Giles was moved back into the trailer near the house with little fanfare but he realized everyone was watching him to see how he reacted. Every night, he had a horrid dream of his family lying dead by his hand, and the next day, he would say something that wasn't quite right. He knew he was on borrowed time but he couldn't stop himself. Sometimes things needed to be said. Even if Xander didn't like to hear them.
Xander had just gotten comfortable in his favorite reading chair when Oz walked in and tipped his book up to look at the title. "It's one of the ones I got from Ethan," he mumbled as he continued to read. "Where's the kids?"
"Outside digging in the dirt for Miri's garden." Oz looked at the title again, shaking his head. "Why did Ethan have a book on Shamanic practices?"
"Because he was like that?" Xander suggested, still not looking up.
"Ah. That makes sense to me. Why read it now?"
"Because if I'm going to start building things with wood, I need to understand the nature of the wood." Xander looked up. "According to this book, each piece of a tree has a separate idea about what it wants to become, and if you don't honor that then your project is pretty well screwed." He shrugged. "It makes sense when you see what happened to my door panel. No matter how much I wanted it to be a door panel, it wanted to be napkin holders."
Oz snorted and shook his head. "Whatever." He pulled a book down for himself and sat down near his lover's still form. Until Giles walked in.
"Xander, *what* are you reading?" he asked cooly. Since he had come back to live in the trailer a few weeks ago, there had been a comeback of the old attitudes. And no matter how often he tried to hide it, he still thought of Xander as a child, an errant one most of the time. That's why he kept trying to correct the boy, but he never listened.
"Nature magic," Xander muttered, getting more comfortable by putting his injured leg up to rest it. "Why?"
Giles took the book and slammed it down on the table. "I don't think you should be playing around with those forces," he said firmly, staring down at his lover.
"Get out!" Xander said calmly, staring at him. He'd had enough. Enough of the parental attitude, enough of the feeling like he was some naughty kid again, enough of all of it. "Get out of my house and never come back." He saw Oz bring his book down but he didn't care, it was time for this.
Giles stared at him in shock. "Excuse me? What did you say? Did you just give me an order?"
Xander stood up and faced the older man down. "Yeah, I did. I'm not your *child*, Rupert Giles, and I refuse to be treated like one. You were warned. Now get out!" he said more firmly, but staying in control.
"This is my house!" Giles shouted.
"GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE NOW!" Xander shrieked, pointing. "Out! If you can't figure out how to treat me like an adult, then we are *through*! Get out and *never* come back!" He panted, trying to calm down again.
Giles turned, his face white and his lips pressed together, but he left the house, storming out to the trailer to gather up his things.
Oz cleared his throat. "You okay now?" he asked quietly.
Xander moaned and sat down, curling up in the chair. "What did I do?" he whispered.
Oz reached over to touch whatever part of his lover that he could. "You stuck up for yourself. You said you were giving him one last chance and he blew it," he reminded him, staying quiet. "Are you okay?"
Xander shrugged, but he stayed curled up. "I'm hurting, Oz."
"Hey, I'm still here. For as long as you want me to be here, I'm still here," he said, getting down onto his knees in front of the younger man so he could give him a hug. They ended up tangled on the floor when Xander lunged at him, holding him as tightly as he could. "Shh," Oz whispered, stroking down his back. "You did what you had to to protect yourself and the kids from his attitude. The kids will understand that soon enough."
"I forgot about them," Xander whispered, looking at the doorway, seeing Miri and Blair standing there. "Guys, can I have a hug?" he asked, holding out a hand.
Miri shook her head. "You yelled," she accused. "You yelled at Daddy Rupert and he raned away."
Oz looked at her. "Miri, don't say that. Come give your father a hug." She shook her head and ran out, heading for the barn and her cats.
Blair stuck her finger in her mouth and continued to stare at them. "Blair?" Xander asked pitifully. She walked in and gave him a hug, but it was a short one instead of her usual clinging. Then she left, following her sister out to the barn.
Oz squeezed Xander. "We'll talk to them in a little while," he told his lover. "We'll get it all straightened out and they won't blame you."
Xander stood up and grabbed his cane, walking out of the library. He walked into his room and slammed the door, locking it so he wouldn't have to deal with anyone. Then he laid down on the bed and cried.
Downstairs, Oz went to find their kids so he could talk to them about what had just happened. They needed to know, if only so that Xander wasn't blamed for it again. He found the three girls sitting on a bale of hay and walked in to sit next to them, not looking down at them. "You know that we just had a fight, right, girls?" he asked quietly, staring up at the barn cats wandering around the hayloft. He heard a grunt so went on. "Remember when we used to fight?"
"Why he send Daddy Rupert away again?" Miri asked. "He was just starting to be nice to me."
Oz looked down at her, giving her a faint smile. "It had nothing to do with you, Miri. It had to do with them not being able to be together anymore." He pulled her into his lap, giving her a hug. "See, they were fighting because Daddy Rupert was being mean to Daddy Xander, they were fighting all the time. And Daddy Xander told him that if he couldn't live in the house and be nice to him as well as you, then he would have to go. But he can still visit you sometimes," he said quickly at the tears streaming from her eyes. "You'll still get to see him, I'm sure he'll be calling to see you guys really soon."
