Old Friends Aren't Necessarily Good Ones.
Derek waved goodbye to the little girl, smiling as she boarded the plane with a little help from the London Precept, James. He turned to find Xander standing behind him. "She's a lovely little girl," he said quietly, leading his son back to where Oz was sitting waiting on them.
"Yeah, but how did she know Timmy?" Xander asked quietly, not wanting to break into the introspective mood everyone seemed to have today.
"I'm not sure, son, but we'll talk to him when we get home in a few days. I have her picture and maybe he'll be able to clear this up for us." He wrapped an arm around Xander's waist, nodding at Oz to follow them out to the car. Once they were inside, Derek looked back at the boys. "Would you like to eat lunch in the city?" he asked them. "Or we could go back now."
"Lunch?" Xander suggested, getting a nod from Oz. He frowned but his husband shook his head. "What's wrong, Oz?"
"I'm feeling a little off center again," he said quietly, looking down at Junior. "Something's not right and I'm not sure what I'm protecting."
"Well, there's always me and the kids," Xander assured him, reaching a hand back to touch his husband's. "Are you protecting us or guarding us?"
"Both, I think," Oz said, frowning at his son, who had just thrown up. "Eww."
"Spit up cloth is in the bag," Derek told him.
"Dad, this wasn't regurg, this was flu-like," Oz told him, getting the bag to clean him up anyway. He felt his son's forehead and frowned. "We've got a fever too."
"Where's the nearest Quick Care place?" Xander asked him. "I don't remember one."
"About three blocks away," the security guard walking toward them said. "He okay?"
"I think it's the flu," Oz told him, mopping his son up. "Dad, we're going there."
"All right," Derek agreed, starting the car and pulling away from the no parking zone.
The doctor smiled up at the worried parents. "I believe it's the flu," she said calmly. "Unless you've had him on a plane or something recently." Oz shook his head, squinting. "Are you feeling ill too?"
"It's not that, I'm trying to figure out who's been sick around us recently," Oz said, looking at Xander, who shrugged.
"It could have been picked up anywhere," she assured them. "I can give you some suggestions to ease his stomach ache, but otherwise, he needs fluids and lots of rest."
"We can do that," Xander agreed, nodding. "Should we stay away from the more citric juices? We never had that problem with our other kids, but he's really fond of them."
"You might want to stick with the lower acid juices," she agreed. "They're harder on you when you bring them back up." She patted Junior's leg. "He's cold," she said, bending down to check him again. "This is very odd. Are you sure he's not had any trauma recently?"
"No, not a bit," Oz said. "Except for the normal toddler falling down."
She nodded, pulling down her stethoscope to listen to his chest again. "I really don't like his color. Maybe this isn't the flu." She stood up and looked at them. "Do you know your doctor's number back in San Francisco?" Xander handed over his card. "Okay, let me call your doctor and check his history." She walked out and left them alone.
Derek walked in a few moments later. "He's really sick?" he asked.
"Yeah, and it's getting worse by the minute," Oz said, touching Junior's limp hand. "Dad, I think we're having an attack or something," he said quietly.
Derek walked over and touched Junior's chest, closing his eyes to tap into what magic he could. "He's definitely got a taint," he noted, backing up as he felt the doctor coming back toward them. "She feels odd too," he told Xander, who turned to look at her.
Xander cleared his throat. "By perchance are you Wiccan?" he asked. She went pale. "The reason I ask is that his mother is too."
"Ah." She closed the door and stepped closer, looking down at him. "You don't think this is a normal illness?"
"He's had a strange illness recently and we're worried that it's a continuation of it," Oz told her.
"Yes, your doctor was very helpful with what had happened. He said his twin died...."
Oz wiggled his hand in the air. "Something like that. It was more like someone inside him."
She sighed. "You're really not normal, are you?"
"I'm a were," Oz told her dryly. "Other than that, yeah, I'm normal."
She shook her head. "All right. I can't tap in and see what it is."
"Techno pagan?" Xander asked, remembering the last one they had run into.
