Stepping Back Into Reality.
Xander walked into the jewelry store he worked in, smiling and looking down at himself when he got whistled at. "Thanks, but it's just really comfy clothes," he said, picking a piece of lint off his velvet drawstring pants and t-shirt. "Is the boss here?" She nodded and left to get him, Xander pulling a chair over to sit down. He looked outside, watching Oz head for the bank to do something about their credit card situation. When he looked back up, his boss was standing there. He pulled the papers the hospital had given him out of his pocket, handing them over. "I can come back in a few weeks."
His boss sat down across from him, looking over the papers. "I noticed you weren't dressed for work." He looked up. "You really had a heart attack?"
"A mild one. They said there's no permanent damage but I still have to destress for the next few weeks." He crossed his feet, one ankle going over his other knee. "They said it was all the stress I had been going through."
"We saw your mate the day before, he looked kind of ill," the older man said, putting them down. "That the cause?"
"That was the trigger. The cause was us fighting and me running away for a few months, then coming back to problems with the local bank because of my inheritance, and the IRS later that same night." His boss smiled and shook his head. "No one paid the inheritance taxes. All the bank transfers we were doing back from Vermont, then when they withdrew all my money from the one here, caught their attention. So they showed up later the night you hired me."
"Ah." His boss looked around the store. "Two weeks from this upcoming Saturday?"
"Would be great," Xander said, giving him a small smile. "By then, my new hobby should have me tired of home." He stood up. "Do you want copies of the paperwork?" They were handed back. "Thanks."
"It's not like I can make you work while you're under doctor's orders not to."
"True," he said, leaning over to shake his boss' hand. "I noticed someone went through that case."
"Oh, yes we did." He looked over at the other saleswoman. "The matter was turned over to the police since whomever had those pieces made also stole the originals." He waved her on, watching as she brought out a tray. "I want to test you. Sit."
Xander sat back down, looking at the bracelets he was shown. "Rope chains, okay. What about them?"
"I was listening while you sold that couple the two bracelets and I noticed you said something about them catching in clothes."
Xander picked up one of the bracelets, bending it around his wrist. "When they're bent like this, the little wires like to start coming up," he ran his finger over it, stopping when he felt one. "Like in this link here," he said, handing over.
His boss ran his thumb over it, nodding. "So that would catch."
"Yeah, especially if you wear a lot of wool or looser fabrics that it'll have something to catch onto. People who wear things like cotton and silks, smooth fabrics, have less chance of it catching, but the picture they showed me of their daughter had her in a big, baggy sweater. Most of the time, my school pictures were all taken in my favorite outfit." He shrugged. "I assumed."
"Hmm," the boss said, laying it back on the tray. "That's a very good consideration. It would also make sure that the buyer was happy about what they were getting. Any other observations?"
"I only really wear bracelets but I know that all rope chains do that so any that were necklaces would probably do the same thing."
The saleswoman nodded. "I've had three that've done that. You can have them soldered down but it won't keep it from happening and after a while, the chain stops being good enough to wear out."
The boss nodded. "That sounds reasonable. What would you suggest for an older woman? Say forty?"
"What's she like? What does she like to wear? Both of those should tell me what to suggest. Like if she was a jeans and t-shirt girl, I wouldn't recommend cultured pearls unless she needed something like that."
His boss nodded. "You'll go far in this business, kid." He looked outside, smiling at the furry thing looking in door. "I think that's yours, I've never seen it before."
Xander looked over and groaned, going over to let Don into the store, picking him up to hug. "How did you get in the car? I had Oz check." He looked out toward his car, frowning. "Fluffy," he called, making her jump where she was considering the traffic and the little grassy spot in between the lanes. "Now, Fluffy," he called. She turned and trotted over to him, sitting at his feet to look up at him. "Come on, let's go inside." He bent to pick her up but she dodged his hands, running for the ice cream parlor. "Stop, now!" he ordered. A few kids stopped but not the kitten. "Fluffy!"
A woman walking toward him caught her, bringing her back. "Here." She smiled at the two kittens, scratching behind their ears. "Very tiny creatures."
"Thank you. Somehow they snuck into the car."
She smiled. "Mine did that for a while too." She waved and walked on, letting him go back into the jewelry store.
His boss looked at them, shaking his head. "You okay?"
"Yeah, that was my stress limit for the day." Xander sat back down, looking at his kittens. "How do you guys do that without us knowing?"
"They're sneaky like that," the saleswoman said, wiggling her fingers at Fluffy. "You're an odd shade of peach, dear."
Xander held her up to the light. "Yeah, we are." He set her back down in his lap, trying to catch Don as he jumped down. "Um, sorry," he said, heading after his kitten. He stalked the kitten all over the front of the store, ending up falling to his knees to catch him as he ran past. "Ha, got you again."
His boss came over, taking Fluffy from him. "Don't stress over them, it's not worth another heart attack. They were just trying to explore."
"Yeah, but they tend to not be careful when they do that." He looked up from the floor as the door opened, his mouth clicking shut as he stood up. "Hi." He looked at Fluffy. "Behave or no spending time with Adam this next visit." She meowed pitifully at him. "And no more kitty toys for a month." She settled down in the arms holding her.
The saleswoman walked over to the man standing there watching them. "Hello, may we help you?"
"I really just needed to talk to Alex. I saw him in here and took the opportunity." He smiled at her, turning on his charm.
She smiled back, waving. "Please. He was just about to leave."
"Hi," Xander said tightly, wrapping both kittens in the hem of his t-shirt, holding it so they wouldn't get out. "I'm going to go home. Two weeks from Saturday?" He got a nod and a smile. "Thanks."
"You're welcome, Xander. Get better."
"Thanks." He walked outside, followed by the man. "Devi, what are you doing here?" He smiled at a woman walking past. "I'm not coming back, ever."
"I know." He waved around at the parked cars. "Can we? Maybe get some privacy?"
Xander nodded, heading for his car. He slid in, letting the kittens head for the back seat, until Don started to pick a spot in the bags of stuff he and Oz had bought earlier. "Oh, no." He grabbed him, putting him next to the curb. "Go there."
A policeman walking past cleared his throat. "She's not supposed to be doing that and she needs a leash."
Xander gave him a helpless look. "He snuck into the car. It's their new favorite hobby."
The officer nodded. "Just don't let it happen again and at least get them a collar." He pointed at where Fluffy was sitting in the front window. "How'd they do that?"
"Not real sure," Xander said, frowning down at his cat. "This is the third time Don's done it though. We've got to fix this." He picked the kitten up as soon as he was finished, not giving him a chance to run. "Better?" He turned, groaning when he didn't see Fluffy. "Did you see the other one?" The officer smiled, nodding at where she was watching the flowers in the divider.
Xander got out, grabbing her too. "No, you can not cross traffic to play in the flowers." He got back in the car, shutting the door with a wave. Then he turned to look at his former pimp. "Why are you here?"
"To apologize mostly. I'm sorry I misled you that way, kid, but I had to. I had an obligation to those guys and you were the last one."
"So I almost got kidnapped and used against my will." Xander shook his head. "Go away, Devi, I don't need the stress in my life." He patted down his pockets, nodding when he found the paperwork. When the half-demon didn't move, he looked over at him. "Was there something else?"
"Yeah, I was wondering if you'd take a special assignment. In the house and all," he said at the shocked look. "Same as it used to be."
Xander shook his head, closing his eyes. "Unbelievable." He looked over at him. "No."
"It's one of your regulars."
"No, absolutely not." He looked down at his lap as Don crawled into it. "Hi. Feeling repentant?"
Devi smiled. "You have a really good life here, kid, but I need you. Just for the one night so I can reopen the house."
"No," Xander said softly. "Get out. I'm not doing that anymore and I wouldn't go back after the stunt you pulled last time unless I was desperate." He glared at Devi. "There is no way in any kind of hell that I would leave my lovers for the night and come back to work."
Devi nodded. "Okay. I'll tell Ostrack that you won't come back."
Xander frowned. "I hated him anyway, you can tell him I said so." He made sure he had a hold on each kitten. "Goodbye, Devi."
"Bye, kid. I'm sorry." He slid out of the car, leaving him alone.
