No, it goes right next to them," he said, pointing them out. "I guess I wanted them covered."

"That would be nice, but they're not real tattoos," Oz shared with a smirk. "They're not paste-ons but they're not real either."

"That sort of demon has a skill at implanting things under skin. They used to do a lot of the war markings for other clans." He shrugged. "I'll find him tomorrow night and ask him to remove them. Can I maybe get one that covers the scars?"

Oz shrugged. "It's your body, but I'm guessing there's a reason he couldn't cover them. Maybe because scar tissue isn't really alive the way the rest of you is."

"Maybe," Xander agreed, staring at the vine. "It does make them less visible," he noted.

"Can you go through life with that?" Oz suggested lightly.

Xander shook his head. "Nope. I'm firmly opposed to tattoos." He sighed and got up to get one of his books. "Maybe we'll find a home cure in here," he suggested as he walked back in and sat down. He flipped through the pages, stopping when he saw the pictures of other Watcher's art. He handed over the book with a laugh, getting comfortable in Oz's lap so he could read about them.

"We need to send them pictures of yours," Oz said as he handed the book back.

"No," Xander said slowly and clearly. "Pictures of this are not getting out to the Watcher's Council. I'd like them to respect me."

Oz pointed at one of the pictures. "That's Wesley."

Xander looked at the caption then grinned. "Gee, he looks good in that eagle."

Oz got out from under Xander and went for the camera, coming back to take a picture of his thigh. "Take off your shirt," he said as he checked the number of pictures that were left. "We may need to hold off going to the demon artist for a day, we're almost out of film."

Xander sighed. "They don't need pictures of me," he tried again. "They'll lose all respect for me."

"Xan, everyone screws up sometimes. Even Giles. And besides, did they think less of Wesley?"

"Probably," Xander muttered, but he took off his shirt. "I'll let you take pictures but they have to stay here until I decide what to do with them."

"Can we send one to Cordy?" Oz asked lightly.

Xander raised one eyebrow and shook his head. "No, not her."

"Blair? He taught college kids for a long time, he's probably seen a few episodes of this himself."

"Sure," Xander sighed, sitting up so Oz could get the feral Kermit on his back.


Giles woke up from a strange dream and wiped his forehead off. He reached beside him for the glass of juice he always kept there, but it was missing. The overhead light came on and he squinted at the figure sitting beside the foot of the bed. "Spike," he groaned. "I promise, I'm working it out with them." He saw the juice glass in his hand and frowned at the vampire. "How did you get in here? Hotel rooms aren't usually that easily broken into by your kind."

"Places like this are easy," Spike told him, drinking the rest of the juice, then tossing the glass back at the occupant of the bed. "All I had to say was that you were waiting for me." He dangled the key. He looked around the motel room, nodding. "Been nicer places, but this is decent enough." He lunged up and caught Giles by the shoulders, pushing him back into the bed, grinning cruelly down at him. "Let's just say I'm on special assignment for the Powers," he hissed. "They're very interested in your relationship with the whelp."

Giles swallowed. "I said I'd fix it," he complained weakly.

"Yeah, but you've not learned yet," Spike growled, his eyes starting to turn yellow. He pulled something out of his pocket and pressed it against Giles' chest, embedding it there. "Each time you lie, or you intentionally hurt them, this will remind you of our last talk." His smile got colder. "The next time I have to visit, well, I love those children, but I will harm you." He let Giles go, stepping back and leaving the room.

Giles looked at the pendant, his stomach growing cold. "This is ..." He sat up and pulled on his glasses, examining the pendant as closely as he could. "Ares? He's one of the Powers?" he asked himself. Then he shook his head. "That would explain Angel working for them, I guess." He laid back down, taking off his glasses. Maybe this would explain the dream he had had of that child, Aislin.


Xander knocked on Blair's office door and stuck his head around. "You yelled for me?" he joked, walking in when he saw it was Giles in there. He handed over the envelope that Oz had made sure he had with a grimace. "Oz said I had to show you the aftermath of my bout of angry stupidity."

