Going Off Into New Directions.

Oz snuck into his house, going in and looking down at his husband. "Leno?" he whispered as he stripped and climbed in beside his man. When he did, he found Xander too warm to be normal. "Oh, you're sick," he complained, pulling Xander into his arms for a hug. "I'm sorry you're sick."

"Not your fault," Xander said, snuggling in. "Did you remember to close the front door?"

"Yup. You act like you were expecting me."

"Meth got home first. Ray called." Xander looked up. "It's only a cold."

"But I bet you still feel miserable," Oz told him. Xander nodded. "Then it's a good thing that we saw you on Leno and came home."

Strife appeared next to the bed, carrying a glass of juice. "Here ya go," he said, handing it over.

"Why are you here?" Oz asked.

"Because he's sick," Strife said in a semi-patient tone of voice.

"I noticed he's warm," Oz said dryly. "Why is he getting personal attention from the God of Mischief?"

"Because every time he sneezes, something happens that I've got to go deal with. Don't ask, I have no clue. But apparently it's his fault." He patted Xander's back, then frowned. "Inta the shower, you're warm again."

"But I'm comfy," Xander complained, snuggling further into Oz's arms. "I'll be okay. I promise to quit sniffling."

Strife shook his head. "And what happens when...." Xander sneezed and he flashed out to go see what sort of damage was done this time. He came back a few moments later to find Oz rubbing Xander's arm. "We found out why. His last exposure to portals stuck on him. He's sending shock waves through the energy ball that kinda touches everything." He grinned when Oz frowned. "What?"

"He's still being affected from that long ago?"

Strife looked down at Xander, then over at Oz. "This is between you all; I ain't goin' there," he said, then he disappeared again.

"Xander, an explanation?" Oz asked calmly. Xander tried his best to look cute. "Not gonna work. I'm immune to that look now." The innocence was turned up some, making Oz feel like he had just kicked one of the ferret babies. He quickly shook off the feeling. "I'll call Ray."

"I thought he would've narked by now," Xander said, sounding stuffed up. He grabbed the juice and drank some of it. "This is good, we need to find out what sort of juice this is," he noted.

Oz took the glass and sipped at it. "Mango peach." He handed it back. "It's a new Welch's blend." He watched as Xander drank the whole glass. "Want me to run to the store and get you some more?" That got a fuzzy smile. "Okay, let me go grab the checkbook."

"Um, maybe you shouldn't," Xander said, cuddling his husband harder. "I had to repay D'Nalia and Henry because your payments never seemed to go through. The shopping checkbook is empty, and I've been dipping into some of my personal funds."

"When did this happen?"

"Few weeks ago, long before Leno. Ray had to make a payment in there too." He looked up. "And the cable's off again. They didn't knock to see if we were going to pay them or anything."

"Did you try calling them?"

"Yup, and they won't take a credit card, and I couldn't find their office."

"I'll deal with that," Oz sighed, sliding out of the bed. "Anything else go wrong?" Xander nodded. "Should I even ask?"

"I left a detailed list of what I paid on your desk," Xander told him. He sneezed again, and his glass of juice refilled. "Cupid's being nice to me too," he said with another of his fuzzy smiles. "He thought you left me. I told him you didn't, but that didn't stop him from going after Giles when he came back." He sipped at this new dose of juice. "He's with Richard," he said at the confused look. "He finally finished reading the book."

"Ah." Oz headed into the office to go look at Xander's list, which was pretty long. "But I had all this set up," he complained, logging into his computer and onto his bank account to see what was going on. "Xander, when did you bounce a check?" he called.

"When I tried to pay the grocery store. I did find the bank," Xander called, and there was the sound of padding down the hallway. He leaned in the office door. "I managed to find the bank and ask them what was wrong. The automatic refill was canceled. Everything from the bank in New York has gone screwy." He waved. "I'm going to go soak now."