"We not bad?" Tigger asked.
Oz stared down at the extroverted half of their set of twins. "No, Elizabeth, you weren't bad. This had nothing to do with you guys."
"Daddy Rupert no like baby," Blair said, staring up at her father. "He say so lots."
"I know he did," Oz said, wrapping an arm around her shoulders, "but that wasn't why they had the fight either. It was just about Daddy Xander and Daddy Rupert not being able to get along."
"We go leave with him?" Elizabeth asked, pulling her thumb up, but not able to suck it because of the Tigger band aid on it.
"No, you're not leaving," Oz said firmly. "No one else is leaving. We're staying right here, with the horses and the barn cats."
"And Spike?" Miri asked hopefully. "Can he come play with us again? It's been long time, Daddy."
"We'll see," Oz said, grinning down at her. "Guys, can you do something for me?" They all nodded. "Can you give your Daddy Xander a hug when you see him? I think he'll need them a lot."
"Me give hugs," Blair said firmly, nodding. "Lots."
"Thank you, sweetness," Oz said, leaning down to kiss the top of her head. He let Miri wiggle her way down. "Where are you going?"
"To see Daddy," she scoffed. "He need us."
"He's locked himself in our room. You'll get to see him in an hour or so," he told her, giving her a smile. "Are you okay with Daddy Rupert not being here?"
"He no take the twins?" she asked cautiously.
"No, he won't take the twins. They're staying with us forever," he said.
"Okay. Then me okay with all this. You just have to give us more loves to make up for one less Daddy." She walked over to Lover's stall and peeked in at her. "You no lay down," she said sternly. "Not good for you."
Oz hopped up to look down at her, staring at her rippling stomach. "Crap. You're in labor. Miri, go get me a phone." Their eldest daughter ran out, heading up to the house as fast as she could.
Outside, a purring motor could be heard chugging around the house. "Hello!" a male voice called out and the two horses' owner walked into the barn a few seconds later. "Oh, just in time!" he said cheerfully. He looked at Oz, who was staring at him. "What? I'm not in time?"
"We're calling the vet right now. I don't think we can move her yet."
"Don't worry, I've got one on standby to look at them as soon as I can get them loaded."
"I don't think she'll stand up," Oz warned. He looked at the twins. "Go up to the house and find William. I think he's still in the library." Tigger nodded and dragged her sister after her, Blair always followed her. "What's going on?" he asked quietly. "This is a little too convenient." Warrior reared up and kicked at his door. "You! Settle down, now!" he ordered, pointing at him.
"Kid, just leave it to us, okay?" the owner said quietly, pointing outside the barn. "Just go back to your house and ignore us. We've got it." Oz started to shake his head but the guy grabbed him and shook him. "You *have* to, Mr. Osbourne. She'll be safe with me, but you're going to have to leave. Now!" He pushed Oz toward the door. "Let him out on your way out." He drew a diagram in the loose hay on the floor as he heard the door close, muttering one word - Apollo.
Oz walked into the house and took the phone from Miri. "Hi, yes, this is," he sighed. "No, her owner just showed up to take care of her. No, she's in full labor but he insisted he was moving her. Yeah, go ahead and tell him he doesn't need to come out, he's got a vet waiting on them." He hung up and looked down at his daughter Miri. "Do you feel something strange off Warrior and Lover?" he asked quietly.
"Yup," she said, nodding. "They like Strifey horsie," she said proudly, grinning at him. "They be 'kay?"
"I'm sure they'll be fine," he said, walking around to sit on the couch, patting his lap for her to climb up. "Get me a book and I'll read to you," he told her. She squealed and ran for the kids' shelves in the library to pick out a book.
Giles tossed his bag down onto the motel room's bed, and started to pace the small room, turning to find the door open. He kicked it shut, then kept on kicking it, wearing out his anger on it. He had no idea what was going on in his head any longer; every time he tried to censor himself, what he was thinking came out anyway. He stopped to consider it. "Surely, I've gotten rid of that minor contamination," he told himself, remembering the rituals he had went through to purify himself. "I should have." He sat down on the bed, running through everything he'd said to Xander since being allowed back into his life.
He came to a decision. "I'll simply have to tell him about this particular affliction, I'm sure he'll understand." He flinched as his ribs started to hurt, grabbing them and bending over to try and control the pain. It had been months since they had been broken by Spike, why were they hurting now? In his mind, Giles could see a stunningly flat plane. On it was a man, the same man who had said that his body would ache again every time he tried to hurt Xander. "But I was trying to solve our problems," he muttered. The pain increased and he blacked out, finding himself on that same plane. "What?" he asked angrily. "I've done what you've said, I'm trying to fix it up with him again."
