Xander walked into the jewelry store and sat down in front of his favorite person. "Hi," he said quietly. "I know you checked, but would a sale still be very bad?"
She nodded and put down her fork with the bite of salad still on it. "Well, yes it would," she said. "What happened?"
"Our house was bombed," he said with a shrug. "We're all okay, but I want to move somewhere safer this time."
"Ah. Well, we heard that you had a few loose stones. We could take a look at those and it wouldn't upset the Monsoon demon that took a liking to you."
Xander flinched as the door's bell rang and someone walked in.
"Shh," she said, reaching over to touch his hand. "It's just a courier." She smiled up at him. "Did you have a package for us?"
"No, for him," he said, handing over the bundle. "He said to tell you that you needed it and don't complain. I've already told your mate because I was instructed thus." He bowed to Xander and held out the package.
He took it, looking at it. "Who sent it?"
"You'll know when you open it," he said, backing away, disappearing after a second.
"Well, it wasn't vampire sent, they refuse to use those demons," she said thoughtfully, holding a hand out. "Want me to open it?"
Xander nodded and handed it over. "That was really strange."
"Not really. We use them as couriers too. They go onto a different plane to travel so they get there almost instantly." She unwrapped the dark brown cloth and looked down, trying hard not to look impressed. "Well, I can safely say it was your Monsoon demon," she said, putting down a corner to let him see it.
Xander pulled out his cellphone as it started to ring. "Hey, Oz," he said, smiling in relief at the voice on the other end. "How's Rocky?" He grinned. "Good. Did you get a messenger?" He nodded. "Yeah, they're here." He handed the phone over. "You tell him."
She took the phone and delicately put it up to her ear. "Hello? Oh, yes, sir. Of course I remember you. You two made such a beautiful couple. I'm glad it fit, he has excellent taste. Yes, he did get a package, it's full of stones. What?" She looked up at Xander. "If he would like to, we'd be more than happy to look at those too. We do have a branch there. He could call them and tell them where the stones are so they can go look at them."
Xander shrugged. "I've got more, but they're in Vegas," he told her. "Tell him the contents of the warren went to Vegas."
She repeated the message. "That would be fine sir. Yes, of course." She hung up. "He said we may cash out two of these and that he'll have our branch there deal with them. All we need is the bank address."
Xander pulled out his wallet, he kept this information with him at all times now, and handed over the bank's card. "I'll need to call them," he said as he pulled out his phone and dialed it. "Hello, this is Alexander Harris and I have three large safety deposit boxes with you?" He hummed the tune the hold button was playing, forcing himself to sound happy as someone else came on the line. "Yes, this is he. No, I'm having them evaluated by a jewelry store out there. Yes, I'll expect that they'll be taking some of them. No, Branchson's Jewelers?" He sighed. "Yes, them. No, our house exploded yesterday. No, ma'am, a bomb because we know someone who was trying to make changes in an established tradition." He smiled. "Thank you. Yes, they should be there today. Yes, Branchson's. Thank you." He hung up. "They have a voice recognition system set up for phone orders," he explained, pushing the card back over. "Please?"
"Of course." She picked up the handset of the phone nearest her and punched in a code. "Hello, Merle. Yes, it's a good day on this coast. No, I have a client here that desperately needs to cash out some of the stones he has in a bank safety deposit box. A Mr. Alexander Harris, and the box is at the bank in the middle of the Luxor." She smiled. "No, he said you were from Branchson's." She laughed and hung up. "He said give him an hour. How much did you need anyway?"
"Oz found a house he likes, it's about half a million though, which is way too steep for Sunnydale." He slumped a little. "I'm not sure right now. Enough to do the whole new house thing?"
She nodded. "I can see how that might be necessary. Don't you have money?"
"Yes, but I keep putting it into hard term investments. I won't have access to any of it for another two weeks and I can't live in that hotel anymore." He shuddered. "Everyone's so *nice*," he complained. "I'm in mourning for my house and they're nice."
She nodded, giving him a sympathetic look. "Would you like me to start with just the two, or would you like to do a few more?"
"I'd rather do a few more," Xander admitted. "Oz can shit, but we need the money to live on right now." A messenger appeared beside him. "Um, hi," he said, looking up at him. "Another something for me?"
"Just a message. Your mate finally agreed with our Master," he said, bowing to the woman behind the table. "Do as you would like with the stones."
"Is Oz okay?"
"He's fine. He's found a house that he thinks you'll love, but it's more than he wanted to spend."
Xander nodded. "That's what he did yesterday." He looked at her. "Okay, do about two-thirds of them?"
She nodded and started to sort them out, leaving a few big ones in case they needed to do this again later.
Xander looked up at the messenger. "Why is he helping us?"
"Because he said it's necessary," he said with another bow, disappearing.
Xander shrugged. "I don't have a clue why this happens to me, but I'm very thankful for it right now." He scratched a spot on his arm that had been itching on and off for most of his life.
She leaned over and lifted his shirt, shaking her head when she saw at the mark. "That explains it," she said, pointing to it.
Xander looked at his arm. "It's a birthmark," he told her.
"It's a sign of having been blessed by someone," she corrected. She sat back in her chair. "You're a very lucky man, Mr. Harris. Someone is looking out for you," she said seriously.
"I know," he said, giving her a smile. "I never thought it was anyone but my Oz though."
She shook her head. "Much more powerful than that." She showed him the piles she had made. "How's that?"
"Good," he said, nodding. "How much is that?"
"Roughly, I'd say about a third of what you need if you like your mate's suggestion." She picked up the beeping phone, listening to the voice on the other end, but she kept looking at his arm. "That explains a lot, Merle, thank you. No, he doesn't know. He thought the mark on his arm was a birthmark." She hung up and then stood up and bowed to him. "You've been touched by one of the senior demons. They've chosen you for an heir. All those that help you gain stature," she said, giving him a smile at his shocked look. "You never knew? Merle just got a messenger that told him what was going on."
"No," he squeaked, trying to pull out his phone. He looked down as he dialed. "Wes?" he croaked. "Help? No, an answer to a lot of problems. Please? Branchson's." He hung up and looked up at her. "What, exactly, does that mean?"
"It means that even though you're human, you're the equivalent of demonic royalty," she said, sitting back down. "Who's this Wesley person?"
"A former Watcher," he said, blinking a few times. "He works with Angel."
She smiled. "We all thought that was hilarious," she confided. "That thing with Wolfram and Hart? It was just such a kicker." She pulled out her magnifying glasses and put them on, picking the first stone up to look at it.
Xander leaned wearily into Wesley's side as he was led back into the hotel. He waved at the manager, who looked very disturbed as they walked up to the desk. "I'm fine," he called. "It's been one of those days. Say hi, Wes."
Wesley gave him a grim look. "He's had a bit of a shock," he explained as he took the waiting messages. "Are they upstairs?"
"I've got my keys," Xander reminded him, struggling to pull them out. He looked at the messages, then up at the manager. "Have you ever been told something so shocking that it makes sense?"
The manager shook his head. "Not yet, sir. Are you sure you're all right? I can have our doctor come up and look at you, maybe give you a sedative."
"No thanks," Xander said quietly, steering Wesley toward the elevators. "Maybe later," he called. He got onto the elevator and stabbed the button as hard as he could. "Wow," he said finally, looking up at his friend. "This really sucks." He slumped a little more. "Is this a reason to take up drinking?"
"It might be for the night," Wesley agreed, trying hard not to let the young man fall. Oz wouldn't like that. He led the way off the elevator, heading to the penthouse suite. He tapped on the door, and before his knuckles could hit for the third time, it opened to show Ray and Oz standing there. "It's been one of those shocking days," he explained, walking inside after him. He sat on the couch, looking at Giles. "Did you never noticed the supposed birthmark on his arm?" he asked lightly.
Giles looked up and shook his head. "I don't really pay that much attention to them. I know that he has one and in times of stress, it itches. Why?" He put his book aside, letting the dog jump down from his lap.
"Because, he's been formally adopted by one of the higher demons, Rupert," Wesley said lightly. "Apparently when he was very young because he's said he's always had the mark."
Giles groaned and leaned back. "You'd best tell me all of it."
"Yeah, that would be good," Oz said as he walked out and sat down. "Who and what adopted my mate?"
"Our," Giles corrected him gently. Oz tended to go more wolfish when he was under stress. "Do you know which demon it was?"
"It was one of the senior Metharn demons from what I could tell," Wesley said quietly. "The ones that come to help gamblers lose?"
Oz nodded. "That would fit. His father promised him to any God that would get him out of a jam. Strife likes him by the way," he told Giles.
"Yes, I heard that from him, but he never said anything about a competing claim." He leaned his head back to stretch his neck. "Is this harmful?"
