Whoa! Time Out!
Xandra walked into the main house in her new favorite outfit, smiling at her aunt as she ran into her. "Auntie Ingrid!" she squealed, giving her a hug. "How are you!"
"I'm fine, dear." She patted her on the back and mercifully the girl let her go. She looked the girl over. "Does your father let you wear that?"
"As long as her grades stay up, we don't care as long as she's not naked or nearly naked," Oz said as he walked in with Timmy. "Food!" Bennet came out of the back, looking confused. "That was the deal, if he sold the game for good money they he got to buy dinner."
Bennet smiled. "Congratulations, Timmy. How much?"
"A little over a million," he said happily. Ingrid's eyes went wide. "I've already paid my fabulous helper her ten percent commission and sent my girlfriend a very pretty belated birthday necklace." He handed over the bags of food to the butler. "I hope you can store whatever you were making."
"In truth I was working on dessert, I hadn't done more than decide that we should have beef tonight. How should I do Precious' meal?"
"Shove a tray of gruel into her room?" Xandra suggested. Bennet and Ingrid gave her a funny look. "I'm the one who found her in the gym and in the woods."
"Ah," Bennet said wisely, though he still wasn't sure what the girl had done. Oz coughed and mouthed 'sex' and his eyes went wide as well. "Gruel would be most appropriate then," he agreed. "Should I send an ice pack for her rearend as well?"
"It nearly came to it," Oz admitted. "Philip ranted for three hours. I've heard of Southern ministers who do that, but I've never been exposed to one."
"I would have beaten her," Bennet told him.
"Oh, I'm still thinking about it," Oz admitted. "Since boarding school isn't the best option with her problems."
"You mean she might turn to girls?" Serena joked as she came down the stairs.
"No, the special Buffyness quality she could be getting any day now," Oz said dryly.
"Oh, that," Ingrid sighed. "There are places that would still take her and send her back if something like that were to occur. Where is her Watcher?"
"Jon got called back to England because the new Council of Watchers needed him to smooth out a few other girls who were now orphans. We're not sure if he's coming back yet," Oz told her. "That leaves us with Rupert."
"Ah." Ingrid nodded. "May I speak with her?"
"If you think it'll help," Oz offered. "We're waiting on the beating issue at the moment, until we can figure out if this is stupidity and arrogance or if she's being turned by the thing."
"I can wait on that as well," she promised, heading up to the girl's room. This made the second time she had to make this trip and this time the girl would listen to her or else. She turned and went back down the stairs. "Perhaps a word to her mother?"
"Oh, let me," Xanny chuckled, grabbing a phone and dialing a number that had been given to all the kids a few months back. "Mommy?" she asked. "Hi, Mommy. New student? No, this is important. No, more like one of your daughters has turned into a whore for demons." She pulled the phone away from her ear. "Yeah, that one, mom. No, a jock and an incubus, we think."
"We're pretty sure actually," Oz admitted.
"Okay, Daddy Oz said he's pretty sure the second one is an incubus." She handed the phone over. "Mom wants to come kick her ass."
"Yeah, Willow?" he sighed. "We tried. Derek's in the hospital and Philip ranted for three hours last night about this. Yes, that Philip. Yes, ranted," he said, rolling his eyes. "Like Southern Minister ranted. Yeah, three hours worth, without repeating, I was damn impressed. Only an hour of it after she announced that she was taking the incubus' teachings and training her boyfriend with them, but then again we had to take Derek to the hospital around that time so he had to give up. You'll be in town when?" he asked, looking at his watch. "Coolness. No, she's locked in a room. Our house burned. Thanks. No, no one was hurt. Fortunately we had an intruder on the grounds and we were all up here. No, the pilot on the hot water tank was out and it had a leak, so when it tried to relight itself with the new auto-switch we had put in, it went kaboom and the house took about as long as a trailer to go up. Yeah, we're looking into that. When and where?" She made him smirk. "Sure, you can come onto the grounds tonight but you can't come into the house. Derek's sister Ingrid is here and we don't want to upset her. No, we're holding off beating until we know if she's doing this of her own free will or not. Exactly. Yeah, I'll call and warn the security guys. Thanks, Wills." He hung up and called Xander's phone, hearing it upstairs, where his mate was obviously hiding. "We're back, Willow will be here tonight to talk to our daughter. Yeah, a good one. Timmy brought home dinner and Xandra bought some leather pants that make her look much older than she actually is." He looked at his daughter and sighed. "It's clear puberty was good to her. Thanks, love you too." He hung up and looked outside, then at Xandra. "Jog down to the gate and warn the guards. Have them start doing a watch for her to sneak out."
"Yes, daddy." She let Timmy have her bags and jogged out.
Timmy waved his full hands. "I'm heading upstairs to dump all this." He blew a kiss at his aunt. "I'd hug you but the leather might contaminate you," he said with a grin. He headed up the stairs.
"He's obviously enjoying this," Ingrid said happily.
"He should. He did a great job on his game. It's hard, it's got a plotline, and it's fun to play even when you die over and over again." She chuckled and hugged him. "Thanks for coming, Ingrid. We need you even if she straightens her out."
"I realize that, Oz. I'm surprised Philip could rant that long as well." He laughed, shaking his head. "Are you sure it's wise to encourage that one as well?"
"Timmy? He's fifteen and they were tasteful gifts this time, not like his bouquet to celebrate her starting her cycle. She's in a boarding school a few hours away so they're never in physical contact, just chatting contact each and every day."
"I meant Xandra."
"Xandra is Xandra. She's a miniature Xander in some ways and a miniature Adam in others. She's very well trained. She's got skills that even make Nick overly happy. If she had graduated we would be offering her a job right here and right now. Fortunately she wants to go to college." Ingrid smiled at that. "She does have her first boyfriend but he's looking for a one true mate thing and she's taking it cautiously. I'll expect her to come talk to us about sex whenever she's ready and to kick his ass if he gets pushy, because she can and will. Besides, it's not like she's the bad one. She's tough, strong, and smart, and if leather pants and jackets are her sense of style at least they're covering and are hard for boys to get into." Ingrid laughed at that. "Trust me, you don't have to worry about Xanny. Have you been hogging Brandon?"
"I have, and I suggest he take another look at the Buddhist and similar faiths. Perhaps the Shaolin faith might suit him best, but definitely something with a mystical side that requires meditation and thought."
"We hadn't thought of that one but we have let him talk with some Buddhists recently. It was his second trip down there," Oz admitted, taking her to walk her upstairs into the library. "Let's look that one up and give him a description so he has something to base the decision on."
She smiled. "You're a very good father, Oz, don't let this one problem child get you down."
"I'm trying really hard," Oz admitted. "Xander is too. Even though she frustrates us to tears some days." She gave his arm a pat. "It's too bad you're not a mother, Ingrid, you'd make one killer one."
"I might have, but God had other ideas," she said lightly, smiling at him. Xander grinned at her. "You heard?"
"Of course. I pulled down the dictionary of faiths and it looks like something he'd like," he admitted, showing it to them.
Xandra tapped on the guardhouse door before walking in. "Hey, guys." They all glared at her. She raised an eyebrow. "Fine, be pissed at me for protecting my family. I don't care, I do so at all times and at all costs. Other than that, we've got a small issue going on. Willow's popping around tonight to beat the shit out of Precious."
"Why?" one of the guards asked.
"Two boyfriends that she's sleeping with."
"Oh, shit," another said, shaking his head. "We'll stay on the paths so she doesn't fry one of us by accident when she calls something to eat the girl."
"I'm not sure Mom's going to be that coherent," she admitted dryly.
"If it were mine, she'd have been in a convent school by now," another guard noted. "During the last bout of problems."
"We thought about that, but she'd probably just molest the other girls," she quipped, waving a hand around. "You guys like this? I'm still not really sure about this shirt with these pants but the saleboy said I looked good."
"You look like someone's biker bitch, Xandra," the head guard said, frowning at her. "Were you going for that?"
"Well, I do want to learn how to ride, but leather just seems natural for me to wear. Sorta like Bran's usual sweater thing." She shrugged. "It's what pulls me to it each and every time."
"Then your daddies had better watch you closer," he said, staring at her to let her know they'd be watching as well. She blushed. "Good."
"Not ready for that yet, guys, and I'm going to be having the *long* talk with the fathers and a doctor first. Really. Oh, before I forget again, do any of you ride? Daddy Xander said he can only hang on and I wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle." The guards laughed and two raised their hands. "That's so cool! Thanks, guys. I'll beg and plead for daddy to bribe you when I'm old enough next year." She waved. "Have fun and be safe. Timmy brought home take out so Bennet may have some extra nibbles up there." She turned and left, heading back up to the house.
One of the guards look at the head one. "At least you didn't tell her that she looked like a Master Vampire. I was about to."
"I was being polite, but she'd make one scary vampire. She'd be the one the Legacy would lose against." The guys nodded and they got back to the briefing as soon as he pulled up Willow's file. "All right, this is their mother. She was a witch for the Light, now she's a chaos sorcerer in her own right."
"Where Junior gets his powers from?"
"No, that's the sperm donor," the guard told him. "That's overheard by the way." They all nodded, making notes about her file.
Willow walked up to the gate and smiled at the guard. "I'm here to kill my daughter." He looked stunned and she coughed. "Late for briefing?"
He nodded as he picked up the phone to call his boss. "Sir, I have someone here who said she's here to kill her daughter. Red hair nearly to her waist, trim body, white, sounds kinda British." He nodded as he hung up. "Miss Rosenburg, go right to the arbor in the garden, ma'am, and it's supposed to rain."
"Thank you," she said happily. "I'm the mother of Xan's kids."
"He said so, ma'am. Do you remember the way?"
"Sure do." She waved and grinned as she walked past him, heading to set up a place where she could chew her daughter a new one. She found the arbor easily and it had a nice bench in it. She put up a small deflector shield around it to keep down the outgoing noise and to keep any rain off them, but it still let through the breezes on two sides, then she sat down to wait. She looked at the burnt house, pulling over a piece of wood to look at it. "Creosote?" she muttered, testing it again by sniffing it. "That's not right." She pulled a small vial out of her purse and stuffed a chunk into it, then tossed the wood away and put the vial away.
Precious walked out to the garden, heading for the arbor as ordered, and paused. "Oh, shit, I'm in such trouble," she muttered.
Willow looked at her. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't send you to Hell to be their whore? Since you like it so much and all?" Her daughter swallowed and took a step back. "You'll get in here now, Precious, or I'm going to beat your ass bloody!" She hurried in there, her mother would do that. "What the hell were you thinking! You arrogant, stupid, brainless, brat! You're endangering your own health, your well-being, your future offspring, and for what? A roll with an incubus? There's better out there!"
In the house, Oz cringed, shaking his head. "How long do we let that go on?"
"Until Willow runs out of steam. I'm not interrupting that rant," Xander said calmly. "The last time she got that mad was when we split for the eight months."
"I remember," Oz said grimly. He felt really sorry for his little girl but she had brought that on herself and he wasn't brave enough to break that screaming up either.
"How dare you ruin everything your fathers have tried to give you for a roll on the ground with a demon!"
Both fathers winced, remembering that tone of voice very well. Oz moved closer to Xander, hugging him gently so he wouldn't have flashbacks later.
"I should send you to hell so you can service them all if all you wanted was some fun!"
Later that night, Xandra took a turn around the garden, hoping to run into her mother for a small chat. She didn't remember most of the bad things and they were nice enough to each other, but instead she found her sister sobbing in the arbor alone, her pants around her ankles, her ass bruised and bleeding in one spot where it looked like a ring had cut her. "Precious?" she asked quietly. Her sister stopped sniffling to look up at her, standing up with a hiss to pull her pants up. "Calm down, let me help you inside and into a bath." She nodded, leaning on her sister's shoulder as she hobbled inside. "Are you gonna be okay?"
"Mommy lost her temper like in the old days," she whimpered. Her fathers met them in the kitchen. "You didn't stop her!"
"All I heard was screaming at you," Oz admitted. Xandra shook her head. "Bad?"
