Bonds Formed, Mates Declared by Voracity (nc-17)
Oz walked down the short, open hall of the house in Florida and admired the flowers and trees clustered around the windows for privacy. "Pretty, huh," he said when he reached the other end and his mate.
"Yeah, it is." Xander looked out the window, watching the water of the Gulf. "We're really lucky."
"Yes, you are," Derek said as he joined them from the wing where his room was. "Now, shall we go discuss the work schedule and get things set up, or should we start supper and work while we eat?"
"Both," Oz said. "Let's work while we cook and eat without work." He took his mate's hand, walking toward where he could smell the fruit. He stopped when he saw the miniature orange tree sitting in the center of the round table. "Cute," he said.
The oldest man smiled. "It belongs to a friend of mine. The whole house does. He's just letting us have it while he's in London on business."
"William?" Xander asked.
"No, another friend from my years of school there, but he and William are friends too. He found a shield that he wasn't sure of so he sent it to me to verify its age." Derek led them into the kitchen area, pulling open the refrigerator and taking out a package of meat labeled pork chops. "It turns out to be from a ship that was wrecked a long time ago, crashing on the coral and now incorporated into the island with some buildup on top of it." He pulled out a glass dish and went for the large, rotating pantry.
"Why are we, the Legacy I mean, excavating it?" Xander asked. "Was there something in the ship?"
"Yes, the first living Precept to the New World was being sent a trapped spirit, a demon really, to be buried where no one would find or release it." He pulled out a few jars of spices and a bag of herbs. "You must never tell Nick that I know how to cook so well, I'd never get him to fix me breakfast again." He smiled as he looked up at the younger men. "You like pork chops, right?"
"Yup," Oz said. "And Tiny here loves them." He got a playful nudge from Xander. "So, we have to find the thing the demon is trapped in and bury it? Anything else?"
"Well, there was rumored to be some treasure on the ship, mostly personal belongings of that Precept's betrothed, who was coming to join him with her two children for their arranged marriage. Back then, the Legacy arranged marriages for their most prominent members." He mixed the herbs and spices in a small wooden bowl then rubbed the mix into the meat. "She was the daughter of a aristocrat in France so had some personal affects. One in particular, if we find it, we need to secure. It's an onyx pendant ringed with pure silver. Her grandmother was said to be a sorceress and it was hers. We need to verify if it has anything to it." He put the meat into the oven and turned it on. "We know where the majority of the wreck is, I've had some of my students down here working already. They're just about to start the real excavating process so we need to be here. If everything goes the way it should, we'll be here for four months total."
"And if not?" Oz asked.
"Then we'll be here much longer, until we find both of those items and give any bodies we find proper burial." The younger men nodded. "I have a meeting tomorrow with the head of the crew working on the dig in the early afternoon, which I expect you both to attend."
"So we can sleep late and go swim before?" Xander asked, his whole body saying he was relaxed.
"Yes, just stay away from where they're working, Xander, we don't want you to get snatched by an admiring graduate student." Derek smiled, chuckling lightly. "Not that they would make it off the island but I would still prefer not to have to cover up a homicide." They both looked at Oz, who was giving the older man his cynical look.
"I'm sure you'd not have to cover up too much," he said softly. "I'd not leave big pieces." He looked at the darkness just starting to fall. "What about the full moons? Cage?"
"Well, I have a possible solution to that since you've not needed one for a while now but yes, we do have a cage for you to set up before that happens."
Xander walked over to the sliding doors, walking out onto the porch to look out over the Gulf. "I like it here," he said. He felt someone walk up behind him and turned briefly to look at Derek. "I think we should hold the commitment ceremony down there," he pointed to a small rise that overhung the beach. "At sunset." He looked at Oz. "That's my suggestion."
"We'll explore and see if I can find a spot I like better but I like your suggestion so far." Oz looked at Derek. "You sure we can do this here?"
"Of course. The man who owns this and his lover were married out there." He smiled sadly. "His husband died last year on that same spot. The edge is very unstable. You'd have to be back almost ten feet to be safe." The young men both nodded. "But if we're picking out spots, there's a beautiful grotto that's been carved out of the trees, complete with benches I might add, which would be my suggestion." He touched both their shoulders. "I'll show you tomorrow evening after dinner." He turned, going back into the kitchen.
Oz moved into his soon-to-be husband's arms, wanting to be held. "This was the right decision," he said softly. "All of it."
"Yeah," Xander sighed, "it was. I feel better, have since I decided to not take it anymore." He kissed the ginger-colored hair, squeezing his mate hard. "Wonder how the kids are?"
"We can call later." They walked back inside together, sitting down at the round table with the tree in the center.
Willow looked at the strategy for her continued existence in the Legacy and glared at William. "I have *kids* to take care of." He tossed over a folded bunch of papers, which she read and, blanched. "He's *divorcing* me? On what grounds?"
"Mental cruelty and abuse. Of both of them." William Sloan leaned on his desk, getting closer to her. "I fought to keep you in the system when Derek wanted you to disappear, I expect you to be more careful in what you do." She was still glaring but nodded. "As you can see, we've charted you as third in command in New York in a few months, after some leadership lessons here. Until then, I expect you to be on your best behavior and to not embarrass me or make me regret my decision to back you." He glared back at her. "Do you understand?"
"Am I going to be made a Precept then?"
"Sometime in the future that decision will be made based on how well you do work-wise. Your personal record will not be looked at and no, only your divorce will be recorded in it. Not the reason for the filing." She nodded, slumping in her seat. "Now then, do you have any other questions?"
"The kids?" she asked quietly.
"You'll have visitation for right now. I noticed that Oz filed for permanent and full custody with limited visitation due to the distance for you." She nodded again. "And I would say that this was the wisest course of action."
"But...but I'm their mother and I want to be a good mother."
"Which you are but you suck as a wife." She started to cry softly, covering her face so he walked around the desk to hug her. "I'm sorry, but the time for being anything but blunt is past. You're here to become a good leader and to work on the problems you have dealing with people who aren't as smart as you. I'm not here to coddle you, or to be an ogre." He stopped, choosing his next words carefully. "Think of this as Legacy boot camp. We're here to make you an officer, Willow, and you'll come out a much better person. One who can deal with any stress without a blink." She nodded, still crying. "Go to your room, dear, I'll have a light supper sent up." She ran out of the room, and he just watched her go. "Just don't fight it, for everyone's sake. I don't want to have to do something to you to make sure that the Legacy isn't exposed." He sat back down behind his desk, picking up the documents she had dropped to read them. Maybe that would give him a better strategy.
His partner in this scheme hadn't told him that much about what was going on.
Xander shook himself free from the call of the pool, smiling as he felt the warm hands come around his waist. "Morning," he told his lover. "Didn't mean to wake you up."
"You didn't," Oz said, kissing the back of his neck. "Why the pool and not the ocean?"
"I was heading there now. Wanted to do a few laps, just to keep in shape for fighting the waves." He turned to get a proper kiss, reveling in the morning tastes of his mate. "Hmm, oatmeal?"
"Yup, but it's been long enough for me to join you." The slightly older man looked down at the naked body. "Glad mermaids aren't real, they'd steal you in a heartbeat." He saw the heavy cock start to fill. "Oh, for me?"
"Yeah, it reacts to soft and gentle compliments." Xander wrapped the towel around his neck and looked at the swim shorts the older man was wearing. "Not joining me?"
"Nope, I'll skinny-dip tomorrow." They walked to the path that lead down to the beach, just holding hands. Oz waited while the younger man dropped the towels and his pendants on a not-so-sandy rock then they walked into the ocean together, staying close.
Derek looked off the back porch, watching his two 'sons' play in the waves, smiling at their antics. "Yes, this will be goot for all of us," he said quietly, picking up the phone to call London. "William," he said happily. "How are you?" He sat down in a deck chair, making sure he could still see the boys in case something happened. "Did she get the papers?" He nodded. "That's what I expected. Did you fall for it?" He smiled. "William, I'd have thought that you would know how to deal with a crying woman by now. You have a wife and two girls." He laughed lightly. "Yes, of course I know Patricia doesn't do that, but still. You must have fought many bouts of tears with your girls, so treat her the same way. She's the black sheep of your family, you're there to straighten her out and make her a better person." He coughed. "She did what?" he asked quietly, his smile falling away. "Oh, dear. Did she make it home in one piece?" He nodded, relaxing again. "I'm glad to hear that. I'll let you plan things on that end so she won't contest the custody of my grandchildren."
He smiled again, laughing. "William, they are. They're Oz's and Xander's, who's my son and future son-in-law. They're my family." He nodded hanging up. "You devil," he said. He put his feet up, watching the boys play tag in the waves.
Oz looked at his mate and smiled. "So, happy now that we're both wet and salty?"
"Can I lick you off?"
"Xander, do you know what fish do in this water? Not to mention divers and boats?" The younger man made a face. "You can help me shower though, I'd like that." That got him dunked.
"Only if I can hold the sponge, " Xander said when the older man came back up behind him. "Deal?"
"Very much one. You're my designated bather, I can handle that clause as long as it's reciprocal." He turned him in his arms, kissing the wet lips tenderly.
Derek got up and went inside at the first kiss, not wanting to watch those two make love again. He pulled out his map and sat down to work out a projected timetable.
"Always," Xander breathed, diving in for another kiss, bobbing against his love as the next wave hit. "We should go do that," he whispered, nipping the end of Oz's nose. "I want to run my hands over you."
"You can do that here. No one's looking."
"True," Xander said with a big grin. He rubbed his hands down the firm back, enjoying the little noises he got in exchange. "Let's get back to the beach, want to work you over and I can't with the waves."
"No," Oz said, holding him in place. "Want to do this here, the water feels nice against the heat of your touches." He dived in for another kiss, touching all he wanted to also. He turned his back to his mate, putting his hands where he wanted them. "Get us to shallow water so I can stand up and toss these back onto the sand," he whispered. He felt the warm body behind him slide down his skin then disappear under the water so he floated to let him work the now tight spandex off his body. He sighed as he was freed from the shorts, not moving as the dark head surfaced a few yards away to toss the hated material up onto the small beach. He split his legs as his lover came back for him, letting him rest in between his thighs as he was towed into shallower water.
The younger man probed the willing hole, noting its openness from early that morning when they'd gotten up and made love, and slipped in slowly, pushing in an inch at a time. "Love you," he said, rubbing over the rippled stomach muscles as he pushed in farther. "Let me pleasure you?"
"Hmm, pleasure slave Xander. I could get used to that." Oz sat up, sliding himself down. "We need to find waterproof lube," he said, encircling his love with his body. "And yeah, I'd like you to pleasure me." He moaned as the tightness and pressure increased in his hole. "Slower, please."
Xander pulled back out, looking at him. "I can wait until we have lube. I refuse to hurt you." He took another kiss as he brought a finger down to take his cock's place. "But I also refuse to let you go yet," he said as he licked his love's swollen lips seductively. "I want you to cum in the ocean, to mark it as ours." He slid another finger in, slowly pumping them in the gentle rhythm that he knew was liked. "People ten years from now will slide into the water and feel us and know that we did this." He nipped at the edge of the older man's jaw, moving back to his ear and the sensitive skin behind it. "This is one treasure men will be looking for forever." His fingers sped up a little as the older man started to pant against his shoulder. "Mermaids will sing songs about what they saw us do and how pretty you are when you cum for me," he whispered as he nipped the lobe. "Mermen will lose their wives over us because those wives will long for us instead." He worked him harder, his own need making him hurry. Oz was nipping at his neck now, making little noises of need. "I want to get down and drink you down, my love, my precious, perfect one, but I can't figure out how to do it and not die. Not that your seed isn't worthy of it but I know you'd follow so I'd never do that to you. I just want you to be happy and always pleasured. That's my vow to you, I will love and pleasure and *treasure* you. Always."
Oz pulled back to look at his mate's eyes, and came then, melding their mouths. He felt the warmth of his lover's release hit his stomach and started to tear up. "Xander," he said softly, clinging to him. "Yes, my precious one, I love you with all that I am and I promise to cherish you for the special man that you are and that you will always be. None will ever be more important in my life than you and none will ever take your place." He took a deep breath. "Always treasured, always loved, always us," he said, entwining their fingers and kissing him again. "My vow to you," he whispered against the firm, swollen lips before they sealed the pact with a deep, heart tearing and mending kiss.
Together, they made their way back to the beach, lying together in the warm sand, enjoying the light breeze as they cuddled. No more words were spoken, all they needed to say had been said and it was just the two of them from now on.
Derek looked up as the boys walked in, schooling himself not to blush but smile instead. "Have a nice swim?" Oz walked over and kissed the top of his head. "I'll take that as a yes." He looked at the one that made his 'son's' heart beat, eye level with the pendants he gave him. "You might not want to take that in with you, it may hurt the leather."
"I left it with the towels," Oz told him. He held a hand out and Xander walked into his arms. "Call Philip and get them out here sooner. We want to do this now." He looked at his mate and smiled, almost blinding both of the dark-haired men with the emotion in it. "We've made our vows but we need to do it in front of family now."
Xander just snuggled into the warm body, holding him tightly.
Derek's smile became radiant. "I'll have him out here tonight. Where did you want to hold it?"
"The beach," the boys said together. "Eternal," Oz added, "just like us." They walked back to their room, still together as if they had been molded that way.
Derek simply picked up the phone and called home. "Nick," he said, putting down his pencil. "It's time. They made their vows to each other and now it's time to do it in front of their family." He chuckled lightly then hung up. "I'm honored too," he told the map, getting up as he decided working wasn't appropriate anymore.
Giles and Nick handed the men they were walking off to the other, binding their hands with the length of silk cord then stepped back to let them face Philip, who would officiate over the ceremony he and Giles had found.
"We come here to Paradise to mate these two, and this place specifically to show the eternalness of their love for the other. Do any here object to this union?" No one said anything. "Alexander, take your mate's face in your hands and look into his eyes." He waited until it was done. "Pledge to him again all that you feel and all that you vow to do for him with the words you have written for him to hear now."
Xander looked into Oz's eyes, falling into them. "I love you, with all that I am, every cell of my being beats to the rhythm of your name, calling me to your side even when we're just inches apart." He took a deep breath. "I vow to be good to you, to cherish, to treasure you as you should always be treasured. To love you as you have loved me, without hesitation or doubt. To care for you as you have for me in the past, no matter how stubborn I was about not wanting it. I vow to be there for you and beside you, behind you when necessary and leading when you need me to. I pledge my heart to you, every beat in your name, every contraction in your love, every pump in your spirit. All that I am is yours if you want it and accept me still." He kissed him, taking what was freely offered to him.
"Daniel," Philip said, "take your mate's face into your hands and look into his eyes to make your vows to him with the words you have written for him to hear now."
Oz did as he was told, letting all he felt show as sank into the warm brown depths. "Xander, for you I have changed so much. I've learned to communicate more openly, to ask when I needed comfort and to give it when you needed it even though you resisted it. I've learned what the meaning of life for me is, and it's you. As your body beats for me, so does mine for you, always. Every note that flows from my soul to my mind and out my fingers is in offering to you, silently offering all that I am. Every word I say is thought about and how it will affect you is considered." He smiled. "For you, I have changed so much since we met but I couldn't be happier about it because it brought us closer. What you are to me, I am to you. Faithful mate, loving other-half, protector and defender, nurturer and peace-finder. All that and more, I offer to you as token of what I want us to have together. My soul vibrates in tune with yours and yours with mine and together we are as eternal as the ocean we stand before." He took a small kiss, going back to looking into his eyes. "I still don't have the words to tell you what you mean to me or what I vow to you but with you beside me I'll find them and whisper them to you every day. Starting with one of the most important, love. For I do love you, with every ounce of my body, each inch of my being, I love you and always will. As you defend me, I will protect you. As you nurture me, I will care for you. As you love me, I will love you back to the best of my abilities and in so saying make my vows to you." He wiped away the few escaping tears before he took the kiss he craved, exploring his mate's mouth, tasting all he was, letting his soul flow out to be shared and taking the soul offered in exchange. "Together we are one and apart we are nothing," he whispered.
