Instinct Makes For Uncomfy Times.

Wesley picked up the phone and dialed it slowly, trying hard to keep his shaking down. "Spike?" he whispered, taking it out onto the porch. "No, I can't," he said. "I hunted. Yes, I *killed* someone. Because they were bothering the family!" He looked out at the drained body, then shuddered, turning away from it. "I need to know what to do now." He sighed and sat down. "I caught him sneaking around the farm. It's that horrid reverend. He had a rifle and was going after Kaiya, but he saw Miriam and aimed at her. No, I attacked him when I saw that. They're both fine. His gun went off but it went off into the ground and I think we were far enough away from the house so the boys don't know yet." He held his forehead. "No, Spike, I don't know what to do. Angel never taught me to hunt." He glanced around. "I could drag it somewhere. What about forensic evidence? Surely the boys would be the first ones they'd look at, they're known to be at war with his group." He smiled slightly. "Trust me, if I could incinerate the body and turn it to dust, I would, but I can't do that, Spike. Not without bringing attention to myself." He smiled even more. "Yes, Spike, please. Sire, please," he begged, his smile falling away. "I've *never* done this before."

"And you never will again," Oz whispered from beside him, taking the phone when Wesley dropped it. "Spike, me, get up here and help him." He hung up and tossed the phone down, sitting beside Wesley. "You okay?" he asked finally.

"I feel very proud on one level, but horrified at myself on another. It was so easy," he said, looking down at the body. "He was threatening your family and I had to do something."

"Okay," Oz agreed. He looked out as Kaiya trotted up to the house. "Avoid any blood," he told her.

She hopped up onto the porch at the other end, looking down at him. "What happened to him?" She looked at Wesley when he raised a hand. "Yes?"

"He happened to him. He was going to shoot you or Miri." Oz stood up. "Spike's coming. Just remember, blood is the easiest found substance on the earth according to the cops, and not even Sunnydale will ignore this one." He walked into the house, slamming the door.

"Oh, you might be surprised," the Sheriff said as he walked around the house, his gun out. "What are you?" he asked Kaiya. She turned back into her human form. "And you?" he asked Wesley, who changed into his feeding face. "All right. Now what?"

"Now we wait for my sire to get here," Wesley said calmly. "He'll know what to do." He looked at the man and chanted a few quiet words, reaching out to touch him on the forehead. "Forget," he told him, then looked him in the eyes. "Leave this place. Nothing happened here. Nothing ever does unless the family calls you." The Sheriff nodded and walked away, not even seeing the body he had to step over. Wesley sat back, more comfortable now. "There, that might do it," he told Kaiya, who was smiling at him. "Are you all right?"

"Fine," she agreed, coming over to sit next to him. She leaned against his arm. "You really killed him to protect me?"

"And Miriam." He took her hand to hold. "I raised Miriam for her first month of life."

"Oh." She looked up at him.

"But I would have done the same if he hadn't threatened her." He looked down at her and smiled. He liked this young demon.

They were still staring at each other when Spike showed up about an hour later. He cleared his throat. "At least it's the normal version of events for you two," he snorted. He hopped down to look at the body. "Okay, let's get him somewhere to dump." He nodded Wesley down, looking at his bloody clothes. "You're still a messy eater."

"He struggled, I only got the outside of his artery." He hopped down to help lift the body and take it around to Spike's car. "Where are we taking him?"

"To a chopper I know," Spike said calmly. "Get paid some quid for this one. Not gone too long." He threw the body into his open trunk, watching as the car bounced. He slammed the trunk. "There, get in. I'll teach you how to do this too. Bloody sire should have done this, even if he didn't want you to hunt. Comes in bloody handy at times."

"Angel knew I wouldn't be able to hunt," Wesley reminded him quietly. "I only did it this time because this family was in mortal danger. He was going to shoot Miriam." Spike's face clouded up. "Did I do the right thing?"

"Hell yes!" Spike said firmly. "Get in. Let's get this done." He got in and started the engine, waiting on Wesley to get in. They pulled away with a squeal of tires.

Back on the porch, Oz walked out and handed Kaiya a beaker of steaming liquid. "Pour this on the blood. It eats it. Xander found it in the Watcher's Manual." He let her do it, going back to check on his kids again.

