A Few Minor Adjustment Problems.
D'Nalia unpacked the last box and looked around. Her twin boys were missing again, but she knew they were with the animals so she didn't worry too much. She walked out of the spare bedroom and looked at all the little homey touches they'd brought down. She hadn't been too sure about packing a lot of them before, but now she realized it was what the guys needed to call this place a home. She found the boys, Oz, and a stranger sitting in the living room, all playing with baby ferrets. She cleared her throat and looked at her employer.
"Xander let her in," Oz said with a shrug. "It was either that, or she was going to get the cops."
"Ah, the ever lovely hate group," D'Nalia said as she sat down and watched her children play. "Let me guess, someone turned me in for having children because of what he writes?"
"No, actually, I'm with the local school board. We had reports that your children were old enough for school and not registered yet, so I was sent here on a truancy check," she said with a smile. "Though, the person who called did mention something along those lines. I reminded her that allegations like that were very damaging and made one liable to be sued if it wasn't true." She held out a hand. "Sarah Smeltz."
"D'Nalia," she said as she shook it. "Technically, the boys aren't old enough for school yet."
"But they are old enough for pre-school and there's some excellent ones in the area."
"Yes, but we may not be down here the whole time."
"Yes, Oz was just explaining that to me," Sarah said with a smile for Oz. "He also told me that you were planning on home schooling them this year?"
"I was planning on getting them ready for school this year," D'Nalia corrected. "I think all children should at least be able to recognize their letters when they enter school, even if they're not quite reading yet."
"Yes, that would be a good thing," Sarah said, getting comfortable for her spiel. "Our district has recently passed an education initiative, trying to get our schools to be some of the best in the country. Frankly, we have the money coming in, but we don't always have the parent's help to make the schools the best possible place for their children. We'd like to see all children reading by the time they come in. We've also made a promise to the parents of our children to do the educational testing earlier so we can catch children with problems before they feel threatened and outcast."
D'Nalia nodded. "I like that."
"I thought you might." She reached over and patted some of the papers on the table in front of her then sat back up. "I've brought you some literature on the various schools, including the private ones and where they're at. I've circled the one your children would be attending if you put them into public school." Her smile brightened. "Though there are a few excellent private schools around the area."
"Any that aren't religious?" Oz asked, seeing D'Nalia's unease.
"Actually, there's a religious one that's not about the religion. Their main goal is to educate the people; they don't even offer classes in religion there. There're also three other ones that are strictly non-denominational. There's an excellent private academy close by also, but it's for the older students, and you have to pass some tests to get in. What I gave you is just a general list for the average student."
"I see," D'Nalia said, smiling at her. "Well, it'll definitely give me something to think about, and I will consider putting the boys in daycare one day a week or so."
"Excellent, it would give them an opportunity to meet other children in the area. There's a very good one up the road run by the most hilarious gay couple; they used to be performers," she confided. "Very entertaining but lighter on the real education. They're more into learning about the world around you."
"Are they on this list?"
"Yes, they're on the top of their section's list. We highly recommend them. And the better schools are usually near the top of the lists, but we've got a rating next to each of them in case you need it for later." She stood up. "I'll just let you finish getting settled in, and I must say that your boys are adorable." She shook everyone's hand again and then let herself out.
"Whoa, case for downers," D'Nalia muttered, looking at the list. "At least we're not in trouble."
"Nope, not yet," Oz agreed, sitting back to watch the kids play with the animals. "Are they settling in all right?"
"Just fine. They loved the beds Xander got for them. They even appreciated all the noisy toys he got for them," she said with a grimace.
"He gets noisy toys for the animals too," Oz told her. "We conveniently forgot most of the jingle balls, except for the ones that sounded like bells." He grinned. "It was so nice of Henri to hide them."
Xander walked up the stairs, examining his first project from his new forge. "Oz, did we bring any of the realmal metal with us?"
"It's all in the second truck, with most of the clothes and stuff."
"Thanks." Xander sat down and showed him the bracelet. "What do you think?"
"I think it's plain but ..." Oz said, taking it to look at the bracelet. "You've got thin spots."
"That's what I was looking at," Xander sighed. "I couldn't get the fire hot enough to even it out."
"Well, I sent down a few bars of the energy metal in the first shipment of boxes," Oz told him. Xander hopped up and went looking for it, hoping to find the source of his best work. Oz shrugged. "It makes him happy."
"Is he going to open a small shop down here?" she asked.
"Probably. I know he's been thinking about doing that in the little ethnic market up the road."
"That'd be the best place," she agreed, "and would keep it low profile."
"I could do it and give some young guy a chance to work in the store, so I don't get fans in there just because it's me," Xander said as he headed back downstairs.
"Also true," D'Nalia and Oz said together. Then they cracked up laughing, finally getting the attention of the twins.
"Would you two like lunch?" their mother asked them, and both boys started to talk to her, finishing each other's sentences about what the animals had been doing that day. She carried them into the kitchen, going to fix them sandwiches so they could go back to playing with the animals and not getting into trouble.
"Can we watch?" the twins said as they flopped down next to Xander, who was pounding on the bracelet again.
"Sure," he said absently. "You don't go near the fire though."
"'Kay," they said together, then 'ahh'ed as sparks flew off the hot metal. They watched, entranced as he turned a simple piece of metal into something recognizable to them. They 'ahh'ed as the metal was rewarmed again and then started to be worked again. When it was finally dipped in water, they grabbed for it, taking it out and looking the still-warm cuff over. They babbled at each other about it, touching the rough edges. "Finish it," they said together, handing it back.
"It needs to rest," Xander told them. "I'll do the decoration stuff tomorrow because I won't need to heat it to carve in the design." He smiled at them. "But I'm going to make Auntie Henri a prezzie, want to watch that?" They nodded so he threw another piece of metal into the fire. "What should we make her?"
"Earrings!" they demanded. One of them looked at his brother. "Mommy always likes earrings." His twin nodded and they both watched the metal change color as it heated. "Why does it do that?" the first twin asked.
"It changes color to tell me when it's ready to be worked," Xander told him. "It's all about the chemicals in the metal."
"Metals have chemicals?" the first twin asked.
"Mommy said chemicals were bad to touch," the second said. "'Specially if they're under the sink."
Xander smiled at them. "Well, yeah, those are bad to touch, but the ones in the metal are what makes it the type of metal it is. And I bet, if your mommy looked really hard through the books, there would be a book with pictures about different sorts of metals in the library." The boys jumped up and ran to ask for the book, one of them stopping to kiss him on the cheek. "Thanks, Ian." He shifted some of the coals around, nodding as the metal changed to the right color so he could start working it. He pulled out the metal and started the work to divide it into smaller pieces. Earrings he could do.
D'Nalia cursed Xander for sending her twins back to look for a *book*. She didn't know where the book was and there were at least a thousand in here. Well, maybe just a few hundred. She sighed in irritation, moving over to the reference section.
"If you'd tell me what you're looking for," Oz offered, not looking up from his programming. "I shelved most of the books in here."
"Xander told the boys he had a picture book about the types of metals," she said. "You've got too many books in here."
"Third shelf, sixth bookcase, which is the one under the window. We put all the books we thought the boys might like to grab and look through down there." He saved the program and turned around to look at the shelf in question as she walked over. "Fifth book over probably. Either that one or the one below it on the next shelf."
She sat down to look through them both. "Huh, I didn't think he'd have sciency books like these."
"We used to do research for Giles," he told her. She snickered at that. "Xander did it for a lot longer than I did. What did he tell them about the metal?"
"Chemicals are what makes it the type of metal it is."
"The second one you pulled down is probably the one he meant, though the pictures are just lumps."
"Yeah, but it'll still fascinate them, especially if Xander would tell them about it," she said with naughty glint in her eyes. Oz shook his head. "No?"
"You won't be able to pull him away from the forge for a few hours, not until he needs a drink."
"He took down a bottle of water."
"And he's working with burning metal. He'll be back in a few hours. He used to take breaks to go jump in the pool at home when he got too hot."
"Wow. I didn't know he was really that into working on the forge, I thought it was just a hobby."
"It is," Oz said with a slight shrug,"but he throws his full attention into everything he does."
"Guess that's what makes him a hell of a lover," she said as she stood up.
"Definitely," Oz said, and this time he had a big smile on his face. "Xander has worn all four of us out before and still needed more."
She laughed. "That's why someone brilliant invented sex toys."
"Oh, we do that too," he said with a naughty glint in his eyes. "You might want to watch out for Fluffy, she likes to steal the dirty ones to play with. I wasn't sure if Henri told you how she found out the hard way."
