Xander tapped on the door, looking very pale. "Blair, how many kills does it take to make it a serial killer as opposed to a sick person?" he asked, sliding down to sit in the doorway.
"Why?" Blair asked, getting up to come stand in front of him, pulling him up when Xander blinked at him, looking like he was in shock. "What happened?"
Oz cleared his throat. "One of the other dancers is stalking him we think. There was a body in the Explorer this morning."
"My mother was just found dead in front of our mailbox," Xander whispered, looking at Blair, giving him the panic look.
"Shh, we'll figure it out," Blair said, walking Xander over to the couch, watching as Oz went pale too. "What's going on, Oz?"
"The bouncer at the club, who always stuck up for Xander from what I've seen, was found dead this morning too. In the park. Broken neck. I didn't think it was related so I didn't tell him." He held out his arms, accepting Xander into his lap. "Shh, babe, let it out. I know it hurts." Xander nodded, sinking his head into Oz's shoulder. "Let it out, grieve for her, Xan."
"Not sure I should," he mumbled, taking a deep sniff. "Want to laugh really."
"I know, but that's a normal reaction," Giles said, moving up behind Xander to hold him too. "Let all the feelings out, love."
Blair walked over to his wife's office, tapping on her door. "Sam, problems," he said, giving the patient in there with her a smile. "Xander's in a courtship ritual with his stalker."
She went pale and her hands braced on the desk. "Does he know who?"
"They have an idea but otherwise no. Three kills, two personal and in his space."
"Okay, let's call Sunnydale and see if they'll accept our help. Susan, can I leave for five minutes and come back?"
"Sure," the woman said. "Serial killers are more important than my phobia." She got up, grabbing her purse. "You'll reschedule?"
"As soon as I can," Sam promised her, giving her a smile. "I'm really sorry."
"It's not a problem, Doctor Waters. We know you know what these guys are going through." She waved at Blair, walking around him to make sure she didn't touch him. "Goodbye, Doctor. I'll see you in a few weeks."
"Try to go to the mall again," Sam called after her. "Go in and walk around, you don't have to get close to anyone. Do it on a Wednesday or some slow time." Susan smiled and waved. "She's gotten better. She was able to come in." Blair nodded. "I still can't figure out why she's afraid of people."
"Because something traumatic happened?" Blair asked, leaning against the door frame. "Call and see, you sound better and do the whole local politics thing so much better. I'm going to let those three get together in peace."
"They could use it," Sam told him, dialing a number from the sheet in front of her. "Hello, may I speak with the Police Commissioner?" She smiled. "Doctor Samantha Waters, VCTF LA." She leaned back, getting comfortable. "Yes, I am. No, they're patients of mine and my husband's in our private practice. They brought it to our attention." She laughed lightly. "Of course we'd like to come intervene. Though we would be willing to share credit. The habit of some Federal agents are simply deplorable. No, we can be up there today with them. Yes, we can stay with them. We have an open invitation to their home." She laughed again. "Thank you. Yes, we'll call when we get there and get set up." She hung up. "Oz mentioned that he knew us to the officer that came to check on them last night. They were expecting us to get involved as soon as they saw the second body. And Sileya, that's her name right?" Blair nodded. "She must have called. The police are still there putting the body back together." Blair shuddered. "Courtship?"
"His mother. She's in front of the mailbox."
"Oh." Sam stood up, smoothing out her shirt. "I'll call the group and get things moving, you get them home and settled in. Bring Jim or Munch if you want." Blair nodded and headed back to his office. "Please let this not be another Jack," she prayed, heading for her briefcase and special cellphone. She hit in the programed sequence, pulling out the things she would need and loading her bag. "Hi, it's me. No, we have to go see Xander and his family. No, Munch, he's in the middle of a courtship ritual with a stalker. Two that I know of from what Blair said and one's his mother." She snorted. "They attract trouble, you know that. Grab stuff and I'll meet you at the garage in thirty. No, traffic is bad this time of day in that direction." She closed her briefcase. "I'll be there." She hung up and grabbed her bag, closing it as she walked out of her office, ignoring the single rose that was now sitting in the middle of her desk.
Giles looked at Xander, wincing as he saw the paleness. His skin was almost translucent now. "At least you didn't have to leave home to have trouble come for you," he quipped, immediately feeling bad when the haunted eyes glared at him. "I'm sorry, I was trying to make you feel better," he said, pulling him in for a hug. "I'm an insensitive lout."
"Only some days," Xander said softly. "Giles, I'm scared now. Four bodies in three days?" He wiped his cheeks off. "What's going to happen next?" He looked around at all the agents, all people he knew but this time they weren't his friends. "I feel trapped."
"We all do," Giles told him, pulling him back in. "We'll simply have to wait it out. This siege has to stop sometime."
"Maybe," Xander said, looking at Jim as he walked past. "Any luck finding the killer?"
"No," Jim said, heading into the library, the base of operations for the troops. The door was closed behind him.
Xander shivered. "I'm not ready for this," he admitted. "I'm still too tight from the other stuff. We never got anything worked out."
"We did do some mending," Giles reminded him, propelling Xander into the kitchen. "You need to eat something, I've seen vampires with more skin tone."
"I'm fine," Xander said, sitting down in the breakfast nook. Giles shook his head. "I'll eat later."
"Im sure you will, but you're also going to eat now." He looked at the cupboards. "We need to go grocery shopping."
"Can't," Xander said. "No money until you get paid."
Giles smiled at him. "I'm sure we have some lying around somewhere."
"Yeah, in investments and retirement accounts," Xander countered, giving Oz a weak smile as he walked in with their son, Blair, and the other Blair. "Hey," he said, putting his head down. "He okay?"
"Little fussy. Tooth's coming in hard now." He handed the baby off to Giles, walking over to hug his other lover. "It'll be fine. He can't hide forever. Especially not when he's trolling for victims."
Buffy strolled in, waving at Blair when he started to pull his gun. "Hey, good girl here, not impervious to bullets." She slapped Xander across the back of his head. "Spike said to give that to you so the thing that keeps attracting trouble to you can rattle loose and hide." She grinned at him. "He's convinced this is all your fault. He spent most of our sparring time complaining about having to put up with Willow all the time because she's not going out right now. Oh, and he wanted to know if he could eat the guy if he found him first." She reached over and gave Giles a pouting look. "Want me to hold him?" She was handed little Blair, hugging him to her chest.
