This House, This Family.
"So this is where you work?" Kaiya's mom said, looking around the house. "And who was she?" she asked, pointing at the girl who let her in.
"That's Sileya, the Slayer," Kaiya said quietly, dragging her mother into one of the offices. "Mom, you should have told me you were coming."
"You're working with a Slayer?" her mother asked.
"No, I'm working beside a Slayer. She was the one watching the kids before. Her and her halfie boyfriend." Her mother frowned, pursing her lips. "Just meet with them. Xander's done a very good job of making sure that Sileya can differentiate between the good of us and the rest."
"Fine, dear," she sighed. "Where are your employers?"
Kaiya sniffed the air. "Xander's office." She led the way out, smiling at the heavily pregnant woman who was leaning against a wall. "You okay?" she asked.
"Just got kicked," Sam agreed. She held out a hand. "Sam Waters-Sandburg, Blair's wife."
"Kaiya, the nanny," she said, shaking it. "This is my mom, she came to see how much trouble I was getting into."
Sam looked at Kaiya's mother and smiled. "It's not that bad of a place. We've let my daughter come up and do her job for a few weeks to encourage her not to drop out of high school. Xander and Oz are really great guys."
"We'll see," the mother said, giving her a smile. "How long before the cub's born?"
"About four more months," Sam said, rubbing across her stomach. "Kaiya, where did you stash the kids?"
"In the playroom with the blinds down. Wes is in there with them."
"Thank you. Some of those officers might get a little....rambunctious and I didn't want the kids in the way." She smiled at the mother again. "Nice meeting you. I'd better go back to my supervision." She walked out onto the porch and her husband caught her, pulling her over to the porch swing and making her sit down.
Kaiya smiled. "Blair's not only a Fed, he was the family's therapist for the longest time." She tapped on Xander's office door, nodding her mother in. "Mom, this is Xander, and Oz," she said, pointing at each one of them.
"Come to make sure we're not warping her?" Xander asked.
Kaiya's mother looked him over, noticing the cane. "Yes, I was quite worried when my daughter said she was working in a house with a Watcher and a Slayer."
"And the Slayer's halfie boyfreind, and the Watcher's husband and kids," Oz finished. "I can understand that." He looked at Xander. "Oh, Watcher mine, would you like a snack so you can show her we're okay people?"
"Sure." Xander put his foot down, letting Oz go. "Come in, sit," he offered. "I'm the Watcher in the equation." He grunted as he shifted, getting more comfortable. "Sorry, I slept on my back last night." He looked at Kaiya, then at her mother. "Has she met the kids yet?"
"Not yet. I was going to warn her first."
"Might be of the good," Xander agreed. He looked at her mother again. "So, welcome to our insanity. Homer!" he said as the boy walked past the door. Homer came back and looked in. "This is Kaiya's mom. She came up to make sure we weren't going to harm her daughter."
Homer walked in and shook her hand. "You did a really good job with her, the kids all like her a lot more than they did me." He smiled at Kaiya. "Did Sileya tell you?" She shook her head. "Blair came to us last night and asked us why we were loud like that. Miri told her it might have something to do with babies." Xander choked. "Thought you should have some warning."
Kaiya rolled her eyes. "I've already gotten that question from Miri. I told her to ask Xander. I'll watch out for the Blair though. Thanks for the warning."
"Hey, I'm one of the good guys around here." He winked at Kaiya's mom. "Anyway, what's up with the Feds?"
"Dead person came walking out of the forest and Sam 'saw' it beforehand," Xander told him, frowning at him. "Next time, send her to me please."
"Did that anyway, you guys were napping. I thought Kaiya needed a warning though." He snickered at the disgusted look Kaiya was giving him. "What? It's better than when you had to talk to William about not playing with crap."
"Point," she agreed lightly. "Can you check on Wes, make sure he's not overloaded with the four of them?"
"Sure." He walked out, heading to do that before he went to find his girlfriend.
"That's the Slayer's boyfriend?" Kaiya's mother asked.
Xander nodded. "Yup, that's Homer. He's gotten a lot better since we took him away from Willow and gave him a safe place to live." He looked at Kaiya for a moment, then back at her mother. "I don't know what I can tell you that'll make you feel better about your daughter working for us, but I promise she's as safe as she can be here. Besides her and Homie, we've got a vampire on premises also. He's a former Watcher who got turned a few years back and he's having problems with his demon."
"We're of the opinion that we're supposed to be the wall between the communities but that we don't want to attack anyone that's not harmful to the populace," Oz said as he walked in. "When did Homer get back?"
"Few minutes ago. He stopped in to say hi." He took a bite of his sandwich and looked inside, then up at his husband. "Hungry?" he asked, handing it back.
"Yeah, a little," Oz agreed, giving him a happy look. "Don't you like meatloaf sandwiches?"
"No, I'm not a big fan of meatloaf at all," Xander told him. "Who made meatloaf?"
"Sam probably. I walked in and a pan of it was sitting in the fridge." Oz sat down on the floor beside Xander and took a bite. "'Scuse me," he said after swallowing, "but I need lunch. It's been a long morning so far."
Xander reached down and ran his fingers through Oz's hair, smiling at Kaiya's mother. "At least you came now and not while we were having the problem with Giles, our other lover at one time."
"Good point," Kaiya said grimly. "I don't think that would have went over too well." She glanced at her mother. "Can I put her across from Sileya and Homer?"
"Check with Sam and Blair first," Oz said between bites.
"Yeah, if they're staying, then Sam'll need the harder mattress in that room. She can take up their usual one if they're staying."
"You don't need to," Kaiya's mother started.
"You'll never get the full feel of the house until the kids come in and wake you up for a story at dawn," Oz said, finishing off his sandwich. "Or until Spike comes barging in singing at four am."
"We've tried to housebreak him," Xander told her, giving her a grin, "but we can't get him any more housebroken than he was when he was a dog."
"I thought Spike was a vampire," she said, looking down at her daughter.
"He is," Kaiya agreed, "but Willow had ensnared him before she did that spell. His sire decided to be nice to him while she was pregnant and turn him into a dog so he didn't have to work against the desire for her blood."
"Oh, I see," she said calmly. "Have you met this Willow person?"
"Only as a wraith," Oz told her dryly. "Yes, it is *that* Willow, she's the mother of our twins."
"We cut off contact with her after she did that spell," Xander told her. "We've only seen her once, and that was to go steal our daughter back from her wraith form."
"Which was a very neat trick, getting the Fallen One to agree to help you," Kaiya told him. "It was pretty decent of him."
"A Fallen One judged her?" Kaiya's mother said, one hand coming up to rub against her neck. Her daughter had seen a Fallen Angel? What were these people getting her into.
"A Fallen One got asked for judgement by Spike's sire," Xander told her. "Both she and Tara were brought in front of him to be judged. Willow's got about a day left before Tara has to claim her or she dies."
"Tara's in town," Homer called. "She saw us last night on patrol and wanted to know what was going on." He stuck his head into the office. "She's repenting, even as a vampire."
"Good," Xander said happily. "Did she say anything?"
"No, but she did give me something for you," he said, disappearing and coming back with a paper. "You guys were asleep when we got in last night. She'd seen Willow but wanted an independent opinion, and she gave us this in return."
Oz took the paper, smiling and nodding, consciously ignoring the few splatters of blood on the paper. "It's a copy of the adoption papers. Willow's signed her full name." He handed it over, watching as his husband got misty. "File it for me, babe, and we'll go have it notarized tomorrow."
"Already been done," Homer told him. "Notary watched her sign it." He winked at Kaiya. "Tara's thinking about taking Willow, but she's not sure."
"She doesn't have much time," Kaiya pointed out.
