After The Honeymoon Is Long Gone.
Xander gave his lover a disgusted look as he tossed his jacket onto the couch. "Oz, he was just admiring me. He said he thought I was cute. There was *no* reason to get so upset with him over him checking my ass out."
"He had that 'kidnapping the Xander' look," Oz argued, flopping down into a chair and pulling his husband down onto his lap. He gave him a squeeze. "I refuse to go through what we went through last time, Xander. He deserved that cup of ice in his lap and more."
"Oz," Xander said, rolling his eyes. "He wasn't going to kidnap me. I knew he wouldn't. He said he thought I was cute. He was flirting, not making plans to take me away."
"Sure he was," Oz snorted. "That's what they always want you to think. Remember the last time another immie got you? You thought he was only flirting too when we ran into him in the club."
"Yes, and I remember beating his ass because he said that he was going to take you on and spit on your body."
Oz pulled back to look at him. "You did?" Xander nodded. "Wow. By the way, nice sword work. I was very impressed by the little chunks. Always wondered what he did to piss you off that bad."
"Yeah, well, he shouldn't have picked on you," Xander said, looking down at his hands. "Oz, never threaten people who flirt with me, not until they make an overt move to take me. Okay?" Xander thought about how far Oz had come in his possessiveness, and how much he had learned to let go, but the idea of someone taking him still pushed all of Oz's protective and possessive buttons.
"Sure. I'll try and be calm about it next time," Oz sighed, giving him another squeeze. "We okay again?"
Xander leaned back into the hard body. "We were fine while we were fighting. I think your overprotective side is very cute." He stole a kiss. "But I have to get to work."
"Xander, I promise, that book won't disappear."
"I wish it would," Xander sighed as he stood up and went back to struggling with his least favorite hobby, writing fiction. Writing sex manuals, and porn, hadn't been a problem. He didn't need to do things like think about character's backgrounds.. Now he had to worry about what the character had done and why they had done it. Now, he had to worry about all that and more. He flopped down onto his writing chair and stared at his laptop, shaking his head. "Not doing this today," he told himself, leaning over to light the candles to Strife and Cupid. "There, that's done. What else can I do instead of that book?"
"Clean the animal's room," Oz called as he walked down the hall. "It's furry again."
"Of course it is, there's twelve animals in there," Xander snorted, getting up to clean out the animal's playroom. He had found homes for most of the animals they had adopted through the years, keeping the ones that really loved them for themselves. They now had two dogs, including their beloved Rocky, Xander's first dog, nine cats, and a ferret, which ironically was Rocky's best friend and playmate. Oz had worried when the baby ferret had been carried in by the cats, who apparently thought it had been an orphaned kitten, concerned that the cats would kill it. Then Rocky had decided to play tag with the ferret, and he had freaked, but later that night, they had curled up together as friends and napping buddies. Xander walked into the cat's room, smiling at all the sleepy looks he was getting. "Guys, I've got to clean the room. That means the loud, scary noise is going to happen." He watched as most of the animals ran out as soon as the vacuum appeared, glaring at the two that liked to come over and get sucked into the machine. "Out," he told them, turning them around and patting them on the butts. "Out so you don't disappear with all the fuzz." He plugged in the vacuum and walked over to the two joined kitty gyms, starting on the top and working his way down, sucking up all the hairs and hairballs. He rescued the ferret half-way down and went to drop him into the hall, ending up putting him on Rocky's back because she was waiting on her friend. "Watch your friend, he almost disappeared into the loud machine," he told his puppy, giving her a pat before going back to his chores.
Oz walked into the hall and shook his head when he saw the ferret lounging on the dog's back. "You are not a normal ferret," he noted, going back into his office, still shaking his head, Rocky and her ferret following him to come lounge on the couch in there.
Xander snuck into Oz's office and under his desk, waiting for his husband to get back from getting a snack. There was always one thing that cured his boredom and it was time he reminded his husband *exactly* what sort of man he was. He smiled as he heard the door open, ready to pounce his Oz. The chair was pulled back and sat down in, but the legs that appeared in front of him had pantyhose on. "Henrietta," he groaned, covering his face.
"Xander!" she squealed, getting up and bending down to look at him. "What are you doing underneath there?"
"Waiting on me probably," Oz said from the doorway. "Naughty, you're supposed to be doing something." He patted his leg and the second puppy jumped up, getting a piece of ham for it. "Come on, naughty, we know you're under there."
"Yes, he is," Henrietta said, glaring at Xander. "Can't a nice woman sit down and check her mail? We've have this talk about you trying to tease me before, young man, and I am still a taken woman."
"Of course," Xander said with a grin. "I wanted my Oz snack though." He chuckled as she rolled her eyes and got out of his way. "Gotcha," he said as he stood up and gave her a hug, then grinned over at Oz. "So, can I have my Oz snack now?"
"Today is not the day for Oz snacks," Henrietta said, pushing him back. "Have you forgotten Ray's funeral?"
"No?" he said.
"Go get dressed," she said, pushing him toward the door, patting him on the back. "The grave- side service is in two hours."
"Point," Xander sighed, going to get dressed.
Oz winked at their housekeeper. "I'll keep a better leash on him." He walked up to go get dressed too.
Oz walked up beside Methos and gave him a hug. "How's it going?" he whispered.
"Fine," Methos said, smiling over Oz's shoulder at Xander, and the redhead leaning on his arm. "It's upsetting though. He really hated this part of the life." He turned to look at Xander and the redhead, holding open his arms for both of them to give him a hug together. "Hello, precious ones," he said, patting them both on the lower backs. "How are we this dreary day?"
"I scared Henri," Xander said, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "I was waiting for Oz under the desk."
"I believe she had warned you about that before."
"She didn't quit, I promised to keep him on a better leash," Oz said, turning around as the minister walked over. He stood on Methos' left, beside Xander, who was clinging to Methos' arm, like the man on his other side.
The minister walked up to the empty casket and cleared his throat. "Today, we celebrate a life lost much too soon," he said, nodding at Methos and Ray's old boss, who had figured out what was going on and surprisingly had helped them plan all this. "Though we could not find our brother Ray's body, we do still bury his badge and uniform today, to signify the loss." He coughed. "Is there anyone who wanted to say a few words?" He looked at Methos, who shook his head, then at Ray's boss, who stepped forward.
"I will miss Ray," his boss said. "He was always a great cop, very good with the other guys and the people he was helping. The whole department will miss him." He nodded and stepped away.
The minister stepped up and sprinkled some dirt onto the casket. "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." He nodded at the family and walked away, going to leave the town for good this time, and possibly the ministry. The town had finally gotten to him; disappearing bodies were just too normal here.
The redhead walked forward and placed a white rose on the casket, then turned to look at his lover. "Coming?" he asked, giving his former boss a smile as he walked past. He and Methos went back to their condo, Xander and Oz following to celebrate Ray's life.
Xander toasted the new redhead, smiling at him. "Good job, Ray," he said softly. "Where are you guys going now?"
"Your house," Methos said, sipping his beer. Oz dropped his fork and looked at him. "At least until we can figure out where we want to go from here." The two immortals had a silent discussion and Oz finally nodded and looked away.
"Don't try the 'cousin' thing," Oz advised. "It's too hard to stick too." He stole a piece of meat off Xander's mostly full plate. "Eat."
"Yes, dear," Xander said, grinning at Ray. "So, you're coming home about the same time Giles is?"
"Tomorrow," Methos told them. "We've got to finish packing the little things tonight." He squeezed Ray's hand. "We'll figure it out. I promise." He kissed the back of the hand he held, giving his lover a smile.
"Can we do some traveling again?" Ray asked. "Or maybe go visit Benny?"
"If you'd like," Methos agreed. "Though if he's in the middle of a blizzard, I'll wait in a nice motel for you."
Ray snickered. "Of course you will. He's in Regina now, teaching."
"Ah, then I will definitely wait for you in the motel."
"Shoot," Xander said, reaching over to give him a hug. "I thought you were over that cold already." He got pushed away. "Not loving it?"
"I'm fine," Oz reminded him. "It's a cold and it'll be gone in a few hours."
"You've had it all day," Xander reminded him.
