Friends in Low Places.
Xander opened the door for Ray and Methos, smiling as their animals all ran inside. "Hi, guys," he said, bending down to pet them. "We just put down food if you'd like to go eat with our animals." All but Fluffy went to go find food, she climbed up the gym Oz had bought for the kittens and perched in the top cubbyhole. She meowed as her father walked past, getting ear scratches.
"We've got coffee," Xander said, accepting a hug from Methos, now that Ray was on the couch. "Oz went to get real food, but he'll be back soon."
"I can't eat," Ray mumbled, looking down at his hands.
Methos turned and hit the wall. "Do you think you could help Ray find a job on this coast?" he asked in a voice that was obviously trying to be calm but missing that state greatly.
"Sure," Xander said calmly, going to sit beside Ray. "What did they say?"
"They said it was my fault that the other officer shot me, I wasn't wearing my badge openly," he said bitterly. "And the other three incidents were all coincidence."
"Can you appeal?" Xander asked.
Ray nodded. "I am, but I can't be there anymore." He looked over at Xander. "Can you help me?"
"Sure. Anything that we can do to help, we will." He gave him a hug, being careful of Ray's injured arm. "Which one did you want to apply to? LA or here?"
"We were thinking about a nice suburb of Los Angeles," Methos told him, coming over to sit on Xander's other side. "Did Giles make it in all right?"
Xander gave him his best 'naughty' grin. "Yup. I danced for him last night, the whole series."
Methos groaned and squeezed Xander. "He'll never leave you again," he whispered.
"I know. That was Oz's comment, but that wasn't why I did it. I just wanted to show off." Xander winked and looked at Ray, pulling him into his lap.
"Hey!" Ray complained. "I'm not that little."
"Nope, you're not, but you could use the cuddles," Xander told him. "This way, you get ones from both of us and we don't have to hurt your arm."
Ray snorted but accepted the hugs gratefully. "What's the thing in the backyard?" he asked once Methos pulled back.
"It's a stone holding a keystone to the Hellmouth. It's presently being drained down to a constant, safe level. Giles magiced it in before I danced for him."
Ray nodded. "You still need a fence so the guys can go run."
"We know," Oz said as he walked in through the garage. "Hey. How'd it go?"
"Don't ask," Methos told him. "Need help?"
"Nope, I've got it." Oz put down the paper bags and pulled down plates and silverware, dishing out breakfast. "Xander, did you want to share with me or did you want the french toast?"
"I'll nibble off yours. Ray could use the french toast more. He's healing and sugar helps that." He pushed Ray into his lover's lap, going to pick up plates and bring them out to the living room. He handed off the bigger plate to Methos, making sure it had two forks on it. He turned and found Oz behind him. "I'm getting you a bell," he told his lover.
Oz grinned. "Do you want this food or not?" he countered, sitting in one of the chairs.
Xander plopped down in his lap and stole the first bite of food. "You feed me or I'm going to have a whole day of nibbling on you," he whispered. He jumped as he felt the spank. "Hey!"
"Be good. No free shows for the other two." They both looked over at Methos, who was trying to make Ray eat something.
Xander snuck over and tickled Ray, letting Methos stick the food into his mouth. "You need to eat, Ray, otherwise you're going to get sick and all that'll do is prove to those guys that they were right." He kissed him on the cheek, taking Ray's fork to feed him. "Come on, eat for me, precious one. You don't want to make Methos worry, do you?"
Ray shook his head and took another bite. "I'm not a little kid," he complained between bites.
Xander stole a kiss. "No, you're not a kid, but you still need to eat." He grinned. "Besides, most people consider it a compliment to have *two* people who want to feed them."
Ray grunted and ate the next bite of food.
Oz finished off his and Xander's portion of the breakfast, smiling internally. He'd be deep in code before Xander realized it. He scraped his plate and escaped up the stairs.
Xander glared at Oz's back, one eyebrow going up. "I'll get you later," he promised, feeding Ray another bite of food.
"What's going on in here?" Giles asked sleepily as he walked out of the bedroom. He smiled at lover and the couple. "Good morning. Did Oz get breakfast for all of us?"
"Not sure," Xander said, giving him a smile. "Oz ate mine, he might have eaten yours too."
Methos shook his head, using his fork to feed Xander a bite of eggs. "Go get yourself something to eat, I'll feed my Ray."
Xander nodded and got up, going to search the paper bags carefully. He crowed as he came up with two more boxes of food. "He just saved himself some torment," he said happily, pulling down a plate for him and Giles, dishing them out food too.
Giles sat down in Oz's chair and accepted his plate.
Xander sat on the couch and curled into Ray, nibbling on his food. "Want to go shopping with me today?" he asked quietly.
"Sure," Ray said, glancing at Methos, who nodded. "Can we swing by the town I want to work in and pick up an application?"
"Sure," Xander agreed. "Is it on the way or way out of the way?"
"It's on the way," Methos told him. "It's a beautiful suburb of LA, just off the highway. It's near the fabric store that you told us you went to."
Xander hummed because his mouth was full. "Okay, I think I know which one. The one with all the stucco houses?"
Methos shook his head. "The next exit up. The one with the motels and such."
"Okay," he said with a shrug. "We can do that." He kissed Ray on the cheek. "Do you two want to do the spell today?"
"Spell?" Giles asked.
"We'd like you to do the spell that you did with Xander and yourselves," Methos told him, taking Ray's hand to hold. "I want him to be mine for a very long time, Rupert."
Giles stared at them then nodded. "I'll go over the necessities later today if you'd like."
"I'm not letting him out of the house without it," Methos said calmly.
"That's fine. We may have everything that we need here. Of course, you'll have to get Oz out of the house."
Xander shook his head. "No." Everyone stared at him. "No. I'm bound to Methos, it'd add some extra protection for Ray to be bound to Oz." He looked at Ray, who was staring at Methos.
"It's up to you," Methos whispered, taking a gentle kiss. "But he does have a point."
Ray nodded, licking his lips. "I'll go with that suggestion then." He looked over at Xander. "No sharing unless it's pre-arranged."
"Hey, not an issue," Xander told him with a smile. "Never should have been one."
Ray grinned. "Good. As long as you agree."
"I agree and I think Oz was planning on it anyway, even if you hadn't agreed. He said that the bonding was pretty hard on the quickening."
"Yes, I remember passing out," Methos said dryly. "Well, he'll be bound to three of us then." He squeezed Ray's hand. "Giles will have to be here to do the ceremony," he said when he got a confused look.
"Oh. Okay," Ray said with a shrug. "I guess that's okay. When?"
"Let me finish breakfast first," Giles told him, smiling at him. "Xander, what will you be doing?"
"I'll be in my sewing room working on something," he said. He nudged Ray gently. "Want to help me sew for a few minutes while they get the stuff ready?"
"Sure," Ray said, nudging him back. "I want to see all the saris your bought."
"Saris?" Giles asked.
"They're some of the most beautiful examples of clothwork there is," Xander told him. "I bought a number of them, they're being shipped from a mail place where we rented a box today. We sent a lot of stuff there to be held for us. Jace gathered it all and is sending it, I think."
Rupert smiled. "Ah, that stuff. Yes, she told me that she'd send it out yesterday by rapid courier." He finished off his breakfast and stood up, going to put the dishes in the sink. "Let me go check on that for you," he said, waving at the stairs. "Would you like to help me, Methos?"
"Of course." He handed Ray the plate and followed the young immortal up the stairs.
Xander looked over at Ray. "Want to eat in there? I'll let you as long as you don't smear syrup."
