The Plan

Xander picked up the review for his first book and read it out loud. This had become their new method of reinforcing Xander's opinion that he was a great writer. "A story that's not very complex, but that's gripping, with characters that you really want to hate and take a bath in bleach after reading about them, but make you feel sorry for them by the end." He picked up the next review in the pile that Ray had found for him. "Characters so slimy, they're real." He hummed and put that one aside. "A mesmerizing story that makes you want to shoot the character and then cuddle them to make it all better, but only after you put a whole-body prophylactic on them." He laughed at that one. "Guess he'll really like the second one then, huh?" He picked up the last one of the day. "A story so intense that..." He cleared his throat. "That you want to rub someone raw and make the characters bleed from the ears at the same time. A study in the lowlifes that surround people but also the things that make them tick. Done so well that even this jaded reviewer, who hates people who aren't like him, can sometimes feel sorry for the sickos. An arousing tale that makes you cringe even as you want to masturbate, and makes you want to kill the bastard, but to get him help and understanding while you do so. A very novel read from an excellent new author." He put that one down too. "Wow. I wonder what he'd say if he knew I wasn't exactly a new author."

"Writing sex manuals isn't exactly in line with writing a novel," Ray pointed out, buttering his muffin. "Any more hate mail?" Xander nodded. "Did you turn it over too?" He got another nod. "Good. Hopefully, they'll add publicity to this one and you'll sell a whole lot so we won't have to wait a year for the second book to come out."

Oz groaned. "Don't get him started, he's already working on the third one." He looked at his husband. "Weren't you the one who said you'd probably only ever write in fantasy?"

Xander grinned. "Yeah, and then I got stuck in that one story."

"How many more stories do you have on your computer?" Methos asked.

"A few," Oz said dryly. "He writes whenever he's bored and not sewing or shopping." He slid a piece of bacon down to the begging Humphrey at his feet. "Here, eat this, not my pant's leg." The hell-hound/Great Dane snatched it from his hand and gobbled it with a lot of noise. "Gee, thanks for leaving the fingers," Oz said, checking them over to make sure they were all right.

"How many more is a few?" Methos asked Xander, making the younger man look at him. "How many more should I be prepared to work over for you?"

Xander grinned. "None. Most of them are started but not finished."

"Most?" Ray asked.

"Yeah, there might be one that needs to be finished, but not really any that I can work on."

"May I read them?" Methos asked gently, knowing how Xander hated to show anyone a work in progress because he never got those ones finished. "I promise not to do more than to check them over and scan them for an interesting plot line."

Xander patted him on the hand. "Don't worry, all those are pretty well screwed. I can't seem to get past the point where they are." He shrugged. "I'll get you into the password protected files after breakfast."

"Thank you, Xander, it's a great honor to be your editor." He smiled at his Ray. "You didn't have much to do today, did you?"

"Nah, not a whole lot. Just helping Xander decorate the new place."

"Good. Then you'll do that in Oz's office while I go over the other stories, and Oz can play with the animals today."

"Or Oz can help D'Nalia and Henri work on cleaning up the mess that is the animal room," Oz noted. "Which he'd rather do than just playing with the animals."

"I cleaned it last week," Xander pouted. "It shouldn't be dirty yet."

"It is. Apparently we have a hairball monster and a shedding beast." He shrugged. "No big, I can help them do that. There's not much else they've got to do today anyway."

"Maybe the twins'll come back," Ray said happily. "They liked you almost as much as they liked the ferrets."

"Yeah, they were neat little guys," Oz said, "but I'm very glad that I'm not a daddy and never will be one."

"But you're a daddy to all the animals," Xander pointed out with a naughty grin.

"Yes, and I'm going to stay a daddy to only our animals," Oz reminded him, waving his fork around. "We're not adopting real children, Xander;, the furry ones are quite enough."

"Yes, dear," Xander said meekly, shooting Methos his naughtiest grin. "Of course we won't. We wouldn't want to make sure a kid got through college or anything, right?"

"Xander," Oz warned. "No."

"I was thinking about sometime in the future, when financial aid finally breaks down and no one but the really rich can afford to go to college and become someone. Maybe something like an anonymous scholarship?"

"I'll think about it," Oz groused. It was a really good and decent idea, but he didn't want the publicity.

"To which school, Xander?" Methos asked. "There's thousands of schools across the country."

"I don't know. The idea just came to me earlier this morning when I was thinking about how I needed to give back to the community." He looked down at his plate. "Besides making a lot of people horny, I haven't given much back to Sunnydale."

"And keeping it safe," Oz added for him.

"And that, but no one really cares about that in this town," Xander sighed. "It's not like I'm making a difference. No one knows and no one cares what the keystone is doing, or even what we used to do. People around here ignore that until it bites them on the ass and then they complain."

"Yeah, but it's still important."

"Yes, but I'd like to have someone know that I was the one who made the difference sometimes, you know? Maybe even say 'thanks' or 'you saved me' or even how about 'gee, that was a nice thing you did'. All I get now are surly and suspicious looks from everyone. Even when I'm wearing the illusion Willow made for me."

"It sucks," Oz agreed, reaching over to touch him, "but you knew that you'd never be able to live in the limelight that way when we took up together."

"Not the issue," Xander told him dryly. "Oz, when you save someone, they say thank you, right?" Oz nodded, starting to get the picture. "I stopped a mugger the other day and I got given dirty looks for it."

"Oh, man," Ray complained, "that's not right."

"No, it's not right, but that's human nature. It's the same thing that Xander's feeling at the moment." He smiled at his former student. "I do understand the need for recognition, Xander, but there's only so much you can do before you hit the spotlight, which could very well endanger us all."

"But I don't want the spotlight, I just want one person to thank me for being good and doing the good stuff," Xander whined.

"Yeah, I felt like that as a cop all the time," Ray told him, giving him a smile. "And then, someday, someone'll yell at you for doing something good, and you'll scream back, and you'll end up on susp...I mean grounded to the house."

Methos looked over at his husband. "You were suspended for that?"

"My former boss thought I needed some time to cool down and regroup, or go get drunk and forget about it," he said with a shrug. "It's all part of being a hero. You never get the thanks you deserve and no one cares that you're doin' the job until someone gets hurt and you were busy elsewhere."

"Especially if you were saving someone else at the time," Methos reminded him.

"Yeah, can't forget about that part," Ray sighed. "Anyway, Xander, it's not all it's cracked up to be, but you'd be miserable if you didn't do it."

"Maybe," Xander sighed. "But it still sucks. A lady even tried to hit me when I knocked down the mugger and handed the other old lady her purse back."

"Did you tell the cops?" Ray asked.

"Yup, and he just grinned and told me that's the way life was with little old ladies around." He shuddered. "I'm *so* glad I won't have to deal with her again, she's always hated me."


"Probably the lady who died yesterday," Oz told him. "It was in the papers. She was never nice to any of us that she saw in the school system when she was the junior high's librarian."

"She was never a happy woman, unless we had really big fines to pay," Xander agreed.

"And she tried to clobber ya for giving back a purse?"

