The End Is Near.
Xander looked out across the back lawn and smiled. It was time. He was happy with what he was going to be doing and where he was going. He and Oz had agreed that it was time. It had been three years since the aliens had landed, and they were almost universally accepted. Except for their math; there were a number of mathematicians who were quite perplexed at how two plus two equaled seven-point-nine in their math and they had progressed into a dominant space- fairing race. There were people who were still protesting them being down here, namely some hard core Jewish, Islamic, and Christian groups, but it had brought the religions together finally, so it was probably mostly a good thing. Xander turned to face Oz, who had opened the back door. "Twenty years?" he asked as he walked over to join him.
"It's going to Ray and Meth," Oz reminded him. "We'll be visiting the house often." He patted Xander on the butt as he closed the door. As they walked out to the car, he knew Xander was looking around, but they'd be back. Meth and Ray had promised to invite them back in about a year. Until then, they'd be traveling and Xander would be working on his next life. It had been funny, watching him doing all the preparation. A blond Xander was a funny-looking one.
Xander looked at his hair in the mirror, frowning at the options in front of him. He hated wigs. They itched and he sweated under them. Not to mention that he had a problem with all his hair staying up. So he was going to dye it, but he wasn't sure if it would affect the white streaks. The test dyes had come out funny and he wasn't sure he was ready to do that to his beautiful and Oz- loved hair. A flash behind him made him turn and smile at Jace. "Do you think I can dye my hair and not mess up the white streaks?"
She frowned as she picked up a few strands to look at. "Probably not." She let it go. "I came down for fun, and to help."
He grinned. "Can you make me a blond?"
Jace shook her head. "I'm not a God, sweetie," she reminded him. She hopped up onto the counter. "You could dye it, I'm not sure there's any other alternative to change the color."
He picked up a piece of hair he had tested yesterday and held it out to her. "The white streaks won't hold any color. It slid off. I haven't tried bleach yet."
She looked at the strands, then shrugged. "It shouldn't be any different." She smiled. "But I'd hate to be you when it starts to grow out. You're going to have to dye the whole mass."
"Go red," Oz called from the bedroom.
"No!" Xander shook his head. "He wants us to match," he told his friend. He and Jace had started to spend a lot of time together in the last year. Ares had been a little busy, but he wouldn't let Cupid anywhere near her.
She giggled. "You'd look cute, but a little too cute." She picked up some of his hair, weighing it in her hand. "You should probably cut some of it off, dear. It's as a very loud sign that you're you."
He shook his head. "Oz will kill me. I suggested it and found myself tied to the bed for the next three days until Oz had 'convinced' me to never touch it with a pair of scissors." She chuckled. "He's *seriously* in lust with my hair." He looked in the mirror again. "Light blond?"
"No, darker blond. Your hair won't bleach that much." She glanced at the door. "What about your roots? Or when you want to go back to your natural color?"
He looked her in the eye. "I'm going to beg Strife so I don't have to cut it all off and start again," he said seriously.
The bathroom door slammed open. "I thought we had settled that," Oz said calmly.
Jace looked at him. "If he dyes it, he'll end up with roots. Eventually, he'll want to go back to his natural color, which means he'll either have to regrow it all out or cut it all off and start over so he doesn't have two or three toned hair."
Oz shook his head. "I'm going to look at Cupid and beg so we don't have that problem," Oz told her. "No snipping the hair." He closed the bathroom door.
Xander and Jace looked at each other and giggled.
"What's going on? I hear mirth," Strife asked as he appeared. He looked at the two boxes of dye. "You're goin' blond?" He crossed his arms and glared at Xander. "Why are ya goin' blond? There's not enough dark haired guys around, especially not that are like me. If you leave the fold, then I'll never get ya back." He didn't want to lose Xander as his buddy.
"Because I need to not be me," Xander told him. "It's for my next incarnation." He hugged his other buddy. "Unless you wanna do something about the hair."
Strife ran his fingers through Xander's hair. He had as much of a hard-on for Xander's hair as Oz did, but he had never mentioned it. If the guy ever cut the mass off, he was going to steal half of what was cut for his own personal fun. He thought for a few moments, then smiled. He'd get him back sometime, Xander would be a brunette again some day, he'd make sure of it. "I can make ya blond," he offered. "But it's gonna be strong."
"Strong smell, strong look, or strong statement?" Jace asked. She knew that Strife liked the kid, and if he could get away with it he'd be stealing Xander from Oz, so the hint of amusement in his eyes was shocking.
"Strong statement. I can bleach it out for him."
"We were going for natural," Xander told him.
Strife shrugged. "Your hair won't wanna take the dye," he told him. He nodded at the test strands, which hadn't liked the dye at all. "No muss, no fuss. No bad smells stinkin' up the house for days."
Xander looked in the mirror. "Do it," he requested. Then he passed out after the light had cleared out his eyes.
Jace's eyes opened wide, and she started to babble while pointing at Xander's head.
Strife shrugged. "It's the best I can do," he told her. The door opened and he shrugged at Oz. "I tried," he told him.
Xander woke up and looked up at Strife. "That was great," he told him, sitting up. "I'm a blond." He noticed his husband. "What do you think?"
"I think I want a Strife-skin blanket," Oz said dryly. Strife eeped and disappeared. He helped his husband off the floor. He fingered some of the hair. "It's soft," he said in awe.
Strife reappeared. "Then you're not mad?" Oz glared at him. "What? He wanted ta be blond!"
Cupid appeared. "You called?" he asked Strife.
Strife grinned and pointed at Xander. "His new look."
Cupid tipped his head to the left. "Well, he's a blond." He pulled Xander closer, looking at his hair. "It won't grow out for a while." He let the immortal go, then shrugged. "He looks different at least." He looked at the bare chest. "You need a tattoo to go with the new look."
"It won't last," Oz reminded him. He traced a remaining scar, Xander had most of them shaved down a year earlier. This one was very faint. "You could use something to differentiate your body," he agreed. He looked at Cupid, then at Strife. "Any ideas besides a tattoo?"
"Piercings?" Cupid suggested.
Xander shook his head. "Temporary tattoo?"
"You'd got to apply the same one every week for however long you plan on keeping it." He looked at the taut skin. "You could gain some weight," he offered.
"Not a chance," Xander said firmly. "I have too much trouble losing it again." He looked at his buddies. "What about you guys?"
"New clothes," Jace told him. "Tight jeans. Long t-shirts. Comfy boots. More of a street meets hippy look." She looked at Oz, who shrugged. "That'll be very different from your usual velvet and silk look."
Cupid nodded. "I can see that." He waved a hand and Xander was dressed in tight, worn-soft, faded jeans, a long dark green t-shirt, and a pair of hiking boots. Strife waved his hand and changed the boots to something tougher, biker boots.
Jace sighed. "I want to be able to do that sometimes."
Oz's mouth fell open. "You're hot," he said finally. He grabbed Xander and pulled him into the bedroom, forcing him onto the bed. The jeans and boots were removed so fast Xander was still grinning, at least until Oz slicked himself up and mounted him. "I like that look. You're keeping it for a while," he ordered as he thrusted.
Xander laid back and took it, smiling over Oz's shoulder at his buddies, who were watching.
Xander walked into the local vo-tech center, smiling at the woman behind the desk. "I want to sign up for cosmetology classes?" he asked. He had intentionally lowered his voice so he sounded sexier, but tougher. A little hoarse, but still worthy of worship. His jeans were tight and soft, his t-shirt was spandex, and his boots clicked because of the taps he had put on the bottom. "Can I do that here?"
She blinked a few times. "You want to be a hairdresser?" He was not their normal student.
He leaned in. "I want to do very special hair, but I need to learn how to do that," he seemingly confided. He smiled and she melted. "Can I sign up here?"
She nodded and handed over the forms. "You'll need to get some health certificates," she told him. He handed over his forms. She smiled and read through them. "That's fine," she told him. "There's a three hundred dollar fee for the gear and the tuition...." She stared at the cash that had been put on the counter in front of her. She looked at him. "You're really serious?"
He nodded and handed back over the filled-out the forms. "Very." He pulled around his white- blond braid to play with. "I have plans for my own business, but I need know how to do this for part of it." She nodded, looking eager. "My lover manages a resort in Vegas and I wanted to open up a full-service spa out there."
She smiled. "That's good. People could always use some relaxation." She looked over the form and frowned. "You don't have a permanent address?"
He chuckled and watched her rub her thighs together. "I'm in the process of moving. I'm looking for a better address right now." He leaned on the desk. "Do I need to do anything else?"
"No. Classes start in two weeks. Follow me and I'll get you your kit. You'll be starting with six women," she told him as they headed for the back office. She waved one of the teachers over. "This is your newest student, Quinley," she told the older woman.
He shook her hand. "Hello." The older woman looked him over. "You don't like?"
"You'll have to dress a little more professionally," she told him. "Jeans are fine, but leave the tight t-shirts at home please." She picked up his braid and looked it over. "You'll also have to do something with this every day."
Xander pulled it out of her hand. "I tend to braid it. I'm learning so I can open my own spa," he told her. "But I can dye it pretty temporary colors." He smiled.
She laughed. "Good, you're not a pushover." She nodded. "You'll do fine. Do you have everything done?" The first woman nodded. "Good. Then you'll start in two weeks. You'll be learning non-stop for the first month, then you'll be splitting your days between working and learning. Are you allergic to chemicals?"
"Not that I know of," he told her. "I do have to warn you, I have a sense of humor."
The teacher chuckled. "That's fine. Bring cartoons if you want." She saw a student waving. "I'll see you in two weeks." She headed for the desperate looking student waving for her.
Xander continued on to get his gear. He looked inside the bag and sighed. It was all stuff he could get in LA, and he could definitely find better stuff there. He took his bag out to his new car and climbed in, looking over at Oz. "I'm in," he told him as he started the engine.
"Good. How long does it take?"
"Eighteen months if I don't take summer classes." He pulled out of the parking lot. "I'll be out in a year if I take summer classes."
"Cool. I'll let you do my hair in a few months," Oz told him with a grin.
Xander laughed. "Brave man," he told him. "That'll be after we go get me real stuff in LA."
Oz groaned. "Shopping?"
"Substandard equipment," Xander told him. "Dull scissors and razors. I even saw rust."
Oz nodded. "Shopping."
Xander accepted his certificate with a smile, not flinching at the camera flashes. He had everything he needed now. Everything was packed up and they could move on. He walked off the stage and right into Ray's arms. Ray was taping the graduation ceremony for their husbands so that no one would see them. "It's all done," Xander told him as they walked out of the auditorium. "We can go."
"Methos and I helped Oz pack everything up," Ray told him as they climbed into the back of the hired car. "We'll take good care of the house for you while you're gone," he teased.
Xander nodded. "Good. I'll expect to come back to it in the same condition." He looked at his friend. "I had better come back to a house in good working order."
Ray's grin got brighter. "Of course."
Oz led Xander out to the car, letting him get into the back first. "Airport," he told the driver.
"Which terminal?" the driver asked as he pulled away from the house.
"International," Xander told him, touching some of his red hair. He had put in some temporary dye in yesterday. His blond hair was disturbing in so many ways, the worst being that it nearly glowed in the dark - and did glow under blacklights. He didn't like red, but it wouldn't go any darker and the dye would only last for a day before sliding out. "We're going to Montreal."
Oz grunted, "Vancouver."
"I thought we were heading to Montreal first," Xander complained with a frown. "For the festival."
"That's next month," Oz reminded him, patting him on the knee. "We're going then." He closed his eyes. It was a two hour trip and he needed a nap. Liquidating most of their assets so they could disappear was mentally and emotionally taxing.
Xander held him close, comforting both of them.
Two Years Later (Five Years After The Aliens Landed):
Xander leaned into the office. "Is it done?" he asked hopefully. "I've got someone coming in six hours."
"Not yet," Oz told him, taking another few keystrokes.
"Aw, come on," Xander whined.
"Make that noise and never get laid again," Oz warned. He looked up but Xander had disappeared. "Good." He typed something else in and previewed his work. "Hmm. Not quite him." He went back to typing, trying to figure out how to fix it so Xander would squeal. These business cards would be something he would appreciate and use, unlike the last ones.
Xander danced back in a few minutes later and plopped down on his lap. "I've been asked to go to London to consult," he told him, smiling happily.
"With who?" Oz asked, finishing off the cards. He showed it to Xander before he hit print.
Xander frowned at the screen. "Your printer won't do that color," he pointed out. "And I liked the last ones."
"You don't use them," Oz reminded him.
"That's because they have the wrong phone number on them," Xander said as he started to nuzzle the warm neck. "So does this one."
Oz looked at the screen, then sighed. "What is your new cellphone number?" Xander handed him the phone so he could check it. The number matched so he tried to call it, but the cellphone didn't ring. "Well, damn. It's marked as the same number."
"You forgot, I'm sharing points. I have an extension." He watched as Oz redialed the phone number, with extension.
"It needs a prompt," Oz complained as it rang. "Can you write it in?"
"I usually do," Xander admitted. Oz looked at him. "I do use them, just not all the time. I only have to give out cards to every fiftieth person."
"Good point." Oz canceled his attempt at creating a new business card. "What should we do now?" Xander nipped him on the shoulder. "We can do that, but have you checked this new immie out?"
"I've decided that I'm taking the stand that it doesn't matter to me unless they try to take my head," Xander told him. "Even bad immies need help. But I did check for current criminal records, which she doesn't have." He licked up the side of Oz's face. "It's Amanda's student. She's ready to hide from her teacher."
"Cool." Oz patted him on the butt. "Go get ready for me and I'll give you a backrub." Xander whooped and got up, heading for their bedroom upstairs. Oz waited a few moments, then stood up to follow. D'Nalia was in the kitchen fixing some soup. "Feeling okay?" he asked her.
She smiled at him. "Just fine. I'm sending the boys a care package. Ian decided that the cafeteria was gross again." She stirred it then put on the lid. "Are we expecting company?" He nodded. "Does he really like this idea?"
"It's a great help," Oz said honestly. "A lot of us can't change identities very well and we get caught, so we have to change again. Doing it this way means that they can create whole new identities and they can last longer without getting caught." He gave her a hug. "I'm going to give him a backrub. When she gets here, have her wait in Xander's office." He headed up the stairs to the loft area. Xander was laid out spectacularly on the bed, naked and shining in the sunlight drifting down from the skylight. He picked up the bottle of oil and squirted some out, then climbed onto the bed so he could work on his mate. This was one of his favorite times. Xander's client could wait.
Xander came out of his office and sighed. "She was hard," he complained as he grabbed a bottle of water. He leaned his head on the back of D'Nalia's. "She didn't want to change enough to make a new life. She wanted to stay herself, only with a different hair color, in the same city."
Oz snorted from where he was chopping broccoli. "She'll get caught by someone that she used to know. Then she'll either have to explain, run, or hurt them." He brought over the vegetables and handed them over. "We're having stirfry for supper." He grabbed his husband and danced him around the kitchen. "Is she gone?"
"A few minutes ago. I already did my notes." He stole a kiss. "Can you please back up my work and password it again?"
"Sure. I'll do it tonight." He dipped his husband, making D'Nalia laugh. "Come on, studly, let's go do that so we can have tonight together." He winked at the housekeeper as they left her alone. He closed Xander's office door, leaning against it. "How long were we going to stay here?" he asked.
"Few more months?" Xander suggested as he turned back on his computer. He frowned when he saw the message waiting on him. "Well, damn, someone tried to hack the system earlier."
"Did the firewall stop them?" Oz asked as he walked over to look at the message. "That's it, we're getting you a better system." He sat down and downloaded all of Xander's files, putting it onto a special, custom-built handheld computer and triple password protecting it. "There we are," he said, handing it over. "Go lock it in the safe."
Xander looked out the window. "Oz, maybe we should leave sooner. Give D'Nalia the house until she dies?" He looked back, watching as Oz thought. "I'm getting an uneasy feeling again."
"Then we'll head back to the States," Oz agreed as he stood up. "We'll leave tomorrow." He led Xander out to the kitchen. "D'Nalia, the house is yours," he told her. "We're going to disappear again." He kissed her on the cheek. "We've got everything set up for you. We'll be in touch." He walked up the stairs, grabbed the bags Xander was stuffing things into, and headed out to the garage. The bags of holding had been packed for a week, with only a few pieces of clothing left out for them to wear. The uneasy feeling had been growing now for almost a month. It was time to move on before something bad happened. He climbed into the car and slammed the door, then got out and helped Xander put the last bag into the trunk and the small carrier in the back seat. Together they got in and headed out into the night.
Fifty Years After The Aliens Landed
Ray looked at his lover, who sighed and raised his book a little higher. "Meth?" he asked quietly, snuggling into his side. "I need to go back to Chicago for a while."
"Have fun," Methos said absently. "Did you need some money?"
"Yeah, a lot," Ray said, smiling when his husband looked over at him. "I'm going to go be sneaky. So I need some money to set some stuff up."
Methos shook his head with a sigh and got up, going to the computer so he could email Steve. "How much?" he asked finally.
"Three mil," Ray said firmly. Then he smiled when his husband gave him a shocked look. "I'm setting up my plans for being the good guy." He slid out of the bed and came over to sit in his mate's lap. "Please?"
"Ray, that's a lot of money. What do you need it for?" Ray leaned down and whispered in his ear. "You need that much for that?" His husband nodded solemnly. "Fine, I'll give you half that and if you need it, I'll authorize the rest," he sighed, defeated. It was a brilliant plan, but it was going to be hard to keep quiet. He gave his husband a hug. "How long will you be?"
"Maybe a month," Ray said with a shrug. "Maybe a few days less." He pinched Methos' nose. "Just think, you'll get the whole house to yourself for a month and you'll get to not be nagged, or bothered, or even jumped."
"I also won't have anyone to sleep beside," Methos reminded him.
"So come with me," Ray suggested. "I could probably use someone there for me, but I didn't think you'd want to go back with me. I know Chicago has some bad memories for you and all."
Methos thought about it. A month of freedom without his husband, which was tempting, but it was also somewhat depressing - he'd gotten used to not being alone again. "Fine, I'll go with you," he said with a touch of resignation. Ray frowned and he smiled. "If only to keep you from bankrupting us and out of trouble." He patted his mate on the butt to make him move and finished typing out his email to the resort.
Ray knocked on the white door in front of him, holding his breath when he heard a young child screaming from inside. He smiled at the older woman who answered the door. "Dominique, I need to talk to your matriarch," he said quietly. "Your family's protector sent me." She nodded and got out of his way. It was too formal, but she understood it was important. He was shown into the living room and the door was closed. He could hear someone talking on the other side, then the door opened and an older woman walked in and shut the door behind her. He stood up and smiled at him. "Franny," he greeted.
The old woman looked him over, then nodded. "Why did you come?" she asked as she sat in her chair. She was now the matriarch of the family, and she got the respect she wanted.
Ray pulled a stool over and sat in front of her, touching her hands. "I want to do something really nice, but I need something from you in return." She nodded. "I want to set up a scholarship at the University of Chicago for any Vecchio. Call it somethin' like the 'be a Vecchio, get a free education' scholarship."
She smiled. "That would be great. What's the catch?"
He chuckled. "Right to the point, just like I remember." He squeezed her hands. "I noticed how many kids are stuck out on the streets and livin' there forever. I wanna help fix that somehow." She nodded. "I want you guys to pick a kid off the streets and adopt it. I'll give the kid a trust fund sorta thing so it doesn't drain the family, but I want the kid to become a Vecchio. Maybe one'a family?"
She looked out the window, then back at him. "It would be hard," she said quietly. "Street kids are looked at very closely when they're adopted."
He kissed the back of her hands. "Frannie, trust me, I know you guys can do it. It'll help some kids." He leaned back, letting her go. "I know it's a lot ta ask, but I feel really bad for them. And just think about Benny's face when he hears about it."
She shook her head. "He'd be over the moon," she agreed. "But he's also learned to be practical. I'll talk it over with him." She stood up. "We'll be in touch tonight."
"I'm still at the same phone number," he said, standing up. "I'd do it anyway, but I feel really bad for those kids." He gave her a hug. "I missed ya," he whispered in her ear. "Life's really boring without a spitfire like you." He let her go and stepped back. "I'm at the apartment whenever you're ready." He left the house.
Frannie opened the living room door and opened her mouth. "FRASIER!" she yelled. "Now!" The door slammed. Upstairs, a door opened and a gray head leaned out.
Benton Frasier, former RCMP and present consultant to the Chicago PD trotted down the stairs and into the living room. "What did he want?" he asked his protected duty. He had stayed around after her brother had been murdered to help the family by taking over Ray Vecchio's job. It gave him a family and people to care for. "Was it him?"
She sat down, smiling at him. "He had a stunning idea," she said quietly, waiting until he sat down. She was ninety now, she was allowed to be old-fashioned. "He's willing to set up a scholarship for all our kids, as long as they can prove they're one of us, if we take in some street kid into each family to make sure that they don't end up back there permanently."
Benton's mouth fell open. "How can he do that?"
"He married money," Frannie said with a wave of her hand. "He was wearing custom made clothes and a big honkin' multi-stone ring." Benton smiled. "Plus, he's a good guy. Always has been."
Benton rubbed his right eyebrow. "I see. Could we do that?"
She nodded. "We can, but it would give us some attention." He nodded. "Whaddya think?"
He smiled. "I like the idea, you know how much I care about those childrens' welfare."
"That's why you donate time at the shelters," she agreed. "And you spend time working with the little kids at the local school, and you read stories at the library...." She trailed off with a grimace. "Should we do this though?"
"We should," Benton told her. "It's got no other strings, Ray's not like that. He'd probably do it even if we couldn't adopt a child off the street." He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. "Think about all the loans the children won't have to apply for and pay back." She smiled. "And it could ensure that more of the children get accepted, having a scholarship with their name on it would probably look quite attractive to an acceptance committee."
She nodded. "Then we'll discuss it tonight at dinner. Call everyone in." She stood up and stopped to look down at him. "He's at his apartment if you wanted to pop over and see him."
Benton got up with a small moan of pain for his aching joints. "It's better that I don't. It would be too painful to see him since he hasn't changed." He walked her out of the living room and went upstairs to call the rest of the family in to dinner.
Methos looked over at the Director of Financial Aid, giving her a faint smile of reproach. "I'm quite sure about the parameters of this scholarship. It will be limited to this particular family. As long as they can prove that they're part of it, they qualify. I know that there are a lot of them, but I and my husband both protect that family. We wish to protect their education long into the future." He touched the sword in his jacket, but put that thought of his mind with a fierce determination. He wouldn't behead the annoying woman, no matter how badly he wanted to.
"The problem becomes, how would we know which one was a member of the family?" she told him, her voice grating and high-pitched.
Methos handed over a folder. "This is the official family tree. All you do is ask them to prove that they fit into some layer of it." He smiled and stood up. "I'll be back with a check, or with your supervisor," he told her, then left.
She looked at the family tree and shuddered. This could become quite a nightmare. She called her boss and went up to discuss it with him. He used to do her job before he got promoted to the Vice President of the college.
Ray smiled at the woman who sat down across from him. "You're Maria's daughter, right?" he asked.
She chuckled. "Yes, I am. Aunt Frannie sent me to tell you it was a done deal. She told me to tell you that a Vecchio's table is never full, we've always got an open chair." She looked him over. "So, you knew my Uncle Ray?"
Ray nodded. "Yup, sure did. For a while. Not as well as Benny did." He caught her appraising look. "It was a medical experiment gone really wrong," he told her. "Don't ask."
She nodded, accepting the rationale behind him looking like he was her age. "Aunt Frannie wanted to know if you were going to continue to protect us."
Ray slid his cellphone over to her. "This is the phone that she has the direct number to. If any of you need me, you call and I'll be back within a day, as fast as I can get my butt onto a plane and get here." She relaxed. "Just because I'm setting up this scholarship thing doesn't mean that I'm ignorin' my duty to your family." He tucked the cellphone back in his pocket. "Me and my man are more than happy to come runnin'."
She grinned. "Good. Though Benny said that you'll want to look at one of his kids at the school." She handed him a piece of paper as she stood up. "I'll go tell Aunt Frannie your answer." She leaned down and kissed his cheek. "I'll probably see you in a few days."
Ray shook his head. "You'll only see me if you need me," he said quietly. "Think of me like The Shadow."
"Early comic book character," he sighed. She shrugged and left him to his brunch. He shook his head. "Total breakdown of culture," he told himself. "Don't even know the classics."
Methos sat across from the President of the college, sipping his coffee. "Thank you for seeing to this personally," he told him. "Have you come to a decision?"
"We'll take it, but we need to clarify some of the demands you've put upon this scholarship." Methos nodded and the President held up the folder. "Only members of this family?" Methos nodded again. "How would they prove it?"
"Birth certificates," Methos noted dryly. "That's current to the present adult generation. Asking the head of the family to update it every generation wouldn't be that hard, they're very proud of their heritage." He leaned forward. "I can assure you, it's not that hard. I compiled that within three hours at the Hall of Records. The current generation will probably be more than helpful in keeping that chart up to date if you made it a part of the scholarship every few years." He leaned back again and sipped his coffee. "Were there any other problems?"
The man shook his head, staring down at the chart. "For a full ride for all the current children, it'll take more than what you've proposed."
Methos handed over a check, a gratifyingly large one for the President, but a painful one for him. "I think that should take care of it for at least three more generations, and many more if you would invest it wisely." He nearly smirked at the look of awe on the other man's face. "Will that do?"
The President nodded slowly, then looked up at him. "Definitely."
"Good," Methos purred. He did smile faintly when he saw the man shifting uncomfortably. "I do have to tell you that there will be children coming in who have been adopted by the family, but they'll still have to show their forms. They're also to be included." He stood up. "Thank you for your help." He shook the man's hand, ignoring the pitiful little hardness that the man was showing off through his cheap twill pants. "I'll leave you alone to arrange things," he said before leaving the office. He kept his laughter to himself as he walked out to his car. The man standing against his car made him smile. "It's all set," he told Ray, then gave him a kiss.
"Cool. Benny sent word that we should go check out one of his students."
"How did he know what we are?" Methos asked.
"One'a his buddies from up north was one of us and he died on the job. Benny was teachin' him at the Mountie Academy when a teacher found him." He kissed Methos on the end of his nose. "I was gonna go give them a box'a books so we can take the tour."
Methos sighed but he pulled out his keys. He hated shopping, especially after spending so much money at one time. "Have we already bought the books?"
"Yup. I called D'Nalia and she shipped us some of the boys' books that they didn't want ta save for their own kids. They should be back in the apartment by now." He slid into his seat, waiting for his husband to get in also. Then he stole another kiss. "If it's an immie, will we have to do anything?"
"Probably not," Methos said hopefully. "I have enough contacts to get him a teacher." He started the car. "I made the poor man hard," he said with a smirk.
Ray giggled. "Cool. I knew you hadn't lost your touch." They shared another kiss before pulling out of the parking lot.
Ray looked at the teacher staring at him, giving him a smile. "We're nice," he told him. "We're donating books and wanted ta see a classroom." He looked around the room while waiting for his man. So this teacher was the one, huh. He wasn't too bad. Kinda reminded him of Richie. Skinny guy with light red hair, almost no muscles though. Felt kinda new too. "Ray," he said, holding out his hand. "Relax," he said when the man hadn't taken his hand to shake. "We're good guys."
The man swallowed and shook his hand. "I'm Ebert." He nearly flinched as Methos walked in. "What are you guys?"
"We're just like you," Methos told him. He was thankful that they were alone in the classroom. The Principal had told them that they could only do this after hours to protect the students. Then she had left them alone to look around the rooms and talk to the teachers. "How old are you?" he asked kindly. The kid looked terrified.
"I'm thirty," Ebert said quietly. "Why do I feel you?"
Ray grinned. "It's cool, man. We'll find you someone to explain it all to ya. Another good guy, someone who won't attack you." He looked at Methos, who had pulled out his phone to call someone. "That's what we're doing right now." He scratched the man's hand, watching as it healed. "See that?" Ebert swallowed. "That's a signal of what you are, what we are. It's not so bad, but you gotta watch out for the other side. Don't ever become a bad guy." He let the guy go and walked over to look at some of the artwork on the walls. "That's cute," he said, pointing at the box of animal crackers that some kid had painted. "You should get that kid inta art."
"No," Methos told him. "No more funding children through school." He hung up and looked at Ebert. "Tomorrow night, go to Club Maxine and talk to the bartender. He'll be waiting for you. He can explain everything." He took Ray's hand and walked him out into the halls. "He'll be taken care of very well," he assured his husband as they walked away. They were done, unless they needed to run back and help the Vecchios.
70 Years After The Aliens Landed
Xander walked off the porch of their rented villa with a smile. "Oz," he called quietly. His husband shuddered and pulled his book closer to him; clutching it with all the intensity of it saving him. Unfortunately, nothing would save him this time. The ocean-scented air of the Spanish Riviera was majorly making Xander miss home and the only thing that would take his mind off of the house in Sunnydale was some major cuddling. And maybe something more, but he would settle for being cuddled for now. He tossed the unfortunate book aside and stretched himself over his mate's body, reminding them both of the cats waiting for them in the other room. Since one had decided to sneak out and play on the beach, none of them were allowed in the bedroom while the porch doors were open. Xander even purred for his husband, making him shiver. "Home?" he asked. Outside the doors, their dog barked.
"Yeah, I think it's time," Oz agreed quietly. "We can call Meth tonight if you want."
"Now?" Xander suggested, taking a lick of the warm, bare flesh. "Please?"
"It's three am their time," Oz reminded him. Living and traveling around Europe and Asia for the last thirty years had definitely broadened their horizons, and apparently made Xander forget about time differences. "In the morning, their time." He stroked down the firm back. He missed the hair that Xander had been forced to cut a few years back. It had been necessary for their continued survival; their challenger wouldn't leave them alone and he had somehow latched onto Xander as his identification. The only way to get out of Germany had been to cut the long hair. He noticed that it was growing again and smiled. He loved the hair. The white streaks were even coming back, though there were more now. He stroked over the shoulder-length mass. "Do you want to stop anywhere on the way back?"
