This Was Supposed To Be Fun?
Xander let Oz pull him away from the hands that were trying to grab him, rubbing a hand down one of his sore thighs. "I should have stretched earlier," he complained as they met up with security and were escorted up to their room adjoining rooms. "I sucked."
"No, you didn't," one of their escorts said, looking Oz over. "How do you handle him? The rest of the people downstairs I can tell it'd be easier to control, but how do you control this one?"
"It's not that hard," Oz told him. "He runs the house." He tipped their escort as soon as their door was open, letting one of them check the room before they walked in. He waved at them as he closed the door and locked it in as many ways as he could. He turned, leaning against the solid wood so he could look at his lover. "Trust me, Xan, you didn't suck. If you had sucked, security wouldn't have come running, and no one would have tried to jump you while you danced." He reached over to stroke his husband on the arm. "Want a bath?"
"Yeah," Xander said with a smile. "Or a shower, and then I want a massage at the little place we went to this morning. I need some work on my legs."
"Call them and see if someone can come up while I get the water started. We'll bathe, I want to hold you." He buzzed his husband's lips as he walked past him, heading for the small bathroom.
Xander got his usual dreamy look on his face as he watched his husband walk away to help pamper him. He shook himself and rummaged through the stuff on the dresser, trying to find the card from the spa they had visited this morning. He finally found it, cheering silently as he grabbed the phone and dialed it. "Hi, this is Xander Harris," he purred to the receptionist. "I know this is very short notice, but I just danced and my legs feel *nasty*. Is there any way I can get a masseuse to come visit me in my hotel room? Please?" he asked when she got quiet. He glanced at the clock on the built-in VCR, smiling. "Sure, two hours gives me just enough time to soak away most of the sweat with my honey. Room 615 of Sheraton Newton Hotel. Yeah, that's me. I was there this morning. Thank you." He hung up and danced into the bathroom, giving his Oz a hug. "Someone will be here in two hours," he said happily.
"I heard," Oz told him, getting free and sitting on the side of the tub. "We may have to leave early, you know that, right?"
"Oz, no one's going to kidnap me, not here. There's too many of us here for them to try."
"I was talking more along the lines of someone more professional." He held up the listening device he had found while he was searching for their bath salts. "I don't know who put this here, but I really don't want to go up against anyone this week."
"So we won't," Xander said calmly, taking the device to drop it in the sink and run water over it. "I'll go give it to Jack in a while," he told his husband, walking back over to cuddle him. "I promise, no one's taking me this week, Oz. Really. That'd be dumb." He looked at the water, smiling. "Is that really hot?"
"Yup, I have to adjust the temperature," Oz said, getting free to do so. "Go give that to Jack and Danny. I'll wait here."
Xander walked back to the sink and turned off the water, shaking off the bug so he could take it with him and not drip down the halls. He checked the hallway before he walked out, then jogged down the hall to where he knew Blair's room was. He tapped frantically, sliding inside as soon as Jack opened the door, pushing past the Colonel. "Hi. Here." He handed over the bug. "It was in our bathroom."
Jack looked at it. "It's not ours," he said, holding it up to the light. "Any idea why you might be bugged?"
"Xander's got a history of being kidnaped," Daniel said as he walked out of the bathroom. "So, how did it go?"
"Security escorted us up after I danced," Xander said happily. "Oz is now paranoid."
Someone opened the door, making Xander and Jack jump and move into defensive positions until they recognized Blair. "Hey," Blair said, turning around. "Man, you've got to be careful when you go down there." He noticed Xander and glared at him. "They think that you've taught us that."
"I tried to teach Ray, but he never took all the lessons," Xander said with a shrug. "I doubt Oz is going to want to go back downstairs tonight anyway." He pointed at the bug Jack was still holding. "We found that in our bathroom."
"Oh, man," Blair sighed, taking it to look at. "It's commercially available. Rafe had a few of these while we were together." He handed it back. "Any idea who wants you this time?"
"No, but he's listed as one of our civilian consultants," Daniel pointed out. "Xander, you did the right thing bringing this to us. We'll go have a talk with security. You go back to your room."
"I'll escort him," Jack said, tucking the bug into his pants pocket. He walked Xander down the hall, checking each person they came across visually. He delivered Xander to his door, tapping on it for him while the younger man checked his pocket for keys.
Oz threw open the door and sighed in relief. "I thought you had been taken already," he said, pulling Xander inside. "Jack, can you take care of that for us?"
"Sure," he said, waving as the door was shut in his face. "Always ready to be of service." He shrugged it off and went to go find someone on the security team. He rubbed his chest as he got onto the elevator, mentally damning himself for eating that spicy lunch.
Oz looked up as he felt someone walking toward them, one eyebrow going up. "Yes?" he asked the woman who sat down across from him. "I'm expecting my husband," he informed her.
"No, you're not." She opened her hand and blew some powder across his face. "Come," she ordered, standing up.
"I don't think so," Ray said from behind her. He had seen the powder trick. She took a swing at him and he backed up, right into her helper's hands. "Get off me!" he yelled, hoping to get some attention their way. "Oz! She did something to you!"
"Oh, really?" Xander said calmly, hands on his hips as he looked these two over. "Over your dead body are you taking my Oz," he said, looking her over again, his voice dripping ice. "Get away from my husband and you won't be dying." The helper took off into the crowd.
A few of the people at nearby tables got up and moved away, one of them saying something about a cat fight.
"I think he wants to come with me," she sneered. "After all, who would want to stay with *you*?"
"He did," Xander told her, moving his hand to show her the knife he had on his side. "Step away from my husband and Ray, and you won't be dying. I saw the powder you blew onto him and, while I don't know what it is, I'm more than ready to do something a little beyond average."
She snorted. "Really?"
"Really," he agreed, waving a hand at her, focusing his will on her. "Cresatas," he muttered as his hand finished the move.
"No," Ray said, getting free and moving Oz out of the way. He watched, but nothing happened. "Huh?" he asked his best friend. He slapped Oz a few times. "Speak up now, Oz, or Xander's gonna go primal on her," he hissed.
"Gee, nice shield," Xander noted, taking a step closer. "But there are still some things stronger than you."
"I haven't found one yet."
"Oh, but I have," Giles said from behind them. "Xander, move," he said calmly. He looked the woman over. "You're nothing but a harlot," he sneered. "A wimpy and pathetic one at that. Xander, go help Oz."
"No, I want her," Xander swore.
"No, come help me," Ray ordered, putting enough worry into his voice to make Xander come help him.
"You're like he is," she said, pointing at Oz. "You'll do just as well."
"No, neither of them will," a male voice said from behind her. She spun around and faced Methos, her eyes going wide. "Get out and I won't let Xander kill you, if you leave now. Otherwise, I'll help him skin you." She swallowed. "Yes, it is me, Tabitha, and you will leave these premises. I don't know what you do with the people you steal every year, but I will not have it anymore."
Her eyes got a little wider and she backed away from him. "This is not over, Adam."
"Addison," he corrected her absently, already turning to help with Oz. "Take him upstairs," he ordered Ray. "Giles, go with them." He watched as they went, then sighed and went to get a drink before anything else happened. His former assistant had gone bad and he had no idea why he hadn't done anything about it before.
Oz took a sharp breath as he came back to life. He grabbed the arm nearest him, glaring at the young man he saw. "Who killed me?" he asked Ray.
"It was the only way to clear the powder from your system," Ray said, getting free and handing over a glass of water before sitting beside him on the bed. "Meth's former assistant has been snatching people. She tried for you usin' some sorta mind-control powder. We've been tryin' for the last day and a half to get you out from under it. Meth finally stabbed ya to get ya outta it." He pointed at the knife on the tray beside the bed. "We had ta. Ya kept tryin' ta go to her."
"Thanks, Ray," Oz said, gripping his hand. "Where's Xander?"
"Downstairs with Danny. Jack had to be taken back to the base last night, something ta do with his health. Danny's helping him get back home."
"Good." Oz sat up, grimacing at the texture of his skin. "I need a washcloth."
"We've given ya three baths so far," Ray said, standing up and helping Oz up. "Come on, let's get you into the shower. I'll call down and get Xan back up here." He let Oz lock himself in the bathroom and went to the phone, making sure he kept an eye on the bathroom door. This wasn't the first time this had happened. Last time, Oz had made it all the way down to the lobby. "Hey, this is Ray..." He smiled. "Hey, Xan. He's up again. Nope, washin' off his face, like last time. Good. Yeah, come on up. We'll be here." He hung up and tapped on the bathroom door. "Hey, Oz? You okay in there?"
