The Problems From New Locations.

Xander turned the page of the paper he was reading, not looking at Oz, who was pouting beside him. Giles was glaring at both of them and Miri was happily singing to her Cheerios. And it was all because Miri had walked in on them last night. And she had clapped.

Xander finally put down his paper, looking at his daughter. "Miri, we need to have a talk," he told her, taking her food from her. "You can't walk in on us like that. Daddies need non-baby time too."

She tipped her head to look at them. "No play?"

"No, you're grounded," Oz told her. "You may never play again." She pouted at him. "No."

Giles cleared his throat. "We'll just have to start locking the door. She shouldn't be able to get through one of those easily."

"She opened my cage," Oz reminded them. "I doubt a door is much of a problem."

Xander nodded. "Point." He looked at Miri again. "You may *not* come into the bedroom while we're all sleeping. Or even when one of us is sleeping unless you're told to. Got it?" She nodded. "No coming into the bedroom when we're in there."

"No play you," she said, clapping.

Giles nodded. "Basically." He buttered another piece of toast and nibbled on it. "How goes getting us a new residence?" They had decided Giles would handle the insurance details while Oz watched Miri and Xander found them acceptable housing.

Xander looked around the small efficiency apartment they had managed to rent that night, just on the edge of town. "Not good. There's not a lot of people in town who are even guilty yet, but the realtor is willing to help us look." He handed over the classifieds he had been looking through. "There's a bigger apartment in there."

Oz grunted. "At least the Mayor's office was nice and apologized, calling it a moment of mass stupidity."

Giles nodded. "Truly. I think we've looked at this place. The landlord won't rent to us because his son was the one who started the panic." Xander gave him a 'sorry' look. "It's all right, love, we'll be back on our feet in no time." Someone knocked on the door and he got up since he was closer, actually it was only a few inches but he didn't want to stretch. He smiled at his former student, letting Buffy inside.

"Hey guys," she said, waving at Miri. "I think I can help some." She took the empty seat at the table, looking at Xander. "My mom knows someone who's moving because of that night, she's afraid it's catching. She said she'd talk to her and see if you four couldn't rent her house."

Oz nodded. "Thanks. This is just a little small for us."

"Being in separate apartments was good for us," Xander added. "We need apart space."

"Well, this is a tiny house, three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a livingroom/dining room combination. But it's got a garage and things."

"Better than this," Oz said. He looked at Giles, who was pouring some more coffee for them. "How about you?"

"At this moment, anything would be fine." He brought the cups back over, putting one in front of Buffy. "Tell Joyce thank you for me. Our insurance carrier should have our check soon. They promised to take care of this matter quickly so they're not embarrassed over it." He sipped his coffee slowly, looking at Xander. "And some of the rest of us had other insurance for our apartments which should be in at about the same time."

"I didn't know I could," Xander reminded him in a way that said this was an old argument. "There was nothing in mine that wasn't replaceable anyway," he added. "I got all the precious stuff out."

"Yeah, we did," Oz said, hugging both he and Miri. "All the precious stuff was out of the building when it went up." He touched Giles' hand. "Please drop it. You had valuable stuff. He had furniture and Miri."

"A good point," Giles said with a small smile for his men. "We have everything that's important to us right here." He tickled Miri's cheek, making her giggle and reach for her food. "Yes," he said, giving it back to her, "eat, Miri love, you'll need it over the next few days."

Buffy stood up. "This looks like a big cuddle moment so I'm going to let you guys do that. I'll drop back by when Mom hears something." She left them alone, shutting the door hard enough to make it fully close.

Oz looked at Xander and nodded. "She's right, I do need a cuddle. I just realized how far behind us you were when you were getting her baby book." Xander scooted closer, ending up in his lap after a few seconds, clinging to each other as hard as they could. Giles joined them, cuddling them from behind. Miri just watched them as she ate, slowly shoveling the little round o's into her mouth, and onto her cheeks and bib too of course.


Xander looked around the apartment the realtor was showing him, shaking his head. "It's nice but it's kinda ... sterile. Like you could perform surgery in it."

"This is about all the town's got open."

Xander shot him a look then went back to visually measuring the space. "Let's be real, it's the only one that'll rent to us because the whole town is embarrassed over what happened." He heard the embarrassed cough and nodded. "I'm not sure why we're even staying, but I know Giles wants to stay here." He turned to look at the man. "There are three of us and an infant. This is really small. You're sure this is it?"

"Yup, this is it," he said, waving a hand around. "There's two apartments in this building, on different floors."

Xander nodded. "I'll tell them tonight and we'll get back with you by tomorrow morning." He headed for the door. "Thanks for at least trying." He headed out to his car, slowing down as he saw someone leaning against it, their face turned away from him. He smiled as he got close enough to recognize him, pulling the Federal Agent into a hug. "John," he said. "Sanity at last." He waved at the car. "Want a ride to where we're hiding?"

"No thanks. I just talked with Oz and Giles." He looked the young man over. "You okay too?"

"Pretty muchly. It hurt that we lost the building, I had lots of good memories in there. And Miri'll never know where she took her first steps or threw her first plate of oatmeal." He leaned against the car too. "We're looking for place right now."

"I think I may have solved that." He held out a set of keys. "I didn't want to get Oz's hopes up but I know this person who owns this farm outside of town. Nice little place, could use some work. Got some acreage. The original part of the house dates back to pre-gold rush times." He shrugged. "I'll show you where if you want."

"Yeah, it sounds perfect," Xander said, standing up and taking the keys. He handed over the car keys. "Want to drive?" He bounced around a little, sending nervous glances around them as he saw people watching them.

"Sure, kid, just don't wet yourself."

Xander blushed a little. "Sorry, it's been hard. No one wants to help us or talk to us. We had to fight to get out of the grocery store the other day because no one would check us out even." He shrugged, looking down at his feet. "It's not been fun. Even Miri's been unhappy."

"At least Blair's taking good care of her dog. That guy that dropped him off was even nice about explaining things to Sam when Blair lost his temper and threw a glass at the wall." He patted Xander's shoulders. "Come on, let me show you how the paranoid quarter live."


Xander looked around the farmhouse, smiling. "I like this. It has life and character and personality." He turned on the water tap, wincing as it made loud, grinding noises, and turned it back off, going back to his wandering through the twelve room house. "They must have had a huge family."

"They kept adding onto it according to the old owner. They had about six kids but then four came back to live with them because of job loss and stuff. She said at one point they had fifteen people in this house." John patted the cracking plaster. "It'll take some money and time to fix it up, but I think it's about perfect for what you need."

"And it'll be safe," Xander added. "We can see the town coming for miles." He looked out at the driveway and the small hill leading down to the main road. "What's up with the barn? Did they have animals?"

"They had a few cows, they made their own milk at one point. They had a horse too."

"Ohhh, a horse?" Xander grinned. "I always wanted to learn how to ride."

"You could do that," he reminded him. "This would all be your land. No Blockbuster nearby but if your safety is more important this is the place to be."

Xander nodded. "Yeah, it is now. Can you call them and ask them to meet us out here?"

"Sure, kid, whatever you need, you know that." He pulled out his cellphone, dialing a number.

Oz and Giles looked out across the big porch, then looked at each other. Miri was playing beside them, happily transferring the dirt from the wood to her clothes. "We love it," they said together, then grinned.

John nodded. "I thought you might. It belongs to someone Jim knows and he sent me up here to show it to you. He wasn't letting Blair out of the city, just in case they decided to do a repeat performance." Giles nodded. "It needs some work but I think it's structurally sound. Most of it is replacing walls and upgrading things to code."

Xander jogged up the path from the barn, grinning. "Guys, guess what, there are kittens in the barn." He stopped in front of Giles. "We could always get a trailer or something for a while so we could move out right away. And the price isn't that high. We can afford it with what we have left and still start the repairs."

Giles nodded, thinking about it. "I can see how that might be useful. Oz?"

