Oz leaned over the bed, smiling at his daughter. "Hey," he said, stopping Xander from getting up with a supernaturally strong hand in the middle of his chest. "How are we this morning, love?" he asked her, cooing almost. He looked at Xander and his expression changed to a frown. "I should hurt you for doing this to us but you mean too much to me to beat." He lifted his hand, looking at the baby again. "Don't make me gas you. Just get the stuff and let's go."

"No." Xander sat down on the bed, picking the baby up to hold her. "I'm not going back yet. We need some time alone."

"Get your things and let's go," Oz repeated, showing his stubborn side. "Giles hasn't made it out of bed for three days now. The Council's coming for you to take her. Now get your things and let's go."

Xander shook his head, laying Miri back down and standing up. "I'm not going back. I know you love her too but I can't have her there, knowing what she'll go through." He started to pace the room, walking around the bed and occasionally looking out the window. "It's pretty country here."

"Stop it!" Oz hissed, stopping him by grabbing his arms. "I'm not letting you do this to any of us. You're coming back, both of you." He shook him lightly, watching the fear come out. "Now then, let's get this straight once and for all. Giles is fixing it. All of it. He's depressed enough to not be left alone but he's hired someone to fix all of it." He pulled him a little closer, putting their noses almost together. "I'm not going to let you hurt him anymore."

"I didn't mean to," he admitted, softly, not looking into the older man's eyes. "I just wanted to be safe."

"You were," Oz said, shaking him again. "You were safe with us. We were fixing it slowly."

"Then why was Willow almost kicked out of school? Huh?" He broke the hold, stepping back. "She deserves better than to be hurt by some stupid *shit* like this because someone didn't like me. You all do." He backed away when he saw the angry look. "Tell me it didn't hurt us any, Oz. All of us were affected because I couldn't keep my mouth shut and take it like a man." He turned his back, heading for the bathroom. "Just go home."

Oz growled, grabbing him and spinning him around, making him hit the floor. "You're so selfish! Do you think that we gave a *damn* about that stuff? Willow's thing was fixed easily. Giles is starting proceedings against the cops on behalf of the store and Ernie's ex-wife. *You've* hurt us more than the people of Sunnydale ever could!" He loomed over the younger man, panting to try and get his anger down. Then he heard a cry from the bed, making him spin around and hurry over to her. "Sshh, I'm sorry Miri, I didn't mean to wake you again." He picked her up, cradling her to his chest and rocking her gently. "I'm sorry, baby, I won't fight with your dad anymore." He patted her back, soothing her gently back into her nap. "What about her," he asked. "How did this hurt her?"

"What would staying have helped?" Xander pulled his knees up to his chin, watching his friend with his child. "Take her, I'll be back soon."

"Get up and get your stuff. You can't tell me to take her and leave you. We're just as upset that you're not there as we are about her." He laid her down carefully, pulling the thin blanket up over her cold legs. "She's chilly," he said, sliding to the floor. "Xander, Giles isn't worried sick about just her. It's about you too. Actually I think he's more worried about you. It's your name he cries out when he has nightmares about what might happen. It's your name that Willow cried in her sleep, seeing something bad going on. You've got to come back, if just for them."

"If I come back then nothing will change and everyone will be hurt."

Oz shook his head. "You didn't hear a word I said, did you?" He moved closer, pulling the younger man to him, holding his face. "We're worried about *you* not her. You can take care of her, you won't do it for yourself." When he saw the blank look, he did what he wanted to do, kissing him hard. When he pulled back, Xander's mouth was open in shock. Literally.

"What was that for?"

"I want you to come back. Yeah, I love her but I care for you too." He scooted closer. "Please come home. We're making it all better, but you're not there so it's surreal and painful for me." He stroked over the damp lips. "Please Xander, come back." He leaned in for another kiss, but missed when the younger man pulled back. "What's wrong?"

"You're doing this to get her back," he accused, looking at the floor. "You don't want me, you want Miri." He looked up, seeing the pained face. "You don't like me like that."

"If I didn't like you, would I have come back when you found out you were a father? Would I have driven all that way to see you and comfort you?" Xander shrugged. "Think of it this way. If I didn't like you, would I be here?"

