Home, Safe Home.

Spike and Doyle heard Cordelia scream and went running for the downstairs apartment, Spike's lit cigarette actually making it into an ashtray as he ran past it. He ran down to find Cordelia cradling Angel's head and his sire on the floor, Wesley was curled up in a corner rocking back and forth. Spike went over to Wesley, knowing it had been him that had done it. "What did you do?" he asked, pulling the young, tortured vampire up to shake him. He saw the pain in the eyes and looked back at Angel, then back at Wesley. "You attacked him?"

"No, he attacked me!" Cordelia screamed. "How could you!"

"Easy, he's not been feedin' again," Doyle said quietly, looking at Spike. He had tried to drop hints about Wesley's condition, how his soul and his demon halves weren't getting along again so Wesley hadn't even been able to feed from one of the baggies in the refrigerator.

Spike dropped Wesley, watching him curl back into a ball in the corner and begin rocking again. He swore as he walked over to look down at Angel. "He safe?"

"No," Cordelia murmured, starting to cry. "He saved me." She looked up at him. "Stake him, Spike. He deserves it."

"No, he doesn't. He deserves someone who gave enough of a damn to override his bloody conscious when it started fighting his demon," he retorted. Spike ran his fingers through his hair and glanced back at Wesley, seeing him reaching for a stake on the side table. He was back at Wesley's side in a flash, taking the wood from him. "No. You don't deserve that." He looked around the room. "Doyle, can you take care of this part?" He got a nod. "Get Cordy home, I'm taking Wesley to the farm. I can't torture him into eating, he's too nice." He pushed Wesley in front of him, heading for the door. "C'mon, bloody prig, time to get you fixed too." He and Doyle shared a long look and Spike leaned down to touch Angel's non-moving cheek. "Put him in the sun, it's only fair, he used to tempt it as Angelus," he said, hurrying out, not able to be there anymore. The worst death a vampire could face was being drained by a minion. It was something that might be able to be fixed, but the sort of pain the vampire went through was something that not even Spike could wish on anyone.

Doyle looked at Cordelia, who was crying again, then around the room. "Faith?" he called. She stepped out of the bedroom. "What happened?"

Faith looked down at the floor. "Wes hadn't fed in weeks, Doyle, you know that. The blood lust got him. Cordy was the easier target so he went after her like a first-feed fledge." She shrugged. "Angel tried to stop him. Wes ended up biting Angel and feeding off him."

"So he drained him?" Cordelia asked, glaring at Doyle. "Why couldn't you and Spike fix him?"

"For the same reason Angel didn't," he said sharply. "Angel thought Wesley would do it on his own and his own nearsightedness got him in the end." He stood up and glared down at her. "Go lay down." She stormed past him and Faith came out to help him move the body up onto the roof to be burned at first light. They stood there, silently saying their goodbyes as the sun came up an hour later, Cordelia joining them to say her own.


Spike ran through the door of the farmhouse, startling Xander, who dragged him and Wes into the hall and away from the deadly sunlight. "What were you thinking?" Xander yelled. He saw that Wesley wasn't responding, was actually staring off into space, and blanched. "Doyle?" he asked.

"Nah, he's in bloodlust and won't feed," Spike said, pulling the blanket off his head. "He went after Cordy and got Angel instead." He nudged Wesley with his foot. "Can you help him?"

"Sure," Oz said as he walked in from the living room. "Go put him in one of the vamp safe rooms. You've still got blood in the fridge." He got out of Spike's way as he picked up the insensate man and carried him up the stairs. "Whoa," he whispered, giving Xander a hug.

"I'll go get some blood," Xander said, squeezing Oz. "You keep Miri off them. This has got to be bad if they ran here." He got free and jogged back into the kitchen, warming up some blood while Oz went to find their oldest daughter.

Spike finished his last knot tying Wesley to the bed and looked at the doorway, taking the cup Xander was holding. "Thanks. Got a straw?" One was handed to him.

"How bad is he?"

"His demon and his bloody head are still fighting, so he won't feed."

"He probably can't," Xander said thoughtfully. "Wesley was always too nice." He sat on the side of the bed. "What'll help him most?"

"A few pints of human and a long session of torture to remove that niceness." Spike sucked some of the blood up into the straw and painted the damp mouth with it, watching as Wesley stubbornly refused to lick it off.

"Feeding tube?" Xander suggested dryly.

"Possibly," Oz said from the doorway, watching. "He back enough to eat?"

"No," Spike sighed, getting off Wesley to sit beside him. "He's not." He watched as the young vampire shuddered when he licked his lips. "That's the first blood he's had except for what he drained from Angel," he noted. "Two weeks!" he shouted, getting up to pace, not caring that Xander had to save the blood from spilling. "And we never noticed. Oh, he was good at hiding it. Had dirty cups and everything." He glared at the man tied to the bed. "We're gonna fix this, Wesley, or I'm gonna use you like a fledgling."

"Calm down," Oz warned. "There are still kids in the house." He walked in and shut the door, knowing Miri was coming up the stairs. "We can help him."