"Nope, just home." Xander snuggled in, sure that he wasn't going to be moving for a little while at least. "We can even show the new generation of Jedi and Rocky babies home."
"True, we can. Once we get vet certificates." Oz continued to stroke his husband. The ocean reminded him of home too. Maybe he should request a side trip to Greece? Nah, not with the revolution that was starting over that way. "We can do all that tomorrow," he promised, rolling to hold his man. "We should probably stop in New York."
"Drop it, Oz. I'm not claiming that planet. No matter how eager they are for me to do that." He closed his eyes. He didn't want to remember the five weeks he had spent on that planet, or the reason for it. "Where's everyone at?"
"Richie's back at the resort. Steve's taken a year off to change personas. Daniel disappeared when Blair died and no one's sure where he is besides the fact that it's probably holy ground." He licked the shell of his husband's ear. "Meth and Ray are in Canada. The boys receive their honorary Ph. D.'s next month from Harvard and MIT. Giles is still lurking in Florida, though Richard has moved to LA to study under one of the demonic magic-users."
"Hmm." Xander rubbed his cheek on the bare chest. "Think we could rent a helicopter from LA and fly in?"
"That's a bit extravagant," Oz reminded him. "It'll bring attention." Xander shrugged. "I tell you what, we'll rent a private plane if you want. There's still a small airport outside of Sunnydale." Xander didn't say anything. "We can throw a housewarming party for our friends."
"Nah, let's just get home," Xander told him. "Make the arrangements?"
Oz nodded. Xander *hated* dealing with officials of any sort, or travel agents, but especially Customs officials. They always thought he was trying to smuggle stuff into whatever country they were heading for. Except for the Japanese one, they thought he was there to work as a stripper or prostitute. Oh, well, live and learn. No going to Tokyo again. Oz lifted some of the hair, taking a sniff of it. "Apple," he murmured in appreciation. He used to wonder what had happened the mass of hair that Xander had cut off, it had disappeared from the bathroom of their hotel room. Then he had seen someone very familiar lurking around a bar one night with some of it braided around his wrist. He wasn't against Strife liking his husband, but he couldn't have him. He stole a kiss and got up with a disappointed sigh. "Let me make the arrangements. You call the vets to get them cleared?" Xander nodded and grabbed the phone to do that. It was going to be a long day.
Maybe they'd have sex on the plane...
Xander looked out of the plane's window, smiling as they flew over his house. It looked okay. He had even seen the forge going. He bounced excitedly, they were almost home. As soon as the plane landed and they were cleared to disembark, he ran down the stairs and over to the tiny airport. Of course, there wasn't a cab service, but there was a small car rental service. He got them a sedan immediately since no one else was in line, and pulled it around to the baggage pick up. He even helped load everything into the trunk, except the animals who lounged in the back seat. As soon as Oz got in, they headed for home. They ran into a new gate, and Oz had to 'fix' it so it would let them through, but within minutes they were home.
Unfortunately, so were some military idiots pointing guns at them.
"What are you doing at my house!" Xander yelled as he got out of the car.
"Mr. Harris," a Staff Sargent said respectfully, and the guns lowered. "We were tipped off that you were coming back this way and we had to come talk to you." He opened the door for him. He had been told not to piss this man off, or very bad things would happen not only to him personally, but probably to the Army itself. "Can we assist you with carrying things?"
Oz climbed out and looked at them from across the roof of the car. "Why are you really here? This looks like an invasion."
"Our new boss said to come bother you, sir," he told him. "May we help?"
"You can get the animal cages," Xander told him, going for their bottomless bags in the trunk. That set had come in very handy, it was nice to travel so lightly. He walked in and winced at the painting hanging across from the opening. "Well, Ray did some decorating," he sighed. He took it down and put it in a closet, going to check on his office. "I'm home!" he yelled. He heard footsteps come running and looked behind him, smiling as Ray ran over and gave him a hug. "Man, you *had* to let them in?" he complained.
"We didn't have a choice," Methos told him, giving him a hug too. "They insisted." He looked back at the sound of more footsteps. "Release them, they run free," he ordered imperiously.
"Yes, sir," the Staff Sargent said as he set down the cages. He released the ferret and the puppy, then the kitten, watching as it pounced the ferret. "They're safe together?"
"They always have been," Oz said from behind him. "Now, explain this to us before we make you disappear," he said calmly.
"They decided that the lab in town was overrun," Ray told them. "Apparently we have the only safe house in the town."
"Bullshit," Xander said with a smile. "Get out of my house and leave everything right where it was or I'm going to lose my temper and kill you all." He kept smiling as the Staff Sargent backed up. "Do you understand?" The young man nodded. "Then why aren't you moving?"
"Sir, I can't take that order, you're not in the chain of command."
Oz walked into the office and someone screamed, that person was dragged out by their collar. "Tell them," he ordered.
"We're leaving," she gasped. "We've overrun their house for long enough. Gather everything and leave."
"And leave my stuff," Xander finished for her. He didn't need to go track down someone and take his things back. They probably wouldn't appreciate that at all. He snuggled into the Ray/Methos sandwich, comforted by their embrace. "How do they know who I am?" he whispered to Methos.
"Someone unsealed one report from the negotiations," the Sargent offered helpfully.
Xander looked at him. "Was it one in which I hurt somebody very badly?" he asked nicely. The man swallowed and went to do as he had been ordered to do. It was only minutes until he and most of his buddies were gone.
"Mr. Harris," the Captain said, brushing the lint off her sleeves. "We're sorry to have inconvenienced you in any way. We'll leave you alone now and return for any missed articles tomorrow afternoon when we come to talk to you about our current assignment." She hurried away, the dog was trying to bite her.
"Don't do that," Methos told it, "you don't know where she's been."
"Apparently she's been snooping," Xander said with a frown at her back. "Oz, can you do a check of the house?"
"Sure." He walked away, Methos going with him.
Ray pulled Xander into the writing room, settling them both down on the soft couch. "So, give. Where did you go?"
Xander grinned and gave him a kiss. "Everywhere. But we're back for a while."
"Cool. Guess what I did."
Oz looked over at Methos as they sipped beers. "You guys okay?" he asked.
Methos nodded. "Fine. Ray's a bit anxious to go do things again. They weren't actually that bad. There weren't any attempts to steal anything this time." He finished off his beer in two gulps and reached for another one. "How was Europe? And what happened to his hair?"
"Asshole in Germany. Europe was still the same, only with more arrogant people." He shrugged and took another sip. "It was like the bad French people took over most of the main continent. Showed Xander Russia though, and Japan, Italy, Spain, and the Mediterranean in depth. We hit Greece twice but both times there was civil unrest near the old home place." He smiled. "Did you see, they dug up my old temple."
"I did see. I'm surprised that you weren't in any of the pictures," Methos teased.
"They wouldn't let us that close to the site," Oz said with a shrug. "We'll go back once they're finished." He glanced around. "So, ugly picture?" he asked finally.
"Ray inherited it from Francesca Vecchio," Methos said with a grimace. "When she died, she passed on the phone number to her niece and daughters, and gave us the picture. It was done by one of her nieces who's in art school."
"Color's off," Oz noted.
"It was her first project."
"Ah." Oz finished his beer and grabbed another one. "Who was playing with the forge?"
"Ray wanted to see how hard it was, we haven't been able to fully shut it down for three days. We've been letting it die out by itself."
"So, how's Spike and my brother?"
"Seth's been fine. He startled himself by scaring someone the other day," Ray said with a half- smile. "Did you put that picture in a closet?"
"The front one, where it wouldn't get hurt." Ray pouted at him. "They were lime green grapes," he whined.
"I know, but it's from the family."
"Oh. We can hang it up in the craft room if you want," Xander offered. "It'll still be hanging," he pointed out when Ray didn't say anything.
"As long as I'm not forced to face it," Xander agreed. Ray grinned at that. "Family?"
"Ah. Gotcha." Xander ran a hand through his hair. "I wish this would grow faster. I miss my hair."
"Hey, I miss your hair," Ray told him, leaning over to look at it. "Where'd it go?"
"Asshole in Germany. I had to cut it because he was focused on me and we couldn't hide me any other way."
"Oh." Ray nuzzled the bare neck. "Wanna fool around?"
"Always," Xander said happily. "Should we tell the old guys?"
"Nah, let 'em walk in and sigh," Ray teased, releasing the buttons on his and Xander's jeans. Pretty soon, they were naked on the couch and groping like the pros they were.
Oz and Methos walked into the writing room and sighed. "Yup, we're home," Oz told him, then he leaned down and stole a kiss for himself. "Wanna take this upstairs so we can all join in?"
"We saved your bedroom for you," Methos told him, taking the direct approach and pulling his Ray off of Xander's taut body. He whistled. "I see someone's kept up with their training."
"I'm *very* fit," Xander said with his naughtiest grin. "And kinda horny too."
"Run, I'll stall him," Oz said, letting the other couple get away. "Be gentle. It's been years since you pounced them," he reminded his husband, then let him chase their friends. By the time he caught up with them again, Xander and Ray were having sex in the pool and Methos was sitting on the side of it getting a blow job. Damn, his baby was talented. He had forgotten how much. He stripped off and jumped in to tease Ray while Ray pumped into Xander's body. It was all good for now.
Strife, in his brilliant disguise - if he did say so himself-, stepped up behind Xander's chair in the spa. "Just a few inches?" he asked with his best Italian accent. He sounded like someone out of the Godfather. Xander nodded. "Okay then." He picked up a pair of light-sucking black scissors and nodded the towel girl over. "We'll warm your face up while I do this and head to your facial next." As soon as Xander's eyes were covered, he snipped at the short hair, taking off a few millimeters. He watched as it grew and 'encouraged' Xander to take a short nap. He snipped it again, cutting off everything that had just grown, repeating it a few times. By the time he was done, he was cackling, Xander had knee-length hair, and it was beautiful. He sent the scissors away with a wave of his hand and started to disappear, but Cupid and Jace caught him.
"Nope, no way," Cupid said, frowning at his friend. "You can't leave it that long, it'll kill his neck and he'll threaten me again."
Jace nodded. "Remember what happened last time?"
Strife leaned closer and kissed them both hard. "Then he'll have to pray to us."
"Honey, I've been getting some," Cupid said smugly.
Strife punched him, knocking him onto his butt and wings. "Well, I haven't had as many, so there." He pouted and disappeared.
Jace shook her head. "How could he forget Strife?"
"It's only been two days!" Cupid said in shock.
"Two days?" Jace asked. "He overreacted like this because it's been two days since he's gotten a prayer from Xander?"
Cupid pushed himself off the floor and brushed himself off. "Yup. He did this because Xander's been playing with the pointy, fleshy thing for the last two days and hasn't talked to him." He looked at the mass of hair. "We've got to fix that."
Jace laid a hand on his arm. "Honey, let them work it out. Getting in the middle of those two is really not the best thing." He clutched his occasional lover as they disappeared, letting Xander wake up.
"Huh?" Xander asked, rubbing the back of his head. "Ow." His hand drifted down to his neck, then he removed the towel, shrieking when he saw himself in the mirror. "Strife!" he called. His buddy appeared and he launched himself into his arms. "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you," he said, interspersing them with kisses. "You are the greatest buddy in the whole world. You deserve many happies." He squeezed the God so hard he squeaked, which made Xander giggle. "If there's anything I can do, just yell it to me."
"You're not mad?" Strife asked.
Xander put their foreheads together, staring him in the eyes. "Dear, I've been meaning to ask you if you would make it grow another three inches so I could tease with it again." His smile brightened. "Then you go and do all this and all I have for you is a set of postcards."
"You got me a present?" Strife asked, looking really happy now.
Xander nodded, after pulling back. "Yup, sure did. I even wrote on them like I was going to send them." He pulled some of his hair around and used it to tickle his friend. "I was going to call you tonight and ask you to go help me get into trouble, but you anticipated it and I'm so happy." He hugged him again. "If you want, we can still go have fun tonight."
Strife pulled back. "Why haven't you called in the last two days?"
Xander blushed. "Because Ares said that you needed a rest, that me being so *athletic* with Ray and everybody had given you a headache."
Strife snorted. "As if." He tickled his favorite human. "Never forget me again. Even a headache isn't enough ta stop me from comin' ta play with ya." He looked the young man over. "You still know how ta dance?"
"Dude, I even learned how to belly dance," Xander bragged with his best leer.
"Yeah, but I wanna see you tease the turd callin' himself my Unc." Strife winked. "Come get ya in a few hours?"
"Deal," Xander agreed, pulling him in for a big kiss. "We're gonna have *fun*!" he cooed.
Strife giggled and disappeared.
The towel girl cleared her throat. "Sir, if you'd follow me, we'll do your facial now," she told him.
He smiled at her, and apparently made her wet by the way she shifted. "Can I work a massage onto my schedule too?"
"Of course, sir. I'll have that taken care of while your facial is going on." She led him to a small room and let him inside. She hurried off to make the adjustment to his plan, and to go take care of some things. She hoped he came back, he seemed like a great tipper.
Xander adjusted his face-covering scarves and stepped out into the single beam of light. Strife had arranged for him to put on a show of his dancing here tonight. What Strife hadn't asked for he had done anyway - he'd let his hormones spike back up. This was going to be a great performance. As soon as there was silence, he moved into the first position, starting his most sensual dance.
In the crowd, Ares put down his drink and stared at the man *writhing* on the floor. "That looks familiar," he mumbled. Jace looked over at him, giving him a smile. "Do we know him?"
Jace shrugged and subtly dropped a hand into his lap. This was going to be so good. She watched Xander move across the floor, wondering when she had started to react to him. Hmm, that boy was Mischief's tonight, definitely. She felt a lump start under her hand and massaged it gently, bringing it to a near-crest. This was going to take all night and she wasn't going to be left wanting.
The music switched and Xander moved into one of the traditional belly dances, forcing many a man in the audience to unbutton their pants. He moved to the tables up front and shook it for them, teasing man and woman alike, then moved back into the center. At the end, he panted into the microphone that was switched on. "The next one is for my protectors," he panted, dropping the pitch of his voice down again. He was a little out of shape apparently. He moved to where he had caught sight of Ares and Jace, starting the rhythmic movements for just them. Within minutes, Ares was panting and trying to reach for him, but Xander always moved out of the way. He twirled back to the center of the floor, swishing regally as he forced his hormones to spike just a little more, sending the crowd into a frenzy. An orgy had started before too much longer, everyone grabbing the people nearest them. That dance ended and the last one started up, a slow moving, sensual number that never failed to leave both Ray and Oz gasping for mercy. He sent a smouldering look back at Jace, who was all but being forced to service her lover right there. He moved and wiggled his body, making even himself hard this time. He finished up on the floor, panting. After the wild applause, and a few grab attempts, he ran over to hug Strife, then they both disappeared.
"That tease!" Ares said loudly. The crowd made agreeing noises and continued with the orgy. He decided he should probably get Jace out of there before anyone realized he was holding the only woman in the room besides the cowering waitresses.
Up on Olympus, Aphrodite paused in feeding her Hephie a piece of cantaloupe. "Xanny's back," she noted, then smiled. "And what an orgy it is." She laughed and the piece of melon continued on its trip into her husband's mouth. "I should probably go congratulate him later."
"Much later," Hephaestus agreed, grabbing her to kiss her. His wife suddenly squealed. "What?" he asked, looking down to make sure he hadn't laid on top of one of her breasts again. The last time had left him without a bed partner for a year.
"He got Ares," she giggled. "He teased tall and deadly."
Hephie laughed. "Good. Maybe he won't be so gloomy tomorrow at the Council meeting." He pulled her on top of him. "Enough about them, give me some sugar, baby."
"Oh, Hephie, you say the sweetest things," she teased, using the extra energy she was getting to thrill him as much as she was being thrilled by the impromptu orgy.
In another temple, Cupid sat up in bed and looked around. "There wasn't an orgy planned for tonight," he complained. But he was liking the energy too much to complain for long. He laid
back down to enjoy the whip of energy around him, just him and his hands.
Hera looked at Zeus, who was looking worried. "That's the anchor," she reminded him.
"Oh, yes, that one." He shrugged. "At least Ares is going to be happy tomorrow." He went back to his murder mystery. "Why is it always the help? Our help would never dream of hurting us."
She patted him on the chest. "It's just a story, dear."
Oz looked over as his husband appeared for the first time since he had left for the spa that morning. "Uh-huh," he said, noticing how Xander smelled, and how sweaty he was, and how he was dressed. "Go bathe," he ordered, pointing toward the bathroom.
"I had fun," Xander told him, crawling onto the bed. He slid himself down Oz's body to tempt him. "I even teased Ares and Jace." Oz's mouth opened and a whimper emerged. "I'd like to get you too, if you're not too tired," he added as he ran a finger down Oz's cock.
"No, not too tired," Oz assured him, grabbing him to help him peel off those pesky clothes. They were stuck to the warm flesh by sweat so he ended up ripping off the pants. As soon as the obstacles were out of his way, Oz rolled Xander underneath him and licked the sweat off him, slowly going over each inch of his flesh to make his mate growl and beg. As soon as he was done, he lightly tickled his husband, making him squeal and wiggle. That's when the restraints appeared in a flash of light, and the bottle of lube doubled in size. He guessed someone thought they were going to need it. Hopefully, they were right.
Xander wiggled up enough so his head was on the pillows again. "Oz, I need you," he complained when his husband stopped. He blinked and he was attached to the bed by the cuffs that had grabbed his hands. "Oh, wow," he whispered. "I haven't used these in a while." He thrust his hips up, but Oz stopped them from moving too far, making him whimper.
"You'll get it," Oz soothed, pulling out the bedside drawer so he could grab the tube of oil they'd bought in the Middle East. It warmed the skin as it was worked in, and it made Xander extra horny. He slowly worked the oil into the firm chest and stomach, then avoided the heavy cock to play with the sweaty feet. He worked his way back up the legs, then switched to the arms when he got to Xander's knees. No slickness for when he climbed on top. Xander wasn't the only one who was going to have some fun tonight. He kneaded the dance-tense muscles of his lover's shoulders, making him groan in pleasure. Then he continued the harder massage down the chest again, working over each muscle group in turn. Out of the blue, he tweaked a nipple, making Xander curse. "Got ya," he whispered as he leaned in for a kiss.
Xander pushed his hips up again. "You missed a spot," he said, trying to nibble on the tempting lips. Oz pulled back and looked at him. "Oz." No answer. "Oz?" Still no answer. "Oz, if you don't do something, I'm going to find a way to release myself and pounce you so hard we both hit the floor."
"Hmm, kinky," Oz said, then shrugged. He grabbed the bottle of lube, one of their special toys, and put the two together. Then one went into Xander, making him squeal in a high-pitched tone. "Not quite," Oz muttered, moving the toy a little bit, making him squeal a little higher. "Two notes too low." He wiggled it a bit, and turned on the vibrating part. Xander hit second high C above high C. The vase beside the bed broke, as did the glass dildo sitting next to it. "Wow. Didn't think you could hit that note," he said appreciatively.
"Are we all right in there?" Methos yelled from the hallway.
"I made Xander break glass," Oz shouted back.
"Shit, I'm impressed," Ray said as he came in, looking at the broken pieces of ornamentation. "He really did it." He picked up a few pieces to show them off. "He made Xander break glass."
"Yes, and now Xander wants to have something more than plastic," Xander told everyone. "Unless you're helping, Ray, give Oz the bigger vibrator and go away."
Ray snickered and handed Oz the biggest dildo that anyone had. It had been bought as a joke, but it might see use tonight. "Try that one," he smirked.
Oz shrugged and lubed it up, then used it on his husband, making him squeal and wiggle in his bonds. He slammed it all the way home and looked at Ray, whose mouth was open. "He likes them big," he reminded his occasional lover.
"Meth, he took it," Ray said in shock, pointing.
Methos patted his Ray on the shoulder. "Someday, you will too," he promised. He led his lover out of the room. "Try that trick we learned in Moscow," he advised as he shut the door.
"Finally," Oz said dryly. He leaned down and sucked on the leaking cock, making Xander swear and try to get more of it down his throat. Oz pulled off to torment him. Xander whimpered. Oz shrugged. "Don't push. I'm in charge."
"Okay," Xander said quickly. He would take it and love it all, he was like that. That's what a good Greedy Hedonistic Slut was like. Oz traced the head of his dick with his finger, making him pout. "Do you want it?"
"More than you think, but I don't have the stamina to wear you out, and I doubt the other two do either since they've been going at it all day." He leaned down and took a lick of the clear fluid dripping down him. "Now, I can be nice, and give you a cock ring, which I know will mean I won't get any sleep tonight because you'll turn into super slut, or I can not give you a cock ring and live through the four or five orgasms you'll want."
"Cock ring!" Xander said immediately.
"That's what I thought." Oz pulled out their favorite cock ring and slid it onto the hard cock, hitching the ball ring as tightly as he could. Then he pulled out the large dildo and replaced it with a smaller, textured one. He slowly worked it into his husband's body, making him squirm. He had hopes that Xander would hit that note again, but it was a probably not going to happen. He slowly worked Xander off, giving him his first orgasm of the night. He smiled when he saw that nothing had leaked through the cock ring; it was rare, but Xander had beaten them before. He switched his weapon of choice, going for an anal probe - a bouncy piece of plastic that had a knob at the end. This one actually had a small, ticklish current running through it. Xander giggled as soon as it touched his hole, and laughed harder as it entered him. Since that wasn't what he wanted, he changed tools again, this time pulling out the toy Ray had nicknamed 'the pleasurer'. Even Methos had tried to steal this one on occasion. Xander always enjoyed it too, it made him hum and purr. And this time was no exception, though he did shift some too. So Oz gently turned him onto his side and started again, playing to his heart's content. Because he would never last if he crawled inside his husband's body now.
There was a reason why Xander had more than one lover, he wore them all out and still needed more. Tonight was not going to be an exception, it was going to prove the rule.
A new shiny toy appeared on the bed beside Oz's right hand, making him pause in consideration. He picked up the sapphire dildo to weigh in his hand. It would do. Especially the extra stone in the end. He shrugged and shoved the stone in the end all the way in, smiling when the sapphire started to vibrate at an extremely high rate of speed.
Hey, what did you know, Xander could hit that note again! He also managed to shoot across the barrier of the cock ring, and to grab Oz to bring him closer and swallow him. It was nice, much missed, but very nice. He came and let Xander go so he could play until he had time to recover. Xander pounced him. "Hey, recovering," Oz protested weakly.
"Already?" Xander pouted. "How am I supposed to get my four or five orgasms?" He was handed the sapphire dildo. "Really?" he asked with a grin.
"I like to watch," Oz reminded him.
Xander knelt on the bed, his ankles still chained to the bed posts, and inserted it in himself. He shifted so his husband could see, and went at it. He squealed and wiggled and pleased himself to another orgasm, which made Oz happy because he had time to recover, and made Xander happy just because it was going on. By then, Oz was ready. Xander was ready.
And a fun time was had by all.
Xander looked up from his pampered position tied naked to the bed by a slim platinum ankle chain. A glittering had started in the middle of the room. "Oz?" he called, bringing his husband from the bathroom. He pointed at the spot where Ares was appearing. "Visitors."
Ares glared at Xander, then at Oz. "Do you know what your pet slut did last night?" he demanded.
"Yup." Oz sat beside Xander, handing over the damp washcloth he had been getting. "Clean up," he ordered gently. He watched as his husband cleaned up the old cum on his stomach, then looked back at Ares. "I heard he danced," he said, adding a shrug for good measure. "Was it good?"
"He started an orgy," Ares said coolly. "You've got to keep him on a shorter leash. He's not allowed to do that to me again!"
Xander looked at Oz, then unhooked his ankle chain and stood up. He slinked over to Ares, rubbing himself against the God of War's side. "All I did was follow my nature," he purred, giving him a naughty grin. "You wouldn't want me to *ignore* it, would you?" He rubbed himself again, arching up. He noticed the reactions of the body he was leaning against. "After all, you did take my buddy from me." Ares groaned. "That was very mean of you and I *had* to get you back." He strolled behind Ares, running a finger across the God's waistband. "You were very naughty," he told him, continuing until he made it back to Ares' front. He smiled up at him. "You made me leave Strife alone, which upset *both* of us."
"You're a tease," Ares panted, glaring at the young immortal.
"No, I'm not a tease," Xander corrected with a bright grin. "If Oz ever dies and I'm left all alone, I'll come up and take part of Jace's share of you and Strife." He leaned in and sniffed at the opening to the God's vest. "But until then, I'm Oz's and only his." He stepped back, and Ares swayed toward him. "You were still naughty, Ares," he purred. "Keeping my bestest buddy away from me. Making him mad. Making me pout." He ran a finger down his bare collarbone. "Strife was really distressed, which I hated doing to him. And it was all because of you." His finger drifted lower, teasing his tight abs. He had worked hard for the six pack that graced his abdomen, and they were deadly when he wanted them to be. He knew Ares' eyes were locked on his finger so he moved it lower, teasing his pubic hairline. "You won't make me pout at you, will you?" He started to pout.
Ares swore and backed away from him. "You're a goner," he warned. "No one teases the God of War."
"Actually," Oz put in. "He's teased more than you. You're just the toughest so far. Almost everyone else would be begging by now." He shrugged when Ares tried to blast him. The shot was off by about six inches to the right, but he didn't move or flinch. Ares needed him and Xander too much to hurt them.
"You made me ignore Strife. This is minor compared to what I *could* do," Xander reminded him with a smile. He stepped closer and kissed the God. Ares went weak in the knees and groaned, trying to keep Xander pressed hard against him, but Xander got away and smiled at him. "Can you please thank Jace for letting me borrow her toy?" he asked coyly, smiling again.
Oz tossed it over. "Yeah, it made him really happy."
Ares looked at the toy, then at Xander. "Never do it again!" he warned, then he disappeared. He landed right behind Jace, who was listening to the latest complaints in the meeting area of the Gods. He pushed her against the wall, moving up behind her. "Go find your most realistic strap on and put it on," he growled in her ear. "Then get naked, put your hair down, kneel on the bed, and pray that I let you sleep tonight." He handed her the toy and stormed away to do his part in this little complaint session. Everyone wisely got out of his way, he looked like he had went without sex for a month! Even though they knew he hadn't.
Jace smirked and went to do as she had been ordered. Games, yum. She knew helping Strife get Ares would be to her benefit.
Xander was purring because Methos was giving him a backrub when they were rudely interrupted by the military. "What?" he demanded, not moving and not covering his nudity.
"They need our help," Ray said from the doorway. "That's what all the crap about the local base was about." He moved Xander's head and sat under it, letting his friend rest on his thighs.
"Sir. Mr. Harris," he corrected. "We need to find Dr. Jackson." He cleared his throat. "We...we know that he's....different, and a group that we're presently starting relations with only will talk to him." He shifted a little bit.
Xander rolled onto his side, facing the little Sargent. "Really? And how do you know that he's *different*?"
"Because one of the other cultures realized it and wrote about it, which is how this new group of people found us. That's why they'll only talk to Dr. Jackson." He swallowed when everyone continued to stare at him. "We know he's not anywhere on this planet, sir, but we figured your kind would keep track of each other."
Oz walked out, carefully slamming the door so it wouldn't break the glass, but making the military man jump. "I'd forget about this difference," he advised. He frowned at Ray. "My man."
"Hey, my man's rubbin' him, I get ta snuggle. You'll get your turn." Ray smiled at him. "Just wait, I promise you'll get some too."
"Okay," Oz agreed. He looked at the young man. "Why us?"
"Because the file that we unsealed said that Mr. Harris was teaching Dr. Jackson something. We figured there would be some sort of teacher/student bond or at least correspondence."
Xander sighed. "You'll probably find him somewhere that reminds him of Dr. Sandburg," he told him. "But I'd leave him alone. He disappeared because he didn't want to deal with people."
"Sir, General O'Neill demanded that we find him."
"Jack's still alive?" Oz asked, his forehead wrinkling. "He'd be like a hundred and fifty or something."
"Um, no sir, it's his son, Jack Junior." He coughed. "Jack Junior is the Stargate General now, has been for the last three years."
"Oh." Xander looked at Methos, who had spent a lot of time with Jack. "I thought he didn't want more kids."
"He didn't," Methos agreed.
"It wasn't exactly planned," the Sargent told them. "Um, the General told us that his mother seduced his father often enough for everyone on base to know that the great Colonel Jack O'Neill didn't plan on having him. Though, his father did admit that he existed and was there for him, it was apparently a very bumpy upbringing. He, um, wanted to do what his father did though, and joined up, and eventually became our General. His father told him about you guys, and Dr. Jackson of course."
"Of course," Ray agreed. He looked at Xander and shrugged. Then he looked at the guy. "We haven't heard from him. Has anyone talked to the guy at the resort in Vegas that we co-own?"
The Sargent nodded. "He said he'd seen an article that suggested Dr. Jackson was in Turkey, but he couldn't be sure it was him. We've checked but couldn't find any hint of him."
Xander sighed and stood up. "All right. I'll try and find him. Give me all your information about where you've tried and where you think he is, and we'll look for him. He may not come back, but we'll tell him why you're looking for him."
"Thank you, sir." He handed over a file. "General O'Neill will be quite happy. Oh, he sends his apologies about us taking over your house. The base in town *was* overrun by an experiment gone wrong. We had to evacuate for nearly a week before it died." He nodded, then saluted and left the house.
Xander looked at the folder's contents. "He's in Istanbul," he announced.
"Cool. Haven't been there in a few years," Ray said, grinning at his husband. "Want to go find the Danny guy?"
"If you want," Methos agreed easily. He hadn't traveled in a few years and was starting to miss the road again. He took the folder from Xander's hands. "We'll go look for him. You stay here and recuperate." He smiled and stole a kiss, then grabbed Ray and pulled him up. They went to pack and make sure they had all their documents in order. "Maybe I'll be an archeologist this time," Methos mused.
