Precious walked out of the Christian bookstore and looked around for her guardians. She knew at least one of them would be around. She frowned when she didn't see anyone she knew, and decided to walk toward the nearest parking lot. Maybe they'd decided to park and nap ...or whatever her fathers did together when they were alone. When she didn't find them there, she pulled out her cellphone and dialed Oz's. "It's me," she said. "I'm done and you're not here. Does that mean I get to wander around by myself?" She smiled. "Fine. I'll catch a cab over there. Yes, I have the money for that, or for a bus." She hung up and pushed her cellphone back into her tight jeans pocket. She walked over to the guardshack for the parking lot. "May I please use your phone book?" she asked. "I need to catch a cab to the mall to meet my parents." It was shoved over to her and she looked up the number quickly, just as quickly dialing it.
Oz hung up and looked over at the other kids. "Precious will be here in a few," he told them. "Now then, we agreed, right? One hundred dollars each."
"But, daddy," they complained.
"No," Xander said simply. "You all have clothes you can wear, expand on your wardrobe."
"Dad, I, um, need new shoes," Brandon said, pointing down at where his soles were falling off. "And I've been growing again. Most of my pants are too tight."
"Yeah, and most of my clothes are old," Xandra pointed out. "You said yourself that my leathers were getting thin. I've only got them and three other pairs of pants. A hundred won't cover enough clothes for a week."
Xander groaned. "Guys, Christmas is in another few months, can't this wait for then? Except for outgrown clothes and shoes," he amended when Brandon pouted at him.
"No," Xandra snorted. "It can't. Unless you *want* me to go to school naked."
Oz looked at his daughter, then at his husband, who shrugged. "If we give you more money, we're authorizing all purchases," he told them. There was a communal groan but the kids huddled then nodded. "All right, pick a store."
"Shouldn't we wait for Precious?" Xander suggested, checking his watch. "Let's give her another few minutes." He looked around and spied a map of the mall. "Let's go plan the assault, guys. The less time we old people spend in the mall, the more happy we become and the more likely we are to spring for dinner."
The kids hurried over, planning which stores to hit.
Oz put his hand in Xander's back pocket. "Smooth," he congratulated. "If I had to walk into Deb more than twice today, I might have to shoot their sound system. Why couldn't Brittany Spears have died off with most of her year's pop people?"
"Because she had breasts and showed them?" Xander suggested. "And I liked a few of the groups from her year. Some of them had very good voices and styles."
"Yeah, and they're the ones who continue to put out music," Oz reminded him. "She should have died off in the circle of musical life." He smiled as their missing daughter walked up to them. "Go plan the assault," he told her, pointing at where the kids were.
"How much are we getting?" she asked. "I need some *major* new clothes. Especially work out stuff. I ruined a few outfits last month." She tightened her ponytail. "Oh, and she said to call her tonight," she said, handing over the letter she'd been given for her parents by the witch she'd had a long talk with earlier.
"We'll do a normal school shopping but we get authorization," Oz told her. "But I'm not walking into any store more than twice."
"Deal," she said with a grin, heading over to get in on planning which stores she needed to hit, and where the nearest bathroom was. She almost had the hang of this period thing, but not quite, she needed to do a little bit of quick clean up before she tried on anything. She hurried away, after noting which stores she *had* to hit, going to do that.
Serena wrote down the list and went back to her fathers, clearing her throat to get their attention from the letter they were reading. "We know where we want to go," she said, handing over the list. "Precious went to freshen up."
Oz looked at the date on his watch. "Already?"
"Unfortunately," she agreed. "Which means we'll probably also have to stop in at drug store too. Not that I'd mind, I need a few new notebooks."
"Okay, we'll add that to the list," Xander agreed, stuffing the letter into his pocket. "Which one first?"
"Drug store," Precious said as she walked up to them, "then underwear shopping?" she suggested.
"I'll go do that," Xander said, taking the list from Oz. "You take her. We'll meet up in Deb in thirty?"
Oz nodded and let Precious lead the way to the drug store. That was one place he didn't mind having to come back to more than once.
Xander pointed at Deb, which they were nearly in front of and whistled. Everyone headed that way at a run. He mentally groaned at the outfits showing in the window. He never wanted his children to dress that way.
Xandra gave him a smile. "Can Timmy and I go to Hot Topic and wait on you there?"
He shook his head. "Nope, you have to stay here with us. And you never know, you might find a shirt or something that's not in bad taste in this store," he said as he walked in with her, his arm around her shoulders. "We'll hit Hot Topic third and the Goth store after that. Your sibs can wait on you then."
"Cool with me," Timmy said, pulling out a pink top with sunflowers on it. "Think it's me?" he deadpanned.
"Eww," Xandra said, shuddering. "If I have to see that in the house, I'm going to harm someone." She looked at her femme sister and pointed at the shirt. "Can you please conspire with me to keep this out of our house?" she asked Serena.
Serena shuddered when she saw the shirt. "Definitely, though I don't think she'd wear it. She'd buy it just to make us ill." She walked back to the more femme section, letting everyone else head for the t-shirts.
Xander tapped his son on the shoulder and pointed. "They've got out the standard colors of t- shirts," he told his finicky son. "You could get some here."
"Yeah, I guess," Timmy sighed, following Xandra over to the real people clothes, as she called them. He picked up a few t-shirts, and handed her a leotard. "How about that under your leathers?" he suggested. "You've got tits now."
She held the thin fabric against her and hummed. "Maybe. Thanks." She kissed him on the cheek and picked up a few t-shirts for herself, heading over to the girls racks to find some other stuff. Deb at least had some of the basics; even if they didn't have many things that she could wear, they usually had tight t-shirts and tank tops year round. She grabbed what she wanted and headed for the dressing room, getting her little plastic card from one of the register girls so she could go try them on.
Xander patted his wallet and pulled it out, making sure he had his bank card with him. And at least one credit card. This was going to be an expensive one. He snagged Timmy as he walked past, frowning at his son. "Don't remark on your sister's breasts, that's creepy," he advised, then let him go. He continued to stand in the middle of the store, looking very much like a confused parent.
Oz walked into Deb, smiling when he saw Xander's hair sticking up already. "Big problems?" he asked as he walked up to his mate and gave him a hug.
"Timmy keeps handing Xandra shirts because she has breasts," he said quietly. "I tried to tell him not to say that."
"He's a boy, he's fascinated by the subject. As long as he doesn't do more than talk about them, he's okay," Oz assured him. He'd been the one to take all the child development classes when they'd been psych majors. "Yo, Tim, find me a shirt too, I need a few more 't's."
Timmy nodded and searched the pile of t-shirts, bringing his father a few. "Here." He grinned at his father. "You know we do things like that to keep you on your toes so you don't get old." He walked away, going to take Precious something he'd just seen, getting smacked for his tits comment that time. "Oww," he whined. "Daddy, she hit me."
"Good," Oz called, leaning against Xander. "You probably deserved it this time for being annoying." He smiled at the saleswoman that was heading toward Xandra, watching as the older woman asked her if she needed help. Xandra said something and the woman shook her head so Xandra walked over to them. "Done?" he asked his youngest daughter.
"With in here," she agreed, holding up her purchases.
"What's with the body gear?" Xander asked.
"I think it's a cute look," Brandon said as he walked over with his stuff. "It'd go good under a jacket or under her leathers."
"Leather*s*?" Oz asked.
"Not many, daddy," she pleaded. "But I do have to replace my set."
"I know," he soothed, pulling out his wallet to look inside. Xander handed over his bank card. "Thanks. I've only got my Visa."
"Got the Mastercard too," Xander noted, pointing at the registers. "Come on. Let's go get you done. Timmy, done?" he called.
"Almost. I need one more t-shirt," he called back, choosing not to choose and bringing all three with him after another moment to join the group at the register. "Please keep them separate," he told the cashier.
"I'll try," she said, finishing with Xandra's and putting her things into one bag, then taking Brandon's and doing his load. "School clothes?" she asked Xander, trying to make small talk.
"They're switching from a school with a uniform to one without," he agreed. "We didn't plan on spending this much, but it's worth it not to have to do this at Christmas time."
Oz groaned as he shuddered. "Thank you for reminding me of that." He picked up a set of earrings and handed them to Serena. "Here, you can wear those," he said, pulling her away from the more dangly earrings. "Those'll get tangled in your hair."
