Title: Mending the Breaks
Email address: email@example.com
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: 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 21: ‘Ship stuff here, working it all out, well mostly.
Warnings: M/M (not that this should have to be a warning)
Mending the Breaks by Voracity
Xander looked up from the paper, frowning at Nick. "I've been gone six months and the rumor's still here?" His brother nodded, sympathetic smile. "You'd think they'd have other stuff to move on to."
Nick put down his fork, clasping his hands. "Well, they got a nice shot of Willow holding a gun on Derek that day." He looked embarrassed. "There were a few questions about where you'd gone. Oh, and your parents actually called to talk to you but Derek told them you'd dropped off the face of the earth but were still living, only on assignment." He grinned. "He then stopped their attempt to claim your property since you had apparently died, according to them."
Xander shook his head. "Why am I not surprised?" He looked down at the clutching child. "Want to come eat now?" She shook her head. "You could sit beside me and I'd even cut up your eggies for you."
She grinned, sitting in the offered chair. "Eggies?" she asked him. She smiled as they appeared in front of her, looking up at the man who did it. "Who you?"
"I'm Dominick, Miss Serena. I feed all of you."
She tipped her head to look at him. "You no Mommy."
He smiled, laughing lightly. "Indeed, I'm not your mother, but I do the cooking so she can concentrate of raising you."
Serena looked at Xander and grinned. "He 'tay?" He nodded so she looked at her plate. "Eggies!" she yelled, attacking the soft boiled treats on toast.
Xander reached over, putting a piece on her baby fork. "Eat it right, don't spill it."
She munched happily, smiling with her mouth open. "Eggies," she mumbled through them.
Dominick patted Xander's shoulder. "All of them do it at that age. Eat, you're too thin." He sat down next to her, picking up her next bite for her and feeding it to her. "We've missed you all," he told her, smiling as she ate happily. "Such a breath of fresh air." He looked at Xander, who was watching. "Eat, Xander, before I'm forced to feed you also."
Xander picked up his muffin, eating a piece of it before he could be fed like a little kid. "Yes sir," he said, snapping off a salute.
"Sloppy," Nick said. "Don't make me correct your inner soldier too." He grinned, waving at the child. "You're cute," he told her. She smiled, leaking some egg down her chin. "Even like that." He gave the butler his napkin. "My fault."
Xander grinned. "Yeah, get your own."
Nick shook his head. "Nope, can't and won't." He looked at the little girl. "We'll all live through yours."
Derek patted his shoulder as he sat down. "Very." He smiled at Serena. "Now, let's see, you're..." he paused for effect, "Serena, right?" She nodded, leaking some more eggs. "You should chew with your mouth closed. You'll eat more that way."
She swallowed quickly, coughing some. "Who you?" She tipped her head to look at him. "No Daddy?"
He shook his head. "No, I'm not a father. I'm Derek. Or Grandpa if you parents will allow it."
Willow walked in off the back porch. "You want them to call you Grandpa?" Derek nodded, very happy smile showing. "Okay." She looked back at Oz. "If he thinks it's okay."
Oz walked in, smiling at his child. "Yeah, Grandpa's okay." He glanced at Derek. "That means you have to babysit though. Free."
"Of course." He leaned across the table to wipe off her mouth and steal a bite of her breakfast. "Anytime, you know that." He glanced out the window at Jonathan. "What is with that man and clothes."
"Clothes are harmful," Oz said. "They lead to infections and other problems."
"And they were created to subjugate woman and to separate people into classes and groups." She smiled at her mate. "We like his freeness. The kids will never be ashamed of their bodies."
Derek nodded. "So I can see." He cleared his throat. "Up on your wing is fine but could he at least wear shorts down here? It could get embarrassing if someone should just happen to drop by, like a reporter or the lawyer. Or William." He blushed some as the man in question turned around and walked inside.
"Sure boss. I have some shorts I can wear down here." He bent to kiss Serena on the head. "Eat nicely. Messy means you have to eat more." He walked up the back stairs, passing Buffy on the way.
The blonde was blushing bright red as she came into the kitchen. "I'm guessing he's comfortable," she said, sitting down beside Derek, "but I didn't need to see that."
"Then don't look so hard," Xander suggested. He smiled at her. "What were you doing looking anyway? Are you playing with my brother's attentions?"
She slapped his arm gently. "No, I was watching where I was going and looked up to see who it was and caught sight of .... that." She blushed again. "Is he gonna do that all the time? 'Cause if he is, I need some major dealing time."
Willow grinned, resting in Oz's arms. "Only upstairs. Derek asked him to wear clothes down here."
Buffy nodded. "Okay, I can deal with that." She smiled at Nick. "I moved downstairs anyway when it got too quiet up there." She reached across the table to tweak Serena's nose and steal a bite of her food.
"Me pood," she said, smacking Buffy's hand with the fork. "You no eat me." She scowled at her aunt.
Dominick got up, putting on a pot of water. "How many more should I be fixing then?"
Derek looked around the room. "About a dozen." He smiled at Xander. "I'm sure you could eat some more."
Xander scrapped his plate and sat back. "Maybe." He looked at where Willow and Oz were nodding. "Oh, all right, force feed me then."
Oz walked over to kiss the top of the younger man's head. "We will if you don't gain some of it back."
Nick looked up at him. "Are you sure you're not the mom? You'd make a pretty good one."
Oz arched an eyebrow. "Yes, are you sure you're not?" Nick nodded. "Fathers care too," he pointed out, patting his lover on the head. "At least the good ones do." He walked back out onto the porch. "Got to go rescue the cat from them," he said.
Derek looked up. "Cat?"
Derek Rayne had every intention of slamming the door in his boss' face when he answered the door but the baby getting in the way wouldn't let him. He grabbed the child, carrying him away from the door and back upstairs to the library.
"Derek," William said dryly, calling after him. He smiled at Dominick. "I take it this is a bad time?" he asked, handing over his jacket.
"No, sir, not that I know of. I think he's just more concerned with the child at the moment. Master Brandon kept trying to escape earlier." He hung up the London Precept's jacket, waving a hand up the stairs. "I'll have your usual room readied sir," he said and walked away.
William walked up the stairs, listening to the sound of the children playing. He stopped in the library door, watching three of the four toddlers chase Alex around the room, laughing happily with her. He waited until they'd all fallen down to clear his throat. "Now I can see why Derek never gets the paperwork done." He walked in farther, sitting down next to one of the little girls. "Hi." She spit at him, sticking her tongue out. He smiled. "Ah, I see Derek mentioned me." He reached over to pat her very red curls but she tried to bite him.
"No," Oz said from the second floor. "You do not bite, Serena. Bad things happen when you do."
He nodded. "That too." He gave her a look. "You know better."
She turned and spit at William again. "Creamies?" He nodded so she toddled out the door.
"You're letting her run free? No gates around the stairs?"
"She'll head for where Dominick is. She knows not to go near the stairs. Everyone around here watches them." He bent back over his book, writing something. "Okay, now this is what?"
"A glyph," Willow said. She peered down through the rail. "Come to torture him again? 'Cause if you did, please let my son out of the room first. I don't want him exposed to your arguments." She bent back over Oz's book, marking down something. "How's that?" she asked quietly.
"Me!" Precious yelled, getting up to jump up and down.
William squatted down to get on her level. "Hi," he said softly.
She reached over to pinch his nose. "Me!"
He smiled, picking her up to hug her but she screamed.
"He's okay," Oz said and she quit yelling.
"Thank you," William said, playing with his ear. "You're gonna sing, aren't you?" he asked her.
She scowled at him. "Dada?"
Oz stood up, looking down at them. "He's in the secret room, he'll be out later." She nodded, wiggling away from William's arms and going to fall on Alex's chest. "Be nice. She's fragile too."
Alex smiled up at him from her position on the floor. "I am not." She reached down to play with a curl. "Where did she get the curls anyway?"
"Her namesake," Willow said. "She said she stole them from her." She folded a paper and threw it down, watching her son chase the paper airplane. She watched, head tipped. "I think he needs glasses."
"All babies are uncoordinated," Alex said. She smiled as Philip walked back in with the two missing ones. And Dominick right behind with a tray of food. "You two spoil them," she said, still grinning. She grunted as Precious climbed off her, with much stepping on her stomach, and watched as both them headed for their booster seats. "Looks like you guys have got it so I'll go get back to work." She grunted as she got up, heading back for the control room.
All the kids clapped as she disappeared.