She hopped down and walked over to where the blood was, careful not to step in any as she poured it all over where the body had sat. She found a small trail of blood and followed it, dropping some of the solution every few inches to make sure she got all of it.


Xander hopped out to meet the Sheriff the next morning, not letting on that he knew anything. "Hey, did you ever catch that animal?" he asked jovially.

"No, we didn't." He scratched his eyebrow as he walked up the few stairs. "Mr. Harris, I think we need to have a talk. I know that your... friend tried to protect me from some knowledge last night but I still remember." He sat down on the porch swing and patted the area beside him. "Come sit and explain a few things to me."

"Let me get a book, it might go easier that way," Xander said, hopping back into the house. He came back out with the book he had made for the girls to explain the Hellmouth to them. "It's for my kids, but it works."

The Sheriff flipped through it, occasionally blanching a bit, but he kept going all the way through. "This isn't a fairy tale?"

"Nope," Xander said dryly. "Not a fairy tale. I'm actually training the girl who protects the humans."

"Is she the cat?"

"No, she's the dark haired, beautiful sister of mine." He smiled as she glared at him through the open door. "Who is still not happy with mornings."

"You try being woken up by Spike's car."

"Hey, it was better than being woken up by a gunshot," he told her. She walked back over to look at him. "That minister idiot came back. He was going to shoot Kaiya then saw Miri. Wes ate him."

"Way to go Wes," she said.

"Aren't you rooting for the wrong side?" the Sheriff asked.

"Not when he saved my family some major grief," Sileya said with a shrug. "I would have personally slain him myself if I had been there. Same as everyone in this house would." She went back to making herself some breakfast. "Think Wes would like some tea?" she called.

"Sure, if he's up," Xander called back. "If not, Spike might if he came back last night."

"Forgot he's British," floated out through the open door.

Xander shrugged and took his book back, putting it down on the porch. "If you ask some of the local cops, they've been ignoring this stuff for years."

"Oh." The Sheriff scrubbed his face, trying to take the tiredness away. "What do I do when the body shows up?"

"What body?" Wesley said from the door, safely out of the sun. He looked down at the book, then at the Sheriff. "I tried to keep that from him."

"It lasted for a few hours, but no longer," he said with a weak smile. "Thanks though. I'd like to not have this headache now."

"These people are the protectors. I owe them my life," Wesley said. "I will protect them, even if only because I used to be one of them." The Sheriff looked stunned. "People like them are at the greatest risk of being turned, if only to thumb your nose at the others like them." He walked away, taking the book Xander tossed at him. "Xander, the children are eating with me."

"Cool. I'll be in in a few minutes." He looked at the Sheriff. "I don't know what to tell you, but I don't know what happened last night other than what I've been told." He shrugged and stood up, picking up his crutches to lean on. "Whatever you want to do, it's all up to you now."

"What about the body?"

"We took care of that problem," Wesley called.

"He took care of that problem," Xander said with a shrug. "Which is nice, usually vampires leave their meals lying in alleys for the local cops to find."

"Which I really don't want to happen," the Sheriff sighed, standing up himself. "Thank you for telling me. I'm going to have to consider what to do." He walked off, going for his car.

Xander hopped back inside. He leaned down to give Wesley a hug, whispering in his ear. The vampire nodded. "But I think it's gonna be okay," he said sitting down in his spot. "Anyway, it could be worse. No one's here yet to drag you out into the sunlight."

Wesley snorted. "True. If that happens, please, use a crossbow. I hear it's a much nicer demise."

"Deal," Oz said as he walked in. "The memory spell not work?"

"Not for long enough," Xander said. "The Sheriff's deciding what to do right now."

"Ah." Oz nodded, sitting down next to his lover. "That works for me." He looked at Wesley. "Is Spike upstairs?"

"No, he's went back to LA, it seems Angel left him the agency. Presently, someone believes that Angel's still around and wants to kill him most desperately." Wesley finished buttering some toast for Miriam and handed it over. "There, try that," he said, looking at her. "You have to eat."

"Want Spike," she said sullenly. She looked up at her fathers. "Want him as the third daddy, not Unclie Wesley."

