Falling Off The End Of The Slide Into A Big Pile.
Xander arched up against Oz, forcing him to come. He panted as he flopped down onto the bed, eyes closed as his body caught up with its energy level.
Oz looked down at his sweaty body as he pulled out, frowning at his own forgetfulness. "Into the bath," he ordered quietly. Xander turned his head to look at him so he showed off his dirty, uncovered cock. "Now. Before something bad happens."
"Sure, but I'm not in that part of the cycle." Xander heaved himself off the bed with a grunt and walked into the bathroom, going to run himself a nice, hot bath. He could go with this method of relaxing, even if Oz was paranoid sometimes. He climbed into the water as it ran, hissing as the hot water entered all his body cavities. He leaned back against the cool fiberglass of the back of the tub and closed his eyes, trusting Oz to turn the water off before he drowned.
*** Four Months Later ***
Xander slid into his jeans and snuck out of his bedroom, going out to the barn. He really wanted to ride today. He was stressed from their fight last night, and he had class again today so there wasn't any way for him to take the day off and just go riding all day. He quietly walked out of the house and down to the barn, smiling as Strife met him at the door, his bridle trailing from his lips. "Naughty you," he said with a grin, taking the bridle and putting it on. He grabbed the saddle, expertly catching the horse before he could get away. "Yeah, I know you don't like it, but it's more comfortable for the both of us." He saddled his and Miri's horse, Strife had started to like him recently for some reason, climbing up as soon as he could and heading out into the woods. As he passed the first trees, he set the alarm on his watch.
*** Later That Day ***
Xander's teacher cleared his throat as he turned off the shop's main switch. "Got an announcement," he said, waving his clipboard. "Most of you have signed up for that special housing project for the extra credit and they've accepted six of you. Tyler, Hermanstes, Ziggler, Branson, Duke, and Harris. All of you come to my office so I can get the forms filled out today." He threw the breaker again and walked toward his office, going to sit in front of the folders of forms.
Xander walked in second. "I got picked?" he asked. His teacher gave him a patient look. "Wow. Why?"
"In spite of your measuring problem, you're good at the work. They liked that, and the boss likes guys with quirks, it makes them rely on the other workers. It creates less of a competitive atmosphere." He handed over the folder. "Fill those out and give them back to me before you leave today. In there are directions so you can go directly to the site tomorrow."
"What about my project?"
"You'll have time to finish both of them. Don't worry so much, your life is stressful enough without that." He gave him a smile and waved him out of the office.
Xander walked out to one of the desks in the classroom part of his carpentry class, pulling his pencil out of his shirt pocket so he could fill out his forms.
Xander jogged into the house waving the folder, stopping to give Miri a hug. "I got the special job," he told her.
"I'm grounded," she said sullenly. "Strife was bad today and wouldn't let me clean his stall."
"I'll talk to them. I was riding him this morning." He ruffled her hair and ran inside, going to search for his other lovers. He found them both in front of the TV. "It's not her fault. Strife wasn't being very cooperative this morning after I rode him either. "
"Ah. Then you should be grounded because you didn't clean you tack," Giles told him, smiling at him. "You look excited."
"Yup, I got picked for that special project."
"Congrats," Oz said, pulling Xander down onto his lap and giving him a hug. "When do you start?"
"Tomorrow. I'm going to be on an actual work site." He leaned into the firm body, reaching a hand out for Giles'. "I'm doing good. The teacher thinks so anyway."
"Cool." Oz gave him a squeeze then pushed Xander over onto Giles' lap. "Where was Miri?"
"Porch swing, chin to her chest and with a huge bottom lip." Xander blew a kiss at him. "I'm a good boy."
"Yes, you are," Giles said, giving him a hug, going back to his television program. "I now know why people get hooked on these wretched programs."
Xander looked over at the Jerry Springer show, shuddering as he heard the woman say she had been a prostitute since the age of eight. "Eww. Oz still working on his paper?"
"Yes. I don't know why he chose this show for his subject."
"Because it's popular and it's an easy topic," Xander reminded him. "It's not like he has time to run to the regular library and do research; and his teachers have said no more mythology topics." He grimaced and rubbed his stomach, then belched. "'Scuse me."
"What have you been eating?" Giles asked, looking over at his lover's innocent face.
"One of the guys in my class is Thai and he's been feeding us all lunch for the last few days."
"Just because he offers doesn't mean you have to eat it," Oz told him as he walked back into the room with Miri in his arms.
"Uh-huh, Duke told us that it was very impolite in his culture, unless you're allergic to something in the dish. Today's was mild, but I guess my stomach didn't agree with it."
"I'll remember to shove some antacids in your bag in the morning," Giles told him, pushing him off his lap. "They're in the kitchen cabinet with the aspirin."
"Thanks." Xander walked out of the room and belched again. "Oh, that one hurt." He started to rub his stomach again as he walked, going for the magical Rolaids cure.
Xander looked across the desk at his new boss. "Okay, so you wanted quirky, I fit that description really well. Did anyone tell you about my measuring problem? Even my teacher couldn't figure that one out at *all*," he babbled.
The older man, a big, bald man whose muscles were just starting to turn to fat smiled at him. "Yeah, I heard but I still want you here." He looked at the form sitting in front of him. "So, you have kids?"
"Three," Xander said, starting to fidget.
"Relax, I like to get to know my guys," his boss said, giving him a smile. "Are you going to have any problem working with minorities? I know you work with Duke but I have to ask."
"Considering I'm gay, that would make me a little bit of a hypocrite," Xander said lightly. "If they can stand me, I can do the same for them."
His boss thought for a second then started to laugh. "Oh, you're going to be the life of the crew, aren'tcha?" Xander nodded, grinning at him. "Good, we could use a new comedian around here. Our last one's on maternity leave."
Xander finished making the decision he had been trying to make all night. "Yeah, well, let's just say I belong to Sunnydale's resident minority too and that I'm fully activated." His boss' mouth fell open. "Yup, me."
"How long'd it take you to decide to tell me?"
"Since I got the news yesterday. My teacher knows, I've had to take a few days off for...you know." He glanced around but no one was near the windows of the trailer. "It's not every time, but you can usually tell. I tend to personify the PMS stereotype. Or as one of my lovers calls me, Mr. Bitch."
His boss snorted. "Do you recognize it?"
"Nope. I'm expecting someone else to do it and to say something to me. I can never tell when I'm going to start and I don't seem to be able to recognize the emotional swing when it happens. Though, recently, they've been really odd."
"Okay, any other problems?"
"I get major backaches and I have problems lifting when I get them. I've hurt my back before while lifting hay so that's nothing new."
"Good." His boss leaned back. "You have kids?"
"I have a kid, one of my lovers has toddler twins. My daughter's, Miri's, mother didn't tell me she was pregnant. Not even before she went into the coma. I got a nice phone call through my oldest lover, who then let me break down in his apartment." He pulled out his wallet and showed him the two topmost pictures. "Those are the kids and my lovers."
"Good. It's good to see young people getting together and staying that way."
"Yeah, even when we're not really together, we're there for the kids." He shrugged and put his wallet back. "So, no, I have no trouble with minorities, but I will stick up for myself and I won't let anyone get by with cracks about either of my minorities."
"Good. I'll keep an eye out for bad behavior and we'll get along fine.
"Cool by me. I, um, hate to ask this but when will we get our first paycheck?"
"Next week. I pay you guys biweekly, but you'll get paid for whatever of this week you'll be working. Did you want to work full time or be put on a rotation with most of the other students?"
"Full time. We need the money and Rupert works at home if something happens. Are cellphones allowed? Oz is making me carry his until he can get me one of the prepaid ones."
"Sure, keep it on your belt in a holder so it doesn't break." His boss sat up and initialed the papers. "Go give this to Jonny, he's the big, butch guy out there. Not gay, but he personifies the stereotype."
"Okay. Can I start today?"
"You'll get acquainted with the layout today, you'll start work tomorrow. We'll pay you for training though. What do your lovers do?"
"My oldest one, Rupert, is doing research for people. Oz is a grad student now. He's taking law at UC Sunnydale."
"Ah. No wonder you wanted to work full time. You have a farm? You mentioned hay."
"Yeah, I have six horses and a bunch of barn cats, and Miri's cat Arwynn too." He nodded outside. "Gonna go do this so I can start, boss. Lunch?"
"Sure. I'm usually out there with the guys." He watched his newest worker leave, wondering how he did it.
Oz walked out onto the porch when he heard footsteps going toward the barn, one eyebrow going up as he walked down to intercept the young woman. "Can I help you?" he asked quietly, making her jump.
"I'm Mr. Anderson's daughter, Clarice," she said, holding out her hand. "I wanted to see which of the nags he left here."
Giles walked out of the barn. "You're welcome to come look at them, but we'd like to keep them if we may."
She chuckled. "Who'd want them?" She walked in, taking note of each horse. "You'll sell to someone," she said finally, to Strife. "You're the only quality nag in here."
Giles cleared his throat. "We really are serious. Our family has come to adore these fine horses. Including our four year old daughter. Could we arrange to buy them from you?"
She shrugged. "I can't get anything except pity money for most of them. Especially that one," she pointed at Bump.
Oz snorted. "He's a good training horse. Miri learned to ride on him. Very gentle." He leaned against the edge of Strife's stall. "Listen, I'm not sure you realize this, but you do owe us money. We'd be willing to take the horses to cover the cost of boarding them."
She smiled coldly at him. "Were you charging my father?"
"All contracts, especially verbal ones, are altered on the death of one party in them," Oz told her.
"I'm going to call and get a trailer here." She pulled out her cellphone but Oz didn't move. "You can't keep me from my own inheritance."
Oz shrugged. "Unless you can come up with paperwork saying that you're the rightful owner, we're not letting you take them. Like I said, you still owe us money for boarding them. We've been trying for almost a year now to reach you or your brother."
"That would be my husband, I'm his daughter-in-law, who never wanted to see his father again. That's why he left everything to me."
"Gee, he said he was going to be moving down there before he died," Oz said quietly. "That was about three days before his house burned but about six weeks after his barn burned."
She shuddered. "I heard he died in the fire."
"No, he was dead before the fire got started," Giles told her simply. "The firemen said they found his body and it was very apparent that it was dead long before the blaze started."
"Then why was it ruled a suicide?" she asked.
"Not a clue," Oz admitted. "This town's funny that way though. We'll help you fight it, we've had to do it a few times before. We'll even refer you to our lawyer."
"Thanks." She put her phone away. "You really want to keep them?"
Giles nodded. "Our whole family has become quite fond of these animals. One of my men is almost bonded to Strife some days, he takes him out daily." Strife snorted and nosed her, making her duck out his of way. "Sorry, we were about to brush him, he gets a bit feely when it's time for his attention."
"Oh." She looked at the other horses. "We wouldn't have to pay you anything?"
"No, and to be fair, we might become reasonable and pay you something for them since they are your property."
She waved it off. "Not an issue. My husband wanted them gone. He hates horses. Ever since his mother got thrown off one. We were going to take them home and sell them for glue, that's his plan anyway." She looked at Strife again. "Though, you'd make someone a nice show horse probably."
"He's not that well gaited," Oz told her, avoiding the swinging nose himself. "What? You're not. You go three speeds, not five. You'd have to train some more." He patted the velvet nose, soothing the ache of his words. "Xander and Miri love you anyway. Deal with it already."
She walked out of the barn and dialed her phone as she pulled it out. "Honey? No, the people who have them are insisting that we owe them money for boarding, that we've long since outstripped the agreement that your father had with them. No, they're willing to keep the horses though. Yes, in exchange for forgiving the debt." She turned back toward them, her face becoming impassive. "Dear, these horses wouldn't bring anything. There's one that might be rideable if you're not too picky about looks, but otherwise, they've become the family's pets. Yes, they have children. No, one's a very good rider. Yes, they know."
"We have a nearly championship rider staying with us also," Giles told her. "There's no fear from the horses. We've all been taking lessons."
"Did you hear that? No, they have a boarder who's trying to qualify for a tournament. Yes, one of those. Why?" She shook her head and hung up. "He won't go for it, but he's willing to buy this person's horse too, just to make sure that none of those vile creatures are around innocents, and that's a quote."
Oz shook his head. "We can block that. We'll get a restraining order."
"We're willing to pay the boarding costs," she told him, digging in her purse again. "We have the money to pay right now."
"Nope." Oz walked out and shut the barn door, waiting until Giles locked it from the inside to move closer to her. "You're not taking them. If he's afraid, then he needs help. Even if the horse his mother died on is in there, you still can't have them. Possession and all that."
She shrugged. "We can fight this out in court, I'm more than willing to do that."
Xander walked up to them. "Willing to do what? Xander Harris," he said, holding out a hand.
"This is Mr. Anderson's daughter-in-law. They want to take the horses and sell them for glue."
"NO!" Xander said hotly, grabbing her and shaking her. "You're not touching those horses. I *refuse* to let you have them. No way in *HELL*!" He let her go and stepped away from her, giving her his best icy glare. "Get off our land, now. You'll come back with something from a judge or you'll never come back. You can't have our horses."
She nodded, backing away from him. "I'll do that then." She turned and jogged down the path to her father-in-law's house, disappearing into the woods.
"Bad move," Oz told Xander. "She could charge you with assault."
"Then we'll fight that too," Xander said, heading to the barn, tapping on the door. "Send Strife out. I want to go ride." The red stallion came out alone and he climbed up onto his bare back, turning him toward the woods with his mane, going in the other direction so he wouldn't run into that woman.
Oz looked at Giles, who sighed and went back to cleaning stalls since it was his turn. Oz walked up to the house, going to call their lawyer.
Xander snuck down to the barn that night, silently slipping into the oddest horse's stall. "Strife," he whispered, touching him on the nose, "I know you're more than ready to go home, but could you please, maybe, stay here for a few more days and block that lady? I don't think that you want this gorgeous body that you're living in to be ruined just because someone's afraid. Do you?" He put his arms around the warm neck, smelling his best friend's subtle scent. "Please, Strife, just let us get past this." He didn't get an answer, he hadn't expected one though, so he slipped back out, going back to his office to figure out how to stop the woman from taking his horse.
Strife watched him go, tossing his head up and down in horse laughter. It was good when he got just what he wanted.
Xander reported for work almost half an hour early the next morning, still not having gotten to sleep. He nodded at the foreman, Jonny, as he grabbed his tool belt. "Hey," he said as one of the other students walked toward him. He liked Duke, the guy's mother was a mail-order bride that had been allowed to bring her natural son over and Duke was most enthusiastic about everything American; he had even taken his step-father's last name and used it instead of his actual name - which was hard to pronounce without some practice. He liked Duke besides all that, the guy laughed at his jokes and fed him. He clapped him on the back, smiling in sympathy at the wince. "You okay?"
"Yes. Just a small twinge. I slept funny last night. I thought I saw something that didn't really have a form outside my window last night so I slept in a chair. It must have been a plastic bag."
Xander shook his head. "Duke, listen to me real well. Do *not* go outside at night in this town. There's a lot of bad things around here and not enough people to take care of them all." He saw the foreman walking over so he stepped back a little. "Take the advice, Duke, really."
"All right." He shrugged and turned to look at the foreman, who was right behind him. "Where do we start today, sir?"
The foreman smiled. "Don't sir me, kid, you won't like the teasing around here. Harris, I want you up on the top of the roof, the little peak. You're going to nail back down tar paper that came off in the wind last night. Duke, I want you working on the framing today." He checked his watch. "Not until the rest of the crew shows up of course, but that's where you'll be."
Xander nodded, looking up at the high point of the roof, the area around the widow's peak. His stomach started to roil and his swallowed hard, looking down at the ground until it stopped.
"Harris," Jonny barked, "why didn't you say you had a thing about heights?"
"I don't," Xander told him quietly, "it's just an upset stomach. I've had it for a few days. It's stress, that's all." He headed for the ladder and climbed up it as fast as he could, heading up to where the heavy winds the night before had torn some of the paper up. He didn't like shingling, but he was good enough at it, and he could think while he worked. He settled down on the most secure spot, against one of the brace beams, and started to staple the paper back down again.
Jonny looked at Duke. "Did you understand that?"
"Yes. I heard someone was going to come take his horses, the owner of them."
"Ah. He was boarding them?"
"Then the owner died. He told us about it during class one day while we were sanding a bit of hand-made flooring." Duke walked over to his section and started to check the work that had been done, trying to figure out where he should start.
The foreman watched them both, shaking his head at the eagerness of some people. Didn't they know the boss didn't pay overtime?
Xander slid down the ladder, clutching the bottom for a few seconds until the land righted itself. "Okay, lunch," he decided, telling his stomach to calm down or else it'd be emptier. He walked over to his truck and grabbed his lunch, taking it over to sit at the table with the rest of the crew. "Hey," he said, taking one of the end seats. "Xander." He gave them a little wave before opening the bag.
Duke pushed a tupperwear container down at him. "Try this. It's not that hot but it's very filling. My mother made it last night. She's begun making extra for you."
Xander tried a little piece of the meat and his stomach reared up, making him grab it. "You brought more, right?" he asked with a grin. "I'll trade ya if you didn't."
Duke took the bagged lunch, smiling at the messy sandwich. "I think your children wanted you to eat this," he said, holding it up.
Xander grinned. "Miri helped me pack my lunch today. Check lower, there's another one for you."
Duke dug in the bag and came up with the mostly meat, one inch thick sandwich. "Good, ham." He unwrapped it and took a bite, chewing as he watched his friend. "Xander, be careful. That can get hotter as you eat it, the peppers are spread out in the mixture."
Xander waved it off with a mumbled 'S'good' as he took another bite, using his daughter's sandwich to dip into the meat mixture.
The other guys looked at each other and shrugged, turning to look at the other new guys. "So, you guys are how far into the program?"
"First year," Duke said proudly as he finished off the sandwich. "Xander, can I have your Ho- Ho?"
"Leave me the outer chocolate and you've got a deal. This is *great*, Duke, tell your mother I love her." He wiped the inside of the container clean with his finger and licked it off. Then he let out a very loud belch. "Sorry, guys, stress." He caught the roll of antacids and took one, grinning at his friend. "Thanks, man."
"You're welcome." A hand-made card was held up. "I think Miriam slipped you something else." It was passed down the table, each of the guys, and the single woman, taking a peek at it and chuckling.
Xander got it and opened it, blushing brightly. "Miri may have drawn it, but someone else wrote it," he pronounced, folding it carefully and tucking it into his front pocket. "Sorry about that, I occasionally have mushy lovers."
The woman nodded. "I know that feeling. I graduated your program last year and my husband did that my first two weeks. Got him nailed to the wall for it too." She smiled at Xander. "So, you're native, right?" He nodded. "What exactly is going on in this town at night?"
"Let's leave it at it's not safe to be outside at night, okay? Like we've got one of the highest missing persons rates on this coast, even over LA's if you look at it by population. Just don't do it."
She smiled. "You're going to tell us there are boogeymen out there?"
Xander stood up and pulled up his t-shirt, showing off an interesting looking scar that he didn't really remember how he had gotten. "Got that the last time I went out at night alone. *Big* groups are okay. Less than six and you're still considered a fair target."
She whistled. "That's good to know. How'd you do it?"
He sat back down. "I don't remember, all I really remember is the stitches the nurse was putting in as I woke up."
"That's so gay," one of the other guys said, waving it off.
"Why, yes, thank you I am, but you're not really my type. I already have two lovers and three children at home, though maybe we could fix you up with a friend? I have a few single gay friends right now."
The other guy glared at him. "No, thank you," he said stiffly.
"Okay." He stood up and walked over to him. "That's something I will defend, Peter, let's not let me fight you over it, okay? I've got enough stress in my life. I have twin toddlers at home." He headed up to his roof, going back to his shingling. At least he was on the backside of the house this time and the sun wasn't in his eyes anymore. He smiled as the applause started. Maybe this job wouldn't be so bad after all.
Xander walked down to his truck, rubbing his lower back. His boss stopped him on the way so he gave him a little smile. "Am I in trouble already?"
"Nope, that Metz is always lookin' for trouble with the new guys. You shot him down pretty well." He patted Xander on the back, almost sending him crashing to the ground. "You okay, kid?"
"Yeah, just tired. Stress at home." He gave his boss a grateful smile and finished his walk to his truck, crawling in and leaning his head back. He dialed the phone without looking, frowning when he got a 'no such number' message. He looked this time and smiled as he heard his daughter's voice. "Blair, ask Daddy if I need to bring anything home." He started the engine as Giles took the phone back, with a few words of reprimand. "She's cute when she does that," he protested. "Do I need to pick up food? I know it's my night to cook. Unless you want burgers, I'd call something in and let me pick it up." He snorted and hung up, turning the truck around to head to the local burger place. Giles had said he didn't care as long as it was edible....
Xander walked into the house and dropped the bags, falling down into one of the kitchen chairs with a groan. "I want a backrub," he told his other daughter, Elizabeth, better known around the house as Tigger - Miri had given her the name because she had wanted a Tigger.
Elizabeth held up her arms for a hug. "Daddy," she said when he didn't look at her. She grinned as he started to snore, running to get her other daddies, they liked to watch this one sleep.
Oz walked into the kitchen after his daughter, snorting at the still form lying on the table. "That's not a bed," he said quietly in his lover's ear. Xander tried to push him away. "Go up to the bed and nap, you can't do that in here."
"I bought this table, I can nap on it," Xander mumbled.
Oz stared down at him for a second then gave up the issue, grabbing the food so they wouldn't disturb Xander while they ate. He led the way back into the family room, he'd be lax and let the kids eat in front of the TV tonight, Giles wouldn't complain too much.
A few minutes later, Giles walked into the kitchen and tapped Xander on the head. "You have to go upstairs and nap," he said after he got a grunted response to his tapping. "You may not sleep down here."
"Go away or I'm going to tickle."
"I have no doubt that you'd try but in your condition, I think it'd be best if you don't consider it. Go up to the bed, Xander," he said kindly.
"I'm sure you think you are, but remember your back." Giles pulled the young man over and forced him to stand, marveling at how much Xander weighed. "You don't seem that heavy," he muttered as he walked the insensate man up the stairs.
Xander woke up when his watch alarm went off, glaring at the time on the clock beside his head. "When did I come up here?" he asked himself. He slid out from under Oz's arm and walked into the bathroom, ready to start his day. He saw the calender beside the medicine cabinet and stopped to look at it. "Oops," he said as he realized he hadn't been keeping track of his cycle like he should. "I guess it'll surprise me this month." He started the water in the shower, kicking the door shut when he noticed it was still open. Oz got grumpy when he got woken up so early for no reason. He looked at himself in the mirror, grimacing when he saw his face was starting to break out again, he'd have to get something to fix that later. He stepped into the water, screaming when it turned out to be ice cold and hopping back out immediately. He flinched when he Oz standing in the doorway. "It's icy," he complained, pointing at the shower.
Oz grunted and slammed the door, going back to bed.
Xander checked the knobs and sighed. He grabbed his robe and left their floor, going to where the hot water heater was sitting. He groaned when he saw the large puddle underneath it, leaning against the wall to consider his options. He'd let Giles handle this one and he could live with a washcloth bath and doing his hair in the sink. He trudged back up the stairs, weathering the glares he got as he walked back in. "Hot water heater's leaking badly. No hot water right now." He slammed the bathroom door behind him, locking it so he wouldn't be disturbed.
Giles flopped back down, pulling a pillow over his head. "I'll call the contractor and ask where he got it, it should still be under warranty."
Oz grunted and laid back down, covering his head with the blankets. "Wake me at noon," he mumbled, "or die."
Giles patted him on the arm. "Of course we will. Go back to sleep, dear." He got another grunt in response.
Xander walked onto the construction site, giving the boss a slight grin of apology for being ten minutes late. "Our hot water heater decided to leak this morning," he explained. "Big, huge puddle in the house right now."
His boss nodded. "Those things happen, it'll balance out with how early you were yesterday." He pointed at the inside. "Go help run the plumbing. Have you worked with copper pipes before?"
"Yeah, helped put them in my house." Xander grabbed his belt and jogged over to where he was supposed to be working. "Hey, guys, want me to flux or to hold?"
"Cut," Metz said, pointing at the pile of pipes. "Or can't you do that?"
"I can but I can't measure. Never been able to." He shrugged at the dirty look. "Hey, I never claimed to be expert and the boss knows it. I am killer at running the pipes in though. Did my own house in two days with the work crew."
"Harris, do the connections," the foreman said, nodding him over to his spot. "The boss knows?"
"Yeah. I made sure of it. That's my quirk."
"Ah." Jonny got out of the way, letting Xander finish the connection under his scrutiny. "Good job. Metz, you cut for him and let him lay the pipes." He clapped Xander on the back, laughing when he almost fell over.
"Whatever," Metz said sullenly, going to cut the pipes into the right size. "Do I have to measure too?"
"I can measure distances, but I always get it wrong when I cut, no matter how many times I check it." He gave a shy little grin. "Sorry I suck at that, but it happens sometimes. Even the teacher couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong."
"Yeah, whatever." Metz clamped the pipe cutter on the mark he had made and spun it around a few times, tightening the clamp each turn. He handed over the cut pipe, watching as the kid cleaned the edge and put it into the right spot. "You are good at that."
"Yeah, this and working on cabinets. Putting up wallboard is fun, but I still get mud everywhere."
Metz smiled at him. "Hey, you're useful though. Those are the jobs no one likes to do."
"Cool. I'll do 'em. Oh, and Duke, he likes wallboard. He's a great mudder."
"Even better," Jonny said with a smile as he came over. "You dropped your phone, it's one of your men."
Xander put it up to his ear, holding it in place with his shoulder as he dryfit the coupling. "Yeah?" He snorted. "I told you that before I left, Giles. Yeah, in the kitchen drawer with the stuff for the freezer and washer. It's probably on the bottom. No, if I remember right, it's in blue plastic. Yeah, that's it." He smiled as the next fitting went right in too. "Thanks, man. Our hot water heater sprung a titanic leak last night in the kitchen," he told Jonny. He stepped away from the wall. "Call them and tell them what happened. It's got a three year warranty and we've had it for about a year and a half. No, it should be covered. Yes, it should. If it's not, then I'll bitch at them tomorrow and we'll live without hot water for a day." He snorted and hung up, sticking the phone in his belt. "Stepped into the shower and it was icy, but he doesn't like enforcing warrantees." He took the next section of pipe and cleaned the end of it, slapping some of the flux around as soon as it was shiny again.
Oz looked at the woman across the aisle from him then back at the Judge. "Your Honor, to be truthful, we'd like to keep the horses. We've offered to keep them in return for canceling the boarding fees."
"My father wasn't paying boarding fees."
"He was also coming over to do a lot of the work and he gave us most of the feed he had left. We weren't incurring an expense with him. You've known we've had the horses for how long?"
The Judge cleared his throat. "I see. What does the owner want to do with the animals?"
"I'm technically the owner, but my husband wants to put them all down. He hates horses, has a pathological fear of them. He's willing to take anyone's horse and have it put down for them."
Oz shook his head. "Your Honor, we've got three children and we've all come to love those animals. We'd be willing to consider paying for them, but as I said, we did happen to incur a large food bill for them." He handed over the papers he had found earlier that morning. "Watch out for the bottom one, it's a little wet, one of our toddlers flipped her cup over on it," he told the bailiff.
The judge looked it over. "What sort of verbal arrangement did you have with Mr. Anderson, Mr. Osbourne?"
"We agreed to keep the horses until he was going to send them to auction. We were housing them and he was coming over to help us do the work. He also left us as much of the left-over food as he could. He had said a month, but he died before the auction could occur."
"I see." He looked at the young woman. "You're sure you want to put them down?"
"Yes, sir. Most of them are very old anyway from what I saw."
"The oldest is eleven and is expected to live to be about nineteen or so according to the veterinarian we asked. The youngest out of her horses is about five from what we could tell."
"Yes, I know how long they live, my daughter went through a horse-crazy phase."
"We're going through that now," Oz said helpfully.
The Judge smiled at him. "I'm seeing a distinct problem here but it can be solved. This is your property, is it not?" She nodded. "What are *you* willing to do about this situation."
"Personally, I have no problem with selling them the horses, but my husband...."
"Is not the property owner," the Judge told her firmly. "This is your decision. You may ask his opinion but this is your decision to make. How much would you ask for the animals?"
"Most horses go for about a thousand from what I've seen," she said.
"He has here bills for food for those horses that are about six hundred a month, correct?" Oz nodded. "I'm going to add this up and subtract it from your asking price. Is your family prepared to pay that much?"
Oz did some mental calculation and nodded slowly. "I think we can scrape together that much by tomorrow. I'd have to ask Xander to dip into his retirement account."
"If you're willing to pay it," the Judge reminded him.
"Yes, we are. We love those horses."
"Good." He stood up and left the room.
Oz looked over at her. "I'm sorry about your husband's problem, but he needs help." He sat down and pulled out Giles' cellphone, dialing his. "Xander? Yeah, we're going to have to pay to keep the horses. Nope, not that much, but still some. Who has the easiest access to our retirement funds?" He nodded. "That's what I thought. Can you? Thanks, man. Yup, that's great. I said by tomorrow so it's all good." He chuckled and hung up. "We think we can have it by tomorrow, if not certainly by the next day."
She shrugged. "Doesn't really matter, does it? It looks like I'm going to be paying you."
Oz shook his head. "We're going to end up owing you just under a thousand I think." He relaxed, waiting on the judge to come back.
Xander hung up and shook his head. "More problems?" Metz asked.
"Yeah, the woman who's trying to take the horses is going to have to be paid. The judge set a price that was just over our food bills. I'm going to have to go off-site at lunch to go to the bank."
"Hey, it's not that far," Metz pointed out, pointing down to the corner where a small branch sat.
"Yeah, but I use the other one. It's across town. I've got to break into some of my investments." He grimaced. "We're going to hate that when we see the statement."
"Giles, my oldest lover. He's been dealing with that recently. He yelled at me because I almost emptied my checking account a few days ago to buy groceries."
"You do what you have to to survive," Metz pointed out.
"Yeah, but I'm tired of surviving. I'd like to live for a while."
Jonny walked over to them. "Another emergency?"
"We're going to have to pay the woman that inherited the horses something so I've got to go out at lunch and hit the bank to cash out something." Xander shrugged. "Just another symptom of my life recently."
"You'll be able to replace the money, but you'd hate losing those horses," Jonny reminded him. He looked the kid over. "You sure you're okay? You're looking really pale. Things that bad?"
"No, just a sudden hot flash." Xander grabbed the next pipe and dry fit it. "There, mark it now."
Metz came over and marked the pipe, then took it out to go cut it. "Good plan, kid."
"Thanks." Xander grinned at them. "I'll try not to be late back from lunch."
"Good." Jonny walked away, but he continued to watch this young guy. There was something really strange going on with him.
Xander walked up to his boss, a large envelope in hand. "Can I put this in your office until Oz comes to get it?" he asked quietly, holding it up. "I don't want to leave this much cash lying around, I'm afraid I'll lose it."
"Sure." He took the envelope, weighing it. "How much do you have to pay her?"
"Just under a thousand from what Oz said, but I cashed out my smallest CD since it was almost mature. That's all of it. I figure we could use the money anyway, just to stock up on things and stuff."
"Oh." He nodded. "Okay. It'll be in my desk. Which one's Oz?"
"About up to my neck, with red hair. Doesn't talk a lot."
"Okay. I'll be on the lookout for him. Does he know I have it?"
"Yup. I called on the way back." He waved and jogged over to the table, sitting down beside his friends. "Hey. I made it."
"And before lunch was up too," Metz pointed out. "So, Harris. There's rumors in this town about people with strange deformities."
Xander nodded and picked up a bottle of water to drink, he had given Duke his lunch to hold, or to eat. "Yeah, a few. This town has a higher than average rate of kids with mental and physical retardation for some reason."
"No, I was talkin' about other sorts of deformities. Like kids being born with sets of both kinds."
Xander put down his water. "It does happen."
"You know about that?" the lone female on the crew, Alicia, asked.
"Yeah. Know a few people who've had that problem. Why?"
"Why's it happen?" Metz asked.
"Leave him alone," Jonny said. "It happens because it does and it happens everywhere." He looked at Xander. "Right?"
"Yup, very true, but Metz is right too, it happens here a lot more frequently. We think it's some sort of radiation thing. It only happens to kids who are conceived and carried here. You don't have to suddenly worry about waking up a girl, Metz."
Alicia snorted. "Good one. But it happens a lot?"
"About a third of the time from what I've heard," Xander admitted. "It's not always noticeable, some girls are born with third ovaries, but sometimes it's a full thing." He shrugged. "The kids learn to deal and the town ignores it as long as they're all fixed."
"You seem to know a lot about it," Jonny said thoughtfully.
"I have a daughter who's one of the third," Xander said, giving him a bland look. "We had to learn."
"You have kids?" Alicia asked, leaning closer. "Got pictures?"
Xander pulled out his wallet and showed off the top two pictures. "The oldest is Miri, the other two are twins, Elizabeth and Blair."
"They're cute," she said, handing it back. "Those your men?"
"Yup. Oz is the redhead and Giles is the older guy. He's kinda very stable, which I need a lot of sometimes." He grinned as he put it back. "Oz'll be dropping by later today to pick something up from the office so you guys can all gawk if you want."
"I've seen him," Duke said, smiling at him. "He's very quiet."
"Yup, that's my Oz. He's a law student."
Alicia chuckled. "That's it, honey, get 'em before they make money and make sure they're trained to spoil you so they do it right when they make the big bucks." She stood up. "Who's working piping with me today?"
"Xander, he likes the job," Metz said quickly. "He can't measure though."
"Hey, I hate fitting pipes, he's welcome to that part," she said. "Come on. I'll let you drink in there."
Xander got up and followed her back into the house. "You really don't like to fit?"
"Nope, it's a lot of make work to me." She looked him over. "You're a good guy, Harris, stay that way."
"I'm trying," he said, grinning at her. "But it's *so* hard sometimes."
She snorted. "I'm sure. But your men probably keep you in tight rein."
"They'd like to think so," Xander agreed. He grabbed the can of flux. "We going to solder this afternoon?"
"Yup. I'm fastest with the torch so I'm doing that while you watch."
"Cool." He went down to the next part of the piping that needed to be put in, cleaning the inside of the t-junction.
Oz walked up to the office and tapped on the door, but no one answered so he walked toward the site, looking around for anyone not working. "Hey, where's your boss?" he asked.
"He's helping fit a bad joint." The guy pointed him out. "Hey, you're Harris' guy, right?" Oz nodded. "He's in there too." He handed over a hat. "Just in case."
Oz put it on and walked into the building, stopping when he saw Xander lying between a woman's and an older man's legs, grunting. He cleared his throat, nodding at the looks he got. "Which one of you is the boss?"
The older guy got out of the strange position and walked over to him, shaking his hand. "Hi, Xander said you'd be coming by. Give us a second to get this joint in and you can have him too." He walked back over and leaned over to inspect it, pushing on the top of the pipes.
Oz walked around to get a better look, considering the piping that was being stubborn. A classic cross-joint with an extra entry on the front. "Push it back some, it's bowing," he told them.
Xander looked up. "Thanks." He pulled the pipe he was holding back, grunting as it popped into place. "Got it, I think." He slid out from between her legs and stood up, giving Oz a grin. "That didn't want to go in."
His boss checked the fitting. "Tight but it'll work. Did you flux it already?" Xander nodded. "How about a dryfit?"
"Do I look crazy?" Xander asked. "I let her measure it and she said it'd work. I'm just the grunt here, ask the brains."
Alicia smiled at him. "We couldn't dryfit it, boss. It's too tight of a fit. But it's in there now."
"Good. Solder them all." He nodded toward the outside. "Harris, you coming?" he asked when he realized he wasn't being followed.
"Nope, we don't do PDA."
Oz shook his head. "You'd better not start either," he told his lover. Xander waved at him and went back to work. He looked up at Xander's boss. "Is he doing okay?"
"Very good actually. He's a bright guy for this sort of work." He walked out to the office and up the three stairs, going in to take the envelope off his desk. "Xander said he cashed out his smallest one." Oz nodded. "How much did you end up owing her?"
