Blair looked at his friend and grimaced. "Truth man, how bad do they need you?"
"Both individually and as a couple." Philip held up a long fingered, bony hand. "And yes, I heard about that concern too. Xander, now would be a good time to tell him that part."
"Oz, I, um, I do like you. In that way." He played with the hem of his t-shirt. "I know you don't like guys but that's a big part of me and I need you to accept it." He looked up, seeing the small nod. "You're okay with that?"
"Yeah, I saw the drawings. You seemed to draw from experience for the rest so I figured that one was too." He got a small nod from Blair. "If you're okay with me not going that way, I'm okay with you going both." His Sentinel sighed in relief, slouching in his chair.
"None of that," Philip said as he passed Blair a few prescriptions. He leaned his muscular, ebony body back in his chair, flicking a piece of lint off his clothes. "You two are about the most mismatched pair in the world," he said slowly, thinking as he went. "If you're keeping it this way, you need to work on finding a middle ground." He looked at Oz. "This is your area. Xander's is staying stable enough, long enough, to let it happen. Do we have a complete understanding here?" They both nodded, staying silent. "Good. Blair, I want them back here once a week, hear me?" That got him a small smile. "We'll do half an hour with each one or a full one together. And both you and Jim will have to come in for some sessions."
Blair shrugged. "Not the first time I've seen you professionally." He grinned at Jim. "And maybe you could iron out his quirks."
"Cleanliness isn't a quirk, it's a wonderful way of life." The Psychiatrist gave him a disbelieving look. "It is," Jim defended. "I can control my environment even when my senses go out of control. Plus, the less dust and clutter around, the less sensory input I have to put up with at home." Blair shook his head and rolled his eyes. "Mr. I-leave-my-things-all-over-the-place may not see it that way but it's true."
Doctor Philip Waters smiled at them. "I'm sure it is, Jim, but I'd like to talk to you about that." Blair silently cheered. "And Blair about his notions of anti-cleanliness." He wiped a bead of sweat off his bald head.
"Hey, I'm just busy. Remember, I teach and Chair a department as well as teach those two and Guide Jim. My life it too busy for more than a scientifically organized mess." He smiled at his former undergrad roommate. "But you probably remember me like that, right Phil?"
"Blair, I remember much more than you think I do." Philip turned to look at the two younger men again. "So, we're split up in mixed pairs? Xander lives with Blair and Oz with Jim?" The boys nodded. "Okay, and we have group activities planned where the Sentinels can get together and the Guides can complain about them?" Blair nodded. "Good idea. Blair, since Xander's living with you, and I know you have almost as many Psychology courses as I do under your belt, I want you to monitor his emotional health. You were right about this being a big change for him and he's not dealing well but I think some tender parent or mentor caring is the best of all ideas for his continued growth. Jim, since Oz is living with you and you both seem to want to repress things, you two can work out the talking-about-your-feelings stuff together. These two will need a much closer bond than you and Blair had, at least for a little while, and they're both going to have to bend without breaking." Both boys nodded again. "Okay, one last thing. Oz, what was this special thing Blair said you had a concern about." Blair got shot a dirty look by *both* young men. "Hey, I can't help if you don't tell me things. No more secrets from the shrink."
Oz pulled his bottle of tranqs out of his jacket pocket, tossing them over. "I use these when I change so I don't go on rampages and eat the city," he said quietly.
Philip looked at the bottle then at the young man in question. "This should be enough to kill you. Change how?" He set the bottle in the middle of his blotter. "Like forms or like personalities?"
"Like forms," Xander said, patting his friend's arm. "Like turns furry and howling sort." Philip gave him a look that said he was starting to doubt his sanity. "Sorry, I've accepted it, I've known since that first month."
Oz nodded, sighing and slouching in the chair. "That's all I could find that works. Of course I spend all three nights curled up asleep but at least I'm not out eating kids."
"Or puppies," Xander said with a small grin.
Oz slapped him on the arm. "Or puppies," he agreed with a groan. "Too much humour in the world from you lips." His Guideling blushed. "Good, I'm glad you agree."
