Xander stormed into his and Oz's loft, slamming the elevator door shut behind him. "You won't believe what happened," he said, tossing his jacket onto the couch and starting to pace.
"What happened?" Oz asked calmly, setting down his guitar where he and Devon were working in the living room area. "Something bad or something good?"
"Something *horrible*." He stopped, pulling a small piece of paper out of his pocket and tossing it at his Guide. "I sold a painting. Someone actually had the nerve to buy something of mine."
Oz shook his head once then opened the check. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that good?"
"No, it's *rotten*. That was private stuff." He leaned his head against the purple wall, avoiding the paintings by a few centimeters. "I wanted that to stay mine."
"Just that one or all of them?" Devon asked.
"*All* of them. They were mine! What was inside of *me*! It's like somebody owns part of me now." He came over to sit beside of Oz, leaning against him. "I want an ice cream fit. I feel rotten now."
"Xander," Oz said patiently, "I know you wanted to keep all your work, but some of it has to go." The younger man sat up so he pulled him back down. "I enjoy your work and I know you don't want to sell any of it, but you're not going to be able to be a starving artist, man. Starving artists have starving Guides, who then have to burn your paintings for fuel."
"Would be better than some stranger looking over private parts of me," the younger man muttered against his friend's chest. "And we don't starve. I still have lots of money in the bank."
"I know you do and so do I from my small job helping Blair and what was left over from my disbursement, but even then you still have to sell something now and then. See," he said, shifting some so the younger man was against his stomach and he was laying down, "this is really a compliment. It means that someone saw what you worked on and they found a synchronistic place in them. And you made some good money." He attempted to show the check to him but it was pushed away. "But, Xander, this is a good. A great actually. Someone recognizes what you can do and likes you for it. And while I'm sure other artists feel the same way about their stuff, they know that they have to sell out to the commodity market that the art world is today to survive."
"Wow," Xander said, looking up. "You explained that much better than my advisor. He said get over it and move on, it's a good thing." He laid his head back down. "But I really don't want to sell them."
"Then we'll be overrun with art," Oz told him, looking at the pile in the corner that was already four feet tall, and that was just the boards, not to mention the sketches, the real canvases, or the stuff on the walls. "Tell ya what?"
"I think we should let your advisor or someone come over and see some of the work." He covered the younger man's mouth quickly. "Pick out the stuff that inspires you and that you want to keep, and we'll see if you can't show the rest around the school or something." Xander turned his head up to pout at him. "Xan, I feel like I'm living in an artists worst nightmare. Everywhere is color and texture and paintings and vibrancy. This is too much for even you. Let's let them pick a few things for the student art show in three weeks and we'll see what we can't do about maybe letting Giles and Jim and Blair have some of it so we have less art and you can create more to fill the empty spaces."
"But then we'll have more art."
"Yes, but maybe by then, we'll have worked out your art attacks to a lesser level. I mean, lets face it. From November to today, which is March," he checked his watch, "third, you've done more than some famous artists have in their whole life." The younger man snorted. "Oh, please, there were plenty of them that didn't get where they were by constant practice but by a few wealthy people liking them lots." He sat the younger man up, looking into his eyes. "Now, I want you to look at the check and equate it with good things. Things like dinner out or things like more art supplies." He opened the check, showing it to him. "See? Not a bad at all."
"I made three grand off one painting?" he asked in shock, leaning against the back. "I think that's almost unheard of for someone unknown." He looked at his Guide. "Take me to the bank?"
"Sure, tomorrow when it's open again," he said, grinning slightly. "We should call the teachers and tell them it's a party. Maybe Blair would even let his poor students off the hook and we could have the night off." Xander shook his head. "No?"
"Nope, Blair may be a fuzzy puppy of a teacher but he's adamant that he actually attempt to hold class each time." He took the check to look at it. "I did good?"
"You did great," Devon said, sitting down next to the younger mortal, looking over at his best friend. "If you guys go out, can I have a big steak?"
"Sure," Xander said, patting his hand. "But Oz wants me to get rid of more."
"More room to fill with more stuff. And maybe even find a new type of thing. No more country/sad, alternative/strange, pop/happy stuff." He brushed through the dark hair. "I'm so proud of you," he said, kissing his cheek.
