Getting the Details Settled
Oz walked into Xander's yoga class, watching him for a few minutes, waiting until he got into a position he could pull him from. As soon as his lover shifted, he grabbed him and pulled him from the room. "Come on," he said, stopping Xander from arguing. "We've got to do a few things. You getting bendy isn't going to help me any."
"Maybe you should try it," Xander said with a grin, reaching down to pinch Oz on the butt. "You sound like you could use centered and calmed."
"Yeah, but before then, I've got to do a little bit of work. Then I'll be calm." They waved at Jace, who had the gall to blush when Oz stopped to stare at her. "Tape?" he asked.
"Went out already," she said lightly.
"Good. Tell him I want it back." He started to tug again, towing Xander up to their room and locking them in. "Order lunch, and nothing that fattening. I saw your last cholesterol count."
Xander sat down on the bed, wiping off the back of his neck. "Oz, I'm fine. You're here and I'm fine. What's wrong?" he asked as he grabbed his tiny lover and hugged him. "What could possibly be worrying you?"
"The fact that we're going back to the same area," Oz noted. "People there know me."
"Hey, with the strange that happens in Sunnydale? Do you think you're going to become news?"
"Maybe," Oz admitted. "I don't want that."
"So don't. Wear your illusion thingy whenever you go out. No one comes to visit us. And if they do, then I'll tell them you're Oz's cousin."
"That's good," Oz agreed, shifting so he was better placed on Xander's lap. "What about Buffy?"
"We don't see her that much either."
"No, but I'm sure she'll at least show up to tell you how sorry she is." Oz pushed his lover backwards, leaning into his body. So when Xander lay down, he went with him. "I have a new identity all set up, thankfully Steve is more than good at that stuff."
"Is he going to come see us again?"
"Maybe." Oz looked up. "Why?"
"I wanted to know when your new birthday was."
"Same as my old one," Oz sighed, shaking his head.
"Uh-huh. You have to have a different birthday and we have to celebrate it or else people will start to look at you funny. It's things like missed birthdays that make people look for answers."
"Okay, point. Saint Patrick's Day. Happier?"
"Yup. Can I throw you a party?"
"Only if you go home and start working again," Oz said, putting his head back down. "I'm worried because eventually we'll be caught. No matter how good we are at hiding it, we'll get caught."
"Actually, if we hide it, we'll get caught. Hiding anything creates a strain most people can feel. That's why people who are hiding terrible secrets don't feel comfy around people," Xander reminded him. "And a grieving me would want to celebrate happy occasions."
"I hadn't thought of that," Oz admitted, snuggling in closer. "Are you going to be able to handle this?"
"I don't know," Xander said, lifting his head to look down at the man on his stomach. "I can try. If it get's too bad, I'll tell you and we'll take a long trip. If worse comes to worse, you can say that you're a vamp."
"That's not a bad idea," Oz said, looking up. When he saw how close the puffy lips were, he stole a kiss. "That's better."
"We could spread that rumor around, but we'd have to clue Buffy in first. I really don't want to have to kill her for trying to stake you."
"Oh, why not?" Oz asked sarcastically.
"Because she was good to my puppy and I'd hate to reward her for it by ripping out her throat," Xander said simply.
Oz looked up. "I was joking."
"Oh." Oz put his head back down and gave the young man a hug. "We could spread that rumor. It might even work. Of course, we'll have to find my watcher and clue them in."
"They'd have to be around you a lot, right?"
"Or at least able to watch over my movements, yeah. Why?"
"Because there hasn't been that many new people into town since Buffy came. Only a few before that. Most of the new people are up at the college."
"Which I'm not at," Oz reminded, then sat up. "So they really couldn't watch me." He looked thoughtful. "Do you have any idea who it is?"
"Nope," Xander sighed, stretching his arms over his head. "Not a clue. But it's a place to start looking."
"Yeah, it is," Oz agreed, giving him a smile. "Okay, so if anyone asks, I'm not exactly human. That would work beautifully in town. Outside of town, I'd have to wear my illusion."
"You should wear it around town too," Xander reminded him. "And keep a low profile."
