Xander sniffed the body he was laying on, enjoying the warm, clean scent. He licked over the skin, the smell exploding into taste, making him dizzy. The taste groaned so he licked over it again, taking broad swipes of it. He started to recognize the taste, moaning it's name. "Oz."

"Shh, we're okay," Oz said quietly, holding Xander's head down.

Xander lapped the warm skin, enjoying it now. He got free, roving over the whole chest, nipping and sucking the pale flesh. Oz's breath caught as he nipped a nipple so he showed it more attention. His head was moved to the other side so he sucked over it instead, making his guide moan. "Oz," he whispered, looking up.

"Shh, it's good."

Xander nodded, going back to his tasting. He moved down the wiggling stomach. He nipped the rippling flesh, earning a grunt and a bat, so he shifted to the bellybutton, sucking it while thrusting into it with his tongue. He heard his name moaned and looked up. "Huh?" His head was pushed back down so he moved around the hard abs, nibbling as he went. He worked his way through the pubic hair, tugging on the wiry red strands. He slipped around the hard cock, laving the hairy balls and started to move lower but his head was pulled up, put over the dripping cock again. He mentally shrugged, bathing it for his guide. He sucked hard on the head, gathering all the tastes he could with his tongue. Eventually he worked his way down, playing happily as he went. He stopped when he heard a crying sound, moving up to cuddle Oz. "Shh, it's okay," he whispered, "I'll stop."

Oz shook his head, pulling back to kiss Xander hard. "Not hurting." Xander grinned, moving back down to continue his earlier task. He grumbled when he felt fingers running through his hair, nipping at the end of the cock, and ended up on his back looking up at his guide. "Huh?"

"Reciprocation." Oz kissed him gently, moving down to taste the younger man as he had been tasted, skipping all the nibbling on the hard chest. He sucked the hard cock, allowing it down into his throat. Xander made small noises, pushing up, but Oz held his hips down. "Patience," Oz whispered, licking the hard flesh. "Which way?"

Xander spread his legs, whimpering, "Please?" Oz nodded, bending back down to tease the hole with his tongue. "Oh, God!" Xander yelled, pushing back against the invading tongue. "Please...more....never," he babbled. He saw the pleased smile when his guide raised his head and grinned back. "More?" he panted. Oz nodded, licking over the cock briefly before moving his cock up to Xander's head.

"Lick it," Oz ordered. Xander nodded and slobbered on it. He pulled back, positioning himself, and entered his sentinel quickly before the moisture evaporated.

Xander babbled some more, pushing back against his friend. "More, oh, please, more, more, more." His words were silenced by Oz's mouth and tongue. He shifted, whimpering to make Oz go deeper.

"Shh," Oz whispered. "Relax." He started working him harder, and when the babbling started again, he silenced it with another deep kiss, pounding into his sentinel now. Xander pulled back and screamed, arching up as he came.

Oz smiled, coming himself. "Can't stand quiet, can you?" he asked before lying on top of the younger man. "We okay?" he asked after they had both relaxed again.

Xander nodded, swallowing. "How?" he whispered, looking at his guide.

"Sometimes the band does bonding things," Oz admitted. He pulled out, rolling onto his side. "It's not who I am but it's okay for sometimes."

Xander rolled to look at him. "And us?"

"This was a bonding thing," Oz said, brushing down the rough cheek. "It's not us though."

Xander nodded, relaxing totally. "So I'm a sometimes too?"

Oz kissed him gently, showing him what he felt. "Sometime, maybe. I'm not sure."

Xander settled down under the covers. "I can accept that." He hugged his guide. "We still okay?"

"Yeah, we're fine," Oz assured, hugging him back. After a few minutes, he added, "Are you disappointed?"

Xander pulled back. "Oz, I like you lots, and you help me tons, I feel lucky that you allow me hugs even."


Xander kissed him. "No, I knew this wasn't you before it happened. I'm not disappointed, I'm happy I got anything." Oz nodded, his expression unreadable. "I can accept it if you can."

