Back to the Real World.
Derek Rayne choked as he read the financial section of the newspaper beside his seat, looking up at his house members. "Have you seen this, Alex?" he asked, handing it over. She looked at where he pointed and shook her head. "Why didn't they tell me?"
"Because they don't care about the money," she said simply. "When asked what they're thankful for, they list things like family and health and safety. Now they have that and more." She shrugged, buttering her muffin. "Do you remember that call I got yesterday?" He nodded, sipping his juice. "It was the Women's Auxiliary at the museum you help fund for unknown artists. They want me on the panel. Apparently, word has gotten around."
"We need to have a reception," Buffy said, taking the paper Nick handed her and reading it. "Wow, so cool. They won tons."
Derek frowned. "That lucky token of theirs is allowing them to win so they don't get hurt, focusing attention on them with the winning so that they're out of the way. Oz sent me a summary of their trip. It seems the Blackjack table where they were trying it out had a camera setup crash into it after they'd left with their winnings." He cleared his throat. "That housekeeper, who is doing fine, I checked this morning, touched the garments instead of them; they'd been thinking of heading home and putting them on right before she touched them. And," he frowned, "they won a free dinner and a gift basket at supper when someone had dropped their dinner on the floor while they were being congratulated for honeymooning." He shook his head. "I would like to find out what there is about that token. And to find out it's meaning."
Giles smiled. "Such a string of coincidences is most astounding, but fate seems to be on their side." He glanced at Alex with a smile.
Alex and Giles snorted, shaking their heads. "Only them," they said together.
Derek smiled. "Yes, truly. But it seems I was right to worry. There's no way this was just those three incidents."
Giles took the paper and gasped. "They won *that* much?" He looked up, seeing the nods. "I wonder how they'll camouflage it?"
"Trust funds and the like probably," Derek told him. "It's a classic strategy. You put it somewhere to make more and name an heir. That heir gets it, has to pay taxes on the whole sum at once and the estate taxes aren't taken on it. There are many ways around the inheritance laws if you're willing to look." He frowned. "I do wish my mother would have told me that's how I went to Oxford."
"Trust fund?" Buffy asked. He nodded, still frowning at his breakfast. "Wow. Okay, now I feel like the maid."
"Miss Buffy, trust me, you could never be a maid in this house," Dominic told her, pouring her some more milk. "I've seen your room, remember." She had the grace to blush. "Didn't they gift the person that gave them the token with some of the winnings also? I thought I had read that somewhere in there."
"Yup," Buffy said, handing him the paper. "Says she's a mother of two. Set up college funds for the kids and gave her a third of the winnings."
"Wow," Alex said. "Given what they won, that's really decent. I hope she does something smart like not gamble it away."
Buffy shook her head. "Nope, she said she was leaving Vegas for a more normal town. LA." Derek smiled slightly at that. "Speaking of which, what's going on with the..." Her mouth was covered by Nick.
"Don't. Especially not at breakfast. We're handling it and planning. Okay?" She nodded. "Good. Xander and Oz are going to do the how-and-where planning part since they're your friends, and we're doing the technical stuff."
"Okay," she sighed. "Thanks guys."
"Hey, friends, as Oz says, do that." Alex reached across to squeeze her hand. "Now eat. You'll need it for later. We have to go look at books at an auction." The younger woman groaned. "I know but it's a good experience for you."
"Sure it is," she said, eating anyway.
Xander and Oz stepped off the dock and felt the weight slip off their shoulders. Xander waved the baby's arm at the grad student in the golf cart, watching as he pulled closer. "Hey, Steve, how's the dig? Find us anything good to catalog yet?" He picked up his two bags and the diaper bag, sliding it all into the shaded back seat. "Thanks for the ride, baby's need lots of stuff." He watched his husband load the playpen into the small bag rack in the back. "Want help?"
"Nope, he's napping. Just one more bag anyway." He watched his mate get out of the cart in confusion. "What're you doing?"
"We'll need the room for the bag and we can walk too. Haven't strolled with you in a long time. Since last night." He pulled Junior's hat out of his back pocket, putting it on him. "We'll meet you up there, Steve," he said with a small grin. "Thanks for being the pack mule while we stroll."
"Anytime," the grad student said dryly. "Ten minutes guys, Teach said I wasn't to allow you to get lost."
"Won't with the baby," Oz told him, slinging the last bag into the cart. "Ten minutes and we'll get the bags back out too."
"Nah, I can do that." The darkly-tanned man turned the cart around, pulling away with a small whine from the motor, putting up with the wind blowing through his shoulder-length light brown hair.
Xander took Oz's hand, walking them up the path toward the house. They stayed silent, comfortable with each other, their natural state when alone. They paused at the sight of the strange man on the porch, but decided he wasn't a threat. They knew all the grad students on the dig by now, and they were fiercely protective of Derek and whatever he considered his, including them.
"Xander Harris," he said, holding out his hand. "This is my mate, Oz."
"Hey. This is the right day, right?" he asked, looking up at the darkly tanned, slightly wrinkled man, noting his pure white hair and his skin prematurely aged by the sun - especially if he was Derek's age.
"Yes, boys, it's the right day. I just got bumped back by my editor. Thanks, Steve," he said, holding out a soda to him.
"Hey, Martin, anything, you know that," the grad student said with a smile. "Martin told me to drop your things for you." He took the baby as Xander unhitched the stomach carrier. "He's cute. Adopting?"
"My ex's youngest," Oz told him, "but yeah."
"Really involved one too." Xander turned to look at the owner of the house and island. "We'll try really hard not to get into your way. And he's still a sleepy little guy so you probably won't hear him either."
"Hey, it's okay, really. I'm not working right now, don't get stressed over it." He took the baby. "What's..." he looked at the neutral colored clothing for gender clues. "Okay, you've got me. You guys go gender-neutral much better than most that believe in that theory."
"He's Derek William..." Oz looked at his husband. "Which last name is he using?"
"Derek never said." He shrugged. "We call him Junior but it's a bit of a mess right now because his mom disappeared before she signed over custody so a co-worker and Derek had to jointly adopt him since the judge wouldn't let us."
"Ah, yes, I'd heard the gossip that he and Alex finally quit dancing around and got married."
