Confusing The Naughties.
Xander looked up as Ray walked into the room with the room service cart, giving him a smile. He really appreciated how Ray had been trying to cheer him up lately, and now that he was ready to leave their hotel room, he was going to do something nice for his friend. "Wanna go watch me play cards?" he asked.
"Sure. You got money on you?"
"Yup, but you're holding it," Xander told him, picking up a fluffy pastry to bite into. "I like that Giles has made his chef branch out into good snack food," he said with his mouth full. Ray handed over a napkin and smiled. "It's been a while since I played, I wonder if I'm still any good."
"You probably are, it's just going to take you a few hands to get back in the groove." Ray leaned over and wiped off a spot of the meat filling that was still on Xander's cheek. "There, better." He finished up his own snack, getting up to get dressed enough to go out, sure that any casino they went to wouldn't let him in wearing a ripped t-shirt and no shoes.
Xander quickly finished up his snack and went to get dressed. A few minutes later, they walked out the door together, careful to make sure all the animals stayed in the room this time. The Head Chef had thrown a fit when he found Jedi trying to steal cookies last night.
Xander frowned as he lost his sixth hand in a row, trying to remember how he had played and won before. Then it hit him. He smiled at the croupier. "Let me go get some more cash and I'll be right back," he said, hopping up and jogging to go find Ray, who was playing poker. "Another hundred please?" he begged. The other guys at the table looked him over as Ray handed him the hundred dollar bill. "Thanks, dear." He kissed Ray on the cheek, listening for his usual smart-ass remark.
"It's hard to keep that one amused," Ray sighed as he asked for another card. "Always wanting to run everywhere." The other players gaped at him. "What? You try to keep up with the perpetual energy machine."
Xander handed over the bill with a bright smile and took his cards, finally figuring out what he had done wrong. Fortunately this was a low stakes game and he only lost twenty dollars. But the next hand he won, and he continued to win until someone suggested he should go play in the high stakes games in the private rooms. "Nah," he said, smiling at his opponents. "Where's the fun in that? I like playing against different people." He tossed down his cards, knowing he wasn't going to be able to win this hand without some help from a god, which he wouldn't ask for. The next hand, he upped the ante, with permission of the other players who were all wanting him to lose badly, and won that one too. He gathered up his pile of chips and tipped the dealer, stuffing them in his pocket as he walked away. "Oh, Ray," he called, seeing him at a slot machine. "Why'd you quit playing poker?"
"Because I won a few hands and I stopped while I was ahead," Ray noted as he pulled down the arm. "I know I'm getting closer to winning this thing."
Xander shook his head. "This one's got the static feeling. Play it and the one next to it, they've been sitting there for a while." He waved one of the change girls over and exchanged a smaller chip for some of the tokens. "Thanks," he said, giving her a smile as he sat down beside Ray and started to feed his own machine. Within minutes Ray was hopping up and down after winning the dollar slots jackpot on the machine Xander had told him to play.
"How do you know that?" Ray asked, giving Xander a hug.
Xander shrugged. "I can feel it waiting to give it out." He smiled at the machine next to his and fed it a coin, making it go off with a minor win too. "The next person who feeds that one about ten coins will win," he told Ray. An older lady immediately stepped up to it and started to feed in coins. She hesitated at the eleventh, but it was the one who paid off. "I said about," he told her. He smiled at Ray, who had gathered up his winnings and looked ready to go. "You done?"
"Yup. Now I can go get that outfit I saw in the window for Adam," he said happily, following Xander up to the window. "Hey, cash this for me please?"
"Of course, sir, but the security people would like to talk to you if you wouldn't mind."
Xander shrugged. "Sure. I've got a gift." He followed the security person to the office and looked around at the pictures. "Hey, I've been there," he said, pointing at the picture of the Ganges River. He held up his arms as soon as the door closed. "Search us if you want. No electronic devices. I can tell when the machine's about ready to go off."
The officer waved a hand. "That wasn't what you were called in here for, gentlemen. There's been a call out from your hotel to watch over you and I'd like to know the reason why."
Xander sighed one word, "Oz."
"No, someone named Adam actually," the officer said. "Is that the same person?"
"No, Adam's mine," Ray said with a matching look of disgust. "Oz is his worrywart and Adam's mine."
"Yup, and they probably think someone's going to try and take me again," Xander said.
"Or me," Ray argued. "I'm very snatch-worthy."
"Point," Xander agreed. "But I'd come save you."
The officer laughed, breaking into their argument. "Whatever. Did you two want a ride back to your resort?"
"Nah, I need ta go shoppin'. We're gonna take a cab outta here and do that, then go home. But I'll gladly call my mate and yell at him for ya."
"Please," he said, handing over the phone, after dialing for an outside line.
Ray dialed the resort. "Hey, this is Ray, is Giles there?" He frowned. "Really? Did they leave a message for either of us? Cool, thanks." He hung up and looked at Xander. "Someone broke the Holy Ground rule at the resort."
"Aw, shit," Xander swore, standing up. "Is everyone okay?"
"Yup. M...Adam had to defend himself." He stood up too. "We'd better get back there before they come hunt us down."
"Yup, they will," Xander agreed. He smiled at the security officer. "Thanks. We're going home after all." He led Ray from the room and went to pick up their winnings, which were being held for them at the window, before going to find a cab home. Once they were in the cab, Xander looked at the quiet man next to him. "Did it come out with a winner?" he asked gently.
"Yup. My guy won." Ray snuggled into Xander's side. "He's not going to be happy when we get back."
"I left them a note," Xander soothed. "They'll be fine or we'll yell at them." Once they were back at the resort, he paid the cabbie and got Ray out, taking him up to their room. "Got your keys and stuff?" Ray patted himself down then went down to see if the cab was still there. He found his things at the front desk and smiled at the man working behind it. "Where is everyone?"
"Your room," he said, smiling at Oz as he walked off the elevator. "All except for him."
"Mine," Xander said, jogging down the stairs to get a hug. "What happened?"
"Upstairs," Oz said, leading the way back up, making sure Ray had everything put back in place. "Methos won, but the guy was cranky because Methos was sitting in the sunlight and casting a shadow."
"Is it insanity day?" Ray asked.
"No, but someone's been spreading rumors that the Gathering's approaching."
"That's not supposed to be happening at all," Xander reminded him. "Giles proved it."
"And we've pointed that out, but the Gathering's too ingrained in some of us. They'll fight without a reason." He led them down the short hall to their room, letting them go in first. Once Methos had grabbed Ray, he felt comfortable giving Xander a hug too. "How much did you win this time?"
"Not a lot," Xander told him, leading him in to sit on a couch. "I forgot how to play for almost ten hands. So I only played about sixty or so." He shrugged. "Then I helped Ray win at slots, and the security guys caught up with us as we were cashing out." He patted himself down, coming up with more chips from his right pocket. "Man, I need to get those cashed in too."
Ray looked over at him. "It was nice that the cabby was honest," he noted.
"Yeah, that was a nice treat," Xander said, grinning at him. "We've got to fix those pockets."
"Boys, there're more important things than fashion," Methos said dryly, sounding tired.
"He lost his winnings in the cab," Xander told him. "The pockets are too big."
"That's something that should be fixed," Oz agreed, squeezing Xander. "What did you two have planned for later?"
"I was thinkin' about spendin' some of my hard earned winnings and getting us a few cute things," Ray said, grinning at Xander, who had said he would go with him to pick up the toga costume he wanted his lover to wear. "Then we were gonna go visit Xander's stuff in the bank so he can see what he has ta work with in the jewel department."
"And I need to find a ready source of metal to work with," Xander added. "I called one of the local horse stables and they gave me the name of the person who does their horseshoes. I'm hoping he'll tell me where to go to get metal."
"Good," Oz said, rubbing Xander's lower back. "Want company?"
"Sure. You three can come with us if you want."
"Good, that's settled then," Methos said, standing up as he pushed Ray to his feet. "Clothing or bank first?"
"Clothing," Ray said, pulling Xander up so they could walk out together. They held a quiet conversation on the way to the elevator, Xander agreeing to take Methos' attention off what Ray was buying. By the time they got down to the car, Xander had a complete plan of action for the afternoon.
Xander smiled at the woman across the jewelry counter, looking at the loose jewels she had brought over for him to look at. "Perfect," he said, holding up the slim amethyst with the inclusion. "I like stones like this." He pulled out his platinum card, putting that jewel on top of it as he looked over the rest of the offerings.
"How long have you been designing?" she asked, opening a second tray to show him the jade on it.
"Oh, yeah," Xander said, holding up a light green piece. "I have *just* the right thing for this. And it's a prezzie too." He grinned at her. "Two years officially," he told her. "I like to work in silver and things like that. Though, I like to wear platinum best." He showed off his bracelet. "How much?"
"For that piece? It's about six hundred."
"I think he meant most of the tray," Oz said carefully. He picked up a piece he liked, shaped almost like an arrowhead. "I like this one," he told his mate.
"Me too," Xander said, putting it beside him. "And these six," he said, pulling out a few more. "And if that card gives you grief, we've got the cash on us." He pulled out his wallet and showed it off to her. "I need something special for a present, and it's got to be a butch stone that'll go with this one," he said, touching the first piece of jade. "It's a large cuff. The jade will be the center stone, but I'm thinking about surrounding it with a few more to set the jade off."
"Well, we do have some nice semi-precious stones that would do that," she said, standing up and taking those two trays back to their spots and bringing another out. "How about these?" she asked.
Xander poked through the offerings, coming up with one small green stone that he knew wasn't an emerald, but he wasn't quite sure what it was. "I need about eight of these," he told her, measuring it against the jade. "Maybe a little bigger than this one."
"Ah, then we do have something for you." She took the tray back and came back with a delicate child's bracelet. "It's old but not an antique. The owner's talked about melting it down if it doesn't sell."
"I don't like breaking up existing pieces," he said, looking hurt. "That's like desecrating someone else's work."
"Those stones would work," Oz noted. He subtly signed to the saleswoman that he would buy it if Xander didn't. "Do you have any loose like that?"
