A Bored Little Person is a Dangerous Little Person. Series: Because Kaiya Wanted To See It, part 1
Miri looked up at her best friend, her ghost, and shook her head. "Me bored!" she exclaimed, getting down off the comfy chair and heading for the bookshelves she wasn't supposed to be touching. "Me need fun." She pulled down a thick book and started to flip through it, looking for pictures. This one didn't seem to have many so she put it back in the nearest space and grabbed another one, but the ghost took it from her. "Me pictures," she said, pouting at the woman.
The ghost, a former owner of the house and a grandmother to sixteen children, smiled at her and brought another book down, floating it onto the table and making it open to the page she wanted. She had never really believed in magic when she had been alive, but now that she was dead, she'd found so many wondrous and exciting things she could do with her spirit energy. She looked outside, then at Miri, pointing her to go out onto the back lawn. The little girl went and she read the spell as it was written, not understanding what she was doing, but it was fun. She looked out in time to see a large portal opening and screamed. She hadn't meant to make the little girl go somewhere, she had wanted to bring her some friends. She left the library as the little girl walked through to investigate, going to find someone to fix her mistake before it was too late.
Xander, the only father home at the time, looked up as their ghost started to fly around their bedroom. He sat up. "What did you do this time?" he sighed. She stopped and pointed out the window, so he looked outside. Just in time to see the portal close. He turned to her, glaring in his best impersonation of his elder lover, Rupert Giles. "Let me guess, someone went through that?" He winced as a picture of his daughter floated down. "You sent *Miri* through there?" he yelled, heading at a run for the library. He found the open book and grabbed the phone, knowing he wasn't capable of handling this.
Miri walked through the big, shiny thing, smiling at the trees on the other side. She knew all about trees, her fathers had taught her. She stopped as she heard giggling not far away, not wanting to get into trouble. As the giggling noises got closer, she fell back on her best defense mechanism, she put her thumb into her mouth and looked helpless.
Which is how the other kids found her.
The adult with them stopped and looked at her. "Whoa," he said, walking closer and squatting down to look at her. "You look human." She nodded. "Do you have a name?" She nodded again. "Can I hear you say it?"
"Say what?" Xander said, walking into the woods behind his kids.
Miri ran for her father, hugging his legs, looking up at him with her best 'please don't ground me for this' look.
"Uh-huh," he said, nodding. "Go call Derek. I have *no* clue what to do here." He bent down and picked her up. "Honey, you're not at home. Do I look like your daddy?" She nodded and started to cry so he cuddled her, making shooshing noises. "It'll be okay, I promise," he cooed. "We'll get you home to your real daddy as soon as we can." He pushed her back. "How did you get here?"
"Big, shiny thing," she said, pointing at where it had been. "Whee send me."
"A whee sent you?" Oz asked as he walked up behind them. "Is that a ghost?" She nodded, holding her arms out to him. "Let me guess, I'm your other daddy?" He nodded at Jon to go tell someone.
She nodded. "You, and him, and ...and daddy Rupert." She nodded again. "Me go home?"
"As soon as we can," Xander told her, giving her over to Oz. "I think we have a small cross- dimensional portal going," he said quietly. "That shouldn't be too hard to cure."
"There are *how* many alternate realities?" Oz reminded him, hugging the little girl. "What's your name, sweetheart?"
"Miri," she whispered, burying her head in his shoulder. "Me no home? No ponies? No Strife?"
"Nope, no horsies here, but we have a big, *huge* garden to play in," Xander said, trying to keep her calm. "How old are you?" She held up all five fingers. "You're five?" he asked, a little surprised. She wasn't any bigger than his four year-olds.
"Me almost four," she defended. "In six whole months."
"Oh, okay then." He nodded at Oz, who nodded back. "Come on, let's take you to see Derek."
"Us no play?" One of the kids asked, clinging to her father's leg and looking up at the strange child. "We supposed to play. You promise. We even play her."
"We will. We just have to bring her up to Derek," Oz told them. "Xan, why don't you stay and play with them. I'll be right back. Giles is home and he knows about these things."
"We no play her?" another of the children asked.
"Not yet," Oz called over his shoulder as he walked away. "After she talks to your grandfather."
Xander looked down at his oldest five children. "Come on, let's get her pretty leaves too. I'm sure it'll make her feel better." He led them deeper into the trees, heading for where the grounds keepers hadn't managed to rake yet.
Oz tapped on Derek's door as he walked in, giving their nanny Jon a small smile. "This is Miri," he said, sitting down with her. "A ghost sent her here."
"Me bored," she said, nodding again. "She let me play."
"Oh, dear," Derek said, looking at her. "You're definitely a Harris, aren't you?" She smiled and nodded. "Who is your father besides Xander?"
"Him," she said, patting Oz's arm around her waist, "and daddy Rupert."
"Oh." Derek shook his head, his eyes closed as he tried to banish that thought.
"Yeah, it kinda stopped me for a second too," Oz said, understanding completely. "They must have a lot of fights."
"Yes, daddies argue, but we see Unclie Blair," she said firmly.
"Oh." Derek got up and walked around to look more closely at her. "Would you be willing to stay and talk with me and this dimension's version of your father Rupert for a bit? We'll let you go play with the other children afterward."
She thought for a second. "'Tay," she said finally, giving him her best smile. "We talk."
"She's almost four," Oz said, handing her over. "By about six months." He stood up and waved. "Yell if you need us, we're not that far away."
"Me too," Jon said, getting up and following Oz out of the office.
Derek sat down in his desk chair with the little girl on his lap. "So, Miri? Is that short for Miriam?"
"Yes, sir," she said, being polite. Her daddies would be mad if she wasn't polite to these strange people, and she was already in enough trouble. She looked out the window. "No me ponies?" she asked, looking around.
"No, sweetheart, I'm sorry, but your ponies don't live here." He turned her around, sitting her on the desk. "You see, this isn't where you live. This is another version of where your fathers exist." She shook her head, giving him a confused look. "The Xander you saw, well, he's a twin of your father."
"Oh. Daddies all twins?" she asked. He nodded, smiling at her. "Me go home? Me ponies get lonely."
"Soon, precious one. Just as soon as we figure out how to do that." He leaned back in his chair after hitting a button on the phone. "Rupert, I need to see you in my office," he called, turning the intercom off.
A few minutes later, Rupert Giles walked in, much to the amusement of the little girl on the desk. "Oh, hello," he said, smiling down at her. "Who might you be?"
"You daddy twin?" she asked.
"Why, yes, I guess I would be," he said after looking at Derek, who nodded. "What's your name, sweetness?"
"Miri," Derek said. "Oz said her ghost sent her here."
"Me whee let me play," she said happily. "Me bored. You have barn kitties?"
"My, you have a menagerie, don't you?" Derek asked fondly. "We have one cat, but it's a stray that lives in the woods."
"Me no play kittie?" she asked, starting to pout. "Me like animalies. Me good to them. No hurt them or anything."
"I'm sure you are, but the closest we come to animals is Nick," Rupert said, smiling at the glare Derek gave him. "Do I have a lot of books where you are, Miriam?"
She nodded. "Whole lots. Roomful. Whee read them too. Me too, but daddies yell at me for it."
"Ah. Well, there aren't many of my books that could have a cross-dimensional spell in them. I shall start looking as soon as I get a drink." He winked at the little girl. "Why don't you go play with the other children? I believe they're collecting leaves to make things with."
She nodded, grinning at him as she wiggled to get down. "Me play!" she said, holding up her arms.
"Of course you can," Derek said, standing up and putting her onto the floor. He watched as she ran for the door, noticing her surprise as she hesitated at the automatic door. "Wait for me," he called, heading after her. "Rupert, find that spell. Her father must be worried sick. All three of them."
"Three?" Giles asked. "Who else?"
"You, Xander, and Oz," Derek said with a smirk, watching as the other man shuddered. "That was Oz's reaction too."
"Good. I dare say I'm not going to even think about that idea again." He followed them out of the office but headed the opposite way down the hall.
Oz picked up the strange child as she ran over to where they were, pointing at the cat hissing at them from the woods. "We don't want to upset her," he said quietly. "She doesn't like us."
"Kitties like me," Miri said, wiggling until she got down. She walked confidently toward the cat and fell to her knees in front of it, holding out a hand. "Here, kittie. Me pets. Have barn kitties at home." The cat hissed at her. "No make snakes. Come here." She wiggled her fingers. "Me pet." When she didn't get the reaction she wanted, she reached out with her mind and petted the cat, making it puff up in surprise. "It okay," she said, grinning at it. "That me. See, me good to kitties. Give loves." The cat inched closer as she switched to behind it's ears. "Come here," she insisted. "Me give pets and loves." She patiently waited as the cat inched closer, finally grabbing it and pulling it into her lap so she could pet the matted fur. "You messy," she said, trying to untangle some of the knots. "You need brushied." She went back to petting it when the cat stiffened. "It okay. They babies, like me." She kissed the top of the cat's dirty and oily head. "See, give lovies."