Oz logged into that bank account, frowning when he saw the balance. He clicked on the 'contact us' button to get their phone number, but there wasn't a dial tone. So he pulled out his cellphone and called them. "Hi, I have an account with you...." He listened as the receptionist went into her spiel about them declaring bankruptcy. "And what about our sixty thousand dollars? Or about our other two accounts with you? I see," he said, writing something down. "And do you have someone higher? Yay," he said dryly. "You should have informed us. Now, I'd like to talk to an account supervisor before I fly up there and get my money back personally." He sighed as he was put on hold. "Yes, this is a customer. I'm the account manager for Alexander Harris. It seems that you stole his money." He snorted. "Really? Have we received it yet?" He checked the pile of mail on the desk. "With what I just found on my desk I haven't. Who signed for it?" He made a note. "And your name?" He wrote that down too. "I'll call that house and we'll see. I'll be in touch with you in about half an hour." He hung up and dialed the Sunnydale house. "D'Nalia, did you accept a big check from a bank in New York?" He searched through the papers on his desk again. "When? Okay, so it's probably coming today. How many were there?" He hummed. "That's one short. No.... Yeah, thanks." He wrote down the amounts, going to check and see which account those went to. "Yup, got it. Thanks. No, if it doesn't show up, I'll call you back later." He hung up and called the bank in New York again. "I need...." He smiled as he was connected. "Yes, this is he. We only received two checks. Where's the third?" He laughed. "Really? How did that happen? That account was automatically fed out of a special one of out the country that is Mr. Harris' trust fund. Really? Then you're responsible for the mess I came home to," he said conversationally. "Because you didn't allow that transfer, many of his other accounts were harmed because that was the one which was feeding into the payment accounts. Yes, we set it up that way so Mr. Harris wouldn't have to worry about paying bills. Yes, he's *that* Mr. Harris. Gee, I don't know," Oz said calmly, leaning back in his chair and putting his feet up on his desk. "I don't think he'll want to come to New York personally, he tends to let me handle these sort of things." He nearly laughed at the panicking man on the other end. "Really, I doubt he'll come after you personally. Though he is a bit on the upset side right now. He was so involved in his next book that he never noticed things like his automatic payments not going through and things being shut off. Yes, we'll accept a check today. That would be fine." He looked at the screen. "I think you're under it by fifty dollars. But that was *your* fault," Oz pointed out. "You're the one who stopped his automatic payment from his trust fund into that account. If you hadn't, then none of this would have happened, even that overdraw." He did laugh this time. "Yes, I would feel comfortable suing you for that. Yes, of course we'll accept the money like that." He made another note then hung up.

He grabbed the next bill, going to straighten out that too.


Oz walked into the bedroom, smiling at the picture his husband made, all damp and curled up under the blankets with a fan running beside the bed. "Xan?" he asked as he slid in next to him. One brown eye opened to look at him. "Hey, I fixed it all. I even talked to the guy who manages your money out of the country, and he was quite pissed at the bank in New York too."

"They gave it all back?"

"They sent two of the checks to D'Nalia and she's sent it on. The other should be here in a few days. I got everything straightened out with a few calls."

"But the phone was off."

"But my cell isn't."

"Mine is."

"I noticed, and I got that fixed too. Okay?" Xander nodded, curling up next to him. "Thanks. Are you feeling better?" His husband shook his head. "Want to go talk to Giles with me?"

"No. We had a short talk two days ago. He got greedy for power. Richard shot him down pretty quick when he came back. He even got here before I could call him."

"That was us," Cupid said as he appeared, tossing over a box of medicine. "Here, I've heard this works okay sometimes."

"Works for about two hours," Xander said, then he sneezed. "Eww," he said, grabbing the box of tissues as he sat up so he could attempt to empty his nose again. "Thanks, Cupid, two hours of sleep is better than nothing." He gave the winged God a light hug and blew a kiss at him. "Is my thing fixed? I noticed Strife hasn't come back."

"He's been so busy he's takin' a nap," Cupid said with a grin. "He's so *cute* when he naps." He tipped his head off to the side. "Gotta go. Sleep it off, Xander; it'll go away eventually." Then he disappeared.

"So, what portal hit you this time?" he asked.

"Um, ask Ray." Xander took his medicine and curled up to take a nap. He really could use the sleep. He didn't need to argue right now. He sent a silent prayer of thanks to Cupid as he drifted off to sleep.

