Coming Home to Problems.

"Ya know," Ray said as he walked with Xander into the kitchen of the manor house, "ya'd think in six months we'd be able to find a house we *both* like, but *no*, not my Methos. Everything's so suburban and he hate's bein' 'part of the neighborhood'."

Xander snorted. "Trust me, there's not many neighborhood meetings around here." Xander picked up an orange and started to peel it. "Have you thought about the empty lots just down the hill from us? There's a lot of them and you could decide together what you wanted to go on it."

"Houses take *forever* to build," Ray sighed. "If it was that easy, I woulda suggested it long ago and gotten shot down." His face scrunched up while he thought. "Never mind, I did and I was shot down." He shrugged at the apologetic look. "We'll find somethin' and be outta your hair sometime this year," he said with a grin.

"Hey, we like you," Xander said, patting him on the side of the face. "You living here has been great for my writing." He winked at the shocked look. "Want to take a test read of a few chapters?"

"I'm an awful slow reader," Ray warned as he followed Xander back to his work room. He sat down on the soft, flame colored couch, the weave of the material holding every color that'd ever been in a flame. He took the laptop computer and blinked at the screen, pulling out his glasses to read the beginning two chapters. "How far along are you?"

"That's a surprise for supper," Xander giggled, waving at him. "I'm gonna go be naked in the sun, happy reading. Tell me if you find anything *glaringly* wrong." He jogged out, going out to swim in his pool.

Ray's mouth started to drool after a few pages and he wiped it off, continuing to read because he was sucked into the manual. By the time he managed to pull himself away, the dinner bell had just been rung. He wandered out to the dining room, hungry and eye sore, but wanting to give Xander the best blow job of his life for making him this hard. He grabbed Methos from his chair and continued walking, dragging him into the laundry room for a quickie. He had to do something about this, before the head on his shoulders exploded.

Methos looked at his lover as the door closed. "Read part of Xander's book?" he asked lightly.

"The whole thing," Ray croaked, his throat dry. "Sex, now!" he demanded, starting to take off his pants.

Methos chuckled and complied happily, allowing his Ray to take him this time, and loving every second of it.

Out in the dining room, Xander just smirked at his lovers. "As soon as they're done, I've got an announcement to make," he told them, passing along the thinly sliced pork steaks.

Oz swallowed. "Does this have something to do with why Ray looked like he was going to jump Meth at the table?"

Xander's impish grin got wider. "Maybe," he said slyly, dishing himself up some vegetables. He clapped when he heard Methos scream, giving Ray a standing ovation when he walked out with his lover. "Join us for a few minutes?"

Ray sat down and helped Methos into his chair, grinning at Xander. "I read it all, man, it was great!"

"Cool." Xander stood up and looked down at his family. "I've finished the sex manual."

Oz and Giles both hopped up and ran for Xander's room, going to find a way to print the thing out right then. Anything that could do that to Ray was something they wanted to read. Besides, even if it wasn't that satisfying, it gave Xander a major ego boost, which he could use. Oz hooked up the printer and checked the cartridges, then stuffed paper into it, nodding at Giles to hit the print command.

"What did I do?" Giles asked when the screen went blank.

Oz came over and hit a few commands, and the document came back. "I think this is it."

"I saved it," Xander said from the doorway, giving Giles a smile. "Even before I let Ray read it. The only thing that might not be saved was the dedication page, which is still probably at the back."

Oz flipped through it and nodded. "It's all here," he said, starting to print out the short book. "Not very long," he noted.

"Ten chapters, very condensed," Xander countered.

"And Ray started reading this when?" Oz asked.

"Um," Xander checked his watch. "I got my orange at about one. It's about six-thirty." He preened under Giles' fond smile. "I think you'll like it too." He walked back out to the table, sitting down to eat. He smirked at Ray. "No big errors?"

"No," he said, chewing and swallowing as fast as he could. "Not that I could see. But how do you get into some of those threesome positions? A reversed windmill?"

"That's why it's easier with three," Xander said knowingly. "Oz and I managed to get into that one by ourselves, but it was easier with Giles there. Lying between Oz's thighs with my face in the sheets while he was staring at the ceiling was hard without Giles there to help guide things into the proper positions." He handed over the plate of bread. "Here, you probably need some carbs."

Ray took a few slices with a smile, then groaned as his pager went off. "Damn work," he shouted, getting up to call in. He came back with a frown. "I get to go on a stakeout tonight," he complained. "The other guy's wife went into labor." He walked into the kitchen and got the largest tuperware container he could find, coming back to make himself a care package. "Oz, any chance I could get a copy to read again at work?" he called as he filled it.

"No!" Oz shouted. "Not yet. Wait until you get an official copy. Then spread it around." He walked out, reading his copy as he walked. He ran into his chair before he realized he was there, then sat down and ate while he read. "Needs a few grammar corrections," he noted.

"I know," Xander said patiently, winking at Ray. "Which chapter are you on?"

"The first. Which one has us?"

"The third. It seemed fitting."

"Ah." Oz looked up long enough to shoot his lover a grin. "I like so far."

"Cool." Xander pointed at the full plate. "Maybe you should eat, Oz. Ray, you be careful tonight and wear your vest for me?"

"Sure," he said, walking around to give Xander a hug. "I'm all for wearing a vest and bringin' a pillow right about now." He walked back to their room to get his gear together for his shift, taking his food with him so he could pack it in his bag.

