Portals, Part Deux.

Methos dragged Xander away from the desk, looking him over. "Where were you, imp, and what did you do this time?"

"I've made a very nice report for you," Xander told him, leaning in to kiss him on the cheek. "Don't worry, we were both *good*." He walked back over and finished the forms Oz had been working on for him. He handed them in and Oz hefted the brocade carpet bag, carrying it and Xander's laptop case, letting Xander get their usual carry-on bag so they could board. They could talk on the plane.

Methos shook himself, then went after them, after getting his boarding pass from the check-in agent, Ray right behind him. They sat across from their friends, this plane being more like a train in set up so they had facing seats and a privacy curtain. "What did you do?" he asked them quietly.

"I wanted to see what was on the other side," Xander told him. He patted the bag Oz held in his lap. "This was just part of what we came away with."

"Excuse me," the steward said gently, breaking into their conversation. "We'll need to put that bag up front, sir, I don't think it will fit under your seat."

"It's not that tightly packed," Oz told him, putting it under his seat and pushing against it with his heel. "That okay?"

"Yes, sir, but there's a question about what...."

Xander pulled it back out and opened it, showing him the contents. "Ease some fears?" he whispered.

He licked his lips at the little figurines, single dagger, and old books then nodded. "Yes, actually, it does. It was just a security precaution, gentlemen." He wasn't going to take away the dagger and it was partially buried under a lot of stuff. Besides, they were all so nice. The forms that had been attached to their tickets said that they had other antique weapons checked already so he guessed it was all right. It's not like they were a threat.

Xander shrugged. "I can understand that. You're not the first that's asked. Did you need to check my laptop too?" He shook his head and walked off. "Okay," he said when Ray snatched the brocade carpet bag to look inside.

"Please stow that for now, gentlemen," a stewardess said as she walked past them.

"Yeah, in a sec," Ray said, searching down through the big bag. "What's with this thing? It's huge!"

"Yes, it is," Oz said, taking it back and sealing it so it could be put under his seat again. "It's okay, Meth, really. I promise, I checked up on Xander compulsively."

"Why was there some wood in there?" Ray asked.

"Because it's my new traveling staff," Xander told him, grinning as he touched the pendant he was wearing. "We've got one of these for you guys too, it was time to spread around the power a little bit."

"We were somewhere totally safe," Oz told him. He looked at Xander. "Did we ask to have our stuff sent to the airport?"

"Yup. I asked before we walked out while I handed in the keys," Xander agreed. He grinned at Ray, pulling his best friend forward so they could whisper at each other.

"Was it really that important?" Methos asked Oz.

Oz nodded. "Yeah, it was. Xander got back to himself again. No more worried guy, no more tense and uptight person, just a nice, normal Xander, like he used to be." He grinned suddenly. "And even I had to loosen up during the last harvest festival."

"Harvest?" Methos asked dryly, checking his watch. He leaned forward. "How long were you two gone this time?"

"800 years," Oz admitted in a whisper, kissing the side of Methos' head. "Xander's much more balanced now. He's done every single power trip thing he could think of, he's found himself again." He patted his friend's shoulder. "Don't worry about it, Xander really did keep a diary, I made him."

"I see. And what about," Methos asked, waving his hand at the window, not wanting to say anything about the flight in case someone was listening.

"Not a thing. We found someone who taught Xander all about gates and fixed the keystone for him. We really do have one for you guys, we know that you're safe."

"I would hope so," Methos said, looking a little offended. "Was it like here?"

"Nope," Xander said, grinning at him. "Not at all like London. Or home. Or anywhere else we've ever been." He sat back, letting Ray go, watching as the other man gathered himself together. "Okay?"

Ray nodded. "Odd but okay." He looked at his lover, then leaned over and whispered in his ear.

Methos sighed and nodded. "Fine. Though I would like to read your diary."

"Fine," Xander agreed. "That's why Oz made me keep it. He even bribed our wizard buddy to spell my laptop to run there."

"That and so you can write about it," Oz reminded him, putting a hand on his knee. He looked behind his shoulder as the door slammed shut and groaned.

"Not again," Ray sighed, putting up his hands as the men with guns walked over to them. "What? I'm a retired cop, guys."

"Incendio," Xander muttered, pointing at the gun. It melted. He smiled at the man and waved. "Hi. Go away." The man swallowed and started to sweat as his body temperature went up. "Not listening?"

"You're not supposed to resist," a stewardess reminded them with a squeak.

"He's not," Oz told her. "He's being his normal, charming self." He looked at the men. "Don't touch him, I'd hate to have to resist." One of the men laughed and swung his gun around to point at him. "Fine. Xander, have them," he said, waving a hand. He looked at his best friend. "I've learned that my bad side is much better off when it gets to talk to Xander's uber-warrior side. I don't have to berserk anymore. He does it for me."

"Good deal," Ray said, nodding at Xander's move to disarm one of the guards. "Um, maybe you should...." he started but Xander anticipated and kicked the person behind him. "Never mind."

Xander wiped off his brow and sat down, taking the bottle of water the stewardess handed him, who was still looking very shocked. He looked at Ray and shrugged. "I took the bodyguarding I did very seriously," he noted for their benefit. He saw a flashbulb go off and groaned. "None of that, please," he whined, closing the curtain. "I wonder how long it'll take before we get to take off," he asked, looking over at Oz.

"Not a clue. And speaking as who you were bodyguarding, I was very happy with it too." He took Xander's hand and kissed the back of it. "Happy anniversary."

"Thanks," Xander said with a grin. "I love prezzies." He looked at Ray. "You should see some of the stuff at the bottom of the bag," he told him. "It's really pretty, from when Oz and I were working with some jewelers. I got to design *tons* of stuff for him."

Methos groaned and covered his face. "Xander, give me the laptop please," he asked, wanting to hear all about this *before* something happened that would suck him and Ray down into it too.


Somewhere in a castle in Scotland, a young girl squealed, bringing her father. "I told you he was a knight!" she squealed, pointing at the news report.

Her father patted her on the head. "I'd say that was a fairly accurate description of what he's like." He gave her a fond smile. "And that must be his Oz," he said, pointing at the redhead. "He certainly does seem to love him quite a lot." He misted up, recognizing the look he was giving his husband as one he had given his beloved wife all the time. "Dear, do tell me that they've made it home safely?"

"Yes, father. This happened *hours* ago. He asked that they wait until he could disappear back into America to show his face." She smiled up at him. "I'd like a knight like that some day."

"I'm sure you'll find one if you look hard enough, Carolyn," he said fondly, going back to his paperwork.


Xander walked in the door of their house and went directly to where he could hear his animals playing. "We're home," he called, sitting down and holding out his arms. Rocky barked at him but no one came over to get lovies. He pouted at them. "Daddies are sorry we had to leave, guys, but we needed some time alone. We still love you."

"Give them treats, they won't punish you for long," Oz called as he walked past the patio door. "Jedi!" was screamed a few minutes later.

"Is he okay?" Xander called.

"Yes, she is," Oz called, coming out with one of his favorite pillows and the three baby ferrets on it. "I think you got the 'him' part wrong, no matter what the vet said." He put it down when Rocky started to growl. "Sorry, girl." Rocky came over and sniffed them, then howled, making Jedi come running to look at her babies.

"I think we might be missing a few," Xander said, getting up to go look for them himself. He came out a few minutes later with two more and laid them down on the pillow too. "There we go. Is that all of them, girls?" he asked them, patting her on the head. Jedi tried to nip him but that was okay, it was maternal instinct. "We'll get you a nice basket all fixed up for them," he promised.

"On it," Oz said, getting up to go do that.

"Remember to leave room for this pillow," Xander called after him, picking up his mommy ferret to give her a hug. "I promise, your kittens are as safe as you are here, Jedi," he whispered into her fur, giving her a kiss on the nose. "We'll protect them like they're our own children."

"I keep telling you that I did not help you spawn that ferret," Oz said as he walked back out with Ray and Methos. "Here, they can help too." He dropped down and started working on the basket, carefully filling it with soft material that wouldn't hurt the little creatures as they rolled onto it. He added the pillow last, under the watchful eyes of the proud mamas. Then he dropped the last two into the basket and put Jedi in there with them. "That okay with you?" The mama ferret looked up and squeaked, allowing him to gently pet her on the back. "Good." He looked at his husband, who looked entranced. "We're always going to have a Rocky and a Jedi, aren't we?" he sighed.

Xander nodded. "Yup." He looked at Methos. "Our ferret is a mommy," he said happily.

"So I can see," Methos said, picking Jedi up to look her over. "Well, you look like you've done well enough on your own. No obvious signs of infection. We'll bring you to the vet tomorrow sometime." Xander hugged him. "Umph, Xander! You didn't need to strangle me."

Henrietta snapped a picture from the doorway. "It's good to have you home," she called, waving. "I'm going home. The Chinese place now knows where you live." She left them alone, going home.

Xander looked at Oz. "I remembered something while we were over there. You once told me Buffy was a preimmie."

"She does read like one," Methos told him. "She turned out not to be."

"It was something about her being the slayer. Her powers called out to ours. She still reads like a preimmie." Oz shrugged. "It happens. Marigold reads like that to us too."

"So, we'll be able to tell which girls are called by that?"

"I'm assuming it's something like how the Watcher's Council tells which girl's going to be called." Oz got up and went into the house, coming back out with menus and bottles of water. "Okay, where do we want to eat? And please, no deer."

"Oh, yeah," Xander said, rubbing his stomach. "I am *so* tired of deer." He looked at the carpet bag Ray had brought out with him. "I think there might still be some jerky in there."

"Eww." Oz shuddered. "Let's not talk about deer jerky, okay? Had enough of that to last me a few lifetimes and I don't want to see it again. We'll do something with it if there's some left in the bag, give it away to a shelter or feed it to Rocky or something."

"Deer?" Ray asked.

"Yes, Ray, you can eat those," Methos said as he looked over the menus. "I miss Maises'," he sighed. "They always had something, no matter what mood you were in."

"Hey, Sunnydale's only street gang was picked up becuasa what they did to her restaurant," Ray reminded him. "It was good in a bad way."

"I guess, but I still miss it." Methos wrapped an arm around his lover's shoulders. "800 years?"

"Yup," Xander said, nodding. "800 years. We did everything from being jewel dealers to mercenaries, to being rulers over a small land until the real heir was found."

"Which was not fun," Oz reminded Xander. "I sucked at that." He looked at the other couple. "For some reason, everyone decided that Xander wasn't serious unless he was wearing his sword. No one thought he was selling when we were doing the jewel thing. No one thought he was going to be a decent merc until our boss challenged him and he took the guy's head off. Which got us kicked out of the land," Oz complained.

"Which we later ruled over until the rightful heir could be found," Xander reminded him.

"True. Even then, I had to be the serious one."

"Hey, you got to be the jester some days. I got to be the official noble, or whatever else you needed me to be." He frowned, looking at Ray. "I never got to do any of the fun stuff. He got to sell the jewels, he got to do all the money stuff. All I got to do was fight and look pretty."

"You do it so very well though," Oz told him, giving him a smile when the frown was turned on him. "What?" he asked innocently. "You do."

Methos clapped his hands. "Enough, boys. At least you had a vacation together."

"Yeah, somewhere in there, we did have one," Oz agreed. "Somewhere between getting out of the jewel business because we had to kill the people after us, and becoming mercenaries, we did get a vacation."

"Yup, heartily sick of trees here," Xander said, holding up a hand. "Hey, Oz, how do I count my age now? Am I 838 or just 38?"

Oz shrugged. "Figure it out and tell me. But I'd really like not to be over three thousand years old right now. Not yet anyway."

Methos snorted, "You young ones. Always so concerned about your age." He stood up. "Let me go find that nice caterer's number, maybe they've finally opened a restaurant. They've been threatening to for a while now." He walked into the house, Jedi sneaking off to follow him.

Ray snickered. "Yeah, we're home," he said, looking around the pool area. "Um, ferret about to go swimming," he said, pointing it out for Oz.

Oz picked up the baby and put it back into the basket. "You're not old enough to swim yet. Deal with it and move on."

"I wonder who their daddy is," Xander said thoughtfully.

"I'm wonderin' where ferrets that are only supposed to live in Arizona came from in Cali," Ray noted.

"Point," Oz offered. "There was a captive breeding program at the college for a while, I figure Jedi got loose from there." He stood up and brought the babies over to the low table near the chaises. "Maybe their daddy got out of there and was adopted too."

"I think maybe we should consider getting the ferret fixed," Xander said dryly. "Six ferrets..."

"No, Xander," Oz cut him off. "We're adopting them out."

"But, Oz."

"We may keep *one*!" He held up one finger. "One! No more."

"And Jedi?" Xander asked pitifully.

"And Jedi," Oz sighed, knowing what his husband was feeling. After all, he had kept a horse from the same lineage for close to six hundred years. He sat down to watch the new babies sleep.

Xander looked at Ray. "Giles' dad wanted to know if Giles was going to adopt. I told him we were satisfied with the animals, but that was up to Giles."

"No," Oz called. "No children! Animals are fine, they're able to be left overnight. You can run around naked in front of them." He looked around. "I feel like I'm missing something."

"That would be your horse," Xander said dryly. "You wouldn't believe how attached he became to the last one." He saw the unhappy look and got up to go hug his Oz. "I'm sorry, babe, but she was ready to retire and have a good life. You found her a good home. The boy will take good care of her and love her for however long she has left." Oz nodded, burying his face in Xander's chest. "Shh, it's okay. I promise. And we did take that one sample..." Oz looked up. "You didn't know? Our personal wizard buddy took one and sealed it for me. If we're ever somewhere that we can have horses, we can have one of her's." He looked happier. "Okay?"

"Deal," Oz agreed, pinching Xander's rear. "Don't you miss your horse?"