"Yeah. You might want to call Uncle Marcus, dad. She's bruised." Xander shuddered.
"What? Like it happened to you?" she spat.
"Your mother used to abuse him all the time, Precious, that's why we broke up," Oz told her. "Xan, carry her upstairs, I'll call Marcus to see if he can come out. If not, we'll get Adam up here." He tipped Precious' chin up. "You deserved to be spanked, but not like that," he said quietly. "Do you understand the difference?" She nodded and started crying again. "Good. Now head upstairs with your father." He kept Xandra from helping as Xander picked their daughter up and carried her up the stairs. "How bad?"
"Bruised, bright red in other spots, one cut from mom's ring. It looked like mom got her good for over an hour, daddy."
He nodded. "Thank you. Don't tell your Aunt Ingrid, I'll do it in the morning, but do go tell your Uncle Philip." She nodded heading into the Control room to find him - he was usually checking his email about now. He picked up the phone and dialed Marcus' home number. "Hey, doctor stud," he said in greeting since Marcus had answered the phone that way. "You got a date or are you waiting for a mash call? No, serious. Willow went off on Precious. Like she used to do on Xander. No, she was sleeping with an incubus and then using it to train her boyfriend. No, not draining her. We only heard what Willow wanted us to hear so neither of us listening at the window above where they were sitting heard more than the yelling. Bruised, a small cut from a ring Xanny thinks. No, she went looking for her before we could stop her. Precious said Willow lost it like she used to."
He looked outside. "The thought to beat her had occurred to all of us this time," he sighed, "just not that badly. From the look on Xandra's face, Willow did a good number on her. Want me to get Adam to look and call you for a second opinion? Thanks, Marcus. No, a bath. Yeah, Xander's carrying her and I expect he'll have some nightmares for the next few nights. Thanks, man." He hung up and called Adam's house, he lived above the classrooms now. "Adam, we need you up at the house with your little med kit. No, Willow lost it like she used to on Xander. Bruised behind." He hung up and headed up to check on his daughter. He found her crying on her father's lap, without having her rear touching him, so he hugged her from the other side. "I'm sorry she hurt you like that, Precious," he whispered. She pushed him away. "Hey!"
"You're not sorry she hit me?"
"Precious, honey, think about this," Xander said quietly. "Your aunt Ingrid wanted to paddle you this time too." She looked stunned. "None of us wanted it to be this bad, but you're old enough to hear the truth. You fucked up badly," he said slowly and clearly. "There are rules that say that you consorted with demons and now you're to be just as banished as Junior is supposed to be."
"That's not to mention you don't know what the incubus has been sleeping with other than you," Oz pointed out. "Or that it could have killed you. Or anything like that."
"What you did was damn dumb, daughter," Xander continued. "If you'd use any part of your brain, you'd be able to see that."
"Mom rendered me unable to do that anymore anyway," she said bitterly. "So it won't matter."
"Then she'll be taking it off tomorrow," Oz assured her firmly. "That, like the bruising and the cut, are too much. She should have stopped with the normal level of spanking, not gone on to destroy the tissues on your ass or to magic you. It's important that you understand the difference." She sighed and nodded, looking down at her lap.
Xander hugged her. "The punishment was harsher than the crime warranted, but there was still a crime needing punishment," he offered. "We don't want to lose you and we certainly don't want to have to stop you some day if you're turned. We want you to be a happy, healthy, well-adjusted child. We'd like it a lot if that had happened when you were ten, but we managed to screw up with you somewhere. I have no idea what we did wrong, but we're going to have to try harder. That means you're going to be watched harder, because we realize you're not able to make decisions for yourself yet." She glared at him. "If you were, you wouldn't have been sleeping with an incubus."
"I didn't know he was one until our second time," she said quietly, looking down again. "I felt and saw him appear."
"Then you should have run away and told us," Oz told her.
"Told you I was having sex? Yeah, right, dad," she said bitterly. "And end up in a non- magical chastity belt?"
Xander tipped her chin up. "If you had told us then, we might not have yelled at you for more than having sex in the woods with someone you didn't know." She blushed and looked down again. "Or did you?"
"I met him in town, at the mall, at that new teen club place."
"Don't worry, you won't be going there again until after your next birthday," Oz assured her. "And with a chaperone that's not one of your siblings after that." She gaped at him. "Tough. As your other father pointed out, you've shown you don't have sense. Therefore we're going to treat you like you don't have sense. Now, Adam's on his way up to look at you. Is the water ready?" They all looked at the tub, then shrugged and Oz checked the water for them while Xander helped her get undressed. "Tomorrow, you're scheduled to see Marcus in the office," Oz told her.
"Because I need to make sure that you didn't pick up anything off skanky incubus," he said firmly. "We're not sure they can't carry sexual diseases, daughter." She turned green and hurried to the sink to get sick into it. "See, sense, showing some now. That's a good thing. Then, after he puts you back on birth control and you're fully checked over, you're going to come back here and spend probably the next four days in the tub." She frowned at him. "Look in the mirror, Precious. She damaged you and for that she's going to pay."
She finished stripping and turned to look at herself in the mirror, bursting out into fresh tears.
"Shh, baby," Xander soothed, pulling her closer. "She got me too. That's why we made her leave. That's why we took Junior from her, so you kids couldn't be abused by her too. I wish we had heard."
"She had magic up," she sobbed, clinging to his chest.
Adam tapped on the door and walked inside, stopping to stare at her. "Willow?" he asked Oz. Oz nodded quickly. "Bitch!"
"And then some," Xander said bitterly. "I can honestly say she never got me this bad," he admitted. "Mine was a lot of hitting and bruises but nothing like this."
"Mommy lost it," Precious said, wiping off her cheeks. "Her face lost all traces of any feeling and she was on automatic." She gulped some air. "I'm so sorry, daddies."
"We know. I'm sorry that she did that to you," Oz assured her, hugging her as well. "Let me turn off the water and he can check you on your bed." She nodded, letting her uncle help her out there. Oz looked at Xander. "Marcus is going to call in whatever we need for her tonight and a sleeping pill for you for tonight if you need it," he said quietly. Xander nodded, hugging him. "Shh, we'll find her and kill her for this."
"Yeah, I will," Xander agreed, glaring at the other room. "I could have agreed to a spanking, but not that one." He walked out, heading down to the gym to pound on the heavy bag. That's where Ingrid found him an hour later. "Problems?" he asked between hits.
"Nick sent me down to stop you," she said, catching his fist. She turned his head to make him look at her. "What happened?"
"Willow lost it. We could have agreed to a spanking, even a good one, but her mother beat her bloody." Ingrid went pale. "Then she put her in a magical chastity belt." He got free. "We broke up with Willow because she was a peach for trying to hit me too. I came out with some massive bruises some days." He shrugged. "At one point in time, I wanted to be shot instead of dealing with her. Excuse me, I've got to put out a call to find Willow and capture the mother of my children so she has to remove that spell and so someone kicks her ass for me. I won't stop." He walked out, leaving her in there, heading to the Control Room. Once he was inside, he called his second-in-command. "Kana," he said quietly. The man's face appeared on the main screen since he was alone. "I've got a personal issue and I can't deal with it."
"What's happened? Something else with your son? We have a few excellent schools over here and I would watch over him for you, Xander, you know that."
He smiled. "No, nothing like that, Kana. He's doing fine. He's got excellent control at this moment. Puberty is coming, but we'll deal with it. He's got elemental powers like his father." Kana smirked at him. "I know, you thought he might. Anyway," he sighed. "We had a problem with Precious, again."
"Underaged sex with multiple partners and not even Willow's excuse of alcohol."
"Ah." He nodded. "All right. I'm alone in the office, you can say anything."
"One of them was an incubus. She was taking his training and using it to train her human toy." Kana shuddered. "Exactly, so we thought about beating her ass for it after we knew if she wanted it for real or if he was pushing her."
"Perfectly reasonable. I would have done the same."
"Yeah, well, Derek's sister Ingrid suggested we call Willow to have her talk to her. Willow did what she used to do to me."
"She beat the girl?"
"She beat her bloody. She's got bruises on her ass so bad we're going to have to get medicine for it," he admitted quietly. "She's left. She's also magically restrained her daughter's attention span." Kana spluttered. "Exactly. I have no idea where she is, but I need to find her and I want to kick her ass for this."
"Yet you can't because you'll lose control because of all she's done to your family," he finished. Xander nodded. "Do you want me to put out a general call for a hunt?" Xander shuddered. "I know. How about I have someone find her and I ask her politely to remove this for you?"
"Would you?" he pleaded. "I can't, man. I would but I can't and I don't want this to go into the chronicles or anything. It's bad enough Precious is going to be scarred from this in a few places. She said her mother lost all control and went robotic. She did it to me once and I came out looking like a quilt of bruises. Oz never saw them."
Kana nodded. "You have it, Xander. You know we'll gladly take down your ex, talking to her isn't going to be much different. Where is she usually?"
"Then let me get with them and I'll take a sudden trip to look at a book I've been needing from them." Xander slumped and nodded. "Go pamper your daughter. Does she understand the difference?" Xander nodded. 'Then you've done an amazing job with a difficult child, Xander. Remember, I spent last summer with her. She is a difficult child and yet you've mostly managed to make her see reality and how bad her behavior is without resorting to the violence you were raised with. Be easy, let me talk to her." Xander nodded and hung up. Kana put his head down for a minute, then called London's archival house. "I'm on my way over to look for that book and on a special call for Rosenburg. Find her for me?"
"We need to talk, it's personal."
"Fine. She's back, she was reported walking into her house a few hours ago and her student was waiting for her on her knees."
"Thank you. I'll be there sometime tomorrow." He hung up and stood up, heading up to tell his people he was taking a sudden trip to London for a few things.
Nick walked into the boys' room and shook Xander, nodding outside at the hallway. Xander nodded and followed, closing the door behind him. "Philip told me. Is she okay?"
"Hell no," Xander said bitterly. "Oz had to get her medicine." Nick winced. "She went mechanical on her, lost it completely and we didn't hear."
Nick grabbed him and hugged him. "I'm sorry, Xan. I know you wanted her away from that. She won't be us," he said quietly. "She's been raised with too much love." He nodded, hugging him back. "I heard you having nightmares. Don't you have an emergency stash?"
"I took the pill Marcus called over, it's not working," he admitted quietly, pulling back. He looked back at his room, then at Precious' and Timmy's rooms. Both had their lights out. "I came so close," he hissed. Nick nodded. "I could feel myself doing it."
"I know. It's easy to slip into the mindset when you were raised that way. You've learned better and Derek taught me better," he reminded him. "Now we'll support her." He glanced around. "Derek wanted to know if you sent anyone to find her for this."
"She magiced her. I asked Kana to talk to her since I can't. He's not involved and doesn't know her that well. The guys in London worked with her a few times. I couldn't ask them to do anything like that."
"Hey, Derek offered to send some Guardians to find her and stop her, thereby removing the spell and the danger."
Xander shook his head. "She'll be repentant in the morning, when she remembers that she did it. She always has been. I'm just glad she didn't have something come molest her or something. It ...." He shook his head. "It's a tactic she's familiar with." He shrugged and leaned against the wall. "It's hard to believe but there was a time I would have died to protect that woman. Even by her own hand. Now, well, I'd like to reverse it and I know I can't because I will kill her," he admitted. "And I'd feel a lot better if I could."
"Plus the guilt is eating you because you know you could," Nick added. Xander nodded. "Xan, we all feel like that about Willow at the moment. She's not the shy little girl who was your best friend, or even the shew that you nearly married. She's a bitch, a cold, mean hearted, chaotic bitch. She makes some vampires look nice. Before she had the alcohol crutch, now she's like that all the time. You might as well declare her dead to you."
"I thought I had," he admitted. "Then this happened." He waved a hand toward Precious' door. "And it brought it all back."
"Then go talk to Oz. He got you through the last one. Or talk to Derek, or the teachers that helped you in your counseling degree. Talk to someone, bro. You need it."