Blair opened the envelope and pulled out the letter, pointing at Xander to sit down. "He wants to talk to you, I'm back to mediating." He looked over the top of the letter. "At least it was removed."

"Yeah, especially the one on my back. That would have scarred the kids for life. But the one down my thigh was pretty cool, it was beside the scars but it made them less apparent."

Blair pulled out the pictures then looked up at Xander. "Gee, Jim told me about that one, but really," he said in mock-surprise. He pointed at the chair. "Sit."

Xander sat down and put his injured foot up. "Sorry, it's being twitchy again today. I need to go stretch."

Giles gave him a hopeful smile. "Xander, I know what I said was harmful, but I'd like a chance to explain my reasoning." Xander waved his hand in a continue motion. "You see, according to the statistics, people like you don't live as long."

"That's because we get our butts kicked for being different and supposedly dangerous to the natural order." Giles flinched at that. "Hey, you *have* thought," he said happily. "I'm still not closing it. Unless it becomes a matter of my health, I'm not closing it. And," he held up a finger when Giles opened his mouth, "I talked to Doctor Adams, bitched about you really, and he said it would probably not change a thing other than make me miserable for five days a month when I'd have to be able to drain off the blood. He said I can't have everything removed without permanently screwing my body up to the point where I'd be better off insane."

Giles hung his head. "I hadn't known."

"You didn't ask," Xander pointed out. "I spoke to him before I ever got pregnant. Back when you first started to get wary of me, while we still had the store." Xander crossed his hands in his lap. "What's the rest of your demands?"

"Can we please start over?" Giles begged. "I didn't want to make them seem like demands." Blair held up one of the pictures. "That night that you left, you went and had that done?" he asked faintly.

"Yeah, that and a few piercings. Fortunately, I found the demon artist about three days later and he was able to take them off." He pulled up the hem of his long shorts to show off the faint outlines of the vines on his leg. "That's all that he couldn't get off."

"Then you're very lucky," Giles said seriously. "Wesley still has the rope around his middle because he waited too long." He smiled. "Xander, I do want to fix this horrendous split between us. I'd like to come back to our children and to you and Oz." He looked down at the cold nod. "I know I was wrong on many counts, and on many occasions. I've been shown how wrong I was, both physically and mentally. Even the Powers have stepped in to show me that I'm an ass."

Xander shifted restlessly. "Yeah, and? Are you going to fix it or not?"

"I am trying," Giles told him softly. "I want to fix this. Even if I have to spend the rest of my life working to make this up to you and the children, I will."

Xander sighed. "I know you want to, Giles, I can see it in you. We've still got some problems though. The first being how you see me. The second being how you kept my father from me."

Giles got to his knees and crawled over to Xander's side, taking his hands to hold. "Xander, forgive me for that. I was jealous and vain, and I was intentionally cruel to you. I had no idea that he wouldn't be harmful to you, all I've ever seen in his bad side. Even when he was being nice, all I saw was a new angle for manipulation."

Xander got his hand free. "I can tell you're telling the truth, but I'm not ready to forgive you for that yet," he said, staring at the wall. "That may well be the one thing that I won't be able to forgive you for."

Blair came over to sit on the couch between their chairs. "Xander, I know it hurts, but this is the past."

"Blair, he knew I needed a family at one point in time. Back when all this stuff started, when I was ready to blow my brains out, he knew that I needed a family, even a manipulative one. And he did *nothing* to contact Ethan."

"I thought about it," Giles said, looking down at his knees. "I even wrote a letter to him, but I couldn't bring myself to send it." He looked up. "I tried so hard to take Ethan's place when you needed a family, Xander, doesn't that count for something?"

"Yeah, it does," Xander admitted. "But so does the lying. Why didn't you tell me when we first met? Or the second time? Or even when he started to come to the house about Sileya? You never mentioned it at all, Giles! *That's* what I can't forgive. That you kept him from me."

