Death Warning, sorta.
New Trigger Trips.
Jace looked down at the sleeping body, tracing the new mark on his chest. "You will do fine," she said, almost crying because of what the mark meant. She pulled herself together as she felt one of his husbands coming, settling herself in the lounger beside Xander's and picking up her book.
"Breakfast," Oz said as he carefully put a tray down across her lap. "Xander, did you want to get up?" he called loud enough to wake his mate up.
"Am up," Xander mumbled. "Tickles." He scratched the spot on his chest.
Oz leaned over to look at the spot, but couldn't see anything. "Don't open your skin, we've got some creme upstairs for itches." He stole a kiss. "What do you want to eat?"
"You?" Xander asked in his best little boy's voice, opening his eyes to look up at his mate in time to see the lustful smile bloom across his face. "You haven't touched me," he whined.
"You've been asleep too much," Oz reminded him. "I wasn't going to wake you up to get sex. I can wait until you're ready to join the rest of us in being awake most of the time."
Xander grinned. "Okay, but I want some tonight, even if I am asleep."
"Sure, if you can stay awake long enough, then I'll let you tie me down and do whatever with me." Oz sat on the edge of Xander's chair, watching Jace eat. "So, what's the spot on his chest?" She choked. He picked up her napkin and handed it to her. "Here. I saw you looking at the same spot."
She nodded, wiping her eyes. "Yeah," she gasped. She caught her breath and stared at him for a second. "Oz, you know why I became female, right?"
She nodded. "That was just the mechanics of it." She put the tray aside and shifted onto her side so she could look at him. "Oz, I was born to anchor the Gods into this world."
She shook her head. "You don't know the full story. Xander, you need to hear this bit of history," she said, waking him up again.
"I'll tell him if he doesn't catch it," Oz told her gently.
"If you're allowed to remember," she pointed out.
Oz grunted. "Point." He nudged Xander. "Okay, give."
"You see, back in my time, there were a lot of threats to the Gods remaining in power. The biggest one was a self-fulfilling prophecy about a child." Oz nodded. "Xena's child." Oz's face scrunched up. "The day I died, the day you found me, I was delivering a message from Ares that reminded Xena that she couldn't have another child, ever. Or the Gods would die trying to kill it."
Oz yawned. "Sorry, it's not you. What's this got to do with you?"
"It happened, Oz," she said quietly. "The Fates found it while they were weaving and turned that lifetime off into another version of this world. To keep that there, they needed anchors. They needed more at first, but they needed one very long lived one to anchor it permanently for them."
"Which you became," Oz said, catching on. "Why did you have to become female?"
"Because I had to be able to know *two* Gods' territories and I wasn't really getting one's as a man. The Fates saw I would only be effective as either a neuter, which is what happened to me in that village because I didn't hit on the only woman in town, or as a woman, where I could be retaught everything I needed to know."
"Ah." Oz caught on and looked down at Xander, who was asleep again. "Him?" he asked quietly.
"When I die in battle, he'll take over my role as the anchor. That doesn't mean that you guys will be visited like I am, but he'll become necessary for the Gods' survival. He'll become their anchor to this realm."
Oz shuddered. "All right. But why him? Why not another Immie?"
"How many immies do you know that could take the knowledge that the Gods exist and shrug it off as just another something good in the world?" Oz's face fell. "Yeah. Everything that he is makes him a better anchor than I am." She looked down at her hands. "I was told I had to mark him the next time I saw him when Ares showed up, the night before he came."
Oz reached over and tipped her face back up. "What happens now?"
"Now, I go on living," she sighed, giving him a faint smile. "My life is now as every other immie's is, expendable."
Oz nodded slowly. "You've been keeping up with your practice, right?" She nodded. "Good, 'cause we don't want to lose you."
She smiled. "Don't worry, I'll come haunt you. I've got too much stuff I still need to do at the resort to leave."
He snorted. "I bet. What's going to happen to it?"
"I'm not sure," she said faintly. "I haven't found anyone to take it over yet. I was hoping one of my students would be able to do that, but no one's shown themselves to have stunning business sense."
"Or common sense," Oz noted dryly.
She laughed. "Too true." She picked up one of her pieces of toast and bit into it. "Thank you, Oz, for not laughing."
"Hey, this is an important piece of you," he told her, reaching over to draw a finger down her cheek. "I'll deal when you die many years from now." He stood up and walked inside, going to find Giles. This would be something that he wanted and needed to hear too.
Jace smiled at the young man sleeping next to her. "Many years it won't be," she said quietly, "but you'll be around much longer than I have been." She got up and went into the house to pack. She had a challenge to face tomorrow.
Xander rolled over and watched her back disappear, frowning. "That sucks," he said quietly, getting up to pad into the house. He caught Oz and gave him a hug, whispering in his ear. Oz nodded and they separated with a kiss, going back to their respective tasks. For now.
Jace fell as Xander hopped off the car's hood, but Oz tried to keep him there. "No, you can't," he told his mate. "You can't interfere, Xander," Oz reminded him, turning him around to give him a hug. He pushed Xander's face into his shoulder, memorizing this immie's face so he could hunt him down later. He watched as the quickening floated up out of his student and hung in the air.
It wasn't going for the other immie.
It was coming for them?
Oz hopped off the car and tried to bring Xander with him, but Xander got caught by the quickening, fully caught the blast in the chest. He jerked and spasmed with each new jolt of Jace's spirit, falling to his knees.
Oz pulled his sword as the immie came over to him. "He stole it," the immie shouted. "That's my quickening!" He stopped, sensing the situation. "He's a pre-immie," he accused.
"Not quite," Oz told him. "But I'll still gladly take you on. You did kill my student and force something onto my mate."
"And who are you?" the immie sneered.
"Theodonius." Oz waved his sword while the other immie searched his memory. "I'm the second oldest immortal," he informed him. "And you just killed my most loved student. Get it now?"
The other immortal backed away a step. "What was between she and I is no business of yours."
"Gee, and how many times did your teacher take a challenge for you, Sevarn?" he asked. The immie hissed and pulled up his sword. "Thought so." Oz rushed the immie, planning on making this quick. His opponent was tired and he was pissed, a very bad combination to fight with.
Xander came to as he saw Oz drop the other immie, croaking and holding up a hand for him.
"Shh," Oz said, coming over to touch him. "You're okay now, Xander, I promise. You're okay and it's going to be all right."
Xander pointed at where he could feel something strange, his mouth feeling like it was full of peanut butter.
Oz walked over to the other immie, stabbing him in the chest and leaving his sword there. He could finish him off in a few minutes.
A big flash of dark light happened around Jace's still body, and three men leaned down to touch her chest, one putting her head back on. She moaned and Oz felt his mouth hang open, but the dark, older, leather clad man walked over to them.
"She's coming with us. It's time for her to take her place with us." He smiled at Xander, then frowned at Oz. "Finish him honorably or let me do it," he vowed hotly.
"I always try to fight honorably," Oz reminded him. "Ares, is she..."
"She's whole and living, but no longer an immortal," he said, patting Oz on the head. "You did a great job protecting and training her, Theo, and for that, we're all very much in your figurative debt." He smiled at Xander as he walked over. "We won't bother you, but if you need anything, yell for Strife. Joxer and I will be...busy for the next few years I think." He smiled and walked back to where she was struggling to get free of the arms and wings holding her. "Stop wiggling and let's go," he said gruffly, holding a hand out. She took it, and all but one of them disappeared.
The younger God, the one wearing pleather and safety pins, walked over and smiled at Xander. "Hi again," he said happily. "She's never been mine, I just had ta help." He led Xander away. "Finish the fucker before I do, Oz," he warned.
Oz shrugged and walked over to the still body, pulling his sword out of the unmoving chest. He stepped back and squatted down to wait on his rival to wake up.
Xander looked at Strife. "Is she okay?" he asked quietly.
"Oh, yeah," Strife said with a nod. "She's being royally fucked right now by her two men, but otherwise, she's great. Probably gonna be sore by tonight though. Ares has been waiting a *long* time to break his new toy in." Xander choked. "Hey, it's okay. She's gonna love it." He grinned and pinched Xander's wrist above the leather bracelet he had given the young man. "Just remember, you've got to keep both love and the fighting ability alive in you. And if ya need somethin', then I'm your God." He blew a kiss at Oz before disappearing.
Oz frowned at Xander. "I doubt that you're going to need to call on him," he said, turning back to the body that just jerked. "You've got five minutes to get up and grab your sword or you'll die there," he told him matter-of-factly.
Sevarn got up and shook his head, looking around. "Where did her body go?"