"It's everything I could ever want. Room to run when I'm feeling closed in. Plenty of space in case I get out, or you get out, and we'd be safer here." He looked down at their daughter. "Miri? How do you like this place?"


"Yeah, you can have Spike back if we move here." He got down on her level. "Would you like to live here?"

"Me!" she said happily, showing her filthy hands off.

"I'd say that's a yes," Xander said calmly, looking at Giles.

"As do I," Giles said, pulling him in for a hug. "We'll talk to the owners tonight."

John smiled, pulling a piece of paper out of his pocket. "Here, Jim's cellphone number. It's one of his wive's." He winked at Oz then picked Miri up, dodging the dirty hands she tried to pat his face with. "Are you going to bug your fathers for more animals?"

"There's how many acres?" Oz asked. "I really don't want to chase another dog over twenty acres."

"I wanted a horse," Xander said quietly from his safe space. Everyone looked at him. "Just one? To ride around on and stuff?"

"Maybe once we get everything settled you can have a horse," Giles told him, kissing him gently. "We'll see."

Xander nodded, grinning slightly. "Thanks, guys, for supporting my delusions."

Oz patted his back. "I wouldn't mind a horse. I liked the ones we had the one summer I went to camp."

"You two would have to take care of it," Giles reminded them. "It's not like a puppy where you can let him loose. You actually have to clean up after horses, and they eat quite a lot of food."

Oz nodded. "True, but it's still a pipedream of mine."

John smiled at him. "We all have those. I have my nice, safe, compound and now so do you." He handed over his cellphone. "Here, call them on my dime. I'll help you move tonight if it's okay with them."

"We'll need to get somewhere to live while we work," Xander said, looking inside the house. "We can't let Miri wander around the broken plaster and stuff."

"Getting a small trailer shouldn't be that hard," Oz told him. "I know someone who's trying to sell their's; they weren't involved in the great burning party."

Giles nodded, dialing carefully. "Then that's settled. We'll move in as soon as possible and start to work on the house ourselves." He walked a little ways away to talk in private.

"Um, do any of us know how?" Xander asked.

"I've watched," Oz said. "We'll hire someone to tell us what needs done and how best to do it. The guy who helped you fix our apartments up maybe."

Xander nodded. "He was pretty nice. He offered to just supervise our doing the work ourselves when we were fixing the beams and stuff."

"Then maybe he'll help us now."

Giles walked back over to them. "It's set. As soon as we can move a trailer out here to live in we can move in. They'll start the paperwork and we can have it as soon as it's done." He handed the cellphone back to John with a very bright smile, holding out a hand. "Thank you."

"Hey, anytime. What they did sucks." He shook it then grabbed Oz to noogie. "And you, mister, will be safe out here."

Oz smiled, nodding. "Yup, we will."


Oz looked at the list the contractor had given them. "All this?" he asked. He got a small nod and a smile. "Can we do all this?"

"Not all of it, but I can come out and get professionals to do some of the work you can't do. Things like the electrical rough-in and things." Oz nodded again. "It's not actually that bad. A lot of that is simply replacing the old stuff with newer, more efficient versions of the same system. That's the plumbing, the wiring, and the heating and a/c system stuff. A worker from the heating and a/c place you choose will have to come put in the furnace and some of the pipes but we can do the rest. Almost everything else is putting back up the walls and fixing the kitchen and those three floors." He patted the mantle over the fireplace, smiling at the lack of dust. "I've been by this place dozens of times and I never really noticed how pretty it was."

"It's a lot prettier now that Xander's cleaned it," Oz said dryly. "It was a lot dirtier." He looked down as Miri walked past him, following her dog as always. "Be good, Miri or go play in your playroom."

She smiled up at them, grabbing her puppy by the tail. "Play!" she said, wiggling it at them. Spike barked and she frowned at him. "Sh! Play!"

Oz shook his head. "As you can tell, it's going to be a trip." He looked back up from the paperwork. "What sort of budget are we looking at?"

"If my people did all the work? Maybe sixty grand." He saw the wince. "That's for everything done, insurance to do the work, labor and all." Oz nodded. "For you guys to do it, maybe a third to a half of that depending on how much you change your minds and how often you screw up." That got a small smile. "I'd say you could get it done for about twenty, plus some decorating stuff like cabinets."

Oz folded the paper. "That sounds good." He looked out the window as Xander walked up from the trailer between the barn and the house. "Let's talk to the decorating king, he's been drawing up plans for the kitchen on my computer."

Xander walked in, handing over a sheet of paper. "Here, kitchen and what to do about that big space in front of the stairway that needs a new ceiling." He smiled at the contractor. "How much?"

"Twenty if you do most of it yourself. Sixty at most if I did it."

"Which'll be faster?" Xander asked.

"If I do it," the contractor said with a small smile. "I can get the permits started today and get the work started on Monday hopefully."

Oz shook his head. "We can't afford it, Xander."

"No, but if we could get some of the destruction stuff done this weekend, and he could start some of the hard stuff on Monday then it'd be done sooner."

"Ah, consecutive work. A very good plan. You're right, it would take less time and therefore cost less. I can draw up a chart to show how long everything should take and start ordering materials using my contractor's discount today."

Oz handed over one of the sheets. "I like this plan."

"Giles liked the second one," Xander said quietly.

"The only difference was where the island was placed." He flipped between them again. "Which one did you like?"

"Um, neither. That's what the third one is. Giles said the island would be too big though, it'd mess up the flow pattern."

Oz shook his head, handing over a different sheet. "How does that look to you?"

"Very good. And if you put a bar at the short end, it might help matters some."

Xander grinned. "That was my thought. Either that or a snack center. The microwave, coffeepot, drawers of munchies."

Oz nodded. "I like your idea better. I like putting the eating place in the big bay window area." He pointed it out. Xander nodded, pulling something out of his pocket and handing it over. "What's this?"

"The compromise I didn't like but he made me bring."

"Ah." Oz looked at it then pointed to it. "Make the bar the same size as that one and leave the breakfast nook where it is, but put the appliances back where they were in the second." He handed it off. "I'll draw up a new one tonight with all the changes."

"Good, that'll save us some time." He handed over a few books to Xander. "These are cabinet books. I'm sure you guys already know what you're doing about the decorating part so I didn't think you needed those."

"Fixture ones?" Xander asked. "Though I do want carpet in a few rooms."

"Eventually," Oz reminded him. "Let's just get the house working for now."

"Actually, the kid's got a point. If you can do everything at the beginning, while everything's torn up, then it'll be cheaper. Like those special phone lines for the modem, if we were to go back and put them in later, it'd be a few hundred more than it is to do it now."

"But carpet's not like that."

"True, but we could use cheaper wood," Xander reminded him. "Instead of all the pretty wood, we could get carpet to cover some of the floors."

Oz groaned. "We've got to sit down tonight and decide exactly what sort of everything we want." The contractor nodded with a small smile. "You'll come back tomorrow?"

"In the late afternoon. I have another appointment at two. But if you guys are serious about saving money and getting it right the first time, we can strike a balance between that and price using some lower grade woods on the floors and stock cabinets and things." He put back on his jacket. "Just remember, anything special is extra, always, same as later changes are."

Oz nodded. "We'll keep that in mind and we'll have a kitchen design for you tomorrow along with the cabinet stuff."

"And the fixtures."

"And the fixtures," Oz added. He looked at the books the younger man held. "Are those in there?"

"No, but I could bring some of the more commonly used ones tomorrow if you'd like, along with some other samples of things that we could use. Give you a good idea of price by choosing now."

Xander nodded. "Please." He hefted the books, holding out a hand. "Thanks. I knew you wouldn't want to change the house too much."

"No, a beauty like this one just needs a facelift, not reconstructive surgery." The contractor smiled and nodded, leaving them alone.

Oz stood beside Xander, watching the truck go down the hill. "We've got some major planning to do in one day. Most people take weeks."