"Hey," Oz said. "He didn't ask. Those were the rules you two set up."
"Way overprotective dad," Devon groaned, letting Xander go and leaning back. "Want to try to show some of it off?" he asked the artist.
"Sure," Xander said after a few more minutes of staring at the check. "Maybe that wouldn't be so bad." He looked at the crowded walls. "Some of this stuff could go. At least to the parental ones and to Giles." He turned to look at Oz. "Can I still have ice cream?"
"Sure," he said, patting the younger man's hand. "Just go and start sorting. Then we'll see what you want."
"Three piles: crap, nice, and I could give this away because I'm not ashamed of it?"
"No," Oz sighed. "That's it, you need to go to your self-esteem lever and turn it up." He pinched his friend's arm. "Want me to go through the stuff?"
"No, I'll do it," Xander sighed. "Good and inspiring, and can go?"
"That works for me, but I still want to check over it. There are a few things I might want to keep."
Xander sat in front of the piles, looking at the small one he had decided to keep. He looked up at his Guide as he walked in from his evening class. "Man, I think I screwed this up." He looked back at his piles. "I separated out the ones that made me twitch or think and it's really small." He waved at it.
"But that's a good then. That means that the other stuff was just working itself out of your system or as a reaction to the music." He sat down beside him, looking at the smaller pile. He nodded, looking at the larger one. "There was one on my bedroom wall," he started but it was pointed to in its original position. "Oh, okay."
"I didn't touch your room, Oz, I wouldn't do that."
"Actually," he said, getting up and grabbing one of the ones off his wall to bring out, "I only have this one to cover up the sex act that was painted in the mural." He put it into the send pile, smiling as it stayed there. "Okay, so should we go through the other one together?" The younger man nodded so he pushed the smaller pile aside to pull the much larger one over. "What about your sketches?"
"I walked the ones I didn't want to keep down to the art store and they're matting them for me." He flinched as he watched some of his most explicit material go by in the 'going somewhere else' pile. "Do you think we should keep them?" he asked quietly.
"I'd like to keep a few of them," Oz said, separating out the ones that he had stared at for hours on end and two more that he knew Devon liked. And one more that he was sure Xander hadn't meant to put in there of him and Darryl. Finally, he was done and the larger pile was on the couch.
"I popped in on Blair during the break," Oz told him, "and asked for him to come over tonight. Told him that you wanted to give him some of the artwork to store at his house. He said he'd tell Giles to come over soon too." Xander nodded, sipping his water. "Why you so quiet?"
"Why did you save the explicit stuff?"
"Because I like looking at them," Oz said with a small shrug. "Don't know why. It's not sexual for the most part, just like to sit and stare at them. And I write songs while I stare at them." He looked over his shoulder as the elevator opened, waving at Giles and Blair as they walked in. "Hey, guys, we're having a gotta move it so he can create more moment. Pick whatever you want off the couch and the rest is going for consideration at the student art show next month."
Blair and Giles looked over the stack, dividing it up quietly, and Jim, when he came up a few minutes later, had to carry it down to the cars, including some things that Blair had picked out for him. They came back up, sitting next to the young men.
"So, what brought this on?" Blair asked. He was handed the check. "Oh, wow, you sold something?" Xander nodded, just a little.
"He wasn't too thrilled," Oz told him, "but we had a talk and we agreed that it was okay if people liked his work and that we needed to get rid of some of the artwork before it overran us." Giles smiled at that. "Honestly, he had a four foot pile of canvases and boards in a corner, Giles, not counting what was on the wall. I felt like I lived in a museum," he said, patting his friend's hand. "And now he can create more. We agreed to keep the stuff that inspired or moved him and the stuff that did the same for me."
Jim sat down in the chair, putting his feet up on what used to be Blair's coffee table. "There were some excellent pieces in there and I know Blair picked out the one of Darryl in there for Simon." Xander covered his eyes. "What?"
"Forgot about him. Two sketches are down being matted with him in them. I should ask his dad's permission first."
"So come to the station tomorrow with us," Blair offered. Xander shook his head, opening his mouth. "Or whenever they're done. We're still in there once a week for meetings and helping the other detectives."
"We need a party," Giles said, "to celebrate and for Xander to mourn the loss of his artistic innocence." The younger man looked up at him and grinned. "And I do believe it should happen on a night we all have free."