"For the adoption," Xander agreed. "They're at home but we got an extra day in Vegas for our honeymoon." He impulsively hugged the older man. "Thank you for sharing your paradise with us." He stepped back, grinning at his mate as he took his hand. "It's been good for us."
"Very." Oz took Junior back when he started to fuss. "Sounds like it's supper. Diaper bag, Steve?"
"Your room." He watched the father and child go. "First one?"
"Sixth," Xander said, pulling out his wallet to show off his pictures, one of his favorite things. "We have a quad and a single girl besides him." He watched as they were handed off to their host, grinning. "Fortunately, we also have a house full of people who want to help and find babies fascinating."
"Including a nanny," Oz reminded him as he walked back out, "who demands their time and attention even over us." He handed off their son. "He wanted you to do it, wouldn't take the bottle from me."
"Guess I smell more like Alex." Xander cradled him against his chest. "So, Martin, how'd your last book come out?"
"Oh, pretty well. My editor's a tough little sucker though, so we're still having meetings about taking fifty pages out." He held out his arms, after giving Oz the wallet. "May I?"
"Sure," Oz said, picking him up to hand over, "we're used to people coming to steal them from us to cuddle." He watched the older man feed his son for a few minutes then turned to his mate. "Pictures or notes first?"
"I'll take the pictures since I got him on the plane." He headed toward the workroom. "Whisper if you need me," he called.
Oz snorted. "Just a little protective of all of us, but I love him for it." He looked around for the car seat, the grad student pointing it out. "Thanks." Oz disappeared into the workroom, coming back with the books they were cataloging in, setting them out on the table, along with his pencils and the putty-like material they were sticking the pictures with. "Xan, new journal?" he called once he flipped through the last one and found it full.
Xander walked out, handing it to him. "Last one, might want to call dad." He glanced at the baby before going back to photographing the artifacts found so far. "Got lots, Oz, write slowly."
Martin and Steve looked at each other and shrugged, one going back to work, the other sitting down to watch the ballet of cooperation with the baby.
Derek kissed his sister's cheek then stepped out of his mother's way, making sure his ring didn't catch in her veil this time.
"My darling Ingrid," Barbara said, stepping up to hug her and kiss her cheek. "You look well dear," she said, pulling her to sit on a small bench. "Are you?"
"Healthy and happy mother," she said quietly, smiling, "but I see there's some family news."
"Yes dear," the older woman said, holding a hand out to William, who stepped up behind her. "Willy and I are married. He forced me to elope with him." She looked up with a smile. "It's the most romantic thing anyone's ever done for me."
"If you're happy so am I," Sister Ingrid simply said, shaking her step-father's hand. "I hope you have a long life of happiness."
"We all do," Derek told her, pulling his sister up, "but there's other news too. If you'll excuse us?" He led her outside. "Ingrid," he said once they were alone, "I'm acknowledging someone as my son." She sighed, her face sad, probably remembering the problems he'd encountered the last time he'd told her about having a son, so he put the letter he'd written last night into her hands. "It's a most extraordinary case, but I've felt fatherly toward him almost since we met. He'd be here now but he's in Florida on a dig with his husband." He stopped then, showing her the latest House picture.
"This is Xander, your nephew, and his mate Oz, whom I believe you'll also like. Those are their children from Oz's and Xander's prior relationship with the redheaded woman who's no longer with my house, but there's also one more now. That's in the letter also, it explains much of why I'm doing this."
She smiled up at him. "I see such joy in you now because of your new family." She slipped the letter into her pocket. "I will gladly take him as my nephew if he makes you this happy." She touched Philip's picture tenderly, noting it was the only House picture that had him out of his collar. "He did leave then?"
"Yes," he sighed. "He said he couldn't overlook the conflicts between the Church's ideals of Got's will and that of a truly loving Got." He started them walking again. "Apparently he's seen the Church hierarchy cover up some things that he couldn't overlook." She nodded. "I'm sure he'll be pleased that you won't criticize him for doing what he felt right."
"Derek, Philip has always seen God for his love and never the other side. I figured long ago that this time would come if they ever really sent him into the world, outside of teaching and his studies." She patted his arm. "Guard him well, brother, for that narrowness makes him vulnerable to not seeing the dark also." He nodded so she stopped them at a bench. "Tell me of the children?"
"Where to begin!" he said with a bright smile, sitting beside her.
Derek smiled as Nick got the link working to Florida, smiling as his son's head popped up at the beep. "Xander, how goes it?" he asked, sitting in a chair at the control panel.
"Fine, dad. Got almost everything photographed since we got here." He walked to the door. "Martin, can you watch Junior, Derek wants to talk to Oz."
Oz walked in, carrying a working copy of the manifest, sitting down in front of the camera. "Hey. Except for this last roll of film, we've got it all checked off and entered, with the exception of two things." He pointed at a small table set up nearby. "One's full of jewelry and we think the other is the one we're looking for." He looked up as Martin walked in with his son, both he and Xander tracking him. "Hey, messy," he said, taking him back. "Sorry about that, have something in our stuff to take the spit-up stain out."
Martin waved them off. "It's only a shirt, relax." He smiled at the picture of Derek on the screen. "I thought you said these two were having fun. They haven't stopped working yet." He smiled even harder at the other man. "And I hear I should congratulate you, old friend. The boys confirmed what I'd heard through our friends. I'm almost insulted that I wasn't invited though."
Derek chuckled lightly. "Martin, don't even bother to pout. I'll have to sic Rupert," he patted the other man's shoulder, "on you at the next reunion." He looked at the boys. "You can take breaks, you know." Xander nodded, photographing the next item. "So, Martin, how do you find my son?"
"Which?" he asked with a small smile. "The older or the younger?" He patted Oz's shoulder but Derek pointed at the other young man. "You mean you adopted the one that *looks* like you and works like you used to?" He laughed lightly. "Derek, how traditional of you."
"Oh, I know, but I feel very fatherly toward Xander, and his Aunt approves of him."
"I have an Aunt?" Xander asked, looking up. "Where?"
"Ingrid is a nun, up the coast a few hours away from here. I'll take you to meet her next time she's allowed visitors, in six months." He nodded, going back to work. "Boys, quit pretending to work. I'm already impressed."
"Who's pretending," Martin said with a groan. "They do it all the time. I wake up and they're working. I eat and they're working. I go lay in the sun, trying to tempt them to join me, and they're still working." He patted the top of the infant's head. "Derek, haven't you taught them how to relax yet?"