"Honey, my horse loved you, not me. He hated me and everything about me. Remember having to check the bag to make sure it didn't rip because he bit into it when I ducked?"

"I told you to fix him."

"Oh, we did that too," Xander said dryly. "He still hated me, probably more because we did fix him."

"Hey, I'd hate ya too if ya fixed me," Ray offered.

Oz snorted. "I'm sure you wouldn't be the only one."

"Please tell me he's not whining over his horse," Methos sighed as he walked out.

"No, we found her a good home," Oz told him. "But I do miss her."

"I don't," Xander said, pulling back to look at him. "I'm tired of having the horse come in and lay down next to you." Ray's mouth hung open, he knew, but it had to be said. "Besides, she kept trying to bite me whenever we kissed."

"She was protecting me," Oz told him.

"Good for her, but I still wanted kisses."

Oz pulled Xander's head down and kissed him. Rocky barked at them. "See? Just protection."

"She's happy," Ray called, cuddling up with Rocky. He watched as Jedi trotted out and headed for her babies. He snickered as the ferret climbed up on the chair and walked over her fathers to get to her babies.

"Are you comfy now?" Oz asked her. She licked one of her children, glaring at him. "Okay. Guess that's a yes." He looked down at Xander, who was snuggling in for a nap. "You know that we have strange animals, right? That none of them are what they really appear?"

"Yup," Xander said with a yawn. "Night."

"Bed," Methos called.

Xander waved. "Yup, in a minute."

Oz shook his head and settled in for a long bout of being used as a pillow. "Ray, bring the bag over here and we'll dump it out to see what treasures Xander brought home this time."

Ray got up and picked up the bag, bringing it over to the big clear area around the chaises, opening it and staring down in it. "Um, it's full," he said.

"Wonderful," Oz sighed. "Xander managed to fill a neverending bag." He shook his head. "Just be careful, I know there's some glass figurines down in there somewhere."

Ray looked confused but he started to take things out one by one. After about twenty minutes of this, he looked down inside, then at Oz. "You were kidding, right?" he asked. "It doesn't even look like I've emptied any of it."

Oz shook his head. "It was a prezzie from our wizard buddy, who sent Giles his books because he wanted Xander monitored."

"He has magic?" Methos asked.

"Nature magic," Oz agreed. "In very little quantities."

"So, he can make a plant grow, but not a whole field?"

"Not without some help," Oz agreed. "Our wizard buddy thought it was very clever of us to hook up with a wizard here, thought it was some sort of innate drive of Xander's to find a teacher." He smiled over at Methos, who wasn't looking very happy. "I explained to him that Xander had already found his favorite teacher, but he didn't believe it would hold over for magic."

Methos got up and came over to look at everything Ray was still pulling out. "What is all this?" he asked.

"Some of it's crap, we used the bag for general packing every time we had to move. Some of it's stuff we wanted to keep. I'm sure later on Xander will pull out stuff that he keyed so that only he could take it out." He grabbed the small vial, looking at the white matter inside it. "Freezer, now," he ordered. He loved his horse.


Xander finished pulling stuff out of their neverending bag and put it aside. "Oz, when did we get wind chimes?" he asked, holding the crystal wind chimes up.

"Like I know," Oz said from the bed. He looked up, trying to remember every time they had packed, especially those near the beginning. "Those were in the window of the wizard's cabin, he put them in there when he packed everything else."

"Then why didn't he *unpack* it when he grabbed his stuff?" Xander asked.

"Maybe it's something so that we have to go back and give them to him," Ray suggested from his spot next to Xander, looking through all the stuff.

"Kinda hard to do, he died," Oz noted, going back to his reading. "He bequeathed Xander all his stuff since he had the bag."

"Giles is getting most of it," Xander told him. "I know enough magic now to be dangerous."

"Then maybe you should finish your studies," Methos suggested lightly.

"Not that sort of dangerous," Oz told him, looking up. "Dangerous as in not to us or himself. I made sure of it."

"As long as he's not dangerous to us," Methos said, relaxing. "I have no problem with Xander becoming more well-rounded."

"I'm actually more confused because there's more doors opening for me now," Xander told him. "I have more choices now than I did before."

"Ah, but you can ignore some of those," Methos reminded him. "You probably aren't going to become a mercenary in this time and place, correct?" Xander nodded. "But you can still do what you were doing."

"You can still write about our adventures," Oz reminded him. "Just remember, I am not a brunette anymore." He went back to his book.

"Raven haired beauty?" Xander suggested.

Oz dropped his book and pounced on Xander, rolling him underneath him so he could tickle him. "What was that?" he asked.

"Red haired!" Xander screamed, laughing.

"Hey're you're smooshin' stuff," Ray complained. "I haven't even gotten to see most of it." He pushed Oz but ended up being attacked by both of them. "No fair!" he complained. "Methos!"

"Yes, dear?" Methos asked from his seat, smiling down at him. "You need to play too."

"So do you," Xander declared, getting up and pulling the old man up to tickle him too. He pouted when he couldn't find a ticklish spot. "You're not ticklish?" he pouted.

"No, imp, I'm not."

"Get his knees!" Ray squealed.

Xander knocked Methos down and used his unfair knowledge from when he was trained by Methos to get him now, making him writhe and grunt on the floor.

"Hey, no fair makin' him hard," Ray complained, coming over to pounce on Xander.

Oz shrugged and pounced on Methos himself, doing what Xander had been.

"No!" Methos shrieked as his knees were attacked. "Not there!"

Later on, as the two couples were lounging on the bed, Oz lifted his head and looked at Methos. "I'm comfy like this," he told his oldest and dearest friend.

"I should hope so, I doubt I could wake Ray or Xander up to move either of them." He looked up and saw the seriousness in the green eyes. "So am I, Oz," he said quietly. "It always comes back to us, doesn't it?"

Oz nodded, scooting next to the tangled-up duo. "Yeah, it does. No matter what, we're always together somehow." He took Methos' hand, playing with his fingers. "I miss what we used to have, Meth."

"As do I," Methos agreed. "Can we agree that Xander is just Xander?"

"As long as it's mutual and both couples agree?"

"That would be fine with me. We'll put it to the dynamic and loud ones in the morning. All right?" Oz nodded. "Thank you, Oz."

"He made me see it," Oz said quietly, rubbing down Ray's naked back. "How much I missed being able to cuddle with Ray. How I missed being able to curl up next to you and talk." He glanced up, then went back to paying attention to the skin under his fingers. "Xander said I should come find you as soon as possible and beg for forgiveness for what I pulled after I found you getting that backrub from him."

"There's none needed, Oz. I forgave you that day. And after Xander straightened you out, I forgave you for how you treated him." He tipped his friend's face up. "Oz, the only one who had to forgive you was yourself. You had to realize that I wasn't the enemy or going to steal your Xander from you. No one can ever take Xander from you, you can only drive him away when you get petty and possessive. Now that you've learned that lesson, I hope that you put it into practice."

"Yup. I have already. I even let Xander dance for someone else while I was sitting down." He grinned. "That really stabilized his image as a concubine and consort. They decided that I had stolen him for good reason and the only reason he had to learn to do anything was so that I had time to work."

Methos snorted. "I know the feeling. What else did you figure out?"

"That Xander really does know all. Every time I'd start to get homesick, he'd look at me and smile. He always knew."

"Why didn't you stay near the portal?"

"Because we walked into a civil war and Xander stopped it after about four hundred miles of being captives." He grabbed Methos' hand before he could move. "He wasn't touched, neither of us were. Xander came out with something about how we were visiting wizards in training, come to find a teacher. Their wizard tested him and found he did have magic. He sensed what I was and let it go. He convinced their king to listen to us, he hated the war too, and to let us go. So we got free, then he passed us on to his favorite student after he died, making sure that Xander got some sort of training. We slowly made our way back to the portal."

"Is that why all animals love him?"

"Probably. The second wizard and I talked, he thought that might be the case. Of course, I described Jedi and he wanted to know if it wasn't some sort of God in disguise."

"I've often thought it was actually Strife."

"It's his son," Xander mumbled, still asleep.

"That would explain a number of things," Methos said, smiling down at the sleeping bodies. "Oz, I missed you horribly while you were so distant. Don't do it again, Xander might not make me stay next time." He looked up and saw the nod and the seriousness. "Good. Now what do we do?"

"Now, we sit down tomorrow and listen to the ideas Xander has, giving him good and constructive feedback for the scientist group. What about Daniel?"

"He's taking a sabbatical as soon as he gets home. He's in Colorado actually. He's going to meet me in Las Vegas while I go run the resort for Rupert for a bit."

"I always thought it was neat of Jace to give it to him," Ray said, opening his eyes. "Are we okay again?"

"We're perfect again," Methos said, giving him a smile. "Would you like to stay in here tonight?"

"Sure. I like the cuddling Xander doll, he's very loveable." He grinned at Oz. "He's like a big, warm, breathing teddy bear, without the body hair."

Oz snickered. "Oh, I know. My horse used to curl up behind my back and Xander against my front; it was very odd at times in our tent."

"Was she fixed?" Ray asked.

"No, she was being protective. It's the same thing Arabians used to do to their owners in the desert," Methos told him, brushing through Xander's hair. "Is he keeping all this?"

"Yes, I'm making him keep it," Oz said firmly. Methos raised an eyebrow. "He can do some amazing things with that hair," he defended. He grinned. "Besides, it's another excuse to bathe with him."

"I see," Methos said, touching the softer-than-silk hair. "Well, it is very arousing just to touch it."

"He used it as a cock ring one night," Oz groaned, getting hard as he remembered that night. His cock rubbed against Ray's lower back, giving him some of the friction he needed.

"Hey!" Ray complained. "It don't go there!" He looked at Methos, who was smiling down at him. "Up to me?"

"All up to you," Methos agreed, giving him a kiss. "Make sure the curtains are drawn though, we don't want any of those nasty photographers showing up, now do we." He waited until Ray was out closing the curtains to steal a kiss from Oz.

"Mine?" Xander asked sleepily, lifting his head up. Methos leaned down and gave him a kiss too. "Thanks. You guys have fun, I'm going to snuggle Ray."

"I think Ray was going to get snuggled by me," Oz told him.

"Then I'll snuggle Methos. That works for me too." Xander rolled into Methos' stomach, rubbing his face on it until he got comfortable, then going back to sleep.

Ray came back, after closing the bed's curtains, and pounced on Oz, diving in to give him a kiss.

"That's my boy, always eager," Methos said, stroking down Xander's back and hair.

"Finger comb it," Xander murmured. "Love that."

"All right, imp, I can do that," Methos agreed, running his fingers through the soft hair, sectioning the thick mass up so he could comb through it. "I'll even help you braid it in the morning."

"Little ones?" Xander asked, looking up at him with adoration.

"If you'd like."

Xander smiled. "Okay. You ponytail it and then you put in little braids. Small, tiny ones so it takes *all* morning and I get waves by that night." He got a nod so settled back down with a happy sigh, turning his head so he could see what Ray and Oz were doing. "Go back farther, he's got a point about an inch below your mouth," he told Ray, who was nibbling on Oz's chest.

Ray moved back and Oz groaned, holding his head there. "Let him discover it, imp, this is the part that he likes so much," Methos whispered, holding onto Xander but letting him flip over so they could watch. "Ray has a deadly skill at cock sucking, a natural born swallower, but he has as of yet to learn your patience."

"Can I teach him that?" Xander asked, looking over his shoulder at Methos. "I'd like to teach that lesson."

"I'm sure you will enjoy it, Xander, I'm very sure you will. Oz and I will help you, if you'd like."

"Oh, yeah," Oz groaned. "Slow down, Ray," he said, holding the head still. "Slowly, draw it out for me. I'm a long time guy."

"Why does everyone always want it slow?" Ray complained, pulling back to look at them. "What? Wasn't I doin' it right?"

"Looked good from here," Xander told him with a grin. "Oz likes it to be drawn out, like a long tease. It's his favorite thing in the whole world to just be sucked and licked for over an hour."

Ray's face lit up. "Really?" He looked down at Oz, who nodded, continuing to stroke himself. "Huh. I guess I can try that."

"And tomorrow," Xander said, stopping Ray before he could go down again, "is my turn to teach you more."

Ray grinned at him. "Ya think?"

"Oh, I know," Xander purred. "Trust me on this, Ray, there's *many* things that you could still learn. Including how to put on a show for him while he's tied to the bed and not able to touch you." He saw the delighted look and continued. "Also, there's the whole 'getting into a role' thing. Oz *loves* it when I get more and more like a sexkitten for him."

"He's always wanted a concubine of his very own," Methos agreed, smiling down at him. Oz moaned, his hand speeding up.

"Make him slow down, Ray, he likes it like that," Xander advised, rolling over to give Methos a kiss.

Ray grinned down at Oz, taking his hand off to kiss and lick the palm. "You can't do that yet," he whispered, leaning down to kiss him again, drawing it out this time. He managed to wiggle his way down until he was lying across Oz's body, blanketing him so that the tense and wired body beneath him had just enough to rub against to frustrate him. He glanced over once, only to find Methos and Xander locked together in a deep, passionate kiss that threatened to go on forever. Maybe Xander would teach him that trick too. He went back to his earlier nibbling, working his way across the stretched neck, the tight chest, the wiggling stomach. He managed to find that one spot again, laving it with his tongue while he sucked around it. He teased that spot until Oz forced his head to lower, going with the direction until he found the hard cock. He put all his skill into keeping Oz teased until he was ready to go on himself, but Oz apparently had other ideas.

"Need it faster," he groaned, pulling Ray up to kiss him. "Want to rub, want to suck, or want in you?" he panted, rubbing against Ray's thigh.

"Hey, it's all good to me," Ray said, grinning down at him. "Whaddya want?"