"He can have the trailer," Xander suggested. "Then we wouldn't have to worry about what Spike did to him."

"I'd still worry," Oz reminded him. He walked over and looked down at Wesley, seeing the intelligence still there. "Hey, you can come back. We know you didn't mean to kill Angel." He saw a single tear roll down the pale cheek and picked up the mug of blood, holding it where he could see it. "If you feed, we'll let you go later. We will not untie you until you've eaten though, I'm not risking you around the kids." Wesley stared at him but didn't say anything. "Everything else is between you and Spike, but you're gonna eat until you're full or you're staying tied up right here." Wesley nodded and Oz put the mug down, letting him sip, watching as he shuddered with each gulp of the warm blood.

Spike gave the couple an appraising look then nodded. "I've got to make a few calls."

"Use my office," Xander told him. "It's relatively clean." Spike nodded as he walked out, going to find them a constant supply of blood. Xander watched Oz feed Wesley and shook his head. "Wes," he said quietly, moving closer so he could look down at the former Watcher. "We know it's hard, but we want to help you."

"Stake me," Wesley begged.

"Not gonna happen," Oz told him. "You still have a soul and we can only stake the bad guys."

"But I almost killed Cordelia." He drew a deep, shuddering breath in. "If I had remembered about the children..." he started, another tear rolling down his cheek.

"Wasn't gonna happen," Xander said quickly, making him focus on the present. Going back into his memories right now would not be good for him. "You wouldn't have been able to hurt the kids, Doyle would have seen that." He looked over at Oz, then at Wesley. "There's a way to help you feed without making you drink it. If you want, we can get someone to come put in a feeding tube." Wesley shook his head. "Then you're gonna have to drink, Wes. We won't allow you to get back into that state again. Not out here where the kids are more apt to get in the way." Wesley nodded, his eyes starting to fill again. "Okay, so drink for Oz and I'll go warm a little more up. You probably shouldn't be drinking too much, but you obviously need a little bit." He got up once Wesley started to eat again, going down to warm up some more blood and tell the children not to bother him.


Spike walked into the house, dragging a tiny woman by the wrist. "Here," he said, shoving her in front of where Xander was watching Oz on the cameras. "A nanny."

Xander looked up at him. "Huh?"

"Nanny," Spike said, drawing the word out. "People who watch children. This one owes me a life-debt." He nodded at her. "She's a cat demon."

She frowned as she sniffed around. "There's a dog here," she said, her voice light and soft.

"Were," Xander told her, watching her.

"A were?" she asked, looking at Spike. "Those nice little creatures that like to fight with my clans and kill us all?"

Spike shook his head, pointing at the screen. "That's his cage. He's not in here."

"It doesn't matter," she said, her voice breaking. "He'll still kill me!"

"Actually, Oz is very peaceful," Xander said, frowning at Spike. "But if she doesn't want to be here, that's okay with us."

Spike shook his head. "It's my choice what her life-debt is. She's good with the kiddies, even though she doesn't like them much. Just give her a try and I'll release her if she don't work out."

Xander shrugged. "Yeah, okay, but you get to convince Oz in the morning." He looked her over. "Um, there's a room at the end of the hall or between the girls' rooms. Or the playroom if you'd rather." He went back to watching Oz roam around his large, sculpted and landscaped cage.

Spike nodded at the stairs. "I'll show you which is which." He dragged her up them, stopping in Miri's room first since it was first on that side of the hall. "This is Miri. She's a kicker, we get on great." He closed the door, after giving the two fingered salute to her cat, and led the cat demon down the hall to the twin's nursery. He heard her excited squeak at the decor and smirked. "Xander did it. He's pretty good, but doesn't think he is." He pointed at the little girl peeking over the edge of her bed rail. "That's Blair, I think." The little girl nodded. "This is Kaiya, she's gonna be watchin' ya for a bit." Blair waved, still sucking her thumb. "She's the quiet one." He pointed at the other girl. "That's Elizabeth."

"Tigger," Blair whispered, hiding again. "Big noises, Unclie, your room."

"I'll take care of that," Spike assured her. He went to the door between the two rooms and opened it, showing the large bed and simple room. "Here's yours. Stay here until you hear Oz talking tomorrow." He closed the door after shoving her inside then went to check on Wesley, who was tied different to the bed now. "They let you up?"

"I had to use the bathroom," Wesley said quietly. He sniffed at the older vampire. "You brought a demon here?"

"It's a cat demon. They're good with bints like these here." He checked the straps. "You been keepin' the kids awake," he admonished, taking the mug of blood off the cup warmer beside the bed. "Want s'more?"

"Please," Wesley begged. "But can you..." he nodded at the feeding tube he was now connected to, thanks to Oz.

Spike shrugged and injected some of the blood into the tube, forcing it down into the younger vampire's stomach. "You've got to get over this, Wesley."

"I can't," he complained. "Every time I try to feed, my mind shows me what the blood used to belong to and why it's now dead."

"Cows get dead because of people like the poufster and I that want leather." He injected the rest of the cup then put it aside. "How about now?"

