Getting On With Life:
Derek stepped back up to the bed, charging the paddles before bending down to shock her. Her body jerked, but Nick shook his head. He did it again, giving Nick a worried look as he shocked her a second time.
Xander took the paddles and turned up the amount of electricity that was getting to her. He ruthlessly shocked her, holding the paddles down a few extra seconds just in case. Nick checked again, but there was some hesitation. He shook his head and Xander did it again, starting to swear under his breath now.
Oz stopped Xander from doing it a third time. "Let her go," he said quietly. "This isn't fair to her."
"Screw fair." He tossed the paddles aside, bending down to do it the way he had last time, CPR.
Oz tried to pull Xander away but Derek stopped him. "Let him try," the Precept instructed. "He'll feel better about it."
Oz watched in frustration as Xander worked on her, trying to get her to come back to life. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore. He grabbed Xander just as he grabbed the paddles off the cart. He heard the whine and looked at the dial, blanching when he saw how high it was turned up. "Xan, you'll fry her," he protested, trying to stop him, but his mate did it anyway.
Her body jumped off the bed and she took a breath.
Xander tossed the paddles away again, grabbing her to hug. "I promised," he told her.
Giles touched Flame's arm as she jerked. "It's happened," she said, looking at him. "I can feel it."
"As did every girl before you," he assured her. He gave her a hug and turned her over to Adam, their butler and the children's teacher. He knew that a deep bond existed between the two; Adam had saved Flame from the streets and she loved him like a father.
Adam nodded at Giles as he hugged her. "Don't worry, little one, we'll guide you and you'll not have to go through the same thing."
Giles left them alone, he needed to check on his own Slayer.
Oz pulled Xander off Buffy, wrapping him in his arms. "You did good," he told him, rocking his lover gently. "You kept your promise and she'll be fine. I promise."
Xander nodded, hiding his face in Oz's shoulder. "Can I have a long hug?"
"Yeah, you can have whatever sort of hug you want. I was wrong to say anything to you about not wanting to cuddle when I'm sick. I know now that I was wrong. I need them all the time."
Xander lifted his head. "Really?"
"Yeah, I was wrong. Just don't spread it around." He kissed his lover's nose, smiling at him. "Better?"
"As soon as you're all healed," Xander said. He picked Oz up, carrying him over to the chair next to the door. He settled his mate into the chair and propped his injured leg up. "How much longer?"
"I'm not sure. The werewolf healing isn't working this time." He shrugged. "We'll deal, no matter what."
"You can have Buffy do your therapy if you want," Nick called over to them. He brushed the blonde hair off Buffy's forehead, smiling down at her as she woke up. "Hey, you're back."
She started to cry, wrapping herself around him.
Xander got up, going over to take over the duty.
Xander led Buffy into his room, letting her climb into the bed and snuggle in. He turned to find Oz right behind him, giving him a faint smile. "Can we?"
"She needs us, we're here," Oz said, stripping down to his boxers and climbing in on one side of her. He watched as Xander did the same, reaching across her still body to clasp his mate's hand after he had climbed in too. "Sleep, Buffy, we're here to drive away the nightmares."
She sniffled and pulled Xander closer, pushing them both into Oz's firm body. "Thanks, guys."
"Shh, it's what we do. And besides, you can pay us back by doing Oz's therapy."
"I didn't pass my boards yet."
"Yes you did," Xander whispered in her ear. "You landed in the ninety-fifth percentile." She let out a quiet squeal. "We were saving the news for a good time, like your dinner tonight."
"Thanks, Xander. You picked a great time." She kissed his cheek, turning her head to place a kiss on Oz's forehead. "You guys are great friends. You deserve an award."
"You're here, that's all the award we need," Oz told her. He hummed in her ear, using a trick that had worked many times on their children and Xander. Soon, she was snoring peacefully between them.
Xander stared at Oz, giving him a slight shrug. "As long as she needs it?"
"Sure, she can stay."
Derek smiled at his son as he walked into the kitchen. "How is she?"
"Not coming down anytime in the near future. She's still pretty badly hurting." Xander slid into his seat. "Why isn't Oz healing? His werewolf side isn't helping him heal at all."
"I don't know. It could be that the spell is blocking it. It could be that his injury is more severe than the healing part of his legacy can handle. I can do some discrete checking if you'd like."
"Please. My ribs have healed fine and all my bruises are gone. I want to know why his haven't."
"Actually," Oz said as he walked in, minus his crutches and barely limping. "It seems to be better today." He sat down at the table. "My healing has always been like that, very sudden and on it's own schedule." He patted Xander's hand. "We are taking the next week off, after I get these pins out. I need time alone with him."
"Spring break is in another week," Derek reminded them. "I'm sure you can't afford to take an extra week off all your classes."
"My paper's done and handed in. My other classes are mostly canceled this week. I have one class meeting on Tuesday but otherwise I'm free 'til the end of spring break."
Oz shrugged. "I have no idea but I'm still on medical leave so I'm good. And most of my teachers have suggested that I take some time with Xander once they heard he was quitting the program." He touched the top of Xander's hand, smiling when it was taken hold of. "We want to go somewhere alone, quiet, but with things to do."
"You do have funds, boys, Derek doesn't need to gift you with another honeymoon," Nick said as he walked into the kitchen. "You going to take Buffy with you?"
"Nope, we're leaving her in your care," Xander said firmly. "You are to do whatever she needs to feel safe again. It's something we can't do for her, so it's up to you." Nick nodded, heading for the refrigerator. "Now then, did we want to go visit a city and stay in a nice hotel? Did we want to go to the country and lie around? You have to tell me these things, Oz."
"I'd like to go city hopping actually," Oz suggested. "Make Miami our last stop?"
"Hey, sounds good to me. Any particular cities or just working our way east?"
"Either sounds good. We'll figure that out tonight." He looked over at Derek, who nodded. "Good. We'll plan. We'll give you our itinerary." Oz looked down at his thigh. "I'm calling my orthopedist today and having the pins taken out. I'm guessing, since Marcus called him, that he's discrete enough not to ask too many questions."
"He's very discrete and he's taken care of some of Nick's more prominent injuries in the past," Derek assured him.
"He's nosy though," Nick put in from his place in front of the stove. He put down the bowl he was mixing eggs in and looked at them. "We could make you visit a few of the houses on the way. We do have things that need to go to Boston and Seattle."
"True," Derek said. He saw the head shakes. "I believe the boys want to be far away from the houses though. We'll send them the normal way." He smiled at Nick. "Unless you want to go visit either of those houses."
"No thanks. Jane still hates me and I feel the same about the rest of the Boston House under her rule." He went back to whipping his eggs. "Since I'm making myself breakfast, can I get anyone else anything?"
"No thanks," Xander said.
Oz shook his head. "Not a big breakfast person."
"Please," Derek said, holding out his coffee cup. Nick walked over to refill it for him. "Thank you. Did you have any plans to take some time off soon, Nick?"
"Not right now. Maybe this summer, do some scuba diving again or something." He looked at the boys, wiggling the pot. "Want some?"
"I do milk in the mornings," Xander reminded him.
"Please," Oz said, giving him an adoring look. "And the bowl of sugar too?"
"Alex made it."
"Never mind," Oz sighed. "She ruins good coffee."
"Way too weak," Nick agreed.
"It's a subtle flavor," Derek countered.
"It has none," Oz argued.
"Enough," Xander said quietly. "I want to do a theme park."
"Disney or otherwise?"
"Doesn't matter. But I would like to try horseback riding too." Xander looked at his mate. "Can we do that? Horses won't shy from us because of our furry side?"