"No, and we're the only store in town that sells loose stones." She frowned, looking at the stones. "Let me talk to the manager. We got a few new stones in yesterday, maybe something in there would be good enough." She got up and hurried away, taking the Platinum card with her.
"Why would the card be giving you grief?" Oz asked.
"Because of what happened in Sunnydale," Xander said simply. "I'm expecting the worst."
"Oh. I don't think that'll happen," Oz said, reaching over to touch him. He looked up at the cleared throat. "Yes?"
The older man pulled out the chair and sat down, putting down five stones on the felt mat. "From what my associate said, you were looking for stones to set off that piece of jade?" he asked. "These are an unusual cut, but they might work. What sort of design were you thinking about?"
"A large cuff. The jade being the center stone with the little ones spaced around it, set into some light carvings." Xander picked up the stone and looked at it, picking up the jade to look at it too. "This might work," he agreed. He looked at the manager and smiled. "I'm new to this, I work by mental picture instead of drawing. I can't draw worth a damn."
"He made me this," Oz said, taking off the engagement ring that Xander had made for him. "Most of his stuff is like this, but the cuff is a commission piece, a present for a friend of a friend."
"I see." The manager turned the ring around, carefully looking over the intricate carvings. "I must say, it's a very individual piece." He smiled at Xander, who was arranging them on the table. "Will those do?"
"Yeah, I think they will," Xander said, biting on his lip as he thought. "I think that this might be just the thing." He smiled at the man. "Thanks."
"Where do you sell your pieces?" he asked.
"I'm going to have my first show at Branchson's in LA in about a month," Xander said proudly.
"Ah. I heard they were up and coming. Not Harry Winston, but definitely a nice store." He looked around his modest store. "Why did you choose them?"
"Because he has a minor share in the store, about ten percent of the stock that's offered outside the family," Oz told him.
"Oh." The manager blinked a few times. "Majority?"
"About fifteen percent." Oz shrugged. "They needed some capital to get bigger and more known. Xander was interested and he took a few of his lessons there. Now all we need is to get back to his forge and to find some good metal for him to work in."
"The farrier gave me the addy to get steel and stuff to make the little decorative daggers," Xander reminded him, moving two of the stones around. "This is how I want it." He stole a piece of paper and drew a few swirls on it, setting it under the stones. "Yeah, just like that."
The manager looked impressed. "Well, that's certainly a good design. What about on the sides?"
"This guy's into flashy but only visible jewelry," Oz told him. "He's more of a top done only sort. Though, what we saw of his rings were more of the QVC size."
The manager smiled. "I've met women like that."
"Light carvings around the side," Xander decided. "It should be good." He carefully folded the paper and the stones that went with the design together. "How much more is this going to cost me?"
"Those five together are about eight hundred, I can go look it up."
"We don't worry about things like that," Oz told him. He patted Xander's hand. "We have the money and I fully support my mate in making his pretties."
"Thanks, Oz," Xander said, grinning at him. "So, where do you go to get loose stones? Branchson's can get me some, and I've got some of my own, but I can never find what I want."
"If you'd tell us what you wanted, maybe we could find it," the manager offered.
"He's looking for an aquamarine or a topaz in the light to medium sky blue range with an inclusion for a pendant," Oz told him with a sigh. "He's been looking for one now for over a year."
"I like inclusions. I think it's a great thing in a stone."
"Well, I know we don't have one of those. I've heard of an emerald that has a blade of grass."
"That's ours," Oz noted. He sat up. "Speaking of which, Xander, I want to get rid of the rest of those rubies. I hate those things."
"Sure," he said happily. "All but a few so I have some."
"You have loose rubies?" the manager asked, nearly salavating.
"And some set ones. They were a present from an admirer," Oz said dryly. "Hence me not wanting them around."
"Ah," he said wisely, smiling at Oz. "I'm sure it would drive me batty also." He clapped his hands. "Please, feel free to bring them to us, and we'll gladly look them over for you."
"Sure," Oz said, standing up. "Finish ringing this up."
"And the bracelet," Xander said, pointing it out. "I need a new one. I kinda melted my last good one."
The manager hurried away with the bracelet to finish ringing him up, coming back with a slip for Xander to sign. "Does that sound about right?" he asked.
"A little high, but I understand about mark-up," Xander answered as he signed the paper and handed it back. "Bags?"
"Of course. Would you prefer a small box?"
"No, I like bags. I make my own at home." The manager hurried off to get a few bags to put the loose stones and the bracelet into.
Oz shook his head and went to see what Ray was staring at. "They're pretty," he said quietly, scaring Ray. "Sorry." He laid a hand on the younger man's back. "Which one?"
"That one," Ray said, pointing at the solid silver band with the square stone. "I think he'd look good in it. Don't you?"
"I think he'd look stunning in it," Oz agreed. "You wouldn't if you did matching stones, but it'd fit his hand very well."
Xander jogged over and looked down at the stones, then grinned at Ray. "I have something to show you when we get home," he sang. Ray just looked at him. "What? I made it the same time as I made my Oz's." He took Oz's hand and led him away, letting Ray and Methos come whenever they were ready.
Methos motioned the saleswoman over, pointing at the thin gold serpentine chain. "That one," he said quietly, handing over his credit card. "And put the box in a gift bag please."
She nodded and took the necklace, going to do as he asked.
Xander looked through the things he'd had Henri send him, grinning when he came up with the bag with the three rings. He bounced over to Ray, handing it over to him. "I kept seeing you two when I made two of them."
Ray opened the silk bag, dumping out the three rings onto his palm. "Xander," he sighed, picking up the one that matched his nipple ring. The one under it caught his attention though, making him hand over the other two and examine that one. "How much?" he ground out finally.
"Our wedding prezzie to you," Xander said, kissing him on the cheek. Ray started to shake his head but Xander turned his face so he could look in Ray's eyes. "It is. I made that for him, and the only picture I had in my head was you giving it to him. One of the other's is yours, and one's mine. I made them for us." He gave his best friend a short kiss. "Now, go figure out how to ask him."
"I will," Ray said, choked up. He gave Xander a long hug then got up to go downstairs and plan how to give his love a romantic dinner so he could formally propose.
Oz walked out of their bedroom. "I didn't know you made yourself one." Xander held up a small silver band with inset blue/green stones. "Wow." He sat down beside his husband, taking the stone to look at. "This was going to be your engagement ring?" Xander nodded, looking down at the other one in his hand. "Then I think you should have shown it to me earlier," Oz said, taking Xander's left hand to slide it down his ring finger over his wedding band. "There, now it looks right," he said, leaning in for a kiss.
"Dear Gods, stop it already," Methos grumped as he walked out of his and Ray's room. "Where's Ray?"
"Going down to arrange for supper," Oz said. He took the last ring to look at, holding it up in the light.
"What's that?" Methos asked, snatching it to look at it. "When did you make this, imp?"
"The same time I made his nipple ring," Xander said, tipping his head back. "I kept picturing you giving it to him."
"Ray doesn't wear rings," Methos said as he handed it back. "He said it felt uncomfortable when he had to fire his weapon."
"Which he doesn't have to do anymore," Oz reminded him.
"I'll think about it," Methos sighed, going back to his room.
Oz gave Xander a look and got up, heading down to talk to Ray. Maybe now wasn't the best time to ask the big question after all.
Xander wrapped the last ring back up, going to put it back in the care package Henri had sent them. He pulled out the fifth ring he had made, looking at it in the light. "Maybe you'd like this someday," he said, putting it with Ray's ring. He called down to the spa to see if anyone was free to work on his hair, then went down for another moisturizing treatment.
Methos stepped out of his room, looking at Xander's back. "You're not that good at manipulation, imp. Ray and I are already together."
Oz walked in and shook his head at someone in the hall. "Not like some people would like, and I'm not talking about Xander." He nodded in the other bedroom. "Where's the necklace?"
Methos glared at him. "Stay out of it, Oz, and keep Xander out of it too." He walked back into the bedroom and slammed the door.
Oz let Ray back in, giving him a hug. "Take it slow," he advised. "Or totally surprise him. Or do both, that's usually the best way." He patted Ray on the back and headed out to go find his Xander so they could have some time alone.
Ray went to put the ring back, hiding it safely for now. He found an unfamiliar ring in the bag and looked it over. "For Giles," he noted, turning it around in his hand. He stuffed it back in the bag as he heard the door opening, hiding it back in the bag but not where Xander had hidden it. He'd talk to his friend later.
Ray lit the candle on the small table in their room, smiling at the perfection of the layout. He tightened his robe, then jumped as the door was opened. "Hey, out," he ordered Oz.
"Xander sent this over," Oz said, handing over the small ring. "It took him about an hour of frantic searching but he finally found it for you. And he sent this too." He pulled the rose out of his waistband, handing the white and red rose over. "He found it in the garden." He waved and walked out, heading around Methos to his room.
"Xander picked you a flower?" Methos asked as he closed the door.
"Nah, he found one for me to give to you." He handed it over, giving his lover a smile as he stepped away from the table. He subtly dropped the ring into his pocket as he sat down. "Come on," he prompted when Methos continued to stare at the table. "Sit, eat, sounding familiar yet? You said food was a constant all over the world."
Methos sat down, sniffing the flower. "Why did you ask Xander to pick you a flower?"
"I didn't, he found it and thought it'd be something I'd like to give to you. He's like that," Ray reminded his lover. "Can we eat without him?"
"Of course," Methos said, putting the rose into the small pitcher of water beside them on the room service tray. He put the napkin onto his lap and smiled at the younger man. "This is nice," he said.
"If you're not gonna be nice, I'm gonna go watch TV," Ray warned.
"I am being nice."
"Then eat. Let's talk like a normal couple."
"Of course," Methos said, dishing up food for both of them. "I'm feeling a bit overdressed. May I go change?"
"Sure," Ray said, giving him a smile. "I got you somethin'. It's on the bed."
Methos got up and went over to look at it, frowning at the toga. "Ray, this is a toga."