"It was picked up by some other friends of hers," Oz said, slowly standing up. "Grab your sword, we're finishing this. I promised her I would."
Sevarn got up and backed away from Oz's still form, looking him over. "I have no quarrel with you," he tried.
"Yeah, you do," Xander growled, taking Oz's sword from him and threatening the immie with it. "Fight him or fight me."
Sevarn looked at them both then nodded. "I'll fight the real immortal. Your time is not yet here, young man. Don't rush your life away."
Xander snorted. "You have *no* idea who you're talking to."
Oz took his sword back and looked over his shoulder. "Strife, hold him please," he begged.
"Sure," Strife said as he reappeared, walking over to grab Xander and pull him back to the car's hood. "Sit," he ordered, sitting beside him and making sure Xander couldn't move. "You can't interfere with this if Ares can't."
"Yay," Xander said coldly, glaring at Oz's opponent. "I want him. He killed my friend."
"Oz has the longer claim," Strife said calmly. "You really do well as a warrior, ya know that?"
Xander looked at him. "Huh?"
"You've got the attitude down perfectly. How do you do it when you're such a lover?"
"I protect what's mine," Xander said with a shrug. "I protect when I have to, otherwise I'm fully GHS."
"Ah, that explains why you're the new anchor." Strife nodded then looked up and disappeared.
Oz shrugged off the funny feeling between his shoulders as he faced off with his opponent, giving him a salute with his sword. "Let's finish your life," he said calmly. Sevarn lunged at him and Oz stepped aside, taking his head as he fell past him. "Like I said, bye," he said, waving. He dropped his sword as the quickening lifted out of the body, accepting it gratefully. He blinked when it stopped early, looking at the ball of energy floating in front of him. "Not funny," he growled.
"Hey, I'm still stuck," Xander called. "It wasn't us." He looked beside him at the form that appeared. "Or maybe it was him," he said, giving Oz a helpless look.
"Why should you have that?" the deep voice said from the ghostly form.
"It's my right. I challenged him because he killed my student," Oz said coldly. "Butt out."
The form smiled. "I'm sure, but what about the anchor?"
Xander raised his hand. "Right here," he said snidely. "Let Oz have the rest of the quickening. It's his right. He won." He was released from the hood and slid down to look at the ghostly form. "Leave here, I have no congress with you." He blinked a few times then turned to look at Oz. "Was that her?"
"Yeah, that was her," Oz said, walking over to the ball of energy to touch it. He absorbed it in a flash, then shook himself. "Much nicer than usual." He walked over to give Xander a hug, taking care to make sure his husband was in the car safely before looking at the ghostly form. "You are not allowed at our house," he said calmly. "We hold no congress with you. We are Ares', Cupid's, and Strife's followers, not yours." He opened his door and slid into the driver's seat, starting the car to back away from the desert.
The ghostly form started to laugh. "We'll see about that," he promised, waving at them. The car stopped and he floated closer.
Xander got out, holding one of his daggers to his chest. "If you bother us in any way, I will remove the anchor's mark," he threatened. "I have what I need in life without your interference and I will not allow you to screw my life up in any way. It's complicated enough already."
"Get in the car, Xander," Oz called. "That isn't wise."
"Jace's memories show me that each time a new anchor comes to be, they have to face off with him. I'm not going to wait for this fight, I'm taking control of it now. Bite me, Zeus, I'm not your anchor, I'm *Strife*'s anchor." He got back into the car and slammed the door.
"I can make your life very difficult, young man," Zeus called out.
Xander got back out of the car and faced him off. "Gee, yes, you could. But then again, I'm a guardian of the Hellmouth in LA, so if you made my life difficult, then it would go off again. And I would be too busy to go fight the demons that would take over your world and kick you out of it for good." He put a hand on his chin to look like he was thinking. "Gee, Oz, wouldn't I be safe from most of that anyway?" he asked.
Oz got out and leaned against the side of the car. "Yeah, Xander, you would." He looked at Zeus. "Each new anchor may need to face you down, but you've already lost. He won't be doing anything for you except existing so you can. He won't be doing anything for your wife except existing. We are *Ares'*," he pointed to himself, "*Cupid's*," he pointed at Xander, "and *Strife's*." His hand went back on the roof of the car. "We hold no love for you or for the other elder Gods, and personally, I could care less about all of you." He looked at his husband. "Get in the car, Xander, or no sex tonight."
Xander grinned at his mate. "You'd be that mean because I was taking on a ceremonial duty?"
"Yes," Oz ground out. "I need to wear this energy out." He smirked as Xander dove into the car and stripped partially, waiting on him. "Zeus, go home and never come near us again. I don't care if the world ends, I never want to see you near us." He slid back in and drove away, letting Xander do what he did best in the car.
Zeus chuckled. "Oh, they picked a good one," he told his wife as she appeared. "He stood up to me right away."
"Good," she said, pursing her lips. "He doesn't show the proper respect for us and he's not an immortal."
"He'll live long enough," Cupid said as he appeared, glaring at Hera. "He's linked himself to a few immortals and he'll outlive all of them if he has to. We made sure of it." He looked her over. "We still have the anchor in hand, as the Fates demanded. Leave him alone or never feel the touch of love again. Either of you."
Zeus looked him over. "Who do you think you are, Cupid?"
"The God of Love," Cupid said smartly. "The one who will make sure you can't ever get it up again." He looked Zeus over. "I'd never bother Xander. You don't know what sort of firepower that boy can bring against you and he will destroy the anchor to be rid of you." He mock-bowed at them then flashed back out, right before his father got there.
Ares ran his hands through his messy hair, laughing. "Oh, my son's *good*," he sighed. "The Fates ordered us to hold sway over the anchor so you couldn't destroy it without killing yourselves. See, the rest of us have something or someone that will give us shelter if something happens to the anchor. You two don't. I wonder why that is." He faded out, blowing a kiss to them. "Later," he said coldly.
Strife sighed as he appeared between them. "Leave my halfling alone, Zeus. A mortal that is offered to a God and accepted is sacred and no other God can interfere with them without consent. If ya *touch* my mortals again, I will make your life a living hell. I promise you that." He glared at Hera. "And you, no funny tricks, Xander's much too valuable for you to lose this time."
Zeus shrugged. "Fine, then keep him in better check."
"Sorry, I let Xander have his head. That's what makes him such a good anchor, same as it did Joxer." Hera's face puckered. "Yes, *her*, Hera. The one you cursed for being polite." He sneered. "*Nevah* touch what's mine. You've never seen me angry before, but you will if you touch or hurt Xander in any way, shape, or form. I will not tolerate you breaking a holy law." He looked them both over. "Get back to Olympus before someone sees you and you start off another Holy War. I refuse to fight in one ever again." He disappeared.
"How dare he!" Hera shrieked.
"It is his right," Zeus sighed. "He has partially removed himself from our Pantheon because of our treatment of him. He has the right to withhold his services if we need it."
"We need all our Gods," she said coldly. "How could you let him be treated that way?"
"Me? I had the Hinds destroyed. You're the one who gave Ares the dagger." He disappeared, bringing her with him.
Strife reappeared next to Ares, smiling up at him. "Thanks, Unc, I never would have been able to do that without you."
"Yeah, but now you owe me," Ares purred, tapping him on the forehead. "Go make sure Xander gets home all right. There's another Immortal in town."
"Sure." Strife flashed out, but came back instantly. "What about the resort?"
"Huh? Oh, go talk to that Joe guy. Get him to run it until she finds someone else."
Strife nodded and they both disappeared, going to their respective tasks.
Xander relaxed in his own bed, looking up at his lover, who had tucked him in. "Was I okay?" he asked quietly. "Not too big of a shrew?"
"Nope, I think you got it just right." Oz leaned down, kissing his husband's nose. "Besides, I'm sure everyone stuck up for you. That's the way the ritual goes. Your Gods protect you, you stand up to the two in charge that don't have a say over your life because of what you are. And then you come home and hope like hell that they weren't offended this time." He shrugged and allowed himself to be pulled down on top of the covers. "Yes?" he asked quietly.
"Can I have a story?" Xander asked, giving him a grin. "You haven't told me a story since the last time I couldn't sleep."
"That's very true," Oz agreed. "Are you sure you want me to do it? Giles can come tell you a story."
"He's playing with the animals before he goes back to Jace's to get his research notes." He frowned. "I'm gonna miss her. I liked her, Oz, and she was really nice to me, even though she knew what I had been." He looked away, but his face was tipped back up and he was given a kiss. "You really don't mind?"