She sighed and took the ones she wanted, adding them to her father's choice. "I wear my hair up most days, Daddy."
"I know, but you look cute in them," he said with a smile. "Humor me, I'm paying for it and I have fond remembrances of you as a six year old with your first set of earrings."
She kissed him on the cheek. "I know you do." She went back to picking out dresses and school outfits, eventually handing him some of them so he could carry them.
"You don't have that big of a closet," Xander called.
She stuck her tongue out and grabbed another two pairs of pants to spite him, letting her father carry them up to the register for her. "I do so, I only have dresses right now and most of them aren't the right length and are getting tight in the chest." She saw a rack she hadn't seen yet and went over to investigate, getting six of the dresses on it in her size; they were just her style, long and flowing, and exact copies of her favorite ones that were now too small. She came back and handed them over too. "There, I'm done with everything but shoes."
Xander patted her on the head. "That's good. You're getting a closet organizer for Christmas." He looked at Precious, who was still picking out stuff. "You almost done?" he called.
"No," she called back.
Xander shook his head and handed over the bank card. "I'll give her a card and authorize it," he told her. "But she can't have anything strapless, backless, or tight enough to look like a ho."
The saleswoman's eyes widened but she nodded. "I'll tell her you said that," she agreed, scanning the card for him. She frowned. "Sir, did you know that your bank had frozen your account?"
"Crap, we switched cards," Oz sighed, handing over his Visa. "I know this one didn't get switched."
She ran it and smiled at him. "No, it didn't."
"There's a branch of the bank here," Xander said quietly, "I'll go do that now." He took his card back and went down to talk to them, leaving Oz alone with the kids.
Precious came over with her meager amount of clothes. "Do I have to go?"
"You've got ten minutes," Oz told her. "We're going to go get a drink." She nodded and hurried off, going to do some quick shopping and trying on of only the most important things. Oz took his card back and signed his name. "I'm going to be over at the pretzel stand," he told the saleswoman. "Let her come get me if I'm not back by then." He herded the other kids out, letting Junior snuggle up to his side as they walked. That store had nothing for his sensitive tastes, he was more a Sears kinda guy.
Precious smiled at the saleswoman and held up a top. "You think?" she asked.
"He said nothing strapless," she reminded the girl, going to help her shop. Her father looked serious about the ten minute limit.
Xander heaved the last bag into the trunk of the van and turned to look at the kids. "Okay, we've done half the mall, do we *really* have to go back in there?" he asked as he slammed the back door.
"Yup," Xandra and Timmy said together. "We didn't get to go to the Goth place because you had to eat," she explained.
Xander sighed and followed them in, letting Oz get the other kids into the van with their nanny, who'd drive them home while they rode in the car. "Start home without us," he called to his husband. "I'll get us home."
Oz nodded and got into the van. "Okay, where are we stopping for dinner?" he asked. Various places were yelled, but Oz decided on one that met most of their requirements. "Taco Bell it is," he announced. He nodded at Jon to start the van. "Xander'll drive the other two home."
Brandon looked down at his new boots and smiled. "Maybe she'll be able to talk him into spoiling her again."
"Probably," Oz agreed, buckling in as the van backed up. "Everyone hitched?"
"Yes," came the joint reply.
Xander followed his favorite children into their favorite store, and they were his favorites, they'd liked him best since the first time he held them. He pulled out his wallet and handed each one three hundred dollars, neither one of them had gotten very much at the other stores, except for shoes and t-shirts, this was the store they'd been looking forward too. "Remember to try it all on," he said as they ran off.
One of the salesclerks walked up to him. "We've got a coffee machine if you'd like a cup," he offered. "I know that look, those kids will be in here *forever*."
Xander grinned at him. "I remember when this was more of a kink store and it was downtown," he told the young man, who looked a little shocked. "My daughter's still borrowing my clothes from that period in my life. I think I'll look around." He walked away, heading back to the leather section himself. And then he'd make a quick stop in the t-shirts. He had many fond memories of their t-shirts and his communicating with Oz through them.
"Daddy, can I have more?" Xandra asked as she gave him a hug.
"No. You don't need more than two pairs of leathers at your age."
"But, Daddy," she whined.
"And that noise isn't going to get you them," he reminded her, patting her on the hand. "I had this shirt," he told her, pointing at the silver one. "I had to get rid of it way back when."
"Back when we were little?" Timmy asked.
"Back before you were born," Xander corrected absently, pulling it down to try it on. "Hey, I still fit into my old clothes."
"You haven't gained any weight," Xandra reminded him. "You still fit into all your old clothes, as long as they're not from High School."
"Point," he said with a smile. "And no tight leathers, Xandra, you're still growing and they'd better last you at least another year."
"Yes, Daddy," she sighed, going back to her shopping. "But I've been saving up my allowance," she offered. "I'll pay you back." He shook his head, not looking at her. "But the other kids got like *hundreds* of dollars worth at the other stores. Serena practically shopped out Deb's."
Xander turned to look at his daughter, shaking his head, then he caught sight of her present outfit. "Too tight," he announced, pointing at the changing room.
"Yes, sir," she sighed, grabbing the next size up and heading in to try those on instead.
Timmy snickered. "Thanks. I hate keeping the boys off her."
"Her rep does it for you," Xander said, patting him on the shoulder. "Go buy bowling shirts." He took off the silver shirt and changed it for one in a bigger size. So maybe he'd gained a little muscle.....
They spent an hour in there, and Xander bought just as much as the kids, and everyone went over their budget. He led them out to the car, smiling goofily at his happy mood, which didn't evaporate even when he saw someone had keyed his car. "Wow, so gonna have to call someone to fix that," he said as he dropped his packages into the front seat. "Buckle up. What's for dinner?"
"Micky D's," the kids said together.
"Cool by me," Xander agreed, starting his car and backing out, heading for the mall entrance and the McDonalds that was sitting there waiting on them.
Oz looked up as Xander walked in with his bags, looking inside the one that plopped next to him on the bed. "Feeling nostalgic?" he asked.
"A little," Xander said, laying down to cuddle with him. "I even rebought most of the t-shirts we lost to the aliens."
"Wow. I didn't realize the goth store was the same place."
"Yup, and I got to shock one of the little kids working in there by reminding him of the store's heritage. He offered me coffee."
Oz snickered. "He just thought you were the average parent, he didn't mean to imply that you're tragically unhip and older than their target audience, Xan." He pinched the firm backside. "You've got email waiting on you."
"Really? From which house?"
"Personal mail," Oz corrected. "It's from Angel."
"Man, what's the broody one want now?" He got up to go read the message, it wasn't the first time the vampire had called on them for help, but the last time had only been six months ago. "Oh, wow, he's really stuck this time," he said, starting to laugh. "Wesley cast a love spell and it got him and Cordy. He wants to know how to drive her off."
"Tell him to cheat on her with someone else," Oz suggested dryly.
"That did work for me," Xander agreed, typing in a message, then correcting it so it didn't sound so flippant. "How's this? Buy her an ugly sweater and demand she wear it? Or, tell her that you want her to have children."
"Won't work, Cordy said she wanted children the last time we saw her. Then again," Oz said, sitting up and looking at his husband, "she had a major crush on him when we last saw her. You might tell Angel that, it might make a difference."
Xander typed that in. "Okay, I changed it again, reminding him of that and suggesting that he beat Wesley until he countered the spell because neither of us knew that much magic, but I'd pass it on to Giles, who's in England at the moment. Good enough?"
"Sounds good to me, put the sweater thing as a PS." Oz got up and came over, sending the message out as soon as his husband was done. "I'm in the mood," he whispered then stole a kiss. "I want to soak with you."
"I could go for that," Xander agreed, standing up and letting Oz slide down his body. "Bathtub running or finding the lube?"
"I want the lube," Oz told him, heading over to search for their infrequently used tub of lubricant. They never had time for sex anymore. And to prove him right, the phone rang. "If you answer that, I'm going to do myself," Oz warned.
"I'm not, I'm listening to the message," Xander said with a grin. Then he started to swear. "It's Buffy."
"What about Buffy?" Oz asked, coming over to listen at their room door to the answering machine downstairs. Being a werewolf, even a fixed one, had some definite advantages in the sensory department. "Crap," he sighed, handing over the lube. "Want to call or shall I?"