"Eww." She shuddered as she walked out with the books. "I'll call you guys to come deal with those." She found her twins waiting almost patiently for her to join them on a couch and sat between them, opening the book that Oz had suggested. "Okay, this is a story about metals," she told them, turning the page. "It's got pictures of different sorts of metals."
"Does it have chemicals?" Sean asked.
"Yup, sure does." She pointed at the first picture. "That's iron, it's one of the most base of metals." She pointed at the chemical diagram. "That's why it's iron instead of other stuff." Ian crawled into her lap to get a closer look. "See, each of those little markings is a different chemical. Most metals share some of them, but each metal has ones that make them special and different."
"And different is good?" Ian asked.
"Yup, sure is," she agreed, turning the page. This was going to be a strange story and she was going to have to make it up as she went along.
Xander wrapped up the presents he had made and wiped his hands and face off with his shirt, taking everything he'd made upstairs with the present sitting in the middle of his tray, Henri's still needed carved some more though. He held the tray out to the boys so they could look, smiling as Sean immediately picked up the present. "That's for your mom, want to go give it to her for me?" The twins nodded and went running for their apartment and the mother, who was trying to take a nap. Xander continued into the office to show Oz what he'd done that day. This was his favorite part of creating stuff, seeing the reactions to them. He sat in his husband's lap, putting the tray on the desk.
Oz reached out to look over the first set of earrings, smiling at the simplicity of the design. "First try?"
"Yup. I gave the ones I thought were prettiest to D'Nalia for moving with us."
"Very cool," Oz agreed, putting the earrings down to pick up the next set. "You were busy today," he appraised, staring at the lightly carved designs. "Did it warm?"
"I had to. They're so small that it hurt the design when I'd did it cold. I reforged the ones I tried it cold on." Oz patted him on the back so he handed over the bracelet from earlier. "The boys wanted to watch me decorate that one tomorrow."
"Much more even," Oz congratulated, putting it back. He hugged his husband hard. "Are you happy with your new forge?"
"I miss the pool being beside it," Xander admitted, snuggling in.
"Want to go explore the beach?" Oz asked quietly.
"Yeah," Xander said happily. "I'd like that. Let me shower first, I don't want to drop any metal into the ocean." He got up and gave his husband a kiss, then headed in to the bathroom, where Ray was taking a shower. "Want to help me take one too?" he called as he stripped.
"Sure," Ray said, opening the door. "Did you burn your braid again?" he asked, eyeing the singed ends.
"Just a bit," Xander said with a grin. "I flipped it over my shoulder with the hand that was holding the hammer." He climbed in and sighed as the cool water hit him. "Oh, man, this feels good."
"I thought it might," Ray said, turning Xander to get a kiss. They rested together under the waterfall showerhead, then Ray grabbed the soap and a sponge, doing as had been requested. "I still like you sweaty," he sighed as he sank to his knees to suck the hard cock.
Xander grabbed the special bars he'd had put into the shower and held on. Ray was *good* at this and he could use the release. Pounding the metal always got him hot.
Oz smiled as the boys trooped out to the car, letting their mother handle their seats, they scared him. He patted Xander's butt as he jogged out in a short pair of shorts, his speedos underneath. They got into the second car, following the signs until they found a good place to head onto the beach - not too crowded, but not empty, that would have been a bad sign. Oz set out the blankets and umbrellas, Ray still didn't tan very well, and settled in to watch his water baby play in the surf.
Xander heard a snide comment as he stripped down to his speedos, so listened to them talk about him.
"He *must* be gay," one man said, looking at the long, streaked ponytail. "Look at his hair and his bathing suit. I mean, hello, only a gay man wears that and has hair that makes you want to grab hold and tug on it while he sucks your cock."
"Um-huh, but look at that body," another guy said. "Wonder who the short little guy who brought him to be admired by us is."
"You guys," another guy said, running up to them. "That's the guy that's been in the papers recently, the author." He showed them the picture with the latest article.
"And he's *gay*?" the first guy asked.
"With two husbands and lovers according to the article," the third told him, smirking. "It says he *needs* that many, and that he used to write *porn*."
"I'd like to see if he practices what he preaches," the second guy said. They all laughed. "I'm wondering if the short redhead is a husband or a lover?"
"Husband," the first said, handing over the article. "It says he's the cousin of the guy that was on the news for being shot in Chicago, something about that *man* beating up a reporter for defiling his husband's body."
"Wow, keeping it in the family," the second said, handing the article back. "Wonder if he's taking applications for loving helpers."
Xander winked as he walked over to them. "Yes, I'm him, yes, that's my husband and my housekeeper with her kids. Please don't embarrass me in front of them?" he asked, giving them his best 'innocent little boy' look. They all nodded dumbly so he ran toward the water, each of them tipping their heads as he dived in to get the best view they could.
Oz laughed from his blanket under the umbrella. His baby was *so* bad at times. Maybe they should go out tonight. D'Nalia headed out with the newly-sunscreened boys to go play in the water, leaving him to proof the first few chapters of Xander's newest book. He really wanted to know what the darkest recesses of Xander's mind could come up with to torture Giles.
Oz led his husband into the club, arm wrapped possessively around Xander's waist so no one would get the wrong idea and try to hit on him, not that Ray would let anyone near them, or Methos, who was catching a quick kiss next to the doorway. "Table?" he suggested.
Methos nodded and they headed for the wall area, going to sit at an empty table. They ordered drinks, little rum coolers, then Xander dragged Oz out onto the floor as a new song started up.
Methos sighed as his two of his favorite people writhed together on the floor. He took Ray's hand to hold, enjoying the ambience of the club. It wasn't often that he would openly display affection to his lover and soon-to-be-husband but no one would dare say anything in this place. One eyebrow went up as Xander was split off from Oz on the dance floor. Then he watched as Oz stalked his husband and took him back, shoving another man aside, probably with a growled 'mine' thrown in for good measure. But there wasn't a fight so it was all good still.
It wasn't too long before Oz dragged Xander back and forced him to sit against the wall. "Wicked music," Oz noted as he sat down. "You two should go dance."
"I don't dance," Ray told him, sounding very firm about it. "Not in clubs."
"I'd dance with you and teach you," Xander offered. "It's all about letting go and following the music." Ray shook his head so Xander turned the impressive power of his pout on his best friend. "Please?"
"Nope, and not even that'll make me get out there."
"Please?" Xander asked, turning it up.
"Go," Methos said gently, handing Xander Ray's hand. "And keep him out of trouble."
"I'll keep him out of trouble," Xander promised, climbing over Oz to get back out, dragging Ray with him. He got his friend onto the crowded dance floor and ground himself into the other man's hips, showing him how to move. It wasn't too long before Ray was into it, and horny.
Methos looked at Oz and smiled. "At least they're having fun."
Oz shrugged. "I'm still gonna worry."
Methos laughed at that. "As shall I. Those two couldn't stay out of trouble with an army of bodyguards around them." They looked at each other, then got up and headed over to dance with their lovers before someone else could get to them. It was dangerous to leave those two alone for very long. People tended to want to take them, or they got into the sort of trouble that only well-trained GHS sluts could. Xander pulled Methos in to dance with him, getting his groove on with the hard body, making his friend, teacher, and lover very horny. He grinned over at Oz, who had Ray all but wrapped around him, then up at Methos, winking at him, as he turned around so the older immortal could grind into his backside.
Xander leaned over and kissed Ray in the back seat, stealing his mouth from Methos. He got tired of the awkward position and climbed over the front seat, right into Ray's lap so he could share with the other couple. Oz drove them to an out of the way park and parked in the darkest corner of the parking lot, then he reached over and lowered the back of Xander's seat until it was nearly a flat surface and touching the back seat. He slid over and did the same to his seat, creating two more hard, flat surfaces for everyone to enjoy. Then he grabbed Methos and kissed him hard, pulling him away from the two mortals so they could have some fun.
Not even the cops that came up to the car could interfere with the hot passion that was spilling from inside the steamed windows. No one wanted to break into that orgy. By the time they'd left, Xander was naked, Ray was bottomless, and Oz had Methos so far down his throat that he could have been attached to Methos' crotch by the nose.
Ray groaned as Xander impaled himself, grabbing the slender hips hard enough to put bruises on them as he helped the younger man ride him. He came within a few minutes; the hour of teasing on the dance floor had been excellent foreplay, especially when Xander had all but given him a hand-job while they'd been dancing. He slumped a little bit, smiling at his partner. "You're good," he whispered, taking another hard kiss, then pushing Xander off and making him lean back into the other duo. "Here, I'm spent," he said, passing the Xander on.