Inside the bathroom, Oz looked up from checking over the razor blade. "Fine," he called, taking the shiny blade to his arm. "Just fine," he told himself, watching the blood pour out of him. He didn't get to see Ray burst through the door with Xander, he was dead again.
Oz woke up again, this time groaning as he felt the ties binding him to the bed. "What's going on?" he sighed, trying all of his limbs. "Is this some sort of kidnapping?"
"We were wondering the same thing," Xander said from the corner. He stood up and walked over, looking down at his husband. "Do you still feel like you want to kill yourself or go running to her?"
Oz thought about the question, and he felt the burning inside him. "Yeah," he admitted. "What is this?"
"The powder she put on you is powerful. The hotel security people had one of the local hospitals check it for them. They said it's a control agent, meant to make you do her bidding."
"Like a fascination spell?"
"Only worse. This is the sixth time you've died and come back." He sat down on the bed beside his husband. "Each time, you're coming back a little more, but we don't want to keep trying to kill you."
"If you have to, do it," Oz told him. "It shouldn't still be working on me."
"It's got magic attached to it," Xander said calmly. "At least that's what Giles thinks." He reached up to touch Oz's hand. "I can't let you go, Oz, I'm sorry."
"S'okay, I understand that. I wouldn't let me go either. I'm probably violent enough to want to hurt you if you got in my way."
"You've tried that too," Xander said, giving him a weak smile. "But I understood it was the drugs." He stood up. "Let me get you some water." He turned around, going for the pitcher on the dresser. He watched in the mirror as Oz started to struggle against the bonds, and sighed. It wasn't this time either. He turned around with the glass of water and straw. "Stop it or you can't have any," he warned. He leaned against the counter, listening to the inhabitants of the other room, who were trying to sleep so they could do this later. "Stop struggling. You won't get free, and I can't let you go."
"Let me go," Oz hissed.
"Oz," Methos said as he walked into the room, "stop struggling. We need to get this out of your system." He looked at Xander, who looked about ready to cry. "Go curl up next to Giles, let me deal with this," he said, taking the cup and letting Xander get somewhere better for him. He walked over to the bed and sat beside his friend, letting him sip some of the water. "Oz, we can't keep killing you, you've got to fight this."
"It's a burning," he whispered, leaning up. "It won't stop." He bit Methos as soon as he got close enough, licking the blood off his lips when he was pushed away. "You won't win against her."
"Methos!" Giles yelled.
Methos jumped up and ran into the other room but Giles was alone in there. "What happened?"
"Xander, he went after her. He's going to challenge her for Oz."
"Killing her won't make it stop," Methos groaned, rubbing his face. "Try to stop him. I'll try to free Oz from her hold."
"No, let me work with Oz; she's using magic, maybe I can counter it." He climbed up off the floor, and headed into the next room to get this done right.
Methos grabbed his sword and jacket, heading out to go stop Xander. He stopped at the doorman. "Did my friend come by here? Dark hair, grimace?"
The doorman nodded, smiling and tipping his hat to the woman for whom he opened the door. "Got a cab and left. Said something about Bunker Hill and power." He shrugged. "All you guys are strange to me."
"Thank you," Methos said, slipping him a dollar tip before grabbing his own cab out of the waiting line. "Bunker Hill," he said.
"You gonna go meet that one guy?" he asked as he started the engine and pulled away from the curb.
"Yes, did he go somewhere else? It's very important that I stop him. He's quite irrational at the moment."
"Oh, we understand about that," the driver said, holding up his badge. "We're watching the hotel for Vice."
"Yes, well, someone dosed Xander's mate with a mind control agent, and he's gone to take it out on her."
"Ah. That we can stop." He picked up his radio and called in. "This is Barney. Stop the other guy. He's gonna go kill someone. It's *his* man that got the drugs." He put it down after an affirmative answer, going to where the voice on the other end called to say they were. "He really didn't take it?"
"She forced her way to our table and blew it in his face."
"Oh, man," the cabbie sighed. "That really sucks. The doc said that this would be permanent if it made it to his brain. Somethin' about changing chemicals. I don't understand that stuff."
"It appears it might be," Methos said, watching the city. "We haven't been able to stop him from trying to go to her yet."
"It's that strong?"
"Apparently it is. The sample we gave you came off his skin so it might have lost some of it's potency."
"You talk like a doctor. You licensed?"
"No, I did everything but my boards." Methos hopped out of the cab when he saw the other one stopped, running over to pull Xander out. "You can *not* go after her!" he shouted, shaking the younger man.
"She's not taking my Oz!" Xander yelled. "That bitch is gonna die and it's gonna be a horrible death!"
"Then let someone else do it for you," Methos ground out. "You will not go fight her...not when you're like this. You know better than to fight when you're this angry, you'll lose and she'll have you too."
"She didn't want me," Xander reminded him coldly.
"Is this what it's all about? That she tried to take Oz instead of you?" Methos asked, a calculated move to make Xander either break down or to lose it totally. And he got his wish. Xander pulled out his dagger and tried to stab him. "Stop it," he hissed, grabbing the blade before it could do any damage. "These are cops."
"Yay," Xander said. "He's mine! No one touches what's mine!"
"I've heard Oz say the exact same thing," Methos said dryly, pulling Xander in to hold him against his chest, letting him wear out his aggression by struggling to get free. "Let it go, young one; you're not going to be able to kill her."
"Oh, I don't know about that, I fought him and he was quite good," a female voice said from the alleyway.
"Amanda," Methos sighed, nodding her over. "Someone dosed Oz with a mind-control agent which we can't get him free from." He saw her glance at the two cops watching them. "I don't care," he sighed. "We've tried *every* thing to get Oz free."
"Oh." She shrugged. "So, let him go. I'm sure he'll rip her a new one."
"It's like a fascination spell," Xander said, looking defeated. "He's drawn to her. He's even tried to hurt himself over this stuff because he couldn't have her."
"Honey, he'll come back to you once it's cleared out of his system," she reminded him, ruffling his hair.
"It's been nearly three days," Methos told her. "And six times of coming back up only to want to get to her even more. The doctors that looked at it said that it's adjusted his biochemistry somehow."
"I'm still sure he'll come back." She shrugged. "Anyway, I was on my way to meet you at the convention, I wanted to talk to Daniel some more."
"He had to go home. Jack got very ill a few days back," Methos told her.
"You're welcome to come back and help us free Oz," Xander offered, looking desperate.
"Of course I will, sweetie." She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "I have nothing but respect for Oz. I'd hate to see you kill him when he goes for her the next time." She looped his arm through hers and winked at Methos. "Come on, I drove." She led him to her car, getting in and turning off the police band scanner. She helped Xander into the back seat, nodding at Methos to get in. "Come on, let's not leave him alone."
"Giles is there," Methos said as he got in. "He thinks that there's magic involved too." He buckled up, very aware that Amanda drove worse than Xander did when he was upset. "Do you know where?"
"Yes, I do, the Sheraton Newton Hotel," she said as she took off, peeling out of the alleyway and past the officers. "Now then, what really happened?"
"She sat down at the table and blew dust on him," Methos explained. "Then Ray tried to help Oz, but he got caught."
"Then I did, but she's got a very strong shield," Xander put in. "Then we took Oz upstairs and the security team came up to check on us, demanding that they take samples. So we let them to figure out what this was. And, after about six hours of Oz not getting better, we learned it was a mind-control agent, a powerful one that Giles said obviously had some magic attached to it."
"All right," Amanda said as she wove through traffic. "I can accept that, for now. Why haven't you tried to resurrect him?"
"We have, six times," Methos told her. "He's taking longer each time to come back."
"And what about sharing quickenings?"
"We're not sure that it won't corrupt the person giving it to him," Methos pointed out. "All we know is that Oz was so desperate to get to her that he slit his wrists one time. He seems to be getting more coherent, but he's also gotten more violent in his desire to get to her."
"Does this 'her' have a name?"
"It's Tabitha; she used to be my assistant with the GHS Council."
"Oh, dear," Amanda said, glancing at him. "Did she recognize you?"
"Yes, it scared her off, but she hasn't removed it from him yet." Methos grabbed the dashboard as she spun into the underground parking garage. Xander waved at the guard when she stopped, pulling out his room key and sticking his head out the window. "We had to go get something for my mate," he told the guy, tossing over a large bill. "For her parking." He slid back into the seat and Amanda took off again. "This'd be a lot more fun in a sports car," he told her.
