Title: Metamorphosis
Author/pseudonym: Voracity
Email address: voracitys@hotmail.com
Rating: PGish
Pairings: Derek/Philip, Willow/Oz, Xander/Oz ship going stronger
Fandom: P:TL/BTVS xover
Status: new; complete
Archive: Sure, if you really want to.
Archive author: Voracity
Archive email address: hcompanion@hotmail.com Or above
Other website: (being worked on)

Disclaimers: Not mine (sigh). I gain nothing but pleasure from writing. No copyright infringment intended. Yes, writing is therapy for me.

Summary: Part 5: Philip has to leave for a while, Xander and Oz get closer after he finds out what the guy's really been doing.

Warnings: M/M (not that this should have to be a warning)

Metamorphosis by Voracity

Derek stoked over Philip's back, holding him tightly. "I don't want you to leave again," he said softly.

"I'll come back," he said softly. "I always do. You draw me here." He turned in the strong arms. "I know ya feel the same way abou' me as I do you." He smiled, rubbing over a cheek, wiping it off. "Bu' I gotta go back sometime."

Derek shook his head. "You could leave."

"It's my callin'. I can no more leave it then ya can the Legacy." He kissed Derek gently. "I'll be gone when ya wake up."

Derek nodded, very sad. "I know." He pulled Philip tighter, not wanting to let him escape.


Xander looked up as Derek walked in, handing over the paper. "He'll come back," he said softly. "This house and you will pull him like a magnet."

Derek smiled sadly. "I know but he doesn't like it." He shook his head. "When did you get so smart? Especially at this time in the morning?"

"Been listening to Oz a lot." He shrugged, picking at his usual muffin. "Can I have a day off? I want to go wander through the city and act my age."

Derek nodded, putting down his coffee cup. "I think that would be a very good idea. You've been very serious recently." He looked at the younger man. "Would you like to talk about it?" Xander shook his head. "Are you thinking about leaving?" he guessed.

Xander smiled, looking up. "No, not even close. Life is just weighing a bit much right now." He put down the remains of his muffin. "I just need to be nineteen for a while."

"Take a few days if you need it. We'll find you if we need to." He shook his head at the screaming from outside. "Might I convince you to take her with you?"

Xander shook his head. "No, but I'll drop her off." He stood up, going out onto the back steps. "Buffy!" She jogged around the house. "I'm going into town for the day to relax and veg, want a ride?"

She nodded, looking over her shoulder. "Yeah, I could use a day off." She wiped off her brow. "I'm *so* close to bursting right now." She walked in with him. "Can I have the day off too?"

Derek nodded. "I believe all of you should. You've all been working too hard." He looked at Nick. "I'm giving them the day off, can you handle the reports for London without them?"

"My part's done," Buffy said quickly. "Got it done last night."

Xander smiled. "I've had mine done." He shrugged, sitting back down and pouring syrup over the crumbs that used to be his muffin. "Willow's is almost done and I think Oz's is done too." He took a bite, hmm. "Not bad."

Nick shook his head. "Now I *know* we're family." He patted Xander's shoulder as he walked by him. "Yeah, I can handle it. Just boring routine." He headed down the hall, heading for someplace quiet.

Derek smiled. "I'll find Willow and Oz in a few minutes. Go get ready."

"Can I borrow a car," Xander said after Buffy had gone. "I wanted some alonetime." Derek nodded, pointing at the board. "I won't take the Range Rover, maybe one of the smaller sedans."

"Of course. I trust you though." He smiled. "It is a bit of a monster for this city, that's why I let you drive when we're going together."

Xander smiled. "Was wondering about that." He stood up, finishing his milk as he put his plate in the sink. "I've got the blue one." He grabbed the keys, heading for his room. He grabbed his new leather jacket, his wallet, and changed his shirt, then headed down to the garage. He left before any of the others were ready, getting on the ferry by himself.


Willow ran into Derek in the halls. "Did Xander leave without us?" He nodded. "Oh, okay." She shrugged, going out toward the back porch where Oz was. "He borrowed a car."

He nodded. "Okay. Go tell Buffy to hurry. We can drop her off at the mall or something."