Methos grabbed the Xander and pulled him down, interrupting Oz's blowjob. He slid into the wet body with a pleased smile and started to ride him, pushing Oz's head down so he would pleasure his husband. Xander wiggled delightfully, getting him off quickly too, then shot off down Oz's throat.
"Now that's what I call a quickie," Ray said in appreciation, smiling at the Xander.
"We need more nights like this one," Methos murmured as he pulled the Xander in for a cuddle and yawned.
"We're near one of the biggest party cities," Oz agreed. "We should spend some more time partying." He checked his watch. "Wanna go find another club?" Xander grinned at that.
"I'll get up front and let Methos sleep it off with the Xander pillow," Ray offered, grinning at Xander. He *knew* how the young man loved to be held after sex. He ended up getting out and helping Oz put back up the seats as Methos settled himself in the back, eventually sliding into the passenger's seat and buckling himself in. "Where to now, Oz?"
Oz shrugged. "Let's drive around 'til we find somewhere we all like." He started the car and backed out of the parking lot, heading for the club district again.
"Make it a gay club," Methos said sleepily.
"Yeah, I wanna dance some more," Xander said with a grin.
"Did you guys see the cops?" Ray asked as they pulled out onto one of the more main streets.
"Cops?" everyone else asked at once.
"Yeah, they came up to the car and decided not to interrupt." He shrugged when Xander looked at him. "Seems they thought we needed it."
Oz put a hand high on Ray's thigh. "Oh, we needed it," he said, giving the other man a sly smile.
"We'll ask at the next club and see where people go to make out," Xander told them.
"We will not go parking," Methos said in his usual dry tone.
"Parking?" Ray asked. "My father used to say that when I was in high school."
"Mine never talked to me about sex," Xander said with a shrug. "My mother hadn't given him any in years, and he was cheating on her with barely legal girls. I doubt he wanted to tell me about any of it."
"Good thing," Ray said with a smirk. "We wouldn't want you to suddenly turn *het*."
Oz shuddered. "Eww, Ray, bad thought!" He pinched the inside of his thigh. "Just for that, I'm putting you in a cock ring before we go into the next club."
"We didn't bring any toys," Ray pointed out.
At the next stop light, Oz leaned over and opened the glove compartment, taking out the cock ring that was sitting in there and dropping it into Ray's lap. He ignored the two dildos that were sitting in there and the tube of lube that was stuffed against the compartment wall. "We'll put that on before we go in," Oz told him, starting again since the light was green.
"Xander, why do you keep two sex toys, lube, and a cock ring in the car?" Ray asked, not sure he wanted the answer.
"Because you never know when you've got to have some," Xander told him with a naughty grin.
"I thought we agreed, no more masturbating in public," Oz said, glancing in the rearview mirror.
"We did, and it wasn't public." Xander blew him a kiss. "I found one of those parking spots and decided I needed some."
"Oh, that's okay then," Oz agreed.
"I miss when we used to do it in the car on the way to LA," Xander sighed.
Oz snorted. "Yeah, me too, but we nearly had a wreck the last time you blew me while I was driving. Remember that?"
"Yup, very well thank you," Xander said quickly. "Which is why I haven't pushed it."
"He blew you *while* you were drivin'?" Ray asked.
"Yes, Oz has always had a thing about having sex in the car," Methos told him. "That's how he wrecked his first VW Bus."
"She had some major suction," Oz agreed, nodding slowly. "Oh, the other cars'll be down in a few days," he noted. "We'll have to clean this one really well before we send it back to the rental agency."
"I'll help," Xander said with a grin. Methos nipped him on the neck. "Hey, no biting in the car. Not when I can't retaliate by sucking on your nipples."
Ray moaned and turned around to watch them. There weren't many things that were more sensual to him than sex, but watching Methos and Xander, or Oz, go at it were on the top of his list.
Oz smirked as he turned onto the main strip, deciding they could cruise for a while. They could even take turns driving, at least if he had any say about it.
Oz leaned over Xander's butt, which was sticking up under the covers, and grabbed the phone. "Yeah?" he asked sleepily. "Huh?" He hummed. "Thanks. Yeah, I'll do that now." He hung up and went out to move the car they'd parked next to the door last night into the garage so the street cleaners wouldn't smash into it. By the time he got back, Methos and Ray had surrounded his Xander and were trying to get him to wake up by teasing him which wasn't going to happen. Oz knew that from experience. "He can't feel that when he's really asleep," he noted as he crawled in and lay down on top of his husband's firm body.
"Ferret babies," came the call from the living room. It was the twins, looking for their best friends. "Where are you?"
"Oh, hell," Methos said, getting up and quietly closing the door. If the boys knew they were up, they'd come in and want to cuddle too, and, while he was content to cuddle after sex, children still scared him to no end - he might have helped raise some, but that didn't mean that he and they interacted very well. He crawled back into the bed, just before the door opened and the twin boys snuck in.
"Hi!" they said cheerfully as they started to search for the baby ferrets. "Where'd they go?"
"Have you checked the animal room yet?" Methos asked them, making sure they were all covered up. D'Nalia had said she was very liberal but he doubted she wanted her beloved twins to see them naked and having morning hard-ons. The boys ran out to go check that room, slamming the door behind them.
"Huh?" Xander asked sleepily, lifting his head up.
"It was the twins," Oz told him, licking across the back of the sweaty neck. "They're searching for their partners in mischief." He nipped the base of Xander's neck, getting a sleepy murmur of interest. "You up for it?"
"Ferret babies!" Ian yelled from outside the door. He walked in and stomped over to the bed, climbing up to sit on the bottom, looking at the adults. "I can't find them anywhere," he pouted.
Xander turned his head to look at the little boy. "Did you check downstairs and in the kitchen?" he asked. The little boy nodded. "Is your mother around? She might know where they're at."
Sean ran in and hopped up onto the bed, smiling at them. "Mommy said she took them to the vet's because they were throwin' up," he told everyone. All the adults looked at him. "She said that they have to stay there until this afternoon and they'll be home then."
"Why were they getting sick?" Oz asked.
"Because they ate a plant," Sean told him, frowning. "I'm not sure which one."
D'Nalia cleared her throat from the doorway. "I'm sure you've heard about the ferret kits," she said as she walked in. "They're fine. The vet had to make sure they had puked it all up before sending them home, so they're under observation for most of the day." She sat down on the end of the bed and pulled her twins into her lap. "It was the ferny sort of plant that's sitting in the front window."
Xander sighed. "They said it was fine for animals, I asked the plant people and everything."
"It's fine for the cats and the dogs, but not the ferrets." She squeezed her sons then put them on the floor. "Let's go find you something to color, guys." She smiled once her twins had gone. "Thanks for not yelling at them."
"We'd only yell if we were in the middle of it," Oz told her, watching as she walked out and shut the door behind her. He looked down at Xander, nipping him again. "Anyone still wanting to do more?" he asked.
"No," Ray said, lifting the sheet to look down at his limp cock. "It fell when the kids walked in."
Methos reached over and patted Ray's cock. "It's all right. I'm sure it'll come back soon enough." He looked at Oz. "Yours?"
"Completely gone," Oz admitted. "Xander?"
"I'm almost always ready," Xander reminded him, closing his eyes and putting his head down again. He started to snore within minutes.
Oz shook his head and got out of the bed, making sure Xander was comfortably covered, then nodded his head at the bathroom. "Soak?"
The other couple nodded, grabbing robes to follow him to the massive bathroom and the huge tub. They piled into the spacious tub, adding their own mixture of oil, salt, and bubbles until the bathroom smelled nice and everyone was soothed. They settled in to enjoy the hot water and the jets, quickly falling asleep again.
D'Nalia came in to check on them a few hours later, shaking her head at the threesome cuddled together against one edge. She set down the tray table and left, quietly closing the door behind her before heading back to the kitchen and Xander. "Hey," she said, patting him on the back. "All asleep."
Xander finished his cup of coffee and smiled. "Good. Want to help me cook?"
"You can cook?" she asked, looking skeptical. Henri had warned her not to trust anything that Xander had made unless the preparation had less than three steps or it was pre-made.
"I can do some," he told her, starting to pout. "I want to make ribs. Please?"
"I'll go to the store," she told him, handing him the note pad for groceries. "Find your recipe and make the list."
He hugged her. "Thank you." He pulled out the recipe he'd hidden in the cabinet, he really wanted this to be a surprise for his men, and wrote down what he needed, handing it back to her. "Here, I need those." He smiled as she held out a hand. "Wallet's in the living room. Are you going to pick up the ferrets too?"