"Not as long as the Metharn demon is alive," Wesley told him. "I've called Angel, who told Blair, who laughed and said he recognized the mark when he first saw it. Angel's presently cursing himself for never seeing it."
"Xander covers it up when he doesn't wear something over it," Oz told him. "He said sunlight tends to make it itch worse when he's stressed out."
"It may at that, but the itching is his adoptive father's way of checking up on him probably." He smiled at Oz. "As far as I know, your mate's fine for now, Oz. As long as this particular demon stays alive, he should be fine. They don't tend to hurt their rival's heirs in the demon world, it goes against protocol."
Oz nodded slowly. "So, Xander's okay then?"
"He's safe," Wesley corrected. "He does have some status though. Especially with some earth- bound representatives of his adoptive father." He touched Oz's arm. "The Metharn aren't bad demons, Oz, they're very caring about what's theirs. Xander would fit in with them very well if he were forced to accept his position. I believe, and this is just speculation mind, that he's a secondary heir."
"The spare as it were?" Giles suggested.
Wesley nodded. "Having a human heir be the only one would be disastrous to his father's status. He's probably claimed that he felt something odd about the boy and adopted him before he realized he was fully human."
"Would this explain his funky hormone problem?" Oz asked.
"No," Wesley sighed, "it doesn't. It goes nowhere near an explanation for that. I think his personal family history might account for some of that, if we could do a genealogical chart on him." Oz shrugged. "Maybe you should suggest it to him, or to his brother Seth."
"Would this affect him any?" Giles asked.
"No," Wesley said. "He's the older brother of an heir." He stood up. "Angel and I will try to find some information out about this demon, see if he's a detrimental fellow at all." He nodded at the doorway. "I'd best get back, Angel will be worried sick by now." He left the suite, closing the door slowly to avoid hitting the cat trying to follow him.
"Ribbon," Oz called, bringing her running. "Thank you." He looked over at his other husband. "Well?"
"I'm not sure," Giles said slowly. "Wesley's had more dealings with the demonic system than I have. We do have some resources available to us though. We could call Blair and see if he knows anything in particular."
"Angel's doing that."
"Yes, but we'd best do it too. It'll look better if we, as concerned mates, pump him for information. Image is everything to the demons, it's all a matter of protocol with them."
"Good," Oz said, standing up. "You stay here." He walked out of the suite, heading for the garage.
Giles sighed and went into the bedroom, taking the bag that Xander was holding to put it aside. "Come, love, let us take a rest while Oz goes to research something about this."
Xander looked up at him. "I'm a Prince in Hell," he said quietly.
"Or on another plane. Not all demons are confined to Hell." He lay down with his mate, pulling him into his arms. "Don't worry, we'll figure out exactly what this means and fix it for you," he promised.
Xander nodded and snuggled into his husband's arms, continuing to stare at the wall while he thought.
Angel strode in behind Oz, guarding his back. He nodded at the vampire up on the dias, giving him a smile of relief. "Blair, you found him," he said, stepping forward to get closer to the dark haired vampire.
"Yes, Stake was curled up on one of my silk shirts," he said, handing the cat over. "I can see why you like him so much, he reminds me of your childe."
Spike snorted from the sidelines. "Does not. I'm not a bloody fluffball."
Angel looked at the cat, then at him. "Well, if we gelled him to death like you do your hair, you'd look the same."
Oz grunted. "True. That's why he likes you." He looked up at the vampire. "You saw the mark on his arm and knew?"
Blair walked down. "Yes, I did." He led Oz to a private room, closing the door behind him. "Sit, Oz, I have much information for you. I wanted to find out who I had pissed off once I saw the mark." They sat on the Elizabethan love seats, facing each other. "He was adopted because his father offered him. The Metharn who adopted him is of the secondary order, but he does like Xander. I've met with him since that time and he seemed most amused at what his fifteenth son was doing." He smiled gently and leaned over, patting Oz on the thigh. "He was also most impressed by your love. He said he saw you in London a few times and took the chance to watch you both."
Oz relaxed. "I knew I felt something watching us," he admitted. "So, his father, for lack of a better word, doesn't want him to come join him or whatever?"
Blair smiled. "Father and son would be the proper terminology, and he would like to meet with him if Xander would want to, but he doesn't want to keep him. He knows that his place is with you, Oz."
"Okay. So, was he the one helping us?"
"Mostly. He has instructed a few people to help his son in his absence if it's large enough of a problem. This doesn't explain his problem with the Monsoon demon though."
Oz nodded. "So, are we expecting anything to be done about the bombing? Just so I can watch for backlash?"
Blair chuckled. "I doubt there would be any backlash. Not once he found out what had happened to his son. Oh, I can image the visit Angel is going to get over his new toy."
Oz grinned. "Hopefully they know that Angel's trying to fix it too."
"Then I'm sure they'll want to help." He smiled at the young man. "I'm sorry if that gift of mine caused any trouble."
"We had a female friend who tried it on first, we found out what it was." He leaned closer. "Blair, I'm worried here, about a lot of things. I'm worried about what'll happen to Xander if he meets with this demon. I'm worried about the demon wanting more from him."
"He won't," Blair said gently, giving him a reassuring smile. "To his people, Xander is an anomaly and an inconvenience. He won't last as long as they will." He looked Oz over. "Unlike you."
"Unlike Xander too," Oz admitted quietly. "We made sure he was going to stay with us for a *very* long time." He stood up. "Could you maybe put us in touch with his father? Xander wants to thank him and I'd like to thank him for helping Xander so many times."
"You couldn't go to where he is," Blair said calmly. "What you are is something that is not allowed in their plane." Oz nodded. "Xander could go see him, if he wanted. I could even make sure he was tutored in the protocols that he'd have to work with. Was he really a courtesan for a while?"
"Yeah, in another dimension." Oz waved and left the room, going to find Angel. "Want a ride back?"
"No thanks, Oz," he said, patting his cat's head. "Seth's invited us for supper."
"Xander needs me," Oz told him. "His being an heir has pretty well wrecked him for the day." He nodded at Blair again and walked out. He came back a few minutes later and leaned against the door, until after the explosion. "Um, Angel, you need a new car," he called.
Angel looked over his shoulder. "Then someone else will have to learn that lesson, won't they?" he said with cold humor.
Oz nodded. "Cool. Bus stop?"
"Down the street on the other side," Blair said, pointing to the right. "Have exact change, they don't make any of it here."
Oz shrugged. "Then I'll pay for a few more people." He waved at Angel and walked out.
Angel looked at Spike. "Follow him, make sure he makes it back to Xander," he ordered.
Spike sighed and followed Oz out.
Blair looked down at Angel. "You let him get away with too much."
Angel smiled, then started to laugh. "You try to punish him. It doesn't work. He enjoys it too much." He held up his kitten, rubbing noses with it. "You should not sneak off, Stake."
The cat meowed pitifully to be put down. He didn't like it when his daddy was in these moods.
Xander climbed out of bed and looked out the window, staring down at the cars sitting across the street. "I want them," he said quietly.
Giles walked up behind him, folding him into his arms. "I know, Xander, but it wouldn't be correct for you to go after the people who tried to blow us up. Let Angel handle them."
"Why?" he asked, turning to look at his lover, seeing the pain in his eyes. "Angel's going to be being watched by the cops too."
"Yes, but he's got methods of getting past them that you don't," Giles reminded him gently. "Besides, you gave the law firm to him."
Xander sighed and turned back around. "Then it really sucks that they came after us." He looked down at the two black cars, frowning when he saw people getting out of them. "Giles, I have a bad feeling about them." He pointed at the men waiting to cross the street.
"I'll go down and wait on them," Giles said quietly, backing away from Xander and heading out of the room. He reached the front desk as the first man walked through, looking him over. He leaned across to the man working the reception desk. "I think you'd best call security on them," he whispered. "We think they may have been sent by the people that tried to blow us up." Someone tapped on his shoulder and he turned around, ducking the punch. "I don't think so," he said, kicking the man in the stomach. "I don't play nice with people who try to blow us up." He looked around. "Did the rest of them go upstairs?" The man nodded, his eyes very wide. "Get security up there," he said as he ran for the elevators. Hopefully he could get up there before Xander hurt them too badly. Any alternative to that was unthinkable.
Xander grabbed his sword out of his jacket as soon as Giles walked out the door, heading out to make sure all of his precious ones were safely hiding. He found Ribbon looking up at the door and picked her up to give her a kiss. "No, sweetness, you need to go hide too." He looked down, shooing Fluffy back too. He answered the door, his sword held to the ready. "Gentlemen," he said, not letting them in. "What do you want?"
