Confusing Family Situations.
Xander hung up the last of the saris in the living room, stepping back to make sure it was straight. "I like that there," he announced. He had been fussing over the house for the last week, and this was the final touch. He turned to look for his lovers, but they weren't in the room with him any more. "Oz, Giles," he called petulantly. They had promised to help him decorate.
"We were admiring the other room," Oz said as he walked in. He looked at the sari hung behind the chairs, then at the chairs. "Those don't go," he noted.
Xander stepped back to look at the whole picture. "Throw pillows," he decided. "I'll pick some up tonight when I go in for my protocol lesson."
"Okay, but I was talking about the color of the chairs," Oz told him. "The maroon leather doesn't go with the red and gold."
"Hmmm." Xander considered them then shrugged. "I'll look for another sari," he decided as he got up to take that one down. He came down off the step stool and looked around the room. "Blue chairs?"
"As long as they're not gold," Oz told him, walking around his husband to get at his desk. "Out, I need to work to afford those chairs."
Xander stuck his tongue out at Oz, then grinned, waving before he walked out of the office. "I'll be home in a few days," he called as he headed for his already packed car. He was just pulling away when Oz ran out the front door. He tooted and stuck his hand out to wave, heading down the new driveway to the main road. They didn't like going through the housing development to get up to the house so they almost exclusively used the secondary access. He waved at the truck that was letting him out, sure that Oz would be able to handle watching the workers put the new beds and stuff in the right spots. After all, he had given the furniture store a diagram of where everything went. He sped up as he neared the onramp, heading for LA and the portal that would take him off dimension for a few days.
Oz turned to look at Giles, who shrugged. "We knew he was going to go today," Giles noted.
Oz grunted, staring at the truck coming up the driveway. "He stuck us with something to take our minds off him for a while," he said dryly.
"Go work on your program, I can handle this part," Giles said, giving him a smile and a pat on the back. "I've a fair hand at decorating." He ignored the look Oz gave him, walking down to meet the movers. "Hello, the last of our stuff?"
"All but one table," the guy agreed. "It's still on back order." He slid out of his seat. "So, where's the fussy one going?" he asked as he walked back to the back of the truck and opened it.
Giles looked at all the furniture, shaking his head. "I do believe Xander bought too much this time," he sighed. "We can't possibly use all this."
"It's not all yours," he said, handing over the clipboard. "Sign on the line, again, and can we get some water today? Your man was really nice about giving us some on our breaks when we came up the other day."
"Of course," Giles told him. "I'm sure we have some already chilling in the refrigerator. If not, I'll start some as soon as I get back inside. Do you know where everything goes?" He headed back to the house.
"Yup. He made us out some really pretty plans." He smiled at Giles back, turning to look at his helper as he got out of the truck and joined him. "They're newly married," he explained. "It's the kid's second house, the first one blew up."
"That won't happen here," the helper said in appreciation. "I'd like to have this sort of money. Whaddya think it's worth? A few mil?"
"Nah, not in this town. There's a real high murder and missing persons rate. I bet they got it for a steal."
"Two hundred grand, property included," Oz said as he walked out with two bottles of beer. "How much of this is ours?" he asked as he looked in the back of the truck.
"Back to that armoire. That's to go up on the third floor." He saw the appraising glance. "Yeah, I know, better us than you," he said with good humor.
Oz shook his head. "I was just considering how Xander would have gotten it up there himself." He looked around. "Did you see the pink cat yet?"
"Yeah, she ran that way," the helper said, pointing toward a big bush. "What's up with her anyway, you dye her that shade?"
"Nope, that's her natural color. Her father's looking for her. Fluffy," he called as he walked that way. "Your daddy's looking for you." She jogged out and stopped to rub against his leg, trotting inside the house to go look for her fathers.
Methos came to the door, clutching his kitten. "Thank you, Oz, I have no idea how she got out of the play room." He rubbed his nose in her soft fur. "Come, my pink one, let's get you a treat for being so good and following orders."
Oz shrugged as he walked past them. "You're going to spoil her," he called, making sure both doors were unlocked and the center bar was removed so the movers could get everything inside. He went back to his program, stopping in the animal playroom. Xander had converted one of the bigger end rooms into a play area just for the animals. There were two climbing systems put together for the cats, along with assorted toys and mats for the dogs. Fluffy was now queen of the roost and she ruled beneficently over the other animals until the time Methos and Ray found their own house. He checked to make sure Rocky, Xander's first dog, was still napping then headed to his office, making sure the door was open for her to get in. She liked to lay beside his desk and help him program.
Xander stepped through the portal, adjusting his vest and putting one hand on his sword hilt as he walked up to the demon behind the desk. "I'm here to see my adoptive father," he said calmly and formally. "I have been summoned to attend him."
The demon looked down at the paper, watching as it magically scrolled. "I'll have someone escort you." He looked at the sword. "You can't take that with you."