"He's fine," Methos reminded Xander. "We don't tend to get very ill." He looked at Oz. "Though, if you've really had it all day, then I am concerned. We never keep colds for more than a few hours."
"I still say he got into something when we had to go get that demon from the college," Xander told Methos. "We were in the bio labs."
"Xander, Sunnydale is not a germ-warfare center," Oz said, rolling his eyes. "Most likely, it's some sort of allergy."
"You guys get allergies?" Ray asked Methos.
"Some of us do. Usually, they're very mild and annoying, but we do occasionally get them. McCleod used to have some bad bouts of hay fever, depending on where he was. Paris in the spring was not his best friend."
"So it's an allergy?" Xander asked. "To what?" He looked stunned. "You only get it around me."
Oz grabbed him for a hug. "I'm not allergic to you," he said, shooting Methos a glare. "And I'm not allergic to the animals, so quit worrying."
"It might be the fabric though," Ray pointed out. "It might be the cashmere he wears in the fall and winter."
"Maybe," Oz agreed. "We'll try it out later."
"Here, you can sniff my pants," Xander offered.
"Later, in private," Methos said dryly.
"Huh?" Xander asked, looking confused. He looked at Ray for translation.
"I'm pretty sure he was thinkin' about you two sniffing each other's parts in private," Ray told him.
"Not my parts," Xander said, rolling his eyes. "My pants. They're cashmere, and if he's allergic to that then I'm going to have to do a lot about my cold weather wardrobe."
"True," Oz sighed, leaning over to sniff at Xander's shirt, then at his pants. He sneezed as soon as he came near his husband's pants. "Crap," he sighed, leaning back and holding his now-bleeding nose. "I guess we know what it is now."
"It depends actually," Methos noted. "Xander, do you have a lot of cat hair on your pants?"
"I was petting the animals earlier and not sneezing," Oz noted. "Even our ferret."
"How is Jedi?" Ray asked.
"Fine. Still not really a ferret," Oz told him, putting his head back down. "I think it's stopped. All the tingles have stopped."
"And it looked weird too," Xander told him, giving him a kiss on the cheek.
"Will this expand to wool?" Ray asked. Everyone looked at him. "Isn't cashmere a sort of wool?"
"I guess it is," Xander said thoughtfully. "It's goat's wool." He looked at Oz. "Do you have problems with my purple sweater?"
"Only when I wear it," Oz told him, looking at him. "You like cashmere. I can stand the sneezing. They make drugs for this sort of thing," he assured his lover, who was looking upset.
"I don't want to make you uncomfy, Oz, I can find a good substitute. Maybe more silk or something." He looked at Ray. "Want to go fabric shopping with me and Oz the next time we go?"
"We can all go," Methos told him, leaning across the table to pat him on the wrist. "Don't worry, we'll find you a good substitute."
"Dense, natural cottons," Oz said. Everyone looked at him. "Very comfy, but can be very warm. It's one of those fabrics that keep in body heat when you need it to."
"We can look at that too," Methos agreed.
"Or, hey, I saw an ad for that new synthetic the other day," Ray offered. "We could check that out."
"If the fabric store has it," Oz said.
"True, but it's supposed ta be around now. We should be able to find some of it."
"Or we can look at some other sorts of fabrics that you've been wanting to work in, Xander," Methos told him. "Though, all natural fabrics are getting a bit expensive now, what with more and more of the growing room going to grow crops."
"I had an investment offer the other day," Xander said out of the blue, not looking at anyone, but playing with his fork. "There's a new hydroponics conglomerate, formed by a bunch of farmers, and they've bought this huge plot of land. They want to build a massive hydroponic's facility for natural veggies."
"Which is very cool," Oz agreed, reaching over rub his back. "How much did you give them?" He might handle the finances for them, but Xander's initial fortune from his working in the demon brothel had multiplied many times over and his husband had some very strong ideas about what he wanted to do with it. Technically, if they pooled their monies together, they would be one of the richest couples in the world. That's why they hid it all very carefully.
"Just a few thousand," Xander said meekly, giving Oz an innocent look.
"A few *hundred* thousand?" Methos asked, giving him a sly grin. "I know you, imp, you're very generous when you want to be."
"Hey, I've got it, and that's something good that I'd be more than willing to help gain footholds into the normal markets. Same as Branchson's was when I invested in them. They needed some help to get into the mainstream of rich people's jewelry habits. Now, they've turned my original five ..." he coughed, "into over five times as much."
"I'm pretty sure we all know how much you invested there," Ray told him. "Don't worry, we don't hold the money against you."
"I should hope not," Methos said dryly. "We ourselves happen to be worth quite a bit, Ray. Most immortals, if they're intelligent, have saved over their lives until they're a bit more than comfortably well off. It makes it easier to leave dangerous areas and switch identities when you have money."
"True," Oz agreed. "I've carefully hidden most of my assets. Most of them it'll take me a day or so to get into but they're there when I need them." He picked up Xander's hand to hold. "I don't begrudge him his money, or how he made it, and most of the time happen to like how he spends it." He looked at his lover. "Except when you go on an 'I'm bored' shopping trip."
"I haven't been on one of those in *months*," Xander said, rolling his eyes. "And it's not like you don't usually benefit from those too." He looked at Ray, wanting to change the subject. "Are you going to change your name?"
"Well, I *did* suggest he start calling himself 'Eve'," Methos said, smiling at his husband when he was hit on the arm. "Yes, dear?"
"I'm not becoming a drag performer, get over it," Ray said, glaring at Methos.
"But, dear, you could be in the limelight like you always wanted."
"All right. If you're going to become insistent."
"Then what do you want to do with the next twenty years, Ray?" Oz asked.
"I was thinkin' about doing somethin' more professional like. Maybe something more to do with a business sorta stuff."
"An accountant?" Xander suggested.
"They don't get shot at," Ray agreed. "I'm tired of being the guy everyone wants ta shoot. I'd like ta be safe for a while."
"Then become a new-age priest," Xander suggested. "No one wants to shoot them."
"Most of them are celibate," Methos said warmly.
"And most of them require believing in their faiths," Oz added. "I don't think Ray fits into any of them anyway."
"I heard of one the other day," Xander told them. "Really nice people. Looking towards space to find a reason to keep going as a race. They're more techy then I'd like, but they're very 'let's go colonize'."
"No," Oz said.
"But, Oz," Xander protested. "I only asked for brochures."
"No, Xander," Methos said quietly. "You do not need to take up with a cult. Oz and I would have a horrible time trying to get you free."
"Hey!" Ray protested, hitting Methos on the arm. "I'd help."
"You'd be beside him," Oz said dryly. "Then we'd have to take down the whole camp and kill everyone for brainwashing you."
"It's not a cult," Xander sighed. "It's a society. They're astronomers and people like that. Some of them work for NASA and are looking for habitable planets and ways to get us there."
"How much did you give them?" Oz groaned, knowing this was one of those times that letting Xander handle his own monetary affairs was just not such a good idea.
"Nothing," Xander said, pouting at everyone. "I just asked for some information. They're not asking for donations, but for people with ideas."
"And you thought *we* would have ideas of how to get people to the stars?"
"No, but *I* have some ideas," Xander defended. "I wanted to see if they were good ones or not."
"Are you talking to them already?" Oz asked, turning so he could look at his mate. "I want to see the literature when we get home," he ordered. Xander nodded. "Then you will tell me your ideas and I'll see if they're scientifically founded or not."
"Sometimes, it's people like him that have the ideas," Ray noted. "Not all the great thinkers were old men who wanted to sit around and look at their bellybutton lint."
"Good point," Methos agreed, "but I think Oz is worried that Xander's gotten himself in over his head."
"Not really. They've been looking for people who can deal with textiles," Xander said quietly. "Sort of like designing and stuff."
"Fabrics or costumes?" Oz asked, one eyebrow going up.
"Both," Xander said firmly. "And I've got a few ideas. Most of them would keep you very warm, and would be much more comfy than spandex or anything like that." He crossed his arms. "I just wanted to help them, not become their personal fashion guru."
"We'll look at the literature together," Oz told him, more gently this time. He hadn't wanted to hurt his husband's feelings, but he needed to touch reality sometimes. "Eat, Xander. You're going to need your strength for later."