"I'm not leaving you, not to run when I'm scared, not to protect you, not to hide and lick my wounds," Xander promised him back.
Philip wiped his own eyes, and closed the book he held. "By the power of God's love and before all that are present, I declare you mates, forever and eternal." He handed the ends of the cords to the other and backed away from them.
The young men, looking into each other's eyes, pulled the cord that bound them, releasing the outer symbol of what they had in favor of the inner one.
Nick and Derek walked forward, taking the cord, Nick taking it back to where he'd been witnessing the ceremony. Giles walked forward, handing Oz the box he held, Derek doing the same to Xander. "For you," the former Watcher said solemnly, "we have pulled all our knowledge together to bring you a symbol to show the world that you are one."
Derek smiled, brushing Oz's hair back from his forehead. "For you both, I have delved into my family's past and come up with these, which used to belong to a mated pair such as yourselves."
"Wear them in the spirit of love and never take them off," Giles said, bowing to them. "May all who see them respect the sign they represent."
Xander opened the box and gasped. He took the ring out with shaky fingers, picking up Oz's left and sliding it on. "It fits," he said softly, looking at his mate. "Both you and your finger." He looked down at the jade, diamond, and obsidian ring.
Oz opened his box, taking out the jade and diamond ring and sliding it onto Xander's finger with a smile. "As this does you." He slid it the last little inch and sighed as it fit perfectly. "Both of us." He handed off the boxes, taking the one from his love's hand, and pulled him closer for another kiss, sealing the giving to the other.
Nick hid his sniffle as he wound up the cord. He handed it to Philip, having walked around the young men so he wouldn't disturb them. The Priest cleared his throat, but even that didn't break the kiss. He smiled when they came up for air, handing the cord to Oz and the knife to Xander. "Remove the last traces of your old allegiances and cleave to the other. By cutting this cord," he told the men gathered, "they depart from their old lives and old alliances to bond with the other. The cord represents the bond they shared before, which will live on but will be inherently changed by this act as will the cord by the knife."
Xander's hand shook terribly as he raised the dagger to the fold of the cord Oz was holding for him. He knew that doing this meant breaking all his old bonds to his former life and who he was before. All he had to do was look into the understanding and loving gray eyes and his hands stopped shaking, the cord sliced cleanly through with one swipe of the blade, the talented fingers never touched by the silver. He blindly handed the dagger off as he took the opposite ends of the cord and tied them together, then the ends he'd just cut. "With this act, I give us back the friendship that started us down this road and tie the other end to make it a continuous circle so we can never depart from the path." He handed the cord to the older man.
"By taking this, I place us both on the road, side by side, holding the other on the narrow path by a bond stronger than any this world has yet to imagine." They folded it carefully, handing it off to Derek, knots side by side.
"By taking this, I agree to be the guardian of the path, pledge to put myself between it and the outside world to protect those on it, and hold these two safe from all who would work to sever the knots." He handed it off to Nick, wiping an escaped tear away.
"By taking this cord, I pledge myself to be a guardian to the path, letting none enter it without their permission. I will allow none to get past my gate to intrude on the paradise they will create and none shall find the gate without their knowledge and help." He handed it off to Philip.
"I pledge to be a guardian of the path, to allow myself to be the sounding board they need to make the path idyllic and safe. None shall subvert me to harm them in their most private times of trouble and I pledge to smooth the path by force if necessary to protect these two." He handed it off to Giles.
"I pledge to be a guardian of the path, as I have been for you both for many years before. I pledge myself to pick up the pieces when one of the others fail and help you to regain your balance. I pledge to scatter the flowers in front of you when you're happy and to toss them at you when you're mad until you turn to me for help smoothing out the wrinkles. By handing this back, I pledge my loyalty and respect for your union and vow to let none interrupt it with the pettiness of the world around you. Or let any harm be brought by those who cannot see love for they've never known it." He handed it back to their joined hands. "Take it now as a symbol, not only of your path of life together but as a sign of our pledges. Be at peace with each other and the world." He kissed both their cheeks and stepped back."
"We accept this as such," they said together, "and will forevermore remember the pledges when we have need of them." They kissed each of the men's cheeks in turn, ending on Derek.
"To life we return to, let us proceed down the path together," Oz said, picking up Xander's hand.
"Nay, let us celebrate this union for one last night to strengthen our peace and unity before the world is allowed to intrude." He turned, leading his mate up the path to the house. "All our guardians are invited to help us celebrate. But I'm not cleaning up the mess," he called over his shoulder.
Nick burst out laughing, pinching his brother as he passed. "Of course you're not."
The whole group moved up to the house, Nick carrying the video camera so the precious tape could be stored safely away for future viewing.
Oz looked at his lover as he laid there on the bed, waiting for him. "Mate, I like that word," he said as he slid down onto the firm body waiting for him.
"Yeah, me too. But I do believe we have one last thing to share with each other," he said softly. He kissed his love, holding him tightly to his chest. "I want to share myself with you. Now, here, at this very appropriate time and place. Will you take my last bit of innocence as your own?"
The older man nodded, choked up with tears again. "You'll always be innocent to me," he whispered against the lips before trying to roll off, but the strong arms stopped him. "We need stuff."
"I've done it all. Take your virgin bride and make him yours." Xander grinned, a little wicked sparkle coming into his eyes. "You don't think I want you to have *all* the good stuff do you?"
Oz slid down until he was resting between the spread legs, looking down at his husband. "Nah, I knew you were going to do this. I just expected to have to do some of the preparation." He bent down to kiss the hard cock pointing at him, begging for his attention.
"You can do it next time," the younger man panted, pushing up against the willing lips. "Please, Oz, please?" he begged. He watched as his legs were placed over the tense shoulders, his mate looking up at him, into his eyes again, as he pushed inside for the first time. "Oz," he sighed, relaxing now that they were joined. "Big," he noted once he was all the way in. "You were right. Really full."
"You'd never hurt me," Xander said tenderly, sitting up to rub over the tight jaw. "Relax and enjoy this gift, my mate, and let me give you what is yours for the first time." He fell backwards at the first thrust, squeezing his eyes shut, his mouth falling open with the intense feelings and pleasure the subtle movement brought. "Oh, yeah, mine."
"Yup, yours," Oz said, moving more, thrusting again. He set up a gentle, easy, rhythm with almost no movement, humming to himself as he rode the virgin hole. He watched the shift of emotions across his lover's face and felt himself flow with them, giving himself up to what he was feeling. It was something he had never done but this time, he would *claim* his mate, make him his permanently, and let himself go. "Look at me," he said, the last words he would remember that night.
Xander opened his eyes, looking into the gray ones, seeing his own reflected back. He smiled, holding out his arms for his love as he bent down to kiss him. The gentle pushes got a little stronger, a little deeper, more insistent, and he went with it willingly. He started to push back, to ride his husband to both their pleasures. It wasn't too long before he couldn't take anymore, pulling Oz's head down for one last kiss as he came. The older man came over the edge with him, his seed shooting deep into his bowels, marking him forevermore as the official property of his mate.
They laid down together, neither hearing the screams of absolute pleasure they'd let out ring around the room, neither hearing the pleased laughter from the living room where everyone else was still partying. Neither hearing anything as they closed their eyes together and joined the other in their dreams.
Derek looked at his lovers and smiled. "Sounds like they finished the bond." He took Nick into his arms, kissing him deeply. "How about you love, when can we make you yell like that?"
"I'm still not sure yet," the younger man said, hugging him, slightly inebriated from the wine he'd been drinking. "Some day soon, just as soon as I'm sure I want that." He sighed and closed his eyes, passing out on his friend's shoulder.
Philip shook his head. "He's still not sure," he reminded his long-time love. "Let him be about it." He looked at Giles. "So, how're the kids? I know you called."
"I talked to Jonathan and he said Willow had called to tell them goodnight and he had had to interrupt her before she told them about the divorce." He looked at Derek. "Would you like Jonathan to explain it to them? Or possibly one of us?"
The Precept shook his head, covering Nick from where he'd just laid him down on the couch. "No, I'll tell them the next time we're back." He came over to the side of the only man he wasn't going to cuddle up with that night. "I know you feel left out," he said, giving him a hug, "let me fix that?" He stepped back with a small smile. "As you can see, I do a very nice job of picking mates."
Giles smiled. "No, thank you. I've been comforting Buffy in her time of grief over your stealing of Nick." That got him a small laugh from Philip. "I'm sure she'd be most upset if you did that to her again."
Derek laughed, patting his old friend on the back. "True," he said, holding out a hand to Philip. "Goot night, Rupert, sweet dreams."
"Better than we had on the hall at University no doubt. The wine's better now." Giles watched them head down to their room with a smile and went to his small bed in the other guestroom. Alone, as ever.
Oz woke up to find his new husband riding him. "Couldn't wait?" He caught him as he fell off to the side, looking down the firm body. "You okay? I didn't hurt you?"
"Oz, my love, you were tender and precious all night," Xander said, grinning. "I'm not even sore, but I do want to do it again, so lay back and let me help you enjoy it too." He straddled the trim hips again, sliding down the rigid cock his husband held for him. "You know, I feel so close to perfect like this," he said, leaning down for a small kiss. "But I want you to lay there and enjoy it. Let me do the work." He got his wicked little look again. "You can work me over later."
Oz rolled them over, grinning. "Can I? Well what about when I want you in me?" He pushed in hard, giving the younger man what he wanted. "Can't I get you to fulfill me?" He stopped, looking down into the happy expression. "Get this straight now. If the word 'fucking' ever comes out of your mouth about this, I will never touch you again. This is the second rule of our marriage."
"Nope, we only make love," Xander said happily. He pushed back. "Can I have some more, love?"
"Yup, as much as you can handle." He set a hard, pounding, deep rhythm, rocking them to the beat of the music he could hear in his head. His lover almost purred under him, arching up into each thrust, meeting him stroke for stroke, his whole body showing he liked it, his face showing he was ecstatic and he was ready to come if he got the chance. Oz let himself go over, not holding it in anymore, and sprayed the inside of his mate. Xander followed, arching up to get the cock in him deeper and let out a guttural howl that echoed around them. Oz played with his ear, one finger wiggling in it, as he calmed down, lying on the sweaty chest. "Loud," he noted.
"Sorry, I won't yell after the thousandth time." Xander grinned, holding his mate to his chest, savoring this time. "I like it like this, Oz, really do."
"Hey, we have a lock on our door and a nanny," the older man said, understanding immediately. "They know not to bother us early in the mornings or when the door's locked." He looked up into the pleased eyes. "If you think you're getting out of doing this again," he made a buzzer noise, "wrong. So very wrong. I think I like this." He pulled out slowly, not wanting to hurt him. "Now then, we could use a hot bath." He held out a hand but it wasn't taken.
"What's the first rule? We talk to each other?" His husband nodded, smiling again. "Okay, I can live with those two, but can I occasionally get it hard and nasty?" Xander sat up, kissing Oz hard, deeply passionate and working his mouth for all he could. "I liked those nights."
The older man laughed. "Xander, I do believe you're one of a kind." He hugged him. "Yes, love, I'm going to do it that way with you again, and again, and you're going to receive it sometimes. Never doubt that I had my passionate streak neutered yesterday. I'm just holding myself back so you can walk later." He stood up, holding out his hand again and this time it was taken without a word. They walked into the bathroom together, wrapped around each other.
Derek looked up from his breakfast, smiling at the two men. "Your guests got off safely almost an hour ago. Giles laid the cord in the pantry so it wouldn't be unfolded." He looked over the young men, noticing the stiffness Xander was showing. "Are you all right?" he asked softly.
"Yeah, he saved himself for me," Oz said, pouring out glasses of milk and handing one off. "He's had a long, hot soak and I checked him to make sure." He sipped the cool liquid in his glass, not ignoring the blush. "Hey, he had a first time too."
"It was many years ago," Derek agreed, "but yes, at one point in time I was a virgin also. And I still remember that night and the next morning when I couldn't make it to class." He took a bite of toast, thinking back. "Or to the shower, or out of bed even, for most of the day." He smiled at the young man he considered his son. "Don't worry, some aspirin and some care and you'll be fine to do it again later."
Oz shook his head. "Nope, my turn."
"Just don't keep me awake please. I'm due on the dig tomorrow morning at sunrise." They shared a look then looked at the unnaturally quiet Xander.
"Didn't mean to embarrass you, precious," Oz said, taking him in his arms and kissing each light pink cheek. He got a small nod and the red face was hidden in his shoulder.
Derek got up to hug them from behind the younger man's back. "I'm sorry also, I had no desire to embarrass you." He gave them a quick squeeze then walked over to the stove. "Shall I fix breakfast? Eggs?"
"Omelets?" Xander asked, looking up. "With ham? I need the protein to fight off my wanton urges about my mate."
"Mate," the oldest man said, tasting the word as he said it. "It fits you two, your relationship and your lives." He smiled, looking at their rings then picked up Oz's hand to look at it. "Oh, no, a stone fell out already?"
"Was gone yesterday," Xander said, holding up his ring to show off the small hole. "I figured it was supposed to be that way and we were going to fill them with ones we pick out." Oz nodded, clearly agreeing with the hypothesis.
"Hmm, it might be, I didn't examine them before we gave them to you. I had my mother send them over." He smiled, patting the youngest man's shoulder. "I guess you're going to town then."
"Yup," Oz said. "Miami. We have to stop at the University and check up on their book-lending policies too." He looked down at his nudity. "After breakfast of course. And a long shower."
"And more sex," Xander said, hugging his husband. "I am *so* going to spoil you today." He chuckled at the skeptical look Derek shot him. "Hey, I don't spend my money on anything else. And he deserves it." He let his husband go with a quick kiss to his cheek then walked over to the oldest man who was cooking for them, kissing his cheek too. "Thank you, for yesterday and all of it." He hugged him. "It means a lot to me that you support us this way." He backed off, taking his glass of milk out to the table.
Derek just smiled as he filled the eggs with food for the growling bodies.
The manager of the jewelry store looked at both the rings then the young men wearing them and smiled. "Family heirloom?" They nodded and he pulled out the first tray of plain stones. "The jade is very old, and very deep, almost perfect from what I can see. The diamonds are as close to flawless as I've seen in decades and his obsidian set is fracture free. You'll want a stone that matches and says something about you." He pointed at the small diamonds that would fit, then noticed that the dark-haired man was staring at another case. "Do you see something you like?"
Xander walked over and squatted down in front of the case, pointing at a bracelet. "That one. What's it made of?"
"It's also obsidian. It's here on consignment, a piece of estate jewelry." The salesman pulled it out to let him look at it then looked down, having a sudden flash of insight. He pulled out the small box of earrings from in front of the bracelet and handed them over. "This comes from the same house but I think the stones would be perfect."
Oz came over to look at the emeralds and nodded. "I like them and they might match." He looked at the two empty holes in his ring. "I'd still need a stone though."
"One for daddyhood," Xander said, handing back the bracelet. "I like that, how much?"
"Two thousand." He saw the wince. "I know but it's very old. We've had it verified as being from 1845." He shrugged. "It's what the owner's asking, not our price."
Oz nodded, taking the bracelet to look at. He turned it around in his hand, almost frowning at it. "Who do you see this as a gift for?"