"Why would you care?" Kaiya's mother asked him.
"Willow's a kinda aunt to me and a distant cousin. She kept me for almost a year before she screwed up royally and did the spell." He leaned against the doorway. "I've known her since I was six and she used to be a very good person."
"The power got to her," Xander said calmly. "That's why we're watching you so carefully."
"I know," he agreed. "So's Wes. Have you met Wes yet?"
"Homer," Kaiya warned.
"No, I haven't," her mother said, taking his hand. "Let's go see him and the children, I believe someone said they were together." They walked over to the playroom together.
Kaiya slumped in on herself. "Oh, boy," she sighed. "Um, if she starts yelling, just ignore us, okay?" she asked, then hopped up and left them alone.
Xander stood up carefully and shifted over to the important papers lock box, putting the adoption agreement inside. "There, all settled. What's going on outside?"
"They've carted off the body, and Blair had to protest them bringing it through the house, but everything should be okay soon." He put aside his plate and stood up, hugging Xander. "It'll be okay."
"I know it will, but that pisses me off.."
"As it should," Sam said from the doorway. "That's really Kaiya's mother?"
"Yup," Oz said. "And she was not happy when she learned where her daughter was living."
Xander looked out as the cops brought out the second body, shaking his head at the looks he was getting. "Go out there and search if you want," he told them finally.
"Wait, Kaiya's out there with her mother," Oz called from inside the house.
"We'll be good to her if we find her," the Sheriff said, smiling at them. "I know what she is, remember?"
"Yup, but do your officers?" Xander asked. He looked toward the barn. "Never mind, here they come. Happy hunting." He waved the nanny and her mother over. "They're going to go search in the woods," he told her.
"The wiccans are out there," Kaiya warned one officer. "Three women and one man guarding them. They're getting in touch with nature."
"All right, we'll watch out for them," he said, heading off after his boss.
Kaiya hopped up onto the porch and sat beside Xander. "What do you think it is?"
"Not real sure," Xander said honestly. "This is very strange. I knew the last guy, he died a few years ago." He looked up as Oz walked out with baby Blair, holding up his arms to get his son. Oz just looked down at him. "It's my turn."
"He's got diarrhea," Oz told him.
Xander shrugged. "It happens to the best of us." He got possession of his son, cuddling him close. "Hi, baby," he said against the soft hair. "How are we today?" he asked, pulling the baby back to look at him.
Kaiya's mother looked up at them, then pointed at the square-block building. "What's that for?"
"That's my cage," Oz told her. "And before you say it, I have nothing against your daughter, even when I change."
"You're a were?" she asked him calmly. He nodded, grimacing. "You actually take measures so you don't hurt others?"
"Since the first month I changed," Oz agreed, sitting down on the edge of the porch. "We've even got a new security system in there. Want to go see?" She nodded so he slid off the porch and walked her over to the cage, letting her inside so she could see for herself. "We landscaped it so I won't feel the desire to get out and go run in the woods," he told her, showing her the keypad lock and the cameras. "Xander watches me from inside the house. It's much nicer than the cage we used to use."
She looked at him. "Can you swear to me that my daughter won't get hurt?"
"No," he told her honestly, "but you can't swear that yourself even if she were at home."
"Point," she said grudgingly. "She would have others like her at home though."
"Yeah, but here she's got a chance to experience life and learn what she wants. With us, she gets a safe place to run when she needs to. We're very careful with her. We hardly ever see her in her cat form; she runs around with the kids letting them chase her to wear them out, and purrs them to sleep for naps, but that's about it. No one outside the Sheriff knows she's even here and that's because he got mixed up in a very bad thing that happened here, one in which your daughter almost died." She shuddered. "I won't lie to you, we've got some enemies. We've got some friends. We will protect her to the best of our abilities, the same as you would."
Her mother finally nodded. "So I can see. I want to have a talk with that vampire again."
"He's probably sleeping, but he should be up around four. He likes to get up early and watch the sunset," Oz told her, leading her back out of the cage and up to the house. "Where'd Xander go?"
"To go change Blair. You didn't say it was explosive," she said dryly.
"Oops?" Oz said, giving her a grin. "Your mom liked the cage."
"So did I, it would be a great place to go run around in while it rained too hard to play in the woods." She looked toward the woods. "Running people."
"Xander?" Oz called, turning to look at the officer running out. "What's up?" he asked, stopping him.
"We need an ambulance and some other sort of help. The Sheriff sent me back, told me to call someone and to get someone here that can close the big gaping hole."
"Big gaping hole?" Xander asked as he walked out, handing off the baby to Kaiya's mother. "Here, you do this. Phone's in the living room." He slowly came down the stairs and took Oz's arm, both of them walking slow enough so Xander's cane wouldn't cause him a problem, but hurrying as fast as they could. Xander looked up as they walked into the clearing where the Sheriff and his men were bending over a few people. "Damn," he muttered. "Oz, go find the wiccans. See if they can close this. It's well beyond what I can do." His mate ran off, after taking a deep sniff of the air. "Who is it?" he asked, moving closer to someone who was moving. "Um, hi," he said, looking down into a familiar set of blue eyes. "Welcome to our reality."
"New reality?" Buffy asked.
"Yup," Xander told her, getting down to check over her injuries. "I'm Xander, I'm not sure if I'm there or not." She nodded. "Okay. Guys, we can probably move her."
"She's got a broken leg," an officer noted.
"And I was chasing someone," Buffy said, pushing her short hair back. "Ethan."
"Dad?" Xander asked, standing up. He looked around. "Ethan?" he called. "This is neutral ground, you can come out." A dark haired man walked out of the trees off to his left so he turned to look at him. "Dad," he sighed.
"Do I know you?" this Ethan asked as he moved closer.
"Welcome to our reality," Xander told him, shaking his hand. "Some of us have missed you."
"You're a bad guy?" Buffy asked.
"No," Xander said, giving her a comforting smile. "Ethan's my father."
Ethan's mouth feel open. "I am? I have children?" He looked around the clearing. "I procreated?"
"And didn't stick around to raise us," Xander agreed. "We're both, we only know about two of us, are both okay. One's the other girl in this realm."
"Other girl?" Buffy asked, forcing herself to stand up and lean against a tree.
Xander sat down, pointing at a nearby rock. "Sit, let me explain some things to you," he told them. "It's always better if you know what's going on before you step out into the new world."
"You act like you've done this before," Ethan noted as he carefully sat down.
"I have," Xander agreed. He looked at Ethan. "Do you have colon cancer?" He blushed. "I'm sorry, but I have to ask. The you here died because of that."
"I died of natural causes?" Ethan asked, looking sickened.
"No, you gave yourself to the person who had the tightest hold on your soul, but that was because you didn't want to die of colon cancer. You probably had another six months to live when you offered yourself up."
"Oh, I see." He looked down at Buffy. "What about her?"
"The her here is dead too, almost a year ago." He squeezed her hand. "It's all right. I'm a Watcher now. I'm training one of the girls in this realm. And yes, there's two of you. When you drowned, it called another girl called Kendra."
"It did in ours too, but when she died, nothing happened," Buffy said miserably.
"Well, here, there's succession from both lines." Xander looked at the officers staring at them. "You're not supposed to be hearing about this," he told him. They all nodded and went to investigate a few feet away. "So, this really is a difference for you. Did you win at graduation?"
"No, we killed the Mayor before anything could be done in that way," Buffy told him. "We burnt his house down because we got desperate." She forced herself to sit up. "You're really a Watcher?"
"Yup, Giles suggested me since I was training Sileya anyway." He looked at Ethan. "You'll like her."
"Daddy?" a female voice breathed from the edge of the clearing. She ran over and hugged him. "Daddy, you came back," Sileya said, not letting him go.
