Title: Healing Wounds
Author/pseudonym: Voracity
Email address: voracitys@hotmail.com
Rating: PGish
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: hcompanion@hotmail.com Or above
Other website: (being worked on)

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

Summary: part 20: They come back together as a family and as a house.

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

Healing Wounds by Voracity

Xander let his present clip drop, loading a new one in forcefully. He took careful aim, shooting another perfect target. He was ejecting that clip when someone tapped on his shoulder.

"Nice shot," the light brown haired man said with a soft Southern accent.

"Thanks." He did it again, making sure the new target was left without a center ring. He picked up his used clips, reloading them. "Want something?"

The other man shook his head. "Just wondering if you were gonna be much longer."

Xander shook his head. "Just my crossbow. You can have it in about twenty." He loaded his ammo and his extra reloaded clips into his fanny pack, putting the gun into his holster. "Grab my bag for me, would ya?"

The other man gave him a funny look. "Crossbow?" He handed over the gym bag. "You former military or somethin'?" Xander shook his head, loading it and aiming it at the new target. "How you gonna get them back?"

"Easily. Walk out there." He smiled before shooting the automatic crossbow, lining his target's middle again with holes. "Not too bad." He loaded another clip and fired it again. When he was done with that one, he turned to look at the other man who was now looking at him like he was demented. "You really want to know?" He got a nod and a step away. "I was possessed by a soldier from the Army." He loaded his next clip. "A hyena too, but that's a different story." Sometimes the truth was enough to scare people off, something he'd learned recently. He nodded at the attendant, packing up his stuff and taking back his bolts. "All yours," he told him, moving around him and outside.

The other man pulled out his gun and his phone. "I want a vacation, Major," he said. "I just met someone and his story sounded normal." He snorted. "No, he said he was possessed by a soldier." He looked at the phone after hanging it up. "Yeah, I definitely need a vacation if you understood that." He waited for the target to go back up before shooting, proving he could do as well if not better than some strange kid.


Nick looked up as someone he once knew walked into the library. "Um, Major? Why are you here?" He shook the man's hand, pulling out a chair for him and his associate to sit. "I've been out for a few years now."

The dark haired woman smiled. "Your every move is tracked, same as our are, in case they need us back." She handed over a file. "And we found one of your other associates that we thought you might be interested in.

Nick looked over the pictures of Xander fighting and dusting Vampires. "How?" He looked at her and took a deep breath. "My brother. Where'd you see him?"

The man smiled, handing over an address card. "He's not been staying in one place more than two weeks but you seemed pretty anxious to find him from what we've heard." He stood up. "He's a great shot. One of my men ran into him at a private firing range. Did some killer targets then aced a few with a crossbow."

"Automatic, highly illegal," the woman said. She leaned over to shake his hand. "He's headed for the desert. Have fun."

Nick nodded, too shocked to do anything more. "Thanks," he called after them, heading into the control room to input the information he'd just been given. "Someone else found him," he said, slapping down the file in front of Alex. "He's headed for the desert, or so they said."

"They being a credible source?"

He smiled, truly smiled for the first time in weeks. "Yeah, they're intelligence people. Very credible." He watched as the map was updated, a direct path now visible. "Vegas it is," he said, grabbing his keys. "I'll stop and tell Derek."

She shook her head. "He's in bed. He's still having that vision of Willow in labor all by herself."

Nick shook his head. "I'll kill him if she does. He didn't need to hide from us that badly." He walked out, yelling over his shoulder, "Find her and call me. I've got my phone."

Alex bent back over her keyboard, typing in a new search. "Come on, we need to find her. She's going to be in labor while he's changed and we've only got three months left." A bright idea hit her and she hacked into the college library system, looking there for them.


Nick pulled up outside of the cheap but not so sleazy motel, turning off his engine. It was well past dark and the distinctive silver Jag wasn't there but he knew it would be before dawn. He went into the office, getting a room for the night and going to hide his car so his brother wouldn't know he was here.

