You Don't Touch What's Mine!
Xander dialed the only number he had memorized for Ray, closing his eyes as he listened to the voice mail message. "Ray?" he asked, his voice quivering with fear. "I'm, um, kinda in trouble. I've been kidnapped and the guy's going to auction me off at the benefit auction tomorrow. He wants my lover to be there to bid on me and then face a challenge." The phone was snatched from his hand. "It's the only way to get hold of my lover," Xander explained as the phone was hung up. "That's our best friend and he'll call him. He's on vacation right now."
"I bet. As long as nothing funny happens, then you might just enjoy tomorrow night."
Xander backed away from him and sat down, crossing his legs. "I doubt it. I'm all for charity but I don't want to do this. Why can't you challenge people the normal way?"
"Because this is more fun," his captor said, running a sweaty finger across the young man's chin, "and it makes the charity a lot of money." He laughed and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him and locking it. "I'll bring you clothes and food in the morning," he called.
"Yay. I doubt it'll be something I'll like." Xander looked around his cell, shaking his head at the bare walls and mattress. "Such a hole," he muttered, going over to take a nap. He knew the guy wouldn't touch him, that wasn't part of the plan.
Ray hung up his cellphone and looked at his lover, nodding him toward the outside. Methos followed him, stopping him beside the pool. "There's a message on my voice mail," he said quietly. "Xander's been taken hostage. The guy wants one of you to come get him from the auction."
"Excuse me?" Methos asked, grabbing the phone and dialing it. "What's your code?" he asked.
"My badge number." Ray sat down in one of the loungers, watching his lover listen to the message. "It's the third one."
Methos listened, occasionally pushing a button. Then he took the phone away from his ear and tossed it at the nearest wall. "I'll be *damned*!" he yelled.
"Problems?" Richie asked from the door. "Or did the phone offend you, old fart?"
"No, Xander's captor offended me," Methos hissed.
Oz walked out and glared at his teacher. "Excuse me?"
"Your man's been captured by someone who wants you to bid on him at the auction tomorrow night," Ray explained. "He sounded unhurt but scared.
"I'll kill him," Oz growled, spinning and heading into the house. "No one touches what's mine!"
Methos ran after him, stopping Oz from picking up the sword. "We have a day," he reminded him. "We need to make a plan. You're not going alone," he explained when he saw the anger for stopping him. "If we go together, the guy won't know who to challenge."
Oz started as the fax machine started, walking over to read what was coming out. "Xander was right about my watcher, and he's like Joe," he said, handing over the pages. "We wait?" he asked after a few seconds of thought.
"We wait and we plan," Methos corrected. "There's no way he can get through all of us."
"Yeah, but I get his head," Oz vowed, grabbing a sword and his sharpening stone. "Go away."
"Yes, dear," Methos said, taking the papers and leaving as fast as he could.
Jace picked up her phone, frowning as the voice on the other end started to talk. "Really?" she asked, her voice going cold. "No, protect the young man for me. I'll definitely be there tomorrow." She hung up and searched her purse for a certain marker. "Cupid," she whispered. "I need help."
A bright flash of light went off next to her. "Whatcha want, babe?" Strife asked. "Fly boy's busy with a temper tantrum."
"Xander was kidnapped by Marcum."
"He was?" Strife asked, cleaning his nails. "Bummer. But I bet his man'll come get him. Oz is like that. He's even worse now than he was as Theo."
"Yeah, and we'll have to deal with an outraged, and possibly beserked, Oz in public."
"Point." Strife smirked at her "Whatddya need, Joxer?"
"My good sword for one," she said, standing up and walking over to rest against his chest. "A lot of luck to distract Oz on the other."
"Hey, I can get ya the distraction. And your sword's comin'." He disappeared, not minding that she stumbled. "Later."
"Thanks," she called. "As long as the distraction gets there, we'll be fine," she sighed, going back to her desk. She had some things to get done if she was going to be in LA the next night.
Oz walked into the theater and glared at the man handing him a program. "When's Harris coming on?" he growled.
"He's second," the man said, swallowing. He saw the other men that were following this angry one and quickly handed them programs too. "Please find your seats, gentlemen, the show's going to begin in twenty minutes."
Methos nodded, giving him a faint smile. "And the Harris boy is up when?"
"Second," he squeaked, running away from his post to go find someone higher in the chain of command. "We've got problems," he gasped. "There's a crowd of angry people for that one guy."
"I know," the boss said, giving him a smile. "They'll handle it. The Harris guy was added at the last minute, we'll deal with it." She turned the boy around and gave him a gentle push. "Go back to your post, Todd. We'll deal with it."
"Yes, ma'am." He walked back to where he was supposed to be, barely missing the man in black leather. He smiled at the woman he knew that was heading for him. "Here ya go, Jace," he said, handing her a booklet. "Who're you here to buy?"
"The Harris boy."
He leaned closer to her. "There's a lot of angry people here for him," he warned.
"I know," she said with a beautiful smile. "I'm here with them." She walked on, going to find those particular men. "Hello," she purred, right into Oz's ear. "I brought more funds and a diversion."
Oz pulled her around, giving her a hug. "We could use one. What do you know about this guy?"