"Nope; the vet wanted to talk to you guys." She went to pick out some money and go to the store, taking the twins with her.
Xander danced around the kitchen, planning the night he wanted to surprise his lovers with. He remembered to close the curtains after seeing a flash, but he shrugged it off. So what if it was a camera, it wasn't any worse than anything else they've said about him.
Xander smiled across the table at the vet, petting his baby, Jedi. "So, they're all fine?"
"They're all good," the vet agreed. "Have they had their shots?" He looked up from the chart. "We couldn't get hold of your usual vet."
"He may be off for vacation; he takes a week off every year about this time," Xander said lightly. "But we brought a copy of everyone's records down with us," he said, bending down to grab his briefcase, pulling out the expanding filefolder. "Here's the files on all of our animals."
The vet took it and checked each piece, smiling at the complete records. "Well, they certainly look in order," he noted. "How do you handle so many animals?"
"We've got a room just for them to play in," Xander said with a bigger grin. "Most of the time they decide to keep themselves in there and nap. The babies here," he said, tapping the head of one ferret that was trying to jump off the table, "usually come out and play with our housekeeper's twins. They're four," he explained.
The vet laughed. "I can see how they'd get along well. You're not having a problem with all the dogs going out?"
"Nah, they like to go out together. I adopted a bunch of strays outta LA's shelters, and we've worked really hard to make sure that the pack works well together. Any of the animals that can't handle it are adopted out; I make sure that all the homes are good ones."
"Good." The vet closed the file folder and handed it back. "It sounds like you've got it well in hand. Do you have any questions?"
"Yeah, actually; if we're going to use you as our primary vet, I think I should ask you a few questions." The vet nodded. "All right, we're going to be doing a generational thing with one of our dogs and our mommy ferret," Xander told him.
"Generational thing?" the vet asked.
"Yeah, like we want to keep a member of the bloodline for a long time."
"All right. So you're breeding a few of them?"
"Well, these are all our mommy's kids," Xander told him, petting Jedi again. "She's had three different litters, but a few of them have been adopted out." The vet nodded again. "So, we're needing to make sure that there's nothing wrong with the bloodline."
"I can see how that would be necessary," the vet agreed. "If you'd like to schedule a day to bring in all your animals, we can do a complete work-up on them all."
"That's a definite possibility," Xander agreed. "See, our mommy puppy's babies are just about old enough to go into heat too. They were born about eight months ago and the mommy, Rocky, went into heat the first time around ten months."
"Ah. So this is going to become a necessity."
"We're thinking within a few months actually," Xander said, starting to relax. "We'd like your opinion on breeding too. We've picked out the one we'd like to breed, but we'd love to have all our puppies have puppies. I'm really good at finding them homes," Xander said as the vet opened his mouth, "but I'm also realistic. We'd like to interbreed to try and keep the bloodline as pure as possible, but know that comes with problems too."
"It does," the vet said thoughtfully, "but doing it every few generations, and not from the same litter, shouldn't cause too many problems. You're right; that would be a very good reason to check out the bloodlines. A full work-up on all the animals might take a full day, and about a week to get back all the bloodwork, but it'd definitely be a help for what you've got planned. How many do you have now? I lost count in there."
"Eleven animals before we had the babies, and Ray's two dogs and two cats," Xander sighed. "And D'Nalia's two came with her. Three more puppies and a grand total eleven, no ten now, ferret kittens."
"Kits," the vet corrected.
"Not quite. Though, they can be very similar I know." The vet patted one of the babies. "They are adorable; are you going to let these be adopted too?"
"Yup, I'm starting to look for families now. We've adopted one out to a friend who's in the military and his lover."
"They allowed that? I always thought they had very strict rules for military peoples' animals."
"They're civilian consultants; the military can't really complain at them about it when they have their own apartment." He shrugged. "Though, I believe Dessie may be going to work with them. Danny said something about that the last time I talked to him. They did get in trouble for that one."
The vet laughed. "At least your life's not boring." He helped get the ferrets into the carrier. "Let's go make you an appointment for the full work-up, and we'll try to get hold of your vet again tonight."
"Tell them that I'm not moving permanently. This is just for a few years and I'll be back."
"I'll do that," the vet agreed, following him out. "Maria, we need to make him an appointment for his thirty animals to come in and get complete work-ups." She looked up at him. "He's thinking about breeding a few of them."
She nodded and bent over to look at the scheduling book, then sighed. "You've got an afternoon in two days," she suggested. "A three hour block but there's a possibility of a staff meeting that day."
He shook his head. "No, I'm very sure we're having a meeting."
"We've got some time open on Saturday, but it's only a two hour block, and then you've got lunch scheduled and a shot clinic."
The vet winced. "No, let's try in a few weeks."
"Well," she said, flipping pages. "Did you really want next Tuesday off?"
The vet nodded, giving her a frown. "It's the renewal of my wedding vows; I think I need that day," he said dryly.
"Just checking." She flipped pages again, then smiled. "Three weeks from now, you've got a whole open day," she said, handing over the book so he could see.
"We like afternoons," Xander said quickly.
The vet took the secretary's pencil and marked off the afternoon. "All right, Mr. Harris, three weeks on Wednesday," he said, taking the card from the receptionist to write it out. "Bring them all, bring your copies of the records and we'll try to get the ones from your regular vet." He smiled at the young man. "Our number's on the front if you need us. Please get rid of that plant, or move it if you really have to keep it."
Xander grinned and clapped him on the shoulder. "I can do that. Thanks for taking care of them for me." He tucked the card into his pocket and picked up the carrier again. "We'll go home and rest now." He showed his babies to the receptionist and waved, heading out to his car. He made sure the babies were tightly fastened into the back and got in to drive, heading for home.
Xander walked into the house, smiling at the sight before him. Richard and Oz were playing chess, and Methos was arranging the pictures on the mantle. "We're home, and we need to get rid of that plant."
"D'Nalia took it to her place," Oz said absently. "All okay?"
"They're all fine," Xander said, checking to make sure the door was closed before opening the cage and letting them all out. He smiled as two of them headed immediately for Richard's lap and crawled up his pants to get to it. They squeaked up at him, wiggling until he petted them.
"Gee, want some pets?" Oz asked, making his move. "Xander, what's with the bowls in the kitchen? D'Nalia said I couldn't touch them."
"I'm making ribs," he said as he headed to check on his dinner.
Oz and Methos shared a look, then Oz jumped up to go check on him. "Honey, I love you, but...do you know what you're doing?" he asked gently.
"I *can* follow a recipe, Oz," Xander told him, giving him a frown. "It's not that hard. I got the recipe off that guy on TV that we like to watch."
"Okay, I'll try them," Oz agreed, giving his husband a hug. He felt the stiffness of the card in Xander's pocket and pulled it out to look at it. "Vet follow-up?"
"Mass checkup," Xander corrected. "To check everyone's health and to see if the ones we want to breed are fine."
"Cool, did you tell him how many we actually have?"
"He scheduled the whole afternoon for us," Xander said, giving him a smile as he turned in the loose arms. "He made sure that we could handle all the animals that we have, and I explained that we wanted to keep a member of the bloodlines for a few generations. He was pretty cool about it."
"Cool, I'll enjoy this one then. Our last one always seemed to frown at me whenever I came in with someone." Oz gave him a squeeze. "Guess what I saw in the paper today."
"I saw an ad for a ferret breeder who stated that their animals only went to excellent and loving homes."
"Really?" Xander smiled brighter. "Can we call and talk to them?"
"Sure. We talked for a few minutes while you were gone, and they want to take a look at our babies. It seems like they're working out of one bloodline and we might have one of the better chances for them to get a new one."
"We don't have papers on Jedi," Xander pointed out.
"They're ferrets, it's not like we have to worry about breeds."
"Okay, when are they coming over?"
"Tomorrow afternoon. And they're bringing one of their top studs to see if they're compatible with Jedi."
"Wow. And we've got the vet visit coming up to make sure that they're absolutely fine. This could be really good."
"I think it really will be," Oz agreed. "Now, about dinner. Are you sure you want to cook? There's an excellent rib place in town."
"I *can* follow a recipe," Xander reminded him, starting to look pissed again.
"Okay, I look forward to trying them," Oz said, backing out of the kitchen. He went back to his chess game. It was never wise to piss off the Xander, especially when he was trying to do something that he knew he wasn't too good at. He sat down across from his opponent. "So, want a pet?" he asked, nodding at the ferrets. "Xander adopts them out, but I'm sure he wouldn't mind, and they're all getting checkups in three weeks."