The one in front sneered and tried to throw a punch, but Xander stabbed him first, following his thrust out into the hall, swinging left and right, dancing out of the way of the multiple knives. He swore as he got sliced shallowly, glaring at the man and taking his hand off for him. "Never touch me," he growled, going after the remaining two men. They backed up and Xander stepped closer. He felt the circle close around him and did an amazing flip up, grabbing the sprinkler overhead. He swung down behind the guys, slicing the one in front of him before he could turn around. He heard the elevator door open behind him, but ignored it, he had more pressing engagements in front of him. He swiped at the man stupid enough to come forward toward him, kicking the one walking up behind him. He spun and took another limb off, not quite sure what it was as he caught sight of who was standing behind him. Hotel security. "Hey," he said, stepping back and waving a hand. "Join in, please. I don't want to be blown up this time."
The security guards wisely went to go mop up the mess, one of them keeping an eye on Xander.
One of them coughed and picked up a puppy. "Is this yours?" he asked.
Giles ran off the elevator, sighing when he saw his lover mostly unharmed. "Oh, you're all right," he sighed, pulling him into a hug. He looked over his shoulder at the dog. "Inside, Whimpers. Now, please." The dog wiggled as it wagged it's tail but got down and trotted inside.
The guard that had picked up the dog looked up at him. "What do you guys *do*?" he asked in shock. "You don't look or act like drug dealers."
Xander smiled at him. "Never touched the stuff, man, I'm the prize in a vendetta war. A friend of mine now owns a law firm and they're pissed at him for it so they're taking it out on his friends." He got free, walking over to look down at one of the men in the dark suits. He put his sword against the guy's throat and his foot on his bleeding stomach. "You've got a choice," he said. "You can tell them exactly what's going on, or you can get up and face me again."
The man looked from the guards to Xander and back. "But I'll be killed," he protested. "They know more tortures than you do."
Xander leaned down, pressing his foot harder into the stomach. "And Angelus is already going against your bosses with some help. Who do you think know more tortures? *Lawyers* or the Scourge of Europe and his family, including a witch and a former Slayer?"
The man blinked up at him. "Please? They can do it from far away."
"I can do it now," Xander told him, "and I'll have more fun after what you did to my first house." He moved the sword a little more, pressing it against the pale neck. "I'd speak now, or *forever* hold your pieces," he warned.
"Wolfram and Hart hired me," he told the guard, looking up at him. "They hired us to eliminate these three because it would make Angel suffer greatly and they want him bad." He looked up at Xander. "Will you spare me now?"
"Sure," Xander said, getting off him. He wiped his sword off on the man's pants, nearly taking off his balls in the process. "As long as you continue to tell them the truth." He looked at Giles, then at the hall. "I'm going to get a drink. Want one?"
"Yes, I believe we should have one," Giles agreed, bringing his lover into their suite and closing the door. He came back a minute later and found Fluffy, bringing the pink cat inside with him. "What would your father say?" he admonished gently, giving her ear pets to make her let go of the finger she was nibbling on.
The guards looked at each other and shrugged, one of them pulling out his radio to call for an ambulance. They would file the report on this later, when they had figured out what had happened.
Oz ran off the elevator and looked at the bodies, then up at the guards. "Did they attack Giles?" he asked, walking over.
"No, they attacked your younger husband, sir," one of them said respectfully.
Oz calmly handed the man his bag then walked over to the one that Xander had been torturing earlier. He jumped up and landed on the man's stomach and chest, squatting down to look at him. "You attacked Xander?" he asked with a cold smile. The man nodded frantically. "Are you really that stupid?" he hissed.
"No," he begged. "Please, don't let him come back out and hurt us."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about him. *I'm* the cold one in the family," he said, reaching down to run his thumbnail over the man's lip. "I'd tell them, and the cops, everything that you know. Before I let Xander *help* me." He stood up and walked up the man's chest, took back his bag, and went back into their suite.
The guards flinched as the elevator door opened, not knowing if it was the other two that were staying with them or not. Fortunately, it was the ambulance crews. They got out of the way and the leader walked down to give his report to their boss. That was the price of leadership, and no one else would take it from him, not even with a bribe.
Oz walked over and handed Xander the candybar he had picked up for him on the way home. "You okay?" he asked as he sat beside him.
"Small cut," Xander said as he unwrapped it. "Already healing." He broke a piece off and offered it to Oz. "Share with me?" Oz nibbled on it, then handed it to Giles, who smiled down at him.
"He was magnificent, what little I saw," Giles told Oz.
"Yeah, I saw the mess." He leaned his head on Xander's shoulder, watching him clean his sword. "Are you sure you're okay? A couple of people out there weren't...."
Xander put a hand over his mouth. "I know. I don't want to talk about it. I did what I had to do to protect myself and the furries." He hugged his head down on Oz's. "Okay?"
"Good," Oz agreed. "Where did Meth and Ray go?"
"Ray had a meeting with someone in the department he wants to work for," Giles told him. "Did you find anything of use?"
"Xander's his fifteenth heir," Oz said, looking up at him. "He's not really in the line of succession. You were right, humans are an embarrassment to their lineage, but he likes Xander. He was watching us in London. Blair said he approves of us."
"That's good at least," Giles said. "What about our escorting Xander to see him?"
"We can't go. Immies can't go to their plane, it causes social problems." He looked at Xander. "You could go, if you wanted. Blair might even escort you. He said there's a lot of protocols to master, which was more your thing than mine anyway."
Xander nodded and continued to wipe down his blade. "I'll think about it." He looked at the door as someone knocked. "Come in?"
"Don't say that," Giles reminded him.
"The only vamps coming here would be friendly ones," Xander reminded him. He looked at the door as Spike walked in. "Did Angel send you?" he asked.
"No, he sent me after Oz and I noticed the git running away." He smiled down at Xander. "You made him run away screaming, Xander, congratulations."
Xander nodded and went back to his cleaning.
"Let me," Oz said, taking the cleaning cloth from his hand, gently taking the sword too. "Why don't you go rest," he suggested. "I'll finish cleaning the sword and join you in a few." Xander nodded and got up, going to their room. Oz looked over at Spike. "One ran away?"
"I saw the ambulances and one of the guys was muttering about sword wielding maniacs." He grinned. "Thought I'd come up and see if I could get some of the action."
Oz shook his head and squirted the cleaning cloth with some seltzer water. He wiped down the sword and handed it off to Giles. "Here, do this, I don't want to leave Xander alone." He walked into the bedroom, closing the door.
Giles looked at Spike as he heard the quiet words floating out. "Did you recognize them?"
"They're from the law firm. One of them was crying because his boss, Lilah something or other, was going to kill him. So I smirked and told him it was going to be too late for her." He shrugged at the amused smile. "Angel woulda approved."
"I'm sure he would have," Giles told him, looking at the door as it opened. "Methos, were you accosted too?" he asked once he saw the bruise his friend and teacher was sporting.
"No, the desk boy got jumpy and I was in his trajectory to the man in the dark suit behind me." He looked out at the woman cleaning the hall. "Did we fall under attack again?" he asked as he closed the door.
Ray walked over and flopped down. "They still can't get my records from Chicago and I can't be approved by their hiring board until they get them." He waved at Spike as he left.
Giles patted him on the shoulder. "I'm sure they'll relent soon enough. It's not like they won't recognize futility when they see it." He looked over at Methos, who was waiting on his answer, his hands on his hips. "We got a visit from some of the people at the law firm Angel now owns." He handed over the sword, letting Methos check it out for him. "I think Xander may have chipped it."
Methos examined the blade in the light, then shook his head. "It was probably that weak spot he found while he was sharpening it last night." He handed it back and looked at the doorway. "How many?"
"Sixteen that I saw," Giles admitted with a smile. "I know one was probably able to walk if he was bandaged properly." He patted Ray on the head. "The security people were most upset with us."
"I have no doubt," Methos agreed, going to get a drink. "How is he?"
"He's not willing to talk about it," Giles sighed, turning to lean against the back of the couch. He moved when Ray hit him for leaning on his hair. "Sorry, Ray." He looked at his teacher. "Methos, I'm not sure if Xander will be fine after all."
Oz walked out of the bedroom. "He said he will be, he's upset right now, but he'll get over it." He nodded at Methos. "Get it settled?"
"No, Chicago is still being hard asses," Ray told him. "Would he like a major cuddle? From all of us maybe?"
Xander walked out and padded over, sitting in Ray's lap to hug him. "I killed someone," he said pitifully.
"Yup. I felt that way when I did it the first time," Ray told him, giving him a hug. "Come on, let's go back into the bedroom. I'll even cuddle you in a bath if you want." Xander nodded and got up, dragging Ray with him. "We'll be back later," Ray called from the doorway, kicking it shut behind him.
Methos looked at Oz, who shrugged. "He'd understand more; it's been too long since I've been there," Oz told him.