Oz grabbed the phone and dialed the condo in Chicago. "Put your other half on," he told the voice on the other end. "Because Xander's sick and it's being affected by the last time he went through a portal." He snorted. "Yeah, that's what I thought too, but apparently Cupid and Strife think differently. So put Ray on. Yes, he's been mostly good. Oh, really?" he asked, looking down at Xander. "Well, that might explain a few things, like a few of the bruises on his back." He lifted the edge of the blankets and looked down at the smooth skin, with the huge bruise in the middle of it. "Please? You can torture him into better behavior later," Oz sighed. "I need to know what Xander did. No, he's resting. He's so sick that Strife's been bringing him juice." He laughed. "Please? Well, confession should be part of that," Oz said reasonably. He listened as Ray was put on the line. "What portal and you'd better tell me everything. Because, if you confess how bad Xander was, then I probably won't ask for some time to punish you too." He laughed. "Really?" He lost his humor quickly. "Really?" He hummed and frowned down at his lover. "When did he get sick? And how was he otherwise?" He groaned and rubbed his forehead. "Thank you, Ray. No, Meth, he did good. Telling me all that was an excellent start at atonement. But don't punish him for part of it. You *know* how stubborn he is," he sighed. "I doubt Ray could out-stubborn him." He laughed. "You think? I don't think so, but...if you say so." He hung up and curled up around his lover's body. "Xander, I think we need to talk," he said quietly. One hand worked its way out of the blankets and gave him the one fingered salute. "Do you want to change your answer before I go beat your brother to death?"

"He didn't do it," Xander said quietly, opening his eyes to look at his husband. "It wasn't Micah's fault, it was those other demons. And I kicked their asses even before Jack showed up."

"Excuse me, *Jack*, as in works with Blair and Danny, came to save you?" Xander pulled the blankets over his head. "What happened to your brother looking out for you?"

"He did, but he couldn't stop them. And I kicked their asses," Xander repeated petulantly.

"I'm sure you did, but you shouldn't have been put into that situation." He rubbed down the sore back. "How did you get bruised?"

"I was knocked down on the beach. Some famous guy showed up, and I stupidly stayed on my blanket while the women all ran over to mob him." Xander removed the blankets so he could look at Oz again. "I really didn't mean to get into trouble, Oz. You know what happens when I'm alone, or nearly alone."

"I know," Oz soothed, giving him a hug. "Will you tell me everything that happened?" He got a shrug. "Please?"

"After I nap," Xander sighed, curling up on his mate's stomach. "I need sleep."

"Yup, you need sleep," Oz agreed, soothing his husband the best he could. He noticed something about the long hair he loved to play with. "What happened to your hair?" he asked, picking up the six-inch shorter length.

"It broke so I had to trim it," Xander mumbled into his stomach. "It'll grow back."

"Good, I'll miss those inches." Oz dropped those to run his fingers through the rest of the mass. "I missed you. We both did."

"Then why did Methos go home?"

"Because he wanted to play house slave with Ray. He missed his pookie." Xander snickered at that. "I swear, the man used to call me that, only in Greek, way back when."

Xander looked up. "Did you know Ray and I have our own watcher?"

"Doesn't surprise me," Oz said thoughtfully, stroking his husband. "I don't particularly like it. How do you know?"

"He helped Ray in Chicago because Joe said so."

"Huh, gonna have to do something about that." Oz shrugged it off. He'd do something about it later, after he was done playing with his Xander doll. Maybe he'd even call Richard to check on Giles' training. He was calm enough to not kill his other husband. Probably.


Oz woke up and looked around his room, giving it a confused look. Something was different. Oh, he was being stomped on again. He reached down to pat the small kitten, earning purrs and being pressed against by a warm head. "Yeah, I missed you too," he whispered, sitting up to look down at the kitten. "Were you good for Xander?" Somehow her morning habit wasn't annoying him this morning. Maybe he'd spent long enough away. He looked at the lump beside him, giving it a smile. All he could see of Xander was the end of his braid and some movement that must have been breathing. Now all he had to do was broach the hard subject with his lover, changing identities. It was time. Not that Xander was going to agree, because he wasn't, and he wasn't going to be happy about it either. This meant they were going to have to put the house in Sunnydale into someone else's name for a bit until they could claim it again. Then they would have to camouflage all the money and put it away for themselves in their future incarnation.

Then the phone rang.

He picked it up. "Yeah?" he asked. He snorted. "Hey, Sam. No, you didn't wake me. Nope, I got home yesterday and had to straighten out a bank mess. Huh." He looked down at his husband's back. "Did my husband have something to do with that?" He laughed. "Yeah, I thought so; it sounded like something he might do." He looked at the clock beside his bed. "I don't know. Sure, come on down. No, we're still in Miami. We can come back to Sunnydale if it'd make you more comfortable." He looked at the wall. "Sure, three days. Yup, anything for you guys, you know that." He hung up and leaned over his husband's side to kiss him on the covered head. "That was Sam." He got a grunt. "They want us to come listen to a proposal." That got another grunt. "We're going home."

Xander uncovered his head. "Really?"

