Nitpicking the Tidbits.
The cops moved cautiously around the people standing there, shining the lights attached to their rifles around the empty space. One of them stepped in front of Xander, who gave him a confused look. "Freeze," he ordered again, this time louder.
Xander wiggled a finger in his ear. "Huh?" he yelled.
"They can't hear us, sir," one of the other men said, waving Willow and Buffy away from their stuff with his gun.
Xander motioned at his jacket, then slowly opened one side, showing that there wasn't a weapon. He pulled out his PDA and handed it over. "Huh?" he shouted again. The cop wrote out the word 'freeze' on it and handed it back. "Oh. Okay." He nodded and wrote 'why' back.
"Because you're doing something illegal," the cop said slowly, then when Xander shook his head he snatched the PDA and wrote that out.
"What?" Xander shrieked.
The cop winced at that. He took the PDA again and finished writing it out. "We saw a fire here, which is illegal, and we heard fighting. What are you doing in here?"
Xander waved Willow over, and she jogged over, taking the PDA so she could read the message. She wrote out, "Wiccan ritual. Our people own the building. No fires," and handed it back.
"She's right," the cop that had been talking to Xander admitted. "There's nothing here that could even start a fire." He nodded at another of the men. "Go find where it was." That cop took off and this one kept the PDA, motioning his men to gather everyone else closer.
Xander looked at one guy, wiggling his finger in his ear again. He sighed when he heard it pop. "I'm better," he announced, "and I know your brother," he said, pointing at the cop that had went over to Willow. "I work with Fred."
The cop glared at him. "Fred isn't right in the head."
"No doubt since he's trying to take over the organization," Xander said with a self-conscious smile, "but I'm one of his bosses."
"And you were doing a Wiccan ritual?" the first cop asked.
Xander nodded. "But I'm only the guardian. You'd have to ask her," he said, pointing at Willow. "It's her thing. Most of us were here to guard her. Some sort of strength ritual?" he asked Willow, who had just sighed in relief.
"Yeah, some sort of strength ritual," she agreed. "I was raising energy for a trial that's about to come," she told the cops. "They were here strictly as symbolic guardians, hence the archaic weapons."
The cop that had gone to look for the fire's remains came running back. "Sir, no scorch marks, no ashes, no signs of any fire."
"Then what was the light we saw?" the first one demanded. "None of them have torches."
"I have a flashlight," Xander admitted, pulling it out of his pocket and handing it over. The cops looked at him. "What? I live with an English speaker," he said, pointing at Giles. "You pick up some of it in nearly fifteen years."
The cops shook their heads and tried the light, turning it all the way up. "Must have been it," the first cop said, sounding grumpy. "You said you own the building?"
"No, the people we work for own the building," Xander corrected. "I'm the owner's son and he said we could do our ritual here."
"Why here? Apparently this is an American company," the first cop asked.
"I live here," Willow admitted. "I moved here because of work and stayed. I have my papers at home if you need them."
The first cop sighed and shook his head. "Fine," he said, handing back the flashlight. He stormed out, all of the cops did except that one.
"Fred really tried to take over?" the one asked.
Xander nodded. "That's why we're here. He's the trial coming up." He nudged Martel, who produced a card. "If you ever need us, and we do deal with what Fred does, you call this number instead of the one he gave you, okay? It's much safer that way."
Willow produced a card of her own. "And if you ever need a witch, you can get in touch with me through these guys," she said, handing it over. She nodded at the materials. "Can we clean up and disappear into the night now?"
The cop nodded, walking out and leaving them alone.
"You think he'll come?" Martel asked.
"I think it never hurts to have a cop who knows and who'll tell you when there's a case you need involved in," Xander corrected. "In 'Frisco, we've got Ray and Benny Junior. You guys need someone here that'll tell you the next time it's a witch casting a spell around here, and one who believes enough to know that they don't want to handle it by themselves."
"Good point," Martel agreed, giving Xander an appraising look. "You're good at this."
"I should be, I got badgered into it and then given lectures until my brain melted about how to do this job," Xander said with a grin. "Come on, I want to go play with the baby before we go home." He walked out, leaving everyone else to clean up, the perfect managerial attitude.
Oz looked up as the front door opened, giving Xander a weak smile. "Derek collapsed," he said in greeting.
"Is he all right?" Giles asked, steadying Xander from behind until Oz could grab him.
"He's fine, but the house was taken out of his control by Nick." He held up the ring he'd been wearing around his neck since Derek had officially named him the heir to the house. "We need to get home. Sister Mary Catherine's packing."
"Are we ready to go?" Xander asked, holding Oz tightly against him.
"We're ready and the plane's heading here. We get to leave in the middle of the night." He coughed. "Xan, they think he might have been hurt when he collapsed, but he's fine now."
"Stroke?" Xander asked quietly, almost afraid to hear the answer.
"No," Oz said firmly. "Not a stroke or his heart, but they said he's awfully weak right now." He picked up his mate's hand. "The other houses haven't heard yet."
"Then we'll see what's going on when we get home and announce it if we have to," Xander agreed, giving the hand in his a squeeze. "Are you planning on going to the Precept's meeting if you're still doing the job?"
"I'll have to. We need to spring that part of the trap."
"Well, on the plus side, he pissed off Winston so much it made him stupid," Buffy said, giving them a smile. "He died and was re-locked in the portal. He'll come out first if it's ever reopened."
"I set up a redundancy, like I did in Sunnydale," Willow admitted. "It'll have to break itself out of the cycle I set it into before it can start to build enough energy up to reopen." She looked down at Oz, who stared up at her. "Not that hard, I connected it to the foundations in the building, grounding it. Every bit of energy will start to drain off almost as soon as it's built up."
"Thanks," Xander said with a weak smile. "Sister, are you almost ready?"
"Yes, and we still have another two hours before we should leave," she called down. "Willow, ask him," she said firmly from the top of the stairs.
Willow went pale but she steeled herself. "Xander, Oz, I want to give you something that you've been wanting." Both men looked at her, very warily. "I want to give Xander a child of his own, of his bloodline. Someone for Derek to spoil, someone that's really his the way he's always wanted Xandra to be."
Oz started to laugh, leaning against Xander's side. "Willow, that's cute," he said between laughs, but neither she nor Xander were laughing. "Guys?" he asked, starting to sober up.
"She's not joking," Xander said calmly, still staring at the woman who used to be like his sister. "She wants to be pregnant again."
"I do like being pregnant," she admitted, "but I want to do this for you. At least the kids will all be related," she offered.
"Willow, what makes you think I'd break my vows to Oz to do this with you?" Xander asked. He stood up quietly. Everyone decided to leave the three of them alone in the entryway. "Willow, why would you even think about this?"
"Because you're a good father," she said, giving him a grin. "You're a great father to my brood, and I know you've always wanted Xandra to be yours. It shows in everything you do."
"Xandra is mine," Xander said calmly.
"She's Derek's, Xander," she reminded him. "Even I can count, drunk though I was." She picked up Xander's hand to hold, keeping it within Oz's sight. "Xander, I know you want a child of your own line."
"Willow," Oz warned.
"No, that's not a lie," Xander said, stopping his husband's objection, "but I'm not willing to break my vows to get it." He pulled his hand away from hers. "I'd think by now that you'd know better than to try and screw with us, Willow." He headed up the stairs, slamming his door, then opening it and doing it again and again until he started to feel better. He flopped down onto the bed, hiding his head under a pillow.
Oz looked over at Willow. "He might want it, but you knew he wouldn't go for it," he said as he stood up.
"No, listen to me, Oz, please," she begged, grabbing his arm to stop him from leaving. "Just listen, all right?" He sat down again, getting his arm free, and waved her on. "I know why I'm doing this, okay? I know it isn't all altruistic, and I know it's not fully a good thing for me to ask, but it's something we both need."
"Willow, we have six children, we don't need any more," he reminded her.
"I remember having them," she said dryly. "Oz, do you remember when we were all younger?" He nodded. "How excited Xander was that I was pregnant the first time?" He nodded again. "How excited he was when he thought Xandra was his?"
Oz groaned lightly. "I remember, but you just teased him, Willow. He can't accept."
"He could if you'd say it was all right," she told him. "I was willing to do this the other way, but I was forcefully reminded that you'd kill me after I gave birth."
"So, you were going to give him a love spell and just do it?" Oz asked. She nodded, looking at the floor. "And let me guess, it was the sister who reminded you that doing that to us would get you dead?" She nodded again. "So, now you destroy him just by asking."
"No," she said quickly. "I mean it, Oz. Same deal as before, I just want to have another child."
"What do you get out of it?" She didn't say anything. "Willow," he warned.
"I can have a powerful child," she said quietly. "Doing so would clear some of my karma by giving Xander his biggest heart's desire." She looked at him. "And I admit I want to experience being pregnant again, but Xander has always wanted this *so* much, Oz. Back in Junior High, he used to dream about having a daughter. He used to come in and tell me about his dream. Pushing her in the swings in the park. Braiding her hair. Teaching her how to get into trouble and play pranks."
"All things he did with Xandra," Oz said quietly.
"But he knows that Xandra will never be totally his, even if they're as close as they appear. One of these days, she's going to want to get to know Derek as a father figure instead of just a grandfather. This is something I can give him, one dream I can make sure comes true. It's something I'd want to do even if it wouldn't help me. He deserves his dream, Oz."
"I realize that," he said, then he stood up and went upstairs. "Email me a way to contact you," he called down as he headed down the hall to their room. "Xan?" he asked, tapping the door. "Can I come in?" He heard a displeased grunt and went inside, shutting the door gently. "She didn't want to do it to hurt you," he said as he laid down on the bed beside his husband. "She told me about your dreams."
"Figures. The one thing I've managed to pack away and sublimate into our youngest daughter and she brings it up." He pulled the pillow off his head and turned to look at his husband. He saw the desire for honesty so gave it. "I'm not sure which way I want."
"I can understand that," Oz told him, giving him the badly needed cuddle. "I'm torn right now and it's not even my dream."
"Why? Did she say?"
"Partially. She said she can clean some of her Karma by giving you the one thing that you've always dreamed of. Said she wanted to be pregnant one last time." He put his face against Xander's head. "And she said that she wanted to give you the one thing that you've always wanted." He kissed the head. "We'll think about it and email her back our answer."
"That's impersonal," Xander mumbled.
"So we'll e her and ask her to meet us somewhere."
"I'd like a few months to think and talk to the kids about this," Xander admitted. "Xandra will be devastated again. The night she found out I wasn't her father she hid in the guest room and cried for over an hour."
"We'd get to spoil this one like we didn't the quad and Xandra, or really Junior," Xander added.
"Yup. And we'd still have to change diapers and do feedings."
"Not to mention colic," Xander said with a faint smile.
"We'll consider it," Oz told him, snuggling in.
"Boys, don't get too comfortable," Sister Mary Catherine called from the other side of the door. "We've got to leave for the airport in about an hour."
"Yes, ma'am," Oz called. "We're all packed."
"Come get us," Xander told her. "We're talking."
"Fine," she called and walked away.
Xander curled as much as he could around Oz's body, letting him comfort him. "Shh," Oz said quietly, stroking over his husband's arms and back.
Oz, Xander, and Sister Mary Catherine walked into the house together. Oz headed for the office, then up to Derek's bedroom, following his husband and the nun. "Hey," he said as they all walked in.
"How are you feeling?" Xander asked, leaning down to kiss his father's forehead. "And why are you running a fever?"
"I'm fine, son," Derek said patiently. "It was nothing."
"If it were nothing, you wouldn't be in bed and Oz and I wouldn't have matching rings," Xander said as he sat on the side of the bed. "Dad, let me introduce you to baby Jesus," he said, pointing at the baby the nun was holding. Philip spit his tea out, staring at them.
"Sorry, but that's who his mother said he was," Sister Mary Catherine said, handing the baby over, and his bag. "Her note," she said as she sat down, "said that either he stayed with me or went to you. Though the note mentioned Brandon, just his name," she amended when he stared at her. "But she was quite clear on his name being Jesus."
Philip managed to close his mouth and look down at the boy in his arms. "Well, you're quiet for a herald," he said finally.
"He's like the boy in the Chronicles that could only sing," Xander told him.
"My thunder, you deal with your father," Sister Mary Catherine said with a tolerant smile for her boss. "Steal his news."
"What news?" Xander asked his father. "Are you retiring?"
"No, but I've been ordered to take a small vacation," Derek said. He smiled at Oz. "Of course, I'm spending most of it here, so if you need some help feel free to come to me."
"Keep it up and we'll send you on another cruise," Oz said as he sat on the edge of the bed. "We've got other news," he said, taking Xander's hand. "Willow wanted to give Xander what he wanted most in the world."
"What would that be?" Philip asked.
"A baby of my own," Xander said quietly. That stopped all conversation.
"She knew he's always wanted one of his very own," Oz told them, "and that he still considered Xandra to be his, even though he knows she's not. But she said she can wipe part of her karmic slate clean by giving him what he's always wanted."
"And she wanted to be pregnant?" Philip suggested.
"Yeah, she does," Oz agreed.
"The thing is, she's right, I have always wanted a daughter of my own. And yeah, I do treat Xandra like she's mine, I'm going to keep doing it too, but I don't want to hurt her with this."
"Even though you've wanted a child of your own since you were young?" Derek asked, patting him on the shoulder. "It's a hard choice, son."
"It is," Xander agreed. "We're talking about it and we'll tell the kids tonight." He looked over at Philip, who was making funny faces at the baby. "I think someone else had the same dream," he said quietly.
"I've always wanted to be a Da," Philip admitted, "but it's never worked out before."
"Well, the Cardinal won't let me adopt him," the nun said, "but I'm allowed to keep him at the house."
"Or he could come here," Derek finished. She nodded. "Have you found the mother?"
"Not a clue of who she is," Sister Mary Catherine admitted. "We started with assumptions and we've still got most of them." She stood up. "It looks like a few of us have hard decisions to make," she said, taking the boy back. "I'm going to go down and show him off to Brandon as he was mentioned."
"Call them all up here," Oz suggested. "I don't want to leave the house yet."
