Roomies and Funky Zones.

Xander sat on his pile of pillow in his corner of his and Oz's loft, singing softly to the music he was listening to through the headphones as he painted something. He sat up as he heard Oz approach, his hearing being up a little so he wouldn't disturb the older man while he slept, and he absently wiped paint off his bare stomach.

"What was it originally?" Oz asked, looking at the painting he was painting over. He looked down at his Sentinel, roommate, friend, and chronic insomniac pain in his butt.

"Bowl of stupid fruit." Xander put his brush down into the jar of water, turning his head to look at his roommate. "I'm painting over it to do my next one."

"Thought you got an 'A' on that one."

"Did, wasn't happy with it," Xander said. "I'm painting something I like on top of it instead. Maybe hang it with the other stuff."

"Cool." Oz walked over to their fridge, courtesy of Goodwill and Giles, pulling out a small carton of milk and the box of cereal. "Let me guess, you were about to eat when inspiration hit you?" he called across the open space.

"Yup." Xander loaded some dark brown onto his brush, painting little comma looking stokes across one section of the canvas board. "Why?"

Oz walked over, pulling the plug on the headphones and turning the music up so he could enjoy it too. He winced at the Country playing, hitting one of his pre-programmed buttons to take the radio to an Alternative station. "Wondered why the cereal was in the fridge," he explained, handing over the bowl. "Eat or I'm confiscating your brushes for a week." He walked back into the kitchen, getting in a few good scratches at the back of his leg on the long walk across the room to make his usual oatmeal and toast for breakfast.

"Hey, Oz," Xander called. "I have to do some figure drawings. Can I use you?"

"Dude," Devon whined as he walked off the elevator on one end of the former industrial area. "You can hear you two downstairs." He walked over to Oz's bed and lay down, pulling the thick blankets over his head. "Day," he called.

Xander frowned at his roommate as he walked back over. "Why are we housing him again?"

"Because he's my best friend and has been since about birth," Oz repeated, his usual lines for this predawn complaint. "Why you want me?"

"Because I already did some, without your head, and my teacher wanted me to do more." He absently pointed at his sketchbook, going back to painting the dark commas on the canvas, wiping the drips of paint off his bare thigh.

"Do I want to know what that is supposed to be?" Oz asked.

"Give it three days, man, it'll be something then. I'm just playing now, before I cover the stupid fruit."

Oz picked up the book, flipping past the sketches he'd already seen, coming across a lot of little headless forms that were obviously him. "Wow," he said, sitting down on a spare pillow, Xander's chosen furniture for his part of the space. "Lots of little me's. Headless me's." He flipped the page, wincing at the nude rendering of him. "Um..."

"Imagination," Xander told him. "I don't peek."

"Okay. Pretty accurate though." He flipped a few more pages, groaning at the picture of him with his latest girlfriend, Kylie. "She's gonna be pissed."

"That's not her."

"Bet me."

"Five bucks."


"Turn the page."

Oz did and his breath caught, looking up at his roommate, who was still calmly painting away at the old canvas. "It was Willow?" He saw the small nod. "Wow." He looked back down at the full figure, including head, version of the sketch before that, mouth still open. "Man, you got her eyes just right. She used to give me that same look when she woke up in my arms."

"I know."

"How? Don't remember you being there."

"She gave it to Tara all the time and they camped at my place for three weeks during a housing change." He put back down his brush, turning to face his friend. "Oz, man, she still loves you. I'm sure she'd like to hear from you." He shook his head. "Not even a letter?"

"I did that, she sent it back unopened." Xander shook his head. "No?"

"No, Tara sent it back unopened. I saw her doing it. Send it to her work." He grinned suddenly. "Or send it to the school in care of her and her advisor. They aren't together at all then." Xander turned back to the canvas, picking up a roller of black paint and working over the messy canvas. "There, clean slate."

"Thought they were supposed to be white," Oz said, confused, as he finished up his toast. He flipped through the last few, including a rendering of Devon napping on the couch, spread out, naked, like he used to do after sex while they were on tour. "Does he do that?"



