Oz's Bad Day.
Xander looked across the table at the woman examining their latest jewelry gifts, giving her a helpless look. "They were a gift from a very persistent suitor," he said quietly, openly holding Oz's hand on the tabletop. "He just wouldn't take no or 'I'm taken' for an answer."
"When we tried to give it back, he got disgusted and stormed away," Oz finished.
Xander looked around the store the demon bank had suggested he go to when he had called them to arrange a safety deposit box for these new jewels. "And really, do I *look* like a woman?" he asked her. "I don't know what he expected me to do with these pieces. He said to give them to my harem, but I don't have one and I only have one female friend, who wouldn't wear a lot of these things."
She looked up. "I can see what a quandary you're in, Mr. Harris." She put down her magnifying glass. "These are some excellent pieces. Where did they come from?"
"India," Oz told her.
"Was that where your suitor was from or where the jewelry was from?" she asked pleasantly.
"Both," Xander told her, leaning closer. "He's a monsoon demon." He sat back up at her knowing nod. "Now you see why we were referred to you."
She clapped her hands. "I quite understand. We've had a few women in here that have had similar problems with an African Rainforest demon." She looked at the collection. "What do you plan on doing with it?"
"We not have not a clue," Oz told her. He got his hand free and rubbed over it. "Easy, Xander, I need the feeling in that."
Xander grinned at him. "Sorry, Oz."
"Boys," she said, still smiling. "It's easy to see how he would have gotten confused. What I was thinking was a private sale of a few pieces. A few of these necklaces would be *divine* this season, especially with all the award shows coming up in Hollywood."
Xander shrugged. "I'm not sure of the protocol. Would he get pissed if we did that?"
She shrugged. "I don't know but I know who to ask. I could call them and see if they would know." Oz nodded. "All right, I'll do that then." She got up and went into the back room for a few minutes.
Oz looked at Xander, who looked calm. "Is this bringing up memories for you?" he asked.
Xander gave him a faint grin. "Yeah, kinda. That guy in New York got pissy when I kept turning him and his jewelry down. He threatened me a few times and even threatened Devi once."
She came back out and sat down across from them. "Unfortunately, it will be a breach of protocol. He'll think that you're doing it because you need money and send you more." She almost laughed as both men shuddered. "You could always show the pieces off though, make it some sort of exhibit. We could do something like that here if you'd like to try it."
Xander shrugged. "I don't have a clue what to do with them. Most of my jewelry's platinum, and the rest is gold." He saw her subtle glance at Oz and nodded. "All I know is that these are something I'll never wear and neither will anyone else unless we decide to adopt a girl and give them to her."
"We could try and send them to the little girl that came through to us," Oz suggested lightly.
Xander grunted. "We were told to leave those portals closed. We don't want a permanent rip to her world, Oz. Though, her dad's a carpenter from what Jace was told. There's something very strange going on over there, but we're not supposed to know what. Besides, she won't be back for many years from what Jace was told by her ... friends."
"Ah, I recognize that name," the woman said, giving them brilliant smiles. "She owns a resort in Vegas?" Oz nodded, brow starting to furl in thought. "Well, she's bought from us a few times. She has *excellent* taste. Why don't you let her keep these for you and allow her to wear them when the mood strikes?"
Oz looked at Xander, who looked happy. "We can send it by courier," Oz suggested. "Just a note saying 'wear these for us'?" Xander nodded. "Cool." He looked back at the woman doing the appraisal. "Got any ideas on which pieces to send?"
"Of course," she said, pulling out pieces to be set aside. "Send her these," she said, pointing at the pile. "These are more her style and I'm sure she'll be able to find somewhere to wear them to."
Oz picked up one that was collar-like and added it to the pile. "I want her to have this one too," he told Xander.
"Still cool by me." He handed Oz some of the boxes, looking at the crude labels Wesley had stuck to the backs to tell them what was supposed to go in each. "There, that should be all the cases. Everything else will go into the bank?"