"I'll call," Xander said, reaching for the phone, dialing the one in his kitchen. "Hey, Jon, we're back but we're up at the main house. Send up the kids. Especially Brandon. Sister Mary Catherine came home with us." He smiled and hung up. "Guess who was listening at the door," he told his husband.
"Yeah, so we're going to have a talk while Bran has a look at the baby." He stood up. Then he looked down at his father. "You will stay in bed and let us wait on you hand and foot. If I so much as think you're getting out of bed and going farther than the bathroom then I'm going to get mean and start telling you bedtime stories." He walked out, going to intercept his children for hugs. "Brandon, go up to Grandpa's room. He needs to see you. Xandra, let's go take a walk, honey." He led her out to the garden, sitting them both down on the stone benches. "I know you heard. And I know you heard me say that this changes nothing where you're concerned." She nodded. "I was going to ask your opinion anyway."
She clenched her hands together and looked at her father. "I think you should," she said quietly. "I realize I'm close enough for you but this is something you've wanted forever." She started to sniffle and he gave her a hug. "I know I'm all you ever wanted in a daughter, but you deserve this."
"But I don't want to hurt you by giving in," he told her gently. "I won't do it if it'll make you feel bad."
"Bu..but you want this," she said, looking up at him.
"Yeah, I still do, but I won't do it if it'll hurt you. You're the one I'm worried about right now, Xandra. I won't have another child brought into our house if it's going to make you upset or make it hate any of us."
"I wouldn't hate you," she said, getting free. "You have to do this, Daddy. I need a little sister that's like me to spoil and teach. Junior's great, but he's a boy and I can't teach him all of the girl stuff I know." She wiped off her eyes. "Just think about it? For me?"
"I'm going to," he told her, pulling her back in for a hug. "I promise we're going to think about it. I promise we're going to be talking about this as a family and us two too. Got it?" She nodded. "Then go think, sweetie, and we'll talk again later."
"What's with the baby the sister brought?" she asked, wiping her face one last time.
"His name's Jesus and he was dropped on her doorstep," Xander told her with a grin. "The note said either she kept him or he came to Philip."
"Wow." She started to laugh. "Was he born in a manger too?"
"Not a clue," Oz said as he joined them. "She can't trace the mother or the birth place." He gave her a hug. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, Daddy said I was going to have a say," she said, giving him a hug back. "I need to go think." She left them alone, heading for the jogging trail in the woods.
"I'm going to have a talk with Precious before she starts on her younger sister," Oz said, heading back into the house.
"Yeah, that could be bad," Xander sighed, following his husband into the house, with a quick stop to get a drink. He wandered up to his father's room, smiling at the family doctor, who had apparently just shown up. "Hey, Marcus. The Hellmouth is closed," he reported, "and Willow set up a way so it wouldn't be able to gain energy again."
"Goot," Derek said quietly.
"Did you need privacy?" Xander asked Marcus.
"Nope. I just gave your father the bad news. He's healthy, except for his blood pressure and stress levels."
"And our being in the middle of a crisis isn't helping any," Nick said from the other side of the bed.
"Of course it's not," Xander said, sitting on the foot of the bed. "Neither is the baby that Sister Mary Catherine brought with her, or the one Willow wanted to have for me." He sipped his soda, until Marcus took it away and shook his head. "No?"
"Nope." He smiled at his younger patient. "As you conveniently forgot to come in for your results, I'll tell you now. You need to strip a little bit more sugar out of your diet, and some of the salt too. You're tired because your blood sugar's been going up again, but it's not become critical yet." He handed back the diet soda. "No more regular, only diet from now on, young man. I've got a book in my bag of tricks that other patients have found useful in the past. I want you *and* Oz to read it. And then I want to see you in six months to do another blood check." He opened his bag and handed over the book, and a small black case. "Until then, I want you to check it once a week or whenever you feel funny."
"What about my morning shakes?" Xander asked, staring at the machine.
"Drink a glass of juice first thing and it should solve most of that problem," Marcus said, tipping Xander's face back up. "It's not a real problem yet, but it's now getting to the point where we want to monitor your blood sugar a little closer. You've still got years before you might turn diabetic, but now's the time to take care of some problems. Got it?" Xander nodded. "Good. Where's Oz?"
"Downstairs, talking to Precious," Xander told him. "Willow wanted to have another child, one with me."
"Oh, man," Marcus sighed. "That's gotta be hard."
"We're thinking about it," Xander told him. "Will this hurt the baby?"
"Probably not. It might pass on though," Marcus warned.
"Excuse me, *Willow* offered to have another child and you're thinking about it?" Nick asked. "Why?"
"Because I've wanted a child of my own blood since I was a little boy," Xander said quietly. "Xandra's been that so far, but even she can tell it's not the same. We've talked about it and we're all thinking about it." He turned back to his doctor. "What else do I have to watch out for?"
"Cough syrups and other medicines with sugar," Marcus said, sitting beside him. "I've seen people in your position go up to three hundred after a single dose of Robitussin. I also want you to check your multi-vitamin since you can't swallow pills very well."
"I'm eating children's chewables, but they don't affect me that way," Xander said.
"Good, but you still need to watch out for the sugary stuff. Regular soda, certain types of medicines, and your diet are all the things that'll get you and keep your blood sugar high, which means you'll continue to need naps every day."
Xander nodded. "Thanks, Marcus."
"Hey, that's what I'm here for. Let me go find Oz and tell him this too." He smiled at Derek. "If you get out of that bed to go farther than the bathroom, I'm having Nick strap you down." He walked out.
Derek leaned up and pulled his son into his arms. "I'm sorry," he said quietly.
"We knew it'd happen some day," Xander said calmly, still staring at the little black case.
"Xander, I'm sure he's right and it'll be years before you really need to worry about this," Nick told him. His brother looked at him. "Trust me, we're hardy creatures."
"Yeah, this just means I have to start taking better care of myself." Xander stood up. "I'm going to go find Oz and get a cuddle. Lay back down, Dad." He left the trio alone.
"It's a day for bad news," Philip said softly. He got up and came over to sit beside his lovers, making Derek lay back down. "He'll be fine, Marcus said so. Same as you will." He rested against his lover's shoulder, forcing him to stay down.
Nick took the hint and copied Philip's move, keeping Derek there between them. It wasn't often he got to pamper or take care of his lover.
Xander walked into the living room, smiling at the hugs he got. "Thanks, guys. Has Marcus found you yet?" Oz nodded so he got free of the kids and sat in his husband's lap. "Looks like we've got another something to talk about." He looked at his kids. "Guys, I'm now under orders to cut some of the sugar out of my life."
"That means we have to suffer, huh," Junior said.
Oz nodded. "Basically. Do you have that book? He said it's got suggestions." It was handed back to him, along with the case Xander didn't want to look at anymore.
"Is that what I think it is?" Precious asked.
Xander nodded. "My family has a history of diabetes, starting later in life. That's why I've got to start watching my diet and check my blood sugar once a week."
"We can do that," Oz agreed, starting to stroke his husband's back. "We were just talking about their mother's offer."
"Nothing's sure yet," Xander told them. "But I will say this *once*. This is going to be hard on Xandra, no matter what we decide. If any of you pick on her, you'll be sorry. Got me here?" All the kids nodded. "Good. I hope I don't hear anything about this."
"Do you want another one?" Brandon asked.
Timmy coughed. "Not that we don't realize we're a handful, but a baby's an awfully big responsibility. If you have one, we'd all be happy to help." Precious smacked him on the arm. "And those that aren't will probably have the first grandkid anyway," he said, shooting her a glare, "but we want you to know we're behind you in this."
"I think that's the longest speech we've gotten out of you," Xander said with a grin. "But thanks." He snuggled back into Oz's arms. "We're thinking about it. Yeah, I've always wanted a baby from my own sperm, but I've given the sort of attention I dreamed of giving to that daughter to Xandra. It's complicated, guys, if only who the mother would be. We've got some really bad history with your mother."
"Dad, why did you three break up?" Timmy asked.
"Um," Xander said, looking at Oz for help.
"She wasn't always nice to us," Oz said finally, looking at his children. "Your mother could be really mean and hateful at times." He saw the look at Precious. "It's always a conscious decision, kids."
Xander coughed lightly. "Guys, do you want the truth? Because it'll make you hate your mom."
Timmy and Brandon nodded and Precious left, dragging Junior with her. "Thanks," Oz called after her.
Xander smiled at his sons. "I know what you're thinking, but your mother was like that because she was drinking."
"For the most part," Oz amended. "She used to treat you like a carpet, Xan, and it wasn't all her drinking."
Xander sighed and nodded. "True, I was always her whipping boy." He got comfortable. "See, I met your mother before I started school, by a few weeks really. We were friends all through school, and after we got here. And whenever things got stressful in her life, she took it out on me because I was there and I never used to fight for myself. I never had a reason to fight," he said, entwining his fingers with his mate's. "Then the three of us got together, and she didn't change all that much. Your mother could be quite cruel when she wanted to be, and she thought being snarky to me solved a lot of problems." He took a deep breath. "Then she had you guys, and she'd been drinking before then but not as heavily. But she had you guys and all the stress it caused her was laid onto me. There for a while, your mother used to hit me, after we'd left the house and came back, after Xandra was born."
"Derek demanded she get some help," Oz said, taking over the tale. "She did and it went back down to snarkiness on her part." He squeezed Xander's hand. "We knew from the start that Xandra wasn't either of ours. Your mother used to go out drinking about every third night back then and come home sloshed. We went to Florida the first time to get away from her and so your father could heal from a recent incident that had nearly killed him."
"I asked Derek his opinion of my relationship with Willow before the second, I needed the validation for the hate and anger I was feeling," Xander added. "That's when we dumped her. And when we married each other." Oz gave him a squeeze so they shared a kiss. "It's been better since then. Oz has given me a reason to fight back. I've gotten stronger because I could finally dump her and tell her to shove it."
"So, mommy was a drunken ho who was abusive?" Timmy asked.
Oz nodded. "At times. At times she was the most wonderful woman, sweet and compassionate, kind and loving. She used to love us."
"She still loves us," Xander corrected. "Otherwise she wouldn't have offered."
"Dad," Brandon asked hesitantly, "does it hurt when you look at us?"
"No," Xander said quickly, getting up to hug them. "It doesn't hurt at all. Not even when Precious snarks cruelly at you guys. You're so not like your mother for the most part." He tugged on some of the dark red hair. "This stuff I can say you got from Oz."
"Oh. Good," Timmy said, giving him a hug.
"Can I ask an even more personal question?" Brandon asked. Xander nodded and lifted an arm so he could get cuddled too. "Is Mom the reason you had to run away to Canada after you got here? Auntie Buffy mentioned it and Auntie Alex all but killed her for it."
"No, that wasn't why that happened," Xander said softly. "That was really because of your Auntie Buffy." He gave the boys a squeeze. "See, during that time, Willow had become possessed. Your Uncle Rupert was going to fix it by calling the spirit to him and he knew that he'd need to be stopped when he sucked the spirit into himself."
"So instead of letting Uncle Nick do it, your father took the gun from Nick's hand and shot Uncle Rupert," Oz finished, his husband wasn't up to telling this part. "He had to, guys. Giles knew it, he knew it, everyone but Buffy and Willow knew it. Your Aunt Buffy got really pissed and took out her anger and grief on your father. When he left, he had at least a broken rib and needed a few stitches."
"About twenty if I remember right," Xander said with a faint smile for his husband. "I went and became not much more than an animal. I learned how to track and how to hunt because I was pretty muchly lost to the world. It took your Dad to get me back to wanting to be around people again."
"That's when everyone decided I should become a psych major," Oz said dryly. "I had to talk your father down from a near-animal state of mind back to a human one, and get him reacquainted with the people who were very worried about him. We had a lot of long talks because of that."
"You two got close because of it?" Timmy asked.
"Well, kinda," Oz agreed. "We wouldn't have been as close if it wasn't for that."
"Or both of us had alienitis probably," Xander said, his smile picking up some.
"Or either bout of that," Oz agreed, glaring at Xander. "I still say the second bout was your fault. They liked you best."
"Maybe," Xander agreed, "but it was good for us. We had a whole month to ourselves."
"Yup, we did," Oz agreed. "I have some pretty good memories of that time. I think that was the first time that I woke up next to you."
"Nah, that was the night I confessed about the hyena," Xander reminded him. "You were protecting me from the bad dreams."
"Oh, yeah, the time of the furry clothes," Oz said fondly. "I remember those days, they were quite unusual." He shrugged when both boys looked at him. "They were. Xander had to go out every little once in a while to let the hyena prowl on a dance floor. I was still wolfing out then. And twice, your father lost control of the animal and went back into hyena mode."
"Yeah, let's forget Alex's time," Xander said with a real grin. "Being locked in your cage for a week, and you turning furry my last night bringing me fully out."
"Yup, some very fond memories of that time," Oz said, smiling at his husband. "I was still in a band then."
"We were barely more than friends," Xander added. "I had a crush," he explained to his sons, "but Oz was pretty muchly clueless until your mother forced us together after a formal here in the house."
"You had all those funky temporary tats," Oz added.
"Yeah, I miss those some days," he sighed. "I still have the scars."
"You had tattoos?" Timmy asked. Xander nodded. "Can I get one when I'm old enough?"
"Sure. But you know what?" Xander asked, giving him a squeeze. "I got mine because I was hurting and I needed grounded. The pain wasn't what did it," he said at the shocked look, "it was the message I kept getting done over and over all around my chest and back. It reminded me that the highest form of self is being one's self and being true to who you are. Your father was the only one who didn't get overly concerned about them. Derek actually demanded that I explain it to him, when he knew I couldn't do that if he didn't already understand."
"He was thinking about having you drugged," Oz told him. "He was asking Nick for his opinion as he's family."
"But Nick knew me. I'd done some very stupid things to protect this family.."
"Yeah, like taking on Rachel and a possessed Buffy by yourself," Oz reminded him.
"Oz, that still hurts," Xander said quietly.
"Agreeable, it's not discussed," Oz said gently.
"Wow," Brandon said, looking back and forth between them. "You guys got a great relationship."
"Yes, but it took work to get here," Oz told him.