Xander started to pull the blade. "I come here in good faith, without guardians, but I refuse to go unarmed. I don't know who's going to come for me this time, and I refuse to be kidnapped ever again."
A bigger demon clapped and smiled at him. "Son," he said, looking him over. "You really don't need that here. It would be a egregious insult to my family to kidnap one of my sons."
Xander cocked one eyebrow up. "You've seen me kidnapped how many times?" he asked lightly.
His father laughed again and held out a hand. "Close your eyes, traveling can be dizzying for mortals." He touched a stone on his longest necklace and brought them to his corner of the dimension. "Sit," he said, waving a hand at a chair at the bottom of his dias.
Xander sat down and looked over the demon who had helped him. He didn't quite look as big as Jabba the Hut, but he was approximately the same shape, only seafoam green with a crown of little horns around where his forehead should be. He had a lot of necklaces on, but Xander was sure each one had a specific purpose. The protocol lessons he had learned from the vampire Blair had shown him how very stringent some rules could be and how everything his father did, said, or wore had a certain overtone, connotation, or ritual significance. He shifted so he could cross his legs, smiling at the old demon. "So, my father gave me to you too, huh," he said at last.
His father looked him over. "I did tell Blair to tutor you in protocol," he said firmly, frowning down at the man.
"Yup, but I was a courtesan in another dimension and it taught me that there are times when all the formalities can be disposed of, and there are times when ignoring certain items of the protocol is most appropriate." He grinned. "And I'm still not what you think I am."
"I know. I felt it, as did the demon who let you in. How did this happen, son?" He leaned forward. "I know you weren't an immortal when I first saw you."
"Nope, but I'm bound to two or three. Unfortunately, I couldn't bring my husbands to officially meet you." He shrugged lightly. "So, why did you adopt me? You knew I was human."
"Yes, but even then, your specialness radiated through. Your mortal parents never recognized your specialness." He leaned back, looking the boy over. "I saw how happy the redheaded one made you. Is he one of your betrothed?"
"He's one of my husbands," Xander corrected, holding up his left hand to show his adoptive father his ring. "We were married by another immie named Jace, one who had ties to some very...old ways." He grinned. "They put up with me," he said with a shrug.
His father chuckled. "That's a good thing, son." He stood up and walked down, giving him a hug. "You chose a good time to come here, we're having a celebration tonight. There will be many sons like you around." He led Xander from the room, into a more opulent dining room. "You will sit here," he said, patting the back of a chair. "You will push anyone who gets in your way out of it. You are to defend yourself if a mortal threat or challenge is given, but you are only allowed to be snide to any who do less than that." Xander nodded. "Did Blair give you clothes also?"
"He told me that the portal would eat anything that I wasn't wearing."
"Ah, yes, it is Fall in your plane, isn't it," he said thoughtfully. "We've always had troubles with the portals in fall. I used to wonder why we had the festivals then." He shook himself.
"Why do you?" Xander asked.
His father smiled at him. "Because it became a competition, son. Whomever can get the most sons over here for it gains stature. Having you here for the first time during this will raise my status a bit." Xander nodded. "Did Blair tell you about that also?"
"Yup. While he was beating manners into me," he said with an impish grin. "You wouldn't *believe* some of the stuff he tried to pull over on me." He sat down in his appointed chair, wiggling around a little bit. "Just what I expected, hard enough to keep you awake, but soft enough so you don't bruise. Some things don't change no matter which court you're in."
His father, patted him on the back. "That's all too true, son. Come, I'll show you to your quarters for the time being." He stopped and looked his son over. "You can't wear your sword tonight, it would be a mortal insult to all demons present."
"Hey, I won't wear it if they promise to leave me alone about my hormones," he said lightly. "If I so much as have one tentacle touch me inappropriately, I'm taking it off." He let one of his daggers slide down his arm. "You'll find I'm very well trained in more than the courtly arts," he said, his smile turning a little more adult.
His father nodded. "That's good. I wouldn't want you harmless. As long as you keep those out of sight, you may wear them. Come, I'm sure the journey made you thirsty, it does everyone else."
"Yeah, it did," Xander said, following him back to the throne room and to the door behind but beside the throne, back into a hallway of doors. "Gee, this looks like a maze I once had to go through in a game," he said, frowning at the marks. "Huh, one has my name," he said, pointing at it, stopping to try the handle.
His father walked back and removed his hand. "That is a visual portal back to the earlier parts of your life so I could keep track of you." He let go of his son. "I doubt you need to relive your own history."
"True," Xander admitted, following him down the hall. "You really watched over me? Even when I was in New York?"
"No, that part was blocked out as soon as I saw who was picking you up." His father stopped to look at him. "Did you really need to do that, son?"
"If I hadn't, I wouldn't be the man I am today," Xander reminded him quietly. "Without that, I wouldn't have found GHS, I wouldn't have gotten Oz and Giles, and I wouldn't be here now."
