Demons Coming and Going.
Willow bounced into the store, waving at Alexi and his mom. "I found it," she called, hugging Miri when she ran out to see her.
Xander followed his daughter from the back room. "What?" he asked calmly. After the story he had just heard, he could be calm about Willow's newest discovery.
"I found a way to cure Spike." Alexi's mother gasped. "No, no, he was *hurt* and I found a way to cure it."
Gaby looked at Xander, who she had a long talk with, and he subtly nodded so she raised the curtain of her hair to show off a small star-shaped scar at the base of her hair line. "Does he have one of these?" she asked quietly.
Xander patted Willow's stunned form. "They just didn't get demons, Will, they got people like Miri too."
Willow sat in the middle of the floor then looked up. "I'm not sure how it would work in humans," she said after a few second's thought, "but I'll check." She stood up, hugging the woman she talked with when she took Miri to the park. "I'll look, I promise." She pulled back. "What were you?"
"An empath," Gaby told her, leaning against the counter. "That's why everyone used to come talk to me, even those that didn't know me." She looked down at where Miri was sharing a cup of juice with her son. "You need to teach her discretion."
Xander nodded. "We're trying, she just considered you safe."
"No one is safe," Gaby argued heatedly, still keeping her voice low. "My father was one of them, *he* turned me in because it was his *duty*," she spat the word. "There is no such thing as safe." She grabbed the back of her head, moaning. "They're still watching," she whispered as she fell. "They never left."
"Willow! Take the kids into the back and lock yourselves in," Xander said, picking up the phone as he got down to check her, dialing quickly. "Hey, this Boca, we have a woman who just collapsed. No, still living. She grabbed her head and moaned but she's unconscious." He hung it up, tossing the instrument away as he did what he could for her.
When the paramedics got there, he went with her, he wouldn't let a friend go through something like this alone.
Oz grunted in annoyance as he found the store's door locked, reaching for his keys. Willow ran out, letting him in and locking the door behind him. "Can't make money with it locked," he reminded. "Where's Xander?"
"At the hospital with Alexi's mom. Her chip went off." He dropped his bag, his mouth falling open. "She caught Miri's block act and warned us so they set it off."
Oz looked around then headed for back, hugging the kids tightly to him. He looked up as she joined him. "Did..." He cleared his throat of the lump. "Did they get it out?" She shook her head. "No?"
"Not before it caused some damage. She's comatose Xander thinks." She sat beside him, rubbing over his face. "It's almost the same as Spike's, or that's what Xander said," she told him quietly, hoping he would make the logic jump and not make her say it.
"Apparently they're not as gone as we'd hoped." She scooted over, hugging all of them. "They won't get either of you, I promise."
Giles walked into the store, irritated from his meeting, and finding the door locked hadn't helped his temperament any. "Bloody hell," he muttered, picking up the bag he had just tripped over. "Oz!" He walked into the store, seeing Willow hugging him, Miri, and another child. "Problems?"
"Yeah." Oz looked up, his eyes wet. "The Initiative's not gone. They got Miri's playmate's mom." He rubbed down the dark skinned, bare back. "She was human," he said hotly.
"‘Lexi?" Miri said, patting his face. "‘Kay?"
Giles got down with them. "Is this your friend Alexi?" he asked their daughter, who nodded as she patted his face again.
"He has chicken pox," Xander said as he walked in, dropping down to his knees beside them. He kissed each of his men hard and took his daughter to hug. "She had a stroke on the operating table," he whispered. He handed Miri off, picking Alexi up to hug. "You're safe," he told the little boy. "We'll make sure of it."
Giles and Oz shared a small glance. "Xander, we can't keep him," Giles said, trying to be gentle.
"Giles, shut up." Xander looked at him, covering the baby's ears. "She didn't *get* pregnant, she was *made* pregnant." The older man swallowed hard. "I called Blair from the hospital for advice, he and Jim are coming up to investigate, they were up this way anyway. She gave me an envelope at one time, right after she figured out we were the good guys, and he and it are going to them." He looked toward the door as someone knocked. "Go answer it, Willow."
She got up, coming back with Xander's counselor and another man, a very uptight, tense man. Blair knelt beside Xander, rubbing over the baby's head. "Xander? The Military claimed classified."
"Letter's in the register." He pulled something out of his pocket, handing it over. "I stole it before they could."
The uptight man cleared his throat. "We were ordered to forget all of you existed."
Xander looked over his shoulder, his eyes icy and still very calm. "Jim, she was an empath and human. How long before they move onto Miri or Chloe?" Blair stiffened. "We thought it was just demons but we were wrong. So very wrong."