"I've forgotten when my first kill was also, all I remember was that he was a vampire," Giles said, staring out the window. He pointed at the dark shape. "Oz, does that look like what I think it does?"
Oz looked out the window and nodded. "Yeah, it looks like a dragon heading for Sunnydale. Do you have the keystone?" Giles held up the pendant he wore. "Good. At least it won't be opening the Hellmouth." He looked at Methos, who was staring at him. "What? It's not like they're going to find any virgins in this city to eat."
Methos shook his head and turned around to make his drink stronger. He took it into his bedroom, closing the door soundly behind him.
Oz looked at Giles and shrugged. "There's no monasteries or nunneries between here and there, right?"
"Carmel is the closest I know of," Giles told him.
"That's good, I don't want to worry about nuns and priests tonight." Oz flopped down onto the couch, looking at their bedroom door. "Should we be closer?"
"No, I think we should stay out here. If Xander needs us, he'll come get us." He sat down beside his husband, cuddling up with him. "At least it worked out all right," he whispered. "I wouldn't have wanted to come back up here and have seen Xander on the floor."
"Me either," Oz agreed. "That would have been bad." He got up and ran into their bathroom, going to get sick.
Giles looked a little green himself, but he stayed where he was. Oz needed Xander, not him, not this time. He picked up the phone and dialed Willow's cellphone. "Hello, dear," he said cordially. "Has Angel gotten back yet? Or Spike?" His smile turned nasty. "No, we had a small attack here. Xander defeated most everyone. All sixteen of them, except Spike said that he talked with one." He flinched as he heard the growl. "Willow, please! It was warranted at the time. They came up here and tried to attack us with weapons. It's a good thing Xander still had the sword you gave him." He smiled as Angel wrested control of the phone from her. "Yes, you did hear me correctly. Spike knows, isn't he back yet?" He laughed. "I have no doubt. No, Xander defeated them all. All by himself. I went down to see if his guess about what they were was correct." He looked over his shoulder at their bedroom door. "No, he's presently commiserating with Ray in the tub and I have no doubt Oz is leaning against him right now." He listened for a moment then hung up. He got in to go lay on the bed. He had some things he wanted to think about.
Oz walked in behind Xander, following him to the front desk of the demon bank. He nodded at the receptionist, making sure Xander was firmly tucked into his side. "We need to talk to his account manager," he said quietly. "We're trying to figure a few things out."
Xander pulled out his cellphone as it rang, smiling. "Hi," he said happily. "Yup, nope, we're at the bank right now. We can stop by in a minute if you'd like." He looked around. "Yeah, there." He smiled at Oz and hung up. "Our check from our jewels are in."
Oz nodded. "Good. We still need to talk to the person managing your money here." He looked up as a large, human-looking demon walked over to them. "Hey," he said calmly. "Are you the person dealing with his money for him?"
The demon held out a hand. "Yes, I am, Mr. Osbourne." He waved at the aisle. "Come back to my office and we'll discuss whatever you need," he said, smiling at Xander. "How are you dealing, young man?" he asked quietly as he followed them.
Xander flopped down into a chair. "Crappy, but I expect that. First my house got blowed up and then I had to defend myself from idiots." He frowned at the wall. "It's not been a good week for the most part."
The demon lit his brazier of incense before sitting down. "I can understand how devastating that could be. What can I do for you today?"
"I want to look at his account statements," Oz told him, taking Xander's hand to hold. "I'm more money oriented than he is and we've had to spend a lot recently to keep afloat. I want to make sure he's doing okay."
"Of course." The demon turned on his computer and clicked on a few buttons, printing out summaries for him. "Was there anything else we can do for you? A loan to help you buy a house possibly?"
Xander smiled but shook his head. "Not really," he said. "I have the money, it's all in long term investments, that's why I'm in deep right now." He shrugged at the smile. "I was trying to be good and have money for a very long time."
"We have an insurance check coming," Oz reminded him. He flipped pages, pulling out the summaries he had taken from Xander's binder earlier. "Okay, so we've hemorrhaged a lot of money in the last year," he noted, handing them over.
"Well, not quite," Xander told him. "We didn't look at the stuff in the main accounts." He looked at the bank's manager. "I have a major investment account with one of the multi-national banks in town. We still need to look at them."
"That's okay," Oz told him. "I was wondering about these, but we're okay otherwise." He handed the papers back. "Thanks. Do you guys have any real estate going on auction up our way?"
"We have one house," the bank manager admitted, "but it's not something that you would enjoy. It's Angel's old mansion. The man who owned it died and he was deeply in debt to us." He looked at Xander. "Are you sure we can't help you with a loan?"
Xander shook his head. "We've got it, we've just got to do a little management. Oz is being paranoid about how much we've been spending."
"Well, sometimes it's best to be cautious, especially during the bad times." He stood up. "How else can I help you, gentlemen?"
"I think that's it," Oz said, standing up and shaking his hand. "You guys are a lot nicer than the people at the human banks," he complimented. "I called to get a summary sent to Xander yesterday and they got snotty with me. Your receptionist was very nice." He led the way out, letting Xander shake his hand too.
"Thanks," he said with a shy grin. "We shouldn't have to bother you again today." He left after Oz, following him to the car. He slid in beside him, hugging him. "I want to liquidate a few things," he said softly, leaning his head on Oz's shoulder. "We don't need four cars."
"Okay," Oz told him. "Which ones?"
"I don't like this one, and I don't really like my sports car."
"We can do that." Oz started the engine and listened for the telltale clicking noises of the bomb. "We're clean," he said as he pulled out. They drove toward Xander's other bank, they could pick up the check later. "Was there anything else?"
"No? Not even talking about the rest of the warren's contents?"
"Oz, I'd like to have some money in a year," Xander said dryly, sitting back up.
"Hey, I said I'd help pay for the new house," he reminded. He pulled off to the side, looking at his husband. "Are you pissed because you've been splurging?" Xander shook his head. "Then why are you worried about the money issue?"
"Because I'm still not used to having it, I guess," Xander admitted. "And now I'm going through what I do have so fast that it's going to be gone in a few years. Then what will I do?"
"Well, maybe by then, something will have come up," Oz suggested. "Maybe you'll take up tailoring or something." Xander shook his head. "No?"
"No." Xander looked over at him. "Oz, I know I'm on firm financial footing, but I'm not happy with how stable we are. We need cash to live off of. That's a fact of life that's going to become more necessary as times goes by. Things are getting more expensive, not less. I don't want us to have to work anymore."
Oz sighed and picked up Xander's hand to kiss the back of it. "I have a surprise for you," he said, staring into the deep eyes. "I started that software company I was talking about. We'll be getting a check soon for the first program."
"You don't exist," Xander reminded him.
"Yeah, but my new identity does," Oz told him. "I've already fixed all that stuff. The program's coming out soon and we'll be getting paid for it then. And I've got the new one coming out soon too. If I can ever get back to work." Xander nodded. "So, yeah, we've all got money and I am working. I like working."
"I do too," Xander admitted, looking out the window. "I miss having something to get up for in the morning."
"Then I'll let you start to take classes or start working," Oz told him, leaning over to give him a kiss. "Sunnydale has a jewelry restoration program."
Xander smiled at that suggestion. "Yeah, they do. Do you think I could do the making part instead?"
"Sure. I think that'd be a good idea." Oz restarted the car, pulling back into the traffic.
Xander walked into his account manager's office, smiling at him. "Hi, it's been forever since I've had to come to you for advice."
The man stood up and waved a hand at the chairs. "Sit, please. What can we do for you, Mr. Harris?"
"Our house blew up," Oz told him simply as he sat. "I'm his husband by the way." The man looked startled but nodded. "We need to look at his accounts and take stock of his direction."
The man moved his mouse and typed for a few seconds. A printer behind him started to spit out pages, which he handed over. "Do you know much about money management?"
"A lot," Oz told him, not looking up. "Xander, I thought you had more in here," he said, pointing at an account.
"I should," Xander said with a frown, taking the paper to show it to him. "Where's the interest in that account? Isn't it supposed to be earning interest?"
The man cleared his throat. "The bank has charged you a fee for ..." He glanced around. "They thought it was quite strange how you came into your money and they've decided that you're to pay a fine."
"We're removing it," Oz said, putting down the papers. "Xander didn't do anything wrong to make the money."
Xander laid a hand on his arm. "What do they think I did?" he asked calmly.
"They think that you run drugs."
Xander snorted. "I don't touch the stuff, really. You want to know what I did? I was a high classed prostitute for six weeks. I had a client pay a hundred grand to spend an hour with me." He stood up. "We're starting procedures to remove all my money from this bank. Now."
The man went pale but pulled out the forms. "You're going to incur some more fines," he warned.
"We shouldn't, not for you taking our money," Oz told him, leaning over him. "We could go above your head," he offered. "Make sure that they know it wasn't you."