"Just over a thousand, the Judge amended one of the horse's asking price when he saw a picture of him. Not that I blame him, Strife's a pretty horse."
"You have a horse named Strife?"
"Yes, and it's Xander's and Miri's horse. They go for long rides in the woods. If he's ever late, that's why."
"Oh, I don't know, this morning it was the heater."
"He was late?"
"By about ten minutes."
"Huh. Giles said he left on time."
Xander tapped on the door. "I left about five minutes late and got stalled by the train. It was the water heater that made me late though." He handed over the cellphone. "I just dropped it and it dialed your mother. She wants to talk to you."
Oz took the phone. "Yeah, mom? Yes, mom. I'll bring over pictures today." He hung up. "She wants to see the kids."
"Cool. She and Willow's mom can come out this weekend for a picnic or something." Xander smiled at his boss. "She said I was clumsy and she wanted me to get the thick gloves?" His boss tossed over a pair. "Thanks."
"Welcome. Did you want to talk to him?"
"Nope. I need to get back to work." He waved and walked away.
"We're not like that with each other," Oz told him. He nodded and left the trailer, going back to the courthouse.
Xander's boss shook his head and went back out to watch his people do their jobs. A few of those school guys needed leashes or they'd stop working, though he never had that problem with Harris or Duke. It was those other students that were going to let the project get behind.
Giles looked at the money in the center of the table. "That's what was left of his smallest CD?" he asked again.
"Yup. He lost about a grand in the cancellation fees." Oz shoved the paperwork closer to the money. "Should we yell?"
"No. I knew that Xander still had money left but I had no idea it was this much."
"I called up his account on the computer, he's been reinvesting the interest and he's still doing okay. He makes them three months long and takes four hundred out each time, but that's out of the interest. What're we going to do?"
"First thing should be the water heater. The store's being balky about it."
"Let him handle it. He speaks their language now." Oz flipped a few of the bills. "Why didn't we check this before, when things got tight?"
"Because we made a decision to not touch the retirement funds if possible. I thought Xander had his in a more normal retirement fund though."
"He has a small one," Oz admitted, "but when he started playing with the money, most of his money was set up in variable lengths of CD's so he could have access in case he needs into it really fast. That's why their maturity is still staggered." He looked at the stack again. "Where did all this come from?"
"We'll ask him when he gets home," Giles decided, checking his watch. "Which should be in about half an hour or so. Should we call and ask him to pick up dinner?"
"He probably didn't keep any with him," Oz reminded him. He gathered up everything and put it back into the envelope. "There, safe from the kids now."
"Good. Though they're outside."
"Oh, Xander said my mother and Willow's mother could come out for a picnic this weekend to play with the kids."
"I'll call her mother and tell her tomorrow. I'm sure she'd be pleased." He stood up. "What would you like for dinner?"
"How about something calming?" Oz suggested. "He's going to get stressed because we found this out."
"I doubt he ate lunch in that case," Giles said as he walked toward the pantry. "How about chicken? I could bake some, it'd be ready about twenty minutes after he got home."
"Sounds good, it'll give him time to go take a real shower." Oz stood up and left the kitchen, going to check on the kids.
Giles kept glancing at the envelope in the center of the table.
Xander walked in and was mobbed by the kids. "Hey, guys, what's up?" he asked, sitting down to hug them all. "Why the stampede?"
"We wanted huggies. Daddy visit you today?" Miri asked.
"Yup. He got to see me grunting and sweating because of pipes." He ruffled her hair as he stood up. "Come on, let's let Daddy go clean up some. He's very smoky."
"From what?" Giles said from where he was standing in front of the sink. "We're having chicken tonight."
"Good, I could eat a whole one by myself."
"I'll put more on then," Giles told him. "We called the water heater's salesman and he said our warranty didn't cover leakages. Would you call them tomorrow?"
"Sure. I'll do it during lunch." He looked at the closet it was sitting in. "Does it work?"
"Yes, we called a repairman out to fix it. We couldn't live without the hot water and it wasn't that much."
"Coolness. I'm going to take a shower then."
"You might use my bathroom, I think Oz is relaxing a twisted knee in the other."
"He okay?" Xander asked, walking closer. "Do I need to bring him up some ice or anything?"
"It wasn't that bad. He missed the second stair and fell off the stairs a bit ago. He should be fine." He handed Xander a tomato. "Go take a shower, dear one. Supper won't be for a bit yet."
"Okay." Xander grabbed the salt shaker and sprinkled some on the tomato as he walked, taking a bite out of it.
"That not an applie," Miri said, frowning at him. "That's messy."
"Yeah, but it's good," he said, holding it down so she could bite it. "See?"
She licked her lips off, then looked down at her dress. "Still messy, daddy," she complained.
"The stain will come out," he told her, giving her a kiss on the forehead then going up to his shower.
Giles handed her the dish towel. "Try and get it out now, I'm not sure how he gets out all those stains you children put in your clothes."
Xander sat down across from his lovers in the living room, sipping at his can of soda. "Let me have it now," he suggested. "I know you want to ask how I have that much."
"We do," Giles agreed with a faint smile, "but we were more curious about where it came from since your account summary shows it just appearing one day."
"Remember when I got hurt in the hospital?" Giles nodded. "Well, if you remember, I put some of it into an account that I couldn't touch for about five years as a long term investment, I know how fast I can go through money and this was a guaranteed return of about eight percent. It matured early because it was based on bonds and they paid them off about six months earlier than we expected them to." He took another sip then grimaced. "Flat. Anyway, it matured not that long ago so I moved it into the rotating CD's." He smiled at the stunned look. "I planned on keeping a lot of that money around for a very long time, Rupe. I reinvested some of it in a similar account since the bank's starting a second one. I think it's a really neat program so I'm all for it because it's all about helping schools that need fixing." He handed the can off to Oz. "Here, you drink it. I can't do flat soda right now."
Oz took a sip. "Tastes fine to me. Must have been all the chicken you ate earlier." He flipped open his book. "I think it's a good thing that one of us is doing good with our retirement accounts. I'm almost afraid to touch mine because of the built-in penalties. Rupe's is almost buried in concrete until he's in his sixties. You've done very well in that field too."
Xander beamed at the praise, something he still didn't get a lot of, even if his lovers were trying to be good to him again. "Thanks." He curled up in the oversized chair, grinning at his eldest lover. "I thought we could use the rest to stock up on stuff. Maybe stock the freezer again."
"We could," Giles agreed. "The children, and you, could use some more clothes also."
"I need a few more dressy outfits. My teachers are big on presentations and I have to dress accordingly," Oz said without looking up.
"We can do that too," Xander agreed. "We could even stock up on toilet paper so I don't have to make another run to Wallyworld at two in the morning."
Giles chuckled. "I said I was sorry about that, Xander. But I forgot to tell you that you did a good job getting the blasted thing unclogged the next morning, thank you for that."
"It was my clog," Xander said with a shrug. "I got to do pipes today. Alicia even showed me how to solder the fittings."
"Coolness," Oz said, glancing up. "Why were you under her and your boss?"
"Because I was the only one strong enough to hold that pipe while they got the coupling together. The original contractor screwed that connection up. The other was already done, they had to section it out to make it look like the blueprints." He hopped up. "I'm going to take a turn through the barn." He walked out, going out into the night.
Oz looked over at Giles. "Think there's something strange going on?"
"Definitely, even a teenaged Xander couldn't put away that much food." Giles looked out the door. "Do you think we should take him the doctor's?"
"I think it's a swing back from the time he didn't really want to eat a few months ago. We'll keep an eye on it for him; if it gets worse, we'll force him to the doctor's." Oz went back to his studying. "I've decided that I hate courtroom law," he announced.
"Good, that narrows down your future speciality somewhat," Giles said, giving him a pat on the foot. "I'm going to check on the children. I'm surprised we haven't seen Miri yet." He went upstairs, going to do that then have a long soak.
Oz looked around then grabbed the TV remote, flipping it on after tossing the book down. He deserved some vegging time.
*** About a month later ***
Xander grunted as he pulled on his jeans, looking down at the helpless closure. "When did you get so tight?" he whined. He laid down on the bed and forced the pants shut, barely able to breath now. He undid them and tossed them aside, grabbing the pair he had worn yesterday. No one would say anything to him about wearing them two days in a row. He slid into them with a sigh. He now knew why he had bought a bigger pair the last time they had went shopping; apparently he needed more. He grabbed his toolbelt and walked out of the bedroom, going down to get some breakfast. He grabbed one of the bagels and bit into it on the way out the door. He was going to be late if he didn't leave soon. He ran into Buffy in the driveway, stopping to give her a hug. "Everyone's still asleep. Go steal Sileya if you want to."
She looked him over. "Those workouts you get at work are doing something good for you, Xander. You look really fit." She patted his belly. "Except for right here." She looked down at her hand, moving it around some. "Stomachs aren't supposed to feel that hard." She looked into his eyes. "Um, was there some sort of announcement you wanted to give out?"
He shook his head. "No, it's probably gas." He got away from her hand. "Sileya's still in the same room. Gotta go to work." He jogged down to his truck and slid in, starting it even before he closed the door.
Buffy watched him go, considering something she knew that she didn't like to think about. She decided that if Xander was going to play ignorant, she'd let him. She trudged up to the house, going to get her partner in fighting. They had a nest to take down that morning before classes.
Xander drove onto the site and slid out, grinning at his boss. "How late am I?" he asked as he picked up his toolbelt and slid it around his hips. He glared at it when it didn't want to close either. "Okay, bad tummy day for me." He shrugged it off and carried it over his shoulder, heading inside to where he was working on cabinets.
Xander's boss looked at his watch. "Late? He's ten minutes early. Again. That boy needs a stronger keeper. Good worker though." He watched the now-wider rear as it walked away from him. Maybe he'd talk to him later.
Xander held the last cabinet as it was screwed in place by Metz, sliding out from under him with a groan, clutching his stomach as he hit the floor.
"You okay, kid?" Metz asked, bending down to check him. "Did I hit ya?"
"No, cramps." He blew out a breath and stood, shaking slightly. "Those hurt. No more bagels on the run." He continued to rub his stomach, trying to get the gas to move on.
"Maybe you should go sit down," Metz told him, pointing at the tables. "Go sit and I'll get this last screw. It's almost lunch anyway." He watched as Xander walked out, going back to finish this last screw. His part was done for the day if these had stayed aligned. He checked and whooped, smiling at the boss, who had come in to see what the noise was about. "All done, boss. Harris...." He looked outside, seeing him bent over, "is having stomach problems of some sort but we're done with this part."
"Good. Go to lunch. We have inspectors coming in this afternoon to check things so it's officially a day off for the rest of you." He looked out the window, frowning at the young man. "What happened to him? You elbow him?"
"No, he fell down complaining of cramps. Said something about a bagel."
"I'll check on him," Jonny said, walking out and over to the table. He sat across from the student worker, tapping him on the back of the head. "You okay?"
"Cramps," Xander groaned. "Bad ones." He looked up. "Like the worst gas pains in the world right now sort of cramps, and nothing's moving it."
"Oh." Jonny looked around. "Boss just told Metz you guys had the rest of the day off because of the inspector coming this afternoon. Why don't you head now? I'm sure he wouldn't dock you."
"No, I need to go clean that mess up," Xander said, forcing himself up. He swayed for a second then started walking for the house. "I'll go as soon as the kitchen's cleaned." He nodded at his boss. "Just gas pains. Really strong ones. I'll clean, Metz, go home." He grabbed the broom and went to work on the bare floorboards.
The boss and Xander's coworker looked at each other and shrugged it off. Sweeping wasn't that harmful of an activity.
Xander's boss walked into the kitchen area, frowning at his young worker. "Harris," he said sharply. "What are you doing?"
The inspector smiled. "It looks like one of your workers is very conscientious about cleanliness." He smiled at Xander, who was blushing when he turned to look at them. "It's all right, young man, I know how the urge to clean can get you sometimes. I get that too." He smiled at Xander's boss. "Barring those three problems, you've got a clean bill this time, Bob. Fix them and give me a call next week?"
"Sure. I should be able to have them fixed before then." He took the citation and reread it, frowning at the innocent paper.
"Did I do something wrong?" Xander asked quietly.
"Besides spending your day off cleaning?" his boss asked. "No, none of this was any of you guys' fault. This was from the former work crew, the one that left one day and never came back."
Xander frowned. "They did? How could they just leave?"
"The crew got paid and they all left town. That's why we're working on it with you guys." He nodded outside. "Go home and ride, kid, you could use it. How's your stomach?"
"Better," Xander admitted. "It's just a twinge every now and then." He rubbed his stomach. "I'm going to go throw out that package of bagels. Must have been a bad one." He waved and walked out to his truck, going home.
Xander's boss sighed. "Yeah, sure it was, kid. Same as your eating habits are normal and you're just under a lot of stress, right?" He walked out to his trailer to call his foreman. They had to get that second floor fixed.
Xander sat up in the middle of the night, one hand clutching his stomach. His mind kept running around what Buffy had said, and all the recent strangeness started to come back around on him, making him get out of bed and pad down to the library. He turned on the laptop and logged on under his name, opening the chat program as soon as he could. "Blair, please be on, or Sam, please get up," he begged.
Oz rolled over onto the cold spot and grunted, looking around for the warm body that was supposed to be there. He sat up and looked at Rupert, who was staring out a window. "What's up?"
"Xander had a sudden need to go down to the library." He pointed out at the squares of light on the grass.
"Thinking about going down and talking to him?"
"I tried, he has the door locked." Giles got back onto the bed, enfolding Oz in his arms. "Do you think this has anything to do with all the stress he's been under recently?"
"Maybe. Or maybe he just remembered something about a candle he wanted to research. Got to admit, the guy's way into his business."
"Yes, I was wondering why he hasn't brought any to work yet." Giles gave in to his feelings and gave Oz a long hug. "I'm sure he'll tell us in the morning," he said during his yawn.
"Yeah, maybe," Oz said as he yawned with him. "We'll let the Xander come to us this time." He snuggled in and went back to sleep, followed not long after by his lover.
Xander got out of his truck and slammed the door. He nodded at his boss, walking over to where he was standing. "I've got to make a delivery during lunch." He stopped to yawn. "I won't be long," he finished.
"As long as you're back on time," he boss said. "How are you at joists?"
"I can nail them in, but I can't hold them right now." He rubbed his back. "I fell last night. I really can't lift today."
"Okay. You're on the fixing crew then. Go find Alicia, she's got the modified plans."
"Coolness." He grinned. "I'm not in trouble for staying to clean?"
"Nope, but you're not being paid for it either."
"That's okay with me." He jogged over to where a group of people were huddled around the break tables. "Hey, what can I do to help? And please, no lifting today."
Alicia looked at him. "You hurt yourself again?"
"Fell in the middle of the night while I was working on my other job."
"Other job?" Jonny asked.
"I have a small home business and an order to fill today. I found that out at six this morning when I checked my email."
"Oh. Whatcha do?" Metz asked.
"Candles." Xander looked at the plans. "What's wrong with the second floor?"
"We've got some loose floor joists that need fixing," Alicia told him. "Can you handle a power nailer?"
"Probably, if not, I'll pound them in manually and set them with a nail set."
She smiled at him. "That's the spirit." She looked him over, gauging the weight he was. "I'll put you in the east corner, it's more stable over there." She looked over at Jonny. "You help him and I'll do the other part of the floor. You big guys might weigh too much for the weakest part."
"Okay," Jonny said. He handed Xander his toolbelt. "You left it in the kitchen last night," he explained at the confused look. "Oh, you need to charge your phone."
"I'll put it in the truck when I go to lunch," Xander said, letting the belt flop over his shoulder. He nodded toward the house. "Are they marked?"
"Most of them are the inner joists. They're not loose per se, but they're not nailed in quite right. You'll recognize them when you see them. The nails are bent, hanging out, or have fallen out. We checked it when we first got here and they looked good enough but the inspector found them last night."
Xander nodded. "Okay. Which way is east?" She pointed at one side of the blueprints. "Got it. Going up now." He walked into the house, going up to his assigned spot to pull up the plywood and check the floorboards.
Jonny followed him, after grabbing his own belt to put on, and went to work.
Xander pulled back in and hopped out, grinning at the guys who came up to meet him. "What's up, guys? Am I really late?" He checked his watch. "Did you stop?"
Metz snorted. "No, we wanted to see the candles, smart guy."
"Oh." Xander walked around to the back of his truck and opened the tailgate, pulling out the boxes he had left. He handed out a few flyers. "That's what I can do but this is what I have. I make the regular ones like you find everywhere too, but those are about the same price."
Alicia strolled over and picked up one of the ones with ribbon lying under a light layer of wax. "These are pretty. How'd you do that?"
"I hand coated the last layer after fixing the ribbons on." He pointed out a small hole. "I missed a pinhole in that one." She nodded and pulled out her wallet. "Really?"
"Yeah, these are great. I'd put these on my table and my mother-in-law's coming over tonight." She smiled at him. "These are really good?"
"I sell to a few shops in town," he admitted. "I'm building up a following and a reputation." He stepped out of his boss' way. "Sorry, but they wanted to see."
"This how you fell this morning?"
"Yeah, I found out I had an order due today at about six and I tripped as I was running to grab stuff from my workspace." He handed over a flyer. "I'm really good," he said.
"So I see." He looked at the one Alicia was holding. "That's pretty. You made these?"
"Yeah, I figured out that trick myself," Xander said proudly. "Those are really popular at the flower shops for weddings and things. It's a silk ribbon."
"My mother-in-law will like them," Alicia said. "She'll talk about them all night instead of bugging me for grandchildren and about my job." She patted Xander on the back. "Thanks, man."
"Welcome. I've got more of those at home if you need them."
"Good. It'll give her something to take back to Phoenix with her." She walked away, going to put her new treasure in her car.
Xander slid the box back in and closed the trunk, stepping away from the back. "I'll let you guys look that over and I'll wait a few extra minutes before leaving tonight."
"As long as you aren't cleaning," Jonny said lightly.
Xander flushed. "I don't know what came over me." He shook his head as he walked away.
The boss looked at the flyer and nodded. "I bet he does a pretty bit of business with those new- age people. They all like this handmade stuff."
"That's where he went today," Alicia said, pointing at the parking ticket facing Xander's window. She walked in after the young man. If he wanted to hang with weird people, who was she to complain? As long as he made such beautiful things, he was all right to her. She found him kneeling on top of one of the newly-nailed joists, smiling at the picture he made as he checked each nail. "We did that one."
"I noticed, but I was checking my method against yours." He carefully stood up and walked over to where the floor was still nailed down. "How much more do we have to pull up?"
"Not much. Just to the chalk line." She pointed it out. "We should be okay otherwise, we did most of this floor when we first got here."
"Okay." He picked up the circular saw and sat down behind the chalk line, checking the cord to make sure it was out of the way first.
"Check for joist markings," she warned him.
"I'm resetting the depth to a quarter of an inch, just above how deep the plywood is." He did as he said he was going to, measuring it twice to make sure then handing it over so she could check it. "I figure this way, we can cut the last eight of an inch with utility knives and not hit any of the joists."
"Good idea," she said proudly, getting out of his way. She watched as he carefully lined up the saw between two of the floor supports and sunk the saw in, covering her ears as the whining of the saw went up in pitch. She saw him check the depth and nod, then he went back to cutting the floor away.
Jonny came up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder. "He check the depth?"
"He reset it," she told him, pulling him out of the way. "He's leaving an eight of an inch of plywood for us to cut off."
"Good idea," he said, smiling at Xander as he crawled past. "How's his nailing? We've got to do his evaluation."
"Good," she admitted. "He's been setting them all by hand, but he's got them in there as tight as we did with the nail gun." She watched him stop and check the line then make a vertical cut. "Done?" she asked.
"Got to go in the other direction." He got up and walked back to his original starting point, going in the other direction until he ran into a wall. "What about the next room?" he asked.
"We checked that," Jonny told him. "We don't have to worry about them. We did all the work expect two beams."
"Okay." Xander unplugged the saw from the extension cord and carefully put it aside. "There, that should do it," he said, pulling out his utility knife and bending down to cut away the last little bit of wood to expose the beams.
Alicia and Jonny got down to help him, appreciative of how fast the work was going.
Xander walked onto the job on his last day and looked around at all the work that had been done, some of it even by him. He smiled at his boss, walking over to him when he was waved at. "This is looking really good. How long before you guys finish?"
"Maybe two weeks, mostly things like painting right now." He handed over a sealed envelope. "This is your evaluation and your last paycheck. I know I'll still get a full day's work out of you if I give it to you now." He smiled at the young man. "If you'd like, after you finish your training, you could come and apply to work with my crew again. That is, if you don't already have something lined up."
"Hey, I'd be thankful to work with you guys. I like you guys. You guys like me." He folded up the check and put it in his pocket. "I can go get more clothes that fit now," he said happily, heading over to get his assignment for the day.
His boss shook his head. Surely the guy wasn't that dense, he had to know what was going on and why he was gaining so much weight.
Xander was sweeping up one of the rooms that had just been sanded when he heard a cracking noise. He looked at the walls, frowning when he saw a crack. "Jonny?" he yelled. "Come here please?"
"Gee, you sound like my mother," Metz called from down the hall.
"Yeah, but this crack's just started."
Metz and Jonny both walked in and looked at the wall, Jonny walking over to examine it closely. "Must be a shift," he said finally, backing away from it. "Good job, Harris."
"Yeah, well, it was loud."
"Like Rice Crispies that you've just poured in milk. Loud." He looked at the spotless floor. "Guess you guys are going to make a mess again, huh?"
Jonny nodded. "Afraid so. Go get Duke and you guys can help me patch this." He walked away to go tell the boss.
Metz smiled at him. "Better you than me, kid."
"Yeah, I don't like drywall either," Xander said, putting the broom in a corner and heading out to go find his friend, with a quick stop in the bathroom on the way. "Too much coffee," he said as an excuse as he walked past Alicia, who was waiting on the porta-john. He found Duke already in the room and gave Jonny a shrug. "Too much coffee."
"Okay. Cut out that damaged section and check the wall behind it then fix the hole."
"Is that like dig a hole then fill it in?" Duke quipped. Apparently he had been picking up on things from Xander.
"Yeah, but this ain't the military," Metz said as he walked past. "Though that was always my favorite exercise." He looked at the crack, then up at the ceiling, pointing up. Jonny nodded. "Okay, you're the foreman. I'll go check on those guys."
Jonny leaned against the wall and watched as the two students did exactly as they were told. He only left for a second, to go find out who had just yelled a swear word.
Duke stepped away from the wall and grabbed his bottle of water to take a drink. "Xander, slow down, we're not being watched."
"Doesn't matter, we've got to get this done. This is our last day here and I want to leave this house in good shape when I go tonight." He turned his head to smile at his friend, who was shaking his head. "Well, I do. Besides my house, this is the first really big thing I've done."
"At least you've got enthusiasm for the work," Duke said as he walked closer. He had time to look up as the crack happened, then he couldn't see anything through the dust and falling debris. "Xander!" he yelled, going over to help him as soon as he could. He was almost down to the still form when everyone else ran in and pulled him out of the way to help him. He looked at his water bottle then looked up. "Thank you for my thirst," he said quietly. He pulled Jonny aside. "Someone has to call his family. Want me to do it?"
"Yeah, go do that and if you see the boss tell him someone fell through the second floor." He pushed Duke away, not watching as he ran out of the house.
Duke ran up to the trailer and burst in, grabbing the phone. "Someone fell through the second floor, Xander's buried," he explained as he dialed. "Hi, this is Duke, which one are you?" He sighed. "No, there's been an accident. Yes, he's hurt. No, very hurt. Part of a ceiling fell on him. Yes, that would be acceptable. I'll get someone to go in with him."
The boss took the phone from his hands. "Hey, yes, this is, good recognition. I'll go in with him. I don't know, I just found out." He finished doing up his fly and nodded at Duke to quit staring at his girlfriend. He hmmed. "Okay. I'll see you there." He hung up and dialed for an ambulance. "Kid, helpers always come first, then the family," he told the young man. "Go back and help."
"Yes, sir," Duke said, running back out. "The ambulance is coming and his family will meet us at the hospital," he told Jonny, who was trying to hold Xander's head still. "You've got to quit that," he said, sitting down behind Xander to take over that job. "Where does it hurt?"
"It doesn't," Xander moaned. "Not that I can feel." He looked over at Jonny. "Why do you keep looking at my knee?"
"Because it's not in the same shape it was a few minutes ago," he said, holding a hand out. "Squeeze it, Harris." Xander did so. "Now try and move your left foot to the left." Nothing happened. "Oh, no," he moaned. "I want to know who fell," he called out.
"Branson did," Alicia said from the doorway. "Ambulance is backing up now." She gave Xander a brave smile. "Hey, looks like you get a few weeks off class."
"But I wanted to finish my cabinets," Xander said, reaching out to grip Jonny's arm. "Why can't I feel my feet or my knees?"
"We had to take two beams off your back, Xander. Relax about it, I'm sure it's just shock. It isn't broken or anything."
"If you say so." Xander looked at the paramedics. "No pain killers," he said firmly. "Not until I get to talk to the doctor." He chuckled mirthlessly. "It's not like I can feel it anyway." He looked up at Duke and gave him a brave smile. "Tell your mom I'm sorry I couldn't eat your lunch for you today. I'll pop in once I'm better, okay?" He got a nod as the younger man scooted back to let the paramedics in.
"You really can't feel your knee?" the paramedic beside his head asked as he pulled out a stethoscope.
"We removed two beams from his lower back," Jonny said, pulling Duke farther away. "His family's been notified and the boss'll want to go in with him."
"Okay." He nodded at his partner, who left to go get a long board. "Mr..."
"Harris," Xander groaned. He pulled the paramedic down and looked into his face. "No painkillers," he said again.
"Okay. I understand. We're going to have to put this collar on you, just in case, and we're going to strap you to a board. Why are you so calm?"
"This is all a dream," Xander said, closing his eyes as the man with the board came in. "I'm going to wake up and it's going to be the product of a midnight snack run."
The paramedic nodded. "Good thinking. You keep thinking that and we'll get you to the right people." He nodded a few of the guys over. "Help us roll him on," he ordered.
Xander grabbed the nurse's hand before she could stick him with the needle, pulling her down to have a word with her. She started after the first few words so he finished explaining it. She nodded and walked over to the doctor, whispering to him. Everyone had been very calm about his injury, probably because he wasn't screaming or bleeding as far as they could tell.
"Mr. Harris, who's your normal physician?" the doctor asked, coming over to look down at him.
"Doctor Adams in LA. He's up by University Hospital, works out of there."
The doctor nodded. "Thank you for telling us that," he said quietly. "Do you have any feeling yet?"
"Some," Xander admitted. "That itchy feeling right before you get the pins and needles." The doctor nodded again. "Is it broken?" he whispered.
"No, but your spinal cord is swelling," he admitted. "I'm not going to send you for surgery on your knee yet." He looked around. "I'm going to call your doctor, all right?" Xander nodded. "We may be transferring you to LA." He walked out and nurse came over to hold his hand.
"Can I see my lovers?"
"They're not here yet," she said, stroking over his forehead. "We called the house and there was no answer, so they must be on their way." She continued to touch him, soothing him as best she could. "Still think this is a dream?"
"I've got a wonderful imagination. Just ask my therapist." He sighed and then screamed as the feeling came back in his leg for a second.
"I'll go ask what you're allowed to have that won't hurt ... you," she said, leaving him alone
The doctor came back. "Is the feeling back?" he asked his patient, who was panting.
"It was and now it's gone but it still hurts," Xander complained. "Are there drugs I can have?"
"Sure. I've ordered some for you. Just give us a few minutes. Your lovers just arrived, the children with them for the moment. Is there anyone else we need to notify?"
"No, they can get it," Xander said, grabbing him so he could squeeze his arm. "Oh, ripping pain," he whispered, his other arm going around his stomach. "Make it stop?"
"Shh," the doctor said, reaching out to remove the hand and feel the distended abdomen. "Yes, you're definitely right about your condition." He looked down at him. "Was this planned?"
"No. Pure accidentalism. Pain," he panted, trying to roll and curl up but he couldn't do that.
"No, lie still," the doctor ordered, taking the needle that was handed to him. "I know it hurts, but this is a good sign," he reminded him. "This means that there's probably not any permanent damage, Xander. Relax and let us do this." He nodded at the nurse to sooth him while they waited on their orthopedic consult.
Xander looked at this not-so-new emergency room, he'd been here before. This was where he had met his doctor when he had miscarried. He looked over at Doctor Adams, who was smiling down at him. "Guess this is bad timing, huh?" he asked, his words slurred due to the painkillers.
"Yeah, it is," his doctor said. He squeezed the fragile shoulder. "Why didn't you come in and have this checked out?"
"Was going to, after I made sure I wasn't hallucinating," Xander told him. "Can I have a hug?" He held up his arms.
"I'll get Oz in here to give you one." He stepped away from the bed and stuck his head outside the curtain, giving quiet orders. Pretty soon, Oz was standing there, and Xander had his hugs, and a good place to cry on.
"So sorry," Xander sobbed. "Didn't want to hurt you."
"Shh, we've got it all taken care of now. Rest, babe. We're not mad." He looked over at the family physician. "Is he?"
"Yes, he's about five months along," he said quietly. "I've called in a favor with a friend of mine to get him into an orthopedic center. They're very discrete and can be trusted not to bandy about his condition." His mouth stayed open but nothing came out as the curtained was opened and a little man walked in.
He gently ran fingers over Xander's knee, nodding when he didn't get any reaction. "I'll take him to my clinic," he told them. "He'll have to have a replacement for his knee, it's crushed according to the x-rays, and he'll have a long road of recovery ahead of him." He looked over at Doctor Adams then at the patient. "Where's this one from?"
"Sunnydale. A few hours away from here."
The other doctor nodded. "That's what I figured after hearing your speech last week." He looked at Xander. "Relax, young man, you're in good hands now and everything will be fine as long as you want it to be that way." He nodded at Oz and walked out with an, "I'll have him moved immediately," thrown over his shoulder.
Doctor Adams smiled at Oz. "That's Doctor McCregor. He's excellent in the field of joint replacement. Xander will be fine, Oz."
"As long as they're both healthy," Oz said, leaning down to kiss Xander's forehead, admiring the sleeping man's ability to concentrate well enough to overcome the drugs. "Will he really be okay?"
"A lot of his recovery will be up to him, as long as the swelling doesn't damage the nerves," he amended quickly. "You'll have to ask after the surgery. I'll come up with him and get some tests run that I don't want done here. We'll get the whole pregnancy thing settled quickly."
Oz touched the rounded stomach lightly. "Is it hurt?"
"I'll do an ultrasound up there too. I called his boss, who suspected something like this for the last few weeks, and he said that there was some fluid on the floor. He thought it might have been water because one of the guy had a water bottle in there. We'll know in a few hours, Oz, you're going to have to wait a little while longer." He reached over and touched the trembling shoulder. "Xander's fine, that should be our first concern."
"It is." Oz wiped his face off. "I'm going to go make a few calls. Come get me?"
"Sure." Doctor Adams watched as the young man walked out, shaking his head at the pain he must be feeling. Things like this were always hard enough, even without an unusual and unwanted pregnancy.
Blair hung up the phone and took a deep breath before standing up. He walked over to his wife's office and tapped on the door, smiling at her patient. "Got news for you," he said quietly, motioning her out into the hall. He stepped away from the door, waiting until she walked out. "You were right about Xander, he's being moved to McCregor's private clinic for replacement surgery on his knee."
Sam looked confused. "Why would a pregnant person need knee replacement."
Blair ran his fingers through his hair. "Because part of a ceiling collapsed on him at work. Right across the middle of his back and on his knee." She went pale. "I just talked to Oz. He broke down over the phone. Xander's got spinal swelling."
She gave him a hug. "We'll go up as soon as we can," she told him. "He'll be fine, Xander's one of those tough people, just like you and Jim are. He'll live through this, Blair."
"Yeah. But will he be able to cope if he can't work?"
Sam nodded. "He'll have to." She patted the side of his face. "We'll call tonight and see when we can go up. Go take the rest of the day off. I'll cover for you." He nodded and walked outside, going to find somewhere quiet to think. She walked back into her office and went back to helping her patient.
Wesley opened Angel's apartment door and smiled at the man on the other side. "Any word yet?"
"He's going to need a full knee replacement," Giles said quietly, walking in with their three kids in tow. "Thank you for watching them for me. Please don't let them near the phones." He looked down at Miri, who had just woken up. "I'll expect you to help Uncle Wesley with the children, Miriam." He bent down to give her a hug. "You'll be able to go see your father tomorrow probably. All right?" She shook her head. "I know, but we have to do what the doctors tell us. If you can't go see him, I'll have him call. Would that be okay?"
She shook her head. "Why he not okay?" she asked. "Was someone mean to him?"
"No, sweetheart, it was an accident," Giles told her, giving her a squeeze. "Something fell on him and hurt him very badly, but he's in excellent care for those hurt spots."
Wesley got down to give her a hug. "Dear, he'll be fine. I'm sure you'll be able to go and give him a hug tomorrow. Why don't we go draw him a get-well card right now though? Your daddies will be here tonight to stay with you and they'll tell you all about the accident then." He held out a hand, which she took after a second's hesitation. "He'll be fine, I'm sure of it," he told her, leading her and the twins over to the table, motioning behind his back for Giles to leave.
Giles slipped away, heading to where Oz was so they could wait together.
Oz looked up as Giles walked into the waiting room. "The doctor reminds me of Yoda," he said in greeting, scooting over on the couch so they could share it. "He's in getting x-rays right now. Then he gets an ultrasound from Doctor Adams."
"Is the baby in trouble?"
"He lost some fluid when the wood hit him. He's been having stomach pains. We'll know in a while." He took the warm hand to hold. "I called Blair."
"Oh, thank you. I arranged with Wesley and Angel for us to stay at their apartment tonight with the children. Sileya's at home to take care of the horses and she'll have Homer for company. And her father no doubt."
"Ethan's already called here and asked me what was going on. She called while crying so he didn't understand."
"He was never very good at interpreting crying women's words." He pulled Oz closer, giving him a hug. "It all depends on how much he'll want it?"
"And knowing Xander, he'll want it," Oz reminded him. "You know how much he hates to be sick."
"I expect this might be a bit of a trial for him," Giles sighed, relaxing into the soothing weight against him. "We'll deal with this also, Oz, same as we have everything else."
"Yeah, we will. All we need now is Xander being stubborn and it'd be like all the other times."
Xander looked over at the screen. "Is it healthy?"
"Looks okay. Heart rate's good. By the way, that was a good job, telling the nurse and getting her to not give you anything."
"I wasn't feeling anything at first," Xander pointed out. "These new drugs are really nice."
"It's what they give women in labor," Doctor Adams said with a smile. "Do you want to know what it is?"
"Um," he bit his lip. "No? I'm really afraid of this kid not making it and if I know what the sex is then I'll start getting really attached and I'll give it a name and everything before it's time." He looked up. "That sounds really stupid, doesn't it?"
"A little, but with your history and at this moment, it makes a lot more sense." He moved the wand over, smiling as the pictured cleared on something special. "No dark spots in the wrong place," he reported, turning the monitor so it could be seen. "If the baby was like you, you'd be seeing two little dark spots instead of one."
Xander's mouth fell open and he reached out to touch the picture. "It's a boy?"
"Yup. It's a boy. The one that your Rupert has wanted so very badly." He printed out the pictures he wanted and watched as the nurse wiped off Xander's stomach. "I want him to eat as soon as possible, both today and tomorrow." The nurse nodded. "I'm sure he's not going to be too upset to eat, but the baby needs it."
She looked up at him. "We were told to think of it as a tumor that kicks so that we don't have to consider a man being pregnant and get stuck in thought-loops."
"Good enough," the doctor agreed. He handed over a card. "These are my numbers, make sure his nurses get them. I've got a caesarian in an hour so I've got to go. I'll be back tonight, Xander, and if they need me, they can call. Okay?"
"Yeah, that's a lot nicer than what the Sunnydale nurses were going to do. They wanted me to miscarry again."
"It would be easier on your back for that to happen," Doctor Adams told him, staying serious, "but if you don't want to do that, then we can't force that decision on you. You'll have to work harder to recover but you will recover in time."