Blair nodded. "I know and understand, but we can't investigate, not without them coming after us too. We'll hide him and take the information to do what we can but if we don't follow orders then we're all gone."
Xander looked down. "What about him? She said he was implanted."
"He'll go somewhere safe," Blair promised. "Sam and her former boss, the one that runs VCTF- Atlanta, both promised to see him safely away from them, but we can't investigate fully. The cover-up is stronger than the Berlin Wall."
Xander kissed Alexi's head. "You taking him now?" He let Miri kiss and hug him, allowing her to join him in his lap. "He'll be okay," he promised her, "but he has to go with Uncle Blair. He can't play with you anymore."
Miri hugged him hard and kissed him, looking into her friend's eyes. "Me?" she whispered. He nodded so she let him go. "Bye."
"Bye," Alexi said, hugging Xander again. "Bye?"
"Yeah, sweetie, you need to go bye-bye with Miri's Uncle Blair." He pointed to him. "He's a good guy and very safe, okay?" The baby just looked at him. "Just go and be happy," he said, squeezing him again.
"No, sweetie, Mommy won't be going with you," Blair said, holding out his arms. Alexi looked up at Xander, who nodded, then scooted over slowly. Blair hugged him hard. "Come on, we're going to see someone else's mommy." He stood up. "We'll do whatever we can," he promised. "Just be careful." He and Jim left.
Xander looked at his daughter then at Oz. "Lock her's away again." He got up, heading upstairs.
Oz looked down at the miserable ball of child in his lap. "Just until you're old enough to understand," he promised.
Giles shook his head. "It may not work. A spell like that done twice on the same person fails more often, they build up an immunity."
Oz nodded. "Then make it so they don't see her." He got up, heading up to his room.
"I think I figured out how to short Spike's out without killing him," Willow offered. "I was going to send the spell to Angel too."
Giles nodded. "Come upstairs, we'll figure things out." He stood up, grabbing a few books so he could protect his family, who was being carried by Willow.
Blair pointed at the couch as Xander walked into his office. "He's safe," he said, tossing a tennis ball in the air. "So safe he could be in protective custody."
Xander snorted. "I've heard stories about the Witness Protection Program." He glanced around. "Are we..."
Blair nodded. "Had Jim do a sweep for bugs earlier and I've been in all day." He turned toward his patient. "How about you?"
"Much better now that Faith's in prison." He leaned back, missing the flash of pain on the older man's face. "I'm a little on the hormonal side today but I'm much more even now." His counselor nodded. "Giles and Oz are talking about selling the store to get away from public sight but I reminded them that if the Initiative were watching us it won't matter and besides, what else would I do all day." He shrugged at the evaluating look.
"Have you given any thought to your future?"
"Not beyond the ‘I hope it's long' stage," Xander admitted, looking down. "I'm not real good at anything school-related and I suck at fast food."
"Hmm, that narrows it down some but what about a practical trade?"
"Like Vo-Tech?" Xander looked up, frowning. "They refused to take me when I applied."
"Didn't think they could do that," Blair said.
"They said the program I wanted was full but they took four people after me."
"That's bad." Blair shook his head. "So, what do you want to be when you're the ancient age of thirty?"
"Yes, that should be a goal," Blair agreed with a smile.
"Um, doing something meaningful." Xander relaxed, thinking. "I don't know."
"I could give you a job interest test, see what you score."
"I took one of those, I think it came up as either a pimp or a lush. Though being a pimp might not be so bad if I could get Buffy and Anya to work. Just them would make me rich in a year." He caught the tennis ball. "It's true, you'd have to know pornstar Buffy and my ex, who believes orgasms equal love - but only on dramatic scale." He grinned, tossing the ball back. "I could always write for them though. Anya actually came to me for an idea recently to make it exciting for them again."
"Painful research to do," Blair noted with a small grin of his own, "but I think you could handle it."
"Yup, between Oz and me, we must have eighty or so tapes." The older man shook his head. "That's not counting Giles' stash or our combined magazines."
"You need real sex, not fantasy sex, Xander."
"Yeah, but that's rare." He looked back down, examining his jeans. "We've gotten less cuddly."
"Are you arguing?" Blair asked but the younger man immediately shook his head. "Then what's wrong?" That got a small shrug. "Is it cold between you or are you just so involved in other things between Miri, the store, school, and work?"
"No, we have plenty of free time but we spend it apart. I really only see Giles or Oz when I hand over Miri or take her back. We started to get closer again after Miri had her appendix out but that's stalled."
"So you're drifting apart." Blair thought for a second. "Vacation?"