"Yup, but we're making up for slacking the last time we were down here," Oz told him dryly. "Could use a day out with you though."
"Sure," Xander said absently, using a magnifying glass to look at a small pendant. "Dad, this one's not on the list either," he said, holding it up to the camera. He looked up as he moved it around some, watching the little signals from his brother on how to shift it. "And I can't quite figure out the meanings using the common word thing."
"Hmm," Derek said, leaning closer to the screen, and the camera over top of it, "I want you to ship that here. Make a wax impression first, after you finish cleaning it of course, in case something happens, but I'll assign Philip to work on it while he's still here." He looked back up as the pendant was removed. "I can't make it out either."
"Put it back up," Philip said quietly, slipping on his glasses, the ones he only wore when he was dealing with tiny words. "Now left, no your left." He nodded, taking them off. "It's like the black onyx pendant. Put it in the same box and send it to me, but do make the wax impression. Of the back of the other too if ya might."
Martin sighed. "Too much serious stuff going on. I'm going to go be lazy. Later guys." He waved and walked out, closing the door.
Derek leaned closer. "Boys, I didn't know he'd be there."
"That's okay, neither did we until we showed up. Said his meetings were pushed back," Oz told him. "But he's pretty cool." He turned his son around, letting the people on the other side of the connection look at him. "We're having a small gas problem but we're doing okay. And that's why he asked, Derek, fair warning and all that." He watched as the screen's picture pulled back, showing the rest of the control room. "Thought you might like that info."
"Very much," Derek said. "Are you keeping those two in special containers?"
"Bare table," Xander said simply. "Oz, why is there a man shifting into a wolf in the center of this?" He held up the pendant that had been captivating him, brushing some more of the silt off the center. "See?"
"It's a charm against them I'd say," Philip said. "Don't worry about it, I'll figure it out. We just need to get it away from you two." He smiled gently. "So, have you two bothered him ta death yet?"
Xander frowned at him. "No!" He looked at Oz. "Not at all." He kissed his cheek, putting aside that pendant and picking up the next piece of material they recovered. "We'll take a day off when Dad gets down here. That way we can let him have Junior all day."
"Just so long as he's not out at the dig," Oz told him. "That's a bit much for a two week old baby." He grinned at his father-in-law. "We'll let you babysit but only if you're good."
Derek laughed gently. "Boys, I'm always goot."
"Sure ya are," Philip muttered. "Xander, send that tonight when ya go out ta supper." He leaned forward. "Just be careful with the baby on those water taxi's. Some of them can be very dangerous and there's a storm comin'."
"We know," the young couple said together. They waved and hung up. "Fathers," they muttered, getting back to work.
Oz sighed as they left the island, looking down at his son, who was in his carrier between their feet. "Do you feel different?" he asked quietly, linking their hands.
"Yup, very," Xander said, leaning into him and kissing him hard. "But I know why."
"Why?" Oz said, distracted by the lips he was trying to catch. "Use short words so I can kiss you."
"Because that was a repellant charm against werewolves." His husband pulled back to look at him in alarm. "Admit it, you've felt it." Oz's shoulders slumped and he nodded. "So, now that it's nicely packaged, we'll be free to honeymoon some more." He stole another kiss, smiling down at his son, who was awake by some miracle. "Would you like to have dinner with us tonight?" he asked.
"And stay at a hotel," Oz noted. "We agreed if the promised storm came. Did we remember to tell Martin?" His mate nodded. "Good. Thought we forgot something." He looked around. Okay, we did forget something. Diaper bag?"
Xander groaned. "Want to go back and get it or should we just get a new one."
"Like that idea better." He shifted closer, linking their hands. "Xan, I didn't want to mention anything but Martin, well, he watches us."
"Yup, like he's seeing if there are any cracks," the younger man agreed. "But we're so together that a prybar wouldn't separate us now." He picked up the carrier, putting him across both their laps. "Or do you think there's something else?"
"There'd better not be," Oz warned. "He's been using Steve it looked like, and I refuse to play musical people, even if we weren't married."
"Cemented together by the steel bonds of love?" Oz suggested. And got a hug for it, ending up with the baby fully in his lap. "Hey, sweetness," he said, rubbing down his face. "How are we?"
"We're fine," Xander said, brushing through his hair. "Think he'll have curly or straight hair?"
"Straight," Oz said. "It's not showing signs of curling yet. But I think he'll be so pretty that we'll have to beat people off him."
"Him and Xandra and Brandon," Xander reminded him. "Tim's going to keep going with them and Precious will repel them with her abilities if she doesn't control them." He looked around at the empty ferry. "What about Serena, have we figured that out yet?"
"Well, she's insecure about you leaving her, so she's got your clinginess," he was hugged tighter, and relaxed into the arms, "which isn't a bad thing. But I think she'll be straight, and we'll just have to be careful enough to keep the bad people away from her."
"Okay, I'll be the man monitor and you can do background checks." That made his mate laugh lightly. "No?"
"Yup, but we'll both do them, just in case." He looked down at his son. "But who will you grow up to be?"
"Mixed up?" Xander suggested.
"Probably a little confused about some things, yeah, but I think he'll be pretty stable otherwise. Have you heard if her lawyer found the biological father yet?" His husband shook his head slowly. "Napping? We're almost at the docks."
"I know," Xander yawned. "I'm just not sleeping that well right now." He sat up and stretched, scratching his chest. Then he looked down the front of his shirt in alarm. "Oh, hell," he muttered. He looked at the quickly approaching dock. "We need to talk," he said quietly, moving a little ways away. "When we're alone."
"No, this is our stop."
"Thought that was the next island."
"See, our car."
"Wrong color." He looked at the driver. "Which island is this? Is this the main stop?" The woman shook her head. "Thank you. See, told you it was the next one."
"Key West," she called.
Xander smirked. "Thank you," he called, getting off, helping Oz with a steadying hand. "So, you want to drive?"
"Nope, I'm better at getting the seat in, you check the car." He watched his mate unlock the doors, letting him get in. He looked at the backseat. "Someone cleaned."
"Hey!" a man shouted, walking up to them. "That's my car."
Xander looked at him. "No it's not, it's ours." He looked around the parking lot. "This is even our space number that we rented."