Xander nodded. "I know. I talked to Oz earlier. He said the same thing." He gave him another hug. "I'm going to try and get some sleep. You should do the same." Nick nodded, patting him on the back. "Thanks, man."
"Hey, you're still my brother and I still like you, kid. Now go to bed." He gave him a grin and headed back down to his room to assure Derek that Xander was taking care of her this time. He slid in next to Philip's sleeping body. "He asked Kana to order her to unmagic Precious."
"I'm sure he'll get his point across very well," Derek said grimly from the speaker phone. He knew exactly how well trained Kana was and he had no doubt he'd use it if he felt it necessary.
Xander slipped back into bed with Oz, holding him like his teddy bear for now. He was a good teddy bear at times.
Down the hall, Timmy and Brandon stared at each other, then shuddered. They hadn't known. They looked at the others in Precious' room with her, with was everyone but Junior, and they nodded. They were going to get their mother somehow. She had earned retribution for doing that to their sister, but their father had added whole new layers to it.
Willow's student opened the door and found herself chloroformed before she could do more than squeak. Then the well-dressed Asian man walked inside and shut the door behind himself, locking it as well as a precaution. He headed to where he could hear Willow singing with the radio and walked up behind her, glancing over her body for a moment before kicking her in the kidneys. "We need to talk, Willow Rosenburg," he announced as she lay screaming on the floor. He cracked his knuckles. "Your former lover may not be able to hold himself back from killing you for what you did to your daughter, but I will."
"What? She deserved it!"
"She deserved to be so badly injured her doctor had to order her narcotics?" he asked bitterly. She gaped at him. "Or the fact that some of the flesh on her behind may die from the bruising? That is on top of the spell that you did against your own offspring. I believe we need to discuss that first, so you can take it off and he doesn't have to deal with you."
"Oz sent you," she said, trying to get up.
He casually kicked her again, this time under the chin, snapping her head backwards. "No, Oz didn't send me," he told her. "I'm doing this out of respect for Xander. You see, some of us have seen his *full* medical file by accident. It wasn't supposed to be sent to me, but it was. It wasn't even sent to his father, but it was sent to me." She gasped and tried to back away from him. "Now, now, none of that," he said, grabbing her by the hair. "Cancel your spell on your family. Each and every one of them, Willow Rosenburg, and I will know. I always know." She nodded so he drug her to her work room, letting her sit down to cancel things. Then they'd finish their discussion in a calm and quiet manner, the same way it had started.
Precious walked stiffly out of her Uncle's office, wincing at each step. The lotion had a numbing effect but it wasn't enough. She looked at the nurse. "Mother caught me having sex," she mumbled. "Good thing I now live with my fathers."
Xander gave her a look. "We're dealing with her mother for this. Trust me, she's gonna be one sorry bitch." The nurse nodded wisely, letting him pay her for the treatment and handing over the prescriptions the doctor had given the girl. "Thanks. Come on, we've got the back seat all ready for you yet again."
"Thank you, dad." She let him pick her up and carry her out.
The nurse looked at her boss. "Shouldn't we report this?"
"Her mother's back in England, she ran last night," he said bitterly. "Xander's having someone talk with her at the moment in a physical manner." The nurse, who had been in the room, nodded strongly. "I would normally but they didn't do it, ladies. If he had, I would check for possession. The girl's mother once did that same sort of damage to his back. That's why they're not together anymore."
The nurse grimaced. "Good thing they're supporting her then. Did he think she had changed?"
Marcus nodded. "Unfortunately she lost control again and went off. This time she may get the help she needs but I'll be talking with someone she works with so they can report her to their country. She's a private tutor and there's got to be something they can do."
"That's fine, I'll leave it in your hands," the nurse agreed. State law said they had to report abuse, but there probably wasn't any way for the state to get the mother, and the father seemed to have it well in hand. She knew Marcus would not stand for something like that going on around him, he was fierce, he had even beaten a father a few months back for daring to slap his child for telling him no. All toddlers said no, it was all they knew.
Xander carried his daughter out to Derek's Range Rover, settling her in the back. "Here we go," he said calmly. He buckled her in and let her settle herself on the air mattress. "Comfy?"
"Enough," she agreed. "I'm sorry, daddy. I was really dumb."
He stroked the side of her face. "I'm glad that you've seen that but I'm still pissed at your mother for doing that to you. You didn't deserve that level of punishment for that. A spanking yes, that no."
"Did you send someone?"
He glanced around the parking lot, then down at her. "I asked Kana to talk to her."
"Does he know?" Xander nodded. "All of it?" He nodded again. "Why?"
"Because you're going back to him for training this year," he said calmly. "Plus, if we have to send you to an all-girl's school, I'm sending you to one near him. He's all-but a Watcher and I want you with someone competent. You and he seemed to get along well enough."
"Okay. I can understand that," she said quietly. "Isn't Jon coming back?"
"We're not sure yet. The Council needed him more. If he does, he does. If not, you guys are old enough to be left a few hours, even though your siblings will be watching you rather closely until you turn eighteen." She grimaced. "I mean it. No more. Ever."
"Never again, daddy. People."
Xander grinned and closed the door, nodding politely at the people coming their way. "Hi." He got around and got in, locking all their doors just in case. "Do I have the prescriptions?"
"In your pocket, daddy, and one was for you."
"Thanks, princess." He started the car and headed out. The pharmacy they used was close to the docks so they didn't have to trek all over the city for things. He left the car running so she could have the radio, but took the keys with him as he went inside. The pharmacist gave him a funny look. "Fight."
"Ah." He nodded, filling them quickly. A small, not real busy pharmacy was a blessing sometimes. "Can you put meat on it?"
"Not really. It's on her back." He shrugged and took the bag, handing over his debit card. It declined so he sighed and pulled out his emergency card, handing it over. "I can't wait to get the check," he said bitterly.
"House burned. Waiting on the insurance check so we can put up the new one and then this happened." He took the slip to sign, then stuffed his card back into his wallet. "Thanks, man. Directions on them?" He nodded. "Good enough." He headed back to the car, having to come back for his keys, which the pharmacist had. "Thanks again." He waved and headed back, getting in to drive. "Okay, here." He handed the bag back, smiling when his daughter pulled out the *big* tube of numbing cream. "I'd suggest a sponge if you're going to have problems." He stuck in the key and turned it on again, checking behind him carefully before he backed out. He heard a scream and stopped immediately but apparently it wasn't for him. He took one of his nerve pills now because he needed it. Then he went to board the ferry and head home. He managed to make it all the way to the other side before he started to doze off. He pulled off to the side and put his head down. "Give me a minute."
"Sure, daddy," she agreed, watching as he fell asleep. She rolled down the window with her toe, looking at the person coming to check on them. "He had to take his new nerve pill."
"I'll call one of the guards down to drive you the rest of the way," he promised. "You okay?"
"My mother's a bitch."
"Ah." He nodded. "I've seen one of those." He went back to his station and called the gatehouse, getting one of the guards down there to drive them. "She said he had to take a nerve pill."
The guard nodded. "Doesn't surprise me. Girl's mother comes back, abuses her, then leaves again." The ferry guard's mouth fell open. "Yeah. She'll be fine but if we see the mother, she's toast."
"Who's the mother?"
"Remember Willow?" He shook his head. "Redhead, white. We've got a picture of her up there. We'll bring one down later. If you see her, we want to know." The guard nodded. "Thanks. She fled to England but she'll be back. She always comes back." He got in, carefully shifting Xander over. He occasionally still hit when he was jostled while asleep. He got in, nodding back at the girl. "You okay?"
"Lots and lots of medicines. Daddy's is in the cup holder." She yawned and put her head back down. "Don't worry about the noise, daddy loves noise."
"Fine." He smiled at her and headed back to the house with them. Once they were up there, he got out and helped Bennet carry them both inside, settling them on different couches to nap. "There," he said, handing Bennet the keys. "His medicine is in the cup holder, hers are in the bag. He took a new nerve pill." Bennet nodded wisely. "Have fun with them." He left, jogging back to the gate, reporting to his boss. "Sir, the ferry guard was alerted to tell us when and if Willow ever comes back but he needs a picture."
"I'll send one down in a bit," he agreed. "They okay?"
"Xander took one of his new nerve pills. Precious is curling up on the couch with her bag of medicines. Bennet has it."
"Excellent. Doctor Rayne will be coming back in four days from what Nick told us. Just in time for the next formal event up at the house." He grimaced. "So we'll have to be vigilant. They'll take care of her I'm sure."
"Yes, sir," he agreed, saluting him then going back to his post at the gate.
The head guard shook his head, making a note for the night shift guy to check with the night ferry person about knowing who Willow was. The guy was older and had been there before the quad was born so he probably remembered her.
Xandra looked at the board on the wall, then groaned. "A formal, already?" Bennet nodded calmly. "Shit, we don't have anything to wear!" She ran up the stairs. "There's a formal in six day's time!" she yelled once she reached the top.
"Fuck!" Serena yelled, opening her door. "Tell me you're kidding."
Xandra paused, looking at her. "Are you possessed? You never swear."
"I'm not," Serena snapped. "I need chocolate, okay?"
Xandra nodded. "Okay. I've got some in my room, come steal it." Her sister smiled and did that. "It's in my desk." She pounded on Timmy's door, he probably wasn't up yet. She heard a mumble so she walked in, prying his eyes open. "We have a formal in six days."
"School dance isn't for two weeks," he whined.
"Here, at the house. Which we'll have to attend. Sounding familiar?"
Timmy sat up, staring at her in horror. "No, please, not that." She nodded. "Even with Granddad's heart thing?" She nodded again. "Said who?"
"The note's on the fridge and Bennet said so."
"Aw, shit," he sighed, shaking his head. "Okay. You, Serena, and Precious will be harder but it's nearly the season. Take Auntie Alex and have her do you three. Bran and I can easily do suits if we have to. Junior too, if he wants to go. He's still younger than we were." She nodded. "Go." He shooed her and she left to find Alex while he laid back down.
"I'm a fucking cow, I can't fit into the one I got for the school dance."
"Midol cures that," Timmy yelled at his twin sister. "Not that the males in the house needed to hear that." She kicked his door and he winced. She was apparently having a Precious month. He hoped they all survived it, but he could always lock himself in there and climb out the window if he had to. He had in the past.
Xander paused in front of the fridge and groaned. "No!" he sobbed, heading into the control room. "We have a formal." Oz looked horrified. "Six days. Only two of the girls have anything for that dance at school and neither are suitable."
Oz patted him on the hand. "It'll be okay, Xander. I promise. We have money, the insurance check is on the way. We can handle this. You get the girls, I'll take the boys."
"Sure, give me the hard ones. Serena's having bloating and chocolate moments." Oz winced. "Seriously!"
"Damn," he swore quietly, glancing at Philip. "You could let Alex handle it."
"No, I'd better. Maybe I can talk Adam into helping us." He headed out, then came back. "I had to use my emergency card the other day."
"Ours?" Xander nodded. "Then don't worry about it, Xander. Go ahead and use it and we'll pay it off soon." Xander nodded again, trudging out. "Next time, give us some warning, Philip."
"Sorry, thought you knew," he said cheerfully. His tux hadn't needed changing in years. "I can take the boys."
"Really," he said smartly, standing up. "You can come along to pay."
"Deal." They headed upstairs to get the kids. "Guys, tuxes, now," he called. "You too, Junior."
"It's a family obligation, you can't defer," Philip ordered as he came off the stairs. Junior came out of his room, his pants were too short and his t-shirt was tight. "Didn't you buy the right size?"
"This was the old outfit. I'm outgrowing things."
"Then we'll rent yours for the weekend," Oz told him. "Timmy, Brandon?" They came out of their rooms, following him down to the van. Xander had taken the Range Rover to let Precious stretch out in the back again. Oz had to go back for the keys, but he managed it. "We'll stop in and remind your grandfather," he told them.
"He knows," Philip told him. "Nick asked him to push it back but he refused because it's nearly the season and it's a nightmare to schedule around then. Besides, it'd be too close to the charity ball right before Christmas."