Xander pointed at her. "That's the other girl here. The first girl is on the East Coast."
"What's going on?" the Sheriff asked as he came over. "What's that thing?"
"It's a portal," Xander told him, giving him a calming smile. "Probably the first guy cast it. Everyone else has just wandered through." The Sheriff looked a little confused. "Wes can explain it if you'd like," he suggested. "Much better than I can."
"No, that's all right. What do I put in my report."
"Smuggling operation," Oz said as he walked into the clearing, three women following him. "They agreed to try," he told his mate, stopping when he saw who was surrounding him. "Wow," he said, blinking a few times. "Do you have to send them back?" he asked the women.
"No, but opening it to send them back might be dangerous," the first one told him. "They could go back now if they wanted to."
Ethan shook his head. "No, I think I need to be here. I was called." He looked down at Buffy. "You?"
"Only one of me in town? I think it's a given that I should stay. The second girl, as you called her, is sitting at my house right now, she can handle it for a few weeks while I help you guys out."
"Things aren't that bad here," Xander told her. "We've managed to make peace with the demon community, the bad ones have disappeared for the most part and the good ones are doing okay and staying out of sight."
"Good demons?" she snorted. "This place must be very different from my home."
Xander stood up and nodded at Oz. "Yeah, it is," he said, taking Oz's hand. "Willow turned bad, she and her girlfriend. Spike helps us train Sileya and he's one of our favorite babysitters. Angel's dead."
"He's not! You lie!" she shouted.
"He is," Oz said calmly. "Wesley ate him." He shrugged. "He's having major problems with his demon and letting his natural inclinations out. Angel stepped between Wes and his intended target and he ate Angel instead. Spike's running his detective agency."
"Detective agency?" Buffy asked.
"Yeah, here Angel left and took off for LA to give you a chance at a semi-normal life." He looked at his mate, then shrugged. "Buffy, if you stay, you're going to be under me as the local Watcher. I won't tolerate you not learning what's going on here."
"I'm going home," she pronounced. She allowed herself to be helped up and hobbled toward the portal. "Is it still open?" The women nodded so she hobbled back through.
A young man walked through and looked at Ethan, giving him a scared but worshipful look. "Did you need help coming back, Ethan?" he whispered.
"No, I'm staying. Go pack my things. If you want, you can come with me."
The boy shuddered. "Anything that could make the Slayer leave a spot is something I don't want to know about." He looked at Xander, and at the girl hugging his mentor. "Um," he said, his eyes getting big. "You have children?"
"Here he does, but he's also dead here," Oz told him. "Go do what he said if he's staying."
"Thank you," Ethan said, standing up and pushing Sileya away a little bit. "I would like to know what's going on." He pointed at her. "I had a chosen one?"
"My mother is Christina ...." Sileya started, swallowing hard. "You met her in London at a ball. You two had a torrid affair for almost three months."
Ethan looked stunned. "I remember her, but she never got pregnant."
"She did here," Oz said, deciding to state the obvious. "You kept describing Xander's mom as a drunken fling in San Francisco."
"Oh, dear," Ethan said, looking Xander over. "You really are mine, aren't you?"
Xander nodded. "Definitely. That knowledge drove quite a wedge into one of my relationships. We used to be a trio," he told Ethan. "Giles was not pleased with that knowledge."
Ethan spluttered. "A boy of *mine* was sleeping with *Ripper*?" he asked.
"Well, he wasn't Ripper then," Oz said dryly. "Yeah though. He was Buffy's Watcher and we all helped her. Together the three of us have children even. Giles has a set of twins that are ours."
Ethan started to wobble. He shook himself and stood up a little straighter. "I'd like to contact the me from here please."
"Hey, if you can figure out how to do it, that's all good by us," Xander said with a shrug at his half-sister. "We'd like to see him again. We didn't get a chance to see him when he came back to cave in Giles' balls for hurting us." He nodded toward the house. "Do you need medical attention or would you like to come set yourself up in our trailer?"
"Please," Ethan noted, waving them on. He looked at Sileya again. "They live in a trailer?"
"Not anymore," Oz called back. "Come on, there's no path this way."
"Coming," Ethan said, following them toward the house. Hearing about the twins didn't ready him for the sight of three older children and a baby running after a large ball in the yard. "Are all those yours?" he asked Xander.
"Yup. Miri's mine and Faith's, a former Slayer here. She, um, let's just say it wasn't all the way around fun and good times." He coughed lightly. "The twins are Giles' but the mother gave me custody instead of him while we were together. The little boy's mine and Oz's." He looked over at Sileya. "Would you please go get me the diary on the top shelf of left new bookcase?" She nodded, running for the house. "I'm sorry if she's a bit clingy, she took our dad's death pretty hard," he said quietly. He pointed at the trailer. "All yours. Please don't burn it down. Not the Hilton but we do have most major spell components sitting in the house."
"And a ghost that can create interdimensional portals," Oz said dryly.
"Good point," Xander agreed. "I also have most of my father's books in the library. He left them to me and my daughter Miri, who had a pretty good sized gift." He started toward the house. "I'm going to go start supper. Want to eat down there or with us?"
"I think I'll eat down here," Ethan called after him. "Thank you." He looked at Oz. "Does this seem as strange to you as it does to me?"
"Nope. We met five other versions of ourselves during one major realmal mixup. This isn't even strange." He waved. "If you need something, come up and yell. Someone's always up." He caught one of the twins and picked her up to swing her around. "Got you!" he called, giving her a hug.
"Daddy!" she screamed in delight.
"My turn!" the other twin shouted, running for him.
Ethan looked up as his work finally brought some luck, smiling at the other version of himself. "What is going on here?" he asked. "I'm apparently a father? And a decent man?"
"I pampered both of my children because they needed it," the Ethan from here said with a wave of his hand. "You have no idea how bad Ripper messed with that boy's head. Or my daughter's when he got her to train and refused to do so, leaving it to Xander."
"What happened to him anyway?"
"Part of a ceiling fell on him. It injured his knees and his back. He's done a remarkable job of healing since then." The Ethan from here sat down on the offered couch. "Why did you stay?"
"Because this is so different."
"It is," Ethan agreed. "It could be worse I suppose. I could be a good guy here, more like my son is."
"He is rather good isn't he?" the other Ethan said dryly. "What's up with him anyway?"
"He's very devoted to what he has. He's an excellent father. His first child's about to become the most watched figure in history, and there's a prophecy about one of them being the lightening child."
"Oh, dear Gods," Ethan sighed. "That's her then." His other part nodded. "What should I do, since I'm here and all?"
"If you'd like, I could use someone to watch out for Xander. He's a bit on the troubled side. Things like to come after him. He hardly ever leaves the farm, except to go shopping and the like. I worry about that boy."
"But you said he's happy."
"He is, and he's not got a lick of power of his own. He's a conduit back to his own children. Which he should have more of."
"How? He's in with another man."
The Ethan from here laughed. "My dear boy, there's a lot he didn't share. In compensation for a shallow destiny, the Hellmouth saw fit to make him a hermaphrodite."
"Does he work in wood?" the other Ethan asked.
"He does, my son could be very skilled. He's presently just trying to find a job that'll take him on with his injuries, but he does have the skill if he'd ever use it." He sighed. "He's also very worried about what he'll become if he starts to work that way. His life is contained in those four little bodies and in his mate, the werewolf. He's come a long way, but I think he's going to have to grow some emotional distance if he's ever going to be much of a crafter."