"After the baby's born?"
"Yes, probably a few months after by the looks of your knee." He patted the young man's thigh, which he was next to. "Relax and make your decisions now. Use that stubbornness now, it's your advantage to heal." He walked out, going to find the other fathers.
Xander looked up at the nurse. "I'm sorry if I give you guys nightmares. I really didn't expect this to happen."
"That's okay, Mr. Harris. We've heard Doctor Adams' speech about Sunnydale and the abnormalities up there. That's why I moved after high school." She smiled at him. "Let's get you up to your room, your surgery is planned for tonight since the bleeding has stopped." She unlocked the wheels and moved the bed out into the hall.
Giles paced in the waiting room, running into someone. "Oh, Blair, I'm sorry," he said, helping him back up. "Did I hurt you?"
"No, I'm fine. How's the guy doing?"
"He's fine," Oz said, holding up the pictures he was staring at. "Doctor Adams has been in already and he said he was fine."
Blair looked at the pictures and smiled. "Hey, it's a boy," he said, grinning at them. "Good. I know how much you guys have wanted one." He sat down and looked up at Giles. "How's Xander?"
"He's okay too," Oz told him. "The bleeding has stopped and it wasn't compromising the circulation to his feet so they waited a few hours, hoping for some of the spinal swelling to go down." He hopped up and ran for the bathroom, going to be sick.
Giles looked down at him. "That's the first time he's been anything calm. Thank you for breaking him of that."
"Hey, reaction can be tough, especially when it happens hours later. How is Xander really?"
"He's fine. Now that he knows the baby's fine, he's forced himself to stay calm. It seems that he told the nurse back in Sunnydale, that's why he was transferred so quickly. We're lucky that Doctor Adams knew someone to fix his knee."
"I'll talk to him once he's awake," Blair told him quietly. "Just to make sure he's dealing with the reality. What's wrong with his spine?"
"It's swollen from some boards hitting him but it isn't visibly fractured on anything that they've looked at. They think he might have a small one on one of the inside surfaces but they won't be able to tell until the swelling's gone down."
"And the possible fracture's making sure the swelling stays up, right?" Blair asked. Giles nodded and sat down, turning pale. "He'll be fine, Rupert, remember what a good fighter he is. All that stubbornness is going to come in real handy right now. That's what he'll need to come back as much as he can. You've got to encourage the stubbornness." He looked toward the bathroom. "I'm going to check on Oz. Will you be okay?" Giles nodded so he got up and followed the younger man into the bathroom, tapping on the only closed stall door. "Let me in, Oz," he said quietly. The door opened and Oz threw himself into his arms, clinging to him as he cried. "I know," Blair whispered, sitting them both down so he could comfort this partner now. He looked at his pager as it started to go off, sighing as he read the message. "Sam will just have to do without me for a minute longer," he said, making Oz back away from him. "You can have some more time, this is about Chloe."
"No, thanks though." Oz stood up and splashed his face with water. "How's Rupe doing?"
"It's hit him now too." He patted the strong thigh before standing. "You guys are welcome to our guest room tonight if you need it."
"We're staying with Wes and Angel tonight. Rupe gave them the kids."
Blair looked at his pager and shook his head. "Maybe not. It says the kids, maybe it's not Chloe." He nodded outside and Oz nodded, so he left. "Hi," he said as he walked up to the desk. "I need to call home really quick." The phone was handed to him. "Thanks." He dialed and straightened up as he heard his step-daughter's frantic voice. "What happened?" He muttered something in another language. "Is she still there? Okay, no I'm at the hospital with Oz and Giles. Xander's in surgery. Call Jim and tell him..." He checked his watch. "Okay. Call her and tell her to meet me in the park up on the hill by this hospital. I'll be her backup." He hung up and turned to look at the couple. "I've got to go, Sam's stalker just tried to take her. She's driving around the city. I'll be back in a while, okay?" They nodded. "Give Xander a kiss and hug for me, tell him I'll be back as soon as I can." He jogged out of the waiting area, going to save his wife, mumbling about lack of apostrophes in this world.
The nurse looked over at them. "Good friend of yours?"
"Our therapist," Oz said as he sat back down and curled into Giles' side again. "Any word?"
"Nope, not yet. It's not a long operation though. We do hundreds of these a year." She went back to her typing, backspacing a few times. "Do you know another word for painful? I'm all out of synonyms that I like."
"How about excruciating?" Giles suggested.
"Or for a more mild pain, there's always my favorite, a burning pain," Oz added.
"Hmm, excruciating would work best here. Thanks." She went back to her typing, keeping an eye on them while she wrote.
Xander woke up and looked around the room he was in, hitting the buzzer. "Water?" he asked the nurse when she walked in. She was the young grandmotherly type, she'd be nice and help him, he hoped.
"Of course you can." She went into the bathroom and came back out with a little glass. "Sip it now. You can't have too much yet." She held his head up while he drank, watching him carefully. "There we go," she said, taking the cup away. "How are you feeling?"
She smiled. "That's normal after anaesthesia but you can't have anymore for another half-hour, okay? He nodded. "Good. How do you feel otherwise? Any pains? Your back okay?"
"Can I sit up?"
He sighed. "I'm doing okay. No pain at all. Do I still have that spinal thing going?"
"The drugs? Yes, they'll last for a while longer. The swelling? It's started to go down but then went back up during surgery so we're watching it carefully right now." She fussed his blanket back into place. "Your men were forced to go home last night or they'd be here. There's been a round of calls every fifteen minutes to see how you were by a bunch of guys, one of them sounded really nice even though he was British. And your kids tried to babble to us too."
Xander smiled. "Can I see them?"
"They're not here yet. We expect them later today. You can have cuddles then."
He nodded and swallowed. "Can't I please have some more water? I'm really thirsty." She held up the cup and helped him drink it. "Thanks."
"How's..." He looked down at his stomach, but he couldn't tell anything underneath the flowered pajama top he was in.
"The baby's fine. His heartrate dropped a little during the operation and the alarm on the monitor scared the assisting doctor but he got over it." She patted his hand. "You're going to be okay, no matter what. You survived."
He went pale. "Was someone else hurt."
She smiled at him. "No, honey, no one else was hurt. I was talking about you. Most people who have ceilings fall on them don't seem to make it too long, you've already passed that part. Now all you have to do is to want to heal."
He nodded. "I want to heal. I want to go home and ride and walk again." She nodded. "Can I? I mean, will I?"
"Probably. Maybe with a limp. No riding for a while though." She touched his stomach. "You can't be bouncing this little guy around right now."
"I'd let Strife go at a walk," he countered. "Please?"
She snorted. "I'm sure you would, but those are doctor's orders and you have to follow them." She pinched him on the hand. "You rest now. Your men'll be here within an hour." She walked out and left him alone after refilling his cup.
Xander grabbed the cup after a few minutes of maneuvering, sipping at the water. "Better," he decided, putting it back down on the table. He got comfortable, wiggling a little more, pushing his left leg over when he had to. "I will walk again," he told himself. "Or else I'm going to have to put in a bunch of elevators and Strife's gonna have to be patient." He blinked, slowly falling back to sleep.
The next time Xander woke up it was night. Or it was dark in his room and outside the flimsy curtains someone had forgotten to pay LA's electric bill, one or the other. He shrugged it off and tried to sit up, but a wave of pain ran through part of his lower half, reminding him that he wasn't allowed to do that. He sighed and relaxed against his pillows, staring up at the ceiling. "Guess I missed the kids," he told himself.
"You know, it's funny," a dark, high voice said from across the room, from the darkest shadow. "I get home for the first time in a *real* long time and what do I find but a message on my answering machine from someone who sounds a lot like you telling me that you'll be fine, but that I get to guilt trip you if you start to slack off." He chuckled. "I hurry down to see you and here you are, trussed up and very unhappy. Guess I'll have to come back again when you're more happy." The voice trailed off with the last word, and the shadows gradually lifted.
Xander looked out his window as the sun started to come back out. "Oh, an eclipse. That's a neat trick," he told himself, shaking off the visitation. Then he sat up. "One of Miri's visitors!" he crowed. "One of them checked up on me!"
The nurse walked in to frown at him. "That's nice, but you're not supposed to be doing that." She pointed at the bed. "Down, now."
"I can't lie on my back," he protested. "It starts to lock up and it hurts more."
She frowned at him. "You can't or you won't?"
"I hurt my back a few times dealing with hay." He patted his stomach. "Besides, wouldn't getting his weight off my injured back be for the best? And you could rotate me from side to side if you wanted, I'd cooperate and everything," he offered with a grin.
She shook her head and walked out, and pretty soon there was a page over the intercom for a Doctor someone to come to his room.
Xander smiled at the little gnarled man that walked into his room. "Can I please lay on my side? I can't lay on my back, it hurts."
"Of course." He helped Xander flip over, with his injured leg now up in the air. "We didn't think that you could but it was the best position for your knee last night." He took the pillows the nurse handed him and put them between his patient's thighs. "There. Anything else?"
"Can I have visitors now?" Xander asked. "I'd like to see my kids."
"Of course. They're downstairs buying you a milkshake." He looked him over. "You wanted to ask a question?"
"When can I go home, and go riding came to mind too, but otherwise, how long will it take me to recover is the other thought I'm having."
"You can go home shortly, as soon as we're sure that your knee is stable enough and the swelling has gone down in your spine. As for riding? Not for a while."
"But it's exercise," Xander pointed out. "Good exercise. It even makes me go outside and play in the woods. And my Strife horse is a great ride, very gentle with me." He gave him begging eyes. "Please?"
"Doctor Adams said no more shocks to your system, including bouncing around on a horse's back. Not until after you deliver." Xander's face fell. "He'll be in tonight and I'm sure you could argue with him about it."
"Okay," Xander said, snuggling in to his new position. "Thank you for flipping me."
"You're welcome. I wouldn't worry about your recovery, it'll go well as long as there's no permanent damage to your spine. We've seen much worse cases than yours walking around after a year or so of therapy with only a cane. You should get to that point too."
Xander nodded but his face fell. "A year?"
"Maybe less," the doctor admitted. "You could do it in six months with your knee if there's no other complications from your back. Remember, the more you want it, the more likely you are to get there faster." He walked out, leaving Xander and the nurse alone, after having a few quiet words with her.
"Okay, I can do that. As long as I'll walk again. I really don't think that elevators would go very well in my house. It's really old and it's a farmhouse."
She smiled at him. "As long as it makes you happy, Mr. Harris. Would you like some lunch?"
"Please. Not gruel though?"
"No, we're to feed you real food, Doctor Adams said so. You're getting a grilled chicken salad and milk. You can even have tapioca pudding if you'd like."
"Okay." He smiled at her. "Can I get a table so I can doodle too? Or a TV remote?" She pointed at the remote on the bedframe. "Cool. When are my kids getting up here?"
"Soon." She left him alone, going back to her station.
Xander cheered up immensely as he heard the stampede that meant his kids were running down the halls, and the screaming from Blair that meant she had tried to do something wrong again. The door opened and the herd of little bodies ran up to him and gave him a hug wherever they could grab him. Xander grinned up at Oz, who was watching him. "Thanks." He patted each little head, tweaking Blair's nose since she was still sniffling. "Did you guys terrorize the staff?"
"Nope, just the woman in the gift shop," Oz said as he pulled a chair over. "You got turned?"
"Yeah. Now I can see the TV." He pulled Miri around to give her a hug first. "Hey, how's home?"
"We stayed with Wes and Angel last night," Oz told him. "Sileya said it was still standing when we called this morning to check on her. Homer answered the phone and she got it a second later."
"That's cool though, he's good for her," Xander reminded him. He let Miri go and hugged Elizabeth, giving her the same long hug he had given Miri. "Where's Rupe?"
"Trying to get the milkshake out of his shirt. Blair snuck behind the counter and gave the nice lady a surprise hug while she was making you one."
Xander let Elizabeth go and pulled Blair over for a hug. "That's okay. Next time, ask before you give someone a hug, okay? Ask a daddy and ask the person you want to hug."
"'Kay," she said, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Okay?"
"Miri told them you were sick," Oz told him.
"Yes, Blair, I'm fine, sweetness. I have to stay in here for a few more days or so and then I can come home again and lay on the couch and read to you guys. Would that be okay?" The kids all nodded and so did Oz. "They said I could go home as soon as the swelling went down," he told his lover. "So maybe not more than a few days then outpatient stuff."
"Cool. We'll bring our bed downstairs if you'd like."
"Nope. I think I should do okay at first."
The nurse walked in with a tray and smiled at all the children. "I see they found you. They almost ran into another patient's room." She pulled a table over so he could eat. "There we go."
"How will he be coming home?" Oz asked. "We have a bi-level farmhouse with stairs."
"We're not sure yet. If it's just about his knee, then maybe he'll have crutches. If it's about his knee and his back, he'll take longer to go home and you'll have plenty of time to redecorate a room for him downstairs until he's able to walk again." She patted Blair's hand as she reached over to steal a piece of chicken. "Let him eat it first, then you can have whatever's left. Okay?" The baby looked up at her, quivering her chin. "Yes, you," she said, pinching the small chin. "Stop that or you can't steal his pudding," she warned. All unhappiness quickly disappeared. "Good. Eat, Mr. Harris. You don't want us to have to feed you." She left them alone, letting Giles into the room.
Giles frowned at Xander. "Are you sure you want them up there with you?"
"Yup, because it's a good thing to have cuddles." He took a bite of the salad and grimaced. "No dressing."
Oz stood up and let Giles have the chair so he could get a hug too. "You can do without dressing," Oz told him as he leaned down and pulled Xander up into his arms. "There, how's that?"
"Good," Xander said, patting him on the side of the face. "Thank you."
"Welcome." Oz stepped back and looked at the kids. "Blair, big Blair, was in last night but he had to go save Sam."
"Okay, I'll expect him later today." Xander took another bite and looked where Oz was looking, at his stomach. "Really freaked too?" he asked quietly, putting his fork down.
"Freaked is putting it mildly," Oz admitted. "Proud and happy and freaked all at once is a strange emotion." He shook himself. "But it's okay. How long have you known?"
"I suspected since the night I ran down to the library. People had been giving me looks for a few days about things like eating."
"I had wondered if your heartburn was from that source," Giles told him, giving him a smile. "How are you feeling otherwise?"
"The little guy's not too active right now but otherwise," he stopped and grunted, patting his stomach. "Never mind. He just woke up and kicked." He pulled Oz's hand over, laying it on his stomach. "Feel him?"
"Yup, my hand's on his back." Oz rubbed gently over the little lump he could feel. "What medicines do they have you on?"
"Stuff to make me produce more fluid for him and pain killers." He looked over at Giles as he was kicked again. "He's not a happy camper."
"He probably needs food," Oz told him, pointing at the salad as he backed away from the bed. He sat on the floor next to Giles' leg and watched as Xander ate, keeping an eye on the twins, who were exploring the rest of the room. "Get away from the window," Oz ordered as Blair tried to climb out it.
"Oh, I had a visit," Xander said between bites. "They mentioned some of the more recent visits a certain little person was doing. They were here during the eclipse."
"Cool," Oz said. "Did they pass on any information?"
"Just that I would be okay and that he'd see me again when I was more happy."
"Again, cool," Oz agreed. He tapped the leg of the table. "Eat."
"Yes, sir." Xander finished off his salad, looking at the tiny puddle of dressing in the bottom of the bowl. "It had dressing?" he asked.
"Maybe," Oz said, taking the bowl. "Can you feel anything?"
"Not with these drugs," Xander said, grinning at him. "They'll probably be taken away soon though. I haven't heard anything about my swelling yet."
"Okay." Oz patted his lap and Elizabeth climbed into it. "They got into Uncle Angel's phone last night," he said, kissing the top of her head. "Fortunately, Cordy called the office as soon as they got her and got someone to go take it away from them before they called the White House again." He let the wiggling body go, watching as she went to join her sister on the window seat. "Rupe, watch them. That window opens."
"Of course." He turned to look at them. "You two behave. We don't need to run you two to the emergency room too."
Xander went pale. "It's not like I planned on having the ceiling collapse on me," he said quietly. "I didn't want to end up here, I wanted to go get a home test and then come curl up between you later, after you quit screaming." He looked down at the floor. "If I had known that the ceiling was going to fall in, I wouldn't have been in there fixing drywall."
Oz reached over and tipped his face back up. "That isn't what he meant. I know you didn't plan on this. We wouldn't have screamed."
"Yes you would have," Xander countered. "You would have screamed for a few minutes and then went out to go sit in your cage."
"Maybe that last part," Oz admitted. "I'm still shocked."
"Me too," Xander said, reaching a hand out. "This isn't what I was expecting when I started to want funny food. Oh, can I be sneaked in Thai food like Duke's mom makes?"
"We'll see," Giles said. "It would depend on the nurse's rules about outside food." He smiled at his lover. "You'll get better, we'll help you as much as we can."
"Okay." Xander squeezed Oz's hand, which was touching his. "I'm going to have to have physical therapy, which is probably really painful. And I'm going to have to ask Sileya to ride Strife more often since I've been banned from riding."
"I'm sure a nice walk wouldn't hurt you too badly," Giles assured him. He shifted so he could touch the outstretched hand. "We'll be fine, Xander. Everything will work out all right."
"If you're sure, because I'm not," Xander said quietly. "I'd like to be able to feel my knee, even for a second. Even if I had to have the pain I had in Sunnydale's emergency room, I'd like to be able to feel it again."
"I thought you weren't feeling anything there," Oz said, withdrawing his hand and shaking it out. "Fell asleep."
"That's what my leg felt like. I got three sudden surges of pain, then nothing but the pins and needles once it started to come back." He shifted, snuggling down into his nest of blankets. "Can you guys stay?"
"Sure. They said we could even have overnight visits if you wanted," Oz told him, getting up to come lay behind him on the bed. "You rest, you've had a hard day, Xander." He rubbed the stiff shoulders, looking over at Giles.
"I believe I'll take the children over to see Sam so you can rest. I'll bring them back tonight." He gave Xander a kiss then gathered up the children so they could go.
Oz settled the blankets around Xander's still body, making sure he was comfortable. "I'm here, you can nap," he whispered, tightening his arms around the warm body. "You rest, it's going to be okay."
Xander's hand found one of Oz's and worked his fingers under it, letting himself be comforted by the gentle presence.
When Xander woke up, he was alone in the bed, but not in the room. "Hey, Blair," he said, stretching upwards and pressing against the wall. "How's Sam? I heard she got tagged again last night."
Blair looked up from his book. "We got him. How's your back?"
"Not real sure." He wiggled until he was sitting up more than lying down. "I can't feeling anything still."
"They took your drugs away last night, you've been living on the last dosage," Blair told him calmly. He moved the chair closer, giving his friend and patient a smile. "The swelling's gone down some more, but you can't feel anything?"
"Not yet." Xander frowned at his knee. "I should, shouldn't I?"
"It might be the shock. Or the swelling may not be down far enough yet. It'll settle out soon." He looked over the tired-looking body. "You look decent otherwise. How did you like working full time again?"
"*Loved* it," Xander said with a grin. "My crew was great and I was doing really well. I found out that the stuff I like doing no one else does so I got to do a lot of pipe fitting and finish work. The stuff that you do toward the end of the job, not trim, I hate doing trim work." He looked at his knee again. "Guess that's out for a while, huh?"
"Maybe but you might be able to go back to it. Physical therapy is hard, Jim said it was even tougher than boot camp for him, but it may get you back fully with enough time and effort."
"Or I might have to use a cane," Xander reminded him. "Which means that I couldn't really do construction work. It'd be really hard to climb ladders with a cane."
"It can be done," Blair told him gently. "It may not be a matter of a cane though. How are you doing otherwise? Oz told me the good news."
"He's doing okay," Xander said, putting a hand on his stomach. "He likes Thai food, one of the guys on the crew got me hooked on it when his mother started to pack his lunches for him. She's a mail-order bride and she got to bring him over too."
"Good. Thai food is usually very healthy for you. I meant mentally."
"It's still weirding me out," Xander said, looking down at his stomach. "Even with the miscarriage, I thought it wasn't really possible, that something would stop it somehow. Guess I was wrong. One night with Oz being stressed over his LSAT's the next morning and here I am." He chuckled. "I wonder if Oz has counted backwards yet."
"Not yet. Have you made any decisions yet?"
"You mean like if it's me or the baby?"
"More like if it's your spine going down really fast or the baby, but yes, basically." He saw the flinch so he explained it. "As soon as the nurses found out I was your therapist, they asked me to bring this up. They think that the less weight on your spine right now would be for the best. They don't want you to make an immediate decision, but they think that you should consider the implications."
"So they want me to consider term...." Xander shuddered. "No. I...I want this baby. Even if I have to limp forever, I'm still going to want this child."
"Even if you end up in a wheelchair?" Blair asked. "Can you say that and not say that you won't look at this child differently?"
"No," Xander said, looking at his friend. "I can't promise that. But I want this baby. I've gotten used to him and I'm liking the thoughts I'm having about having a son."
"You could try again."
"No," Xander sighed, "I won't. I'm having all this stopped as soon as I deliver. I'm almost enjoying this part, but there's no real way for me to make sure this is the only time it happens. Birth control screws with my hormones and makes everyone's life miserable. This is it, Blair. No more babies for us."
"Okay. I'll let the nurses know that you're ready to talk about this subject when I leave." He got comfortable. "Have you been hypothesizing your future again?" Xander nodded. "How is this going to change you?"
"Well, unless I can come back a hundred percent, I'm going to have to switch jobs again. No matter what, I'll probably end up doing some redecorating, especially if I end up going home in a wheelchair. Even with a cane, our stairs are going to be tough to get up and down."
"Have you thought about what you might want to do?"
"Nope." Xander grimaced at him. "Not a clue."
"You could use your disability and your decorating together, there's some decorators who just do handicapped decorating. For people's homes that need the extra amount of support and the like."
Xander tipped his head. "Really?"
"Yeah, there's a guy in town that does that exclusively. You might consider doing that. Or you could go into design and hook up with your old crew and work with them."
"Or he could do architecture," Oz said as he walked in with a bag. "I checked, you're allowed to have food from outside as long as they see that you're eating." He set the soda down beside the younger man, smiling as it was immediately taken and drunk. "Slow down, you're only allowed one of those a day now."
Xander belched as he put the cup back down. "Thanks, Oz, this is great. Architecture?"
"Yeah, like doing the blueprints. I saw your drawing assignments for your carpentry class, they were okay. With a few classes at the Technical college, you could be good at it."
"But could I work in town?" Xander countered.
"Probably. There's a design firm in Sunnydale. Blair was right though, you could do the handicapped designing too, help them with that. I know it's going to be hard on you to take those classes but you could do it."
"Maybe," Xander said reluctantly. "How many other classes would I need?"
"We could check for you," Blair told him. "Not that many for a two-year degree though. At least it didn't used to be."
"So I could do that?"
"Yup, and you could still work in the wood that you like." Oz sat on the foot of the bed, patting the upraised foot.
"Hey, I felt that!" Xander said happily. "Just the pressure, but I felt that."
"Good. That's a good thing." Oz looked at Blair. "Did you ask him?"
"Were you in on the consideration thing too?" Xander asked, looking down at Oz.
"The nurses asked me to think about it and to talk to you about it but I couldn't, so I let Blair handle it. I'll go with whatever you decide, Xander, I'm not willing to risk your health or your life."
"I'm keeping it," Xander said firmly. "Even if I do end up in a wheelchair."
"Hey, people in wheelchairs can still ride," Oz told him. "We'll deal if you do. I'll even supervise the crew that comes in to put in the new elevators for you." He rubbed over the bound foot again. "How long before they know about the swelling?"
"No one's told me a thing," Xander told him. "Maybe I have to ask, but I'm trying to stay calm." He looked over at Blair. "Is it normal to feel panicked right about now?"
"I'd worry if you weren't," Blair said simply. He leaned over and gave him a hug. "Want me to give you two some time alone? The kids are being watched by Chloe, who's considering this a good reason to never have any."
Xander snickered. "Yeah, I thought the same thing about Miri some days. But they're so *cute* when they're little."
"Yes, but then they become toddlers," Blair sighed as he stood up. "I'll be back tonight, okay?" Xander and Oz both nodded. "Good. You rest and I'll tell the nurse to come in and have a long talk with you when they kick Oz out to go for a walk." He waved and left them alone.
Oz looked down at Xander. "You don't have to hide the panic," he pointed out. "I did some of that myself last night, while Blair held me."
"No, I'm not ready to let it out yet." He nodded at the bag. "What else did you bring your son?"
"A slight case of heartburn. Your friend Duke showed up while you were napping and I asked him what you liked. Oh, and his mother sent you a get well card too, he said she was really sorry for your accident, she liked what she had heard about you. I put it in the drawer beside the bed."
"Yeah, she sounds kinda cool herself." He grinned as the hamburger was handed over. "Pickles?"
"On there but no mustard or onions. Didn't think you'd want them." He shifted so he was leaning against the footboard. "Are you happy about the little person?"
"Shocked still but yeah." Xander licked some ketchup off his finger. "Yeah, I think I am. I know it's going to be hard on us with another baby in the house, but I think I'd like it. I like kids."
"Good." Oz nodded. "I'm still trying to figure out if I'm happy or if I want to strangle myself for getting so involved that I forgot the condom."
"Don't strangle yourself, you were overly uptight over your LSAT's the next morning."
Oz covered his face and shook his head. "I didn't even want to know when this happened, but that would have been the last time we were together." He went back to rubbing the foot. "Does this mean I have to name him after a Justice?"
"No. Absolutely not, not unless I like the name."
"Okay. You can like the name. Want me to have Giles bring you the baby name book when he's home tonight? Or anything?"
"PJ's? Or maybe just t-shirts and something I can sleep in?"
"Okay. We're getting those anyway. How about books?"
"Please. And something to doodle on too. I'm kinda bored."
"Got it. We'll bring you in pictures of the kids too."
Xander snapped his fingers. "You need to find my pants that I was wearing. They have my last paycheck and my evaluation in it. I'd like to see that."
"We have those in the back of the car still. I'll cash it on the way home tonight." Oz leaned closer, pulling the flowered top down over the distended stomach. "We can't stay in LA anymore but we'll be back a few times a week, okay?"
"Okay." Xander finished off his burger in two bites. "Ride Strife for me?"
"Sure. I'll make sure someone does." He stood up. "Anything else you'll need before I head out?"
"A hug?" Xander asked, holding up his arms. "I really could use more of those."
"Anytime." Oz leaned down and gave him a hug, letting Xander get clingy for a few minutes. "How's that?" he whispered as he backed away.
"Not long enough but I can understand you not wanting to hit rush hour." Xander looked at the clock. "Who else is going to show up?"
"Wes said he'd drop by in the next few days. Angel said he might. Cordy said she'd come as soon as she could buy you flowers. We'll be back day after tomorrow for most of the afternoon. Oh, and Giles called your candle distribution list and told them that you were in the hospital so you won't miss out on anything there. Your boss has called and he said he'd come see you tomorrow, as soon as he could get everything on site straightened out."
"Okay. Be safe?"
"Always," Oz agreed. He gave Xander one last hug and left the room, going home.
Even though he understood, it still sucked, but he didn't want to put that sort of pressure on Oz. No one needed guilt on top of all this shock, especially not when they're fighting to stay in a program that's overly competitive and as hard as law was. Xander flipped on the TV so there'd be some noise in there with him. He hated quiet rooms and quiet hospital rooms were the worst. He could do this, he'd have to do this, alone. And then he'd go back to his old life.
Xander looked over at the door as it opened, craning his neck to see who it was. And who it was surprised him. "Hi, Spike, come to yell at me or to make fun of me?"
"No," he said gruffly, putting a box down on the table next to him. "I came to make sure you're still livin'." He looked around the room. "Nice digs."
"Yeah, not too bad as hospital rooms go." He reached out and touched Spike's hand, making him flinch. "I'm not a scary guy suddenly. You really don't have to be afraid of me."
"Afraid?" Spike snorted. "Why would I be afraid of a whelp like you?"
"Because you don't want to see me hurt?" He held out his arms. "You can come feel the baby kick if you want."
Spike shook his head. "Don't think so, thanks anyway." He sat down on the edge of the chair. "I hate these places," he declared out of the blue.
"Yeah, me too." Xander looked down at his knee, which was turning an interesting shade of purple. "Gee, not supposed to be happening like that," he noted. "Spike, can you tell if it's bleeding?"
"Yup, but not outside." He sniffed a few more times, leaning closer to Xander's middle and taking a deep breath. "You smell good," he said finally. "Much better'n Willow did."
Xander grinned. "Thanks. How's your recovery going? Getting back to yourself?"
"Almost," Spike admitted. "The spell's gone but I'm still feeling it's effects, except when I hit the human blood. Then it's all quiet and I feel like I'm healin' better." He shook his head. "Of course, that's out now."
Xander held up his wrist. "You could have a little nibble if you promise not to take too much."
Spike looked at him in shock. "You can't do that! Not with the little bit in there!" He looked at the knee. "You need to have that checked," he decided and reached over for the call button. They stared at each other until the nurse strolled in. "His knee's turning funny," he told her, pointing at the skin visible under the brace.
She looked at it then nodded. "Yeah, it is. The doctor's making his rounds right now. Your friend will have to leave while he's in here but he can come back later."
Xander looked over at Spike. "Going to come back later and keep me company since my men are gone?"
"Could," Spike agreed as he stood up. "Got better things ta do but I could come back by for a bit."
"Cool." Xander held out his arms, silently asking for a hug, which he ended up pulling Spike down into. "I'll keep the window open," he whispered. "You're welcome here. I could use the company." He let him go, grinning at him. "I'll be here," he said out loud.
"I bet." Spike waved him off and walked out of the room.
Xander looked down at his knee. "Is that bad bleeding or good bleeding?"
"All bleeding internally is bad," she told him. "Did you want supper?"
"Depends, can I have more dressing on the salad this time? I don't like lettuce, that's an Oz thing." He gave his most charming grin. "Or can I have more real food?"
"We're having meatloaf with mashed potatoes tonight. You can have that and some milk."
"Okay. I like that idea too." He watched as she walked out, leaving him alone. He'd ask her about the other thing he really needed as soon as the doctor was gone.
Xander's doctor, Doctor McCregor, looked down at his handiwork with a mighty glare. "Have you been moving this?"
"I got a pat to the foot but I don't think I moved it. That's really recent I guess, I didn't see the funny color earlier."
"Fine. We're going to take you down for another ultrasound in a little while. That okay with you?"
"It's great. The faster I can go home, the better I'll feel. No offense, but I hate hospitals. Even really nice ones like this one."
The doctor laughed. "Yes, me too, young man. That's why I became a doctor, so I wouldn't have to stay in one again." He patted the foot, smiling as he saw the twitch. "You felt that?"
"The pressure. I got some earlier but not again until now. It's like it was back in Sunnydale, it's kinda now and then. Is that the swelling coming down?"
"It could be. It is coming down," he admitted as he sat on the foot of the bed. "It's not coming down as fast as we would like, but we can't give you the medicine to make the swelling go down without hurting your passenger."
"I'm having it," Xander said firmly. "Even if I end up in a wheelchair."
"Good to know. We'll make a note in your chart, but that shouldn't become an issue unless the swelling refuses to go down. How are you doing otherwise? Your chart says you haven't been bothering the nurses about personal matters."
"I was going to ask for crutches so I could do that as soon as you left," Xander said quietly, his face pinkening lightly. The doctor shook his head. "I can't use the cup, it's embarrassing!" he protested.
"Thou shalt not get up and walk around," the doctor told him, standing up. "Not for a few days at least."
"Not even with crutches? Or a wheelchair? I could learn how to manage that and not kill my knee again. I promise."
"We'll see how it goes tonight with the wheelchair," the doctor said, relenting at the panicked expression. "How do you handle it when your men want to touch you?"
"That's a really rare occurrence in our house. We're together but it's almost platonic most of the time. The last time I had sex, this little guy was created." He rubbed across his stomach. "What do you think of the name Philip?"
"It's a good, strong name. Speaking of which, we had a call for you from someone by that name."
"Father Philip? He's a great guy." Xander looked around. "So can I wheel around when I get bored?"
"Not yet, Mr. Harris. Not until we get you taught how to do that and not kill your knee as you said." He smiled down at him. "Did you know that your child asked me if I was Yoda?"
Xander grinned at him. "Well, if you were green and had bigger ears maybe. I think Oz thought the same thing. He saw you in the halls earlier and started humming the Imperial March. He's the one that taught the kids about Star Wars."
The doctor laughed. "I'll have to remember that. I'll get the nurses to bring in a wheelchair so you can get out of the bed, but it's going to be one of those that have the leg rest so your knee doesn't move. She'll teach you how to use it properly, but I'll expect to hear no stories about racing down the halls."
"Yes, sir," Xander said, snapping him a salute. "What if it is bleeding in my knee?"
"Then we take you down and pop a few of the stitches to clean up the mess. It may be some leakage from a loosened stitch. We'll have to see." He made a note in the chart. "Anything else?"
"What's the real word on my spinal cord? Is this time it's taking making things worse?" Xander asked quietly.
"It might be. The swelling could be damaging some of the nerves by pinching them, or forcing them against the walls of your spinal column. It could just be swelling and everything will be fine once it goes down. We're going to have to wait and see on that part. That's the real variable in your return to a normal life, Mr. Harris." He checked the chart. "I'm going to talk with Doctor Adams tomorrow to see if we can't give you medicine to force the swelling down. We don't want to hurt your child's chances, but we need to get that swelling down sooner instead of later."
"Okay," Xander said, nodding. "That's kinda what I thought." He looked around the room. "Can I have that wheelchair really soon? I kinda had a soda earlier...."
"Of course." He rang the buzzer and a nurse jogged in. "Mr. Harris would like a wheelchair so he can take care of personal matters by himself, Patricia. Preferably soon if you could. I'm going to call down for an ultrasound on his knee." He walked past her, giving her a smile.
She glared down at him. "What? I'm not good enough to help you pee?"
"That's embarrassing," he complained. "I like doing that by myself. I don't even let my lovers in the room when I'm doing that."
"It's a surprise to me that you ever got pregnant," she sighed. "Give me a minute to get one, all right?" He nodded. "Good. I'll wheel you in and you can learn how to do it yourself later." She left him alone, letting the door slam behind her.
"I didn't mean to upset her," Xander said quietly, looking down at his stomach. He frowned at the chair that got wheeled in. "Can I use that?" he asked, looking at the slanted back.
"Yes, you can, or you won't get out of that bed except when an orderly moves you." She patted the seat. "Release the blue strap from the sling. Push yourself up and heave yourself over." He undid the clip on the blue strap and had to catch his leg before it fell. Then he shifted over until he was closer to the chair, lifting himself up by his arms and narrowly making it onto the chair. "You'll get better," she told him, pushing his back down. "This is best for your back. No pressure on the hurt parts." She wheeled him into the large bathroom, putting him beside the toilet. "Do it in reverse, but remember to push down your pants first." She stepped out and closed the door, letting him do this alone, letting him learn the important lesson that he could trust her by himself.
Xander pushed his bottoms down and heaved himself up, trying to slide over. He fell onto his side on the floor, tipping the chair over. He forced himself to scoot around until he was on the other side of the toilet, the side of the sink, and used it for support to pull himself up and over onto the raised seat. He sighed as he started to go, his internal pressure relieved. He got himself cleaned up and washed his hands before he got off the seat. Then he lifted the chair by the handle and forced it upright, sliding himself back onto it. He pulled his pants up and tapped on the door. "Okay," he called.
She opened the door and nodded. "Flush it. That's gross for our housekeepers."
He stretched over and hit the button on the wall, looking up to grin at her. "I did it."
"Yes, you did. Did you fall?" She frowned, that wasn't supposed to happen, he was supposed to have called when he fell.
"Yup, and I learned the sink is a nice thing when it's so close."
She tapped the bars around the toilet. "That's what these are for. We'll teach you the formal lessons later, okay?" He nodded so she pulled him out of the bathroom and back in just as the orderlies were walking in. "Here you go, take him down. He just learned how to go to the bathroom by himself." She smiled at the orderly, who grunted. "Oh, come on, he's doing good. Now all we have to do is encourage this behavior and we'll get him to use one of these permanently."
