Back to Work.
Xander waved as Daniel, Jack, and Blair drove off in their cars, silently wishing Blair luck in Colorado when they got there tomorrow. He leaned back into Oz's arms, relaxing. "I hope Blair likes their boss."
"He likes you, I'm sure he and Blair will get along," Oz told him gently. He guided his husband in and onto a couch, settling in with him. He was taking the 'Xander must rest' order very seriously. He wasn't even allowing him to go do anything more strenuous than pet the animals. They could go do what Jack's boss needed them to in a few days, after he was very sure Xander was all right.
Xander snuggled into Oz's arms. "I'm going to work tomorrow," he whispered.
"Yup. The faster I get it done, the better I'll feel." He looked up, giving his husband the big begging look. "I have to get it done sometime and the faster I get it done, the sooner my conscious is free and the faster I quit having nightmares about people being killed by it."
"All right. Is my pass still there?"
"It's in my jacket," Xander admitted. "We got them while we were walking out of the base."
"Okay." Oz shifted his grip, starting to rub over Xander's stomach. "You really want to go in tomorrow?"
"I'll be putting little pieces together, Oz, it'll be like putting together a puzzle."
"Which can frustrate you to no end," Oz reminded him. He got glared at. "Okay, we'll go in tomorrow. Do we have to call first?"
"Nope. Just show up. The General was really nice and told me as soon as I was bored with recovering to come in and work. He said someone'll call him when I get there."
"We," Xander agreed, leaning up to give him a kiss. "Can we go through the jewelry stuff now?"
"Sure. I want to see the nipple ring you made Ray." Oz let Xander get up and get the neverending bag, sitting up as his husband came back with it and upended it on the floor. Then he reached in to one of the inner pockets and pulled out their bags of stuff from the jewelry trading days. He took Xander's tools, putting them onto the couch beside him. He looked over his husband's shoulder, watching as he opened the jewelry pouches, something Xander had made to fold the individual pieces in, and poured them out onto the floor. "Whoa," he said, picking up a small jade and purple earring in the silver-derivative they had found across the portal. "Is this Ray's?"
"No, that was for someone else," Xander said, taking it and handing over a small blue stone set in the silver-like ring. "This is Ray's. He's got very small nipples."
Oz looked over the stone that had been one of the most expensive gems in the other realm. "We bought one of these?"
"No, I happened to find one of those," Xander admitted.
"Did we *steal* one of these?" Oz asked, looking at his mate.
Xander gave him a smile. "Nope. It was a gift."
"Oh, it was from *him*," Oz said, handing it back.
"Hey, a gift given in supposed love can be made into a gift given in total love," Xander defended.
"True," Oz agreed, kissing him on the back of the head. "I'd like to see him in it." He rubbed over Xander's shoulders. "What else did you make that I never saw?"
"Oh, she never came for it," Xander said, picking up a dainty ring. "It was supposed to have been her engagement ring." He held it up for Oz's benefit.
"Xander, she died in the attack that leveled the town and killed all but four people and us, all of which were magic users who ran away," Oz reminded him quietly.
"Yeah, I know, but she never came back for it."
"She was probably going to but couldn't get away," Oz soothed. "What else is there?"
"These," Xander said, opening the bag and pouring the loose stones. "These were the last lot we bought."
"Wow, nice purchase," Oz noted, picking up one to look at it in the light. "Is this an inclusion?"
"Yup. I have a fondness for certain inclusions," Xander defended. "Like my emerald with the piece of grass."
"I know." Oz handed it back. "What is that one?"
"It looks like a seed," Xander told him, holding it up. "Yup, a seed of some sort."
"Cool. What else is there?"
"Well, there's the pieces I was working on when we had to pack up," Xander noted, putting everything back and opening another of the larger bags to pull out some smaller ones. "Um, this one," he said, opening one, "was for that inn-keeper's wife," he said, handing it over to Oz.
"Oh, the red-stone bracelet," he said, nodding. "I kinda miss her. She was nice to us when we got into town."
"Yeah, she was," Xander said, carefully packing it away again. "Oz, I don't think it's right that we keep these pieces."
"Xan, we searched for over a year for survivors or for relatives to give the pieces to. We only found the one and we gave her the earrings you were making for her cousin." He pulled Xander up into his lap with a grunt, giving him a hug. "I miss them too, and I don't think it's right either, but it happened. We never found anyone to take them." He turned his husband's face so he had to look at him. "We did try our best, love, that's all that matters."
"I guess," Xander sighed, looking down. "What's that?" he asked, noticing the odd colored bag. "When did I make a midnight blue bag?" He slid down, picking it up and opening it. "Oz," he breathed, pulling out the single black earring.
"I'm impressed," Oz said, taking it to look at it. "Did you make this?"
"Only if I've forgotten about it," Xander noted. Oz looked at him. "I don't remember making it."
Oz hummed and handed it back. "It's pretty. What do you want to do with it?"
"Keep it hidden," Xander said, frowning at it. "I don't remember seeing this before, Oz."
"Yeah, me either, but that doesn't mean we have to hide it."
"No, I want to hide it," Xander decided, putting it back into the bag. "Maybe I'll make it an offering to Strife," he murmured.
"I think he might like that," Oz said, tugging on the long braid Xander wore today. "Did you light the candles yet?"
"Yup, this morning, and said a quick 'thank you'," Xander said, standing up. He walked into his writing room, blowing out the black candle he lit every morning and picking up a match to relight it. He sent a quick thought up as he lit the wick, and turned to find the God of Mischief standing behind him. "Hey," Xander said, giving him a smile. He handed over the bag. "We just found this in our stuff from across the realms and I don't remember making it, but I think it'd suit you really well," he offered.
