Title: Changing Again
Email address: email@example.com
Pairings: Derek/Philip, Willow/Oz, Xander/Oz ship going stronger, Nick/Buffy
Fandom: P:TL/BTVS xover
Status: new; complete
Archive: Sure, if you really want to.
Archive author: Voracity
Archive email address: firstname.lastname@example.org 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 11: Ah, blissful quarantine - or not. The aliens are back.
Warnings: M/M (not that this should have to be a warning)
Changing Again by Voracity
Derek walked calmly into the library for the morning meeting, his first appearance of the day. Alex and Rachel hissed, smiling at him and Philip, who was right behind him. They took their seats, looking around for the two missing house members.
Twenty minutes later Derek looked down at his watch, shaking his head. "We can fill them in later." He looked around the full table. "As you can see, we've all reverted. Alex, you and Nick also appear to be back to normal."
Rachel shook her head. "You three still look a little younger." She appraised the man she was sitting next to. "You look like the after of a good face lift photo."
Rupert shook his head. "Not I." He looked at Derek. "Have we had any luck with who did it?" The Precept shook his head. "I didn't think so." He sipped some of his tea. "Well, it seems then that William will be able to go home soon and Nick will be leaving on an assignment."
Derek nodded slowly. "Quite. Both of you." He grinned. "Buffy can deal for a week or so while you're up there dealing with the book inventory and things and he'll be back after a month." He saw her quickly suppressed upset look. "It might take him less time but those two houses need setting up." He cleared his throat. "While they're gone, Buffy, I want you to meet with an old friend of mine. He teaches the mental part of fighting, at least he does now, and I want him to evaluate you. You don't look like you're immersed in the proper attitude." She nodded. "Thank you." He looked at the other younger house member. "Xander, I want you and Oz to work together on his research project. I think it will help both of you." He looked around. "Where is he anyway?"
"Outside. He was feeling a little restrained so he and Willow took a short walk," he said calmly. "He and I have already started to talk about that. I'm his example subject."
"Very goot, I'm glad to see he's thinking ahead." He smiled kindly. "You never know what you'll learn when you do those."
Nick grinned. "Really? What did you learn?" Derek frowned at him. "Never mind. I withdraw the question."
The Precept nodded. "Thank you." He looked at the rest of his house members. "The rest of you," he grinned slightly, "are going to be tortured for the next little while. You get to update all the backups, the case portfolio, the inventories, and we have a formal in twenty-four days."
William shook his head. "You're cruel," he told Derek then he looked around the table. "I could arrange for any of you to come to London," he offered.
Alex shook her head. "No thanks, I hate fog." She looked down the table's width. "What about you, Philip? You staying?"
He shook his head. "I need ta repor' ta the Arch Bishop." He looked at his lover. "I'm no' sure wha'll happen nex'."
Rachel patted his hand. "I wouldn't worry, we have the two greatest meddlers in the world here right now." She smiled at him. "If worse comes to worse, you can stay here while they fix it."
He nodded. "Tha' I could." He sipped his tea, looking briefly at William. "Am I ta go ta Montreal or Sydney?"
"Sydney. You'll be setting up the house protocols." He looked at Nick. "I'm sure you two will be together for the most part. Nick might be jet lagged if he wants to get both done in a month but it'll get done."
Nick shook his head. "We still have some house concerns. I'll be leaving next week." Both Precepts nodded. "Good, I'll find my passport again." He wrote something on the pad sitting in front of him.
Willow walked in, tossing Derek his ring. "Sorry, we forgot." She took her seat. "Oz is still outside, he's not feeling the most comfortable right now."
Xander silently got up, heading outside to be with him. Everyone watched him except Willow, wondering what he was doing.
Derek cleared his throat. "I want you to start working on your research project. I would like a topic and a proposal by the end of the week." She nodded, so he looked at Buffy. "You can either do one with her or not."
"I should do one on mythology," the Slayer said softly. "I deal with so much of it."
"We have plen'y of sources here," Philip said kindly. She nodded, looking at the shelves. "I'll show ya them later." She smiled at him then slouched in her chair.
"Will you have a problem?" Derek asked her.
"I don't know how to write a research paper."
Derek shook his head. "I can show you and work with all of you on it." He looked up as the two younger men walked in. "Everything okay now?" They nodded. "Goot, Oz, I was telling him that I want a proposal by the end of the week and I wanted him to work with you on your paper but it seems you've already worked that part out."
The musician sat down in his chair delicately. "Sure." He looked around the table. "But I've got a problem." He pulled up his shirt, showing off the spots on his back, the silver spots. Just like the ones Xander had gotten recently. "I don't know how I got them."
Rachel walked over, bending down to look at his back. "It looks like them." She looked at Xander. "Where's yours?"
He reluctantly pulled off his shirt. "Grew them yesterday. I tried to do the saline bath thing but it hasn't worked." He turned to show the rest of the house. "We want to be quarantined."