Richard smiled. "I'll have to ask my Mariana, Oz; she was not very impressed with your Xander."
"Yeah, I heard he nearly took her head because she snuck up on him." Oz shrugged. "Does she regret it yet?"
Richard snorted. "That's mostly why she doesn't like him. She hates anyone who can best her." Oz raised an eyebrow. "I know, it's not the way to learn, but she does realize that she can learn from people. I have the feeling that, eventually, she'll come ask Xander to teach her how he did that move."
"It's all part of a dance, man, not something that he can really teach." Oz shrugged at the hard look. "You remember that small matter with the tape and the internet?" Richard smiled and nodded. "The same dances that did that taught him how to fight."
"Ah, then I won't say a thing, but I'll try and dissuade her from hating him for it." He clapped his hands. "I do believe we're at Check."
"Hmm," Oz said, quickly making a move. "Checkmate."
Richard frowned as he stared at the board. "How?" Oz moved his next move. "Oh. Yes, that is an interesting strategy."
"I always thought Kings should take down other Kings," Oz said with a shrug. He shuddered when a 'clang' came from the kitchen. "Where's that rib place again?" he asked quietly, handing over a piece of paper and a pen. "He's trying to cook."
Richard gave him a sympathetic look and wrote down the directions.
Xander bit into his first rib, not minding everyone watching him. He winced as he continued to chew, then tossed down the bones. "Whatever," he said, glaring at Oz for being right.
"I'll buy you ribs," Oz soothed, getting up and helping Xander to his feet, and out to the car. "There's a great rib place in town, Richard said he eats there at least twice a month." He put the directions on the dashboard and watched as the other couple got into the back, backing out quickly. Maybe the dogs would decide they needed some new chew toys and take them off the table; then he remembered how well trained they were. Someone would have to feed the dogs the ribs - but not where Xander could see it.
D'Nalia walked into the dining room and looked at the dinner laid out. She picked off a piece of meat and grimaced. "Here, boys," she called, bringing the dogs running. "Here we go," she said, handing over the treats. "Yes, you can have a chew toy." She continued on her trek to the cupboards, going to find something for her and the boys to eat for dinner. She'd definitely be talking to Oz in the morning about where her check was.
Xander rubbed against Oz as they walked into their house, but the man standing in the center of the living room cooled him off some. "Micah?" he asked. "What sort of problem are you having?"
"A big one," he sighed, turning to look at Xander, making sure he could see the bruises. "I had to help Angel out earlier tonight." He walked closer. "Xander, did Wolfram and Hart send you something?"
"They said it was from Angel," Xander said, heading into the office to get the check he hadn't remembered to cash yet. He turned, handing it to his brother, who had followed him. "They said Angel sent it to pay me back."
"Oh, it would have," Micah agreed. "It's cursed. As soon as you cashed it, you would have started the curse." He touched his brother's face. "They were trying to take everything away from you, little brother."
Xander nodded, then he stiffened. "Angel?"
"Is fine, as is everyone in his office. Wesley's in the hospital, and it's serious, but he's expected to recover." He took a deep breath. "They tried to get into your house but young Willow stopped them cold, as did your natural brother."
"And Henri?" Oz asked.
"Is fine," Micah said, giving him a smile. "Willow stopped them when she heard they were heading towards your house by forcing them to tell everything they'd ever done to a cop. Then she headed up there using my traveling device to warn Seth and Spike. Everything at your home is fine." He looked at Xander again. "Why didn't you cash it?"
"I didn't need the money," Xander said with a shrug. "I was going to mention it to Oz and let him decide which account we're putting it into."
"Good." Micah patted him on the shoulder. "Good boy. Always be careful of presents from people you don't know." He handed Xander a large, wrapped box. "But not this one, okay?" He turned and walked away, using his portal once he was outside the house.
Methos walked in and looked at the box Xander was carrying. "He's gone. What's that?"
"Something Micah gave him," Ray said with a shrug. "Open it, Xan. I wanna see."
"Presents in times of stress are never meant in fun," Xander reminded him, looking up at Oz, who nodded. So he opened it. Inside the box was a large wooden box, and inside that box was a ring. "Oh, crap! It's the family seal."
Oz took it out and looked it over. "Are we keeping it safe?"
"No, if something happens to Micah, and he must think it will, I'm supposed to pick the next head of the family." He took the ring and put it back in the box, staring up at the ceiling. "Fuck you, Micah, I didn't want this!" A note drifted down from the ceiling and he picked it up to read it. "Oh, crap. Micah's leading the final assault on Wolfram and Hart's demonic offices. Claimed it was his right since they're gunning for me, and I'm a sibling." He handed it over and went to get sick.
Oz nodded at Ray to follow him while he read, letting Methos hold the box for now. "This sucks," he finally announced, heading to help his husband and comfort him.
Methos stuck the note in the box with the ring and closed it, keeping it close by him as he went to check his email. Something this big often leaked into the normal world, and he wanted to monitor it through the Watchers. Wolfram and Hart had an immie working for them so they had to have a Watcher within easy watching distance.
Oz sat down beside Xander on the bathroom floor and pulled him into his arms, his husband clinging to him. "Shh, Micah's an experienced warrior, and I doubt he'll die. This was just an in case sorta thing."
"It isn't," Xander sniffed. "If it were, he'd have given it to Elizabeth."
"Maybe he couldn't find her," Ray noted.
"The note said he wanted Elizabeth to take the reins next," Xander sniffed. "She can't give it to herself."
"Oh." Ray shrugged. "Do you know where your adopted sister is?"
"Vegas, at school," Oz told him. "Number's in our rolodex, the personal one." Ray nodded and got up to call her for them. "They'll both be fine, Xander, and, if not, then we'll do our best to support your sister in her new job." Xander nodded and wrapped his arms tighter around him. "It's okay. I know you like Micah, but it'll be okay." He rocked his mate gently, trying to soothe him. They both jumped when they heard a phone ring. "What happened?" he yelled.
Methos walked into the bathroom. "That was Willow. She took out the vampires they sent to the house. Spike got the fighters. Henri's scared but she's unhurt." He walked in and dropped a kiss on Xander's head. "The only thing that they did was try to kick your forge over, and they got burnt for it because it still hasn't cooled down yet." He frowned at Oz. "Is he all right?" he asked when he didn't get an answer.
"As far as I know," Oz said with as much of a shrug as he could give. "He gets like this when he's upset."
"Ah." Methos sat down next to them, sharing the cuddling duties. Ray came in a few minutes later and sat down with them. "Is it done?" he asked his mate.
"I called her, got her roommate, left a message for her to call immediately, it's a family emergency." He tapped Xander, getting looked at. "It'll be okay. You've fought with Micah before, and you said he wasn't that bad. He's probably better against demons, or at least against someone who he wouldn't get into trouble for beating up."
Xander nodded. "I know, but it still sucks. He's expecting to die."
"I've gone into plenty of situations where I expected to die," Ray told him, "but I came out."
"Yeah, but you had a Mountie," Xander pointed out.
"Maybe he's got the demonic version," Methos said with a shrug. "There are excellent fighters among the demons, and there are white knights, same as a Mountie would be." He started a soothing massage on Xander's neck, slowly moving down to the tense shoulders. "Relax," he whispered. "We'll handle it. We've gone through too much and so has Micah," he added when Oz looked at him. "Everything will be fine, Xander."
"And if it's not?"
"Then we'll deal," Ray reminded him. "We've dealt with everything else." He stole a kiss. "See?"
"Yeah, maybe," Xander said, relaxing. At least until the phone rang and Ray jumped up to get it. "Is it her?" he called.
"Yeah," Ray called back, bringing the phone with him. Xander took it and disappeared into the bedroom to talk to his adopted sister alone. Ray sat in Methos' lap, letting Oz hug him too. "It'll be okay, right?"
"It should be," Oz told him, getting comfortable.
Xander came out of the bedroom around dawn and found all his lovers in the living room, waiting on him. "He lived," he announced, "but he's really badly beaten up." He came over and sat down between Ray and Oz. "Elizabeth went home to deal with him and the rest of the family."
"And the ring?" Methos asked.
"Stays with me until Micah can come get it himself, or until Elizabeth comes to say that she's now the head of the family."
Methos reached over and gave him a hug. "We told you it'd be fine," he said quietly. "Micah will come and get the seal himself in a few days."
"And everything will go back to normal," Oz added, giving his husband a squeeze. "And Richard said he'd talk to what's-her-name about adopting the two ferrets that liked him so much."
"Mariana," Xander said quietly. "She *really* hates Methos. He burned down her village," he said, looking at his friends.