"Cool. As long as I can be the naughty grad assistant," Ray said with a grin. He pinched his husband's rear. "I'll even let ya spank me if ya want." He jogged up the stairs, making his mate follow him.
Outside, Xander laughed. Oz was tickling him again.
Daniel Jackson walked into the meeting room in the Stargate compound and looked at the people waiting on him. Then he looked at the aliens, pulling one of them aside to have a private conversation. "I don't want to come back yet. I'm mourning."
The alien gave him a hug. "I understand," he told him. "I have mourned my own mates." He stepped back. "Send us word when you're ready to come back. We will only talk to ones of your kind." He looked at the table. "We know there are others here, but we have not been allowed to talk to them."
Daniel glared at the general, who looked a lot like his old friend. "Get one of the others of us on the base to talk to them." He tossed a manila folder down in front of the general. "I'm in mourning. I'm not coming back." He nodded at the aliens and left.
The man he had been talking to sat down. "We will only talk to one of his kind," he told the General. "There are many things that you learn only after a lifetime." He nodded at the woman at the other end of the table. "As you well know."
Samantha Carter, half human, half energy being which was trapped in a portal, nodded. "I do understand, but Daniel won't be back for quite a while. He loved his mate enough to want to keep him with him, but his mate refused."
The alien smiled. "I remember that feeling. It does not go away." He stood up. "When you have found another, send for us and we will come back." He nodded again and took his entourage with him.
Samantha started to fade out, she couldn't sustain a physical form outside of the portal that had taken her life for very long. "There used to a few more like him," she offered. "There was a med tech and a few ground-pounders. If you looked in the medical files, you might find them." She finished fading out.
General O'Neill sighed and leaned down to pound his head on the table. "Fix this," he ordered. "Find another immortal, one who we've worked with, and bring them to me." He stood up, going to grab a drink. At seventy, he often found that he wanted one these days. This command was frustrating. He should have listened to the complaints his father used to throw around as well as the stories.
One Hundred-Twenty Years After The Aliens Landed
Xander turned on the tv and sat down in front of it. He put his sandwich aside and put his feet up, enjoying the quiet of the house. Oz was in LA buying a new computer. Ray and Methos were in Europe. And his animals were downstairs doing the daily nap thing. "All mine," he cooed. He patted his sandwich. On the tv, the game show was interrupted by a urgent story.
"We don't know where this storm came from," the weather guy said from the rain-lashed street. "It's a big one though. Possibly one of the worst hurricanes in the history of Florida." He looked behind him. "It just showed up on our radar earlier this morning!" The signal went to static.
"Florida?" Xander asked. He started to feel a little funny, his stomach was twinging. He bent down, trying to stop the light cramping. "Ow!" Suddenly, it snapped, and the world seemed to spin. "GILES!" he screamed. And passed out.
Strife popped in, looking down at the immortal on the floor. "Yeah, it was him," he said quietly. He sighed and the picture came back on.
A different guy, this time wearing a rope around his waist that disappeared behind the camera. "We don't know where the storm came from," he gasped, "but it just hit land." He looked around and the camera panned around the damaged buildings. "This could be worse than Andrew, ladies and gentlemen. The Red Cross is on the way." He blinked when he saw the swirling clouds coming toward him. "I don't know if we'll make it through this next part of the storm. We're in the eye of the hurricane right now. We've only got a few minutes. Please, everybody remain calm. Florida officials are already mobilizing, they're on their way here as we speak." The picture tilted and started to bounce away from the storm. It finally went dark as they hid inside a building.
"Oh, crap," Strife whispered. He picked up the phone, hitting the button for Oz's cellphone. "Come home now," he said quietly. "And get ready to evacuate." He hung up, looking around the house. "We'll miss this place," he told the furniture. He bent down, smacking Xander lightly. "C'mon, wake up. You don't have all day!" Xander opened his eyes and focused on him. "You've got to get ready to leave. The storm's comin' this way," he said quietly. Xander sat up, but he was pale. "You've gotta pack everything right now. Anything ya leave probably won't make it very far."
Xander nodded and grabbed his sandwich on the way down to the bedroom areas, eating as he walked. He grabbed the neverending bags. Their things were easily packed. There were some things that were too large to fit though, and he'd have to do something about the bed. He loved this bed. It had been with them since he, Oz, and Giles had gotten together. It was an antique that has been in his family for nearly five hundred years. He closed his mind off to the destruction coming and pretended to pack for another trip. A short one hopefully. He moved to the next bedroom, starting on the things in there that he wanted to keep. Oz came in about an hour later and helped. Finally, Xander couldn't take it anymore. "I want to move the house to a demon dimension," he told his husband. "I don't want to lose it."
"Dude," Cupid said as he appeared. "Less worry about the house, more worry about your lives."
Oz looked at him. "This house has held the best of our lives." He gave Xander a hug. "We'll find a way," he reminded him. "Call Micah?"
"The portals aren't working," Ares said as he appeared. He had forgiven Xander for his teasing a few years back. "You don't have time, Oz."
"No, but I have some power," Xander told them. He headed down to the library, starting to pack the books away in a never ending bag. He found the one he was looking for and sighed. It was a hard spell and his magic only let him grow plants. This might backfire and hurt him badly. Or it might not work at all. He pulled out the ingredients, laying them out on the floor. He noticed Oz coming in to pack the rest of everything. "Don't forget my database," he quietly reminded. He lit the candle and threw the first herb onto the flame. As he started the chant, the back of his mind was praying that this worked. This house held the best memories of his life. He couldn't lose them.
Oz glanced at him, then went back to saving what he knew they could. He could use the help, but he understood. He didn't want to lose the house either. He waited until Xander passed out, then put him into a bag too. The animals went in there with him, they'd keep him company while he recuperated. He finished packing what he could and bundled the bags into the back of his car. He took one last look at the house, then left it. Probably for the last time. He drove away, tuning the radio to the local weather station.
"As of this moment, the storm is outside of Los Angeles. It may not hit land, but if it does, it'll be as bad as the one that just hit Florida. Please, if you live somewhere vulnerable, somewhere your house might slide or be taken down by a high wind, evacuate." There was a pause. "We've just received an evacuation order for the whole of the coastal region. Everyone who lives within twenty miles of the West Coast needs to leave their homes, no matter if you think you're safe. The National Guard is coming to help you leave as quickly as possible. Please, go with them. We don't want to lose any lives." The radio staticed up.
"Shit," Oz muttered, turning onto the interstate. He headed for Vegas, knowing nothing could take the resort down. They could wait there for news about Giles, and Xander could get help there.
Xander opened his eyes, wincing at the blankness floating around him. "Where am I?" He sat up, nudging the cat resting on his side out of the way. "You guys are here too?" He checked them over, grabbing the dog sitting farther away to check her too. Finally, he settled on the cat which had been sitting on him to cuddle. "Hello?" he called.
The blankness wavered around him and a beautiful woman appeared. She had silver hair with black streaks in it, was wearing a long blood red robe, and was barefoot. She smiled sadly at him. "Your mate is safe," she whispered, touching the side of his face. He could feel energy seeping into him. "Yes, it was his arrogance that started the storm. He tried something far out of his reach. The same as you did." Xander swallowed. "Yours was done out of sorrow, but I did hear and understood. When you get to your final resting spot, it will be there." She smiled at him again. "Young Xander. Such a noble warrior and lover. The anchor that holds us all."
"Hecate?" Xander whispered. She nodded. "The house?"
"Is destroyed, yet saved." He relaxed. "You, on the other hand, need to know your limits." She pointed up at the seam above him. "Your mate saved you, putting you into my hands to heal. I have done it this once."
He nodded. "I won't do anything that bad again." He glanced around again. "I'm in a bag?" She nodded, starting to smile again. "How long?"
"Three weeks. Strife passed on that you were with me." She touched the side of his face again. "He has seen the error of his ways, but he's not ready to come back yet." She straightened up. "You have other questions?"
"Is Richard okay? I figured that he did something to try and stop the storm, that's why we got hit on our coast too." She shook her head. "No, that's not why, or he's not okay?"
"The imbalance of your second mate trying to close a demon dimension off for all time caused both storms. Young Richard is safe in Paris. Your other mates are in Europe and heading for you. Your duty to the Hellmouth is now over with as it's buried so deeply no one can ever breach it again."
Xander reached out and touched the sleeve of her robe. "Thank you," he told her when she looked shocked. "I know you didn't have to help me, or heal me, or even show up and talk to me. Thank you."
She smiled at him, a friendly smile this time. "You are welcome. Don't come to my area again though. It is not for you." She faded out.
Xander reached up and knocked on the seam above his head. "Oz?" The bag opened and his mate looked down at him. "Help me out?" he asked pitifully.
Oz reached down and grabbed him under the arms, hoisting him out. He reached back in to help the animals out, smiling at the kitten that licked his fingers. "Love you too, silly." He looked over his husband, who was very thin. "You lost a lot of weight," he noted quietly.
Xander looked down at himself and sighed. "At least I'll be able to build it back up." He looked around the dirty hotel room. "Where are we?"
"A day from Vegas. There's been horrible traffic jams the whole way. Everyone decided to head for the desert and we only got sixty miles today." He sat down on the bed, pulling Xander into his lap. "Do you feel okay? I can let you go back to sleep if you want."
"Nope, I'm okay. Kinda hungry," Xander admitted gently. He stole a kiss. "Hecate came to me."
"She scared the hell out of me when I tried to wake you up and you wouldn't." Oz squeezed him. "She said she'd help you." Xander's hipbones were sticking out, and it was disturbing him horribly. "I've got a cheeseburger beside the tv."
"Giles? I know she said he's okay, but still."
"Steven and Richie are at the resort. They've heard from him. He's heading for London. Richard's going to meet him there." He stood up, carrying Xander over to the bag with the food in it. "Eat. You need it more than I do." He stroked the thin back as his mate ate, making sure he couldn't move away from him. Even when Xander went to the bathroom, he followed.
"He's fine," Ares said as he appeared. He looked around the room, smiling at the ferret that came over to bat at his boots. "Yes, hi," he told it. He looked at Oz. "Hecate said he would be fine."
"He lost forty pounds," Oz told him. Ares winced. "Yeah, so I'm worried. Shoot me." He shrugged. "One more day and we'll be at the resort."
"If they have room," Ares pointed out.
"I told Steve to save us a room or else he was going to lose his head." Xander came out of the bathroom and the discussion stopped.
"Hi," he said, smiling at Ares. "Did Hecate tell you I needed to do something for her?"
"Nope," Ares told him. "But I hate to tell you that Ray's really upset with you."
"Not right now," Oz butted in.
"No, it has to be right now." Ares frowned at Xander. "You didn't get the picture."
"I did," Oz told him. "It's in the trunk." He patted Xander's butt. "Finish dinner. I'll go out for more in a few minutes." Xander sat down to eat the cold fries. "How bad was it? I haven't seen a news broadcast in days. Between satellite problems and government blackouts, there hasn't been any news from either city."
"Miami was totaled," Ares told him. "LA was partially destroyed, but there was a force field in place thanks to some of the demons. It dissipated almost as quickly as it started."
"And the house in Canada?" Xander asked.
"Fine. The trees shielded it. The one in Miami is gone of course."
"If we have to, we can live in Vegas. What about bank stuff?"
"Thankfully, most of the information is saved at the national headquarters these days. Your funds are all right. The demon bank retreated to their home dimension. Your forge is still there, it's about the only thing though." He smiled at Xander and created a bowl of fruit. "Eat, kid. You don't know what's waiting for you at the resort."
"Hopefully, a decent bathtub and a bigger bed," Oz said dryly. Someone knocked on the door. "What?"
"Who's in there with you?"
"I paid for two of us," Oz called back. He got up and answered the door, ignoring Ares. "See, two of us."
"Then who's the guy on the bed?" the manager asked. "Looks like three to me."
Oz looked back in the room. "I only see the guy on the bed."
The manager glared at him. "Are you actually trying to tell me you don't see the guy in black and green leather?" Oz nodded. "You're shittin' me. You can't miss him."
Oz stepped back, right through where Ares was standing, the God had went intangible. "Where, here?"
"Yes, there!" He blinked, then rubbed his eyes. "He's not there?" Oz shook his head. "I'm goin' nuts."
"You're probably overworked because of the traffic," Oz suggested. He stepped away from Ares, going back to the door. "We've all descended on you recently. I'm sure you're just tired."
The manager sighed. "Yeah, maybe you're right. Anyway, the restaurant is closing in a few minutes. We're about out of food."
"Thanks. I'll come get what I can in a few." He closed the door.
Ares chuckled. "Nice." He looked at Xander, who was eating an apple. "Try to get some protein into him. He'll have to regain that weight."
"Fight coming?" Xander asked.
"Probably," Oz agreed. "But I'll take your challenges for you." Xander glared at him. "You're forty pounds underweight. I doubt you can hold your sword." He smiled at Ares. "Thanks for the help, big guy. Kiss Jace for me."
"Every day." Ares dissolved.
Oz sat down beside Xander, giving him a hug. "You eat, I'm going to go scavenge some food." He grabbed his wallet and a kiss, then left the room.
Xander laid back on the bed, nibbling on his apple. He slowly fell asleep between bites.
Oz found the line for the restaurant, smiling at the young girl standing in line in front of him. "Your parents step out?" he asked.
She smiled wetly at him, it was obvious she had been crying. "She had to call someone for some money."
Oz looked at his fat wallet, then shrugged. "Why don't you tell her to come see me, 'kay?"
"I'm not into funny stuff," a woman said behind him.
Oz looked back at her, noticing how thin she was too. He pulled out some bills to hand them over. "No strings. Just the fact that I don't like to see anyone suffer. My husband's lost a lot of weight because of this too." He stepped forward as the line moved.
The woman looked at the bills, frowning at him. "We don't need charity," she said angrily. She tried to hand the cash back.
Oz put it back into her hand. "Not that either. Trust me, I can afford it." He waved his wallet. "This is something that's considered catastrophic. You're probably going to have to find a new house, you'll need food in the meantime. Let me do this." He stepped forward again. "Besides, my mate's picky and our animals are probably taking all the bed by now so I've got nothing else to do at the moment." He shrugged. "I'm nice, not anything else." He stepped into the building when the line moved up. He pointed at the little girl. "Want to take your spot back?"
"Sure." She stepped around him, putting an arm around her daughter's shoulders. "Thanks."
"Welcome." Oz looked at the sign beside him, noticing what was still in stock. Just as he moved again, the board was updated, removing all the meat products from it. He sighed and grabbed a few cans of wet food for animals. The woman looked at him. "I have two cats, three dogs, and five ferrets," he told her.
"Are you rich?" the little girl asked.
Oz looked down at her and nodded. "Yup. It's all my husband's, but we're really well off. He designs jewelry."
"That's cool," the little girl said.
"I doubt he's going to have much business for the next few years," her mother told her.
"Probably not, but we'll be okay. We had a house in Miami, and one in LA." The woman hissed. "Yeah, so we're going to go impose on friends." He shrugged and juggled the cans of animal food. By the time he got to the counter, there were four people waiting to the side counting money, and there was almost no food left. "Anything like a sandwich?" he asked the cook.
"Peanut butter and jelly," she said wearily. "And we've got some beans or some fruit."
"Give me three pb&j, and some slices of bread," he told her. He looked at the stock on the shelves. "And these three," he said, grabbing some canned meat and crackers. He put them with the animal food and pulled out some cash. He saw the looks his wallet was given and handed over a few bills to the people needing money. He left with his small bag of supplies, stopping to hand some more money to a woman with a child crying that he was hungry. "I'm nice," he told her when she looked at him funny. "I don't want anyone to suffer." He headed back to the room, closing and locking the door behind him. He even put the chain on. "I feel guilty," he told his sleeping husband. "We have plenty of cash. There's people out there without anything."
Xander mumbled and held up a hand, silently asking for a hug. "You feel guilty because of Giles," he said once Oz was beside him on the bed. "Did you give out money?" He turned into the comforting body.
Oz picked up the half-eaten apple and finished it in a few bites. "Maybe I do feel guilty about Giles. And yeah, I handed out some money to some families." He let his husband snuggle in. "One more day," he assured him.
"Good. I don't think I can take too much more of this," Xander said as a radio started next door. "I sound spoiled," he said a few moments later.
"We are spoiled. We don't get near people usually. We only see people when we go shopping or head out for the night. This is forcing us to be close to a lot of people, and it's got to be a shock."
"It's not quiet. I liked the quiet," Xander whispered.
"We'll have quiet again, just not for a few months," Oz assured him. He knew how Xander felt. He was upset by all the noise and the people forced into this motel. They were definitely spoiled. Maybe it was time to rejoin life? "How about we go to the next GHS convention?" he asked. Xander mumbled something and licked him on the chest. "Or maybe go out to party once we're in Vegas?"
"As long as we don't look like we're proving that we're rich," Xander agreed, opening his eyes. "I don't want to act like some spoiled heir who's flaunting the fact that they have cash when nearly everyone else is rebuilding."
"I can agree to that. But maybe we'll be able to help out once we get to the resort."
"It's probably full too."
"Yeah, it probably is." Oz stroked his husband gently, soothing him back into a nap. The food could wait, it would last.
Steve sighed when he saw Xander and Oz walk in together, the animals not with them apparently. "No animals?"
"In a bag," Xander told him, leaning on the counter. He was really tired from the walk. That was a long hike from the valet parking lot. "Are we okay on a room?"
"You're fine. The family suite is waiting for you," he told them, handing over the keys. "If anyone in the group shows up, you may end up sharing, but for right now it's just you guys. Richie's on my couch."
"He can have one of the spare bedrooms," Oz told him. "We don't mind." He patted Xander on the back. "How is everything?"
"Let me walk you up." He led the way to the elevators, waiting until they got on to say anything else. "We're packed. We've given discounts to anyone who was desperate enough and needed a room. We've got about six rooms saved in case any immies show up and we're giving everyone a head's up, but I'm predicting a fight any day now." Oz nodded. "What happened?" He stopped the elevator and picked up the phone. "It's me," he said, then hung it up. "That storm wasn't natural, you can't convince me that it was."
Xander sighed. "Giles was trying to close off a demonic dimension for someone. It backlashed." Steve blanched. "He's fine, heading for London. His powers are nearly gone, he's seen the fact that he's on the wrong path, and he's really sorry. I'm wondering if it was necessary though."
Oz nodded. "Strife popped in that first day. He said that Giles was stopping a civil war among the demons by closing off a few dimensions from each other. The barrier ripped, which led to an energy explosion, which leached out and caused the storms on both coasts." Steve sighed. "It could have destroyed this plane too," Oz said pragmatically. He looked around. "No privacy upstairs?"
"Amanda was seen yesterday and we're not sure where she is, but we all know she can't keep her mouth shut." Steve restarted the elevator. "Do you have any orders?"
"Not yet," Xander said, giving him a faint smile. "If we have to, are we listed as an emergency shelter?" Steve nodded. "Are we prepared for that?"
"We're running a little short of fresh food. Everything is in disarray. Shipments are lost or stuck. We've got enough meat in the freezers to run a steak buffet for the next week straight. Canned vegetables and fruits are fine as far as the chefs' said. I'd say we can go for a week before having to get creative."
"What about when shipments start and the prices hike?" Oz asked, stepping off the elevator. He set down the bag he was carrying so he could let out the animals.
"You weren't kidding," Steve said in awe. "Is that one of those bags?"
Xander nodded. "I napped in once since we left Sunnydale." He sat down carefully on a chair and looked at Oz's student. "What can we do to make things go easier?"
"Have some cash ready," Steve suggested. "The resort didn't keep that much on hand. We're running on about two days worth of deposits right now." Oz tossed over his wallet. "Almost no one's taking credit cards yet. The local banks are frozen until the national headquarters start to put out information again. They're saying a week before things start going back to normal."
"If that doesn't hold you, tell us," Oz told him. "We kept about sixty thousand in the safe at home."
"Just in case I got a wild hair up my ass and decided to go shopping," Xander said wryly.
"Feeling spoiled?" Steve asked with a smile. Both men nodded. "I can understand that. I did too. Where is everybody else?"
"Meth and Ray were in Italy last I heard, and they're trying to get here. It may take them a few days. Ray's got the inheritance papers with him for the houses in Sunnydale and Florida so we can do the insurance thing."
Xander looked around. "I want a party," he told them. Both men looked at him. "A 'we survived' party. Maybe a fundraiser or something, but definitely a party so we can be hysterical without going nuts." He looked at Steve. "Can we do that?"
"I think someone else is already starting to do that," Steve admitted. "I'll check though, maybe we can cohost or run a second one." He patted Xander on the shoulder, wincing when he felt the thinness under the loose t-shirt. "What happened to you?"
"He decided to do a spell that was way out of his range," Oz explained. "But he saved the house."
"Hecate said it'd be waiting for us in our final resting spot," Xander explained. "I just couldn't let it go. Most of our life was there, all the good times were." Oz touched his hand, silently telling him that he understood.
"Wasn't that dangerous?" Steve asked. The couple nodded. "Why? It's just a house."
"It's our home," Oz explained. "Xander's right though, it holds almost all of our really great memories. I didn't want to lose it either." Steve shook his head. "It's the difference between a house and a home, Steve. You'll find it some day." He yawned. "Anything we need to do right now?" The elevator opened, letting Richie out. "Hey. You can have a spare bedroom if you want."
"No offense, but you guys are really loud." He grinned. "At least you made it out okay. Any news on the other old guy?"
"Italy," Xander told him. "Heading here." He yawned. "Sorry, but I'm wasted." He stood up with a grunt and headed for their usual bedroom. "Hey, new sheets," he called back.
Steve and Richie glared at Oz. "He did a spell to save the house," Oz told them. "It was harder than he should have been able to do." He stood up. "He lost some weight and he's perpetually tired. He's fine though." He waved and headed for the bedroom. "Litter boxes please, Steve?" he called back. "And food?"
"Sure, Oz. I'll send some soothing stuff up." He nodded Richie back to the elevator and explained what he had been told on the way to the lobby. Richie shook his head and walked away, heading for the kitchens to do something useful.
Xander was dragged into the emergency medical station by a nurse, protesting the whole way. "I'm not sick, I'm just too thin," he complained. "There's other people who need you more." The resort's assistant manager had the small clinic set up for the refugees, it freed up space at the area hospitals. A few other resorts were doing the same thing. No one was going to be using the ballrooms anyway, so it was a good use of the space.
The nurse forced him to sit down, staring at him. "I doubt that anyone else is walking around looking like a skeleton, young man." She looked him over. "You look familiar."
"I co-own the resort with Steve and my husband."
Xander shuddered. "No, just sick for a few weeks. I was stuck in bed and I couldn't keep food down. Nothing worse." She gave him a skeptical look. "Really. I was tested last month and I'm monogamous with my lover." He didn't think she needed to know about Ray or Methos, it would just make her look at him funnier. "Trust me, I'm okay. I'm resting. My animals comfort me when I'm feeling cranky." He tried to stand up but she pushed him back down. "Really, I'm fine. My personal physician is on his way here. Take care of the others who need it." He gave her his most endearing smile, but it didn't work, she wasn't going to let him go. When the doctor came in, he shrugged. "I tried to tell her I was sick recently and this was because of that."
"NO!" Xander growled. "I'm not that sick. I had some sort of mega-flu that didn't let me keep down anything for three weeks." He crossed his arms. "I'm fine. I'm monogamous, been married now for many years."
The doctor checked him over anyway, and finding nothing wrong decided to give him orders. "I want you to go back to bed, Mr. Harris. This resort has this wonderful feature called room service and I'm sure you'll find them willing to bring you food."
Xander grimaced. "Actually, I was hunting the escaped ferret," he admitted. "She snuck onto the elevator when the cleaning lady came up."
"I'm sure the nice people who staff this resort will help you look for her because you need to go back to bed."
Oz strode in, looking relieved. "Passed out?" he guessed.
"Dragged in here. They didn't think I had the flu."
"Well, it is suspicious when young men your age get down to this amount of thinness," the doctor reminded him. "Usually, it takes a life threatening illness, and in your age group it's usually AIDS." Both men shuddered. "But since you say it's not and that you've recently been tested, I'll let it go at that."
Oz held up his ring. "We've been married since Xander was twenty," he told the doctor. Not quite a lie. Xander only looked twenty-three or twenty-five after all, not closer to two hundred- twenty-five.
The doctor smiled at him. "It's good to see such committed couples. Quite a few divorces are going to happen as soon as the stress level falls." He helped Xander stand up. "He needs to go back to bed and slowly build up to eating again, young man. If you want, I can give the chefs a regime for him to follow."
Oz shook his head. "We're doing okay on our own. He's actually gained five pounds since we got here." He held out a hand for Xander to take, tucking him against his body. "I'll go put him back in bed though."
"See that you do," the nurse told him. "He's down here hunting ferrets."
Oz nodded. "We've got five of them. The escapee is actually an albino ferret." He led Xander from the room, heading back to the front desk. He smiled at the woman behind it. "Could you please make a note that the albino ferret who's running around is ours?" he asked her. "Harris and Osbourne, owners suite?"
She typed it into the computer, chuckling when a note popped up. "The boss said that he would be on the lookout for it and he'll start looking in the kitchen." She glanced at Xander. "He also said to put him back to bed before someone else captured him and suggested he was really sick."
"I am, I'm sick of bed," Xander told her with a wink. "Please send up our baby whenever Steve or Richie find her." He let Oz lead him to the elevators. "Wanna watch tv, now that the satellites are working again?"
"Only if you're going to curl up in my lap and nibble." Oz nodded at the couple waiting with them and stuck his key to call the elevator that went to the suites. He saw the appraising looks. "He had the flu for two weeks before we had to flee LA," he told them.
"Oh, poor boy," the older woman cooed. "You just need a good meal or three."
"Or six or seven," Oz agreed. "He's gained five pounds this week though, so we'll be fine." He stepped onto the elevator, letting the couple stand in front. "Push the 'o' button please."
"You're owners?" the older man asked. Oz nodded. "Wow. Coming in to help manage the emergency?"
"Steve, the guy running the place for us, does a really great job, but our house got taken out in the LA storm," Xander told him. "So we're bugging Steve and helping out a little bit, while mourning and looking for a new place to live."
"At least you got out alive," the older woman told them before getting off on their floor. "Have a nice day, gentlemen."
"You too," Xander called. "They were nice."
"They're on Steve's list of casino cheats. Saw the notice earlier."
"Oh. Huh." Xander sneezed. "Wonder if they know Amanda and where she is."
"Who knows," Oz sighed, letting them off at their floor. He got them seated on the couch and the tv on, watching the news programs. That was the only thing on, besides the normal daytime drivel. They sat together, watching the coverage of Miami's rescue efforts.
"It's going to take years to get back into fighting shape, isn't it," Xander said quietly.
"Probably," Oz agreed. "But I'll help you. You know that."
Xander smiled up at him. "Were you serious? About going to the next GHS convention?"
"Yeah, I was. I think we could use a little grounding outside our group of friends. We can even bring Methos with us if you want." Xander nodded and snuggled back in again. "It should be another year or so before a convention is planned."
"Maybe we can talk Steve into hosting it here."
"Doubt it. He's still having nightmares about the impromptu convention a few decades back." He gave his husband a squeeze. "We'll figure it out later." He snuggled in, his eyes slowly drifting shut.
"As long as you get better," Oz whispered, pulling the throw off the back of the couch to cover them up.
Methos walked off the elevator, smiling at the animals which came running. "Hello, little creatures," he said, giving them each a perfunctory pet. "Ray?" Ray came out of the elevator, still reading his newspaper. "Do you think they're here?"
"Someone's snoring," Ray pointed out, walking blindly in the direction of the noise. He ran into the bedroom door and opened it, walking in to lay beside whomever was on the bed. If they were family, they wouldn't mind. Even Richie had loosened up over the years. "Hey."
Oz poked him. "You're laying on the blankets," he complained. "Xander's already hogging most of them."
Ray shifted, giving him a short grin before going back to his paper. "Ya know, there's some strange rumors out there about those storms. Some paranoid people are even saying a witch did it."
"Huh." Oz smiled at Methos as he walked in. He glanced at Xander, who had mummified himself thoroughly.
Methos walked in and sat down beside Xander, patting him on the covered arm. "Is everyone all right?"
Oz forced himself to sit up. "More or less. Giles is pretty wasted magically. Xander's wasted physically and magically." One eyebrow went up. "He saved the house."
"Wow," Ray said, finally putting aside his paper. He grabbed some of the blankets and tugged, but the ripping noise made him stop. "Xander, we wanna cuddle," he said quietly, not wanting to wake the other man up, just wanting him to let go. It worked, Xander flipped toward him, giving Methos an opening to peel the blankets off his body.
Methos growled, "What happened to him?" and forced Xander onto his back so he could look him over.
"The spell to save the house was harder than he should have been able to do. He did it," Oz explained, "but it about killed him. Hecate saved him." He looked over his husband's body. "He looks better now than he did when I pulled him out of the neverending bag."
Methos finished his scanty physical and gently tucked the younger man in. He pulled Oz up and forced him into the living room. "He saved the house?"
"Hecate said the spell basically saved a copy of the house and everything in it. It's now wherever we're going to end up. But the spell was something that even Giles would have had trouble doing on his own so it took too much out of Xander, which is why he lost weight. She healed him, but it still drained his body."
"He'll be fine?" Ray asked from the doorway. Oz nodded. "Then let's not bitch him out because'a this and just cuddle the poor guy. He's probably already heard it a few times." He put an arm around Oz's waist so he could pull him back to the bed, climbing in behind him. "This is the life, huh," he said as Methos climbed in behind Xander.
"No, the life was back at the house," Oz told him. "Where there was quiet and privacy."
Ray nipped him. "You're soundin' spoiled."
"I know. We realized that the day that I pulled Xander out of the bag." Oz stroked over Xander's shoulder. "He'll be fine."