"Maybe he won't be," Oz said as he walked in. "You remember what I said about hurting Xander, in any way?" he asked. The Ethan from here nodded. "Good. Because if you ever force him to become more emotionally distant then I will find a way to make your unlife miserable." He handed over a covered plate. "Here, supper. Watch out for nighttime visitors, our Miri likes to wander."
"And you let her?"
"We don't have a choice," Oz said wryly. "She's had company recently though." He looked at his father-in-law. "Listen, Ethan, I realize that Xander's still very clingy and needy at times, but that's who he is. He can't take anymore distance. If you try, I'll make sure you're going to suffer for it. We do still have Rupert's number and he's more than willing to come and pay you back for the golf club thing." He glanced around. "And besides, after tonight, we might have to worry about Willow being a vampiress. We've got too much on our hands without you trying to make him more emotionally cold to suit what he could be."
"An excellent point," the Ethan from here said, giving him a smile. "I didn't mean distance from you, I meant more from the world."
"He can't get any farther from the world," Oz pointed out. "He doesn't like to go out around people because they make him uncomfortable." He leaned against the wall. "He's still emotionally healing from the injury, people looking at him still bothers him. You've got to give up that campaign. He's fine the way he is."
"Yes, he is," Ethan said kindly. "I wouldn't worry, Oz, I wouldn't take Xander from you or the family, there's too many people that like you two together." Oz nodded and left them alone. "See?" he told his other self. "You might want to eat that. I have no doubt that Xander cooked tonight. He's recently gotten into the habit of cooking whenever he's stressed or upset."
The other Ethan uncovered the plate and looked down at the stew. "I don't think he did this time."
"Bet me," Ethan noted. "He probably cut up the vegetables himself and made everything by hand. No bread?" A small roll was held up. "Do be careful eating that. He tends to over-knead when he's really upset. Bread making is one of his favorite ways of getting rid of stress." He sat back and relaxed, watching his other self. They had a lot to talk about.
Around midnight, a darker glow started in the trailer, witnessed only by Wesley and Miriam, who were reading on the porch. Wesley looked down at the little girl. "Are they switching?"
"Yup," she said, smiling up at him. He was almost as good as her Spike, even though he read her different books, ones for older girls. And he didn't say anything about her wandering around at night, not at all like Spike, who tended to follow her. "Grandpa come home and the other grandpa go to play with the demony guy. Grandpa say so, even though the other guy not really want to." She scooted around a little. "More reading?"
"Of course," he said, bending down to look at the book. "Princess Ivy looked around the forest in distress."
"That not what it say," she huffed. "That's not that word," she told him, pointing it out.
"Then what does it say?" he asked, giving her a smile. There was more than one way to make a child read.
"It says..." She pulled the book closer, sounding it out in her head. "Fear?"
"Very good," he praised. "You'll be able to read me this book before long."
"I will," she said firmly. "I'm going to be the bestest reader yet." She nodded when he just smiled more at her. "I will."
"I'm sure you will," Ethan said as he walked up to them. "Wesley, how's the demon tonight?"
"Happy and sated," Wesley told him, putting the child down beside him on the swing. "Back again?"
"Definitely. My Master was most pleased that I could turn on myself that way. He even agreed to keep me healthy while I was back." He smiled at his grandchild. "Hello, Miriam. That was very good reading."
"Thank you," she said meekly.
"Is there any word on Willow?" Ethan asked Wesley.
"Spike called. He wasn't too happy about his new toy being taken away from him, but Tara agreed to share her training." He leaned closer. "Tara promised to remove both of them from this town again as soon as possible."
"That might be for the best. It's bad enough having a vampire version of my son running around in this country. To have her here would only cause him more harm." He smiled suddenly. "Anyway, I'm going to be leaving early tomorrow to go set myself up a lair in town again. Do have Spike drop in on me as soon as possible, all right?" He got a nod and winked at Miri, heading back to his trailer. Coming back to life was tiring and he needed a rest now.
Miri climbed back into her uncle's lap and handed him back the book. "Here, you read more," she told him, giving him a bright smile. He was a sucker for smiles.
Xander walked into the kitchen and took the note Wesley was holding out, sitting down with a grunt to read it. "Huh," he said finally, tossing it down onto the table. "He'll be back?"
"He said he'd be around," Wesley temporized. "He did say he didn't want to influence your life any more than he already had. Something about not being a bad influence, but that he would try to steer you towards your gifts, which would be uncomfortable for you." He looked at Oz, who gave him a steady look back. "Anyway," Wesley said, after clearing his throat, "he did say he would be in town for a while and that Sileya was probably not going to be in school for the next two days or so."
"Cool by me. If I need to, I can call in and give her an excuse." Xander looked over his shoulder at Oz, who was studiously making scrambled eggs. "What's this about my gifts? Which I'm still trying to figure out exactly what it is by the way."
"It's the crafting things that you've been interested in," Wesley told him. "But to do so means that you'll be more emotionally cut off from most of life."
"Which includes my family?"
"It can," Wesley said carefully. "Not necessarily, but it's been known to happen. I do believe that Ethan was most concerned about that aspect."
"Cool." Oz brought over the eggs. "You want to eat too?" he asked his mate.
"Please?" Xander asked, giving him a smile.
"Okay. Give me a few."
Xander stopped Oz from moving by grabbing his arm. "I'm not ever going to give you a reason to think I'm being emotionally distant from you guys, you didn't have to threaten him."
"Me?" Oz asked innocently, getting free and going back to the stove.
Xander glared at his back but turned back around to look at Wesley. "Did Kaiya steal the kids?"
"She and her mum are out with them in the woods. She wanted to see what the kids were really like."
"Did someone remember to warn her about the gifts?" Oz asked as he cracked another egg into the pan. "One or two, Xan?"
"Three?" Xander suggested. "I'm a growing boy who has to help mark off the spot for today's work."
"With Ethan back," Wesley said carefully, "are you sure that your trust is going to stay stable?"
"I doubt he's going to ask for it back," Oz told him. "And it's not like he can prove how he came back."
"I think Ethan's got something more up his sleeve," Xander said carefully. "I'm thinking that Dad's not going to be staying around on this plane for long."
"Maybe not," Wesley agreed. "It's best to be careful though."
"We've budgeted money for the pool and the exercise equipment," Oz said as he came over. "I checked, even if the trust dried up today, we'd still be okay for another six months or so before money became tight again."
"Eight if we stretched it?" Xander suggested.
"Yup," Oz agreed, coming over to slop the damp eggs onto the plate. "Just like you like them," he said, giving him a kiss on the head. "Anything else? Besides coffee?"
"Nope, I'll be good with some coffee," Xander said, giving him a smile. "Did Dad say he wanted me to stop by too?"
"Not yet, but I'm sure he'll be back soon enough to see you," Wesley told him.
"Yeah, I guess," Xander said, losing a little of his enthusiasm. He wanted to have a long talk with his father, the man had some answers that he wanted. Besides, he wanted to tell him all about when they'd been across the realms and met themselves. He had a lot of things he wanted to share with Ethan, but if his father didn't want to see him.... His sulk was interrupted by the telephone.
Wesley got up to answer it. "Hello?" He grimaced and handed it over to Xander. "For you," he noted, sitting back down.
"Yeah?" Xander asked, brightening up a little bit when he heard the voice on the other end. "Hi, Ethan. Yeah, I was just wondering...." His face fell. "Really? Does she know? Can I...?" He sighed. "Sure, tonight would be great. Why?" He chuckled. "Okay. I'll be there." He hung up. "Ethan needs to see me tonight, he's going to be keeping Sileya all day." He dialed the high school's main number. "Hi, I need to call my sister off. Yes, I'm her guardian. Sileya Giles? No, her step-father showed up for a few days and I think that's more important than sitting around doing nothing," he told the secretary honestly. He snorted and hung up. "Sileya and Homer have a meeting today with the Principal and their board about their next semester's education."