She smiled, sitting down beside him. "She's picking her clothes." She rested her head on his shoulder. "Want to see a movie or a museum or something?"

He shook his head. "I want to traipse." He looked at her, pulling her head up. "Want to help me explore or heading for the mall?"

"I want to explore and if I get really bored in all the music stores, I'll go join her in the mall." She smiled. "Okay?" He nodded. "Cool. Derek's got our paychecks cut for tomorrow."

"Don't need it. Buffy does, but I'm okay."

Willow looked up as Alex walked out. "She still fussing?"

"Primping to look good." She handed over their checks. "Derek said he knew at least one of you would need it."

"Buffy," Willow and Oz said together.

"Creepy guys," Buffy said, taking hers. "And I wasn't primping, I was nibbling on something." She pouted at Willow. "Coming with me or cuddling all day with him?" She smiled at Alex. "And I've actually managed to start saving some of this."

Oz looked up at her. "Very little I bet. I helped you carry your packages last time, remember?"

"Hey, outlet shopping, much cheaper." She smiled at Willow. "So?"

"I'm going to go explore with him but if he gets too music heavy then I'll come to where you are." She smiled. "Xander's went off on his own."

Buffy shook her head. "Of course." She nodded down the path. "Going?"

"Yeah," Oz said, standing. He helped Willow up, pulling her close to his side. "Coming?"

"Yup." She bounced after them, waving at Alex and Derek. "Bye, be back after supper."


Xander looked up as Philip walked up to him, sitting down. "Father, I didn't know you were in town." He smiled, sipping his soda. "Want some lunch?"

"No, thank ya." He smiled at the waitress. "Jus' a soda please." She nodded, leaving them alone. "I had ta make a clean break." He looked outside. "Errands or free time?"

"Free time." He smiled, taking a bite of his sandwich. "I've not had to much of it recently." He looked at the passing people, not really seeing them. "I guess I needed to be alone."

Philip patted his hand. "Ya are alone, tha's the problem." He smiled as she came back, setting the glass in front of him. "Ya spend too much time in though' an' no' enough in action." He grinned. "You're less an' less like your brother e'ry day."

Xander shrugged. "Happens sometimes." He smiled. "I'm fine Father."

"Why so formal then?"

"Because I'm not letting anyone that close." He finished off his lunch, wiping his mouth. "I'll pay, you stay and relax." He picked up the check, laying down a good tip. "Have a nice day, Father," he said as he left.

Philip watched him go, not so sure he was fit to be alone. "Yeah, I will, bu' will ya?" He sipped slowly, watching the people go by.


Xander looked up from the cd's he was looking at, not expecting to see a friend. "Hey, Oz." He held one up. "Are they good?"

"Very, but heavy." He walked around the rack, standing beside his friend. "Willow dumped me to go shop, want to hang?"

Xander shook his head. "Not ready for company yet." He picked out a few he thought he'd like, bringing them up to ask to listen. "Hi, can I listen to make sure?" She pointed at the booth. "Thanks." He walked in, calling up the computer's menu. He typed in the name of the album carefully then put on the headphones, listening to the samples recorded. When he came back out, Oz was still looking at some cd's, a small stack now sitting in his hands. "Here, try this one," he said. "I think you'll like."

Oz looked down at it. "I know, have it at home." He looked up at Xander. "You sure? I'll drive."

"Have a car, but we can shop if you want."

"I wanted to explore, find more little stores like this."

"Then this is the district for that." He walked up to the counter, paying for them, then brought back his bag. "I've done a little but there are a few I want to go check out." He waited while Oz paid for his stuff too. "Did you guys get paid today?"

Oz nodded. "Yeah, didn't you?"

"Nope, haven't really been touching my paychecks. Just letting them breed in the bank." He shrugged. "I got a sedan, you got the van, so which one?"

"Yours. It's easier to park." He followed the younger man out to his car, setting his stuff in the trunk too. "You've not spent any of your check?"

"Not really. I think I spent maybe a grand total of one and a half." He pulled him toward a small shop full of curios and trinkets. He pointed at something through the window. "I want to check that out."

Oz looked at it. "Nope." He looked over at him. "Magical stuff in your room? Isn't that asking for trouble?"

