Boys and Girls.
Junior looked up as his sister's new friend walked up to where he was sitting. "She's not out yet."
"I know." He sat across from him. "I've been noticing some things. You're all very protective of Xandra, you more than most."
"The other are a quad, Xandra latched onto me to have someone to play with since she couldn't compete with the quad bond." He sipped his soda. "So we're tight. That a problem for you?"
"No." He grinned. "I wanted to get to know you since you're so tight with her. So, what's she do during her free time? All I hear is her security training and homework."
"Yeah, that's about it," Junior admitted. "She trains with our trainer, she works on her computer skills, she helps the rest of us with our stuff. She's a hardware person where Timmy's more of a programming person." The other guy nodded wisely. "After all, living in the middle of the bay doesn't make for easy jaunts to the movies."
"Or the mall."
"Xandra's been told she can only go into the leather store with one of the fathers," he said with a grin. His sister was coming out. "Just remember, treat her right or we'll hurt you," he said before Xandra got within hearing distance.
"Hi, Phil," she said as she sat down. "Was Junior being nice?"
"Very. I thought I should get to know him too since I like you and you like him."
She grinned. "I think that's sweet. Junior, how's math going?"
"Horrible." He sighed and gathered up his stuff. "I'm going to check my email. Mother said she'd be telling me something more about the sperm donor." He waved. "Have fun." He walked inside, heading to the library. He signed in and logged onto his mail, looking it over. Three new messages and sixteen new spams. "Wonderful." He got rid of most of them, reporting them. The first new message from his father, reminding him to be careful about whoever his mother sent to help him, putting in some very good, firm, and reasonable reasons for such caution. All without mentioning a word about the family business and how it could impact them. The next was from his mother, and it included a picture of his father. He looked at the man, then grimaced. "He looks like a scuzzball." He read the text, then went on to the next one. It was from his father, with a nicer picture, a formal, posed one. It introduced him and his family, asked for the chance to get to know him, and told him that his mother hadn't told him. He wrote back a very cautious reply that he wouldn't mind meeting him but that he wasn't able to travel on his own yet and they'd have to meet somewhere public since he didn't really know him yet. He reread his response, knowing exactly where the man had slipped up. He had criticized his mother a bit too much, he was trying too hard. He forwarded his answer and both messages to his father's email account, then sat back to wait for a response while he played a game off Yahoo.
Xander walked into the office with the printouts from his son's sendings, handing them over. "I know I've seen him but I can't find him in the database."
Derek looked, then grimaced and moved them aside. "Junior's father?" Xander nodded. "It's in a locked file. He's on the 'too dangerous to fight' list." He stood up and walked over to his safe, grabbing a diskette and handing it over. "Here, find out all about him and give Junior any non-sensitive information."
"Junior's reply sounded like he wasn't trusting this guy," Xander pointed out. Derek took it to read and it got a small smile. "I don't know what he was picking up but he isn't trusting him. Can I show this to Oz?"
"Definitely. We might have to have a general meeting if he does show up," Derek admitted. Xander nodded and headed back to his own house to work with Oz there. They usually worked down there on their things, or at least Xander did since he had to do so much more every day. Derek sat down to reread the emails, not liking this in the least. He resisted the urge to call Willow and warn her. She had to know he was going to try to warp her youngest boy.
Xandra looked at her boyfriend and grinned sheepishly. "Since you said your mom's not going to be home tonight, want to come home to dinner? I can call and ask really quick."
He grinned. "I wouldn't mind," he agreed. Mentally he was dancing. Now he'd get to meet this odd family of hers and see if there was something he could use to get her away from them. "If it's not going to be much trouble."
"No, no trouble at all," she offered, pulling some change out and heading for the outdoor payphone. She saw Junior and nodded him over. "Hey, what's wrong?"
"Ah." She nodded, dialing the number for the house. "Hi, Uncle Nick. It's me. Can I bring my friend home? His mother's not going to be home tonight and I offered dinner if that's okay." She beamed. "Thanks, Uncle Nick. Either's fine. Love you too." She hung up and hugged her brother. "It'll be okay. No matter what she tries, I'm not letting her have you." She let him go and jogged back to her boyfriend's side. "You're in luck, we were eating with everyone at the house and the Luna Foundation tonight," she said happily. "So if you can stand having a good dozen people around, it'll be cool with them. Uncle Nick said so."
"I wouldn't mind in the least," he agreed, smiling at her. He moved a piece of hair off her cheek and gave her his best little-boy grin. "Should I try to change?"
"No, we don't do formal. I have no doubt I'll be sweaty after practice. You can watch me work out if you want," she offered casually. If he was up to no good, that would scare him off and she wanted Adam's opinion on him. He was just so perfect and she had been trained to be skeptical of perfect things. "Junior," she called. He gave her a look and she grimaced, pointing at their table. "Now." He walked over. "I want you where I can guard you," she said quietly.
"Is he having problems with bullies?"
"Not exactly but I want him closer. There's no telling who might pick on him about some things." She put an arm around her brother's neck until he goosed her. "Hey!"
"I'm fine, sis. It's all good for now. Besides, Bran and Tim are coming out, I can hang with them while you go gooey." He walked off to join his brothers. "Xandra's invited him out for dinner," he said in greeting. "Uncle Nick told her it was fine." He sat down next to Timmy. "My life sucks."
"Why?" Brandon asked between bites of his sandwich.
"Because my teacher gave me an extra credit assignment in front of the class, saying I needed it. Said it was right up our ally because it was areas in a tomb." He handed over the sheet. "So she's made the other kids look at me like I'm some brown-noser and she's pushing it again." He slumped down again. "Plus, my first book's in. Dad's got it."
"At least you're being careful with this stuff," Timmy said, following Precious and her boyfriend around the yard visually. "Is it just me or did her skirt shrink again?"
Brandon looked. "I'm more wondering about the big red patch on her thigh. I'm hoping it's something contagious." He finished his sandwich. "We'll deal, Junior. We always do. The family's going to stick with you and everything's going to be good. Even if you have to prove yourself sometime soon." Junior nodded, relaxing. "How bad is the math problem?"
"I need to have Grandpa Derek help me with it," he admitted. "Something looks really off from the pictures of tombs I've seen."
"Hey, we're going straight home, head to his office as soon as we get there," Timmy suggested.
Junior looked at him. "I'm not allowed in the office," he said miserably. They gaped at him. "It might contain sensitive information."
"That blows," Brandon noted. Timmy nodded. "I can see the one room with the computers, but the office? Hell with it, head home and call over, see if he'll come help. Then remind him that you're not like that."
"It won't help. I have the abilities and that's all that counts to them. Not that others have been healers with my gifts, nothing like that. A few went bad and that's all they care about." He stood up and went to sulk inside, going to check his email. He found one waiting from his mother and it cheered him up a bit because she sounded worried about him. He answered, telling her everything that was going on. Maybe she'd have some wise words of advice. If not, his fathers monitored his email account still and they'd see it and maybe things would change.
Nick strolled into the library, smirking at Derek. "We're having dinner tonight," he announced.
"Why?" Derek asked, smiling at him. "Something big to be announced?"
"No. Xandra's bringing home her first boyfriend and I promised we'd all be there." He smirked at his lover. "Good enough reason?"
"Very reasonable," Derek agreed. He called the kitchen. "We're all having dinner up here tonight," he said calmly. "One of the girls is bringing home a boy. Tell the sons if you could?" He smiled and hung up. "Anything else?"
"Yeah," Xander said as he came in, then he glared at his father. "Junior's not allowed in your office for help with his homework?" Derek looked stunned so Xander handed over the email. "You're depressing him, Derek. He's more likely to act against us because he thinks we don't love him. Cut the crap around my son." He looked at Nick. "You look happier than I am. Why?"
"Xandra's bringing home her boyfriend for dinner."
"Already? I thought we'd have this trouble with Precious."
"You do," Philip admitted. "She won't bring him home though. He's a jock. Big, tough, strong, and somewhat smart but not overly intelligent."
Xander rolled his eyes. "Wonderful, she's got Buffy's taste in men too." He walked out, heading back to the house to tell Oz, who was meditating on his anger issues with one of the houses he oversaw. "We need to be dressed tonight," he noted as he pulled out clothes.
Xander leaned down to kiss him on the head. "Xandra's bringing home a boy."
"Hell," he said bitterly. "Already? Don't we get a chance to watch them enjoy the non- dating world?"
"Apparently not. Precious has one but she's not telling."
"Huh. That'll stop tonight," he agreed. He stood up and kissed his mate for real. "You feel better after going to yell at Derek."
"Yup. I'm going to sit down with Junior tonight and make sure he knows we still love him. Him having these gifts is nothing. Hell, I'd rather he had them than his mother." Oz nodded, nuzzling his chest. "We don't have time for this."
"Of course we do. I'm not due on the video link for another hour to chew Brazil a new one." He kissed him again and Xander grinned, walking Oz to the bed to toss him onto it. "Thanks."
"Welcome. I could use the stress break too," he admitted, leaning down to lick his husband's neck, marking his dominance this time. Oz moaned and grabbed him, pulling him down beside him. They rolled and teased each other for who would get to be on top tonight; Oz ending up straddling Xander without his clothes and sliding down before he could protest. "Hey, if you want it that way, I would have done it anyway," he promised, steadying his mate as he slid down his hard body.
Oz nodded. "I need it, Xan. Wear me out so I'm too tired to rant?"
"Sure, love, anytime," he agreed, doing his best to wear his mate out so he would need a nap as soon as the conference was over with. While he was doing so, the video link came on across the room. Xander grinned and got up, sitting them both in front of it with Oz back in his lap and him buried inside before they tuned into the meeting. "Now, relax and let it go. You can't get angry with them like this."
Oz moaned and put on a shirt, then turned on the video link. "I asked Xander to sit in for his advice," he noted when everyone opened their mouths. "We're at home and there's only one chair. Deal with it, I'm sleeping with him and have been now for a few years."
Xandra looked over as her boyfriend walked away chatting with Junior, then looked at Adam, looking quite desperate. "Well?"
"He's decent enough I suppose. A bit slick," he said cautiously. "Are you sure you want the same things?" She rolled her eyes and sat down to stare at him. "I'm not sure why he's dating you," he said honestly, "but he's possessive. He wants you to be his and only his. Not your family's, his. He's slick, he'll be gently steering you away from Junior and the others. Whether you let him or not is up to you."
"So he's a bad guy?"
"He's young and thinks this is the only way. I have no idea if he could or might change, Xandra." He pulled her up and hugged her. "Only time will tell that. It's up to you to see if you want to stay with him. Think fast because if you seem couplish at dinner Derek will grill him," he whispered. She nodded, heading to shower and change like she had said she was going to do. Adam put up the sparring staffs, shaking his head. Boys like that were always trouble and his little princess was quite the trouble magnet sometimes. Let's hope he wasn't going to stalk her or he'd have to get violent with the boy.
Derek looked at the diners, smiling at them. "Did everyone have enough or can I ring for dessert?" he asked.
"Go ahead and go for dessert," Oz agreed, glancing at Xander, who was frowning at Junior. "Ease off on him. He's doing all right," he said gently.
"I'm not frowning at him, I'm frowning about his math teacher and her issues."
Junior coughed. "I'd like for you to frown at her in person if you wouldn't mind, dad. She gave me and only me extra credit today in front of the whole class."
Xander nodded once. "I saw." Junior looked confused. "It was my day to monitor your emails with your mother. Wanna talk later?" Junior shook his head quickly. "Tough." Junior gave him a shocked look. "Seriously, I want to talk about that stuff. It sucks, majorly." Junior slumped. "If it were me I'd be hurting someone over it. Fortunately, you were raised better than I was and now I want to talk about it. Okay?"
"Sure, dad." He sipped his water. "After you take Xandra's boyfriend home."
"Not an issue, I can do it," Nick offered. He glanced at Xander. "You would?"
"Fine," Derek agreed. "This is not the place for that discussion, Xander."
"It won't be." He gave his son an understanding grin. "We'll figure it out, Junior. I promise, little guy." Junior grinned at him. "Now, about the math teacher and her issues, do you think a conference would help?"
"Can you go as scary guy like you did to the headmistress at our old school?" Precious asked. "Or go like you're about to make that Ethan person wet himself again?"
Xander considered it. "I certainly can," he agreed happily. "I'll make an appointment tomorrow so I have time to get that special suit out of the cleaners." Buffy snickered. "What? We went for impression management and it works. Oz, you wanna help with that?"
"Sure," he agreed smugly. "I like it when you're a bad guy, Xander. It's so different from the usual." He looked at Derek. "Want to come after us to scare her?"
"I'll be the next step," he offered. "Junior, if you have problems with her, I do want to know."
"Good, my extra credit problem has issues. The area assignment is an Egyptian tomb and something looks off."
"I'll look at it while you talk with your father and see if can figure it out," he promised. "By the way, you are allowed in my office as long as I'm not on an important call, the same as the other children. What the rules state and what I say may go on in this house are sometimes two different things."
Junior beamed at him. "Thanks, grandad." He looked at his fathers. "Can I watch you verbally abuse her?"
"I was gonna go for a verbal slap upside the head first, then move onto verbal abuse," Xander admitted. "I'll tape it for you. Embarrassing her in front of you might make her even more determined to get you on her side. Or to hurt you," he admitted at Oz's nudge. Oz whispered in his ear and he gave him an evil smirk. "That is the best idea I've heard yet," he agreed. "Thanks, Oz." He blew a kiss. "Dad, there's a certain pendant sitting in your office examination case. Can I wear it tomorrow?"
"No," he said firmly. "If you try, I'll have to send for Rupert."
"No, if we fail, then you send for Ethan," Xander told him. "He's looking out for him from afar. That's why he talked to him that night."
"He was here in the house?" Buffy asked. Junior nodded. "Why?"
"Because someone was trying to get to me and he came in to talk to me about my training," Junior told her simply. "He got the other person to stop because he figured out I'm a lot like my biological father. Who will be around for the holidays, grandfather."
"Thank you, Junior, we'll make plans to welcome him," he said with a fond smile. He picked up the bell and rang it. The butler brought in the dessert plates on a rolling cart, handing them over to the children first. "Thank you, Bennet," he said as the man put his in front of him last. "Save any leftovers so the teenage stomachs can have it for a midnight snack."