Xander waited until the door was shut to put his head back down on the steering wheel. "God, why me?" he whispered. He jumped as someone tapped on the window, waving at Buffy's mother as he turned on the engine to roll it down a few inches, enough to talk but not enough for little furry things to escape. He turned off the engine, smiling at her. "Hey, Ms. Summers." Don looked up, heading up to try and get out. "Sorry, they snuck in."
She smiled, tapping the glass. "They're cute." She looked at him. "Are you all right, Xander?"
He wiggled his hand in the air. "I'm a week post mild heart attack but I'm okay. There's no damage," he said to ease her worried look.
"Oh, my. I had no idea." She looked at the kittens again. "How are they?"
"They're okay. They're my stress quota for the day right now, but we're all okay. They just like to hide in places to go explore." She chuckled lightly. "I was going to let Buffy apologize this morning, is she home?"
"Yes, she's sulking on the couch watching cartoons." She rolled her eyes. "I had no idea, Xander. I'm sorry about what she did."
"That's okay. I'm considering it a mental melt-down for a few months." He shrugged. "No big, I'm okay still."
"He's fine too. Matter of fact, he's probably looking for these two since they like to lay with him and help him read." That got another smile. "Do you have our address?"
"Oh, sweetie, I couldn't break into your home to come see him. Just tell him I asked about him and the next time he's in town to come see me at the gallery, we'll have lunch." Xander nodded. "I'm just glad that she didn't permanently hurt either of you." She waved her fingers. "I see Oz, have a good day. I hope you get better." She walked away, stopping to say a few words to Oz too.
Oz slid into the car, grabbing Fluffy before she could escape. "Plants?" he asked, holding her up. "Backseat, now," he ordered. Both kittens ran for the back seat, getting under it. "We okay?" he asked Xander, who was still sitting there.
"Devi showed up." He turned to look at his lover. "He wanted me to come back for a night."
Oz shook his head. "The man doesn't learn apparently." He reached over, stroking down a tense arm. "Relax, I'm not going to let you be hurt."
Xander nodded, starting the car again, making Don howl. "Shh," he called, turning so he could back out. He smiled as his window went up, heading for the residential section where Buffy lived. "What if he tells someone? You know how gossip goes in a small town."
"Yeah, and I don't think he will. No one would believe him."
"Oz, plenty of people would believe him, especially about me. No one really wants to believe in my aunt."
"Ah." Oz nodded. "I wouldn't worry about it. I don't think he's going to be a problem."
"He's setting up shop again."
"Not with you."
"No, and I told him no a few times."
"Good." He rubbed down Xander's thigh. "I'm sure he won't tell anyone. Even if he does, it would probably be a demon, who'd listen to it."
"A lot of people in this town."
Oz shook his head. "You're worrying for no reason, Xander. Stop it, you don't need the stress."
"Yeah, but I just got given it, didn't I?" He pulled over a few houses away from Buffy's, turning to look at his lover. "Listen, I don't want to worry, but I'm about to have to. If he tells, we're in deep trouble. Not only from the IRS, but from the banks and other places. Everyone will turn against us, and the cops won't answer if the town does something."
Oz nodded. "True, but will that happen?"
Xander shrugged. "I don't know. That's what's worrying me." He put his head back against the seat, closing his eyes. "This fear is bad, Oz, really, really bad."
"It's okay," Oz said softly, soothing him by gently rubbing down his arm. "It'll be okay. You won't be in trouble and neither will we."
Xander looked over at him. "How can you be so sure?"
"Because I am. He won't want everyone to know what he is. You each have something to hold over the other."
"Yeah, but..." Xander stopped then nodded. "Yeah, maybe." He looked at his lover, giving him a small smile. "Thanks, Oz."
"No big. But I will give him a warning." He considered his lover. "If you want to go away for a few days until we're sure nothing's going on then you can."
Xander shrugged. "I'm not sure but I don't want to leave you."
"I'm not letting you go alone," Oz told him firmly. "Never again."
Xander grinned. "Where are we going?"
"How about a few day vacation? There's a nice series of auctions in LA in a few days. Want to go?"
"Yeah, maybe." Xander put the car into drive. "Call Giles?"
"Sure." Oz patted his leg. "We'll get your new stones appraised too since we didn't pass through New York."
"Cool." Xander pulled up in front of Buffy's house, blowing the horn. He watched as the curtains opened then shut, nodding as she walked out. "Maise's?"
"Yeah, I want something from there. I'll even let you have some of the mushrooms you like so much, a small order."
"Thanks," Xander said, squeezing his hand. "Watch out for the kittens. They snuck in," he told Buffy as she slid into the back. "We're going to Maise's."
"Okay." She looked confused. "What's up, guys?"
"We're going to go talk," Xander said, turning the car around. "Do you feel one or two sets of feet attacking your ankles?"
"Two. One on each side." She looked down, smiling at the little noses poking out from under the seat. "Hi, guys."
"Fluffy and Don apparently wanted to come with us," Oz said dryly. "They've been doing a lot of that." He patted down his pockets. "Did you bring your wallet?" Xander shook his head. "We'll have to call Giles and tell him to bring us some cash then."
Xander shook his head. "They can take credit cards over the phone." He pulled up in front of their restaurant, parking the car and shutting it off. "Let's sit out on the balcony so I can look down on people."
Oz nodded. "Fine." He slid out, making sure that the kitten that rushed the door couldn't get out. "No, Fluffy."
"You shouldn't lock them in the car," a passing woman said.
Xander looked up, giving her a small smile. "They shouldn't have snuck into the car either." She nodded and kept walking.
Buffy slid out, having to go to her knees to grab Don before he could run under the car and put him back inside, shutting the door before he could escape again. "Those two are really heavily into exploring, huh?" She followed them inside, watching as Xander called home.
"Hey, me. No, we left our wallets." He smiled, handing over the phone. "For our lunch."
The hostess took down the credit card number, punching it in. She shook her head, handing it back.
"Giles? No, apparently the bank is being fussy. Um, try the Am Ex or the doggy one." He smiled, handing it back. This time the hostess nodded, picking up the menus as she hung up. "Thanks. We were kinda stupid this morning. Can we sit outside upstairs?"
"I couldn't find mine this morning," Oz noted. "I think I saw a corner of it under the dresser but I couldn't be sure."
"We'll look when we get home," Xander said, following their hostess up to the balcony. He pulled out Buffy's seat, then Oz's, sitting with his back to the corner. He opened the menu, keeping the drool in. "We need to bring him something too."
"Yeah, we should." Oz put down his menu. "Go ahead and splurge, Xander. You deserve it, you've been very good about your diet for the last few days."
Buffy shook her head. "Why's he on a diet? He's really skinny already."
"He had a heart attack two days before you showed up," Oz said, looking at her. "Order whatever you want. He'll know all the good tasting, fattening stuff though."
"The stuffed mushrooms are great, so are the wings and the overstuffed ravioli." She nodded. "Don't worry about lunch."
"What about us?" she asked quietly.
"I forgive you," Xander said, looking at her. "Mostly because you made me insecure enough to cling to Oz and Giles and we're closer now." She nodded, looking down at the front of her menu. "I'm also willing to consider that time a mental melt-down on your part."
She nodded. "It was. I was having all sorts of problems in school and with Riley and everything. Then I added alcohol on top of it to smooth things out for a while in my head." She glanced back up. "I am sorry, Xander. I had no idea that I was going to do that. If I did, I'd go back and stop me."
"As long as you realize it was wrong," Xander said. She nodded. "Then we're okay." He opened the menu as their waiter approached. "Hey, Marvin. Can I have a *small* order of the cheese stuffed mushrooms? Maybe a half order since I'm not supposed to be having them at all? And a chicken caesar salad with light dressing on the side?"
Oz smiled at him, patting his hand. "Very nice." He flipped open his menu. "Can I have a double order of the mild wings and some ranch dressing. Also some of the shrimp scampi?"
"We don't have any today," Marvin said softly. "Sorry, Mr. Osbourne."
"No big. How about the baked chicken?" Their waiter nodded. "Then I'll have that." He handed over his and Xander's menus, taking his hand. "You can have a few of my wings too." That got him a bright, happy smile. "Buffy?"
"Wow, lots of good stuff." She shrugged. "I'm going to let Xander order for me."
"She'll have the overstuffed ravioli, in cheese or meat, Buffy?"