"Yeah, I can," Oz said, keeping his face neutral.


Oz looked across the clearing they were sitting in, the same one they had fixed Xander's senses in a few days earlier. "I'm not okay," he admitted. "It hurts that you feel that way."

"Oz, I've never had regular hugs. I feel lucky to get that from you." Xander looked up. "It's not you, it's my expectations."

"So I overload your expectations?" Xander nodded as he rolled onto his back. "Huh. Wanna kill your parents."

"Waste of effort."

"If you say so."

"Yup, not worth it." Xander turned his head to look at his friend. "I sat down and thought about it one day. Wasn't worth the possible cost." He went back to watching the clouds.

Oz laid back, considering what he had been told. "So, how happy do you get when I just hug you?" he asked after a few minutes.

"It's usually the biggest thrill of my day," Xander admitted. "Just feeling that someone is there and that gives a crap about whether or not I need one."

"I do care," Oz agreed. "Do you need more or less?"

"I'm okay with the level I get." Xander turned his head to look at his guide. "Do you feel like we should be different now somehow? Like we should have this mystical link?"

"Yup," Oz said simply, nodding slightly. "Don't get why Blair demanded we bond earlier."

"So I'd have more stability."

"You have lots."

"I know. And so does he. He just thought I needed more probably."

"I'll talk to him when we get back," Oz decided. "He's got to quit interfering. You're not Jim and I'm not him so we shouldn't have to have babysitters anymore."

"But it's nice to be able run to them with problems," Xander reminded. "Or when you're totally stressed because I'm doing my art thing and not paying any attention to you for days on end." Oz grunted. "Or even just when you need to have a guide-to-guide talk."

"Yeah, have had those," Oz admitted, rolling onto his side. "What're we going to do when we go back next week?"

"I thought you guys were playing the last few gigs?"

"We are," Oz reminded. "Starting Saturday night. We check out tomorrow and start toward home. Have one in LA, one in Sunnydale at the Bronze, and the last one in Cascade."

"Oh, okay," Xander said quietly, still looking up. "Can I skip Sunnydale?"

"We're not staying there," Oz told him, shifting over so he was close enough to touch the younger man's shoulder. "I don't want to stay there and neither does Devon. It's way too risky for all of us now."

"Yeah," Xander sighed, closing his eyes. "I'd rather not darken that town again."

"We're staying a few towns away that night, you can wait at the motel."

"No!" Xander said firmly, turning his head to look at his guide. "I'm not letting you play in Sunnydale without some protection. At the very least from Buffy and the Initiative."

Oz shook his head. "You said you didn't..."

"And I don't, but I'm not allowing you to play by yourself. You'll need protection there more than anyplace else. There is *no* way I'm letting you go."

"Okay," Oz said, nodding. "If that's the way you want it."

"Yes, I do."

"Then you can roadie there too. We won't mind the help."

Xander nodded, looking back up and closing his eyes. "Good. I'm napping now."

"Night," Oz said, pinching his arm. "Sleep safe, protector mine."

Xander grinned. "Yup, that's me, overprotector Xander." He opened his eyes as he heard someone coming up the trail. "People."

"Yay," Oz said, moving away a little and rolling onto his back just before Mike and Tom walked into the clearing. "What's up?" he called.

Mike walked over to sit between them. "We've been talking with Devon, who's got a really bad feeling about going back to the old homestead. He wants to skip it and he doesn't want the three of you back there. Do you have a problem with canceling?"

"We promised," Oz reminded them. "We can get security if we need to. We know people."

"Angel," Xander reminded. "He's in LA and we're there the night before that."

"Good point," Oz conceded. "At the least he might have heard of problems with the Initiative."

"Okay, " Mike said, standing back up. "So you really want to play?"

"No," Xander and Oz said together, turning to frown at the other. "No," Xander finished. "I don't want him anywhere near that town, or me, but you did promise. And it'll start to get around about Dingoes canceling so many times this summer. Not that it could be avoided," he hurried to add, "but still."