Oz looked over at Jon, who shrugged. "Okay," Oz said finally. "Would you like to pet the kitten too, guys?" he asked his kids. "One at a time," he warned as they all moved toward the strange child at once.
"Gently, like this," Miri instructed, taking one of the boys' hands and helping him pet the cat.
"I know," Brandon said, grinning at her. "We rescued kitties but they went home." He leaned down and kissed the cat too, but he made a face. "Kitty need bath," he told his father as he made room for the other kids.
"I'm sure the kitten will get whatever it needs," Derek said as he joined them. "Did she call it to her?"
"She petted it with her mind," Precious told him, smiling at him. "Kitties like her."
"So I can see," Derek said, looking at Xander. "She called to it with her mind?"
"No, she *petted*," Precious said, stomping her foot. "You no listen."
"I'm sorry, dear," he said, patting her on the top of the head. "Should we bring the cat inside, let her give it a bath?"
"I'm not," Oz said, shaking his head. "Did that once, it was worse than bathing a german shepard puppy."
"I can agree with that," Xander said, waving at Jon. "Let him."
"Not a chance, dude," Jon said. "Not gonna happen. She can do it. The other kids can help her if she says it's okay, but not me."
"Fine, I'll help her," Derek said. "I've done it before, it wasn't that big of a trial. I used to bathe my persian every few weeks."
"You have kitty, granpa?" Precious asked him, looking up at him with a look of awe. "Why we not see it?"
"Because it got sick a long time ago," he told her.
"Rubber band break?" Timmy asked, coming over to pat him on the hand. "It's okay if it did. It happens sometimes."
Derek smiled and shook his head. "No, Timothy, it didn't have a stroke, it got possessed like Junior was."
"Derek," Xander warned.
"Sorry, son." He picked Timmy up to give him a hug. "It was a long time ago, before your fathers came to live with me. I doubt it would have been around if it hadn't gotten sick."
Timmy nodded. "I sorry." He got down, going over to hug the stranger. "You nice," he proclaimed. "You live with us."
"No, she's got to go home sometime," Xander told him, getting down on his level. "She'll live with us until we can get her back home, but after that, she'll go back to her farm."
"Me ponies," Miri said with a nod.
"Why does she have less speech capabilities than Xandra?" Oz asked.
"I think I can answer that," Buffy said as she walked out with the phone. "Fussy guy for you from Paris." She waited until Derek had walked off to talk to William before going on. "The night before Willow delivered, I helped her do a spell." She looked down at her feet. "And I read her journal, guys. It said that she was doing a spell to screw with time, making it go faster. She didn't want to be preggers for nine whole months so she sped it up to keep Oz interested."
"Auntie Willow?" Miri asked. "She give me brother and sister." She smiled down at the cat. "She and auntie Buffy both have babies."
"I did?" Buffy asked. She looked at Xander. "When did we have more kids anyway?"
"She's from another dimension," Xander told her. "From there, I'm her biological father, but I share the duties with Oz and Giles."
"Sorry, that's how we feel too," Oz told her, patting her on the arm as he walked past her to look at the cat. "Well, it looks healthy," he decided. "Want to move the kitty inside so we can give it a bath and brush it?"
"Me do it?" Miri asked excitedly. "Me never get to brush barn kitties."
"Sure," he said, holding out a hand, getting handed the cat. Who hissed and tried to get away. "Shh," he whispered, holding it against his chest. "You're fine. We're going to bring you inside and take care of you. Yes, the little girl will." He nodded toward the house, taking Miri with him. "Buffy had a baby?"
"Blue baby," she said, giving him a serious look. "It has pokies." She followed him up toward the house.
Buffy looked at Xander. "How far off this reality is her's?"
"Well, let's see," he said, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and walking her after the other pair. "You have a baby. We live on a farm. She has ponies and barn cats. And a brother and sister that apparently Wills had." He cleared his throat before going on. "Giles, I, and Oz are all together, as in together," he clarified. "She knows me as her biological father. She's almost four by six months." Buffy smiled at that one. "She apparently knows the you there."
"And Cordy," Oz called back.
Xander met up with his mate at the doorway to the kitchen. "She does?"
"Auntie Cordy make me pretty," Miri told him. "She watch me. She have blue baby too."
"Blue baby?" Nick asked as he backed out of the refrigerator. "Was it sick or oxygen deprived?"
"It has pokies," Miri told him. "Both do." She smiled up at Buffy. "You say baby's daddy is big, long needlie when I ask."
"Ouch," Buffy said, rubbing her stomach. She looked over at Nick. "I'd say it wasn't sick." She looked down at the little girl. "Do you live in Sunnydale?"
Miri started to cry, but she nodded.
"It's okay," Xander said, picking her up to give her a hug. "It's okay. I promise. You can go home soon."
"Peoples mean!" Miri cried. "They say me bad!"
"No, you're not bad," Nick said, coming over to ruffle her hair. "You're a very good little girl. Why would they think that you're bad?" She shrugged and wiped her nose with the back of her hand.
"Here, let's get her a tissue," Buffy said, grabbing one out of the box on the table. She wiped off the snot trail and the tears, giving the little girl a smile. "I'm sure they won't ever hurt you again. Your daddies must have gotten them for it."
"We move," she said quietly. "Big fire made us." She looked up at Xander. "You 'tect us all."
"Gee, that's normal," Buffy said, tweaking the end of her nose. "I'm sure your daddy did the best he could to protect you, sweetness."
Miri nodded. "He loves me. Whole lots. We make candlies on the porch."
"Candles?" Oz asked. "Is that a hobby?"
"No, he sell them." She got down and looked at the cat. "Come on, you, time for baths."
Oz handed her the cat, watching as she headed for the sink. "Nope, not in here. Let's do this in the spare bathroom down here. It's a good place to give animal baths." He led her away, making his mate smile.
Xander looked at Buffy. "Big fire?"
"Yeah. And Sunnydale's apparently not changed much. I wonder if the Initiative had something to do with that." She grabbed a piece of fruit out of a bowl and took a bite. "Giles said we needed to know as much as possible so we could send her back to the right place. You want to handle the interrogation?"
"Yeah, I probably should," Xander sighed, heading after Oz. "We'll do it tonight," he called as the howling started.
Nick grinned at Buffy. "At least Adam isn't here to complain about the cat."
"Yeah, that's a good right now. But someone needs to call him and warn him to bring home cat food."
"I'll do it," Nick sighed, grabbing a phone. "You go find her home world."
Oz walked into the dining room carrying Miri, seating her in the chair someone had added to the section the kids sat in and strapping her in. "There," he said, sitting down in his usual seat and cuddling up to Xander. "The cat's napping upstairs. It's clean and brushed, and so is Miri. But I found some things out. She's not only from Sunnydale, but she lives next door to someone named Mr. 'Son. And she lives on a *big* farm."
"Which narrows it down," Xander said thoughtfully. "There's only two spots where that could be. Do you know your address? The road you live on?"
"Um, no," she said, shaking her head. "Not really. I know my phone number. I leaned how to call 'blance for in case."
"Oh." Xander squeezed Oz's hand under the table. "Well, if I mentioned the road, would you tell me if it sounded familiar?" She nodded. "Okay, do you live out on Highway 6?" She shook her head. "How about Guild Road?" She nodded, grinning at him. "Cool." He looked over at Derek. "That's got a lot of big farms, but most of them had been abandoned when Sunnydale started to really lose money. It's not growing land, you can't really do crops, but you can raise animals out there."
Buffy put down her water glass. "If I remember right, wasn't there a woman out there that was breeding horses? She used to advertise for riding lessons. I wanted to take some but I was always too busy."
"Mrs. Anderson if I remember right," Oz said.
Miri squealed and clapped her hands. "Yeah, him! He give us horsies! Me Strife too!"
"Strife is a horse?" Xander asked. "And what else is a Strife if it's not only a horse?"
"Sometimes. But we still ride. He like me. He no like babies but he like me. And...and Sileya."
"Who?" Derek asked.
"Sileya's the slayer after Flame," Jon said quietly. "She's the daughter of an old *friend* of this house's." He looked at Giles. "Lives in upper crust Connecticut?"
"Oh, dear," Giles sighed. "Her father's Ethan?"
"Yup. Met him," Miri said. "He give you her. You beat her up." She nodded. "Daddies help you."
"Oh, dear," Giles repeated, looking at Derek. Derek shook his head and shrugged so he turned back to the little girl. "Do you remember someone named Flame?"
She lost a little of her enthusiasm. "Nope. No meet her. She good girl?"
"Yes, she is," Giles said, smiling at Flame, who was sitting between Buffy and Alex. "Do you know any other Slayers?"
"Met one," Miri admitted. "She get boo-boos. Big ones. On her head." She patted the top of her head. "She no live. She in hospital for long time."
"Ouch," Nick whispered.
"Very," Buffy agreed, patting his hand. "So we don't have a clue otherwise?"
"It's getting us closer," Giles disagreed. "The more we know, the easier we can send her home."
"For the spell to work, we almost have to picture where she lives," Derek explained. "How a ghost cast it, I'm not sure."
