Hearings, Nothing More Than Hearings. (Sorry, had to curb the humor muse and it was too fast <G>, got the musical clue?)
Derek walked into the boys' room and looked around with a sigh. Their packing had left a mess and Adam had refused to clean it up for them. He almost laughed when the butler had said that Xander had threatened to eviscerate him if he touched anything in their room, but he knew his son and how territorial he could become. He picked up the clothes strewn around the room, piling them in the basket at the end of the bed, and walked back to the table to straighten up all the papers there. He picked up the folded tissue and dental pick, giving it a curious look. It had been folded so carefully that he peeked inside it, sitting down when he saw the small piece of tissue. He picked up the phone and dialed Marcus. "Did you order the boys to do a tissue sample?" he asked once he was connected to the house's physician.
He shook his head as he hung up, carefully rewrapping the small sample so it could be taken in for examination. He left the room, going to find Nick.
Serena hung up as her grandfather walked down the stairs, turning to grin at him. "Daddies make it okay. They comfy and safe. They like the hotel." She hopped down. "I'm going to tell everyone."
Derek grabbed her before she could run off. "Did they leave a number?" She nodded and pointed at the pad beside the phone. "Thank you, dear." He placed a kiss on the top of her head and let her go, smiling at her back as she ran off. He pushed the intercom button, smiling as Nick's choking started. "Goot, you're here. We're going to see Marcus."
"Okay, bossman," Nick coughed and broke the connection.
Derek paced, one hand touching the folded up tissue in his pocket. He grabbed Nick as he walked into the foyer, dragging him outside to the garage.
Marcus walked into his office and sat down behind his desk, giving the man behind it a serious, if dry, look. "It's a normal ring cyst, Derek. Benign, small, and the root was attached." He handed over the test results. "What else did you find with it?"
"A dental pick," Derek said absently. "Which one was it?" He handed it back, watching as it was added to the chart.
"Xander from what we could tell." Marcus closed the folder and crossed his hands on top of it. "You're very good at overreacting, Derek. He's fine. He wouldn't keep something like cancer from you or Oz."
"I'd like to think so but he has a history of keeping things from me." He nodded at the folder. "How is he doing?"
"Confidentiality is my job," Marcus reminded him. "What's in his file is none of your business unless he makes it that way." Derek slumped a little. "I can tell you that he's fine. I saw him this morning and everything came out normal and healthy." He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms behind his head. "Why are you worrying so much about him? If it were Nick, wouldn't you let him come to you in his own time?"
"Yes, but Xander's proved that he's willing to keep things from me, especially about his health."
"Ah, but it's *his* health, and since nothing horrid has come up recently, I'm going to have to keep his wishes in mind." Derek frowned at him. "Tough, Derek, you know the rules. I wouldn't give you Nick's folder a few years ago and I'm not giving you Xander's or Oz's. If something comes up and they want you to know, then they'll tell you. I know Xander would, we talked about that this morning."
Derek sighed and looked down at the carpet. "I would hope so, but he means so much to me, Marcus. I can't take the chance with him."
Marcus sat up and gave his former boss a gentle, soothing look. "Derek, he's not going to leave you. Not for a very long time. Same as you won't be forced to leave him too soon. He's happy where he is and that makes all the difference in his health. You, on the other hand, worry so much that it's becoming dangerous and obsessive. He's *fine*, Derek. Relax about it."
"I want to," Derek admitted, "but I keep seeing him as he was when he came back from their separation. He scared me, Marcus, and I know I care too much about him."
"What you feel is what every father feels."
"But that can be a liability," Derek protested. "There are too many things that could try and take him to harm me."
Marcus laughed, leaning back to let it out. "Oh, man, I needed that." He looked at his friend and shook his head. "Derek, how many times do you think Xander and Oz have looked evil in the face?" Derek's brow wrinkled. "And how many since he came to the house?" He snorted. "Derek, if the dark side's coming for that boy, they're in for a fight. Hate to tell you this, man, but that kid is able to beat all of them off and laugh at them for trying."
"I can only hope so," Derek said quietly.
"Ah. Has something been going on?"
"Just a nebulous feeling recently."
Marcus shook his head. "Your visions aren't failsafe and this is just a funny feeling because you can't watch over him every second right now. Get over it, Derek; he's safe and fine. Nothing could take that boy against his will and turn him to the other side. Not with Oz still living and not with you and the kids around."
Derek nodded and stood up. "Thank you, Marcus. I needed to be reminded of how strong both of them are." He walked out, meeting Nick at the Range Rover. "It wasn't anything of note."
"You or Xander?" Nick asked, finishing his apple but not getting in.
"Xander, we think. I found a small tissue sample in their room. It seems one of them had a small cyst and the other took it out."
"Hmm." Nick licked off his fingers. "Do we need to find him and give him results?"
"No, it wasn't anything serious." Derek climbed into his seat and buckled up. "Do you ever worry that they're going to be used against us?"
Nick snorted. "I think that if something tried they'd be in for the fight of their lives," he said, getting in and starting the engine. He buckled his seat belt and checked around them before backing out of the parking spot. "I actually want tickets to that fight, it's gonna be a good one."
Derek smiled. "Maybe. I'd like to think so."
Nick chuckled. "Derek, we're talking Pay Per View Special sort of fight. And the bro's gonna win. He's got too much to fight for."
"Yes, he does, doesn't he," Derek said, his mood lightening. "Let's go home and watch them take down those diseased trees."
"The kids were fascinated by it," Nick said as he pulled out onto the street. "Think the boys'll be surprised?"
"I'd hope so. Having a sectional house manufactured never crossed my mind until I heard about how they rebuilt the New York House." Derek got comfortable for the long ride. "I can only hope it will be done before they get back."
"At least the outside," Nick amended. "Are you getting them a butler?"
"They make enough to hire one," Derek chided gently, smiling at him. "I can give them a recommendation to the Legacy's hiring agency. I'm going to wait until they ask though, make it seem like it's their idea."
"Yeah, that'd be best. Bro'd get mad if you just up and hired one. He's got that whole house pride thing going even before he has one."
Xander groaned as he woke up, alone, and looked around the motel room. Only it wasn't his motel room anymore. He sat up, looking at the opulent surroundings he was in, shaking his head. When his vision didn't change, he sighed and pulled his knees up to rest his chin on. Whomever had done this had went to a lot of trouble and he would at least listen to them before he laughed at them.
Soon enough, a small, horned demon walked in and sat down on the bottom of the bed. "Xander Harris," he said, opening a three-ring binder. He looked up. "I'm here to make an offer. Please don't kill me until you've heard it, okay?" Xander waved a hand, looking very bored to the demon, who apparently used to sell used cars from his tone of voice. "I'm here to offer you the chance to change *one* thing. Any one event in your personal history. I'll even be nice and answer questions about the possible ramification for each change, that is if you ask, but this is the only offer you're going to get this year." He stared into the dark eyes, seeing the humor in them. "What if you could make it so that Willow never got touched by that demon? Or that it was found and cured when you first joined the Legacy?" He saw the hurt look in the eyes and pushed on. "You could give Oz his fondest dream. One of the nights you were hyena'd out, a talent scout came to the club he was supposed to be playing at."
"And if I do? What's the bottom line?"
"Nothing." He smiled. "We know how every change is going to affect your life and most of the outcomes are favorable. Personally, from looking at your file, there are plenty of things that *I'd* want to change. For instance, the day your children fell down while rollerblading? That's going to come back and haunt you some day, Xander. Wouldn't you want your children to never have gone through that sort of pain?"
Xander nodded. "Yup, but I still haven't heard the cost." He gave his best shark-like smile. "Tell me or let me get back to Oz."
"Ah, yes, Mr. Osbourne. I've got to tell you, he's being offered the same deal in the next room." The demon created a viewing portal but Xander never looked at it. "You don't want to know?"
"I do know and I know all about the lies you're willing to tell to get me to do this." Xander shifted, folding his legs indian-style on the bed, leaning forward until his elbows rested on his knees. "What are you trying to do most? Wreck my marriage or the Legacy?"
"Neither one," the demon said quickly. "We'd simply like the chance to prove that we're not all that bad."
Xander snorted. "Sure."
"We aren't. You see, all the hard selling that the Legacy has done over the years has had a detrimental effect on our reputation and image. Sometimes we demons do things because it'd make us happy."