"We'll make sure of it," Ray agreed, sharing a look with his husband. He could make Xander behave when even Oz couldn't, so they'd help out for a while.
Xander looked around the small club, which he had pressured Steve into opening, with a sense of pride. He noticed a reporter coming toward him and smiled nicely at her. "Yes?" he asked.
She put her microphone in his face. "Don't you think that this is a bit excessive considering that most of the people here are grieving?" she demanded.
Xander pulled her out of the way of someone wanting to get in. "No, I think this is a healthy way to blow off some of the nervousness, anxiety, and tension we've all been feeling instead of biting the heads off the people who're trying to help," he told her, looking and sounding serious. "This isn't a party for partying's sake, this is something to blow off steam and excess energy. Not so much to have fun, but to relax and let it go." He shrugged. "Even my family, which has money, is feeling a lot of pressure right now. Housing, food bills, all that stuff, is really starting to wear everyone out. By dancing and making bad jokes, we can wear out some of those worries for a few hours." He glanced around, then back at her. "Trust me, it's better to do this than to go stand outside and scream, or to go hurt someone or yourself at the gym or in a fight, or even going out and blowing off steam by doing dangerous things. This is safety."
"Thank you." She walked away.
"Misquote me and I'm buying your network," he called after her, giving her a smile when she frowned at him. "Hey, I had to say it." He slid into the crowd on the dance floor, nodding at the DJ to start the music. He danced for a few songs, then headed for the bar area. It had been a stretch, but Richie and he had talked Steve into setting up a free bar - free except for alcohol. If you wanted to get blitzed, you could do that at home. This was supposed to be a safe place where you could wear out the tension around other people. So any non-alcoholic drink was free to anyone who asked. Already, someone was complaining at the bar.
"They said it was free!" she told the bartender.
He nodded. "Anything non-alcoholic is free. Alcohol isn't so no one becomes a nuisance." He walked away to get a bottled water for a man at the end.
"Fine." She slapped down a few bills and walked away.
Xander caught the bartender's eye and smiled. "Some people," he mouthed. The bartender smiled. "Great DJ, Craig, thanks for finding him for us." He grabbed a bottle of water and wandered around, finding the table where Richie was sitting and watching. "Find anyone cute?" he asked as he sat.
"A few," Richie admitted with a smile. "This was a great idea. No cover, free drinks. Decent music. This should last long enough for everyone to start feeling normal again." He sipped his own water. "Where's Oz?"
"Looking at houses. We don't want to take up the resort's resources when we can afford a house of our own." Xander watched the crowd move and shift. "I hope we find something."
"There's always the house in Canada," Richie said optimistically. "And mine in New York."
"How is New York?"
"Crowded with us. Most of us who had to move seemed to end up on my doorstep. A few were heading here from Europe figuring that the world was going to end and we might as well fight." He shifted, his shoulder was still sore from the challenge he had accepted last night. Not that he would tell Xander about it, Oz had made sure he knew that Xander wasn't supposed to be fighting. "Where's he looking?"
"Here in town for a rental. We've talked to our insurance guys and voluntarily put ourselves far down the list for compensation. One of our insurance guys actually cried when we volunteered to be pushed back on the list." Xander sipped his water. "I got accused of doing this out of some joy thing."
Xander nodded. "And I told her if she misquoted me, I was going to buy her network." Richie snickered. "I hate being misquoted. It sucks majorly and you spend too much time trying to fight off a bad reputation."
"Amen. I was misquoted two weeks ago, probably by the same woman. She said I was here because of some sort of saint complex when I told her that I was friends with Steve." He laughed when the fight started, noticing how fast the bouncers worked. "You won. Less than ten minutes into the music when the fight broke out." He handed over a five dollar bill. "How long before the casinos reopen?" he asked casually.
"I heard that the big ones were thinking about reopening next week. Since we only have a few machines and tables, they've been kinda open but no one's played. Steve kept a dealer in there the whole time in case someone *had* to gamble." He finished off his water. "I'm going to go dance. Wanna come?"
"No thanks. I'd rather have a pretty woman in front of me. Or behind me," he said philosophically. "Being surrounded by them would probably be even better, but I doubt I'm going to get laid tonight." He finished off his own water and headed down to a different part of the floor.
Xander headed for a group of younger people, going to dance with them.
Steve tapped on the wall as he walked off the elevator. "Xander?" he called when no one came.
"I'll be out here." He sat down on a couch to wait, smiling when the cat crawled up into his lap. "Hello, pretty. How are you?" He petted the small furry animal while he waited. Xander eventually came out and sat beside him. "The club's doing okay. We got roundly booed by few newspapers, but the rebuttal letters seem to have kept people from trying to burn us down." He smiled. "And Oz just called. He's frustrated. They're showing him mansions instead of houses."
Xander nodded. "I can help with that." He scratched the cat in Steve's lap behind the ears. "Is there anything else I can do to help?"
"Rest and get better because one reporter said you looked sick."
"I am sick," Xander agreed, looking down at himself. "My stomach's protesting life right now by doing gross things and I stopped gaining weight."
"It's a long process," Steve reminded him, handing back the cat. "Oz'll be here to pick you up in about an hour. He said to be ready." He stood up. "Still no word on the missing ferret, and we've looked everywhere."
"Maybe she got outside," Xander sighed. "I'll miss her."
Steve patted him on the head. "Trust me, she'll show up when you least expect it." He headed for the elevator. "Ray's helping me with the refugee stuff and Methos is down in the kitchen teaching the chef how to make his special soup. Be back in time for supper." He left the suite.
Xander stood up and stretched, then headed for the bedroom to get dressed. The least he could do would be to help Oz fix the housing problem. He seemed to be good at fixing problems recently. He had made sure that sixteen bartenders who were out of work got some, and six DJ's, not to mention quite a few big guys who were needing jobs and became bouncers at the club. This might not be such a bad problem after all.
Xander looked around the mansion that the real estate agent was showing them and nearly shuddered. The place was six times the size of their former manor house, and it seemed very...sterile. He looked at the man showing them around. "Way to big for five people and ten animals," he told him. "Not got that comfy feeling and it doesn't have any interesting architecture. That's all we're demanding. We could probably even do with a larger than average family home right now."
The real estate agent consulted his list. "My boss said that you wanted something large and ornate."
"Not us," Oz told him. "Ours was 'interesting, comfy, and moderate'. This should belong to one of the displaced Hollywood types." He headed for the car.
Xander took the agent's arm, working some of his charm on him. "Show us something smaller, more intimate, and cuter."
"Almost everything's been snatched up already," the agent explained as he got into the car. "The small family type homes are all on reserve because we're expecting that a lot of the population will want to stay here. Most of what's left is the big, the ornate, and the really expensive."
"Money isn't the issue," Oz reminded him. "Comfiness is." He started the car. "Where to?"
"Well, I have a possible. It's off the strip at the far end." He consulted his map. "Take the turn past the Rio and go for about six miles."
"That's in the desert," Xander said with a frown. "No greenery."
"Well, the old Mustang Ranch is presently up for sale," the agent said with a smile.
Xander shook his head. "I'm expecting the Playboy people to take that one or something like we just left. I heard their compound was all but wiped out too."
"They're rebuilding according to the entertainment news," Oz told him. He took the required turn onto the strip, the main street in Las Vegas where all the casinos were located, and headed for the Rio. "What's this one like besides being out in the desert?"
"Probably not what you want, but it's nice. You may like it though, it's very interesting to look at." He tapped Oz on the shoulder. "Take a left on the next block."
Xander and Oz trudged into the resort, giving Steve a frown. "I want to build a small house on the resort's backlot," Xander told him.
Steve shrugged. "I don't see why not. We've got some space and there's an old building waiting to be torn down out by the golf course." He leaned on the check-in desk. "Not go well?"
"The only things that are left are mansions, or really small houses for single people," Oz told him.
Xander leaned on the counter too. "Anything remotely family sized is being sold only to families, preference given to people with children. Everything else was showy and nasty."
"Ah." Steve shrugged. "At least you still have Canada."
"Yeah, and we're thinking about heading up there later this week," Oz admitted. "But I think we need to check it out first."
"It's not like D'Nalia's body's going to be found on a bed," Xander snorted. "We went to her funeral. The house was sealed up but it should be fine. After all, Migrid made it for us."
"You could always claim your planet," Steve joked. Xander glared at him. "Joking," he reminded him.
"I don't want a planet. That's a lot of work and I don't even want to think about what that would do to my taxes." Xander straightened up. "C'mon. I wanna hit the whirlpool upstairs." They both waved and headed for the elevators.
Steve considered the two men, then shrugged. "Only them," he told himself. "But I'm thinking that they're going to find Xander some day and make him take that planet." He checked the resort's logs of empty rooms. "Which immie came in?" he asked his assistant, who had walked up behind him.
"Some big guy named Holden. Didn't seem pleased at the refugee situation but he was warned." She smiled at him and patted him on the back. "Don't worry, this is still holy ground." She handed him some papers. "The loan for the second resort, the report on the structure, and my two-weeks notice." Steve's mouth opened. "Sorry, boss, but my hubby wants to move to Florida to help rebuild. His construction company could do some major business down there."
Steve sighed. "Fine. Find your replacement." He folded the papers and put them into his back pocket. "I'll be in my office drinking poison."
She laughed. "That dramatic streak will put you on Broadway yet," she called after him. She sat down at the main computer to check on the paid vs unpaid room ratio, frowning when she saw how much money they were losing. "It's his place," she reminded herself. "I can't complain about him being a nice guy."
Xander looked up because someone had called his name. He waved the guy over, giving him a smile. "Hi. Do I know you?"
"No, but I know you," the big man said. He sat down, stroking through his red beard and hair to make sure it was lying smoothly. "You own this place. You're the mate to Theodonius."
Xander blinked. "Um, and you are?"
"Robert Holden. Richard sent me."
"Gee, I wish he had sent you with a note," Xander quipped. "What can I do for you?"
"First, how long are we going to inundated with normals?"
Xander raised an eyebrow. "Probably for about a month. The housing market's doing good business and a lot of the people have found jobs if they're staying. We've actually lost a good third of the refugees who were here when Oz and I showed up." He shifted some, moving a few inches away from this immortal. He didn't like this guy and he wasn't sure why. "Steve said that we'll probably be back down to normal tourism rates by the end of next month."
"But there's still going to be normals."
Xander shrugged. "There were normal people here when Jace ran it. It's a nice place to bring a family and you can bring your pets." He put his arms on the table, subtly touching the knife in his shoulder holster. "I'm sorry if the others are bothering you, but they've always been here. Jace asked that we keep the resort the same as when she was alive."
"I see." Holden stood up. "Then I guess I'll have to do this some other way." He glanced around. "Desert, tomorrow, ten miles out of town."
Xander shook his head. "I don't take challenges," he said quietly. "I'm not one of you."
"But you are," Holden said with a smile. "You feel like one of us, you heal like one of us, and you have a quickening like one of us."
Xander shook his head. "I don't have a quickening. I'm soul-bound with one of you, that's why I feel like a pre-immie." He sat up. "Leave. This is a place of sanctuary."
"The end is coming and you'll have to fight sometime."
Xander smiled. "The end isn't coming unless some people force it to. Even though they're not fighting for anything. This is a sanctuary, not the place for the gathering. Leave if you can't understand that." He stood up. "Excuse me, I need a drink to wash the foul taste of our encounter out of my mouth." He headed for the bar, being careful to stay far away from this guy's hands. He saw Richie and smiled at him, nodding at the guy behind him, then rolled his eyes. Richie frowned and slithered through the crowd on the dance floor to get to him. "That's the Holden guy who checked in yesterday," he told him as they headed for the bar. "Challenged me. I refused."
"Wow." Richie looked him over. "Big guy."
"Knew Oz's real name," Xander added. Richie whistled. "Yeah. So I'm going to head out for the night. Can you deal?"
"Sure. Have fun." Richie patted him on the back and headed for the bar for a drink while Xander left the club.
Xander ran into another immortal outside the door. "Go ahead," he said with a smile. "It's stress relief."
"One of us is in there," she said, trying to sound bored.
"There's at least two of us in there and one's nice." He smiled at her and held out a hand. "Xander Harris."
She shook it. "Miriam Dubois." She glanced around. "Don't you own this place?"
"Co-own. And I'm tuckered so I'm going to cuddle with my husband now." He nodded at her and left her alone. He made it to the elevator before running into another immortal. This time though, it was a friend. "Hey, Richard," he said quietly. The sorcerer pulled him onto the elevator, letting Xander pick the floor. "Dining room okay?"
Richard looked him over. "You should be in bed."
"So I've heard from quite a few people," Xander retorted dryly. "We'll need one of the other elevators to get up to the family suite. So, what's up?" He got off and used his key to call for the penthouse elevator. "And did you send that Holden guy?"
Richard shook his head. "He's best not discussed where he can hear."
"I left him downstairs in the club after refusing his challenge." He got on and pushed the button for their suite. "What's up with him and Dubois?"
"She's here too?" Xander nodded. "Were they together?"
"Didn't look like it." Xander stepped off. "Oz, guests."
"Shoot, he'll have ta put on clothes," Ray called back. He strolled out of the shared bedroom. "Hey, Richard. What's shakin'?"
"Many things, most of them immortal and head-hungry." Methos came out with Oz after hearing that. "I followed one of here that failed to take my head. Apparently he headed right for your mate."
Xander nodded. "Holden. Big red-haired guy. And a skinny girl named Dubois."
"Don't underestimate that one," Methos warned. "I tried to fight her once. She's quite fast and plays by the rules about as much as I do." He pulled Xander over to give him a hug. "Are you all right?"
"Fine, but we might want to warn Steve and Richie."
"There's got to be twenty immies here right now," Oz pointed out. "That's a lot of warning."
"Then we'll have to send subtle reminders about this being a sanctuary and holy ground," Steve said as he walked off the elevator with Richie. "Holden?" Everyone nodded. "Bad guy or just power hungry?"
"Hunter. He does this for the joy of the fight," Richard told him. "Steve, I hope it's not too much of an imposition for me to steal one of their guest rooms."
"Not a problem," Oz told him. "We expect family to stay with us. You're kinda family because you got given ferrets."
Richard smiled. "Their descendants are presently nestled firmly in Rupert's lap being spoiled." He looked back at Steve. "Can you do that subtly?"
"Sure. With each meal tomorrow we'll send up a small pamphlet detailing the history of this old castle, including the fact that this is holy ground and considered a sanctuary." He smiled. "We have an in-house printer who'll do table cards too. It'll make the grad student studying the resort very happy because her research came to some use outside a paper."
"Sounds great," Oz said, walking around to sit on a couch, stealing his Xander back so he could sit in his lap. "Should we worry?"
"He knew your original name," Xander told his mate. Oz shuddered. "Yeah, and he knew what I am, he argued that I had a quickening too. I still refused his challenge."
"Which means you just made yourself attractive prey," Ray said, coming over to sit next to Oz and Xander, curling up against Oz's side. That was his spot whenever they were together. Methos curled up on the other end of the couch, watching over them. "What do we do about this if he gets insistent?"
"I'm more worried if he and Dubois get together," Richard told them, sitting down on one of the comfortable chairs. "Steve, sit. This won't be a short meeting."
Steve and Richie took the other couch, sitting at opposite ends. "I figure that we'll have to stop the gathering this time," Richie told them. "If we don't, we'll have to start explaining bodies, which won't look good."
"Most of the immortals here won't fight," Methos told him. "They're here to be safe. They know the rules of the resort."
"Someone accidentally got given the immortal's rules," Steve admitted. Everyone looked at him. "Apparently someone else with a tatoo suggested us. The person checking him in keyed that in and gave him the immortal's rule sheet. He laughed it off as Ren Faire people."
Xander snickered. "Probably not this year. Any idea how long before the masses clear out?"
"I still think it'll be a few more weeks," Steve told him.
"Which gives us a few weeks of space," Richie pointed out.
"Holden tried to get me into the desert," Xander told him.
"At least it won't look too bad on the resort," Steve said optimistically. He coughed. "I've been meaning to bring this up with you guys, and since most of our senior board is here this is the perfect time. I'm setting up a second resort in Europe."
"It's needed over there," Methos agreed. "You can't walk through London or Paris these days without running into a few of us."
"New York's the same way," Richie put in.
"New York always has been," Oz told him. "The day that Xander got shot I got challenged in our hotel room." He patted Xander on the back, he didn't like to remember that incident. Xander gave him a hug. "Thanks."
"Welcome, babe." He smiled at Steve. "Where?"
"Switzerland." He handed over a brochure. "It'll open next year. No gambling but a nice place to recuperate and forget the world exists." The brochure was passed around. "No objections?"
"Are you going to bless it?" Methos asked, humming at the amenities.
"We're already on holy ground. Jace said that's where her original resort was." Oz snatched the brochure from his teacher's hands to read it. "Not a good place?"
"No, a great place, especially if it's on the same spot. There were some caves under the old resort that were nearly endless which would be perfect to hide in. They were used by the resistance during the World Wars." He smiled at the map on the back. "Yeah, it's near the same spot, just not on the old foundations."
"The old foundations were cracked so badly that they had to be removed. We're actually going to be about three hundred feet to the left of the original right corner of the resort. The priest that checked the ground over with us said that there was a haunted feeling in that three hundred feet."
"Yup, because someone blew the holy ground rule and fought in one of the rooms. It was haunted until Jace moved the building. The ghost didn't move with us." Oz handed it back to Methos, who handed it back to Steve. "Are there still cranky neighbors?"
"There's an ancient church down the road, the preservation society made some fuss, but they shut up when they realized we weren't coming near them." Steve relaxed. "So, no one has any objections?"
"Go for it," Xander told him. "Who's doing the building?"
"Actually, we're moving an older castle which is about a hundred miles away onto the site. It needs a lot of work, but we can do that in the moving process. The state was going to tear it down because it's a hazard to people's health. Someone fell through a floor last year or something." He shrugged. "It'll all be fixed by the time we're open."
"It's not that Pfalzgraff-style place, right?" Oz asked. Steve shook his head. "Good, that place was definitely cursed and haunted."
"Oh, it was much more than that," Richard said with a smile. "The original owners were killed by the eventual owners, who were black sorcerers. They killed more people than Vlad the Impaler did in his time."
"How did they get away with that?" Ray asked.
"They hired the local cops and everyone was too scared to do anything. Besides, most of the people of the area owed the Baron their fealty and lives. He owned their lands and made them pay him outrageous taxes for the privilege of farming it for him. They couldn't afford to be kicked off or move."
"Ah, the feudal period," Methos said, smiling at Richard. "When a Lord could get away with anything as long as the King didn't hear or care and he paid all his taxes."
"Yes, the good old days," Richard agreed, smiling at him. "It was so much easier back then to get away from others of us."
"Yeah, but you had to ride horses," Ray pointed out.
Xander shook his head. "Consider me in favor of the modern car, except for the pollution factor."
"Xander, did you know that the off-world embassy in New York has been putting out bulletins looking for you?" Richard asked. "They're even offering a reward."
"I don't want that planet, get over it already," he said, standing up and storming into the bedroom, slamming the door.
"He really hated being stuck there," Oz told him. "Three weeks searching for him, off-world time. Only a ghost to talk to. Not exactly something he wants to relive."
"It might be a way away from a hunter," Richard said pragmatically. "You could take refuge in the embassy while you negotiated the details of the transfer."
"Drop it," Ray told him. "Xander throws a fit every time someone mentions it. We'll send 'em a letter or something saying that he declines to come forward at this time."
"I'll work on that tonight," Methos agreed, looking at his husband. "After we get you to the barber."
"I noticed he has Xander hair," Richie said with a grin. "Trying to turn totally like him?"
"Nah," Ray said with a grin of his own. "Just never got around ta cuttin' it." He looked over at Methos. "What's wrong with my hair? I kinda like it."
"He's going to get you and Xander confused in the dark soon," Oz told him, running his fingers through the shoulder-length blond hair. "It's not as soft, but it's long."
"Yes, I noticed Xander's hair last night," Methos said dryly. "How did it grow so fast?"
"Ah." Methos nodded. "I had thought the troublemaker would do something like that."
"He kept most of Xander's last trim," Oz told him. "The rest went to make wigs for kids with cancer and stuff." He shuddered. "I was firmly against that haircut, but he said that the kids on tv made him realize that he could help them and he was too determined to be stopped. He nearly went without me." He nudged Ray. "You could ask Xander to trim your hair for you. We'd have to dig out his haircutting stuff, but he's still got it. He did mine last week."
Ray looked up at him. "I'd rather have someone who won't laugh and cut it funny." Oz poked him. "But he can go with us."
"He probably could use some time outside the resort," Methos agreed.
"He definitely could use some time away from the stress," Ray agreed. "He's still wound pretty tightly."
"He's under stress from a lot of things," Oz told him. "Between the storm and Giles causing it, plus his own spell repercussions, helping at the resort, and running the club with Richie, he's wearing himself out."
"He feels guilty because Giles caused it."
"He had to," Richard told everyone. "If we hadn't been closed off a few of the dimensions, the civil war among between of the demon clans would have spilled over into LA and New York. It was so bad that the demonic council came to us and asked us to help them close off the dimensions so the warring clans can't get out. The extreme storms that came afterwards was because one of the clans fought back and it backlashed."
"All that because of a spell?" Richie asked. Richard nodded. "He's that powerful? Giles I mean?"
Richard smiled. "He is, but he's not anymore. The flashback went through him first and burnt so many of his lines of power that he's having trouble simply thinking about magic. Though, it has given him time to reconsider his most recent actions and attitudes." He stretched backward. "I think you'll find him changed once he's ready to see you again." He settled back into the comfortable chair. It had been a long trip from London.
"You mean once Xander's ready to see him again," Oz amended quietly. Richard nodded. "Thanks."
"I'm sure he understands. He's having nightmares about everything that could have gone wrong that day."
"Huh?" Richie asked.
"While we were off-world working on the treaty, Giles tried to kidnap Xander. He took him off the planet with a ship he piloted himself." Steve shuddered. "So a few nightmares is a good thing in my book."
"I agreed," Richard said with a shrug. "Though, an interesting point, his mistress hasn't been to see him recently."
"I think Discord is probably not happy right now," Xander said from the doorway. He walked in and sat down in Ray's lap. "Sorry about earlier. That time still bothers me," he said quietly, looking at Oz.
"Hey, it bothers me too," Oz admitted. "I hate to think about you there alone." He hugged Xander and pulled him into his lap. "You belong here," he whispered in his ear.
Xander put his head on his husband's shoulder. "Okay." He looked over at Richie, who was the only one who he could see. "Have we decided anything else?"
"Just that you being so thin means that you make a tasty target," Richie told him. Xander shrugged.
"Seriously, you do look weak and helpless," Ray agreed. He patted Xander's thin arm. "I'd like to see you look healthy."
"Drop it," Oz told him. "He's eating and trying to regain it. It's going as fast as it can."
"Yup," Xander agreed. "I'm doing the best I can." He wrapped Oz in his arms. "I want a vacation."
"I'd love one, but where?" Methos asked, giving him a smile. Xander frowned at him. "You're tired of us already?"
"No, but I'd like to go somewhere not stressful. Somewhere where no one bothers me about stuff that I can't do anything about, or problem immies, or even the club."
"I can handle the club," Richie offered. "Let you get some rest."
"We'll have to have one soon," Oz agreed. He'd do just about anything to make Xander feel better, even go somewhere horribly calm. He'd even go to a monastery if Xander wanted to, but he knew he would get to complain at least once. "Canada?"
"I feel like I should be here," Xander told him, lifting his head up to look at his husband. "I started stuff and I have to be here to see it through."
"Like I said, I can handle it," Richie reminded him.
"Yeah, but it's my idea," Xander told him.
"Don't argue with him," Oz said, shaking his head. He just hoped that Richie caught a clue. Richie wisely just shrugged and dropped the subject. "So, does that mean that we're staying up here?"
"You can," Steve told them. "You're not the horrible drain on the resort that you think you are. Especially if Xander would spend some time on the forge or design some stuff. Plus, I'm going to have to find someone to do Christmas decorations because my assistant is heading to Florida with her construction worker husband."
"Lots of money to be made there and in LA right now," Oz agreed. He gave Xander a squeeze. "The twin's grandkids are going to graduate in a few weeks," he offered. "Would you like to go to Massachusetts for that?" Xander nodded, giving him a smile.
"What happened to the house in Vermont?" Richie asked. "I remember hearing about it."
"We gave the deed to Willow," Oz told him. "She needed a place of her own and Randolph was the perfect place for her to do her thing. She's back there right now from what I heard."
"She is. I called Angel yesterday. He said she's fine. Seth and Spike are staying with him right now because their house in Sunnydale was wrecked too." He looked at everyone else. "Apparently Angel had a safe house that was somewhere under LA so they're all okay."
"What about the hellmouth?" Richard asked.
"Hecate said that it was buried so deeply that no one would ever find it." He grinned. "I guess that's really kinda cool, no more duty to the hellmouth and no more having to find someone to watch the stones."
"It's great," Oz agreed. "No more having to preplan vacations by months."
Richard smiled at him. "Why don't you two go take a nap? You look really tired, Oz."
"Yeah, I am kinda tired." He looked at Steve. "Any other things to discuss?"
"Food shipments start again tomorrow," Steve noted. "We've got a shipment coming directly here so I may need to grab some money if they won't take a check. There's also a move to close the casinos for another week in the city council."
"Which is stupid, it leaves people out of work," Xander put in. "Right now people need all the money they can get their hands on."
"Someone put that point into play, but it was practically ignored," Steve told him. "Most of the casinos are really pissed at the moment."
"At least the mob doesn't run the city anymore," Ray said, smiling when everyone looked at him. "How do you think they woulda handled this crisis?"
"Probably not as nicely as we did," Richie suggested. "I doubt there'd be as charity going on."
"There might be," Oz told him. "I've met some mobsters who could be generous in critical situations. Of course, they'd have had very little patience with those who couldn't find work right away, or who wanted to come to them for work. It probably would have only lasted a week or so, unless the homeland was hit."
"Ah, Sicily and Italy," Ray said with a grin.
"No," Oz said, nudging him. "New York."
Xander chuckled. "I doubt that the mob would go running anywhere if something happened to New York. They stayed and fought during the riots over the embassy. They even stopped it a few of them."
"It was nice of them," Ray agreed. He stroked across Xander's stomach. "I wanna give you a cuddle, want one?"
"Sure. In water?"
"Hey, even better," Ray agreed. He stood up and pulled Xander into his arm. "Say good bye," he said sweetly. "I'll try and make him stay quiet," he said as he walked Xander into the spa room. Xander waved.
Steve sighed once the door was closed. "Jesus, Oz, how are you dealing?" he asked quietly.
"We're handling it," Oz told him. "It's a slow rebuilding. Just like after an injury." He looked at his hands. "I want to protect him, but there's times when I just want to scream at him for what he did, even though I wanted to do the same thing." He looked at everyone else. "It's a strange sort of guilt and frustration."
Methos moved closer, pulling Oz into his arms. "I'll take care of Xander for a bit if you need to get away."
"Maybe," Oz said, starting to relax. "Just for a week?"
"Of course. As long as you want."
"After the graduation," Oz decided. "That'll only be a few weeks from now."
The door opened and Xander stepped out, naked except for a towel. "Go ahead and go, Oz," he told his husband. "I'll be okay."
Oz looked back at him. "Really?" Xander nodded. "You're sure?" Xander nodded again and crossed his arms. "Okay. I think I'll go check on the house in Carmel then." He stood up, walking over to give his husband a hug. "Thanks, babe."
"I understand. This has been hard on you too. I'll be okay." He pushed Oz. "Go tonight and come to the graduation." He walked back into the spa room and closed the door softly, locking it behind him.
Oz slumped. "Xander, it's not you," he called.
"Go, Oz! Before I change my mind!"
"Yes, dear." He looked at them, silently telling them that Xander would be protected or he would torturing them all. They all waved so he went to pack his stuff. It would be okay. He would be able to relax without having to worry about Xander. He walked out with his bag, one of the kittens following him meowing pitifully. "I'll be back," he told it, bending down to pet her. "You watch the daddy and I'll be back in a few weeks. I promise, baby." He handed the kitten to Richie and walked onto the elevator. "I'll call," he told them. "Watch him or die horribly." The doors closed and he went downstairs. He got into one of the waiting cabs and handed over some money. "I need to get away."
"Yes, sir," the cabbie said. "Airport?"
Oz shrugged. "I don't know. Drive around for a few." He leaned back and relaxed. He watched the other resorts going past the window. "Luxor," he decided. "Or the Bellagio."
"The Bellagio is full, sir. The Luxor only has a few rooms left, but the Venice is nowhere near full."
"No, we had fun in Venice. The Luxor, but wait just in case." The cab pulled into the resort and up to the door. Oz let the doorman open the door. "Front desk?" he asked.
"Through the doors and to the right, sir."
Oz strode in, giving the woman behind the desk a grim look. "I need a room," he told her. "I need somewhere quiet and possibly stress decreasing."
She smiled at him. "Sir, we only have a few rooms left. We do have the privacy floor open, but it's usually only rented out to rock stars."
Oz put his ID on the counter. "I co-own one of the smaller resorts," he told her. "Not an issue, but I may end up acting like a rock star."
She shrugged. "As long as you pay for the damage. Do you need a suite or just a room?"
"Something nice and spacious enough to pace, but not big enough to seem lonely."
She nodded. "I have just the room. Bags?"
"Cab. I'll go get them." He left his wallet there and went to get his bags. "Thanks, dude," he told the cabbie. "Have a good night of tips." He headed back inside. "Where do I go?" he asked the man standing there.
He handed over a form. "Please sign here, Mr. Osbourne." Oz did so. "Thank you, sir. We'll show you right to you room." He leaned closer. "I understand that you're feeling a bit violent, and we understand that, our own owner tore his office apart last week plus we've had rock stars at the end of a two year tour. Just please, don't trash the furniture. The maker was destroyed in the storms." Oz nodded. "And please don't rip out the wiring. We have a concert coming through in about a month which won't give us enough time to rewire the room."