"Ah, but we also have your computer to do some research where we disagree."

"Point." Oz wrapped a hand around Xander's waist, walking him back to the trailer. "What're you going to do while we work on the house?"

"I can help."

"You can't set a nail straight, Xand. Let us work on the house. Why don't you do most of the planning, you can help with the destruction work, though if we could get Giles to use some magic it might help some." He opened the trailer's door, getting out of Spike's way as he ran out. "Hi, we've got stuff to go through."

Giles walked out, smiling at them. "Is the puppy outside?"

"Yup." Xander sat down at the table with the laptop on it. "Why do I feel like we ought to own a truck or a jeep now?"

"Because most people who own farms seem to? Besides, it might be easier to haul things in." Oz sat down in front of his computer, calling up the planning program. "Okay, we've had some disagreement on the kitchen. I'm stuck halfway in between so let me do mine and we'll talk. Xander, do the cabinets, note any fixtures you like, woods you like, whatever. You're the design guy." He looked at Giles. "Could you help with the construction? He said it'll save us between two-thirds and a half of what he's going to charge us."

"And he said that if we can get everything planned out right, he could start our permits soon and maybe start some of the hard or special stuff we can't do on Monday."

Giles smiled. "I think we could easily work together. I've done a bit of construction in my day."

"Oz won't let me help," Xander told them, opening the first book.

Giles patted his arm. "I've seen you try to put a nail up. You're not helping." Oz snorted. "You'll do the planning of things, make sure we're on schedule, and take care of Miri while we do most of the work. And you could see what we can do about that barn before it falls in."

"It's not unsound, it's just got a few foundations problems," Oz said absently. "There's some water damage on one side."

"So it's a drainage problem?"

"Probably for the house too."

"Do we fix that or them?"


"Cool." Xander tapped a cabinet, pushing the book over. "I like this one for the kitchen and maybe the few that are going in the livingroom."

Giles looked at it then pushed the book over to Oz. "I think those are perfect. You?"

Oz looked over them. "Not special order?"

"No, they have stock sizes. Though the corner one may need to be special ordered if we want it."

Oz nodded. "I like that pattern." He traced the small picture of a full kitchen done in it. "And I like the hardware."

"Um, I was thinking something a little more rural." Xander flipped, looking hard at the pictures, finding one he liked. "These maybe?"

Oz looked at them, then handed him a post it note. "Mark it down. I like those." He pushed the book over. "That okay?"

Giles smiled. "Most definitely. It's practical and decorative at the same time, and in keeping with the kitchen." He looked at the page that was coming out of the printer. "Oh, I like this design. Though I'm still not sure about that big of an island."

"One side'll be a munchie center," Oz told him. "Microwave and stuff."

"Ah, then I heartily accept this one. It's got everything I wanted in it."

Xander took the paper, looking at it. "Okay, one problem. That short wall, if we put cabinets on it, they may have to be special order because of the height unless we're setting them on the counter."

Oz looked at the 3-D plan on his computer. "I have it that way, I used the stock-sized cabinets setting." He moved it so Xander could see. "Only the corner one was custom-sized."

Xander grinned. "I like that." He checked to make sure all the markers were in place, then opened it to look at the cost of the cabinets. "For that many cabinets, it's going to be about a thousand or so plus the custom one." He pushed the book over to show the pricing guide. "It does have a cheaper wood option but it looks cheap."

"I like that one," Oz said, running a finger down the chart. "And I think that price is okay."

Giles held up his hands. "That's up to you. I have a meeting day after tomorrow with our insurance agent about the cost of our stock that burned."

"Does he know we packed some of the stuff up?"

"Yes, I told him we had a vague feeling of foreboding when a woman ran out of the store. As he's local, he understood why." Giles leaned back in his chair. "Now, about the barn?"

"I want to keep it," Xander said. "I still want to think about getting some real animals. Besides the kittens that are in there wouldn't have anywhere to go."

"A horse can wait," Giles told him soothingly, patting his shoulder. "Maybe next year? When we're totally back on our feet and we've gotten jobs again?"

"I've been thinking about that," Oz said. "I've got computer skills that I can use. Xander could take interior design classes. Giles, you're good at the business things so maybe school?"

"Or I could try for a job at the new museum that's opening soon," he told them quietly. "I've been asked to."

"Or you could write," Xander offered. "Like horror stories and stuff? Or maybe fantasy?"

"I think you'd better stick to the fantasy stuff," Oz told him. "I doubt Giles could write some of the fantasy stuff we've read over the years." He clicked a button with his mouse and pulled the emerging papers from the printer. "Okay, here's a general house plan. Where do we need to do decorating things?"

"Well, we could use a few open cabinets and maybe a closed one in what we've decided is the living room," Xander said, touching it. "And I like those ones for that too since the rooms are close together. The dining room will need something to hold special plates and things, but that can be furniture instead. The family room, I would love to have a built-in TV center. And maybe some built-in bookcases when we have walls torn down in some of the rooms we're claiming as apart space?"

Giles smiled at him. "I've chosen one for a library and that's one that will have all the walls torn out. We could easily put in built-in bookcases in there for very little. Though I do like your idea about the TV center, Xander, it seems more permanent and homey that way."

Oz shrugged. "I can deal with that as long as it doesn't jack up the cost."

"Actually, we could use just pine or something in some of the rooms, which is pretty cheap, attaching it to the studwalls. That means no real wall there and no decorating of the wall. It'll probably balance out."

Oz nodded. "Okay, I can handle that." He pointed at the room that was going to be his. "I wouldn't mind having one or two on the opposite wall but that wall's not coming out. The one under the window is."

"I thought the wires for the lights and stuff went through the one beside the door," Xander said, pointing. "If it does, could you stand them there? Maybe half a wall of them?"

Oz considered, running his finger over where he had placed the furniture. "Yeah, I could do that, but I would rather have them on the wall where I marked for bookcases." Xander nodded, picking up a pencil to make notes on the drawing. "Also, what about your space, you haven't even decided what to do with it yet."

"I'm not sure what I want to do yet, but I do want to have at least one bookcase somewhere, maybe just a half one under the window. Or actually, I want a window seat there. And that's one of the broken windows so it might be easier to do that."

"We do need to think about replacing all the old windows with more energy efficient ones," Giles reminded them. "It would be cheaper to do it now."

Oz shook his head. "Let's just do the windows that need it first. We can weatherstrip those others until we get more money. Windows are expensive."

"There's that place that Dick VanPatton is the spokesman for. They're having a sale right now," Xander offered. "It's like thirty percent off plus a few hundred back."

"Okay," Oz said slowly. "We'll need facts on that. Do we have a number?"

"No, but I could check it out next time we have the tv on," Xander said. Oz nodded. "Okay, I'll do that tonight, it's always on sometime after 11."

Oz looked at the floorplan again. "What about flooring? Xander's mentioned wanting carpets in some rooms."

Giles nodded with a small smile. "I would also, and I would also like something that's non-skid in the bathroom. It's difficult getting a wiggling Miri out of the tub when you're having problems standing up because the floor's wet."

Oz nodded. "But no carpet in the bathroom. That's a bad."

"Agreeable," Giles said. "But some nice tiles or linoleum, which would be cheaper and warmer, would be wonderful."

"I was watching decorating shows and they showed this neat, water-driven, under the floor heating system. It was buried under the flooring so the floors were always warm. It was all these little tubes running back and forth. Bob Vila did it, with Norm doing all the work of course."

Oz smiled at that. "Yeah, I'd like to have warm floors, but we'd have to consider cost on that. That'd be pretty new and newer technology is expensive. I will agree to getting forced heat and air conditioning."

"That's what these guys did, they had a both system."

"We'll talk about it with the contractor," Giles said diplomatically. "We're getting air conditioning?"

"It's not much more expensive than what we planned on with the force air system. Usually they're added onto the system when they're put in."