"We don't like the same things. Giles would want to do something scholarly and Oz could do that, but he'd want to do the beach and Giles hates that, and I don't like either idea. I'd like to go see things."
"You could always write travel books," Blair suggested. Xander grinned, shaking his head. "Why don't we get them in here and ask them? You might be surprised."
"That would be hard since they're at home."
"Giles is at the store but Oz is in class."
"Nope, art elective." Xander curled up in the corner of the couch. "Not a clue why he needed it since he had one his first semester."
Blair opened his mouth and shut it again, considering the younger man. "I'd like to see them next week instead of you, Xander. I think it's time that we got started on the real part of you, the one that needs to be needed." Xander frowned at his knee that he had pulled up. "You do, it's a very big part of why you are who you are." He leaned back, stretching. "I'll call Giles in a while, while you're driving home, and explain it to him. Even if I have to use some of my infamous charm on him."
Sam snorted from the doorway. "I guess that's one way of getting new patients but we're doing fine." She smiled at the young man, handing over a few pictures. "For Miri." She waved and left them alone, closing the door.
"He looks happy."
"The family he's with is huge and fuzzy. I talked with one of them before allowing Alexi to move in. Was this distance between you before that?"
"Yup, almost from the first time. We go hot and heavy then stop for a while. Actually, this traces back to my first bout of hormonal outrage." He grimaced. "I was.... a little demanding. Then the cuddles slowly went away." He looked up, shoulders slumping. "That's it, my surgery. That's when it really started."
"So did your relationship," Blair pointed out, trying to keep the younger man calm.
"Yeah, but they were a lot more comfy with my body before. Except for that week of hormones and when they tested it out, we haven't even really cuddled." He shook his head. "I should get it closed."
"They'd still know it was there."
"But they could forget and...and start to relax about it and me, maybe even bring themselves to touch me again."
"Out of sight doesn't always equate with out of mind," Blair told him gently. "Maybe you should talk before you make such a big decision. They might have other problems that are interfering, it might not be about that at all."
"Maybe," Xander admitted. "I"ll stop in at my doctor's and get some information so we can talk." He looked at his watch. "Gotta cut this short then." He looked up at his counselor and friend. "You okay with that?"
Blair nodded. "Just talk to them before you decide," he called after the retreating body. He picked up the phone, dialing Xander's work. "Oh, good, I wanted to talk to you Mr. Giles. No, he's doing well but I think we should start doing group sessions too. No, I need to talk to you and Oz first to get a feel for both of you. Next week? Usual time? What? No, just you and Oz, we'll split the session." He wrote on his desk calendar. "Yeah, that'd be great. Yup, bye." He looked up at his wife, who was frowning, as he hung up. "We discussed it before he started talking about his surgery," he defended.
"You still can't tell them what he said," she reminded him. "It's a breach of confidentiality."
"I know, this is where being something more than friend's sucks."
"Just as long as you remember."
Xander sat down across from Giles, watching him eat. "Can we talk?"
Giles put down his fork and wiped his mouth. "Of course. Is there a problem? I'm sure Blair told you we were going to start doing your therapy in groups."
"Yup, because I was..." He shook his head. "Giles, when was the last time you hugged me?" The older man looked shocked, obviously trying to remember. "If you don't recall, it was before Gaby went comatose, almost a week before that." He watched his fingers fidget on the table. "I was wondering if there was a problem."
"What? No, there's no problem." He caught the tapping fingers in his. "It just never seemed that it happened."
"So it's not because you feel funny touching me?" He looked up to see the pain in the green eyes. "See, if I do the pattern thing, since the surgery you've hesitated to touch me, talk to me without Oz, or even scratch my back. It got worse after my first bout of hormones, but after I came home you really didn't even hug me or even pat my arm."
Giles let the hands go, leaning back. "I had no idea you felt this way." Xander shrugged. "Do you see a cause? Or a solution?"
"If it was my... extra parts, I was thinking about having them closed." He hesitantly pulled the pamphlet from his lap, putting it in plain sight on the table. "I can understand how freaked it can make you feel, I still remember it being explained to me when I was thirteen so I know the flesh- crawling feeling it can cause."
"But I don't...mind it," Giles said slowly, "though its your body and you should do what makes you feel most comfortable." He stood up, heading into the kitchen for a drink. "I rarely think about that part of you," he admitted, leaning against the sink to drink some water. "I'd be willing to listen if you want to talk it out, I'm sure Oz would feel about the same." He ran some more water into his glass, coming back out to sit back down.
"So if it's not that, then what have I done wrong?" Xander stood up, looking down at his lover. "I mean, we don't talk, we don't touch, or cuddle, or even," he stopped, relaxing. "What did I do wrong?"
