From the Guardian's Side

Philip looked around the hotel room they were taking for the night, shaking his head at the separate beds. "Why'd ya do that?" he asked, dropping his bag into a chair and sitting on the bed closest to the bathroom.

Nick sat down on the other bed. "I wasn't sure if you wanted to share one or not." He leaned down, opening his bag to pull out something to wear. "Want first or second shower?"

"Second," Philip said, smiling as Nick headed into the bathroom. "And don't use all the hot water," he called after him. He smiled at the suppressed snort. "And no playin' in there tonight." Something in the bathroom groaned, making his smile get a little brighter. He lay back on the bed, closing his eyes as he listened to the younger man shower, humming a soft tune to himself that had been playing on the radio. When the dream hit, he flinched, curling up on his side.

Philip found himself on a colorless plain, looking around the area. He saw a small tree in the distance so walked toward it, figuring it had to mean something. As he walked, he noticed the tree kept getting smaller and smaller, and he kept getting colder. He wrapped his arms around his chest to keep warm, and kept walking. He finally stopped, looking at the tree that wasn't any closer. "That's odd," he told himself, sitting down. Now that he had stopped, he was getting warmer by the second, ending up sweating within a few minutes of sitting there. He stood up, walking towards the tree again.

Again the tree started to get smaller the closer he walked, making him stop and frown. "I've had enough of this," he muttered, turning around and heading in the opposite direction. He looked up and saw the tree, glaring at it's small shape now. "So that's the way it is, huh?" He started to run, getting colder the faster and farther he went and the tree never got any closer. "This is insane," he said, stopping, bending down to breathe. "I'm not cut out for this part, this is Derek's job."

Nick walked out of the bathroom, shaking his head at the man sleeping on the bed. "Philip, if you had told me you were that tired, I would have stopped sooner." He dropped his dirty clothes on top of his bag, reaching over to pull off the older man's sneakers and socks. He dropped his comforter over the still body, heading to his own bed and lying down. "Night," he whispered, reaching up to turn off the lights.


Philip looked around the main strip of the city they were in, admiring the lights he hadn't had time to see the last time they had been in Las Vegas. He looked at his companion, who was staring at a group of people. "Nick, leave them alone," he said quietly, tugging on his arm. "Come on, I want to play blackjack."

Nick frowned at Philip. "You suck at gambling. Why are you trying to lose money?"

"Because it looks like fun?"

"Only if you're winning," Nick reminded him, pulling him toward a ticket window. "Let's go see a show."

A redheaded man bumped into them, smiling at Philip. "Sorry," he said, wandering off.

Philip patted down his pockets then looked at the man. "I'll be back," he said, heading off after him. He heard Nick trying to follow so spun him around, pushing him toward the window. "Pick us somethin', I can scare him myself." He jogged after the pick pocket, catching up to him in an alley, which wasn't hard considering the young man was leaning against the wall, dangling Philip's room key from his finger. "Give me that," he muttered, snatching it. "You tryin' ta get killed?"

"Father Philip, I need to talk to you," the young redhead said, moving closer, his green eyes flashing. "It's important that we talk."

Philip backed away shaking his head. "Nah, ya can't be." He only knew of one type of creature that would know exactly who he had been and would need to talk to him.

"Why? Because I don't have wings? Because I'm not a blonde? Because I picked your pocket?" He grinned. "I had to get your attention somehow. Oh, and Mr. Boyle has forgotten he ever saw me by now."

"Whaddya want?" Philip asked quietly. "Is he mad?"

"Because you left the hypocrites? No. Though he feels that there aren't too many real men and women of God in the Church some days." He shifted some. "It's about that dream you had last night. Have you interpreted it yet?"

"Only that it was a futile gesture."

"Sort of like fighting the tide?"

"With a spoon as certain young men are fond of saying."

The messenger smiled. "Yeah, I've heard them. Oh, and say hi to Methos for me. He needs to keep on his toes or he'll be sucked into the Legacy again." He snapped his fingers. "All I can tell you is that it does mean something and that the time is coming for you to truly choose your path." He waved and faded away.

