Oz looked up as the door opened, waving his two lovers and baby over. "Hey," he said, putting down the paper. "The settlement made the front page. Ernie's ex has already been in to tell us thanks and the lawyer called to say all the other stuff was set up." He looked at Xander, who was reading something and blushing. "What?"
"This," he said, holding up a catalog. "I thought we agreed not to sell porn stuff." He shivered, flipping through it. "It's interesting though."
Giles took it from him. "I'm sure someone left it. And you don't need those ideas. You have enough of your own." He shook his head, handing over the baby. "Willow will be here in half an hour to take her upstairs for most of the day. I called in my report to the Council this morning and they were pleased. The store's been doing fine and we can use some of the money to buy it from them and keep it in the family."
Oz cleared his throat. "I have something I want to do with my share of it but I'm not sure you're going to agree. Matter of fact, I know you won't." He looked at the catalog, taking it and turning it over. "That's my friend's store. He wants me to come run it."
"You want to buy it? That is something I'd never thought of. It might hurt the image of this place if you did so."
"Not if I fixed it up so it's not so sleazy. There's a nice clientele base right now and it could be made more exclusive. Less prone to kids getting in."
"Hey," Xander said, "I used to live there sometimes." He walked around to the front of the counter, leaning on it. "I know it does a good business though and it's mostly self-sufficient." He shrugged. "I'm not against it if it comes down to that. As long as word doesn't get out and we're not smeared for it."
"Nope, I'd put it under Buffy's name, already talked to her and Will about dodging under their names. All the workers are good and honest. We can trust them." He looked at the older man. "Well?"
"I'd like a chance to think about it. I'm not sure how much we'll have after taxes and it seems a bit risky still."
"He doesn't own just this store, he owns three in LA too. I'd be getting them too. They're doing real well and I can oversee them a little closer if I need to and not get into trouble or have it leaking here."
"Sounds like a plan. But didn't that church say that they were going to buy it and rip it down?"
"Let 'em," Oz said. "It's not the main store. The main one is out toward the mall and it's not even generally recognized as such." He wiggled his eyebrows. "Know the place yet?"
"*That* place?" Xander giggled. "Yeah, I want to see you own that place. Especially in Buffy's name. Her mother would form MOO again and kill us." He kept giggling, putting his head down.
Giles shook his head. "Your part of the money is your business but please be careful not to let it contaminate here." He set down the catalog. "I thought you meant that horrid place down the street and two over also. If that were the case I would have to resort to siccing him on you. Again."
Oz backed up. "Please, no, not that." He reached over to tickle his friend, making him start to roll around on the floor. He joined him there and soon the store was filled with giggles and laughter and fun.
Xander fidgeted. That's what he did when he was nervous or upset and he was both now. He had surgery in the morning and his men were out having a nice quiet dinner together, his idea. He jumped when the door was knocked on, running over to get it, hoping it wasn't the cops. "Willow," he sighed. "What's wrong?" He let her in, watching her walk over to the couch.
"I wanted to come over to calm you down before your operation tomorrow." She patted the couch beside her, watching as he closed the door and walked over slowly. "What's really going on?"
"The guy that originally closed me tended to use bad metal wire to stitch those things closed and it's been found to be harmful but he also closed it wrong. They're going to go back in and reopen it." He sighed, slumping over onto his own lap. "I'm just nervous. I don't even know why."
"What else was there then?" She stroked over his back, soothing him as only a long-time friend could. "What else did he say?"
Xander pulled the folder of stuff out from under the couch. "They did another ultrasound." He handed it over, moving away from her a little.
She looked at it then at him. "Are you sure this is the right one?" He nodded. "Hell, no wonder." She put it back in and put the folder on the couch. "So, how far is it?"
"I'm fully over, just lacking hormones." He pulled out a hard copy of the area being operated on in the morning. "Here, this is what he's taking out." She started to swear. "Yup, my feelings on the subject. So, now I get to be a shemale forever maybe." He put his head down again, resting it in his hands.
She rubbed his back. "Even if they reclose it, he did it wrong."
"Gonna be a month," was the muffled reply. "I told Giles about it."