"You want her back. She's like your own." He started to get up but was stopped, Oz pushing him down as he stood.

"I can't believe that came out of your mouth," he said in awe. "How bad do you think I am?" He looked down. "I *care* for you *both*, not just her. Yeah, she's like my own. I love her like my own daughter because this is as close as I'll ever be to a father but you're the reason I'm here. I'd still be here if she wasn't." He sat on the bed, shaking his head. "I didn't know you thought so little of me." He stood up, walking out.

"Oz, wait!" Xander yelled, getting to his feet and running after him. "Wait!" He stopped the older man before he could make it out the front door of the building. "I'm...I didn't mean it like that. I didn't think that you cared at all for me." He turned him around, seeing the glistening eyes. "And I'm sorry for that. I really didn't know." He pulled him into a hug, then looked around. "Miri, I left her alone." He pulled Oz back to the room, kicking the door shut after shoving Oz in first. "Hey," he said, leaning over to kiss her forehead and get batted by an arm. "How are we?" He picked her up, turning around to face the older man. "I thought you only cared for her, and that I was just a necessity to having her around." He walked her over, holding out an arm for a hug. When it wasn't taken, he stepped back. "Oh." He walked back to the bed, sitting down and cuddling her tightly. He was shocked when Oz took off his jacket and came over, pushing him back onto the bed. Then he lay on top of them, missing the baby, and put his head on the younger man's chest to listen to his heart. "I'm sorry," he whispered, using his free hand to stroke through the greasy red hair. "Really, really sorry."

"Say it again and I'll gas you anyway." He didn't look up. "Don't do that, it's a Giles thing."

"I like you hair, always have." He pulled lightly on a strand. "Needs washed though."

"I'll use your shower before we start back." He lifted his head, looking into the dark eyes. "*We* are going back." He laid his head back down, shifting to lay in the other direction, letting part of his face rest on the baby's stomach. "She's cold."

Xander grabbed the blanket, pulling it over them. "I was too until you got here." He wrapped an arm around them both, finding all new reasons to hold someone.


Oz woke up, yawning. He wrinkled his nose at the smell of the diaper near his nose so sat up, putting her off to the side for a second. He climbed out of the bed, picking her back up and taking her into the bathroom to take care of her.

Xander woke up, not feeling either of them with him. He panicked, sitting straight up and looking around. "No," he muttered, getting up. He hissed as his feet hit the cold floor but he went to the window anyway, looking out to check for Oz's van. He sighed in relief then turned around to find him and Miri standing in the bathroom's doorway.

"You thought I took her?"

Xander's shoulders slumped and he nodded. "I woke up and neither of you were there or making noise. I didn't hear you."

Oz walked over, and slapped him, knocking him to the floor. "I'm not like that," he said softly then turned to get her things together. "We're going back, you can do whatever." He finished packing the bag and turned to see the younger man curled up on the floor, shaking. "Stop it." When nothing happened, he walked closer then sat on the floor. "Xand?" he called. He touched a shoulder, earning him a soft yell. "Xander?" When he didn't get an answer, just the eyes shutting, he moved closer, nudging him now. "Come on, don't do this to me." Still no answer so he lay down next to him, pulling him to his chest to hug him. "I didn't want to hurt you, but you knew I wouldn't do that. Why can't you trust me?"

Xander shook a little more then saw his daughter trying to eat his shirt, making him focus on her solely. "I'm sorry," he said, picking her up. He snuggled her tightly, rocking them gently. "I didn't mean to take you away from the rest of your family." He kissed the top of her head and handed her back, getting up and walking out.

Oz didn't make it up fast enough to stop him from leaving. He stood in the doorway of the cheap motel and watched as the car receded. "Damn," he muttered, jiggling her to get her to calm down. He turned, walking back to the room. He laid her on the bed then walked out to the payphone, dialing home. "Giles?" He hit the wall. "We've had a slight problem." He hung up, walking back into the room to finish getting the stuff together.