"Yup," Xander said, starting to feel a little better now.

"Xander, did you know that there were people who wanted to skin you alive and prove that you're a demon?" Henri asked as she walked in.

"Yeah," he sighed. "I have my very own hate group. What did you get?"

"Just a chain letter saying that you were a sick, perverted man, and that we should continue to force you out of writing, to try to prevent you from contaminating our young." She handed over the printed letter. "Here, I thought you might like this one," she said with a smile. "I wrote back and told the person who sent this exactly what I thought of this sort of tactic and exactly what I thought about you as an author. Though, I did pick up your latest book," she said with a disapproving frown, "and I was quite shocked by the content."

"You could have had one of our comp copies," Oz told her.

"I got it out of the library. They've got it marked so only adults can take it out." She smiled at the men. "Don't worry, I wasn't *that* shocked. I figure you probably know someone like that."

"Want to read the second one now?" Oz asked her. "We've got a preliminary copy around here somewhere."

"Let me finish the first one first, Oz." She patted Xander on the shoulder. "Don't worry, Xander, they'll have to go away someday, they'll die."

"Point," Xander agreed, "but by then I'll have to quit writing for a while anyway."

"No, you'll have to quit *publishing*," Ray told him. "You never have to quit writing."

"Though, there was once a writer that worked with their child, sharing writing duties and a pen name," Methos noted. "Then the child started to work with their child as the mother retired, keeping the same pen name."

"An immie?" Ray asked.

"No, not at all. I met them when it was all three at once at a convention. Quite fascinating and really a good idea as they all wrote so similarly."

"And what a way to keep a contract too," Oz agreed.

"Yeah, but I don't have a child that I can do that with," Xander pointed out, ending the discussion. "Henri, Oz said he's going to be helping you clean up the animal room today."

"That would be fine, Xander," she said, giving him a bright smile. "Better him than me to run the vacuum over those gyms. I really don't feel like stretching all that much today."

"I'll do the gyms if you'll do the floor," Oz offered. She nodded so he waved a hand at the empty chair. "Breakfast?"

"No thank you, Oz, I've already eaten," she said with a smile. "Though, technically, it's closer to lunch." She went to put up her things and check the kitchen to make sure no one had left a mess.

Oz started eating again, needing to hurry. Henri wouldn't wait for him to finish before she tackled the room.


Methos looked over the file directory for Xander's stories, frowning at the number in the completed section. He had had to hack into the file directory to get here, but that was all right because Xander had another three books already in there. He opened the first one, frowning at the new password box that popped up. He tried the same password but it didn't work, and neither did any of the others he tried. On the last one, the computer locked up and refused to let him do anything so he had to restart it and start the process all over again.

Xander leaned in the doorway. "Problems?" he asked quietly.

"Yes, what's the password for those completed stories?" Methos asked, leaning back on the couch and getting comfortable. Xander just stared at him. "You did say I could read them."

"Not those."

"You know I'll get into them sometime."

"Maybe," Xander said as he walked in, "but maybe not. I didn't want anyone to read those, Methos, not even you," he noted. "Leave them alone."

"Xander," Methos started.

"No. Please leave them alone."

"All right, I'll leave them alone," Methos sighed. "What are they?"

"Just something I was doodling out a few months back."

"Are they disturbing for you?" Xander shook his head. "Then why not let me read them?"

"Because they're private and I'd like to keep them that way. And I'm going to move them tonight so you won't be able to read them. Don't try, okay?" He walked away, heading to go shop online.

Methos shook his head and looked down at the computer, which was asking for a password. "What was the main one again?" he muttered as he tried to get into Windows.

Methos tapped the CD he had burnt against his thigh before slipping it into it's new case and heading up to his room. He would break the encryption and then he'd see what Xander was hiding from everyone. With his luck, it'd be something so dirty that he'd never get out of bed. He hid the CD in a spot where not even Ray would find it, and then went to take a shower. What he had been allowed to read had turned him on and he really needed to do something about this before Ray got the wrong idea and jumped him. He wasn't really in the mood for sex today, at least not yet. It was too early in the afternoon.


Xander checked on his laptop and sighed when he saw the message that told him someone had copied a story off it. Willow had gifted him with that program when she learned he was writing professionally, ...mostly so he'd know if anyone had stolen another story off his computer. He knew who had done it, and he was going to kill them for it, but he needed to calm down first. The only person who might know the password to those files was Willow, and Methos wouldn't be calling her for help. He wasn't like that. Now all he had to do was go find the CD. He got up and headed up to the other couple's room, tapping on the door as he walked in. "Hey, Ray, where would Methos hide a CD?"

Ray pointed at the closet. "In there, his side, I'm not allowed to search it for presents and stuff. Why?"

"He copied something off my computer that I didn't want him to read." Xander headed for the closet.

"Well, you did say he could check out your works," Ray reminded him. He got up and stopped Xander, giving him a hug. "I'm sure he'll love these too. This is just lack of self- confidence in your writing."

Xander got free and shook his head. "It's not a story, Ray, and no one's reading it. This isn't self- confidence; this is called protection." He went into the closet and found the CD fairly quickly, bringing it out. He waved it as he headed down to Oz's office; he had an eraser down there. He stuck the CD into the machine and smiled at the warning beep, clicking to erase it. He looked up as Methos cleared his throat. "Never take anything off my computer again, Methos, I didn't? want you to read that and I expect some respect in that area." He took out the blank CD and handed it over as he walked past the older man, going to his writing room and slamming the door.

Methos winced. He had screwed up, did Xander know? He shrugged it off and went to talk to the young man. He found the door locked and sighed. "Fine, I'll apologize later," he told himself, going to talk to Oz. After all, Oz took care of the computer for Xander.


"Leave it alone," Oz warned him quietly. "It's not a story. That's the only password protected section he has on the harddrive, so he stuck it there. No one's allowed in those files."

"And you don't worry about that?"

"Nope." Oz looked up at his best friend. "Even Xander needs things that are private. Personally, I think it's a diary entry about some of the bad things that have happened to him. Don't do it again. Xander will never forgive you for breaching his privacy that way." He stood up, trying the bag of dirty litter as he walked past his friend. "Unless you and Ray want to take a sudden and very long holiday, I'd never try it again," he warned.

Methos sighed. That was not the answer he expected. Oz didn't like it when Xander kept things from him either. He headed to go try and talk to the young man again, hoping that this time the door would at least be unlocked. It was, and open again too. He walked in and sat down on the couch, waiting for Xander to acknowledge him.

"Works better when you say something," Xander noted, not looking up.

"I'm sorry I invaded your privacy, Xander. I had no idea that those weren't stories that you were wary of showing off."

"Next time don't go looking for stuff," Xander said simply. "You had to have gone looking to find them." He did look up then. "And break two more passwords. Never do it again, Methos, or leave and never come back."

Methos shuddered at the cold tone in his friend's voice. "I'm sorry, Xander. I had no idea that this was such a big thing for you. I'll never do it again."

"Thank you. Anything else?"

Methos sighed and got up, giving him a hug. "I'm sorry, imp. I really am."