"It's just not occurred."
Xander nodded and left, slamming the door.
Giles looked down at his plate then got up to put it away. There was no way he could eat now.
Oz looked out his door. "Easy, Miri just fell asleep." He saw the pain radiating rom his friend so opened the door more to look at him. "What's up? Bad session?"
"No, just a realization that apparently I make you so uptight you're avoiding me." Xander finally got his door open, closing but not slamming it.
Oz just stood there, shocked. He walked over and went in, leaving both doors open so he could hear their daughter if he needed to. "What was that about?"
"Okay, same question I asked Giles, when was the last time you hugged me?" Oz shook his head. "Let's see, I'm thinking way back, my first session with Blair." Oz still looked confused. "How about an *easy* one? Why do I disgust you?"
"You don't." Oz sat down, watching the younger man pace. "Sit, talk."
"Are you sure you can handle that?" Xander turned to look at him. "We don't usually do that anymore even. Oh, and Blair's worried so we're starting groups."
"I have class then," Oz reminded him while he thought. "I'll go separately though if it'd make you feel better. I kissed you the day Alexi's mom got hurt."
"I kissed you."
"Why does it matter who initiated?"
Xander rounded on him, gripping the back of the couch. "Do you remember what it as like *before* my surgery? Before I ran?" Oz nodded, the confused look receding. "How often did you touch me then?"
"Um, maybe once a week?"
"Daily," Xander enunciated. "A touch to my arm, a hug for no reason, soothing little calming reminders of a normal life. How about those three days before the surgery?" Oz shrugged. "I sat in one of your lap's most of that whole time. After the surgery? An occasional kiss. Since I came home its gotten less and less. And since I started getting hormonal? I've been damn lucky to have a nod once a week after that day we spent in the tub." He paused to let the information sink in. "So, tell me, what happened?"
"I don't know," Oz said. "Maybe it was you getting depressed again." He looked toward the door. "Did you talk to Giles? He's on his way up."
"Yeah, I did, and he doesn't have a reason either." Xander headed for his bedroom, shutting the door.
Oz got up, heading to his apartment, sitting beside Giles on his couch after shutting the door. "Rupe, is it us?"
"It may be or it may simply be the stress of the last few months." He lifted his arm, letting his lover rest against him. "He believes it's from the surgery."
"He's got a good case for it though. He and I used to do this all the time." Oz looked up. "Is he right? Are we that freaked?"
"That may be part of it. He's thinking of getting it closed, though there was a marked difference after his first h...hormonal surge."
"Can't say it either?"
"No, I find it quite difficult." Giles rubbed over the younger man's arm. "Go grab the monitor, we'll go talk to him." He got to the door and saw the note. "Never mind, he's taking a walk." He looked out the window. "I do hope he's careful."
"Outside after dark?" Oz asked. He sat back down. "Maybe he needs stronger help." He stood back up, grabbing his keys. "I'll go after him.
Oz walked into the ruins of the library, frowning at the man sitting on the damaged stairs. "Having fun?"
"Yup, reliving better times," Xander said, taking a drink from his bottle of soda. "What brought you out?"
"You." Oz sat beside him, looking at the spot where the table they had spent a good deal of their time at once stood. "They weren't better, just easier," he said quietly. "Everything was just so clean cut. Good and bad, right and wrong."
"Men and women?"
"Maybe." Oz stole the bottle, drinking from it before handing it back. "Rum?"
"Just a quarter shot, not enough to dull." He took another sip. "So, is it me or all of us?"
"Don't know, but I know it's not all you. I've been doing some pretty heavy thinking recently."
"Yeah." Oz looked at the younger man. "We doing the cosmic balance thing? I talk and you go quiet?"
"Seems to fit." Xander finished the soda, tossing the bottle at the empty space. "I have my future, Oz, I'm a father. Everything from the moment I met her on is now about her, even I if don't like it. You still have a lot of choices I've had closed." He finally looked at his friend, lover, and occasional safety net. "You just have to decide if Miri and I are one of those choices."
"I'm still her father."
"And you may always be but it's a package deal and I'm just as needy as she is." He stood up. "Home?"
"No, sit." Oz looked up when the younger man didn't do as he asked. "Please?" Xander sat, going back to staring at the charred mark that used to be a long oak table. "It wasn't intentional, I didn't mean to cut you off. It just seemed to happen. Then you started to get sick again and I couldn't help so I stepped back, which was wrong apparently. Then your first bout with the hormones," he sucked in a deep breath. "You scared me that week, the primal intensity you swung through made me think more."