"Not as far as we know," Derek assured them. "If you need help making plans, tell me and I'll see what I can't scrounge up." He stood up and walked out, leaving the three youngest men of the house alone.
Nick looked over at them. "What about Six Flags? Lots of coasters."
Xander nodded. "Was thinking about that, but if we're on the east coast, there's always a few over there. Busch Gardens, King's Dominion, Dollywood."
"Fine, Oz. But I want a fun place."
"We can do the Busch Gardens in Virginia, or the one in Florida. Or Orlando, there's about six parks there now."
"Universal Studios," Nick said.
"And Disney, and Sea World is near there. Disney now has three parks or so attached to it. I think Universal is still growing."
"Hmm, we'll figure that out tonight," Xander said, giving Oz's hand a squeeze. "You'd spend that sort of money on me?"
"Sure. After all, you've spent plenty on me." Oz reached over and grabbed the cordless phone off the middle of the table, dialing from memory. "Hi, this is Daniel Osbourne. I need to have my pins taken out? Yes, I know I have an appointment in three days, but I'm going to be doing some traveling sooner than I expected." He smiled and hung up. "There's a cancellation tomorrow at three. Can you wait that long?"
"Sure," Xander said, sounding very pleased. "As long as we can go by ourselves."
"How are you getting there?" Nick asked.
Oz mock-glared at him. "We're taking your car, Nick." The older man snorted.
"We're going to fly," Xander said, stopping the argument. "We'll deal with the car issue when we get back. By then, the insurance company should have figured out what happened."
"He was going the wrong way on a one way street," Nick told them. "They shouldn't have to figure it out."
"It's an insurance company, Nick, of course they will. Their concern is their wallets, not our car. That's why we pay outrageous fees for having another wreck that wasn't our fault."
"Sorry, bro," Nick said, paying attention to his breakfast.
"Cynical much?" Oz asked quietly.
"Well, we do," Xander protested.
"Maybe, but that sounded way world-weary."
"Just bureaucracy weary," Xander corrected. "I'm tired of people telling me what to do and how much I should pay them for the privilege of using their services."
"Bartering for car insurance won't work too well," Oz told his mate gently. "Let me handle the insurance idiots, okay?" Xander nodded, relaxing again. "Good. Oh, and in that whole middle of the east coast triangle of parks, you forgot Kennywood. It's a coaster place too."
"They make the top five list of coasters almost every year," Nick informed them, bringing his breakfast over to the table and taking Derek's chair.
"I'd rather do a fun one with a lot of rides."
"Busch Gardens it is," Oz decided.
"Williamsburg?" Nick suggested.
"No," the couple said together.
"Virginia Beach is nearby," Xander told Oz. "We could play in the ocean."
"Won't be that warm," Oz complained. "We'll do that in Florida, okay?"
"Okay." Xander leaned closer but sat up before his head could touch Oz's shoulder. It was gently pushed down to the hard surface, making Xander smile.
"I like cuddles, remember?"
"If you're sure."
"I'm sure." Oz wrapped an arm around Xander's back, giving him a gentle squeeze. "Come on, let's go upstairs. I want to lay down and cuddle you."
"Full body cuddles?" Xander said in awe, pulling his head up to look at Oz. "Really?"
"Really. I think I'm ready for those now." Oz stood up, pulling Xander with him. "We're going to go back to bed. Buffy's locked herself in her room but she knows that we're taking some time off." He led Xander upstairs, closing and locking the door behind them. "Now then, are you sure you want to do Florida? Spring break can be difficult to get through."
"I'm not caring about the kids escaping the snow, Oz, I just want to spend some time with you."
"Cool. If we have to, we'll stay in the more expensive part of town, there shouldn't be too many drunks over there."
"Okay." Xander lay down on the bed, patting the empty space beside him. "You promised," he said at the hesitation.
"I'm coming, I'm wondering why cuddling has gotten to be so important to you suddenly." He slid in next to his mate, pulling him in closer. "Yeah, I love to cuddle you, but why are you sad?"
"I'll tell you some other time, Oz. When everything's back to normal." Xander closed his eyes and allowed himself to sink into the willing, warm body holding him. "Night."
"Night, babe," Oz said quietly.
Oz walked into the house, smiling at his mate as he jogged past him. "Too much waiting with soda," he explained to Derek, who came out to meet them. "All gone."
"I'm happy for you," Derek said, pulling him in for a hug. "No need for a cane?"
"Only if I get tired. The healing factor is great that way." Oz pulled back. "We're planning our trip now."
"I want to go to Canada and Virginia Beach," Xander said as he walked down the stairs.
"I thought you wanted to hit Florida too," Oz said.
"Okay, but I want to hit Montreal and I want to do a Busch Gardens." He sat on the bottom stair, looking at the two older men. "Please?"
"Sure. We can do a few days in Montreal and then hit Florida if you want." Oz looked at Derek. "Don't try and send us to the house there."
"I had no intention of it." Derek smiled at his son. "Why Montreal?"
"Because Oz said it was pretty."
"Oh." Derek nodded. "That's reasonable. Though it's prettier in the winter, especially around Christmas if I remember correctly."
Oz nodded. "But it's still a very nice city. Clean, safe, someplace I'd feel comfy letting Xander run free in." He winked at his lover. "You know we're going to have to bring jackets, right?"
"Just for a few days; it won't matter, Oz. I promise."
"Hey, it's all good then. We'll sit down and make reservations tonight."
"I called my teacher this week, the one for the only class I have, and he said he'd let me off easy for you taking me somewhere. Seems he's in on the plan to get me to come back to the program."
"You've done all the program but a capstone and one elective," Oz reminded him. "After this semester anyway."
"Yeah, but this way I get *out*."
"True. I'm not going to say anything about your decision. It's your issuage." Oz sat down beside his husband, nudging him gently. "You'll do whatever you feel is best for you and we're not going to argue."
"Thanks," Xander said quietly, leaning into Oz's side. "So Montreal is okay?"
"Sure. I'll show you all the places I found. Including a big mall so we can pick up stuff for the kids."
"Okay." Xander let more of his weight rest on Oz, truly relaxing into his mate's body for the first time in a long time.
"I think someone could use a nap," Derek said gently, smiling at the couple. "Why don't you go do that?" He walked away, letting Oz handle it.
"Gee, I think your father has decided I'm the alpha again," Oz said, standing up and holding out a hand. "Nap?"
"Sure." Xander let himself be pulled up and followed his mate up to their room. "Gee, won't he be surprised when he finds out you're not."
"Maybe," Oz agreed.
Derek tapped on the boys' door, letting himself in so he could pull a chair closer to the bed. "I have some very bad news," he said quietly. Oz sat up farther, nodding at him to go on. "Kristen delivered last night, during the full moon." Oz blanched. "She wasn't at home so her house had arranged for someone to cage-sit, but when she started to have problems, they took her to the vet."
"Oh, no," Xander said. "The baby?"
"Is fine, though it's a changer. The vet kept her for observation last night because she continued to bleed. We think he may be getting ready to raise a cry about it, she didn't get a chance to escape this morning before he found her out."
"I would've thought that vets would know about these things," Xander said sullenly. "I mean, who do we go to when we get hit by cars or when we get away from the hunters? It seems like there would be rumors of us spread around the veterinarian community."
"You'd think," Oz agreed. "I guess this one hadn't heard anything though." He looked at his father-in-law again. "We in trouble?"
"No, not yet. Kristen's managed to calm him down and talk to him, calling Montreal and having them talk to him too. He may not raise a cry but we still have to be concerned about it."