"Thursday," Jim and Blair said.
"Weekend?" Xander suggested.
"Sunday," Oz agreed.
"Cookout," Jim said.
"Whatever, you're helping," Blair told him.
"Anything's fine, just let me know what I can bring," Giles told them. He looked around. "Here?"
"Could," Jim said. "Kitchen works. And it's big enough."
"Grill's at home," Blair said. "Elevator's not working."
"Got one, small, needs charcoal," Oz pointed at their miniature porch that was all of seven inches out from the window with an iron rail. "Big enough to feed three or so."
"I have a small hibachi also," Giles offered. "I could bring it over."
"Hey, our camping one," Jim reminded Blair. "Gas, could even put it in the doorway as long as there's ventilation."
"Yup, can cook a real meal on that thing."
"Tell me you guys didn't get one of those wok-aques, the Red Devil," Oz groaned. Jim frowned at him. "One of those with the wok-looking pan that fits over the small burner with three zones of heating." Jim grinned, nodding. "Geez, infomercial time." He looked at his Guideling. "We have to heal them of that."
"Now they have pretty artwork to stare at so it'll slow down the need to camp," Xander soothed.
"Anything's possible," Giles said diplomatically, smiling at the elder pairing. "I do believe that was the focus of your class tonight, wasn't it, Oz?"
"Yes, and I even took notes this time," he said patiently.
Oz wondered the whole way down the hall of the art building why he had been called in there but he nodded at the secretary as she pointed him toward the small inter-departmental gallery. He touched Xander's shoulder as he walked in, sitting next to him. "What's up?" he asked quietly, remembering quite well some of the gossip about some of the teachers down here and their egos.
"Your friend," the head of the department said, leaning forward, brushing an annoying strand of her silver hair back behind an ear, "came to us with all this stuff and wanted us to put it in the art show." Oz nodded. "Well, when we first looked at the work, and the amount that was showable, we wanted to put him into the small showing, but that was before we saw all this." She frowned at the young artist under her charge. "Now that we know he has all of this, we'd like to submit not only to that showing but to another one for unknown artists at a local community center and he's asked for your input." She smiled at him again. "I don't have to tell you what a boon this sort of showing can be to a young artist, I'm sure, since I've heard around that you're a musician, and a very good one at that. His reputation could be set at this showing. And while some of the members of the local art society will be at *our* gallery reception, many more will be at the other one."
"But I'm not interested in commercial success," Xander protested. "Art is a personal thing for me, like therapy or something. Meditation sometimes too, but mostly it's just what's inside me."
"I know dear," she said kindly, "but you still have to eat. And you would have the option to only show your work there."
Oz leaned closer to his Sentinel's ear, wanting to block it from the instructor's hearing. "Why are you fussing?"
Xander got up and drug him out of the room. "Oz," he hissed, "she wants me to put them on an auction block and see how much they can bring to the school. I found out that three grand was minus the school's gallery fee, ten percent, and if I show there then I'll have to pay a five hundred dollar entrance and still give them more." He saw the small frown. "No, after our long talk the last time, I don't mind showing. I'm more than happy to show, was even before that, but I don't think that other thing is worth it."
Oz simply nodded. "Your work, man." He patted his arm. "But do you really not want to show there? You could use some of the money from your last one to do the fee."
"I put a down payment on a car," Xander admitted. "It took half of it. The rest is in the bank still."
"So, we still have it. If you want to show, go ahead. We aren't hurting for the cash." He saw the wary look. "What?"
"When she leaned over to Professor Simmons, the skanky-looking guy, she just said that she thinks a few of my pieces could bring great recognition to the school and to me, and make me fairly wealthy if I'd just agree to sell them."
"Well, a school would brag about its students," he soothed, shaking his head at the incredulous look he got. "If you were Rainier, wouldn't you brag about you too? You came in with almost no work under your belt and in under four months, you've already sold one piece." The younger man nodded eventually. "So, show it, Xan, I think the reputation thing would be good for you. Then you could show at better places than campus and our walls."
Xander nodded, going back in. "I only want to show." The two instructor's faces fell. "Hey, I told you, it's not about money for me. It's about part of myself."
The chair cleared her throat. "Mr. Harris, the entry fee is usually taken out of your auction winnings."