"Okay," Oz agreed, putting the pieces leaving their custody into the velvet-lined boxes so they wouldn't be damaged on their journey.
Jace looked up as the door was knocked on, pushing the unlock button to make it open. She stood up as she saw what was standing on the other side, waving the scaly, furry, seven foot or so demon into her office. "What can I do for you?" she asked politely.
"I'm here to give you something," he growled, handing over the box that had been entrusted to him. "From your boys." He bowed to her and left.
She sat down and delicately opened the box, not sure what was inside, but not sure she really wanted to know since it had come by demon courier. She stopped as she saw familiar velvet boxes. "Oh, they didn't," she said, taking out the note on top to read it. She snorted and put it aside, taking out each piece to examine it. She stopped when she got to the collar, not sure if she should laugh, cry, or pick up the phone and yell at her teacher. "Well," she decided finally, putting it away, "it's much more fancy than the one I had to wear when I lost the bet that year." She put the boxes into her desk drawer, confident that she could find a safe place for them. Even if Amanda was in the resort at the moment babysitting McCleod.
She picked up her next invoice, checking it over to see if it was correct before writing out a check to cover it.
Xander curled up on Oz's lap as the car took them back home. They hadn't wanted to trust driving in without some protection, those jewels were worth more than some companies in LA. It had been Giles' idea to call a car company and have one sent out for them. This way they'd have protection and be able to talk freely without worrying about the other drivers. Right now, all Xander wanted to do was sleep.
Oz kept looking out the side window and checking the inside pocket of his jacket. He carefully moved Xander to the seat and leaned forward, looking at their driver. Who wasn't the same as it had been on the way down. "What do you want?" he hissed. "I'm not a combatant."
"You are now," he said, switching lanes until they parked at a rest area. "I'll keep your *man* busy while you fight."
Xander opened his eyes and kicked the back of his seat. "Like hell." He looked at Oz. "You don't have to go fight."
The driver held up a gas container. "If he doesn't you buy it too."
Oz looked at Xander, who nodded, and got out of the car, facing off with the immortal next to the bathrooms. "You want to fight, you'd better come get me," he called. "I refuse to fight in a bathroom."
Xander chose that moment to pull out one of his daggers, one of the ones he had gotten across the portal. He grabbed the driver by the neck and took the canister from him, tossing it out the window. "I'm safe, Oz. Go fight." He got out and stood beside the car, watching them head back behind the building. He quickly pulled his knife up his sleeve as a police cruiser pulled in. "Officer, this man abducted our normal driver and he threatened me with this," Xander said, picking up the gas canister, handing it over quickly.
The officer looked at it, then at Xander. "Why are you using a car service?"
"Because we had to take a present I got to the bank and put it safely away. We didn't want to trust it to us driving in. You never know who you're going to meet out here." He looked at the car, but the driver was gone. "Man!" he sighed.
The cop smiled. "Don't worry, I saw where he went. The dogs'll get him." He waved Xander over. "How did you get the gas canister from him?" Xander held up his knife. "Ah, Rambo?" he asked politely.
"Fight training," Xander said with a shrug. He winced as he heard metal crashing against metal from behind the building. "Um, no," he said, trying to block his way. "I wouldn't want to go back there if I was..." He stopped when he saw the tatoo, pulling it up to look at it. He saw the smile and shook his head. "Oz is back there with the driver's friend," he said. "He got challenged."
"I figured when I saw who was driving the car." He leaned against his. "So, you're Xander, right?" Xander nodded. "I'm Tony, Joe trained me. I'm supposed to be watching out for all you guys when you come to LA and have troubles with the cops."
Xander snorted. "I don't usually have trouble with cops. Usually I have troubles with non- humans." The cop frowned. "Not that I'm a bigot, but have you seen some of the people down around Eleventh avenue?"
The cop sighed. "Most of us don't see anything down there, kid."
"Ah, but I do, and I know about them. They're the ones who give me trouble." He looked at the building again. "It's real quiet back there."
"You can't go," he said, trying to stop Xander.