"So you started to avoid me?"
"Not intentionally." Oz shifted his hand over, squeezing Xander's gently. "Neither Giles or I ever did it intentionally but I guess we did ignore you."
"Yup, all the time, even when I really needed you to tackle and hold me."
"If you had asked," Oz started.
"Why didn't you know?" Xander interrupted. "We were all upset. You clung to Giles that night, and the next few too, and took Miri with you. Why didn't you see I needed something too when we had to deal with what happened to Gaby?"
"Because I didn't look." Oz looked toward the cage, the bars broken and bent now but mostly still there. "I've always been self-focused, especially since I started to change. Even that night I came after you to stop you on the cliff." Xander shook his head. "I was. I told Giles I couldn't stay and help because I had caused it and I didn't know how to fix it."
"I had everything written out that night you called Blair," Xander admitted.
"I know, I saw the envelope in the crib." Oz squeezed the hand again. "That's why I called John, I knew I didn't have any more wiggle room." He nudged him with his shoulder. "The pills are still in my medicine cabinet."
"Those are the pain pills, I switched them. They're in a baggie on the top shelf of the closet under the beach towels." Oz hissed. "Yup, I wasn't about to let sneakiness stop me."
"How do we fix this, bridge the gap?"
"Up to you, I'm waiting in the same place." Xander looked at his friend. "This wasn't my fault and I can't fix it."
"Fair enough, but why didn't you ask?"
"I shouldn't have had to," Xander said calmly. "I"m not expecting telepathy but I shouldn't have to ask all the time." He stood up. "Come on, Giles must be ready to call the cops."
"Buffy or Spike," Oz corrected. He stood up, making the younger man look at him. "Even I need cues."
"I gave plenty, Oz, you weren't looking." They walked out of the ruins together, not noticing the shadows that watched them.
"Maybe they'll fix it," Angel said, looking at his childe.
"Let's hope," Spike said. "Red's about to blow ‘em both away and take the babe." He looked up. "Why're you here again?"
"To catch you when she shorts your chip," the elder vampire reminded him, "and to hold you in place while she reinstalls a soul."
"Oh, right, that. I'd almost rather keep the chip." He stomped out his cigarette. "Come on, can't keep her waitin', she'll toss a fit."
Giles looked up in relief as his lovers walked in. "Where have you been?"
"Thinking," Xander said, slumping onto his couch. "Why're you over here?"
"Because I moved her back here." Giles looked at Oz but the younger man wouldn't look at him. "Did anything get settled?"
"Yup, we forgot about him," Oz said, sitting down beside Xander, leaning into him. He looked up at his lover, grimacing at his stunned expression. "We did. He could have been invisible."
"He said he wanted to be alone."
"It's a defense mechanism," Xander said, looking up. "People try to push people they care about away when they're hurt so they don't get hurt more."
Giles sat down in the chair facing them. "I didn't realize we do that, I tend to pull them closer."
"It's a you-do-one-or-the-other situation," Oz told him, "and sometimes you cling to make them run away faster." Giles nodded, starting to relax. "He has a few good points. Even when we were stressed and clinging to each other, we ignored him. We even took Miri from him last time." They both looked at Xander, who had his eyes closed but his whole body was tense. "I think we should all see Blair. Having someone outside us to talk to, a neutral wall, might help." Oz took Xander's hand, entwining their fingers like he used to. "That okay with you? If we break confidentiality to help us all?" The younger man nodded. "Can we go nap now? I could use it." He stood up, pulling Xander to him and toward the bedroom. "Coming, Giles?"
Giles followed them in, taking his usual position on the large mattress but he couldn't relax. He looked over to check on them but they were staring at the ceiling. "I feel like an ass," he admitted quietly. Xander nodded. "I had no idea I was harming either of you." He rolled onto his side, pulling the younger man against his body. "I am sorry and I'll try harder."
"Trying would be good," Xander said quietly.
"May we curl up around you for a bit?" That got a small, frantic nod so both older men wrapped themselves around Xander and held on for dear life.
Blair smiled at Giles as the older man fidgeted on the couch in his office. "Relax, I don't eat people. Just bad guys and freshmen, or at least I used to chew on freshmen." He grinned at the small laugh. "Thanks. Now, why don't you tell me about the distance you've been experiencing? I know Xander was worried about some things."
"We've talked," Giles said quietly, "and it seems to have helped, but he did peg me right. I'm having problems accepting what he is really. Not that he was born that way but that now I have access to something so very unusual and special and that he trusts me to care for all of him."
"He was right?"
"Yes, he was most correct. I can't bring myself to think about his extra bodily functions, let alone say their terms."