The God of Mischief, formerly known as Miri's Strife horse, snorted. "What? By tellin' him that all the crap you've been spouting was what you're thinkin' but that you're too polite to tell it ta him?" He laughed. "I doubt it." His smile got brighter as Giles' glare increased. "Look at it this way, there's nothin' you can say now to make it better. And the demon's *gone*, Rupes. Been all gone for a while now. It was *all* you this time. Every little pissed-off and stupid thing ya said was *all* about you and how ya can't get along with anyone who's not your equal." He cackled. "Not even you can blame someone else this time. Ya can't see him as an adult that can do things on his own, so ya pissed him off. Way to go!" He started clapping.
The clapping followed Giles back to the hotel room. He shuddered as he lay back, curling around his aching middle. "He can't be right," he told himself, trying to soothe the other ache inside him. "I must still be possessed. He can't be right, no matter who and what he is."
When Oz walked out of the house about an hour later, the trailer and the two horses, and their dog, were gone. He checked the barn, but he could only find a few spots of blood on the dirty hay. He cleaned out the two stalls before going back up to the house, not wanting the other horses to have to smell it anymore. As he walked in, he smiled as when he saw Blair carrying a big cup of ice water toward the library, heading in after her. "Hey," he said, leaning down to kiss Xander's cheek. "Lover went into labor." Xander looked up at him. "The owner showed up when I found her and everything's gone already."
Xander took his glass of water, giving his daughter a smile. "I kinda figured that. Warrior reminded me a lot of Strife." He smiled up at his mate. "Are we okay?" he asked.
"Sure. I'm good if you are." He looked down at the girls, who were sitting around Xander's put- up feet. "I think they wanted a story."
"Well, then, I need a book, huh," Xander said, smiling at them. He laid a hand on Oz's wrist. "I'm going to see Blair tomorrow, just to talk this part out. Okay?" he pleaded.
"Sure. Tell him I said hi. Want to bring the kids to Cordy?"
"No, can you watch them?"
"Sure, I'll watch them. I like watching our kids," Oz reminded him with a smile, getting free and walking out of the library to the kitchen. It was his turn to fix dinner.
Blair opened his house's door and smiled at Xander, opening his arms for a hug. "What happened?" he crooned as the young man fell into them. "What did he do this time?"
"He got snotty about a book I was reading and I blew up," Xander whispered, taking comfort from the hug. "And I don't feel bad about it."
"Good," Blair said, leading him into the living room. He smiled at his wife, who waved without looking up from her laptop. "He kicked Giles out."
Sam looked up, after hitting save. "Feel better?" she asked. Xander nodded, but he looked embarrassed. "Good. I would have done it months ago." She went back to her typing. "The cookies should about be ready," she said.
"Was that a *hint*?" Blair teased.
Sam nodded. "Yup. You've been bragging about them, so I get to taste one." She smiled at Xander after Blair had left to get her a cookie. "Are the kids all right with it?" He nodded, sitting down next to her feet. "Are you okay with it?" He nodded again, relaxing a little bit. "Then why are you here, Xander?"
"Because I feel *wrong*," he complained.
"Breakups are never easy, especially when there's kids," Sam said with a shrug. "You should feel weird and disturbed, and even a little angry with yourself." She smiled again. "What do you need from us? Validation? Respect? You have that, and you have it from Oz."
"No more high pressure sales pitch," Blair said as he walked back in, handing over a plate. "Sometimes, you just have to vent. Right, Xander?"
Xander nodded. "Yeah, I guess." He looked from one to the other. "I really did the right thing?"
"Apparently, otherwise you'd be searching for him right now," Blair said dryly, sitting down on the floor in front of them. "Xander, Sam was right about one thing. If you feel all right with this decision, then it's about time you did it. You took all the problems he gave you for *way* too long, man. Get on with it. You have a beautiful house, great kids, and Oz. What more do you need to make you complete?"
Xander sighed. "That's what I've been trying to figure out."
"Xander, did you ever break up with a girlfriend?" Sam asked between bites. "Blair, I'm going to hold you hostage for this recipe."
"Jim will save me," Blair said confidently, smiling at Xander. "She keeps promising to hold me hostage, but real life just keeps interrupting our play." He ducked the pillow she threw at him. "Thanks, dear, I could use one of these." He put it under his feet.
"No, I didn't," Xander said quietly, looking at both of them. "Cordy broke up with me. Faith was a once off. I never had a real relationship before this."
Sam handed over a cookie. "Well, now you have, and one of them's ended. It's not that bad of a split. One of my friends from high school had her ex burn down her house, with her and her kids in it, because he didn't want to let go. Fortunately, they got out in time."
"Giles just stormed off to the trailer and then left," Xander told her, cheering up considerably. "I guess it could have been worse."
"Yup, especially with his skills," Blair pointed out. "Magic works on the emotions behind the will, right?" he asked at the shocked look.
"Yeah, it does," Xander said, considering that. "I guess we are lucky he wasn't thinking enough to throw something at us magically." He stood up. "Thanks, Blair." He nibbled on his cookie. "Ooooh, can I have the recipe? The kids will *love* this one."
"We'll see," he said with a smile. "Go talk to Angel and tell him so he won't get caught in the middle either."
Xander grinned. "Okay. Miri's been bugging me about asking Spike up to play for a few days anyway."
