Note: As I was rereading old parts to see where I was going, I found an interesting spot that I hadn't been aware I was writing in, and it was near the end of part 50 (page 18, part 50 to be exact). So, I'm exploring the unknown plot point, the ones that my muses decided to surprise me with.
Traveling With Troublemakers.
Derek looked at the journal, frowning at the words written in front of him. Someone had sent the journal to him, but he wasn't sure who it had been. It had come in a plain brown envelope as they were about to leave for Florida, no return address, no markings of any kind except his name and address. When he had asked the courier service who had sent it, they hadn't known either. He sighed, rubbing his forehead as he went back to reading the scrawled words again.
//I, William Sloan, being of semi-sane mind and not-complete body...//
Derek closed it and looked up, looking for his son. He needed to take some time from reading this for the third time. It couldn't be, it simply couldn't. He stood up and walked out onto the balcony of the house in Florida, smiling at the two men lounging naked in the pool. "Did I forget to bring something for you two to do?" he called as he walked down to sit on the edge of the pool and get his feet wet.
Xander flipped over and treaded water. "Nope, not really." He looked over at Oz, who appeared to be asleep, but he was just being calm and gazing inwardly again. "Did you have something that we needed to do?"
"No, I have a bothersome book that I don't want to have to look at too closely so I came out to see what plans you two had for tonight." He smiled. "Besides calling the children."
"Well, we were going to sit on the couch and see if summer entertainment has gotten any better since the last time we tried it," Xander told him. "Other than that, there wasn't much of anything on our minds."
"I see. Was there something that I could do to entice you to take me out and take my mind off of this?"
"Call Philip," Oz said, startling Derek. "Sorry," he said, looking back at his father-in-law. "You three need to work some things out and I bet Nick and Philip are sweaty and doing that."
Derek smiled. "Those two are probably deep into some stout and complaining about me," he said with a smile. "Really, what can I do to make you take me out? My treat, of course."
Oz looked at Xander, who shrugged. "Dinner out might not be a bad thing," Xander told him. "But movies and necking in the theater afterward are definitely out."
Derek splashed his son. "I wasn't going to suggest it, Xander, I'm a proper gentleman. I prefer porch swings and candlelight."
"And Oz's car," Xander said with a naughty grin, ducking under the water and swimming for Oz's other side before Derek could get him again.
Derek sighed and got up, heading back into the house.
Nick pulled back and took off his face protector, looking at his opponent. "Where did you learn how to box?" he asked, rubbing his sore jaw.
"School and home. I had five brothers, it was necessary." Philip grinned. "Ready to admit me in yet?"
"Hey, you can have his left side and I'll take his right," he offered with a grin.
Philip groaned and took off his face protector too. "Nick, I didn't mean the carnal moments."
"Hey, I meant sleeping. Maybe if you pin him down on one side and I get the other, I won't end up a body pillow all night."
Philip smiled. "Fat chance. I always did." He walked closer. "We agree then?"
"Yup, we're agreed. You can have him whenever you want." He pulled his friend into a hug. "Having me is another matter," he whispered.
"Hmm," Philip groaned, pressing against him. "I never thought anything else." He pulled his head back, stealing a kiss as they continued to rub against each other. Nick made the first move, knocking Philip down by tripping him, and following him down to the mat they had been boxing on. He continued to rub against Philip's thinner, tighter body, making groaning and whimpering noises as his mouth was taken hostage again. He came too fast, biting Philip's lip to stifle his scream.
Philip smiled and grabbed Nick's hips, pulling them in tighter so he could finish too. He let it out, his scream echoing around the gym and down the hallway. He didn't notice as Brandon came running to protect him, but he heard the clapping. "Out," he called, knowing what was going on. "We were playing."
"Okay," Brandon called, waving at them. He ran away, going to find his brothers and sisters. And Junior, because he was always in trouble now that he could walk.
Philip smiled up at Nick. "No need for ya ta bite," he complained, licking his lip off. "Many people wanted to hear ya make that noise."
Nick blushed. "Philip." He checked the room to make sure they were alone again. "How did you do that to me?"
"I'm good," Philip purred as he stood up. He draped his towel around his waist and headed for the back stairs. "Ya gonna stay like that?" he asked as he walked past his new lover, winking at him. "I'm for a shower."
Nick swallowed hard and followed him, eyes glued to the rear wiggling in front of him. "Okay, but we can't do a lot," he noted. "Marcus said I can't have anything for another three weeks."
Philip stopped and looked at him. "Why'd Marcus say that?"
Nick blushed. "I'll tell you upstairs," he said, jogging past him to get away from his embarrassment.
Philip frowned but followed him up, closing the bedroom door behind him. He found Nick leaning over the bathtub, adjusting the water temperature. "What happened?" he asked gently, rubbing over Nick's smooth, naked back.
Nick turned and looked at him, then decided to attack Philip's clothes to get them off him. "You know about mine and Derek's first time, right?" He didn't look up but he saw the nod from the corner of his eye. "Well, I rushed the preparation and Derek was out of his mind."
"He tore you?" Philip asked in a hushed whisper. Nick looked up at him and nodded. "Badly?"
"Bad enough to need internal stitches. I had surgery the day that we went to London. So I have three more weeks of not letting anything up there." He blinked a few times. "Except a waterproof plastic plug so I can take long soaks when I get uptight."
Philip pulled him into the strongest hug he could, interrupting Nick's struggle with his buttons. "I'm so sorry," he whispered. "I know it wasn't me, and that Derek didn' mean it, but I don't like it that you suffered." He rocked them gently, eyes closed. "We'll not do more than cuddle then," he promised. "You'll tell me what you're ready for and I'll let you do whatever you want."
Nick pulled back. "I can do lots of things," he noted. "Anything but penetrating me." He grinned. "Besides, Derek said that I could ask you to teach me...things."
Philip chuckled. "Sure, I'd love to teach ya. For now though, we need to be cleaner." He finished stripping them both, taking a moment to admire the way the sweat shimmered on Nick's chest, almost making him glow in the faint bathroom light. Derek always had the most flattering bulbs in here. He turned on the shower and stepped in, holding out a hand. "Come on, I promise not to bite. This time," he amended with a grin.
Nick shook his head and stepped in. "Derek didn't warn me about that." He pulled the doors closed and got another hug before picking up the sponge to clean his new lover's back.
Oz looked down at his plate of scallop scampi and groaned. "I need a box," he decided, picking up one of Xander's pieces of celery decoration to nibble on.
"Of course," Derek said, waving the waiter over. "May we please have three boxes?"
"Four," Xander said, pointing at his salad. "I need one for that too." The waiter nodded and left them alone, coming back within a minute with the boxes. He left them again, going to help another customer while they loaded up.
Oz looked at the check, showing it to Xander. "I have that," Derek reminded them.
"You sure, we can get our two-thirds?" Oz offered. "Xander did eat most of the restaurant bare."
Derek smiled. "It's good to see him hungry. He hasn't been eating properly lately, mostly because of stress." He looked at his son. "Did you really feel it was necessary to wear a blessed robe to graduation, son?"
Xander nodded. "Yup. Very."