"Hey, I got the fee, I just want to show." He looked at her. "You said I could do that, right?" She nodded. "Then that's what I want to do. You're right, I do need a reputation but I don't need to sell it. I'd rather burn it all than sell it." He nodded at the male instructor, walking out.
Oz sighed. "It's really personal for him. He's worked out a lot of things through his drawing." He followed his roommate out, catching up to him outside. He touched his arm, watching as the young man straightened from his position leaning on the tree. "You okay?" His friend nodded. "That was really brave. You just basically told the whole department to screw itself."
Jim snorted, walking up behind them. "So I just heard. Xander, your Chair just called Blair and asked him to make you see sense about auctioning off your work." He helped him over to the bench. "You okay?"
"Yeah, just a small stomachache. Stress. I'm fine." He looked at the older man. "Is this going to hurt me?"
"Depends on what sort of pressure they put on you, kid, no one's quite sure. You're the first to not jump at the chance to sell." He looked up as Blair walked over to them. "He has a stressful stomach right now, Chief, go easy on him."
"Hey, I was just going to give him a hug for sticking to his ideals." He hugged the younger Sentinel gently, stepping back. "You sure you're okay?" Xander nodded. "Okay. I'd probably be about ready to puke too if I'd just taken on my Chair over my ideals."
"My work is personal to me, Blair, as much as your research is to you. I hate even the thought of selling it. I don't mind sharing it with others when I show or do murals like I did at the Flame, but I don't want to sell."
Blair got down in front of him. "You'd better be prepared for some dirty politics then, kid. I know these people and they don't take rejection well. They tend to fight mean and hard when they're given anything *near* to a no." The younger man nodded. "I mean it, expect the worst here. But know that Jim and I will back you." He smiled as he was hugged, tightly squeezing the young man. "Now, I believe you should go clue Giles in, his class is about over. I know he'll support you too. I bet the President even would, even though you stood up to her." He brushed an annoying piece of hair out of the younger man's face. "She actually complimented me on how you stood up to her."
"Cool," Oz said. He looked toward the building then at Jim, who was frowning. "What?"
"They're talking about forging his signature on the entry form," Jim said quietly.
"They do and I'll hurt this school," Xander promised coldly. "I'll see them in court so fast it'll hurt them all."
"Very good," Blair said, pulling the young man up. "Now, let's go tell that to the President, see if Her Rabid Bitchiness will back you too." He walked him toward the administration building. "Jim, don't even *think* of cleaning my office while I'm gone," he threw over his shoulder.
Oz waited until Blair was out of hearing. "Race ya?" he suggested, eyes twinkling. "Winner gets to file, loser has to dust."
Jim hopped up and started to run toward where Blair's office was.
Xander smiled at the person commenting on his painting and how it was an interesting use of color, scanning the room with his hearing for some relief from her. He took her well-meaning comments and let them drift off into the rest of the cloying air, along with the masses of perfume and cheap suits. He spotted Blair and walked over to him, trying hard not to look like he was panicking. "I haven't gotten a copy of my entry for the other show," he whispered, turning to look at the piece of pottery behind them.
"Then we'll just have to ask her about it since she's coming over." He noticed the younger man gulping the rest of his champagne so took the glass from him, handing both of theirs off to a student waiter. "Mary," he said warmly. "My student's just told me the wonderful news that he was going to be entered to show in the Unknowns show downtown." He kissed her cheek. "Any word yet on how many pieces they accepted?"
"Quite a few," she said with a small smile. "Mr. Harris is quite a testament to our department and we've always had patrons down there." She pulled something out of her evening bag, handing the folded paper over to Xander. "Here, dear, it's your entry. We were going to present it tonight when we announce awards."
He opened it, frowning at the checkmarked boxes. "I told you I didn't want to sell," he said quietly, looking up at her.
"Dear boy, that is the *only* way you make a name for yourself in this business."
"I'm not in it for the business," Xander said coldly. "And I've told you that."
"I'm afraid there's nothing you can do now, dear, it's all set. The catalogs have been printed."
"And so has a lawsuit with your name," he told her. He inched closer. "Don't think I won't hesitate to ruin this department, ma'am, because you'd be wrong. I *explicitly* told you not to allow my work to be sold and you went ahead. How do you think that's going to look to the *business* of art?"