"Giles." The younger man grinned. "I think he deserves a thank you for keeping us sane since high school."
"Two grand is a bit much for a thank you."
"I have a newer version of that in some splendid rainforest wood," the salesman noted. "Much more reasonable." He took back the bracelet, handing over the earrings. "What do you think of those?"
Oz shook his head, holding one earring up against his ring. "Too light." Xander automatically agreed with him, he always left all the artistic questions to him. He watched his husband prowl around the store, looking at all the cases. He walked over when he stopped in front of one, his mouth falling open at the small, perfect looking, gray stones. "What are these?" he asked as the salesman came over.
"I'm not sure. Again, they're on consignment to us. Someone found them. They're diamonds, we know that much, but as for what created that color, no one's quite sure." He pulled them out, handing them off. "They are the right size."
"They're pretty unique, just like us," Xander said, grinning and handing over his card. "We'll take these and he needs a daddy stone in his ring too."
"I saw an emerald I liked," Oz said quietly, pointing at a case he'd looked at when they first came in. "I'm not sure if it would fit in the hole though."
"I'm sure it should. You seem to have a very good eye." He walked over with the younger man, taking out the ring he pointed at, a wide carved silver band with a square-cut emerald solitaire. "Very good taste. Again, a very unusual stone. The owner used to work here before she got sick. Cancer, you understand," he added hurriedly. "Her husband gave this to her after the birth of her first child." He handed it over. "I'd hate to break the ring up, it has such sentimental value."
Xander walked over to look at it. "Do you have a stone just like it?"
"No stones are perfectly matched but I could check in the back." He took back the ring, putting it into the case and heading for the back. He came back after a few minutes with a very pleased smile and dropped a small, deep green emerald into the redhead's palm. "I think this will suit your ring," he said quietly.
Oz looked at it and nodded, knowing that it was the right stone. He looked over his shoulder at his mate, who was looking like he was ready to cry again. "Like it?"
"Very much," Xander said, kissing his cheek. "We'll take all three and that ring. I have someone I want to give it to for that reason." He handed back over his debit card. "Do you have to keep our rings to mount them into the holes?" The salesman shook his head. "Good, I've just gotten used to having it on and I'd hate to remove it." He handed back the emerald and pulled Oz off to the side. "I want to ask Derek to let me call him dad." That got him a tight hug and a very pleased smile. "You won't mind?" he asked quietly, rubbing over the relaxed back.
"Not at all. I've been waiting for you to realize he's doing the job." He stepped back. "You going to do it down here?"
"I want to think some more on it 'cause I'm still kinda insecure about that."
"Whenever you're ready." Oz kissed him then walked back over to where the salesman was waiting on them. "The person it's going to is a man, I think a size... ten, I'd guess."
"Eleven," Xander said. "I wear a nine and his ring was a little bigger than a ten on me when I had it on for that meeting." He took back his card. "Well, that blows almost all my savings." But he was smiling as he held out his hand. "Can we do this now?"
Derek watched the two men walk into the house with a pleased smile. "How have you been?" he asked, setting out cold cans of soda for them.
"Exhausted," Oz said. "The guy marathon's when he shops." He opened his drink and gulped it down, walking over to his husband to share his too. He sat on the willing lap and took the can from him, drinking some before handing it back. "Ah, better." He held out his hand to Derek, who was walking over to them. "What do you think? We found some pretty unique stones."
"They kinda say us, a very different from everyone else sorta thing," Xander added, holding out his own hand.
"Very well thought out choice," the oldest man said, looking at both of them. "I agree, the choice was a goot one." He noted the small package in Xander's hand but didn't remark on it. "I see you also got the other hole filled."
"Xan called it a daddy stone."
Xander sat up straighter, taking the oldest man's hand in his. "Can I ask you the most serious thing in my life?" He got a small nod. "Can I call you my father?"
Derek started to tear up, nodding. He leaned down to hug his son, then his son-in-law. "I'd be honored," he whispered, sitting down beside them. "When did you decide this?"
"When we came back from running away," Xander told him, taking control of one of his hands again. "You said then that you considered me your son and it got me thinking. Last night, while we were all getting happy with the wine, I started to think about all you've done for us and it just clicked that you deserved the title." He took the small velvet box from his husband's hand, opening it. "The man at the store said this used to belong to a co-worker who died of cancer. She got it on the birth of her first child but I saw it and thought of you. Well, Oz saw it and thought of being a daddy and it made me realize it made me think of you." He took it out, putting it on his father's right index finger. "Thank you," he said softly, hugging him. Oz got up, letting him lean into the shoulder that had always welcomed his problems. "Dad."
"Oh, Xander, you didn't have to but I'm more than honored that you consider me worthy." He held the younger man, letting his own tears flow now in happiness, allowing himself to feel everything now. He looked up at his son's mate and smiled, whispering "Thank you" to him also. He just got a serene nod and they were left alone.
Derek dried himself first, pulling back. "Come, we've got to call your grandmother." He helped the younger man up, walking him over to where the phone was, hitting the speakerphone button and dialing from memory. "Mother?" he said when it was answered.
"Derek, son, how are you?" her warm voice floated out.
"I'm fine mother, but I just got the most astounding request and I wanted to share it." He took Xander's hand in his. "One of my associates, the young man that was in the hospital when you were at the house last time, has asked me to call him father." He practically beamed as his mother's rich, pleased laughter floated over them. "And, he has all those children so you can have great-grandchildren at the same time."
"She's been bugging you, hasn't see?" Xander asked, hugging him. Derek nodded, making a sour face. "Well, I'll happily call her grandma."
"Yes, young man, you shall," Barbara Rayne said. "Well, son, that dovetails nicely with my own news. You remember meeting Ethan?"
"Yes, vaguely. We were introduced." He made a face at the thought of the man he had met.
"Well, he has asked me to consider becoming engaged to him." They could all hear the happiness in her voice, the warm undertones when she said his name. "I've told him I would."
"Mother, I'm very... very pleased," Derek said, his mouth open. "When are you planning this for?" He looked at Oz, mouthing the words "Ethan Rayne?" and got a shudder in response.
"Son, it's to be a long engagement. I refuse to rush into anything." The sound of her tapping nails came through the phone clearly. "I think you two should meet again, son, would you agree to that?"
"Yes, of course," Derek said. "I'd love to spend some time talking to him." He took the note Oz had written out for him, frowning. The younger man nodded, waving at it, eyes very big. He finally nodded. "Mother, would... I'm not at the house, I'm in Florida on a dig. Would you consider coming out in four weeks when I'm home again? Allow me to meet him and see if I approve?"
"Derek Rayne, I specifically asked you *not* to do a background check on him," she said sharply.
"I haven't," he assured her. "And I plan to not do one. You're not in the Legacy so I'm not obligated to do so but I would like to meet and talk with the man I'd be calling step-father." Oz choked on his soda.
"Of course you would," his mother said patiently. "Send the jet for me when you're ready and do give me a few days warning," she said sweetly. "And I expect all my great-grandchildren to be there also."
"William's due over then," Xander said. "That's when you're having the Precept's meeting."
Derek nodded. "True, I had forgotten that," he paused, "son. I'll have her fly over with William. Will that be acceptable, mother?"
"Of course. I've not seen him in ages." She laughed lightly. "I'll see you then son, goodnight." She hung up.
Xander looked at the note. "He is?"
Oz nodded. "Remember the candy thing? Well, I went to release him and that was that guy's name."
"He's supposed to be an old friend of Rupert's," Derek muttered as he dialed the house. "Rupert," he said. There was a short pause. "Who is Ethan Rayne to you?" He pulled the phone from his ear. "No, he's just asked my mother to marry him." He smiled wickedly. "Send all the information you have to William Sloan. I promised not to interfere so I'll let him handle it." He hung up, dialing London. "William? Derek, yes, fine, not now. I've just had the most horrid news. No, not that. They're both fine and happy together. No, my mother's marrying a *sorcerer*." He smiled and pulled the phone away from his ear as the very audible shouting and cursing started. "My feelings exactly. That's why I'm bringing her over when I'm back at the house for the Precept's meeting. She'll be on the plane with you and Rupert's sending you all the information he has on the man." His smile got a little more wicked. "Yes, I want you, you scheming little knave, to deal with it. I promised not to even do a background check on Mr. Rayne. He may be a distant cousin but that was all I could find out before my mother made me promise not to check up on him."
"Da.. Derek," Xander amended, getting a dirty look, "we could sic Xandra on him." He looked at his mate. "She's got her mother's gifts and no knowledge of what not to do yet."
Derek pulled the phone away from his head. "I don't mind you calling me that, just not in front of the press or members of the other houses except William," he said quietly. "All right?" He got a small happy nod. "And that would put us down on his level."
"Not necessarily," Oz said. "I can see where this is going. Have your mom be sicced on..." He looked at the phone, raising a brow and the Precept shook his head. "Buy yourself some time to expose him. Do it *using* the kids, who are mostly talented in that direction, by having him work around them or try to help them. Painless, harmless, little risk."
"Except Serena," Xander added. "If she figures it out, she'll eat him."
Derek laughed. "From what Rupert said, that might be a goot way to go. William, I am leaving the meddling portion of this in your hands." He smiled. "Of course there's a tape, Nick was there." He hung up. "He just asked for a copy of the wedding tape."
"There's a tape," the younger men said together.
"Can't send it to London.," Oz added, frowning. "Don't want her to see it."
"Sons," Derek said, "he said she's not contesting the custody. He had a long discussion with her about not exposing the Legacy when she said she wanted to contest the custody arrangement and he made her understand what would happen if it was even hinted that might happen." He smiled his devious, scheming little smile again. "She'll accept limited visitation due to distance and be happy about it, or at least appear to be." He clapped his hands together. "So, how shall we celebrate this goot news of my being a father."
"Gee, dad, you could take us out to dinner," Oz said. He wiggled his eyebrows at his mate. "I don't think it'd be safe for us to be alone yet. No telling what might happen at the table that you'd have to watch."
"You were very good all day," Xander said. "And so was I. I didn't even take you back into the stacks at the library and steal a kiss." He grinned. "Yup, I think we deserve a good dinner out so you don't have to see me jump him."
Derek laughed lightly. "Yes, you've both been very goot from the sound of it so we'll go have a nice dinner." He walked over to the stove, turning it off and pulling out the pan he'd put in just as they pulled up to put it into the refrigerator. "This isn't done enough for it to matter so we'll have it for supper tomorrow." He looked at his sons. "Go get dressed," he said, smiling. They ran down the hall to their room. "You have an hour until the next ferry," he called after them.
"Damn, no time for sex," floated down the hall in a suspiciously Xander-like voice.
Derek walked into his room, clutching his sides he was laughing so hard, and it only got worse as Oz yelled his completion.
Derek looked out at the porch of the restaurant, seeing his sons out there looking at the stars. He smiled as the waiter brought the check, signing the credit card receipt and handing it back. He gathered up the small box that was the remains of his sons' dinner and walked out to join them. "Time to go," he said quietly, giving them warning before he made it to where they were holding hands. "We'll miss the last ferry if we don't hurry."
Xander looked at his watch. "Hate to tell you this, but we did. By five minutes." He looked over his shoulder. "I called a water taxi, it'll be here in a few more." He shifted closer to his husband, rubbing their shoulders together. "Whatcha thinking," he whispered.
"The stars, how I never really watch them anymore." Oz looked at his mate. "How the twinkles of them remind me of your eyes when you're really happy and about to cry from joy." He sighed as he leaned his head on the waiting shoulder. "I'm tired. We should just cuddle tonight."
"Then I'll hold you for as long as you want," Xander said softly. "Anytime you need me to." He wrapped his arm around the slightly older man's waist, supporting him. "Taxi's here," he said, pointing at the boat that was pulling up. He walked his love down the stairs, settling him comfortably before turning to help his father into the boat. He'd just sat down when the taxi took off, speeding away, so he fell into Oz's side, snuggling down. "Be home soon," he soothed, taking his hand. "I'll happily drop you into bed and cuddle you." The taxi driver gave them a pointed look but didn't say anything, just went faster.
Derek watched the two young men walk down the hall, the younger almost carrying his husband. He smiled, enjoying the peace they shared now, letting it flow into him and soothe his need for his own lovers. "Maybe Philip and I should talk," he told himself quietly. He looked up as he felt the arms go around his chest. "Why aren't you in bed?"
"Because you need someone to talk to," Xander said. "If you marry Philip, do I get to call him dad to?"
Derek chuckled lightly. "You'd have to ask him that but I don't see the situation arising soon. He's still trying to figure out the conflict between our love and the church, and his calling is the stronger of the two." He sat down at the table, picking a miniature orange off the tree in the center of the table to peel. "I accepted that a long time ago, Xander, and I know it will hurt terribly when he makes that final decision but I can't ask him to give it up for me." He looked into the soft eyes of the younger man, suddenly seeing all that Oz saw in him, all the tenderness he held for his mate shining out at him. "The same as you can't ask Oz to give up his music for you, I can't ask Philip to give up his calling as a Priest. I won't allow him to give it up."
"But if that's the decision he makes, without asking you to help, would you accept it?" The man he considered a father shook his head. "Why not?"
"Because Philip was meant to be a Priest, to help people in need."
"There are other ways he could do that and still serve God without being a Priest though, Dad. He could teach or do any number of things to help people without wearing that collar and denying you." He kissed his cheek as he stood up. "I'm sure he'll make the choice that he feels is right for him and he'll consider what it'll do to you at the same time. He's like that." Xander walked back to his room, climbing into bed beside his husband.
Derek shook his head, eating the small orange slices. "My son, some days you are an amazing man." He finished the last piece and stood up, tossing his trash away on the way to his own bedroom.
Oz watched his mate play in the surf like a dolphin, walking down to join him. He dove into the water, surfacing a few feet away from the firm young body he had missed waking up beside again this morning, stroking slowly over to it, taking his time to enjoy the buoyancy of the ocean. He latched onto a foot, dragging the still body into his. "Napping?" he whispered as he leaned in for a good morning kiss.
"Nope, just waiting for you to join me." Xander smiled, wrapping his legs around his husband's waist. "One week today," he said. "We should celebrate."
"How? I can't take any more sex and we have to be here today to work. Your bank account's almost empty and so's mine." He hugged him, thinking hard to alleviate the hurt look on his husband's face. "How about a picnic lunch? We could pack one and pull Derek away from the dig?"
"He'll yell. You know how wrapped up he gets." The younger man looked toward the house and frowned. "Come on, we need to go back, one of the workers is heading this way." They stroked back to the beach, pulling on their towels so they would be partially decent. "What happened," Xander asked as he met the young woman heading the dig under Derek's guidance on the path.
"Derek sent me to get you, he found something he didn't expect yet," she said, breathing hard. It was a hard path to climb from the other side of the key. "He said he'd bring it up to the house in under an hour and he wanted you two ready to research it."
Oz nodded. "Okay, we can do that. Go get a drink before heading back." He took Xander's hand, walking him up the gentle path to the house and inside to their room. They showered together to save time but didn't engage in any of their usual antics. This was the first time the real world had really intruded on them and while they weren't eager to enter it they had to come at its call. The dressed simply, expecting a long day bent over a table, and headed out to meet the people they could hear in the main room.
Xander jogged out first, stopping when he saw them carrying Derek. "Damn, what happened?" He rushed to his side, kneeling down beside the still body and checking him over visually. He checked his pulse then put his head down on the slowly moving chest to listen to the heartbeat. "He sounds like he's asleep."
"He stepped on the tranq gun and it went off in his foot," the man leaning on the back of the couch said. He waved a hand at the table. "That's the first we've really found besides some wood and he thought it was important."
