Title: Changlings and Traumas
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pairings: Derek/Philip, Willow/Oz/Xander, Nick/Buffy
Fandom: P:TL/BTVS xover
Status: new; complete
Archive: Sure, if you really want to.
Archive author: Voracity
Archive email address: email@example.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 16: a misunderstanding, some DNA, and a hostage situation. Pretty full story.
Warnings: M/M (not that this should have to be a warning)
Nick frowned at his friend and boss. "What do you mean his last bite infected him with some demon DNA too?" He scowled at his student. "Why isn't that in the Chronicles?"
"We did a holy water bath, Derek," Buffy said. "Oz did it while we were gearing up to go save Philip."
The Precept nodded. "I know, I read the report and it looks like everything went well but it also seems that the alien changed his DNA some. We had his old and new compared and there was a great change. Oz didn't show any but his infection was less." He spread his hands. "That's why they've wanted him. Why they sent Victor to get him."
Nick nodded, still frowning. "So, what do we do? How do we cleanse him of this slight aberration?"
Derek shook his head. "It appears to be most beneficial. When I gave him the same battery of initial tests again, he scored much higher. His IQ has gone up ten points, his empathy rating is now up near the could be tested range." He smiled. "It's what has allowed him to merge his parts more fully, to become himself without having to go out so much."
Buffy nodded. "So, what do we *do* about it?" Derek frowned at her. "Hey, he's my friend, I'm going to protect him."
He shook his head. "He is protected, or will be just as soon as his DNA finishes shifting." He leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms behind his head. "He'll be better protected than you are possibly. Those memories he's been hiding will be at the forefront, all the soldier's and the hyena's memories will be there for him to use at will, their skills available to him." He looked up as Oz walked in. "Eavesdropping?"
The young man nodded, leaning against Buffy's chair. "So, how much longer?"
"I'm assuming that what happened the other day may have been a catalyst of sorts. He shows a marked change between his pre-injury blood work and what he was before I tested him, and another between waking up and this morning." He looked at him, smiling fondly. "You're good for him it appears."
Oz nodded, looking down at Buffy. "Go get a drink, we need to talk." She frowned but left the room and he took her seat. "He's still real insecure about all this and that sort of information would just make it worse. He still believes this is all a trick and that we're going to dump him." He looked at Nick. "I think that must run in your family." He turned back to Derek. "Let me explain it to him in our own way. Otherwise he'll leave on another long trip."
Derek tossed him the folder, still comfortable. "Have at it then. He's yours now. It was fated." He smiled gently. "Feel very lucky, you've found the true happiness in life, a mate that is meant for you and a full life."
Oz nodded. "Yeah, very full." He looked at the desk calender. "We're due at the doctor's tomorrow." He got tossed the keys. "I should get a van that we can all travel in."
Derek shrugged. "As you wish. I don't use it all that often right now and it's a very goot vehicle for carrying around your family." He smiled. "Of course I was thinking of getting a newer model so maybe we can work something out." Oz nodded, taking the folder and leaving.
Nick waited until they were alone. "What happened?" Derek shook his head, smiling. "Oh, no, they aren't." Derek laughed lightly, nodding, his face showing sympathy for the younger man. "Well, he's definitely not me." He stood up. "I'll go talk to him later."
"If he's as insecure as Oz thinks, that might not be best. Maybe a warm hug and a congratulations but no lectures, Nick. I don't think he's up to a Boyle discussion on love and politics." His smile got a little brighter. "Of course, Philip would want to know before he comes back next week."
Nick shook his head. "Tomorrow. I'll meet him down at the ferry." He walked out, still shaking his head. He ran into his brother in the hall, and taking Derek's advice, clapped him on the back and said, "Congrats, be happy. We'll talk some other time," before going up to his room.
Xander looked around then down at himself, then over his head. "Where's the sign?" he asked the painting on the wall, but it didn't answer, thankfully.
Oz pounced on Xander before he could escape. "This doesn't mean anything besides Fate was working for us," he said, leaning down to nip at the ear next to his lips. "We were meant to be, all the bad stuff was meant to ready us for this stuff." He turned him over, still on top of the younger man. "This doesn't change things between us." He leaned down, taking a kiss. "And if you leave this room tonight, we'll have to cart all the kids and stuff down to your room." He looked around Willow's room, seeing all the decorating changes. "Not that this room doesn't look like yours but you know what I mean." He stood up, holding out a hand to help his still confused mate up too. "Now sit and listen to her."
"I'm some sort of mutant and fate did this to me to make us stronger," he said softly. "So, why me again?"
Willow smiled. "Because you needed us." She patted the bed in front of her. "Sit or feed and change them at one." He sat down quickly, not wanting a repeat of the night before. "Thought so." She leaned over to kiss him. "Just a little longer and they'll sleep through the night."
"Then we'll all be standing over them to make sure they're all right," Oz pointed out. "Again." He sat down behind the younger man, wrapping him in his arms so he couldn't try to escape again. "You're not a mutant, just a little different now." He nipped at the silk covered shoulder. "Not that you were normal before." He ducked Willow's attempt to bop him with a pillow. "Well, he wasn't." He licked over the smooth neck. "What about this bothers you? The non-choice issue?" He got a nod. "It's no different than a calling. If you had ignored it, then you woulda ended up pulled toward us, maybe by another rash of alienitis that all of us got this time." He held him through the shudders. "They're gone and not coming back," he reassured.