"I don't have to taste it," Wesley admitted.

"You can't go 'round like that forever," Spike reminded him. "If Angel'd been in his right mind, he'd have taken you aside and broken ya in good, that woulda done it right off." He looked over the shy, small body. "Oh, well, guess it falls to me now."

"Spike, don't hurt him too much," Xander said from the doorway. "Um, what about Oz in the morning?"

"I told her not ta come out until she heard him talking."

"If you remember, Oz came after you because I had your scent on me," Xander reminded him.

Spike nodded. "Then we'll deal. I put her in the room between the bint's. Oh, Blair was up."

"She usually is. At least she doesn't sneak out like Miri does. Where's Arwynn?"

"In the little bit's room," he said with a smirk. "Hissed at Kaiya she did."

"Okay," Xander sighed, giving him a frown. "If I even think she's hurting the kids, she goes," he said before closing the door and leaving them alone. He came back a few minutes later with a bag of warmed blood. "Here, you can feed this directly into his tube. Oz fixed it that way." He pointed out the transfusion kit. "The mug was for you."

"I had some at the bar," Spike said with a smirk. "Nice'a Oz to fix him up. Can't last forever though."

"I think we agreed he could have it for a few more days, until you started to work on him. Then we could start to wean him off it." He handed over the bags of blood. "He had a half-bag earlier, while you were gone." He left them alone this time, going back to his Oz watch.

Spike nodded at the brilliant set-up. "Should work. For now." He attached the transfusion kit to the bag then the other end to the feeding tube, making it work so Wesley would eat a little more.


Oz stretched and growled as he came awake the next morning, then started his usual scenting of the air to find his pack. He smelled something off, almost feline in nature, and hurried up to the house. He tracked it up the stairs and to each of the kids rooms, then to Spike's room. He barged in on them, panting in rage. "What was it?" he growled.

Spike looked up from his book. "It's the new nanny, mate. She's a cat demon. Kaiya," he called, bringing her running, a nice thing about life-debts to her kind, they always did what you told them to. "Change, show Oz here what you can do."

Kaiya frowned at him, but she did as she was asked, changing to her larger, feline form. She was about seven-foot-six and forest green, but she had all the cat parts, just in a larger size. Then she changed back to her smaller, four-foot and something human form. "I owe Spike a life-debt," she said, staring at him. "I will not harm your children."

Oz grunted and scented her. "Later," he promised, glaring at Spike. His gaze slid over Wesley, who was sleeping on his side, still tied to the bed. "How's he?"

"He's better," Spike admitted. "All the blood's doin' him good." He put aside his book. "I showed the kids to her earlier, but only Blair's seen her."

"Breakfast," Oz promised, going to find his mate. He slammed their bedroom door and locked it.

"At least he didn't eat you," Spike told Kaiya, who went back to her room and slammed the door too. He chuckled and picked up his book, going back to reading up on vampire physiology.


Oz looked up as he heard the slow footsteps and got up to meet the new nanny. "Sorry about earlier," he said, holding out a hand. "You're a cat demon?"

She nodded, shaking his hand. "Most of my clan have many children. I have maternal instincts, just not enough to raise my own cubs. Spike knew that and besides, I owe him a life-debt. I have to do what he says or my whole clan will shun me." She shuddered. "May I at least try?"

Oz shrugged, glancing back at Xander, who was the more parental one of both of them. "Sure. Um, the kids are mostly down here. William's still napping." He led her into the kitchen and sat her at the table. "Milk, cereal, bagels?" he offered.

She smiled a naughty grin at him. "Feeding me milk probably isn't wise. Human milk for us puts us into heat." She smiled and waved at Blair, who was grinning at her. "Hi. We met last night."

Tigger glared at her. "My sister."

Miri looked this person over. "Who are you? The Arwynn said you came last night."

Xander looked at his daughter. "Since when did your cat start to talk?" She quickly started to eat her breakfast, not wanting to talk to her fathers. She was still mad at them.

Tigger got an evil glint in her eye and floated over the sugar bowl. "Here," she said proudly.

Xander snatched it at the horrified look the new nanny was giving the girl. "Not used to that?"

"No, but Spike didn't tell me about it." She glared up at the ceiling and muttered something. Then she shook herself and looked at Xander. "Most of us aren't telekinetic, but I have known cubs who were." She looked at Miri, who was watching her. "You're one too?"

"And Blair seems to be some sort of broadcaster," Xander said fondly, patting her on the head.

Kaiya nodded. "I can deal with that. But no floating things into my fur," she warned.

"Fur?" Miri asked, looking her over. "You don't have fur."

Kaiya stood up and walked back a few feet, then changed into her cat form. "I do so," she countered.

Blair got a maniacal look and ran over to pet her. "Soft," she pronounced. "Give rides?" she begged.

"We'll see," Kaiya told her, changing back into human form and picking her up. She deposited her back in her chair and sat down again. "So, Miri, right?" she asked the girl beside her, who nodded. "Aren't you old enough for school?"

"She's starting in a few weeks," Xander told her. "I'm starting back in my carpentry program and Oz is starting back to his grad program."