"Cheese please. Like cheese."
"In cheese, and a small side salad with ..." He looked her over. "French?" She nodded. "On the side. And we'll all have water."
Marvin nodded, leaving them alone.
Xander turned to look over the balcony. "This is the only thing I wish our house had."
"A balcony that looks down at the street?" Oz asked, squeezing his hand. "The kittens are fine."
"They're giving us pitiful looks from the front windshield," Xander said softly. He smiled at the woman who was walking up to them, one of the ones who had persecuted him at the bank. "Yes?" he asked, staying nice.
"Someone overheard you calling your friend that showed up today Devi, wasn't that your aunt?" she asked snidely.
Xander nodded. "He was named after her. He was another of her 'nephews'." He did the air quotes one handed. "Why?"
She shook her head. "I will prove you didn't inherit that money."
"Feel free. Even the IRS knows we inherited that money," Oz told her. He stood up, facing off with her. "We're going to cancel everything we still have through your bank, letting everyone we talk to know that it's because of you. I'd leave us alone before we file a restraining order." She stomped away and he sat down. "There, much nicer."
Marvin walked over, putting down their water glasses. "She's in a royal snit, but thank you for not starting a screaming match."
"No problem," Oz said. "I wouldn't hurt my throat that way."
Marvin smiled, looking at Xander. "The chef wants to know why you don't like his mushrooms anymore."
"Because I had a mild heart attack a few days ago," Xander said softly. "I'm not supposed to be eating them at all."
Marvin covered his mouth. "Oh, Mr. Harris, I'm sorry. Are you okay? Of course you're okay otherwise you'd still be in the hospital."
Oz laid a hand on his arm. "It's okay, it was stress related, he's just supposed to be lowering his cholesterol by ten points in the next month."
Marvin nodded, giving them a smile. "We'd heard you collapsed at work but not why. I hope you feel better and I'll tell him." He hurried away, almost running into another waiter in his haste.
Buffy shook her head. "You're well known everywhere, huh?"
"We take out here at least once a week," Oz told her quietly. "There are just some days that none of us want to cook." He folded his hands together, looking at her. "Why are you so grossed about us?"
"Because it's weird." Buffy shuddered. "Even what Willow had was weird. I just can't handle the thinking about it part."
"So don't," Xander said softly, shrugging. He looked up as Marvin walked over to them, tossing down his napkin after having his ear whispered in. "I'll be right back."
Oz looked at their waiter. "More retaliation from the local bank?"
Marvin nodded. "Yeah. Basically." He shrugged. "He's going to call home and fix it again."
Oz nodded. "Coolness. Giles may be joining us then." The waiter walked away and he went back to watching the town, allowing the silence to grow.
Xander walked back over to them a few minutes later. "They're late getting our payments on the cards again," Xander said. He gave Buffy an apologetic smile. "We've been having problems with the bank because no one believes I inherited my money."
"You did?" she asked, her face wrinkling in confusion. "I thought..."
Oz cleared his throat. "Xander had this kinda-aunt Devi, a very illegal immigrant, who did that." She nodded, getting the hint. "She left him her stone collection, which was her retirement account."
Buffy shook her head. "I saw a few of them, they were really pretty."
"Oh, we have more now," Oz said. "They came up to Vermont while we were up there." He smiled at Giles as he walked over to them. "Hey," he said as he shifted over to let him in. "We were just telling her all about Aunt Devi."
"Ah, good." Giles handed Xander his wallet, then handed Oz a different one. "That's the only other one I could find."
"S'okay. It may be at Richie's. I haven't seen it since then."
"Maybe he'll mail it back," Xander said, giving Buffy a small smile. "As you can see, we're very happy together. They give me all the stability I want and let me spoil them horribly."
She chuckled. "I kinda figured you to be the spoiling type." She smiled at Giles. "We're okay again."
"That pleases me to no end," he told her, squeezing her shoulder. He looked up as Marvin walked up to their table. "Ah, you're on the spot today." He took the menu, looking through it. "Do you have that pasta dish I had last time?" Marvin nodded. "I'll have that with an order of breadsticks and some tea please." He handed it back. "Oh, and an order of breasticks, the mushrooms, and three orders of the wings to take home also. I'm not cooking tonight and it's my turn."
Marvin smiled, walking away. "Sure, anything for you guys, you know that."
Xander pouted at Giles. "I can't have those."
"We'll have it with the fish you liked so much last time, Xander, and you can have a few of the treats."
Oz snorted. "He's getting some of them now."
"But he's eating salads and stuff so it's probably okay for him to have a day of splurginess." She looked at Giles. "Right?"
"Yes, especially since his recent health problems were all stress related." He nudged Xander's foot under the table. "Who is that that's staring at my back?"
"Bank lady that vowed to expose me."
"Ah." He turned and waved. "There, I feel better now." He looked over at Oz. "I had the most interesting time trying to figure out the combination this morning."
"Sorry. I thought I told you."
"You did, I just forgot the last number." He took his hand. "I did figure it out, it just took me a bit."
Oz nodded. "But you're here now." He took Xander's hand, squeezing it. "We're going to sit down this afternoon and figure out where each of your cards came from so we can eliminate any from Second National." Xander nodded. "We'll start to apply for you to have some of the nice secured ones. That way, your money's earning interest and we don't have to worry about that part."
"Can we still go to those auctions? I liked that last one I went to with Cordy."
"Of course," Giles said. "When are they?"
"In a few days, they're the drug and tax seizure auctions. About the same time he's due back in for a checkup."
"Then of course we can. We'll stay in a nice room and we'll do both." He smiled at his lover. "I do want to go in with you for your appointment. I want to hear how well you've been doing."
"I've been doing okay," Xander said, looking down at the car. "They're lounging on the dashboard now." He shook his head as a cop walked toward their car. "They're fine," he called. "They snuck into the car."
The officer looked up at them. "They look dead."
"The window's open, they were just up and playing. They're taking a nap." He pulled out the keys, tossing them down. "I'll be down in a minute." He got up, heading down to check on the kittens, taking the plastic cup the hostess gave him. "Thanks." He walked out to find the officer with an armful of resisting bodies. "Sit or no drinks." Fluffy hopped down, looking up at him, so he put the water into the cupholder, letting her get her drink. "See, so much nicer, Don."
Don growled as he got free, heading for the sidewalk.
"Stop or else," Oz called down.
Don looked up, meowing. He looked at Xander, then up at Oz, meowing again.
"He'll come see you in a few minutes," Xander told his kitten as picked him up, sitting down in the vacant seat to pet him. "You can't go into restaurants, they won't allow it."
The officer cleared his throat. "Where's the other one?"
"Depends, where's the nearest flower bed?" Xander asked as he put Don down in front of the water, closing him back into the car. He frowned as he saw the keys laying on the seat. "Can you get the keys for me? I'll go find her." He looked around, heading for where his kitten was trying to get into some woman's purse. "Excuse me," he said gently, bending down to get her. She hit him across the back of the head, covering her mouth when he came back up with the kitten. "That's okay, I'd hit someone reaching for my wallet too." He showed the kitten off. "She snuck into the car, she was trying to explore your flowers." He waved her paw, heading back to the car. He skillfully caught Don before he could escape again, putting both kittens back into the car. His keys were handed to him. "Thanks."
He walked back into the restaurant, smiling at the hostess. "Thanks for the water. We'll return the cup before we leave."
"Even ones that young need fluid on a hot day."
"They have a new hamster bottle in the car," he told her. "It must be empty. Don keeps sneaking in so we got it for him." He headed up the stairs, smiling at Oz. "Don wanted to come help you eat."
"He knows he's not allowed in laps while people eat," Oz reminded him. He pointed at the young man's plate. "If you eat all the salad, you can have five wings."
Xander sat down, picking up his fork to start in on his salad. "He's a tough diet guy but he's pretty fair about it," he told Buffy. "It's for my own good."
She nodded. "I bet you just ate too much chocolate."
"And pizza, and ice cream," Oz reminded.
Xander nibbled on a carrot. "It's good that they love me."
"Yes, it is," Giles said, giving him a smile as he ate one of his breadsticks. "Of course, the feeling's mutual."
"Yeah, it is," Xander said, giving him a mushy smile. He looked down at the car. "They're back to giving us pitiful looks."