"We have a few days," Oz said, looking up at his bandmates. "Let us talk to Angel when we get to LA in a few days. We'll still have enough time to cancel if we have to."

Mike nodded. "Okay, I'll take your answer back to the fearless leader who's shaking in his room right now over Spike possibly being there." He nodded back toward the cabin. "You guys coming in soon? It's almost lunch."

"No," Xander said, "I want to watch the world float by for a while. I'm getting ideas."

Oz snorted. "You get ideas from watching bread toast." He stood up. "One hour or I'm coming back." He followed his bandmates back to the cabin, not looking back at where Xander was lying in the grass. As he walked in the cabin, he grunted as Devon hugged him. "What?" he asked, pushing him away.

"You guys don't want to go, right?"

"No, we don't," Oz said, putting his hand over Devon's mouth when he started to cheer, "but we promised. Xander suggested we ask Angel for some help. We'll still have time to cancel if we need it."

Devon stepped back. "He doesn't like me."

"Hey, he hates Xander, but he'd probably help us." He stared Devon down and the vampire eventually nodded. "Okay?"

"Yeah, that'll give us some time," he conceded. "But if we can't get the pouf, we don't go."

"Agreeable," Oz said, nodding. "Just don't call him that to his face. He really hates Spike."

"Me too," Devon said, walking back to his room.


Xander knocked on Angel's office door, looking behind him to make sure Oz was still okay sitting in the van. He turned back around as the door opened, grinning slightly at Angel as he stood there, impassive as ever. "Hey, can we talk?" he asked, trying to walk in.

"Why?" Angel asked tiredly. "I probably can't help you."

"Gee, Mr. Gloomy again," said a female voice inside. "Let my ex in, he's probably got an interesting problem." Cordelia Chase walked over, pulling Angel out of the doorway, letting Xander and Oz, who had walked into the building in the last few seconds, in. "Hey," she said, sitting behind a desk. "What's up?"

"We gotta go play Sunnydale and we're not real sure because of Buffy," Oz said quietly, looking at Angel. "You okay?"

"No," Angel admitted with a sigh, "it's just been real quiet here."

"Well, Buffy's still working with the Initiative, and is now after us," Xander said mock-cheerfully as he sat on a couch, pulling Oz down beside him. "We've had three?"

"Four if you count casual things," Oz amended.

"Four run-ins with her."

Angel nodded, sitting on the edge of Cordelia's desk. "What do you need me to do?"

"We're scheduled to play Sunnydale night after tomorrow," Oz told him. "None of us want to, but we'd feel safer with you working beside Xander to protect us." Oz watched the very obvious look over Xander's slim form. "He's gotten special due to them and they're trying to kidnap him."

"So you got given the drug?" Angel asked.

Xander nodded. "I'm one of the few that survived, mostly thanks to Oz."

"Okay," Angel said slowly, considering them. "I heard you guys were running with Spike."

"No, with one of Spike's children. Who doesn't like his sire at all," Xander said quickly. "I saw Spike early this winter and he wasn't looking good. Still had the chip and everything."

Angel nodded. "All right, I'll go with you. When do you play?"

"We play the Bronze Saturday night starting at 8, so we'll be there around 7," Oz said, standing up. "Even just being there in case would be great, Angel. We've all got bad feelings about this."

Angel stood up, holding out a hand, which they shook. "I'll be there to guard you guys. You're not staying, right?"

"No," Oz said, shaking his head with a slight frown. "Two towns over."

"Good, the town's went to hell, almost literally, since you guys left."

"Huh, was wondering why the local vamp population had picked up in Cascade," Xander said, heading for the door. He turned at Cordelia's muttered comments, grinning. "I heard that," he told her, looking directly at her.

She shrugged. "And?"

"Cordy, stop it," Angel said softly. "Don't mess with Xander, not with what they put him through."

"I'm okay now," Xander said quietly, heading for the door again. "I'm really fine."

Oz waited for Xander to leave before looking at Cordelia. "He's had a rough summer, they got him once already and Buffy almost got me and Dev when she came for him the first time. Please don't push him, I don't know where his breaking point is but it usually involves us." He headed out the door, straight into his sentinel's arms. "Hey, truck?"

