Warning: death of minor character. Out and About.
Xander looked across the aisle at Ray and Methos, giving them a brave smile. They were both worried about how he was going to handle himself, this is first vacation away from Oz in fifteen years. "Okay, so we've got one day in Paris for shopping, right?" he asked Ray, who nodded. "And one weekend wherever?"
Methos nodded. "We'll call you in two weeks to come join us for a weekend, and you and Ray can plan on going shopping then, imp." He shut up as a woman sat down next to Xander.
"Hi," Xander said, leaning around her. "Okay, and you guys know the hotel's number in case you get worried too," he said with a grin.
"Yes, we will be checking on you," Ray said, doing his best Oz impersonation.
Xander chuckled. "You should do that for him sometime, Ray." He leaned back in his seat and smiled at the stewardess. First class was nice, but he really didn't want to sit next to this woman, her perfume was a bit strong. "Do you have any of those handwashing packets?" he asked her. He touched his finger and thumb together. "I spilled my soda before we boarded and didn't have time to clean up."
She smiled and nodded. "I'll get you one the next time I walk past the kitchen, Mr. Harris." She checked Ray and Methos' seats too. "Please put them upright for now, gentlemen, we're about to move away from the gate."
"Finally," the woman next to him sighed. "Maybe *then* I'll get some work done."
"Xander, why did you choose a window seat?" Ray called over.
"Because this way, I can goof off and watch the clouds instead of working on that *book*," he said in disgust.
"Ah," Methos said wisely. "I'll help you with it when we get back, imp."
"Did you want to switch seats?" she asked dryly.
"No, I like the window seat." He took the small package from the stewardess with a smile. "Thanks." He jumped as the front door slammed shut, only to be opened a second later for one last, straggling, passenger and her child, then they were shut for good and the plane moved away from the gate. Xander listened to the entire safety speech, then forced himself to relax as the plane started to gain speed for take off. He counted to 100, knowing that if the plane didn't crash then, it might not crash at all, a silly superstition he had learned the first time he had ever flown as a child. Once they were airborne, he brought out his laptop and his light pen, expecting to get something useful done, eventually.
After a few minutes of watching him draw, the woman craned her neck over. "You're a designer?" she asked, looking over his velvet pants and tanktop.
"Only for myself and friends," he mumbled as he corrected a the line he had just screwed up on. He looked her over. "Why?"
"Just wondering," she said defensively. She pushed the button for the stewardess and demanded a pillow and blanket. "I'm going to sleep," she said self-importantly.
"Night," he said absently, already back in his work.
The next time Xander got brought out of his work was when the stewardess tapped him on the shoulder. "Drink, sir? We're going to be serving dinner in an hour or so."
"Sure. Twenty ounces?" he asked.
She smiled. "Beer or Coke?"
She handed him one. "What did you want for supper, sir? We're having broiled fish or pasta alfredo with shrimp."
"Which veggies are in the pasta?"
"As far as I know, there's a little bit of broccoli, but nothing else."
"I'll have a small serving of that. I have to watch my weight and my diet," he told her with a smile. "My doctor from my heart attack said so."
"That was a long time ago," Methos said dryly, looking up from his reading. "You're fine now if you wanted to eat a whole panful."
"But I've gotten used to the diet now; it took me ten years, but I don't feel like I'm starving anymore."
Ray snorted in his sleep and rolled over, reaching a hand out to the stewardess' leg.
"Ray," Methos sighed, pulling Ray's hand back. "Sorry, but he tends to cuddle in his sleep." He watched as the woman sitting next to Xander huffed and got up to go find another seat.
"Gee, maybe I should have mentioned I have two husbands," Xander said, smiling at Methos. "If you want, you can send him over here."
"I know. I might later." Methos smiled at the stewardess, who was looking a little confused. "We live with his family sometimes, these two are best friends."
"Oh." Her smile got brighter. "It's good to have support." She looked at Xander. "Are you *sure* you only want half a portion? They are small, Mr. Harris."
"Then I'll have the regular sized one. Oh, and can I have some of that snack mix too?" he asked with a grin. "I get munchies when I write now."
"Of course." She pulled out a small packet of snack mix and handed it over. "I'll get you another bag if you need one." She ruffled his hair and turned to look at Methos. "What would you two like for dinner tonight, Mr. Pierson?"
"I'll have the fish and Ray will have...."
"The pasta," Xander finished for him.
"Yes, he'll have the pasta." Methos looked around her at Xander. "Behave, imp, or we might have to stay in London an extra day to make sure you behave."
Xander gave him, and the stewardess, his best innocent look. There was an advantage to being frozen at the age of twenty-one. She walked away laughing lightly.
Ray chose then to wake up.
And the guy from coach decided to come through the partition with his gun held before him.
Ray rolled over and grabbed the soda Xander tossed at him, lifting up his glasses so he could see long enough to toss the bottle at the guy with the gun. "I retired," he grumbled. "I thought the bad guys were supposed to go away when you retired."
Methos patted him on the arm. "I'm sure this one was just a fluke, my darling former cop."
The stewardess looked down at them in shock. "How did you do that? What are you?"
"Former cop, and I used to have a Mountie as a partner," Ray mumbled, on his way back down into his nap.
"He just retired a few weeks ago," Xander told her gently. "He's still working on the instinctive problems. He's even shot an alarm clock because it went off."
The stewardess looked upset, and confused, but she nodded and got another person to help her restrict the passenger to a bathroom until they could make an emergency landing. Methos stopped her on the way back. "He *really* doesn't want this mentioned. All right?" She nodded. "Not at all connected with his name."
"Tell them I did it," Xander said, munching as he looked out the window. "Hey, it's Chicago."
Ray groaned and hid his face against Methos' side. "Just what I need, my old home."
"It's all right, Ray, the Federal people take care of things on airlines," Methos soothed. "I doubt you're going to see any of your former coworkers this time." He looked up at the Stewardess. "Really, he would like his name kept out of this."
"All right," she agreed, walking away. She had thought they were three nice, if a little young, men. Now she wasn't quite sure what they were. A cop? His husband? Their best friend, who reacted instantly to the sight of the gun? Oh, this was going to be one of *those* flights.
The Captain came on and told everyone that they were making an emergency landing in Chicago, but that there was no need for alarm. The problem had already been taken care of, the landing was just a formality.
Xander walked out of Customs and looked around for Methos and Ray, who were spending the night in London before going on to Paris the next afternoon. He found them waiting on him, Methos looking delighted when faced with decent beer choices at the pub in the airport. He slipped an arm around Ray's waist, giving him a squeeze. "You'll have all night at the pubs," Xander reminded Methos. "I want to go check in. I need a nap."
"That's why I sleep when I fly," Ray told him with a shrug. "That, and I won't know it if we crash." He picked up their bags and headed for baggage claim to pick up their swords. He and Xander met Methos outside, the old man was arguing with a cab driver over the best brewhouse in the surrounding country. "Let it go," Ray advised him, getting into the back. "We're heading into London Proper. Xander's staying at..."
"The same place we did last time, the Lanesborough in Hyde Park," he said, pulling out the business card to hand to the driver. "We're going there first, then they can be dropped off, they're only a few blocks away."
"We're not staying at the apartment tonight," Methos said as he slid in beside them. "Oz arranged for me to stay with you tonight, just so you don't feel lonely your first night in town."
"Gee, guys, I was gonna go find Seth and talk him into a game of pool. After a nap," he said with a grin.
Methos gave him a hug. "I know you're trying to sound confident , but Oz told me that your first night in a new city was usually very upsetting for you, that you felt you should wander around, but not wanting to get into trouble you wouldn't."
"Yeah, but I've been here before," Xander reminded him with a grin. "I'll be okay, Adam, really." He kissed him on the cheek, then gave Ray one too. "Really, I'll be okay without my Oz. I might have to hire an escort to take me to a play, but otherwise we'll be fine."
"So, the Lanesborough?" the driver asked.
"Yes, please," Methos told him. "Ray, did you load the luggage?"
"You did," Xander told him, relaxing into the comforting embrace and starting on his nap a little early.
The clerk looked a little embarrassed as she looked at Xander. "Sir, we sent you an email..."
"I haven't checked my mail in about a week," Xander told her, leaning on the counter. "You couldn't give me what I wanted?"
"Well, no, most of the Junior Suites are filled due to a business meeting in two weeks." She looked a little abashed. "We can upgrade you, but it's going to be a little extra."
"How much extra?"
"About fifty-four hundred pounds extra," she said with a wince. "We have one of the Executive Junior Suites open, but it's seven hundred seventy-five pounds instead of the five hundred ninety- five one that you originally booked. That's a difference of fifty-four hundred pounds over the month."
Methos patted Xander on the back. "You brought over six hundred thousand pounds, Xander, accept it."