Xander took a deep breath and opened his mouth, then closed it. "I guess that's okay, I just need to process." Both his mates nodded. "Okay?" Willow nodded. "I promise not to leave," he said, leaning over to kiss her.
Oz tossed him to the mattress, sitting on his hips. "My turn tonight." He looked at Willow. "I can't wait until you're back to normal so I can do this to you too."
She stood up, taking off her robe. "I stopped today," she said, showing off the same outfit she'd had on under her gown at the last formal. She was the one that growled at the person who was knocking on the door, putting back on her robe to go answer it. "Philip?" she said, seeing the guys separate out of the corner of her eye. "What's up? I thought you weren't supposed to be back for another week." She let him in, tying her robe tighter and double tying it to make sure it wouldn't come undone.
"I jus' came ta say hi and ta check on tha swee' ones." He leaned over the cradle, touching each one. "I see they're fine." He looked at the two men on the bed. "I'd like ta talk if ya could stand it tonight."
Willow closed the door, walking over to the bed and gathering up the file to hand it to him. "Here, it's fated." She sat on the end of the bed, pulling a pillow into her lap to cover any possible gaps.
Philip read it quickly. "So it seems, bu' I didn' wan' ta talk abou' tha'. I needed ta talk abou' how ta stop them." He looked at the two men. "You two make it easier. You're no' bonded so they have an opening." He saw both men blanch. "I know, a scary though', but it's true. Ya have ta say the words ta gain protection."
"I love them, tell them regularly. What else do I need to do," Willow asked.
Xander coughed. "It's me. I've not said it to either of you." He took Oz's hand. "I do love you, you know. You've been the one steady, constant support in my life, and for that I'll always love you." He leaned over, kissing him gently, leaving out their usual animal primality.
Oz pulled him closer, whispering it in the younger man's ear. "I love you too. You're the one that's always understood what I needed to be me." He licked over a cheek, bringing a grin. "But I'm still the top tonight." He let him go, looking at Philip, who was shaking his head.
"Ya go' ta look deeper. He migh' be the suppor' ta your life, but why. It's only with the *depth* of feelin' that ya can avoid them." He stood up, handing Willow back the folder. "It's rare, bu' when it happens, someone always tries to break it up." He walked out, closing the door gently behind him.
Willow looked at Oz. "You mean we have to say why we really love each other? Not all the top stuff?" He nodded, getting up to get the baby that was whimpering. "Hmm, how do I put this?" She took the baby from him, baring herself and feeding her. "I love you both because you're you. The mix of all of us cancels out all the others weaknesses, leaving room to grow as people and as a trio." She looked at Oz, grinning slightly. "The next one, you're breast feeding." She grinned at Xander. "Nope, not having one soon, but if I am, let's hope someone figures out how far along I am before I have the next one in the control room."
He shook his head. "I do love you, you know. I always have. First as a friend that I could always count on then as a woman when I finally figured out that you were one." He grinned. "Took me long enough, but when I finally got a clue, it almost wrecked us."
Oz took his hand. "I know, same as I know that's why you're scared right now." The younger man nodded slowly. "Xan, do you know that it's not true? That I've always thought of you as a friend, even when I was pissed that you kissed her?" He got another nod. "So, why the insecurity now?"
"Because you're a couple and I'm the third. Doesn't fit well into the notion of coupledom."
Willow smiled. "Babe, this is all us. No one else can tell us how to do this and if they try, you have my permission to bite them. ‘Kay?" He nodded, grinning. "Good, now grab a bottle, he's trying to suck a hickey up."
Oz took the baby. "Her, Will. This one is Precious." He showed her the wrist band. "I still think this was a good idea."
Xander nodded. "Helps me." He got up to take her, sitting back down to feed her. "Yeah, we're named right, aren't we Precious."
Willow grinned, pulling Oz down onto her lap. "It was worth the pain just to see that look on his face." She pushed him off, standing up to take her robe back off. "Bottom line guys, I love ya because I do." She straddled her mate's lap as he sat back in the chair, bending to take control of his mouth. "No other reason should matter."
Xander held his niece up, letting her watch her parents neck next to her bed. "And when you're older, you'll find someone that makes you that happy too and we'll all throw you a big party," he told her, smiling as she waved her arms around. "Yeah, we'll help you find a good little fella or girl to love." He wrinkled his nose as he smelled her dirtying herself. "Na-ah, I'm not changing you." He stood up, handing her over the giggling ones. "Not my job, not my creation." He picked up his favorite niece, smiling at her. "Isn't that right Serena, you're not mine so I don't have to change you." She disappointed him by spitting up all over her chest. "Oh, well, I guess I could bathe you."
Oz wrapped his free arm around his chest. "Change Precious and I'll shower with Serena." Xander shook his head. "Oh, come on."
"Hey, she could use a bath too," Xander pointed out.
Willow wrinkled her nose. "I wouldn't want to take a shower with a baby that has diarrhea, but that's just me."
Xander grinned, exchanging girls with Oz. "All right, if you insist." They walked into the bathroom together, the younger man running a nice warm bath into the baby tub and Oz starting the shower. He tried really hard not to watch the older man undress but it was almost a futile hope. He was entranced, so much so that he almost let the water overflow into the small padded tub.