"Which would be very good protection if he came back," Sam pointed out.
"He won't," Blair said confidently. "He's not like that. He's already moved on to another plan for his life. That's the way he is." He stood up and walked Xander out, waving at him from the doorway. He turned to find his wife standing behind him. "That was an easy one," he sighed.
"As long as the kids understand, then we might not get a call from them again." She kissed him on the cheek. "If you give him the recipe, can I have it too?"
"I'll think about it," Blair said, wrapping an arm around her waist as he kicked the door closed. "What do I get in return."
She smiled at him. "How about being held hostage?"
He mock-thought about it for a moment then nodded. "Okay. Let's go do that now."
"Uh-huh, recipe first," she taunted, getting away from him and running for the kitchen.
"No fair, payment first," Blair called, chasing her. He loved his wife.
Xander walked into the offices of Angel Investigations, giving his former girlfriend a smile. "Hey, Cordy," he said quietly. "What's up?"
"Nothing much," she sighed, looking up at him. "In town for a doctor's appointment?"
"No, I just had a talk with Blair because I'm having confused feelings about kicking Giles out." He smiled at her shocked look. "I couldn't take his treating me like a kid anymore. I yelled, he stormed out." He looked at the other doorway as Wesley peeked around it. "Hey, Wes, how's your demon?"
"He's being a bit cranky with me," Wesley said, walking into the room but being careful to stay away from where the sunlight was coming in through the windows. "You really kicked him out?"
"Yup," Xander said, turning so he could sit on the edge of Cordy's desk. "I really kicked him out. I yelled at him and everything." He gave the former-Watcher-turned-vampire a faint grin. "It felt really good too." He waved at Angel as he walked in. "Just sharing some 'ship news," he explained. "I'll let them get back to work in a few minutes."
"We don't have anything to do," Cordelia piped up. "Tell us. What happened?"
"I was reading a book on nature magic, trying to figure out why some pieces of wood only wanted to be certain things, and he caught me at it. He took my book away and tried to insinuate that I wasn't good enough to be reading it. And then I lost it and yelled." He looked over Angel's shoulder at Spike. "Hey, Miri wants to know if she can borrow you to play with for a few days."
"Yes, please," Doyle said as he walked up behind Spike. "Want the boys too?"
Xander smiled and shook his head. "We'll take them overnight if you really need us to, just not tonight, okay?" He saw the pale face and the watery eyes. "Teething?"
"Yes," Doyle groaned. "Both'a them."
"Oz chopped lumber and I cooked," Xander offered. "Then we discovered those frozen koolaid pops. The ones in the plastic tubes. They work great as a teething ring, and when the baby bites through it, they get a treat."
"Ah," Doyle sighed. "Logic applied to torment." He glared at Angel. "Why couldn't you figured that out?"
"Like I have experience with children," Angel scoffed. "I only had Spike and Dru to deal with that way, and they were both adults."
"You had another," Spike reminded him, "but he was never that good." He looked at Doyle. "They're on sale at the store you went to last night." He looked from Angel to Xander and back. "I'll be up tonight. I'd like to get away from the pouf here for a bit." He smiled. "How's the horses?"
"Well, Warrior and Lover's owner came to pick them up, right after she went into labor. Oz said they left while he came up to the house to cancel the vet call." He stood up, turning to catch some papers he had been sitting on, catching sight of his name. "Um, guys, who are you watching me for?" he asked.
"Just for Blair," Angel said smoothly, taking the papers. "Just a check to make sure you're all right."
"Yeah, he's been calling a few of the vampires he knew back in town to see if you've had any troubles with them or demons or anyone," Cordy added.
Xander looked at her funny, then shrugged. "Okay." He looked at Angel again. "It's not bad, right?"
Angel gave him a serious look. "It's not bad, Xander. If it were, I would have warned you."
"I can handle that then. Spike, want to ride with me?"
"Nah, my car's down in the garage. I'll be up tonight."
Xander shrugged. "Okay. Thought I'd share the news. I'll stop and get some blood for you on the way home," he told Spike, giving everyone else a wave and a smile as he left.
Cordelia leaned back in her chair with a sigh. "That was close."
"Too close. Why was this file out?" Angel asked her.
"Because I was adding our newest notes to it," she said smartly. "Like the demon watching over him wanted us to."
"Oh." Angel nodded. "All right. Hurry up though, before he comes back." He looked at Spike. "You may *not* tell him that his father has a demon looking out for him. Got it?"
"Sure, fine, whatever," Spike sighed, going down to pack a light bag. He enjoyed his time at the farm, away from his sire and brother, even if he wasn't sure why he liked those bloody children.
Xander walked up onto the house's porch and sat beside Oz, who was quietly strumming his guitar for William's amusement. "Wow," he whispered. "You haven't played in forever."
Oz looked over at him. "I haven't really felt like it." He put the instrument down, earning a small pout for it. "I'll play for you later," he assured his husband, reaching over to touch his good knee. "How was it?"
"Sam told me this was normal. Blair fed me a killer cookie. Angel has a file on me."