"Sure," he said with a shrug. "Methos is right. I might not be here all month, but I need a secure base to play from." He gave her a grin and handed over some of the cash he had changed at the airport's bank. "Let me dig the rest out." He got down and dug around, bringing out the rest of the cash he would need from his pile. "And you have my credit card number still right?" he asked her as he handed that over too.
She nodded. "Definitely, sir. If I may ask, why are you paying in cash?"
"Because this way, I have to limit how much I spend while shopping," he told her dryly. "Otherwise, I'm going to be sending a *lot* of stuff home."
She chuckled. "I understand that, sir, your last stay here was almost legendary among the bellhops." She printed out the forms and handed them over. "There you go, just sign please and I'll have you brought upstairs immediately." She watched as Xander signed his name, then handed him the security card and the key. "You're on a secure floor, Mr. Harris, so you'll need both to get into your room." She pointed up at the camera above her, making him look up. "If you have any troubles with your security card, please let Security know, they've got your picture now." She admired his newly blonded hair. "That's a nice look on you," she complimented.
"Thanks," he said with a smile. "You've got me under the pseudonym?" She nodded. "Good. That was just an Oz overprotective thing." He ran his fingers through his hair. "So's this." He shrugged. "My Oz worries about me, as always."
Methos ruffled the blond hair too. "But it does look good on you. The stylist picked a perfect shade."
"I did it," Xander mumbled as he picked up his carryon and laptop case, following the guy with his luggage up to his room.
Methos looked at Xander's back, then down at his Ray, who was napping against their bellhop. He shook his head and handed over his reservation letter and credit card.
"Mr. Pierson," she said, smiling at him as she typed him in. "Here we are. One night?"
"Yes, his Oz wanted him to be guarded tonight," Methos sighed, rolling his eyes. "He gets into such *trouble* when he's alone." He signed his papers too, then woke Ray up gently and followed Xander upstairs.
Xander sent Oz an email as soon as he woke up, including a cute part about a dream he had of his husband wearing a leopard-print thong, then stood up and stretched. He looked out the window, smiling when he saw it was nearly dawn. "Oh, they're going to hate me," he said, heading for the cordless phone. "Hi, can you connect me with Mr. Pierson's room?" he asked. He chuckled and looked at the clock. "How long before the block comes off?" He snorted. "Thanks. Yeah, tell them I'm down getting breakfast when you wake them up please." He hung up and looked around the spacious room, taking in the nice, open floor plan, and the antique furniture. He nodded to himself. "Well worth the extra money." He opened the safe and took out a few of his larger bills to have ready for breakfast and a trip through the in-house store, he knew he had forgotten something, as usual, then went to take a shower. By the time he got back, he had a message waiting on him from his Oz, who got mushy. He 'aww'ed over the picture of Oz and the ferret, Jedi deciding apparently that napping on Oz's head was one of the better spots, then went down to eat. He was starving!
He sat down at one of the smaller tables in a corner, picking up the complimentary newspaper to read while he waited on his coffee. He had to have coffee before he had anything else. As soon as it came, the paper was tossed aside and the entire pot was drained. Then he felt like breakfast. He picked up the menu and looked it over, remembering what he and Oz had eaten the last time they had been here, smiling at the memories he had of this place. The waiter coughed delicately, making him look up. "Sorry, lost in my memories. My mate and I were here last time."
"Is he all right, Mr. Harris?" the waiter asked.
"Yup, we're taking a vacation from each other. It's been fifteen years," he sighed. "I hate it." He put down the menu. "I'd like an order of the quiche and some of those really fluffy eggs that we had the last time. And some ham please?"
"Of course, sir. More coffee?"
"No, milk please, I'll have more coffee afterwards." He smiled as Ray wandered in, still rubbing his eyes. "Get him coffee though. He's a lot like me." He handed over the empty pot and the waiter buzzed off immediately go to fill the order. "Good morning, Ray," he said, trying to look cheerful.
"Hey," Ray grunted as he sat down, looking around the nearly empty room. "Where's that waiter?"
"Gone to get you some coffee," Xander said, patting the back of his friend's hand. "I left a message for you to both come join me when you got up."
"Meth kicked last night," Ray complained, rubbing down his bare thigh.
Xander checked the bare leg, ignoring the tight running shorts and t-shirt his friend was wearing, for now. "Not a single bruise," he said, looking impressed. "The last time he kicked me in jest, I got a bruise the size of a grapefruit."
"Yeah, I don't do that," Ray said, grinning at the waiter as he was handed coffee. He watched as the waiter said something to Xander then left. "Let me guess, he objects to my shorts?"
"No, to your entire outfit." Xander stood up and dragged Ray over to the in-house store, getting him a pair of walking shorts and a shirt, letting him get dressed in their bathroom before going back to breakfast. "There, how's that?" he asked as he sat down, the waiter putting down their food.
"Sorry, sir, but the manager can get persnickety about such attire," the waiter said softly. "I just wanted to warn you."
"No big," Ray said, waving it off. He looked at Xander's plates. "Can I have fried eggs and bacon? And maybe some of those little pastry things? The little fluffy ones with fruit?"
"Of course, Mr. Kowalski, I'll be right back with them." He walked away, going to get his order also.
"That's the only good thing about early mornings," Ray noted, sipping more of his coffee. "There's no one here and the waiters are *real* nice to ya." He looked down at his khaki shorts and green shirt, then over at his best friend. "You had ta make me look preppy?"
"This is London. When Oz did it to me, he said it was a mandatory look for at least a day." He grinned. "I got blue though."
Ray patted him on the head. "That's nice." He took the plates from the waiter's hands, starting in as fast as he could. "Great," he said between bites. "Tell everyone I said so."
Xander smiled at the waiter. "He's just retired as a police officer."
"Ah," the waiter said, nodding. He refilled the coffee urn then left them alone to eat in peace.
By the time Methos joined them, they had polished off a good number of Ray's pastries and all of their breakfasts, and were about to bounce around the room. Methos took one look at them and grabbed the coffee urn, pouring himself a cup as he sat down, just so he could be ready for whatever they would do.
Xander waved at his friends through the security gates, then headed for the busses. He wanted to go ride around London, get his bearings again. After a nice, twenty minute ride, he found himself in front of an old bookstore, and shrugged. He needed something to do while he ate. He walked in and smiled at the man behind the counter, heading back to the sci-fi section. He had picked out about six books before he knew it and had to check his wallet to make sure he hadn't left his money back in his room. He came up with one big bill and mentally counted up his purchases, then pulled down two books he wanted to give Giles and Oz. He walked up and handed them over, paying for it.
"American?" the man behind the counter asked as he rung them up. He gave the Book of Egyptian Spirits a funny look.
"Yup. On vacation from my husbands." He took the bag and walked out, heading back to his hotel. If he only remembered where it was. He decided to wander down the street, looking in all the little shops along the way. The he saw a tour bus and decided to go ask them. "Hi, how do I get to Hyde Park?" he asked the driver.
"Back that way," he said, pointing over his shoulder. "A fair bit though. We've just come from there. Should be a bus you can take." He looked the young man over. "You live there?"
"For the next month," he said with a slight grin. "Thanks." He started walking that way, knowing if worse came to worse, he could always ride around London some more until he got back there. By the time he got back to his hotel room that afternoon, he was broke, he was exhausted, but he was feeling better about being alone. He dropped his bags on the couch and sat down in front of his computer, looking for a new message from Oz. He found one from Giles, reminding him not to go bother his father, but smiled at it. He hadn't planned on it, but hey, if he ran into his father- in-law then wouldn't it be rude not to say hi? He logged out of his mail account and went to take a nap before dinner.
Xander walked into the Concierge's office, giving the woman behind the desk a smile. "Have you heard of this play?" he asked, setting a clipping down in front of her.
"I've heard it's very highly thought of by the critics," she said, reading over the review. "I've not seen it personally, Mr. Harris." She smiled up at him. "Would you like a ticket to go see it?"
"Yup. But can you find me someone to go with?" She looked faintly shocked and he frowned. "Nothing like that. I hate going to plays by myself. It's always better when you can talk about it with someone else."
She nodded. "I see. I do have the number of a very professional escort service, I could call them for you."
He nodded. "Please. Just to go to the play. Nothing more than that. I doubt my husbands would like it if I had dinner with her or something."
Her smile got brighter. "Of course, Mr. Harris. Would you like to try for tickets for tonight, or tomorrow's afternoon showing?"
"Tomorrow's afternoon showing," he said happily. "You get to see some of the understudies then and they're usually much more into the acting parts than the usual actors are in the afternoons."
She nodded. "Of course. I'll have them sent up to your room."
"Thanks." He reached over to touch the ring on her finger. "How long?"
"Six months," she sighed. "And he's not all I wanted."