Xander stood up and glared down at the demon. "That file must not be real complete, idiot. I know your kind and I know how to kill you." He watched the demon flip through the book again, looking very confused. "How far back does that go?"
"Back to your Junior High years."
"So that's when she got it," Xander muttered, heading for the door. "I'm going now," he announced. "I want nothing from you."
"Of course you don't," the demon said, waving a hand and making the door disappear. "But you did say you'd hear my *whole* sales pitch."
Xander turned and glared at him, his arms crossed over his chest and his weight canting off to one side, a direct mimic of a stance he'd seen on Nick. "Gee, from where I'm standing, it's already a repeat." He looked around the room. "Next time you want to conduct business, don't do it in a bedroom; no one trusts anyone in here for business, you tend to get screwed."
The demon chuckled. "Good one, Xander. Now come sit so I can finish my spiel."
"And if I don't?" Xander asked, not moving.
"Then, as you said, you're screwed," the demon said. "I can't send you back without you hearing it all."
Xander shook his head and walked back over, sitting down in one of the chairs beside the bed so he could put his feet up. "How much longer is this going to take? I have plans that necessitate my mate in about half an hour."
"Not that long on your plane's time." Xander glared at him. "You're in the dream plane, Xander."
"Don't call me by my first name."
"Sorry, Mr. Harris."
"Harris will do," Xander said, still glaring. "I'm not my father."
"Indeed you're not. Not your adoptive or your actual one." The demon flipped a page. "We could change what happened between Giles and the Council, not allowing him to be tortured."
"We could change the days in the house while everyone was asleep, or the fight afterwards."
Xander started to get an idea of what would happen if he changed things. "What about the incident where I shot Giles?"
"Yes, we could readily change that one," the demon agreed, getting happier.
"And what would happen?"
"Well, you would appear the next day, before you could get out of the city. Of course you'd have to convince Derek of what was going on, which wouldn't be hard with your relationship, but otherwise we could stop you leaving."
"So you can't change the shooting part?"
"No, I'm sorry, that's one of the few events that I can't let be changed. It means changing too many lives outside of yours." The demon shrugged. "I can minimize the pain you felt and the extremes the house went through to find you."
"No thanks." Xander sat down on the bed and tucked the covers up around himself. "Send me back now. I'm not giving up on my personal relationships for you guys."
"But I'm not done yet," the demon protested.
"I'm not giving up my father or my mate, or the kids, to make it easier on you guys. Sorry. Deal with it and send me back to Oz. Now!"
The demon waved his hand and the room disappeared.
Oz woke up in a posh hotel room dripping with heavy fabrics and decorations. "What?" he asked the demon that was sitting beside his bed. "I have plans that include my mate and a bottle of whipped cream."
"I'm here to offer you the chance to change a single event in your life," the demon said quietly, handing over the notebook he carried. "Anything in there can be changed to give those around you less pain."
Oz absently flipped through it before tossing it back. "No thanks. Not interested. The pain makes you who you are."
"Which is true, but wouldn't you rather not inflict some of those pains on certain people? Like how you cursed your mate with your problems?" The demon smiled slightly. "Or how you managed to curse your children simply because your woman wasn't screwing around then?"
Oz growled, "Leave my kids out of this."
"Of course," the demon said smoothly. "But we could make it so the bad times that caused your mate to change never happened. I'm sure Andres would be happy to have that part changed, he's received quite a bit of teasing over it."
"Yay," Oz said dryly, getting comfortable. "You need better background checks, man, I was with the Slayer. I know how to kill all you types."
"Yes, well, I was hoping not to have to bring in that little truth, but being in Hell won't be that bad for you, just a few centuries of torment for the damage you've done to your brethren."
"No one told you?" The demon sneered. "Whomever is touched by the supernatural goes to Hell. It's part of the contract we made with the light. They didn't want you so we got dibs." He shrugged. "And for all the harm you've done to all the demons you've run into, well let's just say that you'll welcome taking your place in the hierarchy by the time we're through with you."
Oz burst out laughing. "I'm sure." He watched as a portal was created, showing him Xander talking to a similar demon. "What's he doing here?"
"He's in the next room actually." His demon shifted around until his legs were crossed. "I have to mention a clause here. If he changes something first, then it limits your options."
"Xander wouldn't do that," Oz said harshly.
"Oh, really?" The demon turned on the sound, letting him listen to Xander picking an event to ask about. "You still think so?"
"Yeah, I know so." Oz glared at the demon as Xander started to laugh at his. "Send me back now. I'm not buying."
"You sure? Last offer."
"Very. I'm going to start laughing at you soon."
"All right, but don't come whining to us when you're in jail in a few years because your children fell while you were away."
Oz lunged for the demon but found himself back in his room.
Xander woke up and looked at him, seeing Oz looking back. "You didn't, right?" he asked.
Oz laughed lightly and pulled Xander closer to him. "I thought you were going to for a minute."
"I was seeing to the root of their campaign. I wouldn't change anything, I wouldn't have you or the kids, or even Dad, if I had." He squeezed his mate back. "I'm so glad you're okay."
"Yeah, me too," Oz whispered. "We gonna tell Dad?"
"I'm going to make an official contact report so it doesn't look like favoritism," Xander admitted. "You?"
"Just as soon as I can let you go," Oz said, squeezing him tighter.
Alex walked into Derek's office, frowning at the papers she was reading. "When did the boys run into a demon?" They were snatched from her hand, making her frown at him. "What?"
"What did they do?" Derek muttered, reading the forms. "They offered them what?"
"To change something," Alex told him patiently. "They both said no."
"Like you've said, boss, they're stronger together than they are apart." She walked out, leaving him alone to mutter and swear in peace.
Derek picked up the phone and dialed his mother's house. "Mother, is the bastard there? I need to share some news with him," he said into the speaker phone.
"Derek, do not call your step-father that again," Barbara Rayne Sloan said sharply.
"Yes, mother," he sighed, "but the boys were offered a deal last night."
"What!" William yelled, his voice getting closer to the speaker. "By whom? What was it?"
"They were offered a chance to change a single event," Derek said, reading the papers again. "They didn't take it but they were both pulled into the dream plane to have the offer made."
"I'll be damned," William said slowly. "Are they okay?"
"No torture, mental or otherwise, involved. Just a big, opulent bedroom and a demon who had a file on them. Both of them said it was in some sort of binder by the way."
William grumbled something and the connection went dead.
Derek glared at the phone for a few seconds then got up to go hand the papers to Nick, who would put them into the system for him.
Xander walked up behind his mate, wrapping his arms around him so they could both look at the statue. "You still scared?"
"Kinda," Oz whispered. "What if they're right? About the whole skating thing I mean."
"Well, gee, let's think about this," Xander said quietly. "They were watched by an adult, who we hired to do that job. I was in the house, not twenty feet away from the window. Nick, Adam, Derek, Alex, Buffy, and Giles were all in the house at the time if I remember right, those days are kinda blurry to me right now." He stole a subtle kiss. "They were wearing safety equipment, had been told not to go toward that part of the garden, and had been trained on how to stop. I don't think that there's anything anyone can do, babe," Xander said as he turned Oz around to look at them. "They're demons, they lie to make themselves happy. I wouldn't trust a word they said."
"I don't want to, but if they told both of us that, then they may have been telling the truth. The best lies are mostly truth."
"Yeah, point, but they aren't. And if we get into trouble because of our little darlings, who were in excellent care at the time, then we'll face it together."
"We couldn't be together in jail," Oz reminded him, still looking very unhappy. He glanced around to make sure no one was looking. "I want to tell Derek that part."
"Okay." Xander pulled out his cellphone and handed it over. "All charged and everything. You're worth long distance charges."
Oz snorted as he dialed, sighing when he reached a different voice than he wanted. "Serena, is Derek there? It's important." He hummed until someone came on the line. "Giles? Oh. No, we needed to add something to the report we made. Tell Derek that both of them said we were going to get in trouble about the kids' skating accident. Yeah, he'll know what it means." He sighed and hung up, handing back the phone. "Derek's in a conference with the other Precepts."
"Good, then he'll know eventually and when we check in tonight, we'll make sure he got the message." He looped his arm around Oz's shoulders, pulling him away from the modern statue. "Come on, let's go eat and we'll figure out what to do then."
"Okay," Oz agreed, a little more at ease now.
Derek smiled as Timmy walked into his office, taking the note he held out. "Thank you, dear. Why don't you go get a treat?"