"Ah. Then you really did need a nanny." She glanced around. "Have you had any run ins with *those* people?"

Oz nodded. "Spike ran to us after he was chipped. Oh, and they're after Miri."

"We think that the daycare at the college might be being run by them right now," Xander said. "If we knew the other parents, we'd like to slip that along."

"Especially to the halfies," Oz added. "We know there's at least two."

"Green girl," Miri said helpfully.

"Yes, we were counting her," Oz told his daughter. "Eat. Then go muck the stalls."

Miri finished off her cereal and slammed down the bowl. "Not my turn," she complained.

"Yes, it is," Xander told her. "Sileya's off the rotation until her ankle heals. Go muck out the horses' stalls."

Miri pouted but she walked out the back door so she could go see who was in the fields first.

Oz coughed, looking at his youngest daughters. "Would one of you go check on William?" Tigger nodded and jumped up to go find him.

"You named your son after Spike?" Kaiya guessed.

"He was there while William was being carried," Xander said with a one-shouldered shrug. "He's named after a priest we know too, just for balance." He looked up at her. "How many other kids have you watched?"

"I have younger siblings," she said helpfully.

Homer walked in to get the usual two glasses of juice to carry back upstairs while Sileya got ready for the day. "Hey," he said, nodding at the new person at the table. "What's up, Xander?"

"Spike's back and he brought Wesley with him; Wes has been having probs feeding and he attacked Angel. Killed him I think." He shuddered for a second. "And this is Kaiya, she's the new nanny."

Homer put down the glasses and came over to give the tiny woman a hug. "Thank you," he whispered, misting up. "Bless you." He stepped back and calmed himself, getting his and his girlfriend's juice to bring up to her.

A few minutes later, and Xander had checked his watch, Sileya came running down the stairs and gave Kaiya a hug too. "Oh, thank God," she sighed. "Please, try and keep Arwynn out of our room too." She smiled at Xander, who was still staring at his watch. "I'm not predictable," she snorted, going back upstairs.

"Sports bras are not shirts," Oz called after her.

"I know," Sileya called back. "Going to fix that now."

"As you can see, the Slayer has been doing a lot of the emergency babysitting," Oz said dryly.

"That was the Slayer?" Kaiya asked, going a little pale. "Spike didn't say he was hanging out with such a risky crowd." She kneaded her thighs with her hands.

"It's okay," Xander said quietly, sipping his juice. "I've taught her that there's a difference between the average demon and the ones who go on rampages and eat the town."

"*You're* a Watcher?" she asked, still in shock.

"Newly minted version," Xander said happily. "Oh, so was Wes, the vampire tied upstairs."

Oz patted her on the arm. "Homer's a halfie," he told her. "Relax."

That did relax her. "Okay," she said after a few seconds, stopping her kneading. "I can deal with that. As long as I'm safe."

"You're safe as long as the kids stay unharmed," Xander told her. "Not that I'm saying that you would, but ...."

"There have been days when we wanted to beat Miri ourselves," Oz overrode what Xander was going to say.

"I understand that he doesn't trust me yet," she said, smiling at Xander. "I wouldn't trust someone Spike brought home either."

Xander nodded. "Yeah, that's kinda how we feel, but the person who house trained him did a very good job."

Kaiya nodded. "So I can tell. There's no boot prints on the walls." She smiled at Xander. "The stories I could tell you about that vampire," she sighed.

"We knew him when he was trying to fight off the thrall spell Willow put on him," Xander told her.

Kaiya's mouth fell open. "Really?"

He nodded. "We even knew him when Angel turned him into a dog so he wouldn't bite Willow while she was pregnant."

"Oh, that I wanted to see," she laughed. "I bet he was the worst dog. Marked everything with his scent?"

"No, he followed Miri into all sorts of trouble," Oz told her. "He was a basset hound."

She started to laugh harder. "Pictures?" she gasped.

"A few," Xander admitted. "Miri insisted we get pictures of her and the Spike dog."

"Especially when she managed to get paint all over both of them," Oz noted.

"True," Xander agreed. He shook himself and stood up, taking his dishes over to the sink. "Okay, Blair, I want you to play nicely with her. I'm going to be working on the porch all morning," he said, shifting his cane over to his other hand. "If you want, you can come help me with William."

Blair grinned at him, ducking her head and pointing at Kaiya. "Want to talk to her."

"Okay," Xander said with a shrug. "I'll be on the front porch," he said, pointing. "After I get William up."

"Let me," Oz said, hopping up to go get their son. "You go haul all your stuff to make candles out onto the porch. I'll come help."

"Okay," Xander agreed, going to do just that.

Kaiya winked at Blair. "We'll play later if you wanted to help him."

Blair's face lit up. "You no be mad?"

"No, I won't be mad. Go play with your brother if you want. I've got to meet him too."

Blair's smile got brighter and she wiggled down out of her chair and ran off, going to help her fathers. She liked her brother best.

Kaiya sighed as she picked up a box of cereal and poured a little bit into the bowl, adding some water to it. She ate it slowly, listening to the sounds of the children playing.