"I'll call Nick, he's in town," Xander offered. Oz nodded so he picked up the phone and dialed his half-brother's cellphone. "Hey, Bro, it's me. Are you still in town? Because we just got a coded message from Buffy and she's in town too?" He laughed dryly. "Yeah, that sort of reason. No, I'm back on the island, so are Oz and the kids. We got back on the last ferry." He checked the clock. "It won't run again for another half-hour, Bro, we're not close enough. Yeah, I know she probably called us for a reason, go grab Derek, he's in town at the Court House. Because if it's a were thing then he's tainted and it's all good. Yeah, that sort of reason. Well, why else would she call me?" He sighed and hung up. "He'll call her and see if it's actually for us or not." He sat down on the bed and pulled Oz into his lap, giving him a kiss. "Give it twenty minutes and then maybe...." The phone rang.
"Yo?" Oz answered. "Hey, Nick. No, we're all here. Yeah, from a phone. We've got the message." He looked over at Xander. "Did she sound like she was on her cell?"
"No, it sounded like she was on a car phone. But she did say she was down near the college. At that big bookstore."
"She was at the big bookstore near the college. Yeah, that one. No, not the chain place. He would've said it was the chain place if it'd been that one," Oz reminded him. "Want us to come anyway?" He sighed and hung up. "He's headed over but we can't make out, Nick's orders." He slid off his husband's lap and gave him a gentle kiss. "Want me to hide the lube again?"
"No, I think I'll still be in the mood tonight," Xander said reasonably. "I've been wanting some for a few days now, I've just been too tired to try and snare you." He patted Oz on the thigh. "Put it somewhere accessible."
"Okay." Oz put it in Xander's bedside drawer and looked down at his mate. "Why are you so tired? There hasn't been anything out of the ordinary recently, except for the marathon of shopping." He sat down again, wrapping his husband in his arms. "And why the trip down clothing nostalgia?"
"I'm not sure," Xander admitted. And lied. He knew what was causing the tiredness, and it was obvious Oz knew he was lying. "All right, Marcus called and he wants me in for an appointment soon."
"Few days. I put him off," Xander said with a sigh. "I don't want to go get the bad news."
"It might not be bad news," Oz reminded him. "It could be good news."
"Or it could be really bad news," Xander added.
"Point, but I'd like to be optimistic here."
"Yeah, so would I, but I'm not seeming to find that much inside myself at the moment."
"I noticed." Oz gave him a squeeze. "Why the sudden trip down fuzzy clothes lane?"
"It just felt right somehow."
"All right, I won't bug about it. As long as you're not going to go all hyena on me again, we're fine." He stood up and held out a hand. "Coming downstairs with me? I'm sure Nick'll be calling soon."
"Sure. I could use a snack, and a drink." He knew Oz was watching him, but he knew it was because he loved him. They went down and fixed a small snack, surrendering half of it to their boys almost immediately. The ding of the microwave was like a siren call to them at their age.
Derek looked around at his gathered family. "We have a situation," he said quietly. "Buffy's gone missing. We found her car, we found her bags, we even found her wallet, but we can't find her."
"Any ideas from the security cameras?" Oz asked.
"Not a one," Nick admitted, scratching his chin. He and Buffy had been an item, before she had gotten together with Alex and he had gotten together with Philip and Derek. "There's a blank spot actually. The manager couldn't understand what happened. The rest of the tape was fine. The police, who the manager called when he found out she was missing, think it's just a bad spot on the tape."
"And you think it's what, magic?" Xander asked.
"That's my bet," Nick agreed, looking at them. "You were right, you probably couldn't have gotten there soon enough. Did you record the message?"
"Yeah," Oz said, tossing over a tape. Their answering machine was electric, it would have erased the message if they'd unplugged it to bring it with them. "All she said was that someone was watching her and that she thought she needed help."
Derek popped the tape into his player and pushed the button, listening to the simple message. He saw his son sit up and looked at him, but Xander shook his head. "Son?" he asked.
"We need to hear some of the background noise. I can barely hear another voice behind her and it's familiar to me."
"We can do that," Alex said quickly, getting up and taking the tape, carrying it into the control room. "Give me ten."
Nick relaxed and looked at his brother. "Did you have your cell with you?"
"It blew up in the car," Xander admitted. "I've got another one on order, but it's back-ordered right now."
"We thought about getting him a temporary one, but it wouldn't have the same abilities as the ones we get through the Legacy," Oz explained. "I had mine, but I'd turned it off because we'd both gotten home."
"That's understandable," Derek said gently. "I'll call and check on that in a while, boys. Xander, have you heard anything from the Tribunal yet?"
"Just that they're deliberating," he said with a shrug. "I was right, they pushed Marcell to his snapping point. He went after his tormenters and only one person got in the way to try and stop them."
"Ricardo's wife?" Nick asked. Xander nodded. "Figures. She loved the twerp, even though she knew he was an ass and cheating on her."
"He was steady," Oz said quietly. "She decided she wanted the stability more than she wanted him. They'd started to share separate rooms." Derek looked at him, one eyebrow going up. "She called me for advice because she didn't feel comfy going to their house's counselor for it."
"Ah, I see," Derek said. "Did you make a note of it?"
"I did," Xander told him. "Oz doesn't have access to personnel folders."
"Goot. Was it brought up?" Xander nodded. "And what did Marcell say?"
"That he only hit her once, but Ricardo all but killed her by kicking her repeatedly. Seems he hit her by accident as he was carrying stuff in for her and knocked her down. Ricardo sneered at her and kicked her a few times so Marcell smacked him around with the box of canned goods for the food drive they were working on together. Then the rest of the house came to interfere and he got the ones who attacked him outright instead of trying to calm him down and see what was going on." Xander shifted uncomfortably. "The young girl there calmed him down and had someone call me."
"The only question left should be what to do about him," Derek said thoughtfully. "Did they ask you about that?"
"Yup, that's how I knew what went on. I suggested one-on-one rehab since they were supposedly trying to help him regain himself after being brainwashed. I suggested he go to a former member who knew about this sort of thing and that they take control of his case."
"I can see that," Derek said thoughtfully. "No one died so I'd have to say it's not helpful trying to have him institutionalized."
"Which wouldn't work anyway, he'd just be drugged and kept behind bars," Oz put in. "He was supposedly well on his way to being normal again from the reports. With any luck, he didn't backslide too much by having to attack them."
"They were undermining everything they'd done so far," Xander told him. "Every step forward was accompanied by telling him how grateful he should be that they agreed to take him in and how he should all-but worship at their feet for being so nice. They signed their own death certificates by doing it to him, it's a credit to himself that he was controlled enough not to kill them. He is a trained assassin."
"Yes, he is," Derek said quietly. "Is there really a chance of rehabilitating him?"
"To a great degree, but he'll never lose those memories or his edginess," Oz said. "The same as Nick won't ever lose his edge from being a SEAL. He can stop killing and sublimate the urges, but they'll never be totally gone. If he were my case, I'd suggest that he take up a violent sport, like hunting or soccer, some way to get some of the aggression out without resorting to actual violence."
"I'll pass that along," Derek said thoughtfully. "I had no idea that you could sublimate such urges."
"You can, we all do it," Xander told him. "How many times have you wanted to kill someone while you're stuck in traffic?" Derek laughed at that. "Nick?"
"Too many for words," Nick admitted. "I tend to turn up my radio and think about other ways of beating up on the guy."
"See, sublimation," Xander finished. "He just needs a better way to get out the urges."
"Maybe he'll find it," Derek said optimistically. "Alex?" he called, pushing the intercom button. "Are you done?"
"Nearly. Listen," she said, patching the sound into the microphone.
"That voice," Xander said suddenly. "The low, female one."
"That's Willow," Oz said softly. "I'd recognize it anywhere." He took Xander's hand and squeezed it.
"Yeah, I guess I would too," Xander agreed, looking a little upset. "Can you hear what she said, Alex?"
"Give me a sec, I can try," Alex answered, and the tape rewound, Buffy's voice being eliminated from the tape.
"Buffy, I need your help," Willow's voice said. "I'll have you back at the house in two weeks." Then there was a click and the line went dead.
"Well, I guess we have a timetable," Nick said dryly. "Why would she need Buffy?"
"She's working on the newest Hellmouth," Xander said thoughtfully. "Maybe she did something that opened it or needed a Slayer."
"Maybe," Derek said, not sounding pleased. "I don't like it though. She kidnaped her."
"I bet, if we were nice and wrote to her, we'd get the full story," Oz put in. "We do have an email addy."