Xander looked out the window of the motel he was in, sniffling. He finished off his soda and looked back down at the letter he was writing. He reread the last part then picked up the pen to start a new section when the door was knocked on. He got up, trudging over to answer it, not bothering to look first. The next thing he knew he was on the floor, looking up at a man in silver leather. "Wesley?" he asked, rubbing his jaw. "When did you learn to do that?"

The former Watcher helped him up, sitting him in a chair. "When I found out that you left her alone with Oz and ran away again." He kicked the door shut, walking over to sit in the other chair. "I give you a responsibility to care for a precious infant and you leave her with *him*? How bad a parent can you be?"

Xander got up to grab another soda and started to drink it. "He came for her, Giles needed her to feel better. I just can't go home yet." He sat back down, looking over the other man. "You look well."

"I'm fine, don't change the subject. Giles sent him after the both of you. Not just Miriam. Not just you, the both of you. Then you left her with Oz and took off for here." He waved a hand around. "Why on earth did you do something so stupid? And I want a real answer before I hit you again on general principles."

The younger man laid his head down, pushing over the letter. "They need her and she needs them. I'm making things worse, everything bad happened because I couldn't take a little harassment." He lifted his head to sip the soda. "If I'm there then everything will fall apart." He looked out the window and frowned. "Giles is here?"

"Oz took her home and contacted me, putting him on a plane to come get you." He looked up. "I hope I'm reading this wrong. You aren't going to abandon them, are you?" He set the papers down and shook his head. "I'd be very sorry if you did, mostly because I misjudged you so horribly." He got up to let the older former Watcher in, walking out. "He needs some common sense," he said as they passed.

Giles shut the door, not even slamming it, and walked over to take the seat Wesley had just vacated. He looked at the letter then at the younger man. "Stupid, aren't we," he started. "Thinking that we only cared about her." He grabbed the hand on the table before the younger man could move. "Sit and listen." He waited but the eyes didn't look up. "And at least be man enough to look me in the eyes when you break my heart." He frowned when the head snapped up. "Oz did say that you didn't believe him." He touched the discolored bruise, mostly gone now. "Do you think we would have accepted her as our own if we didn't care for you at least a bit?" He saw the nod. "Then you really have misjudged us all. None of us are that altruistic, Xander, not even your parents who have called me every day since you left." He nodded at the frown. "Yes, them. They've even been worried about you." He let the hand go, leaning closer to pull the head back up. "We care just as much for you as we do her. More so most of the time, though you've about pushed our limits with this stunt."

"I couldn't be there, you'd all get hurt again." He laid his head back on the table, looking out the window.

Giles shook his head. "No, we're weaker without all the links in the chain present." He tapped the back of the head, turning it into a pat. "Look at me please, not that god awful bike he's riding." The head turned, looking at him from its position on the crossed arms. "Thank you." He took a deep breath then a sip of the cool soda. "Do you think I'd allow myself to ride out here on that machine, risking my life because he still doesn't know how to drive it, for just anyone?" He saw the nod. "Not even for Oz would I climb onto that thing again." He smiled slightly. "And I'm driving most of the way back."

Xander shook his head, closing his eyes. "Why did you come then? He already yelled at me." His hand was squeezed painfully, making him look up. "Don't. Please?"

"I don't mean to hurt you, just gain your attention again." He released the hand, patting it. "Don't keep looking away from me. I came out here for you, not for any other reason. Your presence livens up my life like no other and I'd appreciate that life back." He smiled slightly again. "Please come back. Oz is miserable without you, Miri is crying non-stop because neither of us is you. Even Buffy's pouting because you're not there."

Xander's eyes were really large. "What's wrong with her?"

"Miri?" He got a nod. "We're not you. Doctor Amri's looked her over but she's physically fine. As for mentally, let's just say you better hope she doesn't remember this." He patted the hand again, taking it in his when it moved under his. "Don't do this to us, make us live without you. Even if you can find a reason to go on, we cannot and it's getting pitiful." He leaned closer. "I'm about to beat Oz, he's moping around so."

"But you'll be hurt by me being there again."

"No, we won't. We've settled all that nonsense. It took about four more days." He squeezed lightly, making his point. "We've fixed them all and you're almost a saint to the downtrodden masses." He let the hand go. "Now, go get your things and let's go."