"Oh, anglie," Brandon said, sitting up. "He say something to me today while we pick leavies." Everyone looked at him. "He say call the houses there. You no be there, but call someone. In Boston."
"Oh. All right, I guess we could do that," Derek suggested. "Did he say how?"
"Portal. No send her, but talk to them. They know her daddies. And you, but you no there."
Derek went pale. "I see." He looked over his house members, all of which were pale also. "Did he say why?"
"Yup. He say that house 'ploded and you lived in a portal. Her daddy got you free, sorta, but you no live in a house anymore."
Derek picked up his glass and took a sip of water. "Thank you, Brandon. That's very helpful. I think we could try that tonight. After all of you are asleep."
"Dratted angels," Methos said as he walked in. "What he *said* was that the house exploded because your father was trying to open a hellmouth in the basement and you were sucked into the portal as you set the bomb off." He set the serving tray down a little hard. "He also said that there was some divine intervention but it wasn't something he could mention, only that it had to do with a spell against demons."
"Oh, auntie Willow do that," Miri said, frowning at him. "She be bad. Daddies say so."
"Some things never change," Alex muttered. Derek glared at her. "Sorry."
"What sort of spell, Miriam?" Derek asked. "Do you remember anything about it?"
"Me in bed when they fix it. Daddy Rupert say it make demons sick, really tired but not sleepy. And it hurt Doyle!" She glared at her plate. "He nice, no need bad spell on him." Her plate started to float. Until Xander cleared his throat and shook his head. "Torry." The plate went back to its original spot.
"It's okay. That's usual when we get upset," Derek said with a slight smile. "Who's Doyle?"
"Angel's coworker," Xander said, leaning more into Oz's body. "He had visions when he was still there."
"He blue!" Miri said. "He have auntie Buffy's baby too."
"Oh, he does?" Giles asked. "Why?"
"'Cause he knows about being blue," she explained, a hint of 'you should have known that' in her voice. "He have pokies too."
Giles got up and left the room, coming back after a few minutes with a book, which he showed to Miri. "Is this what he looks like when he has pokies?" he asked, showing her a picture.
She squealed and patted the picture. "That him! That Doyle! He nice, teaches everybody."
Giles showed the picture off to Derek and Buffy, who frowned. "I'm sure he's harmless."
"He's a halfie," Oz pointed out. "Cordy said that he was sent to help Angel atone."
"Goody," Buffy said dryly. "Is the baby his?"
"No, needlie daddy," Miri told her. "Big one."
"Oh." She looked at Derek. "I guess that means the Initiative there got me."
Miri screamed and tried to get down, the belt holding her up getting in her way. She cried and beat at it, eventually getting down and hiding under the table. The whole house sat still, shocked.
Oz looked under the table and wiggled a finger. "Come here, Miri, they can't hurt you here."
"They bad," she whispered as she moved closer to him. "They say me bad. Me no tell daddies they talk to me, but they say me bad and mean. I no need fixed!" She grabbed her head.
"No, sweetheart," Xander said, sliding down to sit next to her. "You don't need fixed. They're very bad people. You should tell your father about them talking to you, he'll make sure they never come near you again." She crawled into his lap and hugged him so he rocked her gently. "Shh, they can't hurt you. Never hurt you."
"They hurt Alexi's mommy," she whispered. "She like Unclie Spike." She looked up. "Auntie Willow hurt him too. That's why daddies no talk to her."
Xander smiled at her. "We've been having the same problem here, but without Spike." He kissed her on the forehead. "Get back in your seat so we can eat, please." She pouted at him. "No, you have to eat in your chair, dear. It's a house rule. We're not leaving though. We're going to be right where we were. Okay?" She nodded and crawled back into her chair, but she wouldn't let anyone hitch her in. Xander climbed back into his seat and looked around the table. "Let's shelve this discussion until after everyone's in bed," he suggested, looking at Derek.
"Yes, I think it'd be best if we ate," Derek said, passing the serving tray to Nick.
Derek sank down into one of the couches in the living room with a sigh of relief. "How is Giles doing getting Miriam to bed?"
"Fine," Oz said, looking up from his drink. "She apparently gets a story from him every night. She and the cat are all settled into bed. The other five are getting ready and Junior's still napping on Xander's stomach." He looked over at his husband, who was napping in the chair. "Do you wonder what happens in her house?"
"I bet they fight a lot," Buffy said with a shrug. "Other than that, I'm putting it in the 'I don't want to know' category, same as I do with you guys."
Oz nudged her with his foot. "Not that stuff. How they live and that sort of thing." He looked at his husband again, seeing him semi-awake now. "I mean, if Xander doesn't work there, then what does he do? Are the candles she mentioned his hobby or his job? What am I doing?" He took a sip. "I even wonder who takes care of the kids all day."
Derek smiled at him. "I think Rupert may be able to answer some of those. He had a long discussion with her before dinner, after you put her down for a nap I believe, Oz."
Giles walked in and frowned at everyone. "Don't I get a spot?" he asked. Xander shifted over so he could sit down. "Thank you. I had no idea that things could be so different in my own life." He looked at Derek, then around the room. "It seems," he paused after that word, "the Blair person that she keeps mentioning is the trio's therapist. And I can't blame them for going to one either." He looked at Oz. "Your mate has been stripping to make ends meet while you go to school and I started a new job that makes me spend a lot of time in my books and on our computer." He cleared his throat. "I asked her about the fighting, she said it was because we ignored her daddy Xander."
Xander shifted. "Ignored how?"
"Apparently we aren't paying any attention to you. She said that when you started making candles, which is a new business in the making, that no one asked you about them. Oh, and you decorate when you get upset. She had many stories about helping you paint the nursery."
Oz snorted. "I'd hate to see that."
"No, it seems he's reasonably good. This Blair person asked his opinion on his office." He coughed lightly. "It would also seem that Spike was taken by the Initiative there and chipped in some way, she wasn't sure how. Willow took him in and enslaved him by binding him to her." He smiled at Buffy. "At some point, while Willow was pregnant with the twins, Angel turned Spike into a basset hound."
Buffy snickered, grabbing onto Alex for strength. "Oh, that I wanted to see."
"Yes, well, the twins came out fine." He smiled at Derek. "We must keep her away from phones. It seems she helped the twins, who are about a year old, call someone that made people in suits show up."
Derek's mouth fell open. "She didn't," Nick asked, grinning at his brother. "Man, Xander, your kids are all really big on strange things, huh?"
"Keep it up," Xander warned.
"Sorry." Derek shook himself. "Did she know where they called?"
"Only that the men in suits laughed about it with Blair and the federal agents he works with. It seems they were there to stop the man who was stalking Xander."
"Oh, yeah, definitely your fault," Nick said. He kept smiling until Buffy hit him. "Ouch!"
"Quit. It's not Xander's fault he gets into trouble."
"Oh, nice way to stick up for me, Buffy," Xander said dryly. "I haven't been in trouble in *months*, thank you."
"Of course not, son," Derek said with a smile of his own. "Go on, Rupert."
Rupert cleared his throat and coughed lightly. "There is something that may not be pleasing to hear at the moment. Xander, she kept calling Sileya your sister."
"And that means...." he asked.
"Sileya is Ethan Rayne's daughter," Rupert said quietly, patting him on the shoulder awkwardly. "It seems he's around there too."
"Oh, great," Xander sighed, looking down at his son. "Doesn't matter," he said finally. "I have my father and he's right here."
"Thank you," Derek said quietly, giving him a tender smile.
"Enough of that," Buffy said. "What about the Initiative? What did they do to me?"
"From what she said, it seems they artificially inseminated you with a half-demon of the type this Doyle person is, a bracken demon. You agreed to let him adopt the child, and Cordelia's helping him as she had one of her own of the same type."
"Oh, not a pretty mental picture," Xander said, shaking his head. "Buffy pregnant is a scary thing."
"Xander!" she said, throwing a pillow at him. "Oops," she said as Junior started to cry. "Sorry."
"No big. He'll go back to sleep."
"Let me," Oz said, leaning over to take the child.
"Ours. And it's my turn."
"Mine," Xander repeated, rubbing down the smooth, dark back.
"My turn," Oz said, more firmly this time. "Or nothing but cuddles later." He was given the baby. "Thanks, babe."
"Welcome." Xander shifted to look at Giles. "Are we like this there?"
"No, it appears we have more of a friendship than a marriage there. There's been a lot of fighting. Some therapy. She did mention that you had been 'sad', I'm guessing that means depressed. Maybe that's why you started seeing a therapist in the first place," he said with a shrug. "I seem to confuse her greatly because I don't give you long hugs. Buffy seems to be not part of our household, but she's a frequent visitor. Sileya, on the other hand, does live with us. She goes riding with Miriam all the time. Oh, and Strife is mostly a horse but she's had a few talks with him."
Everyone was silent for a few minutes. It was Alex that asked the important question. "How much of this can we trust as truth? If we need an accurate picture to send her home, how much of this do we trust?"
"Does sound like a bad romance," Nick noted, looking at Xander.