"Yeah, but they draw attention to themselves." She found an empty spot and pulled in, watching as Xander shoved Methos out of the way to get out and run over to the elevator. "He's really that bad?" she asked the other immortal.
"Killing him hasn't lessened it, it's made him more psychotic to get to her." Methos got out, heading to follow Xander before he could get into more trouble. He found his friend holding a woman he knew all too well against a wall with his arm against her throat. "Ah, good, you found her," he said, pulling Xander off before she died. "We do need to talk to her, you know, to find out how to cure him."
Tabitha laughed. "You can't," she hissed. "The only way around it is death."
"Tried that, it didn't work," Xander told her, reaching down to grab her and tow her toward the elevator. "Coming, Amanda?" he called over his shoulder.
"Yes, wait for me," she called, locking the door she had been leaning against so she could run to ride up with them. "Is this her?" she asked, looking the woman over.
"Yes, and he *will* be mine."
"I say let him kill her," Amanda said with a shrug after looking at the woman. "I'm sure Oz is very distressed by all of this." They got off the elevator, walking past one of the security people, whom Xander waved at.
"You can have her in a few," he called as he dragged Tabitha down to their rooms so she could cure his Oz. Or she could suffer, and then she would cure his Oz. Her choice. He tapped on the door, handing her over to Giles. "Here, deal with the bitch," he said, letting her go so he could go over and look down at Oz. "Again?"
"He did it this time," Giles told him. "Do clean that up a bit...please? Before security comes to get her." He propped the woman up, looking her over. "You're not much of a sorceress, but you've apparently got some talent. Well, we'll just have to break you then, won't we?" He gave her his best cold, reptilian smile. "I'm sure we can find something to make you change your mind."
She shook her head. "There's no counter. I bought the spell." She licked her lips. "I'll tell you who I bought it from if you'd like, but I can't counter it. I don't know how." She started to cry as Amanda shoved Giles away and helped her into the adjoining room.
"We'll be back in a few," she told everyone. "Girl talk."
Xander looked up from his washing Oz's chest, nodding at her. "Hit her once for me so I don't have to." He gasped as Oz woke up and grabbed him by the throat, slapping at Giles. He didn't want to hurt Oz.
Methos pried Oz's fingers off Xander's throat and retied the limb. "There. Are you all right?" He checked the marks, sure they would bruise. "Go lie on the other bed," he ordered, pointing at it. He looked down at his best friend and shook his head. "We brought her to you," he told Oz. "But you will not be able to go to her yet."
"I ache," Oz hissed between clenched teeth. "I have to have her. I'm going to kill her, but I have to have her."
"In a few moments. She's having a talk with Amanda right now."
"Yes, wherever did you find her this time?"
"She had a scanner. She was coming to talk to Danny," Xander mumbled, curled up around a pillow.
Methos turned Oz's head, making him look at his husband. "This is what it's doing, Oz. You have to fight it a bit harder."
"She's got a chaos friend," Amanda said from the doorway. "She said you'd understand."
"Oh, I do," Giles said, pinching the bridge of his nose. "But then again, so do I." He picked up a phone and dialed a number he had searched out recently. It always paid to keep track of Ethan's whereabouts... just so the sorcerer couldn't surprise them again. "Ethan, it's me," he said, taking the phone into the bathroom to get some privacy. He leaned against the door, holding his forehead. "Someone put a chaos-based spell on Oz, in tandem with a mind-controlling drug. She said it was chaos based. I've tried *everything*, Ethan, and I can't even figure out what the spell is." There was a short pause while he listened. "Yes, well, I'll have plenty of time for that now, and I'll start as soon as we get home, but I don't know what to do about this particular spell. It's calling him to her side. Yes, that's the sort." He laughed. "Because I saved your life the last time," he pointed out. "I've given you a way to earn more power and learn foreign magics that no one down here can conquer or compete against. You do owe me, Ethan, and I'm calling in the marker now." He looked at the wall separating the bathroom from the sleeping area. "Because this is destroying Xander," he said quietly. "Yes, him. He's still fairly fragile and Oz can't help himself. He just tried to kill Xander so he could get free." He shook his head. "She didn't write the spell...she merely cast it. She said she bought it off someone." He sat up straighter. "Really? Will you? I'll buy you the tickets, Ethan, that's not a problem. I'll even get you a room for as long as you need for the spell. There's a few left in the hotel. The Sheraton Newton Hotel. About ten miles from the airport. Yes, a beautiful view, but more suburban than you enjoy." He smiled. "Thank you, Ethan. I'll have someone make the arrangements right now." He hung up and dialed the concierge's desk. "Hello, this is Rupert Giles, and I need to make an airline reservation for the earliest flight from Boulder, Colorado. I'd also like to arrange for our guest to have a room for a few days please?"
Out in the bedroom, Methos couldn't get Xander to uncurl himself so he left him alone, getting up to watch the security personnel take Tabitha away. "Is there any way we can be notified when she's arraigned? We'd like to make sure she doesn't get out on bail," he asked the security officer standing around, the supervisor as it happened.
"Yeah, we'll pass that on to the cops, I know most of them are pretty decent guys." He looked down at Oz. "He okay?"
"He's a heavy sleeper."
Oz chose that moment to come back and start struggling against the bonds. "Let me go!" he screamed. "I need her. I'm going to kill her,... but I need her!"
The Security officer looked at Methos. "There's an excellent hospital in town," he suggested lightly.
"I don't think it'll work. The police officer we ran into while we were looking for her said that it's altered his brain chemicals. There's nothing they can do about that."
"Are you staying?"
"Until a friend of ours comes to help us," Giles agreed as he walked out of the bathroom. "He should be here tonight." He put the phone down and came over to hug Xander. "It'll be fine. Ethan's agreed to come in and help him - mostly so he doesn't owe me any more - but he has agreed to help."
"Let him go, he's *mine*," Oz growled.
Methos steered the security officer from the room. "We're not letting him go yet," he said cheerfully. "And please, remind the officers to call us for her arraignment. We really would like to make sure that she won't hurt anyone else."
The security officer nodded. "Sure. We don't want her kind here. It's odd enough having you guys." He smiled and walked away.
Methos came back into the room and slammed the door. "Oz, shut up," he ordered coldly. "Xander, go rest in the other room." Xander shook his head. "Yes, go in there."
"Have a heart," Amanda said gently, laying a hand on his arm. "He needs to be near Oz, no matter what happens." She smiled at Xander. "Are you okay, honey?"
"I'm fine," he mumbled, rolling away so he didn't have to look at anyone.
Giles stood up and shook his head at Amanda. "I think we've about stretched his trust as far as we can for the day. Can we move Oz?"
"We can easily take his life again," she suggested. "Then move him so we're all safe." She looked in Giles' eyes. "Will whomever Ethan is be able to cure this?"
"He's our best chance," Giles sighed. "He's the strongest chaos person I know. He's also the only one that owes me his life at the moment."
"He's honorable enough to keep his promise?" she asked.
"Yes, he will. He knows I wouldn't call on him about this sort of thing without it being bad." He looked down at Oz, who was panting, trying to control what was left of the wolf. "How did he get infected with lycanthropy? Shouldn't the healing gifts taken care of the virus before we ever had to watch you change?"
"His quickening was too weak," Xander said softly. "He said his last attack had been three years before the bonding spell. He told me about that during that bout with the low quickening after our bonding spell."
"Right about his first senior year," Giles sighed, recognizing the significance. "Is there any way to heal that from him also?"
"Not if it's settled in," Amanda told him. "It's really rare that our quickenings leave us open to things but when it does, it's never fully cured."
"Which is why he doesn't change every month, but he does still have some of the stellar qualities of the wolf," Methos agreed dryly. "Good enough. Xander, are you sure you want to stay in here?"
"Yeah, I'm good," Xander mumbled, still staring at the wall.
"Mine. I want him!" Oz demanded, breaking the silence. "He's mine!"
"You may not hurt him again," Giles scolded. "You've...." He watched as Xander slid onto the bed beside Oz and laid his head on his husband's stomach. "Xander, it's not safe."
"It is. His bonds are tight enough, I'll be fine." He closed his eyes, listening to the heart that used to only beat for him. "Go rest, I can scream if he does anything." He waited until everyone was gone before sitting up and looking down at his mate. "Oz, I want to help. Is there anything you can think of?"
"I need her," Oz whispered, licking his dry lips. "I need her and I want to kill her."