"Not really. Willow has some."


"Hmm, well can we just go look? It's been calling me all day." They headed in, going right to the statue. Xander looked over the wooden distorted figure. "I don't think it's non normal."

Oz picked it up. "No, you're right, looks okay." He set it back down. "Meaningful?"

"Yeah, looks like me." He picked it up, browsing for anything else. He and Oz paid for their stuff, the older man having found something for Willow's birthday in a few months. They continued down the small streets, browsing through the little shops for unusual stuff that fit who they were, ending up with a small collection in the trunk.

Oz leaned against the side of the car. "Eat yet?"

"Yeah, actually with Philip. He found me in a little cafe just up the street." He shrugged, closing the trunk. "Why, you hungry?"

"Kinda." He looked at his watch. "It's five. Said I'd pick up the girls at six in front of the mall." He looked around. "Want to try another street?"

"No, I was headed over to the club section. I saw a shirt over there I wanted."

"Was that the silver one you were looking at the last time you were out?" Xander nodded. "I want to see you wear that, it's a bit extreme." He looked over the t-shirt and velvet over-shirt he was wearing over a pair of black jeans. "Not that you aren't dressing the part now." He walked around the car. "Drop me off?"

"Where is the van?" He got in, starting the car. He waited for Oz to buckle in. "I haven't seen it and we've been all over."

"Down by the docks in that parking building." He pointed the way. "But I want to see you in that shirt before you buy it."

Xander pulled out into traffic, heading for the store he wanted. "They'll be late anyway."

"No, Willow's with her. They'll be early but about five but we have time." He looked at the window of the store Xander wanted to visit. "In there?" He looked at the younger man. "A fetish store?"

"Yeah, I find some of the coolest clothes in there." He locked the door then walked straight in, nodding at the cashier he knew. He stopped in front of the shirts, pulling out the one he wanted. He checked it for size then looked at the sales girl, who nodded at the changing curtain. He walked in, changing quickly into the soft but cool fabric.

Oz hissed when he came back out. "Bright." He pulled Xander further out into the light. "Very bright." He looked over the whole outfit. "Looks good though."

Xander smiled. "Thanks." He pointed at the t-shirts. "My treat." He walked back in, putting back on his own clothes then came out to help Oz pick out a t-shirt.

Oz held out one. "How about this one?"

Xander read it, head tipped to the side. "Not." He looked through the rack, pulling out one with an antisocial message. "Here, this one fits you some days."

Oz read it, almost grinning. "Yeah, it does." He took them both, folding them over his arm. "No need to buy me a t-shirt, I have money."

"I know that Oz, but I want to."

The older man turned to him. "That's the first time you've said my name in a week." He hugged him. "Congratulations, you do remember me." He stepped back. "Now if we can get you to say the other's names, it might help too."

Xander shook his head. "Not even close." He pulled down a t-shirt, showing him the message. "This is me."

"I belong, not?" Oz shook his head, putting it back. "Not really. You do belong." He looked then pulled out another one. "This one."

Xander read the message slowly. "I don't like the pain, I live with it."

"Then let it go out to have fun sometimes. It doesn't have to live in you." He pulled out another one. "Here, therapy."

Xander read it, shaking his head. "Way off base Oz, I'm not distancing myself. I'm actually working my way closer."

"Through formality?" Xander nodded. "Won't work. Will's about to beat you the next time you're nice to her." He pulled down another t-shirt for himself and then found the perfect one for Xander. "Here, try this one."

The younger man read it, slowly smiling. "Okay, this I can live with." He pulled the older man to the counter, leaning on the it to talk to the cashier. "Hey, bad day?"

"No, just a boring shift between paydays." She looked at the stack of clothes Oz had. "That's the first time I've ever seen communication by t-shirt messages." She smiled at him. "You a student?"

"Yeah," he said as he laid down his pile of t's. "But my girlfriend is the jealous type."

She shook her head. "So's mine." She rang them up. "Thanks guys. You made my day." She handed them their receipts. "Oh, and Xander, new shipment's in tomorrow." She winked at him. "Just the stuff you were waiting on." He handed her some money, paying for his specially ordered stuff. "Thanks tons." She pouted. "We wanted to see you try them on."