"I want," Oz said, lunging up to capture his lips. "I want you to ride me, Ray. Can you do that for me? I want to see you as you get off."

"Still good to me," Ray said, stealing another kiss. "Slippery stuff?"

"Drawer," Xander panted, holding out a hand to touch Oz. "We need some too. Want this."

"Cooooolllllll," Ray breathed, watching what Methos was doing to his friend. He felt Oz reach for something but he was engrossed with the show the other two were doing. He felt the cool fingers enter him, but he wasn't paying attention to it anymore, what he was watching was much more enticing. The way the other two were writhing against each other, the way they touched, the way they devoured each other's mouths. It was better than getting it himself. Oz pulled him up and onto his lap, piercing him quickly but letting him rest across his chest.

"They're pretty together, aren't they?" Oz asked hoarsely. Ray nodded, his eyes getting wider as Xander surrendered to Methos, giving everything to him with one simple relaxation. "That's what Xander does for me sometimes. Just surrenders to my will." He watched as Ray swallowed. "Yeah, you could do that too and be so pretty," Oz breathed, starting to move.

"No, I like being the wall you fight against," Ray gasped, holding onto Oz's arms for dear life as he was thrust into. This was his sort of ride, long and hard. They continued to watch Xander and Methos, Oz making a sound close to a whimper when his husband was taken, knowing the look on Methos' face meant he was going to savor his time with Xander.

It couldn't last though, Oz wasn't able to hold off for that long, the torturously slow lovemaking next to him drove him insane and he came with a howl, pulling Ray down as hard as he could. He felt the wetness hit his stomach but he was still focused on his Xander. "Suck him," he ordered, pushing Ray that way. He curled up to watch as Ray started to gently suckle Xander, watching his mate's face as he got closer and closer, but knowing that Methos wasn't going to let him come yet. Oz fell asleep before either of them could come, not wanting to but his body overrode his desire to watch.

Methos smiled down at Xander, kissing him on the neck. "I think he wore your Oz out," he whispered. "Ray, I've got it if you want to nap also."

"Nah, I'm havin' fun," Ray said, peeling Methos' fingers off Xander's balls, letting him come right then.

Xander went limp in Methos' arms, giving him a weak smile. "I'd forgotten how much of a torturer you could be."

"But you enjoy it when I draw it out," Methos reminded him with a smile. "Ray, would you get something to clean us all up as you're so not tired?" He yawned, for show, then released his own control, pounding Xander hard until he came himself. "Ah," he sighed, sinking into the bed. "Much better."

Ray came out with the bowl of warm soapy water and a cloth, and stopped to admire the beautiful men sleeping on the bed. He shrugged and went to clean them anyway, knowing Methos hated to be sticky when he woke up.


Oz sniffed into his pillow, smelling something odd. He thought at first it was Xander-butt, but then he realized there was something furry against his nose. "Damn ferrets," he muttered, opening his eyes to look at the baby ferret sitting on the end of his nose. "Even worse than Xander-butt," he mumbled, pushing the ferret off him, "ferret-butt. Just what I needed." He rolled over, coming face to face with Jedi, who had her favorite toy hanging from her mouth. "What? You have him sit on your face when you wake up." He reached up to scratch her on the head, taking the toy and tossing it for her, a recent hobby of his was to teach the ferret how to play fetch. Of course, the ferret wasn't having any of it, she was teaching him how to play go-get-it. He reached down and grabbed the toy, handing it back to her so he could go back to sleep in peace.

That's when Ray screamed.

"It's just a ferret," Oz called.

Ray picked up the baby he had accidentally almost smooshed, checking it over. "Oz, I hurt it," he said softly, handing it over.

Methos woke up and took the ferret, looking it over. "Possibly a concussion but I don't feel a skull fracture," he announced finally. "We'll take them all to the vets today. How's that?"

"I didn't mean to," Ray said, looking sad and pitiful.

"We know," Oz soothed, rubbing a hand down his back. "It was an accident. The baby was in the wrong place." He gave Ray a hug. "You didn't hurt it too much, Ray, I promise. Okay?" Ray shook his head and climbed off the bed, going into the bathroom and slamming the door.

"We going now?" Xander mumbled, reaching down to pet the furry thing on his rear. "Baby ferrets?"

"All five and Ray shifted, pinning one to the bed," Methos told him.

"I heard that part," Xander said, opening one eye. "We going now?"

"Let me call," Oz said, opening the bed's curtain so he could climb out too. "Yeah, we can probably go now," he called a few minutes later. "It's almost noon. I'll still call."

Xander put the ferret down, reaching beside the bed to get one of the hair ribbons he had brought back. "Here, tie this around his neck, that way we don't get confused. Let me get dressed and I'll get their basket." He climbed out, making sure not to hurt any more of the little ones. He joined Ray in the bathroom, giving him a hug. "I did the same thing to Jedi when she first crawled in with us," he whispered as he held his friend. "I promise, ferrets are very hardy creatures. You didn't kill him so he'll probably be okay." He let go and looked down at his not-sticky body. "Let's get dressed. We'll bathe when we get back," he decided, reaching around to push his hair off his back. "Remind me I need hair things?"

"Sure," Ray said listlessly, letting Xander lead him out and get him dressed. On the way to the vet's, he held the ferret's basket, petting the one he had hurt. He was helped inside the office, giving the woman behind the desk a pitiful look. "I rolled over on one with my knee," he told her.

She gave him a pat on the back of the hand. "Ferrets are incredibly strong, I'm sure you didn't hurt it too much. Go sit down and we'll take you back in a few minutes, okay?"

"Sure," Oz said, guiding Ray over to a seat and making sure he was sitting down. Since there weren't anymore seats, he sat between Xander's feet, reaching up to play with a lock of his hair. "You need hair things," he noted absently.

"Yup," Xander sighed. "Lots and lots of hair things."

"We'll work on that after we get home from the vets." He looked over at Ray. "Make sure Jedi's not eating the fabric?" he suggested.

Ray looked down and frowned at the mommy ferret. "Don't do that," he said, taking the fabric wrinkle away from her mouth.

"Harris?" the nurse called, making everyone jump up. She led them back to an exam room, closing the door behind the group. "Why are we here today? Just a routine checkup?" she asked, looking down in the basket. "Four?"

"Six, including mom," Oz told her, reaching into Ray's shirt to retrieve Jedi and the hurt one. "And this one got rolled over on this morning."

"Oh." She took that one, holding it up so she could look at it. "Back or head?"

"Head," Ray said miserably.

The nurse smiled reassuringly at him. "Dear, these little ones are nearly indestructible right now. I've seen them kicked across a room and shake it off. A little kneeing is nothing to them." She tucked the baby ferret against her chest. "I'll take him to be xrayed and the doctor will be in a few minutes to check the rest." She left them alone, making sure the door was closed so that none of the mischievous animals could escape.

Everyone decided by silent communication that Ray should have the lone chair and that Xander could hold the basket. They waited silently for the vet, every once in a while looking over at Ray, who was still looking pathetic and miserable.

The vet came in a few minutes later, as promised, and smiling at everyone. "The little one is fine, we just read her xray. She'll be back in a few minutes, once we weigh and measure her." He smiled at Xander, then down at the ferret. "So, Jedi's a girl?" he asked with amusement.

"It appears so," Oz said dryly. "We came home and found babies. Henrietta never called and told us about them, but we seem to have a few."

"And they're *cuddly*," Xander told him. "That one got smooshed while in bed with us."

Ray looked up. "I didn't mean to, Xander. I just wanted to shift around."

"Oh, hey," Xander cooed, coming over to give him a hug. "I'm not mad, Ray. The baby's not hurt and I'm not mad. If anything, I'm glad it was a little accident that's going to teach this lesson instead of something like Oz throwing it one of those mornings when we have to use the alarm clock." He made Ray look up at him. "I promise, I'm not upset, not at all. We love you and we know you didn't mean to hurt him."

"Her," the vet said as he started to check the other babies. "Are we going to fix Jedi now, Oz?"

"No," Xander said, not looking over. "We want to find the daddy before we do anything." He looked over at the skeptical look. "Trust me on this, okay? I'm not fixing her yet. Soon maybe, but not yet."

"All right," the vet said. "Remember, she can have up to five babies twice a year." He stuck a thermometer in the first baby's rear, taking it's temperature. "Yes, I know, it doesn't feel good," he told the wiggling little body in his hands. "Tough. Everyone else has to have it done too." He looked over at Ray. "Really, this was nothing compared to some of the injuries Jedi's had."

"We got rid of that cat," Oz said, scratching his eyebrow. "A nice priest adopted it and did an exorcism. It's fine now."

The vet laughed. "If you say so." He put down the first one after listening to it's heart, making sure it stayed outside the basket for right now, and picked up the next one to start the process all over again.

Xander smiled at Ray. "Really, we love you and we know you didn't mean to. It's still all good. You didn't hurt her too badly, just a gentle pressure with your knee." He lifted Ray up and dragged him over to help hold the ferrets that had been checked. When the baby came back, it was handed to Ray.

Methos rolled his eyes. "We are not taking her home, Ray. A dog and two cats is enough."

"Yeah, yeah," Ray mumbled, staring down at the black eyes. "Hey, you. You're really okay?"

"Just fine," the nurse said, handing over the clipboard with the chart for the vitals on it and taking the next two to be weighed and measured.


Ray climbed into bed in front of Xander, fresh from their shower together. He smiled at the gentle nuzzling against his back, pulling the soft sheet over to cover them while they napped.

"No, just cover your front," Xander ordered quietly. He arranged the sheet how he wanted it then started to stroke Ray's abdomen. "Do you mind if I teach you the joys of long-time sex?" Ray shook his head. "Good. Methos said I could do this to you." His stroking hand started larger circles, now making figure eights across the other man's chest and stomach.

Ray mumbled something but bit his tongue when the hand pinched him on the stomach. "What? I do just fine."

"Yeah, but Methos and Oz *love* it when we take a long time, like forever sort of long time."

"But I can't do that, I'm not built that way, Xander," Ray complained.

"Not trying to change you, just trying to give you a new perspective," Xander said defensively.

Ray rolled over and hugged him. "I know. But it sucks that they don't like it like I do."

Xander grinned. "You've been trying to change Methos' mind for how many years and it hasn't worked yet?" Ray snorted. "So, let me teach you this part and then you can show him that it doesn't do everything for you, maybe make some arrangement together."

"Ya mean that sometimes he gets it his way and sometimes I get it mine?" Ray suggested with a smirk. Xander nodded. "We tried that, I could never lay back and take it like he wants me to."

"Shoot. And here I was gonna make you enjoy that too," Xander said, his smirk turning into a leer. He pulled down the restraints Oz had hitched up for him earlier, getting Ray into them before he could protest. Then he rolled the older man under him and grinned down at him. "You're at my mercy now," he whispered, leaning down to take the first kiss. "All mine. Methos and Oz are outside beating up on each other and they won't come save you this time."

Ray's mouth opened in shock and Xander took advantage of it, giving him a deeper kiss. "Um," Ray said, once he could speak and think again. "Safety rules?"

"Just say the word," Xander agreed, grinning again. He winked then kissed him on the nose before moving back a little so he could work on his best friend's neck. He nibbled on the spots he had watched Methos attack earlier on the ride home. He licked over the spot that made Ray arch up. He bit down onto Ray's neck and sucked a dark bruise onto the pale skin. "Mine," he proclaimed, laughing when Ray frowned at him. He moved backwards, licking and sucking across the narrow shoulders and heaving chest, stopping to consider the pale nipples. "Hmm, these could use something," he said, flicking one. "I know I brought something back that would work great in there." He looked up at Ray, who was shaking his head. "No?"

"Nope. No extra holes in the body."

"Why not?" Methos asked from the door. "I think you'd look stunning with a nipple ring; it shows ownership quite well." He looked across Xander's body. "I know what would work best on his body too, but Oz told me I couldn't pierce him," he sighed in regret.

"No," Ray said clearly and loudly. "No piercing my body. Not my nipples, not my balls, not my ass."

"You can do that?" Oz asked as he walked past Methos, heading for the bathroom. "Don't mind us, we tripped over Rocky and landed in the mud." He walked over and looked at Xander from behind, then looked up at Methos. "You wanted to do what to him?"

"A nice piercing between his cock and balls, one in his balls, and a cock collar, all connected by a thin chain."

Xander looked over and shook his head. "No. A nipple ring I might okay. A hole in my balls I will not."

"But it'd be cute," Oz told him, pinching the hanging flesh. "Here?"

"No, lower. Between the balls but nearer to the bottom." Methos walked in and touched a spot just below Oz's fingers. "Here. With a chain connecting the two, hanging down and swinging as he moved."

"Nope," Xander said, shifting to get his balls free, looking at his lovers. "No. No putting new holes in my balls."

"*New* holes?" Oz asked, one eyebrow going up.

"Long story and you're not getting it," Xander said, pulling the curtains around the bed to block them out.

"Now I can't see," Ray complained. Xander turned on the hidden light he had had installed in the canopy. "Thanks," he said, grinning at the younger man. "So, you want a nipple ring?"

"All part of that same long story, and I'm still not sharing it," Xander said, shutting him up with a kiss. He moved down to make Ray speechless before he could ask anything else, knowing he wasn't going to want to share this one, not with how Oz could get.


Methos answered the phone, stopping when he heard the voice on the other end. "Daniel?" he asked, sitting down to listen to him. "What's wrong?" He sighed. "Did you tell them.... Oh, dear," he sighed. "Yes, put me in touch with him. No, I won't allow that, you know that, Daniel." He sighed again and hung up, going to find everyone and talk to them. He found Oz and Xander sitting together outside, watching Ray swim. "We've got a problem," he noted, sitting down next to the other couple. "Daniel got found out. Apparently, he's in the middle of a secret war and he got shot, repeatedly, in his last battle." He rubbed his forehead. "He's one of the bigger targets of our enemies."