"You can do that after you're better," Xander promised, patting the side of his face. "I love you. Remember that." He laid back down, very aware of the fact that he wasn't getting through to Oz anymore. He had to consider his options now, before they were all taken from him.
Ethan was let into the room and looked down at the bed, noticing the bruises on Xander's face. "What happened to him?"
"Oz got free about an hour ago, he did that before we could get in here," Giles told him, closing the door between the rooms. "Xander, you have to move," he said, pulling Xander up and moving him onto the other bed.
"Well, it certainly is bad," Ethan agreed, coming closer to Oz to look him over. "When did this happen?"
"Three days ago. He's died seven times and it's only made him more psychotic."
"I'd guess it would. It's cleared the fog but left the underlying commands." He opened his bag and handed it over. "Prepare a spell of seeing for me. I need to see the exact spell and the way it's mutated because of what he is."
"We've still got the tissue he first wiped his face with," Xander offered, curled up around the helpless pillow again. "It's in a plastic bag in the top right drawer."
Ethan gave him a predatory smile. "Good. What will you do if I fail?"
"Oh, I see," Ethan said, losing his smile. "Are you sure you want to do that?"
"Oz is my life, Ethan," Xander said, sitting up. "Even more so than Giles is, Oz is my life. He's my anchor to reality. You've got two chances, and that's it."
Ethan bowed to him. "Agreeable. Did you try to work anything on this chit of a sorceress?"
"She's got massive shields. The curse I tried to lay on her bounced off harmlessly." He looked at his hands. "Not that I'm the greatest, but it's always worked before."
"And I suspect that she's on guard for that sort of thing. Is she injured? I heard someone whispering downstairs about a woman who had been taken away by the police in bad shape."
"Oh, yeah," Xander agreed coldly, looking at Ethan. "She and I had a talk after she and Amanda did."
"The thief? Is she here?"
"In the next room, talking with Methos," Giles told him. "Xander, why don't you go shower? You do need one."
"In a few. I want to know what's going on."
"I won't keep you out of this," Ethan promised him. "You're the one with the most desire to see him cured, you'll end up part of the cure yourself. Do go shower though, it's a social nicety that's followed by most of the world."
Giles waited until Xander had locked the bathroom door before slapping him for the remark. "Leave him alone. He's got enough to think about with all this without you adding more to it."
"I was only suggesting he follow the normal rules of polite company," Ethan defended. "It's not my fault that he's been so wrapped up that he's let the boy harm him." He pointed at Oz. "Truth, what is this, Ripper?" he asked quietly.
"It's so far beyond a fascination spell I can't be sure," Giles sighed, leaning against the dresser. "We know that the drug she combined the spell with changed his brain chemistry. I can tell you that it's made him want her even more as time's gone by, but it's also made him more desirous of killing her at the same time."
"Can he handle that?"
"No, Oz has changed since he was young. He's a berserker, but he's not usually violent. I'm afraid he and Xander are going to have to rebuild some trust. No one's hit Xander that I know of."
"Faith choked him," Oz said, looking at Ethan. "Why is he here?"
"Because I can't cure the spell and it's his area of expertise."
"Very true," Ethan agreed with a smile. "Fucking someone royally is usually my fun, so Giles called upon me to fix you." He leaned down, looking into the bound man's eyes. "You really are down, aren't you?" He moved before the sharp teeth could get him. "None of that now. That's not polite." He took the lit candle from Giles' hand and moved it around Oz's head, starting the spell to contain him and bend him to his will. It wasn't often he got a subject like this, but it was nice not to have to fight the subject too much.
Ethan wiped the sweat from his brow, uncasting the circle he and Giles had been working in. "I've done what I can. I've loosened it, but it will be up to him to weaken it permanently." He looked at Xander. "I'm going to retire to my room now, but I'll come back in the morning to check on him." He stood up, bracing himself on a wall until he could feel his feet again, then stumbled from the room, heading down the hall to his own.
Giles looked up from his position on the floor. "Xander, we've done all we can; we need Oz to fight now." He stood up and stretched. "I'm for a shower. You'll talk to him?"
"Sure," Xander said. He waited until Giles was in the bathroom, then cast the locking spell he knew to keep him in there for as long as he needed. "Oz," he whispered, crawling up his husband's body so they were joined at the chest. "I know you can hear me."
"I'm not sane yet," Oz said, not opening his eyes. "Go to the other bed, Xander. The want's still too strong."
"You have to fight it now."
"It's hard," Oz whispered, opening his eyes. "I still want it, *so* much."
"Then let me help you, love," Xander said, pulling out the ceremonial dagger he had made while he had learned magic. "Let me help and we'll work on this together." He made a small slit on his husband's chest, earning a hiss, then one on his own. He joined them together as he leaned down to kiss Oz, using the research he had done on quickenings with Amanda to force everything he had gotten from Oz back to him. He kept their mouths clamped together when Oz tried to scream, muffling it in the passionate kiss. When Oz was down to panting in pain, he pulled back. "I will do anything to see you better," he whispered, his vision starting to blur.
"Giles!" Oz called, struggling with his bonds. "Help." The bathroom door started to rattle, but it wouldn't open until Xander was too weak to hold the spell. "He's sending back the quickenings we've given him," Oz said, trying to dislodge Xander before he sent back too much. "He's getting cold," he said frantically when Giles just watched them. "Get him off!" he ordered. "Methos! Ray!"
Methos ran into the room and immediately pulled Xander off, watching as Oz's chest started to heal but Xander's continued to bleed sluggishly. "Foolish idiot," he swore. "Ray, get my things. Now," he said when Ray didn't move.
"He's not breathin'," Ray pointed out.
"All the more reason for me to have my things," Methos demanded. Ray hurried to get the small medical kit Methos always carried with him, bringing it back and starting to spread stuff out so he could get to them. When it was clear Xander wasn't going to start breathing by himself, he started to do it for him, letting Methos handle the younger man's heart.
"He's done this before," Oz groaned, fighting with the energy that was coursing through his body.
"Did it work?" Giles asked, leaning down to wipe a tear off Oz's cheek. He got a nod and smiled. "Good. He'll want to know that when he wakes up."
"Shit," Methos swore, reaching for the syringe of adrenaline he wasn't supposed to have, injecting it straight into the heart muscle, then starting CPR. "Come on, get on with it already, Xander," he begged, ignoring the tearing feeling going on in his chest. "Please, come back."
"Let me," Oz said, trying to get one arm free. "I can give some of it back. It'll shock him."
"Good point," Ray said, reaching up to free one of Oz's arms. Methos slapped at his hand. "What? He's got extra right now and it should come from him!"
"It should come from both of us," Giles said as he stripped off his shirt. He picked up the knife and made a slit on his chest, moving Methos out of the way to send his quickening into Xander. He looked up at Ray. "Oz too."
"He doesn't have time for this," Methos said, taking the knife. "Just push it toward..."
"I know," Oz interrupted, moving Giles out of the way so he could send Xander's little bit of quickening back to him. He concentrated, sending all his energy back to Xander.
"What if he's still contaminated?" Ray asked Methos.
"Then we'll have to cure Xander as well," Methos sighed, watching it. He took the knife and cut his and Xander's hands, merging the cuts and sending his own quickening into the young man he loved. He frowned when Ray did it too, watching what he was doing. He saw the light blue flames passing between them and smiled. "Thank you, dear." Methos used his free hand to check for a pulse. "His heart's not beating," he announced.
Oz growled and glared down at his mate. "I'll be damned if you're leaving me yet," he hissed, sending his most powerful bolt into Xander, making him seize up. "Come on," he swore when Xander didn't open his eyes, sending another one. He saw his husband's eyes open and sent a third, making him yell. "Wake up!" he ordered. "Stupid, stubborn, pig-headed, sweet, nice, gentle," he sobbed, leaning down to hug him. "Come on, Xander, don't leave me this time. I need you."
Methos and Ray joined hands, completing a circle of energy. After a moment, Giles and Oz completed their own, the center that joined them was Xander's limp body. The two circles joined energies, switching energies between them. The room's lights flickered and went off, and the glow around the group was allowed to shine.
Xander gasped, opening his eyes. The first thing he saw was the glow, then he felt lips on his. The first set of lips were exchanged for another set. Then another set. After everyone had kissed him, he looked around. "Am I okay?" he whispered, not wanting to break this up. "I feel strange."
"You're in deep crap," Oz told him, giving him a smile. He caught sight of the bruises in the pale blue light and winced. "I'm sorry, Xander. I will never hurt you again." The glow flashed then settled down again. "I didn't want to hurt you then," the glow didn't flash, and Oz shook his head, "it wasn't what I really wanted, it was something I wasn't fully in control of. You were in my way and I couldn't stop myself." The glow did flash this time.