"Sure," Ray said, getting up and heading back to the craft room.
Xander followed, grinning because someone here appreciated him.
Xander squealed like a five year old at Christmas as he opened the door to the guy with their things from their trip. He signed his name as best he could with the vibrating he was doing, and let the guy move the boxes inside. He caught the one kitten that came out to investigate, sitting down in the middle of the boxes as the last three were wheeled in.
The courier wiped off his forehead. "What did you guys do, move with us?" he asked.
Xander tossed him a tip. "This is all stuff we found on our trip through Europe and Asia."
The courier smiled and walked out, coming back with a small box. "This is yours too, sir." He tipped his cap at Giles as he walked out, leaving the house.
Xander looked up and grinned. "Our stuff from the traveling." He let the kitten sit in his lap as he worked on the tape of the first box. Giles pulled out his pocket knife. "Easy," Xander warned. "Some of the things in there are fragile, like a few of the saris."
"I'll be very careful," Giles told him gently as he opened the first box. He held up the bit of fabric that had been taped to the box. "I'm sorry, Xander," he said.
Xander looked at it and frowned. "I really liked that one," he pouted. He took the full piece of cloth and looked it over. "It's fine," he said with a sigh. "That wasn't part of this piece."
Giles held up the little piece. "Then why would she tack that little piece of fabric to the tape?"
"Because it was to tell us which box had all the saris," Oz said from the hallway, walking in a second later. "We get it all?"
"Yup, but what's in this one?" he asked, handing over the little box.
Oz sat down and opened that one, smiling as he pulled out the CD's in there. "Our tape shipment." He scanned the back. "They messed it up too. I didn't order Enya at all."
"I did," Xander said absently, pulling out each sari to look at. "Hmm, this one is wrinkled." He set it aside. "I'll iron it later," he told whomever was listening. He pulled out a small cardboard box and smiled, handing it to Oz. "Here, you do the honors."
Oz opened the box carefully, then nodded and closed it. "Methos, come here," he called up the stairs. Ray sat on the couch beside him, relocating from the floor. Methos jogged down to the living room, sitting beside him. "These are something that we picked up for you two in New Delhi, and I think it's appropriate today." He let Ray handle the present, getting out of the way.
Ray opened it and gasped, pulling out the intricate glasses. "Oz, these are great," he whispered, handing them over to his lover.
Methos looked at them in the light then nodded. "Very nice work." Ray nudged him so he smiled. "Thank you, Oz. We'll use these this afternoon, when we do the spell." He put it back in the box and kissed his lover on the cheek. "Was there anything else in there for us?" he asked, craning his neck.
"Yup, but we can give them to Ray," Oz said, watching as Methos ran back upstairs. "He's chatting with Joe," he told Xander. "What else can I do to help?"
"Start unpacking the boxes with me," Xander told him. He reached down and removed Ribbon from the top of the pile saris. "We don't need fur covered things, sweetie," he told her, giving her a kiss before handing her off to Giles. "Don't put her somewhere up high, she doesn't like heights."
Giles sat down with her, watching Xander unpack his presents. He was surprised when he got one, but he took it and held the leather jacket tenderly. "This is beautiful work, boys."
"It's the product of letting Xander loose in London," Oz said. He looked over at Xander. "I want to look at your accounts this afternoon. We've been splurging greatly again."
Xander nodded. "I've been living off the interest," he reminded his lover. "You can be paranoid and look them over if you want though."
"Xander, you just bought a multi-billion dollar law firm," Oz said warmly. "That wasn't from the interest."
"No, that was buying out their loan for a few thousand and foreclosing on the same day," Xander said, not looking up from his examination of the next sari.
Oz rolled his eyes. "You went through a bank?"
"Yup, the demon bank." He grinned, still not looking up. "They're really nice there. Much nicer than the bank in town."
"You did what?" Oz asked quietly, tipping Xander's head up so he had to look at him. "You went around demons without a bodyguard?"
"He burned incense because I'm still emanating. Giles, why would my pheromones be getting stronger? Oz used to be able to cover it up, but not anymore. And I've had an increase of desire too."
Giles raised one eyebrow. "That's possible?"
Xander gave him a bland look. "Yes, it's possible."
"Oh. I'll look it up but I suspect it's a normal surge due to your age." He smiled at the cat that landed in his lap. "Which one are you?"
Oz looked over. "That's Jermaine. He reminded Meth of a Jackson member." He looked at Xander again. "When were you going to tell me about this?"
"As soon as I figured out what was going on," Xander told him with a bright grin. "I have a meeting with a Chemist at the college tomorrow. The demon network said he was studying this phenomenon."
Oz grunted, "I'm going with you."
"Sure." Xander tipped that box up to pull out the flat cardboard box on the bottom. "The silverware I think," he said, handing it to Oz.
Oz opened it and nodded. "Yup, silverware." He got up and went to put it in the sink to clean it. He came back and moved the empty box out of the way, tipping it on it's side so the animals could play with it. As soon as the flaps were covering it, one of the cats shot into the box and hissed. "Yeah, you have fun. There's going to be a few more soon." He looked at the seven remaining boxes, not counting the boxes Xander and Ray were digging through. "When did we get all this stuff?"
"It built up," Ray told him. "It always does." He held up a statue of a dragon. "Yours?"
"Yup, it'll remind me of home," Oz said, taking it up to his office upstairs.
Xander grinned at Ray, his 'mischievous' grin. "Not only did it build, but it gained interest," he said, holding out another present. "For you, from Paris."
Ray opened it and started to laugh. "An Eiffel Tower dildo?" he giggled.
"Yup," Xander said proudly. "I thought it'd be a cute idea." He winked and went back to his unpacking. "Oz, more of your stuff," he called, pushing that box aside after taking out his two bags at the bottom, and the velvet box from the middle. "I got gifts from someone while I was in India," Xander said, showing them to Ray. "We came back from shopping and they were lying on the bed."
Ray shook his head. "I'd be worried about that."
"So was I," Oz said as he walked in. "You said that you were going to let Angel look at those for you."
"I can do that," Giles said quickly.
"We think it's demonic," Oz told him. "It appeared while the maid was cleaning and no one was in there with her."
Giles nodded. "Then I'll definitely help Angel look those over tonight. Is he coming up?"
"No, we're going to intrude on him early tomorrow," Xander told him. "He knows that we're coming so that's not a problem." He held up a piece from a bag. "If there's nothing wrong, can I give this to Cordy? It's really too femme for me."
Oz nodded. "Please, it's very gaudy. Maybe she can do something tasteful with it."
Xander shrugged. "I wouldn't be surprised." He dropped the necklace back into the bag and pulled the next box over. "Um, this sounds like something broke so I'm guessing it's the plates," he said, handing them off to Giles. "Can you please pull those out and put them up?"
"Leave them out to be cleaned," Oz said.
"Of course." He pulled the box into the kitchen and opened it, gasping at the plates. "We had custom plates made?"
"No, we found a pattern we agreed on," Oz said, looking up at the blue, teal, and silver decorated plates. "You like?"
"Yes, I do. Where did you find these?"
"At the bazar in Bombay," Xander said. "That's where most of this came from." He accepted the next box from Ray, opening it with a cheer. "Oh, the *Paris* stuff, Oz." That box was snatched from him and taken into the bedroom.
Xander winked at Oz. "Before we found Amanda, we ran into a guy who was looking for models to make dildos off of."
Ray shivered. "That's got to feel really strange," he said quietly, looking at his new toy. "Did you get one made?"
"Yup. I did and Oz did. Actually, that's where we met Amanda, she was shopping in his store."