Xander snickered. "I refuse to let Oz lose alone. Besides, if he's went beserk again, you're not going to last too long without me." He shivered as the quickening started, jogging back to the rest stop building to go make sure his Oz was all right. He stopped and almost screamed when he saw both men on the ground, but then he saw the sparks and flashes hitting Oz's limp body. He stayed where he was until the quickening ended, he had gotten hit by a tendril of one once and it had been an effective trainer. Once it was done, he walked over and squatted beside Oz, pushing him over to look down at him. "Wow," he said, touching the long cut from Oz's forehead to his neck. "That looks really bad."
Oz opened his eyes and babbled something.
"Yeah, we'll go home," he said, lifting his mate up and carrying him back to the car. The cop was gone. "Huh. That was nice of him. What should we do about the car? Hmm? Should we take it and send it back later? Should we call home and get a ride?" Oz nodded at that one. "Then that's what I'll do." Xander pulled out his cellphone and dialed home. "Hey, Richie, glad it's you. No, we just got ambushed. Oz is pretty badly battered and cut up, and it was our driver that ambushed us. Can we get you to come give us a ride back?" He looked around. "Um, a rest area on the interstate? Yeah, we were heading home. No, not that one. This one is run down and nasty. No, of the never been cleaned, looks like it belongs in a summer camp sort of nasty." He snorted then started laughing. "Maybe. Two hours is fine. Yeah, I'm going to pull the car up next to the building so I can clean Oz up a little." He hung up and looked inside the car, making sure he had the keys. He closed the back door and got into the front, pulling up to the building so he could get Oz cleaned up.
Richie pulled into the rest area and looked over at Xander and Oz, who was still lying in the back of the car. He pulled up beside them and got out, leaning against the hood. "Is he okay?"
"He took some pretty heavy damage," Xander told him. "Did you know that those bodies disintegrate when you leave them alone but water hits them?"
Richie shook his head. "No, I didn't." He looked at Oz. "Maybe I should have brought Oz's VW bus."
"Maybe," Xander agreed, "but I'll give him the backseat." He tapped Oz gently on the forehead. "Richie's here. Want to switch cars?" Oz nodded and got up, crawling into the other backseat once the door was open; Richie had parked only inches from them so it was easier on him. Xander nodded at the payphone behind him. "I've got to call the car company. Give me a minute. Oh, which rest area are we at?"
"The closed one," Richie said as he slid back into the driver's seat.
Xander jogged over to the payphone and looked up the number for the car company, putting change into the phone to dial it. "Hi, this is Xander Harris." He frowned. "He said what? No, we came out of the bank and there was a different driver, who kidnapped us. No, the car is at the closed rest area on the Interstate, on the way back to our house. Yes, Oz was hurt in the kidnapping. No, there's some blood in the back seat. I don't know. I only saw him for a second. I promise you, we didn't steal the car!" He hung up and slowly walked back to Richie. "Why don't you take him home, but call Giles and tell him to come pick me up," Xander said, tossing over his phone and all but one of his daggers. "The fake driver said we stole the car from him." He leaned against the company car, watching as Oz was driven away. He didn't have long to wait, a police officer was there within minutes. "We didn't take it, we were kidnapped," he explained as the officer got out, walking over to him. "I had to have someone get my lover, he had a few cuts and he needed to go see our doctor."
The officer walked over to him and patted him down, Xander letting him. "All right, what's with the knife," he said, holding it up.
Xander took it back, putting it in an obvious and well-noticed place. "Would you go anywhere with a couple million in jewelry and not carry a weapon?"
The officer shook his head. "Good point." He waved a hand at the car. "Tell me what happened while I look it over."
"Well, we came out of the jewelry store and I'm sure we had the right driver then," Xander said as he led the way over to the car. "Then, we got out of the bank and I didn't think to check...."
Xander got out of the car and ran inside his house, heading straight for where he could hear Oz typing, giving him the hardest hug he could. "Oh, you're all right," he whispered.