"Huh." Oz relaxed back into the chair, taking Xander's hand to hold. "Why?"
"Because he said Blair asked him to start one to watch out for us."
"Did you believe him?"
"Nope." Xander grimaced down at their son. "Not a bit of it. Cordy and Angel are very bad liars." He waved his free fingers at William. "Hey, you, how you feelin' today?"
"We're good. Little bit of upset belly. How were the boys?"
"Doyle said they were teething. He wanted to send them home with me."
"Ah." Oz nodded. "That'd work. Did you tell him about the popsicle trick?" Xander nodded. "Coolness." Oz let go of Xander and bent down to pick their son up, giving him a hug. "We've been good all day. We chewed on Miri's hair and grabbed the Arwynn's tail. And then we tried to crawl after the twins, who were picking on him."
Xander snorted. "They've been doing a lot of that recently." Xander stretched out, yawning.
"And William's been doing a lot of that," Oz noted. "Maybe you two should go nap while I do a round through the barn." He handed the baby over, watching as his husband juggled the baby and the cane successfully up to their shared bedroom. Oz picked back up his guitar and started to play again. He hadn't wanted to remind Xander that his first one had been lost in the fire back when they had the store, he wanted his lover to remember things like that. Xander walked down a few minutes later and gave him a hug. "Thanks."
"I just remembered why you haven't played for us," he said quietly, giving Oz an extra squeeze. "If you had told us, we would have replaced it."
"It was a frivolous wish and we've been short on cash."
"Your sanity isn't frivolous and if Giles told you that...."
"No, I said that," Oz told him, looking up. "You really remember?"
"I remembered seeing the remains of it in the store when I was packing stuff. I was trying to remember the last time I had seen it and that was it." He brushed his fingertips across Oz's cheek. "It wasn't frivolous. Your music is important to you and you should have yelled at us about it." He grinned. "Now you're obligated to play for us again." He walked back into the house, leaving Oz much more happy with him.
Oz started on a happier song, trying to remember all the fingers for the chords.
Xander looked at Oz across the dinner table, dropping his fork onto his clean plate. "Whatcha thinking about?" he asked his lover.
"Trying to figure out how to give Giles a third of five stores."
"That's about one and a half, right?" Xander asked, trying to figure it out in his head.
"One-point-six-five to be exact," Oz sighed, looking over at Xander. "Which is a really hard thing to separate a store into."
"Maybe he won't want it," Xander attempted. "He's never liked the fact that you owned them."
"Yeah, but this is a ready income for him," Oz pointed out. "Which he'll need to live off of."
"So maybe I'll offer him some money to live off of," Xander said casually.
"From?" Oz asked quietly.
"I have a trust fund, Oz, it's only fair."
"No it's not," Oz said, reaching over to touch Xander's hand that was tapping on the table. "No, it's not fair. Fair was what we had drawn up. Even if you give him money, that won't keep him from coming after the stores."
"But he wouldn't want them," Xander reasoned. "His whole proper streak won't let him run a store that sells pornography. How did he ever get around that to start his own collection of porn?"
"Easy, he was a single guy." Oz glanced out the window, watching the stars start to come out. "What are we going to do about things like visitation?" he asked.
"If he does want to see the kids, then we'll have to try and see what sort of mood he's in and whether or not it's a revenge thing, like the time he took the twins was." He shrugged when Oz looked at him. "I don't know, Oz, I don't have any answers here, we're just going to have to waddle through it as best we can."
"Okay, we'll waddle," Oz said, nearly smiling again.
Miri dropped her fork. "Daddies, since Daddy Rupert gone, can Unclie Spike come live with us all the time?"
Oz and Xander both dropped their forks and looked at their eldest daughter. "Huh?" Oz asked.
"I think she wants us to start something with Spike," Xander said, looking confused. "Miri, what gave you that idea?"
"Well, Daddy Rupert gone and we need a third daddy, and Spike likes us." She gave them her most willing smile. "Please? He likes us. We play and everything. And he likes the horsies."
"No," Oz said, shaking his head. "Xander, want to field this one?" he asked at the immediate pout.
"Sure." Xander leaned down to look at his daughter. "Relationships are about how you feel about someone and we don't like Spike in the way it would take for him to become the third daddy." He patted her on the head. "Okay?" She shook her head. "Tough. You consider it tonight and we'll talk about this again tomorrow."
She nodded. "Okay. Can I ask him?"
"NO!" Oz said quickly. "You will not ask Spike about that." He gave Xander a panicked look.
"Sweetheart, it wouldn't be fair for you to talk to Uncle Spike about this until we've thought about it, okay?" She nodded. "Thanks. Now finish your supper and then go take your bath." She scooped up the last few bites then wiped her mouth and jumped off her chair so she could run up the stairs.
Xander and Oz shared a look, then shook their heads and went back to their dinners.
Miri walked onto the porch, sneaking up on her favorite uncle. He caught her and picked her up, making her giggle. "You catched me," she said happily. "Me coming to talk to you." She gave him her most big eyed, innocent look. "Unclie Spike, can you come live with us?"