The man shook his head. "No, this is my space and my car." He looked around, motioning a cop over. "These two are trying to steal my car."
"No, this is our car," Xander said. He pulled out the paperwork he carried to remind himself where the car was and handed it over.
The officer looked at it then up then back at the paper. "Well, this is a bad mix up. This is a rental, right sir?" he asked the other man, who nodded, so he handed over the paperwork. "They double rented it."
Oz sighed, taking the car seat out of the back and shutting the door. "Okay, well tonight's starting out well."
"Cute kid," the officer said then looked at them. "Yours?"
"We adopted," Oz said simply.
"Oh, okay, was wondering."
"Yup, ours," Xander said, taking the paperwork back. "So, do you know who we talk to about this?"
"She's gone for the day," the cop told them, scratching his bald head then his wrinkles. "You might try the national chain place though. Its a few blocks away."
"Thanks," Xander said, taking the car seat. "Get us a cab, Oz, we'll let him have it. How long are you going to be in town?"
"Two days." He looked embarrassed. "Guys, I'm sorry, I know this is a bad mix up. Can I drive you down there?" They looked at each other then nodded. "Thanks." He helped them get the baby settled and watched them climb in. "No bag?"
"Forgot it on the door," Xander said with a small frown. "I was too busy being happy to remember it." He shrugged. "We'll get new stuff. It's only for one night."
The dark-skinned man nodded. "I remember doing that once. A spur of the moment trip. After that first time, never did it again."
"We've never done it before," Oz noted. "And we have five more at home." The man's mouth fell open. "Yeah, my ex was prolific," he said with a shrug.
"But they're ours now," Xander said, squeezing his hand. "So business trip?"
"Yeah, I sell to little stores and companies. Bathroom tissues, paper products, things like that. What do you guys do?"
"We're researchers with the Luna Foundation," Xander said. "We're down on the dig."
"Oh, I heard about that. Lots of young kids working out there I bet."
"A few. Our boss likes to help the older students get a little respect." He slid out of the seat as the SUV stopped, getting the car seat out. "Thanks man, just drop it back there." He looked at Xander, watching him just sitting there. "What's up? Staying?"
"Nope," he said, shaking his head, "just thinking too hard." He slid out, waving as the rented SUV pulled away. "This is a bit coincidental, right?"
"I have the lucky token," Oz reminded him.
"So, what's going on? The ferry driver changed her mind about the stops? This car rental place is open an hour later than it should be?" he asked, walking in the front door. "Hi, there's been a mix up with our usual rental so we need one for a few days. Can you help?"
"Sure," the woman behind the counter said, "what sort of car would you like?"
"Fits all of us and some stuff," Oz told her. "Got to be safe." He put the carrier on the counter.
"Like a convertible," Xander said, grinning. "Haven't had one of those yet." Oz patted his hand patiently. "Or just something sleek and predatory would be okay."
"Well, we have both if you like." She turned the screen around, showing them the information. "It's being washed right now."
Oz smiled at the Spyder's picture. "Yeah, I like that. We'll do that one." He took his husband's hand in his, pulling out his wallet. "Let me get this, you call Dad." She pointed at a phone booth in the corner of the room so he watched his mate walk over as he pulled out his card. The token fell out, and he bent over to pick it up, wincing at the loud crash outside.
Xander's breath caught and the phone dropped from his hand as he ran outside to help the man that had been driving their SUV.
Oz walked over, picking up the phone. "Hey, dad, it's us. But the crash wasn't. They double rented our original car." He nodded, hanging up, turning to the woman. "He was alone, he gave us a ride."
Xander walked back in, shaking his head. "No he wasn't." And he threw up in a trashcan.
Derek shuddered as he hung up the phone. "I'm glad they have it with them," he whispered, hugging his mate as he walked in. "The SUV was just in a crash. The token saved them."
Philip simply held onto him while he shook, comforting him as only a long-time lover could.
Oz checked them into the hotel, smiling at the man behind the counter. "We need a crib sent up also please," he said, nodding at his mate, who was holding their son and visually checking him over. "It's been a rough day."
"So I can see," he said gently, handing over a form. "Just fill this out and we'll get you into a nice room right away." He looked at the infant as it was set onto the counter. "Adopting?"
"Yeah," Xander answered, leaning his head on his husband's shoulder. He kissed his cheek. "And we forgot the diaper bag, where can we get stuff?"
"Our gift shop would have everything you need," he said kindly, handing them the room keycards. "Bags?"
"On the door," they said together, then smiled at the other. "We really did plan this out," Oz said, "but we're honeymooning while working and we took off for an evening out then the storm hit the Key where we're working."
"Ah, yes, I remember that state well," he said, waving a bellboy over. "Take one up to his room, six-twenty-three, while the other shops please. They're very tired." The young man took the car seat from Xander's hand, walking him to the elevator.
Oz grabbed his husband by the waist, kissing him hard. "Take a shower, love, I'll be right up." He took his wallet back, it had bulged out of his pocket and distorted his butt, or so Xander claimed before he took it from him. He looked inside then shook his head. "Xander, wait," he called, jogging over to stop the elevator from closing. "Yours." He handed back the younger man's wallet, taking his, and blew a kiss as he let the doors close.
Oz walked into the small gift shop, smiling at the man at the counter. "We ran away and forgot stuff," he explained, picking up formula, bottles, pacifier, and diapers. He looked over the cute little bags, picking one out with Disney characters, and looked at the personal hygiene items available. "Okay, we'll get that later. You don't have his brand," he muttered, walking around to grab a soda and a candy bar for his mate, going back up to the counter. "Where's a good place to get him something cute to wear?"
"Expensive or not?" the older man said, ringing them up. "Twenty-six-fifteen."
"Doesn't matter, but we don't do fashionable."
"Outlet mall is about two miles away. Or there's a small mall closer with the big chain stores." He looked the young man over, taking in the silver shirt that was undone to show a simple black tanktop underneath, tucked into a pair of simple jeans. "Your choice."
"Hmm, thanks," he said, taking the bag and the credit card back after signing the slip. "Later." He walked toward the elevator, getting on and pushing their floor. He got off, walking down the hall, knocking. Xander opened it, grinning. "Hi you," he said, falling into his arms. "How's the room?"