"Yup. Died twice, or three times, not real sure. He got the arteries in my neck." He pulled Xander around. "What happened? Richie explained it to me when I woke up between deaths."
"The fake driver called the company and told them that we had stolen the car. When I called them, I told them we had been kidnapped." Oz nodded for him to go on. "I explained the blood away as you being hurt, and that you were being taken to our private doctor to get stitches by a friend while I waited on the cops." He kissed Oz's nose. "Oh, I found a cop that's a Watcher. He showed up during the fight. I told the cop that we had been kidnapped and explained about not seeing the switch when we came out of the bank. The car company came to get their car just before Giles showed up and I had to repeat it for them too. They weren't happy but they weren't pressing charges against us either. The cop that came during the fight was the one I gave the gas canister to, so I'm going to let him explain that away."
Oz squeezed him. "Good story. I'm fine though. You knew that."
"But I needed to see for myself," Xander told him, stealing another kiss. He looked at the screen behind him, frowning at the solitaire game. "Program not going well?"
Oz hesitated before nodding. "Yeah, not well at all." He pushed Xander back up. "Why don't you go play, Xander? I'll be down soon."
Xander continued to frown but he went downstairs. He sat beside Giles and leaned in close to his ear. "Oz isn't right," he whispered.
Giles looked over at him. "How?"
"Like it's not him," Xander whispered. "Really not him. He's playing solitaire. He told me to go play."
Giles patted him on the head. "I'm sure it's just an after effect of the quickening. It can take time to return to normal."
Xander shook his head. "That's not this. Go check if you don't believe me."
Giles got free of Xander and stood up. "I'll do that if it makes you feel better," he promised, heading up to the work/practice/play area. "Oz, how are you feeling?" he asked as he came over the top of the stairs. He ducked the blade by millimeters, hurrying back down. "Xander, I believe you're right," he called as he dove for his jacket and the sword it contained.
"He's mine!" Oz shouted, lunging at Giles.
Xander grabbed Oz and held him still, keeping his arms wrapped around his lover and his hands on the sword. "Disarm him!" he commanded. He watched as Giles grabbed the blade to hold it still, wincing at the blood that started to flow from around it.
Richie came up the stairs and looked at them. "Um, is this a bad time?" he asked.
Xander nodded. "Oz isn't Oz!"
"Oh." Richie nodded and came over, kicking Oz in the shin so he could take the sword, carefully removing it from Giles' hands too. "Okay. Dark quickening or not?"
"Possession," Giles panted, looking at Oz, staring at him to try and figure out what had control of him. "Richie, would you please go set up the restraints on the bed? They're in the blue box on the closet floor." Richie grimaced but he went to do as he was told. "Oz, what happened to you?" he said, moving closer. "Who has control over you?"
"You can't have Xander!" he shouted, breaking free of the strong arms and pummeling Giles onto the floor, continuing to hit him until Xander grabbed him again.
"How do I do this?" Richie called.
"Come do this part, I can do that within seconds," Xander called.
Richie came out and stabbed Oz in the stomach, killing him again. "Okay."
Xander brushed his sweaty hair back. "Thanks." He jogged into the bedroom and after a minute called, "Bring him in here."
Richie hefted Oz up and carried him into the bedroom, letting Xander tie him down. He backed away from the bed. "This was a lot more than I wanted to know about your sex lives, Xander."
Xander shrugged. "Sorry, but sometimes the truth has to come out. I need to be tied down so I don't hurt them." He grinned at the shocked look. "What? You thought we tied Oz down? He'd never stand for it." He checked the last buckle again and stepped back from the bed. "How long?"
"That shouldn't take more than a few minutes to heal," Richie said. He groaned as the doorbell rang. "I'll get that. Giles should be up and walking around by now." Oz took a breath. "Well, that's something," he noted as he walked out. "Xander, cops," was called from the living room.
Xander looked at Oz then walked out, shutting the bedroom door. "He's sleeping," he told Giles, checking on his injuries. "You okay?"
Giles nodded. "I believe I'll go lay beside Oz for a bit," he said, walking out of the living room.