"He knows about me too?" He nodded. "Okay." She put it back down, frowning at it again. "I should hurt him. A nice herpes spell or something. Oh, maybe something to make him attract people like Anya." She grinned, bouncing slightly. "Or even Cordy."
"Wesley said she was more human the last time I heard from him." He shrugged. "It's not a big, I'm not the only one." He turned to look at her, pulling a leg up under his other one. "It's just that I'm a few hormones short of PMSing every month or worse. He said I might actually be able to get pregnant. Wouldn't that kick all." He sighed, leaning on her arm along the back of the couch. "I don't want that. I just wanna be me."
"So be you. This has always been part of you and still is. The Hellmouth did it to both of us and about a third of all the children born here." She shrugged. "Nobody says you have to get pregnant or even activate that part of you. You could close it back up again and no one would complain, especially not your two guys." She used her trapped hand to rub the side of his face. "And with the way Oz begged you the other morning not to do it again, I'd say that they were both happy with you."
"He was playing. I jumped him earlier and wore him out." He grinned. "But this might change all that. He'll start looking at me funny." His smile faded slowly. "Or Giles could. No matter how understanding he says he is, being faced with a lover that's really different from one hour to the next is scary and bad. He might start to not like me or not like touching me. He might even not love me anymore." He hugged her arm harder. "I just don't know what to do."
"What did they say about it?"
"That it would be okay." He closed his eyes. "But neither have been faced with it yet. Seeing an actual new hole on me could freak them and I'd be hurting then." He rubbed against her hand. "I needed comforting."
"Then why did you tell them to go to dinner?"
"Because they needed to have some aloneness to help them couplize." He looked into her eyes, seeing the frustration there. "I'm sorry, I don't need to dump this on you. I know you go in for another evaluation soon."
"It's been working fine for the last three years. This time's not going to be any different." She shrugged, taking back her hand when his head lifted. "I think you're worrying for nothing. Both of them know and don't care right now. And even if they freak and say something they'll apologize and make it better because it would have to be just a momentary scary/bad. Not even close to sending you away." She tapped the middle of his forehead. "Don't make me tuck you into bed, young man. You don't want me to start playing mommy again."
"Do you do this to her too?" he asked, grinning again.
"No, she's female so therefore superior." She grinned, standing up. "Buffy's waiting to talk to me so I should go home. I'll come by tomorrow night to check on you, 'kay?" He nodded and she walked out.
"Don't walk alone," he yelled.
"I'm not, I have Spike with me," she called back, through the closed door.
He watched the window, seeing her darker form walking up the outside stairs. "That's an interesting combination," he said, shuddering. He stood up, looking down at Miri's playpen. She was still sleeping, a miracle for a child at seven months of age. He went over to lock the door and pick up her carrier from the table, picking her up carefully and putting her in it so she could be brought into the bathroom while he showered. His talk with the fount of optimism had helped calm him some and now he had to get ready for his men to come home.
Buffy walked into the apartment, looking around. She heard the shower running so closed the door and sat down on the couch. When she saw the medical looking things, she tipped her head, trying to read it. She wrinkled her nose and picked it up to look at it more closely, as well as the one under it. She looked around then shook her head, putting it down. "Whatever," she muttered. She heard the shower shut off so turned to see who was home. "Hey," she said, making Xander jump. "Sorry, I didn't think you'd hear me if I yelled so I didn't." He nodded, heading back to the bedroom. He came back a few minutes later, still carrying the carrier. "So, we're sitting all night at Oz's and you'll know where we are so it's all good, right?"
He sighed, sitting down next to her. He saw the papers still out and blanched. "Yeah, a night off is a good." He looked at her, seeing her watching him. "What?"
"You looked at the gross things and got really white. What's up?"
"Nothing, it's something that Giles should tell you about." He picked them up, putting them away under the couch. "Sorry, national secret."
"Okay." She looked down at Miri. "Not her, right?"
"Very not her." He took a deep breath and let it out when he heard the keys in the lock. "It's open," he yelled. Giles walked in and smiled at him, then raised an eyebrow at Buffy. "She's here to take Miri for the night. She and Will are going to camp at Oz's tonight."