"Marcum? He's scum. This isn't the first time he's done this. He seems to actually care about the charities though. He raises money for them this way and gets his jollies off by challenging the hostage's lover at the same time."
"Wonderful," Methos said dryly.
"Actually, he's not that good," Jace said, straightening her dress. "Ah, Adamus, my old teacher. How are we?"
"Fine," he said, kissing her on the cheek. "How are we? And the resort?"
"We're both fine." She subtly pointed toward another section. "Diversion," she said softly, next to his ear.
Methos looked and started to smile. "Yes, he will be, won't he?" He patted her hand. "Thank you." He patted the seat next to him. "Come sit, dear. Ray's going to sit and hold Oz's hand."
"And sword, I'd hope," she said, sitting down next to him. "Do we know how the boy is?"
"He's fine," Oz said. "Why is Giles here?"
"He's the diversion," she said, waving a hand at him. "We'll get Xander home safely and someone will be able to take his head."
"He's mine," Oz vowed.
"That's good," she said, patting his hand, "but won't you be tied up making sure your baby's all right?"
"Yeah," Oz sighed, holding his head. "I'll want to check him over."
"Then let us do it," Jace said reasonably. "There's enough of us here to finish him off for you."
Oz looked at her then nodded. "If you want to. Just make sure you win."
"I will," she promised, reaching around Methos to squeeze his arm. "Relax, Oz, we've got it covered. Now, how much did you bring?" He glared at her. "Well, this is for a good cause. We could play along with it."
"I don't want to, I want him home, where he belongs."
"And he'll be there," she promised. "But we should pay for him."
"Of course," Methos said smoothly. "What did you have planned?" She whispered in his ear and he nodded. "Very well then." He looked at Oz. "We make a commotion. He won't know who to challenge if we all bid."
"Whatever," Oz agreed, turning his attention back to the stage. "Hurry up. I want to see him."
Xander was pushed onto the stage, blinking at the bright lights shining into his eyes. He saw a familiar figure off to his right and tried to look that way but someone was trying to get him to move down the runway. He walked out onto the lower stage, trying hard to look happy, what he'd been told to do. He saw Oz and sighed. Ray had understood.
Oz stood up. "Twenty eight," he said.
"We haven't even described him yet," the announcer remarked. "Don't you want to know what he's like?"
"Thirty," a deeper voice said from the other side of the room, in the shadows.
"Eighty," Methos said, tugging on Oz until he sat down.
"Oh." The announcer looked at Xander, who was smiling now. "Ah. I have eighty. Any other takers?"
"Three hundred," the deep voice from across the room said.
Xander watched as a familiar figure darted over to talk to the man with the deeper voice.
"A thousand," Oz said, sounding bored now.
"A..." The deeper voice went away.
"I have a thousand," the announcer said cheerfully. "Any other bidders?" She paused. "Going once, going twice...."
"Six thousand," Jace called, wiggling her fingers at him.
"Six!" the announcer said cheerfully. "Well, this is going to be a good night after all. Going once?"
"Seven," Oz shouted, giving him a smile. Methos leaned over and said something to Oz. Oz nodded. "And a half. I'm feeling generous."
"Anyone else?" the announcer asked.
The deeper voice said something that sounded like, "There better not be."
"Seven and a half," she said, pounding the gavel on the podium. "Please pay our cashier. He'll meet you in the lobby in a few moments." She watched as a whole section of people got up and left. But Jace stayed. "On to our next number," she said, watching as Xander was led off the stage.
Xander ran into Oz's arms, squeezing him as tight as he could. "You found me."
"Yeah, and you're not leaving the house again." Oz looked around as a buzz started in the back of his head. "Marcum?" he called. A thirtyish man stepped out of the curtains. "Good, we can do this now."
"I believe he's mine," Giles said, walking past Oz. "Take care of Xander for me."
Methos grabbed Giles' arm. "Oz can do this."
"Yes, but I want him," Giles said coldly. "He fucked with my family, he's mine. Oz can guard Xander for now, and if I lose he can have this idiot then." He nodded outside. "Shall we?"
"Of course. If you're his lover. That's who the challenge is for." He looked at Oz. "It looks like it's him."
Xander grabbed Oz's sword and was half-way to the other immortal before Methos stopped him. "They're both his lovers. Giles is the easier fight though," he explained. "I'd go do this now, before I finish this challenge for the both of them. I really do take my guardian's role seriously, you know."
"Let me go!" Xander said, trying to get free.
"Let me have that," Richie said, grabbing the sword from Xander's hand. "We don't want you to hurt yourself." He handed it back to Oz, stepping out of his way. "Yours, man," he said at the light growl.
"Mine," Oz said, looking at Methos.
"Yours," Methos said, quickly letting Xander go.
During this, Giles had slipped outside and he was presently facing off against his opponent. "Regretting your decision?" he asked snidely, lifting his sword.
"Actually, yes," Marcum said with a wry smile. "I had no idea he was so loved."
"Yes, he is," Giles said, lunging across to stab the man before he was ready. "By me also." He looked down at the dark eyes as their life flashed out. "I'll not take you while you're down," he said, sitting on a nearby box to wait for Marcum to wake up. "There's no fun in that."
Xander led Oz to the car and curled up on his lap, snuggling in. "Missed you," he whispered.
"Do I get to bloody the remains?" Oz asked.