Blair cleared his throat. "Not the time or place guys, really. I believe the President's office would be a better place." He nodded at her as she started to come over. "Shall we set up an appointment?"
"I only marked a few for sale," the Art Chair said quietly. "Just four pieces. Just some of your best work. I know it wasn't what you wanted but we all started out saying that, young man, until we realized we didn't have reputations from simply showing."
"Then I'll do it as a hobby and work at Hardees," Xander told her politely. He handed the paper over to Blair. "Excuse me, I'm going to go get some air. Madam President," he said, bowing slightly, then he walked out. He leaned against a tree, frowning at the man walking up to him. "Problems, Dev?"
"Just wanting to come show my support," he said, touching the younger man's shoulder gently. "What's going on?"
"She did it anyway. Four pieces." He turned to face the young vampire. "She marked four of my pieces for sale when I told her not to." He refused to let the anger and frustration out, but he couldn't hold back the single tear that escaped. He felt the cool hand come up to wipe it off and flinched away from him. "Just don't, Dev. Now's not the time." He looked at the building then at the open spaces. "Walk me home? Blair drove me and he'll understand."
They were halfway back to the car when Blair's call stopped them. "Hold it." He walked up to them, slinging an arm around Xander's shoulder. "I agree with the concept but you won something," he said, handing over the ribbon and certificate. "And I'm still proud of you."
"Gee, you mean she's not selling these too?" he asked snidely, looking down at the certificate. "First place, Modern?"
"Means it's not a literal interpretation. That silver figure painting won it." He walked them toward the car. "So, need a ride?"
"Sure," Xander said, looking at Devon. "You didn't drive, right?"
"No, not me man. No car here. I rely on buses and Oz to get around." He climbed into the backseat, buckling in. "Don't worry, Xander, I'm sure you can complain to them."
Oz shook his head, picking the phone up off the floor and hanging it up. "Wondered why I couldn't get through." He walked over to where Xander was laying, blanket over his head. "Didn't let you withdraw from the auction?" He saw the small head shake. "Now what? Can you protest?" Another shake of the blanket. "So, what do you do now?"
"Now, I file a grievance against my Chair with the Dean of the Arts College and the President mediates so I don't kill her," the blanket mumbled.
Oz reached down, taking the blanket and laying it over the back of the couch again. "And then?"
"I have to go watch it be sold. It's mandatory for me to show up. They won't withdraw it from the sale, just from the showing if I'm not there." He looked up at the certificate above him on the wall. "Does it mean anything? Is it really worth it?"
"Not if it doesn't make you happy," Oz told him. "You can always switch majors over to where I am. Or another major."
"But I have the reputation for being difficult," Xander reminded him. "Too many absences, too much other stuff going on. Surly to teachers when they tried to tell me my time was up." He saw the small smile so shrugged. "I was being happy in one of the art rooms, working right along, and the Chair told me I had to go so they could close the building."
"Wondered what happened to you that afternoon," Oz muttered. He reached down, stroking down the firm face. "I'll be beside you. I promise."
"You'd better be. You're probably all that's going to keep me from either killing her as my first piece is sold, or bursting out into tears." He looked up. "One of Darryl's got in there somehow. I know I removed them all, handed them personally to Simon."
"Did you tell him?"
"Yup, and he's going to talk to them about things like consent forms." He rolled onto his side, facing the back of the couch and his Guide. "I hate this, Oz, and it makes me feel worse."
"You have been having some stomachaches recently. You going to go to the Student Health Center?" The younger man shook his head. "Why not?"
"I don't want to be told it's heartburn and take Mylanta." He looked up. "I need a nap. Can you handle supper?"
"Sure, what do you want?"
"A nap, I'm not hungry." He closed his eyes, slipping off for a while.
Xander frowned as his Chair walked up to him, backing into Oz's side. "Oh, no, I don't even want to talk to you," he told her snidely. "I'm here, that's it. I'm starting to look at new majors in the morning." He sipped his virgin mixed drink slowly so he wouldn't say any more.
Oz sighed, shaking her hand. "He really is upset about this. And I'm supporting him in his protest," he said quietly. "I do believe it'd be best if you didn't have to chit-chat right now." He turned Xander around, leading him around the exhibits, stopping in front of his work. "I see they switched out Darryl's for something else."