It was half an hour before dawn when he heard the purr, smiling. He walked to the connecting door, checking to make sure it was still unlocked from where he'd picked it earlier, and waited. He heard him walk in, the sound of the gun and crossbow hitting the floor and the tired dragging of feet. He heard the pained groan as a body hit the bed, making it squeak, and a kiss. Then he heard a quiet, "'Night guys, be safe for another night," and a light snore.

Nick waited ten more minutes then walked in, frowning at the blood showing on the leather of the holster as he moved it. He looked at the man on the bed, wincing at the pale figure and the blood lining the t-shirt, a copy of one Oz had gotten him. He restrained the hands, not wanting to sedate him if he was seriously injured. "Bro, you're a hard man to find," he said softly.

Xander kicked up, hitting Nick on the back of the head. "Yeah but you're obvious." He stood up, grabbing for his holster. He frowned when it was empty, the gun hanging from one of Nick's fingers. "You have the upper hand, talk." He crossed his arms, wincing slightly at the pain from his injury.

"Derek's been having visions about Willow. She's gonna be alone this time."

Xander shook his head. "No she won't. Jonathan's with them." He scowled. "You don't know where they are either?" He smiled. "Good, Derek can rot on the vision."

Nick nodded, rolling onto his side. "Pretty muchly. He hasn't gotten out of bed in three days." He looked over the younger man. "Trust me enough to let me look at it?" Xander shook his head. "You're bleeding pretty heavily, let me at least bandage it." He got up slowly, handing back the gun. "Let me help you. I promise not to tell where they are but you gotta go to her. She needs you."

Xander sat down on the rickety chair. "Yeah, I can do that." He looked up. "You're not following though. None of us want to go back."

Nick nodded. "Fine." He held out a hand. "I've got a first aid kit in my room, let me fix you up like I used to."

Xander shook his head, smiling sadly. "You can't do that anymore," he said, walking into the other room. "No one can."


Alex picked up the phone, clutching it tightly. "Nick? Did you find him?" She smiled and handed it over to Derek. "They found both sets," she said quietly, sitting next to him to rest her head on his shoulder.

"Is she all right?" the Precept asked, holding in his breath until he heard an answer. "A little girl?" He sighed in relief. "Thank Got."


Xander looked up at the moon and shook his head. "Figures you'd do it this way Will," he muttered, getting out of his car. He locked it before running up the stairs to their apartment, his sources being very generous about looking after them for him. He knocked on the door, hearing the panting. When no one answered, he bent to pick the lock, praying that Oz would either recognize him or would be locked up. He closed the door before one of the babies, his baby, could escape out of it. He smiled at her, wiggling his fingers the way he'd always done before heading back to her room. "Will?" he called.

"Xander," she yelled. "Oh, Xander." He knelt beside her, hugging her tightly. "Go make sure Serena doesn't escape. She's able to. We found her playing in the parking lot," she said, panting again. "Please?"

He walked back out, making sure everyone was there as he locked the door tightly, pushing and pulling on it to make sure. He turned to find himself face to snout with Oz, a very unhappy werewolf at the moment. "Yell at me later, I've got to go help her." He walked around his former lover, making it back to the bedroom to see her pushing. "Always early," he said, sitting down at her feet. "Just one right?" She nodded. "Okay, I want you to push with the pain, Wills, just do it for me, okay?"

"Don't leave," she cried, pushing again. "Please."

He shook his head. "I won't, not until you're stronger." He smiled at her. "You've got to get this one out and be able to collar Oz before I can leave again." He patted her leg then grabbed her offered hands, letting himself be used as the resistance she needed. "Come on, you're doing fine," he said calmly, watching as the dark head came out. "Will? Who has dark hair in your family?"

"You!" she screamed, pushing one last time.

Xander caught his baby, not even noticing when an adult hand handed him a knife. "She's beautiful Will," he said, cutting the cord and putting her up on her mother's distended stomach. "I..." He stood up, not able to say what he felt.