"Our guy did say that someone professional would have to put in the furnace system anyway."

"True," Oz agreed. "And most of the ductwork maybe."

"Okay, so what else do we need to decide on?"

"Flooring for the wood stuff," Xander said, opening the cabinet book. "I like this wood," he said, pointing it out. "I like oak but it's 'spensive."

"But it'll last forever," Oz added. They looked at Giles, who was making notes. "Well?"

"Oh, I like oak, but shouldn't the types of wood match?"

"It will," Xander said. "The cabinets are in about the same shade but it's fake oak. The bookcases, well that'll drive up the cost some," Giles nodded with a smile, "but it'll be worth it I think. And oak floors are coming back in style so maybe there's a nice oak substitute that'll look like it."

"Or maybe we could find some used somewhere," Oz offered.

Giles sighed, then nodded. "All right. That's a reasonable expense, but not under where we're planning on putting in carpet."

"Nope, they can actually just put plywood or something under that," Xander told him. "So we pick and choose where we want to put the pretty wood."

"What about the mantle?"

"I think if we stripped it, it's maple or something else not local, but we can always refinish it," Xander suggested. "I can do that pretty well."

"Okay," Oz said, looking at the plans. "What does that leave?"


"Ah, the Giles room," Xander said. "I like the big cast iron tubs, but they're cold. And I'll miss my swirly, good for my back water."

"We'll have five bathrooms when we're done," Oz reminded him. "We could put you a special tub in one and give Giles one with a cast iron one; I like those, but I gotta agree with Xand about the cold and I never really see over the edge when I'm lying down in one. But I do want a big, deep tub."

"Ah," Xander said, clapping. "I knew I was staring at the others when I got my tub. They had some that were big enough for two or three football players to lie down in together and deep enough to come up to Shaq's neck."

Oz snorted. "Sounds like an ideal make-out spot to me. How much?"

"Few hundred more than my tub, which was kinda upper midrange. I know the company name though so maybe we could look it up?"

Oz nodded. "We could do that. We've got to do a lot of that tonight."



Oz finished explaining exactly what they wanted to the contractor, putting the list of prices down in front of him. "And that's what we found for wholesale prices."

The contractor smile. "We usually get discounts but I like your choices. It'll fit the house well. Has Harris ever thought about going into design?"

"We've been bugging him about it," Oz admitted. "He really can't help with the work and he's good at it so that's what we think he should do when he finishes growing up." He squeezed Xander's hand to let him know it was a tease.

"One question, about this one tub. I don't know where to get that brand."

"They had it where I got my last one," Xander told him. The contractor made a note. "I know you don't like them, but we included their web address so maybe you could find another seller somewhere."

"I'll look tonight." He put down the papers. "Okay, I got your permits started last night, it'll take a week before they're approved because the one guy who's job it is is on vacation." Both young men frowned. "Sorry, not my fault."

"That's okay. It'll give us more time to do some of the demolition and for you to get our stuff without outrageous shipping costs for priority orders." Xander stretched. "There was one other matter and Giles is really worried about this, there's a foundation problem on one side of the barn. Oz said it looked like water damage and we were wondering if we were going to have a drainage problem too."

"Not that I could tell, but that's almost easily taken care of. Almost as easy as hooking the water line back up to the kitchen would be."

Oz nodded. "What about the main power lines and everything?"

"You'll need to buy a pole. There's no one else out here so you may need to buy a few poles. They'll tell us how to space them and things. But I would keep the generator." Oz nodded. "But the good thing is that once you have poles, everything would run over those, phone and cable both."

Xander patted Oz's hand. "Someone's giving us a satellite system for a housewarming present. They're getting a newer dish."

"Which is very cool, but we could still plan to bring cable out," Oz reminded. "Satellites don't get everything. And cable is cheaper for some things."

"So we get cable for most of the house and use the dish for the family room?" Xander frowned. "That doesn't make sense."

"No, but we may want to switch to cable at some later date."

"Good point. So we can plan on eventually running a cable wire too." Xander looked at the contractor. "How much?"

Giles smiled as he carried a very muddy daughter into the house. "I do believe this is your child?" he suggested, handing her over to Xander.

"Why mine?"

"I never played in the mud."

"Neither did I. Must be genetic," Oz said, brushing some of the mud off her mouth. "Go rinse her off while we talk money. We'll come tell you how much extra it's going to be."

Xander nodded, heading back to the small bathroom to put their daughter in a bath. "Why do I feel like the wife?" he asked Miri. Who clapped when he got her clothes pulled off and tossed into the sink. "Thank you."

Oz grinned at Giles. "She loves it out here. It's like being in the park all the time."

"We'll have to watch her when workmen start coming though," Giles reminded him. "We can't have her running out to meet them."

The contractor smiled. "Wouldn't be the first time, but her puppy's cute. He ran after me as I drove up."

"Spike's a little protective of her," Oz explained. "So, how much?"

"With all this? Close to forty if my people do it or twenty-five if you do."

"What's the difference?" Giles asked. "We can easily afford the first but I would like to know since many hidden costs seem to be popping up at the moment."

"Time basically. My guys can do this all in under a month. If you guys do it, it'll take you longer because you'll have other things that'll need done." He held up a finger. "I would like to add one thing to the balance and I already did in my estimate, we'll need to add gravel to the drive so the bigger delivery trucks can get up to the house."

Oz nodded. "That's sensible. Does that include a possible drainage problem?"

"No, but that'll be just a little more. We're going to be digging some around the foundation anyway to run some of the things in. We can use an easy filter and run-off system. It'll work something like a big rain gutter filled with rocks to lead the water away from the house after we seal it."

Giles looked at Oz, who shrugged. "When can you get started?" he asked.

Xander came back out with a wet, towel-covered, wiggling person. "All hosed off," he said, handing her off to Oz. "Your turn to pick her clothes."

Oz grunted, keeping her on his lap. "Later. Let's let her dry first. Would you like them to do it?"

"Definitely, it'll mean we get to move in sooner."

Oz nodded. "Okay, and I just thought of something that'll be extra. Laundry room?"

"We have it planned to put in the connects. You can get one of those anywhere."

Oz nodded. "Good. I really don't want to carry things ten miles back to Sunnydale to go to the little laundromat."

Xander snickered. "We'll really need a truck then."

"You guys might think about trading in at least one of your sedans for one anyway. Especially if you get large animals and use the barn. Hay and things come in these big things called bales that weigh at the least a hundred pounds."

Xander winced. "Okay. Well, my car's about dead anyway."

Oz nodded. "So's my van but I want to fix it again. It's got sentimental value."

"What about adding a garage?" the contractor asked. "A nice three or four car one attached to the house off the kitchen?"

"Will cost us how much?" Giles asked, arching an eyebrow up.

"Um, at least another couple of grand."

"We'll consider that. Maybe an awning or something to keep the weather off them for right now."

"That is less expensive," the contractor admitted, "but wind still blows things sideways."

Xander shrugged. "It'll have to do for now." Oz nodded. "That's one of those it doesn't matter if it's now or later, it's going to be the same price things."

"Good point." The contractor made a note on the papers in front of him. "I'll have a contract drawn up and I'll be back Monday. I'll have ordered everything by then so I'll have an exact amount." He stood up, shaking hands all the way around. "You'll be able to start moving in within three weeks of our starting, we'll do the priority rooms first." He headed out to his truck and left.

Xander looked at his men. "So we're okay?"

"I got the insurance check today," Giles said. "It's in the bank. He was suspicious about our getting some of our things out but I told him about how she had ran from the store in a blind panic and how I got a flash about not keeping everything there. I showed him the tape also, he's most appreciative of that, and a copy's being handed over to the police so they can prosecute. We've been cleared of all guilt in the matter."

Oz stood up, heading toward Miri's room. "Good. I'd hate to think that we caused that to happen." He closed the door behind him.