"It's all good then," Xander agreed. He gave him a light smile, but not his usual warm and welcoming one. "Go rest, it's okay. I'm not mad at you anymore."

"Thank you." Methos walked out, knowing he had just done one of the stupidest things in his life. He would be paying for this for years. He flopped down on his bed and stared up at the ceiling, considering his options at the moment. He could take Ray and leave on another short vacation, hoping that Xander would have really forgiven him by the time he got back.

"Methos!" Oz said from the doorway.

"Yes?" he asked quietly, turning his head to look at his best friend.

"What did you do to Xander? He's really upset." He walked in and sat on the end of the bed. "Of the not talking to anyone sort of upset. He just went out to pound on something at his forge."

"I apologized for trying to read those three things," he told him.

"Oh." Oz frowned. "And he got upset because you apologized?"

"No, he said he forgave me, but he was still chilly towards me."

"You know Xander doesn't trust that easily," Oz reminded him. "You broke it majorly when you took that CD."

"I know." Methos stared at the ceiling again. "It could be that my wanting to read it has brought back the memories that are contained in those files," he noted. "Either that or he's really pissed at me, take your pick."

"I'm hoping it's the first, because I'd hate to see you leave," Oz said as he stood up and walked out.

"Me too," Methos sighed, his heart starting to hurt. This was the second most important relationship in his life, and he had just messed it up very badly.


Xander walked into Methos' room and slammed the door. "What did you say to Oz?"

"Just that I had apologized." He sat up and looked at his favorite student. "Xander, he asked why I had upset you and I told him I had apologized. And that I surmised that you pounding your frustration out on the forge was about what was contained in those files." He shrugged. "Other than that, I haven't said anything to Oz." He stood up. "If you want me to leave, tell me so, Xander. Don't take it out on Oz."

"Shut up!" Xander shrieked, coming over and pushing him back onto the bed. "Don't you even *think* about leaving me! You selfish bastard."

Methos stared at him in shock, then jumped up and hugged the young man. "I'm sorry, Xander, I didn't mean to upset you further, ...just to give you a way out if you needed it." The young man sniffed and clung to him. "I was right, it contains bad memories, doesn't it, little one?" he asked, calming Xander down by laying them both down and holding him. He got a nod and sighed. "I'm sorry, Xander, I had no intention of bringing it all back by my enormous nose getting in the way."

Xander snorted at that. "It's okay."

"It's not. You're upset with me over it, and you need to get that out. Before you start having nightmares about the incidences in those files."

Xander shook his head. "I have them anyway," he admitted.

"I see. Would you like to talk about them? Purely to get the healing started," he amended when Xander glared at him.

"No, I have someone I can talk about things like that with," he admitted.

"For how long?"

"Few years now. Well, he's not here anymore, but I can still talk to him." He shivered a little and Methos pulled a blanket up over them both. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, Xander. Remember, you're the second most important person in my life, right after Ray. I'd do anything to help you or make you feel better, especially when I caused the problem." He wrapped the young man tighter in his arms. "Just relax, Xander, I'm not moving and neither are you for a little while."

"Okay," Xander said quietly, relaxing and letting himself calm down. "You're really good at this stuff," he eventually whispered.

"After being alive for five thousand years and spending at least a thousand of that as the biggest bastard on the planet, I should hope so."

"They were bigger bastards than you were," Oz said from the doorway. "Or at least Kronos was." He walked in and snuggled in on Xander's other side. "You okay now?"

"I'm better," Xander agreed. "Seeing those files brought back all the horrible stuff, making me think about them."

"Ah, so you were locking them away that way so you didn't have to think about them," Oz said, tapping Methos on the shoulder and giving him a glare. "And when someone opened them...."

"I never opened them, Oz, I tried because I thought that they were other stories that he was being shy about, but I never got them open"

"Oh." Oz shrugged. "Sorry."

"It's all right. It's good that you love him so much that you'd protect him from everything. It's something I'd like to aspire to with my Ray."

"Sometimes I don't need protected," Xander noted. "Just comforted." Both men squeezed him. "Thanks." He closed his eyes again. "Can we nap now?"

"Of course."


"Thanks." Xander settled in and started a short nap, needing one now. He trusted Oz not to kick Methos out, and Methos to not make Oz more upset.

Oz and Methos shared a look, then they both nodded. They'd talk later about what to do with this new information.


Xander woke up next to Ray, and snuggled in for a few minutes. "Where's the old guys?"

"Downstairs cooking." Ray pushed Xander's head up. "Is Meth in trouble?" He got a head shake and a shy smile. "Good. Now, what's this all about? Besides the master of prying?"

"Those files weren't stories, they're how I deal with some of the bad things that've happened to me," Xander said quietly. "I don't want anyone to read them."

"Then we won't," Ray agreed. "Did he apologize? 'Cause I'll go beat him for ya if you need me to."

"No, he apologized but the thoughts keep coming back and swirling around in my head. It's like toilet bowl head."

"I can understand that," Ray told him, letting Xander rest on him again. "Need to talk about it?"

"No thanks. I have somewhere I can go do that."

"Okay. As long as you know that we're all here for you to do that to."

Xander nodded and started to relax. Everyone around him loved him; they wouldn't let him go too far with these thoughts. "Maybe I'll go there tonight."

"Just be careful and bring a stake," Ray told him, getting comfortable. "Dinner's in about an hour if you wanted to keep doing this."

"Yeah, I'd like that."


Oz watched as Xander drove off with their hell-hound/Great Dane puppy and shook his head. "At least he's protected," he said as he walked back inside, running into Methos. "Never again, right?"

"No, Oz, I'm never going to violate his privacy that way again." He gave the younger immortal a hug. "Are we all right again?"

"We weren't bad before," Oz told him. "I was just worried about Xander."

"And you should be," Ray said as he walked out of the kitchen with a drink. "Keeping it hidden that way doesn't help him deal with it. It's avoidance instead of dealing." He handed the glass to Methos. "Here, you need this."

"I do?"

"Yup, you do," Ray said, heading out to the back porch. "Hey, Oz, did Xander mean to leave that in the fire?"

"Probably not," the immortals said together as they walked out to look at the newest project. The iron rod glowed brightly in the dim light, not giving away what was at the other end. At least not until Methos grabbed one of the sets of tongs and pulled it out to look at.

"A unicorn?" he asked.

"A flying dragon with a horn," Ray corrected, after staring at it.

"Looks like a stamp," Oz noted.

"It might be," Methos agreed, dipping the rod into the bucket of water to cool it down. "I'll bank the fire for the night." They left him alone, letting him deal with the forge. Oz had never had a real touch for working with metal, not even horseshoes or his own sword when it needed fixing. When he was done, Methos stood up, taking the rod out to dry it off, not wanting it to rust, and went back inside, drinking the water greedily.


Xander walked back into the house and flopped down onto a couch, looking around for his lover and friends. "Guys?" he called.

Oz came jogging in. "What took you so long?" he asked, leaning down for a kiss as he sat in his mate's lap.

"We've got a new master vampire in town. He sent a representative to me in the cemetery."

