Buffy looked over the bulletin board in the dorm. "I need a job." She turned to look at her best friend, who had been walking up behind her slowly. "Dad's getting fussy again." When all she got was a nod she led her back to their room by force. "What?"
"I, um, went into Oz's porn stash again in a fit of womanly outrage." She sat down at her desk. "When did you do that?" she squeaked. The blonde covered her face. "At least I don't have to explain *it* to you." When she didn't get an answer, she took off her shoe and tossed it at her friend. "When?"
"When I ran. I needed capital to live so I answered an add for exotic models." She blushed. "It lasted about a week. Some pictures, a few movies." She blushed some more. "He had one?"
"Four," she yelled, standing up. "Why.... How...." She took a deep breath to calm herself. "Why did you stay for the week? I didn't know you even *liked* things like that." She limped around the room, thinking. "This," she muttered, "could be bad, very bad. Everyone will think I'm doing the same thing now because we're friends and people talk and it'll get back to Giles and he'll be revolted at me and he'll tell Oz and he'll leave me and I'll be alone..." Her voice went up with each statement, getting higher and louder until she walked into a strong pair of arms. "No," she said, backing up until she saw who it was. "When did you get here?" She snuggled down into them, letting herself be comforted.
"Around the guilt by association part." Oz pushed her back a little. "I know you're not involved. It's all right." She nodded so he pulled her back in closer, looking over her shoulder at her Buffy. "We've known for a while now but nobody told her." He patted Willow's back, making her feel safer. "Nobody thinks anything. You're a good girl who thinks that cameras and sex shouldn't mix. We all know that."
She pulled back, looking at him, then slapped his shoulder. "You've watched her doing.... that, haven't you." She got pissed at his not answering. "You've been watching my best friend have sex!" She stepped farther away from him, making a gross face. "Do you want her too? Or is it watching on general principles?" She crossed her arms over her chest. "I bet you even want to try some of it."
"Not really," he admitted. "Multiple women don't do it for me." He shrugged and glanced at Buffy. "Sorry, it's a minor thing for me, no more than three people to a bed." Willow shrieked, outraged. "Have I ever asked you to do that?" She shook her head, glaring at him. "Then you're overreacting. Come on, I want to talk to you." She nodded, following him out, except for the minute that it took her to come back to get her shoe.
Buffy sat on her bed, still shocked. "I wonder who else has a copy of those?" She lay down on the bed, hugging her stuffed pig.
Oz waited until Xander had his break, quietly eating his fries and reading his textbook. When the younger man sat down, he pushed them closer to share. "Will knows. Threw an awesome fit. I moved both our stashes to Giles' for safe keeping." He ate another fry. "Can tell you didn't make these, cold in the middle." He wiped his hands down on a napkin then looked up. "We switching roles again?"
The younger man shook himself. "No, pictures you don't want to know about." He shivered. "Really, just don't ask."
Oz nodded a few times. "Had one of those yesterday." He leaned a little closer. "Got a new tape."
"How do you manage to get so many," Xander asked, partially in awe.
"One of my older friends works in a store that does rentals; I have a double deck."
"Ah, the good, easy, and cheap way." He grinned then checked his watch, his grin falling away. "Oops, got to go back." He stood up, heading for the little door that led behind the counter. He came back five minutes later, dressed in his usual clothes. "Can I have a ride?"
Oz closed his book and stood up. "Sure." He tossed the fries out and headed out to the van. He waited until they were both inside and buckled up before asking. "Fired again?"
"Yeah, he's a prick. I refused to eat lunch from there so he fired me." He shrugged. "No big, was getting high cholesterol from working in that air."
Giles looked up as the two young men in his life walked into his common area. "Did they run you off?" Both nodded. "I'm sorry then." He waved at the other chairs. "Tea?"
"No thanks," Xander said, sitting in the chair closest to him. "I'll eat a cookie though." He snatched one when the plate was moved closer. "Thanks," he mumbled around it.
Oz picked up a muffin, putting some jam on it. "Willow freaked."
The oldest man looked confused for a second then shook his head. "With her upbringing? Did you expect a better outcome?" He shook his head. "At least you got her calmed down. She and Buffy will work it out and they will have peace in their room." He looked at Xander. "There's some leftovers...." He didn't get a chance to finish his sentence as the boy retreated quickly to the kitchen. "I take it he still has to pay for his meals." He moved the tray away from where they were sitting, making a little more room on the table. "Please bring out another small plate and a knife," he yelled over his shoulder. The younger man reappeared, handing over the requested items as he sat down with the Tupperware containers. He mumbled something that sounded vaguely like 'thanks' as he ate.
"I'd not let you starve," Giles reminded the boy. "As long as I have some food left you know you're welcome to come eat."
Xander swallowed. "I know. I'm toughing it out. This is good," he said, pointing with his fork at the bowl he was eating from. The oldest man nodded so he went back to his one meal that day.
The two older men shared a look. "Kidnapping?" Oz said. "Not ethical."