"I'll start out trying to keep the illusion on and if it comes undone, I'll admit to being not real human," Oz said. "That's a very good plan. I knew I loved you for some reason besides you being so sexy and tough." He leaned in for a kiss but Xander pulled away. "What?"
"You only love me because I'm tough and sexy?" Xander pouted.
"And because you have incredible brains," Oz said with a small smile. "And because I do."
"Okay, that's a good reason," Xander said, grabbing Oz and rolling him under him so he could pin him to the bed while he ravished his love.
"Knock, knock," Jace called as she opened the door and walked in. "Oops, probably should have checked the security cameras first," she said, turning away from them.
"No big," Xander said, rolling off Oz to look down at her. "What's up?"
"Just a few things. One of them being a prezzie from the old guy," she said, turning and giving it to Oz. "He said you forgot it." She smiled at Xander. "And the other is that we intercepted a phone call for you from Giles. Your phone's not working," she explained to ease their heated glares at her, with a not so subtle point at the phone that was lying off the hook. "He said he's fine. He's in Vancouver right now. He loves you both and he'll be home in a few months." She waved and started to walk out but Oz hopped up and stopped her right outside the door. "What?"
"What did he really say?"
"Not much. I told him you both were safe. Seems he had talked to Methos, who told him what this place was. I told him you had finally gotten here and that you were both happy again." She patted his cheek. "Love, he loves you, even if he didn't say it in so many words."
"Did he say he was coming here?" Xander called.
"No, sweetie," she sighed. "He didn't."
Oz nodded. "Thanks. I'll put the phone back on the hook."
"Might be a good idea," she said with a wink. "Are you two going to come eat with me?"
"Nope," Xander said, sticking his head out of the door. "I want to eat supper in Oz's lap."
"Ah. All right then, but I expect to see you both at my table before you leave in two days." She waved and walked away.
"Two days?" Oz asked.
"I want to go home," Xander said firmly. "I miss skinny dipping in my pool. I miss my furniture, and I miss my sewing machine."
"Ah. Okay. I can do that," Oz agreed. He walked into their room and shut the door.
Oz sat down across from his student, giving her a serious look. "So, how have you been?" he asked, clutching Xander's hand.
"Relax, teach, I'm not stealing him from you. I may ask if he wants to take part in that nummy charity auction I usually haunt in LA in a few months, but I doubt anything short of some of my lovers will ever make him leave you." She smiled at Xander. "He's scared that you're going to leave him for someone that can understand you better."
"He's going to stop it or you two are going to have dinner by yourselves," Xander said mock- sweetly. "Oz knows I won't leave him." He glared at his lover. "If you need further proof that I'm not leaving you, I'll show you later."
"I saw that little mark on your side," Oz said with a frown. "A tattoo?"
"Yes, dear, of *your* name."
"Peace, gentlemen," Jace broke in. "No more fighting."
"Yes, dear," Xander sighed. "He's being paranoid for no reason. Again."
"He gets like that sometimes," Jace pointed out. "Usually right after something happens. Especially after he dies."
"Yeah, he does," Oz sighed. "I've been trying to put it back in, but I haven't quite been successful yet." He leaned over to hug his lover. "I'm sorry. I know you won't leave me, but sometimes my paranoid side comes out."
"Then tell me and I'll gladly let you mark me as yours," Xander reminded him, looking into his eyes. "It's not like I'm not wearing a few right now."
"Yeah, you are," Oz said with a grin. "Quite a few if I remember right."
"Boys," Jace sighed, leaning back in her chair so she could cross her legs. "Let's not fight on your last night in Sin City."
"Ah, but we'll be back," Xander said, giving her a grin.
"Yeah, we will," Oz agreed, taking Xander's hand to hold.
"We should travel every year," Xander decided, but Oz looked at him. "Maybe?"
"I'll let you convince me when we get home," Oz said as he leaned over to nip at his lover's ear. "Now, be good. Eat something healthy for me and I'll give you treats later, naughty."
Xander looked over his menu. "I want the baked fish with the onion rings," he said, winking at Jace. Oz shook his head. "Their vegetables."