"Cool with me. I'll be leaving in about two weeks for Massachusetts. My godkids are graduating from college." The man nodded. "Thanks. Ignore the noises." He followed the summoned bellhop to his room. It was perfect.
Xander looked at the lunch in front of him, listlessly pushing it around on the plate. The chair across from him was pulled out and Holden sat down. "Leave, asshole, before I call security."
"You can't avoid me."
Xander looked him over. "You've obviously overestimated your abilities," he said snidely. "And underestimated mine." He raised a hand and a waiter came running. "Mr. Holden was going to leave the resort," he told the waiter. "Could you please tell the front desk?"
"Of course, Mr. Harris." He looked at Mr. Holden. "Will you need a cab, sir?"
Mr. Holden stood up. "No thank you, I drove, kid." He tipped his head at Xander. "Touche," he said quietly. "But I'll be waiting."
Xander wiggled his fingers. "Ta-ta." He smiled and ate a bite of his salad. The puppy at his feet barked. "Yes, you're a good boy," he cooed, putting some of the chicken down for him to eat.
"Sir, we can get him a plate of his own," the waiter offered.
Xander smiled. "No thanks. I'm used to sharing."
"Yes, sir, but Steve told me that I was to nag you if you didn't eat everything on your plate," he confessed with an embarrassed smile. "Please, let me get something for your dog?"
"Sure," Xander sighed. "And smack Steve for me."
"Yes, sir, I'll tell him you said so, sir." He hurried off to get the dog a treat. He ran into Steve and told him what Xander had said. Steve just laughed and handed him a second plate for Xander along with the one for the dog.
Xander stepped out of the car, frowning at the man standing a few feet away. "Why are we doing this?" he asked the other immortal. "Neither of us want to fight." The guy had caught him outside the resort and had been too insistent to lose.
"You don't want to fight, I could care less whether or not you live," the other immortal told him. "You're just another person to get past."
"Technically, I'm not just another person," Xander told him as he pulled out his katana. "Or another immie." He took off his jacket and tossed it down on the round. "Let's do this quickly, my ferrets need brushing."
"You have ferrets?"
Xander grinned. "Yup, I find their personalities to be a ....quixotic match for my own." He waved his sword around. "You ready yet?"
"Yes. We should do this." He lunged, but Xander blocked the blade, making the swords clang against each other. "What's your name?" the other guy panted.
"Harris." He parried, forcing the other guy back. "You?"
"Mortimer Sneed, and yes, I'm that one," the guy said with a shrug. "You can make fun of me now."
"Why would I want to do that? I used to be compared to you," Xander told him. "I always thought that your reputation was okay." He shoved the guy to the right and dove himself, narrowly missing being shot. "Hey, no cheating!" he yelled.
Mortimer Sneed stood up and brushed himself off. "How rude."
"Definitely." Xander stood up and looked around. "Sniper rifle?"
"It must be, they're too far away to feel." He looked at Xander. "Do you really want to fight?"
"Nope, and if my husband knew he'd kill me." Xander put his sword in an 'at rest' position against his chest. "This really sucks."
"Yes it does," Sneed agreed. "What do you want to do?"
"Drink?" He saw the blatant look over his body. "Yeah, I know, I probably shouldn't with how underweight I am, but I want to have a brandy."
"I'm all for the civilized customs," Sneed said, picking up Xander's jacket and handing it over. "Here we are. Your car or mine?"
"Well, since I'm still not sure of your intentions, I'd say separate cars," Xander suggested, heading for the waiting car. "Resort?"
"No, let's find a quiet gentlemen's bar and retire to there." He looked at the driver of Xander's car. "Surely you know of such a place."
"Yes, sir," the driver said. "There's a wonderful place inside the Venice. Or there's a private club downtown."
Xander shrugged. "The Venice it is." He headed for his car. "Thirty minutes?"
"Of course. It will give me enough time to properly dust myself off." He walked toward his car. Another shot rang out. "Oh, dear."
"Fuck this shit," Xander said, turning cold. He looked around again. "Show yourself or die horribly!" he called. Another shot rang out, giving him a better sense of where the shooter was. "Yup, my turn now," he said. He looked up. "Strife, wanna have fun with someone? I wanna torture someone!" Strife appeared and looked at him in shock.
"There's some person trying to break up our amiable split," Sneed told him. He bowed. "Lord Strife, I always thought you were real." He smiled as another shot went off. "You see?"
Strife nodded. "I do." He looked at Xander. "You sure you wanna help me torture the smuck?"
"Unless it's something really squicky, like a cute woman," Xander said with a shrug. Sneed looked at him, looking amused. "Sorry, but I was raised to be partially a gentleman by my best friend, who happens to be a very powerful woman." He put on his jacket and reholstered his sword. "Can I?"
Strife shook his head. "Nope, not even. Oz'll kill me."
"Oz is taking a private vacation to blow off steam," Xander told him. "And I'm perfectly capable of handling a little torture. It's got to be an immie so they'll recover."
Strife considered it then shrugged. "Okay." He looked at Sneed. "Give us an hour or so." He grabbed Xander and took him along for the ride. They landed behind the would-be assassin, who was a younger kid.
"Umph," Xander groaned, slightly green now. "I hate that sensation." He glared at the kid and grabbed him, shaking him. "What did you think you were doing!" he yelled. "Bad kid!"
"Like I'm yours," he sneered. "You're a freak."
"Yeah, and you are too," Xander told him. He let him go. "I should kick your ass."
Strife patted him on the shoulder. "Let me handle this." Xander glared at him. "You're not in any condition to torture someone," he said, trying to sound reasonable. "Besides, I won't be *that* mean ta the kid. Maybe I'll find him a good spot to live. I know a few assassins." Xander pouted at him. "Hit 'im then," Strife offered. He loved Xander, but he knew the guy would never be able to torture someone and enjoy it. The guy was part of the mischief in his life, but he could never survive and live in the other parts. He watched as Xander wound up, but he couldn't hit the kid. Then Xander turned and did hit him, but he didn't look at him. "See," he said quietly, hugging Xander to his side. "I told ya that you're not cut out for the bad stuff."
Xander looked at him. "I've seen plenty of bad stuff."
"Yeah, but you're too *nice* ta give it ta anyone else." He waved a hand and the kid disappeared. "So, who's the challenger?" he asked causally.
"Really?" Strife smiled. "That's cool. Gonna go have a few?"
"Brandies, which I can't drink too much of because I don't like the taste." Xander looked around, but his car was heading toward them. "Steve," he sighed, searching for the tracking device. He found it and handed it to his buddy. "Cuddles?"
"Sure," Strife said happily. "We'll talk in a few." He disappeared as the car pulled up.
Xander got into the back and smiled at the driver. "Wherever that bar is," he ordered. "And you can tell your boss that I'm fine."
"Yes, sir." He turned the car around. "I'm sure Mr. Steve will be quite pleased that your fight ended peacefully."
Xander leaned back and relaxed. His muscles were cramping.
Xander walked into the resort and ran into Miriam Dubois. "Yes?" he asked her. He was slightly drunk and not in the mood to have patience.
"How did your fight go?" she asked pleasantly.
"Fine. We had a few drinks and agreed that there wasn't any reason to fight." He smiled. "It's a good thing. No gathering messes. No messes period." He strolled away. "Have a nice stay, Ms. Dubois." He put his key into the elevator with some difficulty but he managed it finally. No sooner had he walked off the elevator at his suite than Strife grabbed him to hold him. "Hey, buddy," he said as he snuggled in. "Soft surface?"
"Sure," Strife agreed with a grin. "How many did you have?"
"Three brandies and a shot of something thick and liquidy." Xander rested against the cool leather of his buddy's chest. Strife always made him feel safe, almost as safe as Oz did. It was a good feeling, especially with Oz being gone. He started to blink. "Stay?"
"Sure, kid." Strife let his buddy snuggle in, smiling at the feelings that the boy created in him. He wouldn't jeopardize their friendship, or face Oz's wrath for taking what was his. A few hours later, Methos came out and found them. "He didn't have to fight," he told the old immortal. "But he did go have brandies with Mr. Sneed."
Methos sat on the arm of the couch the pair were cuddled up on. "Sneed? Mortimer Sneed?" Strife nodded. "I've met him, he's a very lackluster fighter." He patted the top of Xander's head. "Do take care of him, I'd hate to have to ask Jace to bring me up so I could castrate you with a sharp-toothed, variable tension clamp." He stood up and went back to his bed and his husband. He trusted Strife not to upset either of that couple. As he climbed into bed, Ray rolled over to cuddle him. "Go back to sleep," he whispered, soothing his mate back into good dreams.
Xander walked out of the airport and put on his glasses. He was animalless, they were all being watched by Richie for the week he would be in New England. He saw the man holding the sign with his name on it and headed for him. "Harris?" he said. The driver nodded. "Cool. Am I staying near the college?"
"Yes, sir. Right this way, sir." He led the way to a black car. "Please get in, sir." He opened the door.
Xander climbed in, and found someone else in there. "'Scuse me," he said, starting to get back out.
"Mr. Harris, please remain seated," the other man said quietly. Xander sat down again, staring at him. "I need to talk to you on the way to your hotel." He snapped his fingers and the car started. As soon as they had pulled away from the airport, the man pulled out a file. "Sir, we know that you had something to do with the storms." He held up a hand when Xander opened his mouth. "Not physically, but it was your family."
Xander stiffened slightly, but he looked relaxed. This was just like a kidnaping and he had plenty of experience with those, even if it wasn't recent. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said calmly, pulling out his most bitchy tone of voice and attitude.
"We have tapes of you talking about it, sir," the other man said quietly. "We even understand that it was necessary. I only need an account from you." Xander gave him a 'bored' look. "Sir, I could get nasty about this."
"And my husband will come looking for me," Xander reminded him. "Even if you have my husband, there's people who will come for me if they don't hear from me."
"Sir, we have people like you working for us." Xander laughed. "What? You don't believe me?" He pulled out a photograph and showed it to him. "I believe you know her"
"Yup, sure do, but I'm not like her," he said with a smirk. The car stopped. "Nor have I ever been. You need to do better research."
"How about this," the man said, locking the doors. "You're Alexander Lavelle Harris, born in 1981, which makes you about two hundred and some years old. You worked beside a Miss Buffy Summers during high school and took two road trips to, quote, find yourself. The second one landed you in New York at a brothel serving demons and humans, where you worked for six weeks and broke all prior salary records. Then you went home, found your two husbands, and lived quietly while guarding your hellmouth. How's that?"
"If you know all that then you know that I'm not going to talk to you without someone else verifying that you're okay to talk to," he pointed out. "I haven't lived this long without being careful."
"True. By the way, how have you lived this long if you're not an immortal?"
Xander smirked. "Ask your buddy Amanda. By the way, how did you get the great jewel thief to work for you?"
"We *convinced* her it was better than jail," he said with a smile. "We could do the same to you."
"Unless you can prove to me that you're not a danger to my health, well-being, or sanity I'm not talking to you." He pressed the lock button, unlocking his door. "Was there anything else? I'm due at my hotel in a few moments."
"No, sir. Thank you. Of course, we'll be asking your husband ourselves."
Xander snorted. "Have fun. He's much more cautious than I am. So, are you associated with the Watcher's Council?"
"No, sir, we monitor paranormal activity within the United States."
"Cool, keeps me from doing it." He climbed out, smiling at the driver waiting to help him. "If you come back later with him, I'm sure we'll have many more discussions, including one at knifepoint," he said pointedly. He grabbed his bag and gave the driver a tip and a smile. "Thank you, it was quite a smooth ride," he said in a normal voice, then he walked into the hotel. "Harris?" he asked as he walked up to the desk.
"Yes, sir," the desk clerk said, typing the name into her computer. "Sir, we have you listed as a guest of Mr. Osbourne."
"That would be my husband," Xander said brightly. "Is he in yet?"
"Just now, sir. If you'll please sign here." She handed over a card, with a second note paper- clipped to it.
He read the second note and gave her a smile. "I know." He signed the form and handed them both back. "Thanks for the warning, but they tried on the way over." He winked at her. "Where's my husband?"
"Room twelve hundred-four, sir. Here's your key." She handed it to him and rang a bell. "Please escort Mr. Harris up to room twelve-oh-four," she told the bellhop.
"Yes, ma'am." He took Xander's bag and walked toward the elevator. "Sir, did you have a good trip in from Las Vegas?"
Xander nodded. "Yup. Private planes are great. I learned that lesson long ago. No seat mates, no cranky kids, and no stewardesses who're more interested in their nails than you." He put the key into his pocket. "How did Oz get here?"
"He came by regular flight, through O'Hare." He led the way off the elevator and to the room, knocking on it. "Sir, your husband," he said, handing over the bag when Oz opened the door.
Oz let Xander in and tipped the guy, then shut and locked the door. "Did you get grilled too?"
"Yup and we've got to tell Steve that the resort's being bugged." He sat down on the couch in the suite. He looked around, and smiled. "Do you feel better?"
"Much," Oz agreed, pulling him up to give him a hug. "I missed you."
"I missed you too," Xander admitted into Oz's shoulder. "They're going to talk to Giles."
"Hey, he can turn them into toads or something." Oz pulled back. "Are you feeling better?"
"Not yet, but maybe soon. I'm working on stuff again, and most of it's frustration. I did a whole lot of clothes for people who needed it. And I started the forgework again. Some random pounding but I did undent someone's sword." He gave his husband a squeeze. "So, wanna talk?"
"Not yet. Cuddle, then talk." Xander shook his head. "Cuddle and talk at the same time?"
"I can do that," Xander agreed. "I'm still so frustrated."
"Me too," Oz agreed. Xander frowned at him. "What?"
"You're agreeing with me, which you did for weeks which was part of why you were upset."
"Technically, I'm agreeing with you because I'm frustrated too, but you're right, I did. I'm not doing it now though because I'm too tired to fight."
"You haven't slept either?" Xander asked. Oz shook his head. "Nightmares?"
"Horrible nightmares," Oz admitted. "Things like you being challenged. Like you losing."
Xander decided not to tell him about the challenge he had taken. "You know I'm better than that," he teased.
"Yup, and I know that Ray beat you during a few practice bouts," Oz pointed out.
"That's because I got tired," Xander admitted.
"Which is why I worry and said I'd take all your challenges." He looked his husband over. "So, how does Mr. Sneed like Las Vegas?"
"He doesn't really like the desert, but he had to move quickly. The usual story, someone found out and accused him of stuff." Xander moved away and sat on the bed. "Are you going to bitch me out because of this?"
"Nope." Oz sat beside him. "I knew that you weren't going to fight. You're too aware of yourself to get into that position." He took his husband's hand to hold. "Are you okay otherwise?"
"I gained another two pounds."
"Congrats." He laid them down, curling up next to his husband's body and resting his head on his chest. He could feel how weak his husband still was, and it still bothered him. "I wish you hadn't done the spell."
"I don't." Xander patted him on the head. "I refuse to lose more of my life." Oz looked up at him. "I'm keeping the house the same way you kept all those storerooms of your stuff."
"I understood that, but what else have you lost of your life?"
"The first house. Everything that was in it."
"Point," Oz agreed, putting his head back down. "At least we still have a descendant of Rocky, Jedi, Snickers and Fluffy."
"Did you know that Angel bred Stake and kept one of hers?"
"Nope. That's cool. He seriously got involved with that cat."
"She was good for him, gave him something to care about." Xander smoothed through Oz's hair. "I'm going to do some traveling after this."
"'Kay, want help?"
"I don't know yet." Oz looked up at him. "I need the same sort of vacation that you just took, Oz, and I'm not getting it while being babied by Ray and Meth. Or by having you shadow me from across Vegas. Besides, Europe's stable right now, America isn't. I'd like some stability."
"Okay. I arranged to head to Carmel to deal with the house there. Angel said that something was going on with the portals because of the storms."
"Well, it was magical backlash. It could have warped them."
"Maybe," Oz agreed. "Two weeks?"
"Okay. I can go that long. As long as I get letters."
"Sure." Xander closed his eyes. "How long before we can go pounce on the boys?"
"Few hours. Darren has one more final this week and Timmy finished his yesterday. I told them we were coming in today and we'd take them to dinner." He reached over and set the alarm clock. "Let's nap."
"Good idea," Xander said sleepily. He drifted off, comforted by Oz laying on his stomach. There would be time enough to talk later.
Oz tried to stay awake, but the breathing under his head slowly caught up with him and made him drift off.
Xander looked around before fingering the keystone pendant he wore, opening the portal in Hyde Park, London.
A few minutes later, a middle aged woman said quite loudly, "I know what I saw, Officer. There was a man standing there and he *disappeared*! In a flash of light! You can't let things like that go on in Hyde Park."
The officer's partner made drinking motions behind the woman's back, miming that she was drunk. The officer smiled at her. "What did he look like? If you'll tell me, I'll have a look through missing persons and see if he's listed."
She frowned at him. "He was a little smaller than you, very thin, poor boy, and was wearing green. Dark green, possibly leather. Tight pants, loose shirt, knee high boots. Very oddly dressed too, not at all fit for the weather with the cloak he was carrying." She straightened up. "I can assure you I'm not drunk, that man was real. His waist-length dark hair moved when he did just like a real person's."
The officer finished making notes on his report form. "I'm sure he was, ma'am. Would you please sign here and note your personal information for us? Just in case we need to get in contact with you again." She smiled and did so, handing him back the report. "Thank you, ma'am. I'll have a look through tonight." He tipped his hat and walked off, his partner following closely behind him.
"Nice bit'a work that. Getting her address so we can see if she's a nuisance or missing."
The other officer looked at him. "My dad once told me that everything strange in London came through Hyde Park. Said he almost got eaten here one night," he told the older man with a smile. "He told me to always trust my instincts and to stay out of the park at night when I'm alone. You never know, it could have been someone practicing a stage act or something." He tipped his hat at a young couple walking past them.
The other officer snorted. "Usually they have trap doors. I still say she's a nutter."
"Maybe," the first officer agreed. "But it doesn't hurt to type in the profile."
"Yes, it is," the first officer agreed with a smile.
Oz came back through the warped portal, shaking the water out of his hair and ears. "Eww," he told Angel, who was waiting on him. He dropped the three bags he had found. "Why did I have to go there? It was nasty."
"Because I've seen those bags before," Angel pointed out by pointing at the bags. "They look just like the rest of your set."
Oz looked down at the very damp bags, then shrugged. "So someone else had neverending bags. Yay. They're kinda popular on some planes and realms." He sat down next to the bags, opening the one on his left. "Okay, maybe you were right," he admitted as he pulled out a necklace that looked like something he had seen Xander work on once, way back when they had been across the portal in Hyde Park. "Huh." He stuffed it back into the bag and opened the other one. It opened to a lot of stuff, but nothing popped up. "The reference index is broken on this one," he muttered, searching through it since nothing popped up. "Hey, I remember this," he said happily, pulling out a wrapped shirt. "I guess that portal and the one in Hyde Park are relative."
Angel snorted. "What worried me was that I saw Xander in there the other day. He was being dragged by the chains on his wrists." Oz looked up at him, one eyebrow going up. "I thought you'd like to know."
Oz pulled his knees up to rest his chin on them. "Well, to be truthful, it wasn't the same but something did seem familiar." He looked at the bags. "We did have a few bags go missing while we were there." He looked back at the portal, watching what was going on. The portal switched, showing them a camp. "See, I'm right there," he said, pointing himself out to Angel. "That's the past." He stood up and touched the portal's skin, heading back through to go save himself and Xander. Someone had set them free that night, it was neat that it was him. And hey, now he could go explore some caves in the area that he had wanted to the last time they'd been there.
Angel relaxed and watched the Oz from the present sneak around the war camp. He was good.
The police officer took a picture of the man walking up to where his father had said a portal was, smiling when the digital image came out fine. "Gotcha," he murmured, plugging his camera into his laptop to do a search. What he found amazed him, but then again.... He straightened up when the portal opened for a third time and the redhead from earlier dragged out the dark haired man from the first time. The dark haired man got free and ran back through the portal, while the redheaded man tapped his foot in annoyance, but eventually he returned with a few bags.
"Ready?" Oz asked, wrapping his arm around Xander's waist.
"Sure. I had fun. Oh, and I got a lot of the metals again." He beamed and preened next to his mate.
The laptop beeped, making him look down. Someone wanted to talk to him about why he was searching those two men. He wrote a short reply and sent it, nearly laughing when he saw the return message. A meeting? How quaint. He packed up his gear and went to meet these strange men. Maybe they'd shed light on why those two men were over two hundred years old but looked like they were around twenty.
Oz snuggled against Xander while they waited for their credit card to be accepted. The check-in desk of the Lauriette was slow, and they were giving them funny looks. "It's a convention," he explained at the latest funny look.
Xander smiled at her. "Yup, just in town for a few days for a convention." He squeezed Oz. They were both a little damp because it had been raining across the portal, but it was a beautifully clear night in London.
"Sir, we'll put you in our privacy ward," the woman said finally, shoving over an electronic signing pad. "Please sign your name in the little window." Oz reached for it but she gave him a look. "I believe it was his card, sir."
Xander signed his name and took their plastic keys. They headed for the elevator. "Maybe we should have went to the Hyatt," he said as the doors opened. The elevator wasn't empty. "Oh, hi." He got on with Oz, pushing the button for their floor. Once the doors were closed, they looked at the security personnel. "Are we that strange?"
"Yes, sir, and the desk was worried about our reputation."
Oz opened his wallet, showing off the exclusive credit card that only five percent of the world's richest qualified for. "Does this explain some things?" Oz asked.
The guard smiled. "Yes, sir, you're eccentric." He stopped the elevator. "If we may check your bags please?"
Xander handed over his. "Go ahead, but it's packed full."
"Xander," Oz sighed.
"Sir, your credit card said Simon."
Xander snickered, turning to look at Oz. Oz looked at the guards. "Guys, we're using false identities so we don't get kidnaped, again." The men nodded. "It's a perfectly legal identity if you want to check it out."
"Yes, sir, we've already done that." He showed the bag to his buddy. Then they looked at Xander. "What is that?"
Xander looked down inside. "Metal. I'm a forger." Oz nudged him. "As in I work on a forge and make jewelry and ornamental daggers and stuff, not the money stuff. I can't draw that well." He shrugged. "It's for my new forge, wherever we're setting it up."
"We can put one up in Canada," Oz told him, patting him on the arm. "Besides, I heard that your one in Sunnydale was still standing. Maybe we can move it."
"Maybe," Xander agreed. He looked at the guards again. "We lived just outside of LA before the storms. When it took out our house, it took out my supply of metals. So I had to get some more." He took his bag back, looking down inside it until he pulled out a slim rod. "This is my maker's mark, what I put on all my designs. It's registered with the national guild here in the UK and in the US. You can check if you want."
"We're sorry, sir, but we had to check. Security concerns us all these days."
Oz nodded, he understood. He shoved Xander hard. "How did you get those people begging at your feet?"
Xander smiled. "The usual way." He latched the bags again. "Can we go to our rooms now? We're only staying the night."
"Of course, sir." The guard on the right restarted the elevator. "Please enjoy your stay." They let them get out and the elevator closed.
"I guess the elevator was considered the safest place to do that," Xander said with a shrug as he opened the door. Once they were inside, he leaned against it. "Can I please forget the cult?"
"Sure. Both of them if possible." Oz lay down on the bed, patting his stomach. "Want to cuddle?"
"Sure." Xander dropped the bags and lay down on his husband's stomach, curling up into his comforting body. "It was kind of neat that Ares came over instead of Cupid to save us."
"I guess Cupid wasn't strong enough to break the drugs," Oz said quietly, stroking through the dark hair.
Xander walked into the temple, staring at some of the paintings around the edges. Cupid was on them, so he wanted to know if his buddy came here at all. It'd been *years* since he'd talked to any of them. He was met by a slim, dark, young priestess. "Hi." He pointed up at Cupid. "Is he worshiped here? I'd like to make a prayer if he is."
She smiled and motioned him over to the altar. "We worship him here. Do you worship him at home?"
Xander nodded. "Quite often," he told her. "Cupid and I are very close." She frowned. "The winged one? His name is Cupid where I'm from."
"Oh." She smiled. "I'll go tell the Goddess that you're here." She hurried toward a doorway, going deeper into the temple.
Xander knelt in front of the altar. "Hey, Cupid," he whispered. "Long time no hear, wanted to tell you I'm fine and didn't forget you or Strife. Lotsa love and all that. Xander." He stood up and bowed to the figurine on the altar, then turned to leave.
An older woman, one of just under thirty with the same dark hair as the priestess, walked out of the corridor. "Stop," she said quietly. Xander turned to look at her. "You worship our God?"
He nodded, putting his bags behind his feet so he wouldn't step on them. "Yeah, Cupid and I are real close. Why?"
She smiled and moved closer, looking his body over. "I can feel his touch on you." She palmed some powder from the bag at her side, using her other hand to touch his shoulder. "Yes, you will do." She blew the powder into his face, stunning him. "You will serve both Gods now," she said with a smirk. "You shall keep us healthy and young."
Cupid sat up, looking around. "Strife?" he called. Strife appeared, along with his mother. "We've got a problem, a big one." He stood up. "Xander just prayed from that one temple." Aphrodite rolled her eyes. "The one where that chick is draining people and not allowing them to pray to us?"
"Oh," Strife said, grinning at him. "I thought it might be serious."
"It is," Cupid said warmly. "If he's there, then he can't be our anchor. He's shielded from us and we can't drain through him." Strife and Aphrodite both stared at him. "Didn't you listen when we created the anchor?"
Strife shrugged. "I was kinda dead, dude."
Aphrodite smiled. "Of course I did, but it won't harm him. He'll be back soon."
"If they let him go and let him live," Cupid pointed out. Strife opened his mouth. "The chick there, she *drains* the life outta the supposed priests to stay young and pretty. She just found an immortal source. Hello? Does no one see the problem here?"
"Chill," his mother told him. "They'll let him leave."
"They drug them!" Cupid yelled. "I doubt it's going to happen."
"Point," Strife agreed. "And they *could* kill him if he tried, but this is Xander. He can fight."
"He's thirty pounds underweight from the spell to save the house, he's too tired to spar, and he's alone." Strife grimaced. "So, yeah, I don't think he's going to be getting out of that one by himself."
"I'll go find Oz," Aphrodite sighed, mentally searching for him. "See, not an issue," she said suddenly with a smile. "He's there too."
Cupid groaned. "Which means they'll drug him too, mother!"
She waved a hand. "Whatever. Worry all you want. I'm going to go tan." She disappeared.
Strife shrugged. "Go tell Unc. He knows where the temple is and has dealt with them before." He disappeared too, with a called, "Later."
Cupid popped over to his father's temple, having to clear his throat to get his father's attention - Jace's mouth was drawing it. "Pop, Xander and Oz are at *that* temple across the realmal border."
Ares groaned. "It figures that those two would find it." He shifted Jace off to the side. "How do you know?"
"He prayed to me from there and when I told Mom and Strife, she found Oz and Strife said you know where it is."
"Ah." He stood up, letting Jace slide down his thigh. "Do I need to go save them?"
"With that temple? Yeah," Cupid told him. "Or if you tell me where it is, I'll go."
Ares nodded. "Okay." He held out a hand and a scroll appeared. "It's here, but you can't teleport there. You're going to have to walk. On the scroll are instructions for tuning the portal so it's closer." Cupid took the scroll. "I want that back."
"Thank you," Cupid said, going to get ready. He hated walking, but it would be okay. He could do this. He gathered his things and went to use the portal, disappearing as soon as the portal was tuned. He landed about a mile away and hurried, having a very bad feeling about this. He walked into the temple and all the priests scattered, not getting in his way as he searched for Xander and Oz. He found them tied to marble slabs, a group of men standing in front of them, lined up by penis size. From the normal sized man to a guy who didn't look anywhere near human, all lined up, looking vague, and already hard. "Not a chance!" he yelled, shooting a bolt of power at them and knocking them down. He saw a young-looking woman walk out from behind the slabs and glared at her. "Not a chance," he repeated. "These two are mine and I'm taking them!"
She chuckled softly. "I'm sure they are, Lord Cupid. They seem very well trained. I noticed that you had marked this one personally." She ran a finger over Xander's forehead, enjoying his shudders. "What would you have me do, my Lord? Let them go?" She chuckled again. "I doubt they're going to be of much use to you when I'm through with them."
"You're through with them now," he told her. He watched as she picked up what looked like an old snuff box. "Whatever you're planning, stop it now," he warned her. "I will destroy you for touching them."
She nodded. "I always said, love is the most destructive force in the universe." She blew some of the powder in her box on him, making him sneeze and back away as he tried to clear his system. "Chain him," she ordered. "It will be good to taste a God again." She looked down at her latest helpers, the ones she would be sucking energy from for years to come. They were so full of energy that it would help her last forever.
"I don't think so, bitch," Ares said as he walked in. He shot the box from her hand and then pulled his sword. "You wanna play with a God, come try me. Leave the puny humans alone." She lunged for him, but his sword was longer than her claws. She landed on the floor cut in half. He sneered. "Didn't enjoy it?" he asked when she started to wail. Figures came through the walls, floating toward him and the drugged bodies. "The things I do for the anchors," he muttered.
Discord popped in. "Oh, fucking yeah," she said, banishing the spirits. "Fuck this shit. Pick up Cupid, I'll get the bobsy twins, and we'll go back to the portal." Ares gave her a dirty look. "You left Jace with Strife," she taunted.
Ares cut both boys free and picked them up. "Let's go," he said darkly. He spanked Oz when he felt him shift. "Behave."
"Put us down, we'll heal," Oz reminded him.
"Yes, you will, far away from here," Discord told him.
Oz slid off Ares and walked away, going to get their stuff. He wasn't about to argue. He wouldn't even tell Xander about Cupid getting caught, he'd feel guilty.
Xander and Oz walked into the resort curled up together. Xander waved at the guy behind the desk. "We'll be in our room."