Oz walked back out and looked at Ray's present. "I see he found that." He looked inside the next box and sat down, handing it to Xander. "This is all your stuff. What are you going to do with these?"
"Decorate," Xander said simply, pulling out the two saris sitting on the top of the box. "There aren't that many things in there."
"Nope, just fluffy fabrics." Oz pulled out the thick velvet pile, showing it off to Giles.
"That's a very interesting shade," Giles said, leaning on the bar. "Why silver?"
"Because I think it looks pretty," Xander told him. "It's thicker than I usually work with but I'm sure I can find something to do with it."
Oz shuddered. "As long as I don't have to sleep on it, wear it, or see you wear it," he complained. Xander pouted at him. "Disarm those lips or I won't go find the fabric for you," Oz warned.
"Okay," Xander sighed, putting the fabrics back into the box. "I guess this can be dragged into the craft room."
"You have legs," Oz noted. He pulled out the top piles of fabric, coming up with a small velvet box. "What's this?"
Xander snatched it from him. "Not for you to see right now," he told him, tucking it back in between the fabrics.
Oz shrugged. "Whatever." He pointed at the last two boxes. "What are those?"
"One's the rest of your stuff and the other's probably the rest of the stuff from Paris, and Italy."
"Okay." Xander pulled over one and grunted. "Oh, yeah, this is the one from the food shopping expedition." He pushed it toward the kitchen. "Rupert, can you please put these up?"
"Of course." Rupert came out and got the box, carrying it into the kitchen with a grunt. "What is this?"
"Wines," Oz said. "Xander decided he liked European eating."
"Hey, I liked Japanese eating too, and it had wine with it."
Giles nodded. "I can see how that's a necessity." He opened the box and looked down inside it. "These aren't wines," Giles said, holding it up so Oz could see it. "It looks like cheese."
"Oh, is that that?" Xander asked, getting up to go look. "It's been repacked though, so the wines should be on the bottom." He went back to the other box and opened it, nodding. "Oz, the stuff for your office."
Giles unpacked the box, admiring the contents greatly. Someone had good taste in his family. He came to the layers of wines and smiled. "You have very good taste, Xander."
"Oz," Xander corrected.
"Well then, Oz has very good taste."
Oz got up to come over and look at the contents. "That's not all that we ordered." He looked at Xander, who shrugged. "Okay, well, we've got at least that much coming still."
"I'll be looking for it," Giles told him with a smile. "So far, I've only found a broken wine glass." Xander looked up, giving him a hurt look. "One of the simple ones, dear heart, not the ornate ones." Xander nodded and went back to unpacking Oz's box. "What should I do with these?" he asked Oz.
"Go put them down in the cold room in the basement," Oz told him. "While we were gone, and when Xander figured out that he wanted to bring food home, he had someone come put in a wine rack and a cold pantry."
Giles smiled and opened the door beside the counter, heading down into the basement with the contents of the box.
Oz turned to look at Xander. "How did we afford all this?"
"Wasn't hard," Xander reminded him. He looked up. "Are you going back to your house tonight?"
"Yup. After the bonding ceremony." He walked over and stole a kiss. "Will you be all right with Giles?"
"Yup," Xander said, giving him a smile. "I think we'll get along fine. We'll talk, I'll get cuddled. We'll figure it out." He shrugged. "Anything else?"
"Nope. I think we'll deal really well with him being back." He stole a kiss. "Want to call Jace or should I?"
"I'll call her, you get online and finish our orders from Italy," Xander told him with a grin. "I want that ham."
"Of course." Oz took his box of things with him upstairs. "Out!" he yelled, and a dog came running down the stairs.
"Cocoa?" Xander called, bringing her over. "What did you do to Oz?"
"He was typing," Oz called down.
Xander kissed the dog on the nose. "Lay on the couch and I'll take you out to play in a few minutes. Okay?" The dog barked and hopped up onto the couch. "Thank you." He loaded all his fabric stuff into one box and got up, dragging it into the craft room to deal with it later. He made sure the closet door was closed, he didn't want kneading marks on the delicate fabrics. He walked back out, looking at Ray, who had new boxes in front of him. "Where did those come from?" he asked as he sat down. He looked at the bottle of wine coming out. "Giles, we've got the rest of the foodstuff," he yelled.
Giles jogged up the stairs and came over to get the boxes, taking them down the stairs with Ray's help.
"Wow," Ray said as he came back up. "That's a killer space you've got started. What are you going to do with the rest of it?"
"Not real sure," Xander admitted, examining the sari he had left out to play with. "It's partially finished but I'm not sure if we want to make it a few guest rooms or not."
"We could make it one guest room," Giles suggested as he came up. "I'll finish putting the wines up in a few moments. Xander, you mentioned something I could do around here?"
"We need a fence because of the animals," Xander told him quietly, looking at the back yard. "I'm not sure how to do it without wrecking the view though."
"A short fence shouldn't do that," Giles told him.
"Rocky can jump a short fence," Xander told him, "and she's been running out into the road to get at the thistle bushes across the street. She's allergic but she loves their smell."
Giles shrugged. "I'll go look at fencing options today, how's that?"
Xander smiled. "Okay. Just not chainlink if you can help it?" Giles smiled and nodded. "Thanks, you're being way too helpful though." He winked. "Relax, we still like you."
"I will, I feel I should help though."
"Cool, then you can put up a fence and we'll be happy," Oz said as he walked down the stairs carrying Ribbon. "Someone wanted loves."
Xander took the cat and hugged her. "Hello, sweetness. Did you need cuddles?"
"Yes, she crawled into my lap," Oz told him. He looked at Giles. "I'm going to agree about the chainlink. Not unless there's another way to not notice the fence."
"If we put it far enough back, it shouldn't be a problem," Giles told them. "Putting wood close to the house and chainlink farther back should be fine."
Oz nodded. "Okay, you check the codes?"
"I'm going to do that as soon as Xander calls Jace."
"Okay." Xander took the phone from Ray, who was sitting next to it. "Thanks." He dialed, then grinned. "Hey, babe, you okay today?" He laughed. "Yup, I think we got it all. Huh?" He looked at Oz. "Really? Wow. Yeah, send it on to me please. No, I have no idea who's doing that," he complained, trying to keep Oz from stealing the phone.
"Did someone send him stuff again?" Oz asked once he had control of the phone. He looked down at Xander. "Do you have any idea who it was? Was there a note?" He hummed. "What was it this time?" He grunted. "Yeah, send it on tonight. We're going to get it examined by someone tomorrow, as well as getting Xander examined for his pheromone problem." He laughed. "I'm sure." He hung up. "Those jewels are expanding your collection," he complained.
Xander shrugged and gave Oz a helpless look. "I don't know where they come from, Oz, I promise. I haven't been doing anything."
"I know, but it's disturbing," Oz said gently, sitting down beside him to give him a hug. "Someone's giving you expensive stuff and I don't know why. This is supposed to piss me off, Xander."
"Well, it does me too," Xander complained. "I'd like to know what they're expecting too!"
"I know." Oz calmed his lover down. "We'll figure it out tomorrow. Until we find this person, or whatever, will you please be careful? I don't want you taken again."
Xander nodded. "I will. I won't leave the house without someone with me and I won't wander off while shopping." He gave his lover a kiss. "Is that okay enough?"
"Sure. It's great actually." Oz stole another kiss and stood up. "Giles, want help with the foodstuff?"
"No, I think I have it," he said, sharing a worried look with Oz over Xander's head. Oz nodded so he went back to his task downstairs.
Xander looked at his new fabrics and sighed. "Oz, why can't I do things like this?"