"Try that," Derek ordered. "I want to know why she felt it necessary to kidnap one of my people."
"Let me check the house's mail," Alex said. "She might have already told us. Willow was always too straightforward for her own good." She hummed and there was the sound of clicking over the connection to the control room. "Yup, got a message from her." She snorted. "She says, and I quote: Hi, guys. Bad news, the London idiots have nearly opened the Hellmouth here and I need Buffy to fight so I can close it. I promise I won't let her get hurt much, but it's either this or a demon uprising in London. She'll be back within two weeks. Signed Willow."
Xander coughed. "Well, it's a good reason," he said lightly.
"It's still not right," Derek said coolly. "She could have told us, we would have sent someone to help her."
"Yeah, but would we *believe* her?" Oz asked. "Over London House?"
Derek shook his head and sighed. "Probably not."
"That's probably what she was thinking," Oz reminded him. "She didn't think we'd believe her. Like Alex said, Willow was always straightforward about her desires. She never hid anything that she did, not even her heading towards dark magic."
"If London House opened it, I want to know why and which one," Xander said quietly. "With what the research house had happen a few months back, this is kinda coincidental."
"And with the Precept's meeting," Nick noted.
"It's not James," Derek said. "It's his second in command, he wants to control it all."
"William's vision?" Alex asked.
"I've looked over it, and I think I know what's going on. Alex, I need you to find that sword of mine and the urn we tried to trap my father in."
"On it," she said quickly, and the line went dead.
"Nick, I'm still going to the Precept's meeting, I have a feeling that he's not the only one doing this. I want to find out who else he's working with."
"If we could identify the people in William's vision," Xander said thoughtfully, "we might have a clue. He says he sees people but one's voice is overshadowed by Winston's name." He looked at his mate, who was starting to look more uncomfortable. "What?"
"When's the Precept's meeting?" Oz asked Derek.
"Next week, why?" Derek asked.
"Coincidence or not? London starts to open the Hellmouth. Willow finds out and has to tap Buffy for help. Precepts are meeting in a small, out of the way area by themselves, including Derek. Willow knew. She interpreted the vision already."
"I wish she had told us," Nick said dryly.
"She did. She sent William to us," Oz pointed out. "He who was raised near London's prime house, who were trying to get him. She said in the note she sent that she had to protect him from London by sending him here."
"Is she helping or hurting?" Derek asked.
"Helping. She doesn't want the Legacy as she knows it to fall," Xander told him. "It'll complicate her life and she's near the top of the enemy list. She *knows* that if something happens in this house, she's the first to be looked at under a microscope, especially if it's done magically. *Especially* if it doesn't impact the kids."
"Which it wouldn't," Derek said, looking at Nick. "Winston wouldn't harm them, he'd just make sure that they were raised in the old Legacy traditions."
"At least until he found out they were weres," Alex said as she walked back in. "She's protecting the kids."
"Yup, just like she said she would," Xander said, slumping a little bit. "This sucks. I feel like I should be cheering her on."
"You should be," Nick agreed. "She's protecting your kids from some very big monsters." He patted Derek's thigh. "Sorry."
"No, my father would have kicked them out and had them hunted down, even though they can't change," Derek agreed. "He thought all weres should be exterminated, that they're an unnatural manifestation of life. At one point he even spouted off the old wives tale about them coming from the mating of a woman and a wolf."
"Eww," Oz said.
"Sorry, son," Derek said with a light smile. "But my father was like that. His way was the old and glorious ways of the Legacy and nothing should ever change the rules. Not even when new scientific information or technology came about, he didn't like it at all unless it helped him prove his way was right."
"It's a good thing that your mother raised you then, huh?" Xander asked with a grin.
"Very," Derek agreed. "I doubt any of us would have been very happy if I had refused to take in Buffy or had Oz hunted down that first night."
"No, I wouldn't have been," Xander said, squeezing Oz's hand.
"Will we have to face him?" Alex asked.
"Not likely," Oz snorted. "I doubt he'd be able to travel here from London without us knowing it. He wouldn't have a passport. He wouldn't have any money."
"And he wouldn't be a spirit if he came out the Hellmouth," Xander added.
"Goot thinking," Derek praised. "So, I'm still going and you're going to sit here and guard the Legacy, correct?"
"Right," everyone said together.
"Do we warn the houses?" Nick asked.
"I'm warning mine," Xander told him. "They're not part of the full Legacy and I know I can trust most of them. Sister Mary Catherine is the one I'll tell and let her get it around to people she trusts, which will give us an added edge if we need it."
"Goot," Derek agreed. "You tell her and remind her to keep this in the strictest confidence. Only have her tell the people she trusts implicitly." Xander nodded and got up to send the email. "Oz, I want you to contact all the seconds in the houses, suggest a conference of your own during that time, make it about the yearly paperwork and how to reduce it." Oz nodded and got up, heading to go send his own email. "Nick, I want you to go to London and to follow Willow around."
"No," Nick said quietly. "Not gonna happen."
"Nick, that's an order."
"Yay. I'd love to, but I doubt I could find her and I doubt she'd let me watch. You need me here, Derek, not off in London chasing after a witch. She can't and won't hurt us. Winston will but Buffy can handle him if he's a demon."
"And if he's not?" Derek asked.
"Do we even know where the London Hellmouth is?" Alex asked, trying to sound practical. Nick wasn't going to abandon Derek, not during a crisis, it was time that Derek noticed that. "Do we know where Willow works out of or even which part of London she lives in? London's a big city, Derek, he'll never find her if she doesn't want to be found. She's a hacker, there's probably not a trace of her in any database."
Derek glared at her. "Alex, we need someone there. Buffy won't be able to handle Winston. I wouldn't be able to do it on my own."
"Yes, but you're his son," Alex pointed out gently. "She's nothing to him but a Slayer, which he sees as an inferior form of a woman who's trying to take his job. She'll kick his ass if only to prove to him that a woman does a better job."
"But Willow will be tied up with the Hellmouth," Derek pointed out icily. "Nick needs to go."
"No, we need someone more local and more familiar with the area," Alex said. "Someone used to dealing with Willow."
"Rupert?" Derek said, looking startled.
"He's already in the area," she reminded him, "and he grew up outside of London. He might even know where the London Hellmouth is since he had to go check on it once."
"And Willow trusts him," Nick said, jumping onto Alex's bandwagon. There was *no* way he was leaving Derek's side. "Plus, he knows magic, he can help her if need be."
"And he's tied to Buffy," Alex added. "He'd do anything to help her, including give up his life for her."
"Fine," Derek sighed, still glaring at Alex. He looked at Nick. "Go call him." His lover left. "Alex," he said coldly.
"You knew it was a bad idea and you'd forgotten about Rupert," she said quietly. "That's what I'm here for, Derek, to point out when you're overreacting. You wanted to send him away to try and keep him out of harm's way and you know he won't go, for the same reason you tried to send him away. You've got to quit trying to prove that you don't love him by pushing him away. Nick's the sort of guy who'll leave." She stood up. "Now, I'm going to get a real drink and you're going to go apologize to Nick before he starts to sulk. And you know I'm right." She walked out, letting him fume in peace.
Finally, her words got through to him and he went to find his lover. Nick wouldn't yell at him, but he'd probably say about the same thing Alex would. At least Philip hadn't heard him, he'd have yelled.
Derek smiled as Alex walked into his office later that night. "Alex, if you ever counter my orders again, I'm going to send you to the worst house I can find for six months until you learn obedience," he said in greeting.
"I'm not a dog, Derek, I'm your second in command and your chief researcher. If you can't trust me to make my own decisions, send me to London and I'll fix the house from the inside." He glared at her. "You knew I was right at the time, and you're supposed to be trusting me to make decisions and to give you advice."
"You gave an order, not advice," he corrected.
"Yeah, because you needed to see sense, not emotional ties. Or at least that's what you used to do to me whenever I was seeing emotionally. If you can't take it, you shouldn't have dished it out and taught me to give it back," she said coldly. "This isn't what I came in here for. I got a report from Rupert," she said, tossing the papers onto his desk. "Willow called him before she came over for Buffy."
Derek glared at her but he picked up the reports. "Why didn't he call and make a report of this?"
"He called London and made a report of it," she said. "Xander's house in London."
"And it never got back to us?" Derek asked thoughtfully. "I think it's time he reigned them in a bit."