"Okay." Xander started to eat, looking over at Ray, who looked sympathetic at least. "What are you doing tomorrow?"
"Just packing," Ray sighed, leaning back in his chair. "We've got to do all the clothes first so we can bring those and the animals over to your house. The bigger stuff, like furniture, will go into storage."
"We'll probably be up sometime before dinner," Methos said, watching Xander as he began to sweat and look dizzy. "Are you feeling all right, imp?" he asked, reaching over to touch Xander's forehead. "Oz, he's running a fever." He looked at his oldest friend, checking him for a fever too. "Oh, dear. Ray, they need to be put into beds. I think Xander may have been right about them catching something in the biology labs." He pushed his chair back and got up, going over to physically lift Oz out of his seat and carry him up the stairs, letting Ray help Xander walk up them. He put them both in bed, making sure Ray had them well in hand, before he went to call in a favor to see what had been going on in those labs.
Xander rolled over, hot, sweaty, and sticking to the sheets, and groaned. He reached for one of the necklaces he always wore, calling on his step-brother's help. Almost instantly, a demon messenger appeared beside him. "Get him?" he whispered, reaching out. The demon's eyes opened very wide, and he might have made a sound that was a squeak, before he disappeared.
Xander's step-brother Micah tapped on Methos' door a few minutes later, his personal physician standing right behind him, checking out his equipment that another demon was carrying for them. He walked in as soon as the door was opened and headed up the stairs to check on him. He got out of the doctor's way when he saw how sick both his step-brother and his mate looked, watching as his doctor started to administer an IV from the boxes. He turned to find Methos and Ray standing there. "It's a demonic version of the flu, impossible for humans to catch." He glared at them both. "How did my totally human, adopted brother, get this disease?"
"They had to go catch a demon in a biology lab up at the college," Ray told him.
"I see. Which one?"
"College or lab?" Methos asked. Micah looked at him. "UC Sunnydale, and I'm not sure which lab it was, I haven't been able to get any information on it yet," he said after a few minutes. "Could they be working on making it applicable to humans?"
"It's possible. Like I said, it's impossible for humans to catch supposedly. This is the third time anyone's caught it in a six million year history." He walked out and went down to send a messenger back home. It was his problem to deal with now. He sent the messenger off and waited for his return, accepting the note gratefully. "Thank you," he said, bowing his head. "You must leave, there are ill people here." The demon left as quickly as he could. Micah read the note and nodded. "It will be taken care of by some of Angel's friends," he told Ray, who had come down to watch him. "They'll be up here tonight."
"I should probably warn someone then," Ray said, going for the phone. He called his old boss, hanging up until he got the man he wanted. "Hey, it's me. We just found out that up in one of the bio labs, they're workin' on a demon virus. No, there's people comin' in to deal with it. No, Xander's gotten it. You can't, we're not sure if it's gonna keep spreadin' ta humans or not." He hummed and hung up. "They won't come up and get in your way." He checked to make sure the phone was hung up, then stepped away from it. It wouldn't be the first time his phone had been bugged. "The only thing he could promise was to take a long time," he warned.
Micah nodded regally. "I understand. With all luck, no one will ever know we were there." He stood up. "Have they started to come around yet?"
"Some," Methos said as he walked down the stairs. "Just rehydrating them?"
"No, the fluid has some medicine in it. It's more of a large vaccine." He smiled at Methos. "It *will* be taken care of."
"If you need my help, let me know. Humans mucking around with these sort of things are dangerous to us all." He walked away, heading to get himself a drink. Oz had started to come around already and he wanted to be able to talk to him as soon as he was clearheaded.
Oz blinked up at the bright light, then rolled his head over, looking at the large blur sitting beside them. "Methos?"
"Not yet, he'll be here in a few moments," the doctor said gently. "I'm your brother-in-law's personal physician and you've both come down with a horrid case of demonic flu."
"Xander?" Oz asked, groping around until he felt the body next to him. The too still body. "Is he okay?" he asked, sounding scared.
"He's fine. We had to sedate him because he kept moving and the IV kept getting pulled out." He laid a hand on the immortal's head. "I'm not sure how you got it, but you got a very bad case of it."
"Is that why my vision's off?"
"Yes, though I expect you'll heal," the doctor said, and you could hear the smile in his voice.
"Should be fine. You got the much stronger dose of the disease."
"We were given it?"
"That's my pet theory at the moment. No one *gets* this disease from a demon, it's impossible."
"What about at the lab?" Oz asked.
"It will be taken care of. We think that might have been who gave this to you, while you were fighting the demon." He brushed back some of the damp hair. "Rest, Oz, you're going to need it once the cramps start in."
"Can I curl up around my Xander?" he whispered.
"Of course. Let me adjust your IV's." There was a few scraping sounds and then Oz was carefully moved onto his side and slid over until he could grab his Xander and cuddle him. "There you go. I'll be right here if you need anything."
"Thanks," Oz said, sniffing his Xander to make sure he was mostly all right. He fell back asleep.
The doctor smiled, getting up to go tell the other humans that their friends had woken up and went back to sleep already.
Across town, Angel led Spike, Seth, and Wesley into the lab the lovers had chased a demon through, slipping in and shorting out the security system. He looked around the lab, nodding at Wesley to go pull the experiment records. Seth and Spike went looking for samples of demons, Spike being much more attuned to that side of their life than Angel himself was. Angel looked down at the computer he was standing in front of, shaking his head as he turned on the screen. He whistled, bringing Wesley over. "I think we've found it," Angel whispered, bringing Spike.
"Dear heavens," Wesley whispered, pushing Angel out of the way so he could look at the chemical drawings. "They're not only making it mutate to be applicable to humans, but also to animals and crops." He looked up. "This is a biological weapon strong enough to wipe out Europe if dropped in the right spot."
Everyone spun around as the lights were flipped on.
"You're trespassing on Government property," the soldier said, pointing his rifle at them. "Well, what have we here?" he asked, looking Angel over.
"Someone you don't want to fuck with," Spike noted for his benefit.
"I won't," Angel said harshly. "He's human."
"He's going to kill all of mankind with these germs," Wesley countered, fingering the charm Micah had given him for anytime he needed to call on his help. Outside the lab, he could hear a siren start to go off and the sound of running feet, so he set it off. He felt a tingle go up his arm, and then there were many more demons in the room. "They're making a biological weapon of your diseases," he called out to them in the only demon language he knew. "They're going to destroy the planet, not even leaving the plants."
The demons grumbled and one walked forward, pushing the soldier against the wall to sniff him. Then he took a bite out of the side of his face, nodding as he chewed. "Good humans," he grunted, and the rest of them went off, heading after the soldiers they could hear coming towards them.
Wesley hid behind Spike and Seth, protected from the personal army of his friend.
"Figures we'd be left behind," Spike snorted, looking over at Seth and shrugging. "Wanna toss the lab?"
"No, let us do it," Micah said as he appeared. He stepped through the portal and it closed. He nodded at Angel. "Most humans are worth saving, these are not. No more so than the ones who harmed your child at one time." Angel nodded and left, he might not be part of the hierarchy, but he knew when to follow orders. "Spike, take Wesley out of harm's way. Take Seth to guard you both. We will take care of this matter," he said calmly, getting out of his own people's way so they could go through everything and stop this project from going any farther.
Seth dragged Spike with him, both of them grabbing Wesley to tow him behind them as they walked through the fighting.
"The succession will be maintained," Micah said, looking at his people. "I want this mess cleaned up. No more humans should become infected with our germs than necessary."
Giles picked up the ringing cellphone, answering it with a grunt. He sat up and frowned at the mirror across the room. "Yes, but they had a reason I dare say," he argued. "Yes, and I know that they had a reason. A demonic army doesn't appear and take down a military-funded research project without a very good reason." He blanched. "They were? Then I definitely stand behind their action." He snorted. "Most likely, it was Xander's adoptive brother. They are rather close these days. I doubt he will want to use what they stole against humans." He hung up and shook his head, dialing his home. He frowned when he didn't get even the answering machine, dialing the other number he knew by heart. "Methos? Are they...." He took a deep breath. "Are they fine? Does it have anything to do with a demonic army taking down a laboratory?" He nodded and hung up, going down to tell the manager that he was having to leave unexpectedly.