Xander stood up, getting up to move the chair closer. "You're mad, I know, but why?" He looked into the deep eyes, seeing the confusion. "You usually wouldn't have cared less if I took off."

"Now you're being stupid again." He pulled the head over to his, taking a hard kiss. "You're ours, even if you don't realize it yet. You've been ours for as long as you've been around us. We're a family now and families don't let the members down or break apart." He smiled, wiping over a mussed eyebrow. "Don't worry, we'll explain it once we're there."

"But I'm not..." He cleared his throat. "I'm straight guy, remember? Not someone that you like like that."

Giles sighed. "And I'm Queen Mary. Go get your things." He patted the shoulder before it moved, watching the body attached to it rise. "Wait a second," he said. He patted a firm thigh, avoiding his actual target. "If you're so straight, why is that evident?"

Xander looked down and blushed. "It likes feeling wanted?" he guessed. Giles shook his head, letting his hand get closer. "Oh, nice," he whispered, sitting back down. "Maybe I'm not then." He closed his eyes. "You really like me like that?"

"My boy, if you don't go gather you things, I'll show you how much here. I'd rather do it at home though, as Oz would like to be there, but I'm more than willing to show you why we love you here and now."

Xander shook his head, standing back up. "No, I need time to think." He walked around the room, repacking his bags. "Ready," he said at last.

"It's about time." Giles stood up, handing over the things on the table. "Here, you might need these." He took a bag and opened the door, walking out into the twilight.


Giles pulled off the interstate, looking at the row of name brand hotels. "Do you have a preference?" He pulled off to the side of the road as Xander pulled out his wallet to count the money in it. "That's not necessary. I'm not going to stay in the places you seem to like. I refuse to get some disease from sheets that haven't been changed in a year."

The younger man looked at him sideways, confused. "You're paying for the room?"

"Yes," he said, exasperated. "Pick an establishment so we can settle in and have some decent food." He tapped the steering wheel as he waited for an answer.

"The red one," he said, pointing. "It's cheaper."

"Xander, it doesn't matter. I assure you, I have enough to stay at a decent place tonight."

"But it's not fair to let you pay for all of it."

"Stop it!" he yelled, turning in the seat to look at him. "Just stop it right now. I'm not making you pay for the room. I actually enjoy taking care of you so just drop the guilt and problems. I'll not have it again, not even after we get home." He turned back around, starting the car and pulling into the Marriott. "We'll stay here."


Giles put a hand over his mouth. "One more complaint from you and I'll rip out your tongue. Do you understand?" He saw the hesitant nod. "Thank you." He got out, pulling his bag out of the back and tossing the younger man's to him. "Now, let's go check and bathe. Then we'll eat a decent dinner and spend the rest of the night talking." He walked in, sure he was being followed.

The valet, a teen not much younger then Xander tapped him on the shoulder. "Man, your dad's upset. What did you do?"

Xander grinned, taking the slip of paper. "Not my dad, and I argued about trying to pay for the room." He shrugged. "Road tripping, man." He carried his bag inside, walking up behind his friend. "Valet gave me this," he said, handing the paper over.

"Thank you." He turned back to the receptionist and smiled nicely again. "Is there a decent restaurant here?"

She smiled at them. "The dining room opens again at six or there's a nicer, more upscale place with little romantic tables around the back by the pool. They have the most excellent seafood," she said, her voice slightly nasal sounding. She looked around Giles at Xander. "Are you staying with him?"

He nodded and took the card she handed him, filling it out. "Here," he said, taking the key. "Thanks." He looked at the card, frowning. "No number?"

"I know which room," Giles said, leading the way to the elevators. He waited until they were in it, alone, to turn to the younger man and frown at him again. "Why are you arguing over paying? I make more than you do." He got off the elevator as it stopped on their floor, walking down the hall. He opened the door, walking in and breathing the clean and cool air. "Ah, a pleasant room at least." He looked at the beds. "Do you have a preference?"

"Near the bathroom," he said, dropping his bag down. He sat on the bed, watching his friend examine the room. "Why did you insist?"