"No, he didn't hurt me. He was even polite when I sneered at his clothing choices." He looked up. "He didn't touch me at all, Oz, not after he got me into the car and drove me away."
"Then I won't desecrate his grave." Oz squeezed his lover tightly. "No lightening yet," he said, looking around.
"Giles is good," Xander reminded him. He coughed, trying to keep the pain inside. "Why was he here?"
"Because he loves you," Oz reminded, catching sight of his eyes. "Shh, I know it's painful to see him, but he didn't abandon you," he whispered, clutching Xander to him. "Jace had him called and he flew all the way here to see you, babe."
"But he left us," Xander protested.
"And he'll come back when it's time."
"He'll come back or he's not coming back ever," Xander said, crying now. "I hate this."
"Yeah, I hate it when you do that too," Oz sighed, rocking him gently. "Don't cry. He still loves you. He's not ready to come home to us yet though."
"I shouldn't have let him go," Xander said, burying his face in Oz's neck.
Methos slid into the front seat. "Do I need to bring the body to you?" he asked quietly.
"This is all about Giles," Oz explained. "He misses him."
"So much," Xander whispered. "I miss our awkwardness together."
"He'll come back soon, little one," Methos promised, patting Xander's shoulder before sliding out of the car. "He's pulling a Connor," he said as he closed the door.
"Goody," Oz said, smiling cruelly. "Let him die a few times before Giles takes his head."
"Don't let Giles die," Xander said, looking up. "Can we go?"
"No. We'll wait here for him." Oz held the struggling body. "He's playing with his opponent, I doubt he wants you to see him at his most cruel and mean, babe."
"But I need to be there. If I'm there, he won't die."
"He won't die anyway," Oz promised. "Giles is very good. He won't lose to that scum."
Xander sniffled and nodded. "If you say so." He laid his head back down. "Home?"
"As soon as we know how the fight's going to come out," Oz assured him. "And we'll see if we can't get him to come home for the night."
Xander was led to the spot where Giles waited, trying to ignore all the blood that was spilled in the alleyway. "Giles?" he asked quietly, smiling when the older man looked at him. "You're okay?"
"I'm fine," Giles said, giving him a smile. "He'll be up soon." Xander looked into the older man's eyes, seeing the coldness and hatred in them. "He doesn't deserve this," Xander said, laying a hand on Giles' arm. "He was decent to me. He didn't touch me. He didn't even make mean comments back when I insulted him."
Giles shook his head. "He's done this before."
"And he's learned his lesson," Xander pointed out. "Have a real fight this time." He looked into the dark eyes, flinching when he saw the coldness in them. "Rupert, he deserves a chance to fight fairly. You used to believe in that."
"I still do." He sighed and made Xander move away from him. "I'm sorry this upsets you, Xander, but this is the only way."
"Not," Xander said, getting a little hot. "You used to believe in fair play. Why can't you let him have a fair fight?" Giles stared at him, looking shocked. "What? I'm the one he kidnaped! And I'm saying it should be a fair fight. You doing this makes you worse than he is, it's making you a bad guy."
"I wish I could make you understand," Giles sighed, "but he deserves this, if only for all those other people he's done this to." He reached a hand out but Xander didn't take it. "He really does."
"He doesn't deserve to be tortured this way!" Xander looked down at the still body. "Giles, he took good care of me when he had me. Yeah, he screwed up royally by taking me, but he was good to me. He didn't touch me, sure as hell didn't even think about raping me. He fed me, clothed me, made sure I had somewhere decent enough to sleep." He looked at his lover. "This isn't honorable, Rupert. It isn't your way."
"He's going to have to pay for what he's done," Giles said firmly. "I'm sorry if this disturbs you, Xander, but this isn't your concern anymore."
"Gee, and here I thought I was the one who was snatched," he said, his voice icy and biting. He turned away from his lover. "Giles, stop this and come home."
"I'm not ready yet," Giles said, sitting back down.
Xander stopped and turned to look at him. "Come home now or don't come home," he countered. "Ever."
Giles opened his mouth then shut it and shook his head. "I'm not ready to come home and live with you again, Xander. There's still too much I need to figure out before I can feel comfortable sitting in one spot."
Xander shook his head. "You have three days. All you have to do is stay a week." He turned and walked back to the car. "Quit playing with the guy, Rupert, he doesn't deserve it. There's worse ones out there still." He got into the back seat and slammed the door. "Home?" he suggested to Oz, who was behind the wheel.
"He listen to reason?" Ray asked.
"No. And I'm an ass." He caught the look Oz sent him. "I gave him an ultimatum about coming home." Ray groaned. "I said he had to come home for a week. That's not that bad!"
"No, it's not," Oz agreed. "What did he say?"
"He's not ready yet. I gave him three days." He sighed and closed his eyes. "Can we please go home now?"
"Sure," Oz said, starting the car. "Meth drove and he knows I'm taking you and Ray home." He pulled out onto the street, heading for home.
Methos walked out of the shadows near Giles, shaking his head. "You really shouldn't have treated him that way. He was torn up after you left." He waved at the awakening body. "Either kill him or let me do it. And do it fairly. He's right, this isn't you." He walked away.
"Fine," Giles spat. "I thought this was single combat."