"You might want to reconsider that," Xander said as he walked through the door. "I just got it today, they've been trying to figure out why he made the report to them, they were sending it in with their monthly reports to me, which is all I'm going to demand from them." He tossed the report down. "Then they heard from Mary Catherine. They forwarded it as soon as they understood."
"I see. They should still...."
"Those houses work their own way and I'm not messing with things I don't fully understand, Derek. I'm not saddling my people with a bunch of rules that'll only keep them from doing the work they were assigned. Monthly reports were fine before this and they'll be fine after you fix this."
"Alexander," Derek said calmly, "I am still your Precept and you will show me the respect I deserve."
"And I'm a Precept in my own right, so don't *even* use that tone of voice with me." He leaned a little closer. "Let me tell you something, *Derek*, if this had been planned ahead of time, Oz and I would both be in London right now. Hellmouths are our speciality, not the Legacy's. Your being fussy and cranky isn't helping anything and none of us are unstressed enough to not fight back, not even Oz. I wouldn't start making demands on me until this is over with." He stood back up. "Now, with that said, I've ordered the London research house to help Rupert in whatever way he needs, whether it's magical or just an extra few fighters, and to not tell the other houses on either side of the dividing line." He pulled something out of his back pocket and tossed it onto the desk too. "I'm going over to be with my house. Oz has reluctantly agreed to stay here and help you since he's an heir apparent. I'll be back when this is over."
"Freeze," Derek hissed. "You do not leave this house unless I say so."
"I'm going to my house's aid," Xander said calmly. "Even if I have to fly mundane airlines to get there. That's my *duty*, *Father*. I have a *duty* to my houses, the same one you have to this one. I also have a *duty* to Buffy because I promised her I'd be beside her the next time we took on an opening Hellmouth. If you don't like that, then bring me up on charges." He turned and walked out, heading to go grab his passport and his bag, before word got back to Oz.
Derek glared at Alex. "Do you see what your insubordination has lead to?"
"Yeah, Xander's doing what you'd be doing in any other circumstances," she said lightly. "You'd expect him to do this if he was anyone but your son, Derek, and you know it." She turned and left him alone too, hoping he could get past his emotions this time, but not counting on it.
Derek leaned back and tried to control his temper, but it wasn't working too well. He buzzed the library, where Philip was working, bringing him to the office. "Do you think I'm being unreasonable?" he asked when his lover walked in.
Philip turned and locked the door then moved over to sit on the couch. "Yes," he answered calmly, "I think you're being emotional. If you weren't, you'd have sent Xander to his house if he hadn't volunteered by now. You'd have remembered that Rupert's there already and that he's probably better able to fight this thing than Nick would be, at least he'd be able to kill Winston if need-be because he's not in love with his son." He smiled faintly. "And you were reactin' when you tried to send Nick to Buffy's side. What's he gonna do with a Hellmouth? Shoot at it?" Derek snorted at that. "Think logically, Derek. If this were any other house and you were ordering their troops inta battle, what'd be the plan?"
Derek thought about that. "Xander would already be in London," he admitted. "I'd have called Rupert immediately, as soon as we found out Buffy was missing." He groaned and held his head. "I've messed up horribly, Philip."
"No, Alex and Xander both saw it for what it was," he assured his lover. They had both stopped by and asked him to talk to Derek, he knew they understood. "They'll forgive you as soon as you ask for it."
"I'll call Xander on the plane and tell him I'm sorry," Derek sighed. "How long do you think it'll take him to get there?"
"He left as soon as he walked out," Philip said with a shrug. "Oz went earlier so they're sharing a flight." He smiled. "I called and made sure of it."
Derek smiled back. "I'm glad to see I'm not the only one arranging things in this house."
"No, you're not," Philip said, standing up. "Go see Alex and apologize. I don't want to hear any more fits from the two'a you." He walked out of the office, leaving Derek alone to do what he had to do.
Derek buzzed the control room, bringing Alex to him.
Xander walked onto the plane and gaped at his mate. "Aren't you staying with the kids?"
"Why? They've got Jon and I left a long note about how we were sneaking off to get into trouble together." He shrugged and patted the seat beside him. "Come buckle in. We'll be leaving in a few." Once his husband was beside him, he handed over the box that had come for him that morning. "Mail for you."
Xander frowned as he opened the box, smiling at the phone inside it. "Hey, a new phone." He gave Oz a kiss. "Is it activated and everything?"
"It's not through the Legacy. I called them two days ago and they said a month, so I went ahead and got you a phone yesterday. It should be activated but you'll have to program in numbers and check it."
Xander pulled his new phone out and plugged it in so it could charge. "This is a great prezzie."
"And a practical one," Oz said, waving at his own phone. "If the guy in London was going to do this seriously, he'd interrupt the phones somehow. Take down the main Legacy satellite or something."
"So, we're not dependant on it now?"
"Not at all," Oz agreed, taking Xander's hand as the plane started to taxi. "Where's your laptop?"
"Packed. I didn't want to work on the flight."
"Good idea," Oz said, leaning over to give his mate a kiss. "I can think of much better things to be doing on the flight over."
Xander hummed and pulled off Oz's overshirt, then he snapped his chair back, letting his husband curl up on top of him. "I could go for this," he admitted. "Been wanting it for a while now."
"Good. And while we're in the air, we'll call Marcus. After we're done of course," he said with a grin, nipping his husband's neck.
"If you say so," Xander moaned, getting into it. It'd been too long.
The stewardess pulled the curtain to give them some privacy and called the Legacy house they'd just left from. She was sure Derek would want to know about this, he'd asked her to tell him if they did anything unusual. She smiled when the phone was answered by that yummy Nick Boyle. "Mr. Boyle, it's Madeline, one of the crew of the plane? Doctor Rayne asked me to call when we took off." She smiled as the phone was handed off with a grunt. "Yes, sir, they're both here, they have new cellphones, and they're presently making out." Her face fell. "Really? Yes, sir, I'll do that, sir." She hung up and went to prepare the bedroom area for the couple.
Xander grinned as she walked past. "Dad probably figured we'd do something like this," he told her. "And we can unmake the bed just fine."
"We'll need food later," Oz said as he dragged Xander up and into the closed-off bedroom section, closing the door in her face.
She 'humph'ed and went to the kitchen area to make them a snack and some coffee.
Xander and Oz grabbed hands as they moved up in the Custom's line, Xander smiling at the man behind the counter. "Here," he said, tossing both their bags up but gently putting his laptop case on the counter.
"What's in that one?" the officer asked, pointing to it.
"Laptop," Oz said. "We're here on business."
"Oh." The man searched them all efficiently, then stamped their passports. He looked at Xander's, then at the man, then back down. "Old picture?"
"Two years," he said with a frown, leaning over to look at the picture. "Shoot, I picked up my old one."
"Is it still good?" Oz asked.
"Yeah, it's still good, but it's got the bad picture." Xander took it back. "Thanks."
"Welcome." The man waived them on, then nodded at the guy who'd paid him fifty quid that it was them. He tidied his area, waiting on the next private jet.
Xander and Oz grabbed a cab from the airport into town, heading for the London Research house. Oz looked over his shoulder and frowned. "Looks like someone knows we're here," he noted, getting comfortable.
Xander glanced back and sighed. "He's a member of the prime house."
"Then he probably knows where we're going," Oz said with a slight shrug. "No big."
"Very big big," Xander corrected. "If they knew we were coming...."
"It's standard operating procedure," the cabby said, smiling back at them. "Mister Harris, long time no see," he said cheerfully.
"Hey, Martel. Did you ever get the slime out? Are we having problems yet?"
"No, but young Ms. Summers is staying in our house at the moment. Your Ms. Rosenburg was even nice enough to tell us what was really going on." He pulled onto another street. "We're at the backup house at the moment," he said in explanation. "Give me a few to lose the prig." He spun around the next corner really fast, trying to lose him with the changing stoplight.
"So, how did you know we'd get into this cab?" Oz asked.
"Bribed the cabbies. Whichever you got into got eighty pounds. Probably think's I'm gonna off you or someat, but that's mundanes for ya." He spun around another corner. "Said I'd drop his clean cab off at the station again in a few hours." He pulled into an alleyway and turned around to look at them. "I had no idea that this was brewing when you were here a while back, Mr. Harris, but I'll say this, your father's a right good man. Called our house to apologize to you and everything. Oh, and he said someat about the cells not working?"