"And Kristen?" Xander asked.
"The spell was performed and we'll have to wait until tonight to find out if it worked or not. We know that the child changed back immediately, but not if she did." He stood up, seeing the boys looking at each other again. "What? Did you have something you wanted to do about this?"
"Yeah, but it won't help right now," Oz said quietly. He looked up at Derek. "When we leave here, we're building a refuge."
"You're leaving?" he asked, mouth hanging open.
"Derek, if we're going to be living a really long time, is the Legacy the place to do it?" Xander asked.
Derek sat back down but he shook his head. "No, it's not. Do you have a plan in mind already?"
"Just that it'll happen some time and when it does, we want to remove ourselves to a nice piece of land and put up a safe shelter for others like us."
"Someplace where we can stomp hunters if they come near it," Xander added. He glanced at Oz, who nodded. "We were thinking about starting with the piece of land that you gave us as part of our wedding present."
"It is remote," Derek agreed, calming down to think about this. He finally nodded. "I think it's an excellent idea, boys. I'll support you in it if need be." He stood up again. "Finish your rest." He left them alone.
"Gee, maybe we should have mentioned that we wanted him to retire to there," Oz said quietly.
"He would make a good guardian," Xander agreed, sinking back into Oz's body. "Let's hope we don't need it too soon. I doubt Kristen could live that far away from civilization."
"She'll do it for her kid and like it," Oz reminded him. "Same as we would have."
"Yeah, we would have," Xander agreed with a small smile. He wrapped an arm around Oz's waist. "I want to finish my nap."
"Okay." Oz stayed still until his husband was asleep, then slid out of bed and grabbed his personal journal. He sat down at the table to work out what was going on in his mind and between them.
Derek looked up at the hesitant knock on his door, smiling at Buffy as she walked in. "Come in and sit," he said calmly, waving at a chair. He waited until she had sat before getting up to come sit next to her, giving her a bright smile. "It's goot to see you downstairs again."
"It's a short trip. I needed more munchies." She gave him a faint smile. "Thank you for letting me do this on my own, Derek, it means a lot to me."
"Of course. None of us would ever think about rushing you." He patted the back of her head. "Whatever you need, we're here for you." She nodded. "Was there something that you needed," he prompted when she didn't say anything.
"I'm not sure. I feel really strange and stuff." She shrugged. "I guess I'll deal with whatever's going on in my head." She stood up. "I'm going to go back to my hiding." She walked out, almost seeming to hurry.
He sighed and went back to his paperwork, willing to humor her behavior for a little while longer.
Xander looked at the itinerary, still grinning. "So *cool*," he said, hugging his mate as hard as he could. "Thank you for humoring me this time."
"Hey, we need a real vacation." Oz shifted so he could look at his husband. "If this makes you happier, then I'll gladly go sit on the teacup ride with you." Xander beamed at him. "Whatever you want to make you happier, babe. Always."
"So cool," Xander repeated, still smiling.
"And so are you," Oz reminded him, reaching over to touch him. "I'm sorry I wasn't paying attention to what you needed, Xan. I should have realized that you needed me more then."
"Yeah, but it wasn't just the accident," Xander sighed, putting the paper down. "It was a lot of things building up and you weren't there for me to work it out on." He looked down at the hand on his arm. "I'm sorry I was so rough for you to deal with, you didn't need that while you were down."
"I need you *all* the time, Xander," Oz reminded him. "Even when I'm sick and fussy." That got a small smile. "Would you like to tell me what got you so upset?"
"It'll make you feel better." Oz shifted closer, pulling Xander's head over to rest on his shoulder. "I'd like to know, whenever you're ready to tell me."
"I'm going to be heading the Archival Houses," Xander whispered. "And I can't graduate with a psych degree, I don't remember anything from any of the classes."
"Oh." Oz pulled back to look at him. "They're not trying to separate us, are they?" Xander shook his head. "Good. Always a nice thing, not having to kill a lot of people. So, you're going to be doing that while I'm going to be running this house?" Xander nodded. "Wow, major news. Said who?"
"William, who just got appointed to the head of Archival Houses."
"Okay. And don't worry about the psych stuff, I don't remember a lot of it either. Besides, most therapy is letting people talk it out and figuring out a unique way to deal with their problems." He smoothed the dark hair back down, smiling at his mate. "Xander, these are all baseless worries. I'll help you run the Archival Houses, you know that. You do know that, right?" Xander nodded, giving him a faint smile. "Then why the worry?"
"I don't want to be responsible for someone else's life."
"Oh." Oz sat up straight, considering it. "Well, leading that branch won't be mostly. It's a lot of research, which you do really well. No going out and fighting like this house used to do."
"You haven't heard some of the stories Philip used to tell...." A hand was placed over his mouth.
"Don't worry about it." Oz replaced his hand with his lips, making Xander relax. "There, much better." He looked into his mate's eyes. "Should I consider anti-anxiety drugs for you?"
Xander slumped. "I don't want to think so, but I admit I worry, a lot."
"How about we talk to Marcus about getting you an as-needed 'scrip?" Xander shrugged. "Totally your decision, babe, but I'd like to see you not worry again sometime in the near future. This can't be healthy for you."
"I know. I made an appointment for the morning before we leave," Xander admitted. "I was going to take care of it and not tell you."
"Uh-huh. No more doing that." He pinched Xander's thigh. "I want to know these things." He leaned in for another kiss, just a quick brush of his lips. "There, better?"
"Yeah, a little," Xander said, giving him a grin. "Thanks."
"You're welcome." Oz grinned back. "Inertia has always been your friend in your personal life and I make a great motivator." Xander hugged him, clinging tightly. "Anytime," he whispered. "Any problem, I'm here for you. No matter how small."
"Then would you please pop the pimple in the middle of my back?"
"Sure." Oz pulled out Xander's shirt collar to look down at it. "Eww." He let Xander go and got up to get a tissue, coming back and standing behind him. He squeezed the foul looking thing, wincing as blood came out with the greenish puss. "There, just blood now," he said, pushing his thumb over the sore. "Stop itching?"
"Yup. Thank you." Xander leaned his head back. "That bad?"
"Looks like the stuff that came out of my last ring cyst."
"Very." Oz tossed the tissue away and removed his thumb, looking down at the area around it. "Actually, this looks a lot like my last cyst, only smaller." He walked into the bathroom, coming back with a dental pick. "Hold still, this won't hurt. The Hobart removal service is good at this."
"Yeah, my mother named mine." Oz used the pick to pull out the little cyst, putting it on a clean tissue. He carefully folded it up and put it aside. "We'll give that to Marcus at your appointment, just to make sure it's nothing serious." He kissed the top of Xander's head. "You okay?"
"Yeah, that didn't even hurt. I was expecting you to dig a little more."
"Nope, got it all on the first try." Oz wrapped his arms around Xander's neck, hugging him from behind. "I've decided that you need a keeper."
"I have one," Xander said, tipping his head to the side in a silent invitation. "You do a wonderful job of it."
"Yeah, I do, don't I?" Oz quipped, kissing him on the cheek. "As long as you let me do it, then we're fine."
"Okay, I'll tell you about all these little things."
"Xander, you complain when you have a cold. You refuse to complain about serious things like needing medication."
"I'm odd like that," Xander agreed.
"Yes, but I'd like to cure you of that oddness." He moved around until he was sitting in his husband's lap. "I want you to complain when you're really sick, Xander, not when you have the sniffles."
"But I was taught..." Xander shook his head. "I'll try."
"Good. Who taught you that? Willow?" Xander shrugged, but he looked away. "Not just Willow or just Willow?"