"Really. It sounded like they really wanted your opinion on something. We need to be there in three days."

"You make the reservations," Xander said, sounding stuffed up as he climbed out of bed. "I'll work on getting the animals together so we can all go back together."

Oz stopped him from moving too far away. "Xander, it's time to move on," he said quietly. His husband looked at him. "It's time to switch personas. We're about ready to run out of room on our present ones. We're too old to look this good, babe."

Xander patted him on the face. "I'm not giving up any of the houses."

"I know. There's a way around it. We'll let Steve do all the paperwork for us, and we'll walk off into the sunset and spend some time playing somewhere before coming back to the US."

"But we are coming back, right?"

"Very true," Oz agreed. "Meth and I both agreed it's time for all of us to be moving on. Ray's about ready to age outside of his persona too."

"Are we moving with them?"


Xander started to pout. "But I'll miss Ray and Meth."

"They'll be back," Oz promised, pulling him down for a hug. "But they're going to go spend some time alone, and Methos is going to get to play house master and slave. We'll go on vacation. Then we'll come back as our new persona, able to act fully like our new selves." He patted Xander on the ass. "Okay?"

"No, but I guess I don't have a choice," Xander said, trying not to sound like he was upset.

"I don't like it either," Oz said quietly. "But we'll manage it." He patted him on the ass again. "Go make the reservations for us." He watched his husband walk out of the bedroom and sighed, that had gone much better than he expected. Which meant he was going to be in for it later. He leaned back against the pillows, ready to start the planning even without Xander's semi-helpful input.


Xander walked into his favorite place and sighed. He was going to miss this house if he had to leave it for a few years. He smiled down at the twin boys running out to meet them. "Hey, guys. We brought the animals." He got out of Oz's way, letting him lug in the animal carriers. He headed back to his writing room and sat down on his favorite sofa, and sulked. D'Nalia walked in and gave him a hug. "I won't leave this house," he announced.

She patted him on the head. "Don't worry, I'm sure Oz won't make you leave the house for good." She smiled down at him. "Even if you do have to become someone else for a few years."

"But I like who I am, finally," Xander told her. "It took me *years* to become comfy with myself, and now I have to leave it?"

"Xander, you knew this was going to be a price to be paid," Oz said from the doorway.

"I know, but I like myself," Xander told him.

"And you'll still be you," Oz assured him, coming in and sitting in his lap. "I won't force you to become someone radically different. Just answer to a different name. Maybe even find a new hobby or two."

"Maybe it won't be that bad," D'Nalia suggested. "It'll give you a chance to travel some more and you always seemed to look forward to that."

Oz nodded. "Yeah, we could do that, or we could start out with a nice long vacation somewhere warm and sandy. You've been saying that you wanted to go somewhere like that."

Xander shrugged. "Maybe," he admitted, "but I'm not giving up the house. Not this one and not the one in Miami. Or even Vermont."

"Hey, not an issue. See, what we do is leave it in trust for ourselves," Oz explained. "Sorta like we inherit all our stuff, minus estate taxes."

"And I bet you can find some way to get around those," D'Nalia offered. "There's got to be ways around it or the Bushes' would've been broke long before now."

Oz snorted. "I knew the one's grandfather," he noted. "The younger son reminds me a lot of him. He knows about one subject, and everything else is irrelevant to his way of thinking."

"I'll leave you two alone," D'Nalia said, getting up and leaving.

Oz looked down at Xander. "Are you okay?" Xander nodded. "You're sure?" He got another nod. "And you're not going to scream at me when we have to do this?"

"No," Xander sighed. "I won't promise not to be sad or upset."

"Hey, perfectly understandable." Oz gave him a hug. "I'm going to be sad too. I love this house." He looked at the bare walls. "We can always set ourselves up in a new house somewhere though."

"Won't be the same."

"True, but it could be just as nice," Oz offered. "We can work on finding it now, while we're working on the new identities."

"How are we going to disappear?" Xander asked quietly. "There's going to be a lot of people who will get really upset if we die. I don't want my fans, the ones who write letters and stuff, to go through that."

"So we'll mysteriously disappear," Oz told him simply. Not that it was going to be easy, but it could happen. He'd done it before. "We'll minimize the emotional content of our leaving."

"Okay," Xander agreed, taking Oz's hand to hold. "What if whatever we're going to be pushed into by Sam is good?"

"Then we'll probably do that instead for a while. We'll disappear that way, after removing some of our money, and it'll still be okay." He kissed his mate on the cheek. "We'll even bring Giles."