"Ah," he said, putting down his keys and taking off his jacket. He looked over his shoulder. "Oz was parking the car. He should be in soon." He hung his jacket up and walked over to the couch, sitting behind Xander to look down at the baby. "Still sleeping?"
"Yeah, even through my shower." He smiled at Oz as he walked in. "The girls will be camping at your place tonight."
"Makes sense to me." He kicked the door shut and took off his jacket. "I'm assuming you stole someone's car to park out front?"
She shook her head. "It was already out there." She shrugged, brushing over the baby's head. "When she due for a trim?"
"Not anytime soon," Oz said. "Not until her first birthday, a tradition in my family." He looked around the room, noticing the absence of something on the table. "Where's the..."
"Under the couch," Xander said quickly, holding out a hand. "And Will's been here earlier to comfort me too." He waited until his lap was full to whisper in his ear. "She doesn't know but she's seen them and I'm not telling her." He took a lick over the earlobe to make it look like an innocent nibble then leaned back to kiss Giles too, whispering the same thing to him. He nodded and got up, surrendering his seat to Oz, taking her hand and leading her down the hall to the bedroom.
"She's gonna freak," Oz said. "Those of us that were born here know, but she's not from here." He looked at the younger man, seeing him tense. "If she does then we'll deal and she'll get over it."
"What!?!" came from the bedroom. "That is *so* sick!"
"Or not," Xander said, sighing. "Call Willow and tell her to come over? I don't want her to drive Miri if she's gonna be hissying all over the city later." He laid his head down on the back of the couch, tipping it to silently ask for a neck rub.
Oz picked up the phone, hitting the memory key for his house. "Will? I think you may need to come back, Giles just told her and she's heaving." He hung up and complied with the silent request. "She'll be over in a few." He looked up as Buffy walked past them without looking at them and slammed the door on her way out, waking up Miri.
"Bloody hell," floated out from the bedroom, making both of them smile a little. Giles walked out, sitting down in front of Xander. "She didn't take it well at all. She's most distressed about it actually."
"Gee, you think?" Xander said, not looking at him. "Was it the purple cloud of disgust around her or the yelling that we all heard that clued you off?" He closed his eyes, shaking his head. "That wasn't fair. I'm just pissed, I shouldn't have said it."
"No, you were right," Oz said. "We both heard her fit and saw her funk as she walked out. We'll bring Miri with us tomorrow and show her to Wesley as he's in town again, and Will will watch the store for us." He looked at Giles. "Okay?"
"Very much so." He leaned over to kiss Xander. "She'll get over it."
"No she won't. She's gonna make fun of me first." He leaned over, hiding his head in the strong shoulder. "Just hold me?"
"Of course we will. Nothing else would do at the moment."
"Will's coming over," Oz said. "I called her at the outburst." He tipped his head at the sound of feet on the stairs. "Speaking of which. It's open," he yelled. Willow and Spike walked in, shaking their heads. "Let me guess, Buffy?"
She nodded, frowning. "Brat," she said. She walked over to sit in the chair, looking at the little grouping. "Spike, come sit for a minute, I'm not ready to face her yet." She waited until he was nearby and the door closed and locked. "She found out how?"
"The pictures were left out. It's my fault. Well, she walked in while I was showering but it's my fault for not putting them back after you left." He shuddered. "I think I'll stay away from her for a while."
"Yeah, it might be a good idea. I've never heard her call anyone that name before." Giles turned to look at her. "Na-uh. He doesn't need to hear it and especially not from me." He shrugged and went back to his comforting.
Spike walked over to look at the child. "Not seen you recently," he said, picking up her carrier to bring her over to Willow. She started to babble the only word she knew, making him frown. "And you're your father's child at that. He talks about the same way." He handed her over, not seeing the two older men on the couch holding the youngest one back from staking him. He sat down facing Willow. "I don't sit."
"I don't care," she said. She scowled at him. "Unless you want to be horribly maimed and have green hair forever I'd shut up now. I will curse you with bad hair forever."
He shuddered. "Sorry." He got up, walking out. "I'm going to go see who's hiding in that car." He closed the door behind him, whistling happily. The screams from outside didn't faze anyone inside, knowing that he couldn't hurt anyone still.