"Yeah, we should," Xander said, walking beside him. "Why did I date her?"

"Because you thought she was cute and easy."

"Oh, yeah." Xander slid into the passenger's side. "You lead, I get lost in LA too easily."

Oz got in and started the truck. "Fine by me." He pulled away from the curb, heading out into the light afternoon traffic.


Xander looked around nervously as the band unloaded their gear, watching over them to make sure they were okay. He jumped as someone started to walk out of the shadows, then squinted, hurrying Mike inside. "Hey," he said, looking at Spike. "Dev's not here yet."

"My child's inside," Spike said calmly. "I only want to speak to 'im."

"Spike," Oz said, walking out to stand beside Xander. "He doesn't want to talk to you."

"We've got a hard enough night ahead, Spike, bother him when he's in Cascade again," Xander said, looking over at his guide. "Get back inside!"

"Quiet." Oz glared at his sentinel. "Get a speaker, I'll watch."

"No, inside," Xander said, physically turning Oz around and pushing him back through the door he opened. "Stay safe." He turned around to find Spike grinning. "What? It's part of my nature now."

"Oh, so they *did* dope you with that," he said, his smile falling away as he backed up. "At least you lived."

"Barely," Xander agreed, crossing his arms. "Why? What did you hear?"

"Just that a lot of them died," Angel said as he walked out of the shadows. "And that most of the kids given it fared much better than the demons they tried it on." He slapped his childe's shoulder. "Spike, what are you doing here?"

"Trying ta talk to my ..." He grabbed his forehead. "Childe," he finished, straightening back up again. "Got a problem with it?"

"Only if you hurt him," Angel said, turning to look at Xander. "You?"

"Dev doesn't want to see him."

Angel looked down at his childe. "He doesn't want to see you." He turned back to Xander, going to his feeding face. "Oh, well."

Oz walked out, sending a crossbow bolt past Angel's shoulder. "Lost your soul again?" Xander asked, taking it from him. "Inside, Oz," he reminded.

Oz rolled his eyes then slapped Xander's head. "Shut up. You can overprotect later." He turned back to Angel and Spike. "I believe he asked a question."

Spike dropped his cigarette, smashing it under his foot. "Nah, the Hellmouth's gone wonky. Even if you were a good guy before, like the pouf here, you're not now."

"Devon," Oz said, hurrying inside.

Xander stayed to cover them. "I'm sorry, Angel, we wouldn't have asked if we had known."

"Oh, he'll be fine," Spike said, patting his Sire's arm. "Just gotta get him home." He turned and punched Angel, knocking him down. "Let me take care of him," he said, smiling evily.

"Oh, no," Cordelia Chase said as she walked down the alleyway. "Not a chance in Hell. Thought you said he wasn't here?" she asked her ex.

"He just showed up," he told her, shrugging. "Then Angel went all bad so Spike's offering to take him out."

"Yeah, I heard that part. Go put him in the car," she ordered, waving behind her. "Now, Spike," she said, harder this time.

Spike mumbled something only Xander picked up and carried him out of the alleyway. "Bleedin' poufs," he said as he walked down the short alley. "Never anything in it for me."

"Hey," Xander said, lowing the crossbow a little. "You okay? You don't look so good."

"I'm fine," she said, waving it off. "We're all fine. This is just the Hellmouth." She moved a little closer, stepping directly under a light. "You don't look so good though." She lunged, knocking him back into the wall as her teeth fastened into his neck.

Xander pushed her off, frowning at her. "That was *mean*! It's not like I meant to cheat on you!" He looked behind her as he heard footsteps, silently raising the crossbow. "Go away, Cordy, head back to where you're normal again. I don't want to have to shoot you."

"We don't have that problem," Willow said, walking out of the shadows with her own crossbow. "Go inside and help them. I'm sure Oz doesn't want to stake Dev either."

Xander nodded, heading inside. He shot a warning bolt across Devon's head where he had Mike pinned to the wall, trying to feed off him. "Get off him, Devon," he warned.