"Wow," Ray whispered. "A lie detector."
Methos squeezed Ray's hand. "Quickenings are very odd."
Xander looked up at them. "Hi."
"Hi," Ray said, giving him another kiss. He blinked as he came away. "I heard you that time."
"Of course you did," Methos sighed, letting go of Ray's hand. The glow didn't go away and the circles of energy didn't break.
"Um, Giles?" Ray asked.
"I have no idea," Giles said. "This is new to me."
"Amanda?" Oz called.
"What?" she called back, coming over to the door joining the two rooms. "Whoa," she said, watching the light show. "That's neat. How did we do this?"
"I'm not sure, but, if you come any closer, you'll undoubtedly be drawn into this too," Methos warned her. "Have you ever seen this?"
"I saw something of Darius' that suggested something like this," she admitted, "but personally? No. And I'm not sure I want to remember seeing this." She looked at Oz. "Is he better?"
"Yes," Oz said. "Xander fed me all of the energy we'd ever given him to break down the rest of the compulsion. Now I only want to kill her." He leaned down and took another kiss, then glared at his husband. "Not gonna happen. If I go near her, it's going to be to wring her neck, not to screw her. I'm not even going there. Not with anyone." He stole another kiss, then smiled. "I felt the same way for a while if you remember." Xander nodded, giving him a hopeful smile. "No, Xander, I'm not leaving you. There's nothing that's going to make me go away and leave you alone. I'll even sit beside you in the hospital this time." He and Giles broke their part of the circle but the energy only dipped a little bit.
Methos leaned over and kissed Oz, licking his lips afterwards. Then he kissed Xander. "Imp, of course I will. But it won't happen. You just heard Oz."
"I think he meant as an 'in case'," Oz clarified. Methos glared at him. "Hey, it could happen, and I would expect you to take care of Xander for me if something happens to me."
"Same as I would expect you to take care of Ray for me," Methos agreed.
"Does this mean we've got a five-way marriage thing goin' now?" Ray asked lightly.
Xander looked up at him and grinned. "If it does, wanna go to Miami with me to look at houses for the honeymoon? Just the two of us?"
"Sure," Ray agreed, leaning down to kiss him. Giles intercepted him first, giving him a kiss and a smile. "Thanks. Like you too, man." He grinned at Giles. "No offense and all, but you've got to loosen up some." He bent down and stole a kiss from Xander. "There, now it's official."
"Not yet," Oz protested, stealing a kiss from Ray. "Now it is."
"Not quite," Giles said, giving him a mock-pout. "I haven't gotten my requisite kisses." He kissed Methos, delicately probing his mouth. They hadn't shared a lot in the past, but, from the kiss he was getting, maybe that would change. Then he shared one with Xander, who bit him on the lip. He smiled down at him before taking one from Oz, plundering his mouth. "There, now I think we've all had one." He stepped back from the bed, trying to break the cycle of energy, but it followed him out there.
"Going to go do something interesting now," Amanda said quickly as she ran from the room before the energy could catch her too.
Xander felt something inside him snap and blinked as the energy lights went away and the sprinklers went on. "I think I'm better," he said, wiping the water out of his eyes.
"I bet," Methos grumped, gathering up his precious equipment before it could get drenched.
Security pounded on the door. "Is everything all right in there?"
"The lights started to smoke," Giles called. "Just a moment." He waited until Methos had removed everything, nodding at Ray to take the forgotten syringe with him, then went to open the door. "We saw a little bit of smoke, then heard a pop, then the water started to come down." He pushed his wet hair back. "I do hope we aren't going to get in trouble for this."
"Not at all," the security officer said, using a special key to turn off the water. He noticed Oz was untied and cuddling with Xander in the middle of the puddle that had been one of the beds. "He okay now?" he asked quietly.
"I'm fine," Oz called out. "The compulsion went away earlier tonight." He nipped Xander on the neck. "I am sorry about coming after you," he whispered. "I never wanted to hurt you; it was the feeling that you were blocking me from going to kill and fuck her."
"I understand," Xander said, patting him on the arm. He looked over as the security officer walked in, giving his bruises a curious look. "Oz broke the compulsion when he got a little violent. I'm fine."
"I'm sure you are," the officer said, trailing down Xander's wet chest to where the cut was healing. "And that?" he asked, noticing that Oz had one that was almost gone in about the same place.
"He was trying to cut me free and the knife slipped," Oz told him. He looked up into the concerned face. "I've never hurt Xander before and, when I hurt him this time, it broke everything that was wrong with me. He's not in any danger."
"All right. I can believe that. Seeing you guys for the last few days made me realize that I missed my ex." He smiled at Xander. "If you need us, call. And we were supposed to remind you five, if we had to come up here, that the banquet and award thing is tomorrow." He smiled at Oz. "You going?"
"I'd better be going, I'm starved," Oz complained.
"Room service is still available," the security officer said, checking his watch, "for about the next ten minutes. I'd call down there now." He waved and left, talking into his microphone as he closed the door.
"You three can come stay with us," Ray called. "Amanda's got her own room now."
"Good," Oz called back. "It's better than the new water bed." He got up, tugging Xander after him so they could go over and sleep in the other room's double bed together.
Xander walked into the head of security's office and closed the door behind him. "Hi, you yelled for me to come down and answer questions about the sprinklers?" he asked, doing his best to look innocent, but he couldn't lie that well. He turned as a TV behind him turned on, wincing as he heard the chanting, turning to watch the spell again. "That happened a long time before the sprinklers...." The tape was fast forwarded to when the quickenings got out of hand. He coughed and looked at the security supervisor, giving him a shrug. "The lights went out during that without us touching them, and I did hear a pop from them."
"We checked it while you were gone to breakfast," the security supervisor noted, putting his feet up on his desk. "We realize that the candle went out an hour or so before the sprinklers went off, but I would like to know what the light show was."
"An energy spell to finish healing Oz," Xander said quietly, checking to make sure the door was closed. "What she did to Oz could only be countered that way," he said quietly. "I'm sorry if we caused any damage and we'll gladly pay for it."
The officer waved a hand. "We can't prove what caused them to go off, and I can't show our insurance company that tape." He pushed a button on the remote and the tape popped out. "No more light shows please, Mr. Harris." He waved at the tape. "It's yours."
"Thanks," Xander said, taking the tape and tucking it into his shirt. "Was there anything else?"
"Is he better?"
"Yeah, he is, we all are," Xander said with a goofy grin.
"That's all that really matters then," the officer said, smiling at Xander's back but shaking his head. These strange people were getting stranger every year. Maybe he should recommend that they not be allowed back. "Nah, they're fun, and very hot when you watch the security cameras," he told himself, making notes on the form for the insurance company about the room.
Xander sat down when Oz pulled out his seat for him, giving him a brilliant smile. As soon as his husbands had sat down, he kissed them both. "Thanks for bringing me down, guys, I know you didn't want to come."
"Hey, I wanted to come, you're up for an award," Oz reminded him, taking his hand to hold. "And then we're going to go upstairs and do a full physical." He kissed the back of Xander's hand. "Aren't we?"
"Yes, Oz," Xander said, giving him a sideways look under his lashes.
"Don't tease in here," Giles reprimanded gently. "There's enough sexual energy in this room to fuel the East Coast. You're magnifying it." He smiled at Xander's pout. "Dear one, relax. We all know you are the most GHS in this room."
"We'll see," someone said from the next table over. "That is one of the awards being handed out." He looked Xander over. "Don't you have a *job*?"
"Yes, because I get bored," Xander told him, with a slightly chilly smile. "After all, there's only so much stuff a house can hold. So I sew my own clothes." He ran a hand over his silk pants. "And I make all our jewelry." He flashed his rings. "And I write sex manuals in my free time. It keeps him aroused all day. After all, life is meant to be enjoyed... all of it on all levels." He turned away from the keeper and smiled at his Oz. "I never have to worry about being bored with you around."
"That's good to know," Ray said as they sat down across from them. "So, are ya up for anything?"
"Biggest tease," Oz said proudly. "And there's a rumor he's up for GHS of the year."
"Wow." Ray sat down, grinning at Methos as he was pushed in. "Thanks, babe. Sit." He pushed the chair next to him out with his foot. "So, what's up for after this?"