Willow looked at Xander and sighed. "He's an ass and so's she but we need them both." She stood up, shifting the carrier so it didn't dig into her arm as much. "We're going back to your place, Xander. She doesn't have a key to there." She walked out of the apartment, closing the door quietly.
Spike stuck his head around the edge of the door. "The Council is not at all pleased at the moment but they're not going to be trying to take her again." He shut the door, leaving them alone.
Oz sighed, getting up. "I'll go with them to protect them." He grabbed his jacket but came back around to kiss Xander one more time. "I'm sorry tonight wasn't the special one. We'll do it when you're better." He stroked through the hair once and left, hurrying after the odd pair.
Giles grabbed the younger man by the hips and pulled him closer, making him more comfortable. "I know it'll be hard again for a while but I'm sure she'll get over it. Even she can look up things and find out that it's not just you." He stroked over the shaking back. "And we'll all live happily ever after again." Xander nodded, not looking up. "Would you like to discuss this?"
"Not really." He looked up now, wiping his eyes. "I'm tired of losing my friends over things that I can't control." He lay back on the couch, getting comfortable, his legs sitting in the older man's lap. "I mean, what right does she have to get pissy because I was born differently?"
"Didn't you fear the same thing would happen to us?"
"No...well kinda. I thought you guys might freak when you actually saw it." He shrugged. "It still might happen. It's a shock to see something like that on a guy." He closed his eyes. "Can we go to bed and hold me?"
"Of course we can." Giles got up and retrieved the syringe from the cabinet. "Right after this."
"Let me take off some pants and we're good to go." He lifted his hips, sliding them down. "Ah, better." He winced as the needle came closer, turning his head. He flinched as it went in but relaxed when he realized it didn't hurt that much. "You're good at that." He looked up and grinned. "Watcher training?"
"First aid training. I thought a license might come in handy." He recapped the needle and tossed it into the bag so he could bring it back in the morning for proper disposal then he held out his hand. "Shall we?" It was taken and they walked down the hall together, each comforting the other.
"But I only want local. I'm deathly afraid of not coming back up. I refuse to go under general anesthesia." He crossed his arms, looking at the doctor hard. "Talk to my doctor, he knows that I won't be put under fully."
"'Tis true I'm afraid," the doctor doing the surgery said as he walked in. "And you, young man, can be heard all over the ward. Please modulate your tone." He turned to the Anesthetist. "Don't piss him off, it'll make it harder on me. Just give him an epidural and deal with it."
"Fine, whatever." He walked out, coming back with another set of bags and tubes. He quickly hooked him up and moved away, watching the man fidget. "He needs a paralytic."
"No!" they said together.
"I don't believe it's necessary. I'm sure we can just stop his ankles from moving and we should be fine. He won't even feel the straps if you've done your job right." He smiled at the man on the bed. "Now, relax and we'll be taking you down in a minute." He turned to the nurse. "Let the people he came with see him one last time then take him down. I'm going to go scrub." She nodded, writing in his chart. He looked at the other doctor. "After you," he said, waving. They walked out together.
Xander looked at the nurse and grinned. "I'm a big fraidy guy," he explained.
"That's not an unusual problem or phobia," she said, walking out. "Stay there, I'll bring your friends back."
He hummed to himself, liking the good drugs. He was grinning when she brought them back. "Like these drugs dear, very nice." She smiled, patting his hand and left to give them some privacy. "Hi guys," he said cheerfully. "Can I have many hugs?" He held out his arms, unable to move any further up.
Oz looked at Giles and grinned. "Good drugs causing a flashback?" He walked over, hugging him tightly but being careful not to touch the tubing. "Be safe and come back to us. We'll be waiting down the hall for you." He kissed him, then the top of his forehead. "Miri said to give you that one."
"Awwww, thanks." He grinned, pulling his friend down to lap his cheek. "You deserve puppy kisses." He looked at Giles, crooking a finger to bring him over. "You need one too."
The oldest man walked over, shaking his head. "Very nice drugs indeed." He hugged him too, taking his time to gently kiss him. "We'll be waiting and thinking of you. Just come back to us."