"Him having PMS?"
"Yes, that one," Giles said in relief, looking at the therapist. "I had enough trouble talking about that in relation to a woman but putting ...that and Xander together is most difficult for me."
"And for him," Blair pointed out. "He still has some more work to do there too. He can't say what he has either." He shrugged at the small surprised noise. "Hey, the boy's been forced to have issues about that part of himself. I can't blame him for it. You were raised in a generation where such topics weren't talked about. It's more than acceptable to start out having problems with the concept, but to continue it isn't healthy for any of you."
Giles frowned down at his hands. "I have no real reason for not being able to accept him as he is, but I suppose it's hurting him, and us."
"He's said you three have confronted his change physically. Have you talked about it? Actually discussed it?" The older man shook his head. "Would you like to do that here instead of at home? You've all agreed that the patient confidentiality walls are going to be breached for the good of all of you."
"I think I should work out what to say with you so I won't hurt them." He looked up at the therapist. "I do want to heal our break and I'm unwilling to do more harm. As a matter of fact, I believe fixing our split should become the priority here." Blair smiled. "Then you agree?" The younger man nodded. "Good, I mean it would be good for all of us."
"Relax," Blair reminded his patient as he fidgeted in the silence again.
"Sorry, but this is rather new to me."
"The talking part?"
Giles smiled faintly. "Quite. My background is to be reticent about my feelings. In fact, my background is now in direct conflict with my relationship."
"That's normal in cross-generational relationships, but I don't see Oz as being very open either."
"He is, no matter how untalkative he may seem, he is more than willing to share his feelings with us. The mistakes he made with Willow haven't been repeated in our relationship."
"Which is good for Xander?"
"Yes, very." Giles' smile turned gentle. "Those two are very close and Oz has always been the support under Xander, especially since the incident in high school."
"His suicide attempt?"
"Yes, that," Giles sighed. "It's still a touchy subject with us."
"Xander's worked through most of it," Blair offered, shifting in his chair. He smiled at the shocked look. "We started back where this all began and that was an early event. He's still not over it, and he'd like to talk to you about it, but he understands that you're still bothered by it."
"That is...an understatement," Giles admitted finally. "I blocked out my feelings about the subject to help him through it, though Oz and I talked about it while Xander was on his trip." He groaned, rubbing his forehead. "Which is why he leaves in eight days as it got pushed back a few days."
"I know, that's why I convinced John to go with him."
"Yes, he came to talk with us as he passed through on his way to his other residence. Was that really necessary?" Blair nodded. "Why?"
"Because Sam told me to."
"Ah. She didn't tell you why?" Blair shook his head. "At least she's trying to look out for him too." Giles shifted on the couch again. "I was truly pissed at him after I read his journal. He didn't tell anyone he was having problems and I don't know why."
"You're pissed at yourself because you didn't see it?" Blair asked quietly.
"Yes, I am," Giles said, his voice dropping. "I saw him everyday, sometimes multiple times a day, and I never noticed a problem. Xander hid it so *well* and no one saw it."
"So you're saying in his own way, Xander is more reticent to share himself with others?" Blair asked.
"Yes, you could say that. He is very cautious about letting others see the real him, letting others know what he's been through, and the man he's become." Giles shifted again. "It's almost like one those puzzle boxes with the multiple levels to solve before you find the center. Our group was allowed to a level or two inside him but I believe Oz has been able to go the deepest, but even he hasn't found the core of who Xander is. I think Miri may be the only one ever to do so." He smiled gently. "I think she'll naturally do that to many people in her life."
"Convince her to do my job and we'll add her to the practice," Blair offered with a small smile.
Giles laughed. "I think that would be more than acceptable. Much better than what the Council has planned for her."
"Are you going to tell her?"
"When she's old enough to understand, we'll tell her the abridged version though. We all agreed that she has no need to know of her conception, or of her mother for that matter."
"She'll have to know she exists," Blair pointed out.
"She'll learn who and what she was but we are all adamant that she not be told beyond what is called for to explain how they met and what the Council is for." Giles brushed down his pants legs. "She'll know of her chosen status and why the Council helped her but nothing else."
"What are you going to do if she asks?"
"Xander's said he'll tell her it was a one night fling, which I believe they had at one other point." Blair nodded. "We talked about all this when she was still an infant."
"Back when it was all good?"
"Yes, it was better. We were closer, Oz and I were together only occasionally back then. Xander was beside us the whole way." He sat up suddenly. "Things started to truly break apart when the store started to get popular. As things got more economic between us, we started drifting apart. Even before his surgery."