Giles walked out, nose buried in the manuscript, his eyebrows going up and down and he read. "My, I'm very glad I'm getting a chance to read this now," he said as he sat down, absently picking up his water glass to take a drink. "Xander this is quite graphic." He looked over and saw the smirk. "But it is very informative."

Oz got to the next chapter and he gave Xander a helpless look. "A het section?"

"I wanted it to be inclusive of everybody. It's got tips in there that work for gay relationships too. Actually, almost everything is for everybody. You can take some of the positions for threesomes and modify it to make it two women and a man, or whatever."

"Cool. Broader appeal." Oz went back to reading, tearing through the manuscript as fast as he could.

Xander went back to enjoying his dinner, content that his men were at least trying to like what he had written.


Oz shoved Xander hard enough to wake him up, after having carefully put his copy of the book aside. By the time Xander's eyes were mostly open, Oz had his husband's cock down his throat in reward for writing something that arousing, and in punishment for writing something that arousing. "Naughty," he said, pulling out to look up at his husband. "Trying to make everyone horny enough to jump you." He licked over the swollen tip a few times then crawled up to steal his husband's breath. "I'm going to have to play bodyguard when you go out to sign copies." He took another kiss, rubbing his jean-clad lower half against Xander's naked one. "I'm gonna have to hire a team of bodyguards for you to keep the panting gay men and straight women from taking you from me."

Xander flipped them over, straddling Oz's still thrusting body. "So I take it you liked it?" he asked dryly. Oz growled and pounced on him, driving Xander backwards into the mattress. "Clothes," he gasped as Oz laved over the sensitive spots on his neck. "Clothes bad," he tried again.

"Clothes will be taken care of in a minute," Oz growled, letting Xander go once he had sucked a big, bright mark onto his neck. He stood up and stripped, then lay down on top of his mate again, kissing and licking his way down the firm body. "I'm never letting you out of this house again," Oz warned. "We can't afford the bodyguards." He made it back to the hard cock and swallowed it, sucking hard on his lover, wanting him to be as aroused as he was. He let it go with a wet 'pop' and searched around blindly for some of the lube Xander had bought.

"Drawer," Xander gasped, lifting his hips up. A bottle was tossed at them by Giles, who was trying to sleep. "Thanks." He was forcefully flipped over and some of the lube was abruptly stuck into him, and then Oz was slowly lowering himself into his body. "Oz," he groaned.

"You wrote a book that turned me on," Oz hissed in his ear. "And it's gonna get us hunted by gay men everywhere." He bit the earlobe as he drew back to push in, harder this time. "You wrote something that did this to me, Xander. How naughty you are." He let go of the earlobe with a little tug on it, then started to ride his husband hard and fast, working out all the arousal he had gotten from that book, the one he couldn't put down. By the time he was ready to cum, Xander was panting and wiggling beneath him, begging for him to get off. Oz leaned down and latched onto his husband's mouth, howling into it, then throwing his head back to continue the howl as he came, hard. He collapsed on top of Xander, panting. "I have never come that hard," he complained.

Xander patted him on the back. "It's okay," he said, smirking, even though he *knew* he was going to be sore. "I won't make you read the one for demons."

Oz looked up at him, glaring at him. "Bet me." He pushed himself up a little and looked down at the cock trapped between their bodies. "Can you finish that? I'm way too exhausted," he begged, hoping Xander wouldn't be pissed.

Xander grinned. "Cool! You've never been too tired to get me off before," he said in wonderment. "This is so cool." He reached down between them and gave himself a few strokes, coming between them. Then he pulled Oz back down. "You sleep, babe."

"We're facing the wrong way in the bed," Oz noted, his eyes starting to close. A pillow hit them and Xander tucked it under his head. "Thanks," Oz whispered, almost asleep, comfortable where he was.

Xander fell asleep with a grin on his face.

Downstairs, Methos looked up from reading off the laptop, one eyebrow raised. "Where does that boy come up with this?" he muttered, going back to his reading. Now he knew why his Ray had jumped him like that before dinner.


Xander tenderly sat in his chair at the table, making the housekeeper smile at him. "My Oz liked my book," he said with a goofy grin.

"So I can tell," she said, putting down some coffee and juice in front of him. "I've made pancakes, would you like some?"

"Please?" he asked in his best 'little boy' voice. "Thank you," he said as she set it down. "Giles is correcting my mistakes for me."

"I'm sure. Are you going to try and publish it?"

"Maybe," Xander said with a slight grin and a glance up the stairs. "Oz swore last night that I was going to need an army of bodyguards to keep me safe though," he whispered.

Henrietta snickered as she went back into the kitchen. "I'm sure he'll be able to hold them off all by himself. He's very protective of you."

"Yup," Xander said happily, cutting into his pancake. "Henrietta, is there any of the green sauce left?" She carried the little jar over. "Thanks." He drizzled a little bit all over the pancake then picked a bite up to eat it. "This is good," he moaned, wiping the syrup off his mouth.

"I was thinking," Oz said as he walked down to join him, "maybe you could bundle a pair of those peachskin thongs in with the book once it's published." He pushed the rhubarb sauce away from him. "Henrietta, have I told you what a wonderful woman you are?" he asked as she put a big stack of pancakes down in front of him.