He smiled. "Please. I'll arrange an appointment." He picked up his phone and dialed an extension. "I have a client here who would like to speak with you, sir?" he said politely. He hung up and pointed at the door. "Go upstairs two floors and there's a waiting area up there."
Oz nodded. "Thanks." He led Xander out, taking him upstairs. He stopped to listen as the man typed in something on his computer, going back in and staring down at him. "Whatever you're doing to his money, I'd quit," he warned. "I wouldn't take any more of it." He walked out, heading up after Xander.
Xander smiled at the man sitting across the desk, whom they had run into while looking for the person they were supposed to be talking to, falling back into his courtesan/power playing role. "Yes, I think it was most horrible of him to steal from me," he said, sipping at his coffee. "Oz caught him frantically typing as we came up here. Did he really steal all that?"
The bank's CEO smiled. "I'm afraid so, Mr. Harris." He looked around his office. "I have no idea why he chose you."
"I do," Oz said, putting down his bone china cup. "We don't touch our money that often. He might have gotten away with it if our house hadn't been blown up."
The CEO hissed. "Do you know who did it? A man like Mr. Harris must have a few enemies."
"Yes, but none of them are *here*," Xander told him. "I helped a friend purchase a law firm recently to turn them around. Bought a loan that they had outstanding, you understand," he said with a little smile. "They're not very pleased with him so they've been taking it out on him and his friends."
"Which are us, basically," Oz told him. "Our other husband is presently playing with our animals. We're just glad no one was hurt." He touched Xander's hand. "In either attack."
Xander nodded. "I'd rather not talk about that, Oz," he said quietly. "I don't want to think about how I had to defend myself." He turned his attention back to the CEO. "Unfortunately, we were attacked last night in our hotel." He shrugged at the pity look he was getting. "We're only there until we can find a new house."
"We do have a few very fine houses that have been repossessed," he offered. "I have a catalog that can be brought to you."
"Please," Oz said. "There was one that I was very interested in, back in our town." He got comfortable. "It's on a private lot, has a pool, has excellent security."
"Ah. I can understand those needs. We have one that's overlooking the beach. There's stairs down to the beach, but it's a public beach instead of a private one."
Oz looked at Xander. "That sound familiar. Is that the Henderson house?"
"No, the Mitchell house," Xander told him. "Big white house? Got columns?" The CEO nodded. "Maybe. We'll consider it," he said, turning to Oz. "I really think that I'd like to have really good security this time. Last time, it wasn't that good. Everyone could get through it."
"True," Oz noted, giving him a squeeze. "Can we look through that catalog?"
"Of course," the CEO said, pushing the intercom button. "Marcia, may I please have the auction book with entries for the area around Sunnydale?" He turned it off, smiling at them. "If I may say so, you two look very happy and content together."
Xander grinned. "He made an honest man of me just a few weeks ago," he said happily. "And now we need a new house." He turned to look as the door was opened, smiling at the woman walking in with a large binder. "Is that the auction listings?"
She nodded and handed them to her. "That's the car and real estate ones, that was the one that you wanted, correct?" He nodded. "I'll be at my desk in a few minutes if you'd like to sign up and bid for any of them."
Oz scooted his chair closer as soon as she was gone, flipping through the cards until they came to the houses. He stopped at one, a two story with lots of glass and porches, and looked up at Xander. Who marked the page and moved on. "That was the one I saw that I liked," he told him.
"Okay. Let's see what else they have before we make a decision." He stopped and looked at one picture then shook his head and moved on. They both stopped at the picture of one house, a large stone house. Oz looked down at the descriptions, then up at the man helping them. "Does this one have security?" he asked, taking the book to let him see it.
"It does," he said, running a finger over the codes. "It has two floors, including the renovated attic. It's got a decent security system included, and a fence around it. It's got some landscaping, mostly trees and shrubs."
Xander snickered. "We have fifteen animals living with us right now. Plus our friend's six."
The man looked at him in shock. "You do?" he asked. Xander nodded. "How do you manage that?"
"There's three of us," Oz reminded him. "Where is it?"
"It's just outside Sunnydale, toward the beach. Actually, according to the map, it's past the old high school by about five miles." He looked up. "It's got seven bedrooms, five baths, one study, a dining room/living room combination, and a huge kitchen. I expect that the house is one of the best in there."
"Is there any way we can see it?" Xander asked, taking the book back, holding the place as he flipped through the rest of them. He nudged Oz, showing him one of them. "That's sorta like our last place."
"It's on the same street as our last place," Oz told him. "It's right next to the group home."
"Oh." Xander flipped through and stopped at a beautiful old house. "Oz, I *love* this one," he said, showing it off.
Oz looked at it, then up at his mate. "It's pretty," he noted. He brought the book back over to the desk. "Can you interpret for us again?"
"Of course." He looked at the codes and the map. "It's out in the forest. It's a transplanted house, it was brought over around the turn of the century. It's got lots of windows, also seven bedrooms and four baths, a library and an adjacent study. It's got a massive kitchen, complete with two ovens." He smiled. "I can call our real estate agent out there and have him show you those three?"
"Yeah," Oz said, giving him a smile. "I think we'd like that."
"Is it the one in town? He seemed to think we were gangsters or something when he helped me buy my house."
The CEO laughed. "I know better than that," he said, smiling at Xander. "Of course, for a few days, we wondered how you made the money too, but your story about the inheritance was plausible enough."
Oz looked at Xander. "Let's put it this way," he aid softly. "It's a past thing. He's never going back and it's all being hoarded for the future."
The CEO smiled. "That's what I figured. I had heard something from certain clients," he told Xander. "They said that you were almost famous in certain circles."
"Was," Xander told him, standing up. "Definitely was. And all it took was six weeks." He grinned. "You aren't going to hold that against me, right?"
"Of course not, Mr. Harris. You're not breaking the law and we have no problem with holding money for people of various reputations. We even have a few gangsters that bank with us. Not to mention a few rappers."
Xander laughed. "That's good to know." He took Oz's hand to hold. "Can you call him and get in touch with us at our hotel?"
"Of course." He looked at the book, letting Oz find the pictures for him again. "I'll have them called today, and he should call you soon after. Hopefully, you can get this straightened out soon enough." He stood and shook their hands. "Good luck, gentlemen. I'll get the missing money issue straightened out this afternoon."
Xander waved as Oz led him from the room, making him stop at the receptionist's desk. "He's calling someone to let us look at them. Do we need to fill out forms to bid?" She handed one over and he filled it out quickly. "We'll tell you which ones after we look at them?"
"Of course," she said, initialing the form. "Good luck. Some of those houses won't sell for that much." She smiled at Oz. "Take good care of him, sir. He seems to be happy with you."
Oz nodded, leading Xander back down to their car. "So, we go look tomorrow?"
"Yeah, we could do that," Oz told him. "Will you look at the house I like?" he asked seriously, looking at his husband.
"Sure. Want to hit it first?"
"Sure," Oz said, relieved. "I think you'll like it. It's easy to see people coming from far away."
"Cool. That's a good thing right now." Xander buckled himself in and leaned over for a kiss. "I like the one in the forest," he told him. "If it doesn't need too much updating, and I don't like the one you did, could we get that one?"
"I wouldn't mind," Oz told him, "but we might have a problem putting up a fence. That's in the middle of a Federal forest, Xan, and it's got a lot of rules about things like fences."
"Hey, we can look into that too," he said quickly. "But maybe I'll love your house."
"And maybe I like the one in the forest too," Oz admitted. He started the car, listening to the engine. "Good, we're still okay." He pulled off into traffic, heading home to the hotel.
Methos jumped as they walked in, and Oz gave him a steady look. "Where did you go?" he asked sharply. "Ray was worried sick when he found out you weren't here."
"We went to talk to the banks," Oz told him. He dragged Xander over to make him sit down. "My love had a brilliant idea on the way over," he said as he poured himself a beer.
"Oz," Xander called, giving him a helpless look.
"It's the only one I'm having, I promise," Oz said as he came over to sit down. "We're going to look at houses in a few days. The smallest has five bedrooms. The other two have seven."
"One's a house that was stolen from Europe and brought over," Xander enthused, leaning toward him. "It's in the forest itself, instead of on the edge like we were. It's *huge*," he said, waving at Ray. "We went to the banks to check out my money situation, and we may have found a house for all of us until your stuff is straightened out with Chicago. Pretty houses, all three of them."
"All have security," Oz told him, saluting Ray with his beer. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I thought Xander might have had a bad night and you might have had to take him somewhere."
"Nope," Xander said, shaking his head, getting up to sit in his lap. "I think I found it, Ray. All the houses gave me the tingly feeling my house gave me."
Oz looked up at Methos. "Xander wants to switch cars."