Xander tipped his head back. "I got the point, but I'm still not peeing in a container that you're holding. I don't like women that much." He smiled at her. "You wouldn't want to either if you were me."
"True," she admitted, "but I've never been about to paralyze myself by going to the bathroom either."
"Yeah, but I'll heal. I always do." He let himself be wheeled out, going down to find out why his knee was turning purple.
Oz picked up the phone and handed it over after going a spectacular shade of white. "What's happened to Xander?" Giles asked the person on the other end. "Really? Is it serious? Thank you for telling us. We'll be up tomorrow afternoon." He hung up. "The bleeding wasn't serious, it was a stitch that had slipped out of place in a tendon, causing a little bit of a tear. But Xander did force his will on the nurses and got to go to the bathroom by himself."
"Knew I should have asked him if he wanted help," Oz said, sinking into Giles' side. "He's really okay?"
"Yes, he is, and he had a visitor waiting when he got back to his room. Spike's decided to come keep him company for a bit."
"Cool. They can complain about Blair together."
"Possibly," Giles agreed, giving him a hug before going back to his reading.
"Why aren't you worried?" Oz asked, looking up. "I felt sick when I heard he had to go in to get more stitches and you're not worried." He sat himself up. "Is this some sort of funky denial thing or are you really not worried about our Xander not walking again?"
"He'll walk again, he's a very strong-willed young man," Giles said, putting his book down. "I have no doubt in Xander's abilities to heal himself and to want to get better, but I have no desire to get myself worked up each time we get news from the hospital." He watched as Oz stood up and walked upstairs, wincing as he heard the door slam. "Well, I bollixed that one up rather well. I'll talk with him once he's calmed down a bit." He picked his book back up, going back to the story. His boys were always so emotional, he didn't know how they could stand it. But he'd put up with it, until they got older and settled down.
Spike was sitting in the chair when Xander got back, giving him an irritated nod.
Xander grinned at him. "Sorry, I didn't have time to open the window for you." He reached out. "Can I have a hug?"
Spike snorted. "Gave you drugs again, didn' they?"
"Yup, very nice ones." Xander grinned at the nice nurse. "And we're friends again. She saw my point so she'll nag only when she catches me out in the hallways."
The nurse frowned at Spike. "Is he always like this under heavy pain killers?"
"Like I'd know," Spike snorted. "He isn't mine."
Xander spit at him, reaching out again. "I'd like a hug," he said firmly. "Now or I'm gonna tell Miri how to ticklie you."
Spike grumbled but he got up and gave Xander a hug. "There, better now?" he asked. He glared at the nurse, sending her walking from the room. "It's bad enough that I'm not up to par, now you have to let them make fun of me?"
"Nah, she's nice. She didn't even laugh when I fell while going to the bathroom." Xander looked around the room. "Who put up the pretty streamers?"
Spike looked at the same spot. "You're daft now. Sleep, whelp, before I call Blair and make him read you a bedtime story."
"Oh, can I have one?" Xander asked, clapping his hands together. "Please?"
"No," Spike moaned, holding his head. "Not that."
"Please?" Xander begged, dropping his voice down to the husky place that he used when he really wanted Oz to pay attention to him. Then he realized he had said that out loud because Spike was looking at him funny. "Oops."
"You don't get attention at home?"
"Sometimes," Xander said, pouting at him. "I want to be happy, not talk about them. Bedtime story? Even a corny one? I won't make you give me cuddles later."
"Later, you're gonna be so red you're gonna look like Red's hair," Spike countered. He shifted, glaring at the young man. "Fine, did it for your kid, I can do it for you I guess." He glanced around to make sure that no one could hear him. "Once upon a time...."
Spike found Blair in the waiting area. "He's asleep," he reported, pulling his therapist up to get in his face. "How could you let them ignore him like that? You wouldn't let me ignore Angel, but they're allowed to ignore him?"
"It's not like that," Blair croaked, kicking Spike in the shin to get free. He rubbed his throat. "It's not like that. Xander gets attention but not enough to satisfy him. They're working on it, same as you're working on your anger management."
"I'm a *vampire*, I'm supposed to be angry," Spike pointed out. "The whelp's asleep. I'm gonna go find lunch." He left them alone before Sam could say anything to him about his treatment of her husband.
"Guess his neediness comes out under medication," Sam said dryly, putting down her magazine. "Did you want to take the first watch in his room or shall I?"
"I'll do it," Blair said, gathering up this things and heading down the hall.
Oz jumped as the phone rang, grabbing it before his professor could say anything and jogging out into the hall. "What happened?" he asked quietly, leaning against the wall. He closed his eyes. "Is he okay? No, we're planning on coming down this afternoon. Yeah, if he wants, I can do that." He hung up and pounded his head on the wall a few times. Then he walked back in.
"Mr. Osbourne, what is more important to you than my lecture?"
"My lover's spinal cord swelling just went back up again," Oz told him, grabbing his things. "I'm needed in LA, and that's *much* more important to me than your dry and pedantic lecture any day. And yes, flunk me if you want, I don't care." He walked out, earning a few scattered claps.
Oz's teacher looked at the people who had sided with him. "He'll be counted absent for today. Any of the rest of you wanting to follow his example are free to leave under the same penalty." Someone raised their hand in the back. "Yes?"
"Sir, his lover was the one that got buried under part of a house the other day in town. From what we've heard, he's pretty badly off. They transferred him to LA within half an hour of getting him free. I think he has a right to be worried about him."
"You may think that, but until you graduate this program, you're not supposed to think of anything besides law and ethics."
"But sir," she countered, "wouldn't leaving him to suffer alone in a foreign hospital room be a breach of good ethics and personal morals? "
He smiled at her. "Good point. Does anyone want to argue that with her?" A young man turned to look at her then shook his head. "Why not?"
"Because she's scary, sir," he said quietly. "I'd hate to fight with that woman any day. Faith's not one of those people that I want to be near my side of an argument. I remember her from High School."
"A little long winded and still an unsuitable answer. Faith, why do you feel it necessary to stick up for Mr. Osbourne?"
"Because I know him and his family. Xander needs him right now and Oz can study anywhere. He's one of the lucky people."
He smiled. "I'm sure that will come out at test time. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a woman who's not even in this program but has just out reasoned all of you that were willing to try. You might want to take a lesson from her."
"No they don't," Faith said quietly. "Reason isn't my life." She got up and nodded to him. "Later." She left the classroom, going out into the sunlight.
He turned back to the class. "Apparently today is the day for dramatics. Does anyone want to get back to work?" Someone raised their hand. "Yes?" he sighed.
"Sir, would work entail you giving us a preview of what's on the test? Maybe an idea of which book it's out of?"
He smiled at her. "No. Any other questions?" No one said anything. "Good, then let us get back to Greek ethics and morality." He turned back to his overheads, exchanging the one that was showing for the next.
Oz walked into Xander's room and looked around for him, but he wasn't in there. He walked back out to the desk and the nurse held up a card, telling him where to go. "He's in surgery?" he asked quietly.
"No, he's down in x-ray again. His back flared up this morning after it popped. That boy'll never get out of here if he doesn't take it easy."
"Xander's hyperactive and he's easily bored," he told her. "He needs something to tame his attention and hold it. Give him a decorating magazine and ask him to help you with a problem room. He's good at that, did our whole house." He walked down the hall, back toward the elevator so he could go down and wait.
Xander looked over at the films sitting on the lighted glass. "Good or bad noises, guys?" he asked when it stayed too quiet.
"Bad," the junior doctor on his team said, looking back at him. "You've not only swelled up but we've found the hairline fracture."
"But that's a good, right?"
"It's not something we can fix," he said, walking over. He put the films up where the patient could see them.
"That's my back? Cool. Can you see him?"
"Him?" He shook his head. "Never mind, forgot about that. No, not at this angle." He pointed out a small, dark line. "This is the problem area, which is too risky to fix. It'll heal most of the way, but it's going to take time and a lot of rest. You're going to have to stay in bed more often."
"I was in bed when my back popped," Xander pointed out. "The only times I've been up were when I went to the bathroom."
The doctor smiled down at him. "Couldn't stand to let the nurse help?"
"Nope. Not really." Xander tilted his head to pop his neck joint. "Sorry," he said at the disgruntled look. "Would this have anything to do with where I keep hurting my back while I'm working on throwing hay around?"
"Maybe. Your muscles are playing a big part in this. When did you hurt it?"
"Which time?" he quipped. He smiled at the glare. "Sorry, but it's been pulled or strained a few times."
"Okay, that we needed to know."
"I told the guy in the emergency room. Didn't he pass that on too?"
"Nope." The radiologist took the films down and looked down at the young man on the bed. "Listen, this is going to sound harsh, but you can't have this child. It's going to paralyze you."
"No," Xander said quietly. "I'm having him. I want him, even if I didn't plan on having him, I want him now." He gripped the side of the table. "We can figure this out some other way. You've probably had pregnant women with similar problems."
"Not with the amount of swelling you're doing," he said. He looked at the chart again. "We can cut out some of your fluid-building medication and that might help. The lack of painkillers will hurt but it's probably for the best too." He glanced up. "Are you still getting intermittent pain?" Xander nodded. "Okay, that's a good sign right now. That means that the swelling's localized itself and that it's going down somewhat." He put the chart back on the table. "I'm going to call a conference with your other physicians to talk about this. Until then, I want you to stay in bed. Even if you have to go to the bathroom. Understand?" Xander nodded again. "Good. Orderly?" he called. One of them came in. "Take him back to bed and give the nurse his chart." He made a note and handed it over. "I'll check on him later since Doctor McCregor left me in charge for now."
"How's my knee?" Xander asked.
"It's looking very normal," the doctor said with a smile. "Let's concentrate on one problem, okay, kid?"
"Sure." Xander didn't resist as he was switched over to a gurney, he even helped by pulling his sheet up over his body. "Home, James," he quipped.
The orderly looked down at him. "It's good you have your humor, you're going to need it in therapy."
"Hey, been there, I can do that again." Xander put his head back down and relaxed as he was rolled from the room. He reached out as they passed Oz, grabbing him and pulling. "Hi," he said when his lover caught up with them. "You're back early."
"I got called and told that your swelling went back up."
"Yup, but now they know where the fracture is." Xander blew a kiss. "Did you bring me jammies?"
"Your bag's in the car," Oz told him. He looked at the orderly. "How bad is it this time?"
"Bad," he said, nodding at the elevator. "Hit the button." He looked down at Xander, who nodded. "The swelling's localized, which is good, but it went back up again, which is horrible. They're calling a conference to talk about his unique situation this afternoon." He glanced around. "You two are together?"
"Us and someone else," Oz said. "Xander, I'm going to get your bag from the car and I'll be up as soon as you're settled, okay?" Xander nodded so he headed for the stairs.
Xander tipped his head back. "He worries but that's a nice thing."
"Yeah, I can see that. What's he do?"
"He's in law school, I was in construction, and our other lover's in research for people. He does history stuff."
"Oh." The elevator opened so he was wheeled on. "That's a diverse group."
"Add in three kids and animals," Xander added on, "and you've got a very hectic house some days."
"I bet you can't wait to get back."
"Yeah," Xander sighed, "I'd love to get back there. Preferably before my kids are all grown up." He looked down at his stomach. "Now all you need to do is to grow faster so you can join them and then I can go home too."
The orderly smiled. "Not necessarily. You could go home before he's born. The swelling may be down by then."
"Yeah, maybe," Xander agreed, rubbing across his taut stomach. "Let's hope this doesn't keep going on. I'm not sure I can take too much more of this yo-yo act."
"Good, then you have the desire to heal," the orderly said as the door opened, "that's about half of it." He wheeled Xander into his room and helped him up into his bed. "You can't feel anything?"
"I'm back to the itchy feeling right now. No pain though. I almost could wish for pain but I'd settle for any feeling. I got to feel some pressure yesterday on my foot." He reached over to pick up the packages that were laying on his bedside table. "Huh, Spike's present." He opened the tin candy box and smiled at the books sitting inside it. "He's a good guy, even if he is what he is," he said, holding them up. "He knows what I'd want to read."
"Good," Oz said as he walked in. "Blair's gift?"
"Spike's. He was here before I got to go back down and get more stitches. We're leaving the window open for him so he has a place to escape to."
"Okay," Oz agreed, setting the bag down beside the bed. "Now, what's really going on? You look way too happy."
Xander pulled him closer. "I almost have a feeling in my legs but I can't feel pain so it's all good right now," he said quietly, giving him a hug. "Did you skip class?"
"Nope, walked out, after telling the teacher to flunk me for it if he wanted." Oz brushed some of the sweaty hair off Xander's forehead. "You scared me, babe."
Xander pulled his hand down. "It scares me too, Oz, really, but I can't dwell on it or I'll never get out of here." He looked around. "The orderly left?"
"Just a minute ago." Oz sat on the edge of the bed. "You're really okay?"
"Okay is subjective. I'm not in pain, I'm not in agony, but I'm not okay. Does that make sense?" Oz nodded. "See, you do understand the Xander language. You've learned well, my young apprentice."
Oz snorted and gave him a hug. "We'll have to wait and see what they decide, huh?"
"Yeah, it sucks, but we've got to wait." He held out a book. "You could read with me."
"How about I go get you something to eat?"
Xander shook his head. "Not really hungry. Thank you though." He flinched as Oz's hand touched his stomach. "That hurt," he noted. "Good to know."
Oz stood up. "I want the baby checked out."
"Oz, this is all part of it, we've got to be patient. I can't keep pulling the nurses away from the other patients. There's some people up here that are a lot worse." He looked down at himself. "Besides, most of them wouldn't know what was wrong. They'd have to call Doctor Adams. I'm sure it's just some sort of belly expanding moment."
Oz shook his head as he took a step back. "How can you be so calm!"
"Because I won't get better if I'm not. All the pain I'm feeling I'd better put back into getting better or I'll never walk again."
Oz sighed and gave him a hug. "I understand that, but it seems wrong somehow." He stood back up. "I'm going to tell the nurse about your stomach. I'll be right back?"
"Sure." Xander curled up and waited for Oz to come back. At least he had some movement again, he didn't have to pull his legs where he wanted them. He pulled the blanket up to hug. He really didn't want to be alone anymore.
Xander looked over at the doctors as Doctor Adams checked his stomach. "We okay in there?"
"For the most part. It looks like you're starting to get an infection." Doctor Adams stepped back and the doctors went to the door to talk it over. They nodded and came back. "Xander," Doctor Adams said calmly, "I know you want to carry this child to term, but it's endangering your health now. We've got to make a decision. It's still up to you, but I've got to say that carrying it will damage you further."
Xander shook his head. "I want this kid. I'll risk being in a wheelchair for him. No matter what, I want him."
"Be reasonable," Oz told him. "I want him too, but not at the expense of your life." He stroked the hand he held. "We can always have another one after you're better."
"Nope, not going through this again," Xander told him.
"Then we'll adopt or something. Maybe Buffy'll get pregnant again and we can have her next one."
"I want this one," Xander told him quietly. "I'm going to walk again, the baby's not that big of a thing except in the weight department, right, guys?"
"Not quite," Doctor Adams said. "There are medicines that might help you but we can't give them to you because of your pregnancy. Xander, I'm going to agree with Oz, you're not thinking rationally, you're thinking emotionally."
"No," Xander said firmly. "You're not taking him." He looked over at Oz, who was looking pained. "I'll compromise," he said finally, looking at his doctors again. "As soon as he can survive on his own you can take him."
"By then, the damage will have been done," Doctor McCregor pointed out. "It might be too late now."
"Nope, I want this kid. No matter what I have to go through, I want him."
Doctor Adams sighed. "That's what I thought you'd say. You do know that your husbands can have you committed for irrationalness like this? If he does, we have the right to overrule your decision."
"We're not married," Oz pointed out. "I can't lie about that." He looked down at Xander. "What about all the things you want to do with him, Xan? Will you be able to go play in the grass with him and the other three? Will you be able to go riding when they're old enough, teach them about the woods and the grasses?"
Xander nodded. "Yes, I will." He looked down at himself. "I'm going to walk again, Oz, no matter what happens now. I'm sure of it. I even got told it."
Doctor McCregor coughed. "You've been having heavenly visitors?"
Oz shook his head. "It's something that Miri started that's really hard to explain. Did he actually say that you were going to be fine?"
Xander nodded. "Almost like that too." He squeezed Oz's hand. "We're letting me keep it, guys, and I'll get better. The swelling will go down and we'll give me what medicines I can have. Or I'll go home right now."
"No, you won't," Oz told him. "I'm not going to be there to take care of you."
"Yay. I've done it before, I'll do it this time." He looked at the older men. "I know you've heard this speech before."
"Yes, and most of the people who have said that ended up in wheelchairs permanently," Doctor Ian, the radiologist and junior doctor on the team, pointed out. "You have a choice, Xander, but you're going to have to think about this."
"I have. I'm not giving up my son."
"There's a chance he could survive now," Doctor Adams said quietly. "We could wait a few more days. That wouldn't cause too many problems, right?" Everyone shook their heads. "So, we'll wait and give him time to reconsider." He walked over to Xander. "I can't support you in this one, Harris. This isn't something that you're going to come back from if you don't let us handle it the best way."
"But that's not the best way," Xander said, looking into his eyes. "Not for me. I want my son, Doc, and I'm going to have him. No matter what the cost."
"Even if it costs us Giles?" Oz asked.
"Yeah, even if it costs me both of you." Xander looked at him. "Oz, this is part of me now. I can't just give it up because I might start to get better. I know I'll get better, even if I don't walk again, which I will."
"The will isn't always the only determinant of walking again," Doctor McCregor noted. "There's also a biological component to it. You may not have the nerves left to do that with."
"Then I'll hop around until I put an elevator in our house," Xander said coldly. "I'm having him!"
"Fine," he said, backing away. "I'm not going to argue with you about this, that's your man's and your other Doctor's job. I'm just here to fix you as best I can."
"Okay then, now we're talking. What happens if we put me on medicine to take down the swelling?"
"It could cause you to lose more prenatal fluid," Doctor Adams said.
"And that would be bad?"
"Yes, it would be one of the worst things you could do to him."
"Is there any way to balance the two?"
"Not and take the swelling down fast enough to make sure that you don't have a lot of damage," Doctor Ian said. "But we could alternate for a while. One day of reducing medicine and one day of pumping the baby's level back up. It might work," he justified when everyone looked at him. "It'd take a lot of patience and some better monitoring but I know of a doctor who's done it before."
"I can talk with her if it's Marcia," Doctor Adams said thoughtfully. "I forgot that she went through something similar during her residency."
"How's she doing?" Xander asked.
"She's on Canadian crutches, the type that go around your arms, but she's walking. Her daughter didn't have any permanent damage from the switching back and forth." He looked at the other two. "We could do that; we might even be able to expand the interval to two days if we have to."
"Two days of good medicine could make the difference," Doctor McCregor said carefully, "but I can't promise that either of them will come out of this very healthy."
"Let me worry about that," Xander said, smiling at him. "I'm pretty good at healing if you're willing to be risky and the baby would have my healing skills since he's still in me."
"Maybe," Oz agreed, "but I'd rather not take a chance with either of you." He leaned down to kiss Xander's forehead. "You need a bath."
"I'll get one later," he said. "Would you rather not take a chance and lose one of us or have both of us?"
"What I want doesn't seem to matter," Oz said as he stepped away from the bed. "I want you healthy, I can worry about our son later." He touched the little bulge. "Xander, he's important to me too, but not as much as you are. You need to do what's best for you. I promise we'll have a son someday, but it's not the right time."
"Oz, I'm not going to be able to do this again. Before you ask how, I just know. Okay? It's this son or no son. I want this baby. Do you?"
"Yes, but that's not the point!" Oz shouted. "The point is that you're in more danger than he is."
"No, he won't live if we take him now. I will live, no matter if I carry him or not. Maybe not in a form that you're going to love anymore, but I'm going to still be around. I can get past the possible wheelchair if you can."
"I'm not going to hold that against you," Oz said quietly, glaring at him. "I'd never do that."
"Then why are you so worried? It's not like my life's in danger." He reached out a hand but it wasn't taken. "If this was my life or not, I might consider it, but it's not. Plenty of people are in wheelchairs and they have nice, normal lives. I can do that with a little help at first, but only if you listen to me now."
Oz shook his head. "This is your decision and I said I'd stand by it, but I'd like you to reconsider."
"We have time, Oz," Doctor Adams said, patting him on the shoulder. "We have time before the damage gets that bad."
Xander shook his head. "It won't. I'm pretty sure of that." He looked over at Oz. "Trust me or not?"
"Not. At least not right now. Maybe after I get home and scream this all at Rupert. Maybe he'll make me see that all this is going to be fine and you're going to be okay enough."
Xander sighed. "Oz, I'm not going to die. I'm going to limp, but I'm not going to die. I'm still going to be here as long as you want me to."
"Don't you *ever* say that!" Oz shouted. "We've gone over this before!"
"Then act like it," Xander yelled back. "I'm not leaving, you're pushing me away! Support me or go home!"
Oz stormed out of the room, leaving everyone stunned.
Xander took a deep breath and let it out. "Okay, now that my life is partially over with, what are we doing now?"
"He'll come back," Doctor Adams said quietly, reaching out to touch Xander's good knee. "Let him calm down and he'll come back."
"Maybe tomorrow." Xander looked at Doctor McCregor. "What now?"
"Now we start you on medicines to take down the swelling. We'll put a fetal monitor on you and we'll watch you closely. You are not to get out of that bed, no matter what." Xander grimaced. "I mean it, you'll need to stay still."
"Then I will. Leave the container beside me and I'll do what I have to and let the nurses take care of it afterwards." He looked at the three older men. "Is that all or is there more bad news?"
"The way you're getting feeling is a bad sign if it continues," Doctor Ian said. "We may not be able to reduce the swelling in time to save your feeling."
"Then I'll deal," Xander reminded him. "I've had to deal with worse. Next problem?"
"We'll have to do blood tests on the baby," Doctor Adams said. "That means a long needle into your stomach."
"Hey, if I can have a hand to hold and something to keep my attention, then I'll deal with that too. What else is there?"
"That was it," Doctor McCregor said, giving him a weary look. "You're sure of this? As your doctor said, there's a chance the child will live if we remove it now."
"A very slim chance," Xander reminded him. "I want my child to be healthy. If we have to take him when he's older, then I might not fight so much, but if it's just my walking again, then I'm keeping him for as long as I can." Everyone nodded. "We're good then?" Doctor Adams nodded. "Good, then you can all go nark to Blair so Oz can talk to him. He used to like it when Blair just showed up and knew what was wrong."
"I'll do that," Doctor Adams said as he walked out. "You rest now, Xander. It's well past time for you to relax. We'll adjust your medicines starting tonight."
"I will." He looked at his other doctors. "Was there another problem?"
"Just one. Your hormones are making you irrational," Doctor Ian told him. "If you change your mind, all you have to do is to tell the nurse and she'll call all of us immediately." He walked out, leaving Xander alone with the older doctor.
"Bet you're mad, huh?" Xander said, plucking at his blanket.
"It's not unexpected for you to feel this way. My wife felt the same way. She's paralyzed now too, but we loved our daughter until she died a few days after birth."
"Then I want to be like her," Xander said, looking up at him. "That's what I want."
He nodded. "I'll know what to expect then." He bowed and left the room.
Xander looked at the window, which was open with his hand-written sign next to it ordering it to be left open. He got comfortable on the bed and prepared himself to wait this part out too.
Xander woke up as a cool hand touched his cheek, and he turned to find Spike standing next to his bed. "Hey, thanks for the books. Looks like I'm going to be stuck here for a while." He snuffed and then wiped his nose on the back of his hand. "Sorry."
"I heard. Oz came over to yell at Wes." Spike sat on the side of the bed. "You okay?" Xander nodded but his eyes were showing pure despair. "Want to talk about it? I know I'm not Blair, but I can listen. Blair forced me to learn."
Xander sat up and gave him a hug, letting it all go now. He knew Spike wouldn't make fun of him for this small breakdown. "I'm scared too," he whispered. "I'm not sure I can do this."
"Well, it's your choice," Spike reminded him, laying him back down after the crying jag was over. "You made it."
"Yeah, but I expected Oz to be there with me, and maybe even Rupert."
"They will be. If for no other reason than guilt. You've got a great lot of that on them." He patted the tense stomach. "Here, now, is what you're thinkin' about and you need to start considerin' you."
"Did Oz tell you to come talk me into this?"
"Nope. Had to escape him before he got slobbering drunk. Couldn't do that around you so he's doing it at Angel's." He pinched the belly button that was just starting to push out. "Didn't know you had an outtie."
Xander snorted. "That's the baby's doing. He's been kicking me there." He put a hand over Spike's. "Will you be there?"
"Sure. You lot are great fun. Lookin' forward to seein' you rolling around like I did for a bit." Spike glanced around then leaned closer. "Though half of that was an act for the pouf. Wanted him real bad I did."
"Cool. I wanted to kill him then too." Xander gave him a weak smile. "Do you think I'm selfish to want him?"
"Nah, that's the guilt talkin'. Oz is susceptible to that same as everyone else is. He's guilty because he pushed you to go back to school. Rupert's in denial over all'o it. You're thinking clearly but you've got to be a bit more selfish, whelp. It's gonna come down to you or the little bit. You've got to make sure that you make the right choice."
"It's him. I'm not going to die of this so I'll live with it all." Xander patted his hand. "Why else did you come all the way up here? Oz getting drunk would have made you sit down with him and help him, not run to come see me."
"Well, he was doin' it with Blair and I got tired of helpin' 'em." Spike shrugged. "'Sides, you got cable." He turned on the television and turned down the volume, searching for something good to watch.
The nurse walked in and frowned at Spike. "How did you get in here?"
"He has this thing about windows, thinks he's Spiderman," Xander told her. "He's a good guy though." He wiped at the wet spot on the vampire's chest. "Can he stay?"
"As long as you two keep it down, he's welcome to watch over you." She frowned at the rapidly changing channels. "Channel twenty is the TV Guide channel up here." She checked on the monitors then left them alone.
"Guess she thinks that you're a little more than a friend," Xander said as he shifted around some. He winced as the pain in his back started again. "Ow." He grabbed Spike's arm and held on for dear life until it went away. "Every twinge is painful but it's a good thing," Xander told himself.
"Sure it is," Spike snorted. He got free and walked out to the desk. "His back's hurtin' him, twingin' sort of thing he says."
The nurse nodded. "That's the swelling going down. His nerves are able to get signals through and there's a backlog of pain ones so he's getting them all now." She smiled at him. "No fights tonight, okay? He doesn't need the stress."
"We're not like that," Spike grumbled as he walked back into Xander's room. "They said it means the swellin's going down again."
"Cool, I could like that," Xander groaned, rolling onto his side. "This sucks," he decided.
"Would not havin' the baby help this?" Spike asked as he sat back down, continuing to flip channels.
"Nope. This is all about my spine, not the weight on it." He sighed and relaxed, forcing himself to go limp, taking the advice he had once given to Buffy. "It's going to be okay," he told himself. "This is good pain. It means good things."
Spike sighed. "No pain is good pain unless it's fun pain."
"I'd hit you but then I'd start hurting again," Xander told him. "Fun pain?"
"Sure. Haven't you ever given anyone fun pain? It's a favorite pastime of mine."
Xander closed his eyes and shook his head. "I don't want to know."
"Then take a nap. Oh, hey, Get Smart. I miss that show."
Xander pulled the blankets up over his head and fell asleep after a few minutes.
Spike went back to his watching the young mortal and trying to figure out how he could pay the kid back for helping him when he was down without the kid getting mad at him for it.
Oz looked over at his drinking buddy and swayed toward him. "Why'd he do this to me?"
"Because he loves you but you don't give him what he needs, the support he craves."
"Oh. Why not?"
"Because you're still scared that he's going to abandon you," Blair pointed out, using his beer bottle to point the point out. "If you weren't so scared of him leaving you, then you two would be cuddling," he belched, "all the time. This was a great idea of Sam's. I haven't been this lit in *ages*."
Oz snorted and fell over. "Oops," he said, looking up at the ceiling. "It's not that. I know he won't really leave me. Even deep in me I know he won't leave me, but I'm not sure that he loves me."
"Of course he does," Blair said, nudging Oz with a foot. "You're horizontal."
"That happens when I fall over."
"Okay then. Why doesn't he love you?"
"Because he doesn't tell me things."
"Would you if you were him? He doesn't get feedback from you when he does tell you things. Like the candles."
"Drop the candles," Oz ground out. "That wasn't just my mistake."
"Okay, well, how about ... his last miscarriage. We talked about that a lot. He said you were cuddly for a few days and then you went back to what you'd been before, really distant. Do you love him?"
"Yes," Oz said, trying for indignant and missing by a mile. "I think so anyway."
"See, he thinks you guys are together for the kids. That's it's more of a friendship between you two. He's not seeing the love." Blair looked around. "Where'd everybody go?"
"To bed. Except Angel, who's hiding upstairs so he doesn't have to join us." Oz pushed himself back up. "He said that?"
"Yeah, he has. He wants love, Oz, wants it more than almost anything in his life, but he's not feeling it most of the time. You guys haven't really fixed anything since the problems started. He's still feeling like a third wheel to you and Giles."
"We try but we keep slipping."
"Think about it this way, Oz," Blair said, reaching out to pat him and falling to his knees on the floor. "Hey, you moved!"
"Did not. Think about what?"
"Think about what?" Blair shook himself. "Oh, think about him finding someone sympathetic that wants to smother him, what're you going to do?"
"Kill the other person," Oz said with a nod. "Xander knows that, we talked about that while he was stripping."
Blair groaned and shook his head, pushing his hair back from his face after a second. "Way wrong answer, Oz. That way sparks of keeping him as a pet and me having to get involved as a Fed. Think of dating him forever and you might get closer."
"But that's hard!" Oz complained. "I have to pretend all the time."
"Why? Does Xander want most of you to change?" Oz shook his head. "Wouldn't he like to see you for the real Oz most of the time?" Oz nodded then shrugged. "Then I'd get to courtin', young man, you're about to run out of time. Especially after today's fight."
Oz went pale. "He thinks I left him."
"He might," Blair agreed. "Or he could know that you needed time to vent. Xander's very smart about people, he knows what they need, but you guys aren't following your dance cues anymore. You reverted and that's what's going to lose him for good."
"Then I'll fix it," Oz promised, standing up. He started to sway. "Hey, the room's moving."
"Maybe you should lie down," Blair suggested, taking his own advice there on the floor. "Maybe," he yawned, "we should both lie down for a few minutes." A snore greeted him. "Hey, how'd you fall asleep standing up?" He pushed on one of the stiff legs, topping the younger man back onto the couch. "There, better. More natural and all that." He put his own head back down and was quickly out of it too.
Xander woke up alone but he expected that. He knew Spike wasn't going to be able to stay with him all the time, but it was comforting to have the vampire there with him when he was there. You might even say that he had come to appreciate Spike in the last few days, especially his personal strength. He did his usual stretch against the wall behind the bed, then screamed and grabbed his left leg as it cramped up.
The nurse came running and started to massage the sore calf, giving him a dirty look. "What did you do this time?"
"I stretched against the wall." He stopped wiggling and looked at her. "I have feeling."
"Some," she agreed. "We expected that you'd get a great deal of it back after your swelling went down." She backed away from the bed. "How's that?"
"Still aches but..." He frowned. "It's fading out again."
"So you have cloudy lines. Still, it's getting better," she reminded him as she walked out. "Your pitcher is beside the bed. "Use it and I'll come back and help you take a shower."
"Yes, ma'am," Xander called after her. He put the little pitcher under the blanket and peed into it, sighing as the pressure in his stomach went down. "We like that too, huh, William Philip." He chuckled. "That might not go over real well." He shook himself off and put the pitcher on the table beside him, then he rolled onto his side so he could scoot over and get into the wheelchair. He had to remember to ask for something to help him scrub his back, he couldn't do it with a washcloth and he really wanted to be clean today for some reason. He smiled as the nurse came back in with the special wheelchair, sliding himself down into it with practiced efficiency.
"Good job," she said proudly. "How about strawberry shampoo today?"
"Sure. Can I have a back brush?"
"Nope. You have a wound on your back because of the needle for the medicine and I don't want you scrubbing it. I'll do the middle of your back for you if you'd like." He blushed. "Oh, please, Mr. Harris, I'm a professional. Yours isn't the first back I've had to wash, or ass either." She wheeled him into the bathroom and the special shower, parking him under the spray. She took the hose over to the sink and ran the water over there to check the temperature, then gave him the hose. "Please don't get it all over the bathroom this time," she said as she drew the curtain. She left him alone, coming back a few minutes later to empty his pitcher. Then she left him alone.
Xander peeked his head out of the curtain then grinned, enjoying his time in the water. He used to like to swim, maybe he'd get to do some of that for his therapy. He had just finished scrubbing his shoulders when the curtained opened, and he sprayed her. "Sorry," he said, looking away.
"That's okay, next time, I'll say something at the door." She looked him over. "How far along are you?"
"Almost done, I just have my back left." He hesitantly held up the sponge. "Please? I'd like to be clean."
"Of course." She scrubbed down his back with no extra moves, no wasted effort, nothing that showed that she wasn't paying attention strictly to the job. She handed him the sponge and backed away. "Your therapist will be up in an hour so hurry up. Otherwise, you're going to be wet when he gets here." She pulled the curtain and walked out of the room, making sure the door made noise when it closed.
Xander scrubbed himself down as fast as he could, having to come back and do his armpits and behind his ears because he had forgotten them. Physical therapy meant he was doing better, right? He reached up and shut off the water, then unlocked the brakes on the chair and turned himself around without hitting his outstretched foot. He carefully maneuvered himself out of the shower area, heading to the door, which he knocked on. There wasn't an answer so he backed away and tried to get the door open, but it wouldn't go because of the chair. He turned sideways and tried it again, getting some success, but it closed while he was trying to turn around. He wiped some water out of his face and tried it again, succeeding in getting the door open as he backed up a little. He cheered as it swung open and he rolled himself out, going to find his towel. He got himself back into bed and wiped himself off, pulling the sheet over his nakedness as the room's door opened. "I got it," he said. His nurse walked in and looked at him. "What? I was done and you were busy."
"If you continue to do things like that, how will I ever earn my paycheck," she countered.
He grinned at her. "Patricia, I'm sure they don't pay you enough anyway, so consider my part of it to be a gift to make up for the frustration we all cause you."
She chuckled. "I'll do that, but only if you let me help you. You could have slipped."
"I did okay until I tried to get the door open. That's hard!"
"That's a skill you need to master soon, young man. That's one of those important life skills."
"I still think I'm going to walk again."
"Not at first you won't. You're going to have a while in a wheelchair, no matter what. Even if you do it in here." She pointed at the hall. "Let me go get your schedule while you dress." She pointed at the sheet, which was tented up. "Maybe you should take care of that. We don't want to scare anybody, okay? The student nurse on this floor is very impressionable and easily frightened by men." She left the room, giving him some privacy.
Xander looked down at his body, frowning at the obvious part of it. "Go away. I can't do anything about you right now." He grabbed the clothes she had laid out for him, struggling to get into the comfy jammie bottoms while staying sitting. He did finally manage that part and pulled on his shirt, then he saw his underwear. He sighed and grabbed them, tossing them across the room at the dresser. "Not going through that again today."
The nurse walked in and looked at the balled up blue cotton then at him. "Forgot something?"
"Didn't feel like putting them on." He grinned at her. "So I really get to move today?"
"Somewhat. We're going to start the joint flex exercises so you don't lock up while you're in bed." She pointed at the bed and he laid back down on his side, curled up so he could see her. "Thank you. He'll come up and work each joint so that it stays flexible, except your injured knee of course. He'll probably also ask your opinion about your recovery and what exercises you like best so they can work out what you're going to be doing to help you learn how to walk again." She walked over and adjusted the blankets around the bottom of the bed, which he promptly messed up so his feet were free. "Okay, so you're one of those people. Fine. I'll make a note to the housekeepers." She looked over as the door opened, nodding someone inside. "This is Mr. Harris, you'll find he's very independent."