Oz shook his head. "I'm going to start putting them in the spare bedroom with their toys when we leave. Just move their bowls and litter box in there and tossing in some of the toys." He ate another wing, looking at Xander's salad. "Eat."
Xander took a large bite, chewing it. When he was done with that bite, a few of the wings were put on his plate and the cup of dressing was moved closer. He picked one up, tearing into it immediately, happily enjoying the messy treat. When those were done, he went back to his salad, finishing it off. "There," he said, leaning back to wipe his mouth. "Thank you, Oz, you spoil me very well."
Oz nodded, finishing off his last wing. "Yup, we do." He moved out of Marvin's way as he brought up their main dishes, dropping the bare bones down onto Xander's plate before it could be taken away. "Tell him it was great."
"I will." Marvin carefully put their plates in front of them. "So, guys, what's on today's agenda?"
"Credit cards," Oz said. "Fixing the problem the local bank's given us." He looked up with a sly look. "We'll have new ones in a few days."
"Good." He nodded. "You know, there's a play tonight at the college."
Xander looked up. "About what?"
"It's an all-male version of Romeo and Juliet. We went back to the old theater ways."
Giles smiled at him. "I'd like to see that. Are tickets still available?"
"Oh, yeah. The theater's only half bought out." Marvin placed the last plate on the table, in the center with the check.
Xander held up a hand, pulling out his wallet to put some money down, giving their waiter a small smile. "And you can have a nice tip, okay?"
"Thanks, guys, you guys are the greatest." He hurried down to take care of that for them.
"We like to pay at the beginning of the meal," Xander told Buffy. "It just solves the desert problem."
Giles smiled. "I doubt you need any of their double fudge cake, Xander." He looked over at his former charge. "If you'd like, we could get you a piece to go home with."
She shrugged, looking at the plates in front of her. "I'm not so sure I'm going to have any room left, even for supper." She looked up at Xander, giving him a smile. "Very nice ordering."
"You're welcome. Eat." He ate one of his mushrooms, moaning as the cheese floated through his mouth. "Oh, good," he said, wiping the grease off his mouth when Oz looked at him.
"It's good that you enjoy everything," Buffy said, eating some of her ravioli. "Oh." She took another bite almost immediately, not caring that everyone was watching her. "This is good."
Oz nodded, looking at Giles. "It's good that we spoil them."
Giles nodded. "Everyone deserves it sometimes." He ate some of his pasta, looking at Oz's chicken. "Why did you get that?"
"They didn't have any shrimp."
"Ah." Giles ate happily. "I do like eating here."
"If we were closer, they'd have us memorized," Oz quipped.
"I think they do," Xander said, finishing off his last mushroom, grinning at Marvin as he walked back to them with the change, a lot of which ended up back on the plate as a tip. "Tonight at when?"
"Okay," Oz said, nodding. "We'll be there."
Marvin walked away smiling, stuffing his portion of the tip into his pocket.
Giles leaned over the table, looking at his lover. "Xander, that was a most extravagant tip."
"Was not." He grinned. "He deserves it, he's had to put up with the round of 'not that card'." He frowned at the bank woman, who was leaving. "We've got to fix that."
"Fortunately, we still have money in a few accounts that have been spread around," Oz said quietly. "We'll get it fixed today." He scraped his plate, looking over at Buffy. "Need a box?"
"Yeah, this is like three meals for me." She looked up and smiled. "I've been on the poor college student diet again."
Xander nodded. "I've seen Willow trying to live on that too. Oh, she's working with your ex now. We saw her a few days ago."
"And she's got a new honey," Oz reminded. "Not sure if I like that idea though."
"Richie's a nice guy," Xander argued. "She deserves to be happy."
"Yeah, they both do, I'm just not sure about the other stuff."
"Other stuff?" Buffy asked. "Is he like my ex or something similar?"
"No, he races motorcycles," Xander explained. "He's a street kid too, he and Will make an interesting couple really. Oz is just worried that Richie's a little ...."
"Strong," Oz suggested. "Fast? Maybe overwhelming?"
"It could be, but then again, we used to think the same of you," Giles reminded him.
"Point. I just don't want to see her hurt."
"We understand," Xander said, taking his hand. "We know you loved her, we don't want to see her hurt either."
Oz nodded. "I know." He leaned back in his chair, letting their hands dangle between the seats.
Oz looked up from the list of Xander's investments and credit cards. "Okay, we've got six problem cards, and one duplicate."
"The duplicate is one from my time in Vermont, from the bank up there."
Giles nodded. "What about the rest of ours?"
"I have one from here in town," Oz admitted, "but most of mine are from national banks. Your's are all from national banks too. So we have to get Xander some new cards and me a new one so we don't have to go through the bank here in town."
Xander put his chin down on the table, looking at the small stack of cards. "I'd like to get mine through some national banks. How?"
"Well, first off, we can get you secured ones, which means that you put money into the accounts, or we can try for unsecured ones. The problem you're going to have is that your income isn't that great, even though you have a lot of money."
"So, we need to get ones where we can talk to someone and explain that he's got money?" Giles suggested. Oz nodded. "There have been advertisements all over the television recently for unsecured cards."
"We could do that," Oz admitted. "His accounts are kinda full, they're all resting at the limit of what the Feds would pay him back if the bank lost it." Xander nodded. "We could leave this until we go to LA, maybe start up another account there."
Xander smiled. "We could transfer some of my money from one account into another."
Giles smiled. "Have you noticed that for the right amount of money, sometimes you can get sterling service?" Oz and Xander both nodded. "Then we'll call and tell them that we're going to open an account, give them the facts, and see what they can do for us."
Oz smiled. "That's a good plan, but Xander has no way to prove he has that much money."
"If we moved money from one account into another, doing a small shuffle, then it should be okay. Also, I have three investments that are getting ready to roll over in the next week through a major bank in LA. I could call them and ask them to open an account with it for this purpose."
Oz nodded. "Very good reasoning. Call that bank and talk to your account manager."
Xander grabbed the phone and his investments book, dialing the number on the top of the last sheet. "Hi, this is Xander Harris." He smiled. "Yeah, I exist. I need to talk to the person in charge of my investments with you?" He tapped his fingers a few times. "Oh, hi. I think I talked with you when I came in to start my accounts?" He smiled. "Yeah, this is me. No, I was just looking over my old credit cards and I noticed that they were from the local bank, not something I really want to deal with." He grimaced. "Oh, I know. They've accused me of the same thing here." He nodded at Oz. "No? Then I'm really happy I called. Okay, no, if you check you'll see I have some of my CD's rolling over in a few days. I wanted to stick some of that in an account when it was available to get new cards from a multi-state bank at least." He held up a finger. "Really? Could I let you talk to the person who's dealing with this for me? No, I'm helpless, he's advising." He handed the phone over to Oz. "For you." He got up, heading over to sit in Giles' lap. "I think it's going to be okay now."
Oz took the phone as he took back the binder. "Hi." He listened for a few seconds then picked up a highlighter, marking a few cd's. "Okay, we have here that they'll be at maturity in three days?" He nodded, switching to a pen to make notes beside the yellow marks. "That sounds reasonable. Can you help us with our card situation?" He looked up and watched Xander kissing Giles. "No, between he and I we have six from there." He nodded. "No, he carries about a thirty dollar over monthly to keep it active, but we pay the rest off monthly. Yeah, you could say they're actively used." He made a new series of notes. "That's a little high on the interest." He chuckled. "Good point. You have three?"
"We have a MasterCard," Xander reminded him.
"True," Oz told him. "I was just reminded we do have an auxiliary MasterCard from a bank where we lived in Vermont." He snorted. "Okay. Can you get in touch with them for us? Thank you. Yeah, drop those into his holding account when it matures, we'll be in LA in four days to start that process." He hung up. "Okay, they've got three options for us. When we're in LA, we'll drop in to finalize the details. We're living off the cash, paying off these cards," he picked up and slowly dropped the small stack, "and we'll let his people help us figure out how to cover up the money." He stopped, noticing no was paying attention, except Don who wasn't supposed to be on the table, because they were kissing. "Guys."
Xander pulled away from Giles, giving him a smile. "I heard. We also need to sit down and count out the cash tonight, do an inventory."
"That's a good idea, love." Giles smiled at them. "We should get a full account of what we have, just to make some plans."