"And it took me nearly leaving after we were married to force us to talk," Xander added. "We wouldn't wish the pain we went through to get here on you guys, but we hope that you find the sort of peace we've found with each other." He gave them both a squeeze. "Any other questions?"
"Dad, what do you do with a woman once you're talked her into your bed?" Timmy asked.
"Timmy!" Brandon said, shocked.
"What? I've got to know sometime."
"We're going to take a day off and talk to both of you about that very subject in the next few months," Oz told them both. "We hated not knowing and having to fumble around. Instinct doesn't work with sex. So we'll give you a good lesson in sex ed. and you'll use it to help you not quite understand women better, because you can never really understand a woman unless you become one."
"Eww," Timmy said with a shudder. "I don't see how people can change their sex."
"Easy, they don't see it as changing it, they see it as fixing a mistake," Brandon told him. "Most of them feel that they're presently the wrong sex and that it has to be fixed."
"So, they think that they're in the wrong body?"
"Basically, as far as I understood it," Oz agreed. "It's not sickening, it's something that you've got to understand to deal with people."
"Dad, if you meet a drag queen and it's *real* obvious, how do you address them?" Timmy asked Xander.
"I go with whatever gender they're projecting at the moment," Xander said seriously. "If they're dressed as a woman then I figure that they want to be addressed that way." He shrugged. "None of the one's I've met or seen have beaten me for it yet."
"And always be polite," Oz added. "'Cause even if you get it wrong, it'll still be taken better if you're polite and make a mistake."
"Yes, sir," Timmy said with a grin. "So, what about the boy in our new class? Really femme guy. All but wears dresses."
"What do the teachers call him?" Oz asked.
"Not a thing besides his name if they can help it," Brandon deadpanned.
"Then I'd ask," Xander suggested. "It can't hurt. Tell him you've never been in that sort of situation before but that you want to be friends with him. Ask him what he prefers."
"And if he gets upset and runs into the school crying, follow him and explain that you've led a very sheltered life and you've never met even a drag queen before," Oz suggested. "Maybe you'll make a great new friend, I doubt the kid has many."
"Thanks," Timmy said, kissing Xander's cheek, then hopping up to do the same to Oz before running out of the room.
Brandon snuggled into his father's side. "So, how do you work the machine?" he asked, pointing at the little black case.
"I think we should all find out together," Oz said, opening it on the table in front of him. "I'm guessing that this," he said, pulling out a pen-shaped thing, "is to stick yourself with."
"Yes, it is," Marcus said as he walked in. "Timmy found me and suggested that I come in here and help you with this part," he explained as he sat down. "Come closer, Xander, you need to know how to do this on your own."
Xander winced as he sucked on his finger the next morning. "Ow," he complained.
"So turn the dial down," Oz suggested as he came out of the bathroom. He reset the automatic sticker and handed it back. "Try that." He watched as Xander did it and smiled back at the amused look. "Too low?"
"I got blood," Xander said, showing it to him. "But it's pretty shallow."
"Then we'll go halfway," Oz said, adjusting it again then ejecting the lancet into the orange bucket and putting all the stuff up for his husband. "There, all done for the next week." He pulled the hurt fingers over and kissed them. "See, all okay again. Come eat." He tugged on the bare arm, bringing his husband down to the kitchen. "What would you like?"
"Um, what's up?" Xander asked, looking at the pots that were sitting out. "Someone made us breakfast."
"We've got good kids," Oz agreed, dishing up some of the fried eggs and bacon for himself, and adding some ham for his husband. "Here," he said, handing him the plates. He went for milk, shaking his head. "No milk."
"Coffee?" Xander suggested.
"Okay." Oz poured them two cups of coffee and brought them back to the table. He took the bowl of sugar from his husband. "Xan," he warned.
"I know. I'm going to go get some non-sugar stuff today," Xander sighed.
"That's fine," Oz said, releasing the sugar bowl. "Your coffee and your cereal sugar habits are probably what's pushing you over the edge."
"I know. I'm going to change that first, then see how it goes. If that's all I need to change, that's all I'm doing."
"Well, I think we should probably work on eating real food at least once a day," Oz said fondly, "I miss having a real meal, one where you sit down at the table and talk while eating food that's been cooked?"
Xander grinned at that. "I could start going for that again. I'm starting to have protein cravings and steaks aren't something that you can eat on the go."
"So, you'll talk to the butler this morning while I go check in with Derek, then take some time off to go grocery shopping with him?"
"I should probably call, just to make sure he hasn't left yet," Xander said, reaching behind himself to grab the phone. He dialed the kitchen. "Hey, Adam, where's the butler? Because I needed to go with him today. You did? How?" He frowned. "Thanks. Yeah, tell him to wait on me, we'll be up in about half an hour." He hung up. "Derek told the butler," he said. "Thomas is waiting on me, and Adam's going with us." He finished his eggs and picked up his ham to tear apart and eat. "You wouldn't mind if I got a lot of meat?"
"Nope, not a big to me," Oz agreed, stealing a kiss. He scraped his plate. "Hurry up, I want to walk up there with you."
Xander's hand stopped on the way to his mouth. "Oz, I still need a shower and to get dressed."
"So hurry up," Oz agreed with a grin. He watched as his husband headed up the stairs with the remains of his bacon and ham, shaking his head. His husband was so very predictable some days.
Adam followed Xander around the grocery store, smiling at how the young man started to read labels suddenly. "Xander, listen," he said, taking the soup and tossing it into the cart. "Soups don't contain sugar. Read the labels on juices, canned fruits to see if they're in a syrup, and cereals." The young man looked at him so he patted him on the shoulder, trying to be reassuring. "I know this is a big change, but it's not really a change. You've just got to balance out your sugar intake throughout the day." He pointed at the next aisle. "You don't even have to avoid the pasta. As long as you balance it out during the day, you're allowed to eat a plate of spaghetti."
"Of course." Adam pointed at the soups. "Do you want any more of these?"
"Yeah," Xander said, grabbing some of his favorite ones and tossing them into the cart. "Okay, let's hit the pasta aisle."
"Then we'll hit the vegetables," Adam said as he followed the young man.
"Adam, is it normal that I'm craving salt and protein?"
"Probably not but it won't harm you as long as your blood pressure's low and your swelling ankles don't bother you." He followed the young man, watching as he loaded the cart with different types of pasta, all in the large boxes. "Are you eating together now?"
"Oz and I both agree that we'd like to start having family dinners again." Xander looked in his cart and grabbed another three boxes of penne. "We like this best, even when it's just us." He grabbed the cart and started toward the vegetable section. "What do I really have to worry about in here?"
"Fruits," Adam told him. He picked up a bunch of grapes. "Something like this won't hurt you but you want to balance it out throughout the day with how much other sugar you eat."
"So, if I eat ice cream for breakfast, then I shouldn't eat that much fruit later?" Xander asked with a devilish naughtiness.
"Only if you eat regular instead of sugar free ice cream."
"They make sugar free ice cream?" Xander asked, looking hopeful.
"They even make sugar free chocolate," Adam told him, patting the boy on the head when Xander gave him the most worshipful look. "I thought you might not have found out about that yet. We'll see what they carry here, and if they don't have anything you want, I'll introduce you to a local store that has most everything you'd ever want."
"You rock," Xander whispered, giving him a hug. "You're the best." He grabbed the grapes and a bag of apples. "The kids like them."
"They've got oranges again," Adam noted, pointing at the bags.
"Yeah, but they're not sweet enough yet," Xander said with a wave. He jogged over to get cucumbers and cauliflower, then came back to the cart. "Okay, now we hit meat?"
"Now we can hit meat," Methos agreed. "Did you bring your checkbook?"
"Credit card and cash, we're waiting on our new checks." He stopped in front of the butcher. "Hi, we're doing a stocking run," he told the man.
"Yeah, your husband called already, Mr. Harris," he said, giving them a grim-looking smile. "Whatcha need?"
"Um, ham, steaks, ribs, chicken, a turkey or two, and just the usual odds and ends. Oh, and stuff for sandwiches for the kids' lunches."
"Right, let's go walk through the section," the man said, coming out from behind the counter. "Ham first?"
"Sure," Xander said happily. "I've been craving ham." He stopped to pick up a few family sized packages of hotdogs. "Timmy will give me a hug for those," he told Adam when the older man gave him a funny look. "He lives on hotdogs." He caught up with the butcher, looking down at the hams in the case. "Hmm, give me the biggest six," he decided.
"Xander, your freezers aren't that big," Adam reminded him. "Remember treking up to the house to get meat for dinner?"
"Dad loves me," Xander reminded him with a grin. "And we've managed to upgrade both our freezers. We're ready for an apocalypse at the house." He grabbed the six hams, looking down into the case. "What's that one?" he asked.
"That's a picnic ham, it's real salty," the butcher told him. "A lower cut of ham."
"Hey, that's all good. Give me a few of them too please."
"Your money," the butcher said, tossing a few of lower-class hams into the cart too. "Steaks next?"
"Sure," Xander agreed, following him over to the family packs. He looked back at Adam. "I like to let him pick out which ones I'm buying, I do okay on the single pack scale but not on the larger ones."
"Every few months, they call up and come clean us out," the butcher agreed, tossing a few of the family platforms into the cart. "That enough? We don't have that many in right now, there's not a steak holiday anytime soon."
"That's good enough for now," Xander agreed. "Ribs?" A few bags were tossed into the cart too. "Cool. We can grill again if Oz would clean the grill." He rolled toward the hamburger and picked up some rolls of that too. "Chicken," he said finally.
"Birds are at the end, I'll go get your lunch meat. Needed what this time?"
"Bologna, sliced ham, and the regular lunch meats," Xander told him. "Thanks," he called as the older man walked away. "Okay, chickens," he said, moving to the cut-up birds.
"Why not the whole?" Adam asked.
"We find it a bitch to cut them up," Xander told him honestly. "It's all about convenience for us." He picked up a few packages of breasts and tossed them in, along with some thighs and a bag of chicken legs. "That takes care of that," he said, adding three bags of wings. "And snacks." He turned the cart around, heading for the few turkeys the store kept on hand, picking up two of them. Then he went back to the deli section, where he was getting meat for the kids' lunches. "And some of the roast beef too, please," he said, "it looks really good today."
"How much, sir?" the deli girl asked.
"Two pounds, shaved."
"And I'd like three pounds also," Adam added. "Separate orders."
She nodded and grabbed the roast beef, taking it back to the cutter.
Xander grunted as he heaved the last bag into the trunk of his car. He plugged in the cooling wand Oz had found him, setting it in the middle of the meats. "There we go, now where?" he asked.
"Depends, do you need more meat?"
"Nah, we're good there," Xander said with a grin. "Where's this store you told me about?"
"It's a natural food store," Adam told him as he got in. "Are you sure you can drive the car with that much weight in the trunk?"
"Yup, I've done it before." Xander started the car and carefully backed out of the space, heading out onto the street. "Which way?"
"Back toward the wharf, it's nearly on the way home."
Xander walked into the house, munching on his trail mix. "I'm back," he called. "Come help me unload or don't eat tonight."
Timmy ran out and gave him a hug. "Hey. Dad's up at the big house." He ran out to the car, grabbing the grocery cart to help him. His sister Xandra and Junior followed him, Brandon lagging a little behind.
Xander walked out, following his children. "Where's Precious and Serena?" he asked as he handed out bags. "Eggs," he said, handing them to Junior, who ran them up to the house. "Meat," he said, pointing for Timmy to load it into the cart. "Pasta," he said, handing it to Xandra, moving to get out of Timmy's and Brandon's way. "We've got turkeys too," he told his sons, who both groaned and finished loading the meat into the cart, having to pull it up to the house together.
"Daddy, what's in the backseat?" Xandra asked.
"Mine, get the rest," he told her with a grin, getting his bags. "Adam found me sugar free chocolate and a really good trail mix," he told her. She shuddered. "It's not too bad. Sorta like the difference between regular chocolate and milk chocolate."
"I'll stick to my Hershey's thank you," she said, taking almost all the bags. "Left the milk and soda."
"Get Timmy to get it," he said as he followed her up to the house. "Soda cases," he told Timmy.
"Can I have a raise?" Timmy asked.
"It's all part of the household chores that we already pay you for, son," Xander said happily. "We're having a real dinner tonight. Any choices?"
"Chicken," the kids said together, including Junior, who was head down in the chest freezer putting meat down in the bottom.
Xander grinned and tickled his son, catching him before he could fall in. "Gee, Junior, I didn't know you liked the cold," he teased.
"Daddy!" Junior shrieked, trying to get away. "Not fair!"
"Probably wasn't," Nick said as he walked in. "Find everything?" he asked when he saw all the bags.
"Yup," Xander said with a grin, letting Junior go. "Timmy, did you get the soda?"
"Dad, I know why you need diet," Timmy said, stacking some of the soda into the refrigerator, "but why are you punishing us with it?"
"Because I'll be tempted," Xander told him. "Then I'll be taking a lot of naps, and you'll be not very happy when you're grounded to the house while I nap."
"Good reason," Timmy agreed, grabbing a soda. "I'm chatting. Anything else?"
"Did you bring in the milk?" Xandra asked, looking inside the refrigerator.
"No, go get it yourself," Timmy told her.
She stuck her tongue out at him and went out to go get the milk and shut the car.
Xander smiled at his half-brother. "So, am I needed? I checked the houses for messages before I left."
"Nah, it's all good, I'm getting away from Derek's complaining because he's in bed." He sat down at the table. "What's for dinner?"
"Chicken apparently," Xander said, smiling and taking his keys from his daughter. "Did you unplug the cooling wand?" She nodded then grabbed a glass and popped open the milk, pouring herself some. "Adam came back with me," he offered.
"I've got an hour before I have practice," she told him. "Precious has her workout first." She waved at her uncle. "How's Derek?"
"He's fine," Nick told her, giving her a frown. "Grandpa," he reminded her, "not first name."
"Nick, lay off the subject," Xander said quietly. "She's having a dilemma about what to call him."
"Oh." He shrugged. "Sorry, Xandra."
"It's okay, if I'm confused, I expect you guys to be confused." She sipped her milk. "Baked, fried, or grilled?" she asked her father.
"I don't know, call your other father and ask him," Xander suggested. "And ask him what part of the chicken he wants."