"Yup. I'm in the mood to see you wear one. What's wrong with a toga?" he asked when Methos frowned at him.
"They were the worst fashion statement of the world, outside of knit orange sweaters."
"Just put it on," Ray sighed. He stood up and took off his robe, showing he was naked. "See, a nice dinner with just the two of us."
"Yes, Ray," Methos said, stripping so he could put on the toga. He cinched it around his waist and walked back to the table, making sure his napkin covered his crotch, the fabric was thicker than the toga he wore. "What should we talk about?" he asked as he picked up his first bite of dinner.
"How about our plans for when we have to move?"
"I thought Xander had convinced you that we could stay at the manor house for a bit longer and keep houses in places to escape."
"He did. That's why I wanted to know where you had houses."
"Well, you know about Paris and London, though I have thought about giving up the one in Paris. I do have a house in the countryside around there also."
"And Chicago?" Ray asked.
"Yes, we did keep that building," Methos said, reaching over to hold Ray's hand. "I said I was going to keep it and I did."
"Thanks," Ray said, grinning at him. "What about Canada?"
"Why are you so concerned about Canada all of a sudden?"
"Because I think it's a nice place. It's clean. It's like a clean version of Chicago."
"Ray, it snows up there."
"Yay, I like snow," Ray said, looking down at his plate. "I didn't want anything fancy, just an apartment we can escape to in Vancouver. And it's closer and easier to get to than London if something happens."
"Good point," Methos agreed. "I'll think about it, all right?" Ray nodded, giving him a weak version of his usually sunny smile. "Was there anything else you wanted to discuss?"
"How about we just talk," Ray suggested mildly. "We never do that."
"I thought you wanted space," Methos said smoothly. "Last time I tried to ask what you were thinking about doing, you told me to quit badgering you."
"Well, I'd like some input now."
"All right. Have you narrowed down your choices?"
"I found an interesting book today," Ray said, handing it over since he had it sitting next to him. "I think that's pretty neat."
"Skin care for profit?" Methos asked, flipping through it. "Well, it looks simple enough. Were you thinking about making your own line or were you thinking about working in a spa?"
"I'm not sure, but I think it sounds good. It's gonna be hard to find out how to train for it. Especially with some of the licensing that people who do skin care in spas have to get."
"There's a spa downstairs, you could go and talk to the people down there to see how they trained."
"I did that; the girl who worked on me today recommended this book to start me off. She said there's references in there to go on if I wanted to. Or, there's another idea I've been looking at." He coughed lightly. "I've been thinking about learning a new trade. I love being a cop," he said quickly when Methos opened his mouth, "but I'm tired of being shot at. I've been a cop now for almost twenty years, Meth, and I want to do something else."
"I'm behind you in whatever you do," Methos said, giving him a smile. "What trade were you thinking about?"
"Something that's partially physical but mostly mental. I like the problem solving."
"Architecture?" Methos suggested.
"I could, but that's a lotta math," Ray said with a grimace. "Not my best subject. That's as far as I've thought so far - that I don't like math but I like problem solving."
"You could always start taking business classes," Oz said from the doorway. "Methos, phone. It's Richie."
"Coming." He gave Ray a smile before getting up and walking out.
Ray frowned at Oz. "Bad timing."
"I'm sorry, but Richie's frantic." He walked in and shut the door, leaning down to hug Ray. "Take business classes, I suck at that end. Or I can teach you how to program if you want." He looked at the door. "Richie's frantic because he can't find Steve, who got challenged earlier."
"Oh, crap," Ray sighed. "Is he dead?"
"No, the guy who challenged him came looking for him and Steve was gone. Richie thinks that Steve got challenged by someone else on his way to the first one. It was the sort of day Steve had been having."
"Oh, man," Ray said, shaking his head. "It could be worse. Steve could have lost."
"No, Richie said that he's been looking for a quickening flash and hasn't found any yet. No news reports, nothing on the police band scanner. He's sure Steve's alive, but he's not sure where he is."
"Was he heading this way?"
"Richie thinks so. He was with Daniel though, so no one's sure of anything at the moment." He kissed Ray on the cheek. "I'm taking Xander down to dinner if I can ever get him dressed. You get the animals and the room all to yourself." He stood up and walked out, leaving Ray alone.
Ray leaned over and blew out the candle, not wanting it to drip wax all over the tablecloth.
Methos came back a few minutes later. "I think Steve got involved in something at Daniel's job," he told his lover, looking at the candle. "It went out?"
"No, it was dripping," Ray said, giving him a smile. "The other two are leaving."
"Good," Methos said, looking Ray over. "Ray, would you be upset if I gave you a present for our anniversary?"
"Why would I be pissed?" Ray asked, searching for his robe. "I've got one for you too." He finally found the ring, holding it in his hand until Methos came back from retrieving his present. He opened his first, smiling at the gold chain. "Wow." He slid it on, letting his lover clasp it for him. "I like this."
"It doesn't quite go with the nipple ring," Methos said with a slight shrug, "but I think it looks good against your skin." He looked around the table. "You said you had one for me too."
"Oh, I do," Ray said, holding out his closed hand. "But I'm not sure if you're gonna like it. It's a prezzie from Xander to me, he made it with me giving it to you in mind," he explained as he opened his hand.
"Oh, my," Methos said, picking up the ring. He relit the candle, looking at it in the soft light. "This is gorgeous. When did he do this?"
"The same day he did one for Oz and Giles. He said the only picture he could see was me giving it to you."
"Then we'll gladly buy this off of him," Methos said, smiling at his lover. "It's a beautiful ring, Ray."
"Will you accept it and marry me?"
Methos' mouth fell open. "I thought we already were."
"No, we're joined," Ray said, reaching over to touch the ring too. "I want the ceremony in front of our friends, Methos. I want it to be as official as it can be."
Methos looked down at the ring, not able to look at the big green eyes anymore. "Ray, I thought I had made my commitment clear."
"Never mind," Ray said, taking the ring back. "You did," he said, getting up to stare down at his lover. "You made it very clear, but I want the world to know about us. Even if they don't know we're bonded the way we are, I want everyone to know that you're mine."
"Ray, we're as married as we can be," Methos reminded him.
"Yeah, everything but the ceremony."
"Is that what you want?" Methos asked, getting up to hold him. "Do you want us to hold a ceremony and reception? Some sort of ritual to show everyone that you're mine?"
"Yeah, that's what I want. I had it before, and I want it again."
"That's fine, Ray, but have you thought about the downside of having a commitment ceremony?"
"Nope, still not getting it. I want a *wedding*, not a *commitment ceremony*. I want what Xander had with his guys. A real, physical, ritual way of showing that we're together." He clenched the ring back in his hand. "When you want what I do, then I've got this." He walked over to the dresser and put it in his jewelry box. He turned to find Methos had left him alone.
"Great," he sighed. "I was warned he wouldn't take it that well." He sat down and looked at his full plate but somehow the food didn't interest him anymore. He decided to go take a long bath, maybe that would cheer him up.
Methos walked into the dining room and over to where he could see Xander sitting. "What idea did you put into Ray's head this time?" he asked Xander.
"Not a one," Xander told him, waving at the empty chair across from him. "Giles is running late, sit." He nodded for Oz to leave them alone. "Let me guess, this is about him proposing?" Methos grunted in displeasure. "Yeah, well, you've got to understand Ray to understand this. Ray sees the fact that you can leave him and get away with it; all the spell needs is for you to be living, not next to him physically." Methos opened his mouth and Xander slapped him on the arm. "Don't even say it. Ray's just as insecure as I am about Oz leaving me at times. No matter how much you say it, there's times that the words don't mean a whole lot. Those are the days when he needs something to be able to look at and *know* that you love him. That's all he wants, something he can look at and *know* that you like him enough not to ditch him someday and go running after the bimbos that keep hitting on you at the beach." He shrugged. "And right about now, I'm guessing he's feeling pretty bad and alone."
"He should already know that."
"Yeah, but there's knowing and then there's *knowing*," Oz said as he reappeared with Giles. "Think about it, you did the same thing a few times with some of your wives. You're Ray's second love, and you left him alone after hurting him that badly."
Methos got up and stormed out, going back up to his room.
"Maybe I should call Ray and warn him?" Xander suggested.
"No, let them do this." Oz looked over at the discrete cough, smiling and taking the leash the woman was holding. "Thanks." He put Rocky under the table, letting Jedi sit in her usual place on top of the dog. "And no sneaking away this time," he told the ferret, who had taken the opportunity last night to see what breasts were like on women. He sat down, making sure he couldn't kick Rocky accidentally, but that she was still in prime begging radius. "They'll work it out. If not, then Ray can stay with us tonight," he told Xander.
Xander nodded, looking around the room. "At least Ray didn't leave."
"No, I believe he's soaking in the bathtub," Giles said, smiling at Xander. "How was your day?"
"He got to go be evil at Baccarat," Oz told him.
"I only won about twenty games," Xander said with a grin, "and they were all low stakes."
"Dear Heavens!" a woman said loudly as she walked in. "Is that a *rodent*?" she asked, pointing at Jedi, who was people watching from the edge of the table.
Xander bent over to look. "No, she's a pet ferret that escaped our room," he told her. "Totally housetrained, she doesn't even beg."
"Except for chocolate chip cookies," Oz noted. "Or at least she does from me."
"It still should not be in here!" she demanded.
"Why? It's not like *it's* got fleas or something. As a matter of fact, *it's* a very good pet."
"Please excuse my wife, she's a bit peckish," her husband said in a clipped British accent as he steered her to the other side of the room.
"That's quite all right," Giles called after them. "Maybe you should go put them in the room."
"We don't want to get in the middle of Ray's argument," Xander told him. "And Jedi's perfectly good. We had a talk last night when I had to toss her back upstairs. She's agreed to be a good little mother ferret and not go investigating while she's in here."
"She was funny," Oz said. Giles groaned and shook his head. "What? It *was* funny when the woman jumped up and started to screech about the ferret in her shirt while beating her chest. Even her date thought so."
"As did I, but I worried all day about her calling someone to come take the animals."