"Sure, he's welcome to Chastity if he finds him first," Xander said, giving her a weak smile.
"Not funny," Blair said.
"Who's kidding?" Giles, Oz, Xander, and Buffy said together.
Buffy looked at the people around her. "Scary, guys." She gave Blair a brilliant smile. "He's a vamp and he said he'd give us the body."
"Still not funny."
"Not kidding," Xander told him, his voice getting a little high and scratchy sounding. "If he wants to eat the fucker, let him, just have him drop the body out by the road. You guys can pick it up then."
"Won't work, we'd have to do paperwork," Jim said as he walked in. He nodded toward the library. "Sam's got to see patients tomorrow."
"I'll talk to her in a second," Blair said as he headed for the refrigerator. "Hey, sandwiches," he said, pulling one out. "Thanks, Jim."
"Thank Munch. He made them." Jim waited until Blair had left to give Xander a bland look. "Do you know how much trouble you've gotten me in when I said I didn't like candles?"
Xander snorted, head still down. "None of them's coming out right anymore. You could still be off the hook." He looked up. "Everything's coming out wrong these days."
"I'm sure it's just stress," Giles said, setting a bowl of cereal in front of Xander. "Eat please."
Jim shook his head and started heading for the outside. "It's my turn to go watch the mailbox. Just don't give my wives any ideas, Xander. We already have too many things in the house that we don't need." He shut the door behind him.
Xander snickered. "It's a good thing his wives aren't here to hear that."
"Yeah, it is," Oz said, sitting down next to his lover. "You need to eat something."
"I've been trying to convince him of that," Giles said as he stared down at his lover. "That's the last of the cereal."
Xander swished the spoon around, staring into the bowl. "Why did he come after me?"
"Because something in him recognized that you're a good, kind, gentle man and he wanted that for himself to offset his own problems," Giles told him, sitting across from him, making Buffy move over. "I'm sure he'll be caught soon. Everyone in town knows who he is and that Federal Agents are looking for him." Xander nodded listlessly, taking a bite of his lunch. "Eat up, dear one, and I'll help you take a nap," Giles promised him.
"'Kay." Xander took another bite. "I want this to be over."
"Me too," Giles told him, holding the free hand and giving it a little squeeze. "We all want this over with so we can go back to what we had been doing."
Oz looked at them. "We could try and yell it out here."
Giles shook his head. "I'd prefer to have someone like Blair there so we don't harm each other." Oz shrugged. "If you think about it, we tend to make the fights we do have personal."
"And dirty," Xander added, pushing the mostly full bowl away to put his head down. "I'm not hungry."
"Eat," Oz ordered gently. "You need it." Xander shook his head. "Yeah, you do. You aren't going to be nearly as happy when you're in the hospital on a feeding tube." The spoon was brought up for another bite. "Not good enough. You need to actually finish a meal this week."
"Not hungry," Xander said as firmly as he could. "Drop it."
"No, you need to eat," Oz reminded him.
"Boys, don't. We know that Xander doesn't like to eat when he's upset. Frankly, I'd be surprised if he was eating on his own right now." He gave the hand he held another gentle squeeze. "But Oz is right, Xander, you do need to eat. It's been much too long and if you continue we'll have no recourse other than to have you admitted to the hospital for care." He watched as another bite was taken. "See, it's not that hard."
"Have a headache," Xander said, sliding out of his chair and heading up to his room. He still hadn't moved back in with Giles and Oz but they were welcome to come stay with him when they wanted. He tucked himself in, curling around a pillow when no one showed up immediately.
"What sort of body language is that," Blair said from the doorway, walking in and shutting the door. "You okay?" he asked as he sat on the side of the bed. Xander shook his head. "Want to talk about it? I could drop out of fed mode and go back into counseling mode really quick."
"No thanks. I want all this to be over with."
Blair shifted the blanket higher, giving the young man a small, grim, smile. "When you're ready to deal with them, give me a hint and I'll pull all of you out to the barn so you can yell at each other in peace."
"Got kittens out there," Xander reminded him.
"I doubt we'll hurt them." Blair stood up, brushing down the side of Xander's face. "Rest, you look horrible."
"Feel that way," Xander mumbled, closing his eyes. "Everything's bad."
"No, it just needs a little work," Blair said softly, heading back to the door. "You sleep." He slipped out, meeting Giles in the hall. "How are you dealing?"
"I'm trying to keep him on an even course, but it's been hard," Giles admitted.
"I meant personally." Giles looked startled. "You're fussing over him to forget the fact that you're worried sick?"
Giles nodded and sighed. "Basically. If I stop to think about this situation, I think I'd start screaming."
"At least Sileya's not gotten hurt when she's went out."
"I'm not really worried about her. From how you described what Chastity's doing, she's not in danger yet. She's a friend, so she's down the list of people he'll take away from Xander." Giles leaned against the wall. "I've had a few long talks with her, and even with her father when he called last night. Surprisingly enough, Willow and Spike have offered to watch over her if something happens. Seems she's made quite an impression on them."
"She's a great kid," Blair told him. "I want to know why you're so cold to her though." He crossed his arms across his chest. "You're unbalancing the little bit of life she's managed to build for herself. She's still in adjustment."
"Xander told me I was bitter about her once," Giles sighed, closing his eyes. "I don't know what's going on. I've tried to treat her as I did Buffy and Faith."
"Ah, how about treating her as Sileya?" Giles' eyes opened, staring at him. "I doubt she's much like either of them and both of them had their same life when you got them. Sileya's been ripped from her life and put somewhere that totally foreign to her understanding. You need to treat her as your daughter, same as you did Buffy, and get to know her as an independent being. I'm sure she'd be happy to tell you about what her old life had been like."
"Possibly," Giles said, looking at her door. "I'll try that during our training time tonight."
"She has a date with Homer tonight," Blair reminded him with a smile. "I'd like to meet the boy's mother."
"She's a most unusual individual. I can only hope that if Sileya finds out about his background that she doesn't break away from him for it." Blair shook his head. "Homer's not fully human," he said softly. "His mother was in love with a half-demon."