"It is," Methos called, "but what you're doing isn't combat, it's torture."
Xander sank down onto his bed with a groan. "Oz, what am I doing that's so bad?" he asked quietly. "Why did he want to leave?"
"He thought that he needed time and space to figure himself out," Oz told him, lying beside him and pulling him in for a hug. "He had to have it. We all need it sometime."
"But that wasn't Rupert. He was cold and cruel, and mean," he added as an afterthought. "He was playing with the guy by killing him over and over again."
Oz shook his head. "I don't know what's gotten into him, but he'll come around," he reassured. He started to rub down the tense back. "You need to relax. He'll come home."
"I don't want the man I saw tonight to come home to us," Xander said, lifting his head to look at his lover. "I can't stand the man that was doing the torturing tonight. If Giles comes home like that, then I don't want him."
Oz nodded. "I understand. If it happens, we'll figure something out." He pushed the young man's head back down. "Rest, Xan. I need to hold you."
"I'm here," Xander whispered. "Not leaving."
"Including the house?"
"I have to work," Xander pointed out.
"It'll look funny."
"Not if you're grieving."
"I've been saying that I got all that out in private at Jace's."
"Oh." Oz shuddered. "Okay, but if you go out, expect to have me there with you."
Xander lifted his head to give his lover a kiss and a smile. "You're going to sit in the store and scare off customers?"
"No, but I may sit in the car and read."
"Okay. Just remember your illusion next time." He tapped the empty ear hole. "I'm surprised no one noticed tonight."
"Someone may have," Oz said with a shrug. "I can always be another cousin."
"True." Xander snuggled in. "We'll figure it out when it happens."
Oz picked up the ringing phone, glaring at it. "What?" he snarled. "Angel? What's wrong?" He snorted. "Yeah, I forgot it. Was it really noticeable?" He shook his head and hung up. "Angel noticed that I wasn't wearing my illusion."
"He was there?"
"Wow." Xander grinned. "I guess I do have a lot of protectors. You guys must have scared him when you all showed up."
"I hope so."
"He wasn't being that bad."
"True, but even that little bit of bad was really bad. Think about the other people he's done this to and their families."
Xander nodded. "Yeah, but he's been decent about it. He never laid a hand on me the whole time. Even when he kidnaped me, he only bumped me with the gun."
"It doesn't excuse him from kidnapping you in the first place," Oz reminded him. "He has to pay for it."
"And he has. I doubt that he'd do it again, if Giles would let him live."
"We'll have to see about that," Oz reminded him. "You might not have gotten through to Giles." Oz adjusted his hold on Xander so he could cling a little tighter. "I'm feeling better," he admitted.
"Then why can't I take deep breaths?"
"Because I want to hear you pant?" Oz suggested with a grin.
"Okay." Xander panted for him, grinning up at his lover when he got pinched for it.
"Point. You can stop now. I'll let you go." He barely released his grip.
"Oh, much better," Xander said, putting his head back down. "Do you feel like doing more than cuddling?"
"Not really," Oz admitted. "You?"
"Nope. But I wouldn't mind cuddling with you in the bath."
"Hmmm, hot water and you. Perfect combination." Oz let Xander go. "Go run the bath, no bubbles."
"You don't want me to be slippery?" Xander asked as he got off the bed.
"Nope, I can't hold on as tightly when you're slippery. No oil either. Just some bath crystals. Okay?"
"Yup." Xander headed into the bathroom, bringing Rocky out to the bed. "Here, she was napping in the bathtub." He went back to the bathroom.
"Are you running a temperature?" Oz asked her, feeling her nose. "Still wet and cold."
"She's not sick, she just wanted privacy," floated out over the sound of running water.
"Don't worry, little one," Oz cooed as he scratched her behind the ears, "all the other animals are going to be adopted and pretty soon, we'll have the house to ourselves again." Rocky nuzzled him. "Yeah, we'll be happy then, huh?"
"Sure we will," Xander called.
Oz stood up, letting Rocky have the bed as he undressed. He walked toward the bathroom, smiling as he found the door locked. "Problems?" he called.
"Not ready for you yet," Xander said. A few minutes later, he opened the door, smiling at his lover. "Now we're ready for you," he said, waving Oz inside.
Oz stepped in, stopping so he could take in the sight and smell of the candles placed around the room, craning his neck to see the few on the ledges of the bathtub. The orange and vanilla scents blew over him from the small fan that was running on the counter. The overhead light was turned off and he was helped into the tub, Xander kneeling beside it and picking up a sponge. "I thought I wanted to hold you," he remarked, relaxing into the warm, scented water.
"You did, but I wanted to show you something even better." Xander squeezed the sponge out over Oz's stomach, sending the water flowing down his body. "Just relax and let me serve you, Oz. You'll feel better, I promise."
"Okay," Oz sighed, sinking lower into the water, his head carefully guided onto a pillow. He closed his eyes as the sponge started a slow but steady path across his chest and stomach. He moaned in appreciation as the scents started to calm and soothe him, and his lover started to arouse him. "No more?" he asked when the sponge stopped.
"Just adding some soap," Xander whispered, putting the sponge back down onto Oz's firm body. "You're sweaty."
"I was worried about you," Oz explained. "I've been sweating since yesterday."