"Nice and comfy," Xander whispered, pulling the slightly older man inside so they could kiss. He tossed the bag down, diving in deeper. "Missed this," he murmured as he pulled back to breathe. "Want more."
Someone knocked on the door so Oz pulled away, opening it with a small, tempting grin for his mate. "Hi," he told the man, letting him wheel the crib in. "Anywhere's fine. We'll move it if we have to." He tipped him and watched him leave, closing the door after he was gone. "Where's the son?"
"On the bed." Xander jogged over, lifting him up to look at his other daddy. "Say, see daddy, I got clean and everything while you shopped for me," Xander said in a small, baby voice, making his husband laugh. "And you two can snuggled while I nap some more."
Junior chose that moment to protest his treatment, crying.
"Shh," Oz said, taking him to cuddle. "No, we won't snuggle without you, love, no we won't," he cooed, sitting down on the bed. "Get him a bottle, Xan, and we'll feed him first. Oh, and I got you a treat." He looked up to find his husband licking over the candy bar, giving him his most tempting look as he slowly nibbled on the tip of it. "Let's feed Junior first then I'll let you do that to me," he whispered, grinning back. "Naughty, using innocent candy to tempt me."
Xander disappeared into the bathroom, coming back with a warm, full bottle and his soda. He laid down, pulling Oz onto his chest to watch their son as he ate together. "Love you both," he whispered, playing with the dark hair.
"And we love you," Oz whispered back, taking a small kiss. "Always, pet, forever." His husband smiled at him. "Now, let's do the whole family dinner thing. You go shower," he told him, getting up to put the baby down in the crib, moving it away from the air conditioner, "and we'll go eat. I'll pack the diaper bag while you do that and we'll buy you clothes on the way out."
"Need to call Dad and tell him where we are," Xander reminded him with a small yawn. "I'm for staying in and nibbling," he said, laying his head down. "Need a nap."
"Then you'll nap and we'll be good daddies," Oz whispered, kissing his forehead as he walked over to grab the baby's stuff and pack it.
Derek sighed as he picked up the faxed list, sitting down in his usual seat on the plane. "They're efficient," he told William, who was taking the jet to London after it dropped him off in Miami. "And, by the note here, they're all fine in a small hotel in South Beach, hiding from the pendant and the storm."
William snorted. "Well, a repellant charm against werewolves would affect them," he said, sitting down and buckling in. "How's the kid?"
"He's fine. The last page was a little note about how they walked out to have a night off, leaving the diaper bag and their clothes that they'd packed. It explains what the token did." He winced, folding the paper over. "I'll go find them on the way in."
"Sure you will," William told him gently. "So, who's going to raise Junior?"
"They are. Both Alex and I agreed that he was to be theirs. He'll have Xander's last name, we've filled out the paperwork, and I have that and his adoption decree in my briefcase."
"Which you left at home," William reminded him with a small smile. "See, it's rubbing off on you."
"No, that was exhaustion. I listened to Buffy think out loud as she paced all night." He closed his eyes, tipping the seat back. "I'm going to nap. I know I won't get any once we're alone."
"And what about Martin?"
"He's leaving tonight. I called and told him we'd be up there tomorrow." He looked at his old friend. "William, do you feel strange?"
"About what we had and now being with your mother?" He nodded. "Quite, but I told her that years ago. While drunk," he said, holding up a hand to forestall the protest. "Not that she was surprised, not in the least actually."
"She did walk in on us that one time," Derek muttered, closing his eyes and pulling the sleep mask down over them. "She used to have the worst timing back then."
William chuckled lightly. "She did, didn't she? I don't remember how many times I had to stall her while you and Ripper or you and Martin were cleaning up after yourselves." He looked at his step-son. "How do you manage with him and Philip in the house?"
"Philip's not as innocent as you'd like to think, my friend. As a matter of fact, he's a lot less innocent than many people take him for. Underneath that cool exterior beats the heart of a pure hedonist." He smiled. "A very sensual and pure hedonist that loves me and only me," he sighed, getting comfortable. "Rupert's presently being straight so I don't have to worry about him and Philip talking."
"Yes, he does love you," William said quietly, watching the man that he had come back from Hell for. "And we were all jealous for a while too," he told him. He opened his briefcase, pulling out his journal to make an entry.
Derek smiled at his sons as he walked out of the terminal to meet them. "I like this," he said, running his hand down the slope of the hood. "Maybe I should make Nick get one."
Xander snorted. "Sure you will, dad, and he'll just roll over and bark for belly rubs too."
"One never knows about your brother," Oz reminded him. "Into the back, father-in-law." He got in after Derek, checking on the baby over his shoulder, frowning at his mate as he pulled out quickly. "Easy, we have delicate cargo."
"Yes, the baby is," Derek reminded him.
"I was talking about you," Oz said with a faint grin. "What's the rush?"
"That cop that tried to accuse us of kidnapping was coming back." Xander flipped on the radio, smiling at the mirror. "Yes, you have to listen to our music."
Derek smiled. "Some of it's not that bad. Some, on the other hand, makes me want to buy their label and fire them." That made Oz laugh. "I do. I'm sorry, Oz, but moaning and screaming into a microphone is not music."
"Point," Oz said. "But some of it's okay once you understand the words."
Xander laughed, pulling out onto the highway. "Easily dad, you listen lots of times." He slowed down, the radar detector going off, as did most of the traffic around them. "Ha, worked." The lights came on behind them. "Oh, hell," he said, pulling over and turning off the engine. "Oz, are you carrying the token?"
"I'm not letting it out of my sight," he said simply, pointing at a car that hopped the median where they would have been if they hadn't pulled over, and got hung up.
Xander looked up at the officer, turning down the radio. "Probs?"
"You were going a little fast," he said, writing out the ticket. He watched as another officer sped toward where the man was crawling out his window, shaking his head. "Tourists."
"Hey," Xander protested, signing the citation. "A warning or a real one?" he asked, looking at it. "Two miles over?"
"Don't complain," Oz said, looking at the other car.
Xander shrugged and shoved it into his pocket. "Thanks, officer, we'll try harder not to let go." He nodded, going back to his car.
"It's not like you have points or anything yet."
"Nope, not a one," Xander agreed, glancing in the mirror as he turned back on the radar detector. "So, are we going out to the island tonight?" Derek shook his head. "Cool, you can stay at our hotel in South Beach."