Philip grabbed him into a tight hug, holding him and letting him feel for the first time in months. "She's fine," he said, smiling at her. "They both are." He pulled Xander back. "You're a ba' one though." He pulled him closer again, hugging him tightly.


Xander woke up to a heavy body laying on top of his. He opened his eyes to see ginger red hair, cut short and spiky, and a pair of gray eyes once the hair was raised. Before he could say anything his mouth was taken possession of, his breath stolen and his emotions released again. When he could breathe again, he ran his hands through the hair, grinning a little. "I missed you too."

Oz sat up, putting all his weight across the younger man's stomach. "You almost killed us both taking off like that." He frowned. "She wanted to cry all the time, even when she understood why you did it." He leaned back down, taking another kiss. "Leave again and I'll bite you."

Xander pushed him off. "I'll stay long enough to protect her and take care of any resurgence of undead that might threaten you guys." He looked up, brushing some of his hair off his brow. "How's she anyway?"

"She and Alexandra are both fine." He grinned. "Sorry I couldn't help much but you know how being fuzzy is." He laid back down on the hard chest. "How have you been?" he asked quietly. "I knew you were looking out for us from afar but nobody would tell us about you."

Xander shook his head. "I didn't want you to know. It'd just make it worse." He groaned as Philip handed him a cup of coffee. "Not you too."

"He's been here," Oz said. "He about shot Derek when he heard what he'd done." He looked up. "We missed you." He turned his head to watch his kids playing with the new baby. "We all did. Serena wore those tapes out. She still listens to them every night." He moved his head as the daughter mentioned came over, getting up on the bed with a little help from Philip. "Yeah, this is Xander, you remember him, don't you?"

"Dada," she said, hugging him tightly. "Me dada." She smiled at Oz. "Daddy dada?" she asked.

He nodded, seeming to understand. "Yeah, I won't let him leave Serena. He won't be leaving us again." He laid his head back down beside hers. "'Cause if he does, I'll hunt him down and chain him up and bring him back." He petted her hair. "Your dada won't leave you again."

"I'll have to," Xander said but his mouth was covered by a large hand and a small one.

"No," Serena said. "Me dada." She looked at her daddy. "Byebye?" He shook his head. "'Tay." She laid her head back down, refinding her comfortable spot easily. "Night night."

"You sleep baby," Oz told her. "We'll convince him later."

Philip was smiling until he answered the door. "Damn," he muttered, closing it again and resting against it, using his flair for drama. He looked at the lounging mother. "Tis them," he said quietly.

"Xan, did you bring anything up with you?" she yelled.

"All in the car," he yelled back. "Why?"

"They're here."

"I'll kill my brother," he called. "I checked for a tracking device but he must be sneakier." He nudged Oz but he didn't move. "Oz, man, we can't."

"Willow can't be moved," he said quietly. "We can always escape again if we need to."

"On the contrary," Derek said. "You're not prisoners. That was just my attempt at giving us all time to cool down." He frowned at Willow as she walked in, taking her arms and settling her down on the bed. "If you would have stayed we would have told you that."

Oz shook his head. "I agreed. We couldn't stay." He looked up, seeing Derek for the first time in close to six months. "You look way old."

The older man smiled. "It was all the worrying about you." He sat on the edge of the bed. "I want you to come back. I've arranged it so you were just on vacation." He looked at Xander. "You didn't have to take her place. She came around a few days after you left and was fully better in a month."

The younger man nodded. "Made me feel better though."

Oz hit his chest, earning a pained grunt. "Is that what you've been doing?" He noticed the pained wince when he moved so rolled off him, pulling his daughter up to look him over for injuries. "Stupid," he said, once he found it.

"No 'tupid," Serena said. "Dada." She frowned at her father, a truly impressive scowl. "Me dada." She wiggled until she'd landed back on his chest, not minding at all when he moved her knee out of his wound.

"It's infected," Derek said. He looked at Oz. "Your family, your call."