"Oh." Blair nodded. "It might freak her but I doubt she's going to send him away from her for it. Even if she were activated tomorrow, I doubt it'd be more than a momentary thing." He patted Giles on the arm. "Go be with him. He's going to pop that pillow if he holds it any tighter." He headed back to their control room, ducking past the ghost as she tried to close the door on him.
Giles walked into Xander's bedroom, taking a second to see how his lover was lying before closing the door. "May I come in?" he asked formally, walking closer to the bed. Xander nodded, not looking up at him. "Would you like me to climb in with you?"
"Please." Xander lifted up the blankets so his lover could climb in behind him, snuggling back into the warm arms and leaning into the warm touches he was receiving. "Tell me a story," he said with a yawn. "Want to hear something."
Giles smiled. "Unless you want me to read you one of our children's books, all I know are tales of strange spells. You were always a much better storyteller to the children."
"Okay. Just as long as it's you telling me. Want to hear your voice."
"All right. How about the strangest spell I know, a spell of regeneration?" Xander nodded. "You see, back before the Middle Ages began - a few years before actually - two sorcerers came up with a way to regenerate themselves by being reborn."
"Like *reborn*?" Xander asked softly.
"Yes, actually reborn. It's a two-part spell. The first is to accommodate them inside the host's body. That part makes ready their new mother, and occasionally father, opening them enough for the sorcerer to get in there and enabling them to keep them in once they're in there."
"Wow. Sounds painful."
"I imagine it was. There was barely enough room. The actual labor would be about the same I'd expect."
"What's the second part?"
"It shrinks the sorcerer down to a smaller body, made mostly of energy. They're supposed to become a being of about twenty-five pounds."
"Still would be painful."
"Yes, it would, but the benefits far out weigh the risk. After living in their host for a little over a day, the sorcerer was reborn with a completely new soul, and they deage in ratio with their incarceration."
"What's the bad?"
"The sorcerer is horribly vulnerable. As soon as the spell begins, he's suddenly a very big target. He has to depend on whomever is watching over the mother, who's bed-bound for the ordeal. There are all sorts of problems with the spell."
"Did it ever work?"
"The two sorcerers claimed that it did. The older one was supposedly around sixty and he claimed to come out at about twenty with all his former memories intact. The funniest thing was that they said that anything given to the sorcerer would be something he would crave for the rest of his life." Xander snickered. "Those two were lovers and it's said that one couldn't stand to be so far apart from his love."
"He did the mother?" Xander asked with a grin.
Giles nodded. "Indeed. Their journals were filled with remarks about the one's sexual, well, addiction after that."
"And you know this how?"
"I studied their journals while in college. It was a fascinating study. The professor who I did the paper for's notes were complimentary but he said he was sickened by the procedure. Claimed it was mental illness on the 'so-called' sorcerer's parts."
"I can see that," Xander said, lifting his head to smile over his shoulder. "How did they get inside?"
"They crawled in, that's why the accommodation spell was done first, to prepare the way."
"Yes, well, those sorcerers supposedly shared their new mother. She was supposedly happy to help the first time, but the second time she wasn't so willing." He gave his lover a smile. "Do you feel more calm now?"
"Yeah, I just wish they could find him."
"As do I." Giles gave him a hug. "We still have much to talk about," he noted.
"Don't break my peace, Giles."
"Would you please call me by my given name?" Giles sighed. "I feel like your librarian when you call me that." He shifted so he was lying in front of Xander, replacing his pillow.
Xander looked up. "I don't like Rupert, it sounds funny to me. I even hate to read Miri the story with Rupert Bear in it." Giles rolled his eyes. "I don't, and you don't seem like a Rupert anyway. They're stuffy and anti-fun." He poked him. "Which you aren't."
"Ah." Giles smiled at him. "You could call me what Oz does when he deigns to not call me Giles. Rupe."
"Okay, Rupe." Xander gave him a big grin. "The kids are going to be confused."
"It's better that we're breaking that habit now," he said with a smile of his own. He looked toward the door. "Are you pleased with how the twin's room is turning out?"
"Yup, the decorating fit's helping me calm down lots."
They both looked toward the door as someone knocked and Jim opened it. "Sileya said I should ask if I could teach her self-defense when I work on Blair's and Sam's."
"That would be most appreciated," Rupert said, giving him a smile. "I don't teach that subject very well."
"Okay. We're meeting tonight about your change tomorrow night. We'll call when we're ready." He left them alone. "Blair's got the kids," he called as he closed the door.
"Hey, he's got a whole crew to give the cultural lectures to," Xander quipped, giving Rupert a smile. "I got to get up. Need to go get paint."
"You're taking someone with you," Rupert said firmly.
"Like they'd let me out alone. I'll even take Sileya if Jim's not doing his teaching right now." He slid out of the warm arms, giving his lover a wan smile. "We'll be fine. I doubt he'd do anything in the middle of the hardware store." He grabbed his wallet and keys, heading down to the library so he could interrupt the agents in there. "I'm going to the hardware store." He smiled at Sileya. "Jim's offered to teach you self-defense."
"That's later," Jim said, looking up. "Want me to go with you?"
"I have to go pick up paint." Xander leaned against the door. "I'll let you decide who gets to go into town with me this time." He looked at the girl sitting next to the door, the one he had basically taken as a little sister. "You going too since you're bored?" She nodded and jumped up, running for her room.
"Oh," Blair said, looking up, "pick me up these things," he said, making out a list. He handed it over with a smile. "Thanks, man."
Jim groaned but looked at the other agents, who were all making out lists. "Fine. Money?" Every one of the agents started reaching for their wallets.
Xander headed for the kitchen, grabbing a soda to give Jim and Sileya time to get ready.
Xander held the door open for Jim, who was memorizing lists, letting Sileya catch it on her own. He headed to the man in front of the paint mixers, giving him a smile. "Hi, is it in?" he asked, bouncing slightly.
"Yup," he said, reaching under the counter to pull up a box. "What're you doing out there? I thought all the renovations were done." He took Xander's money for the painting supplies he had called in for earlier.
"Doing the nursery for the twins. They've been in a small space in our room but it's time to get them their own beds and room." He looked at the colors. "Who put dark purple in here?"