Oz turned to smile at him. "Liking it?" He checked the water temperature again then strapped on the plastic baby carrier that they used in the shower.
Xander blushed, concentrating on bathing the little girl he held. He didn't know Oz was still behind him until he felt a warm body against his back, snuggling hard against him. "Yeah," he admitted. "I liked it."
"I'm yours, as much as you are mine," the older man reminded gently. He smiled as his girlfriend came in to take over baby scrubbing duties, allowing him to turn the younger man in his arms. "See, I can look at you and you can look at me. That's part of all this, a genuine appreciation of the other." Xander was still blushing, looking down at the floor. "Want to shower with us? I'm sure she won't mind." He looked down at his daughter. "Will you Serena, you won't mind if he comes in, will you?" She waved her arms some more, seeming to want him to hug her. Xander nodded so he moved away some. "Strip and join us." He climbed in, pulling the glass doors mostly shut.
Xander looked over his shoulder at Willow before pulling off his shirt.
She walked around to watch him, securing the last of the cloth diaper's cover's straps. "Why are you embarrassed? You're going to share it with us, I've seen it before, so why be so self- conscious now?" He shrugged, tugging off his t-shirt. She pulled aside her robe, showing her nearly nakedness underneath. "I'm the one that used to be embarrassed, you have a beautiful body and should be proud of it." She ran a hand down his chest, frowning down at her daughter when she was kicked. "I'm not ignoring you, just touching your other father." She looked up at him to see the startled look. "Xan, you can't stay an uncle if we're together, it'll confuse them." She stepped closer, letting the baby be cuddled between them while she kissed him. "Shy looks cute on you, but I'd rather have the kitten come back out to play." She stepped away from him, smiling. "Now, strip for me then go shower, she just spit up on you."
Xander looked down, then at his niece. "Precious, I love you even if you don't feel the same." He stripped quickly, heading for the shower.
"Xan," Willow called. "Freeze." He did and she smiled. "Turn around, let me see." He did, blushing again. "See, a beautiful specimen of a man. Someone should sculpt you." She grinned, leaving them alone.
Oz opened the door. "Don't feel bad, she did the same to me, same as I used to do to her." He helped the younger man in, closing the door behind him. "Hmm, she's right, you're very nice looking." He ran a hand down the now sticky chest. "But you do need a shower, get under the spray." He moved around, letting the younger man grab the water. "We've had our fun for the night."
Xander washed his chest quickly, turning to watch Oz talk to his daughter. "She's so cute," he said quietly, reaching a clean finger over to run it along her head. "You're so lucky."
Oz stepped closer, hugging him as close as he could with her attached to his chest. "We, alternate dad." He kissed him lightly, just brushing across the damp lips really. "Let me go drop her off with Will and I'll wash your back." He saw the small shivers. "Cold? Or not a good thought?"
"Very good thought, I'm just not sure I'm ready for them yet." He watched as Oz got out, heading back into the bedroom. He heard some giggling then Willow was crawling in behind him, he knew it wasn't the older man, he didn't have full breasts. "Hey Will," he said quietly.
She turned him around, plastering herself to his wet body. "Hi," she said before claiming his mouth. "I bet him and won the chance to wash you for us." She grinned, stepping back to view all of him. "Where to start?" she mused, turning him around. "Hmm, could start in an obvious place." She picked up her shampoo, pouring some out to rub through his wet hair. "Much nicer?"
"Very nice," Xander said, relaxing into her. "I've never had anyone take care of me before."
Willow turned him around, rinsing off her hands in the spray behind his back. "That's just part of what we'll do. We love you, fully and wholly. You're ours, same as we're yours." She pulled his head down to meet hers, looking into his dark eyes. "Don't fight me on this, I'll start crawling in beside you and jump you at night while you have dirty dreams about us." She grinned, kissing the end of his nose. "Now, rinse that stuff out."
He turned around, doing as she said, just like always.
Derek looked up as Buffy walked into the kitchen with the infants. "Needed some space?"
She grunted as she sat it on the table, nodding. "Yeah, they're dealing with some Xander insecurities." She turned to look at him. "We need an elevator, they're getting heavier."
"They're supposed to," he said, bending over to look at them. "Maybe we should hire a nanny or something."
Buffy shook her head. "Remind me to be in another room when you suggest that. She'll throw stuff." She sat down, picking up an apple to munch on. "She's really wanting to do it all herself."
He sat down next to her, in his usual seat. "Surely she's realized she can't. Not even with them helping." He waved at the basket. "Only two of them had baths?"
"Nope, Oz was bonding with Serena in the shower and Precious has the runs so she's been getting more. The guys had one a few hours ago. I got to help." She smiled at him, taking a bite. "Definitely made me long for birth control."
Derek shook his head. "I'd hope that you were already being careful."
She shook her head. "Not an issue yet." She got up to toss her apple core. "He's teaching me all the stuff I missed." She blushed lightly as she sat down. "Not that it's so much but...."
He laid a hand over hers. "I've read about your last boyfriend. I'm sure that he's very patient with you to get over the fear of him turning evil too." She looked a little surprised but nodded. "Then he's goot for you and I won't say a word. Of course, if you'd ask Alex, I'm sure she'd have some advice or a book or something that she could share."