The vampire turned, smiling at him, his teeth just a little bloody. "But he tastes good," he said, letting Mike go so he could saunter over to Xander. "So do you," he mentioned, running a cold finger across Xander's neck. "I see one of us got you already. I should go take care of them, 'cause you're mine."

Xander shook his head. "I'm not your's, I'm Oz's." He pushed the vampire away. "Go sit down and be normal." He glanced at Mike. "You okay?" He got a nod. "Where's Oz and Tom?"

"They headed into the back when another vamp came in."

Oz cleared his throat from the stage as he walked out. "We're fine." Xander ran over and jumped up on the stage, stopping in front of him to run a careful finger over the twin sets of bite marks. "I'm fine, Tom got them," he said quietly, looking up at his sentinel and protector. "We're both fine. TOM!" he called.

The bassist walked out, shrugging. "What? I was in the bathroom." He came over to stand in front of Xander, looking at him. "They only nibbled. I took good care of him for you."

Xander nodded, staring at the small puncture wounds and the blood leaking sluggishly out of them. "They need bandaged."

"We're not playing tonight," Oz told him. "We'll do it at the motel." He looked at the small amount of equipment and shrugged. "Guess we could come back for it."

Mike shook his head. "Three trips, with one of us watching," he said as he walked over, tugging a drum closer to him. "All the heavy stuff's still out there."

Oz considered then nodded. "Okay." He took the crossbow. "You make a run for it and I'll cover you, and Xander," he said, with a nudge to the sentinel's chest, "can cover us later."

Mike nodded, heading out into the night.


Oz looked up from his pampered position of his head in Xander's lap, blinking at his sentinel. "We okay?" he asked.

Xander looked toward the outside and shook his head. "Still out there." They both looked toward the bathroom, where they had tied up the lead singer, then at each other. "We'll be fine. They can't get in without an invitation."

"This is a motel, Xan, there are ways around it."

"Like the keys," Spike said as he opened the door. He dodged the thrown stake. "Hey! At least you sods know I'm harmless." He walked in and shut the door. "They're in a right frenzy out there."

Oz sat up, pulling over the crossbow. "What do you want? Devon's made it clear he hates you more than he does what he's become."

Spike clicked his tongue. "I'm not here for him. The pouf sent me to watch over you." He looked at Xander, and smiled slowly. "Though, someone's had a bit of a nip."

"Cordy got me," he said, touching his throat. "Could be worse."

"Point," Oz said, letting him get up. He watched as Xander walked around behind Spike, getting ready to jump him if need be. "What are you doing here?" he asked.

"I told ya, the pouf sent me." He reached into his pocket, pulling out a note that he tossed over. "Here, he sent you this. Said you'd understand it."

Oz picked up the bloody paper, sniffing it. "It's Buffy's," he said. Xander shuddered. "Angel do this?"

"No," Spike said, pulling out a cigarette, which was plucked from his fingers. "It's the only pleasure I have."

"Yay," Oz said. "What does this mean? Is she here or is she in trouble?"

"Oh, she's in trouble. They never kept her in shape. But the witches are helpin' her in the park."

Xander looked at Oz, who shrugged. "Which one?" he asked, nudging Spike's body. "In case we're feeling charitable."

"The big one. Her Initiative buddies dropped her off and sped away." He smiled and grinned. "Can I see him now?"

"For two minutes," Oz said, "and the first yell, I dust you for him."

Spike headed for the bathroom, not bothering to knock as he walked in. "Devon," he said warmly, shutting the door.

Oz looked at Xander, who was shaking his head. "Sucking face," Xander said.

"They're bipolar together." Oz slid off the bed, putting down the crossbow. "Want to help or not?"

"No, I want you to stay safe," Xander said, blocking the doorway. Oz reached over and smacked him again. "Hey! You promised to be nice to me."

"I am. I could have slugged you for being so Jimish. Do you want to go help her or not."

"Duty and like to are different here."