Derek shook his head. "Boys, why go there?"
"Because we wanted to," Oz told him. "It's a beautiful building and they're nice. They don't even say things when I use his checkcard." He turned to smile at them, waving at the baby. "Hey, up again?"
Derek looked down, pulling Junior's hat down farther and tucked his arm back under the blanket. "Why do you have the top down?"
"Because I wanted sun," Xander shouted, turning up the radio, going just a little faster.
"Boys," Derek muttered, watching the world go by in other cars.
Derek looked at the store the boys pulled up in front of, raising an eyebrow. "A jewelry store?"
"Yup, I have this decorating Oz thing going." Xander slid out, after putting up the top and rolling back up the windows. "Oz, grab him and come on, want to show dad where we got his ring."
Derek looked at his hand and smiled. "Here?" He followed his son in, arm around his shoulder, the other around Oz's, smiling at the man that hurried out to help them. "Ah, I see someone remembers you," he said.
Xander shook the salesman's hand. "Yup, he remembers us."
"Quite well actually." He pulled Xander's hand up to look at his ring. "One of your settings is loose, we can fix that though." He snapped his fingers and Oz shifted the baby, letting him look at his. "Hmm, yours too." He looked at Derek's hand, pulling down his hand to look at the ring on his index finger. "Ah, I see you did give it to a worthy individual." He smiled at him, looking at his coworker. "Get the jeweler out here, their stones are loose." She nodded, going back into the back. "So, how may I help you today?"
Oz bent down, looking at the case below them. "Hey, Xan, let me buy you this," he said, pointing at stones set among the braids in a woven leather bracelet. His husband just looked at him. "I like you in leather, especially your jacket." His husband nodded. "Cool, what color do you want?"
"The daddy green ones," he said, pointing.
"Those aren't emeralds," the salesman said sadly. "But I could see if we have one."
"So, what is it? Jade?" The man nodded so he looked at his mate. "Like it?"
"Yup," Xander said happily. "That and the other one both. But I only want one," he said after seeing the twinkle.
Oz absently handed Junior off to Derek, taking his mate's head in his hands. "Xander, we agreed that I could start spoiling you, right?" The younger man nodded, starting to pout so he nipped at the extended lip. "So let me baby you, pre....pet. Let me do the whole gift and fun thing that you do when you play dress-up-Oz," he whispered, kissing him hard, diving in and taking control of his mouth. "Want to dress you up as only mine tonight," he whispered, diving in for another kiss before his husband could say anything.
Derek cleared his throat. "I see they do that here too." He looked at the happy couple. "Boys," he sighed, turning the baby around. "You're setting a bad example for the younger Harris. He'll think sex or pouting is the only way to get anything."
"Is," Xander panted. He looked at his mate, directly into his eyes. "Why was I fighting you?"
"Because you long to still be overly independent, but I'm going to teach you to not be so strong against me yet." He wrapped his larger husband in his arms. "We'll take them both and I want to pierce his ear."
"No!" Derek said, shaking his head. "Dress code prohibits it," he lied, not wanting to see his son in an earring. Some prejudices were hard to break, and he'd always had one against males in earrings.
"Then that's favoritism. Girls can have them and my pretty one can't?" he asked, stroking down his mate's neck. "Derek, such gender differences from such a liberal organization?" He looked at the salesman. "My baby would like an emerald daddy stone for his virginal ear." His husband blushed. "A small one that he can play with like I do my pendants when I'm thinking." He licked over the spot he had been stroking before letting him go. "Now, be my good baby and I'll hold your hand while he does your ear."
"Baby?" Derek mouthed looking at his son.
"Well, I can't call him by our daughter's name," Oz explained, wiggling his fingers at his son, who was smiling. "Derek, he's had tons of gas, don't squeeze his middle that hard." He looked over his father-in-law. "You need to be decorated too, for Philip and my brother-in-law of course, but we need to get you stuff so you can impress them." He took his son back, walking over to where Xander was sitting, leaning down to kiss him as his ring was fixed. "Good, I'm glad we got that settled. Did you see something else you like?"
"Nope," Xander said, grinning up at him, "just you." They shared a kiss, the salesman doing his ear during it, which he never felt.
Derek shook his head. "You two," he sighed. "You should have seen them in Vegas," he told the salesman, stealing Junior back. "I'm just glad that you haven't been subjected to much of that yet." He looked back up then at his watch, pulling his son's hair until they broke apart. "Breathe," he ordered, with a smile of course.
"Why?" Xander asked. "Air is much less important than his lips or his eyes. Means much less to me than anything about my baby, Oz." Derek rolled his eyes. "Admit it, we're cute like, this. And you'd worry if we weren't cuddling."
"Maybe that's why Martin kept looking at us," Oz said quietly. "Derek told him we're cuddlesome and we weren't being that way."
"He was looking at you?"
"Searching for a weakness between us," Xander muttered, kissing each of his lover's eyes. "Love the look in them. Want to see that look all the time."
"It's there, all you have to do is look at me," Oz rejoined, kissing his forehead. "Now then, Xan, what else did you want?"
"Bellybutton jewel?" he asked, grinning, wrapping his arms around his mate's waist as the jeweler looked at his ring. He watched her bend down to adjust the setting, smiling against his mate's neck as a shiver went up his back. "Want to make you prettier too," he whispered. "Let me spoil you?"
"You already do," Oz complained weakly. Then he frowned down at his ring. "What's wrong?"
"One of the prongs is broken," she said quietly, looking up at them. "I'll need your ring to fix it." They both hissed, clinging to the other. "I know how important they are to you, but to really fix it so it'll last, I need to remove the surrounding stones. You can have them back tomorrow, early afternoon at the latest."
"But I'll be naked then," Oz whispered, clutching Xander's hand. "I won't be able to look down and see him."
"I'm right here," his mate whispered, "not leaving. Never leaving." He turned the slightly older man around. "Oz, both of ours could probably use it. We'll be naked together, okay?" His mate started to shake his head but nodded, holding his hand up. "I'm not loving you any less just because we damaged our rings in that fight when we were jumped. I'd like to go get them for it, but it's not our fault. I know that and so do you." They clasped left hands, pulling the other's ring off as they slid their fingers away. "I still love you, Oz, no matter what happens." He kissed him, taking his ring to hand to Derek, who had Oz's also now. "Would you like to check out the other ones?" His mate shook his head. "Only to be worn when we need the extra reminder?"