"Oh." Oz looked down at the dog, then back at his husband. "Bad meeting?"

"No, good one. He's swearing up and down that he's not going to interfere with the hellmouth and that he wants a truce."

"You told him we don't do truces?" Xander nodded. "What did he say?"

"He said he had a crop of feeders and that he wasn't going to attack the populace without good reason." Xander shrugged and wrapped his arms around his Oz's waist. "I'm figuring he's going to try something."

"Should we call Angel?"

"Nah, I think we should call Spike and offer him control of the town. Him and Seth, I trust Seth to guard the Hellmouth."

"Hmm," Oz said, sniffing the warm scent coming off his mate's skin. "You weren't scared?"

"Not at all. The vampire was a wuss. Real scrawny and not real smart."

"Ah, then even Seth could take over." Xander nodded, giving him a smile. "Let me grab the phone and we'll call Angel." He got up and grabbed the phone and their personal phone book. "Here it is, Seth's cellphone." He dialed it and handed it over.

"Hey, bro," Xander said in greeting. His smile got brighter. "Sorry for interrupting. Yeah, I think we do. Can you, Spike, and just Angel come up? Because we've got a new master in town and he's a wuss. Yeah, but we're leaving town in a few months," Xander pointed out. Then he laughed. "Well, gee, that wasn't *exactly* what I was thinking...but pretty close." A short pause. "Sure, tonight's fine." He hung up. "The three vamps will be up here tonight."

"Coolness. Can we do this for a while?" Oz asked, climbing back into the offered lap.

"Of course. I like this part of us." Xander cuddled him close, relaxing again. His Oz was the best soother for his frazzled nerves. He looked toward the back of the house, wondering if he had turned down the forge.

"Methos took out the rod and cooled it down, and shut everything down for you," Oz said quietly. "It's a pretty mark."

"Yeah, it is. I thought about making it my personal one. I mean, I have my guild marking, which is for the whole family, but I wanted one just for me. I thought it was appropriate."

"It suits you," Oz agreed. "You've dealt with dragons, and a unicorn's horn would mean intelligence and knowledge, right?" Xander shrugged. "You didn't know?"

"No, I thought it was kinda symbolic of a sword personally, or something phallic."

"That could work too," Oz agreed easily. "We'll look up the exact meaning if you want."


Ray jogged in. "Guys, you've got to come see this. Your hate group's on Leno." They jumped up and followed him up to the third floor and the entertainment room.

Xander sat in Methos' lap, watching the woman on the screen. Then he burst out laughing. "Oh, record this, record it," he ordered. "She's wearing some of my jewelry."

Oz pushed the button to record the segment, smiling with good humor. She was so screwed. "I know there's a feedback addy for NBC. Want to write to them?"

"My publisher wants me to do something in the way of publicity," Xander agreed. "But writing and telling him would be pretty cool. Wonder if they could do something about it tomorrow."

"Who knows," Methos said, tickling Xander. "What else is going on downstairs?" he asked once Xander had calmed down again.

"New master vamp in town, but he's a wuss."

"Ah. Are we expecting visitors then?"

"Definitely," Ray said. Xander looked over at him. "I saw the open phonebook."

"Ah." Xander snuggled in. "I had a good talk with an old friend and I'm all okay again," he announced.

"Good, we're glad that you're feeling better," Methos told him, letting go of that last little piece of regret about what he had done. "Now all we need to do is watch and see if this is really live."

"It's no, it's taped earlier in the day," Ray reminded him. "Man, Leno's holding up pretty well for someone his age."

"He's not that old, maybe sixty now," Methos told him.

"Late fifties," Xander corrected. "He was in his forties when he took over the show." He smiled as Oz walked back in. "Get an automated response?"

"Yup, but then I got another email back from them so apparently they're reading them as they come in to forward. He said he'd definitely get this to Leno and asked if we had anyone to contact about a possible appearance."

"Only my publisher," Xander said dryly. "Did you give them his number?"

"I only had the email for your editor so I gave him that and said they'd have to work through those guys." He sat down beside Methos, pulling Ray into his lap.

"Who's comin' up?" Ray asked.

"All three big, bad vamps," Oz told him. "Angel, Spike, and Seth."

"Somehow, I still see Seth as a fluffy puppy," Xander admitted. "Even though I've seen him in a bar brawl, he just seems more civilized somehow."

"It's all Blair's influence," Oz said. "You and Spike both said that he grew up on the wrong side of the tracks."

"Point," Xander agreed, "but I still think he's more of a genteel guy than a mass killer like Spike was when he was younger."

"Or Angelus," Oz reminded him.

"Yeah, or him."

"Gee, that's a compliment," Angel said as he walked in. "I was in town," he said at the shocked looks. "What's up?"

"We've got a wuss leading the town, and we can't leave it that way," Oz told him.

"So you found a solution, or were you going to wipe him out?" Angel asked, sitting across from them.

"I was thinking that Seth would be the perfect person to guard the Hellmouth actually," Xander told him, giving him a smile. "He knows about magic, but he won't use it. He'll guard the thing with his life because he doesn't want something to happen that he'll have to fix."

"Spike would be beside him the whole way and he knows Sunnydale," Angel added. "It's a good plan. Were you really going to offer it to them? Everyone in town would become fair game that way."

"Not if we negotiate," Xander pointed out, sitting up a little bit. "We can negotiate with him, right?"

"Yes, you can," Angel said with a smile. "You took your demon protocol lessons very well."

"Thanks, Angelus," Xander said, standing up and looking down at him. "You're not the new master, correct?"

"No," he sighed, "and I haven't slipped my soul, Xander. I'm just really pleased that you're taking an interest in their relationship. It saves me from doing it."

Xander shook his head. "If you say so. Would that be acceptable to you, as Spike's Sire?"

"Very much. Spike would rule effortlessly. He almost did twice before, this time shouldn't be any different. Just remember, you'll have to negotiate to not destroy the town or to not eat everyone."

"Not a problem," Spike said as he walked in. He smiled at Xander. "Seen the wuss did you?"

"No, I saw his second in command, the wuss never said a word. All he did was lean against his car and try to look tough and mean." He shook his head. "Anyway, if we can negotiate, I'll let you two take over guarding the Hellmouth while we're gone."

"Sounds good to me," Spike agreed, sitting down. "Seth's playing with the dogs. Really likes the hell-hound mutt." He smiled at the others. "All of you agree?"

"All of us agree...with a few reservations," Oz corrected. "We'd like to come back to a thriving town."

"One without a high murder rate," Ray put in. Spike nodded at him. "I used ta be a cop, and I know how high the murder rate is around here. I'd like to see it not go up any."

"We can arrange that," Spike agreed. "A strong master would be able to make it go down, what with controllin' the fledges and all." He shifted. "As for the key, you're right; Seth would be a better choice for that. He knows more about mojo than I do." He grinned at his sire. "I'd even be outta your hair for a bit. Though, if we needed a big feed, we'd probably be heading that way to keep attention down."