"What?" was yelled from Oz's corner bedroom.

Xander leaned back, eating some of his cereal, looking over his friend's arm at the page. "Yup. Found him like that the other day."

"Did you really draw that?" Devon yelled.

"Yes, slut, he did," Xander yelled back. "Go to sleep." He looked at Oz and shrugged. "Got a nice few in here of him somewhere," he waved a hand around his room.

"Dev, man, who was it?" he called. When he didn't get an answer, he walked over to his bed, tossing back the covers. "Who was it?" He saw the eyes go wide as the young vampire looked at the picture. "It was your Sire, wasn't it?"

"No man," he tried to protest. He grunted as Xander landed across his waist, stake in hand, ready to kill him. "Okay, yeah, it was. I'm sorry, he wanted to talk and work things out with me. We talked, we argued, he fucked me hard then left after I told him to never come back." He looked at the man across his waist. "Why do you torment me like this?" he said with a glance down the nude body.

"Because I enjoy it," Xander whispered, leaning down to blow an air kiss all of six centimeters from the cool lips. He climbed off him. "I'll call Giles to come respell the door tonight after classes."

"He did it already," Devon said. "I asked him to." He gave his roommates his big, pouty, nice guy look. "I'm sorry, I won't invite another one of me in here again."

"That's right, you won't," Oz told him. "Or you can go sleep in the park." He walked back to the kitchen, handing Xander his sketchbook on the way. "Did you eat?" he asked his Sentinel.

"Just now." He waved at the empty bowl.

"Okay, a rephrase then. When was the last time you ate a real meal?"

"I cooked," Xander argued. "We've had food."

"Not the point." He looked down the firm body, seeing the small marks of paint flecking him from his earlier playing. "You need to eat too, Xander, or I'm going to have to pull a Blair and force you to." His Sentinel frowned, crossing his arms across his chest. Which, of course, made his hips jut out just the tiniest fraction. "Don't you ever wear clothes?"

"Feel more free this way to create," he said. He looked down at himself. "And I'm good about not getting paint in the drain anymore. Ever since you made me clean the tub and snake the drain when I clogged it last time."

"Not the point, man." Oz walked toward the bathroom. "Expect to eat beside me tonight and at lunch," he called as he closed the door. He reopened it, sticking his head back out. "How do you work in class with clothes on?"

"I don't. I bring in completed stuff and do the little touch up stuff and hand it in. That's why I'm always early to lunch. Teacher calls it a confused muse problem." He shrugged, going back to his easel. "Tell me when you leave," he called over his shoulder, retuning the radio.

Oz shook his head as he pulled back into the bathroom, closing the door solidly.


Oz moved the Styrofoam plate next to his Guideling's right hand, because of course the absolutely right-handed Xander sketched and painted left-handed, and watched the miracle that Blair had noticed. Xander absently munched while he worked, and as long as he could pick it up with under three fingers everything was okay. Until he tossed the first piece over his shoulder with the muttered word, "Cold." So the Guide substituted the bottle of soda, getting up to nuke his Sentinel's lunch again so he would eat it. He came back, dodging the empty soda bottle that skidded off the table, putting the plate back down. Xander picked up a pizza roll and again, it got tossed over his shoulder, this time with the comment, "Hot."

"Yay," Oz said as he snatched the pencil. "Eat." Xander just looked up at him like he was confused. "Lunch, you know that time when you ingest food so you live?" His Sentinel nodded slowly. "So do it for me, Xander, before I beat you with your pencil."

"Okay," he said, eating a few pizza rolls then stealing back his pencil, which was taken from his fingers. "Oz! I need that!" He took it back, eating another piece of lunch, and a few fries.

"No, you need to eat, naked boy." He took it back, putting it into his bag and zipping the compartment closed. "Now then, eat like a good little boy and I'll buy you a new tube of paint later so you don't have to mix a shade so much."

Xander ate quickly, holding out his hand for his pencil. "Better?"