Giles touched Xander's arm but it was pulled away. "You can't know how sorry I am now that I did that to you, Xander. I went to see Ethan after he brought Sileya to us, to talk about you. He knew, you see, and he demanded the right to see you. I...I tried to keep him away but he was stronger this time. He had a very valid point. I couldn't be your lover and your father figure at the same time. Besides that, he wanted to get to know you. He knew he was sick even back then," he said, trying to touch Xander again, but he was still stiff. "He decided to let you come to him; he said that you'd figure it out once you started talking with Sileya and people started to compare you two."

"Which I did," Xander admitted, "but that doesn't make him there when I needed a father," he whispered. "I *needed* him, Giles. Yeah, you were there, but you're not my father. No matter how often you acted in the role, you were never my father. Do you know how often I sat here and talked about what I thought my real father was?"

"I told him it was a common theme," Blair said quietly. "Xander, he admits he's wrong. Can you move past that?" Xander shrugged.

"Blair, don't. This is one of the worst betrayals I could ever perpetuate against him. He's right to hate me for it." He got up and went back to his chair. "Over time, I hope to convince him that I'm not the evil man that he sees me as." His whole body slumped as he saw the tears on his lover's face. "Xander," he said, getting up to give him a hug. "I'm sorry. So very sorry for that. I can't change it, but I want to so much. If it were a matter of will, I'd have already done it and given you to Ethan when you first met him, simply so you would have had him there and been safe from your mother and step-father."

Xander calmed himself down and pushed Giles away. "I'm not over this, but we have to move on now."

Giles smiled at him. "That was all I had to say today," he said, sitting on the table beside Xander's foot. "The rest you were very right about." He patted the swollen foot. "You need to put something on this," he said seriously, looking down at it. "It's not feeling very healthy."

"I have an appointment after this," Xander sighed. He looked at Blair. "Do you still have the list from when I was in the hospital?" Their therapist nodded. "Can you give that to him now? While I leave to go get this checked out?"

Blair shrugged. "If you want. Do you want him to come back to the trailer?" Xander shook his head. "Are you sure?" he asked, looking at Giles' defeated look.

"No, I need to talk to Oz first," Xander told him, smoothing down his shorts. He stood up and glanced around the office. "I've got to go. I'll call Blair tomorrow to tell you what we've decided." He walked out, stiffly using his cane.

Blair looked at Giles. "It's a start," he said, getting up to get the list Xander had made of what he really wanted in a relationship.


Xander walked into the barn and stopped, giving the black stallion a curious look. "Gee, aren't you in the wrong stall?" he asked as he walked over. He opened both stall doors and pointed. "Back you get, Warrior. Don't make me get the twins." Warrior quickly walked back to his stall, his filly following him. "Uh-huh, you get back to your own stall. No co-habitation allowed in here." He stopped when he saw her stomach ripple, reaching out to rub across her side. "It's okay. I know what that feels like." She snorted so he pulled up his shirt with one hand to show off his stretch marks. "I had William," he told her. "I know what it's like to be kicked while you're trying to sleep." He rubbed in small circles, leaning his head against her side so he had something to balance against. "Yeah," he cooed. "It's okay in there. I promise. You'll be out soon enough, there's no reason to kick your mother right now." He stood up as the door opened, giving Oz a guilty smile. "She's being kicked."

"Commiseration is good," Oz told him as he walked in. He led her back to her stall and closed her in. "We've got to go to the daycare," he reminded his lover. "The horses will be fine without us for an hour."

"Okay," Xander told him, taking his arm to walk out with him. He really liked it when Oz got chivalrous.

As soon as the barn door closed, Warrior was back over in his mare's stall, nuzzling her stomach.

Xander looked around the bright and cheerful room, then at Oz, who was talking with one of the daycare workers. He walked over to look at the bookcases, tipping his head off to the side to read the titles better. He smiled and picked one up, flipping through it. "Hey, Oz, they have a book about us," he said, holding it up.

"That's nice," Oz said as he came over to look through it. He snorted when he got to the last page. "I wish our household were that calm and peaceful all the time," he said, handing it back. "Do you like it here?"

"Yeah," Xander said, looking around. He smiled at the woman who walked over to them. "What's the baby's section like? William's almost six months."

"We've got a room off to the side for them," she said, leading them in there. She flipped on the night light, smiling at the baby still sleeping in one of the cradles. "It's not very big, we can't usually take that many infants."