Oz nodded. "Yeah, it's necessary right now." He stared down at Xander when he tried to protest. "We're going back. End of story." He raised an eyebrow. "I'm not burying you over your pride, man, get over it." He looked at Derek, then at Willow. "She probably could use some medical attention too."

Philip shook his head. "She's fine. Jus' a little sore."

"What did you expect," she said, holding up her daughter. "She's a big kid."

Xander turned his head. "You all right?" She nodded. "You're sure? I couldn't live with myself if you were injured because of me."

She hit his arm. "Shut up." She poked her daughter's rear, earning a grunt and a kick. "Oh, stop it. Get off him so we can go back to the castle." She smiled at Derek. "Where's Jonathan?"

"Down in the van," Nick said, picking up another two kids. "Just like you're supposed to be." He looked at his brother, seeing the green fuzzies around his wound. "Don't you know the meaning of the words 'keep it clean, dry, and covered'?" He walked out, carrying them back downstairs.

Derek smiled at his back. "He was worried too." He let Alex help him up, taking the newborn from her arms then helping her up. "Come, we'll have you home in a few hours. Then you'll have the whirlpool all to yourself."

Oz looked down at Xander. "Let's just discuss it for now, okay? We can always leave again, once everyone's better." The younger man nodded so he sighed in relief and got up. "Thanks." He helped him up, watching as he walked out to the car.


Willow looked around their room from her pampered position in Oz's arms. "It's the same," she said. "Nothing was changed." She smiled at him as she was set on the bed. "We're gonna be fine," she promised, rubbing his arms. "I could have walked."

He frowned at her. "The only reason I did that was so he wouldn't." He nodded back at their lover as he walked in carrying the kids. He leaned closer, whispering in her ear. "Besides, I wanted to hold you again without being kicked."

She smiled, sitting up to kiss him. When she pulled back, she looked around, not seeing the younger man. "Damn him," she muttered, trying to get up, but Oz held her down effortlessly with one hand. "Xander," she yelled instead, frowning until he'd reappeared. "Where do you think you're going?"

"To get my stuff," he said, leaning against the wardrobe. "Then to my room."

"This is your room," she pointed out.

"No, this is your room." He turned around but Oz knocked him to the ground. "You're a couple again, you don't need me."

"Then why did she cry every single night that you weren't there," the older man asked. He stood up, pulling the younger man with him. "Into bed, Xan, and I mean it." He waited until the order was followed. "Now stay there." He frowned at them before going downstairs to help get their stuff.

Willow curled up on his chest. "We have been miserable without you," she said quietly. She looked over as her daughters walked up to the bed. "What's up guys?"

Serena crawled up first, helping Precious. "Nighty night?" She laid down between them, taking a very worn velvet throw from her sister and handing it to Xander. "Dada's?"

He nodded, tearing up. "Yeah, it was mine, but we can all share it now," he whispered, covering all of them with it. Everyone was asleep by the time Oz got back up there so he put down the box and crawled in with them, laying behind Xander's back. He lifted the throw as the two boys crawled in, cuddling up too.

Nobody noticed Derek closing the door.


Derek looked over the four young people sitting in his office. "That was my fault, and I admit it. I shouldn't have told William about your reaction to her getting shot and I shouldn't have let Nick sedate you." He frowned at Xander. "On the other hand, running out like that was very immature. Willow and the children could have been seriously injured while you were running."

Xander stood up. "I'm not listening to this," he said, starting to walk out.

Derek locked the door, staring at him. "You promised to at least discuss this so sit." He stared him down, eventually turning his gaze away. "I'm not here to offer recriminations but to mend the wound we've all created." He looked at Willow cuddling her infant to her chest. "I want nothing more than to have you all back fully, as real members."