"That would have made you a target," Derek pointed out.
"Which means that the rest of the class would have had time to run while you and Grandpa worked to solve the problem." He saw the grimace and frowned. "What's wrong with Grandpa? And is Grandma involved?"
"It's a long story, son," Derek sighed, pulling out his wallet. "Oz, I may need you to get the tip, I've only got a fifty on me."
Xander pulled out his wallet and put down a fifty too. "There, our half." Derek smiled at that. "Do you want us to distract you tomorrow too?"
"No, tomorrow the digging starts again," Derek reminded them. "With any luck, we'll have plenty to take our minds off strange problems." He waved the waiter over, putting down his fifty. "Here," he said, handing it over.
The waiter sped away, coming back after a few minutes with the change. He smiled at the young couple then left.
Oz took Xander's boxes and let his husband get up first, following him out to wait on the water ferry.
Derek separated out some change and followed them out, checking his watch to make sure they hadn't missed it again.
Junior looked around the table, then giggled and flipped his spoonful of potatoes at his sister, who sent it back without looking. "Me," he grumbled.
"She's not mean," Jon said, making the baby look up. "You're not supposed to throw your food. Eat it, don't throw it." Junior wiggled down, going to play with his cat under the table. He was pulled back up and strapped in this time, making him cry. "Yay, get over it now, Junior, and eat." The baby glared at him and he felt his scalp heating up. "Alex!" he yelled, backing away from the table and knocking his chair over. "He's a pyro."
Alex swallowed and looked over at the baby, glaring at him. "Stop it, Junior, or I'm going to call your fathers."
"Da!" he said happily and the burning feeling went away.
Jon looked at Alex. "Can you test him?"
"Sure. We'll start it tonight, after supper." She looked at Xandra, who looked innocent but intensely interested. "We'll take her with us. He seems to do best when she's in the room."
"Okay," Jon agreed, putting his chair upright again and sitting on it. He looked at the kids, who were all watching him. "Have you guys seen Junior doing strange things?"
"Besides playing with that fleabag?" Precious snorted. She shrieked and grabbed her butt, glaring at her littlest sister. "Hey! It is. I got fleabites."
"Yay," Xandra told her. "It has fleas because you kept throwing dirt on it yesterday." She looked at Jon. "Strife needs a bath or a collar," she said simply, taking another bite. "And Junior be good from now on, I make sure of it."
Alex gave her a hard look, but nodded after a second. "I think you will, but we need to know what's possible for him to do. We'll test him tonight and you can talk to him afterwards."
Xandra nodded happily. "Okay. Fix Strife?"
"Sure we will," Buffy told her, reaching over to ruffle her hair. "Eat, okay?"
Xandra nodded and started eating again, happy with her spot in life.
Alex looked at Buffy. "You're going to help me tonight. Giles can help Jon with the bedtimes."
"All right," Buffy agreed, "but I don't know what to do."
"Don't worry, she'll train you," Giles told her, giving her a smile. "It's not that hard, it's the interpretation of the data that can get complicated."
"Bring Strife with us?" Xandra suggested lightly.
Alex looked at her, frowning slightly. "No, we'll do that tomorrow. Thank you for the suggestion, Xandra." The little girl beamed a bright smile at her and took another bite of meatloaf. Alex shared a look with Giles, who shrugged. "Yeah, we'll do the baseline stuff tonight and we'll do the more involved tests tomorrow. How's the rest of the network going?" she asked.
Nick snorted. "One of my houses is having swearing fits at Paris."
"So's Oz's," Buffy reminded him. "Kyoto has had *major* problems with them." She looked around. "Who has Paris?"
"I do," Alex said grimly. "I've tried talking to them, but I think it's going to take a visitation from Derek to fix this problem. It's not their Precept, she's really nice, but she doesn't have a lick of diplomacy so she let's her second in command do it for her. That's where the problems lie. She relies entirely on this person."
"Have they done anything worthy of being kicked out?" Philip asked.
"Not quite," Alex told him, giving him a smile. "They're riding the line but otherwise they're okay." Her smile got brighter. "Derek signed your paperwork, you're now considered full time."
"Huh?" Buffy asked. "I thought he wasn't a member or he had a special permission thing going."
"Not quite," Nick told her. "Philip's been on part-time, or on special assignment, status since he left the first time. Derek's officially moved Philip back to full-time status. He's an official full member instead of having Associate membership."
"Oh." She nodded. "Cool, congrats," she told Philip, giving him a smile. "Any plans?"
"Not yet," he said quietly, watching the kids. Precious was sizing up Xandra and Xandra had just slapped her sister across the back of the head. "Girls," he said, getting their attention. "There are no power struggles in this family. Especially not between you girls." Precious looked away. "Thank you. Xandra?"
She smiled up at him, looking her most innocent. "What?" she asked sweetly. "Me eats." She helped cut up another piece of meatloaf for Junior. "There you go. You eats too." He waved his spoon and blew kisses at her. "Yes, I love you too." She blew a kiss back at him. "You eats." He picked up a piece of meatloaf with his fingers and gummed it to please her. She smiled. "Good boy," she praised, then patted him on the head. "We go play fun games with Auntie Alex later. Okay?" He nodded, smiling at Alex and gumming some of the meat for her too.
"That's very good," Alex praised. She smiled at Xandra. "You do that very well." Xandra beamed at her. "You eat too, dear."
Xandra picked up a piece of her broccoli and ate it after dipping it into the cheese sauce beside her plate.
Buffy smiled at Alex. "So do you."
Alex laughed. "It's a vicarious thrill," she explained. She went back to her meal, admiring the subtle sense of spices that Adam had. Anything was better than Nick's heavy hand with everything.
Derek looked across the living room at his sons, smiling at the ease they had together. He could only wish to have that with Nick and Philip someday. He picked up the journal again and looked at the front, sighing internally. How had William gotten messed up with this?
He decided to get up and make a few notes from the journal. He had to get to the bottom of this, before someone got hurt. He flipped to the personal account again. He had to get to the bottom of this soon.
Xander looked at Oz, then glanced back at Derek's still form. Oz nodded so Xander got up to get the book from him. He took it from the table, flipping through it. "What's going on, Dad? You need to share this one before it eats you."
Derek took it back. "Son, this is Precept's business."
"How will Oz and I know about that stuff if you don't tell us?" he asked reasonably.
Oz got up and came over to sit on the other side of the table. "Derek, you can trust us. We're not going to share information around. Not even in the family or the house."
Derek sighed and rubbed his eyes, pushing the book toward Oz. "I need to go question William about this."
"What's 'this'?" Xander asked.
Derek patted his hand. "Son, this is a family matter, but I don't want you involved."
Oz looked up. "Derek, this is a serious charge."
"That's his handwriting. He's self accused." He looked at Xander again. "This is why I want you clear of this, so that the Legacy will protect you."
Xander laughed. "Of course they will. Because they don't want to bring you down at all, right? Or because they like me, because I'm such a good security second?" He looked at Oz. "What's going on?"
"William's journal," Oz said, after getting permission from Derek. "He's in a symbiotic relationship with something."
"Huh. I've never noticed anything different about him."