"I'm not going any more under than this. I'm fraidy guy when it comes to being knocked out." He grinned. "But I'm okay with this. Really, really 'kay with this."
"So we can see," Giles said, wiping his cheek. "We'll still be thinking of you, waiting for you to come back." He brushed some of the hair around. "If you're really good, I'll order us a very good dinner tonight."
"Okay," he said, bouncing just a little. Then he started to pout. "Hey, no fair. I can't feel little me."
Oz laughed a little, leaning down for another kiss. "I know, they gave you the good pregnant woman drugs so you won't feel it." He lapped the side of the younger man's face and stepped back. "You needed a puppy kiss too." He took Giles hand, walking around to lean against him. "We'll be right here when you come back." He looked at the nurse by the doors. "We can, right?"
"We'll call you in when he's being brought up." She nodded at the orderlies. "He's going down now. They're ready for him."
"No," Xander said, reaching for them as he was moved. "I want them." He grabbed their hands, holding on in a death grip. "I want them to come with me." She nodded so they moved to either side of the bed, holding his hands all the way down the hall.
It was Giles that broke down when he was taken through that last set of doors without them.
Xander looked up at his doctor. "I'm not supposed to be feeling anything, right?" He nodded. "Then why are there feathery type fingers touching me?" He shuddered. "Please take them off." He sighed as a new drug was introduced. "You promised," he slurred.
"I'm not letting you go under, just a little something to calm you down. We don't need you crying during the procedure." He walked to the foot of the table, sitting down. "Okay, I'm going to start cleaning you here and I'm going to add another local just in case the epidural wears off, okay?" Xander nodded, wiggling his whole body. "Do you still feel the fingers?"
"Yeah," he said. He closed his eyes. "Just make it not hurt please."
"Just a little pressure," the doctor promised, picking up the first swab.
Both of his guys were there when he came out of the drug haze, standing right next to him. "Hi," he said softly. He was instantly hugged by both of them, being helped to sit up a little so the bed could be raised. "What's up?" He saw Wesley and went white. "Something happened to Miri, didn't it?" He looked from Oz to Giles. "Tell me, what was it?"
Wesley came over to lay a hand on his arm. "Nothing happened to her that we know of. She's with Cordelia right now outside. We wanted to wait for you to be awake before bringing her inside." He cleared his throat. "I also got a call from the Council. It seems they are most disturbed about something with you three and tried to have her snatched only to run into a vampire protecting you and a witch cursing the man who tried." He smiled slightly. "I told them it was a bad idea and to leave you alone." He stepped back as Miri was brought in. "Hello, Miriam love. Here's your daddy, good as new." He set her down in his arms, stepping back to watch them. "What were you in for anyway?"
"Hellmouth related problems," Oz said, looking at Giles.
"Oh, that problem. I understand that there's a lot of it going around up there." He looked at Cordelia. "You must have escaped that cruel curse."
She nodded, biting her lip. "Yeah, I'm one of the lucky two-thirds." She came over to kiss Xander's forehead. "You be safe up there. I still worry that you're going to get eaten." She patted the top of the baby's head. "And she's cute. I approve wholeheartedly. As did Angel when I woke him up to show her off." She smiled a little. "He just shook his head and patted my face, walking away." She moved some of his hair aside. "Don't make us come up there and protect her ourselves."
"I won't," he said, grinning just a little. "Thanks though. It's good to know that you care."
"About her," Oz said. He frowned at her. "Why show her to Angel?"
"'Cause he was wondering what Spike was talking about and I put the outfit together." She stepped back, looking at him. "You're good for him, I think." She looked at Wesley and smiled. "I'm going for some coffee, want some?"
"Yes, thank you." He waited until she was gone. "Angel had been told by Spike that something was up, and she was all too happy to show her off after she dressed her." He shrugged. "I didn't see the harm in it."
"That's okay," Xander said, yawning. "I think everyone should bow down before her cuteness. Any word on why the Council is so stupid?"
"They feel she's slipping from their grasp so are overreacting again." He sat down on the lone chair in the room. "Faith has slipped a little deeper in her coma and they're worried that something will happen, for whatever reason."