Giles looked at the youngest man. "Xander, would you mind terribly if we kidnapped you for a weekend? Fed you, cleaned you up a bit, and the like?"
"Gee guys, just make me sound like a stray puppy." He put the food down. "It depends on when I get another job. I have to slave a little longer." The food was nudged toward him so he ate another bite. "When did you want to do it?"
"Then it wouldn't be kidnapping," Oz reminded him. "Hurry up and eat, I hear someone coming."
"Clompy shoes?" The werewolf shook his head. "Then it's yours." He finished off the first bowl so put down the fork and picked up a spoon. "Hmm, Grandma soup?" He got a nod so put down the spoon to drink straight from the bowl. When he was done, he was smiling. "Your Grandma made good soup and you do her proud." He looked at the table. "Done? I can take it inside." The extra things were handed over and he carried them back with him to the kitchen. By the time he came back out, Willow was sitting quietly beside her man. He sat back down but ended up standing again when she looked at him funny. "That's my cue to scram," he said, turning to look at his host. "Thanks. If you need me, just yell." He jogged up the stairs and out into the street.
Both men looked at Willow. "You scared him off," Giles said.
"I read what he gave Oz."
"Do we need to talk about privacy?" he asked her. "Or, about reading things hidden in the bottom of my sock drawer?"
"No, we need to talk about lusting after the same man." She frowned at Giles when he coughed in surprise. "Don't even pretend. If you didn't love him, you wouldn't feed him."
The former Watcher scowled at her. "Some of us do charitable things because we were raised that way and what I feel for certain people is none of your business, Willow," he said stiffly, almost formally. "I'd appreciate it if you paid less attention to my relationships." She scowled at him some more. "Do *not* give me that look, young lady. Both of us are grown men and we are more than old enough to make decisions about our lives." He stood up, gathering up the rest of the tea things. "I believe I'm tired now, good day Oz."
Oz watched his friend leave. "You're not being nice and he deserves better from you." He followed Giles inside, closing the door solidly.
Willow stormed off, in a really foul mood now.
Oz patted Giles' back as he walked up behind him. "She'll go pout then apologize." He noticed the tense back and posture, prompting him to take the dishes from him to put up himself. After it was all done, he led the older man to the couch, sitting him down. "Sit." He walked back into the kitchen, cleaning up the rest of the mess. When he made it back to the couch, the older man was laying down, arm flung over his eyes. He moved Giles' feet, letting them rest on his lap so he could stroke them to relax him. "She was wrong, Giles. Very wrong." He pulled off a sock, working the foot in earnest now. "About what he and I both feel." That small half smile came back from earlier. "We both feel the same way, even if I could never really leave her."
"I know," the older man sighed. He moved the arm to look at him. "You do that quite well." He wiggled a little as a ticklish spot was hit. "This is most unkind if you're wanting to leave to go after her tonight," he said softly, looking into the green eyes.
"Nope, not into soothing a snit right now, or even again at the moment." He started to work the other foot, working over the lightly callused balls. "I should go yell at her for it really, she knows I won't cheat with Xander."
"The worry will ever be in her mind. She's still very insecure about your relationship." He noticed the look of concentration. "Please tell me you're not composing something about my toes," he said, wiggling them in jest. He almost levitated when one of them was nipped. "Oz!"
The younger man held them firmly in place when they would have been withdrawn. "You wanted to know what I was thinking," he reasoned. He stroked over an ankle, barely touching it with the tips of his fingers. "I'm in the same boat both of you are, I just can't act on it like we all want." He looked into the older man's face, reading the carefully concealed emotions there. "I know," he said quietly, shifting to lie on the firm stomach. "I need to think."
"Then do so," Giles said, stroking through the ginger hair. "I'm a very patient man."
Xander looked up as someone walked down his stairs, putting the book he'd been reading aside and sitting up when he saw it was Willow. "If you're going to throw a fit, I don't want to hear it." She frowned at him. "What? I'm not going to be the target of your ill will." She stayed silent as she sat down on the foot of the bed, looking him over. "What?" he asked warily.
"I'm trying to figure out what you have that I don't that makes the people around you want you enough to leave me." She sniffled a little. "It wasn't enough to have me? Now you need my Oz too?" He groaned, covering his face with a pillow. "Why can't you just take Giles and let us be happy together?"
"This is *so* unfair to me!" he yelled, standing up. "If you had read all of my notes then you'd know that I never would act on it *because* of you." He started to pace. "No matter how much I might want someone, I have to stop and think about what *you'd* think about it, what *you'd* say. And you know what? I'm not doing that anymore! If I want a man, then I'll damn well have one!" He turned to find her really crying now, curled up in a little ball around one of his pillows. He sat down beside her. "How bad a person do you think I am? You know I couldn't do that to you and him. I told him that but you didn't snoop that far." He rubbed over her exposed arm. "You know I'd never take Oz away from you, nobody could." He stood back up, going over to the stairs. "I'm going, you stay and be thoughtful." He headed up them, walking to the backyard and sitting down on the step. "Why me again?" he asked the roof, looking up.