Strife squealed and opened the bag, pulling out the small black earring. "Xander!" he shouted, giving him a hug. "Wow!" He grinned as Oz walked in. "I have no idea where this came from either, but it's a very pretty piece."
Cupid appeared and took it, looking at it in the light. "Strife, it's from somewhere else, you might get sick if you wear it," he warned.
"Yay," Strife said, snatching it back. "My prezzie." Cupid pouted at him. "Xander gave it to me. Get your own."
"Actually," Oz said, holding up a silver bag. "I just found this in the stuff too," he offered to Cupid. "It's not like the other bags either."
Cupid opened the bag and peered down into it, then grinned as he pulled out a bellychain that matched Strife's new ring. "Whoa," he said, holding it up. "Really pretty." He grinned at Xander. "Yes, you did make them, I can tell that much. It should be fine." He handed it to Strife. "Put it on me?" he asked with a grin.
Strife handed him both bags and wrapped the chain around Cupid's waist. He hitched it, smiling as the clasp disappeared. "Gee, Xander," he purred, "did you maybe have some help making these?"
"Yup, he did, but I'll tell you about it later," Cupid said, pulling out the little ring. He concentrated then smiled at Strife, who grunted as the ring disappeared and rubbed his chest. "Better?" he smirked. Strife nodded and grinned back. "Good, catch me," he whispered then disappeared, leaving the bags there.
"Help?" Oz asked once they were alone, Strife having disappeared right afterwards.
"Well, there were those times when I kinda came out of a trance-sorta state," Xander admitted. "You were really good about coming in and interrupting them."
"Point. I remember those," Oz admitted, helping Xander up and back out to the living room. He smiled when he saw Ray poking through all the bags, with a ferret baby helping. "Hey," he said, sitting down on the couch, letting Xander go play with him.
"You do pretty work," Ray said, smiling at Xander.
Oz tossed over the bag Xander had put Ray's prezzie in. "That's yours whenever you're ready."
"Oz, you guys shouldn't have." He opened it and pulled out the ring, looking at Xander, who was doing his best impersonation of innocence. "No," he said slowly and firmly. "Not getting a nipple ring."
"That could work in bellybuttons," Oz offered. Ray shot him a dirty look and shook his head. "Just a suggestion."
"Oh, my," Methos said as he walked in, smiling at the little earring his Ray was holding. "Where did that one come from?"
"From Xander," Ray said, pouting up at him. "He thinks I need a nipple ring." His eyes narrowed as Methos looked interested, even going so far as to lick his lips. "No," he repeated. "No extra holes in my body."
"All right, dear one," Methos said, sitting down next to him, and moving the ferret so he wouldn't sit on her. "I won't force the issue, but I wouldn't object if you got a nipple ring, they used to be used to mark one's love."
"No," Ray repeated. "You mark me every night. You don't need ta put an extra hole in my body to do that."
"All right, I won't ask you to do that," Methos agreed, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "But do keep the gift, Ray, it's a beautiful piece of work."
"Thanks," Xander said, grinning.
"You made this?" Ray asked. Xander nodded. "Wow." He looked it over again. "It's *real* pretty, Xan. I'll put it in my box'a special stuff." He got up and headed up to their room.
Methos smiled at Xander. "Did you do all the work?" he asked Xander.
"We didn't hire anyone, Methos," Oz told him, patting Xander on the head. "He took lessons from a master jeweler and learned very quickly from him. He's great at the small stuff."
"I can even do a little bit of forge work," Xander told him, "but I can't do anything bigger than a dagger."
"Horseshoes?" Oz asked. Xander shook his head. "I thought you were learning that."
"I was, and then we had to leave in a hurry," Xander reminded him.
"Oh. Okay." He shrugged as he looked back up at his teacher. "Yeah, Xander did it all. He's got a very delicate hand but he's never made anything very femme and tiny."
"Oh." Methos waved a hand at the little bags around them. "May I look?"
"Sure," Xander offered. "The lavender ones are the ones I made over there. The others are stuff that I picked up on the way." He pointed out two more bags. "And there's another set of those bags."
"I remember you picking out a different fabric for those because they felt special to you," Oz told him.
"See, I don't even remember that," Xander said, pouting.
"So check them and see if you need to finish any of them," Oz suggested. "We can set you up a little working spot outside."
"We could," Xander agreed, picking up some more of the odd-colored bags to check inside them. "Hey, these aren't finished," he said, frowning. "I think I'm going to need somewhere to work, Oz."
"All right. What do you need? Just one of those little mini forges?"
"That'd help, that and the clamps and stuff that we couldn't bring along," Xander said as he looked over the ring in his hand. "Remember the gas forge we saw?"
"Yeah, but I'm not sure we can do that," Oz told him. "We don't have a gas line up here and I doubt they were using natural gas."
"Oh." Xander shrugged. "Just a thought." He turned the ring around again. "Yeah, this one just needs a little more decoration to make it balanced." He held a hand up. "Can I have one of those little picks?"
"Sure," Oz said, handing over the roll of tools. "Be careful. Every time you use one of those littler ones, you stab yourself."
"I will," Xander sighed, searching for the tool he wanted. "Ah-ha!" He pulled out the small pick and started to probe the little swirls on the band. "Yeah, this just needs a few hours of work. It's almost perfect," he said, not looking up before grabbing the next piece. "Oh, I remember this one," he said, glaring at it. "It did not want to do what I wanted it to."
Methos leaned over and took the carved bangle, looking at the carvings. "This one looks finished, all except the clasp." He turned it to show it to Xander.
"No, there's something else that goes there," Xander told him, holding out a hand. "It won't take me that long to attach the maker's emblem." He got the bracelet back and looked it over, rubbing his thumb across the blank part. "I can stamp this later tonight if I could get our stove hot enough."
"Wait until we get your forge set up," Oz advised. "You don't want to risk screwing up the maker's mark."