"Pretty," Oz said, holding up the onyx pendant.
Xander frowned. "He told me about that, be careful, Oz. It belonged to a woman on the ship going to the her soon-to-be-husband's side." He patted his father's hand as he stood, walking over to look at it. "It was a family heirloom, her Grandmother's if I remember right." His husband nodded as he turned to look at the crew. "Anything else yet?"
"Nope, just took all of us to bring teach up," the man on the back of the couch said. He yawned. "We'll go back down and look for some more stuff. If we find anything, Derek said to bring it up twice a day - lunch and quittin' time - so we'll start doing that." He got a small nod so stood up. "Come on guys, let's get back and make teach proud." All the grad students helping on the dig filed out, talking quietly.
Oz looked at the pendant and frowned. "Who was she?"
"Her Grandmother was a sorceress, supposedly, so he said it might contain something like some stored power, and she was going to be the wife of the first *living* New World Precept." Xander sat on the edge of the table. "Want to catalog while I research?"
"Sure, I can do that." Oz took the pendant back to the workroom and the camera equipment.
Xander pulled out the notes Derek had made on the various items he knew should be there, cross-referencing each item. He dialed the house in San Francisco with one hand, looking at the notes for a mention of the pendant with the other. "Hey, Alex, it's me. Yup, fine. No, just called to update you. We found what we think may be the pendant Derek wanted us to find." He looked at the still body. "Nope, he stepped on the tranq gun and is presently out. He can't come to the phone." Oz tapped him on the shoulder. "Hold on, Alex." He smiled up at his husband, taking the notes and the pictures. "Thanks, love."
"Hey, welcome. Want me to do that while you hunt?" He was handed the phone. "Hey, Alex. No, he's fine, just taking an unscheduled nap." He snorted, looking at the man on the couch. "Nah, we can baby him, we don't need Nick." Xander smiled, chuckling lightly so he nudged him with a toe to see what was going on. A picture Derek had doodled of them was held up and got a small smile from him too. "Yeah, well, he'll tell you *all* about that when we get back."
"Not here," Xander said. He got up, heading for the workroom and came back a few minutes later with the other notebook. He found Oz bent over the table, holding his head as he talked on the phone. "What happened?" he asked quietly, taking his seat again. "Kids?"
The older man shook his head, holding up a finger. "Sure, Alex. Thanks for letting us know." He hung up, turning to look at his husband. "Willow was brought up before a judiciary panel." He saw the wince. "Not because of us. She's gone on a tear all over London. William's had to rescue her repeatedly." He swallowed. "They had her checked into a hospital yesterday." Xander simply opened his arms, letting him fall into them. "Thanks. I feel so *guilty*. The papers we filed started this."
Xander shook his head. "Not really. She had a few while we were all together," he whispered, soothing his husband. "I overheard Buffy talking about it with her. They don't know I did but it seems she had to be rescued from her own drunkenness a few times." He rubbed over the tense back. "That's why Precious doesn't hang with her anymore."
"We ought to go talk to her," Oz said quietly. "I like her and Savannah."
"Me too. We'll go to their new store when we get back." He kissed the back of his husband's head. "Let me call Alex and tell her what I know and we'll get back to work." He hit the redial button. "Hey, bro, put Alex on and leave." He tapped his fingers then put the time to good use, flipping one-handed through the new notebook, the other holding his husband's hand. "Hey, me again. Something you should know. She's done it at home too." His face scrunched up in disgust. "You did? How many times? No, I only heard her and Buffy talking about the one." He picked up the notebook and threw it across the room. "Can you do that? I want to know. It won't matter to me but I'd like to know." He nodded and hung up. "The judiciary panel just called and asked for the kids to be blood tested and compared to us." He looked down. "They're not going to do anything to us but they wanted us to have the information if we didn't know."
"They think she's a ho?" Oz asked. Then shook his head. "Drinking sure, but not usually anything else. She doesn't even like the lights on most of the time." He glared at the phone. "I'm not telling Derek. Nick and Alex can handle it."
"She said she'd tell us first. Told them that too." He took a deep breath. "They mandated counseling for her." He squeezed the tense hand. "And William had to tell them that we were married and rejected her." The older man let out his breath. "They didn't say anything about it."
"They wouldn't," Derek said from the couch. He moaned as he sat up. "Thank Got for fast acting tranquilizers," he said solemnly. His arms were filled with both his sons instantly. "Shh, what happened?" he asked, soothing them with gentle touches to the back of their hair and their backs. "What did William do this time?"
"Willow was brought up before a judiciary panel," Oz said. "Drinking."
"Repeated drunken conduct that jeopardized the Legacy," Xander amended. "They mandated counseling and blood tests of the kids so we would know for sure, and he had to tell them about our union."
"Marriage," Oz corrected.
"Bonding," Xander told him, taking his hand again. "Joining us at the soul for the whole world to look at in awe." That got him a small smile. "But anyway, they know now and Alex said some weren't too happy with us." He buried his head between the two loving bodies, seeking the comfort he craved right at that moment. "We're not in trouble though."
"Yet," Oz told him, giving him a head hug.
"You shouldn't be unless she made an allegation against you two." He looked at Oz and frowned. "I'm sure it was just a precaution. One more nail in her coffin as it were." He yawned. "I'll call Alex in a minute. Why don't you two go back to the table and find out about that amulet." They nodded, getting off him and going back to work, Xander heading for the kitchen he noted. He sat up, watching them for a few seconds before getting up and going to his room to call home.
"Alex," he said when she answered. "I want the whole story, not that fictional thing that you told the boys." He sat down hard. "They are? But they can't do that. We've raised them so far." He shook his head. "No, they're staying, no matter what the board thinks. I'll talk with Montreal myself." He frowned. "I'm the head Precept, they have to listen," he said coldly then smiled. "Oh, I know but I'm sure it will. I'll call you later. Under no circumstances are they to leave." He hung up, dialing the other house he needed to support him on this. "Hello, I need to talk to your Precept." He leaned back. "Ah, my dear, how nice to hear from you. Goot, goot, we found the amulet this morning. No, I'm not calling about that." Short pause. "But they are. They've been raised in the house and the older ones are almost four. I'm sure it would be harmful." He grimaced. "Think of it this way, would you let her have custody of five children? She has already agreed not to fight the boys on custody. No, I had William talk to her." He raised an eyebrow as Oz walked in and shut the door. "No, I don't believe that's wise. I planned that part to happen this way, not with her getting them." He grunted. "Then we'll just have to bring up her problems then, won't we?" He smiled. "I'm glad to hear that. I'll wait for the results." He hung up. "What?" he asked, patting the bed beside him.
"She asked for them?" Derek nodded. "I won't let her have them. No matter what."
"I know and we'll back you on it. The whole house, and Montreal. I believe even William would back you on this. He was most displeased with her, had her checked into a residential care program so he wouldn't have to deal with her himself." He hugged the younger man to him. "I'm not going to worry about this. Those four are definitely yours, they look and act like you. And Alexandra is surely Xander's. She's so like him some days it's intolerable." That brought out a small smile on the younger man's face. "In the pool for hours each day, eating all the rest of the time. Hyper to the point of wanting to tie her down? You tell me whose she is."
"Not mine," Xander said walking in. "I had her tested. It's in her medical file so Marcus has it." He hugged Oz from behind. "I had a doubt there for a few weeks so I asked him to do it without telling anyone." He looked at his father. "What about the one she's carrying?" Derek frowned at her. "Oh, please. I kept track of her cycle so I'd know when to be very careful and tactful. She had the nasty habit of being overly hormonal and mean when she was fertile." He kissed the back of Oz's neck. "She's overdue for a fertile cycle now."
"When did she go off the shot," Oz asked, turning to look at his husband. "She never told me."
"I noticed she quit going to the doctor's regularly almost a year ago and her period's been back for six months. I called her on it and she screamed that it was her business so I butted out and the condoms came back." He held on tighter. "I thought you had noticed."
Oz shook his head. "By that time, I was working on what we had together, focusing on you instead of her." He held on, clinging. "You really think she is?" He saw the glance to the watch on his wrist. "When was she due to be fertile?"
"If she's still going normally? Last week." He frowned. "Saturday actually." He shrugged. "I'll claim it if you will."
"Yeah," Oz said, looking up into his mate's eyes. "I want us to." That got him a small nudge from Derek. "Huh?"
"While I support that idea, there's a large chance that the baby will be contested since you obviously weren't together."
Xander snorted. "Let me handle that. I've been waiting to get mean with her for all the crap she gave me. I think I can be cold enough now," he justified at the small head shakes he received.
"Okay," Oz told him, "but I'm going with you. Just to be there and not talk again."
"Ah, the old Oz," the youngest man said with a small smile. "I used to admire him. He always had the words I wanted but never could think of in time." He was tickled lightly. "Well, you did. You thought out everything carefully and I blurted things out." He kissed him. "Now we've met somewhere in the middle. I think and you blurt." He fell to the floor laughing as the talented fingers followed him, tickling him the whole way. "OZ!" he shrieked, laughing.
Derek covered his head with the pillow. "Go work," he moaned.
Derek looked at the two men walking out of their bedroom, yawning. "Have a nice nap?" he asked with a small smile. He knew very well they had only gotten an hour of sleep during their three hours together.
"Not long enough," Oz noted, pulling a pitcher out of the refrigerator and pouring a glass. "Want one, Xan?"
"Nope," the youngest man said, putting down his father's now empty glass with a grin. Both older men just looked at him and shook their heads. "What? Sharing in families keeps them strong."
"Unless you're a Springer family," Oz corrected. He looked at Derek. "No more from the wreck?"
"Not yet. They should be up in another hour or so." He patted the table, prompting Oz to sit down with them. "We've got to work on my solution for the full moon soon, it's in another week."
"True." Oz shook his head. "What are we going to do?"
"I'm going to converse with the wolf-side of you through hypnosis and then talk with Xander's hyena side. I'll try to balance it out some, make the wolf more sedate without having to have Xander's spirit out in full force so you won't attack him."
"I didn't want to mention this but somehow I've locked them back up again. I can't hear them at all."
"I noticed," Derek said dryly. "And the wolf has too I'm sure. That's why I'm going to go the hypnosis route. It's worked in the past for both of your sides." He took his son's hand, squeezing it gently. "I know you fear him still and what he might do to Oz but I'm going to work on letting you have access to him without having to bring him out."
"About the same as he was trying to do? Meld them all together?" Derek thought about it then nodded. "Okay, just so long as it doesn't do anything to me."
"Hyena's mate for life," Xander said.
"They also have pack behavior," Derek told him, "but yes they do mate for life and they do also have homosexual relationships. But, did you know that females head the packs?" The youngest man looked at him funny. "Not to say anything about you but the spirit that must have possessed you would have to have been female." His son's face fell. "I'm sure that's not the reason for you two to be together."
Oz cleared his throat. "You told me once that you were doubting your orientation before that. If it was a female then she's not responsible for us. She wouldn't have made you gay." He finished off his juice. "We'll talk about it later, once you've thought some." Xander nodded. "Okay?"
"Yeah, it's just a small bad thing in the back of my head that I don't want to think about."
"Ah, but if you were doubting your sexuality before, then what difference would it make if it was a male or a female spirit?"
"None, but that doesn't mean that the worry isn't there," Xander told him. "Things like that don't respond to logic." He made a sour face. "I'm just forgetting that." He looked into his mate's eyes. "So, work then what?"
"You need to see if your check was deposited," Oz reminded him. "That call from the bank almost gave you a heart attack." He looked at Derek. "We need to call Alex about our checks. Xander got a call yesterday from the bank saying his car insurance premium check had bounced."
The Precept frowned. "I'll check on that today. It's not that late out there."
Oz shook his head. "I still think we ought to have a joint account, Xander."
"No, I want you to have your own independence." He scowled at his mate. "I want us to have separate ones and if we want a joint one to have an extra one."
"That'll make four accounts between us."
"Too many accounts, much confusion, many checkbooks... Ring a bell for disaster yet?" His husband frowned at him. "Don't give me that look. We should do that. We share everything else."
"No, you have your separate life with your music and I handle the funds." Xander smiled sweetly at him. "This gives us something of our own, which we need before we become the same person."
"Ah, first arguments," Derek said, getting up to leave them alone. "Most couples have it over toilet seats or toothpaste caps." He quickly headed for the workroom to get away from them.
Oz looked at his husband. "Why are we fighting over something so stupid?"
"Because you wanted to."
"Oh. Well, I don't want to fight with you." He smiled, leaning across the empty seat to kiss his mate. "You win."
"Just like that?" Oz nodded, smiling. "Okay, but you have to take Willow off your account and divide it up soon."
"Sure, babe, whatever you say. You're the money side and I'm the artistic one." He shifted to the seat that had been between them. "I think we ought to redecorate our room. Less flowers?"
"Definitely," Xander said, sighing in relief. "I thought I was going to start getting hay fever when I walked in and saw what she had done to our room." He leaned his head on the willing shoulder. "Does this mean we can have make up sex now?"
"NO!" Derek yelled from the workroom.
"Meany," they yelled back in unison, then broke out in giggles.
Alex looked at the bank manager's sour face. "Tell me it was a legal withdrawal."
The other woman shook her head, patting her obviously poodle-permed and really dry hair back into place. "I'm sorry, the last one we have with Mr. Harris' signature was in Miami at a jewelry store." She flipped through the pages. "I see that his automatic withdrawal for his car insurance bounced and we called him."
"Yes, that's why he called me, to look into the matter since he's on a dig in Florida." Alex smiled sweetly, turning on her charm. "I'd like to know what's going on. He's the only one designated to draw on that account, correct?"
"Not quite, but it looks like this was all done over the internet. No signature needed." She frowned again. "I have the statements for the other accounts you wanted to look at and it's much the same there. Someone has been drawing on them on-line to buy many expensive things."
"Willow," Alex muttered. She cleared her throat. "Mr. Osbourne is getting a divorce at the moment and we believe his soon-to-be ex-wife has been doing this. Can you remove her name form the accounts?" The other woman nodded. "And I need a statement of how much we need to get back from her. A precise summary if we could since they do have children and I believe the nanny is authorized to draw on one of them."
"Actually, he's authorized to draw on all of them," the manager noted, typing in a request and printing it out. She grabbed the papers from the laser printer and handed them over. "What would you like us to do? Mr. Harris has a few sizable investments with us and we might be able to cash one out soon without a penalty."
Alex held up a finger, pulling out her cell phone. "Let me check." She dialed the house in Florida, smiling as she reached the one she wanted to talk to. "Good morning, I'm at the bank right now." She shook her head. "Nope, little redheaded person did it." She snorted. "No, not Oz, Willow. From both of your accounts and Oz's. There's mention of taking one of your cd's and adding that right now and taking her name off." She handed off the phone.
"Mr. Harris?" the bank manager said, playing with a piece of her hair. "Yes," she said with a small smile, "it is. How good of you to remember. What would you like us to do about this? I've learned that this is an unfortunate situation and I would like to help you." She nodded, calling up another screen. "We can do that. And yes, I'm removing her name as soon as I hang up with you." She nodded, typing in another screen. "I can do that also. I know she doesn't have access to that one." She laughed lightly. "Oh, I'm happy for you then. Yes, of course I'll put his name on it." She pulled some paperwork over to hand to Alex. "Yes, Ms. Moreau is still here, this is her cell phone." She shook her head. "Are you sure you want to do that?" She sighed. "I'll have it sent down by courier today." She nodded and hung up, handing back the phone. "He's got it all figured out and I'll start proceedings to get their money back and freeze her from touching it. And I'll have their new cards sent down to them on a priority basis." She smiled, shaking Alex's hand. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I'm sure it will all be worked out in a satisfactory manner soon enough. Good day, Ms. Moreau.