Philip picked up his phone, hitting the button marked 'brother-in-law'. "Hey, it's Philip, is he in?" he asked quietly, looking over Oz before leaning back again. "Okay, well, just hold the phone up to his ear if you can." He tapped his fingers a few times. "Hey, it's me. Yeah, it's an emergency. I know you've handled strange stuff in the past, what about shape-changers?" He smiled and nodded, picking up the bottle of medicine Oz had tossed at him. "No, one of my patients is and the tranq he's taking is about three times the dose that should kill him." He shook his head. "No, I don't know what to give him." He smiled and reached for a pad. "Tng?" he asked as he wrote. "Okay, yup, got it. Thanks." He hung up, handing Blair the other prescription. "This new stuff will knock you out fully but it's not going to be as harmful to your body or as strong to your system." He looked at Xander. "You are *not* to take his medicine again, do you understand me?" He got a small, embarrassed nod and light blush. "Good. Blair has two prescriptions for you, one to help your nerves until you can get through all this change stuff that's wrecking you, and one to put you down when you need it. And yes, Blair, I'm well aware that you're using herbal medicine on him. Neither of those should react with anything you might give him."
Philip clapped his hands as he sat up, resting his arms and most of his upper body weight on the desk again. "Now then, for an official prognosis. Xander's lost everything in his life recently, including his self-identity; he's basically in extreme grief complicated by all the stuff between he and Oz. Oz is still torn over something that happened and his internalizing it has created this hard shell he's going to have to break through if he's going to Guide Xander. Blair, you seem to have things well in hand but I want you to monitor them more closely, talk *with* Oz instead of down to him, nudge Xander without fathering him or pushing him. You'll make a hell of a parent but Jim's your baby, not Xander." Blair nodded, frowning. "Good, now for the other stuff, the easy stuff. Eat something, Xander," Philip said slowly, enunciating each word clearly. "I know your taste buds are hurting whenever you try but you've got to start getting more food down you. I'm putting Oz in charge of finding creative ways of distracting your senses while you eat but you have to do more of it. What we talked about when we were alone was very frightening to me. Can you handle that?" He got a small nod from the man in question. "That's all I want you to do until you see me again. Eat and rest. Think if you have to but mostly get the munchies and sleep."
Oz held up a hand, glancing at the former detective. "Um, munchies practically or mentally?"
The doctor smiled. "I'm not sure if that would work for him but I am sure Jim would throw fits if you smoked it around him. Good idea though, it's worth thinking about. Good start to your job, young man." Philip looked at Jim. "Could you not throw a fit if that's the only way they could do that?"
"I don't want it in my house," Jim said quietly, rubbing his eyebrow. "Not in Blair's either. I'm sensitive enough to have gagged when Blair hugged someone who had been smoking pot earlier in the day." He looked at Oz. "If there's no other way, just tell me. Deal?"
"Yup." Oz looked at Blair. "You'll *help* me do my job?"
"Yeah, Oz, that's not a big thing for me to do," Blair said quietly. "Just yell or something when I get too parental." He stood up, walking around to kiss Philip's cheek. "What about the other stuff I'm sure you guys talked about?"
"He's not ready for more than fun and games, Blair," Philip said softly, rubbing over his former roommate's back. "Use going out as an incentive." He smiled. "I still wish we could have worked our problems out. You need someone to take care of."
"Yeah," Blair said with a small grin, "and Jim's just not living up to my requirements." He smiled at his partner. "We'll just have to get him to give me nieces or something."
"Or start dating again," Philip told his friend. Blair frowned at him. "You've always worked yourself too hard, now it's time to give yourself a life again. I want you to start dating again. Real dating not the quickies I've heard you've been doing again." He smiled, patting his friend's butt. "I'd ask you out but my wife would kill me." He turned his head to look at the young pairing. "Neither of you should be considering doing more than having fun. Give yourselves some time to grow back together before introducing something so separating as people between you."
"Can I, um..." Xander started, blushing. He got a small nod and an even tinier smile from Blair. "Okay. Thanks." He stood up, stretching. "Can we go make me lounge around?"
"Yup," Blair said, moving away from Philip's luscious body. "And if you're good for Oz then you and I can go out on Saturday, how's that?" He got a small smile so gave one back. "Okay you two, down to the car. Jim sit." He waited until they were alone. "What about the other concern?"
"I wouldn't do anything. They'll work it out, same as you and Jim did. They're very different but they play well off each other. Give them some time. They're not bonding that strongly yet so if it becomes necessary, you can still wean him." He patted his former roommate's butt again, stroking just a little. "Now get those prescriptions filled then go have fun. That's an order," Philip told them, smiling.
Jim walked Blair out of the office, pulling his keys out of his pocket. "What are we doing tonight?"
Blair looked at his watch. "Well, I have class in an hour, man, so you've got them tonight. Feed them, put them on a couch in front of a tv and go talk to Simon. We're still going to go to the picnic so go see what we need to bring or something." He smiled as he saw the pair leaning against the side of his car. "Sorry guys, forgot Jim had the keys." He waited until they were inside to turn around and talk to the boys. "I'm still going to introduce you both to Darryl this weekend, I think you could both use a friend and he definitely could. No pressure to make him Xander's Guide but friends are people you can talk to when you don't feel comfortable complaining about us to our faces. Deal?"