"He's in the office," Nick told her, handing over the phone.
Xandra sat down at the table and dialed the office. "Hey, Dad, it's me. Daddy wanted to know what part of the chicken you wanted and if you wanted it baked, fried, or grilled?"
"If he wants it grilled, someone's got to clean the grill," Xander told her.
"And daddy said that if you wanted grilled, you've got to come clean the grill," she told him. She laughed. "Daddy, Dad's really stressed and he said that he doesn't care which part as long as it doesn't snipe at him, yell at him, or try to make his life difficult, but he would appreciate fried as a method." She handed over the phone. "He wants to talk to you."
"Hey, babe," Xander said, looking down at his store of chicken. "Really? Want me to come up there? Well, Nick's here, I could impose on him to cook."
"I can't do fried chicken," Nick noted.
"But he said he can't fry." Xander chuckled. "Sure. I'll be right up." He hung up and pulled out a package of thighs. "Xandra, make sure this is in the pot before it's nearly dinner time and add oil, herbs, and some italian salad dressing." She nodded. "Good. I'm going to go give your father a hug because he just had to deal with Kyoto on a cranky matter." He nodded at Nick. "Go watch movies if you want, I'll tell Dad you're playing with the kids." He headed out into the garden, heading up to the house. "Hey, William," he said as he passed by the young man. "How's it going?"
"Math sucks," he said, tossing his book.
"It sucks worse the higher up you get in it," Xander told him, patting him on the head. "I'm headed up to the office, but I can ask the butler to make you a snack if it'd help."
"Really?" he asked, looking happy.
"Yup, math always went better for me when I had something to gnaw on while I struggled. Go pick up your book and come into the kitchen." He headed up into the kitchen, smiling at the butler. "William needs a snack to take his frustration out on, he's doing math," he told the butler.
"Would he like popcorn, nuts, or something more sugary?" Thomas, the butler, asked happily. It wasn't often he got to make snacks anymore.
"Probably anything he can chew on would be good." Xander grinned and nodded at the office. "Ignore all strange sounds. I'm going to go make Oz unstressed." He hurried away, walking down the hall to the office. "Oh, Oz," he said as he walked in. He got waved over so he walked over and waved at the person on the monitor. "Hey, James. How's London?"
"Just fine, Xander. Was there something you needed Oz for?" he said with a nasty smile.
"Yeah, but I can wait for ten minutes," Xander said, stepping out of sight and falling to his knees, resting his head on Oz's thigh.
Oz's hand fell into Xander's hair. "He came down to talk to me about the kids," he explained. "They're all hitting puberty now."
"Really?" James asked. "Are they all right?"
"Withholding a few incidents, they're all pretty good. Precious and Xandra are training very hard every day."
"I didn't know Xandra was in line to be chosen," James said.
"No, she's not, she's decided she's the enforcer of the family. She's actually training harder than Precious most days."
"Well, I hope you've talked to her about joining the Legacy. We could always use well trained security people."
"We have, but we're letting them make their own decisions. Serena said she might join, she wants Alex's job. No one's sure about Brandon at the moment, and Timmy's got a hectic social life so he's not considering the future."
"Your youngest is how old now?"
"Nine," Oz told him. "He's just happy he's only got to clean his room and bring us laundry."
"Timmy wanted a raise for bringing in the groceries," Xander murmured, just loud enough to be heard by his mate.
Oz laughed. "And Timmy's getting greedy in his old age, apparently you're going to start receiving presents for a certain young girl soon."
James laughed. "We've already received a few. Flower and stuffed animal combinations."
"Wow, he's really wooing her," Xander said quietly
Oz nodded. "Xander said he's really wooing her. I agree. Tell us if it gets inappropriate and I'll take away his check card for his allowance."
James shook his head. "So far it's all in good taste, even the one to celebrate her getting her first period. He said he understood."
"Precious started hers, then Xandra and Serena did within three days," Oz told him. "He understands and knows enough to hide."
James laughed. "Oh, that's good. I'm very glad we don't have multiple children in the house of the same age. That must have been a hectic weekend for you both."
"And for Jon and Adam," Oz added. "They had to stop Precious, who started on the path towards unreasonable. We were just there for the boys to hide behind. And to take the other two shopping while Alex handled Precious," he added as an afterthought. "Anyway, back to your complaint. What's wrong with the research house now?"
"They're not answering their phone," James said. "Has Xander heard anything?"
"They're at their backup house because of what we just did," Xander whispered. "I ordered them to stay there."
"Xander said they're at their backup house because of something that recently came to them," Oz told him. "Sister Mary Catherine from Vatican City went to them for some extra help when a baby got dropped on her doorstep."
"I'd heard something about that," James said, looking through the papers. "Oh, here it is, no one's sure who the mother is?"
"That too," Oz agreed, "but there's more. The baby's note said his name was Jesus." James blinked a few times at that, "and the note mentioned our son Brandon and Philip by name. She's here now but Xander ordered them to stay at their backup house for a few days, just in case someone's tracking the sister."
"Ah. That's a good idea," James praised. "Does he have their numbers?" Oz shook his head. "Not at all?"
"We tend to talk to them most of the time through email," Oz explained. "He has the cellphone numbers somewhere up at the house but they've asked for us to not hand them out because they're in the middle of a technology update."
"Good, good," James said, sounding happier. "I'm sure that their systems will all work better without slime in them. Truly dreadful when I was there over the portal incident. Did they ever find out why it happened?"
Xander tapped Oz's thigh to get his attention. "Hold on, let me ask, Xander's lying down right now." He put the call on hold and looked down at his mate. "Big secret?"
"Someone in the prime house sent them a spirit tome with that demon trapped in it. The demon that was trapped opened the portal before manifesting himself to the group. Martel said the only warning they got was a change in air pressure and then they were stuck in the portal and the demon was taunting them."
"Oh, man," Oz sighed. "You think?"
"I'm pretty sure but I can't be totally sure. It could have been separate incidents or an accident," Xander said with a shrug. "Derek did say that James wasn't the problem in London."
"All right." Oz waited until Xander put his head back down then returned to the call. "I'm back. He said it came from a spirit tome someone sent them. That the demon was locked inside it and created the portal before it manifested. Martel said that they were sucked in before they knew what was going on."
"I see," James said, glancing around his office. "We're alone on my end, Oz. Who sent them the book?"
"Your house did," Xander said, popping up beside Oz. "Which is the other reason why I want them to stay at their backup point."
James nodded. "Thank you for knowing you can trust me. I don't remember sending them anything but I'll check our records." He smiled at Xander. "Did you really need him? We've got some plans left to make for the Precept's meeting."
"You can have him for half an hour," Xander offered. "I've got to go spend some time with Dad anyway." He looked down at Oz. "But I will say this, James, Oz had better not be in danger. I'm still the enforcer in this family and I'll gladly fly out there to help them."
"I know," James said. "As a matter of fact, we're counting on it. Oz and I will both be wearing emergency buttons that will lead directly back to your Nick's security system. If something happens, I'll be expecting you to lead the assault to get us back."
Xander nodded. "Good. As long as we've got that straight." He kissed his husband gently then walked out, heading up to talk to his father. "Hey, Philip," he said when the door opened. "Is Dad up to visitors?"
"Yes," Derek said in a cranky voice. "They won't even get me a book."
"But why would you want a book?" Xander asked with a smile as he walked in and gave Derek a hug. "You're supposed to be resting, not researching problems." He sat beside the older man. "Oz and James are planning the possible problems at the Precept's meeting. James knows I'm going to be leading the assault if it comes down to it." He squeezed his father's hand. "And I'm already planning in case James is the problem."
Derek smiled at that. "I'm glad, son, I'd rather have you dealing with the problem than most anyone in the organization." He looked at Philip, losing his good humor. "Would you please tell him that I can read a Compendium for fun?"
"Fun?" Xander snorted. "You made me read that thing for punishment." He picked up the phone and dialed his son's room. "Hey, Timmy, your grandfather's bored and needs a book to read. Can you go find him a fun and good book from within our section?" He hung up. "He'll be up in a few minutes with a real book for you to read."
Philip turned away to hide his smirk. "Maybe he'll bring us a few to choose from," he said finally back under control. Derek was glaring at him again. "It'll be good for you to read other things," he reminded his lover. "You never know, you might find something interesting."
Timmy ran in, panting hard. "Sorry, I'm on a break from chatting. She's making popcorn." He smiled at his father. "And she passed on a 'hi' too." He handed over a small pile of fantasy novels. "They're all really magic and fight heavy and got pretty cool monsters. I loved to read them last year and they're all relatively not boring. And I included a funny book too," he said, pulling one out of his back pocket.
Xander plucked another book from his son's back pocket and handed it to his father. "Here. That one's almost all about magic. You'd be surprised what normal people can come up with." He looked over the titles and picked one out. "Thanks, Timmy. Xandra's putting dinner in the pot. Come out and stir it about once an hour, 'kay?"
"Sure, Dad," Timmy said, waving and running out.
"He's in lust with the girl we rescued in Florida," Xander told his father. "That's who he's been chatting with all hours. He's even been sending flowers to her."
Philip groaned. "It had to happen sometime."
"Yeah, but we're monitoring it through James," Xander said with a grin. "He's been sending her stuffed animal and flower combinations. He even sent her one when she started her period."
Derek shook his head and took the book back. "I think I can read this myself," he told his son.
Oz walked in and slammed the door. "Xander, James knew about this before hand," he said quietly. "We've got to make some serious plans."
"Son, are you sure?" Derek asked.
"Yeah, he all but said he knew about it," Oz said, turning and punching the wall. "He said he knew that something was probably going to happen at the meeting." He turned to look at them. "I need you to plan something really good with Nick," he told his husband. "I don't want him to get away if something happens."
"Okay," Xander said simply, giving his mate a grin. "I'm already working out some really good stuff."
"Good. Good, 'cause I want him to be caught and strung up." Oz started to pace. "There's nothing wrong with wanting the top job, but trying to take the top people out by poison is a little old fashioned and out of date. We need to enlighten them to the new ways of destroying people."
Derek nodded at Philip to stop him. "Son, I'm sure we'll be able to get him. If you can prove it, we'll get him before a tribunal too." Oz was brought over and he gave the young man a hug. "I promise, if I was wrong and James is in on it, then we'll deal with him. I will not allow that sort of attitude in the Legacy."
"Speaking of poisoning," Xander said, looking at Philip. "Could this be...." He stopped when Philip's eyes went wide. "Oh, really?" he asked.
"Yup," Philip said, getting out of Xander's way. "We knew that right after he passed out. Marcus gave him the antidote within hours. He'll be fine with a few weeks in bed."
"And why wasn't I told about this?" Xander said a little too calmly. He looked down at his father. "Dad?"
"Son, we didn't want you to worry," Derek said, patting him on the hand. "It's been handled and I promise that we know who did it, it's been dealt with."
Xander gave him a pretty smile. "That's nice, Father," he said as he stood up. "And when were you going to tell me why you were sick?"
"After he was better," Philip said helpfully. Derek glared at him again. "What? I told you ta tell him when we first found out."
"I agree," Oz said, getting up to hug Xander before he could go off. "If it's handled, then we'll deal with the house until he's back."
"I want the person who did it," Xander said, staring at his father. "Just tell me and I won't have to get upset."
"The police have him," Derek said, sitting up. "I promise, son, if there were any reason for you to get upset, we'd have told you already, but we've dealt with the man who did this."
"It was the asshole who took over the kids' old school, wasn't it," Xander asked.
"It's taken care of, Xan," Oz tried. "The police have him."
"Good, then they can hold him while I kill his ass!" Xander got free. "Did any of you think that he might have attacked the house by putting stuff in the water? Stuff that not only you drink, but Nick and the kids drink?" Derek and Philip looked at each other. "I see." He stormed out and went down to find his brother. He slammed into his house, glaring at the empty kitchen. "NICK!"
Nick came running. "What happened?" he asked. He saw how Xander was barely controlling himself. "They told you?"
"No, I found out. Did we check our water supply?" Nick looked confused. "If he poisoned Derek, why wouldn't he come after the *rest* of us so he could get the kids?" he said patiently.
"Oh." Nick shook his head. "Derek didn't say we needed to, it was a contact poison. We can go down and check it if you want," he offered, trying to calm his brother down. Xander could get very scary when he was homicidal. "He's been in jail since the night Derek collapsed."
"There's this thing called 'bail'," Xander said patiently. "Our water supply is easily reached from the water, where there aren't any guards."
"I get the point," Nick told him. "Come on, we've got a monitor on it, we'll go check it if you want." Xander nodded so Nick led the way down to the cliffs where the water tanks were hidden. "We had to put a monitor in it because of the sea," he explained. "Sometimes we've had too high of a tide and some sea water's gotten in." He frowned when he saw the broken monitor. "Um, a rock probably hit it during a tide," he suggested.
"Yay," Xander said, pushing past him to get at the little door. He felt the lock and swore. "It's been broken into. There's little scratches on the faceplate." He pulled his hand away to show off the shavings. "Recent ones I'd say."
Nick shook his head. "There's supposed to be an alarm if any of us get near to the door," Nick muttered as he moved Xander out of his way, pulling out his keys. He tried to get the key in the lock but it wouldn't go in. "The lock's jammed."
"Cellphone?" Xander asked calmly.
"Who's down there?" a voice called from the top.
"It's me," Nick called. "Get down here and pray you've got your radio." The guard came down and handed over the radio. "Has the alarm went off at all?"
"Once, sir, but no one was here," the guard said, looking at the vibrating Xander. "Is there a problem?"
"Yeah, someone's jammed the lock on the water storage unit," Xander told him. "Someone poisoned Derek a few days ago. Tell me the next move?"
"Sir, I'd have the house put on highest alert," the guard said, stiffening up, "and I'd make sure that the bastard who got Dr. Rayne was still in jail. Also, I'd post at least one extra guard near your house to protect the children, and make sure one followed them to school every day now."
Xander nodded. "Good. Go do that, except for calling the cops. I'll call our friend there and have him check for us." He looked at Nick, who was giving orders. "We're seriously thinking that the guy who did this was the same one who got through to come after Precious." The guard whimpered lightly. "Yeah, so, he's the one you want, or anyone unusual. If it's not that, then we're in the middle of a crisis and I want you guys on highest alert."