Xander hung up the phone and looked at Oz. "Want to keep me from killing her?"
"Did she do it to our joint-emergency one too?" His husband nodded. "So, we're going to be solvent again?"
"By this afternoon and we'll have new cards in the next few days." He leaned back in his chair, frowning. "Can we sue her? I only gave her access to my stuff for emergencies."
Derek shook his head, walking out. "It wouldn't be wise. I'll have William dock her pay to get it back for you." He motioned Oz over from where he was making lunch. "I want to give you two a wedding present, and it's timely right now." He handed over the papers he carried. "It's something that my father left for me on the occasion of my marriage and now it should be yours, Xander."
"You were married?" Oz asked.
"Once, for almost three months." Derek smiled sadly. "It ended tragically. She ran off with my male lover at the time and they've been happy ever since." Xander shook his head. "Don't believe me? Trust me, she did, but this should go to my son on the occasion of his marriage. I want you to have it."
"But dad, it's way too much," Xander said, handing it to his mate. "That's like going to really mess up our taxes." Oz snorted and sat down. "See? You shocked him. We thought you were just well off."
"No, I've made some healthy investments over the course of my life and lent some money to some now very well known people." He smiled slyly. "Bill Gates is an interesting man but he bought my shares back many years ago." He sat down beside Oz. "Don't argue with me on this, please. I want you both to be taken care of if something happens to me."
Xander blanched. "You didn't... didn't see something, right?" Derek shook his head so he sank down on the couch next to him. "Thank God."
"Every day," Oz said, looking up. "So, money half, we taking this?"
"You can't give it back," Derek said with a tolerant smile. "Just invest it wisely." He patted their shoulders. "Just wait until you see the will. It's massive, as you would say." He smiled as he stood up. "I'll leave you to ponder this without me." He headed back to the workroom.
Oz looked at Xander and sighed. "We're a little more than well off with this," he said, handing the papers back. His husband nodded. "We'll need some help to deal with this."
"I've got someone I trust, Derek sent me to him back when I started to talk about investing some of my paychecks." He looked down at the papers, frowning. "It's a good thing, I guess, but I feel bad about taking it. Fraudulent and all those good words."
"Hey, he's your dad, but he's setting you up to take over for him."
"We, Oz. I'm not doing anything without you." He took his hand, holding onto it tightly. "Not even the Legacy is more important than this. We're a team."
"Okay, so we're rich now." He flipped a few pages. "And we have a nice cabin in the woods too."
Xander snorted. "Yeah, I've been there. It's not too bad." They ended up cuddling together. "How do you write a thank you note for this?"
Derek laughed from behind them. "You let your father get some sleep tonight." Oz choked, hiding his now very red face. "Sorry, but sound carries from your room almost directly to mine."
"I'll quiet him," Xander said, patting the back of his husband's head with a sneaky grin. "I'm sure I can find a way to do that."
"Me?" Oz said, sitting back up. "ME!?! I don't yell, I grunt." He looked over his shoulder at the older man. "Do you ever hear me?"
"I'm staying out of this discussion," Derek said, wisely retreating quickly to a safer place.
Oz looked at his mate. "I'm buying you a gag." He pinched the arm closest to him. "You promised to quit yelling anyway."
"Hey, I only do it when you're in me," the younger man defended with a grin. "But you gotta admit, I'm getting quieter each time."
Oz got his thoughtful look. "Well, I guess we'll just have to keep doing you until we've broken you of that habit or you naturally quiet down, one or the other."
Derek's yell of, "Please wait until we get home," made them collapse together in fits of laughter, holding onto the other.
Nick knocked on the door of the house in Florida, moving out to the way of whoever was running to answer it in case they couldn't stop. "Anxious," he asked Xander, handing over the package that had been sent to the house for him. He walked inside, looking around. "Gee, no remodeling yet?"
"Not ours," Oz reminded him. "Did you get..." The bag Nick carried was handed off. "Thanks, man, don't want to come back to the flower room." He pulled out the decorating samples and flipped through the book as he made his salad. "Xan, blue or green?"
"Seawater," the younger man said. He hit his brother on the arm. "You don't call, you don't write..." He stopped as he was grabbed and tickled. "Okay, I give, you've been busy." He pulled back down his shirt. "Derek's out on the dig and we were going to go jump in the ocean." Oz's plate was held up. "Okay, I was going to go play in the ocean, Oz was going to watch from our beach." He grinned, setting the package of cards down on the table. "Want me to call Derek?"
"No, I'll go down and surprise him." Nick looked at the newly married couple. "You two look happy. Much happier than I've seen you since you got back from running away."
"Yeah, well, Will's not here so we're doing good," Xander told him, sitting down. He took the other package Nick handed him from the pocket of his leather jacket. "What's this?"
"Your grandma sent it." He smiled. "Dad?"
"Yes, he does the job, he should have the title." He looked over his shoulder as the door opened. "More stuff for us to do?"
"After lunch," Derek said as he walked in with the other chest of found things. He walked over to Nick, hugging him. "Finally, someone I can talk to," he joked. He dodged the orange Oz threw at his head with a small smile. "These two have the strangest conversations."
"We have normal ones," Xander defended. He opened the small, plainly wrapped present, his mouth falling open. "Um, how do I write a thank you note for this?" he asked, holding up the small velvet box of jewels.
Oz walked over to look at them. "Gee, Derek, didn't she get a copy of the tape?" He picked up the note that fell out, reading it. "Oh, good, it goes to a daughter." He sighed in relief. "I didn't want to have to start wearing dresses to go with some of those pieces." He accepted the nudge from his father-in-law quietly.
Xander read the note and smiled. "Okay, so which one gets it?"
"All of them," Oz told him. "Favorites are bad."
"We can lock it in the safe for them until they're older," Derek told him. "She must be ecstatic about you, son, she never even told me we had these." He frowned at the pieces of emerald jewelry lying on the velvet board. "I definitely don't want to be there when they fight about who gets what piece either."
"Serena doesn't like jewelry," Oz told him. "Precious has atrocious taste and Xandra will be thrilled because they're shiny." He sat down next to his husband, taking the box and putting it aside. "We'll work on the note later," he said as he curled up against the waiting chest to eat.
Nick shook his head. "That's not all she sent but it'll have to wait." He sat down in front of Xander, head down. "I'm sorry, bro, I really didn't mean to do it."
"You did *what* to my car?" Xander asked, glaring.
"I hit a bump and it flipped." He was instantly hugged by his brother. "Thanks, I'm fine. Xandra's fine too. We were coming back from the doctor's and she wanted to drive your car so I stole it." He handed over a picture and a check. "The insurance company declared it unfixable. I am *so* sorry."
"That's all right, you're both fine and that's all that matters to me," Xander said, hugging him again. He looked at the picture and winced. "Are you sure you're both fine? That looks even worse than we had at Christmas with the Range Rover."
"Yup, just a few bruises and a bruised rib for Xandra." He took the picture back. "This is staying on my wall of stupidity to remind me why I wear my seatbelt. She reminded me to put it on when we got in, that's why we're both fine." Derek hugged him tightly. "I'll help you shop when you get back."
"Okay, but I want a practical car." He looked down at his husband, who had stopped eating. "Until then, I'm borrowing the Range Rover."
"She's getting it," Oz said. "I talked with the lawyers last night to work on the split of equity and she's getting the Range Rover and most everything else that I didn't come with so she doesn't contest." He shrugged. "That leaves us with the bigger van and my instruments and our clothes."
"And what Derek gave me."
"That's not in his name yet," Derek told them. "Not until after the divorce is final." He looked down at his associate and lover, almost. "We'll both help them shop when we get back. I'm sure you'll want to get something safer for a while also."
"No, I have your Range Rover for safety." Nick smiled shyly. "Alex handed me the keys when she came to pick us up."
"That's fine," Derek told him. "But you can't keep it." He smiled, dropping a soft kiss onto the younger man's head. "So, why else are you here?"
"Because I wanted to talk to you." Xander and Oz gathered their stuff and walked into their bedroom. "Derek, I'm still not sure and I need space to think about us." He looked into the understanding eyes. "There are still things in my head that don't make sense to me and I can't commit to you the way I want to until they're gone; and I won't give you less than the total me."
"I understand and I'm a patient man," was whispered into the dark hair. "I can wait for you to figure it out." He kissed him again then let him go. "You are still more than welcome beside me when you're ready and my room is always open to you for whatever reason." Nick nodded, his shoulders slumping in relief. "How's Philip?"
"He's on a real sabbatical now. That retreat up in Washington State. He said he'd write but I'm just kinda lonely without him." He smiled up at his best friend. "I'm like the only one of us there now and Alex is giving me hell. Even Rupert won't stick up for me now. Says I remind him too much of Xander on a sugar high." That got a small laugh. "And you wouldn't believe our coffee bill now."
"Not bad alcohol," Oz told him, putting his plate in the sink. "We're going to go down to play in the water if you want to be alone for more time."
"No, go start on that new group of items in the workroom. I'll come help in a while." Derek waited until they were alone to go back to hugging Nick. "Whatever you decide is right for you," he told his friend. "No matter what it is, I'll support you on it." Nick nodded, his whole body going limp. "Was there anything else?"
"Yeah, one thing. Buffy's been having a problem with her abilities." He frowned. "Some days she has her strength and some days it's gone." He shrugged. "I'm guessing here but I'd say she's about to lose it all."
"That's interesting. I'll have the people I hired to go through the Council of Watcher's things check into that possibility and get with Rupert." He let the younger man go, sitting on the couch now. "What else has been happening?"
"Well, Xandra has been swimming on her own, no floaters most of the time. And the quad are really quiet, they know something's up with Willow. Alex and Rupert sat down with Jonathan and told them that she's in London for a few months and they won't be going to see her soon. Precious thinks she's mad at them so she made a card, which was sent back unopened so we hid it." He shook his head. "Poor kids, we don't know what to say to make it better."
"Their fathers will be home in two weeks and we three will sit down and talk to them." Derek cleared his throat and looked around before saying anything else. "What about those tests?"
"Well, the bro was right, Xandra's not his. The quad is Oz's but Xandra's not even related. And about the other one, William sent it to your email account." He frowned. "There was some other complication he didn't want to mention to me." Nick smiled again. "But, the disciplinary committee recommended that *all* the kids stay with us. They said we have all the infrastructure and the loving environment to care for them properly. They also said that if she does go through with this one then it should come back to us too."
Derek sighed. "So be it. It's as I wanted, and as the boys wanted. They've already said they're claiming it if she is."
Nick leaned closer. "Derek, I talked to the security chief in London, the one who really pulled her away from her new friends and she said it's very possible the child is bi-racial. They won't be able to claim it."
"I'll talk with Alex about that then," Derek said with a small smile. "I think we can work up a convincing lie if we have to." He relaxed. "How are the plans for the Precept's meeting going?"
"Fine," the younger man said with a small grin. "I even agreed not to toss William off the balcony into the pond." That brought a small smile to his boss' face. "And William has said that he's got a small announcement planned for the meeting. Won't hint what but he said it would be after he went back to semi-member status."
"Ah, yes, I'm hoping that it's something to do with leaving us alone again." He gave him a small, pleased look. "The man has positively wormed his way back into the house and they're all begging that he be retired again."
"I'm not seeing it as doing with any of that," Nick told him. "I think it's personal. Maybe he and Patricia are finally going to admit they're not together and break up for real." He snorted. "They've been living in separate counties since he got back."
"Yes, but that's a difficult situation. While he was in Hell, she found someone else. My bringing him back just led to a complication and they agreed to act married for public purposes but he has long accepted that she was no longer his." Derek sighed, crossing his feet. "It's an aristocratic ideal - even if the marriage is a sham, you continue on with it for the public good and have your own private relationships to satisfy yourself. Just so long as no one knows."
"Ah, yes, I understand that but it's still got to hurt him a lot." Derek nodded. "Why didn't you do that?"
"Because I couldn't bear to stay around either of them." The older man leaned closer. "I gave them what my father left for me on the occasion of my marriage and made them accept it. Xander was most miffed that I did that to them."
"Yes, I've been talking more and more like those two with constant exposure." The older man laughed lightly. "You should hear it when it's just us." Nick laughed with him. "Okay, enough of this, let me show you the dig." He stood up and led the younger man out of the house.
Xander and Oz walked out and smiled. "Gee, was I miffed?" he asked his husband.
"Yeah, that might be a good word. Get the cards and I'll get the other box of stuff." They headed back into the workroom with their respective loads and got down to work.
Derek looked at the young man on the couch, smiling at him and his husband, who was sitting under his feet. "Xander, I want to talk to all three of you at once," he said softly. "I need to integrate all three of you now, it's no longer healthy to have your three parts separate." The young man growled lightly, stretching. "No, all three of you but you are to remain dominant."
"Shoot, wanted to go play," a pouty Xander said. "Does that mean I can't have the memories?"
"No, son, I need you to keep their memories but not them. Keep the instincts and abilities of your other spirits and merge them with your mind. Can you do that?"
The younger man nodded and closed his eyes again, his face scrunching up in his concentrating way. Finally, he sighed and reopened his eyes. "Okay, I'm all together now. The hyena's instincts and the soldier's memories. Good?"
"Yes, Xander very goot. Now, I want you to wake up, son." He snapped his fingers and the younger man blinked, looking up at him. "How do you feel?"
"Okay, little more slinky maybe. It's like I feel like I've just got done letting the animal out for a few days and he's safely away but I'm still holding onto the slink and instincts."
"The soldier?" Oz asked, rubbing over the bare feet he held in his lap.
"All the memories. All the gun stuff and everything." Xander stretched, his movements not terribly different than normal, a little more sensual maybe but still him.
"Goot," Derek looked at Oz. "Your turn." The redhead switched places with his husband, closing his eyes and relaxing. They'd been practicing putting them under for a few days, just to make sure it was all right to do so and it worked well enough. "Oz, I need to talk to your wolf," he said once his new subject was under fully. He got a small growl in return. "Oz, your mate is here, and I need to talk to you about him." That got a small nod. "He's no longer as dangerous as he used to be and I'm concerned that you'll attack him again."
"No, not hurt mate. He's good and will be protected."
Derek smiled, very happy. "Goot, now just to make sure, I want you to open your eyes and look at your mate, the wolf forward, to memorize him as someone that will never be harmed by you." Oz did as he asked. "See the way he is? He's going to stay that way. No more animal coming out for him. Do you understand?" The young man looked at him and nodded, frowning. "No, I'm an older alpha, a former protector. I protect your pack, Oz, and am not to be harmed either." That got a small nod. "Lay back down and retreat to Oz forward please." The young man did as he was told, closing his eyes again. "Oz," he called softly.
"I want you to remember this, all of it, in case something happens, do you understand?" He got a small nod. "Goot, then wake up please." He snapped his fingers. "How do you feel?"
"Fine," Oz said, scratching the back of his head. "Think the wolf has fleas though." He looked at his mate. "We'll see how good we do tonight, 'kay?"
"Yup." Xander hugged him, holding him tightly. He looked over his husband's shoulder. "I don't feel any different, not really."
"That's what it's supposed to feel like," Derek told him, getting up. "Get some dinner, sunset is in another hour and a half." He walked into the workroom and shut the door.
Oz looked into his husband's eyes. "I won't hurt you. I'm pretty sure it worked. The wolf won't attack you again because he can't see the hyena."
"And the hyena won't come back out." Xander grinned. "We should celebrate."
"Why aren't you sore?" the older man asked with a small groan. "I am."
"Because you take lots of loving care of my body and you've been so gentle in my innocence."