"Very," Xander said leaning forward. "Should I help do anything tonight? I heard your plan so I can fix supper."
"Nope," Jim said, pulling out onto the street. "You're just to enjoy some comfortable silence." He drove toward the pharmacy they used, the big sign visible down the street. "Blair, put the drugs on your account this time. I didn't bring my card."
"Jim I never put them under my health coverage." He turned his head to look at the boys in the back then turned back to his Sentinel. "We'll say they're up here visiting and it's an emergency thing."
"And we'll put them on our insurance in the morning," Jim finished with a small smile. "Out you go." He turned off the engine and turned to look at Oz, who was holding Xander's head against his shoulder, petting him gently. "Doing good so far," he said quietly. He got a small nod. "You'll be okay if you learn to talk to each other, that's what wrecked Blair and I every time, I didn't learn how to share what I was holding in."
"Jim, I killed someone," Oz said quietly. He saw the frown so went on. "In wolf form. She, the other werewolf, had tried to claim me and when that didn't work, she went after my girlfriend. I ripped her throat out with my teeth. And it felt good." He looked down, brushing through his Guideling's dark hair some more. "That's why I walked away from everyone, I needed to fix the wolf."
"So we'll work on that," Jim said softly. "I have a Ranger that could talk to your wolf and understand. He did some pretty bad things in the service that I couldn't do. He's never been shown to Blair but he knows he's in there. We'll talk," he said when he heard Blair's heartbeat coming closer. "What sort of take out do you guys want tonight?"
"Chinese. He likes it and it has vegetables he doesn't mind." Oz reached across the gulf and patted the older man's arm. "Thanks. I know this is hard to watch us fight."
"Not as much as it was the first time when I used to watch Blair and I do it." He turned around as Blair got in. "We ready, Chief?"
"Yup, got all sorts of good drugs for the boys and we'll all live happily ever after." He nodded at the open window. "Don't worry, Oz, we're training you to take over our jobs so we can retire to somewhere warm. No snow, sort of warm place. Maybe a few days of rain annually." He looked at his Sentinel. "I'm not moving to the Rainforest in my old age, Jim, get over it."
"But, Sandburg, the tribe said we could come live with them when we were down there last time." "Jim, no. I'm going to go somewhere to relax. No more fighting to survive, no more snow, and no lack of warmth." He smiled, patting the older man's arm. "We'll just have to work you up to moving to a warm, comfortable place."
"If you say so," Jim said with a small smile in the rearview mirror at the younger Guide. "Take lessons in finessing what you want from someone, Oz, this guy's got everyone eating out of his hand."
"Except the President of the college, she who needs a muzzle." Blair leaned back, closing his eyes. "Wake me when we get home. I'll just go directly to class."
"We, Chief, we. I'm in that one too."
"Gee, I thought you had dropped all the classes you had under me. You never show up," Blair said snidely. He looked over his shoulder at the pair in the backseat. "You guys doing okay?" Oz nodded. "Okay, we'll just drop you off at the apartments and then head to class. I'm sure some people will be amazed that Jim's still living." His Sentinel grunted. "Even if now I can't find a thing in my office."
Jim grinned. "Yes you can, just look things up alphabetically."
"They were that way before," Blair said sweetly, a clear sign that Jim usually ignored and paid for.
"By what alphabet?" Jim asked, just the same as usual. "By tribe? I don't think so. By culture or referenced author? Not even close." He winced as an airhorn went off in the car, pulled from Blair's pocket. "Hey, easy. Xander needs to sleep."
Oz pulled something Blair had given him out of his pocket, pushing the button once, quickly. Jim winced and glared at him in the rearview mirror.
"Don't *do* that!" Xander said as he sat up. "I was having this nice dream about beaches and you guys set off noisy things." He saw Blair's smile. "What?" he asked warily.
"Nothing," Blair said. "Just wondering if that would work to bring you out of a zone."
"I thought the Guide's voice was supposed to do that," Jim said. "Yours does."
"Oz has been having some problems with bringing Xander out so I gave him a sound generator. It broadcasts just lower than a dog whistle, something you both can hear, and its irritation could augment or replace his own voice when they're separated." Blair looked over his shoulder. "We'll do a controlled experiment this weekend." Both Sentinels groaned. "Don't even think about going out on this one, boys, you're all mine." He chuckled evilly.
Xander turned to his Guide and gave him his best pitiful look. "Oz, aren't you supposed to protect me from mad scientists?" Oz just held out his arms, letting him back into the protected space.