"Full physical exams," Methos said as he sat down. "Then, maybe some fun." He smiled at Xander, still feeling a connection to him. "Then what are you going to do, imp?"
"I'm going to go to see Danny with Ray and hand him the prezzie I made. Henri sent it to me because I forgot it. I'll check on Jack while I'm there." He spread the napkin across his lap. "Then I'm kidnapping Ray and taking him to Miami with me to look at escape places."
"Good," Methos said, nodding. "I approve. Do try to stay out of trouble, the both of you if possible," he said, looking at his own lover. "I don't want a call from the police in the middle of the night asking me to come bail you out."
"Why would they?" Ray asked innocently. Xander mirrored his own innocent look.
The male of the other couple walking over to their table coughed. "Hello," the keeper said, pointing at the chairs. "Are those ours?"
"Yeah, you were separated, but we shifted so ya could be together," Ray said, nodding the young GHS member over. "Ray," he said, shaking her hand.
"Tiffany," she said quietly, not looking at him.
Xander looked at the keeper, one eyebrow going up.
"She's very new to the society. I think we shocked her," her keeper said. "I'm Bill." He pulled out her chair and helped her into it, then sat himself down. "When's dinner? I'm starved," he asked cheerfully.
"As soon as the speeches start," Methos said, making Ray wrinkle his nose. "This way you can ignore them," he explained with a reassuring pat. "So, Bill, how long have you been a member?"
"Just a few months," he said. "You?"
"Years," Methos said, giving him a faint smile. "It seems like I've been here since the organization began."
Oz snorted. "You? You're not *that* old." He looked at Xander. "He's been in now for almost fifteen years," he told Bill. "I've been his keeper for all but six months of it, and his husband for the last thirteen."
Bill smiled. "That's great! I heard that a lot of us ended up getting married to our keepers."
"It's nice to have someone who does the worrying for you," Xander told him. Bill looked at him, looking a little confused. "Most of the keepers here pay attention to the mundane matters, leaving us to explore life at their sides." He squeezed Giles' hand. "Mine have taught me things so I quit being so bored."
"Why were you bored?"
"Because I live in a big house with a lot of animals, and life never seemed to change. It was the same picnic, the same flowers, the same pool. I used to only get out to go shopping. Then Oz showed me I was good at something that I could take sensual pleasure from." He smoothed a hand down Oz's sleeve. "I make all our own clothes now."
"Except our jeans," Oz put in. "We buy those."
"And the leather stuff," Ray added.
"You know each other already?" Bill asked Ray.
"We live together," Methos told him. "Ray and Xander are best friends, as are Oz and I. We're between houses at the moment so we've been staying with them."
"Wow. Must be a big orgy in your house."
"Not with our ferrets," Oz said dryly. Bill looked shocked.
"They like to steal the toys," Xander explained. "We find them in all sorts of places, including in the fridge." He looked at Oz. "Did Henri ever give that one back?"
"No. She kept it to remind us how naughty we are."
"Henri can hold a great many things over your heads," Giles said, giving them a fond smile. "After all, there is the small matter of Xander trying to ambush Oz from under the desk and her coming in almost every time."
Xander grinned. "I know. I even tried to warn her once, but she must have forgotten." He shrugged. "It happens."
"Who's Henri? Another member that lives with you?"
"Our housekeeper," Oz told him. "She's like our grandmother. She's just coming back from a heart attack."
"Oh, is she all right?" Tiffany asked, looking at Oz.
"Very all right," he told her, giving her a smile. "We made sure she had the best care and are being diet nazis for her."
"That's good," Tiffany said, giving Xander a smile. "Aren't you the one who danced?"
"Yup," Xander said. "I learned that as part of my self-defense regimen. It gives me a whole different set of fighting styles to draw from."
"Do you need it?" Bill asked.
"He's been kidnaped," Oz told him. "We insisted he learn how to defend himself in case we weren't close enough to save him."
"I'm very proficient now," Xander told them. "I know how to use a sword too."
"Why?" Tiffany asked.
"Because I like them," Xander told her. "You should always find something that you like to do and enjoy doing it for a long time. That's why I started making jewelry."
"Wow." She looked at his hand. "Do you have any on you?"
He held out his ring hand. "I made the engagement part. All three of ours."
"And ours," Ray said, holding his and Methos' up.
She looked at each of them, tapping on Oz's middle stone. "Wow. You're good," she said, relaxing. "I thought most of us just laid around all day and ate bon-bons."
"Oh, we have days like that too," Giles told her. "But I'm a member and I run a resort, I take my pleasure from making others happy and peaceful." He squeezed Xander's hand. "He takes it from making presents and his writing, for the most part," he temporized when Xander opened his mouth. "He's having fits with one story right now."
"And I'm the keeper for both of them," Oz told Bill. "I got to confiscate the credit cards when the house started to get too full of stuff. I even showed Xander how to sew to give him something to do when he was bored."
"I'm sure that was something very important to him," Bill said. "I had the same idea that Tiffany did, that the most sensual among us didn't have jobs."
"Oh, I don't *need* to work," Xander said with a grin. "But I found something that gives me pleasure. Not only do I get to see the results of what I do, I get to give presents from what I do and make others happy."
"So you found a few levels of happiness that lying around wasn't giving you," Bill said thoughtfully. "I can see how that happens." He looked at Tiffany. "Did you want to explore something like that?"
"I might not mind," she said quietly, not looking at him.
"Hey, there's a *whole* lot of things that you can do and not get sweaty, dirty, or nasty from," Xander told her. "What do you like to do when you relax?"
"I like to read."
"Think about becoming a librarian," Oz told her. "The world could use more of those."
"It's not an easy job, and it has low satisfaction level," Giles told him. "I was one for four years," he sighed. "It was not as rewarding as I thought it might be."
"But she could work with little kids," Xander pointed out. "Lots of big libraries have people who just deal with the kid's section. Do the story hours and stuff."
"Yes, they do, and that would be more rewarding than working in a high school library," Giles agreed after a second's thought. "Tiffany, if you'd like, I can share some stories about my time working in a library."
"That'd be great," she said, giving him a shy smile. "Why do you run a resort now if you used to be a librarian?"
"Because a friend of ours left it to him," Xander said. "She married us, but she thought Giles had the best business sense of anyone she'd met in the last few years."
"I'm sorry," she said, her eyes getting big and watery. "I didn't mean to bring up bad memories."
"Hey, not bad memories," Oz told her, touching her on the hand.
"How long have you been feeling the emotions of others?" Giles asked quietly. Bill gave him a hard look. "I worked in that area my whole life," he told them. "There's a wonderful set of readings I can write out for you to help you learn control and the like; although I figure if you're strong enough a teacher will eventually find you."
"You believe in that stuff?" Bill snorted. "That's a fairy tale."
"No, I've seen fairy tales," Xander told him. "I've also seen someone start to get really bad headaches because of this gift. It about drove them nuts, not being able to distinguish between what they were feeling and what they were sucking in from a crowd." He looked at her. "I'd like you to meet my sister Elizabeth. She's about your age and she's starting college at UNLV this fall."
"Not an Ivy League?"
"She didn't want it," Oz told him dryly. "She's not about money, she's about her friends."
"And she could use some more," Xander told Tiffany. "She's pretty nice, but she's had a very sheltered upbringing by our adoptive family."
"No, I wasn't raised by them, unfortunately." Bill shook his head. "They adopted me but they never took me from my parents. It's a royal mess," he said lightly.
Oz poked him. "Bad pun."
"Sorry," Xander said, grinning at him.
"You're *royal*?" Bill asked.
"Not quite," Xander corrected. "My adoptive family liked what I could become, which is why they adopted me, but they wanted me to have a normal life." He gave them a gentle smile. "They're minor nobles, not major ones. Elizabeth was raised with them so she's got more of the formal upbringing, but she's been pretty isolated from other girls. I think she and Tiffany would be pretty good friends. If you're heading toward Vegas, call the resort where Giles is and he'll set up a meeting."
"Yes, the girls Elizabeth has been spending time with have not met my standards for friends," Giles complained lightly. "She's actually latched onto a dancer as a friend."
"They're nice people," Xander countered. "I'm not sure about this one. Elizabeth forgot to show up for our lunch, but I'm sure it'll be fine." He looked Bill over. "So, what do you do?"
"She takes care of me financially," Bill said.
"Ah," Oz said, nodding. "I've known some keepers that went that way. Most of them got bored eventually too."
"What do you do?" Bill asked.
"I'm a computer programmer."
"Oh." Bill looked around the room. "I didn't expect people like you here." He looked at Methos and Ray. "What do you two do?"