"Yes, but how about a normal lunch? You know, you, me, discussion? I'm sure you remember those." His friend nodded. "Good," he said mock-cheerfully. "Now, how are your classes?"

"Fine, good actually. Oh, and the English teacher wanted me to thank you for fixing my paper because she said she wants to credit you with the grade." He grinned, looking down at the paper spread out beneath his hands. "Eww, got grease on it." He was handed a few napkins, so he diligently wiped the sketch off. "So, how are yours?"

"Fine, Blair's starting to wonder if I killed you though." The dark brown eyes focused on him for a second. "Hello? His class, you, Monday's at two, until five? Us sitting in the back pretending to listen?" The younger man nodded. "You've not been there for two weeks and we have a test next week." He nodded again. "As in you need to start to come again because Blair told me I couldn't give you the notes."

Xander grinned. "I know. I talked to the big grump." He tossed the napkins onto his empty plate. "I don't know what's wrong with me. It's like, the muse takes over and that's the end of my world. I don't even realize I'm working on something because I just kinda suddenly wake up and there it is. Ya know?" Oz nodded. "You do?"

"Did that all the time while I wrote music." He turned the sketchpad around to look at it. "Who's that?"

"Not a clue. Maybe someone I saw at the club last time I went."

"You know, that may be a reason." Xander gave him a 'huh' look. "You don't expend your energy and focus on anything else. All you do is *draw*."

"And paint."

"And paint. But before, you had a life. You went to work all the time and it wore you out. Now you draw and paint until you fall asleep against your easel." He wiped at a small spot of paint on the younger man's forehead. "You haven't been going out to have fun, or to date, or even to tease. You only tease Dev now."

Xander shook his head. "But the muse calls and I have to work. It's even happened at work a few times." Oz groaned. "What? They're very pretty murals. And I painted one behind you, didn't even put you in it because you *glared* at me."

"I'm sure but I'm also sure that you're about to be fired. You've lost your focus on life and turned it internally. If you were a Priest, you'd be healing people and yourself by now." He saw the small grin. "Okay, Caine, let's get your scrawny butt back through the line so you have something to eat later so you actually eat something since I have a late class."

"You do?"

"It's Wednesday, man."

"No, it's Thursday. I had Figures this morning."

"No, the teacher called Blair because you walked into her art for jocks class out of the blue and started to work on something. Seems you almost got beaten by a football player when you didn't get out of his seat. She was almost scared for you." He saw the confused look so turned the younger man's wrist so he could see the date on his watch. "What does it say?" he asked patiently, just like he would to his nephew.

"Um, Wednesday, sorry man." Xander looked at his pad and pouted. "Does that mean I can't work anymore?"

"I'm going to get you laid, man, just so you lose focus." Xander shook his head, pulling another pencil out stealthily as his friend's head was turned. He was back into his drawing before Oz was refocused on him.

"Damn," Oz said, stealing this pencil then the whole backpack. "Thank you for not doing that. Finish my lunch. You haven't eaten in three days." He looked up as Blair walked over to their table. "Sandburg, tell nature boy here that he has to *live* life sometimes."

"Xander, you have to do something besides work sometimes." He pulled the sketchbook over, looking at the drawings. "Cute, not gotten any more done, I see." He frowned at his student. "Why not?"

"He has," Oz said dryly. "That's his fourth book this month." Blair turned to look at him in shock. "I swear, Blair, he goes to work, he comes home, draws all night, goes to class if he's not too wrapped up in whatever he's working on. Takes a small nap and starts again." He glared at his Sentinel. "Then he sleeps all weekend. Sometimes literally."

"I'm fine," Xander whined. "Really, Blair, I'm doing good in my art classes."

"I'm sure you are," he said soothingly, "but there are other classes that you have to pass to graduate. Things like mine. Things like English. Things like Rupert's class which you didn't show up for again this morning." The younger man looked embarrassed. "Now, why are you focusing so hard on this part of life?"