"The guy who called and amended your order. He said to take the bright blue out."
Xander groaned. "Thank you, Chastity," he sighed. "No, we wanted the bright blue. That's my stalker buddy."
The man nodded, snickering. "We heard. I saved the can in case that was what it was." He reached over to a display, putting a small can of bright seawater blue into the box too. "Might want to keep that purple though. It'd go good as a trim."
Xander picked it up to look at it. "Well, he does have good taste. His clothes are always seriously matched and perfect." He held it up for Jim's inspection. "Gonna be a problem?"
"Nope. Just don't let it get back to him. He'll think he's starting to get through." He looked at the small cans. "Stencils?"
"Not really. A few for the big things but otherwise it's going to be waves of color sponged on. Swirls and stuff." He picked up a decorating book next to the register, flipping through it until he came to a picture that was close to what he was thinking. "Like that, only with swirls," he explained.
"Oh. That'll work." He picked up the box, handing it to Xander. "Need anything else in here?"
"Not really, but I need to stop at the store or we don't have supper." Xander took his change, putting it in his pocket. "Why?"
"I need some things for the crew," Jim said, putting down the lists. "Most of it's from here. Except Blair's." He pointed out things for the man. "Can you help me find these?"
"I can do better'n that, I can get them so you don't have to wait so long." He took the lists and walked away, coming back about three minutes later with a basket of things. "Need to sort these out by person's?" he asked with a smile.
"Yeah, they all paid me up front." He sorted out the cash as the items were worked out, paying for each bunch, keeping his hearing up so he could hear if someone else came in.
Sileya held up a metal bar. "Xander, can we put one of these in my room? I need something to stretch on. I've been getting leg cramps from the yoga Giles started me on."
"Sure." He looked at the display, then shook his head. "We'll get a big pipe and a few supports and put one up for you next time we come into town."
"I have the money," she said, holding up her wallet. "My father's been nice and switched my cards over to a local bank." She picked up the thickest pipe she could find, bringing it over to the counter. "That should hold my weight."
"You'll want lead," the hardware worker said. "Know what you're doing though. That'll bend under your weight." He pointed toward the back. "Go ahead and bring back one of the big pipes from next to the door and we'll get it cut for you."
She smiled and jogged away, coming back with a pipe that was taller than she was, leaning it against the counter. "This was the smallest. I think I only need about four feet. And braces that will give me about a foot of clearance from the wall."
"We're building a gym," Xander pointed out. "We could put it down there with the rest of the things that are going in the basement." He looked at the pipe. "Get some paint for it. It won't go with the decor at all." He closed his eyes and thought of her room, not minding when Jim steadied him as he started to wobble. "Um, about three feet maybe?" he asked, reopening his eyes. "She doesn't have that clear of a space. If it's going downstairs, she could use a six foot version."
"Hmm," the man said, measuring the pipe. "I can get you a six foot piece out of this, barely." He looked Xander over. "When you putting in the gym?"
"This week. I need something to do and decorating calms me down." He smiled. "Sileya, can you wait until I get the nursery done to get this put up?"
"Sure," she said, walking back out with two spray cans. "Black or green?" she asked.
He frowned. "Black. It'll stick out like a sore but it'll be fine."
"We have other colors," the worker pointed out.
"Yeah, but the basement's got unfinished drywall. I've still got to prep it for painting and we're going to make the basement a light green."
"They have a teal," Sileya suggested.
"Perfect," he said, giving her a smile. "Go get that." She walked back into the paint section. "What about braces?"
"We can get you those, but it'll take us a few hours to bend them," the worker said, marking a line. "Want us to put it all together and call when it's ready?" Xander nodded. "Fair enough. I noticed you had a little car today insteada your SUV."
"The police have it," Xander sighed, shifting his box to the other hand.
"Ah." He finished marking it off. "All right." He took the paint Sileya was holding out. "The little lady paying or you, Harris?"
"I am," Sileya said, holding out her credit card. It was taken but she was stared at. "It's on my account," she assured him. "Having money's like that sometimes."
He snorted, handing it back with the slip. "I'm sure it can be." He looked at Jim, who was staring towards the back door. "Problems?"
"Thought I heard something back there," Jim said, focusing on Xander again. "Store next?"
"Yeah, just a quick stop."
"Fine. I have to go to the drug store for Blair also."
"We'll lock ourselves in the car," Xander said, giving him a pat. "Come on, Sileya. They'll call when all the braces are ready."
"Cool." She followed him out.
Jim took the last bag on the counter, hurrying out after him.
"It's nice his man took in his sister," the worker said, leaning against the counter. "Must have been his daddy playin' around. She looks like his side of the family."
Xander looked up from his painting as someone walked into the nursery with a babbling baby. "Oh, you're talking," he said, taking Elizabeth to hug. "Such a good girl, Tigger," he said, giving her an extra squeeze.
"Yes, she is," Sam said with a pat for the baby. She looked around the nursery, then back at it's artists. "This is interesting."
"It's only half done. It'll be cool when it's all finished." He bent to put Tigger on the floor. "There we are, you can watch me paint."
"I wouldn't," Oz said as he walked in. "She was just crawling around too."
"She crawled *and* talked?" Xander asked in surprise.
"Little Blair threw a bear at her so she crawled over to beat the snot out of him," Oz explained, picking her up before she could head for the paint. "Surprised everyone in the living room." He looked around the room, then back at Xander.
"It isn't finished," Xander said before his lover could say anything. "Give me another day."
"Okay. Want me to go to the hardware store since they just called?"
"Yeah, they're fixing a bar for Sileya to stretch on when I'm working on the gym later this week."
Oz nodded. "Okay." He kissed the baby's head, holding her out so her father could do it too. "These two are opposites in everything. Blair's not moving but he's babbling 'no's."
"And her 'yes's are getting stronger," Xander pointed out. "You're very brilliant, just like your daddy," he praised her, giving her an extra kiss. "I'll be down in a few if you need me to watch them," he offered.
"Nope, Giles is reading to Miri. I was going to hand them off to him since he didn't get to see the beating Blair took."
Sam chuckled. "At least it wasn't a bad one. She only patted him hard." She patted the side of Elizabeth's face. "We'll be fine. Let me take her down. You two need time." She took the baby back, heading down to where everyone else was.