"Sir, Steve's given it away," he called after them.
Steve hurried out. "Xander, Oz," he said quickly, stopping them from moving on. "Um, we had to rent out the family's suite for the next week." Oz raised an eyebrow. "The President is in for the week and his entourage is taking it." Xander grimaced. "And," he said, pulling a letter out of his back pocket. "This came for you guys."
Xander opened the letter and snorted, handing it over. "Whatever. Room?"
"Shit," Oz sighed.
"Hey, yell at the President. He didn't exactly tell us he was coming. He tried to commandeer the resort."
Xander frowned. "Oh, really?" Steve nodded. "And where is his person to be bitched at?" Steve pointed at the restaurant. "I'll be back."
"Xander, subtle," Oz called after him. "Be nice!" He read the letter and sighed. "I don't want to go back to Cheyenne Mountain."
"Tough," Steve told him. "Richie's there, he probably needs the help." Oz shrugged and tucked it into his pocket. "If we can't get this settled, can you find us a room?" He watched security agents go running for the dining room. "If Xander's not in jail?"
"Sure. If worst comes to worst, you can always head for Canada tonight."
Oz grunted. "We're not ready to go there yet." He turned to see if he could see what was going on.
Xander walked into the dining area and headed for the person with the suit. He noticed the guards and frowned at them. "Get out of my resort. Now." He stopped in front of the Secretary of State. "I do believe that you're unlawfully taking up space in my resort," he said quietly. "Not only is this not an emergency that would allow you to commandeer anything, this is a private business and you will pay for your rooms, especially since you're taking mine."
The Secretary of State raised a hand and guards grabbed Xander. He got free of one and kicked both their asses, barely panting by the time they were on the floor. "That was stupid," Xander told him, leaning down. "Get out of my resort. Your president isn't welcome here, and neither are you." He stood back up and walked out, stopping when he saw the other guard waiting on him. "Bring it on," he told him. "You too can be on the ground with broken bones." The guard got out of his way. "Thank you. Get out, I'll give you a day to find other accommodations." He strolled out, smiling at the other guards. "Get out or I'm going to get you too." He walked out to the desk and picked up the phone. "President?"
"Room 2567," the desk clerk said, eyes wide. "But his personal guard is behind you, sir."
Xander turned and smiled calmly at him. "Get out of my resort! There is nothing in any law book that states you can commandeer a resort, a *private* business, anytime you damn well feel like it."
"Subtle, Xander," Oz called again.
Xander took a deep, calming breath. "Get out of my resort and go find one that would like all you stiff and uptight people. 'Cause I didn't vote for him, I don't think he won the election, and I sure as hell don't want his self-righteous, semi-religious, asskissing ass in my hotel." He crossed his arms. "Not only do we not stand up for your boss' ideals, we don't stand up for a single thing he's done yet. It's amazing how he's taking credit for what the private sector did in the clean up efforts. Now, get out, or I'm going to hurt someone and it's looking like you." Someone tried to grab him but he did a beautiful hip throw. "Out, now!"
The President walked down the grand staircase. "I'm sorry if we're bothering you," he said with a fake smile.
"Hypocrite," Xander said. "Get out. I don't like you, I don't like what you stand for, and I personally hate your politics. There are other places you can pretend to do shit at, go find them." He walked away, going over to take Oz's hand. "Want to go to Cheyenne Mountain now? I'm tired of this shit."
Oz shrugged. "If we have to. I hate working with them though. Their new general is an asshole to gays."
"Yay. He'll have to deal with it if he wants our help." He shrugged.
The President cleared his throat. "How do you know about that project?"
Xander waved. "Xander Harris, Daniel Osbourne. We're part of the reason that the embassy exists." He walked away, bringing Oz with him. "Steve, they leave or I'm coming back and making them leave." They walked out to their car and got in.
Steve cleared his throat. "I'm sorry, sir, but I do have to follow the majority of the board's wishes. We can help you find rooms somewhere else if you'd like."
"Son, I don't have to leave."
"Sir, you do. Xander was right, there is nothing that allows you to commandeer a resort in times of non-emergency. Especially not for a personal vacation. Now, we've already got lawyers complaining in front of the press and you're about to have a publicity problem."
"We control the press," he said with a smile.
"I'm sure you think you do, but not really." Steve walked away. "We'll send your bill to you, sir. Thank you for staying with us." He closed and locked his office door. Damn, Xander had balls. That man had made a lot of people disappear, including some immortals. He sat down and typed in a message to his favorite reporter.
Xander and Oz made it all the way to the airport before anyone stopped them, and then the people who stopped them decided to leave them alone. One of the agents even walked away crying. Xander was in a bad mood, and it was showing.
Xander walked up to the sign-in desk, already within Cheyenne Mountain. "I'm here because I got summoned," he sighed. He put down his old pass. "Is this still good?"
The man looked at the letter, then at the pass. "Sir, this was authorized by General Hammond."
Xander nodded. "Yup. He was a very nice guy." He crossed his arms. Now he was tired and cranky. Oz had decided to stay back at the motel. "Wanna call someone?"
The soldier picked up the phone. "Sir, there's a," the solider picked back up the letter, "Xander Harris here. No, sir, just him. Yes, sir." He hung up. "Please sign the book and where is your mate?"
"On vacation." Xander signed the book and picked up his things, heading down in the elevator. He was met the other end by people with guns. "Yay. Let's go. I'm already tired of this." He was led to the meeting room, where he got to glare at the General. "This was important enough to piss me off?" He took a seat and put his feet up in the one next to him. His feet hurt.
"Mr. Harris," the General said, flipping open a folder. "Immortal. Around two hundred." Xander waved a hand. "Newly conscripted to our service."
"You can't do that."
"I can and I have," the General said with a smile.
"Ares!" Ares appeared, frowning at him. "They're trying to conscript me. Are you still favoring them?"
Ares looked around the room, then shook his head. "Not particularly. This group is a great idea, but they've got idiots in charge." He smiled at the General, who was sitting very still with his mouth open. "Did you want help destroying them?"
"No," Xander sighed as he stood up. "I get off a flight from London, go to the resort, and find the phoney President trying to take it over. Get into a fight there, then get the letter telling me to come here." He took a deep breath. "Can I just kill them all? I'm too tired to deal with this shit anymore."
Ares smiled. Some days, Xander was so very his. "Sure, have fun. Magic, sword, or do you need a gun?"
"Nah, I'm thinking bare hands." Xander glared at the General. "Maybe you should learn from your predecessors. They asked nicely. Almost any of us would have helped Hammond, or even O'Neill once he figured out that we were okay. You, we're going to get rid of."
The General stood up. "Young man, you can't harm me. There's a base full of people who will stop you."
Xander snorted. "Only if they can get me." A gun fired behind him and he gave the soldier a bored look. "Feel better now?" He looked at the General again. "I'm not working for you. No immies are going to work for you. As a matter of fact, every immie on the base can feel me and are worried that I'm going to kill them, and I bet that quite a few of them would welcome it right about now." He stepped closer. "You try and put me into some sort of training program and I'll kill the people around me. You try and send me through the stargate and I'll enslave that other race and have them come attack you." He looked at his nails, buffing them on his shirt, then looked back up. "If you try to harm any of us, we'll kill you all. I'm tired of this and of you. You're a little nothing of a man who can't even tell the difference between his sex drive and his innate competitive urge. Get over yourself." He looked at Ares. "Can you steal the other guys?"
"I might," he said, smiling at the anchor. "What's in it for me?"
"A lusty prayer tonight that'll make you jump Jace so hard she'll be sore?"
"I get that already."
Xander thought. "I could dance for you again."
"No," Ares growled. "I refuse to be teased."
Xander grinned. "I'll spend the whole rest of this year in seclusion so you don't have to hear from me or go save me."
"Done," Ares said quickly. He snapped his fingers.
Xander blinked and found himself in a park surrounded by immortals. "Hey, guys, you're free. Run away now." He took Richie's arm, walking him toward the edge of the park. They had picnicked here back when they had worked with Danny and Jack. "So, how have you been?" he asked.
Richie smiled at him. "It wasn't that bad."
"They're conscripting us."
"Oh, shit," Richie muttered. "They tried to get you?"
"And possibly Oz. It looks like I'm going to have to make a call tonight. It seems that the government knows what you guys are."
"Hey!" one of the immies shouted. Xander turned to look at him. "What about our stuff?"
Xander shrugged. "I had to ask for a major favor to get you guys out. Your stuff....." Appeared on the ground in a big heap. "May be somewhere in there. Oh, and the resort needs to be cleaned of government types so use the one in Europe." He waited while Richie went to pick through for his stuff, coming up with a bag, a small box, and his sword. Richie hurried back to his side. "Let's go make sure that Oz is okay. You can borrow enough money to get a room and call Steve." He hailed a cab, getting them both inside it.
One of the freed immortals looked at the others. "Do you guys know who that was?" Everyone shook their heads. "Does anyone know the local Watcher?"
"Yeah, I do," one guy said. "I'm going to call him next. He used to be mine." He grabbed his stuff and walked away.
One last immortal, a female, landed in a heap on the ground. She looked up, her face a bloody mass, her hair caked with blood. She could barely move, but that was okay at the moment. None of them wanted to fight, it was too good to be free. As she started to heal, she grabbed her sword and her wallet. She would be fine, it would take a while, but she would be okay. She'd pop in on her savior later to thank him.
Xander walked into the room, smiling at Oz. "Visitor," he told him, letting Richie have the second bed. He picked up the phone and dialed a number he had memorized. "Hey, it's me." He sat on the foot of Richie's bed. "No, big probs. Did you know that the Feds know about us? I'm not sure if they know about you guys or not, but they definitely know about immies. Really?" He smiled. "That'd be cool. Yeah, if it's not too much trouble." He laughed. "Sure, I'll come and we'll go for a long walk and talk next week." He hung up. "Fixed." He switched beds, curling up against Oz's chest.
"Hackers. Seth and Spike have a group of hackers underneath them as minions. Seth sounded really upset." He stroked across the smooth flesh. "I told Ares we'd hide and behave for the rest of the year."
"That sounds wonderful," Oz agreed. "Our bags are in the car. I fed the animals."
"The animals are in the bags?" Richie asked.
Oz turned his head to look at him. "The neverending bags. They seem to like traveling that way." He smiled. "Want to come to Canada with us?"
"Sure. I could use some quiet." He stood up and stretched. "It's good not to be tied to a chair getting brainwashed."
"How did they find out?" Xander asked.
"They finally unsealed something else from when you were helping Danny. Oh, he's not on this planet anymore. He sent us a note saying he was going to be safe."
Xander frowned. "I'll go find him in a few years."
Oz coughed. "Where was it noted about immortals?"
"Danny's medical records noted that he healed quickly from a supposedly fatal wound. Someone thought about it and did some research. One of the Watchers put something on the web. There's almost no immies in this country right now."
"We could go back to London," Xander suggested.
"Canada," Oz told him. "Close by, quiet, peaceful. London for New Years for a party or two."
"Okay." Xander snuggled in. "You can stay for the night if you want."
"We're catching a flight out tonight," Oz told him. Xander looked up at him. "This makes me nervous."
"Deal," Xander agreed, grabbing the phone. "Call the airport?" Oz nodded, pulling over the phone book to make the call. Xander smiled at Richie. "We're paid until the end of the week. Have fun."
Oz hung up. "The airport is closed for the week. The military is pissed."
"We can do that," Oz said, flipping through the phone book. A business card was handed to him. "Thanks." He looked up at Strife. "Will they let us leave?"
"Sure. They can't actually stop you. The airlines are gonna throw a fit tomorrow." He grinned at Xander. "You're gonna be good?"
"I told him I'd lay low and not cause him to come save me," Xander told him. "I never said I was going to be good." He patted his pocket, jingling his keys, which had a small vibrator attached to them. "I'm going to be naughty in a non-physical way."
"Cool. As long as you're naughty." Strife reached down and petted Richie on the stomach. "Don't worry, dude, they won't be getting you back. Unc's really not happy with them right now. I think they're going to have a switch in the chain of command." He winked at Xander and left.
"I still say he is the coolest," Xander told Oz.
Oz nodded. "I can agree with that. You two are a lot alike." He called the number on the card. "Hey, I need to order a flight out of Boulder, Colorado. Yeah, that airport. Because I don't want to get caught in whatever they're planning on doing to the town. The United States scares me and my husband and I want to go to our other home in Canada." He smiled at Xander. "Sure. One hour." He hung up. "One hour."
"Okay. Richie, have fun." Xander tossed over the key cards. "Don't run up the minibar bill. Call on us if you need us. Oh, and if you hear from the old guy, tell them where we're going." He walked out, holding Oz's hand.
Richie shook his head. "They're too much some days," he muttered. He flipped on the tv, searching for something to take his mind off the urge to go blow up a mountain.
Three Hundred Years After The Aliens Landed, Minus Two Months.
Xander looked over the newspaper clipping, frowning when he saw the content. There was a celebration being thrown by the embassy for the aliens to celebrate three hundred years of cooperation. The newspapers were running stories on how they got down here, including the newly uncovered Stargate project's part in the process. He handed the paper to Ray, who was curled up beside him on the bed. They had been caught in Montreal last week and had run to London. Their spouses were headed their way, but weren't expected for at least another month because they were off training together. "Danny's at the mall."
"Mall?" Ray asked, reading the article. "Oh, offworld mall." He handed the paper back. "I kinda miss Danny."
"Wanna go see him?"
"Xan, they're going to know who you are."
"They're too busy with the celebration," Xander told him.
"All right, but you call and explain it to the old guys." He heaved himself up. "What am I packing?"
"I'll call Richie to come take care of the animals. Pack clothes to go shopping in. That mall is huge."
"So we're heading to the bank too?" Ray asked, heading for the closet.
"Yeah, I'd like to go shopping," Xander agreed. He walked toward his workroom. He had a lot of loose jewels right now, he hadn't designed anything in a while. He gathered up the ones he wasn't particularly fond of, including some of the pieces of jewelry that he hated, and stuffed them into a bag. He knew there was a money-changer up at the mall, there were always money- changers at any shopping area. He walked back into the bedroom, finding his favorite clothes already laid out. "That's all we're taking?" he asked, changing clothes. He tossed the bag into the neverending bag.
"I didn't think we'd be there for more than a week," Ray told him. Xander shrugged. "We can always buy more clothes."
"Point," Xander agreed, grabbing one more outfit. "Just in case," he told him as he stuffed the dance outfit into the bag. Ray gave him a look. "Hey, I'll still need to work out."
"Point," Ray agreed reluctantly. "But you're not performing unless we're robbed and owe a lot of money."
"Okay." Xander nodded, running a hand down his leather pants. "Ready?"
"Richie!" Richie came jogging up the stairs. "We're going to go hunt for Danny. Can you watch the animals until the old guys get here?"
Richie looked at Xander's outfit. "Going to a demon bar?"
"Offworld mall," Ray told him. "Danny was spotted and photographed."
"Okay. Bring me back something nice and non-sexual please." He watched as they left. If he hadn't been specific, there was no telling what they'd bring him back. A dog barked and he smiled down at him. "Hey, big guy, want petted?" He scratched behind the ears, getting growls of delight from the dog. "You make funny noises."
Xander showed his papers to the person guarding the portal off world. "We're going to the mall to shop," he told her. She signed their passport and let them through. Xander walked through first, stopping to look around. The mall was actually a medium-sized moon hollowed out with shops arranged by type of ware for ease of finding. It was incredible. His breath was taken away as a flying golfcart flew overhead. "Wow."
Ray nudged him, having to take Xander's hand to lead him over to the money-changers' booth. "Are there any from the Rigers clan?" he asked. They had been the ones they had dealt with off- world. A big woman, about the same size as Conan, stepped forward. "We were told to come to your clan for the best deals," he explained.
She smiled at him, making both men flinch. "Good. I could use business. Are you Earthlings?"
Xander nodded, opening his bag to pull out his jewels. "We are, though we've known many of you." He smiled at her as he held out the bag. "Ray has Earth money and I have these."
She sat down, looking over the offerings. Finally, she switched to the money, counting it slowly. She looked up. "I can give you sixty million platinum, forty thousand gold, and a bronze."
Xander quickly calculated that in his mind. "That's a bit low," he told her, starting the haggling process. "The jewelry was all handmade by me. Not my favorite work, but very pleasing to your people."
She nodded. "I can go up maybe another twenty thousand gold."
Ray nodded. "Deal." Xander looked at him. "I don't want to haggle, I hate haggling."
"Okay." Xander nodded. He looked at her. "That would be acceptable to us. My mate wants to shop."
She laughed. "It is always good to humor one's mate." She looked Ray over, smiling at him. "You are rather cute. Small, like I like my men. I could offer 30 platinum for you."
Xander shook his head. "Our other mates would not appreciate it." He grinned at Ray. "Besides, who would rub my back after I dance."
She laughed and keyed in a slip, handing it to them. "Present this at any store. You may come back to cash in whatever is left." Xander nodded, tucking it into his tight pockets. "Do I know you?"
He shook his head. "Probably not." He tugged Ray over to the transportation hub, getting them a map and a flying golfcart device. "Where should we look for Danny?"
"Let's try the dining areas, he's gotta eat and I'm hungry," Ray pointed out. He climbed in to drive, following the directions pasted in the middle of the steering wheel. "That's by the green section, toward the top and to the back, right?" Xander checked the map and nodded. "Cool. Are there hotels near there?"
"Um, yup. But the map has a depressurization marking near there. Let's be careful and go slowly, okay?"
"Good idea." Ray took off at a put-put speed, flying slowly toward the top of the mall and toward the back. "Depressurization?"
"According to the map, there was a store that was digging out some more storage space and broke through the surface. There's a shield around it, but the air currents are all messed up. Oh, jewelry section," he said happily. "It's right near the dining area too."
"We'll go later. I need a nap."
"Okay." Xander could sneak out and go shopping later, Ray wouldn't be pissed. No one had snatched him in years. Ray gave him a look. Maybe he'd be able to sneak out.
Xander sat at the table, nibbling on some goat and cheese snacks, listening to the music. The guitar player looked really familiar and he was an immie. A memory started and he smiled, waving at him. As soon as the song ended, the African American walked over. "Hey, Kevin. How's it hanging?" He pushed out a chair, letting him sit down. "I never figured you'd come up here."
"I had to run a few years back. I make pretty good money up here." He put his guitar down beside him. "What're you doing up here, Xander? You know they're still looking for you."
"I'm searching for Danny Jackson." Kevin frowned. "Blond, allergies, anthropologist grieving for the love of his life."
"Yeah, I know Danny. He's around here somewhere. I run into him every few days." He ran a hand through his long dredlocks. "Why are you looking for him?"
"Because it's been close to three hundred years since I've seen him and I got worried. That and they got a picture of him." He grimaced and pushed aside some bitter leaves. "Eww, forgot I didn't like those."
Kevin laughed. "It has been a long time for you."
"Yeah, hiding can be like that." He glanced back at the band, who were glaring at him. "I think they're going to come over and stab you or something."
Kevin frowned at his band. "They can wait. We're on break." He stole a bit of food. "You didn't mind, right?"
"I can't eat all of it, it's all good to me." Xander picked up a sweet thing that looked like a nut wrapped in sugar floss. "Is this good?"
"It's got bouglanth on it," Kevin told him. He smiled when Xander dropped it. "Found out what that was?"
Xander nodded. "The hard way." He glanced around, feeling another immie. "What's the policy on fighting?"
"If you can defend yourself and give a reasonable explanation. They don't like us doing it here and they don't like quickenings." Kevin stood up and grabbed his guitar. "I'll see you later and tell Danny you're looking for him if I see him." He walked back to his seat, earning mild applause.
Xander touched the hilt of his sword, ready for anything. A large male walked out of an alleyway and glared at him. Xander picked up a piece of meat to nibble on, showing that he wasn't intending to beat his ass. The immortal motioned to the alleyway behind him. Xander smiled, but didn't move. Yeah, he would fight, but he wouldn't push it. The immortal glared and motioned again. Xander got up and strolled that way, pulling his katana once he was out of sight. "You wanted to see me?" he asked, standing at rest. The immortal snarled at him. "Where I come from, we at least happen to introduce ourselves."
"Xander Harris," he said, moving in the cramped space. There was almost no room to do anything, but the other guy had a huge sword so he had the advantage. It didn't take long for the great lumbering idiot to catch the clue that he was in trouble, but Xander decided to be gentlemanly. "I can let you go," he offered. "I'm not up here for you, I'm looking for a friend."
Morgan snorted and stabbed at Xander. It was his last move. Xander leaned against the stone wall, sucking in the quickening without screaming. He wouldn't interfere with the performance going on. When it was done, he was on his knees, panting hard.
"Are you okay?" a quiet voice asked.
Xander looked up and grinned. "I've been looking for you," he said, grabbing Daniel to hug. "Come sit and eat." He dragged the man to his table, glaring at the person trying to clean the table. "I came back," he told him. He pointed at Daniel. "Get him something too."
Daniel said something in the local dialect and the waiter rushed off. "Why are you here, Xander?"
"Because you got photographed and I haven't seen you in nearly three hundred years?" He watched as a Space Marine walked toward them and smiled at her. "I did it," he told her. "He challenged my honor. I gave him a chance to back off."
"He did, I was watching," Daniel told her.
She looked at Xander. "Your hand please?" He held it out, letting her scan it. She looked down at him. "It's you."
He shrugged. "I'm only here to check on him. I want nothing to do with anything else." She smiled. "Damn."
"Xander, explain?" Daniel suggested coolly.
"I never claimed that stupid planet."
"Oh." Danny smiled at the Space Marine. "He's staying at O'Doule's. Can you bring this to him there?" She nodded. "Then we will retire there so no one's entertainment is bothered." He called out to a waiter. "Pay for dinner, Xander."
Xander put some of the loose money he had down onto the table and stood up. "Am I in trouble?"
"We saw his aggression on the cameras. We did have to check though." She escorted them to their inn, waiting while someone got someone more official to come deal with this.
Xander sat on the bed, pulling Danny down with him. "So, how have you been?" he asked. "Besides lonely and grieving, I mean."
Danny gave him a sad smile. "I came here to wrap myself up in a different culture, somewhere that didn't remind me of Blair. I found that I loved it here."
"That's cool. I'm not going to force you to leave. There're a couple of very long-lived species among our hosts." He crossed his feet under him. "What else have you been doing?"
"I've been avoiding Morgan for the last year. Somehow he managed to get into a prison camp one species runs and spent the last three years there." Xander shrugged. "You could be in trouble."
"I could be many things, including sent away," Xander said with a shrug. "They saw him challenge me." He nibbled on some of the food. "Ray's in the next room."
"Where are Oz and Methos?"
"London. We had to give up the house in Canada because of a logging company burning it down. The land is still ours but we have bad memories about it so we moved to London most of the time. The last time I was in Montreal I got caught so we had to run back home."
"How's the project?" Danny asked, looking down at the bedspread.
"Busted wide open," Xander said with a grin. Danny looked up at him. "They tried to conscript immies and got caught. They actually had Richie and Amanda, and about twenty others. They were brainwashing them and beating them. When they got free, the Stargate's General tried to close down the town, including the airport. The airlines got pissed and demanded a reason. Word got leaked and made it into the press. The President got put in jail for his part in it, and the General got life in prison. It was an interesting year and the reason we moved to Canada full time."
"Are immies known about?"
"No, everyone assumed that the reason that those people were taken is because they had some sort of mental gifts, like telepathy. The President started shouting about immortals, and was laughed out of office. He open fired on a group of reporters, hence going to jail, with later charges added. We're considered some mental person's fantasy."
Danny smiled. "That's good. So the Stargate is known about?" Xander nodded. "Is it still operating?"
"In the open and in a non-military capacity. NASA took it over for a bit, but it was too expensive so an independent group of scientists is running it right now. The portal that Sam's trapped in is stored at the embassy in New York, they're guarding it carefully. I saw the edge of it." Danny sighed. "Sorry. Did you know that Jack's son took over the project for a while?" Danny shook his head, looking up at him again. "Yeah, after Hammond and his dad, Jack Junior took over. They came to us to find you while you were in Istanbul."
"So that's how they found me," Danny muttered. He took a deep breath.
"Are you ready to move on?" Xander asked quietly, touching him on the hand. "You can come stay with us until you're ready."
Danny shrugged. "I don't know. I feel comfortable here, but I also feel constrained."
"That's part of not bein' yourself," Ray said as he walked in. He looked at the door, then at Xander. "Got caught?"
"I got challenged."
"Oh." Ray shrugged and came over to steal some of the food. "I'm sure you'll be able to talk your way out of it." He gave Danny a hug. "Hey, you ready to rejoin life again? We kinda missed you."
Danny smiled at him. "I don't know. Maybe." Someone knocked on the door. "Come," Danny called. A blonde woman wearing a green robe walked in and closed the door behind her. "Did you need us?" he asked in the local dialect.
She smiled. "Yes," she said in flawless English. "We needed to speak with Mr. Harris." She bowed to him. "We have been searching for you for many years. Even though your periodic letters have said you did not want it, we have to give you your place of storage because it is a debt to us."
Xander shrugged. "I still don't want it. Can't I get you guys to buy it back?"
She shook her head. "It is not possible." She moved forward, handing over some papers she carried. "If you would look those over, we will take you to your home now."
Xander opened his mouth but it was Ray who answered "Whoa, there's no way we're ready to go anywhere. We still have a life back on Earth."
She smiled at him. "We are sending a representative there now to gather up your life and your mates. I am sure we can arrange this quickly." She bowed to Daniel. "Are you part of their group?"
"He's my student," Xander told her, reading over the papers. "Why do I have to live there for a year before I can leave?"
"Otherwise it looks bad, like you're fighting against an honor debt," Daniel told him. Xander grimaced. "It's only a year. We can order food."
"The ion cloud has been removed," she told them. "The planet is now cleared for travel to and from, also for shipping. You will be able to order whatever you need." She bowed again. "If you will please come with me?"
"Let me go pack," Ray sighed. She put a hand on his shoulder. "I can't pack?"
"We have people coming to do so for you." She pulled Xander to his feet. "Come, there is little time. Otherwise the press will know." She snapped her fingers and people ran in, packing everything that looked like it was theirs.
"Not the wooden things," Ray told them. He was led from the room, in front of Xander to block people from getting to him. "Do we really have to stay there for a year?"
The blonde nodded. "I'm afraid so. It is the law, otherwise it can be counted as a horrible problem." She smiled as she walked out, letting their guards take care of the press. "Mr. Harris has stepped forward to settle the debt of honor between us," she announced as she led them away. "We may stop and let you order things. I know you have money on you."
Xander grimaced. He hated being railroaded like this. If he wanted to be pushed, he would tell one of his mates to push him. He touched the pendant at his throat. "Micah," he whined/called. Micah appeared beside him. "They're tying to make me claim that planet."
Micah smiled at the blonde woman. "May I talk to my adopted brother for a moment?" She nodded, stopping the procession so Micah could lead him out of the way. "Why did you call on me?"
"Get me out of here," Xander complained. "They're going to coop us up on a planet for a year and I don't want it. I never have."
Micah patted him on the shoulder. "Xander, how many times have you had to do something disgraceful or distasteful in the name of diplomacy." Xander whined. "Oh, grow up. Deal with it. You have to do this to make everyone feel happy. You can suffer for a year. Hire some of the land out to farmers, set up a shrine to your friends, and learn to live with it. I'll tell Oz and he'll come up and see you." He rolled his eyes. Sometimes Xander could be so immature, the guy was three-hundred-fifty years old and he was pouting. "Xander, deal with it. You'll have to take it. You can sell it later or whatever. We'll even set up a portal to your new world if you want." Xander nodded. "What's really bothering you."
"I don't want to go back there."
"Bad memories," Ray called.
"Oh, that." Micah sighed and hugged his brother. "I know that it gives you the creeps, but you can set up on the other side of the planet. The place is three times the size of Earth and you can set up anywhere that you want. You won't have to see the place where you were forced to stay. You can even call Lissa over to play with Strife. I'm sure all your friends will be very pleased with you." He pushed Xander back to the group. "Here, take him. Ray, distract him or something." He disappeared in a cloud of smoke. He had more important things to do than to soothe Xander's feelings. That was Oz, Methos, and Ray's job.
Xander pouted. "He wasn't very happy."
"He's just busy right now," Ray soothed. "After all, this is the year when all the kids have to come up and he's only got the six or so." He started Xander walking again. "C'mon, we'll go find a good spot and you can teach me how ta surf and stuff." Xander lightened up some and Ray shared a look with Danny, who was smiling. It would be okay, Xander would accept it soon enough. "So, can we rent out some of the land? 'Cause I'm thinking that a planet is probably really expensive to run."
The blonde woman smiled. "Of course you can. On the way over, we'll show you the scans we have of your planet and put you in touch with people who can find you tenet farmers. It is a very popular plan among the smaller planets." She got them into an official ship and took off once everything was loaded. "If you would care to rest, you may do so in the room to your left."
Xander grabbed Ray's hand. "Mine."
"Of course," she agreed. "I had heard you had three others in your family." She smiled at Danny. "I had no idea that you had students though." She sat down, waving them to do the same. "Now then, down to the practicalities. The Empress herself will be quite pleased that you did not fight harder. It has bothered her for many years that you were reluctant to take the planet. She thought something was wrong with it."
Xander shuddered. "I was dropped off there and nearly not rescued. I don't like to think about that place."
She reached over and patted him on the knee. "I understand. If someone had taken me from my mates and stranded me somewhere I would not like it either." She leaned back again. In front of her, the table turned into a map. "This is your planet, which you may name whatever you want." She pointed at a small band of land. "Your house has been put here, as far away from the original spot you were dropped as possible." She looked up. "How did you get a house there?"
Xander shrugged. "I don't know."
"Spell," Ray coughed. Xander looked at him. "Hurricanes? Spell? Lost weight?"
"Oh." Xander nodded. "I did a spell to save my house from a hurricane at one time. It may have put it there."