"I haven't ever minded. If you hadn't gone to New York, you wouldn't have found yourself and you'd be miserable without me." He pinched the mark on his mate's chest. "Besides, if you hadn't, then you'd still be working fast food."
"Point," Xander said with a grin. He pulled Oz down for a hug. "How did I get so lucky as to have you?" he asked quietly. "Someone must have blessed me to allow me to keep you."
"I feel the same way," Giles said from the doorway. "About the both of you actually." He walked in and joined them on the bed, giving them both a hug. "I have to leave again," he told them while he still held them.
"Okay," Xander said. "For how long this time?"
"Not over a month, but Joe has asked for my help. It seems Jace gave him the resort."
Oz grunted. "Okay by me too. But I'm taking you to LA and getting you something before you leave," he said seriously. "We will never wonder where you are again."
Giles smiled and kissed Oz's forehead. "Of course not. I didn't want you to worry the last time." He pulled back and his smile fell away. "Did either of you think to call Methos?"
"No," Oz groaned, putting his head down on Xander's chest.
"I'll do it," Xander said quietly. "I'll call Ray and have him break the news so he can comfort Meth."
Oz shook his head but didn't lift it. "It should come from me."
"Let me," Xander told him, rubbing down the firm back. "You have to mourn a lot more for her than Ray and I do." Oz nodded. "Good."
"Tell Meth directly," Oz warned. "Never give him bad news through someone else."
Giles frowned as he heard the doorbell, getting up to go down and answer the summons. He came back a few minutes later with Amanda. "I think we have some more bad news to tell him," he said quietly.
"Mac was jumped in Tibet," she said, sniffling and wiping her nose.
"Watcher or immie?" Oz asked.
"I'm not sure. All I know is I got a call. His body's being flown back for burial." She sat down on the bed, hugging them both. "Can I leave Richie here for a few days?" she pleaded. "I can't take his grief and my own."
"Sure," Oz said, hugging her. "We're more than able to take care of him."
Xander sat up and hugged them both. "Do you want the other bad news?" he asked gently.
She wiped her eyes as she nodded. "What else happened? Another bomb?"
"Jace was killed earlier tonight," Oz said quietly. "I avenged her immediately."
Amanda started to cry again. "But she was *good*," she sobbed, clinging to Oz.
Xander got out of the bed and nodded at the doorway, going toward Oz's office. He stopped in to look at Richie, going in to give him a hug. "It'll be okay," he promised. "The pain gets better." He touched the cat curled up on the young man's chest, making him hiss. "Shh, it's okay," he promised. "The other cats have a big room downstairs when you need to get free. Just ask any of them." He patted Richie on the head. "Do you want more bad news?" he asked.
Richie shook his head. "Tell me tomorrow," he whispered hoarsely. "I can't take any more tonight." He looked up at his friend, seeing the sadness. "Who was it?"
Richie nodded. "Oz finished the fight for her?" Xander nodded. "Good. I'm sorry."
"Me too," Xander told him, smoothing his hair back. "I'm going to call Methos. I'll tell him about McCleod too." He got another numb nod and walked out, finishing his trek down the stairs. He pulled the small white card out from under the phone and dialed the Paris number. "Ray, get Meth for me. Yeah, it's really important. No, bad news. No, I can't," he sighed. "Oz told me to tell him directly. Just get him and then pour him a beer for a few minutes." He turned to look out the window while he waited, grimacing as he heard the cheerful voice on the other end. "Sit," he ordered calmly. "Yes, it's that sort of news. Sit down, Methos." He cleared his throat. "Earlier today, Jace was challenged." His voice cracked but he went on. "Oz avenged her immediately." He sighed. "I am, Methos. I'm the new anchor." He leaned back, covering his face. "No, that's not the only news. Mac was ambushed in Tibet. Amanda and Richie are here. Amanda's crying on Oz and Richie's numb." He checked the date on the clock. "No, don't hurry back. You're due back in three days anyway. Richie will still be here but I think Amanda's going to travel with Giles to Jace's to help Joe." He nodded and hung up. "I don't like giving bad news," he told himself. He picked up the phone as it rang. "Hey, Joe. No, they're all upstairs. Giles and Amanda are coming, I know that much. Can you handle it for another day?" He grunted. "All right. I'll make sure he's on a plane out tomorrow. Think of it as a fuller service bar," he suggested. "Good point, but it's still just a resort, Joe. It probably runs itself for the most part." He cleared his throat. "Um, did you hear from Amanda?" He sighed. "Good. I didn't want to have to tell you too. Can you tell me if it was an immie or not?" He frowned. "Really? No, Oz never told me that they existed. Yeah, I guess bad people are in every organization." He sighed. "I will. No, we've got Richie here. Want me to go get him?" He snorted. "All right, I'll have him call you tomorrow as soon as he wakes up." He hung up and stared out the window, watching the black cat play on the lawn. "Go home," he whispered. "I'm safe and we're here now." The cat stopped chasing the air and looked directly at him, then vanished. "Thank you, whomever sent you, but we're fine now," he said quietly, looking up. He got up and went to tell Oz and Amanda the bad news.
Oz walked Giles into the electronics store and looked around. He waved a salesman over, glaring at him when he was slow. It was his turn to be the dominant one he was going to enjoy this. "This is my husband," he said coldly when the man looked him over. "I'm getting him things to make sure that I can find him whenever I want to. He'll need a cellphone that can do a secure line and a laptop with a modem so he can get my notes."
The salesman nodded and led them over to a shelf. "These are the laptops we have in stock," he said, waving a hand. "Which one would you like?"
Oz checked each one's specifications and pointed one out. "That one. He'll also need a traveling case, a rack of writeable CD's, and some headphones." The salesman nodded, blinking as another man walked up behind them. "Um, sir, I'm with someone," he said politely.
"I'm with them," Xander said with a shrug. "Oz," he purred, leaning into his side, "can I have something to help me design now? I'm ready to start working on original stuff."
Oz nodded. "Sure." He patted Xander's leather-clad bottom. "He wants the purple one."
"Oh, do they have it in *teal*?" he asked.
"I'm sorry, we don't. We have it in red, in black, and in vermilion."
Xander shuddered. "Um, are those compatible with the rest of the house?" he asked.
Oz shook his head. "Good point. He wants one like my other husband has." The salesman nodded. "With the same accessories, but he'll be getting a different program later." He patted Xander's butt again. "He'll also need a light pen and an external mouse. He designs."
"Of course," the salesman said, looking the trio over. "What else can we get for him? You said your older husband needed a cellphone? Does this one also?"
"He has three," Oz said dryly. "Him I keep losing track of. Giles is usually very good about calling but he's been slipping recently and he has to go on a trip." He beamed at his other husband, smirking at the disgusted look. "Don't argue," he reminded him. They followed the salesman to the cellphones, where Oz picked out one for Giles, and a new one for himself. "These will do secure lines, correct? We happen to run a software business."
"They should," the salesman said. "I'm not an expert in that sort of technology."
"I'm okay in it," Xander said, pointing at another phone. "What about that set up? It's meant for businessmen, or so it says."
Oz looked at the card then shook his head. "I don't like that one. Besides, it's too small." He hefted the one he had chosen. "If it won't do secure lines, then we'll have to put an external device on it. I can do that." He handed the phone over. "Was there anything else we needed?" he asked his men. He was getting a kick out of being the dominant one.
"Oz, can I have a dummy?" Xander begged. "Or a form of some sort?"
"Sure, babe," Oz told him, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "Which did you want?"
"Well, since I only design for us, I think a form should be okay, but it has to be adjustable. I want to try out some designs of my own now and it'll be easier to do that."
"Sure." Oz smiled at Giles. "Did you need anything else?"
"Does the computer come with an instruction manual?" Giles asked.
Oz leaned into him, pulling him down for a kiss. "If not, I can always teach you," he reminded him gently, copping a slight feel of his butt too. "Did you need anything else?"
"A scanner," Giles moaned, leaning into the touch. "I want to start saving some of my books down."
"Sure. That'll have to come home with us though." Giles nodded. "Good. What else did we need today?"
"Um, puppy and kitty food," Xander said quickly.
"We can get that on the way home," Oz reminded him. He looked at the headings around the store. "Xander, did you, or you Giles, want a home office?" Both men shook their heads. "You sure?" Both of them nodded. "All right." He looked at the salesman. "I think that's all."
"Very well. Will this be MasterCard or Visa?"
"Cash," Oz said, pulling a roll of money out of his pocket. "Can we get the phones activated today? He's leaving tonight."