He snorted. "I doubt your fathers would like that much, pet," he said, turning her around so they could both watch the horses playing in the field.
"They said they think about making you a full-time daddy," she said helpfully. Then she jumped down as Spike started to choke. "You okay? You need water?" she asked anxiously, looking very scared.
He waved his hand. "No water," he gasped. He calmed down slowly, then grabbed the little girl before she could run away, holding her up so he could look into her face. "When did they say this?"
"At dinner." She smiled, conveniently forgetting who had suggested it. "Daddy say we talk about this 'morrow, after I think about it."
Spike put her down and gave her a light push toward the house. "Go back to bed, Miri, I need to wake your fathers." He followed her in, closing the main door behind him, and followed her up the stairs. He made sure her door was closed too before he burst into Xander and Oz's room, his feeding face out. "What did you promise her!" he yelled, waking them.
Oz sat up and glanced around, finally settling on Spike. "What?" he asked, sounding cranky. "Get out!"
"No! You bloody well had better tell me what you've been telling the little bit."
Xander yawned and flipped him off. "It was all her, Spike. Really." He opened his eyes, staring at the vampire. "She suggested we bring you in as the new third father. We told her no."
"She said you told her to think about it."
"What *I* said, not about the idea," Xander defended, sitting up. "We never wanted you to hear this, but yeah, our daughter thinks that you should be made a daddy to the horde."
Oz blinked a few times, then looked at his lover. "Huh?"
"Go back to sleep, Oz, Miri told Spike about her plan."
"Oh." Oz nodded and looked at Spike again. "Get over it, we did." He lay back down and pulled the blankets over his head. "Out of our room, Spike."
Xander nodded. "We'll talk about this tomorrow, Spike. Calm down first, she's not going to force you to take care of her."
"I wouldn't mind just havin' her," Spike muttered as he turned and walked out.
"Hey, a babysitter," Oz mumbled from under the blankets. He rolled against Xander, wrapping an arm around his waist. "Sleep. I need sleep."
"Okay, Oz, you sleep," Xander said, patting Oz's hand. He was going to have to talk to his daughter in the morning.
Miri ran out of the barn crying, heading back up to the house. She ran up the stairs and into Spike's room, launching herself onto his favorite person's body. "Daddy mean," she cried. "They no like you."
Spike woke up to find Xander and Oz both standing in the doorway and Miri giving him a teary hopeful look. "What did I miss this time?" he grumped, picking Miri off him and putting her down onto the bed beside him so he could sit up.
"They said you no come to live with us," Miri said, starting to cry again. "Me want you to! Daddies mean!"
"No, we're not," Oz countered, walking in to sit next to his daughter. "Miri, we told you no last night. Spike isn't going to become your new third father. It's not going to happen."
Spike glared at him before tipping Miri's face up to make her look at him. "I wouldn't want to live here, Miri. It's good that I get to go home, makes it easier for me to play with Doyle's boys." She shook her head. "Yes, squirt, I have to leave. I'd get boring if I didn't, now wouldn't I?" She shook her head again. "Yeah, I would."
"We could try and see," she offered, giving him the hopeful look again.
"Then what'd Doyle do without him?" Xander asked, hobbling into the room.
"You, sit," Spike said, pointing at the end of the bed. "Where's your cane?"
"On the stairs, I dropped it," Xander said with a sheepish grin. He looked down at his daughter and held out his arms. "Hug?" he asked when she shook her head. "Please?" he asked when she did it again.
"No, you mean. You make Unclie Spike go 'way so I no have funs." She turned away from him and crossed her arms, staring at the wall to pout.
Spike waved them out of the room, waiting until they were gone to tap Miri on the shoulder, leaning around to be able to see her. "Miri, I wouldn't have your fathers. They're not for me." She started to sniffle, her pout getting worse. "They wouldn't. We'd fight all the time."
"No fighties," Miri said quietly, looking serious. "We have enough of that."
"See, then you wouldn't want me as a third father, would you?" She nodded, but it wasn't so automatic this time. "You know, if you keep sayin' that, your fathers are gonna make me go back to LA and bug Angel. They won't let me come play."
She looked at the door, then at him. "Really?" she whispered.
"Really," he said seriously. "I won't be able to come back if you say that again."
"Okay, me not say it." She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Me think it?"
"That's okay," Spike temporized. The boys wouldn't mind that.... too much. He'd just have to explain it to them. "Now, I'm supposed to be sleepin', and you're supposed to be with the horses." He poked her in the stomach and she giggled, holding it as she climbed off the bed and ran out of the room.
Xander stepped into the doorway, looking at him. "Nicely handled," he said quietly, giving him a smile as he closed the door. "'Night."
Spike punched his pillow a few times, then put his head back down and closed his eyes. He was back to sleep within a few moments, and having some very odd dreams within a few more.
Miri smiled as she was led into her Uncle Angel's office, Daddies had a doctor's appointment. She squealed when she saw her Auntie Cordy, hopping up to give her a hug. "Hi!"
"Hi," she said, giving her a hug. "Where's the twins?"
"Blair have to go with Daddy, Tigger sneaked downstairs to find a book to read," she said with a grin. "She like the boys. Wants to see them."