"Point," Xander agreed, putting the bracelet back. He looked through his tools. "Oz, I'm missing my maker's mark stamp."
"You didn't get a chance to pack it in the tools, but it was in there loose," Oz told him. "I remember tossing it in."
Xander picked up the bag and reached around inside, ending up with his head and one arm inside while he searched. He came out, dragging a few more bundles of stuff, then went back in and turned the bag inside out. A slim rod fell out of a fold, landing on the floor with a soft thump. "Here it is."
"What're those?" Oz asked, pointing at the bundles. Xander shrugged. "Okay. Hand them up and I'll look them over." Methos grabbed them and tossed them up. "Thanks."
"Xander, what's in those two?" Methos asked, pointing at the still-packed larger bags.
"Um, stuff I found while I was across the boundary at the house," Xander told him, pushing them aside.
"I said I wanted to look at them," Oz noted as he untied the intricate knot on the top of the first bundle. "Well, you packed it," he said after freeing the fifth knot.
"It was his thing to make sure it stayed together," Oz explained. "He does the same thing whenever he has to hand-tie a knot while sewing." He unfolded the heavily embroidered cloth. "Oh, hey, it's your betrothal robe." He tossed it across the room. "And your trousseau." He threw those too.
"Would you mind explaining that?" Methos asked gently.
"Yup. Someone decided I was marrying their daughter," Xander said, not looking up. "They took me, forced clothes on me, almost married me off. When I got to meet with the priest to make sure I knew what was going to happen, I told him I had a beloved, my shield brother, and he sighed and had to let me go." He shrugged, picking up one of the pieces of cloth to look at. "That's just sick," he noted, pointing at the fertility symbols.
"Yup," Oz said, tossing another pair of pants across the room.
"Hey!" Ray complained as he walked back in and the pants hit him. "I don't need tights." He looked at the trim. "You get bored?"
"No, someone wanted him to marry their daughter, these were his marriage clothes," Oz told him, tossing a shirt.
"Hey, that one was mine," Xander complained. "It was clean."
"A clean shirt?" Oz asked, one eyebrow going up. "We always needed clean shirts." He held out a hand. "Toss that back."
"Sure," Ray said, picking it up and tossing it back. "Gonna use the others for scrap, Xan?"
"Nope," Xander noted. "I don't want to see them ever again." He tossed a little piece of gold up at Ray. "A coin from our time there."
"Wow." Ray turned it over, looking at the design. "That's pretty cool." He flipped it to the other side. "Hey, what's this? A naked woman?"
"Ah, Talvandars," Oz sighed. "I hated that town."
"Me too," Xander said, reaching back to grip Oz's hand, missing it and getting his leg instead. "But we're home now and those holy virgins won't bother you anymore," he promised.
"Holy virgins?" Ray asked, still playing with the coin.
"Yup, holy virgins," Oz said, nodding. "And they decided Xander didn't exist because he didn't bow to them as they walked by."
"Hey, they were funny looking. They should expect stares from people who aren't from there. People from other lands probably wouldn't expect holy virgins to be wandering around wearing only long veils."
"Maybe," Methos said, "but most holy virgins can get a bit...persnickety about people looking at them."
"Us being together didn't help that any," Oz told him. "They were worse than the Hestians were to 'shield brothers'."
"Which are what?" Ray asked, sitting down in his lover's lap.
"What gay couples are called over there," Oz told him. "Xander, did you want to do anything with that coin?"
"If we have any more, I was going to give them to Ray so he could collect them for us," Xander said, examining another piece of jewelry he had made. "This one needs fixed majorly," he said, tossing it down beside him in the growing pile.
"Traveling bent them?" Methos asked.
"No, they were in the forge when the attack started," Oz told him. "We were packing while we were defending our area. It's no wonder that they're hurt. They were put into cold water so we could pack them, even if they were at the wrong temperature to be taken from the fire." He watched as Xander growled and put another piece in the growing pile. "Relax, babe. You can fix them. Or remake them." He reached down, rubbing over Xander's shoulders. Xander remained tense. "Or are you itching?" He got a slight nod. "Okay, where did you put the gel?"
"In the fridge, like Janet said," Xander said, looking up. "Do we have to?"
"If it works, yes," Methos answered promptly. "You will follow doctor's orders, even if I had make sure you do."
"He needs the goop and the bandages we brought home with us," Oz told him. "And we need to sedate him because the gel makes him act funny at first."
"I'm sure we can take his mind off it," Methos said as he stood up and headed for the kitchen. "Ray, go get me those bandages while I get the gel. Are there instructions?"
"On the bottle," Oz called after him. "Shh, it'll be okay," he promised, pulling Xander back into his lap. "I know you don't like the gel, but it'll be okay. We'll take your mind off the crawling feeling."
Xander nodded and snuggled into his Oz's body, willing to believe him, until he begged to be sedated later when nothing took his mind off the crawling feeling.
Methos came back in with a small bowl of the gel, stirring it with a popsicle stick. "Just your legs?" he asked as he knelt beside the couch, pushing things out of his way with his knee.
"Yup," Xander murmured. "Just my left one really."
"Pants off then." He saw the head shake. "Little one, we've all seen what you've got. Pants off." He watched as Oz untied them and slid them down his hips, letting Ray grab them to pull them off. "All right, Ray, as I slather this on, lay the gauze over it, all right?" He got a nod and dipped out some of the gel, slapping it onto the bare skin.
"Oh, snakes," Xander cried, reaching down to scratch it.
"Shh," Oz said, catching his hands. "It feels like something's crawling," he explained at the worried looks.
"So we distract him," Ray said, shrugging. He leaned down and sucked Xander's cock into his mouth, making him scream.
"And it makes him very sensitive," Oz said, watching what the other couple was doing to his mate.