"He's on his way home," Xander admitted. "I didn't think we should be making decisions like this without his input."

"All right," Oz agreed. "I'll try not to jump on him about it."

"I won't," Xander said softly. "I think I'm owed an explanation."

"Yeah, we are," Oz said softly, cuddling into the warm arms. "How are you feeling?"


"Want me to send D'Nalia out for some medicine?"

"Won't work. Even Dayquil is only working for two hours at a time." He yawned. "I need a nap." He pushed Oz off his lap and headed up to his bed. They hadn't been able to move it to Miami, but that was all right with him. He loved this bed; it had come to him from his grandmother. He slid onto the soft sheets and sighed, really comfortable for the first time since they'd left the house for Miami. He closed his eyes, not even opening them when he felt someone sliding in behind him. Whoever it was was comforting so it was okay with him. Besides, if it was someone Oz didn't want napping with him, he'd move them.


Cupid looked up as Oz walked into the bedroom, giving him a sad smile. "Did you know he doesn't feel comfortable anywhere else?" he asked quietly. "This is his sanity."

Oz sat on the foot of the bed so he could watch them. "I know, but we can't stay here the whole time."

"Nah, but you could let him come home more often." He stroked down Xander's hair. "Oz, this is home for him, nowhere else. This is where he feels safest and most comfortable. Anything he associates with good stuff comes back to here. Do the cousin thing this time."

"His parents are still alive," Oz pointed out. "They'll contest it."

"And you think they won't come to the estate lawyer with their hands out anyway?" Cupid asked. Oz shook his head. "At least you're being realistic about this, but he's got to stay for a while. He can pass with some simple camouflage. Become reclusive again, it'll work for a few years."

"Unless we need groceries or he gets really sick," Oz pointed out.

"Nah, you've got the housekeeper for that," Strife said as he appeared. "I agree, Oz, you can't make him move on yet. He'll never forgive you when he loses the house to his parents. Who, by the way, are going to try to get more money from him to support them in their old age," he said dryly.

"I've heard whispers about that," Oz admitted. "But we can't be that obvious anymore either."

"So don't be," Cupid agreed. "Xander can hold the stories for a later life. Just give him enough time to finish the fantasy novel first and then become reclusive."

Strife nodded. "It worked for that Hughes guy," he reminded him.

"Yeah, but he aged," Oz pointed out. "We can't take the chance that someone will notice that he's not aging."

"Oz, plastic surgery is a wonderful thing in this day and age," Cupid reminded him. "It can make a thirty year old look less than twenty, or a fifty year old look twenty if it's done right. Humans do have those sort of skills."

"I know," Strife said as he sat beside Oz on the edge of the bed. "Make up some story about Xander being hurt on vacation, seriously hurt - like scarred or maimed sorta hurt. Then put a plastic surgeon on retainer, even though you never use him. Tell anyone who asks that you're not coming out until after Xander is back to normal, or ever if he doesn't feel comfy with it."

"Yeah, make it that someone hurt him while he was out traveling. Some crazed fan or something." Cupid shrugged. "It happens. Everyone already knows that Xander's got some seriously deranged people after him; his hate group proves that."

"Yeah, I guess we could," Oz said, thinking about it. "That would give us at least another ten years. More if Xander would dye his hair lighter, or add more streaks." He fingered one of the white streaks through the black hair. "I guess I could start to make myself look older too." He looked up. "Why? You're not usually this interfering of people having to move on."

"It'll kill him in ways that only you leaving him will," Cupid told him, then he and Strife disappeared.

Oz watched his husband sleep and considered bothering his best friend, but Methos and Ray needed some time alone too. That's why Methos had ordered Ray back to Chicago. No, he could make this decision himself, but some input might be nice. Maybe he'd call Richard, he knew about things like people, something Oz knew he wasn't good at.


Oz let Xander lead the way into the meeting room in the Sunnydale base, letting him pick their seats too. He nodded at Daniel and Blair, who were sitting next to each other.

"So what's the big?" Xander asked, giving everyone smiles. "Not that I'm complaining, I missed my house."

"Because of you," Sam said, standing up so she could start the projector, "we've found a whole new source of places to look for allies." She smiled at Xander. "Because of you, we've four habitable planets in close range." She pointed at the diagram showing on the screen.

Oz patted Xander on the shoulder. "Congrats, you moved us closer to Star Trek."