She nodded, making a note. "Thank you for explaining that." She pointed at the main continent. "This is the main land mass. On it you have mountains, a large mineral field here," she ran a finger around all the mountains, "and arable farming land on most of the rest. It was noticed that certain creatures are found on your land, none of them dangerous to humans. We can import some of your native species if you'd like, though we will have to check and make sure that they won't harm the environment." She smiled. "It should be quite profitable for you."
"Can we have horses?" Ray asked. Xander looked at him. "What? Methos showed me that I like horses."
"Of course you may," she told them. "They are grazers and there is a predator large enough to keep the wild herds down if you go that way." She turned the map, showing them the extent of the islands. "You don't have a snow cap like you do on Earth, but the weather is very pleasant year round. There is snow at the top of the mountains. There is a small desert around the southern cap." She pointed at it. "There are also some very strange ruins down there, we're not sure from where or when." She noticed Danny's eyes light up. "On the nearby planets, there are similar ruins, many more of them on the nearest planet. That one has ones with language-like notations." Danny opened his mouth. "That one is open for the claiming, you may talk with me privately about going to see them." He nodded eagerly. "Also, this planet has many idyllic spots around it. Your house landed in one of them."
A waiter walked in, handing around drinks. "Please, have dinner," he suggested in a quiet voice. "It will only be three hours before we are landing." He backed out of the room.
She smiled at Xander again. "It will be up to you to set up a regional government and a way to deal with problems. If you chose to house some farmers, then you will have to set up a method of them talking to you and of you getting your share of their crops. You will be able to hire out ships to transport anything that your planet produces and will need someone to take care of the negotiations to sell your products." She sipped her drink. "It is really very good."
Xander picked up his and sipped it, grimacing. "Oh, ick." He handed his off to Ray, who was drinking all his. "Too sweet." He watched as Danny took a long drink. "It's just me, right?"
"Probably," Ray told him. "Maybe it was what you guys were eating earlier."
"It could be," Danny agreed. "That bitter leaf can ruin your tastebuds for a whole day." He looked at their guide. "What about the practical matters of food now. We didn't get a chance to arrange for that."
"We will provide a single communication unit back to the mall's outplanet office," she told him. "You may go through them for anything that you need. They have menus from all shops and will take your credit slips." Danny nodded. "How long have you been with us?"
"Close to a hundred and fifty years," he said honestly.
She nodded. "Good, then I will expect you to instruct Xander on how to deal with issues of protocol. It will set the whole tone of his tenure if he makes too many mistakes." Danny nodded. "We hope that you will be happy there, I know that getting rid of this debt will make the Empress quite happy." She stood up as the ship started to slow. "Why don't you go rest and we'll meet again when we land." She watched as Danny took Xander and Ray into the room she had shown Ray earlier. Then she went to report. This was going to earn her a large commission and quite a lot of favor.
Oz walked into the door, and into the back of an off world guard. "Explain," he said in his deadliest tone of voice.
"Calm down," Methos told him. "I'm sure no one took Xander this time."
A young man walked forward. "My wife wishes to speak with you about the condition of your mates," he said respectfully. "Please, come with me." He walked back to the living room, showing them inside. "We will be finished in twenty minutes," he told her.
Oz held up a hand. "Freeze. Finished what?"
"Packing. Your mate was forced to take what was his," the woman told them. She pointed at the couch. "Please, sit, I will explain."
"Oh, you'd better explain. And this isn't all our things."
She nodded. "We will help you pack those also. By the laws you will have to be up there within a month to take up your year of residence."
"Year of residence?"
Methos put a hand on Oz's shoulder. "Calm down. Let's listen to her before we harm her." He looked at her. "I would start explaining rather soon, I 'm not sure I can keep him calm for long."
She laughed. "Indeed." She held out a small PDA-looking device. "On this is the articles of claiming, which were filled out for your mate when he did not come forward to claim what was his. As we found him at the mall, after a battle, we acted to make sure that he would take what was his." Methos opened his mouth. "It was most important. It was a debt that he was owed and looks bad on us. My mother made it known that he would have to accept what was his if he was ever found. Though she did find his periodic letters rather funny." She smiled. "As for what we are doing here, you wouldn't want him to live alone for a year, would you?" Oz shook his head. "Therefore we are expediting the process of moving." She stood up. "We are aware that people like you would have things stored in many places so we agree to go help you with that also."
Micah appeared. "They caught Xander after a fight and forced him to take it." He handed Oz a large silver box. "That's from the demon bank. Can we set up a portal?"
"As long as we don't have to stake any vamps," Oz said with a shrug. "Why now? Why not do this slowly?"
"Because it is an embarrassment to us," the woman told them. "He has refused to take up his debt and it looks bad on us."
Oz grimaced. "That's because he hates that place. It has a lot of bad memories for him." He stopped for a second, then looked over at Micah again. "Is this all of it? He's got major hidden accounts with them."
"I talked to the branch manager in LA and they said it was all of it, minus a small fee because some of it was invested." Micah sat down next to Oz. "What's going on?"
"Apparently we're being sent to that planet to go hide for a year," Methos told him. He looked at the woman. "We would rather pack our own belongings. There are many things I don't want someone pawing through." She shrugged. "We will meet you in a week." She stood up.
"Thank you for your help up to this point," Oz told her.
She smiled at him. "We will be back in a week with a transport for all of your things." She took her husband and strolled out.
Once the house was empty, Oz looked at Methos. "Does this seem very fast to you?"
Methos nodded. "I'd like to know why." He looked at Micah. "Were they railroaded too?" The demon nodded. "Any idea why?"
Micah yawned. "Not a clue. Xander had some papers with him, but I can't get up there yet. Not until someone sets up a portal." He stood up and stretched. "I'm in the middle of planning a feast. Yell if you need me. And yes, before you ask, Xander was quite distressed but Daniel and Ray were with him." He disappeared.
"I don't like this," Oz sighed, getting up to go check and see what still needed packed. "They emptied the safes too."
"I'll check and see if everything's still around," Methos said, getting up to look inside the various boxes.
Xander stepped off the ship, taking a deep breath. The air was fresher than anything he'd smelled since the house in Canada had burnt. He looked around. The landing area was on a small bluff, above the house. He looked out across the house, his breath catching. On the other side of the house, was the ocean. On two sides of the house was clear blue water. Surf was washing up near the back porch and his forge was at the high tide line. He looked at the other two sides. The front of the house faced a bluff, but there was about half a mile of space between the front door and the bluff. On the other side was green grass. Lots of green grass. He looked back at Ray, who looked nearly as awestruck. "It's beautiful," he noted. He looked back at their guide. "So why the rush?"
"Because otherwise, someone else was going to try and claim it," she said with a shrug. She waved a hand at the house. "I believe everything should be in order. The communication panel is in your dining area." She smiled. "Go look, boys." She got out of Daniel's way. "I've got the papers you wanted filed and I'll put them in for you today." She stepped back into the ship and the door slammed shut. An automated arm grabbed everything in the hold and put it down, then the ship lifted off.
Xander sighed and grabbed his bags. "I'm about ready to be pissed."
"Get pissed," Ray agreed as he grabbed some of the bags. They got it all down to the house and inside to the living room. "It's the same," he said in awe. He noticed the ugly painting he had inherited hanging on a wall. "It's all here."
"Yup, that's what I tried to do," Xander reminded him. He walked into the dining room, stopping when he saw the large, bulky, and obviously unconnected communication device. "I think we're going to have to jury rig things." He walked into the kitchen and smiled. "The food's here too." He broke the seal on the refrigerator and backed away quickly. "But if it could spoil it did. We need to dig a hole for some of that." He went to look in the library, smiling when he saw the mess of the books spread around. "Some things never change I see." He headed up to his bedroom, but there was something missing. His antique bed, the one that had been in his family for nearly six hundred years, wasn't in his room. "The bed's not here," he whined. The air shimmered and the bed appeared, just like it had been. "Thank you." He saw the note and picked it up to read it, smiling at the contents. He was happy that she had enjoyed it enough to make a copy of it. He headed back downstairs to check on everything. He found Ray at the doorway of what had been the animal's room. "What's up?" He looked over Ray's shoulder, his mouth falling open. All his animals were in there. Every single one of them. "Oh, wow," he breathed. One of the puppies barked at him, wagging her tail. "Hey, little one," he whispered, getting down to pet her. "How are you? Have you been here all alone for a really long time?" She nuzzled against his stomach. "Ray, lay out food," he told him, having to nudge him to get him to move. Ray moved, going to fill the water dishes and food containers.
Hecate appeared behind him, smiling at Xander. "No, young one, they weren't here until I felt you be grabbed. I'm sorry about the food, but that has been here."
Xander smiled at her. "That's okay. This was the nicest prezzie I could have ever gotten." He sniffled. "I missed my babies when they died."
She reached down and patted him on the head. "I know you did." She looked around. "They didn't leave you with anything?"
"With all due respect," Daniel said from the doorway, "they hustled us out of the mall like we were contagious. They said we could order things, but the communication gear is disconnected." He grimaced. "I'm not good with machines."
"I'll try and get it up," Ray told him, pouring the last of the cat food out. "There we go." The animals rushed to the bowls, nibbling their fill. "Thank you for this," he told her.
She smiled at him, her heart breaking at the innocence she saw he still held. Through everything, he had managed to keep a lot of his original innocence. She felt his heartbreak for his own animals and decided to do something very nice, which was odd for her, but she would do it. She looked down at Xander. "Pick a good spot for our temple, young man." She smiled and waved a hand, bringing Ray the likeness of his animals too. As she disappeared, the food in the fridge was exchanged for something good and the communication device was working, but only to one spot because it wouldn't connect anywhere else.
Xander smiled as the other animals appeared. "I'll put it overlooking the ocean with a lot of trees." He got up and gave Ray a hug. "I'm going to clean the fridge and bury the bad stuff. You pet everybody." He whistled and most of his dogs followed him to the kitchen. "She fixed it!" he yelled.
"Call someone now," Daniel suggested, going to help him and pet the animals. He turned it on, he had seen a one of these in a museum at the mall. A face appeared. "Oh, hey, it does work."
"Hello?" the man said. "Please turn on your camera."
"Trying to," Xander called. He found the camera and turned it on. "Hey," he said, waving. "We got dropped off here by someone who I'm thinking wasn't quite with you guys."
"Where are you?"
Xander grinned. "I'm Xander Harris. They came to me about the planet I didn't want to claim? We're there."
The man nodded. "Hold on, please. I will be right back." He ran off.
Daniel sat on the floor, petting all the dogs. "You guys are so happy," he told them. He looked over, noticing a little ferret. "You're welcome too," he said sadly. The ferret came running over, climbing into his lap. "Yes, you're a little sweetie," he told her, petting her gently. "You look just like my Dessie." He wiped a tear away. "We'll be okay," he told Xander when he got petted on the shoulder.
"I know, healing takes time and pain." He leaned down, kissing the side of Daniel's head. "It'll be okay. If I have to stay here, you can stay here too." He looked up at the screen as a woman walked toward them. "Hey. Did you guys have us kidnaped?"
She smiled. "Mr. Harris. I have heard much about you." She sat down regally, arranging her skirt around her. "Where are you?"
"We were in the mall, the big one, and got found. They rushed us out, brought us here, and stranded us without food, without any supplies, and are supposedly going after our mates."
"Who's there with you?"
Daniel looked up. "Daniel Jackson," he said quietly. "Ray's in the back room. They packed all of our things, didn't give us a chance to protest, and hustled us off."
She glanced around them. "And the house?"
"Spell," Xander told him. "Gift from my Goddess Hecate." She smiled. "It has everything, including the food that was going sour when we left." She laughed lightly. "So can we please handle this somehow? Do we really have to stay here for a year?"
She shook her head. "Why would you have to?"
"Because she told us we have to stay here for a year," Daniel told her. He put the ferret aside, but it gave him an indignant squeak and crawled back into his lap. "Okay then." He looked up at her, giving her a faint smile. "It really was rather abrupt and not at all like your normal customs."
She nodded. "I will have someone come there tonight. They will look over whatever that woman gave you and explain anything you need. Do you know her name?"
Xander shook his head. "Not a clue. She never introduced herself to us, which is strange when I think back. It was like a military operation to get me out of the mall." He dug around, coming up with his credit slip. "Can I get you to get us stuff? Or how do I do that?"
She smiled. "I will have someone come help you with that. How old is your system?" she asked, looking off to the side, at an instrument panel or something.
"I saw one in a museum," Daniel told her.
Her mouth fell open. "And it works?"
"My Goddess Hecate made it work," Xander told her. "It had been lying here without being attached to anything."
Daniel coughed. "I also filed papers with her to look at the ruins on this and the surrounding planets. I'm not sure if this was a faction proving their displeasure at not being able to get this planet, or if this was just against us, but it was rather upsetting."
She nodded. "I can see that. I will send someone to check on your mates. What city are they in on Earth?"
"London." Xander smiled at her. "Thank you. We can probably go for at least a day with what we have on hand, but not more than a week."
She nodded. "That would be good. I will arrange for someone to come see you tonight about this. Be assured, this person will not be part of any faction." She stood up. "Be at peace, young ones. You will be seeing me again soon." The connection cut.
Daniel looked up at Xander. "It could have been someone upset with us being humans."
Xander shrugged. "I'd just like an answer." He stood up, walking into the kitchen. "Hey, she gave us good food too." He dug around, pulling out a frozen pizza. Then he shut the door and reopened it. "No electricity."
"We'll get a generator," Daniel told him. "How much do you have?"
"Not a great amount. Enough to outfit the house, or maybe buy a generator."
The communication device came back on. "Hello?" a young woman called.
"Coming." Xander grabbed some meat for the animals and walked out, shredding the cooked ham for them. "Hi." He sat down in his former seat, having moved the kitten to the tabletop. "Are you going to help us straighten this stuff out?"
She nodded, still smiling. "I am to help you order things for your house."
"I need to check and see if we have a generator, otherwise that's got to be first," Xander told her.
"Do you have a source of hydro-electric power nearby?"
Xander turned the camera to show the ocean. "We have all that." He turned it back. "We found some food, but no electricity to cook a third of it."
"All right." She typed something in. "What about money?"
Xander pointed at a little slot. "If I put my credit slip into that will it send it to you?" She nodded so he did so, looking at the number that came up. "Wow, I forgot I hadn't gotten to shop yet."
She smiled. "That's good though, it means you'll be able to outfit the house. How long did you intend on staying?"
"Well, the chick that dragged us here said we have to stay a year," Ray said as he walked out. He sat down to pet the neglected puppy, making her happy. "What's going on?"
"Was the water heater gas?" Daniel asked. Xander shrugged. "You don't know?"
"The only thing I know about that sort of stuff is I turn on the knob and it works." The woman laughed. "Sorry, but I'm not the most mechanical of people. I know *nothing* about any of this."
"You could hire out an engineer," she suggested. "A tenet farmer maybe, but it is possible."
Xander shrugged. "I don't know a thing about any of this. I'm a pampered creature of pleasure, Oz deals with most of that." His voice stared to climb. "Oz takes care of all the money stuff and the physical maintenance of the house, and even us."
Ray patted him gently. "It's okay. I'll be the big, strong, physical guy until they kidnap Oz too. Then we'll figure it out." He looked up at the screen. "How much would it cost us to get someone here who would be able to tell us what we need?"
"Not very much, especially if you would be willing to let them have a spot to live."
Xander shrugged. "I wouldn't mind, as long as I didn't have to run into them, but I don't even know how to do that."
She smiled. "I understand. Many people who file for planets aren't prepared for a lot of the responsibility. We have many claims that are bought out." She looked down at her monitor, then back up at them. "I do have a candidate. He's used to, and enjoys, reclusive situations. He's willing to build his own house and farm his own lands. Wants about an..." She frowned. "What are your units of land measurements?"
"We can go acre or kilometer," Xander told her.
"Okay. He wants twenty kilometers."
"That's a lot."
"You've got the space, Xan," Daniel reminded him. "You can put him on the continent and let him hang over there."
Xander nodded. "Okay. Will it cost me anything beside that?" She shook her head. "Then can you offer him a reasonable deal for us?" She smiled and typed something in. "Thank you, you're nice."
"This is what I do," she told him, her smile very bright. "I have a note here saying that someone went to protect your mates. They'll be up in a while, but not within a month." She looked up. "Is that all right?" Xander nodded quickly. "All right, what else will you be needing?"
"I need a building," he told her. "I promised to set up a shrine to my Gods and Goddesses."
"We'll also need something to help us get around," Daniel put in. "We're on an island."
"All right." She keyed it in. "Did you know that there was a loan available to those who start new planetary colonies?"
"I'm not sure about the colony part," Xander told her.
She nodded and typed that in. "There is one to help you manage start up expenses. Do you want me to apply for you?" Xander nodded. "All right, give me a moment." She typed some more things in. "We'd normally be able to do this faster, but we're limited by the equipment you have on hand." She finished and looked up. "We should know in a few moments." Something beeped and she looked down. "Oh, you're already approved. It says that you've had one waiting on you with the Drakmere faction of the money-changers." She smiled. "You have more than enough credit for whatever you want to do."
Xander sighed in relief. "That's great. Okay, then I need a few things. Let me go make a list as I look around and I'll be right back. Come on, guys." He stood up and walked off, heading into the kitchen first. "Ray, we need munchies," he called, starting a list.
"Food would be good," Daniel agreed. He looked up at her. "What about his mates?"
"They've been found and warned. It was a faction. By having him there for a year, they can offer to buy it from him. There's a minor faction of planet owners who want all the surrounding planets. By Empire law, the surrounding planets are offered to the owner of the ones nearest first, as a matter of courtesy and of practicality." Daniel nodded. "These people run farming communities and probably want to set up a farming system on your planet too." Ray nodded. "It does happen, though we try not to let it. They filed ownership papers for Mr. Harris this morning."
Xander walked in with a list, smiling as he fed it into the device. "That's what we need in the basics."
She read the list, nodding. "Toilet paper?" she asked. "I'm unfamiliar with that..." Her eyes opened. "Oh, for the bathroom?" Xander nodded. "That would be fine. I have an offer to talk from the engineer. He's on his way here to talk to you." She looked at her computer. "I think we can do all this fairly quickly and have it coming tonight. As I told them, your mate won't be here for at least a month."
Xander sat down again. "I'm okay as long as I've got these guys. Danny, did you need anything in a bookish way? We only have one or two notebooks around here."
"I think I can live with just that. But can we send a note back to Oz? I have a storage facility I'd like him to empty for me."
"How long did you pay it up for?" Ray asked.
"It should have about another month," Daniel told him. "It held a lot of my research."
Xander smiled at him. "Steve and Richie saved it a few years back when they went out of business. He had a lot of us storing stuff there. I know it's at the resort in Europe."
"That's cool. Can we get a note back to Oz?"
"Of course." She typed something in and looked up at them. "Audio recording is ready."
"Oz, it's Danny. I heard Steve got my stuff from the storage place. Can I please have it? And can you check at the mall and make sure they emptied my apartment? Please?"
"Honey, it's me," Xander said. "We're okay, and Ray's helping me handle stuff." He smiled down at Danny. "I found Danny and he's okay, still healing but okay. Can't wait for you to get up here. I've made my first and second decision for the planet. Hurry up. Miss you." He blew a kiss.
Ray rolled his eyes. "Hey, guys, it's me. I'm here too. I'm keeping Xander from going nuts. The animals are all here. Love you, happy packing." He nodded and she hung up, sending it to the guard working with them. "Okay, did you add litter to that? We'll need some soon."
"No, I didn't, or marble slabs either," Xander said with a frown. Everyone present looked at him. "To build the shrine. You can get marble premade and precut slabs. I was going to use them to build the shrine because it'd be easier."
"Oh," Ray said, nodding. "That'd be great. Much easier than building one by hand." He looked at her and rolled his eyes again, making her laugh. "So, litter and stuff to build a marble temple. Dog and cat food, but that'll have to come partially from Earth."
"Ferret chow," Danny noted quietly.
"And food for the ferrets has gotta come from Earth." He looked back at Xander. "Did you want to do farm animal stuff?"
"Not particularly. I'm not that great at slaying animals. Oz might not mind, but I kinda do."
"That's fine, I guess we can get butchered animals shipped," Danny put in. The woman nodded. "Is it much more expensive?"
"About twice as much. Plus, the goats have other uses, like cutting grasslands and for hair production for weaving." Xander brightened up at that. "I could have a few of them sent if you'd like. That would count as normal start up expenses." She rolled away and came back, loading a list for them to view. "This is the standard setup rations that people get when they claim a planet."
"Is it hard to get a claim?" Daniel asked.
She nodded. "Very. It usually takes at least three years central time unless you already have a claim in the system. What were you wanting to claim?"
"I was thinking about the planets nearby that are supposed to have ruins." She looked at him. "I'm an anthropologist and archeologist. I study ancient and dead cultures." She looked like she understood. "The woman who dropped us off mentioned it."
"Ah. Yes, I see a claim started for you, Dr. Jackson." She looked up. "I guess they're hoping to buy it off of you."
"Would that make it faster?" Ray asked.
She nodded. "Much easier and faster, plus they would also get startup help themselves and someone to deal with the administrative details until they set up their own system of government."
"We get to do that too?" Xander asked. She nodded. "Can we get a list of standard rules?"
"That's part of something that we give you automatically." She looked over as the door opened. "Oh, hello. Are you the engineer?" An older man walked into view. "These nice people have just been put onto their own planet."
"Didn't know what to do?" he asked, well, sneered.
Xander pouted at him. "Hey, our house was transferred up by a spell. It was set up for life on Earth. You know, electric and everything?"
He shrugged. "I can do that, but I want twenty acres."
"Fat chance," Ray told him. The man glared at him. "What're you going to tell us? Put that here and run this cable?"
The man pulled a chair over. "No, son, I'm going to tell you what you need to make your fancy house work and put up the structures to do so. That means I'll be the one running the cable and putting everything in place."
Xander laid a hand on Ray's arm. "Forgive him, but we're a little upset today. We just got dumped here."
"They're trying to get them to give up their claim," the woman explained.
The man grunted. "I've had that happen to the planet I was on before. Don't do it, it'll only cause problems." He stood up. "Ten acres."
"Fine with us. Do you mind being on the continent?"
"As long as I've got some good irrigation and you don't charge too high a fee." He laughed when he saw the confused look. "You don't know a lot about tenet farming, do you?"
"Just the historical stuff," Daniel told him. "No, we're probably not going to charge over thirty percent. We have as of yet to decide on a manager over that. We're waiting on the rest of our mates to show up."
"Thirty percent? That's nearly unheard of," the man told him.
"Too high?" Ray asked.
"But it's a brilliant plan," Xander told him. "Charge a low rate of fees, give the farmers easy laws, and they'll stay. Less turnover and less problems from them." The man nodded, looking a little happier. "All right, our house was wired last in the twenty-first century. We're set up for everything electric, and we're just off the ocean. I'd like something clean and non-energy sucking to make everything run." The man nodded. "Other than that, that's all I have figured out. Oh, and we'll need to see about environmental carts or something."
"That's part of the startup set," Ray told him, pointing at the list. "I like that list. How many should that hold up?"
"It's meant for a beginning population of thirty people, which is usually mandatory. Since you have a claim by force of habitation, then the minimum number is waived." She checked something. "If we hurry, we can get this to come out with the Empress' advisor. Would that be fine with you?"
Xander nodded. "The only thing I'd like to add would be some deer, some cows, and some sheep from Earth."
She made a note. "We can definitely do that. We also have horses available."
"Please?" Ray begged. "I'll deal with 'em."
Xander nodded, willing to give him anything. "And he can have a small herd of horses."
"Broken ones if possible," Ray told her.
She typed it in. "All right. We'll get that on the ship tonight." She smiled up at the engineer. "If you'll head to the docking bay, you can leave with the Empress' advisor. She's been wanting to meet Mr. Harris for a while now." The man nodded and waved at them. "We'll have everything sent for you and you should have it in a few hours." She waved and cut the connection.
Xander checked his credit slip. "Some of it cost us, but we'll be okay," he told him, noticing the amount of the loan was on it now. "Okay, what's first?"
"Food," Danny said. "Then some cuddle time with the animals." Both men nodded. "Good. I want to cook." He stood up, taking his ferret friend into the kitchen with him. "Xander, could you make something to make light and heat? Just in case?"
"Sure. I'll need to check the forge and the metal supply, but I should have everything soon." He hopped up to go do that, he needed something concrete to do. He was nervous and upset, not to mention jumpy. "Can I have caffeine?" he called as he dug into the closet with the metal supply. Within minutes, Ray walked out with a cup of instant coffee, cold of course. Xander sipped it as he started his forge for the first time in nearly a hundred years.
Oz looked over at the guard as something on him beeped. "Orders from on high?" he suggested dryly.
"No, sir, a message from your mates." He handed the communication device over. "Push the blue button to start it, sir."
"Methos, message," he yelled, bringing his teacher down from the bedroom. They listened to it together, smiling at the part from Ray. "I guess they can handle it for a month then." He looked around the house. "How are we getting everything up there?"
"In the cargo hold of a ship, sirs," their guard told them.
Oz looked at him. "Will that cost my mate a lot?" The guard shook his head. "Cool. Methos?"
"I'll start with the storage places in Europe, you go to America?"
"You'd do that to me, wouldn't you?"
"You do have friends over there," Methos pointed out. Oz nodded and went to go pack. "Do you wonder what Ray meant by animals?"
"We should probably bring animal food too," Oz suggested. He looked around the house none of them had really liked. "At least we'll be back at the manor house."
"Is that where she put it?" Methos asked, taking the opportunity to sit down.
"She said our final resting spot. It had better be there." Oz sat beside him. "How would we get a Micah portal up there?"
"We let him handle that," Methos suggested. He looked around the apartment. He really hated this building, and the ghost it held. The ghost kept interrupting during sex. "Ready?"
"On three?" Oz suggested.
The guard laughed. "You've got time if you want to take a break," he told them. "I'm sure they're handling it well enough."
"You don't know Xander," Oz told him as he heaved himself up. "He's probably panicking and wondering how he can grow Fritos." He headed to the bedroom to pack. "I'm going to go tell Seth and Spike first."
"At least you won't have to tell Willow," Methos reminded him.
"True," Oz sighed. Willow, their former friend turned vampire, had gotten depressed about sixty years before and had staked herself. They had given her a very nice memorial service back in Sunnydale, the last time the group had been together. Seth and Spike would be really upset, they both liked Xander a lot more than they did most humans. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad, they might know how to get a portal up there so they could visit. Of course, Seth could go into one of his pouting moods and not come out until after everyone was gone too. But with a portal, that would be fixed. That's how he would face them, with the knowledge that they could get a portal up there. Oz smiled at his brilliant plan. He wouldn't get pouted at after all.
Methos watched his favorite student plan on being devious. He knew it wasn't going to work, but he wouldn't shatter the illusion, it would give Oz something to do on the trip to the new world. Like when they had come to America the first time, all Oz thought about was the cat he was leaving behind. This time, it would be vampires, which was stranger, but still something to take his mind off his real worries.
Ray smiled as the supply ship landed, running out to meet it. "Hey," he said, waving at the person in the back. "Xander suggested we put them around here."
Xander strolled up, looking over his new herds of creatures. "Unless you want to build a barn, they're staying here," he told his best friend. Ray pouted at him. "Hey, caves, fresh water access, easy to build pens for. Otherwise, you're building a barn for them." Ray caved at the practicalities. "So, can they all go together for now?"
The supply person came down and handed over a manifest. "They're your animals," he told him. "I only take care of them on a ship." He used a small remote control to open the panels holding the animals back, watching as they strolled off. "You might want to have them checked out before you do anything else." He pointed at one calf that was lying down still in the pen. "That one started to sneeze just after loading." He noticed the panicked look. "Oh, you guys are just starting," he said, nodding. "Okay, got it. Yes, you can probably store them together, but I would probably get someone here who knows about animals before you do any more than separate them out. And you might want to get the males and the females apart soon too." He winked. "Other than that, the caves should be fine for now." He watched as Xander signed the invoice. "You'll be getting the rest of them tonight." He walked back onto the ship and led a small horse out. "Sorry, this one was hiding. She's only a year old and just separated from her mother for the first time." They watched as the sick calf wandered down to chew on some grass.
"She's really small," Ray pointed out. "Can she be ridden?"
"She'll get a little bigger." He patted the filly on the shoulder. "Don't worry, she's more for breeding stock than for riding. You can implant other foals into her to let them gestate." Ray opened his mouth. "You guys really are clueless aren't you?" he laughed.
Xander shrugged. "We got grabbed and put here because I've been refusing to claim this planet. We're from Earth."
The guy laughed harder. "Wonderful. At least you picked a pretty place to go insane." He pointed at the landing spot near the house. "Is that for regular cargo?" Xander nodded. "Okay, let me head over there and offload everything else. There was another ship heading here sending the Imperial code so I'm guessing they're going to tell you everything." He waved and stepped back into the ship, bracing himself as it took off.
Ray counted heads. "I didn't think the list held this many animals," he said quietly.
Xander clapped him on the back. "Have fun building a barn. I'm sure one of the husbands will know how to help you." He strolled back across the small bridge they'd put up to link their home to the animals' island. They'd have to reinforce it soon, but it too could wait. He noticed the large boxes being put onto the landing area. "I have to move them, huh," he said. The handler nodded, smiling at him. "Damn, I hate being sweaty. Is any of that going to spoil if it's not inside soon?" The handler pointed at the stack that had purple dots. "Is there anything in there to *help* me move them, like a forklift?"
The handler smiled and nodded. "There's an atmospheric cart in the back that's coming soon. You can always load it full and bring it down to the house. How's your storage facility?"