Derek nodded. "Fine. We'll have a laptop sent up to you so you can do something besides lay in bed." He looked at Nick. "I want you to deal with this for now. You'll be the most effective." He glanced at Willow. "We'll be checking you two later." The redhead nodded. "Anything else?"
"I have some stuff coming in," Xander said. "Someone needs to get it for me."
Willow smiled. "Can I take your car?"
He handed her the keys. "I'll give you directions in a few minutes and money." He sat down in his chair, pulling away from the cold wood and putting his shirt on. "What can we do about this?"
"Why didn't you tell us yesterday?" William asked. "I'd think this was something we should have known before now."
Xander looked him in the eyes. "I've tried everything in my power to clear them off for the last half a day, once I found them. I was *going* to bring it up at this meeting, his problem just made it seem more happening now." He looked down at Derek. "Where are you going to stash us?"
The Precept shrugged. "We'll decide that later." He looked at Nick. "Not the basement for sure."
Nick grinned. "Guest house out by the old stables?" He looked at them. "It was wired at the same time as this house. Everything but internet. It's got phone lines though so we can hook them up to a modem."
"It would be best if they didn't have access to the database right now," William said. "That would seem reasonable, don't you think so guys?" The two infected men nodded slowly. "Then that's settled. Nick'll move you out later."
"Water?" Xander asked. "Hot water?"
"Worked the last time I knew," Nick said. "I might have to turn on the gas line again but everything else is set."
"Neither of us can cook," Xander pointed out. "I helped make a batch of cookies but that's about it."
"I can have Dominick send out things for you to eat," Derek said. "I'll have them import a microwave and we can send out the meals so you can heat them up."
"What about my suggestion," Rachel said.
Oz shook his head. "Not a chance."
Xander looked really confused. "What suggestion."
Oz looked at him. "She wants to make us sick to drive them out."
William shook his head. "We do not participate in human experimentation or biological warfare Doctor Corrigan," he said solemnly. "That will only be used as an absolute last resort." He stared at her until she looked away. "We'll find something guys," he said soothingly. "You just have to be patient."
Buffy raised her hand. "What about the animal problems?"
Oz looked up at her. "Good stuff for the paper," he said quietly. "I've got to go call Devon and tell him I'm contagious with something." He stood up, walking out of the room.
Willow looked torn but Derek nodded at her to go. He looked at Nick. "Go check the house, make sure it works. Set up some sort of room where they can interact somehow."
"No contact," Xander said. "I think Oz got it that first day from me. He spread some gel on my shoulder and refused to wear gloves." He looked at Derek. "Said he'd been working around it all day."
The London Precept sighed. "That sounds like something only a young man could do." He pushed back from the table, standing up. "I'll go call home, get my house to check with the Physicist to see what she's gotten." He headed out toward the office.
Derek nodded at everyone else to leave, waiting until it was him, Xander, and Nick. "I know this will be hard on both of you," he said quietly. "We'll figure this out as much as possible with as little interference to your lives as possible." He looked at Nick. "I want you to scrape some off them, see if Willow might have been infected also." His Security Chief nodded. "Xander, I'm sorry we have to do this to you."
The teen nodded. "Me too." He stood up. "I don't want to hurt anyone." He walked out. "I'm going to go pack."
Derek looked at his second in command. "You might not be leaving after all. He'll need you." He stood up. "I might go instead and let Toronto House's people do the security." He walked out, going to join William in his office.
Nick shook his head. "Why us?" he asked quietly. He stood up, grabbing the edge of the table when the room started to spin. "Please, no." He sat back down, swallowing hard. "I can't have it too."
Derek walked into the control room, stopping when he saw his security chief asleep over the console. He walked in softly, not wanting to startle him awake. "Nick," he called softly.
The younger man groaned, holding his head as he sat up. "Derek?" He looked around, standing up to get away from him once he saw his boss. "No, no closer." He warded him off with his hands. "Just stay away. I'm waiting for an analysis."
Derek waved the paper around. "It was sent to my office." He walked in further, sitting in his seat. "It's not them."
Nick sighed in relief, sitting down beside him. "Then what is it?" Derek handed him the paper, letting him read it for himself. "This is wrong, it's gotta be wrong. I can't be."
Derek nodded. "My first thought too, but then I started to look in the Watcher's Chronicles. It's not only possible, but it seems to happen fairly regularly." He relaxed some. "I want you to talk to Rupert about this."
Nick nodded, still staring at the results. "Yeah, I can do that." He looked up. "What does this mean to me? Us?"
"Nothing. It just means we have to find a way to cure it." He stood up, patting his shoulder. "You're just a little closer than not and each year you get a little closer." He smiled gently. "You're not aging at least."
Nick shook his head. "Yeah, but that doesn't make up for this." He laid the results down, looking at the main screen. "Can I be alone?"
Derek walked out, not saying another word to him. Nick already knew that he was there for him whenever he needed him.