"Not just Willow," Xander admitted. "Colds are easy to cure so they made my mother feel like she was doing something good for me. Big things, like medication and things, weren't something she could do anything about so they were ignored or I took care of them if they got that bad." He shrugged. "No big."
"Very big big," Oz countered. "Just because she couldn't do anything about them doesn't mean that she shouldn't have at least tried."
"That led to failure and her feeling bad."
"And her putting it on you?" Oz asked quietly. He didn't get an answer so he hugged Xander tighter. "I'm not going to do that. I want to be there and try for everything, sniffles and serious stuff together. Never hide stuff from me, babe. Please."
"I won't," Xander promised. He looked up and saw the absolute love shining from his mate's eyes. "Want to go with me to the eye doctors when we get back?"
"Yup. But only if I get to help you pick out glasses." Xander shook his head. "You'd look cute in them."
"Nope. I like contacts. I want to stay with contacts." He poked Oz in the side. "You get to have yours checked too."
"Oh, that appointment. Sure. I'll have mine checked and the kids'll come for their first ones too." Oz wiggled as the teasing fingers came back, hopping off the welcoming lap. "No time for tickling. We've got to give our itinerary to Derek and plan for the Buffy times while we're gone."
"I think Alex and Nick'll have those," Xander said, smiling and holding out his arms. "Can't I have more cuddles?"
"In a few minutes. We'll go cuddle downstairs, in dad's office." He tugged Xander up, grabbing the paper and bringing them both out of the bedroom. They met Derek coming out of his room, and the paper was handed over to him.
"Got a cheap deal because no one goes there on Spring Break."
"And we get in an hour earlier at all the Disney parks," Xander added.
"Which is a goot thing, you get to miss the long lines." Derek smiled at them. "The children have asked me to take them to their eye appointments. It seems Jon has told them they'd be getting a goot treat afterwards."
"That's after we get back," Oz told him, "and we're both going with them. Xander's going to do the whole 'see this isn't so bad' thing with the kids."
Derek looked at his son and nodded. "We can all go then." He smiled and walked away, leaving them there. "Are you coming down to dinner, boys?"
"Yeah," Oz called, looking at Xander. "We can cuddle later?"
"Sure. Or at the table. I still like eating while cuddled with you." Xander led the way down to the table, pulling his chair closer to Oz's so he could lean into his lover's side. "Better," he announced when he noticed everyone was staring at them.
"Good," Nick said, handing over a bowl of potatoes. "It's about time."
"So, where are you guys escaping to?" Alex asked, handing Oz the meat plate.
"Montreal and then Florida," Oz said, switching things with Xander. He dished food out onto both of their plates, ignoring the meat that hit his. "We're going to do theme parks for the last week or so." He handed both things off to Derek, who was smiling. "What?"
"Nothing, just noticing how close you two are again."
Oz nodded. "And we'd better stay this way too."
Xander picked up a fork and held it up, automatically eating off the one Oz held for him. "I'm being spoiled because I've been having mental buggers again."
Nick looked away from them, giving Derek a begging look.
"Boys, maybe you should try feeding yourselves," Giles suggested gently.
Xander glared at him. "Maybe we shouldn't." He fed Oz another bite, glaring at the older man. "We work best like this. Get over it."
"Xander, calm down. He's not trying to take Oz away from you or insert any distance, but your feeding him makes some people uncomfortable," Derek explained. "It's hard to see your level of bonding when you're not in love yourself. It can be quite painful." He smiled encouragingly at them. "We don't mind if you cuddle at the table, but please reserve the feeding of each other for more private times."
"Or breakfast, when we're not all in there," Nick added hopefully.
Oz looked down at Xander, sharing a long look, then they fed themselves.
"We'll start eating upstairs more," Xander decided. "I don't get indigestion as often when Oz and I eat like that." He started eating faster, but a hand on his thigh slowed him down. He used his free hand to squeeze it, gaining comfort from the simple action.
Derek watched them, giving Nick a good glare after a few seconds. Giles glared back at him and Derek shook his head. "Sons," he said finally. "Which amusement parks are you planning on visiting?"
"The main Disney one and Universal Studios mostly," Oz told them all. "We might do the Disney Animal Kingdom one or we might do Nickelodeon for a day, just to get the kids something, but otherwise, we're going to do couplish things."
"Then you're still reconnecting from your absence?" Alex asked. "I thought you guys had worked that out already."
"Partially, but mostly it's been from where we were sick and I got too grumpy for Xander."
Xander wiped off his mouth with his free hand. "We did reconnect after he got back but things have been so hectic and stressful that we've been doing a little drifting, so we need the time alone."
"You gonna tell the kids tonight or tomorrow?" Nick asked as he dished himself out some more meat.
"Tomorrow. Then we'll ask what they want us to bring them back," Oz told them. "We expect Xandra's list to fill most of a bag."
Derek smiled. "I'm sure they want to come with you."
"They get to go to Disney this summer, for a long weekend," Xander said. "Jon's already planned it. Buffy even agreed to go with us as the extra parent-type person."
"I'm sure it will be goot for them," Derek said, kicking Nick's leg under the table when he opened his mouth to comment on Xander's leaning into Oz. "Are you going to do Busch Gardens also? I know you said that you wanted to, Xander."
"We may. We'll have a free day to do whatever we want," Xander said quietly. He glared at his brother. "Spit it out now. I can smell where Derek just opened up your leg."
"Sorry, I was going to say that you guys don't seem to need reconnection."
"We only get this cuddly when something's wrong," Oz said quietly. "And now that we know what it is, we can fix it while we're gone so that no one complains about things like the noise." Nick blushed. "Oh, and Derek, have you heard William's newest plan on our future?"
"Yes, Oz, I had heard, and I thought it might be a goot idea. Xander has the background in research that he would need. He's learning some languages now, and he'll have more magical training by then so we'll not have to worry about those books that have ... things stored in them. Actually, I think he's the best candidate yet, outside of Philip of course."
"Won't they hold his degree status against him?" Oz asked.
"Not really. It's important that he has one, not a particular type. Though, most of the former holders of that position have had degrees in subjects such as History or Business." He smiled gently at them. "It isn't that stressful of a job, it's routinely given to former London Precepts after they've retired and become bored. It's something he'll be able to do without much effort and without much strain. Plus, since you two will be together, there shouldn't be a problem with the Archival House getting out of synch with the rest of the houses."
"Has that happened?" Giles asked. "I thought they were a separate entity."
"They are, that's why they have their own lead Precept, but they are still a part of the Legacy. They are known to be more liberal than we are, and they're known for making up rules as each house goes along, but the board has decided that, in the future, the two branches of the Legacy are going to have to be more joined. Trying to get research done from their houses right now can be rather difficult. The Vatican City house has been known to fall into it's research and not come out until after it's no longer necessary."
"And Xander will fix that?" Giles glanced over at Xander, trying to figure out how his student was going to fix anything when he couldn't keep his reports in order.
"Technically, this house is listed as an Archival House," Xander told him, "but William has decided that I'm to follow him in that job. He was handed it the other day and he had the board break the good news to me after we were both home." He looked over at Oz. "They said it would be the best of all possible situations because I had Oz, who is supposed to take over for Derek sometime in the far distant future."
"I think there may be a Precept between you and him, right Derek?" Alex said.
"Alex, Nick, you are both up for leadership in the next house that opens up. Whether that is a house that has to be reopened or not, no one's sure yet. You were actually up for the position in Moscow, Alex, but they needed someone who knew about the cultural climate over there."
"So who's going to get this house when you retire?" Nick asked. "If we may be gone by then. Oz won't have had enough time in to become a Precept."