He showed her his. "Fifteen years and this is our first apart vacation." He shrugged and left her alone, going back to sulking alone in his room. He picked up a copy of the newspaper on the way, then decided he wanted to go look for his brother and Spike tonight. He logged onto the internet as soon as he got upstairs and went through his bookmarks until he found where he had hidden the demonic newspaper's page, heading for it's classified section. "Pubs," he muttered as he searched them, coming up with a page of addresses after finding the site for local hangouts. He checked himself then went to take a shower before dinner.
Xander walked into the second pub of the night and headed straight for the loudest corner, running into Spike as soon as he walked up to them. He gave him a hug. "Hi, Oz let me out on my own and I wanted to invite my brother and you out to do something," he said when he got growled at.
The few demons around them stared at him in shock. "What?" Spike grunted.
"Xander Harris," he said, holding out his hand to shake the demon's claw. All the demons got very wide eyes and went back to what they were doing. "You were saying?" Xander asked Spike.
Spike snorted and led the way over to their back corner table, letting Xander sit next to his brother. "The boy wants to take us out."
"Okay," Seth said, putting down his pint of blood. "Where?"
"Pick somewhere not like this," Xander offered. "Dinner if you'd like."
"Hmm," Seth said, looking Xander's outfit of jeans and long-sleeved shirt over. "You'd have to change to go where Spike refuses to take me."
"Formal or leathers," Xander offered.
"Formal," Seth said, grinning at his younger brother. "You look good for a man that's thirty- eight."
"Yeah, I do," Xander said happily. "I'm going to be young and pretty for a little while longer." He looked over at Spike, giving him an innocent look. "Why won't you take him out? That's mean."
"Don't like the fancy, frou-frou places his Sire did," Spike snorted. "Let you take him though."
"Thanks," Seth said dryly. "Spike, I want to have dinner with the *both* of you." He looked at his brother. "What do you have planned for the rest of your trip?"
"Just taking it as it comes," Xander sighed. "I have a play to go to tomorrow, then I'm going to do some prezzie gathering after that. Methos and Ray promised to call next week and force me to come to Paris with them for a weekend." He gave Spike a pitiful look. "I'm bored."
Spike shuddered and got up to get himself another pint of beer.
Seth and Xander shared a secretive smile and got together to plan what to do for the rest of the night.
Seth and Xander danced together on the dancefloor, Spike watching from not that far away, enjoying themselves for the first time on this trip. Spike, who had already been offered for some of Xander's or Seth's time, growled at the latest demon to walk up to him. "Devi," he snarled. "What do you want?"
"I need to make Harris an offer," he said calmly.
Spike laughed, drawing some attention to them. "I know he won't come back to work for you."
"That wasn't the question," Devi said, bowing to Xander as he walked over with his brother. "Hello, Xander. I wanted to know if...."
"No," Xander cut him off.
"Not to work, to run one of the clubs. I have to leave for LA in a few days on an emergency that's going to come up and I'll need someone I trust to be there for my boys." He looked Seth over. "You're Blair's childe, correct?"
"Seth," he said, shaking the older demon's hand. "I doubt my brother would acquiesce to such an offer." He looked at Xander, who was not looking happy. "I'd say the answer is no, Devi. Please leave us alone." He dragged his brother away, knowing that Spike was watching out for them.
Spike punched the brothel owner, sending him crashing to the floor. "I watch out for the boy, and I doubt his husbands would like it if he did anything for you," he said, then he spat next to his head. "Leave and never come near the boy again." He followed his boyfriend over to the bar, getting himself a whiskey. Xander laid a hand on his arm. "Relax, not gettin' drunk," he sighed, rolling his eyes.
"Please, Spike, not tonight," Seth pleaded. He and Xander shared a mutual distaste for drunkenness, no matter who was doing the drinking. And Spike routinely got violent when he got drunk, another good reason to keep him from drinking if they wanted to continue to have fun together that night. "Please?"
"Sure," Spike sighed, putting down the shot. "Was my first."
"I know," Seth said, giving him a hug. "Thank you."
"Welcome." Spike looked at Xander, who was steadily drinking his first beer of the night. "Maybe you should stop him."
Seth nodded and took the bottle, draining the rest of it himself. "None of that, bro," he whispered. "He's not worth it."
"I *so* want to kill him," Xander said quietly. "Can we find somewhere else?"
"This is the only one that'll allow humans," Spike told him. "Everywhere else checks."
Xander reached over and picked up a copy of the demon paper from behind the counter, flipping over until he found a listing for another club. "What about this one? It says it's a mixed place."
"That would be Devi's," Seth noted. "Sire goes there." He patted Xander's back. Then another demon grabbed him and tossed him backwards.
"Oi!" Spike shouted, but he too got thrown away.
Xander looked at the large demon, one eyebrow going up in a mock-Oz look. "What?" he asked calmly. "Can't I have a drink with my brother?"
"You smell good," the demon hissed.
"Yes, and I'm the mate to a werewolf, a very old one." He stepped out of range of the hand trying to touch him. "Touch me and die," he warned. "I'm very well trained to kill you."
The demon snorted. "You don't even know what I am. You're human and they're blind to us."
"You're a second generation, Realm 23-spawned demon, though many of you do now live on Realm 12. Your kind have acidic spittle properties and greater than average strength, but have proven on intelligence tests to not take a clue. Your reach is about three feet, your tongue has suckers on it, and your kind cause more trouble annually than vampires do in the matter of property damage. Did I forget anything?"
"Their pricks have prickles," Spike said helpfully, enjoying this. He hadn't known the boy was this good.
"Are you a Watcher?" the demon asked, his eyes narrowing.
"No, I'm a guardian of the Hellmouth in California. All I'm trying to do is have a nice time with my brother, Seth, and here you go interfering with it. How decent is that?"
The demon growled and took a swing at him. "You are a Watcher."
"No, I'm *married* to the Watcher," Xander noted, pulling his sword out of its sheathe in his leather jacket, a present from Methos last Christmas, and hacked off the demon's left hand. "Did you want to discuss this anymore?"
"Who are you?" the bartender asked, looking calm but sounding scared.
Xander dropped his sword back into it's special holder then turned to look at him. "Xander Harris," he said, holding out a hand.
The bartender nodded. "Heard of you. You're a fair one." He looked at the demon. "Out or I'll have you bounced," he ordered.
"You haven't seen the last of me," the demon promised. He picked up his hand and lumbered out.
"Bye," Xander called, waving. He looked around the club, everyone staring at him. "What? A boy's got to defend himself against idiots like him. After all, my Oz would not be pleased if I hadn't." The crowd started to disperse.
Spike snorted and nodded. "True, he'd take it out on me though." He put an arm around Xander's shoulder. "You brought your weddin' gift with ya on the plane?"
"Yup, but we had to check them in at the airport. Adam was *not* happy." He smiled at the bartender. "Can I have a bottled water please?" he asked, putting down a bill on the bar. "And I'll pick up Spike and Seth's next drink too." He looked over at his brother, who was talking into his cellphone. "Tell your Sire I said hi," he said, waving.
Seth groaned and turned around, walking into the bathroom to get some privacy. Spike decided to like this human, he was a good one to get into trouble with. Especially if he bought the drinks.
When Xander got in, he sent an email to his Oz, telling him Seth said hi and Spike had taken over his Ozly duties that night. He conveniently left out the fight, or the attempt by a vampiress who wanted to eat him on the dance floor, and said good night to him and the babies.
He turned and found a small envelope on the desk, picking it up to look inside it. "Tickets," he said in appreciation, liking the seating. He saw the small slip of paper and took it out. "Sorry, could only get you evening tickets. Hope this was okay. Her name is Lacrecia and she'll be downstairs at seven tomorrow night so you can get there in time," he read. "Coolness." He put them aside and went to wash the sweat off. He had forgotten what fun a night out clubbing was.
Xander looked his escort over, liking what he saw. "Xander," he said, shaking her hand. "Ready to go?"
"Of course," she said, her voice gentle and quiet. Once they were in the cab, she turned to look at him. "My boss said that you only need accompanying to the play?"
"Yup. I think plays and movies should be shared so you can talk during them," he said with a grin, holding up his ring. "My husbands aren't with me this time."
"Oh." Her smile got more genuine. "Why didn't you pick a male escort?"
"Because my Oz gets very jealous, but he knows I hate going to plays by myself so this is okay," he assured her. "He's back in California right now with our animals."
"Are you in town for business?"
"No, a long vacation. It's been fifteen years, it was time."
"You must have gotten married to him very young," she said, looking him over. "You don't look like you're over twenty-five."
"Oh." She blinked a few times. "How do you stay so young?"
"Lots of clean living," he noted, smiling at her. "Have you seen this one before?"
She looked him over to judge and see if she should tell him her real opinion of the play, then decided he would take honesty well. "Yes, and I thought it was horrid the first time," she said honestly. "It's a bad take-off of Romeo and Juliet, but they don't die and she's pregnant before they get married." She shook her head. "It's a lot more art than substance."