Methos leaned down to test Oz's forehead with his lips. "Almost normal," he said, giving the awake man a smile. "How do you feel?"
"Tired," Oz said. "Has anyone fed the animals?"
"No, but I'm headed over there right now. It's only been two days, Oz, I'm sure they're fine."
"Clean the litterboxes," Xander whispered, rolling into Oz's side so he could go back to sleep.
Oz stroked down the sweaty back. "And watch out for the ferret," he whispered as his friend walked out, waving when he got glared at. He curled up around his Xander so they could both be cuddled. "It's okay. We'll be home soon."
"Oz, I feel bad," Xander whined.
"I know. So do I."
"Oh, Jedi?" Methos yelled as he opened the door, startling a few of the cats, but wanting to make sure the ferret didn't run out the door again. "Hello, precious ones," he said, smiling down at them. "I'm here to feed you and clean up a little bit. May I do that?" One of the kittens reached up to bat at the finger he stuck out for them to sniff. "Yes, you know me. I'm Fluffy's father." He looked around. "Where's the ferret?" The cats all scampered off, leading him to where they were out of food. He got the necessary things taken care of then went to do a quick turn around the house. He started to yawn as soon as he made it to the second floor and decided to take a ten minute nap. Surely the boys wouldn't mind if he borrowed their bed. He laid down, next to a lump in the blankets, and closed his eyes.
That's when the lump moved, dashing up to get into his face. "Holy God!" he yelled, rolling off the bed. He looked up, frowning at the ferret that had suddenly appeared. "Playing bed monster, Jedi?" The ferret wiggled his nose and disappeared back under the covers, letting him back up on the bed.
Methos shook his head and got up, deciding he didn't really need the ten minute nap after all. He walked around the rest of the house, the ferret following him as fast as it could, squeaking when it couldn't keep up. Once, it even nipped him because the game of chase wasn't going fast enough. When he finally made it down to the kitchen, Rocky looked up at him and gave him the most sorrowful look. "No, scamp, I'm not taking your best friend from you." He picked Jedi up and put him on Rocky's back, giving them both a pat on the head. "There you go, go play." Rocky trotted off, her ferret riding her like a pro.
Methos shook his head. "That is not a normal ferret." He checked all the doors then left the house, going back to his own so he could complain to Oz about his pet ferret.
Ray gave Methos a hug as soon as he walked in. His lover gave him a funny look. "What? You look like Jedi played with ya," Ray said with a grin.
"We played chase the human," Methos said dryly. "How are they?"
"Nappin' again. But the doc says they can go home tonight as long as we go with them. Well, us or Angel and his crew, whichever they'd prefer." He shrugged. "We've still gotta pack though."
"I'm sure Angel could be persuaded to stay up at the manor house for a night," Methos told him, giving him a hug. "We'll finish the essential packing soon enough, once everyone's out of the house."
"Should we send the animals ahead? Bruiser and Fluffy are pretty bored. They've been playin' with the remote again."
"And how did those two find the pornography channel this time?" Methos asked as he walked in farther, looking at the television. "You changed it?"
"Nah, there was a special on trained lions. They decided to watch that instead of their usual lesbian porn." He grinned. "They're so cute when they do that, all curled up in front of the tv on their little kitty bed with the remote between them so they can find something else to watch." He saw the eye roll but ignored it, he knew his lover thought their lesbian cats were cute too. He walked them up to the upstairs bedroom the other couple was sharing, waving at Xander, who was drinking some water. "How ya feelin'?" Ray asked as he walked in, giving Xander a hug.
"Better," he croaked. "I can see, but Oz can't."
"I'm sure he'll get better soon," Methos said, coming in to give him a hug too. "Much better or only a little better?"
"Much better. I can drink again," he said proudly. He gave the doctor a look and he walked out, leaving them alone. "They said we can go home tonight. But we don't want you guys to keep running the risk of getting sick."
"We can't, imp. There's no way we can catch this from you. Otherwise we'd already be sick and have to be cared for by your doctor." He brushed some of the hair off Xander's forehead. "Do you feel up to a bath?"
Xander grinned. "Aren't I always?" he asked weakly.
"Good. I'll check with the doctor, just in case, and then we'll get you into a nice, warm bath." He stood up. "Oh, and the doctor said you could have either us watching over you tonight, or Angel, Spike, and Seth if you'd prefer."
"There's a chance you guys may still get it," Oz said, not opening his eyes. "We asked. Since they mutated the virus, there's now a risk of contagion. We *really* don't want you guys to go through this with us."
"Yeah, but we could cuddle you if you do end up sick," Xander offered.
"I'm afraid Ray is more of a hide under the covers sort when he's sick," Methos told them both. "We'll figure it out, Oz. Don't you worry. Remember, we do heal."
"Then why can't he see?" Xander asked.
"Because the virus must still be working it's way through his system. That's the only explanation I can think of." Methos leaned down and gave Oz a short hug. "Don't worry so much, old friend, we'll be fine. We've been sick before, we can get through it this time if need be. After all, we got through all the plagues during the middle ages."
"Did Angel have Stake with him?" Xander asked in his best 'little boy' voice.
"Not during the fight probably," Methos snorted. "He'd hate to lose his favorite friend. Same as we would." Methos gave them both kisses on the forehead. "Let me go check with the doctor and we'll make sure that you two can have a bath." He walked out, leaving Ray with them.
"Guys, this isn't something you have to worry about," Ray reminded them. "I'll heal, same as Xander will. Same as you and Meth will. That's the benefit of being us." He patted them both gently then stood up and left them alone to cuddle again.
"Maybe it wouldn't make them sick," Xander said, trying to make Oz change his mind. He liked having Methos there when he's sick, the man had been a doctor for centuries and he had a very gentle manner that made you want to get better.
"I don't want them sick too, Xander. I don't want to curse Methos to being blind for a while."
"Then don't," Xander said reasonably. "He won't get sick. They haven't yet and it's been two days since we passed out at the table."
"And our symptoms came up after three."
"Yeah, but they found little needle marks on us, Oz. It had to be injected."
"But now that it's hit a human body..." Oz argued.
"No buts," the doctor said as he walked back in. "There's almost no chance that either of those two will get ill from you. And the little chance is if you do something like have sex with them while you're ill." He looked at the two men on the bed. "I'm going to allow the bath, but I don't want you to do anything more energetic than lie there and let someone bathe you." He smiled at Xander. "Yes, you two may take a bath, together if you want, but you will continue to relax until someone drives you home tonight." He nodded at Methos as he walked in. "Don't make it too warm, just comfortable." He walked around the bed, starting to gather up his equipment. He turned at the cleared throat, Ray rolling his eyes as he held up the ferret. "What is that?" he asked, pointing at the wet ball of fur.
"It's a ferret," Oz sighed, not even having to look to know what was going on. They only had one animal that got that sort of response after getting into trouble. "He crawled into Meth's sword holder, right?"
"Yes, he did. And then he took a bath when I put the jacket into the washer."
"Ray, I hope you emptied my pockets this time," Methos called.
"I did of everything but the ferret. But I forgot to check that hidden pocket...." Ray watched and grinned as his lover ran down the stairs, winking at Xander to show him it was a joke. "Anyway, Jedi decided to take a bath and now he wants you two."
"Come here, Jedi," Xander cooed, cuddling his wet ferret. "I know, you were lonely without your humans, weren't you?" He kissed the wet head. "Ray, can I have a...." A towel was handed over. "Thanks. We don't need our baby getting a chill, do we?" he cooed, smiling down at his animal.
"That's not my kid," Oz muttered, allowing the doctor to help him up and into the bathroom. "I did not spawn that animal."
Xander spit at him. "He's just jealous," he told Jedi, continuing to dry him off. "And next, we're harness training you so you can go for walks with Rocky."
"I'm not walking a ferret!" Oz yelled from the bathroom.
Xander spit at him again. "He's just jealous," he whispered, giving his ferret another kiss before tucking him into the bed and allowing himself to be helped into the bathroom too. He got to get in first, then gratefully accepted Oz in his lap. "Hi," he said, kissing the back of Oz's neck.