"Homer's still going to class," Oz told him, coming over to give Xander the coffee that had been brewing. "He'll tell her all about it and she'll go fight with them tomorrow." He sat down at the table. "What did Ethan say?"
"Just that he had something he had to tell me but he wasn't back for good. Sileya was curled up on his chest at the moment and was being really clingy. Oh, and something about Tara agreeing to take Willow."
"I'd heard about that," Wesley told him. "She's taking Willow and leaving town again."
"Good," Oz said firmly. The other two men looked at him. "Sorry, but I don't want that complication."
"Me either," Xander said, squeezing his hand. "Willow could cause us a lot of problems if she stayed here. I wonder why Ethan screwed his other self to come back."
"I'm sure it's nothing really bad," Oz told him. "We'll check the books later if you want."
"I've got to go out and supervise the guys coming to put in the pool stuff," Xander reminded him.
"We can do that while sitting on the porch," Oz suggested. "You can't go out and help with the work crew. They won't let you."
"I know," Xander said, picking up his coffee to sip. "Eww."
"Huh?" Oz asked, taking the coffee to sip. "Really big eww," he agreed. He got up to pour it out and look inside the coffee basket. "No wonder. Sileya never changed it before setting up the timer." He dumped that out and started to make a new pot, carefully measuring dry coffee into the new filter. "Where is Homer?"
"He's still upstairs," Wesley told him. "I haven't heard his alarm go off."
Xander tipped his head up. "Homer!" he called. "You still have to go to school, you've got a meeting."
Wesley wiggled a finger in his ear. "Thank you," he said dryly. "I didn't enjoy hearing out of that side."
Xander grinned at him. "You're welcome."
Oz groaned as he opened a cabinet. "Xander, where's the sugar canister?"
"Under the counter," Wesley told him. "I caught Spike dipping into it for the most recent blood run and I hid it."
Oz closed that cabinet and opened up one of the bottom ones, pulling out the canister to count the money. "That explains why we're missing eight hundred dollars," he noted as he stuffed the cash back inside and put it in the refrigerator, all the way in the back, behind the nasty jar of pickles that they hadn't thrown out yet. "Okay, it's hidden again," he told Xander, who had turned around to watch him. "Don't throw out the jar."
"Tell Homer," Xander told him. "He and Sileya tend to clean out the fridge more often than we do."
Oz hummed and took out the canister, putting it into the chest freezer instead. "Okay, it's on the bottom." He looked over at Xander, who was trying to look not-concerned. "What?"
"I can't reach down there."
"I'll get it if you need it," Oz reminded him. He flipped on the coffee maker, then remembered he had to put water into it. He quickly filled the carafe and poured it into the maker, sliding the pot back into place. "Okay," he said as he came over, stealing a kiss. "Coffee's coming. Eat."
Xander took a bite of his eggs, smiling around the fork when he noticed Oz watching him. "What?"
"Wondering what Ethan wanted with you."
"Maybe he's going to finally give me a reason why I like the book he gave me," Xander suggested lightly. "We'll find out tonight. I'll tell you when I get home. 'Kay?"
"Definitely fine. I can put the kids to bed and make sure they're all snuggly for you if you're not back." Oz gave him a kiss on the cheek. "How do you eat scrambled eggs like that?"
"I like them like this," Xander told him. "It's how I learned how to cook eggs."
"Ah, that explains it then. Your mother couldn't cook and when you tried you came out with runny scrambled eggs."
"They're not that runny," Wesley put in. "I've seen worse examples of partially cooked eggs."
"So have I," Oz said dryly. "It was at his mother's house back in high school." Xander smacked him on the hand. "Sorry, dear."
"I'm a good cook," Xander said defensively. "I've even learned how to braise meat."
"I noticed," Oz told him. "Now if only you could learn to sort the clothes into temperature groups instead of doing everything on cold."
"If you want your white underwear in hot water, you do it," Xander said firmly, cutting into his eggs again. "I'm not the laundry slave."
"Are you thinking about hiring a part time housekeeper?" Wesley asked them.
"Nah," Oz said. "If we were still back when Xander first got out of the hospital, maybe, but not now."
"I've figured out how to do everything but mop and vacuum," Xander told him. "The vacuum's at the wrong angle so I can't lean my weight on it, and it's hard to use a cane while I'm doing it, and the mop's even worse." He smiled at his lover. "Of course, someone could do that part of the housework instead of the dusting, which I can do." He took another bite of breakfast.
"I hate mopping and I have the bathtub," Oz pointed out. He looked at Homer as he walked in. "He can do it," he suggested.
"Do what?" Homer mumbled.
"Go to school and take in that meeting for the both of you," Oz told him. "Ethan's back for a few days and your girl's resting in his arms right now." Homer glared at him. "What?"
"Nothing," Homer sighed, pouring himself some coffee. "Xander?"
"Please," Xander said, holding up the cup Oz had brought back to the table.
Homer trudged over and poured him some coffee then went back to trying to fix his own breakfast. "When did he get here?"
"Besides yesterday afternoon?" Oz asked. Homer glared at him again. "She didn't tell you?"
"She was crying too hard to tell me anything," Homer noted. "I figured she was having a hormonal day and someone had picked on her." He shrugged. "It happens."
"No, we got an alternate Ethan through the portal that was dumping the cut-up people," Xander told him. "We got an alternate Buffy too, but she got too freaked and went home. Our Ethan screwed the other Ethan over and got to come back for a few days. I'm going over there tonight."
"Okay," Homer said. "Patrol?"
"If she's not home by then, I'll bring you over with me and you can patrol from there," Xander said calmly. "He'll get her calmed down."
"Or he'll piss her off by giving her an anti-emotional lecture and she'll run through the house crying and lock herself in your bedroom," Oz noted. "Either one."
"Ethan wouldn't give that lecture, Giles would."
"Maybe," Oz said grimly, "but she's got to learn some emotional control sometime." He coughed. "I'm pretty sure that if she gets too upset, he'll give it to her."
"You're awfully down on Ethan this morning," Xander said, looking him over. "What's wrong?"
"Xander, I overheard Ethan last night saying that *you* needed more emotional distance to do what you needed to in life."
"Oh." Xander looked down at his plate, then pushed it away. "But I don't like being around people as is."
"Which is why we got into it last night," Oz told him, rubbing down Xander's back. "He didn't say that you needed it from us, but that you needed it from the world."
"But I hardly go off the farm," Xander reminded him. "I only go out to shop and go to the doctor's." He looked outside as he heard a truck pull up. "Visitors." He stood up, grabbing his cane to help him out to the porch. "Hey," he said, waving at the construction crew. "Give me a few minutes and I'll show you where I want it." He nodded inside. "Want some coffee or water?"
"No, thank you," one of the guys said. "Maybe in a few hours."
"I've already got a pitcher of water chilling for you guys," Xander told him with a smile. "Hey, Metz," he said, walking down to give his former coworker a hug. "Why are you back in town?"
"The old crew split up into two new crews. These are my guys." He turned Xander around. "This is the guy I make the point of warning the new guys about." He grinned down at Xander. "What are you doing up here?"
"This is my house, Metz. My horses, my kids, who should come screaming down the stairs to investigate the new people very soon." He waved at the woods. "My woods too." He grinned back. "You're really going to be putting in my pool?"
"Yup." Metz nodded at the house. "Heard you had some problems."
"Yeah, me and my Voc teacher fixed it though." He saw the look at his leg. "I can do some stuff, but climbing's a little hard for me. My Oz rigged up this motorized platform that comes down far enough so I only have a few rungs to climb up." He pointed at the barn. "If you guys need it, it's in there." He waved at Oz. "It's part of the crew I worked with," he said happily.