"You sound like you know plays," he offered.
"I was a theater student, moved here from LA actually."
"I live in Sunnydale," he told her.
"Wow. This is a small world. So, you have an Oz?"
"And a Giles. He's from a town just north of here somewhere."
"Are you going to visit his family for him?"
"He's asked me not to," he said with a faint blush. "They don't really like me, they think I'm a little wild." He paid the cabbie and got out, helping her out of the cab. "Come, at least we can talk. We've got a small box."
"Up near the Queen's?" she asked as she watched him hand over the tickets. She glanced at the crowd, pulling him back as someone a lot more famous came up behind them. "Bow," she reminded him gently.
"M'lady," Xander said in his best courtly manner, "M'lord."
The King chuckled. "It's been a long time since I've heard that." He looked at his daughter, who was practically bouncing. "Yes, dear?" he asked her.
"Father, introduce me please?" she begged. "It's a wonderful birthday present to find someone amusing."
Xander stood up and clicked his heels together, holding out his hand. "Xander Harris, American." She giggled again. "This is Lacrecia, my date for the evening," he introduced her.
"This is my daughter, Carolyn," the King said. "It's her thirteenth birthday." The crowd cheered. "Come, dear."
"Bye," she called, waving at him.
Xander waved back, then took his ticket stubs, allowing Lacrecia to lead him up to their box. "Was that okay?" he asked her.
"Where did you learn court manners?" she hissed. "The Middle Ages?"
"Basically," he agreed, sitting down. "Long story, full of strangeness."
She just looked at him.
After the play, Xander took her out for coffee, then sent her home, sipping his very good coffee as he watched the people go past the windows.
"Oh, it's you," a young female voice said from behind him.
Xander turned to look at the young Crown Princess, giving her a smile. "Yup, it's me," he said, waving at the other seat. "Sit, if your father says it's okay."
She sat down, waving her hand at him. "He's being fussy. We're escaping the press."
"Ah. I don't usually have that problem anymore."
"You wrote something, I remember your name but I don't remember what," her father said as he came over. "You don't mind, correct?" he asked as he dragged a chair over.
"No, not at all. I was just thinking that my Oz would have hated that play too."
"Your Oz?" the King asked.
"One of my husbands, the one that's always there," he said, showing off his ring.
"Then that woman....?"
"Was just so I had someone to talk to. Very nice, but a little stiff. She thought I was odd," he told the young girl.
She laughed. "Only sometimes." She looked at her father. "I'm supposed to be learning about normal people now."
"Which is seriously a good idea. The normal, average, person wouldn't have went to that play tonight," he said, still smiling.
The King nodded. "It was one of the many and the best lesson my mother ever taught me, to learn about the average person." He looked Xander over. "You seem average enough."
"Well, I started off that way, and then a semi-aunt," he did the quotation marks, "died and left me her retirement funds, which consisted mostly of jewels."
"Loose ones?" the King asked.
"Yup. She didn't trust banks." He shrugged. "With some good planning, I'm now eccentric and moderately wealthy."
The Princess laughed. "I'm sure you're very normal. What part of America are you from?"
"A few hours outside of LA."
"Do you go to the theater there?"
"Not if Oz can help it."
She giggled again. "He sounds strict."
"No, he's just very private. We've had some problems in the past few years."
"How long have you been...married?" the King asked.
"Fifteen years," Xander sighed, looking at his ring. "We're working on taking vacations right now. It was time for us to spend some time apart and want to come back home."
"That's romantic," the Princess said.
"Yes, it is, Carolyn," he father noted. "Did you write something a few years back? A book perhaps?"
Xander blushed lightly. "Yes, but it's probably not something you want to discuss in front of your daughter."
"Ah." The King nodded. "I think I remember what it was now. My father got it for me for my wedding night to her mother." He patted the back of his daughter's head affectionately. "I do miss her some days."
"I know that feeling," Xander sighed. "I miss my Oz. It's only been a week." He looked at the King, who was looking shocked. "Oz and I are so very close that even a few hours away feels like a permanent separation. By the time I go home, I fully expect to have missed him so badly that I'm ready to waste away if he doesn't take me immediately in hand and pamper me silly." He smiled at the Princess. "I wish you a love like that when you're old enough."
"Yes, so do I," the King agreed, looking at his daughter. "Coming, Carolyn?" he asked as he stood up.
"Father, may he come on the hunt this weekend?"
"No, dear," Xander told her, "I'm supposed to be visiting my father-in-law this weekend. He lives somewhere up near Stonehenge." He patted her hand. "Don't worry, I'm sure you'll bump into me sometime if you're meant to." He wrote something out and gave it to her. "For your great- grandmother, I've always thought she was an amazing woman with all she's been through and seen." He bowed to her. "Your majesties."
Carolyn took her father's hand and allowed herself to be led away. She looked up at him once they were outside. "I think he was a knight sometime," she told him.
He gave her the indulgent smile again. "One never knows, dear, one never knows." He let her get into the car first, nodding at their bodyguard to go once he was safely inside.
Xander finished off his coffee and paid his tab, getting up so he could go back to his empty hotel room and email his husband.
Xander looked at the directions again, grinning at his silly little plan. Giles wouldn't mind *too* much if he went to visit his family. After all, the old man had invited him. He pulled up in front of a house that had Giles' last name on it and got out, going to ring the bell. The woman who answered the door slapped him. "Gee, thanks, that was a typically warm welcome," he noted, then he smiled at the boy standing behind her. "My husband has a picture of you," he told the boy.
The woman let him inside. "Yes, we know. Your very name makes my father go insane," she said stiffly, leading him up to a room overlooking the small fields around the house. "Father, it's *him*," she said, sounding disgusted.
"It's me, Leslie," Xander said as he stepped in, handing him the package of apricots he knew the old man liked. "Hi."
Leslie glared at him. "Are you here to tell me my son lost?"
"No, we're on vacation from each other right now," Xander said, sitting across from him. "It's been fifteen years since we were married, it's time for our first vacation." He looked at the boy watching them. "You can come in, I don't mind," he said gently.
The boy walked in. "Grandpa, is this really Rupert's naughty husband?" the boy asked.
Xander laughed, falling backwards on the bed he was sitting on so he could howl. "Oh, yeah, I know who said that," he gasped.
"As you can tell," Leslie said dryly, "it is." He patted the boy on the head. "Go read the Absicom series, boy."
"No, don't, it's a worthless waste. The only demons in there that still exist are also in McKinley's," Xander said, pulling himself back together. He looked at the young boy. "And, I know this for a fact, the last of the Hermanics died out last year."
"Yes, you probably would know," Giles' father said snidely. "Go study, boy."
"What's his name?" Xander asked after the boy had left.
"That's Leslie also. He'll follow in my footsteps."
"Yeah, I guess it's a comfort and all that stuff," Xander told him, going back to being nice. "So, you invited me up to be slapped by Giles' sister-in-law?"
Leslie snorted. "I like her, she's spirited."
"She's mean, there's a difference," Xander noted. "I brought you the apricots you wanted."
"I saw." Leslie cleared his throat. "How is the boy?"
"He's good. He's picked up a new area to study, one which pisses Oz off greatly. He's studying the rumors of different were's, including someone who changes into a werehamster, or so she said. He's off interviewing right now." He crossed his feet, smiling at his sister-in-law as she walked in with things for tea. "Thanks, I can do that," he said, taking it from her and putting it on the low table. "Giles did say hi, in case you wanted to know," he said as she left.
"What's he doing now?"
"Interviewing other were's. He thinks it'll become helpful sometime in the future for someone, maybe even little Leslie." He smiled. "After all, when Giles' ran into one, he wasn't really well prepared, he thought Oz was a myth." She 'humph'ed and left them alone, slamming the door. "Gee, I can see now how you think she's nice," he said dryly.
Leslie smiled. "She's got the same fire I see in you, Xander." He accepted his cup of tea, nodding at the tray. "Drink with me."
"I hate tea," Xander told him. "It tastes like boiled leaves to me."
Leslie snorted, then started to chuckle. "I had that reaction too, but I've been raised on it." He took a sip. "How's the new girl?"
"Marigold? Or did Oz forget to tell me something?"
"No, her. How is she?"
"She's fine. Wes is fine. Willow's thinkin' that if Faith doesn't grow up soon, her eternity's going to be kinda short." Leslie chuckled at that. "Giles is fine, Leslie. He's doing what he loves. He left after we got better and went back to his research. Everything's normal in our house."
"I see. Does that boy of mine see any children in his future?"
"That you'd have to ask him about. Oz and I are satisfied with our animals. Giles' cat was possessed and we had to give it away to a Priest we knew to protect it, and us from it." He showed off the scar on his hand. "Anyway, you'd have to ask him about it." He looked out the window, frowning at the man carrying an axe through the woods. "What is he after?" he asked, scanning the woods. He stood up when he saw it and ran out of the house, out to go stop the idiot before he killed a protective spirit. "You can't," he said, stopping the guy with an axe just before he swung at the demon. "It's a protector."