"Hmm," Oz hummed, relaxing into the warm water.
Ray put down a tray table with two bottles of water and a very light snack. "Here we go," he said, kissing them both on the forehead. "You rest until the water gets too cold, then yell for us." He walked out, shutting the door behind him.
Xander grinned and picked up one of the bottles, feeding a little of it to Oz. "I'm sorry you're so sick," he said.
"Yeah, me too. I miss looking at you."
"How long do you think it'll take to make you all better?"
"Probably a few days. If it takes more than that, I might have to go the whole death route to speed it up. I've *never* heard of an immie going blind before, not for two days."
"Maybe Meth's right and the virus is still trying to get us." He shrugged. "You'll get better eventually."
"I know, but it's dangerous to be this sick, especially in this town."
"That's why you've surrounded yourself with other people that you trust," Xander said gently. "So you don't have to worry about who's going to come up and challenge you."
"He's right," Methos said from the doorway. "You know very well that Ray and I would keep all challengers from you while you're down. Same as you know Richie and Steve would, though Steve does still need some major work before I'd consider him competent."
"Has he taken his first head yet?" Xander asked.
"Not that Richie's told me about," Methos told him, coming in and sitting beside the tub. "Oz, you *know* I would gladly guard you when you're down. I've always done it before, our fight a few years ago didn't change that." He picked up Oz's hand and squeezed it. "We are still brothers, Oz. Trust me."
"What happens if you get sick?" Oz asked quietly.
"Hey, we've got Angel, Spike and Seth, and Willow on our side, not to mention Wesley and Marigold. She could probably use a few days of training out in the country." Xander swallowed, being sick was making his saliva glands go into overdrive. "And we've got Richie and Steve that can be back here within a day. We've got *tons* of protectors, Oz."
"I guess," Oz said, sounding reluctant.
"Your problem is that you hate having to be the weak one," Methos said, standing up. "Xander, Ray wanted you to eat those little bits of pastry and meat if possible. The doctor said you should start trying to eat again."
"Yes, sir," Xander said, giving him a smile. He reached a hand up and got a squeeze himself. "I want you two to come home with us," he said, wrapping his legs around Oz. "You always make me want to feel better."
"I'll send Ray and the animals home with you tonight," Methos said, giving him a smile. "I'll be up tomorrow, after I finish a packing a few more things." He leaned down and kissed them both on the cheek. "Rest, the both of you. Don't make me get harsh and bossy." He walked out, giving them some privacy.
"Xander," Oz started.
"No. I want them with us. We've both heard that there's so little chance of them catching it that there's no reason to worry. Also, this way, you don't have to worry if another immie comes across us. We'll be protected in our castle."
Oz didn't say anything, he just shifted so he could snuggle in more.
Methos looked over at the door, waving Spike in. "Come in," he called. "Is everything cleaned up?"
"Yeah, Micah told me you'd want to know." He handed over the letter Micah had written them. "He wanted to know how the boy's doin' too."
"The doctor said they're doing fine," Ray said, finishing up his preparations for supper. "We're leaving after we eat ta go home."
Spike nodded. "Which one got the blindness?"
"Oz," Methos said, sighing as he folded back up the letter. "They've analyzed the notes the researchers made, it's not mutated yet. It's still applicable to demons."
"The doctor?" Ray asked. Methos shook his head. "Then why is that a bad?"
Spike snorted. "The Demonic Council decided to destroy the whole lot of it. Much too dangerous to be known about."
Methos looked at Ray. "Micah's trying to talk them out of it, but a few of the older members of the Council believe that the only way for them to be safe is for our memories to be either stolen or for us to lose our lives."
"I'll be damned," Ray said dryly. "I've had enough of bad guys." He looked at Spike. "Why're you here?"
"To make a report to the Council," he said, making a face. "Not that they'll care, but I've been assigned to do it."
Xander walked in and wrapped an arm around Spike's neck, squeezing it so he could keep his balance. "You can go back and tell them that they have to reason to fear from us. None of us want the demonic community wiped out. Even Wesley's stood up for their decision."
"As has Giles," Methos said, patting Xander on the head. "He's at home by the way. He called a bit ago to check on you, right after his plane landed."
"Cool, now I can get the rest of my cuddles," Xander said with a weak grin.
"Hey, go sit down," Ray said, pointing with his wooden spoon, noticing how the younger man was starting to shake. "Spike, chair."
Spike picked Xander up and carried him over, dropping him into one of the table's chairs. "There, better?"
"No, not yet," Xander said, looking around. "Where's my messenger summoning necklace?"
"Upstairs," Ray told him. "You can write them later."
"No, I need to send them a message now." He looked at Spike, then at Methos and Oz, who were wandering in together. "If I make a promise, will you guys keep it?"
"Definitely," Methos said. Oz nodded. Ray shrugged. "He will too," Methos said when Spike looked at him. "He's really got no means of breaking it if Xander's going to do what I think he is." He pulled out their knife drawer and handed him a small one, going to get him some paper and the summoning necklace. He came back and put them all in front of the young man, watching as he wrote out a statement, a promise, and sealed it with his blood. The demonic messenger appeared and he handed over the letter. "For his brother," Methos told him.
The demon disappeared.
Oz coughed. "Did you tell them that we wouldn't use this knowledge or that we wouldn't do anything with it?"
"I told them that they could trust us, in this instance, to do what was best for the demon community, and that none of us had the knowledge or skills to do anything with this event." He looked at Methos. "You can't do that, right?"
"No, imp, I can't do that," Methos said, giving him a hug. "Don't worry, we won't sully your reputation."
"Okay, just making sure. 'Cause if you do, I'm, like, dead according to their rules." One of Oz's eyebrows went up. "What? I won't use that to hurt them. Will you?"
Oz shook his head. "No, but that's a pretty stiff punishment."
"That's why I did it," Xander told him, rolling his eyes. "That way, we wouldn't have to fight off a squad of assassins or whatever they decided to send at us."
Spike jumped as a messenger appeared behind him. "You bloody well enjoyed that, didn' you?" he accused, taking the messages the demon was holding. "Thanks, mate." He opened the one addressed to him, tossing the other at Oz. "Well, you're safe. They said they wouldn't do anything to you because of the promise Xander made."
Xander craned his neck to look at the note Oz held. "Is that from Micah?"
"Yes, and he thanks you for the timely assistance in proving his case." Oz snorted. "And he told me to spoil you rotten because you just brought great honor to the house." He folded it up and put it on the table. Xander snatched it and read it, smiling at the end. "You did good," he praised, reaching over to caress his lover's cheek. He jumped as he felt a nip to his ankle. "What?" he asked, looking down at their ferret. "You don't get lovies."
"Give me Jedi," Ray sighed, coming over to pick him up. "I know, you just wanted to be given a kiss too, right?"
"If you kiss that rodent, then you will be cleaning your mouth before you give me one," Methos noted, not looking up.
Ray kissed Jedi on the nose then handed him off before grabbing his lover and kissing him long and hard. "You were saying?" he asked in his smart-ass way. Methos ran out of the room, going to brush his teeth.
Spike shuddered. "Don't do that to me, I'd hate to have to beat you for it." Ray blew a kiss in his direction.
"Hey, my brother's boy toy," Xander said, grinning at Ray. They were just so alike some days. He snuggled his ferret, giving it all the lovies it wanted.
Oz led the way into the house, getting pounced on by Giles as soon as the other man could run toward them. "Hey, we're better," he noted, heading for the nearest couch so he could lie down again. Walking from the car was tiring. Maybe a short nap and then he'd do the stairs.... He fell asleep with that thought.
Xander let Ray help him into the house, giving his other husband a grin. "We're back," he said.
"Thank God. I think Jedi has gotten into the ductwork again," Giles said, giving him a hug and a peck on the cheek. The ferret only listened to Xander when he was in trouble.
"Nah, he's hidin' in our bed waiting on Meth," Ray said, blowing Oz a kiss.
"Ah, that's good then," Giles said, smiling down at Xander. "Are you feeling better also?"
"I can eat and drink," Xander agreed, still smiling. "Bed?" he asked pathetically.