"Because I enjoy taking care of people." He turned to smile. "It's part of my nature, or really more the way I was raised. I'm meant to take care of my mate for life. If you remember, we've had this discussion before." He sat down on his bed, pushing his bag back from the edge. "Why are you resisting?"

"I'm not your mate," he said, crossing his legs to get comfortable. "Oz is."

"No, there we have another miscommunication. Oz and I are together but he's not more than my occasional partner. He's still moving between myself and the two girls' relationship." He smiled gently. "He's never been as important to me as you have."

Xander looked confused. "You really like me like that?" He got a pleased nod. "But, I mean, before this, I wasn't like that."


"Yeah, that word."

"Then say that word."

"Um, gay." He looked down. "I've been told that I wasn't."

"And it was my own fault that I convinced you that it was your girlfriend that was making you feel unfulfilled." He leaned over, touching the younger man's knee gently. "I know you've thought of the subject, I remember that discussion very well. Why are you so shocked that I care?"

Xander got up, heading over to the window. "Because no one does." He turned to look at the older man from his place of relative safety. "Not like that."

"Then they were blind." He got up, walking closer. "I'm sorry to say that they've all been very wrong." He leaned in for a gentle kiss, surprising himself when it turned to more and he pulled back. "A bit sudden that." He looked over him. "What?"

"Nothing, I just needed to know." He moved closer. "With living where we do, I've learned that all important decisions have to be made quickly and acted on." He hugged the older man. "Want first shower?"

"In a moment." He pulled him back to the beds, sitting him down on it. "Xander, we have time for you to think about not rushing into this." He saw the hurt look. "Not that I'm not happy about it but you changed your attitude a bit suddenly there." He sat down beside him, putting an arm around his shoulder. "I want you to have time to consider it."

"We live on the Hellmouth. Time is a precious commodity we don't usually have." He looked at the older man, seeing his eyes. "You're not playing, are you." He grimaced. "Listen, I've made my decision, you take it slow." He stood up, pulling off his shirt as he headed for the bathroom. "I'm going to shower, you think."

Giles shook his head. "Will he never stop astonishing me?" He stood up, grabbing his bag and pulling out what he would need for later.

It was over supper when the subject came up again, both men having been lost in their thoughts earlier. "So," Xander said, leaning back a little. "This is a nice place."

Giles looked around the small, intimate restaurant. "Yes, it is. Sunnydale could use a place like this."

"There's one, but it's hidden and doesn't look like much from the outside." He turned his head to look around at the few other couples in the room with them. "What now?"

"Now, we can either go upstairs and talk or you can go swim and I'll go watch some television." He smiled softly, leaning over. "I'd much rather talk though."

"Only if I don't have to explain things again," he said, leaning closer himself and stealing a quick kiss to the tip of his friend's nose. "Ah, much better than an after dinner mint."

Giles shook his head. "I knew I'd gotten myself into trouble when I started to care for you more than as a student and friend." He smiled again, taking his hand. "I'm still wanting to wait until we're home though. That means that you're sleeping in your own bed tonight."

"Hey, not a big. I thrash around." He shrugged, pulling back his hand as the waiter walked over to them. "Dessert?" he said, raising an eyebrow.

"Something horribly fattening. Cheesecake perhaps." He smiled at the waiter. "He, of course, wants something chocolate."

"I'm not that predictable." He pouted for a second. "But I'll take the chocolate version of what he's having." He handed back the menu, grinning. "See? I can eat something besides candy."

"So I noticed." He retook the hand. "I don't want to hide this. We'll never be here again."

"Yeah, but I'm not real used to these things yet so I'm being careful." He took back his hand as the waiter brought them their new plates and took the others. He picked up his fork, taking a bite. "It's good," he said, mouth full.

"Don't do that," Giles muttered. He took a bite of his own and ate it quickly. "You were right."

"Does this mean that you want me to do other stuff?"

"What?" He put down his fork, looking at his friend. "What other things?"

"Like become the mate type stuff." He took another bite then choked at the happy look his friend had. "Okay." He coughed some more, drinking his water.

"Don't be alarmed, but I was just daydreaming." He raised an eyebrow. "Aren't I allowed to do that?"