"Yup, we need more cuddleable cars." He squeezed Ray lightly. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Ray sighed, patting him. "I called my old boss and he said he couldn't do anything about it." He looked up at his lover. "It'd be great to be out of the hotel again," he told him.
"Yes, it would," Methos agreed, sitting beside his lover and Xander, giving them both a hug. "Where are the other two?"
"The rich part of Sunnydale," Oz told him. He looked around. "Is Giles dealing with the animals?"
"He took them all to the groomers. A few of them started to itch this morning and he thought a bath might be for the best." He watched Oz drink. "Richie met him there."
"Good," Oz said, saluting him with his glass. "Xander found out his money manager was stealing from him."
"Oh, no," Methos sighed. "How much?"
"Enough," Xander temporized. "We talked with the guy over the whole bank about it and he said he'd fix it for us. He's also the one that showed us the book of properties."
"Very nicely done," Methos congratulated. "When do you think you'll get to go see them?"
"Hopefully tomorrow," Oz sighed. "I don't like living in hotels."
Xander got off Ray and climbed across the coffeetable to steal Oz's glass and sit in his lap to cuddle him. "I don't like it either," he admitted. "I was much more free at home." He stole a kiss. "We'll have a home again soon, Oz, I promise." He cuddled down onto his chest, smiling at the contented noises his husband was making. "Yeah, we'll have a home soon, and the big, strong moving guys can move my bed again for us, and everything will be okay."
"I'm glad you think so, but nothing's ever that easy," Oz reminded him, gently stroking his lover's back. "Can we go cuddle in the bed or somewhere more horizontal? I really would like cuddles."
"Of course." Xander stood up and held out a hand. "Where would you like to cuddle? Bath or bed?"
"Oh, bath," Oz sighed, waiting until Xander had gone to pick up his glass of beer and finish it. He waved at Methos as he followed his lover. "We'll be out in a while. You can bring in chairs if you want. We wouldn't mind." He closed the door and snuck up on Xander, grabbing him and making him squeal. "I miss that sound," he said softly, licking the back of Xander's neck. "We haven't had sex since we got here. I'm starting to worry about you."
Xander turned under his hands. "I'm in mourning for my house, Oz, but we'll be good soon. I'll be better soon. I promise."
"Okay. As long as you're mostly okay now, and will be fully okay soon." He walked them into the bathroom and started the water for them.
Methos looked at Ray. "That's not such a bad idea for finding our own house," he suggested. "Going to a bank auction?"
Ray smiled at him. "I know you want more permanence. We'll look at what they've got, after we figure out where I'm going to be working. Do you wonder how Amanda's working on this for us?"
"No," Methos said, pulling him into his arms. "It's always better to not wonder with that one." He gave him a kiss. "Would you like a bath also?"
"Yeah," Ray said with a bright grin. "I need to be pampered again."
Methos smiled, pulling both of them up and into the bedroom. "As long as it's not the diapers, I'm perfectly happy with that plan."
Amanda breezed into Ray's prospective employer's office and tapped the file on the desk a few times. "I need to talk to someone about someone's application?" she asked nicely.
The man pointed at a set of double doors. "Through there, to the door marked Captain." He looked her over. "Are you applying?"
"No, I had to retrieve a file for an applicant." She smiled at his whispered 'pity' and went where he directed, tapping on the door. "Hello, I'm from Chicago and Raymond Kowalski asked me to stop by and threaten his old bosses?" she asked nicely, waving the folder.
The Captain smiled. "I knew it'd take a delicate touch, ma'am. May I see that?" She handed it over. "Oh, his abbreviated service record. Are they sending the original?"
"The *very* nice Commissioner out there said that he would. He wasn't sure *what* the problem was, but he was going to fix it. He even said he was sorry to lose Ray, that he had filled in during a few very rough times." She smiled at him. "Do you know where Ray might be? I saw the wreckage of the house they were staying at."
"Yeah, he gave us a contact number in LA, at one of the more upscale hotels," he said, copying it down. "When you see him, tell him that we'll submit it to our hiring committee this afternoon."
She licked her lips. "Good. I'm sure Ray will be ecstatic." She wiggled her fingers before walking out, giving him an excellent view of her tightly clad ass.
He tipped his head to watch her walk away, then opened the folder, looking at the commendations and the single incident report. "Huh, he was shot recently," he noted, picking up a pen to chew on. "Ah, his complaint is in here also." He circled it. "That's good to know."
Amanda snuck into the suite and smiled at Giles. "Hi," she said, waving at him. "I wasn't sure if any of you were here. Is Ray? I have some news for him."
"He's in the bath," Giles told her, patting the couch beside him. "How did your manipulation in Chicago go?"
"I got an abbreviated version of his record right away. They're supposed to be sending out the full one later today." She gave him a hug. "I saw the wreckage. What happened?"
"Wolfram and Hart," Oz said from their bedroom doorway, lounging there with a towel around his waist. "They're probably asleep in the tub, but you might want to go tell Ray the good news. He and Meth have been chewing nails again."
She smiled and got up, tapping on the other bedroom door. "Methos?" she called, walking in. She backed out at the scream. "Is that any way to thank the woman who went to take on your former boss?" she called through the closed door.
The door opened and Ray launched himself into her arms. "Oh, I love you right now," he said, picking her up to swing around. "Thank you. They gave it to you?"
"They gave me the abridged version, they're sending the real one. Oh, and a note was in there about your complaint." She touched the healed gunshot wound on his arm. "I handed it to your possible new Captain this morning, he told me where you were." She looked around, noticing that all the animals were missing. "Oh, were they hurt? I liked Fluffy."
"No, they're all being groomed," Giles told her. "Xander?" he called.
"He's napping in the bubbles," Oz said, walking out to get his own hug from Ray. "Congrats. You'll know soon. And if worse comes to worse, you can always come work for Sunnydale."
Ray grinned. "Yeah, it's a good backup plan. Xander said he'd teach me how to stake and everything." He looked at the door as it was tapped on. "Who is it?"
Oz walked over and opened it, accepting the leashes. "The furries," he said, releasing all but Fluffy, who was curled up in her leash. "Yours," he said, handing her over to Methos. He turned around but Giles was giving the man a tip. "Thanks. Were they good?"
"For the most part. The pink one kept trying to steal a hose." He smiled at Methos. "She was the best though. Very calm in the water."
"She's had many baths," Methos said solemnly. "She likes to garden."
The valet smiled and left them alone, walking around the woman still trying to get all the blood out of the carpet.
Oz shut the door and looked at the animals, all sitting looking at him. "Happy to be back, guys?" he asked. Rocky trotted over and tried to get under his towel. "Hey, my clothes," he said, getting down to scratch her behind the ears.
All the animals mobbed him to get their own lovies.
Oz looked around the house they both loved, squeezing Xander's hand gently as they saw some of the ancient fixtures in the house. "How long since it's been lived in?" he asked.
"Maybe twenty years. The last owner was adamant about keeping everything the same as it had been when it had been brought over." He looked up at the cathedral ceiling above the kitchen, studying the mural. "It's a beautiful house."
Xander nodded, tearing up. "It's going to take forever to update though. This is nowhere near codes."
Oz flipped a light switch and all the lights came on. "Maybe we have something better than codes," he suggested.
Giles walked in and looked up at the lights. "I thought I felt something like that." He smiled at the realtor. "We should probably look at the other two houses before we decide."
Xander nodded and snuggled between them on the walk back to the car.
Giles looked around the alternate house and shook his head. "This place has no charm," he told Oz, who nodded.
"It does on the outside," Xander told them. "Some decorating might help."
"Not," Oz told him, wrapping an arm around his waist. "I want to go look at my choice, okay?"
Xander nodded. "Okay." He waited until they were out in the car, following their realtor. "Why didn't you like the first house? It was perfect."
"Too perfect," Oz told him from the front seat. "It's exactly what we want and it's in an inaccessible place."
"Oh. You think someone set it up for us?"
"No, I think someone set it up for a demon's usage," Giles told him. "It's perfect for one of them, especially one who's been running the Hellmouth. I think we should consider very carefully before moving in there."
Xander nodded. "Okay," he said as they pulled into a driveway. "Um, Oz, do you really like this house?" he asked, looking up at the outside.
Oz got out and opened the back door. "Yeah. But I want to see inside." He took Xander's hand and led him inside, looking around. "What?" he asked when he felt the reticence.
"It feels like a jail," Xander complained. "You can't see the neighbors. You can't see anything but your own yard and the trees."
"It is very cool in demeanor," Giles agreed, turning to look around the house. "I still like the country cottage we saw first."
Oz nodded. "What about the problems?"
"It can be fixed," Giles told him. "It's not very hard to do actually." He walked over to the kitchen and shook his head. "Oz, can you imagine fixing us a meal in here?"