"Me wanted read to," Timmy said, holding up his book.
"After I get done with this. Go sit on the couch and wait for me, all right?" The little boy nodded and climbed up onto the couch, curling up to wait on his grandfather.
Derek read the note and shook his head, holding it up so the other Precepts could read it. William started to swear again, he had called this meeting of select Precepts who knew what was really going on so they could deal with the threat before it got bigger. The two men and one woman's faces all showed similar feelings.
"Derek, that may not happen. You know how demons lie," the Vatican City Precept reminded him.
"Oz said both of them said it." He balled up the note and tossed it away. "If we go looking for the trouble, it will find us."
"If you don't, it could kill you," William finished. "Damned if you do, damned if you don't."
The Cairo Precept smiled at them all. "What about a discreet inquiry? Your Ms. Moreau used to be one of them, didn't she?"
"Yes, but most of her contacts would have to look at the file and that could start off an investigation." Derek closed his eyes and leaned back for a second. "If we ask, then something will be done. If we don't ask, we may get lucky or we may not." He sat up, shaking his head. "I don't know how they could possibly say they're bad parents for the skating accident. Jonathan was with the children. They had on protective gear. He had been drilling them in the driveway for *weeks* before they headed into the garden. How could they say the boys did something wrong?"
"This might not be about them," William said. "The rest of the offer would have affected only you, Derek. Maybe Nick and Alex, but mostly you. The threat to the dark could still be coming from you."
"Or from all of us," Timmy suggested, grinning at his father. "The pack."
William smiled. "Bring the darling one up here, Derek, I want to hear about this."
Derek motioned Timmy closer, putting him up in his lap. "What did you mean, Timmy? The pack?"
"Daddy, and us, and you." He patted Derek's hand. "The pack's a strong thing, Daddy Oz say so." He smiled and waved at William. "Hi, Unclie. How Grandma?"
"Very good, dear. Derek, you were turned?"
"No, I was infected," Derek said slowly. "Oz confirmed that I'm a carrier. And the only children that weren't bit were Precious and Timmy." He hugged the little boy. "That could be it."
Cairo's Precept smiled at them. "Derek, would this pack be able to do anything special?"
"A pack is special," the Vatican City Precept said. "A pack is strong, very hard to break. With a werewolf pack, especially this one, there's the added strength of family."
"Something we would all fight to keep together," William said, smiling once again. "Tim, I think you deserve a *big* treat. What would you like?"
"Ice creamies and a story?" he asked, looking up at his grandfather, who was smiling. "Please?"
"Of course. Go get Adam to dish you up some." He put the boy down, watching as he ran out. "William, did you get the other information we passed on about the were's?"
William snorted. "Derek, a long life isn't a joy, especially in this line of work. Centuries can get really tiring after a few of them."
"Huh?" the Vatican City Precept asked.
"It seems, from what research we've been able to do, that werewolves have a naturally long life. I've heard stories from reliable sources about six hundred years or more."
"Oh, my," she said, straightening out her robes. "Do they know?"
"Xander found out," Derek told her. He smiled at the Vatican City Precept, watching as she fiddled with her veil while she thought. "Do you really think that this could be what they were after?"
"Derek," the Kyoto Precept, a slight, Middle Eastern man with a squeaky voice, broke into the conversation, "I think that the dark would be very scared of those two if they continued to fight them. What are you more afraid of? Demons who are once offs or the ones that can keep coming back?"
"Which could include the whole pack," William added in. "Including Kristen and her child now. And you, Derek."
"I'm only a carrier," he protested.
"Derek, I've never seen anything saying that carriers don't get the same benefits. Maybe a shorter long life, but they probably get some of the benefits. You have said that your hearing's gotten more sensitive if you remember." The Cairo Precept shrugged. "I'd be scared of the three of them together mostly. Three experienced fighters of evil with a lot of experience and a vast draw of knowledge? That would be my worst nightmare."
William snickered. "You have no idea." He smiled at Derek, and the man they could see standing behind him. "Ask the guardian, Derek, we all know he knows."
Philip leaned down and shut off the screen. "It's all of you that they're scared of," he whispered. "The boys as a team and you as their leader and teacher." He kissed his lover's cheek and stepped back. "You might want to find out something else, one'a the demons mentioned the Pact and that they weren't gonna go to the light."
Derek groaned. "That Pact has been ratified."
"Yeah, but it's time ta do it again. The winner of the game gets to make the decisions." Philip faded back out, leaving him alone.
Derek turned on the screen. "It's all of us," he said quietly. "The boys as a working team and me leading them. Oh, and someone told Oz about the old Pact."
William groaned. "I'll be ready for that question then." Derek looked hurt so he explained himself. "I was there, Derek, wouldn't you rather go to someone who had been there to get an account?"
"True, but Philip said that they're going to rewrite it soon."
"I know," William said with a grin as his screen went blank.
"Asshole," the Vatican City Precept muttered.
"It's a goot thing that you're not in the same order as my sister Ingrid, dear. She'd have been assigned more tasks as penance for such a word."
She smiled at him. "Being out of the convent has some advantages." Her screen went dark too.
Derek waved at the remaining members and broke the connection from his end. "Well, it was certainly informative. Now all I have to do is tell the boys." He closed his eyes and leaned back to think until his grandson came back in to get his story.
Xander checked them into their second hotel, a really nice one near the resorts, and accepted the letter waiting on him. He slit it open while waiting for Oz to reappear from the bathroom. He accepted the keys and signed the bottom of the forms, smiling at the young woman behind the desk as he started for the stairs, the bell hop behind him. He crumped up the letter halfway through and glared at the wall, willing himself to calm down before he sprouted fur. He met Oz at the elevators, handing over the letter while he punched the button for their floor.
"Well, it explains some things," Oz noted, recrumpling it. "Did you read it all?"
"Nope, didn't get past the part where Derek gave the explanation of why they're scared of us. Get better?"
"Yeah, actually it does. Philip came back and gave them some information. Derek updated our site with the newest pictures of the kids. Oh, and he's sending William to meet us with the private plane when we go back."
"Cool." Xander walked off the elevator and down to their room, letting the bellhop go in with the baggage first. He let Oz get the tip since he had all the money and went to lie down, pulling a pillow down over his face.
Oz sat down beside him, patting the pillow. "You okay in there?"
"I almost went furry with rage," Xander mumbled, "I'm regaining control before I find the nearest demon and kill it."
"Okay." Oz flipped on the TV, letting Xander calm down in his own way.
Oz looked over at Xander, watching him not be happy that they were on a couplish ride together. He grabbed the still hand and squeezed it, leaning closer to get next to his ear. "If you worry any more, you're taking medicine," he whispered. "Whatever happens, we'll deal."
"There's things that I don't want to happen, I'm trying to figure out how to stop them." Xander leaned into Oz's side. "I don't want to ever visit jail again, especially not as an inmate."
"Then we won't," Oz said simply, stealing a kiss as they went under an overhanging bush. "Quit worrying or we're going to go take your medicine."
"Drugs would be good," Xander admitted. He stood up as the ride slowed. "Please make me take my new meds, Oz," he said quietly.
"Sure." Oz followed Xander back to the hotel, making sure he wouldn't back out of it. He snuggled up to him in the elevator, not breaking apart when they hit their hallway. He even followed Xander down to the soda machine to get something to take the pill with. He read the instructions on the bottle, pouring one pill out and resealing the bottle. Xander opened his mouth so he popped it into his mouth, watching as it was swallowed. "Do I need to check?"
Xander leaned over and gave him a kiss, complete with tongue. "Did you feel it?"
"Nope, which makes me happy." Oz pushed them down onto the bed, continuing to kiss his mate. "Wanna stay until it takes effect?"
"You promised to ride a roller coaster with me," Xander reminded him with a grin. He jumped as a cool hand made it's way under his t-shirt. "Or do you want to stay in here?"
"Being protective of you makes me horny," Oz told him, leaning down to kiss the skin he had just bared. He growled as the phone rang, reaching over to get it. "What?"
Xander took the phone. "Hello?" He grinned. "Hi, Serena. What's going on?" He went still under Oz's exploring hands, closing his eyes with a groan. "Put her on, okay? Then run and find Grandpa." He sighed. "Willow, what are you doing at the house?"
"Excuse me?" Oz said, sitting up.