The salesman went pale and nodded. "We should have everything in stock but you should be able to take your phone to any cellphone company and get it activated before you leave, we really don't do that part here. Which scanner did you want?"
"One that can do books," Xander said helpfully. "Really old books."
The salesman nodded and jogged off to go get everything that they needed. He came back a few minutes later. "Sir, my boss really would prefer that larger orders use credit cards in case there's a problem and something has to be returned."
Xander shrugged and pulled out one of his platinum cards. "Okay." He took the money Oz handed him. "Goody, now I can get some more fabric."
"Only if you're shipping it home," Oz reminded him. "We won't have very much room in the car."
"Oz, I'm leaving this evening," Giles reminded him gently. "You'll have the whole backseat."
"Yes, but he wants to stock up," Oz reminded him stoically. "We'd be better off if we shipped it." He put an arm around both their waists, leading them to the check out to pick up their slips for their new toys.
"Oh, can I get the deluxe sewing machine this time?" Xander asked happily.
"You're still not embroidering," Oz told him, giving him a squeeze. "You don't need it."
"Point," Xander sighed, kissing Oz's cheek. "You're always good about keeping me firmly on the common sense side."
Oz snorted. "I try at least." He looked up at Giles. "Happier?"
"Yes, I am," Giles said, giving them both a hug. "I will miss you both of course, but I do think that it's best if I go study some more. I'll be back in a month though." He gave Xander a kiss. "You behave while I'm gone, young man, or I'll have to punish you terribly when I get home."
Xander gave him his best innocent look. "But I always behave, Giles," he said, grinning at him.
Oz shook his head. "He'll behave. I'll make sure of it." Oz signed the slip in Xander's name then took their copy and headed for the pick up window. "Come on, boys. We have to get Giles to the airport and then we have to visit the pet place before it closes."
Xander clapped. "More kitty toys," he said happily. "And Rocky gets a special treat this time too."
Oz nodded. "Okay. How about being fixed?"
Xander stopped. "She's having puppies?" he squealed.
Oz wiggled his finger in his ear. "Don't do that," he complained. "Yes, she is."
Giles patted Xander on the back. "I'm sure your beloved dog will allow you to watch over her while she delivers." His hand slid down as they walked, squeezing the rear he would miss for the next month. "Do be good and don't wear Oz out every night," he admonished as he took his portion of the new toys to carry. He led the way to the car, letting Oz get the trunk with the keychain remote. "Oh, good," he said, sitting down in the back seat while Oz gathered everything together for him.
Oz handed over the new briefcase with a kiss then gave Xander his. "We'll have to get you some CD's on the way home," he told him, going back to shut the trunk and get in to drive over to the airport. "Giles, are you sure you want to wait for an hour and a half extra?"
"I will gladly wait so I don't miss my plane. Which I will do if I follow Xander around the pet store."
"Good point," Xander said, looking over his shoulder. "I'm a happy boy but I'm not happy that you're going."
Giles nodded. "Don't worry, Xander, I'm not happy that I'm going either. I'll be home soon though, so you can spoil me when I get back."
"Okay," Xander said, grinning at him. "Can I call you up late at night and breathe heavily into the phone?"
"Sure," Oz told him. He stopped off at one of the major cellphone retailers, the one Xander used, and got out, going in to sign contracts and get everything for their phones activated. He came back a half-hour later and handed over Giles' phone. "It goes in the mesh pocket," he told him.
Giles looked at the new case on his phone and nodded. "Most handy." He slid it into it's proper place and patted Oz's back as he buckled up. "Thank you, Oz."
"You're welcome," Oz said. He looked over at Xander. "I adjusted your plan too, making it the same as ours." Xander nodded. "Good. Airport?"
"Can we stop and get Giles some food to eat in the airport?" Xander pleaded. "Airport food is never as good as real food."
"Sure," Oz said, starting the car and pulling away from the curb. His phone rang and he handed it over to Xander. "Here, you answer it."
Xander opened the case and pushed the right button. "Hello?" he asked. He snorted. "Hi, Willow. How did you get this number so fast?" He looked over at Oz. "Really? No, we're taking Giles to the airport so he can go study for another month." He pouted back at the older man. "Willow said I had to pout at you for this."
Giles held out a hand and got the phone. "Willow," he said once it was near his ear. "Don't encourage him." He smiled. "Of course I will." He hung up. "She said she'll call the house tonight, that she's got something for you both." He handed the phone to Xander to keep. "Where are we getting me a meal, Xander?"
"Um, what do you want? Sandwich or Chinese?"
"A sandwich would be fine," he told him.
"Subway's out by the airport," Oz noted, taking a turn to go out that way. "They're the best sandwich place I can think of that's not in the center of town." He pulled into the drive-thru and went around to the speaker. "Hello?" he called.
"Welcome to Subway, may I take your order?"
Xander leaned over and whispered in Oz's ear, then looked back at Giles and whispered something else.
"Yeah, I'd like three subs...."
Xander danced into his favorite fabric store and smiled at the woman behind the counter. "It's time for me to stock up and to try new things," he told her, heading for some fabric that he had wanted to try and work with.
The worker looked at Oz, giving him a sympathetic look. "At least we're stocking tonight," she said lightly.
"Good. Can you ship it to us? Our car's not that big."
"Oh, I found it," Xander called, hauling an adjustable form off the display table and carrying it over. "I need this, Oz."
"I told you it was yours," Oz reminded him, patting him on the face. "Go pick out the rest that you want and we'll have it shipped to us." He waited until Xander was back in the fabrics to shake his head and pull out his roll of cash, handing her three of the biggest bills. "I promised him I'd pay for him to restock his habit," he explained, going back to help Xander find everything that he wanted.
She put the cash under the register and pulled out the receipt book. Some days, it was a good thing that she had a commission on top of her salary.
Xander carried an armful of bolts over and dropped them onto the counter, heading back for more.
She picked up the phone and dialed her boss' home number. "Hey, it's Angie," she said. "No, Mr. Harris is stocking up right now." She smiled. "Yes, I think we'll need to do a small amount of ordering tonight." She watched as he brought another six bolts over and dropped them too, one onto the floor. He pouted and picked it up, putting it out of Oz's way so he could put down the three he was carrying. "Or maybe not so little of an order. Mr. Harris, how many bolts are you getting tonight?"
He grinned and shrugged. "I'm getting my usual seasonal list plus some stuff that I've always wanted to work in." He waved. "Tell your boss I said hi." He ran back to the silks, coming back with only two bolts. "I have the others I want at home." He walked over to the section where Oz was, picking up one piece to rub it between his fingers. "I made my wedding outfit out of this," he told his husband, giving him a hug.
"I liked it," Oz said after swallowing. "Get some more, Xander. Don't forget thread and thread for your serger."
Xander grinned and picked up six more bolts, carrying them to the other side of the check out. "I'll go get threads while you look for more neat fabric, Oz. Okay?"
"Sure." Oz walked over to the thicker fabrics, examining them. He came back with three soft flannels and a roll of blanket material. "We need some throws," he told Xander, who was looking at it funny.
"Oh. Okay." He shrugged. "Was that the only one you wanted?"
"No, this is the one I wanted in our bedroom and in my office. If you wanted one in your space, go find a good one."
Xander hopped back to the blanket fabrics, coming back with a single roll. "I like this one," he said, stopping to give Oz a hug. "Do you need more threads? You haven't woven in a few months."
"Yeah, but I've already got three projects started. I haven't had time to work on them yet." He patted Xander on the back. "This it?"
"No, I found something else but I wanted your opinion." He held up the line of beads. "What do I use this for?"
"Decorating," the saleswoman said as she hung up, after telling her boss what the boy was getting and promising to fax over the receipt as soon as they were gone. "That's mostly for decorating projects. The smaller ones can be sewn onto women's clothing."
Xander handed them over. "I don't need more decorating projects, I just did that." He smiled at her. "Okay, I want this."
Oz patted his fabric. "I only need about five yards of this one."
"We need it all," Xander told him. "Just in case." He patted himself down but Oz kissed him on the cheek. "I thought I was paying for it."
"I already did. I promised to take you fabric shopping when you came back."
"Yeah, you did," Xander said, pouncing on him to give him a hug. "I love you, and I would even if you didn't spoil me."
The saleswoman laughed. "I'm sure. It's very obvious to us." She checked her watch and picked up the phone again. "Let me call over to the shipping place so they don't close on you." She dialed quickly. "Hi, this is the fabric shop. I'm checking someone out that's bought too much to carry home. Yes, they need it shipped." She looked at them. "Sunnydale, right?"