Oz walked up behind him and shook his head. "Nope. You're right." He looked at the realtor. "Anything else like the first house?"
The realtor smiled. "I may have one," he admitted. "It's much older. It's also a transplant from the Olde Country." He waved a hand. "We can go look at it if you'd like."
Xander nodded and followed him out, getting in to drive so Oz and Giles could cuddle. He followed the car out to the only gated community in Sunnydale, which had never been finished. There were only two houses built on the sixteen lots, and some scrub trees and brush had grown up around them. He looked at the houses, then back at Oz. "I like the lots," he said.
Oz leaned forward to watch as they pulled through the gated community, past a second gate and up a winding driveway. He breathed in as he saw the house, pointing. "Look," he said quietly.
Xander stopped the car and looked at the old house. Then he smiled at Giles and Oz. "What if it needs work?"
"Then it can be fixed," Giles said. "Drive, Xander, let's go look at the inside of this place."
Xander started the car again, narrowly stopping before hitting a cat sitting in the middle of the driveway. He got out and picked it up, petting the black cat. "My, you're a beautiful one," he said, taking it back to the car. "It wants to come with us."
Oz looked at the cat, then at Xander. "How do you know?"
"Because she said so." He shrugged and drove up the long driveway, stopping and turning off the car. He picked up the cat and got out, going to look at the house. "I love it," he called from the backyard.
Oz walked around the house, smiling as he saw Xander lounging beside the sculpted and landscaped pool. "Very nice," he agreed. He petted the cat and sighed. "Xander, this is a gift too."
"I know," he said, getting up to go inside. He wandered around the bottom story, smiling at the large library. He found a room with a long desk already in it and nodded, going to find a room for himself. "We found it," he called. Oz came jogging up to him. "I like this room. It's great for sewing."
Oz wrapped his arms around his husband's waist. "You're not wary because of the gift aspect?"
"Nope," Xander said, handing over the black cat, smoothing down it's white socks. "This definitely has Jace's friends' touch to it." He smiled at Giles. "I like it here. It has everything we could ever want."
Giles nodded, looking up at the stained glass window around the top of the atrium. "I like this too," he told Oz. "How much is this one, and is there another access?"
"There is one, but it's overgrown," the realtor told him. "I can start the paperwork today. The last owner moved about a year ago. There's a line specifically for computer things, the wife used to hack I think." He smiled at Giles. "This house used to belong to a gangster, one of the more modern ones, the ones who like legitimate businesses but keep enough of a hand into the old ways to make sure things went smoothly."
Oz chuckled. "Gee, didn't you think we were one of those once?" The realtor looked embarrassed. "It's okay. I'd be wary of people walking in with seventy thousand in cash too." He turned Xander around and saw the look of absolute joy on his face. "You like this one more?"
"Yeah," Xander said dreamily. "I love this place. It's just so right. And it's safe," he told Oz. "It has everything we might ever need. Including a fenceable area for the animals."
"True," Oz agreed, looking at the wood paneled hallway again. "I like it. We'll have to invite Jace out soon though. Let her bring her friends out to thank them."
"Cool," Xander said. He looked at the realtor. "Can we have some specifics?"
"It's got a master suite upstairs, and six bedrooms beside that, each with their own bath. It's got a rec room in the attic with a half-bath. The upstairs is a lot less formal than some of the rooms down here. It's also got a wine room and an attached laundry next to the kitchen." He nodded and they followed him up the stairs. "This should suit you all well." He opened the first door they came to, showing off the light, airy room.
"Wow," Xander said, walking into the room. "I like this," he said happily. He looked back at Oz, watching him look through the door. "You could come in and look with me," he offered, holding out a hand.
Oz walked in and glanced in the bathroom and the closets. "Very nice," he agreed. He led Xander out and down to the door at the end. He opened it and gasped, walking in to look at the cherry wood paneling and light blue wallpaper above it. "It's perfect," he whispered, smiling at Xander.
Xander had never seen that look of joy on Oz's face before, but he wanted to see it again. He looked at the realtor. "How much and when can we move in?"
The realtor laughed and pulled a form out of his briefcase. "It's a good thing we worked with you before, Mr. Harris. This house is just under two hundred thousand, complete with seven acres. There's a small path through the woods, down to the auxiliary gate. That gate leads down to a small road that comes out next to the beach part of town." He looked around the room. "This is a magnificent house," he said smoothly. "Maybe a bit bigger than you really need, but you'll never have to ask guests to double up again."
"Good point," Oz said, looking at Giles, who was staring in rapt wonderment at the room. "You like?" Giles nodded. "You're paying part of it, right?"
"It's not a problem, Oz," Xander said quietly.
"Yeah, but I want it to be *ours*," he protested. He gave his youngest husband a kiss. "Get over it, I always wanted to be Lord of the Manor."
Xander relaxed. "Okay, but can I tell you my idea later?" Oz nodded. "Cool." He looked at the realtor. "We only have sixty thousand ready right now. We should be able to get the rest in a few days though."
"That would be fine," he said, handing over the papers. "You could even apply for a loan for the time being if you wanted."
Xander looked at Oz, begging him. "So we can move out sooner?"
"Sure," Oz sighed, pulling out his phone. "Call your normal bank."
Xander dialed with two thumbs, smiling as he got the automated system. He pressed the button for loans. "Hi, this is Xander Harris...." He grinned at Oz. "Yeah, it's me. No, I wanted to talk about getting a temporary loan, just until we can get into all of our investments." He walked into the bathroom and squealed. "Oz, come look, it's *enormous*," he called.
Oz looked at the bathroom, walking in to appreciate the tub that was big enough to fit half a football team. He counted the jets, then looked at Xander. "I want this house," he told him.
Xander smiled at the voice on the other end. "Sorry about the noise. No, we are looking at the *perfect* house for us. Yeah, a big, huge house. No, it's two hundred grand, but we'll need about five hundred due to moving and furniture expenses. Sure." He rattled off his account numbers. "They're probably frozen, we found a little embezzlement." He sat on the edge of the tub. "Yeah, that's us. We can?" He gave a thumbs up to Oz. "Coolness. Yeah, we can come in...." He looked at his watch. "Tomorrow morning, really early?" He nodded at Oz again. "Okay. We'll be in about nineish." He hung up and put the phone away. "We can get it tomorrow. We should be able to move out of the hotel in a few days." He walked out, smiling at the realtor. "We'll sign papers for the loan tomorrow morning. What do I have to give him?" The paper was pointed to. "Okay. We'll come up and sign everything tomorrow, hopefully with a check." He waved and jogged out, going after Giles, who was examining the kitchen by sticking his head into every cabinet in the room. "We can get a temporary loan until we get our money back," he said happily, bouncing into him to give him a hug. "Want to go tell them the good news?"
"We have pictures so you can show the bank officer," the realtor suggested, holding out a folder. "This should also impress your friends."
"Very cool," Oz said, taking it. "We'll call tomorrow?" The realtor nodded and left them alone. Oz looked at Xander, who was smiling so brightly he was lighting up the room. "Come on, let's go back to hotel for another night," he said, pulling Xander off Giles. "Come on," he repeated, tempting Xander with puckered lips to get him out to the car.
Giles followed behind him, smiling at their antics.
Xander signed the final paper and handed it back. "Oh, we've got to unregister for the auction." The loan officer smiled and shook his head. "You did that?"
"Yes, we did, while I talked to the head people upstairs. They said that you'll have access to your money in the next three weeks, after the investigation is done. We'll automatically take out the amount of the loan." He handed Xander a check, looking at the picture he was clutching. "Is that the new house?"
Xander showed it off. "It's perfect," he sighed. "It's got room for all of us and our animals, plus our friends whenever they want to come over. And if you stand out past the pool, you can see down to the ocean."
Oz relaxed, taking the check from him. "Can we get this cashed today?" he asked. "I think he wants to move and I don't like living in hotels, not even ones that nice."
The loan officer smiled. "Of course. You can go right out to the tellers and have them cash it for your, Mr. Osbourne. I can't believe this house is that little."
"Sunnydale has low land value," Oz told him as he stood up. "We have a high death rate."
"Plus, some people are very wary because the high school blew up," Xander added, waving before following Oz out to the tellers. "Hi, we need this cashed," he told her. "We're buying a house."
She smiled and looked at the check. "Sir, I need to see some identification." Xander patted himself down, and Oz pulled out his wallet. "Is your name on his account, sir?"
"Yes," Oz told her. "It was put on there a few months ago." He patted Xander's shoulder. "We got married then too."
She chuckled. "That's always a good reason for joint accounts and buying houses." She ran the check through the machine, and her drawer popped open. "How did you want this?"
"In bills," Xander said, nodding at her, still smiling. "We're going to pay the realtor after we do this." He looked over his shoulder as Ray and Methos joined them. "And here are our loyal bodyguards."