Xander walked into Oz's open arms, receiving a hug. "Thanks," he whispered.
"Welcome. Thought decorating was a defense mechanism." He pulled back for a kiss. "Finish up for today and help me cook, okay?" Xander nodded, so Oz turned him around with a pat on the ass. "Hurry up. I'll be back in a half-hour. We're having lasagne tonight."
"Want me to make it?"
"No, I'm going to make it, you're going to teach me how to make your version." He walked out, leaving Xander alone with the project to take his mind off their serial killer.
Xander picked up his paintbrush, making another artistic swirl on the wall.
Miri smiled at her sister and brother, handing them the toy phone. "Call daddies."
Little Blair slapped the keys and babbled into the phone as it made noise, until his sister stole it away. Then he cried.
"What's wrong?" Sam asked as she walked in. "Oh, did Tigger steal your toy?" She handed her godchild another toy, smiling down at him. "There you go, play with that." She went back to the library.
Blair threw down the rattle, crawling for the other phone he could see, grabbing the cord and pulling it down. He babbled to the dial tone, hitting the keys. Until it started to ring and a voice came on the line, then he babbled to it.
"What are you doing?" Jim asked, coming in to take the phone from him. He listened to the voice, said a quick, "Sorry," and hung up. He glared down at the little boy. "They named you right. Don't play with the phone."
"It's just a toy," Sam said as she walked past the door.
"The man speaking Chinese on the other end wasn't," he called. Both big Blair and Sam stepped into the doorway. "He was on the real phone and the Chinese man sounded unhappy."
Big Blair snorted. "I bet. Unplug that one, we'll explain it to Xander and the guys when they get up." He smiled at the kids. "Miri, please don't let them play with the real phones." She smiled at him. "Thank you, sweetie."
Jim shook his head, reaching down to unplug the phone. "Let's hope it works."
Sam gave him a grin. "Of course it will." She took Jim's arm and walked him toward the control room, talking about continuing education.
Miri smiled at the twins. "Me did that too. Fun."
Little Blair clapped. "No!" he cheered.
Tigger glared at him. "Yes!"
Miri shook her head and got up, walking out. She came back with one of the cordless phones. "Here, no fight," she told them.
Blair snatched the phone, patting the buttons, giggling as it made noise. He started to babble at the noise, letting his sister push buttons. He dropped it when the phone made a loud beep.
Miri turned it off and turned it back on. "There go, fun."
Tigger beat the buttons again, getting another bad noise. Her sister stopped it for her and she made the phone make pretty noises again. This time she got to babble at the voice. She held it out when the voice started yelling. Miri smiled and fixed it again.
Sam walked past the door, walking in to take the phone from Miri. "Don't give them phones, Miri."
"Me not," she said, giving her sweet, innocent smile. "Me take."
"Oh. All right." She checked on the twins, who were napping together in a chair. "Okay. I'm sorry I yelled." She walked out.
"Me take 'cause voices mad," Miri said once she was alone, pulling a book over with her talent to amuse herself by watching it dance.
Xander opened the door, eyes going wide at the badge he was being shown. "Um, problems?" he squeaked.
The Special Agent walked in. "A small one. Someone from this house called the White House."
Xander held up a finger, blindly reaching for a phone, looking down as he dialed with both thumbs. "Sam? Secret Service?" He let out a high-pitched moan and handed over the phone. "Sam, talk, her," he babbled, stepping back.
"Ma'am?" he asked. "Oh, Agent Waters. No, someone from this house dialed the Security Office at the White House. Babbling? Yes, it sounded that way." He laughed. "Of course. Is he here?" He hung up, putting the phone on the nearest table. "Agent Ellison?" he called. Jim stuck his head out of the library. "Special Agent Tyler, Secret Service. Agent Waters told me to tell you to corral the twins and move all the phones out of reach."
Jim walked out, a hint of smile playing around his face. "What did the two of them do?"
"They called the Security Office at the White House." He smiled. "Agent Waters also asked that you make sure he doesn't pass out." He waved at Xander, who let out the squeak again.
Jim snorted. "Consider it done. I'll make sure all the phones are out of reach of all three of them." He looked at Xander. "You going to fall over?" Xander nodded, jumping at the howl from the barn. "Oz is loose," Jim muttered, shaking his head. "We've got to find a lock that works."
"I thought he was his...." Jim nodded. "He's insane?"
"No, he's furry," Xander said as he sat down, missing both the table and the couch. "Miri!" he yelled, knowing she was still awake. She came running and sat in his lap. "Were you helping the twins call people?"
She smiled at him. "Me?"
"Oh, you are in such trouble when your other fathers change back." She hopped up and ran out the door. "Get back here!"
"On it," Special Agent Tyler said, walking out to catch the little girl. "You and your siblings scared a lot of people, little one," he told her as they walked back inside. He handed her off to Blair, who looked like he had just gotten up. "Here. Your wife said to let you lecture them." He smiled. "All the senior agents were ready to storm the house, until the man listening to the recording started laughing. He sent me."
"They called the White House?" Blair asked. Agent Tyler nodded, giving him a smile. Blair snorted. "Well, one is named after me."
"Oh, you haven't heard the best part yet. One of them called one of the best prostitutes in China, one of the ones that some of the top Party leaders go to. The briefing from the State Department said he panicked and called another of his guards in and had him stand beside the bed all night with a gun, ruining a few peoples' good time."
Jim coughed. "I hung up on that one and took away the phone." He looked at Miri. "Did you give them a phone?"
"Me good," Miri protested. She gave Blair her biggest begging eyes. "Me good?"
"Not this time," he told her. He looked at the other agent. "So, are they in trouble?"
"Not unless they do it again." He pulled out his keys. "I'm going to head back."
"Um, don't get out of your car while you're in town, it's not safe."
Agent Tyler gave him a knowing look. "I've heard." He shivered as another howl rang out. "What's that?"
"Werewolf," Jim said, giving him a shrug.
"They're out. I checked the camera before I came out." Blair waved toward their control room. "Want to see?"
"Hey!" Xander said. "Not a circus."
"Proving a point," Blair told him. "Knowing and believing are different." He nodded Jim at him. "Get him settled." They walked back to the library, Miri firmly in Blair's grasp.