"Well, I'd have to when I came to pick them up, just to make sure they fit." He grabbed his bag, walking out. "Tomorrow, Precious."

"Of course."

Oz waited until they were back in the car. "Dating her?"

"No, that's her name." He turned to smile briefly at a red light. "We've been flirting ever since one of the guys I club with brought me in there." He changed lanes, heading toward where Oz was parked. "Happy girling. I'll be back later. I wanted to hit the club for a while. I'll be back by the last ferry." He stopped beside the van. "‘Night."

"Xan, come with us to supper?" He saw the light frown. "I'm not playing your formalness game, so stop now," he said quietly.

Xander shook his head. "Okay but no thanks. A few of the guys are waiting." He popped the trunk, waiting for Oz to get his stuff. "Night Oz," called as he pulled away. He headed back toward where the clubs where, beeping as he passed the clothing store. He parked in a small lot, making sure his car was locked and the night guard was already there. "Hey Frank."

"Steal it?"

"Nope," he told the guy. "Borrowed, went shopping." He paid his nightly fee. "Be back in a while." He walked into the club, smiling at the bouncer. "Hey, am I early?"

"No, not really, they're in the back." He looked over the unorthodox outfit. "Cute."

Xander grinned. "Thanks. I just pulled it together this morning." He walked into the back room, sitting down. "Hey," he said, taking his juice up. "Who's first tonight?"


Oz walked into Derek's office. "Got a second?"

Derek nodded, putting down his pen. "Of course. What do you need?"

"To figure out Xander, who's being formal to get closer, or so he says."

Derek shook his head. "Protective. He's still wary of his acceptance." He smiled as Oz hit himself on the forehead. "Did he actually say your name today."

"Twice." He looked down at his new t-shirt. "Took me to his favorite clothes shopping place, which is a fetish store." Derek looked amused. "Great stuff, but I never pictured him in there."

"Yes, but he does find the most interesting outfits."

"Yeah, today it was a silver shirt and a t that I bought him that fits him." He shrugged. "The message therapy worked well, even amused the cashier, named Precious."

Derek grinned. "In this city? That surprises you?" He shook his head. "What else did you do?"

"We wandered around the arts and craft district, through all those small stores. Oh, and check the little statue he got. A misshapen human figurine, very telling, but the store around it had lots of artifact type stuff."

"Then I'll look it over later, when he comes in." He looked at his watch. "Which should be soon. Last ferry is in half an hour." He looked up at Oz. "Did you have fun?"

"Very. Felt good to relax and explore again." He stretched. "Will's expecting me," he said, standing. "Oh, he's got to go back again tomorrow. He's got an order at the store coming in."

Derek watched him leave then started to stress. He knew both the stores Oz had mentioned. The clothing one especially. He'd actually run into Nick there one day, stopping him from making the biggest mistake in his life. He would talk to Xander, just as soon as he got home.


"Xander," Derek said softly from the sitting room. "Oz said I needed to check out a statue, make sure it was normal." The young man walked in, searching through the bags and handing it over. "It looks like you had fun."

"Very. I've not spent much of a paycheck." He wiggled his shoulders carefully, looking very sore. "Those things get heavy after a while," he said when Derek asked the silent question.

"I know." He handed the object back. "Perfectly normal." He looked at all the bags, grimacing at the one from the clothing store. "We shop in the same places? Very hard to imagine."

Xander bent over, seeing which one he was looking at. "Really?" He looked at his Precept. "What do you get there?" He leaned back in his chair. "Not that you need to know what I do, but I think it's for a different purpose."

Derek shook his head. "Probably not. Although you might just be in there for the clothes." He shook his head. "Somehow I doubt it."

"Had lunch with Philip," Xander said, wanting the subject changed.

"So he told me. He said that you still were too alone in your head to be wandering around the city alone." He relaxed. "When Oz asked me to check the statue, I pulled his account of the day out of him. Messages on a t-shirt?"

"Yeah, it worked, we talked." He smiled. "Non verbal at it's best." He stretched, then winced. "I should go take a long hot shower." He stood, but Derek stopped him from picking up the packages.

"I have something to clean those if you need it," he said quietly.