Xander walked over to the door, nodding the officers inside. "You've got to forgive us, but Oz got frantic when he woke up. Anesthesia does that to him sometimes." He waved a hand at the couch. "Sit, please. I'm not that mean and that couch is more comfortable than your seats are."
One of the officers, the one from during the fight, looked around the living room, taking in the two saris decorating the walls. "This is a nice place," he said, looking at Xander. "Why didn't you tell him about the gas?"
"Because I wasn't sure how you were going to deal with it," Xander told him. He looked at the other officer. "Yes, I did take a canister of gas away from the driver. When this officer pulled in, I gave it to him, but he didn't call it in right away so I figured he'd have to report it some other way. I didn't want to get him in trouble." Oz started to knock the bed against the wall and the officers looked back there. "Oz, well, he''s very ... unstable when he comes off anesthesia. Our doctor warned us to at least tie one wrist to the bed. But my other lover is in there with him," he assured them. He looked at this new officer. "How else can I help you?"
"For one, there seems to be a time gap," the senior officer said, looking at the other officer. "Would you like to explain that to me?"
"You guys came after I called the car company. Again, I don't know how these things go. I reported that the driver got away and this one took off, I'm assuming to go look for him."
The officer from the fight nodded. "That's what I did. I was doing a quick turn in the area around the rest stop. He shouldn't have been able to get far on foot, but he got away. I was about to call it in when I heard the call to go out there. I called you with this and you decided we needed to come here," he reminded him.
"So, this gap of about an hour happened because you were searching, alone, for a fugitive?"
"I told him he wasn't that strong. I was able to get the gas from him from the backseat using only a knife." He shrugged at the hard look. "I'm not trying to cover anything up. I used that hour to call someone to come pick up Oz because he didn't look like he needed an ambulance and I called the car company once I knew Oz was safe. I opted to wait once I heard what they were saying about us."
"Oh." The senior officer nodded and stood up. "May we go look at your man, sir? Just to make sure that he isn't too badly injured?"
Xander stood up too. "Let me go check with Giles. He gets a little....well, rabid is the best word I can think of to describe this attitude." He calmly walked down to his room and tapped on the door. "Is he fit to be looked at?"
Giles smiled. "Yes, he is," he said, letting go of Oz's lips. "I think he'll be fine. Won't he?" he asked the older immortal. "If not, Xander will have to explain why you bit me to the nice officers." Oz growled but didn't make another move.
Xander turned and found the senior officer there so he got out of his way. "Like I said, it's a funny drug reaction."
He walked over but stayed a good distance away from the bed. Oz tried to get him, tried to bite or kick him, but he was too far back. "If you say so. I'd say he needs other medication," he said, backing slowly away from the bed. "How long does he usually last like this?"
"Not more than a few hours," Giles said, standing up to get away from the sharp teeth trying to bite his thigh.
"What was his position in this fight?" the officer asked Xander.
"He was knocked out by his injury," Xander said, pointing at the obvious blood spots on Oz's shirt. "I handled it all myself. I've had some excellent personal safety and fight trainers."
"All right. Would you be willing to give us a description of the second driver?"
"I only saw him for a minute," Xander temporized. "There's a camera ...." He shook his head. "Never mind. We disabled that before we got in. We didn't want anything we did while cuddled together to be caught." He mentally berated himself for mentioning that. Fortunately they had asked the driver to disable it for that very reason. They were both very wary of tapes now. "Um, I know he was about an inch or two shorter than I am sitting down. He had light brown hair. He was white, but he was tanned or somewhere just under a Mediterranean skin-tone." He shrugged. "Other than that, I didn't get a good look at his face. I'm sorry, officer."
The officer nodded and made a note on his pad. "Every little bit helps. Why were you taking a hired car anyway? I noticed that you had a few here."
Xander smiled and led the way to their vault room, letting Giles handle Oz again. He opened the door and pulled out one of the pieces they had forgotten to pack that morning. "We had approximately six million dollars worth of stuff like this," he said, opening the broach's box.