"William's decided that I'll be one someday," Oz told him. "That was before we were made lead house, but he's told me that since too."
"Me also," Derek said. "With all luck, Nick, the issue won't come up for a very long time. And if it does, well, most of the other Precepts seem to think Xander's taking over. They know you're not willing to shoulder that level of stress daily. Or Alex for that matter. That's why you were nominated for a more minor house first, to see if you could deal with a house of your own."
Xander coughed. "Dad, no offense, but I don't want your job either. Taking over for three weeks or so was enough to last me forever."
Nick groaned. "They must have been expecting one of us to do it when you were down about Philip's crossing over."
"No, they expected that," Xander told him. "They all know you and he are close friends. No one even asked why I was taking over, which was kinda scary there for a few days. Everyone expected me to just do it." He shrugged at Derek's smile. "I don't want the job though. Oz is welcome to it."
"What about me?" Giles asked. "Has anyone said anything about that?"
"Since this is technically an Archival House," Xander said, "you're the top researcher here. Alex is a field operative, but you and Philip were listed as researchers. William sent me a list of who everyone was and where they were, he wanted me to get to know some of them now so I'd have an easier time in twenty years, his words not mine."
"Which is an excellent idea," Derek said, nodding. "Twenty years should about give you enough time to pull a few of the houses out of their stacks."
"So, if this were another house, like the Vatican City house, I would be up for whatever they call a Precept?"
"In a few years, you could be nominated as a candidate," Derek agreed. "Unfortunately, this house has ever been difficult to quantify that way. We do the majority of the language research, because of Philip, but we also used to do the most physical casework."
"Until we were made lead house," Nick added on. "That seemed to drive all the paranormal activity elsewhere."
"When we first got here, you said our Hellmouth was closed," Oz reminded them all. "If you're right and this is the valley to the Hellmouth's high point, then you're not getting very much run off any more. There wouldn't be as much casework anyway, no matter what magic comes with being the lead house."
"Very goot point," Derek said. "It had started to slow down right before you came and that would be a reasonable explanation." He looked at Nick, who nodded. "Then it may be that making us the lead house was the most sensible move. With no paranormal activity, or at least very little, we could concentrate on the rest of the Legacy's needs. We wouldn't be bothered by a caseload."
"Which would help everyone else," Xander put in.
"And London now has a high vamp population," Alex added. "They've been having cases recently, more like what we were like when Nick joined."
"Yes, I've read their reports," Derek said. "I think, and I can make this official later, as long as none of us have a case to work on, we can become case managers for the other houses. You can each look over the shoulder of a separate house and help them when they need it."
"I could stick with the research angle," Giles offered. "I know what's in most of the books in the library and I can find any subject rather quickly."
"That would be excellent," Xander said. "You sticking as research guy would be a great help." He looked at Oz, who shrugged. "We want one together. We see things from different angles, but tend to come up with the same answer."
"That can be arranged, but I would feel the need to give you two then, just to make it fair for everyone."
"Cool," Oz said, "but we'll also need to learn something about the cultures of the houses we'll be dealing with. We don't want to make too many mistakes on that level and piss them off."
"That would be fine, Oz," Derek said. He tapped the table. "I'll put that up before the other Precepts tonight. We'll assign you both your load when you get back from your vacation."
"Will this make vacations more difficult?" Alex asked.
"As long as we didn't need research, we could work on a beach somewhere," Nick pointed out. "And we could call back here for information if we needed to."
"I could take over for any houses that were left untended by vacations," Derek said. "There are seven of us and nine houses, so we'll have to figure out the other two somehow."
"Depending on the house and what it's doing, combining two shouldn't be difficult," Giles said. "I know London's got a great deal of vampire related problems at the moment, but Moscow has mostly plant and animal demon problems. I could do both of those easily and still research for whomever needed it."
Derek smiled at him. "Thank you, Rupert, that was very nice of you to offer. Anyone else want Moscow?" No one said anything. "It's Rupert's then. Alex, do you have a preference?"
"I wouldn't mind Paris. I know a few of the people over there."
Oz raised his hand. "Considering what we know will happen to Xander eventually, we could take all those temporary houses and help them. It's not a case load, it's an investigation so it wouldn't be too much work for us."
"That's a thought," Derek agreed. "I had forgotten about them."
"It's not a big problem, Dad," Xander said. "They wouldn't need us except for things like looking up or looking at an artifact, something we've both done in Florida."
"True. Do you have a preference otherwise?"
"Montreal," Oz said. "And pick another that's not New Delhi. I can't get along with their Precept."
"We could do Cairo," Xander offered. "Or we could do Rome's. It's not real active, but it's a pivotal house."
"It's the Vatican City house," Derek told them. "It's doing double duty right now." He thought for a second. "Cairo's Precept won't want to have any outside help, but how about Boston? Or Kyoto?"
"I could stand Kyoto," Oz said. "I've been playing chess with one of them online."
"All right, then you'll have Kyoto and Montreal. Nick?"
"Sure." Nick grimaced. "But can I yell at the Precept when he does something stupid again?"
"That may not be a problem," Alex told him. "They've been at the point of mutiny recently." Derek groaned. "I thought you got that message."
"I have, I had hoped that sending William over there for a week would have cured that problem."
"Not really. I got another one today asking for the whole house to be reassigned."
"Why are you getting them?" Giles asked.
"Because they know she does a goot majority of my paperwork," Derek said with a faint smile. "Everyone sends requests like this to her and she organizes them for me."
"All right. Which houses are left then?"
"Boston, and the new house in Brazil." Derek said.
"I want Brazil," Nick said. "Maybe I'll get a vacation out of it."
"They've been dealing with native magic recently," Giles said. "A very challenging case."
"I've heard but I'm not sure what's really going on. I was going to call them tonight anyway since they missed their last check in." He looked at Nick. "It would be a working vacation if you did get one. Do you still want Brazil?"
Nick nodded. "Better than Boston. Jane hates me."
"I'll take Boston," Buffy said from the doorway. "They don't do much, right?"
"No, they don't do very much," Derek said, waving her inside. "Actually, what they usually do is very theatrical in nature. Wizards with ideas of grandeur and the like."
"I can handle theatrics. I've done it for years. Every vamp must have some theater experience with the way they plan things." She looked across the table. "When are you guys leaving?"
"Okay." She took a roll and broke it apart, nibbling on it. "Can I be excused?"
"Of course," Derek said, standing up to catch her and give her a hug. "We'll officially give you Boston once you're ready," he whispered. "Don't rush it." She nodded and got free, leaving the room. He sat back down, looking around the table. "Are there any other ideas?"
"What about the Archival Houses?" Giles asked. "How will we do those?"
"They don't usually handle cases, and most of the recent ones have been 'something's trapped in this book and I let it out'," Alex said. She looked at Xander, who was a little pale. "We'll figure that part out when and if they call on us for help."
Derek nodded. "I haven't even gotten a letter from one of them since I took over. They very rarely need anything from this side of the organization."
Oz cleared his throat. "We could split those. Magic would be needed and we're learning. We could let Giles deal with the magical ones while we learned the whys from him."
"That's a possible path, but I don't want you two burnt out." Derek shifted. "I'll consider it and ask their opinion. Most probably, we'll only get a call from the closest house, which is in Chicago. The others would be too far away for us to handle."
"Where are the Archival Houses?" Nick asked. "I only know the auxiliary one in London and the one in Geneva."