"Cool. Show them where you want the pool. I'll deal with the little people." He looked out at the cars. "Don't block the little car, Homer's got to leave in about half an hour."
"Oh, man," floated out from the house.
Xander led the way around the house, showing off his new handiwork. "I finally learned how to put in windows and doors," he said proudly. "My teacher was very pleased with me, until my knee popped a blood vessel and cracked during my first class back." Metz laughed. "Sure, you think it's funny, but now I have a replacement of my replacement knee."
"A ceiling really fell on you?" one of the guys asked.
"Yup, a ceiling really fell on me and it really screwed up my back and my knees." He pointed at the clearing. "We're going to be putting it there, but I want to save as many of the trees as possible."
Metz looked at the trees, then at the man he had on his crew that checked all the trees out for them. The guy was a trained Shaman, too bad he had to work construction to make ends meet. The guy walked up to the trees and pulled out a piece of chalk, marking each as it felt the aura of the tree. "Those," he said, pointing at a small group. "We can't disturb those."
"Spirit trees?" Xander guessed, having watched the ritual. The Shaman looked at him. "I'm a Watcher and I'm starting to learn nature magic. I'm what's known as a crafter."
The Shaman smiled at him. "I had no doubt of that. So, a pool?"
"For my rehab," Xander agreed. "It's the best and easiest way for me to finally strengthen the stupid thing so I can start working again." He looked at Metz, giving him his best begging look. "I can do some stuff," he offered.
"I'll have to check with the boss," Metz temporized. "I'm not sure what the insurance covers about homeowners working on the site." He looked at the trees that had the safe mark. "How did you want to do this?"
"I figured this would be the best place. It's close to the house so we won't have to tear up everything to run the water line." Xander pointed at the cage. "There's one to there that you can branch off of." He looked around the clearing again. "I was thinking of making it fit into the area we can clear off, cutting as few of the trees as possible."
The Shaman nodded. "Very good instincts, but this place will give you trouble." Everyone stared at him. "There's been dead buried here at one time."
"It's probably part of the family of the ghost that lives in the house," Xander told him. "She was the grandma of the clan that originally owned the ranch." He looked at the clearing. "Can you think of a better place?"
"We could use that clearing," Metz suggested, pointing at the large clearing on the other side of the house, where the paddock was.
"No, that's for the horses. I'd hate to take that away from them," Xander said.
"Can you ride?" the Shaman asked.
"Yeah, it's one of the things I did once I got out of the hospital. I had to strap my foot in, and I still do on occasion, but I get in plenty of riding time." Xander scanned the area. "Then I guess we'll have to talk it over with Oz. We had planned to put it here."
"You still can, but if any of the spirits remained after the bodies were removed, you could have a problem."
"Oh, this is Sunnydale, we'll have a problem," Xander told him, faking a bright tone. "Oz!"
"He's busy," Kaiya said as she ran out onto the porch and jogged over to them. "What's wrong?"
"There were people buried here," he told her. "We could have a spirit manifestation if we build the pool here."
"Attach it to the house?" she suggested.
"Or, is that another clearing?" the Shaman asked, pointing at one he could almost see in the woods on the other side.
"Maybe," Xander admitted. "I don't go in that direction. Our nearest neighbor used to live over that way." He started that way, ignoring the hand the nanny put on his arm. "I'm fine," he told her quietly.
"I know, but this gets me away from my mother."
Metz snorted. "She came to check up on you?"
"Yup," Kaiya said dryly. "She's presently trying to embarrass my boyfriend at the moment."
"And you left Wes to her?" Xander asked. She frowned and let him go, running back into the house to save her boyfriend. He smiled. "That's our nanny," he told Metz. "If you see one of the kids and she's not around, call for one of us to come running. They know they're not supposed to be helpful."
"We will," Metz promised him. "So?" he asked, looking around this new clearing. "This looks big enough." He looked at the Shaman. "What do you think?"
"I think the ground is dead here anyway," he said with a shrug. "Looks good from my end."
"Where's the nearest water main though?" Xander asked, looking back at the house. "The main one runs up the other side of the driveway and behind the house."
"We can always run it from the trailer," Oz suggested as he walked through a few of the trees. "We ran a main line out there."
"Point," Xander said, giving him a smile. "Here?"
"Looks good to me," Oz agreed. He looked at the guy standing next to Xander, then waved when he continued to be stared at. "What?" he asked finally.
"You look like you just got bad news."
"No, but Xander's father just called and said he'd be out in a little while to bring Sileya home. Seems he's got to leave sooner than he thought, but he still wants to talk to you."
"Oh. Okay," Xander said finally. "I can do that. How long?"
"Few minutes." He held up the design they had chosen for the building and the pool. "I've got the plans, you go do that. I'm sure he doesn't want to talk to me."
Xander kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks, Oz," he said, heading back up to the house.
"Aww," one of the other workers said in a patronizing tone of voice. He found himself pinned to a tree by Oz. "Sorry?" he asked, trying to breathe.
"Going to be," Oz agreed, letting him go. He wouldn't be insulted on his own land. "Xander's more important to me than your life. Remember that." He handed over the plans. "This is what we came up with using the pool people's software."
Metz looked the plans over. "Looks good. Do you have an expanded version? At this size, it'll fit a Barbie."
Oz snorted. "Xander's got one of those in the making right now. I've got everything on my computer if you need it. It's a prefab kit for both parts." He glanced around the clearing. "When did this happen?"
"Not long ago," the Shaman told him. He looked Oz over, then looked back toward the house. "Very nice building you put up."
"Thanks, it was necessary." He smiled. "You know?"
"I do. The same as I knew about that young girl who came when your mate called for you."
"Huh?" Metz asked.
"This is Sunnydale, you never ask those sort of questions here," Oz told him. "Trust me on this, it tends to bite you really hard once you know." He nodded back toward the house. "I'll be in my office whenever you're ready for the plans. Second door down the hall from the door on this side of the house." He turned and left them alone.
Metz waited until he was sure the strange little guy was gone and looked at their Shaman. "Huh?" he asked. "I knew strange things happened here, but really."
"They're guardians of the strange things," he said gently. "They protect people like him," he pointed at the guy Oz had slammed into a tree, "from all the bad things that happen in this town." He looked around the woods. "We shouldn't be working at night."
"Fine by me," Metz said quickly. "The main boss said we shouldn't either. How long?"
"To run the pipe? Depends on how we dig the trench. The prefab system they've got is usually pretty easy, except the walls of the pool. Not more than two weeks plus digging the trench."
"Think we could get them to use equipment?"
"We don't need a backhoe," the guy said, rubbing his neck where the strange little man's arm had been. "Smaller trench needed and playing kids."
"All right. How about that one shovel we've got, the blessed one. Who has it?"
"The main boss is bringing it down tonight," the Shaman told him. He took the plans and looked them over. "This will fit here too. He's got a very good eye for design."
"He did the whole house," Oz said as he walked back out. "You left your phone in the driveway," he said as he handed it over. "It rang." He looked at the Shaman again. "Want to come over tonight for supper?"
"No, I think you don't need me yet," he said with a smile. "I'll come find you when you do."
"Okay. That's cool. Expect to be asked a lot of questions, Xander's just figuring some things out." He waved and walked away. "We're making ice water for you guys."