"My muse has two settings, Blair, off and high," Xander explained quietly. "And when I get interrupted during something, my focus leaves that project."

"Then you need to spread them out," Blair said gently. "Try to take a nap more often. Talk to your roommate." He looked over the younger man's thin form. "Eat something."

"I do!"

"Not really. I put food beside your hand and trick you into it because of your innate munchiness." Oz frowned at the younger man. "We need to work on getting you focused on something else. A date maybe. Or even fun. Or possibly," he gasped, "a night in front of the tv. I swear, I don't know why we have the thing if you never watch it."

"I do!"

"Only when you sleep on the couch." He leaned closer. "If I find you doing this stuff anymore, I'm siccing Devon on you, gonna make him deal with you." The younger man shook his head, reaching across the table to get his bag back.

Blair watched the younger man basically zone on the drawing, turning to the younger Guide. "So, can you voice bring him out of this?" Oz raised an eyebrow. "It's a zone, just not on a sense."

"Shh," Xander said, not looking up.

Oz looked at his roommate/chronic pain in the butt and sighed. "Xander, he's right, this is. Especially when you've been up all night and don't realize it's Wednesday." Blair snorted. "Think I'm kidding? What call did you get this morning complaining about him?"

"Point," Blair conceded. He reached over and took the pencil. "Now then, lets discuss shall we?"

"Nope," Xander said, taking it back, his eyes almost vacant looking.

"Okay, you win, it's a zone," Oz said, getting up and taking their trash to throw away. He stopped to pick up the pizza rolls the younger man had thrown, being nice to the Student Union workers. He walked back to the table, leaning over Xander's shoulder. "It's a woman," he whispered.

The younger man looked up in shock, looking at him. "Oz! You broke my concentration."

"Good," Oz and Blair said together. Then the older Guide shook the younger one's hand before he got up to leave.

Xander pouted at his Guide, tapping his pencil on the paper. "Now I'll never get it back."

"Sure you will," Oz soothed, patting a rapidly fidgeting hand. "You just need to clear out a few mental cobwebs. I want you to actually go have fun tonight."

"Gotta work."

"Xander, club's not open on Wednesday."

"No, but I promised to go finish the mural I started on Sunday." He gave the slightly older man his big, pouty, begging look. "Please?"

"I'm coming with you."

"You'll be bored."

"I'll read you the notes for the test."

"Okay," Xander said, bending back over his drawing but his pencil was taken again. "What?"

"English? Sound familiar?" Xander looked at his watch and took his pencil back, gathering his things quickly and running out of the Student Union. "Have to get him an alarm," he muttered, gathering his own materials and heading off to his own class. "A very loud one."


Blair sat down beside Jim on his couch, stealing the cat from him. "Do you zone doing that?"

"Something like that. Why? Boys find something new?"

"Yeah, Xander did." He stroked through the soft fur. "He's been zoning while he draws. To the point of losing time. Oz almost freaked when he heard the kid had gone to the wrong art class and acted like he belonged there the whole time." Jim snorted. "I'm serious. I got a call from a teacher, he walked into drawing apples for football players and sat down thinking it was his usual Figure class." The Sentinel shook his head, closing his eyes as he leaned against Blair's shoulder. "But, and this is strange, I saw him do it at lunch. Oz has gotten *good* at manipulating his blind spots while he's under. Gets him to eat then and everything."

"Hmm, are we intervening?"

"Well, I wanted to go down and check out his murals soon. Want to go clubbing tomorrow night with me?"

"Sandburg," Jim warned.

"Hey, it's a mixed club. Plenty of straight women there. Or not so straight women who might like you for a while." He shrugged. "You never know. And it's an interesting place."

"And after seeing some of Xander's work at the monthly student art show, the place will be even more lively?"