"Which would be *who*?" Oz asked. "The US isn't at war right now, we're actually kinda at peace for once."

"Well, it's not just us it seems," Methos said, leaning back so he could get comfortable. "Apparently, it's all humans against some sort of aliens."

"Which is who Kronos drove out?" Xander asked, remembering that little side conversation during their lunch together.

"Yes, Xander," Methos said, looking at him. "And the government now knows what we are."

"They're fucked then, aren't they?" Ray asked as he got out of the pool. "What's going on now?"

"Daniel got found out."

"Gee, not a good thing."

"Especially since he works for the government," Oz told him.

"Heard that part," Ray admitted. He sat down beside his lover, giving him a hug. "What's the plan?"

"Ray's boss wants to talk to me," Methos told him gently, patting him on the back. "I'm being forced to appear, or they'll come find us."

"We can still disappear," Xander reminded him.

"Not from them. These people have ways of tracking you down," Oz said quietly, calming his lover down by wrapping his arms around his waist. "What do they really want?"

"To pick his brain?" Xander suggested.

"Maybe it's not a lab-rat position," Ray said optimistically.

"Hey, it's got to be classified," Xander said, catching Ray's mood. "After all, it's really hard to hide something like a war from the news. "They've got to have a hefty classification."

"Oh, they do," Methos agreed. "They've got Senior Officials only clearance."

"The Pres and a few trusted people?" Oz suggested.

Methos nodded. "Yes, that's what Daniel told me when I forced him to give me an idea of what he did." Methos looked over at Ray. "Daniel asked me to bring you also."

"Then you're bringing me," Xander said calmly. Methos and Oz both started to shake their heads but he stood up. "I'm going," he told them. "If you try and leave me, I'll come on my own. I *refuse* to lose you, even to our own government." He stalked off, going into the house to go think and plan.

Oz looked at Methos. "Oh, shit," he whispered.

"Yes, I think that's how'll they'll see it when we all show it," Ray told him.

"You're not going," Methos said quickly. "I want you far away from these people."

"Touch crap. Get over it." Ray stood up and looked down at his lover. "Deal with it, or deal with me," he said, then went back to his laps.

Methos shook his head, reaching out to Oz for support.

Oz squeezed his hand, knowing exactly what he was feeling.


Xander stalked ahead of Methos, Oz and Ray back at their hotel for the moment, tied up together. He glared at the man at the head of the table, giving him his iciest stare. "If you think that you're going to do something with this knowledge and hurt my Adam or my Oz, you've got another thing coming," he hissed. One of the guards beside the door shifted and Xander pulled out his hidden dagger, throwing it at the man's neck, hitting the wall close enough to have grazed the skin, stunning him. "I have many years of doing that, I'd stand down."

"Stand down," the General ordered, standing up. "And you are?" he asked, trying to sound calm.

"He is Xander," Methos said, slamming his briefcase down on the table. "I am Adam. That is all you need to know."

"That and the fact that we're not working for you," Xander told him. "I *refuse* to lose anyone else in my life to any sort of stupidity."

"Saving the human race isn't stupid, son," the General said quietly.

"Then bomb the assholes and get over it already!" Xander told him.

"They're humans that have been taken over by a symbiot," Daniel said, speaking up for the first time. He looked at Xander. "I thought you were normal."

"No, I'm not normal. I'm not immortal, but I'm *far* from normal," he said, glaring at the young man.

"I didn't mean to!" Daniel said, jumping up and moving away from him. "We never expected to run into a unit of Goa'uld, Xander, I promise."

"But you did," Methos reminded him. He looked at the General. "I'm old enough to have done your job a few times over. I have no desire to fight in another war, even to save myself." Xander hit him on the arm. "I will fight if I'm attacked," he said, glaring at the young man, "but Xander is quite correct." He looked at Daniel. "I'll gladly finish my training of Daniel, I had that planned anyway, but I doubt that my skills with a sword will help you any."

"No, but some of your knowledge might," the General said, sitting down. He waved a hand at the other seats. "Please. I'd like to talk to you, both," he said, nodding at Xander. "I promise, nothing you say will be taken out of this room." He nodded at the guard and he left, closing the door behind him. "Is that better?" he asked Xander, who had looked at the guard.

"No, we're still here," Xander said, sitting down. "Usually a call from someone like you sends the rest of us running for cover. You must know that there's people out there that would use us as experiments."

"I do. But here, we don't do that."

"True," Daniel jumped in. "We've actually got a warrior that turned from our enemy working with my team. He's one of our greatest allies. We've protected him from everyone who'd want to use him to date." He looked at Methos. "You have to know I didn't plan on this."

"I know you didn't," Methos said, relenting and relaxing a little. "I know that you had no intention of telling anyone, I have no doubt I drilled that lecture into you quite well." He almost smiled at the young immortal. "But this is not the situation we want to be in, Daniel. Xander was quite correct in saying that this sort of questioning endangers us all. Information does leak out, no matter how careful you are."

The General cleared his throat. "The only people who know about this program are the President and three Senators outside of the Chief of Staff. None of our findings are released outside of things we can genuinely verify here on Earth. We need your help though. This war is messy and long. I have decided not to make a report on this incident, not of Dr. Jackson's accident or of our meeting, so that none of the information you give us will get out. We'll list you as a confidential source known only to those of us in this room."

The old one thought it over, considering the man before him. He'd known many Generals over his life, and he knew this one was going to keep his word. "I may be able to help with some strategies," Methos admitted, "but I will not fight for you, or for any army. Never again."

"I understand that," the General said quickly. "We just wanted to pick your brains." He looked at Xander. "If you're not like him, then what are you?"

"My bodyguard and favorite student," Methos said, patting Xander on the hand. "Xander knows much about many strange things. In truth, there is another immortal with me, he's tied up right now, with my own lover."

"I see," the General said, nodding. "That's fine with us. I can understand your need for secrecy." He looked at Daniel. "If I may ask, how old are both of you?"

"I'm over five thousand years old," Methos said quietly. "Xander is thirty-eight, unless you count the time he's spent off this plane."

"Then you can add about eight hundred years of fighting," Xander told him.

"Other planes?" Daniel asked. "Can you do that? Create gateways or whatever?"

"No, but Giles can."

"Um, your other husband?" Daniel asked, not quite sure. Xander had only mentioned his second husband a few times in London.

Xander nodded. "Him. He's a sorcerer." The General snorted. "Think I'm kidding?" He pointed at the plants in the room and concentrated. "Grow," he ordered, sending his meager power at it. The plant grew as he started to sweat.

"Enough," Methos ordered, not looking anywhere but at his student. "If you make yourself ill again, Oz will skin me to make you a blanket during your recovery."

Xander released it and blew his remaining breath out. "Still think I'm kidding?" he asked, looking at the General. "There's some places that it doesn't work, but where it does, people with the right skills are very useful." He leaned against Methos while he got himself back to normal.

"He's very weak in those arts," Methos explained, "but what he can do is very helpful at times."

"I bet," the General said, smiling at Xander. "I can have some coffee sent in if you'd like some. Or some sandwiches."

Xander nodded. "Coffee please," he whispered. "This place is not conducive."

"To magic?" Methos asked.

Xander nodded. "It's a big, sucking hole."

"Ah, a lot like Buffy then."

Xander glared and punched him on the arm. "She was not a *big* sucking hole, she was a *whiny* sucking hole from what Angel said." He looked over at the plant. "Huh, only two inches."

Daniel got up and grabbed the plant, bringing it over to the table. "Well, it did grow," he admitted, looking at Xander, then at his General. "It was trimmed this morning and it needs it again."

The General nodded slowly. "All right. If we may, would it be possible for one of our scientists to watch you do this? Maybe find out how you do it?" he asked Xander.

Xander waved a hand. "It'll have to be outside, and away from this mountain. Like I said, this place sucks energy massively." He looked at Daniel. "I might be able to bring Giles up so you can watch him. No promises, he's very wary of this sort of attention too."

"Maybe we can show him some things that might change his mind," Daniel said, looking at the General.

The General stood up, smiling at his officer. "I think that could be arranged. After all, they wouldn't want to tell anyone anything, would they?"

Methos smiled. "Of course not." He patted Xander on the shoulder. "We'll be going back to our hotel room and face our lovers. Daniel, call on us sometime tomorrow and we'll come help you." He stood up and helped Xander up. "May we have an escort to the surface?"

"Of course," the General said, smiling at them. "Daniel, take them up please and get their contact numbers." He watched the three young men leave, shaking his head at the oddity he had seen today. He touched his prize plant gently, smiling at the new healthy looking growth. "Is that what you needed to feel better?" he asked it before leaving. This would take some very careful planning.


Xander walked in first, and ducked before the statue Ray was holding could hit him. "What? We had to prove our point," he said, ducking a thrown ashtray.

"Enough," Methos said tiredly as he walked in and shut the door. "Xander, go lie down."

"What did you do?" Oz asked as he emerged from the bathroom. He looked his husband over and pointed at the bed. "Down, now," he ordered, walking over to help him out of his jacket. "What did you do?" he asked once he had Xander firmly held against him.

"I proved my point," Xander whispered.

"You made a plant grow?" Ray asked, frowning at him. "How could you risk Methos that way!"

"I was in no danger," Methos told him, coming over to hug him. "I was in no danger, nor was Xander. We had a nice discussion with the General, who only wants some of the information we hold - some help planning a few raids and the like."

"And he wants to know about what from Xander?" Oz asked.

"They want to see if they can quantify magic," Methos told him, smiling down at the sleeping young man. "He said the mountain sucks energy."

"And Danny?" Ray asked.

"He really didn't mean to do anything, or to tell his commanding officer, who was very nice. We now have mutual blackmail on each other." He gave his lover a hug. "Do you feel better now?"

"We're coming next time," Oz said quietly, but firmly. He looked over his shoulder. "You were wrong to try and protect us."

"Oz, if something had happened to me today, I'm sure they would have let Xander go after a few days. You, on the other hand, would then become the oldest living immortal. You have to live on, if only for my benefit," Methos told him, sitting down beside him and touching him on the shoulder. "You must live on and keep the knowledge going, young one," he said quietly, sharing a long conversation with their looks. "You may not fall if I do."

"If you do, then someone's dead," Ray said firmly. "We'll make sure of it."

Methos pulled him down into his lap. "I know you will, Ray, you and Xander both, but this is more important than even that. Oz must live on, he holds most everything that I do in knowledge and he's got to be around."

"We both do," Oz protested harshly. "If someone takes you, they're mine first, and then Xander gets them. Got it?" He sat up, shaking his best friend as hard as he could. "You will not be lost, not while I'm still living!"

"He won't be," Ray promised, sliding over to give Oz a hug. "You won't lose him or Xander, I promise. We won't let it happen," he soothed, rocking him. "It won't happen, you won't lose them, I won't let it happen," he cooed.

Oz nodded and took the comfort from both of them, needing to know that everything that had ever been his stability wouldn't suddenly disappear into a government lab under a big mountain.


Xander opened the door, nodding Daniel and the woman behind him inside. "Oz is in the bathroom and Adam's out getting lunch." He sat down on the bed, looking the woman over. "So, you're going to tell me that what I can do isn't possible?"

She smiled and held out a hand. "Sam Carter."

"Xander Harris," he told her, shaking it. "And?"

"No, I want to believe that it exists. I have no idea how we'll measure it, or how much energy it takes from you...." She trailed off as the bathroom door opened and two men walked out, blushing. "Hi," she said carefully.

"Ray, what did you do to yourself now?" Daniel asked, giving him a hug.

Ray gave him a few pats then pulled away. "Let me guess, you tripped?"

"No, he was trying to save me," Sam said. "Our team is the biggest thorn in their side and they want us all dead. They got an easy bead on me and Daniel knocked me out of the way." She brushed her bangs back. "He won't tell me anything about any of this."

"Good," Oz said, sitting down beside Xander. "There's a lot that he's not supposed to tell anyone that's not a new student or a lover of his." He looked her over. "Science of what?"

"Astrophysics," she said, swallowing hard. "Which one are you?"

"This is my Oz," Xander said, laying a hand on Oz's thigh. "Giles refused to come up and yelled at me for even agreeing to talk to you."

"I'm sorry," she offered weakly. "We have to know though, it might be the turning point in this war. We've almost lost *so* many times." She pulled a chair over, facing them. "I don't want to steal any information, I want to find a way to step around what they've done and give us a way to beat them. I don't want to make a weapon, I want to make a shield, or find a way to sidestep all their troops during a fight so we can take out the heads instead of the average foot soldier. I have no desire to kill them all, most of the soldiers are just being used by the symbiot." She stopped as the door opened, looking at the man who walked through it. An older man, with silver hair at his temples and starting to spread throughout the rest. "Hi," she said carefully.

"Giles," Xander said, looking at him, still not happy with him over being bitched at. "Sit, you might as well. Oh, this is Daniel, I found him in London."

"And Jedi had babies," Oz added. He wasn't happy with how long Giles had been gone this time. He had promised to come back every month and it'd been at least three since Giles had come home last, or at least it seemed like it. Now here he was, ready to defend them from their own badness. "We're fine."

"Actually, Xander could use a rest," Ray said, giving Oz an apologetic look. He patted Daniel on the shoulder. "Relax, that's their Giles. So, what brought you up here?" he asked when Giles still hadn't said anything.

"I'm here to stop Xander from spilling our every secret to the Government."

"Wasn't his fault," Oz defended. "They found out because Daniel died," he said, pointing at Daniel. "This wasn't Xander being indiscrete. He's not like that."

"True," Xander said, nodding at Giles. "I haven't told anyone anything that they didn't already know." He looked Giles over. "Who got to you?"

"No one," he snorted, standing up.

"Ray, that's not Giles," Oz agreed.