William looked up at the couple. "What sort of case are you working on?"
"Not much of one. Book deciphering." He showed it over the rail. "Willow wanted to know what it was and since we didn't have anything to do Derek told us to do this." He shrugged. "They have to eat lunch too Philip. Ice cream is a treat not a meal."
The Priest looked up at them, grinning. "I ge' ta spoil 'em too." He sat down at the table, eating his own dish of ice cream. "William, you've come ta vex him again?"
"That too," the London Precept said, smiling slightly. "He in his office again?" Philip shook his head. "Hmm, gardens?" He shrugged. "Philip, where was he last?"
"Walkin' down a hall," he said between bites. "Where's Jonathan?" he yelled over his shoulder.
"Doing laundry so he can come downstairs," Oz said. "We don't know why Derek insisted but he is." He looked down at the mess his kids were making. "You guys are playing and I'm gonna have Dominick take it away." He almost smiled as Brandon moved his bowl to lick the ice cream off the table. "Get them a napkin Philip," he said, shaking his head.
"They're fine, Master Oz," Dominick said. "Manners at their age would be useless." He wiped up the spilled ice cream. "They're having fun, which is an important part of growing up." He looked up. "I fear you've forgotten that part."
Oz looked at Willow. "We had fun?"
She nodded. "Xander and I did." She smiled at him. "I'm sure you did, you've just forgotten it." She patted his hand. "Oh, and the final papers went in today. Derek said he should know something by next week." Her mate nodded, bending back down over the book.
William shook his head. "Dominick, where was Derek headed?"
"Down a hall sir, but away from his office." The London Precept raised a brow. "He didn't enlighten me sir. Sorry." He bent over Precious to wipe her mouth. "Miss Precious, you have to try to hit your mouth better. It's no wonder you've not gained an ounce since you got back." He frowned at her, helping her make the next one in. "Much better, see?" She nodded, leaking some of it back out.
William walked out, patting him on the shoulder as he walked by. "It's a lost cause Dominick, give it up." He headed down to the Precept's office, but turned when he heard little footsteps. He turned around but he couldn't see one, so shook his head, starting again. He was at the top of the stairs when Timothy yelled and jumped on his back, making him lose his balance and fall down the first half of the flight.
Derek walked up the stairs, hurrying at the sound of the crash. "Oh, Tim," he said, shaking his head. He picked up his 'grandson' checking the sniffling little boy over for injuries. "Are you all right?"
"Boo boo," he said, holding out his hand, then patting his head. "Boo boo too." He nodded as Derek kissed them both better. "He 'tay?" he asked, looking down at the nonmoving man.
Derek smiled. "I'm sure he is, he has a hard head like you Dada." He set him at the top of the stairs, letting him run to mom. "He ambushed William."
Oz shook his head, picking up his son. "You're going to stop that soon." He handed him back to Willow. "Want help moving him?"
Derek bent to check him over for obvious injuries. "No," he said, standing up. "He's just unconscious." He looked at the milky grins. "Must be ice cream time," he said, walking up the stairs. "Let's go eat, shall we?"
Willow looked at Oz. "Want to wait here?"
He shook his head. "I agree with Derek, leave 'im." He wrapped an arm around her waist, kissing her cheek. "We have to work on that problem of his." They headed back to the library too.
Alex patted Derek's arm. "You're so mean," she said, grinning. "I'm so proud of you." She kissed his cheek.
Everyone ignored Philip's frown. Except his lover, who gave him a long look and a small smile.
William shook his head, groaning as he sat up. He looked around, wondering why he was laying on the stairs. Then he heard a small giggle and knew why. He got up, bracing himself on the rail, walking back up to where he could hear the rest of them, frowning as he walked into the library. "Cruel," he told the local Precept, sitting down next to him. "Leaving me there." He shook his head lightly then grabbed it. "And after I come with good news too."
Derek shook his head. "That would be a switch." He put down Timothy, watching as he approached the man he'd tackled. "Apologize, Tim."
"Torry," he said, sucking on his thumb. "'Tay?"
William nodded. "Yes, thank you, I'm fine." He smiled at the child, sending him running to join the others. "Where's the rest of your group?"
"Working," he said. "I've had a few miscellaneous projects going and they're doing those." He looked up as Buffy walked in. "Would you like to sit or have you found something."
She slid the book over to him. "My inexperienced eye saw it to be one of his, but there's still no signature."
Derek looked at the book. "Are you sure?"
She shook her head. "And that's supposed to be encyclopedic of his works. I couldn't find a picture or description of it." She sat down at the table, resting her head on her arm to look at him. "Don't know where to go from here."
Derek nodded. "Did you do a paint chip analysis?" She nodded. "Was it from the right period?"
"Yes and no. The range was from the last five years of his life to ten after his death but I couldn't find another painter that worked in a similar manner or on paintings like that."
Derek nodded. "Have you asked Alex?"
"Yeah and she agreed with me on the who part but she couldn't be sure either." She smiled at William. "Want me to go get you some drugs?"
He shook his head. "No, thank you. I'll have Dominick bring me some Tylenol in a bit." He looked at Derek. "Is this about that painting you found?" He nodded. "So, it's a lost Master?"
"Possibly," Buffy said. "But I think we need someone more knowledgeable to look at it." She shrugged, "Not my bag." She stood up. "I'm gonna go work out. Need me for much?"
"No, go have fun," Derek said. He watched her walk out. "She's got quite a talent for dealing with artwork but I suspect her mother started that knowledge." He smiled as the butler brought in coffee for them and a small bottle of pain killers. "Thank you Dominick. Would you tell Alex to come out here, I need to talk to her about Buffy's project." He nodded, heading into the control room with the rest of his tray.
Alex walked back out. "You summoned?" She sat down next to him, sipping her soda. "And yes, before you ask, I'm suggesting we call in an expert. I'm not one and neither is she." She looked at William. "Head hurt?"
He nodded, frowning at her. "Which one were you wanting to call in?"
"There's a Dutch one," she said, "and a guy in New York. The Dutch one works in Rembrandt's museum so he would know better. The guy in New York would know the period and might be able to tell us who it was if it wasn't him."
Derek nodded. "Call the man in the Netherlands, ask him if we could fax over a digital image to see if he'd look at it for us." She nodded, getting up and grabbing the camera from a bookshelf, then she walked back into the control room.
"You have good staff here Derek," William said. "It's a shame you'll have to lose it in a few years." He sipped his coffee. "I'm naming you my successor. Not even the board can deny you."
"I don't want it." He looked around, seeing the kids crashed on the rug. "I'm not leaving them alone."
"We're not moving the lead house to here, you'll have to."
"I'm not accepting it," Derek said firmly. "I'm not leaving this family." He leaned forward. "These people are like my children and I refuse to leave them." He stood up. "If that's the reason you came, then you can go home again," he said, walking out.
Serena looked up, frowning. "Granpa?" she yelled. Derek walked back in. "No nap?"
He shook his head, sitting down next to her. "You can nap in my office later. Do it here with them for now, all right?" She nodded, laying back down. "Goot girl, now sleep and we'll play later." He glanced at William as he walked back out, not caring what the man thought anymore.
William looked over at the children, then at the control room. "Oh, Derek," he said softly. "I'm sorry. I hadn't realized." He got up, heading into the control room to call his house.
William looked up from Derek's desk, putting the papers he was reading down. "Well, I've got a solution," he said. "I'm going to be a grandfather and I'm not staying in much longer." He waved at the chair. "We're switching houses. This house is better equipped anyway. You have our top computer person and soon to be Profiler." He tossed over something. "They want them to come to the school."
Derek looked over the request from the FBI, shaking his head. "It's an honor," he admitted. "But most of it was Xander's research and he doesn't have the background."
William nodded. "So I've noticed." He smiled. "I wouldn't worry about that. Sometimes knowing people is better than having the theory." He tossed over another set of papers. "I'm putting myself on as a non-active member. You'll be able to call me for special cases but not for everything." He smiled again. "Do close your mouth Derek, we all knew I'd retire one day."
"You're making us the lead house?" William nodded. "Absolutely not. I don't need that level of paperwork." He got up, starting to walk out.
"Too late," he said, that sweet, irritating smile coming back out. "Now sit down." He waited until the other Precept had done so. "Just think of it this way. You're getting to keep your family and the only price you'll be paying is a small increase of administrative duties, which I'm sure your family could help you with." He crossed his arms on the desk. "Just think about it, Derek. Even if you can't refuse." He got up, leaving the office.