"I'm sure she'll see tonight that I've changed," Methos said calmly. "I'm not going to run and hide because I did her wrong in the past. If I did that every time an old immie came near me, I'd never come out of the bathroom."
"Which would be okay if we had the bathroom here and a food delivery service," Ray joked.
Methos groaned. "No, it wouldn't. I'd miss my books and we'd eventually run out of lubricant, not to mention soap, shampoo, and the other necessities such as toilet paper." He kissed Ray on the cheek. "I promise, after our official ceremony, I'm taking you somewhere private for a few weeks. If anyone finds us, it'll be their heads."
"Both of them?" Oz asked with a faint smile.
"Yes, I'll enjoy the torture," Methos told him, but he was looking at Xander when he said it. "As for you, imp, I don't want to see any gauzy fabrics on my Raymond. I plan on leaving shortly after the ceremony and escaping this hecticness that seems to surround us at the moment."
"You mean I can't borrow his outfit?" Ray asked with a grin.
"Only if you want to fly out in it," Methos said dryly. "I personally don't want that sort of attention, but if you're up to being ogled and patted down by every person in there, including the security people probably, then I'll gladly let you wear it."
"You mean we can't have a reception?" Xander asked, giving him a mild pout. "Not even a cake?"
"I was planning on leaving no more than four hours after the wedding," Methos told him. "If you plan it for early afternoon, then we'll be able to sleep on the plane that night...if we're not at our destination by then."
"You're not gonna tell even me where we're goin', are you?" Ray asked, tipping his head up to look at his lover. Methos shook his head. "I guess that's romantic, the surprise and all. You do know I hate surprises, right?"
Methos nodded. "I know. I'll tell you once we're safely on our way to the airport."
"Are we doing it here?" Xander asked.
"Unless you wanted to move everything back home for a week, I'd say we'd probably be best off doing it here." Methos looked at Oz. "We do have a small garden over the garage."
"No trees," Ray reminded him. "I'd like this to be private, not to have everyone and a news crew there."
"Then how about a nearby park?" Oz asked. "We could probably even rent out a pavilion or something."
"Maybe," Methos agreed, "but we'd still have the problem of privacy."
"We could go look for a small hotel with a ballroom," Xander pointed out.
"Or we could be really snarky and mean and go to Vegas, but use another hotel," Ray suggested.
Oz shook his head. "Giles would get us for that. Besides, we've still got to call Danny and give him a definite date to ask for vacation time."
"We're getting married in three weeks, even if no one shows up," Methos said firmly.
"Guess we'll have to call Henri and ask her to send down the gifts earlier than we thought," Oz said, looking down at Xander. "Think she'd mind?"
"Nah, she'd probably even bring them personally," Xander said with a grin. "And ask her to send down the rest of the animal toys too, before I have to go buy more of them."
Oz groaned lightly. "Xan, those toys were annoying."
"Yup, and I'm sure I can find worse ones," he noted.
"Fine," Oz said as he got up and headed for the office, "I'll tell her to send them down too." He flopped down into his desk chair and turned on his computer, tapping his fingers while it booted up.
"Um, Oz?" D'Nalia said from the doorway. "Can I talk to you?" He nodded so she walked in and closed the door. "I know I've gotten a paycheck from you recently, but it hasn't been in the last two weeks and I'm starting to steal you guys' food to feed my family."
Oz looked at her for a moment. "I thought we were direct depositing it into your account."
"Maybe, but, if you are, it wasn't there as of yesterday."
"Oh." Oz shrugged. "Let me check and make sure it's going through. If not, I'll write you out a check." He smiled. "You knew not to go to Xander about this?"
"I figured you're the money person," she said with a shrug of her own. "I've seen how you keep the credit cards and how you keep the receipts. I figured you'd be the person to go to about this."
"Thanks," he said with a smile. "You chose right. Let me check on that while I email Henri, and, if not, I'll have a check for you by tonight, and we'll spring for a pizza for you three."
"Thanks, Oz. I'll go back to unpacking the fabrics again."
"Xander's supposed to be doing that," Oz noted.
"Yup, but I needed something to do. This place is really clean already." She smiled at him. "And if I have to clean bodily fluids out of that bathtub, I want a raise."
He snickered. "I promise, we'll rinse it out every time we put bodily fluids into it." She nodded and walked out, and he shook his head in wonder at the gem they'd found to be their assistant housekeeper. He logged onto the internet, pulling up his email so he could send a letter home. He hoped Henri knew where Xander had hidden the presents because he didn't. At the end, he put on a PS, stating that it was against his will, but would she please send down the 'damned noisy toys'. He leaned back in his chair as he accessed their financial manager program, checking on his automatic withdrawals. He frowned when he saw that one of them wasn't going to go through for nearly a month, it was listed as 'in processing', and shrugged, pulling out his checkbook to write their housekeeper a check for her agreed upon salary. "Flat salaries are good," he reminded himself, tearing out the check and getting up to go give it to her, making sure he had his wallet on him. He found her and the boys sitting downstairs, talking while their mom put up the fabric bolts. "Don't worry about where you put them, he'll be rearranging them."
"I'm trying to put them in the order he had them stacked in here, which was how they were stacked at home," she told him, giving him a smile. "It's make-work until the ferrets run through a plant again."
"You could always take the boys out to do something fun," Oz reminded her. "We're not total ogres who're going to chain you to the house all day long." He handed her the check and reached for his wallet, pulling out the largest bill he had. "Here, take the boys to a movie and bring dinner back for you three."
"Movie!" the boys yelled, hugging Oz's legs.
"You're sure?" she asked.
"I'm sure. Go, have fun, and come back calm and with worn out kids. We may be getting to adopt two of the babies out."
"That'll be good," she said as she pulled her little leeches off his legs and got them started toward the apartment with a light swat to their butts. "You're sure?" she said quietly.
"We'd be doing the same thing at home," Oz assured her. "We've sent Henri home plenty of times because there wasn't anything for her to do, and it's never affected her paycheck yet. Oh, and it'll start being direct deposited in a month, once the bank has finished pushing the request through the system, so remind me sooner next time, okay?" He walked away, letting her go manhandle her boys into the car while he went back to cuddling with the Xander on the couch, watching Ray and Methos argue about their wedding.
Richard and Mariana walked in the held-open door, smiling down at the little boys playing with all the animals. "I didn't know you had children," he told Oz, who took his sports coat.
"We don't, they're the housekeeper's kids."
"We're babysitting while she gets a nap; they had a long afternoon out," Ray said, giving them a welcoming smile. "Hey, how ya doin'," he said with a wave. Then he put a possessive hand on Methos' thigh, making sure that the Xander knew he wasn't getting any of that tonight.
Xander grinned at him, then stuck his tongue out at his best friend.
"Keep it up and I'm going to lock you two in the bathroom together," Oz said as he walked over to sit next to his Xander. "So, sit. Let the master of adoptions talk to you."
"Why did she wait so long to adopt out her children? They must be at least four and would know about their real family, which would keep them from bonding with their new one," Mariana said as she sat next to her man.
"Ferrets, not children," Xander told her. "Two of our kits decided to adopt him."
"They are quite adorable," Richard agreed. "Are they always that cuddly?"
"That pair, yeah," Oz said, after thinking about it. He looked at Xander. "Is one of them the one that likes to snuggle up to butts in the middle of the night?"
"You let your animals sleep with you?" she asked.
"Why, yes, animals need comfort too," Xander said calmly, but his voice was starting towards snide. "The same as children would need to come in and sleep with their parents on occasion, the animals like to sneak in some nights and help us sleep."
"Most of them are pretty good about not getting in the way," Ray put in. "Except for that one time."
"I think she's spread that story around so that none of the other kits do the same thing," Methos said, patting him on the knee, after prying the hand off his thigh. He looked at Richard. "You do look familiar," he noted. "Have we met before?"
"A few times," Richard said with great humor, "but I always erased our contacts from everyone. That's why I'm not in the database." He smiled at Xander. "The young one you've chosen to train has quite an interesting style, Methos. Did you have a hand in it?"
"No, not a bit," Methos said with a smile for Xander. "He learned that all on his own while he was across a realmal boundary. That and how to be a merciless tease."
"I don't tease you," Xander told him. "I always come through on my promises."
"Only for us, you tease everyone else," Oz told him, patting him on the hand he held. "So, are you willing to protect the ferrets with your life?" he asked.
"With my life?" Richard asked, looking confused. "Is that really necessary?"
"Yeah, one'a the ferret babies kept Xander from being kidnaped," Ray explained.