"Oh yeah. The boy *oozes* smut." Blair shifted to lay down, letting Jim lay on his chest, the cat moving to lay on Jim's stomach and be petted some more. "Did you know that She Who Barks had the art department pull that one work, the two nude androgynous figures? Said the material was offensive. Pulled him into her office to bitch at him." He grinned. "And Xander, that sweet, little, nice boy just looked at her and shrugged and said 'some of us are like that and we'd like to have our art represented too. And you can't even tell me whether or not those figures are male or female'. So then she yelled at him for kiddie porn and he laughed himself silly. Told her the only children he'd ever draw were his own and she needed to find a nice closet to hide herself in so her kinks would leave him alone because only a sick person would find that offensive or see it as children. Then he took his sketch and walked out, straight back to the gallery and put it back up. Then he *smirked* at his advisor."

Jim snorted. "That kid," he sighed. "He needs someone to focus on."

"That's what Oz thinks too. Thinks that he's throwing all this energy into his work because he didn't have anyone else to focus on. No one to cuddle, no one to lick."

"Chief, lets keep our dirty minds to our self," Jim warned. "You know I'm not crossing over."

"Hey, we could get a nice woman, put her between us."


"Fine, spoil sport." He grinned down at his Sentinel. "So, oh prude of mine, should we go tomorrow night and see his work?"

"Sure, I could use a few hours out myself."


Oz looked at the murals on the walls of the club, all new, and whistled. "How much time did this take?"

"Not too long," Xander said, sitting on a table in front of the unfinished one. He mixed the first color, smoothing it over the line's he'd drawn on Sunday. "So, test material?"

"Yeah, paranormal classification of entities." Oz pulled out his notes, not wanting to watch Xander paint the androgynous figures tempting the flames to dance with them. "Ghosts?"

"Spectral," Xander mumbled, tongue out as he painted a small line. "Some are heat registering and some are winds or other manifestations that appear to be just slightly abnormal."

"Good. Demons?"

"Ours or the book's?"


"Book's are manifestations like ghosts, visible to only some, usually called or summoned up. Ours are visible to all, sensible by some, like to hurt things and people when goaded. There are over six thousand types in the books, not counting sub-classes."

"When did you read the book?"

"Two days ago."

"And the other?"

"I sat through more Giles lectures than you did." He turned to glance at his friend. "Really." He looked down at himself. "I can't..."

"Strip man, it's just us."

"Not quite," Xander said as he put down his brush and stood up on the table, stripping quickly, putting his shirt in his lap to cover himself in case someone walked in. "There's supposed to be a janitor or something here right now." He picked back up his brush, going back to his work. "Next?"


"Book's, ours, or Goth?"


They walked into the club before it opened and Blair stopped dead, looking at the mural behind the bar. He gripped Jim's hand for strength, looking up at him. "Wow," he said quietly, looking back at the figure dancing with a flame entity, tempting it with his/her movements. "I had no idea," he whispered.

"Me either," Jim said, wiping off his forehead. "And it's not a she or a he."

"Nope," the manager said, coming out. "All his work's been like that. It strikes all similarly." He nodded at someone and the lights went down. "Move around a bit, gentlemen."

Blair and Jim walked around the edge of the bar, watching the figure move with them, almost seem to change colors depending on where they were standing. Sometimes the flame seemed to be touching him/her, and others it seemed to be trying to get away, but one thing stayed the same, the eyes. Those eyes kept you locked on his/her form as s/he danced.

Jim turned his head to break the hypnotic gaze, looking at the other walls, tapping his Guide's shoulder as he caught sight of another one. A form, again androgynous, in a cage, being lowered into the flame. They walked around that one, seeing the flame moving away from her/him instead of trying to consume her/him as s/he tried to tempt it closer to control it.

Blair swallowed hard, catching sight of the last one. He walked up to the mural behind the stage, seeing both men and women in the figures now, just subtle hints, dancing together, enticing the other. In all configurations. Some of the slightly male forms were tempting men, others women, and the women were doing the same. In the center was another flame creature, reaching tendrils to capture or entice the dancers, wrapping around wrists or ankles, a few moving up between their thighs or over their chests. Blair moved back, blinking as he thought he saw the flames shimmy, the heat it was giving off moving the tendrils over the tight bodies. He looked at the manager, his mouth open.