"No, she's telling the truth," Oz said slowly. "What she knows of it. I'd bet there was more to the story than not. Do we know who her mother is?"
"Faith," Giles said quietly. He glanced at Xander, as did Buffy, who blushed.
"Hey, wasn't that night," Xander said, holding up a hand. "Miri would have been born around graduation for that and she's too old."
"Um, hate to mention this," Oz said, "but if you remember, there was that night that you went to talk to her?" Xander shook his head. "The next day, you had hand marks around your neck?"
"Oh, yeah," Xander said, then closed his eyes. "Nothing happened though."
"I hate to say it," Buffy said, trying to be delicate, "maybe not here, but Faith was more than strong enough to take what she wanted. And you did say that Angel had to save you."
"Yup, he did," Xander said, getting uncomfortable. "So you think that there...." Buffy nodded. "That would be about the right time," he said after a few seconds thought. He shuddered. "That must have been rough on him. Nineteen and suddenly being a father to a child he really didn't want." Giles wrapped him in his arms, giving him a hug. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. She did say that she's met her mother but she was very young. She doesn't remember anything besides being taken hostage by her. That brought up memories of the fire though, which is mystifying to say the least."
"Think about it," Xander said, pushing himself back. "The town finds out that she's telekinetic. What would Sunnydale do?"
"Burn them out?" Oz asked. "Seems a little extreme."
"Not if it happened after graduation," Buffy said. "A lot of people got scared and left after that. Them being scared of her would be natural. Arson could be a result."
"Yes, well, it seems that it was. She has memories of playing in a store. We ran it, sold all sorts of little things." He smiled. "She said that she used to play with my books all the time."
Oz snorted. "You must have had a fit."
"Probably," Giles agreed. He pulled a leg up to cross it over his other one. "I do wonder how a ghost made that portal. She must have been very strong in life to have carried that much power over."
"She said something about her 'whee', as she calls it," Derek said, "learning after she died. Seems she's been bored so she's been haunting the library."
Giles shuddered. "If I managed to keep even a tenth of my books, that could be dangerous."
"So, do we take the angel's suggestion?" Nick asked.
"Doing as he suggested would be easy enough," Giles said, looking at Derek.
"Basically a double-sided scrying spell across dimensions?" He nodded. "Not terribly difficult. The spell to create the portal will be harder, much harder. This one will be draining, but it's been done often enough by members of the Legacy. Most often in cases like this."
"I'll help," Xander offered. "I know I've only been learning for a few months, but I can do something to help. Maybe act as the anchor or something."
"If we set it up out in the gazebo," Giles said thoughtfully, "there's enough natural energy out there to help us preserve it longer. Maybe use the pond as the reflective device?"
"We could," Derek agreed. "There's also spirit energy there that may help us." Nick glared at him. "Not her, dear. I won't call on Julia to help us."
"Thanks." He got up, leaving them alone.
Buffy looked at Derek but Alex nudged her. "Don't," Alex whispered. "Let him deal with it." Buffy nodded. She had been told about Nick's former girlfriend, the one whose ashes had been scattered across the pond ten years earlier.
Derek shifted in his seat. "We can try that tomorrow afternoon. Xander, get some *sleep* tonight. You too, Rupert." He got up and walked out of the room. "Goot night."
"Night," Oz called. He looked over at Xander. "We should follow the example. You look like you need held."
"Yeah, I could use a cuddle," Xander said, getting up and taking Junior back long enough for Oz to stand. "Here. Or do I get to have him?"
"Nope, me," Buffy said, grabbing the baby. "We'll put him down for the night in a little while. You guys need to cuddle without baby interruption."
"It's not that bad of one," Oz protested.
"We have him," Alex said, giving them a smile. "Go rest, guys."
"'Kay," Xander said as he took Oz's hand and led him up the stairs to their room.
Buffy cooed and made funny faces at the baby, only to have him spit up on her chin. "Eww. You have him, Alex."
Miri looked at the other children in the room then down at the cat, who winked at her. "You look like me Strife," she whispered.
"Shh," Precious said, lifting her head. "Go sleepies now, Miri."
"Me no sleepies. There's no noises." She picked up the cat to hug. "We talk?"
Precious yawned. "No, we need to sleep. We go to city tomorrow."
"Wallyworld?" Miri asked.
"No, not there," Brandon said, sitting up and turning on the lights.
"What's a wallyworld?" Xandra asked.
"Big store. Has toys and food and stuff." Miri looked down at her cat and frowned. "What?" The cat meowed quietly. "Oh, he say it's Walmart."
"We have one of those here," Xandra said, "but we no go. We go bookstore tomorrow."
"And toystore," Brandon put in. "Reward for going to bookstore and not buying it all."
"Me no get to go to bookstores, daddies say I spend to much," Miri said, grinning at them. "You live here all the time?"
"Yup," Brandon said. "Not a farm, but it's nice."
"I like it, but I miss my horsies. I sneak down to talk to them and barn kitties at night," she told them. "Daddies no like it though, me get bitten once."
"Big doggie?" Serena asked, staring at her as she tried to sense her as another were. "You no bitted."
Miri pulled up her pajama top sleeve to show off her scar. "Whee make it floaty."
Serena came over to look at the bite. "You was bitted," she said in awe, giving her a smile. "You get spelled too?"
"No, whee do it," Miri said, shaking her head. "No spells. Daddy Giles won't work around me. He say I get in way. But whee does."
"Maybe the whee did it," Brandon suggested. "Maybe like our spell."
"Go to sleep," Oz said from the doorway, opening it to look inside. "Miri, what's wrong? Can't sleep?"
"Me talk to kitty. He like me Strife."
Xander looked down at the cat. "Does he talk to you?" She nodded, grinning at him, a mirror image of one Xander used to give out when he had first come to the house. "Do other animals talk to you?"
Xander got to his knees beside her, tucking her and the cat back in. "Well, why don't we sleep now? You and your cat can talk all you want in the morning. Okay?"
She nodded. "Me go with them?"
"If you want. Or you could stay here and play in the gardens," Oz told her, leaning down to kiss the top of her head. "Sleep now, Miri."
"She usually go talk to barn kitties," Serena said helpfully as she climbed back into her bed. "She bitted but her whee take care of it for her."
Oz stared at his daughter, who nodded, then stared at the little girl. "Well, whatever the ghost did, it worked," he pronounced finally. "Do I still change there? Get furry and snarly?"
"You and daddy Rupert," she said, holding out a hand. "Me pet you one month, but daddy say no."
"Did we bite you?" Oz asked, sitting next to her on the bed.
"Nope. Strange guy did it. Me 'tect barn kitties." She nodded. "Me be big helper and everything."
"Wow," Xander said, looking at Oz. "That's definitely a difference." Oz nodded. "Go to sleep, Miri, we'll talk more about your home tomorrow, okay?"
She nodded, giving him a yawn, which was fake, but it made daddies at home happy when she did it. "'Tay, me nap."
Oz and Xander stood up, smiling at their children. "Night, guys. We'll see you at breakfast." Oz shut off the light and closed the door. He stopped Xander in the hall, listening. "She's talking to her cat," he said quietly.
"It's okay," Xander said, pulling him away from the door. "I think she's just homesick." He towed his husband the short distance to their room. "Come on, I need cuddles."
"How you eat these?" Miri asked, looking at the plate of eggs on toast in front of her.
"They eggies," Serena said. "What you usually eat?"
"Cereal. Daddies not morning persons."
"We have butler," Brandon said, pointing at the tall, dark haired man across the room. "He makes good eggies." He cut up a piece of them for her and handed her the fork. "Here, you try."
She ate it then smiled. "These good," she said, petting the cat worming it's way into her lap. "Really good. Me make daddies make them for me."
The butler came over, handing her a glass of milk. "Tell them to make you eggs on toast. Your father knows how." He smiled at Brandon. "You're done already?" The little boy nodded. "Did you want more?"
"No, thank you. Me not hungry still." Brandon looked at the cat, whose head was sticking up from Miri's stomach. "No kitties at table," he said, pointing at the cat. "We don't need to eat hair."
"Yes, that would be for the best," the butler said, walking around to grab the cat. "We'll set him here in the chair so he can watch you eat," he said as he did so. "Eat, Miriam, he's not going that far."
She took another bite of eggs, staring at her cat. Then she smiled and turned around, digging into her food and eating as fast as she could.
The butler had watched this happen, mentally making a note to talk to Derek about it. He went back to his dishes, keeping a close eye on the strange little girl and her cat.
Miri wandered around the garden, eventually coming close to where the adults were sitting and staring at the water. She walked up into the gazebo, sneaking up behind them and looking down at the water, waving at the woman's face there. "Hi," she said, making Derek and Alex jump. "Torry."
"It's okay," Oz told her, pulling her in for a hug. "Where's your friend?"
"He have to go do something. He come back soon." She snuggled down into his arms. "This comfy." She looked up to make sure it was okay, but he was smiling.
Derek turned his attention back to the picture, firming his focus to make the picture clear again. "So, she's not from your realm?"