"I take college classes for fun," Methos said, patting Ray's hand. "He used to be a police officer. He had to quit though, someone's after him."
"Oh." Bill blinked a few times. "I really didn't expect people like you here."
"We're pretty average, except for the matter of having money," Oz told him. "The real GHS all have something that they like and do if they're outside of their twenties. You find out quickly that boredom is fatal to the lifestyle and the pleasure you find in it."
"And occasionally to the member themselves," Giles added. "There have been a number of us who have lost their lives in the pursuit of something to cure their boredom, or the next high as it's often called."
"Naked midnight bunji jumping," Methos agreed. Tiffany stared at him, looking shocked. "A few members about eight years ago started a group that enjoyed that. Within six months of leaving their instructors, one of them forgot her safety precautions and didn't check her rope thoroughly. It snapped." He sighed. "It put a damper on a few of the group, but the core is still doing it. I heard that they lost another member a few years ago from a broken harness."
"Intensely more brave than I am," Tiffany noted, smiling at him. "Are you the keeper or the member?"
"We're both members, but I'm also the keeper," Methos told her. "Ray's very good at forgetting to pay the bills so I took over that role in our relationship."
"Are you two married too?" she asked.
"Soon," Ray said, giving her a grin. "A few more weeks and we'll be that way."
"Ray, if you can't say the word," Methos started. Ray smacked him on the arm. "Yes, dear," he said, rolling his eyes.
"He's a sweetie, but he keeps trying to rationalize the marriage away."
"I thought we were already joined that way," Methos argued.
"Now there won't be a doubt," Ray told him.
"Yes, dear, I don't want you to have doubts," Methos said dryly.
"That's the same reason I made Oz marry me," Xander reminded Methos.
"Yes, but hopefully his wedding attire won't be a tease the way yours was," Methos said. "Tiffany, you should have seen it. It was this thin, silk-like material that was *barely* not transparent. There was more discussion about his outfit among his friends than there was about the wedding or what they would do for a honeymoon."
"We'd just gotten off one," Xander said sweetly. "My Oz took me on a trip for eighteen months," he told her. "We tramped all over Europe and parts of India and Japan."
"My, that was a nice trip," Bill said.
"I'd just gotten back from being kidnaped," Xander explained. "Oz was nice enough to take me wherever I wanted to go. It was a great trip. After every country, we ended up back in London to plan our next stop."
"Wow," Tiffany said, glancing at her keeper. "How do you afford that?"
"We all have money," Oz told her. "Xander came into an inheritance and so did I."
"I've got a small one of my own," Methos added. "Xander's by far the most wealthy of the three of us though."
"Yeah, but all mine's tied up into hard investments, things like jewels for my jewelry."
"Good point," Oz agreed. "And I was going to talk to you about that too." Xander looked at him. "You're going to have to sell some of it, Xan. We've got more jewelry around the house than most museums and jewelry stores."
"Xander, you have those horrid ruby pieces that you were given," Giles reminded him. "I, for one, would like you to get rid of the reminders that someone else was stalking you."
"Yes, dears," Xander sighed. "We'll go through that when we get home, okay?"
"That would be fine," Oz agreed, leaning over to give him a kiss. "I think we should let Amanda help us."
"Why?" Xander asked.
"Because she's got the best idea who to broker the pieces to," Giles told him. "It is her stock in trade."
"Point," Xander said, then he shook his head. "We'll discuss this later. Table conversations."
"Excuse me," the man up on the podium called, waving for everyone to pay attention. "Hi, it's time for the speeches, and dinner. Our first speaker is our new President, Muliah Stevens." Everyone clapped politely. "We'll turn this over to her now."
"Thank you," she said as she smoothly took his spot.
Xander started to tune her out, but frowned at the reference she was making. "Not all GHS live to lay around," he muttered, digging into the plate of chicken that appeared before him.
"I know," Methos said, reaching over to touch his arm, the only thing he could reach. "She's from the old school - the only real pleasure is the one that you don't have to work for."
Xander grinned at him. "I find that making someone a present gives me a lot more pleasure than a carton of ice cream."
"I like the prezzies too," Ray put in, grinning at Xander. "We've got to work on my wedding outfit."
"I said I'd marry you wearing jeans," Methos said dryly.
"Joke," Ray said, kissing him on the cheek.
"It's nice to see that some couples are very much couples," the woman on the stage said, smiling at them. It started to fall away when she saw who it was. "And it's nice to see that some of the new members are following the traditional paths of our beloved organization." She took another look at Ray and Methos, then quickly focused on some other table in the room. "In my reign, I hope to promote the old ways, the ones which say that manual labor is by far too common for us."
Xander snorted. "Some of us like our jobs, they make us happy," he called out. A murmur of agreement floated across the room.
"And what do you do that's *manual*?" she asked him.
"Well, let's see." He stood up. "I sew almost all of our clothes, giving them away as presents to my friends." He waved a hand at Ray and Methos. "I make our jewelry, by forging, not by bending and tapping, metal into the shape I want it in." He thought. "Oh, yeah, and I wrote the book that was being signed downstairs by my second husband." He smiled at Giles. "We were in a family emergency so I couldn't come down." He looked at her again. "All in all, I get more pleasure from what I give to others than I do sitting around waiting for my next shopping trip. After all, if I did nothing but sit on my butt on the couch, I'd be bored."
"Truly," an older man said, standing up, "most of the older members have found that real pleasure in life comes from finding something you're good at and enjoying the hell outta it, not just outta the rest of life. No matter how pretty a flower is, it's a flower. But something that we've made with our own hands to give to someone that we like and respect, and to give them joy, makes us just as happy as having a good massage."
"Oh, no," Xander countered, "there is nothing better than a *really* good massage. Not even the feeling of finding the *perfect* present for someone, one that'll make them dance around in joy." He smiled at the older man. "Do I know you?"
"Yes, young man, you do." He bowed to him. "I'll talk with you later, in private though." He looked at their president again. "There's more realms of pleasure than just laying there and watching everything, or being pampered and catered to." He sat down.
Xander sat down and gave Oz a kiss. "Want to come to Colorado with me?"
"No, I'm going to go interview the new housekeeper," Oz whispered, his lips still against Xander's. "Tell them I said hi."
"'Kay," Xander said happily. He snuck a kiss in on Giles too, earning a smile. "Thanks for doing the book signing thing for me."
"Anytime, dear one, you know that." He ruffled his lover's hair. "Will you be coming to Las Vegas with me?"
"Nope, we've got a flight tomorrow," Ray told him between bites. "Eat, guys, before the poor lady becomes more flustered. You just burst her happy bubble."
"Anyway," the speaker went on, ignoring the others. Who all ignored her.
Xander smiled at Tiffany. "Really, dear, there's two levels of GHS. There's the ones that enjoy the shallower pleasures, which are great, don't get me wrong, and there are those of us who have found a higher level of pleasure to go along with the great massages and pretty things."
"I'll remember that," she said, starting to eat her own dinner.
Ray and Oz shared a look and smiled at each other. "Ray, I expect you to keep Xander out of trouble," he told their friend. "No kidnaping attempts, no wild parties, and no fights."
"Yes, Oz," Ray said, still smirking. "And no drugs or famous people's parties either."
"Please, none of those either," Giles agreed, smiling at him. "We wouldn't want Xander to start to like the jet set life."
"I thought you three already lived it," Bill said.
"No, our trip to Europe and Asia was about twelve years ago. We take small trips now, a few weeks here, a month there."
"And Oz has agreed that I don't have to spend a vacation alone again," Xander said with a nod. "Last time, everyone decided I got into trouble."
"Only a little, Xander," Giles protested. "Though, it was most interesting seeing you in the paper with the Crown Princess."
"That was *you*?" Tiffany asked, eyes opened wide. "I knew I'd seen you before." She looked at Bill. "He's the one that the papers said was hanging out with Princess Carolyn, the one she couldn't cheer up."
"I was missing my Oz," Xander told her, reaching over to touch Oz's hand. "We were supposed to be taking separate vacations and I was miserable. She did try though, sent me a nice card after I got back and everything."
"Way cool," Tiffany sighed. "True love rears it's head and not even a princess can stand in it's way."
"Oh, she wasn't in the way," Oz told her. "She was thirteen. She just wanted him as a friend." He smiled at Xander. "Eat or no fun later."
"But you promised," Xander pointed out.
"That was contingent on you being a good little boy," Methos told him.