"Why? This place is considered an animal friendly resort, right?" Giles frowned but he nodded. "Then make a small dining room where animals aren't allowed so people like her," he pointed his thumb at the loud woman across the room, "can get away from them. Besides, animal friendly resorts can get more customers these days."
"It is something to consider," Giles agreed. "I'll talk to the manager later." He reached over and patted Xander's hand. "Thank you, love, that was an excellent suggestion, both of them were." Xander preened under the compliment. "What other naughtiness did you get into today?"
"I bought some loose jewels for a special project for Daniel's boss. I'll have to go home soon so I can work on it."
"If we had a way to ship the forge, you could set up a small shop here," Giles told him.
"We could probably use a forge here anyway," Oz pointed out. "Plenty of us run for Holy Ground when our primary weapon breaks. Having one might be for the best."
"And I'm learning how to fix blades," Xander reminded them.
"That's rather handy," the male voice from earlier said, smiling down at them. "I'm sorry if my wife causes a problem tomorrow. Were you thinking about putting in a forge here?"
"We are," Giles said, turning to look at him. "I'm sorry, I didn't feel you when you came in." The other man turned his wrist to show off the tattoo. "Oh. All right then. Yes, Xander is learning how to do more than make jewelry; he's been studying under another of us to learn the art of making blades. I'm sure I could convince him to come in if someone needed their blades fixed but couldn't do it themselves."
"I see. That would help a lot." He smiled at Xander. "And you, young man, are the talk of the Chronicles."
"Gee," Xander said, looking impressed. "Is that good?"
"Very," he said with a smile. "Is this place considered animal friendly?"
"We're working on making it so," Giles told him with a smile. "I'll have to put in a second dining room for non-animal eating, but otherwise, I'm not seeing a problem. Our own animals come with them whenever they come to see me."
"Is there anything you wanted put in about Jace, now that she's gone? I used to work on her Chronicle;, that's why I came actually. I didn't find out until after we had landed, but I heard it was a most unusual fight."
"We'll do that tomorrow," Oz told him quietly. "Somewhere more private."
"Good, I shall look forward to it. Just one last question, what do you think about the rumors?"
"The Gathering won't be happening," Giles told him firmly. "I've researched it quite thoroughly with Joseph, and he agreed with my findings."
"There've been a few times like this before," Oz told him. "It was usually because the participants hadn't died recently. The other times I've seen this situation, once the immies were dead, the urge to kill us all went away."
"I see. Do you know when one was?"
"The last Methos and Theo sighting," Oz told him. The man looked impressed. "If you check, you'd find all those in the throes of a killing frenzy are also young. You won't find an immie over six hundred probably."
"I think the oldest noted so far is only about 289," the Watcher agreed. "So, it's something that age can overcome?"
"If you look at the older of us, they had to live through plagues," Giles told him. "They probably died from the more natural causes often. These new ones don't have that benefit."
"So it may have something to do with their biological clock so to speak?"
"Possibly," Oz agreed. "That's as good as Methos ever got."
"You sound like you knew him," the Watcher said.
"He taught me for a while," Oz told him.
"Do you know where he is?"
The Watcher laughed. "I didn't think you'd tell me. He's said to be a very private man." He stood up, smiling at them. "I'd like to continue this conversation tomorrow, but I may not be able to make it until the afternoon. There's supposed to be a gathering tonight to fight."
"Where?" Oz sighed.
"Outside on the golf course, near the dwarf trees."
"I'll go stop it," Oz told Giles.
"Can't they tell it's Holy Ground?" Xander asked.
"It's been weakening," Oz explained. "The feeling of it being Holy isn't as strong as it was."
"So it needs to be reblessed?" Xander suggested.
"I've been trying to figure out how to get that done," Giles told him.
"I know a priest I can call on. Maybe he'll do it." He got up and headed for the payphones to make a phone call to a Priest he knew. "Is Father Philip there?" he asked when the woman's voice answered the other end. "No, this is a friend of his. No, I gave him the cat." He smiled. "Really. That's great. Do you have the number out there. No, I need to ask him a very important question." He pulled out a pen and wrote the number on his hand. "Thanks." He hung up and dialed his phone card number again, this time directing the call to New York, where Father Philip was working at a school. "Father Philip?" he asked, smiling at the tired voice. "My, you sound like you need a vacation." He laughed. "I'm sure. No, I have a question for you. What would recharge Holy Ground? Because it doesn't feel so Holy anymore. Yeah, someone around me can tell that. No, actually I'm in Las Vegas at a certain resort...." He chuckled. "I know, it's not the most common spot to find Holy Ground, but it's been here for a very long time. The resort that sits on it is a refuge of sorts. Hey, I'll send you a ticket and get you a room, or you can stay in the extra one in our suite. No, I'm in pretty good with the owner," he said with a sappy grin. "It's my other husband, Giles." He laughed. "Father, such language. Well, bring her out. Giles was her former owner, I'm sure he'd love to see her. Oh, please. All five of our ferrets and our ten other cats and dogs are here with us; she'd be welcome here. Yes, I'm sure," he said, rolling his eyes. "Tell you what, if you'd come rebless it for us, I'll pay for plane tickets and a five day weekend?" he offered. He cheered. "Thanks, Father Philip. Yeah, that's us. I'll do the tickets tonight and have them sent to you for day after tomorrow." He hung up and jogged back to the table, having to pick up Jedi to sit down. "He'll be here in two days. We've got to send him tickets and give him a few days off. He's one of the senior teachers at a Catholic Junior High."
"Then he probably really needs the vacation," Giles said with a smile. "I'll have that arranged tonight. Is that who you gave you gave my cat to?"
"Yup, he did an exorcism and the cat's mostly fine, but it doesn't seem to like nuns a lot. Keeps attacking the longer habits."
Giles shook his head; he still didn't believe his cat had been possessed.
"She's never seen them before," Oz reminded his lover. "It's not like we wear clothes that often at home." He looked at Giles. "I think a forge somewhere in the back would be a great idea. We've got one Xander can sit in front of on the ground at home, but the people we ordered from have a lot more that were stand-up-in-front-of ones. There's not that much stuff needed to set one up. A table, a few clamps, an anvil and a hammer, some of the tools. A water source to cool off the metal."
"Ours cost us about eight grand for the forge," Xander told Giles, "plus everything else. There were bigger ones about the same price but if you want a real one, there was a nice one in the catalog for about ten grand. It runs on the good coal or gas. Or they had complete setups if you wanted to go that way."
"And there is that little side hallway behind the salon," Oz reminded Giles. "She was forever wondering what to put back there."
"There's also the matter of special ventilation," Giles reminded them. "Yours is outside, you don't need to vent it."
"So ask the other immies here now if they think it'd be worth it," Xander suggested. "If not, once I know more, you can send them to me at home." He looked at Oz. "The house in South Beach will have a forge too, right?"
"I've already planned one of the rooms for that purpose," Oz agreed, patting Xander's hand. "I'm not going to take away your favorite hobby." He looked at Giles. "Isn't there a shed or something back there, attached to that hallway?"
"Yes, there is," Giles said thoughtfully. "We'll take a look at it tomorrow, see what we might be able to rig up." He smiled as the waiter came over with the food that the head chef had specially prepared for them. "Thank you," he said as his plate was put in front of him. He waited until the waiter was gone to switch plates with Xander; the dish was much spicier than Giles liked, the chef always made his food too spicy. "So, what shall we speak of?"
"I think I might be able to talk Amanda into adopting a ferret," Xander said quietly.
"She won't like it," Oz warned. "She's much more a fashionable cat or dog person." He took a bite of his supper and changed plates with Giles, tasting this one. "Better," he noted. "Not so bland." He tasted Xander's and switched plates with him. "Just right."
Xander shook his head but he was grinning at his husband's antics. "I would have shared, Oz."
"I'm sure you would have," Giles said, smiling at the two younger-seeming men. Xander had grown up so much recently. "How about a few stories from your recent trip?" he suggested. "You should have a few."
"Well, there was this one guy," Oz said, looking at Xander. "The one who wanted the bracelet for his wife?"
"Oh, yeah," Xander said happily. "His wife turned out to be this little guy, looked like the stereotypical accountant, without the glasses. Really weak looking. Turns out he was the power in the family," he told Giles.
"Where were you then?"
"We only made jewelry in that one town," Xander told him, reaching over to pat his hand. "So much of that time you had to be there for," he said gently. "Don't try so hard."
"I won't," Giles told him, grabbing the hand to hold while he ate. "What are you making for Daniel? Any ideas about the style of the piece?"
"I've seen pictures of the guy I'm designing for and he seems to wear these big, heavy things studded with jewels. Today I found a beautiful piece of jade and five stones to put around it. Then I figure I'll put some light carvings on the top and set the little stones around the bigger piece of jade. I've got some real silver on order so I can make it in that instead of the special silver, which I'm running out of."
"I'm wondering if you can mix that," Oz said before taking a bite.
"I've thought about asking Sam what it's made of and seeing if it can be made, but I have a feeling that one of the component metals isn't found around here." He glanced around, making sure no one was listening to them. "I have a feeling that when I run out, I'm not going to be seeing any for a very long time."
"I can understand that, but it doesn't hurt to look, right?" Oz suggested.
"Sure. I'll ask her next time I see her," Xander said, smiling at his Oz. "I delivered everything for the show," he told them.
"Congrats," Oz said, reaching over to free Giles' hand so he could touch Xander now. "How many?"
"All twenty, complete with stories of why they were made." His grin got brighter. "One of the designers thought I made the whole village motif up to inspire myself."
"They're allowed their own beliefs," Giles said calmly. "When is this so I can come in for it?"
"Three weeks," Xander said, taking a bite of his now-cold dinner. "It's still good," he said happily. He was hungry. He hadn't nibbled at the casino like he usually did when he played cards.
Oz and Giles shared fond looks and went back to their dinners.
Oz and Methos walked out to where they could feel the young immortals, stereo frowns on their faces as they caught sight of the fighting that had just started. "Stop it," Oz called. "This is stupid, and this is Holy Ground.