"Xander, you're not innocent anymore. It's time for you to become very sore." Oz attacked his mouth, taking control of it. "You're mine in the morning, my mate. Don't even think about escaping to the water before I get up."
"Nope, no waterproof lube yet." A tube hit their joined bodies. "Thanks dad," he called when he could breathe again.
"At least I can sleep when you're in the water," floated down the hall toward them.
Oz snickered. "Good, now I'm sure you'll be sitting funny tomorrow." He stood up, leading his husband into the kitchen. "Want good protein or fatty protein?"
"Um, Oz protein?" Xander asked with a sly grin as he sank to his knees. "You can eat whatever, I have what I want," he said as he unzipped the loose jeans.
Xander looked up from his prime position on the bed with a small smile. "It worked. He still loves me and my animal is gone still." He petted the furry head on his stomach. "I'm a wolf pillow."
"A happy one it seems." Derek walked in and shut the door behind him. "Now to make sure in case something happens and you're away on an assignment." He knelt beside the bed, looking at the yellow eyes. "Oz?" he asked softly. The big tongue came out and licked him.
"He's a big lapdog now," the younger man said. "I'm not a predator and he's protective. You did good." He pulled the older man's head closer, kissing his other cheek. "Night dad."
"Night, son, sleep well." He walked out, leaving them alone. Everything would be fine now.
Oz looked at the pile of gifts they were buying for the people at home. "We still need one for Giles."
"I was going to go back to where we got the stones and get him a bracelet, in wood," he said quickly to ease the frown. He held up a book of local myths. "Kids?"
"Only if you plan on reading them too," the older man said with a small frown. He looked over his husband's shoulder, frowning at the woman admiring them. "I want to go eat her," he told his mate.
Xander looked over his shoulder and his mouth fell open. "Anya?" he asked, walking over. She bounced into him and hugged him tightly. "Gee, how have you been?" He took Oz's hand in his, holding onto it for support. "Why are you down here?"
"Well, after you left without a word, I found someone else and he had to move down here for work." She smiled at Oz. "You don't remember me, do you? I'm the former demon that used to suck on him while you had Willow. Where is she anyway?"
"London." He felt the small squeeze to his hand and sent it back for support. He smiled at his mate and held up his ring. "Actually, *we're* married." His husband blushed but he ignored it. "So, are you and whoever still together?"
"No, I'm just down here to finish school. Didn't like New England that much. We ended up in Boston and I *hated* that place." She looked at her old boyfriend. "I'm glad you're happy, that's all I ever wanted for you." She kissed his cheek. "Oh, well, I've got to get something to send my new orgasm friend." She walked away from them.
"Were you ashamed?" Oz asked quietly.
"I don't know how she would react and she was the one that I always didn't want to know." He turned to look at his husband. "I don't care if the whole world knows it, actually I kinda like that idea, but she and about four other people I don't want to know." His husband gave him a dirty look. "Angel, her, Cordy, and that one person that tormented me the last time we were in town. That's all I ask. I'll gladly pronounce it to the rest of the world."
"Why are you worried about them?" Oz pulled him aside, between shelving units. "You're happy, right?" That got a small nod. "So why worry about what those four people would say?"
"Because." Xander thought for a second. "Isn't there anyone that you would feel weird telling? Someone who used to torment you and you don't want to get their attention or someone that you really don't want to know that we're together?" It took a second, but he did get a small nod. "Well, I feel that way about those four people. It's a minor thing with me and if they notice, yeah, I'll gladly announce it but not right off."
"Okay," the older man said. "I can handle that. As long as you aren't ashamed of us." That got him hugged tightly, almost clung to. "Hey, I know that feeling. If it comes down to it, I really don't want to go announce us to Angel either. Even if he did save us during that spell." He smiled briefly, brushing some of the dark hair around. "I'm cool with this. I still keep in touch with Devon but I really don't want to proclaim us to him either." The younger man visibly relaxed. "Oh, Xander, I'm sorry, I was just being jealous," he said quietly. "I saw how she kept looking at you and I wanted to get her mind off your butt." He kissed him tenderly. "We okay?"
"Yeah," Xander said in relief. "We're fine. It's a stupid thing." He reached around his husband to pick up a card. "I want to mail one to Cordy and Angel and tell them." Oz shook his head. "No?"
"No, we'll tell them in person. When you're ready." He walked them back to their stack of purchases, taking his husband's wallet from his back pocket. "Here, lets go get the rest of the gifts on the list."
Xander took the small package from the man in the jewelry store, the same one that had helped them last time. "Thanks," he said with a small grin. He held out his ring, letting him see it almost a month after it was filled. "How does it look?"
"Perfect still," the man said with a small sigh. "You made the right choices." He smiled at Oz as he walked over with his pendants in his hands. "Oh, did it break?"
"No, I wanted them cleaned. I forgot to take them off this morning when we went into the ocean." He handed the leather thong over, watching as it was examined. "It was the first gift he gave me." The clerk smiled at them.
Xander snuck a small box out of the bags he held, sliding it and his hand down into his lover's pocket. "But not the last," he whispered in a nearby ear.
Oz shook his head, removing the hand and the small box from his pocket. He looked at his husband and shook his head again. "I told you not to spoil me," he complained weakly. He opened it and sat down, big grin on his face. "When did you get this?"
"We had it in stock," the salesman said. "You husband saw it and immediately gave me this magnificent smile that made me give it to him at a discount." He smiled, looking up from the cleaning solution he was running the pendants through. "I wish my wife were *half* as romantic."
Oz looked at the small necklace he held in his hands, then up at his mate, who was squatting down beside him. "It's us," he said softly. That got a small nod and a grin. The two figures on the necklace were looked at again, intertwined and kissing, separate still but not, merging fast. "Wow." He held it out. "Put it on for me?" The necklace was put around his neck by the most sensitive fingers and he touched the small locket. "What's inside?"
"I was going to get a picture of the kids and one of me for it." Xander smiled, kneeling behind him. "Something to look at when you're having a bad day at class or something." He kissed the clasp and the flesh it was resting against. "I've seen how you rub the pendants I gave you when you're thinking or having a bad moment so I wanted you to have another thing to touch when you need me." He helped his mate up, hugging him. "Not a big," he said with a small grin.
"Very much one," Oz said softly. "You love me so much it amazes me some days. Takes all the words I've learned to tell you away." He kissed him, gently possessive and very telling. "I love you." He laid his head down on the firm shoulder, enjoying the moment.
The salesman quietly went to the back, leaving them alone for the time being.
Derek gave a pointed look at the clock when the boys walked in together. "You're late," he told them, putting the food down in front of them. Neither hurried to eat though so he sat down beside them. "What's wrong?"
"I met up with a former girlfriend," Xander said.
Oz grunted. "Skanky half-demon that only used your body for her own pleasure and cheated on you with five other people at the same time." He took his husband's hand, twining their fingers together. "I am sorry I told her. It was a jealous moment."
The older man shook his head. "Tell me you aren't fighting about that." They gave him a dirty look. "Goot, so eat."
"Nah, too happy to eat," Xander said. He pulled a card out of his back pocket, handing it over. "For you." He took a kiss from his husband and picked up his fork, feeding him his food.
"You need to eat too," Derek reminded his son. He smiled as he read the note then hugged him. "I'm glad that I met you too, son, and there is nothing that I enjoy more than watching you two." He caught sight of the pendants Oz wore, noting the new one. He picked it up, looking at the figures. "It's definitely representative of you both and your relationship."
"That's the scary thought," Oz said. He took the fork to feed his husband a few bites while he talked. "I started to think about on the ferry and I realized that it's true, as the rings are. I have everything the same as he does but the one area, my music. Even though I only do the occasional studio gig, we're so merged the rest of the time it's scary to me." He kissed Xander between bites. "To both of us."
Derek nodded wisely. "It can seem that way sometimes but you are still different people. Oz, you're artistic besides your music, something that Xander isn't. And you have your computer skills. He has things that are separate from you, though nothing comes to mind right now." He smiled at them. "You are still two people, not one. Just because you share a workload, home, the children, and a past doesn't mean that you're melded together totally. You're concentrating in different areas in your studies and Xander has skills you don't," he patted the younger man's shoulder in apology for not thinking of it sooner. "You both have different likes and desires in life."
"See, told you he'd make it unfuzzy," Xander said, taking back control of the fork. "We're just different enough to be separate but together enough to be us." He grinned, feeding his mate the next bite. "We go to different art museums, I like the old stuff and you like the modern stuff I don't understand but we meet at the Masters. We like the same music but I have my sad stuff that you want to toss out the window and you have some of your punk that I'd like to do the same too. I have my security stuff and you have your music and we meet in the middle to learn about the other's stuff." He grinned again, stealing a kiss. "See, not too apart but not too similar."
"Yeah, I guess," Oz said. He hugged his husband. "I just don't want to lose you over something stupid like being too close or too far apart."
"Oz, as long as I'm willing to go with you to see stuff and you're willing to go Muppet movies with me, we'll be fine." He set him back in his chair. "Now feed me so I can ravish you tonight. I haven't touched you since this morning."
"Make a list tonight of your favorite things and see where you mix by comparing them. Even if you forgot something I'm sure the other will remember it for you." He started on his own meal. "And both of you eat please. I don't want you passing out on the plane."
"That's not for two days," Xander said, pouting. "I *like* feeding him."
"See, a commonality," Oz said, cheering up. "I knew we had some." He picked up the other fork and fed his husband as he took the next bite. "Much faster this way."
"Newlyweds," Derek muttered.
"Admit it, if we weren't like this, you'd be worried," Xander told him, licking the bite of mashed potatoes off the fork.
Derek laughed and nodded. "True," he told them. "Very true." He ate his own food, avoiding looking at them play pre-sex games with their mate. "We should hold a reception soon to announce your marriage."
Oz choked. "Okay," he said slowly. "And I thought Xan had large jumps in logic." He looked at his husband. "Truly his son."
Xander shook his head. "I like the idea. Take out a full page ad maybe?" His husband shook his head. "No?" He pouted. "Good way to tell everyone." Oz shook his head again. "Small party?"
Oz agreed to that. "Sure, I can do that. Or we can announce it during the Precept's reception."
Derek cleared his throat and shook his head. "There are still many idiots among the upper echelon of the Legacy that would love to see you both brought down and your children taken. I can do a toast at the next regular one instead if you like."
"Or, we could host one for your mom and Ethan," Xander said with a small grin. "Humiliate him totally?"
Derek sighed. "I'd like to think that their relationship would not get that far." He put down his fork. "I'm allowing William to handle this because I know he's had a crush on her since we were in college together. I'd almost rather have him as a father than that vile man she's presently dating." He frowned at his son. "I'd hope that you're willing to stand beside me on this."
"Oh, I am. He's done too much to us to not. Besides, I don't want my grandma dating some skanky sorcerer." He took Oz's hand in his. "I'd want her to find a man like I did."
Oz swallowed and leaned over to his husband's ear. "I'm not marrying your grandma and there's no other man like me."
Xander kissed his forehead. "I know, and I shudder at that thought. I'll need many cuddles to take that from my mind." He got the first of the night. "Thanks." He hugged his husband back.
Derek stopped laughing long enough to shake his head and tell them, "I think he meant a kind, loving, sensitive one, not one exactly like you. But the image of you and my mother is an interesting one. Her life would never be the same again."
Oz looked over from his preferred position for eating, in his husband's arms cuddling against his chest, to smile slightly. "Why, Derek, are you saying I'd make her have *fun*?" Both young men gasped. "The nerve. Like I would make her go out and do things and go ride rides and walk along beaches and have toe sucking/champagne contests." He looked up at his husband's chin. "Have I done that to you yet?"
"Nope, but I expect it now. Sounds like fun."
Derek picked up his plate and walked into the workroom. "You two play, I'm going to hide before you start sucking on his toes right now."
Oz got up, walking over to the wine refrigerator, taking out a bottle of left-over champagne from their wedding reception and popping it open. The workroom door closed with a resounding thud. He pulled down three glasses and a bowl, pouring one glass and carrying it into the workroom. "Here, had to share before I started to have fun." He kissed Derek's cheek, leaning on his shoulder. "You are the best thing that's ever happened to us, outside of meeting Giles, without who we wouldn't be together." He hugged the older man then walked out, closing the door solidly behind him.
"OZ!" Xander yelled, clear through the door. "Not my toes!" Followed by laughter.
Derek sipped his champagne with a small smile. "I feel much the same way, Oz, much the same way indeed."
"Oz! Mashed potatoes don't go *there*!"
"Even if some days I wonder about your sanity," he finished.
"Okay, maybe they do."
Derek ignored the looks the boys were giving each other across the plane. He cleared his throat as Xander started to undo his seat belt. "Don't. You agreed to practice for at home," he said without looking up. He almost smiled at the quiet pout. "Just think about the *hours* you'll be spending in the control room without a single kiss," he reminded them.
Oz grunted. "Mean. Newlyweds are supposed to kiss." He blew one across the cabin. "We need a honeymoon, one without people."
"You'll get your chance. I'm going to have to leave you alone on our next trip down there for three whole days." Derek looked up, smiling at them. "And I'll expect some work to be done." They both saluted him. "Get Nick to show you how to do that right, please. He'll complain if he had seen you do it that sloppy." He went back to writing his journal entry in his dig journal. He sighed as Xander slid off his chair and onto the floor, followed by Oz. "I could be mean and make *one* of you go to Paris to bring that amulet to that house so it can be given back to the family," he reminded them. Both of them headed back into their chairs.
The sexual tension lasted almost an hour more before Oz slid out of his seat and sat on the floor again, giving his mate a sexy little smile, mouthing the words, "Mile high club?"
Xander glanced at Derek, who appeared to be asleep and undid his seat belt, only to find his father's hand on his arm as he tried to get onto the floor. "But dad," he whined. "He's my *husband*. I ought to be able to have him when I want." He grinned a cheeky little grin. "Just think, you won't have to see it for two whole weeks when we're home." Derek let his arm go and they headed back to the little closet sized bedroom partitioned off in the back.
Derek rolled his eyes at the happy sounds coming from back there, pouring himself a stiff drink. "Having to listen to that while you're celibate is too much for even Philip to take," he told the glass of scotch. His laugh as Oz yelled echoed around him. "At least I won't have to hear it at home," he told himself, picking up the phone to dial the house. "Nick?" he said. "Can you pick us up in the helicopter. I do believe the boys won't last through a car trip." He laughed and hung up. "True, but I won't if they do." He poured himself another drink as Xander yelled Oz's name.
Oz smirked at Xander as he climbed into the helicopter beside him. "We could try," he said.
"Don't even think about it," Derek said from the front. "I'll have Nick handcuff you if I have to." He looked over his shoulder to see the thoughtful way his son was staring at his husband and groaned. "No, enough. You can wait thirty minutes until we get home and however long it takes you to talk to the children." He turned back around, pulling on his headphones.
Nick looked at his boss with a huge, cute grin. "Are the newlyweds bothering you?"
"Nick," Oz said, leaning forward, "we seem to keep running him out of the room." He put on his headphones as the rotors started. "He thinks we're way too touchy."
"We are," Xander reminded him, laying a hand on his mate's knee. "I'm desperate for your body and you're happy with mine." His hand was pinched. "Hey!"
"Don't put yourself down again," Oz said. "I love you body, every inch of it. I'm more than happy with it, and I feel the same way you do about mine." He looked into his lover's eyes and that started off the first kiss. Neither felt the spray of the water pistol, both ignoring the whole world and focusing on the mouth they were trying to absorb.
"Give it up, Derek, there's no stopping them yet." Nick talked to the control tower and lifted off, heading for the island and home. "No nudity in my chopper," Nick called back at the first hint of unbuttoned clothes. His brother flipped him off. "I mean it, don't make me come back there!"