"All right," Ray sighed, standing up. He jumped Giles, getting knocked on his ass for it. "Some help?" he asked, considering the man he needed to take down.

Xander got up smoothly and held a hand out. "Giles?" he asked when it wasn't taken. His hand was touched and he did the second thing he had been taught, a fascination spell. Then he led the older man into the bathroom, locking him in there before he knew what was going on.

"What was that?" Sam asked, looking from Xander to the closed door and back.

"Fascination spell," Oz said dryly. "He's always drawing in the wrong people so his teacher thought he needed to know how to do it on purpose. It saved us a few times."

Xander leaned down and kissed him deeply. "Yes, it did. But that doesn't get you out of finding out what's going on."

Oz nodded and got up, going into the bathroom to talk to his student and husband.

Xander sat on the bed and looked Sam over, nodding finally. "All right. I know you can measure my vital signs, and probably somehow figure out how to measure the energy I'm putting out. But there will be *no* needles."

"Fine," Sam agreed quickly. "Can I call in a doctor that works for us, get her to figure out which machines we'll want and how to get them to a secluded field and set up?"

Xander shrugged. "Fine by me. As long as she's not interested in a weapon either."

"Janet's not like that," Daniel told him, giving him a smile. "What can Giles do?"

"Lots more than I can," Xander sighed, relaxing. "He's got a lot more skills than I do. I'm really limited to nature magic, he's a sorcerer who can jump across fields." He snapped his fingers. "I need to find someone really bad. That will either explain what's going on, or you guys can test him. He's another sorcerer but he's Giles' sworn enemy."

"Ethan?" Oz asked as he walked out of the bathroom. Xander nodded. "He's in town. He's not happy with what you're doing so he's enchanted Giles." He held out the cellphone he had taken off Giles'. "It's him. You explain it to him."

"Set up a meeting, we can tell him if he agrees to help us and not spread it around," Sam offered. "We've gotten clearance for that much."

Oz nodded and put the phone up to his ear. "Okay," he said after listening. "He'll meet us in the park later tonight, just at sunset." He hung up and folded up the phone.

"All right," Xander said, grinning. "He's the one you want to test. Chaos sorcerer, very strong, very competent in causing mischief and beyond."

Oz, knowing what Xander was planning, shook his head and walked over to close the door. He opened it again at the kick. "What? Oh, hi," he said, letting Methos back inside. "Giles showed up. He's been possessed by Ethan."

"Was that the nasty little man you told me about?" Methos asked as he set the food down on the small table. "Xander, they didn't have any decent food so I got you something you'd probably like." He looked at Daniel, then at the female in the room. "And you are?"

"Sam Carter, Astrophysicist," she said, holding out a hand.

Methos shook it gently. "That's fine. You're here to study Xander?"

"And she's not out for a weapon," Xander said gently.

Methos nodded, but he relaxed. "That's good then." He came over and sat beside Xander, giving him a hug. "When do you fix Giles?"

"We meet with Ethan tonight," Oz told him, pushing him away from his mate. "Mine."

"Yours," Methos agreed, standing up. He looked around. "It's very odd not to have any animals around."

"Especially not the ferret babies," Ray said, almost pouting. "I miss her."

Methos groaned and walked over, going into the bathroom. He shoved Giles out a few moments later, then slammed the door.

"What happened?" Giles asked, looking down at Xander. "Did you do something to get me here?" he asked harshly.

"No, Ethan did it," Oz told him. "Chill and go get a room."

Giles snorted and walked away, heading to try and get the adjoining room. Maybe then someone would explain all this to him.

Xander relaxed again, looking over at Daniel and Sam. "Now what?"

"Now, we need to find out where would be best to measure what you can do," Sam said, getting down to business. "Would a wooded place be better?"

"Yup, definitely," Xander agreed. "One nowhere *near* where you work. It sucks energy."

"That probably explains why it takes so much energy whenever we gate," Sam muttered, sitting down with the maps she had brought, spreading it across the empty bed to get his opinion.

"Gate?" Oz asked.

"Yeah, um, gate," Daniel agreed, looking at Sam.

"Hammond said we could give them that much," she reminded him.

"Okay." Daniel looked from Oz to Methos and locked on his teacher. "We gate to other worlds using a piece of alien technology to go fight the aliens that are endangering Earth."

"Okay," Oz said slowly. Then he nodded. "Sounds reasonable. We've gated to planes. You gate to planets."

"Different sort of gate probably," Sam noted, not looking up. "What about here, Xander?"

"He'll have to be there to make sure it won't suck energy," Oz told her. "Sorry," he said when she looked at him. "Gate? As in portal or as in other?"

"As in wormhole technology that moves us really quickly to another place," Daniel explained.

Oz shrugged. "Okay, different than our gates." He looked at Xander. "Did you remember to bring the parts in your diary about realmal gates?" Xander nodded. "Share that with her, maybe there's something in there that might help her. After all, most sorcerers have to know something about Chemistry and Physics to work on spells."

"Point," Xander agreed, getting happier. He grabbed his laptop and handed it over. "It's the one marked dairy. I haven't sorted it out at all so all my magic tutoring is in there and everything we went through."

She smiled. "I won't pay any attention to any of the personal stuff," she promised. She opened the laptop and booted it up, looking for his word processing program.

"It's Star Office," Oz said, catching her searching. "It should be in the most recent opened file list."

She nodded and opened it, then the file. She looked at Xander after a few minutes. "You've got a very easy style of writing to read," she praised. "Can I make a copy of this?" He shrugged. "Thanks. This way, you can have your laptop later tonight." She paged down, checking the length. "Man, how long were you gone?" she asked when she got to page six hundred.

"Eight hundred years," Xander said dryly.

"Oh." She blinked a few times. "Can this burn CD's? Otherwise, I'm going to have to email it to myself."

"It should," Oz told her. "It's got a burner. Not sure if it still works or not. Xander's dropped it a few times." He looked at his mate. "Including into a swamp."

Xander stuck his tongue out. "My horse threw me and my stuff. I told you he hated me."

Sam smiled. "You two have this great relationship. It's really evident that you're in love."

"Thanks," Xander said, grinning at her. "I do love my Oz, he's just a bit overprotective some days." He looked at Daniel. "Have you ever thought about praying for help?"

Oz looked at Xander. "Where did that come from?"

"From the little voice that sounds amazingly like Strife," Xander told him. "Something about an 'Unc' and how he'd probably help because he's pretty bored right now and wants more people to talk to."

"Oh, yeah, that'll help," Sam sighed. "Which Gods do we pray to? These aliens took on the roles of almost all the traditional Gods."

Xander gave her a slight smile. "Who said that the real Gods weren't there and didn't know that?" She started. "Trust me on this, Sam, some of them *do* exist. All you have to do is search them out and call on them." He stood up and patted her on the head. "Read the thirtieth page. It'll explain a lot." He walked into the bathroom and closed the door, leaning against it, looking up. "Better?" he whispered.

Strife appeared and gave him a hug. "Sure. Thanks, babe." He blew a kiss but left before the person rattling the door could get in.

"I know he's in there," Methos called.

Xander opened the door and peeked out. "He's gone and I need in here. Deal with it." He closed the door again, locking it this time. He shook himself and unzipped his pants so he could use the facilities.


Xander watched as Oz talked to Ethan, Daniel beside him. He saw Ethan nod and grinned.

"Don't do that," Ethan called over. "I have many words for you." He looked at Daniel, who was talking too quietly for anyone not there with them to hear. "Oh." He glared at Xander. "Fine, I will participate in this experiment, but I will want compensated."

"Hey, he would probably work for you if you would take him places so he could take their skills too," Xander offered to Sam, who was sitting near him, helping him picnic.

"We'll have to think about that," she said quietly. "This is a top-secret project, Xander."

"True, and he's got a big mouth, but he's always willing to do anything to get more power." Sam looked thoughtful. "Think about it. You could probably talk him into it fairly easily."

"That's a good point," Giles said, coming over to sit next to them. "I'm sorry I've been overreacting recently, Xander. I have no idea why your recent escapades have bothered me so much."

"Maybe because you think of them that way," Oz said as he walked over. "Ethan's willing to help you, as long as you don't out him or magic."

"Sure," Sam said easily. "Not a problem. Like General Hammond told them, none of this is going into a report, and if we have to make a report for whatever reason, nothing specific's going in there and no names will be mentioned." She smiled at Ethan. "Would you know where you wanted to do the testing?"

"In a forest would probably be best," Xander said carefully. "Their workplace sucks energy, Ethan."

Ethan glared down at the younger man. "I have no doubt that you tried something there."

"He grew a plant," Oz told him. "That's what he's good at." He patted Xander's head fondly. "He's right, I can feel it sucking things in too." He and Methos shared a look, they both felt it trying to suck in their quickenings, a decidedly odd feeling to say the least.

Ethan closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "All right, I will accept that warning. Are there any forests due north of here?" he asked Sam, who pulled out a map and handed it over. "Meet me here, by this river, tomorrow afternoon," he said, pointing out the spot that had drawn his attention. It had a road up to it and it had multiple means of escape if he needed it. "You don't want to study us, correct?"

"Not in any long-term way," Daniel told him. "We're looking more for a way to protect ourselves against an attack or a way around the soldiers so we only hit the head people." He sat down across from Xander, taking the sandwich the younger man handed him. "Thank you. Sit and eat, Ethan?"

"I have a dinner date," he huffed, then walked off, taking the map with him.

Giles smiled at Daniel. "If you could manage to keep him, I'd be most thankful. He's a pain in my arse some days." He looked over at his husbands, who were snuggled together now. "I am sorry for my attitude problems, but I have no idea why I'm doing this."

"Maybe you're not meant to come home yet," Xander suggested quietly. "The resort's been weighing on your attention and your time. You probably haven't had sex in months." He smiled sadly. "We'll let you out of our deal for a while, until you can get the resort able to run itself without you having to be there."

Oz looked at Xander, then kissed him on the neck, trusting him. "You're sure?"

"I'm sure," Xander said, looking like he was regretting it already. "As long as I have one of you around, I'll be fine. For a while."

"So," Daniel said, breaking the somber mood. "Ray, you never did say what you were going to be doing now. College so you can go with the teacher? Helping Giles at the resort?"

"The last is an option," Methos agreed, taking Ray's hand to kiss the back of it. "We haven't decided on anything yet. It's all up to Ray at the moment."

Ray shrugged. "I don't have a clue. All I know is that I'm tired of being shot at." He looked at Methos. "You really want to go live in Vegas?"

"Well, I can't say as I've lived there before. It will be warm, but the resort has air conditioning and there is a nice college near there if you decide you want to take classes."

"But it don't snow," Ray protested.

"Massachusetts?" Oz suggested. Methos gave him a dirty look. "What? There's many colleges, most of them in rural areas, but there's always Boston."

"And it snows," Xander offered.

"Yes, but I hate the snow," Methos complained. "I'm meant to be somewhere warm."

"So we're moving to the *desert*?" Ray asked. "Isn't that going a little too far to satisfy wanting warmth?"

Xander looked at Oz. "If they move that far away, do we have to move?"

Oz shook his head. "Nope, they'll always come home sometime."

"Actually," Giles said, breaking into the couples staring at each other, "there's no reason for you to stay on the Hellmouth, Xander. As long as you take the keystone with you and you ground it properly, then it should be fine." He looked at his hands. "I have no idea what your teacher taught you about that part but that's what everything I've found so far has said."

"He said I had to be on the same line of the gate," Xander broke in. "From the way he explained it, I'll have to stay on the West Coast until we can find another guardian."

"I see," Giles said calmly. "He didn't say that you could leave?"

"Not for extended time," Oz put in. "Maybe for six months, but not for any longer or the Hellmouth will start to destabilize and have to be drained again."

"Hellmouth?" Daniel asked. No one had explained that to him yet.

"Long story," Oz told him.

"I've heard that," he said bitterly.

Xander leaned over and tipped Daniel's face up. "If we told you, there'd be a few changes in the way you saw history, including the fact that humans aren't the only sentient species. That there's *lots* of them, and not all of them are good."

"But we already know that," Sam said, looking confused. "That's what the..." She glanced around. "That's what we're working against."

Xander shook his head. "No, not like that, though I guess ...." He looked at Oz, then at Methos. "Have you heard of any that were that old?"

"No," Methos said carefully, "though I only know a few demons, Xander. You might want to ask your brother."

"Good point," Xander said, searching Oz's jacket for a pen and a piece of paper. Giles handed him both and he quickly wrote out a note, playing with his summoning necklace as he spoke. He jumped as a familiar voice spoke behind him.

"You rang?" Micah, Xander's adoptive half-brother asked, smiling at the extra people.

Xander glared at him. "Since when are you a messenger?"

"Since I've been keeping track of what you're doing so you don't get anyone in trouble," Micah said calmly. "What's going on?" He took the note, reading it. Then he nodded and disappeared.

"I guess he had to go check," Oz said, patting Xander's hand. "So, Giles, any luck with the werehamster?"

Giles looked a little flushed. "It seems she couldn't prove her claims. Though, I have run into one that turned into a wereferret."

"Gee, just what the world needs, another Jedi."

"Why did you name the ferret Jedi?" Methos asked. "I've never heard that story."

"Because, like the Force, she's everywhere," Oz told him. "You can usually tell by the chocolate chip cookie crumbs."

Xander snickered. "Just because you found them inside your computer doesn't mean she was in there," he reminded his husband. "After all, you like those cookies too."

"True, but when I found them inside my tower, we hadn't had any of them in the house in months and it had only been a few days since I'd had to open my computer up," Oz reminded him. "It could only have been the ferret."

"Well, it could have been the kittens," Xander offered.

"Xander, it had to be something smaller to get behind there in my desk. Really, not even the little fluffy one that hid under the fridge could have done it. She can't bend that way." He patted Xander's arm. "It's your ferret, but she's a pain."