"Point," his father hummed. "It was only for a month and a half." He waved a hand at a hallway full of curtains. "Yours is the last on this side."
"Okay." Xander bowed to him, like he had been taught, then walked away, going to his room. He walked in, looking around the simple furnishings, taking everything in. He sat down in front of his desk and made a note to Oz to tell him he had gotten here all right, folding it up and putting it into the delivery slot. It disappeared instantly and he got up to get himself a drink.
Oz looked up as the demon appeared in front of the desk, taking the envelope it held out. "Thank you. This is from my mate, right?" The demon shrugged as he disappeared. Oz opened the letter, snorting at the simple message. "I love you too, stubborn, but it took you two days to get there?" He put it aside, bending down to look at the phone, trying to find the intercom button. He gave up after a second's search. "Giles, we got an 'I'm okay and I'm here' note," he yelled.
Giles walked in, smiling at him. "It's the green button, Oz," he said gently. The phones were his idea, that way they wouldn't have to try and shout across the house. He took the letter, smiling at its simplicity. "At least he hasn't pissed the demon off yet."
"Good point," Oz noted, going back to checking his mail. "Oh, Ray," he shouted.
"Oz, the green button," Giles sighed, rolling his eyes as he walked out.
Ray stuck his head around the doorway. "You bellowed, oh lord of the manor?" He grinned.
"You got mail," he said, getting up. "I hate intercoms. This isn't a bus station."
"It's big enough to be one," Ray quipped, coming over to sit behind the desk. He opened his letter and sighed. "I can have a job with them but not for another three months. They had to hire a detective and they couldn't wait any longer on my records." He looked up. "But now that they have them, I have a job in three months."
"Way to go," Oz praised, giving him a grin. "Want to go tell Methos so he can celebrate with you?" He pointed at the drawers in his desk. "Top, middle one, the little box inside it."
Ray opened the drawer and pulled out the envelope in the small box, opening it slowly. "Oz, you didn't," he sighed, smiling up at him.
"Hey, you said you wanted to travel," Oz noted. "There's even arrangements for you to take your furries with you. All you need is papers from a vet." He waved and walked out. "I'll go find Meth while you contemplate our generosity," he joked.
Ray smirked. "Sure, and Xander didn't put you up to this at all," he said quietly, looking at the tickets. He jumped up and headed up to their room. He only had three days to pack if they wanted to make their plane. He stopped to look at his wardrobe, shaking his head. "Xander did it again," he sighed, pulling down the new clothes bag and taking it over to the bed to open it.
"It was Oz that gave us the trip this time," Methos said as he walked in. "He told me to correct you. Oh, and Xander didn't do the clothes, he was too busy with his own trip to worry about ours. Giles picked you out some clothes he thought you might like." He patted his lover on the butt. "Where are they sending us this time?"
"London, then Paris for the last month. There's a note in here about you having a place to live there." He looked up at his lover. "You do?"
Methos nodded. "I do. I have a wonderful house in London and a small apartment waiting for us in Paris. When are our tickets?"
"Three days," Ray said, handing them over. "You keep them, I'll lose them." He looked down at the clothes, then bent down to finger one of the suits. "Well, they're nice," he noted, looking at his lover.
"Pack them, I'm sure we'll be going out to dinner at least once," Methos said with a smile. "Pack jeans, and at least one sweater. Fall can get chilly in London." He looked around the room. "Where are the animals?"
"Lounging in their room," Ray sighed. "They're so lucky, they can lay in the sun and nap."
"We can do that too," Methos whispered, pulling Ray into his arms. "Come, love, let us go find a sunny perch to rest ourselves on for a bit. Packing can wait until after dinner and we'll arrange the animals' visit later." He led the way down to the area around the pool and the comfortable double loungers Xander had put out there for just this purpose. He lay down with Ray in his arms, holding onto him as tightly as he could while they soaked up some of the warm sun.
Oz and Giles looked out at them about an hour later then at each other. "Awww," they said together, then walked into the kitchen to fix a meal for all of them.
Xander skillfully moved away from the human trying to paw him, giving him a scathing glance. "I'm not interested," he said coldly, touching his wedding band.
The human laughed. "Your wife let you come here alone?" he sneered, stepping closer to try and pin Xander against the wall. "Why would you be so stupid as to come in unguarded?"
"Because I don't need one," Xander said, slipping one of his daggers down and holding it against the human's balls. "One, I have *two* husbands. Two, they're not allowed here because they would start to unravel the domain. Three, fuck off before you die," he finished coldly, putting his dagger back. He smiled sweetly at the people around them that had stopped to listen. "What? I'm *happily* married and someone needs to know the meaning on the word 'no'." He sipped his wine and walked over to another group, smiling at a demon he knew. "You work in the bank in New York," he said in greeting, holding out his hand. "I helped you with a bank heist attempt."
The demon laughed. "Yes, you did. How long did it take you to get taken back that time?" He shook Xander's hand. "How are you? What are you doing up here anyway? You never told us that you were related."