Xander looked up from his pampered position on the couch as Oz handed him a plate. "No sauce?"
"I ordered the low fat version, the sauce is on the side." He handed over a small container of sauce. "Put as much as you want on it." He watched the younger man pour, his tongue between his teeth as he made it pretty, then took the container of sauce back. "So, what did you pick out to watch?" He looked at the screen. "Chick flicks?"
"Just for the next ten minutes, then it's a good action show." Xander ate slowly, curling up on himself as he tried to contain the taste spike. He glanced at his Guide, seeing him watching him. "S'hot," he explained, eating another bite.
"Lean on me, let's see if the Jim touchy-feely method works for you." He shifted so the younger man could lean against his side. Xander hesitantly moved to sit next to him, then relaxed suddenly, almost lying on his shoulder as he ate. "Better?"
"Spike stopped," the younger man said between bites. "This okay?" he asked, starting to sit back up after a few minutes.
"Fine, I just need to shift some so I can eat too. I can't balance the plate like this."
"I saw a tray table. I'll get it for you."
"That thing is worse than thin air, Xan, it's wobbly." He caught his plate as it was about to tip, sitting up and pushing the younger man back a few inches. "Give me a few minutes to eat first then you can lean on me again, okay?" He got a small nod, his Sentinel embarrassed by the look he was giving the carpet. He ate the contents of his plate quickly and leaned back so Xander could get comfortable again, expecting him to back against him like a magnet. "It's okay," he said quietly, soothing the younger man. "I just couldn't eat and let you lay on me like that, now we can go back to it." The younger man still didn't move so Oz sat up, looking him over, seeing the relaxed tension that said he was zoning again.
"Oh, crap. Xander," he called softly, rubbing an exposed arm with one hand as he took the plate with the other. "Come on, time to come back to the here and now again. Come on, no more free time in your head or Blair will kill me." He leaned a little closer, grabbing his keys from the table. "Come on, don't make me set this thing off, Xan, I'm sure Jim will be able to hear it across the city." He brushed through the dark hair, noting a new scar he didn't remember feeling earlier. "Hey, come back now." He nudged his Sentinel a little harder. "Come on, this doesn't work so well when you're out of it. I can't talk to myself, I look funny." The younger man snorted, looking at him. "Hey, what were you focusing on?"
"The carpet," Xander said quietly, leaning back against the couch. "How long was I under?"
"A few minutes. Long enough to make me really worried that I couldn't bring you out." He handed back the plate and leaned against the younger man, getting comfortable on his side. "Eat, doctor's orders."
"Not hungry," Xander said, trying to put down the plate.
"I know, but you gotta, it's necessary for life." Oz looked up, seeing the small worried look. "I just couldn't balance both, it wasn't a rejection," he whispered, rubbing over a tense leg. "I won't do that, I promise."
"I know, but I still have that worry." Xander succeeded in putting down his plate. "Oz, I have to be worried here. This is all new to me. I've lost everything I thought was me and now I don't know what to cling to." He looked down, brushing through the red hair. "I can't cling to you like that, it's not fair to either of us, but I don't know where to put down my roots."
"Tumbleweed," Oz explained.
"Yeah, like that. Only I'm not going to run into a place any time soon that I can put my roots down in. I'm a tumbleweed on a really choppy ocean and there's no land even in sight." He closed his eyes, feeling the soothing hand start rubbing his leg again. "Don't do that, Oz, it's not good."
"It is if it's calming."
"But it's not. My body's screaming for comfort and you're making it more apparent that I don't have a comforting body to cuddle next to." Xander sighed. "I don't know how to deal with that feeling either."
"You can cuddle, just nothing else, if it would help. But I'm sure you'll find a nice person to cuddle and more soon, then you won't need me as much."
"Oz, you're my Guide, I'll always need you. Jim and Blair made real sure I had that fact memorized." He looked down at his friend. "What do I do now?"
"Now, we talk about it." Oz sat up, turning off the tv and adjusting to look at his Guideling. "I know that you feel really unsupported here, that I'm not the person you need to stand under you and be there. I'm not going to be able to fulfil all your needs and it's a good thing that you realize this too, but I'll support you in any relationship you create for yourself as long as it's healthy."
"Oz, you won't. You'll get freaked if I start seriously dating a guy." The other man shook his head. "Yeah, you will. You'd have to be. Not jealous but definitely freaked." Xander popped a shoulder then grinned at the grossed out face he got. "Sorry, it got loosened last year in a tug of war over me."
"Ah, okay." Oz looked him over. "Do you want me to be some sort of date monitor? Someone who helps you select a person to see seriously? 'Cause I'm not too good at that. Tried that for Devon one summer and I sucked badly. All the people he liked I didn't."