Xander nodded. "Sounds good to me." He looked at Oz, who nodded. "I can accept that. Are you willing to bind yourself to these rules?"

Spike groaned. "You took to those lessons too well, boy."

"My Sire beat them into both of us very well," Seth agreed as he walked up the stairs. "What does a guardian of the key do?"

"Mainly, you're a backup way to drain power from the Hellmouth if the key can't drain into the earth," Xander told him. "Giles has connected the one up here into the ground. You'd need to do the same because, even though it's draining into you, you get very tired."

"The princess told us about that part," Spike admitted. "No active mojo?"

"Not that we know of," Xander admitted. "Willow would have to reconnect it for you, but we haven't had to do any magic with it since we connected it."

"All we really do is check on it a few times a day and make sure the stone's still in the pillar," Oz told them. "It's still there by the way, I checked after dinner."

"Cool, thanks," Xander said, shooting him a smile before turning back to the vampires. "So, will you bind yourself willingly to the deal?"

"Sure," Spike sighed, pulling out a knife and cutting into a small pocket of flesh on his upper shoulder, letting it bleed a few drops. "My own blood," he said when Oz looked at him.

"Good," Xander said, taking the knife and making one on his hand, letting it drip onto the same spot. "My own signifying the deal."

"You know, if the Feds were still listenin' in, they'd be thinkin' you were handing over some sort of reins of power or some such," Ray pointed out, pointing at a wall where he had found a bug earlier in the month. He'd removed that one, and they'd swept the house again, but then again, that one hadn't been there when they'd swept the house the first time.

"We're not running a criminal empire," Xander sighed, rolling his eyes. "We're making sure the town's protected from the idiots while we're gone."

"Even Federal Agents should be able to tell the difference," Methos agreed. "Besides, they'd have to prove that we were running something to be able to bug us again. Otherwise, we might have to do something drastic, like sue them again."

"Yeah," Ray said, smiling fondly at his husband, who had sued the federal people once already to get the bugs out of their house. Back when they'd first had troubles, a few extra bugs had shown up. They'd had to protest strongly in front of a judge, who reminded the agents that they needed a warrant, and when they couldn't come up with one, ordered the Feds to destroy them all. "Think we'll have to do it again?"

"Nope," Oz said, pulling out a nearby drawer and handing the scanner over. "Here, go do a sweep if you want."

"I still want Willow to do an ignore spell," Xander muttered as Ray passed by him.

"But it'd have to be general, and then no one would pay any attention to us, even when we were checking out of the supermarket," Oz pointed out. This was an old argument and one he was never going to win, they'd been in stalemate since they'd been invaded that one time.

Xander shrugged. "That might not be so bad," he suggested. "At least they'd leave us alone. I could handle having to call someone's attention to me to get checked out."

"It'd get old real fast," Oz warned. He shook himself. "What am I saying? It'd be fine for the first fifty years, I could handle it even." He shrugged at Methos' dirty look. "What? Think about it, if they're still watching us, then something's going to have to be done the next time we have a fight."

"Point." He nuzzled the Xander's neck. "We'll talk about it tomorrow, and then talk to the witch if we decide it's in the best interest of all of us."

"Okay," everyone agreed, going back to watching an especially mindless interview with a starlet.


A nice federal agent walked into the police station around sunset the next day. He had drawn this duty because he was nice, and he wouldn't demand anything, which usually pissed off the local cops. He flashed his badge and got taken into the Chief of Police's office, sitting down in front of the desk so he could toss over the transcripts. "Since when does a town like Sunnydale rate a crime family?" he asked pleasantly.

The Chief looked the transcript over, then smiled. "It's not a crime family, trust me." He stood up and nodded for the agent to follow him down to their morgue. He pointed at a body he knew wasn't going to be in there for much longer. "Watch that guy, and then we'll talk." The agent sneered but he watched the dead body while the Chief read all the way through the transcripts.

Then the body moved, the man sat up.

The agent fell back a few steps and turned to look at the chief, ignoring the fact that the dead person was escaping the morgue by the handy door leading out into the night. "He woke up."

The Chief nodded. "He did."

"No, he woke up!" he said, more firmly this time. "That doesn't happen."

"It does here." The Chief patted him on the shoulder. "You're bugging the people who protect us from those like the guy who just woke up." He smiled. "They're not a crime family, they're our resident saviors." The agent slowly nodded. "Now do you get it?"

"But they said they're turning control over."

"And they are," the Chief agreed. "They're leaving for a while." He led the currently stunned stupid man out of his office, watching as the new vampire tried to eat the guy. "Hey, leave him alone. He's going to go try and get the Slayer to leave town," he called. The vampire looked at him and then lunged, but the protection on the building held him away. So he ran away, after growling at the agent, who started to babble. The Chief went back inside, sure the guy would make it back to his buddies. "Find me these people," he told his most trusted secretary, handing her the transcripts. "Not Harris, but the others mentioned."

She looked them over and smiled. "Angel's in LA, sir. He's the one that Buffy girl used to date. Shall I place a call to his office?"

"Please. I'd like to talk to someone about that." He walked away, heading back to his office so he could continue to read that new book by Harris. The boy had talent.


Spike, trailed by an unhappy Seth, walked into the police station and walked right toward the Chief's office. "You called?" he asked dryly as he walked in and flopped down into a chair. He smiled at the book the man was reading. "He's got talent, don't he?" He patted the chair next to him. "Sit, Seth. This is how stuff's done in this town. Mayor used to be one of us he did." He gave the Chief an expectant look.

"Someone was bugging Harris' house," the Chief said in greeting. "I'd like to talk to you about what you three agreed to last night."

Spike smiled. "Thought so."

"As you can see, we've got a fairly high death rate," he said, pointing at a printout of the latest deaths, which was a good four inches thick. "I read that you said you could drop it some. How?" he asked, leaning back in his chair.

"Easy. When I take over, all the young'll be mine," Spike said simply. "I'll control 'em, tell 'em how to feed and where. No more random fledges runnin' around causin' accidents, which, by the way, was fun to watch your officers work the scene." The Chief smiled at that. "They're good at dealin' with the aftermath."

"We've had to learn," the Chief said quietly. "So, you can promise me a decrease in the number of deaths? And no more random fledges and people wandering out of our morgue?"

"I'll do my best," Spike assured him. "Won't stop 'em all, but it'll stop most'a them."

"And, with the Hellmouth permanently closed, the number of demons that come here has been decreasing," Seth added, starting to get comfortable.

"And you can handle that?"

"Mostly they said it's makin' sure the stone's there and grounded. Or takin' it back if necessary," Seth agreed. "I've planned on giving myself a few fledges to guard the stone with me, a sort of honor guard in case of trouble."

The Chief nodded. "Good, I like that idea. The new guy's a wuss. We've had more random deaths in the last few days than anytime since before Harris' graduation. I'd like to cut that back down again before the state sends in an efficiency expert that'll get eaten with in a day." His smile got brighter. "Bad bit'a luck that," he said with a chuckle. "Anyway, how long before we see results on this end after you take over?"

"Depends on how fast I can get a crew to route out them that's pissin' us off," Spike said happily. "Want to send some guys down to help us?"