"You sneaky coward," Derek muttered at his back. He reached over to his phone, beeping the control room. "Who's here?" he asked whomever answered. He smiled when he heard all three of his senior staff were. "Goot, all three of you come in." He hung up, leaning back, not looking down at the papers. He looked up as the three people walked in. "He's done it." He handed them over to Nick, who sat down suddenly.
"We're the lead house?" he squeaked. Derek nodded, lips pressed thin. "Why?"
"He's retiring," Derek answered. "Becoming a nonactive member." He looked over his shoulder at Alex. "We'll have much more administrative duties and problems."
"I'll deal," she said.
Philip grimaced. "No' tha' I'm being insensitive here, bu' why's he doin' this?"
"Because he's an ass," Derek said simply. "He's wanted me to take over his place for years and now he's gotten his way when I refused to go to London." He gave his lover a look. "You'll be able to stay or come and go again as you want."
"What about the council," Nick asked. "Don't they have to confirm you?"
Derek shook his head. "William named me. They can overrule him but I can't do a thing now." He rubbed over his head. "I'm going to go walk in the garden. Maybe if I get lucky, Tim will jump on me too and drown me." He stood up. "Look that over. It seems to be a completed problem and we'll just have to deal with it." He walked out and both the other people looked at Philip.
"Not going to him?" Nick asked.
Philip shook his head. "Lay off it, Nick." He took the papers from the younger man's hand. "Hmm, no' goo'."
Alex came around to look over his shoulder. "Really not good but it's workable."
"Not on top of our usual caseload."
"We've not had a real one in months," she pointed out. "London's actually had more activity than us." She shook her head, sitting down in the desk chair. "I know we all want this to not be true, but it's done. We're going to have to accept it."
Nick shook his head. "Not until I see the plaque." He grinned. "Of course, Derek could always give it up, renaming London or some other house."
"He'd have ta retire," Philip said.
"Not something he's going to do right now," Alex said. She picked up a pen to play with it. "So, are we going to split up some of the ruling house duties?"
"Head Researcher, Head Archivist, Head of Development, Protocol Manager," Nick said. "I'd like to nominate you for Head Researcher, Alex. Philip for Head archivist. It's not really a full time job." He shrugged. "I'm not sure about the other two."
"We've go' the top computer person in the system here," Philip pointed out. "Both o'them." He smiled at Nick. "Protocol would have ta be Derek. Ya can' se' up a house if ya had ta."
Nick nodded. "I'm already the Security Chief." He smiled suddenly. "We could farm Protocol out to Montreal. The head up there's a great one for it."
Alex nodded. "True. No one said they all have to be in the same house." She smiled as Derek walked in. "I want to be Head Researcher."
"I'm Security and Philip's the Archivist," Nick said. "Montreal would be good for Protocol. We've got the top two computer and research people here." He shrugged. "That just leaves you the extra admin duties and we can help some with that."
"What's with the we Boyle," Alex asked, raising an eyebrow. "Since when did you do the paperwork."
Derek sat down on the couch next to Nick. "At least you've got it figured out," he said. He looked at the door as it opened. "William, I should let someone shoot you for this."
William Sloan smiled. "Derek, I'm just assuring that the Legacy will live on." He took the free seat, still smiling. "I take it your people have already figured this out."
Philip nodded. "Jus' abou'." He looked at Derek. "If I'm ta do tha', then we'll have ta organize differen'ly." Derek nodded.
"Whoa, hold on," William said. "If you're wanting to make Philip Head Archivist, he's got to be full time."
"The job's not a full time one," Nick said. "I've talked with yours and she's bored for ten months out of the year."
William nodded. "But only full time members are allowed to hold those positions. Sorry Father."
"Tha's how it goes," he said. He looked at Derek and shrugged. "Sorry."
"S'okay," Alex said. She picked up something off the desk that she's been looking at. "Who got invited to Profiler's school?" She read it and smiled. "They'll be ecstatic."
Derek shook his head. "Three months in Washington?" He raised an eyebrow. "I'm not so sure of that." He turned his head as Buffy walked in carrying a package. "Mail?"
"Very." She handed over the box. "The painting was frustrating me." She handed over the rest of it. "There."
"No soda in the workroom, young lady," William reminded her.
Buffy gave him a dirty look. "I know. That's how we found this painting." She rolled her eyes. "It's back in it's protective packaging. Xander helped me." She walked back out, still rolling her eyes.
William shook his head. "Not very tight procedures."
"Blow it out your ass," Nick muttered.
"What was that?"
"If you didn't hear it right the first time, I'm not repeating it," he said, not looking up as he looked through his mail. "Hmm, one of hers." He set it aside, flipping through the rest of the envelopes.
Derek tossed Philip one of his. "I don't think she sorted it." He tossed one at Alex. "When you call her, tell her I said hello," he said, referring to the letter from her Grandmother Rose.
Alex ripped it open, smiling at the scrawled script. "She's okay. Just feeling a bit lonely." She looked at Derek, who nodded. "I'll be sure to tell her." She got up, walking out. Nick stopped her to hand her Buffy's mail. "Okay, it's on my way." She looked it over as she walked out, frowning at it. "Wonder what she's seeing him for?"
Nick wrinkled his brow then raced after her. "Alex, wait."
Derek looked at Philip and shrugged. "Not sure but do we really want to know?"
The Priest shook his head, opening his letter from a fellow Priest. "Oh, my," he said, putting it down to read again. "I'm needed at home," he said, standing up. "My former parish is withou' a Pries' an' they're askin' me." He looked at Derek, who smiled. "Thank ya."
"I'll make travel arrangements. Tell them you'll be back by Sunday."
Philip nodded, walking out.
William shook his head. "Bad break for you."
"My relationship is none of your's or the council's business," he said, not looking up from the letter from his mother. "My mother's fine. She's found a nice new friend."
"Oh, I've heard," William said, smiling. "Very nice gentleman. British, of the old school. Knew Giles some how."
Derek raised an eyebrow but didn't look up. "I'm sure he's goot to her," he said. He turned the page then got up, heading over to his desk. He picked up the phone and dialed the airport. "Hello, this is Doctor Derek Rayne at the Luna Foundation. I need to book a seat to Ireland." Pause. "No, one way. Arrival by Sunday if possible." He smiled, sitting down. "Yes, thank you, and please put it on our corporate account." He hung up, dialing Philip's room and hanging up when he heard the busy signal. He hit the redial a few more times. "Philip? You leave on Wednesday and get there late Thursday night." He smiled, then hung up. "I like being able to make him happy," he said to the room in general.
William grunted. "You know that your relationship with him is the most talked about in the whole Legacy?" Derek shrugged. "I'm sure neither of you care as you've never acknowledged it, but it could wreck havoc with the Council. There are a few members that don't lean that way."
"Oh, I know all about the non-tolerant members of the Council, William," Derek said, looking up. "I've had many discussions about just such issues and have come to the conclusion that they'll be retiring before I will."
"As long as you realize." He smiled. "Now, I need a nap, my head's hurting again." He stood up, walking out, leaving the other man with his thoughts.
Derek dialed his mother, something he did more often since the younger member's had left. "Mother?" he asked, smiling. "Am I interrupting?" He leaned back. "So, who is this new man in your life." He laughed. "I'm sure. When do I get to meet him?"
Oz looked up as Devon walked into the library. "Hey man, up here." The lead singer walked up the stairs, so he put down the book, looking down at the person at his feet. "Want to go someplace else and read to her Xan?" The younger man got up, heading back down the stairs to the large bench seat. "What's up?" he asked.
Devon sat down, smiling at the pile of kids in the corner. "How'd you like to get the band back together."
Oz shrugged. "I could do that. Haven't played for more than an audience of six recently though." He looked down at younger man curled up on the couch with his daughter. "Why now?"
"Because we've got a gig." Devon grinned. "Now that the drummer's been fixed and all, we're pretty back together, all but you, so we were wanting you back."
"No more drugs?" He stared into the other man's eyes. "I won't allow that around them."
Devon shook his head. "Except for an occasional joint by me, no." The guitarist nodded. "Come on, Oz, please? It's not the same without you."
"Got to talk to Willow." He looked over the rail. "Go get her for me, would ya?"
"She's in the kitchen, feeding and eating," Xander said. "Not to be disturbed to come back up or so she said."