Nick called up the Chronicles, searching for the problem at hand.
Xander looked around the house as he walked in. "Clean at least." He dropped his bags to go look some more. "Hey, Oz, they got your amp," he called, walking into the living room.
Oz walked through the downstairs, looking at all the spacious rooms. "Yeah, it's a nice prison." He frowned at the plastic curtain in the living room but didn't comment, going to join the younger man where he was. "Whoa, nice view." He looked out over the bay, turning to look at the edge of the gardens. "Sun porches can be a good thing."
Xander turned to him and grinned. "May be a prison but it's a nice one." He walked out, going to explore some more. He went through the whole house, ending up in the make-shift library in the turret of the old Victorian house. "Hmm, plenty of things to do here." He checked out the titles, seeing books he'd been wanting to read and some others about the normal topics they would be reading about. He also saw the nice section they could use to get the paper started, not that it was such a priority right then. He turned as Oz walked in, nodding at the stacks. "Derek gave us some good ones."
The older man nodded, looking over the ones near the door. "Yeah, some light reading too." He pulled down a comic book. "He didn't know how serious we wanted to be."
Xander reached around him, pulling down one of his favorites. "Not too bad." He flipped through it. "Seen this one already but it's a good series." He put it back, sitting down in one of the chairs. "Comfy."
Oz sat down across from him. "Are we going to be okay here?"
Xander looked out the window behind the other man's head. "We can survive here and we'll beat this thing." He looked at the older man. "This isn't so bad. It's like house sitting."
Oz shook his head. "Not what I was talking about."
"I know, but I don't have an answer for that," Xander said quietly. "It hasn't hurt us yet so we could be fine. It might just leave one night like most of mine did."
"Or we could be turning into it."
"Then William'll send us through to them and we'll have to make reports from there." He grinned slightly. "Relax. If worse comes to worse, we can take Rachel's cure and get really sick together."
Oz nodded. "Yeah, there is that." He looked over at the full shelves. "Everything in our bedroom's are almost the same."
Xander nodded. "So I saw." He leaned forward, touching Oz's knee. "We'll be fine. There's nothing that we can't beat if we work together."
The older man nodded. "Thanks man, that's what I wanted to hear." He got up, heading back down to finish unpacking.
Xander listened to him as he watched the sunset, wondering why this was happening to him.
Rupert looked up as Nick walked into his room. "What?" he asked, not very pleased at the book he was trying to translate.
"I'm turned partially," the younger man said, sitting down across from him.
The Watcher closed the book with a snap, looking at him. "What?"
"When Alex was almost changed, she used me as her first food." He looked around the room, not meeting his eyes. "Derek just got back my latest blood work and it shows that I'm slowly turning every year."
The older man stood up, grabbing a vial off the dresser. "Come on, I need to test this." He pulled him into the bathroom, starting a bath. "Strip."
Nick shook his head. "Not with you in here." He looked embarrassed. "Sorry."
Rupert sighed in frustration, pouring the holy water into the bath water. "No more than a couple more inches. Get in and make sure it hits all of you." He walked out, shutting the door behind him. "Do it now while I talk to Derek," he called through the wood.
Nick stripped down quickly, climbing into the warm water and screaming as it hit his flesh. He picked up the cup, scooping up some more, beginning a painful process that might make him want to be staked instead.
Oz knocked on Xander's door, walking in before he had a chance to give permission. "Hey, want to talk?" He sat down on the foot of the younger man's bed, seeing him sleep. "Sorry," he said.
Xander stretched as he rolled over. "Couldn't sleep?" he whispered. The older man nodded. "Come on." He held up an edge of his throw. "You can borrow part of my fuzzy."
Oz climbed under it, gratefully taking the comfort it offered. "Thanks man."
"Not a big, cuddle up if you want." He leaned his back against him, cuddling up to soothe himself. "Night Oz."
"Night, Xan. I'll be better tomorrow." He closed his eyes, falling asleep within a few minutes.
Xander rolled over, snuggling up to the warm, fuzzy hardness next to him. "Nighty night," he whispered.
Derek knocked on the door of the guest house, waiting for one of the young men to answer it. He could see a velvet shadow on the stairs, could hear Oz's voice, but got the shock of his life when they were merged in the man that opened the door. "Morning," he said finally, stepping inside. He handed over the box he was carrying. "Thought you might like some muffins and things."
Oz nodded. "Thanks." He waved him inside. "What's going on up there?" He closed the door behind him. "Xander's in the kitchen trying to figure out how to cook."
Derek walked with calm assurance through the house he used to play in. "Morning," he said as he walked into the old fashioned kitchen area. "How are you?"
Xander looked up from his mixing bowl. "Frustrated." He wiped off his hands and the spots of soupy dough on his nose, sitting down at the table. "How's things back in the real world?"