Xander held up a finger. "Buffy told you to come out? Is she there? Uh-huh." He looked at the phone and hung it up, turning his head to look at his mate. "Buffy invited her out to come hide in her room with her. Derek knows. And it was Buffy that hung up on me."
"Ah. How are the kids?"
"Serena was sniffling when I told her to go find Derek." He pulled Oz back down, holding onto him as tightly as he could. Suddenly, he lunged over and grabbed the phone, dialing the house. "Dad?" he said. "Is she still there?" He frowned. "Thanks, but what if she's the impetus behind getting us hurt because of the skating accident."
Oz took the phone, putting it to his ear. "Hey, me. No, he's having strange thoughts. Anything done about that part of the deal?" He nodded. "Thanks." He reached over and hung up the phone, sitting up to look at his husband. "Apparently your drugs aren't working yet. She wouldn't do that to the kids. She does love them, just from farther away."
"It's been about possession of them, the kids are some sort of pawn in a power struggle between us," Xander argued. "She might call someone about that."
"But if we face her down about it, then she'll definitely go and do something about it." Xander slumped into himself. "See the problem now?" His mate nodded. "Derek said she's under surveillance, especially while she's in town." Xander nodded again. "What are you thinking about," he said, his eyes narrowing as he considered his mate.
"I was thinking that there are things we can do to make sure that she'll never hurt the kids," Xander said slowly. He looked up to see the concern. "Not that I'm going to do anything without asking your opinion of it, but it might become necessary some day."
Oz got up and got the pill bottle, looking at it. "No warnings for paranoia," he noted, picking up the phone. "Hi, can you please connect me with a pharmacy?" he asked the operator.
Xander got up and went into the bathroom, slamming the door.
"Hi, where are you located? No, I'm not sure we were given the right medicine on my husband's prescription before we left home. He's on a mild anxiety inhibitor and it's making him paranoid." He nodded. "Yeah, that's what this is. Okay, and can I have your phone number? I'll call my doctor and get him to send down a different 'scrip." He wrote something down. "Thanks. No, Marcus Wellsman, from San Francisco. Okay." He hung up and dialed their doctor, smiling. "Hey, it's Oz. Is Marcus in? No, Xander's new meds have had a funky effect on him. Yeah, he's gotten paranoid." He snorted. "Hey, Marcus. Is it supposed to make him paranoid?" He read off the number he had just written down. "That's the closest one to the resort. *Please*, man, change it for us?" He laughed and hung up, tossing out the pill bottle. "Xander," he called, walking over to tap on the door. "Marcus is giving you something else. He's calling it in. Want to come pick it up with me?"
"Please?" He opened the door, finding the younger man in the empty bath tub. "Please? I'd like to take a ride around town with you."
Xander glared at him. "I don't want to."
"You know, you're going to be pissed with yourself once you come down off this med."
"Okay. But I get good cuddles tonight when you're off it." He closed the door and picked up the room keys, both of them. "I'm going to head down there. Want anything?"
"New brain?" floated out.
"Can't do that. Chocolate okay?"
Xander opened the bathroom door. "I shouldn't."
"You can have a little. How about a Symphony bar? The one with toffee?"
Xander walked out and gave him a hug. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
"No big. We all have funny reactions to something." Oz gave him a nudge with his hips. "Sure you don't want to come ride around town with me?"
"Yeah. I think it's better that I stay in here. I don't want to snap and hurt someone." Xander walked back into the bathroom and shut the door, the lock was thrown a heartbeat later.
"Okay. I have both keys," he called as he walked out. He walked back in a few seconds later to get his wallet, leaving again. The elevator door were just opening when Xander plastered himself to his backside. "Didn't want to stay alone?" He felt the head shake. "Okay." They climbed on and Oz pushed the button for the lobby. "You're going to have to insert some air between us," he reminded quietly. "Some people aren't that happy for us." Xander stepped back by an inch and took Oz's hand in his. "Okay, good for me." They walked off the elevator and over to the doorman. "Can we get a cab?" he asked, staying polite in the face of the older man's sneer.
"Of course." The doorman waved a cab over, watching as they got in. "Take them somewhere," he told the cabby.
Xander leaned closer to the partition. "Moore's?" Oz nodded when he glanced back. "Moore's Pharmacy please."
"Sure," the cabby said, pulling away from the resort. "You guys in town for long?"
"A week," Oz said. "But we forgot one of our medicines."
"Are you sick?" he asked, speeding up.
"Nope," Xander answered, leaning into Oz's side. "It's for my blood sugar." He looked over at Oz, who subtly nodded for him to continue the lie. Derek had made sure that they had sufficient cover stories to make any situation easier and had suggested that they practice using them. "I take the pills."
"Oh. How'd you forget those? Aren't they somethin' that you're never without?"
"We packed the old bottle but not the new one," Oz answered, squeezing Xander's hand. "We were in a hurry to go on vacation."
"Yeah, I can see how that might be. Whaddyou guys do?"
"I'm in computers and he's in security," Oz answered. "We work for a braintrust out on the west coast."
"Wow. Must be nice."
"Yeah, very," Oz agreed. He squeezed Xander's hand as they pulled up in front of the pharmacy. "Can you wait?"
"Only if I see some cash. Sorry, guys, but it's policy, we've gotten stiffed too many times."
"No big," Oz said, handing a twenty through the slit in the plastic shield. "I'll be right back." He got free of Xander's hand and walked inside. "Hi, prescription that was called in for Xander Harris?"
The pharmacist looked up and nodded, giving him a smile. "Sure. We're working on it right now. Are you him?"
"His husband." He watched as she measured out the pills and attached the label. He paid for the drugs and took the small bag, going back out to the cab. He slid in on Xander's other side, getting a cuddly person in his lap almost. "Okay. Back to the resort?"
"I should eat," Xander said quietly. "Are we okay on the money?"
"Very okay," Oz sighed. "I should have asked how soon you can take this one." He handed over the bag, watching as Xander took the bottle out to look at it. "Better?"
"Feeling better already." Xander slipped the bottle into his pocket and leaned back into his mate's side. "Where's a good, medium-priced or cheaper, place to eat?"
"I know a great mom and pop place, but it's on the other side of the city."
"Would we be able to get a cab back later?"
"Yeah." The cabby turned to look at them. "Guys, I should warn you. That hotel that you're in isn't the most friendly to couples like you guys. They've been known to make things a little...difficult for their guests. Things getting there slow and stuff."
Oz nodded. "We noticed. Is there a better place?"
"A few," the cabby admitted. "Or there's a great little motel over next to the park."
"It's full, we saw the sign on the way over," Xander said.
"The sign's always that way this time of year. It prevents the college kids on spring break from barging in and causing trouble."
"Makes perfect sense," Xander said, looking at Oz. "Want to switch hotels?"
"I want to call them first," Oz said. "Pick a closer place to eat, please," he suggested. The cabby nodded and turned around, pulling out onto the street again. He pushed a button laying on his seat, hoping they didn't notice.
Oz leaned against the closed door. "He smelled smug," he noted. Xander looked at him. "The cabby. He wasn't being straight with us."
"About this place? They took *forever* last night to bring us room service."
"True," Oz admitted, coming over to sit next to his mate, "but he didn't smell right. I don't want to take his suggestion. We can look for someplace else though."
"Please." Xander rolled into his side, putting his head on Oz's thigh. "Just pick somewhere nice and clean, and I'll follow you almost anywhere."
Oz nodded, pointing at his laptop. "Get off and I will." Xander pushed himself back, after putting a kiss on his thigh, and he got up, heading to plug himself in.
Xander finished packing their things and looked over at his mate, giving him a smile. "Is the new place as good as this one?"
"More expensive so it had better be," Oz noted. He grabbed his single bag and his briefcase, following his husband out of the room. They went down to the lobby, going right up to the front desk. "We were called home on an emergency," he told the receptionist. "We need to get a refund of our last few days."
She handed over a form. "Was everything okay?"
"Fine," Oz lied as he filled out the form. He handed it back to her with the pen, watching as she ran it through the computer. "It's going to go back on our card, right?"
"Yes, sir." She smiled at them. "I'm sorry that your child's ill. Do they know what it is?"
"Ear problems," Xander lied smoothly. "We've had them before but they think his ear drum burst this time. His grandfather's got him in the hospital." He shrugged at her clucked tongue noise. "It happens."