"It's killing my Grandmother's tree."
The demon mumbled something. "He said it's already dying, he was talking to the spirit in it so it could be moved to another tree." He took the axe. "This demon protects all the lands, that's why it hasn't been taken over in centuries." He looked at the demon and said something to it, getting a shrug and a response. "He said he guards your grandmother because her mother asked him to watch over her."
The man shook his head. "She was a watcher."
"She was a witch," Leslie said from behind them. He said something to the demon and the demon ranted at him. "Yes, I know," he sighed. "The tree's dying, Xander got that part right. He is trying to get your grandmother to switch trees, but he can't find a good one for her."
Xander looked around, then pointed at a very old oak. "What about that one?"
"It's got a spirit," Leslie said. The man looked at him in shock. "What? I've known about this since before you were adopted. You really should pay attention to your own home, Reynold."
Xander walked over to the demon and laid a hand on his shoulder, saying something to him quickly. The demon nodded and walked over to the tree, wrapping his arms around it and mumbling into the bark. He smiled at Xander and nodded. Xander looked at Leslie. "That tree's willing to house her."
"I had no idea they could do that," Leslie said thoughtfully. "Can he move her spirit?"
"No, but I'm sure another witch could. I think he's going to call one of the ones he knows and ask her to help him. That's what he said he was going to do at least." He shrugged. "Have you thought about calling someone to look at your Grandmother's tree? In America, we have people who just doctor trees for a living."
"Botanists would do the same thing, he's just too stubborn to find one."
"Call the closest university to find out if they have someone," Xander suggested. "That's how I found a doctor studying my pheromone problem." He handed back the axe. "Next time," he said coldly, "make sure you have your classification right. *Never* go after a protective spirit, you'll be driven from your home within a month." He looped his arm through Leslie's leading him back to the house. "I think the harridan would be really upset if she found you out of your deathbed," he said dryly. "Let's get you back up there, before she slaps me again, okay?"
"She hit you?" Leslie asked.
"As she opened the door." Xander walked him back into the house, smiling at the little boy. "Did you know that you had tree nymphs in the woods around here? And that the house had a protective spirt?"
"No," he said, looking shocked. "Father said that all demons are bad."
Xander shook his head. "Always judge them by their actions. I know *plenty* that are okay. Of course, I took one's hand the other day when he tried to touch me, but most of the time they want to be left in peace to live their lives." He patted the boy on the head. "The next time your father says that, tell him Rupert said so." The boy nodded, looking entranced.
Leslie laughed. "I do believe you're going to start a revolution within the Council, my boy." He patted his grandson on the head and started up the stairs to his room.
Xander grinned and handed over a chocolate bar he had in his pocket. "Go play. Every child deserves to run free and ignore their parents for a few hours every year or so." The boy whooped and left, running out the back door. Xander trekked all the way back up to the attic of doom and sat back down across from Giles' father. "So," he said finally.
"I think the boy'll be fine, once he grows a backbone," Leslie advised.
"It's really hard to do that when all you get is bitched at," Xander told him. "It took me finding Buffy to grow one of my own."
"You helped that girl?" the wife said from the doorway.
"Yup, I was her White Knight."
"And where is she now?"
"She had been studying under Angel, until she killed herself for hurting him. Spike turned her when he found her dying after a fight." He grinned. "He thought it'd be fun." He waved her in. "Come on, I'll tell you about the new one if you'd like. Marigold's a hippy child, every bit a peace and love person."
His sister-in-law shook her head. "She won't last long then."
"She's got Wesley as a Watcher," Leslie told her.
"She's managed to get Faith, the new vampire concubine, to feel sorry for her and watch out for her," Xander told her. "They're a very cute couple, though Wesley is still not very fond of Faith. He said he's almost staked her a few times but Marigold always shows up just in time to save her."
"Wesley wouldn't like her, not after she killed his last charge."
"True, and I about went and staked her for that myself," Xander told Leslie, getting serious. "It was your son that told me it was Wesley's right, so I offered to champion him. Wesley kissed me on the cheek and went for his favorite battle axe, going to hunt her down. When he found her, he interrupted her fight with a pitiful vampire and dragged her away after knocking her out. He handed her to Micah, asking him to put her in some dimension where she wouldn't find another human or other being to screw for the next century or so." Leslie smiled at that. "She got away from Micah and was turned by Angel, as a present for Buffy, who wanted to go kill her herself. Buffy broke poor Faith in and then Marigold showed up and stole her away from Buffy." He shrugged. "It was all very soap opera for a bit."
Leslie started to laugh so hard he started to cough, bending over to try and catch his breath. "Go," she said, nodding at Xander. "He'll come up and see you again before he goes home," she told the old man. Xander slipped her the card for the hotel, then left, going back to his lonely room. He sent an email to Giles, and got a nice postcard from Oz in return.
Xander looked over his pitiful stack of clean clothes, then around his room. He had already scanned all the movies on tap, he had already coasted through all the cd's. He had even thought about emptying out the mini bar, but he had held himself away from the expensive beer and macadamia nuts. He had thought about finding a good day spa and treating himself, but he really liked it when Oz was there with him, having someone to talk to made it all the more special for him. He flopped backwards on the bed and thought about doing what he usually did when he was this bored, but even that had lost it's appeal. He picked up the phone and dialed home, hoping to hear Oz's voice, even though his husband had said that he wasn't going to answer the phone, that he wanted to give Xander a real vacation from him, but maybe.... He sighed as he got the answering machine and hung up, his arm going to cover his face. The phone rang and he picked it up. "Yeah?" he asked listlessly. "Sure, send 'em up." He hung up and got up to open the door for his brother, going back to his pathetic pose on the bed. "Hey," he said as he heard the door open.
"Good, you do exist," Seth said, slamming the door. "We weren't sure." He tossed something down onto his brother's chest, but the younger man didn't move. "What happened?" he asked, irritated at his usually competent brother's attitude.
"I miss my Oz," Xander whined.
"Yay. You made the papers."
"Yay. Whatever." He pushed the papers off.
"Gee, you mean that you don't want to send home a copy of the picture of you with the Princess?"
"Not really. She's a nice girl, we met at the play, and afterwards we ran into each other at a coffee shop." He uncovered his eyes. "Why are you in a snit? Her father was there."
"Why? Why!" Xander, you met a *Princess*!"
"Been there, done that," he said quietly, covering his eyes again. "Did that across the realms."
"No one told you about that?" Xander asked, forcing himself to sit up. "When I traveled across the gateway in Oz's house...."
"Oh, that," Seth said, waving a hand. "That was nothing. You said he was a Lord."
"Over all the land," Xander said dryly. "He had three daughters, all of which thought Oz was really cute." He stood up and looked down at the picture. "Oh, well. At least her rep won't be ruined." He shrugged it off. "Why were you bitching about that?"
"Xander, does the term 'well known' mean anything to you? There's got to be other people who read that paper and live in the real world. There's going to be people following you around now and they'll want to take pictures of all those you're with, including any demons, vampires, or immortals you might be hanging with at the time. That's very dangerous for everyone in your life."
"No they won't. I was at a play and we arrived around the same time," Xander said dryly. "No big."
"Very big big, Sire was most pissed. He woke me up to come talk to you." He saw his brother glance at the curtained window. "Yes, London does have an Underground specifically for us."
"Why was Blair concerned? It wasn't like I was telling her about you, or him. Or anything for that matter. We talked about Oz."
"Oz!" Seth snorted. "Why does everything in your life have to revolve around Oz!"
"Because he's my Oz," Xander said calmly, starting to not understand his brother at all. "Why are you so upset about Oz?"
"Does he own you?"
"Then why are you so concerned about him?"
"It's called love," Xander said quietly. "Ask Spike about it, I'm sure he knows." He stood up. "Out, Seth. I didn't do anything wrong and if your Sire wants to come bitch at me, he can do it himself. He's not chained to that desk of his." He pushed his brother out of his room and slammed the door, sitting down at his desk to check his mail. He found a cute card from Oz with a picture of Rocky begging. "I love you too, sweetness," he whispered, touching the picture. He picked up the phone and tried home again, and this time he got Giles. "Hi," he said, faking cheerfulness. "Your father invited me up for a chat. I corrupted your nephew." He snickered. "Really? That's cool. No, she slapped me as soon as she opened the door, said something about my very name irritating your father." He lay down on the bed, listening to the voice on the other end. "Yup, that was me," he said after the second time the question had come up. "Why is everyone so upset about this? I do know how to act in front of other people, I promise." He rolled his eyes. "Giles, I didn't say a thing about that." He sat up. "Like I'd do that!" he yelled. "I do know better, you know." He frowned at the phone then hung up. "Bite me. For that, all you get is a sweatshirt from the airport." He laid back down and sulked. After a few minutes, another idea came to him. He decided to get even. He got up and changed clothes, grabbing his money and his credit cards, and went to town.