"Of course, sir. I had been hoping that we wouldn't have another massive shopping trip coming up soon." He looked at Xander, who looked embarrassed but didn't promise anything.
"It's a natural urge to provide for our young while they're having massive growth spurts," Oz assured him. "Feel lucky we're not buying whole animals."
"Oh, I am, sir. Thank you for not making me watch someone butcher animals for the family table." He rolled the cart off.
"Don't I get one?" Precious called.
Adam shook his head. "You are on a diet, dear, and you knew it before you sat down. Your training is going horribly and you need to work more often. Treats do not happen when you're slacking off."
"Fine, I'll be in tomorrow," she sighed. Bennet came in with her plate, with an extra scoop of chocolate sauce on top. "Thank you, Bennet."
"You're welcome, Miss Precious. I'm sure you'll need the calories tomorrow." He patted her on the back then left again.
"Wow, you guys are strict," Xandra's boyfriend Phil said.
"Sometimes we have to be. Precious and Xandra both agreed to do a certain amount of training and she's backed out," Brandon said, licking off the back of his spoon. "They're making her keep her promise."
"I didn't say it was bad, just odd."
"Yeah, but sometimes it has to be," Xandra said philosophically. "After all, we need to be able to beat off boys who get pushy. It's for our own protection and we all know this."
"Serena doesn't take them?"
"Serena's hardly ever out by herself," Oz offered. "Whereas Precious, Timmy, and Xandra all have been known to sneak off for days at a time."
"I left a note saying I was going to the computer convention," Xandra reminded him. "It's not my fault the military wanted my ideas and Timmy's brains."
"I asked a few hackers I know," Timmy announced. "They wanted us to work on a special project together, sis. Some sort of remote controlled robot warrior with limited AI capabilities." She grimaced. "The two who they finally got to do it aren't as good as us and it'll take years before it comes to be."
"Can you do that?" Phil asked. Timmy and Xandra both nodded. "How?"
"I do hardware and robotics. Timmy does our home computer network and programming. Together we make a formidable team," Xandra said proudly. "Put that with our two super brains, Brandon and Serena, and letting Precious and Junior help now and then, and we're a killer unit of destruction when necessary. Speaking of which, daddy, I heard from Brazil. Tell them I'm not going down there to fix their security system unless they're going to let me go to Carnival alone."
"Not a chance on any plane of existence," Xander said firmly. "Not until you're old enough to buy liquor and weed."
"Dad, weed isn't legal," Timmy pointed out.
"Exactly," Xander said smugly. "Until it is and she's old enough to buy it, she can't go to Carnival."
Nick snickered. "No, Xan, you're not an overprotective parent at all," he teased.
"Some day you too shall have children who want to watch naked dancing and partake of the biggest party in the world, complete with drugs, prostitution, and liquor running freely around the city. When that day comes, remember this," Oz told him.
Nick frowned. "Fat chance."
"Yeah, and I'm the pope," Xander said lightly. "It'll happen. You like kids."
"Enough," Philip said. "Xander, you'd make an interesting pope but you'd have to convert. Xandra, you are much too young for Carnival. I know people who've went who said they were too young in their fifties to see all that."
"Most of the people I know who went don't really remember much of it," Xander offered.
"The ones I know either," Derek agreed. "You don't need to fix the security system in Brazil, Xandra. They have perfectly competent people down there to do so."
"He's missing," Oz told him.
"Then they can get one from Mexico City, which has six people who can," Derek offered.
"Already done that," Xander agreed. "They're not happy with us or Brazil."
"Tough," Derek said. "They have to answer a summons like that. That's part of the rules."
"Wow, you guys have offices all over the world, huh?" Phil asked.
Xandra nodded. "Last summer, the boys interned in Phoenix, I did one in Italy with Serena, and Precious went to work in Japan. Grandfather, are there any digs happening over the holidays?"
"We want you here over the holidays," Oz said patiently.
"I meant that we could do something from here with," Xandra retorted. "I want to do something besides my homework and training for them and I shudder to think about heading to the mall. That's why all my presents have already been ordered."
"Mine too," Timmy agreed. "It's horrible at the malls that time of year. I hear Jerusalem will have a new dig coming open and they'll need data sorters."
Derek coughed. "That'll be done on site and we're not sending you children to the Middle East without a guardian or four. We'll be working on the computer upgrades and you can both work in your areas. That means that Serena, Brandon, and Precious can help Philip with the book translations while your fathers handle most everything else."
"Sure," they agreed happily.
"Then next summer, Precious is going to Kuwait," Oz said dryly. "Xandra, you and Timmy are going to the special house in Denmark; Brandon, you're going to either Italy or London's second office and Serena will probably be going with you and we'll get to spoil Junior with all the attention."
"Why am I going to Kuwait?"
"Rupert's going and said so," Xander told her.
"Oh. I suppose that'll be fine then. I'll simply die of heat exhaustion." She waved a hand around. "I'm sure I'll be fine and turned by something."
"Deserts are dry heat," Brandon told her gently. "You'll need moisturizer more than anything other than sunblock."
Xandra looked at her. "Feel lucky you're not going to India." Precious shuddered. "Kuwait's at least got some liberal ideas here and there. Bring us back presents of course."
"Of course," she agreed. "If I have an allowance this time."
"We deposited it," Oz said patiently. "You have to wait a day before it shows up on your card, daughter. You as well, Timmy. You nearly overdrafted."
"Sorry, dad. I'll be more careful." He grinned. "Is the new network working well enough?"
"It's going wonderfully and your new system is nearly finished," Oz assured him. "The six linked 280gig hard drives are running smoothly, we're about to put in your new graphic's card and the second monitor card."
"Why do you have such a powerful computer?" Xandra pouted. "I don't get one for my work."
"You need a new laptop," Xander reminded her. "You're getting it for the holidays and we'll be making sure you can do some design work on it, dear," he said patiently.
She squealed and got up to hug him as hard as she could. "You're the best daddies a girl could steal!" She hugged Oz as well. "Thank you! Can I have robot parts too?"
"Sure," Nick agreed. "You can refurbish all the robots you want, dear." He grinned. "It'll give you something else to do."
"Cool." She sat down again, smoothing out her pants. "Dessert's good, Uncle Derek. What's this one?"
"German chocolate cake with chocolate sauce. Apparently Bennet is feeling the need for chocolate again." He ate another bite. "Don't like it, Phil?"
"No, simply stunned. Xandra never shows off like that at school."
"School doesn't have much that interests me," Xandra pointed out. "I'm already doing some advanced classes and there's nothing on robotics available." She shrugged. "Dad, someone's coming from Cal Poly Tech next week, can I go to his lecture?"
"Of course," Xander agreed.
"Bring us back stuff so we can look it over with you two."
"I'm looking at the robotics program at MIT too," she said hopefully.
"It'd be hard to hug you from the other side of the country," Xander said dryly.
"Good point. I'll try to stay close, dads."
"Thanks, dear," Oz agreed. He nudged Phil. "Don't let her brains intimidate you, she's still a girl," he said quietly. "My first girlfriend was just like her and we got along great until she started to drink like a fish." He nodded and dug into his dessert. "So, Junior, should we *welcome* your biological dad or stand back and watch?"
"I'm getting a definite warm welcome vibe from him," he admitted. "He's a bit smug, slimy, and a bit too ready to make himself shine to others. His first letter to me had almost a paragraph of blaming mom for not telling him."
"That is a bit too much for sincerity," Xander agreed. "Don't worry, son, we'll make sure that he won't be trying anything funny with you." He grinned at him. "Even if I do have to blow up his car with a grenade launcher from the bay." Everyone at the table snickered but Phil, who looked horrified. "Family in-joke," he assured him with a smile. After all, he couldn't tell the kid he had blown up a demon that way now could he?
Phil nodded. "I know some kids who'd think that was a great idea for their families," he admitted. My mom's usually pretty lenient though."
"We believe in the fencing method of child rearing," Oz told him. "You set firm boundaries and the kids are allowed to do anything inside them without us nagging and doing more than watching and helping when necessary. Once they step outside the fence, then they're taken in hand and led back inside and shown where they're supposed to be. That's why Xandra isn't still in trouble for the unannounced trip to the computer convention."
"It should have been expected, we did beg for days and had good reasons to go," Timmy pointed out.
"How is the guy looking over your game doing?"
"He finally broke level nine. He's still stumped on the revolving door that won't quit on level ten but I haven't told him it was back on level eight or nine."
"If you go for the one on level nine it's harder to kill the monster at the end," Xandra reminded him.
He smirked. "I know."
"You've already designed a video game?" Timmy nodded. "Any good?"
"The person who wants to buy it won't do so before he can beat the game. He's had it since the second day of the tech convention this last summer."
"Wow. I've never had a game that I couldn't beat in a few weeks, I think the longest took me a month."
"Yeah, but mine's got twists and turns," Timmy said proudly. "He's working on the hints manual now. It's not the most graphically intense thing, not like Final Fantasy, but that's the only weak point I can see." His cellphone rang and he stepped out of the dining room to answer it. "Yeah?" He grinned. "Back on levels two, eight, and nine are sticks of wood. Did you get any of them?" He smirked. "Yeah, I told you to save after level seven and eight. No, Xandra said she's had problems killing the monster on level nine if you stop there to get the stick. Or you could go further up the road and drag a big rock back if you want to climb over it." He listened while the guy did that one and finally got through that door. "Monster's nearly on you by now. Remember, this level it comes looking for you. Also, the trunk isn't as heavy as it seems if you put it into the pack. That's that escape key. Save the game now." He smirked as the guy got into the monster, kicking its butt in short order. "Good job. Yeah, you'll want the chest. Over the weight limit? In the pack?" He considered it. "What else did you pick up? No, you won't need an axe for another three levels if I remember right, but you'll definitely want that tent. It'll be raining next time. Go ahead and dump the rocks you picked up. You'll need some but you'll need the chest to buy your way onto the next plane and there'll be a pile of rocks right after you step through. Hide behind them and pick out however many you think you need. Good job, dude. Still like it?" He beamed. "Sure. I've had to do a great deal of hinting back at myself because even I forgot what I put in there during some of the long nights when I couldn't sleep. Sure, two days is good. Wanna come here? Thanks. Love it, have fun, and the demon's a frolanx." He hung up, heading back in there. "Dad, I need to skip school in two days. I've got a business meeting."
Oz got up and grabbed him for a hug. "I'm so proud of you!" He had to relinquish him to Xander and Xandra for their hugs but he was super proud of his little boy. "He sold his game."
"The guy's just now getting off level nine." He looked at his phone as it rang, answering it. "It's the stomach, the gray bar is the strike zone," he said in greeting. The guy hung up and went back to killing the demon. "Sorry, Forlanx."
Xandra snickered. "I liked taunting him with rocks."
"Me too," Timmy agreed. He grinned at his family. "That means I can pay part of the cost of my new computer."
"That's fine, son, we have the money," Xander said, sniffling a bit. "I'm so happy!" He hugged him again.
"Dad, you're being mushy," Timmy said, patting him on the back. He grinned at him. "Hug Xanny."
"Later." He hugged Junior before sitting down again. "I'll gladly let you skip that day and the next day so you have time to unswell your head."
"He doesn't think it's *too* hard, does he?" Junior asked. "I know you worried about that."
"Not that he's said," Timmy admitted. "The next five levels are more like the first four so he should be able to get past it tonight." He sat down again. "So as long as he doesn't hate it, I need to turn my file on hints into a cheat manual. Wanna help, Xanny?"
"Sure. I know you've listed them so far. Actually, that might be all that they want, but I'll gladly help you as much as I can. After all, you did promise to pay me."
"I did," Timmy agreed. "Wasn't it ten percent?" She nodded. "Then we're still good." He looked at his fathers. "She's helped me tons so I thought it'd only be fair."
"We like that idea," Oz agreed.
"You guys do a lot of free work already around here," Xander agreed.
"That's why they have allowances," Derek reminded him fondly. He wiped his mouth and stood up. "Junior, are you nearly done?" He nodded, scarfing the rest of his cake. "Get your assignment and meet me in my office. Timmy, try not to dance around too much." He led the boy out to talk to him.
"You know if you get a good price you're going to be expected to bring home takeout, right?" Oz suggested.
"Sure. Which of you is driving me?"
Xander shrugged. "Whoever's free that morning."
"I'll go," Oz told him. "I can do the techie stuff again."
"Sure, Oz." Xander kissed him gently. "You behave and don't get sucked into hacking again." He stood up. "Come on, Xanny, let's get your boyfriend home."
"Sure," she agreed, finishing her cake and smiling at Phil. "You ready?"
"Sure," he agreed, wiping off his mouth. He followed her out to her father's car, a fairly nice four door coupe with a very strong engine as he found out when they took off. "Man, you could drag race in this thing."
"And have," Xander admitted dryly. "You treat my daughter well enough I suppose. I would like that to continue. Because trust me, the boys won't be your worst nightmare if you harm her physically or emotionally." He glanced back and caught the boy's eyes in the rearview mirror. "Got me here?"
"Yes, sir," he agreed. "I'd never hurt her that way." Inside he was shaking. Now he knew that she'd only be his if she was an orphan, but that he could date her all he wanted without being possessive. She wasn't going to be his one true mate.
"Good, then I think you two can start meeting at the mall with only a chaperone or two now and then," Xander told him.
"Chaperone?" he asked.
"Sweetheart, I know how my daughter is in the leather shop. They don't allow her in there without a chaperone."
"I was thinking more the arcade and movies."
"I can agree to that," he agreed. "It'd be cheaper anyway. Xanny, are you gonna use your fee to buy a new pair of pants? I saw your favorite pair was split."
"I was going to whine and beg for a new pair this weekend and if not use the rest of my computer money for it since you're getting me a new one," she admitted. "That fee was going to be used for a few different things, including that bike jacket I saw that I adored."
"All right," he agreed. "If you can talk your other father into not confiscating it."
"Dad, since we're going to be getting driving lessons next year, can I learn how to ride a bike?" she asked.