Xander looked around their new room, scratching his left ear. "Do you hear something funny?" he asked. Oz nodded as he walked past. "What is it? I can't identify it can you?"
"Humming." Oz walked over to the ornate mirror above the fireplace. He lifted it away from the wall, pulling out a bug which he held up. "Oh, I don't think so."
Xander walked into the bathroom and came out with a glass of water, which the listening device went into. He walked it back into the bathroom and the sound of the toilet flushing was heard. He came back out. "I'm still hearing it."
"I'm trying to locate it." He looked at his mate. "What do you think is going on?"
"Not really sure," Xander admitted, sitting on the couch, "but whatever it is, it's going to be bad."
"Yeah, it will be." Oz sat down next to him, curling up into the warm side. "We'll be together, right?" he whispered.
"Always," Xander agreed, taking his hand.
Derek looked down at the paper Alex had handed him then up at her. "Who are these people?"
"Federal Agents," she said, taking the seat across from him. "They're saying that Xander and Oz are putting up kiddie porn."
Derek's mouth hung open. "What?" He coughed lightly. "Bring them in please. I want to have a word with them."
"Of course." She got up and walked out, bringing in two men a few minutes later. "Derek, this is Agent Morris and Agent Tyler, members of the Child Pornography Taskforce." She glared at their backs.
"Derek Rayne," he said, waving at the chairs across from his desk. "What is this about? I can assure you that the boys aren't doing anything wrong."
"We're sorry, sir, but we believe that the couple you have employed are putting up pictures of children on the web."
Derek laughed. "Oh, that page. Those are part of their amended paternity agreement. The mother isn't allowed near the children so they've been putting up pictures of them. *Normal* pictures of them."
Agent Tyler smiled at him. "We've seen those normal pictures, sir, but we think that there's more to that page than those pictures."
"I have access to their page, I could let you into their directory if you'd like." He waved a hand at the computer. "I updated it just the other day for them."
"If you wouldn't mind. Of course, if you'd feel better, I could get a warrant," Agent Morris offered.
"I see no reason to do so." Derek turned on his computer and tapped his fingers while it uploaded. He used his mouse to open up an icon, logging onto the internet. He logged onto the webpage site, waving the agents over and standing up. "There you go, surf away. The closest picture they have to something disgusting is one of the children in their bathing suits playing in the sprinklers."
The agents gathered around the computer, going through all the webpages to look at. They stood up together and looked at each other. "Thank you," Agent Morris said. He and his coworker walked out of the office.
Alex walked in, shaking her head. "Do you think that's going to end it?"
"No, people like those are never satisfied until they find something that justifies their fears." Derek sat down with a sigh, staring at the computer screen. "How could they think such things about Xander and Oz?"
"Easy," Alex said, looking sad. "They're gay, they have children, and they wanted to share their pictures." She walked out, leaving him alone.
Derek picked up the phone and dialed it, leaning back in his chair. "Daniel Osbourne's room please?" He sat up suddenly, staring at the phone. "They did? Did they give a reason?" He groaned. "Thank you." He hung up and hit the intercom. "Nick, find the boys."
"We have their new address in the mail," Nick called back. "Check your inbox."
"Thank you." Derek moved his mouse to click on a link. He paged through his messages, coming up on one that he clicked on. He quickly dialed it, tapping his pen on the desktop. "Xander Harris' room please," he said. A few seconds later, he sighed. "I wish you had called us. No, there's a big problem, boys. There were some Federal Agents here accusing you of putting up child pornography. Oz, please calm him down. I gave them access to your site and they left without doing anything. Yes, I would expect to be contacted somehow. Oh, no, they're the fanatical sort." He snorted and hung up. "Alex," he called. "Call the lawyers and give them Oz's number. This is going to get messy."
Xander looked up as someone sat at the table he was eating at. "What?" he mumbled, his mouth full. "And do I know you?"
"Mr. Harris, I'm Agent Morris," the man said, smiling at him. "I think we should have a discussion."
Xander put down his fork. "Yeah, me too," he said coldly. "There is no *way* that Oz or I are doing what you think we are. And for that matter, unless you can prove the shit you're spreading around, I'd stop. I won't be intimidated by a tin badge and a bad attitude."
"Xander, calm down," Oz said as he walked over with his own lunch. "What does he want to know?" He sat down, staring at the agent. "You've seen our page, you've probably already talked to our children, the nanny, and the butler. But I am with him on one thing, there is no way we did anything wrong by following the orders of our paternity agreement with their mother."
Agent Morris shook his head. "Boys, your site was linked to by a child porn site."
"That's their bad, not ours," Xander said hotly. Oz put a hand on his arm but he shook it off. "No! I'm in the right here. I should be pissed about this, Oz. They're accusing me of hurting our kids!" He took a deep breath. "Listen, dirtbag," he hissed. "I am not, and Oz is not, hurting our children in *any* way. If someone linked to our site, then that's their problem, not ours. We are following an agreement we made with the children's mother so that she could see their growth without getting near them."
"What's going to make you go away?" Oz asked. "I won't have you hurting my family over something that we're not doing."
"We've not found any dirty pictures." The 'yet' was heard by the couple and he knew it, it was intentional. "You do need to cooperate with us."
"No, you need to get off our back and go after the real problem," Xander said.
"I agree with him," Oz said quietly. "We haven't done anything wrong. You won't find any pictures like that. We don't even have pictures of our kids on a furry rug, much less something more indecent." He leaned closer. "If you keep harassing us, we will take action to stop you. This is the only warning you're going to get."
"Boys," Agent Morris said as he stood up, "you should have cooperated."
"We have. Your time's up." Oz waved at him. He pulled out his cellphone as the Federal Agent walked away and dialed the number Nick had forwarded to him. "Hi, Tom, it's Oz. Yes, we want them stopped. No, they just came up to us in the theme park and accused us of doing horrible things." He swallowed. "I don't care, test the boundaries." He hung up and wrapped an arm around Xander's shoulders, pulling him in for a hug. "They're idiots," he whispered. "We didn't do anything wrong and they're idiots."
A security guard walked past them and frowned. "You can't do that here, go to Disney if you want to cuddle."
Oz stood up and glared at him. "Go away. It's still a free country and I can comfort my husband if he needs it. If you have a problem then you'd better throw us out and let us sue you now." The guard backed away and left. Oz sat back down, looking at their lunch. "Come on, let's go back to the hotel and wait on Tom's call. He's going to file some papers today to stop them."
Xander nodded, getting up and tossing away his lunch.
Derek looked up at the Judge on the bench, frowning at her. "No, they're on their way back. I have their proxy and the paperwork you'll want." He handed the bailiff the folder he carried. "The boys are expected back in about three hours."
The Judge nodded as she looked through the folder's contents. "This holds the paternity agreement?" she asked.
Derek handed that off to the bailiff. "We thought you already had that."
She flipped the pages on that, scanning the clauses. "This is most harsh to the mother."
"It was necessary. Many of the clauses haven't been enforced."
"Ah." She looked up at him, giving him a bland look. "Why should I stop them from doing an important job, Doctor Rayne?"
"Those two have done nothing wrong," he explained. "Those pictures are innocent and they have no proof whatsoever to even accuse Xander and Oz of doing anything wrong. All they're doing is starting a smear campaign to harm them until they give up and admit that they're doing something to get them off their backs. It's the same exercise as a police officer with a rubber hose only more media based."
She nodded. "I've noticed their tactics and their methodology has bothered me, but I cannot stop them from doing their appointed job."
"No, but you can prevent them from harassing this family. As a Federal Court Judge, you have that power. Up until now we've had two investigations by Social Services, once because Xander's mother objected to his orientation and once because the children's mother was poisoning them against their fathers."
"Do you think this was the mother's doing?"
"No, I don't. I've had a talk with her and she was appalled by these agents actions. If you note, her name's on the complaint."
The Judge looked at the complaint filed with the court and sighed. "Where is she?"
"She's waiting outside. Technically, we weren't sure she could be in the same courtroom as the children as there's a restraining order."
"Which they've already violated on a long term basis," Agent Morris said.
"Shut up," the Judge said. "Would you explain that to me, please?"
"Of course. The mother, Willow, had run into some personal problems. As she used to be a member of my staff, I offered her the use of the guest house. She saw one child *once* and that was the night before she left. She had no contact with the other children and for the record the agreement was done *after* that, if anyone had bothered to check."