Derek sat down, waiting for Oz to do the same. He looked at them both. "Nick's earlier bite is coming back to haunt him," he said, wanting to break it carefully. "When Alex almost changed, she used him as her first feed."
"So the bro is tainted?" Xander frowned. "Holy water for him then."
"It keeps burning him."
Oz looked interested. "Are we talking true holy water or just blessed water?" Derek gave him a questioning look. "When the aliens first showed up, I went into the database looking for ideas, coming up on the stuff for holy water since Nick said the stakes had been soaked in it." He sipped the soda he'd brought with him. "There's *blessed* water and there's *holy* water."
Xander looked interested now. "Was Philip blessing it?" Derek nodded. "Hmm, then it could be holy water instead of what we consider which would be blessed, right Oz?"
"Yeah, mostly. Blessed water is what you usually see in churches. Real Holy Water is something that only someone touched by God can create. It takes a special touch or ability from what I read and it burns anyone not absolutely pure."
Derek shook his head. "I didn't know that. I'll have to check it out later." He almost touched the older man's hand but withdrew it at the last second. "Thank you," he said instead.
Xander frowned. "His hand's not contagious. His back, his chest, and his legs are." He rolled up his sleeves, showing off the little silver dots on his arms. "I'm the one with contagious hands."
Derek moved away from him some. "So I can see." He tried to smile reassuringly. "Do you need anything?"
"Sanity," Oz said. He looked at Xander then around the room. "How about some meals that are ready to eat. Neither of us can cook."
"Computer," Xander reminded the Precept. "You said we could have one."
Derek pointed at the box. "Two in there." He watched as they pawed through it. "Anything else we can get you?"
"Cable," they said together.
Derek smiled at that. "Certainly. We'll have it installed this week and a reasonably sized television also." He stood up. "Do you have the necessities?"
"No," Xander said, pulling over his ‘want this stuff' list. "Here."
Derek read down the long list, carefully noting which things could be gotten immediately. "I hadn't realized about the laundry. I'll have your brother come down to fix it later today." He looked up, seeing the two men gone. "Boys?" No one answered him so he left the house, going back to his own.
Oz looked at his housemate. "That was cruel."
"No, he was scared of us. He'll go home and scrub off." He poured himself some tea. "What should we do today? I can't sleep anymore."
"I could play, you could read, or we could start the paper."
Xander sipped his tea, leaning back in the wicker chair, looking out over the bay. "I brought my journal but I could explain it better. That was mostly to soothe the savage Precept."
Oz nodded. "Me too." He looked over at him. "You decide."
"Let's at least figure out what we need to do to get it done. I'm about ready to explode with boredom."
Oz patted him on the shoulder. "I know." He sipped his own drink, watching their boss head back across the garden. "Nick'll be down later."
"Yeah and maybe he'll bring me a gun to shoot myself with." He started to scratch at his arm.
"Stop that, it only makes it worse." Oz watched him fight the urge unsuccessfully. "You need to be more calm."
"No, I need to get rid of this symbiote." He scratched a few more times. "What do you think it is?"
"I think we're gonna be moms." He turned back to look at the garden. "Ready to raise some aliens?"
"Nope," Xander said, sipping his tea. "I don't want kids."
Oz tossed the tennis ball he'd found earlier at him. "Not time to be funny man." He shook his head. "Only you."
"Yup, only me."
Nick walked into the house, stopping to look around. "Hey, guys!" he called, wanting to find them before going in any further.
"Out here!" Oz yelled back.
The older man walked through the house, following the soft music he could hear. He dropped his tool box on the table on his way through the kitchen, heading out to the sun porch. "Nice view," he said, leaning against the door. "Where's Xan?"
"Upstairs. Some light still got through last night." He looked up. "This sucks."
"No, sucks is no electricity," he said. "Which you won't have while I fix the washer." He grinned. "You know, holy water hurts."
"Muchly," Xander said, walking around him, making sure not to touch him. "How about Blessed water though?"
Nick wiggled his hand. "Not too bad." He looked around the room. "Derek sent Dominick out to get your requests. I'm here to fix the washer, and I'll figure out how to do the curtain in the living room."
"We could always try to be careful," Oz pointed out, very tense, almost rigid.
"She's not," Nick said. "I checked her over myself, with Alex of course." He shook his head. "Nothing inappropriate from me, I let her do that stuff."
Oz let out his breath. "Thanks."
"Welcome." He looked around. "I've got the stuff to turn on the cable too. You guys have a satellite dish, same as we do." He glanced out at the bay. "Where are we putting the tv?"
Oz looked at Xander and shrugged. "Not a clue."
Xander grinned. "That nice room next to the living room." He tipped his head back from his chair to look up at his brother. "Few windows, not at sun angles to interfere."
"Hmm, I know which one that is. I'll do it before I leave today."
"Still going to Montreal?"
"Very, I leave tonight." He wiped over his forehead. "Why's the house this hot?"
"Don't know," they said together.