Oz walked over and tested one of the cradles, waving Xander over. "It's sturdier than ours," he noted quietly, letting Xander in there. This was mostly to ease his fears about the kids going to daycare. He had taken this tour before. They walked back out to the main room together, Oz keeping a hand on Xander's back. "Is there going to be a problem if our third lover comes back?"

"We'll need to get a picture of him for our workers," she said simply. "We take pictures of all the parents so we know who they are and which kids belong to them."

Xander coughed. "Um, a few of our kids are.... special. Not retarded or anything like that but another sort of special."

The worker bent down and said something to a girl near them, who grinned up at Xander and slowly turned green. She smiled up at him. "Does that ease a few fears?"

Xander smiled. "Quite a few," he sighed, taking Oz's hand to hold. "Thank you, dear. Would you mind playing with someone who could move things with their mind?" She shook her head. "That's good because we're bringing our four kids here."

The worker clapped happily. "I'm so happy. Four?"

"One that's starting preschool, the twins, and William," Oz told her.

Xander nodded. "Three over-protective hellions that like balls."

She laughed. "I'm sure they'll do fine here." She jogged over to the desk in the corner and got the forms Oz had already filled out. "Please sign these and we'll need a copy of her medical records in case something happens."

"Yeah, that's a good point," Xander said, scratching his arm. "One of the twins, Blair, had a reaction to one of her boosters. We've got a note in her file about not being allowed certain things. The local hospital has a note in the family's file too."

Oz signed the last form. "You can get the records from Doctor Amri, in town. She's their pediatrician and the only one allowed, outside of the contact people, who can treat our children. Even if they're at the hospital. Which the hospital knows too." He handed them over to Xander, who signed the forms too. He pulled out Xander's wallet, handing it over. There were advantages to being the only one wearing pockets. "Pay the nice lady and we'll bring the kids in within the next few days to try them out before things get hectic."

She accepted the monthly fee from Xander, checking a box on the form. "Thank you, gentlemen. Any time you need us, there's a form beside the door that has all our phone numbers. We find first timers usually need the numbers closer to them." She smiled and waved as they walked out, going back over to the desk to make a note on her duty roster.


Xander sat down with the kids in the playroom, taking the ball from them and putting it aside. "Guys, I need to talk to you," he said seriously.

Everyone scooted closer. "We be good," Miri protested.

"I know. This isn't about being bad. This is about daycare."

Miri grimaced. "Me no like them, daddy."

"I know," he told her, reaching over to tip her face back up to break the pouting cycle before it could get started. "I know you didn't like the last one, but this time you'll be at the University, where daddy goes." She shook her head. "Yeah, you will, after school. The twins and William will be going there while Oz and I are busy, mostly in the afternoons. See," he said, pulling her into his lap, "I'll be dropping them off on the way to take you to school, and then I'm going to school. After I get off, or if daddy gets off first, we'll come get you." She nodded. "Is that okay?"

"Will they like me this time?" she asked.

"Yup, I made sure of it." He tickled her lightly. "I met a girl who can turn *green*."

Miri smiled. "Really?" He nodded. "She would like me?"

"I asked and she said she'd play with you. She's a little younger than you, maybe a year or so. Is that okay? Will you play with her?" Miri nodded. Elizabeth held up her hand. "Yes, Tigger?"

"We go too?" He nodded. "Why?"

"Because, when daddies go back to school, there won't be anyone here to take care of you. So we arranged to have someone take care of you while we study, and for you to have other kids to play with."

She pulled up her thumb to suck. "They like us? Kids at park no like us."

"It'll be fine," Oz said from the doorway. He brought in the tray of drinks and sat beside Xander. "We went to look at them and talk to the kids. They'll like you and there'll be kids there your age. You can have friends outside of the family."

Tigger looked at Blair, who nodded. "We be okay there?" Tigger asked.

Oz nodded. "Yup, I checked them out and so did daddy. They're nice people and great kids."

Tigger patted Blair's arm. "It'll be okay. If they not like us, we can complain to daddies," she reassured her sister.