"Because you don't weave or embroider?" Oz suggested from in front of his loom.
Xander sighed again. "What am I going to do with them if I can't wear them?"
"Hang them on a wall?" Oz said, turning to look at his lover. "That's what other people do when they buy stuff they can't wear." He saw the unhappy look and moved over to hug the young man. "What's really wrong?" he asked quietly. "Is it Meth and Ray?" Xander shook his head. "The hormone thing?" Xander shrugged. "Ah, it's the worrying that the hormones caused this new jewelry explosion," Oz guessed and Xander looked at him. "Know this, I'm not letting you go, not even for some rich guy who can give you everything that I can't."
Xander snuggled into his arms. "You do give me everything I want, Oz," he said quietly. "I'm worried about what whoever is doing this really wants from me. No one gives people expensive stuff without wanting something."
"True, that's why you have me though."
Xander put his head on Oz's shoulder. "I know, but I can't help but worry about this. I don't like being kidnapped and this seems like a reason I'm going to be snatched away from you."
"It won't happen," Oz told him. "If they try, they die. I have no problem defending you from someone who wants to steal you from me."
Xander smiled. "Thanks, Oz. Are you coming with me everywhere?"
"Even to the bathroom if you want me in there," Oz told him, stroking through his hair. "Now then, what did you want to do with the saris?"
"I want to make an outfit out of one," Xander said, pointing at the purple, blue, and gold one. "I want to make a new dance outfit out of that. Top and bottom."
"Can you do that?"
"Easily and still have a scarf sized piece left. So I can do that one dance." Oz hummed deep in his chest, making an almost purring noise. "I like that noise," Xander said, looking up at him with a grin. "Can you do it again?"
Oz repeated the noise, his eyes closed. "I think I'd like to see you in that outfit. What about finding another piece like that from one of the Indian shops and making it from that instead of the sari?"
"I was going to go looking tomorrow while Giles and Angel did their stuff with the new jewelry. Want to come with me and Cordy?"
"Sure. You know I like watching you pick out fabric." Oz kissed him on the nose. "Get back to your planning and I'll leave in an hour to go back to my house and pick up all your fabric." Xander sat back up and went back to his planning and drawings, and Oz went back to his weaving to calm himself down.
Xander peered out the window at the dark streets. "He should have been back a while ago," he said when a cool hand touched him on the back. He looked over his shoulder, giving Methos a weak smile. "How are the new dishes holding up?"
"Very well. We've found two broken glasses and one of the extra little bowls. All things that you can have replaced." He sat down beside his student, giving him a hug. "I'm sure he's fine. No one snatched him."
"We don't know that those jewelry pieces were for me," Xander whispered. "They could have been for him."
"We repel demons," Methos told him. "We couldn't ever be in a relationship with one. These gifts speak of a very powerful demon, one who would have to be old enough to know that. They wouldn't be after Oz."
Xander nodded. "But I still can't be sure of that," Xander admitted. "I won't know that for sure until we find out who's sending them and confront them."
Methos kissed him on the side of the neck. "I understand, but you're going to make yourself sick over this."
Xander gave him a peaceful smile. "I'm trying not to, but it's really hard." He jumped up as he saw headlights, going out to meet Oz in the garage. "What took you so long?" he asked, pulling his lover into a hug as soon as he got out of the car.
"Ran into Richie," Oz said, pointing at the man getting out of the other side of the car.
"Hey, want to camp in the basement?" Xander said between kisses. "You're okay."
"Yup, I'm fine," Oz said calmly. He got free and looked at Xander. "The whatever wasn't coming after me," he said quietly, staring into Xander's eyes. "I promise, it isn't after me."
"You don't know that," Xander countered with a grin for the confidence he saw, moving to the back of the car. "Did you find it all?"
"And then some," Oz told him, slamming his door and walking back to grab some of the fabric. He nodded at Richie to help and they got the bolts carried in with two loads.
Xander looked across the desk at Angel. He, Cordy, Oz, and Ray had already been shopping and had been called back to the office because someone had found something. He gave the vampire an expectant look. "So?" he asked finally.
Angel gave him a smile, a grin really. "I know who it is and we've had a discussion already. He's decided that maybe you're not the easiest person to woo in the world, but that he still likes you. Matter of fact," he said as he leaned back in his chair and put his feet up, "he said that if you ever left Oz and Giles, then he wanted a shot at your attention."
Xander shuddered. "What is it?"
"It's a demon, but a very powerful one, not one of the ones you're used to dealing with." He looked at the doorway, waving Wesley in so he could take the book he held. "This is what was wanting some of your time."
Xander took the book and looked it over, reading slowly. He finally looked up. "This is what was after me?" Angel nodded. "He's a slime demon, he only comes out during the monsoon season." He looked back at the book. "He's not even real during the rest of the year."
"Which explains how he managed to give you the trinkets," Wesley reminded him. "This is not a demon to be trifled with, Xander, it's very powerful in it's own right. It was seeking a consort and thought that you'd be willing to be that for him."
Xander shrugged. "But I was never away from Oz, ever, while we were in India."
"Yes, but to him, Oz is only a bodyguard, or someone that's been hired to watch over you, possibly to teach you but mostly to watch over you."
Xander's mouth fell open. "After we almost got arrested for kissing in public?"
"Yes, even then," Angel told him. "To him, you didn't smell like you belonged to anyone so you didn't."
"But I smell like Oz," Xander protested.
"Not enough apparently," Wesley told him. "I'd go fix that, it may fix some of the more extreme hormonal problems you've been having."
Xander shook his head. "I don't know, but we're going to go see a scientist this afternoon. He's been studying this for a few years now. Maybe he'll know how to dampen it." He looked at the book again. "Now what do I do? How do I get the jewelry back to it?"
"It said to keep it. It can make the stuff easily so it's nothing to him," Angel said calmly. "Did you already give Cordy a piece of it?"
"A really gaudy necklace, I thought she could do something useful with it," Xander told him. "Why? Is that bad?"
"No, he'll consider it as you giving it out to your harem." Xander started to cough. "That's the way he thinks. He's decided that Oz is your favorite in your harem and your personal bodyguard. He was willing to integrate your harem with his, but he decided that you really didn't need it now that he's found out about you. He also said that guardians were precious and that they shouldn't be taken from their duties."
Xander sighed. "Thanks, Angel." He stood up. "Where're Oz and Giles?"
"Downstairs with Cordy, looking at decorating books. She wants to redecorate her apartment in something other than neutral."
"Hey, I can help her do Asian," Xander offered.
"I told her that already," Oz called from the outer office. "That's why she was shopping with us this morning." He walked into the office.
"Ah, my faithful harem," Xander joked.
Oz glared and Angel pushed over the book. "The demon wanted to have Xander as a consort, he was even willing to integrate Xander's harem with his, letting him keep you as his favorite concubine and bodyguard." He held in his smile, but it was starting to show around the corners of his mouth and his eyes.
Oz grunted and pushed the book away. "Did you straighten him out?"
"Yes, he did," Wesley said from the couch behind Xander. "He told him Xander was a guardian of a gateway and that he couldn't leave. He also explained that Xander wasn't the sort to become a consort, and that you had a much more important role in his life than that of a concubine." He smiled. "That was a very hard description from what I heard of it. It seems that he thought that Xander, being what he is, was a trained courtesan."
"He is," Oz told him. "He learned by crossing through a gateway."
Angel's mouth fell open. "You let *him* cross a gateway?"
"Pure accident," Xander told him. "But that's where I learned to fight with a sword, and where I learned how to dance. And I took a lot of lessons in political intrigue and the ways of a court at the same time. I got pretty good at my job."