The officer whistled. "No wonder. All right. That explains a lot. Where is it now?"
"Most of it was shipped off to a friend who has much better security. Some of it went into a safety deposit box at a bank I have an account in. That was where we switched drivers I think. I know I checked to make sure it was the same driver when we got in from getting them appraised."
"That's fine, Mr. Harris. Thank you for showing me why." He pulled a gun. "I'll take that if you don't mind."
Xander handed it over. "What's going on?" He looked at the door behind him, seeing the other officer there. "Why are you doing this?"
"Like I said, Joe trained me, but some of us can't live with his cause." He took the broach. "Open the safe."
"I can't," Xander said, holding out his hands. "I don't have the new combination. Oz changed it this morning." He backed away as the officers both pointed their guns at him. "I swear, I don't have it. If I try to get it open without the right combination, then an alarm goes off." He kept backing into a small corner near the shelves. "There's nothing I can give you guys, really. That's the only piece out besides my bracelets." He nudged a box out of his way, running into the wall, and the panic button down near the floor. "You can have those if you want. They're platinum," he offered.
"No, we don't want those," the senior officer growled. "What's that stuff about Joe? Who's Joe?"
"Joe's a friend of theirs," the junior officer said with a sneer. "He'd do *anything* for them."
"Yeah, but he doesn't have the combination to the safe either," Xander told them. He relaxed as he heard sirens. "That's the local police," he told them. "Oz hit the panic button in the bedroom when you showed up. I'd leave."
"We can always say we're arresting you and take you with us," the senior officer said, looking him over. "I'm sure a *man* like you would be worth something to somebody. I'm sure we could find the right somebody."
"Freeze," a deadly voice said from the hallway. "You're not touching Xander." Oz walked between them, looking them over. "You're not very smart, are you?" he smirked. He waved a hand and their guns were forced to point at each other. He looked at Xander. "I've seen his memories. You really love him?" Xander nodded, his eyes starting to water. "Then I will leave you alone this time. I would never touch a bonding like yours." Oz jerked and Xander caught him, carrying them both to the floor.
"Oz? Oz, please be okay," Xander whispered, cradling Oz to his chest. He looked up at the stunned officers. "I'd leave," he swore, "before I do something very dumb." The Sunnydale officers walked into view. "These two aren't officers," he said, still cradling and rocking Oz. "They tried to steal from us. They held us at gunpoint." He wiped off his cheeks. "One of them has a broach of mine on them."
The Sunnydale officer patted down his colleagues, coming up with a velvet box. "This yours?" he asked, holding it out so Xander could see.
"Yeah, it should be a ruby broach, I don't remember what shape right now. They wanted me to open the safe." He shifted forward, no longer leaning against the panic button. He kicked at the officer that came closer to take Oz. "Mine! He's fine!"
"I'm sure he is, but wouldn't you like him to be checked out?"
"It's an anesthesia reaction," Giles said from the hallway, rubbing his head from what Xander saw in the floor-to-ceiling windows.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Giles assured him, pushing his way in to smile down at them. "Come, let's get him to the bed, shall we?" He held out his hands.
Oz opened his eyes and looked up at Giles. "Gee, I know I need a hug, but in front of the police?" he quipped, allowing himself to be helped up and out of the storage room.
Xander stayed to look at the cops. "I don't know what you do to people like them, but I want them buried for this. They hurt me, they hurt Oz at a time when he was vulnerable." He pushed his way out of the room and went to get a hug.
Giles stopped the officers from walking in. "It's been a most stressful day so far," he explained, taking the officer out to the living room to tell them the story Xander had told him, all of it. By the time he got done, the two bad cops were babbling about strange winds and rabid people, but they had also managed to babble their confession during it. They were led away and the family was left in peace after filling out a few forms.
Xander stayed curled up on Oz's chest, not sure he wanted to move. Even when Oz had gotten up to go to the bathroom, Xander had sat outside the door, making sure the Monsoon demon wouldn't come back again.