"Point," Oz said, reaching for his shirt. "Think we can leave them alone?"

"Mike!" Xander called. "We've got to do something. Come watch Dev."

The drummer walked through the connecting door, looking at them. "What's up?"

"We have to go help Buffy," Xander said, making a gross face, "not that we want to but it's our duty. Want to watch Dev and his sire?"

"Sure," Tom said as he walked in, taking control of the crossbow. "We got another of these?"

"No," Xander sighed. "Not really." It was handed back. "Thanks." He tossed over a stake. "Much easier for in-close work anyway." He grabbed a few more stakes and his keys, following Oz out to the truck.


Xander took careful aim from the truck's open door with the crossbow, firing off a few bolts and dusting a few of the twenty or so vampires Buffy was fighting. He got another three before he ran out of bolts, hopping down to join Oz beside the front. "Helping?" he asked, looking at the uneven fight.

"Should," Oz said, considering. "You take over by Willow and I'll...."

"Be right beside me," Xander said firmly. "I can't fight if I don't know you're okay."

"Jim," Oz accused. "Come on, let's go." He tugged Xander down the small hill, wandering through the fight until they ended up beside his ex. "Hey," he said, staking the one she was fighting. "Help?"

"Please," Willow panted. "Can we come live with you?"

"Sure," Xander said calmly, tossing Tara an extra stake since she didn't appear to have one. "You can start school and everything." He looked around at the opponents, heading over to pull one away from the waiting line around Buffy, fighting with him for a few minutes before he staked him. "Ha, not so bad, even when I'm out of practice." He growled as he saw Oz fighting with one, jumping onto the vampire's back and staking him after he had landed on the ground. "Stupid," he muttered, going after another that was coming after them, starting to lose himself in the territorial imperative to protect the Guide.

Willow and Tara stopped fighting, moving over to stand beside Oz, who had his arms crossed and his weight canted on one foot. "He's good," Willow said.

"No, he's lost," Oz said. "He's turning into Jim more and more each time he has to protect me." He looked around, seeing Buffy still fighting. "Think we should help her? He's almost finished with that one."

"Sure," Tara said. "It's a good cause, even if you don't like the leader."

"Very insightful," Oz said, nodding. He spun a vampire around, staking him while he was still adjusting to his new position. "You guys can camp at our loft for a while, until you can find your own spot. Sascha'll yell, but I think we'll be okay."

Willow smiled. "Giles said we could stay with him whenever we were ready to move." She pushed one of the vamps away, frowning at him for touching Tara. "Mine," she said, levitating a branch up and staking him with it. "Don't touch what's mine!"

Xander bounced over, growling at the new one that Oz was taking on, who ran. "She's down to five. We staying?"

"Yeah," Oz said, pointing. "I want the disco king."

"I want the bitchy one that's yapping," Tara said, pointing at the female vamp trying to talk Buffy to death from the sidelines. Willow nodded, following her over.

Xander rushed the vampire Oz wanted, grunting when this one actually fought back. He felt his guide walk up beside him and moved to get in between him and the vampire, groaning as he was punched in the stomach. The vamp dusted over his head, and he looked up to see Oz tapping a stake on his leg. "We're going to have a long talk, Xander," Oz said calmly, right before tossing his stake to Buffy, who had just had her's pulled from her hand. He helped his sentinel up, holding him until he got steady, then heading back toward his truck. "Girls, we're going back, want a ride?"

Willow ducked under a wild swing, looking at them. "In a sec?"

"Sure," Oz said, holding onto Xander by a beltloop, watching as Tara took on the vamp, kicking it cleanly and driving it back against Willow and her stake. "Good job," he said as they walked closer.

"Thanks," Willow said, wiping off her forehead with the edge of her shirt. "Forgot how much major fights sucked." She looked back at Buffy. "Let's go. We don't have that much stuff. It should all fit in the back of Xander's truck."

"I've got to move some painting stuff," he said, jogging toward his truck when Oz let him go.

Tara looked from Xander to Oz and back. "Handful?" she suggested.