Philip shook his head, heading back to where Nick was waiting on him. "Sorry," he said, sliding in behind him. "He needed to talk to me."

"Who?" Nick asked, not turning his head.

"Never mind," Philip said, looking down at his feet.


Philip walked into the church, taking a deep breath as he headed for the second rear pew and sat down. After a few seconds, he sild down to the kneeler board, closing his eyes, hands resting on the back of the pew. "God, I know ya have a meaning in sendin' me the dream, but I can't figure it out. I need some help, please," he whispered. He relaxed for the first time in the six days since he had first had the dream, not sure why, and got up, heading out of the church, not seeing the man standing behind him.

"Oh, you'll get it," the heavenly messenger said. "Even if I have to lead you there."


Philip opened his eyes, looking up at a familiar face. He glanced over at Nick, who was sleeping soundly, then back up at the messenger. "What?" he asked.

"Come on, we gotta talk. You're running out of time." He helped Philip up and led him into the bathroom, closing the door. "Still can't get it?" Philip shook his head, rubbing his eyes. "Think about it this way, the tree is a portal. Same as it is someone's destiny. Only one who can be pure enough to hold the portal can reach it. Or at least one who knows and understands their faults can reach the portal and hold it closed."

Philip's whole body slumped. "A gatekeeper," he said, looking up and getting a nod. "Where am I needed?" he asked, straightening up. "I know my own faults, most of them anyway."

"Oh, you know all of them, you just refuse to admit some of them are faults." The messenger looked him over. "You need to visit the place you almost lost it all. That's where the gateway is. And they do need you, but you can choose." He disappeared.

Philip leaned against the wall. "I have to guard the Hellmouth," he whispered. "Or I can choose to let it run free?" He shook his head. "Not much of a choice there." He headed back to his bed. He'd suggest they head that way in the morning.


Nick looked around the town of Sunnydale, shaking his head. "Why did you want to come back here, Philip? I thought you still had nightmares about it."

"Oh, I do," Philip said calmly, "but this is the only way to fight them." He looked at Nick then back at the car. "Why don't you go check us in at the motel while I wander around for a bit?"

Nick shrugged, heading back to his car. "Whatever, you're strange recently."

"Yeah, I am," Philip whispered, "all of us who're giving up everything are." He headed toward the high school and the growing evil he could feel.

Nick walked back toward where he could see Philip heading, following him. "This isn't right," he muttered, following him. Until a young redheaded man got in his way. "Hey!"

"I'm sorry," he said quietly, "but we gotta talk. This isn't your choice." He led Nick away by force, making it appear to everyone else like they were strolling together. He leaned Nick against a tree. "This is Philip's choice, Nick, you have to let it happen. You can't interfere."

"Who are you?" he asked, looking him over.

"I'm a messenger. Both Philip and Adam know me." He looked around and leaned closer, kissing Nick's forehead. "You'll remember me this time, and the other times. I'm here to guide Philip to a choice."

"God's calling him?" Nick asked blandly.

"To a special task. Unfortunately, he'll be leaving you."

Nick shook his head. "No, he can't leave. Not him too." He grabbed the messenger's arms. "Why him?"

"Because it had to happen," a female said from beside them.

Nick looked up, his mouth falling open. "Julia?" he whispered.

"Yes, Nick, it's actually me this time and not a succubus." She smiled and walked the few steps, patting the side of his face gently. "Philip's not going to die, he's going to live, he's just going to have a special task for eternity."

Nick shook his head, getting away from them. "No, this isn't real, you're not here, either of you."

Julia frowned at him. "Nick, you're a stubborn ass. Stop it." She tugged him back over to them, hugging him. "I know you hurt when you lost me, and you will this time too. Let them comfort you. Derek will be hurting just as much this time." She pulled back. "Your whole house will be hurting and you'll be able to heal this time." She touched his heart then tweaked the end of his nose. "I'm sorry, Nick, but it was destined. He needed me."