"But they're not here today," Cordy said quickly, putting Miri onto the desk so she could go stop the little girl. "Where's William?" she called as she jogged for the stairs.
"He go with Daddies too," she called after her. She saw someone peeking around the doorway and waved, turning serious. "Who you?" she asked the woman. She looked familiar but she wasn't sure where. Faith stepped out into the light and Miri had a flash. "You bad!" she shrieked, standing up on the desk so she could back away from her mother. "You no come near me, me scream and wake up Unclie Spike to save me."
"Relax, I'm not going to come anywhere near you," Faith said quietly, sitting down on the couch across from the desk. "How are you, Miri?"
Wesley jogged up the stairs and stopped when he saw Miri's glare at her mother. "Now, Miriam," he said, coming over to give her a hug. "I promise, Faith won't come near you if you don't want her to," he told her. She nodded against his shoulder, but he could tell she was staring at her mother. "No, dear, your fathers wouldn't like it." Miri nodded just once and Wesley turned around to find Faith asleep, so he pushed her back some so he could look at her. "Miri, that wasn't very nice."
"She 'napped me," Miri protested. "Me 'member. She *bad*, Unclie Wesley! She no hurt the babies."
"No, love, she won't hurt you or Tigger. I promise, she won't come near you. Allow her to wake up, Miri, and I'll read you a story."
Miri shook her head. "No one take Tigger ever again," she said, stomping her foot on the desk. "No. Me 'tect!"
"And you do a wonderful job of it," Doyle said as he walked into the office, carrying Tigger. "See, she's in very good shape, but ya can't jus' put people to sleep, Miri. Unless you *know* someone's gonna hurt ya."
"But she bad!" Miri screamed. "She bad! She 'napped me!"
Doyle switched kids with Wesley, giving Miri a hug. "But she's better now and I know she won't try ta kidnap ya this time, Miri, and so do you. She gave ya a candy bar the last time you were here."
"She still bad," Miri insisted, but it was more quiet. She looked over Doyle's shoulder, giving Angel a 'help me' look. "He knows she bad, he helped Daddy get me back."
"I know," Wesley sighed, closing his eyes for a second. "But she's changed, Miriam. She's not bad anymore." Miri looked at him. "She's been fixed, like your toys are when they break. We fixed her." He pointed at the woman on the couch. "Now, let her wake up, Miriam, or you're going to go take a nap."
Miri squinted at her mother then raised her chin slightly. "She wake," she said, glaring at Wesley. "She be bad, you take care of her or I will!"
"Of course," Wesley said quickly, looking at Angel for help.
"Miri, why don't ya come help me read the boys a story downstairs? We just got in and they're bein' fussy." Doyle suggested, carrying her in that direction. He stopped so she could give Angel a hug, then carried her down to be with the twins.
Tigger looked at her Uncle Wesley and blinked a few times. "Is she really bad or just a little bad, like Spike?"
"She's all better now, we fixed her," Wesley told her calmly. "You don't have to worry about Faith hurting you or your sisters."
"Or him either," Angel said, coming over to pat her on the head. "She won't hurt anyone. Go help Doyle tell the boys a story." She wiggled down and ran for the stairs. "And no running," he called after her. He looked at where Faith was still sleeping. "Did she wake her?"
"I can't be certain until Faith wakes up," Wesley said quietly, pointing at the stairs. "Maybe we should go down and help Doyle. Miriam was quite upset." He walked around Angel, heading down to take care of the little girl he had held first.
Angel stared down at Faith, then walked over to shove her. "Hey, get up."
Faith looked up at him. "I was pretendin' until she left," she whined.
Angel shook his head and walked away, heading down to make sure Miri wasn't getting into his demonology books again.
Faith gave the stairs an appraising look, then shook herself. "No, I don't want the responsibility of a child," she told herself quietly. "Especially not one that can kill me." She pulled herself up and thought about her daughter and what her life must be like with two fathers.
Xander gave his doctor, Doctor Adams, a faint smile. "See, I told him that I wasn't going to be able to get pregnant again," he sighed in relief, turning to look at his lover. "Feel better?"
"Much," Oz said, still looking serious. "Is there a chance that his hormones might turn back on suddenly?"
"There's a possibility of everything in the Universe," Doctor Adams reminded him gently. "The question is, is it probable. To which the answer is probably not. He's back to the dormant levels he was before we had to open him up. Relax, Oz, your man won't be pregnant again, not without some medical intervention." He flipped the pages on the other chart he held. "As for Blair's exam, she's still fine, Xander. No obvious problems from not closing her." He looked up at the fathers. "Why did you bring William in?"
"Because he's been cranky and we didn't want to saddle anyone with the cranky little person," Oz snorted.
"William's really needy in the attention department so we tend to bring him everywhere, even when we have a sitter for the others." Xander glanced over at his awake and cheery son. "He's never this good about playing with himself."
"Don't worry, as soon as we get in the car, he'll complain," Oz reminded him. "He always does."
Doctor Adams shook his head. "How about daycare?"