"Derek can fly?" Oz asked before returning to the pleasurable activity of searching out all the tastes in his lover's mouth. "Hmm, lemonade?" He got a small nod so moved down to nip at the little point to his husband's chin. He felt the water this time and glared at Derek.
Xander turned his impressive pouting force on his father, something he hadn't really done yet. Derek gave up and turned around, closing the little curtain that would give them some privacy. He turned to smile at his mate. "So, what can I do for you?"
Oz started to look very green as the helicopter turned a little sharply. "Hold me," he said, sinking into the firm chest. He closed his eyes, listening and feeling the soothing heartbeat under his head, quickly lulled to sleep by it.
Derek stepped back onto the grounds of his house and smiled as Alex ran out to greet him. "Ah, sanity," he said. He looked at Xander, who was still sitting there. "What's wrong?"
"Oz is asleep," he said quietly, stroking through the red hair. "He got really green and asked me to hold him." He smiled at Alex. "Could you maybe ..." He stopped as Nick held up his husband to give him time to slide out from under him so he could pick him up. He started up the path to the house, dodging all the little hurling bodies. "Hey guys, let me go put dad in bed and we'll cuddle, 'kay?" They all cheered and followed him up to their room. Xander smiled at the subtle paint on the walls, the exact color Oz had picked out, as he put his husband down onto the bed and sat beside him. He looked down at the kids. "Come on, I'm sure hugs from you five would help his bad tummy." Timothy helped by pulling off his dad's shoes and tossing them aside and the girls got their most cuddly blankets to bring in. Brandon just sat in his father's lap and sucked his thumb, watching his father sleep.
They all cuddled down together, the kids curling up around and on their fathers, each getting hugs from the awake one and giving hugs to the one that wasn't. Xander waited until everyone was settled down to talk to them, smiling at Derek as he walked in. "Guys, your dad and I have something we want to talk to you about," he started. "See, Mommy's going to not be here for a long time. It's not because she doesn't want to be or because she's mad or anything like that but she and we can't really be together anymore." He looked down at each of them, seeing the confused looks. "See, Mom's going to be at another house for a long time."
"Forever?" Tim asked softly. "Even for birfday?"
"Yes, even for your birthday I think but I'm not sure about forever. You guy's will see her sometimes but she's not going to be here everyday."
Brandon, the one who was most like Oz, squinted up at him. "Why?"
"Because we fight when we're together and it's not good for you guys to see that. Daddy and I are both going to be here, and in Florida sometimes, but we'll still be here."
Brandon looked at him and frowned. "Why you here and not Mommy? Why she go?" He tipped his head off to the side.
Xander controlled himself long enough to answer. "Because she was having too many problems that might have hurt you guys and you daddy and I decided to stay together." He looked down at Brandon, the only one who was questioning. "Anything else you want to know?"
"She come back?"
Xander shook his head. "No, honey, you can go visit her sometimes but she's not coming back." He slid out of the bed. "You guys hug dad, I'm going to the bathroom." He bypassed Derek, locking himself in there and leaning against the door. He slid down, curling up in a small ball of misery, letting all the hurt that one simple question had caused come out. He flinched at the knock, wiping his eyes. "Not yet," he called.
"Now, babe," Oz called back, wiggling the handle. He was let in and immediately sat on the floor beside his mate. "He didn't mean it like that." Xander nodded, burying his face in the warm flesh. "No, he didn't. He was just trying to understand why you..." He shook his head. "I can't explain it without hurting you more." He held his love tightly to him, comforting him the only way he knew how.
That's how Derek found them a few hours later, curled up together on the bathroom floor, his son's face streaked with tears, still, and Oz comforting him even as they dreamed. He looked down at his helper and smiled, silently telling her to leave by pointing at the door. She frowned then pouted but did as he said, Precious never argued with him. He got down beside them, closing the door to lean against it. "He didn't mean that," he said softly, touching his son's foot to wake him gently. "He only wanted to know, to understand."
"No, he wants her, not me," Xander said quietly, his voice hoarse. "Brandon and I have never really gotten along, he's always been Willow's son. He doesn't like me and I realize he'll want her more." He turned to look at the older man, sniffling. Some toilet paper was handed to him and he blew his nose. "Thanks. I've just got to get tougher to that."
"Shh," Oz said, petting his husband's side. "He doesn't understand that he can only have one of you." He sat up, looking at Xander. "He'll come around, he does like you, you know." That got a small head shake. "Yes, he does. He makes you cookies. Sometimes it's the actions not the words, Xan." He kissed his forehead. "Go get into bed, I'll be right there." The younger man got up, waiting until Derek moved to leave them alone. "Sorry about earlier, stress." He closed his eyes as he stood, grabbing onto the sink. "I think it still is." A wet washcloth was given to him. "Thanks."
Derek hugged the younger man. "He'll come around, he'll have to." He opened the door, helping him out to the bed and setting him on the folded down side. "Where's my son now," he muttered, going to find him. He found him in the nursery, trying to talk to Brandon.
"Hon, she didn't abandon you, she's letting me care for you guys in her place while she's gone." Xander stroked over the light red hair, trying to get his point across.
"No, you make Mommy go 'way." Brandon moved away from him, going over to Grandpa Derek. "Want Mommy."
"You'll see her soon," Derek assured him. He met his son's eyes, seeing the misery they held. "It will all work out."
"Yup, just as soon as he's with her," Xander said, getting up and going back to his room. "I'm going to join Oz in bed. How's his stomach?"
"Still not great," Derek called after him as he sat down to talk to the boy. "Brandon, your Mother can't come back, she's had a very bad problem and we won't let her." That got him a frown so he tried another method. "You know how you get punished when you do something bad, well..." He was stopped by the nanny coming in to take the child away from him.
"We don't trash her in front of the kids. That only hurts them more," he said quietly. He looked at the baby in his arms. "Bran, she's not coming back. Not because you or your daddies did something but because she and they can't stay together without bad things happening. You have two daddies that love you more than anything and Mommy does too, just from farther away. Got it?" The boy shook his head. "Okay, we'll talk about it later, how's that?" Brandon nodded. "Good, now go play." He set him down, frowning at Derek. "I know *she's* being punished but the kids would feel like it was their bad if you explained it that way." He turned, going back to where the other kids were helping him decorate his room.
Derek looked at his grandson and sighed. "Would you like to help me do paperwork this afternoon?" he asked the boy.
"No, bad you. You make Mommy go." He spit, not looking up, and Derek walked out in about as much misery as his son was.
Xander walked into the control room, shoulders hunched over. "Hey," he said listlessly, sitting beside his brother. "Whatcha doing?"
"Nothing much, just paperwork. Want to go do car shopping?" The younger man shook his head. "You sure? I can easily leave this."
"Nah, won't need one for a while." He looked up as Oz entered, giving him a weak smile. "Hey, Nick's trying to get me to spend money."
"Maybe you should get off the island for a while," his husband said, leaning into his back and dropping a kiss on the top of his head. "You know, go have fun, let me have a crack at the stubborn one?" Xander shook his head. "Yes, Xan, go have fun and let me try to talk to him." He pulled his husband's head back, looking into his eyes. "Go have fun."
"Don't want fun." The younger man leaned into his husband's stomach, still looking up. "I want it to be all all right again." He closed his eyes. "I miss Florida already."
"Yeah but we had to come back to combat the real world sometime," Oz said quietly. He looked at Nick, who looked confused. "How about we three go car shopping? We can drag our resident mechanic with us?" Xander shook his head again. "Oh, come on, it'll be fun. We can even take Brandon if you want."
"He wouldn't come. I already asked if he wanted to go to the museum with me," Xander whispered. He stood up, hugging his husband. "You go pick out a car for me, I'm going to talk to our son." His wrist was grabbed and held. "Oz, it's me not you that needs to fix this."
"No, babe, together, remember?" His husband nodded, sighing. "We'll do it together. Nick, go bundle the child in question up." He got a blank look. "Brandon."
"Ah, okay." Nick left them alone, hurrying to help relieve the stress even *he* could feel coming off his brother.
"Xan, I won't lie, divorce is hard for a kid to take." He sat down, pulling his mate down into his lap. "It is in normal situations and ours is nothing like that." He smiled and stroked through the dry hair, the unusually dry hair. "I'm bathing with you tonight. You need some pampering."
"Nope, pure laziness. Didn't want to unpack." Xander gave a half-hearted attempt at a small grin and knew immediately that it failed miserably when he didn't get on in return. "I just feel *different* now, and I'm not sure why," he said softly. "And he won't ever like me."
"He does love you, has always. He's very much my son so he has to love you." Oz rubbed over the tense back. "Just give it some time and a little extra care." He turned his head as the holographic door opened to admit his son and brother-in-law. "Hey, Brandon, want to help Daddy and I car shop?" The child shook his head. "We'll have ice cream afterwards if you're good." Brandon stuck out his tongue. "Don't do that, you don't know where it's been."
"Meany." He glared at Xander, then smiled at his father. "Go see Mommy?"
"No," Oz said firmly. "She's with Uncle William and you're not seeing her." He stood up, setting his husband back onto his feet. He looked at Nick, who shrugged, then at the back of the man that was trying hard not to show what he was feeling. He hit the speed dial for the London house, putting it up on the main screen. "Hey, I need to talk to Willow," he told the person who answered. William just frowned at him. "Damage control." He glanced down at his son.
"Fine," the Precept said, getting up.
It took a few minutes but Willow sat down in front of the camera. "Hey, Brandon," she said, smiling. "How are we?"
"Want to see you," he explained then glared at Xander again. "You come home soon?"
"No, sweetie, I'm not coming home anytime soon. Your two dads are going to take care of you. Remember, we talked about this." The child nodded. "So, can you handle this?" she asked Oz. She looked at his hand and frowned. "Already?"
"Yes, while we were in Florida. It was the right thing to do." She shrugged but her whole body was stiff. He watched his husband walk out of the room, turning to look at his son. "Brandon, go with Daddy." He got an emphatic head shake. "Now, go." The boy pouted but followed him out and Oz took his seat, telling Nick to leave them alone. "What did you say to him," he asked her quietly.
"Nothing, just that I was going to be here and you guys were there." She tapped her fingers on the table a few times. "You can even ask William, he was standing there to take the phone in case I did something *bad*." She sneered over the top of the camera. "Just like now."
"Willow, if you poison those kids against Xander, I will make sure you never see them again." He gave her a very mean look. "And we both know I have more than enough ammunition to go in front of a judge and not expose the houses." She turned her glare on him. "Don't even. I won't have the kids hurt because you are. They, and Xander, don't deserve that, not from anyone." He hung up, walking out to join the semi-happy people on the front step. "I'm going to regulate calls from there," he said quietly. Nick gave him a disbelieving look. "Nope, not now. Not after that."
"Oz, mom's are important," Xander said, looking up at him. "I won't let you take that away from them. Every kid needs their mom." He stood up. "We'll just be more careful and monitor the contact closer." He looked down at Brandon. "Okay, let's car shop." He walked over to the Range Rover, getting into the back.
Oz got his son into the carseat beside his husband, then got into the front. "You sure," he asked quietly, looking over his shoulder.
"Yeah, can't be any worse than not talking." Xander looked out the window. "Minivan?" His husband snorted. "It'd hold the kids."
"We have something to hold the kids," Oz pointed out. "Get a car for us." He blew a kiss to both of them, earning a small smile. "Relax. It's all good."
"Yeah, mostly it is. We're okay," Xander told him, taking his offered hand and holding it. He leaned forward and kissed the back of it. "As long as we're together it's all good. Could be perfect but this is life." He smiled, a real one, and let go, leaning back to look at his son. "We love you too, you know."
Brandon didn't say anything.
Xander looked at the sedans then at his husband and shook his head. "Nope, nothing here." He looked at where his brother was explaining the purpose of a jeep to his son and laughed lightly. "Well, Nick's got his education well in hand." He looked to where his husband was dragging him. "Oz? Sports cars?"
"Yeah, I liked your sports car." He looked at the various selections, then headed for the more expensive models. "How about this one?" he asked, stopping in front of one similar to the one that been wrecked. He saw Nick's face light up as he and Brandon walked over. "See, he likes it."
"He has a Mustang to go fast in," Xander pointed out. He looked around the lot then headed for a car parked off to the side. "What about this one?" he asked, running a hand over the hood. "Sleek and elegant, little dangerous. Very nice paint job."
Nick nudged his brother's shoulder. "Full back seat."
Oz punched Nick in the arm. "Don't need a backseat." He looked at the sophisticated sedan, walking around it, letting himself feel. "Nah, I'd feel funny driving it. It's a Derek car, not a Xander car." He looked up at the salesman. "Have a two-seater version?"
The salesman shook his head sadly. "No, I'm afraid they didn't make one. But I may have something for you. I see you want something that says power and money but is also sleek and seductive," he said, leading them into the showroom and waving a hand at the car sitting there. "How about this baby? Twenty thousand miles, two years old, power everything; every bell, whistle, and extra you could ever want."
Xander slid down into the driver's seat and imagined himself driving it. "Feels stiff," he said. He looked up at the salesman. "My last one was a two-seater Jag." He stood up, waving Oz into it but was frowned at for it. "No?"
"No, if you don't like it, it's not us. It's your car."
The salesman smiled. "Let me make a call, I know someone who's about to sell their car and you might like it. Cross between a sedan and a sports car but by Mercedes. Elegant but it *oozes* power and control." Xander nodded so he went to make the call.
Oz looked around, frowning. "Brandon?" he called. He saw Nick look down at his leg. "Crap, ran off. Split up."
"Is something wrong?" the salesman asked as he walked back out.
"The kid with us, did you see him?" Nick asked.
"Your son? Last time I saw him he was outside." He frowned and motioned over another salesman. "I'm going to help them, send Charles to me when he gets here."
Xander ran outside, starting at the last place he knew he'd seen him, by the luxury sedan. He looked around the area, frantic with worry. He'd heard and seen too many cases of kids snatched to be anything but worried at the moment. He ran toward where he could see a little shadow, chasing it down. It turned out to be a dog and its' owner was not pleased when he ran into her. He spun around and thought for a second, using what he knew of his son.
Brandon liked dangerous shiny things, he used to help him wax his car. He walked over to the sports cars, looking around and under each one as he passed. He found the boy sitting in a Celica coupe, and pulled him out of there. "Don't run away like that again," he said quietly, hugging the boy.
"Not my daddy," he yelled, pushing him away. He ran into Nick's arms as he walked up behind them. "Make him go 'way," he said, burying his face.
Oz took his son from his brother-in-law. "Hate to tell you this, but yeah, he is your father and you will not pull a stunt like this again." Xander stopped him, shaking his head.
"No, let me talk to him." He took his son, setting him back onto the ground and getting down on his level. "Brandon, running away isn't a good thing. You could have been very badly hurt, or stolen, or..." He had to stop and catch his breath to get his emotions under control. "We'll go home soon, *son*, and we'll talk there, but you will never run from any of us again." He stood up, holding down his hand. "Let's go back to the showroom." He took Oz's hand in his other one, squeezing it. "He misses my old car too, I guess," he joked to cover up his emotions.
His hand was simply squeezed in support.
Derek looked out the door as he heard the car pull up, then walked out to meet the missing members of his house. "Oz, did you call London?" he asked, pulling him aside.
"I was trying to help with the Brandon thing and she got snotty." He looked down at his son as he walked inside. "Go to your room and go to bed," he called, his voice very loud and pissed sounding. He looked up at his father-in-law. "He ran away at the auto center, he made a scene in the restaurant, and he almost got us arrested for kidnapping." His head went down, examining the ground. "I don't know how to stop this," he said quietly. "It's killing Xan."