They pulled up to the ferry dock and he turned to look at her. "You want a motorcycle?" She nodded. "I should have known. I'll breach that topic with your father. I only know how to hang on. I'm not sure Nick knows how." She pouted. "Hey, still young!"
"Fine, I'll wait a few years," she agreed. She leaned back again against her boyfriend's side. "What about our driving lessons?"
"We're all drawing straws about who'll need nerve pills and you've still got to wait a year extra, Xandra."
"Good girl." He rolled down his window when the guard tapped, holding up their pass. "I know, I'm getting a new one as soon as I get to the other side. They forgot to mail it."
"It's been given to us, sir." He handed over the family's passes. "Evening, children."
"Hi," Xandra said happily. "This is my boyfriend Phil." He waved. "Do you know where I can take motorcycle lessons?"
"One of the big bike shops might know," he offered. "Or the Harley dealership." She beamed. "Either that or walk into a place where bikers congregate and tell them that you want to learn but you don't know anyone who can teach you and be prepared to weather some teasing." He shot off a salute at Xander. "It'll be about ten minutes."
"Then I'm going to get out and stretch my legs," Xander said, getting out so the kids could have some time alone. He closed the door and leaned against it. "The quad will be sixteen next year."
The guard winced. "I'm so sorry. I'm sure that you'll have a lot of fun teaching them how to drive."
"I'd have to. I'm the only one with the nerve pill prescription," he said dryly. The guard snickered. "Fortunately you weren't here when we were teaching Buffy how to drive. She nearly drove into the bay instead of onto the ferry when we taught her that part."
"We're still not sure," he admitted. "All I know is that Nick came home shaking and got really drunk that night. We're expecting less trouble from the quad, but there are four of them. " He looked over as the ferry pulled up, raising an eyebrow at the limo getting off. It pulled up across from him so he turned to look at them. "Yeah?" The back window went down and a Precept put her head out. "Go ahead up to the house, he's helping Junior with a homework assignment." She nodded and he pulled out his phone to call the office. "Yo, dad, you've got an incoming visitor from Paris." He hung up. "Sorry. Massive problems with her," he said with an eyeroll. "Can I get on now?"
"Sure, go ahead," he agreed, getting out of the way so Xander could climb back in and get on board. He shook his head. He felt so sorry for that family sometimes. Twins were hard enough to deal with, but a teenage quad? He shuddered at the thought of teaching them how to drive.
Derek met the Paris Precept at the front door, shaking her hand and letting Bennet take her coat. "What brings you here?"
"Just some business. How is the little chaos being?"
"He's ten, Celeste. He's not a danger. Right now all he wants is to be loved and appreciated." He led her back to his office, where Junior was doing research through Derek's archeology files. "Did you find one?"
"I did, but it said it's the Funery room?"
"Where they did the mummification," Celeste told him. She looked at him, then nodded. "Junior, are you leaking magic yet?" He looked at her and shook his head. "Why not?"
"Celeste!" Derek said sharply. "He's *ten*."
"Still, most of them show their affinities by now."
"I know my affinity, but I have good control," Junior said bitterly. "I thought I was only telekinetic." She nodded once. "I have elemental powers. My biological father is showing up during the holidays to taunt me and get me to his side. You know, since the Legacy so despises my very existence." She looked shocked. "That's what it seems like. But then again maybe I'm biased because you wanted to take me from my parents and either toss me into a holding cell until you could make up something bad that I had supposedly done and send me to a prison and to my death, or into a mental ward for the rest of my natural life." He stood up. "I'll be back later, granddad."
Derek hugged him. "I'd never let them take you from your parents," he assured him. "You are still a member of this family and I have every faith you'll do great and wonderful things with your abilities."
"He could find metal or water seams I suppose," Celeste said.
"Or I could stop hurricanes and tornados," he said dryly, glaring at her. "It's people like you who depress us and make us want to hurt them. Ripping us from our families does that to us. Loving parents probably would have made the difference in most of the ones you've gotten rid of and had come back." He walked out, heading to the kitchen. He needed a treat. Bennet already had a big bowl of ice cream waiting on him. "Thanks, Bennet. Now I know why some of them went bad."
"I know, young one, but it's not as bad as all that. Your family will always support you. That's more than a great number of those others did. They believed the drivel they were fed and swallowed the rules like bait. Your family thinks about the decisions before they enact them." Junior perked up. "Now, you behave and we'll figure out what to get you for your sixteenth birthday."
"A car?" he asked happily. "If I was talented like Timmy I could buy one."
"I doubt he'll be allowed to do that," Bennet said wisely. "I wouldn't let him spend very much of whatever money he earns from his programming habits. That should be saved for his college years so he can take a good spring break his first year." Junior snickered at that.
Derek walked in and got himself some coffee. "She's sorry, Junior."
"She's an adult, Granddad, she can apologize for herself. She's not a toddler," Junior said before eating another bite of his ice cream. "Do you think Timmy's going to get some major money?"
"I don't know. I hope they won't turn it down because it's too hard."
"The avid gamer will love it, it's got twists and turns that you can't get past without some major playing," Junior assured him. "The casual gamer might hate it but the real gamers will adore it."
"I'll take your word for it, I've never gotten along well with video games." He patted him on the back. "Expect an apology." He headed back to his office, locking them inside. "He said you can apologize in person, that you weren't a toddler to need a parent to make them for you," he said firmly. "I agree." He sat behind his desk again. "Now, what sort of problems are you having that necessitated a personal visit?"
"I came to talk to you about the internship program. We're never given any."
"Your house isn't stable."
She grimaced. "All houses have the capability to go unstable now and then, Derek."
"Yes, but yours isn't ever stable. Sending children into your house would unstabilize it further. Your politics are harming your house already and exposing a child to that level of cranky people would probably make them loathe us for life." He sipped his coffee. "I would if your house were stable. There's a boy who has an interest in your areas of study."
"Your granddaughter Serena as well."
"She's more of a languages scholar," he noted. "She's already taking a third one."
She glared at him. "So we can't have the really useful one? Only the ones with an interest in the areas we're already working on?"
"I never said that. I said you couldn't have any interns until your house cleaned up its act," he said firmly, weathering her glare. "You and your house have managed to turn backstabbing into an art and I won't have that around any child, mine or from another house. For that matter, you need the boy from London and he needs time in your collection. Serena would be horribly bored being at your house since all it has is French and you all speak and read it." She slumped some. "Brandon would be better suited but we can't make him go there either when there's a chance you'd harm him for being so knowledgeable." She glared again. "I've seen the reports, Celeste. It has happened recently. Since we're starting a special dig house in New Orleans, I was thinking about sending them down there, but Oz makes the decisions about which assignments his children will take for an internship. He doesn't want another summer like last year."
"Fine," she said grimly. "What are you going to do about the boy?"
"He's ten, Celeste, we're going to hug him many times and make sure he grows up correctly, like we did for the other children. We know he'll be a goot boy and he'll never attack us, but we're going to raise him like we would any other little boy in this house. Just like we did Brandon and Timmy. Since he shows no desire for the Legacy's battles then he isn't terribly disappointed he can't do the work."
She sighed. "Fine," she agreed. "The Council is not pleased with this decision."
"They can like it or not," he said firmly. "He's a little boy and I'm not arguing over this. If they don't like it then they should look at *why* the others went bad and came back against us, which is directly related to their treatment of those others. I will not allow my grandson to be abused in such a manner. The last time I upheld it I regretted my decision and I'm not doing so again!"
"Fine," she said, backing away from him. Derek didn't lose his temper often but when he did you usually wanted to crawl into a deep hole and close it behind you. She had the feeling she needed to start looking for a hole soon. "We'll leave it up to you. If something happens though, it will be your job to fix it."
"It always is my job to fix it," he reminded her. "That's why I'm the lead Precept."
Oz knocked before walking in. "Bit of a problem," he said, looking at Celeste. "Did your house not do an update or progress reports this week?" She looked stunned. "We couldn't find anything new and no notice of a shortage of work."
"I'll call my second immediately," she agreed.
"I tried that but Junior said you were over here so I thought I'd come talk to you personally since I didn't get any answer over there."
Celeste walked behind the desk and turned the teleprompter on, dialing her house's extension. It came up with a blank control room. "Hello?" She heard a meow and a cat jumped up onto a desk. "How did you get in there, Pierre?"
Derek moved her and called up the house's alarm status, letting her see it. "Your hologram is down."
"I'm heading back immediately," she agreed. "Tell Junior I said I'm sorry and I'll apologize the next time I see him if he's still good. Derek, I could use some guardians." She kept her opinion that this was a bit too convenient in timing to herself. She had faced that boy down and her house wasn't acting right?
Alex walked in, waving a paper. "I just intercepted a mayday code from Paris." She looked at Celeste. "Since when did you have someone practicing demonic magic? The housekeeper said that she had heard it devouring some of your people."
She gasped and ran out, heading for her limo and the airport as fast as she could. Nick got her out and led her to the helicopter, it'd get her there faster than the ferry and driving would.
Derek sighed. "I'm sure she's thinking this is convenient timing."
"It was, the demon summoner sent her away," she said, handing it over.
Derek read the report of how Celeste was the wanted one and called the guardians. "It's Derek, Celeste is heading home. One of her people has been summoning demons and her housekeeper reports she heard most of the house die," he said quietly. "Now if possible. Thank you." He hung up. "He'll send the ones from London over," he said, looking at them. "Goot work," he said calmly. "Xander?"
"On the ferry back," Oz admitted. "Xandra gave him a very polite good night and a kiss on the cheek."
"Excellent," Alex agreed happily. "He seemed nice."
"He's possessive," Oz told her.
"I got the feeling he was looking for his one true love, who would be his and only his," Alex countered. "He was definitely shocked about what Xandra could do. Buffy thinks she scared him off by being herself." Junior stuck his head in. "What did you think of your sister's boyfriend?"
"Smarter than Precious'," he quipped. "Someone else just pulled up and Bennet said to tell you it was Uncle Rupert and he had Ethan Rayne with him. He's unconscious."
"Which one is?" Oz asked, coming over to walk out with him. He walked out to the front stoop, noticing Ethan was holding up Rupert. "What happened to him? Junior, go get Adam." He nodded and ran off. "Give him here."
"I can carry him," Ethan said, carrying him inside. He put him onto the couch. "As for what happened? Well, let's just say that the vampire he was fighting nearly won. Summers!" he yelled. She came jogging down the stairs. "A vampire nearly killed your Watcher."
She knelt next to him to check him over, then shook his shoulder, trying to wake him. "Who?" she asked when he didn't wake. She looked up at the silence. "Who, Ethan?"
"It looked like Xander," he said bitterly.
"Xander's on the ferry," Oz noted. "You should have come up with him."
"He went to check on the guards since no one tried to stop us," Ethan admitted. "I caught them fighting near my shop and stepped outside to stop what I thought was two drunks."
"Could it have been vamp Xander?" Buffy asked. Oz frowned at her. "Serious question."
"No," Oz said, shaking his head. "Looks like him how, Ethan?"
"I didn't get a good look at him but it was him. It had the same dark hair, the same eyes, the same general shape to his face, and it 'felt' like him to me when I cast something to stake him." He stepped back as the front door slammed, looking at the man coming in. "It wasn't you though. You look older than the vampire."
Xander grimaced. "It's not the vampire me, I know his world was destroyed when the wish ended." He knelt to touch Giles' pulse, frowning. "Pretty weak. Adam?"
"He's coming," Derek assured him. "I sent Junior to get him."
"It's been a few minutes," Xander pointed out. "I was at the gate and none of the guys were down there. The monitors were all off but I didn't see anything." He headed for the pool room and the weapon's cabinet, tossing the crossbow over his shoulder as he heard someone walk in.
"Thanks, Dad, I can use one of these," Xandra assured him. She grabbed some bolts and loaded it. "I went to check on Uncle Adam and he was packing a bag. Junior was shaking for some reason. I saw a guard but he was glaring at the windows."
"Shoot to wound for now," Xander ordered, grabbing his own weapons and communications gear. They headed out to check the grounds, listening to the silence on the guards' frequency. They found a few more around Adam's house and he growled, making a few of them turn. "Problems with our trainer or our son?"
"He's dangerous!" one guard shouted, pointing at the house.
"Oh, bite me," Xandra told him. "Junior's no more dangerous than Daddy is on a calm day."
"Not him, Adam!" another guard said, glaring at her. "You won't shoot us."
"I will so," she scoffed. "Anyone who hurts my family gets it in the ass at the very least."
Xander put a hand on her arm. "Why do you think Adam's dangerous?"
"Because I saw him fighting earlier," one of the guards admitted. "He cut some guy's head off."
"Sometimes it has to happen," Xandra told him. "How many times have you had to defend yourself?" He gaped at her. "We've had Rupert attacked by a vampire and there's no one at the gate. Do you realize this? If Uncle Adam was in violation of the rules, Grandfather can and will take care of him without you guys pulling a Frankenstein."
"There's someone at the gate," the first guard noted.
Xander shook his head. "There wasn't when we came in. The monitors were all off and none of them showed anyone." The guards went running so he switched to the house's system. "Nick?" He heard an unhappy grunt. "Need you outside, bro. The gate was left unguarded and they swear they left someone there. Rupert was bitten by someone Ethan swears looked like me somewhat. I'm getting Adam up." He turned it off and pounded on the door. "Adam, some of us aren't going to kill you, but you have to hand back the son."
Adam opened the door. "I was coming, just getting him calmed down. The vampire's on the grounds. He ran into him. He said he looked like a younger you somewhat."
"Junior, come with me," Xandra ordered calmly. He nodded, walking with her back to the house while her father escorted her uncle to the house. Bennet got them drinks and she sat Junior at the table. "How did you run into the vampire?" she asked smoothly, stroking the back of his hand. "What did he say to you? Tell me so I can go hunt him and make him sorry."
Junior gulped his milk, looking at her. "It looked like a younger dad. Like him in the pictures on his dresser with Mom and Auntie Buffy from school. He had shorter hair and he was kinda smirky but he said kids like me weren't worth the effort of hunting." He swallowed another drink. "Then he saw Uncle Adam standing in his doorway and smirked at him, casually strolling closer. Uncle Adam tossed some holy water on him and he shouted, then tried to lunge, but I tripped him as I ran past him into the house."