"That's it!" Buffy yelled, slamming her book closed. "It's getting arctic in here again and I'm not dressed for that sort of cold. Deal with it and call me." She stormed out of the apartment, leaving her friends to deal with it alone.
"A bit over-dramatic," Oz said, not looking up as he turned a page.
"Definitely not Oscar worthy," Xander added. He looked at Giles, who was trying to hold in a smile. "Do they have awards in England for bad acting?"
"No," the oldest man said, "but we have plenty of bad actors that she's just beaten for most cranky exit line." He let the smile out now, along with a little laugh. "She belongs on one of those horrid soaps you show in the daytime."
"Springer," Oz said. He put down the book and sighed. "But then, we could all be on it." He looked at his girlfriend. "Are you over it yet or are you following?" She got up and walked out.
Xander shook his head. "Not crying at least." He put down his own book and looked at his friends. "So, how do we deal with it?"
"I'm doing my thing, you're doing yours," Oz said and shrugged. "I'm not going to leave her right now and we've already worked that out between us." He took Xander's hand. "I'm also not going to do anything with you. I might get away with something between Giles and myself but not with you." The younger man nodded. "Thanks."
"Hey, I understand that she'll be watching me." He looked at Giles. "Does this mean I can't come over to steal food?"
The oldest man shook his head, earning him a worried look from the youngest, which he quickly corrected. "I'm not letting her foul temper about my life ruin your eating." He patted the strong hand. "Yes, you are coming over to eat often still and the offer still stands for my couch also." He smiled a little. "Don't let her control who you see, Xander, it's not her job to be your mother."
"I know," he said, leaning back. "But I don't want to mess up the right things in my life either." He looked at Oz. "After she left here, she came over to cry on my bed and ask why I *had* to destroy what you guys had." He shuddered a little. "I felt so sorry about all the bad stuff that I'd caused between you two."
"It wasn't your fault alone," Giles reminded him. "She had just as much to do with that kiss." He looked at the older teen. "And you've all worked that out, right?" Oz nodded. "Thank goodness." He looked at Xander again, still seeing the pain in his eyes. "Why don't you stay here tonight? Enjoy the bath, sleep on the couch." He got a small nod. "Go relax then, we'll clean up here." He waited until they were alone. "Should we just kidnap him now instead of wait for this weekend?" he asked softly.
Oz nodded, crossing his hands on the table as he sat up. "He needs it. I know what she did and it was cruel to him, bringing him back to his old levels of guilt." He glanced toward the bathroom. "There are still days when I just want to cocoon him from the world."
"It wouldn't be fair to him." He too looked toward the bathroom. "But it is something we can do for a while." He looked at the couch. "I don't know how he slept there but get it ready while I start some dinner." He stood up, walking into the kitchen.
Xander shook his head as he stepped away from the bathroom door. "That's not what I need guys," he muttered, walking over to start the water. "I need some emotional support, not the fragile Xander deal again." He found the little bottle of oil, putting a few drops into the running water. "At least they've gotten better though. Not so careful around me." He sank down into the hot water, 'ah'ing in appreciation. "I can live with them getting better now too. It's a good time to do this."
Oz walked away from the bathroom door, heading into the kitchen to lean against Giles. "He thinks we're still looking at him like we did before. But he says we're getting better." He sniffed the dress shirt, scenting his soon-to-be lover. "Shouldn't we tell him that's not right?"
"It is," Giles said. "I'm still finding myself wanting to be more careful about him." He turned, taking Oz into his arms. "As have you." He thought for a second. "I'd like to do something special for him tonight, show him that we do care, even if we can't let ourselves touch him."
Oz looked up at him. "Why can't we again?"
"Because he's not ready for that yet. Both of us tend to be a bit intense with our relationships and I don't think he's ready for that yet. He'd feel smothered." He kissed the top of the red hair. "I want him to come to us and ask, not the other way around."
"Ah, making him ask will allow him to have more freedom and control." He laid his head back on the strong shoulder. "I can handle that. Until it's time."
Xander woke up at the soft shaking at his shoulder. He looked up and yawned, grinning at Oz through it. "Sorry, didn't mean to nap." He sat up a little, covering himself with his hands when he realized that the bubbles were gone. "Um, is it time for me to get out?"
"Only if you want to eat." He stepped back, patting the towel he'd laid out. "Come on, nice dinner, some tv, a relaxing evening." He turned, walking out, closing the door gently.
Xander stretched and got out, holding onto the overhead bar to steady himself. He got one foot out safely but the second one slipped on the slick tiles, sending him crashing to the floor - except his head, which hit the side of the cast iron tub.
Oz and Giles ran back in at the sound of something heavy hitting the floor. They stopped to look at the younger man on the floor, seeing the small flow of blood running down the side of the tub and across the tiles. Giles got him covered with the towel while Oz got some clothes for him, allowing him enough time to check his injury.