"No, but I know you love me," she said, waving at them as she headed for the animals. "I'm going to play with the kittens, call if you need anything."

"Okay," Xander said between bites. "We could, but then we'd have to deal with the size issue. Unless I could find a way to make them tie on the sides," he considered.

"You'd still have to deal with a few different sizes," Oz pointed out. "It was just a thought, since you mentioned them and all in the book." He coughed. "When did we do that windmill thingy?"

"The night that you and I both got it at the same time," Xander told him. Oz's face lit up. "That's a reverse windmill. Me on my tummy between your legs and you lying facing up."

"Oh." Oz licked his lips. "Yeah, that definitely belonged in there." He swallowed hard. "Um, when are you thinking about shopping for a publisher?"

"As soon as Giles gives me corrections for it. I figure that's why he's reading so slowly."

"He likes to *savor* the words," Oz reminded him, purring the one word. "Next time, I'm doing the same." He picked up his juice and drained the glass. "Xander," he asked, making his mate smile and nod, "where did you get those ideas?" he squeaked.

"Like you keep saying, Oz, I have a very *naughty* mind." He finished off his pancake and stood up. "I'm going to go make sure Meth turned off my computer." He walked away, heading into his personal writing space. Oz needed to finish breakfast and he wouldn't be able to if Xander had stayed; Oz definitely wouldn't have been able to eat if he had stayed.


Xander accepted Giles' copy of the book back, looking at all the notations he had made. "That bad?" he asked, starting to pout.

"No, more parts of speech than anything," he said, patting Xander on the shoulder. "I'm sure it's easily fixed. You did get better as you went along." He sat down, looking at his husband. "Are you sure you want to put this out, Xander?" he asked quietly.

"If you want, I can wait until after you've told your father," Xander offered.

"That wasn't what I was thinking of, but yes, I probably should tell him before he sees it on the shelves." His grimaced cleared up after a second. "No, I was thinking that some of the items in there are rather...graphic. I'm not sure you can print some of those things."

"Yup, I can do that," Xander said, giving him a sly smile. "There's whole shelves in the bookstore with books like this. Some even have illustrations."

"Which this one doesn't at least," Giles sighed. "All right, I will stand behind you on this." He stood up. "If you need my help making more corrections, just let me know. I'm sure you'll be wanting a second draft of the story."

"Nope, I'm going to make corrections to this one and then shop it around. Why would I want a second draft? I thought it was pretty tight already."

"Oh, yes, it was," Giles said quickly, wanting to stave off any doubts Xander was starting to feel. "Most writers write a second draft after they've looked over the first."

"Nope, I combined all that into this one. I went back and reread all the new stuff each day and changed it then, and I've reread it twice since I finished. After I do another reread and make these corrections, then I'm going to try and get it published." He sucked on his bottom lip lightly. "That's okay, right?"

"That's fine," Giles agreed, giving him a smile. "You've managed to put the whole rewriting process into the first draft, and if you're happy with it, then I'd say go for it." He bent down and kissed Xander on the forehead. "Are you really writing one for demons?"

"Yup, for the human lovers of them, or for cross-species interactions. I know who I'm going to go through for that one. I'm not sure yet if they do human publishing though."

"You could always send an inquiry their way," Giles suggested as he left the room. He leaned against the hallway, eyes squeezed closed. "Please don't let my father see the second one," he whispered, then he gathered himself together and went back to the library to help Oz catalog all the books he had had in storage.


Xander tightened down the last fastener on his first official copy of his first book and looked up as Oz walked into his room to give him a kiss. "I checked," Xander told him, pulling him down to cuddle in the oversized chair. "I can bring in the manuscript and hand it over personally. They've got a department there which handles all sorts of materials."

"This would be the demon one?" Oz asked.

Xander nodded. "That way they could do the second one too and I wouldn't have trouble with it when it went out." He looked at his computer. "Actually, I'm almost finished with that one, so I was wondering if I should bring the first few chapters of that one too."

"You might want to if it makes you feel better," Oz suggested, cuddling into him. "What else were you going to do in LA?"

"Um, stop in and check on Willow and Wesley."

"Who make an adorable couple," Oz noted.

"Then I was going to get lunch somewhere and come straight home?"

"Sounds good to me. Want me to come along? I need to send out the program again, they didn't like the puce I chose for the background." He rolled his eyes. "I had a nice one the first time but they thought it was too boring."

"I hate to tell these idiots, but a solid color background on a program is very nice as long as it's not bright." He squeezed his husband a little. "Puce just wasn't nice, Oz. That would have been horrible to read on."

"I changed it to a nice, medium blue this time, one that still doesn't have graphics, and I'm including a note that says it's going out with this one or the original one, or it doesn't go out, citing those very same reasons." He nipped at Xander's neck. "Can I read the demon one?" he whispered.

"It's almost done. Give me another few weeks and I'll give it to you to proof read," Xander promised.

"Cool. How did you get two done at once?" Oz asked, pulling back to look at his husband.

"Easy, I didn't let anyone see the finished first one for a good month and a half," Xander snorted. He smiled when his husband's fingers ran through his hair. "I wanted it to be good enough to be read so I was scared of showing it to you. And I started on the second one in my head back when I was in New York. It was a list of how to please my clientele the best."