"Good job," she praised. "You remembered how to get away," she said at his incredulous look. "Even if you were scared, you remembered how to get away. You're not up to taking on a vampire."
"Neither are you," Bennet said firmly, taking her weapons from her. "If you step foot outside this house without an adult before the dawn, I will report you to your father and make sure he paddles you this time, Alexandra. You are not a Slayer."
"No, she's resting in the bathtub probably," Xandra told him. "We need to get her up here."
"She's not been chosen yet," he said firmly. "It's not her duty yet." He called the other house, getting Brandon. "Lock all your doors and turn on your security system. We have a vampire on the grounds. No, they're here. Which one is missing?" He looked at Xandra. "Did you already tell her?" She shook her head. "Fine." He put the phone back up to his ear. "I'll tell the guards. You boys stay inside and make sure the house is closed up until your fathers call." He hung up and called the living room. "Sirs, Precious felt the vampire, she's hunting him. The boys are alone and I told them to seal the house." He looked at the children. "They're both in here. Junior was taunted by the vampire from the sounds of it." He hung up when he heard feet running.
Oz jogged in and grabbed his son to hold. "Why did you talk to him?"
"He grabbed me first," Junior defended. "He said I wasn't worth the hunt. He looked like dad back in high school but with way short hair. It looked lighter though, like halfway between him and Auntie Buffy's current hair color. He was smirking and sneery like daddy can get when he's playing bad guy against the people who bug us." Oz gave him an extra squeeze. "I'm okay."
"He tripped the vampire when he ran inside. Uncle Adam got him with some holy water, Dad," she said quietly.
"Good. You're not to step outside this house without one of us adults. Hear me, Xandra?"
"Yes, father," she agreed. "I'm good enough."
"Little do I care, daughter. I'm not burying you because you hesitated because the vampire looks like a relative." He pulled her up to hug her too. "Do not tempt this one, daughter. I'm not losing you. Your other father would die if you were dead."
"Daddy would destroy part of the world then follow," Junior agreed.
"Men," she sighed, heading out to the living room. "I'm under orders to guard in here." Everyone looked at her. "Bennet took my weapons and Daddy Oz said Daddy Xander would kill people if I died. Precious is on the grounds. She may have felt him."
Buffy hopped up and grabbed Xander's stakes from his belt, heading out. "I'll be back."
"Buffy, we need him for questioning," Derek called. "If he looks that much like Xander, I want to know why."
"Sure, bossman." She slammed the front door then screamed.
Xander opened the door, watching her bat at the spiderweb that had gotten her. "You can stake slime producing nasties and not deal with spiders?"
"Oh, bite me," she said bitterly, stomping off. "Precious!" She walked around the side of the house, heading for the garage, she could feel something coming from there. "Precious?"
"Oooh, a pet name already? We've barely met," a male voice said smugly.
She spun and looked at him. "What? Did Xan manage to have kids without a woman now? They're right, you do look a lot like him. Wanna give a name before I hurt you?"
"Alex," he said smugly.
"Buffy." She grinned and attacked, making him back away, looking startled. "Where did you come from?"
"I was raised by the nice people who found me," he said, trying to hit her. "Wow, you're good."
"Twenty years of slayage and still counting. What a shock. Duck." He ducked the wrong way and Precious got him in the kidneys, making him howl and fall to his knees. "Now for the good part." She knocked him out, then climbed onto his back so she could handcuff him. She looked at the younger girl. "You *felt* him?" She nodded. "Cramps?"
Precious shook her head. "No. No cramps. Not yet." She helped her haul the vampire up. "I would know if I had been chosen, right?"
"I think I did but I wasn't trained at the time so I'm not real sure. I had a day of uncomfortable feelings there for a bit. Go ask Derek where he wants this guy. I'm not bringing him into the house."
Precious ran ahead, running inside. "We kicked his ass good. Where do you want him, Grandfather?"
"In the garage if you wouldn't mind," he said, smiling at her. "Were you chosen?" She shook her head. "You're sure?"
"Much. I tested out my strength earlier, it's not any better." She hurried back out. "He said the garage. Don't tie him to daddy's bumper, he'll get pissed."
"Not an issue," Buffy assured her, dragging him that way. He woke up struggling so she punched him again. "Quit that. You're heavy enough as is. You'd figure a vampire would be less heavy than a normal person, but no! They always seem to weigh more. That and I can't kill you yet. I'm having a really bad day. Keep struggling if you want to make it worse." She walked him into the garage and turned on the lights, hanging him up by the chain they used to do auto work with, letting him dangle. "There." She looked at Precious. "Good for you?"
"Excellent for me," she agreed happily. "Uncle Rupert was groaning on the couch but that could have been because daddy was in super-fuss mode." She bounced slightly. "Ooh, Dark and Deadly was upset because someone took her weapons too."
"You know, Dark and Deadly sounds like a hair color for goth chicks," Buffy pointed out. "Leave your sister alone."
"She should have been the slayer in training, not me."
"Life sucks that way sometimes," Buffy reminded her. "I would have rather been a debutante but no, not for me. Not for you either. It's our girlish natures that give us the advantage over things like him." They looked at the vampire. "Nothing to imput?"
"No," he said weakly. "It wouldn't do any good."
"True," Precious agreed, leaning against her aunt's side. "Think they'll be here soon? I got ut of a bubble bath for this."
"Hopefully. I was watching a movie and I think I forgot to turn on my VCR."
The vampire looked horrified. "Girls like you are the bane of vampires everywhere? How?"
"Easy, we're better," Precious said dryly. "From birth." She looked up at her aunt. "They really did confiscate that shirt."
"I'm sure they did," Buffy sighed, patting her on the back. "Your fathers are not the most fashion conscious men on the face of the earth. For being gay, they're miserable at it."
The door opened and Xander walked in, taking off his shirt as he walked. He cracked his knuckles as he looked at the vampire. "You're allowed to beg and plead for mercy and tell me what I want to know, or I get to wear out my frustration with having six children on you." The vampire looked horrified. "Now or later, your choice, buddy."
Derek walked in. "Xander, do not torture the vampire yet," he said calmly. "What's your name?" he demanded.
"Alex," he said. "I was sent here to watch over you all for my teacher."
"Who is?" Buffy asked.
He looked at her. "Like he told me his name?"
Xander backhanded him. "Try again. Others use it and you're not his sex pet so I doubt it's never been said in front of you."
"Others call him Scourge. I call him Master and enjoy it."
"Scourge. That tall guy with no hair?" Buffy asked.
"Yes." Xander glared at him. "What?"
"Who were you before you turned?"
"Alex Preston, of Lewisburg, PA. Want my family tree?"
"Do you know of someone named Dr. Carmichael?" Derek asked. The vampire looked confused. "That is a yes or no question."
"He's the doctor who did mom's infertility treatments. Why? He showed up to do a study with us last year."
"Who might he be?" Buffy asked. "I don't know that name."
"He's the guy who made me and Nick come into being," Xander said quietly. "Then he's related?"
"It seems probable, especially with his looks," Derek noted, studying the vampire. "How were you taken?"
"Dance at school. I was dateless of course and I got taken on my way home. Dude, I'm seventeen, okay?"
"I know," Xander agreed, stepping forward. "It sucks, but we can't leave you running loose, especially not if you're going to be going back to this new Master vampire."
"He's not a Master vampire, he's someone who's gathering vampires to lord over," Buffy corrected. "He's a Vampire Lord." She crossed her arms. "Give me one good reason why we shouldn't stake you?"
"Because I've still got a heartbeat?" he suggested.
Xander checked his pulse. "It's slow and sluggish, but he's right. He's only halfway turned." He groaned and shook his head. "I'm having flashbacks to silver aliens."
"You went into a spaceship?" the vampire said in awe.
"No, they came here and possessed him," Buffy told him. "They were trying to figure out if humans were bugs or not. He had really gross pustules from them." She looked at Derek. "I'm sensing odd things too if it matters."
"Adam's on his way down as soon as he's done settling Rupert into his bed," he said grimly. "We can wait." He jumped when the radio came on. "Why did you do that?"
"I hate quiet. It bugs the hell out of me," Xander reminded him. He looked at the vampire. "It also conveniently covers any and all screaming." The vampire gulped and shifted, making himself swing around.
"I have no idea what we're doing about him," Derek announced.
"If he's not fully dead, is there a way to fix him?" Precious asked. "I heard Ethan's name mentioned and he is the font of all things disgusting." She looked at her father. "Will Junior become one of those?"
"No, he's got elemental powers," Xander told her. "Do not pick on your brother or I will be introducing my hand to your rearend."
"I'd never dream of it, dad," she promised, holding up a hand. The vampire growled and tried to vamp out and failed. "So, he's not fully vampire if he can't do the grr face. Should we ship him to Antarctica?"
"He might cause more ice cap melting with his swearing," Buffy said, patting her on the back. "Elemental, really? Willow never mentioned that in her last email." Xander nodded. "Hmm. She did tell me to watch out for the paternal unit."
"Yeah, he's not the nicest of guys; he's trying to smarm Junior," Xander admitted.
"She meant you. You're going to be blowing your top soon and she wanted to make sure you were gonna be okay."
"Hell no," he said bitterly.
"It'll be fine," Derek assured him, stroking him on the back. "We will make it so if it's not." He looked over his shoulder as Ethan supported Rupert through the door. "What is he doing up?"
"He got stubborn. You should be familiar with that state by now, cousin." He set Rupert on the hood of Nick's car, pointing at him. "Is that what attacked you?"
"It is," he said, glaring at the vampire. "Why is he still living? Xander, turn off the music. I have the most atrocious headache." The music was flipped off. "Why is he still living?"
"Because he's got a pulse," Precious told him. "You should be in bed, Uncle Rupert. If you die because of this then Auntie Buffy will have to be my watcher." Both adults mentioned gave her a horrified look. "Exactly."
Buffy shuddered. "Oh, damn, that's a bad thought. Bad thought, bad thought," she said, rubbing her temples. "Make it stop! I can't get the image of me in tweed out of my head!"
"You could be wearing a silk nighty and waiting on satin sheets, spread out prettily for them to come ravish you," the vampire offered. She gave him an odd look. "Hey, it takes all bad images out of my head," he told her.
"Now I know you're related to Xander."
"Mine was flannel and a long t-shirt," Xander told her with a smirk. "And you weren't in there for more than a year or so." She pinched him as hard as she could. "Easy! Oz'll complain if I'm bruised again!"
"Good. You deserve it."
"Daddy, did you ever sleep with Auntie Buffy?" Precious asked.
"No, Faith," he sighed. "Why?"
"Wondering since she's the master of sleep-drooling according to Auntie Alex."
"That is a private matter," Derek said to calm Buffy down, but mentally he was rolling around his brain laughing. The children certainly did liven things up quite a lot. He looked at Rupert. "Do you have a suggestion since he seems to have a pulse?"
"Have you checked for glamours?" Ethan asked. Xander shook his head. "No?"
"Why do that when you're here and you're more than ready to do that for us?" Xander asked.
"Good point. Lazy asshole," he muttered, checking the boy over. He frowned, doing so again. "He's got one to keep him from fighting something or someone." He removed it and the vampire roared in pain then went limp. "Well." He checked for a pulse. "Still there."
"What are we doing with him, Derek?" Rupert asked. "If he's only a bit tainted it might wear off some day."
"I don't know of anyone I trust not to torture him as a lab rat," Xander admitted, playing with his ear. "I would suggest Helsinki but again, torturing not of the good."
Derek sighed and leaned against the side of Oz's car. "That would be the best solution." He pulled out his cellphone and called the specialist house in Helsinki, the one which did all the research of a medical nature. "Dawn, it's Derek," he said quietly. "We have a most odd situation. No, not with him, he's fine. We seem to have a person here who is related to Xander and Nick, but is partially turned to being a vampire. No, he's got a pulse, simply tainted we think. No, he attacked Rupert and he thought he was a full vampire. Yes, well, we don't want him torn atom from atom but a cure might be rather handy. It seems our new Vampire Lord out of LA is doing this to them." He listened to her. "Is that really necessary? He's still got a blood flow." He smirked. "That's what I thought. That's why we wanted to ask. No, he's seventeen." He looked at the boy hanging up. "I don't know. He's not fully turned. He can't produce the demonic face. We know he's tainted."
"You know, I'm not getting 'vampy' feelings from him, more 'wrong' ones," Buffy admitted. "That's probably what got Precious out of her bubble bath too. Since she's not fully chosen she could only feel someone who was somehow off."
"Did you remember to turn the water off?" Xander asked. She looked horrified and headed out to run back to the house. "Well, it looks like the kids may get their wishes and have some remodeling done." Buffy and Rupert snickered. "I know, but if it's been running this long it's probably gotten onto the carpet in the common room if not further. Fortunately Oz went that way. He can hear a running tub from across the garden." He looked at the vampire again as he started to wake up. "You living still?"
"Barely," he groaned. "Oww."
"Sorry," Ethan said snidely. "You deserve it, but sorry."
Buffy pinched him. "He was snatched from a school dance, it's not his fault." He glared at her. "I can prove it. How many times were *you* nearly turned into something demonic and slimy?"
"Enough," Derek ordered. The garage rocked from an explosion. "What the hell!" He hung up and walked outside, looking at the other house. "Xander, we have problems."
"I can still smell Oz," he noted. "And the kids. Oz!" Oz came out of the main house. "What happened!" he shouted, pointing at their house. The guards came running with fire fighting equipment. Oz slid down an arbor and came over to stand with him. "I can smell the kids."
"I brought them up to the house to spend the night for safety," he admitted. "Precious not with you?"
"She went to turn off the tub."
"I did that," Oz noted. "It was all over the common area's floor. Precious!"
Buffy came over, patting him on the back. "I called Bennet, he pulled her inside to chew her a new one for going hunting the half-vampire." She looked at the house. "Now I know why they say fire pretty."
"Me too," Xander admitted, staring at the house. "Um, dad, can we stay up at the big house for now?"