"So I noticed," Methos said, working on getting more of the gel over Xander's leg. He reached for the cut gauze, laying that over the wet patches. When he was done, he pulled Ray off. "Xander, does anywhere else itch?" He got a whimper in response. "Is that a yes?" Xander nodded, biting his lip. "Tell me, little one. Your other leg?"
"Ankle, that one," he panted, pointing.
Methos let Ray go, pushing him back down as he worked over the ankle too. When he was done, he looked up and saw Xander had his eyes closed and Oz was rubbing over his bare stomach, working around the bunched up shirt. "Is that good enough?" Xander moaned, nodding frantically. "All right." He sat back and watched Ray take Xander's mind off his injury, smiling when Xander screamed as he came. "Are we letting him sleep down here?" he asked Oz, who nodded, watching Xander as he fell asleep.
Oz finally looked up, giving Methos a grim look. "This is bad. He can't get emotional because it makes him itch. He can't get physical because it makes him itch. We can't do more than gently touch each other because it makes him itch."
"Oz, you know that if he could, Xander would happily be pouncing you at this very moment," Methos reminded him.
"Yeah, but he can't and it's driving him nuts."
"And you?" Ray asked, finished with his cleaning Xander up. He laid another piece of gauze over a spot that had leaked through.
Oz nodded at Ray's candid look. "I need to make sure he's all right, but if I do that, then he'll start to itch in the middle of it."
"Which sucks," Ray agreed, "but why can't you tie him down and do it. He likes that."
"Because if Xander gets too happy, then he'll start to itch, even if he's just laying there," Oz told him. "We tried right before we came back. I managed to get into him but I couldn't move, every time I tried, he started to itch."
"So you'll wait," Methos said calmly. "Anticipation is an art form, Oz."
"Yeah, but Ray just did something that I haven't been able to do in weeks," Oz said, nearly pouting.
"Ah, but Xander loves you," Ray pointed out. "We're buddies, but I'm not that important to him, not like you are," he said at the glare from Oz. He knew they hated his low self-esteem, but it's not like he could fix it. "Trust me here, Oz, you'll have all the Xander you can handle in a few weeks. Just let him finish healin' and you'll get all the Xander you want."
"Yeah," Oz said, giving them both a goofy smile. "I know I will, but that's a damn long time. After his heart problem, he had trouble waiting two weeks."
"Yes, but this time he knows what will happen if he breaks doctor's orders," Methos reminded Oz. "Then he had no consequences outside of having a longer recovery. Now, if he tries, you'll end up having to keep him chained up so he won't dig into himself anymore."
"Yeah, but it still sucks," Oz sighed, pulling Xander up a little so he'd be more comfortable. "Thanks for distracting him, Ray, the gel for the first ten minutes or so is almost as bad as the itching itself."
"Hey, anytime," Ray said, grinning at the cute couple on the couch. "Can he bathe?"
"Yes, all the time," Oz said with a smile. "As a matter of fact, the doctor that took care of us said that he was to bathe instead of shower, and that he was only to shower to rinse off the gel, before he bathed, and to do his hair, which she really thought was cute."
"Cool," Ray said, nodding at Methos. "Can we?"
"Later, Ray. Let the gel work first." He stood up, starting to pick up all the little bags and stuff them into the bigger one that had been holding them. "What is in those other two bags, Oz?"
"Stuff he found in a semi-empty dragon's lair."
"Oh." Methos shook his head. "Empty how?"
"Dragon mommy and baby had been killed, and so had a bunch of people. Xander took almost everything before anyone else could come across it." He pointed at the phone. "Can I have that? I want to call and check in with Wes."
"Of course," Ray said, getting up and getting it for him. He handed it over then started to help Methos with his self-appointed task.
Oz used the memory dial for Wesley, smiling when he heard the cheerful voice on the other end. "Hi, Marigold. Is Wes back?" He pulled the phone away from his ear as she yelled. "Thanks," he said, once he could hear again. "Hey, Wes. Yeah, Xander told me about that. That's why I'm calling to check. Really?" He hummed. "I guess that's cool. Did you go over and check?" He nodded slowly. "All right then. Yeah, if anyone comes in, I'd like to know about it. You did? How? Oh. No, he never figured that out. No, I didn't know it was there until he brought in a keystone. No, you remember the annoying humming crystal? Well, that was the original keystone we had. Yes, that thing." He rolled his eyes. "Not a clue, Wesley, really. He did? Yeah, go ahead and send that up. No, we're home. No, Xander had to go get a little bit of medical treatment from his trip the first time through... Really? Great," he sighed. "But it's definitely broken?" He looked relieved. "Thanks, Wes. No, it's not an imposition. It's just Adam, Ray, and us at the moment. Sure, come on up. No, you'd better make her leave Faith at home. Because the stuff Xander got doused with makes him itch frantically when he gets emotional and he still wants to kill Faith, same as you do." He pulled the phone away again as he heard Marigold screech at her Watcher. "Yes, Marigold, her. Because we liked the girl before you too and your Faith-snuggly killed her. No, if you come up, you have to leave Faith at home. Yes, it's a rule now, Marigold." He sighed as Wesley took the phone away from her. "Thank you. Anyway, no one's come looking for anything?" He chuckled then hung up. "Wes says hi and that he'll be up sometime tomorrow to bring us something that Xander dropped in the house on his way back through the portal."
"All right, we'll be expecting him if you're gone," Methos said lightly.
"Gone?" Oz asked.
"I do believe Xander has shown a desire to go to work tomorrow," he reminded his former student.
"Oh. That." Oz grimaced. "Not if he has another one of these attacks he won't. We don't want to go through this tomorrow when he's at a military instillation."
"Won't Danny be there?" Ray asked.