Derek sat up straight. "That's true. You two should have sensed something." He looked at Oz, but Oz shook his head. "Then it's been there since before you came to the house." He stood up, going over to the glass sliding door. "Did we ever tell you that I saved William from guarding a portal in Hell?" Both boys grunted affirmatively. "When I went in and got him I had to challenge a demon for him. The rest of the Legacy didn't realize this, but William might have been tainted even before I got there. There was a shifting in the portal the sepulchers created. I always thought it was because William was fighting a demon trying to get through, but I may have been wrong." He turned to look at them. "I may have let a higher demon into the Legacy."
Xander snorted. "Derek, if you hadn't brought him back, then someone else would have. There's a few other Precepts that like him that much." He stood up and smiled. "Let one of us go talk to him."
Derek shook his head. "It's my duty, boys. I'll need you to stay here and manage the dig."
Xander shook his head. "Sorry, dad, but that doesn't make any sense. We know *nothing* about digs. I do know about questioning people, even ones in my own family. So does Oz. Besides, Grandma's been asking for one of us to come to London for a day and bring Junior."
Derek smiled. "Xander, this is Precept's business, I can't let you go do this. It's not allowed."
"Derek, who's the Head Precept?" Oz asked.
Derek opened his mouth, then sighed. "If we're going to do it that way, then I'll have to send Rupert. It's his house that the member's in."
"Not if he comes here," Oz noted.
Derek looked at him. "What?"
"Not if Grandma and Fussy come here," Oz repeated. "No one said the questioning has to be done in London."
"True, then the disturbance from the questioning wouldn't hurt the house," Xander pointed out. "It'd be safer and saner for everyone and the London house."
Derek nodded slowly. "If you think it's best, then I'll bring him here. But you *cannot* be in on the questioning, boys. There's no way I can protect you if you listen in or if you help."
"Hey, send us to Miami for the day with Grandma," Oz said dryly. "We can show her our favorite jewelry store."
Derek smiled. "That might be good, or I could bring them to Miami so they can both see you, and you can take her away while I talk with William."
Xander shrugged. "Whatever." He sat down next to Oz, holding his hand. "Are you sure you can do this alone?"
Derek nodded. "I'll have to. I can't risk either of your security."
Oz snorted. "Derek, we're secure. We'll always be secure. The Legacy owes us right now." He stood up and pulled Xander with him, ignoring the confused look he was getting. They went into the bedroom to go cuddle and have sex.
Derek sat down and looked at the journal again. He eventually picked up the phone and dialed London. "Mother? Yes, I need to talk to him." He cleared his throat. "William. I need you to come to Miami, either alone or with Mother. The boys will take care of her while we have a badly needed talk." He nodded and hung up, making a note in his planner. He had things he had to get ready.
Alex picked up the sheets of readings from Junior's brainwaves, looking them over. "Buffy, they can go to bed," she said, not looking up.
"Xandra already did that," she said, sitting down next to Alex, looking over her shoulder. "What do those squiggles mean?"
"Those squiggles are in relation to the stimulus from the pictures we showed him." She turned her head and their noses met. "Needed something?" she joked.
"Yeah, no one ever taught me this part," Buffy said. "Teach me, Alex?" she asked quietly.
Alex groaned and stood up, looking down at the young woman. "Buffy, I can teach you this, but I can't teach you what you want," she said quietly. "It's not right. It'll jeopardize our working relationship."
"I don't work like that," Buffy told her. "It hasn't yet."
"No, but it's coming very close to it on my end," Alex protested. "Buffy, I can't be with you and do my job. Not when doing my job might mean that I lose you." She pulled the young woman up and gave her a hug. "I'm sorry, Buffy, but I can't."
Buffy nodded, pulling back. "I understand," she said, not looking at the older woman. "I'm sorry I'm being so pushy. I'm gonna go upstairs. Later." She practically ran out.
Alex sighed as she sat down, holding her head. She jumped as the door opened, giving Philip a guilty look. "What?"
"Just checking on the scan," he said quietly, walking in and looking at the forms. "Seems he's got a good bit."
"How much of it is from his possession though," Alex pointed out. "He's still possessed."
"I know," Philip told her, patting her on the shoulder. "If you deny yourself happiness, you can't complain when you aren't happy," he told her, taking the forms and walking out. "I'll work on the possession issue in the morning," he called before the door closed.
Alex put a hand on her forehead and shook her head. "Why me?" she asked. "I don't need this, not right now." She got up and went up to her room, going to take a long, hot bath.
Derek looked up as his name was called, waving his mother over for a hug. "The boys are meeting us at the hotel," he told her, leading her away. "Where's William?"
"He'll be out of Customs in a moment," she said calmly. She stopped them, looking at her son. "You got the journal, didn't you?" she said flatly. He nodded. "Good, I had hoped that it had gotten to you on time."
"You sent it?" he asked, his voice raising in pitch.
"Yes, son, we sent it," William said as he walked over to them. "I had to. My other half isn't being very cooperative." He waved a hand toward the concourse. "Come, let's go get the bags."
Derek nodded and led the way, considering this new information. He stopped them before they got in the car. "I want the boys protected," he said firmly. "I don't want them involved in this."
"They already are," William told him, patting him on the back. "Or more precisely, Junior is."
Derek nodded. "I was wondering about this newest possession."
"It's a harmless creature," Barbara said quietly. "Trust me on this, son, I've had a discussion with the one in William." She got into the back of the car they had been heading to, settling herself. "Son, come on. Willie?"
He got in the other side in the back, holding her hand. "I'm here," he reminded her. He looked at Derek as he got into the front. "I'll try my best to keep the boys out of it, Derek, I promise. I don't want them hurt. But the Legacy does owe them."
"They said that too," Derek said, turning around to look at them. "Are you talking about the possession?"
"No, a prophecy," Barbara said with a smile. "I'll show you later. Will they be taking me shopping?"
Derek nodded as he turned around. "They're anxious to show you the jewelry store that has meant so much to their relationship. That's where they've gotten everything but Oz's Egyptian pendant." He started the car and pulled out into the driving lane, heading back into the city. The whole way in, he was praying that this wasn't something harmful. He didn't want to have to remove them from his life for good. Especially not his mother.
Xander got up and hugged his grandmother, squeezing her tightly. "We missed you," he said, pulling back to grin at her. "You're gonna come shopping with me tomorrow, right?"
She gave him a patient nod. "Of course. Where's Oz?"
"Napping," he said, rolling his eyes. "Xandra called and talked to him for almost four hours last night, bragging about how well Junior did with the psi-testing." He winked. "He's a very special little boy."
"I know," she said, but her eyes looked sad. She smiled at William as he walked up behind him, letting him shake Xander's hand. "He said Oz is napping because Xandra called last night to brag about Junior's testing."
"Ah." He looked at Derek, then at Xander. "How about we retreat to our rooms and we'll see you at supper?"
Xander grinned. "We've got a suite." He patted his father on the arm. "I was supposed to have a sign, but I thought it would look too funny since we weren't at the airport." He led the way to the elevators.
He missed William's and Barbara's hard look at each other.