"And it shows." Xander let the sponge float off into the water and grabbed a small cup so he could pour water over Oz's head. "Just relax," he whispered. "I want to do this part too."
"Hey, I'm not complainin'," Oz said, scooting down farther. "Wanna use that good smelling shampoo?"
"Of course," Xander said, switching bottles. He poured a little out into his hand and started to work it through Oz's hair. "That okay?" he asked quietly.
"I was thinking about the baby shampoo, but that stuff smells good too." Oz yawned. "Yeah, really good, Xander. Thanks."
"Hey, I love you. And you can't dispute that I'm here with you." He picked up the cup to rinse the shampoo out, laying a washcloth over Oz's eyes. "Gonna rinse," he warned. He poured the water out slowly, working his free hand through the soap until it was all gone. He set aside the cup and picked up the sponge, pouring some more soap onto it and picking up Oz's arm to wash. Oz started to moan again as he worked the sponge in little circles. As he moved down the immortal's body, the groaning got deeper in pitch and Oz's body started to react to the touching. "Just relax," Xander whispered. "I'll take care of that in a few minutes. After you're all clean again." He continued to wash the tensing body, going as slowly as he could.
Jace walked out of the shadows at the end of the alley, watching the fight progress. "God, they're both bad," she sighed. She walked closer, glaring at Giles. "Why are you still here?"
Marcum backed away from her. "The rules say single combat."
"Do I look like I'm fighting with you yet?" she asked snidely. "I'm talking to my future student." She turned around and slapped Giles, making him look at her. "Now then, you will fight right or so help me Gods, I will take over and then beat you like you deserve for hurting Xander."
"Why is everyone saying I harmed him!"
"Because the boy was destroyed when you left. He may be GHS but he's not got a lot of self- esteem still. Oz dying a few weeks back didn't help either!" She glared at them both, then shook her head. "Finish this. We're going home."
"I never agreed to become your student."
"Connor made his wishes clear about you, Rupert Giles. You will be coming back with me and learning from me or I will take your head and spare Xander the grief of seeing you lose to someone worse."
Methos clapped from his position on top of the dumpster. "Bravo," he said, sliding down. "Connor sent him to you?"
"I got a letter the other day saying he was coming to me for specialized training." She sniffed, then took a very beautiful backswing at Marcum, taking his head off cleanly. "There, now it's done," she said, stepping away from them as the quickening started.
Methos looked at Giles, who was enraged to say the least. "She's right, she can train you just as well. And maybe, if you're really lucky, she'll talk to Xander for you. They seem to have gotten close while he stayed at her resort." He patted Giles on the back. "At least the boy won't yell at you for playing with your opponent anymore. That really was the height of uncivility. I should know." He walked down the alleyway, stopping to look down at Jace, who was panting in pain. "Would you like a ride? You're filthy now and I doubt you want to take a cab to your hotel."
"Please," she sighed, allowing him to help her up. She looked around for her sword, but she saw his head shake. "Good, then I don't have to clean it, Cupid can do it." She looked over at Giles, wondering if he had noticed the Godly aura that had picked up her sword, something that had been happening since the Middle Ages when she had given the precious sword back so it wouldn't get destroyed. "I'm at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Be there around noon tomorrow and we'll discuss your training and why Connor sent you to me. If you're not there, I'll come hunt you down and drag you back to Xander first." She took Adam's arm and walked away with him, chatting about the decor ideas she had picked up from the famous hotel.
Giles looked at the headless body. "And if I don't want to?" he asked it.
Xander picked up the ringing phone, putting it next to Oz's ear - he didn't want to deal with the world right now. Oz made a few noises then pushed the phone away so Xander could hang it up. "Marcum's gone," he said quietly, wrapping his arms around the still body next to him. "Jace got him. She claimed teacher's rights."
"Is pissed but healthy. Jace grew balls and yelled him down." He rolled into his lover's body. "Connor gave his training to her."
"That's a good?"
"That's actually a great. Jace has a great deal of training. She was very well trained when Meth and I got her as a student. She's kept up and gotten more training from other immies when she could find a peaceful one that would train her."
"Why wouldn't they?"
"A lot of the older, male, immies wouldn't train women. They didn't think that they should be in the game in the first place, that they were a whole lot weaker. The first one Jace asked she ended up taking his head. After that, there's been a few that wouldn't help her but they let it go without a challenge. Of course, there have been a few that have challenged her and then decided she was good enough to pass knowledge on to. We can be odd like that."
"Did you ever teach anyone else?"
"Yes, but I don't want to talk about it."
"Okay." Xander closed his eyes and put his head on Oz' shoulder. "Sorry."
"Nothing to be sorry about, it's not a bad memory. I was the bad guy then and I didn't do a very good job. He didn't live that long." He gave Xander a squeeze. "He was another small guy like me and he took on a big, football player looking guy - and when you have a six-foot reach, you usually win."
"Why'd he challenge that guy?"
"To prove that he was a better idiot than the last guy that had done it."
"Oh." Xander shook his head. "Not real bright of him."
"Yeah, that's what I keep telling myself. The only thing I really failed him in was not breaking his ego problem before it killed him."
Xander lifted his head. "Wouldn't it have probably killed him anyway? Somewhere down the road?"