Oz nodded. "Yup, he, Jack, and Blair will all be there tomorrow. They're teleconferencing today with their boss to get Blair into the program and then they'll take him back to Colorado late tomorrow afternoon."
"So, if anything happens, you go find Danny and he'll make sure you get home. And if he has to, Jack can come pick him up here."
"Good point," Methos said, clapping Ray on the back. "Now, let's get him up to the bed, shall we?" Oz made a gross face. "What?"
"If he gets this stuff on the sheets, it won't be coming out but we'll have to strip the bed."
"So we'll add another bottom sheet, just in case," Ray said, standing up. "And I'll rewrap his leg in more gauze too." He smiled at Oz. "You just wanna cuddle on the couch."
"Of course," Methos said, pulling his Ray in for a hug. "Don't you?" Ray grinned at him. "See? Who wouldn't want to cuddle Xander on the couch."
"Oz?" Xander breathed.
"Right here," Oz whispered in his ear. "How's the itching?"
"Better," he said, opening his eyes. He smiled at Ray. "Thank you."
"Hey, that's what buddies are for," he said with a pop of his neck. "Now, bed, young man." He got free of Methos' grip and jogged up the stairs to go fix the bed for them.
Methos held out a hand, helping Xander to his feet until Oz could get up too. "I'll bring the gauze up and wrap his leg again before you both go rest," he said, letting them go first. Once he was alone, he shook his head. The trouble that boy could get into by being in the wrong place at the right time.
Xander handed over their passes at the gate the next morning and yawned, then waved away the salute. "Where am I going?" he asked the guy.
"Second level, sir. Your equipment should be all set up for you already and the base commander is waiting on you."
"Thanks," he said dryly. He took their passes back and let Oz drive into the new parking unit for the compound. "They've been busy since we were last here, huh?" he asked as their car sunk down into the underground parking facility, newly renovated from some of the Initiative's barracks.
"Real busy," Oz agreed. "You sure you want to do this?" he asked as he parked the car in their assigned spot. He turned to look at his husband. "You're really sure?"
"Very sure," Xander agreed. "If I start to itch, then we'll go home again. And besides, I do have medical clearance to leave if I need to." He gave Oz one last kiss, knowing that they couldn't do this inside. "Okay, now I'm ready," he announced.
Oz snorted and got out, waiting behind the trunk for Xander so he could help him inside. "We did pack some of the gel, right?"
"It's in the trunk, in that nice cooler that we installed when we had the car customized," Xander told him, grabbing his arm.
"Just take it slowly, Xan," Oz said quietly, watching him as they walked over to the elevator. "You're absolutely sure...."
"Yes, Oz," Xander sighed. "The faster I can get this done, the faster I can forget I helped build a weapon." He punched the button for the elevator, then noticed the card slot. "I think we need to run these," he said, taking his off to run it. "Yup," he said as the door opened. "It's definitely the military." He let Oz led him onto the elevator, taking comfort from him as the most mild of warning itches started. If he needed to, all he needed to do was sit down suddenly and Oz would immediately run for the gel, but he didn't want to worry his husband. "Let's hope the base commander's waiting after all," he noted as the door opened. An older man smiled at them from across the small hallway.
"Yes, I am," he said, coming over to shake Xander's hand. "And Mr. Osbourne, I was told to expect you whenever your...husband was here with us."
"Yup, especially right now," Oz said, looking around. "Can we sit somewhere?"
"How about in your office?" he suggested.
"Major Mayfield," a strident voice called down the hall and running footsteps came toward them.
"Just a chair would be nice," Xander said with a smile. "I'm going to need one soon."
"Oh, are you ill?" the Major asked.
"No, he was exposed to some chemicals," Oz said. "He's still in recovery, but he itches if he gets upset or too active."
"Oh. I wish someone had told me."
"Doctor Frasier looked him over," Oz said as a young man came skidding around the corner and barely stopped before running into them, saluting quickly. "Sir, we've just gotten a long fax from Home Base."
"All right, I'll pick it up on my way to their suite." He pointed at Xander. "This is Civilian Harris, he's working on that special project in room 8."
"Yes, sir," he said, saluting them. "Do you need me to take them there, sir?"
"No, I've got it," Mayfield said gently. "Bring me the fax at their suite while Civilian Harris briefs me."
"Yes, sir," he said, saluting then running away.
Oz shook his head. "I don't think I was ever that young."
"And the surprising thing is, he probably ran up a good two flights of stairs in under ten minutes to find me." He smiled. "You're just down the hall. All civilians are on this floor, and only on this floor, with the exception of Dr. Jackson. He requested to be in a room near you as he's helping you work on your project?"
"He's translating the writing on the pieces I'm putting together," Xander said, stifling a yawn. "Sorry, just got up." He saw the appraising look and shrugged. "I don't have to keep military time and mornings bother me. Is that going to be a problem?"
"No," Mayfield said quickly. "Not at all. I'll have to make a note of that before the permanent base commander gets here, but I don't have a problem with that. You have free access to come and go as you please, but your project has to stay here."
"I might need to take it home once it's complete," Xander told him. "I'm going to have to find a crystal that'll work in it and figure out how to facet it the best way."
"You can't do that down here? A resin model...."
"Won't vibrate and that's what this thing does," Oz told him. "And Xander's a master craftsman when it comes to jewelry. That's one of the reasons he agreed to take on this project, that and he's seen one before." Mayfield gave them another appraising look. "Ask Hammond, he knows."
"*General* Hammond didn't say anything about this project to me, but he did say to trust your instincts."
"Very true," Xander agreed, smiling as he saw the familiar faces ahead of them. "Hey, Jack, Blair," he said, holding out arms to get a hug from Blair. He grinned at Jack. "I'd give you one too, but the last time I tried, you about popped me one."
Jack grunted. "Finally here?"