Oz shrugged. "Come on, let's go check with her. You haven't see my youngest anyway." They walked down the stairs and out of library, heading down to the kitchen. "Will," he said once they were at the door. "Dev's trying to get Dingoes back together."
The redhead turned her head, smiling. "No drugs?"
"No drugs except for an occasional joint by me when I'm writing," he promised, holding up a hand. "If he goes back, I have his permission to dump him in the bay." He sat down next to her and turned his head away. "Aw, jeez, do you have to do that?"
Oz looked at him funny. "How else did you expect them to eat?" He sat down across from her. "Here, let me have her for a few. She can finish after you do." He watched as she did back up her shirt, licking his lips. "I like that shirt," he said.
"Got it at the maternity shop. It's specially designed for nursing mothers." She did up the last button and smiled. "All done, Devon."
The lead singer turned back around. "Thanks. That's one picture I'm not used to seeing."
"Very common around here," Oz said. He set the baby on the table, letting her rest against his chest. "This is Alexandra."
Devon looked her over then looked at Oz, not saying anything.
"She's Xander's," Willow said. "Threesomes mean that sometimes."
"I'm still getting fixed," Oz said. "Four's enough for me."
Devon leaned back. "You guys really do live in the twilight zone, don't you?" He held his arms out for the baby. "May I?"
Oz handed her over, watching as the other man held a child, probably for the first time. "Support her head," he said quietly.
"Dude, I know. My sister has one." He looked at Willow, grinning. "She didn't do that funky stuff you were though."
She smiled. "It's breast feeding. It's healthier for them." She reached over to smooth down a lock of her daughter's hair. "She's got his cowlicks."
Oz nodded. "So I noticed." He looked up as Xander walked in. "Get them to nap?"
Successfully." He snatched a grape from Willow's plate. "How's she?" He pulled out a chair. "I'm all for you getting back with the band too, if it matters."
Oz patted his hand. "I knew that but yeah, it does." He looked at him. "You left them alone?"
"William's in there." He shook his head. "I'll go back to watch them." He stood up but Oz pulled him back down. "No, you're right there's no gate on the stairs. Someone should be there with them."
Dominick walked in. "They're fine. Master Derek is sitting in there with them right now as are Miss Alex and Miss Buffy." He brought out the pitcher of tea. "Would you like some, sir?"
"No, thanks man." He looked at the child he was holding then handed her back. "I think she just did something gross."
Willow laughed lightly. "Yeah, they do that too." She smiled at Derek as he walked in. "Leaving them alone?"
He shook his head. "Buffy's in there." He picked up his latest 'grandchild' frowning at her smell. "I'll change her, you discuss this."
Oz watched him go. "He's so psyched about them," he said quietly.
"We're waiting on the next one," she said. She smiled at him. "Four years?"
Oz shook his head. "I'm getting fixed."
Xander grinned. "You keep saying that," he pointed out. He grinned at Willow. "But I agree. Let's go on something good this time, huh."
She smiled, rolling up her sleeve to show a small bruise. "Shot. Lasts three months, no side effects." Her eyes twinkled. "Well, except for one."
Xander grinned. "So I noticed." He patted her hand. "I wasn't going to bring that up if you weren't."
She dragged her top teeth over her bottom lip. "I'm sure."
Devon scooted his chair back. "I think I should leave you guys alone." He pulled a slip of paper out of his pocket, handing it over. "Here, our next practice time and space." He smiled at his guitarist. "Bring anything you've written, we could use some new material." He walked out of the kitchen.
Willow looked over at the piece of paper. "You okay?" He was being very still and even more quiet than ususal.
"Yeah, fine." He looked up at her. "Just not sure." He leaned back, smiling at Dominick as he refilled her plate. "Eat so you can feed her all sorts of nummies. I'm going upstairs."
Xander turned to look at him. "Jonathan should be up by now, why don't you ask him to come down and watch them? That would give you some free space."
Oz patted the younger man's shoulder. "You've always understood." He jogged up the back stairs.
She looked at her other mate again. "So," she said, taking a bite of cheese and crackers. "What should we do for the rest of the day?"
"We're having another reception in almost two weeks," Dominick said. "Maybe you should be finding clothes."
Xander looked down at himself. "I don't think I've changed that much." He looked over Willow's more rounded body. "But you have." He patted her six week post maternity stomach. "We're gonna need something so no one asks you if you are." She blushed. "Hey, it happened last time."
She kissed his cheek. "Okay, I'll go find something new and cute if you try on your tux. You've lost weight and it probably could use altering." He nodded, stealing a cracker and cheese combo. "And eat something." She hit his arm. "You need it just as much as I do."
"I'm not eating for two," he pointed out. He grinned, moving back from the table. "Okay," he said, seeing her frown. "I'll go look for it and try it on." He took the plate the butler handed him. "See, good me."
She nodded, smiling at him. "Yeah, you're good." She watched as he headed up the stairs, jogging quietly. She took her next bite then smiled up at Dominick. "Two weeks?"
"Mr. Sloan said so I'm afraid." He frowned around the kitchen. "For the members of the organization only but it's still short notice." He patted the top of her head, smoothing down a few flyaway strands. "You could use a trip to the salon too."
She nodded, finishing up her lunch. "I know. I'll do that before then." She stood up, looking around. "Where did Derek kidnap her to?"
"The library I believe ma'am." He smiled slightly. "I believe he wanted to spend some time with her and the other children before whatever reason brought Mr. Sloan explodes and forces him to do more paperwork."
Willow smiled. "Makes sense to me." She opened the fridge to count the bottles then looked down at herself. "We'll be needing more room on the shelf. I'm gonna go do that now and we'll be going into town with Xander later."
Dominick frowned at her. "You will not drive her around in that car. It's probably unsafe and I know it goes too fast. Same as she should not be driven around in Master Nick's car. She doesn't need to be exposed to that level of danger." He looked down at her. "You know that very well."
Derek smiled as he walked in carrying Alexandra back to her mother. "You said I worry?" He raised an eyebrow as he handed her over. "I think she's still hungry."
"Oz interrupted her lunch," Willow said. "We're going to go upstairs then we'll be heading out to get stuff for the reception William's called for two weeks from now." He frowned, making her smile. "Let me guess, he never told you either?" He shook his head. "Well, this *is* William we're talking about." She headed up the back stairs, carrying her daughter up to feed her.
Dominick looked at Derek. "We have bottles so you could have done it."
The Precept smiled. "She's much happier when she's nuzzling on her mother though." He patted the butler on the shoulder. "Let me know what you need and I'll try to have it arranged."
"It's for members only sir," he said.
Derek nodded. "So I figured." He shrugged. "He's retiring and we're becoming the lead house apparently."
Dominick shook his head. "I'm sure you'll find a way to dissuade him of that decision sir. You have in the past." He turned, heading into the pantry.
Derek walked outside. "I tried, really, but he's set on being a father now." He closed the door behind him, going to do something soothing.
Oz looked up as Xander walked in carrying a plate. "No thanks, already ate."
"Me too but everyone decided I was hungry." He opened his closet, looking over the clothes. "Where's my tux?"
"Um, don't know. Why?" He bent back over his guitar, picking out a subtle melody. "We going to need one?"
"Very. Two weeks from now." He opened a box and smiled. "Ah-ha," he said, backing out. "Found it." He checked over the silk, not seeing any remnants of his last wearing of it. "Still in good shape."
Willow snuck up behind him, running her hand over the soft fabric. "You looked so yummy in that." She let him go after placing a soft kiss on the back of his neck. She turned to watch her mate explain the instrument to their daughter. "Want to help me feed her?"
He looked at her and nodded. "Sure, anytime, you know that." He put down his guitar, curling up on the bed beside his daughter. "We're hungry, huh?" he asked her.
Willow took off her shirt and laid down on the bed on her side. "Yeah, you guys interrupted her lunch." She moved closer, lifting a nipple up to rub it against the soft lips, hissing as it was latched onto and sucked hard. "Easy there, dear, I know you're hungry." She smiled at Oz, rubbing over his arm as he rubbed the baby's stomach. "We're doing okay, right?" He nodded, not paying attention to her.
Xander walked out, showing off his tux. "Way too big," he said, holding out his arms.
Willow looked over, shaking her head. "I didn't think you'd lost that much."
"I ate nothing but Hot Pockets for six months and fought every night. Of course I lost weight." He tipped his head, watching her eat. "She okay?"
Oz nodded. "Yeah, we're fine." He looked over, raising an eyebrow. "I remember when that fit you." He moved his gaze up to the tired face. "You all right? You look really tired too."