Oz nodded. "I'll do the cash. Xander, start on the stones; Giles, do the rest." He stood up but no one else did. "What?"
"We wanted a kiss," Xander said, puckering up.
Oz tweaked his nose. "After I'm done counting, to bring my head back down."
Xander nodded. "Okay." He climbed off Giles' lap, following Oz to the safe room. "I'll take my part into the craft room."
Oz opened the safe, tugging out boxes and bundles, handing them off. "I'll count in the hall, Giles can have the bedroom."
Xander finished dragging things into the craft room, then smiled suddenly, going for the boxes Oz had gotten him to store his threads in. He sat down in front of the boxes, opening the first cardboard box of stones, sorting them into the nice little compartments.
Oz put the last bill in the last pile, making a mark on his notebook before absently petting the cat helping him, considering how to deal with that much money. "Do we have any rubber bands?" he called.
Giles walked out of the bedroom, heading up the stairs and coming back down with a bag of rubber bands. "How much?" he asked from his position on the stairs? The notebook was handed to him. "These represent tens?"
"Hundreds," Oz said quietly, looking up. "How much should we keep?"
"A good bit, but not that much." He finished walking down, looking at the stacks in shock. "I had no idea," he said quietly.
"Oh, yeah." Oz nodded, opening the bag to pull out a few of the bands. "Do we really need more than a few thousand?"
"I'd think we wouldn't need that much."
Oz picked up a stack of money, recounting it as he separated them out to bind together. "We're keeping four stacks," he decided. "Just in case we need to escape or something."
They both looked up as Xander came out to sit with them. "All separated and counted. I'm confiscating those plastic boxes we got."
Oz looked up. "Is this all the cash?"
"Did you do the boxes from the banks?" Oz shook his head. "Then no." He picked up the money, counting it. "Wow. We're rich. Really, really rich."
"Yeah, you are," Oz said.
"We. I'm sharing," Xander reminded, his voice firm.
"We," Giles soothed. "Xander, it's dangerous to hold so much money loosely."
"Which is why we're investing it in a few days," Xander reminded.
Oz cleared his throat. "I'm in shock. Where's the boxes?"
"In the craft room. I was getting the stones out of them." He watched his lover as he got up to grab the boxes. "Why is he mad?"
"He's not, he's simply stunned. Seeing the numbers on a page is much different than having it piled in front of you."
Oz dragged two boxes out, sitting down again. "No, I still have some shock but there is pissed- offness too. Why didn't you tell me you had all this?"
"You saw my account statements!" Xander complained back. "Most of it's been in the bank sometime."
Oz nodded. "I'm sorry, I never realized. It's okay." He looked around. "Where's the kitten?"
"Fluffy's on the stairs," Xander said, pointing.
"Oh." He stared into Xander's eyes. "How many loose stones?"
"Lots." Xander caved in, slumping in on himself. "I had no idea."
"We'll fix this dilemma," Giles said. "This isn't the problem it seems to be."
"Is if the IRS thinks we lied to them," Xander noted. "She only saw the inventory from Vermont."
"Hmm." Oz shook his head. "We'll deal. There's a pre-immie who handles a lot of our money now, I'll call him tonight. I'll even get him to make some more of mine available."
Xander nodded. "Okay," he said softly. He got up, heading into the craft room to sit down in front of the big container holding the smaller boxes of stones. He didn't look up as Oz joined him. "I didn't mean to upset you."
"You didn't." Oz wrapped Xander in his arms. "I'm just shocked." He looked out the window. "Xander?"
"Yeah." He leaned back, resting against his lover's chest.
"These aren't all you have."
"The warren," Xander said dryly, "I remember."
"No, not that." He gave him a gentle squeeze. "When Giles went back to check the holding area, they found...."
"How?" Xander asked.
"Angel found out and told them. He led Giles, Connor, Meth, and a friend of ours to there to make sure no one was back there."
"There was a lot of stuff there." The body in his arms stiffened. "They ran into one of the upper demons."
"He gave it to me?"
"For saving their pets. It's in with my stuff. Methos had it sent there."
"All of it?"
"Not sure, but the way Meth was talking, maybe."
"I don't want it."
"I know. Do you want me to send for it so we can factor it in?"
"No, I don't want to look at it."
"Okay. Subject dropped." Oz squeezed him again. "What do you want to do?"
"Not pay taxes?"
"Okay. I'll call Steve, he'll come."
"Will we have to tell him?"
"Not if you don't want to. He doesn't like those questions."
"Okay." They sat cuddled together, watching the sunlight hit the plastic box. "Oz?" Xander asked finally. "I figured out why I'm not happy."
"No, that," he said, nudging the box with his foot. "It's too much and I'm really not happy."
"So give some away."
"But then other people will know."
"Not if you don't tell them it came from you."
"Point." Xander looked up. "I don't know what to do."
"Steve'll help us," Oz said with assurance.
Steve Ellison, a smart, handsome, thirtyish man, winced as he looked over the paperwork he had been handed, but gamely started going through it all. By the end, he was impressed, shocked, and incredibly worried. He put down the notebook, looking at the expectant faces. "Wow." He looked at the young man whose all this was. "Do I want to ask how?"
Oz shook his head. "Xander's had a few strings of luck in the past."
"Xander? As in the one your teacher almost kidnapped?" Oz nodded. "Okay. I don't delve into the world of GHS." He shrugged. "We need to fix some things, when's your appointment with your usual financial advisor?"
"Two days. He works in the investment department in the bank that I have my investments in."
"Good. Then we can set up a delayed tax fund through him." Steve sipped the tea that had been given to him when he had sat down at the table, looking the trio over. "Credit cards? I noticed some nice payments to them."
"Getting new ones, the bank here got picky about taking his money," Oz said quietly.
"Okay then. We're going with bigger companies?"
"Yeah, and one back-up MasterCard from a small bank where he has an account." The phone rang so Oz got up to get it, heading into the hall so he could talk in privacy.
"Can you help me hide it so I don't have to look at it?" Xander asked.
"Definitely. I can put it into safe, various term investments that should make you some decent interest." He looked around the common room they were sitting in. "Buying this house was a sound investment, as was dropping all that cash into CD's. I need to know your limit's though."
"Low to medium risk," Oz said as he walked back out, sitting down again. "Tax deferred if possible. At least for the majority. We'll need some readily available. We're going to keep some of the cash here."
Steve picked up the inventory sheet that had been nicely typed and itemized for him, looking at the entry under cash. "I'd say that a few accounts, maybe one or two checking accounts, would be good. Maybe the rest should just be untouchable until they mature, you could easily live off of the interest." He looked up, looking over Xander's outfit of stretch velvet shorts and t-shirt. "Even if he shops the mall clean three times a year."
"He's sewing some of it," Oz noted, taking Xander's hand. "Though we about bought out the fabric store when we first went."
"Yeah, but we won't have to go back for a while," Xander reminded him.
"Good point," Oz said, kissing the back of his hand. "Steve, we're really more worried about the IRS."
"Ah, but here's a loophole you don't know about. They don't really know how many stones you've sold right?"
"Maybe. We showed the woman that showed up about the inheritance taxes the listing from a few other sell-offs," Xander told him. "But she didn't see the ones I did in LA, I don't think at least."
Oz shrugged. "Not real sure about that either." He looked at Steve. "Is that going to help or hurt?"
"A little of both. If someone asks about the cash, just say that you sold off a few more stones. Just an informal person to person sale. You may have to pay a little tax, but I'm not sure how much." He tapped the pile of papers. "When you go in, I'll go with you. He and I will talk on a professional level and get it all straightened out so all you guys have to do is sign the papers."
Xander grinned. "Thanks, man. This is all *way* new to me here and I'm so very lost."
"No big," Oz told him. "So am I." He looked at the businessman. "What about mine? Did you fix that?"
"Yes, I did." He opened his briefcase, handing over some forms. "Sign those and we can start up your new account under this name."
"Are you changing already?" Giles asked, looking at the papers. "I know you were getting nervous about it."
"No, I'm still okay, I'm just keeping track of the birthdays now." Oz signed the few marked spots, taking off each of the post-it flags as he came to them, balling them up. When he was done, he handed them back, looking up. "Anything else?" he asked as he unclicked his pen.