"Small gash," the older man said, helping pull down the t-shirt. He moved aside so Oz could slide the sweatpants on the thin legs, not really wanting to watch but feeling compelled to. He looked at the other man, seeing the same mix of pain and pleasure in his eyes. "Hospital might be a good idea." He dug into his pants, pulling out his keys. "Go start my car and we'll take him."
"Should we move him?"
"If he's that injured, we've already caused damage." He checked the gash again, grimacing at the blood on his hand when he pulled it back. "I'd say he needs to go now, damn the injuries." He stood up, waiting until Oz had walked past him to lift the young man up into his arms and carry out.
They paced the hospital's waiting area, passing each other silently. Nobody had come out to tell them what was going on, no kind and gentle doctor or nurse to tell them he was going to be all right.
Willow ran in, frowning at them. She stopped Oz, hugging him. "Is he okay?"
"Nobody will tell us," Giles said. He looked at the desk again, seeing the nurse turn to avoid looking at him. "He fell getting out of the tub, bashing his head on the side. It was bleeding and he didn't wake up the whole way here." He wiped over his forehead as he sat down. "Why won't they come and tell us?"
Willow walked up to the desk, pulling an envelope out of her bag. "Hi, I'm here for Xander Harris, I'm his emergency contact and power of medical whatever." The nurse smiled and took the forms, looking them over. Then she nodded and pointed at a door, letting her go through it.
The two men looked at each other then at the floor. Oz sat down beside Giles, waiting. She would come out and tell them what was going on. It was almost thirty minutes later before she did, sitting between them.
"He's being admitted overnight as a precaution. His head injury was minor but there's a small concussion and they don't want to risk it. He didn't lose that much blood and he woke up about five minutes before I got here. He's fully aware and knows who I am and that you're out here. They're moving him up now." She took Oz's hand in hers, squeezing it. "You did the right thing, bringing him in when you did. No further ouchies from that."
Giles stood up, sighing in relief. "Can we go up and see him?"
"They said give him fifteen minutes to get settled but we can do that then." She looked at Oz. "What happened again? He fell getting out of the tub?"
Oz nodded. "He was taking a bath to relax."
"He does it all the time," Giles said. "I made him after..." He cleared his throat. "Well, anyway, he took one today and fell asleep as usual. Oz went in to wake him up for dinner, then left him alone. I knew I should have put a non-skid mat down." He frowned, looking around. "We should start up, maybe stop and get him something to do when he wakes up later."
"He won't be. They're keeping him sedated a little to keep him calm. He was panicked when he woke up, thought someone had attacked him again." She shuddered, leaning a little closer to her boyfriend. "I told him it was a household thing and he calmed down but he was already under by then." She stood up, pulling Oz with her. "Come on, he's in a room down the hall from the last one Buffy stayed in." She covered her mouth. "She's expecting me at home. I've got to call her and tell her we're here." She let go of Oz and hurried over to the payphone, pulling out her wallet as she jogged.
Giles looked at Oz then at the elevator. "Shall we? I'm sure she'll catch up." The younger man nodded so they started toward it, feeling much more at ease now.
Xander opened his eyes and looked around with a silly grin. "Hey," he slurred. "Nice drugs they give me." He scooted up some, still grinning, even when he grabbed the back of his head to make it stop hurting. "What happened?"
"I'm afraid I'll have to get a mat to put down in front of the tub. You slipped getting out." Giles sat on the side of the bed, hugging the injured man. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," he slurred and slipped into a gentle little doze in the comforting arms.
Oz shook his head, coming over to help get him back to the bed, pulling the covers up over the gown-covered chest. He stepped back when the brown eyes opened and tried to focus on him. "Hi. Good drugs?"
Xander nodded then stopped his head with both hands. "Very." He grinned again then looked at Giles. "Wasn't I just being hugged?" He got a nod and a short laugh, accompanied with a smile. "Thought so. Mean of you, letting me go." He turned his head to look back at Oz. "What's up? How long was I out?"
"Nothing. Should we get you some clothes for tonight? Maybe your sweats? And four hours almost, since it happened."
"Yup." He nodded and stopped his head again. "Got to quit doing that." He grinned at Willow then his face fell. "You're going to yell, aren't you?"
She shook her head, walking over to kiss his forehead. "No, I'm not going to yell at you for slipping getting out of the tub. I'm going to yell at you for being mad at me." She pushed Giles out of the way, sitting in his spot. "Now then, I'm not mad at you." He snorted. "I'm not, well I am, but we can talk about that when you're better."