Nick shook his head, standing back up fully. "And on that note, I'll go do my tasks." He left them alone, heading back to the kitchen.
Xander nodded toward the garden. "Incoming."
Oz looked out. "Buffy." He started to pick out the melody again, working hard at getting it perfect.
Xander got up to go answer the door. "Hey Buff, come to see us or Nick?"
She smiled, walking past him, making sure not to brush against him. "Nope, we missed you guys. Rachel won't let Willow come down." She headed into the living room, sitting down and looking up at him. "So, how are you guys?"
Xander grinned as he sat down. "Oh, as well as could be expected. We're both pretty upset over this. We're bored ‘cause there's not even cable right now." He looked around. "Buffy, I left a box up at the house, can you get it for me? I can't find it anywhere."
"Rachel confiscated it from the butler. She said that you didn't need that sort of stimulus." She frowned. "Went through the new stuff too."
Xander looked really upset. "I'm going to have a talk with the boss then, huh." He shook his head, looking at her. "I'm not upset with you, just with her." He looked over his shoulder as Oz walked in. "Rachel confiscated some of my stuff."
Oz nodded. "Sounds like her." He sat down on the same couch, not wanting to get closer to her. "How is she?"
"She's fine, Rachel won't let her come down though. Said the risk of touching you was too great or something like that."
Oz snorted. "I'll deal with her later." He looked up as he heard a banging from down the hall. "Nick's using the sledgehammer method of fixing the washer."
Xander shook his head. "This is stupid. Nobody else that touched me has gotten it." He stood up, walking out of the room.
Oz and Buffy watched him go, her turning to look at him. "He's much more social than you are. He needs people around him." The older man nodded. "Not that you're not but he needs constant peoplization." She stood up. "Anything you want me to transmit back up to the house."
"Tell Derek to call," he said quietly. "We need to discuss."
She nodded and stopped just short of patting his shoulder. "Sorry, man, I can't." She walked out, jogging across the gardens.
Oz watched her for a second then stood up, heading to where Xander had tended to hide when he started to think too much. He grabbed the cordless phone on the way, making sure it worked before heading up to the library. "Hey," he said, sitting down next to him. "We'll live through this."
"No we won't." He turned to look at him. "How can you be so calm?"
"‘Cause getting upset now won't help." He handed over the phone. "I told her to tell Derek to call."
The younger man nodded, setting it down beside him in the chair. "I want this to all be a bad dream but it's not. I'm infected with some alien thing and it's not good, not even close to normal."
Oz nodded. "Who said normal was the only right way." He watched him settle down. "We have to accept this. Remember, it feeds on your hormones as you swing." The younger man nodded. "No offense or anything, but I don't want to wake up some morning to see you a big pile of goo."
Xander started to laugh, resting against his friend's shoulder. "Thanks Oz, I needed that."
"Hey, what else can I do? We're in this together, right?"
Xander nodded. "Yeah, we're together." He took the older man's hand. "Want to just curl up next to me tonight from the start? I could use the cuddle."
"Sure, it'd make us both feel better." He looked down at the phone as it rang. "Boss man calleth."
Xander grinned, answering it. "Hey, Derek," he paused. "No, we need something else. Get Rachel to give us back our stuff." He frowned. "She forgot her own findings, man, it lessens on happy feelings. Can you think of anything better?" He got angry. "Don't even *let* her near us! I don't care what she wants to do, I don't want her touching me, my stuff, my music, or anything else." He hung up, tossing the phone into a chair. "She's said that we shouldn't have visitors, we shouldn't be listening to music, and that we should be separated." He got up, pacing the room. "She doesn't know that much about this, how can she say that?"
"‘Cause she's a doctor and a woman," Oz said. "She's trying to be logical." He walked up behind his friend, laying a hand on his arm. "I'm not accepting this either." He waited until he was being looked at. "Just because we're sick doesn't mean we aren't alive."
Xander nodded, calming back down. "Thanks." He turned to look at him. "That's the second time you've diffused me in the last few minutes. How are you doing that?"
"It's the same thing I'm feeling. I'm getting vicarious pleasure from letting you vent." He sat back down, holding the phone in his hands. "Maybe I should take a stab at it."
"Only if you stab her," the younger man muttered, sitting down across from him. "Sure, your turn."
Oz dialed the main house. "Derek?" He waited. "Derek, it's Oz. We really don't like her suggestions and since it's us that's infected and she doesn't know anything about it or us, maybe you should involve someone else."
"Marcus, he knows," Xander said.
"Marcus? Or at least that's who Xander mentioned." He nodded at him. "Okay and the rest of our stuff? I miss my music." He hung up, a partial grin almost coming out. "Our music and stuff will be down in a while, he liked your suggestion and will call him, and Dominick will start feeding us in a while too. He'll drop baskets outside the door. We'll eat and do the same with the clean dishes which he'll sterilize but keep separate for us."