Xander shook his head, big smile present. "It's not what you think it is. I refuse to let someone else do that to me." He picked up his stuff, heading up to his room.

"We'll see," Derek said. He checked his watch.

Derek and Nick sneaked into Xander's room, trying really hard not to wake him. Their flashlights shone brightly in the darkened room as every imaginable source of light had been covered so he wouldn't be disturbed by them. Nick walked closer to the bed, gently pushing down the covers to see a bare chest. He motioned Derek over, shining his light over it, making sure his brother wasn't bothered by it.

Derek frowned, looking over the dark markings. He wanted to touch them but he knew what they were. He motioned for Nick to make him roll over, wanting to check the one on his back. Nick ran a tickling finger down the sensitive side, watching him roll onto that side to protect it. Derek slapped his arm so he did the other side, making him roll that way so they could see the new markings. Derek shook his head, motioning him out to the hall, where a sleepy Oz was waiting. He motioned them downstairs, waiting until they were down on the second floor landing to say anything.

"That's not goot," Derek said. "Not goot at all."

"Oh, I don't know," Nick said. "They looked almost archaic."

Oz grunted. "Tattoos?" They nodded but hesitantly. "Saw one the other day as he was heading to change form his swim. Know someone who does that." He rubbed his eyes. "I'll introduce you tomorrow." He walked up to his room, needing the sleep now.

"Or we could ask," Nick suggested.


"Derek can I borrow the car again?"

"Only if you tell me about the markings on your chest." He laid down the paper. "I noticed your pain last night so came up to check on you."

"Well, you and Nick did." Xander smiled. "If you had asked...." He took off his shirt, showing them off. "It's temporary ink, lasts maybe a year." He looked over his shoulder. "Tap board, small needle, some psychedelic music. Not a big."

"Very much one." He leaned closer. "Mutilating yourself to feel better isn't goot."

Xander smiled. "I'm not. Although it doesn't hurt in that manner, I like them." He shrugged. "The pain may cleanse but that's not why I do it."

"Explain it to me."

"It brings me back to my body, makes me more conscious of it, more connected. Each one represents that thought in another language."

"I can read some of them," Derek said dryly. "Who ever does those for you has terrible handwriting."

Xander shook his head. "You're missing the point." He pointed to one on his chest. "You can read this one, right?" Derek nodded. "That was the first, it sums up the whole idea."

"To be connected to oneself is the greatest achievement and an ideal state that leads to being free." He nodded. "Sounds pretty and it's a goot sentiment, but to do this is a bit extreme."

"You know, you're the second person to use that word." He smiled. "It's nothing. I feel more connected now than I did when I came, more aware of myself and who I am." He put back on his shirt. "And yes, before you ask, he uses a clean needle, everything in sterile, and I'm being safe and careful. Okay?" He held out a hand.

Derek tossed him the keys. "All right, I can see that this is helping. For a minute there, you were the old you, the fire in your eyes was back." He looked at him hard. "We will discuss this further."

"Sure dad." He stood. "Anything else?"

"Say hello for me to Philip if you see him again."

Xander shook his head, walking away. "Why is the whole city narking on me now?" He tucked in his new t-shirt, heading out to the garage.


Xander modeled the only piece of clothing in his order, making Precious frown. "You know, when you do that you look *just* like one of my friends." He pulled on a dyed red lock. "Not good?"

"Very nice, it's the tats." She ran a finger over them.

"Semi-permanent ink." He shrugged. "Lasts a year so I can change my mind."

She nodded. "Makes sense to me. Do they all say the same things?" He nodded. "Very cool." She turned him around. "Uh-oh."


"Infected." She touched the newest one. "And dry." She picked up a bottle. "Your choice."

"Not a big purchase. Would you please?" He sighed as the cool gel coated his overheated back. "Thanks Precious."

"Hey, you're buying the stuff. I've just got fingers." She handed him the bottle, walking around him. "Manager," she whispered as she passed by his ear on the way to the register.

He pulled his wallet out of his shirt, paying for it, then he gathered his stuff, pulling on a tank top to rest under the leather vest. "Okay?"