"Maybe," Oz agreed, giving him another squeeze. "That's very insightful."
"I'm like that sometimes." Xander put his head back down so he could rest. "Oz, can we start traveling once a year or so? There are so many things that I don't know about."
"Sure," Oz said, rubbing down the soft back. "And if we get caught with the whole undead thing, then we'll go sooner."
"Cool. I'd like to go see India." He glanced up.
"Hey, the guy who held me hostage is dead. We'll be fine." He inserted his thigh between Xander's knees. "What else do you want to see?"
"The pyramids. Some of the great remains of the world." Xander smiled sleepily. "I don't know but I want to see stuff. Do what I should have done on my roadtrip."
"Cool. We'll go see the great ruins of the old world."
"Cool." Xander yawned. "Sorry."
"S'okay. You nap. I'm not moving."
"Good. I'd hate to have to hunt you down and pounce on you for it."
"Sleep, silly, you need it."
"Yes, love." Xander yawned again. "Night."
Methos got out of bed to answer the summons of the door, glaring at the blonde on the other side. "He's sleeping, come back at a decent hour."
"This is a decent hour," Buffy said, pushing her way inside. "Xander!"
"Quiet," Oz said as he walked out, watching her face and body language closely. "What?" he asked when she froze. "Some of us aren't going to die anytime soon."
"Ya are if ya wake me up again," Ray mumbled as he walked past them. He pushed Buffy out of the way, breaking into her shock.
"More or less," Methos quipped. He patted Ray's shoulder when he came back out. "Go back to sleep, pet, I'll be back in a few minutes."
"Need to walk the dogs."
"I'll let them out," Methos assured him. "Go rest."
"XANDER!" Buffy screamed. "Get out here now!"
"Yell in my house like that again and I'm staking you," Oz warned her. He sat down, pulling a pillow over to cover the gap in his robe. "I'm actually the same as I was when we first met."
Xander wandered out and glared at her. "I'm going to get one of the animals to bite you. I finally get to sleep and you do this?"
Buffy pointed at Oz. "And what's that?"
"That's an Oz," Xander said, blinking. Oz patted him on the arm. "Hmm?" he asked, giving him a smile. "What?"
"She wants to know what I'm doing alive," Oz explained.
"So tell her. Maybe it'll make her feel good that one of her Slayerettes will live forever as a non- vamp." He shrugged, heading for the sliding door. "Want to go out, guys?" he called. All the dogs came running. "Thought so." He opened the door and stood there, watching them. "Porter, stop trying to eat the little one!" he yelled, walking out.
Oz raised his hand. "Immortal," he said, giving her a smile. "Since the sixteen hundreds."
She shook her head. "That's not possible. You must be demonic."
"Are you getting Slayer problems?" Xander called. She glared at him. "Well?" She shook her head. "Then shut up unless you brought coffee like a civilized person. Mortimer! Stop that! He doesn't need to be picked on." He walked out to retrieve the little dog that liked to follow him around.
Oz grinned at Methos, who was still standing there. "And this is our wonderful Slayer, teach."
"So I've heard," he said, looking her over. "We've met though."
"What about Giles? Does he believe in this fairytale?"
"Considering you killed him the first time? Probably," Oz noted. She went pale. "Yes, when you hurt him so badly you killed him. He's been like me since then." He shrugged, petting the furry lump that landed in his lap. "Hey, little one."
"We've got to name that dog," Xander said as he walked past. "I'm going to get dressed. Anyone who wants breakfast had better know how to order it."
Methos shook his head. "I'll cook, Xander, you go back to bed."
"Coolness, you're a great man," Xander said, kissing him on the cheek. "I'll get up at a decent hour, save me some somehow please." He leaned down, giving Oz a deep kiss. "Hmm, morning Oz," he whispered. "You going to come back to bed too?"
"Not yet. I'm going to get Buffy calmed down first." He patted Xander's head, waiting until he heard the bedroom door close again to turn his attention back to her. "Now then," he said, his voice going cold. "You barge in here and threaten my lover. You threaten me, and you woke Xander up after we just got him back from a kidnapper. Next time, you can act like a decent human being and call first." He stood up, letting the dog curl up to his chest. "If you have questions, you can ask, politely, or you can come back when you're calm."
Buffy nodded. "Immortal?" she squeaked. "How?"
"I'm human, dear, just born a little different."
"Tell her to ask her mother," Xander called.
"He said to ask your mother," Oz said dryly. "He felt he had to have someone else to confide in."
"So I heard," she said, shaking her head. "Mom got drunk last night and spilled the news to me. Oh, and have you heard from Willow?"
"She's on the east coast working," Oz told her calmly. "Has she told you that Angel was forced to turn her yet?" She went paler. "Not a bad vamp, but she's been pretty good so far. She's watching over a renovation for us." He looked at Methos, who wandered into the kitchen. "Do you want her addy?"
"It depends, did she want me to know about this?"
"Not sure," Oz admitted. "She kinda panicked because she was going to stake her sire so Xan helped her move. It was his idea to help her look on that coast while she worked on the renovations." He sighed, looking down at the dog he held. "We may have to go join her soon. If you know, I'm not sure I can stay in town."
"How... was your cousin you?" He nodded. "Can you keep that illusion on?"