Oz looked at his mate then at his love. "We have to talk. Yes, we *may* have overreacted about her being shot, but we accept the game's possibilities. If she's been hurt in a normal fight then we wouldn't have done anything beside sit beside her bed." Xander gave him a frown. "Okay, some of us would have went to stake the sucker but this was different. An *outsider* interfered and we had to do something." Derek nodded. "You reacted way too harshly over something that you would have done at our ages."

Derek sighed but nodded again. "Yes, I might have, had I been in the same situation but that wasn't why William and I were upset. We were upset because you risked the organization with your tactics. What if someone had seen you? Recognized you from the papers?"

"What if someone does that to her while she's on patrol," Oz pointed out. "It's not any different." He leaned back. "I'm not about to be yelled at for doing something about a horrible situation."

Derek leaned back. "The only resultant action from the event was an official reprimand for stealing weapons from the armory and for risking yourselves in a manner unbecoming an agent of the organization." He shook his head. "Not my idea, William's. Along with putting all of you on vacation."

Willow looked up. "Then we weren't kicked out?"

Derek shook his head, smiling sadly. "No dear, you weren't, we all wanted you back. That was coupled with a genuine fear of what might happen to you if you were intent on staying hidden." He frowned at Xander. "I don't think you needed to go that far to protect them."

The younger man shook his head. "They can hide better than I can. I have more traces tied to me." He looked at his mates. "We've already discussed that between us," he said quietly, "and we're not willing to go over my rational with you at this time."

"I don't need it," Derek said. "Although, if you had let her go through labor by herself then I would be most upset right now." He looked at the new mother. "I'd been having visions for quite a while about that event."

She nodded. "So Nick told us last night." She shifted the baby, smiling at Oz as he took her from her tired arms. "But we're still not sure why you want us back."

"You're like..." He stopped, needing to tell them the truth. "You've become my family. When I worry about what the future may bring, it's you that I think of." He smiled softly. "I want you here because it's the best place for you but also for selfish reasons of personal satisfaction. All of you, you three especially, are the only children I'll ever have and I need to have you nearby to feel like I'm trying to protect you and make a difference."

Oz nodded. "I feel the same way about the kids." He looked at Xander. "That's why he took on major parts of the population of vampires. To protect us and them so we'd be safe."

Xander nodded. "Each one was another that wouldn't breed, wouldn't come after you some day." He took Willow's hand. "I'm sorry I wasn't thinking clearly."

"Did you truly think we'd try to eradicate you?" Derek asked.

Xander nodded. "Reading the database, yes." He stared Derek in the eyes. "Don't tell me it hasn't happened."

"Oh, Xander," he said. "Those people turned. We don't hunt down our former members like some secret branch of the military that has to keep it's anonymity. The Legacy gave that up centuries ago, same as the Watcher's Council did." He shook his head. "We would, I would, never do anything to hurt any of you."

Willow nodded. "We know that now, but reading those files doesn't inspire confidence." She swallowed, taking Oz's hand in her free one. "I couldn't let them be hurt either."

Derek nodded. "I know." He looked down at the paperwork on his desk. "I would like for all of you to come back but we still have many things to discuss. Why don't you go put Alexandra into bed and we'll talk later, Willow. I'm sure you could use the rest." He looked at Oz. "You could go with her too if it made you feel better."

Oz handed the baby back, glancing at Xander to see the deceptive ease of attitude. He helped his mate up, keeping a hand on her back the whole way upstairs, Buffy following to help.

"You stole a smoke grenade," Derek said. "You terrorized a bar full of vampires then did your best to destroy the community. Did it make you feel better?"

The younger man shrugged. "You tell me."

Derek scowled across the open space, going back to his usually forceful attitude with the younger man. "Let's not play this game please. Neither of us want the results. I want you back and they're holding back because of you." He tossed over his file. "Read it yourself. You're safe here, as safe as you used to be." He leaned back, waiting for the younger man to finish. "Do you understand now?"

"Which? That for some reason I'm wanted or that William wants to humor you?"