Oz pulled out his phone and dialed one-handed as he backed the van out. He did stop before hitting the peacock wandering around, barely, and it squawked at him. "Xander? Holiday ball this year. What's the theme, Philip?"
"Ice castles, Xan. Yeah, something like that. Have fun and all. Use whatever you have to. We'll stop in with Derek on the way back. We'll rent Junior one." He hung up and pulled down the driveway, heading to the ferry dock. Xander had managed to speed and catch the last one but they hadn't, they had missed it by minutes. So they had to wait. "Timmy, what does your new game do?"
"Um, it's an attack the girlfriend with various things," he said with a bright red blush.
"I take it you're talking feathers, lotion bottles, and sex toys?" Oz asked dryly. Timmy nodded quickly. "I was wondering why you were mumbling about them in your sleep." Brandon snorted. "Did you talk to anyone yet?"
"I did and it seems right. So maybe I will go that way, dad."
"Cool. We like it. Just don't start a cult and we'll be really happy."
"Sure, daddy, no cults. Not even good ones," he agreed patiently, rolling his eyes. Why would he want that sort of power at his fingertips? It was an unnerving thought. "Uncle Philip, how's Jesus?"
"Doing well. Sister Mary Catherine said that the little guy said his first word. Yes." They all laughed. The kid was bound to be odd somehow. "He also likes to sing with the choirs. He's a bit tone deaf at the moment, but not having much hearing will do that to him." He shrugged, then shifted to look back at them. "He's doing as well as can be expected. Junior, you don't have to stay the whole time, but you'll have to be there for the unveiling." Junior sighed and nodded. "I know, but it must happen. We only have four or five a year. This time's the new chest and scrolls."
"It still sucks. I hate being the youngest in the house."
"We'll see what we can do to get some kids in for an event soon," Oz offered. "Or you could have a party for the kids at school you like. Your birthday is coming up and a party would be payback for making you go to the formal."
"I like that idea," Junior admitted. "We really can?"
"We really can," Oz agreed. "Want it in the garden? Under a tent?"
"Sure," he agreed happily.
"I'll tell Bennet." Oz pulled out his phone and dialed the house. "I don't know how I got along without my phone for years. Bennet, my man, Junior's birthday is coming up and I thought a good party would be ample payback for making him attend the formals from now on. I was thinking the garden, a big tent, some munchies? Can we work on that tonight?" He grinned. "I know, you're a great man and we'd let you hide from the hyperactive kids. We'll make Derek do it." He laughed. "As I said, payback for making Junior be around boring people at least twice his age. Sure, thanks." He hung up. "He said it'd be a pleasure as long as he didn't have to attend or serve."
"A buffet would be easier anyway," Brandon pointed out. "Some games, a special section for food and music."
"A separate tent for parents," Philip said dryly.
"That too," Oz agreed. "Good idea. I'll let you pick out the games, guys, so we don't do lame things like pin the tail on the donkey and things."
"That's cool, dad. Can I have a late night one? Maybe a dance?" Junior asked.
"That's not a bad idea at all," Oz agreed. "Less food to prepare. Less ways to come up with problems. The guards setting up a perimeter so no one sneaks off. That good with you guys?"
"Fine with me," Timmy agreed. "My girlfriend should be starting her holiday break about then so I can have her come up and sleep on a couch for that night." His father looked back at him. "Or she can take my bed and I'll go sleep on the couch," he agreed. "Either way works for me."
"There will be no live action version of your new game, son," Oz said firmly.
"Geez, dad, I'd never want a girl who was that easy," he complained.
Oz turned to look at him. "I'm going to give you a wise piece of advice someone once gave me, sons. Girls are not video games. They have many levels but you will never solve all of them, even if you've been married for three thousand years. There is no such thing as the Mario Bro's girlfriend. The only time you jump is when she says so, and the only time you get laid is when she says so. Remember this, it will make it a lot easier." Philip snickered, leaning against Oz's shoulder to hold him up while he laughed. "Seriously! They're not that easy! Even Timmy's game is easier than a woman and you'll never solve all the levels."
"Sure, Dad," Brandon said, nodding.
Timmy nodded as well. "Whatever you say."
"That sounds suspiciously like a Ripper quote," Junior noted. "Ethan uses a few now and then."
Oz nodded. "It was. When I started to date Willow he gave me that advice. He was right. Even shallow women have levels you'll never crack because you can't understand them. Only a girl can understand another girl and even then it might not happen."
"So we should date guys?" Brandon asked with a grin.
"If you want to date guys, date guys. If you want to date girls, date girls. Just don't do both at the same time, it'll only cause a really loud, really messy, really property damaging fight. When you're older, let me tell you about a friend of mine, Devon, and his magical mystery tour of Sunnydale's adult population, sons." They snickered, having heard about him before. "Devon slept with *anything* and he always had at least one person on the side and another in line. I don't know how many times I had to take him to the ER, to the insurance office about his car, and pull him away from people before they could jump him. Never have more than one unless they know about each other."
"Dad, I doubt Brandon will ever get a girl anyway," Timmy pointed out. His twin pinched him. "Ow! Heathen idol worshiper!"
"Shut up, slut boy. I know what you did last night."
"We all know what he did last night," Oz said dryly. "He's quite loud and werewolves do have stronger senses of smell. Which is why he'll be sleeping in a locked room with a lock on the outside of the door if she comes up for Junior's birthday party." Timmy looked offended, then he grinned. "Got it?" Timmy nodded. "Thank you. Try not to wake us up tonight, son. Your grandfather hates being woken up by noise like that."
"You and Xander echoed through the heating ducts," Philip reminded him. "I didn't hear a thing from Tim last night." He looked back. "What did you do?" The boy went fire engine red and ducked his head. "Ah. Video chatting?" He nodded. Philip sighed. "Sounds like it's time for a talk, Oz."
"Been there, done that," Brandon admitted. "I'm sure Timmy also cleaned up his mess so Bennet didn't have to."
"Condoms solve the mess," Timmy mumbled.
"They do," Oz agreed. Philip gave him a funny look. "Using a condom when you do that does keep down the mess."
Philip patted him on the cheek. "I didn't need to know that," he said with a smile.
"Keeps Bennet from finding that stuff in the sheets," Brandon offered.
"Or that," Philip reminded him.
"Oops," Junior said quietly, blushing as well.
"Congrats, son, it's the first step to having that rule you for the rest of your life," Oz said happily.
"You thought wetting the bed that one time was embarrassing," Brandon said with a nudge and a grin. "Just wait."
"We'll have the longer version of that talk with you tonight, son. Don't worry about it. It happens to all of us, even me and your father."
"Dad, I so didn't need to know that," Junior said, shuddering. "Eww! That's as bad as you guys waking us up while trying to be quiet."
"You'll have a new house soon," Philip soothed. "Then you won't have to hear each other."
"Thankfully," Brandon agreed, looking up. He frowned at the person sitting up there, then shrugged at her message. "Sure." He looked at Philip. "Kelly says hi and that Marjorie is looking for you because one of your sisters is injured but not dead yet."
Oz handed over his phone. "Go over if you have to. We'll just use the paycheck this month."
"Thanks," Philip said, dialing the house. "Sis, what's wrong?"
Xander looked back at the girls as they walked into the gown store that the whole house used. "It's another formal event," he said in resignation. "Plus, there's one coming up at the school that one only of them has something suitable for, and the holiday ball." He looked at them, then at her. "Be gentle with Precious please. She was attacked by a rabid bitch."
"Of course," the woman behind the counter agreed, coming around to help them.
"Daddy, I have something," Xandra reminded him.
"If you want to join your aunt at her convent, you'll wear that dress," he said firmly.
"It's not that bad, daddy!"
"It is so," he said firmly. "You half hang out of it, your back's bare, and it's something Buffy wouldn't even wear."
She pulled out something for the saleswoman, it was similar enough. "It's like this only with a bare back as well," she said. "Isn't that cute? Mine's in blue."
The saleswoman looked at it, then shook her head. "You're a bit too young to want to look like a prostitute, dear," she assured her, leading her to something more her age. "How about something like this?" she asked, pointing at a pink taffeta ballgown.
"Eww, pink, eww, fluffy, and eww, so not me. I wear leather." She looked at the store, then at her. "Think tough asskicker of a woman forced to wear formal clothes. I'll need to hide at least one weapon on me and I'll need to be able to fight in it."
"Bet me," Xander snorted.
"Shut up, daddy, I already put myself on the roster. That's what I was doing as we were running outside." She looked at the saleswoman again. Then she took off her sweater, showing off her bodysuit. "I'm not that young."
"Okay, you're not," she agreed, looking her over. She led her to the more tasteful, slim column dresses. "How about something like this then?" She went to help Precious, who was looking at something in a bit less risque style than usual. "Not going for the usual?"
"No. I need something I can hide padding under." She glanced at her father, who shrugged. "My mother kicked my ass wonderfully," she said quietly. There was only another person in the store. "I'm bruised. She's hiding from us."
"Oh, dear." She hugged her hard. "I'm so sorry."
"As she said, she's hiding from us," Xander said firmly. "Before I kill her."
"Then how about you try on that pink gown I tried to get your sister into."
"Luna Foundation event, first, then the school's," Xander said. "Then the holiday ball. Philip said it had a theme of ice castles."
"Oh yes, it does. There will be a lot of delicate white gowns there." She smiled at him. "How are you doing?"
"I have a tux at the cleaners," he admitted. "It's just a worn one. Serena's having a midol moment as well," he shared. "She's having a fat moment too."
"I can help her. She usually looks so darling in so much of our stock." She looked at Xandra. "I have no idea what to put her into for any of it."
"I know what to put her into for the holiday one," Xander admitted, walking over to the rack with the silver dress he could barely see. He pulled it out and showed the silver slip dress off. The woman's eyes bugged out but he shrugged. "She can carry it off. She's blessed with her mother's body. Xanny?" She came over. "Try this on for the holiday one."
"Sure, daddy." She took it in to try it on, coming out adjusting one of the back straps. She did look good in it and it did fit her body wonderfully. Xandra looked in the mirror, then patted her tummy. "I need to start doing situps again." She looked at her backside. "I think I look good enough and I'll have time to work that small pooch off."
The saleswoman nodded. "You do," she agreed lightly. That girl was so grown up now. She wouldn't have put many people into that style. "Serena, go look on the rack your sister was on and the one where Precious is, dear. Let me look in the back for something for Xandra." She headed into the back, coming back with four gowns, handing one to Serena. One went to Precious for the school dance, the other two went to Xandra with a smile. "I think you'll do them justice." She went to help Precious into the pink ballgown, then smiled. "Your mother had one with an overskirt something like that. Rose pink. It looked darling on her, just like this one does on you." She adjusted it some and the girl winced so she eased off on tightening it. "There, how's that?"
"I don't want to be my mother."
"You're not, dear. You're not an alcoholic hacker at all," the woman said quietly. Precious relaxed. "You do somewhat look like her so the same things will look good on you. Do you like this one?"
"I do," she admitted. She walked out. "Well?"
Her father sniffled and hugged her. "You look wonderful in that, daughter." He turned her around and handed her a white one. "Try that on." She nodded and obediently went to do that. The baby blue one for the school dance was a bit more tight but it also looked good on her. "Maybe switch them around?" he suggested. "Pink for the school thing and blue for the house's formal?" he suggested as she came out in the white dress. It was strapless and had a similar top, corset-like, then flared out a bit to a bit looser skirt. "I like that."
"I do as well," the saleswoman agreed. "That one's not on sale though." Xander winced. "We all know about the house."
"I've got to call my insurance agent," he noted, heading out to the car to do that. Serena could usually dress herself and Xandra was getting big people clothes this time. He pulled the cards out of his wallet and started with his agent. "Hey, it's Xander Harris-Osbourne. Is he in?" He listened while the secretary went to get him from the break area. "Hey. Any joy yet? No, holiday obligations, man, and I had to listen to my son getting busy last night. I had nightmares." The agent laughed. "Seriously. I have four who are fifteen. There's a formal at the house we have to attend plus a school dance, plus some holiday obligations we have as a family. *Please* tell me things are moving along?" he pleaded. He sat up and smiled. "Really? How did you know? A mysterious sample report. Okay. I'll thank her for that later. Any other good news?" He nearly danced in his seat. "I'll be by as soon as the girls are done shopping. No, all three daughters, man. It's sucking badly. Three formal events with six kids and us." The agent hissed. "Exactly. We'll be there in about an hour. Bless you, you very nice man you."