William settled down across from Derek after breakfast the next morning and adjusted his shirt so it wasn't choking him anymore. "I know you want to know what the journal was about, Derek, but hear me out first." Derek nodded, relaxing. "There's another person in here with me, and it's not human."
"I figured that much out," Derek said calmly. "You never mentioned which demon it was."
"That's because it's not a demon, Derek, it's an alien." Derek burst out laughing and William sent him a tolerant look. "Sure, be happy now, but it's not demonic. I know so much *more* now, Derek, about everything. About why we do things, about why we can't get along. Everything was shown to me in a way that let me learn it." He smiled gently. "The reason I sent you the journal was because I've got to leave soon." Derek's mouth opened. "No, it has to be this way, Derek. The alien is now symbiotic with me. I *have* to go with it. Besides, maybe I'll give them a new appreciation for humans. They think we're idiotic children who are going to destroy ourselves."
"We are," Derek agreed. "That part of society is growing." He looked his friend over, a sneaking suspicion hitting him. "That's what's in Junior," he said quietly.
William nodded. "Yes, Derek, it is."
"You can't take him," Derek said firmly. "He needs his parents."
"Not anymore," William pointed out. "He's weaned, he's walking. He's learning how to talk properly. I'll be able to continue his education."
"No!" Derek shouted, jumping up. "I will not allow you to take the boy. There's got to be some way to get that whatever out of him. I will not allow it!"
William sighed. "I was hoping it wouldn't come to this, Derek, but the boy will die once we're gone. And yes, Barbara is going with me. She's known since I got back from an overnight trip, she recognized the difference. She pestered me until my other half agreed to take her with us."
Derek glared at his old friend. "There is no way in Hell that you are getting off this planet with my mother or my grandchild," he hissed, advancing on William. "I will put you back in Hell myself before I let you harm them or take them."
William stood up and started backing away from him. "Derek, I promise, if there was another way, I'd do it. I've looked, we both have. We can't take the alien out of Junior without killing him."
"His possession hasn't lasted that long," Derek argued. "There has to be a way!"
"He was born with it, Rayne. His father was one of us!" He ducked the strong swing but missed the next one. He fell to the floor and lay there, unconscious.
Derek winced and waved his knuckles in the air to make them stop hurting. After a few seconds, his training kicked in and he went to find something to tie the other man up with.
Barbara kissed Oz on the cheek. "You figured it out, didn't you?" she asked. They were alone for a few minutes, Xander was visiting the mall's bathroom.
"I know that what's in Junior isn't demonic, but I'm not letting him go," he told her. "Whatever's going on, he will be safe or I will let Xander have William." He stopped as he smelled his mate coming closer, shaking his head slightly. "I mean it, Barbara. And you know it."
"I have plans on fixing it, but it may be dangerous," she said quietly. She smiled at Xander as he walked up to them. "Dear, what took you so long?"
"Small line. A guy with his two sons who were trying to flood the bathroom." He looked down at the woman he considered his grandmother. "What's going on?" he asked calmly. "I'd tell me before I get pissed and do something stupid," he warned when both of them were silent.
"Do you trust me, Xander?" Barbara asked. He nodded. "Then trust me this time. I'll fix it, and most likely no harm will come to your family." She stood up and gave him a hug. "All you have to do is trust me."
Xander stepped back. "You're scaring me," he told her.
"I'm scaring myself," she admitted with a little laugh. "Don't worry about it, grandson, just accept it for now. It will all be solved by tonight." She kissed Oz's cheek, then Xander's, then joined their ringed hands together. "Love each other, boys, and always be there for each other. No matter what happens, you're stronger together than you are apart." She wiped away a tear. "I'll miss you both." She left them, walking off into the crowd.
Xander tried to go after her, but Oz stopped her. "This is her choice, Xander. We have to stay out of this one." He checked his watch. "We need to call Marcus and tell him to be ready for something to happen tonight." He looked up to see the confusion and the pain of his husband, so he sat them back down on the bench. "What's wrong with William isn't human," he said quietly, squeezing the hand he held. "I figured it out last night." Xander slowly went pale and he started to look around. "That's why we have to call Marcus. She's going to free Junior and she's not sure what's going to happen to him."
Xander pulled out his wallet and dragged Oz to the closest phone, dialing the house, but Oz hung up on him before he could push the last number. "We have to ..."
Oz stopped him by kissing him. "She has to, Xander, or Junior goes where William goes," he told him. "Do you want to lose him?" Xander whimpered and shook his head. "Then call Marcus. Tell him to be on watch for anything strange at the house tonight. Tell him to go out and enjoy dinner, to evaluate Xandra, or something, but don't tell him why. If we're really lucky, the transfer won't kill Junior and we won't lose him either."
Xander pushed the numbers as fast as he could, swearing when he got the answering service. "This is Xander Harris. I need to talk to Marcus right now!" he panted. "Yes, it's an emergency. No, not an emergency right now, but one in a few minutes. He'll understand!" He nodded, reading the phone to make sure it could get calls, then he read off the number. He hung up and turned around to wait at the phone, staring at Oz. "How did you know?" he asked quietly.
"Everyone kept telling me that the Legacy owed us," Oz said with a shrug. "I only understood the vagueness last night." He touched Xander's chest. "With some warning and planning, everything will be fine. And if we need to, we can be home within three hours." He reached behind Xander as the phone rang, nodding at his husband once he heard the voice on the other end. "Marcus, it's me. No, something strange is going to happen tonight and it's going to bounce off Junior. We need you there or he's going to die," he said quietly. He stopped talking as a guard walked past them. "Yeah, I could say it's a medical emergency. No, it's got to do with Barbara, but you can't stop her. Because if you do, then we lose Junior. If you don't stop her, then it's up to you if we lose him or not." He relaxed and hung up. "We're interrupting his plans for a play tonight. He'll call Alex and invite himself out."
"But will it work?" Xander asked quietly.
"It'll have to," Oz reminded him. "I will not lose my son."
"Our," Xander reminded gently, squeezing the hand that held his. "We can book a flight now," he offered.
"No, we'll do that tonight, after Marcus calls us. I don't want to rush home if it isn't necessary." He checked his watch and swore. "I want Junior to come out with us again," he said quietly.
Xander nodded. "Okay. As soon as he's better?"
"Definitely," Oz agreed. "Or we go home and run everything from there."
Xander relaxed and followed Oz out of the mall, going back to their hotel room. Derek didn't have to know, but they'd figure out what to tell him in a while.
Barbara smiled as Alex and Marcus met her at the front door. "Oh, I always did think that you two were such a *nice* looking couple," she said, giving them both hugs. She slipped something into Marcus' back pocket. "I just came to see the children before we left."
"They're all up in bed," Alex said, showing confusion. "Why are you on this side of the ocean anyway? You should have told us you were coming, we would have gotten Derek back."
"I saw him this morning, Alex, don't fuss," she said, giving her a smile. "Don't worry, I'm just popping in. I'll be right back down." She walked up the stairs, not hurrying at all. She had a little bit of time before they had to leave and she wanted to enjoy her last glimpse of this house, the house that had ruined her life, but given her a new, more important reason to live. She walked into the nursery and lifted Junior up, going into the boys' room to do this. "Wake up, Meltharnks," she whispered. He opened his eyes and looked at her. "You can't have the baby, you know that."