"Ah." Oz nodded wisely. "Still cool. You know," he said, stealing a kiss, "I would have wanted to read it, even if it was crap." He stood up. "Never be afraid to show something to me, Xander. I'll always give you my honest opinion of it." He held out a hand. "Come on, let's take this to LA and maybe start you on the road to being a published author." Xander allowed himself to be pulled up and packed his briefcase with both books, and followed Oz out to the car.


Xander sat down for his second interview with the editor, giving him a hopeful smile. His name had gotten him the first interview with the editor, and they'd had the first book and the first three chapters of the second for over a week now. "You liked it?"

"We actually liked it a lot, Mr. Harris, but it's not really our sort of book." He held up a hand at the disappointed look. "But I have passed it on to someone at another publishing house who I know does this sort of book. Also, I read the first few chapters of the second one," he stopped to smile, "which had things I never knew in it. We would like to see you finish that one."

"But won't there be a problem?" Xander asked. "If I give you the second one and...." he stopped at the laughter. "No?"

"No, most first time authors aren't given multi-book deals. No matter how good it is. Also, we do have an agreement with this other publishing house for it's submitted demon texts. We found it makes it easier in the long run." He patted the papers before him, a small pile. "When you finish this one, I would like to see it. All right?" he asked, standing up to shake Xander's hand.

Xander shook it, grinning. "When will I know if they accept it?"

"I gave them the information sheet you gave us. It usually takes a week for anything to make it to a submission editor to be looked at. So maybe two weeks at the most." He smiled again. "Good luck, Mr. Harris, and like I said, please finish this second one and bring it back to us."

Xander grinned and almost danced out of the office, going down to the car. "They want the second one," he said happily, giving Oz a hug.

"What about the first?"

"They've got an agreement with another place and they sent it over there. I should know in about two weeks whether or not it's getting a second reading." Xander wiggled in his seat. "Home to celebrate?"

"How about a really good dinner out to celebrate and then we go home and finish the celebration," Oz suggested, laying a hand on his husband's thigh as he started the car.

"Okay," Xander said, making it easy. "Here or at home?"

"Here. But I have to stop in with Wesley and give him something for Marilyn. Deal?"

"Deal, but I'd rather eat nearer to home. The long drive back might just be too much."

"Okay," Oz agreed, smiling as he pulled out into the street. "We'll eat back in Sunnydale."

Xander's cellphone rang and he answered it. "Hello?" he asked, listening to the gravely voice on the other end. "Yeah, Wes, we're on our way there right now. Give us...."

"Twenty in this traffic to the office," Oz supplied.

"Are you at the office?" He shook his head. "Where? UCLA Medical Center?"

"Fifteen if I break a few speeding laws," Oz said, turning the sports car around and heading that way, ignoring the honks behind him.

"Fifteen minutes, Wes, okay?" He hung up and put the phone away. "Someone attacked Marilyn at her apartment."

"Crap," Oz sighed, hitting the wheel with the hand he took off Xander's thigh. "Okay, call Meth and tell him we might not be back tonight."

Xander dialed home and sighed when he got the machine. "Meth, it's us. Wes needs us, something happened to Marilyn." He pulled the phone away as he heard a click. "That was odd. The machine hung up on us."

"Try his cell. Or Ray's."

"I'll try his, Ray might be in the middle of something." Xander dialed Methos' cellphone, grunting when he got an answer. "Are you at home? No, because I just tried to leave you a message on our machine and it hung up on me. Yeah, it's important. Marilyn got jumped at her apartment and Wes needs us. No, we're not sure yet. But can you please go check back at the house? Really?" He grinned at Oz. "They found a house, they're having a picnic on the rug."

"Congrats," Oz said loudly. "Go check on the house for us, Meth."

"Please?" He grinned and hung up. "He'll be up there in an hour." Xander put his phone away and rested his head on Oz's shoulder. "She's okay from what he said. Badly beaten but not dead."

"Which is always of the good," Oz agreed. "Xander, got a funny feeling, but call your brother's office."

Xander pulled back out his cellphone and turned it on, answering it as it rang. "Yeah?" He sighed. "Micah, I was about to call you. Oz had a funny feeling... Oh, really? Gee, that's not nice of them. No, I'll get them later myself." He hung up and dialed Methos' phone as fast as he could. "Don't leave," he called as soon as it was answered. "Or if you do, take a few of Ray's coworkers with you. No, a demon got really pissed that we've worked with a Slayer. He declared vengeance on us for it. Because Faith got his brother or something." He listened for a few seconds. "No, I don't think that they would, but please, be careful?" He hung up. "Micah said that..."

"Heard that part," Oz admitted. "Do you know this demon?"

"No, but I know that Micah's pissed enough to start a family war over it. Two of the family's guardians are going after this particular demon. Oh, and Faith's out of jail," he said dryly. "This happened last night."

"Goody," Oz said dryly. "Did she go after Marilyn?"

"Maybe, Micah wasn't sure about that part. Which he admitted. How much longer?"

"Ten." Oz pulled up the hill to head up to UCLA, swearing as he saw the blue lights come on behind him. He pulled over and got out, going back to talk to the officer. "Listen, one of our friends just called, a girl that we've been helping on and off is in the hospital. We're headed up there right now to check on them. If you're going to write us a ticket, do it fast."

The officer looked him over. "You're mouthy," he said with a glare.

"No, I'm in a hurry. You'd be in one too if someone beat up one of your friends, especially if she's a minor."

"Oh, a *friend*?"