"Fried ones," Oz countered. "Have a real vegetable."
"Broccoli with cheese?"
"You don't need the cheese and it'll probably taste funny with the fish."
"Let him have the onion rings," Jace said, giving them a smile. "I think he deserves it. Besides, it's not like he needs to be careful."
"That's the bonding," Xander said, squeezing Oz's hand.
"He's not a pre?" she asked in surprise.
"Nope." Oz took a drink of water. "Ask Meth the next time you talk to him. He can tell you all about how we partially botched the spell." He grimaced. "And why Xander needs to eat healthily."
"Yes, dear," Xander sighed. "How about you pick out something for me then?"
"I like the fish, and the onion rings would be fine," Oz relented, seeing the disappointed look his lover wore. "They should be subtle enough to go well with the fish."
"We have a decent selection of international food," Jace offered. "Many things on that menu are healthy." She leaned closer to Oz. "You could even get him to eat something Greek or English if you wanted."
"Oh, Indian!" Xander said happily as he looked over the menu. "I always wanted to try some." He held the menu out to Oz. "Pick something subtle for me?"
"Sure." Oz looked over the selection and smiled. "Subtle and not spicy?"
"Do you want to listen to me belch all night?" Xander asked archly.
"No." Oz nodded as he caught sight of something. "We'll have a multi-cultural meal," he decided, putting the menu aside as the waiter came to their table. "We'll have the fruit chutney, very mild, and some of the flat Middle Eastern bread. For the main course, we'll have some Kebbah."
"Beef with a Hindu dish?" Jace asked, raising one perfectly tweezed eyebrow.
"Okay. Maybe the lamb equivalent," Oz said, giving in easily. "With onion rings."
"Very good, sir," the waiter said. "For your companion?"
"We're sharing the meal," Oz told him, squeezing Xander's hand.
"Very well," the waiter said, making a note before turning to his boss. "Ma'am? Oh, and my wife wishes me to bow at your feet for the baby's birthing gifts."
She smiled. "It was only a little thing. I'll have whatever the chef feels like giving me." She handed over their menu's. "And some nice white wine served with appetizers, please."
"Of course." He bowed to them and left.
"We have some wonderful Indian wine that should go well with the chutney."
"Baby present?" Xander asked. "He doesn't look older than I am."
"It's his second child, his first son," Jace told him. "He was married before he came over to study at the local university." She shrugged. "That's the way things are in his country."
"Oh." Xander looked thoughtful. "I never thought about that." He looked over at Oz. "Can we travel for a month every year? I'd like to see and learn about different places."
"We'll see," Oz said, giving him a smile. "We have plenty of time to do all that."
"Not necessarily," a deep voice said as he walked up to the table. "I wish to challenge you."
"This is Holy Ground," Jace said, her voice turning hard. "There are no challenges here. This is a sanctuary." She stood up to get between them. "Leave. Leave my establishment and never come back."
"He endangered us all!" the other immortal complained.
"No, he didn't," Oz said. "I wore a disguise to get here and I'm going to do it at home. It wasn't my fault that the camera crew was down the street."
"How did you get loose?" Jace asked.
"The ME had seen a few of us before. She sprung me." He shrugged. "No one's seen me yet except those people here, most of which already know."
"My wife didn't," he said hotly. "She noticed!"
"I'm sorry," Jace said. "Maybe you should have been honest with her."
"I was going to tell her during this trip. She didn't need the shock though."
Oz shook his head. "This isn't my fault. I'm sorry she found out that way, but it's not my fault she was shocked." He got out of the waiter's way, looking over the food that was put down in front of him. "Mild?" he asked, looking at the peppers in the curry that came with their meal. The plates were switched with a self-conscious smile. "Thanks." He picked up a piece of bread and tore a section off, using it to scoop up some curry and feed it to Xander. "I'm on my way home, no one else knows."
"Home? You're going back where you were?"
Oz touched something in his pocket, then pulled out the earring and put it on, becoming a wiry- looking African American. "Yeah, we are."
"Um, Oz?" Xander asked. "Why did Giles pick that one? You still look like you."
"I'm supposed to be my cousin," Oz reminded him. "There should be some family resemblance."