Giles looked at Xander. "Will you be all right with dealing with Miri and the house for a few weeks to a month? I know you abhor having anything you see as feminine attached to you as a task but in this case it is for the best."

"Sure, I'll deal with it. I may not let you guys into me, but I will deal with it." Giles smiled. "I'm just starting to feel like the wife, ya know?"

"I do understand," Giles said, taking his hand. "It won't last that long, I promise. Once we're over there, I'm sure you'll find a new path and you'll be able to start on it while we divide the tasks more evenly." Xander nodded. "Thank you for understanding, Xander, it does mean a lot to us."

"I won't even get you an apron," Oz said, dropping a kiss on Xander's head as he walked back out. "Naked kid is napping now. Spike is sitting and staring again."

"You know, he reminds me a lot of Spike, the vampire one. He's really protective of Willow and Miri."

Giles smiled. "That would be a switch. A vampire being turned into a living dog."

"Are we sure he is?" Xander asked seriously.

Giles got up, heading into Miri's room. "I'll be damned!" he yelled. "Angel turned him into a dog!"

Xander snickered. "Well, we knew they didn't like each other."

Oz fell out of his chair, laughing.


Xander looked up as Oz walked into their trailer. "What's up?" He handed over a cup of water, staring at his lover until he got an answer.

"They kicked me out of school. Made up some excuse and dropped me from my classes. I found out because one of my teachers wouldn't give me a midterm test." He finished his water than grabbed the hard hat they kept around so they could visit the work site, and headed back out. Oz walked into the kitchen and grabbed a hammer. "What can I do to help?" he asked the foreman.

The big, butch man just looked at him. "Go sit and watch?" he suggested.

"They kicked me out of school for no reason, what can I do to help?" Oz asked. "I'm not going to hurt the work and I'm actually doing it for free."

The workman patted him on the shoulder. "Go help them put up the cabinets. They could use the extra hands." Oz nodded and went over to help.

Xander sat on the steps in front of the baby gate, holding Spike's leash so he could go to the bathroom without bothering the workers. He nodded at Giles as he walked up to him, shifting to let him either sit beside him or to get past him. Giles decided to sit beside him. "Oz had a bad day," he said quietly. "They kicked him out."

Giles nodded. "I had about the same problem with the new museum. They said I was over qualified. They're hiring some child just out of college instead."

"What're we going to do now?" Xander asked quietly. "None of us have paying long term things."

"You could always try to start school, that would give us a little income." Xander nodded, looking down. "Or I could find another calling, or I could go back to school myself."

"Okay, so what're we going to do? UCHellmouth is proving itself to be not friendly to us."

"There's the other college, the small one where Buffy almost got eaten."

Xander shuddered. "Bad memories there." He thought for a second. "I could always go back to work on the crappy job circuit."

"No, you're not going to put yourself to that much strain," Giles told him, rubbing over his tense back. "I'll not allow you to harm your self-esteem by going somewhere that'll be non-stop yelling and degradation."

"That's the other option," Xander said. "There's that new strip club out on the interstate and they're looking for male dancers and waiters. I could go there."

"No way in *HELL*," Giles said hotly. "I will not allow you to put yourself on display in such a manner."

Xander nodded. "It's a job."

"No, it's not a job. Even fast food is a better job than that." Giles took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, but there are few things that disturb me more than the thought of you putting yourself on display for some strangers."

"But it was okay for Buffy?" Xander asked quietly, not looking at him.

"No, it was *not* okay for Buffy to do. Had I known, I would have turned her over my knee and paddled her soundly." Xander nodded so he hugged him against his body. "I'm sorry, Xander, but that's one of the worst thoughts I think you've ever had. You cannot put yourself on display like that."

"They're wanting waiters," he repeated.

"It's much the same. I don't want you working in such an environment." He stood up. "Come, let's take Spike back inside and we'll start supper together." Xander nodded, getting up and following him. "Besides, why should we give Child Protective Services another chance at taking Miri from us for something like a job that we can do without for a while longer?"

Xander simply nodded, following behind.


Oz looked up at the ceiling, wondering where Xander had went. He said he'd be home in about four hours, probably, when he'd went out five hours ago. Oz looked over at Giles, watching him sleep soundly, not even aware that Xander had went out.

Xander walked in, leaning down to give Oz a small kiss before he stripped and joined them. He snuggled between his men, closing his eyes. "Night. Thanks for covering."

"What were you doing? You're late," Oz whispered.

"I found a job," Xander said, looking up at him. "Please don't tell him."

Oz got out of bed, dragging Xander out to the living room with him, making sure the bedroom door was shut. "What?"

"I found a job. I got asked to work someplace and I am. For a few hours a night. The pay's not great but it's something."

Oz shook his head, sitting at the table. "What?" he asked tiredly.

"I'm working out at..."

"At the place where I told you I'd rather die than having you work?" Giles asked, leaning against the refrigerator. Xander nodded, looking down. "Why did you disobey me like that?"

"I'm not a possession!" Xander said. "We needed more money, now we're getting it. It's not your fault you guys can't get jobs, but someone actually thought I was good enough to do something."

Giles walked over, grabbing Xander to hold. "That's a dangerous environment," he said quietly. "I have no desire to have you in danger ever again. I don't want you working out there." He pulled back to look in the dark eyes. "I really do wish you had thought about my wishes."

"Make up your mind, Giles, is it an order or a wish?" Xander asked tiredly, falling into a chair to look up at him. "You know I can't not work, it goes against everything in me. Even when we were more than well off, I still had to work, or at least pretend to work, to soothe myself. Now I've fixed what's been wrong with me for the last two weeks, I'm working again." He stood up. "I'm going to go sleep in the extra bed. Yell at me in the morning, I'm tired." He headed off for the tiny bedroom beside Miri's, closing the door soundly.

Oz looked at Giles. "Which topic would you like to take? The order or the job?"

"The order. I know I have no right to order him, but I get ill when I think of him putting himself on display like that."

"It's a job. Lots of people do it daily." Oz stood up, giving Giles a kiss. "Want me to go bring him back with us?"

"Please. I would like to make sure he's still all right." Giles headed for their bedroom, lying down and covering up, staring at the ceiling.

Oz knocked on the other bedroom's door, walking in at the small grunt. "Come to bed, Xand," he said quietly, kneeling down beside him. "I need to hold you, now especially."

"I have to work, Oz, really I do."

"I know," Oz said gently, "but we're worried about you being hurt or given drugs, or even raped again." Xander nodded, closing his eyes. "Something you want to tell me?"

"Not really." Xander sat up, looking at his lover. "I need to work and I wasn't. Now I am. I don't like it but I need to work."

Oz stood, pulling Xander with him back to their bed. "We understand that you need to work, precious," he told him as he laid the younger man on the bed beside Giles, "we just don't like the method you've chosen."

"It was that or fast food."

"Neither of which is appealing," Oz admitted, lying down partially on top of Xander's still body. "I still don't like the idea of you being in that sort of position. What happens if you turn somebody down?"

"I could get fired," Xander admitted.

"And if they want more than to see you dance?"

"Then they're out of luck, I'm not going to do that." He looked at his men. "I'm not going to cheat."

"We're not saying that you would," Giles reassured him, "just that it may happen and you may well not be able to stop it from happening. Some of those people can get very nasty."

"They have bouncers there to stop them," Xander argued. "It's not that sort of place."

"Xander, every strip club is that sort of place for at least one person."

"Little stereotypical," Xander muttered, hugging Oz hard. "I'm sorry, but I'm not offering more than a look. Never more than a look. Okay?"

"No, it's not," Giles said. "I don't like you working there."

Xander sat up, forcing Oz to move. "I'm not too thrilled either, but at least..." He stopped, getting out of the bed and heading into the bathroom, running himself a warm bath.

Oz waited until the water had stopped and Xander was in it to walk in after him. "At least what?" he asked. Xander shook his head. "At least what? At least you feel useful? At least you feel like you're making a contribution to the family?"