"We're spread pretty thin," the Chief said. "Besides, none of us *really* believe in you." Spike nodded. "Just make it quick. They tried to burn down the library tonight." Seth gasped. "Yeah, I kinda like that building myself."

"That's a horrible thing," Seth said primly. "A library is a grand thing that should be protected, not made a mark of terror."

The Chief smiled at him. "You were a librarian, weren't cha?"

"No, an accountant," Seth told him.

Spike patted his lover on the arm. "Don't worry, he'll get those that tried to burn down the library."

"How much was destroyed?"

"Just the kids' room as far as we could tell. Good thing the sprinklers didn't work though, woulda destroyed a lot more."

Seth's face hardened. "It'll be done; have no fears about that." He stood up. "If you'll excuse me, I need to talk to my Sire." He left them alone, going to whine to his Sire and get an invasion force.

Spike smiled at the Chief. "He's a nice guy, but he's definitely not Master material," he said with a shrug. "So, no problems from you lot if I do take over?"

"Not as long as you keep down the body count. Most of my guys ignore your type completely. But the old Chief once brought in Harris about his graduation and the school exploding." He smiled. "Harris was very good in explaining it all to him. He retired right after that."

Spike laughed. "I can see why." He stood up. "Give it a few weeks and take a count again. It'll be better soon enough."

"The next time you see Harris, can you please have a talk with him about the two guys with swords that are running around my town? They've killed a few vampires, but they're annoying as hell. I'd like them gone, but I can't find a reason to charge them."

Spike looked thoughtful, then nodded. "I can talk to them 'bout it, they might be able to do somethin'." He walked out, heading back to Seth's car, a rolling office that was a gift from his Sire, Blair. "Got them headed this way?" he asked as he slid in to drive. He didn't like this luxury car as much as his DeSoto, but it did ride very smoothly. And it had a great sound system, as was proven when he turned over the engine and the windows started to rattle with the bass beat of the Clash, a gift from his lover, who was trying to understand him.

"They'll be here tomorrow night," Seth said over the music. "Sire said he was very pleased with my social climbing." He grinned at his lover, a nasty, mean smile. "Think he realizes that he's pushing us together?"

"Probably," Spike said as he started down the street. "But it's a good thing to take over this town and hold it. Lots'a power here, even with the key."

"Which you won't be touching," Seth reminded him, patting him on the leg. "Opening the Hellmouth puts vampires back on the bottom of the ladder again."

"Which is why I'm not gonna go there," Spike reminded him warmly. Seth still thought that Spike was too much like Angelus for his own good, he'd just have to prove the young one wrong. Or stake him, but that'd get him in trouble with the boy's brother, and *no* one wanted to mess with Harris. Especially not now that he was trained.


Henri and D'Nalia walked in, noticing all the boxes that were being piled in the living room. "We're packing already?" Henri called, knowing someone was around, if only to keep the baby ferrets out of everything.

"Yeah, we're sending some stuff ahead," Xander said from the kitchen, walking out with a cup of coffee. "Then I'm going to go down there and work on the decorating stuff, while you guys plan what to leave up here."

D'Nalia looked around the part of the house she could see. "I'd say leave most of it and just take the important stuff, the computers, the books you'll have to have. You said one of us could live here and we can ship anything."

"One of you will be," Xander agreed, smiling at Henri, "but she's coming down first because she handles the animals better."

D'Nalia shrugged. "Not like I can't handle staying up here."

"Good point," Xander said, patting her on the shoulder. "And the boys'll have a great big place to play."

"And you won't have to move them around as much," Henri reminded him. "But we'll be switching out. You'll be down there at least four months out of year."

"And once Henri retires in a decade or so," Xander said with a grin at Henri, "you'll be the new housekeeper and expected to keep up with us all the time."

D'Nalia laughed. "All right then. I can handle that. How're the schools around here?"

"Decent enough," Oz said as he walked out. "Not that bad really, but not the greatest ever. If you work with the kids, it'll be fine." He patted Xander on the butt. "Did you get everything you needed out of your writing room?"

"Yup," he said happily. "And I packed up all the toys."

"Good job," Oz praised, giving him a kiss. "Now go pack your sewing room and we'll do the bedroom together." He waited until Xander had left to look at D'Nalia. "We're going to be splitting up the year so your boys won't have to move if we do most of the time. That means you'll be coming down either for the majority of the year or you'll be there for the summers."

"Will you guys only be in Florida?" D'Nalia asked. "They've got *huge* flying roaches down there."

"We know," Oz said with a smile. "And no. We've got a condo in Flagstaff, a house in Vermont, and Ray and Meth have a building in Chicago."

"And the new apartment in Vancouver," Ray called from somewhere.

"And an apartment in Vancouver," Oz added with a head shake. "Probably in the summer, we'll be spending some time in at least one of those."

"And the rest of the year?"

"We're going to hopefully move very infrequently," Oz sighed. "I hate moving."

She laughed. "Good. That's a sign of intelligence." She patted him on the shoulder as she headed for the kitchen. "Henri and I will work it out between us who gets when and which house."

Henri smiled. "I'm sure we'll be able to work something out, Oz, don't worry. You won't have to find someone I like in Florida."

Oz sighed. "I hope not. I know it's a gay mecca but I don't want to have a houseboy."

"It'd be funny to watch Xander train him though," D'Nalia noted as she walked out of the kitchen. "Where are we working?"

"You get to help Xander with his sewing stuff," Oz told her. "Henri, you get to help Methos in the library." The women nodded and walked off, leaving Oz to watch for inquisitive little furry bodies that wanted to see what was in the boxes.


Oz opened the door to Spike, who was lounging there. "What's up?" he asked as he headed back to the table.

"Chief in town told me somethin' interestin' that I thought you'd like to know about," Spike said casually as he followed him. He nodded at the other three men. "Said somethin' about two men wanderin' 'round town with swords." Methos and Oz both groaned, the older one dropping his fork onto his plate and holding his head. "Said he wanted 'em gone but couldn't do anything 'bout it." He looked at Xander and smiled. "And you're still bein' bugged, whelp. Got called in to talk about how I was gonna keep down the body count."

Xander grinned. "Of course we are," he said dryly. "Why would the FBI leave us alone? They're worse than our new dog with his socks."

"My socks," Ray corrected.

"Your socks that I'll replace," Xander told him, giving him a lustful look. "I'm sorry about tossing them at him earlier."

"S'okay," Ray said, starting to blush because Spike was staring at him. "What?"

"Nothin', just never seen you do that before," Spike said as he sat down. "So, it's all set. We'll go take the ponce tonight and you can all leave soon."

"Thanks," Xander said, reaching over to touch his hand. "We'll be back of course, but as long as we don't have to deal with you it's all good."

Spike laughed. "Knew that was coming, I did." He smacked the back of Xander's hand. "Don't worry. The Pouf'd have my hide if I messed up and made you deal with us. So would Blair. He likes you for some reason," he said with a leer.

"Mine," Oz warned calmly.