Xander nodded. "Thanks. You do calm so much better." He scratched idly. "I really should learn that from you. This itching sucks."
"Punishment." He looked out the window. "‘Copter?" He watched the Legacy helicopter take off. "Must be William leaving, that's why Derek sounded so pleased."
Xander grinned. "Blame him much?" The older man shook his head. "How'd Devon take it?"
"Told him I had some funky bacterial thing and I was growing ‘shrooms. He wasn't pleased and if it lasts more than a week, he's gonna get a temp." He settled down into the chair some more. "Which sucks but is understandable."
The younger man leaned over, patting his leg. "He'll welcome you back with open arms, nobody could replace you."
Oz nodded. "Thanks, I needed to hear that." He looked at the doorway as someone walked up. "Hey," he said to Nick, who was carrying a basket. "Goodies?"
"Yup. Cookies even. He said to wash the dishes and leave them in the basket out on the porch at night. He'll make a run down here once a day or so." He set it down. "Lunch and supper both." He stepped back. "Let me guess, you heard about what Rachel said?" Both men nodded, still pissed. "Then let's just say, William chewed her out for Derek before he left." He grinned and headed back downstairs. "I've got the washer fixed and the dryer needs a new belt. I'll be back later with it and the stuff she confiscated." They heard the front door close.
Oz leaned forward to check out the basket's contents. "Many munchies and plates of food." He pushed it away. "I'm not hungry."
"We have to eat. Otherwise we'll starve the little alien babies." He grinned. "Come on, I'll nuke you something good." He pulled him up, taking the basket. "Besides, you don't play as well when you're hungry. You miss notes."
Oz shook his head at that. "Why bother?"
"Because, it soothes me and you're good at it." He stopped, looking at the older man. "Your music is the same for you as my tattoos are. They keep you grounded and real. You aren't giving it up just because we've become hosts. I won't let you." He turned, heading back down the narrow staircase. "Come on, I'm hungry and I hate to eat alone."
Oz walked down slowly, thinking about what the younger man had said. "You're right, but I don't see a purpose in practicing now." He sat down at the table. "I can't play for anyone else."
"Since when has your music been about the audience?" He pushed the start button on the microwave. "It was ham or chicken. I'm doing one of each." The older man nodded so he sat down across from him. "Oz, when has it ever been about playing for someone else? Your music is part of you, as much as the werewolf is now. You never wonder about how others will hear a song, but how it sounds to you." He took his hand, squeezing it lightly. "Your music *is* you man, you can't stop just because of this crap."
The older man nodded. "I know, but it just seems so futile." He looked up, seeing the pain in the dark eyes looking at him. "I'm sorry, I know this isn't normal me."
"With the aliens growing on us? Who's gonna be normal?" He grinned. "Just be yourself and I won't complain. Well, as long as you talk to me on occasion." He stood up, getting the warm plates out of the microwave and setting them down in front of their seats. "Eat, you're too thin."
Oz picked at his food, taking a bite. "Much better than we could do."
"Yeah," Xander said, eating some himself. "Much better. I'm not meant to cook." He looked at the other plate, stealing a piece of broccoli. "Sorry, like those."
The older man pushed their plates together, exchanging vegetables. "Better now." He started to eat again. "Yeah, much better." He looked around the mess in the kitchen. "We should clean."
"Later," Xander said, mouthful. "I'll do it later, my mess so I'll clean." He looked out the window facing the castle. "Yours is coming."
Oz turned his head, seeing a certain redhead hurrying toward them. "Yeah, she is." He ate quickly, getting up to let her in.
Xander just sat there, eating quietly, wanting to give them some space.
Derek looked up as the personal Physician of the men of the house walked in. "Marcus," he said, getting up to shake his hand. "Thank you." He sat him down in one of the chairs. "Thank you for coming so quickly."
"Yeah, well, you never call on my expertise unless it's something bad." He looked around. "Where's Corrigan? I heard she worked out here."
"Yes, but she's had an unfortunate run in with the affected people." He sat down beside him. "You remember the young man I sent to you about his shoulder?" The doctor nodded. "It's the thing you found in his shoulder and we have another infected member also."
Marcus shook his head. "Derek, why did you let it get that far?" He picked up the folder laying on the desk, looking over Rachel's results. "Damn, she's well out of practice for this stuff." He looked up. "I want to examine them and scrape a new sample to test." Derek nodded. "I'll have access to your labs?"
"Free and clear." He smiled, leaning back in relief and ease. "Thank you. I knew you would be able to help more."
Marcus shrugged. "Not a big thing, Derek, he's a nice kid." He stood up. "I'll go see them first."
"Guest house," he pointed out the window. "Down where you and she used to picnic."
The Doctor grinned. "Yeah, I remember picnicking with Alex down there. Call them to give them a warning." He walked out, reading as he went.
Derek sat up, grabbing the phone to dial it. "Oz," he said. "Tell Xander that Marcus is on his way down. He needs to take a sample." He smiled as he hung up. "Yes, this will work fine now." He leaned back, watching the gardens.