"At least I feel like a man again," Xander whispered, looking down at his hands. "I don't feel like the damn wife and I don't feel..."

Oz kissed him, mostly to stop him but also to comfort them both. He pulled back, looking at his lover. "You've been drinking too?"

"One, to loosen me up so I could get up there." Oz reached around him, squeezing him hard. "I'm sorry I'm disappointing you guys, but I had to do something."

"But this wasn't it," Oz told him. "There are other ways."

"When? When I'm cooking all the meals? When I'm doing all the childcare? When I'm being giving pitiful looks by the crew because they think I'm not a man anymore? When would I get a chance to do that, Oz, huh?"

"Xander, we're sorry, you just can't help with the construction. You don't know how."

"How do you know? You've never asked me what I know about construction. You've never asked what I've seen being done that I think I could help with. You just assumed I was doing all the decorating so therefore I could be the femme one again."

"Is this because you feel like we're making you female again? 'Cause I'm not, and I"ve seen you pound a nail in before."

"There's other things to do, including mud."

"Do you know how to do it?"

"I've seen it explained tons of times." Xander sank farther into his water, dislodging Oz from him. "Go back to bed. I'll come out sometime in the morning."

"You'll come out now," Giles called. "That's not big enough for the three of us."

"We're still arguing," Oz called back. "He's feeling wifey again."

"Dear Lord," Giles said as he walked into the bathroom, "I thought we had settled this before all the work began. You can't help with the construction because you can't do the work. There's nothing else for you to do out here."

"Gee, you guys could do it," he said snidely then shook his head. "Sorry. But I could. I mean, there are things I could do over there but no one's ever asked me what I've seen done."

"Right now, it's a lot of lifting and holding," Oz admitted. "And fitting pipes." He brushed through Xander's hair, gently kneading his scalp. "I'm sorry, babe, but you can't really help yet. There's nothing to be done. We're not doing this because we want to make you something other than you are, we can't help either. I only got to help today because I was so pissed I wouldn't let them brush me off."

Xander shook his head. "I can still help. There's got to be something else I can do."

"Start by finding a different job?" Oz pleaded, kissing his cheek, which was moved away from him afterwards. "I know you need to work, but not there. There's no reason to work there, not for you. We still have lots of money left and we're fine for now."

"And how long will that be? A few months? Maybe six? Then what?"

"By then we'll all have jobs again," Giles told him, sitting beside the bathtub to look at his lover. "We'll all have decent jobs that will more than adequately suit us. By then the town may have even decided to forget about us."

"I still won't have anything to do," Xander pointed out. "It's not like I'm skill rich."

"So go back to school with me," Oz suggested. "You, me, and Willow when she comes back."

"There's nothing there I want to take though. And I suck at school." Xander looked at Oz. "Do you know how hard it was for me to graduate?"

"So pick up a trade at the Vocational center," Giles suggested. "I'm sure you could find something out there. Something that might interest you. We'll look tomorrow," he offered. Xander nodded, sinking even lower into his water, his chin now covered. "Come on, precious, let's go to bed."


"Come on, Xander," Oz said, standing up. "I need you to sleep. Otherwise I'll toss and turn all night."

"I'm not tired yet. I'll be out soon."

Giles shook his head. "Come with us now, Xander, we need you to." He held out a hand and it was taken eventually, the young man being pulled out of his water, which was let out by Oz. They led him out to the bed, drying him off and lying him in between them. "I know you're having problems but we'll help you if you'll let us."

"This isn't that," Xander said quietly. "This isn't another episode of 'wake Blair up'."

"I know," Oz said, "otherwise he'd be here." He pulled Xander on top of him, squeezing him tightly. "We know this is just you stating what you need, but this isn't the way to do it. Just *tell* us next time."

"When?" Xander asked. "As you're going over to check on the progress of the work I can't even see yet? While I'm dealing with a fussy almost-two year old? When you're leaving the farm and going out to do *things*?"

"We get the point," Oz told him, letting him go to rub down his back. "Would you like to go see the work that's been done tomorrow?" Xander shook his head. "No?"

"No, because you guys don't want me over there."

"We're offering," Giles told him, moving up to lay behind him, one arm and one leg thrown across Xander so he couldn't move, "and we would like to show you the efforts your planning has gotten through so far." Xander shook his head. "No?"

"No, because no one wants me over there. This is just to make yourselves feel better." He tried to get free but found out how stuck he was. "Let go."

"We've not letting you go, especially not to allow you to sleep in the other bed," Giles told him, squeezing him gently as he pulled the young man over onto his body. "Do I usually say things I don't mean?" Xander shook his head. "Then why wouldn't I mean it this time?"

"Because it took me yelling to make you see that there was a problem."

"You're not invisible, we know you're here, you're making things easier for us," Oz told him. "When you need us to do the same thing, we will. We'll do all the cooking and stuff, and taking care of Miri and Spike. We have before when you needed us to and we will again. This time it's just your turn to make things easier on us."

"Why?" Xander asked, getting free to sit up and look at them. "Why am I making things easier?"

"Because we're trying to do the same thing you are," Oz told him, lunging up to grab the younger man and pull him back down beside him. "We need to work just as much as you do, Xander, and we're trying really hard to do that."

"Gee, three of us working at once? Wonder who's going to get stuck again?" Xander struggled but Oz was stronger. "Let go!"

"No, take that back, it was unfair." Xander shook his head. "Yeah, it was."

"No, it's very fair," Giles said. "I hadn't stopped to consider what would happen when we all managed to find work again, who would take care of Miri and the like." He sat up, looking at him. "I'm not sure there is an easy answer for us at this stage."

"I'm off for the rest of the semester at least," Oz said. "No board will convene until right before finals." Giles nodded. "I could take over Miri's care if you guys found work, real work, Xander, not there." Oz shook his head. "I'm sorry. Talking shouldn't necessitate body armor."

Xander looked at his lovers, giving them a sad look. "Listen, I know you two will eventually get jobs and that'll leave me here alone again, being the wife, and I hate it but I'll accept it." He got free, climbing out of the bed and heading out of the bedroom, closing and locking the other bedroom's door behind him.

Oz looked at Giles, giving him a sorrowful look. "Do you feel like you've just torn him apart?"

"Quite, and it's getting worse by the second. How do we fix this? I don't think any amount of talking will help this situation."

"We could let him continue for now. Or we could force him to quit and find another job. Or, we could try and ride this out and possibly lose him to it." Oz got up, heading out of the bedroom, walking the few feet to the other bedroom's door, trying the handle even though he knew it was locked. He laid his forehead against the door. "Xander?"

"No, go away. I'll talk to you in the morning."

"If you want to keep working there, I won't complain too much, won't like it but I won't complain." He didn't hear a sound so he listened, pressing his ear against the door. He still didn't hear anything so he tried the doorknob again, trying to open it by sheer strength, and when that didn't work, the credit card that had been lying on the kitchen table. He got in to find his lover curled up on the bed facing the wall, blankets pulled tightly over his head and around his body. "Hey," he said, sitting down behind the ball of person and touching it's shoulder. "Come back to bed, we'll talk about it in the morning." Xander shook his head. "Please?"

"No, go back to bed," Xander's muffled voice came out of the blankets.

"I can't sleep when you're not there, Xander, come back to bed,"

"Go 'way." A definite sniffle accompanied the voice this time.

"No, never going away," Oz told him, picking him up and carrying him back to their bedroom, kicking the door shut behind him. He laid the bundle of person on the bed, allowing him to keep the blankets, just holding him from behind while Giles moved to rest partially under the lump. "'Night," Oz whispered, squeezing him. Xander nodded.

"Good night, Xander," Giles said, reaching his arms around the still body. "We'll be here if you need us."

The lump nodded again and a light, "'Night," floated out through the dense fabric.