"Of course," he agreed, shocked even as the fire department pulled up. They had a small pumper truck on the island fortunately. He jogged over there, shaking himself free of his shock. "We heard an explosion," he told them. "There shouldn't be anyone in there." His phone rang and he answered it. "What? No, the boys' house just blew up. We don't know yet. Come up and figure this out." He hung up on her and put the phone away. "We were in the garage talking to someone we found wandering around on the property but I don't think he was down there."
"Thank you, sir, let us work for now. We can tell you what it was."
Derek nodded. "I'll be back at the garage," he told him, heading back that way shaking his head. "Did he plant something?"
"I asked, he looked horrified and said no, that explosives were for wimps," Buffy told him. "Oz took Xander inside to hold and coddle the kids for a few minutes before he could hit the vampire again. Ethan took Rupert back to bed too. It's only us and the vampire." She felt someone moving next to her back and turned, catching him by his throat. "Who told you to get off there?" He let out a wheezing whimper. "Tough! Derek?"
"We have a holding cell," he noted. "Since he's not turned we can do that." They walked the boy inside and locked him in the windowless room, letting Nick guard him. "I'm going back out to talk with the firemen."
"Sure think, bossman," Nick agreed, watching him go. He looked at Buffy. "They kept the house longer than their cars."
She hit him on the pec but she was grinning. "That's mean, but really true." She nodded at the room. "Yell for me when you start to get sleepy and I'll watch."
"Sure. Have fun. Precious may be in your bathroom."
"Sure. Why not." She headed that way and found the girl hogging her tub since it was nicer. "I may want that later," she noted.
"Sure. Just give me another hour, Auntie."
The butler let in the person pounding on the door the next morning. "I'm afraid he's not made it downstairs yet, ma'am," he said, taking her jacket. "I'm in the middle of fixing breakfast if you want to wait in there." She nodded, following him that way. He smiled at the children already up. "You know you don't have school today, correct?" They looked stunned and took their glasses and muffins back upstairs.
"Was that their house?"
"It was," he agreed, pointing at the burned hulk across the garden. "We have no idea what happened yet. The fire marshal is coming out today." He started the coffeemaker. "Would you prefer tea? I have some water ready."
"If it wouldn't be any trouble," she admitted. "I got on the plane last night as soon as I heard." She sat down, staring out the back doors. "That really is a shame. I liked that house."
"I wish I knew what had happened," Xander said grimly as he came in from the pool, towel around his neck. "No kids?"
"I took the liberty of telling them that they didn't have classes today," Bennet admitted. Xander gave him an odd look. "They don't have any clean clothes and you'll need to take some time with them, Xander."
"Good point. I guess they can veg until Monday. I'll call the school."
"I already did. The Headmistress was not going to push for any sort of excuse. She said she had seen it in the morning paper and she understood fully you wanting them close enough to hug and hold, her words of course," he said, handing over a cup of cocoa. "Only Timmy and Xandra were up and it looked like they had been up all night."
"They could have been. I know Timmy and Brandon packed bags for everyone so they could make it to school today." He sipped his cocoa. "Hey, Dawn. You got here fast."
"I got right on a plane after the second time Derek hung up on me," she said, taking her tea cup. "Thank you, Bennet. No idea yet?"
"Not a one. We heard an explosion and we know the half-vamp didn't do it. Did he give you any shit last night, Bennet?"
"No, sir, he's still locked in that room. I've kept an eye on the camera since I got up."
"Good. I'll take you up there in a few minutes. He's got a pulse. He's only a bit faster and stronger." He sat across from her. "He said that the doctor who did his mother's fertility treatments was the same one who did the insertion of me and Nick into our mothers. He apparently came back last year to check on him. Carmichael is dead when I meet him."
"I understand," she said calmly, patting him on the hand. "Do you have any information?"
"Oz ran a background check. He's supposed to be out here on holiday. His parents reported him missing. Our new Vampire Lord, the Scourge, sent him to watch us and he attacked Rupert. Ethan Rayne removed something from him last night."
"What was he doing here?"
"The kid, Alex, attacked Rupert outside Ethan's shop. Rupert probably went down there to kick his ass again," he said dryly. "He seems to like to do that routinely. Ethan drove him home since Rupert was unconscious and the vampire somehow made it here first."
"You do have some minor gifts toward magic, Xander."
"I was thinking he was the reason there was an extra boat at the docks," Xander said, grinning at the butler. "If he can do that, I'm setting him up with a soul and making him pull an Angel for Precious." Dawn snorted and choked. "Sorry. Heard about that did you?"
"Oh, yes, years ago. I found another reference to him from a case and followed the link to the other file. Most informative." She looked outside again. "I always liked your house. It was nice."
"It was getting a bit crowded with the kids all needing the bathroom all the time," he admitted. "We were thinking about a remodel." He sighed and looked out there. "That wasn't what I had in mind though." She patted the back of his hand. "Thanks, Dawn. We didn't want to involve you guys, I don't think he needs to be a lab rat." He looked at her. "He's got a pulse, he's living."
"He was snoring the last time I checked on him," Bennet admitted.
"He snores," Xander added with a grin for both of them. "I don't know how one would *taint* a living human like that though. Rupert had fang marks."
"Some goth children do get their eyeteeth filed," she offered.
"We haven't had the time to do a thorough exam," Xander admitted. "We put him into the holding cell since he managed to free himself from the hook in the garage. Bennet, did we have many guards calling off this morning?"
"No, sir, I believe your explanation and the one Adam gave sufficed to calm them down again. They no longer believe he's a mass murder, simply someone who was defending themselves during a thunderstorm." Xander winced. "Exactly, sir." He poured himself a cup of coffee, then set out the food on the buffet. "Should any of the children be up soon?"
"Junior probably will. He can hang with Adam for a bit today anyway and he can monitor them in the computer lab in the classroom if he wants," Xander decided. "I'm not up to facing the mall at the moment." He sipped his cocoa, smirking at her shocked look. "He's ten, Dawn. He's a little boy who's being pushed toward the dark by that attitude. I love all my children, no matter what they turn out as. Besides, I think he'll turn out okay," he said with a wink.
"But...but he's got chaos powers!"
"So did that saint who was a nun with healing powers," Xander said bitterly. "They're not all misunderstood but a lot of them were pushed toward the dark. All chaos is is stuff that's not orderly. Sort of like any kid's room." She relaxed at that. "He's not a bad little kid. You're a psychologist, talk with the boy and report back to the Council if you want. He knows what's going on. He nearly bit someone's head off last night over it."
"I will," she agreed. "I want that boy to be better adjusted than some. How is your daughter?"
"Pissed that we didn't let her help last night," he admitted. "She's got 'big girl' syndrome again. She's a big girl now and should be allowed to do things on her own. She brought home a boy last night for dinner." She gaped at him. "He's okay I guess. Alex and I agree, he's got the one true mate feeling and wants his mate to be his and only his. I think he'll grow out of it once he quits reading romance novels." She laughed, shaking her head. "So we're good on that point?"
"Definitely," she agreed. "I can and will forward my evaluation to the Council." She looked over as another child came down the stairs. "Morning, Junior."
"Morning," he mumbled, hugging Bennet to lean against him. He mumbled something else.
"The food is on the buffet or you could go back to bed, young man." Junior blinked at him. "Seriously."
"Give him a good piece of bacon and some milk, Bennet. He'll eat in a few minutes. He is not a morning person," Xander told him.
Junior walked over and hugged his father, climbing into his lap. "Morning," he mumbled.
"Morning. This is Dawn, she's here to look at the kinda vamp and talk to you once you wake up."
Junior looked at her. "Are you going to make fun of me or are you one of the people who wants to frame me for something horrible and have me tossed into prison until someone in there kills me?"
She looked horrified, and let a tear drip. "I would never do that to any child," she said firmly, wiping off the tear. "That is a horrible thought. Who told you that?"
"I overheard it while I was eavesdropping outside Granddad's window. One of the old fucks on the Council wanted that, or for me to be committed and then killed in the psychiatric facility."
"Which is why we'd like someone with some sense to talk to him," Xander pointed out. "He met Celeste last night. She asked him why he wasn't leaking magic yet."
"That cow!" she said angrily. "I'll kill her if the demon who wanted her for a lover didn't! You do not say such things to children! You know that, Xander, couldn't you stop her?"
"He wasn't in the room and Grandfather couldn't stop her fast enough," Junior said through his yawn. He took his own chair once some bacon and some milk appeared next to one. "Thanks, Bennet. Love you, man. Have kids with me some day?"
Bennet laughed. "I don't believe I'm your type, young man." He ruffled the messy hair. "You need to shower."
"I would have but Xanny was waiting in line on Precious. It's gonna be a while," he said wisely. "Daddy, please, separate bathrooms next time?" he pleaded.
"Sure, kiddo. We can agree with that," he promised gently. "When your other father and I are up to it, we'll take you guys necessity shopping." Junior nodded, digging into his bacon. "No chocolate sauce this morning?"
"That's only on Sunday, daddy." They shared a grin then he went back to eating. "What's up with the kinda vamp? Is he still living?"
"Apparently," Xander admitted. "I don't know how though."
"Maybe he was a goth kid originally and he got picked up as a future minion? Marked somehow or something? We know some of the new vamps aren't using the old rituals," Dawn suggested. Xander nodded and got up to get his usual muffin. "May I have one too?" He tossed her one. "Thanks, Xander. Have you asked Kana to look into the matter?"
"I haven't had the chance to call anyone yet," Xander admitted. "I was gonna hog the office later and call a conference about this. We're due one soon anyway." He nibbled on his muffin. "Better do that before rumors start. Behave for a bit, Junior, and let the others sleep in if they want. Bennet called them off until Monday."
Junior got up and went to the bottom of the stairs. "NO SCHOOL UNTIL MONDAY!" he shouted.
"Thank you, God!" Brandon yelled back. Doors all over upstairs slammed and no one else appeared until Derek came down twenty minutes later.
"Very nice work, Junior. I believe you actually woke your Aunt Buffy up," he said fondly. "Goot morning, Dawn. Have a good flight?"
"No, it's exhausting. Do you have room to put me up?"
"Of course. You can have the guest suite." He gathered his breakfast and took his cup of coffee from the butler. "Thank you, Bennet. Get some more for Dawn please."
"Of course, sir." He came over with some more tea, pouring her a new cup. "Ask whenever you need some more. I have no doubt we'll be making many pots today. Your son is in your office and has called a conference of his houses."
"Wonderful," Derek agreed. "It keeps me from doing it." He sipped his coffee. "Our other guest?"
"Snoring away in there."
"I'll bring a food tray up with me," Dawn told him. "See how he reacts to certain things." He nodded, setting out the former children's plates since they were plastic. "Xander also asked me to talk to Junior and make sure for the Council that he wasn't going to go bad." Derek raised an eyebrow. "He heard the old men's frantic and desperate ideas."
"They're bastards, Junior. I would not allow it to happen, even if you did turn toward the dark."
"Thanks, granddad. Hey, this means I don't have to deal with the math teacher."
"No, we'll let me do that I think," Ethan said as he strode in. "Checking on Ripper."
"Since when did we invite you in?" Derek asked snidely.
"I nearly became your stepfather, Derek, be more polite. I will tell your mother on you."
"She's not living, Ethan, that would be hard."
Ethan came over and looked down at him. "I know exactly what happened to both of them, Derek. Trust me on this, I can find a way to contact her." Derek swallowed. "Since you treat Rupert so badly, I've taken it upon myself to do so. I also brought some soporific in case the boys need some." He handed over a bag to the butler. "It's made as a tea in the same strengths and strain it well." He headed up the back stairs, going right to Rupert's door and walking inside.
"Well," Derek said bitterly. "Remind me to have him thrown in the bay again, Bennet."
"Of course, sir. Should we run this through the computer first?"
"Definitely," Dawn agreed. "I'm surprised he's still living."
"Me too," Derek said bitterly. "Unfortunately he's still useful as a source and a hands-on corrector for Precious." She shook her head. "She's a bit too much like her mother at times."
"Of course she is. Everyone's said so since day one," Junior pointed out. "That's got catnip in it. It'll drive Daddy Oz into a frenzy again." Bennet raised an eyebrow. "We don't know why Daddy Oz likes catnip toys but there's, was, one in his special drawer with their sex toys. I was looking for information and found it." He finished his milk and got up to get himself some more. "Mommy used to call him a puppy," he said with a shrug. "She still does sometimes."
"More than I wanted to know," Dawn said firmly, sipping her tea. "Which would you like me to do first, Derek?"
"Look at our half-vampire. You can always figure him out later. He's ten, they were all that way."
She nodded. "I'm glad my daughter's only eight."
Dawn walked into the office later that day, looking at Derek. "You're right, he's fully human. I did a complete exam and he's fully human, but he does have some extra speed and agility. Could this Dr. Carmichael have done it?"
He handed over the top secret file he had been able to uncover with William Sloan's help. "It's entirely possible."
She sat down to read what they had, which wasn't much, then she looked up at Derek, mouth open. "They are?" He nodded. "Do they know?"
"That they're half-brothers? Yes. They have since not long after Xander got here, Dawn. They've learned to get past it and have become brothers in spirit as well. Neither one wanted to know more after they found out the initial details so I've searched in quiet. William had to dig that up for me."
"I can see why. This is against everything the Legacy's ever stood for. Why did we fund this person?"
"Enrollment was down and the dark seemed to be winning more often," he said bitterly. "They took the free love era to mean that it was time to do something drastic." She spluttered and he smiled. "Indeed. My own father supported this in case you didn't see it. He's the one who talked Nick's father into it. Then the doctor took his things and left to practice in private. That's how Xander came to be. I can only assume Alex would be from the same source."
"I would assume so too," she admitted. "I want to do a genetic sample. Can you run one?"
"Paternity, not the full scan. We've always sent those to you."
"Paternity would be good enough," she admitted. "For now. There's something very wrong with this picture and I don't know what."
"Me either. What did you want to do with him?"
"I'm going to take him back to Helsinki since he's undoubtedly human. Is that all right with you and Xander?"
"Xander's only concern was that he not be tortured."
"We're not going to do that. A legitimate demon possibly if we don't have anything at all in the files on it, but not a human, Derek, and we've had enough done on vampires to last us until the next century."
"Then we'll allow it," he agreed. "I want to know if you can find anything else on this horrible creature who did this. I know I assigned it to you before and you had to shelve it because of other matters, can you pick it back up now?"