Xander got out and looked back at the officer. "Officer, is my *husband* giving you problems? I'll gladly take over driving if necessary."

The officer glared at him. "Back in the car, now."

"Bite me," Xander said, pointing a finger at him. "You have no right to tell me where to stand. Not even during a traffic stop. And if you don't just give us the damn ticket, we're going to leave. Oz?"


"Who do you think you are!" the cop yelled, grabbing Oz and pushing him down against the trunk. "I think I smell drugs."

"Then you'd better arrest us," Xander said calmly. "'Cause if you try to search us here, then I'm going to have it noted in the court records while we sue you that you're harassing us because we're gay."

The officer glared at him. "That won't work in this town."

Xander shrugged. "It's my right to try. And I will if you try crap like that. Oz?"

"Coming," Oz said, getting free. "I'll gladly take the ticket, man, you didn't have to make it personal." He noted the guy's badge number for future reference and leaned against his door. "Your choice, man. We've got to be somewhere to support a friend."

"I'll call him," Xander said, pulling his cellphone out slowly, he really didn't want to be shot today. He dialed the number he had for Wesley, then shrugged when he got an 'out of service' message. "Do you know the number for UCLA's Intensive Care Unit?" he asked the officer.

The officer pulled out his ticket book and wrote one out, snatching the license Oz held out to finish it. "Oh, out of towners," he sighed. "No wonder." He handed the book over, and Oz signed it, then tore them off their copy and gave it to Oz with his license. "Go away," he growled, getting back into his car and storming off.

Xander slid back into his seat and took the ticket, writing the number from the car on it. He handed it to Oz as he slid in and watched as Oz wrote the badge number on it, and then they were on their way again.


Wesley looked up as Oz and Xander walked up to him, standing up to get their hugs. "What took you so long?"

"Fight with a cop," Oz said, sitting down so he could force Wesley to sit beside him. "What happened?"

"This demon," he said quietly, glancing at the nurses at the desk. "He came to her building and trashed her apartment. She walked in on it."

Xander sat down on his other side. "Did he mention anything about Faith?" Wesley looked stunned but nodded. "See, someone's declared war on me personally because we worked with girls like Marilyn. We have someone up checking the house for us."

"What would Faith have to do with this?" Wesley asked.

"Micah said she got out last night and killed this guy's brother. That's why he's coming after me and went after Marilyn." Xander patted Wesley on the arm. "How is she?"

"Better than expected. Her speed healing is serving her well this time. I tried to call your house but I got hung up on by your machine."

"Yup, me too," Xander told him. He stood up and glanced around, then walked over to where the nurses were standing. "Hi, we're here to be with a young woman named Marilyn. Is there any way we can go in and see her soon?"

"Are you family?"

"No, we had custody of her for a few weeks though," Xander told her, giving him a winning smile. "See, she's technically in limbo about custody right now. She stayed with us for a few weeks."

"We've already called Children's Services," the nurse said, checking the chart. "They thought she was a runaway when she came in last night."

"It was for a good cause, and she ran out to come live with me," Wesley said, coming over. "She's my niece. I'm having some forms faxed over from our attorney in England as we speak." He looked at Xander. "He watched her for me until I could get myself settled and able to handle having someone her age in my life."

"Ah." The nurse held up a finger and went to talk to an older woman, who shrugged. She came back and smiled. "I don't see the harm in it. Do you know where her mother lives?"

"Somewhere on the other coast I believe," Wesley said bluntly. "Marilyn has said that they had a fight about her mother's boyfriends. May I go in?"

"One at a time for ten minutes max," she said, pointing at the door. "The Social Worker won't be here for another hour or so." She watched as Wesley hurried in there, looking at Oz. "You two are together?" Oz nodded. "Ah. A stable relationship?"

"Yeah, a very stable one," Xander said, taking Oz's hand. "We're going to be together for a *very* long time." They walked back to the chairs to wait on Wesley.


Xander walked into the main police station in LA and gave the woman behind the desk a weary smile. "Who do I make a complaint to about an officer's conduct?" he asked. She pointed at a form so he took one and filled it out, attaching a copy of the ticket to it. "His information's on there," he told her as he handed it back in. "Thank you." He walked out, going back to his car. He got in to drive, Oz was asleep in the passenger's seat.

"Where did you go?" Oz whispered, reaching out to touch Xander's hand.

"I went in to fill out a complaint form."

"They'll have to look at our background," Oz warned.

"And they'll see what, Oz?" Xander asked tiredly. "That we live together, we pay taxes, and we have some money saved up. Nothing else is in the official records."

"Point, but if this goes south, we might have to ditch Sunnydale," Oz warned, sitting up a little bit.

"As long as we can take the animals, we can sneak everything else out after a few weeks," Xander said reasonably. He pulled out into a lull in the early morning traffic, heading for home.

Xander gave the cop car sitting in front of the house a dirty look but walked inside past the cop sitting on it. "Ray?" he called, bringing their friend running. "What happened?"

"The alarm started going off an hour ago," Ray told him, leading him into the living room. "I checked the animals first," he said when Xander opened his mouth. He held up a little metallic device. "Know what this is?"

"A reason to kill someone in the FBI?" Oz suggested as he walked in.

"That's what my boss said too," Ray said, giving him a hug. "How's Marilyn?"

"Okay enough," Oz temporized. "She might be screwed with Social Services though. She's a runaway," he said at Ray's blank look.