Nick shook his head. "I need Philip."

"The world needs him more. Actually, the world needs more like him, but the world needs him more than you do. You're still going to have Derek and your whole family," she reminded him. "He has to choose for himself."

"And if he doesn't?"

"He's to guard the Hellmouth, Nick," the male messenger said quietly. "Figure it out."

Julia glared at him then turned back to her former fiancé. "He has to do it, the other person can't do it alone." She smiled, wrapping around him in a hug. "I missed you too, but I'll be looking after him. And when it's your time, you can come help me."

Nick nodded numbly as they disappeared, sitting down under that tree, a small willow tree, putting his head on his knees. "Why Philip? Why not someone less important?" he whispered.


Philip walked back to where Nick was supposed to meet him, seeing him sitting under a tree instead. He headed over there, sitting beside him. "Hey, you that tired?" he asked, nudging him. When Nick looked up, his heart sank. "You found out?" he whispered, wiping the single tear track off his face. "I have ta, I've been called."

"You could choose not to," Nick reminded him.

"I have ta, Nick, I can't let it keep going. You know why, the whole family does."

"You're part of my family too," Nick said, leaning into him. "I'm sick and tired of losing people."

"You're not losing me," Philip said kindly. "I'm not dyin', just relocating between planes." He kissed Nick's cheek. "Come on, ya could use a bed." He pulled the younger man up with him, leading the way to the car.


Nick rolled onto his side to look at his friend, the one man he could truly say he loved without reservation. What they had was something even he and Derek didn't have. He had to do something before Philip could leave him. He got up, padding the few feet to the other bed, crawling in beside his friend to hold him.

Philip rolled in the strong arms, resting his head on Nick's chest. "Can't sleep?" he whispered.

"No. I keep seeing Julia's death and me blaming you for it."

"Wasn't either of our faults," Philip said, lifting his head to look at his friend and love. "You couldn't have stopped it from happening. Same as I couldn't even if I had been there." Nick nodded. "Why else are ya over here, Nick?"

"Because, I wanted to ask you something." Philip shook his head, frowning. "I wanted it to be you anyway. I feel things for you that I don't for Derek and I wanted you to move me across the boundary." Philip groaned, putting his head back down. "What?" Nick asked, stroking through his hair.

"This is such a guilt trip from you." Philip pushed himself up, looking down at the slightly younger man. "Ya'd do this to me now?"

"I have to do it now," Nick pointed out reasonably. "You may not be here tomorrow." Philip groaned. "Sorry."

"No, I just wish ya had better timing." Philip leaned down, kissing him. "I know ya're hurting, Nick, but this isn't the answer."

"I was planning on asking you during this trip anyway," Nick said with a little smirk. "You just moved the timetable up."

"Sure, blame me for this." Philip pulled himself up, looking down at his best friend. "Nick, why tonight?"

"Because I want it to be tonight. Even if you're not called tomorrow, we can still have some time left together."

Philip shook his head. "I know that makes sense somehow."

"It does. We don't know when it's going to open and I'd like to have as long as I can with you." Nick reached up, rubbing over the smooth chest. "I always wanted it to be this way, Philip, even though I may love Derek, it's different between us."

"Well, that's not a shock, now is it?" he said with a smile of his own. "You're sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure." Nick relaxed under Philip's gaze, spreading himself out some. "Please?"

"O'course," Philip sighed, leaning down to kiss him. "Just don't be surprise at how this turns out." He sat back up to tug the t-shirt off his friend's body, using it to tie Nick's hands to the bed. "There," he said, "now you have to take orders." He smiled at the muttered comment. "It's not your strong suit, love."

"Yeah, pick on me when I can't tickle you for it," Nick complained, tugging on his bond. "No fair, Philip."

"Who said this was fair?" Philip asked him. "My being called isn't fair and neither is ya doing this to me." He leaned down for another kiss. "I still have to go."