"Oh. Okay." Xander nibbled on the curry being held out to him again. "This is really good," he said, kissing his lover on the cheek. "Quit showing off," he whispered. "You're scaring him. Magic isn't usual to everyone."
"Point," Oz agreed, handing Xander the bread while he took out the earring. "Better?" he asked.
The man shook his head. "How did you do that?"
"Magic," Jace said. "Something that we seem to have forgotten about." She sat back down, smoothing out her skirt as she recrossed her legs. "Now then, I believe you were going to leave us alone?"
He nodded, backing away. "The challenge still stands," he called. "I'm not going to let the insult to my family go."
"What an ass," Xander said softly. He picked up some of the bread and followed Oz's movements from earlier, feeding Oz this time. "Are you taking it?"
"I could. We could go out into the desert and do it," Oz said. He shook his head after seeing the sad look. "I don't want to, Xander. I promise I won't unless he gets pushy, all right?" His lover gave him a kiss then pulled back and handed him a glass of wine. "Thanks. You still do that very well."
"If we were upstairs, I'd be doing it naked and in your lap," Xander reminded him.
"Boys, not *everything* can be about pleasure. Not even for a GHS like Xander." She sipped at her own wine before taking a bite of her curry. "Oh," she said, waving a hand in front of her mouth. "The chef decided I needed some fire tonight." She sipped some more of her wine. "How's yours?"
"Good," Xander said, smiling at her. "Really hot?" She held out a spoonful of the relish to him, letting him eat it. "Whoa. Way hot," he said, picking up the lone wine glass he and Oz were sharing to drink away the burn. "That's *great*!" he said, handing back the spoon.
"You can have hot curry tomorrow for lunch," Oz told him. "I know a great place in LA. We'll visit there on the way home, get something for you to eat in the car." He took the wine glass back. "Easy with that. You don't drink."
"I'm not going to get drunk," Xander reminded him. "I haven't been in that condition since I was twelve and my father forced me to drink with him to make me a man." He sniffed. "I wonder how his sentencing went."
"We can check online tonight," Oz said, leaning over to hug him. "I'm sure your mother's safely away. You had plans to get her out of town if you needed to."
"Yeah, but she never left a message saying that she needed it," Xander pointed out. "I checked the answering machine every day."
"Well, maybe we'll go home to find out that she robbed us," Oz said lightly, taking a nibble of Jace's curry too. "Oh, really hot. Much hotter than I like."
"I know," she said with a smile. "I remember quite well." She turned her smile on Xander. "Did you tell him about seeing my collection yet?"
"Not that," Oz sighed, putting down the wine glass, making sure it was on his side of the table. "You showed him *those*?"
"Yup," Xander said with a grin. "That's when she gave me the idea for when you walked in."
Oz looked at his student. "Thank you." He picked up some of the chutney, quickly feeding it to Xander to counteract the wine. "Eat, love. I promise to be good if you do."
"I'm always good," Xander said with his best mischievous grin.
"I'm sure," Jace said, chuckling at the dirty look Oz sent her way. "He seems like he behaves very well."
"I'm sure you think so, you two get into the same sort of trouble." Oz continued to feed Xander, ignoring the heated looks the man that had challenged him was sending towards them.
Jace caught Xander as he walked past the main desk. "You know you can't go."
"I'm going to sit on the car," he said. "We have an agreement. I won't interfere and he won't try to sneak out and fight without me." He shrugged, getting free. "I refuse to let Oz die alone."
"Which is a very good idea," Oz said, walking up behind them. "Don't worry, I'm tying him to the car." He pulled out his handcuffs, dangling them where Xander couldn't see. "We'll be fine."
She nodded but picked up her own sword. "I'm sure. That's why I'm going as your second." She waved at the door. "Shall we?"
Oz groaned but headed out with Xander beside him. He knew it was futile to argue with her, he never won, not since well before the calendar started to run forward. Not even her other teacher, Adamus, had ever won an argument with her, and the man everyone knew as Adam was much more stubborn than most people on earth.