He hung up and called the bank. "Hi...." He was transferred over immediately, apparently they knew him by voice now. "Hi, it's Xander Harris..... Yeah, really? From who?" He sighed. "Well, I didn't sign papers, but I appreciate it. Thank them for me. Who signed it? Ah, dad." He nodded smugly. "Then I can agree to that and I'll get on him. He's apparently bored in the hospital. Thanks. Yeah, can you put some of that onto my debit card? No, formal event at the house, at the school, and then with the holidays. Thank you!" He grinned. "Love you guys too. Laters." He hung up and called the contractor. "Okay, I have settlement money that daddy decided on for me, I have an insurance check waiting on me at the office, do I have plans?" He grinned. "Thank you as well. Um, kinda in that order and I've got the kids. Can you come out tomorrow and do it, do the final estimate and all that stuff?" He cheered. "Thanks, man. Yeah, whenever's good. We're not doing much tomorrow I don't think." He hung up and called his mate. "We have money!" He hung up and headed inside, smiling now. "We have cash!" The girls cheered. "The guy is coming out tomorrow with house plans to...." He stopped when he saw Xandra's current outfit. "Daughter, who are you trying to seduce?"
She looked at herself, then at him. "Is it that bad? Serena liked it."
He took a picture with his camera phone and sent it to her father, who then called so he tossed it over. "You explain it." He looked at the saleswoman and smiled. "The insurance check is in."
"Congratulations. How long before you can have your own house?"
"Soon. We're doing another prefab and last time it took about three weeks to build in the factory. They'll be adding some spaces underground this time too so they'll be doing that then." She gave him a gentle pat on the arm. "Thanks. How's the girlfriend? I haven't seen you since before you had the final operation."
"Wonderful. She's finally come to grips with the fact that I'm not going to change back and she's happier with me. Especially since her parents disowned her for liking me." She smiled at Xandra. "She can carry off the look."
"She can carry off the other one but she's still only fourteen," he sighed. "I don't want her to have problems with old guys hitting on her."
"Me either, but she does look darling in the dress."
"She does," he sighed. Xandra looked very good in black and it showed. The black and cream dress highlighted her body and her skin effortlessly. It showed how wonderful her body could be. She looked like a full adult in it. He looked at her and gave her a hopeful look. "Please?"
"Daddy, I want to wear this to the Luna Foundation one," she said, handing back the phone. "I took pictures of the other dresses for Daddy Oz and he liked them, but this one is on sale and the other one's not."
"We can afford it."
"So can I," she reminded him. "I like the green one for the school dance and the silver one for the holiday thing, but I like the blue one for the next event better. It would look better in the spring. Please?"
"You might have grown by then."
"It was a bit loose anyway," she offered. "This one fits like it was made for me."
"Fine," he sighed, shaking his head. "I'll let you get that one, but you're still not wearing the bra and skirt outfit in your closet."
"Sure, daddy." She went to change back into her clothes, brining those to the saleswoman. "I can get my own, daddy."
He kissed her on the top of her head. "So can I, quit stressing about the money." He looked at Serena, who was picking up her red velvet gown from behind the changing room door. "Do we have something for the holidays, girls?"
"Yes," Serena called. "White with hints of forest green. Like an evergreen covered in snow."
"I've got that white one," Precious said as she slowly came out of the changing room, showing off. "Well?" she asked when she didn't get an answer.
"You look hot," Xandra promised. "Daddy?"
Xander took a picture of her and sent it to Oz, who called and apparently only said three words before hanging up.
Precious rolled her eyes. "Do I look like I'm baiting the boys?" Everyone nodded. "Really?"
"Really, sis," Serena agreed as she came out. She looked her over, then shook her head. "No. Try for something more classical. Like in the paintings of the girls going out riding with their boyfriends in the snow."
"Ick, too much material," she said with a shudder. "Maybe I'll borrow Auntie Buffy's white dress." She went back in to change, making sure none of her cream had rubbed off, then hung it back up. She handed it back to the salesclerk, then handed the other two to her father. "I'll deal with it closer to time and online."
"Sure." He pointed at something across the way. "That's technically a wedding dress but it might work." She hobbled over there and grabbed it, taking it to try on. "I like that one much better," he said happily. "Oz has the boys." The salesclerk snickered. "We still have to do shoes, and you can wear your grandmother's jewelry for the formal and the holiday one." The girls with him nodded. Precious came out and she did look stunning. "I like that. Get it."
"It's not on sale either, and it's a bit more expensive, Xander. Closer to two thousand than not," the saleswoman offered. He looked at her and sighed. "But I can see that you do look so good in it." He pushed over his card. "Are you sure?" He nodded. "Absolutely certain?"
"Definite. The sale on the other stuff makes up for it. I'm just glad she's not a debutante." He shuddered. "I can't imagine that wardrobe budget."
She patted him on the hand. "Let me hold that for you. When she's well, take her to Mark's. He's got some stunning things, including one in white velvet that's cut similar but a bit straighter. It might suit her better."
"No, she can use that one over again," he decided. "Or she can sell it later." She shrugged, she had tried to spare him the cost. She rang them up, not wincing at the total. She had wedding gowns that sold for more in the shop. She let him sign the slip then went to bag up all the dresses, smiling at Serena. "There, that should make you feel better," she said, handing over a mint. Serena smiled and took her things, heading out to the car. "That age can be so hard."
"She has one or two bad months a year then she's nice and happy the rest of the time," Xander admitted, handing the slip back. He took his card and put it away. "To the car. We can do shoes some other time when no one's feet are swollen." They laughed and headed out, him remembering the slip at the last moment. He waved as he walked out, helping Precious into the back seat again.
"Mommy's network of contacts is going to abandon her now," Xandra said smugly.
"Good," Precious agreed. "She deserves it."
"I doubt she's going to be doing much but healing for a bit," Xander offered as he got in to drive. "We all set? All the dresses laid flat so Bennet doesn't have to press everything in the world?" They all nodded so he started the car and pulled away, heading for the ferry dock. He handed the phone back to Xandra. "Tell your dad that we'll do shoes when no one's feet are swollen. I've got a headache and I want to go home."
"Sure," Xandra agreed, dialing him. "Hi, daddy. Dad said we're doing shoes in a few days, when we're not PMSing." She giggled. "He said that was a good idea, daddy. He said to go home and take a nap." She giggled into the phone. "He nodded, daddy. The guys okay? Thanks. Where are we heading?"
"Shit, insurance guy and the bank," he said, changing lanes to head deeper into town.
"We're going to pick up things then head back on the next ferry," Xandra told him. "Love you too." She hung up. "He said to give you a hug when you're not driving." She tucked the phone into her pocket then patted Precious' legs. "How are you doing?"
"This cream works better. I can't feel much back there," she admitted.
"Good. If you want, we'll look at it later, hopefully it's looking better with as much soaking as you've been doing."
"Hopefully. It looked really bad."
"You'll gradually fade out, just like every other bruise," Xander said knowingly.
"I can only hope so. It'll be really hard to attend classes Monday otherwise," she said bitterly.
He sighed. "We'll see how you are then, daughter. Maybe the speed healing stuff will help you out by then." He pulled up in front of his insurance office and left the radio on but took the keys with him. His agent had some forms for him to sign and he did so as fast as he could, taking the check with him. "Thanks, man. You have no idea how bad this is getting." He signed the last one and took the envelope, heading out to the SUV again. He got in and handed the check to Serena since she was in the front seat with him. "Okay, bank branch nearest is...." He started the engine and pulled back out, heading there, but this time left them the keys since it might take longer. "Hey," he said as he leaned into the office. "We got the insurance check." She smiled at him. "What was that other settlement?"
"It was for half of the value of your house and the accompanying paperwork we received with the check said you were getting another one. Something about a lawsuit and they weren't going to fight you."
"I have no idea why. They don't know a thing about us."
"I expect there was some strong-arming going on," she said wisely. She took the check from him. "Into your general account for now?"
"Please. I'm gonna have to write a check to pay for the house and it's gonna make me wince. Can I get a statement? I left the kids in the car."
She nodded and filled out the forms for him to sign, then did the deposit for him, handing him over a statement. He blinked at the number, then at her. "Is it wrong?"
"That's a bit much. How much was that check for? We only insured the house for replacement value."
She handed him back the envelope. "That might explain it, or that money you had freed finally did come through."
"Which is nice, my debit card declined the other day." She kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks, hon. You've been great." He headed back to the car, smiling at the cop chatting with Serena. "Sorry, I know I broke the idling law, but I've got a sick kid and I thought it'd only be a moment."
"That's fine, sir, I can give you a warning," he said, handing it over. "Are you all right? You look fairly pale."
"Yeah, fine," he said, "just tired. We're building a new house." The cop nodded sympathetically. "Okay, we're going home now. Thank you, officer." He slid in and waved. "If you see Detective Kowalski, tell him I said hi." He pulled off and out into traffic carefully. He looked at Serena. "Put up the window please?" She did that and he moved on as soon as the light changed. "Now, look in the envelope and tell me why we had more money than we should have?" He handed it over.
She looked over the forms. "Oh, Daddy Oz apparently had a second insurance policy on the computer stuff." She smiled at him. "Plus some of the jewelry was insured but only one thing wasn't down there. Should I call him?"
"Yeah. Go ahead. He should know we usually keep that stuff up at the main house."
She took his phone from his pocket and called the number on the letterhead. "Hi, this is Serena Harris-Osbourne and my dad's driving so he asked me to call. No, we're looking it over and noticed there was a mention of our grandmother's jewelry. As far as we know we only lost one piece. Yeah, that one. Which is why he's having me call," she agreed smoothly. "He certainly didn't want to do that. He thought you knew that we kept it all up at the house." She glanced at her father. "Really? Well, that's certainly very nice of you. Yes, let us know how much that was and we'll reimburse you immediately. No, I think tomorrow's the day for that. Sure, come on out if you want. Thank you." She hung up. "He'll be up tomorrow. It seems he was compelled to make sure things went out way."
"Compelled? Really?" Xander asked. "By?"
"He didn't say."
Xander pulled off to the side of the road, parking for a moment while he took his phone back and got out to lean against the hood. "Kana?" he asked calmly when he answered. "Did you by any chance happen to suggest to Willow that the insurance company should perhaps move quickly and smoothly?" Kana spluttered. "No, it's just been a bit too easy. Plus there was a settlement already from the company that built the house without us even threatening them. The insurance company suddenly had a second policy on the house for the computer gear. They paid us for the jewelry that's in the safe in the big house. Little things like the insurance guy saying he was compelled to help us faster." He grinned. "Nah, didn't think you did, man, just making sure. No, if she did then I'm not going to complain at the moment. It won't make me like her more, but I'm not gonna complain. Would you?" He laughed. "Yeah, me either. Especially with three formals coming up," he said, rolling his eyes.
"You're coming to this one, right? Cool. Yeah, I told Precious I was sending her to you again since you did so good and if she had to do anything.... Yeah, just like we discussed. Thanks, man, we love you. Want a daughter to marry? We like you that much," he admitted with a grin. He laughed. "No, I'm not suggesting you dump your girlfriend for Precious. I'm sure that would drive you insane." He chuckled. "Then I look forward to meeting her, Kana. We love you like a really strong brother most of the time, man. Have fun, see you soon." Xander hung up and called Ethan. "Since it wasn't Willow, it had to be you and Rupert. Thank you for fixing the insurance agent and the housing company, but they paid us for the jewelry that wasn't burned." He smiled. "Yeah, you too, Rayne. Good thing too. Have fun. Nope, idling, again, just got a warning." He got back into the car and took off again. "It wasn't your mother, guys."