"Did not," Xander said hotly. "No one's tried to take me in *months*."
"Why do people try to take you?" Richard asked.
"Because he's him and a supreme tease," Ray told him.
"Or to try and get at us," Methos added. "But Oz was correct in asking, the same as I would like to know, if you'd be able to help us when Xander's taken the next time."
"Hey!" Xander protested.
"Shh," Oz said, kissing the back of his hand. "It's better to have a posse. The last few attempts have been more organized instead of just being a stupid immie who only wanted someone's head."
"I can get out of that situation by myself," Xander said, glaring at his husband. "As I've proven. I beat MacLeod once, and everyone else that came after me since I learned how to fight. Someone even took me and you didn't notice because I came back so quickly." He stopped when he realized what he'd just said and that everyone was looking at him. He wisely pressed his lips together before they could get him in any more trouble.
"Would that be the one from *months* ago?" Methos asked. "I wasn't aware of any attempt then."
"No, that one the ferret scared off," Ray told him. "It was about two weeks after the one I got for him."
"I could have handled it," Xander said, starting to sound petulant.
"Why do people want him so much?" Richard asked Oz.
"Because he's got a pheromone base that attracts uncontrolled people," Oz explained. "It used to be just demons and the like; now it's mutated into people too. It's one of the reasons we stay home so much."
Richard thought about that as he looked Xander over. "Then you have my word, I'll help you protect Xander and take him back if necessary." Methos and Oz both smiled at him for that. "Knowing what I do about your bond, I'd be surprised if anyone who took him lived to regret it."
"A few haven't," Oz agreed. "A few have."
"One decided he'd rather go play naked on a freeway," Ray said, smirking at Xander. "I scared him enough that he ran onto one."
"I'm not helpless," Xander sighed. "I'm just as well trained as probably everyone in here. Protect Ray, he can't use a sword."
"Yeah, but I'll fight dirty. You've still got the whole 'honor' thing going on," Ray complained. "He won't even carry a concealed knife."
"People tend to search me when I'm taken," Xander said dryly. "Unless I'm going to start hiding it up my ass, it won't stay concealed and won't do me any good."
"We used to rely on Jace for backup," Oz told Richard, "but ...." he sighed.
"Since she lost and passed on her job to your Xander, you haven't had anyone else to rely on?" Richard suggested gently.
"We've got Richie, Steve, and Danny," Xander pointed out.
"All of whom are under a century," Richard reminded him. "Some forms of cunning and fighting are best learned after you've passed your first millennium."
"Very true," Methos agreed, smiling at Xander. "Now we won't have to worry about our imp being taken by him, and we've gained a valuable ally for the next time we have to fight to get you back."
"No one's tried to kidnap me in a while," Xander pouted.
"I know," Oz soothed, pulling Xander into his lap, "but it'll happen. We know it will. Your hormones are still swinging."
"And you don't wear a lot of clothes when you're out places like the beach," Ray reminded him. "I was worried about those three guys that were starin' at your butt."
"They were admiring," Xander complained. "I like it when people like the way I look. I work hard to look this good."
"And it should be appreciated," Oz agreed, "but people want what they think they deserve, and I'm not losing you to someone who thinks that they deserve a man with the body of a god." He patted the firm stomach. "You're mine, and they're going to pay for it if they touch you."
"The only people who've touched me were the ones who copped a feel the other night on the dance floor, and you guys," Xander complained.
"But there were people watching you," Methos pointed out reasonably. "Ray and I both spotted people who were doing more than admiring your style." Oz glared at him. "We kept an eye on them."
"It was at the second club," Ray told him. "Those skanky guys up on the balcony that kept pointing down at him. They're the sort cops are told to watch out for at places like bus stations because they take in runaways for whoring operations."
"Thank you for not telling me that while we were there," Oz said quietly, holding tightly to his Xander. "I'd hate to have been arrested."
"We'd all like to stay out of the notice of the local authorities," Methos agreed. "I had enough of that sort of attention when I was around Mac."
"He did draw it," Oz agreed. Ray shuddered. "Cold?"
"No, bad thoughts," Ray said quietly. "We've been living in Sunnydale so long that I forgot how intense big city cops can be."
"Miami's force can be quite intense," Richard agreed, "but they're also overloaded. As long as it's not a murder or a major robbery, there shouldn't be much to bring you to their attention."
"Ray used to be on the force in Chicago," Xander told him. "And in Sunnydale."
"Yeah, Sunnydale was more about ignoring the strange stuff than dealin' with it," Ray said. "I was their only detective for almost my whole time there."
"How did you find the Hellmouth?" Richard asked Xander.
"I was born there," Xander told him. "Oz joined us when we were in high school."
"Junior high. My ninth grade year was your eighth," Oz corrected.
"Dying that young must suck," Mariana said.
"Usually," Oz agreed. "Fortunately, I look old enough to at least pass for eighteen or twenty. It helps when you don't have to do high school every few years."
"I never really thought about that," Xander said, getting comfortable on Oz's lap. "What happens to the guys who die during their early or mid teens?"
"As far as I know there aren't any," Methos told him.
"There was a young man of about eight," Richard corrected gently. "He was a hunter though. Preyed on the immortals who'd help him. He was well over eight hundred when someone finally took his head."
"Kenny?" Methos asked. Richard nodded. "Mac took him in for a bit; I remembered that part of the story." He looked over at Xander, who was starting to doze off. "It looks like someone's getting sick," he said quietly.
"I'm fine," Xander said sleepily. "Didn't get much rest last night."
"Why don't you go take a nap, and we'll wake you up for dinner?" Oz suggested, letting Ray take his husband back to their bedroom. "Sorry, he had a family crisis last night."
"Is he close with his family?" Mariana asked.
"With the one who adopted him, which he found about ten years ago, yes. With his biological one, not hardly. His biological father tried to blackmail him into paying off his gambling debts when he found out Xander had money."
"Angel's been keeping track of both his biological parents for him," Ray reminded Oz. "His father's out of jail now, Xander heard that news the other day. He thinks the old man's gonna do something to try and get some more of his money, somethin' like suing him."
"I'll go over his will with him tomorrow," Methos told Oz. "We'd better be prepared in case he does try something along those lines."
"Xander won't want to fight," Oz agreed. "Can we find a way to check it out? Maybe head them off at the pass so to speak?"
"I'll talk with Angel tomorrow," Ray agreed. "Maybe he knows what's up with him." He shifted to look over his shoulder when he heard someone coming down the back stairs. "Hey, D'Nalia, they've been perfect little...." He looked at the floor. "Where're the boys?"
"Damned if I know," Oz said with a shrug. "We'll go find them," he said to the frowning mother, heading downstairs. The boys often liked to play in front of the big mirror in the practice area. "Ah-ha," he crowed, grabbing Ian from where he was hiding, carrying him the rest of the way down. "Where's your brother?"
"We're hiding," Ian pouted.
"Well, your mother's up and I'm sure she thinks you're hungry."
"Sean, food!" Ian called, bringing his brother running.
"Stop," Oz said, sitting down and pulling Sean closer. "Sean, you know you're not supposed to be near the forge. It's very dangerous to play near it, or even get near it. You may not go near the forge again, not even to hide in that closet. Got it?" The little boy nodded, looking upset. "Now go upstairs, I think your mother's ordering pizza tonight." He let the boys go, watching as they ran up the stairs, and sighing. "That could have been bad," he told himself, heading up and running into their mother. "Sean was hiding in the closet next to the forge. I reminded him that he wasn't allowed in there," he said at her angry look.
"Thank you. I heard." She glanced around. "I'd appreciate being able to do that myself though."
"Okay, next time I'll carry him up and let you deal with it," he said easily. He gave her a smile. "See, we're not hard to get along with."
"No, you're not," she said, calming herself. "Thank you though. I'll reinforce that lecture tonight. That and the 'you don't touch the weapons' one." She squeezed him on the arm. "We're going to order pizza."
"I cooked. We're having veggie lasagna." She smiled at that. "I'll try and save you a piece for lunch tomorrow." He headed for the kitchen, checking on dinner and the wine he had chilling. "Almost ready," he said as he rejoined the adults in the living room.
"Is there anything we can do to help?" Richard asked.
"Nah, we've got it," Oz told him with a wave of his hand. "Ray did the whole table earlier." He watched as D'Nalia grabbed a ferret off of the table and took the glass of water it'd been drinking out of away.
Mariana looked over her shoulder at the table. "I see your dogs are already begging," she said when she saw two of them curled up under the chairs.