Derek shook his head, standing up and walking over to sit beside him on the couch. The hard line wasn't going to get through, but he could always try the truth again, it seemed to work best anyway with him. "It wasn't just them I was talking about, Xander, it was you also. You are like my son too. An occasionally temperamental and difficult one, but still like my own child. I want to protect you, give you what you need to succeed in life." He laid a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "If you'd just let down your guard then you'd see I have no evil purpose here." He ignored the beep of the teleconferencer. "Please, just think about it, all that you would be giving up, forcing them to give up because they love you enough to follow you." It beeped again.

"You'd better get that before William shows up," Xander said. "I'm not leaving yet." He relaxed back into the soft leather, able and ready to listen for now.

Derek nodded, getting up to answer the call. "What? I'm in an important meeting." He frowned at the head of Internal Affairs. "What do you want now?" he sighed.

"Just a call to let you know that we did press charges against the former head of the New Delhi house and she's been expelled." He frowned. "What happened to you Derek, you're looking old."

"It's worry," he said, hanging up. He looked back over at the couch, seeing the younger man pretending to not pay attention. "May we continue this conversation?"

Xander nodded. "Your house." He looked at him briefly. "But I wouldn't let them follow me this time. Them you need, and are better able to protect."

Derek nodded. "You're needed here too, Xander, just for a different reason." He frowned at the teleconferencer. "Damned inventions." The younger man waved a hand at it, letting him pick it up. "What?" he asked, very determined to get whomever it was to go away.

"Derek, in the future, you will modulate your tone with me," William said. He smiled sweetly. "Or do you really want more active control over your house."

Derek frowned. "I'm in a meeting and you're bothering us." William shook his head. "Oh, blow it out your ear," he muttered, hanging up on him and turning back to the younger man on the couch. "I really dislike that we brought him back some days," he told the younger man, bringing the first hint of a smile to his face. He decided to push it. "His time in Hell must have taught him much about annoying me."

Xander laughed lightly. "Oh, is that where he learned it from." He stopped, frowning at the older man. "That was uncalled for. I told you I wouldn't let them leave."

Derek walked back over, slowly, giving himself time to think. "Xander," he said as he sat down, "my comments earlier were more toward you than them. While I do see them as my own children, I feel an affinity for you. My own father, may he rot in hell for eternity, was much the same as yours. I have four or five siblings that I've never met because my mother wouldn't acknowledge his infidelity. I too have wanted to see my father dead for ignoring me, wished with my whole heart that just *once* he would acknowledge that not only did I exist but that I was worthy of his attention." He laid a gentle hand on the younger man's. "While Oz and I may share an association through music, and Willow through the work and the craft, with you I feel a deeper one. We're very alike, you and I. Different methods of coping perhaps and of managing our pain but we are very similar. Only I had someone else to turn to when the pain he caused me got too much." He shook his head at the renewed pain and anger. "I don't bring this up to hurt you but to explain my reasoning behind thinking of you as my own. If you were of the proper age, I would gladly adopt you as you and I seem to get along very well." He let the hand drop from his grasp. "I want to do nothing to hurt you but you have to be able to separate my feelings for you from the job. On one I care greatly but on the other I must occasionally be harsher with you and your conduct. No matter how much I wanted to do the same thing." He smiled, it reaching into his eyes. "How I wanted to help you that night, but it was inappropriate behavior."

Xander nodded. "I knew that then but I had to do something. It's our duty to protect her and to avenge her if possible."

Derek shook his head. "It's not just yours, it's all of ours." He stood up, getting up to bring back a folder, handing it over. "The reprimands Nick got from right after you left. He went out on patrol for her, landing himself in the hospital on the third night." He shook his head. "You two are most alike when you're in pain. He goes to hide in his car and drive fast and you run, both trying to escape it by outrunning it " He stood back up, walking out. "I'll be back in a minute, you read."

Xander read through the thick file, seeing the report of his brother's exploits and hospital stay. He read over the sixteen reprimands and the three witness statements. He even read the police report of a mugging. By the end, he was not only incredibly proud of his brother but pissed at himself that he left him to deal with the pain alone. He looked up, seeing Derek back behind his desk. "Is he all right now?"