"Yeah, the kid's got talent. Not too much focus for anything else though. He actually started that one while his friend's band was on stage. Left his post to do it." He handed over an envelope. "His commission for doing it and his last paycheck. I can't have bouncers that don't do their jobs. Tell him I'm sorry man."

"Sure," Blair said, nodding. "Gladly." He looked back at the forms. "Do you have pictures of these?"

"Got a camera in the car," Jim said, turning and walking out to it, coming back to take pictures of all three murals from many angles. He shivered as he watched them develop. "It transfers," he said, showing the first one off.

"Cool," Oz said. He walked up to the manager. "He wanted me to tell you that he has to quit. He's decided that he has to focus on his art for a while." Blair handed over the envelope. "Thanks." He looked back at the manager. "No hard feelings?"

"That kid was the best bouncer I think we've ever had here. But I think his future's in art." He looked at the mural. "Tell him if he wants to come back, I'll gladly pay for this ... quality of work." He walked back toward his office, closing the door to the hall softly.

Oz turned to look at his teachers and friends. "Came to see it?"

Blair nodded. "I didn't know he could do this," he waved a hand at the captured person painting.

"Yup," Oz said, sliding the envelope into his inside jacket pocket. "And he works nude." He waved at the door. "Shall we go pull him from his latest project for class?"

Blair shook his head. "But I want to look at his work, maybe take a few more pictures." He took the ones Jim had been labeling, sliding them into his pocket. "We need more film?" The older man nodded so they followed the younger Guide out of the club.

Blair looked over Xander's shoulder, frowning at the picture forming. "Kinda dark," he noted.

"It's music oriented still," Oz said. He pulled the plug on the music, turning it up so Xander could still listen to it without having to turn up his hearing. The sad Country song floated throughout the large, open area. "This is his sad music." He pointed at the purple wall. "That's from the local Alternative station." He pointed at the green wall. "That's from band practice." He looked at his roommate. "Hey, teachers are here." The younger man absently waved, painting a cow on the silo roof. "You're getting weird," Oz told him, leaning down. "How much longer before this is something?"

"Twenty minutes."

"'Kay." Oz turned back to where Jim and Blair were walking around the room, looking at each painting and sketch that was up. He turned, going into the younger man's room, gathering together his loose sketches and the assorted canvas boards laying around the room, bringing them out to the table they never used, the one that Blair had insisted was necessary. "Guys," he called, setting the large pile down. "Now you know why I worry," he told Jim, whose mouth hung open at the sheer volume of work the younger man had done since they had moved in. "This is *all* he does."

Blair sat down, working his way through the stacks, putting a few aside. A few made him look at the artist, but the rest were just restacked and set aside. The boards got a harder look, a few going into the separated out pile, the rest going next to the larger pile of drawings. "Oz," he said, pushing out a chair with his foot. "When does he do these?" He pushed out the sorted out stack. "Is it that zoned time?"

"All of it's that zoned time," Oz told him, rolling his eyes. "These are just done in that pre-class time when we eat breakfast in front of his easel or when we're together."

"And one of the murals was done while your band was on stage," Jim noted, sitting down to look at the things his Guide had sorted out, blushing hard. "And you were there while he finished the others?"

"Since he started doing this, I've been there all the time," Oz said quietly, looking at Blair. "You think he feels comfy enough to go down because I'm there, right?"

"He knows you'll protect him," Blair agreed, "so he's free to let that side of himself loose." He looked at the youngest man, seeing him looking at a blank canvas, tapping a clean brush against his teeth. "Xander, come sit and talk to us," he called. The young man waved him off.

"Xander!" Oz called sharply, getting his attention. "They want to talk to you, come here."

Xander stood up, walking over. "Hey, guys, when did you get here?" he asked, sitting down in the empty chair. "Hey, Oz, want an opinion on that last piece. I think it's strange."

"Xander," Blair started, "your Guide is concerned that you're going to kill yourself while you do this because you're not focused." The younger man looked at him. "Morning," he said sweetly. "What day is it?"