"I'd be willing to stay," he said sadly.
"The baby's doctor is here and I'm already going," she whispered. "You can transfer to me and we can make sure that the baby stays healthy." He looked pained. "I know you've been keeping part of the joining from happening. I gave the doctor the serum already. All he has to do is use it."
He nodded and the baby started to glow, then the glow started to mold itself onto her. By the time it was transferred over, she was panting and the baby was cold but sweating, but he was alive. She gave herself a second to gather herself together, then walked him downstairs after giving all the children a kiss goodbye. "Marcus," she called from the stairs, bringing just him. "I think he's ill, dear." She smiled at his wariness. "You have what may cure him. Do your best, Marcus, that's why you're here." She left the house with only one backward look from the doorway. As soon as she stepped into the grass, she dematerialized, going to the ship waiting on her and William. She smiled as she walked into his arms, giving him a hug. "The boys called Marcus and I gave him the serum," she whispered. "He should be fine."
William patted her on the arm. "Thank you. I didn't want to hurt any of them." He looked at their driver, then nodded. "We have a long report to make, please take us home," he told him.
The ship sped off, no more than an odd spark in the sky for a few minutes.
Marcus looked up as the baby he was watching's fathers showed up together, glaring at Oz. "You couldn't tell me more than to be there?" he shouted.
"Calm down," Oz told him. "I'll give you the whole story, but only if you calm down." Marcus nodded and led the way into a nearby closet, locking them in. "William had a symbiotic entity in him," Oz said quietly. "There was one in Junior. They were going to leave tonight."
Marcus groaned. "Barbara took it from him," he completed. Xander nodded. "Are you okay?" he asked as he looked over his stiff, silent patient. Something was definitely not right with the boy.
"He's in high panic over Junior. He swore that the cub died a few times while we were in the air."
Marcus nodded. "He did. That stuff that Barbara gave me has stabilized him, but I'm not sure how he's going to come out of it or when." He let them out, leading them back to the baby's side.
Xander leaned down and kissed his son's forehead. "Daddies are here, Junior," he whispered, working a finger into his fist. "Please wake up and show us that you're okay," he begged.
One of the nurses came over but Marcus waved her off. "They're the fathers," he told her. "Expect them to be sitting here until he wakes up." She nodded and picked up a clipboard from the desk to make a note. "Oz, why tonight?" he asked.
"Because they had to go home," Oz told him. He looked at their doctor. "We couldn't stop her from doing it, Marcus, but we couldn't let him be hurt either."
Marcus patted him on the shoulder. "I understand. Where's Derek?"
"In Miami," Oz said, handing over a card for the hotel. "We're in suite 'B'." He moved to his son's other side, mimicking Xander's still position as he took up watch.
Marcus grabbed the nearest phone and dialed for an outside line. It fell to him to tell Derek about this.
Xander woke up as Marcus stepped away from the bed, his gaze going to the glowing blue lights that were coming out of their doctor's hands. He looked up and saw the concentration, then went still. He could feel that funny energy going again. He looked at Oz, who was awake now too, and they both looked at Marcus. They knew he was different, but he was an energy being? Xander got up to stop Marcus from moving, looking into his eyes. "I know you're good, but what was that?" he whispered.
"Something to make sure he lives," Marcus told him, patting him on the head. "Don't worry about it, kid, everything's going to be fine now. He'll wake up soon." He walked away, leaving the ward. He had considered leaving, but he knew that he was safe. The Legacy protected it's own, no matter who or what they were.
Xander looked down at his son and smiled when he saw him yawning. "Hey, you," he said, reaching down to pull his sleep shirt down over his uncovered stomach. "How do you feel?"
Junior looked up at him and blinked, then started to cry.
Xander picked him up and held him, cradling him so none of the tubes would get crimped. "Shh, I promise, it's okay. Daddies are here," he whispered, nodding Oz over to hug the baby with him. They sandwiched the baby between them and held him, ignoring the nurses buzzing around.
"It's okay," Oz promised him. Junior turned to look at him. "Hey, you gave us quite a scare when you wouldn't wake up," he told his son. "We're both glad that you're okay."
Junior gave him a half-hearted smile and laid his head back down, pulling his thumb up to suck. "Ki?" he asked pitifully. "Ki talk?"
"Shh, as soon as we can go home, you can have your kitty," Xander promised him. He looked at the nurse. "How soon can he go home?"
"We'll need to see him to figure that out," she said patiently, holding out her arms. "Let me have him, you can have him back in under five minutes. We just need a little blood and to do his vitals." Xander looked at Oz, who took Junior and handed him over. "Thank you. Just a second." She unhooked the tubes and walked away quickly, bringing the baby to the center examination table. She handed him back within two minutes, then smiled at Xander. "Give us another two days to monitor him and then you can probably take him home. All right?"
Xander sat back down in his chair as Oz laid their son back down in his bed. "Sure. We'll be right here," he told her.
She rolled her eyes but she left them alone. It was good to see parents like them. There were a couple of kids in the ward that could use parents like them, it'd make them healthier. She turned to find all three of them asleep again and smiled. Yes, she really could stand seeing more parents like those two.
Xander walked back onto the island in Florida, Junior snuggled firmly in his arms. He smiled when he saw Derek was there. "He's sleeping," he stage-whispered, handing him over.
Oz came up behind them with the bags, giving Derek a hug. "Marcus is amazing," he said in greeting.
Derek looked up at them. "Did my mother take it from him?" Xander nodded. "That's what I figured," he said quietly, leading the way over to the golf cart so they could go up to the house. They were up at the house before Derek said anything else. "Boys, next time, call from the air or something."
"She did it before we left," Oz told him. Derek gave him a hard look. "I know, it sucks, but this was her decision, Derek."
Xander got up to give him a hug. "There wasn't a good and less painful one this time," he said quietly, holding on to him. "There wasn't a way for you to lose one or the other. Grandma was going, whether or not Junior went." He pulled back to see the sadness. "Derek, she still might come back."
Derek wrapped his arms around his son and shook his head. "She won't," he told him, looking over at Oz. "I was bound to lose her one day, but I never thought I'd do it to William and space." He sniffed and let go. "I'm going to go back to my room. If anyone from the dig shows up..."
"We'll deal," Oz told him. "Go grieve, Derek. Have you called Ingrid?"
"No, I probably should though. She was at the house and Mother never stopped in and saw her."
"If she had, she couldn't have left," Oz reminded him. "Same as if you had been there, she couldn't have gone." Derek nodded and left for his room.
Xander looked at his husband. "Nick and Philip?" he suggested.
"Let Derek call them in his own time. Or we'll do it tomorrow if he hasn't." He held out a hand and Xander sat beside him on the couch. "Can you help run the dig while I do the artifacts?"
Xander nodded. "It can't be much different than the house." They hugged then got up to start their respective tasks.
Nick looked at his cellphone, which kept ringing once then hanging up. "I think we're needed," he told Philip, who was sitting in the passenger's seat of Oz's beloved roadster. They had come out to watch the sunset and be alone together.