"From about three over, I believe," the woman was saying. "From what you've told me, that's a sideline to ours. In ours, you simply disappeared when the house exploded. We never found your body." She smiled at the small shudder. "Rayne, you saved your whole house from going to hell. Be thankful it was quick. Remember what happened to William?"
"Yes, but we got him out," Alex pointed out. "He was guarding a portal, same as our Philip here is."
The woman in the lake frowned. "Really?" Derek nodded. "Are you certain it's him?"
"He married my mother," Derek said dryly. "I'm the one that got him out. It's in the Digerstonial Files. The spell and everything."
"Hmm, we'll have to consider that." She smiled at him. "Alex, you should start to consider which house you wish to run. You're doing a very good job here. Try about three over," she said, winking at Derek. "I'm sure you'll find something else there."
"Thank you," Derek said, letting his focus go, watching as the image faded. "Well, we know something at least," he sighed, leaning back against Alex's and Nick's bodies to rest. "At least it only took six calls to find out where."
"Yes, we do," Giles said, watching the cat stare at them from across the lake. "There is something decidedly odd about that cat," he said, frowning at it. "What do you think it is?"
"I think it's something that we don't need to mess with," Nick told him. "It's obviously harmless. None of our precogs have reacted to it, and Precious was playing with it this morning."
"She brushied him," Miri added. "She do good."
"I'm sure she did," Derek said, looking over at the cat, then smiling. "I wouldn't worry about the cat, Rupert, there are worse things than spirits helping out a child. Even ones that strong." He shook his head to clear his vision, smiling at Miri. "Does he remind you of someone at home?"
"Me horsie, Strife," she said, grinning at him, holding out her arms. "Me hug you? Strifey like you."
"Of course you may," Derek said, pulling her into his arms, sitting up and calling up the next portal. "Xander, focus now," he said quietly.
A new image formed on the lake, and the woman on it, the same one as before but a little younger looking, smiling at him. "We wondered when she had been sent." She waved at Miri. "How did you get there?"
"Me whee did it," she said, grinning back. "I know you?"
"No, dear, but we know you. And your father." She smiled at Derek. "And it's nice to see you out of that portal and Los Angeles," she said warmly. "It's a shame you wouldn't ask the Council to let you back in."
"I doubt it would have been appropriate," Derek said, smiling back. "I take it you know her, Kristen?"
"She's Jane's great-niece. Her nephew's daughter." She craned her neck and nodded at Xander. "His."
"He's Jane's nephew?" Alex asked.
"Here he is," she said. She looked the little girl over. "Your father was most frantic when he called Philip for help. Broke into our phone conversation and all that. Said their ghost had sent her somewhere."
"Yup, me whee send me to play."
The woman smiled. "Derek, what you hold in your hands is very special. There's a very polite prophecy about her. She's to either remain neutral against the demons or destroy them all. No one's sure which yet. Miriam? Your father said that he took care of Strife for you last night, that he was nice and calm and everything."
Miri clapped. "Good. Sileya no be home to do it. And he likes daddy, just not whole lots."
"So I've heard," Derek said, shaking his head. "Okay, so how do we get her home?"
"I'd ask for some divine intervention," the woman said. "After all, her Strife at home helped send her because she was so bored." She laughed and the picture dissolved.
"Okay," Oz said after a few seconds of silence. "Now that we know where she goes, how do we get her back to her parents before they get sent here to look for her?"
"We can work up a portal tonight," Giles said calmly, looking the little girl over. "Do you think that her grandfather promised her to Strife?"
"Nope," Xander said, lifting his head up from where it was resting on Oz's thigh. "He's drawn to her, but she's not bound. I think the me there would have thrown a fit and killed Ethan if he had."
"Very goot point," Derek said, shifting so he was comfortable. "I'd like to send a note to her fathers though, tell them to watch out for certain things."
"I think they probably have their hands full," Alex said, rubbing Derek's shoulders. "A farm, three kids, six horses, and barn cats. None of them working steady jobs." She shrugged. "I think this should be the least of their worries. The ghost should come well before a warning about her grandfather's influence."
"I think a carefully worded note being sent back with her might help some," Giles argued. "For all we know, Ethan may still be around somewhere."
"Unclie Ethan?" Miri asked, looking at him. "He live in town now. He see his little girl a lot."
"I see," Giles said, smiling at her but looking at Derek.
"I say we send through a note telling them what we've learned here and let the Giles there figure it out," he decided, pulling away from Alex. He looked around for the cat, but it wasn't where it had been. He finally spotted it sitting behind Oz. "We'll be gentle about the news though." He reached around to scratch the ears. "You take some very strange forms, Strife," he whispered under his breath. "Please protect her from the chaos that infects our house." He felt a light touch to his mind and smiled, nodding. "We'll send her home tonight. We'll worry about the ramifications of this knowledge later." He stood up and walked away, leaving the rest of his house to come as they wanted to.
The woman turned to look at the rest of her house's members. "My, didn't Derek have that 'hands off what's mine' look when I mentioned Philip?" she asked Alex.
Alex snorted. "From what I saw, some things haven't changed at all. Did you see how Xander and Oz were cuddled up?"
"Yes, I did. Though why Xander was allowed in the house I'm not sure. A child of Ethan Rayne shouldn't have been allowed to join as a member."
"Maybe he's a spouse," Alex said with a shrug.
"He was the anchor for the spell," the woman pointed out.
"Kristen, don't worry about it. I'm sure they did a background check and he probably doesn't know. After all, it's not like he's been touched by the supernatural." She snickered. "Why Buffy Summers was there is a mystery to me."
"Maybe they were helping her with a problem," Kristen said, shrugging. "It's not our job to worry about it. It's not our house."
"True," Alex sighed. "I wish the old house was still standing though." She stood up with a grunt, patting her rotund stomach. "I'd best start back. I left Westerman in charge." She waved and walked out of the office. "Send me this file when you're done please. I'd like to include it in our house's history section."
"Of course," Kristen said with a smile for the pregnant woman's back. "Better you than me," she muttered as she started to type. "I couldn't run a house and be pregnant too. I'd kill someone."
"Most likely you," floated down the hallway, followed by a laugh.
"Not funny, Alex," Kristen called back. "Now to call Philip and tell him we've heard from her." She picked up the phone and dialed a number on the West Coast. "Father Philip please?"
Xander looked out at the little girl wandering around the garden, shaking his head at his father. "Derek, I don't know what to do. She's happy here."
"I noticed, but then again, this isn't someplace totally strange. You're here, her other fathers are here. There are other children here for her to play with." He looked his son over.
"And let's not forget that cat," Xander reminded him. "You think it's going to stay around after she's gone?"
"Maybe, it depends on the spirit's will. It may not want to stay here, it may have only come here to be with her. And if that cat's who I think it is, let's hope it doesn't stay. I doubt we need the essence of mischief here."
"Not really," Xander agreed, turning to grin at his father. "But then again, it would explain Precious' behavior recently."
"Point." Derek waved at the couch. "We need to get her home. Has Rupert gotten the spell ready?"
"Mostly. He said it's incomplete because we need to see the place." Xander sat down on the couch, looking around the office. "We could have her draw a picture, but it might not help."
"If we can get a specific marker, it might help."
"Why can't we narrow the range down to a specific person? How many farms would there be in Sunnydale with a horse named Strife and a ghost that can do magic?"
"In Sunnydale?" Derek asked dryly.
"Yes, even there. You've got to admit, that's a pretty unique situation. Plus I'll be there. Oz is there. We know Rupert will be there."
"Goot point," Derek said, nodding and making a note on the paper in front of him. "We could narrow it down that way, but if all those people aren't there, then it may backfire."
"They shouldn't all be somewhere else," Xander reminded him. "If it was our kids?"
"We'd all be waiting around the house for her to get back, except for Rupert, who would be working on a spell," Derek admitted. "We could do that. And if we can get this mysterious spirit's help then it would be even better."
"Let's ask the cat then," Oz said as he walked in. "Miri's going to take a nap." He sat on the couch beside his husband and cuddled in. "We going to do it tonight?"
"We'll try," Derek said, giving the couple a smile. "I still want to tell him what's been going on here. Maybe they can find some way of getting it to the me there. I've always been fascinated by the differences between realms and dimensions."
"So send a note," Xander pointed out. "The Kristen there said that you were around but not in a house. And she said that I called Philip. He should be able to get a message to you."
"I think I'll do that."
"Now all you have to do is figure out what you want to say," Oz pointed out. "Which can be kinda hard."
"It's not like we'll be ruining some surprise," Xander pointed out, stroking down Oz's arm. "They're behind us in time from what Miri's said about how old I am, but they have a completely different set of circumstances."
"Another goot point," Derek said, still smiling. "I'll write out what I know plainly, maybe it will help him somewhat."
"Can't hurt," Xander reminded him. He shifted but Oz wouldn't let him get up. "Why can't I move?"
"Because I'm comfy?"
"Oh. Okay then," Xander said, shifting so he was leaning back, letting Oz lay on his stomach. "You can nap if you need to."