"Thank you. Bring the Mother in," she called.
Willow walked in, giving the Judge a confident smile. "Thank you, ma'am." She glared at the agents. "May I address the court?" The Judge nodded. "Yes, I've had problems with the fathers of the children, but I *know* that neither of them would ever hurt the children. They took in a child that they knew wasn't their's to raise as their own. I have no idea where these idiots got this idea from but it's offensive not only to their fathers, and the whole of the Luna Foundation, but also to me and all of our families. If they continue to harass my mother and father, they're going to ask to file in with our complaint." She took her place beside Derek, patting him on the arm.
"If they'd like, I can add their names." The Judge looked at the information in front of her. "I really need the fathers here in front of me but I can put up a temporary injunction against their investigation until I hear full arguments. I also want that page to come down. Would that satisfy you, Doctor Rayne and Ms. Rosenburg?"
"Yes, ma'am," Willow said.
"Please," Derek added.
"Okay. Idiots, I mean Agents. You will desist in this case until I hear a full case. You can, of course, go over my head and appeal this, and I want to see you do that just so I can pass this on for a bit, but I suggest that you have some actual evidence before then." She banged her gavel. "Go away, you make me ill."
Derek led Willow out of the courtroom, pulling her aside in the hallway. "What have you done?" he asked. She gave him an innocent look. "Willow, I have to know."
"Nothing, yet," she said. She glared at the men as they walked out. "That may change though." She smiled at him. "Derek, my bosses want me back. Is that going to be a problem?"
He smiled. "Get them into this, we could use the help."
"I'll have to inform them. Do you think they'll help?"
"If they're just and normal people, then yes." He patted her on the shoulder. "What do you want?"
"I want the boys to live easy, carefree lives. The same thing I've wanted since I realized how bad I became." She shrugged. "Not a thing more, Derek. I'm happy for them most of the time." She smiled down at the little person tugging on her skirt. "Yes, Brandon?"
"You come to dinner?"
She looked at Derek, who nodded. "If the others wouldn't mind, I could do that."
"Please," Oz said as he walked up to them. "We switched our planes to an earlier flight." He hugged Willow, then Derek, then got down on his knees to hug the kids. "I'm glad to be back."
"Our Disney?" Precious asked.
"We didn't get it, but we'll get you them soon," Xander promised. He hugged his father, staying there for a few extra heartbeats. "And?" he asked quietly.
"There's an injunction against them and you have to take the webpage down."
"We'll put up a new index page so it's not accessible. They'll be able to look through it then," Oz said as he stood up. "Let's go home. I need my family." He waved Willow to walk out first and took Xander's hand, following the kids.
Willow smiled at Derek from across the desk. Dinner had been over for an hour now and Xander and Oz had just gone up to bed to be alone together. She had been invited into the office to talk to Derek about what was going to happen now. "I have to tell my employers but I want to do something, Derek."
"I know, but if you do anything, it may backfire." She smiled, pointing at his computer. He checked it and frowned, lifting up a small, silver appliance. "Oh, dear," he said, dropping it into the trash can. "At least I've only been dealing with Luna Foundation business recently. How did you know?"
"With who I work for? Let's just say I learned to enjoy whole new levels of paranoia." She crossed her feet. "What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to talk to your bosses and see if they can't put some pressure on these people." He grimaced. "I can't believe I'm willing to classify them as human."
"Not all humans are good," she reminded him. "You've dealt with way too many who haven't been."
"Too true," he agreed, getting comfortable. "Do you think they'll be willing to help?"
"I'm not sure." She picked up her purse and stood up. "I'm going to go back to my apartment. I'll see you at the hearing." She walked out, leaving him alone.
Derek reached into the trashcan, picking up the listening device. He carried it into the library, carefully handing it over to Nick. "Get rid of this." He glanced toward the control room and shook his head.
Nick nodded and took the device, getting up and leaving with it.
Derek looked at Alex, who was frowning at her laptop screen. "What's wrong now?"
"Just a small problem," she said, turning it so he could see it. "We're locked out of the computer system."
"William," he groaned.
"It makes sense, Derek. We're vulnerable right now." She shook her head. "I've already sent an update to William and I had a message from him. He's moved everything back home but he hasn't locked our doors yet." She caressed the side of his face as she walked past him. "I'm going to take a bath. If you need me, yell."
He sat down, looking at her screen. He put the mouse in the location box and typed in a code for the page for Precepts, smiling as it came up. He clicked on the chat room button, something Oz had taught him how to use after he had started it, and logged on. He found one of the Archival Precepts waiting on him so they talked.
Willow walked into her apartment and tossed her purse aside. "You might as well come out, I know you're here," she called, heading for the fridge. She turned to find one of the Agents that was bothering her family in her living room. "You know, I could kill you and get away with it."
"Probably in more ways than one. How can you, an agent yourself, let them get away with it."
Willow grabbed the tea pitcher and poured herself out a glass. "They're not doing anything," she said before taking a drink. "There's nothing going on and you know it. You were sent to bother Derek to find out what he's doing." She saluted him with the glass. "You know I'm going to have to report this, right?" He nodded. "Good, get out before I turn you into something slimy."
He frowned but left, slamming the door behind him.
Willow picked up the phone, dialing a long distance number. "Hey, it's Willow. I'm in deep and I need a case manager here now." She hung up and walked over to the chest under the window, opening it to take out her favorite magic book. The British may not have hired her for this but they usually overlooked it when she did something. She flipped through her spells, looking for an appropriate backup plan.
Willow sat down in the witness' box, smoothing out her skirt. She looked at the lawyers across from Derek, holding in her revulsion at the odious little man sitting there.
When there weren't any questions forthcoming, the Judge cleared her throat. "Unless the Council has fallen asleep, the rest of us would like to get on with this," she reminded them.
The Federal Attorney stood up. "Sorry, ma'am, I was trying to figure out how to phrase my first question. Ms. Rosenburg, what do you do for a living?"
She smiled. "I do contract computer work."
"Right now, for the British Government. I'm updating their Library of Documents."
He nodded. "You do know what perjury is, correct?"
"Would you like me to call my bosses so you can check?" she countered. "I'm sure they'd be more than willing to give you my job description."
"Did you know that your ex's were abusing your children?" the Federal attorney asked.
"They're not. There's never been a hint of abuse. Not even the wrongful investigations have found anything."
"Yes, a delightful prison according to one," he said, pulling up a form. "You were involved in one of those investigations, correct?"
"Peripherally. I was telling the children how bad their parents were because they had thrown me off. It's part of the drinking problem I was having at the time."
He shook his head. "How long have you been sober?"
"I wasn't an alcoholic, I was a social and party drinker that went too far too many times. I don't drink anymore and I haven't for almost sixteen months, since my last child was born."
"Yes, Derek William. Have you seen him?"
"I was invited over for dinner the other night and I saw him then." She shifted some. "Would you maybe like to ask some real questions?" she suggested. "I have a small attention problem right now and I'm not able to focus so very well." The Judge glared at her. "Sorry, ma'am, but I can prove this problem. I'm a multi-tasker and if I'm only doing one thing I can't focus anymore."
She smiled. "I see. How long have you had this problem?"
"Since I was in high school. Fortunately, Derek was an excellent boss who understood my needs and dealt with them."
"That's fine. I would appreciate the lawyers moving on also. Now, if you wouldn't mind."
"Fine. I have here a report from a formal event that you attended at the house?"
"Yes, that was the nanny we had first hired. Xander found him harming the children and nearly killed him," she said calmly. "The abuse they suffered was documented and the asshole took a deal."
"Watch your language," the Judge warned.
"Yes, ma'am." Willow looked back at the lawyer. "I can list the abuses they suffered if you'd like. Most of it involved either spanking of five month old infants or scratching them with his fingernails on their bottoms. The girls only."
The lawyer shook his head. "Since then, have they been checked by a doctor? For abuse?"
"Why should they have? We've seen no evidence of abusive behavior. They've not acted out or said anything that might indicate that something's happened. Their new nanny has been very diligent about keeping strangers away from them and keeping them safe. He even kept them away from me when I needed to kept away."
"He did?" She nodded. "We need it out loud for the reporter, Ms. Rosenburg."
"Yes, he did. As he told the Judge during our abortive divorce trial."
"Divorce? I thought it was a paternity agreement."
"We thought we were married at the time. We found out before it was ruled upon that we weren't." She shrugged. "It was an unfortunate circumstance that led to hurting the children more by being in the middle."