"That's fine," Precious said dryly. "How much are we going to have to pay back?"
"Not that much. Don't worry, we've got the money thing handled and we haven't had to dip into the college funds yet."
"We have college funds?" Xandra asked. Xander nodded as they pulled up to the ferry dock. "Since when?"
"Since you were really young," Xander said, looking back at her. "You also have small trust funds in case something happened to us." She looked stunned. "Not until you're twenty one, dears."
"Wow. Does that mean I can buy a car?" Precious asked.
"About that, father," Serena inserted smoothly. "Wouldn't it be sensible to get the children who will be driving a single car? In case of emergencies? The house doesn't really have more than one extra car and we can share, as proven by the bathroom issue in the old house. It would make it easier to get to things for school and allow us to not bother anyone to take us all to school."
"You want a minivan?" he joked.
"Well, no," she admitted. "Not that we don't need it with how Precious shops sometimes, but we could use the extra car and doing it this way means we can't touch yours, dad."
"It also gives you something to take away in case of punishment," Xandra pointed out. "It's not like we have a good one now except the power cord one where you come in and take all the power cords to everything but our clock radios."
"Plus, something semi-trendy and nicer, but very strong and sturdy would be protective as well," Precious added.
"We'll talk about it tonight," Xander said dryly. He started the car as the ferry pulled up, getting into line. He smiled when Oz beeped at him as the van was parked in the commercial section. Then they were parked and Xander turned off the engine. "I'm gonna go get a kiss. You girls behave." He got out once the ferry had taken off, heading over to where Oz was lounging against the van. "The girls just made a concerted push to get the quad their own car so we don't have to drive them to school."
"They can have the van."
"I don't think they want something that big," Xander said with a grin. He kissed Oz gently. "So, Ethan and Rupert charmed the insurance company and the people who created the first house for us. The insurance guy is coming out tomorrow to get some money back since only one piece of the jewelry collection was destroyed." He gave him another kiss then flipped back some of his hair. "I'm getting a haircut when we go back for shoes."
"Good for me," Oz agreed. He glared at someone storming up to them. "You needed something?"
"How dare you do that in front of children!" he shouted, pointing at the van.
"They're our kids," Oz told him. "Go away, now." He walked Xander back to his car, turning on the alarm system for the van. Someone grabbed him and spun him around but he ducked the punch. Instead Xander got him and he went down. "Thanks, dear."
"Welcome. I'm feeling relatively butch today." He looked over as one of the ferry cops came up to them. "Morning."
"Morning, Mr. Harris-Osbourne, both of you," he said in greeting. "Did he just try to attack you?"
"He had an objection to us kissing in front of our kids," Oz told him. "I was walking Xan back to his car and he got upset about it."
"He's entitled to his own beliefs, he's not entitled to hit people because of them," Xander told him. "The way he was holding Oz looked like he was going to hurt him."
"I ducked his swing," Oz told him with a small shrug. "Xan hit him."
"I saw that part." He hauled the man to his feet. "What's your problem?"
"They're wrong! They're corrupting those children! They should be stopped!"
"Dude, you're hysterical, you need to calm down," Xander told him. "They're our kids. All of them. They're not corrupted, really." He looked at the cop. "I'm going to head back to the Range Rover. "I'll see you back at the house, Oz."
"Sure, babe." He waited until Xander was gone then glared at the man who had dared to touch him. "Touching my mate was really dumb," he pointed out. "Touching him here, where there are witnesses and things, was even more stupid. Doing it in front of our kids makes them want to hurt you as well."
"I don't see Xandra," the cop noted, looking back at the van. He spotted her leaning against the side of the Range Rover. "Oh, there she is," he said, smiling and waving at her. "She's quite helpful on occasion."
"She is at the house too," Oz admitted. "She's going for her fifth level of training next year when she's old enough."
"Congratulations," the officer said happily. "I know she's a credit to your good family name." He shook the man. "She's taking training with the Secret Service." The man went pale. "Now, where were you supposed to get off?"
"Angel Island," he said bitterly. Oz raised an eyebrow. "I'm going to see Philip Callaghan."
"Philip's up at the house today," Oz agreed. He pulled out his phone and called up there. "Hey, Bennet, is Philip napping?" He checked his watch. "Well he has been taking one about this time recently," he joked. "No, apparently he's got a friend coming and his friend is a bit paranoid. Can you wake Rip?" He handed over the phone. "Here." He crossed his arms and canted his weight off to one side a bit.
"Philip, it's Father Henry. May I come up?" He got free of the cop's hand. "No, the wrongness and I had a run in. You stand for that around you?" He gaped. "You're what? Since when?" He dropped the phone. "You've corrupted a priest! Are you happy! Are you!" He advanced on Oz again but Oz punched him once, knocking him back down.
"I'm not the one sleeping with Philip," he noted. "And he's not a priest anymore." He picked up his phone. "Hey, Philip, I just put him onto the deck again. Should we have him banned from the island? No, we're done it all but shoes. Oh, yeah, that reason. No, they look hot. My daughters are good." The man gaped so he pointed at Xandra again. "She's not the only one. We've got six kids, dude." He listened to Philip again. "That's fine." He hung up. "Philip said he could come up if he found his spot of calm and holiness again. Otherwise to let him go back to the mainland." He shrugged. "Thanks for not getting mean and nasty, man."
"Not an issue, Mr. Harris-Osbourne. We don't have a problem with most of your family. That one blonde woman you work with occasionally has a problem parking but otherwise we're good."
Oz snickered at that. "When we taught her how to pull onto the ferry, she nearly drove into the bay," he said, shaking his head. "Buffy is not the best driver ever. The kids give you any probs recently?"
"No, not in the least," he said with a smile. "As I said, Xandra and Brandon have been known to help us now and then when we were overwhelmed. Though she did almost throw someone off the side of the ferry by accident once." He grinned at him. "She apologized as she was cuffing him for me."
"That's my baby girl," he agreed. "So much like her other father that we can't find fault with it." He patted him on the back. "We should be getting off soon. We'll be less vindictive today since it's been a long day already. Three formals in the next few months." The cop winced. "At least we have the insurance check now, man. I'll bring pictures next time. Xan's going for a new look." He grinned and headed back to the van, using his keychain remote to cancel the alarm then get in. "And that is why tolerance should be more than a pretty speech you give on Sundays," he said bitterly.
"You okay, dad?" Timmy asked.
"Fine, Tim. It's not a problem. He's a priest Philip knows. He may or may not be coming up to the house so try to stay out of his way today."
"Of course. Why would we want to be around such a loathsome idiot," Brandon said grimly, glaring at the man. "He'll really hate Uncle Philip, won't he?"
"Yeah, he probably will," Oz agreed. "It's for Philip to handle him unless he comes for you."
"We need to hide Precious from him," Junior said. "He's the sort who'd report her for spite."
"Hmm. Good point," Oz agreed. "When we get inside, help the girls carry up their stuff. There's no reason for him to be up on our floor." They nodded and the whistle blew signaling their stop. "Here we go," he sighed, turning on the engine so he could move to the disembarking line. He noticed a UPS truck and got out, jogging over. "Luna Foundation?" he asked. "To save you a trip."
The guy nodded and got three big boxes, coming out with them. "Here you go. Sign the box please and I'll help you carry them."
Oz signed for them and they carried them to the van, setting them carefully on top of the tuxes. "Thanks, man. I figured you didn't need the extra trip."
"Not really," he agreed. "Do you know who Alexandra Harris-Osbourne is?"
Oz grinned. "My daughter. She's in the Range Rover." He nodded and went back to his truck, getting a smaller package and trotting it and his datapad to her so she could sign it. Oz got back in and looked back at them. "Easier for him this way and he won't have to worry about catching the ferry back."
"It's a good idea."
"I wonder who's sending Uncle Derek what now?" Timmy asked, glancing back. "Hmm. Uncle Nick."
"Maybe he ordered parts for his Mustang or something," Oz suggested as he moved closer to the gate. The guy guarding it gave him a dirty look and he shrugged, but the ferry docked and the gate was removed, so he left as quickly as he could. He hated driving on the ferry. It was the only bad part to living out here. He hurried back to the house, wanting to get back there now that they were done. He pulled up to the front door and grinned at Bennet. "For Nick," he said.
"Master Nick is in the bathroom at the moment," Bennet said dryly. "Bad oysters this morning I believe." He helped Oz move the boxes inside, they weren't that heavy. Then he helped the boys into the house, taking the tuxes to hang up properly. He checked but they weren't really wrinkled. A good steaming should be enough. He came out in time to help Xander with his things. The boys were nice enough to pick up Precious and carry her upstairs before she could protest, making him smile. Then he got waved off about the dresses. "Are you sure? It's not a problem, I assure you."
"They've been hanging up so they shouldn't have a problem, but they'll be checking them with you tonight," Xander assured him. "I know you hate ironing, Bennet."
"Indeed, Xander, but I don't mind in this case. The girls must look their best after all."
"Oh, they will," he said with a grin. "Only one fussy dress and it's Precious' and we're not sure if it's for here or the school dance."
"I look forward to it," he assured him. He counted the dresses. "Three each?"
"I had forgotten about that."
"So did we," Xander admitted. "This year's theme was ice castles. I'm pretty sure all the little debs in town got their few brain cells together to think that one up. This way they could use the white gowns their mothers bought them." He rolled his eyes. "Xandra got one that looks like snow glare." He grinned. "And my daughter looks quite grown up in it." He carried the last few dresses inside, letting Bennet park the car in the garage. Only he was allowed to do that for Derek's Range Rover. He hauled them upstairs, letting the girls take their own. "Check them with Bennet later so he knows who as which." He headed back downstairs, going to kiss Oz again. "Did you pick up my tux from the cleaner's?"
"Oops," Oz muttered.
"We still have to go back for shoes, just not tomorrow."
"Fine with me," Oz agreed. "Will it be hard to match the girls?"
"Shouldn't be. Pink or blue. Red. Black and cream."
"Black and cream?"
"Oh." He nodded. "I had forgotten about that. Hairdressers?"
"Not yet," he admitted. "We'll do that the same day we do shoes?"
"Sure, why not," Oz agreed. "Regis isn't usually that busy and there's four of the franchises in the city." He grimaced and headed for the kitchen for a drink. "Want something since I'm up?"
"Are you really?" Philip teased.
"In all manners of the word, Philip, you know I secretly want you," Oz teased back. "Think you want to be shared with Xan?"
"I doubt he'd like me, I might cuddle," Philip said with a grin for Xander.
"You have no idea how often Oz get's cuddled all night," Xander taunted. "He's my teddy most of the time. You could take his place, Nick says you're really cuddly." He leered at him.
"Hey, I'm your teddy, he'd have to be a bed accessory," Oz complained.
"Guys," Nick said, coming out of the bathroom. "Don't pick on Philip."
"He started it," Oz defended.
"Yeah, but now I'll have nightmares about what you guys and Philip could do. I don't need those mental images, okay?"
"Bennet's got some boxes for you, Nick," Xander chuckled. Oz gave him a funny look. "I passed the last one in the hall."
"Ah. Not telepathic, good to know," Oz assured him. "Three medium ones. What was Xandra's package?"
"Not a clue," Xander admitted. "Think we should go snoop? All the current parenting experts advise snooping and searching your children's belongings for drugs and other contraband so you know what they're doing instead of creating an open and welcoming atmosphere for discussion and asking those questions."
"I can see it now," Nick laughed. "Timmy will come down the stairs and stand in front of you, looking his usual innocent and sloppy self and tell you 'dad, I wanna try pot, that cool with you'. So you two go out, buy him a doobie, get him high and tape it to show him how dumb he is," he said, walking away shaking his head.
"Actually, Uncle Nick," Timmy called from the kitchen. "I've gotten enough second hand smoke from them off the school yard that I'm well aware of the buzz, the headache, the dizziness I get, and the munchies. I don't like it that much but they smoke it in the doorway from my second break class."
Nick looked stunned. "No one catches them?"