"She's not a pain," Xander countered, pouting at him. "Not a pain at all. She's a lovely little ferret doing ferretish things." He looked at Ray, who nodded, stunned by the force of the pout.

Daniel found himself wanting to get up and hug Xander, and to yell at Oz for making him pout. Sam put a hand out, stopping him from moving. "What?"

"Xander, you're affecting the newbie," Oz complained. "Quit before you end up getting Daniel in trouble."

"Sorry," Xander said, giving him a hopeless shrug.

Oz groaned. "Xander's got an innate ability to make everyone want to protect him, even though he's better at protecting himself than I am at doing it for him. He's GHS to the bone."

"GHS," Sam spluttered. "Really?" she asked, looking at Xander, who nodded.

"I have been since Adam taught me," Xander said, grinning at her. "Fortunately, I have my men, who love and protect me, no matter how many people want to kidnap me."

"Hey, you could put Xander wherever you need him to draw out the major bad guys," Ray offered. "Have them take him, after puttin' a tracer on him, and then follow them to rescue him."

"No, Ray," Oz said.

"But, Oz, it'd be really helpful. And Xander always draws the biggest putzs."

"No, Ray," Oz said a little more firmly.

"But it'd help," Ray said again. Then he had to get up and run because Oz was going to show him the error of putting his Xander in danger.

Xander sighed and got up, but Methos pulled him back down. "He's going to tickle Ray until he gives in and we're not sure how safe this town is for that sort of stuff."

Methos got up and jogged after them, going to find them before some random gang of thugs could find those two playing dominance games.

Xander shrugged at Sam's incredulous look. "Ray needed to play," he explained. "He knows better than to do that to me. He knows I wouldn't wait for backup to kill the people who take me."

Daniel squeezed his eyes together then looked at Xander. "Can you really do that?"

"Yup," Xander sighed, nodding. "I can do lots of stuff that draws bad guys to me."

"Oh, gee, a party," a drunken voice said from behind them.

"Oh, fuck," Xander muttered, standing up and looking at the college-aged guy sneering at them. "Got a problem with a few friends having a picnic?"

"Yeah, especially *fags*," he sneered, looking Xander over. "What are you?"

"Very likeable," Xander told him, looking him over. "I've got a lot more than you've got and I can guarantee you that if there were any bundles of sticks for burning or British cigarettes, then they'd be put toward their functions."

"Huh?" the drunk guy asked.

"Technically, a fag is defined as a bundle of sticks for burning in a fire, usually in a desert environment, or in slang as a British cigarette," Daniel told him. "Now, none of us are either of those so why don't you take your narrow mind and leave us alone to go find an education."

"Hey!" the guy complained, sure he had been insulted. He jumped towards Xander, but he was put on his back almost immediately. "What are you!" the guy yelled, looking up at Xander in fear. "Are you one of those freaks you hear about in the newspaper?"

"No," Xander snorted. "I'm just well trained." He let the guy go, stepping back. "Go away, man, before I have to use some more of my really good training." The guy got up and ran away. Xander turned around, looking around for Oz. "Okay, no need to talk about this, I don't want to hear about it later, all right?" he asked, smoothing his long hair back into place. He sat down and took the bottle of soda Sam held out. "Thanks, dear."

"Welcome," she said, looking and sounding impressed. "Where did you learn that?"

"Bodyguarding and my fight teacher. I've learned a lot from those two occupations." He looked over at Giles, who looked stunned. "Problems?"

"Well, yes," Giles said, scooting forward so he could touch a strand of Xander's hair. "I hadn't noticed this. When did you do that?"

"Across the realmal portal," Xander said, moving his hair back over his shoulder again. "We were over there for eight hundred...." He glanced around, seeing a few people walking around them now, but none close enough to really hear. "Let's just say we spent long enough over there for me to learn every trade I think I'll ever need. Including designing jewelry."

"All right," Giles said, giving him a faint smile. "I'm glad you were safe. Did Oz go with you on your trip?" Xander nodded. "Good. I'm...I'm glad that you're happy and safe, Xander. I have no desire to see you unhappy."

Xander gave him a hug. "It's okay. I know your research is calling out to you. Oz and I both understand that, and it's okay with us most of the time."

Giles smiled as he pulled back, cupping Xander's cheek in his palm. "Thank you, love. I knew you'd understand if Oz didn't."

"Hey, I've known you longer," Xander said with a faint grin. "Eat, we're all hungry and those three will be back sometime soon."

"They'd better be back sometime soon," Sam said, checking her watch. "We've got to go soon. We need to make a little verbal report and get things set up for tomorrow."

"They'll be fine," Daniel told her, smiling. "You can go back and I'll make sure they can get back to their hotel."

"Are you sure?" Sam asked.

Daniel nodded. "Yeah, not a problem, Sam. After all, I know my way around the town, and I can sleep in my own apartment tonight too." He smiled. "And, if you see Jack, you can tell him I'm working on my hand-to-hand."

"Yes, you'd probably better work on that," Methos said as he walked up behind them. He sat down, looking at Sam. "Are you ready for tomorrow?"

"Almost. We have to requisition equipment through our base doctor, who's working with me tomorrow. She's going to have to find stuff that can be moved easily and get it all set up that morning." She shrugged. "It's all right though, we're used to scrambling with less time and getting it done."

"All right," Methos agreed. "Daniel, we will be at your apartment tonight, practicing. Xander, you, Ray, and Oz will go back to the hotel." He looked at Giles. "You also, if you desire." He looked at Daniel. "Have you found a sword you like yet?"

"Yes," Daniel said, blinking. "Um, are you still mad...?"

Methos shook his head. "No, but this is where the real work begins, young one, and it will be work." He looked at Giles. "I will be taking over for you in Las Vegas for a few weeks so I can help him train. He'll need some intense training to be able to get through the next year."

"I've arranged to, um, take a few weeks off after this is settled," Daniel offered. "If that's okay."

"That will be fine," Methos said, giving him a faint smile. "I'll see you in Las Vegas when?"

"In about three weeks. I've got one thing that I have to do before I can get free, then I'm all yours for a month."

"Good," Methos said, smiling more now. "A month will due to start. We'll be able to get you time off here and there for a while to finish your training, but a month will do for the basics and making you competent enough."

"Okay," another voice said, walking up to them. "Daniel, would you like to introduce us?" the older man said, sitting down next to him, nodding at Sam. "The General sent me out to look for you, seems you left your phone at the base."

"Jack, we're fine," Daniel told him, smiling at him. "Adam, this is Jack, my friend." Jack and Adam shook hands. "Jack, Adam's going to train me."

"Oh, good. You're going to learn how to use whatever funny thing you can do now?" Daniel nodded. "Does something that happened to you at work have anything to do with this?"

"Not a bit," Methos told him smoothly. "This is all about how he was born." He looked at Daniel. "I believe we should start packing up soon. Xander's warning about idiots roaming the park is well taken." He looked over his shoulder at where Oz and Ray were wandering toward them.

"Gee, they look comfy," Jack said, looking at Adam.

"Yeah, they're big cuddle monkeys," Xander said, grinning at him. "My big cuddle monkeys." He looked at Sam. "Did you want me to show up tomorrow too?"

"No, I'll go," Giles told him. "I don't want you to wear yourself out anymore than necessary." He got up as Oz and Ray walked up to them and he saw the blood. "Oh, dear. What happened now?"

Xander hopped up, looking Ray over. "Who did it and who do I have to kill?" he hissed, tipping Ray's face up.

"Xander!" Giles said, shocked.

"Shut up," Oz told him. "He's got the skills to do that now." He looked at Xander. "We're fine. We took care of them when they jumped us." He looked over at Sam. "I believe they were a few of yours," he said as he tossed over the two wallets he had stolen during the fight.

Sam clenched them hard. "Don't worry, I'll hand them personally to the General," she promised. "No one does that on his watch." She stood up. "Danny, you're still going to get them home?"

"Sure," he said, standing up, looking Ray over. "Do you need to go to the hospital?"

"No, I've got it," Adam said as he stood up, looking his lover over. "Where's the ones who did this?"

"They ran when we started to kick their ass," Oz told him, handing Ray over. "He's got a cracked rib I think. Maybe a sore jaw."

Methos nodded and took control of his Ray, leading him back toward the cars. "Xander, clean up and follow," he ordered.

Xander looked Oz over, but his husband nodded and followed Methos. Xander gave Sam a shrug and a 'sorry' look as he gathered up their stuff. "If you need me, call tomorrow. Giles?"

"I'll come back later, after I talk with Dr. Carter about what we'll be doing tomorrow." He watched as Xander jogged off, then turned his attention back to the young woman. "If you wouldn't mind, that is."

"Of course not," she said, smiling at him. "As a matter of fact, there's a lot of stuff that we can go through tonight and make it easier tomorrow." She stood up. "Sir?"

"Coming," Jack said, standing up and helping Daniel up. "You going home or coming back?"

"He's under orders to go home and to get more training," Sam told him. "We'll see him tomorrow night." She tugged on Jack's arm. "Did you drive? I rode in with Daniel."

"Yeah, I can drive you back," Jack sighed, looking at Giles. "You too?"

"No, I drove," Giles said with good humor. "If you'd like, I can drive her in as we're going to be working together tonight."

Jack shrugged. "Okay. Then I'm going home with Danny." He followed Daniel, going to tell him that.

Sam shrugged and picked up everything else, making sure she had those two wallets so she could go turn them in.


Xander paced back and forth as Methos answered questions in another room, tired of the waiting. He saw Daniel walk past the door carrying a backpack and walked out, going to catch him. "Hey," he said, catching him and turning him around. "What's going on?"

"Um, we've got a mission. You really should be wherever they put you to wait," he said, glancing around. He led Xander back to the meeting room, closing the door behind him. "You can't go wandering around out there, Xander, trust me on this. This is a shoot-first place. You've got to stay in here."

Jack opened the door and looked in. "Come on, Daniel, we've got to go." He nodded at Xander.

"He's bored, Jack. They're making him wait."

"We've still got to go." Jack looked Xander over. "I'm sure they'll get to him soon." He waved at the hallway. "Come on. We're on a timetable."

Daniel shrugged and gave Xander a 'sorry' look. "I've got to go, but you need to stay in here. All right?"

"Sure," Xander agreed, hopping up to sit on the table, looking very innocent.

The waiting lasted almost two minutes and then he was up and pacing again, glancing at the door every now and then. He started to go for the door again, but it opened and the nice General walked in, giving him a smile. "Dr. Jackson told me that I should probably come in and talk to you now, before you ran around the complex." He sat down and waved a hand at the other chairs. "Please, sit." Xander sat down, then jumped up when the door opened again. "Thank you," the General said, nodding for the Private to put down the tray he was carrying. He waited until they were alone. "Now, son, what do you know that can help us?"

"Well, that depends. Is the stuff Sam pulled off my laptop helpful?"

The General leaned back, nodding. "It's interesting, and there's a hope that something in the portal parts might give her an idea. How do you do what you do?"

"It's a matter of concentration and sending my energy out to do my will," he said quietly, looking down at his hands. "I'm not sure of the physics of it, but I do know that I had to learn how to concentrate and how to send my energy out to do what I wanted it to do." He glanced over. "I'm not sure how I do that though."

"It's something more instinctual than it is something you can explain?" the General suggested mildly. Xander looked up and nodded, looking a little surprised. "Dr. Jackson said the same thing when asked how he knew over thirty languages." He thought for a second. "How about the other part of your life? Dr. Carter said that she found something in your diary about designing a weapon."

"Um," he went pale. "That's something that not even my Oz knows," he said, glancing around.

"No one's going to know," the General assured him, leaning forward.

"Sam said you guys didn't want a weapon," Xander said.

"I'd prefer something that froze the symbiot in the older, higher-ups, the ones who run the show." He scooted closer, touching Xander on the arm. "Listen, son, I know that you don't want to deal with this sort of thing, but if I gave you something that we've already found, would you look at it?" Xander looked up. "It is a weapon, I won't lie to you, but it's like the energy weapon you described in your journal. Speaking of which, where were you?"

"Across realms," Xander sighed, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. "I can do that, but it's not what I want to do."

"I understand," the General said. "Would you look at it?"

Xander looked at him, staring him in the eyes. "General Hammond, can you swear to me that the average person, the ones who usually get hurt in any war, won't get hurt?"

The General shook his head. "I can't promise that. I can promise you that I wouldn't want to harm the average person. The people we're fighting are possessed, just as possessed as anyone in your world is when they're taken over." Xander nodded. "I have no desire to harm them, even though their symbiot's will eventually grow up and breed. We do know that if we destroy the symbiot, then it will kill the person housing it, we've found that out when our friend offered to have his taken out and he started to die during the operation." He touched Xander's arm again. "I have no desire to harm the average person. I do want to harm the false-Gods, the ones that stole humans to seed the universe with slaves. Those people I want to wipe off the face of every planet in the galaxy."

Xander looked at him, then nodded. "I'll look at it, but I won't promise anything," he said quietly. "But can my Oz come and help me? I know he wasn't there, but I need his support."

"All right. We'll send for him if you'd like." The General smiled at him. "Thank you, son. You made the right decision." He stood up and pointed at the tray. "Eat something, I'm pretty sure it's going to be a very long time before you feel better about this." He walked out, closing the door gently behind him.

Xander put his head down on the table and sighed, contemplating breaking a promise and the good reason he did it for.


Xander looked at the little pieces, picking up a few to look them over. He joined two together, taping them how they should go together. Within a few minutes, he had a few more pieces together. He linked the pieces together to form a collar, taping them together, searching for the one piece that he needed to make it whole.

"Xander?" Daniel asked, making him jump. "Hey, sorry. He gave you that to work on?"