Jim hefted Xander up, sitting him on the couch with a pat to the head. "Let me fix this phone problem. You relax and come back mentally." He headed for the library at the yell. "Want me to stop them?" He frowned at Miri, who was floating things. "Stop it, you're scaring him." She cried, getting down and heading for her father.
"That's cruel," Blair said coldly. "She's still having nightmares about the fire." He walked out after her, going to soothe her.
Jim sighed. "Things are just different here."
Agent Tyler nodded. "I saw the Initiative files." He cleared his throat. "Is she safe?"
"She has two federal agents, three fathers, and a few other...people wrapped around her fingers. We're all safe."
"And a Slayer," Munch noted from in front of a computer. "Found the local sick fuck's guild." He picked up the phone.
"Munch," Jim warned, "we're not here to get the child molesters."
"Just passing on some information," Munch said with a grim smile. "Hello, yes, I'd like to make a tip about child molesters?"
Jim walked Special Agent Tyler to the door. "Don't get out of your car until you're well out of town and exercise the highest personal safety in LA." He watched from the door as the Secret Service Agent walked away, muttering as he saw dark shapes heading for him. "Get in the car," he called. "Now!" He sighed as the agent made it into his car just as Oz pounced on the door. "Munch, where's the tranq gun?" It was handed to him. "Thanks."
"Welcome," Spike whispered, smirking as Jim jumped. "Gonna do them?" he asked, pointing at where Oz was pounding on the car's windows so he could get inside and have a meal.
Jim stepped onto the porch, getting Giles as he leapt at him from the shadows, firing a second shot at Oz. He waved at Agent Tyler as he walked away. "I hope they didn't get him. Having one of them in the White House wouldn't be fun." He walked back inside, looking around for Blair. "Where's the rest of us?"
"The little one is being put to bed," Spike said, feet up on the coffeetable. "Willow said I should come out here so I quit bothering her."
"Uh-huh," Jim said, heading back to the library. "Visitors."
"I saw," Munch said, typing quickly. "Making a report. Want me to email Bailey about this?"
"Not really. Let Blair and Sam do it." Jim sat down in front of his monitors. "Let's hope that we don't run into more problems from them."
"Yeah, that would be a bit bad for the family. A serial killer, us, *and* the Secret Service." He shuddered theatrically. "I can't wait to see that phone bill."
"We won't, probably," Blair said as he walked back into the room, smacking Jim. "Don't upset Miri. She's still very sensitive about her gifts."
"She should be," Munch said, turning to look at his boss and friend. "It's a dangerous thing for people to know about, especially around here."
"Point," Blair said, nodding, "but he brought back memories of the fire."
Munch sighed. "It was going to happen sometime. They're still being shied away from in town because of it. She'd have gotten it in school."
"Preschool," Jim cut in. "She starts next year."
"See, relatively soon. She's going to have to deal with it."
Blair shook his head. "Yes, but we might as well be family and we're throwing it back in her face, guys. That's going to hurt more than some kid she barely knows doing the same thing." Blair sat down.
Jim shrugged. "I'll tell her I'm sorry in the morning."
"Good. Thank you." Blair turned back to the cameras, frowning when he saw the replay of Agent Tyler's leave taking. "Did he get out okay?"
"As far as I could tell," Jim said, going back to his monitors. "We're still getting the static on the phone lines." He gave Blair a look. "I think he's bugging the phone." Blair turned to look at him. "Someone called the paint store to change Xander's order for the nursery, and he called it in."
"That would explain the static," Munch agreed. "These lines are new, and a lot better than what we usually have to work with."
Blair slowly nodded. "Find the trace."
Jim turned back to his monitors and Munch changed screens on his computer.
Blair stepped out onto the porch as Oz and Giles walked up from the barn. "Gotta talk to you guys," he said to stop them from going inside. He waved at the swing set next to the railing. "Come on."
Oz sat down on the porch, looking at him. "What happened? Did we have another visit?"
"Well, we had one, but not from Chastity." Blair sat down across from him, letting Giles sit wherever he wanted. "The Secret Service was here last night." Oz's mouth fell open. "Hold on. Miri was giving the twins real phones. They dialed a private number in the White House, the Security Office from what Special Agent Tyler said." He gave them a little, grim, smile. "Who you later attacked when he was trying to leave."
"Are we in trouble?" Oz asked quietly.
"No, he drove away and as far as we know he's fine. We've got to find a better caging solution for you two. That rusty old one in the barn's not doing it anymore."
"And hasn't been for a while," Giles added, rubbing his eyebrow. "We have a month to get a new cage set up."
"Jim said he'd help you figure out where was best. He was thinking the basement but I'm not so sure of that."
"My old one, above the store, was in my apartment. It had double locks, one of them a push-the- buttons type." He looked at Giles. "Which it took Miri all of an hour to figure out."
"She's a little better trained now," Blair reminded them. "She knows now why she can't pet you." He gave them a real smile. "We also figured out that Chastity is bugging your phone line, we're working on how it was done right now."
"Oh, God," Giles sighed, putting his head in his hands. "I've been chatting with the Council weekly."
"I'm sure he stopped listening," Blair assured him. "Slayers probably aren't something that he understands so it probably bored him silly."
"But the Council will," Giles told him, looking at him. "They're not known for their lenience or sense when things like this happen. They don't want the knowledge to slip away from them."
"It gives them power?" Blair suggested. Giles nodded. "We can deal with that if we have to. I can deal with them if I have to. That's not a problem. Telling this to Xander may be."
"He's one of those people that will always need protected," Giles said softly. Blair grunted. "He is. Sometimes he's this wise little man who says things that are just perfect for the situation. Others, he's like a child, or an elf maybe. He's got this innocence that shouldn't be sullied by this sort of catastrophe."
"Never thought about it that way," Oz said, nodding, "but it fits him. Some days he's like one of the kids and sometimes he's this really old guy who has the whole world sitting on his chest." He shifted, clamping his robe tightly between his knees so he wasn't showing so much. "Now that you said it, it's perfect for him."
"Huh," Xander said as he walked out with a tray full of cups. "Coffee?"
"Please," Giles said, grabbing one. "Thank you, this is exactly what I needed."