"Add the court case," Oz said. "Instant snatch attempt."
"True, there is that, but they also cited something to do with consorting...." He trailed off. "I'm thinking they were talking about Spike but I informed them of the situation he's in and why he's around. I think it's something else."
"Then we'll find it and make it go poof," Xander said, yawning again. "When can I go home?"
"In another hour or so. They want to make sure you don't start bleeding suddenly and that the drugs are leaving your system in a good way." Oz sat on the bed to brush through the hair. "The doctor came in to see you. He said something about feathery fingers?"
"I felt feathery fingers touching me while they were prepping me. That's why they gave me the extra local and something to calm me down. Well, that and the crying," he said softly, looking at Miri.
"Us too," Oz said, smiling a little. "These fingers, were they real or not feeling?"
"Kinda like that soft brush thing that you do down my leg when we tickle fight. But there was no one there." He shrugged, holding up Miri. "Want her for a few more minutes? I'm about to crash again." Wesley hurried over, taking her and walking back to the chair to hold her. "It's a familiar touch though. Not something strange, but it's creepy."
"Could it be Faith," Giles said. Everyone looked at him. "The ghostly winds that night and the pains that followed, the bodies that had no explanation? They were sheltering them from her. The familiar touch to an uncomfortable area?"
"Makes sense," Oz said. "I've heard of astral projection from a coma before."
"X-Files," Xander said. "Good ep."
"It happens in real life too," Wesley said. "There's someone over there that I trust, I'll call her tonight and have her check." He looked down at Miri. "Why hurt her though?"
"She's trying to get her back," Xander said. "I've dreamt about her a few times too, a confrontation over Miri. And she was *pissed*." He looked at Giles. "Is there any way to protect her? Keep her from hurting Miri?"
"A banishing spell," Oz said, "and a binding to keep her in her own body." He looked at Wesley, who was frowning. "Don't even, she's hurting them both. And she deserves it after what she did."
"I agree," Giles said. "That might be the best plan. On the way home, we'll stop in on a better person to know and see if he can't help."
"Just so long as it's not Ethan," Xander said, looking at him. "'Cause if it's him, I'm going to get out of the car and beat his slimy ass down for Halloween." He frowned, raising an eyebrow. "And for getting there first."
Oz chuckled. "Just so long as I'm not included in that last part, I'll hold him for you."
"Nope," he said, taking his hand to hold. "I don't mind that you were there first because you share and you're good and nice and sweet to us. And you share." He grinned. "As long as you don't hate me for cutting in."
"I couldn't hate you," Oz said, leaning down and taking a kiss. They pulled back at the sound of a cleared throat.
"Is it necessary to do that in front of her?"
"Only kissing in front of her, well and cuddles too, but nothing else. Those show love and it's not wrong." He grinned at Giles. "It took a very stubborn man to show me that and get it to sink in." He took his hand too, holding it in his free one. "If you don't approve, then we'll send you the cards with just pictures of her on them." Xander pouted lightly.
"No," Wesley said, smiling a bit. "I don't mind your relationship. It's made it possible to raise her in a very stable manner. I just object to her knowing the particulars."
"She claps," Oz said. "Must mean something." He looked back down at the man on the bed, seeing him sleeping again. "Damn good drugs," he muttered. "Ought to get some to tranq Buffy tonight." He looked at Rupert. "I'm going to deal with that one tonight with Will." He nodded, looking disgusted. "Let me, I don't want you to hurt her. It'll be better coming from me. I can be dispassionate."
"Not with us," Xander mumbled, moving closer to his warmth. "Shh."
"Okay, Xander, we'll be quiet." He laid down beside him, letting him curl up against him. "You sleep and we'll watch over you. Nobody can hurt you."
Buffy looked up in shock as she was pulled off her chair and dragged out of the library. She spun around, facing Oz, who punched her, hard, on the jaw. She went down, looking up at him with big eyes. "Are you insane?" she asked.
"No, but you're a cruel and evil bitch." He squatted down near her. "Don't come near him again, especially not to make him feel worse about something he couldn't control." He stood back up.
She got up slowly, still rubbing her jaw. "Must be convenient, Oz, having both in one person." She walked back into the library. "You just like them weird, Oz, admit it."