Xander looked across the club, trying to find a reason to go have some fun by himself. As he looked around, he felt a faint shimmering presence, another immortal was in the room. He glanced around again, careful to not look like he was searching for someone, but he did find the very lost looking young man sitting at one of the tables. He walked over and sat across from him. "Hi."
"You gave me tingles," the man said, closing his old book. "Usually I run away when I feel those." He looked down, smoothing his hand over the cover of the book. "I've learned it's safer that way. Some guy came at me with a *sword*!"
Xander nodded. "Yup. Welcome to your new life. Xander," he said, shaking hands.
"Daniel. Do you know what's going on with me?"
"Yeah, I do, and it's going to sound really odd and bad, but it's not a fairytale."
"Oh. Okay." He shrugged. "With what I work with daily, that's probably nothing."
"Cool. You're immortal."
Daniel laughed. "Really?" he asked.
Xander nodded and pulled out his pen knife, sticking the young man's palm. "Yup," he said, watching as the blue lightning spread over the small cut. "That's one of those things."
"Um," Daniel said, then he grabbed Xander's beer and drained it. "Okay, now what?"
"Now, we go back to my hotel room, I tell you a big, long story, and I get you a teacher," Xander said calmly. He pulled out his wallet and laid a few dollars on the table.
"I've already paid my tab."
"It's a tip, I like the waitresses here, they were nice the last time I was in." He stood up. "Come on. You've got to be told about this." They walked outside. "So, what do you do?"
"Classified," Daniel said, yawning. "Am I supposed to be this tired after doing that?"
"Sometimes. Sometimes not. I think it all depends on how young you are. When did you die?"
"Six weeks ago. I came to just as the rocks above me were pulled off. My teammates didn't sense a thing. And then I got to come study here for a another month."
"Good. That'll make it easier." He patted the young man on the back. "Come on, Daniel, let's go talk." He waved a cab over, trying hard to ignore the man in the shadows tailing them. "What?" he asked finally, turning around. He took the camera and exposed the film. "Thank you. Why are you following me?"
"Because you were seen with the Princess," he stammered, looking shocked.
"Yay, we talked about my husband."
"Then who's this?" the photographer asked, pointing at Daniel.
"Someone who also wants to talk about my husband. He knows him back in the states. My Oz described him to me, but we've never met, so I'm going to get stories to embarrass my Oz from him." He looked at Daniel and nodded.
"Yeah, I've known his husband now for a long time. We're just going to talk somewhere not at that club...." He looked around then ran back, going to get his book. When he came back, the guy was gone. "Nice work."
"Thanks, I think I'm going to have to do something when we get back though," he said, frowning. He let Daniel get into the cab first, then got in and leaned forward. "Lanesborough please."
"Yes, sir," the cabbie said, sounding impressed. "Did that man bother you?"
"Yup. Um, do you know of anyplace that sells spy equipment? With what just happened, I think I need to search my room for bugs."
"Sure. You got money on ya? They'll want a pretty penny."
Xander pulled out his platinum card. "I think I've got it covered," he said dryly.
"Whoa, I've never seen one of those," Daniel said, taking it to look at it. "Those are nice."
"Yes, they are," Xander said, gently taking it back. The cab pulled up in front of the store. "It looks closed."
"Nah, you just gotta figure out how to get in."
"Ah." Xander nodded and got out, walking over to look at the door. Eventually he shrugged and followed the sign, walking around the corner to the club. In there, he found all the stuff he might ever want.
Xander let Daniel in after sweeping the room for bugs, putting his new toys away safely in case he needed them when he switched rooms in the morning and dropping the listening devices into a pitcher of water in the bathroom. He sat down on the couch and pointed at the comfortable chair across from him. "Long story or short one?" he asked.
"Short for now, I'm good at finding questionable spots."
"Okay. A long time ago, there was something that happened, and it marked some people to be different. And no, before you ask, I'm not sure what. All I know is that those that are different are very different. They're orphans. They're stronger. They become immortal as soon as they die a violent death." He coughed lightly. "And then they have to play in something called 'The Game'. The only way you can now die is by having your head cut off. Anything else will regenerate, though it might take some time. Everyone like you fights with swords."
"Um, hold on. You're talking like you're not in it."
"No," Xander said, leaning forward, "I'm not. I'm on the outskirt of it. I'm one of the people who have to stand by and watch it happen."
"Participant observer," Daniel said with a nod. "Okay. I have to learn how to use a sword?"
Xander nodded. "And that's where me calling one of my best friends comes in. He's like you. See, that tingle you felt, that's a warning that another like you's going to show up. Most of the time, that's a very bad thing and your instinct to keep running was good."
"But you give off one."
"That's because of something I did with my husbands, who you'll probably meet later this month when we all go home. I read as a pre-immie, but I'm not one."
"Ah. So that's why you could tell...."
"Only sometimes. Usually, they learn how to shield the aura a little bit, but you haven't had those lessons yet. You were putting out a big 'tasty newbie' sign and I decided you shouldn't do that. Good enough?"
"Yeah. Will this friend know more?"
"Definitely." Xander got up and went over to find the phone, dialing the number Ray had made him memorize. "Hi," he said cheerfully. Then he laughed. "I'm sorry, Ray," he whispered. "But it's really important. I just found a newbie. He's already been attacked once." He came back and sat down. "Yes, Ray, that sort of newbie. And I still say that sound effect is way silly." He rolled his eyes. "Just give the phone to the cuddly one. So poke him for me and tell him I found him one." He rolled his eyes. "They're in post-sex haze."
"It can wait," Daniel offered.
Xander shook his head. "No, it can't." He perked up. "Hey, old guy. Yup, I found me a newbie. Yes, as in one of those. Putting out a big 'tasty, please come get me' sign in a club. Yup, of that sort. I just explained that part, I think you need to be here to do the rest. Would I know this person and would I trust them? Well, he is an American." He rolled his eyes again. "How about lunch, tomorrow? Of course I'm buying, silly," he said as he hung up. "They'll be here tomorrow. You're staying on the couch so you can't get into trouble, and I need a shower," Xander announced, tossing the phone onto the bed. "Pick a movie and watch it while you think."
"Thanks," Daniel called after him, waving. "And I thought my life was already strange," he sighed, getting up to go look through the DVD's the hotel had in stock.
Methos walked in, nodding at the flinch he saw in the young man sitting across from his Xander. He leaned down and hugged him. "A Princess?" he asked gently.
"We met up after the play and talked, her father was there. And I've been careful since then. Get over it."
"Of course," Methos said smoothly, sitting down. "Ray's went upstairs to drop his coat off. My name is Adam," he said, shaking the young man's hand.
"Daniel, Daniel Jackson."
"Ah, yes, you had some very interesting theories about Egyptian civilization and the cross pollination of ancient cultures a few years back." He laughed lightly at the shock. "Don't worry, I was rather impressed with your work, even though I was somewhere different and not affected by it." Daniel's mouth fell open. "Yes, I do remember those days of scholarly works." Daniel closed his mouth and nodded. "How much has the imp told you?"
"The short version of the story, up to and including needing to meet you," Xander said as he buttered his scone. "Eat, Daniel."
"Um, sure. Okay." He picked up his own scone and buttered it, eating it slowly. "But I wasn't an orphan."
"Most likely, you were a foundling and your parents wanted you enough to not tell you," Methos told him gently. "We've seen it before."
"Oh. But my mother had pictures of being pregnant."
"Which she might have been," Xander noted. "But things happen when you're in the desert."
"True," Daniel admitted, smiling at the young man coming up to him. "Ray," he said, getting up to hug him.
"Danny?" Ray looked at his lover. "This is our new student?"
"You're in this?"
"He's mine," Ray said, pointing at Methos. He sat down, smiling at the other young man. "I had ta save him a few years back, back in Chicago. He was justa scrawny kid that a buncha others were pickin' on for bein' younger than them. We clowned around while he was in town at school." He patted Daniel on the arm. "It's okay, we'll get it all straightened out now." He blew a kiss at Xander. "Thanks for the wakeup this mornin', we almost missed the sunrise."
"Hey, anytime. You know I'm always good at breaking into special moments," Xander said with a grin. "At least you didn't start off with a remark about a Princess."
"Why would I?" He looked at his lover. "Did we do something about a Princess?"
"No, he was talking with one, and now is probably being followed around by photographers."
"But I stopped them, and I swept my room last night," Xander said calmly. Methos just looked at him. "What? I'm not going to laugh this off. I did get the point and I did discourage her from inviting me out anymore."
"All right, that's enough," Ray said. "Who's sniped at ya so far?"
"Seth started it off, and then Giles' got into it," Xander sniffled. "And Oz wouldn't talk to me. Not even when I said I missed him."