"Sure, but you got this instantly happy look." He set down the glass of water before he spilled it. "I'm not ready for that stuff yet. I've still got too many things that need to be worked out in my head."

"I know. I'm not expecting you to move in when we get back. We can start with the dating aspect actually. I'd like to get to know your thoughts better."

Xander nodded slowly then took a bite of cheesecake to give him time to think. "Dating?" he said finally.

"Things like this. Movies and the like." He took the hand back. "Not that I don't want to move onto a carnal relationship with you right now, here this moment actually, but I'm willing to wait until you feel comfortable with the whole idea to do so."

"Nah-uh. We can do both." He looked up through his lashes, giving him a small grin. "Please?"

"If that's what you wish, then we can do that." He squeezed the hand lightly. "But I'll not rush into it. Cuddling, as you say, would be enough for now."

Xander leaned closer. "Do you know how long it's been since anyone's even hinted that I was cute?" He got a head shake. "Since Miri came. Before she came. Before Anya actually. She didn't think I was even a little cute."

"I told you that you were dating the wrong people."

"If I'd known this back then I might have taken you." He grinned a little more at the dark blush staining the older man's cheeks. "Nothing would have stopped me then. And I shouldn't do that now. Time is too precious where we live. High school taught us both that."

"Indeed it did, but I'd like to work my way up to it, wouldn't you? Grand passions are great but they stale after a while." He picked up his fork with his other hand, stealing a piece of the younger man's dessert. "Hmm, very good," he said. He licked over his lips, getting the residue off them. "Now, eat please. I'd like to continue this conversation in private." He took a bite of his own dessert, smiling at the frantic eating. "Slow down. We do have some time." He took another bite.

"Maybe, but I'm not taking that chance." He pulled his hand back. "Can't eat with my left," he apologized.

"Perfectly normal," Giles said, switching his own fork to his right. "We'll discuss this later." He bit his lip as he felt something rubbing his leg. "Why are you doing that? A minute ago you wouldn't even hold my hand when others were around."

Xander looked innocent, eating the last piece of his cheesecake.

Xander pushed Giles into the room and kicked the door shut. "Now then, I believe I need a kiss at least. I think I earned it for acting well at supper." He stood still, closing his eyes.

Giles sighed and pulled him closer, taking control of their lips, then getting deeper into it when he felt the response. He pulled back, panting. "Now I can see why everyone wanted to kiss you." He smiled, sitting down on the closest bed. "Come, let's talk. We need to get some things sorted out."

"Okay." He crawled behind him, lying on his side so he could look at him. "What?"

"For one thing, taking this slowly doesn't mean that you need to dive for my tonsils at every chance or that you have to rub my leg with your foot, which I enjoyed by the way. It means that we have the time to control ourselves and learn about each other, get to know the other's likes and dislikes."

"Yeah." He nodded. "Makes sense but does that mean I can't kiss you again?"

"No, it doesn't." He found his mouth occupied in the next breath, pleasantly so. He pulled back. "But it doesn't mean that you have to automatically attack me every time I breathe."

"But I'm like that."

"As was I at your age, but I'm a bit older now." He turned to face him better, on his side also. "This is pleasant, this sharing and holding. Just as much as your kisses. We need to slow down for me, mostly because I don't think I could live through a night of passion like the one that's about to explode from you."

"Yeah, but it's been waiting for a while now." He grinned. "I understand but I hate slow. Slow means time and time is something that disappears when you start to count on it." He ran his hand down the dress shirt's buttons, just brushing them with his fingertips. "I could be hit by a car tomorrow, or have a heart attack, or even run into one of the things that inhabit the town." He looked into the worried eyes. "I can't plan on having fifty years with you just because it might be there. If I do, then I'll lose it."

Giles pulled him closer, holding him tightly. "You're not going to lose me, same as I won't you."

"You can't promise that."

"Oh, but I can." He pulled back. "I had someone I trust to look at our futures back when I first became attracted to you. We have the time."

"Does she actually know where we live?"

"Yes, she does also." He smiled, running a hand down the t-shirt's back, smoothing it out. "We have enough time to do all the things we want to do and to raise Miri as a family. As a matter of fact, I even know, to the day, how much time we have and it's quite a huge amount." He leaned in for a soft kiss. "Quite a lot of time."