"Oh. Man, that sucks." Ray scratched his scalp. "That being fixed?"

"Yeah, it is," Xander told him, reaching up to pat him on the stomach. "Give us the rest of the bad news."

"Henrietta isn't able to be contacted," Ray said quietly. "Do you know her home number?"

"We have it on file, but I think it's a neighbor's and they speak Spanish. That's the one she gave us on her resume anyway," Oz said thoughtfully. "I can go find that."

"All right, but one more thing," Ray said, stopping him from getting up. "We found this sucker on your machine, Oz. Xander, we found one on yours too, but yours wasn't connected to the internet."

"It hardly ever is," Oz sighed, looking at his mate. "Have you been online since you started writing?"

"Once, when I sent an inquiry email to the publisher's." Xander's face scrunched up. "Is there any way to check and see if we've been hacked? Oz has a secure connection but I just plug into any phone line."

"We actually have a shield on the whole house," Oz told him. "I just have an extra firewall between myself and the 'net because of the programming stuff." He got up and walked into the office, nodding at the officer sitting at his desk. "Did you know some of the guys in LA are assholes?" he said conversationally as he pulled out the filing drawer in his desk. He pulled out her resume and handed it to the cop. "That's her neighbor's phone, he speaks Spanish."

"Thanks," the cop said. "Have a bad run in with a cop in LA?"

"A friend of ours was attacked yesterday at her apartment and taken to UCLA. We were heading up there, breaking the speed limit, and I got caught. I got out to explain it to the cop and to try and get him to write the ticket quickly, and he tried to pull crap. Xander filed a complaint this morning."

"Ah. Good luck. They don't usually listen to those these days." He whistled, bringing another cop. "This is the neighbor's phone number and they speak Spanish. Go get Ramira." She nodded and took the paper, running out again. "You were in LA all night?"

"Yeah." Oz pointed at the computer. "Did anyone check it for hacking?"

"No. We opened it and found a bunch of programs." He sat up. "Are you a hacker, Mr. Osbourne?"

"Former. Myself and Ms. Rosenburg are both former hackers. I'm writing real programs now." He picked up the phone and hit their second line button, dialing Angel's office. "Wills, me, when can you get up here? Because some cops found bugs on mine and Xander's computers. Please. Yeah, thanks." He hung up. "Expect a redhead to be running up here around dark." He shrugged at the smirk. "She's better at this than I am." He walked out, going to check on the animals. "Hi, guys," he said, leaning in the doorway, watching a few of the cops pet their animals. "What's up?"

"They were crying pitifully," one of the officers said. "The boss said to shut them up but Ray went to meet you at the door so we got to take over." He held up one of the puppies. "Are you guys keeping this one?"

"You'd have to ask Xander. He decides where all the animals go." He walked out to find Xander and Ray talking in the kitchen, and interrupted them to get a hug. "One of the local guys wants to know if they can have one of the puppies."

Xander frowned at him. "Why?"

"Because he's been wantin' a dog," Ray told him, patting him on the shoulder. "Your brother have any idea where this idiot is?"

"Nope, but he said he was ready to start a war over it. No one does that and gets away with it."

"What about your sister?" Ray asked.

"She's still with Joe actually," Oz told him, giving him a hug too. "Thanks for coming over."

"Hey, it was nothin'," Ray said, looking embarrassed. "Meth's outside though, you might want to get him to show you pictures of the town house."

"Cool." Oz stole a bite of the english muffin Xander was fixing to nibble on as he walked out. "Hey," he said, closing the door behind him. "You okay?" he asked when Methos didn't look at him.

"What is all this about, Oz?" Methos asked, looking at him.

"The last owners were mafia and the Feds believe we're them," Oz said, sitting down beside him. "Any other attack may be someone trying to get Xander for working with Buffy. Faith killed this guy's brother last night and he attacked Marilyn and declared war on Xander. Xander's brother has declared war back though."

"This is like a bad soap opera."

Oz snorted, but he was smiling. "Hey, it could have been worse. Xander filed a complaint on an LA officer this morning for his conduct with us yesterday."

"Ah. Yes, that might have been worse." Methos went back to enjoying the sun. "We did find a house."

"Ray told Xander that yesterday. Congrats. Do you like it?"

"It's inside a gated community of townhouses. It has a gym and a recreation area for Ray, and it's quiet enough for me." He smiled. "Nothing at all like the cozy place we had in Chicago."

"At least you finally found one," Oz said, patting him on the shoulder. He swung around to enjoy the sunlight too. "You really don't like it here, do you?" he asked after a few minutes.

"I feel more secure in a bigger city, it's easier to hide if someone comes after me," Methos said quietly.

"Ya know," Ray said as he walked out, making sure the door was closed behind him, "anyone who didn't *know* would assume that you're some sort of odd organized crime family. All the 'coming after me' and the 'hiding' and the 'secrecy' stuff." He sat on the end of Methos' lounger and smiled at Oz. "So, did he show you the pictures?"

"Nope. But I think I know where it is. The big brownstones down by the ocean?" Ray nodded excitedly. "Been in one of those, one of my friends used to have one." He smiled at Ray. "Congrats, man, you deserve it. That and a lot more."

"Yeah," Ray said, a sappy grin on his face. "So, what did the publisher say? Xander wouldn't tell me."