"Yup," he said quietly. "And I see his dad too." He waved at Simon, who walked over to them. "I'm sorry you had to get involved in this," he said quietly.
"Hey, my boy loved you," Simon said, rubbing over the younger man's shoulder. "You okay? Sandburg told me you were pretty torn up over this." Xander nodded. "You sure? You could leave now."
"No, when we had the artists' meeting I was told that I had to stay for the auction, that it was to give me a sense of accomplishment, and then I had to speak to the people who bought my work." He frowned at the floor. "But I could use some air." He walked past them, avoiding any and all of his teachers as he made his way outside. He leaned against a marble pillar, looking up at the stars that were barely visible. He heard the gong sounding the first call to the auction room.
That's when the first ripping pain caught him, making him double over, clutching his stomach. Which is how the guard found him, and called for an ambulance.
Oz looked around then down at his watch. "Been twenty minutes," he told Simon, who nodded, smiling at passing person. "We should go find him."
"You're the Guide, is he in trouble?" Oz just looked at him. "You're supposed to be able to tell."
"Gee, Blair should have told me that." He looked around the room. "Yeah, I'd say find him. I got that strange, something bad's going to happen thing going." He headed for the exit, the same one his Guideling had walked out earlier. He looked at the guard. "Did my friend come out here? Six foot, dark hair, rental tux, wanted really badly to be drunk?"
The guard nodded, walking closer. "We had him sent to the hospital, he doubled over, holding his stomach."
"Which one?" Simon asked as he walked out.
"General, it's closer," he said. "Is he with you, Captain?"
"Yeah, I'm supposed to be watching out for him tonight," he said, heading for his car. "Tell your boss he's gone, he's Harris, she'll understand." He hurried out to his car, Oz right beside him, and dialed as he pulled out of the parking lot. "Hello, this is Captain Banks, I believe you have one of my charges there?" He frowned. "Harris, stomach pains? Brought in by ambulance?" He nodded, switching lanes and turning on his siren and lights. "No, not a criminal, a helper around my office. You need to call either Jim Ellison or Blair Sandburg, I believe you should have their home numbers down there as a contact for my department." He nodded, hanging up. "Call Jim's pager, Oz, and see if he answers that." He pulled up in front of the hospital, dropping the younger man off to run inside.
Xander woke up looking at a white ceiling and knew he wasn't at home because his was mauve. He tried to move his hands but grunted when he felt them restrained some how. "Not tied down again," he muttered, fighting his way free of the tightly tucked sheet.
"No, not restrained," Oz said, reaching over to help him. "Sadistic nurse that believes in tucking you in." He squeezed the now free hand. "How you feeling?"
"Bad, but my stomach doesn't hurt." He raised his head, looking down. "What happened?"
"Ulcer burst," Oz told him. "Right there at the show last night when you got too stressed." He nodded at the nurse. "He's awake."
"So I see," she said, trying to tuck him in again.
"Don't *do* that!" he yelled. Xander glared at her. "I've been tied up too many times in my life and I'm going to have a screaming fit so please, just don't tie me down like that," he finished, quieter, more gently.
She picked up his chart. "We don't have mention of prior trauma in here," she told them.
"Wouldn't be in there," Oz explained, "happened at home. Long before he came. He can't stand to be that tucked in." She nodded and undid the sheet, laying it loosely across the top of his feet also. "Thanks."
She nodded, taking the patient's pulse. "It's quite all right, we've had other people with the same problem. I just took him to be a hugger and the tighter sheet gives them extra comfort."
"I'm sorry," Xander said quietly. "I know you're just doing your job."
"That's all right, Mr. Harris," she said with a small smile, "I've taken care of Detective Ellison. You're nothing compared to his growling." She started to turn but then turned back again. "Oh, speaking of the detective, he and his friends are downstairs. Someone broke into the drug locker in the emergency room and they were given the case since they were here. Should I call them?" He nodded. "All righty then, you just rest here and talk to your friend and we'll all be fine. Lunch is in an hour or so and it's going to be unpleasant, I know, but you have to eat it all." She patted his hand, walking out of the room.
Xander looked at Oz. "Save me," he whispered. His Guide squeezed his hand, leaning back in his chair.