Methos pulled him in for a hug. "He wanted you to really have a vacation away from him, Xander, you know that."
"Hands off what's mine," Oz said as he walked in. He looked at the fourth man at the table. "Hey, I'm Oz." They shook hands and the waiter quickly brought him a chair. "I got the nicest call from Giles' father saying that I had better come over and take you in hand because not only were you about to get into trouble, but you'd lost weight and were miserable looking," Oz said as he sat down, giving Xander a hug. "It's okay, I'm not abandoning you," he whispered. "I just thought you wanted some time alone." Xander shook his head against Oz's shoulder. "Good, then we'll finish our vacation together." He looked at Ray. "How's yours been? I guess I barely missed you guys at the airport."
"Odd," Methos said dryly. "Your own?"
"Bad. But Jedi and I are now friends." He let Xander pull back some, giving him a gentle kiss. "There, better?" Xander nodded, giving him a smile. "Good." He glanced at Daniel. "Where did you find him?"
"At a club," Daniel told him. "He said I was putting out some sort of signal?"
"Ah, yes, the shielding lesson," Methos and Oz said together.
"You're one?" Daniel asked. "But I didn't feel..." He looked at Methos. "I don't feel you anymore either."
"That's because you're on the inside of my warnings. There's an outer rim and an inner rim, you're on the inside of it now. I was probably masking Oz to some degree, but we'll work on that also."
"I'm supposed to be researching," Daniel said quietly. "I've just found a reference I need for my job, something really important."
"That's fine, I may even be able to help you with that," Methos reminded him. "I was *there*, child, don't worry, we'll fix this all so you won't get into trouble. But you will need to take a short sabbatical soon. Training while you're working is not that easy."
"Okay," Daniel said, nodding. "I can do that. If I can pump you for information."
"As long as I know the reason why."
"That I'll have to check on."
"He can't tell us what he does," Xander said calmly, putting a hand on Methos' arm. "Oh, and I made contact with a few people in that society. They're very nice."
"But Oz," Xander protested.
"What society?" Daniel asked.
"Some group of astronomers and stuff that want to go explore space. They're looking for ideas right now," Oz told him.
Daniel looked thoughtful. "I'd like to see their brochures. I might be able to tell you if they're legit." He blushed when Methos stared at him. "I'm kinda in that field myself you might say."
"Ah," Methos said, nodding. "Now I know what you were talking about when you presented your dissertation." He patted the man on the back of the hand. "Don't worry, they feel us too and are usually given to fear us."
It was Daniel's turn to look stunned. "Really?"
"Really. I know why one of them left, it was an old...acquaintance of mine named Kronos."
"Let's not bring up the bad guys," Ray said quietly. "What ya told me about him still gives me nightmares."
Oz gave him a hug. "It's all right, Ray, he's dead. If he comes back, then we sic Xander on him." Methos raised an eyebrow. "What? You don't think Xander could make him not hate you? I think Xander could turn even the most homicidal among us into purring lap kittens for a few hours."
"Then I'll bring Xander with me," Methos agreed.
Daniel's eyes widened. "I know that name," he gasped. He looked at Methos. "I know you too."
Methos put a hand over his mouth. "You do not say my real name, ever," he instructed quietly. "There are too many people who would love to find me and challenge me." Daniel nodded so he removed his hand. "Thank you." He cleared his throat. "Let's change the subject for now. All right?"
Daniel nodded. "Sure. What to?"
"How about what Xander has been doing?" Ray suggested.
"He's been so bored, he's been forgetting to eat regularly," Oz said, after looking over his husband's body.
"I agree," Methos said gently. "Xander, when was the last time you ate?"
"We had breakfast," Daniel told them. Everyone looked at him. "He forced me to spend the night on his couch."
Oz nodded. "It was probably safer. If he felt you, then you were putting out the big sign like he said." He patted Xander's hand. "So, you said you saw Seth and Spike."
"They're okay. Seth's pissed at me."
"About?" Ray asked.
"The whole Princess thing. He thinks it's going to expose them."
Methos nodded. "I had thought about that aspect myself."
"So did I," Xander reminded him, his voice turning icy. "I've been very careful, Adam."
"I wasn't saying you weren't," Methos said quickly, he hated it when Xander was mad at him. "I don't think Seth knows how careful you are either."
"Maybe," Xander agreed, calming back down as Oz pulled him into his side.
"Maybe Xander and I should go upstairs and cuddle," Oz suggested gently. "I doubt he's been sleeping very well." Xander shook his head. "Was that a 'no, I don't want to go', or a no, I haven't been sleeping'?"
"No, I don't feel like going to the room."
"Xander, you really can't crawl into his lap down here," Ray reminded him.
"Which is a good point," Oz agreed, kissing the top of Xander's head. "You sure? We can have a whole tea tray brought up to the room and talk up there in private."
"I'd like that, I guess," Xander said, looking up at him. "Really?"
"Are you still in the same room?" Ray asked.
"Nope, I got switched this morning, after I handed over the two bugs I found in the fruit basket to the security guys." He forced himself to sit up. "Okay, let's go to my room. I have to stop by the desk first and get Oz keys." He stood up and walked out, Oz following right behind him.
The waiter materialized next to Ray's shoulder. "Was everything all right?" he asked, gathering up Xander's plate.
"Sure," Ray said, grinning at him, "but we'd like this sent up to Mr. Harris' room. His husband just got here and we were all going to talk in there."
"Would you need coffee or tea?" he asked.
"Both," Methos said dryly. "I never could convince Xander that tea was decent." He smiled at the waiter. "Could you also send up a few of the tea sandwiches. We don't need all that sugar alone."
"Of course." He handed over a bill. "Please put his room number on it." He saw the confused look. "Ah, then put your room number on it and we'll have it switched later tonight." Methos did as he was told then handed it back. "Just the rest of this, some tea and coffee, and some sandwiches?"
"Yup," Ray said, standing up. "We'd better go catch up." He walked Daniel out, talking quietly with him. They ran into Xander and Oz at the elevators, waiting on Methos to join them. "He ordered sandwiches and stuff ta drink," he said with a nod behind him.
"Cool," Xander said, giving him a weak smile. "Oz, I don't feel good."
"You haven't felt good in a few days probably," Oz told him. He put a hand over Xander's chest and frowned. "When was your last physical?"
"Do we still need those? All the physicals and the insurance and everything?" Daniel asked Methos as he walked up to them.
"Usually not, but it's always better to be safe than sorry. Oz, there is a wonderful physician in town that I can call upon if we need it. Let's go up to the room."
"He's got a first floor room now," Oz told them, walking down the hallway beside the elevator. "This is the ultra security wing. When Xander explained what had happened to the security guys, they moved him down here to get away from the press." He caught Xander as he fell down. "What the hell?" he noted, watching as Xander aged quickly.
"Willow?" Methos suggested.
"Magic?" Daniel asked, pulling out his glasses to get a closer look.
"Room, guys," Ray said hastily, looking around.
"Room," Methos agreed, picking Xander up and letting Oz get the doors. He dropped the young man on the bed. "Well, he's his actual age." He touched Oz, sucking on his finger after it got zapped. "Someone broke your connection I believe."
"Maybe," Ray said. He frowned. "Didn't we have a spurt of this after Connor died?" Oz blanched and ran for the phone. "I'm sure he's fine," he called after him.
Methos patted him on the shoulder. "Oz, he's in Las Vegas again." He nodded toward the sitting area. "Go sit, Daniel, we'll get back to telling you all about this in a few moments. After the snacks have arrived." He went to answer the door, nodding the security man inside. "Is there a problem?" he asked.
"We noticed Mr. Harris collapsed but no one's called a doctor yet."
Methos nodded him in to go look at Xander. "That's why he collapsed," he said gently. The man just nodded. "We have no idea what happened, but it's probably not physical."
"Oz?" Xander whined, reaching a hand out.
"Right here," Oz said, sitting down to give him a hug. "The guys at the resort said Giles is fine."
"Then why does it feel like I'm broken off from you guys?"
"Because we think someone may have," Methos said, letting the security man go. He walked in and shut the door. "Who might have done this?"
"Giles' brother," Xander said, counting them off. "Seth, if he's still pissed, he knows a little magic. Willow maybe, but she knows I'd kill her for it." He shuddered as he felt his energy being warped again. "Oz, there's a Hellmouth in town," he said, taking off the keystone and tossing it away. Instantly, he was back to his usual state, if looking a little more tired and worn out. "It's trying to open." He grabbed the phone and dialed Giles' father's house. "It's me, I need to talk to Leslie. Yes, it's important. Because there's a new Hellmouth opening in London. I have the keystone for the one at home and it's reacting. Yes, I said a keystone. Just put him on!" He took a deep breath. "Mary, right?" he asked, not remembering his sister-in-law's name. "Right, it is. Yeah, we have a keystone for ours. Hellmouths can be changed into normal portals, and probably the other way around. No, it reacted, I was wearing the keystone and it started to drain into me again." He snorted. "Like I have a clue," he noted dryly. "No, I'm in the Lanesborough, me and Oz both." He grabbed Oz's hand. "Yeah, I needed him," he said sappily. He shook himself. "I don't know, but I think something needs to be done before something really *big* comes through the portal or whatever it is." He nodded and hung up. "She'll call the Watcher's Council together and tell them." He looked up at Oz. "Okay?"