"But that still changed it."
"Yes, but it started *before* it, it wasn't just that."
"Giles, don't be happy about this," Blair warned. "You still admitted his surgery was a major point for all of you."
"Yes, but if we had been closer then we may have reacted differently. Oz and I had been talking about having him join us since the summer Xander traveled."
"True, but it didn't happen that way."
Giles nodded, his happiness gone again. "I realize that."
"It felt good to lay the blame away from your uneasiness, didn't it?" Blair asked with a smile.
Giles nodded. "Yes, it did. It always feels good when you can lay blame at another's feet." He relaxed back into the soft leather again. "It is rather easy to talk to you."
"That's because I've been where you are, in the literal sense, and you know I'm not here to judge. Did you ever think about telling Xander how betrayed you felt?" the therapist asked, guiding the conversation back on track again.
Giles started at the abrupt change and frowned at the younger man for it but he only got one of those gentle, all-knowing, Buddha smiles for it. "No, I never tried. I thought it would make things worse if I brought it up after he had healed. He never seemed to realize how much it affected the whole group. More so even than Buffy's problems did, though they seemed to have receded finally." Blair nodded. "I still have no idea what caused her to act that way towards him or why it just suddenly left. She said Faith was influencing her somehow but I don't think that's why she stopped since it happened over her Christmas break after her first semester at college." He turned to stretch out. "Is this okay?"
Blair waved at the couch. "Just get comfortable. Xander routinely takes off his shoes so he can wiggle around while he thinks." He waited until the older man was settled in to start again. "How did Xander not coming to you when he had that problem make you feel?"
Giles stiffened then forced himself to relax. "Not very good, a bit betrayed actually." He closed his eyes. "It was almost like he didn't trust me to be there for him. I never expected to know everything but I thought he trusted me more than that."
"What if I tell you he did, he felt you would feel guilty and bothered? Maybe even feel forced to take care of him out of the guilt?"
"I'd say I was going to wring his neck." He looked at his family's therapist, grimacing. "Did he?"
"Why don't you ask him tonight?" Blair suggested gently. He checked his clock. "Especially since we're five minutes over and my step-daughter Chloe will be pissed because I'm late." He grinned. "A pissed sixteen year-old girl, as you will one day find out, is a force Mother Nature underestimated."
Giles stood up. "I can only hope I'm allowed to find that out."
"Hey, that's your job." Blair shook the older mans' hand. "Next week is you and Oz together."
"Yes." He walked out, followed by the younger man, and headed for his car. He stopped at the sight of Miri and Xander asleep in the back seat, his lover's head resting on her stomach. He opened the door as quietly as he could, starting the car and turning on the air conditioning before turning to look at them. Xander was smiling in his sleep now but Miri had woken up and was looking at her father in annoyance as she patted his head. She never even noticed the camera going off. "Shh," Giles whispered, "let Daddy nap." She pouted at him then smiled. "Thank you." His nose wrinkled in disgust as he caught scent of why she was smiling. "You'll just have to stay like that until we pick up Wesley I'm afraid."
Xander snorted, sitting up and looking at his daughter in disgust. "You had to do that, right?" She giggled so he shook his head, crawling over the seat to hitch himself in. "Hi." He hesitantly kissed his lover's cheek and smiled as it was returned. "Thanks, we going to pick up Wes?"
"Yes, we'll change her there." He put the car in gear and backed up.
"Um, need to stop at the store then, she needs more diapers. And I forgot my wallet at home, otherwise she'd have them."
"It's a good thing I didn't forget mine then," Giles said. He pointed the car toward the closest convenience store. "I'll get them and you change her, how's that?"
"Reasonable but you get the next one." He snapped his fingers with an evil little smirk. "Or we could let Wesley do it. He seems to consider it a treat."
Giles laughed. "If only he lived with her daily." He pulled into the parking lot, turning off the car and heading inside.
Xander looked at his daughter, seeing her smile. "That was gross, Miri, please don't do it again."
"Me," she said happily, clapping her hands.
"Yes, you, don't do it again." He turned back toward the store, frowning at the man harassing the clerk. "Damn." He picked up the cellphone as the gun came out of the man's jacket pocket, but it was dropped when the gun was pointed at Giles. He casually got out, taking the keys with him so he could lock the door and not give the man a waiting vehicle to get away in, and strolled inside, nudging the man with the gun. "Oops, sorry." He headed for the candy.
"Hey! You, stop!" the robber said, grabbing his arm. "Where do you think you're going?"