"Not even headin' there," Spike said gruffly, pulling away from Xander, who was smelling very nice again tonight. "Anyway, what about your other part? Want me to do somethin' about him if he comes back?"

"No, we're dealing with that one ourselves," Oz said lightly. "Xander's driven him insane already."

Spike gave the young man an appraising look. "Knew that, worked?" Xander nodded, giving him a cold smile. Apparently the stuff from the book did come from somewhere inside the boy, at least by the look of him now. "And if he shows up?"

"He can stay in the house," Oz told him. "I'm sure he won't come after you, or you could send him to us if he does."

"True," Spike agreed. He stood up. "We'll be dealin' with the ponce tonight, then we'll see about takin' over the irregulars and independents." He walked out, leaving them to stare at each other.

"Guys with swords, huh," Xander said slowly. "Wanna go find 'em?"

"No," Methos said firmly. "You're not going to go find them." He glared at Xander. "Ray and I will go scout them out while you work on the decorating plans."

"Fine, take *all* my fun away," Xander said, starting to pout.

"Don't do that," Methos sighed, getting up to give him a hug. "I'm not going to fight, I'm simply going to go give them a warning."

"But I can have them taken as love slaves," Xander offered sweetly. "That'd teach them."

"That's mean, Xan. You don't know if these guys are good or not," Ray pointed out. "They could be nice guys, like Richie and Steve are."

"Point," Xander said, starting to pout again.

"We'll go scout them out and then tell you what sort of people they are," Methos assured him, patting him on the side of the face. "Don't worry, you'll get to watch them be dispatched or whatever we decide to do with them." He took one last bite of dinner and pushed himself away from the table, helping Ray up so they could go.

"Make sure you're not seen," Oz called after them. He smiled down at Xander, who was smirking. "Didn't want to go with them after all?"

"No, I'm not in the mood for a fight, I'm in the mood to screw with people." He scraped his plate clean.

"You know, screwing with people isn't the best hobby," Oz reminded him.

"Yeah, but it can be *fun*," Xander told him.

"Yup, but then they'll want to get you back." Xander frowned at that. "Think about it. What'll Amanda do when she finds out it was you that sent her those horrible dreams?"

"She'll either decide I'm not the person to screw with, or we'll have to have a *talk*," Xander said coldly. "She knew that she was messing with me when she took up with Giles." He groaned. "Do you think they were doing this in Boston, at the convention?"

"Probably," Oz noted. "Why else would she have just shown up that way?"

"I was thinking it was since then and she just showed up to court him during the con."

"Nah, she stayed in our room most of the time. She was into him then." Oz shrugged. "It'll sort itself out."

"Coolness," a voice floated down, and Cupid joined them. "No hard feelings about it, Oz?"

"Many...but I can yell at him once he realizes he's an ass." Oz took a bite of his steak, still looking up at Cupid. "Hungry?" he offered when Cupid continued to stare at him.

"Yeah, but not for you two." He grinned down at Xander. "I got my first prayer from Giles, begging me to come make you leave him alone, and to help him beg for forgiveness. Seems the dark crap he's dealing in now is making him too horny and he's been sufferin' for it for a while now." He shrugged. "I know he's been hitting the pros in Vegas."

Xander glared at the God of Love. "Then you can tell him he's never going to touch me again!" He got up and left the room, going to sulk and hide.

Cupid groaned. "Sorry, Oz."

"It would've come out sometime," Oz said philosophically. He shrugged when Cupid stared at him. "We'll deal with him when he returns to being a human. Right now, he's recovering from Xander fucking with his dreams."

"Xander can do that?" Cupid asked, looking shocked. He hadn't know that.

"No, but he hired a demon who could. Got both Giles and Amanda."

"Eww, nasty," Cupid said with a shudder. "Glad it wasn't me. Anyway. Did Strife help him with that?"

"Nope. Strife begged to help but Xander said he wanted to do it himself." Oz ate another piece of steak, looking very happy. "Seems he even used his brother's name to scare Giles."

"It'd scare me too. Micah's got some major mojo and help at his disposal if he wanted to take Giles out." He smiled suddenly. "Anyway, you guys are great and all, but Xander needs you to look over him really closely tonight. That new fabric he's using is keeping sweat in, and he's getting a pimple in his hairline, and it's making him hurt a little. So he's probably not in the mood for lovin', but if you take care of it for him, he'd probably be willing to be your slave for a few days."

"That's what you came to tell us?"

"No, he was too embarrassed to tell you so he was praying for a solution." Cupid shrugged. "I figured you're the best solution to pimples like that."

Oz nodded. "Thanks, I can handle that later. Any other jewels of wisdom?"

"Yeah, watch out for jellyfish. I'm pretty sure he's allergic to them, and you're moving somewhere that's got a yearly migration."

"Hmm, hadn't thought about that. Did he remember to get the permits for his forge?"

"Yup, and they're sitting down there already. And the crew he hired is all but done with his renovations; all they need is painting soon." He shrugged. "Strife told me to tell you that, he's been watchin' them 'cause they're putting up a small shine to us too."

Oz smiled. "Thanks. I'll go find him and tell him that. He'll be down there this weekend."

"Coolness. Can't wait to see it finished. It's a killer space, Oz. I had no idea it'd be so big." He flashed out, leaving Oz to finish his dinner.

Oz finished his steak and then looked down at Xander's still mostly full plate, and decided to take care of his lover once again. He grabbed the plate, a fork, and the glass of wine, and went hunting. He found Xander in the bathtub. He pulled a small table over to set everything on before giving him a kiss, then started to run his fingers through the thick bush. "Cupid said you needed help with a little something," he whispered as he found it and squeezed the little pimple.


"Sorry, babe, but it won't hurt for long." Oz gave it another good squeeze and it popped. He brought his fingers up to check what had come out, then washed them off on Xander's offered bath sponge. "All done." He stole another kiss and picked up the fork, loading up some of the fettuccini alfredo so he could feed his lover. "Open up," he said lightly, stuffing the food into his lover's mouth.

Xander leaned his head against Oz's arm. "Thank you. I needed pampered. Otherwise I'd make a stopover in Las Vegas and kick his ass," he said quietly.

"Yeah, me too, but I think I may have found a source of information, even about what Giles is doing."

"That immie you found in Florida?" Xander asked through a yawn.

"Yup, him. See, he knew Meth and me back when we were *very* young." He pinched Xander's nose. "He even said that when he was born, names weren't that important."

"Meaning he might not have had one?"

"Or he was a slave and he didn't have one. He's probably about Meth's age."

"Cool." Xander yawned again. "I'm tired."

"I know. Want to get out and go curl up in bed?" The young man shook his head. "No?"

"Nope. I'm comfy." He opened his mouth and Oz put more food into it. "Can we just do this?"

"Sure," Oz said, giving him a fond smile. "You rest and relax. You did very good today. Oh, and Cupid said that Strife said that the guys in Florida really need paint stuff. That they're almost done."

"Again, more cool." Xander smiled at his lover. "I'll call and talk to the foreman tomorrow." He opened his mouth and it was filled for him. "Can I say this is the life without you getting mad?"