"I am being good," Xander said, turning one of his most powerful pouts on his former teacher.
Ray winced and looked away. "I'm stayin' outta this," he muttered.
Bill looked at Xander's face and started to look like he was going to cry for the boy. "Please, let him have some fun later. He's been mostly good. He even missed the orgy the second night."
"We don't swing," Oz said dryly. "More people don't need to be influenced by my mate's pout." He pinched Xander hard to make him quit picking on Methos. "Be good."
"Yes, dear," Xander sighed, giving Oz the pitiful look. "But he promised."
"You can have some fun later," Methos said begrudgingly. "Never pout at me like that again."
"I'll try," Xander said, going back to his usual impish looks.
Bill looked at Giles, then at Oz. "How do you keep him out of trouble?"
"We don't leave the house much," Giles told him. "It's better that way."
Bill nodded. "I can see that. No wonder he needed hobbies."
"Yeah, we all needed hobbies," Oz agreed. He dug into his second course, mumbling something around a bite of pasta, but his face made his meaning clear.
"Nasty?" Xander asked quietly.
"Tasteless," Oz grumbled, pushing his plate away. "No spices." Giles delicately took a bite of his own pasta and made the same face. "Yes, that was not what was billed as garlic pasta."
"They forgot the garlic?" Ray asked before taking a bite. He grabbed his water and swallowed most of the glass in one gulp. "Not in mine," he gasped.
Methos ate a bite of Ray's dish, then a bite off of Giles'. "They didn't stir the pot very well." He took a bite of his own and grabbed for his glass. "Hot peppers," he gasped.
Oz switched his and Methos' plate. "Thanks," he said before taking a bite, saluting him with the fork.
Ray switched off with Xander, and gratefully accepted the weaker flavor of the other man's pasta.
Giles smiled at them and picked up the salt shaker. It was enough of a spice for him.
Bill and Tiffany shook their heads and started to eat their pasta dishes. They too switched after a few moments, searching for flavor.
Xander relaxed as the awards were handed out. He had been told he was up for three categories. The first was about to come up but he wasn't nervous. That wasn't why he was clutching Oz's hand with his sweaty one.
"And now," the announcer said, smiling at the gathered people, "we present the first award. This one is for the most outrageous performance during the convention." A canned drum roll started as he opened the envelope. "And it's our naughty little dancer," he called, pointing at Xander. "Come on up, Harris," he said when Xander didn't jump up immediately.
"He's in shock," Oz yelled, nudging Xander to get him moving.
Xander hopped up and jogged up to the stage, hugging the announcer. "Thank you! I never won anything before." He waved the certificate.
"Hey, you deserved it," the announcer said, patting him on the back. "No one else started off an impromptu orgy, and nearly a riot." He patted Xander again, watching as he walked back to his table. He looked down at Oz and Giles. "Does he give lessons?" he joked.
"Only if you're flexible enough to bend over like he can," Ray sent back. The crowd laughed.
The announcer moved on to the next award, the winner of the annual pouting contest that Xander had missed.
Oz leaned over to lick Xander's cheek. "Good thing you missed some of the events; people would get mad if you won too many of them."
Xander chuckled. "I would have demanded that I be in my own class and that another winner be named," he whispered, stealing a kiss. "Oh, here comes another one I'm up for," he said happily.
Tiffany watched them with a dreamy look on her face. "I want what they have," she told Ray, having switched seats with Bill so she could talk with him.
"Yeah, but what they have is hard to maintain," Ray warned her. "It's a lot of talking and telling everyone that you're not feeling right about something." He patted her on the shoulder. "But I hope ya find it."
"Oh," Xander said, blinking as another award was handed out. "I thought I was up for that one."
"That one was from a contest," Ray told him. "The next one's the freeform contest, which you qualify for. You should be listenin', not necking."
Xander stuck his tongue out at Ray, and just then a spotlight hit them. "I won?" he asked the silent room.
"Yup, you won again. No one else could write something that made everyone so hot."
Xander jumped up and went to get his award, hugging the guy this time and then going back to sit in Oz's lap and gloat.
Ray shook his head. "Don't encourage him," he called out, aware that everyone was now watching Oz and Xander kiss. "He doesn't need more material for the next book."
The announcer tugged on his collar. "I bet," he said, picking up the next envelope so he could move on. He waved at the spotlight person, catching his attention and getting the spotlight off the couple.
Methos came back from the bathroom and shook his head at the floor show. "Boys," he sighed as he sat down. "Everyone's watching and, while that might not bother you, it's setting a bad precedent for next year's convention. Someone will have to top this."
Giles patted Methos on the arm. "It won't work, they're too involved in what they're doing. I can never get those two apart when I need one of them for something."
Ray picked up his glass and wet his fingers, then reached over and stuck them in Xander's ear.
"Hey!" Xander complained, batting the hand. "I'm being happy and good."
"And putting on a floor show," Methos pointed out.
"Quiet," Oz groaned, pulling Xander's head back down. Within a few minutes, his groaning picked up and he came with a very loud groan, one that interrupted the announcement of another award.
The crowd clapped.
"Wow, just from kissing?" Tiffany asked. She pouted at Bill. "When do I get to learn that?"
"Hey, if you can get him to teach you," Bill told her, "go for it." He nodded as Oz pulled away, panting. "Very nice technique. You give lessons?"
"Nope, it's all in the next book," Xander told him, giving him a grin as he laid his head on Oz's shoulder. "Oz, finish it?" he whispered. "Before you suffer later?"
"Oh, I plan on suffering later," Oz told him, gripping the firm cheeks tightly. "I plan on using your stamina against you. That was just foreplay, babe."
Xander kissed the side of Oz's neck. "Good." He grinned at Ray, who was watching the stage instead of them. "What?" he asked.
"You're an exhibitionist. If I was still workin', I'd have to arrest ya and then keep everyone in the cells off you two."
"Putting them together would probably be a very bad idea," Giles told him.
"I know. It woulda been a bitch of a job."
Xander's head came up as he heard the award that was coming up, the last one of the evening. The GHS of the year. "I might be up for that," he whispered.
"Then we'll celebrate if you win it. And we'll boo if you don't," Oz told him, stealing another kiss. "I'm messy."
"Good," Xander said, giving him a naughty grin. "I like you messy." He turned around, letting Oz wrap his arms around his waist. "I like this. You're a comfy chair."
"Let me up and you can have the chair while I get cleaned up," Oz offered.
"Nope, I'm comfy."
"Oh, you're gonna suffer tonight," Ray hissed, grinning at Oz. "He's got it in for you now."
"I know," Oz sighed, stroking over Xander's stomach. "I've lived through it before, I will this time. Even if you guys don't get any sleep tonight."
Methos snorted. "We brought a white-noise generator. We'll sleep just fine. I'll even be nice and let you nap on the plane ride tomorrow." He turned his attention toward the stage as the drumroll started.
"As GHS of the year, it will be the winner's duty," the announcer said, "to put forward a good image of what it means to be GHS. Including the ability to be pampered to distraction." He glanced at Xander. "And the ability to be the most pampered pet of your keeper."
Xander sighed. "I didn't win."
"It's okay. You're one of the best GHS in here," Giles told him. "You just proved it."
"Yeah, I guess I did," Xander said happily, clapping for the man who won the award. He even whistled when the man picked up the announcer and twirled him around. "I'm happy for him," he told Oz, giving him one last kiss. "Now you can escape," he said with a grin as he got up and let his husband go clean himself up, after a second following him to help.
Giles shook his head, picking up his champagne glass to propose a toast. "To Xander, may he never change."
"Here, here," Methos agreed.
"Not that it's likely," Ray agreed, finishing and taking the first sip. "Eww." He put his glass down. "Cheap and warm."
Methos took a delicate sip. "I agree," he sighed. He checked his watch. "Shall we run out and see if any of the local shops are open?"
"Sure," Ray agreed, standing up and grabbing his jacket, checking his wallet. "Coming, Giles?"
"Yes, I do anticipate doing that later," he joked as he followed them out of the ballroom, taking Xander's awards with him.
Tiffany sighed, giving her keeper a 'help me' look. "Can we go do that too?"
"Sure," he agreed happily. After all, this was why he was a keeper. He hurried her out of the ballroom and up to their room.
Xander and Oz came back together and looked around the table. "We've been deserted," he whined.
"So? That means I get first taste of you in the room," Oz told him, taking his husband's hand so he could tow him upstairs. Not that Xander was unwilling, but it felt good to be the dominant one for a few minutes.
TO BE CONTINUED...