"Most of the time, but Xander's idea of telling everyone I'm not human is our backup plan."
"Which would make sense," she agreed, giving him a slight smile. "Whatever, I won't attack you again." She rubbed across her throat. "Where's Giles?"
"He went to train with another like me. He may be back in the next few days. If not, he may not be back until Xander's not mad at him anymore. It all depends on Giles now."
"And when everyone finds out?"
"Then we're moving," Oz supplied. "Xander wants to travel so I'm going to indulge him."
"What about when he dies?" she asked quietly.
"Everyone's concerned about that," he quipped, giving her a small smile. "It'll be fine. He's linked to our energies. He won't age until I, Giles, and him," he pointed at Methos, "die."
"Oh." She sat down hard in the nearest chair. "How?"
"Giles did the spell," Methos said, bringing her a glass of water. "My part was purely accidental but I've come to relish my role as guardian to the boy." Oz growled at him. "Sorry. I'm not going to move in unless you say it's all right," he justified. "You know me better than that, Oz."
"True," he sighed. "I'm still stressed over the whole kidnapping thing. I swear Xander's not leaving this house without me again."
"Then I'd put on your illusion," Buffy reminded him. "A few people are already starting to wonder about your cousin." She gave him a faint smile. "Can I apologize for overreacting?"
"No, but you could do it later by protecting us. You and your mother know the secret. Willow doesn't and Angel basically knows I'm immie. The rest of the town shouldn't know, and if possible, I'd like a little bit of warning to escape them if they find out."
"No big, I can do that. Actually, Xander's story has a lot of substance in this town. And no one has to know. Maybe soon you'll even be able to be yourself again, once people forget about the whole cameraman thing."
Oz nodded. "Hopefully. Thanks." He nodded at her and went back to the bedroom to lie down with his lover. "India, huh?" he asked when he saw that Xander was awake.
"Yeah, I want to see the Taj Mahal. I think the story behind it's just so...romantic and perfect and stuff."
Oz nodded, laying down and handing off the dog. "Well, there's a little more to the story than that. Historians now are saying that the Khan who built it had a streak of megalomaniac in him and that was his way of saying he was God. Actually, the whole complex resembles a proposed drawing about what the Gardens of Paradise look like."
"It's still a cool story," Xander said. "Even if he was like Napoleon."
"Nope, he didn't want to rule the world. He wanted to be God. Napoleon thought he was the world's ruler, even above God." He kissed his lover's cheek. "We'll go on our next vacation, all right?"
"Yeah, that'd be great," Xander sighed, relaxing into Oz's body. "Do I have to go to work today?"
"Yeah, but I'm going to be there."
"You're going to scare off my customers?"
"Nope, I'm going to sit in the car and read so that I know that no one propositions you."
"Well...." Xander said, hesitating. "There has been this one woman. She's been hitting on me. She even hinted that I needed someone to replace you now that you're gone. I really think she just wants the money."
"She can't have you," Oz reminded him. "And if she tries then I get to have her, right?"
"I'll let you deal with her as long as you don't try to beat her up."
"I'll just scare her by coming back from the dead." Oz kissed him again. "No one can have you, not the greedy, the well meaning, not even the nice ones that only want to coddle and protect you. Not even Methos and Ray."
"Okay," Xander said, giving him a smile. He patted the dog on top of the head. "I wonder what his story is."
"He was probably the lap dog of some older woman or man and they died," Oz said quietly, petting the dog's head. "He's obviously well loved and cared for. He's also a little spoiled. I'd say that he was left outside and the pound got him before he got hurt."
"I hope so. I'd hate it if he was some little kid's or someone like that's dog. I don't want to take someone's baby from them." He kissed the top of the white head. "What do we name you, boy?" The dog barked lightly.
"Muse?" Oz suggested.
"Nope, he doesn't sing." He picked the dog up, looking at his underside. "Her."
"Siren?" Xander suggested again.
"No. She still doesn't sing." He kissed Xander's forehead. "We'll figure it out tonight."
"We're keeping her?"
"Yup. This can be the one you keep. But the rest have to have homes. Even if we send the rest home with Meth and Ray."
"Could," Xander said with an impish grin. "Ray likes a few of them."
"Meth would want to punish you again," Oz warned. Xander snuggled into his body. "Didn't think so."
"Oh, I liked it, but not as much as I like you and how you teach me lessons," Xander whispered. The dog hopped off the bed, going to lay in the chair and not watch them. "Thanks," he called before kissing Oz. "Did you get rid of the Buffy person?"
"Yup. She's agreed to keep the secret and she liked your idea about what I am."
Methos knocked on the door before opening it. "Would either of you like breakfast?"
"No," they said together.
Oz looked at Methos' face. "What?" he asked hesitantly. "You look scared."
"Buffy just found someone across the street with a microphone. She gave me the tape." He tossed it over to Oz. "I think it's best that you go."
"It's not like we're committing insurance fraud," Xander noted. He looked at Oz. "Being not fully human means that you can come back from some injuries, no matter how bad they are." Oz nodded. "Were they the cops?" Methos nodded. "Then invite them in and we'll tell them all about him not being fully human." He sat up, pulling Oz with him. "Come on, we have to make the explanation."