"You're absolutely sure?" He got a tolerant nod. "When did you have this done?"

"While you were on your aborted road trip." He put his free hand into the soft hair, moving it around. "So much softer than Oz's."

"He said this was a you thing."

"When were you playing with his hair?"

"When he came for me." He looked down. "I wasn't listening. I need to apologize."

Giles pulled the hair gently, tipping the head back up to look at him. "He knows and he understands." He took another kiss. "Now, I believe I want a soak and you'll want time to think." He removed his hand and started to roll over but the body attaching itself to him didn't let him. "Xander, to do so I need to get up."

"Not yet. There are some things you need to know." He pulled up his shirt, showing off a scar on his side. "I was born a little... let's just say different. I wasn't perfect like Miri is. Nowhere near."

"I don't care about that."

"But it makes a difference. We need to go back through LA so I can go check in with my doctor and make sure it's okay." He got a confused look and a rub over the scar. "It's a special thing, only me and Will know about at the moment. But it's a reason for some things too so I don't want to hide it from you."

Giles took a deep breath "We can do that. The interstate we're on will take us there and we can cut up to head home." He ran a hand over the tense jaw. "Is it that bad? Something dangerous?"

"No, but it's Hellmouth sort of weird." He took a deep breath. "The Hellmouth alters the people there, but no one ever talks about it. Will has something extra and so do I."


"No, not a tumor." He rolled onto his back, looking up at the ceiling. "In the twenty miles around the Hellmouth, there are more genetic mutants than there are anywhere else in the world naturally. As in the not-moved-there population. The only place that comes close is Bombay, which has a small section that's outcast, New York, which has a moved one same as most of the ones in Bombay are, and San Francisco and they're nowhere near us." He turned his head, still seeing the confusion. "Will has an extra ovary. There are twelve hundred cases in the US, about fifty of them fertile. She's one of fifteen in town that's possibly fertile." He turned his head back to the ceiling.

"Are you saying what I think you're saying?" When he didn't get an answer, he rolled on top of the younger man, making him look at him. "You are, aren't you."

Xander nodded. "I am. Mine was closed off but I need to have it checked again. I took a few shots as a teen to hold it off. My father wanted a son and they didn't know how receptive the other part was so it was closed off at birth. I've just recently started to think about it again, realizing that something's not right with it. I made an appointment a while ago. It's at two tomorrow afternoon."

"We can be there by noon." He laid his head down on the strong shoulder, resting his face against the still tense neck. "How common is this in town?"

"In the US, there are four hundred cases of fertile herms, less than one percent of all of herms in the world. In Sunnydale, there's forty within twenty square miles of the Hellmouth."

"Oh, hell," Giles muttered. He pulled his head back up. "Do the others know?"

"Buffy probably doesn't. It's been accepted that they're fixed and will lead normal lives." He shrugged. "Nobody talks about it."

"Is it just children created there?"

"No, it's the ones born there. Something about the area seeps in through the whole gestation thing like radiation and turns us." He turned his head to look at his love. "And the only thing I know that radiates is evil and used to live under the library."

"That's true," he said. He leaned in for a light kiss. "May I ask some questions tomorrow? I'd like to learn about this."

"Sure, that's why I scheduled it really. I wanted to explain this to you but I can't. I don't have the knowledge or the words to do it." He reached a hand up to run it through the hair above him. "I like your hair. It's interesting the way it blends together."

"It needs trimming."

"It's fine."

"We'll discuss that at a later date." He pushed himself up, looking down. "You should rest, I need to go think about what you've said."

"I'll be here," he said, patting the bed and bringing his other hand down to rest on his chest. "I didn't tell you to make you feel strange, Giles, just to let you know."

"Then I won't, but it may take some getting used to."

"You ought to try living it." He flipped over onto his stomach. "Have a nice bath."

Giles ran a hand down the back under him then got off the bed, walking into the bathroom but not shutting the door all the way.

Xander picked up the phone and took out his wallet, taking out his calling card. He dialed a familiar number from memory, pushing in the others as well. "Will?" he said.