Jace grabbed Xander's hand when Oz suddenly growled and spun around, doing a beautiful back- swing to behead the guy. She backed away, heading for the car, as the quickening started flowing into Oz. "Xander, he's not in there honey, back away," she said quietly.
"Nope. He won't hurt me."
She grabbed his arm, tugging him with her. "He doesn't know you." Oz screamed and came after her so she let go and ran for the safety of the car. "Xander!"
"Mine!" Oz yelled, grabbing Xander.
"Oh, shit!" She locked herself in.
Xander looked at Oz, leaning down to kiss his nose. "I'm yours. Did the mean person say that he was going to steal me?" he asked, his voice soft, gentle, and soothing. "He was wrong. I'm not going anywhere." Oz growled at him. "I'm not. You know that, Oz."
"Not Oz!" he growled, thumping his chest.
"Theodonius," he whispered, clinging to him. "You have me still. He couldn't steal me. Not from you." He hid his face in Oz's neck, sniffing him. "Yours."
"Mine!" Oz said, a little less fiercely this time.
"Yours," Xander agreed, letting go of him and stepping back, looking down. "Your mate," he said.
Oz looked his mate over, giving it a nod. "Mine," he said, reaching over to rub across the flat stomach. "Pretty." Xander smiled at him. "Mine?"
"Yours," Xander agreed, leaning into his touch. "Always yours. No nasty headless guy will ever take you from me." He kissed Oz on the nose. "Okay?"
Oz started to come back, clutching Xander to him as tightly as he could. "Stay?" he whispered. "Just until I refind myself?"
"Of course. I'm not moving. Not even if someone would come and try to challenge you again." He kissed his lover again. "See? You calm down and finish coming back. I'm right here."
"Stay," Oz whispered again, burying his face against Xander. "How long was I gone?"
"Just a few minutes. You weren't fully gone. You still recognized me." Xander started rubbing down his mate's back, his other hand rubbing over the back of Oz's neck. "See, still here. You're still here and that's all that matters." He made sure his baby was soothed and calmed, keeping Oz from looking at the car or at Jace, making sure that he calmed down to the point where he was fully back to being his Oz. Finally, he pulled back. "Ready?" he asked.
"Yeah." Oz looked up, looking at the car. "Did I threaten her?"
"Yup. She tried to get me into the car."
"Ah." Oz nodded, leading Xander back to the backseat. "Sorry, he said Xander was cute and he was going to take him home for his wife to comfort," he said quietly.
"As long as you're back," Jace said, starting the engine. "Xander, that was really risky," she admonished. "Usually he can't tell his friends apart from anyone."
"He didn't get that deep this time," Xander told her. "It was all about that guy trying to take me."
"Which is why he reacted to me," she said flatly. "Okay. Just remember, Oz can't usually control himself during those times."
"He won't hurt me," Xander said firmly. "Not even when he doesn't know me. A part of him will recognize me."
Oz laughed sourly. "Methos used to think the same thing," he sighed, covering his eyes. "Xander, I'm going to agree here. You can't get in there with me. I won't know you." He looked over at the younger man, seeing the anger. "Hey, I haven't recognized my own reflection before. I can revert to the primal state where no one registers as a friend. Or even a mate," he said, picking up Xander's hand to hold. "I don't want to hurt you." Xander started to shake his head so Oz squeezed his hand again. "All I'm saying is to gauge me first. Stand a little ways away and look me over, see if I recognize you. If I don't, then you're in danger too."
"Fine," Xander said coldly, pulling his hand back. "I'll just stand by and watch."
"Basically, that's what you're supposed to be doing," Jace reminded him, turning the car around. "I called my watcher, they're already on their way. Oh, and Joe's in town."
"Goody," Oz said dryly. "Why?"
"Not real sure," Jace said, turning her attention to more pleasant matters, trying her hardest to ignore the cold attitude coming from the young mortal. She even managed it until she parked the car, then she grabbed Xander and pulled him aside. "Listen, kid, I've seen Oz go for Methos' head because he didn't recognize him. I've seen him go for mine and for another student he used to have because he didn't recognize us. No matter how strong your bond may be, he doesn't usually recognize himself. This isn't about your bond, this is about that funny little place in Oz's mind where everyone that exists is an enemy. Even if he loves them more than his life." Xander nodded stiffly so she let him go. "I don't want to have to try and hold Oz together if he kills you, Xander. Neither does Methos. Listen to us in this case."