"No, not that I can see," Steve said as he flipped through the papers. "Okay, your alternate identity, Rock Hendrickson, all of his things are all set up again so if you need it, they're there and working. Just call me and I'll switch funds over if I can."
Oz nodded, ignoring the snickering Xander was doing. "And the other?"
"Is still being set up, Oz. Where you died so young it's a lot more difficult to make you a new identity."
"Yeah, but it's more necessary."
"Yes, but the preponderance of electronic media in identity storage makes it real difficult, Xander," Steve said gently. "Way back when, you could move a hundred miles away and just change your name. Now you have to have social security numbers, birth certificates, everything that the normal people have but it all has to pass inspection when it just appears one day in the computer system."
Oz grunted, looking out the window. "I ought to write a program to help us do that."
Xander leaned over, kissing his cheek. "I'm sure if you do it'll be brilliant." He looked over at Steve. "This last week's been really hard on us."
"Yes, it has," Giles said, holding out a hand to take one of Xander's, squeezing it gently. "The week before it was almost as stressful. It will be nice to go to LA and relax by wandering through estate and tax auctions."
Oz nodded. "Yeah, I'd think that would be more relaxing than trying to deal with that money on our own." Someone knocked on the door so he got up to answer it, coming back with a confused frown. "Xander, door."
Xander walked out, frowning at the police officer there. "Yes?"
"Mr. Harris?" He got a nod. "You're under arrest for gambling and for underage relations."
"Whoa," Xander said, holding up a hand. "Are you looking for my father maybe? I'm *Alexander* Harris, not Frank."
The officer looked at the warrant in his hands, giving him a sheepish smile. "This is the only address we have listed for any Harris in town. I'm sorry. Do you know where your father might be?"
"Have you checked his house?" The officer shook his head. "Okay, over on twelfth, off to the left? That street, the brown one on the corner with the bad paint job. He did it himself."
The officer nodded, saluting him with two fingers. "We thank you, sir."
"Oh, and if you find him, I'm not bailing him out. If he starts to whine about it, tell him I said so." He looked him over. "Wear your vest, Officer, really. He's not going to be nice about this. I've already paid off one gambling debt and I've refused to do it again."
The officer nodded. "I'll take that under advisement." He walked back to his car, getting in and driving away.
Xander looked down to find both kittens and the puppy looking outside. "Why aren't you guys running out like usual?"
"Because I put one of the sonic fence markers beside the door," Giles said, walking out. "Are we all right?"
"Yeah, they wanted my father for underage sex and gambling." He pushed the animals back with the side of his foot, closing the door. They headed back to the dining room area, sitting down together. "They wanted my father. Finally caught up with his lecherous behind."
Oz growled lightly. "Why?"
"Underage sex and gambling."
Oz closed his eyes. "You're not paying it off." He looked at his lover. "Right?"
"I'm not even bailing him out of jail." Xander gave Steve a grim smile. "I have the deed to their house anytime I want to collect. I made them a loan to pay off one set of debts, making it payable to me and making a stipulation that they never come to me for money again. They haven't paid on it and they're going to come running this time too." He pointed at the phone as it started to ring. "See?"
Oz reached over, grabbing it. "Hello?" He grimaced, nodding at Xander. "I'm sorry, Ms. Harris. He's not in. Can I take a message?" He made a note on the notebook in front of him, passing it over. "No, he's under doctor's orders to not have stress right now. No, his heart." He pulled the phone away from his ears. "Ms. Harris, really. I'm not lying. He had a mild heart attack."
Xander held out a hand. "Mom?" he asked weakly. "What's going on?" He coughed lightly, not quite turning his head away. "Yeah, it's me. No, I'm recovering from a mild heart attack. I talked the doctors into letting me come home early to rest." He coughed again. "No, I picked up a small cold at the hospital before they transferred me." He glared at the floor. "Really? No, I can't, Mother." He shook his head. "I can't. No, I can't. Because he's a big boy and I can't keep bailing him out." He turned away from the phone and coughed for real.
Oz took back the phone, shaking his head. "Hi. No he's okay. He's lying in bed right now, eyes closed while he concentrates on breathing. No, he can't. Because he's got a multi-thousand dollar hospital bill coming due in a few days." He shrugged. "I'm sorry, but he has to pay that off first." Oz held his forehead with his hand. "Then maybe he shouldn't gamble. Yeah, the officer came out here first but I intercepted him." He snorted. "I really don't care, he's taking care of his own bills first. If your husband owes that much, then tell him to take a plea for jail time, it'll buy him some time and his bookie may calm down in a few years." He hung up. "Okay, that's it." He tossed it down. "Xander, I want you to foreclose on their loan."
"Can't," Xander said softly. "The thing is written so they have four months to make the first payment. It's only been three."
"Okay. As soon as it's up. You can buy them a nice condo somewhere warm to get her away from the scandal but you're not bailing him out."
"I'm not," Xander agreed. "I'm not even considering it. I heard how much he owed."
"That much?" Giles asked.
"More than my hospital bill," Xander told him, looking up and giving him a small kiss. "He owes more than their house is worth this time. Mom said they've come to collect once already, threatening her."
"Then we'll get her moved," Oz said gently. "We'll send her somewhere safe and far from him."
Xander nodded. "I can do that. She's always wanted to go live in the Midwest." He picked up the phone, hitting star-69. "Mom? No, I have a small solution on your part." He grimaced. "No, but I am willing to help you move somewhere else. Just you." He tapped his fingers on the table. "Do you really want to stay for that? Be in danger?" He shook his head. "Mother, marriage doesn't mean that. It means supporting each other, not dying for each other." He nodded. "The Midwest if you'd like. Anywhere in the country. No, I'll set you up and you can do whatever once you get out there. No, same rules apply. No, I won't give you a living allowance. No, you made me work for everything I've ever had, you can do the same. Yes, the offer still stands. Why?" He nodded. "Please." Short pause. "Hi, yeah, this is. I'm trying to convince her to leave town before they come after her again." He groaned. "If she'd be willing to do it, great. Otherwise, I'm willing to help her move." He nodded and hung up. "The officer said that if she would testify about who threatened her, they might be able to get her into Witness Protection."
"Would be nice, she couldn't contact you," Oz noted, reaching over to rub down his lover's arm. "We'll figure it out."
"I know we will. I just don't want to feel guilty about it." He looked up. "After what I've done?" he asked softly. "I'm a hypocrite."
"No, you're not. You could never be one." He reached over, pulling Xander over to sit in his lap. "You'd only be a hypocrite if someone had bailed you out for the same thing and you didn't do it. Your situations are way different, babe."
"A little, but not that much."
Steve stood up. "Maybe I should let you talk alone. Where's the bathroom?"
"Second door in the hall is the spare bedroom. You're welcome to it if you haven't made arrangements," Oz said. "But expect to have furry visitors, they're used to my teacher and Connor staying in there."
Steve smiled. "Just like at home. I keep getting semi-real ones from Jim." He shrugged, walking down the hall.
"His brother. His mother adopted him when she miscarried the child she had been carrying, not telling his father. Anyway, his brother is special somehow." Oz licked over the side of Xander's neck. "Feeling better now?"
"A little." Xander gave him a gentle kiss. "Thank you, I needed that reassurance."
"You need a lot of reassurance recently," Giles noted, "is there a problem? Are we not giving you enough?"
"No, I'm just kinda feeling off kilter somehow. Like the world's about to tip over and I'm going to be crushed."
"If you are, we can just change your name," Oz said softly. "You're not leaving us, Xander, never again."
"Not even to run away for a vacation in Barbados?" he asked with a weak grin.
"If you go, you're taking at least one of us, and if you go there, you're probably taking Methos with you too. He likes warm places."
"Was that him on the phone?"
"No, it was a threatening phone call from the bookie of the hour. He said you would pay his father's debts."
"Yeah, or else. I laughed, told him if he came out here for that then I'd give him something to remember your name with. Just like Zorro." Xander grinned at that. "Then I told him that you're not going to pay off any more of his debts, you did it once and that was the limit."
"What did he say?"
"That you were going to be his then."
Giles snorted. "I sincerely doubt that." He looked out in the back yard, watching the trees move. "Is the security system on?"