"Good. That makes my job harder." He put down the bag he carried. "Okay, Mr. Harris."
"Xander then. We're going to start with a few movements to make sure you don't stiffen up. How's his back?"
"The swelling's apparently gone down some more. He got a stretching cramp this morning." She patted his leg and left them alone.
The therapist looked around. "By now most people have pictures and flowers."
"Oz forgot to pack the pictures."
"Okay." He walked over and picked up Xander's leg, flexing the ankle joint four times in each direction it would go. "We're going to do this with each joint in your body."
"Cool. Feels okay so far."
"Then we've gotten to you before you lock up."
"Let's hope so," Xander said as he rolled onto his back with a grunt. He patted his stomach. "We'll be fine."
"Yes, but you'll probably lose that weight soon enough. Physical therapy is very hard." He watched as his patient went very pale. "Okay, maybe not," he corrected. "Ready to go on?"
"Yeah," Xander said, pulling himself back together. He took a deep breath and relaxed as the older man started on his other foot. "Each joint?"
"Except your knee. We'll start work on that in a few days."
"Can I swim?"
"I don't see why not. Though, you'd be exercising in water, not swimming." He saw the hurt look. "You like to swim?"
"Yeah, I used to be on my high school's team." He looked at the window. "I do miss swimming. Maybe I should have a pool put in."
The therapist laughed. "That might help but I'm not sure how much actual swimming you could do."
"A lot of it's arm based. I'm not a great kicker anymore." He turned his attention back to the exercise at hand. "How long does this usually take?"
"Four times on each joint in each direction it'll go. Maybe forty minutes?"
"How many times a day?"
"Two at the least but you're not ready to leave yet."
"Yeah, I know. Just planning for the future."
The therapist frowned. "I thought you were determined to walk again."
"Yeah, but I'm not going to get there for a while, right?"
"That depends on how much time you've got to spend on your back. The sooner we get you up and moving around, the easier it'll be on you. The more time you languish up here, the longer your recovery's going to be."
Xander nodded. "I keep trying to get them to allow me out into the gardens or something but no one's going to let me out of this room for a few more days."
"That's a good thing though, your swelling has got to go down before you do anything serious. That swelling is going to complicate matters, no matter how little damage is done."
"Oh, there's damage," Xander sighed. "Where your hand is, and about three inches up and down on my other leg, is still numb. Even when I have feeling, I don't have it there. I can feel pressure on my right foot but nothing else."
"Did you tell them that?"
"Yeah, and they told me to wait for more of the swelling to go down."
"So, you're second-guessing them?"
"No, but I know. I'm a relatively fast healer and this has gone on too long already. That damage is probably permanent and I'll learn to live with it."
"Good. A reasonable attitude and goals are a good thing in physical therapy." He moved up to Xander's hip joint. "Tell me if I put you in any pain while I'm doing this. We may still have some bruising from your accident."
"Did you plan on having the ceiling fall on you?"
"Okay, accident." Xander looked down at his navel, which was uncovered. "Um, maybe you should go talk to the nurse for a second." He got a hard look. "Really, I think you should. If you're going to be doing all this with me, then there are things you should know."
He walked out with a shrug and came back a few seconds later. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that about..." He ran his hands through his hair. "Let's start this over, okay? I'm Bobby, I'm your PT. We're going to work you hard but within limits. I'll have to check about the water therapy though." Xander grinned. "We okay now?"
"Very. Can we finish moving me around? I'd like to be able to stretch without a cramp again."
"Good. Those'll stop soon enough." Bobby walked back to the bedside and took up where he had left off. "We'll get this done and I'll talk to your doctors at our conference this afternoon. We'll have a plan of action in a few days time to start your rehab, then it's hard work and sweat all the way." He switched sides, going over to the injured side's ankle. "No feeling?"
"Pressure," Xander said, looking down at his foot. "It's a blunt thing, I can't feel your fingers."
"That part may be the swelling."
"Good, then I'll feel fingers when someone touches me." Xander shrugged. "I'm being realistic here. I'm going to limp probably. I may need a cane. But it's all good because I won't have to lay down anymore."
"Very. And there's nothing good on TV."
"Never is," Bobby told him. He saw the small flinch. "Pain?"
"Little bit. I twisted that ankle a few weeks back while I was working. Nothing serious but I guess some of the muscles are still protesting."
"But you felt it," Bobby pointed out.
"Yeah, I did," Xander said, grinning just a little. He rubbed across his stomach. "I'm sorry in advance if I freak you out, but I'm not giving up my son."
"I'm not worrying about that part after I get guidelines for treatment from your OB. But can I ask...."
"I'm from Sunnydale. Everyone around here seems to have heard my doctor's speech about it recently. Wish I had."
Bobby smiled. "I'm sure it was a good one and he didn't use you as an example. Where's your family?"
"There. Except Oz, I think he's in town somewhere with a hangover." He shifted so his weight was off to the side. "I hate lying on my back."
"That's something we can cure," Bobby told him, helping him roll onto his side. "Better?"
"Much, thanks. Oh, should I tell you that I keep pulling muscles in my back when I move hay?"
"That would be something that I need to know, yes. Hay?"
"I have horses at home."
"Good exercise. You can go do that once you get released."
"Only if Doctor Adams removes his restriction."
"I'm sure a gentle walk wouldn't hurt you that much," Bobby told him quietly. "Don't tell anyone I said this, but the guys around here are very overprotective of the patients. A lot of you could be doing a lot more than you're allowed to but it's safer to keep you up here."
"Could you ask them if I could wheel myself around? Maybe even out into the gardens?"
"Sure. I can ask, but they might not agree."
"Yeah, but wouldn't getting some fresh air and sunlight be good for me?"
"Probably," Bobby said with a smile. He moved up to Xander's shoulder. "Okay, now these. You'll have to flip over in a minute."
"Moving is good," Xander told him. "All very good."
Oz woke up and groaned, holding his head and his stomach. "Never doing this again," he told himself as quietly as he could. He forced himself to open his eyes, and found a cup of coffee in front of him. "No offense to whoever the coffee fairy is, but that smells bad."
"Yeah, but you'll need it," Doyle said from somewhere behind him. "The both o'ya will need that soon enough." He laughed as one of Blair's fingers crept over the back of the couch he was on. "So, you're alive then?"
"Unfortunately," Blair agreed, forcing himself up. He looked over at Oz, who still hadn't managed to make it perpendicular. "Up, bright boy, before you grow into the couch."
"But growing is good." Oz slowly rolled his head up to look at his friend and therapist. "Did you tell me that Xander might leave me last night?"
Blair thought back then shrugged. "I don't remember right now but it's possible. Especially right now since he's not feeling very supported. Except by Spike."
"Spike snuck up there again last night," Doyle told them, bringing Blair a cup of coffee. "Up an' at 'em, Oz, or I get Cordy."
Oz forced himself up with a groan. "Being bitched at would be worse than this pain," Oz agreed. He picked up the cup and slowly sipped the sweet brew. "Just right for Xander," he noted.
"The sugar'll do you good," Doyle said as he walked back into the kitchen. "You might want to call Giles since you didn't make it home last night."
"Maybe," Oz agreed, not looking at anyone. He finally looked over at Blair. "Why has Spike been so helpful?"
Blair shrugged. "Not a clue." He looked back at his patient and saw the pain he was holding in. "Confidentiality, Oz, you know that."
"Yeah, but a hint would be nice."
"Can't do that either." Blair finished his coffee and brought the cup into the kitchen, leaving Oz alone with his thoughts. "Want help? I'm an excellent cook."
"Thanks. It's almost time for the Princess to come in and I promised her breakfast for gettin' up so early. Her little one's just started sleeping through the night."
"So she's going to be a real joy?"
"Yeah, probably," Doyle agreed with a grin. "Got anything to fix that?"
"Yup. Got chocolate and pancake batter?"
Doyle pulled out the requested items and handed them over, watching as the master of female seduction went to work.
Xander looked up as his door opened, patting the side of his bed when he saw it was Oz. "I get to start therapy soon. They moved me today so I wouldn't stiffen up."
"Congrats. How's the feeling in your legs?"
"I got feeling right now in my left one but my right one's still pressure only." He shrugged. "It's something. I'll be able to walk with that amount of feeling."
"Good." Oz pulled the chair closer. "Xander, are you leaving us?"
Xander looked over at him, getting serious. "I told you yesterday, that's all about you, Oz. Same as it has been. I'm not leaving, you're pushing me away. The more you do it, the easier it is for me to go again."
"Yeah." Oz looked down at his hands. "I don't want to push you away. Would you stay if I tried again?"
"Only if it's going to stick this time." Xander flipped onto his side. "Oz, how many times have you said that you're going to change? And Giles?"
"Too many. Admittedly, many too many. But I want you." He looked up. "I want to have you around."
"I'll still be around. You're one of the fathers to my children." He patted his stomach. "This is my son, Oz. If you want to be part of his life, then you can be. If not, tell me now."
"I want," Oz said quietly, "but I'm not sure how I'm doing so bad."
"Easy. You're not treating me like you did Willow." Oz looked up in shock. "When you were dating her, you were the most supportive cheerleader in the world. I gauge what we have by what you did with her because she was your greatest love."
"You think I don't love you?"
Oz glared at him. "Yes. Most of the time. Comparing the two relationships is apples and oranges, Xan."
"Not if I'm comparing you and how you treated her versus how you treat me. If you, as a burgeoning lawyer, were to try the two sides and weigh them for love, which one would you decide in favor of?"
Oz turned a little paler. "Point, but you're not her."
"True, but you don't treat me like you did her. Or any of your other girlfriends. When you play, you don't want me there. When you do something good, like graduate, you didn't go because you would have had to of brought us. This is what I'm seeing." Xander pulled the blankets up around his waist. "I'm sorry if this hurts, Oz, but this is my life right now." He looked out the window. "I was going to suggest that I move out to the trailer when I got home, just because it'd be easier for me to get around in, but...."
Oz reached over and squeezed his lips shut. "Not going to happen. I see the point like I didn't before. Give me time to think?"
"Sure. I think you're going to end up agreeing with me though."
"Probably not." Oz looked around. "Where's the pictures? I packed them."
"There weren't any in the bag, Oz," Xander said quietly. "I was going to put up picture frames with the pictures from my wallet soon because everyone keeps asking."
Oz shook his head. "I packed you one of the ones beside the bed and one of the ones from the library because I wasn't sure which ones you wanted." He frowned at the dresser. "They really weren't in there?"
"Oh." He thought about it for a few seconds. "I guess I'm not the only one hiding you."
"Yup," Xander agreed. "Giles is actually better at it. You showed up at school and my job. He refused to come to the open house." Xander went back to staring at the window. "I'm really sick of being hidden. It might be okay if we had love in the house, but we don't."
"I'll talk with him tonight," Oz told him. "Right after I repack the pictures." Oz moved the chair closer. "Missing the outside?"
"Yeah, whole lots. Think you could get me sprung down into the garden before you go?"
"I could go down with you. There's no use in me going back to Sunnydale now, I've already missed three of my classes today." Xander's eyes lit up. "I actually did walk out of class yesterday when I heard. Broke a few speeding laws too if I remember right."
"It's nice to know that you care," Xander said, reaching out to touch him. "My physical therapist thinks that it might be okay to do some of my workouts in the pool."
"Again, coolness. Strife's sulking. He didn't want to let Sileya ride him yesterday and refused to get up when Miri tried to climb on his back. He misses you too."
"You miss me?"
"Yup. Miss your cheer and your light in the house. It's really gloomy in there right now. Even the twins learning a new word didn't lighten up the darkness."
"Elizabeth learned the word 'frog' because Miri tried to make her eat one. Blair learned the word 'Daddy' because Giles kept yelling that 'none of the daddies would allow that' at Miri." Oz reached out and took Xander's hand. "I'll fix my head, okay? Give me until you come home to work on it and figure out what's going on in there and I'll fix it. Even if I have to start seeing Blair all the time." Xander nodded. "No mushy words?"
"I've worn those out, Oz. I can handle our relationship being about the kids and friendship, but I can't handle this stress of being in limbo and trying to pretend that I'm loved. I'm not getting what I need."
"You're going to find someone else," Oz said dryly. "In Sunnydale?"
"Maybe not, but being alone would be better than being where I am. Like I said, I'd be willing to stay friends, no matter what."
"Oh." Oz got up and walked over to the window, shutting and locking it. "Breeze," he explained at the look.
"Yeah, but we leave it unlocked so Spike can sneak away from Angel."
Oz nodded but he walked back to the bed. "I like that you're getting friends again. I know you missed having friends outside the family."
"Yeah, that isolationist policy of Giles' kinda got to me." He knew why Oz had locked the window, and on some level he thought it was cute that Oz was worried about Spike and him getting together, but really. This just proved his point. "How long do you think I'm going to be in here?"
"Probably until you're about ready to deliver unless you're going to do outpatient therapy at home."
"I'd rather not," Xander told him. "I miss the horses and the kids, and even you guys," he hurried to put in at the hurt look, "but I won't get it done at home. I'll quit too early to go play in the grass."
"And the baby?"
"Is okay. He's being quiet today but he's been wiggling. He's not been too fond of all the laying on my back that I've been doing either."
"Let me go talk to the nurse and I'll try and sneak you out to the garden." Oz got up and walked out of the room.
Xander heaved himself up and stood, shaking badly. He hopped over to the window, grabbing every piece of furniture that he could on the way. He unlocked the window and was on his way back to the bed when the door started to open. He slipped and fell, muttering something about tailbones. He stood back up as the nurse walked in, giving her a smile. "I was just trying something," he explained.
She smiled and patted the chair. "Do it again and I'm taking away your privileges." She helped him into the chair and out of the room under Oz's careful watch. What they didn't see was Oz re- locking the window before he left.
Xander looked around the gardens and smiled. "It's nice up here," he told his friend.
"Yeah, very pretty," Oz noted, sitting on the bench beside him. "Feeling better yet?"
"A little," Xander admitted. "I like the outdoors." He looked around the planned gardens. "It must have taken someone a lot of work to nurture all this."
"Yeah, it does." Oz looked at Xander. "The same sort of work it takes to nurture a relationship."
"I've tried," Xander told him. "I'm not going to be the only one trying, Oz. Not anymore. I have something else that's taking up all my energy and focus. I can't be the 'it' guy anymore."
"Then you won't be," Oz told him. "I'll fix it."
"Good. Because I will move to the trailer." Xander lifted his face up to the sun. "Ah. Warm and wind together again."
Oz stayed quiet, thinking while he watched Xander enjoy the outdoors.
Xander sat up as he heard something hit the window. He checked carefully for the nurses then slid out of bed and copied his earlier feat, going to unlock the window. "Oz did it," he said before Spike could say anything. He started to hop back to the bed but he was picked up and carried over there. "Gee, you're handy," Xander quipped as he was tucked back in.
"Yeah, I can be that." Spike patted the blankets one last time. "Oz came over after he left the pouf's?"
"Yeah. I gave him the ultimatum and everything. He seems to understand it this time. He even got the whole isolationist policy remark." He grinned. "What'd you bring me?"
"What makes you think I brought you anything?" Spike asked as he sat down, moving the chair back to his preferred spot. "I don't usually spoil you git's like that." He got pouted at and it upset him for some reason. "Fine, I brought ya somethin'," he agreed, pulling out and handing over a large candy bar. "Figured you'd need chocolate about now."
"Yup, but I had an unusually good day. I got to meet my physical therapist, named Bobby. We're going to start doing the real work soon. And I got to go outside. Oz sweet talked the nurse so I got a whole hour out in the sun." He grinned as he tore open the candy bar. "And now I have chocolate. This is becoming a really great day."
"Good, you deserve a few of those in a row. Made any new decisions?"
"Yup, figured out what to name the little guy. But I'm not going to tell you because it's a secret." He grinned as he took a bite of the Cadbury's extra-large candy bar with nuts. "Ooooh," he moaned, savoring it. "It's been too long since I had chocolate that wasn't in milk."
Spike laughed. "You should see your face."
"I know," Xander said with a self-conscious grin, "but I like to enjoy life. I need to enjoy life. Especially after the...the accident." He put the candy bar aside. "I'll finish eating it later."
"What did happen anyway? All I got told was that a lot of wood hit ya."
"Basically. See, there was a first crew on the site I was working on, and they screwed up a bunch of stuff then left one day with their paychecks. So my old boss got the job and the nice grant to build the handicapped accessible house. He got to hire us Vo-Tech students because we'd work for minimum wage and it wouldn't cost as much. Anyway, the inspector found some really shoddy floor beams and we went in to replace one room's because that's what the boss said they had done. Apparently, they had done a few more in the next room over though, because that's what fell on me. Duke, one of the guys on the crew - who is really nice and I'd like to work with him some more - and I were supposed to be fixing a panel of drywall that had cracked. He went to get a drink and I stepped in the other direction to look at the job we'd done so far. That's when another of the students fell through the ceiling upstairs. Which crashed down on top of me. One crushed knee and two beams across my back later, here I am." He waved a hand around the room.
Spike had nodded but he didn't like how the kid was talking about it, like it was some story he had written to amuse himself. That wasn't a good thing. "So, they replaced your knee, now what?"
"Now, the swelling's almost gone and I'm about ready to start learning how to walk again."
"And what about the bills?"
Xander's face fell. "Hadn't thought about that. I'm not going to sue my boss. I like the guy and I wouldn't do that to him anyway. It wasn't his fault. Maybe if I knew who had done the original work, I might get them for the bills, but I doubt they'd pay because of the way they walked off." Xander shrugged. "I'll make payments if I have to." He looked over at his friend. "Why are you so concerned about the bills?"
"It's the one practicality that no one's mentioned. I thought that your boss had already agreed to pay them for you."
"Nope, he was supposed to come up and visit but he hasn't gotten up here yet." He looked at the door. "Not that I expect him too, he's got a lot of work to do on that site still. That ceiling's going to have to get fixed and all the beams are going to have to be checked now. I'm sure he'll come up and talk to me about it soon enough."
"Oh, you're back," the nurse said as she brought in food. "Do you need supper too?"
Xander looked at this new woman, she had worked on the floor the night Spike had first shown up but she wasn't the usual one that came in to check on him. "Where's Megan?"
"At home. It's her night off." She carefully put the tray on the small table next to him. "Would your friend like anything? A drink maybe?"
"No thanks," Spike said, making sure she didn't touch him. Not too many things could give him away, but his body temperature was sure to raise a few questions from a nurse. "How's he been doing?"
"Today? He's been very good from what I heard, except for his little trip this morning across the room."
"I wanted the window open," he told her with a grin. "Can I have some extra milk?"
"Of course. We want the little person to grow up as fast as he can." She walked out and came back a few minutes later with two extra cartons of milk. "Here we go. Anything else?"
"Nope, I'm good," Xander said, turning to pick the peas out of the stew.
She laughed. "You should eat those, they're good for the both of you."
"Hate beans." He pushed them off to the side and saw her hurt look. "Sorry, I'm not really a picky eater, just when it comes to beans."
She nodded. "I'll make a note of that on your dietary chart." She leaned down and gave him a hug. "You sounded very bitter, Mr. Harris. Is everything okay?"
"Yeah, it's getting sorted out. I even had a talk with Oz today."
"I'm glad. Is she going to be there for you?"
"Maybe. We're still working it out." Sometimes it was easier to let the misinterpretation stand, so he wouldn't disillusion her yet.
She patted him on the head. "That's for the best. At least here you'll have the support you'll need until you go home." She smiled at Spike and then left them alone.
Xander fished out the carrots and pushed them aside too. "Go flush those for me, would you please? So I don't get that look again?"
Spike snickered but he got up to do as he had been asked.
Spike looked up from his reading as the door opened to admit Sam, Blair's wife. "He's not quite asleep, it's a floating moment," he said, getting up to give her the chair. He wondered if he should give her some news about herself, but thought better of it. Human women were good at figuring out their own bodies.
"I don't want to disturb him," Sam said quietly as she walked over. "How's he doing?"
"He's doing better," Xander said as he pulled himself up. "We met our physical therapist today and he likes me. I had a talk with Oz and he's agreed he's being bad to me again. Oh, Sam, what does Workman's Comp do? Would it pay for hospital bills?"
"Yes, but they have to document everything in paperwork. Even all those ultrasounds you've had."
"Guess that's out then." Xander shifted over so Spike could sit on the foot of the bed. "Everything's been going okay. The swelling's almost gone as far as I can tell. I've figured out that my right leg will have a nerve deficiency, as they've been calling it recently. I can feel pressure but not anything else really, except the three inches around my knee which is totally numb." He looked down at his supported knee. "They keep saying that may change too, but I doubt it. Not with the way I heal."
"These people are experts, maybe they know something that they haven't told you," she reminded him gently.
"Yeah, maybe, but I've seen their faces when they look at the x-rays. But, anyway, the swelling's almost gone. All I need to do now is to recover."
"Are you doing that here or at home?"
"Here. At home, I'd stop working to go play with the kids or to go riding. Here, I don't have those distractions so I have to focus on working on my walking again. Even Oz agreed it was for the best."
"Excuse me," the nurse said as she walked in, "I noticed that your friend didn't sign in." She handed him a clipboard. "It's hospital policy. We've had abusive spouses in here before," she told Sam, who nodded.
"That seems reasonable to me," Sam agreed. She smiled at Spike, who was signing himself in.
The nurse took back the clipboard and looked at the form. "All legit now, thank you." She waved at Xander and walked out.
"Very overprotective of me," Xander noted. "Did you have to sign in the last time?" Sam nodded. "Huh. Spike, that means you can't climb through the window anymore." He grinned at the disgusted look. "Hey, no one said that you couldn't go out that way and come back in, but you're going to have to follow the rules or they'll stop letting you stay over."
"Point, but it still sucks."
"Yup," Sam said, cracking them both up. "Oh, Xander, Chloe sent you a card." She pulled one out of her purse and gave it to him. "She thought you might be able to use a little cheer."
Xander opened it and burst out laughing, letting Spike see it. He snickered and handed it to Sam, who put it on the low table next to the bed. "That was cute, give her a hug for me." He shifted, rubbing across his stomach. "We're keeping Spike's hours now," he noted, frowning down at the lump. "Son, go back to sleep."
"You know it's a boy?" Sam asked. "Blair didn't tell me that."
"Yup, since the day we got here. Doctor Adams did an ultrasound as soon as they got done with the x-rays. We're due for another one tomorrow though." He slowly stopped rubbing his stomach. "We're calm again. So, how's the practice without our supporting you?"
Sam smiled at him. "We're doing fine too, Xander. Don't worry about you guys not funding us. We've got plenty of patients and more work than we can handle for the VCTF unit." She smiled at Spike. "Even if we are giving someone free help."
"Not like I could pay ya," Spike pointed out. "Jobs are hard for us to keep."
"They wouldn't be if you didn't eat the customers," Xander reminded him lightly. Spike punched him on the foot, the non-feeling one. "Hey! At least I didn't feel it."
"See, your silver lining. What're you gonna do when you get home, whelp? Since we're talkin' about jobs and all."
"Not real sure. Blair wanted me to look into designing for homes with disabled owners. Oz agreed with him of course. Apparently my manual labor isn't good enough for him." He snorted. "He actually showed up on the job site one day, Sam. He had to get some money for the horses so we could pay off the owner, but he didn't want to stay."
"Oz isn't one of those people that would be comfortable in a job like that," she pointed out. "He's one of those people that were meant to be sitting behind a desk. I'm not even sure why he's in law since he doesn't like to argue."
"He's going into the computerization stuff. No arguing in front of a judge."
Sam shook her head. "Every law position has the potential to land you in court some day."
"But he's good at it, so we support him," Xander told her.
"And who supported you?"
Xander bit his lip then grinned and pointed at Spike. "He's been very supportive the last few days. He's even calmed me down a few times."
Sam looked at Spike, who shrugged. "He needed it before he lost the little bit." He stood up. "I'm for a smoke. Don't trash my reputation any more while I'm gone." He headed for the window and Sam cleared her throat. "Bloody Hell, I have to go out the *door*?"
"Yes, we've all got to follow the rules sometimes, this is your time." She watched as he walked out. "Xander, I meant it. Who has supported you so far in going back to school?"
"Oz got happy when I decided to go, and he showed up on Open House night to see my first project. I'm doing okay, Sam. I laid down an ultimatum this morning with Oz and told him to fix it or I was moving out to the trailer when I got home. He got the point this time, really."
"Good. That's a step in the right direction." She leaned over and gave his cheek a kiss. "You be good and quit giving the nurses grief. I'll send Blair over tomorrow night, after his head quits hurting."
Xander smiled. "Spike told me that he and Oz had gotten drunk together last night."
"And his head still hurts, but it was good for them both I think." She stood up. "You be good, young man, or else I won't let Chloe make you brownies."
"Yes, Sam," Xander said with a grin. "Could you get Blair to stop and get me some good Thai pork tomorrow? And some Lo Mein? The baby's craving it."
She smiled. "I remember that feeling. I'll have some brought up for you." She gave him a hug and then left.
Giles walked up to the front door of the rehabilitation hospital Xander was in, frowning when he saw Spike off to the side. "Why are you here?" he asked harshly. "You can't feed up here."
Spike snorted. "Not up here to feed, up here to see someone. He likes it when I come up to visit, he does." He took one last drag and put his cigarette out. "Sam just left if you care. I'm going back up." Giles grabbed him by the arm and he looked from it to its owner. "Wanting it gone?"
Giles removed his hand. "I don't want you around Xander anymore, Spike. Go away."
"Bet me," Spike snorted. "I'm the one that comes here the nights you guys are hiding your thing back at home." He walked back inside, smiling at the nurse.
"Visiting hours are over," she called after them. She picked up the phone when they didn't stop.
Xander sat up as he heard the door open, smiling at Spike, his smile slipping a little when he saw Giles. "Hey, Rupe. How's the kids?" He pulled the sheets up a little higher, hoping to cover up his underwearless state. He knew how much his older lover hated him and Oz to do that at home, here where people might see it would become a major fight. "I'm getting better."
Giles leaned down to kiss his cheek. "I'm happy to hear that. When are you coming home?"
"When I can walk again." Xander looked at Spike, who went into the bathroom. "Have you talked to Oz yet? I explained this all to him this morning. I won't be able to heal fully at home, I'll get distracted and give up too soon."
"Xander," Giles said as he sat down on the bed, "it might be that you may not walk again."
"He's doing fine," the nurse said as she walked in with her clipboard. "Oh, I thought I saw your other friend walk in." Xander pointed at the bathroom so she blushed. "Here," she said, shoving the clipboard at Giles. "You have to sign in. It's rules you know." She smiled at Xander. "You didn't finish your dinner," she said cheerfully. "Do you want it warmed up?"
"Nope, I've been wanting it cold. Somehow, the mashed potatoes form this really great crust when they get to the right temperature and it makes it just right. It's how I used to eat it at home as a snack."
Her smile got brighter and she shoved her clipboard at Spike as he walked out of the bathroom. "Thank you," she said cheerfully as she left. "I told security that you're supposed to be up here so let's be civil guys, okay? Don't wake up the other patients." She left them alone.
Giles looked down at Xander again. "You're really prepared to stay here under her care until you're able to walk again?"
"It won't be that long," Xander told him. "Most of the swelling is gone and ..." He looked around. "Where's the kids?"
"Buffy's watching them until either Oz or I get home tonight. I didn't think that they needed to be exposed to the hospital so often."
Xander glared at him. "Giles, you're not keeping my kids from me. They're the reason I'm going to walk again. They're coming up here this weekend or I'm going to throw a major fit with Blair and have him come get them so I can see them. I'm going to see them once a week."
Giles spluttered for a few seconds. "But they're too young," he got out finally. "Hospitals are damaging to children their age."
Xander snorted. "Sure it is. Only if they're watching people die. I'm healthy and they can come up and see me. They *will* come up and see me," he amended. "They're my kids too."
Giles nodded. "Very well, we'll try to get them up here this weekend." He looked over at Spike, who had made himself comfortable in the chair beside the bed. "You really want him in here?"
"He's been here most nights that no one else has. It's good to have someone to talk to when things get scary." He looked over at him. "I want Lo Mein *so* bad. If I give you money, would you sneak me some in when Blair forgets?"
"Sure. Know a good place. Makes it for the Princess all the time. Oh, she's preggers again. Not sure by who though."
"Yup. Right fussy woman right now. 'Bout two months along." He gave Giles back the same bland stare he was getting. "What? Friends are a good thing when you're cooped up all the time."
"I'm sure he'd rather not have you around," Giles said firmly.
"Stop it or get out," Xander ordered quietly. "I can pick my own friends, even if you don't like them." Giles started. "Yes, you. Mr. I-don't-want-anybody-to-know-about-us. Spike has been here when *no* one else has. He kept me going last night when all I wanted was someone to rip out my spine to make the pain stop as the feeling came back. You should be happy that I have someone willing to come in and humor me sometimes, Rupert. You really should."
"I see," he said as he stood up. "That's the way it is then?"
"Spike and I are *friends*, not anything else," Xander told him, trying to get him to sit back down. "This fit is all you, not me. I can't take the emotional stress that you're putting on me right now, not this guilt and not this attitude. It's all up to you right now."
Giles nodded but he leaned against the wall. "I did get a call from Oz earlier," he admitted. "He said something about you making a decision."
"Actually, I've made a few. I'm keeping my son, no matter if I need a wheelchair because of it." He wrapped an arm around his waist. "When I get home, if things haven't changed between us and I'm still not feeling valued and loved, then I'm moving out to the trailer was the second one. And before you say it, if you've changed anything it was to become less wanting of having me around so don't you *even* protest. I'm going to have my own friends, I'm going to have my own life, and if you want in that, then that's good. The last one was that I'm staying here until I'm able to walk out of this place on my own. Which should be within a few months. Again, you can be there for that time or not. I'd like to have you at some of my therapy sessions but I won't force you to come and help me learn how to walk again." He sighed as his lover walked out. "Well, I ruined it now," he told Spike, who was smiling at him. "What?" he asked warily.
"You just reminded me of the whelp you were when we first met. That fire hasn't been in you for a bit now."
"It has, but I've been holding it down." Xander looked over as the door opened and the nurse walked in with a security guard. "What's up?"
"Is he a relative?" she asked, pointing at Spike.
"No, he's my support network. Without him, I don't get out of here."
She smiled. "Okay. We can make a few exceptions but only family and close relatives are supposed to be in here after hours."
"I'm the nanny," Spike said, waving at the guard. "The kids'll be down this weekend I suspect."
"Oh. Okay." She looked at the guard, who shrugged. "I don't see any harm, but your husband...."
Xander burst out laughing. "Did he say that? We're not married. Oz I might marry, but Giles doesn't want to acknowledge me outside of the house. We're lovers, not married," he said once he calmed down. "I'm not getting married to them unless they change a *whole* lot of things."
She nodded. "Okay. Would you want them in here after hours?"
"Yup, if they're here to be supportive. If not, then they won't show up so it's not a big. Oh, and add Blair and Sam to the list of people who can come see me after hours, and whoever they send in their name. They're FBI agents and my counselors, our family's counselors actually, so I need them too."
She nodded. "We'll make a note of it." She looked at Spike. "No more going through the window, young man." She left, letting the guard follow.
"Make us an official list please, Mr. Harris," the guard said formally. He nodded at Spike. "Please use the door, sir. It tends to mess with the security pattern outside."
"Whatever," Spike agreed, waving at him.
Xander looked over at Spike. "Not quite slick enough?"
"Got caught last night. Told 'em I was comin' up to see you and watch over you. Thanks for that though."
"Hey, like I said, I like having you here. And my men, if they get over whatever fear this is."
"Okay. I'll stay." He nodded at Xander's middle. "What're ya namin' him? After all that, I deserve to know."
"You're in there," Xander admitted. "That's the only hint you're getting." He grinned and grabbed the rest of his candy bar. "Thank you *so* much for this. Chocolate is the best thing in the world tonight."
"Hey, easy on that. It's not good for the baby."
"Baby's fine," Xander said between bites. He nodded at the desk in the corner. "Get me some paper please? Oh, and the pee pitcher?"
Spike grimaced but he handed that over as he went to get the requested paper and pen, giving the mortal a little privacy.
Giles took a deep breath as he slammed his fist into his car. "That won't help," a quiet voice said from behind him.
"Angel, now's not the best time," Giles told him, turning around. "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were someone I know."
Ethan smiled. "I know." He turned off the illusion. "I wasn't sure Xander would want to see me."
"Visiting hours are over," Giles told him coldly. "You'll have to come back tomorrow."
"What makes you think I'm going to do this officially?" Ethan asked with a hint of a smile. "What's wrong, Ripper? The boy not satisfactory tonight?"
"We're not like that," Giles said stiffly.
"Which might be part of the problem." Ethan leaned closer. "How do you mange it with two under-experienced boys?"
Giles stepped away from him. "My sexual habits aren't any of your concern anymore." He got into his car and started the engine, pulling out as soon as he could without hitting Ethan.
Ethan chuckled and put back on his illusion, heading up to the front door as he disappeared. He walked into Xander's room a few minutes later, smiling as he saw the chocolate residue around his mouth. He took off both spells, smiling at his son. "How are we tonight?"
"Fine, Ethan." Xander looked over at Spike, who sighed and started to get up but Xander shook his head. "Have you met Spike?"
"Once, a while back." Ethan waved at him. "Are you keeping him company?"
"Yup." Xander finished his list and put it aside. "What's up? Oh, and did you beat up Giles in the parking lot?" Ethan shook his head. "Why not? You usually like to do that."
"It was too much fun watching him try to beat his car into submission." He leaned against the wall. "How are you really?"
"Scared and frustrated and bored, all things that I'm curing. Spike takes care of part of that for me. It's going okay. The swelling's almost gone again."
"Good. How on earth did this happen anyway?"
"The first crew did some really bad work," Xander said quietly, staring at his knee, which was twitching. "Gee, it's moving."
"It should do that," Spike reminded him. He looked over at Ethan, then back at Xander. "At least you told him the truth finally," he said.
"Yes, it was for the best, and I got some joy out of it when Ripper got royally upset over it." Ethan smiled at the glare he got from Xander. "Come now, surely you think he deserves it."
"Some days," Xander agreed, "but you two's fighting is starting to get to me. Stop it. Before Sileya and I have to get involved."
Ethan chuckled. "I'm sure you'd both do excellent at stopping us, but it's gone on too long to be stopped anytime soon." He waved a hand at Xander's knee. "How long do you have to stay here?"
"I've decided to stay here until I can walk out. Hopefully, they'll be nice and let me make payments as I go along for my treatment."
"I could pay for it," Ethan reminded him.
Xander's face lit up and then fell. "I can't let you do that," he said quietly. "It's not right. It'd drive another wedge between me and the rest of my family. Thanks though." He gave him a small grin.
"You could always make a donation to the hospital for some of his care if you wanted, but he can't let you pay for it outright," Spike told him. "It'd really fuck with their joyous union." He grinned at the glare from Xander. "What?"
Ethan nodded. "Fair enough. What about your insurance?"
"My insurance from the state? It only covers the herm stuff and I'm out of luck for the rest of the year unless Doctor Adams gets through to them over all this. We're fighting with them because they imposed a limit on the number of visits Doctor Adams was allowed for me."
"I see. What about your employer's insurance?"
Spike coughed. "They'd want to know why he was getting ultrasounds and the like," he pointed out. "Same as workman's comp."
"Why are you getting ultrasounds?"
Xander held out a hand, which Ethan took, and put them both on his stomach, right over the baby's back. "That's why. He's a nice little boy most of the time, but he's got really strange tastes in food. He likes Thai food and I'd never had it before I started the Voc program."
Ethan drew back and gave him a thoughtful look. "Well, I see. That changes things then doesn't it?" He gave the boy a reassuring smile. "I'm not upset that I hadn't been told, I didn't expect to get more than an announcement of any other children you might have, but I hadn't thought that you could do that."
"Yup, I'm one of *those* people," Xander said, giving him a roguish grin. "I wasn't sure until the day I got hurt, no one knew before then."
"Ah. That's good then. I can see the point of not wanting to get an insurance into this matter now. What do you most desperately need that I can get for you?"