Xander looked up as he heard shrieking, starting to get to his feet. What he saw made him stop and watch instead. Kaiya was running around the yard with the kids, and they were chasing her. He got comfortable while he watched this game of tag, noticing that Miri was holding back a little bit. He caught her eye and nodded her up to come sit with him. She came up and plopped down in his lap, giving him a cuddle. "Tired?" he asked, kissing her on the top of the head.

"No. Just no wanted to play," she pouted. "That's for kids."

"Ah." Xander tickled her. "So's this," he told her when he had her squealing in delight. "You still like this."

"Me big," Miri told him firmly, all but stomping her foot.

"Hmm, and what games do big girls like to play?"

"Ball?" she asked, looking up at him. "We play ball?"

"Sure. Go get the ball and we'll play ball." He helped her up so she wouldn't step on his bad leg and watched as she ran inside to get the big beach ball. He even watched as she tossed it down on the grass, watching as the nanny took that over too, changing the game of tag to take-the-ball. She ran out and snatched it from the large cat and hid it behind her. "Me and daddy play," she told the cat, and her sisters, who started to cry.

"We can play with them," Xander said, sliding off the porch to come over and play. He sat in the grass and grabbed the ball, bouncing it away. "I'm the goal," he shouted at the girls as they ran after it.

"Guess you had to compensate, huh," Kaiya said as she flopped down beside him.

"Yup, but you're gonna get run over," he warned as he saw Blair kicking it back. He snorted as she scurried out of the way of the ball, which he caught and sent it off again.

Oz walked out onto the porch with William. "When you're old enough, we'll make teams," he told their son, sitting down to watch. He winced as Miri stepped on Xander's replaced knee, putting William down to go help Xander, who was now rolling around on the ground. "Babe?" he asked, stopping Xander so he could check him. "Miri, please go make sure William doesn't fall," he said, not looking anywhere else. "Did it pop?"

"Yeah," Xander groaned. "Pain."

"Okay, then I guess we're taking you to get x-rays. Not the first time," he said philosophically. He looked for Kaiya, who was hugging Blair and Tigger. "We're going to get x-rays, just in case. Miri, it's not your fault," he told her, trying to get her to stop crying.

Xander got to his feet, leaning on Oz as he walked over to give his eldest daughter a hug. "It's okay. You didn't break it, I promise." She shook her head. "I promise, it's okay."

"Me bad," she wailed.

"No, you're not bad," Oz told her, picking her up to hug between him and Xander. "See, we still love you. It was an accident. They happen at your age."

Xander took her to hold, giving her a tight hug. "It's okay, sweetie, I promise. I'll be back in a few hours and it'll all be okay again." He handed her off to Oz, and sat on the porch. "Um, Oz, I need my cane," he said, pointing at where it laid on the grass.

Oz got it for him then helped Xander up and around the house to Xander's Explorer.

Kaiya saw the sad faces and decided she should try to fix this. "How about we go make your fathers pictures?" she suggested, getting everyone into the house, except Miri, who went for the ball.


Xander limped back into the house, giving Spike a grim look. "Dislocated. How's Miri?"

"Quiet. She's been sleeping on the couch until you got back." He pointed at the chairs around the table. "Sit."

Xander shook his head. "I'm gonna go wake up Miri and make sure she's okay." He limped into the living room, letting Oz close the kitchen door.

"He's really fine?" Spike asked.

"Yeah. The doctors were kinda astonished that it happened, 'cause it's not supposed to, but they fixed it pretty quickly with a small incision and some local anesthesia. He's fine. Just no long baths for a few weeks." He sat down at the dining room table. "How did the nanny do?"

"Good. She woke me up right after you left, she didn't think Xander trusted her yet."

"Nope, not yet. He worried about it all the way to hospital." Oz stood up. "How's Wes?" he asked as he pulled out a soda.

"Doin' better," Spike admitted. "The feeding tube was brilliant. He's eatin' but not too much. Oh, and I've got to get more blood tonight. He's eaten the whole stash."

Oz pulled out his keys and handed one of them to the vampire. "Here. That's for the front door." He waved. "I'm gonna go check on the kids."

"Kaiya laid down and purred them to sleep," Spike called after him. "She's trapped in on your bed."

"Okay," Oz sighed, going up to see if he could free her. He really wanted a nap before he changed tonight.


Xander looked up as the door opened, giving Spike a grin. "Hey, get enough?"

"Hopefully for a few days. Did Doyle call?"

"Faith did. She said they interred Angel in a nice vase for you." He pointed at the couch. "Why couldn't you just feed him?"

"Because it's the most painful thing any vampire can do to another," Spike told him, putting the cooler of blood between his feet. "What Wes did was to drain him down to the cellular level. It created such a vacuum that all Angel could have felt was pain. And he asked me to never let that happen to him." He ran his fingers through his hair. "It's what the pouf wanted, so that's what I told them." He shrugged and looked at the monitors. "How's Oz?"

"Scenting his cage. He's run past the door a few times, testing it, but it's still holding. He might have to fix it tomorrow though."