"Of course." Oz stole a kiss as he picked up the wine glass to help his lover sip some of it. "This is the life, getting pampered and loved. And the pamperer enjoys it too by the way." He stole another kiss, then ate some of the pasta himself.

"You can finish it if you want," Xander offered with a shy smile. "I think you're going to need some energy for later." He yawned again. "If I ever wake up."

"I'll still need energy, even if you sleep for the rest of the night," Oz teased. "You move around me all night."

"I don't, you wiggle and I have to stop you," Xander countered, grinning at his husband. "If you didn't wiggle, I wouldn't have to stop you by laying on top of you."

"If you wouldn't lay on top of me, I wouldn't wiggle away," Oz told him, pinching him on the nose.


"What?" Oz asked innocently, feeding Xander another bite of the food then eating the rest himself. Then he stood up and stripped, getting in with his mate. "I'm going to miss this tub," he said, patting the side. "It's a very nice tub."

"We can always fly back to use it," Xander offered sleepily.

"Not every night, but we'll probably get some time back here every now and then," Oz agreed. He liked this house too much to ever leave it for good. Xander snuggled in and fell asleep against his chest, and they were both soothed by it.


Methos walked in and stopped to smile down at the two sleeping men in the tub. He carefully moved the glass of wine out of reach of Xander's hand, and sat down beside them, allowing Ray in his lap when his husband walked in. They each ran a finger down the side of one man's face, waking them gently.

Oz grunted, "They're gone?"

Xander did his best impersonation of a young lion cub yawning.

"Awwwww," Ray sighed.

Oz glared at him.

"You're so cute like that," he said with an infernal grin.

Oz flipped him off and pulled his Xander-blanket closer to snuggle.

"Hey!" Xander complained weakly, shifting until he was comfy. "Better now." He smiled sleepily over at Methos. "Back already?"

"It was two boys playing with swords. We told the cops that and they're arresting them tonight for brandishing a weapon." Methos picked up the drifting sponge and used it on Xander's back, smiling at the sleepy mumbles of thanks. "Maybe you two should go to bed," he suggested. "Sleeping in the bath isn't the most comfortable way to spend the night."

"Oh, I don't know, we did it okay that one night," Ray teased.

Xander grumbled something unintelligible, and Oz gripped Xander tighter, making his husband wiggle and grumble something happier sounding.

Methos and Ray shared a smile, then they got up and went to the bed. The other couple would join them eventually, if only so Oz had somewhere to move away from Xander in the night.

Oz and Xander finally woke up, and, after a quick bout of sex in the tub, wandered out to go sleep in their own bed, along with their best friends. They each picked a side and snuggled, Oz next to Ray, and Xander next to Methos, and fell asleep again.

Ray and Methos woke up long enough to pat wet heads then went back to sleep, comfortable with their position as pillows.


Xander walked up to the front door of their new house and smiled at the new door, the one he had ordered. "They do good work," he told himself, looking around as he pulled out his keys. He smiled at the woman leaning on a lamppost nearby, who hadn't been there a few minutes earlier. "Um, hi," he said, giving her a smile. "Do I know you?"

"No, but my man knows you," she said, sauntering over. She looked him over. "Which one are you?"

"I'm Xander, Oz's husband." He held out his hand, but she didn't take it, and he gave her a little shrug. "You're the girlfriend of the immie Oz met?"

She nodded. "How very astute of you. Humans haven't devolved since I was born."

"Actually, I think we've gotten a bit smarter," he said, glaring at her. "If you're going to insult me, go away. I've got paint to pick out."

She snickered. "Of course you do. After all, isn't that the wife's job?" Her smile fell away when a sword appeared at her throat nearly instantly. "You shouldn't play with weapons you don't know," she warned coldly.

"I've spent six hundred years learning this weapon. I'm better trained than some immies. Now then, I tried to be nice and pleasant. Apparently that's not going to work." He stepped back and his sword disappeared again. "If you're only here to harass me, then go away. We're not going to intrude on your love nest, and we expect the same courtesy." He turned and walked in the open door, pushing past the workmen standing there. "So, paint, guys?" he asked.

"You had a sword," one of the workmen said.

"Yes, I do," Xander said with a faint smile. "I've got to get some practice in while I'm here, and I was going to try out our new practice area." He looked around the big common area, nodding at the walls. "I like the texture. You guys did a great job." He smiled at the foreman. "Now then, we've got to do something about the color."

The foreman handed over a book of samples. "This was left for you."

"Coolness," Xander said, sitting down in the middle of the floor to flip through it. "This one for this room," he decided, pointing it out. A post-it note was placed over it with the room's name on it. He got up and wandered to the next room, smiling at the nice marble and corian countertops. "Very good job in here too."

"You're used to dealing with kids, aren't you?" the foreman asked tolerantly, with a faint smile.

"Animals. We've got about eighteen of them at home right now," Xander said with a naughty grin. "I find that praise works well on others too."

The foreman laughed. "Yeah, it does. Much better than yelling." He clapped Xander on the back. "Okay, let's go through and get everything, then you can go furniture shopping."

"Can't wait," Xander said happily. He pointed at a nice, neutral blue color. "That one for the kitchen and the dining area," he said, pointing at the small dining area that looked down on the street. "And let's go ahead and stain the porch."


"Oak or something. Something waterproof that'll make sure it lasts for a good ten years at least, but that won't clash with the color of the house." Xander continued walking through the new and larger house, stopping at his new tub, one that could fit six linebackers, as advertised, and smiled. It was all good. "Heated bottom, whirlpool jets from every conceivable angle, and the three head shower," he said in appreciation.

"Do you and your man actually need this?" the foreman asked.

Xander smiled at him. "Oh, yeah," he said happily. "We definitely do." He winked. "How about the funky ventilation for my forge? Did we get it in too?" The foreman nodded. "Cool. I miss working. And the stuff for my sewing projects, including the racks?"

"We got those in first, Mr. Harris. We started on the bottom with the structural issues that you needed put in and added those in as we went along." He handed over the work report. "This is what we did, all of it, week-by-week."

Xander took it and flipped through it, nodding, until he came to one. "Why did I order pizza?"

"Because that fourth wall you wanted knocked down had sixteen more layers than we thought," the foreman told him. "We needed a small celebration."

"But it's still structurally sound?"

"Meets up with current hurricane and earthquake standards, just like you wanted."

"Cool," Xander breathed, looking at his tub again. "Let's go with a soothing tan and some of that gold and tan wallpaper in here. A seashell motif wouldn't be so tacky as long as it was subtle."

"We've got someone specifically for the wallpaper stuff," the foreman reminded him. "She'll be in tomorrow."

"Even better. I bet you guys hate wallpaper even more than you do laying bricks."

"You got it," the foreman said, taking back the work reports. "Want us to call her and get her up here to do the paint with you? We can still go get it tomorrow and paint all day."

"Okay," he said happily.

"I'll call her then." The foreman walked away, mentally shaking his head. Gay guys were so demanding, but they always paid well, including a nice bonus for getting it done early.