"You two have a bedroom," Derek reminded them, starting to work on his note. "Go to it. I have no desire to watch you two do that."
Oz looked up at Xander and winked. "But I'm sleepy, dad," he whined. "I don't wanna move."
Derek looked up and glared at him. "Oz, don't ever make that noise at me again." He caught the smiles and shook his head. "Teaching your children to whine was bad enough, you shouldn't want to lead them by bad example."
"Sorry, dad," Xander said, getting up and pulling Oz after him. "We're going to go cuddle." They left the office.
"Thank you." Derek balled up his first attempt, tossing it away.
Miri looked around the garden then down at the cat wandering behind her. "Strifey?" she asked quietly. "Why am I here?" The cat looked up at her. "Are these my brothers and sisters?"
The cat sat down on the path and tipped his head off to the side, meowing at her.
"Oh." She sat down next to it, petting the soft fur. "Why not?" She smiled as a picture formed in her mind, telling her exactly what was going on. "Okay." She kissed the top of his head. "Thank you." She got a headbutt for it. She stood up and started walking again. "Come on. Let's go play. I like gardens. We should make daddy plant one."
The cat traipsed along behind her, dodging all the blooms that came shooting from her fingers.
Brandon looked at his sister, then at the girl they were watching. Precious nodded so they walked over to where she was sitting, pulling her into the bushes with them. "You're special so we're going to play with you," he proclaimed. "What can you do?"
"I can lift things," Miri said. "And animalies like me. What can you do?"
"They can get into trouble," Buffy said as she interrupted them. "You guys are going to be good, right? No getting her into trouble?" Brandon smiled at her. "That's what I thought. No getting into trouble. Miri, don't do anything that your fathers wouldn't like."
"'Tay," she said, giving Buffy's legs a hug. "Me be good." She smiled at the two kids. "They be good too." She waited until Buffy was gone to float a flower she had been plucking over to finish it. "Me do this," she said proudly.
"Me do that too," Precious said, snatching the flower out of her mental 'hand' and tossing it away. "What else?"
"What else can you do?" Brandon asked.
"What can you do?" Miri asked, her hands on her hips.
"I can do what you did," Precious said, looking her over. "And me cast spells."
"Daddy Rupert say it bad," Miri said. "Me no be bad."
"Doesn't your other dads use magic?" Brandon asked. "Our daddy Xander does. So does grandpa."
"Daddy Rupert do it. He no let other daddies do it. He no want them hurt."
"They wouldn't be hurt if they did it right," Precious said snidely.
"Enough!" Rupert said, busting in on them. "We are going to stop this now. Go tell your fathers what you've been saying!" he ordered, pointing at the house. "Miri, I want to talk to you."
"You no order us," Precious said defiantly.
Xander pushed open a window and stuck his head out. "What did they do?"
"They were trying to get Miri into a 'I'm a better talent' contest. They were trying to get her to play with magic."
Xander nodded. "Grounded!" he said and slammed the window.
Giles pointed at the house but the children didn't move. "He said so," he reminded them. "Go now or I'm going to have to carry you in there." Precious stuck her tongue out at him so he picked her up and stuck her under his arm, grabbing Brandon with the other hand, and he carried them both inside. "Stay there, Miriam, I'll be right back to talk to you." He carried the two children up to the nursery, glaring at the nanny. "You seem to have a bit of a behavior problem with these two. I just found them trying to taunt Miri into using her innate gifts." He set them down, watching as Jon caught Precious when she tried to run past. "Thank you."
"S'okay, man, we've had this problem before. Precious is at the stage where she's got nothing left but spankings."
"Hey!" Precious complained. "Me have time outs."
"Not anymore," Oz said as he walked in. "I just leaned out and talked to Miri. She knows she's not supposed to use magic, that it's dangerous." He sat down on one of the beds and pulled Precious over, spanking her twice. "I've had enough," he said as he put her back on her feet and made her face him. "Both Xander and I have had enough of you and your attitude. We've tried every other form of punishment known to child psychologists. If you pull this crap again, you're going to get three." He stood up, grabbing Brandon before he could run away. "You, son, are in just as much trouble as she is." He spanked him twice and put both children onto their beds. "Now, you take a nap and you may not get up before supper." He nodded at Jon and walked out. "Any additional grounding you want, add it on."
Giles looked down at the stunned children. "You'd best be thankful that you're not mine. I'd have done that long ago." Precious started to cry. He shook his head, looking at the nanny.
"Go, man, I've got it," Jon said calmly. "They won't do it again."
Giles nodded and walked out, heading back to the garden. "Miriam?" he called as he started down the path. The cat ran between his feet so he followed it. He sat down beside the little girl, watching her watch the water in the pond. "You know what they were doing is bad, correct?"
"You not supposed to pick on littler people," she said quietly. "Daddies tell me that when I go to daycare." She looked up at him. "Me in trouble?"
"No, sweetling, you're not in trouble," he said, pulling her into her side to give her a hug. "You didn't do anything wrong."
"Me show off."
"Miriam," Giles said, turning her face up to look at him. "You should be proud of what you can do, but you should be careful about who you show it to. There's no harm in showing off for people who would understand and appreciate your gifts. Or even for people who might as well be your family."
"Like Doyle?" she asked, cheering up a little.
"Yes, like him," he said, giving her a little squeeze. "You had no idea what those two rotten children were trying to get you into. You did very good in resisting their taunting. I am very proud of the way you handled yourself, the way you stuck up for what you knew was right. They, and you, have no business playing around with magic. It is very dangerous."
"Daddy Rupert say the same thing," she said, giving him a sweet smile. "Whee do it though."
"Yes, but ghosts are special cases," he sighed. "You are *much* too young to be playing around with primal forces. They could warp you very badly."
"'Tay, me not do it," Miri said, standing up and brushing off. "Me go home?"
"Soon. Possibly even tonight." He gave her a smile. "Would you like to come sit in the library with me?"
"No whee means no fun," she said, shaking her head. "Me play with flowers."
"That will be fine," Giles said, giving her a bright smile as he stood up. "Leave a few on the stems please." He walked back into the house, leaving her alone.
Miri looked around at the sculpted bushes and sighed. "Me need to get daddy to plant a garden at home." She missed the three kids coming toward her. "Hi," she said when Xandra appeared beside her.
"Hi," Xandra said, kissing her on the cheek. "Where others?"
"They be bad," Miri said quietly, losing her smile. "They try to get me to do bad stuff."
Timmy patted her on the head. "They do it to us too. Daddies get them?"
"They grounded," she whispered. "Daddy Xander yell it at them."
"Wow," Timmy said, sitting down beside her. "I wonder for how long."
"Not know," Miri said, leaning against him. "Me not want to be bad."
"You weren't or you'd be grounded too," Serena said, plopping down in front of her. "Me look at your bite again?"
Miri held out her arm. "Whee make stuff float out of it."
"Must have been the werewolf stuff," Serena said, running her nail over the scar. "It looks bad."
"It hurt lots," she said, agreeing. "He try to get me kitties and me stop him. Daddy gives hugs."
"I bet," Oz said as he joined them. He looked at his children. "Guys, I want to know if they try to get you to do those things too. They aren't supposed to be playing with magic. If they try to get you to help them, then I want you to tell someone."
"We will," Timmy told him, giving him a hug. "She was bitted."
"So you said last night," Oz said, looking at the arm that Serena forced toward him. "Hmm, that looks really bad. Do you turn fuzzy?"
"Nope," Miri said, shaking her head, "whee make it all floaty so I no change. Daddies happy."
"Does your daddy Xander change?" Serena asked. "Ours does."
"Nope, daddy Rupert does though," she said, tipping her head off to the side. "Daddy Xander guards them. He stop hunters last year with unclies and auntie."
"Wow," Oz said, ruffling her hair. "That's very cool. Why don't you guys go play in the garden. And tell the cat to leave the flowers alone." Miri blushed and giggled. "Okay, whatever. Just leave a few alone so we can sniff them." He got up and walked away. "We're going to be up in our room if you need us," he called over his shoulder.
"You nap," Timmy called, watching him go. He leaned closer to Miri so he could whisper to her. "We don't bother them when they nap. They make lots of noises." He smiled at his little sister. "Except Xanny, she walk in on them."
"Door unlocked," Xandra defended. "They didn't say no when I knocked."
"Still not good," Timmy told her. "Daddies need time alone."
"Shh," Miri said, pointing out at the water. "Look."
The other three children turned, watching the fish come up to eat bugs. "Wow," they said together, sitting beside her and watching the new sight.
Derek watched the four children run around the garden shrieking. "She seems happy," he noted.
"There's not much for her to be unhappy about," Adam, the butler, reminded him. "Everything she might ever need is here."
"Do you think she's this happy at home?" Derek turned to look at the other man. "Do you think that she's this carefree there? She's mentioned that they're having money troubles, though I can't see Xander dancing at a strip joint except for needing the money desperately."
"I think they do the best they can. She didn't look neglected or underfed. They're probably just making it but the money's tight." He patted his boss on the arm. "There's nothing we can do about that, Derek. I doubt any money you send would work over there."