"It's the Gathering," a female immie whined. "It's time to do this."
"Gee, none of the rest of the immies in the resort feel this need," Oz told her.
"And who are you?" her opponent sneered.
"I'm Methos," Methos said quietly.
"I'm Theodonius," Oz told him. "As in the two oldest immortals, yes," he answered the unasked question. "This is a stupidity that's cured another way,it's not the Gathering. That won't be happening."
"It will so," the female immie said. "My teachers have all said so."
"My lover, whose main goal in life is research, has looked over *every* pertinent document and there will be no Gathering. It might have happened at one point in time, but now the fighting is to cull the bad members and because some people are too stupid to stop fighting."
"How do we know you are who you say you are?" another male immortal asked, walking around the defined fighting area to look at them. "Neither of you look that old, or feel that old."
Oz shrugged and took all the blocks he had on his quickening off, stunning them all. "Got another question?"
"I challenge you," the woman called, pointing her sword at him.
"I'm not fighting on holy ground, girl. Put it away before my mate comes out here and kills you for threatening me." Oz looked up at Methos. "Think we should cure them now?"
"What cure?" the curious immortal asked.
"This feeling that you're getting only happens to you young ones," Methos explained. "We've seen it before, a number of times actually. In the past, it's been cured by dying." He held up a hand at the outraged screeches they were doing. "Not losing your heads, just dying. Remember, back when this all started, there were plagues every few years and we were not immune to the worst ones. Many of us died quite a few times during the sicknesses that used to plague the world."
"And you think this will cure this current feeling of wanting to kill someone else?" she asked haughtily.
"Yup," Oz told her. "Has before, will again. And just for you, dear," he said sarcastically, "we can put you into a secure room so no one can attack you while you're down. The resort has a few such rooms in the basement for immortals who have lost their minds."
"This would be a lot more believable if there were other old immortals here to back you up," the curious man told them.
"Amanda's on her way in, but I don't think she's made it here yet," Methos told him. "Who else did you want to ask?"
"What about this Oz guy that's married to the owner?" the woman asked. Oz raised his hand. "You?" she scoffed.
"Me. I wanted to disappear, how better to do it?" He smirked at her. "Once you get to be my age, you can do things like that." He looked behind him as he felt another immortal walk up behind them. "Hey," he said, nodding at the nearly familiar immie. He'd seen him before, but he wasn't sure who he was. "What's up?"
"I heard that the Gathering urge was upon some of us," he said, looking the five young ones over. "Is this them?"
"Yeah, we were just explaining it to them," Oz told him.
"Why explain?" this new one said, taking out a gun and spraying the group with bullets. "Now they'll see," he said, smiling at Oz. "And you are?"
"Oz," he said, shaking the man's hand. "The Holy Ground rule still applies."
"I had noticed that the feeling of holiness isn't as strong," the other immortal noted.
"It's being fixed," Oz told him. "There's a priest coming to figure out why that is."
"Does he know?"
"He deals with the paranormal."
"Ah. Then he won't mind?"
"Not as far as I know. My mate talked to him; I'll be talking to him with my other husband when he gets here in two days."
"Good. We need to get this fixed before someone does what another of us did, and look how MacLeod suffered for it," he noted as he walked away.
Oz looked at Methos. "Mac killed on Holy Ground?"
"Yes," Methos sighed, turning and starting the walk back up to the resort, "he did. The newly reborn one didn't give him much of a choice. He was killing mortals and had delusions of being a God. He led Mac to an old sanctuary, and they ended up fighting there."
"Any link to what Mac went through with Ahriman?"
"Not that I could find," Methos admitted. He smiled at his friend. "Shouldn't we be watching over them?"
"All but one's awake," Oz said with a shrug, keeping back a few feet. "We'll watch for a quickening." He stopped and looked behind him. "You don't think one was a Watcher, do you?"
"No, they were in the trees. I saw one nearly fall out off a branch when he saw me and heard my real name."
"Good. Less for me to worry about. Did that guy remind you of Darius?"
"A little bit," Methos admitted, smiling at him. "One never knows, Oz, one never knows." He looked back at the clearing, hearing five voices now arguing. "They're awake. Come help me fix Ray?"
"If you'd realize that he just needs to have a more tangible sign, then it'd all be settled."
"I already consider us married."
"Then consider doing the ceremony like renewing your vows," Oz suggested.
Methos' mouth opened, then he shut it and shook his head. "I can go through the problems that come with a wedding for Ray."
"Good. Maybe you should tell him that before Xander gets him to come back home with him." Methos glared at him. "What? He's got a project he *has* to do. It's due in about two weeks. He'll have to get home soon, we don't have a forge here."
"I've often wondered why she didn't have one installed," Methos admitted, slowing his stride so he could walk beside his oldest friend.
"We're trying to convince Giles to put one in."
"I'm sure he'll have to follow some sort of regulations." Methos stopped Oz by putting a hand on his shoulder. "He really needs the physical reminder? Besides not aging?"
"Yeah, he does," Oz said sadly. "Same as Xander does. Neither one of them is as confident as they seem about us loving them." He shrugged, grimacing at his friend. "I'm not sure why they need it since the spell can only be done with true love, but they do.
"Maybe they think we'll get tired of them," Methos sighed, letting him go so they could finish walking up to the room.
"Yeah, but we'll never get tired of them. I've *told* Xander that."
"Doesn't mean he listened. Remember his vacation?"
"Oh, yeah," Oz said, nodding as they walked in together. He winked at Giles. "All taken care of," he called as they headed for the elevator.
"Thank you," Giles called. "I'll be up in a few minutes." He smiled at their backs, reaching down under the desk to stroke through Xander's hair. It was addictive, Oz had been right about that.
Methos walked into his room and pulled the covers off his sleeping lover, bending down to pick him up and carry him into the bathroom. He seemed to have the best conversations when Ray was leaning against his chest and something sensual was involved.
"Wha'?" Ray asked sleepily.
"I'm running us a bath so we can talk," Methos told him. "Give me a minute." He smiled at the half-asleep nod. He leaned down to test the water, smiling when he was spanked. "Why, Ray, how naughty!" he asked, turning around to find Amanda standing there. "Giles must have put a spell on the place," he groaned.
"He did. I asked when I didn't feel him or anyone in the lobby." She smiled sweetly. "Did you get the newbies taken care of?"
"Go ask Oz, my dear, I need to talk to my....Ray?" he called, looking around.
"He just stumbled back to the bed," she said happily. "Was it the needed-death thing?"
"Go ask Oz," he said, steering her out of the bathroom and his half of the suite. Then he picked Ray up again and carried him back into the bathroom. He propped Ray up beside him and stopped the water, after adding in some salts. He turned around and Ray was moving again. He stripped quickly and went to get Ray, leading him back to the tub. He got in first, helping Ray in after him. He sat down and tugged, a little too hard because Ray fell on top of him. He nuzzled the warm neck, breathing in the deep scent. "Ray, please wake up."
"Am," Ray complained, pushing himself away from the warm lips. "Whaddya want?"
"I wanted to talk to you about your proposal."
"Forget it," Ray mumbled, rolling over carefully so he wouldn't knee his lover. "I did."
"I didn't," Methos said, pulling Ray back into his chest, going back to his nuzzling. "After having a talk with Oz...."
"Why did ya have to talk with Oz about marrying me?"
"Because I thought we already were," Methos told him. "I thought that was the meaning of the ceremony we went through to bind us." Ray shook his head. "Yes, Oz made me see that you didn't think so. Now that I know this, I'd be more than happy to marry you. Here if you'd like, or back at the manor house."
"Really?" Ray asked, turning his head to look at his lover. "No freaky feelings about it?"
"Ray, I've been married before. Sixty-seven times in fact. I have no funny feelings about being married to you." He squeezed his lover hard. "As a matter of fact, I thought we already had been. That's why I got upset earlier."
"Oh." Ray blinked a few times then relaxed back into the soft chest. "I won't do what Xander did."
"Get frantic or wear nearly nothing to tantalize me?" Methos asked lightly, stroking over the firm stomach.
"Either. I don't sew and I won' t wear white."
"That would also be fine. I'd be happy to marry you in our normal clothes if you wanted."
"Yeah, I'd kinda like that," Ray murmured, starting to fall back to sleep.
Methos rolled his eyes at the first snore, but he was too comfortable to take his Ray back to their bed.
Oz walked into Methos' room the next morning, looking for everyone. They had agreed to eat breakfast together and they were gone. He heard a wave hit the wall in the bathroom and walked that way, smiling at the sleeping couple. Ray was lying on top of Methos' head, using the side of the tub as a pillow. Methos was nearly drowning as he licked across Ray's stomach and chest in his sleep. "Guys?" he called quietly.
"Humph," Ray snorted, then pushed the head tormenting him under the water, creating another small wave which slapped up against the tub wall.
Oz snickered. "Ray, you're going to drown him."
"Am not," Ray said, opening one eye long enough to make an effective pout. Then he closed it again. "What's wrong?"
"Breakfast? We agreed to eat together."
"Later," Methos sighed, coming up to nip Ray sharply. "This one needs a pillow."
"Want help getting him to the bed?"
"Jus' bring a pillow, I'm comfy," Ray said, snuggling his stomach back against his lover's face.
"I'm not," Methos complained, shifting up while pulling Ray back down so they were cuddled together properly. "We'll see you at lunch."
"We won't be here at lunch," Oz reminded him.
"Then we'll see you at supper," Ray noted.
"We're headed back today because Xander has to work on that project."
"Oh, crap," Ray sighed, looking up at his friend. "That's tomorrow."
"That's this afternoon. Tomorrow is when you guys are leaving," Oz noted as he walked away. He went over to his room, smiling at Xander, who was searching for something. "Lost what?" he asked.
"No, Mutley's. He's whimpering because he can't find it." Xander looked over, giving his husband a smile. "Get them up?"
"No. They thought we were leaving tomorrow."
"No, we're leaving this afternoon."
"Nope, we changed it to tomorrow so I could talk with Philip when he gets in today."