"To get some sugary goodness so I can stay up to play with my child later." He shrugged, looking at the gun. "Damn, pretty piece. I have a better one at home though, silver, better balanced." He looked back up into the confused eyes of the robber. "Cop," he said slowly. The man turned and ran, leaving the bag of cash on the counter. Xander continued on to the candy, picking up two bars and going to hand them to Giles, taking the bag of baby stuff. "Thanks, babe." He headed out to change his daughter.
Giles frowned at the younger man's back, counting backward so he wouldn't go out there and yell at him. He looked at the cashier, who was watching Xander change their daughter, and headed out, shaking his head. "Don't do it again," he said quietly once the dirty diaper was gone and they were on their way again, Xander casually munching on one of his candy bars. "Please don't do something so stupid again."
"Won't," Xander mumbled.
Giles pulled off the road, turning to look at his lover, making him look at him by turning his head. "He could have easily hurt you and I wouldn't be able to stand that," he whispered. "So please never do something so brave and stupid again." Xander nodded, lip trembling. He kissed the quivering lip, slowly moving deeper to probe the willing and wanting mouth, pulling his lover to him. "There," he whispered, "better now?"
Xander nodded. "Yeah, lots." He stole a second kiss. "We'll talk about it later?"
"We won't need to if you agree never to do anything like that again." Giles ran his hand down the rough cheek. "You need to shave again, my precious one." He got another kiss and turned around to pull back into traffic. "We had best go pick up Wesley. He's looking forward to having some time with Miri."
"We could all runaway for the weekend," Xander suggested. "Give him some real time alone."
Giles smiled, reaching over to pat his knee. "That is quite a suggestion. I'll ask Oz, that is if you'd like that."
"I'd love to have both of you at my mercy all weekend," Xander whispered sexily, leaning closer. "We could go somewhere romantic and far from civilization, maybe a nice resort?"
"Those usually need reservations, but I'm sure we can all find something together." Giles turned a corner, pulling up in front of Angel's office. "Go get him, I'll wait here with her." He looked in the rearview mirror. "Didn't you clean her hands?" he asked when he saw the brown marks on her fingers and around her mouth. Miri had recently gotten into the habit of reaching down to help change her diaper and then using her fingers to touch things.
"Yup, gave her a piece of chocolate while you weren't looking. I figure she'll be Wesley's problem tonight so I don't have to feel guilty." Xander slid out of the car, hurrying inside. "Hey, Wes," he called when he walked into the office. Cordelia came out of the inner office, looking at him. "Where's Wes? He was supposed to come spend time with Miri this weekend?"
"Um, downstairs. I'll call." She saw the confused look. "They're doing a Faith thing."
Xander nodded, leaning against Cordy's desk. "Yeah, I'm staying out of that then." He watched her run down the stairs, then looked around the office, noting the new things.
Wesley walked into the office, smiling. "Xander," he said, shaking his hand. "How is she?"
"Little on the naughty side but that's just her." He shrugged, looking down the silver leathers the older man wore. "Working?"
"Yes, but at least I'll be there in town."
"Shoot, Giles and I were planning on running off and leaving her with you for the weekend since neither of us have to work." Wesley smiled at that. "Hey, you can change dirty diapers all weekend if you'd like."
"If I could get some help tonight catching the one demon, I'd gladly do that." He grabbed his bag. "Shall we?"
"Lets," Xander said in an exact imitation of Giles, cracking the other man up. They headed out to the car, him letting Wesley sit in the back. "Um, check the seat first. I just changed her there," he warned.
Wesley ran his hand over the seat and smiled. "Perfectly clean." He sat down next to her. "How have you been, Miriam love?" She patted his face with her chocolate covered fingers. "Ah, I see someone gave you a treat." He closed the door, nodding at Giles after buckling up. "I've heard of your desire to escape for a few days and I'd be happy to help if I could have some help to catch a demon tonight."
"Spike's still around," Giles told him. "I'll call Willow tonight and ask her to bring him over. They should be the greatest help."
"Ah yes, how is he doing with his new soul?" Giles choked. "She didn't tell you? She shorted his chip and gave him a soul. She even called Angel to have him come up and help." He frowned at the older man. "She really didn't tell you?"
"No, Willow and Buffy aren't hanging that much with us," Xander said quietly. "She still comes over to sit but she's not mentioned it. Was it more than five days ago?"
"Last week almost," Wesley said, thinking back. "I believe it was on Wednesday."
"The same day we fought," Xander whispered. "Spike's sat her since then and he was fine. Even was nice to us. We'll ask tonight when they come over." He patted Giles' arm. "We should go. She'll be hungry soon and Oz is cooking tonight."
"Indeed he is," Giles said, pulling out into traffic.