Oz shook his head. "We've already discussed this and Wesley's not becoming your new third father either. You're not getting a new third father." He sat down at the table and looked at his oldest daughter. "You're just gonna have to cope with only having two fathers, Miri. Quit asking for one."

"But we need a third daddy," Miri tried. "The third one can stay home with us." She glared at Kaiya, who she didn't like because she made fun of her Spike.

Xander sighed as he looked at his daughter. "Miri, you've got two, that's what most kids have. You can have visitation with Daddy Rupert, but we're not getting you a third daddy. Please, quit asking. We don't need this sort of stress right now."

"Yes, sir," she said, looking down at her plate. "Me be excused?"

"Not until you eat something," Oz told her, reaching over to pat her on the head. "Miri, I know that you miss having a third father, it meant that you could get more attention, but it's not going to happen. We're staying together this way, we're not going to add anyone else. Okay?" She looked at him and shook her head. "How about we discuss this later, just you and I?" She nodded. "Thank you. Now eat. Uncle Wesley was nice enough to make you toast."

She took a bite of the toast and chewed slowly. "What's visitation?" she asked.

"That's where you get to spend time with Daddy Rupert, but not live with him," Xander told her calmly. "Would that be okay?"

"He not take us?" she asked quietly, glancing at Blair, who was the only other child up yet.

"No, he won't," Oz told her. "If he ever tried it, Daddies would come hunt him down and take you all back, but I'm very sure he won't." He looked at Xander when he heard the quiet mutter of, 'he wouldn't want the responsibility for them'. "He won't ever do it again," Oz reminded him, taking his hand. "Okay, Miri?" She nodded. "Do you have any more questions?"

"He say it was about eating."

"It might be," Oz agreed. "He might take care of you over a weekend, or for an afternoon, and he'd be expected to feed you."

"You're sure?" she asked.

"I'm absolutely sure," Oz said, giving her a light smile. "He will not steal you and he will feed you and play with you. That's what visitation is, a chance for a daddy to play with the children they don't get to live with."

"Where he live now?" Blair asked. "Far away?"

"I think he's in town," Xander told her. "We'll ask when he shows up on Sunday." He grinned at her. "You can even shown him how much you've grown in the last few months."

"Me will," she said, going back to her breakfast. She held up a piece of toast. "Honey, please, Unclie Wesley?" She gave him a begging smile and he immediately took the toast and slathered honey on it for her, giving it back to her as soon as he was done. "Thank you." She smiled triumphantly at her sister. "I like honey."

"It's a good sugar," Oz told her, patting her on the head. "Finish eating and go check on Tigger."

"She sleepies," Miri said, looking up. A scream floated down. "She up."

Xander glared at his daughter. "That wasn't nice, go apologize for whatever you did to her."

"Me tickle her feetsies," Miri pouted. "Not be bad."

"The point is, Miriam," Wesley said sternly, "that you weren't supposed to use your powers that way."

"Oh." She shrugged. "Sorry," she called.

"That wasn't good enough, go apologize to her," Oz said, watching as she huffed about it but got up to do what she was told. "Nice dad act," he told Wesley.

"I hope you didn't mind."

"Nope, she'll take that from you. She argues with us about it when we tell her not to use her powers." Xander looked over at Oz. "Do I have to muck the stable today?"

"I doubt you can do that on crutches," Oz pointed out. "I'll do it. Or Miri can do it for punishment." He shrugged. "We'll figure it out." He looked at his lover. "Can we talk today? You leveled a question at me and I'd like to talk to you about it." He saw the pain flare in Xander's eyes and shook his head. "Good talking."

"Okay. We'll go lock ourselves in our room later and talk," Xander said, smiling again.

"Or we could use the porch," Oz suggested. "We haven't used it in a few months."

"Deal," Xander agreed. "I'd like some sun." He stood up and grabbed his crutches. "Now?"

"Yup. Let me make a plate of breakfast for us. You head up and wait on me." He waited until Xander was gone to look at Wesley. "Have Kaiya keep the kids in the playroom or somewhere they can't overhear. We've got some real relationship stuff to deal with." He made a plate quickly, picking out things that they both liked to bring up to his lover. He stopped to grab the pitcher of cranberry juice, bringing it up the stairs with him. They both had water glasses in the bedroom, it'd be okay with just this. He walked out onto the porch and sat everything down on the table, noticing that Xander had brought their glasses out already. "Want anything else?" he asked before he sat down.