"Ah. Did anyone talk to the children during the divorce proceedings?"
"The second Judge did. The first one may have, I'm not sure. I wasn't part of that, I had been advised to stay out of it and give the boys what they wanted."
"My boss at the time."
"William Sloan. He runs the London part of the Luna Foundation." She gave him an interested look. "I noticed you didn't call him."
"He's not involved in this."
"He's their grandfather," the Legacy lawyer put in. "He married Derek Rayne's mother before the birth of Ms. Rosenburg's last child."
The Judge made a note. "Are you calling him?"
"Yes, Your Honor," the Legacy lawyer said. "He's had a lot of interaction with the children and he's been trained to see signs of abuse as the Luna Foundation occasionally does charitable work with abused children involved in court cases."
"Very well." She nodded at the lawyer to go on.
"Why would your boss get involved in your divorce, Ms. Rosenburg?"
"Because the Luna Foundation is like a big family. William was involved in my relationships, at the time, the same as he is in Oz and Xander's relationship."
"And would he have information about their abuse?"
"Objection," the Legacy lawyer called out. "He hasn't proved abuse."
"Your Honor," the Federal attorney objected, "we know the children were abused. The records state it, even the mother says so."
"He was there the night of the formal; he helped pull Xander off the old nanny," Willow said, trying to stay calm. "He's the one that got Oz home." She teared up. "I was in shock and he handled everything." The Judge handed down a tissue. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." The Judge looked at the Federal Attorney. "Do you have any relevant questions for this witness? All you've been doing is wasting time while trying to probe into her personal life as far as I can tell."
"Your Honor, this woman has been lying all along."
Willow snorted. "Prove it."
"Ms. Rosenburg," the Federal lawyer said, glaring at her, "we have proof that you work for the British Government doing something other than putting their documents online. Same as we have proof that this Luna Foundation does more than they appear to on the outside." He looked at the Judge, nodding at the table behind him. "We think that the Luna Foundation is a front for a child farming operation."
Derek burst out laughing. "Oh, that's rich," he said, standing up. "Your Honor, we would welcome an *independent* investigator to come in and look over our files. Someone not from their office, but we would gladly open our cases to an investigator that you'd choose."
She nodded. "I don't see a need for it." She looked at the Federal attorney. "If you have it, produce it now."
"Fine." He walked over and picked up a thick file, walking over to give it to her. "There are too many inconsistencies to be anything but a child farming operation."
Willow snickered. "The only inconsistencies in those files are things like me being a Wiccan."
The Judge glared at her. "No more outbursts. I will look over this data tonight and make a ruling on it tomorrow, keeping in mind Doctor Rayne's offer." She looked at the lawyers. "Any more questions for this witness?"
"Ms. Rosenburg," the Federal attorney asked with a sneer, "how does it feel to be part of the American Judicial system?"
"Fine where I'm sitting, I'm innocent and you're delusional."
"Strike that!" he screamed.
"Don't even," the Judge ordered coldly. "Ms. Rosenburg, you are in contempt of court."
"Yes, ma'am, do I owe a fine or jail time? And who do I make the check out too?" She smiled sweetly. "I feel better now, but I'll say the rest to him in the hallway."
The Judge frowned but nodded. "Good. As long as I don't have to hear it. Get with the bailiff to make out your fine payment." She looked at the lawyers. "Anything else?" she asked coldly.
"Yes, ma'am," the Legacy lawyer said, standing up. "If the other side is done," he amended.
"Fine. Go ahead."
"Willow, how long have you known Xander?"
"Since eleventh grade. We were dating from that time up until we broke up, right before the divorce attempt."
"And in all that time, have you ever known either of those men to show a preference for children?"
"No!" she said, acting insulted. "I didn't even think Xander liked people younger than thirty when we were in high school."
"I know he had other girlfriends but they were all high school aged, same as we were at the time."
"So, no one younger?"
"Not by more than a year, which was us. Actually, about seven months to be totally honest. Most of his girlfriends before me seemed to be older."
"All right. What about your first nanny? How did you come to make that decision?"
"I was having problems, a quad is a hard thing to raise on your own, so Derek suggested that I get a nanny. After I calmed down and quit crying, he gave me a list to interview from. He was the best candidate but I always had reservations about him. Then one night, Xander found him abusing one of the girls and stopped him, almost killed him actually."
"Since then, have you known about or suspected any abuse?"
"Nope. Jon is a great nanny, Xander and Oz are wonderful parents, and Derek's a great granddad. There's no way anyone could hurt them without at least one of them knowing."
"Even when three of those mentioned are in another state working?"
"Yup. Xander and Oz probably talked to the kids daily, if not more often, and Derek checked with the rest of the house, who were standing in for him. The rest of the Luna Foundation is very protective of my children. When I started having problems with my drinking, they stepped in and took the kids away from me, making sure that they would be safe with Derek and his household before they were left there. Nobody could hurt those children without everyone knowing about it by the day's end."
"Thank you. Have you heard of any punishment problems?"
She grimaced. "With two of the quad. I know Oz, who is a psychology major, tried everything before he resorted to spanking that once. And it was only two slaps, but it was necessary. They were trying to pick on a smaller child and make them do things that they shouldn't."
"I'm not sure, I wasn't there. You'd have to ask Oz."
"Actually, I was told to ask Rupert since he found them in that incidence." He smiled at her then at the Judge. "Is it fair to say that the whole house has taken a parenting roll to the children?"
"Yes. Everybody in that house has a role, expect maybe Flame, she's new and I'm not sure how she interacts with the children."
"Do you have doubts about her interaction?"
"No, but I'm not sure that she actually does do anything with them. I've never heard anyone say anything about her playing with them or stuff." She shrugged. "But Flame is a nice young woman." She shuddered. "Sorry, feeling really old, I can't believe I said that."
The Judge smiled. "I know that feeling, please stay on track, Ms. Rosenburg."
"Yes, ma'am." She looked at the lawyer. "What was the question?"
"We were between them. Do you feel that Flame or anyone in the house may have done something to your children?"
"Nope. The only thing they've ever done is love them. Even the butler has gotten to like them and he hates children. He's teaching their primary lessons now."
"He has a degree?"
"From what I've been told, he has post graduate work under his belt."
"Hearsay," the Federal lawyer called out.
"Sustained. Please stick to things in your direct knowledge."
"Yes, ma'am." She smiled at Derek. "I know that my children were reading by the end of their fourth year. I know that they can do basic maths. I know that they've started on a second language, and in Brandon's case, two for some reason. I know that my children are strong, healthy, happy, and loved. Same as I know that no one's hurt them since that one person."
"How are you sure, living outside London?"
"I communicate with my children via letters and email. I've seen their pictures up on the web so I could watch them grow up. I've talked to the butler on a few occasions, and the nanny a few other times, to check up on them when something may have happened. I was even there the last time they had an accident."
"Accident?" the Legacy lawyer asked.
"A skating accident. Their nanny, Jon, had drilled the kids on their rollerblades in the driveway for weeks, but the first time they went into the garden, two of the girls lost control. One went over a flight of stairs and one ran into a tree. Thankfully, none of them were hurt too badly, including Jon who caught Serena as she went over the stairs."
"You were there?"
"That was during my stay in the guest house."
The lawyer nodded. "Thank you. No further questions at this time."
"You may step down. Call your next witness."
"I call Agent Morris," the Federal lawyer said. He waited while his client took the stand and said his oath. "Agent Morris, how did these people come to your attention?"
"A website dedicated to so-called cute children had a link to their site. We still haven't been able to break into their hidden files."
"Why do you think that this family is abusing their children in such a horrendous manner?"
"Because they have to be. There's six of them, eight adults, and a slew of visitors to the house. Not to mention those pictures that were put up online."
"Could you possibly find another explanation?"
"Not with their history."
"We've found proof that Mr. Harris was consorting with someone of a vastly different age. A young girl actually."
"Do you know her?"
"Yes. Her name's Michele."
"And what was he doing with this girl, Agent Morris?"
"He was supposed to be tutoring her but she ended up pregnant a few months later."
"Ah. Was it his child?"
"Objection," the Legacy lawyer called, standing up. "We've never heard of this child. We've never seen evidence of this child. We've never even seen a document alleging this child existed. If he's going to provide a personal reference, we have the right to see it to make a defense."