"Mostly. I remember the woman who coined that term." She looked him over. "You look like a picture I once saw. You knew Jenny."
"I'm Xander Harris," he said, holding out a hand. "We worked with Rupert."
Her mouth hung open. "All right, then I'll trust you on this. I'm going to have him admitted for observation tonight on your doctor's orders. I'll call a true Wiccan I know and have her come check on him. She's a therapist so it won't look that strange." She looked at Derek. "Do you know Rupert also?"
"And Buffy," he agreed, picking Junior up. "Which hospital?"
She handed over the forms. "Go here, straight to the Admissions desk. We've called them and they're waiting on you." She stopped Xander by touching him on the arm. "Were you there when she died?" she asked quietly.
"Not in the same area. I was in the school the night it happened. The one who did it is atoning again." She nodded and let him go. "We all miss her, it would have been much easier to have had her a few times." He jogged out, catching up with Oz at the car. "I think she's the one who took over Ms. Calendar's place as Techno Pagan webmistress. I remember her picture on Ms. Calendar's desk." He slid into the back, letting Oz get the front seat. "Dad?" he asked when they hadn't moved.
"Xander, how do you manage to find these people?"
"They're drawn to him," Oz said. "Let's go before he gets worse."
Derek nodded and started the car. He could talk to them later about this.
Derek looked through the glass window at his grandson, then back at the two miserable fathers. "It's almost time to go in again," he noted.
Xander lifted his head. "I know. I'm counting the seconds." Oz patted him on the thigh. "What is wrong with him?" he shouted, getting up to pace the isolation room they had been put in, just in case they had whatever Junior had. "He's been perfectly healthy since he got out of the hospital last time. There hasn't been a thing that's made him feel sick. He's eating all the time. He's even been playing and laughing." He stopped as a doctor walked into the room, turning to watch him look at his son. "What's going on?" he asked the man when he came back out.
"We're not sure, but we're going to allow you in more often now," he said with a smile. "His vital signs improve when you're in there." He nodded at Derek and left the isolation room.
Xander ran in and picked his son up to hug, same as he had every time they had been allowed in. He carefully passed him to Oz, who hugged him too. He looked at his father, who was standing in the door. "I want to know what this is," he said coldly. "Is this because of his recent illness?"
"I've had Marcus talking to our biologists," Derek said calmly. "They're trying to make the distinction right now, son," he said as he walked in to give the baby a hug too. "We will get this fixed, no matter what it is." He looked over as the door opened to admit a new woman, putting the baby back down. "Who are you?"
Xander sniffed the air then smiled in relief. "You're the help we asked for?"
She smiled and held out her arms. "That's me," she said. "May I look at the child?" Derek nodded and got out her way, watching as she came over and looked at the child. She lost her smile and stepped back, looking from one to the other. "He's had major trauma recently."
"He was in a symbiotic relationship but it got transferred out of him so we wouldn't lose him," Oz said quietly, nodding at the cameras. "We're not sure if it has sound or not."
She smiled. "There's two pagans and a devout Southern Baptist out there. I wouldn't worry about what they overhear, sir. They're all used to possessions by the Spirit."
"Oz then." She looked at Xander. "You must be Xander from the description I got." She looked at Derek. "And we've all seen Doctor Rayne's photos in the society section." She held a hand out, smiling as she got a shock from him. "Very good, you do call in help when you need it." She bent back down over Junior's limp body, examining him again. "It's a curse," she said finally, straightening back up. "Someone wants you out of the way."
"Who?" Derek asked.
"Why?" Oz said at the same time.
"Just tell me who I have to kill to stop this," Xander growled, shocking his father. "*NO* one touches my family."
Oz reached over and touched him on the hand. "Calm down, now," he ordered. "You can't go furry in the hospital."
Xander turned and slammed his fist into the wall, concentrating on sending the hair on it back under his skin.
Oz looked at the woman helping them. "Can you tell who it is?"
"More importantly, can you take the curse off?" Xander asked, turning to look at her.
She shrugged. "I can try, but if I can't, there's people around here who can." She looked him over. "You're the pack's alpha?"