"We're weaning them onto it slowly," Xander sighed. "Every time they go with William, they end up protecting him."
"Not that they need to," Oz said quickly at the raised eyebrow. "They just decided that none of the workers should take care of him."
"Which would be fine, if they weren't in a larger daycare," Xander finished. "But there's three people who take care of the infants in this daycare and they don't like anyone who works there."
"Have you tried looking at those ads in the newspapers 'will do daycare in my home'?" Doctor Adams suggested.
"Yeah, but we'd need to see certification and stuff," Oz pointed out.
"So ask," Doctor Adams said gently. "I'm sure you'll be able to find someone."
Xander and Oz shared a look then Oz nodded. Xander looked at his doctor. "There's a small problem with that. See, apparently, all the kids but William are...special. Gifted."
Doctor Adams smiled. "I saw. Miri had this nasty habit of lifting your keys to play with when you used to bring her for your appointments. That's just going to take some more searching. I'm sure someone in that town knows about such things."
"They might, but that means that they could have been part of a group that tried to kidnap Miri to 'fix' her," Oz said quietly. "And we know they've come after her recently. They scared her pretty badly."
"Ah." Doctor Adams pulled over the little rolling stool and sat down, looking at them. "There's no way to tell if they were part of them or not?" Oz shook his head. "Are these people privately funded?"
"Former military," Xander said. "Some sort of Special Operations Group."
"What about their daycare? Are you sure they're safe there?"
"Nope," Oz said dryly. "Especially not after the workers didn't call us after the last few fits. It's the college's daycare though."
"Ah, so then you've got some possible people but you've also got students."
"And we've got a lot of other kids there who have something special about them," Xander pointed out.
"One of them and Miri got into it over Tigger," Oz told the doctor. "I walked in on that one. Miri's also gotten very protective of the other kids recently," he noted.
"Which could have been Rupert," Xander reminded him.
"No, she's been protective of the other kids in the daycare."
"Do you think that they've done or said something to her?" Doctor Adams asked.
Oz nodded. "Basically, yeah. We know they threatened her before, this may just be part of that." He looked at Xander. "Want to go pick them up?"
"Sure." Xander looked down at his doctor, giving him a smile. "Any other precautions?"
"Not unless you've noticed something out of the ordinary." Xander leaned down and whispered in his ear and Doctor Adams nodded. "That's entirely possible, and there's many *water* based solutions to that." He stood up. "Anything else?" Xander shook his head. "Then I'll let you get dressed in peace, Xander. Oz?"
"Coming," Oz said, after giving Xander a look.
Xander slid off the exam table and went to put on his clothes, grabbing William once he was done. "Come on, little one, we're going to go pick up your sisters." He smiled down at his youngest, and last, child, then sighed. "If I only knew what was going on in your other father's head," he whispered, carrying him out to pay for this appointment and make his next one.
Xander walked into Angel's office, leaning heavily on his cane. His leg had fallen asleep in the car and he was just now getting to the pins and needles stage. "Kids?" he yelled, bringing Tigger. "Hey," he said, bending down to get a hug. "Where's Miri?"
"She play," she snorted. "She wakey Spike."
"Here she is," Doyle said, carrying her into the office. "She's been mostly good." He looked down at Tigger, then at Miri, putting her down. "Why don'tcha go put your sister in the car," he told Miri, who grabbed Tigger's hand and pulled her out of the office. "We had a bit'a problem. Faith was here and Miri finally remembered her."
"Ah." Xander nodded. "I was wondering when that was going to happen. Faith okay?"
"Fine. Had a nap," Doyle said with a grin. "We had ta talk Miri into letting her go." He leaned against the doorframe. "She's fine though."
"As long as you got Miri to release her. We'll talk with her tonight." He shrugged. "Anything else?"
"Nah, not yet." He looked over his shoulder then back at Xander. "How goes the daycare?"
"Not very well," Xander admitted, shifting his weight some. "We're pretty sure the Initiative is watching the daycare; Oz thinks there's one of the former people may be working there. All we know is that they've scared Miri recently and that she's gotten very overprotective of everyone there recently."
"Okay." Doyle reached over and patted him on the arm. "It'll be okay, Xander. If'n ya have to, you can always drop the kids off at the school once it starts."
"True," Xander sighed, waving. "I'm going home and take a long bath." He smiled. "How's the teething?"
"The popsicle thing worked well enough. They like 'em." He shrugged. "It's good for now. Have a good trip home."
"Not a one," Doyle said with a smile. He watched as Xander walked out of the office, then went back to trying to calm down Spike. They really didn't need Spike to tear Faith a new one for scaring Miri. He ran into a thoughtful looking Spike in the hallway. "You're plannin' somethin'," he accused.
Spike nodded. "Definitely. But it's for the best for the bints." He lit his cigarette and blew a smoke ring. "I'm gonna find them a nanny."
Doyle shuddered. "Make sure you *ask* them first," he warned. "Xander won't want to trust just anyone." He continued on his path downstairs. "Coming?"
"Nah, I'll wait until the bitch is gone."
They both heard Cordelia scream and went running.