"Breaking the chain of communication would help the guy trying to take over," Oz agreed. "Derek apologized publically?"
"Yeah. Said he was feelin' old and everything," Martel said with a grin. "Oh, and he said we were to tell you both about what we'd found about weres and the like. Seems our research got interestin' to him recently."
"I thought Vatican City had that subject," Xander said with a frown.
"Oh, they've got part of it, but we've got the bulk of the history stuff. He probably never told you he asked specifically for us to go on it, but he did. Said he wanted you two to both be safe." He smiled again. "And safe you'll be."
"Good, remind my mate that he's not bulletproof please," Oz said dryly.
"I know I'm not," Xander said with a slight pout. "That's why I brought my vest."
Martel snickered. "Seems you've got it well in hand. I'll just drive us to the backup house and we'll get you settled in for the day." He started the engine again and backed out of the alleyway, heading for their backup house, a beautiful Tudor in one of the suburbs of the city. "Here we are," he said, waiting while they got out and grabbed their bags. "Be right back." He sped off, taking the cab back to it's driver.
Xander walked up to the house and smiled as he saw all the books piled everywhere. "Gee, we're home," he called, bracing himself when Buffy ran down the stairs to give him a hug. "Hi. You okay?" he asked, letting her go so Oz could hug her.
"We're fine. What happened on the plane?" she asked.
"Nothing but sex," Oz told her. "Why?"
"Then it wasn't the Legacy jet that crashed with the other one on takeoff at home?"
"What?" the guys said together.
"It's on the news," Willow said from behind a stack of books. "Derek just called and said it wasn't them."
"It was probably the auxiliary jet," Oz said, patting Buffy and letting her go. "So, Willow, Hellmouth?"
"Yes, Hellmouth, Oz." She stepped out into the light. "I'm going to close the sucker and you'll help Buffy."
"Seems like a plan," Buffy agreed. "Your room's at the top of the stairs and all the way to the right. Martel said it's one of the bigger ones and you'd need it."
"Okay, let us go put our stuff up and then we'll sit down and get the whole story." He looked at Willow then headed up to their room. He tapped on the door, just to make sure, then walked in, smiling at the woman playing with the little boy on the carpet.
"He's enjoying the sun," she said with a shrug.
"We're used to kids," Oz reminded her as he walked in. "Got a few of our own."
She laughed. "I've heard. How old are they now?"
"Twelve, eleven, and nine," Xander told her. "With birthdays in a few weeks."
"Wonder if we can count the clothing spree as a present," Oz said thoughtfully, dropping his bag onto the bed. "How have you been, Sister?"
"Just fine," Mary Catherine said with a smile. "I couldn't leave him in Rome, most of my staff can't remember to feed the dog, much less the orphan left on our doorstep." She stood up and picked up the baby, who fussed at her. "These are your uncles," she introduced. "This is Uncle Oz and Uncle Xander." She let each man touch the baby. "This is baby Jesus."
"Come again?" Oz asked.
"That's what his note said," she said with a shrug and a smile. "We still haven't tracked down the mother."
"Ah, I see you've met Jesus," Martel said as he walked in. "Quite a quiet little bugger if I do say so. Not at all like the kids in my family."
"Ours were pretty quiet most of the time," Oz told him. "The quad amused themselves and two of them played with Xandra and Junior all the time to keep them amused too." He played with the baby's fingers. "You're cute," he pronounced. "You should go see Philip and Brandon."
"Yes, after this is over," she agreed. She smiled at Xander. "I was going to come over but then I got a certain email." She shifted the baby some. "The mother's note said she dropped him with us for a reason and that he was to stay with us. Or with Philip, whom she mentioned by name."
"And the strange thing is," Martel added, "the night we put his birth at, all the dawn bells rang at dawn. Haven't done that in London in ages. Even the old ones went off."
"I can get Philip here," Xander offered.
Sister Mary Catherine waved him off. "Not necessary, I'll go to him. The Cardinal won't let me adopt him, but I'm thinkin' that he won't mind Philip so much." She looked down at the little boy. "We started off on the assumption that his mother was a native Spanish speaker. When that didn't pan out, we widened the net but we still haven't come up with anything yet. Though, the note did mention Brandon too for some reason, just his name. Didn't say anything else about him, just mentioned his name in a sentence by itself."
"And then the jet blew up in your town," Martel added. "Willow said your father called and said it wasn't anyone in his house."
"The kids don't have passports," Oz told him. "Brandon's is hidden in the main house."
"At least everyone's safe," Xander said quietly, taking Jesus to hold. "You're sturdy," he said in greeting. "Not starved."
"Our doctor said he was a perfectly healthy, uncircumcised, mute little boy, though he couldn't find a reason for him to be mute."
"He's making noises," Oz noted.
"Yeah, but he never screams. Doesn't coo, doesn't make noises when he sees his toes." The sister shrugged. "It's like he can make some noises and not others."
"Like the boy in that journal that could only sing," Xander said thoughtfully.
"That's what I thought too. I copied it out and brought it to the doctor. He agreed with your assumption. All I know is that he's interested in *everything* and once he starts crawling he'll be a terror."
"All children are terrors when they start being mobile," Oz told her, giving her a grin. "The first thing all of our kids did was head for the stairs and figure out how to get down them without rolling or falling."
"Except Timmy," Xander corrected, "he only liked to scare people on the stairs. Got William so good one time that he actually fell down a few and got a concussion."
Martel chuckled. "Snuck up on the bastard?"
"Yup," Oz said, nodding. "And screamed from right behind him. William Sloan took a header down our stairs."
"And Timmy got ice cream," Xander finished.
Martel and Sister Catherine both started to laugh hard, gripping at each other. "So like Derek," she gasped.
"It was the butler actually," Oz told her. "Before he had his stroke, he had infinite faith that Derek would always get rid of William." That started off more laughter.
"Guys," Buffy called. "Derek's on the phone and Giles is here."
"Send him up," Xander called. "I want him to meet Jesus."
"Who?" Giles asked as he walked in, running a hand through his mostly silver hair. Oz pointed at the little boy. "Hello, little one, I had no idea there were children here or I'd have brought you a biscuit."
"He's from my house," Sister Mary Catherine told him. "Rupert Giles, this is Jesus."
Giles spluttered. "Surely you can't be serious."
"That's what his mother's note said," she told him, still looking like she wanted to laugh. "Her note said I was to keep him or to give him to Philip."
"I'd say Philip would be able to handle raising Jesus," Xander agreed.
"I believe it's Jesus," Giles said, pronouncing it in the Spanish way, with a 'h' sound instead of a 'j'.
"We couldn't find the mother, but we looked in the Spanish community first," the Sister said lightly. "The Cardinal thinks that he's adorable, and so did the Pope when we ran into him during our stroll of the gardens. He thinks he's Jesus too."
Xander snorted something that sounded like, 'and that surprises you.' Giles glared at him. "What?" he asked innocently.
"Please, no theology in the house," Martel said, breaking into the brewing argument. "Discussions of religion are best left to the prime houses, research houses get into too many things to have easy discussions of faith."
"I thought you liked Catholics," Sister Mary Catherine said, punching Xander on the arm.
"I do, I don't like the present Pope."
She smiled. "Well, that's all right then. He's made some decisions I can't justify to others either. I swear sometimes the man thinks it's the fourteen hundreds and women still don't have rights."
"Exactly," Xander agreed. "I don't like his stance on women's rights. I have no problem with the Church itself, only with it's present leader. My stepfather would never forgive me if I ever turned anti-Catholic."
"Philip's had a few choice words about the Pope himself," the sister told them, shocking Giles. "What? He lived under the rules. They even sent him on missionary work, which he thinks is against God's will totally."
"And he got some strange jungle fever while he was there," Oz added. "He got back just after we got to the house."
"Yup, he passed out on the couch a few days after we got there," Buffy said as she joined them. "Hey, Jesus, wanna go play downstairs with the books?"
"You marked and bound all the spirit tomes, right?" Xander asked Martel.
The Precept of the house nodded. "Yes, Xander, just like you ordered. Too bad Kyoto wouldn't listen. They had to replace half the interior walls in their library and most of their control room when their last one got free."
Oz snorted. "Yeah, and Derek told them that they should have listened to Xander instead of trying to go over Xander's head."
"Their Precept is still not happy that I'm so young and who I am," Xander reminded him. "He thinks I got my position because I'm Derek's son."