"None of that," the nurse said as she walked in. "He needs rest and peaceful feelings. That way the nice drugs can work their way out of his system." She frowned at Willow, who she had already had one discussion with. "Off the bed now, Missy, right this instant." She set down the tray she was carrying. "Now, Mr. Harris, I want you to drink a lot of this," she held up the pitcher, "so we can clear your system of that drug you received by mistake so the nice lawyers can come talk to you in a while so you don't sue us." She smiled, reaching over to brush his hair back. "I'm going to talk to your friends, you nap now and we'll get you a drink when you get back up." He nodded then stopped his head after groaning and closed his eyes. She turned to look at the two men. "A student nurse confused the medications she was carrying. He won't be hurt, but we want him to drink a lot of fluids tonight until he's back to normal." She cleared her throat. "He kept calling for Mr. Giles so I'm going to tell you this, the hospital is going to admit to giving him the wrong medicines and settle with him because a lawsuit in the middle of a buyout is worse than admitting it. The lawyers will be up later." They nodded so she went on. "You can stay, as long as you don't upset him," she looked at Willow, "but you might want to get him some clothes to sleep in." She handed over the bag of his clothes from earlier. "These need washing, there's a lot of blood on it." She turned, walking out. "And Missy, I'm warning you, if you upset him again, even for a second, I'll have you banished from this hospital until he's able to yell at you himself." She let the door breeze closed behind her.
Oz looked at Giles, patting the keys in his pocket. "Clothes?"
"I'll stay," he agreed. He looked at Willow. "It might be best if you went for now. You were upsetting him." She pouted but walked out after Oz. Giles moved his chair closer, taking the limp hand in his. "I'll be here, you sleep safe," he whispered.
Xander looked around his hospital room, still with a little happy smile from the feeling-good drugs. He looked over to see Giles sleeping in the chair and the smile fell away, a look of awe coming onto his face. "Wow," he said softly, watching the mobile face wiggle some before the long fingers came up to scratch an itchy spot. He grinned at the happy expression that lit up his friend's face when he opened his eyes to see him awake. "Morning," he said softly.
Giles got up, coming over to sit on the side of the bed, brushing through the dark hair of the younger man. "How's your head," he asked quietly. "Still hurt?"
"Just a little bit. I'll live." The teen brushed his hand over the strong wrist, turning the watch to look at it. "It's three am, shouldn't you be snoozing in a comfy bed instead of that chair?" He let the hand back down slowly, letting his fingers rest against the wrist for a few extra heartbeats. "Where's Oz and Will?" he asked, looking away from the all-knowing eyes.
"They're at his place," Giles told him, turning his head back around. "I don't mind," he said. He got a confused look. "Never mind," he amended. "Do you want something to drink? You could use some."
"Sure," Xander said, pushing the button to raise the head of the bed. He smiled as he took the cup, drinking slowly while watching his friend walk around the room. "Nobody's going to come in and eat me," he said between sips, "you don't have to stay if you want to go home."
"No, I want to stay, Xander," Giles said, walking back over to sit beside him. He took the cup, putting it aside so he could entwine their fingers. "I feel responsible for your accident."
"I'm the klutz, you're not responsible for that." The younger man grinned. "I won't sue. Promise."
"I'm glad," Giles said, still not smiling, "but I wasn't worried about that." He fluffed the pillows some, running his fingers through his hair. "Why don't you try to go back to sleep now. I'm sure your head must be hurting a bit." He started to get up but a firm hand on his wrist stopped him.
"You don't have to go, I just wanted to give you the option. I kinda like being watched while I sleep." Xander blinked, his eyes getting a little heavy now. "I'll sleep if you stay," he offered, right before drifting back off to sleep.
"Of course I'm staying," the older man whispered, "there's no place else I'd be. I'll be here when you need me, no matter what," he promised, watching the younger man sleep the sleep of the drugged.
Oz walked into the room as the lawyers were trying to talk Xander into accepting a pitiful amount of money. He hid his annoyance as he walked over, bending down to whisper in his friend's ear. "Let me?" He got a small nod and a hand squeeze so sat beside him, making Giles move. "He wants enough to compensate him for a potentially fatal drug exposure," he told the vulture. .. um, lawyer.
"I'm sure it wasn't that bad," the good looking man said, showing off his bright, white teeth when he smiled. "It was only an extra-heavy sedative."
"He had a head injury," Giles pointed out. He looked at his friends. "I say we table this until you're released, Xander, and we can discuss this with a lawyer."
"I'd be happy enough to accept enough to get me by for a few years," the younger man said, getting pinched by Oz.
"Give us a sec," the redhead said. The lawyer walked out. "We're trying to get you more, don't do that."
"But I'll still have to work anyway," the younger teen pointed out. "I can't *not* do that."
"I'm going to hurt your father for telling you that," Oz promised. He bent down to look into his friend's eyes. "Get enough to live comfortably for *five* years if something happens. That would be triple what he was offering."
"But this is a small hospital," Xander said, mimicking what the lawyer told him.
"It's owned by a multinational corporation and the insurance will pay it all for them. It's not costing them a penny," Giles told them. "I agree with Oz. You need to get enough to make sure it never happens again. This is the only way to ensure that."
"But he said...."