"We have one in both of those places, Chicago, Rome, Nepal, Kyoto -which is also a split-house-, Mexico City, and Lebanon - though it's been shut down due to the terrorist inclinations of a few members. We have special, or one time use, houses in Florida, Vancouver, the French Rivera - working on a wreckage -, and the basalt tablets which are in Israel. The lead house over all those is in Antwerp."
"Wow," Nick said. "We're expanding again."
"Yup, but we're on a low right now so we're the logical safe place for everything to hub into," Oz said. "Which is why William gave it to us probably."
"Besides wanting to irritate Derek," Xander added on with a grin for his father.
"They were probably equal in his mind," Derek sighed, rolling his eyes. "I'll make this official tonight. Boys, please finish your dinners. You'll need the calories to deal with your children in the morning."
"Very good point," Xander said, shoveling the rest of his food into his mouth. "Done." He looked at Oz, who shook his head. "Okay, I'm going to go find Jon and talk to him about tomorrow." He got up and walked out of the room, leaving Oz to be stared at.
"What? He would have stayed if we could have cuddled. You know that."
Derek nodded, looking down at his own plate. "I know, Oz, I know."
Oz tapped on his bathroom door, entering at the grunt. "Hey, you worried them," he said, wrapping his arms around his mate's stomach, putting his head on Xander's shoulder so he could wait while he relieved himself. "What's up with the blood?"
"It's something that they told me might happen. Occasionally, I get these little clots and they come out this way. It's something to do with my bruised stomach." Xander shook off and did himself back up, stepping over to wash his hands, Oz still plastered against his back side. "They said it was normal."
"This long afterwards?" Xander shrugged. "One of the reasons you were going to see Marcus?"
"Yup." Xander turned in the arms, kissing his lover's forehead. "I love you, Oz, but it's all right. I was checking to make sure what they told me was right."
"It's been three weeks, Xan, you shouldn't still be doing that."
"That's why I was checking." He tweaked Oz's nose. "Can we go cuddle again?"
"Sure. I wish you would tell me the rest of what's bothering you though."
"It's just the house stuff." Xander led Oz to the bed and climbed in first, settling himself to be the pillow this time. "It's stuff like what happened downstairs. I feel like we should have our own place and be able to cuddle all we want during meals."
"We could ask for the guest house," Oz reminded him. "Or we could eat up here most of the time."
"Then Dad'll be hurt and I don't want to do that." Xander stared up at the ceiling. "I want us all to be happy and it's driving me insane."
"There's a solution, we simply have to find it," Oz said gently. "We'll think about it over our break, okay?" Xander nodded. "You sure?"
"Yeah. I can't take the censure anymore for wanting to touch you."
"You know, earlier I had to stop and think about how to feed myself. It's been so long since I've done it, that it's not automatic anymore." Xander looked at him. "Not a bad thing necessarily, just a note of interest."
"But is that a bad thing, are you disturbed by it?" Xander blinked. "Do you want me to stop doing it too?"
"Nope, not at all." Oz gave him another squeeze. "I like it when we feed each other. I was just commenting on how long it's been since I had to do that." He snuck a kiss. "What would you like to have happen to make everyone happy?"
"I want us to be able to cuddle and not make Nick and Giles sick with it." Xander looked back down at himself. "I don't want to give up either side of it."
"Well, you've been talking a lot about the guest house," Oz said quietly. "Did you want to ask your father if we could move down there?"
"But that would hurt his feelings."
"Not really. The kids will be up here still, and it's not like we're in the city. It's a two minute walk." Oz sat up, giving his lover a secretive smile. "I saw plans the other day. There's plans for an addition to the house." Xander started to look happier. "And it's sitting on Derek's desk."
"Really?" Oz nodded. "Think we could go look at it?"
"I think it would be an excellent idea," Derek said from the doorway. "Much better than giving you the guest house." He walked over and sat on the free side of the bed. "Boys, I know it's hard sometimes, balancing what you feel you need and the demands of having others that are supportive but not that happy about it around you. I also knew that we were going to need more bedrooms soon. We don't have enough for all the children to have one of their own so I had plans drawn up to put a small house out behind the gazebo. If that would be all right."
"With a covered walkway to the house," Oz added, looking hopeful.
"Our own house?" Xander asked quietly, looking from one to the other. "And Nick won't complain about our cuddling at dinner?"
"You wouldn't have to eat supper with us anymore, though I would expect that you'd want to unless you hire your own butler. It would give you your own space and fix the need you've been having for your own nest." He pinched Xander's arm. "I wish you had brought this up to me sooner."
"I was just telling Oz I was going to think about it over break," Xander defended. "We were going to come back to you after our vacation." He grinned at his mate. "We can have a house."
"What's the catch?" Oz asked.
"The newest computer equipment would be going in your basement, and your house would have the new trial security system. You would also be getting any new improvements as soon as they came up so we could test their effect on a house."
"So we're going to become your test kitchen?" Xander suggested.
Derek chuckled. "Yes, basically. Would that be all right?"
"Fine," Xander said, nodding. "How long would it take to get it up? When could we go out there?" He looked around. "Can we have a room like this one with this bed?"
Derek stood up. "We'll see about that last part. I'll have formal plans drawn up by the time you're back so you can make some of the decisions."
"Oh, can it look like the outside of the castle?" Xander asked, still bouncing. "With ivy and everything?"
Oz put a hand on Xander's head, holding him down. "We'll see. Ivy takes time to grow."
"Very goot point, Oz, but it should only take a few years." He smiled at them both, still seeing the joy shining from his son's eyes. "Would you like something airy and large or small and intimate?"
"Both," Oz and Xander said.
"I want an entryway like we have, but more round," Oz said.
"I want intimate rooms that are comfy but spacious enough to have things in," Xander said. He looked at Oz. "Remember that castle we saw the other day on tv? How about something like that?"
"We're not giving you something that large," Derek protested, smiling himself now.
"Not needed, but the design was a good one. It had a nice foyer and living room but it had comfy rooms. And it was a normal house that was renovated."
"Did you tape it?" Derek asked.
"Nope, forgot to," Xander said, his happiness falling away.
"Maybe one of the girls got it," Derek said, reaching over to pat the side of his face. "We'll figure something out and have it built for you." He stood up. "Think about your design options over your vacation and we'll make a final decision after you get back."
Xander bounced up and hugged his father. "Thank you." He turned and pounced Oz, bringing him back down to the bed and rolling around with him. "We're gonna have a home all to ourselves and no more frowning brothers."
Derek smiled at Oz and walked out, closing the door behind him. He headed down to his room, stopping at Giles'. "You were right," he said from the doorway. "Xander's so happy he was bouncing again."
Giles smiled. "I'm glad. It really was time for them to have a nest of their own. Did they make any demands?"
"Xander wants it to look like the rest of the castle, but he wants a miniature castle of his own, like the one they saw on tv the other day."
Giles snorted. "Of course they do, you've spoiled them by letting them live in this enormous place. They could never go back to a simple tudor-style."
"We'll give them the majority of input into the new house. They weren't even bothered by the idea of all the new technology going in to be tested."
"They wouldn't be. Oz is very good with computers," Giles reminded him. "He's even managed to make me not so afraid of the dratted machines."
Derek snorted and stood up. "We'll figure it out. Maybe they'll even invite us out for dinners." He walked away, going back to his own room.
Xander sat down in front of the kids, giving them bright smiles. "Guys, your daddy and I have some news for you. Xandra, your attention please?" His daughter put down her book, giving him an 'if I have to' look. "Thank you. Do you guys know what a vacation is?" They all nodded. "Well, daddy and I are going to take one for the next two weeks."
"We go too?" Precious asked.