"It's inside the house right now," Xander told him. He watched as everything was offloaded in big, heavy crates. He hadn't expected to be doing this much work today. He nearly cheered when he saw the cart. He knew how to operate one of those! He got it ready for liftoff, making sure it ran, then set it back down and started pushing crates onto it. There wasn't any way he was carrying them into the house. He decided to look at one of them, smiling when it contained building materials like what had made the house he had been stranded in so many years ago. Yup, that would help a lot. Those went together with a single tool and probably a brace at first. He could do that much. He lifted off, heading to take the current load to the spot for the temple and then to the house. When he got to the house, all the animals ran away, but he found he couldn't land. He set the cart on hover and jumped down, smiling when he saw the little kitten underneath. "Hey, precious, you can't be there," he told her as he grabbed her and moved her out of the way. He got on, petting her as he landed them. "Now go play while the daddies work." He let her go, watching as she ran for the bushes surrounding the front of the house. Xander got to work heaving crates into one of the empty rooms. He could unpack everything once it was all inside.
Up on the landing spot, the handler shook his head. "Why didn't he break down the crates?" he muttered, finishing with the last of his load. The doors closed and the ship lifted off, making room for the waiting one in orbit.
By the time Xander came out for his third load, another ship was landing. He put the crate down, narrowly missing a ferret and a dog's tail, and went to see who it was this time. Maybe they'd help him heave stuff into the house. He walked up, smiling at the woman standing there looking at all the crates. "Hi, excuse the mess, it's supply day."
She smiled. "I understand, Alexander Harris. I'm here to help you do the rest of it." She shook his hand in the human manner. "Shall we go sit?"
"Well, you can go sit, but I've got to finish heaving this down to the house and unpack the food."
She leaned a little closer. "Break down the crates," she advised. "They're packed full." He looked stunned. "You didn't know that?"
Xander shook his head, looking rather upset. "On Earth, when you get a crate of stuff, that means that someone's packed a lot of stuff in it, but that it's easier to move that way or that it's fragile. Unpacking usually means more work." He scowled at the crates. "If I had known that, I might have packed the cart heavier." He shrugged. "Never mind, I'll go down and push everything off, come get this load, and then we can talk while I put up food. If that's okay?"
She nodded. "That's fine with me. I'll be here for at least a day." She saw another man walk out of the house. "Who's that?"
"Danny Jackson. My student." He waved. "Bring the cart!" he yelled. Danny waved back and finished shoving things off the cart so he could bring it back up. "This may go faster after all," he said with a smile. "You guys don't have more stuff, do you?"
"Only a few things. I believe your engineer has gone to look at the wiring." She pointed at the man who had gotten off right after her and walked away. "You probably won't see him until a meal. And we have the rest of your livestock and supplies."
Xander grinned. "Livestock goes on the next island with Ray. He's working on getting the caves set up until he can build a barn." She laughed. "Hey, fresh water over there, none over here. Plus a large natural cave complex that works for now, and possibly for later." He shrugged. "It's all good to me." He smiled at Danny as he landed. "Want to help me or Ray?"
"What's Ray doing?" Danny asked as he stepped off, looking around at all the crates. "Our supplies?"
"With more coming off this ship," she told him. "Dr. Jackson, it is a delight to finally meet you. I read of your exploits when you found us." She shook his hand. "I must say, you've aged incredibly well."
He shrugged, smiling faintly. "Thanks. It happens." He looked at Xander. "Are the animals on this one?"
"Ray's already got some of them on the next island over. The place we built the bridge to, which by the way works wonderfully. I'm going to be unpacking a lot of stuff and carrying most of it."
Danny smiled. "I'll help you get everything into the house then go help Ray." He turned to look at the crates. "All this?"
"And about two hundred more," she told him. "But I assure you, you can break them down farther to make carrying easier. It's how we usually do it."
Danny sighed, but opened the first crate. He frowned and recovered it. "Let's move them to the house in this form and then unpack from the front lawn, Xander. At least it'll all be down there and you can work easier from that point." Xander nodded, going to help heft some of the crates onto the lift. Danny looked at her. "We only have the one cart?"
"And horses if you'd like to build a sled," Xander added. "Some of them looked like draft horses. Oh, and there's one really small one that the last guy suggested we use as a brood mare for embryos."
"That'd work," Danny agreed. He looked around. "I think we'll work on the sled idea later. This is a steep hill and you'd almost have to build a road." He shoved one of the crates onto the sled. "If you'd like, you can go wait at the house," he told her. "It shouldn't take us too long to get it all down there." She walked away, still smiling. "This is a lot of stuff," Danny noted.
"Yes it is, but we won't run out," Xander pointed out. "Not even toilet paper." Danny chuckled. "See, told you I could make you laugh." He heaved a crate up to start the second row.
"Are you sure you want to do that?"
"More weight. The safety features might not work." He put one up on top, noticing the blinking light. "We've exceeded weight limits." That crate went back onto the ground, along with the last one Xander had put on. The blinking stopped and Danny got on to drive it down to the house. Once there, he tipped the cart and let gravity take its course. Nothing was supposed to be fragile in this load, or food, so it should be all right. He lifted off, going back up for the next load.
The official representative managed to get all the animals away from the crates and inside, closing the door before they could sneak out and possibly get injured. Maybe she should suggested a pulley system from the ridge? But Dr. Jackson surely knew about those sort of things too. She had seen the bridge, which was a copy of a design from the Amazon basin region of Earth. It should hold for quite a while, though they'd never get an animal across it.
Over on the next island, Ray was trying to figure out how to tell which animals were male and which were female without getting too personal. He could tell the bulls from the cows, but unless the other ones peed, he couldn't see the dangly bits well enough. His mouth fell open when one of the horses seemed to unroll its penis to pee. "So that's what that saying means," he muttered, putting a purple ribbon on that one's neck to note it was male.
Xander finished the temple and walked around, putting the little lamps in each cove for each God. He put some of the energy metal in each lamp and lit it, smiling up at the name above the lamp while sending a prayer to them. He left Strife's for last, sending him a long prayer, including one to help Ray milk cows without getting knocked over. Then he went to light the ones for the Gods from off-world that he knew. He had left room to add on in case he was told to, but it was good so far. He had taken a small laser and inscribed everyone's name above their lamps, sometimes with fairly bad handwriting, but it was understandable at least. He turned and found Strife looking at his little cubby. "Sorry it's so small," he said with a grin. "I'm doing the best I can. The big temple comes later."
Strife gave him a hug. "Dude, this rocks. Everyone's happy with you right about now." He tickled him. "How am I supposed to help Ray milk a cow? I can't milk a cow."
Xander giggled. "I thought that since the cow meant mischief that you could help calm the cow down."
Ares appeared, brushing some lint off his leathers. "Well, it's tiny," he said as he looked around. He pointed at the one for Jace. "She's not quite a God either, young man."
"Yeah, but how else is she supposed to get up here?" he pouted.
Ares glared at him. "You could try asking," he suggested dryly. He walked around the temple, nodding. "You've got all of us, and in a politically correct order by hierarchy. I like, it's good." He clapped Xander on the back, making him wobble. "As for Ray, he'll be fine. At least they're not trying to pee into the milk." He smiled at Strife. "So, how's the house?"
"Oh, you didn't see. She found the most perfect spot," Xander said, taking both of them by the hand and leading them outside. "See," he said, pointing. The temple sat on a small rise above the house, overlooking the ocean and the roof.
Strife looked appreciative when he saw the view. "Killer surfing probably."
"Yeah," Xander agreed with a grin. "Tried it out earlier, twenty foot waves for at least three hours a day." He smiled up at Ares. "Is this good for you?"
"It's a wonderful spot," he agreed. He patted Xander on the shoulder. "Excellent spot for the temple too. I'll tell Hecate thank you later, when she's in a better mood."
Hecate appeared, frowning at her nephew. "I'm not in a bad mood." She smiled at Xander. "I'm glad you appreciate the placement, young man."
Xander gave her a shy smile. "I'd hug you but I think you'd probably zap me or something." She held out her arms and he rushed over to give her a hug. "You are so great," he told her. "All you ever have to do is ask and I'll gladly light a bull on fire for you."
She laughed. "I'm sure a flesh offering isn't necessary." She pulled back. "Your other mates are coming up too."
"I can build Giles a hut," Xander agreed. "At least until he not only apologizes but figures out that I'm going to hurt him if he ever cheats again."
She nodded. "That would probably be acceptable." She let him go fully. "Now then, this is a wonderful temple for a beginning. Are you going to add a library to it?"
"If you want," he agreed quickly. "I have no idea how to do that, but sure." She laughed. "Hey, I did good, the walls are straight." Ares started to snicker. "What? I'm delicate guy. I haven't lifted a hammer in close to three hundred years except to hang a painting or pound some metal. Oh, did you like the lamps? I used some of the energy metal so the lamps won't be going out for a very long time."
Strife looked down at Bliss' lamp, then giggled. "That's cute. A small nugget for a thousand years or so." He looked at Ares. "And they're protected now."
"Hopefully," Ares told him. "Remember, they're here because someone wants Xander's land claim and can't take it from him until he's had it for a year."
"Over their dead bodies," Ray said as he walked in. He walked right up to Strife and looked up at him. "Dude, can you please tell the cows to cut it out? Their dancin' is causin' me grief. I swear they're doing it on purpose."
Strife shrugged. "Not a thing to do with it," he told him, raising a hand to swear. "I haven't touched a cow since before Rome became an Empire." He looked at Ares. "Would that be Pan?"
"It might be," Ares agreed. "Hey, Xander, are you going to be putting up portals?"
"One hopefully back to the really big mall and one to the demon planes. I don't know how to get one back to Earth to make it easier on you guys to come visit, but I'm working on it."
Ray smiled at him. "I talked to the demon portal guy earlier. He wanted a sheep in exchange for building one to the demon plane that's the bazar and to the big mall." He looked at Strife. "It's a *huge* moon, hollowed out and turned into one big, honkin' mall. Freakin' huge! And he decides to go wander around, that's how we got caught."
"Nah-uh," Xander complained. "We got caught because a stupid immie decided to challenge me." He tossed his braid back over his shoulder. "Sorry," he said, giving Hecate a smile. "I didn't mean to hit you with it."
She patted him on the back. "That's all right, your hair is quite something else." She fingered the ends of his braid. "Yes, quite soft and luxurious."
"And it's stayin' that way," Strife said with a glare at Xander. "No more cuttin' the hair or I'm gonna come get you and make it grow again."
Xander looked innocent. "I'll try." Strife scowled. "What? It gets in the way sometimes."
Strife pounced him, tickling him fiercely. "Repent," he told him. "No more cuttin' the hair! Say it!"
"I won't cut my hair!" Xander squealed, writhing under Strife's toned body.
"That's bettah," Strife said as he stood up, pushing back some of his own hair that had gotten messed up. "Next time you cut your hair, I'm gonna go grab those evah-growin' scissors again and do both types of hair on your body. Got me here?"
Xander put a hand over his crotch. "Please, not that. I like shaving that."
"I like the feeling of a shaved crotch too," Hecate said with a shrug. She walked around the temples, lighting one that had went out. "There, all better. The one to the Mother over the off- world pantheon was unlit."
Xander sighed. "That one won't stay lit. I had to light it twice earlier. I guess I'm going to have to get a different chunk to put in there." He smoothed back the strands of his hair that had come loose. "Can you see anything that needs to be done?"
Hecate shook her head. "Not a thing. You might put a major altar somewhere close by in case you want to make physical offerings. As for the library, let your mate do it in punishment."
Discord appeared, looking around the small temple. "It's tiny," she told Xander.
He shrugged. "It's the best I can do right now. It was do this or wait another year as I learned how to build a real building."
She shrugged. "Then I like it just fine." She looked around. "Where's my little hole and lamp?" Ares pointed at the one next to his. "Cool. Is that my name?"
Xander blushed. "Sorry, my handwriting isn't always the best."
She laughed. "Hey, it's good enough for me. This is the first temple to me in years. Even Giles only keeps an altar." She sighed. "I guess I'll have to tell him to come build a real altar up here."
"Have him plan to add on a library also," Hecate told her. "Xander, I think this is quite good enough. It gives all of us some strength and a homing beacon for you. It also sets a permanent drain into the ground for our energy, tying us to here as well. Just build a real altar in case you need to make a large offering. But, Discord is right, Giles is better suited to that particular crafting." She smiled at her niece. "Have you seen the views yet?" She got out of the way so Discord could look out a window.
"Wicked," Discord said, watching the waves. "I'm sure we'll be seeing 'Dite soon with her board." She pointed off in the distance. "Is that a mountain range?"
"Yup," Xander said quickly, pulling out the small map he had in his back pocket. "This is the planet we're on. Here's us," he said, pointing at their island. "Here's a large mountain range with gems underneath it. Here's where I'm going to let farmers come in and stay, not only because we won't be alone but also because we can charge a small tithe to cover things like taxes and necessities." He grinned. "It was suggested to us."
"That's fine," Ares told him, taking the map to look at. "Mind if we go look?"
"Hey, build vacation homes," Xander offered. "I like you guys. Just please keep Zeus and Hera from trying to kill us." He nodded when Discord looked at him. "They really don't like me."
She smiled. "They don't like us much either, don't feel bad, kid." She ruffled his hair and strained to see the map. "Got a bigger copy?"
"We've got a 3-D copy at the house," Ray told them. "It's got everything marked so far." The Gods all disappeared. "Wow." He hugged Xander. "I'm not milking a sheep ever again."
"Maybe we can set up an automatic milker soon," Xander soothed. "Once we get full electricity up and running out to the barn you're going to be putting up." Ray scowled. "Hey, you wanted big animals. You take care of the animals." He pinched him on the butt. "But I'll still help you shower when you come in." He strolled away to check on the errant lamp, then went to shave off another piece of the energy metal to put in there. Maybe that would help it stay lit.
Ray shook his head. He couldn't wait for the husbands to get there. Methos and Oz must know *something* about handling animals. They had lived through the times when everyone had to have a farm to survive. They must know something! He walked down to the ocean, going to go for a swim. On the beach, he saw the cutest family. Cupid and Bliss were stretched out enjoying the sun and Aphrodite was teaching Bliss' wife to surf on the sand. He waved at them and waded out, diving right in. The water was a wonderful feeling seventy degrees and there weren't any annoying fish to come nibble on exposed bits around there.
Aphrodite giggled. "Have fun, cutie," she called. She went back to teaching Migrid how to surf.
Oz stepped off the ship and looked around. They had scanned from orbit, and found that their husbands actually seemed to have things well in hand. There was power running to the house, a barn going up on the next island, and a small farm being built on the souther point of the main continent. It didn't lessen the frustration at moving, but it was nice not to walk into automatic problems. He nearly smiled when he saw a naked Xander running toward them, but Methos shoved him out of the way. "They have animals, go wear out some frustration by slaying one for dinner," Oz suggested as he started walking to meet his husband half-way. He picked Xander up, swinging him around. "This had better be the final move," he warned before taking a kiss.
Xander tipped them over into the tall grass, kissing his husband deeply. "You're right, it will be."
Methos shook his head as he looked around. "Ray?" he called.
"Barn!" Xander called between kisses. "Building it." He squeaked. "Oz!" He smacked the firm chest. "All the lube's at the house."
Methos shook his head and headed for the bridge they had seen from orbit. He found Ray walking carefully across it so he waited at the end, arms crossed, watching his mate as he moved. Ray was limping.
"It was a cow, they're evil," Ray told him as soon as he was all the way across. He hugged his husband gently. "Can you milk a cow?"
Methos shuddered. "Why do you have to have cows?"
"And sheep, horses, a few off-world type animals, and a barn that's frustrating me," Ray finished with a grin. "Cool, huh?"
Methos shook his head. "If you say so. Farming is not a way of life that I particularly enjoyed."
"Hey, you can always help Xander add on to the temple." Ray stole a kiss. "Come see my horses? I begged very nicely and Xander gave them to me."
Methos allowed himself to be dragged across the surprisingly sturdy rope bridge to go look at the horses. He would do nearly anything for Ray, even milk another cow.
Xander looked around at his island, his paradise, his sanctuary. It was nearly perfect, if only the wind would blow *the other way* from the barn. He giggled at his thoughts; they weren't so bad, once you got used to the snot and the mess they created. He looked up as a ship started to land, frowning at the registry. It wasn't anyone they knew. "Oz? Incoming!" he yelled. Methos joined him on the front stoop. "Do you know them?"
"Not a clue," Methos told him, putting an arm around Xander's shoulder. He looked at the people walking off the ship. "Farmers?" he guessed.
Xander shrugged and walked up with his lover. "Hey," Xander said, waving. "Who're you?"
The man who had walked off first smiled at him. "Didn't you put a call out for farmers?" Xander nodded. "That's us. Thirteen families, all ready to set up by ourselves."
Xander grinned. "That's so cool. Okay, let's go look at the map. I've already got probable land boundaries drawn up." He nodded back at the house. "Besides, we're presently roasting a cow and we won't eat all of it." He and Methos strolled back to the house. "Isn't that neat?"
Methos smiled at him. "I'm sure you're enjoying being the feudal lord," Methos agreed. This life suited Xander. He was more relaxed and playful than he had been since the aliens had been met. If only they didn't have to deal with the animals themselves. He hated milking animals. Though, Xander had suggested that they import a milking system from Earth. He opened the door, letting the farmers walk in first. "Oz, visitors," he called. "Put on clothes."
The head farmer laughed. "We don't mind. Being one with the land is great. A few of our girls might hit on them, but as long as you're fine with it so are we."
"We're gay," Xander told him. "All four of us."
"I'm not quite sure where I fit, I prefer a person instead of their genitals," Daniel told him as they walked out onto the back porch. "Oz went to put on an apron." He shook hands. "The map's behind you on the wall. The red boundaries set out a ten or fifteen acre tract. We laid it out with the engineer who has the first farm. He also set up the irrigation system where needed." He pulled Xander down and dropped a towel in his lap. "They've got kids," he explained when he got pouted at. "Ray's out talking with the portal guy."
"Cool. Then we won't have to pay major shipping charges for ships," Xander agreed. He waved at the map. "Does that suit you guys?"
"It seems fine, but we'll have to look at the land."
"We've got one environmentally friendly flying cart that you can borrow. We've got another one on order for your community. And you won't even have to see us except at harvest times."
The lead farmer smiled at him. "You're satisfied to live over here?"
"I like the peace and quiet," Xander told him. "And if I need excitement, I'll be able to go to the mall soon."
The lead farmer nodded. "Okay with us then." He pointed at the temple. "Are we expected to worship with you?" Xander shook his head. "If I may ask?"
"I worship the Greek pantheon, and a few of the off-world pantheon that we first ran into. If you wanted to set up your own shrines, I don't care as long as you're not zealots and you don't bother us with it."
"No, we won't force our faith on you," the leader farmer agreed. "Our faith is our own. We've got enough within our community to worship as we please."
Daniel handed over a copy of the laws he had been working on. "This is the preliminary copy of the laws as we have them so far. Pretty standard, put in plain English, and you'll see that they follow the American system mostly."
"You'll notice that there's no place for prisons," Oz said as he walked out wearing a pair of shorts. Xander gave him a smile. "Couldn't find my apron, must still be packed." He walked over to the barbeque pit he had dug. "For serious offenses, we talked with the Space Marines and they'll be handling them. For minor things, we've set up annoying and embarrassing penance." He looked at the farmers. "As for education, you'll be setting that up on your own and responsible for holding that up too."
The farmers gathered around to read it, generally agreeing. One apparently didn't like something and he left the group to go back to the ship. The rest of them held a small conference, then told their leader something. "I think we can agree to that," he said cautiously. "You're not going to suddenly add things?"
"Only if they become necessary," Xander told him with a small smile. "Guys, I'm a pampered and spoiled love slave. I'm not going to do more work than I have to." A few of the wives laughed. "So, no, that's about it. We decided to put everything forward at once so you could make an informed decision. We're not mean, not cruel, and not out to get everything that you've worked for. We just want to live in peace and be happy. If you can live with that, then it's all good to us. That's our contract on the back, and our rules are pretty simple so far. We don't see any use of putting up more barriers. You guys get to live your lives with very little interference. We get to live our lives of luxury and splendor without being barged in upon and having to do more than take care of the animals. Your fees will solve all the fees with a little expense on our part for now, you guys get to keep more than enough to make a profit yourselves. We get to run around naked and have orgies whenever we want to and you guys don't have to watch," he finished with a smile. One wife burst out laughing. "That's what we want. If you can handle it and don't turn out to be a funky cult that kills people for their God, then we're all good. Sign and we'll show you the lands."
The farmers all laughed. "Have you ever seen such a cult?" Xander and Oz both nodded. "Really?" their leader asked. Xander nodded again. "Where?"
"Oh." They looked at the rest of the group, then shrugged and nodded. "Let us go see the land, make sure it's fertile."
"Deal. The cart's out by the barn. Please don't ding it, I've only recently gotten it back together again" Methos told him. He watched as they walked out to go look at the lands, taking the map with them. "Do you think we'll have more problems?"
"Probably not. It's a pretty simple plan that works well with few people involved," Oz told him. "The feudal system worked as long as the taxes weren't too high and the Lord wasn't an asshole. We can do that." He smiled at Xander. "Did you mix that rub?" Xander nodded, giving him a happy look. "You're really satisfied with this life?"
"I like it so far," Xander told him.
"Then it's cool. We'll start to unpack stuff later tonight." Methos glared at him. "What? Most of it's your stuff."
"I'm sure we'll be adding a storage building soon if we decide to unpack everything."
"We might want to put a small shack up anyway," Xander noted. "They're bringing Giles up here."
"Oh, crap," Methos sighed. Xander gave him a hug. "Are we expecting a miracle reunion?"
"No, but Discord and Hecate said he could help build the library onto the temple. I told them I'd think about forgiving him when he put forward a real apology and learned that I'd kill him the next time."
A new goddess appeared, one that most of them didn't know. "Hestia," Oz said with a nod. "Here to push for a reconciliation or just to check out the view and the house?" He cut off some of the cooked cow and held out the plate. "First meat?"
She smiled at him, taking the plate. "Thank you, Oz." She sat down, looking at the other men. "I do have to say that this is a nice place, though it would be better if there was harmony in the home." She nibbled on the meat, smiling at Oz. "Still quite the cook."
He nodded. "I have to be, only Methos cooks among the four of us."
"Five," she corrected.
"He cheated on us," Xander told her. "If he had asked, we might have given him permission, but he went behind our back with one of our friends, who we don't speak with often either, and used professionals to wear out his excess energy. I gotta say, I'm still pissed."
Hestia sighed. "I understand that what he did hurt you badly, Xander, but he does deserve another chance. He's followed all your wishes since that affair."
Xander slumped a little. "I'll listen to him, but I'm not allowing him back into my bed yet. I'm not ready to deal with more than a mental relationship with him." She nodded. "That's okay with you?"
"As long as you truly listen to him. He is very sorry. He even sent me an hour-long prayer hoping for a reconciliation." She handed the plate back to Oz while she stood, then took it back again. "Thank you for the wonderful dinner. I believe I'll share it with Strife, he's been such a naughty boy recently." She smiled and disappeared, taking the plate with her.
Oz looked over at Xander. "A mental relationship?"
"Doing the talking thing."
"Ah." Oz nodded, turning back to baste some more of the meat. "Some of it's done."
Methos stood up to get some for he and Xander.
Ray looked at the big human-looking demon. If he hadn't been light orange, he might have passed for a Schwarzenegger clone. Well, except for the nerdly glasses. Thick black frames adorned his light orange face. "So, can we do this here?" he asked, pointing at the natural round opening to a small, dead-end cave.
The portal maker looked around the opening. "This would be a wonderful place," he squeaked. "Directly tied into the earth to ground the energy. Small working area. Nothing that could come from the back."
"Yeah, we're going to fill it in and stuff," Ray told him. "It won't be active all the time, right?"
"Nah," the demon told him, smiling. "I'll put in a keystone to activate it. One to the demon bazar, so the heir can get to wherever he wants to go, and one to the mall up here, which I've got to say blew my mind. I've never seen a shopping mall that big." He opened a book and took out a stylus, working on the portal. "We're going to need a large gemstone of jewelry quality." He looked at Ray. "That shouldn't be a problem, but we'll need one at least of a hundred carats." Ray nodded. "And I can set it up right here, tying it into the normal portals that both areas have up."
Ray nodded. "Cool. I'll go tell Xander and we'll be right back with it."
"It'll take me a few hours. Don't rush, you have time to snog." He grinned and went back to his equation.
Ray mounted his horse and rode off, heading back to the barn and then the house. "We can get to both portals," he said as he walked through the house. "The guy can add us to both portal systems."
"Cool," Xander said with a smile. "Will it cost us anything?" Ray shrugged.
"We should probably check," Methos pointed out, pulling his Ray down to hug.
"I'll do it," Oz said, heading in to use the new communication gear that their engineer had set up first thing. "Hey," he said the person who answered. "I need to talk to someone about us setting up a portal to you guys and the cost of it?"
Oz walked out a few minutes later. "Well, bad news is that we'll owe money, but the good news is that it's about the same cost as ship's passage for a single trip one way." He cleared his throat to break up the kissing. "It'll be enough, but not a lot."
"Cool," Xander breathed, running a hand down Methos' stomach. "Hurry back?" he suggested with a grin.
"We'll need a hundred carat or bigger stone," Ray told them. "It'll be a switching key."
"We can do that too," Oz agreed, looking at Xander. "Your private stash is where?"
"I'll get it," Xander sighed, climbing off his buddies of fun to walk into the house. He chose the stone carefully, going with a large rose quartz someone had given him a long time ago. "Use this if possible, if not, use this," he said, handing over a large diamond. "If they won't work, have him come look himself."
Oz nodded as he walked out, going to hike to the portal site. He didn't want to go through the bother of saddling a horse to go this time. When he got there, he held out the rose quartz. "Or you can have this one." He held up the diamond.
"The quartz, it's more connected to the earth and you've got a good crop of it around here." He held the diamond. "That's really pretty, can you get him to make something out of it?" He drew one last symbol and stepped back as the portal opened onto the demon bazar. He set the stone into the side of the cave, next to the portal, and waved a hand over it. "Okay, one touch, the demon bazar, the second touch, the mall." He changed it by poking the center of the stone twice. It changed to the mall, and a guard standing there. Oz tossed over the diamond. "Hefty price," the demon sighed.
"It's actually the same as passage on a ship to get there, one way," Oz told him. He looked at the human on the other side. "That okay enough for the next few years passage?"
The alien holding the stone nodded. "More than. We'll send you an account of how long this will buy you. Thank you, Mr. Osbourne." The portal closed.
"Wow," the demon told him. "Way cool that everyone knows you." He closed his book. "I'm all done here. My fee?" Oz looked confused. "A sheep, man, I want me some lamb tonight." He grinned brightly, showing off his teeth.
"Go for it, I hate those beasts," Oz told him. "It's one less Ray and I have to milk."
The demon laughed, teleporting away. He came back a moment later carrying a very fluffy sheep. "Thanks, man. You've got a really nice herd going." He winked and opened the portal to the demon plane, heading across it quickly. "Laters and all that." The portal closed.
Oz turned and walked back to the house. Everything would be fine now that Xander could escape and go shop.
It was their one year anniversary and everyone was slightly high on the local champagne. It was really good, but pretty strong. One of the most profitable exports so far. Methos poured a little more into Ray's glass, finishing off the bottle. "We'll need another," he complained.
"We've got another two downstairs," Xander told him as he sipped from his glass. "I'm happy," he said, turning to look at Oz. "Are you happy?"
"Happy enough," Oz agreed. "I can't think of many things that would make me happier."
Xander wrapped himself around Oz's body. "I'm getting you an automatic milking system with this year's profits," he whispered in his husband's ear.
"Then I'm ecstatic and there's nothing that'll pull me from this planet," Oz said dryly. He nibbled on the tempting neck. "Wanna go have some private fun?"
Above them, a ship landed. A woman walked out, smiling and waving at them. "I'm here to take over," she called.
Xander pulled Ray's gun, he used it to scare off local predators from his herds, and pointed it at her. "You're not getting our planet!" he called. "Go away before we hurt you!" He giggled. "And I'm an *excellent* shot."
Ray nodded. "It took him a while to learn, but he is a crack shot." He looked her over. "Isn't that the bitch who kidnaped us from the mall?"
Daniel looked up from his seat on the lounger he had drug out. "Yup." He stood up, taking his sword out from under the chair, and walked up to her. "We're not signing anything over to you, and we're not leaving." He smiled. "Go away before one of us gets violent."
"Surely you don't think this life suits you," she said scornfully.
Danny shrugged. "I like it. They like it. You're dead in about thirty seconds. Leave." She started to pull something and he took her hand off. "I tried to tell you." Men rushed out of the ship.
Xander sprinted over, allowing himself to be grabbed, but he fought back. The men were soon groaning. "Put her in with the animals," he told them. "I'm calling someone." He walked unsteadily to the house. "And fuck with the ship, Ray." Ray had a talent for making advanced equipment not work. He had tried to fix the cart and it was still in pieces. Xander dialed the local division of the Space Marines, smiling at the man who answered. "You were right, they tried. One's missing a hand, a lot of them are in pain, and we're putting them into a smelly and dirty cave. Would you like them or can we make them sacrifices to our God of War? I'm sure he'll appreciate making them suffer too."
The Marine laughed. "We'll be over tomorrow. Make sure none of them die." He signed off.
Xander turned and grinned drunkenly at Methos as he walked in. "They'll come for them tomorrow." Methos handed over a paper. "What's this?"
"Part of the forms you signed. It gives them the right to come offer you a way out, as it so blandly says," he told him. He gave his lover a hug. "But we'll fix it."
"We warned them," Danny said as he walked in. "They should have listened. They're in the cave." He smiled at the cute twosome. "Are you two going to have sex? I only need to know if I should hide."
Xander looked up at Methos, who nodded. "Yup, but we'll probably lean toward a comfy resting spot. Have fun with your ruin rubbings." He led Methos into the living room and pushed him onto a sofa. "I want some of this," he said as he slid down the equally naked body. He was still lubed from earlier and it was all good.