"Xander," Oz cut in, "he's a lawyer. They exist to lie and make you miserable. Giles is right, this is the only way to make sure that it doesn't happen again. Next time it might be fatal. Or happen to one of us."
The younger man nodded. "Okay, I'll let you negotiate," he said, frowning just a little. "But I'm not using it unless I have to. I *need* to work."
"Hey, you can work with it in the bank making baby money," Oz told him, patting his hand. He watched as Giles got up to let the lawyer back in, closing the door behind him. "We're working this out. We want to make sure this won't happen again."
"That nurse was taken from her rotation," the lawyer assured him, "and I called my boss, who authorized me to pay him double that amount."
"Triple," Oz said.
"I can't go that high."
"No, I meant triple your most recent offer. His injury could have made that fatal. I'm sure we can get people to say that if we go to court. Then you'd have the press to deal with."
The good-looking man sighed but nodded. "I can see how this would make people more careful. All right, I'll do what I can. I'll bring the papers this afternoon." He smiled again, almost blinding them with the whiteness of his teeth before he hurried out of the room.
"Slimy," Giles muttered as he walked over to sit on the other side of the bed. "That's still not that much money. From what I've read in the news, they're used to paying millions."
"Hey, what I got was good," Xander defended, patting Oz's hand. "I'll be able to live on it and they got off easy."
Oz snorted. "True, they did. He wasn't even starting to sweat." He leaned down, pecking his friend's cheek. "Talked to the nurse, you can go home this afternoon and lay on a couch."
"You're coming back with me, both of you," Giles said, scowling fiercely, or attempting to, something he couldn't pull off with them anymore. "Xander will rest at my flat for a few days then return to his own home."
"Guys," the man in the bed started but Oz shut him up with a hand over his mouth.
"We can finish the kidnapping," the older teen agreed, then looked down. "Don't argue, it'll only get worse."
Xander nodded, content to do as he was told this once.
Xander looked at his bankbook then carefully put it into the locking box, sliding it under his bed and covering the area around it with clothes to hide it.
"Xander," his mother yelled. "We're leaving!" The back door slammed.
"Thank God for small miracles," he said, laying back and looking up at his ceiling. "Paying the rent sends them away, gotta remember that," he said as he got up to get the door. Buffy walked in, looking him over. "What's up?" he asked, heading back to his perch on the pillows.
"How's the head?" she asked, sitting down in his chair.
"I'm fine." She nodded. "New creature thingy?" She shook her head. "Will okay?" She nodded. He took a deep breath. "Then why you here?"
"Just wanting to know how you were," she said, standing back up. "How's your *head*?"
Nobody could have missed the emphasis on that last word but Xander chose to ignore the implications. "It's fine. The cut is healed, all the stitches are out. Even the faint ringing went away after the first few days." He shrugged when she frowned. "Not a big, about like being hit with a really hard board I think."
"That wasn't what I meant."
"That's somewhere that not even I can touch," he told her, sitting up. "I don't believe in doing nothing all the time so I'm going to not touch it unless it's an emergency and the co-signer tells me it's okay." Her shoulder's slumped. "Why?"
"Because." She sat down beside him. "Just thinking about the cost of college and, well, things." She ran a fingernail up his chest. "You know, things that you wouldn't want to get out." He snorted. "Like the fact that you slept between Oz and Giles the whole time you were there." She looked into his eyes, seeing the pain there and her suspicions were confirmed. "Will's gonna find out eventually," she said.
Xander shook his head. "Nope, no way. I slept on the couch. Same as I did before graduation." He moved away from her stroking finger. "Don't even try this again, Buffy. I'm forgiving it this time but never again." He stood up, looking at her. "I've got to go to work, I'll see you at Giles' later."
She nodded, getting up and walking out and he took a *deep* breath. "I can't believe she did that," he muttered, lying back down to go back to his ceiling.
Buffy pulled the card out of her wallet, looking around her empty room as she dialed. Willow walked in as she hit the last number so she hung up quickly, giving her best impression of innocence. "Hey, Will," she said, smiling. "Just saw Xand and he's fine."
The redhead nodded, sitting down in front of her computer. "Saw him yesterday before he headed home." She clicked her mouse button. "What's up?"
"Nothing, just going to make a call." She stood up. "I'm going to go to the payphone and call, need the extra privacy." She hurried out, taking the business card with her. She dialed again, smiling at the deep voice on the other end. "Hey, it's Buffy Summers," she said, leaning against the wall. "Do you need someone like me again?" Her smile got bigger. "Okay, I can handle that. Have to skip class, but that's more than doable. See you then." She hung up, heading back to her room.
Willow had on her headphones, simply waving as her roommate walked back in.
Xander logged onto the library's computer, going to check his email. He smiled at the message from the porn actress he'd carted around over the summer, opening it quickly then snorting. "Of course I'd like to see the awards show," he said, typing in his reply. He had to stop when his eyes were covered.
Oz leaned over the younger man's shoulder to look at the message. "Told you to come use mine," he said in the blushing ear. "Hmm, can I have the other ticket?"