Angel blinked a few times then slowly shook his head. "I don't want to think about that too much," he said as he got up and went down to his apartment. Maybe waking his kitten up and getting played with would clear his mind of that thought. He didn't want to think about Xander being one of the power movers like the courtesans he had once known.
Wesley smiled at Xander. "I do believe you gave him a headache. Would you like to continue your shopping trip with Cordelia? I can cover the office if you need her."
"Nope, sorry, we've got to go see a scientist about my hormones," Xander said, standing up. "Cordy, we're leaving!" he called. She walked into the office, glaring at him. "Sorry, I didn't know if you were downstairs."
"No, I came back up when Angel came down muttering your name." She looked him over. "Going to do more shopping?"
"No, going to go see someone about fixing my hormones so I quit drawing demons to the Hellmouth." He winked as he walked past her. "If you want help decorating, just yell."
"I will," she promised, giving Oz a smile. "Have fun watching him."
"Usually," Oz agreed. They joined Giles at the car, getting into the back to be together while Giles drove. "Do you think of me as a concubine?" Oz asked quietly, cuddling against Xander.
"Nope. I think of you as my lover and my friend. You're not a sex slave to me." Xander grinned at him. "I would rather be in that role than you."
Oz shook his head. "You're not my concubine either, Xander. I don't keep you." He took the young man's hand to hold. "If that demon saw us like that, then how do other's see us?"
"Probably not the same way," Giles said from the front seat. He pulled over and turned around. "Oz, no one would see you as his concubine. Maybe as his bodyguard sometimes, but never as his concubine. Most likely, people would think that you're keeping Xander as your boytoy." Oz shuddered. "I know, it's not a favorite thought of yours, but to some that's how it would look."
"Then why did he think I was Xander's concubine?"
"He probably saw us in the bazar while I was being pushy and figured that the rest of the time I was humoring you," Xander told him gently. "I did get dominant while we were there."
Oz relaxed. "Okay. As long as no one sees me as your possession or anything like that."
Xander giggled. "Like I'd be able to keep you," he cooed, kissing Oz. "You're much stronger than I am and I could never keep you in a golden cage." He smiled at his lover, turning on all his charm. "Of course, you could keep me that way...."
Oz growled and pushed Xander down, stealing his ability to talk with a kiss. "I'm not keeping you, we're equals. Got it?" Xander nodded. "Good. Anytime you want to be submissive, I won't mind, but we're equal partners in our relationship. I want it to stay that way."
Xander smiled, reaching up to pat Oz's cheek. "Of course, so do I, but there are still days when I want you to chain me to the bed."
"Hey, those days I appreciate," Oz told him, taking another kiss. "Giles, we're going to be late," he said as he sat back up.
Giles smiled at them. "I was hoping for a kiss myself."
Xander leaned forward and brushed a kiss past his lips. "There, more when we get back to Sunnydale and the college."
Giles nodded and turned around to pull back into traffic. He may have driven a little faster than normal, but with that promise, he wanted to get to the college a little early.
Xander waited while the skin swab was taken from his arm and under his armpit, turning his head as the woman with the needle came closer. "Can you not make it hurt, please?" he asked.
"I'll try," she said with a smile, tapping the crook of his arm to find a vein. "You have very nice veins," she said as she stuck him, putting a tube into the collection slot. "Very visible and easy to stick." She switched tubes, watching as that one filled, and grabbed a third one. When that one was filled, she pulled out the needle and put a bandaid over the hole. "There you go, Mr. Harris."
Xander looked at the other helper. "Are there any more tests?"
"Just one," she said, holding up a wand of some sort. "We're going to measure your pheromone output." She motioned him to stand and waved the wand over him, frowning. "He's human," she said in shock.
Xander nodded. "I know I am. I'm one of the lucky point-five of a percent that have hormones that like demons instead of humans. That's why they keep trying to kidnap me."
She shook off her shock and looked at him. "From these readings, you're attracting humans and demons," she told him carefully. "They're not discriminating at all anymore."
Xander sighed. "Does that mean I need to hire a bodyguard now? I'm tired of being kidnapped. Fifteen times in one day was enough to last me a lifetime."
"You've been taken fifteen times?" the woman collecting blood asked. "By demons?"
"That was just one day, I've been taken almost seventy times, but never for very long. I've always had someone to come get me. That doesn't count two vendetta things though." He sat back down. "Is there any rational reason that this is happening to me?"
"No," the women said together, looking at each other and shaking their heads.
Xander sighed. "That's what I figured. Can I be told what your boss figures out about me? I'd like to know."
"We'd like to bottle it," Oz said from the corner he had been watching everyone from. "Think about what a stir that would make, Xan."
Xander smiled at him. "What would they have to do to collect it though," Xander told him. "I might be willing if they could do it with simple swabs or something, but not needles. I don't like needles." He pouted at Oz, who crumbled and came over to give him a hug. "I don't want to be a lab rat," he said quietly.
"You won't be," the woman who had done the swabs assured him quickly, taking everything she had collected and walking away. "We'll be in contact with you soon," she said from the doorway.
The other woman smiled at them. "Don't worry about it. We may find a way to tame the scent down now that we have some of the most pure extract." She left the room with her vials.
Xander took his shirt from Giles' hands as he walked in, putting it on as they walked out together. "I need lunch," he decided. "Call home and see if Methos is cooking or if we're picking it up?"
"I already did," Giles said, patting him on the back. "He's taken some of the excellent meat and cheese that you had shipped back and is making us a light salad to go with it."
"Cool." Xander climbed into the back, snuggling up against Giles, who got in with him. After all, it was only fair, Oz had gotten Xander on the ride to the college.
Xander looked up from his sewing as Ray walked in. The detective had put off the bonding ceremony with a last-minute bout of nerves the night before and now he looked sheepish. "Do you think Methos hates me?" he asked his friend.
Xander thought about it. "No, I don't. I think he figures he rushed you and you weren't quite ready for the prospect of eternity. It's a scary thing," he told his friend, reaching over to touch him on the knee. "I was really scared when it came close to the time to do ours, the first try anyway. I wasn't ready to think that promising forever meant that you couldn't break up. I also had this little thought about it being really unnatural because I wasn't going to be a vamp to get forever. I mean, everything dies, and I will eventually, but I'm not seeing an end to my life anytime soon, ya know?"
Ray nodded. "That's what I'm feeling, but a little stronger on the it's not natural part." He looked out the floor-to-ceiling windows that were the back wall of the house. "It's so natural for me to accept this is Methos, who's lived so long that he's outlived history. But for me to think about myself in those terms just seems so *wrong*."
Xander hugged him. "Why don't you tell Methos this? I got past my fears because I wanted Oz and Giles more than anything. I didn't care if I had to go back to working for Devi in a few years to keep them, I wanted that forever, for however long that forever lasted."
"Yeah, I guess it won't last forever." Ray looked back at Xander. "Why do I still feel funny?"
"Because you're measuring the possible time," Methos said from the doorway. "I didn't know you felt that way, Xander."
"Yup, fully thought it was unnatural for me to be around for nine hundred years. That's my goal, to have them around for that long."
Methos smiled. "That's a very worthy goal. Ray, would you be willing to talk to me about this? I'd like to help you with these fears." He held out a hand, which his lover took, and they went back to their room. Methos shut the door behind them and locked it so they wouldn't have any interruptions during this critical moment. "It's not me, correct?" he said.
Ray groaned and flopped back on the bed, covering his face. "I knew you were going to ask that, it's never been about you. It's about me and my faulty thinking."