"You know," Oz said, walking over to them, "he may be the only one that could get through my problem." He wrapped his arm around Jace's waist, looking at Xander with her. "And if I ever hurt him, there wouldn't be anything for you to hold together. Xander is my life." He let her go. "Come on, I need cuddles." He held out a hand and Xander took it, walking away with him.
"I hope I never see that moment," Jace whispered. "I never want to see you that destroyed, teach."
"Me either," a darkly handsome man said from behind her as he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her closer. "But it won't happen. That kid's got a major destiny."
"You're sure?" she asked, looking up at her favorite teacher, giving him a tremulous smile. "You're really sure about that, Ares?"
"Definitely. Xander's proof that the Gathering won't happen. We've made sure that Oz will always recognize Xander. Those two need to last for a few more years or so." He gave her waist a squeeze then gave her a sexy little smile. "So, do you have any plans for tonight?"
"Only to send them a treat in apology," she sighed. "How many others of us have you messed with."
"You of all people shouldn't ask that question," he reminded, pinching her rear.
"Point," she said with a smile. "Do you want to walk with me or would you like to wait in my apartment for a few minutes?"
"I'll walk with you, I'd hate to see you get lost," he purred, stroking over her soft skin.
Oz opened the door at the hesitant knock, accepting the cart with a nod. He signed the form and let the man leave, rolling it in to sit beside the bed. "Joxer's sorry," he said, sitting down beside Xander. He read his copy of the invoice with a smile. "And I won't ever be able to hurt you in that state. Her first teacher said so." Not that he didn't trust the God of War's word, but his paranoid side wasn't going to let this go.
"I thought you were her first," Xander said, the pillow over his face.
"Not quite. She had a decent amount of training when she came across." He stole the pillow to look down at his mate. "Do you understand what I was saying? The whole point of it all?"
"Yeah, but it sucks."
"Yes, it does, but it's something I don't want to consider happening." He brushed his thumb across Xander's lips. "How could I go on if I hurt you?" he whispered.
Xander sat up and hugged him. "Then I won't get in your way."
"Nope, wrong term. You weren't in the way, Xan, you were in danger. Big difference there. I might not have recognized you. I literally have almost taken Connor's head, and the old guy's too, because they tried to do what you did tonight." He saw the quick nod and look away. "I don't want to come back to myself after hurting you. Especially not with the violence I know I can do in that state. I never wanted you around me in that state." He leaned in and kissed his cheek. "Eat. I'm sure you fidgeted off supper by now."
Xander looked at the tray and shook his head. "Not hungry."
"Being pissed and hurt won't help either of us," Oz reminded him, his voice getting a little harsh. "Pouting about it won't either."
"Oz, if I was pouting, you'd know it," Xander said coldly. "What would you do if I had told you that you weren't important enough to know?"
"That's not what I said," Oz said in exasperation. He stood up, facing his lover. "What I *said* was that in *that* state I wouldn't even recognize *myself*! Not anything at all to do with what we have." Xander opened his mouth. "Not a thing to do with us!" he repeated, trying to make him understand what had went on earlier. "My mind is one of those bad places to be sometimes, Xander, and that's one of those times. When I'm in that state, all I know is that everyone around me is going to kill me. No matter how much I might love them, or how long I've known them." He grabbed the younger man and pulled him up to hug him. "I never want to hurt you. You can never let me hurt you."
"Oz, trust me, you'll never hurt me," Xander said calmly. "Somehow I know that you won't."
Oz pulled back and looked into his eyes. "I'll be damned," he said, dropping Xander onto the bed and heading out of the room at a jog. He ran through the lobby, heading for his student's apartment. "Joxer!" he yelled as he burst through the door. "Strife marked him?" he asked, completely ignoring the fact that she was tied down to the bed or that someone was presently trying to have sex with her.