"If it's not on the fritz again," Xander said, getting up to check it. As he got to the door, someone knocked. He looked through the hole, shaking his head. "Oz, company," he called. He opened the door, looking at Angel and Willow. "Big problems or little ones?"
Willow squeaked as she was forced inside. "Big," she gasped, rubbing the back of her neck.
Oz walked out with his sword, looking at Angel. "Out."
"She's been messing with things she shouldn't," Angel said reasonably, staying outside. "You respelled the door?"
"Every time," Giles said as he walked out. "What has she been doing now?"
"She's been playing with the immortality ideal." He looked at Oz. "That must have been your idea. She's been researching the theory for weeks now."
Oz ran the sword over his leg, not looking down as it healed. "Yeah, it was," he said simply, looking at Willow. "He told you?"
"Yeah, he told me."
Angel cleared his throat. "Oz, what was that?"
"Me being me." He shrugged. "It's not a wolf thing anymore though." He took a knife that Steve handed him as he walked past, cutting Giles' palm, letting the vampire see it healing too. "I told you, you didn't listen." He waved, starting to shut the door.
"Stop," Willow said, getting in the way of the door. "See, I'm not bad."
Angel nodded, looking very confused. "Okay, you're not bad."
"But you're not real living," Richie said from behind Angel, walking forward with his gun drawn. "You tried to hurt my girl."
"Ease off," Oz warned him. "He's a lot faster and more dead than he looks."
"Oh, I know all about him," Richie said, walking around so they could see him. "He hurt Willow."
"I'm fine," she said, walking out to hang onto his arm. "Bullets don't hurt him, just relax. He didn't understand."
"Now I do," Angel said helpfully, spinning to take the gun. Which got him shot. "Ow." He stood back up, looking down at his shirt. "I liked this shirt."
Xander took Oz's sword, putting it against the back of Angel's neck. "Hurt them and you're gone," he warned. "Never hurt my friends." He waved Richie and Willow inside. "Now then, what's this about?" He removed the sword, moving back slowly. "Angel?"
Angel turned to look at him, giving him a sheepish look. "I just misunderstood. I thought Willow was going to cast a spell to make herself immortal."
Richie shook his head. "The only spell we know about is what they did to Xander and we all know it's not that healthy. That's how he ended up in the hospital." He groaned as he heard a camera flash go off. "Be a good thing and find that person."
Angel walked over into the bushes, grabbing the woman hiding there by the back of her neck, holding her up. "You know her?"
"Yeah," Oz said, heading for the phone. "She's an irritation." He dialed the local cop's number. "Hi, could you please come over here? No, you remember how I asked your opinion on that woman? Well, she was just hiding in the bushes taking pictures of the people around here." He nodded and hung up, redialing. "Hi, this is Daniel Osbourne..." Short pause. "Yeah. No, we're having a problem with a stalker. No, we just found her in the bushes." He nodded and hung up. "They'll be right up." He walked out, flipping on the outside light. "Xander, go put that up for me please."
Xander headed back inside, going to hide the sword from the cops. He came back to find Oz exposing her film, her tape recorder's tape strung prettily across the ground. "Gee, got it all?"
"Not," Angel said, handing her over, walking into the bushes to get something else, just as the cops showed up. He hid the tape from the camcorder under his jacket, standing up to hand it to Oz, nodding subtly.
"We want her arrested," Oz said, pushing her toward the cops as he finished exposing the roll of film, and the others he found.
"Not the blue one," she called. "It has personal pictures on it."
Oz stuck it into his pocket. "Then we'll develop them and give them back." He looked at the cops. "She's got some delusion about Xander being a bad guy and things. Came up to us in Maise's, told us she was going to ruin us."
The officers nodded. "Sounds reasonable. You got any other proof?"
"I asked Officer Wilken's opinion on the matter, he should be able to tell you more." He glared at her. "At the very least, we don't want her here."
"We'll see what we can't do. Want to give us the film?" Oz shook his head. "Why not?"
"Because I'm not sure what else is on it, including some possible sexually explicit material." The officer smiled. "My lovers and I were starting to have fun when our friends showed up tonight."
"Okay. For that, we'll gladly let you develop them. Just bring the pictures to us so we can see if there's anything on there we can use against her." Oz nodded. "We really don't need to see you guys going at it though." He led her to the car, putting her in the back. "At least she won't be back tonight."
"Point," Oz said, waving as he walked back inside. "Thanks, guys." He closed the door behind him, reopening it at the soft knock. "Come in, Angel." He closed the door behind him. "You feel better now?"
"Yeah," he said, handing over the tape. "You guys need to make up a cover story if it gets out."
"We're writing a play," Xander said from the couch. He nodded at the plant stand, letting Oz get his own sword. "Steve's gone to bed."
"Fine," Oz said, sitting next to him, curling up against Xander's warm side. "You sure you're okay?"
"Just a mild case of the sniffles." He smiled at Willow. "So, how's things in your end of town?"
"Pretty good," she said, sitting on the floor in front of him. "You? I mean, are you better and everything?"
"Much, and Oz is watching me carefully to make sure I don't have more problems." Someone knocked on the door so he walked over, looking around in confusion. He took the kittens back with a smile. "Thanks, they've been doing that."
"She screamed when they grabbed her ankles, talking about demons." He looked inside the house. "The things she was talking about? Instant healing and everything? What's that about?"
"Oz was telling me a bedtime story. He and our friends were acting out parts of it."
"Oh. Okay then." He nodded, heading back to the car, making sure Xander was still holding both kittens before he closed the door. Then he had to reopen it so the puppy could get out.
"Rocky!" Oz yelled. "In here or no pork chops." The puppy came running, hopping up into his lap. "Bad, no sneaking into cars."
Xander closed the door, smiling at the picture his family and friends made. He dropped the kittens off on the newly moved gym system, watching as Don immediately headed for the highest tunnel and Fluffy decided to scratch lightly on the bark-covered pole. "Good, stay there." He walked over, retaking his spot beside Oz. "Good enough?"
"Very good, babe," Oz told him, giving him a small kiss. He caught Willow's disgusted look and shook his head. "You used to do the same thing with Tara."
"Yeah, but we're girls. We're supposed to do things like that." She nudged Richie as his mouth opened. "Don't even say it."
"Sorry," he said with a nasty grin.
Oz shook his head. "Willow, it's the same thing. You and Buffy are just going to have to get over it." He watched as she turned pale. "Yeah, she's back, and better. We talked over lunch earlier this week."
"Coolness," Willow said, giving him a hesitant smile. "Is she home?"
"At her mother's I think. Oh, and your mother was looking for you last I heard."
"I know. I called her today, promised I'd come home for a visit." She looked at Richie. "Want to be introduced to my parents?"
"Depends, is there an option?"
"Small motel," Oz offered. "Steve's in the guest room." Richie shook his head. "The pre-immie Connor identified that handles a lot of our money?"
Richie nodded. "I haven't needed to talk to him yet." He shrugged. "No big."
"Careful planning means that you don't have problems when you have to switch over," Oz told him. "Trust me, it's not fun having to live off your wits with a brand new identity for six months while someone probates your old identity's will."
Richie nodded. "I'll keep that in mind." He hooked an arm around Willow's waist. "I'll take her to her mom's." They stood up, walking out together, talking quietly while glancing at each other to make sure they were listening.
"Ten more weeks," Xander said, waiting until the door was shut to look down at Oz's head. "They won't last longer."
"Maybe less," Giles said, coming over to sit on Xander's other side. "Angel, was there a problem besides her's?" He really didn't like the way the vampire had been staring at Xander. Who knew what he was thinking about.
"No, just that," he said, backing away from them. "I'll call on you guys if we need you." He turned and fled the house, leaving them alone.
Xander grinned. "Gee, I think you scared him." He kissed each of his men, what he could reach of them. "Am I better enough yet to have more than cuddles?"
"When we're in LA," Oz told him, looking up. "We'll work you up to it until then." He ran a hand over the bare thigh. "I like that design. You were right."
"Very comfy," Xander said, shifting so he could undo the strings. "Maybe? Just a little?"
"In LA," Giles reminded him. "Until then, you're still getting cuddled." He wrapped an arm around the soft back. "You still need to start exercising again, Xander."
"I know," he sighed, relaxing. "But it's no fun by myself."