Xander opened the door, almost bouncing into the dark haired man standing there. "Marcus," he said thankfully. "Come in." He waved him in, watching as he set down his stuff. "Want something to drink?"
"Nope, just a few samples from you both." He tapped the folder on his leg. "Why didn't you come see me when it got worse?"
"Didn't know it was until we sprouted spots." He took off his outer shirt, showing them off. "Tried to get them to leave with saline but it didn't work."
Marcus shut the door, pulling him inside to a better light source. "Okay, let's get you laying down and your friend up here to talk to you while I do it. I'll be testing them tonight and we'll deal with it." He looked up as someone else came down the hall. "You must be Oz. I'm Marcus, former house member and personal physician to the men of the house." He smiled, shaking the firm hand. "Let's go take some samples. Maybe you aren't contagious at all." He waved up the stairs. "Go find a neutral spot."
Xander ran up the stairs, heading for the unused bedroom. "Come on, Oz, he'll fix us."
Oz shook his head. "This is hard on him, he doesn't do isolation very well." He followed his housemate up, at a slower pace. "Did you get her results?" Marcus snorted. "I'll take that as a yes."
"Yes, I did and I can see I'll have a lot of things to reinvestigate." He headed up after him. "I remember this house fondly. Alex and I used to picnic out here all the time between cases." He walked into the bedroom the younger man had picked. "Good spot. Get up and let me drape it." He started to pull out gown, mask, and gloves, putting them on before draping the surface. "We need this to be as sterile as possible. I'm not worried about exposure." He looked at Xander. "His alien and I have already met."
Oz nodded. "Okay." He took off his shirt, and jeans, putting them aside. "Want some from each spot?"
Marcus nodded, finishing up with the sterile draping of the bed. "Yeah, actually. Any other spots?" He looked over the younger infected man with interest. "You're much worse than he is."
"He's been emotional recently. That's one thing we are sure of. It reacts to infections and emotional swings." He laid down on the bed. "Xander, come talk to me."
"Not really necessary. I'm just going to aspirate some with a needle." He pulled out a box of syringes. "I don't see a need to do the extensive cutting she did on him." He sat beside the bed, opening the box. "Maybe I should have brought more." He looked over Xander's arms and chest. "You have anymore?" He turned, showing him the one large one on his back. "Okay, I'll have enough." He picked up the first needle. "Shouldn't hurt at all," he soothed as he bent over to start sucking up some of the silver plasma substance.
Buffy walked into the control room, stopping when she saw the tall, dark haired, good looking guy sitting at a terminal. She cleared her throat, having just enough control not to pant when he turned to face her. "Hi, and you are?"
He stood up, showing himself to be well over six feet. "Marcus. Former house member and physician. I was called in to look at your friends." He held out a hand.
She took it after a second, remembering what to do with it after she shook herself out of the spot fantasies. "Buffy." She sat down beside him. "So, you're taking Rachel's place?"
"Yeah, I'm subbing for the evil doctor. Xander begged when he found out what she had done." He smiled briefly at her. "Good news, it's not contagious anymore." He looked at her. "Did anyone check all of you?"
"Yeah, they did. Alex and Nick." She shivered for a second, remembering how he'd looked her over. "Fully."
He grinned. "I'm guessing Nick did yours." He turned back to the screen, letting her blush cool. "Well, I'm going to say they caught it at first exposure, when they picked them up off the floor."
She shook her head. "I helped pick up Xander's when most of his left."
"You're not showing dear. It wasn't that much time difference. You'd be spotted by now if you were infected." He turned his chair to look at her. "Are you worried?"
She shook her head. "No, not really." She turned her head as Alex walked in. "They're not contagious," she said cheerfully.
"Hi Alex," Marcus said softly. "Want me to go?"
She shook her head, sitting down next to him. "No, I'm not going to be in here for long." She looked up at the screen. "Not contagious?"
"No, well not mostly. I'd guess that if you got enough of the stuff on you with an accessible entry point you'd get them too, but just to the average person, touching is fine."
"Then can they leave? Oz is a musician and Xander has to go out every few days."
He shook his head. "Too big a risk, sorry." He looked at her. "I can't let them out into the general population, not knowing what I do." He looked back at Alex. "I could let them back into the house, but I'd rather they were out there in case something happens when they pop."
"Then they're breeding?" Alex said. She avoided his eyes, not wanting to fall in again. He nodded. "Okay, that's about what we expected." She saved the results for him, sending them to Derek's file. "Derek has them now, but you might want to find him."
Buffy looked at them. "I'm going to go for... something." She walked out quickly, leaving them alone.
"I'll be out of your sight as much as possible," he vowed. "I'll try to stay in the lab and down there."
She shook her head. "No need, I'm over it." She stood up. "I forgave you a long time ago." She walked out, heading someplace quiet and safe.