Derek put down his fork, nodding at the other plate. "Yes. He wasn't injured that badly." He smiled gently as the younger man started to eat. "It wasn't just her almost dying, it was also your leaving that pushed him to it. He was furious with you for it then he almost cried himself to sleep in my arms the next night when he realized that you were really gone again." He put down his fork, taking a sip of water before going on to give himself back some control over his emotions. "I want you to come back, not only for myself and for Nick, but for yourself. When you were here before, you blossomed. You were doing well in school, you were happy and had a purpose. Everything about you said you were happy and content. Now, all I see is anger and confusion." He reached a hand across. "If they stay, will you?"

Xander nodded silently, shaking the offered hand.

"Goot, then we can work on getting your back paychecks to you." He smiled. "I've got them made out, all you have to do is deposit them."

Xander shook his head. "That's not right, we didn't do anything to deserve them."

Derek shook his head. "On the contrary, you were fighting nightly and they were finishing up the paper, which your name is on as quite a lot of the research was yours." He pointed his fork at the plate. "Eat, you've not had a decent meal in months probably."

Xander shrugged but ate anyway. He wouldn't admit how right the older man was but he was hungry. "So, now what?"

Derek pulled out his desk drawer, handing over the membership bracelets, three of them. "Now you go hand these back and you write a report about your actions so I can justify paying you to William." He smiled. "Eat, you've lost more weight."

"Yeah, constant fighting on microwavable sandwiches does that to one." He finished quickly and headed back upstairs, taking the thin silver reminders of what their lives had been with him. He ran into Serena at the gate, picking her up to get around it and hugging her before putting her back down.

"Dada," she yelled. "No go." She held up her arms again, smiling at him, looking every bit like a younger Willow. "Hug?"

He smiled, bending down to pick her back up and hugging her as he walked back into the couple's room. "Hey," he said, seeing Oz awake. He looked down in the cradle, seeing the infant looking up at him. "Tired yet?" She fussed but settled back down, falling into a nap just like her Mommy was soon enough. He sat down at the table, putting Serena down at his feet.

Oz walked out to check the gate then walked back in, looking at his daughter. "Go play," he said quietly. She shook her head, playing with his shoe strings. "Go play, Serena, he's not leaving." He stared at her until she'd toddled out, pouting the whole way. He sat down across from the younger man after closing the door. "Hey," he said.

Xander laid the bracelets out. "He wants us to have them back." Oz nodded, putting his on. "Why is my name on your paper?"

"'Cause ninety percent of the research was yours." He looked over at the bed, checking on Willow. "She said it was the right thing to do." He shrugged, looking back at him. "You're not leaving again."

"Not right now," he said.


"I want to see if I still fit in here before making that decision." He looked at the older man, so different in just the last year. "I won't let you though. You're needed here and it's right for you two and the kids to be."

Oz reached over, slapping the side of the younger man's head. "Must not have had a recent head injury, your thinking's flawed." He frowned. "You're not leaving us again," he said quietly. "I won't let you and she won't live through it again." He looked over at the bed, seeing his mate looking at them. "He won't," he told her. "I promise." She nodded, rolling back over.

Xander walked over to the bed, laying down next to her. "Hon," he got frowned at, "Willow, I won't leave you unless I have to."

"At all," she said, sitting up. "I don't care if you're uncomfortable here or not. If you leave me again I will hunt your ass down and kill you." She sniffled. "Then me." She buried her head in his chest. "Don't leave us again."

Xander nodded, pulling her closer. "I won't. If I can't stay then I'll take you with me to the mainland and you can keep working here while I go to school or something but we'll be together." She nodded, not saying anything. He looked at Oz. "Deal?"

The older man held out the bracelet. "Deal." He watched as he put it on, then held both of his loves. "But you're not going to leave here. You love it here."