"Um, I'm supposed to see my kids this weekend, so that's okay. You could go try and fix Giles but I doubt that'd work so well, especially right now." He looked over at Spike. "What did I need?"
"Somethin' to do mainly. The TV's for shit up here." He put his feet up on the bed. "You're not throwing fits over my visiting your kid?"
"Why should I? Xander's very calm right now. I'm assuming that's the best for him and for his child." He smiled down at him. "Did you know that there's a great tradition in magic of people like you?"
"Oh, is she a hermaphrodite also?"
"No, but the Hellmouth did give her an extra ovary. Lots of women in town have those. I'm of the minority in town because of how fully both I am. And I can't do magic, I'm a conduit to my children."
"Yes, but that's the tradition," Ethan said. "I'll bring you a book on it, most fascinating. It would explain Miriam's recent spate of traveling and how easily she brought things home with her."
"You know about that?"
"Yes, Xander. Ripper came to see me about what Miriam brought back the last time. I had to show that it was from my part of the family." He smiled. "And if I thought about it too hard, I could probably find someone in the nicer parts of the family to sponsor you into certain events."
"No," Xander said firmly. "I'm not able to do magic and I don't want to do magic. End of discussion. And before you get any dynastic ideas, this is the only one I'm having."
Ethan nodded. "I'd probably feel the same. That's got to be a great lot of problems for you, hiding it and all that. But I do wish you'd consider reading this book. It might be very enlightening about some of the things in your life." He sat on Xander's free side. "For instance, a lot of the magic users that you share this particular trait with are constructionists. They build the major artifacts of their times. Also, many of them are very attuned to nature, being bisexual in all senses of the word makes them so much more in tune." He patted his son's hand. "There's no reason to worry, no one will force you into anything, but it is something to think about. It could even explain why you're such a good guardian of powerful children and weres."
Xander nodded slowly. "Can I please have that book? I think I'd like to read that."
"Of course. I'll have it sent over tomorrow, along with a small amount of money so that you don't have to beg people to bring you the cravings of your littlest darling." He squeezed the hand his hand was on and stood up. "I think I should let you go back to sleep now, Xander, you seem to have had a very long day."
"Yeah, I think I have," Xander said, scooting back down under the blankets. "Thanks, Ethan. For the information and everything."
"Any time, my son, any time." He turned back on both spells and walked out of the room.
Spike looked at Xander. "That's a great load, that," he said.
"He was lying?"
"Not particularly, but not all those like you are attuned. Some are, some aren't. Those that aren't tend to take up the supernatural in other ways."
"Like the guys on Ghostbusters?"
Spike snorted, but he was smiling. "Yeah, like that Eigon guy. He's a perfect example of what you coulda been." He turned on the television. "There, better now. You rest, I'm gonna enjoy your hospitality."
"Cool." Xander closed his eyes but then sat up. "Hold on. How did you know that he was like that?"
"He seemed like it, much more'n you do. Now, sleep, whelp, or I'll tell those nurses that you'd like a sponge bath."
Xander shuddered. "Not, no thanks." He lay back down and closed his eyes, letting his mind flow on it's own while he fell asleep.
Spike shook his head. "I knew Ethan hated his man, but really? Using his son? Not while I'm here," he told himself once he was sure Xander was asleep. It was one thing to be mushy, it was another to get caught at it. He picked up the phone and dialed home. "Yeah, me," he said lightly. "No, just a report. Ethan was just here. Yup, showed up right after Giles did. Pretty fight that was by the way. No, he told the boy about people like Haniman and Ciricanus. Yeah, he's gonna get the book. So?" He chuckled as he hung up. "Sure, I'll take it down to the nearest Kinkos and copy it for you lot. Of course I will." He shook his head as he went back to his program. "Missed Get Smart. Gotta find somethin' better'n Mannix." He started to flip channels, trying to find something decent on to occupy his time.
Xander whooped as Blair walked in with a big bag held out, snatching it and tearing it open. He dug into the Thai pork, chewing slowly with a rapturous look on his face.
"You're welcome," Blair said with a smile as he sat down in the chair. "The Lo Mein's in the bottom of the bag. There's a fork in there too," he pointed out when Xander continued to use his fingers.
"Yeah, but this way, I get to have the sauce too," Xander told him between bites.
The usual nurse walked in and looked from Blair to the bag and back. "He's going to get sick."
"He's fine. It's Thai and Chinese food, which he's been craving all along. It's good for him without being too good."
She nodded. "At least it isn't the carrots he had flushed last night." Xander looked up, shocked. "They float, dear. He didn't quite get them all down." She smiled and waved at the bag. "Eat before he kicks you again."
Xander grinned and held out the container. "Want a piece? There's a fork in the bag somewhere."
She carefully picked out a piece and nibbled on it. "Hey, that's good." She smiled at Blair. "You can bring him food anytime, Doctor Sandburg." She left them alone, making sure she put the sign on the door to not disturb them.
"Gee, you got professional," Xander quipped as he put the food aside, licking his fingers for all he was worth for a few moments. "Okay, so, how's Chloe? She sent me a neat card."
"Yup, I know. I got an opinion asked for." Blair shifted and crossed his feet. "I got a call last night."
"Giles or Oz?"
"You told them both off?"
"Yup. Told Giles off in front of Spike because he was throwing a fit about Spike and I becoming friends." He glanced around. "Blair," he said quietly, "I've had enough of my men. Unless they do some major changing, I'm not interested anymore. We'll be friends and they'll have visitation. I can't take that anymore."
"Good. You shouldn't have had to take it in the first place. You know that you majorly screwed with their heads?"
"Yup. Oh, well." Blair frowned at him and looked over the rim of his glasses. "Sorry, but if that's the only way to get them to change, then I had to do it. I don't want to lose them but I can't take it anymore! It's almost like I'm a non-entity again. They were happy when I got the job on the work site, but after that first day, no one wanted to hear about it. No one asked me how my first full day of work in, like, two years went. No one, not even Oz. I got congratulated on getting it, but no one cared the next night when I got home from work."
"So you went off finally?"
"Yeah. This accident, and him, have made me think a few things through. I'm sick of it and I can't put up with the stress if I'm ever going to get better."
"Good." Blair smiled at him. "It's about time. I thought you were going to do it during the stalking incident but you backed off."
"I almost did. If you remember, I started to on the porch." He stopped as the door opened and Blair's partner walked in. "Hey, Jim. What's with the package? Did you bring me a prezzie?"
"No, the nurses had it at their desk and asked me to bring it in." He gave it to the man on the bed with a smile. "How's the knee?"
"Good. I can't feel it, but it's good." Jim's smile fell away. "Three inches on either side of my kneecap is fully numb and the rest from that bottom three inches down has only pressure feelings. No pain, which is a blessing from what I've heard from other patients. When I'm allowed out anyway." He tore into the brown paper wrapping, smiling as he came up with a book and a box. "Wow. Someone sent me a computer." He held it out to Blair. "What do I do with this?"
Blair opened it and plugged it in, setting it on the table beside the bed, pushing the food out of the way. "Let it charge for now," he instructed. "Then you turn it on and you set your preferences. I'll help you since I've got to be up here for a while."
"Why?" Xander asked, looking him over. "Did you get shot again?"
"No," Jim said with a smile. "The FBI has demanded that we get checkups for our prior injuries. Seems we couldn't quite pass the newest obstacle course." He sat on the end of the bed. "Top of the line?"
"No, a usual college student one," Blair said as he looked it over. "I'd keep it plugged in most of the time so you don't have to fuss with your batteries." He handed over the CDs that had been taped to the top of the box. "I'm betting these are games or something more to do."
"Maybe," Xander agreed, looking at the titles. "Word Perfect?"
"Word processing," Blair said. "Which version?"
"Seven. It's got a used sticker on it." He put them carefully on top of the laptop's top and grabbed the bag of food. "Sorry, Jim, but the baby's being demanding."
"More than I wanted to know but okay. I've seen it before."
Blair smiled at him. "I told you Maria was pregnant."
"Shut up, Chief."
"Yes, Jim." Blair smiled at Xander, who was watching them. "So, how have you been otherwise?"
"I'm waiting on news from the doctor's conference about my injuries. They're talking about my progress and my physical therapy today. Oh, and Doctor Adams said that the baby's doing really well, but that he's worried about my fluid level."
"Which they can do something about," Blair reminded him.
"Not without possibly bringing back the swelling in my spine," Xander told him. "That's why it took so long to get it down. The baby needs medicine to raise it's fluid level and my spine needed less fluid."
"Eww." Jim stood up. "I'm going to go before this gets more graphic."
"I'll stop, I promise," Xander said, holding out the bag. "Piece of pork? It's really good. Blair, was there a note?"
"Nope. What's the book?"
"It's something that Ethan said he'd send me to read," Xander said, holding it up so he could see the title. "It's about people like me in the past that have participated in magic stuff." He flipped through it. "It's supposed to be kinda interesting and informative. Even Spike wanted to see it when it showed up. I think Angel wanted a copy." He smiled at Jim. "So, do you know anyone who had to have their whole knee replaced?"
"John worked with someone who had a stroke," Blair offered. "Otherwise, I don't."
"I know a cop who did, but he ended up riding a desk because he couldn't walk that fast anymore." Jim sat back down and took a piece of meat, just to stop the pouting. "This is good, Blair, where'd you get it?"
"Our neighbor's housekeeper gave me the recipe. I told her I knew a pregnant person who desperately wanted Thai food. She came to work the next day with recipes in a notebook for me." He smiled. "Just ask and I can make whatever you want."
"Cool. You can be a Godfather for this."
"I am already," Blair pointed out.
"Yup, but you can be one to this one too, that way the kids can be together if something happens to us."
Jim cleared his throat. "What's happened this time?"
"I gave them demands," Xander told him. "I refuse to be ignored anymore."
"He did it strongly this time. Giles called me last night and asked if I thought he was cold and unfeeling," Blair said.
"How's his hand? Ethan said he was hitting his car."
"He said he broke a finger, his pinky." Blair pointed at the food. "Put it up before you eat it all."
"I need a fridge in here," Xander decided.
"The hospital has them for rent," Blair told him. "That's more than doable if you'd like that. It's like five dollars a week or something."
"Coolness, I'll ask the nurse tonight."
"I remember moving one for you guys," Jim said. "Didn't you used to have one?"
"We still have one, but it's Rupert's and I'm not going to ask him for it. I'd rather pay for a brand new one. Besides, I could use one at home if I decide to go that way." He looked over at his laptop. "That's really mine?"
"Yup. It was in a box and the sales receipt was taped to the end." Blair held up the box. "And now, you can email Oz and ask for pictures, which you can then make into a screensaver."
"Yeah," Xander said happily. He looked over at Jim. "Ethan's gotten really nice to me recently for some reason."
"Ah, a note," Blair said, reaching down into the box. He handed it over, watching as Xander read it then nodded. "Good or bad news."
"I thought you might wonder about my recent generosity, but I've recently found out that you and Sileya are my only two children and I like the idea of my progeny going on into the next generation," Xander read. "Besides, I think that you deserve to be spoiled right now and won't it burn Ripper's blue-tinged butt. The computer's new but if you don't like it you can send it back and get one you like. I've included some of the games that the salesgirl said were fun and time consuming. I've also included something so you can continue that writing habit that you picked up." Xander looked up and he was blushing. "He saw the movie I wrote for." He went back to the note. "Before I sent it this morning, I put the pictures that I got from your man on the hard drive so you have a copy of them. He noticed that I didn't have any in the room when he was here I guess. If there's anything else you need, just ask," Xander finished. "It's not signed but I know it's Ethan." He looked over at Blair and gave him a sad smile. "He's right, Giles is going to freak."
"Not really. You don't have to tell him where it came from," Jim pointed out. "Unless he asks directly, then you can say that you're borrowing it."
Xander shrugged. "Maybe. He knew about the lie I told when I tried to tell him that Ethan wasn't my dad." He looked over at Blair. "You guys get to veg all day?"
"Mostly. We're in hurry up and wait mode. Our doctor got pulled into an emergency hip relocation on one of the nurses that fell down the stairs. We'll be paged up here when he's ready for us." Blair moved everything off the laptop and opened it, getting up to sit beside Xander on the bed. "Okay, turn it on with this button," he said, hitting it. Xander clapped. "It's not that hard."
"I'm not good with technology." Xander looked over at the screen. "Eww, windows backdrop."
"So, we'll change it," Blair told him, showing him how. He pointed on the wallpaper that said 'kids' and clicked it, watching as it came up. "Hey, he did it," Blair said, sounding impressed. "Okay, now for colors."
"I like the ones I have."
"Okay." Blair got out from under the cord and handed Xander his laptop. "Freecell, it's addictive," he said in advice. "That and the one marked Same Game. That's making matching blocks disappear. I can goof off for hours with those two games."
Xander opened them both, grinning up at Jim. "He's right, they're very good to waste time with." He started to click on the little blocks. "Wow. Noisy."
"Menu bar," Blair said, giving him a tolerant smile. He looked over at Jim. "So, how good do you think that trailer will still be?"
"It's okay, but I could do all the fixing work myself now," Xander said, not looking up. "Much better, thanks."
Blair nodded and stood up, he and Jim leaving the young man alone. "We'll be back tonight," Blair called from the doorway.
"Okay," Xander called back. "Tell the nurse...shoot."
The nurse walked in a few minutes later with a big white box, which she opened to show off the refrigerator, but she was ignored. She plugged it in beside the bed, there were two sets of plugs for a reason, and moved his food to it. Then she smiled at the game he was playing and left him alone. "I'll get your grocery list later," she called.
"Soda, chocolate, and juice please," he called back.
"No, no, and what type?"
Xander looked up. "Huh?"
"No soda, no chocolate, and what type of juice?" She flinched as he pouted at her, she'd never been subjected to one that strong before. "I could manage to get you some pudding cups if you'd like." He nodded. "Chocolate?" He nodded again. "Make me a list and I'll put it in with the one that's going out tomorrow. Oh, and someone's made a very sizeable payment on your treatment."
Xander patted his laptop. "Yeah, my biological father's trying to make my older lover explode by giving me things." He grinned. "I have games now."
She chuckled. "I saw. You also have a refrigerator." He looked over at it. "It doesn't hold a lot, but it will hold a few things. How are you doing in personal matters?"
He checked his game then put the laptop down. "Can I get up and go to the bathroom?" he asked. She nodded. "Really? All by myself?"
"Well, I'll help you into there and back to the bed, but otherwise, yes, all by yourself." She came over and made sure the cord was out of his way. "Remember, those things are fragile and ..." She saw the note and read it sideways. "He really doesn't like your older lover, does he?"
"They used to hang," Xander explained. "There's no love lost, or maybe there was. They fight all the time now. My half-sister lives and trains with us, but she's got money so spoiling her doesn't piss off Giles as badly." He braced on her as he stood, leaning on her as she helped him to the bathroom. "Thanks. Any word yet?"
She turned and leaned against the wall. "Not yet. The meeting was delayed by a surgery."
"Yeah, my counselor and Jim were up here, they were supposed to be seeing someone downstairs about old injuries but their doctor had to participate in a surgery."
"That's who the big guy was?"
Xander opened the door and leaned on her arm. "Yup. That's Jim. He works with Blair in the FBI unit Blair's wife heads. Blair's also my family's, and Spike's, therapist. Why?"
"We were wondering why he was up here so much those first few days."
"Blair worries about me." Xander slid back into the bed and looked at the refrigerator. "Can it be turned this way?"
She shook her head. "Then you'd fall out reaching for things. This is a means of letting you get selected exercise in your room."
"Cool. Do you know how to work one of these? Blair showed me how to turn it on, but I don't know anything else."
"I do, and when you're ready, I'll help you turn it off." She looked down at her pager as it went off. "They're out of the meeting. They'll be up in a few minutes. Oh, and no soda."
"Caffeine and I are good friends though," Xander complained.
"Yes, but you're one of those that it makes hyper and it's not good for the baby." She patted him on the head. "They should be up any minute now. I'm going to be here to listen in so I can give the night shift nurses orders."
"You're nice, Patricia" Xander told her, giving her a hug. "This would be much worse if you were mean."
She squeezed him. "I'm glad you think so, but this is a game of good cop, bad cop. I get to be the good one when your PT starts working you hard."
"That's cool though, it must work really well."
"Oh, it does." She looked at his wallpaper, putting his games down onto the bar. "Those your kids?"
Xander nodded. "Yup. Hopefully they'll be here this weekend." He looked over as his door opened. "Hi, docs," he said cheerfully. "My father's pissing off my lover by giving me a laptop. I have games now."
Doctor McCregor smiled. "Good, you're going to need something to do for the next few months."
"Does that mean it's bad news?" Xander asked.
"No, it's good," Bobby said, patting him on the foot. "You'll have PT twice a week, and they said that at least one could be in water. It's going to take you a few months though. We want you prepared for a long stay."
"Okay. I figured at least two months anyway."
Bobby nodded. "Possibly a few more depending on the nerve tests you're going to have tomorrow."
"Okay, that sound painful."
"Light shocks. Not pain, more of a twitch test." Xander shook his head. "No, you don't want to know?"
"No, my knee's been twitching since yesterday but I still can't feel it."
"Ah, but feeling isn't involved in the walking process always," Doctor Ian pointed out. "We can teach you to walk even if you can't feel the bottom of your foot. Which you can, to a degree. It's that degree that's going to determine how bad of a time you'll have."
"Okay. It's not painful?" Everyone shook their heads. "Okay. I'll email Oz tonight and ask for some more clothes."
"Ask for swimming trunks and something comfortable for you to be in while you work out."
"Um, I have speedos."
Bobby smiled. "I figured that much because of you being on a swim team. We've also decided on your reward structure. It's going to involve swimming since we can't really take away your treats or your visitors without making you panic. Is that okay?"
"Very okay. If my lovers become nice again, can they come in and cheerlead?"
"For some of it," Bobby agreed. "For others, it's mostly going to be you begging me to shoot you and I doubt you'll want them there."
"Nope, I'm a good boy who likes attention. If they can, I wouldn't mind them there." He looked at Doctor McCregor. "You're still quiet. Is there another problem?"
"Doctor Adams got called back to his practice for a consultation, but he asked me to tell you that while your son is progressing well, he's still concerned about the fluid situation."
"Which we can't give me medicine for without risking the swelling coming back," Xander finished. "I figured that was going to be an issue when you guys had to figure out what to do last time. Are we going to try me on the fluid raising medicines?"
"In a few days," Doctor Ian said. "We'd like the swelling to be fully gone for at least a day before we try it. You're down to less than twenty percent right now, so you're doing really well."
"Good, that's a good, right?" Doctor McCregor nodded. "Okay, I can deal with that. He's still active. He likes to smoosh around in there. I think he's cuddling up to a kidney right now."
Doctor McCregor smiled. "That's a good sign, but we still have to worry about your fluid level. If you're going to deliver naturally, which he did say was a possibility, after he explained your exact situation to us and before we passed out, you're going to need more fluid."
"Okay. Is this going to hinder my movements more?"
"No, but it might hinder you going in the water later on," Bobby told him. "If there's a problem, the first thing to go is the water."
"I can deal with that too." He looked at the nurse, who nodded. "She said I can't have chocolate. Why not?"
"It's not good for you," Doctor McCregor pointed out. "Or for your passenger."
"But I like chocolate, it makes me happy."
"Yes, but it's fattening and you're going to ruin your figure," Doctor Ian said with a smile. "Take out that blue row on the bottom right and most everything will fall into a good place."
Xander reached over and did so, giggling as they all fell down. He quickly cleared the screen, leaving only three blocks. "I'll get better," he told them. "I just got it today."
"I've had the game for three years and I've cleaned the board four times," Doctor Ian told him. "It's not about winning, it's about scoring." He smiled at the other men. "It's a good way to waste time."
"I'm sure," Doctor McCregor said. He looked at Xander. "We did have a concern about your men and the fights you've been having. It could make your recovery longer if you're being pulled apart emotionally ."
"I'm sorry if we've been loud, but I had to do it. This is the last fight I'm having with them. They've got to change and start to value me as a human being and as someone who they're supposed to be in love with, or I'm not going to move back in with them. There's a trailer on the property and I'll go there."
"As long as it doesn't escalate into domestic violence," the nurse said.
"No, they're dispassionate about me. They wouldn't hurt me, they just like to ignore me." He leaned against her arm. "See, I'm a touchy guy but they're not and it's causing a lot of problems."
"Who's the blond guy?" Doctor Ian asked.
"That's Spike. He's a friend, and a good cheerleader. He's been here before for a few months. Not here, but the general here. He's been keeping my mind out of the despair/can't do anything now/what's going to be my future circle."
"We do have a career counselor here," the nurse said. She looked over at the doctors. "He's usually very civil at the least and he's entertained night shift a few nights when he was being naughty." She felt the shiver and gave him a pat.
"Thanks, Patricia. Maybe when I'm closer to going home though I'll do the career guy." She nodded. "Cool. Are there more problems?"
"No," Doctor McCregor said with a smile, "no more problems at this time. If we find any, we'll tell you, but the rest of your rehabilitation should go fairly smoothly. All you have to do is be willing to want to die one day and to get up to do it again the next."
"I can try," Xander said solemnly. "I know I'm going to have rough times. I'll work through them."
"Good, that's what we needed to know," Bobby said, reaching over to pat him on the good foot. "I'll see you day after tomorrow. You won't need your trunks until Sunday, that's the first free spot in the pool, it's being fixed right now because the heater broke yesterday."
"It'll be fixed," Doctor McCregor assured him. "Get about a week's more worth of clothes, with the special stuff you want to work out in. Your wash budget is full so you're okay right now on that end."
"He'll be putting in a grocery list tonight," Nurse Patricia said, patting Xander on the head and trying to make him sit back up, smiling when she noticed he was asleep. "He's been doing that a lot."
"That's still a good sign," Doctor Ian said. "Doctor Adams said we should expect that. He did say to try and keep him from the caffeine."
"And sugar," Bobby reminded him. "We're not sure how his blood sugar's been recently and he was worried about that."
"You'll be doing a fasting blood sugar in the morning," Doctor Ian said. "If it's all right, then he can have pudding."
"That's what I was suggesting earlier to him. Sugar free wouldn't be too bad though?"
"No, that should be fine," Doctor Ian said. "Get him munchies. Doctor Adams said he was one of those sort, the ones that'll want things in his mouth all the time." She nodded. "Otherwise, how has he been in here?"
"He's been good. A little stubborn about wanting to do things for himself. I walked him to the bathroom earlier and he was limping on his knee but he did it without any complaint or wincing."
"Didn't hurt," Xander said, then he yawned. "Am I going to be allowed to get out into the garden again?"
"Yes, in short spurts. You're allowed some exercise out of your room each day but we want you to stay in a wheelchair until you're officially ready to try and walk to regain strength."
"Okay," Xander agreed, nodding. "I'm getting really good at wheeling myself around. What about showers and the bathroom?"
"We'll get you a walker for in this room," Nurse Patricia said. "You'll have a chair in the shower so you won't have to stand."
"Can I have a backbrush?" he begged.
"Yes," she sighed, rolling her eyes. "You can have a backbrush. Have them bring one from home."
"Okay." Xander grinned at her. "What else can I have?"
"No hotplates," she said firmly. "There's a microwave at the desk if you really wanted something like popcorn, but it's not to become a constant thing. This is the extent of your allowed electronics. Got it?" He nodded. "Good. As for food they can bring you? The more they can bring you, the less of your grocery budget will be spent - that's to stock your fridge, not your meals. Those are under your regular room bill." He nodded again. "I'll help you with your new laptop tonight." He nodded again. "What did you want to know?"
"Can I have boxer shorts again?"
"Sure, if you can get into them by yourself." He nodded frantically. "Then you can do that. Though, those boxer-briefs are going to be more comfortable for you. They're tighter but the longer ones won't ride up and it's like wearing shorts. We'll allow you to wear those alone in your room but not boxers because of the gaping problem. We don't want you to damage any of the fragile women that work around here."
"Okay. I can do that." Xander made a note on his computer, adding a few more things. "Am I allowed to have chips?"
"Yes, but the less fat the better," Bobby told him. "What did you really want?"
"Sour cream and onion chips and salsa."
"That would be fine as long as it's not your dinner."
"Nope, midnight snack." He burped. "Sorry."
"That's to be expected. The baby likes Thai and Chinese food," she told them.
Doctor McCregor nodded. "Our last one liked Indian food. Let's put Tums on his list. You won't need vitamins by the way. You're on a nutritionally balanced diet right now."
"Okay." Xander finished his note, after erasing that one item, then turned back toward them. "Anything else?"
"You mentioned your house has stairs?"
"It's bi-level. About twenty-three I think. Is that a problem?"
"Were they built recently?"
"No, just refinished recently. They're smaller than the average stair in rise." Bobby smiled. "That's good?"
"Very good." He looked at the other doctors. "Any other questions?" They shook their heads. "Then maybe we should let him play with his new toy." He waved at Xander. "Tomorrow."
"Yes, sir," Xander said, giving him a salute. He waited until they were alone. "Help me get online?"
"Of course," the nurse said, sitting down next to him and pulling the tray part of the table over. "We did this because of people like you," she told him. "Who do you go through at home?"
"Um, I'm not sure. Oz does all that. What can I do?"
"Well, how about a free trial?"
Xander nodded. "That'd be good since I don't have my wallet or credit card with me." She pointed at the dresser. "It's in there?"
"Yes, your Oz brought it in the bag." She got up and got it, handing it off to him. "I like MSN, some people like Intellos. Some people even like AOL."
"I know I don't like AOL. What's Intellos like?"
"Very good customer service. One free month and it's about twenty dollars a month without a year's contract. It's about the same as MSN, but it's a smaller server so you might get more busy signals."
"Hmm, but I'm not that great with internet stuff." He pulled the tray over closer, getting comfortable with where it was. "That's good. How do I do that?"
"Check your free trial internet marker."
He clicked on it and smiled. "MSN's on here, Yahoo's on here, and so's Blue Light? K'Mart?" She nodded. "Not going there. MSN it is." He clicked on it. "I just follow the prompts?" She nodded and left. "Thanks," he called. He followed the prompts, signing up for his first internet provider.
Oz opened his mail and smiled at the message waiting on him from 'wheeled_cutie'. "We got something from Xander," he called. Miri popped up from behind a bookcase. "You guys can go see him this weekend," he told her, giving her a hug. "Go play. This is about stuff that he needs." She pouted. "No. I'll let you send him a message later, and even a card that we can pick out online. Okay?" She nodded and walked out of the library, past her other father, who was standing in the doorway. "He needs some stuff," Oz said as he opened the message. "They said it's going to be about two months of rehab, maybe a little more. He's got a fridge in his room now and he'd like some potato chips and salsa. Oh, and he gets to do water therapy starting Sunday." He looked over his shoulder. "Come read," he offered, waving a hand at the screen.
"Send it to me later. I'll help you pack."
"I've got most of it ready," Oz told him. "Where's his swimming trunks though?"
"In the bottom of his underwear drawer." He walked over. "Is there anything that he'll need?"
"Boxer-briefs. He can sit around in them but not boxers. The nurses suggested them." He paged down the list. "Um, food items. Electric razor?"
"We have one of those in the bathroom closet."
"Okay. He needs more shampoo, the bottle fell and cracked."
"All stuff we can pick up at Walmart?"
"Yeah, it looks like it." Oz got out of the way, letting Giles have his seat. "Miri and I were going to send him a 'net card later tonight. You could help if you wanted."
"No, I still need to consider some things." He frowned as he read the message under the list. "Ethan gave him a what?"
"A laptop. A cheap one but it's got games on it. I know that brand, it's about seven hundred plus the CD player." He patted Giles on the shoulder. "At least he's got something to do now."
"Yes, but I wish it had come from another source."
"You can't stop his father from giving him things, even if it's for the wrong reasons," Oz gently reminded him. "If he wants to help pay for Xander's medical bills and give him an expensive present, Xander's not going to turn him down, but that's not going to make him get closer to Ethan either. You're going to have to relax on that subject." He walked to the door as he heard the back door close. "Sileya, we have a message from Xander."
"Really? How's he doing?" She walked into the library, wiping off the back of her neck. "Tell him Buffy said hello and to get better quickly."
"I will when I write back tonight," Oz told her. "He's got a schedule for his therapy finally. It's going to be at least two months before he's home."
"But that's when he'll be better," she reminded him. "As long as he gets better, then can't you accept that timetable?"
"I could even if it meant that he'd be coming home in a wheelchair," Oz told her. "He's asked for some things to be brought up tomorrow."
"Shoot, I have that nasty exam tomorrow with Homer. Otherwise I'd ask to accompany you to go see him."
"You can go this weekend with the children," Giles told her. "That way, they'll have something to do and so will you when you get bored. There's a rather large garden attached to the hospital." He didn't see her roll her eyes. "You won't be responsible for them, but it's a consideration he didn't think of when he demanded that we bring them to visit."
"I'd demand it too," Oz noted. "I was going to bring them back with me this weekend anyway." He shrugged at the shocked look. "They're his kids too, Rupe. Get over it already." He nodded Sileya into the hall. "Print that," he called. "Want to help me go shopping for him?"
"Of course. What does he need?"
Giles walked out and handed them the list. "I logged you off."
"Thanks. We were going to go shopping for him. Want to come?"
"No, I think I'll go find that razor and check for his trunks."
"Okay then." Oz nodded her up the stairs. "You got twenty minutes." He looked at Giles. "Want to come and go grocery shopping?"
"I could do that," he admitted. "What else were you going to send him?"
"Some other munchies that I know he likes, his mail. Maybe something nice for his room that won't take up too much space. I know that he has a microwave available to him, but not in his room."
"The note said he can't have one but that he can use one, just not all the time," Giles pointed out, pointing at that section of the message. "Did he send that to me too?"
Oz checked the header. "Nope. It went to both of my mail accounts. I don't think he knows your addy. We'll give it to him tonight if you'd like."
"Please. What's a 'net card?"
"It's a virtual card. It's only online and it doesn't cost anything, but they can be cheerful or not. You usually get to type in your own message."
"I may wish to sit with you when you do that then. I've never seen that done."
"They're pretty popular. There's even virtual chocolates."
"I'm sure he'd appreciate some of those soon."
"Good. You send the chocolates and I'll send the card. We'll all talk this weekend." He smiled at the last part. "I've got to get in touch with his teacher and tell him to pass on that last part of the message."
"He should still be at the school, it's not three yet."
"Cool." Oz walked into the kitchen to grab the phone, dialing the school's number from the list on the wall.
Xander woke up from a short nap and found supper sitting beside him and a note. He picked it up to read and smiled. "That's so cool. I wondered when Cordy was going to call." He carefully put it under his computer and picked up his food to eat. He even successfully ignored the brownie until after he was done with the stew. He was just about to take a bite when his door opened. He waved Spike over, grinning as he chewed. "My father sent me stuff." He pointed at the book. "I'll let you steal it for a little while tonight so Angel can have a copy."
Spike snorted. "I'm not a bloody messenger for him."
"I know," Xander said after swallowing the last bite, "but that's become a habit of his. Find someone with a book he doesn't have and make copies of it. I wouldn't mind with this one, as long as the pages don't fade when you do it. One of Giles' did that when he tried last year."
"I see Daddy bought you something else too," Spike said, pointing at the laptop. "Any good games?"
"Loads and more on the CD's." He pointed at them. "He got them used but they all work. I tried them out before my nap." He held up the rest of his dinner. "Want the potatoes? I can't handle them right now, no cheese." He frowned. "I forgot to put that on my list. Sprinkle cheese."
"I'm sure that Oz knows how you eat by now." Spike took up his usual spot in the chair. "How's today been?"
"Good. They set a therapy schedule. I get to do water therapy too. I'm on a reward system. If I do good and try hard, I get to swim."
"And I'm renting a fridge for those nasty midnight cravings." He looked at the little thing. "If you wanted, you could bring a twenty ounce of blood with you. Just don't let the nurses see it."
"I might," Spike agreed. "You had a chance to read the book yet?"
"Nope, I spent all afternoon playing with my new toys. Oh, and look," he said, turning it around. "My kids are my wallpaper."
"Handy thing that." Spike looked around. "Where's Miss Happy tonight?"
"Down on the pediatric ward. She's a float nurse. I guess that means that she floats around to different floors. Megan's back tonight though. She's the nice one that thinks that you're cute."
"Yeah, saw her. Had to give her a warning because she was sippin' at some blood herself." He shifted uncomfortably. "She was turned and then abandoned. Don't know why."
"Shoot, she's a good nurse too." He shrugged. "As long as she's not hurting patients, I won't say a thing. You?"
"Not gonna bust myself by doin' that," Spike pointed out. "So, what'd Blair bring you?"
"Everything! His neighbor has a housekeeper that's Thai. She gave him recipes." He smiled at Spike. "I wouldn't resist if you brought me Lo Mein though."
"Nope, forgot. Got you a chocolate orange instead." He handed it over, watching the innocent delight look come back across the young face. "You look like your kids."
"That's why I'm such a good daddy," Xander said as he whacked it against a wall.
"Hey!" Megan said as she walked in. "No hitting the walls with things." She stopped when he held out a piece of orange. "Can I eat that?" she asked Spike.
"Yeah, you can. Don't need to, but it's possible."
She took a piece and delicately nibbled on it. "Thanks. So, how'd you know what I am?" She pointed at the button. "You might want to hit that by the way, you keep hitting the intercom button in your sleep."
He turned it off. "I worked with Buffy, the Slayer," he explained when she looked clueless. "We took down the bad ones like you that were trying to drain the whole town of Sunnydale."
"True, almost every one but me," Spike told her. "He said he wouldn't hurt you unless he found you feeding on patients."
"I can live with that. Um, who can I go to...."
"Angel," the guys said together. Spike handed her a card.
"Thanks again. Would he be up?"
"Definitely," Spike said. "Was before I left."
Xander looked out the window. "It's still awfully light out there. You took a big chance." He reached over to pinch him.
"Don't risk yourself to come see me. I can wait an extra hour."
"I didn't. Wouldn't do that for anyone. Took the sewers. Like a bloody freeway down there this time'a day."
"Okay, as long as you didn't risk yourself." Xander looked up at Megan, who was looking stunned. "What?"
"You two are really friends? With what he is and what you used to do?"
"I only took down the bad ones," he reminded her. "Spike used to be a bad one and then a witch got him and tried to twist his brain in knots."
"Witches exist?" she said, scoffing at them.
"Yup," they said together. "Just like you do."
She nodded, humoring them until they showed her proof. "I'll have to watch out for that. Would you be willing to talk to me tonight?"
"Sure," Spike said. "Call Angel now. The pouf'll be out in his tights later."
"Thinks he's bloody Superman some days." "Oh. Okay then." She nodded and left him alone. "That's not hooked up online, right?" she asked as she walked out.
Xander checked then shook his head. "Not as far as I can tell." He showed it off to Spike. "Is it?"
"Nope. No icon."
"You know about computers?"
"Learned, had to. Can't get good porn offline these days."
Xander snorted. "Yeah, you can. Oz owns a porn store." He leaned a little closer. "There's even Buffy porn out there," he whispered.
Spike started to laugh. "You're shittin' me," he said, holding his stomach. Xander shook his head. "Really? Where?"
"Oz's stores sell some. She did something like eight movies. Back when she was still on drugs."
Spike's laughter slowed down to snickers. "Got to get some of that. Maybe the great pouf'd like to watch it with me."
"Maybe," Xander agreed with a naughty grin of his own. "Got to be some angst in it. He was her first."
Spike shook his head. "He'd stake me as soon as he saw the credits."
"Boufey Spring," Xander told him. "No pics online that I've found yet, but we have six of the eight tapes at home."
"Yeah, found your stash. Shoulda seen it in there."
"Maybe Giles hid it." Xander shrugged and pulled his laptop back over. "I'm going to check for mail." He tried to log on but he couldn't get a signal. "Shoot. There's an hour restriction on the lines," he said, reading the pop-up note.
"Of course. Can't have you searching for porn at midnight, now could they?"
"Nope, guess not," Xander agreed. He shrugged and closed out his window, going back to his games.