Oz nodded. "Yup. Where is this place?"
"I think it's the one across the parking lot," Xander said, pointing at it. "Can they get it to me tomorrow?"
She shrugged and looked down at the receipt she was writing out. "Yes, it's a *big* order. About seventy bolts all told. Plus thread." She laughed and hung up. "They'll bring some boxes over here to ship it for you," she told them, finishing the receipt so she could ring them up. She took the cash out from under the register and put the bills into the drawer, making change for what was left.
Oz waved a hand at it. "Use the rest to ship it to us," he said, taking the receipt to write their address on.
"That's the old one," Xander told him gently.
Oz scratched that one out and rewrote it. "We just moved," he explained as he handed it back. "Whatever's left, just stick it in a box. We won't need it today." He led Xander from the store, going to take him home.
She shook her head. "My, they're very brave," she told herself, gathering up everything so it could be easily packed up. She waved the guy with the boxes inside, letting him in before closing and locking the door. Her boss said she could close early.
Oz looked up as the demonic messenger appeared beside the bed, trying to take the message from him.
"I can only give it to the recipient," he whispered, his species' normal tone of voice.
"He's sleeping," Oz told him, waving at the form curled around him. "I'll take it, I'm his husband and mate."
The demon shook his head and disappeared, coming back a few minutes later with the same note. "You can have it, but you can't read it. It's spelled for him only."
Oz took the note and watched as the demon disappeared. He put it aside, vowing that if it was from Xander's adoptive family, he was going with him this time. Xander rolled over and snuffled Oz's stomach, making him get hard and groan. A wet tongue came out and licked across his navel, but it was followed by another snore. "Great, now he's having sex in his sleep," Oz mumbled, relaxing and enjoying what he was getting.
Xander opened the letter and snorted. "Micah wants to see me on the demon plane as soon as I can get there," he said.
Oz shook his head. "No way in hell. Not without me this time."
Xander grimaced. "I can't bring you, Oz."
"Then you're not going." He sat down in Xander's lap, kissing him until he stopped resisting. "I have a bad feeling about this and you're not leaving me here," he said quietly. "There's no way. I come or he can come to this plane to meet with you."
Xander rubbed a stone on the necklace Micah had given him, summoning a messenger. He got up once Oz had moved and wrote out a note, which he showed to his husband, then sent it on it's way with the messenger. "There, better?" he asked.
Oz nodded. "Much. Why did you say Angel's?"
"Because I can trust Angel to be loyal to me, not to Micah."
"Hmm, point," Oz said as he curled into Xander's side. He looked up as a messenger appeared, taking the note from him. "What do you guys get out of this arrangement?" he asked him.
"We travel," he said humbly, bowing to Xander. "He was not pleased. He gave me a verbal message also." He leaned down and whispered something in the recipient's ear.
Xander stiffened. "No way in Hell," he hissed. "You can tell him I said that too. I will meet him at the portal and he will come across. I *refuse* to step foot in that dimension again until this stupidity is over with. I am *married* and *mated*!"
Oz handed over the note. "We'll be in LA," he reminded his lover.
Xander nodded, taking Oz's hand. "We'll meet him in LA in two mortal day's time," he told the messenger. "Tell my brother to meet me there." The messenger disappeared. Xander opened the note and snorted. "I'll be damned," he said, handing it over. "Protocol and politics aren't that important to me."
Oz rubbed his mate's thigh. "Calm down. We'll deal." He looked up into the brown eyes, giving his own calming influence. "Calm down," he repeated, more quietly this time. "We always deal and we will this time."
Xander nodded, shifting so he was curled around Oz's body to get comfort from him. "I will not allow myself to be used as a pawn," he whispered into Oz's shoulder. "I need you there with me."
"That's where I'll be," Oz reminded him. "I don't care if the whole realm dissolves because I step across that boundary, you're not going back there alone, ever."
Xander nodded, closing his eyes. "Thank you."
"Hey, that's what Oz's do for their mates," he said, soothing his lover so he could calm down.
Xander looked across the border of the portal at the demon manning the reception desk. "Either you get my brother out here or I will come in with my lover, who will destroy this whole dimension," he warned.
The demon looked at Oz, then sighed and did something to the scroll in front of him.
Elizabeth, Xander's only sister, ran out of the portal and gave him a hug. "Thank Gods you came," she whispered, clinging to him. "Save me from them, please, Xander?"
Oz pulled her off, holding out his hand. "I'm Oz," he told her. "I'm Xander's mate."
She wiped her cheeks off and took the veil off her head. "Thank you. May I seek refuge with you?"
"Yes, anytime you need us, we're here," he told her, nodding for her to get behind him. "The portal ends about a foot behind me," he told her. "Stay out of it and they can't pull you back through."
She nodded, measuring off the distance plus a little more just to be safe. She smiled at the demons looking at her. "I refuse to be married," she said coldly. "I am not a pawn and I will not marry a Methsalzn demon." The on-looking demons hissed and nodded, and one offered her a cup of tea. "Thank you," she said with a smile, taking the chair it pointed at.
Xander stared down his brother Micah as he walked up to the portal. "You know I'm married," he said coldly, touching Oz's hand. "I'm mated and married by something stronger than your people can handle." He swallowed as Oz squeezed his hand and stepped forward.
"You dare take my mate from me?" Oz asked, pulling out his sword.
Micah stepped across and closed the portal behind him. "I don't want to, but you have to be reasonable. By *our* standards, Xander, you are not married to either of your men."
"We are," Oz told him, holding up his ring. "We were married in the name of the old Gods, the ones I grew up under."
"The ones I anchor for," Xander added quietly.
Micah sighed. "Xander, there are protocols, you know that." Xander nodded. "According to our protocols, your marriage hasn't been consummated for over a year and is subject to be broken by your family."
"And if you try," Xander said, making one of his daggers appear next to Micah's groin, "you won't need to worry about heirs."
Micah blinked a few times. "All I'm asking is that you meet with them. You're not going to be made to marry any of them." He glared at Elizabeth. "What are you doing here? You have no choice in the matter."
"By all that we believe, she's too young without a parent's permission and I doubt that you qualify as a parent," Oz reminded him. "She's asked for sanctuary in our home and she's gotten permission for it." Micah's mouth fell open. "See, some of us play by totally different rules." He stepped closer, taking all the blockages off his quickening to make sure it was felt. "You are not allowed to take my mate from me."
"All he has to do is listen to the offers," Micah gasped, trying to back away from the knife. "Xander, if you harm me, you have to take my place," he groaned as he felt the knife cut him.
"Or I can appoint someone," Xander pointed out. He removed the knife, cleaning it on his brother's shirt. "If I come, then my mate comes with me and Elizabeth goes back to my house. I refuse to let my sister be forced into something that she doesn't want."
"It's a matter of politics. Father promised one of us. If you, or one of the other brothers accept, then she's still free."
"She's still free," Oz pointed out. "You could take the offer up."
"I don't like men," Micah pointed out. He backed away from them and reopened the portal. "Xander, just for the ritual three days and then you can come back."
"He's not going without me," Oz pointed out.
"I can't allow you through the portal," Micah sighed. "What you are will destroy our ...." His voice trailed off as Oz put the blockages back on his quickening. "You can hide it?"
"Yup. I'm that old."
Micah swallowed. "I still can't allow you across."
Xander looked back at Elizabeth, who looked ready to cry. "Oz, take care of her, I can kill anyone who dares to approach me."
"No, you can't," Micah said quickly. "You can't do that. Father promised one of us and we have to honor it."
"Then I'd take a mate really quickly," Xander said, patting him on the chest and pushing him backwards. "I will not be taken from my mates. Not by a promise I wasn't informed of, and one I didn't make. By all the protocol I know, I cannot be held to a promise that my father made before I was adopted. That means that only the ones that were *around* then are eligible for this promise. Which means none of us, right?"
Micah thought for a second. "True, and I could argue it, but they'll still demand the right to proposition you. You have the right to keep anything they give you of course," he added quickly.
"I don't need anything," Xander told him. "I have everything that I could ever want." He looked at Oz, who shook his head. "If they want to offer to me, then they can come to this realm and come to me at Angel's new office. I will be in town for the next four days and I will be there starting tomorrow night. If they can't come, then they're not eligible for consideration by this family as they're not that powerful."
Micah nodded. "How did you know?" he asked.
"I had a vampire teach me protocol," Xander said dryly. "Blair did a very good job of it."
Micah bowed his head. "Fine, but I must take Elizabeth back with me."
"No," Oz said in a deathly quiet voice. "She stays with us. We'll decide her future for the insult that you have given our marriage."