The door closed behind her and he pushed the button for the thing he had put on her shirt when he hit her, whispering, "For Xander.". He smiled as she fell, death grip on her head to stop the noise that no one else could hear. He walked away, still smiling. He handed the control box to Spike, who Willow had insisted he bring, showing him the off button and breaking the switch. "Oops," he said, walking away. He hurried back to the house and the people that needed him.
Xander looked up from the couch as Giles chanted, holding Miri so she could watch, bottle in her mouth so she wouldn't interrupt. Willow started her chant, coming over to smudge something on the baby's forehead then his. He felt his head go light, then snap back into place and smiled, nodding at her. She walked back to the table, lighting one last candle and putting the thing she had marked them with into the flame. Giles started another incantation, the lights going out as a wind blew through the apartment. He continued to chant, looking around the room and not at them, the last four words spoken very loudly, one of them Faith's name. All the wind stopped and the room felt like a calm in the center of the storm for a second before the sucking feeling came, pulling her away. Pretty soon, the room was back to normal and Miri was babbling happily at Willow.
Oz walked in and headed for the couch, pushing Xander up to sit under his shoulders. "We talked," he said. "When she said something mean, I set something off from her chest. She's having a *bad* headache, complete with noises no one else can hear." He looked at Giles. "It pays to know paranoid former feds."
"Indeed," he said, picking up the phone. "But we still have to save her."
"Spike has the auxiliary controller." He pulled his out of his pocket, handing it to him. "Here, she's your responsibility."
Giles shut it off and put it down. "What was it?"
"It was a little device that made lots of white noise but it was the size of a really small pin. I dropped it on her chest when I hit her." He kissed the top of Xander's head. "We don't need her."
"If we did what I think we did," Willow said, "there may be a new slayer around any day now." She looked at Giles. "Who would they send?"
"Nobody," he said, sitting down under Xander's feet, which he set in his lap to rub. "The Hellmouth is closed. There's no need for her to be here."
"Plenty of reasons," Xander said. "Including the one peeking in the window." He pointed and Spike came in. "What?" he asked, grumpy. "Can't you see I'm being spoiled?"
The vampire smiled. "Yes, I can, but I came to get Willow to walk her home." He frowned at her. "You said a month," he reminded her.
Everyone turned to look at her. "Don't give me that look," she said. "I was only meddling a little, testing something against the chip." She grinned. "But it's going to wear off soon."
"Spike, let me say one thing. Hurt my child and I'll hunt you down and kill you. Then I'll have her bring you back and I'll do it repeatedly until I can't hold myself together anymore and go after you. Do we understand how horrible that would be?" Xander raised an eyebrow, looking at him.
The vampire nodded, swallowing. "I wouldn't. Even if I turned back to the Big Bad tomorrow, I wouldn't hurt her. She's too precious for words or harm to come to her." He looked at Willow, who was getting up to hand her back. "We're not taking her?"
"Nope, I want cuddles tonight," Xander said. "From my whole family. You guys get her tomorrow night." He grinned, looking over his shoulder at Oz, who had his worried face on. "Um, night guys," he said, taking her back. They left and he turned around a little more to look at him. "What?" he asked carefully.
"You'd do that to him?"
"Kill him like that? Yeah, I would." He moved the baby onto his chest. "She means that much to me. The only ones that mean more are you guys." He laid his head back down. "I'm sorry if I upset you."
Oz turned him around, kissing him hard. "Don't go after him and I'll be happy." He possessed the mouth again. "And don't be sorry. I feel the same." He stole another kiss then let him go, watching as Giles did the same thing without the words. "Promise me, Xand, don't go over like that." He nodded, not saying a word. "I mean out loud. If something happens to us, I want you to stay and help her get over it. She can't lose all of us at once."
"I won't leave her alone," he promised, taking the hand laying on his chest in his. "I'd never leave her alone."
"We can be satisfied with that for now," Giles said. "But not forever." He moved so he could lay his head down on the youngest man's stomach, listening to it digest dinner. "Never do that over us."
"I'll hold it off for as long as I can," he promised, working through the dense hair
End, this part of the series.