Buffy grinned. "William told me a malicious rumour that you two used to be an item." She wiggled her eyebrows. "Want to substantiate that?"
He shook his head. "The past is past," he said, standing up. "Want me to watch them for a while? You look tired." She nodded, very grateful. "I'll broach the subject with her tomorrow," he said, tiredly. "I know she needs the help." He picked up the basket, grunting at it's weight. "What has she been feeding you four? Rocks?" He carried them up the back stairs, heading to his room.
Buffy watched his back then ran out to go find Alex. She was in need of some girl-type advice from an older woman.
Willow briefly considered picking up one of the heavy statues on the table but thought better of it when she remembered that they were priceless and one of a kind. Instead she hefted a rock used as a paperweight and hurled it at Derek's head. "I am *perfectly* capable of taking care of *my* children!" Then she calmly walked out, heading up to her room to hide and cry.
Buffy looked up from where she had hidden and shook her head. "Told ya so." She hurried out after her friend, knowing she shouldn't be alone right now.
Derek sat down behind his desk and sighed. "I messed that suggestion up," he said softly. He turned on the screen when it beeped, frowning at William. "Calling to make my day worse?"
William smiled sweetly. "Yes, actually I am." He held up a copy of the San Francisco paper, showing it's headline that proudly proclaimed that Rachel Corrigan had been convicted of trying to kill patients by the hospital. He put it down. "Make your day yet?"
Oz reached across the desk, turning it off after saying, "Good bye William. He might call you back later." He faced down his boss, anger flowing from every cell in his body. "Just what," he said in a very calm voice, "did you mean by that suggestion? ‘Cause not only is she a very capable mother but she is one of the best ones I've ever seen." He leaned over, resting his fists on the heavy wood desk. "I'd say something in your defense now."
Alex walked in and stopped. "Whoa, not a good time." She started to back out but Xander pushed her aside as he walked in.
"He didn't mean it like that," he told Oz, pulling him back from the desk. "He's said how good a mother he thinks she is. He just wants her to be able to focus on other things, like you and work." He held him tightly, not wanting to have to sit beside a hospital bed, for either of them. "He didn't mean it that way," he said quietly, pulling his lover back from the edge of his anger. "He never meant it that way."
Derek swallowed, nodding. "That's true, I didn't mean it that way. I meant it as a way for her to have some free time to do other things, like sleep."
Oz started to frown, his eyes starting to get very squinty. "We're dealing," he said. He looked over his shoulder at the man holding him. "Let go."
Xander stepped back, holding up his hands. "Letting go. I just didn't want to clean up the mess you'd make."
Oz nodded and left the office.
Xander looked at Derek. "You just had to shatter what little confidence she had, didn't you?" He ran out after the older man, not wanting him to take them and leave, not wanting to be forced to choose.
Derek looked at Alex. "I suggested we get a Nanny for the rough times." He put his head in his hands, shaking it. "I've messed up badly this time."
"I'd go fix it before they leave," Alex advised, walking out. She ran up the stairs, not wanting them to leave either, but she found Willow angrily packing a bag. "He didn't mean it like that," she said from the doorway. Oz closed the door, almost hitting her with it. She clearly heard the lock engage, frowning at it.
Nick handed her the key, pushing her aside to look at the lock. "Coming in," he called, taking it back and opening the door. He closed it behind him, leaving Alex outside again. He looked at the angry trio, leaning against the door. "He really didn't mean it like that, Willow. He wanted you to have some help when they got to be too much or when you needed some personal time." He walked over to where she was still throwing clothes into a bag, sitting her on the bed and kneeling in front of her. "He never meant it like that. Really. He's told both Alex and I how good a job you've been doing, how much he admires you for being able to take care of four of them at your age." He smiled hopefully. "He never meant to insult you or make you feel bad."
She wiped her cheeks off. "It didn't sound like it. He just said. ‘I think you should consider letting me get them a nanny'." She sniffled some, taking Oz's hand as he walked over to comfort her. "He was mean, Nick, cruel and mean to me."
Oz and Xander both held her while she cried, comforting her the only way they knew how, by being there. Xander looked up at his brother. "Leave," he said quietly. "‘Cause you're not going to upset her more." He kissed the top of her head, hugging her tighter to his chest.
Nick left, locking the door behind him. He resisted the urge to hit his boss when he ran into him in the hall. "No preface of you're doing good but?" he asked him, pushing past him on his way down the stairs.
Derek frowned after him but turned to go to their door, knocking softly on it. Oz opened it then slammed it in his face. A few minutes later, Willow opened it.
"Go away. I can't stay where people think I'm bad." She closed the door again, but he stopped it this time. "Leave us alone Derek, we'll be gone by tonight."
He touched her hand, walking further in and closing the door behind him. "I don't think that you're bad or a bad mother, I think you're too tired to not end up back in the hospital," he said gently, sitting her in a chair. "You've done an excellent job with them, they're healthy and happy and you've been the one to do it, but I'm worried about *you* and *your* health. You haven't slept in days probably." He knelt in front of her. "I never meant to suggest that you were doing a bad job. That was going to be the next sentence I would utter but you left before I could." He touched her clasped hands but she pulled away from him. "Don't leave, that's not what I want, or what you want."