Oz finally had enough of it and pulled Xander's head up to look at him. "It was just another someone that wanted you when they didn't deserve you. I heal from possessions too."
Xander nodded. "But I can't be sure of that yet," he told Oz, repeating words that Oz had once told him when he had been in trouble. "I won't be sure of that for many months to come."
When Methos and Ray walked into the house five days later, they found Xander curled up on Oz's lap and the old immortal ready to take his lover's head off. Methos quickly diffused the situation by smiling at Oz and giving him an innocent look. "Did something happen while we were gone?" he asked quite nicely.
Oz got up, carrying Xander over to Methos, and handed him over. "You'd be surprised at what happened while you were gone." He backed away slowly but Xander reached for him. "I'm going upstairs to work out and type, okay?" Xander shook his head. "Tough, you wouldn't let me stalk you around my house, you can't do it here." Xander gave him the look that had made him let the young man cling to him for the last five days. "No, tell Methos." He turned and ran up the stairs, kicking Giles and all the animals out so he could have some time alone.
Methos put Xander down and made the young man look at him. "What happened this time, imp?"
Xander sighed and hugged them both, slowly telling them everything. About an hour later, Methos walked into the trio's bedroom and then went upstairs, cuffing Oz to the desk. "There, now he'll know where you are," he said with a roguish grin. He walked back down the stairs and found Xander cradled in Ray's lap. This would not do at all! He walked over and plucked Xander, standing him up. "Why are you so upset by this?" he asked calmly. "You knew people might come after Oz to get you." Xander shook his head. "That never occurred to you?" Xander shook his head again. "Why not?" He sat down, taking his rightful spot beside his lover and husband, letting Xander sit on the other side of him.
"I wouldn't think that people would come for you to get to me," Ray pointed out. "It doesn't make much sense from our point of view." He looked over at Xander. "Did Oz really bite Giles?"
"Twice. Richie was here during all of it," he said quietly, looking at his unmoisturized hands. "I don't know why I'm so upset this time, Meth, I really don't."
Methos gave him a hug, slinging his arm around Xander's shoulders. "I'd be upset if I found Ray possessed by the spirit that had promised to leave me alone also, but you can't hover. Oz hates it when you hover. That's his thing, you can't copy it."
Ray reached over and tickled Xander side. "Hey," he said, pinching him to get a reaction. "Oz is fine, right?"
"We can't be sure of that," Giles said as he walked up from downstairs, holding up a bottle of champagne. Methos nodded. "Because the spirit gave itself up voluntarily, there's a chance that it may still be hiding inside Oz. It may be waiting for a moment when there's discordance between us to come back and woo Xander away." He pulled down some glasses. "Oz, we're going to have a glass of bubbly. Would you like one?"
"Yes, but I'm kinda tied to the chair right now," he called down. "Methos, get up here and set me free!"
Methos smiled at Giles. "I thought it'd be best if you knew where Oz was for a bit."
Giles snorted. "It's been five days. Oz hasn't been allowed out of the house without one of us with him, and Xander's practically riveted himself to Oz's side." He nodded. "Go set him free so he can come toast you with us."
Methos sighed but he got up to do as he was told.
Ray scooted over and gave Xander a hug. "Relax, watch him on the qt, not openly. Use your innate sneakiness to watch him."
Xander leaned into his body. "I can do that," he admitted. "Thanks, Ray."
"Hey, it's a thought I wouldn't like to have either. Especially not during a holdup where I was the victim." He moved back so Methos could sit between them again. "Ya know, part of this is probably a reaction to the near shooting Xander almost had. First it was gas, then it was guns. He was almost arrested in there. That's pretty scary stuff for a guy who's more used to being snatched on the run."
Xander nodded. "Yeah, that was part of it. I was clinging to make myself feel better."
Oz leaned down and kissed the top of his lover's head. "That's why I let you do it for so long," he told him. "I agree with Ray, watch me without clinging or stalking and I'll accept it. Start clinging to me again like that and I'm going to have to blow off some steam."