"Um, Thursday?" he asked, looking for his watch but it wasn't on his wrist. It was the first thing he took off when he got home after class so it was over by the door. Blair shook his head. "No?"

"Friday," Oz told him, grabbing his hand when he started to get up. "You quit, remember?" The younger man nodded, sitting back down and slumping in on himself. "I'm sorry, but you had to make a choice, work or art and school. The three weren't compatible anymore." His Guideling nodded, looking down at his paint splattered stomach. "Hey, we'll be okay," he said, patting a hand. "Your boss said that if you ever got the urge to go paint on his walls again then you could as long as it was that good." His Guideling nodded again. "Okay?"

"Yeah," Xander sighed, looking back up. "But I liked working there."

"But you need school more right now," Oz reminded him. "So you have something to fall back on if the odds are against you." His Sentinel nodded, grinning at him. "What?"

"My advisor backed me for that small, private showing next month," he said happily. "Said I have more promise than some of the seniors he's trained so far." Oz patted his shoulder and so did Blair. "Why'd you clean my room?"

"Because I wanted Blair to look at those too."


"And," Blair said, handing the pile of stuff he had selected out over, "I want to know why this stuff is so different than the other stuff. This is like your work at the club, like a few of the things on the walls. The rest of the stuff is good, this stuff is just exemplary. Real genius sort of stuff."

Xander looked at the pieces, trying to remember when he did them. "I did most of these while Oz watched me, while he ate the food I fixed for him." He looked at his Guide. "Does that mean you're like a safe base for me? Somewhere to explore from?"

"Could be," Oz agreed, "or it could be some strange Guide/Sentinel thing that just sparked in your head. Your earlier stuff was good but not this good." The younger man got up, shaking his head, and retreated to his room. He came back with a small, leather-bound book which he handed over. "What's this?" he said, untying the ribbons holding it closed. Then he gasped as he saw the first one. "You did these while we planned the Ascension," he said, looking up. "I remember the book."

Xander nodded. "And before, while you were researching with us. But those are ultra private. Giles has seen a few of them, he caught me drawing a few times so demanded to know what I was doing. I had to show him and he sat down hard." He watched as the simple figures on notebook paper were handed over, watching them float around. "Can you please not take them out of order? I use those as a guide of how bad I was."

Oz nodded, putting the drawings back in order, and retying the ribbons. He handed the book back. "Did you go into that state then?" He got a small head shake for an answer. "Why not?"

"Because it was important for me to be listening and aware most of the time. I did it a few times, mostly when I was alone or during my trip, but not really until..." He looked at Blair. "This *is* a Guide thing then?"

Blair leaned back. "I'm still not sure but where you go looks like an awfully good simulation of a zone. Jim has a similar state he goes into when he's petting the cat for hours on end, so he says. This may be some inner calm point or an extra energy focus in your case." He looked over the nude body, seeing if it responded to his look, which it didn't. "When was the last time you had sex?"

Xander blushed. "When Darryl came back."

"And since then?" The younger man looked confused. "Self-satisfaction?" he prompted, watching the rampant blushes on the other three people appear now.

The young Sentinel shook his head. "I haven't felt that urge. I get hard sometimes when I'm working but I never want to fix it, its never that strong of an urge."

"When you do these?" Oz asked, patting the small pile. His Guideling nodded. "So it's possible it's a to-take-the-place-of thing, right, Xander?" The younger man nodded. "So, what would happen if you started to live life again instead of working it out in your work?"

"Then I'd lose all my focus," he said softly, heading back to his room. "I'm going to put on clothes, be right back." He closed the heavy, tapestry curtain, rummaging around in his area from the noises he was making.

"He was too hurt when Darryl had to leave," Oz said quietly. "And he may be right. If he only has a high and an off setting to work on his artwork, then interfering may turn it to off." He got up, walking into the younger man's room. He found him lying on the bed, stroking over his still bare stomach, his jeans still unbuttoned. "Hey," he said quietly, sitting down beside him. "None of us want you to quit working but not even Michelangelo worked that much." The younger man focused on him. "We have to find something in the middle. Some sort of compromise between living life and letting the art express it."