Derek walked over to the case of rings, motioning the salesman over. "This is traumatic for them. They've not taken them off yet." He looked down, his eyes catching on a pair of silver and ruby rings, bending down to look at it. "How much are these," he said, pointing them out, "and are they the right size?"
"No, but I have something much more them in the back," he said quietly, handing over the rings so he could look while he went into the vault. He came back out, handing them over, watching the couple cling to each other. "I hate to see things like this happen," he whispered, looking down. "How old is he again?"
"Two weeks," Derek said, rubbing over the lightly haired baby head. He smiled at the small birthstone name bracelet that was held up. "That's perfect. The other children all had one when they were infants." He took it, holding it down so Junior could see it. "Do you like that?" The baby spit up on it. "I'd say yes." He looked at both sets of rings but couldn't decide so smiled at him. "Oh, you're going to have a very goot day," he said quietly.
He took the rings from the back, walking over and handing them to the boys. "This is a new family tradition. Since you both use your jewelry to remind you how loved you are during the hard times, I'm gifting you with these, to remind you how loved you are by all of us. I want you to wear them when you're insecure about my love, or when you're feeling very far away from your mate." He stepped back, letting them look at him.
Xander studied the small band of blood-colored rubies set in the band. "It's an eternity ring," he said quietly, looking at his mate. "It's up to you," he said, holding it out to him.
Oz smiled. "I've seen some of these before. Dating back quite a few years. Is this an antique?" he asked the salesman.
"Not quite. It's from the sixties." He looked toward the back. "We have it in several other gems also, emeralds I believe, or in sapphires."
Xander smiled at his mate. "Well, it does fit us. Eternity will be long gone before we're apart by our own free will." He took the ring Oz held out to him. "We'll wear them, dad, but only when we're not like you said, when we need the reassurance." He glanced up, seeing the small smile of satisfaction. "What're those?"
"These?" He looked down at them. "I'm not sure, I just liked them."
"So give them to Philip," his son suggested, turning back to his mate. "I love you, Oz, and this band is but a small token of how long we'll be together," he whispered, sliding it down the first finger. "And on this finger it will rest, and only here."
"I love you, Xander," Oz whispered, stepping closer as he slid the ring down his mate's first finger, "and this is just a small amount of time in relation to the strength of our love and how long it will last. Here it will rest and only here."
They kissed, sealing the pact.
Derek smiled, shaking his head. "Such theatrics," he mouthed, taking the charge slip, only wincing slightly.
"We're buying yours and Philip's rings. It's only fair since you bought us ours, both sets." Oz took the slip, handing over his own card. "Can you do that?"
"Of course," the salesman said simply. "Yours is already waiting on the other machine." He ran the card, handing it and the slip to sign back to him. "So, how do you afford to spoil him that way with children?"
"This time, it's on Vegas." Xander looked up with a wicked grin. "We won tons to keep ourselves out of trouble." He felt the pat to his butt so looked at his mate. "It was. Otherwise Dad woulda hurt us for my jumping you every six minutes, even in public."
Derek held the baby up, showing off his bracelet. "See that? Find that sort of love for yourself."
Oz looked at the bracelet. "Gee, Xandra never had one of those." He looked up. "You're spoiling him. He'll start to expect expensive gifts. Then he'll turn into my baby over there."
Xander wiggled his eyebrows, handing back the charge slip he'd signed. "Me? I only expect cuddles and kisses. Anything else is extra gooey icing." He took the baby back, looking at his bracelet. "Dad, you shouldn't have."
"We'll get Xandra one," Oz promised him with a pat to his shoulder. "How's your ear?"
"That's right, you were supposed to do that..." He saw the tolerant smiles so stopped, feeling his ear. "When did you do that?"
"While you two were necking," Derek said dryly. He waved outside. "Come on, let's go before you spend all your winnings."
Xander smiled at him. "I don't think even a rampage through Beverly Hills could do that."
"Who'd want to do that," Oz said in disgust. "I dress us both fine, Xander, we don't need designers to tell us we need better clothes."
"I was thinking Harry Winston's and places like that. You know, the stars' jewelry stores that have vastly inflated prices to go with the egos?" He looked around. "But this is the only place I want to buy you pretty, sparkly stuff, so who needs them."
They walked out under the beaming smiles of the sales staff.
Derek walked into the clothing store after the boys, sighing. "Boys, please. Some of us could use a rest before dinner."
"Last stop, promise," Xander said, giving him a hug. "Need to pick up something I ordered." He walked up to the counter, leaning across it to whisper something to the salesman, taking the packages with a small smile. "Thanks," he called, walking back over to them. "Okay, all done."
"Well, one's for you, one's for daddy, and one's for step-daddy, for his upcoming roadtrip." He tucked them under his arm. "Isn't the hotel next door?"
"Around the corner," Oz reminded him. He looked at Derek. "We parked there already though." He took his mate's hand, holding it all the way around the block. Then he took the baby while Derek checked in, on their floor, a few doors down, heading up together. They let Derek go into his room to rest, closing their door behind themselves, not even noticing that the older man had both baby and diaper bag.
Xander looked at the mess. "Gee, did we do this?" he asked quietly.
Oz shook his head. "Nope, call the front desk." He pulled the token out to rub it. "Guess it was a good thing our rings needed fixed, huh?" he said quietly.
"And they'll be fine when we get them in the morning," he reminded his mate, equally gently. "Hi, this is six-twenty-three, and it looks like a hurricane went through here with some broken glass?" He nodded, looking at his mate. "Okay, thank you." He hung up. "The report's been made, but we need to figure out if we're missing anything."
"Nothing left in here," Oz said, looking around the room. "We getting another room?"
"Yeah, we have to go down and get keys. They're leaving a message for Derek to be given with his wakeup call." He walked over, hugging them both hard. "We're fine, and we would be anyway. I was going to take you out to spoil you anyway," he whispered. "And I love the stuff you spoil me with, most of all the kisses for no reason." He smiled, lapping the tip of the older man's nose. "Come on, before they think we fell into the mattress."