"No," Jon said from his position on the floor behind Xander. "They're going to go check out where you guys are going this summer, just to make sure that you're going to like it there." Everyone smiled.
"And this summer, we'll be going with you." That got a small cheer. "Now, daddy and I are willing to bring back presents for you guys. Would you guys like that?" A bigger cheer. "Okay then, we need to know what you want."
"Disney?" Xandra asked.
Xander nodded. "Yup, daddy's agreed to take me to Disney and everything. Would you like something from there?"
"Mickey!" Timmy said. "Bring back the mouse!"
"I can bring back a stuffed mouse, but I can't bring back the real one," Xander said, pulling him in for a hug.
"You wouldn't want to deprive all the other kids of Mickey, would you?" Jon asked.
Xander shot him a grin in thanks for the quick save. "That's right. I can bring you back a stuffed Mickey though. Would you like one of those?"
Timmy thought about it then nodded. "One of each please."
"Each what?" Jon asked.
"Donald, and Minnie, and ....and..."
"Pluto," Brandon put in. "And Goofy."
"For each of us," Serena said happily.
Xander groaned. "How about one set and you guys can share until this summer?" The kids all groaned. "Oh, come on, we can't bring back thirty stuffed critters for each of you."
Brandon nodded. "Need a big suitcase but it's possible."
Xander hung his head. "Oz, help?" he called.
Oz walked over to the door. "What's up, guys?"
"We want a set of Disney people," Brandon said.
"Each," Serena added.
He pretended to think about it. "Um, no." Oz smiled at them. "We'll get you a complete set of characters but you're going to have to share them. This summer you can buy more." Everyone groaned. "Deal with it. There's not enough room for them all on the plane."
"Uh-huh. We see big planes," Serena said, pouting at him. "Have lots of rooms."
"For many other people's things," Oz reminded her. "We're not taking the private plane, guys. One set. Anything else?"
"Pretties?" Xandra asked. "And mousie ears?"
"Sure," Xander said, smiling at Oz. "We're vetting the parks for this summer."
"Okay." Oz nodded and handed Junior to Jon. "All changed and happy again." He nodded at the kids and Xander shook his head so he sat down next to his mate. "Guys, we have some other news. How would you guys like to move out of this house into our own house?"
"No! Grandpa!" Precious cried, starting to bawl. "Want Grandpa!"
"Hey, no, not like that. We're going to be living in the garden," Oz said, picking her up to comfort. "We're not moving away. We're moving to the house that's going to be built behind the gazebo."
"This new house will have a bedroom for each of you," Xander told them. "And there's going to be a long porch to the house so you can come over whenever you want." He nodded so the kids did. "Would that work for you guys?"
"Why are you moving?" Brandon asked. "We like it here."
"We do too, but the house doesn't have enough bedrooms for all of you, and your father and I would like to have a space of our own. Your grandfather's agreed to build us one, so we can do what we want to with the house, but it'll still be a little while."
"Can we play here every day?"
Xander looked at Jon, who shrugged. "We have the playroom here. We could stop in every day after class," the nanny said. "It won't be that big of a hardship. What about my room?"
"Is coming with us, but maybe not the furniture. The house may retain what it had when we all moved in. Otherwise, we're going to be making plans once we get back. We'd like you in on that."
"Coolness." Jon looked at the kids. "When you move, you can have your own decorating, guys. Relax about it, you're going to be a short run to Grandpa."
Brandon looked at Xandra, then at Timmy, then at Precious and nodded. Serena continued to pout but she nodded. "We'd like that, but we get to say what colors."
"In your rooms, yeah," Xander agreed. "The rest of the house is up to us. Agreeable?"
Everyone nodded and the group broke up. Xander and Oz pulled Jon into the hall, closing the nursery door. "We weren't kidding, but you are coming over and we'd like to have your input in the design."
"Cool. I'll give them to Derek tonight." Jon grinned at them. "This is making you two ecstatic, right?"
"Very," Oz agreed, putting an arm around Xander's waist before he could start to bounce again.
Derek looked at the diagram of the land and sighed. "We may have to remove a few of the trees," he said to Nick, pointing the area out.
"Why can't we connect the house to the gazebo?" Nick asked. "Put the addition about here," he pointed at another spot, "and leave a small walkway to the gazebo. You could give them a porch on the pond still, and only have to remove about three trees to make the playground, which you could use them in."
"It would depend on their design for the house. A square design wouldn't fit well out there."
"Knowing those two? They won't want too much of a traditional house. We could change the outline to follow the pond, partially at least."
Derek traced the line and smiled. "We could put it here," he said, pointing at a spot about three inches behind where Nick's spot was. "That would be enough space to not have to worry about the pond leaking into their basement and still a straight shot to the house." He traced the path of the covered walkway.
Oz walked in and cleared his throat. He walked over to look down at the map and pointed out a spot on the other side of the pond and the stream feeding it, next to the road. "There, Xander wanted to put one there."
"A simple bridge to the garden," Derek suggested, tracing a new path. "Right to this path, which leads to the kitchen door.
"Plenty of space for the playground equipment and most of those trees are dying right now," Nick agreed. He looked up and smiled at Oz. "How traditional are you going to be?" A picture was handed over. "Way fancy." A set of plans was given to Derek. "And Jon's input?" Nick asked.
"Is in there. We sat down last night and figured out what we wanted." He shrugged at their looks. "We're leaving from Marcus' office, want to come say bon voyage?"
"Of course we do." Derek glanced at the plans and smiled. "Do you want the outside to look like this castle, or that one?"
"This one, with the brick and the ivy, but we like those windows. We couldn't draw them. Oh, and Brandon liked the roofline. He thought it was cool." He walked them out to the entryway, wrapping an arm around his mate's waist. "I gave it to them. Relax."
"The kids aren't here."
"We'll see them soon," Oz whispered. "We'll have lunch with them at the airport. Then they'll go book shopping and we'll go on vacation."
"A very unique idea," Derek said, giving them both a hug. "Don't worry so much. We'll take goot care of the children and they'll be around when you call tonight."
"Thanks, daddy," Xander said, giving him a hug. "Don't get into trouble while we're gone. I want to come back to a calm house with everyone in good shape."
"We'd like that too," Nick said dryly, giving each of them a hug. "Now go play and have fun. Come back and tell us *all* about the teacup ride."
"We'll rent a video camera," Oz said, grabbing their two bags. "Later." He led Xander outside at the honk. He settled them in the back of the cab, nodding at the driver. "Memorial Hospital, Doctor's Wing, back entrance," he ordered.
Xander patted himself down but Oz held up the wallet. "Keys?" They were jingled. "Tickets?"
"Being picked up when we check in."
"Are you sure we have enough money?"
Oz opened it to show him the nearly empty inside. He thumbed through the few big bills that it held. "It's all paid for and we have our stuff to go to the bank today." He squeezed Xander's hand after putting the wallet back. "Relax, it's all good. I even remembered to grab your ID's too."
"Going on vacation?" the cabdriver asked.
"Yeah, our first together."
"That doesn't involve work," Xander tacked on. He smiled at Oz as he leaned into his side. "We have to go have me checked up first though."
"You don't look sick."
"Thanks. I had broken ribs a few weeks ago, just a routine 'you're fine now' check-up."
"Want me to wait?" he offered.
"No thanks," Oz said. "We'll call one of you guys from the office. There's no telling how long this'll take. Marcus is one busy doctor."
"Oh, I heard'a him. He's supposed to be one of the best in the city."
"He is," Oz agreed. "We're lucky to have him as ours."
"He's a great guy," Xander said. "He remembers who we are and what we've been in there for. He's really into his patients."