Blair smiled at Oz. "You sure we be okay?"

"Yup, I'm sure. This place is not like where Miri went to for a few days. I promise."

"Okay," Blair said, nodding at her sister. "We go today?"

"Nope, you go tomorrow," Oz told them. "Miri, you'll be going in with them since we're going to Blair's."

She shrugged. "Okay. Me 'tect sissies and brother. He go too?" Oz nodded. "'Kay. Me take the Arwynn?"

"Nope, you've got to leave the cat here," Xander told her. "She can't go to daycare and she can't go to preschool with you. She's got to get used to you being gone too."

"She not be happy," Miri warned seriously.

"She's a cat, she'll get over it," Oz told her. He stood up and picked up the empty tray. "Do you guys want to talk about this some more?" They shook their heads. "Okay, you can play again. Don't spill the lemonade." He helped Xander up and led him from the playroom, sitting with him on the couch. "This will work out," he promised, leaning over to give Xander a kiss.

"What about the Initiative?" he whispered, knowing Miri was set off by that name and she was only in the next room still. "What if they watch the daycare? They used to be at the university."

"And they may still, but they can't hurt her there, Xan," Oz assured him. "The most they can do is watch. Which will get them nowhere fast." He leaned in for a hug. "Trust me this time, okay?" Xander nodded. "Thank you. Now then, we need to plan what to pack for each of them."

"The contact sheet had a list," Xander said helpfully.

"That's good, but the girls need a backpack."

"Okay," Xander said, forcing himself to his feet. He looked down at the numb blocks he was standing on. "Oz, why couldn't they figure out why my ankles are swollen?"

"I'm sure it's just the way you've been sitting, or how long you've been standing on them," he soothed, leading Xander from the room. "Girls, we're going shopping for stuff for you. Want to come pick out backpacks?"

The kids cheered and ran after them, Miri stopping long enough to make sure that they had taken William and his diaper bag.


Xander lugged one of the bags into the house, letting his end of it go so Tigger could drag it out of the way for him. He flopped down onto the nearest chair with a sigh of relief. "Tigger, love, could you please get me a soda?" She nodded and ran over to get it for him, coming back with the can. He smiled and patted her on the head. "Thank you. Why don't you separate out your things and take them upstairs?"

"And Blair's?"

"No, let her get her own," Xander said gently. "You get yours. She'll want to get her own."

Oz walked in and flopped down too, watching as the kids all dug for their stuff. "Why don't you guys carry the bags upstairs? We'll come get our stuff in a few minutes." He put the little plastic bag on the table, winking at Xander. "At least this isn't in there," he said softly.

"Yeah, them finding the lube would be very painful," Xander agreed, tapping the top of his soda before opening it. He took a sip and handed it over. "Warm. Fridge must need adjusted."

"I'll check it in a few minutes."

"I can do it," Xander said, getting up to go check on it. "Um, Oz, it's broke," he said after a few minutes. "We've got power, but no cooling." He took out the tray under the freezer compartment and dumped the water out before putting it back. "It's really broke."

"Is the warranty still good?" Xander shook his head. "Want to call Sears?"

"You can," Xander said, tossing the phone over to him. "I'm switching stuff to the big freezer." He opened the counter in the island and turned back to the freezer, piling everything that he could into there. He closed it once it was full, looking at the ice cream and bagels that were sitting in there still. He closed the door, hoping to keep a little bit of cold air for now. "We need to eat something frozen tonight," he told Oz as he walked back over. "What did they say?"

"They said tomorrow."

Xander sighed. "We'll have to rebuy everything in the fridge then."

"We could try another repair place," Oz offered. "If we're willing to pay after-hour fees."

"I'm not," Xander told him. "If we can eat a lot of frozen stuff, then we can fit everything into the big freezer."

"Is it working?"

"I think so. It blew very cold air. Of course, we might have overloaded it a little bit," Xander admitted. He got up. "Come help me look through the meat to see what was thawed. We'll have to eat that tonight or risk getting sick."

Oz grunted but got up to help him look. They ended up with a big pile of things on the counter, most of the contents of the smaller freezer. He looked from the pile to his lover and back. "Massive cooking spree?"