"Been saying you needed a thicker door," Spike reminded him as he walked up to their bedroom, putting the blood into the little refrigerator Xander had let them have. "Wes, wakey wakey," he called, sticking a bag on the end of the feeding tube.

"Spike?" Wesley asked, blinking up at him. "Someone was here earlier. I smelled them."

"Who? Rupert?"

Wesley shook his head. "Not him. But someone who wasn't very happy. It smelled more like a triumph scent."

"Then we'll watch for the hatchet," Spike told him, starting the blood flowing. "Now then, you've got to learn how to hunt, Wesley." The younger vampire shook his head. "Yes, I won't coddle you like Angel did." He slapped Wesley when he saw the tears start again. "Stop it now or I'm gonna put your foot outside in the sunlight," he threatened. "There's no reason for your mind to be dancin' with the demon that way. You can control them both." He sat on the side of the bed and brushed across the cheek he had just hit. "You will learn how to hunt, even if you don't like it. I won't have you needin' a tube the rest of your unlife, which had better be longer'n mine."

Wesley swallowed. "If you say so, Spike." He curled as much as he could against Spike's side. "Are you my sire now?"

"If you want," Spike agreed, thinking quickly about the responsibilities he'd have to this tortured soul. He snorted after a few seconds. "It'll almost be like havin' the souled pouf as my childe," he said finally. He leaned down to brush some of Wesley's hair off his face. "You ready to eat yet?"

"Not really," Wesley said, looking up at him. "I just ate a bit ago."

Spike untied him and stood up, nodding outside. "Come on, you need practice sneaking around." He led the way out of the house, deftly avoiding Arwynn and Miri on their nightly foray out into the barn. They spent the night sneaking around the barn and the horses, playing tag under the moon.


Xander walked into Wesley's back as he walked down for breakfast, catching himself before he knocked both of them over. "Hey," he said, giving the vampire a hug. "Spike let you out or did you pull a scout maneuver?"

"Spike had me running around outside last night," Wesley said with a blush. "I'm not sure if I want to enjoy what happened or not."

"Wes, it's part of who you are now," Xander told him, patting him on the chest. "Accept it, you're not the mild mannered Watcher anymore. Now, you're a cool and collected vampire who's going to be watching over our great-grandchildren." He walked around him, continuing on his trek to the kitchen. "I'll talk to you in a few if you want," he called back. "I've got to go regulate breakfast."

"Of course," Wesley said, smiling at his back. He walked out to where Spike was crashed in front of the TV. "What are you watching?" he asked in horror.

"The kids got me hooked on the bloody piece of fluffy bait," Spike muttered. "Can't help myself. It's torture, but it's addictive and I can't stop watching it."

Wesley sat on the arm of the couch to watch the purple dinosaur and shuddered. "You're much stronger than I am," he whispered, getting up so he could get away from that singing torturer. He wandered back into the kitchen, making sure to stay away from the east-facing windows. "So," he said, hugging Miri. "Why were you down in the paddock last night."

"Because chaining her to the bed is against the law," Xander said dryly. He finished off his toast and looked at his girls. "What are we doing today?"

"Shopping?" Tigger asked with a devilish twinkle in her eyes.

"For a goal set," Oz said as he walked in, giving Xander a hug. Miri looked up at him, her eyes big and sad. "No, not because of yesterday, but Daddy Xander won't be able to be the goal for a few weeks. So we want to get you three a net to kick the ball into."

"Maybe we'll even find some other lawn games," Xander suggested, making Blair smile at him. "Maybe even a lawn hockey game or something."

"Football?" Miri asked. "Like Daddy Giles wanted us to learn."

"Sure, we can look for a soccer set," Oz assured her. "We'll go splurge on toys today." Oz looked at Kaiya. "Did you want to come too? Maybe have some input into what you're going to be playing for the next few months?"

She shrugged, glancing at Xander, who shrugged. "I wouldn't mind," she admitted. "There's always something I can pick up at Walmart."

Xander cleared his throat. "Do we need to arrange for some sand or...." his voice trailed off and he shrugged again.

"I'm fine," she said with a mischievous grin. "But I wouldn't mind having a big sand box. Scratching in it can be fun." She looked out the window. "Car," she said, pointing.

Oz looked out, waiting to see who got out. "Girls, upstairs," Oz told them quietly, walking out to meet the man who was giving them fits over not being allowed to buy the store. "Get off our land," he called as he got to the end of the porch. He leaned against the porch support, giving the Sheriff with him a bland look. "You needed something with the holy bigot?"

"No, we've had reports of a large wild animal out this way and he's a hunter," the Sheriff said, looking into the house. "Have you seen anything like that?"

"Oh, yeah," Oz snorted. He pointed at the horses. "They'd be so calm if that sort of animal was around here. Most of them don't even like squirrels."

"Squirrels bad," Tigger said from the doorway.

"I thought I said go upstairs," Oz said, not looking back at her.

"Sir, we'd like permission to search your land for the animal," the Sheriff said. "May we?"