Xander shrugged. "I didn't find out until a month ago or so." He took another sip of his wine and kicked backwards at the stupid human coming towards him, knocking him away. "I'm fine. I got married recently," he said, showing off his ring. "Both of my men can't come here, but I was assured that I wouldn't have to put up with people like him." He smiled sweetly as his father came over. "Isn't he my brother and wouldn't that be incest?" he asked calmly.
His father patted him on the back. "Yes, it would, son. I wouldn't worry about your older brother." He nodded at the demons around them, taking Xander away. "I believe that your hormonal problem may be out in full force," he explained, just loud enough for the other demons to overhear. He looked down at his son. "I don't know what came over Micah. He's not usually such an ass."
Xander gave him a bland look. "Let him keep it up and he'll be a eunuch," he said sweetly. "I won't be forced into anything and I haven't cheated on my mates in the three years that we've been together."
His father smiled as he walked over to where his other children were. "That's good," he praised. "Solid relationships are always for the best, especially when you've got some very strange skills."
"And problems," Xander agreed, nodding at the family he had barely met earlier.
"Why does he get to ignore protocol," one of the other sons complained.
"Because I'm like that," Xander said, leaning closer to him. "I'm not like the rest of you guys, and it's very well known. Everyone expects me to be the bad one of all of us."
"I thought so," the one that had hit on him said snidely. "You're the one that father had to almost go save from a brothel."
Xander snorted. "Why would he have had to save me?" He smiled at the idiot. "I was discovering myself. The only thing he would have had to of saved me from was all the people who tried to kidnap me." He saluted him with his glass. "Of course, if I hadn't been there, then I wouldn't have my mates, my abilities, or anything else that I value, like my animals." He turned his attention to the one that was almost vibrating. "Yes, dear?" he asked.
She shrieked, "I knew it!" Everyone in the room turned to look at him. "He's the one who had that *dance* video that was stolen from him."
Xander nodded. "Yup, but I got that fixed." He smiled at one of the shocked faces near him. "What? It's actually a form of self defense. Those are the basic steps I *had* to learn." He smiled at his only sister. "I really didn't want that spread around," he said quietly.
"Oh, why not?" the irritating son asked. "Why don't you give us a show?"
"Because my mates asked me to never perform in public again," Xander said quietly and coldly. "Unlike you, I happen to care about my mates' happiness and wishes." He blinked, turning back to his sister. "I'm just really glad that they didn't get all of them."
"There's more," she gasped, her mouth falling open. "I saw a copy of that one and it was very..." She stopped to fan herself, earning a smile from him. "You knew?"
"Which is why I was asked to never perform in public again," he told her. She giggled and he patted her on the arm. "Don't worry, I'm working on a new series to the dances to keep my men interested."
She giggled again and their father cleared his throat. "Video?" he asked.
"Yeah," she said, dragging him into the other room and down the hall to the viewing chamber.
He came back a few minutes later and looked at his son, giving him an appraising look. "Well, that's definitely an interesting form of self defense," he said slowly.
Xander snickered. "I know. The fighting is directly related to the dancing, the dancing gives me flexibility to fight, which is taught at the same time." He glanced around. "I can do a small one, one with daggers if you'd like. I don't usually have to worry about being jumped when I do that one. The sword ones are a bit more risque though."
His father shrugged. "We might schedule that for tomorrow, Xander." He looked at his heir, frowning at him. "You will leave Xander alone," he ordered. "The boy is involved in his life and is no threat to you." He turned around. "My fifteenth son has offered to put on a show of some of his fighting skills tomorrow if anyone would like to see it," he offered.
The demon from the bank in New York stepped forward. "I've seen him fight," he said with a bow. "Would you be willing to put on a mock-battle, or just to do one of the harder training exercises?"
"Either," Xander said confidently. "But I promised my Oz I wouldn't ever perform any of the dances in public. I can do some of the training exercises easily."
"Oh, do you have a sword?" his sister asked, hanging onto his arm.
"Yes, dear, I do. Because of a very odd hormone condition, I'm never unarmed anymore." He glanced at the heir as he walked closer. "Never," he repeated, making sure his point was clear.
"I'd be glad to fight against him, father," the heir said. "That is, if *Xander* would agree to fight against me."
"Of course I can spar with you," Xander said gently, talking down to him. "It's not that hard. I've sparred against men much older than you." He looked at his father. "With your blessing of course."
His father looked at them, then nodded. "Yes, I believe that would be fine. Unless someone else wants to take a shot at Xander?" No one said anything. "Then we'll do this tomorrow morning." He clapped his hands. "Onto the food," he ordered, waving at the table.
Xander escorted his sister over, placing her in the chair to his left, she was lower in status than he was. He made sure to pull her chair out for her, pulling out his most chivalrous attitude for her. She was only sixteen or so, but his father had taken her in when it became apparent that her original parents were going to harm her. He sat down beside her, looking up at the man behind him. "Did you need something?" he asked. "This is my seat."