Spike looked over at the computer that Xander had left running before he crashed and pulled it over to play a game. "This one's bloody addicting," he said three hours later, still playing Freecell.
Xander looked over at the door as it opened, waving Oz inside. "We have a streaker," he whispered, pointing out the window.
Oz looked over his shoulder. "Cute butt on her," he said, pulling Xander away from the window. "You really don't need to see that." He hopped up on the desk. "Giles has your bag, he's out talking to one of the nurses about your computer. Did you pick up your card yet?"
"I'm only allowed on the net in the afternoons, that's when the lines are least busy and it's cheapest."
"Okay. Get on, we made you a card and sent it to you." He leaned over slowly, going for a kiss. He got a cheek. "I'm sorry, Xander, you were right."
"You're admitting I was right? You?"
"Yup, me. I can do that. Even when it hurts." Oz hopped down and held the walker steady so Xander could get up. "Come on, let's go for a walk."
"I have to have a chair outside of this room," he said.
"Then I'll go get you one." Oz left and came back with Giles and a wheelchair. "Come on, the argument express is here." He watched as Xander slowly got to his feet, balancing on the walker as he slowly slid over to where the chair was. "Hey, doing great," he praised. He made sure Xander was all in before turning them around. "Drop the bag on the bed, Rupe. Is your computer locked up?"
Xander shook his head. "I need to get a lock for it, just so I can't drop it off the tray table."
Oz walked over and turned it off, then put it away inside the locking drawer in the desk. "There, it should be safe enough." He wheeled the chair out into the hall, letting Giles get it from there. He stopped at the nurse's station. "I'm worried about Xander's laptop. Is it against rules to lock it to the table?"
Nurse Patricia shook her head. "We recommend that he get one soon really." She leaned closer. "You locked it up?" He nodded. "Good, 'cause I just got asked to take it from him and toss it somewhere he can't get it."
"Rupert," Oz sighed, shaking his head. "No, don't. It's another link to us, which we all need. Please leave it alone and ignore Giles' fits of jealousy. He and the man who gave it to Xander fight horribly."
"I know, I saw the note." She smiled at him. "Blue-butted?"
"They're British, it's probably some royal insult," he explained. He gave her a half-smile and walked away, going to join Giles at the elevator. "I'll get you a good lock tonight, Xander. What games have you been playing?"
"Freecell. Lots of that and Same Game."
"Classic time wasters. Good job. What programs did it come with?"
"Not a lot, but I got a used Word Perfect 7 CD and a few other games. Including a pinball game with some awesome graphics." He looked up at Giles. "If you tell them to take another thing away from me again, I'm going to throw a fit of such grand proportions that everyone's going to know what's been going on in our house," he threatened softly.
"You have no right..."
Xander shook his head. "Wrong way around. I may be in love with you, but I'm not your pet, your child, or you possession. I have the right to accept presents from my biological father. Even if you don't like it. You want to show him up? Get me a great new game that'll take me hours to learn and practice. Or, better yet, start writing letters to me every day." He looked at the wall as they passed it by. "I didn't hear but I know why Oz stopped. He's just as guilty of it, but you reached a new low."
Oz snorted. "Am not."
"Who locked my window after I said that's how Spike was getting in?" He tipped his head back in time to see the pale flush. "Yeah, you. Desire is one thing, obsessive possession is another guys."
"Then we'll work on it," Oz said. Giles made a non-committal grunt. "We will," Oz said, glaring at him. "We're going to see Blair next week. Would you like us to spring you long enough to come with us?"
"No. He sent me an email yesterday after I mailed him to give him the new addy and told me about it. He said he wanted it to be you two; he thinks he can give you my point of view well enough so I don't have to be pulled from therapy that day." He looked up at Giles. "Are you going to try?"
"Aren't I now?"
"Yes, almost," Xander agreed. "That thing about isolating me means from my family too, Rupert. Even from Ethan. I know he's not your idea of family but he's about all I have left outside of the kids and you guys."
"And Sileya," Oz pointed out.
"I was including her with the kids. She may be so grown up but she's still only sixteen. Speaking of which, we missed her birthday."
"I gave her a card as soon as I found out we had missed it," Oz told him, pushing the button for the elevator. "Can we leave off the fight and have a nice visit?"
"Sure. What'd you bring me?"
"Everything you asked for and a few extra goodies, which are still down in the car."
"I'll get them when we come back in," Giles said. He stopped the wheelchair from moving out into the gardens. "Xander, do you really wish to pursue this foolish complaint?"
Xander looked right at him. "Me having needs isn't foolish. It makes me a person. If you don't like me being a person then I'm very sorry but I'm not changing that fact. No matter how much you want to hide me and what we have." He took control of the chair and wheeled himself out. "Come on," he said finally, letting the door close behind him.
Oz looked at the older man. "You had to ask?" He followed Xander out, sitting on the same bench he did last time. "So, what else have you been doing?"
"I learned how to sign up for a service provider so I could get online. I learned how to manage the walker around my room. I even managed to learn how to sit and take a shower and not miss spots." He smiled. "Did you call Duke?"
"I called your teacher and told him to pass on the message. He said he would. He asked about you and I told him how good you're doing." He leaned closer. "Has your boss come up yet?"
"Nope. Not yet. Why?"
"He said he was going to but he hasn't."
"Hmm. I don't blame him. I couldn't blame him for the crappy work the other crew did. Maybe he's insecure about that. Want to check for me?"
"Sure. Want me to tell him anything about Workman's Comp?"
"Yeah, it's got lots of paperwork and people who'd ask inconvenient questions. I'd rather not file for it. At least not until later. I think we'll be able to swing the bills."
"Yes, with Ethan's help, you may just do that," Giles said as he walked out to join them.
"And with me making any payments that I need to after that money's gone. You've really got to lighten up on this. Yeah, he did it to piss you off, but you're playing into his hands." He shook his head to get his hair off his face. "What would Workman's Comp do for me?"
"It'd pay for any training that you needed to get over this injury," Oz told him.
Xander nodded. "Okay. I could accept that. I can file after the accident?"
"I think there's a time limit. I'll call and ask someone." He made a note on a paper towel in his pocket. "What else can we get for you?" He watched as Xander leaned over and puked. "Um, Tums?"
"No," Xander gasped. "Strong kick to the stomach." He slouched down. "Didn't feel great at all. I missed lunch."
"Because it wasn't something I felt I could eat." Xander closed his eyes and started to breath deeply. "Can we do this in my room?"
"Are you all right?" a young man in white asked as he came out. "Oh, Mr. Harris. Is something wrong?"
"Pain in the stomach," he said, nodding at Oz. "We're going back inside. Sorry about the mess."
"You're not the first one. Usually it's a medicine reaction though."
"No, this was missed lunch and then stress and stuff." He gave him a brave smile. "We're going upstairs. If you want to, we can tell my floor nurses." "Sure. I'll have to make an official report of this but otherwise, it'll be fine." He smiled at Giles, who was looking disgusted. "That's normal. Everyone in here gets that sometime." He walked back into the building.
"Upstairs, Oz, please," Xander said quietly. "I think he wants to lay down."
"He?" Giles asked.
Oz gave a meaningful look to Xander's stomach. "The same he who likes Thai food." He grabbed the handles and wheeled Xander back into the building, bypassing someone with gardening tools. They went back up to Xander's room and he promptly crawled into bed, getting comfortable under Oz's watchful gaze while Giles went to get the rest of the groceries.
"Can I have some soda please?" he asked quietly.
"Of course." Oz handed him one of the sodas that Giles was putting into the fridge, watching as he opened it. "I know they said no caffeine but we fudged." He held up two cans of Coke. "For when you absolutely need them." Xander smiled at him. "Cool?"
"Very cool. Did you get sprinkle cheese? I know I forgot but I get served a lot of potatoes." A small can was held up. "Thanks, guys. This is great of you." He waved the nurse over as she walked in. "Can you check my grocery list against what they brought? I included some things on both."
"That's what I'm here for."
"There's another bag in the car of things for him to chew on, pretzels and the like," Giles told her as he stood up and closed the refrigerator door, having to get in there and rearrange something, ending up with a soda on the top of it. "You could use a storage area," he said, looking at the mess.
"He can have milk crates," the nurse said. "We find those are very helpful when patients have to move out. They tend to accumulate things that they never realized they had."
"Okay. That and a computer lock." She looked at the desk so he went to the table and got it out of the locked drawer. He plugged it back in and set it on the tray table, handing it to Xander. "Don't spill the Sprite on it, you'll never get the keys unsticky."
Xander looked at the screen as it booted up. "Hey, the pictures stayed." He turned it so his men could see his wallpaper. "Ethan took the pictures that you had sent him and he turned them into wallpaper for me."
"Good, 'cause we brought you real pictures." Oz unpacked them from Xander's bag and laid them out on the dresser. "How's that?"
"Move the oldest one this way," Xander said, moving his hand back toward him. "Yeah, that's perfect." He smiled at them. "Thanks, guys. This is great of you."
"It's not a problem," Giles reminded him, patting him on the shoulder. "We're able to entertain any reasonable needs you might have."
"Looks like most of it isn't on your list, but I'll cross out the pudding." The nurse walked out after giving Xander a small look.
Xander looked over at Oz, who was browsing his computer. "The games are on the CD's."
"Found them. Some pretty decent ones."
"His note said that he asked the salesgirl and she told him what to get. So, is that an okay system? He sent the sales slip with it."
"It's a very good system for what you usually do," Oz said, sitting down beside him on the bed. "How's your stomach?"
"Better. He quit kicking again." He picked Oz's hand up and put it on his stomach. "See, we're back to napping again. I don't think he likes sunlight, he does that every time I go outside."
"It's possible, but maybe he doesn't like the flowers," Oz suggested. He rubbed over the now- larger lump. "So, you figured out a name?"
"Yup, and I'm keeping it a secret until he comes out. Oh, and I promised Blair he could be a Godparent again."
"Cool. Having the same person for all of them is a good." He kissed Xander's cheek. "How are you feeling otherwise?"
"Good enough," Xander admitted. "My stomach's hurt a few times but I guess that's a normal thing for pregnant women." He saw Giles' frown out of the corner of his eye. "I'm guessing it'd be the same for anyone in my position. Oh, Rupe, Ethan sent me a book. If you wanted to take it and copy it, after I read it, you could. I guess I'm supposed to give it back to him once I get home." He pointed at the desk, where it was sitting. "He said it was about people like me." He watched as his lover slowly went pale. "What's wrong?"
"He gave you a book on hermaphrodites in magic?" Giles asked.
"Yeah, he said that a lot of us were creators, they liked to make things." He looked at Oz. "The people he described sounded a lot like me and it explained a few things that I've been wondering about. Though Spike said he didn't quite tell all the truth."
"Yes, well, there are more people like you than you think, most of them can't do what you're doing right now but I think that's a practical matter more than anything." Giles picked up the book and flipped through it. "Where did he find this?"
"I'm not sure. It came with the computer." Xander looked over at Oz. "Spike said that one of them even made some great artifact for her lover. Something that's so good and pure that it's still around today and it's still untouchable by demons or halfies."
"Very impressive," Oz agreed. "Are you looking at that as a future?"
"Nope. Oh, there's a career counselor here, I'm going to meet with them as soon as I get closer to coming home." He cleared his throat, getting Giles' attention. "Why are we holding the land that the store's on when the city's trying to get us to sell it?"
"Did we include that in the mail?" Oz asked. "I thought I threw that letter out."
"Nope, I got an email yesterday. It's in my other account, the one for at home. They said they want to buy the land and let someone put up a church?"
"That church is full of people that'd want to ruin us. I doubt they'd want the land if they knew about what had happened. The fire itself might turn them off."
"Maybe," Xander said, "but should we tell them that?"
"I'd feel it necessary to tell them that there had been a bit of arson," Giles said. "It's only fair and all. This is an interesting book, but there's another one that he didn't give you. That one's most harsh on ones like you being in magic, it claims that you tend to upset the natural order."
Xander looked at him for a second. "You can't get much more natural than this," he said quietly. "It's not like I had surgery to do this. And besides, it happens in nature too."
"Yes, but they don't usually breed," Giles pointed out.
"Some species of fish change their gender at will," Oz told him; he didn't want to get into this argument, especially not right now when everything else was going so well. "Usually on instinct when there's too few of one gender. Some of them even happen to have cases of spontaneous conception." He looked at Xander. "Are you considering studying magic?"
"No, but I thought it was interesting how so many of the people like me that have been exposed to the supernatural in the past have become builders of things to help."
"Which you've done since you started helping," Oz agreed. "That's an interesting point, but what about the other side of magic? The using side."
"Not going there. Remember, I'm a pipeline to our children, not the one who can touch it. That's why Miri's so strong. Oh, and Ethan did say that's why Miri's so strong. Apparently I'm a very good conduit."
"I see." Giles walked over, after putting the book down. "What else did he say?"
"Just that it had been fun to watch you hit your car. Spike was here when he was so I was careful. I told him he couldn't pay my hospital bills, but Spike pointed out that he could make a donation to the cause."
"Which is what he did," Oz said. He looked over as the door opened. "Hey, Blair. We brought him food and clothes."
"Did you remember my swimming gear?" Xander asked.
Oz groaned. "No, I forgot. I'll get you some when we go get you a computer lock and milk crates."
"Cool." Xander grinned at him. "The baby hates the outside."
"That's to be expected, children are always perverse." Blair sat on the end of the bed. "So, how's things in this part of the city?"
"Boring, but getting better. My therapy yesterday was easy and it's building slowly. Sunday I get to try working out in the pool with floats."
"Very good. How long did they say?"
"Two months and maybe a few more weeks at the latest. My nerve conductivity test came back good. They agreed with me about the feeling in my right leg. I'm going to have pressure and nothing else, except an occasional twinge maybe. They said it's been known to happen, but it's the cloudy line problem. Or as they explained it, like trying to watch a scrambled porn channel. Every little once in a while, you'll get an almost clear picture for a second but the rest is scrambled and mixed up. My brain can't decipher the mixed up stuff so it's ignoring it."
"That's good though, you could just be getting pain signals," Blair pointed out.
"Yup, for which I'm very thankful. There's a woman down the hall who's paralyzed totally but she still feels pain and it's magnified." Blair looked thoughtful. "We met in the common room, I was getting a soda and she was getting a candy bar. I told her that I saw you and she smiled, but I said that you were great and that you were very understanding. I even said that you'd been shot before so you'd been through some of the PT yourself and you understood."
"Thanks," Blair said, patting him on the leg. "Twice actually. Once for my arm and once for my leg. Those were not fun. But yours was easy?"
"Yup. The first day was a building/testing day. We did okay. Bobby's really nice to me." He looked over at Giles. "You'd like my PT, he's a nice guy. He's more of a cheerleader than a drill instructor."
"That's good," Giles told him, sitting down in the chair. "What else did you need from us before we left tonight?"
"Um, those three things and maybe a few coloring books?"
"This program," Oz said, opening one, "has pictures that you can color on it. You can change the colors in some of them or you could import ones from another file, especially from your Word Perfect program. It's got clip art. We could get you more clip art images though. Those are usually cheap."
"Okay, but how do I color them in?"
"Like this," Oz said, opening a picture file. "Click on the paintbrush and then on a color." He did so. "Then you put the paintbrush on the part that you want it on and you click." The butterfly's wing turned orange. "Just like that. A perpetual coloring book. If you can't find what you want, you open your Word Perfect program, or your clip art one once we get it, and you copy and paste into it. Okay?"
"Yup. That's really cool. What else can I do?"
Oz patted him on the side of the face. "What did you want to do?"
"I want to have something to take my frustrations out on."
"If we find anything in the less expensive programs, we'll bring it to you too, okay?" He stood up, being careful of the cord. "I'm going to get you a lock system that'll make sure that thing stays on your table."
"Good. Spike almost made it fall off last night."
"Then it's a good thing he's fast." Oz gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Can Blair keep you company while I run out for that stuff?" Xander nodded. "Rupe, want to come with me?" Giles nodded. "Okay. Give us an hour and we'll be back. We'll bring up the pretzels and stuff then." He waved at Blair and they walked out.
Xander waited until he was sure they were alone. "So, who called you?"
"Your nurse, Patricia. She thought it was going to get a little chilly in here."
"Nope, that was in the garden." Xander looked over at him. "He wanted to know if I wanted to proceed with this foolish complaint."
"Ah. What was that thing about needs? She said something about him getting snarky."
"Yeah, just a little. He said he'd be willing to entertain any reasonable needs I had while she was in here."
Blair burst out laughing. "Oh, I'm going to have fun in our session next time, aren't I?" he said after he calmed down. "How are you three getting along now?"
"Giles is being very cool towards me. He asked the nurse to take my laptop and toss it out. Oz admitted that we still need some work. Which shocked me, let me tell you. Oh, we had a streaker outside earlier. Pretty girl, tanning naked out near the trees." Blair nodded for him to go on. "I guess it'll be okay. Can you maybe straighten Giles out? He's believing in the isolation policy again. He threatened Spike the other night because we're becoming friends."
"Which is helping both of you," Blair reminded him. "Spike's happy because you two are friends too. He needed someone to be himself around. Why is Giles doing that to you? Any clues?"
"Yes, and I hate it. When we first got together, back after my suicide attempt, there was a *huge* rumor around town that we were sleeping together. It was started by my father of course. Anyway, he fought it more than anyone. And then he started calling us 'boys' and walking farther behind us than normal in the store shortly after we three got together. We never go out and do things that aren't work related. Not that I mind, but I'd like to be acknowledged. He can be in the closet if he wants, but I'm tired of mine. Oz's is supposed to be really pretty but he doesn't deny me when someone asks. I've *heard* Giles do it."
"Hmm." Blair ran his fingers through his hair. "How well is your attention need being met?"
"It's going okay. Oz has been really good today about touching me when we're close. I'm getting kisses now. Maybe the ultimatum got through to him, but I'm wondering if this is a permanent change."
Oz tapped on the door and walked in with the last bag of groceries. "I'm going to try." He sat on the foot of Xander's bed, making sure he missed the injured foot. "I heard, all of it, and you're right about some things. Rupe's really afraid of being dragged out of the closet, but not because of why you think. He's got the whole age thing being held over his head, plus the fact that we used to be his students."
"That's *five* years ago, Oz. Not now. It's not like he's dating Sileya or Homer."
"True, but people could start to think that and he's very worried about what others think of him. You and I might not care but that's really important to him."
"But why does it only apply to me?" Xander asked. "He's admitted that you two were lovers. Someone asked him a few months ago if I was his lover and he said no."
Oz sighed. "I don't know. He's always felt a desire for you but he's never felt like he connected to you." He looked at Blair. "I'm tired of being the center square."
"Good but you guys are going to have to work this out. Do you and Xander get along? Would you want to keep that relationship?"
"Yeah, I do. I feel the same about Giles though."
"Then we'll have to connect him to Xander or there's going to have to be a change." He looked at Xander. "Do you think that you and Oz are good together and that you'll work it out?"
"Yeah, I think he got the point this time," Xander said quietly, looking at Oz. "Didn't you?"
"Yeah, I did. Putting in relation to what I had with Willow made me see how wrong I've been in how I treat you." He patted the injured foot. "I wish you had hauled off and beaten me with it before."
"I know. Being dependant on us for something that you need so much is hard." He leaned in and they hugged. "We'll work it out," he whispered. "I'll mediate if I have to."
"No, I will," Blair told them. "You getting in the middle will never allow those two to work it out. Oz, do you feel like Xander does in relation to Rupert's treatment of you?"
"No, but I can see what Xander does when I step back and look at it. He does try and hide their relationship. I've never heard him say that he and Xander were lovers. Or even when we had the store that we were partners together. It was always his and we worked there." He looked at Xander. "He hides me from the world just as much."
"Yeah, but you don't need people like I do," Xander countered. "I can't be cooped up and held prisoner from the world. I *need* people. I *like* people. I need to go out and hear people and see people, and even to walk among people. I can't do that now." He looked down at his knee and his eyes started to water. "I can't do that now," he repeated.
"Shh," Blair said, getting up to give him a hug. He nodded Oz up to do it too, and they flanked the young man, letting the reality flow over him again. "I knew it was coming. Even the nurses said they didn't think he could be that practical for this long," Blair told Oz as quietly as he could. He let go, leaving Oz to do the comforting. "I'll go get him some tissue."
"Stay?" Xander asked, clinging to Oz. "Please don't leave me."
"Shh, not leaving," Oz told him. "The only leaving we're doing is to go to the store for you and I'll be back in an hour." He wiped off the damp cheeks. "Finally admitted that things have changed?"
"I thought I had done that," Xander told him, looking down at himself. "Why'd this happen now?"
"Because the reality was much stronger than the 'I'll be fine' lecture you've been giving yourself," Oz reminded him. "You will be fine, Xander, but things have changed."
"Yes, they have," Blair said as he rejoined them, handing Xander the roll of toilet paper. "There now, relax. All the hormones you're under aren't helping this any, but it had to happen." He patted Xander's arm. "Better now?" Xander nodded and blew his nose. "Good. Back to the business at hand. What are you willing to do to fix this?"
"Do I have to change some more?" Xander asked quietly.
"I don't think that's possible," Blair told him, looking at Oz, who looked shocked. "Compare him to the guy you saved that night, Oz."
"He's changed," Oz agreed. "He's much more..." He shook his head. "I can't find the right word. Adult isn't it and neither's serious, but they're both close."
"Morbid?" Xander suggested. "Chained down?"
"Those fit too," Oz agreed. He gave Xander another hug. "We'll work it out, I promise, okay?" Xander nodded so he let go. "I'd better get back before Rupert wonders where I am." He slid off the bed and left the room.
Blair leaned over to touch Xander's arm. "Do you want to work it out with him? I need to know."
"I do but not if he's going to end up cold and distant."
"He may, for a while, but he'll eventually figure it out or he'll end up destroying his link in the triangle. Rupert's not dumb, he knows what he has in you."
Xander shook his head. "No he doesn't. Not yet. He's still seeing me as useful or like he did in High School, which was another level of useful. Can you really fix it?"
"I'll try," Blair told him. "You guys are going to have some pretty bad fights though."
"We planned on that back before Chastity came along. Total honesty when we were with you was going to be the rule."
"Yeah, I remember your long speech about what was wrong with your life. Have you added to it?"
"Only one thing," Xander said, pointing at his knee. "Blair?" He looked at his friend. "Can you make him like me and the baby? He won't even talk about it as a future person."
"I can try," Blair said seriously. "I know he doesn't seem like it right now, but I think he does love you."
"In spite of it or because of it?" Xander asked.
"We'll have to let him figure that out." He stood up. "I want you to get some rest. This outburst can't have been good for the baby. I'm going to talk to your nurses. All right?" Xander nodded and slid down so he tucked him in. "Good night, Xander. You rest until your men get back."
"Night," Xander said quietly, watching as he left. He closed his eyes and fell asleep, comforted for once by gentle words.
Oz climbed into the car and looked at his other lover. "We just had a talk. I heard Blair and Xander talking." He coughed. "Xander and I are working it out pretty well."
"I see. What about what I want?"
"That's why we're going to therapy again," Oz reminded him. "Blair's going to talk to you about some things that Xander thinks that you're doing. I've been told to stay out of the middle of this and I'm not going to pick sides."
Giles nodded. "Thank you. That's reassuring at least." He started the car. "What are we getting for him?"
"Swimming trunks, computer lock, milk crates. Some sort of clip art CD if I can find one that's not real expensive. Anything else that we think he might like." He turned and buckled in. "Seat belt. I don't want you in the hospital too." He looked out the window until after they had gotten under way. "Giles, he just asked me to stay," Oz said quietly.
Giles pulled over and rested his head on the steering wheel. "Does he think I'm leaving him?"
"No, he thinks that you're chaining him to the house to hide him. He wasn't talking about physical distance, he was talking about emotional distance."
"You boys need more of that than I do. I've tried to give you what I could."
"I'm not a boy, Giles. I haven't been for a long time." He looked over at the stunned man. "Yeah, now you're getting it. There's a major conflict among us and I'm torn in the middle. I can understand that Xander needs to be let out to go play with people and to enjoy being around people, even though I don't need that much of it myself. I can see why you're trying to protect yourself from the opinions of everyone else. I'm stuck here and I don't want to take sides."
"Is that what you both think?"
"Yeah, we do," Oz said. "Xander thought, at first, that you were doing it because you were ashamed of having him. He heard you tell that woman in the supermarket that you weren't with him a few months ago."
"Damn." Giles turned off the engine and looked back at the clinic. "How's he doing?"
"Blair got him calmed down and then he realized that things have changed dramatically for him. He broke down in our arms for a few minutes but he's back to an even spot again." He reached out. "He doesn't hate you, but he thinks you don't like him at all. He's *scared*, Rupert, and I don't blame him."
"Would you please drive?" Giles asked. "I need time to consider this."
Oz unbuckled himself and slid over as Giles got out to walk around the car.
Oz tapped on Xander's room door then walked in, smiling when he saw him sleeping. He put the bags on the dresser and walked over, watching the rippling of the formerly taut stomach. He carefully put his hand down and felt his son move. It was almost like he was pressing up against him. "Hey, little guy, I'm your other daddy. Calm down in there, okay? We don't want to wake your first daddy." He looked up and saw Xander's eyes open. "Hey. I was trying to get him to calm down."
"He's a good little guy, as long as he's not kicking me. He seems to like to cuddle up to major organs though." He looked around.
"He's in the car. We had a talk on the way over to get you stuff." He reached up to smooth over the pale cheek. "He wasn't seeing it but he's thinking about it now. Are you mad?"
"No." Xander took his hand and kissed it. "Not mad. Is he okay?"
"He's deep in thought but you didn't hurt him that badly. He was having a reality vision problem." Oz leaned down and got a kiss, an actual one, the first one in over a month. "Thanks."
"No, thank you." Xander sat up and stole another kiss. "I thought you didn't want to be in the middle."
"I don't. That's what I told him." Oz sat on the side of the bed. "They didn't have any milk crates today so we'll bring some down this weekend when we bring Sileya and the kids. Okay?" Xander nodded. "We'll work it out soon, I promise, but I'm not going anywhere, Xander. Not ever. Got me?" Xander nodded again. "Good. Are you going to be okay tonight?"
Xander yawned. "Yeah. I'm planning on sleeping some more before supper." He looked at the bags. "Did you buy me swim stuff?"
"Three pairs of the shorts-like swim trunks. The tight, spandexy ones that racers are wearing now. Good enough?"
"Great," Xander said, giving him a smile. "I do love you, Oz. I have for a really long time."
"Good. I'd hate to think that it was one sided." He stood up. "Can you install your own lock?"
"If not, the nurses can help me. Hey, maybe this weekend, I'll be able to walk around my room some more. I've gotten up to two whole minutes on my feet before I have to sit down."
"Good," Oz praised. "Keep building back up to when you used to take long walks and we'll take one the weekend you get home." He blew a kiss. "Later?"
"Later. Maybe we can chat this week?"
"Yeah, maybe. I'll try and get on after classes." He waved and left, leaving the room really empty and quiet.
Xander leaned back in the bed and rubbed his stomach. "So, little one, how did you like your other daddy?" He smiled as the baby moved for him. "Yeah, you liked him. I do too. I only hope he's right. Raising you is going to be hard. There's going to be a lot of questions and I'm not sure how to answer them." He shook himself from his thoughts and rang the bell. He knew he couldn't install the computer lock by himself, no matter what he had told Oz. He couldn't figure out how it'd go. "Hey," Xander told the student nurse that walked in, "can you help me put on my computer's new lock?" He pointed at the new bag on the dresser.
"Sure." She grabbed the bag and brought it over to the bed. "That was nice of them to go out and get this stuff for you." She grinned at him. "You are one of my favorite patients up here, you do so much of your personal stuff by yourself." She opened the lock and handed it over. "How should it go?"
"I can't figure that out, that's why I asked you," he quipped, moving so they could pull the tray table over between them. "Do you see a way?"
"Yup." She took the flexible chain and looped it through a small hole in the top of the table, then through a similar hole in the arm. "Let's attach this sucker to your compy and we should be good," she said after she was done.
He handed over the contact strips. "Hope these are strong."
"Oh, yeah. I have one of these at home in the dorm. They're really good." She peeled off the backing and stuck them to the lid of the computer, locking the chain in place after a few seconds of holding it. "There, that should do it." She stood up. "Did you need anything else, Mr. Harris?"
"Nope. I should have everything I need until supper time." He dug through the bag and came up with four CD's. "They make decorating programs?"
She smiled. "I didn't know you were into that."
"I did my whole house. It's a bi-level farm house that's dated around turn of the century. Helped do some of the work when we fixed it up too." He smiled at her. "Don't worry, I'm not openly flaming."
She shook it off. "Doesn't matter to me. Oh, Patricia said that you might want to eat something that you already have. Tonight's dinner is beans and cornbread." She waved and left.
"Yeah, I think I should," Xander agreed to himself as he checked out the latest programs. "Those are really cool," he decided. He logged onto the internet and sent Oz a thank you note. He found the link to his 'net card and burst out laughing, ringing the bell so Patricia could come see it too. She needed to laugh more.
Oz knocked on Xander's former boss' door then walked in. "Hey. Talked with him yesterday, he's doing better. He's slowly working back up to walking."
The older man put down his pen and gave him a smile. "That's good to know. Did he make any decisions about Workman's Comp?"
"He said it wouldn't be too bad for after he's out of rehab, that retraining thing, but not while he's in there." Oz checked the door then moved closer. "I know he told you about his special condition."
His boss nodded. "Yeah, I know. Same as I know why he was moved to LA so fast. Is the baby all right?"
"It's a boy and it's doing okay so far. That's why he doesn't want all that paperwork around though."
"Yeah, I figured as much. Is he going to file for temporary disability?"
"Not sure about that yet either. He could, I guess." He looked out at the site. "How's it going? He'll want to know."
"Everything's almost done. The damage that other student did was extensive, it almost pulled a wall and part of the roof down too, but we got it fixed within a reasonable amount of time. We kept Duke on if you wanted to talk to him."
"Nah." Oz pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. "This is Xander's addy up there and an email addy. I'm sure he'd want him to have it." He waved and left the trailer, heading for class.
Xander's boss picked it up and made a note of it before going out to give it to the guys. A lot of them had liked the kid. It was a shame he probably wouldn't be able to come back into the field.
Oz faced off with his advisor across the large oak table, then looked at the Law School's Dean. "I'm sorry, but Xander's more important to me. He needs me there more often than my classes are allowing me. I'm willing to make up any tests that I miss, at the teacher's discretion, but I can't promise that I won't have to take off any more days."
The Dean nodded. "We're aware of your lover's condition but we don't see that it's necessary for you to be with him full time if you want to be a student in this college."
Oz glared at him. "If it was my wife, would you say that?"
The Dean sighed. "I know, you consider it the same."
"Not quite. I don't consider myself married to Xander. I consider him the father of one of my children. I consider him the reason I'm in school. I also happen to consider him a better part of my life than this school has become. After all, if I felt like being degraded all the time for my orientation, I'd work at Burger Barn."
Oz's advisor smiled at him, giving him some silent encouragement. "You're willing to retake your ethics class?"
"Sure. I thought I had made that clear when I felt I had to drop it."
The Dean looked from one to the other. "You two have talked about this?"
"I told you that," she said. "You didn't want to listen because you don't like his orientation or his area of expertise." She weathered his glare. "He's right, if it were his wife, he'd have a reasonable excuse for an extension on all his class work."
"This school has been rated as highly intolerant six times in the last eight years," Oz told him, "by a gay rating group. Personally, I'm not the crusader in my family, that's Xander's thing, but I'm more than willing to raise a stink about this if you try something stupid. I've found documentation on spouses who have gotten extensions for much more spurious reasons than having a spouse in physical rehabilitation. I've even found one that got it because his lover was in for gall bladder surgery early in the semester and he wasn't having troubles."
"You have to realize that you're not law school material by now, Mr. Osbourne," the Dean said. "Surely you can't think that this impresses me."
Oz shrugged. "Maybe not, but it sure as hell impressed our family's lawyer, who knows you personally." He stood up. "I know I'm not one of the rich elite, that too is Xander." He gave them a grim smile. "We'll see about me being law school material though."
"Oz, if you walk out the door now, that's all that's left. The lawsuit will be messy for you and your children."
"Not really. They're very well protected." He looked at the Dean. "You can either kick me out or you can suddenly decide that I'm still a human being even though I'm gay and get over it already. Take your pick. All I asked for was a week's extension on the semester. I could even take my ethic's tests and pass them all since the book was a good way to pass the time during a PT session last week. All up to you now."
"What would you know about *our* world, Mr. Osbourne?"
Oz pulled something out his pocket and showed it off to the dean, who blanched. "That's what I know. I may live it vicariously, but I do know it. It's people like you that made me think I wanted to become a personal injury lawyer." He nodded at his advisor. "I guess I'll see you in court. I'll be home tonight if he comes to his senses." He walked out, leaving them to discuss his future. At least he had a backup plan now. And Miri's recent funds from her last trip were quite impressive.
Xander grunted as his knee joint was moved, and flinched away from Bobby. "Ow!"
"Tough. You've got to move it."
Xander pulled away from him. "I can't move it that way. It hurts."
"Your knee's supposed to move that way," Bobby reminded him.
"Not side to side it's not!" Xander sat down, rubbing down his numb knee. "That's the first pain I've felt in days in that area, I don't need more of it."
Bobby stared down at him. "You're going to have to work that leg harder, Xander, especially if you want to walk out of here."
Xander glared up at him. "I can walk already, I need to build my stamina. I don't think I need to ruin the replacement and start this all over again." He stood up and took a few steps, all he could do so far without the walker. "See?" He turned to find his PT sitting down. "I've gotten better. Why can't you ease off of the torture?"
"Your knee's are supposed to be able to shift side to side, it's part of the counterbalancing mechanism."
"Yay." Xander grabbed the walker and took a short stroll to the end of the mat, then came back. "See? I'm doing good!"
Bobby nodded. "Good, now let's get back to work."
Xander snorted. "Not until you agree not to move my knee that way again."
"I can't do that," Bobby reminded him.
"Then I'm not doing anything else today." Xander sat down on the mat as his thigh started to cramp, gracelessly falling basically. "I can't take that pain." He looked over his shoulder as the door opened and the nurse wheeled in a chair for him. "See, time's up anyway." He braced himself on the walker and stood slowly, flopping down into the chair. "Is my knee supposed to move side to side?"
"Somewhat. Did it hurt?" He nodded. "Well, I guess that's part of healing."
Xander shook his head. "I couldn't take that pain."
"Hmm. I'll have them check your knee tonight on rounds then." She smiled at Bobby, who shrugged, and wheeled him back up to his room.
Xander looked around at the orderly and tidy space. "Housekeepers came in and stole things," Xander said, looking for his computer.
"It's in your table, your friend Spike put it up last night." She got it out for him while he settled himself into the bed. "What really happened? Show me, I'll tell the doctors."
Xander grabbed his injured knee and tried to wiggle the whole thing. "He kept trying to push the joint too far over and I heard grinding. He was holding the leg still and trying to shift the joint."
"The pain was where?" He pointed to a spot on his thigh. "That's an odd place for it." She watched as he set his computer back up. "I'll have them check it tonight. That might have been phantom pain. You thought it hurt so it did."
Xander shook his head. "No, it was real pain." He put her hand on his thigh. "Feel that knot? It's right there that it hurt so badly."
"Okay, I'll make a note. The doctors are doing rounds in an hour." She patted him on the side of the face. "Relax now. We'll figure it out." She looked at his knee. "Aren't you supposed to be in a brace?"
"He had me take it off."
"Oh. He's not supposed to do that yet." She frowned and walked out, heading to the desk.
Doctor McCregor walked in about an hour later with his brace. "Who took it off?"
"Bobby did. I asked and he told me it was time to start working without it." He tapped the still stiff muscle group. "The pain was under here."
The doctor walked over and tapped the muscles a few times, then squeezed down on them, making Xander howl in pain. "Sorry, that's the best way to stop the cramp." He massaged the area, frowning. "That doesn't feel right." He put the brace back on and checked the knee joint itself. "I'm going to say it was too early and I want to do an x-ray. Would that bother you?"