"Oh, he's done more than that," Daniel said, giving Xander a fond smile. "Because of him we've also found a great new ally. They're strong and peaceful. Apparently they and Xander are a lot alike," he told Oz. "Their lives are much easier, filled with peace and pleasure. They have polygamous marriages, though they are matrilineal."

Sam nodded. "To them, men are the weaker of the species and need to be protected and coddled." She smiled at Daniel. "She seemed quite surprised that we weren't matrilineal. According to them, most of the universe is."

"They consider there to be four universes," Blair reminded her.

"With another one forming," Sam agreed.

"Is this a desperate plea for another present?" Oz asked.

"No," Sam said quickly. "Not at all. They want to meet you two." Oz raised one eyebrow. "We ran into the leader who got Xander's last present, the two ambassadors started talking, and he told her about you and how brave you were."

"So I'm an example of a male warrior?" Xander asked.

"Something like that," Blair agreed dryly. "Or at least a male who's not happy to sit at home and take care of the children."

"But I like to stay at home," Xander said, looking a little confused.

"Yeah, but their men consider it an insult to want to leave the home and work. None of their alliances have men that want to go out and work. We're the first people they've met that have men who don't have to, but do work out of the home."

"Oh," Oz said, nodding. "It's more because he's rich enough to sit at home but doesn't?" Everyone else nodded. "Okay." He looked at his mate. "That thrill you?"

"Sounds good to me," Xander said with a shrug. He looked at Sam, who was nipping at her bottom lip. "What's the issue then?"

"Time runs differently there," Blair told them. "We were there for what was two days our time and was about eight hours their's."

"Ah," Oz said, nodding. He looked at Daniel. "So this really comes down to us or you and Steve?"

"We'd be going too," Daniel said, looking over at him. "Blair and I would both be going and there'd be a lot of traveling back and forth."

"Animals?" Xander asked.

"They're *fascinated* with cats," Blair said with a grin. "Dessie also got petted by everyone in the room, until she got fussy and nipped someone for pulling her tail." He chuckled lightly. "You'd be allowed to bring the whole brood."

"How long are we talking our time?" Oz asked.

"About three years total," Daniel told him. "Long enough to set up a diplomatic mission and work on some reciprocal agreements for things like technology and knowledge."

"Are they going to just *give* us knowledge?" Xander asked. "That doesn't sound like we're going to be able to handle it."

"We've done it before," Sam assured him, pushing some of her blonde hair behind her ear. "We're not going to ask for anything too far up the chain from what we already have. We *will* be asking for permission to have some of our people train with them, to learn about their people and allies."

"We'd like to set up a mutual aid pact," Daniel explained. "Something so that both of our peoples' benefit. Some of our top scholars going there to train and learn; some of their people coming here to learn from us and maybe show us where we're going wrong."

"How will they feel about our current social status?" Oz asked. "I noticed some hostilities brewing again when I was in Europe. There was a definite 'go away' feeling in some places we went."

"We know," Daniel sighed. "But it can't be helped. They look human, which will help some of this, but we'll have to tread very carefully. Fifty years, or more, of science fiction with human-killing and eating aliens won't help us any." He smiled at Xander. "That why we're sending diplomats and interesting people to them now. Someone who can help them acclimate when we've set up enough safe space for them to start coming down here."

"And me being a writer will help?" Xander asked. Blair nodded. "Am I going to be fed stories?"

"I think you'll probably get permission to write down some of theirs and disseminate them here," Blair said thoughtfully.

Oz shook his head. "We were about to change identities."

"Which would be perfect," Sam piped in. "A brand new Sci-Fi writer with interesting stories about aliens who are good, peaceful, and fun loving? Sounds like a winner to me." She shrugged when Xander looked at her. "Sorry, but I'd buy it and I used to read a lot of science fiction and fantasy."

"Maybe, but it's too pat," Oz told her. "There's a lot of problems for a new writer to break through. It isn't all about talent." He patted Xander's hand. "If he had started out writing fantasy, we might never have gotten him published. Because he started out with a sex manual, he got into a certain type of publishing house and they've stayed with him so far."

"Oz, they know what I am," Xander whispered. "My editor is a demon. He brought it up with me before."

"Oh, really?" Oz asked, turning to look at his husband. "What did he say?"

"Something about getting together with him before I made any major changes." He shrugged when everyone else looked at him. "My editor is a demon," he explained. "He told me what I was."

Oz sighed. "We'll talk to him soon," he agreed. He looked at Sam. "I'd like more to base this decision on. Do we have a profile or anything?"