"Of course." Giles picked Xander up and carried him up the stairs, going to put him into their bed. "There we are," he said once he had his husband tucked in and comfortable. "Do you need anything for right now?"
"Just another hug," Xander said, holding up his arms.
Giles gave him one then walked back downstairs, giving Ray a hug. "I'm sorry, I heard that you had to move on already," he said.
"No big, Meth has promised me that we could do a little more travelin' and then I could figure out what I wanna be for the next twenty years." He looked down at the cat he had brought in with him. "We're home," he told Fluffy and Bruiser, their cat couple, and his dog Mutley, all of whom had wandered in after them. "Go play." Fluffy meowed at her consort and scampered off to go reclaim her dominance of the cats. Bruiser, their very femme, delicate, and gentle cat followed her lover along, trying to stick her nose under her lover's tail.
Giles shook his head. "I thought Jedi was bad," he sighed, looking down at the dog. "Hello, Mutley. I do believe that Rocky and the other one are in the playroom also." He pointed the way and the dog trotted off that way. "Ray, why are you here if they're better?"
"Because we decided to come mooch off you guys before we traveled," Ray said with a naughty grin worthy of Xander. "You don't mind, right?"
"No, not at all. No one told me, but I don't mind." He gave the young man a hug then walked toward the kitchen. "Are you hungry?"
"Sure, I could eat," Ray said, following him. He ignored the hissing going on down the hallway, sure the cats had it well in hand. Even after Fluffy came out and pouted in his lap, he was calm about it. "So, who's the new alpha female?"
"Ah, I believe that would be Princess. She's that rather large long haired one." He shrugged. "I can't keep up with all the animals most of the time, they're the boys', but she is mine. I have my hobbies and they have theirs. It's what makes us work so very well together."
"If ya say so," Ray said, shrugging at his dirty look. "I like doin' things with my man. It helps me to understand him and it gives him a way to relate back to me."
"Yes, but I've known Xander longer than you have Methos. I got to see him go from an awkward adolescent to a very confident young man." He sighed and put it down. "Though I do wish we had some more things in common than sex."
"Hey, I'll teach you how to program," Oz said, walking over so he could sit beside Ray. "Sorry about the nappage, but it was needed."
"I understand, I've been that sick before," Ray said, patting him on the shoulder. "I had chicken pox while I was in the Academy. I spent the next two weeks apologizin' for fallin' asleep in classes."
Giles snorted. "I remember that state as well." He smiled at Oz. "Would you like something to eat, perhaps some soup?"
"We're up to real food, and can I have a sandwich?" He looked around. "Where's the food thief?" Giles frowned at him. "What? The walking-stomach known as Xander reappeared earlier."
"I'm sure he was just hungry from the time you were down," Giles said in gentle disapproval.
Oz clapped. "Dad act, I get five bucks," he noted.
Giles sighed and pulled out his wallet, handing over five dollars. "I have been trying to stop doing that, Oz. I don't mean to treat you both like you're still high school students."
"That's an idea," Ray said, looking at Oz. "You could do that the next time you have ta change."
Oz shook his head. "Once every century is enough for me. Thanks though. College maybe but not the cultural wasteland known as high school."
"What about Xander?"
"The people at Branchson's recognized what we are," Giles told him, putting sandwiches down in front of them both and sitting down with his. "He can continue learning how to make and design jewelry for as long as they stay open."
Oz looked around. "I wonder where the stuff he got from that *society* is."
"In his sewing room, top drawer of the filing cabinet," Ray told him. "I asked him earlier," he defended when Oz looked at him.
"As long as we don't have to go destroy a cult to get you both back," Oz said, getting up to go find the information. Ray pushed him back down and went to get it for him. "Thanks."
"That's what buddies are for."
Giles cleared his throat. "Oz, are you all right now?"
"Better. My vision started to come back earlier. I have partial sight in my left eye." He took another bite of his sandwich. "Xander made a blood oath for all of us to not use the knowledge gained from the lab."
"I figured as much when you came home," he said dryly. "They would have killed you all to keep that under wraps. Was it that bad?"
"They were mutating it to afflict all life forms."
"Ah. Yes, then I will keep that promise. Though the Watcher's Council has wanted to know what was going on."
"Ask Micah. Or call Wes and have him ask." Oz yawned. "Sorry."
"That's all right. I've already tucked Xander into bed. Would you like some help upstairs?"
"Sure, in a few. I want that information."
"Xander's been in contact with a society of scientists who are planning the best way to explore space."
"Oh, dear," Giles sighed. "Do you think it's a cult?"
"He says it's not," Ray said as he walked out of the hallway. "No asking for donations, no asking for faith or belief. Just asking for ideas." He handed the brochures over. "That's all I could find. Well, expect some physic's thing."
"I'll go over that one later," Oz said absently, reading the top brochure. "Huh, not a cult. He was right."
"He does tend to do that sometimes," Ray said gently.
Oz nodded, giving him a weak smile. "I know. Xander is still very naive about people, Ray, and that's the one thing that I still feel we have to protect him from."
"No, he trusts," Ray countered. "That's not naive, that's being a good guy."
"Maybe, but it gets him in trouble more often than not," Giles reminded him. Ray glared at him. "How many times have we had to save Xander from someone who decided that they wanted him? Or from someone who wanted to give him something and then took him?"
"Not as many recently," Ray reminded them.
"True," Oz agreed, "but it's still safer for us to look over things like this *before* he gets stuck in them. And he agrees with that most of the time."
"What happens when he doesn't?" Ray asked.
"Then we watch out for him. Usually, those are the times when Xander's picked the right choices and is moving forward with his life," Giles told him. "We've seen a lot more of those recently than we did when we first got together. Xander's sheer impulsiveness, his desire to jump into any situation, has cost him greatly over his life. We're simply trying to protect him from any more pain of that sort. He doesn't need to become lost to a cult, or to make radical changes without knowing what they'll mean to all of us."
"You sound like his parents, and he's not three," Ray complained.
"We know, but he can act like it," Oz noted. "He's got this *desire* for life, Ray, this impulse to jump in first and ask questions later. That's what happened the last time we had to launch a major rescue effort for him. He went to India to help with a program for children and almost ended up in jail for it. He never checked it out to see why the children were being gathered, whether or not it was a social service organization or not."
"He hates himself for that," Ray said quietly, staring over Oz's shoulder. "He's still havin' nightmares about it."
"I know, Ray," Oz said, reaching over to give him a hug. "I'm still having nightmares about it. At least he did all he could to protect the children once he found out that they were being sold. That's what was most important to him, that and that he blew the whistle on them. He's made peace with that action." He pulled back. "But he does that all the time."
"But he's still not a kid," Ray argued. "He could do everything he wanted, and still not get into trouble."
"True, which is why we've taken more of a wait and see attitude about what he jumps into next," Giles agreed. "We want to know what it is, we'll have him talk it out with us, but we won't force him to change his mind or to stop whatever he had planned."
"Basically, it's like what Methos does to you when you want to speed off and see the world," Oz told him gently. "He makes you sit down and think about where you want to go this time and what you'll need to go."
"Oh." Ray shrugged. "As long as it's okay with him."
"We're easing off on it because it was frustrating him, but we're never not going to care about what he's jumping into. He knows that and he's come to accept that this is all done because we love and cherish him."
"He's recently come to the realization that if he tells us about it first, while he's still enthused, that we tend to lay off on the protective parts. His way of thinking through a situation best is to tell it to someone else. He's talked himself out of many dangerous projects by talking to us about them when he had the idea."
"But that's also hampered him some," Oz complained, looking at Giles. "He's talked himself out of some good stuff too because he thought it sounded dumb. I've had to balance a fine line of letting Xander go off and do crazy things and talking him into doing them."
"I see. I'll listen more carefully from now and let him sway me more often."
"Good, 'cause you talked him out of tryin' ta design a new fabric recently," Ray told him. "That's one of the ideas he wanted to submit to those people," he said, pointing at the brochure.
"He comes to you first?" Oz asked dryly.
Ray nodded and stood up. "Yup. You guys get the secondary rush, after I tell him ta come ta ya and tell you two about it." He patted Oz on the head. "But he's doin' pretty good recently. His mind's really occupied by this stuff." He grinned. "He's thinkin' about how ownership would be given right now."