"Who?" Ares called, grunting as he finished up. "Sorry, I'll make it better for you later." He turned to find Oz staring at him, giving him a panicked look. "Oh, him. A little. He didn't interfere, but he was promised to Strife when he was younger." He shrugged. "We'll stay out of his life if you'd like."
"*Strife* marked him?" Jace/Joxer asked, confused. "I never noticed it."
"You didn't hear his life history," Xander said dryly. "Sorry for my mate's manners." He looked him over. "Let me guess, you aren't this Strife guy, right?" Ares shook his head. "And I'm also going to take a stab at another deduction. You're not demonic?" Ares shook his head again, this time with a smile. "Then you must be...." He passed out as his brain caught up with his thoughts.
"Gee," Strife said as he appeared behind Oz, dodging his attempt to grab him. "I never woulda guessed him for the swoonin' type." He looked up at Joxer and grinned. "Hey, babe!"
She cleared her throat. "Would someone like to tell me what's going on?"
Strife nodded, walking over and touching her forehead quickly, making a little glow happen.
"Oh." She frowned up at him. "Who would've done that?"
"His father said anybody," Strife said with a shrug. He grinned at Oz. "Hey, Theo."
"Bite me," he said, bending down to wake Xander up. "Can you possibly, maybe, keep the chaos out of our lives for a bit?" he asked.
"Sure. But I thought I was." Ares glared at him. "What? Xander interrupted tha demon."
"Point," Ares growled. "This really isn't a spectator sport," he noted.
Oz nodded. "Sorry. Just a moment of shock." He picked Xander up and carried him out to the living room. "Strife, if we may?" he asked, trying to sound polite.
"Sure, I'm bored anyways." He walked out, closing the door behind him, shooting a grin at Jace. "I'll be back," he promised.
"I'm probably still going to be tied to the bed," she sighed, shaking her head as soon as the door was closed. "Sorry, oh great one," she teased.
"I could leave you there," Ares warned as he leaned down to nip at her arms.
Strife looked down at the unconscious body. "I never really figured him for tha passin' out type," he said with a shrug. "Whaddya want?"
"I want to make sure that you're not interfering in his daily life," Oz said, looking up at the God of Mischief. "Please? We have enough problems already."
"Oh, the Oz-man asks for a major favor," Strife crowed. "He who said that I didn't really exist."
"Yeah, and then I met Xander," Oz reminded him. "My life has been in chaos since then because of that."
"Yeah, well, the guy's a great minion," Strife said with a shrug. "I'm not there daily for him, really. He's never asked for it."
"So, all this is from him being marked?" Xander asked softly.
Strife looked down and grinned. "Basically. Your dad offered ya up to any God that would listen to get money. He blew it though."
"Figures," Xander said, sitting up. "So everything so far was all you? The demon brothel, the fights? All of it?"
"Not quite," Strife said, sitting in mid-air. "I didn't make ya go ta New York. Though it was more fun for me." He shrugged at Oz's dirty look. "Mostly, I'm the reason that you're the one that they're drawn too. I've always considered ya to be a sorta-innocent bystander. Though I did send Oz to the Hellmouth. I figured the guy deserves it after all this time."
"Who's over the Game anyway?" Oz asked. "I always thought it was Ares."
"Half. Everyone thought it'd give him too much power. We share it." Strife grinned. "When ya think about it, it make sense."
"Oh, yeah," Oz said, nodding. "Much sense now." His face fell. "Mariam?" he asked quietly.
"Was all her, dude," Strife sighed. "Like I said, I spectate with you guys. The last time I interfered was to bring back that Richie kid." He leered at Xander. "And to watch over you in New York."
"Um, eww," Xander said, raising a hand. "Really eww."
"I meant the last time," Strife said, getting serious. "There's a reason that the maid agreed to help you out, kid."
"Okay, not so eww then," Xander said, giving the God of Mischief a grin. "Thanks for that."
"Yeah, thanks for that," Oz said, holding out a hand. "For all of it."
"Hey, like I said, you're real welcome. I like you two. You two are one of the most stable relationships in the Game right now. Mac had his shot at sanity and he's apparently lost it. The mercenary girl and her boy are doing okay. I'm interested in keepin' ya guys around for a bit. Oh, and the married guys are having fights again. They went to Methos for advice and he locked them in a room."