"Hey, that sounds great." The cabdriver pulled up to the ferry dock. "Do you guys have passes or do we need to pay."
Oz held up his flash pass. "A necessity when you live out here. We never leave without it."
"That's because our keys are on it," Xander reminded him.
Oz snorted. "You need more sleep. Rest until we get there, babe."
"Okay." Xander closed his eyes, hands wrapped around one of Oz's arms, head on his shoulder.
"You two are cute together," the cabdriver said, smiling at Oz. "That's rare today."
Xander looked up as Marcus walked in, giving him a faint grin. "So?"
"Well, the blood is getting less, so I won't worry about it yet." He pulled over a rolling stool and sat down, wiping off his newly shaved head.
Xander reached over to run his fingers over the soft, dark surface. "How do you get it so smooth and only cut yourself twice?"
"Easy, I have my man do it." Marcus smiled at him. "As for the other matter, the one you still haven't told Oz about, yes, you do need to be more careful of your diet. You're still in the normal range, but it's getting higher so we're going to start being more careful. Is that okay with you?"
"Yeah, I've been pretty good about my diet before now," Xander agreed. "What about the pills?"
"I agree with Oz on this. You don't need the drugs all the time, but you do need them sometimes. I'm going to give you an as-needed prescription for one of the weakest versions on the market so far." He handed over a small piece of paper. "Get it filled before you leave today, vacations are stressful and it's hard to get prescriptions filled while you're away from home." Marcus stood up. "Anything else?"
"Just one," Xander admitted. "I've been feeling a little dizzy recently."
"When your blood sugar tanks or otherwise?"
"Otherwise, I think it's been going a little higher than necessary."
"Hmm. How's your diet really been?" He saw the light blush and smiled. "It's after you've been drinking soda, right?" Xander nodded. "And you switched something so I wouldn't pick it up today?"
"Yeah," Xander sighed, looking up at him. "I was really good on my diet yesterday."
"So it's a matter of diet then," Marcus said, crossing his arms across his chest. "I want you to tell Oz. He's probably very good at keeping the kids on a short sugar leash." He reached over and tipped Xander's chin back up. "You need to tell him these things, Xander. He deserves to know."
"I thought the werewolf stuff would've fixed some of it."
"Apparently hyperglycemia isn't something that they do that with. Fortunately, you still have a good few years before you're going to be counted as diabetic. Tell the man. Let him help you."
Xander nodded. "Can you send him in? That way you can help him when he passes out?"
"Sure." Marcus walked out and Oz walked in a few seconds later.
"You forgot to admit something last night?" Oz said dryly.
"Um, yeah," Xander said, pulling his feet up onto the table as he looked at his husband. "You don't know this but my father's diabetic. And so's my mother." Oz nodded, motioning him to go on. "I'm basically pre-diabetic. They figured out a long time ago that I'm going to have the problem later in life, probably around my forties because that's when they both got it. When that happens, I'm hopefully going to be on the light side."
"This would mean that you're progressing nicely toward that aim?" Xander nodded and he sighed, rubbing across his face. "So what do we do?"
"Nothing right now. I've been cramming sugar since I found out because I wanted to make up for all those years."
"What's been going on, Xander? Why bring this up now?"
"Marcus just checked my blood sugar, it's still in the normal range, but it's starting to drift higher." He looked down. "And I get dizzy when I eat too much sugar."
"Ah, so that's what all those naps have been about." Oz reached over and tapped the back of Xander's head, making him look at him. "What are we planning?"
"Nothing. I have to be a little more careful of my diet and sugar intake. I need to come in more frequently to have my blood sugar checked. I need to stop eating a handful of chocolate on Sundays too." He gave his lover a faint grin. "Marcus said I should tell you because you'll help me with that too."
"Sure. I can do the whole diet monitor thing. It wouldn't be the first time, right?" Oz said, trying to stay light. "Are you okay right now?"
"Yeah, it's normal and I'm fine. What I really need is someone to slap my hand when I reach for chocolate."
"Hmm." Oz stepped closer and gave him a hug. "We'll deal," he whispered. "We always do." He kissed his lover's forehead. "Anything else you wanted to tell me?"
"Just give you this," Xander said, giving him the prescription. "Marcus said to get it before we go."
"Okay. Get dressed so we can go have lunch. Did he give you a diet?"
"Nope, I need to have a reasonable one but he didn't give me any specifics."
"Cool. I'll regulate your soda intake and we'll be good." Oz walked out, heading for Marcus' office. He tapped and then walked in. "He's really fine?" The doctor nodded, his mouth being full of chicken salad at the moment. "No special diet?" Marcus shook his head. "Just be careful, right?" Marcus nodded. "Anything else I need to know?"
"Watch out to see if his carb intake helps with that problem," Marcus said once he had swallowed. "If he does turn diabetic, and I'm going to agree with his old doctor about it's going to happen sometime, he's going to have to watch his pasta intake. It turns into sugar in the blood system."
"So a high protein program?"
"No need yet, Oz, don't worry so much."
"I'm supposed to worry about this, Marcus. Diabetes, even in twenty years, is a serious thing. It's something that can take him away from me."
"It won't. He's in good health. He's got you, which is more important than you may believe, and he's got a lot of resources at his disposal. Keep him marginally on the low-sugar side and he'll be fine."
Oz nodded. "Thanks, man. Any other suggestions?"
"Watch the output of blood. If it isn't done with by the time he gets back, I want to see him again."
"Good, 'cause I was going to drag him back if he wasn't." Oz looked over his shoulder as he felt Xander walk up behind him. "Ready?"
"Yeah. Thank you for not yelling."
"Hey, this is a pre-problem. I figure you would have told me about this by the time you needed insulin."
"With luck, he'll be one of the ones that needs pills, like his mother is," Marcus said, smiling at Xander. "Don't you feel better now?"
"Yeah. Much better. And?"
"Go have fun. Get your 'scrip filled. Don't worry so much. And no more soda for you, young man."
"Yes, sir," Xander said with a grin and a snappy salute. "We're going to go now." He tugged on Oz's shirt, walking out beside him. They got their bags back from the receptionist and called a cab, going out to wait.
"You were going to tell me, right?" Oz asked quietly as they waited.
"Yeah, just as soon as I started to really worry about it. Right now, I'm still doing okay."
"So, once it became a problem, I'd be in the know?"
"About a year before," Xander said, giving him a hug. "I wasn't going to keep this from you. I was waiting to tell everyone once it became more necessary to deal with."
"All right. I can accept that reasoning. How long have you known?"
"Since I was fourteen. I've been getting it checked about once a year and it's always been the same on the fasting blood sugar test. This time it went up by about thirteen points, but it's still in the normal range."
"Okay." Oz looked out across the parking lot. "Can I be concerned?"
"Sure," Xander said, pulling him closer. "There's a reason why I ate so much chocolate in high school, ya know."
"That makes sense, I'd probably do that too." Oz leaned into Xander's shoulder, getting comfort from him. "Can I research this?" His mate nodded. "You won't get mad?"
"Babe, this is one of those things that's going to affect both of us. I expect you to do as much as I have. But you don't need to worry yet, give it ten years then start."
Oz chuckled. "I can do that. Yell at me if I get too stringent about your diet though."
The cab pulled up and they got in, Xander getting back out to grab the bag he had forgotten so he could snuggle with his baby.
Xander looked around their hotel room then turned his stunned look on Oz. "Man, you got us a porno motel," he said, grabbing him and throwing him on the bed. "This is so great!" Xander said, stealing a kiss as his hand started to drift lower.
TO BE CONTINUED...