Xander looked up at him. "I'll try, okay?"
"Okay." Oz walked into the bedroom and came out with a long, silver chain attached between two cuffs. "Ankle."
Xander grinned and held up his ankle, watching as Oz slipped the cuff on and lightly clasped it. He watched as the other end went around one of the couch's legs, then his lap was filled by his lover. "Thank you."
"Hey, I just figured it out from what Ray said. I forgot that you need to be reminded sometimes, especially when you're insecure about us." He patted Xander's hands where they lay clasped around his waist. "Let me up."
Xander let him go, giving him a smile. "Better?"
"Much." Oz walked into the kitchen and grabbed the tray of glasses, carrying them out while Giles got the wine. He let everyone take on, saving the last two on the tray so they could be poured into without him or Giles having to balance anything.
Giles popped the cork as loudly as he could, smiling as it dented the ceiling. He sniffed the bottle then smiled at the couple. "I think today deserves a celebration." He poured for everyone, starting with the happy couple, and even poured some for Richie when he came out of hiding in the basement. "To happiness. May we all have it again soon and keep it for a long time."
"To keeping it for a long time," Xander said, lifting his glass.
Everyone drank to that.
Xander crawled across Giles' very sated body, grinning his most naughty grin at Oz as he flopped down beside him in the big antique bed. "What can I do to satisfy you?" he whispered, running a finger down Oz's stomach. The niggling doubt about it being only Oz in there still remained but he could deal with it privately.
"I think I'd like a Xander special moment," Oz whispered back, pulling him down for a kiss.
In the living room something thumped, making everyone jump. Xander and Oz both got up and went out to see what had happened, joining Methos and Ray.
Richie was sitting in the middle of the living room floor, looking up at everyone, near tears. "I don't want to think these thoughts," he told them weakly. "I don't want to think about what Xander does to his men or why Methos always looks so smug after spending time with Ray. I don't want to think about Methos' friend Blair and what his hair must feel like." He hit himself on the side of the head. "I need fixed," he begged Methos. "Please? Fix me?"
Xander got down and gave the young man a hug. "Shh, I know, it's a confusing time, but just because you have those thoughts doesn't mean that you're gay. It means that you've learned to appreciate the beauty of your own gender."
Ray snorted. "Richie, get up here," he said, holding out a hand to pull him up. He looked into the blue eyes. "Get this straight now. It can't be fixed. You gotta roll with it and drown a little to figure it out, or you drown permanently when someone takes your head." He slapped the young man lightly. "Now, get over it already, some of us are still on our honeymoon." He took Methos' hand and led him back to their room.
Oz waved and left. "You handle it," he told his lover.
Xander pushed himself up onto the couch and patted the far end. "Come sit, tell me why you're ready to go play in razor blades."
Richie sat down and looked at the young man. "I never had these thoughts until I started spending time with you," he accused.
Xander snorted. "Honey, there's a reason that I got so many so-called straight men on my shift. There are days when I can make *anyone* doubt their orientation." He shifted closer. "Just because you're doubting doesn't mean that you're gay. Or even bi. It means that your mind has hit upon something that it would like to figure out, whether or not it disturbs you is irrelevant. Ray was right about one thing though, you either swim through this or you drown. And it's all up to you which one you let happen." He stood up, patting Richie on the head. "In the morning, if you want, I'll sit down and talk to you. If not, you could ask Ray. He had a much harder time coming to terms with loving Methos than I did with being gay." He smiled gently at the confused young man. "Until then, go get some sleep and quit wondering what I do with my men. It's the same thing you do with your women, only with more dicks." He winked and walked away, heading to his bedroom.
Richie curled up against the arm of the couch, staring out the back window. He briefly sat up and stared harder as he saw a little man wander across the back of the fence, but he must have been mistaken. There wasn't anyone out there. He relaxed again and let his mind wander where it wanted to, no longer hampering it. Maybe it would come up with a solution he would like on it's own.
TO BE CONTINUED...