"Well, it usually goes to retired Precepts," Sister Mary Catherine agreed. "You were quite a shock, but William's visions said that we had to become a more united front to work the way we should."
"William Sloan had visions?" Oz asked.
"Right after Derek brought him back from Hell," Martel told him. "There's a whole book on them and their possible interpretations. We can go look at it later. Right now, we need a plan on how to deal with the Hellmouth."
"We had to play with the one in Sunnydale three times before it finally closed and we were sent to the Legacy," Oz told him, taking the baby to hold. "Giles, go find the spell and help Willow practice. Xander, you and Buffy deal with the weapons situation. Martel, I need to know everything about what sort of demon Winston Rayne may be coming back as. And all the were stuff that you've got. Sister, if you're willing to fight, help whichever group you can."
She nodded. "Why don't I take him for a bit?"
"Because I miss having a baby," Oz told her with a grin. "All of ours are too big to hold like this."
She shrugged. "Okay, there's diapers in my room and the canister of formula too." She followed Xander out and down the stairs. "I didn't think you guys were that hands on with your kids."
"We were when we were there," he said sadly. "We both wanted to be more hands on, that's why we spoiled Junior so much."
"Think you'll adopt another one?" Buffy asked.
"Probably not," he sighed, scratching at his chest. Willow and Buffy both stared at his hand. "What?"
"Xander, are you feeling that urge again?" Buffy asked delicately. He looked clueless. "You know, the *urge* you felt with Junior in Florida?"
He smiled and shook his head. "Nope, not at all, just a detergent reaction. We switched and my skin only likes Tide."
"Oh, good," Buffy said, nodding at Willow, who nodded but was looking sad herself. "Um, let's go find the weapons. Martel, which room?"
"Dining room," he said, pointing in the direction. "Nothing fancy, but it should give you some help." He looked at Xander. "Urge?" he asked.
"Yeah, when the quad was little, they used to latch onto me because Willow was breast feeding there for a while and they were usually hungry all day long. So there for a little while I lactated. Xandra and Junior both got fed a little from me."
"Oh." Martel made a funny face. "Please, don't do that here," he said, shaking his head to clear the images.
Willow patted him on the arm. "I understand. I had to sit there and watch it a few times." Martel shuddered. "I promise, I won't let him start that with Jesus in your house." She went to help Giles look through her spell books.
Martel looked at Xander. "It's okay, man, I don't mind it that much, just don't make me watch, mate."
"Hey, not an issue, if it happens, we can hide it from you when I milk myself." Xander grinned. "At least you didn't yell, Dad did, he threw a massive hissy fit."
"Even things like that are a strangeness within the Legacy."
"Which is why we don't spread it around," Xander told him.
"I won't say a thing," he promised.
Sister Mary Catherine pounced on Xander as soon as he was alone. "It's all right, it happens in nature and is natural enough for me," she said with a smile.
"Usually it takes more time and a closer link to the child," he told her. She pointed at his chest, which was a little damp. "Yeah, I opened a spot," he said, showing off the now-open scab. "Like I said it's a detergent allergy."
"Eww," Buffy said, coming over and looking down at the sore. "You need to do something about those. They're grossening."
"I've got creme upstairs for them," Xander sighed, heading for the dining room. "Buffy, weapons," he called. "Now, so you can practice them."
She grimaced but followed him in, grabbing a short sword to swing around. "They're good weapons, I shouldn't have a problem."
"It's practice or sit and watch the news," he reminded her.
"Practice it is," Buffy agreed. "Think Giles will spar with me?"
"You can only ask," Xander recommended. He sighed in relief once she was gone.
"She's a bit jumpy today," Willow agreed as she walked in with a cup of coffee. "Any knives? Or do I have to travel home and get my athem?"
"I'd get it anyway," Xander suggested. "You've probably got herbs and stuff you'll need too."
"I'm not going to corrupt your house," she said quietly.
He turned to look at her. "Not the issue, Willow. It still hurts to see you." He walked away, taking a staff with him to go get in some practice time of his own.
Willow sat down and looked at the cup of coffee. She would have drank it herself, but it had a powerful love potion in it. Well, she'd just have to give him what he really desired some other way.
Xander pulled out his new phone and dialed home. "Hey, Brandon. What's going on?" he asked.
"Xan, it's two am," Oz grumbled, putting his head on his mate's stomach. "They should be in bed."
"It's two here, it's closer to dinner there," Xander reminded him.
"Whatever. Tell 'em I love 'em," he said, then he started to snore again
Xander smiled when he heard the comment from the other side of the phone. "Yeah. Jet lag is tough, but he's been playing with the baby all day. No, we didn't get a baby, Precious," he said with an eye roll. "Sister Mary Catherine had one dropped on her doorstep and she brought him with her. And get this, the baby's name is Jesus. Yes, Bran, that's what I said." He laughed. "Yup, and she's bringing him to Philip in a few days. Of course you can, Junior. I'm sure she'd be thankful for some time alone." He laughed again. "No, Precious, you don't have to babysit if you don't want to."
Oz shifted and rubbed his cheek against Xander's stomach. "Tell 'em 'night and I'll cuddle," he offered.
"Guys, your daddy is looking for a cuddle so I'm gonna go. Yeah, I'll call tomorrow afternoon our time. Yup, sure will. And tell Philip to be expecting.... No, Junior, I don't have the digital camera with me. If I did, I'd gladly send you a picture of the baby. Yes, I know that means you're not the baby in the Legacy anymore. But there's the baby in the Calcutta house, he's six." He smiled. "Yes, and I think he's going to follow his family's wishes and join too. We love you and we'll be home in a few days. You guys be good for Jon and make sure that the number is on the caller id." He listened for a minute. "Yes, Xandra, Adam may take you to school the first day if we're not back, and no you can't wear your leather on the first day. Wear something nice and non-threatening. Because you want to try and make a *good* first impression instead of looking like a thug," he reminded her in his driest tone of voice. Then he laughed. "Yeah, that'd be a great first day outfit. Love you too, sweetheart. Night." He hung up and snuggled down to cuddle with his husband. "She'll wear her black jeans and a tight shirt, with her new leather biker jacket."
"Why does our daughter want to dress like a biker?" Oz whispered.
"Because she's wanting to be tough."
"She is tough, she can beat us up."
"Point, but she wants other people to think that she's tough. She likes being the enforcer in the family. So, the first day, she'll probably pick on Brandon again and kick his ass to prove it." Oz looked up at him. "It worked the last time," he said fondly.
"Forgot about that. Sleep, Xan, before I get mean and suck you off."
"Hmm," Xander hummed, pushing up against Oz's wandering hand. "I could go for that."
"Then work yourself off," Oz said, rolling over. "We need sleep."
"Meany big teaser," Xander muttered as he started to stroke himself off.
"Xander," Oz sighed, rolling back over and helping his husband get off. "We've got to get some sleep. We've got an early meeting with the crew." He used his free hand to cover Xander's mouth, his baby loved to scream. He started to fall asleep as soon as he heard the shout, but the hand tugging at his pants was getting insistent. "Xan!" he whined.
"I'm horny," he complained, bending over to suck on Oz's cock for him.
Oz just laid back and enjoyed it, he wasn't going to argue with his lover over getting a blow job. And he'd finally get to go to sleep afterwards.
Across the hall, Giles pulled his pillow over and covered his head with it, moaning in agony at the couple's noise.
"Some of us are trying to sleep," Buffy declared from the hallway, complete with pounding on the wrong door. "You've got a house, do it at home!"
Giles moaned louder, and started to cry. He knew he'd taught the girl some tact sometime, what had happened to it?
"Buffy, go to sleep or I'm going to tie you down and gag you," Sister Catherine yelled. "And unlike some people, I *can* do it and will have *fun*!"
Giles snickered at that. It was something that you never expected to hear from a nun's mouth.
Xander grabbed the pot of coffee and brought it with him to his seat at the table, filling his cup as he walked. He growled when it was snatched from his hand and Buffy smacked him with the newspaper.
"If you'd *slept* last night, you wouldn't need coffee," she said, taking the pot back to the maker.
"If you hadn't yelled from the hallway, none of us would need it," Giles told her, grabbing the pot to bring it back to the table. "Though, Xander, you still haven't quieted down like you promised when you and Oz first got together."
"He's much quieter now," Buffy countered. "You couldn't hear it echoing through the heating ducts at all."
Oz grunted and grabbed his husband's coffee cup as he sat down. "Kids are fine," he said in greeting.