Philip took the phone and dialed the temporary house in Florida, smiling when he heard the voice on the other end. "What happened, Oz?" he asked. What he heard made him go cold and lose his smile. "How's Derek takin' it?" He nodded, glancing over at Nick. "No, ya did the right thing not callin' us. We'll be down tomorrow." He hung up and handed Nick the phone, turning in his seat. "Derek's Ma and William left for good," he said. "She was here to take somethin' from Junior, then she left for good."
"Oh, man, Derek's got to be torn up. We're going?"
"Call and have..." He shook his head. "We won't go through Legacy channels for this. We'll get a flight out tomorrow and go down. All right?" Nick nodded. "Good. Now, can I have a kiss?"
Nick leaned over and gave him a soft, gentle, exploring kiss. "Sure. We should go, right?"
"Yeah, we should go. We'll try and get one to be down there for breakfast." He leaned back as Nick masterfully turned the car around and drove them back to the house at high speed. He loved his speed demon.
Oz opened the door, squinting at the men standing there. He grunted and held the door open, letting Nick and Philip into the house and pointing them in the direction of Derek's room. Then he went back to making his coffee.
"They didn't call us," Nick shouted, "we called them. Get over it, we're here!"
Oz shook his head and poured two cups, taking them back to their room. Xander might be up by now, and they probably shouldn't be seen for a few minutes. He found Xander sitting up talking to Junior and gave him the second cup, sitting down to finish gulping his. "He okay?" he asked.
"Ah. Okay. Want to do breakfast off the island?"
Oz snickered. "I don't think that would work. He'd come after us then." He looked up as the door opened, waving Philip inside. "You get through to him?"
Philip smiled. "Of course. He's not mad at you two. Want breakfast to go with the caffeine? We're takin' him out to the mainland."
Xander gave Oz a begging look. "Please? We can stop at an ATM and get more funds."
"Sure," Oz said, looking down at his robe-clad body. "Give us twenty," he told the older man, finishing his coffee's last sip.
"Let me get you more," Philip said, walking in to get the cup. He closed the door behind himself, smiling at his deviousness. Derek wouldn't yell at anyone in public, he was too mannerly, Barbara had drilled that lesson into him *very* well.
Derek looked across the table as his son, one eyebrow going up when he saw Oz was watching him. "They called us," Oz told him again. "We're still managing the dig, let them help you." He cut up another piece of pancake for Junior then ate some himself. "This works really well, thanks, babe," he said, kissing Xander on the cheek.
Xander gave him the most sappy, sweet grin he'd ever given his mate. "I'm glad that you like it."
"Huh, what's going on in that head of yours," he asked, staring into the brown eyes. "You're on a sugar high, aren't you," he asked sweetly. Xander nodded. "Okay. That means you get babycare duties and I'll do the managing stuff. Deal?" Xander nodded again, turning his smile on his father, who smiled back.
"At least he's happier," Nick noted. "And no bouncing."
"True," Oz agreed, nodding. "The not bouncing part is very nice. Later he can chase Junior around the house." He looked over at Derek, who was staring at his uneaten breakfast. "Dad, you've got to eat. Just to show us that you're willing to," he said quietly.
Derek took a bite and glared at Oz.
Philip laid a hand on Derek's arm. "We all deal with grief differently. Xander works through his and Derek needs time alone."
"Which is why we're running the dig," Oz pointed out.
Derek sighed and put down his fork. "Thank you, Oz, I know how much trouble this is for you, with Junior down here and all the other stresses in your life."
Xander snorted. "Dad, I've done more work than this on vacation." He grinned at Nick. "And so has everyone at this table."
Nick nodded, giving his boss and lover a dry look. "That's true, this is a vacation with paperwork. It's not that hard."
"As long as we can come to you if we have a problem around payday," Oz agreed, "there's no problems with us doing the daily managing. It's not much different than what we do at work. We categorize reports and we look at artifacts."
Derek nodded, giving them a faint smile. "Thank you, boys. I appreciate the help." He looked over at Junior, who was frowning at the woman next to him that was trying to play with him. "He doesn't like strangers," he told her calmly.
"I was just unwinding his fingers from my hair," she said, smiling at him. "Did I hear right, you're from the Luna Foundation dig?"
Oz nodded. "Derek's running it but we've had a few problems so we're doing the daily running."
She grinned. "I just love that sort of thing. Are tours available?"
"The owner of the island asked that we not," Derek told her. "It's a private island and he's a writer. He really can't stand for people to be wandering around, he says it disturbs his muses."
She laughed. "I can understand that. Oh, well. If he changes his mind, please put a small ad in the paper and I'll show up for the first one." She turned around and went back to her breakfast.
Xander frowned at her, then at Derek, shaking his head. Derek looked almost amused and Nick looked worried. Every time he had met a woman in a restaurant, it ended bad. He picked up a bite of sausage and bit into it fiercely, glaring at the woman's back. Philip just smiled at him, probably knowing exactly what he was thinking. Then he winked. Nick tossed his napkin at his new lover, glaring at him.
"What?" Philip asked innocently. "I doubt we'll be seeing another like Karen in this town."
Nick growled something and picked up another piece of sausage to eat.
Derek looked from the woman to Philip and back. "I certainly hope not," he said quietly. He patted Nick's hand. "Don't worry, dear, we'll protect you from women."
Nick choked, glaring at his brother, who was laughing. "Not funny," he complained.
Philip smiled at the couple. "Nick has run into more women that have given us fits than any other man I know," he said quietly. "Tha' and trouble always liked his Mustang."
Oz nodded. "We've noted the Mustang curse." He looked at Xander. "Remember, things like that tend to run in families."
"But you protect me from women," Xander said cutely, grinning at his husband.
Oz nodded. "Definitely. Eat." He fed their wiggling, babbling baby another bite of pancake.
Derek shook his head and took another bite. "Boys," he sighed.
Derek looked up as Oz came in with a folder, checking the date on his watch. It had been two days since Nick and Philip had gotten there? He shook off his musings and his grief, taking the folder from him. "What's this?"
"Payroll stuff. We're supposed to pay them in another two days." He patted Derek on the shoulder. "I'll leave that up to you, okay? Xander's got his hands full with the management stuff. The crew chief quit yesterday."
"He did?" Derek said, looking up with confusion on his face. "Why?"
"Because he called Xander 'an interfering git'. Xander went down to watch the dig, trying to see what they were doing and the guy jumped on him for being a tourist. So Xander told him off and called over one of the students that had worked last summer to get himself identified. The guy didn't want to work with an amateur so he left." Oz shrugged. "Xander's called the number in your phonebook for the Chicago dig to get their manager."
Derek smiled. "Good job. That woman is hard though, she'll bother the students."
Oz snorted. "Xander had a meeting with her yesterday, Derek. He told her *all* about how he wanted his workers treated. Then he told her the job was hers for as long as she could be supportive, kind, and help the students instead of being a drill instructor to them."
Derek chuckled. "Good. I'll go down tomorrow and check on them." He patted Oz on the arm. "I'll deal with this today. Thank you."