Micah went pale. "You can't adopt her from us," he protested.
"I can and I have," Xander told him. "She's now mine because, as an adult, she's allowed to make the offer for herself."
Micah spluttered. "She's not an adult."
"Then you couldn't marry her off," Oz noted. "Those are the rules of your kind." He pulled Xander back beside him. "You have until tomorrow to contact us." He backed up a step and turned, bringing Xander with him, Elizabeth coming quickly behind them as they left the demon bank. And a few of the demons applauded.
Xander walked into Angel's new office and grimaced at Wesley, who was sitting behind the desk. "We're here for your help. It seems that my adoptive family has decided that I have to listen to offers of marriage because mine is under a year old." Wesley dropped his pen. "I chose this as a neutral spot so Angel could act as a demonic liaison."
Wesley coughed. "Angel and Buffy are out of town on a case," he squeaked. "How bad is this?"
"Oz went to tear something up," Xander said dryly, sitting in front of him. "Is Spike here?"
"He and Seth are downstairs, as is Blair. Would they do?"
"Yeah, they'd do." Xander stopped him as he walked past. "Oz can't be here, that's part of the rules of the game," he said quietly. "I need a stand-in mate."
Wesley nodded. "I'll gladly stand in for him," he said quietly, getting free and running down the stairs of the hotel. He came back a few minutes later with Seth and Spike, watching as Xander got up to hug his brother.
"They bloody well buggered you greatly, mate," Spike said in greeting.
Xander gave him a cold smile. "They said I have to listen. I don't have to accept, but I can't kill them. That's your job, if you accept."
Spike laughed. "Of course, Xander. Where's your mate?"
"Destroying something at home with my adoptive sister." He bowed to Blair. "Well, you warned me that they were going to try and get me deeper into the family," he said in greeting, keeping the cold smile.
Blair gave him a hug, patting him on the back. "We will act as your demon escort and liaison, Xander. There's never any problem with that. I often enjoy butting heads with your family's heir."
"He's the head son now," Xander said quietly. "Father died while I was up there."
"Ah. I'm sorry." Blair looked around at everyone. "Oz is off killing something?"
"A tree, I think," Xander said, relaxing again. "With Elizabeth."
"I'm sending Willow over there right now," Wesley said, hurrying back downstairs.
"You challenged him over the rights to your sister?" Blair asked. "Why?"
"She asked us for our help."
"Ah. But is she an adult?"
"She was about to be married off if I wasn't roped into it."
"Ah." Blair nodded. "That explains it all. Your brother Micah was most pissed when he contacted me to train you right this time." He smiled. "I think this will be fun," he said quietly, looking back at his childe. "Have you got the book I lent you last week, Seth?" It was handed over and given to Xander.
"I know this book," Xander said, flipping through the demon protocol manual. "Blair, I know I already owe you big," he said, looking back up. "What were you thinking?"
"I was thinking that you have influence with your family, no matter how pissed you are at them." Xander nodded. "There's a matter of a deal that I want you to help me with. All you have to do is tell them that you're for it."
Xander shrugged. "What is it?"
Blair smiled. "Is that really important?"
"Um, yes," Xander said, nodding. He handed the book back to Blair, tapping him on the chest with it. "See, I learned protocol long before you taught me, Blair, and I know this game. I know it a little too well since I used it a few times with the King I was serving at the time." Blair went a little paler. "Tell me what it is, or the deal is off and I will remind everyone why you actually owe me."
Blair swallowed. "I don't owe you," he said softly. "I saved your life."
"You offered me to a slaver," Xander said sweetly. "That was the guy with the syringe. And you did it at the behest of one of the other pros. You saved me because one of the older vampires there reminded you that you couldn't do that without making someone very pissed." He turned his smile on Seth. "I didn't want to bring this up, but watch your back, bro." Seth nodded, looking stunned. Xander turned his attention back to the vampire in front of him. "See, Blair, there's a lot that I remember. And I can destroy you in the community because I was under your protection at the time, but you didn't own me. Same as I know where the tape that went out over the internet came from, Blair. So, let's cut the crap. What did you want me to suggest to my family?"
"I have a small business entity that I wanted them to invest in," he said, backing away from him. "Xander, do you know what you just threatened me with?"
Xander stopped and almost thought, then nodded. "Yup." He gave him a bland look. "Any other questions?" Blair shook his head. "Good. Then in the light of this information, you don't have to act as my demonic escort. I can gladly settle for Spike and/or Seth to do so."
Blair bowed deeply to him. "I thank you for relieving me of that duty. I will send you the details of this business transaction tomorrow with my childe." He nodded at Seth, who followed him out, still looking confused.
Xander looked at Spike, the vampire that had once wanted to kidnap him. "Will you act as my escort?" he asked him.
"Sure, it'll be fun!" he said, grinning at Wesley as he walked back in. "You in this too?"
"Yes, Spike, we're both in this. I'm standing in for Oz and Rupert, who's where, Xander?" "Las Vegas helping run Jace's resort," Xander said quietly. He handed over a card. "I'm here. I'll be back around sunset tomorrow night."
Spike took the card, whistling at the address of the hotel. "You don't play around, do you?"
Xander grinned slightly. "They have good security." He grinned at Wesley. "I'll be back tomorrow before sunset?"
"Of course," Wesley said, taking his glasses off to clean them.
"Gee, Giles does that same move when he's upset. Is it a Watcher thing?"
Wesley smiled at him and nodded. "Yes, they taught it to us in a class as an acceptable method of wearing out our worry and stress," he joked dryly.
Xander giggled. "Thanks, Wes, I needed that." He gave both of them hugs and left, heading out to the car he had hired. He wasn't going to make it easy for anyone to take him this time.
Wesley looked at Spike. "Does he have a good handle on this situation?"
"Very," Spike said with a cold smile. "His family's fucked." He tapped the card a few times. "You callin' his mate?"
"Yes, I probably should. He should know that Willow's on the way before she shows up." He reached across the desk for the phone, using the auto-dial feature to dial the house. "Oz, yes, it's me. Yes, he's been here and just left. I was calling because I'm worried about the young woman's safety so I'm sending you someone to help out with the magical end of things." He frowned. "Really? Where is she?" He blinked a few times. "Really? Oh, my. Is she safe there?" He chuckled. "I'm sure she is then. Expect Willow anyway, you could always use the protection." He hung up. "He sent her to somewhere even safer. She's at a resort on holy ground."
Spike snickered. "Good on him." He looked around the office. "Wanna go play poker? Seth was winnin' anyway."
Wesley shook his head. "I'll be down to play with you in a few moments," he said, then blushed when he realized what he had said. "Never mind. I'll be down in a few minutes."
Spike laughed and walked downstairs.
Wesley groaned and shook his head, hitting it on the desk a few times to shake his sense back into place.
Xander sat in the comfortable chair, glaring at the demon standing in front of him. "Get on with it, my mate's waiting on me to get home." He'd been through this for two days now and he was really tired of this.
The demon looked at Spike and said something. Spike nodded, leaning down to whisper in Xander's ear.
Xander snorted. "No, Spike. I like my mates. I don't care how many dicks he has." He looked at the demon. "You really have three cocks?"
The demon nodded and reached for his belt, but Spike said something, making him stop. The demon shrugged and left, taking his flowers with him.
Xander looked up at Wesley as he walked in. "How many more?" he whined.
"Only two," Wesley said, patting him on the shoulder. He stood behind the chair, again, fulfilling his role. "This is ..." He looked at Spike, who said something guttural. "Yes, that's his name," he said brightly. "He wants to make you his primary husband out of the sixty in his harem."
Xander looked up at Spike. "Is this a Monsoon Demon?"
Spike laughed. "No, mate, it's an African Rainforest Demon. He's been active lately."
Xander shuddered. "I heard at the jewelry store." He looked at the demon walking into the room. "Tell him I'm already married and mated, but that I'm fulfilling my family obligation."
The demon listened to Spike then nodded, bowing to Xander and saying something.
"He said he understands, that's why he's here too." He patted Xander on the head and said something else, which made the demon look at him again.
"What did you say, Spike," Wesley sighed.
"Just that Xander's older brother didn't believe that his marriage was right because his mate was so much older than he was. Then I mentioned why he was older, that his sword was very sharp."
"Which is a subtle way of telling the demons what he is?" Xander asked.
Spike patted him on the head like he was a dog. "Exactly, whelp." He said something else to the demon, who laughed as he walked away. "I told 'im he's become popular at Branchson's."