"Just to talk," Xander told him softly, watching Oz be nervous. For the first time since he'd met Oz, he could tell he didn't know what to do, that he wasn't confident about anything that was going to happen. He tapped on the table, bringing Oz back to focus on him. "Sit, we're still good."

Oz sat down and looked at his lover, pouring them some juice so he could put the pitcher on the floor. "So?" he asked.

"I wanted to know if you had made a decision," Xander said quietly.

"I thought I had showed you that I was staying," Oz said, sipping his juice. He needed something in his hands, something he could focus on when it got to be too much. "That's why I gave you the flower."

Xander looked a little shocked. "Wow. You know, that's the first flower anyone's ever given me?" Oz looked up at him and frowned. "Really, if there was another one, I don't remember it."

"No, it'd be the first real flower you've gotten from me. I got you a little 'get well' dish of them while you were in the hospital, but I guess that doesn't count."

"I meant in the romantic, just a flower, sense," Xander said, giving him a grin but looking away. "Oz, I'm confused."

"I noticed, but then again, so am I." Oz looked over at him. "You really want a closer relationship, right?" Xander nodded. "Like what Willow and I used to have?" He tried not to grimace when he said her name but he knew the distaste for what she had done showed when Xander leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Xander, what exactly do you want from me? Be more supportive? More amorous?"

"I'd just like us to be closer. More of lovers than just friends who happen to sleep and have children together." Xander looked down at the plate of breakfast and pushed it out of the way, prying one of Oz's hands off his juice glass to hold. "I'd like us to have what you and Giles started out with, Oz, that's all. A nice, close, relationship where you don't have to plan to have sex."

"I'm sorry I haven't been..." Oz started but Xander squeezed his hand to make him stop. "Not what you wanted to hear?" he asked, looking up.

"No, I want to hear the *truth*, Oz. Why don't you like touching me?" He knew he sounded a lot whiny with that statement, but with as many times as he had said it throughout the course of his relationship, he was seriously starting to wonder if it was something wrong with him.

"I like touching you," Oz countered, squeezing Xander's hand back. "We never seem to do anything about it. Maybe a little planning might be okay. Especially with having a nanny now." He saw the glance downstairs and shook his head, bringing Xander's attention back to him. "She's not going to hurt them. She hasn't yet and Miri's been trying to provoke her."

"Everyone has a breaking point," Xander reminded him.

"True. I think she'll hiss at them instead of hitting them though." He squeezed Xander's hand again. "I'm not leaving, not unless you want me to leave, but I'm not sure what you want from me here, Xander. I'm not the most spontaneous guy sometimes, but I am here."

"Yeah, you're here," Xander sighed, sitting back and pulling his hand free. "Which is great and all, but I'd like you to be with me, not just here. Here as a parent is one thing," he said quickly, going on before Oz could say anything, "but here as my lover and as my partner is another. Being here is good, I like you being here, but I'd also like more than a friend that I snuggle up to at night. I'm only twenty-five, Oz. I want to have a relationship that does fluttery things to my heart. I want to have a lover that likes to enjoy my body at regular intervals that are less than five months apart. I'd really like it if you talked to me when things weren't going right in your life instead of hiding them from me because you think I'm so fragile."

"I don't," Oz told him. "I didn't tell you about the crap at law school because I wanted to handle it, not to have to burden you while you were in the hospital."

"Oz, I really could have used a distraction then," Xander reminded him. "Lying in that bed for months on end with nothing to do but play computer games started to drive me insane. A little distraction, even with something bad, would have been nice back then. Even now, it'd be nice to hear what's going on with your schooling. You never come home and tell me about your projects, but you listen to what's going on with mine."

"I thought that's what you wanted," Oz said weakly. He knew this was a weak argument, Blair, their therapist, had warned him of this when he had called him a few weeks back for advice. "I don't want you to have to worry about whether or not I'm going to graduate."

"Oz, I love you, I'm supposed to worry about those things."