She shook her head. "I can't stay, you think I'm bad."
Xander got off the bed, walking over to stand behind her. "Will," he said, bending down so he could look at her. "He's got a point about the sleep thing. And he's right about something else, you're worn down. No, I don't think we need help, I'll even take on more responsibility if you need me too but you are tired. You tried to take off an unremovable ID bracelet this morning because you thought it was on the wrong kid." He took a deep breath. "But if you want to leave, I'll go with you if you still want me to."
She reached up, taking his hand and pulling him down to hug the top of her head. "I know, and we do want you, always." She looked at Oz, who nodded, then at Derek. "I don't like your idea."
"Only for a short while, until you're well rested and they don't need such around the clock care," he promised. He smiled slightly. "I do believe you've been doing an amazing job, and considering everything that's happened since you gave birth, I'm awestruck at how well you've done." He patted her hand, heartened when she didn't pull them away this time. "Let me?"
Oz nodded so she did. "But I'm talking with them. This is *my* decision. I've got to like what they stand for and who they are." She frowned at him. "Don't ever try this again, ‘cause next time they won't stop me. I'll go and leave Buffy here by herself if I have to but I won't be insulted again."
He looked truly embarrassed and nodded. "I'm sorry, I never meant it that way." He backed out of the room, giving them their privacy.
Oz walked across the room, taking the spot he'd just vacated. "I think you're incredible. Nobody else would be able to handle Xan and four kids."
She grinned then started to laugh, then fell into his arms, crying. Xander left them alone, taking the little ones downstairs so they could be alone for a while.
Derek walked into his office, frowning at the teleconfrencer but answering it. "What William?" He sat down, scowling at the smirk. "What?"
"What did you say now?"
"I suggested that they needed a nanny and she never let me finish my rationale." William shook his head. "Go blow yourself up," he muttered, reaching for the off switch.
"Touch that key and I'll be there tonight." He waited for Derek's hand to move. "Better. Now, did you apologize and give her a good reason?" Derek nodded, still frowning. "Then I'll send over the list that we use here." He smiled kindly. "Good idea but lousy delivery, Derek."
The San Francisco Precept hung up on him, leaning back in his chair in frustration. "Shit head," he muttered. When he couldn't sit anymore, he got up, getting small amount of brandy to calm himself down with. He was muttering more imprecations and comments about William Sloan's heritage when the phone rang. He picked it up, calming his voice on the way up. "Luna Foundation, Derek Rayne." He frowned then hung up. "We don't need this crap," he said, getting up to go answer the door.
He let in the head of the New York house, frowning at him too. "What?" he asked, still testy.
"Is that any way to greet an old friend Derek?" he said, putting down his bag to hug his fellow Precept. Derek never saw the needle hit him or the men that pulled him out of the house.
Nick ran up the stairs, pounding on Willow's door. "Is Derek up here again?" She shook her head. "Damn, downstairs, meeting, ten minutes." He jogged back down the stairs, heading out to the garden, hoping Philip or Xander had seen him. "Guys," he called as he got closer. "Meeting. Derek's missing."
"Maybe he went into town," Xander said, putting the little boy he was holding back into the basket. He took the one Philip was holding, putting her back in too.
Nick shook his head. "No, the Range Rover's here and there was a strange bag in the entry."
Xander looked at Philip, who nodded, and they hurried back inside together, going to get the bag. They laid it on the meeting table carefully, waiting for Xander to look it over before opening it. Inside was a bunch of children's clothes and a videotape. Xander looked over the clothes while Nick ran to watch the tape, frowning at the obviously digitized image of the London Precept as he said the house was closed and they should all leave. He popped the tape back out, heading for the control room, waving the amassed group in with him. He dialed London, popping the tape in so both houses could see it.
By the end, William was frowning badly. "I did not say that." He looked at Nick. "Children's clothes? In a carpet bag?" Nick nodded. "Damn, I had hoped Derek hadn't been in on that case." He hit a few keys, sending them some information. "There was this case about ten years ago, an orphanage and school in New York. It was haunted, possessed children and all. The file doesn't say who the three members were but two other people have disappeared so I'm guessing it's them."
"Wha' happened?" Philip asked, but he knew. Derek had been having nightmares about it again.
"It burned, Father. One of the children's possessors got scared when they tried to remove the spirits and exploded the energy in the room." He took a deep breath. "They got out as many as they could, a total of sixteen out of the sixty or so." He took a sip of something in a mug, then faced them again. "Four of those sixteen are still living. That's all in the file I sent you." He looked at Nick. "Whatever else was going on is now on hold. You have to find him before they reenact it." He hung up, the Legacy ‘L' showing up on the screen when he was gone.
Nick turned to look at his house. "All right, Alex, download the info, take Willow, Oz, and Philip, start on the kids angle. Xander, you and I will be going over tapes then you can help Buffy figure out a likely area. If they're going to reenact it, it'd have to be someplace similar." He looked at Alex. "I want to know the date within a few minutes, along with all the pertinent information. Got it?" Everyone nodded, heading for their stations. Nick typed in a command, sending the security footage to the office and pulled Xander with him. He called it up, seeing the event as it happened. "They knew where the cameras were," Nick said after the third viewing.