"Hey, you do the money stuff for right now. It's keeping my baby from doing it and wearing himself out." He shrugged and left the room, closing the door behind him.
Derek smiled at the folder, enjoying how his family was pulling together to help him right now. He pulled out the contracts to make sure of the payrate for everyone, then started to fill out the checks.
Xander whistled, bringing the dig to a halt. "Paychecks?" he suggested with a smile, holding them up. "If there's any problems, tell me before I go up to the house so I can get Derek to fix it today." He sat down on the edge of the pit, holding out the checks for the woman that came forward. "As happened last year, you guys get the rest of today off as soon as the site is covered, it's a tradition. Work begins at the normal time tomorrow and you'll be expected to be here and able to work. Next payday's like any other day," he told her with a grin. "Hi, Xander Harris, Derek's son."
She shook his hand. "We talked on the phone. Derek does this every dig?"
"I've only been with him on the one last summer, but he did it then and he reminded me to do it this time." He waved the crew over. "I'm not biting anyone today. Hurry up and get everything settled for the night; we're getting a storm soon." All the students went into overdrive, getting the site covered with the plastic tarps so they could come get the checks. "There's a sign posted beside the dock with the times of the ferry," he reminded everyone as the last few people took their checks.
"Um, Mr. Harris, did Doctor Rayne only cut our checks for a week?" She showed it to him.
He frowned and took it to look at it closer, he didn't have his contacts in. "That's entirely possible." He handed it back. "Derek lost his mother and step-father last week, guys, that's why I'm managing the dig right now. I'll get him to cut the rest for the other three weeks tonight. Anything else that needs worked on?"
One of the guys smirked up at him. "How's the kids?"
"Junior's doing much better now that he's out of the hospital. He's missing his cat though." He shrugged. "The rest are the same but older, Greg." He stood up, looking down at the crew. "You guys are standing around with real money in your hands?" he asked with a grin. Everyone ran for the ferry dock, a few stopping in their tents for something. He smiled down at the crew chief. "It's a Derek thing," he told her.
"What about my check?"
Xander shrugged. "I'll ask Derek when I go back up to the house. Want to come up with me?"
She climbed out of the pit and pulled the last of the tarp over it before following him up the hill. "He's really grieving?"
"Yeah, we had to get some friends of his from San Francisco to come help him through it." He stopped to take a deep breath. "Wow, I hate that hill," he told her, shaking his head. "Oh, well. Oh, any artifacts that you find are to be brought up twice a day unless they're on that special list I gave you." She nodded, panting hard. "Want me to slow down?"
She waved a hand. "It's not that bad, I'll get used to it."
"Yeah, but it's the heat that'll kill you." He sighed as they walked into the garden, running over to pick up Junior and swing him around. "How is Daddy's little boy?" he asked, blowing a raspberry on his stomach. Junior laughed and patted him on the face. "Yes, I love you too. Where's Grandpa?"
"Ba," he said excitedly. "Ki, Da, ki!" he said, pointing at a familiar cat sitting on one of the benches.
"I'll be screwed," Xander said, putting Junior back down and stepping towards the Strife cat. He picked the cat up to look at it, staring into it's eyes. The cat licked him on the nose. "Okay, you're you," he said finally, handing the cat to his son. "Be careful with him, Junior." He led the way into the house, waving at Oz. "Did you noticed that the Strife cat followed us?" he asked as he walked back to Derek's office.
"He's in there with Philip," Oz called.
"He didn't cut full checks," Xander called back, tapping on the door.
Derek opened it. "I didn't?"
"You only cut a week's worth," the crew chief said as she walked in. She smiled at Philip. "Father," she greeted with a nod.
"Not any longer," Philip said, smiling at her. "I'm here as a confidant. Xander, what was that about Strife?"
"He's here," Xander smirked. "He and Junior are playing in the fenced off part of the garden."
Philip shook his head and went out the door. "I'll go get him and check the cat," he said as the door closed.
Nick looked up from the corner. "How did our cat get here? We didn't bring him."
"Like I know," Xander snorted. "It's not like we sent for the cat."
"That cat's supernatural?" the crew chief snapped. "And you let it play with your son?"
"It's the essence of mischief," Derek sighed in weariness. "Junior attracted him after a realmal visitor left us. The cat came to her because it's spirit in her home realm protects her there." He smiled at her. "The cat's harmless, it tends to want to hurt his older sister, but otherwise harmless."
"Derek, there have been times *I* wanted to hurt Precious," Xander said grimly. He looked at her. "Junior was possessed last summer. If Mischief wants to play with him, that's a lot better than an upper echelon demon in my book." He waved. "Anyway, the kids said that you only cut a week's worth, I told them that I'd talk to you and we'd have resolution by tomorrow." He walked away, giving Oz an odd look. "She doesn't like the Strife cat," he told him as he got a hug.
"Huh. He's good for me. Junior likes him and it keeps him out of most trouble."
"Yeah, no going for the pool," Xander noted. "How did he get outside?"
"The cat probably," Nick said from the doorway, holding both the cat and the baby. "Philip brought them in, they were playing hide and seek in the big, brambly bush."
"Ah. Let's take care of those scratches," Oz said, taking the baby. "Go ahead and put Strife down." He looked down at the cat. "You can stay as long as you keep an eye on him, do you understand? He's not to go near the pool without a human adult that knows he's there and he's not to wander outside of the garden."
"And not down any of the paths," Xander added, picking up a banana to peel. "Junior, want a snack?" he asked, holding out half of it.
The baby grabbed it and started to suck on it, grinning around it at his father.
The Strife cat locked eyes with Oz, then looked away. It meowed quietly and rubbed up against Junior's legs, knocking him onto his butt, and getting petted because of it.
"As long as you keep track of him and he doesn't get hurt," Oz told him, "you're allowed." The cat looked up and meowed. "Good. Glad that's clear. Make sure he gets a bath soon, okay?" He turned back to watch his husband finish preparing the fruit salad for lunch. "I can do that."
"Go take care of the scratches, I'm done for the day," Xander told him, giving him a kiss and a smile.
Derek walked out and looked down at the cat, who was curled up in Junior's lap. "Are we all settled with the cat?"
"Yup. Junior won't be going outside of the garden, near the water without an aware adult, or down any of the paths."
Derek chuckled. "Good job. Nick wanted to know what was for lunch."
"Fruit salad, and if Mr. Beef and Steak wants something else, he can come cook it," Xander said, grinning at him. "I'm glad you're feeling better, Dad."
"Me too, son." He reached down to pat Junior on the head. "You be goot and I'll read you a story later." The baby waved the remains of the banana at him. "No, you eat that part." He waved and walked back to his office.
The crew chief came out a few minutes later, carefully stepping around the cat. "It's really safe?"
"Very," Oz told her. "We set down rules and the cat follows them. Very simple safety rules, but that's all we really need right now."
She snorted. "With a toddler?"
"He's just over a year," Xander told her, reaching up to get some bowls. "Want to eat with us? We're having fruit salad."
"No thank you, I think I'll go visit the mainland." She left through the sliding glass door, making sure it shut before walking away.
"Oh, Derek," Oz called, walking toward the office. "Is she going to cause us trouble?"