"Yeah, what he said," Nick said dryly. "Do you take orders from him?" he asked the guard.
"Sir, he's a local Precept, we're supposed to take orders from him, the same as we do from you. And we would've come seen you about them if they didn't make sense to us."
Nick nodded and handed back the radio. "Okay. Go do that, I've given the head guard orders to add another man per shift until this is over. We're heading back to the house." The guard nodded and ran off. "Xander, *my* job is security. You're junior to me. Got it?"
"No, bro, this isn't about the *house*, this is about my *children*. And if we have to fight to protect the house and ourselves, then we will." Xander stared him down. "For that matter, why wasn't security raised as soon as the guy was caught? Especially if you knew who it was." He pushed his way back up the path, heading to his house. "Kids!" he called. "Family meeting, now!" The kids, with the exception of Precious, came running to find him. "We've got a problem. The reason your grandfather collapsed the other day was poison." They all stopped shifting at that. "Now, there's two things. It's either the person who came after Precious, in which case we stomp his ass if we see him and he threatens us, or it's related to the Legacy, in which case we've got the evacuation procedures, right?" Everyone nodded. "Good. No one drinks the water until we can get a contaminant test off it. No showers either."
"Precious has been soaking," Brandon reported.
"Then we'll monitor her, if she seems like she's too tired or acting unusually, then we'll get her to a hospital. I need you guys to be more careful at school. There may be a guard going with you, if we can manage it. If not, we're going to be talking to your Headmistress and explaining to her that your grandfather was recently poisoned and that we think it's the guy from your old school."
Oz walked in and slammed the door. "Nick's bitching about you."
Xandra ran in, stopping when she ran into Timmy's back. "Sorry, but the gate guards just came down and told us to come home. They found a weak spot in the fence out in the woods."
"No showers," Xander told her. "Not until we test the water." She nodded, wiping off her forehead. "You've got babywipes, use them."
Oz coughed, getting their attention. "There's no need to panic, guys, your dad's just really worried about you. You're the vulnerable ones."
"Oh, we knew that," Brandon snorted. "We've also been trained by Nick to be auxiliary security people if the occasion arises." He looked at Xander. "Anything else?"
"Yeah, did you add any water to dinner?"
"Nope, oil and herbs," she said. "I thought about pouring some of the wine in but I wasn't sure if you could handle that."
"Yeah, I can," Xander said, giving her a hug. "As long as I keep a little bit of a balance, I'll be fine and won't need many sudden naps. Go ahead and add the wine, but make sure it's not rancid." She wiggled free and went to do that, Timmy helping her. "Any questions?"
"Dad, do we need to get headsets?" Timmy asked.
"Nope," Oz told him. "Nick's called for extra personnel already." He dragged Xander up to their room. "You're overreacting," he said calmly.
"No, I'm reacting strongly enough to protect our kids," Xander countered. "Nick didn't spare a single thought about the water supply until I mentioned it. Someone had tried to pick the lock and jammed it instead." Oz nodded. "Yeah, I went over his head, but I'm protecting our children, something that Nick keeps forgetting to do. His concern's the main house and the Legacy, which is right, it's his job. My concern is not only the Legacy, but our children, who are a very large target if someone wants to get any of us." Oz nodded again. "Do you still think I'm overreacting?"
Oz shook his head. "Yeah, but I understand it. Philip's explaining it to Nick, or at least he was when I left. Have you called Ray?"
"Not yet. I was going to do that after I warned the kids."
"You mean ordered the kids?" Oz asked dryly.
"Yeah, that too. And tell Timmy he doesn't have to quit chatting with her. Just not to tell her."
"I think he knew that," Timmy called up from the bottom of the stairs. "There's a security guy here, Dads."
"Just a sec," Oz called. "Let him have a soda." He looked at his husband. "Want me to call Ray?"
"Sure. I'll go deal with this." Xander took a deep breath and walked down the stairs, going back to the kitchen. "Sorry, Oz was disagreeing with me about the kids."
"That's fine, sir," the guard said, popping his soda open. "We did find a fault in the back fence, but it looks old. We've got the dogs out there right now, seeing if they can pick up a scent. If there's been anyone recently through it, we'll know."
"I saw kids in the woods the other day," Brandon told him from the hallway. "They're from the houses on the other side of the island."
"Thanks," the guard said, giving him a nod. "We've caught them a few times, their parents were really nice." He smiled at Xander. "Sir, we moved even when Nick didn't say so to protect your children."
Xander relaxed. "Thank you."
"Yes, thank you," Oz said as he walked down the stairs. "The guy who poisoned Derek got bail not even a day after hurting him. The judge set his bail high but he made it with some help from the Church. We'll let you tell Philip," Oz told him. He nudged Xander. "Don't you think you should apologize to the guard you reamed?"
"No, he was right," the guard told him. "We didn't go all the way down to check on the water storage tank when the alarm went off. We looked over the edge and didn't see anyone. Mr. Harris was right to yell at him. We expected Mr. Boyle to do it for him, but he was taking this pretty lightly. We actually expected to be yelled at, Mr. Harris just went cold and efficient and asked the guard what he was going to do next." He sipped his soda. "I just came to tell you that it's handled, Mr. Harris. We're warning those kids' parents, and asking them to tell us if they see anyone else wandering around. Dr. Rayne had said we could teach them how to use the gate back there so we'll do that the next time they come over. "We're on high alert until after the Precept's meeting." A voice came across the radio and he pulled it up to listen to it. "And Mr. Boyle just moved into action," he said with a smile. "The only thing he's countered so far is a security escort to the school. He said something about keeping the kids here."
"Nope," Oz told him. "If we have to, we'll follow them to school, but they're not staying here."
"Their headmistress used to run a gang school," Xander reminded his husband in a calm and quiet tone of voice. "She's got guards if the kids need it."
The guard nodded. "All right. Maybe Jon can pick up one of us that lives over that way and bring them to work," he said with a smile. "I'll leave you in peace, expect Mr. Boyle later, he sounded tired so I'm betting Philip bit into him pretty good." He waved the soda. "Thanks for this."
"Anytime," Oz agreed, letting him out. "Were you going to test the water?" he asked his husband.
"Alex did it," Timmy called. "She sent a family-wide email." He appeared. "How much longer before it's food?"
"Let me check," Xander told him, going over to check the pot with the chicken. He lifted the lid and stirred the pot, turning up the burner under it. "About half an hour if we're lucky, forty if we're not," he told his son.
Timmy shrugged and grabbed a small bag of microwave popcorn.
"Don't spoil your dinner," Oz warned.
"Dad, I'm twelve, there's nearly nothing that would spoil any meal for me." Timmy took the bag with him, heading to the play room's microwave, it was almost never in use.
Xander opened the fridge and pulled out the bottle of wine. "Oz, come stir this while I add more liquid."
"All right," Oz said, coming over to help, turning up the heat a little more. "This is still cold," he noted.
"I know. That's why I made it forty if we're not lucky." Xander poured the rest of the bottle in then tossed it out. "Stir that, let's hope that it'll get warmer fast."
Oz stirred it a few more times then put the lid back on. "If it's much longer than an hour, we'll make more than chicken and let them eat that first."
"I was going to make pasta anyway," Xander admitted. "Maybe with some subtle garlic butter sauce?"
"Sounds good to me, as long as you add cheese," Oz agreed.
"Cheese," Xander said, hitting himself on the forehead.
"Xander, how could you forget cheese and buy turkeys?"
"Joke," Xander said.
"You," Oz groaned, then grabbed his husband for a kiss.
"Eww," Precious said as she walked in. "Don't do that in front of us. It's sick."
"Think of it as a living instruction manual for when you get a boy or girlfriend," Oz told her, then went back to kissing his husband.
"No showers," Xander said between kisses.
Brandon walked out and frowned at his sister. "Why didn't Adam send you back when he sent Xandra?"
"Because I was out on a run," she said snidely. "What's going on."
"Someone tried to get into the water storage tank." She opened her mouth. "No showers, no baths. No drinking of the tap water until Alex clears it."
She sighed. "How am I supposed to get this gross sweat off?"
"Baby wipes," Oz groaned, pushing Xander into the refrigerator and starting to grope.
"Um, dads, you're going to scar us for life," Brandon reminded them. "Go upstairs where you have privacy and lube?"
"Good idea the son has," Xander said with a grin, getting free and running up the stairs.
Oz glared at his son. "Sure, make me run like this. Chicken's cold, put on pasta, we'll make the sauce in a few." He ran after his mate.
"How are we supposed to make pasta without water?" Precious asked.
"Chicken stock," Brandon told her. "Jon taught me that during our cooking lessons when we were ten. Maybe you should go wipe down," he suggested as he walked in to do his part of the work for supper.
She stomped into her room and flopped down onto her bed, then got up and stripped off, using the last of her baby wipes to try and clean herself up. When she was still sticky, she put on a robe and went over to Xandra's room. "Do you have any wipes left?" she asked.
Xandra swung off her bed and walked over to her dressing table. "A few," she said, tossing over the package. "Serena's out too. I checked."
"Brandon said Alex was checking the water so maybe we'll be able to get showers soon."
"Where were you anyway?"
"He sent me on a run."
"Really?" Xandra asked. "Adam asked me where you were, Precious." Her sister scowled. "His memory may be getting bad because of his age, but how much do you want to bet that he won't remember sending you on a jog tomorrow?"
Precious stormed back to her room and slammed the door.
"And cover up the mark," Xandra called after her, closing her own door.
Timmy stuck his head out of his room. "Mark?" he asked, sounding interested. When no one answered him, he went back to his girlfriend.
Xander came down the stairs and sleepily smiled at his son, who was draining the pasta. "Chicken stock?" he asked as he walked over to look down at it.
"Yeah, Jon taught me that." He put the pasta back into the pot and grabbed some margarine to stir in so they wouldn't mate and stick together. "What's the sauce?"
"Cheese, garlic, and butter," Xander said, grabbing a frying pan. "Quick, simple, and pretty good on the chicken if I make too much of it." He took the margarine and slapped the rest of the stick into the pan, then grabbed the garlic salt. "Grab the cheese for me?"
Brandon grabbed the canister of sprinkle cheese and handed it over. "Here we go," he said, watching in interest as his father created a slimy but good sauce. He poured in the pasta when it was done. "There we are. Chicken?"
"Let's see," Xander said, opening the pot and smiling. "Maybe." He pulled out one of the thighs, poking it with a knife. "Or not," he said when some pink came out with the white.
"Dad, most of the world eats their meat pink. If it's just the bones, it's all good."
"Let me check," Oz said as he came down, tucking in his shirt. He took the thigh and put it on a plate, pulling out a knife and fork to cut into it. "Just the bones," he agreed. "FOOD!"
"I'd better grab the plates," Brandon said, going to set the table. Timmy came running. "Help or don't get to eat."
"Cool by me," Timmy said, grabbing silverware. He looked at the chicken Oz was dissecting. "You might want to nuke that for maybe two minutes," he suggested. "It's still a little pink, Dad."
Oz nodded and stuck the cut up meat into the microwave, nuking it for the next two minutes while Xander worked on the sauce. He looked over as his daughters walked out, smiling at them. "Good to see you all made it back, did anyone tell Precious anything yet?"
"I did," Brandon said. "Food?" he asked when the microwave went off.
"Food," Xander agreed, straining the sauce from the chicken pot into a bowl and adding a spoon. "Someone grab the chicken," he ordered, bringing the sauce out. "Brandon, dish up the pasta please."
Timmy hopped up and grabbed the pasta, bringing the pan over with a trivet. "Here's the pasta," he said, plopping back down.
Serena grabbed the chicken from the microwave and brought it over too, letting her father put it where he wanted it as she took her seat again. "Are we all here?" she asked, pointing at the empty seats.
"Call your younger brother again," Xander suggested, "and the main house to see if Nick or Philip want to come over and eat."
"JUNIOR!" Precious yelled.
"I think he meant to go and check on him," Xandra said, mimicking her father's best dry tone. "He was napping earlier."
"What?" Junior grumbled as he came out, still rubbing his eyes.
"Son, clothes. Nudity is not allowed at the table," Oz told him.
"Table?" Junior asked.
"Clothes, now," Xandra snapped.
He flipped her off. "I'm tired," he whined, giving her a hug.
"We know you are," Xander said, getting up to hug him, "but we're going to feed you now. To do that, you've got to be dressed." He turned his son back toward his room and gave him a little push. "Go get dressed, Junior."
"Yes, sir," he complained.
Philip walked through the door with Nick, giving the young man a bland look. "Not awake?"
"No, he was taking a nap," Oz said, pointing at the empty spot. "Go grab the extra chair one of you."
"Thanks," Nick said, smiling at Xander. "I'm sorry?"
"It's all right, I understood," Xander reminded him. "You're more concerned with the house and I have to be more concerned with the kids. We deal with what we have to, and the guard was here when you called orders down."
"The kids are still going to school," Oz added after Xander was done. "The head guard said that one of the guys lived on the route to school and that Jon could pick him up."
"Sounds like a great idea," Nick said, looking at Xander. "It wasn't that I didn't care, Xan, really."
"I know. You have to be more concerned with the House. Your mates are over there, most of your life is in the main house. Trust me, I didn't make a single order for the House because I knew you'd handle that part." Nick nodded and let the subject drop. "Speaking of school, how long before we have the water sample back? I doubt we'd be able to force the kids to school tomorrow without showers."
"Probably before midnight," Philip said. "Alex is workin' hard, she wants a bath herself." He patted Precious on the head. "How was your run?"
"Good," she said, smiling at him. "Did you catch me on the cameras?" He smiled and nodded. "Did I look okay?"
"Saw a bit more of you than I wanted to," Philip said cautiously. He wasn't going to nark on the girl if her parents didn't know she was seeing a young guy in the woods every afternoon.
Oz sniffed deeply, then grimaced and looked at Precious, who blushed and looked away. "We'll be talking tonight, young lady," he said quietly. Xander looked at him. "Sniff, you'll see."
Xander sniffed and looked from Precious to Timmy and back at his husband. "Which one?"