"That's curable though," he reminded the young man, sitting down beside him. "Ray, if you'd like, we can put this off. Permanently even if you'd wish. I'm willing to stand beside you as you age and die if that's what your heart desires." He laid down, resting his head over the simple heartbeat, measuring his life against it. "I'd rather have part of forever with you, even if it's only for the next two hours. I will not force you into this binding."
Ray uncovered his face. "You're willing to watch me die?" he said quietly. Methos lifted his head and looked at him, and he saw the truth in them. "I'm not going to become stale and boring after a few years? You're not gonna dump me after a century?"
"No, but I may consider taking month-long vacations from you now and again to keep everything fresh. That's how a set of married immortals I know have done so well for close to five hundred years, I think." His face temporarily scrunched up and then cleared. "I've forgotten how long they've been married," he admitted with a Gaelic shrug. "Why would you think I would leave you?"
"Because I have faults and things that piss you off sometimes," Ray said quietly, looking away from those eyes. "I don't want you to be pissed at me forever like you were last Christmas."
Methos chuckled and hugged his lover tightly. "I could never be that upset with you *forever*. Maybe for a few days, or a week, but that's how we'll know when we need a vacation from each other." He tipped Ray's face back up. "May I also ease another fear?" Ray nodded. "I don't want Xander, Ray, I want you. Yes, Xander's nice to play with, as is Oz, but he's not the one I could stand to spend forever with. We'd kill each other within a few months. I couldn't put up with his neediness in the emotional arena and I wouldn't put up with his wantonness the way Oz and Giles do." He kissed the area over Ray's heart. "I would like to put up with your low self- esteem forever; maybe in nine hundred years I'll have you believing that you're worthy of love all the time, even when you piss me off."
Ray grinned faintly. This was an old argument, one that Methos had been trying to win for a few months now. "I know I'm worthy of love, but you don't seem to see that I need the more affectionate love, like you give the puppies." He poked his lover a little harder than expected.
Methos grunted and rolled onto his side, bringing Ray with him. "Now, now, no fighting in bed. That is one of our rules, is it not?" Ray nodded, relaxing into the warm embrace. "I'm going to try to give you all the types of love that you need, Ray, no matter how long our lives go on." He started a soothing backrub. "I'd like to not have to watch you die," he whispered, "but I will follow your wishes on this matter. It's entirely up to you now."
Ray pulled back and looked into his lover's eyes, seeing the determination, pain, and love in them. "Giles?" he called. "Can we do the spell now?"
The door lock rattled and Giles walked into the room with the necessary equipment already on a tray. "Of course we can. Are you willing to go along with Oz's plan?"
"Yes," Methos said. "If something happens to me, I want Ray protected by Oz. Same as I will protect Xander if something happens to the both of you."
Ray kissed Methos gently. "I don't mind at all," he whispered, giving his lover a smile Methos hadn't seen in months, a truly happy look.
Giles lit the first candle and put it beside the bed, sprinkling some of the incense into it. "Now we shall begin," he proclaimed, handing over the candles to each of them.
Xander walked in with the glasses they had gotten for the couple, waiting until they were holding them to fill them with pretty decent champagne. He smiled and raised his own glass, toasting them. "May you two have as much happiness as we've had," he saluted and took a drink. He winked at Ray and grabbed Giles, pulling him from the room. "We're fixing dinner tonight; call when you think you'll be hungry." He closed the door behind them.
Methos smiled at Ray, taking the glass of champagne from his hand and putting them down beside the bed. He then rolled on top of his lover, trapping him to take the first of many kisses that night while their hands wandered.
"Bermuda," Ray mumbled against Methos' lips. His lover pulled back and looked at him. "Shouldn't we be going somewhere for our honeymoon?" he asked with a grin. "Somewhere warm, with warm water...." He stopped as his neck was attacked, making him scream with laughter. "Okay, I give. We'll honeymoon here!"
An envelope came trotting through the door in Rocky's mouth. She jumped up and dropped it on Ray's chest, barking to show what a good girl she was. She got loves and pets from both of them, then left the room.
Ray opened the envelope and grinned, showing them off to his husband. "Can we?" he whispered.
"We leave tonight," Methos said, looking at the tickets. "We'll have to get supper rather soon."
"Hey, I could eat," Ray told him, still smiling. "Do you know where our passports are?"
"In my suitcase." Methos stole another kiss and sat up. "I told you we'd travel and I thought now would be a good time to do some of that," he explained, looking at the tickets. "We even have two weeks worth of reservations." He looked back up. "Would you like to go see the Italian Rivera with me, Raymond?"
"Yes," Ray pleaded, begging with his eyes too.
Methos smiled. "Then pack and we'll go have dinner. We'll leave in a few hours to make our flights."
"Just come eat," Xander called. "I've got the rest done."
Ray hopped up and jogged out, giving him a hug. "Thank you."
"Honeymoon was all Oz," Xander said with a smile, kissing Ray on the forehead. "The trousseau is all me." He laughed at Methos' groan. "No peachskin thongs for you, I promise. I found a cute underwear pattern and did all yours in cotton. I only have to finish one thing and make sure the clothes fit Ray and then you can go." He led Ray back into his craft room and tried the tightest outfit on him. "Hmm, fits?" he asked.
Ray nodded as he shifted and moved. "Fits really well. Did you make a pattern of my sizes?"
"Yeah, while I was doing your jammies." Xander pointed at the two bags in the corner. "It's all easy clothes: T-shirts, loose pants, drawstring shorts. If Meth thinks you'll need dress clothes, you'll have to pack those. I put enough in there for a week and a day, the hotel has a laundry service." He gave him a hug and handed over an envelope. "So I get a postcard. No other mementos needed, Ray." He walked away, letting the other man get dressed.
Ray sat down and looked in the envelope, wincing as he figured out these were not the pants to be sitting in, at least not like that. He spread his thighs apart and the creeping feeling that had attacked his crack quit, and he was comfortable again. He smiled as he lifted the paper cover, his mouth falling open as he saw the money inside. "Xander, I can't," he called.
Giles walked in. "That's from me actually. It's traditional to give the bride a gift and I figured that you were the one that could use it the most. That's meant to be a dowry of sorts for you, or a fund to start your home in more recent times. I, too, shall expect a postcard from the Rivera. I hear it's a beautiful place."
Xander walked back in and saw how Ray was sitting. "Too tight in the crotch?" he asked.
"Only when I sit," Ray told him.
Xander nodded. "Give me ten minutes and I can fix that and get the other outfit done." He held a hand out. "Pants, now please. Go eat and I'll be right out." Ray took off the pants and pulled his jeans back on, going out to show Methos his present.
Xander sat down and snipped the seam allowance, making sure it was more flexible.
Xander climbed into bed beside Oz and was immediately cuddled. "I'm glad they settled it," he whispered, not wanting to wake up Giles, who had had a bit too much champagne at dinner.
"I'm just happy that they're happy," Oz whispered back, rolling to be cuddled this time. "Are you happy? I heard what you told Ray earlier."
"Yeah, I am," Xander said after a short pause. "I don't think I could be any happier really. And I got over that whole 'unnatural' thing almost as we were doing the binding." He kissed the top of Oz's head. "What would you like for your birthday?"
"A program that worked the first time through."
"Okay, how about something I can give you?"
Oz lifted his head. "You know how you said you were going to find homes for all the animals?" Xander's face fell, he had come to love all the animals and he thought Oz had too. "Just for one more of them? Cocoa and I don't get along very well. She messed up my program earlier."