"Sure," the younger man said, licking the hand covering his mouth now. He looked up to grin at his friend. "Was planning on that anyway. Giles wouldn't be caught dead going there. It'd ruin his rep." He finished his reply, going to the next message and almost choking, bringing his friend back. He just pointed at the screen, his mouth hanging open.
"Oh, no," Oz said, pulling a chair over to read it again. He shook his head, looking around. "Want to tell Giles?" He got a mute head shake. "He deserves to know, he's like a parent to us."
"I'm not telling," Xander muttered, turning to look at his friend. "It's your turn anyway. I told him about the last two." That got a small nod. "Want to get it first and just show him?"
"Could," the older man said. He looked over his shoulder as the person they were thinking about walked over to them. "Ho alert," Oz whispered, changing messages.
"Hey guys," Buffy said, really cheerful now that she had spending money again. "What's up?" She looked at the message on the screen, frowning. "Xander, free pictures?" She shook her head. "What *will* Willow think?" She started to walk away.
Oz started to get up to follow her and have a word with her but Xander caught his wrist. "Don't. I need to tell you something else, just not here." He looked around. "Come over tonight?"
"We have research to do tonight." The older man stood up, stretching, showing off his belly button and the fake ring in it.
"Trying it out to see if I like the look." He pulled down his shirt, raising an eyebrow. "What do you think?"
"Don't like it." Xander looked up, a small evil grin coming out. "I always figured you for some other type of piercing, Oz, but a belly button ring? Isn't that a little normal today?"
The older teen nodded, chuckling slightly. He removed the ring, handing it off. "Good point." He leaned closer. "Had one of those, took it out recently. Ought to try it." He patted the stunned man's shoulder before he walked away.
Xander sat there, mouth open, staring at the screen saver as it ran. Finally he shook his head, banishing the picture to his 'later' file.
Giles looked at the film case in the younger man's hands and frowned. "Another? How many could she do in a week?" He took the tape, looking at the copyright date on it and glaring. "This is this year's," he said slowly.
Xander cleared his throat. "I need to talk to you both about something else too." He looked down at the floor, blushing lightly. "She came over...." He stopped as someone knocked on the door.
Willow walked in, looking at the cluster of men. "Buffy will be in after she finishes staking the vamp we just ran into." She sat down in her regular seat, looking at the tape. "Movie night?"
"Nope," Oz said quickly. "Something my friend wanted me to preview for his shift." He took the tape back, getting up to put it into his backpack. He came back to the table, after kissing the top of his girlfriend's head. "What's up on your end of the campus?"
"Not much. Few parties tonight to celebrate Thursday." She shrugged, looking at the door as Buffy walked in. "Get him?"
"Her, as I found out, but yeah." She wiped her hands off on her jeans, taking her usual seat. "What's the big tonight?"
"A minor demon getting ready to rise," Giles said, pushing over the reference he'd already found. "We need to find his followers and stop them."
Xander waited until he and Oz were alone in his car, having offered to drive since the van was in the shop. "I tell ya, she tried to blackmail me." He pulled over to a curb, turning off the engine before turning to look at him. "Oz, it was weird. She said I slept between you two during my stay last time." He shivered, banishing the pictures after a second's pause. "It was just *weird*."
"What was that," the older teen asked quietly. He got a confused glance. "That body thing."
"Bad or good?"
"Um, you're taken and so's he, by you I might add." Xander grimaced for a second then cleared it up. "Just pictures, leave it there, Oz."
"I can do that." The older teen leaned closer, kissing his cheek. "She won't tell Willow, she knows we know about the tapes."
"I think she's smoking something."
"Could be. Would account for the erratic behavior." Oz thought for a few seconds. "We'll watch her for more strange behavior. I know she's already jumped Will once this semester." He frowned. "Walked in on that scene." The man beside him shivered again. "Not even. Was gross. Will looked so confused and helpless and bored."
"Guess she didn't learn anything then," Xander quipped, leaning back. "Do you feel like we should be parked in some dark alley right now?" He got a small nod and the man beside him leaned a little closer. "Then why are we on a brightly lit street?"
"Because I'm taken and you're not," Oz sighed, leaning back against his door. "Take me back to Giles' and I'll discuss this with him, spare you that discussion." The car was started. "Xand, wait. Do you want to come watch that with us?"
"No, Buffyporn has lost its specialness for me."
Giles sighed as he rolled over, looking at the clock. He got out of his chair, walking over to get the door before whoever it was woke up the sleeping man on the couch. "Willow," he said softly. "Oz is sleeping on the couch." He waved her inside. "Is there a problem?"
Her eyes were open really wide, almost frantic looking. "I just got asked by some of the guys on my hall if that was Buffy in that tape." She sat down on her boyfriend's foot, waking him up and not even realizing it. "I told him no but he looked at me funny."