Timmy choked on his sip of soda. "Dad!" he complained. "I've been alone." He looked at his sister. "Mark?" he asked.
"Oh, is that his name?" Oz asked.
"No, as in she has one," Timmy said, pointing at the one he could barely see where her shirt was gaping.
Xander used the back of his spoon to move the side of her shirt. "You need to learn how to cover that better," he told her. "I'll teach you that later." He dropped his spoon and went back to eating. "We'll have that talk while we have a talk about sex and birth control."
"But Auntie Alex..." Precious tried.
"Yay," Xander said, glaring at her. "Apparently you didn't listen. Now it's my turn. And if I don't get it, it's Oz's. And if it's still not working, I'm handing you over to Philip to beat God into you." Xandra snorted at that. "The same goes for the rest of you."
"Yes, sir," Serena said, hanging her head. "What about me, I might not like boys."
"Honey, we've known that since you kissed Xandra as a four year old," Oz reminded her.
"Um, eww?" Xandra suggested. "I'm sure it wasn't sexual."
"No, but it was her first kiss."
"Second," Brandon said. "She kissed me and wiped her mouth off." He punched his sister on the shoulder. "Grumpy, we'll figure it out. I'm sure someone in this house can find you a book on lesbian sex."
"Eww," Junior said as he walked in. "Girls are gross." He flopped down in his chair and took the rest of the food, starting to eat before anyone could protest.
"There's more chicken," Oz said, nodding at the second plate on the counter. "We've got to nuke it for a few minutes but it'll be okay."
Junior looked at his father. "Really?"
"Let everyone else get seconds first," Xander teased. Junior stuck his tongue out. "So, why were you so tired?"
Junior shrugged. "He didn't get much sleep last night," Timmy told him. "I heard him pacing around late last night, even after I logged off."
"Son, when does she sleep?"
"After we both log off," he answered saucily.
"So, you've got a honey?" Xander asked, smiling at his son. "What's she like?"
"Well, how about I let you find out," Timmy suggested. "She's been wanting to come over here to boarding school. James said he doesn't have a problem with it. She hasn't got a family but she's got an inheritance. She's even been accepted at Tramer, which is up the road."
"By three hours," Xander noted.
"Yeah, and?" Timmy asked. "If she came over, could she visit during holidays?"
Oz looked at his husband. "We'll think about it," he decided. "When is she coming over?"
"She's got to send her answer by the end of the month."
"Then we've got three days to think about it," Xander told him. "That'll take into account the time difference and the time to mail it. She'll be able to get it in two days early." Timmy nodded. "Any other news?"
"Sister Ingrid wanted me to come visit," Serena told them all.
"At the convent?" Oz asked.
"Yeah," she agreed. "I think she thinks I'm going to be a nun or something." She shrugged. "I told her I'd talk to you about it."
"How long ago did she ask?" Philip asked.
"A few days," Serena told him, giving him a smile. "I don't want to be a nun though."
"Yes, but Ingrid has things from her mother that would only go to her daughter," Nick told her. "Maybe that's why she's calling you up there."
"Maybe," Serena said but she didn't sound hopeful. "I've tried to tell her I want to be an art researcher. She said something about Sister Wendy."
"She had a good art show," Philip told her. "It's on PBS now and again."
"But I don't want to be a nun," Serena reminded him. "I want to take Alex's job."
"Maybe she thinks that because you're not interested in boys, that you're more interested in having a holy life," Nick suggested.
"A lot of the women in Ingrid's generation that were into women that way were pushed into the sisterhood," Philip agreed. "I'll write her if you'd like. Been a while since I talked to her."
"Derek said he wanted to go up and talk to her in a few weeks," Nick offered. "We could say something then."
"Please," Serena agreed. "I don't want to be a nun. I don't believe in her God and I don't want to follow her path. I'd be miserable."
"It'll be fine," Philip told her with a smile. "The days when your Da's could force you inta being a nun are long gone. Now you have to agree."
"Good," she sighed. "I don't want to upset her but I couldn't do what she does," she said with a light shudder.
"We won't make you join a convent," Oz assured her. "I'm not that mean. Though, if you start being a ho, then we might think about it."
"I'm not a ho," Precious said coldly.
"I wasn't talking to you," Oz told her in the same tone of voice. "I know what it's like to want to experiment. I know what it's like to have life spread out for you like a smorgasbord and you wanting to nibble here and there on it. I'm not worried about you, I'm worried about her." He smiled at Serena. "See, we figured out long ago that you are very heavily self-controlling and the first time you lose it can be *intoxicating*," he said, smiling at Xander. He looked at his daughter again. "For you, that temptation may be stronger than it is for anybody at this table except for Brandon."
"Aye," Philip said, nodding. "It's a heady experience to lose the control you've had all your life in that split second. It's one of the best experiences in your life."
"Or the most disappointing," Nick put in. "But that means that you're with the wrong person or they don't know what they're doing." He shrugged at Xandra's interested look. "First times are either great, horrible, or indifferent, but you'll always remember it. To the day you die, you'll either curse whomever you were with or you'll sigh and grin whenever you think about it."
Philip smacked him on the arm. "Thanks for that. You laugh."
"I laugh because you tickled me mercilessly," Nick countered, but he was smiling. "You made sure I had fun and was really relaxed."
"Xander did the same thing for me," Oz agreed, taking Xander's hand to kiss. "And Nick is right, it's something that you'll remember forever, that's why we're going to sit down with each of you and talk about this individually." He glanced at Junior, who was all but asleep again. "And we'll talk to him when he's old enough to need it."
"He's got a friend," Xandra offered.
"He's not ready yet. He still thinks girls are icky," Oz told her. "So, Timmy, about that one kid, how did it go?"
"He was kinda insulted when I came out and asked, so I sat down next to him and explained that I wanted to be his friend, that I had gay fathers and a gay grandfather in a trio, but I was sheltered beside that and I wasn't sure how he wanted to be addressed. He said his name, and I said cool. He and I have been chatting back and forth during the afternoon." He checked his watch. "He said he'd be on tonight again about now."
"Finish first," Xander told him. "I'm sure you left an 'I'm eating' message."
"Yup," Timmy said, scarfing the rest of his food. "Gonna go talk to him. Later." He jogged back to his room.
Serena shook her head. "Aren't you worried about the same thing with him?" she asked Oz.
"Definitely," Xander said. "He'll be getting a lot longer lecture, and probably the same one you'll be getting." He winked at her. "Don't worry, we do know what we're talking about."
Timmy walked back out, bouncing nervously. "Dad, um, can I head into the city? He left a message and he needs me."
"We need more baby wipes and stuff," Xandra offered.
"Okay," Xander agreed. "I'll drive you into town. Tell him it'll be about an hour before the next ferry runs and we'll be on that one." He finished up his dinner. "Make a list, girls."
Serena got up and grabbed the shopping notepad, starting on her portion of the list, then handing it on. Timmy went back to his bedroom to talk to his friend.
Xander smiled at the young man that ran up to their car. "Hey, get in," he said, opening the back door. "I'm Timmy's dad." He drove off to the side and turned to look at the young man. "Timmy's presently back on the island, cleaning up a mess. If you're allowed by your family, I'll put you on the ferry and you can go back, he'll have someone meet you at the gate."
"What sort of mess?" the boy asked cautiously.
"He pissed off his sister and she kicked his ass," Xander told him. "He's presently getting sick and she's getting a lecture by my husband."
"Thanks," he said, giving him a smile. "I'm not sure what my father would say but I'm not really caring of his opinion right now."
"Deal," Xander agreed, handing over his pass. "Just get on the ferry and flash that, then ride until Angel Island and get off. Push the blue button if there's no one there to meet you, our nanny's supposed to be on his way down."
"Thanks," the young man said, getting out and heading to the ferry to get on.
Xander sighed and pulled out into traffic again, shaking his head. "That boy needs to be able to cover bruises better too." He turned the corner, heading for the big drug store.
Oz opened the door for the young man, giving the guard a smile. "Thanks, man."
"Welcome, sir. He's a nice kid." He handed over Xander's flash pass. "Here, he gave the kid his."
"Thanks again." He led the boy into the kitchen. "Want supper? We were eating when you called and Timmy's going to need food soon."
"Sure," he said, taking off his jacket. "This is a really cool house," he said, looking around the kitchen.
"Thanks, Xander's father gave it to us for our first anniversary," he said with a grin. "Philip, is Timmy ready for food?" he called.
"No!" Timmy yelled back, then there was the sound of more retching.
"She really beat him up?"
"Oh, yeah," Oz said, nodding. He put some of the leftover microwaved chicken onto some crusty bread and handed it over, with the sauce and some italian dressing from earlier. "Here, have it. Timmy's going to be feeling poorly for a few hours. He'll come make you both a snack later." He pointed at the bruise on the boy's neck. "Need an ice pack?"
The boy rubbed it. "No, thanks," he said uncomfortably. "It's nothing."
"I've had worse myself," Oz told him, "and an ice pack always made it feel better."
"No, thanks," the boy said, looking away from him.
"Okay, if you need one, it's in the top of the chest freezer." The boy looked up at him. "I know you don't need a lecture, I'm not giving one, but we're here if you need us." The boy smiled at that. "Want me to call someone and tell them you're safe?"
"No, I...I can do that. I've got a friend that I can call."
"Cool. TV room's off to the left, and it's not real high tech but we've got plenty of DVDs and tapes. I'm going to go check on Timmy. You can eat in there if you want."
"Is there any soda?" the boy asked.
"Diet only," Oz told him, getting him a can. "Xander can only drink diet so we can't keep the other kind in the house." He shrugged. "I'll be back, go relax." He headed to the kids' room, glaring at his daughter. "Xandra, why are you out of your room?"
"I didn't mean to hit him," she complained. "He startled me by jumping on my back."
"I know, that's why you're only grounded to your room. Go to it and we'll talk with Adam tomorrow." He went to the bathroom, tapping lightly. "Philip, Timmy?" The door was opened for him. "Hey, your friend's here," he said, squatting down to look at his son's face. "How's the stomach?"
"Better, it's not cramping or screaming in pain," Timmy panted. "Still sick though." Then he threw up again.
"Could be worse," Oz reminded him.
"True, you could have food poisonin' on top of it," Philip said lightly.
Oz laughed. "That's mean, Philip."
"But it'd be worse," Timmy agreed. He sat back and wiped his mouth. "I think I'm done for a while." He looked up at his father. "Remind me never to try and jump dark and deadly again? Please?"
"Oh, I don't think you'll need it," Oz told him, patting him on the head. "I sent your friend into the TV room with a sandwich, so when you're ready he's in there." He smiled at Philip. "You'll make a good dad to baby Jesus."
Philip groaned. "I haven't decided yet. Derek doesn't need another mess around right now."
"Babies aren't a mess," Timmy said. "They're a wondering and wonderful thing that will eventually make messes."
"If you're well enough to joke, you're well enough to go talk to your friend." Oz left them alone, stopping to give Xandra a hug because she looked like she was ready to cry. "At least he didn't need taken to the hospital," he reminded her. That set her off and she ran out of the house, heading up to the main house. Oz shook his head and headed back to the kitchen, with a stop in the TV room. "He'll be out soon. His stomach's not hurting anymore."
"What happened?" the boy asked.
"He jumped on his sister Xandra's back and she reacted," Oz said lightly.
"Is she the one who wears leather?"
Oz nodded. "Yup, her." He looked at the blank TV. "Not interested in a movie?"
"I didn't want to touch it and mess it up."
"Man, I've had to replace some of the cords and pieces of equipment a few times. You can't mess it up worse than a three year old with a jelly sandwich he thought was a DVD."
"My name's Bobby," he said quietly.
"I'm Oz," he said, shaking the boy's hands. "You met Xander on the ferry dock. You'll probably be seeing the kids' Uncle Philip sometime soon. With any luck, you won't be seeing their Uncle Marcus tonight, but he might still be coming out if Derek gets too worried."
"Doctor Derek Rayne, Xander's all but adopted father. My father-in-law. All around great guy, but Xander gets his worry streak from him." He nodded back toward the kitchen. "I'm going to head that way. Pop in a movie and relax. If you really *really* have to get back into town tonight, we'll take you over in the helicopter and put you in a cab." He left Bobby alone, going back to his chore of the dishes. And maybe he'd call Marcus himself. He could be sneaky and get the kid some help at the same time. He looked down the hallway as he the kids' door opened and Timmy walked out, still walking funny. "Want me to call Marcus?" he called. Timmy stopped and nodded. "Cool. I'll do it." He called the doctor's after-hours number. "Hey, it's Oz Osbourne," he told the answering service. "Please. I know he's probably doing something important but one of our kids is really sick." He hummed as he ran the water into the sink. "Marcus, me. Yeah, little one. Timmy jumped on Xandra's back and she reacted. He's been puking for the last hour and a half. He's walking funny now. And I think you should come out anyway. No, just a little bit of a personal problem." He saw the blond head pop out of the TV room. "No, Junior slept through dinner." He smiled. "Please. Yeah, sure, I can do that. Which one? Decent." He hung up and called the main house. "Nick, me. Marcus needs a lift out. No, he stopped but I'm worried about Junior too and Timmy's walking funny now. No, he's at the University Hospital. Thanks, man. Nope, Xander's in town picking up the stuff for the kids. Any word on the water yet?" He smiled and hung up. "We've got water," he called.
"Bless you," Precious called back.
"There's always the guest room," he called back when he heard the fighting start. "And our room."
Brandon ran past, trying to get there before his sister. "Thanks, dad."
Oz chuckled and squirted dish detergent into the water.
Xandra ran into the main house and went to her teacher's room, pounding on his door until he let her in. "I hurt him," she sobbed against his chest. "I didn't mean to."
"I know you didn't," Adam said, leading her back to the bed so they could sit together and she could get the comfort she needed. "Tell me what happened," he said once she was calm. "I want to know what you were thinking."
"He...he just snuck up on me and jumped on my back, like when we were little," she said, wiping her eyes and cheeks. "And I reacted. I flipped him over and stomped him on the stomach, and I don't know why I did it." She started to sniffle again. "I reacted, Uncle Adam, and I don't know why."
"You reacted because I trained you for every eventuality," he told her, pulling her back into his arms. "I'm sorry you hurt him. Is he all right?"