The man shook his head and moved to a free chair, sitting down.
She leaned over to him as the first course was being put down. "Be careful, Micah wants to kill you. You're taking attention from him."
Xander patted her on the hand. "I know. Don't worry. I have a lot experience with hostile people," he said quietly, leaning closer to her. "I've been kidnapped too many times to fall for his ploy. Besides, I'm very good," he told her, sitting up as their food was put before him. "What is this?" he asked her.
She giggled. "I have no idea but it usually tastes like fajitas to me."
Xander watched his father for cues, only picking up his fork after he had eaten something. "Father," he called, standing up. "It's customary in my new family to thank the host with a toast."
Micah stood up, not to be outdone. "Yes, let's do that. To father, for his generosity in taking in so many of us."
"To father," Xander agreed, lifting his cup. "For saving all of us from bad problems."
His father smiled and nodded. "Thank you, sons. Eat, please."
Xander sat back down and took a hesitant bite, smiling as it came out tasting like pizza. "This is very good," he said, smiling at his sister and mouthing, 'pizza' to her. She giggled and dug into her food, patiently ignoring the man on her other side.
The man across from Xander cleared his throat. "So," he said, looking him over, "I heard you just bought a new house."
"Yes, unfortunately when I helped Angel take over Wolfram and Hart, they didn't like it too much. They're trying to punish Angel by hurting his friends."
"Aren't you worried about your family?" his sister whispered.
"Not a bit," Xander said calmly. "One of my mate's is ...." He glanced at his father, who nodded.
"That is known up here but it is not usually spoken of. One of his mates is immortal," he told the man. "A very old one from what I could tell."
Xander nodded. "Very." He smiled at the man across from him. "And the other is a sorcerer. I have no doubt that my kittens and puppies, as well as my mates, will be safe in my absence."
The other man nodded, looking a little panicked. "You really are the black sheep of this family, aren't you?"
Xander grinned his most impish, naughty grin. "Who, me?" he asked innocently in his best make- Oz-run-for-the-hills voice. A few people up and down the table shivered. "I've been a *very* good boy recently. Oz has to keep a very tight rein on me or I sew all day."
His sister nudged him. "You sew?"
"Yup, I do most of my dance clothes now. And I did both outfits for my wedding." She grinned at him. "Oh, do you know my actual brother Seth?" She nodded. "I thought so, he said to tell you hi. His Sire, Blair, taught me protocol."
She winked. "I have no doubt. He's a lot like that." She looked down the table at her father's cleared throat. "Yes, sir?" she asked.
"Eat, dear, you can talk to him for the next two days that he's here."
Xander grinned sillily at him. "But dad," he mock-whined.
"Eat," he said again, this time smiling. "You two can catch up tomorrow." He looked at the woman on his right. "Dear, did you know that Xander grew up on the Hellmouth?"
"You worked with the Slayer," Micah accused.
Xander stood up and took out one of his daggers. "Yes, I did. Every time that a *bad* demon came to town to hurt the population, I've been there. I've *never* hurt an innocent demon while I was hunting." He glared down at him. "As a matter of fact, I and my mates are considered guardians of the Hellmouth now that Buffy's died."
His father reached over and slapped Micah's face. "He's the one who protects the humans from the ones like Angelus," he said coldly. "You will leave him alone, Micah, or suffer my displeasure. Sit, Xander, and put the dagger away."
Xander bowed to him. "Of course, father." He sat down, taking a bite of food. He looked at his sister. "Actually, Angelus has his soul again and he's still atoning for his past. That's who owns Wolfram and Hart now."
She snickered. "I've heard. That was a brilliant move." She looked down at her mother, who was frowning at her. "Yes, ma'am?" she asked.
"Dear, eat. You two can talk later."
She started to eat again. "Yes, ma'am," she said, looking down at her plate.
Xander smiled at her. "It's nice to see someone so enthusiastic about life," he told her. "It's not very frequent that I see too many of them outside of my friends these days."
Their mother nodded. "I understand that, but she promised to follow matters of protocol tonight. She may still be a bit young to be invited to such events."
Xander smiled at her. "But I need someone to hang with. It's not like Micah would ever agree to sit and talk with me."
She smiled, looking at her natural son. "I think that would be a good idea," she said firmly, staring at him.
He bowed his head. "Yes, mother," he sighed.
His father beamed at Xander, and saluted him with a bite of food. "Eat, sons, before the food is taken from you."
Xander dug back into his food, eating politely, but quickly. Between courses was more discussion time and he was really hungry.
Oz took the newest note from the demon's hand, rolling over to cuddle Giles while they read it together. "Well, he got into a pissing contest," he noted, handing it over as he ran his hand under the sheets to tease the bare body.
Giles slapped at the hand, reading the note for himself. "Do you think the challenge was real?" he asked. "Xander's not always rational."