Xander looked up as one of the construction guys walked over to where he was sitting on the trailer's steps. "Hey," he said, handing over a bottle of water. "Break time?"

"More or less." He looked the kid over. "You look down today."

"Major fight last night." He shrugged. "Not a big, it happens sometimes."

"Over you working out there?" The workman opened his water and sipped it.

Xander nodded. "Yup, but it's a job." He got up. "I'll go pull the ice water out of the fridge for the rest of the guys." He walked past Oz, who reached out to touch him. "It's their break."

"Want help?"

"Nope, just giving water." Xander pulled the pitchers of ice water out of the fridge and headed back out, handing them over to the workmen. "Here."

"Thanks. By the way, you did good last night from what I heard."

"Yeah, pretty good." Xander grinned. "I was *so* scared, but it went okay. The people were decent to me."

"A few of the crew went," the worker mentioned casually. Xander nodded. "Just wanting you to know."

"I don't have a problem with it if they don't."

"No, they don't," the workman said, getting up. "We'll bring the pitchers back in a while." He headed over to the house, disappearing inside.

Xander turned to find Oz standing behind him, so he moved around him. "Got to start Miri's lunch."

"Give it a sec, she's out playing right now and she's only eating sandwiches." Oz led him over to the table, sitting him down. "I want to continue this discussion. No, I'm not comfy with you dancing out there, but if you are then that's something, but now everyone knows. Are you still comfy?"

"It's a job, Oz, nothing more. I'm not making it a career." Oz squeezed his hand. "I'm sorry if I disappointed you, but I had to do something."

"But was this the right something?"

"No, probably not," Xander admitted, getting up, "but it was all I could find." He headed into the kitchen, pulling out the bread. "Want one?"

"We have any ham left?" Xander shook his head. "Um, peanut butter and jelly then if we have grape please."



Oz stood staring out the trailer's window, waiting for Xander to come home. "Still nothing?" Giles asked as he walked up behind him to hold him tightly.

"No and he's almost an hour late now." They heard the sound of a car slowly pulling up the drive, then a backfire as it was turned off. "He's home." They watched the young man walking towards them, Oz's stomach sinking. "He's either really drunk or he's happy."

"Or possibly both. We'll need to break him of that habit too I'm afraid." Giles opened the door, letting Xander in. "How did work go?" he asked quietly.

"It was payday," Xander said, pulling money out of his pocket and tossing it on the table. "They said I did okay, but I can't go back because I'm not doing enough business."

Oz pulled him in for a hug. "Thank the Gods." He squeezed him gently, then pulled back to kiss him. "Hmm, rum tonight?"

"One. My usual pre-show thing."

"No more?" Oz asked.

"Nope." Xander got free. "Do you guys feel better now?"

"Yes, we do," Giles said, hugging him also. "Much better." He dragged the young man back to their bedroom, setting him down on the bed and climbing in behind him. "Come to bed, love, we need you."

Oz sat beside Xander, pulling the younger man's t-shirt off him and tossing it aside. "Hey, I'll have to clean that up," Xander complained.

"Shh, it's my turn to do laundry," Oz told him, kissing him gently. He sniffed the warm skin and growled. "Who was it?" he said, looking up.

"Huh? Oh, that was another worker who gave me a sympathy hug." Xander shrugged, standing up and taking off his pants. "See, no one touches me."

"I think you've had more than the one drink," Giles reprimanded gently. "Come to bed, Xander. We can't sleep without you."

"Yup, okay," he said, crawling into his spot. He patted the empty spot, looking at Oz. Oz got in and hugged him, so Xander buried his nose in his lover's neck. "Thank you."

"For?" Giles asked, surrounding him from behind.

"For not yelling anymore."

"We were planning on doing it tomorrow if you were still working," Oz told him, pulling both of his men in closer to him.


Xander was looking through the want ads when the contractor came over to sit beside him on the steps. "Hey, got fired."

"Yeah, so some of the guys said." He nudged his shoulder. "I'm surprised you're not over there helping us."

"They said I couldn't."

"My guys?" he asked, surprised by his tone. "They've all seen you helping when we did the apartments."

"No, mine. They've decided I can't drive a nail in straight." Xander put down the paper, looking at him. "Of course, that's why someone intelligent invented nail guns but I doubt that argument would really fly with them. Can I?"

"Sure. Matter of fact, we could use some help doing the plumbing. Not the measuring," he said quickly, "but the stuff you're good at, the fitting it together and sealing it shut. Go put on some clothes you can work in and we'll show them you're not helpless."

Xander grinned then nudged his shoulder. "Thanks man. Oh, the water's in the fridge." He hopped up and ran inside, quickly getting dressed and heading over to the site. He smiled at the guys he knew, heading over to where they were doing stuff he could do.

Oz walked into the trailer, looking around the mess lying around. "Xander?" he called. Giles walked out of Miri's bedroom, his hair was sticking up in every imaginable direction and his clothes were skewed. "Great sex?" Oz asked dryly.

Giles shook his head. "An almost-two year old daughter. Xander's out doing something as I found out when we came back for lunch, so I've had Miri all afternoon." He flopped down onto their lone chair in the livingroom. "I had no idea what a handful she was becoming. She's usually not this bad for me."

Oz patted his shoulder. "Want me to tame her with a story?"

"No, she's finally asleep, though the dog is sleeping beside her again." Giles looked up, glaring at a dirty Xander as he walked in. "And where have you been?"

"Fitting pipes, something I'm *good* at. Did she get lunch?"

"'Scuse me? You've been over at the work site?" Oz asked.

Xander nodded, sipping some water. "And I'm going back over. I'm just getting the extra water pitchers."

"I didn't think to fill any," Giles said.

Xander waved them off. "I did it this morning so I didn't forget." He grabbed them then shut the fridge with his hip. "Later guys. Don't eat without me please." He headed carefully back up the path to the house.

Oz looked at Giles. "Where did we miss that? Actually, he's happy, which I missed, but since when does he know how to do that?"

The contractor walked in with the empty pitchers, clearing his throat. "Here, the first round's empties." He set them on the counter. "He helped with the renovations on his own apartment and on Mr. Giles there. He's actually a handy little guy, as long as you don't let him measure anything and he has a nail gun. I'm kinda surprised he didn't tell you about helping work on his own apartment. He was kinda proud that he did so much of the work." He walked out, heading back to his crew.

Oz looked at Giles. "That was a major oops on our part." Giles nodded. "How do we apologize?"

"I'm not sure, but we do need to do some shopping tonight. We're almost out of food again." Giles leaned his head back against the wall, eyes closed. "Could you please start the soup for tonight?"

"I've got a better idea, why don't I go get us something special?" Oz suggested.

"Please. I doubt I'm in a mood to cook or clean up."

Oz picked up his keys. "I'll be back soon. You rest until Miri's up." He headed out at the sound of a groan.


Xander walked in and stared around their trailer in disgust. "This won't work too well," he told himself, pulling out the trashcan to push the remains of lunch off the counter and into it. He slammed it back in place, glaring at Giles when he woke up. "Having problems?"

"Miri's been a terror all day," he said with a yawn and a stretch. He got up, walking in to help his lover but got pushed out of the way. "I was going to clean up."

"I'm sure. What about supper?"

"Oz went to get some." Giles looked around. "Where's Miri? Is she still napping?"

"No, she's over watching the guys paint the livingroom." He shoved the two pitchers into the sink with the other dishes and started water. "Why don't you go get her while I finish cleaning up in here. You can fix the destroyed livingroom." He poured some soap into the water, ignoring Giles completely as he did the dishes.

Giles nodded and touched Xander's shoulder. "Thank you. I had no idea you had that to deal with every day." He didn't get an answer so walked out, heading up to the house. "Miri," he said, picking her up, making Spike bark. "Shh. I'm just taking her home."

"Why?" the contractor said dryly. "She likes watching us paint." He waved paint-smeared fingers at her. "Have fun with your dads."