"Hell yes," she agreed firmly, standing up. She tucked the file into her briefcase. "I'll copy this and send it back by courier. Where's Junior?"
"Out in the classroom building," he said, pointing behind him.
"Thank you. I'll be sure to make a full report to the Council and to you. I can see what Xander thinks." She walked out, heading out to the woods and the laughing she could hear. She stopped to admire the scene, the children were playing some sort of tag. She walked up the path, catching Timmy to hug him. "I didn't get to say thank you this morning."
"Aww," Brandon teased. "You've got two women now?"
"No, brat, I found the source of their virus," Timmy said, blushing hard. "Put me down, please?" She laughed and put him down. "Thanks. Junior's inside worrying to death."
"He shouldn't," she assured him. She patted him on the cheek. "You're so adorable when you blush like that. Too bad you're so much younger than I am." She headed inside, smiling at Adam. "Good afternoon. You'll be happy to know our vampire friend is actually fully human."
"Then what's wrong with him?" Adam asked.
"As far as we can tell, it might be some genetic tampering, we're not sure yet." She shrugged. "He'll be happy in my house and I won't be treating him as a lab rat."
"Thank you," he agreed quietly. "He's in the computer lab."
"That's fine. Junior?" He came out. "Walk with this old woman." He nodded, following her out into the woods. "Let me guess, you've gotten into the files and found out some things about the other chaos people who have attacked us?"
"I didn't need to get into the files, we've got it in book format. I read it after the rules were explained to me and the dads told me what they did and didn't believe in." He looked at his feet. "It sucks. It really does. It's not like I asked for this. Or even made some sort of dark deal for it! I'm a ten-year-old little boy. What do they think I'm going to do?"
"They think someone's going to see that natural gift and seduce you to the darkside, thereby giving them an untouchable bargaining chip with the Legacy," she said calmly. "Which is fairly wrong when you think about it, but sometimes the dark does things like that."
"Yeah, well, they've got another thing coming if they think I'm gonna roll over for belly scratches," he said bitterly. "Until my math teacher approached me, I thought I was becoming telekinetic. I was too lazy to get my book one night and it floated over to me. Then a few days later my teacher tries to vamp me and says I have to be careful who I want to teach me and suggests herself. I ran out to get help and she's still trying. I've had another one trying to call me for training but Uncle Ethan stopped him when he showed up pretending to be Uncle Adam. He's the one who told me I have elemental powers, not chaos."
"Technically, elemental abilities are part of chaos," she corrected gently. "It's not so much what sort but the source of it. Where the power you draw on comes from. Your mother drew on the earth, so therefore she was a nature witch. You're a sorcerer because you don't." He nodded. "In that sense, it is easier to misuse your abilities, which is another worry for them. The earth has been known to stop a few people cold when they were misusing their abilities. I think that's why your mother crossed over. It had enough of her and started to lessen her power so she went searching."
"Mom was doing minor chaos stuff in high school," he told her. "We've got some of her diaries so Precious knows what not to do."
"Interesting. Does it help?"
"No, but Dad putting a size twelve up her ass one morning did. Daddy Oz was not pleased with his oldest little girl," he said smugly. "She's been using her magic for every little thing and bending rules for so long. Then she changed Xandra's nature because she thought Xandra had started off her period. Xandra danced and sang around the garden while wearing one of Serena's dresses and picking flowers." She paused, then shuddered. "Exactly. Daddy Oz kept Xanny from getting her back, but he set down the law and got her a teacher after that. Ethan pops up every now and then to show her what not to do as well by grossing her out with stories of what he's done."
"So he's actually being helpful?"
"And sleeping with Uncle Rupert," Junior agreed. "It's an on-again/off-again thing between them. Uncle Rupert's feeling old again and wanting to relive his glory days, when he was sleeping with Uncle Ethan."
She gave him a gentle hug. "I can tell you one career you'd love. Become a spy, Junior. It'd suit you perfectly." He beamed at her. "Enough side stepping, let's get back to the issue at hand. I'm supposed to be making sure you're a well-adjusted, unangry young man who doesn't want to kill us all, and then report it to the stupid plonkers who wanted to hurt you."
"The least they wanted to do was to banish me to a boarding school."
"I can see your father's rant if they tried," she told him. "I can also see the Council's building blowing up."
"The Fire Marshal said the hot water heater blew up. That's what the explosion was and it started the fire. Apparently there was a big enough leak that when it turned on because of Precious leaving the water on, it went boom big time."
"At least it wasn't set," she said happily. "Want to head back toward the house and sit with me?"
"Anywhere you want, ma'am."
"Dawn, Junior. I'm not a ma'am yet." She grinned at him. "Go ahead up and get some cookies, I'll meet you up there." He nodded, hurrying off. She pulled out her phone and called the Council. "I'm here and I'm in the middle of talking to Junior. You're wrong about him." She hung up and walked up there.
Xandra smirked, heading back to the classroom. "She said the Council is wrong about Junior," she reported. The other kids high-fived and cheered. "Now all we have to do is go shopping." She grabbed the phone and called her boyfriend's house. "We've got to go shopping this afternoon. No, we're fine. The Fire Marshal said it was a gas leak. Sure. We'll try or we can call on the way over. Thanks, see you then. Bye." She hung up and tossed the phone to Precious. "That way you don't go into withdrawal and I have someone to tell me I look good in leather pants," she said smugly. "Oh, the Cal Tech lecture," she sighed, shaking her head.
Timmy smirked at her. "I wrote the headmistress and she's passing on our qualifications to him when she tells him about us and what happened. He'll be writing us, he sent me an email and I saw your addy in cc line."
"Coolness," Brandon agreed. "Serena?"
"I'm looking at Yale."
"Me too," Brandon admitted. "If only to get away from the heavy sense of family sometimes. Maybe England instead. Come back for my Masters."
Serena smiled at him. "I was going to go to England for my Masters." They shared a laugh. "We'll figure it out. We've got two more years." Everyone nodded and got back to their lessons while Precious cooed at her boyfriend and tried to do her homework.
Xander sat down across from his bank manager, giving her a faint smile of relief. "I thought I was going to have to wait forever with the wailing baby."
She shook her head. "Sorry about that, Mr. Harris-Osbourne. What can we do for you today?" He handed over the paper and she read the article, then gave him a pitiful look. "Is everyone all right?"
"Just fine. They said there was a gas leak and the hot water tank exploded. Fortunately we were all at my father's." She nodded, handing it back. "So now we've got to play with the money stuff. The kids have a change of clothes because we had planned on staying at the main house last night since we had an intruder. Timmy brought his computer because he can't seem to live without chatting his girlfriend most of the night." She smiled slightly at that. "And we're in need of a new house to put there. The last one was prefab and went up fairly quickly so we're hoping that we can do that again. It'll cut down on cost too. But for right now, I've got six children, four fifteen, one fourteen, and one nearly eleven, to clothe and equip. My insurance guy's first words were 'not another car' and a moan." She laughed. "So we're going to need to go over everything. All my records were of course in the house."
"I can help you with that," she said confidently. "Let me search by your name. You have regular accounts and investments?"
"A regular IRA, a Roth, the kids' trust funds, a few checking accounts, an overflow savings account, a few CD's, and some stocks and bonds somewhere."
"Well, you certainly do seem to do very well with your money," she praised, pulling up his name. "Osbourne?" He nodded. "Hyphenated?"
"Yeah, and two 'r's in Harris."
"Ah, that's what I did wrong." She retyped it and watched her screen scroll down. "You certainly do have a lot with us. If we can't arrange things today, I'll see what we can do about getting you a temporary loan until we can shift some of the investments around." He nodded and shifted closer so he could see.
Xander looked at the guy who had put up the first house as he shook his hand. "Hi."
"I bet it's been a long day for you," he said sympathetically. "What can I do for you today, Mr. Harris-Osbourne?"
"Well, first of all, the house blew up." He nodded, he had heard about that apparently. "That means we're living with dad again and he's going to go nuts the first time we have noisy sex and the kids won't much like it either since they're living next door to us."
The builder chuckled. "I can see the problem. You're looking to replace?" Xander nodded. "With any differences?"
"The kids have begged for more bathrooms. We've got six. Four fifteen, one fourteen, and one who's nearly eleven. Three of each."
"I'm surprised you didn't have a revolt on your hands."
"We were planning on seeing if we could get some renovations," he admitted. "We were going to come in next month actually when we got some anniversary presents and some investments came open." The man smiled at that. "Instead the hot water heater exploded from a gas leak," he sighed, "and here we are." He waved a hand around. "Oz wanted something like this," he said, showing off the picture Oz had found. "I don't really care as long as we have our own space. We'd like to have some work areas as well. I've got one kid who's aces in robotics and one who's a computer genius in the making, plus Oz and I do work with the Luna Foundation that we occasionally bring home. We'll need the whole house wired for the network system, and an intercom this time. I'm tired of yelling for one of the kids and them saying they can't hear me."
The builder nodded. "I've got two teenage boys. They have convenient hearing as well." He looked the picture, then pulled over his book of prefab options. "To tell you the truth, the rebuild would be easier than the remodel might have been. With the way the house you had was built, we've found it's sometimes hard to get into some of the pipes and things. Now we're working with another company and they're much easier." He tapped the picture. "We've got one that's got six bedrooms and a master suite."
"We technically have a nanny but he's in England at the moment on business." He shifted. "The kids didn't mind sharing a common area, but they all have to have their own rooms and work spaces. Plus we need a library off the master suite and a big bathroom."
"Understandable," he admitted. He looked at the flooring plans. "The best we can do is this one," he said, tapping the drawing. It had three rooms connected by a common area. "We could put one on either side of a hallway."
"Can we put them back-to-back and join the common areas?"
"We could put them on the end of the house, and join the common areas, make it the end?" He mimicked putting a mirror copy of the rooms on the other side, giving them the one common area with the hall ending in it. "This company doesn't have as many options but the other one had a lot of problems with warranty issues. I don't like to do that to my customers." Xander nodded, smiling at him. "If we did it that way, then used the first floor for lounging and work areas, then it might help." He sketched out his ideas, using the base plans for the layout. "How about this?" He pointed at the first floor. "The kitchen and laundry area, with extra storage because I know you've got to buy in bulk. The living room, then a sectioned off hallway with two rooms, one on either side of the hall. That'll leave you an extra room for a library or whatever. The second floor can have the kids on one end and your suite on the other end. You'd be separated by the stairs and the hallway so only the kids closest could hear you if you got too loud."
"It happens, dude. We understand this."
The man smiled. "Then let me show you my ideas since customizing fees aren't going to be a problem." He pulled out another book and opened it to the next-to-last section, handing it over. "How does that look?"
"Underground work areas would be stable?"
"Even during an earthquake. We can make sure of it."
Xander looked it over, then pulled out his phone and took some pictures of it, sending it to Oz. Oz called a few minutes later and Xander put the phone up to his ear. "What do you think?" He looked at the builder. "He wanted to know how much and how long?"
"How long might take a few weeks. Construction usually doesn't take that long in the factory but clearing the land might."
"We can deal with that while it's being built. There's not much left."
"That's fine. How much? For this one is about one-point-one." Xander winced. "How much is the insurance check going to be? We can start eliminating from here?"
Xander listened to Oz talk to Derek, who was checking on some things. "Sure." He hung up. "We've got the money. It was the discussion of three weeks with all our family together." The builder laughed at that. "The insurance is a few thousand less but that's not a problem, we can make up the difference. Do I pay you or does the insurance company?"
"You do realize cleanup is extra?"
"Like I said, there's not much left," he said dryly. "There's very little left. I don't know what was in the last one but it burned real fast."
"Hmm." He leaned back. "Let me check on that. It shouldn't have. It was all supposed to be fireproof material. I was thinking we'd have to remove some of the outer structure." Xander handed over a polaroid picture, making him hiss and wince. "That is not right."
"That's what I thought." He stood up. "If you find something, yell my way. As a matter of fact, yell at my insurance agent too." He handed over the guy's card. "Yell my way when you get a formal estimate or when you're ready to come out and look at the dirt."
"Sure. Thank you for letting me pull out the special books."
"They never expect a family as big as mine," he said dryly. "Especially not quads who don't share a room." He shrugged. "I'm heading for a drink, then I've got to take six kids to the mall." He waved and left.
The builder pulled out their file from before, looking it over. He called the insurance agent. "Hi, I'm Mr. Harris-Osbourne's contractor. I put up the original house. I'm looking at their paperwork and the factory's contract said it was fireproofed. Wasn't it?" He frowned. "Yeah, that's not a problem. I know they didn't set the fire or however. Because right now he's off to take six kids to the mall to reoutfit them for everything. Do you have kids? Ask someone who has more than one." The insurance agent asked his secretary and apparently she burst out in tears at the mere thought. "Exactly. Plus, they adored the house. They were going to hand it off to their father to retire in while they took over the main Luna Foundation." He grimaced. "I know, but this is odd. I had some troubles with that company, that's why I quit using them for prefabs. Yeah, that was. No, they decided to go with that option again only through a different company. I like this one much better. They're much more reliable. Sure. Anytime got my number on Caller ID?" He smiled. "Yeah, I can even give you a copy of their file from the first build. No, a pretty one. One-point-one for everything it looks like since they don't have any cleanup. No, I'm looking at a picture. It's got nothing left and it was supposed to be fireproofed. Sure, I'll be here until six and the ferry runs out there each hour until seven." He hung up and shook his head. "Those poor kids."
Xander looked at his gathered kids. "Okay. We have six grand for all of you. That is to go to necessities. Timmy, your new computer was still in the shop so it's not an issue. Xanny, yours wasn't but you can use the classroom's ones if you must." She nodded, looking grim. "This is for clothes, books, and all other necessities until we can get back into our own house in a few months. Can you do that?" They nodded so he handed out money. "Xandra, your biker jacket may have to wait."
"I was going to get that out of my fee if they paid Timmy," she reminded him. "Besides, if I have to, I can use the programming computer or one of the lab computers if I have to program." Her father nodded. "Clothes are the necessity, right?"