"Oh. When did you do this?"
"Last night, after dinner."
"Ah, no wonder." Oz flopped down onto the bed. "So, breakfast?"
"Sure." Xander got down onto his knees and looked under the bed, coming out with an old, ragged sock. He smiled and walked out, earning happy barks from the dog.
"Quit it, Mutley," Ray called.
"I found his sock for him," Xander called back. "And we aren't leaving until tomorrow; I forgot to tell Oz."
"Breakfast?" Ray called back.
"Unless you don't want to," Xander agreed.
"Whatever," Ray called and a few minutes later, the door opened and Ray walked out in a bathrobe. "How much longer does the buffet run?" He squinted at the clock.
"Another hour," Xander told him. "But the omelet chef leaves in another thirty." He looked at the robe. "Isn't that mine?"
"Yeah, I borrowed it when we packed. That's okay, right?"
"Sure, this means I get to make you one for your birthday," Xander said happily. Ray rolled his eyes and headed back into their room, slamming the door. "Want to order in instead?"
"Yeah, we'll do omelets tomorrow," Ray called. Then he giggled. "And tell the third one."
Xander sat down beside the sofa, picking up the phone to dial his other husband's office. "Hey, it's me. No, we just got Ray and Meth up." He smiled at the comment. "No, they were together. If you'd like, I will," he offered. "No, they're not up to appearing yet," he said with a silly grin. "Sure. I can be down there in a few minutes." He hung up and walked over to where his shoes were, putting them on and grabbing a shirt from the rack beside the door at the same time. "I'm going to eat with Giles," he called as he opened the door and left.
Ray stuck his head out a few minutes later. "What about our breakfast?"
Oz walked out of their room. "Giles wanted us all to come down and eat together," he reminded Ray. "I guess Xander took over the position of all of us." He shrugged, looking at the bare body, what he could see of it. "If you hurry, we can still meet him down there."
"Sure," Ray said, pulling back inside his room. They came out a few minutes later, waiting on Oz to find his other sandal, then left to head down to the dining room together. Everyone looked up as they walked in so the checked themselves then shrugged off the looks, going over to Giles' private table, where the other immortal was laughing quite hard.
"What's the story?" Oz asked as he slid in next to Xander and stole a bite of his omelet.
"Get your own," Xander said playfully, shoving him lightly. "Hey, you two, decided to come down after all?"
"Yes, I fear I'll need a good breakfast before Ray drags me everywhere today." Methos smiled at his former student. "How are you this morning?"
"Much better now that Ray's not trying to drown me," Methos said dryly. He pulled out Ray's chair, then his own and sat down, looking around the room. "The omelet buffet seems to be quite a hit," he congratulated Giles.
"Yes, I think I'll keep it once a week though, make it a special something," Giles told him, giving him a smile. "Thank you for stopping those five last night, it was most horrid that they were going to do that here."
"When is Philip due in?" Oz asked Xander.
"Not for another hour and I hired him a car," Xander said, looking around. "Where were you going to put in the second dining room, Giles?"
"I had thought to put it across the hall," Giles said, pointing behind them. "There's a nice room over there that no one seems to use. Just a banquet hall really, but it's too small for a good sized party."
"So you add a few tables and chairs," Oz said, nodding. "Sounds good. What if you need the room?"
"We have two others just like it, only with a few more possible seats, plus the huge ballroom upstairs. I haven't checked the reservations yet, but I think that everything should go according to plan."
"And, if there's a wedding, you can always close that dining room for a few hours," Methos agreed. "That sounds excellent, but why the second dining room?"
"Because it'd make this place fully animal friendly," Xander told him. "Oh, I did some research last night about what you need to get the 'animal friendly' rating from a few of the animal societies and all I could see that you're missing here is a dedicated pet walk and someone to babysit if the guest needs to get away for a few."
"I can contract out the latter with one of the local groomers, I believe," Giles said thoughtfully. "There is an animal spa here in town; I'll talk to them about it tonight. I've heard that they're amenable to helping hotels deal with pets."
"Good," Xander said, patting him on the arm. "Next time we come in, we can send the ferrets to the groomers." He grinned at Ray, who had just snorted. "What? They would like to be pampered too."
"I can just see Jedi running around the place," Oz said, leaning back in his chair so the waitress could put the empty plate down. "I'd like an omelet," he said.
"Of course, Mr. Osbourne, what would you like in it?"
"Ham, green peppers, and mushrooms," Xander told her.
"And cheese," Oz said, glaring at his husband, "and sausage too. Light on the mushrooms if they're not already sauteed."
"Of course, sir. Does everyone else want an omelet or would you like some time?"
"I'd like one with a lot of cheese and sausage," Ray told her. "And maybe some of those spicy tomatoes you guys had last night?"
"I'll see if the chef can do that. For you, sir?" she asked, looking at Methos.
"I'll have a western omelet, minus the onions."
"And to drink?"
"Milk," Xander said, holding up his glass with a smile.
"The rest of us want coffee. Please?" Ray asked nicely.
"I'll bring it right out," she promised, taking Xander's glass to get him a refill. "You certainly go through a lot of milk," Methos told Xander.
"I *like* milk and it's good for me," Xander said with a nod. He looked at Oz. "I was telling him about the Holy Virgins decorating their temple for the celebration and the one falling in."
Oz snickered. "Yeah, that was funny. Purple dye in the water and naked holy virgins."
Giles chuckled. "That must have been a sight. Did she get the purple off?"
"Not until after Xander offered to mix her up something to soak in, and about two weeks more due to her problem with Xander. It didn't match her green veil at all."
Ray looked at Oz. "That poor girl."
"Poor girl?" Oz snorted. "She was a mean and nasty little woman who tormented Xander whenever she saw him. She actually went out of her way to come bother him sometimes. She deserved every comment she got because of it. Even after Xander helped her turn back to her normal color, she still wasn't nice to him."
"But, Oz, it made her itch in indelicate places," Xander said innocently.
"You didn't," Giles said.
Xander nodded. "I did." His grin got naughtier. "She deserved it so I did it. But she wasn't purple anymore."
"No, she just itched like she had bugs," Oz snorted.
Giles burst out laughing. "Oh, that I would have liked to have seen, boys. Next time, do let me go with you?"
"Sure," Oz agreed, getting out of the waitress' way so she could put down their coffee and Xander's milk, and the pitcher this time.
"Thanks," Xander said, winking at her.
She giggled and waved a hand at him. "You're married, you naughty little boy."
"Yup, I am," Xander said happily. "To my work, and my animals, and ...."
Oz leaned over and tickled him, sending them crashing to the floor when Xander couldn't take it anymore. "Give up yet?" he asked.
"I give!" Xander yelled, still laughing. He got a kiss and Oz got back into his chair. "Meany! Eeveryone's going to think we're strange," Xander pouted as he got back into his seat.
"Honey, you're in a three-way marriage with men, they already think that," the waitress said, giving him a wink back before leaving to go get their food.
Methos looked at Xander over the rim of his coffee cup. "Is there something we should be told?"
"She and Xander have been friends since the first time he was here," Giles said tolerantly. "She's a very nice young woman, with two children, and is working her way through school."
"Yup, she showed me around the first time I was here," Xander said happily. "She's really nice. She tells me about her kids, and I tell her about the animals. Her son was the one playing with one of the ferret babies yesterday."
"I thought you said he was a resident," Ray said, looking confused and like he hadn't had enough coffee.
"Yes, they are," Giles said simply.
"Cool," Ray agreed, after a second's pause. "Any chance of him adopting one?"
"His mother's allergic to animal dander," Giles told him. "That's why she had to pull her son away from the ferret yesterday. She actually has horrid allergies."
"But I get by," she said as she returned, handing over the three omelets. "Something wrong with the milk?" she asked Xander.
"No, I was listening to the old guy talk," Xander said, nodding at Giles. "I'll have to leave again tomorrow to work on something for someone."
"We're looking into putting a forge in the resort," Giles reminded his young husband.
"Why?" she asked.
"Because a lot of us that come here are into things like swords and jewelry," Oz told her, "and Xander's learning both."
"I'm doing a lot better with the jewelry side than I am with the sword side," Xander admitted. "Besides, there's a local renfaire group and a few other groups that could use it too. The Excalibur resort doesn't have one and the local guys only make horseshoes." He grinned. "It'd be a premiere niche for the resort, same as making it animal friendly would."
"That's really well thought out," she agreed, smiling at Giles. "If you do make it animal friendly, will you cover the allergy medicines on the health insurance?"
"I had thought they were," Giles said, frowning. "I'll check into that this afternoon," he promised her. "I see no reason to not cover those, or certain other necessary medications."
She smiled. "That's why we like you. You're nice. Just like Jace was." She winked at Xander again then left them alone.
"You're really good at runnin' this place," Ray praised.
"Thank you," Giles said, smiling at him. "Eat, the chef is very good at making breakfasts." He poured himself and Xander some of the milk, handing his husband his glass. "You, drink. You need the calcium. You still have accidents and don't heal as fast as we do."
"Now I understand the calcium kick," Methos said, looking at Giles. "He gets plenty."
"No he doesn't," Oz disagreed quietly, looking at Xander, who was gulping his milk. "It won't hurt him, even if he were to gorge on milk and cheese."
"All right," Methos agreed, dropping the subject. "Any other large changes you have planned for the resort, Rupert?" he asked.
"Just one," Giles said, giving him a smile. "I plan on making this place accessible to more of us, maybe even advertising, which I know Jace didn't."
"How would you advertise?" Oz asked.
"Through the Watchers," Giles said simply.
Methos dropped his fork. "Not many of us know about them."
"Yes, but word does get around to the others of *us* through them," Giles pointed out. "That's how Joe's spreading the truth about the Gathering. A Watcher finds out, tells someone that they know, it gets spread around."
"Makes sense," Ray pointed out. "It's like a big network."
"It does," Methos agreed, "but not all of us will understand how the people telling them these things know about us."
"Easy, it'll be other immies telling each other," Oz told him. "And the bad ones won't get through the door if they want to cause trouble. Right, Rupert?"