"Thanks," Metz called after him. He checked his phone. "It's the boss. Give me a few, guys, and go find that water main." He flipped open his phone and hit the button to dial the last number. "Hey, it's me," he said calmly. "Yeah, we found a good spot. Already lots of dead land under it. Yup, he said so. Did you know this was Harris' house? Yes, him. No, he wanted to know if he could do some of the work. Said he did a lot on his house recently with a little help. Said he can't climb, but he can do other stuff." He snorted. "He's the homeowner, it'll cover." He looked down at his feet. "Sure. I'll tell him you said so. Yup. Oh, we need the shovel. It's a long trench this time." He hung up and sighed. The kid was not going to like this answer.
Xander bounced as Ethan got out of the car, getting out of Sileya's way as she ran into the house. "Hi," he said, hugging his father. "Come sit in the library?"
"If you'd like," Ethan agreed, following him in. "How's your new knee?"
"Better. This one's a lot stronger." Xander flopped down into his usual chair. "So, what's up? It must be pretty big if you screwed yourself enough to come back."
Ethan smiled at him, sitting down in a nearby chair. "It is." He looked around the room and eventually pointed at one shelf. "Have you read that one yet?" Xander nodded. "Did you see the mention of the lightening child?" He got another nod. "That's your daughter Miriam, or a daughter you've yet to have."
Xander's mouth fell open. "But I thought Miri...." He shook himself. "I can't have more kids, Ethan, the hormones have shut off again."
"They'll never be completely gone," Ethan said dryly. He shifted until he was comfortable, putting his feet up too. "You've done an excellent job on the house, Xander. I'm very proud of the man you've become."
"I sense a but," Xander said wryly.
"But," Ethan agreed, "you're trying to run away from your destiny." He smiled at Oz as he appeared in the doorway. "Yes?"
"I think if we're talking about more children, I should be in on it," Oz noted.
"We're not discussing it yet," Ethan told him. "The prophecy I'm telling him about could be Miriam, but I have my doubts."
"What about the other girls?" Xander suggested. "We've got two other ones."
"Yes, and one will probably end up a very good mother," Ethan told him. "I've checked. The date of birth is a bit fuzzy, but it's neither of your other daughters. It *might* be Miriam, but I have a serious doubt about that. She's can't be both."
"And this child will be what?" Oz asked. "Good, bad, indifferent?" he asked when Ethan just looked at him.
"She'll be like Xander, a crafter. She's destined to bring a change to the world of magic, but not until she's a teenager and starts to create herself."
"I'm working on some small stuff," Xander admitted. Oz looked at him. "A really pretty box, a small tube of something that I'm not sure what it's becoming, and a doll house for Miri."
"Good," Ethan said, giving his son a smile. "I knew you could be pushed toward your destiny." He looked at Oz again. "Do come in if you're not going to go make tea." He watched as Oz walked in and sat next to Xander's feet. "About the emotional disassociation," he said, "I've studied and asked a few questions. It will be from the world."
"But I don't like people as is," Xander told him.
"The reason for this," Ethan said, going on like Xander had never piped up, "is so that you don't get overloaded by the requests that might come your way. If other magic-users find out there's a crafter around, they will come and search you out for the most inane ideas. Some of them will be necessary and others will make those horrid little lawn reindeer look like high art."
"So, he'll have to have some distance so he'll be able to tell which ones he should be doing?"
"Yes, definitely that, but also enough distance from the people that would ask him for help that his family doesn't get involved. This child will be born and will need to be protected from those same people." He smiled at Oz. "You do very well in that area already, but you'll need to be more vigilant." He looked out the window. "There's already people after your children," he looked at Oz. "I know you know this, but it's becoming more important."
"We're trying our best to keep the kids away from the Initiative," Xander told him.
"I know," Ethan said, giving him another smile. "Just watch them a little better in public. Miriam's safe here, but she's not that safe anywhere else. Even her mother's been approached about getting her away from you to have her fixed."
"Over my dead body," Oz told him.
"Good," Ethan said, his smile brightening. "That's what I like to hear. Faith kicked his ass, I do believe the phrase is, and told him that if he came near the children that she would make sure he was fixed her way."
"I'll call her this afternoon," Xander told him. "You know we'd do anything to keep the kids safe, Dad."
"Yes, which is why I'm warning you instead of doing something to hide the children away from everyone." Oz looked at him and he nodded at him. "I'm very interested in my line going into the future. I have every intention of being reincarnated in my own line sometime in the future." He gave them a smug look. "Having said that, do watch out for the little one that went up in front of the Fallen One. He finds her...interesting." He started to stand but Xander grabbed his hand. "Yes?"
"Can we just talk now?" Xander asked. "There's things I'd like to know, besides the warnings from beyond stuff."
Ethan sat back down. "I had thought you didn't want to see me."
"No, I've always wanted to sit down and talk with you," Xander said, leaning forward a little bit. "It's been difficult for me to do that. Once I was ready to do that, you had left."
"All right, I'll stay," Ethan agreed, getting comfortable again.
"I'll go make tea," Oz said, getting up and leaving them alone, closing the library door behind him. He saw Kaiya's mother and shook his head. "It's Xander's father. He's come back from being kept by his demon to give us a few warnings." He headed for the kitchen, going to make tea.
She pursed her lips tighter together. "This is not a proper environment for my child," she said quietly. She went to find the vampire who was sleeping with her daughter. They would have a talk. She walked into the room he was sitting and reading in, slamming the door. "What will you do if my daughter gets pregnant," she said firmly.
"Well, besides the fact that it's highly unlikely," Wesley said gently, "I wouldn't hesitate to marry her. And if she didn't want that, then I would definitely be there for the children. I always wanted to be a father."
She glared harder. "You do know that my Kiasna will be shunned for dating you?"
"Isn't she already an outcast?" he asked gently. "What did you call her?"
"Kiasna, it's her name," her mother sniffed. "It's an honorable name among our people. She should have told you that."
"She's refused to speak of her family at all," Wesley told her. "I have asked. She's said she has a sibling but I'm not sure if she's the older one or not." He pulled off his glasses. "Your daughter has become the touchstone of my life. She's made me see that having a demon and my conscious together is an extraordinary thing, not something to be ashamed of. She has quickly become one of the most astonishing influences on my life."
"You say that now, but what about when you're both two hundred?" her mother demanded.
"Kaiya has made me promise not to think that far ahead," he told her. "She's got a very pragmatic and fatalistic view of life, but I do still like her quite a lot."
"I care for her, but I can't call what I feel love, not without some more thinking and some more time spent with her. We've only been together for a few months and most of that time has been spent in long discussions and easy friendship." He gave her an attempt at a reassuring smile. "I really have no ill intentions toward your daughter. We seem to understand each other quite well and we get on rather well too. I have every intention of staying with your daughter for as long as she allows and can only hope that we'll remain friends once she decides she needs to see more of the world."
"She should be breeding for the tribe," her mother noted.
"I would gladly welcome any children she might have. As I said, I've wanted to be a father for a bit now. That's why I like staying here, I get to work with the children here."
She nodded. "Good, though I do not like this house, or the people living here, they're very dangerous to my daughter. I would prefer her to be at home where she belongs."
Wesley sighed. "I know you don't approve, but I'm keeping her as safe as I can. I made my first kill to guard her and Miriam."
Her mother sighed. "Fine, I will leave her in your care. You will pass on my message to my daughter?"
"Of course, but shouldn't you tell her directly?"
"I tried," she admitted with a sniff. "She didn't listen, kept trying to convince me that things aren't always what they seem in this house."
"They aren't," Wesley agreed. "This house is nothing like the chaos it seems to be. Well, I think Ethan would be an exception to that rule," he noted humourously. "He's a chaos sorcerer," he confided at her confused look. "He's Xander's father. A most odd man, but he seems to really care for his children, if only to see them have some of their own."
"I know people like that," she admitted. "Has he influenced the children any?"