"Sustained," the Judge said. "Do you have any evidence of this child and her infant?"
"Yes, Your Honor," Agent Morris said. "In my briefcase. We only found out about her this last weekend by talking to his mother."
"Which would make it hearsay," the Legacy lawyer pointed out. "Can he produce this child?"
"She's been killed," Agent Morris defended. "She died not long after they left town."
The Judge shook her head. "I want you to produce real evidence of a relationship between her and Mr. Harris, otherwise you may not talk about her. Anything else is just rumors and I'd like to think that the Judicial system was based on more than that."
"If I may?" Agent Morris said, pointing at their table. The bailiff brought the case over and he handed over a file. "This is what we've found out so far."
She looked through it and shook her head. "Apparently you can't count, Agent Morris. She was pregnant when she met Mr. Harris."
Xander raised a hand. "If I may? She got pregnant the week I met her and I do know who the father is, he was Willow's tutoring student. I can give you his name, I'm pretty sure he's still alive, I saw him the last time I went home."
"Give that information to your lawyer, Mr. Harris," the Judge sighed. "And no more outbursts from anyone. Get on with it, Mr. Arsters."
The Federal lawyer nodded and turned back to his witness. "Have you found any other evidence that Mr. Harris or Mr. Osbourne have ever shown a preference for younger people?"
"No, unfortunately, we haven't gotten that far in our investigation yet. Which is why the judge shouldn't block us."
"No further questions."
The Legacy lawyer stood up. "You said you haven't found anything yet. Could that be because there's nothing to find?"
"I think that there is. I've been doing this job now for three years and my instincts say that something's going on in that house."
"Are your instincts always correct?"
"In the Ambrose case? Where you were cited for faulty methods by the judge?"
"That was him being blind. Mr. Ambrose was later caught by his wife with a younger woman."
"Who was twenty-nine." Mr. Pembleton walked up to the witness stand, pacing in front of it. "What about the Anderson-Richland case?"
"That was another error by the Judge."
"So it's the Judge's fault that the girl was found out to be sexually active but not with her family? How do you justify that?"
"It was their fault. I did my job. I know that her Uncle was hurting her."
"Isn't it true that your instincts got you kicked out of three different Child Protection units in two cities?"
Agent Morris swallowed. "That was budget cuts."
"Even though you record shows that you were grossly incompetent in the performance of doing your job? Before you answer, you should know that we talked with your bosses. I have statements from all three about how you performed your job."
"I did my job to the best of my abilities."
The Legacy lawyer walked back over to the table and picked up three clear plastic folders. "Your first boss called you a fanatical zealot. Did you know that?"
"No. I did my job."
"Ah. Then why were you cited six times for harassment?" He looked up. "And fired for unlawfully taking a child and hiding it in your basement away from it's family?"
"It was necessary to save that child."
"Okay then." He handed that paper off to the bailiff to be handed to the judge. "What about your second job? It says here that you endangered the lives of twenty people when you fired on an innocent man inside a metal building and your bullet ricocheted?"
"He wasn't innocent, we had followed him for months and we knew he was a link in the city's kiddie porn chain."
"Ah. But in truth, when your case was investigated by another officer, they found out that the man liked 'barely legal' stuff, girls that are eighteen but look sixteen, correct?"
"I don't know, I wasn't there then."
"Yes, you were in for a psychiatric evaluation related to the shooting incident. What about New York?" he went on before the other lawyer could object. "What happened there?" He handed the second folder off to the bailiff. "No answer?"
"No. I was told it was the budget."
"You were there how long?"
"Were there other officers hired after you?"
"Were they fired," Mr. Pembleton asked.
"I'm not sure. They might have been later on."
The Legacy lawyer held up the last folder, the thinnest one. "This is the statement by your last boss. He said that he fired you because he had just gotten your folder from your last job and it made him cringe. His bosses even agreed to back him up on it if you sued." He handed that one off to be given to the Judge too. "Why would he do that?"
"He was jealous," Agent Morris said coldly. "They all were. I had the best solve rate of all of them."
"No, actually, you didn't. Even before you were reviewed, there were three officers in your unit of seven people that had better solve rates. We have the comparison graph if you'd like."
"But most of theirs' never made it to a trial, it got thrown out before then."
"All of yours got thrown out or appealed successfully. Except the three where the suspects died due to an action on your part. And what was that one with the fire? How did they die again?"
"My bullet knicked some old wiring and it sparked," he said flatly. "It was an accident and it was ruled that way." Agent Morris sat up straighter. "I don't have to justify my caseload to you."
"Yes, you do," the Legacy lawyer reminded him. "Your former work is in direct line with what you're doing now. You're harassing innocent people until they do something drastic to make you go away. Why do you do that? It's not a very successful tactic from what I've seen and read."
"I do what I have to to get those sickos off the street." He pointed at Oz. "People like him."
"Ah, people like him." The Legacy lawyer held up one last folder. "This is the normal profile of a child molester, built by your own people at the FBI. What in here lead you to target Mr. Osbourne just now?"
Mr. Pembleton flipped through the pages. "Ninety percent of all molesters are straight," he quoted. "Anything else?"
"He's not educated."
"Most of them are educated to the level of having taken at least some college classes." He looked up. "Which, admittedly, fits Mr. Osbourne and Mr. Harris both. Both are due to graduate a psychology program in the next year." Xander coughed. "Or they were." He looked at Xander. "Did you change?" He got a nod. "Sorry, small correction of facts. Mr. Osbourne is going to graduate with a psychology degree in the next few months." He smiled at the Judge. "Sorry."
"Not a problem. Keep going."
"Your Honor, I'd like to do something drastic. I'd like to introduce some evidence that will counter everything that Mr. Arsters may bring up." She nodded so he went back to his briefcase and pulled a thick, manilla folder out and waved it around. "I have here his psychiatric evaluation, and yes, it's very relevant." He handed it off. "Mr. Morris."
"Agent Morris," he corrected pompously.
"Mr. Morris," Mr. Pembleton said again, "why were you found to be obsessive and delusional? What about that Messiah complex that your doctors found? Or even the persecution irrationality that went with it?"
"They were wrong. I was messed up over the shooting."
"Ah. And were you messed up when you were made to go back six weeks later and they found you a danger to society and tried to have you committed?"
"It wasn't successful," he snorted. "They couldn't prove anything."
"Actually, they could. But that was the time that your present boss stepped in, correct?"
"Yes, I met him then."
"And he got you off the hook?"
"Not that I know of."
"If I may, there's a section in there on page sixty. If the witness could read it, Your Honor?"
She handed it down. "Of course."
Agent Morris flipped pages until he came to the transcripts of his commission hearing. "Which part," he said, turning a little paler.
"The highlighted part on the second page of the hearing transcripts please." Mr. Pembleton got a drink of water while it was found and read.
"Due to the offer of a supervised job and dedicated attention for his mental state, we rule that Jonathan Morris will not be committed at this time. If this job does fall through in the next sixty days, then we will reconvene to see if his mental state has improved." He looked up. "I don't remember this."
"That's because you weren't there at the final hearing. You had already been whisked away to work for the Federal Government." He watched as the folder was handed back. "What did your boss offer you, Mr. Morris?"
"A good job where I could find all the sickos and destroy them."
"I see. How many innocent lives have you destroyed so far?"
"None," he said, his voice going cold again.
Mr. Pembleton pulled out another piece of paper. "These are the statistics on your overturned and appealed cases. Can you read the number in the second column, second row?" He held it up.
"Ninety-nine percent. So? That's just a number."
"Do you think that whomever you accuse is able to go on with their normal life?"
"They shouldn't be allowed to."
"Even if they're found not guilty or the case is thrown out?"
"Enough," the Judge said. "I get the point." She banged her gavel. "Recess until tomorrow, when I'll have a ruling about this," she said, patting the files in front of her. She picked them up and walked out, heading for her office.
Mr. Pembleton walked back over to his boss' side, sitting down beside him. "How did I look?"
"Very goot," Derek said, giving him a smile. "I think we may win this yet." He stood up, giving Xander a hug first since he was closest.
Buffy looked up from her lunch at the Student Center, groaning when she saw who had called her name. She picked up the tray, squeezing it to prevent herself from saying anything. She heard a cracking noise and looked down, noticing that the tray had split most of the way across. She hurriedly threw it away before anyone could see it.
TO BE CONTINUED...