Xander snickered. "Really popular. The woman that evaluated the stones that I got from the Monsoon Demon told me about the women she had done the same for after he courted them." He shifted, crossing his legs. "One more, right?"
"They have until midnight to show up," Wesley reminded him. "It's only nine."
Xander groaned. "Shoot. I wanted to go snuggle with my Oz tonight." He looked at the demon walking in the room, taking in the silk drapings it was wearing. "Where's this one from? He looks familiar."
Spike's attention was pulled away from Wesley's blush and he stepped in front of Xander, growling something as he vamped out.
Xander stood up and drew his katana, stepping around Spike. "Tell him that if he's here to harm me, I've killed more demons than he personally knows."
Spike pulled Xander back and handed him off to Wesley, growling something else at the demon, who backed away. He calmed down and stepped back into his position. "He's here to offer for you, not to kill you."
Xander snapped his fingers. "Giles knew one of you," he said, standing up and putting his sword away. "One of you helped one of my mates."
Spike translated that and the demon bowed deeply, looking at Spike as he said something. Spike laughed. "This is Giles' friend's brother. He said he wouldn't dare take you away from him." The demon said something else and Spike growled back at him. "Oh, he said that your other mate must be very strong to make Giles yield to him too."
Xander gave him his most alluring smile. "That's all my doing," he said with a wink. Spike slapped him across the back of the head.
"Don't do that," Spike groaned. "You don't want to attract them."
"I wasn't trying to," Xander protested, rubbing the back of his head.
Wesley coughed and said something to the demon, who laughed and backed out of the room. "He said he's heard of you and that he respects your power."
Xander shrugged. "It's good that someone does."
Spike shook his head and groaned. "Don't do that again, whelp. You don't want them comin' again later, right?" Xander shook his head. "Good, then don't turn them on. They don't need more jollies, Micah's been doin' enough advertising."
"Advertising?" Wesley asked.
"Yeah, how else would they know to come here?" Spike jumped as the floor shook, looking out the door. A big, fat, puss-looking demon waddled in, barely fitting through the door. "Whadda you want?" he asked him.
"I know what you are," Xander said quietly. "You're corrosive to my kind."
The demon burbled something. Spike shook his head. "No way. He's not able to be killed and turned." He tapped Xander on the shoulder. "Out."
Xander got up and Wesley walked him into the other room in the office, closing them in. "What's going on?" Wesley asked.
"He came thinking that Micah offered me to die for the family," Xander told him, turning to hit the doorframe with the palm of his hand. "I am *so* gonna kill the brat this time. I had his throat under my foot the last time and I gave it up to spare him."
Wesley hugged the young man loosely, hoping to calm him down. "I'm sure Spike will get this cleared up. This couldn't have come from your family, it would bring great dishonor to them."
"I could destroy them for this," Xander said hotly. "And I will."
Spike opened the door. "He wasn't told by your main brother, he was sent by one of the younger ones. I told him to go complain to Micah over it. He's gone."
Xander nodded and went out to sit in his chair again. He smiled as Angel and Buffy walked in. "Hi, I'm using you as a safe place to thwart my family."
Angel nodded, dropping his bag on the desk. "I heard. What was that last one about?"
"Brotherly maneuvering," Spike explained. "He's gonna go talk to the head son." He looked at the door as it opened again, looking this human over.
"Micah, you've got a lot to answer for," Xander said coldly.
Micah fell to his knees before Xander and put his head on his brother's thighs. "I'm sorry, but I had to," he said quietly. "I can't be married to them."
Xander stood up and pushed him off. "You have no right to order me to do anything!" he said hotly.
"I do, I'm the head son," Micah said, giving Spike a look. "Tell him, vampire."
"That vampire has a name and I know the pertinent regulations."
"Ah, but there's an outdated one that says I can force one of my brethren into marriage for the good of the family." Xander crossed his arms across his chest. "Even if I have to break up their present relationship."
Xander growled and started for his sword but his brother was holding up a very familiar ring. Oz's ring. "You better not have hurt him," he growled, lunging at his brother and knocking him to the floor. "I will kill you over that and give your position to Elizabeth." He took the ring and looked at it, tossing it at Wesley. "That's not Oz's. His is engraved." He punched his brother, cracking his jaw. "You will not even try," he growled, and everyone backed away from him.
"Xander, fur!" Buffy shouted, pointing at him.
Xander glared at her. "Oz and I had to share a quickening when the bomb went off." He turned his attention back to his brother, who was turning purple. "Oh, die," he said mock-sweetly. "I want to see it happen."
Spike pulled Xander off and held him to keep him from going back. "If you kill him over this, he'll win," he reminded the human. "You're not a were?"
"No, I got some of the more spiritual properties when Oz and I joined, and the shared quickening allowed some of it to come out." He spit on his brother's body. "I refuse to be a member of a family with you in it," he vowed, taking off the necklace to throw at him. "Come near me again and I will make you sorry."
Micah stood up and brushed his light brown hair back. "I can't do that, Xander, this was Father's will."
"He's dead!" Xander shouted. "And he never told me. He would have if he had wanted to break me up! He *liked* my relationship with Oz! He gave us his blessing!"
"He did," the soft voice came from behind them. "He had me watch the couple and evaluate them for him," Blair said as he walked in. "Xander, do you understand what you're giving up? You're giving up all status in the demon community."
"I don't want it if it's tainted by him," Xander swore.
Micah went pale. "Xander, you can't mean it. There's too many things that will come for you if I disown you."
"They already do," Wesley pointed out. "Due to his hormonal problem, there's been too many demons that have come for him already, even though they knew who he was." Xander looked at him. "It's easy enough to see," he explained. "Especially since your father probably put it around that you were his when you were younger. Most every demon in any large community knows who you are." He looked at Micah. "Your ploy has failed. He's saved his sister, and you don't have to honor a deal that was made before you were born. There's always a way out of them."
Micah ran his hands through his hair again. "There isn't, I've tried."
"There is," Blair pointed out. "And there's also a way around letting them have Xander or Elizabeth. You have a brother who sent a corrosive demon to Xander tonight, hand him over as punishment for what he did." He looked the boy over. "I withdraw my request to you the other day," he said formally. "I would not do business with them if they would do this to you."
Micah looked at Angel, giving him a helpless look. "I can't manage all this," he whispered. "Everything's falling apart and all these demons are coming for me now, wanting things."
"Do any of them have it in writing?" Wesley asked. Micah looked at him. "Verbal contracts aren't usually upheld after one of the members of the contract have died. Unless they have a firm contract or commitment, then you owe them nothing." He let go of Xander and walked over, sitting Micah down. "Tell me what's going on and I'll stop them for you, or at least give you a way around it."
Micah smiled at Wesley, then at Angel. "May I borrow him for a few weeks? Just until everything is straightened out?"
Angel shrugged. "Ask him, not me. I don't own him."
"He's not a minion in training?" Micah asked.
"No, he's a friend," Angel said firmly. "I don't have minions anymore, I gave that up when I got a soul."
Xander grinned at him. "You gave up on a lot of useful things, huh? Is this like a demonic version of Lent?"
Spike snickered and sat down on the couch. "Mostly, yeah," he said between laughs.
Angel tossed a paperweight at his child. "Where's my cat?" he growled.
"I have him," Xander said, reaching inside his shirt to hand over the cat. "He's been very comforting while I was the object of demonic leering." He glared at his brother again. "Like I said, never again."
Micah nodded. "I will not stoop to this level again, Xander, you have my word on it. You are the one brother that I never really wanted to piss off, but Father favored you over me." He looked at Wesley. "Would you please help me?"
"Of course. Angel, may I have the time off?"
"Sure. Where's everyone else?"
"Downstairs, except Willow, who's with Oz to protect him from any incursion."
Xander looked at him. "And she's doing what?"
"Probably doing a lot of laps in your pool," Spike said. "She's been missin' the beach."
"Ah." Xander reached over to pet the cat, but smiled when his finger was pulled away from. "I know, you've got your daddy and the world's all right again." He turned and gave Spike a hug. "Walk me home?"
"Don't you have a driver?" Spike asked in disgust.
"Yeah, but you're much more fun," Xander said, grinning at him. "Angel, Spike has been very good, he's only made rude comments to every fourth demon or so, and he's protected my virtue with the greatest of effort on his part. He deserves a treat."
Angel raised one eyebrow and looked at his childe. "Really?" he asked dryly.
"Really," Xander said, frowning at him. "Let him have a treat or I pout," he warned.
Angel held up a hand. "Don't do that," he said quickly. "Spike, what sort of treat would you like?"