"If we have to," Oz agreed, giving his hand a squeeze. "I want you to rest, Xander."
"Can I come out there and rest?" Xander asked sweetly.
"Sure. My lap is always open to you, so are Ray and Methos'." He stood up and helped Xander up, bringing him out to the living room. "There's a portal near here," he told Methos. "The keystone was doing it, it bent the bond."
"Oh, dear," Methos sighed, slumping in his seat. "Do you have to go deal with it?"
"The Watcher's Council is a few hours north of here," Xander told him, sitting down between Ray and Oz. "I just called them. We're not sure if it's a portal that's changed suddenly or one that's just now opening."
"Is what's-her-name comin' down?" Ray asked. Xander shrugged. "What about Giles' father?"
"He's old, Ray. Very, very old. He lives in Reynold's attic right now," Xander said sadly. "The first thing he asked was if I was there to tell him his son had lost a challenge."
"Damn," Oz whispered, hugging Xander. He touched the firm cheekbones, his fingertip tracing over the dry lips. "Methos, do we have any water?"
"I'm fine," Xander told him.
"I doubt it," Methos said, glaring at Xander. "You will sit there and relax."
"The keystone's attuned to him," Oz reminded him. "If they need it, they'll have to take the both of us."
"Then you'd better take my sword," Methos said.
"Mine's in my stuff," Oz told him. "Xander brought his, I watched him pack it."
"Fine," Methos sighed, getting up to answer the door. "Ah, food," he said, signing the receipt. "Thank you." He wheeled the cart in and put it next to Oz, getting himself and Ray a cup of coffee.
Ray bounced up as the phone rang, going to answer it. "Yeah?" He handed it over to Oz. "It's what's-her-name."
"Hey, Mary," Oz sighed. "Yeah, we do have a keystone. No, Xander thinks it might have been a portal that either just opened or it switched over to a Hellmouth. He said ours drained into him that same way. No, tell Leslie it bent our bond." He waited then removed the phone from his ear when Giles' father started to yell. "He's fine, Leslie. I can feel it, it's back in good shape now that he's tossed the keystone off. No, in the bedroom." He nodded at Ray to go get it. "The real problem is that the keystone is keyed to him, Leslie. If you can find it, and have a magic user, we can drain it, whether it's a portal or a Hellmouth."
"The real problem is the person who's wearing the keystone has to stand in the event horizon," Xander reminded him quietly. "I'm going to have to stand in the horizon to get it keyed to this one too."
"Did you hear that?" Oz asked. He nodded, kissing the top of Xander's head. "Okay, we're in the Lanesborough. Call first and I'll meet you at the desk. No, he's sapped."
"He's fine," Xander said, struggling to sit up.
"No, Xander," Methos ordered. "You're not in any shape to go do something like stop another Hellmouth from opening."
"Um, Hellmouth?" Daniel asked.
"Another long story," Ray sighed.
"Of the odd and strange variety?" Daniel suggested lightly.
Ray nodded. "Exactly." He looked at his mate. "We need Spike. He can be overprotective and go where we can't, including into the portal if he has to."
"He's at the Excelsior, that run down little inn out toward the suburbs," Xander told him. "I have his number."
"Cool." Ray got up to answer the door this time, letting the doctor in. "Hey," he said, nodding behind him. "The security guys got paranoid and decided to call one anyone."
"It's exhaustion," Xander told him.
"Young man, I can *feel* you," the doctor said, smiling at Methos. "Hello, old one."
"Doctor Magnis, this is Xander Harris."
"Yes, I've seen his picture a few times in the paper. Always with the caption of he's moping and not even our darling Crown Princess can make him cheer up." He pulled out his stethoscope and listened to his new patient's chest. "Definitely weak. Into the bedroom, young man."
Oz covered the mouth piece of the phone. "You know about magic, right?" he asked. The doctor nodded. "Where would a portal or a Hellmouth be opening around here?"
"Down the street in the actual park probably. There's always something going on in Hyde Park that no one wants to see." He forced Xander into the bedroom, letting Ray come in with him.
Oz repeated it and hung up. Then he took Xander's notes from Ray, searching it for Spike's phone number. "It's not on here. Xander, where is it?"
"On the computer, email," Xander called back. "That's cold!" he whined a second later.
Oz got up and went to log in, knowing that they needed the stabilizer this time. The Watcher's Council wouldn't want to do a whole lot about a portal going rogue. Spike being there meant that he could focus totally on Xander and not have to worry about the Council getting in their way.
Xander stepped up to the portal, holding the keystone. He closed his eyes as waves of pain washed over him. "I know," he told the portal. "We're going to fix this now." He took one last step and nodded, letting the magic workers do their thing, knowing Oz and Spike were within easy reach if something happened. As long as they didn't get sucked in if he did.
He heard the siren about the same time everyone else did, so he concentrated on pulling the energy into the stone he wore. He felt someone walk up next to him, knowing somehow that it was Oz, and let him help. Together, they grasped the stone and helped the energy be drawn into it.
They heard a shriek but kept it up, watching as the portal changed from a roiling blue to a calmer, more distinct gray. When it was done, they walked out and handed off the stone, letting someone else burn their fingers for a few minutes. They looked at Leslie, who was lying on the ground, both of them, tipping their heads to watch the paramedics work on him. Xander looked at his sister-in-law. "Couldn't make him stop?" he asked.
She nodded, biting her lip.
Oz gave her a hug. "It's okay. This is how he would have wanted it." She nodded again. "Let it go, Mary." She turned and cried on him as the other magic users got the portal closed until someone with a keystone could come finish it off.
Xander looked at the ashen police officer, patting him on the arm to get his attention. "Did you want to know what happened?" He shook his head. "Okay. Just say it was a heart attack during a ceremony." He let Spike take his arm and walk him away. It was his duty to call Giles, Oz was comforting the rest of the family.
Oz picked up the note they had received from Mary a week after closing the portal, reading it out loud to his husband, who was supposed to be resting next to him. "Mary says, and I quote, 'Please don't come to the funeral. Most of the family don't like or accept your arrangement with Rupert, and it would only hurt him further by having you both attend. But we do thank you for the flowers and the kinds words.'" He looked at his husband. "That okay with you?"
"Yup, I hate funerals," Xander said, listlessly flipping the pages of his magazine. "I'm bored, still," he announced, tossing it away.
"Hey, we've only got two more days before we go home. Can you live with it that long?" Xander shook his head. "Oh." He shrugged. "What do you want to do?"
"I want to go check on the portal, make sure it's closed. Then walk around the park." He swung around until he was sitting up. "Can we go walk in the park?"
"Sure," Oz agreed, getting up to find their jackets and shoes. He made sure that they both had their swords, then headed out together, not saying anything about Xander's backpack. Once they were standing in front of the portal, Oz had a sneaking suspicion about why Xander wanted to come here. "No."
"But, Oz, we need to know what's on the other side. And I still have both my keystones."
"No," Oz sighed, grabbing Xander's hand. "Dear, we've been through enough portals for a lifetime the length of Meth's. If we keep this up, we're going to become Gate Masters or something."
Xander just gave him an impish smile and got free, jogging for the opening.
"If you make us miss our plane, I'm siccing Meth and Ray on you," Oz said, following him through. There was *no* way Xander was going to go there alone.
Methos looked at the woman checking people in. "Have Daniel Osbourne or Xander Harris checked in yet?" he asked quietly.
She typed something then shook her head. "Not yet, sir." She smiled at the happy-looking men walking up behind them. "Is that them?"
"Yup, it's us," Xander said, handing over his tickets. "Oh, I have another two things to check," Xander said, handing over the small brocade bag and laptop case. "I really don't feel like working on that while we're flying."
"Xan, you need the computer," Oz reminded him. He looked at Methos, who was staring at them. "What?"
Methos touched Xander's waist-length dark hair, then Oz's shoulder-length red hair. "You crossed over, didn't you," he accused.
"Yup," Xander said, filling out the forms for the boxes he had checked already, and the one for his sword and his brocade bag. "Oz, do I have to check this?"
"Unless you're going to catalog it on the plane," Oz agreed. He looked at Ray, who was looking at them over the rim of his glasses. "What?" he asked, smiling a very Xander-like smile at him. "We had a vacation. Actually, don't check either of them, I want to go through the bag," he told his mate.
TO BE CONTINUED...