"He'll be fine," Oz reminded him. "He's very well trained and it's supposed to be a mock-battle. I'm sure Xander can wear the idiot down if he has to. Remember, our love bunny has stamina that's unbelievable."
"Yes," Giles agreed, rolling against Oz and putting the note aside. "He'll be fine, Oz. We'll go meet him when he comes back."
"I'm not sure when that will be," Oz reminded him.
"Me either, time runs funny in most of the dimensions. He might actually come back a few days when he returns through the portal." He kissed his husband lightly. "Oz, I need to get some of my things out of storage for my office. Would you like to help me tomorrow?"
"Sure," Oz said, running his hands down the soft, smooth back, using them to tease the firm butt cheeks. "But I want paid," he said quietly.
"Of course." Giles reached back and took out the plug he'd been wearing since his shower. "What would you like in payment?" he asked with a smile.
"Surprise me," Oz said, waving a hand down his body.
Giles gave him a gentle smile and shifted down to lick over the hard cock. "How's that?" he asked, pulling back.
"Finish it," Oz warned, "or I get to play."
Giles winked. "Really?" he asked innocently.
Oz flipped them over and kissed his lover. "Yes, really," he said, going down to tease his lover the way he wanted. Giles was predictable but it was nice sometimes.
Xander stretched against the dias as Micah walked in, grimacing at him. "Give me a sec, the bed's too soft," he grumbled, grabbing his sword as he lunged up as far as he could stretch and then crouched back down. "Okay, I'm ready," he said, waving his opponent on.
"We have to wait for father," Micah said sullenly. He looked the young man in his spandex pants over. "Did you wear those yesterday?"
"Under my leathers. I don't want to accidentally rip them so I decided not to wear them today. They're strong, but they're not very supple," he explained. He bowed as their mother walked in, standing upright as she patted him on the face. "I didn't think you'd be coming?"
"Sarah wanted to but your father said she could come only if I was here to guard her from lunging out at Micah," she sighed, going to sit in a chair beside the dias. "Are you both prepared to put on a good show?" The admonishment was very evident in her voice.
"Of course," Xander agreed.
"Yes, Mother," Micah sighed again.
She laughed lightly. "I had wondered where your father went last night." She looked at Xander. "Do match yourself to your opponent," she reminded her natural son.
Micah looked Xander over. "I'm not sure he can fight that well," he complained.
Xander stepped away from both of them and started off one of the more intricate sword katas he had learned across the dimensions. He was almost sweating when he was finished but his mother looked very impressed.
"That's very cute, but what about real fighting?" Micah sneered.
"Like I said, I'm married to an immortal," Xander said with a shrug. "What do you think?" He stopped as his father walked in, bowing to him. "Father, you missed it, I was entertaining mother with one of the katas I know."
"I saw," he said, climbing up into his seat. "Micah, I will not have to warn you again."
Xander snorted. "Leave him alone. I can handle a cocky little boy, same as I can a cocky immie, a cocky vampire, and anything else that's ever tried to attack me." His father waved a hand. "Thanks." He turned to Micah and bowed slightly. "Shall we?" he asked as it was returned.
Micah started off by testing his opponent with a lunge, which was danced away from. He frowned and tried to pin the young man again, groaning when Xander did a perfect leap over his arm and kicked him in the back. "Fight like a normal man," he swore.
"I am. This is how I was taught to fight. It takes advantage of my natural flexibility." Xander turned and parried at the same time, his elbow connecting with Micah's stomach, making him groan and bend down. "You'd better be thankful that I'm an honorable opponent," he said, squatting down to look at his brother's face. "You give or do you want more? I'm known for having the stamina of a God."
Micah swore and stood up, taking a swing at Xander's unprotected shoulder. Xander chuckled and danced backwards, turning and doing a beautiful backflip out of the way. "Stupid tricks," he swore loudly, charging his brother.
Xander calmly disarmed him and put him onto the floor with a foot on his throat. "Yeah, and? They worked, didn't they." He got off his brother at the cleared throat, and bowed to his father. "Was there something else you wanted me to show you?" he asked politely.
His mother laughed. "No, Xander, that was quite beautiful. Did you really learn to fight as a dance?"
"Actually, the two were intertwined. See, there's two series of dances that go with the training. It's about a warrior and how he does faithful service to his Lord and Master, that's the first story, then he's taken captive and used as a sex slave. That's the second story line."
"So it teaches lessons as you learn how to fight," his father said thoughtfully. "Why did you take this style up?"
"Because of my natural abilities in the stamina and the lightness department, my arms teacher decided I should learn this style. It's improved my grace and my dancing ability also, which I'm very grateful for considering I used to look spastic." He looked down at his brother and held out a hand. "I don't have a quarrel with you. I don't want your place in the lineup, I don't want to stay up here very often, and I really could care less about your machinations. I miss my Oz and I'm going home to him tomorrow."