"Okay, I'll try to find a home for her. Maybe Wills would like a dog."
Oz shook his head as he put it back down. "First you gave Angel a cat and now you want to give Willow a dog?"
"She needs something," Xander reminded him. "She's miserable."
"I know. But it's a strange concept, giving furries to the vampires to mellow them out."
"I could try to give her to Cordy. She could use a friend."
"True," Oz sighed, getting comfortable by smooshing his face into Xander's chest. "Do we have to go back to the college tomorrow?"
"Nope, they'll fax over the results when they're done."
"Cool. I don't want to move tomorrow."
"Then we won't," Xander decided. "I'll declare tomorrow a house-bound day." He watched as Oz fell asleep on him, mesmerized by the ease with which his lovers relaxed around him. He never had that feeling anymore. Maybe it was waiting on the results of his tests, but he was anxious for some reason tonight, and he had one of those 'don't quite fit in my skin' feelings too. Well, he knew how to cure the last part. A good orgasm did it for him every time. He reached under the covers, slowly moving his hand down to his cock, then stopping as it was caught.
"Let me," Giles whispered, curling up to rest against his back. "What did you need?"
"Just a quick getting off, I've got that creepy 'stuck in my body feeling' and that always cures it."
"Then that's what I shall do," Giles said, stroking over the limp flesh. "I've never felt you soft before," he whispered, working to cure the problem. Just a few more pulls and Xander groaned, getting off on his hand. "There, is that better?" he asked, bringing his hand up to lick it off.
"Yeah, much," Xander said, smiling at him. He pulled Giles' arm over, forcing him to cuddle up against his back. "Much better," he noted as he fell asleep.
Giles smiled and drifted off again, comfortable for the first time in a long time with the place he was in his life.
Xander looked up from his lounging beside the pool as he felt something tingling at the back of his neck. "Giles?" he called. "Do you feel that?"
Giles looked up at him and shook his head. "I don't feel a thing," he said as he walked over to sit beside Xander. "What are you feeling?"
"Just a tingling thing, a crawling feeling on the back of my neck." He rubbed it, giving the pool an irritated look. "I don't know what it is."
"Neither do I," Giles told him, giving him a pat. "How does the fence look?"
"It looks good," Xander said, giving him a smile. "Is it up to codes or are we going to get a call from the neighbors down the street?"
"I think that we shouldn't be getting a call from anyone. Our nearest neighbors are a good half- mile away around a bend." He patted Xander's leg again, then got up to go back to his fencing project.
Xander looked over his shoulder as the sliding door in the wall of windows opened, letting Richie out. "Did you just feel something?"
"No, but Motocat did. He went and hid under the bed." He shrugged as he sat down, looking at the fence. "Well, it doesn't block too much of the view of the decrepit house next door," he quipped.
"Yeah, but this way the animals can come out on their own," Xander told him with a smile. "I was thinking about a stone fence to follow the pattern from the front of the house, just a little one, but Rocky can jump that. We don't need to keep giving her benadryl." He looked down at the animals crowding his feet then grimaced as the feeling got stronger. "Tell me you can't feel that!" Xander yelled as he stood up and started looking around. He stopped when he saw a little man standing at the edge of the property. "Who are you?" he called, walking over.
"I'm one of the Neighborhood Watch people." He smiled. "We wish that you wouldn't put up a fence."
"Yay," Xander told him. "We checked with codes."
"Yes, but what if a burglar runs this way?"
"Then he'll hit the fence and be stopped," Richie said as he walked over. "Besides, they have animals that need to be able to run outside." He looked the little man over and shuddered. "What are you?"
The little man looked at him. "What are you?" he asked calmly.
Xander held up a hand. "We don't want to bother anyone, but I won't be harassed by your type either, and yes, I do now know what type you are." The little man backed up a step. "I'm a guardian of the Hellmouth," he said quietly, "and we will not bother anyone. But I'll be damned if I'm going to be bothered by a wood demon. We're doing what we have to to protect ourselves. This will also give you something to stop the people against."
Giles walked over and looked at the little man, then at Xander. "Do you know this demon?" he asked.
"No, but I'm guessing he doesn't like our fence at all."
"Well, you are blocking the view," the little man said.
"Yes, from my sunbathing nude." Xander crossed his arms on his chest. "Deal with it. It's within code."
"I should go get a copy of that," Giles muttered, going into the house to make that call he had put off.
Xander bowed at the little man. "Leave us in peace and we'll do the same," he told him. "If not, we have enough here to kill you outright."
The little man bowed deeply. "I will respect your wishes then, Mr. Harris. By the way, your fence is three inches too high." He smiled and left them alone, walking over to the empty house on their left, the one that had once held a man who had killed his wife and one of his children.
Xander shook his head and went back to his lounging. "It's three inches too high," he called.
Giles walked out and sighed. "That's what they just told me. But I believe I can fix that easily enough with the circular saw." He smiled at his young love then went back to his project.
Xander looked up from his sewing as he heard the doorbell. "Coming," he yelled, hurrying out through the small door to go answer it before whomever it was disappeared. He opened it to find a courier standing there. "I'm not expecting anything," he said in way of greeting.
"Well, you've got something anyway," he said, holding out his clipboard, "and it's heavy." He looked down at the animals and frowned. "Do you run a rescue service?"
"No, it just looks like it," Xander said with a gentle smile. "I'm a sucker for someone in distress."
The courier snorted and went to his truck, coming back with two boxes. "Here, someone apparently thought these were yours, no matter whether or not you're expecting something."
Xander patted himself down. "I left my wallet in the other room, if you'll wait, I'll get you a tip."
The courier shook his head. "I'm not allowed to accept them, sir. Have a nice day." He walked back to his truck, making sure none of the animals had followed him.
Xander dragged the two medium sized boxes into the middle of the living room and went out to retrieve Rocky from the thistle patch, carrying her into the kitchen to give her some medicine before she had trouble breathing, then did a quick head count and outside check before closing the door. He sat down in front of his boxes, ripping open the tape. He looked down inside and blindly searched for a phone. He got a discordant sound so tried again, looking at the keys this time. He heard a friendly voice on the other end. "Cordy? I need Wes and Angel *real* bad," he whispered. "Can you send them up?" He hung up, hoping that it had been her he'd been talking to. He touched the velvet box on top and knew what it was without looking. Only one thing came in that sort of box and it wasn't something Oz would like.
Angel hurried into the house from the garage entrance, looking down at the stunned man still staring at the boxes. "Harris," he called, making him look up at him. "What's this?"
"It came today," he said, pushing it closer to Angel. "I don't know what it is." He looked at Wesley, who was standing behind him and carrying Angel's kitten. "Put him down," he said dreamily, getting up and heading to his room. "I'm going to go nap now."
Angel shook his head. "I've never seen him this upset before, not even when Buffy and Willow kidnapped him." He picked up the first small, thin velvet box and opened it, whistling in appreciation. "Well, the Monsoon demon has good taste at least," he noted.
Wesley pulled out his pocket knife and opened the other box, searching it for a note or an address. He looked at the shipping label, then up at Angel. "Why would an Indian demon be living in Las Vegas?"
"Oh, I know that answer," Cordelia said as she walked in through the front door. "You two drive *way* too fast." She looked at the necklace Angel was holding and nodded. "Very nice work. His demon again?"
"Who lives in Vegas, Cordelia?" Wesley asked, trying to get her back on track.
"A friend of Oz's," she said, pushing some hair behind her ear. "Why?"
"Because that's how sent it to him, this time," Wesley said, showing her the shipping label.