"Ostrack?" Xander asked. "Can I please ask that he not be able to grab me again."
"Not an issue," another voice said, though there was no body around for it to have come from.
"Cool," Strife said, looking up. "Thanks, dude."
"Welcome. Get up here. I'm horny and if I have to wait, then you're gonna pay."
"Sure. Comin'!" He winked and disappeared.
Oz helped Xander up and led him out of the apartment, back up to their room, and locked themselves inside. "Wow. They exist?" Xander asked, sitting down. "Gods and people like that exist?"
"Jace was trained by them," Oz mentioned as he sat beside his lover. "They're around but usually quiet about it now." Oz took his lover's hand. "We okay again?"
"Yeah. We're okay," Xander whispered. He looked down at himself. "I wonder what else has happened because of him."
"No, my father," Xander sighed.
Strife appeared and shook his head. "This is why we don't tell ya about this stuff," he said, slapping Xander lightly, making him forget. "You didn't yell at him but he got the message, dude. Keep him safe or else." He grinned. "I really don't want to hear Jace bitch about losing him too soon. I'd have ta do somethin' ta make her happy again." He disappeared again, after tapping Oz on the top of his head.
Xander shook his head. "Oz?" he asked, looking at the tray beside the bed. "When did we order food?"
"It just showed up. Jace sent it to us," he said, picking up a sweet roll to feed to his lover, ignoring the obvious little tongue marks across the icing. "We still need to pack."
Xander gave him a look but nodded. "Sure."
Oz smiled. "Don't say it out loud," he whispered, stealing a kiss. "He'll come back."
"Okay. I trust you to know best." Xander stole a bite of the roll. "Want to save those for after the chores are done? That way I can feed you?"
"Sure," Oz said, finishing off the roll. He made sure to recover the tray, then looked around for the animals. "Don?" he called.
"Bathroom," Xander said, letting them out. Percival glared at him. "Hey, I'm not the one that decided to get out and explore the resort," Xander told him. "If you had been good, then you wouldn't have been closed in there."
"And Don?" Oz asked, looking around.
"Since he's not in there, he's down at Jace's. I think I saw him before we left for supper. He was stalking her plants."
"He's missing his sister," Oz said knowingly. He got up, going to grab their suitcases so they could get the chore out of the way. He stopped and looked at Xander. "Then who licked the sweet roll?"
Xander picked up the phone and called the front desk. "Hi, this is Xander Harris. Do you know where my runway is?" He grinned. "Thanks. Yeah, sometime in the next hour if you could." He hung up. "The chef was teaching him how to cook. Those were made in Jace's kitchen."
"Okay then," Oz sighed, shaking his head. He looked at the bed as a puffed out kitten appeared. "Let me guess, you tried to get the wiggling toes?" he asked dryly. Don sat down and started to give himself a bath, smoothing out his ruffled fur.
Xander snickered. "Doesn't he always?"
Xander looked around their house, his frown growing with each room he checked. "Oz!" he yelled finally. When his lover came running, he pointed at the broken sword on the bed. "Someone was fighting in here."
"It was Giles," he soothed. "Or Richie possibly. Two of the swords from upstairs are missing."
"Which?" Xander asked, turning to give him a hug.
"One of the broadswords, and my light katana." Oz gave Xander a squeeze. "I'll call the old guy tonight and tell him, see if he knows...." He stopped as the phone rang. "Bet that's whoever." He picked up the phone and handed it to Xander.
"Hello?" he asked hesitantly. "Oh, hey, Steve. Yeah." His smile fell away. "Really? What can we do for you, man? We owe you big." He nodded and handed the phone to Oz. "It's Steve. Our money guy's died in a car wreck, he was forced off the road. And it was Richie that was fighting in here, he picked up Steve after he died so they were both here." He headed for the kitchen to fill the pet bowls. "Guys," he called, bringing one of the kittens. "Food!"
Rocky came running, sliding on the tiles in the kitchen.
TO BE CONTINUED...