"We're sharing it," Oz told her calmly. "Xander's more the protector and I'm more the planner."
She smiled at him. "Good. It's good to see modern packs pulling together with future sensibilities. With that sort of attitude, your pack will last a very long time."
Oz nodded. "I'd like to think so, especially since most of our kids have been bitten."
She shuddered. "All right. I'm sure it was an accident." She looked at Xander, who looked very pale. "Now I'm definite it was." She patted him on the arm. "I need to go get some stuff, will you be all right?" she asked him.
"Yeah, just hurry," he said, pulling away to go hug his Oz. "Please?"
She nodded. "I will, and I'll have a friend with me when I come back. She's a natural healer." She looked at Derek. "Where did you send the little girl?"
"London. She's supposed to have family over there." He smiled at her. "We're aware of the problems that she might have while switching to a new family, but we're checking for a more...talented family member to take her on."
She smiled. "Good." She headed for the door. "I'll be back."
"What's your name?" Xander called.
"I'm Chisthina," she called back then left.
Xander looked down at Oz, squeezing him tightly. "We'll be fine," he promised. "The Wiccans haven't let us down yet."
"I know. Go sit," Oz ordered, pointing at the chair beside the bed. "He's not getting worse." He looked at Derek. "You might want to call the dig manager," he suggested mildly.
"Philip and Nick are still there," Derek told him, pulling out his cellphone. He took it out into the hall since the nurse had told him earlier he couldn't use it in the rooms. The nurse came over as soon as she saw the phone and dragged him into a shielded room so he could use it.
Oz looked down at Xander. "How did you know she was a Wiccan?"
"She smelled like that nasty herb that Willow used to work with all the time when she started doing the magic thing," Xander admitted. "Putting that together with Derek's comment, I figured it out." He looked up at his husband. "I don't know how I find these people, Oz, I just do."
"That's okay though," Oz reminded him. "It's always been helpful."
"True," Xander agreed, pulling Oz over so he could rest against his stomach while they watched their son. "Let's hope it is this time too," he whispered.
"It will be," Oz told him, reaching down to run his fingers through his mate's hair. "It'll be fine."
Xander picked up his cooing son, grinning at Christhina and her helper. "Thank you," he whispered, holding his son closer.
Christhina looked at Derek. "Someone wanted you off the island very badly," she warned.
"I've called my colleagues, they're prepared for anything that might come at them." She nodded. "You don't think it's enough?"
"Doctor Rayne, whomever could cast this on the child is powerful enough to send all your workers into the water and take what they want."
Xander looked up. "Which doesn't make a lot of sense. We've recovered all the powerful artifacts." Oz nodded. "And we've sent them back to the family."
Christhina shrugged. "I don't have a clue, Xander, but this person is fairly powerful." She gathered up the sheet that had been covering Junior and folded it up so the herbs wouldn't get away. "Just be careful, guys. This isn't child's play, and it's not one of our group."
"We will," Oz assured her. "There's not too much that can get through all of us once we're working together." He nodded at her helper. "Thank you too."
"You're welcome," she said, her voice high and tinny. "It's good to see strong families." She giggled and left, taking the bag of spell equipment out to their car.
Christhina rolled her eyes. "She's young," she explained as she left.
Derek looked at the boys, nodding at Oz's unspoken question. "I'll go check to see if we can go home tonight," he said, walking out.
"Call the island," Xander called after him. Derek waved his phone to show that he would be. He looked up at his mate. "This is creepy," he said firmly.
Oz nodded. "Very. Who do you think it was?"
"I'm not sure, but they weren't talking about Willow, so it wasn't a warning."
Oz patted the baby on the head. "Come on, let me hold him while you worry. You do it better."
Xander stood up, giving him the chair and the baby. "Yup, I can come up with some of the strangest ideas when I'm in worry mode."
Nick looked around his lookout point, shoulders slumped in boredom. "Are you sure Derek said there was going to be an attack?"