"She could have forwarded it," she reminded them. "Oz did say that they had rented a mailbox in Vegas to ship stuff back to."
Angel nodded. "I had forgotten about that, but you're right." He looked over at Wesley. "You find a number and call this person. I want to know if it was forwarded and when it showed up." He stopped as the front door opened and Oz walked in with another redheaded man. "We got called," he said before Oz could say anything.
Oz looked at the boxes, then at the label. "I'll call her and see when it was sent," he said quietly. "Where's Xander?"
"Napping," Wesley told him. "Shall I start by making an inventory of the pieces?"
Oz nodded. "Sure. Paper's beside the breakfast bar." He walked back to their bedroom to look in on Xander, smiling as he saw him curled up and chained by the ankle to the bed. "I'm not mad," he said from the doorway. "She said there was some that was sent there."
"We got that the next morning, before we went to see Angel," Xander mumbled through the pillow he was clutching. "Why me?"
"Because someone else wants what they can't have," Oz told him, walking in to give him a hug. "You be okay in here for a while?" Xander nodded so he gave him a kiss on the side of the neck. "I'm going to go call Jace."
"I tried. She won't be in for an hour," Xander said, looking up at him. "I don't ask for this, Oz, really I don't."
"I know," Oz said, kissing him again. "Just relax in here and we'll be fine." He walked out, not shutting the door so the animals could go in there and nap with him. He sat down on the couch and looked at the open boxes. "He's called her and she won't be in for an hour."
Angel looked up from his appreciation of the craftsmanship of the bracelet he was holding. "These are all female pieces," he noted.
"Yeah, I noticed," Oz sighed. "Someone did that to him once before, when he was in New York." Angel nodded, giving him a grim look. "Xander turned that guy down too," he told him coldly. "Xander won't leave me because someone gives him really good jewelry."
"Of course he won't," Cordelia scoffed. "Who'd want to leave their sanity, their love, and their home?" Oz looked at her in surprise. "Hey, we talk and you *are* his world." She smiled. "Why don't you go hug him for a few minutes?"
"Because he's with the animals," Oz told her. "I want to know what this is about." He picked up the phone and dialed the resort. "Is Jace back yet?" He sighed and hung up. "At least another hour. She's in a meeting with a new chef." He looked at the list Wesley and Cordelia were making. "Is there anything male in there?"
"A few pins," Wesley noted, holding one up. "They're nominally gender neutral if you consider them."
Oz shuddered. "I don't want to know, I just want this stuff stopped." He got up and went to go cuddle his lover. They both needed it right now.
Angel looked at the dragonfly pin and shrugged. "I might wear it," he noted.
Cordelia looked at his outfit. "With what? Are you still hiding that purple velvet cape from when you had to do that benefit show? Really, Angel, you looked like that Chairman guy on that Japanese cooking show," she snorted.
Wesley snorted but bent to go back to his cataloging before Angel could say anything to him.
Xander sat in the middle of the protection circle Giles had cast and looked at everyone else in his living room. "So, when's the big demon supposed to show up?" he asked finally, bored with the waiting.
"Eventually," Oz told him, shooting him a quick smile. "Relax, let us handle it."
Xander nodded. "Sure. Isn't that why I'm in here?" He looked up at Angel. "Why does he think I'm a woman again?"
"Probably because of the clothing that you bought," Cordelia told him. "Now, quiet!"
A stirring in the kitchen sent all the animals running for the upstairs, except for Angel's kitten, who was lying on the back of the couch, staring at her daddy. Xander craned his neck to watch them run away. The breeze turned a little more solid, about the consistency of a ghost, and walked toward them. "Who calls me?" it said, breathing the words and sending a breeze at the same time.
"I do," Giles said stiffly, staying formal. "You have sent my mate more gifts and we would like to know why."
The ghost-like creature looked at Xander, then back to him. "I didn't see you with him."
"I wasn't invited on their trip," he said.
Oz stepped forward. "I was though, you saw me. Why send him gifts for women? He's obviously not one."
"I thought he might spread them about his harem," the ghost said, sending everyone's hair into disarray.
"He's *my* harem," Oz said coolly. "I do not appreciate outsiders giving my lover presents."
The ghost laughed. "Are you sure of that? He's your master more than you are his."
Xander stood up but stayed inside the circle. "Hey! I may be GHS but I'm not a concubine, not in this day and age." He looked at Oz. "Really. I thought we had settled this the other day."
Oz nodded. "Yeah, we did, but I'm still rearranging my thinking," he mock-admitted. They had set this story up earlier. He looked at the demon again. "You're still sending gifts to my mate and I don't appreciate it."
The demon sighed. "If it bothers him, I'll stop. I wanted to wait until you were gone, but I will do so quietly."
Xander shook his head, breaking the circle by grabbing Oz's hand. "If he goes, I go," he said firmly. "There won't be an afterwards."
The demon looked at Xander, staring at him. "You desire this one that much?" he said, starting to send a light sprinkling of moisture with the breeze now. Xander nodded. "Then I will leave you alone. Give these to those in your ...whatever you have between you." He bowed to Xander. "You would have made the perfect consort and I would have gained status. But it is not meant to be." He dissipated.
Xander looked at Oz. "So, do we give some of this away?"
Oz shrugged. "I say lock it in the vault for now. As long as he doesn't come back." He pulled Xander's head down, kissing him hard. "Are you happy?" he asked.
"Almost always," Xander agreed. "I'm not taking these as anything other than ill meant birthday presents."
Oz grinned. "Good, 'cause I better not see you wearing them." He patted his lover on the butt. "Go put them in the safe." He walked into the kitchen. "Anyone want food?"
"Sure," Cordelia said, walking in followed by Wesley and Giles. "What do you have? I can help fix something."
"We have got some of the best imported hams and cheeses in the world," Oz said proudly, showing off the contents of the refrigerator. "We've been doing a lot of nibbling on them."
She smiled. "Hey, nibbling is good for my figure. Got any bread?" A loaf was handed to her. "Cool. I'll slice this, you get the cheese. Wes, you can do the ham." She put down the bread and went to wash her hands.
Xander looked at Angel. "He's gone, right?" he asked softly.
"He won't come back," Angel told him. "What are you going to do with those pieces?"
"Not sure," Xander admitted, nodding at a box. "Help me drag it into the room under the stairs?"
"Sure." He picked up the second box and carried it after the one Xander was dragging.
Xander slumped down onto Oz's lap, deftly avoiding the kitten already sitting in it. "Hi," he whispered, giving him a hug. "I got the results back."
Oz looked up at him. "And?"
"And, there's an idea on the forms they forwarded to us." He gave his lover a kiss and held out the papers. "See?"
Oz looked at it and shrugged. "How messy is this?"
"It's not, but it's worse than BO from what they said." Xander stole another kiss and stood up. "There's another suggestion on there. That we go wear it out of me. I'm producing more because I need more sex. Eventually, we'll wear me out to the point where I'll be over this need and I'll be back at the beginning again, like I was when I came home."
Oz sighed and moved the kitten off his lap. "I'm going to need some help with this. Where's Giles?" Xander grinned. "Oh, went to him first?"
"Yup, I've already gotten him tied to the bed for us," Xander said, running a fingernail across Oz's lips. "Are you ready?"
"Maybe," Oz agreed. "At least we know it can be worn out of you." He followed Xander's wiggling rear into their bedroom and closed the door.
Richie, who was in the kitchen getting a snack, shuddered as he pulled back from inside the refrigerator. "I don't want to know. I'm not like that and I'm not having thoughts about that guy," he told himself as he took his sandwich downstairs.
TO BE CONTINUED...