"Yeah, but I can't." He looked up, fiddling with his data some more. "Hmm, interesting." He hit that key again, watching the monitor, then got up, heading for the office.
Oz put down his guitar, standing up to stretch. "Okay, I'm bored now." He looked down at his exile mate. "What now?"
"Read, paper, or eat." He looked up from his book briefly. "Or we could nap."
Oz walked out, heading toward the front door. He'd caught sight of a truck coming towards them. "Xander," he called once it stopped in front of the door. "Stuff."
The younger man walked out of the hall. "Ours or other?"
"Both," Nick said, walking up behind them. "Sorry," he said after they jumped. "Didn't call out when I got back." He opened the door. "Hey, guys, in here," he called.
The security force unloaded the truck, bringing all the boxes inside and to the new tv room. Nick quickly set up the cable connection and the box, turning on the tv with a flourish. He waded around the other boxes of stuff, smiling at the two younger men. "Derek had Dominick go shopping for you two too." He looked at Oz's outfit, seeing his brother's shirt. "He and Willow went to where you guys shop and got some other stuff, bringing someone that looked just like her with them to help them." He grinned at his brother. "Precious?"
"She's a great woman," he said solemnly. "Did a lot of Willow-like advice for me when I was shopping."
"Ah," he said, nodding. "Yeah, she was kinda cute." He grinned at Oz. "Relax, not poaching, not even a random thought in that direction." He looked down at the boxes still being carried in. "If they don't fit guys, stack ‘em in the other room." He watched the latest box walk out. "They got you some decorating stuff, some munchies and other food, some music, all the necessities you might ever need, and your own stuff out of Rachel's grasp." He looked over his brother. "You were gonna tell me when?"
"When I was admitting it to everyone else," he said, shrugging. "Only you two, Willow, and Derek know."
Nick nodded. "Okay, I can understand wanting to hide that secret." He looked at Oz. "You two.. ah..." He shook his head. "Never mind, I don't want to know."
"Only for comfort," Oz said, getting it. "Nothing else between us, I'm not." He turned, walking out to give them some privacy.
Xander looked at his brother. "How's the vamp thing going?"
"Oh, about as well as your animal one." He rubbed over his neck. "I'm wanting to sleep all day right now." The younger man nodded. "I know, sounds typical, doesn't it."
"Wrong person to ask. I was only a minor researcher. Willow did the main stuff." He grinned. "Well, nobody ever said we were *normal*."
His brother smiled, pulling him into a hug. "Yeah, normal for us is subjective." He pulled back, seeing the shock. "Derek didn't call? You're not contagious right now." He grinned. "Willow will be down after supper though."
Oz stuck his head back in. "We're not?"
"No, Marcus thinks you got it when you picked up the aliens off the floor that first time." He turned Xander to face him. "He did agree with your findings of wood, hormones, cold, and light though."
Oz walked in, nodding. "That's good to know." He looked at all the boxes. "Lot of stuff."
"Yeah, much." He looked over them. "Derek had Precious and Willow pick you guys out some more clothes too." He saw the pained look in Oz's eyes. "What?"
"She always gets the wrong size boxers," he said, shaking his head.
Nick's grin got wider. "Precious bought those. Seems she can tell just by what size you are and by looking." He looked at his brother. "If you liked women, I'd say take her."
"Technically," he said, pulling away a bit, "I like both, but she doesn't." He shook his head. "Met her girlfriend one trip, she's jealous and is sure that she's going to go back to men."
"Ah, that I can understand." He looked up as one of the security guys popped in. "Done?" He nodded, leaving them alone. "Okay, now down to business. Willow can come down and spend the night but no sex. Marcus thinks it may be transmitted that way too. He wants to keep you guys down here until we're sure of some things mainly to not let it spread if they pop. If you need anything, Derek will still be home, as will Alex. I gotta leave tonight and Philip's going with me. Nobody sees anything wrong with you two right now, but we're being cautious. Your paychecks are being deposited for you, so work on your paper. In your inbox is the email addy's of everyone you should need to reach if you don't want to call." He pointed to the outlet he'd been setting up earlier. "William relented, you're on the LAN right now. Both laptops are set up for it. Just plug in."
Xander looked around. "Did you remember the remote?"
Nick pulled it out of his pocket. "Derek wants to see results on your paper soon guys, he's saying that your not *that* sick." He patted Oz's head as he walked by. "Anything else just yell to the house."
"Thanks," they said together.
Oz turned to look at his house mate. "I'll do groceries if you figure out what the rest of this stuff is." He took the remote, turning it to the music stations, finding a song he liked. "Deal?"
"Very." He looked around, seeing all the stuff. "We should be well set for the apocalypse."
Oz shook his head. "Don't even joke about that man." He walked out, heading toward the kitchen.
Xander looked around him for a minute more then starting in on the first box, checking it and moving it into a new pile.
TO BE CONTINUED.