Xander shrugged. "Not a big." He took off the outfit, laying it over the back of a chair. "Have to get a new shirt too."
"Did you do that report for Derek?" She looked over to see him nodding. "Okay." She looked at Oz, who moved a little closer to her. "Want to come watch?" He shook his head. "She's yours...."
Oz leaned over, kissing her. "That's still not something he's comfortable with," he said. He pulled back, not seeing him in the room. "Xan?" he called, making the baby start. "Sorry, sweety," he said, kissing the side of her head.
Xander walked out of the bathroom, doing up his pants. "Yeah?"
He looked him over. "You sure?" The younger man shook his head. "Okay." He got up, rolling off the side. "Come here," he said quietly. He waited for him to do that, pulling on the loose belt line. "You've got to do something about this," he said, moving into the strong arms. "I mean it. I don't want you sick because of this."
Xander shook his head. "I'm fine." He stepped back some but his lover stopped him. "What?" He looked into the piercing eyes, knowing they were trying to read him, trying to know all of everything he did. "I'm fine," he said.
"You're going to see Marcus," Willow said. "I mean it. I'm worried too." She rolled to her other side, letting the baby latch onto that one. "You've been fed six times a day since we got back six weeks ago and you've lost weight." She looked him over. "Have you been working out?" He shook his head. "Are you doing that gross bulemic thingy? 'Cause if you are, I'm gonna beat you."
Xander smiled, resting his head on Oz's shoulder. "I know you love me but I'm fine. It's not anything to be worried about. I'll put it back on soon. My body's just adjusting to being fed regularly again." He shrugged, then stepped back. "Should we pick you up anything while we're in town?"
Willow grunted, pulling the baby off. "Get me the pump please? She's full but so am I."
Xander burped her while Oz found the hated device, watching as she did it. When she was done and the little jug she used was full, she handed it to him then headed for the bathroom. She came out freshly dressed, smiling at them. "You be good for Derek, Dominick, and Jonathan," she said, taking her back and starting downstairs. "Be right back," she called.
Oz waited until she was really gone before pulling Xander to him. "Don't lose anymore. I don't want to come visit you on tubes in the hospital."
"I'm not tossing it," he promised.
"Whatever you're doing, stop it. You're already a good twenty under your normal weight and you're starting to lose muscle." He looked out the open door, hearing someone come back up. "Just do it for me?" He kissed him lightly then stepped back. "That's all I ask is that you at least try to regain it."
Xander nodded. "I am trying Oz, really. It's just not working." He kissed the older man's forehead and grabbed his wallet and keys. "We'll be home later."
"I'll be at practice," he said, going back to the bed and picking up his instrument. "Please man, just try."
Xander nodded. "I am." He turned around, running into Buffy. "Hi," he said softly.
She looked over him. "You are looking like a skeleton." She looked around at Oz. "Did he tell you about the reception?" The older man nodded. "Okay, Derek wanted me to check." She pulled on the younger man's belt loop, pulling him closer. "I'm happy that you're back too but you do need to relax. You don't have to fight anymore. I've got it covered."
He nodded, putting her back some after a short hug. "I know. I've been good it's just not coming back."
"It's all that internal struggling," she said, poking him on the stomach. "Nice muscles at least." She looked into his eyes. "Want to talk to you later, okay?" He nodded. "Good, now go pamper Willow." She swatted him on the rear as he walked past her, leaving her and Oz in the room alone. "What's up with him anyway?"
"Nightmares. He did your job nightly for six months without breaks or thinking." He shrugged, looking up briefly. "Privacy?"
"Going. Have a good rehearsal," she said, walking out and closing the door behind her.
Derek stopped Willow and Xander by the front door, handing them their checks. "Here, back pay too," he said.
Xander looked down at it and shook his head. "No, we discussed this." He handed his back. Willow looked at hers then at him but he folded hers up in her hand. "You need it, you have munchkins to buy for." She nodded, putting it into her pocket.
"No one's going to make you spend it Xander," he said softly, pulling him away from her. "You do deserve it though." He smiled at Willow, bringing her over. "William got a letter from the FBI today about your behavioral paper. They want you to go to Profiling classes."
Willow bit her lip. "That's in D.C. right?" He nodded. "For a long time too probably."
Derek sighed. "For three months actually." He looked at them. "I can tell them that you can't go at this time but would like to go later. That is, if you want it."
"It's an honor," she said, "but not right now. Oz is just getting Dingoes back together and Xandra is only six weeks old. I can't go right now."
Xander looked at her then at his boss. "Not my call. It's their paper."
She hit his arm. "It's your research mostly. You're the one that figured out all the predator stuff between us. Take some credit for yourself." She rolled her eyes. "Later would be better but you might want to ask Oz. He might want to go." She shrugged. "He's upstairs practicing for practice."
Derek nodded. "It won't start for a few months so you have a few days to think and talk about it." He smiled at Willow, holding onto the younger man's arm. "You go ahead, he'll be right out." He waited until they were alone then pressed the check into his hands. "Take it and don't argue. You've done more than enough to earn it even if you weren't here. Don't argue with me over this, Xander, just take it."
The younger man shook his head. "I can't, I didn't earn it." He handed it back, stuffing it into the older man's pocket when he wouldn't take it back. "I don't deserve it so drop it."
Derek pulled it out, forcing it down into the younger man's pocket. "Argue with me again and be forced to work on that subliminal case that your brother is." Xander snorted. "As the test subject." He pouted. "You earned it. You gave them the research they needed to finish the paper, you fought daily to protect them even when they were hundreds of miles away. Every move you made was to help them so stop the protest. I want you to have it so take it and *don't* argue with me." He turned, walking down the hall.
"Derek, I have a healthy bank account," he said, pulling out the paper. He shook his head, then looked at his boss. "I don't need it." He put it back into Derek's back pocket and walked out.
Derek turned to frown at him. "Take it or don't get off the island." He stared him down. "I mean it."
Xander rolled his eyes but nodded. "Fine, whatever." He took back the check. "Feel better yet?"
Derek nodded. "Very much so. Buy some clothes that fit please."
"Drop the weight issue," he said hotly. "I'm fine." He turned and walked out of the house, heading for the car Willow had pulled around.
William looked down over the rail. "He *refused* money?" Derek nodded with a sigh. "Why?"
"He doesn't think he earned it when they were gone. It doesn't matter to him that it was his research that lead to their paper or that his own paper was presented for him or even that his fighting has made our job incredibly more easy." He shrugged. "He has the self-confidence of an abused child."
"Which is what he is," Nick said, walking over to Derek. "What'd bro do now?"
"Refused back pay."
Nick snorted. "I'll deal with him later."
"He took it," William said. "Derek threatened to not let him off the island if he didn't. Then told him to get some new clothes. What is with his weight anyway?"
"He's eating," Derek said. "Many times a day."
"He's not working out," Nick said. "I refused to let him." He grinned. "It's stress of the kids. He's a dad now and it's stressing him badly." He looked up at William. "Didn't it do that to you?"
The London Precept shook his head. "No, I gained weight." He turned, walking away.
Derek looked at Nick. "I'll have a discussion with Oz." He gave him a wry look. "Maybe he knows what's going on."
"Yeah, he understands my brother better than everybody." He jogged up the stairs, patting his niece on the head as he passed her. "Hi Serena."
She sat down where she was, watching the door for her other daddy to come home.
Willow forced Xander into his bank, making him deposit the check and take some of it. She frowned at him the whole time, pinching his arm when he was slow to take the cash the cashier held out to him. She dragged him back to the car, getting in to drive. "Why are you being fussy about this?" she asked, starting the engine. "You *earned* it, same as we did." She turned to face him. "Maybe even more." She rubbed over his face. "I want you to see a doctor soon, 'kay?" He shook his head. "Don't argue with me Alexander Harris. You will see a doctor and you will find out why you're losing weight still." She scowled until he nodded. "Thank you," she said softly, pulling out into traffic. "I'm just worried about you. It's normal."
He patted her thigh. "I know, but I'm just readjusting to eating regularly." He looked at her as they stopped. "Why worry?" She hit his chest, making him grunt. "See, you beat me then you worry." He rubbed at the spot. "Ouch."
She turned her head to look at him. "Sorry, but that deserved it. You know why I worry about you. I *love* you, that's why Oz and I both worry." She smiled and shifted gears. "I like your car. We should get a bigger model."