"I'll talk to him later," Derek told him, giving him a quick hug. "No more calls to London unless it's work related from the control room," he reminded and walked out to talk to Nick. "Didn't find anything he liked?"
"I don't think he's clear enough to think about a new car," Nick admitted. "That stunt Brandon pulled about made him want to go play in traffic." He looked over his shoulder at where his brother was starting his self-proclaimed walk. "We saw one that was perfect and he'll have a week to decide but he can't focus while this thing with Brandon's going on." He made a sour face. "That boy yelled, at the top of his little lungs, in the middle of the mall after running away again, "Not my daddy, bad guy." Derek's mouth fell open. "Yeah, my feelings on it. Fortunately we knew were Oz was and he calmed the security guys down before they called the cops." He shook his head. "He tried to get Willow to help him clear it up but I think she's been calling them and telling them he's bad or something." He looked down as his pants leg was tugged on. "Hey, Serena, what's up?" he asked, picking her up.
Derek kissed her cheek. "Have you been talking to Mommy when no one is around?" he asked her, brushing her hair back behind her ears. She nodded. "And what has she been telling you?"
"That daddies bad." She laid her head down on her Uncle's shoulder. "He no bad, I tell her but she no listen." She looked at her father as he walked up. "Me bad?"
"No sweetie, you're not bad," Oz told her, taking her from Nick. "She's doing something mean and we have to stop her before Brandon hurts your Dada even worse." He set her down. "Go take a nap, I'll be up soon." He pointed at the running trail and Nick nodded so he headed down it.
Derek and Nick looked down at the little girl. "How about a bedtime story," the younger man said, getting down to her level. "Would you like one?"
"Brandon have one?"
"Yeah, maybe. See, he did a bad thing today and I'm going to talk to all you guys after your nap about it. Okay?" She nodded and he picked her up, carrying her back inside. "We're going up to the nursery," he called over his shoulder. "I'll switch phone lines up there later."
Derek just nodded, watching one half of the couple disappear after his other half. "And I'll find a way to stop her before one of them gets really injured in a permanent manner." He walked back inside, heading for his office. He dialed London as he sat down, nodding at Alex to leave. He frowned at one of his oldest friends. "William, has she been calling the children at odd hours?" That got him scowled at. "Serena told us she told them Xander was bad. Brandon almost got him arrested today by telling everyone he was kidnapping him."
William leaned back in his chair. "Derek, I don't monitor their personal phone calls." He looked behind the camera and nodded. "Hold on." The screen went blank for a second then he came back. "Sorry, minor personal problem. How's the kid handling it?"
"I meant Brandon."
"He's going out of his way to be hurtful. He ran away twice from what Nick said." William glared and he nodded. "I know, as do they, how dangerous that can be." He leaned back in his own chair, looking out at the gardens. "Why isn't she in residential care?"
"Because they said she didn't need that level of help." The London Precept sighed, shoulders slumping. "What do you want me to do?"
"I want her stopped. She can't be allowed to continue to hurt the children or the boys." He glared at Alex as she walked back in and she quickly retreated. "What do you wish to do?"
"I'll have another go at her then do what's necessary," William told him, shaking his head as he signed off.
Derek turned off his teleconferencer and turned his chair to face the door. "Alex," he called. She walked back in. "Sorry, a personal matter."
She nodded, sitting down. "I know. She called Social Services on them." She pointed upwards. "She's upstairs right now."
"Damn, the boys are out on the jogging trail so Xander can break down in peace." He tapped his fingers a few times and stood up. "Let's go deal with this, shall we?" She shook her head. "No?"
"No, she said to wait down here, she wanted to talk to the kids."
"But their mother's been poisoning them," he pointed out. He looked up as the door opened, admitting a young woman, late twenties, kind of on the small side, her delicacy a very big illusion. "Derek Rayne," he said, holding out a hand.
"Miradel Powers, Dr. Rayne, and yes, I am well aware that the mother has been harming the children. I wasn't called by her but by someone in the mall who heard that one shouting." She took the other seat across his desk, waving for him to sit down. "What is your relationship to the parents, the biological ones?"
"They're co-workers, under my guidance." He looked at Alex, who got up and left them alone. "Their non-biological father is like my son and I've always been a grandfather to them."
"Hmm," she said, writing something down, "I have a note here saying that a prior study was done due to false report. Do you remember what that was about?"
"Yes, their non-biological father, of the quads, he's the father of the youngest, his mother called because she objected to his being homosexual." He shrugged. "An unfortunate situation but the Social Worker they sent out then had only praise for their methodology." He leaned forward. "They are in the middle of a divorce with the children's mother and she's been turning them against Alexander and Oz both. Today's stunts were for that reason."
"I'm well aware of the situation, Dr. Rayne, it's not the first time Social Services has been used in such a manner." She looked up from her writing. "I've seen their nursery and their nanny, where are the fathers?"
"Outside. Alexander wanted to have a quiet moment to control his emotions after what his son did to him this afternoon." He waved a hand outside. "They're down our jogging path, probably down by the bay." She nodded. "Are you seeing a problem with them because they are married in all but the legal sense. Their love is so pure it blinds." He patted a small tape case on his desk. "We have a copy of the wedding if you'd like to see it."
"Were the children there?" she asked, writing still.
"No, they weren't. We've been on a small archeological dig in the Florida Keys for the last month and they were both there." That got him looked at. "Jonathan is their usual caregiver and Ms. Moreau, who just left us, and Mr. Boyle, whom I assume you met upstairs, were both here as well as Mr. Giles and Ms. Summers. The house was full of people that they love and consider family." She nodded. "Is there an actual concern here?"
"Not really," she admitted, "I just have to do a follow up when such a situation occurs." She put aside her tablet and pen, clasping her hands in her lap. "What exactly do you do here, Dr. Rayne?"
"We do research on artifacts, painting, statuary and the like that has the value of knowledge."
"And what do two Psychology majors do here?"
"Sometimes the key to a piece of art or a weapon is knowing what the artist was thinking when they made it; along with the fact that both the boys and their mother have worked here since before they started college down here." She nodded. "You'd be surprised at what those two do down here. Alexander does security along with his half-brother, Mr. Boyle, and Daniel, Oz, is one of our best researchers and computer people. Both are highly skilled and competent to do the job."
She stood up, holding out a hand. "I don't see a problem with your family, sir, but I do find it most unusual. I may be back for a follow-up but as of right now, I'm not seeing a problem with their care or surroundings. As for their mother, her interference and intolerance will be noted in the file." He nodded, his brow wrinkling up. "I wouldn't worry about it, unless it's brought up during the divorce proceedings, there shouldn't be a problem." She picked up her bag.
"Do you have a suggestion on how to cure the children of her hatefulness?" he asked, watching as she sat back down.
"Dr. Rayne, the only cure for hate is love. You'll just have to keep correcting that one until he accepts the situation and returns to his prior feelings for the young man in question. But, if you're looking for outside help, I could give the name of a few therapists that might help."
He shook his head. "No, I think our house doctor is working beside one that we'll find tolerable." He smiled. "That is a very goot idea though, thank you."
"That's part of the job, sir. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go file my findings and you'll be free of us again. And where might her mother be?"
"She's in another branch of our organization in London. We thought it best to separate them before she could do real harm to the children." Ms. Powers nodded and left. "Willow, I will not allow you to disrupt my family again," he promised quietly.
Oz walked up behind his husband, sitting behind him to hold him. "Thought I'd find you out here," he whispered against his neck. His arms were suddenly filled with the crying man. "Shh, it'll all work out. We'll be a happy family soon enough." He rubbed over the tense back, just comforting him.
"He hates me," Xander said quietly, getting himself under control again. "Really hates me and I don't know how to cure it."
"No, he still loves you. It's me that's the problem." He laid his head back on the welcoming shoulder. "We used to be *so* close. We did all sorts of things together and now he won't even stay in the same room as me."
"You sound like he's a teenager," Oz noted. His husband snorted. "We just gotta give him some time to cure the bad things she's been telling them." His mate looked up. "Yeah, Serena said she's been calling."
"Bitch," Xander said softly. "I want her to never see them again."
"We can do that," his husband whispered, kissing each tear stained cheek. "She's so obviously going mental now it's not funny." He hugged his mate hard, wanting and needing to be the one holding him right now. "We'll be okay. I'll change the plea for custody to full, permanent, with no visitation. If she gives us shit, we can always wreck her over Xandra and the one's she's probably carrying."
Xander nodded, sitting back up on his own. "I want to go back to Florida, right now."
"Escaping isn't the answer here, Xan, no matter how appealing it may be. We need to get this worked out with him before we leave again or it'll only alienate him more. He'll get *more* angry if we left right now instead of less because we abandoned him."
"I don't want to do that. I want him to have a happy and stable life, something I wanted desperately some days." He sniffed to clear his nose and wiped off his cheeks. "Come on, lets go see if we can't do some more damage control before he gets stolen next time."
"Not going to happen. She wouldn't dare." Oz took the limp hand in his. "They're napping so we'll go spend some us time together, okay?" That got a small nod. "Want to take a hot shower with you and snuggled down in bed so we can nap. You didn't get much sleep last night."
"You either. How's your stomach?" Xander stopped them when there was no answer. "You're not really sick, right?"
"Nope, just a stress thing. The whole coming back to an unknown situation that had the potential to wreck us thing." That got him a small hug. "See, we're good for each other but the kids were my big worry too. I figured after all she's done recently that she'd do this too." He wrapped an arm around his husband's waist, walking him back up toward the house. "And yet again, she proved me right."
"Wonder if Derek and William would make her disappear if asked?" Xander snuggled into the warm, comforting body of his husband. "Could we go to bed and cuddle?"
"Sure, babe, anything. You know that." They walked in the back door, nodding at the butler.
"I do believe Master Derek wanted to speak to you both," he told them, handing over freshly baked brownies and glasses of milk. "The children are in bed but someone just came to check on them."
They nodded and headed for the office, Oz breaking off part of his brownie for Derek, who smiled at him for it. "You wanted to see us?" the older man asked, sitting down and pulling his mate onto his lap.
Derek looked at them and rolled his eyes when they stayed cuddled like that. "Yes, I did. Your son's stunt today at the mall brought a Social Worker out to check on them." That got stereo groans. "Yes, well, she didn't find anything amiss and she did say it might be best if someone more professional handled the problems your ex-wife is creating."
"I want full custody now," Oz told him. "No visitation." Derek smiled and tossed across a paper, an obvious fax copy of something. Xander handed off to the man he was curled up on, putting his head back on the welcoming shoulder. "Hmm, she did?"
"William sent it over earlier. She's signed over full custody to you and she's not contesting. I don't know how he got her to do it but he did." He smiled, leaning back in his chair. "That man is full of surprises but it's for the best in this case."
"And if she's pregnant now?" Xander asked quietly.
"Then it's yours," Derek said. "The paper assigns custody of the one she's carrying now to you."
Oz choked on his milk. "He was right?" The older man nodded, frowning. "Do we know whose it is?"
"Not yours," Derek assured him, "but that paper says that she's declaring it to be so and that you'll have full custody. That was just the pertinent section." He patted the larger pile of papers on his desk. "The full agreement is actually thorough about what's going to happen now. No alimony, no child support, no visitation, she'll pay back what she stole recently from you both, and she's agreeing to give custody of this newest one." He smiled wickedly. "And if he really wants to hurt her, there's a short clause in there that says she agrees to get fixed." Oz choked again. "William had it put in, I'm sure," he said, giving him innocent look.
"Will she continue to get help," Xander asked.
"You're too good to her, son," Derek said.
"She was my best friend for most of my life, dad, I owe her that much. She needs help and it's my job to see that she gets it. Not to make sure that she keeps it up, but that she goes for it."
"William threatened to have her committed to a mental institution if she kept up her harmful tactics with the children." Oz grunted at that. "Any other questions?"
"Is she getting anything from us?"
"Not one cent," Derek said, leaning forward. "All she's keeping is her placement in the Legacy, and that's on probation." He grimaced. "Not my most pleasant compromise but William made it." He nibbled at a corner of his brownie as they thought. "The real paperwork will be here day after tomorrow since it's so late over there now and we'll file it right away." The couple nodded. "Go rest, you both look worn out from earlier," he said gently, getting up to hug them together. "We'll fix the damage, by force and professional help if we have to."
Oz patted Xander's back. "Why don't you go up, I'll be up in a minute." The younger man got up without a protest, heading up to their bed. "How are you pulling these strings?" he asked once they were alone.
"William and I have an arrangement. He wants the power but not the responsibility for the whole organization. I don't want either. He came to me with a deal of sorts." He sat on the edge of his desk. "I'll wield the power of his proxy and he'll make the major decisions." He smiled. "He realizes now what a bad thing it was to put me in charge of the whole Legacy and now we're working together so we both get what we want."
Oz nodded. "Sounds reasonable. Politicians do it all the time." He stood up, hugging the older man. "Give us a few more days to work on the kids before you call in the shrinks. I think we're going to have a breakthrough soon."
Xander curled up in a little ball on the bed, pulling the covers up over his head so he could have a little privacy. He still felt funny letting his emotions go where someone else could see them, even his husband, so needed this time alone to let the hurt out. He sniffled and hurriedly wiped his eyes as he felt the little body join him on the bed. "What?" he asked tiredly, pulling down the covers. "Brandon?" He sat up, looking at his son. "What's wrong?"
He touched his father's face, his mouth open. "You cry?"
Xander felt bad, but he hugged the child to him. "Yeah, I'm crying. What you said today hurt me." He set him back down, letting him straddle his covered legs. "In here," he touched his son's chest. "It hurts a lot, both of your dads, when you say that we're not your fathers." He blinked as his arms were filled with the little boy. "Brandon? Are you okay?"
"Me sorry," he said softly. "Mommy say you bad, I no know." He sat back, looking over his shoulder as his other father walked in. "He cry," he said.
"Yeah, I know. You hurt him pretty bad, he's got a big boo-boo on his heart." He crawled in beside his husband, kissing his cheeks again. "But we'll get through this together." He looked down at his son as he curled up on the shaking chest. "Why'd you come in?"
"Knew he felt bad," the boy admitted. "Precious tell me I bad." He sniffled. "Me not want to be bad." He started to cry, going directly into Xander's arms for comfort.
"Shh, Bran, you're not bad. What you said was but you're not bad. Just a little mixed up right now." He soothed his son, holding him tightly. "We'll work it out, okay?" He got a small nod so let the boy go. "Go play now so I can have daddy hugs and we'll talk later. Okay?"
Brandon smiled, sniffling. "'Kay. We make brownies?"
"Dominic made some," Oz told him, watching his face fall. "But you guys could probably make cookies or something." His son smiled and kissed the end of his nose before crawling off the bed and leaving them alone, even shutting the door behind himself. "Told ya it'd work out," he whispered, snuggling back into his husband's chest.
"Yeah, we'll be okay now." Xander lay down with him, throwing the covers over his still body. "Sleep now babe, we could both use the rest." He closed his eyes, at peace with the world again.
Derek looked in on his boys, shaking his head as he saw them curled up together. He looked down at the person tugging on his pant's leg, bending down to pick him up. "Brandon, are you feeling better?"
"Daddy said me no bad," he said, hugging his grandfather. "Me good boy."
"Yes, you're a good boy." He kissed his forehead then let him down. "No," he said, stopping him from going in to wake them up. "Let them sleep. They need it." He turned the child, walking him down the stairs to supper. "They can eat later."
"'Kay. No beans?"
"No," Derek said with a small chuckle. "No lima beans tonight."
TO BE CONTINUED.