"Yeah, and remember how big your present closets and dressers are. We don't want to have to carry trunk-fulls down to the new house. Fortunately most of the expensive stuff was up at the main house." They nodded. "So let's do this in an orderly fashion. I've already had to deal with the bank, the insurance agent, and talk to a contractor." They nodded, starting off with the map of the mall so they'd only have to hit each section once. They each headed to their favorite stores with the ones left out hanging with their father to keep him calm. He hated shopping.
Derek watched as the children trooped in with their bags of things, smiling at the sensible amount of bags a few of them had, and looking in disbelief at Precious' bags. "Did you have a goot time?"
"No, but daddy stayed calm," Xandra reported. She carried her gear upstairs, then came back down, hopping and jumping. "The fathers said to tell you they went for a drive so they wouldn't keep us up."
Derek nodded, giving her a hug. "I understand. Is Timothy coming back down?"
"After he puts up his clothes. He even remembered something for his meeting tomorrow." Derek smiled. "Did he call to give us a place?"
"He'll be meeting him at the mall, there's a conference room there and he has to talk to a few other students. He figured they'd be more comfortable waiting there." She nodded. "Did he let Precious buy all that?"
"It's not that much. She spent less than I did, but then again I did hit the leather shop with the rest of my computer money. Can I take over lab two?" He nodded, smiling at her. "Thanks, gramps." She headed that way.
"Gramps?" he asked with a laugh. "That's what we used to call old people.
She turned and blew a kiss. "You're not old, it's the milage." She ran into Philip and turned around to hug him. "We're back. The dads took a drive to have sex in private without eavesdroppers." She went into the lab, setting it up how she wanted. She needed something to do or she'd go nuts waiting on things to happen.
Philip smiled at Derek, giving him a gentle pat on the arm. "They all back?"
"Yes, and Precious carried in the most bags as usual."
"Yeah, but I had to get workout clothes and school clothes, plus dress clothes for the upcoming formal at school, which I know the others didn't."
"Boys have it easier, they can wear suits," Philip told her. Timmy came jogging down the stairs. "Your meeting was set up."
"Good," he agreed. "I was about to get worried. When and where?" Derek handed over the slip. "Good deal. Thanks, Granddad. Xanny?"
"Lab two, working," Philip said tolerantly. He nodded, heading that way. "He's got to be a bundle of nerves by now."
"He probably is," Precious agreed. "He's not bouncing." She fluffed up her hair again. "It's got to be nice to be able to hit one store and find everything. Serena doesn't need practice clothes. Timmy goes to the goth and hacker shop. Brandon and Junior go to Sears. Xandra and I had the most to buy. Fortunately we remembered to save some for the fathers. Is the not-vamp still here?"
"He went back to Helsinki just after noon," Philip told her. "How much did you spend, Precious?"
"Close to six hundred, but I got everything I needed except notebooks because we bought those in bulk. The school gives us our textbooks. Xandra spent closer to seven but she spent some of her own money as well so they'd have some too."
"How?" Derek asked.
"Leather shop, regular clothes, shoes, and the knife shop. She drooled in the window of the computer store but Daddy Xander promised she had a system coming that was twice as good as the one she wanted in there. Timmy's is still here, right? Daddy thought it was."
"It is," Philip agreed, smiling at her. "So is Xandra's. He brought it back over to have Oz help him fix something he bent by accident."
"She'll be so stoked," she said happily, heading to tell her sister that. "Xanny?" The lab's door opened. "Grandpa Philip said that your laptop was probably still here too." She squealed and bounced over, hugging her. "Easy, kid." She patted her on the back and got free. "Good. Now let's go bother Adam since he didn't have to do the mall with us."
"I'm betting he's praying to each and every God ever in existence for that blessing," Timmy said dryly. "I'll finish configuring for you, Xanny."
"Thanks, Timmy." They headed down there together. It was their day to spar against each other. Adam was in his room sipping something stronger than tea and reading, but he did get up when they came in. "My laptop may have been saved by Daddy crunching it."
"Good," he agreed, smirking at them. "Let's go." They headed for the practice room. "Did we get everything?"
"We did but they're still in the bags," Xandra told him. "I even went a size higher since my others were getting too tight."
"Good," he agreed again.
"We didn't make you go to the mall with us," Precious smirked. "Feeling lucky?"
"I was offering libations for that fact," he told her seriously. "Let's go, girls." They grabbed their staffs to start off with, taking off their shoes but staying in their routine clothes otherwise. He sat down to watch. Xandra was still much better, but Precious was learning finally.
"Did you remember to get something for the formal?"
"I haven't been asked but I ordered it last month," she admitted. "Phil hasn't gotten off his ass yet."
"Language," Adam shouted.
"I don't think you need to go to a formal event at your age, young lady."
"Neither do I but it's at the school," she retorted. "Uncle, if you're already soused, you can go back to bed," she offered. "You're sounding pretty gone." She ducked a wild swing and got her sister in the stomach, knocking her back. "Don't aim for my ear!"
"Sorry," she said in disgust. "Some of us aren't perfect, it's a human thing."
"Sorry," they called in unison, then Xandra attacked for real, making her sister back away and end up against the wall.
Xandra leaned on her staff, looking at her sister. "Yield?" she asked in a bored tone of voice.
Precious nodded quickly. "Uncle. Behind you." Xandra ducked and hit at him, getting him in the nuts and sending him to the floor. Precious got out of the way while she laughed, she wanted to see the two masters going at it. She tossed her staff over, watching as Adam stood up and went at his prize pupil, testing her skill level. She was impressing him by the look in his eyes, his face wasn't showing anything, but she did manage to get him off his feet twice more. Then Xandra used her staff as a pole and kicked him, backflipping to land on her feet with the aid of the staff. He looked stunned. "Way to go, Xanny!" she called, doing her best cheerleader impersonation. "You show him you learned more than he thinks!"
"Brat," Adam growled. "Behave. You should be able to do this by now." He judged his opponent and came at her with a different style of attack, this one used more staff swinging and momentum. She blocked him and got behind him to hit him in the knees. He winced and turned to face her, doing it again. This time she disarmed him and then danced around. He grabbed her and she hip tossed him then brushed her hair back. "Fine. You win. You're good enough to move on now."
"No I'm not," she scoffed. "You've still got things you've been holding back on me," she reminded him. "I will suck all that knowledge out of you or I will go pout at Grandfather and Daddy." She smirked at him. "After all, I'm going to learn how to sword fight one way or another. Wouldn't you rather I learned from a master than from a movie?"
He stood up, looking down at her. "I could leave before you're done," he pointed out.
She stepped closer to him. "You do and I'll use all my skills to hunt you down and drag you back here in chains, where I'll proceed to cry and do what little I've seen you do until you get frustrated and help me." She smirked at him. "Daddy said I'm much too much like you for you to ever do something like that."
"That's what I'm worried about," he said grimly.
"I'm not. Some of us aren't happy cheerleaders, Uncle Adam." He started to move and she caught his arm, making him look at her again. "Some of us weren't meant to be happy and cheerful people all the time. Some of us were meant to be protectors of those who lead happy, cheerful, pom-pom lives. If you don't want to teach me anymore, then you don't have to. I'll start taking lessons in the city." He snorted. "Granted, there's not much I can learn over there but I'm sure there's something. I could always ask Uncle Marcus for sword fighting lessons." He scowled at that. "This is my decision. I'm perfectly happy this way. I'm also perfectly content this way. I've got a boyfriend who reads too many romance novels. I've got good grades. I've got a calling I do good in and I like, and I like my lessons with you. If you try to leave me, I'm going to have to get very upset and then what would happen to those kids I protect?" she asked quietly.
"That is one bad habit I picked up off you," she agreed dryly. He grimaced, shaking his head. "I'm not ten, nor am I still six. I'm nearly fifteen, Uncle Adam. Now I need Methos to teach me." He looked stunned. "There's a big difference and I'll need the survival skills when I'm out in the world in another four or five years. Maybe sooner while I'm in college. Am I worthy of being taught by him?"
He nodded. "You are, Alexandra. That's what scares me."
"Think about it, what would have happened if you had gotten hold of my father at my present age? Think about what he could have done with his life. Now think about my future and what I'll be facing."
He took a deep breath. "Fine. Then you'll take your lessons from Methos. All of them."
"Deal," she agreed. "As long as he teaches me how to fence as well as swing a bigger sword. I want to learn dancing." He broke a smile and she shrugged. "We've got a formal coming up, Uncle Adam. I suck at it sometimes." He nodded. "Can you teach me that too? Even if Phil doesn't get off his ass and ask me?"
"Of course." He patted her on the back. "I'll be using you to taunt Precious as well."
"Good. She'll need it. She still sucks and her getting laid isn't helping any." She grinned at his shocked look. "Jock and some guy in the woods. Not sure if it's the same or not."
"Oh, we'll be seeing about that," he promised. He walked her back over to where Precious was lounging. "Up." She stood up. "It has been pointed out to me by that little demonstration that you're not ready to take on a vampire yet, let along a higher demon. We do need to work on that." She sighed and nodded. "Each and every day after your classes, young lady." She let out a whine. "Tough. You could be called any day now and you must be tougher or your fathers will be burying you." She turned green and went to get sick.
"Hey, I think reality hit her again." She shrugged and looked up at her favorite uncle. "Wanna see what I bought? I used some of my money too."
"If you want," he agreed, following her up to the house. He looked over as they passed Derek. "She asked."
"I know she did, I turned off the listening device," he admitted. "Try not to make her too tough. We would appreciate her finding someone to be with sometime in the future if that one boy isn't going to become permanent."
"Grandfather, I'm only fifteen!" she shouted from the stairs. He laughed. "Special hearing, runs in the family."
Adam nodded. "It does." He followed her up the stairs, letting her show off her new leathers.
Adam tapped on the couple's bedroom door, nodding at Oz to let him in when he opened it in his boxers. "You put them on backwards," he noted as he sat at their table. "I have news you won't like it."
Xander flopped onto his stomach to stare at him. "Which kid?"
"Two of them. Xandra has asked for the real me to teach her everything I know. Threatened to hunt me down and cry on me while I was handcuffed and do things wrong until I got tired and had to help her." Xander grinned at that. "I know, my own fault. She asked for Methos to teach her instead of her loving uncle. She wants sword work and fencing."
"It's her body, try not to hurt her too much," Oz said with a small shrug. "The other?"
"Precious is sexually active. It was told to me that she's doing more than dating the jock at school and she has someone in the woods that she meets but we're not sure if it's the same. She can't track her."
"Whoa, Xandra can prove it?" Methos nodded. "You're sure?"
"Oh, yes. She caught her and Precious tried to blackmail her about Phil and she sharing their first kiss." He stood up. "I thought you should be informed of both of those episodes."
"Oh, we wanted to know," Oz said with a fake smile. "Thank you. We're going to kill a daughter. The other may have whatever lessons you feel are appropriate as long as her grades don't drop and she's not horribly maimed and injured."
"Remember, she's got to work on delicate circuit boards, Methos," Xander reminded him.
"I'll make sure she wears gloves then. She bought a very nice pair today." He left, going out to plan his strategy for training her. If she were an immortal he'd be more than happy to have her as a student. He heard a laugh and glared at his ceiling. "Go away, Richie. I'm tired of you."
"Sure, old guy. Remember to grow some patience. She's going to have boys crawling all over her soon." The voice faded out.
Methos growled and picked up a glass to throw. "I did not need that mental image!"
Up at the house, Oz had put his boxers on the right way along with a bathrobe and had headed down to Alex's room. He tapped gently, walking in at her grunt. "Alex, we've got a massive girl problem."
Xander walked in. "Precious is screwing her boyfriend in the bathroom in the gym at school." Alex sat up and stared in open-mouthed shock. "That and Xanny said she's seen her in the woods with something but she can't track her."
"There's some sort of incubus out there we think," she noted.
"Well, he's not sucking her energy," Oz said dryly. "She's more energetic than ever."
Alex stood up. "Let me get a robe and then we'll go face down your daughter together, boys." They smiled at her. "Is she on the pill?"
"By tomorrow afternoon she will be," Oz assured her. She had went off the shot a few weeks ago because it was making her cranky as it wore out. "Even if I have to drag her down there in chains."
Alex smirked. "Go get up Derek. He needs to know this too."
"Sure." Xander walked up the hall and opened the master room's door, then ran in and took a flying jump on the bed, landing straddled on top of his father's body. "Get up, daddy."
"Xander, I'll kill you," Philip mumbled.
"Precious is having more sex than I do."
Derek flipped on the light. "Excuse me?" He and Philip stared at their son. Nick was still snoring. Philip gave him a shove and he fell onto the floor.
"Huh? What's wrong?" Nick asked, yawning and scratching his head. "It's not morning yet."
"Precious is having more sex than I am," Xander told them. Philip grabbed him and shoved him so Derek could sit up without having the boy in his lap. "Sorry. She's doing her jock boyfriend, the one we haven't met and Xanny saw her in the woods with someone she couldn't track. Alex thinks there's an incubus out there but Oz pointed out she's not been tired."
Nick hopped up. "That irresponsible brat!" he yelled. "That should be special not for every Tom, Dick, and Harry!"
"That's okay because she went off her birth control shot almost a month ago because of the side effects," he said in a sing-song voice.
"I'll kill the brat myself," Philip muttered. Derek nodded. "Who else knows?"
"Adam, us, Alex, Xanny, and Oz. Maybe the boys but Xandra said she saw her in the gym bathroom."
"I'll bury her in the garden," Philip said as he climbed out of bed and grabbed his robe. Nick stopped him from stomping up there and giving a sermon worthy of a Southern Baptist Minister with a Church full of sinners. "Let go."
"We'll handle this together," Nick said calmly. "You yelling at her won't get the necessary response. We can all yell at her and incorporate yours into ours."
"I believe it's time she learned the horrors of a teething infant," Derek said snidely.
"We already did that," Xander offered. "It apparently didn't have enough of an effect."
Oz pushed open the door. "We need someone to get her up. Anyone that calm?"
"I am," Nick said. "I'm still half asleep. Give me a few minutes and some coffee."
"Alex headed down to make some. She went to ask Adam if he wanted in on the yelling as well." He grinned and backed out of the doorway. "We're heading down to the 'telling bad news' sitting room."