"Welcome," Xander said, sitting next to Oz and taking his own cup. "So, I'm one of those protected beings in the world?"
"Some people will always have to be protected ones," Blair told him. "Even people like me. I'm never going to be able to not be guarded by Jim. Even if we're alone on a desert island, Jim's still going to watch over me."
"Yeah, but you get into trouble," Xander pointed out, taking a sip.
"Yes, but your child-like innocence and enthusiasm attracts trouble to you," Oz pointed out, rubbing down his lover's arm. "You're very special and rare in this world, babe, someone who's never going to lose their innocence. No matter how debauched you become, you're not ever going to lose it."
"And that's why people like Chastity want me?" he asked quietly, looking down into his cup.
"They want to control it," Blair told him, nudging him with a foot. "They want to control your innocence even as they work to destroy it. It attracts them like nothing else in the world but it repulses them at the same time because it mocks everything that they are." He took the last cup of coffee. "Hmm, Jim made it," he said, making a bitter face.
"Yeah, I walked in to find him humming at it to make it go faster."
Blair snorted. "It's time for his shift to end but Sam's not up here yet."
"Yes I am," Sam called as she drove up and parked in the driveway. "Sorry I'm late, there was a massive accident outside of town." She kissed her fingers and patted the top of Xander's head. "Blair's going to lecture the kids with you if you'd like, he can make it stick in anyone."
Xander snorted. "Not in us."
"Okay, point," Blair agreed with a grimace, "but usually lessons coming from me stick." He looked at Giles, who was blushing. "You okay with that?"
"Fine," he said, quickly taking a drink of his coffee. "Thank you for adding milk to mine, Xander."
"Welcome." Xander looked at Giles. "Why don't you love me like I do you?"
Giles flinched. "I do, I simply have problems showing it to you," Giles told him, sliding down to sit across from him, making Blair move. "I do love you, with all that I am I love you."
"But you never tell me."
"Do you need me to tell you?" Xander nodded, then went back to staring at his coffee so Giles tipped his face back up. "Then I will. I do love you, Xander, and everything that you do is precious to me. I've never met anyone like you and I bless Fate that you were brought into my life for such a long time." He used his thumb to stroke over Xander's chin. "I may not tell you but I always feel it, even in situations like this one where everything seems to be going wrong."
Oz cleared his throat. "Everything does seem to be going wrong and some of it's unreasonable."
"Huh?" Blair asked.
"Candles," Xander said, catching on.
Oz nodded. "For the last few weeks, everything Xander pulls out has been warped in some way. Sometimes to the point where it's not really identifiable as a candle anymore."
"And then there's things like that spirit getting out of it's urn in the kitchen when the wax clearly wasn't peeled away, it had been broken into three pieces instead of being done by human hands."
"Okay," Blair said slowly, sipping his coffee to give himself time to think. "What are you thinking?"
"I think Chastity has some sort of ability or gift," Giles said, giving Xander a pat to the side of the face. "I think I'd like to find out and then stop that gift from working."
"Me too," Spike called from inside the house.
"When did he get here?" Oz asked.
"Last night, about the same time Special Agent Tyler left." Blair smiled at him. "You guys are really lucky, they were going to storm the house until someone recognized baby babbles."
"Hey, it would have thrown Chastity off for a while," Xander said, looking a little more cheerful. "What about my idea?"
"Does the phrase when Hell freezes over mean anything to you?" Blair asked him. Xander shook his head. "Why not?"
"Hell won't freeze, or if it does, we'll be overrun here with demons trying to get away from the snow and ice."
"Oh. Okay then. How about this one? No."
"I sometimes understand that one," Xander said with an impish grin.
Giles shook his head. "I know you well enough to know what you're thinking, Xander, and there is no way you're going to become bait for the person that wants to own you."
"I told you before, I'm not ownable," Xander told him gently. "Not even by psychos."
"Good, then we're agreed, you're not going to be bait," Oz said, patting him on the head. "Come on, we've got to look at the plans for the basement today."
"And for something else," Xander said, stopping Giles. "Mr. Anderson's barn partially burned two days ago and there's a big storm coming. He called a few minutes ago to see if he couldn't shelter a few of his horses in our barn."
"It's not nearly ready for them," Giles protested.
"Yeah, but he said it was okay enough. He said he'd give us hay and everything. He'd even teach me how to take care of them if you think it's okay."
"Xander, we're not financially stable enough to take care of horses. We've had this talk before."
"I still have some money," Xander reminded him. "It'll only be for a little while."
"He just needs to shelter them, right?" Oz asked. Xander nodded. "He's selling them?"
"Next month. He's got the auction all set up."
"It won't hurt us," Oz told Giles. "We'll be able to get feed from him. It might even cure Miri if she has to help clean up after them."
"She already knows how," Xander told him. "Mr. Anderson had her helping him whenever she went over. I'd take care of them, Rupe, really."
Giles saw the hopeful look and sighed, smiling at him. "I'll talk with him in a bit and have him come over to see what we need to do with the barn." He stood up. "Was there anything else?"
"I want to catch him sooner instead of later," Xander said, looking down at his hands. "If the only way to do that is to let me go for a walk alone, I'm going to do it."
Blair reached over, patting the top of his head. "We'll figure it out before that becomes an option." He stood up, following Rupert inside. "Was that what you needed to hear?" he asked quietly.
Giles gave him a sad smile. "I think I did. I'll be more attentive of him and help him work on doing something other than child care and house work," he said, heading up to his room. "Come get us in a bit if you wouldn't mind. I think I'd like to take a short nap while Oz showers."
"Sure." Blair walked into the kitchen, where he could see his wife making more coffee. "Tossed out the Jim sludge?" She nodded but didn't look at him. "What's wrong?" he asked, wrapping her in his arms.
"I woke up to find a rose on my pillow," she whispered. "It was one of Jack's favorite tricks."
Blair reached for the phone, pulling it over so he could dial it. "Just give me a few minutes and I'll hold you," he promised, giving her a squeeze as the other end was answered. "Bailey, it's me. No, Sam just woke up to find a rose on her pillow." He swallowed and hung up. "Sam," he said, pulling her closer. "He thinks Jack has a son."
"What!" Jim yelled, storming in. "Where? How's he doing it this time?"