"Pick what you want and we'll toss the rest," Xander decided. "I'll cook whatever we want to keep out of all this."

Oz nodded and started sorting. By the time he was done, only one package of meat had gone into the trash. "Here, I want to keep these," he said, pushing them over.

"Okay, then we're going to need to find someplace to keep the food that we've cooked."

"I can run down and get a cooler with some ice," Oz offered. "Or we can call Sears back and go get something to put up in here instead."

Xander looked at the refrigerator then at his lover. "I didn't like this one in the first place," he said, hesitating. "It's gonna be expensive."

"What sort of problem is this? Is this something like needing something added?" Xander shook his head. "Is it something that we might be able to fix and put it upstairs or in the playroom?"

"Yeah, we might be able to do that," Xander agreed, looking at the refrigerator. "I wish I knew what was wrong."

"Want me to call Sears again?"

"Yeah, call Sears. Let's figure out what sort of problem this is. Maybe they have a tech we can talk to."

Oz hit the redial button and handed Xander the phone. "You speak their language."

Xander pushed himself up onto the counter, following the automated system. "Hi, we just called and we're thinking that this is a 'buy a new one' sort of problem now. Is there any way I can talk to someone to get their opinion?" He grinned. "Thanks. Yeah, we've got power, but no cold." He listened. "Yeah, I can hear the compressor running, the door's open right now. Yeah, everything's not cold." He nodded. "That's what I thought. Thanks. No, go ahead and cancel it. Harris-Osbourne?" He looked at Oz, who nodded. "Yeah, that's us. Thanks anyway. No, we'll be up at your store in a few minutes." He hung up and handed Oz the phone. "Close the door, get the kids, and meet me at the truck?"

"Sure. KIDS!"

They all came running but stopped just short of him, giving him expectant looks.

"We're going to Sears."

"Oz, wallets?" Xander called.

Oz raised an eyebrow but patted himself down to make sure he had them. He nodded at the door and everyone ran out to go get in the car.


Oz grunted as he helped Xander move the new refrigerator into place, stopping to get up on the counter and plug everything in. "There, everything but the water pipe," he groaned, sitting up carefully so he wouldn't hit his head on the cabinet.

Xander slithered up there and grabbed the pipe, putting it onto the spigot. He looked over at Oz. "I need my channel locks."

"Sure. Those are the ones that slip, right?" Xander nodded and Oz went to get them for him. He handed them over, and opened the fridge side door, looking at the clean and spacious interior. "Are we sure this one fits?"

"It's an inch smaller than our last one," Xander said, then swore as the pliers dropped. "Oh, well, I'll buy a new pair," he said as he sat up, looking around the front at Oz. "They're in that nice space under it."

"We'll get them later." Oz looked inside the unit again. "It looks bigger."

"It's got a smaller housing. Bigger inside but smaller outside." Oz grunted, and pointed at the spot next to him. "Coming, dear." He slid down and stood for a second, then closed the door so they could finish pushing the refrigerator into place. After about five minutes, they had it and they leaned against the other counter to admire the new machine. Oz bent down and grabbed the channel locks sticking out from under the refrigerator and handed them back.

"Gee, that's a handy space. Probably very good for Barbie clothes." He looked around. "Where's the kids?"

"Chloe got up from her nap and took them upstairs."

"Cool. Did we get her the food...." Oz nodded. "What about Sileya and Homer?" He nodded again so Xander gave him a hug. "You are a great father," he complimented. He turned to look at the big freezer, opening it to start pulling things out. "We'll need to reduce the load in this one a little," he told Oz when he was stopped. "This one can't keep all this frozen, it's too full."

"And I'm too tired," Oz reminded him. "Do it in the morning. After we go get groceries."

"Okay," Xander said, closing the freezer's lid. "I can do that." He grinned. "Gee, Oz, what shall we do with all this kid-free time?"

"I was thinking a long, hot bath," Oz said, holding out a hand. "Want to join me?"

"Sure." Xander took the hand, and his cane, and allowed himself to be led upstairs.