Xander shrugged. "I've changed since I left. No one knows what the future will hold."

Willow nodded. "Okay, but you're not going to sleep somewhere else either." She looked up at him. "You're not leaving this room. I'm not allowing it."

"Will, you're his mate, my friend but his mate. I can't and won't compete as that."

She pulled away from him, going over to the cradle to pick up the baby to bring her back to the bed. "Do you see her?" she asked, holding Alexandra up. "Do you see who her father is?"

"Oz," he said quietly. "The way it should be."

She slapped him hard. "She's yours," she said angrily. "You're not leaving us emotionally or physically so get over it."

He sat up, taking the baby from her and putting her back. "Don't do that again," he said. "You're *his*, *Oz's*. Not mine. What we had was great but I'm not that man anymore. I can't play beta to anyone." He headed for the door but Oz stopped him, getting in between it and him. "Oz," he warned.

"No," he said calmly. "Go back to the bed." When Xander didn't move, he stepped closer, moving into his personal space. "You once trusted us with your well being and your heart, do it again. We want you to come back to us fully, not just as a friend but as the man we loved."

"He's not in here anymore," Xander said, taking the older man's hand to lay it on his chest. "That space is empty. He might have loved you once but that's gone now." He let the hand go, stepping back. "Let me go Oz. Please."

"If you can kiss us once and not feel anything then we'll let you go. For now." He stood his ground watching the war in the dark eyes. "What are you afraid of?" he asked when he saw the pain and indecision. "You can't and won't hurt us."

Xander shook his head. "We're back to playing 'old me, new me' here. I can't hurt you, that's why I'm going to my own room." He stepped around him, reaching for the door.

"If you leave now, I'll leave with you," Willow said. "You're not allowed to leave us again. You promised."

Xander nodded. "And I'm not, just the room. I'm still here."

"No," Oz said, blocking his way again. "You're not." He tipped his head up, closing the door behind him. "You know what you have to do." He pointed at the bed.

Xander walked over to the bed, leaning over to kiss her forehead but she pulled him down on top of her, possessing his mouth. He closed his eyes so they couldn't see what he was feeling, all too aware that both of them knew him too well.

Oz leaned down, taking his kiss, not caring about the salty taste of the tears. They just had to get him to stay. When he pulled back, he saw the pained breaths, the iron control that had been holding all he'd felt for them both for so long. "Let it go," he said quietly, crawling in to lay on the other side of him. "Just let it go and we'll be fine." He rolled the unresisting body over, letting the younger man bury his head in his chest. "Let it go, Xan, we're not gonna let you go."

Willow moved up behind his back, hugging both her men to her. "Ssshh, you're not leaving us and we'll be okay. All of us will be fine." She looked down at the foot of her bed, frowning at her daughter. "Out Serena, you can cuddle him later." She smiled as her baby showed every bit of her father's stubbornness, crawling in with them and moving to lay against her other father's chest. "Let him nap, sweetness, he needs it," she whispered.

Serena patted Xander's chest. "No cry. Me 'tay." She smiled when he did. "No cry." She wrapped her arms around his waist. "You little," she said, grinning.

Willow rolled her eyes. "I know I was a rapid bloomer, but you're way too young to know that he's lost weight." She rubbed over the tense shoulders, feeling the silent heaves still. "Shh, we won't let you go. We'll be here for you." She rested her head on top of his, hugging heads like they had when they were kids and hugs were yucky.

"Let us fight for you," Oz said. He reached down to wipe the tears he could. "I'm strong enough for the both of us right now, so let me." The younger man nodded, sniffling. "Good, then we'll talk later. We could all use a nap."

"No nap, no story," Serena said. She wiggled off the bed, getting one of her books to bring back. She handed it to her alternate dad, smiling and sitting on his chest until he opened it. "Read me?"

He nodded, patting his shoulder. She laid where she could see. "Once upon a time," he read, smiling. "There was a family."

Everyone looked on in joy as the simple act healed him.