"Could," Oz said with a small yawn. "You marathon when you shop." He followed the cute butt out the door. "Hold on, presents," he said, going back in to get the bags he'd dropped. "Okay," he said, walking back out. "What are we forgetting?" He looked at both of them then frowned.
"Junior," they said together.
Derek stuck his head out. "I stole him so you two could spend some time alone. What's wrong?"
"Um, air conditioner problem," Xander said. "We're switching rooms to a few more down. Go nap." He walked calmly toward the elevator, clutching his husband's hand for strength. "Will I ever get used to this?" he asked once they were sealed in.
"Nope, hope not," Oz told him. He kissed his ear, tugging gently at the stone with his lips. "Like you in that. You should wear it all the time."
"I will," Xander promised. "And we got the set so I can switch them now and again for cleaning." He kissed his lover hard as the elevator stopped, grabbing his hand as they walked over to the front desk.
The trio of men walked back onto the island to be met by one of the grad students, Steve. "Guys, did you mean to scare him? Martin was frantic when we woke up from his nap and found you guys missing, and your things on the doorknob." He looked closely at them. "Okay, so you were just so happy you forgot?" Oz nodded, handing over the baby. "Okay, I can deal with that. But I'm supposed to call him tonight to tell him whether or not you came back. He gave me that order when I left to go back to the dig this morning."
"Hey, your dime, Xander said, twisting the new stud in his ear. "Oz, why is it such a large stone?"
"So I can see it from across the room." He slapped lightly at the hand. "Quit or it'll get infected and then you won't be able to wear it." He kissed the hand, holding onto it as they walked up the path. "So, Steve, how's the dig?"
"Fine," he said, stepping up onto the porch. "Major lightening storm the night you guys left though. We, all the diggers," he smiled at Derek, "ended up camping up here. Hastily repacked packs and all."
"As long as everyone's all right," Derek told him, taking back the baby. "How are things going besides that? Any major injuries or the like?" The grad student shook his head. "Goot." He sank down onto the couch, looking at the child in his lap. "Are you asleep or pretending to be so your fathers can go nap without you?" He frowned at the new spit-up stain where he had been resting, using the hem of his shirt to wipe the baby's mouth. "Why is your stomach so upset?"
"Because he has major gas," Oz said, leaning over the back of the couch. "We're taking him back into town tomorrow for an appointment at the local pediatrician's." He leaned his head against Derek's, looking at both his rings. "Thank you for these, we were going to panic, really majorly panic. We both know it's just a symbol but we need to see it still."
"I know," he said gently. "Otherwise I would have just gotten you nicely colored strings to tie around your wrists." He pushed against the younger man's head with his own. "Never doubt that I'm there for you, through the traumas that even seem petty or small. They aren't to you so they aren't to me."
Oz nodded, standing up. "So, you said his last name was Harris?"
"Yes, and in my briefcase, which is still probably in my office on my chair, is the paperwork for the adoption of all of your children by Xander, and his official paperwork. The Judge wasn't too thrilled with herself after she came out of whatever was done to her, and she had to do a case review, but she agreed with me that Willow didn't deserve any of them really, especially after Rupert had to bring her out at the mere mention of her name." He smiled sadly. "If I could prove it, she'd be before a hearing committee before she could blink but neither of us could prove that it was her." He looked up as Xander walked out, grinning at the package in his hands. "What's that?" he asked, taking it from him, handing over the baby. He unwrapped it slowly, smiling as the three leather bound journals were uncovered. "Thank you, son," he said, kissing his cheek. "I'll use these for my family."
"Well, they're photo and important stuff albums so yes, use them for the family." He looked at his husband. "We sent Philip's right?" Oz nodded. "Good, thought you had checked yours already."
"Yup, and I'd kiss you but it'll make him take the baby and run."
"Well as long as he gives him a bath and a belly rub, I'll gladly give Junior back to him." He smiled at his father. "You wouldn't believe how uptight we got when we went swimming. Trunks and everything."
Martin laughed from the doorway. "Someone had noticed that you were a little more formal than you were when it was just you two and Derek." He walked in, smiling at his old friend. "Are they spoiling you too? Oh and my meeting got pushed back, again."
"No," Derek said, touching the album. "This is them normally." He smiled at his son, putting down the albums, taking the baby. "We should start with pictures of all of you, shouldn't we, son?"
"Well," Oz told him, "ours is in there. The one from Vegas. And you could put a big one of the house or do them individually since there's room. Or you could separate us out. However you want."
"No, the house is a family. A sometimes strange and twisted one, but still my family." He smiled up at his son-in-law. "Now, I've watched you two spoil the other for two days. Go work."
"Need new journals," Oz told him. He looked at Martin. "We left you a note on the fridge."
"Yes, and I saw it when I went to make supper." He put his feet up. "Oh, Derek, someone shipped your briefcase to you. It's in on your bed."
"Thank you, Martin," he said quietly, smiling slightly at him. "I guess we'll have plenty of time to catch up before you leave."
"Until around noon. My flight to New York is at three so I should leave by then."
"We have a doctor's appointment tomorrow at two," Xander said. "Want to travel over with us a little early? We were going to splurge on lunch too."
"You know, you really should save some of your winnings," Derek told them. "In case something happens. Like Nick."
"He'd better not be driving my car," Xander said coolly, "or I will hurt him. Put him onto the floor and let Brandon jump up and down on his chest sort of hurt him."
"Shh love, I'm sure he'd be careful with your new car," Oz soothed. "Not even Nick would hurt your new car." He looked over as the door was opened. "Hey, Marilyn, what's up?" he asked the lead grad student on the dig.
"We just found a body, guys, and it's not that old." She swallowed hard. "We need to call the cops." Martin stood up, handing her the phone on the way down the hall to his room. "Thanks."
Xander stood up, walking over to her, squeezing her shoulder. "Stay up here with us while they go check it out," he said quietly. "Rest and clear your mind of it." She nodded, sitting down. He took the phone from her fingers, handing it to his mate as he buckled Junior into the car seat. He started to gently rub her shoulders, working the tension out of them. "Was it washed up?" She shook her head. "From the storm?"
"We were pumping water from the site when it started to float." She grabbed her mouth and jumped up, running for the bathroom.
Oz hung up. "They'll be here in a few." He looked toward the bathroom. "You okay with this counseling thing?" Xander nodded so he headed out with Derek.
To Be Continued...