She waved and clapped. "Me play?" she asked her daddy, who shook his head. "Me play!" she said again, more forceful.

Giles shook his head, heading out the door. "Spike, come," he called, and the dog followed them out the door.

The contractor looked at his helpers. "How long do you think the fight will be tonight?"

The other worker shrugged. "I don't know but I'm glad I'm not fighting with them. Xander's got to be a screamer. And that one guy is just too quiet."

Giles walked back into their trailer, setting Miri down and relatching the baby gate. "There, back home again, where you can't get into as much trouble." He looked around for Xander, who wasn't there, and headed for their bedroom, but he wasn't in there either. "Xander?" he called. He didn't get an answer so he walked out to where Miri was trying to get the gate open again. "No, you're not going back over there. You're not supposed to be over there."

"Kitties?" she said, giving him the most pitiful look. "Me feed?"

"Ah," Giles said, picking her up and heading out the door. "I had no idea you and your father were feeding the kitties in the barn."

"Spike, no," she said, frowning at him. The puppy obediently stayed put.

"That's very good, luv," Giles said, walking with her toward the barn. "Xander," he called once they were closer and they could see him sitting and staring at something.

"Shh, they're napping," Xander told him once they were closer. He looked up at Miri, grabbing her to hold her, pointing out the little dark bodies. "See, they're napping now. They hunted today." Miri clapped. "Yeah, it was really good. I saw them bring down a squirrel."

"It bad?"

"No, that's how kitties eat sweetie," he told her, rubbing over her hair. "See, all things eat other things. You eat carrots and potatoes, they eat squirrels and mice." She looked confused. "Just trust me on it and we'll explain it when you're older, okay?"

"'Kay." She looked at them again. "No feed?"

"No, we'll still feed them, it'll keep them from hunting so often." He squeezed her then stood up. "Come on, let's go see if we can't get you clean."

"Me play," she said, nodding, very serious. "Paint."

"Yeah, so I can see. Not sure if it will come out of your clothes though." He walked around Giles, heading back to the trailer. "If you want to feed them, the bag's beside the door and there's a tray on the floor of the barn," he called over his shoulder.

Giles carefully grabbed the bag and poured some out, trying hard not to wake the kittens up. He headed up after his lover, coming in as Oz did. He hugged Oz, quietly sinking into his body. "I had no idea that he was so active with her," he whispered. "Or that she liked to watch people paint."

Oz patted his back. "We still got lots to learn about him." He put the food down on the table, dishing it out. "Xander, food?"

"I'm getting the paint off Miri, give me five," was called from their bathroom. Then the sound of the shower coming on floated out with a, "Daddy! Not like!" following behind.

Oz snorted, grabbing plates as he laid the fried chicken out to be eaten, having it all set up by the time a semi-dry lover and child came out to join them. He took Miri to put her into her high chair, kissing her forehead. "You smell like Daddy's soap." He handed her a chicken leg, watching as she looked at it and waved it around a bit before taking a bite. He looked up at Xander, who was watching Miri. "We heard you went over to help today." Xander threw down his napkin and got up, heading for the bedroom, Oz quickly following behind him and slamming the door so no one could interrupt. "That wasn't the start of a fight, really," he assured, grabbing Xander to hug. "I didn't know you could do any of that stuff, I was wondering what you did."

"I fitted pipes," Xander said, allowing himself to be hugged. "And yeah, I can do lots of stuff over there, you just never asked, you assumed."

"And I was wrong." Oz tried to kiss Xander put pulled back at the last second.

"Can't?" Xander asked, looking at him. Oz retreated a little farther away. "Why not?"

"I don't know. I can't get past that last inch." He looked at him, seeing the same unhappiness he had been seeing since the store had burned.. "I can't kiss you because you're not happy, but it would make you happier so I don't know why."

"Hmm, that almost sounded like an Oz babble." Xander moved closer, kissing Oz, pulling him tight against his body. "See, not unhappy. Well, very unhappy about some things but not this." He kissed him again, then moved back, waiting.

Oz kissed Xander, diving into his mouth. He tore the younger man's t-shirt off him, ripping his own off and tossing it away too. "God, missed this," he said in between kisses. "Been days."

"Been weeks," Xander retorted. "Three of them." He stripped their pants off, picking up Oz to toss him on the bed. "There, now then, what was that about?"

"Need you," Oz said, holding out a hand to him. "Now," he said more firmly when it wasn't taken and Xander didn't fall on top of him.

"Uh-huh." Xander slowly lowered himself to the bed. "Want me to ask 'why now' or are you going to explain?"

"Just do," Oz said, nuzzling Xander's under-ear area before moving down his neck. "Want you. You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm good," Xander said, patting his head.

Oz looked up. "Not into it?"

"Not sure. You kinda did a sudden switch and I'm confused."

"Not sure myself but I'm feeling okay about it."

Xander nodded and gave up his deep interpretation of it, giving in to the demands of his body. He rolled Oz under him, kissing him hard, but slow, exploring him like it had been more than a month since they had been together. Oz rolled them over, growling slightly as he leaned down to taste Xander's neck, moving down the bare chest and stomach, straight for his cock. "Okay," Xander said, nodding. "You can have that."

"I can have *all* of you," Oz said, sliding into his extra hole, making the younger man arch up under him. "See?" He slid in and out a few times then withdrew to lick over the hard cock. "Once I get you stretched, I can have that part of you too." He nipped the soft balls, grabbing a bottle from the bedside table, which was taken from him and he was handed another. "Thanks."

"Didn't want muscle rub used to stretch me," Xander panted, pushing back against the shoulder rubbing him. "More, Oz, now."

"Ooh, demanding, aren't you?" He flipped open the bottle, pouring some out and tossing it aside. "You're going to get it, don't worry. I'm not leaving this room until you understand that I'm yours and that we're here to pleasure you."

Xander snickered. "Don't you have that backwards?"

Oz grunted as he slid a finger into the waiting hole. "No. I got it right, and it's the same for you with us." He switched to two slippery fingers, dancing them in and out of the tight body. "So long since I fulfilled my role," he whispered. "Haven't been in you in forever." He licked over the hard cock again, then pulled himself up, diving into the already moist, extra hole. "See, I love you for all of you, but you're stubborn." He pulled his fingers free, heading up to kiss Xander's lips instead while he pounded him, nibbling on the swollen lips as he told him things. "Needed this, babe, haven't felt connected in a while." Another few nibbles and kisses. "Need you to be okay and here with us, not on display." Another round of nibbles and kisses. "Need all of you to be ours."

"Then I'd switch locations," Xander suggested, wrapping his arms around Oz and squeezing him. "Before you do something dangerous in me." He kissed him deeply, smiling as he felt the hard cock slip out of one hole and start to push into the other. "Thanks, babe."

"Welcome," Oz whispered, hiding his face in Xander's neck. "Missed you."

"I've been here."

"I haven't." Oz looked up. "Forgive me? For not seeing any of it?" Xander nodded, rubbing through his hair. "Promise?"

"Sure, I promise. You're back now and that's what matters." He pushed up against the still body. "Can I have more?"

"Can always have more," Oz told him, putting his face back down on Xander's chest so he could listen to him while they made love and healed all the things between them again. "Mine," Oz sighed as he came, pulling back to suck on Xander's cock, using his fingers to tease the younger man mercilessly, switching back and forth between the holes as he played.

"OZ!" Xander yelled, coming hard down his lover's throat. He went limp, looking at his lover, who was looking very pleased with himself. He held up his arms, smiling as they were instantly filled. "Thank you."

"For telling you I was an idiot? No problem, just remind me to do it more often."

Xander grinned, holding on as he rolled them onto their sides. "Okay, I will," he said around the yawn. "Nap?"

"Yeah, nap," Oz agreed, mirroring the younger man's yawn.

When Giles came in a few minutes later, they were comfortably asleep together, wrapped around each other like they used to.