"We had another itching episode last night," Oz told him.
"Oh, man, that sucks," Blair said, leading the way into Xander's workroom. "Here you go," he said, flipping on the bright overhead lights.
"Ow!" Oz complained, turning them off. He pulled out a candle pack and put it on the table, lighting it. "Better."
"Lamp," Xander made note, and Oz wrote it down.
"What's wrong with the lights?" Mayfield asked.
"They're too bright for humans," Xander told him. He sat down on the stool and then got up and pulled a little table in front of the only comfy chair in the space. "How much redecorating can I do?" he asked as he pulled the box with his name over so he could pull out the pieces he had already done. "Did Sam tack this together?"
"Yeah, but she said it was only enough to hold it together for you and it was temporary," Daniel told him. "And if you want, we have a lamp in my office for the time being," he offered.
"Thanks," Xander said, looking at the pieces. "Um, you might want to call someone, some of the pieces are missing," he said as he looked in the box for them.
"No, I was working on them for you," Jack said, going to get them. He brought them back in, handing over the arm he had completed. "I was bored," he explained at the happy look.
"Hey, works for us," Oz said. "The faster we get done, the faster Xander's conscience quits giving him grief over building a weapon."
"This is a weapon?" Mayfield asked, sitting on the stool. "What sort is it?"
"Harmonic vibrations," Daniel told him. "It works like a prism does with light and breaks sound waves down into specific wavelengths, but it'll only vibrate on one pitch. So we can't just solder it together and we can't just stick any stone in there."
"Hence needing a master jewelmaker," Mayfield finished. "All right. If you need anything, Mr. Harris, the cafeteria's the next floor down. I'm sure your ....husband will easily find it. It's the only place that civilians are allowed to go at the moment."
"Yup, it's the thing that's making grease," Blair said as the commander left. He shut the door. "Good. Now then, weapon, Xander?" he asked.
"I've seen one before," Xander said quietly, leaning back in his chair. "It has a stun frequency, if I can get it to vibrate on the right wavelength."
"General Hammond found out that he'd seen one and begged him to help," Daniel explained.
"He all but promised not to use it on the average person," Xander told him. "That's the *only* reason I feel comfy working on this thing." He looked at the piece Jack had handed him then up at Jack. "Did you find something that looked like a cross between an elbow and a hook? That's what this thing sits on and we'll need two." He looked at his pile of parts. "I don't seem to have any."
"I found one," Jack admitted, "but I couldn't fit it onto this."
"Go get the rest of the pieces, Jack, and the lamp, and we'll work on it with them over here."
"Cool, I like puzzles," Blair said, sitting down in front of Xander. "Can I help?"
"Sure, if Jack says it's all right," Xander said, looking up at Jack.
"Sure, why not? General Hammond said he was going to be our team's fifth member anyway." He walked out, going to find their lamp and the last few pieces he had brought over with him.
Daniel sat on the arm of the chair, delicately picking up the handle to look at the writing on it. He started to squint and looked up, frowning at the lights.
"I'll call Henrietta and have her meet us in town with a few of the extra lamps," Oz said, pulling out his cellphone.
"Those don't work down here," Daniel told him. "When they reinforced the roofs, they put in something to jam signals."
"Carpark?" Xander suggested.
"Sure. In the carpark you can get one," Daniel agreed. "Or at least I could."
"Why doesn't he just use one of the base phones?" Blair suggested, handing Xander a piece. "Does that go on the top row of the base somewhere?"
"Yeah, under one of the prongs to hold the stone," Xander said, trying it into the available spots. "Or maybe it goes on the top one instead," he said with a shrug. "We'll get there."
Blair looked over the piece they had. "Can you sketch it out?"
"I can," Oz said, grabbing some paper off the table and sketching what they were going to be seeing, remembering the one Xander had sketched out for him. He handed it over to Blair. "I'm not sure how it works, but it does on that one frequency."
"Which is just about the same pitch as the one that breaks glass," Daniel said dryly. He opened the door for Jack, who had his arms full. "Hey, two lamps," he said in appreciation.
"I ran into Mayfield, he was bringing the second one." He pulled out a sheaf of papers. "And this. One of the physicists on the base wanted to know if you knew what metal would do this? He's trying to make one out of Earth metals and can't figure out which one."
Xander considered it. "It'd have to be able to vibrate like a guitar string does, but it'll have to be stronger than a metal that thin would be." He shook his head. "Nothing comes to mind, not from here."
"That odd silver-like metal," Oz suggested. "We saw instruments made out of it, and they were thick."
"Yeah, but I doubt they have that here," Xander said thoughtfully. "I did bring a few blocks of it back. I can give them a sample of this and let them see if it'll vibrate like they want but they'll have to find a similar thing on this planet."
"Or another," Daniel said lightly. "We might have something close to it now."
"Oh, hey," Oz said, sitting up straighter from where he was on the floor. "That energy metal. You wanted to send them a piece too, right?"
Xander nodded. "True, but I was going to send that to those scientists for their project instead. I doubt the military's willing to share."
"Not really," Jack agreed. "Energy metal?"
"Yeah, it turns into a liquid that's burnable," Oz said. "We saw lamps that had been lit for thousands of years with a fingernail-sized piece of this stuff."
"And you wanted to give it to who?" Jack asked Xander.
"There's a group of scientists that's looking for stuff to help us explore space faster," Xander explained. "Not what you guys do, but more in the Buck Rogers way. They're looking for scientific contributions of stuff that might help them."
"How much of this metal do you have?" Daniel asked.
"A damn big pile," Oz told him.
"Is it a natural metal?" Blair asked.
Xander shook his head. "I don't think so, I've only ever seen it in bars and chunks of bars."
"So, theoretically, if they can figure out what's in it, they can make it," Blair pointed out. "You can still give some of it to those scientists you want to help out, but giving some to Jack and his team might make a difference now too."