"Point," Oz conceded. He felt a little lighter as the word came out of his mouth. "You really want to know?" he asked, glancing at Xander, who nodded. "My Networks teacher thinks I'm odd in the bad way. My Programming teacher has no use for former hackers or for musicians. And my Quantum Physics teacher would laugh if you asked him about me and pull out a seating chart. To top it all off, I'm not so sure that I'm really cut out for Grad School." Now, he felt much lighter, unburdening those stresses was apparently good for both of them.

"And what do you want to do instead?" Xander asked quietly. "Start somewhere like the Bronze and work with local musicians like you used to be?"

Oz brightened up. "Yeah, I'd love to do something like that. Or maybe a bookstore, a real one."

"Or you could do both," Xander said with a grin. "Have a back room for parties, a mini club?"

"Maybe," Oz agreed, "but doing it in this town wouldn't be worth it. We'd never make money."

"The college is here," Xander pointed out. "Or there's the next town, where the mall is. It's bigger. Maybe put it out by the mall?"

"But what do I really know about running a business?" Oz asked him. "I have a manager that runs the porn stores. I have no daily experience with running something."

"Besides a household," Xander said, grinning at him when he looked shocked. "Yup, you've got experience with one of those. And you could always *ask* your store manager to help you, or just to give you lessons, do a little bit of planning for the future."

"Yeah, I could," Oz said, relaxing. "I'll have to think about that."

"You know, this is the first time I think you've needed validation from me," he said quietly. "You're always the calm and collected one."

"I try," Oz admitted. "It's never really enough though. I do need you to tell me that I'm doing a good job sometimes." He shook himself. "Deja-vu, mirrored."

"I remember," Xander said with a grin. "I *can* do that, but you're going to have to tell me when you need it. Or even just spring an idea on me."

"That I can do," Oz admitted. "Outright asking for it seems needy to me."

"Hey, I know needy," Xander pointed out.

"Yup. What about you?" Oz asked. "Is this making you a little more secure?"

"Some," Xander admitted. "I've still got some concerns though. I like our level of friendship, but I really could use some intimacy, even if it's a simple cuddle on the couch at night after the kids have gone to bed."

"I'm sorry I haven't been giving that to you," Oz told him, leaning forward, meeting Xander halfway for a kiss. "Would you like to spend some cuddle and talking time today?"

"Yeah, I'd like that," Xander said, grinning again. "We can do some out here if you want."

"I'd like," Oz agreed. He picked up a piece of toast and fed it to his lover. "I've always been more of a show than tell guy, Xander, sometimes you've got to remind me, especially when I'm overloaded."

"Hey, showing I can handle, but a little more often would be nice."

"That's all about being overloaded with school."

"What about school?"

"I'd like to finish this semester," Oz said after considering his options. "We could live if I quit right now, but then my loans would come due within a few months and we're not secure enough to be able to do that without me having a job."

"Or me," Xander reminded him.

"No, you're finishing your schooling," Oz said quickly. "I want to see you graduate from the program." Xander looked a little relieved. "For right now, it looks like things have got to stand, unless I start to work a little more with the stores."

"Would reopening the one in town help?"

"It might," Oz said, looking out across their lands. "Maybe, I'm not sure yet. I've still got to sit down with Giles and ask if he's going to request the money for the third of the stores."

"He's coming over day after tomorrow," Xander reminded him. "We can discuss that then, while we work out a visitation agreement."

"Deal," Oz agreed. "I'll talk to him about that part of it, and you'll get to go explain visitation to the kids again."

"Okay," Xander said, picking up the piece of toast he had bitten into and holding it up for his lover. "I like this, Oz. This whole romantic thing."

"We should try to make more room for this," Oz agreed. "I kinda like this too. And the night we spent having a picnic under the stars was really nice." He took a second bite of the toast and chewed it, then kissed his lover. "What else would you like to do today?"

"Just being together would be nice."

"I was thinking about running out and getting you a belated anniversary present."

Xander grinned. "I already got one. And yours is in the bottom of my closet." He watched as Oz got up to go get it, coming back out with the wrapped present and the box that had been underneath it. "What's that?" he asked, pointing at the box.

"It was stuck to the bottom and I didn't want to rip the paper." Oz set them aside, after separating them, and opened the shoebox. "Miri's hidden bank account book," he said, putting it out on the table. "A few pictures of you as a stripper." He put those aside too, but didn't look at them. "Um, what's this?" he asked, holding it up.