"Lose the vest." He took it back off. "Much better." She handed him the bag of stuff. "Get it covered. Have someone put that stuff on at least twice a day, whenever it's dry, and take a Tylenol." She patted his arm. "It'll be fine if you're careful. It's a common problem.'

He smiled. "You're sweet." He kissed her cheek. "I"ll go get gauze right now." He walked out, getting into the car and setting his stuff on the seat. He drove to a nearby drugstore, a little family run place, being sure to check for his wallet before he got out of the car. He walked in, but turned, starting back out immediately once he saw Rachel Corrigan browsing.

"Xander," she called happily.

"Busted," he muttered. "Hey, Rachel. What's up? You've not been out for a while."

She nodded. "Haven't been called. How are you? You're working on that problem, right?"

He neatly sidestepped the arm she tried to put around his shoulders. "Yeah, mostly." He picked up a box of gauze pads and some tape. "Buffy asked me to get them," he said nervously.

She nodded. "I didn't ask." She stopped him from moving away. "Want me to look at it?" He shrugged and turned around, moving aside his shirt. She hissed, touching it lightly. "First one?" He shook his head. "Just couldn't get the gel on, huh?"

He turned back around. "It's a grounding thing for me. Just got that one last night."

She nodded. "So I noticed and for the record, you're not the first I've seen." She pulled aside his shirt, looking at the others. "These'll hurt when they're lasered off."

"Semi-permanent." He looked around them. "Could you cover it and help me find something to reapply the gel later?"

She nodded. "I have something at the house and I'll write you a ‘scrip' for some antibiotics while you're there." She waited while he paid for the stuff, then walked out to her car. "Follow me back."


Xander knocked on Nick's door. "Can I get you to apply a bandage for me?" The older man shook his head. "I put the gel on but I need you to cover it. Actually, I just need you to tape it down." Nick shook his head again so he walked in, closing the door behind him. "What's up?"

"Why'd you do it?" Nick didn't look up from his book.

"To ground myself in my body."

"Then you should be able to handle it." He looked up briefly but went back to reading. "Next time get it somewhere more accessible."

Xander sighed. "All but this one are and this one was okay until I couldn't get the gel on it earlier, now it's starting to infect."

Nick looked concerned. "Let me see."

Xander sat down beside him, showing him the shoulder. "I ran into Rachel in the drugstore and she looked at it. I didn't ask or anything, she went into Supermom mode and all in the middle of the drug store, " he hurried to assure.

"Breathe," Nick said. "It looks okay now. Give me the gauze." He taped it down quickly. "There, be more careful."

Xander nodded. "She gave me something to spread the gel with, I just couldn't cover it." He relaxed into the hug his brother gave him. "Are you pissed?"

"No." He pulled back, smiling. "This is so much like something I would do."

Xander grinned. "Somehow it just felt right." He screeched as Nick started to tickle him. "Nick! Stop it!"

"Please," Alex said from the doorway. "Oh, my God." She slammed the door, walking over. She pulled the young man up to face her, looking at all the tattoos. "Xander, were you trying to get sick?" She frowned at him. "Do you know how stupid and dangerous this was?" She turned to Nick. "And you're *encouraging* him?"

Nick held up a hand. "I was just taping over one of them."

Xander pulled her head back around. "It's a grounding thing. Some people have jewelry that they wear to make them feel alive, I did this to remind myself. It'll wear off."

"It's a *tattoo*. They don't wear off!" She sat down on the edge of Nick's bed. "Do you know what you could have picked up from that guy?"

Xander backed up a step, holding out a hand. "Stop right there. He unwrapped the *sterile* needle in front of me. He *cleaned* everything in front of me. He even showed me his last HIV test to make me feel better." He frowned down at her. "How stupid do you think I am? Never mind, don't answer that, you've already shown me that." He pointed at one, the first one. "You can read this, right?" She nodded. "Then do it." He stood still for a second, seeing the embarrassed look come over her. "Now then, any more *concerns* about my activities, you can come to *me*, not Nick, and voice them in a *calm* and *reasonable* manner. You're *not* my mother. Even Rachel acted better about them. All she did was give me a lecture on caring for them better." He nodded at Nick and walked out, slamming the door behind him.