Oz shook his head. "Nope. If there's an animal back there, we'll deal with it." Oz shifted, crossing his feet. "Most of us in this house have had to learn how to hunt at one time or another. A big animal won't bother us to tranq and call you." He looked at the reverend. "Get him off our land, Sheriff, before something bad happens to him. I don't want his message of filth around my children." He walked back inside and closed the inner door.

Xander walked out a few minutes later, a tranq rifle over his arm in the correct unloaded position. "We can handle a wild animal," he said calmly.

"With your injury?" the reverend snorted. "You can barely walk." Before he could start laughing again, the tranq rifle was loaded and pointed at him. "Whoa now, boy, there's no need to get violent."

"I believe my lover made our position about him being anywhere near our home very clear," Xander said calmly. "Get him off our land, Sheriff, or carry him back to town unconscious. Your call." The reverend backed away from him, heading for the car.

The Sheriff watched him go, then turned back to Xander. "You sure you can handle that thing?"

Xander nodded. "I have in the past. Just ask the local cops. Some of them have seen me do it before when our oldest daughter was threatened."

The Sheriff nodded. "Okay. But if you see it, I need to know. My people take care of that."

"Deal," Xander agreed. "But I still haven't seen anything like that. Our horses were out all last night and they're fine."

"Rose is frothy," Oz said from the house. "She spooked during the night."

"Okay, so all but one of our horses are fine," Xander said with a faint smile. He pointed her out, a dappled gray mare. "That's Rose."

"Yeah, I recognized her. My daughter used to take lessons from Mr. Anderson's wife." He smiled at the young man. "You've done a good job with them. How's the local boy's horse?"

"That would be Caliber," Xander said, pointing at the youngest horse in the paddock. "We're fine too. She's very nice to the kids, kinda playful."

"You gonna break her for the local boy?"

"Not sure how to yet," Xander said with a shrug. "We're kinda new to that end of it. We all enjoy riding and having the horses, but I don't know how to break one."

"Easy, you teach it to trust you and that the saddles aren't bad," the Sheriff said with a smile, nodding back towards town. "There's a horse breeder in town, you might talk to them about who they use. I'm sure the local cop that owns her would love to be able to ride too."

"He hasn't even been out here since he boarded Caliber with us," Xander snorted.

"Ah. His problem, I guess." The Sheriff looked back at his car then at Xander. "What's the beef between you two?"

"We wouldn't sell the remains of the store that we used to run to his group. Plus, and this is good, he doesn't like mine and Oz's relationship or that we have children. So he's using that against us right now as pressure."

"Ah." The Sheriff nodded. "Some of us like you just the way you are. You're obviously happy. Oh, well, call us if you see that animal." He turned and walked back to his car, getting in and backing down the driveway.

"Good job," Oz said as Xander walked into the house, handing the tranq rifle off to Kaiya to be unloaded. He gave his lover a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Think it was me?"

"No, I think it was me," Kaiya said, loading the tranquilizer dart into the specially padded case for them. She looked at them. "Someone probably saw me playing with the kids yesterday."

Oz shook his head. "You're still safe. We won't turn you in." He walked over to the table and sat down. "Wes did say something about smelling someone yesterday when I saw him on my trip to bring Miri back to the house," he noted.

"Wes?" Xander called, clumping toward the living room, "did you smell that same person just now?" He raised one eyebrow when he saw what the vampires were watching. "At least Teletubbies are better than Barney," he said. "Can't stand Barney."

"He's sublime torture," Wesley said absently, watching the rerun of the video clip. "This really is a fascinating look at a child's fantasy world." Xander shoved him lightly. "What?" he asked, looking up.

"Did you smell that person from yesterday again, just now?" Wesley nodded. "Cool, then it's the reverend that's trying to give us crap. Wonderful. Oz?" he called as he headed back that way. "It was him."

"Wonderful," Oz said dryly, drawing the word out. He took a bite of cereal and shrugged. "So we get him some other way."

Wesley walked in and sat down at the table again. "If I may? There might be something that he's hiding that he doesn't want people to know, especially not his flock." He glanced at the kids and Oz shrugged. "I did smell drugs on him. Not a lot, but some."

"Hey, even better, he's a junkie," Xander sighed, sitting down at the end of the table. "Okay, so we do what?"

"For now, we leave it alone," Oz told him, reaching over to touch his hand. "If he tries to follow this line of attack, his next thing will be to notify social services that we have children and aren't allowing the Sheriff to search for a wild animal. And the Social Worker that's got our case file understands about Miri so maybe she'll understand about this load of crap too." He looked over at Kaiya, who was trying to seem nonchalant as she puttered around the kitchen. "Sit, you're not in trouble or in danger. Trust me, we've had our lover try and use the kids against us already. She knows."

Kaiya nodded and came over to sit beside Blair, against the wall. "I didn't mean to make trouble for you."

"You didn't," Oz said. "Don't worry about it. There's nothing that we can't handle."