"Better, we have a delegate here," she said with a smile. "They wanted first approval over anyone that might be coming to them so one of the head woman's wives is here to judge you three."

"Giles too?" Oz asked.

"Yup," Blair said, leaning back in his chair. "I know you guys are presently fighting, but they were interested in him too. They were wondering if it was some sort of paternal interest," he stopped when Oz snorted. "We know, but she doesn't. Personally," he said, taking Daniel's hand to squeeze, "none of us want our personal lives exposed that way."

"True," Oz agreed, looking at Daniel. "Some of you would be just as exposed."

"Not that being GHS would be acceptable to the military," Xander added. "Your General is very understanding."

"He takes 'don't ask, don't tell' seriously," Sam told them. "He doesn't care unless it starts to affect your work or you're dating someone within the group." She turned off the projector and sat down. "Guys, we need you. We don't have any other contacts that we can trust with this, especially not ones that can handle stuff on their own if there's suddenly a problem and you won't be able to get back to us for a few hours." She looked down the table at Daniel. "He and Jack will be going with you."

"And Blair," Daniel pipped up, "and our ferret, Dessie too. They really liked her."

"Okay," Oz said, after looking at Xander. "We'll talk to the representative. But if we feel even the least little bit uncomfortable, then we...."

"We'll go," Xander said quietly. He looked at his mate. "You were talking about how to disappear for a while. "We'll go on a long trip and go missing. In three years we'll come back and have everything in order. That way there's no problems. It'll give Steve three years to do this for us."

"Xander, you can't do this lightly," Daniel told him. "This is three years out of your life."

Xander looked over at him. "What's three years to us?" he asked simply. Daniel looked away. "We'll go," he repeated, looking at his husband. "We can come back as the spoiled love monkeys of ourselves, who inherited everything. The only problem I'm foreseeing is Meth and Ray."

"Steve will be with them," Daniel told them, his voice calm. "He's already got papers for you to sign so they and he have control of your assets while you're gone." He glanced around the table. "Xander, three years is still a long time. You don't know when that last fight will come."

"Then why not take advantage of it?" Xander said calmly. "This will be a new experience. Something that no one else will be able to get. Why not enjoy those three years instead of sulking about whether or not that one day will be your last. Even people who live very long times need something new and unusual in their lives, or they break down faster."

"You'll start to hate yourself," Oz added. "That's what Meth was trying to tell you the last time we trained together. Even though your time may be up tomorrow, if it's not, you've got a hell of a long life ahead of you, and you'd better be prepared to at least amuse yourself during that time." He gripped Xander's hand. "Otherwise, you stagnate and start to hate yourself and what you are. You'll start to regret living and you'll start being careless. That's why so many of us don't make the two century mark, Daniel. We don't want to because life isn't worth it anymore, not because we're too bad at fighting."

Daniel nodded. "Thanks." He looked over at Blair. "He made me promise to not get careless when he dies."

Xander reached over to touch Daniel's arm. "He'll be coming with us for a while," he told Blair. "He'll be able to grieve, and we'll make sure he won't walk out into a fight without a blade." Blair nodded, looking a little happier. "He and Steve both have a place in our home when the time comes that they need to get away from their old lives and grieve."

Daniel smiled at him. "Thanks, Xander." He cleared his throat. "Want to go meet the representative?"

"Sure," Xander said, pushing back and standing up, Oz following his move. They walked down the hallway, running into Jack, who was guarding the door. "This the delegate's room?" Xander asked.

"Yup, but she's *busy*," Jack said, rolling his eyes at the loud groan from inside. "And probably going to stay that way for a few hours."

Daniel sighed. "I guess you guys can go home and come in tomorrow?" Oz nodded. "Thanks, guys."

"Hey, not a problem. Want to come to dinner?" Xander asked.

"Nah," Jack said with a smile. "We've got a formal dinner tonight and the General even managed to get real food served." Blair snickered at that.

"That's cool. Call us when you want us to come in," Oz said, leading Xander away.

"And remember, dawn to us is noon," Xander called back, waving at them as he was tugged away.

Sam shook her head. "At least they'll find them interesting," she noted.

"Very interesting," Blair agreed, subtly touching his man's back. "I've got some research I want to do. Come help me, Danny?"

"Sure," Daniel said, following him down to their new lab.

Jack and Sam looked at each other, then cracked up laughing. "Not subtle at all," she said finally.