Derek smiled. "Am I that transparent?"
"Yes." Adam looked around his kitchen. "What should I fix for dinner?"
"Something soothing. We've all got heavy thoughts." Derek went back to watching the children.
Adam pulled out a big pot and some milk.
Miri looked around to make sure none of the adults were watching her and then pulled the basket of bread over with her mind.
"Ask," Oz said, catching it.
"Torry." She blinked at him, giving him a big eyed look. "Me bread please?"
"Sure," Oz said, handing her a piece. She put it back and picked out another piece. "Better?" She nodded, sopping up her chowder with it and munching happily.
Derek smiled at Oz. "That was a good catch."
"Thanks." Oz handed back the bread, rolling his eyes as his husband snatched a piece to sop up his own chowder with. "Now I know where she gets it from."
"It's the right to way eat soup," Xander defended, smiling at Miri. "Sweetling, we're going to send you home tomorrow, okay? We're all too tired to do it tonight, the spell's really hard." She pouted at him. "I know we promised to do it tonight, but we can't. We need to nap first and we want to send you home walking."
"Tay," she said after a few seconds thought. "Me go home tomorrow while sunny?"
"Sure," Nick said, giving her a smile. "We'll send you home during the day." He looked over at Derek, who nodded. "No problem."
"We'll try to get you home before noon," Derek told her. "And when you go, we'll send a note with you so your fathers won't worry about what you've been doing."
"Me be good," she protested.
"That's what he's going to tell your father," Oz told her. "Eat please."
"Tay. This good. Me need butler." She nodded when everyone laughed. "We do. No one makes eggies at home."
"I'm sure we can tell your fathers how to make them," Buffy said, giving her a smile. "I'm not sure a butler would work in your house. You don't have as big a house as we do."
"Yeah, but daddies not like to clean it."
"Ah." Derek smiled at her. "I'll suggest that in our note, all right?" She nodded, pulling a bowl over to dish herself out some more soup. "Let someone help you with that...." he said, watching as she lifted it telekinetically. "Oh, my," he said, looking on in appreciation as she didn't spill a drop. "Goot job."
"Thank you." She bowed to him. "Me practice. Daddies say no but me still practice. No spill horsie food either."
"Well, I'm impressed," Xander said, giving her a smile. "That was a very good job, but next time, still ask. Just in case?" She nodded, smiling back at him. "Thank you. Now eat."
She dug into her food, slurping it up loudly.
Precious looked at her fathers. "I don't do that," she said proudly.
"Yes, you aren't allowed. At home, she may be allowed to do that," Xander explained. "Different circumstances, dear."
"You are in so deep right now, I'd eat and not talk again," Oz warned. "I caught your little 'levitate the baby' act this afternoon." She ducked her head and started to eat.
"I'm sure he's fine," Derek said soothingly.
"Yup, he is. I got there as she was putting him down."
"We no need more babies," Brandon said.
Miri glared at him. "Babies are good. They mean that you can have time to not be watched and someone to play with."
Nick nodded, giving Xander an impressed look. "I didn't think she could talk that well."
"I talk very well, but I don't want to," Miri explained. "I like me better. Daddies say it was my first word."
"Oh." Nick smiled at her. "You do talk very well for a four year old."
"Daddy Rupert's been helping me learn. I read too," she said proudly. "We no go to bookstore though, me spend too much." She smiled at Oz. "You say so."
"You know," Xander suggested, leaning back in his chair and putting his spoon down, "we have all those books in storage. The ones that Xandra didn't want to read and that Junior probably won't either."
"The more things we send across with her, the more likely the portal will be to reopen," Giles warned. "The more area from this dimension that you displace through the portal, the harder it will be to keep it closed permanently."
"Besides, how are we going to get a lot of books through without following her?" Nick added.
"Point," Xander admitted, "but it's kinda pointless for us to keep girly books for Junior."
"You could always have more," Alex teased.
"So could you," Xander said sweetly. "When are you going to get pregnant, Alex?"
"When Hell freezes," Alex shot back. "Or when Derek does."
"I don't think medical science is that advanced yet," Derek said diplomatically. "And I don't think that we need to plan on anyone having more children in the house, children." He looked at Alex when he said it.
"Yes, Derek," she said, going back to her eating. "How would we get the books across anyway?"
"We can carry them," Xander suggested. "We can carry them across and drop them off, nod at our other selves and then come back."
"And if we get stuck?" Giles asked.
"Gee, then we'll be on a source of ready power, we'll have the spell with us, and we'll have more of us able to cast there."
"All goot points," Derek said, laying a hand on Giles' arm. "We'll discuss this later tonight. After the children are down and we have the time to consider it." He smiled at his son. "If not, we could always donate the books to a local library or homeless shelter. They should be able to use the books and wouldn't complain about who they were written for."
"Yeah, we could. And we do have all those little baby clothes that Junior can't wear anymore." He reached out for Oz, giving him a gentle stroke down the thigh. "We won't be needing them again. We could gather them together and give them to someone who needs them."
"With a few exceptions," Oz agreed. "There are a few things I want to save for the grandkids."
"Are we planning that far again?" Buffy asked. Both young men nodded. "Wow."
"Very wow, but we were thinking about them last night," Xander admitted. "It just kinda popped into our heads for some reason."
"It's something for you to consider in a few years," Derek said. "It would be a goot thing to plan for, I doubt that you're going to not have any."
"I don't want kids," Precious said, dropping her spoon and splashing her soup onto the table.
"Clean up your mess and eat," Oz warned. "Your opinion wasn't wanted."
"Ease up on her, Oz, she didn't hurt Junior," Nick said. "She hasn't earned that sort of response."
"She was trying to get Miri to work magic earlier too," Xander told him. "She and Brandon both."
"We've moved onto the spanking step now," Oz announced. "They've gone through everything else and it's never worked."
Jon cleared his throat. "I think we need to have a talk about Precious' abilities soon anyway." Derek nodded. "Good. 'Cause I don't want to see her be the shortest living Chosen One in history."
"Huh?" Buffy asked. "She'll be good at the job, she's growing up in it."
"Yeah, but she's got too much goin' on," Jon explained. "She's got too many options at her fingertips and it's going to distract her."
"Everything that she can do takes extreme concentration," Derek explained to her. "She can't fight if she's casting a spell. She can't fight if she's using her telekinetic powers." He looked at the nanny. "What were you suggesting?"
"I was thinkin' of locking some of it away."
"Dangerous?" Oz asked.
"Could be," Jon admitted, "but it could save her life. We could lock it away except in emergencies."
"Which would be the best plan," Derek said, giving him a smile. "We'll discuss this after we solve how to get Miri home, Jon. Thank you for bringing it up."
"No prob, man." He reached over and ruffled Miri's hair. "She's a good little girl though. Her daddies must miss her horribly."
"They be sad?" Miri asked, looking at him.
"I'd be sad if you were mine and had left," Jon told her.
"Me be sad too. Miss daddies and stories. And horsies," she added.
"We'll get you home tomorrow," Jon promised her. "Then you can go hug your horses all you want."
"Tay." She looked around but everyone was staring at her so she wiped her mouth, making Alex smile. "Me not be good enough?" she asked, starting to chew on her bottom lip.
"Nope, you're being fine," Xander told her. "Would you like some more soup?"
"No thank you. Me go play with Strife kitty." She slid out of her seat and ran out of the room calling for the cat.
"I wonder if we should send the cat with her," Oz quipped.
"No. I doubt it'd be able to go," Derek said. "Besides, it would create an imbalance here, which we'd have to deal with." He took a bite of his soup.
Philip put down the phone and turned to face the crowd gathered around the anxious fathers. "The Legacy here's heard from the one there. She's fine. Found a cat no less." Xander sighed and slumped into Oz's arms. "They're workin' on sendin' her home." He smiled at Derek. "Apparently there, ya're still in a house."
"Are they behind us temporally?" Derek asked, scratching his eyebrow.
"Nah, they said ya're older." He grinned at his former boss. "They did say that her fathers were there though."
"This family's in the Legacy?" Nick asked. "How'd that happen?"
"I have not a clue," Philip admitted. "Jus' that those two were cuddled up and that Xander was the anchor for the scryin' spell." He pointed at Xander and Oz. "And that they saw Buffy there too."
"Oh, dear," Derek sighed, shaking his head even as he gave Philip a hug. "It seems that house has had major problems then."
"Possibly," Giles said softly, "or we may have sent her to you to protect." Derek looked at him. "There's been occasions where Buffy's life has been threatened by the Council. We may have managed to find her a safe haven and everyone followed."
"True," Derek admitted with a smile. "And possible. Not that our structure would want to help her that much."
Philip laughed. "Oh, Kristen said somethin' else too. She said that ya'd gotten William outta Hell."
Derek's mouth fell open. "No wonder," he sighed, starting to laugh. "It must all be his fault."
"Obviously," Nick said, patting him on the back. "William always did mess up the best things." He winked at Philip. "Any word on when?"
"Any time now. They've got ta recharge, everyone looked a little worn out from callin'. I'd say in the next day or so."