Xander snatched the book and put it in his pocket. "That was my running away account. The one I kept in case I needed to escape."

"Can I see it?" Oz asked. Xander handed back the book, so he checked the account number then the last balance added, blanching. "Where did this money come from?"

"Interest," Xander admitted. "Also, from that stock sale. I put all the money directly into that account and didn't touch it. Most of the time I don't remember I have it."

"Did you claim this on your taxes?"

Xander shrugged. "I brought all the statements to the H & R Block guys and let them work it out for me. Why?" Oz showed him the balance and he whistled. "Pretty good. When was that?"

"Over a year ago," Oz told him quietly. "Xander, do you really need this account?" He closed his eyes when he didn't get an immediate answer.

"No, I don't," Xander said, grabbing Oz before he could move or flinch away from him. "It's been something that I've had for a very long time, Oz. I started that account for my roadtrip back in high school." Oz looked at him again. "Really, it's been something that I've always had. I don't want to keep it for the reasons I kept putting money into it, but I'd like to keep the account for the sentimental reasons it holds."

"You really started this back in high school?"

"Yup. It had an inactive period for a few months, but I restarted it once I started working. It's just a tradition now."

"How about we start a real running away fund," Oz suggested lightly. "For vacations?"

"We could," Xander agreed, knowing why Oz had suggested it. "I'm sorry if I upset you."

"No, you didn't. The idea that you kept it, even after Giles left, upset me. I didn't want you to have to need one of these with me."

"So, do you want to turn this into a vacation account?"

"We can. Or a trust account for college money." Oz put it back into the box, but picked out the papers on the bottom. "What's these?"

"Um, you might not want to read those," Xander said quietly, taking them from him. "That's my last will."

"How long ago did you write it?" Oz asked, looking at the clean, white paper.

"Right after we got together."

"I'm not in there, am I?"

"Um, no. I actually forgot about you," Xander admitted sheepishly. "This was when Miri was about six months old. I did include you as a parent if anything happened to me, but that was along with Giles because you guys were together."

"Ah. I'm not mad about that, but I'd like to change this soon." Xander nodded quickly. "Cool. What's the other one?"

"Oh, that?" Xander asked, opening it to make sure. "That's the twins...." He frowned and finished unfolding it to read it. "Willow did sign the twins over to only me. It's the adoption paperwork."

Oz looked at it, frowning. "She never signed her last name," he said grimly, looking up. "We've got to fix this too."

"Deal," Xander agreed. "I'm not losing them to some legal technicality."

Oz nodded. "Basically, that's what this is. She could ask for the twins back if she wanted to." He refolded it and put it with Xander's will. "What else is in here?" he asked, pulling out a small book. "Your diary?"

"My one from high school," Xander told him.

"Oh, *that* one." Oz put it aside. "Um, and this?" he asked, pulling out a key. "What's this to?"

"That is to ..." He shook his head and put it around Oz's neck. "Just wear it, Oz. It's something Willow and I did. She spelled it to show who should my heart belong to. And since it's laying down, it's you."

"Ah." Oz picked up the key to feel it, werewolves could sense magic in things, as long as it was strong and not-subtle, which an early Willow spell would have been. "No magic, Xan."

"I know." He winked. "It was one of those kiddie pranks with charms from a six-ninety-nine book out of Walden Books."

"Cool. Do you want me to keep wearing this?" Xander shrugged. "Then I'll wear it until I can go put it into the jewelry box." He dropped it and it started to wave in the air, pointing off into the trees. "Um, when I said no magic," he noted, bringing Xander's attention to him from the plate of toast, "maybe I was wrong."

"She's here," Xander muttered, getting up to go look at the woods from the end of the porch. "Willow. Come out!" he yelled, making one of the horses neigh at him. "I know you're out there, the key's pointing at you." No one came out so he went back to the table. "We need to do something quick."

"We'll go see the lawyer right now," Oz said, standing up and draining his juice. "Want to bring the toast?"

"No, we'll break it up later to feed some birds." Xander grabbed his will and the adoption papers, walking out after Oz, his crutches making a banging noise on the hollow sounding roof.

Out in the woods, Willow swore. "I forgot all about that stupid key," she muttered. "I need to get that away from them. I need Blair to fix Tara."