"I don't think Jaguar makes a minivan Will." He turned to look out his side window. "Um, Will, we needed to go down that street back there."
She shook her head. "Nope, we're getting me a dress first. It closes at four."
Xander looked at his watch. "It's three."
"So we're gonna go get me a dress first," she said again. She pulled into the parking lot, getting out and locking the door. "Come on," she said when he was being slow. He locked his door as he got out, grinning at the beep of his alarm. "Come on," she said, pulling him after her into the store. "Hi," she said to the saleswoman. "I need a dress for a formal reception." She looked at Xander, who was looking around. "I'm also six weeks past maternity."
The woman smiled. "Congratulations. I think we should have something that would suit you very well." She looked over the young man. "Will your companion be needing something also?"
"No," Xander said. "We're on the way to my tailor's." He looked at the dresses, pulling down one he liked. "Will?" he asked, showing it to her.
"Hmm, like that. Would be nice if I had to go feed during also."
The woman laughed lightly. "You're breast feeding too?" Willow nodded. "Then something with an easy top would definitely be called for." She pulled out a rack and measured Willow visually before pulling out a dress. "Try this one?"
Xander shook his head. "Her hair clashes." He pulled out another one that was hiding in the back, a deep emerald green with a crossed neckline. "Try that one Will." He stepped back, watching as both women looked over his choice.
"I like the style but maybe not the color."
The sales woman smiled. "That color looks stunning on redheads usually. Go try it on and if not, we'll find it in another color. She waited until Willow was in the dressing room to look at him. "Are you sure you won't be needing anything?"
He shook his head. "Nope, my friend and I are fine on my account. I just need to get it altered." He looked at her. "I want to see her in something nice, maybe fuzzy or silk. My tux is silk as is her boyfriend's."
Willow walked out, frowning at him. "You are my boyfriend," she said. She rolled her eyes at him when he didn't answer. "Don't you just love insecure men," she asked the other woman, turning around. "Too big?"
"Very," she said, but smiled. "But I have just the thing. Just like it but in another color." She hurried into the back, going to go hunt for it.
Willow looked at Xander. "You were right, I like the style." She moved closer. "When are you going to get over the fact that we want you?" She kissed him gently, frowning when he didn't respond. "What?"
"Nothing, I just don't want to get into this in public." He looked around to make sure they were alone. "I'm loving you here, but not right now."
She shook her head. "Cop out." She smiled at him. "Keep it up and I'll make you give me tummy rubs later."
He grinned but shook his head. "I still don't see your attraction to me."
"You're you," she said simply. "That's what I love about you."
He opened his mouth but nothing came out. Eventually he just nodded. "Okay, we'll talk later. Alone type later."
"Yes," she said forcefully, "we will." She smiled as the woman came back with a gold version of the same dress. "I'm not sure about that color either."
"Ah, but that's the beauty of this fabric." She moved it around some in the light, showing red and green tones off. "It changes as you move." She handed it over after checking the size again. "May be a little long but we can alter it." Willow nodded, heading into the dressing room again. "Mixed couple," she asked him.
He looked at her then nodded. "Yeah, but I'm still not seeing it."
She smiled at him. "I'd be guessing here but she's known you for a while, right?" He nodded. "Before whatever illness started to afflict you?"
He grunted. "It's called life. I'm not sick."
She patted his arm. "Of course you're not." She stepped back again. "I meant no offense."
"None taken, even she said that."
"I'd listen, she's a very perceptive woman." She smiled at Willow as she came out. "Perfect up top, and it looks good on you."
Xander swallowed. "Will, you look like a princess," he said, hanging on tightly to a rack as another wave of dizziness floated over him. "Very good."
She smiled then looked at his hand. "Sit," she ordered. She watched him wobble over to a chair then followed him, testing his forehead. "No fever." She looked in his eyes. "I'm taking you to see Marcus and if he's not in you're going to the ER." He shook his head but she scowled at him. "I mean it," she said. She turned to look at the saleswoman. "Can we hurry this up?"
"Take that one," he said. "You look stunning." He grinned. "Really beautiful."
Willow beamed. "Really?" Both of them nodded. "Okay, we can get shoes some other day."
"How high and what size," the sales woman asked. "We've got a great selection. You got your last pair here for the last reception you went to." She smiled hopefully.
Willow looked down. "Size nine and a half. Flats. I'll be standing all night and will probably have at least one kid on me." Xander shook his head. "You, quiet." She looked at the sales woman. "Do you have this problem with your mate?"
She smiled, nodding as she walked over to the shoe rack. "Yes, but if it weren't for him, I'd never have opened this place up." She came back, handing over a box. "Try these. Not quite heels but just barely. It'll help when we have to pull up your hem."
Willow stepped out of her sneakers, stepping into the dress pumps. "Yeah, I like these."
The woman looked over the outfit. "You'll need a new bra and some jewelry but otherwise, it's pretty tight the way it is."
Willow turned to look in the mirrors, gasping when she saw herself. "I like this stuff." She walked closer, not having to pick up the dress now because of the difference of the heels. "Yeah, I'll take this. I can have Alex help me look for a necklace." She looked at Xander then hurried into the dressing room, coming out redressed in her normal street clothes. She handed over the dress and her credit card, smiling as they were rung up. She took the swatch of cloth, putting it into her purse. "Okay, come on, we'll call Marcus from the car." She was handed the phone and it was turned around so she could dial. "Thanks." She dialed quickly. "Hi, is Marcus in? No, I'm the girlfriend of one of his patients who's back in town and he's lost some major weight recently and I'm concerned." She smiled as she was connected. "Marcus? It's Willow. Yeah, hi. Do you have a free moment today? Xan's a skeleton and he's been eating. He just got dizzy today and I want him to be seen." She smiled as she hung up. "Half an hour. Just enough time to get over there." She looked around. "Where is he?"
"Outside against the car taking deep breaths." She smiled kindly. "Take care of him sweetie, he's a special one."
Willow grinned. "I know. Have since we were five." She walked out, turning off the alarm and unlocking the doors so he could get in. She laid her bag in the trunk, then got in. She looked at him, patting his forehead gently. "You'll be all right on the way over?" He nodded, leaning his head back against the headrest. "Buckle up for me and we'll get you taken care of." She started the car, waiting until he'd done it to pull back out into traffic. "We'll do your tux tomorrow," she promised.
Marcus looked over the blood work, frowning at him. "Want to tell me what's wrong?" The younger man shook his head. "Liar," he said. He looked up. "You're not fine. Your body's out of balance and harmony." He rolled closer. "Are you eating?" He nodded. "Keeping it down?" He nodded again. "Then you've got to find the cause." He blew over his stethoscope again, listening to his stomach sounds. "Well, it sounds okay. So what's causing it?"
Xander shrugged. "Some stress I guess." He leaned back when the dizziness started again. "But could you please stop the room from spinning?"
"Sure," he said, preparing a shot. "Big ouchies," he warned as he slipped the needle into a leg muscle. "But you'll feel better soon." He patted the strong leg and walked out. "I'll be back in a minute."
Xander relaxed onto the table, letting the medicine work. He started to feel nauseous, so sat back up. When that didn't work, he ended up bent over the sink, bringing back up his lunch. That's how Marcus and Willow found him.
"Oh, yeah, I know what this is," Marcus said, rubbing over his back as the stomach turning cramps stopped. "You all right now?" Xander nodded, going back to laying on the table. He watched as his lover was made to leave the room.
Marcus prepared another shot, not even warning as he sunk it into the younger man's rear. "This is a steroid compound to help you regain some of the weight. Your body was so unused to food that it did this." He patted the clenched leg. "Where were you? Derek never did tell me anything besides all of you left."
"Things got a little intense so we left."
"Yeah, I saw the picture with her and the gun." He moved his chair around to look at his patient. "Basically you were trying to eat solid foods too soon. Your body wasn't ready to process them yet." He handed over the vial he'd drawn from earlier. "I'll give you a 'scrip' in a second. Do you know how to do this?" Xander shook his head. "Okay, Derek will." He handed him a packet of syringes. "Twice a day, repeat that."
"Twice a day."
"Good boy." He wrote out a prescription and handed it over along with a pamphlet. "Follow this diet for two weeks. Got it?" The younger man nodded. "Get some clothes that fit, it's going to be a while before you're able to wear your old stuff." He smiled. "Exercise *moderately*. As in less than fifty laps a day, counting one way. I've had the most distressing call from your brother when you started to overwork yourself." Xander nodded. "Good, now to do something about your appetite. Do you want me to write you something to make it pick up?"