"He's been throwing up for an hour. An *HOUR*," she yelled, getting away from him. "What am I becoming?"
"Xandra, you're in a difficult phase in your training," he said calmly, standing up to get her some tissues from the bathroom. "The rest of your upcoming lessons would be to bury the instinct, teach you how to control your instincts." He sighed and sat down again. "I know you're upset, but this isn't necessarily a *bad* thing."
"I hurt my brother," she reminded him. "He's been throwing up forever."
"Yes, but you probably could have killed him," Adam said quietly. "You didn't." That stopped her, making her look at him. "Which is what I'm moving you toward now. I'm making you control your instincts. If this had happened last year, you might not have stopped yourself in time."
"So I'm not a monster?" she asked, nearly pleading.
"No, you're not a monster, Xandra," he said with a proud smile. "You're very well trained for your age, for someone Nick's age really, and you managed to withhold your full abilities. That's an excellent sign."
She shook her head and started to pace. "But I still reacted."
"Then we'll work on that, all that's part of controlling the instincts that I've trained into you." He stood up and stopped her, giving her another hug. "I know that you're very angry with yourself at the moment, but it could have been much worse even six months ago. Trust me, Xandra, I'm not turning you into a monster, I'm turning you into a protector. You're already a very good protector to your siblings, and a wonderful packleader, but you've still got some work to do. This is where the real work starts."
"And if I stop now?" she asked quietly, resting in his arms.
"Then you'll stay at this level," he told her. "Many protectors don't get past this level, they never really learn control." She sighed and nodded. "I will leave this decision to you and your fathers."
"I'm grounded," she admitted. "Dad understood."
"I'm sure he did," Adam agreed. "Your father Oz has always had that level of control over himself. If someone had started his training he would have made a wonderful protector, not just a very good father. You're the best of both of your fathers, Xander's passion for life and his curiosity, and Oz's self-control and focus." He gave her a squeeze then let her go. "We'll talk about this tomorrow. All right?"
She nodded. "Thank you, Uncle Adam. And to think, the other day I was complaining because I'm doing the exercises I did when I was eight."
Adam smiled at that. "That's a common mistake in thinking and I would have called you on it." He patted her on the head. "Go back to your room. I'll have a talk with your fathers in the morning, before anyone's training session." He kissed his favorite student's head. "Did you ever find Precious?"
"She's been necking in the woods with a boy," Xandra said with a smile. "Dad caught her during supper after Uncle Philip made a comment about catching her on the cameras."
Adam frowned. "I'll talk with them about that too then. There's nothing that should be interrupting her training at this point. She could be called any day now."
"Can I get a tape of that discussion?" Xandra asked with a grin.
"No, but I'm sure you'll be hearing it," he told her, giving her another hug. "Go back to your house and meditate. I want you to be able to tell me tomorrow exactly what you were thinking when he jumped you and your exact actions. If we know that, we can change the thought cycle. That's what's most important to everyone at the moment." She nodded and left him alone, and he called Oz, getting a busy signal. "I'll see him soon," he said philosophically.
Marcus smiled as he walked into the house. "Hey, Oz, how're the kids feeling?"
"Timmy's still walking funny. Xandra's still crying in the main house, and Junior's still sleeping, even through baking brownies. Brownie?" he offered.
"Thanks." Marcus took a bite and grimaced. "Sugar free?"
"Yup, Adam took Xander to a health food store and showed him the joys of sugar free chocolate." Oz took his own brownie to nibble. "Timmy's in the lounge with his friend." Marcus nodded. "And Junior's sacked out on his bed."
"Thanks." Marcus took his brownie into the TV room, smiling at the two boys. "Hi, I'm Marcus," he introduced himself, seeing the bruises immediately. "Timmy, want to finish this?" he asked. "I hate sugar free stuff."
Timmy took the brownie and nibbled cautiously. "I puked up the other stuff I tried to eat," he said, not sounding happy. "Sis kicks ass really well."
Marcus laughed. "I'm sure she does. She's been training since she was six." He sat down in the chair and pulled out his stethoscope, waving his patient over. "Come here, let me listen." Timmy stood up and walked closer, lifting his shirt. Marcus blew on the end of his stethoscope and put it the to the boy's stomach. After a minute he looked up. "Sounds normal and gurgly. Still having pains?"
"Yeah," Timmy said, nodding. "Can I have drugs?"
"You can have advil," Marcus told him, frowning. "I doubt you need real drugs." He pulled out a pad and wrote out a doctor's excuse. "Here, no gym and you can stay home tomorrow."
"Thanks, Uncle Marcus," Timmy said, giving him a hug. "Oh, this is my friend Bobby," he said, getting out of the way and sitting down carefully.
"It hurts all the way down there?"
"No, but I kinda exploded on both sides when she kicked me," he said, starting to turn pink.
"Want me to make sure she didn't shove part of your intestine out?"
"Eww," Timmy said, shuddering. "No! I don't want anyone near that part of me."
Bobby snickered. "It's not so bad sometimes."
"True," Marcus agreed, waving him over. "Come here, Bobby, I can see the bruises and I think I should look at them."
"I'm fine," Bobby said quickly.
"I'm sure you are, but that looks like a seatbelt burn. I have some creme to make it feel better." Bobby stood up and trudged over, taking off his shirt. "Thank you. As a doctor I took an oath to make most everyone feel better, even the reluctant." He touched the bruises and the one that looked like a rug burn. "Wow. Bad accident?" he asked, looking up at the boy.
"You might say that," Bobby said lightly. "But I'm not in the mood to do anything about the cause."
"Man, drop the code. His old man hates the fact that he's like you and the dads," Timmy told him. "He was a dick."
"And he has to report it," Bobby reminded his friend coldly.
"I would have had to do that as soon as I saw them," Marcus told him, opening his bag to pull out a tube of creme. "Here, put this on the bruises and take some pain killers, use an ice pack to make it all feel better." He stood up and lifted his shirt, showing off a recent bruise. "You're not the only one who gets them," Marcus told him. "I've just gotten rid of someone who did something like that. It was hard, but necessary." He pulled down his shirt again. "Got it?" Bobby nodded. "And no, I wasn't called here for you, Oz is a big worrywart about his kids. Timmy, which is Junior's room?"
"Yeah, that was weird, the kid fell asleep at the table, he didn't want to get up to eat or anything. Came out naked too," Timmy said, forcing himself to stand up and take the family doctor over to the younger son's bedroom. "This one. Junior?" he called, knocking.
"No!" Junior called.
Marcus walked in and shut the door. "Hey, kiddo, everyone's worried sick about you." He sat down on the side of the bed, forcing Junior to roll over so he could look at him. "Feeling yucky?"
"Yup, and the voice won't stop," Junior complained.
"Which one?" He jumped as the cat came out of the shadows. "Oh, hey, Strife. Long time no see." He used his stethoscope on the young boy, frowning at what he heard. "When was the last time you ate?"
"Earlier than that," Junior told him. "I eat most of the time. I'm just really tired, Uncle Marcus." He curled up some, pulling his blanket around his shoulders. "And the voice keeps telling me it's time for me to let it go."
"Describe the voice to me," Marcus told him.
"It's a really deep voice, and it keeps saying that it's done it's task." He scratched his stomach. "And when it gets insistent, I get sleepy."
"Okay, you rest and let your cat guard you, let me go talk to your father. I'll be back in a few." He got up and walked out, heading for the kitchen, and when Oz wasn't in there, the library upstairs. "Hey, was Junior ever possessed?"
"Twice before he was one," Oz told him. "A major demon who we banished and a minor one that was in him watching and studying us." He put down his book. "Is that the voice he keeps talking about?"
"I think so. He said it wants to get out now, that it's done."
"Then we'll have to get someone up here to deal with that. Is he fine otherwise?"
"He's running a slight fever. I'm worried that he's got mono or something."
"He's still being home schooled," Oz pointed out. "No chance for mono here." He leaned forward. "What about Bobby?"
"He's a good kid, but he's got a hard road," Marcus sighed, sitting down across from him. "He's got to want to leave it. If he does, I'll gladly sponsor him into one of the group homes for gay kids." He smiled. "There's some people who know how hard it is."
"Good," Oz agreed. "I'm glad that there's something in the way of help. I know Xander's going to come home and ask to adopt him." He smiled. "It wouldn't be the first time."
"Oh, yeah, I forgot you guys are certified foster parents. Have you heard from her?"
"Yeah, she's good with her aunt. Do you remember hearing about a kid on the Florida dig?"
"The baby born then or the one Derek rescued?"
"The one Derek rescued. She's Timmy's girlfriend. She wants to come over here to go to school."
"Whoa, small world." Marcus snickered. "Does he know that?"
"She's the one who figured it out and he told us." Oz shrugged. "I guess there's a purpose in that."
"Hopefully. We wouldn't want to think about things like lack of fate," Marcus snorted. "So, do I make the call or do you and Xander want to deal with it?"
"Want to stay over and monitor Junior?" Oz asked.
"Nope, I've got a date tonight," Marcus said, smiling. He pulled out his pad and wrote something down. "Here, my new cell number," he said, handing it over. "I want to be there when you banish this voice," he said as he stood up. "I'm going to go check Junior again and then let Nick help me make a grand entrance." He headed back down, going to check on the young boy. He found the Strife cat pacing nervously on the bed. "Hey, fella, is it bad this time?" he asked. He was smart enough to know that this cat was not normal and it stayed with Junior for a reason. "Will you still be here when we take away that voice?" he asked, petting the striped cat. Which promptly nipped him. "Ow. Was that a yes?" The cat snorted and sat down on it's human's side. "Good. I think he'll need you." He ran a hand over the warm forehead. "Your fever's spiking," he said quietly. "Can you go tell the Oz to call his father?" he asked the cat. The cat ran off, heading out of the room. He sat on the side of the bed again, trying to soothe the young boy's fever.
Oz looked up as he heard running up the stairs, frowning at the cat. "Junior's worse?" he asked. The cat sat in front of him. "Do I need to go down or call?" The cat waited then meowed. "Do I call Derek?" The cat meowed and stretched against his leg. "Thanks, I'll be right there." He picked up the phone and dialed the main house. "Alex, it's me. We've got a problem with Junior. His demon's trying to come out. Please, now would be good. Marcus is already here." He hung up and headed down to his son's room. "Gazebo?"
"Not with his fever," Marcus said quietly. "The breeze out there would make him hurt."
"We spelled the house, no magic should work in here." Oz then hit himself on the head. "Except for Precious cursing her sister, who was also in the house."
"We'll try it. If we have to, we'll move him if we can't do it in here." Junior shifted and moaned. "I know, little guy, it hurts and you're tired." He stroked over the damp head. "Do you know what we're doing?" he asked quietly.
"After he was possessed the first time and we drove the demon out, a demon took up residence before we knew what was going on. It's watching the Legacy through him."
"Is that why he's not allowed near any of the research?" Precious asked from the doorway.
Oz looked at her and nodded. "Yeah, it is. He's still possessed and it's time for the demon to come out, it's wrecking him." He lifted an arm and she came over to grab a hug. "Are you going to help Alex and Philip?"
"If they ask," she agreed. "I don't hate him that much."
"Why do you hate him at all?" Marcus asked. "He's your half-brother."
"Mom had to leave because of him," she said.
"Not quite," Oz corrected. "Honey, your mother got pregnant with him after we broke up. She was drinking hard and being mean to both me and Xander. Derek arranged for her to be moved to the London house after we broke up and she got pregnant over there. Junior wasn't the reason she left, her drinking and sleeping around was."
She shook her head. "Whatever. She could still have come back."
"She left the Legacy the day after he was born," Marcus told her. "She went to work for the British government as a hacker from what I understand."
"Yup," Xander said as he walked in. He handed over the bag. "Your stuff." Their daughter walked out. "Is that what the hatred's about?"
"Apparently," Oz agreed. "We've got to unpossess him. Alex is coming down and Precious said she'd help."
"She might not be of much help," Marcus said as he stood up. "I think we need to get him to a better place. Guest room?"
"Timmy's friend is in it," Oz noted. "He can go into the library. It's near our bathroom, it's a pretty bare room still but it's got a large table."
"And many lamps with glass shades," Xander reminded him. "Play room. There's a table in there, a sink in the room, a refrigerator if we need the ice. There's almost nothing left in there these days."
"Sounds good," Marcus said, getting out of their way. "Carry him in there, wrap him in the sheet so he won't get hit by the draft in the hallway." He watched as Xander picked his son up and carried him to the play room. "Oz, I can help with the ritual if I have to."
"Ask Alex, I don't deal with that end of life. Xander," he said, following after him, "Marcus wants to know if we need his help."
"Yeah," Xander said, stepping out of the playroom. "I'm going to be beside Junior with you." He smiled as Alex walked in the back door, nodding her into the room. "It's a nearly empty room so it's safer. Marcus and Precious have offered to help."
"Good," she said, coming in to look down at the boy. "You're sure it's time?"
"He said the voice keeps trying to get out," Marcus said as he followed her. "Plus, he's starting to get sick from fighting it, Alex. It's time."
"All right. Philip and Derek are on their way. They'll work on banishing the demon after we three get it out," she said, looking at her former boyfriend. "Go take a shower. Tell Precious to do the same." She turned back to the boy. "Get the candles. Turn off the lights once they're lit. We'll do it tonight."
Oz went to grab their stash of candles from the pantry. Xander went to grab their other children and warn them to stay out of the way. Marcus used the guys' bathroom to get ready.
Derek said the final word over the box that they had trapped the demon in. He let Nick take the box and let his son lead him to the chair. "Is it done?" he asked.
Marcus leaned down over their patient, checking his eyes. "He's asleep," he pronounced.
"We'll talk to him tomorrow to see if he's still contaminated," Philip decided, looking at his lover. "We need to get you back to bed."
"Give me a minute," Derek told him. "I want to enjoy the sight of my grandson being healthy."
"He's still running a fever and he's not going to be healthy until he has a long nap," Marcus told him. "You can enjoy that sight tomorrow, when I put you in the same room to veg, probably with Timmy."
"What's wrong with Timmy?" Nick asked.
"He decided to sneak up on Xandra and jump on her back," Oz told him.