"Then we'll expect her soon," Giles said firmly, heading for the kitchen. "I'm going to make lunch, would anyone like anything?"
"No thanks," Xander called, clinging to Oz. "Did she say anything else?"
"Just that ya two looked happy," Philip said with a smile. "Seems ya both are together stronger than ya are here." He walked past the couple, heading outside. "I'm gonna go talk to the animals."
"Leave Strife alone," Oz called after him. "He's not in a good mood today." He didn't get an answer. Oz looked down at the man in his arms. "She's okay," he whispered. "Being taken care of by the us there."
"But do they have kids?"
"I'm sure they're doing fine," Oz assured him, giving him a hug. "I can't imagine myself or you harming her or not watching her carefully. Can you?" Xander shook his head. "Then why the worry?"
"Because she's my baby and she's missing," Xander said quietly. He looked at Oz, whom he could tell understood. "Aren't you?"
"Very, but I trust myself." He kissed Xander on the cheek. "Let's go sit somewhere out of the way and relax, all right?" He got a nod so pulled Xander out to the living room, sitting them on the couch against the wall. "We'll sit here and cuddle for a little while," he soothed, starting a gentle massage across Xander's hands. "It'll be okay. Our baby's going to be home soon."
Xander looked out across the gardens, smiling at the little girl surrounded by boxes and two bags. "Are you sure Dad said this was a good idea?" he asked his mate, accepting him into his arms when he walked closer. "We're going to have to move a lot of stuff."
"We can do it in about three trips," Oz suggested. "Unless your brother, muscle boy, wants to come help us." He looked up, giving his mate a smile. "Are you okay with this?"
"Yup, very okay with this." He kissed the back of Oz's neck. "You?"
"I'm happy that she's going home, but she's such a *lively* little kid. She's so different from ours."
"Yeah, she is, isn't she," Xander said, grinning at her. "But can you really imagine Timmy like that? Or Xandra?"
"Not really," Oz admitted, "but it's interesting how different things are for her."
"And for us," Xander added. "Right?" Oz nodded, leaning farther into him. "It's fine. I'm sure it's a good thing for her to be at home. After all, she's spoiled there. She's obviously greatly loved. And if it were our kids that were missing, wouldn't you want them back from the us there?"
"Yes," Oz sighed, turning to get a hug. "I just want to make sure that she's fine there." He looked up, staring into his husband's eyes. "Xander, I know what you were like at twenty-three. How unsure of things you still were and everything, and that was here where you had absolute support. How bad are things there? Do you even have a future there?"
"Maybe not, but maybe we'll be able to see our other halves and talk to them for a few minutes while we're moving stuff." He kissed the end of Oz's nose. "Quit worrying, that's my job."
"Okay. I'll quit, if you start."
"Oh, I already did, I'm just hiding it better today," Xander admitted. He gave Oz a smile. "Ready to go? I can hear Giles coming."
"Okay." They turned and walked to where the portal would be created, the same spot it had started, hand-in-hand as always. They met Derek and Miri there, giving each of them a hug. "You're going home," Oz told her, kissing her on the cheek. "We'll help you get this stuff over there, but you'll be back with your daddies again soon. You be good, okay?"
She nodded, looking very solemn. "Me be good. Usually." She gave him the hint of a grin. "You be good too. Spoil your babies." She nodded and slid down out of Derek's arms, heading right for her new backpack so she could put it on.
Derek looked up as Giles joined them, giving him a smile. "All ready?"
"Yes, we're all set." He held out his hands, Derek and Xander each taking one, Oz moving to stand behind Xander and hold him now. They started to chant in unison, closing their eyes as a small breeze picked up. Suddenly, things got easier and the portal started to form. Oz looked down at the cat, who simply stared at him.
The portal formed in front of Miri and she hopped up to see over the expanding rim, cheering when she recognized home. As soon as it was big enough, she ran through, screaming, toward the house. Nick and Oz picked up the boxes of books and things, carrying them across as fast as they could. Once there, they found a little help on the other side. Namely, the other Derek and Giles. Oz nodded at himself, giving him a small smile. "She was good," he told him. "Ate her vegetables, got along well with our five and the baby. Her cat's staying with us, I think, but she missed you guys and her horses." He backed through the portal after giving himself a hug and slipping him a long letter. "Read it," he called.
Nick looked around but he didn't see himself. He gave the Derek there a smile as he walked away. "Check her backpack," he called over his shoulder. He stopped to bring one last thing through, something Xander handed him. "Here, for the father." He hurried back, noticing the fluctuations around the edges of the portal. As he stepped through, the portal collapsed behind him. He looked at his lover, who was pale and shaking but was still standing. "Come on, tough guy, let's get you to bed." He led his friend inside and upstairs to his bedroom, tucking him in.
Oz caught Xander as he slumped to the ground, holding him and talking softly to him. He looked up at Giles, who looked tired too. "Go to bed. I've got him. We'll be out here for a while."
"Thank you, boys." He turned and walked up to the house also.
Oz settled in with the bag of things he had brought for them, covering Xander with the blanket and pouring out a little of the cocoa for him to sip at. "Here, babe, try some of this. It's your special recipe." He held the thermos cup, letting his husband drink from it. "They were happy she was home. The you there instantly picked her up and hugged her, as soon as she got close enough. And whatever you sent through went with the Derek there."
"'Kay," Xander said tiredly. "Can I nap now?"
"Sure. Let me set up our sleeping bags and pup tent. We'll camp out here today." He gently eased his husband to the ground and set everything up, coming back to pull the taller man inside the small tent. He lay down with him, holding on as tightly as he could, murmuring quiet words of comfort to his husband as he slept the drain off.
Xander and Oz sat on their bed looking at the things that had come across with their daughter, smiling at the small mountain of books. They had each gotten a letter from their counterparts, and had watched as Giles had read his. Now they were alone to figure out what to do with all this stuff.
"The books go in her room," Oz decided, looking at the four strange envelops sitting on the bed. "Do we open those?"
"Later," Xander said. "Let's get some of this cleaned up first." He tapped his own letter. "I'm still a good guy there."
"What did you expect?"
"Well, the last other-me I saw was a really bad vamp."
"Point," Oz conceded. "What about the clothes?"
"I think we could safely put them in the babies' room. We have storage in the closet in there." He looked down at the letters again. "Think we could ever be that happy?"
"No?" Xander asked, looking at his lover. "Why not?"
"What they have is so special and rare that it almost never happens. I wouldn't mind having it, but it can be a pain sometimes." He looked out the window. "You get so close that you don't always know where you end and the other person begins, Xan. That can be really bad sometimes, and painful when you fight because of it."
"I guess," he sighed. He got up to move the books out of the way. When he came back, Oz had the four remaining envelopes open. "What are they?" he asked, sliding in beside him.
"Things for us to look for," Oz said, handing over the first.
"She's there. And Giles' note to himself had something about her too. That's why he's in the library." Oz read the second one and smiled. "From the Derek there, a wedding present. I guess we're married there." He handed over the letter. "We'll give that to the Derek here in the morning."
"I wonder if it's legal there."
"Probably not, but I doubt it matters to them." Oz handed over the third. "Nick's a little more practical. He mapped out where something's supposedly buried by the beach. Seems Giles came across it last month."
"The pirate's treasure?" Xander asked, reading that letter. "I thought that was a myth."
"Not quite. Stolen Native artifacts. We might go look for it, just to give to a museum or something." Oz opened the last one and smiled, handing it over. "Your other half and my other half have gotten together to give us lessons on why we fight."
Xander read the first one and laughed. "Yeah, but if we didn't have Giles, then we'd be a lot unhappier."
"Maybe," Oz agreed. "We'll read through the rest of them in the morning." He laid everything aside and turned off his bedside light, rolling over to snuggle into his lover's body. "At least we know they're happy and secure."
"Yeah, they are," Xander admitted, putting the letter he was holding down. "Very happy. But how do they manage six kids?"
"I don't know. Twins are hard enough, quads must have about driven them insane."
"Bet they have a nanny," Xander quipped.
"And a butler," Oz noted. "Miri's note from Derek said she'd be telling us about him and how he cooked for her." He closed his eyes. "We'll think about everything in the morning, babe. Sleep now."
"Night, Oz," Xander whispered, closing his eyes to drift off to sleep.
Miri snuck down to the barn, giving her horse a hug. "Thank you, Strife. You nice." She kissed his nose. "You're nice as a kitty and you're nice as a horsey." She giggled as he nudged his halter and reins, which were hanging beside his stall. "We ride?" she asked. The horse blew against her chest. "Okay, we ride," she said, grabbing the leather to put on him. "We no go into woods though, I want to stay close to home tonight in case daddies need me." She checked the last buckle and let him out of his stall, lifting herself up onto his back. "Go, Strifey," she said, nudging him with her feet. "We go play."
They walked out of the barn, heading for the cleared spaces next to the house.
"Miriam!" Giles yelled from the porch as they passed by, but she waved.
"We ride, be back little while," she called, urging Strife to go faster.