"Oh, no," Oz groaned, putting his head down. "Not planets."
Giles patted him on the head. "I'm sure we're a very long way away from then."
"Maybe not, not with what he was talkin' about," Ray told them, then went to go check on the animals. He walked into the animal room and stopped when he saw Mutley and Rocky giving each other a bath, and he saw his dainty little Bruiser sitting in the Queen's position on top of the kitty gyms. "You got it?" he asked her, coming in to pet her on head, giving her gentle scratches between her eyes. "How?" He looked down at the usual queen cat, looking confused. "You let her have it?" He squatted down to check on that cat, frowning when he saw the bite marks and the one long claw cut. "Guys, one'a your cats needs ta go to the vets," he called.
Giles came running. "What happened?"
"My little femme darling apparently kicked her ass," Ray said, frowning at his cat. He picked up Fluffy to look her over, shaking his head as he showed off the bites on her neck too. "I think mine decided to suddenly become more like her name."
"We'll cart them to the vets this afternoon," Giles sighed, glaring at that cat. "Did you have to injure them this way?" He stopped then looked at Ray. "Has she had her shots?"
"All'a them. Methos and I made sure. We've got her shot record if you want to see it."
"No, that's not necessary, but cats don't usually attack this way." He looked down at his cat, who was hissing and trying to bat at this new cat. "Oh, dear. I think mine started it." He carried her out, going to call the vets to make sure they could get in that afternoon.
Xander woke up to the smell of really good soup and the sound of Oz snoring beside him. He forced himself to sit up and smiled at Ray, who was holding the tray. "Hi, for me?" he asked happily, making room for his best friend on the bed.
"Yup, all for you. Methos decided to cook." He glanced at Oz. "Um, he wanted me ta tell ya that the cats got into a major fight." Xander's spoon paused on the way to his mouth. "Princess, Fluffy, and Bruiser all had ta go get stitches. But Bruiser won."
"Any idea who started it?"
"Princess did when they walked in, we think," Ray said quietly. He looked out the window. "We paid for all the vet bills though."
Xander dropped his spoon and tipped Ray's head so he had to look at him again. "I'm not mad, this is what animals do when they get together. And Princess has been picking on Jedi too. We've had to take him in for stitches twice in the last two months because of her."
"She's only here because she's Giles' cat," Oz mumbled, snuggling into Xander's side and opening his eyes. "Hey. For me?"
"Nah, you got one downstairs," Ray said, grinning at him. "Meth even pounded out his frustration by makin' the bread bowls."
"Which is great," Xander said, going back to eating his soup as fast as he could. "Tell him you guys can come be the new chef and chef's playtoy if he wants," he said between bites.
Ray laughed. "I'll tell him ya said that. And I'll go get Oz his dinner."
"Here it is," Methos said as he walked in, smiling at the picture Xander made as he picked up the bowl and slurped the soup directly from the hollowed-out bread. "Oz, careful, it's still hot. Xander, not a chance." He smiled at his former student. "There's too many tempting things here for my Ray, I might lose him to your animal kingdom."
"Oh, come on," Xander pouted. "I could use Ray as a model, and I could always buddy around with him while you beat up on Giles and Oz." He gave his most pathetic look. "Please?"
"We'll stay," Methos reminded him, "for a while, but I will not become your chef."
"That means you have to put up with our cooking," Oz reminded Methos before picking up his own bowl to drain it. "Thanks, great," he panted once it was gone, then he tore into the bread.
"You can do that?" Xander asked, ripping off a large chunk to devour. "Even better," he mumbled as he ate the bowl too.
Oz looked faintly green as he watched Xander eat, so Methos snorted, drawing his attention. "I take it you both enjoyed the soup?" he asked.
"Yup," Xander said, launching himself over to give his best friend a hug. "Thanks." He looked down at Oz, then over at Ray, then kissed Methos on the cheek. "I'm not mad about the animals. Princess has been a really big bully recently. She's even went after Jedi a few times."
"We've had to pull Rocky off her once or twice for it," Oz agreed as he finished his bread. He swallowed then stacked his tray with Xander's so they could be put on the floor. "Speaking of which, where is Jedi?"
"Downstairs. He went to go find his playmate as soon as we walked in," Methos told him, giving him a hug also. "As long as you know that there's a problem."
Giles walked into the room, holding Rocky. "She attacked my cat."
"You cat's been attacking her ferret," Oz told him. He took Rocky, putting her on the bed with them. "Where's Jedi?"
"I have no idea. He scampered off somewhere." Giles ran a hand through his hair. "You're going to have to get rid of that ferret, Xander."
"Not," Xander argued. "Princess hasn't just been picking on Jedi. She picked on Ray's cats too." Giles looked stunned. "We've had to take Jedi to the vet's *twice* for stitches in the last few weeks, and one of those times, I was sitting there. Jedi was napping and she just got this evil look over her face and attacked him."
"Are you saying she's possessed?" Giles asked, still looking stunned. "My cat is perfectly normal. Ferrets in the wild would be their prey."
"And Goober?" Oz asked. "I had to take him to the vet's the other day for his injuries from her."
"Well, that might have been a case of dominance issues," Giles said stiffly.
"If it was a case of dominance, then Goober would have taken on the animal above her position, not tried to jump the top one," Methos told him. "You could check and see if your cat's possessed you know."
"I know she's not."
Xander held up his hand to show off the newest scar, a long tear beside his thumb. "Giles, she bit *me* the other day when I was cleaning the litterbox. No sudden moves. Nothing that would have frightened her, but she pounced me and then bit me, hard, and started to shake. I'm not her natural prey."
Giles shook his head. "I know she's not possessed."
"Then something needs to be done with her," Oz said gently, getting up to give him a hug. "She's tried to attack me in the office before too." He pulled Giles back to the bed and climbed in again. "Xander, check Rocky." He cuddled up to his husband, trying to keep him calm. "She either needs in a single cat family, where she can't hurt anyone else, or we need to do something about her."
"I'm starting to see that," Giles sighed. "What would you have me do?"
"I'd have you adopt her out," Xander said, checking under Rocky's ear. "She got her but they're not deep. The last stitches weren't torn, and there's another next to her collar, which is shallow too." He looked at Giles. "They were fighting and she did that much damage? How badly injured is she?"
"Not at all," Giles noted, looking at Rocky. "I'll find her an adoptive home."
"No, we let the Xander do that," Oz reminded him. "He's the best at finding animals new homes."
"Actually, I know someone who might need a cat. He was looking very lost when I saw him last, while I was out with Angel shopping for Seth's birthday present." He curled up, wrapping his arms around his legs. "I'll take her tomorrow, I know where he'll be." Giles nodded. "Now I need to go find Jedi." He got up, with some help from Ray, and they walked downstairs together, Rocky following them.
Oz shrugged at Giles' inquisitive look. "I have *no* idea who he means. Xander knows some of the oddest people though, I'm sure he does know someone who needs a bossy cat."
Xander walked up to the young priest, giving him a smile. "Hi, Father Philip," he said, giving him a hug so he could lead him over to a pew and sit down. "Sorry, I'm just getting over the flu." The priest he had met while crossing realms, and had come to make his acquaintance with once he had come home, smiled at that. "I've got a major problem and I think someone here in your parish might help." He pulled off his backpack and unzipped the top to show the cat napping on a large towel and her water and food containers. "She's been terrorizing our other animals, especially my ferret and his dog, and we can't keep her. I know she'd do good in a single animal family. Maybe some little old lady that'll be willing to groom her bald?"
Philip smiled and reached down to pet the soft head. "She's a beautiful cat, Xander," he said quietly. "I think we can do that. I might even keep her myself. I've been needin' a reason to come outta my studies." He looked up and smiled. "Are you really all right?" he asked when he saw the tiredness in the young man's eyes.
"Yeah, I got a version of a demon flu. I'm fine." He smiled at the woman who had walked up to them. "I'll be done with him in a few," he said, being nice.
"Alex, this is Xander. He and his crew met another version of all of us when he went travelin' across realms."
Alex smiled and shook Xander's hand. "What was I doing?"
"Complaining about the me, the Nick, and the kids from there."