Xander called up the image box, using it to enlarge a section. "Syringe, and Derek knew him. He hugged him." He pointed out the warm embrace. "Do we keep records of calls?" Nick nodded. "See if anyone called recently, I think I know who that was." He switched places with the older man, calling up the face of the man Derek hugged, trying to make it clearer. He frowned as he worked. "I know I know him," he muttered. "I've seen him before."
Nick laid a hand on his brother's shoulder. "He's fine."
"Not a concern at the moment. I'd say he will be until they're ready to reenact." He smiled as the picture became clearer, but still fuzzy. "I know him," Xander said, squinting. "That's another member. I've seen him."
"Not here?" Xander shook his head. "Okay, so let's call up personnel files so you can look over them."
Xander snapped his fingers. "He's a Precept. East Coast, New York." He looked up at Nick. "Call up his and compare them."
Nick leaned over, typing in the commands, calling it up in a separate window. He frowned as he looked back and forth. "Very fuzzy, I can't tell."
"It is," Xander said. "I'm sure of it. Call him if you don't believe me." He stood up, letting Nick have the chair. "Ask for the file since it happened there."
Nick banished both pictures, taking the suggestion. He smiled at the Security Chief there, a woman he'd known very well on occasion. "Hey, is your fearless leader there? We need to beg a file off your house."
She frowned at him. "No, and I know this isn't a social call Boyle, so spill." She looked at Xander. "Cute kid."
"Um, yeah, my brother but that's a different story. Was any of your house there during the orphanage case? It seems to have come back to bite Derek on the butt."
She shook her head. "Sorry, the last one died last month in a car crash. Is Rayne missing?" Nick nodded. "Hmm, well our Precept's on vacation." She looked over her shoulder at someone.
Kristen came into the picture, her long black dress showing favorably against her pale skin and blonde hair. "What happened and what do you need?"
"Kristen? I thought you were in Montreal?" He crossed his arms. "I need a case file from about ten years ago. An orphanage and school sorta place, possessed kids, ending in a big fire." She nodded, searching for him. "What *are* you doing in New York anyway?"
"I was on vacation but William called me to come in to fill in here. Their Precept took a sudden vacation." She stepped back from the terminal. "There's a mention but no file." She looked up at the screen. "Deleted by the Precept."
Nick nodded. "Thanks, I needed to know that." He reached for the off key.
"Wait," Kristen said. "You want help? I could fly out, be there tonight."
Nick shook his head. "We've still got a full house and Philip's here. Stay there and help them, it's gonna be chaos soon."
The other woman frowned. "You think he was there?"
"I think he was one of the kids," Nick said, hanging up. He turned to look at Xander. "I'm going to call William and update him, go hurry Alex along." He looked up as Buffy walked in. "Problems?"
She shook her head, handing over the summary. "Alex is searching so she sent me." She looked at Xander. "I want to go if it takes someone to bust in. I'm good enough to go."
Nick nodded. "We'll see how it plays. If we need to go get him out like that, yes, you're coming." She nodded, walking out. He looked over his shoulder. "I want you armed today. Go strap in and make sure you have extra clips. If they've gotten in once, they might again." Xander nodded, leaving. He waited until he was alone to dial London. "New York's Precept," he said simply.
William frowned. "You sure?"
"Picture was fuzzy but he's taken a sudden vacation. He's deleted the case file from their computer. Xander ID'd the security capture from the personnel records. He was sure before he saw it though."
William nodded, resigned. "All right then. Why?"
"Best guess?" He got a nod. "He was one of the kids."
"We checked, he's not involved in the case."
"Did any of them get out on their own?" William groaned. "My theory, still to be proved." He hung up. He turned to watch the peacocks outside for a few minutes then got up, heading to the control room himself.
Alex rolled over to where Philip had just groaned. "What?" She read the screen around his shoulder. "Two got out without them? Hmm, could be one of them."
Philip shook his head. "Nah, one's dea' an' the other's female." He called up the records.
Oz shook his head. "Not necessarily. There are how many hospitals in New York? And how many people around there? Someone coulda taken one in if they found them." He looked over his last search. "Yeah, a death certificate for the New York Precept." He raised an eyebrow. "And the London one."
Philip shook his head. "Long story, don' ask." He rolled over, reading over the information. "So this is a switched one?"
Oz called up all the information he could get about the New York Precept, aided by the personnel file that house had sent over. "He's the wrong age." He showed the picture of a man in his fifties against the birth certificate that said he was in his late thirties. "He picked someone the wrong age to become."
Alex wheeled over. "Or not." She bit her lip, calling up the old files left over from the old system that had been replaced ten years earlier. "He's another person," she said, putting both pictures up on the screen.
Oz shook his head. "So, how'd he get it past his house?"
"He tricked ‘em," Philip said, getting up to call Nick in. He waited until the younger man walked in. "We foun' somethin' strange." He pointed at the screen, smiling. "Wanna be' how he did it?"
Nick shook his head. "No, simple hypnosis." Oz shuddered. "Can be effective," he reminded him. He sent the file to London while he looked at it. "Same time as William was gone too. So none of the other houses woulda noticed. He was in the hospital at the time it says."
Alex nodded. "We have those records, and they seem to say he was discharged."
"Records can be forged," Willow said, putting her results up on the screen. "New York coroner's office, same week. They had thirty-nine bodies out of sixty one kids that were there." She called up another record. "Sixteen kids saved, two that snuck out, leaving three kids unaccounted for in the aftermath."