"She'll try," Derek said with a wave of his hand. "She won't get far. The Council knows about Junior's friend." He looked up. "Is it lunch time?"
"Yup," Xander said, bringing in a tray of bowls. "I wasn't sure if you wanted to eat with us or not."
Derek pointed at the extra chairs in the room. "Bring your lunch in here, son, we'll still eat together while we make some plans for the dig.
Xander nodded, going out to get the rest of lunch so he and Oz could get back to work.
Xander opened the door to admit London's new, and former Precept, waving him in. "Derek, James is here," he called, going back to the plans for the dig.
Derek walked out, shaking his colleague's hand. "I know what brings you down here," he said, walking out to the garden. He pointed at the cat and James went over to examine it. "It's been with Junior since that little girl, Miriam, showed up. It helped get her home but he's always protected Junior."
James picked up the cat, using his unique talent to divine what it was. He dropped it after a second. "That's a very powerful cat," he said in admiration. "Not demonic though." He cleared his throat. "That wasn't why I was here, but I'll make a note of it so no one else has to come out here. I'm here about William and your mother, Derek."
Derek nodded, waving at a bench. "Would you like a lie that the Council will appreciate or the very strange truth?"
"Let's try the truth first, that way I can be a judge of that," he said jovially.
Xander stepped out and smiled at him. "Dad, want me to? Philip's on the phone and he wants to see you in Miami. Seems he's found a majorly powerful kid. It was trying to kill the priest baptizing it." He handed over the phone, taking Derek's place. As soon as his father had walked inside to take the call, he handed over the journal. "This was William's, before he and his symbiotic passenger had to go home."
James looked at him. "Please tell me that was the lie," he said quietly.
Xander shook his head. "Nope, I can't do that. But I can give you better news. Grandma took the one that was inhabiting Junior so he wouldn't have to leave too."
James looked down at the journal. "It's all in here?"
"Everything except the part about Junior and what his passenger was. That's the .... edited version," he said with a grin. "He didn't think that the Council was ready for this knowledge yet."
James nodded. "Me either. Let me read this and I'll come talk to you later. The child was trying to kill the priest?"
"The kid's not fully human and the priest was trying to pour holy water over its head. It was burning so the kid turned the sensation around on the priest," he explained with a shrug. "It's what we expected to happen when we baptized Junior recently." He got up. "Happy reading. Please don't hurt Dad." He walked back into the house and closed the door.
James shook his head. "That house is much worse off than the others. I'm glad now that all I have is an open Hellmouth and a rogue slayer running around." He started reading, trying to think of it as a very good story.
James walked into Derek's office and tossed down the journal. "I don't want to believe it," he said firmly. "I'll take that back to the Council, unless you have a different copy, and I'll let that story stand. Anything you want to add?"
"Just that they're fine, most likely," Derek said grimly. "Not that I've heard from Mother, but I still think that they're fine. And Junior's also doing very well. It was touch and go there after they took out the alien but now he's fine." He looked at the little girl sleeping on his couch. "James, she needs more protection than my house can give her."
"What is she?" he asked, walking over to look down at her. "She seems human."
"She is," Derek said, leaning back in his chair. "Very human, but she's also a fourth generation mutant, with the exception of her mother."
James sighed. "Oh, no. What about the grandparents?"
"She said she didn't have a family. I've started a search for them. I have temporary custody, but I want to move her through your house. Her mother's British and I have a feeling that you'll be able to find her faster."
"Of course. Do you have the fingerprints and such?" Derek handed over a file. "And her tests are in here?"
"No, just notes about her problem today. She was scared by the water and the priest. Her mother suddenly found out that she had the family problem and decided to have her committed to Got before she killed her."
James hissed. "All right. I'll start a search immediately for her birth family. What about until I find them?"
Derek smiled gently at him. "We've had much experience with children, James. Don't worry about that. Just find her family for her."
James nodded and took the copy of the journal Derek had made, taking them with him so he could leave on the last ferry. He really wanted to be home again.
Derek looked at the little girl on the couch, smiling when he saw her peeking up at him. "Would you like some supper?" he asked her. She sat up and curled up in a ball, nodding. "All right. Xander?"
"It's me," Oz said as he walked in with a tray. "Xander's crashed on the couch with Junior for a nap." He put the tray down beside her and squatted down. "My name's Oz. I'm the daddy of the little boy that came up and patted you earlier." She picked up a piece of cheese to nibble on. "That older guy over there is Derek, he's the little boy's grandfather."
"Who the other guy?" the little girl asked, then covered her mouth. "I'm sorry."
"Shh, it's okay," Oz said, giving her a hug. "I promise, it's okay. You're allowed to ask questions. See, Junior has two daddies, me and that other guy. Derek's that other guy's daddy. Oh, and that other guy's name is Xander. Okay?" She nodded. "Okay. We're going to be the people here for a while, until we find the rest of your family, the ones that your Mommy didn't want you to see." She started to tear up again. "Shh, baby, it's all right. I promise you, it's okay. We'll find your family and your mother will never be near you again." He pulled back and wiped off her cheeks. "Would you like to see a picture of our other kids?" She nodded so he turned and grabbed the picture that Derek tossed over. "These are our children," he said proudly. "We have three girls and three boys."
She took the picture to hold, running a finger over one. "I know him," she said. "I see him before." She held it up so he could see it. "Who he?"
"That's ..." Oz looked closer. "That's Timmy," he said, giving her a smile. "That's one of our quad. The other's Brandon."
She nodded, going back to looking at the picture. "Can I see them?"
"Maybe later," Oz promised. "If not, definitely tomorrow." He patted her on the head as he stood up. "You eat your meal and I'll be in the living room. Or if you want, you can ask Derek questions. He knows all about them."
She watched him go, nibbling on a piece of melon from the plate. She looked over at Derek, who was giving her a hopeful smile. "My mommy no liked you," she said, shaking her head.
"I know," Derek told her. "That's because I wanted to make sure you were all right." She nodded. "You eat, little one. We'll talk later. You could probably use the food." He picked up a piece of paper and pretended to work, watching her reactions to everything around her.
Junior toddled into the office, looking at this girl. He offered her the cat he was clutching, smiling at her. She leaned down and patted him on the head. "No thanks. I don't like kitties. I like doggies, big ones." She patted the top of the cat's head. "Maybe you should put it down for a minute, it looks like it needs to stretch."
Junior put the cat down, watching as it headed for its new litter box. He frowned and tried to follow it, but Oz stepped in and stopped him. "That's the kitty version of a bathroom, let it use it." He picked his son up, holding him the same way he held the cat. "So, would you like to go outside and sit on the porch with Junior?" She nodded, grinning up at him. "Did you finish your lunch?" She showed him the empty plate, except for a strawberry, which Junior lunged down and grabbed to gnaw on. He laughed and nodded his head at the door. "Come on, we're all going to sit on the porch for a few minutes." She got up and ran in front of him, leading the way.
Oz shook his head. She was a delightful girl, but he wanted to hurt her mother. She was safe now, that's what he reminded himself as he followed her out to sit with his husband. She was safe and they would find her a family.