"Only recently. Seems this trip brought out the bad over-protector in him." He glanced back at Buffy, heading toward the truck with the couple. "Come on, we need to help him."

Xander slid the next to last box into the back of his truck, turning and accepting the last one from Oz, who was staring out into the early light. "What?" he asked, turning up his hearing. He shoved in the last box, turning as he heard Buffy walking around the corner. "Oh, look, it's Federal Woman. What? No bruisers with you to capture little me?"

Buffy shook her head. "I finally left them." She looked at Willow as she walked out. "I came to apologize and to thank you for the timely help earlier."

"Welcome," Oz said, taking the duffel bag from Willow's limp hand, passing it to Xander, who he turned around to have him pack it. "What else did you want?"

"I wanted to start over," Buffy said, looking down at her feet. "I'm sorry for all of it, and I really want to start over."

"We're leaving," Tara said, walking out, handing Xander her two bags. Buffy nodded.

Xander coughed, turning back around. "She could... I don't know, move closer to where we are. Not saying I want to talk to her, but I think Giles would like to see her probably, just to make sure she was still sane."

Oz grunted, looking at him. "You're inviting her to come with us?"

"No, and I'm not inviting her to visit, but I was thinking that Giles would want to see her now that she's a normal woman again."

Oz turned to consider the Slayer. "She might want to think about that," he admitted. "But she's not welcome in our house until we're sure she's back to her old self."

"Only better?" Xander suggested. "I don't like the person she became."

"Then she won't enter our house," Oz said quietly. "If she wants to see us that much, we'll meet in a park." Xander nodded. "Okay?"

"Okay," Xander agreed. He tossed the last two bags into the back of the truck, turning to look at the female couple. "Anything else?"

"Just a few things we can take in our car," Willow said with a small grin. "It has no trunk but it has a nice backseat."

Xander closed the back of the camper, nodding. "Okay. Got the directions?"

"Yup, did the whole 'net travel directions thing," Tara said quietly, turning to look at the apartment. "I talked to the landlord and he understands. Said he didn't feel safe either and if he had been attacked the way we had he'd leave too. He'll mail Giles our deposit and rest of the rent for this month." Willow nodded and she took her hand. "Come on, we still have to pack up the kitty."

"And her kittens," Willow reminded her, walking back inside beside her girlfriend. "We'll meet you guys up there," she called before shutting the door. "Thanks."

"No big," Xander called, heading around to crawl into the passenger's side. He waited until Oz had put the bike lock on the back and got in to bring up the subject. "I don't want to see Buffy, ever," he said quietly.

"Neither do I, but if she's changed, we may be able to help her too. At the least, we can watch out for her to show up." He started the engine, backing out of the parking spot, narrowly missing Buffy, who was still standing there. "Huh," he said, stopping the truck. "Think?" he asked, pointing at the mirror.

Xander nodded. "She's zoned." He got out, slamming the door. "Buffy," he said, shoving her hard on the shoulder. She jumped and looked up at him, blushing. "How much did they give you?"

"I only have two heightened," she said quietly.

"Willow?" Xander called, bringing her back to the door. "You're a free guide, right?" She nodded, frowning when he turned Buffy toward her. "She needs the help. They gave her the serum too."

Willow scowled. "Why do I think there was choice involved?"

Buffy shook her head. "There wasn't," she said, looking at her former best friend. "They dosed all of us one night at supper. Most of my squad died from it." She stopped herself, coughing lightly. "I'm sorry, guys," she said, turning and trying to run away.

"Stop," Tara said, and she did. "Get in here, now, Summers." She held the door open for her, then winked at Xander. "We've got her."

Xander nodded. "Cool, thanks." He headed back to the truck, climbing in and leaning over to hug Oz. "I had to."

"I know," he said, rubbing down the hunched back. "Buckle up so we can leave."

"'Kay," Xander said, sitting back up and doing up his belt. "Ready."

"Good, let's go gather the rest of our crew and head home. It'll be nice to have a quiet gig for once," he admitted as they pulled onto the street, just as dawn started to light the sky.