Methos took the envelope of money and stuffed it down the front of his pants, then nodded at the teller and walked away.
Xander giggled and followed him, Oz right behind him, with Ray bringing up the rear. They got into the car and headed for home.
Xander bounded into the realtor's office, handing over the money Methos hand counted out for him. "You need to go to the bank," he said happily.
The realtor's eyes opened very wide. "Yes, I think I do," he said as he took the cash, counting it quickly. "Let me call a police officer to come escort me and we can fill out the paperwork while we wait on them." He pulled the phone over after stuffing the money into his pocket. "Hello, this is Mr. Reynolds at the realty office. I need an escort to the bank, please?" He hung up. "We've got about ten minutes." He pulled out some papers and handed them over. "These are the same papers you filled out the last time, Mr. Harris. We'll call you with the results of the title search tonight, but it shouldn't be a problem."
Oz walked in and made the realtor jump. "Sorry. What about the old owners?"
"They've been trying to sell it for a few years now. They're in jail right now and could really use the money," he said, giving him a smile. "I wouldn't worry about it, but I might search for listening devices."
Oz sat down. "Okay, I have the equipment to do that in storage." He patted Xander on the thigh as he signed his name. "Me?"
Xander signed the last one and turned to hand them over to Oz, letting his husband use his thigh to sign everything. "Do we need Giles' signature?"
"We'll fix that later," Oz told him as he scanned the pages. He signed the last one as the door opened, handing them back. "Hi," he told the officer, standing up. "Xander, hotel?"
"Keys?" Xander asked plaintively.
The realtor smiled at him. "After everything's final. You don't want another round like the last time, correct?"
Xander nodded. "Definitely." He pushed past the officer, going out to their car. Another officer was standing there. "Hi, guys. What's wrong?" he asked, leaning against the trunk.
"Nothing, sir, we were admiring the car. Did you find somewhere to live?"
"A beautiful transplanted manor house out near the ocean," Xander told him, smiling as the realtor was walked out. "Have fun at the bank," he called, walking around to get in. "He's happy, but he's very jumpy."
"I would be too if someone handed me two hundred grand," Ray told him from the front seat. He nodded at Methos, who drove them away. "Keys?"
"After everything's final," Oz told him. "Hotel or shopping?" he asked Xander.
"We'll figure that out after I get happy," Xander purred as he leaned over and stole a kiss, moving into Oz's lap to grind against him.
Methos groaned, "Not in the car, Xander. Wait for two hours."
Ray smiled at him. "That's just them, dear." He patted his lover on the thigh. "Drive faster, Meth. I want some of that too."
Methos grimaced. "You'd have to do this to me while I'm driving," he complained, reaching one hand over to pat his lover's cock. "Keep this ready for me, Ray, I'm sure I can satisfy you in a few minutes." He pulled into a rest area, noticing all the rocking cars. "See, we're in the right spot." He pulled Ray onto his lap and pulled his head down to kiss him.
From the backseat, Oz's mumbled pleading made them hotter.
Xander bounced into his new house, looking around at his furniture. "Wow, we don't fill up this space at all," he told Giles, who was walking in with the last of the animals. "Hey, Rocky," he said, reaching down to pet her. "Welcome home, baby," he cooed, letting her go so she could explore. "I wonder if that black cat's all right," he said as he walked into the kitchen. The movers had managed to get all of their dishes out too, which impressed him, as well as the food from the refrigerator. "Oz, lunch?" he called, not looking outside to where Oz was standing, watching the water.
Oz walked in and sat at the table, watching his lover slice some of the good ham off the bigger part, taking the plate of it so Xander could work on the cheese. "What are we doing tonight?" he asked.
"Christening the bathtub," Xander said firmly. "I want to try out that bathtub." He looked up as Ray and Methos walked through the front door with a blanket wrapped lump. "Come in, Seth, have lunch with us?"
Seth shook off the blanket and looked around. "Killer place, bro," he said in appreciation. He spun around to look at the view. "Very killer place." He shrugged at Oz's dry look. "What?"
"Nothing, bad choice of words." Oz held up a glass of the wine Giles was pouring. "Want some?"
"Sure. Wine I can do. Food doesn't seem right to me somehow." He sat at the table waiting on his lunch. "How did you guys find this place?" he asked his brother as he sat down.
"We found a house we adored, but it had a lot of magic tied up in it, so we asked if there was anyplace similar. He said yes." He nibbled on his ham. "It's still good," he told Oz.
"You forgot about the cat stopping us," he noted, nibbling on the cheese. "We need some bread."
Ray waved a loaf of bread he was cutting up. "If ya'd waited, then you'd have had bread," he told them, coming over to put the bread in the middle of the table. "Meth, salad?"
"Coming," Methos said, bringing out a big bowl of salad. "There we are. Dressing's already on." He sat down beside them, grabbing his own food. "So, Seth, how goes your independence?"
"Good," he said, smiling around his wine glass. "Blair's very good about letting me be myself now." He winked at his brother. "On the other hand, someone may be going to him for some lessons in protocol."
Oz choked, looking at his husband. "Oh, really?"
"Really," Xander agreed. "I want to go thank the guy who's helped me so often."
"Build a shrine," Methos suggested.
"I can do that too," Xander told him. He smiled at Oz. "I'm sure that it'll be fine."
"I wasn't worrying about that, I was worrying about you going somewhere that I can't protect you."
"I'll be fine," Xander told him, reaching over to touch his arm. "I love you and I'll be back in a few days, once I go."
Oz looked at him. "As long as you have an escort or are protected," he said quietly. "I don't want you going somewhere like another dimension without some protection."
Xander nodded. "I'll be bringing my sword. Good enough?"
"Maybe," Oz agreed. He took a bite of salad out of the bowl, nibbling on it.
"Use a plate," Methos sighed, rolling his eyes.
"No one put any out," Giles reminded him, getting up to do that, and grab forks too. He came back and handed out the dinnerware, sitting back down to dish himself out some salad. "Xander, I'm going to put a protection spell on you." Xander nodded. "You aren't going to fight?"
"No, I figured that you'd want to do something like that to make yourself feel better about not being able to go."
"Why can't they go?" Ray asked.
"Beings such as them would start to unravel that dimension's stability," Seth explained. "They are very feared by most demons, mostly because they aren't understood. Demons have a hard time considering anything that doesn't have powers like them, but will live longer than they will."
"Okay," Xander agreed. "Ray, you could go with me."
"Nope," Ray said, shaking his head. "I can't do that, sorry. I can't leave Meth alone to cross dimensions. He said so after almost getting lost at Oz's house."
"Okay," Xander said with a shrug. "I'll let my men ward me to the best of their abilities and then I'll go." He finished his nibbling. "I'm going to go check the rest of the house out, see if we really need anything." He got up and jogged up the stairs, going to look at the bedrooms first. "Oz, we need more stuff," he called down a few minutes later.
"Of course we do," Oz agreed, looking at Giles. "You want to take him shopping while I set up my computer?"
"I can do that," Giles agreed, giving him a kiss. "Will you all be fine while we're gone?"
"There's plenty to explore," Ray told him. "Is the cable hooked up?"
"Should be," Oz told him. "It was supposed to be done yesterday." He looked at Seth. "We'll set up a vamp-safe room tonight. Until then, there's so many rooms around here that you shouldn't have problems with the sun for a while."
Seth smiled. "I won't worry about it, I can run from the encroaching sun." He finished his wine and went up to help his brother plan. "Wow, the bed looks great in here."
Oz patted Giles' hand. "Don't worry, it won't be that bad. It'll all be delivered. We won't have to carry anything up the stairs."
Giles sighed and got up, grabbing the money from the drawer in the kitchen. "I'd best take him now, before the list gets too long." He walked to the bottom of the stairs. "Xander, come along. I'll take you shopping."
Xander ran down the stairs and jumped into Giles' arms, giving him a hug and kiss. "We love you," he said, taking another kiss before sliding down the firm body. "Come on, before all the furniture places close." He dragged Giles out the door and to the cars. "I'll talk to you later," he called. "Oz, we still need to discuss my plans."
"Go for it," Oz called back. "I like that idea." He looked at Seth as he came back to the table. "Did you know Branchson's was having financial difficulties? They're looking for a partner."
Seth shook his head. "No, I didn't. Are they going to go under?"
"No, Xander wants to buy into them so he has a steady income and somewhere to go train his skills." Oz dished out some more salad. "You sure you don't want any? It's really good, imported and everything."
Seth shook his head, pouring himself some more wine. "It's not good for me," he said, sipping at his refilled glass.
Oz shook his head and dug into his meal. He would need the strength later, Xander was determined to christen the house.
TO BE CONTINUED....