"Trust me," Xander said grimly, "we've been turned in before because I was a herm and was raising Miri. We've been turned in because of what Miri can do. We've also been turned in by our former lover, who was trying to use William as a bargaining chip. This isn't anything compared to that." He finished off his toast and wiped his mouth. "Really, Kaiya, if you feel comfy chasing the kids around in cat form, then hey, have fun. It'll make them nap." He gave her a smile. "Just ask Spike if that's going to matter to us."

"Him," she snorted, but she was smiling. "Trying to get a straight story out of him is worse than having to pluck my tail."

"Spike tells good stories," Miri said, glaring at her. "No be mean to my Spike."

"She's not, she's just picking on him," Oz told her. "Friends can do that sometimes."

"Na-uh. You said picking on people was bad."

Kaiya rolled her eyes. "There's a different rule about that for adults," she told Miri. "When it's between friends and meant in friendship, then it's okay." She looked at Xander. "When do I get them today?"

"While I go muck out the stables," Xander told her. "Then William and I are going riding together. And then we're all going shopping."

"Okay." She nodded. "Good deal for me. Miri, we've got to do something about that playroom. All the boards on the walls are bare. Want to help me decorate?"

"Daddy decorates," she said stiffly.

"I think she meant pictures and stuff," Xander told her. "That's why I put up those dry erase boards for you guys, so you could draw on the walls and not get in trouble."

Miri nodded. "Okay, we'll draw on the walls in there. But no let William, he not draw pretty, he just scribbles."

"Baby scribbles can be cute," Oz told her. "We'll give him one section, okay?" She nodded reluctantly. "Cool. Now finish your breakfast and go play."

"Yes, daddy," Miri sighed, finishing her juice. She got up and ran for the playroom, wanting to pick out her spot to draw on first.

Kaiya winked at Oz. "You're very handy with cranky people."

"I try," he said, smiling at her. "Xander's better."

"Yup, I am the all-time champion of dealing with a cranky Miri. I've had to do it on many occasions, even during a hostage situation at a museum." He finished off his coffee and leaned back.

"Never let Xander talk you into a roadtrip," Oz said dryly. "He tends to get into trouble."

"Only a little," Xander said with a grin. Oz just stared at him. "It was all meant to get me back here. Just think if I had moved away for a little while."

"You'd still be in prison and insisting that you weren't really the guy they were looking for," Oz said, saluting him with his coffeecup. "Just like you why were actually arrested."

"Point," Xander conceded. "That was kinda freaky." He shrugged it off and got up, going to check the cabinets for food that they needed. After all, Super Walmart was where they went grocery shopping too, might as well do it all in one trip this time.


Over dinner that night, Xander dropped his fork and looked at Oz, who had been keeping to himself since Giles had left; he couldn't take it anymore, the whole being left to cope by himself part. "Oz?" he asked quietly, getting his attention. "Are you leaving with him?" Oz started to choke but he got it under control. He opened his mouth but Xander held up a hand. "No, I need to know. You and I are great friends, but you never touch me. We make love every five months or so. When we just starting out, you were closer to him, and I realize that you've taken my side recently, but you've been so upset since he left and I wanted to know if you were thinking about following him." He finished by looking down at his plate. "I really don't want to lose you, but I need to know if you're thinking about leaving. I don't think I could take a surprise move on your part."

Oz reached over to touch the back of Xander's hand. "I have no intention of leaving you and the kids," he told him earnestly. "I know we still have stuff to work out, Xander, and I'm sorry you're feeling ignored."

"I'm not," Xander protested. "This is the way it's always been between us." He looked up. "We've never really been more than great friends that sleep together twice or so a year. It's just that now, I have to wonder if you're missing Rupert and you want to follow him. You been more upset over this split than I have it seems."

"I'm more upset that I haven't heard anything about him yet," Oz told him. "Not that he left, that we don't know where he is. I do still care for him." Xander nodded. "But I don't want him back. What he was doing wasn't good for any of us. Especially not you and the kids."

"So you're not staying out of obligation?"

"No, no obligation. If it was something like that and I really wanted to leave, I would and ask for visitation." Xander looked down again. "This has nothing to do with you," Oz assured him. "Yeah, we hardly ever get more than cuddles, but that's just the way we are."

"That's the way you are," Xander said quietly. "I'd like to have a closer relationship, Oz. Which is what's making me wonder." He got his hand free and stood up. "I've decided I'm not hungry. You finish the leftovers for me." He walked out, heading to his office to go think in private. Oz still didn't come in there without his permission. He sat down and put his feet up, leaning his head back so he could watch the horses play in the field. "This wouldn't be so hard if you pretended to like me," he whispered. He shook himself. "I've got to get myself back on solid footing," he muttered. "I've got to be more secure or this will all fall apart." He looked down at his leg. "If you'd just cooperate once again, we'd all be in good shape and I really could start school in a few weeks. I just need a little more work and everything might be okay. I'll get to go back to my life and maybe I won't mind so much being ignored by Oz." He closed his eyes. "I hate being dependant," he reminded himself.

Outside the door Oz put his hand down. He had to prove to Xander that he wasn't going to leave. Because when he stopped to look at it, he could see what Xander did, and it was scary how close they weren't.