"Slow down," Blair said calmly. "Bailey said this was their case but we were going to be put on constant alert. That means no more going back to the LAPD for any of you." Jim took a deep breath. "Thank you. He's dealing with it." He gave Sam another squeeze. "He's got it and it'll be fine. They're starting out with a profile this time and a reason. They'll catch him a lot faster than we have this guy."
"I hope so," she whispered, turning so she could cling to her husband. "We've got to warn Chloe."
"Actually," Jim said, leaning against the counter, "if Jack was your age, wouldn't his son be about hers?"
Sam glared at him. "Don't even think about it," she hissed.
"Wasn't, just a thought," Jim said quickly. "I'll go call Bailey and get official orders." He headed back to the library.
"I'm going to pull Chloe from school for the day," Blair said, nodding to make her do so. "You're going to stay here. This Chastity guy isn't going to come after you and he might even give you some protection. He knows how important we are to Xander so we're still okay for now." She nodded again. "I want you to go sit and think of everyone you've seen recently that's bothered you for whatever reason. I'll bring Chloe back up here."
"You can't," she said, plucking at the lint on his shirt. "This is an official site, we can't have her here."
"She can babysit," Xander said from the doorway. "Maybe hang with Sileya. Remember, this is a home too and she could come up to visit us."
Sam smiled at him. "Thank you, Xander." She looked at Blair, seeing his serious look. "This is the beginning. We're safe enough for now." She gave him another kiss and hug before letting him go. "Go get her and bring her up here. We'll let her visit the kids."
"Okay," Blair said, grabbing the keys Xander tossed at him. "Guys, I have a car."
"Ours is faster," Xander reminded him. "I know I can get from here to LA in under an hour in Oz's car." He smiled at Sam. "They're napping so would you like to help me look at the barn? Mr. Anderson's going to let us hold a few of his horses for a while."
"Sure," she said, giving him a slightly shaky smile. "Lets go do that. It shouldn't need that much work." She waited until Blair had left to give him a hug. "Thank you."
"Hey, waiting is the worst thing about this." He wrapped an arm around her waist. "Consider yourself escorted by one slightly bad fighter, but with a group of better ones all over this house."
Oz looked at the papers he was sorting through, things Munch had given him because they had been in the way when they had set up the equipment, stopping at one letter. "Xander, can I open the official test results from your doctor?" he called.
Xander stuck his head in. "Sure. Tell me if it's anything except what genetic sex I am." He left the library, ignoring the shocked looks.
"Personal business, guys," Oz told the agents packed into the library as he opened the envelope, humming at the report it contained. "Huh." He got up, walking over to where the files on the murders were. "John, look at this for me." He put it down so his former boss could read the results.
Munch frowned, tracing his finger over the results of the blood tests on his family. "That doesn't make sense." He pulled out Xander's mother's folder, reading it for a blood type. "There's only one way that he could have gotten his with what she had, and if that were true, the kids' blood types wouldn't be what they are." He looked up at Oz. "You thinking his mother cheated?"
"Maybe. It's never been a happy marriage from what I understand." Oz looked at the results, ignoring the pictures from Xander's mother's murder. "What do I tell him?"
"How about the truth?" Xander asked from the doorway. "What's wrong?"
"Your father had a point when he accused your mother of cheating," Oz said, waving him over. Xander walked over to lean against him. "With your blood type and your mother's blood type, your father wouldn't be your father. His blood type's not able to make yours."
"So, I'm a B negative, she's an O, and he's an A?" Oz nodded. "And that's bad?"
"Try impossible," Munch put in. "There's no way it can happen that way as far as I know. I can send Grace an email and ask her."
"Ask her what?" Jim asked from his napping spot on the couch.
"Xander's father's an A blood type, his mother's an O, and he's a B."
"Okay," Jim said slowly. "So, someone's lying about who one parent is."
"Well, my father used to swear I wasn't his," Xander said, shrugging. "No big. Not an issue anymore."
"It could be," Oz said gently. "Your natural father may have some sort of genetic defect that could be passed on down the line. Or he could have other problems that could bite you if it was figured out."
"Yeah, kid, if your father was at all like your maternal uncle, they will come after you for something your father did." Munch leaned back. "This may be out of line, but I've been noticing some things. One of them being that everyone thinks Sileya looks familiar."
"Her father's been in town a few times," Xander said, shaking his head. "What's that got to do with it?"
"She looks a lot like you," Jim said, yawning. "Maybe not to you, but Grace noticed it too when you guys sent her the newest picture." He looked Xander over. "That sort of relationship can be tested for."
"So you're saying I'm not a Harris, I'm a Rayne?" Xander asked, still looking very confused.
"What?" Giles asked, walking in. "What's going on?"
"His father's not his father and everyone thinks he and Sileya may be related," Oz explained. "His bloodwork from his doctor proved it."
"I'd like to see that tested," Giles said firmly. "I seriously doubt he's in anyway related to that slime."
"It's worth the cost of the test," Oz told him.
"I'll set it up," Giles said, grabbing one of the two active phones in the house, the other being in the kitchen and one that the children couldn't use without help. "We'll call Xander's doctor and ask him to do the test."
"Um, guys?" Xander asked. "Is it important?"
"Very," Giles said harshly. "If Ethan is your father also, then I'm going to have to hunt him down and harm him."
Xander walked over, taking the phone to hang up. "Giles, I'm still me. Just because my father's no longer the dirtbag of the universe doesn't mean I'm suddenly going to change. I'm still me."
"Yes, you are," Giles sighed, hugging him. "I won't hold it against you if he is. It's your mother's bad taste in men that's the issue here."
"She was probably drunk, she spent a lot of time like that." He gave his lover a peck on the nose. "Can we talk about this?"
"Of course we may," Giles said, leading him out to the family room. "Oz?"
"Coming," Oz said, picking up the phone and dialing it. "Hi, I need to set up an appointment for Xander Harris? No, some extra bloodwork, some relationship finding we think." He nodded and wrote the date and time down on a piece of paper that was handed to him. "Thanks. We'll be there." He hung up, handing Munch the phone. "Gonna go talk with them. Go ahead and tell Blair if you see him." He walked out, joining his family in the pouting contest they were having.
END, THIS STORY.