Giles coughed lightly. "I haven't cast that spell yet. I'm hesitant to do so. Even the worst among us take time off to live on Holy Ground." Methos gave him a hard look. "I can deal with any that try to cause problems," he reminded his teacher.
"Maybe," Methos agreed. "Maybe not. You haven't run up against some of our worst yet, remember that, Rupert. There's always one that's worse than you think and that won't follow the rules."
"Then we obliterate the threat," Xander said calmly, staring at Methos. Ray looked at him in shock. "What? You thought I wouldn't fight for Giles? I've spent most of my life fighting for Giles and Oz. Anyone who tries to cause problems here runs through me. Immie or Watcher."
"He'd have help," Oz pointed out. "It's not like I'd let Giles deal with this himself."
Ray looked at him. "Isn't that against the rules?"
"They'd be breaking one first," Xander reminded him. "This is Holy Ground. There's no fighting here. Anyone who breaks that rule makes themselves a legal target in my book."
"Mine too," Oz agreed quietly, glancing around. He saw the Watcher from the night before staring at him and nodded for him to come over. "Let's get this settled now, okay?" he suggested. Methos saw who it was and nodded. "Thanks."
"So," the Watcher said, sitting down and looking at the table. "That was certainly a rather large surprise last night. The Council sent me because they thought something paranormal was going on here." He looked at Rupert. "Your brother is not pleased."
"Wrong Watchers," Xander sighed. He looked around the room, seeing someone glaring at Methos' back. "I think that's one of them."
"Oh, it is," Methos agreed, waving him over. "We'll talk with him later too. How did you know about the Gathering?" he asked the Watcher that used to work with Giles.
"We've all taken note of what Giles has been requesting for research purposes," he said with a slight shrug. "It was most intriguing. I can even trace the split back to around the Crusades." He smiled at the other version of the Watcher, turning his wrist so they could compare tattoos. "Well, I see not much has changed."
"Why don't you and Wes have one of those?" Xander asked Giles.
"Because most of our generation gave up on having them," Giles said simply. "Pull up a chair, we'll all discuss this rationally," he offered.
The immortals' version of the Watchers looked him over. "Why would I want to talk with you?"
"Because I'm the one who's been working with Joseph," Giles told him. "And, if you want to know what I do, then you'll sit down and act like an adult."
"Oh, really?" he asked.
Xander pulled out a knife and put it on the table. "Yes, you will," he said softly. "Because we'd rather not have a screaming match. You never know who's listening around here."
Both Watchers pulled over chairs and squeezed in beside Ray, one of them picking up the dagger to look at it. "Very nice work. Remanli?" the Slayer's Watcher asked.
"Mine," Xander said, taking it back. He slid it back into his back harness, shrugging at Ray's questioning look. "Like I'm going anywhere without some protection right now."
"Point," Ray agreed. "By the way, we're doin' it at your house."
"Cool. Am I doing anything special?"
"We might contract with you to provide us with clothes," Methos agreed. "It would be on a professional level, not on a friendship one; we don't want to impose on your skills too often."
"Hey, I get a kick outta making stuff for you guys," Xander said, pouting at him. "I like to make you clothes and stuff."
"Yes, but it's not right that we don't pay you back somehow," Methos said, reaching over to touch Xander's hand. "You don't need to make us presents. We'd gladly pay you for the rings and for anything we decided to let you make for the wedding. All right?" Xander shook his head. "Don't argue, dear one, it'll only make me more resolute."
"Yes, Methos," Xander sighed, giving him one last pained look. "I'll be good and let you pay me for it."
"Thank you." Methos rolled his eyes at Oz's amused look, which he was sure Xander didn't catch. "Now then, what should we be clearing up?"
"How about while you were a Watcher yourself?" the immortals' Watcher suggested snidely.
"Andrew, do you know how many of you are immortals?" Methos asked. "I'm not the first; it's a very good camouflage and it's very safe. Almost as good as Holy Ground."
"What about the Holy Ground here?" the Slayers' Watcher asked. "I've heard it's not as strong as it used to be."
"We're fixing that today," Xander told him. "I called in a favor and offered a priest I know a vacation if he would come check it out for us." He smiled at the cleared throat behind him, getting up with a squeal when he saw who it was. "Philip!" he said happily, hugging him. "How was your flight? And where's the cat?" he asked as he put the priest into his chair and grabbed another from a nearly empty table behind them. "Guys, this is Father Philip. He's the one I asked to come look at our Holy Ground problem." He squeezed in next to Giles, looking around his husband at his friend. "Where is your cat?"
"Upstairs. I've already checked in," Philip said, looking around. "This looks like a War Council."
"Nope, just clearing up a few misconceptions," Oz told him. "How's the cat? Giles still doesn't believe she was possessed."
"She was," Philip told Giles. "It took two different times to get her clear of the demon." He smiled at the shaken head. "It did. You can check her yourself if ya'd like." He looked at the two Watchers. "I recognize what one'a ya are. What's the other?"
"They're both Watchers, just in different organizations."
"Now," the Slayers' Watcher amended. "We used to belong to the same group, but we had a rend in the organization back during the Crusades."
"Bloody horrible times," Methos agreed, sipping his coffee. "Basically, what did you each need to know?"
"Maybe we should do this somewhere more comfortable," Giles said, standing up. "Let's bring our breakfast to my sitting room, and we'll discuss that in there. You also, Father Philip. I'm sure there's much you can add to all this." He patted Xander on the rear, treating him more like a personal toy rather than someone with information for the group as he walked away from the table to get a waiter. "I can deal with this," he called.
"Don't be so fussy," Oz warned. "He hates it when we treat him like he's helpless." Philip looked at him. "He's very independent now." He smiled at their waitress as he walked around her. "We'll be in the big guy's office," he told her quietly. "Expect some yelling." He patted her on the shoulder in sympathy before he walked away.
She looked at Ray, who grinned and shrugged as he followed everyone else. Then she blew the hair off her face and rolled her eyes. "Those three need to get a life," she said, tugging the shirt she wore over to cover the tattoo on her shoulder, a totally inappropriate place for it. Who would have thought that a Watcher's tattoo would be put in such an odd place.
Giles sat down in his favorite seat, expecting one of his husbands to sit down next to him, not on the floor at his feet. He reached down and started to work his fingers through Oz's hair, smiling when he got grunted at. "Well, you chose to get between me and his hair," he reminded his older husband playfully.
Oz shrugged and let Giles continue, latching onto Xander's mouth to give him a kiss before everyone got settled.
"Enough," Methos sighed as he walked in. "I doubt you want to scare the normals." He sat down beside Giles, letting Ray curl up between them, watching as he fell asleep almost instantly.
"Is he okay?" Xander asked, peering up at his best friend.
"He's fine. It was a long night, and I doubt he slept comfortably in the bathtub." He looked at the other three men as they walked in and picked seats. "Father Philip, could you tell that this was Holy Ground?"
"From about a mile away," he admitted. "It's gettin' weaker because no one prays on it." He looked at Giles. "What was this formerly?"
"As far as Jace told us, it wasn't a Holy spot until the missionaries got here. Then they built a church, which burned, and a convent, which also burned," Oz told him. "It was Holy when she bought the land."
"And no one's been rechargin' it with prayers, so it's been losin' strength," Philip finished. "I can counteract some of that, but it's gonna take more'n me."
"Plenty of us pray here, just for the wrong reasons," Methos told him.
"And not necessarily to the same God," Xander pointed out.
"Good point," Methos agreed, giving him a smile. "I saw what you made for Cupid, very nice work, young one." He smiled at Philip's back as he walked out to go earn his vacation.
"Thanks," Xander said, grinning happily.
"Hold on," the Slayers' Watcher said, holding up a hand. "We'll have to *recharge* the holiness?"
"It's wearing down," Oz explained. "When it gets too weak, then the resort loses its neutral territory rating and becomes fair ground for fighting. We and the former owner agreed to keep this as holy a place as possible so that we all have somewhere to relax."
"Ah, I see," the Immortals' Watcher said, nodding. "That does make sense. What happened last night?"
"There's a problem with the new crop not dying enough," Methos explained. "Back when we were young, there were many plagues, at least one a decade, and we weren't immune to them either, not to the worst of them."
"So, it's because they hadn't died enough?" the Immortals' Watcher said. Methos nodded. "And you came out to tell them that, breaking your cover?"
"Like they'd believe someone around their own age," Oz snorted. "And who was that other guy?"
"I can't give you that information."
"It was Henrich," the waitress said as she walked in, pushing the room service tray. "We are allowed to name names here in the resort," she told the other Watcher. "Joe said it was polite to do so. He's about sixty," she told Oz. "Very calm. Everyone says he reminds them of Darius."
"Yeah, he did us too," Oz agreed, smiling at her. "Undercover?"
"The Watchers have always had someone here," she said flippantly. "But we still would like to keep this under the table. I'm only here to see if there's any new ones that pop up or if there's any new information going around. I was Joe's conduit back to our Council." She patted the other version of Watcher on the arm. "Don't worry, we know about you guys too."
"You're a Senior, a spy?" the Immortals' Watcher said, jumping up. "Impossible. You don't even have a...." He stopped as she pulled aside her shirt. "Oh, dear God," he whispered, sitting back down. "I'll behave."
"Good." She smiled at him. "You're just doing your job, relax." She looked at Methos, who was frowning at her. "What? It took you this long to recognize me?"
"No, I figured you had gone out into the world for a purpose like this, but I never suspected you were going to be feeding the Chroniclers."
"I'm not." Her smile got brighter. "I don't supply any information. This is a neutral area to us too." She winked at Xander. "You are still the most wondered about person in the history of our organization," she told him, "but I like you because you're fun and nice." She handed Giles the slip. "Sign please, so I don't lose my job."
"Not bloody likely now," Giles muttered as he signed his name on it. "We will be talking this afternoon," he warned her.
"Yes, sir!" she said, saluting him. "Later," she said to Xander before leaving.