Micah took his hand and allowed himself to be pulled up. "That was the most frustrated I've ever been in a fight," he noted carefully. "You really can fight though." He looked Xander over. "I will leave you alone from now on. If you need anything and can't get hold of father, call upon me."
Xander looked him over. "Do you know anything about Monsoon Demons?" he asked.
His father cracked up. "No, but I do. I have told him to leave you alone."
"Actually, can you pass on a thank you for the last thing of rubies? They really helped us survive until we got into the house."
His mother looked embarrassed. "That was me," she admitted. Her husband looked down at her. "The boy needed it, leave me in peace about the matter," she said coldly.
Xander walked over and gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you." He smiled up at his father. "You guys are way nice." He looked down at himself. "I should go take a bath, I probably smell bad." He looked at Micah. "Walk me to the bathroom since I get lost?"
Micah shrugged and led the way. "You really have no sense of direction?" he asked once they were in the hall.
"Only when it's under two miles. Otherwise, I'm okay. But I can get lost in malls." He shrugged as the bathroom door was opened. "Thanks, bro." He slipped inside and went to get clean.
Micah shook his head and went back to the throne room. "He really doesn't fit in here," he reminded his father.
"Which is why he lives on the mortal plane," his father reminded him before starting to cough.
"Father," Micah called, running up to help him. "They said it was a fast onset, but this was too fast for it to be natural."
"There's no magic involved," his mother said firmly. "I would know."
"Guenevere," he gasped, holding a hand out to her. "Come, help me back to bed."
She walked up the stairs and grabbed his other side, helping him back to the bed. "The spell wore off," she told her son as they went down the hallway to his private quarters. "He's been hiding it for months now."
Oz opened the latest letter and sighed, getting up to give it to Giles, who was sitting on a couch brushing Rocky. "He proved his point, but he's going to be later than we thought," he said as he handed it over.
Giles read it then nodded. "I suspected as much. His adoptive father wouldn't have made himself known if he hadn't needed to see him for whatever reason. I wonder what the funeral rites are like? Maybe Xander could give me some insight."
"I could," Xander said as he walked in the door, "but I'm guessing you'd like the book I brought you better." He handed it over. "Oh, and before you ask, Mom said that the portal reversed time by two days on the way back, same as it took it on the way up. That was before she did the whole throwing-herself-on-the-fire thing." He flopped down between them.
"So you've been where for the last two days?" Oz asked.
"I called on Jace to talk to one of her friends." He showed them the leather bracelet on his wrist. "We came to an understanding too." He pointed at the door. "Would one of you please be a dear and go get my stuff from the car? I'm too tired to move." He snuggled into Giles' side as Oz got up to walk out. He closed his eyes and was asleep almost instantly.
Oz walked in with the three bags, and the two swords, putting everything down so he could look through them. "I wonder where his outfit is," he mused as he opened the first bag.
"It's probably in one of those," Giles said, frowning at him. "I doubt you should be doing that. Xander will show us when he's ready."
"Go ahead," Xander said, wrapping his arms around Giles as best he could. "Just let me sleep. I'm a tired halfling."
"Halfling?" Oz asked, almost squeaking.
"Yeah, halfling," Xander sighed, opening one eye to look at him. He held up his bracelet again. "Ask Jace, okay? I'm not too sure of the particulars and I'm too tired to consider it right now."
"Shh, precious," Giles murmured, pushing Rocky down off his lap. "Let's get you up to bed, shall we? Rocky, come," he called, picking Xander up to carry him up the stairs.
Oz waited until they were gone to pick up a phone and dial Jace. "Halfling?" he said in greeting. His brow scrunched up as he listened to her explanation. "Oh. Yeah, I guess. But what about..." He nodded. "Okay, that makes sense. No, he's pooped. He's in bed right now with Giles." He snorted. "Of course you may, after all, your friends had to help us find it. You're more than welcome here, as you are in any house of mine." He opened his mouth. "Yeah, I felt it. No, a black cat with white socks. Yes, I'm sure. It felt like one of your friend's touches." He shrugged. "Whatever. We'll be here." He hung up and looked at the things sitting around him, going back to his pawing through them for harmful things. Xander had excellent taste, but he didn't always have common sense. That's why he had husbands.
Jace got out of the car and looked up at the front of the house, smiling at the understated elegance of the manor house. "Yes, I definitely think that Xander picked this one out," she told herself, walking up to the door. She found it open so walked in and looked around. "Hello?" she called.
"Oz, I thought I told you which button was the intercom," Giles yelled from outside.
She followed his rant out, stopping in the doorway. "That would be nice if I were him," she said quietly.
He jumped up and looked at her, smiling. "I didn't feel you at all," he complained, coming over to give her a hug. "Why not?"
"Because sometimes we can hide our quickenings from each other." She patted him on the side of the face. "Is Oz horribly mad at me?"
"He's not mad at all," Oz said from behind her. "He just wanted information." He gave her a hug and led her back to his office, where Xander was napping on the couch. "He's not been very far from us at all. Did he mention a threat to you?"