"Then I might lose it," Xander whispered.

"Hey, you have enough stuff done now to pretend for the rest of the year. And if you do go find a boyfriend, you can always dump him if you can't find a middle ground." He scooted farther up, lying on his friend's shoulder, comfortable now that they had worked out touching and hugging for them to be non-sexual expression only. "I know this is scary here, Xan, but you gotta try. For all of us. You're losing weight again, you're not eating unless I trick you into it. How about just a quick thing every now and then? Just to save your sanity and mine? 'Cause, I gotta tell ya, if you die from too much art, no one'll ever forgive me."

Xander rolled, hugging his Guide. "I want to, Oz, I really do, but this is a stable thing in my life. It's *there*, ya know?" He felt the small nod so went on. "And I can't lose this. Not even for a month or so."

"When Darryl left, you were working the night after his plane took off."

"That was pain."

"So, have some happies in there too. Too much pain is bad." He pulled the younger man's head up. "Don't make me start dragging you to Philip again for medication, I can't and won't do that."

"I'll try," Xander sighed, after searching his friend's eyes for the truth he knew they held. "I know this isn't good, but I get scared when I get pulled too far away."

"Hey, we could always sic Dev on you. He's still panting to blow you." The younger man pinched his arm. "Oh, come on, willing, well trained. Proven he knows how by now. And you wouldn't even have to leave your work area."

Xander shook his head. "I think even that act ought to mean something besides I need to get off."

"Then try it yourself tonight. Instead of sitting down on your pile of pillows, taking a long, hot shower and work yourself." He blushed slightly. "Okay? For me?"

"If you insist," Xander said, hugging him again. He listened to the outside room. "Hey, they're not here."

"They probably left to go get something to eat. You forgot to get groceries so I can eat." He poked his Guideling on his bare stomach, or thought he did anyway. He saw the eyes light up and looked at where his fingers were, pulling them back hesitantly. "We agreed."

"I know, your touch just sent a need up to my brain."


"Nope," Xander said, kissing the older man's forehead and climbing over him to leave his room. "I'll be in the shower, Oz, don't listen."

"Hey, I can turn the speaker that way to muffle it," he offered, getting up and following him out. They found a note on the table saying that the older pairing had, indeed, went out for groceries for them before they starved.

Xander disappeared into the bathroom, stripping quickly. He frowned at the cold body in the bathtub. "Devon!" The lead singer/vampire sat straight up. "I need the shower, get out."

"What?" Devon asked sleepily. "It's not even night time yet. And you guys need a fan or something. Your oil paints smell really nasty." He got up, looking over the firm body in front of him. "Finally had the urge to not paint it out?" he asked, brushing against the tense body as he stepped out of the tub. He saw the small shiver. "Want me to fix it?" he whispered, leaning closer to lick over a sensitive ear. "I'll be gentle with you," he promised.

Xander started to shake his head but his cock overrode that, twitching at the young vampire. "Please," he whispered, sitting on the edge of the tub. Devon got down on his knees, looking up at him while he licked over the purple head, then looked down as he started to swallow him. But it had been too long, his body had suffered too long without a single touch, and he shot off immediately, panting hard, his breath catching as the last stream came out. "Thank you," he whispered.

"Hey, you taste good, so anytime," Devon whispered back, pulling his head down to kiss him. "Now, why don't you go nap? I know you could use one."

"Wanted a shower first," Xander mumbled.

"Later," the vampire said, pulling him up and carrying him out of the bathroom, putting him in Oz's bed since it was closer. He pulled the covers up over him, brushing some of the dark hair off the young man's forehead, looking up at his friend as he walked over. "He has to fix that more often, Oz, it's not healthy."

"I know," the Guide admitted, "but he has to set that pace, not me." He walked back into the kitchen, cleaning the old food from the fridge.