Xander nodded, biting his lip. "I saw something like this before. He wanted to know if I can make it work." He pointed at the hole. "This needs to be fully here, it's a matter of vibration and tone."

Daniel put down his jacket and grabbed the box with the rest of the pieces, pouring them out on the table. "We found a dust around it too. It could have been a weak stone, but we couldn't find a big enough piece to tell."

Xander nodded. "It was. A very carefully faceted stone." He found the piece he needed and fit it in place, taping it so it would stay. "Here, this needs to be connected, but it can't be done in a way that'll mess with the resonance. It's tuned to a pitch that then vibrates the crystal." He glanced over. "It's got to be precise or it won't work."

"Oh." Daniel blinked a few times, then shrugged. "If you say so. Want Sam to come help you?"

"No, Oz'll be here in a few minutes," he said absently, putting together the prongs that held the stone in place. "I wish I remembered what the crystal looked like. I might be able to fashion a new one if I remembered how many facets it had and how big it was." He wiped off his forehead. "Daniel, this sucks," he said, not looking up.

"Yeah, it does," Daniel agreed gently, patting him on the back. "I'm going to take a shower and go do my routine physical. Will you be okay?" Xander nodded so he left him alone.

Xander went back to his puzzle, knowing that it still might not work and he would be off the hook with his conscience.

Oz walked in a few minutes later, stopping to put a cup of coffee next to Xander's workspace and give him a hug.

"Thank you," he whispered, stopping Oz to give him a real hug. "This sucks."

"It does," Oz agreed, patting him and pulling back some. "You okay with this?"

"I got the whole situation explained to me, the people who did this are very bad. They stole people, Oz, and made them slaves far from their homes. I can't not help, but General Hammond did say that he wasn't after the average person, that he wasn't going to do anything to them if it could be helped."

Oz pulled away and patted Xander on the back. "Good. Does it help?"

Xander shook his head. "Not at all. I'm breaking a promise."

"I know." Oz sighed and sat down on a stool. "It'll be okay though, I promise, Xander. What you're doing isn't going to kill the average person, the General had no reason to lie to you about that." He looked at the pieces and handed over something that looked like what his husband was working on. "That help?"

Xander examined it. "That goes on top." He pointed at a group of round pieces. "It goes with that." He started on the second collar, joining it together too.

Sam walked in, carrying the first section Xander had put together. "Okay, Daniel said this had to vibrate?" Xander nodded, putting down what he was working on. "Explain it to me, please?"

"It's got to vibrate," Xander told her. "It's specifically tuned to the pitch that the crystal vibrates on, enforcing it's vibration. Then an energy beam is sent through the crystal, which spreads it out like a prism, but one of the spectrums is good, one is bad, and one destroys everything it touches. The resonance of the vibrations determines which beams are allowed through and which are absorbed by the metal." He pointed at the collar he was putting together.

"Basically, it's like a big tuning fork with a crystal that splits the sound wave?" Oz asked.

"You weren't there?" Sam asked him.

"No, I had to go stop the person who was messing with this other weapon, the one I saw like this one, by myself. I was the sorcerer, it had to be me and no one else could get hurt. So Oz waited and hung with the Elders, who were trying to figure out how badly trained I was."

"Didn't you pout at him?" Oz asked, looking at his husband.

"Something like that," Xander agreed. He sighed and put down the pieces he had been working on. "There's going to be a big problem. The stone he had was specifically faceted for his machine. It only worked on the one frequency."

"So, we have to figure out how to join these without harming the harmonic, and then find a stone that resonates on the same frequency?" Sam hypothesized.

Xander nodded. "Which can be hard to do. It has to be in perfect pitch to do more than immobilize. And the death ray part of it only happened at one frequency, no matter which sound was put through it."

"Whoa. I thought the stone vibrated only on one tone."

"It does, but you can force other tones through it," Xander told her. He pulled out a stool and sat down. "Same as you can put different wavelengths of light through a prism and get results, you can put different sounds through the crystal once it's vibrating and get beams."

"So the problem is finding out how to join these together while not altering the pitch and finding a stone that resonates just right," Oz surmised. Xander nodded. "Would one of our keystones, the resonating ones, work?"

"I've been thinking about that, but since they opened portals I'm not sure how safe that'd be." Xander looked down at the pile of pieces. "The big thing right now is to join that so you don't change the pitch. I'm guessing it's made of a very specific sort of metal for a reason, and that it's almost bare of carvings for the same reason."

Sam looked over the piece she held, holding it up to the light. "It does have pictrograms," she agreed. "Maybe Daniel can decipher it and the words will tell us something."

"It's probably 'inspected by number five'," Jack said as he walked in. "Xander, Oz," he said, nodding at them. "What's the chance of getting this thing running?"

"It all depends on if we can figure out how to solder it without changing the pitch, Colonel," Sam explained. "It works on a vibration principle."

Jack held up a hand, he didn't want Sam to go into one of her long scientific explanations. "Will it work?"

"Only if you don't change the pitch and if I can remember what the stone looked like in the one I saw," Xander told him, starting to put more pieces together. "This one had an arm?"

"Maybe it was to hold or aim it by," Sam said with a shrug. "I'll get you some better tape," she said, putting the piece she was still holding down. She walked out, Jack following her. "Sir," she said once they were away from the door, "if this works, then there's a chance that we can get a stun beam out of it. It's all a matter of hitting the right pitch though." She glanced back at the door. "This is killing him, sir. He didn't want to make a weapon."

"I understand that, but if this gets rid of the Goa'uld, then I'm all for it, aren't you?"

"Yes, sir, but this is still killing the civilian. Think of Daniel doing this, sir, he'd be miserable right now."

Oz stuck his head out of the office. "So are we," he told her. "And some of us have excellent hearing. It's from being turned for a bit." He pulled his head back in and shut the door.

"Gee, that was unexpected," Jack said, looking around the hall. "Now what?"

"Now, we get him a better type of tape and we don't check on him every hour." Jack shrugged and walked off and she went back into Daniel's office. "Sorry about that guys, but we're all pretty anxious to see if this works."

"Can we say long shot?" Xander asked without looking up.

"Yup, but we've got to try our best anyway," Sam told him, patting him on the back. "Do you need anything from the cafeteria? It's not the best food but it's pretty decent compared to some bases I've been on."

"No thanks," Xander said quietly.

"Please. He'll need to eat soon," Oz told her. "Even if he doesn't want to," he said when Xander looked up at him. Xander went back to his work. "Something vaguely healthy but without lettuce?"

"Sure. Want to come help me pick it out?" she offered.

Oz nodded and followed her out, walking down the halls beside her. "Sam, we're worried. We need to get home soon, we've got animals, baby animals, that need Xander's touch."

"I'll talk to the General, but I don't think he'll be able to work on this at home."

"We never have visitors outside of our few friends, most of which are like us, but we have to get home soon. It'll be better for Xander."

"I'll talk to him," Sam agreed, smiling at him. "You're very protective of Xander."

"People try to take Xander," he explained as they entered the elevator. "And Xander's one of those rare people that will kill himself to protect others." She hissed. "Yeah. He had a heart attack trying to help me with a problem I encountered after our original bonding. He didn't know how to use magic then, but he cast something that almost killed him by giving him a heart attack the next day after he recovered from being passed out." He put a hand on her arm before they left the elevator. "I have my reasons for being protective of Xander. They're all very valid, and I will not let this hurt him any more than it has to."

She nodded. "The General will understand that." She tilted her head toward the hall. "Come on, it's almost rush hour in there." She got free of his hand and walked out, letting him follow her.

Downstairs, Daniel came back from his after-mission routine and sat down across from Xander, looking at the piece he had already gotten together. "I have no idea what this is," he admitted after looking at the symbols.

"I don't recognize it either. Ask the old guy," Xander said absently, trying to fit another piece in. Daniel silently handed him the piece he needed and got a smile in return.


Daniel looked across his couch at Methos, who was drinking all the beer faster than Jack ever could. "How did Kronos drive a Goa'uld away?" he asked quietly.

"He hated anyone having power over him," Methos sighed, turning to look at his student. "Kronos came looking for me while I was hiding in Egypt. One of the soldiers found him and brought him before whichever one it was, who tried to enslave him with one of the little snake- beings. Kronos' body rejected it and he went after the man, eventually making him run away in fright. Kronos managed to save humankind a lot of suffering by being a bastard basically."

"All because he wanted the power?"

"Definitely. I shot him before he could name himself a God, never getting close enough for him to sense me, and the local priests that owed me had him buried with all the attendant rituals." Daniel chuckled at that. "Needless to say, he was not very pleased with me when he finally caught up with me a few years back." Methos drained that bottle of beer and put it on the coffeetable. "Did you need to ask me anything else?"

"Just if you know what the thing Xander's putting together for us says," Daniel admitted, pulling a photograph out of his briefcase. "Xander and I don't know what language it is."

"Hmm," Methos said, turning the picture around. "I do have an idea, but it's a maker's language," he looked at his student. "Basically, it's the technical language of it's day. Another weapon maker would know what this said." He tossed the photograph down, turning so he could fully face the young man. "Is Xander dealing with having to put this thing together?"

"He's holding out hope that it won't work right," Daniel offered. "General Hammond's been very good about making sure Xander knew that we don't go after the average person, just after the Goa'uld." He took a sip of his tea. "He's not happy doing it though. None of us expected him to be happy with it, but he's managed to hide it from all but the most observant." He took another sip. "He's going to ask to go home soon though. Oz talked to Sam about it today. She'll go to Hammond and ask him for permission, possibly to go and stay in the town near them so she'll be close enough to work on it."

Methos shook his head. "No one should have to move to Sunnydale, Daniel. Not unless they really want to study demonology."

"Demons exist?" Daniel asked, looking incredulous. "I always thought they were a metaphor."

"So did I," Methos sighed, giving him a smile. "Until I ran into one. Xander's much more connected than I am. Though, he does have stories about beating a military group that had focused on the demons a few years back. Initiative or something like that."

Daniel looked interested. "That means that there's a base near there then."

"Yes, but there's also a lot of energy floating around out there. It tends to make strange things happen. Xander had to blow up his high school to stop one of those strange things from taking over the town during his graduation."

Daniel grinned. "At least Jack won't think I'm the cause of all the trouble then."

"No, I doubt you could be the cause of a forty percent death rate," Methos agreed. "I would suggest that if you plan on moving out there, that you have a long talk with Xander, Oz, and Giles about the realities of the town. It may have calmed down since Xander graduated, but the menace that is the Hellmouth is more than able to come back any day now."

Daniel blinked a few times, then nodded. "Okay," he agreed. "Jack will love that. He *hates* the unexplainable or the scientific."

"Then magic should drive him batty," Methos said with a grin. A very naughty grin.

Daniel smiled back. "Probably," he agreed, then they laughed together.


General Hammond walked into Daniel's office and coughed to bring Xander's attention out of his work. "I hear you need to go home?"

"Yeah," Xander said, wiping his hands off as he pushed aside the pieces he had been working on. "We have baby animals and we're the guardians of the Hellmouth. We can't be away for that long without something bad happening to one of them."

"What's a Hellmouth?" the General asked.

"Did you ever hear of a group called the Initiative?" Oz asked, scaring the General because he hadn't noticed him sitting the chair reading. "Go look up their sealed files, it'll tell you a lot about our town and why we're needed there. We're the fence between the two worlds."

The General looked them both over, wondering what was so strange about that town that they couldn't just say it. "Is it classified?"

"Destroyed probably," Xander said with a shrug. "It was a great embarrassment that a girl, her friends, and a vampire took them down."

"They exist?" Hammond asked.

"Yup," Oz said, nodding. "They do. Look at our friends Angel and Willow."

"And Seth and Spike," Xander added on, glaring at Oz. "You always forget Seth."

"That's because I'm not pleased with your brother right now," Oz said dryly. "He yelled at you over something that you couldn't control, over something stupid that you were handling."

"So did Giles," Xander argued. "Methos came close to it, he only mentioned it and I got snipey."

"Why didn't you go off on Seth? I'm sure Spike would have backed you up."

"I did, I just wasn't as harsh with him."

"Boys?" General Hammond said, breaking into their minor argument. "Back to the point?"

"We have to go home or the ferrets will take over the house," Oz told him. "Jedi's already got the 'being everywhere' part covered and the other little ones need more than Ray, who left two days ago."

"I know," Xander sighed. "He's good with the animals though."

"Yeah, he is. Maybe he'll make them really want us home this time," Oz suggested.

"Hopefully. Rocky was still mad at me for our vacation."

"Boys?" General Hammond repeated.

"Sorry," Xander and Oz said together.

"That's all right." He looked around the office. "Let me think about how to do this and maybe I'll find a way to get you both home this week. All right?" Oz nodded. "Maybe I'll even let SG-1 come with you, they need some down time." Out in the hallway, an alarm started to go off, making Hammond jump. "You two, stay here," he ordered as he ran out of the room.

"Got your sword?" Oz asked his mate.

"Yup. You?"

"Never leave home without it," Oz noted, standing up to go stand watch at the door. As he got there, it was shoved in and a big man in a metal dog head walked in and grabbed Xander, stepping over Oz's unconscious body.

"Oh, fuck, I'm tired of this," Xander said, fighting against him. "Oz! I'm going to kill him!"

"Shut up," the creature commanded. "You will be a willing slave."

Xander snorted. "I doubt it." He twisted around and got the guy in the nuts, then managed to get free and run back towards the office, expecting to run into Oz. Instead, he ran into a group of the soldiers, which grabbed him. "Oz!"

Oz sat up, shaking his head. He jumped up and ran for the door, running into one of Daniel's teammates, the quiet, big guy. "Which button's the trigger," he asked as he took the extra weapon the guy was carrying.

"The back one," Teal'c said, trying to take it back. "You are not trained on this weapon."