"No," he said quickly. "Oh, and can you check the baby?" The doctor smiled at him. "He's refusing to turn over again. He's back up and I'm worried about bending him funny when I sit up."
"Sure. Isn't Doctor Adams supposed to come in today?" he asked as he touched the firm abdomen. "You're just one big cramp, aren't you?"
"Not there," Xander said. "It's not hurting, but he's not really been doing more than waving his arms and legs."
"Hmm. It appears all right, but I'll make a note to make sure that Doctor Adams comes up before tomorrow." He nodded at the hall. "Can you make it out there now that you have your brace on?"
"I can take about six steps without a walker, but I can walk out there with it," Xander told him. "As long as I have something to brace against."
"Good, that's excellent progress." He stepped back. "I'd like to see you stand." He watched as Xander carefully slid out of the bed and stood up, bracing against the bar of the bed. "Good job, now step forward two steps." Xander did, but he was shaking. "Okay, sit down. We'll get you a chair and we'll go take a look at that. I agree with you, that's got to hurt."
"It wasn't hurting that bad until he tried to move my knee side to side."
Doctor McCregor frowned. "Side to side? The kneecap?"
"No, the whole thing." He gripped the brace over the spots from earlier. "He grabbed me here and he tried to wiggle it side to side, top and bottom going separate ways."
"That's not standard at all." He shrugged. "We'll get it figured out. Log off."
Xander pulled his laptop over to him and logged off, then turned the laptop off. "Okay. I'm ready when you are."
"Patricia," the doctor called. "Wheelchair please?"
She walked in a few minutes later with one. "Where's he going?"
"X-ray," Doctor McCregor said quietly. "Check with Bobby and see what he thought he was doing taking his brace off." She raised one eyebrow. "Xander said Bobby had him take it off."
Xander nodded. "He made me undo the straps and everything. Oh, do you have any more of that liniment for later?"
"Sure." She smiled at him. "Do you need anything from the store?"
"We have that here."
"Yeah, but it's cheaper if I take it from a bottle I buy," he told her with a grin. "Those things are expensive."
Doctor McCregor smiled. "How else do you think we make a good profit doing this?" He watched as Xander transferred himself and started down the hall. "I don't think he would have stopped his session without a good reason, he's too motivated," he said quietly. "I'd like to know why. If we have to, we can move him to Helga's team."
"He wouldn't get on with her," she warned. "He needs a cheerleader, not a Nazi."
He smiled. "I know but she's all we have right now."
"We could talk Carmen into coming in for him," she reminded him. "She's almost ready to come back from maternity leave."
"She'd have a fit about his condition. Helga will think he's psychotic but we'll deal if we have to."
She shook her head. "Don't do it, sir, he won't be able to work with her and he can't have the stress she would cause him."
"I don't like it but I don't have anyone else free. Tyler wouldn't work."
"Carmen would if you told her what was going on. You might be surprised." She walked out. "You might want to catch him, he's already at the elevator."
He walked out, going to stop his patient before he made it all the way down to the first floor without him.
Xander sighed as he saw it was Spike walking into his room. "Can I have a hug?" he asked.
"On the funny drugs again?"
"No, just had a rotten day. My PT did something really mean to my knee and I'm not allowed to try and walk again for a week. He pulled muscles up into my thigh."
Spike gave him a perfunctory hug then sat down. "Why?"
"I don't know, because he felt like it?" Xander shrugged. "Not a clue. Oh, quit putting up my computer. That's why I have locks."
"Yeah, I know, but I figured it'd give you a reason to get out of bed."
"No, a reason to get out of bed would be to go play in the sunlight, no matter what the little guy says." He stopped as the door opened. "Hey, Bobby," he said, motioning Spike to stay where he was. "What's up?"
"You almost got me fired," Bobby told him coldly. "How could you do that to me?"
"How could you endanger my knee? You pulled muscles up to my *thigh*, man, not really good for me." Xander slid closer to Spike, making sure his computer was pushed out of the way. "Why did you come up here?"
"To see how the rich kids lived."
Xander shook his head. "I sued someone for that money after they almost killed me. I'm not rich. I work and that's how I got this." He tapped his knee. "My daughter, she's rich. My half-sister's rich because of her mother. I'm not. I'm a nice, normal working class guy."
"Sure, keep telling yourself that," Bobby sneered.
Spike stood up. "Leave, now!" he ordered. "Or be thrown out through a wall."
Bobby walked out, after flipping him off. "You'll be seeing me again!" he promised as the door closed.
Xander slumped down, then had to straighten back up as he got kicked. "Why do I get stalkers?"
"Had another one?"
"Chastity, one of the dancers. Killed three people to get close to me."
"Hmm, nice chap there. Who'd he get?"
"One of the other dancers, the club's bouncer, and my mother. She landed in pieces next to the mailbox."
"Remember him now. They find him yet?"
"Yup. I let him deal with the thing in the urn that was in the kitchen." Spike started to laugh. "Hey, it wore him out and then Oz got him in furry form. Changed off schedule and everything."
Spike sat down. "Of course he did. Did he die of it?"
"Not sure if it was that or the fireball that hit him that killed him but he's very dead now." Xander shrugged at the incredulous look. "I didn't do it."
"I'm sure you didn't. You're too much of a nice guy."
"Yeah, I am, aren't I?" Xander agreed, nudging him. "Too bad you're not a PT, you'd be good at it."
"Not," Spike said coldly. "I couldn't stand people that long. Bloody little walking Happy Meals are too cheerful sometimes."
"Whatever. You'd still be good at it." Xander laid down. "Little guy's not happy today."
"Good. How far along are you now?"
"Um, about twenty-eight weeks. Why?"
"Because you smell funny." Spike leaned over and sniffed his stomach. "Yup, not healthy at all. You smell bad."
"Hey!" Xander said, swatting him. "I may need a shower but that doesn't mean you have to insult me!"
"Not that sort," Spike said with an eye roll. "The gonna-have-problems-soon sort." He rang the bell, bringing in Megan, the vampiric nurse. "We need to get his OB to check him," he ordered. "His smell's off."
Blair walked in and looked from Spike to her and back. "You two know each other?"
"He introduced me to Angel," she said, smiling at Jim. "Hi. Back again?"
"Hey, Jim, tell me something, do I look off to you?" Xander asked.
Jim concentrated on him for a few minutes then nodded. "Yeah, you do. Call Doctor Adams. The baby's not moving at all. It's stuck." He walked over and gently felt the rock-hard stomach. "Yeah, we've got to move the baby."
"Good job," Blair said quietly. "Spike, you're to ignore this stuff."
"I know. The little guy smells bad too."
"Is he..." Xander asked. Spike and Jim both shook their heads. "Thanks. Good. I, um," Spike handed him a trash can just in time. "Sorry," he groaned, rolling onto his side. "That was a bad shock."
Blair sat behind him and rubbed his back, looking up at Jim, who had stepped back. "Bad bad or mildly bad."
"Depends on whether or not we can shift the baby," Jim told him. "If it can be moved some, then everything might be fine."
"Gonna hurt?" Xander asked.
"I can put you into a mild trance so you won't feel it," Blair told him. "Should I call Oz?"
"Not yet. After we move the baby or if we need to do something else," Xander said quietly. "He's supposed to be studying for his make-up tests tonight."
"Okay," Blair agreed. He looked at Spike, who nodded after getting subtle double glares from the agents. "How about we have Spike hold your hand while we do this and I'll work on some of the imagery with you? You'll be thankful once you're in labor for practicing it."
"Cool," Xander said, flipping over in one move. "I'm off therapy for a week. Bobby managed to pull muscles in my thigh today. He had me take off my brace and everything."
"That's not good," Jim said. "How's your thigh?"
"Sore. It cramped up during therapy today. Doctor McCregor had to take another x-ray and stop the cramp by grabbing it."
"Ouch. Had a few of those," Blair told him. He brushed back some of the dirty hair. "You really do need a shower. You're sweaty."
"I wanted to take one earlier but there was an emergency farther down the floor and all the nurses were needed down there. Patricia yelled the last time I took one and didn't tell her so I couldn't." He gave Jim a smile. "How does he sound? Happy?"
"A little upset. He's very cramped right now. He's spread eagle on his stomach and his head's pressed on it's cheek."
"Lack of fluid?" Xander guessed.
"No, you sound fine there. I'd say it was a swelling problem."
"Well they said I might be starting an infection but they gave me antibiotics." Xander held a hand out for Spike. "Does he do guided imagery with you too?"
"Nope, doesn't work on me. I don't see images very well." Spike looked over at Blair. "I'm not gonna do this when he goes into labor."
"You are if you're the only one here," Doctor Adams said as he walked in. "What's going on, guys?"
"The baby's being smooshed," Xander told him quietly.
"Apparently he's been having stomach cramps during therapy," Blair told him, "and today's forced the baby into an awkward position. It's stopped moving now."
"Okay then. Let me get some pain killers for him and we'll work on this problem." Everyone shook their heads. "This is going to hurt, Xander, are you sure?"
"I can do it through mental imagery," Blair told him. "We've done it before when he was in a lot of pain." He turned to look at Xander, staring down at him. "Hi," he said quietly. "I want you to close your eyes for me, Xander. Think about that garden spot that I helped you create. The one with roses and thorns."
Xander nodded. "Okay, Blair." He clutched Spike's hand for an anchor and went back into his mind.
Blair picked up the phone and dialed the farmhouse. "Hey, Oz, it's me. Yeah, there was a small one with the baby but it's okay now. No, Xander had been having a few stomach cramps and the baby got stuck today. We had to move it manually. No, he's fine. Sleeping naturally. We did the guided imagery that Xander does so well with and it all went fine. Yeah, he's here." He handed the phone to Spike, who stared at him. "Oz wants to talk to you."
Spike put the phone up to his ear. "'Ello?" He snorted. "No, he did good. Few twinges but not enough to bring him out. I'm not gonna be here, even for the whelp I wouldn't do that." There was a good two minutes of silence on this end. "Yeah, sure, if it happens, I'll stay," he sighed, shaking his head. "Fine. Yeah. Whatever." He hung up. "He'll come up tomorrow after the tests are all done. Said to tell the kid it was all okay again and that he'd see him tomorrow." He settled himself in the chair, glaring at Blair and Jim. "Aren't you two supposed to be out savin' the world?"
"It's our day off," Blair told him dryly. "You gonna leave if he goes into labor suddenly?"
"No, Oz made me promise. Bastard."
Jim smiled. "Good. Then we won't have to worry about him so much."
Blair nodded. "I agree. Tell him I'll spring him next week for a counseling session with Giles. Keep him calm tonight and I have my pager on if he panics and you can't handle it." He left, Jim in tow.
Spike glared at the man on the bed. "Just had ta make me care for you, didn' ya?"
Xander rolled onto his back and spread out as much as he could.
Blair looked up from his card game as Xander wheeled himself back in. "Everything okay?"
"Yeah, baby's in an uncomfy spot for me. Right on top of my bladder." He grimaced and parked his chair next to the couch. "If I sit, would you promise not to let me sink into the soft couch?"
"Nope. That's all up to you today." He smiled at his patient. "I won't be upset if you want to stay in the chair. You'll be able to pace that way." He winked as the door was tapped on. "Come in?" he called.
Sam walked in and smiled at them both. "Hi, Xander." She gave him a hug. "How are we?"
"Better," he said, smiling at her. "He's asleep and I'm up to walking all the way down the bars now, I may get to stay with a walker only in another week."
"Good," she said, patting him on the head. "Chloe wanted me to remind you that she's cooking tonight and you're supposed to be there."
Blair nodded. "I know. Have a big, bright post-it note about it," Blair said, pointing at the one next to his jacket. He smiled at his wife. "You just wanted a hug."
"Yes, I did, you've been selfish and keeping him all to yourself." She smiled down at Xander as she gave him another hug. "I saw Giles pulling up outside so I'll leave you alone." She walked out and Giles walked in a few minutes later.
"Am I late?"
"Nope, I had to go up early to spring him. Sit, let's get on with this," Blair said, gathering up his cards and putting them away. He looked up, giving Giles an expectant look. "Over the last few weeks, we've talked about how Xander feels and I think it's time you responded to him." He looked at Xander. "Is that all right with you?"
Xander nodded. "Yeah. I need to know where we stand. I may get to go home as soon as three weeks from now."
Giles sat down across from Xander. "I feel that you've been rather unfair in your perception of my feelings toward you, Xander. I don't think I've ever been cold toward you, I don't think that I've ever used you, and I don't think that I'm forcing you to hide from the world. I have no idea where you get this from but I do wish that you'd quit poisoning Oz against me."
Xander burst out laughing. "You're serious?" He shook his head. "Giles, when was the last time you told anyone about me? How I was doing, where I was, even who I was?" He shifted in the chair, slouching to give his back a break from sitting up. "When was the last time I was worth more to you than our microwave? Or how about this one, when was the last time you touched me in something other than a platonic teacher/student way?"
"I don't see you that way!" Giles protested. "You obviously can't see it from my point of view."
Xander smiled gently at him. "Giles, I'm crippled, not stupid." He moved his chair closer. "You don't respect me, you don't want me, and you don't love me." He looked over at Blair. "I think I need to get out of here for a minute, can I be excused?"
"No. He needs to hear this."
"Yes, but I need to not get so pissed I do something stupid."
"True, so talk about it." Blair waved at Giles. "I think it's your turn now."
"Xander, I have never disrespected you."
"You have to respect someone to disrespect them," Xander cut in. "You don't do that!"
"I do!" Giles yelled, hopping up. "I've always respected you. Ever since you were brought to me to care for."
"Oh, so that's what we're about? I'm some sort of duty for you because Oz dropped me off when I was suicidal?" Xander glared up at him. "I don't need pity and I don't want it. I want a lover whose life is there with mine, not one that's hiding me like some dirty little secret."
"I'm not the one who should be talking about secrets. I've seen how you've looked at Spike, and at Ethan," Giles accused. "I have no idea what you're doing with them but I will not allow you near those children until you stop it."
"Whoa!" Blair yelled, standing up. He was just a second too late.
Xander stood up and punched Giles as hard as he could, sending him crashing down into the side table. "Those aren't even *your* kids. You've never taken care of them. I had to make sure that they'd take a bottle from you because they didn't know who you are. Even now *my* daughters don't come to you for more than a bedtime story. Not *once* have you ever shown an interest in Miri's education, my education attempts, or even in her overall life. Not until it became apparent that she's more powerful than you are!" He panted and sat back down, turning the chair around. "I'm going outside," he said calmly. "Come get me when you're ready for me." He wheeled himself out, going out to get some air.
Blair walked over and helped Giles into the chair. "You all right? Need stitches?"
Giles looked up. "He hit me!"
"Yeah, he did. Pretty strong guy, huh?" Blair sat on the end of the couch, looking at him. "Giles, is what he said true? Before you answer that, let me remind you that I've seen those kids and Sam had to tell Xander how to break them of their dependence." He knew denial when he saw it, he was quite intimately familiar with the subject, and he knew how to break it. You had to make them see reality.
Giles shook his head. "Whose side are you on?"
"Mine. Think about it, Rupert. Was he right?"
"If I ask Oz, what would he say?"
"Xander's been poisoning him against me," Giles protested.
"Then if I ask Sileya?"
"She's always been more comfortable with him."
"Giles, think, not react. What did he say that you think isn't true?"
"The part about my children. They know who I am."
Blair nodded. "Should we call and ask them?"
"They're toddlers, what could they possibly tell you?"
Blair sighed. "Rupert, this is serious. What sort of pressure did you just put Xander under? He *hit* you, man. Think about the boy that you knew. What would it have taken for him to have hit you back when you first got together?"
Giles touched his cheek. "He's quite strong."
Blair got up and walked over to his wife's office, walking in. "I can't get through the denial wall with Giles. Want to crack him before Xander hits him again?"
Sam dropped her pen. "He hit him?"
"Punched him hard enough to knock him down. Giles is in serious denial and I can't break it. I'm going to check on Xander."
"All right. I'll see what I can't do." She walked out, watching as he walked outside to where Xander was huddled in his wheelchair. "Rupert," she called, bringing him to the door. "Come here. I want to talk to you." He came over. "What do you see out there?"
He looked out. "I see him being upset, his usual reaction when he's done something stupid."
Jim stood up from behind the desk. "Sam, I'm going to excuse myself before I say something," he said quietly as he walked out to the other side of the park.
She looked at Rupert. "Think about it, what just happened?" she said quietly. "What made Xander so upset that he'd risk everything in his life to have hit you?"
He looked at her in shock. "You're on his side too?"
"I'm not picking a side, Rupert, I'm picking a line and I'm defending it. We do not allow physical violence in this office. Blair's telling him that right now and I'm telling you. Yelling is fine as long as something get's accomplished. Fighting physically isn't allowed. No matter who started it." She walked back into her office. "Go sit and wait on Blair." There were things that not even she could get through, and it looked like Giles was one of them again.
Blair squatted down in front of Xander and pulled the sobbing man into his arms for a hug. "Shh, you had to. I'm not mad."
"He's a dick!" Xander said, clutching him as hard as he could. "I didn't mean to hit him."
"I know. You can't do it again, but I know you didn't mean it." He set Xander back some and wiped off his face. "I know you're stressed but he's so deeply in denial that I can't break him of it. I asked Sam to talk to him but I'm doubting that he'll respond. If I go back in there, I'm going to initiate a conference call with Oz and Sileya and ask them about these things. Giles says that they're biased in your favor though so can you think of anyone he'd listen to?"
"Buffy. She's his Slayer." Xander calmed himself down. "I'm ready." He looked over at Jim. "I'm sorry I messed up the office and ruined your routine," he called out. Jim gave him a smile. "Thanks, man. Come on, let's go." Xander got himself turned around with some difficulty, grass was hard to maneuver in, and they headed inside. "Rupert," he said cooly as he rolled back in, "I'm going to call Buffy and she's going to give you her opinion." He went to the phone and dialed Buffy's mother's. "Hi, Joyce, I need Buffy right now. Is she there?" He smiled. "Thanks. I'm putting her on speakerphone." He looked up at Blair, who did it for him. "Hey, Buffy. I hate to do this to you but I've got to have an outside observer here." He looked over at Giles. "Rupert and I have been hurling insults and I've made some points and he's accused me of sleeping with Spike and Ethan."
She laughed. "You and Spike? Not gonna happen. You're way into Oz. Hi, Giles." He could hear her eating something crunchy. "Excuse my lunch."
"That's okay," Blair told her, taking a seat behind his desk. "Buffy, this is really important. Giles has accused Xander of not seeing reality where his emotions are concerned. He's accused Xander of cheating on him with Spike, who's been there for him most nights, and Ethan, his biological father."
"Eww. Nasty thoughts. I can't even see Xander with *any* one, well, I can kinda see him with Oz. They seem to compliment each other somehow. I couldn't ever see Giles with him but if it made them all happy I was all for it once I got clean." She crunched again. "What's really going on, Giles? What're you saying he did?"
"Buffy, there's no need for you to be in the middle of this."
"Yeah, there is. You're training my successor and you're my Watcher. I'm involved because you're there. Now give so I can help."
Xander got comfortable. "During the course of the last argument, I accused Giles of not knowing his children, that the twins don't really know who he is."
"True," she agreed.
"Buffy!" Giles said. "How could you turn against me?"
"Easy, Giles. Xander did all the daddy-type care. Even when you three weren't speaking to each other, he never held it against the twins. I remember him trying to break little Blair of eating only from him. It was a frustrating time for everyone. Hey, Xan, when do you get to come home?"
"Three weeks maybe. I can walk a short distance, but I have to finish building some stamina. I promised everyone that I'd come home when I could walk out the door on my own." He looked over his shoulder. "Buffy, it goes a little farther than him accusing me of cheating. He actually said I couldn't come see my kids because I was somehow wrong now."
"Whoa," she said. "Giles, reality check? Maybe a large one before you ruin everything good in your life. Those kids might as well be Xander's. Even Willow's mother said that. Willow said that too after she saw them last time. Even Angel congratulated Oz on how well Xander was doing with the kids, said he was obviously meant to be a father."
Xander blushed. "Thanks, Buffy."
"Welcome, it's the truth. Miri's a happy and brilliant little girl. The twins are well cared for and on the road to follow their sister. How's the newest one?" Everyone could hear her smugness.
"You were right and he's fine," Xander told her. "He doesn't like sunlight though, I'm going to have to teach him that it's a good thing."
"You shouldn't even be having him," Giles spat. "That's unnatural and it's not right!"
"Giles, way out of order," Buffy yelled. "This is part of Xander. What's unnatural about the way he was *born*? Yeah, I freaked majorly when I found out about it, but it's part of him."
"You encouraged me to keep it open," Xander reminded him coldly. "You used to take great pleasure from that part of me. Every chance you got to join me in the bath."
"Eww, didn't need to hear that," Buffy protested.
"Sorry." He turned his chair. "Rupert, there is no way I want you near *my* children. Not now. Maybe not ever unless you suddenly change and do an one-eighty."
"Xander, you're being too harsh on him," Buffy tried reasonably.
"Buffy, that's something they're going to have to work out," Blair told her. "Giles, response?"
"The house is in my name," Giles said simply. "As is the land."
"The house is in *all* our names," Xander countered, "and you don't pay the property taxes, Oz does from his business." He shook himself. "Giles, fix yourself or we're through. Your crap's gotten too deep and I'm cutting my losses now. I'll tell Oz myself in a minute and let him decide which one he wants to stay with. If you have him, you can have the house. If I do, then you can have the trailer and I'll fix it up for you." He nodded at Blair. "I think that's fair."
"I think it's premature," Blair said, "but it's your relationship."
Buffy cleared her throat. "Giles, what's this really about? Is it because you're afraid of him and what people will say if they find out you're together? Is it because you feel safe and comfy so you can't change to help the relationship? Is it something to do with being a Watcher and now a were? What? Tell me and I'll try to help. Maybe you have some valid points."
"I'm not hiding him," Giles said firmly. "I've never kept him from leaving the house. I've never kept him from talking about our relationship. I haven't even done anything to keep him from going out and getting a job."
"Okay, one thing, Giles," Buffy said. "You didn't support him in any of it. When he got a job doing something he wasn't comfortable with, you complained. When he started back at school, *I* and *my* mother went to his Open House. We met Oz there. Do you even know what his project was or why he won an award that night?"
"No, it's not that important to me."
"His life isn't that important to you?" Buffy asked. "He's one of those guys that's job is his life. His job and his family are how he knows he's alive. You didn't help him when he was feeling dead. Not since high school."
"Buffy, that's enough," Giles said, getting up and turning off the phone. "I can't believe you managed to poison even her against me." He stormed out and drove off.
Blair looked at Xander. "Your choice."
"Tell Oz that he's in a foul mood and to take care of the kids. I'm not sure what he'll do," Xander admitted. He sighed. "Why do I feel bad?"
"Because he's put it all back on you when none of it's your fault. This is your guilty conscience coming out for no reason. All you ever did was do what you were good at and try to make your life meaningful." Blair picked up the phone and dialed the farm house. "Oz?" he asked. "No, Sileya, I need to talk to Oz. Is he back?" He shook his head. "Okay, do me a favor? Giles is *real* pissed right now and we'd like to get word to Oz and have you watch out for the kids. No, he's a little on the irrational side at the moment." He snorted. "I'd say so, Oz. How'd you do? No, I'm not stalling. Xander's sitting right here. Rupert went off the deep end and accused him of corrupting everyone against him and of lying."
"Let's not forget cheating," Xander said quietly.
"Yes, and cheating." He pulled the phone away from his ear. "I don't know," he said after he put it back. "But Xander said I should warn you. He said he's never seen him like this." He nodded and hung up. "He'll watch out for him and try to calm him down before he can even see Miri."
Xander nodded. "Thanks, Blair. I know Oz'll send the kids over to Buffy's or over to Willow's mom if he needs to." He looked down at his lap. "Guess it's time I get back to the old hospital."
"Can I make a stop with you?" Blair asked as he stood up. He grabbed his cellphone from the charger. "Book store or someplace like that?"
"Ice cream parlor? Or grocery store for Ben and Jerry's? I'm in a chocolate mood now."
"Sure." Blair waved at the door and let Xander wheel himself out.
Xander looked up from his pint of ice cream as Megan walked in with his dinner. "No thanks, I couldn't eat real food tonight." She put it beside him anyway. "Megan, I like you a lot, but I mean it. I can't do it."
She looked him over. "What's wrong, honey?" She brushed a cool hand down his cheek. "You're not worried about Spike are you? He'll be in soon enough."
He shook his head. "No, I had a major fight with Rupert and I hit him." He chuckled mirthlessly. "He accused me of sleeping with Spike. And with the guy who gave me the computer." He glanced over at it, canceling out his screen saver so he could see the kids' pictures. "I don't know what to do anymore so I'm going back to an old recipe. Chocolate makes all problems look smaller and manageable after enough of it."
She nodded. "I've felt that way before. I had to get a restraining order and go to a shelter though." She kissed him on the cheek. "If you want to talk, I'll be at the desk." He nodded and she left him alone.
Xander went back to his ice cream, staying in his funk until Spike showed up a few hours later. "Hey, how was the demon hunting?" he asked.
Spike pushed the intercom button. "Be glad that she was the only one out there." He flopped down into the chair and canceled the screen saver, looking at the pictures himself. "Didn't go well?"
"I hit him. Knocked him into a table." Xander held out the ice cream. "Finish this before I have to." He licked off his fingers and rolled onto his side. "You might want to be careful, Giles thinks that I'm sleeping with you."
Spike snorted. "As if, as the Princess would say. Doyle sent ya something," he said, putting the full spoon in his mouth as he pulled out a picture and handed it over. "He said that you'd enjoy a look at those little bits of his too."
Xander touched their faces. "How did we come to this point?" he asked.
"Not real sure. Yours had to do with a cliff and a gun if I've heard right." Xander nodded. "And a night with Faith."
"Angel had to save me. And dress me. I was unconscious." Xander put the picture next to his computer and looked at the vampire. "It's not something I like to talk about but it wasn't really consensual on my part."
"Ah. Heard that too. Angel told me." He put the ice cream into the refrigerator. "Make a shake with it later," he told him. "How are you otherwise?"
"Emotional. Weak. Tired." He rubbed across his stomach. "Tired of worrying about where I'm going to be living when I get home."
"The house," Spike said like it was obvious.
"I told Giles he could have it if Oz stayed with him and I'd take the trailer. If I get Oz, then I'm getting the house." He stared at the wall behind Spike. "Right about now, I'm just glad it's all over with. No more fighting for recognition as a human being, no more fighting for attention from anyone. No more worrying about who I'm going to insult because I want a life of my own outside of the house. All that's gone now."
"You can still work."
"I can't climb a ladder with a cane," Xander told him, refocusing on him. "I'm going to have to learn how to do something else."
"So, learn. What's stoppin' ya?"
"I suck at school. I'm not good in it unless it's a physically based class. That's why I was so good in carpentry."
"So, why'd you have to work on houses? Isn't there another part of that field?"
Xander nodded. "Yeah, I've been thinking about that. I could even sit down while I was working if I had to in some of those fields." He gave him a smile. "You're better than the guidance counselor here. She had to go look things up for me. I'm going to meet with her tomorrow."
"Good. At least you're movin' on." Spike put his feet up on the bed. "How's the little bit?"
"Better. We were upset with me earlier but the chocolate seems to have calmed him down too." He looked down at his knee. "At least you're working right. That's something good."
Spike picked up the phone as it range and handed it over. "It's Oz."
"Oz?" Xander asked, pushing himself up. "They did what?" He sighed. "Yell at them for me." He shook his head. "I don't think it's going to solve anything and that trailer needs some work. Buffy found a weak spot in the floor and...." He trailed off. "They did what? Together? Really?" He smiled slightly. "In a way, that makes me really happy and in another...." He nodded. "I will. I'll be here. Or downstairs in therapy." He handed back the phone so it could be hung up. "Buffy and Sileya banded together and kicked Giles out of the house. Buffy almost kicked his ass for what he said earlier." He looked down at his hands. "I didn't mean for that to happen when I went to Buffy for confirmation. Why'd they do that?"
"Because they love ya, you daft being." Spike sat up. "They wanted to protect you, same as everyone else does. They do it out of love, but it's a reasonable sentiment in a human."
Xander looked at him. "You too?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Spike said, leaning back again, his boots coming up onto the bed again. "I'm here because I got asked to keep you company." He pulled out the rest of the ice cream and dug in again. "Mushy, it's best this way." He stuffed his mouth.
Xander smiled. "Thank you, Spike. You've been the most supportive person of me during all this. It's meant a lot to me. If I can ever help you, just ask." He patted the boots and rolled onto his other side. "Gonna take a nap. Don't put the computer up."
Spike snorted. "You had to ruin a decent moment with mush," he muttered, pulling the computer over to play a game, but he was careful not to get ice cream on the keys. He looked over at the boy; he'd learned to like the kid a long time ago, and he still appreciated his skills, but he had never known how easy it was to care for a human like Xander before. If there were any other humans like Xander. Anyway, he was now firmly hooked into his protective role over the whelp and no one had better try and bother him. Especially not that daft mate of his. He checked out the new programs and smiled. A decorating program? Xander?
Xander woke up and screamed, holding his stomach. The nurses ran in and gathered around him, and he grabbed Patricia's hand as hard as he could. "Hurts," he whispered, panting with the pain. "Too soon!"
"Yeah, it is, but only by a few weeks," she said, nodding at one of the younger nurses to go out and make the call they had planned on making some day soon. It had been obvious to anyone who'd ever had kids that this one was coming soon. She had even arranged her schedule to be with him tonight because Blair had taught her how to put Xander down into that safe place in his mind. "Xander, listen to me," she said next to his ear. "You have to go back to Blair's garden."
"Oy! What's goin' on here!" Spike asked as he strolled in. He took a sniff and looked at Xander. "It's time?" Xander nodded and reached out for him. "Okay then. Remember what Blair's taught you." He took his other side, nodding at Patricia. "We can do this," he told her. "I'm a coach when I need to be. Oz made sure of it."
She smiled at him. "Good. Call downstairs and tell them we need a sterile room to help him deliver in," she told another nurse. "Make sure you talk to Barbara, the Surgical Head tonight." She nodded and ran out. "Want me to call Oz?" Xander shook his head, going limp against her.
"He's alone with the kids," Spike told her. "We'll call once he's down there." He nodded at her to move Xander. "Let's get him goin' now, before we have to do this up here." A gurney was rolled in and Spike lifted him onto it, taking back up Xander's hand as soon as he was settled. "How far along is he now? Thirty three weeks?"
"Long enough," Patricia told him, wheeling Xander out. "Just breath, honey, it's gonna be okay." She walked them to the elevator and used her key to get it on an emergency call. She got him inside as his next pain started. "Shh," she whispered. "Xander, focus on me. I need you to find your center of calm." He closed his eyes and tried to take a deep breath. "That's great, Xander, now find your garden and sit down in front of the biggest rose bush. You're going to be plucking it bald for most of the night."
"Mother...had... an .... easy one," he ground out. He groaned out the breath. "It's like that in my family. Quick and painful." He looked over at Spike. "I need an anchor so I don't get lost." His hand was squeezed. "Call me back when you need me to do more than pant and swear." He closed his eyes again and found that garden the fastest he had ever done.
Patricia rolled the gurney off the elevator as it opened, heading right past everyone waiting in front of the surgical desk. "Barbara!" she called. An older, white-haired, frail-looking woman ran out to meet them. "We've got to do this now, it's an easy time in his family."
She smiled and waved at the door. "Room six and his doctor's on the way, he called us. He said ten minutes."
Patricia nodded and wheeled Xander into the specified room, parking him and letting Spike lift him off the gurney. "How does he do that?"
"Easily, the boy's got a strange mind. Blair said he's gotten lost in there before." He leaned down next to Xander's ear. "You're in the right room now, whelp. Just a few more minutes." He looked down at the stomach as it rippled. "Come on, that's a good boy." A whoosh flowed down the table. "Gross that."
"A part of the process," she said lightly.
Xander was picking the roses one by one and pulling off the thorns. He heard the accented voice but it was awfully far away. He pricked his finger and brought it up to his mouth to suck off the blood, then went back to his pruning. His stomach started to hurt so he stopped for a second and considered it, and the voice came back but he couldn't hear it as clearly.
He picked another bloom and started on it's stem. The kids would love these flowers once they were safe.
The voice came again and this time it was louder. He stopped to listen to it. He had to go back? Why? The garden was peaceful. His stomach cramped again, much more painfully this time, and he curled up around it, protecting it. The voice kept calling to him, but why was there pain? A memory started to come to him and he smiled. His son. His son was coming. He followed the voice out to where the pain lived, blinking awake as one hit him again. He pushed with it, trying to get the pain to stop. He didn't open his eyes, just bore down and grabbed the hands nearest him to squeeze through the pain. He opened his eyes as he heard screaming, looking down at the purple, slimy bundle being held up. "William Philip," he sighed, passing out.
He didn't get to see the Doctor's shocked look as Spike did the same.
Oz ran into Xander's hospital room and stopped when he saw the little bundle in his arms. He walked closer, looking down at the baby, smiling when he saw the dark blue eyes open and look for him. "Hey, little guy," he whispered, reaching out to touch him.
Spike walked in. "William Philip. Five pounds and a bit. Xander got lost in his head again too. Big git."
Oz grinned at him. "Happy, aren't you?"
Spike nodded. "Very. He didn't break my hand." He wiggled his fingers. "Won't let the babe go at all, didn't even want to let him be cleaned off. Right royal mess he was at first. Took Patricia to do it, she forced him to hand over the child or no more ice cream for him." He sat down in the chair. "He slaps if you move 'im."
Oz removed the baby and Xander reached out to pat him. "Give him back," he mumbled.
"In a second," Oz said quietly. "I want to count fingers and toes."
Xander opened his eyes. "Hi." He pushed himself up and groaned, so Spike handed him the can of soda and the pills he had with him. "Thanks. Good drugs or bad?"
"Good enough," Spike told him. "Tylenol."
"Eww." Xander took them anyway, he really didn't like the pain in his stomach. "Hi, Willie," he said, waving at him.
"Don't call him that," Spike groaned.
"We're not calling him Spike," Oz told him, still smiling. He sat down on the bed, holding his son close. "You are very little," he said quietly.
"Didn't feel that way," Xander groaned as he lay back down. "You can have him for a few more minutes. Since there's no nursery, we're putting him in a drawer up here. We've got formula in the fridge." He yawned. "Spike, give him the bottle." He closed his eyes and started to snore within a few minutes.
Oz looked over at Spike. "How spastic was he?"
"He did okay. Got lost, he did, but he came back in time to make a mess and push the little bit out." He waved at the baby, who seemed to like him for some reason. "That child's strange. Thinks I'm his cow."
Oz snorted. "Tried to suck?" Spike nodded. "Yup, Miri did that to me once too. Didn't like the chest hair." He got up and walked over to put the baby into the pulled out drawer, making sure he was comfortable. "So," he said finally, after he pulled himself away from staring at the baby. "What's going on in this part of the world?" He turned to find himself alone in the room and a nice note sitting on the computer screen. "Oz," he read, "time for you two to be alone. Give him love and hugs. He gets to go home this weekend. Spike." He smiled and took his rightful spot in the chair.
Xander stretched and looked up when he didn't hit a wall. He looked around his room and realized it was *his* room. He smiled as he remembered coming home the day before and everyone watching him to make sure he was actually walking. He slipped out of the bed and grabbed his cane, a very nicely carved gift from Spike, and headed over to get dressed. There was still one thing he had to do.
A half-hour later he was down in the barn, staring at his horse. "Gee, since when do you sleep in," he said, waking Strife up. The horse looked up at him then snorted and walked over to nuzzle him. "Yes, I'm home and you're a wonderful horse." He gave him a hug then grabbed the tack off the peg next to his stall. "Want to go out?" He walked in and slowly got him ready, savoring the feeling of being free. He had to get up and push his injured foot into the stirrup, and then strap it down, but he was riding his horse again. He let Strife pick their path and let him lead the way, his cane leaning against the wall of Strife's stall.
They'd figure it out.
TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT STORY, FAMILY 12.