"Better having them doing weed than crack?" Timmy suggested as he made a sandwich. "The teachers can't prove it, they mine their cigs with them. Their parents gave them permission to smoke by buying them the cigs. Besides, one kid's mom is a major link in the drug chain and she said she'd kill him and plant him in the bay if he ever did more than pot. So no, if I wanted to, I could do that. I simply don't." He took a bite of his sandwich and went on. "Ask Precious, she's dating one of them."
"Precious!" Xander yelled, heading up the stairs. "This jock of yours is a druggie too?" he demanded. She looked scared. "Well?"
"His mom's the connection."
"The one who said her son could have pot and nothing else?" She nodded slowly. "Has it occurred to you that he might have others and that you might get into trouble by being with him?"
"I told him if I ever had proof he was dealing, especially roofies, I'd kick his ass and then hand him to Xandra. He doesn't even smoke it near me, dad."
"I had wondered why the faint odor or pot lingered around Timmy all the time. They hang out by his classroom," Oz said as he walked past him. "Wear the pink one this time, that way you can hide padding if you need to."
"Thanks, daddy." She looked at her father. "I'm breaking up with him."
"Yes, you are," Xander agreed. "I could have stood you starting over with him, but you are definitely breaking up with him now."
"Sure, daddy. Whatever you say. Can you please quit breathing smoke now? I'm not in danger from him."
"Fine," he sighed, heading down to his room to cuddle his husband. "Why us?" he whispered.
"Because she is the way she is," Oz pointed out. "We can't change that. She decided to date a boy that reminded her of Xandra."
"Eww," Xandra called from the other side of the door. "The priest showed up."
"Fuck 'em," Xander called.
"Only if you want us to tie you down and make Ingrid lecture you," Oz called back.
"No thanks, dad. Not my style." She skipped down the stairs, hugging Philip. "I got some very nice things for the formals. Including one kick ass dress for the house's. Now all I need are shoes and to figure out how to do my hair. Where's Auntie Alex?"
"Working right now in lab three."
"Thanks." She glared at the priest. "Fearing contamination?" She walked off, tapping on the door to lab three before walking in in case it was something delicate. "Auntie Alex, I'm gonna need help with my hair again this time for a few events," she said as she walked in. Alex smiled at her. "We found stuff, but I've got something kinda classical and I look quite hot in it."
"Good for you," she agreed. "Your father mind?"
"A lot but Daddy Oz said I'd be fine." She beamed. "Plus, we all need shoes but daddy was tired and cranky by then."
"That's fine. Want an updo? You have enough hair for one."
"I was thinking a french twist for the house formal. Maybe a braid for the one at school in a week later, and I have no idea what to do for the Christmas Charity event."
"I heard they had finally picked a theme."
"Ah, a room full of shades of white."
"I'm wearing silver."
"Then you'll glow like sunglare off snow," she said lightly. "After dinner?"
"Sure, I wasn't suggesting now. Need help?"
"Nope, but I do know we might need lab two in a few days if Nick's complaining was necessary." She glanced at her.
"I'll clean it up. I'm working on a shaft robot at the moment." She wiggled her fingers and headed that way, entering the access code. She walked in and turned on her radio, getting down to work. The robot had been nearly crushed by a jeep running over it. It needed some major work.
Xandra walked into her training session in one of her new workout outfits, a shorts-style unitard with an overshirt to cover up for outside in the breeze. "Uncle Adam?" she called as she took off her shirt. She got to work stretching and loosening up for whatever he wanted her to do today, eventually going into her limited repertoire of a backflip, a cartwheel, and a forward flip. Then she stood up and held her chest. "Ow. Those don't feel good when they move that way." She shook her head and adjusted herself unselfconsciously then moved to stretch against the seat to get her upper thighs. She always had trouble with her hamstrings. "Uncle Adam?"
He came out of his office and stopped to look at her. She was spread out and he nearly whimpered. He shook himself. "When did you get that outfit?"
"The last shopping trip. It was on sale and I can move in it easier." She grinned at him and switched sides, working on her other thigh. "I'm nearly done."
"That's fine. Get one of the kendo sticks, we'll start out with those as practice blades." She nodded, jogging to get one. He groaned mentally, keeping it inside. She was not the six-year-old who had followed his movements with godly worship or the ten-year-old who had faced him down about being trained for real. She was a young woman now and her outfit showed she was quite grown up. He steeled himself. If she was that grown up, he'd have to teach her how to deal with men as well. They weren't to be trusted. Pretty girls were often taken in. She nudged him and gave him a stick, then moved back to the center of the mats. "Thank you." He walked out to join her, studying her grip and stance. "Fighting with a sword is much the same but for now, we should talk about boys."
She rolled her eyes. "Not you too!" she whined. "I've already had this talk with dad, daddy, Uncle Philip, and grandfather. I know how men try to trick pretty girls into their backseats and how guys my age only want into my panties, and even how all guys are seriously lusty little shits who'll do anything for a piece of my ass. I don't care. I can handle myself. I have been able to since I was eight." He looked stunned. "Or don't you remember teaching me that lesson in how to kick a guy in the nuts?" He nodded quickly. "Anything else? I know how to get myself on the pill when I'm ready, and that daddy Oz gave Uncle Marcus permission to put me on it whenever I was ready. I'm more than capable of making those decisions based on something other than the wetness that's an irritating thing in my life in outfits like this, and I'm more than capable of bringing a guy I like to the ground and making him so horny he forgets all his little plans and just does what I want him to do, namely oral sex according to all the books I found and snuck without their permission." He gave her a hurt look. "Or did you have something else in mind?"
He nodded, stepping closer. "I did, even though your education seems to be well in hand." He smiled at her. "I was going to talk to you about how boys can take you glancing in their direction as a sign that you wanted something with them. Like your boyfriend for instance. I'm sure you've had to push him off once or twice."
"No, not really. He's one of those romantics. He wants it to be special, not in the woods or in a car, or at the school. He said whenever I'm ready he'll take me somewhere special for the weekend and we'll do that then."
He blinked a few times. "He has his planned?" She nodded. "Is he destined to go for men?"
"I'm not real sure about that," she admitted. "I thought he was gay for the longest time really." She scratched the back of her head and relaxed. "Then I find out he reads romance novels, the big, thick ones with the sex scenes now. I think he's going to write them. He is a very good writer, I get all sorts of mushy notes telling me about how my hair inspires the angel's harps strings and how my eyes are deep green like the forest at midnight when I look at him." She shrugged. "He likes romance novels and I'm not going to make fun of that. Most girls don't get mushy notes."
"He would do better with Serena then," Adam said dryly.
"He would and I think she thinks he's hot and I know he thinks she's hot because he gets wood each time he sees her. I was gonna have a talk with them and then back away slowly as they figured out I was giving them to each other. Even though I know Serena likes girls."
"She's bi," Adam admitted. "You might talk with her tonight." She nodded and got into her 'ready' stance again. "Fine, we'll do this, imp."
"I'm not nearly that naughty, Adam," she said with a grin. "If I were, I'd wear an outfit out of Precious' closet." She lunged with the sword and he laughed, blocking her. "Good?"
"Not really. You telegraph." He got down to it with her, working on her form and her grip, then how to move smoothly without showing how or where she was going.
Xandra tapped on Serena's door then walked inside at her grunt. "Okay, something was brought to my attention and I had to think about," she said as she closed her sister's door. "You like my boyfriend." Serena sat up and opened her mouth so Xandra held up a hand. "Each and every time he sees you at school, he gets wood." Serena closed her mouth and swallowed. "Do you want my mushy guy? He should write romance novels."
"Hey, not complaining. He's a bit...gentle for my tastes really. He wanted to take me away for a weekend for my first time. He writes me mushy love notes about how I inspire him to create. He also thinks I have green eyes," she said with a grin. Serena nodded. Xandra had green/brown eyes the color of moss. Serena was the one who had truly green eyes of the family, her mother's eyes. "So if you're interested, I know he is. I also will step out of your way. I don't mind in the least. He needs someone closer to his own style because I frustrate him sometimes and he's really frustrated right now because I'm acting a bit more mature than he thinks I should be."
Serena nodded. "I am. I thought I didn't like boys but I've found a few I could appreciate."
"Hey, that's what being bi means and both our fathers are," Xandra reminded her. "For that matter, so is our mother."
"I know, but I feel like I'm faking it."
"Then date my little semi-gay boy and we'll see." She shrugged. "He likes you. I know he likes you."
She nodded. "If you wouldn't mind."
"No, I don't mind." She shrugged. "He's downstairs. Get presentable." She headed down the stairs, smiling at her boyfriend as she led him into one of the sitting rooms. "Phil, listen. Something has come to my attention and I want you to know I'm not mad." He swallowed. "I know you have the hots for Serena. I know she has the hots for you."
"She does?" he asked pitifully. She nodded. "You're sure?"
"I'm very sure and she's on her way down here. I want you to know that I'm stepping back so you can have a chance with a woman who's much more like you and who will appreciate you more than I ever could. She's a great woman, she's soft and gentle and kind, like you. I can't see you on patrol with me out by the gates, but I can see you helping her with her languages. So I'm not dumping you, I'm passing you onto someone better, someone who you already like since you think I have the same eyes she does." He blushed and she hugged him. "Hey, I love you. We're buddies. We'll stay buddies. But I want you and Serena to give it a really good try. If you don't work, then I'll accept that and fight for you. Any other bitch who comes near you is mine, got it?" He grinned at her and hugged her back. "That good with you?"
"Thank you, Xandra. You are one special woman."
"Ehh. I was raised by people who were mushy." She tweaked him on the nipple. "She'll be down in a minute, she's got a case of nerves and is getting out of her pajamas. Cute little puppy dogs begging with bones between them." He chuckled at that. "So you behave with my sister, I will be watching." He nodded and seated himself again. "Let me get you something to drink. Milk?"
"Tea?" he suggested.
"That we have by the ton around here. She'll like it to." She winked and walked away, heading for the kitchen. "I come to gather tea for my ex and his new girl, Serena," she announced. Brandon's head popped up from the table and he gave her a funny look. "They like each other, why should I stand in their way?" She shrugged and took the pot of tea off the stove, sniffing it. "This recent?"
"Pretty recent. Let me refill," Brandon said, coming over. "You're putting them together?"
"Yeah. They're a lot alike and he likes her. He was writing me about my green eyes the other day." She got down two cups and put together a tray, carrying it in there. "Here we go. Serena, I put out some tea," she called. Her sister came down the last flight of stairs in her favorite dress and she grinned. "Nice choice." She waved. "I'm off for my evening jog. Behave. Be gentle," she added more quietly. She nodded and Xandra headed out to the classroom building. "Hey, Adam, I'm going for my run, wanna join me?" she called as she stretched out.
He came to the door. "Now? It's dark."
"I've just stepped out of the way so my guy can get the girl he really wants. I'm giving them some space without me lurking, ready to push her into his arms."
He smirked at her. "You are so transparent."
"Oh, please, I saw how he looks at her. Like dad with an eclair." She snorted. "They belong together. He's a nice guy and I know he'd never fit in with my life. He'd be really bored while I worked on my robots and computer stuff. So, wanna jog?"
"Why don't you come in and we'll play scrabble instead," he suggested, getting out of her way. She nodded and walked inside, letting him get the door. "You really are an unusual woman."
"Well, yeah, what else did you expect?" she said dryly. "Why would I want to be *normal*? I've got centuries to explore that if the research is true."
"That is a very good point," he agreed, walking her into his living room. He pointed at the ghostly entity sitting there. "I'm sure you know MacLeod by now."
"Hey, Duncan. Come back to bug the shit out of him again? If so, you can help me against his immense vocabulary. He's a had a few more years to study than I have." She sat down on Adam's left, grinning at him. "Game already in progress?"
"Yes, but it's in Latin," he admitted. "We can start over."
"Cool. I'm only on book two in Latin." They both gave her a funny look. "Daddy insisted I learn one and it helps me figure out what they're saying when they don't want us to understand. That's how I found out about dad's intense desire to pound daddy into the mattress last night, they were trying very hard not to keep the rest of us up and failing miserably by the snickering going on in Serena's and Brandon's rooms."