"Huh?" Martell asked.
"I called the kids last night to check on them. They said hi, and Junior wants a picture of Jesus." Xander looked at Giles. "He was happy not to really be the baby in the Legacy anymore."
"There's at least one other child younger than him," Martel pointed out.
"The boy in India is six," Oz agreed, "but Junior hates him so he conveniently forgets about him."
"He's very upset that he's nine and supposedly the youngest kid in the Legacy, he swears we're going to not breed enough to keep going into the next generation after his," Xander told him.
"I'm sure he'll have children," Giles said calmly. "Probably much too young." The couple glared at him. "He is a bit impetuous, it's not likely he'd be the most careful of all your children."
"I'm voting on Brandon having the first child," Xander told him. "Or Timmy with the girl he talks to in London all the time."
"My vote's Precious," Buffy said as she flopped down in her chair. "She's not gonna listen when Alex tells her about birth control."
"We've already had that talk," Oz told her. "But I can agree with that. I think she'll be the first, or nearly the first. My actual vote is Brandon."
"He's very careful," Sister Mary Catherine pointed out.
"Which is why he'll be first," Oz told her. "Some girl will make his head spin and all that famous control will slide away."
"Know about that first hand?" Martel asked.
"Yup, there were plenty of times we thought Willow was pregnant before she actually was." Oz finished the coffee and poured another cup.
"True. Timmy's more of a talker, so he'd probably continue during sex. Precious will demand to be worshiped but she won't give out for a while. Serena's probably a lesbian and that's okay with us, and Xandra's probably gonna either be the dominant in her relationship or she's going to be playing the field a lot."
"Junior's going to be one of those hyper lovers," Buffy told them. "All jump and hands."
"Maybe, but all that energy and focus can make one a hell of a lover," Oz told her. "We're going to make sure all of our kids are great lovers."
"Yeah, we'll sit them down and give them all very nice talks about what a good lover and boyfriend/girlfriend is. We feel it's our obligation as parents," Xander told her, "to explain why they're not supposed to be too fast and always be considerate."
"Wish my parents had done that," Martel muttered.
"Me too," Mary Catherine said, saluting the couple with her cup. "If they'd explained sex to me, I might not be a nun now."
"Huh?" Buffy asked.
"Honey, my parents wanted me to be a nun," she said, patting the young girl on the hand. "They decided that since my brother wouldn't become a priest for them to buy their way into heaven, that I'd better become a nun. I never got sex-ed lessons or to date."
"Oh, wow," Buffy said, patting her hand now. "I'm sorry. That really must've sucked majorly."
"Yes, dear, it did," she said with a smile, "but I got over it."
"Yes, we used to have to beg to date ourselves," Oz reminded Buffy and Giles, who blushed. "Someone thought that a date meant taking the new guy out on patrol."
"Hey, I only took that one to the morgue and I *had* to, Giles made sure I knew I had to go." She glared at her former Watcher. "Every other time, I had to hide everything and pretend to be normal."
"You could have always not dated," Giles said archly.
"Yeah, and you could have listened to me beg for three more years too," she pointed out.
"Enough," Martel said lightly. "The past is the past. The future is an opening Hellmouth."
"With Derek's father possibly coming out," Oz added.
"Yes, what will we be doing about him?" Giles asked.
"He's mine," Xander said calmly. "I owe it to Dad to take care of this for him."
Everyone looked at him but no one said anything. They all went back to their breakfast. No one was going to argue with Xander and his legendary stubbornness.
Willow led the way into the warehouse where the Hellmouth had been found a few years earlier, moving off to the side so everyone could see the glowing opening. "It's still blue, not fully open," she announced, moving off to the right to set up her part of the spell, Giles mirroring her on the left side of the portal. Xander, Buffy, and Martel all moved to stand in front of the portal. To get it fully closed, they'd have to partially open it and reclose it the right way. Whomever had started to open it the first time hadn't wanted it to close on it's own, the spell was specifically done to keep it partially open. Willow looked over at Giles and nodded, picking up her copy of the spell.
Xander took a better grip on his staff, patting the knife at his side to make sure it was still there. He visually checked the people on either side of him, resisting the urge to kick Buffy because she was too relaxed. Martel was too tense, but he was calm. They'd do okay. He nearly jumped as the portal shuddered and groaned, but all he did was gain a better grip on his staff. This was the time that the portal would be open and anything could come out. Even the demons of the past.
The portal changed colors, moving from purple, to blue, to the opening black. A shape formed in the center of the portal, as the portal started to change colors again. The shape started forward, stepping out while the portal was still open and changing. The man looked around and smiled at the three people, moving toward them.
"That's far enough, Winston," Xander ordered calmly. "You can't leave this building, I won't allow it."
Winston Rayne laughed, a full bodied sound. "And who are you to thwart me, boy?"
Xander stepped out of the line. "I'm your grandson," he said coldly. "Your all but adopted grandson."
"Oh, did my daughter finally leave the order?"
"Sister Ingrid? Nah," Xander said with a cold smile. "I'm Derek's son. Precept of the Research and Speciality houses." He flashed his ring. "Mate to the second in command at the new Lead House in San Francisco." He took a firmer stance. "You're not leaving."
"You can't stop me," Winston smirked. "I'm more powerful." He lunged at the young man and got smacked with the staff for it. "Hmm," he said, stepping back to judge his opponent. "You're well trained, much better than I could ever do for my weak son."
"Derek's not weak, Winston, you're too hidebound to see anything of his good side. He's the Lead Precept." Winston growled at that. "We reorganized the whole organization," he taunted, trying to get the demon's ire up. It usually worked for him. "Not only do the people who work in the Lead House work cases, but we also head over a house each."
Winston growled and lunged again. "You had no right to change things!" he snapped, trying to punch the young man, and landing a kick instead. Xander beat him back though. "The Legacy has lived for centuries, you can't change that! It's not holy or right."
"Right for your day is different from right for today. You'd like computers," he smirked, "you can get any information you want within seconds and it's accessible to nearly everyone, even the non- believers." He winced as his staff was taken and slowly pulled his knife. "Yay, Dad always taught me to bring a backup weapon."
Winston looked the boy over. "You're not human," he sneered. "Do they know that?"
"I'm a fixed were actually," Xander said with a smile. "My mate and my children too."
"You should be hunted down," Winston hissed. "You and your unholy woman who's recreating the original conception."
"The original werewolf was created by a person asking to be able to hunt like a wolf, to provide for his family," Buffy yelled, moving closer to Willow's side. "Xander, it's closing. He's got to go back or die."
"I'll die, thank you," Winston called over his shoulder. "You brought a woman," he sneered. "Some backup, boy."
"No, I brought a Slayer," Xander corrected. "The one who trained me." He lunged, starting the fight again. "And not only do I have werechildren, but I'm happily married to a man, *grandfather*," he sneered, ducking under the staff. He managed to stick the knife into the demon's stomach and pulled out his vial of holy water while he was stunned. "And you know what, *grandfather*," he said as he poured the holy water down the knife, "I'm happy, Dad's happy. Dad's happy with two men, one of them a priest."
"No!" Winston yelled. "Not my son! You corrupted my son and you corrupted the Legacy."
"And your wife married a younger man," he sneered as smoke started to come out of the demon's abdomen. "He took her away; it's a man your son's age." He pulled out the knife and stuck it in again, staring into the man who would have been his grandfather's eyes as he continued to stab him with the loaded blade. Until he finally dissolved around the blade. He spit on the puddle of person then grabbed the extra vial of holy water off Martel's waist, pouring it into the puddle. "I curse you," he whispered, "I curse you to the depths of the abyss, to remain there for all time, seeing life how it really is and watching your family be happier in your absence than they could ever be with you there." He sliced his hand and bound the curse, something he'd learned how to do a few years back from the man casting the left side of the portal closed. He stepped back from the puddle of demon and wiped his forehead off. He winced when he felt the bruise on his forehead, but it was all good. He had won. "Close it," he yelled, keeping his eye on the puddle. As the portal started to close finally, the puddle was pulled back toward the opening, not reforming until it got withing the magical radius of the hole to hell. He waved at the man who was now trapped, smiling happily at him.
The portal closed with a 'whomp'ing sound and a last flash of blue light.
As soon as it was gone, the door to the warehouse flew open and people ran in with guns. "Freeze," they shouted as one, but no one turned to look at them.