"Not that I know of. He's very careful of how his influence is spread around. He's been a very good source of information on the prophecy about Miriam. I think he may have found another one since then. I seem to recall seeing one that may come true if Xander has another daughter." He shrugged his musings off. "Sorry, but that is my area of study you know."
"No, I didn't know," she said.
"Yes, I was a Watcher myself, had Buffy for a while after the Council fired Rupert, the boy's other lover." He cleared his throat. "The house is much more stable now that he's gone. I must say Kaiya might not have been as comfortable when he was here."
She nodded. "I see. Then I can be happy that she's not here with him at least." She tugged on her jacket. "I'll be leaving this afternoon. I will expect my daughter to write me more often, and I would like to hear from you also as I know my daughter won't tell me if she's having troubles." He nodded eagerly. "Good. I'll leave my address on your dresser." She looked at the covered window. "Shouldn't you be asleep?"
"Probably," he agreed with a smile. "I was expecting the children to come running in to bother me as they won't be able to go help the workmen any."
"Yes, they seem like they could become a handful with the slightest provocation," she said.
"Indeed," Wesley said, and his smile showed his pride in the brood. "That's what I've noticed all children can be like. It seems to run in their genes."
She laughed. "Not just humans," she said with a fond smile. "You really want children?"
"Definitely." He picked up a picture of the girls from his bedside table. "I kept Miriam for the first month of her life. If Xander hadn't agreed to take her, she would have been my daughter."
"Oh, I'm sorry, dear," she said, coming over to touch him on the arm.
"We would have been good together, but I think it's for the best, knowing what I do about her future. Xander's an excellent father and I'm glad that my little girl is loved by her natural father."
"Still hurts, huh," Oz said from the doorway. Wesley looked at him. "We realized that, that's why you're allowed and expected to stay with us." He walked in and shut the door. "Ethan just told us something about a lightening child that's going to be our next daughter?" He made it a question, hoping for some more information.
"Oh, my, I've heard of her," Wesley said quickly. "A crafter like her father." His mouth opened. "Oh. Oh!" He stood up. "It will be one of yours?"
"One that's not born yet unless it's Miri," Oz agreed.
Wesley smiled. "How extraordinary. Have you thought about timing the conception."
"Wes, we have four kids, *four*. Don't you think that's enough?"
"I'd gladly steal the twins from you," Wesley said with an impish grin.
"Nope, you'll get tail boy."
"What?" Kaiya's mother asked, looking shocked.
"Blair has this fascination with tails," Wesley explained. "He likes to chase after them and grab them to suck on the tips." She moaned. "Your daughter did an excellent job of nailing herself to the floor instead of turning the pain on the baby when he grabbed her tail to suck on."
"As opposed to going after the horses' tails?" Oz suggested.
"Yes," Wesley said, reaching over to slap at him lightly. "Though, the expression on her face when she retrieved him from the pasture was priceless."
"I bet," Oz said dryly. "Xander's would have been really good to see too."
"My daughter let him go out there and play?"
"No, a spirit came and asked the girls. She was down for a nap and the girls were watching him play on the porch." Wesley snickered. "I do believe that the girls were most happy when they realized they weren't in trouble."
"Oh, they should have been," Oz said. "If I'd been here, they would have not only been grounded, but helping scrub his little body."
"At least Kaiya finally got him mostly clean and infant-smelling again," Wesley said with a smile.
"He still smells to some of us with more sensitive noses." Oz stood up. "Ethan's leaving soon, Xander wanted to have a real talk with him about things." He shrugged. "If you're determined to stay up, we can pull the curtains in the playroom and bring in books."
"No, I'll go look up that prophecy for you tonight."
"Cool. We've got to call Faith and talk to her sometime today too." He glanced around the room. "I'll ask Cordy if she's still pissed if you want."
"No, I'm quite happy here," Wesley said. "If I'm still welcome that is."
"Definitely welcome," Xander said as he walked in the door. "Unless the guys in LA beg to get you back, you're staying." He flopped down onto the chair facing the bed. "Ethan was really impressed by the amount of trouble we can get into," he told his mate. He looked at Kaiya's mother. "So, do you finally agree we're not evil?"
"No, just mildly dangerous and odd," she said. "I'll accept my daughter being here, for now. Until something bad happens to her." She stood up. "Would that be all right?"
"All between you and your daughter," Oz told her. "She's outside playing with the kids if you wanted to say goodbye."
"I'll do that after I pack," she agreed, walking out of the bedroom and down to her bedroom.
"You're always welcome here," Xander called after her. He looked at Wesley again. "You haven't eaten yet today," he noted.
"I'll do that when I wake up tonight," Wesley told him. "The same as I do every night."
"You'd better," Oz told him, standing up. "Coming?" he asked, holding out a hand to help Xander up from the chair.
"Sure." Xander allowed himself to be pulled up. "I was going to go watch the workmen." He walked out with his hand on Oz's arm, letting him substitute for the cane.
Wesley laid back on his bed, a smile on his face as he fell asleep.
Xander looked up at the ceiling, thinking about everything he'd been told over the course of the day. It was an odd feeling, knowing that he was going to do something within the next year, and that it was something that he wasn't really against, at least not totally. He hadn't really thought about having another baby, but now that he was being forced to think about it, it wasn't that scary of a thought. He hadn't minded most of it, except for the whole ceiling-falling-on-him part, that part had sucked. But if he could do it now, when he could afford to go out and indulge himself, and he could run out and get things for his cravings, it might not be so bad.
"Quit thinking about it," Oz said quietly, rolling over to rest his head on his lover's stomach.
"But it's not that horrible of an idea," Xander told him.
"Maybe," Oz agreed. "But there's a few other points to think about."
"Like what?" Xander asked, starting to rub over the soft shoulders.
"Like the fact that if you do that, you'll have to hide once you start showing. Meaning no job."
"Okay, that could be not good," Xander agreed. "You're right, I hadn't thought about that. But this child could do amazing things."
"And who said that if you get pregnant, that the first one you have will be this kid." He lifted his head. "I hate to mention this, but Ethan could be hiding something even bigger."
"Oh, I know what he's hiding," Xander told him, giving him a smile. "I found out a few more things. It's a good thing sometimes to have some research people looking out for your family because they're not happy with what Giles did after he left them."
"Good point. What's the news?" Oz shifted to sit up, looking down at his lover. "Well?" he asked when Xander hadn't said anything.
"There's a possible prophecy about a hypothesized child that might be born either this century or in the next one."
"And it's possible that it's said that the child will be born to an unusual family."
"Do we have to stick to the hypothetical?"
"Yeah, because that's how the prophecy's written." Xander pushed himself up. "See, the prophecy is part of a set that's very suspect not only because of who wrote them but also because things in them can't be corroborated beforehand. It's one of those nasty ones that we'll find out about after it's happened and bit someone on the butt."
"Why would this kid bite someone on the butt?"
"Because he's going to be the next major chaos sorcerer," Xander told him. "Supposedly, the boy's not only going to be the next big bad, but he's also going to become one of the next major heads of a vampire family."
"So he's going to be turned," Oz said, thinking about it. "Are we talking another Master?"
"Possibly. Probably more like Spike at his worst, with Ethan's powers and connections. He'll definitely change the vampire order if he's born."
"But we're not the only unusual family," Oz pointed out.
"Yeah, but we were warned anyway," Xander told him, snuggling up to him. "More of a warning."
"That's okay then." He looked down at the dark head, bringing a hand up to play with the damp strands. "You're really thinking about this?"
"I'm not sure," Xander admitted, wrapping his arms around Oz's waist. "I'm more sure that I need to spend some time thinking about this. I won't act without you knowing."
"Thanks, Xan." Oz settled in for the night, comfortable with this attitude.