"They like to watch the sunset and the shifting of the shadows," Oz told her. "That's one of the better views inside the house. Meth, can you please go check on the animals' water situation? I forgot to do it earlier."
"Of course. Would you like to check on the animals with me?" he offered to Richard. He got a nod so they walked back together.
"So, Mariana, what country are you originally from?"
"It's presently in Albania," she told him. "It used to be part of Ancient Greece."
"You're about my age then?"
"A little older," she said with a faint, catty smile. "What were you when you were mortal?"
"A very pissed-off temple guardian," he said easily. "I always wanted to be a craftsman."
"In what area?"
"Back then, pottery. Now, I do more in the weaving area. Not for Xander to work with, I hate working with fabric quality threads; they're too small when you hand-weave."
"You've kept up with the old skills?"
He nodded. "I was taught to weave in the Middle East, in Persia. I've often found the action soothing. By the way, if you try and fuck with Methos or Xander, or even Ray, I will come after you. This is the only warning you'll get. I may not *like* to fight, but I will to protect my pack."
"Pack?" she asked with a cattier smile. "What are you, a dog?"
"Werewolf actually," he said, shifting again. "Got bitten a few months after I met Xander." Her mouth opened. "Bout of low quickening. I've kept some of the more...possessive qualities. It goes very well with my berserker tendencies."
She nodded. "I understand. I wouldn't dream of coming near your Xander. He's much too femme for my tastes."
"Really? I've found that Xander's actually one of the butcher men I know. How many men do you know can work a forge to make weapons, or jewelry?"
"He can?" she asked, starting to fidget.
Oz nodded. "Yeah, that was something else he learned while we were off-realm. He's much better at the intricate details than he is the gross force of pounding out a sword, but I've seen him do it before. Like I said, don't mess with *any* of us, Mariana. I'm not the one you should fear, that's Xander." He stood up. "Want to come open the bottle of wine?" he asked since the other voices were heading back down the hallway.
"Richard does all that in our house," she said, leaning back so she could pretend to be comfortable.
"This is an excellent floor plan," Richard congratulated as he walked back towards them. "Very well planned...with the excess space cunningly hidden by the animals."
Oz chuckled. "Thanks. Xander did the decorating, I just wrote out the checks." He nodded at the kitchen. "Mariana said that you opened the wine in your house. Want to do it here?"
"If you'd like," Richard said, following him. "I heard," he said once they were inside. "Though I do agree."
"I thought that, with the way things have gone so far, that it'd be a good idea to set that limit right away," Oz told him. "Have you noticed she's been giving Methos sideways looks?"
Richard shook his head as he pulled out the two bottles of wine. "No, I hadn't. Thank you for pointing that out. One or two?"
"One. We're not heavy drinkers. So, would you still like those two?"
"Yes, I think I would. They're adorable." Richard effortlessly opened the bottle of wine and set it out of the way so it could breathe while Oz pulled out the lasagna and let it cool. "Vegetarian?"
"It's the only way we can get Xander to eat spinach," Oz said lightly, giving him a grin. "He's not a picky eater, he's a stubborn eater. He thinks the green stuff's just an herb combination or some sort of pesto sauce."
Richard laughed. "I can see how it might be challenging to get him to try new things."
"Only if you tell him what's in it," Oz agreed. He checked his watch.
"Let me take that out there for you; you go wake him up." Richard picked up the oven mitts and carried the hot pan out to the table.
Oz headed back to the bedroom, smiling at the picture of innocence that his lover made. How ironic that was. He walked over and sat beside the barely covered lump, tapping him gently on the forehead. "Supper time," he said quietly.
"Want sex," Xander muttered as he rolled onto his side. "Go ahead. I'll just lay here this time."
"As thrilling as that thought is," Methos said as he walked in, "I think it's time you woke up, imp. You've got to play host at dinner."
"Dinner with Richard and his woman so you can see if they can have the ferret babies?" Methos reminded him.
"Oh, yeah. Wake me when it's time," Xander said through a yawn, covering himself back up again.
"It's time now," Methos said, starting to lose patience.
Oz grabbed his hand. "It's okay. I had a talk with her, and with Richard, about how she was acting toward you and Ray. I warned her off."
"Good." Methos got free and sat behind Xander, touching him on the side. "Xander does mean a lot to me, but I will kill over her hurting Ray, even if Xander gets in the way."
Oz snorted. "He won't get in your way; he'll wear her out so you don't have to break a sweat."
"Who threatened Ray?" Xander mumbled.
"It's nothing, little one," Methos soothed. "She understood?" Oz nodded. "Good. Xander, you have to get up now and come eat. We'll let you go to bed early tonight."
"Why?" he whined. "I'm sleepy!" he complained as he pulled the blanket over his head.
"Yo, Xan, get up," Ray said from the doorway. "We can't eat until you get out here." Xander's head appeared and a glare was sent toward Ray. "What?"
"He's still half-asleep," Oz sighed.
"Oh, that." Ray shrugged as he walked in and leaned down, kissing Xander hard and long. When he pulled back, Xander had his eyes closed but he was smiling. "Come eat. We can't eat without you."
"Yes, dear," Xander sighed, allowing himself to be helped up and led into the bathroom by Methos.
Oz pulled Ray close and gave him a hug. "I knew I should have tried the practical approach. Good job." He kissed him on the side of the face. "Come on. Let's go eat."
"Okay. I'm looking forward to this." Ray grinned at him. "And if she gives that look again, I get to kill her, right?"
"Definitely," Oz agreed. "Right after you get Xander out of the way."
"Sure, I'll even let him help me." Ray walked out, leading Oz out by his hand. "We're here," he said, "and Xander's up. They'll be out in a minute." He saw the look Richard gave them and grinned. "We're the best of friends. It's been many times that I've had to fill in for Xander."
"Not," Xander joked as he walked in. "Oz just likes to borrow you for certain things." He grinned at Ray and gave him a kiss on the cheek too. "Thank you for getting me up, I wouldn't want to miss one of Oz's lasagna dinners." He took his seat and looked around the table. "Everything out? Bread?" he asked, looking at Oz.
"I've got it," Methos called, bringing out a basket of bread, and the knife since not all of it had been cut. "Everything's here." He sat down too and looked at Xander.
"Then let's eat," Xander reminded them, picking up his wine to sip.
Oz cut the first row and handed them out to the guests first, letting Methos pass everything else.
Mariana took her jacket from Ray, giving him a smile. "Don't worry about your man so much," she soothed in a near whisper next to his ear. "Once you're gone, I'll see to it that he's got a good woman to go to for soothing his grief." She smirked as she walked out.
Methos grabbed Ray and kept him from going after her, giving Richard a smile when he caught them. "Maybe you should put a governor on her mouth," he suggested kindly.
"She's mine!" Ray said, still struggling.
"I'll talk with her," Richard agreed, stepping in front of Ray. "You have my word, young Ray, that if she comes near Methos or tries to do anything to him, you can have the first fight. Until then, please keep it civil."
"I will if she never comes back," Ray told him.
"I'll remember to leave her at home in the future." He looked down at his new friends. "Xander, I hope this hasn't...."
"Just protect them from her," Xander said simply. "And if she tries, I get second fight. I have no problem taking quickenings from Oz."
Richard swallowed hard. "I heard that you'd taken Jace's quickening. I'm glad that you're strong enough to handle your duties."
"Oh, I am, and I'm practicing to become the king of mind fucks."
Richard laughed lightly. "Good, I think she could use something of that sort. Please remember I had nothing to do with it?"
"Sure, you had nothing to do with it. It's all her wanting our Methos. Just protect my babies and I'll see you in three weeks when they go in for a checkup and shots."
"I'll be over in a few days to talk to you all about the bonding spell," Richard corrected. "I'll leave Mariana at home though." He bowed to Oz. "As always, an interesting discussion. Thank you for the wonderful dinner." He and his babies, in their cage with their supplies in a bag, left.
Oz shut the door and looked at Xander. "You'd kill her for Ray?" he asked his husband.
"Definitely. Methos is Ray's and not the skanky ho's. I don't care how long she's had a crush on him, she can go fuck herself with one of those ancient steam-powered vibrators." He walked downstairs and went to pound out his aggression.
"Steam powered?" Ray asked his mate, giving him a smile. "Wouldn't that hurt?"
"Probably, but the first vibrators used in medical practice were steam driven."
"Think of it like a steam-driven train," Oz offered. "There was a reason why women went to the doctor's every week when they came out." He took Ray's other arm and they went to go lounge in front of the TV. It was time for Leno, and he was still making jokes about the head of Xander's hate group wearing jewelry made by Xander.