"Do it and get toys," Oz told him, sitting up to look at him, pushing Rocky off onto the couch beside them. "Just like you used to." Xander grinned slowly. "Deal?"
"Sure, tomorrow. After I spar. It'll be relaxing to me." He ran a hand down the side of Xander's face. "Let's go enjoy your last night of sexual freedom." He pulled Xander up, watching as his shorts slid down. "Very loose," he noted. "Good." He pulled his lover into the bedroom, picking him up to put him on the edge of the bed. "There, very pretty," he whispered, stripping and climbing on top of his lover's still body. "What would you like tonight, babe?"
"For you to scream my name?"
"Sure," Oz said, bending down to kiss him, grunting as he felt the plug entering his body. "Hey." He looked over his shoulder at Giles. "Am I that mean to you?"
"Yes, and tonight you're going to get it back." He slid onto the bed behind them, putting the bottle of lube he had gotten beside them after squirting some out onto his fingers. "You've been a horrible tease all day, Oz, and now you're going to pay for it."
"How have I teased?" Oz asked before going back to his kissing of Xander.
"You're just so naughty looking you inspire it in us," Xander told him, holding his lover's hips still so Giles could ready and enter him. He smiled at Oz's groan. "See? Good. This is a good thing."
"Yeah, it's a good thing," Oz panted, getting up onto his knees to push back against Giles. "Now? Please?"
"In a second, precious, you still need some time to adjust because I wasn't very gentle with you." He reached down, rubbing over the hard cock. "Just give it a few moments."
"Xander, make him hurry up. I promise not to tease you for a few days."
"He's ready," Xander said, getting to his knees to let Oz brace against his body. "Have him."
Giles smiled at his accomplice, pulling back out to push back in, earning a moan. "Not ready after all?"
"Very tender," Oz said, pushing back. "Need more!"
Giles smiled. "I like how he goes primal on us when we do this to him." He added a little more lube to his cock before shoving back in, setting a hard and fast rhythm. "There, precious," he whispered in Oz's ear. "Is that better?"
"More," he growled, bucking backwards, pushing against Xander.
"Ooh, he really wants it," Xander said, giving Giles a naughty grin. "Give it to him for me."
"If you wish." Giles grabbed Oz around the waist, slamming into him, again and again. Pretty soon, they were both dripping with sweat and unable to talk, but Oz wasn't growling anymore. His head was thrown back, neck exposed.
Xander leaned down, licking over the taut neck, thrilling at the small sounds his lovers made. "Ours," he said, pushing his own groin against his lover's letting his friction work for both of them.
Oz shot off with a howl, arching back into Giles' arms, then leaning forward to land on Xander's shoulder, panting into it. "Need you," he said, looking down, pushing the lover under him down so he could finish him off too.
Giles groaned at the sight before him, getting off and covering Oz's back, watching as their lover sucked Xander off, smiling at him. "Feeling better yet?"
"Yeah," Xander said, nodding, pounding his head on the pillow. "Oz!" His head thrashed around for a few more seconds then he got off, going limp under the restraining bodies.
Oz got free of both of them, rolling onto his side, letting Giles hold Xander for a bit. "I needed that," he whispered, rubbing down Giles' back. "Thanks."
"You're very welcome," Giles told him, giving him a small smile. He looked up at Xander, who was still slack-jawed. "Are you all right?" When he didn't get an answer, he crawled up to look down into the open eyes, watching them dilate. "He's still living."
Oz nodded, poking the young man's side, setting off a giggle. "He's fine, just in recovery."
"Been too long," Xander groaned, rolling them over on top of Oz's still body, covering Giles' mouth with his, frantic for more.
Oz wiggled out from under them, shaking his head. "No more, Xander. Not for two more days."
"Need it," he whined, rubbing himself up Giles' body to get a kiss from his other lover. "Please, guys, need it bad. Been way too long."
"Shh," Oz said, holding him. "Soon enough. Just two more days." Xander shook his head. "You can last that long, babe. I promise, it'll be fixed soon."
Xander groaned, pulling away to look down at himself. "Need it now though."
Oz tipped his head back up. "Not yet, we still aren't sure you're all right."
"Oz, give the poor boy something. Just enough to work him off. Don't leave him hanging like that, it's cruel."
"I know but ..." He was attacked by Xander, grunting as his head hit the headboard. "Xander!"
"No, need it," Xander said, moving down Oz's body to lick and suck his way down to where he wanted. "Please?" He looked up as he took the first lick of the rehardening cock. "Need you."
"I know you do," Oz said gently, "but I can't have you yet. You could die from your next heart problem."
"It's not bad," Xander said, looking up again. "It's fine now. It was the spell, not the stress stuff."
"Okay," Oz said. "Giles, you play with him and he can play with me." He stopped Xander's head. "You can have fingers."
"Fine," Xander said quickly, going down as soon as he was free.
Giles smiled at Oz, shaking his head. "If you're sure."
"No, but he's going to do it himself if we don't," Oz reminded, rubbing through the dark hair. "Just two fingers, it should be okay."
Giles nodded, grabbing the bottle of lube from under Oz's hip, pouring some out so he could play in their lover's body. He slid one in, his body thrilling at the groan it produced. "So responsive," he said softly, working a second one in. "Such a greedy little slut."
"Yeah, and we haven't been taking care of those needs," Oz reminded him, pushing up into the warm mouth. "Don't tease, Xander, or Giles'll do it to you."
Xander slurped happily, working his way farther back. "Whatever."
Giles shook his head, working to find Xander's prostate. He found it, sending the small shocks of pleasure through the young man's body. "There, love, just let it go again."
Xander growled into Oz's balls, lifting his head up. "More," he demanded, pushing back against them.
"Oops," Oz said, getting to his knees. "Down, now," he commanded, pushing their lover down, letting him latch back on. He and Giles shared a kiss. "Been much too long."
"True, for both of you though." Giles added in a third finger, smirking at the purr he got. "He's a very unusual man, Oz, we really should pay attention to this need for a few days."
"Oh, he's going to be chained to the bed tomorrow," Oz said, looking down at the head licking him. "More?" He was swallowed again, closing his eyes.
Xander felt himself getting closer to the edge so he nibbled just so on Oz's body, making him groan and shoot off, then let himself go. He relaxed into the fingers in him, back into his usual groove again. When the fingers were withdrawn, he gave Giles an appraising look. "Want me to clean up?"
"Please," Giles said, lying down beside Oz. "I don't think we're in shape to do so at the moment." He closed his eyes, not seeing the bottle of lube being grabbed or the toy from the drawer. He did smile when he felt the warm washcloth the younger man had gotten for them wiping him down. "Thank you."
"I'll be back in a minute," Xander said, heading into the bathroom with his contraband. He locked the door, frowning at the kitten that had come to sit in the bathroom. "Out, Fluffy." She sat down so he got into the shower, closing the door. He lubed the toy well, leaning against the wall as he entered himself, trying to be as silent as possible as he worked himself off again. He jumped as the shower door opened, too deep in his own head to have heard the bathroom door being picked, but sped up, just staring into Oz's eyes as he hit his peak again, going limp in the arms that went around him.
"I know," Oz told him. "We need to pay more attention to you, but we're under orders not to." He dropped the toy into the bathtub, leading Xander out to the bed and tucking him in, wrapping himself around the sated body. "Feel okay?"
"Much better." Xander gave him a small kiss. "I know I broke doctor's orders, but I needed it."
"I know," Oz whispered, squeezing him. "We'll figure out how to do both without sending you crashing back into another heart attack again." He covered the opening mouth with a finger. "Even if it was the spell, you still are susceptible to another one, especially so soon after the first. We just wanted to wait and make sure you were fine."
"I'm sorry I'm worrying you, I just needed it so bad," Xander whispered as he snuggled down into Oz's neck. "I'll listen next time."
"No, we will. We knew you were going to burst the dam soon, we just thought you could wait two more days." Oz looked over at Giles, who rolled to hug Xander from the other side. "Tomorrow, you're going to be chained to the bed."
"Thought you wanted me to exercise?" Xander said through a yawn.
"We do, you'll do it during that time. Incentives and all." Oz kissed each of his men, reaching over to turn off the touch lamps.
Which is why he never saw Fluffy carrying the sex toy out of the bathroom.
TO BE CONTINUED...