"Oh, I doubt that's going to be a problem," Methos said. "He heard it all." He walked in and leaned against the door. "Apparently they're investigating Xander's source of income."
"Let 'em," Oz grumbled, getting out of the bed. "We'll deal with what we have to."
"We need to move," Xander said quietly, looking at Oz. "Can we?" he whispered.
"If we need to, yeah." Oz smiled at him. "I have just the place set up for us." He tweaked the end of Xander's nose. "Have to have a safe place." He hugged his lover. "Pack, love, we'll go tonight if we have to."
"Thank you, Oz."
"You're going back to *that* house, aren't you?" Methos said in disgust.
"Yup, the fortress of solitude." He slid out of bed, going for the closet himself. "I'll let you help Xander pack. Take Ray with you tonight and go hide. Or you can come with us," he added as an afterthought.
"I'd best go with you," Methos sighed. "Though I have no idea how Ray will take that place. It's very cold and alarming."
"It probably needs love and furry peoples," Xander told him, pushing his way out. "What is this place?"
"Oz's safe house. It's a few hours out of town." Methos stopped the young man to look at him. "What about this house?"
"It'll look fine if I put it up for sale. It's almost expected that I wouldn't want to live where we had." He shrugged and headed for the living room. "Are the animals all outside?"
"Ray has them in our room," Methos told him, stopping Oz from walking past him. "Are you sure?" he asked quietly. "You don't have to do this."
"I want to. I've been planning on taking a weekend and bringing him up there anyway. Why?" He looked the older immortal over. "What happened up there?"
"I sent most of your things up there, including the things we got from that pocket dimension after Xander saved those people from the demon. It's all stored in there."
"Then we'll just have to stay away from that part of the castle, huh?" Oz said with a grin. "I'm going home, Meth, it'll be fine. Xander will love the drafty old place and we'll be together."
"As long as you're going into this knowing that Xander might not understand the meaning of that place."
"It's where I keep my worst and best memories. It's like a big scrapbook for me. He'll understand that, he'll ask a lot of questions about everything, but he'll understand."
"Okay. Remember though, if you need to give him a vacation from the solitude and quiet, then our house is open to him. Especially if he'll come and take care of the animals." Methos walked out of the bedroom, going back to his breakfast.
Oz sighed and leaned against the wall. "As long as he understands, we'll be fine," he whispered. "Please let him understand." He looked up. "Please?" He stood up and walked out, going to help Xander with the packing. "Let's hire a moving and storage place," he suggested as he caught Xander studying the living room furniture. "We can store it until we find a better place for it."
"Okay. I was going to leave the big things though. In case we didn't want to sell the house right away and we needed to come back here."
"Good plan," Oz said, giving him a smile. "As a matter of fact, why don't you pack all the clothes and the contents of the safes and we'll leave tonight."
Xander turned to frown at him. "I'm not leaving my sewing machine or the fabric, Oz."
"I'll buy you new stuff."
"It won't be the same. That was the first big thing that you bought me, well helped me buy, and I want to keep it." He reached out, stroking down Oz's cheek. "Please?"
"Sure," Oz sighed. "I'll let you go get my van out of storage and we'll take that to move everything."
"What about Giles?" Xander whispered.
"We'll wait the three days that you gave him," Oz decided. "And we'll leave him a note saying that we moved all his stuff too. Everyone that we know except Buffy, Angel, and Richie know where this place is."
"Okay." Xander took the step that put him into his lover's arms. "Thank you for doing this for me."
"Welcome, babe. This is a good thing right now. We'll come back to your first house later." He saw the smile. "Hey, I remember what my first one meant to me. This first house is always the most special." He gave him a squeeze. "Now, go start packing and I'll let you get the van later. Okay?"
"What about the cars?"
"Well, we have friends here. We could be mean and ask them to drive them. And even some of the animals."
Someone knocked on the door and Methos walked out to get it, coming back with a man in a rumpled suit. "Our peeper."
Oz frowned at the man. "Why are you making us do this?"
"Hey, we thought that something bad was going on here, something about Mr. Harris being kidnapped."
"That was resolved yesterday," Xander told him. "What are you going to do with the stuff you found out?"
"Not a damn thing," he said with a smile. "This is Sunnydale, boys, all sorts of odd things live here. Though, I do suggest that you spend a bit of time out of town. Let things calm down a bit." He tossed over two tapes. "That's all I have and as far as I'm concerned when your friend found me this morning, she told me that you have been rescued." He nodded at them and turned to go.
"Thank you," Xander called after him.
"Hey, you guys keep the town safe. Be back soon, huh?" He shut the door behind himself.
Oz looked at Xander. "Want to take a vacation to live with me for a while?"
"Sure. But not for too long." He hugged Oz, smiling at Methos as he walked past them. "Thanks for the help last night."
"You're welcome. Though Jace did all of it. She even yelled at Giles for you." Oz groaned. "She was most delicate about it, I promise." He winked at Xander as he disappeared into the hallway. "I'm going to join Ray in bed. Yell when you're ready to need me."
Xander pulled back. "Three days to pack?"
"Three days to pack and get most everything moved up there," Oz agreed. "We can send some stuff by UPS or something."
"Okay. I can deal with that schedule." Xander went back to his cuddling. "After I finish this."
TO BE CONTINUED...