Adam shook his head. "I can't wait until they hear that."
"Yeah, well, they should know better by now," she said smugly. "What else am I gonna do with it?"
"Good point," Duncan's ghost said bitterly. "I learned it too."
Adam shook his head. "Next you'll have to pick another research language."
"I was thinking Hindu. A lot of texts have just been uncovered."
"I hadn't thought of that," Adam told her. "I only know a smattering." He wiped the tiles off the board and mixed them up before letting them deal, not letting Duncan play this time.
"Why do you haunt him, Duncan?"
"Because he knew me," Duncan breathed.
"So you're being totally selfish and wanting him to remember you as you think you were, or how you really were because you deluded yourself for so long?" The ghost looked startled, then faded out. "He'll be back in a bit."
"He always is," Adam sighed. He moved the pile of available tiles out of his way and laid down his first word, making her squeal because she could add to it.
"We need to switch to upwords, that way we can use the odd tiles, like the 'y'."
He laughed, nodding. "We should. Next time?" She grinned and nodded. "What does your outfit for the formal look like?"
"Black and cream."
"Really?" He looked her over. "Cream?"
"It's kinda that antique white color. I look hot." She beamed at him. "Even the tranny at the store said I looked hot and Dad nearly melted so he had to call Daddy Oz for advice." She looked down at herself. "I could use a bit of a tan though. It'll make it stand out more."
"I'm sure you'll be adorable," he promised, making his next word.
Adam looked up as everyone started coming down the stairs. Serena had a date who was waiting on her and looked quite handsome. Precious was barely moving and was definitely going to be sitting most of the night. She did look just like a picture of her mother he had seen somewhere. The boys were in classic tuxes and Timmy's tie was of course too loose, as usual. Derek frowned at him but Timmy gave him a look back and he knew he wasn't going to be able to fix it this time either. Alex and Junior walked Buffy down, Junior still complaining about having to wear a tux and real shoes, as he put it. Adam shook his head and waited for the rest of the children. Xander and Oz came down together, already in a tickling/playful mood with each other. Apparently they had teased each other while getting dressed again. Nick came down next and he was dressed to the best of his abilities but Derek had to do his tie for him. Then Philip walked down with Xandra and he nearly swallowed his tongue. He had thought it was something more innocent, not something like that! He looked her over. The skirt was full enough to not allow anyone to see the outline of her legs, thereby hiding any weapons she might be carrying. The top was fitted and it fit very well. She was just barely showing cleavage. The cream was down the center of both the bodice and skirt, and it highlighted her body by being in a bit thinner fabric than the heavier black fabric. It sounded like pure silk but he knew it wasn't. Her hair was put up, further making her look older than she was. She wore her grandmother's sapphires around her neck and ears, and a single thin bracelet that he knew hadn't been in the house before this last week.
Xander nudged him when he noticed him staring. "Now you know why I had to get Oz to keep me from crying," he whispered. "She looks like a goddess." He went to check with the security guys since Nick was getting a last kiss and cuddle from his lovers, they weren't allowed to do that during the event. He smiled at his daughter. "Very grown up, Xanny."
"Sorry." He gave her an unrepentant grin. "Got your earbud?"
"Already in. Security is reporting the first special ferry of cars has arrived and is docking now." She twitched her skirt and leaned against the railing, managing to look seductive and waiting instead of bored.
Xander put in his own earbud and shook his head, making his hair fall in gentle waves over his ears and cover it. "There, I'm in. Ooh, the mayor's not the first off the boat, he's gonna throw a fit."
Derek rolled his eyes. "He'll soon learn to share."
"Who was?" Nick asked.
"Our favorite gossip columnist and she's speeding up here to get good pictures." Xander grinned at him. "Everyone ready for pictures?" They all checked their hair and makeup, then arranged themselves to greet their guests. This was a well-rehearsed ballet with them since the children had been old enough to start attending. Xander's head came up from fussing with Junior's collar and he looked at Derek. "You invited Ray and Benny Jr.?"
"I did," Derek admitted. "That way Junior would have someone to talk to." He patted his grandson on the head. "You may hide all you want but no pranks."
"I'd never dream of it, grandfather."
"Bad news, Benny isn't dressed but Ray's right behind the mayor so it shouldn't matter," Xander offered. He looked at his son. "If he's sick or something, you can hang out upstairs, quietly, until the unveiling then come back down here, then go back upstairs and have a sleepover with him. Got it?" Junior beamed and hugged him. "Thanks, little guy." He smiled as the reporter was the first one in. She snapped a picture immediately and cooed as they arranged themselves better.
"You all look so good this time!" she praised, taking another one once Xander and Junior were back in place. "Xandra, I *adore* that outfit. Where did you get it?"
"The usual shop, I had to talk my parents into it," she said with a small smile. She gave an adoring look at her parents. "They're very nice."
"We try," Oz agreed.
"You should see her one for the Christmas Charity ball," Xander joked. "She'll be going as snow glare." The woman giggled and came over to hug him. "Thanks. Now, why were you *rushing* to get up here?"
"Well, there was a story floating around that came to me." She looked at Precious. "Your mother came back and hurt you?"
"She paddled my ass for underaged sex so bad I'm bruised," she said quietly. "Then she snuck away again. I'd like for that not to make it into the papers."
"Oh, sweetie, I'd never do that to you guys. We adore you guys." She hugged her gently. "How did she escape? You guys should have been able to stop her."
"She worked for British Intelligence, we're not even sure how she got into the country without us knowing," Oz admitted.
"Oh, you poor thing." She led her off, helping her into her seat. "You just say there, Precious. Look adorable and sweet." She leaned closer. "I thought Serena liked girls."
"Apparently she's found one she likes," she said with a shrug. "He used to date Xanny but she put them together."
"We're very happy with the outcome," Adam agreed. "He makes her happy." He handed Precious some punch. "There. If you need anything, tell us. One of us will be nearby."
"Thank you, Uncle Adam. I promise I'll come back for more lessons once I can walk properly. I'm much better today."
"That's all I ask," he promised. He patted her on the head.
"Well, if I couldn't be first, at least only the press beat me," the mayor complained genially as he walked in. "Well, you girls look quite grown up."
"That's because we are growing up," Xandra said smartly, smirking at him. "We've already had pictures taken but I'm sure our beloved journalist will be more than happy to pose you with whoever you want." Adam snickered and turned away to cough. "Would you rather have beauty, age, or influence?" she finished sweetly.
The mayor let out a loud roar of laughter. "Oh, you are so good, little lady. I think I can stand the usual during-party pictures instead of something posed." He patted her on the bare shoulder. "Aren't you cold? You feel a bit chilly."
"My skin's usually a bit chilly but I feel quite warm actually." She smiled and looked back at her uncle. "Adam, I do get one dance, correct? Since you've been working so hard to get me up to snuff?"
"You do," he agreed, smiling down at her. "He is correct, you look adorable and gorgeous in that dress."
"Thank you, Adam." She squealed and ran over to hug Ray, forgetting her internal promise to be more grownup tonight. "You did come! Junior's gonna kiss you for weeks for bringing Benny."
"He's got a bit of the flu but I didn't think he'd mind," Ray admitted, grinning down at her as he released his son to the insistent tugging on his arm. "You look hot."
She turned for his benefit. "Do I really?" she asked in a teasing voice.
"Seems like the last time I saw you, you had a big gun and were using it on a robber. You also had a ponytail and leather pants on."
She thought back. "Yeah, it might have been. Come on." She took his arm and led him to the rest of the family since Junior had confiscated Benny already. "Now you can keep daddy out of trouble too."
He snickered. "If it's possible I'm sure I'll try." He shook Xander's hand and gave him a manly hug, complete with back slapping. "Hey."
"Hey. You look good in that tux. New one?"
"Rental. It's easier." He grinned at Derek. "Thanks for inviting me, man."
"I figured the boys could use a break from being responsible adults for a bit," he admitted.
"You seem to give them that." He turned and smiled as more people came in the door, shaking their hands. "Welcome to the Luna Foundation.
The only bad event happened when the dowager empress of local society looked at the girls and grimaced with distaste. "I see you've cleaned them up again and forced them to come to events. I must say, the dark-haired one looks quite mature for only being twelve."
Xandra looked at her. "I'm fourteen and thank you for that wonderful compliment, ma'am. Unlike some events, we hired wait staff instead of using us children, so therefore we get the pleasure to attend these events. Now if you'll excuse some of us, I can hear the band warming up and I was promised a dance with the person who was teaching me more of that art." She walked over to her uncle and smiled at him. "Shall we?"
"If you wish," he agreed lightly. "It's not nice to snub her," he hissed as they walked away.
"She smells sick, Adam. It's not going to be a problem." She spun on his hand and smiled at him, letting the band strike up the first real song of the night. Then she moved closer and let him guide her. "We do this very well together."
"We do," he agreed. "It must be all that practice we get in." He smiled down at her. "You do look adorable in that dress. Don't let any old cow not fit for leather tell you otherwise."
"I know I do." She smiled at him. "Wait until you see the others."
"Are you still going to the school one, even though you don't have a date?"
She nodded. "I promised I'd be there as a helpful chaperone if nothing else. Besides, we still need to have a talk with Junior's math teacher. Ooh, Ethan just showed up on Uncle Rupert's arm," she tittered. "Grandfather is not sure what to say to him."
"He can't very well tell him to get out," Adam noted, glancing their way. "Pay attention." She focused on him and smiled. "Good girl. Remember, that woman has a number of unmarried nephews and two or three grandsons that she'll want to you to meet soon."
"No, not going there. I'm not going to be married until I'm out of college unless it's someone *very* special who'll attend with me. I won't give up my life for someone else. Why waste all the time I could possibly have because of someone else's desires?"
"Good girl," he praised. The song ended and they politely clapped then moved away from the fashion dowager to get away from her. "Are you all right?" he asked quietly. She nodded. "What's wrong?"
"She smells like death," she whispered back. "It's making me ill."
"Come outside for a moment then," he offered, opening the doors to the porch for the night. They found Xander and Oz out there in a clinch so he cleared his throat to break them up. "Couldn't wait?"
"Curing the smell issue," Oz admitted.
"Us as well." Xandra took a long few drags of clean air and sighed. "That's much better."
Inside the dowager had pulled Alex aside, as the lady of the house it was right to talk to her. "What is that young girl doing with her teacher?" she asked.
Alex glanced at Xandra's back then at her. "Apparently they're chatting about her upcoming training. He's teaching her how to fence." The older woman looked stunned and Alex shrugged. "She's herself, we leave her alone about it. She doesn't want to lead the high society life. She's found her niche in the world and it makes her happy."
"Still, what sort of example is she setting?"
"Her own," Derek interrupted. "As always. Her older sisters are very goot role models and they do still look out for her, but Xandra is and always has been a law unto herself. She's looking at MIT and Cal Poly Tech from what I understand." The dowager's eyes bugged out. "She's a genius at robotics. Her older brother is an excellent game designer. The children do what they want with their lives." He smiled and led her onto the floor, keeping his own stomach churning feelings to himself. "Are you feeling all right? You seem a bit peaked tonight, my dear."
"I am feeling a bit sickly," she admitted quietly, glancing around. "My grandson didn't want me to come but I felt I must, one last time."
"I'm sorry, did you need to sit out the event? I can arrange for a seat for you."
"No, that's fine." She patted him on the wrist as they danced. "I'll live long enough to see my son dating someone decent. He's on his way up, he was running a bit behind. His son you know."
"Oh, I do understand. We had to get the children started earlier so they could do all that fussing with treatments for their skin." She nodded, understanding that. "Is he bringing his son? There's not many attendees who are my grandchildren's age."
"He may be, I'm not sure if he could get the boy into his tux or not. If so, would you mind him talking to that nice granddaughter, the one who is smartly sitting down until she finds a good dance partner."
"She's not feeling the best at the moment but he may if she wants him to," Derek agreed. "Precious does need someone to talk to her tonight." She could fight off an advance as well as anyone else in this room.