"She got his stomach good," Philip told his younger lover. "Threw up for a good bit."
"Is he all right?" Derek asked. "I can talk to Adam about her training."
"Already handled," Xander told him. "We've already set up a conference for tomorrow. He did say that it's a good thing Timmy got dumb this year instead of last. She's able to control her instincts to a great degree."
"She's turning into a Jedi," Oz agreed.
Nick and Philip snickered at that. "But she's sorry?" Derek demanded.
"She ran out of here crying, Dad," Oz told him. "It's handled. Adam said she's in control. She could have killed him but she recognized it as a fake attack. He said he's very proud of her restraint."
"So am I," Nick said. "I'll check on her training if you want."
Oz shook his head. "Not necessary. We've got that part too." He clapped Nick on the arm. "Don't worry so much, she's in control. She was horrified by what she did, and she'll learn more from this than she would from a lecture on control."
"As long as she didn't enjoy it," Derek warned.
"No, she didn't enjoy it," Xander said quietly. He'd given his daughter enough comfort to get her calmed down after it had happened. "She was so scared of herself that she didn't want even me near her."
"That's goot though," Derek reminded him.
"And why she's got to finish her training," Oz added. "So she'll learn the last little bits of control that'll make her not wary of her abilities." He glanced at the door. "And Nick, did we find out who the boy was?"
"Yup, he lives in the houses on the other side of the island. Really nice kid. I called over there and asked them if they'd seen their son recently as we'd caught him on our security system." He grinned. "They were really shocked that their son, who was supposed to be grounded to his room, had snuck out to go make out in the woods."
"Excuse me?" Derek asked.
"This kid's Precious' boyfriend," Oz told him.
Derek groaned. "Why did she start this now?"
"Oh, it gets better," Philip said with a smile. "The witch we went to for information about her breaking in times said that a girl as strong as Precious had better be somewhere contained when she finally does the act. Or else she'll unconsciously broadcast."
"At least we'll know," Xander said dryly. Philip laughed but he nodded. "So, what do we have to do about that? We're probably going to have to deal with that soon enough."
"In the old days, around my grandmother's time, really powerful girls were ritually deflowered," Alex offered. "I used to detest that, thought it was some arcane way of proving that women weren't as good as men." She frowned at the doorway. "Now I know why they did it."
Oz shook his head. "I don't think we want to go that far, Alex."
"That's good because I doubt we could find what we needed," Alex said, giving them a smile. "And consider this, it's only the one. Boys never supposedly had that problem."
"Yes, they did," Derek argued. "In the Old Country, boys who were powerful were done the same way by their teachers. Parents never came into it I'm afraid."
"Yeah, I heard that there were guardians there to make sure the parents couldn't stop it," Alex agreed, giving him a smile. "If we need it, are any copies of the ritual still around? She's much more like the European witches than the Bayou witches that I grew up around."
"There's a religious treatise on them," Philip told them. "It's was one'a the ones to prove that pagans were savages but he did get the ritual right. Down to the clothing and the specially trained virgin breakers."
"They were *trained*?" Xander asked.
"To control her broadcasting," Philip told him, patting him on the back. "They made sure it never got beyond the circle of guardians."
"Twelve guardians to encircle and protect them, one high priest or priestess, and the ritual sacrifice, which was one of the most powerful things a young witch could ever give," Derek told them. "Teachers back then demanded that their students were broken in as soon as possible after puberty because the sacrifice of virginity was one of the most powerful, either as a dark one or as a light one."
"Is this something we need to seriously be talking about?" Oz asked. "It's really creepy to talk about my daughter that way."
"Our," Xander corrected. "Is there a way to tell her this? Without saying that this is what we're going to do to her, because I've got to agree with Oz here, the idea of my daughter being sacrificed that way creeps me out majorly."
"No, it was a topic of interest, not a topic of necessity," Derek said with a fond smile to the couple. "Go put your son in his bed. We'll go back up to our house and give you the rest of the night off."
"Thanks, Dad," Xander said, giving him, then everyone else, a hug. "We'll be up late tomorrow." He picked his son up and carried him back to his bed, tucking him in with his cat. "Strife, I want you to watch over him for me and come get us up if anything happens, 'kay?" The cat stretched and yawned, then blinked at him. "Good." He walked out, shutting the door gently so he wouldn't wake anyone up. He found Precious sitting curled up on a couch and stopped to give her a hug. "It was a topic of interest, not necessity," he said quietly. "We're not going to do that."
"But what if he's right and I do broadcast. Then everyone'll know," she complained.
"Honey, you live around weres, as soon as you walk into the house everyone will know. Sex smells." He sat down beside her, pulling her against his side. "We will be having a talk very soon about sex. You will really listen. Then we'll have a discussion time so you can ask questions. Until then, I want you to quit meeting the boy in the woods. Not only does everyone know, including his parents now, but you're twelve and this is inappropriate behavior for a girl your age."
"Dad, there's kids in my class that have children."
"Yup, and we're very thankful that it's not you. You will not have sex this young, Precious. Doctors have proven that it's not healthy for you and we refuse to let you start fooling around already." He gave her one last hug then let her go. "Now, call him tomorrow and tell him that you're grounded to the house because you were caught. I'm sure he's grounded too, but you are grounded to the main house, this house, and the gardens. If you try to sneak off, I'll have a whole bunch of guards come looking for you and rudely interrupt you in the most embarrassing way possible and carry your young man home to his parents. Period, end of discussion topic."
"For how long?" she demanded.
"Until we say otherwise." He stood up and walked out, heading to the kitchen to get a drink, then up to his room to sit and read on his bed. Oz came up about half an hour later. "I told her she was grounded to the houses and the garden and that I'd send guards out after her next time to embarrass her and to carry the young man home if she snuck off and met him again," he said conversationally.
"Good. I said about the same thing, but I promised to sic Brandon on her to lecture her if she tried to sneak off, that he'd track her down, take pictures of them together and hand them out among the guards. Think she got the point?"
"This is Precious we're talking about," Xander said, looking up to give his husband a grin. "She hasn't taken a hint or followed an order for how long?"
"Um, six years?" Oz guessed.
"I think it was longer than that," Xander said, watching his husband strip, patting the bed beside him. "Since Jon's going to be her Watcher, do you think he'll be able to control her?"
"Maybe. She sometimes listens to him." Oz curled up around Xander's side, head on his stomach. "Do you really have to read?" The book was put aside and Xander quickly shimmied out of his clothes, getting under the covers with his husband. "Did you tell Strife to come wake us up?"
"Yup. He stretched and blinked. I'm pretty sure he'll come get us with his nails if Junior needs us." He yawned, a jaw cracking one. "I hate that we keep Marcus from dating."
"I guess it might suck to have us as patients," Oz agreed. "I wonder if his date understood."
"They'd have to or he wouldn't be dating them," Xander reminded him. "Marcus is very picky about his dates."
Marcus pulled out his cellphone as soon as he landed. "Tell him I'm back on the mainland and my patient's fine. The challenge is on," he said, then he hung up. He headed for the nearest lighted area, hoping to grab a cab to the park.
"Daddy, I don't feel good," Junior said when Xander walked into his bedroom with a breakfast tray.
"But that's okay," Xander said as he handed over the loaded tray and sat on the foot of the bed. "Is the voice gone?" Junior smiled and nodded. "Then you'll get better. As long as it's gone, you'll be fine." He patted his son on the foot. "You eat and rest. Adam knows you're not coming in today and he's celebrating having a free day by holding a conference with me and Oz about Xandra."
"Cool. Does that mean I get to lie on the couch and watch cartoons?"
"If you're willing to bring out a blanket and rest," Xander agreed, giving his son a smile. "It's not every day that you get unpossessed." He stood up, planting a kiss on his son's head. "You eat and rest. I'm going to be working in the library if you need anything." He walked out.
Timmy wandered into Derek's bedroom, rubbing his stomach and his eyes. He climbed in next to his grandfather and put an arm around the older man's stomach, firmly keeping him in place while he went back to sleep.
Derek smiled at the blatant attempt, but found he couldn't move without Timmy snuggling up to him even more.
Nick raised his head from the other side of the bed. "At least he's not as cuddly as his father. The last time I spent time with Xander in a tent, I got to be his comfort toy."
Derek laughed. "Yes, I've let him nap on me before. I remember his antics quite well." Timmy pinched him. "I'm sorry, Grandson, you rest. How's your stomach?"
"Be better with something besides juice in it," Timmy mumbled, then yawned, starting to fall back asleep.
Nick shook his head and got out to get the boy something to eat, whenever he woke up.
Derek settled into his role of pillow and comforting person, smiling serenely at Nick's back.
Adam looked up as Xander and Oz walked into his practice space. "Have you come to a decision about Xandra's training?"
"Continue it," Oz told him. "She needs that final bit of control."
"She was devastated yesterday," Xander agreed. "She was afraid to let anyone near her because she thought she'd go off again."
"No, she's not a beserker, but if she ever does lose her temper that way, I'm sure the person she's upset at will be very sorry." Adam leaned against his weapons cabinet. "What about the advanced training we were discussing a few weeks back?"
"I'm not sure I want her trained that way," Oz said, shrugging. "We're still considering that one."
"I'd like to see her have control before we move in any other directions," Xander told him. "Until she can stop herself from attacking at all when a sibling jumps on her, I don't want her to have split concentration."
Adam smiled. "That's very wise and an understandable position. I'll do that then and we'll consider the other training I can give her in another few months."
"Is that how long it'll be before she won't attack?"
"She is nearly there," Adam admitted. "When I talked to her before she left for school, she said that she hesitated to attack him, but the instincts overrode her control. It won't be much longer until she's got total control."
"Then she can take up swords training," Oz agreed.
"We've seen Junior do it and she doesn't attack him," Xander told the self-defense teacher. "But let it be Precious or Timmy and she'll get them almost every time."
"They smell similar," Oz told him. "Brandon smells a lot more like Serena does. I'm thinking it has something to do with the energy they put out." Xander shrugged. "So, we work on her instinctual control and then swords. Then what?"
"By then, she should be out of high school," Adam told them. "Then I'll pass her training onto someone else, someone who can teach her other areas that I can't."
"Like covert stuff?" Xander asked, looking confused. "What are you thinking that she's going to be doing?"
"I was thinking that she's nearly perfectly trained to become a special agent for the government, or for Legacy duties," Adam told them. "Her choice of course."
"We'd rather see her in the Legacy than in some covert group where we won't get to see her at all," Oz said dryly. "Oh, and if Precious misses another session, we want to know. We do remember the importance of her training and she will continue to train and not see the boy."
"She's too young," Xander agreed. He looked at his husband. "Do you know that she actually used the argument that some kids in her class have children?"
Oz snorted. "Yay. It'd better not be her. We've communicated quite well the risks and complications sex can bring. We'll give it to her again and maybe this time she'll listen."
"Or what?" Adam asked.
"I hear that in some countries girls are sewn shut until their wedding night," Xander said. Oz smacked him on the arm. "Ow!"
"That's a cruel practice that should be stopped. We will not put our daughter through a torturous existence. Nor will we put her in a chastity belt, though the idea gave me great happies last night when I remembered it." He looked at Adam. "Can you reinforce the 'no sex' rule?"
"Definitely," he agreed easily. "It's very hard to do your chosen duty when you're fucking someone at the time." He smiled. "Abstinence would be the best for her, considering what she is and all."
"Maybe, but I doubt you'll ever convince her of it," Xander sighed. "Does she take orders from you?"
"Not really," Adam admitted. "She does seem to occasionally take them from Jon, which pleases me to no end. I don't envy him his job."
"Yeah, us either," Xander sighed. "Okay, so we're all good and settled on Xandra's training?"
"Yes," Adam said, nodding. "Her training's going very well, she's made much better progress than the last person I did intense training with, though they started about the same age."
"But I doubt that the other kid wanted it like Xandra did," Oz said, starting to smile. "It was always kinda cute when she'd do your katas with you, mimicking every move nearly perfectly."
"Then you'd stop and correct her form, even before you took her on," Xander added, grinning himself. "We thought it was a given that you'd start to train her."
"It probably was," Adam said with his best 'tortured soul' sigh. "She's been a good student to teach, always prompt and eager for her lessons." He smiled at the happy couple. "I'm going to go spend the day in town, unless there was more for us to discuss?"
"Nope, we've given everyone but Precious time off and we've asked Jon to start taking an interest in her training." One eyebrow went up at that. "He's got to know what she can do," Oz reminded him.
"Point. I'll talk to him tomorrow. She doesn't have lessons today?"
"No, today we have a long talk about sex and responsibility," Xander told him. "And she's got a doctors appointment with Alex's doctor today." He waved and they walked out together, holding hands.
Adam relaxed. It had gone well. He wasn't in trouble. His favorite student wasn't in trouble. All was right in his world, and he had time to go do some personal shopping. He walked out into the hall, smiling at the nun sitting in the kitchen feeding the child. "How are you today, Sister?"
"Just fine. Jesus and I were about to head into the garden."
Adam walked over to look down at the child. "He doesn't much look like a savior."
"No, but he's a sweet baby. And he may not be as mute as we thought. He made more noise last night than he has since I got him."
"May I?" he asked.
"Gladly." She handed over the baby, taking the time to finish breakfast with both hands for a change.
Adam looked down at the little boy, giving him a smile. "You are adorable," he said quietly. The baby grabbed him by the ear and screamed happily. Adam got free and frowned down at the baby, who was giving him a very familiar grin and crapped itself. "I know someone who would have done that if he could have gotten away with it."
"Everyone would, at least once in their lives," the sister said wisely.
"Yes, but this young man would do it much more often." He looked down again. "You do remind me of him though." He heard laughter and started to look around, but there wasn't anyone but them in the room. "Oh, well, here you are. I've long gone past that duty."
She laughed and took the baby, patting him on the stomach. "Give me a minute and I'll change you, squirt."
Adam looked down at the baby, which a light had hit just right. "Richie?" he whispered. The laughter came again, but there still wasn't anyone there. The baby cooed up at him through, waving his arms happily.
"Richie?" she asked as he left the house. "Isn't he one of Brandon's messengers?" she asked, looking down at the baby. "Is that who you were?"