"Point," Oz agreed. "Okay, so besides a better stool for us to sit on and the metals, what else do I need to bring back when I go home at lunch?"
"Um, let's see, did you bring any of his itching stuff?" Jack asked, waving the papers. "Janet's orders are in here too."
"We've got an electric cooler in the back of this car and there's some in there," Xander said calmly. "If I have to use it, I'm going home."
"All right," Jack agreed. "That's a very good idea considering Janet didn't want you to come in at all until you knew whether or not you could stand to be down here."
"Jack, I helped take down the last inhabitants of this base. As long as I didn't have to clean up after the fight, then I'll be fine," he told him gently.
"Then you could probably explain some of the very strange bodies?" Daniel asked. "I know one scientist here wanted that explained but he was told it was too classified even for this project."
"Yeah, we know what they were," Oz agreed. "And one of these years, we may tell you." He looked at Xander. "Anything else you wanted?"
"Soda?" he asked hopefully.
"Yup. I'll be back in a few," Oz said, hopping up and heading back to the elevator.
Jack closed the door. "Xander, watch out for Mayfield. He'd love to get his hands on a working prototype. He's very much a weapons person," he said quietly, looking at the young man.
"I kinda figured that the only person I could hand this to would be you or General Hammond," Xander agreed. "Don't worry, Jack, I can handle Mayfield. I've dealt with people who like weapons a little too much before. This baby only goes into Hammond's hands."
"Good," Jack said firmly, smiling at him. "Danny, did you need anything topside?"
"Only to finish packing and to snap a few pictures to work on while we're in the air," he said.
"All right. You work on that as soon as you have good light, I'll go pack up your mess in the hotel room, and I'll be back in time to pick us all up and take us to the airport."
"I don't know why you guys don't just use one of the old fields out of town and land helicopters there," Xander said, giving Jack a frown. "Wouldn't that make it easier to get in here?"
"Yeah, but it blows the whole 'low profile' thing."
Xander snorted. "Jack, did you see some of the bodies that they had to clean out of here?" Jack nodded. "The whole town ignored them, even when they were living here. This town is the *champion* at ignoring strange crap. They ignored the Initiative when they were bringing in materials to build this, I don't think a little helicopter every now and then will upset them that much."
"We'll check it out," Daniel said, patting Xander on the arm. "Let me go get my notes and I'll come look at the armpiece." He walked out with Jack, giving him instructions about where everything in his room was.
Blair looked at Xander. "You really okay with this?" Xander shook his head. "I understand that, man, I really do." He stood up and walked over to hop up and sit on the table. "Want help?"
"Yeah, in a few. I'll need an extra hand to help me tape what I get together."
"All right, I'll be here until Oz gets back."
"Cool, thanks," Xander said, bending back down to get back into his work, repeating to himself that the sooner he got this done, the faster he could know Jack and Daniel socially instead of this way.
Oz walked in the door, straight into Wesley's back. "Hey," he said, taking the bundle. "I'm on a run-through visit. Xander's back at work today. But make yourself at home." He looked in the bundle and turned around, looking at Wesley. "He dropped this much metal and didn't notice it?"
"No, I believe he was most tired and it just fell from his fingers," Wesley told him, smiling at him. "Marigold found it later that day and brought it across for me to hold for him. What is it anyway? I tried to figure that out, but it's not magic reactive."
"No, it's a huge friggin' power source," Oz told him, leading the way into the living room. "Sit, Wes, let me explain this metal to you."
"So, then Xander wants to use it to send humans into space?" Wesley asked almost an hour later. Oz nodded. "Can he do that?"
"There's a group working on that right now. He wants to give them some of this." He glanced at his watch. "Crap. I need to get back. Help me pick up a few lamps and a few of the barstools please?"
"Of course. I suppose Xander needs these?"
"Yup, very muchly," Oz said, taking this metal to add to Xander's pile in his writing room. He picked up three bars of the energy metal and one of the silver-like metal, tucking them into separate pockets just in case, and then grabbed Xander's favorite lamp and throw, taking them out to the car too. He smiled at Wesley as he got in. "Have fun, we'll be back before dinner time," he called as he drove away.
"Oh, my, Xander must be in trouble again," Wesley told himself as he went inside. He smiled down at the four ferrets sitting there looking at him. "Hello, darlings, I hadn't known that Jedi had children yet." He reached down to touch one. "Where's your mother?"
Rocky came out and sniffed him, then barked, getting the ferrets to follow her, all except for one that was very much like her mother and hopped on the dog's back.
Wesley laughed as he watched them troop off. It was good to have something around that made you happy.
Oz carried in his goodies with a little help from one of the guys in the parking garage, tapping on the door, or the one he thought was the door. "Sorry, Harris?" he asked the woman who answered.
"That's probably who's moaning, and it's two more doors down." She looked at the stuff. "That's a good idea, I should bring my own things too." She gave Oz a smile then shut the door.
Oz walked down two more doors and tapped again, this time Jack stuck his head out of the door next to them. "Down there?"
"Yup." He got out of the way of the guy carrying stuff, giving him a salute in return. "Thanks, Corporal." He shut the door behind him, looking at the pile of stuff. "Two stools?"
"Yup, so Xander can work on the desk. Moaning?"
"Blair was giving him a foot rub when he got tense."
"Oh. Cool, I guess. Help me set this up?" Oz looked down in time to see a furry tail scurry under the chair, glaring down at the now-empty space inside the throw. "Jedi, get out of there," he ordered. He heard a squeak and got down to look under the chair. "Oh, even better. One of the babies." He felt a nip at his neck and turned his head, coming face to snout with the pissed off mama ferret. "What? You're not supposed to be here. You could get your daddy in trouble." He pointed at the baby. "Get him out of there, Jedi, before I have to move the chair." He stood up and went to help Jack, being careful to watch the ferrets. Once both of them had come out, he grabbed them and stuffed them in his shirt. Jack gave him a funny look. "Jedi likes this," he said dryly. "She's not really a ferret, she's just wearing a ferret suit."