"No, but I'm not surprised. Traveling can be very draining on one, especially with all the recent stress in his life," she reminded him gently. She tapped Xander's thigh, waking him up. "Good morning," she said softly. "How are we?"
"We're tired," he complained, sitting up so she could take up the end of the couch. "Life's recently caught up with me." He looked up at Oz, giving him a sheepish grin. "Sorry I crashed again."
"That's okay," Oz told him, leaning down to give him a hug. "As long as you're all right, then it's all good to me." He pulled a chair over to sit across from them. "Now, can I please have the whole halfling thing explained to me? I thought that had to be a natural thing, something that you're born as."
"Not quite," Jace told him. "It can be given as a status when you're adopted. When such a thing happens, then it's usually in name only. Xander was fully accepted by his adoptive family though, so his title is very valid."
"Yup, I'm the fifteenth halfling son of my adoptive father," he said through a yawn. "And I'm still tired."
"Xander, did you eat anything over there?" Giles asked as he came in with a tray of breakfast for his husband and their guest.
"Yeah, we had a banquet the night I showed up and most meals the next few days were given to me. Why?"
"Because, if I'm right, then that's what's sapping your strength. It's basically removed itself from your body."
"But I've eaten since I got back," Xander pointed out.
"True, but you're still very stressed out and the lack of food for almost a week is taking it's toll on you." He handed over a bowl of fruit. "Try to eat some of that, dear one, and we'll figure out later if that's all this is."
Jace pulled something out of her pocket and sprinkled it on the fruit. "Here, *he* said to give that to you. The *other* one said that he shouldn't have done it, but you can't argue with your own father." She picked up a bagel from the tray and delicately bit into it. "Thank you, Rupert, you're always very nice to me." She looked over at Oz, who looked stunned. "Yes, dear?"
"They really like him?"
"Of course," she said with a smile. "The one he was promised to is *very* fond of him, Oz. The boy positively radiates mischief. The other two have decided that they like him, they've adopted him as some sort of mascot." She gave Xander a fond smile. "I used to have that job, way back when. It was nice to see them fighting over someone else though."
Oz groaned. "Jace, Xander doesn't need to be Ares' mascot. I don't like him fighting."
"Honey, I never really fought back then, I didn't know how to." She licked the butter off her fingers. "Besides, he's more Cupid's mascot than not. All GHS are."
Xander cleared his throat. "I'm in a very odd position," he told his husband. "By being GHS, I'm automatically consecrated to Cupid, but my father promised me to Strife. Not to mention the whole halfling thing." He shrugged. "I don't have to do anything, it's just who I am." He finished off his berries. "Those were good, what was that stuff?"
"Something Strife stole from his grandmother," she said with a shrug. "All I got told was to sprinkle it on your breakfast when I got here, that it would help you." She put an arm around his shoulders, pulling him into her side. "You rest, dear. Let me talk to the boys for you." He nodded and closed his eyes, falling asleep again. "Oz, you have to relax. They're not going to corrupt him, he's not like your last student."
Oz grunted. "I know," he said miserably, "but I need to worry about this. Xander means more to me than Philip ever did." He looked up at Giles, who patted him on the head. "I have to worry, Jace. I can't lose him."
"And you won't," she said, leaning over to sprinkle a little of the silver powder on his lip, watching as he licked it off, a look of surprise coming across his face. "See, they want you to be happy. Especially after Philip."
"Who was Philip?" Giles asked.
"He was my last official student," Oz told him. "He got cocky and he went after a former football player-sized guy. He was about my height so he died." He looked at Jace again. "Do *they* consider him a halfling?"
She shrugged. "I'm not sure, but Strife's still very amused by Xander. Oh, they thought that it was fitting that he was buying into a jewelry store to hone his skills." She yawned. "May I use a guest room to take a short nap? It was a long night for some of us. I got lessons and lectures all night long."
Oz stood up. "Of course. Come on, I'll show you to a room." He led her up the stairs once she was free, stopping at the top. "Jace, you are always welcome in my house, you know that. Even if I was horribly upset with you, you're still welcome here." He traced her bottom lip with his thumb. "You're my student, babe, that's deeper than being pissed at your other friends." He continued on his path to the blue bedroom, opening the door for her. "Here you go. This one or one that's like this only yellow?"
"I like blue," she said, giving him a hug. "Thank you, Oz. They're only trying to help this time. Ares said he wants you two to be the model couple. Cupid wants Xander to be happy because he most personifies the ideal GHS member. And Strife just wants the guy to be happy now; he said Xander suffered enough in high school." She winked and walked in, closing the door behind her.
Giles came up the stairs with a sleepy Xander, leading him to their room. "Whatever Jace gave him seems to be doing the trick. He's feeling stronger but he still needs a nap."
Oz followed them into the bedroom and shut the door. It was time for cuddles. Questions could come later, once everything was back to normal.