"I know, but it doesn't mean I won't try to stop you," Nick countered. "And this isn't about that. This is all about other stuff."

"I know," Philip admitted. "Do you want untied?"

"No." Nick grinned. "If you want me like this, I want to be like this for you."

"Good," Philip purred, rubbing his fingers over the bare chest. "You need to start liftin' again, Nick, you're gettin' flabby."

"Am not. Take that back."

"I can't see your chest muscles anymore."

"Oh." Nick lifted his head, looking down at himself. "Okay, so I need to start lifting again. I'll do that once we get back." Philip gave him a dirty look. "Hey, I have to try. You know I can't just give up and let you go to Hell for everyone."

"I know, but I can't help but be mad at ya for tryin' to get me ta not go."

"Point, but I have to."

Philip leaned down, kissing him to stop the argument. "Now is not the time to fight, Nick. Do ya want this because ya want it or because ya think ya should?"

"I want it," Nick admitted. "You're the one I wanted to teach me all of this." He pushed up against the fingers teasing his chest. "I just had to do it tonight because you might not be here tomorrow."

"Then we'll do this," Philip agreed, standing up so he could pull off the rest of Nick's clothes. He walked into the bathroom, coming back with a small bottle, which was put on the bedside table, then got back into bed, looking at the knot around Nick's wrists. "Got undone, didn' ya?" he asked with a smile.

"Had to make sure I could," Nick told him. "Are you really going to play with me?"

"That's one way to put it," Philip said, giving him a small smile. "It's going to take me forever to stretch you, so we had best get started." He upended the bottle of oil, pouring a little out on his fingers. "Knees up."

"No romantic stuff?" Nick asked with a silly grin, pulling his knees up so his feet were flat on the bed. "No poetry, or hearts and flowers?"

"Nick, ya'd kill me if I were to give you flowers for this." He spread the oil around the outside of the opening, making sure to grease the globes of Nick's ass very well. It would take him most of the night to open his lover up for his first time and he might as well make him comfortable.

"That tickles," Nick complained, wiggling away from the fingers.

"Supposed to itch, not tickle," Philip told him, checking what his fingers were doing to make sure they weren't trying to do too much at once. "It's goin'," he told his lover. "Sometime soon, Nick, I'm not gonna be usin' my fingers." He bent down for a kiss, switching to his thumb during it. He saw the small wince and smiled slightly. "This is the easy part. After two it gets harder to stretch you out."

"So don't," Nick said, trying hard not to wiggle away from the fingers. "Still tickles."

"Sorry," Philip said as he withdrew his fingers. "We could stop."

"No, you're not stopping," Nick said, working on getting himself free so he could grab Philip. "We're not stopping."

Philip tightened the t-shirt holding Nick still, giving him a bright smile. "Tha's more like it," he whispered, reinserting his thumb. "Ready to start again?" Nick nodded, biting his lip as the tickling feeling started again. "You're an odd one," Philip told him with a silly grin. "Ticklin' when you should be itchin'." He shook his head. "I should fix that but I don' know how."

"How about you just take me."

"Because that's gonna hurt you. A lot," Philip told him gently. "You tear that way, even doing it slowly. I'm not takin' that chance with you." He switched to two fingers, smiling as Nick yawned. "You sure you want to do this tonight?"

"Yeah," Nick said, coming out of his yawn. "I'm good. Keep going. I want it to be tonight."

Philip smiled at the man under him, pushing slowly into his body. "See, all that work paid off," he whispered.

"Still took forever," Nick grumped, shifting so he was lying more comfortably. "So, this is it?" he asked with a grin.

"Yup, this is what it is." Philip pulled back, slowly entering him again. He restrained his urge to pound his lover into the mattress, wanting his first time to be gentle, but it was getting harder by the stroke.

"Lose control," Nick told him softly, reaching up to stroke down the side of Philip's face. "I'll be okay, lose yourself." His lover shook his head. "I really can take it."

"Not on your first time," Philip protested. "I don't wanna hurt ya."