"It's semi-perm Alex, that new stuff someone just came out with. They'll wear off. He was careful, same as I or you would have been." He touched her arm. "He's a grown up now and he's right, you're not his mother."

She turned to frown at him. "You let him do this?"

"I found out last night, same as Derek did, and he talked to him over breakfast about it." He leaned farther back. "We're not, and Rachel's not, concerned about this so you shouldn't be."

Alex took a deep breath, calming down. "You're right, I overreacted."

"No, you think?"

She hit him on the chest. "I'll go apologize."

"Good luck finding him."


"Nope, headed the wrong way." He smiled. "Try his room."


Xander slammed his door then looked around. He was still upset so he dumped the contents of his order on the bed, looking through it again. He stopped, stepping back, recounting the items. He shook his head, checking the bag and the chair they'd been laying in. When he still couldn't find it, he pulled on his shoes, heading down the stairs and outside to the garage. He jingled the keys he hadn't given back yet as he walked, trying to figure out where the things could have fallen out. He unlocked the passenger's side door, opening it so he could look. He ran a hand over the seat then between it and the back, then down under it. He found it and the two little bottles he was missing, smiling as he stood. He closed the door quietly, relocking it, then turned to start back toward the house.

Derek cleared his throat. "Lose something?"

Xander spun, unfortunately dropping the items onto the gravel. He blushed as he picked them up, hiding them under his shirt. "Derek. What are you doing out here?"

"I was working when you opened the door, setting off an alarm, which I shut off." He walked closer. "What's the matter with your shoulder?"

"Didn't get enough gel on and it dried out." He frowned. "Nick and I have already been over this. I'll be more careful with this one. I just need someone to cover it for me after I put on the gel."

Derek nodded. "Well, that explains the bandage, but not the screaming fit or why you were out here." He pointed at the bulge the younger man was trying to hide. "What are those?"

"Toys." He stood up straighter. "I would have thought you might have recognized them." He stared into Derek's eyes. "Do you have a problem with the concept?"

"No, I just want to make sure you're being careful. Even they can be harmful if you're not." He pulled Xander back inside the garage, out of the wind. "Relax. I'm not going to say anything about you having them. You're right, that would make me a hypocrite, which I've always tried not to be. None of us want to watch you be hurt though." He smiled kindly. "You can come to me for advice or if you want to talk, you know that right?" Xander nodded. "Goot. Now about the screaming fit?"

"Alex threw a hissy about the marks so I threw it back." He looked down. "I shouldn't have yelled like that."

"Very true, yelling never solves anything." He smiled. "Another lesson I learned early on from Philip." He looked at his colleague. "Most of us consider you to be our family. I wish you would feel free enough to do the same. I'm not just the Precept, I'm also the father of all of you. You can come to me for advice or information or even just to talk." He wrapped an arm around the younger man's shoulders. "Xander, I wish that you felt that comfortable here."

"I do, well mostly, but I am comfortable here."

Derek tapped the tattoos. "If you were comfortable, you wouldn't need those."

"Are you wanting me to leave?"

Derek stopped him, turning him around. "I do not want, nor will I allow, you to leave this house. Do you hear me?" He nodded. "Goot. I just wish you were happier here."

"I am happy Derek, I just... I still have some thing to work out, okay? Most of these have been about finding myself, trying to peel back the crap that's happened and find *me*, not who everyone thinks of as me. I'm not a carefree teen anymore. I'm a grown man and I should know myself by now."

Derek nodded. "I came to the same conclusion at around the same age. It took me years to figure out one simple fact. Nobody else will ever know all of me. Of course it took a divorce to drive it home as a fundamental truth, but not anyone else will ever know all of you." He turned the younger man around, letting him brace against the wall while he got the door open. "It's a goot thing to know, but the truth is not even you will ever find the whole depth of yourself." He paused before the stairs. "Now take you equipment upstairs and go to bed. We have a meeting and a new case in the morning."

"Night Derek." He stopped, then hugged him briefly. "And thanks."

"Anytime, Xander, anytime." He waited until he had passed through the first door before going back to the control room.

Nick looked up from the security camera. "Thanks dad. Couldn't have said it better myself."

"Go to bed," Derek said, swatting the back of his head. "You need to rest too."