Derek smirked. "Perfect place. The door locks and there's no other exits. Nick, retrieve the granddaughter and meet us down there. Philip, perhaps you should put on some real clothes?" Philip looked down at his robe and boxers, then nodded, grabbing his clothes form earlier. Xander cackled as he headed down there with Oz. Derek gave his men a kiss before leaving to join them, making sure the room was perfect for such a confrontation. Her chair was placed all by itself facing their seats. Alex brought in the carafe of coffee and a tray of cups, serving them all. Then they arranged themselves. Xander and Oz curled together on an extra-wide chair. Derek and Philip on a couch with space for Nick. Alex in her own chair and her feet up. Nick brought Precious in. Derek pointed at the chair. "Sit, Precious. Nick, you as well."
Nick locked the door and took the empty spot. "Sure, Derek."
Everyone turned to look at her. "What?" she asked timidly. They all gave her this mean smile and she swallowed. Her uncle Philip opened his mouth to start off and she flinched. Not him, oh, damn this was bad!
Xandra walked into her brother Timmy's room without knocking and waved at the person he was video chatting with. "We may be missing a sister in the morning," she told her brother.
"Why? Which one?" He waved at his girlfriend then turned to look at her. "Which one did what bad thing?"
"I was just woken up by Uncle Philip *screaming* at Precious about her sex issues."
"She has sex issues?"
"She's bonking at least one, if not two, men."
"Oh, really?" he asked smugly. "Our pure, innocent little sister and the jock?"
"I caught her doing that and she tried to blackmail me so I left it in Uncle Adam's hands. I've also caught her trekking into the woods and haven't been able to track her. Uncle Philip must be red faced by now. It's been going for at least a half hour and he didn't sound like he was pausing for breath. I didn't even catch the first few words of it either."
"Oh, that is so good," he said dryly. "You're so good." He hugged her. "Go back to bed, I'll tell Brandon." She nodded and skipped off. He grinned at his girlfriend. "You owe me five bucks."
"I'll paypal it," she said happily. "I knew I would if we were at the same school." He blushed and nodded, making her giggle. "You naughty creature, Timmy. Did you finish that second one?" He nodded, sending the file to her. "I'll try it and see if I like it. We could always use some amusement of a naughty nature at this school." She wiggled her fingers. "I'd better go before I get caught again. I can hear the sister. Lovies."
She hung up and he relaxed, hands behind his head, feet crossed on the end of his bed for a few minutes, then he got up and went to Brandon's room, tapping on the door. "Hey." His brother threw a pillow at him so he handed it back and crawled in next to him, whispering the juicy gossip on his ear.
"Uncle Derek just mentioned an incubus," Brandon moaned, opening one eye to look at him. "Go away."
"Sure, Bran. Give me the full details tomorrow." His brother nodded patiently so he left.
The next morning, Xander picked up Derek's desk phone and dialed a number from his personal phone book. "May I please speak to Sister Ingrid? Yes, it's a bit of a family emergency. I'm her nephew Xander." He waited while the Reverend Mother went to get her. "Hi, Aunt Ingrid, it's Xander. We're having a problem with one of the girls and we could use some calm people. No, she's happy that she's sleeping with an incubus and taking the training to teach her human boyfriend. We were wondering if you knew of any good schools. No, the emergency is that your brother had a good blood pressure spike again last night when she said that and he's under observation in the ICU. Sure, I can come up and get you, that's not an issue. I've got to drop Timmy at the mall for a meeting with a game representative. No, he thinks he's sold one," he admitted happily. "Yeah, it's hard, but it's fun to play, even when you die at the end. When can I pick you up? Yeah, I've got his map here in front of me. Sure. That'll make him early but I don't think he'll mind having lunch at the mall and browsing the computer store too much. No, he should be fine, but this is a just in case moment. Plus, again, Philip couldn't make her see sense. After an hour *rant* Philip couldn't make her see that she was being a brat and that was after the two hour rant about her having sex at her age with two different people and one of them in school." He laughed. "Thanks. Sure, see you in a few hours. Love you too. Laters." He hung up and stood up, then the teleprompter beeped and came on. "Hey. Derek's under observation in the hospital and I'm on my way out to get his sister. Can it wait five or six hours?"
The man on the other side nodded. "It can. Or I can ask quickly. Would you mind if another psychologist evaluated him? I trust Dawn, but I want a male as well as a female opinion. One who can't go 'oh, he's like my son'."
Xander shrugged. "As long as they don't hurt him. 'Cause you know if they do, your building's going to go up faster than our house did from the gas leak."
"I heard. I'm sorry about that. Is everyone all right?" He nodded. "Good. That would be fine?"
"Sure. As long as they don't hurt him."
"I'm sure they won't and you can listen from a distance if it makes you feel better." Xander nodded. "What happened to Derek and where is Oz?"
"Oz is helping the other kids at the moment and Precious was found to be sleeping with an incubus then taking his teachings to teach her boyfriend. And you thought my youngest was the problem," he said bitterly, turning it off. He headed out with his keys to gather his son and his wallet. "Timmy!" Oz handed over his wallet with a kiss. "Thanks. Tell Junior the council is sending another therapist."
"Can we listen?"
"That's fine. You warned them?"
"Very strongly. I promised their building was going to go up faster than our house did if they hurt our son ever again." Timmy came down the stairs neatly dressed, hair mostly brushed , and his shoes shined. "Good job. I'll give you some cash for lunch."
"I need these pants hemmed anyway," Timmy admitted, patting his pocket to make sure he had the CDs on him. His fathers looked at him so he blushed. "The game I wrote for my girlfriend and the hints I promised, plus the full code of the game."
"They might not want a game for girlfriends," Xander joked, "but we'll see." He led him out to the car and handed him his wallet. "Take out twenty." His son took out a twenty and stuffed it into his pocket, then they sped off. The pass had to be retrieved from under the seat but it was found before they got onto the ferry.
Timmy walked into his meeting and smiled at the man he had met once before, shaking his hand. "Sorry about the threads, my dads said I should dress up."
"It's the usual standard," he agreed with a smile. "You look quite nice." He sat down across from the boy. "It took us the longest time to get past everything. Our head gamers were impressed. They said it'd be a cult game mostly."
"Which I can fully accept. It's a challenge and I'm like that too."
"I understand. Which is why we can't offer you as much as the last Mario game got but I think we can work out something reasonable. How does this look?" He pushed over a contract and Timmy's eyes bugged, making him smile. "It's not that much really."
"Bet me, dude. My family has money like this. Man, Xanny's gonna be happy. I promised her ten percent for helping me so much." He read the thing carefully. "No give you my second one first clause?"
"No, we won't do that, but if you do we wouldn't mind." Timmy slid the dual case over. "What's this?"
"The full code and text file of hints, I didn't have time to turn it into a full manual, and a game I developed for my girlfriend," he admitted with a blush. "She's at a boarding school."
"Ah." He nodded. "There is a market for things like that as well. Does that suit you?"
"Hell yeah. Pen?" The man handed one over and he signed on the place for his name, then shook the man's hand. "I love you guys. I can get more bowling shirts now." The businessman laughed as he handed over an envelope. "Thank you. I'm still at the same number. I love you guys." He hugged him across the table. "Let me know about the second one." He jogged out, heading to the bank in the mall. It would do for the day, and his parents had an account with them. He walked up to the secretary. "Hi. I just got a massive check for a video game I made and I need to start an account."
"Do you have a parent with you?"
"No, but I'm pretty sure one of my parents has one here and one of my fathers is at home." She gave him a funny look. "Timmy Harris-Osbourne," he said, holding out a hand with a bright and winning smile. She shook it and smiled back. "Mostly I need to deposit it and get about twelve percent out. Ten percent is going to my sister for her work and I need some new clothes."
"I saw that your family home had blown up."
"Fortunately not the main house. Granddad has a lot of artwork up there." She nodded, pulling out the forms. He handed over his wallet. "That's all I've got."
"That's fine, young man. Do you not have an account for allowances?"
"Yes, but I want to keep that separate. I want to save most of this. Our butler suggested I should use it to get a killer first spring break in college." He handed over the envelope. She looked inside, then at him, eyes wide. "Exactly. That's why I came *here* instead of to the branch my fathers usually use." She nodded and switched out forms, starting another one. "Better interest?"
"Quite and a minimum balance but I don't think you should have a problem with it, plus it's the standard place to start investing. You said you want about twelve percent?"
"Ten percent needs to go to my sister Xanny." He pulled out his phone and called the house. "It's a done deal, can Xanny come play with me at the mall? Yeah, I'm opening an account so I don't have to lose the check somewhere. Thanks, dad." He hung up. "He'll get her on the next ferry." She smiled and continued to work on the form for him. "Should I tell him to bring anything else?"
"Not if they have an account here. I can bypass that for this amount of money. What sort of game was it?"
"A maze sorta thing with monsters and challenges. There's a lot of frustration on certain levels, but at the end almost no one beats the last demon."
"Wow. My boy might like that. When is it coming out?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "They've already tested it in their labs so I gave them a copy of the code today and a hints manual. It might have to be packaged together. If he does get it, tell him to pick up every little thing along the way. I put things three and four levels before you need them."
"I'll do that," she agreed. "Anything else?" The boy blushed. "At your age?"
"My girlfriend's in a boarding school about two hours away," he said miserably. "I wrote one to amuse her." She laughed and shook her head, continuing on with the form. "Would twelve be easier or fifteen?"
"Either is fine for us, that's what calculators are for," she assured him. "Are you sure you want to walk around with that much money?"
"Xanny's going to the leather store," he told her smugly. "She's been wanting to go again and she might put it into an account here too." She smiled at him again and handed it over, letting him read it over. "I earn how much interest? My savings account only gets two or three percent."
"This one will earn you six-point-seven at the moment," she said smugly. "One of the best deals in town and with the lowest minimum balance."
"Wow. I made a good choice." He signed his name and filled in his social security number for her. "Our school uses it for our ID number," he said with a small shrug.
"My college did that too." She had him sign the check then took it to a cashier, who blanched. "He's depositing all but twelve percent of it."
"Oh, good, I didn't have that much in my drawer." She calculated it and looked at him. "Only twelve?"
"Ten goes to my sister for helping me," he called back.
"Oh. Lucky girl. She need a girlfriend? I've got a daughter your age."
"She's got a boyfriend but I'm not sure about that actually," he admitted with a grin. "Take some time, she's got to come in on the ferry."
"You can wait in the back room until she gets here. We don't want you to be mugged," the helpful woman told him. "Where are your parents?"
"One dad went to get an Aunt from her convent because Grandad had a sudden blood pressure spike over one of us quad sleeping around. The other may be coming with Xanny but he hates the mall."
"So do we, kid," the teller assured him. She counted out the money three times to make sure she had it right, putting ten percent into an envelope for the kid, then handing it over. "There you go. Where are you heading?"
"To buy my girlfriend a prezzie," he said happily. "She's in boarding school."
"You poor thing. I'm sure she'll adore it." She smiled at the next customer. "Next please?" The old man stepped up. "He just sold a video game."
"Another one of those on the market? Don't they stop?"
"Not while kids buy them," the teller said happily. She played them too.
When Xandra got there, her squeal echoed up and down their hallway. Oz had to wiggle a finger in his ear. "Loud, daughter," he complained.
"Ten percent is enough to buy me a motorcycle!" she said, hugging Timmy then him. "Please, daddy!"
"Hell no. Not until you're old enough to do it legally." She rolled her eyes. "I could make it the same age as going to Carnival in Rio. When you're old enough to buy pot and liquor."
"Daddy, pot may never be legal," she sighed.
"Exactly," he agreed smugly. "Set up an account, daughter." She sat down to set up her account and Oz hugged his son. "I'm damn proud."
"Thanks, dad. I only took out two percent and I need to buy Val a prezzie or six."
"That's fine, son. What was the other game?"
"Um, something I wrote to amuse her," he admitted with a blush.
"Ah, one of those. Well, there's a market for those too," he agreed. He took both kids' wallets and walked them out to whichever stores they wanted. They deserved it for doing this.
Ingrid walked into her brother's hospital room and sighed. "Derek," she said bitterly. "Why do you do this to yourself?" He was tied down to the bed. "Did you argue with a nurse?"
"Oh, yeah," Nick said from his spot next to him. "A few times. He insisted he was healthier than needing the ICU."
"Obviously he's not," she said grimly. She kissed him on the forehead. "Where is this daughter?"
"Locked in a room at the house."
"Good. Perhaps a good exorcism?"
"We thought about that, but he's not taking energy from her. She's more energetic now."
"Interesting. Are we sure she's not turning?"
"That we're not sure of," Nick admitted. "Philip went to confession."
She laughed. "I'm sure he had to confess having many harmful thoughts toward this child. Have you tried paddling? I know it's a last resort but I think this calls for it."
"Last year when she was sneaking out to meet some kid in the woods," Xander said from the doorway. "Timmy sold it for just over a mil."
"Wow," Nick agreed. "I bet his girlfriend's getting some killer presents this year for the holidays."
"Or sooner," Xander agreed dryly. "Now that you've seen him, can I take you home now, Ingrid, or did you want to come back with Nick and Philip? Oz has the other two kids."
"I'll go home now and work on this child with you," she said, giving her brother another kiss on the forehead. "Try to keep him calm, Nick." She followed Xander out. "My Reverend Mother was not happy that this happened now."
"Sorry about that. We only found out last night."
"Emergencies never schedule themselves," she reminded him. She took his arm as they walked outside to help her across the parking lot. "Should we stop to pick up your mate and children?"
"Oz has them. They'll be fine," he assured her. "The new house plans should show up today."
"Congratulations, young one." She kissed him on the cheek. "I'm happy that tragedy has worked out so well for you."
"We wanted to remodel, just not that way," he told her as he popped open his car doors and started the engine, just in case another surprise was waiting on them. "Never can be too careful. We've had four cars blow up too." He helped her into the low seat then walked around to get in so she could arrange her habit. Being a nun must be hard, you had to wear so many clothes and they never looked comfortable. "Buckle up, it's the law and the city guys get nasty about that."
"Of course." She buckled up and rolled down her window a few inches. "There." He grinned and sped out of the parking lot, heading for the ferry.