Oz shook his head. "This is now like a big mystery novel with a bad plot line."
"Yes, it is," Giles agreed, tugging gently on his hair before starting to card through it again. "What needs to be discussed?"
"What are you?" the Immortals' Watcher asked.
"He was one of us," the other Watcher told him. "Trained one of the girls and everything."
"Two," Giles corrected. "I had Faith there for a bit."
"No, but I was still in control of Buffy then also," Giles countered lightly. "On with the rest of it. Now, I'm one of your sort," he told the Immortals' Watcher. "I was working with Joseph on the Gathering problem, and we've figured out that it won't happen, that we've been fighting for centuries for no reason."
"Did you find a reason for us to exist?"
"No, but I found that, over the years, most of us have decided that we're protecting humanity, or trying to take it over, but no original reason."
"Just one of our own definition," Oz said thoughtfully. "That makes sense." He looked up at Methos. "You've got to admit, we were around still when that started to change."
"Yes, I do remember back that far," Methos said dryly. "As for the earlier question, Oz was correct. It wouldn't have been believed coming from anyone but ourselves. Our *true* selves. Coming out was necessary."
The Immortals' Watcher nodded. "I can understand that. Now what will you two do? Now that others know who you are and all."
"Nothing different," Oz told him. "We're going home tomorrow so Xander can work on something for someone else."
"What about this new student of yours, Oz? And do you prefer to be Oz?"
"I'd prefer to stay Oz," he agreed. "What new student? The only ones I've taught recently are Richie and Steve."
"I think he means Daniel," Xander told him.
"He's my student," Methos told him.
"No, there's a young man who's said he's your student," the Immortals' Watcher said, pulling out his notebook. "This one," he said, passing it over after pointing at a name.
Oz frowned at the name. "I know him, but he's not my student. I've never met him, but I've heard of him." He handed the notebook back. "You might want to tell him that. That's an annoyance."
"Maybe he's wanting to be your student," Xander suggested.
"No, not with what he's saying," the Immortals' Watcher said, smiling at him. "What are you, dear?"
"The same thing Ray is."
"A mortal consort?"
"Not anymore," Giles told him. He smiled at the Slayers' Watcher. "Did you get the transcript of that spell?" He nodded. "Good. It must only be used in the strongest cases of love between what we are." Oz pinched him on the leg. "There's been a few of us that have come out of my old Watcher's Council," he explained. "I've searched through the old Watchers and I've found six of us so far, one of which came in as an adult."
"So, you wanted them to hold the spell?" Xander asked.
"It is safe with them," Giles reminded him. "The copy I sent was also marked very well, if a bit cryptically," he said with a smile.
The Immortals' Watcher cleared his throat. "What spell?"
"Joseph was supposed to get that information out," Giles said with a frown.
"Well, we've heard some rubbish about being able to bond mortals to the immortals." Xander held up his hand. "Yes?"
"That's what we did. It takes absolute true love for it to not kill everyone. I'm bound to Methos, Oz, and Giles. And Connor when he was alive."
"Oh." He looked from Xander to Oz and back, then shook his hand. "How did this happen?"
"It merged our energies," Oz told him. "Xander's got the signature now of a pre-immie. He even knows how to use a sword." He squeezed his husband hard. "It does work, but it's got to be real love so no one dies."
"During the spell, I died and our energies merged," Xander explained.
"Connor MacLeod agreed to this?" the Immortals Watcher asked. "He was always skeptical of magic and anything paranormal."
"He was in the house and got caught," Methos said dryly. "It will bond you to any immortal within a short distance. My Ray is bound to both of them, and apparently somehow to Xander." He frowned down at his former student. "I would like to know how that happened."
"Not a clue," Xander sighed, looking up at him. "I have no idea how any of this happened." He gave him his most pathetic look. "I promise not to take advantage of it."
Methos smiled at him. "Thank you."
The Slayers' Watcher laughed. "You really do have all these people wrapped around your fingers, don't you, young man?"
Xander gave him an innocent look. "I don't need to have them wrapped, they like me."
Oz kissed him on the cheek. "You do have us wrapped and you use it shamelessly on occasion. But we still love you, even when you're in hyper-sexual mode."
Xander pulled up Oz's hand and kissed it. "Thank you, Oz."
"Welcome, babe." He looked over at the Watchers. "As you can tell, Xander's very special."
"And naughty," Giles put in, smiling down at his husband. "A very naughty little bit some days."
Xander grinned up at him. "Me? Naughty?"
Methos nodded. "Yes, you, imp. You've put a whole new definition up for the word. Even among the GHS community, your name is spoken in hushed tones."
"Oh, the convention is next month," Xander said happily. "Can you come back as someone else?"
"Yes, dear one, I'll go with you this year." He smiled down at the sleeping Ray. "We'll all go. It's in Boston this year."
"As long as we don't run into any witch hunters," Oz agreed.
"Oz, they don't exist anymore."
"We ran into one not even fifty years ago," Methos told Giles. "They do not like us."
"They can tell what we are?" Giles asked him.
"Unfortunately, this one was a pre-immie, so we're not sure whether or not they can," Oz told him. "Every other one we've run into knew us, though, so we've decided to stay away from them."
"Oh," Xander said, his face falling into a hurt look. "Does that mean we can't go?"
"No, you may go," Giles said, leaning down to give him a hug. "I promise, we will go to the convention, all of us. We'll all go revel in our GHSness while Oz makes sure we don't do something stupid."
"Uh-huh, that means I get to hold all the leashes," Oz reminded him.
"I'm sure we'll be able to make you let go of your inhibitions too," Methos said with a smile. "Xander, we'll work on my new identity when we join you back at the house, all right?"
"Sure," Xander said happily, grinning up at him. He reached out to touch Methos' leg but Ray kicked his hand. "Ow, meanie."
"Mine," Ray said. "You got yours."
"I was going to give him a pat," Xander pouted. "I wasn't going to make him all gooey or sweet or anything."
Ray slid down to hug his best friend. "I know, but he's mine. You've got the Oz and the Giles."
"I'm not going to steal your Methos," Xander told him, hugging Ray harder. "I could never steal your Methos from you. He's yours. You've trained him to please just you. He could never be retrained to become one of my pets." Ray smiled at him. "See?"
"Yup. As long as you understand that," Ray agreed, pinching Oz lightly on the arm. "Now then, what's the DT?"
"The Chronicles and the GHS convention," Giles told him. "Would you like to go with us?"
"Yeah," Ray said, grinning at him. "It'll be *great*! All the fun of the conventions." He looked at Xander. "Have you been to one?"
"We went to one, but that's the weekend I found out about immies," Xander told him. "I didn't exactly have fun that weekend."
"Ah, but this time, I'm sure we'll have many more opportunities for fun and games," Giles told him, giving him a smile. "There'll be all sorts of games and the like."
"Probably," Methos agreed. "How am I going to get a card again?"
"Easy, you need a sponsor," Xander reminded him. "Same as you did for me, I can do for you."
"What about when they notice how young you look?" Giles asked.
"Hey, I've been being very good with my living in sin," Xander said, his grin brightening. "It's all due to...."
"How I live the debauched life," he told one attendant at the convention, playing with one of his white streaks. "All I have is pleasure and a decent diet." He smiled as Oz walked over to him with a glass of champagne for him. "See, I get pampered horribly."
"Yes, and you still have a spa treatment in the morning," Oz reminded him as he handed off the glass. "Here, just like you like." He nodded at the other keeper. "Do you have a lot of trouble from yours?"
"No," he said, smiling at Oz. "Do you?"
Xander nodded. "I'm an imp, or so someone keeps telling me. Oh, Addison," he called, bringing his protégé, Methos, over. "He thinks Oz doesn't have a problem with me."
Addison, better known as Methos, groaned. "You have no idea what it's like having four of us in one house and only Oz to keep us straight."
"It's like a harem of naughtiness and Xander's the ringleader of the group," Oz told him, smiling at Ray. "And here comes his second in command. Ray, what's up?"
"Nothing," Ray sighed. "I just saw Blair and Daniel. And Jack."
Xander snickered. "*Jack's* here? Stiff, men-don't-hug, Jack? In a convention dedicated to hedonism?"
"Yup," Ray said with a grin. "He's here to guard Danny and Blair. Seems the General thinks that they'll get into trouble. Oh, and they brought Desi too. He's up in their room, supposedly."
"Desi?" the other keeper asked.
"Their ferret," Ray told him. "I got one of Xander's brood too. His Jedi's a fertile little girl."
"Hey, she only had three this time," Xander protested.
"We're getting the ferret fixed," Oz said firmly. His resolve melted as soon as Xander pouted at him. "Fine. One more ferret litter."
"Thank you," Xander said, hugging him and taking the opportunity to nip him on the ear. "I should give you a prezzie for being so nice."
The other keeper laughed. "I wish you two had signed up for the play session tomorrow night," he told Xander. "I'd like to see what you can do."
"He's giving a demonstration of his dancing," Ray offered. "There's still a few tickets left."
"No one knows what they'll be missing," Oz told him. "No one here's seen it live."
"Or seen it at all," Xander reminded him, giving him a kiss. "Thank you for letting me show off."
"Hey, anything for you, babe." Oz wrapped his arm around his mate's waist, smiling as the other keeper left to go check out the session. "You're being a tease," he whispered.
"That's what this is all about," Ray told him. "It's all a game of one-upmanship. I got the better keeper, or I've got the better perks. No one's played that with us yet."
"That's because I've got the best perks," Xander said, squeezing his Oz. "Can we go upstairs and prove it? Before we put on a floor show?"
"Sure," Oz agreed. His naughty little toy was back. He hadn't had this much sex with Xander in almost three years, since the last time he went into hyper-sexual mode. This would make the seventh time this day, and he *LOVED* it.
Ray smirked at their backs, looking around to find the others he knew. He headed over to where Blair was giving a small discourse on the beginnings of keeping sexual slaves, stopping him by giving him a heart-stopping kiss. Then he walked away to find his Methos. He needed some of what Xander was going to be getting soon.
TO BE CONTINUED