"Yay," Oz said dryly, running after his mate. "Strife!" he yelled as he ran. "Someone's taking your anchor away."

"Oh, I *so* doubt that," Cupid said as he appeared in the gate room. He kept himself invisible, getting out of the way so no one would feel he was there, but he started to work on the soldier that had Xander, making him trip and slide, and his weapon go off into someone else's body. "Kick ass!" he yelled, kicking the guy in the ass.

Xander wiggled a finger in his ear and looked at his God. "Thanks, I'll light a second candle once we get home." He grabbed one of the staffs the aliens were carrying and went to work on the one who had grabbed him. "Oz, about time," he said as his mate ran in. "Kick the big guy's ass," he offered. "I'll let you have him."

Oz ran up to him and butted him with the staff, getting into it with his remaining bodyguard. "Their armor sucks," he called down. "Too many weaknesses." He felt the trigger under his finger and pushed the blast end into the guy's stomach, firing it at point blank range. "This is why smart people wear *full* armor," he said snidely, spitting on the body.

"Get down from there," was yelled as the ring started to spin again, starting the sequence to activate it.

Oz dove off the platform, rolling as he landed so he could beat someone else's ass. He got lost in the familiarness of the battle, starting to enjoy the ebb and flow of the fighting he was part of. He never slowed down when his opponent dropped, heading for the next one.

"That's not one of them," Daniel called.

"He's a beserker," Xander yelled back. "He attacks anything or anyone near him. Oz! Need a little help here?" he suggested. His mate's head came up and he found himself knocked to the floor by Oz, who stood over him, panting. "Yup, so gonna yell at you later," Xander panted, looking up at his husband. "Want to come back now?" he asked. Oz growled and turned on another person near him, taking them on. "I'd drop your weapons," Xander called. "He'll attack anyone."

"Someone shove him towards the Goa'uld," Sam yelled, ducking Oz's swing with the staff weapon.

Xander looked stunned as the staff that had been taken from him was fired, looking up at the man next to him. "Hey, Jack," he said as he bounced up. "How do you do that?"

"I'll show you later, kid."

"Cool, then give me the staff." He took the staff forcefully, jumping back into the fray. Soon, he worked his way over to Oz's side and grabbed his lover, kissing him hard and passionately. "Stop fighting, now," he whispered. "It's just us. I promise, no one took me for real." He kept talking, calming Oz down as he got him moved away from the battle and against a wall. He had to duck an enemy coming at them, but he hit him back into the fighting before he could do anything. "Oz," he said, sitting down next to him. "Come on, Oz. You've had enough time in there, it's time to come back out here." He looked up and saw the alien standing over him, pointing a weapon at them, and lost it. He came up with a roar, attacking the alien viciously with his own weapon. By the time he was aware of the alien falling down in a heap, he was panting hard and just about the same place mentally as Oz. He looked around, looking for his next target, when he felt the needle.

Oz jumped up to defend his mate, almost back, but not back enough to not attack the doctor. He too was sedated and dragged off to the infirmary.

"Bummer," Cupid said as he appeared next to Daniel, letting only him see him. "That was not of the good. Oz is gonna be *way* pissed at Xander for doin' that." He shrugged when Daniel stared at him with his mouth open. "What? You thought we were a myth?" Daniel nodded, pointing at the aliens. "Nah, that was supposed ta be a test. Humans were supposed to prove that they could believe strongly enough in us to not accept the fake assholes." He shrugged, his wings fluttering a little. "You should have trusted."

"Wait," Daniel said, trying to stop him by putting a hand out, but not touching him. "Will you talk to me, tell me the truth?"

"Truth?" Cupid snorted. "You guys always want the truth. You know the truth," Cupid said, flipping him on the forehead. "You decided to ignore it in favor of stuff that you do with our permission and with science." He shrugged again and left.

Daniel turned around, finding Sam, Jack, and General Hammond staring at him. "They are real," he whispered, sitting down on top of a still body. He looked down and stood back up, trying to get the blood off his butt. "The Goa'uld didn't take over all the Gods' positions, it was a test."

Jack looked at the doctors. "Medics, he needs to go," he ordered, pointing at Daniel.

"He was having a conversation with someone," Sam defended her friend.

"We'll talk about it later, after we get this all cleaned up and find out why no one was stationed at the computers," General Hammond said calmly, looking around at the mess of bodies. "Don't forget to check and see if any of the larva are still living. They're still yelling for one in Washington." He walked away, heading up to the computer center to check on them and the rest of his base.

Jack and Sam followed a babbling Daniel out of the Stargate room and down to the infirmary. Even though it was going to be a long wait, they couldn't wait to hear Daniel's explanation.


Oz rolled over, growling at the restraints holding him to the bed, trying to get to his mate. A familiar figure walked over and released him, helping him over to Xander, who was also released. Then the figure walked away. "Mine," he growled at the man walking up to them. The curtain was pulled so he sniffed his mate, checking him to make sure he was all right. When he got to the place where Xander had needed stitches, he licked over them, instinctively needing to check their cleanliness. When the curtain opened, he growled at the woman and the man standing there, covering Xander to protect him.

"Shh, Oz, she's here to help you," Methos said, closing the curtain around them. He stepped closer, letting Oz smell him. "I promise, I won't let her harm you, not either of you." He nodded at the doctor to move closer, taking her hand so Oz could smell it. "She's a healer, Oz, she needs to check you both over."

"Mine," Oz repeated, but it was a quieter growl this time.

"Yes, he is, and when you're both able, you can claim him again, but not right now. You have to let the healer help you both or you'll be drugged again." He moved Oz off to the side a little, but let him stay connected to Xander as much as possible. They both watched as the doctor worked on Xander, then moved over to check Oz too. "Are they fine?"

"They're both good," she admitted. "Will Daniel heal like this?"

"Yes, but it'll probably take him more time," Methos said quietly. "Why do you know?"

"Because I'm Daniel's doctor and I have to certify that it's really him each time he comes back from a mission," she said, crossing her arms. "All I had to know was that he could now heal a lot faster and a lot better, and that unless his head came off he would come back. Correct?" Methos nodded. "Is there anything else I have to know?"

"Just that it may take *days* for a while for him to fully heal from a severe injury. Even if he dies and comes back, it may take days for that process too." He looked her over. "This goes no further?" She nodded. "Then you must try and keep Daniel from dying too much. It takes a great bit of energy to come back after dying the first few times. He'll need special dietary requirements afterwards for a while. And if he takes a head, the energy will overload him and force him to release it somehow before it drives him insane."

"I bet swallowing another person's soul can do that to you," the doctor agreed, leaving them alone. "Keep them in here."

Methos walked out and came back a few seconds later with a tube of lubricant. "Just in case," he said, putting it beside the pillow so Oz or Xander could easily find it. Then he went out to sit and guard them.

Oz sniffed at Xander, then at the tube, grunting when he saw what it held. He tested it between his fingers, considering his mate. "Wake up," he demanded, shoving him.

"Get off," Xander complained, shoving back. He opened his eyes and looked up, looking confused. Until Oz climbed on top of him and planted himself down on his hardening cock. "Hey! No fair."

Outside the curtain, Methos sighed and shook his head whenever anyone wanted to walk in on them. "They're calming each other down," he told the main doctor, who smiled and walked off, giving her people orders to leave them alone.


General Hammond looked up from the file he was reading at the tap to his door. "Come in," he called, putting it aside. Jack, Xander, and Oz walked in together, Jack grimacing at his babysitter role. "Sit, please," he ordered gently, watching how Xander sat down very carefully. "I've been reviewing the case files of the group that used to work in your town," he told them. "And I also saw that they were going to fill in the old base with concrete."

"They never got around to it," Xander offered. "I was working construction on the only crew in town at the time. I would have heard if a crew came in from out of town."

"Yes, it says that their budget came up short so they didn't get a chance to fill in most of it." He cleared his throat. "I'm going to make a jump in logic here. This town is dangerous because of these....demons?"

"Demons, sir?" Jack interrupted. "As in horns and tails?"

"Only in a few species," Xander told him. "Horns are more prevalent, but tails are pretty rare." He looked at the General again. "It can be managed. As long as Oz and I are there, the big, evil power source is under control and it's mostly just the ones who want to live in peace."

"Good. Then can I count on you to give my men and women lectures on safety?"

Oz nodded. "Sure, easy enough. Don't go into certain parts of town and never out at night alone and without a stake. Why?"

"Because, we're in need of a new laboratory facility and this one happens to be open, Oz." He patted the folder. "As it was already top-secret before, we can assume that no one except a few of the town's residents know about the base and even fewer know how to get on to it."

"Sir, you want to put a lab where there's a known threat?"

"It's a manageable risk according to the Pentagon. I'll get to pick the base's commander from our staff, we'll set up a lab there, and ...."

Oz cut in. "You'll have to warn everyone it's an underground lab. Closer to the surface, but it's under a frat house at the university."

"Oh, great. Frat boys drunkenly wandering in," Jack snorted.

"Not unless the elevator that had the retinal scanners works," Xander told him. "When we stormed the Initiative, we had a hell of a time getting in. It's safe enough." He looked at Hammond again. "All this so you don't have to deal with us?"

Hammond burst out laughing. "No, boys, but that is part of it. Actually, this facility will be for scientific research only. The old one's going to go back to doing just the artifacts and cultural research."

"No big weapons in Sunnydale," Oz warned. "They'll be the first to go if the Hellmouth goes off again."

"Hellmouth?" Jack asked.

"Ask Daniel," Xander told him. "Adam explained that to him." He looked at the General. "We can live at home, right?"

"Are you close?"

"We're on the other side of the town," Oz told him. "We've got good security and not even the delivery guys can find us."

Jack sighed. "Sir," he started but the General held up a hand.

"I know, it's not an ideal situation, but it's better than wasting this base. It's very heavily fortified."

"Um, there may need to be some body cleanup," Xander said mildly. "I know some people died in the last fight as it fell."

"We can do that too," the General agreed. "Colonel O'Neil, I want you to take a report from them about the base."

"I can't be of any help," Oz admitted. "I was taken by them too."

"I wasn't aware that they took humans," the General said, frowning at the folder.

"No, but they did take werewolves," Oz told him. Both military men looked at him. "Just stating a fact. You've got to learn to live with these sort of things in Sunnydale. This is what happens there." He grabbed Xander's hand and squeezed. "Deal or you might want to find a better base."

General Hammond laughed. "That's not how the military works, son. It's already a done deal and we'll have to learn to live with the risks. Please give us an outline for a security briefing so we can give it to the first crew before they leave in a week. You two will get to go home before they do, so we have someone in the area to come running to if we need help with something specifically local." Xander nodded. "We'll also need to know how to get up to your house and I'm sure Dr. Jackson will need to know where his teacher's staying."

"Last part's easy," Xander told him. "Adam and Ray are staying with us right now. I'll let Oz draw the map while I work on the safety lecture tonight. Can we leave tomorrow?"

"If you want," the General agreed. He stood up and shook their hands. "Thank you for your help, gentlemen. I'll be seeing you in a week since I'll have to come out for a few days to overlook the project." He smiled at Xander. "We'll cart all of your project out there for you too. Go home and relax for a while."

Xander grinned. "Thanks, General Hammond." He snapped off a salute and walked out, dragging Oz with him.

"Kid's good," Jack admitted.

Hammond tossed a folder over. "This is the 'eyes-only' file from a group called the Initiative on Mr. Harris. Not only is he good, but he is a major part of that town surviving. Anyone who's fought like he has has earned my respect."

Jack pushed it back. "I'll take your word for it, sir," he said, standing up. "I'm not leading, am I?" he asked hesitantly.

Hammond laughed. "No, Colonel O'Neil, you're not leading a new base for us. I wouldn't do that to my men." He laughed harder at the hurt look. "Can you imagine yourself running a base of scientists?"

Jack shuddered. "No, sir, thank you for taking me out of consideration." He snapped a salute of his own and left quickly, before he had to go there too.


Xander walked into their house and flopped down on the thick carpet, gratefully accepting all the little furry bodies that ran up to give him cuddles. "Yup, daddies are home for good this time," he told them, giving each one some individual attention and a kiss. He looked up as Ray walked in, carrying a ferret. "You're going to tell Methos before you take her, right?" he asked, grinning at his best friend.

"Yup, just as soon as he notices," Ray said, grinning back. "So?"

"They're moving a lab here," Oz said as he came in, getting mobbed himself. "Hey, little ones, yes, daddies are home and we love you," he said, giving them all hugs. "How about a treat?" he asked, standing up to go into the kitchen and put out treats for every animal.

Ray looked Xander over. "You look tired."

"I am," Xander admitted. "We had a small fight."

"Oz!" Ray shouted.

"Not with me," Oz called back. "With Daniel's bad guys." He walked back in, carrying a tray full of plates of special food treats. He set them out so the animals didn't have to go far, counting heads. "Rocky?" he called. "Want a treat?" She came running, snuffling at the tray before finding her own plate. She barked and walked over, licking Xander, then Oz, before having her treat.

Oz looked around. "Why do we only have four ferret babies?"

"Because one's in the kitty gym and can't get down," Ray told him, starting to stand up, but Oz pushed him back down and went to go find the little annoying one.

Xander leaned against Ray's shoulder, smiling when he recognized the scent the other man was wearing. "You're wearing my aftershave," he whispered.

"Didn't think you'd mind much," Ray said, stroking down the tense back. "You need to relax."

"We'll sneak off tomorrow," Xander agreed, closing his eyes briefly. It had been a long day.

Oz walked back in and smiled at how Ray was holding Xander. "Aww," he whispered, coming over to help put Xander on the couch, letting Ray sit under his head. He covered them both up, watching as Ray fell asleep too. Then he sat down to play with the animals all by himself, something he rarely got to do these days.