"Sorta like in MIB and the Egger suit?" Daniel asked as he walked in. He looked at the moving lumps and then at Oz. "Ferrets?"
"Jedi and baby," Oz agreed. "Where's Xander? Jedi only listens to him."
"Our office. He got lonely in here by himself," Daniel said, watching as Oz left, then came back to hand over four bars of stuff. "What're those?"
"The dark ones are the energy metal. The light one is the silver-like stuff," Oz explained, then went to find his mate.
Daniel pulled out his handkerchief and handed it over to Jack. "Here, wrap at least one of those in here. I'll go get sample bags from the storage closet." He walked out, leaving Jack holding something he didn't understand.
Xander looked up as Oz walked in, grinning at the lumps he was trying to remove. "Jedi came to see me?" he asked, holding out his hands.
"They snuck into the car," Oz said as he handed over the ferrets.
"Ah," Blair said as he watched Xander snuggle them. Someone tapped on the door and he looked over, nodding Mayfield in. "His animals snuck into the car," he explained at the dirty look.
"Well, they need to go home."
"They will when we will," Oz told him. "There's no forcing a ferret. Even if I took them home, Jedi would find some way back into the car before I could get in. She snuck in by hiding inside a lamp."
"And the other one?" Blair asked, touching the baby's back.
"The throw from what we could figure," Oz told him, shrugging at the commander's renewed dirty look. "Hey, they're his, I'm just a surrogate and plaything to them."
"Harris, you may not bring animals into this base," Mayfield said.
"They'll go home when I do," Xander told him calmly. "After I go install a few lamps to work with." He got help up and walked back over to his office, smiling at how Jack was looking down at the bars. "Oh, good, he remembered those. The dark ones liquify really easily, at a lower temperature than boiling water, but higher than the average body temperature, unless pressure is applied to them."
"Is it volatile?" Jack asked. "We're going on a plane."
"I'd seal it but it won't produce a gas," Oz told him. "By the time you get off, it might have started to liquify, but it will take a spark to burn."
"So if the plane goes down?"
"There's going to be a huge smoking crater the size of London, including suburbs," Xander told him.
"All righty then," Jack said, looking over as Daniel walked in. "We need to somehow pressurize this."
"Why not leave it here?" Mayfield asked.
"Because one is a metal sample that the guy back at Home Base wanted," Xander told him, "and the other's a fuel source. I'm pretty sure Sam wants that one."
"Oh, yeah," Daniel said, nodding. "Very badly. Ever since you told her about it, she's been trying to figure out how it'd work. It takes a spark?"
"Fire, but we're not sure about electrical," Oz told him.
"And pressure? I heard something about that."
"Pressure regulates what temperature it liquefies at. As far as we were told, higher pressures mean lower liquidization temps."
"So we need a pressure locked container," Daniel said, looking at Jack's other hand. "What about the lighter metal?"
"It's very malleable," Xander told him. "Easily jewelry grade metal. We've seen instruments made out of it, but we don't know where it comes from naturally. Only one species ever traded it and they were very picky about who bought how much."
"How much can we get out of this one block?" Jack asked.
"Out of that one block, I can make enough chain to make three full chainmail jackets."
"So, a lot, right?" Jack asked, not understanding that measurement.
Oz nodded. "That's about forty times as much as you would get out of a block that size in silver. It's stretchy when it's at just the right temperature but strong when it's cooled."
"Good," Daniel said, smiling at him. "This might be the help we needed. Xander, did you have any other instructions?"
"Is Blair taking home his ferret?" Xander asked, giving Daniel the pouting look.
Jack felt his heart melt. "Sure, give us your vet's phone number and we'll get his records on the way out of town."
Daniel whapped him on the arm. "No, he can't. I can't have animals, Jack."
"But he loves you," Xander said, taking the baby ferret and moving closer to Daniel. The baby squeaked happily when it saw him, wiggling to jump over to Daniel. "See? He likes you too." He turned up the intensity of his begging.
Daniel took the ferret and hugged it to him, nodding. "We'll take him home with us. You get to tell Blair."
"Blair, you're taking home a ferret," Oz called.
"Really?" Blair asked as he walked in, handing over Jedi. "She likes books."
"Yup, we know," Oz sighed, taking her back. "That one's yours." He looked down at the mother, who was talking silently to her child. "You okay with that?" She looked up at him then stared at her child again.
"I'd say that's a yes," Jack said smartly. "Mayfield, we'll need a pressurized container, or three, and something to put this silver stuff in."
"Yes, Colonel," Mayfield said grudgingly, going to find something for him to use.
Jack looked at the young people around him, shaking his head. "Work, kids. So we can all go home at the right times." He looked at Xander. "You all right?"
"Fine," Xander agreed, putting Jedi on the work table and sitting on the stool from home. "I've been wanting to buy new ones for the bar," he noted.
Oz shuddered. He *hated* it when Xander went furniture shopping. "This weekend?"
"Okay. Or maybe online if we can." He accepted his pieces and the tape, laying everything out for himself. Jedi pushed a piece over to him and he took it. "Thank you, Jedi. Why don't you sit and tell me when I'm going in the wrong direction, 'kay?" He picked up a second piece after looking them over, fitting those two together after a few tries. He handed it off to Oz, who taped it down for him.
Jack nodded for his crew to leave them alone, taking their goodies with them.
In Colorado that night, a girlish scream of joy could be heard all over the Cheyenne Mountain Complex.
TO BE CONTINUED...