"Well, the first one went to another house by agreement between this one and that one, but the publisher he first submitted to definitely wants to look at the second one."

"Cool," Ray said, drawing it out. "And the first?"

"He should know something in two weeks or so."

"Ah. No wonder. He didn't want to jinx it or anything." Ray patted Methos' leg. "The boss said I can go if you want."

"No, I think I'll enjoy the sun." He smiled at his lover. "Go nap, Ray, you deserve it after the night you've had." He waited until Ray had left to look at Oz. "There were three instances of the alarms going off last night, each one Ray answered personally."

"We won't call on him exclusively," Oz promised. "I'll break Xander of that habit." Methos smiled at that. "Not the idea?"

"No, actually Ray would kill me if I insisted on something like that. Three times, Oz. And once, Xander's computer was plugged in."

"Huh. He never leaves it plugged in. Into the wall or into the phone?"

"The wall. Though I did find something sticky on it. I'm not sure what was going on."

"That's why I've got Wills coming up tonight." Methos gave him a smile. "Hey, trap a hacker using a hacker. I'm not good enough for the job, but she definitely is."

"Good." Methos stood up and ruffled Oz's hair. "Maybe you and Xander should take a nap also. You look tired."

"Wesley and the Social Worker got into it, even though the Council sent him custody papers. They want to put her in foster care until this is settled."

"He's fighting it?"

"Very hard. But she also yelled at him because we had been watching Marilyn for him. It seems we aren't good enough to do that because we're together."

"Ah. Yes, well, if you married someone in the legal sense, just for show mind you, then it might make things much easier in these situations."

"No way in hell," Oz told him. He suddenly smiled. "If this gets too bad, I'm going to do something a little more drastic. I'm going to ask for help." He stood up and walked his friend back inside, going to find Xander, who was asleep on the couch, him on one end and Ray on the other, their feet meeting in the middle. "Aaww," he sighed, looking up at Methos.

Methos rolled his eyes. "Do you have one of those throws around?"

"The chest that's the coffee table," Oz told him, pointing. He had just seen a car drive up and he wanted to know who this one was since it didn't look like a cop. He looked the man in the tacky blue suit over, shaking his head and barring the way in. "No. Badge."

The man flipped out his badge to show it to him. "I'm Agent Mullins. I was called by your local Captain."

"I called him," floated out of the house.

Oz put a hand on his chest and held him in place for a second. "If I find out that the hacker who put the bugs on our computers was one of yours, I will make you sorry you ever messed with me," Oz warned him quietly. "It does take a hacker to catch one." He let him go, getting out of his way. He noticed that the agent looked back at him but he kept going.


Oz held the door open for Willow, pointing at the office. "Xander's and mine are both in there now," he told her, following her in. "Our friend said he found sticky stuff on Xander's laptop. The bug was after my second firewall. We have a firewall on the house."

"Good," she said with a smile, opening her own laptop. "Who do you think it was?"

"FBI idiots," Xander said from the doorway, waving. "How's Marilyn?"

"Better. She was released into Wesley's custody. Seems her Social Worker fell and broke her leg bad enough to need surgery so they couldn't consult with her." She smiled and shrugged. "Go figure." She connected her computer to Oz's, watching as it booted up. Once she got the message she was waiting for, she typed in a command and then turned on his machine. Almost instantly, she swore and started to type something, opening files quickly. After a few minutes she sat back and wiped off her forehead. "Well, they did hack you and virus you," she said, looking at Oz and Xander, and the man in the uniform behind them. Oz nodded for her to go on, so she glanced at him and he nodded again. "They got something worse back though, it's a whiplash. I retuned their virus and sent it back at them. It will only activate if they try to hack you again." She unconnected Oz's computer and started the same process on Xander's, blushing when she saw what had been downloaded. "I didn't know you could do that with that sort of creature," she said, glaring at him.

"They got the second book," Xander sighed, throwing up his hands as he sat down on the couch.

"Not that they can do anything with it," Oz reminded him.

"Except to print it," Xander pointed out. "Or to somehow put it out there what I was writing."

"Good point," Willow told him. "But I can fix that too." She gave him an evil grin and started to type again, this time crowing when she was finished. "Unless they have a copy already printed out, this is useless to them now. It's encoded in one of the demonic languages."

"Ah," Oz sighed. "And if they published it already?"

"Then you may be screwed but Xander is writing a book," she said with an innocent expression. "Bibles are popular things for *fiction* writers to work from, especially when they have a more complicated structure for the novel."

Oz grinned. "Thanks." He sat down beside Xander, giving him a hug. "See, it'll work out."

"No, I'm tired of this," Xander sighed. "And I know this is somehow related to Wolfram and Hart's downfall. I want this stopped, Oz, before I'm forced to do something so very not me."

"Xander, let us handle it," Oz warned. "We don't need the attention you can bring down on us," he said quietly.

Willow stood up as a man in a tacky blue suit walked in, handcuffs already out. "Since when has hacking been an acceptable form of investigation in this country?" she asked him, stepping around to meet him. She picked him up by the throat and held him up. "I only sent back to him what he put into their systems. You need to learn how to manage your people better." She tossed him back a few feet and glared at him, her arms cross on her chest. "Now then, you actually can't arrest me."

Agent Mullens snorted. "And why not, missy?"

"Because there's no place in your rules to arrest dead people." She saw his appraising glance over her body and her glare got hotter. "And I can prove I'm not living if you'd like."