Xander shook his head. "No. I'm sure I'll be force fed by tonight."
"That's not really an option. We're trying to trick your body into thinking it wants to eat and to process things." He patted the younger man's arm. "Xander, I mean it. No caffeine for a while. Not too many fluids or you'll undo all the work of this drug. And I don't care if you smoke pot, just do something to give yourself the munchies."
"Can't. Kids," he said as he sat up. "Hey, no dizziness. No spinning world."
"Well it still spins, you're just in synch with it again." He stood up. "Anything else?"
"Nope. Well, yeah, one thing. Can you talk to her about not pushing me? I mean, they want me back fully and I'm not sure that's the right thing and all but I know I'm not ready to go on to anything more complicated then cuddling."
"Sure, but you love them both. Anyone that watches you together can see it." He smiled. "Derek had said you had split up, but why did you go back to her?"
"'Cause she needed me. She was going to go into labor by herself. Just her and the kids."
"You loved her enough to not want her to do that, right?"
Xander grinned suddenly. "Yeah, I do." He looked at the floor.
"Work up to it," Marcus suggested. "You're no where near ready for intercourse. I don't want your heart rate to rise at all. Here me?"
Xander nodded. "I'll try." He hopped off the table, nearly slipping when he socks met the tile floor.
"Easy there sport, you don't want to be casted, right?" He shook his head emphatically. "Good, then be more careful. And let her drive." He wrote out the other prescription. "Just in case," he said then walked out, pulling Willow with him.
Xander slowly got dressed, then leaned against the examination table while he read over the diet. He could do this one, it still allowed for french fries.
Xander knocked on Derek's door, grimacing slightly as it was answered. "Need a favor," he said, walking in. He waited until the door was shut behind him to hand over the drug bottle and needle. "Twice a day, I. M, whatever that means. Marcus said you could teach me how."
Derek looked at the label and blanched. "You really are sick, aren't you?" He looked up. "Nobody but cancer and AIDS patients get put on this."
Xander sat on the edge of the bed, patting it. "No, that's not it." He waited until the older man was beside him. "When I was away from them, I wanted so much to not care that I started to live on Coke and granola bars and the occasional sandwich from a fast food place or a convenience store." He grimaced. "And not too many of those. I was mostly liquid and three bars a day." He shook his head, bringing him back to the present. "When I got pulled back here, not that I'm complaining now, I was fed solid food all the time."
"But your body isn't remembering very well how to cope, right?" The younger man nodded. "So he put you on this twice a day for two weeks?"
"Half the bottle at a time." He looked down at the floor. "I'm sorry, Derek, I don't mean to be a pain."
Derek put down the bottle and needle, hugging him to his side. "You're not. You're no more a pain now, Xander, then you were when you first came and we had to regulate your sugar intake." He squeezed him once more then let go. "Where do you want to do it?"
"Whatever's easiest and hurts the least."
"Easiest would be leg but it's going to hurt wherever you take it." He picked up the bottle, holding it upside down as he drew it into the needle. "Want me to do this for you?"
"Please," Xander said, hissing as it hit his arm. "But can we not tell them? I've asked Dominick to make the diet change subtle."
Derek nodded, breaking the needle part off in the bottle. "Of course. We'll work it out to be regular intervals. Say ten and ten? And we'll make sure to get a syringe box because this isn't how you're supposed to do it."
"Yeah, that'd be great," he said, hugging the older man. "I'm sorry we ran away. I know I should have trusted you more."
"That's not important now, just so long as you've learned that you can." He patted the strong shoulder. "Now, go to bed. We've got to get your medicine filled tomorrow."
"Got to take my tux to the tailor's," he muttered.
Derek shook his head. "Buy a new one, Xander, you've got enough money to do so." He watched as he stood up. "What else do you have to do?"
"Try to trick my body into the munchies."
"Ah, yes, that part. I'd forgotten about that. Don't smoke it in the house. It'll look bad and it could hurt the children." Xander looked shocked. "What? I was a teen during the sixties and seventies as you once pointed out. I've done my share of that part of life." He smiled. "Go to bed. You look like you're ready to fall over again." He watched as the young man exited his room then tossed the bottle in the trash can beside his bed before climbing under the covers.
Nick looked over the butler's shoulders. "What's that for?"
"Master Xander's lunch, sir," he said, looking over his shoulder. "I'd thought to tempt his appetite with it."
Nick nodded, stealing a french fry off the top of the salad. "That'd do it for me." He looked around. "When did they get back?"
"Almost half an hour ago." He put the plate onto the tray and headed for the office. "Shall I say you're looking for them?"
"No, just tell Derek that I'm headed up to his room to get something from his dresser. He'll know what." He jogged up the back stairs.
Dominick knocked on the office door as he entered, putting the tray on the desk. "Master Nick said he was going up to your room, sir, to get something."
"Thank you Dominick," Derek said. "I know." He pointed at the little orange box. "Do you know how to handle these?"
"Yes sir, but if I may ask, how long will this be necessary?"
"Two weeks," Xander said, swallowing his pills and making a face. "Gross as always." He looked at Dominick. "Thanks man, you'll make this fun." He patted the butler's arm, picking up his plate and starting to eat.
"He's to take two shots a day," Derek told the butler. "I'll leave the box of medicine in the large refrigerator so Nick won't find it and the needles will be in my medicine chest." The butler nodded. "Thank you." He looked at him. "Those pills?"
"Medical pot grown really weak." He shuddered. "Just don't drug test me anytime soon, huh?"
Dominick smiled. "I'm sure the real thing would work better. Maybe if you asked Master Oz he'd know who could get you some."
Xander nodded. "Devon, but I'm not that desperate for munchies." He looked at Derek. "At least not right now," he corrected, easing the frown leveled at him. He took another bite. "Thanks man, really great."
Dominick smiled. "He'll be back to fighting weight in no time, sir," he said, then left them alone.
Derek picked up his fork, eating the first bite. "A most unorthodox meal but very tasty."
"Yeah, quite." He grinned. "Derek? Why do you put up with me again?"
"Because I have to or go insane. You're recent flight proved that to me." He took another bite. "Eat, we can discuss the reasons of life later."
"Sure but only if you can explain to me why Buffy needs more clothes than all the rest of us together."
"Because she's a woman," Derek said. "Anything else is past rationalization." He looked at the young man. "Eat."
Nick entered the bedroom of his boss, smiling as he smelled the fresh scent. He checked the dresser but the book he needed wasn't there. He headed over to the desk then the bedside table, picking it up off there. He looked down at the title, but his eye caught on something shiny in the trash so he pulled the small plastic can up, looking at the bottle. He looked around before picking it up, frowning at it. "Steroids? Derek?" He put it back down then searched over the rest of the room, looking for a clue. When he couldn't find anything, he closed the door behind him, heading down to the office. "Derek?" he asked, walking into the office. "I was up in your room, getting the book." He stopped, looking over his boss. "Are you all right?"
Derek leaned back, looking him over. "Fine." He did figure out what had happened, it just took him a minute. "Going through the trash?"
"The bottle caught my eye." He sat down across from the desk. "You'd tell me if you were sick, right?"
"Of course I would Nick but it's not mine. I'm only injecting it for the person." He held up a hand. "Who I promised I would not tell on."
Nick nodded, letting his body relax. "As long as you're all right." He stood up, looking down at him. "Who's sick then?"
Derek shook his head. "Go clean your ears." He grinned. "You know I'm not going to break that trust."
"As long as it's not harming them," Nick said. "Yeah, yeah, I know." He tapped the book on his thigh. "I'll be in the library."
Derek watched him go, wondering how long it would be before he had to tell. Nick was a master of jumping to conclusions at times.
Nick looked around the morning meeting, trying to figure out this newest mystery. Someone in his family was sick and he would be damned if he could figure out who. He'd thought it might be Willow trying to build back up her stomach muscles but she wasn't showing any signs of taking any medicines. Oz was out, he was more of the natural fix person. He looked over Alex but she hadn't had an injury recently, neither had Giles or Derek though. Xander wasn't looking any different but his last injury hadn't been one to need that sort of rebuilding help. He let it drop for now, he could research it later.
Oz walked into the control room silently, not because he was trying to sneak up on Nick but because that's how he walked. "Hey," he said, reading what Nick was doing out of habit. "What's up? New case?"