"And since they were orphans, nobody really looked all that hard," Alex said, frowning. "I want to go find their social workers and beat them."
"Average case load of almost a thousand kids," Willow said. "Right in the middle of the Regan cuts." She looked at her. "I want to too but it won't do any good. They were overworked and probably did a round of ‘no, you do it'." She shrugged. "No system's perfect."
Alex nodded. "I know, I was one of them." She looked up at the computer. "Okay, can we get death record matches against a name list?"
Nick shook his head. "Supposedly none exists."
Philip smiled, picking up the phone. "Father? Tis me, yeah." He smiled genuinely, please at hearing the voice. "I'm fine, how're ya?" A pause and a small laugh. "No, I'm actually callin' on business. The people I work with have jus' been han'ed a case involvin' a school in New York." He frowned. "Yeah, tha' one. How'd ya know?" He shook his head. "Do ya have a lis' of kids still?" He looked at Nick and nodded. "Goo', ya go' the fax number still? Would ya please?" He smiled again. "Thank ya muchly, an' o'course I'll be there for mass." He smiled as he hung up. "Arch Bishop was in the city at the time. He's sendin' us the file the church kep'."
Nick leaned down, kissing the top of Philip's head. "You're a gem, I'll be back." He rushed out, heading to the office.
Alex looked over at him, seeing the blush. "Something you wanted to tell us, Philip?"
He shook his head, bending back down to his work. "No."
Nick read the fact file as it came across, smiling at the thoroughness of the report on the fire and the cover story that Derek had invented. It just had his touch. He gathered up the sheets, organizing them by who he wanted to work on what part. He looked up as Philip walked in. "Derek was there, he made the cover story."
Philip nodded, standing in front of the desk. "Ya kissed me," he remarked quietly.
Nick looked at him funny then shook his head. "No I didn't."
Philip pulled the keyboard over, pulling up the security footage to show him. "Yeah, ya did." He turned the monitor so Nick would see. He saw the light blush. "Wha' was tha' abou'?"
Nick shook his head. "I'm sorry, Philip, I didn't even realize." He looked up at him. "Really sorry. It wasn't meant as a kiss."
The older man nodded. "I realize tha' now bu' you're strange." He smiled as he walked out.
Nick watched the footage again then closed the file, frowning at the computer. "Why did I do that?"
Xander walked in. "Talking to the computer doesn't get results unless you have voice rec stuff." He handed over Nick's gun. "Cleaned, loaded, and three extra clips, all loaded." He put the clips on the desk. "Anything good yet?"
"Yeah, three kids unaccounted for." He handed over the papers, looking at the gun his brother was carrying. "Not your usual?"
"I wanted this one. I'm checked out on it. Gear's in the bag too." He took the papers, looking down at the piles. "By person?" Nick nodded so he left. He walked into the control room, clearing his throat. "Okay, by person. Death records?" He handed them to Willow, who held a hand up. "Cover story?" Alex. "List of kids?" Willow again, but Oz came over to help her. "That just leaves the review report?" Philip took that one. "Okay, I've got to go get the security head piece, so anyone need anything?"
"Coffee," Alex said.
He nodded. "I'll bring the pot and some lunch as it's two and none of us ate." He walked out, running into Nick. "Got them and I'm going to fetch coffee for them."
Nick smiled, holding up the pot and a tray. "Got it." He nodded at the ear piece. "Go out to the gate and check with them." Xander picked it up and walked out, grabbing his jacket from the front closet, while he continued into the control room. "Lunch," he called. "And coffee for those that can have it." He set the things down on the work bench. He turned back around to see everyone looking at him. "What?"
Buffy shook her head. "Just thinking that you don't look much like Xander since he was the one going to get it." She bent back over her work, typing in something to run while she grabbed a snack. "No soda?" she asked him.
He shook his head so she walked out to get drinks for the rest of them.
Willow looked over her shoulder. "Narrowed it down." She showed the list, the names checked beside them. "Four that we don't have the paperwork for."
Oz looked over her shoulder. "Yeah, we do. The hospital records." He pointed at Alex's results up on the main screen. She bent over, checking that name off too. "Okay, now we got the last three possibles."
Nick bent over their shoulders, looking at the list. "Okay, give Oz one name and I'll take one and we'll search them, see if we can't find them somehow."
Willow tapped the computer beside her. "I uploaded my person finder software. I can just plug in the names while you guys dig." He nodded so she called up her program, watching as it ran, making the large screen blink, making her blush. "Sorry, guess it's not totally compatible."
He shrugged. "Whatever works. We can deal with that problem later." He watched as the main screen started to fill up with information tidbits, then it was compiled and sorted. He looked down at Willow. "Handy thing to have."
"I wrote it," she said absently, concentrating on what she was finding. "Okay, one's dead, one's mostly dead, and one's fallen off the planet." She put the files up on the screen, arranging pictures and last known facts. "We can drop the one in the hospital, she's not a him." She closed that file. "That leaves one dead and one that's fallen off the planet." She leaned back, crossing her arms. "I'd say it's the dead one, he looks like him. Well more, at least."