He nodded, standing up. "Please do."

"Are there any paramedics or someone here who has a stethoscope?" she asked the cop standing behind him. He nodded, his eyes wide. "Would you please bring them in here?" He nodded and ran away. She looked at Oz. "Sorry, guys, but it has to be done." She smiled at the paramedic walking in. "This idiot thinks I'm living and I need you to give him some proof. Can you do that?" He looked confused but nodded so she uncrossed her arms and stepped toward him. "Check my vitals," she suggested lightly when he hesitated to touch her.

The paramedic/cop put down his tackle box and pulled out his stethoscope, checking her heartbeat first. He frowned and moved it around some, then looked at the agent. "She's not kidding. She doesn't have a heartbeat."

"A zombie?" Agent Mullins said in shock.

Willow went to feeding face and jumped at him, sinking her teeth into his neck. She pulled back after a few sucks, wiping off her mouth. "Nope, sorry." She smiled at the paramedic. "You can have him now. I'm tired of idiots for the day. It's bad enough I have to listen to Spike." She looked at Oz. "I'm leaving my system here for *you* to use," she told him then walked out the door and out of the house, none of the cops coming near her.

Oz looked down at the Agent on the floor. "I'd stop the bleeding," he suggested lightly.

The paramedic shook himself and bent down to take care of this new patient. When the wounds were bandaged, he looked at Oz. "She really was..."

Xander nodded, giving him a gentle and reassuring smile. "She really was. Has been for a few years now. She's still one of the good guys though." He patted Oz on the thigh. "Was there anything else that can be done tonight?" He sighed as the alarm system went off again, the fourth time since they'd been home. "Release the gate," he called. The alarm went off and within a few minutes an ambulance pulled up to gather the hurt agent and take him away. Xander stood up and walked to his private room, shutting the door. He sat down in his writing chair and sighed tipping his head back. "I know I have the right to do this, but I had hoped never to have to," he whispered. "Please, a little help down here?" he called out.

With a muted flash of light, two bodies were standing in front of him. "What's up, kid?" the dark haired, skinny one asked.

Xander got comfortable as he looked at them. "Guys, this has gotten to be too much and I'm damn sure it's about Wolfram and Hart's breakup. Can you please help us just a little bit? Someone's even gotten hold of my demonic sex manual," he whispered, not sure if the room was bugged or not.

Cupid, the other man, shuddered. "That's so not good," he agreed. He looked at Strife, who shrugged. "We'll check it out."

"Thanks," Xander said, giving them a smile. "How does this work?"

Cupid pointed at one of the multi-candle holders on a low table next to Xander's chair, changing what the cups were holding. "One silver, one black. Every day, dude," and then he disappeared, taking Strife with him.

Xander relaxed and looked at the candles, nodding when he saw they were lit.


Oz woke up the next morning to find a note sitting beside him on the bed. He picked it up to read it, nudging Xander after reading the first sentence. "You didn't have to go there," he told his husband. "It would have sorted itself out."

"Not really," a tired voice said from outside the bed curtains. They were opened and Ray sat down at their feet, looking at them. "I got a message, and this is a good one. You should have come to them when this first started and let them deal with Wolfram and Hart." Ray pulled out a lollipop and started to suck on it. "Guys, this is going to be hard to fix at this stage, but it's doable. You might get some exposure though. Especially with Xander's second book being out on the 'net." He grimaced. "We've shut down the site but there's no telling who's been there already." He pointed the sucker at Oz. "You, you should have known to call on us."

"We didn't want to have to make you protect us," Oz pointed out, sitting up. "Which one are you and where's Ray?"

"He's safe. Methos asked me for help yesterday and I'm using Ray's form to get things done. Ray's boss does know, but he doesn't know why he knows." He looked at Xander. "This is all because of Wolfram and Hart, but not because of the breakup. This is because they want the key stone you three have." He stood up. "Strife's in the lead in this one, with every other God behind him on this right now. Oh, and Cupid said to tell you that the first book was killer and he really enjoyed it." He winked. "And so did Strife when he stole it from Cupid." He faded out, leaving them alone.

"Oh, fuck," Xander sighed, earning a hard stare from Oz. "Hey, this is a swearing occasion."

"True," Oz sighed, sliding back down to cuddle him. "We're staying inside for the next few weeks."


"Is somewhere safe I hope."

"She is," floated in through the window. "She's comin' to work."

"That's something at least," Xander said. "Should we let her go so this doesn't impact her?"

"No. We'll need contact with the outside. But I might consider giving her a few days off if this goes on too long." He buried his face in Xander's neck. "Do you know where the backup laptop is?" he whispered.

"Yup, and Giles'. He left it this time." Xander smiled a grim little smile. "I think it's time I had a talk with someone more powerful," he noted.

"No, not your family. Let the Gods handle it."

"No, not about that." Xander rolled over to hug Oz. "You never knew this, but something Amanda said to me has stuck with me. Nothing magical around here ever seems to get me."

"Ah." Oz smiled against the warm skin. "We've noticed. You're not taking up magic."

"Wasn't what I was thinking but okay," Xander agreed easily. "I was thinking that I've had other... friends who would probably like to see that second story never get out."

"Ah." Oz looked up. "Gonna call Blair?"

"Nope, gonna call someone else. I know where Devi is," Xander said, smirking.