Nick switched windows. "No, not really, why?" He turned to look at the younger man. "Why do you sneak up on people?"
"Don't, just how I am." He looked at the screen. "So, what was that?"
Nick looked at the door then pulled him down into the chair next to him. "Someone in the house is taking steroids to heal an injury and it's driving me nuts trying to figure out who."
"And you know this why?"
"Because when I went up to get a book from Derek's room, I saw the vial in his trash. He swears it's not him but he's giving it to someone. I just can't figure out who."
Oz nodded slowly. "That's not the only reason to take those." Nick gave him a look. "No, I know now and it'll be fine. Don't worry." He stood up but Nick pulled him back down.
"Xander?" he said quietly. Oz nodded. "Why would he be taking them? Was he hurt some way he didn't tell us?"
Oz shook his head. "His weight." He stood back up. "Stay," he said absently, heading up to where he knew the younger man was laying down. He slammed the door, giving him enough warning to wake up. "Why are you taking steroids?" he asked as he approached the bed.
"How'd you find out?" he asked, rubbing his eyes.
"Nick snoops in trash cans." He sat down beside his love on the bed. "Tell me."
"My weight. I didn't eat a lot while we were apart. My stomach didn't like the solid food it was being fed."
"That's what you meant by adjusting to being fed," Oz said slowly. "You could have told us. We would have helped you take them."
Xander rolled onto his side, facing Oz. "I wanted to handle it. Derek's giving shots and I'm taking the munchie inducer pills." He grinned. "He even suggested I smoke it instead of take the pill form."
Oz nodded, laying down beside him. "You fucked your body up royally, right?" The younger man nodded. "Xander, what were you thinking?"
"I wasn't but that was part of the point. If I thought or I cared about what I was doing, then I'd remember and start to sniffle again and sniffling during a fight is bad." He snuggled into Oz's chest. "Protect me from Nick?"
"From everyone, you know that." He rubbed over the tired back. "I want to tell Will." He felt the head shake. "She deserves to know."
"Don't want her to worry," he mumbled.
"Too late," she said, slamming the door. "Why are you taking steroids?" She climbed up onto the bed, pushing him away from Oz and onto his back. "'Cause you'd better answer me now or I'll never let you near my kids again."
"Calm down," Oz started.
"Don't you dare. Those things are dangerous." She glared at him then down at Xander. "Answer me."
"I would if you'd get off me." He pushed her off to the side. "I'm taking them to help me gain weight. I told Marcus not to tell you because I knew you'd throw a fit of some kind." He stood up, resting on the bed post. "I'm also taking legal pot in pill form, want to yell about that too?" He started to pant.
"Calm down, both of you," Oz said. "Willow, it's normal in cases where people are highly underweight to take them. It stimulates the appetite for the first few weeks." He looked at Xander, very pale now. "And I'm betting you were told not to get upset. Lay down." The younger man shook his head. "Xan, now. Lay down before you pass out." He stared until it was done helping him get comfortable. "Go get Derek, Willow, now." She nodded, hurrying out of the room.
Oz looked up as Serena climbed up on the bed. "Not now dear."
"You shh," she said, hitting the side of his head. She climbed into the middle of Xander's chest, laying her head on it. "Dada?" she asked, patting his arm. "No byebye," she said.
Xander patted her head. "Not planning too," he said, still panting. "How'd you know?" he asked Oz.
"Went on a hunger strike to promote more fair treatment of me from the family." He rubbed over the tense arms. "Went almost two months before I passed out. Lived on juice and shakes."
Xander grinned. "Coke and granola bars."
"Sounds like food to me," Oz said, trying to pull his daughter off his chest before the people coming up the stairs made him. "Come on, let Derek look at him." He frowned at Nick. "You just had to tell her?"
"Not me," he said, sitting down beside his brother. "You all right?"
"Anvil on my chest," deep breath attempted, "but otherwise yeah." He looked up at Willow. "Don't be pissed," he said, passing back out.
Derek moved Nick out of the way, pushing him onto the floor. He looked at Serena, and she moved over. "Thank you." He listened to the younger man's heart, hearing it slow down. He stood back up, looking at the people in the room. "All right, who upset him?" He waited.
Willow and Nick both raised their hands, along with Oz, just a little.
The Precept looked down at Oz. "You should have known better."
"I just woke him up harshly. He was fine until she sat on his chest and yelled at him." He looked at his mate. "If you had been calmer, then I would have told you not to upset him, it'll make him pass out." He shook his head. "Instead you followed Curious George there and jumped to conclusions." He looked at Derek. "I can do it. I did my own."
"That's nice," he said. He looked down at Xander, seeing the color coming back. "He's coming back around. Out in the hall, all of you," he said forcefully, looking at Oz. "Let her guard him, she won't let him move." He looked at Serena. "He needs to nap and not move." She nodded, climbing back up onto his chest. He waited until they were all out in the hall before yelling. "Why can't you leave him alone enough to heal?" He looked at Nick and Willow. "All he needs is some time and he'd be fine but if you continue this course he'll end up in the hospital." He glared at Nick. "We've had this talk before. You've jumped to another conclusion and it could have had serious repercussions this time."
Xander walked out. "Don't yell at Willow. She was just concerned about the side effects." He looked at his brother. "Although both of you could have tried asking nicely. I'm open to talking most of the time." He looked at Derek. "Am I okay?"
"Fine, go back to bed."
"Not tired." He bent to pick up Serena, cuddling her. "Did they scare you?" She nodded. "Well, I'm fine and we should go have ice cream." He walked past the group. "Caring isn't a crime, just the execution." He flipped open the gate and headed down.
Oz walked over to redo the gate before any of the others could get the idea to sneak down the stairs again. "If you would have asked, we could have avoided this." He looked at Derek. "Twice a day, leg or arm?" The older man nodded. "I'll do it."
"I've got the stuff in my room, we'll take turns," he said, turning to look at the errant members of his house. "Do you feel better now?" They shook their head. "Goot, now go back to what you're supposed to be doing." He waited until they'd left. "You know what to do and what to watch for?"
"Yeah, was on them for four months. Not the most pleasant of side effects but necessary." He looked behind him. "You shouldn't have yelled at her like that. She's still really fragile about him."
"I know and I'll apologize in a moment." He looked him over. "What did you do anyway?"
"Hunger strike for better parental treatment." He looked over his shoulder. "They're back, and so's Willow." He shook his head, hearing her fuss. "In mom mode." Derek frowned. "Let me." The older man left, giving them some privacy. "You're fussing," he told his mate. "All he needs is drug management." He pointed at a spot in the hall. "Stay for a sec." He walked Xander in, waiting until he was comfortable. "I want to help, but only if you'll let me." He got kissed for it, by both of them. "I'll take that as a yes." He walked out, seeing Willow about ready to cry. "He can't handle masses of emotion right now. This stuff makes him really vulnerable." He pulled her into his arms. "I don't want you harassing him. He doesn't need it and it's covered."
She stepped back, wiping her eyes. "I'm bad."
He tipped her head up to make her look at him. "No, you're not bad but you're not his mother either. You're his lover, his mate, not his mom. He needs you to care, you just gotta tone it down some." She nodded. "Good, now go apologize and then let's go so he can take a nap."
Willow walked into the bedroom, seeing her daughter clutching her favorite person's chest so he couldn't leave her. "I'm sorry, Xan," she said, crawling in behind him. "I was worried and it made me stupid."
He reached back to grab her arm and wrap it around his waist. "I know you care but don't yell at me again. I'm not one of the kids and you don't even treat them like that." He turned his head to look at her. "I'm capable of looking after myself and I promised not to leave. Have a little faith."
She smiled, hugging him tightly, earning a slap to her arm from her daughter. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled that at you. I'm still in that hormonal phase and I'm acting funny."
"Will," Oz said. "It's not just that. You've hit him and been yelling at him since he got back." He laid down behind her. "Is there something else we need to work out?"
"You're sounding more like a therapist each day," Xander said. "Now shh, 'cause I need a nap."
"Ssshh," Serena seconded before climbing over him to get to her mother. "You nap too?" She shook her head. "Pwease?"
"Sure they can," Xander said, mostly asleep. "I could use the napping buddies." He flipped over, snuggling against her full chest. "A benefit of motherhood," he muttered. "Could suffocate in them."
Willow blushed, looking back at Oz. "Talk later?" He nodded. "Thanks." She snuggled three of the most important people in her life to her.
TO BE CONTINUED.