"Oh, if I must." He smiled. "So, what was my baby brother retrieving." Derek shook his head. "Spoil sport," he muttered as he left.

"Not my secret to tell my friend." He flipped off the camera and went back to his research.


"You just had to start yelling," Oz said, leaning against his door.

Xander smiled. "Yeah, kinda." He opened his door, walking in. "Want to talk or something?" He dropped the stuff into the chair, quickly adding the stuff that was littering the top of the bed.

Oz closed the door behind him. "So, what was the fit about?" He steeped closer, looking at all the markings. "Cool."

"Thanks. You're the first one to say that." He sat down. "Alex trying to be a mother to me, reminding me to be careful, in the past tense." He shrugged. "Want to sit?"

"Sure, my personal bed monster's struck again." Oz leaned against the pillows. "So, what were you outside for?" He arched an eyebrow. "I heard some of it but not all. The garage was too far away."

Xander relaxed. "I dropped a few things in the car and just realized it. It wouldn't have been so nice to have someone find them.."

Oz nodded. "Yeah, finding a sex toy in the car can be embarrassing." He looked over at the chair. "Ready to talk about that subject?"

"Not really. I'm still thinking." He smiled. "Okay, maybe thinking isn't the right word. I'm," he paused, coming up with the right euphemism, "fact-gathering."

"Nice politically correct term." He let his mirth lapse. "So, are you?"

"Don't know. Know I like the thoughts but maybe not the action. Was gonna find that out this weekend while you and most everyone else up here were gone."

"You could come with us."

"And visit who?"

"Hmm, point." He looked at the younger man, seeing all the words. "The same thing?" Xander nodded. "Repetitive but can be a good." He touched one. "Not real ink so must be that new non- perm stuff. How long's it last?"

"About a year." He sighed. "I've had to explain that I don't know how many times today. Only you and Precious knew that much."

"You like her."

"She's not into my gender, Oz." He grinned. "This is nice. We haven't talked like this in a while."

He wiggled a finger. "No changing the subject." He waited but no protest was given. "Now, I also noticed her resemblance to my bed monster." The younger man started to find the floor fascinating. "Thought so." He pinched him, making him look back up. "Still love her?"

"Forever." He leaned back beside the older man. "I'm not gonna poach Oz. She's yours. And yeah, I shop there because she gives advice like Willow too."

"Will. Say it with me."

Xander shook his head. "Not ready for that."

"Get ready then, Xan. We miss the old you. He might have started to come back, but he's not home yet."

"Derek said the same thing this morning. He said some of the old fire started in my eyes while we were ‘discussing' the tats, but I'm still not feeling totally safe here." He looked around. "It got that ‘almost home, but something's off feeling' to me."

"Ever think it was how you were looking at it?" He rolled onto his side. "You're trying to make everything the way it was before, but now there is a before so it's different."

Xander nodded. "You're so wise." He grinned. "I know. I'm still getting on top of that subject. I'm trying, but it's not coming."

"Then quit trying." He nudged the immobile shoulder. "Or in the words of Yoda, "don't try, do."

Xander laughed, and it felt like the first real one in weeks. "Thanks man." He closed his eyes. "Can I get you to stay until I fall asleep?"

Oz nodded. "Of course I'll fight the nightmares." He pulled the younger man closer. "‘Night Xan."

"‘Night Oz." He snuggled in, rolling up against the older man. "Push me off if I get too friendly."

"Hey, we're friends. ‘Sides, you won't grope me." He yawned. "Sleep now. I'll do the light thing once you're out." He laid there, watching him sleep, slowly slipping away himself. He never even realized he'd fallen asleep.


Willow knocked on Xander's door. "Xan?" she asked, putting her head around the door's edge. She stopped, mouth open, then pulled back. She swallowed then looked down at herself. "No, couldn't be," she whispered. She started to look again but a noise from Buffy's room stopped her. Instead she ran down to the main housing area, knocking on Derek's door. He was always up and ready to talk. "Derek?" she asked when he opened the door. "What does it mean when you catch your boyfriend in bed with your best friend?" She sniffled, her face scrunching up. "And they both looked happy."

He looked shocked but pulled her in, closing the door behind her.