"As long as you deny knowledge, no one can say anything about you," Oz said, yawning. He sat up, pulling his feet out from under her rear. "What time is it?"
"Almost one," Giles said, taking his chair again. "Willow, this isn't really something to be concerned about. No one can judge you on what your roommate does."
"They judged you on what they thought Xander was doing," she pointed out. "Giles, in a small town, it doesn't matter if you're doing it or not, you're guilty." She looked at her boyfriend. "Can I come stay with you more often?"
He nodded, glancing at Giles. "Just not tonight. The place was sprayed and I can't stand the smell." Her shoulder's slumped. The older man glanced up at the stairs and he nodded. "How about we all stay here tonight. I'll share a bed with Giles, and you take the couch." She glared at him. "Innocently and all that. We'll both be clothed and everything."
It took her a few minutes but she finally nodded. "Okay. But I don't want to hear nookie noises." She lay down, hugging him to her chest before he could get up. "Thanks, Giles. You're the bestest."
"Don't worry," the older man said, getting up and turning out the lights. "We'll get this all straightened out soon enough." He walked up the stairs, followed by Oz. After he had shut the door, his arms were filled. "I'm sorry," he whispered, then took a small kiss.
"Not a big," the teen said, relaxing into the strong arms. "Just have to be more quiet." He reached behind himself, locking the door before the footsteps outside could get any farther up. "Night, Will," he called.
"Night," she called, obviously from the stairs.
Giles smiled as her footsteps retreated, squeezing his lover once then leading him over to the bed. "I'll happily hold you tonight."
"Need to talk to you," Oz told him as he snuggled in next to the extra warm body. "Xander told me some things and we think you need to know." He got a small, hesitant nod to go on. "We think she's got some sort of habit. She tried to blackmail him for money, said we all slept together."
"She being Buffy?" the older man asked softly. When he got the nod, he sighed. "I'll discuss this with her in the morning then. The movies put her at an extra risk and I'll make that clear." He clutched his occasional lover tightly to him and drifted off into an easy sleep.
Buffy frowned at Xander as she caught him sitting with Willow and Oz in the student union. She sat down with them anyway, frowning at all them. "What?" she asked, very pissed.
"Was going to ask you that," Oz said calmly. She glared at him. "We could do an intervention instead," he offered. That just got him glared at harder.
"Stop it," Willow hissed. "You're besmirching all of us with that." She glanced around. "Some other people know now. They asked *me*." She crossed her arms and pushed back her tray. "Do you know how embarrassing that was?"
"Why? You're not doing it."
"Buffy," Xander explained quietly, "in small towns, if you know the person, you're involved in the activity too. When I stood on that cliff with that gun, all of your files were pulled and looked at by the counselor once he knew. Not to help you deal with what I did but because you were thought to be that way too."
"Well put," Oz said. "I was actually called in." He scratched his side and got a small nod from the other man. "Point is, Buffy, that we're all suspect now too. That fit Willow threw was right."
"They should mind their own business. What I do is none of it." She stood up, taking her tray and walking away.
Xander looked at Oz. "She's going to go prove us right."
"I know," he said, nodding and putting an arm around his girlfriend's waist. "We just have to disassociate."
Willow sighed. "I can't, I live with the ho."
Buffy walked up to her door after a weeklong absence and found her key didn't work. She knocked then checked the time when there was no answer. She went for her Resident Helper, knocking on her door.
"Summers," the guy said, yawning. "What's wrong?"
"I can't get into my room." She tried to look helpless. "I have my key but it doesn't work."
"Your roommate had it changed, she lost hers and then woke up to someone trying to get in." He grabbed his keys off the back of the door and walked her back to her room, letting her in. "Next time, get back sooner. Two am is unkind for some of us." He turned, trudging back to his room.
She walked into her room, covering her eyes as the flashlight got them. "Will," she complained.
"Nope, go sleep somewhere else." The flashlight went off.
Buffy tried the light switch. "Not funny," she muttered, walking over to where her bed was.
"Night," Oz said and the sound of the blankets moving became loud in the room.
"Sorry," Buffy said, turning and walking back out. "I'll get the new key in the morning." She closed the door after herself, heading out to her friend's houses.
She peeked in Xander's window, frowning at the lump on the bed that looked a lot like Anya and turned to head for Giles'. He was actually up, wandering around his apartment muttering to himself as she opened the door. "Hey, can I crash? Oz is having a party in my room."
The older man stopped, looking at her. "Of course you may. As long as you have a reasonable excuse for your unannounced absence." He looked her over, seeing her lack of luggage. "Tell me you didn't," he said.
"No," she said snidely as she walked over to sit in the chair, not missing the Xander-sized lump on the couch. "I had to go visit my Aunt. She's sick, pneumonia." She frowned at her friend. "I just saw an Anya-shaped lump at his house. Why's he here?"
"Hmm? Oh, because his head started to hurt again and he didn't want to take any chances. I have some extra blankets that you can make into a bed on the floor if you'd like." She nodded, resigned to her fate.