Nick patted her shoulder, walking into the middle of the room to look closer. "Very nice work Will, I want to talk to you later about that program." He smiled, turning to look at Philip. "Find the dead one's records. I want to know how and where." He looked at Alex. "Find the other guy." He smiled, turning back to the screen. "Got you."
Buffy grunted as she found something, her mouth full. "Nick," she said, swallowing quickly. "A school with an orphanage?" He nodded, walking over to her station. "Abandoned, same name, same branch, but it's in New York. Was rebuilt but never inhabited." She called up another file. "Or two schools here that used to be, way back when, and are empty due to budget cuts."
Philip came over to look at them. "One a'them is being torn down. Damaged in the las' quake." He frowned. "Can' be," he muttered, reaching around her to type in a command, calling up a map and superimposing it over another place. "My school," he said, frowning. "Stupid idiot's gonna use it." He looked at Nick. "Go' closed down las' year due to tha budge'."
Buffy looked over her shoulder. "Says it's still occupied."
"The church part, but not the school," Nick said. "Buffy, go get your stuff, we're going down there." He looked at Philip. "You're going to be insistent aren't you?" The Priest nodded, crossing his arms. "Fine, we'll pick up Xan from the gate. Alex, you're in charge," he called back as they walked out.
She looked at Willow, who was yawning. "Go to bed dear, he can do it." She nodded, walking out of the room so she turned her attention to Oz. "Kids?"
"Dominick is teaching them how to cook." He shrugged. "At least that's what Buff said when she handed us milk." He turned back to the computer.
Alex smiled as she dialed London, letting it get bigger as William answered to frown at her. "They think they found them, they're on the way there." He nodded so she sent him the information they'd gotten, not even bothering to reformat it nicely.
Nick watched as the rest of the Church's staff walked out, followed by Philip and Buffy. He and Xander walked into the old school section, carefully covering each other as they checked the rooms.
The younger man swore silently as he found the first explosive, tugging on Nick's arm to point it out. His brother nodded, bending down to check it while he kept guard.
Nick tapped his headset, getting Philip. "Bomb, room 143, four hours," he said quietly. He got a tapped answer so stood up. "Let's go." He led the way down the hall, checking each room.
Xander looked up, frowning. "Took place in the dorms," he said quietly. "Not the school." Nick looked at him, tipping his head slightly to let him go on. "He'd want to reenact it fully, so he'd be there. The explosives are just to recreate the fire." He ran up the stairs, going up to what Philip had told him used to be the living quarters. He stopped at the top of the stairs, looking at Nick. He pointed to himself, then the door, ignoring the dirty look. He looked through the window then backed away, nodding, holding up three fingers, then one. Nick nodded, heading to the other side of the door. He turned to glance in the window one last time before starting to edge the door open slowly. Locked. He frowned but bent to fix that problem.
Xander glanced to keep look out, but tapped him on the shoulder when Derek looked at him and shook his head. "Derek said no," he said softly. Nick stood up, moving away from the door. Xander took up his position on the other side, looking down the open hall then at the ceiling. "Up," he whispered, grabbing the grate over his head and opening it slowly to not make noise. He had crawled inside before the older man could stop him, going back to the nearest one in the room. From his vantage point, he could see the door was wired, a very good reason to not open it. He put on his mask and looked around, catching Derek's eye again. The Precept glanced at a corner then around the room to not seem too obvious.
"Oh, come on Derek, surely you're man should be able to pick a lock by now." The New York Precept walked into sight, making Xander squint. "He's not usually that slow."
Xander switched to the blow gun he'd liberated also, a quirky choice but that was just him. He loaded the dart and aimed, hitting the man on the neck with the paralytic. Derek nodded so he went in, tapping the mic to get Nick's attention. "I'm in, he's down, and the door's wired." He took out his pocket knife, freeing the three captives. "Hey, Derek. Fancy meeting you here." He stepped back to let his boss get up, big grin popping out.
"Blow gun?" Derek asked, then shook his head. "I don't want to know, never mind." He looked at the other door, still wired. "I'm not going to fit in there, am I?" He frowned at Xander. "Too many years behind a desk."
Xander went over to look at the explosives. "Hey, um, Nick, this one's set for forty minutes. Think we could get the bomb squad here?" He grinned as the irritated grunt came over his ear piece. "They're downstairs. He's talking one up here now." He walked back over to the unconscious man, tapping him with his foot. "He was one that got out on his own."
Derek nodded. "So we'd heard." He frowned down at the gear the younger man was carrying. "That's my gun." It was handed to him. "Thank you." He pulled him closer, hugging him lightly. "We'll get you your own tomorrow," he promised.
"Very cool," Xander said, bending down to cuff the man on the floor.
Derek raised his glass to get everyone's attention. "This has been a very tense few days but I'd like to thank you all for sticking with us." He smiled at Xander, who blushed. "I would also like to congratulate our newest full time member, may he find many happy years here."
"Here here," the rest of the house said, drinking.
Xander was still blushing as he sipped his wine, putting it back down. "How did William break the age rule anyway?"
Derek smiled. "That man is owed by so many people I'd be afraid to ask." He patted the younger man's shoulder. "Now, eat. You haven't all day."
"Me?" Xander said, shaking his head, then scowled. "Yes I have. I had breakfast." He bit into his chicken anyway, not caring that everyone was smiling at him.
TO BE CONTINUED.