"I'd like to take Seth far away from all the bloody poufs around here," he grumbled.
"Travel is often broadening," Blair said quickly. "You may take him, but not for more than a few months this time. He will call me every week so I know he is all right and I will pay for his share of the trip." He looked at Angel. "Would you agree that our children could go out together?"
"Sure," Angel said, waving a hand. "I'll give Spike traveling money if it means he goes away." Xander pouted at him. "Don't do that," he begged. "Fine, Spike can have enough money to really travel. For four months."
Spike jumped up and hugged Xander. "Thank you," he said, wiping a tear off. "I'm going to leave now. Have a check ready for me by dawn." He ran out the door, leaving them alone.
Xander grinned at the Master Vampires. "Wasn't that a good treat for you both," he said.
Blair chuckled. "Indeed, it was. Seth has become enamored of Spike and his ways. I think some more exposure to them might cure him of some of the less desirable traits he's picking up."
Angel laughed. "Hey, I'm getting rid of Spike!" he said happily.
Blair laughed. "I understand perfectly." He watched as Micah and Wesley walked away to go discuss things together, then nodded at Xander. "Would you like a ride to your hotel?"
"Nah, I think I've got it covered," Xander said, holding out a hand. "Friends again?" he asked.
"Friends," Blair agreed. "And even?"
"Very even, unless you try to pull something like this on me."
Blair shook his head quickly. "I'd never do that, Xander. Trust me, I don't want you on my bad side." He looked up as someone cleared their throat from the doorway. "Yes?" he asked.
"I'm here to challenge the immortal," he said quietly, staring at Xander.
"I'm not one," Xander said, holding up his hands. "I'm pre-immie." The immortal shook his head. "I am. You can ask any other immie around."
"He's mine," Richie said, pulling the immortal around to glare at him. "He's my student once he dies. He's not ready for that yet."
The immortal's eyes widened. "I've never felt a pre-immie that strong," he whispered.
"Yeah, we know. That's why Xander lives in peace." He let him go and frowned at the young man. "Oz told me to go pack your hotel room for you and then to bring you home."
"Okay," Xander said, checking his watch. "Actually, I have to be here for another half-hour, it's part of the ritual." He looked at Angel, who nodded and took Spike's place. Xander sat back down on his chair and waved at the one behind the desk. "At midnight, we can go," he said calmly.
Ten minutes before they could go, three demons walked in, demanding to see Xander. He frowned at them, checking his watch. They spoke English, which was a nice change, and they got to their knees in front of him. "We come for our Master, who has admired you from afar for many months now," the one in front said.
"No," Xander said, checking his nails. "I am being forced to listen to this, but I have no intention of breaking up my mating."
The demons all stood up and pulled out guns. "You will come with us and marry our master or everyone here will suffer."
Richie looked at Angel, who was putting his cat safely out of the way, then at Wesley, who was still in the other room. "What makes you think that bullets will stop any of us?" he asked snidely.
"Are you his mate?"
"No, but I speak for him."
Xander held up a hand and stood up, staring down at the four-foot tall demon. "I will not go with you and I will not marry you master. Your use of force is absolutely unacceptable and I refuse to go anywhere with the likes of you."
Micah walked in and then looked up at his brother. "They're from your Monsoon Demon," he said.
Xander laughed. "Oh, that's wonderful," he said dryly. "I'm still not going!" He kicked one of the demons back and backhanded another. "I go with *no* one other than my mates."
Richie picked up the phone and dialed the house, holding the phone out to Angel. "Oz said that it might happen this way," he said with a shrug.
Angel pushed Xander back into the chair and put the phone near his ear. He watched as Xander clutched the phone like it was his sanity, then turned to look at the smaller demons. "I'd leave," he said, going to game face. "I really would leave. I will not tolerate disrespect to this man."
The demons looked at each other then tried to gang up on Angel, but Blair pulled two off and held them still. "I believe they were just leaving," he said, taking his two outside to dump them. He came back with one demon, a pitiful looking demon, who fell at Xander's feet and clung to his legs. "He wanted to try his luck," Blair explained. "He still has two minutes."
Xander handed Angel the phone and looked down at the demon. "John?" he asked, seeing the familiar face from New York. "Man, they said you had disappeared," he exclaimed, pulling him up to hug. "What happened?"
"I need help and only you can give it," John said, his voice slurred from his split lip and broken teeth.
"I can help," Angel said, tossing the phone back to Richie. He bent down and looked at the mostly-mortal man, tipping his face up. "Who did this to you?"
"It was a vampire, a female. She said I was tainted so I was her new toy. She was babbling when she found me and she's still probably babbling now, something about me becoming her newest daddy."
"Druscilla?" Angel asked in confusion. John nodded. "Then I will help you. She's my childe and I will stop this." He helped the demon up, handing him off to Buffy. "Go clean him up and get particulars from him." He looked down at Xander, who was staring at his watch. "Go."
"I've got two minutes," he said glumly.
"Go," Micah said. "I release you from my stupidity." He handed Xander his necklace back as he stood up. "I will not bother you again, but this is still yours."
Xander took it and put it in his pocket. "I'll think about it," he said. He looked at Richie, who was standing right behind him. "I'm going back to my mate now. Angel, yell if you need me to help him. Micah, why don't you try to help him? He's done many good things for me."
Micah nodded. "One who helps a member of the family is helped by the whole of the family," he quoted. He followed Buffy down the stairs to help her with the prostitute.
Wesley patted Xander on the arm. "See, it wasn't so bad."
"Yes, it was," Xander told him, giving him a hug. "Thank you. I know I put you in a difficult position by coming here, but I knew you'd be safe."
Wesley nodded, watching the young man walk out while licking his lips.
Angel smacked him across the face. "Get over it, it's hormones," he said coolly.
Wesley nodded, going down to see if he couldn't help Micah with this too.
Angel sat back down on his couch, smiling at his kitten as it jumped into his lap. "Were you a good little Stake?" he asked, petting him, his smile getting bigger as his cat purred at him.
Xander walked through his house and into Oz's office, pulling Willow up to look at him. "Why does my house look like it's wrecked from the outside?" he asked in a deceptively calm voice.
"I put a spell on it to discourage people from coming up here," she said, giving him a bright smile. "It should hold for anyone you didn't invite."
"Gee, Willow," he said, releasing her, "it looked like a wreck to me and I am supposed to be here."
She frowned. "I think I put too much whammie on it. I'll fix it."
"You'll take it off," he told her, nodding.
She nodded. "I'll take it off. And I promise, I won't wreck the house doing it." She trotted out of the room, going to undo her magic, after a few more laps in the pool.
Xander shook his head and walked up the stairs, going to lie down in his own bed, beside his own mate, and preferably with his own animals. He smiled at the picture Oz made, surrounded by animals on all sides, and sighed, closing the door behind him so he could strip off and join his mate in the bed.
"How did it go?" Oz asked as Xander tried to slip in without disturbing the cats between them. Both cats glared at their other father but got loves so it was all okay with them if they moved to include him too.
"Okay, I guess," Xander said, snuggling into Oz's warm body. "I'm tired, very tired." The warm, strong arms wrapped around him and he instantly felt comforted. "I got Spike a reward for being so good. He and Seth are getting to travel for four months on their sire's wallets." Oz hummed, resting his cheek against Xander's forehead. "And I got to face down my brother, who admitted that he didn't want to do this. He's never going to do it again by the way."
"I saw, he sent a letter." Oz grumbled as his lover shifted. "Don't move, you're perfect. We'll talk in the morning."
"As long as the spell's gone by in the morning," Xander said quietly. "Otherwise, we'll both be yelling at Willow."
"It makes the house look like a wreck. She said she put too much whammie on it because I saw the illusion."
"I won't hurt her if she removes it," Oz told him. "Sleep, babe, I'm right here."
"Coolness. That's what I needed," Xander whispered, clinging. "Oz, we might have a small problem," he noted after a few moments of quiet.
"What one? The furry one or the anger one?"
"It's probably related and we'll figure it out tomorrow." He gave Xander a squeeze. "Shh and sleep with me, babe. We need to sleep together."
Xander giggled wearily. "Yeah, I need to sleep with you." Xander wiggled his way closer to Oz's body, plastering them together so he could sleep in the comforting and loving arms of his true mate.
Oz grunted and backed up some so he could get to sleep at all. Xander didn't sleep-cuddle that well and he always ended up kicked in the balls if they slept that close. He rolled them onto his back, making sure Xander's knees were nowhere near his groin before falling asleep.
Xander grinned and shifted so he was more comfortable once Oz started to snore, clinging like he wanted to.