"Well, Devon needed interesting people but I think I'd need to find one that's real understanding and careful of me." He turned his head as he heard footsteps outside. "Not Blair or Jim." He got up, walking over to answer the hesitant knock. On the other side of the door stood the most handsome young man Xander had ever seen, just taller than him, very muscular. A man he'd seen in a picture beside Jim's bed. "Darryl, right?" he asked with a smile, waving him in. "Hi, I'm Xander and this is Oz, Blair said you were going to meet us this weekend."
The young man walked in, smoothing his short black curls back. "Are they here?"
"At class," Oz said. He waved at the chair. "Come on in, Xander's right, they did mention wanting us to meet you."
Darryl smiled, sitting down in the chair. "Yeah, Jim called my dad and said he and Blair had been given a new pair to help. So which one of you's which?" He looked at Xander, who was still looking over him from the doorway. "Never mind, you must be the Guide," he said with a small smile for Oz. "Close the door before the cat gets out."
"She's at Jim's," Xander said, walking over with an extra can of soda, which he handed over. "There's still some food left if you want some," he offered. He sat down and looked over this new man. "So, do I need to page them or is this a social visit?"
"Both but not really." Darryl sipped at his soda. "Go ahead and eat, Xander, I'm not going to be insulted." He smiled at Oz. "Handful?"
"Very, but we're working it out. I can page Jim if you want," Oz said, checking his watch. "It's almost time for a break."
"Nah, the Sentinel I pulled out of a zone earlier is safely at my house being guarded by my father." He shrugged. "She's a cousin-in-law, ran into her at a family thing earlier and dad pointed her out to me when she zoned. Need to get her hooked into the system Blair has going." Darryl smiled at Xander again. "So, how long?"
"Almost a month," he said softly, putting down his empty plate. "I was one of those people that Blair got called away to look at in California." He swallowed hard, not saying anything as Oz put a hand onto his back to help him calm his sense of taste down again so the food stayed down. "Sorry," he said, leaning back and closing his eyes.
"How many?" Darryl asked Oz, handing over a roll of peppermint lifesavers. "Worked on Tony really well." He watched the new Guide pop one into his Sentinel's mouth and smiled as the young man automatically sucked on it and sighed as the nausea went away again. "Strong but calming tastes work best. Peppermint, spearmint. Things like that." He got up, moving to sit behind Oz. "So, Dad said you guys had a few specific problems that I might help with?" He looked again at Xander, his eyes making clear he was asking permission. The other Guide nodded, smiling slightly. "So, Xander, do you club?"
"Yeah," he said softly, smiling. He had caught the look too. "Blair promised to take me Saturday if I was good." He smiled at Oz. "Ask and you shall receive?"
Oz chuckled, getting out of their way. "Hey, works for me." He took the chair Darryl had been sitting in. "I approve as long as he's not going to steal you totally from me." Darryl looked startled. "I meant the bond thingy, not that. I'm not."
Xander held up a hand. "I am," he said happily and received a kiss for it.
"Darryl, no sucking face on the couch, I taught you better than that," Blair said as he walked in.
"Call dad," the dark skinned young man said between kisses.
"Oh, quit, some of us don't want to see that," Jim joked as he walked in. He patted Oz's shoulder as he passed by. "Where's the cat?"
"You bed," Xander said when he came up for air again.
Blair and Jim looked at each other then at Oz, who shrugged. "We were talking about me approving of his dating. Then Darryl showed up. He found a Sentinel in his family tree, she's with his dad." He glanced over at where the two younger men were eagerly kissing and starting to grope. "Hey," he said loudly. "I don't need to know that much."
Xander pulled back, embarrassed and blushing again. "Sorry, Oz."
"Yup, just an instant thing," Darryl said with a small smile. "So, Blair, this clubbing trip, can I come?"
"Please," Xander whispered, just loud enough to be heard by his Guide, who groaned. "Sorry Oz, I'll be more selfish with the information."
Jim nodded. "Please." But he was smiling. He looked at Blair. "You want to call Simon or me?"
"She's got to have another Guide, Blair, she's an in-law. I can't bond with her." Oz started to blush. "Ah, now I get the tension between you two. It's not necessary but mine, while it worked, worked best when we were lovers. But I won't steal him from you, Oz, don't worry. He's *your* Sentinel."
Xander nodded, reaching out to take one of his Guide's hands and squeeze it gently. "Yes, you are."
Blair clapped. "Guess it worked." He smiled at Jim. "Owe me lunch tomorrow." He picked up the phone, dialing their old boss and friend.
To be continued...