"Then don't," Nick said with an impish grin, "but I'm not going to be able to sit in the morning anyway." He looked over at the clock. "Sorry, it is morning."

Philip shook his head, letting some of his famous self-control go. He allowed himself to pick up the pace, letting his body take more and more control as Nick begged and pleaded with his eyes for more. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore. "Ya can ask," he reminded gently.

"More, Philip, please?" Nick begged, lifting his hips up a little then letting them fall back to the pillow under them. "Please? I want it all."

"I know ya do," Philip said with a smile. "Don't yell at me later though." He leaned down, giving his lover a kiss as he started to go at him harder and harder, until Nick was trying to shift under him. "Not comfortable?"

"Want to try something," Nick panted, hands still clamped around Philip's arms. "I want to be in front of you."

Philip pulled out, making a 'turn over' motion with his finger. "Then do it, I can give ya that much." He watched as Nick got to his knees, licking his lips slowly as he moved up behind him, spearing him as hard as he had been going. The howl that was his response was gratifying, and it made his soul ache to give Nick all he had. He rode his lover for all he was worth, giving Nick everything he had, wiping the sweat off his face by rubbing it against Nick's back. Nick howled again and came, making Philip smile as he allowed himself follow. A few more hard, punishing thrusts and his head snaked down, biting the tanned shoulder. That was all he needed, Nick's cry of pain and pleasure at once, and he came too, relaxing over the limp back, wrapping his arms around the heaving chest. "Did I hurt ya?" he asked, realizing how hard he had been with his virginal lover. He pulled out, flopping down onto the bed.

"Yeah, but I loved it," Nick said, giving him a wink as he fell on top of Philip's shoulder. He looked at his shoulder, then back at his lover. "How long have you been biting?"

"It's very primal," Philip explained, pulling him into his arms. "It's something that helps me come back from the primitive place I go when I get into my lover."

"Ah. So the blood brings you back?"

"And it satisfies some urge in me," Philip admitted with a weak smile. "Derek has all these scars on his shoulders if you look right." He rubbed down the sweaty back. "Did I hurt ya, Nick?"

"I'm going to be sore," Nick admitted with his trademark innocent grin, "but we'll be fine. I loved it." He lifted his head and gave his lover a kiss. "I need a nap."

"That's the usual thing we do," Philip agreed with a smile. "Ya rest. Ya can have a bath when we get up." He wiggled until he was comfortable in his position as Nick's pillow, closing his eyes. "Night, Nick."

"Night, Philip," Nick whispered, sinking down into sleep.

Richie materialized at the foot of the bed, pulling a light blanket over them both. "This hurts us too, guys," he told them as he disappeared.


Philip caught site of the messenger as he rounded a corner in the grocery store, giving him a solemn nod. He knew what he had to do, all he needed now was to get Nick back to their motel room. "I'm tired," he said, catching up with his lover and their cart. "Let's go take a nap."

Nick smiled at him. "Gee, I didn't think I was that mean to you. You got to sleep last night."

Philip pinched his cheek. "Yeah, I did, but ya didn't and I'm still tired. Three days of you is exhausting." He looked at the cart. "We have enough."

"Sure, let's go back to the room," Nick said, guiding the cart toward the check-out. He saw the wistful look Philip was giving one of the frozen pies. "We can get one," he offered.

"Nah, just a thing I'll miss sometime soon," he said, following his lover out of the store. As they walked in the door, Philip took the bags, putting them on the table, and pulled out the security things that Nick had brought with him for whatever reason. They'd go to a different purpose now. He kissed his lover, thrilling in this last taste of him as he pushed him back to the bed. He wrapped the handcuffs around one of the wooden bedknobs, then around Nick's wrist. "I'm sorry," he whispered, "but I have ta go." Nick struggled to hold him down, but he stood up, kissing his fingers to drag them across his lover's lips. "I'll miss ya most of all, Nick, and I'll be watchin'." He grabbed his jacket and walked out, leaving him alone.

"NO! Philip!" Nick said, struggling to get free.