Alex's eyes opened. "You really met...." She looked at Philip. "How?"
"I've got it all recorded for ya," Philip said, giving her a smile. "A demon flu?" he asked.
"Yeah, stupid humans playing around with things they should have left alone and I chased a bad guy through a lab." He shrugged. "It's been taken care of, Philip, never worry about that."
"Oh, I know ya'd do that much," he said, giving the young man a hug. "All right, what's her name?"
"Princess, because she thinks she's one." He handed over the backpack. "Specially made for carrying kitties. She's got a few toys in the front. And watch out, she got me the other day too," he said, showing off his latest scar.
Philip nodded. "I will. Thank you."
"Hey, anytime." Xander grinned at Alex. "Don't worry, it wasn't that bad. The Derek there adopted the me there as his son." He walked around her and out to the car, where Ray was waiting.
Alex stared down at Philip. "They told him about us?" she asked.
"No, the him from there probably did," Philip said, standing up. "Give me a few, I've still got some books ta pack," he said as he led the way back to his rooms. He set the cat down, watching as she sniffed her new environment. He frowned as he watched what books the cat was investigating closer, pulling down a small vial of water to sprinkle a few drops on the cat. It howled and went for his hands. "Ah, no wonder. It's possessed." He looked at Alex. "Lock it and grab 'er, we need to fix this first."
Alex wisely just locked the door and let him handle this, it was his area of expertise.
Xander walked into the house and headed for where he could hear Oz and Methos talking out by the pool, sliding down into Methos' lap. Oz gave him a funny look. "What? You're too weak to want me in your lap and Ray said I could borrow him."
"That's fine, dear one," Methos said, stroking down the shaking back. "Did you give that nice priest the cat?"
"Yup. And his version of Alex was there," he said, grinning at Oz, who hadn't met her. "She was very nice when they came here. It was kinda obvious Buffy was trying to get with her but it wasn't working out so well."
"Buffy got very possessive too," Oz reminded him.
"Yeah, I guess she did." Xander closed his eyes, enjoying the warmth of the sun. "I'm sleepy," he announced.
"Would you like to nap like you usually do in the sun?" Methos asked.
"Sure," Xander mumbled, fisting Methos' shirt so he wouldn't be able to move. "Comfy. Night."
Oz smiled and Ray shook his head. "Hey, even I've said you were a comfy pillow," Ray reminded his lover.
Methos groaned but he accepted the role he was given, enjoying being Xander's body pillow.
Oz was helped up and into the kitchen so he could make them dinner with Ray.
Methos woke up from his nap and found Xander giving him a sheepish grin. "Hello, imp," he said, reaching up to brush some of the dark hair out of the younger man's eyes. "Did you sleep well?"
"Yup, but I didn't mean to make you nap with me."
"Ah, but you're a very good person to nap with. You hardly moved at all. Ray, now he moves all the time when he naps on top of me." He smiled at his friend. "Don't worry about it, Ray was out here when you fell asleep."
"Ya know, I'm not pissed about that anymore," Ray said as he walked out, shutting the door behind him. He walked over and gave them both a hug. "I understand that nothin' happened that day five years ago, that it was just a backrub. I calmed down after a few seconds, after realizin' I was overreactin' to a backrub between you two." He curled up beside Methos on the chair, giving Xander a smile. "After all, buddies are like that." He tweaked Xander's nose. "It was Oz that went psycho."
"True," Xander sighed, putting his head back down. He didn't like to think of that bad time between them, but Oz had went insane when he had found him giving Methos a backrub while they were both naked. His husband had even called the bank and had his withdrawal privileges suspended because Oz thought he was going to leave him. That had not been fun, but they had worked through it, and Oz was trying to be less possessive now. There was no more confiscation of credit and ATM cards, no more criticizing what he bought when he went shopping. No more making sure he was only going to certain places in LA and having Angel tail him there. It was much nicer now, though he used to be able to count on Angel to send Willow to tail him so he had a shopping buddy, but it was better now. Not fully fixed, but better. He looked up at Ray. "Think I could travel with you?" he asked out of the blue.
"Sure," Ray said, looking up at Methos. "I think it's about time you two had a break. It's been ten years since you were last apart, while you were crossin' realms with those kids."
"I think he meant us and just him," Methos said gently.
Ray nodded. "And? I know. It's still good for me." He grinned at Xander. "Wanna go shoppin' with me in Paris? I think we could find some of the oddest shops."
"Oh, dear," Giles said as he walked out. "Is this something I need to be worried about?"
"No," Xander told him, not looking at him. "Just planning a little solo vacation of my own."
"Oh, all right then." He smiled at Methos. "We would approve of them chaperoning you. We would even send them with you so they wouldn't have to worry about getting tickets and the like."
"Eurorail pass," Methos whispered in Xander's ear.
Ray, who had heard, snickered. "Definitely." He looked up at Methos. "Want to be a chaperone?"
"If we must, but I had plans that included just the two of us and one of the observation decks on the Eiffel tower, especially since they're fixing it again."
Giles shook his head and went back into the house, going to talk to Oz. "He wants to take a solo vacation."
"It's been fifteen years. I'm sure Methos and Ray will be close enough in case he gets into trouble." He handed over some carrots and green peppers. "Chop those into chunks please." He finished the lettuce and put it aside.
Xander walked out of the bathroom and collapsed on the bed, looking at Oz, who was staring up at the canopy of the bed. "What?" he asked warily. Usually when Oz got that look, Xander had to curtail his fun.
"Just thinking about you taking a solo vacation for a month," Oz said quietly, then looked down at his husband. They were alone tonight, Giles was sleeping in another room so he wouldn't get sick too. "I'm okay with the concept of you going, but the animals and I are going to miss you."
Xander leaned in for a kiss. "I won't be gone a month, we both know that, I just planned for a month at the most."
"Okay. Can I make a request though?" Xander nodded. "I don't want you to go on your vacation as yourself." Xander looked confused. "I don't want you going as 'Xander Harris, trouble magnet'. He touched the dark hair. "Maybe do this in another color for a few weeks? Different clothes?"
"Ah, you want me to turn into a different Xander."
"Yup, one who won't be recognized for his sex manual, or for his other books." Oz rolled over and cuddled him. "I want you to have a happy vacation, not one where you have to get away from people like that guy in Prague, who thought you were willing to give lessons since you had written the book. Just a nice trip, maybe some hobnobbing with some of the more affluent in London, that sort of thing."
"I'll think about it," Xander temporized. He shook his head. "I don't want to have to pretend."
"Not asking you to, just to change a few physical things in the name of safety." He dragged his thumb across his husband's lip. "It's not like I don't know that you're going to ditch Methos and Ray as soon as you get to London. I just want you to be safe."
"All right," Xander said, understanding the premise behind the request. "Will you be able to live with me with different hair?"
"Sure. And you can take all that cashmere with you to Europe since it's winter there too."
"Okay, I'll do it, on one condition." Oz nodded quickly. "That I want you to spend the time we're apart working on some more of your possessive issues."
"Deal," Oz said. He nuzzled in. "Am I really still that bad?"
"Only when someone looks at me."
"All right, I'll work on that. Just don't get into trouble."
"Me?" Xander asked, grinning. "Besides, Spike and Seth are both in London somewhere. Methos and Ray will be somewhere in main Europe. There's plenty of people I can run to if I need help."
"I'll only worry a little then," Oz said, matching his smile. "Deal?"
"Deal," Xander said, sealing it with a kiss. "I wish I weren't so tired."
"Me too," Oz sighed, reaching down to touch his soft cock. "This is only the second time I haven't been able to get it up for you."
"I forgave you the other one," Xander said sweetly. "Being that injured was a good excuse." He stole another kiss. "Same as being this sick is." He pulled the covers up over them, snuggling in to be held. "Night."
Xander finished making his reservations, making sure the hotel knew he was paying for the whole month at once, even if he wasn't there for the whole time. It'd be good to have a base to explore from. He looked up at Methos, who had showed him the site he used to make travel plans, grinning. "Okay, I'm done."
"Hit the submit button," Methos said, pointing.
Xander took a deep breath and hit the submit button. His first real vacation alone. What a depressing thought.
TO BE CONTINUED...