Jack shook his head. "I don't blame them. Blair found a gray hair the other day. He's got worries about Danny right now. They probably need to...connect linguistically. Or whatever Anthropologists call it."

"I think it's called sex, sir, even to them," she said with good humor, going to her own lab.

Jack just leaned against the wall and went back to listening to the new ambassador go at it.


Xander looked across the table at Giles, who wasn't looking all that comfortable. "This is up to you now," he said calmly. "You can either come back and be yourself again, or we'll ask Cupid if we can dissolve your part of the bond." He got up and went into his writing room.

Oz looked over at Giles once Xander was out of sight. "He was pissed enough to write that book, and even more so. You broke his trust," he said quietly. "Both of our trusts. I'm sure he'd like a good explanation, something besides the energy was using you and needed to be expended." He took a sip of his lemonade. "The one problem we'll have in taking this assignment is that you'll have to come with us. We'll have to act like we're a trio again for the next three years."

"Oz, I can't leave the resort that long."

"Steve and Methos are taking it over," Oz said gently. "It's time for all of us to move on to a new identity. We're doing a shift to the left. We're leaving, Methos, Ray, and Steve are going to run the resort. Richie is thinking about working with Danny. And, if something happens to Blair, then Danny's going to become the newest member of Xander's family. He's already said so," he noted at the opening mouth. "Xander understands the grief that would make Danny walk out into a fight without a blade, and he's promised Blair to look after him. He's going to end up being part of the crew, the same way Richie and Steve are." He took another sip. "In order for you to come back, we will be setting down some ground rules. You will not use your magic on us. Or while we're there." Giles stiffened. "We don't know how they feel about magic. We don't even know if it will work on their planet. There will be opportunities for you to go off by yourself, I suggest you take a few and figure some things out quickly. If Xander's upset enough to write some of those things about you, then he's nearly upset enough to do some of them. Blair's decided he's going to be working with a few different faiths to understand that part of the society. You can help him, or you can help Daniel in his history projects. Xander's going to be doing some more minor writing stuff probably. I'll be officially heading the family and dealing with all the daily life problems. You'll be able to fit yourself in there somewhere. Try to at least look happy to be around us in public." He stood up and went into the kitchen.

Giles got up to follow him, making Oz look at him. "Oz, I know I screwed up badly, but I really didn't mean to. I never meant to hurt you or Xander. I'm sorry I did so, but I really couldn't help myself. When I was having sex was the only time that the energy settled in me. You don't know what it's like to have energy coursing through you in such quantities that you *have* to find some way to settle it."

"Sounds like a quickening," Oz said dryly. "Next time, take up jogging." He got free and finished his trek for more lemonade. "I mean it, Giles, If you hurt Xander ever again, I'll make sure you're relegated to the edge of the group for good." He turned to find his husband staring at the floor. "Got me here?"

"Yes, I understand," Giles said quietly. "I'll do my best to make it up to the both of you." He walked away, going to find Xander and apologize.

Oz sipped his lemonade. Maybe this was what they needed to get back on track.


The day finally came when they were to leave. Steve had everything well in hand and working to keep everything in their life even and going. There wouldn't be any problems from a bank this time. Xander had sat down with him and explained all his investments and what Steve was to invest in if asked. All the animals were crated up and the twins had said goodbye to them all, except one of the ferrets who? was staying with them and the hellhound puppy who went to live with Spike and Seth. Giles had managed to make peace with Xander, and they were speaking again, but not very friendly. Everything was ready for Xander to leave his home for three years. Steve and Methos even had contingency plans in place. Ray had all the information from Xander's demon accounts and had promised to keep them for him.

Even Micah had gotten over this sudden change. He wasn't happy about it, but he had gotten used to it. Angel, Spike, and Seth had been consulted and told; they had Sunnydale and LA well in hand. Angel had even taken a message to Xander's parents that told them to go away permanently. They hadn't taken the hint, but they wouldn't be able to bother anyone. When Angel had failed, Wesley and Micah had gone to see them, and, after some friendly persuasion, they had signed papers saying that they would leave Xander and his assets alone.

Xander's editor had sent out a small message saying that Xander was retreating into seclusion to get away from certain people. There was a small outcry over it, but he assured them that Xander would probably continue to write. That made some happy and made a few pissed, but that was mostly his hate group, which was who Xander was supposedly hiding from.

Everything was shipped to Colorado and moved to their new house, and then the formal greeting with the ambassador was taken care of. Xander took Oz's hand and squeezed it before walking through the Stargate.