"Yup," Philip said, handing him a granola bar. He scanned the area around the dig, pointing at the fog rolling in. "That's not normal," he told him.
Nick stood up and waved at the crew chief. They had told her about this earlier and she was a former member of the Legacy so it was just another day to her. She hustled her crew out of the pit and back to their tents. Nick looked down at Philip, who had his eyes closed so he could concentrate, then down at the site. He started to walk down there, but a hand on his arm stopped him. Unfortunately, there wasn't anyone holding onto him. The fog rolled in faster, covering the dig in a matter of seconds. After a few seconds, a voice came from the cloud.
"Fuck, it's not here!" the voice said.
Nick had a feeling that he was being watched and shuddered. "We removed it," he called out. "Leave here before the strong people get back."
The cloud chuckled. "I'm sure. Where did you put it?" she said, and the fog wound tighter around him.
Philip stood up and pulled out a knife, slicing at the fog surrounding his lover. "Stop it," he warned, freeing Nick and pulling him behind him. "We have nothing for you." He glanced at Nick, who appeared to be frozen. "Let him be!" he shouted, planting the knife into the ground so he could use what little magic he had to try and counter this.
"I agree," a deep voice said from the woods around the house, "leave here. Now. I own this land, not you."
The fog retreated as quickly as it came in, freeing Nick. Nick fell into Philip's arms, and Philip sat them down to wait. They had time to figure out who the voices belonged to.
Derek walked back onto the island alone, the boys were staying with Junior while he was being kept in observation, and looked around in confusion. There hadn't been a storm earlier, but a few of the old trees were leaning at odd angles. He hurried up to the house, walking in and looking around. "Philip, Nick?" he called.
"In here," a darker voice called.
He walked back to where they were, smiling at the owner of the house. "How are you?" he asked, giving him a hug.
"I've been better," Martin said, brushing some of his white hair off his overly tanned forehead. "I got here just as this strange fog started to roll across the island." He looked back at Nick. "He's fine by the way."
Derek hurried over to Nick's side, touching him, bringing him out of whatever spot he had been in. "Are you really all right?"
Nick nodded. "How's Junior?"
"Better," Derek said with a smile. "We found a helpful pagan to take the curse off him." He brushed across the damp forehead again. "Are you sure? We can take you to the hospital too."
Nick shook his head. "It's just reaction. I'm fine." He grinned. "Where's the boys?"
"With Junior probably," Philip reminded him, smiling up at Derek. "For some reason, Martin made the fog roll away."
Derek looked at Martin, who shrugged. "All I said was to go away," he complained. "Your man seems to think it's something very special."
Philip nodded. "It was. Not everyone can banish an entity like that." He looked up at Derek. "We talked the crew chief into letting the kids go for the rest of the day. She understood."
"Ah. Goot job," he praised, smiling at both of them. He stood up and looked at Martin. "Would you be willing to give me your account of what happened?"
"Sure," Martin said, nodding toward the living room. "Where's your son?"
"Right here," Xander said from the kitchen. He looked at Derek, then growled at Martin. "Funny thing about being turned," he noted calmly. "I can now smell magic on someone."
Martin hissed and glared at him. "How dare you!" he shouted.
"Calm down," Derek called out. "Xander, explain yourself."
"Derek, you've known that I could smell magic, and differentiate certain types, since Oz and I bonded." He took a sip of the soda in his hand. "Unfortunately, I hadn't met Martin since then." He raised his glass in salute. "Why is a Chaos sorcerer letting us do a dig on his property."
Martin went pale. "You know?"
Xander nodded. "Yup. It's very clear to me. That's why I followed Dad back. Oh, they decided to let Junior out early because they needed the bed. Oz is spending tonight on the mainland." He looked at the sorcerer again, considering him. "What were you looking for, Martin? Andres? The locket? Something we don't know is down there?"
Martin snorted and crossed his arms across his chest. "Guess."
"Well," Xander said, walking out to sniff him closer. "You don't have any demon taint so it wasn't Andres. And the locket was found last year but we never told you that." He watched his prey carefully for a reaction. "So, I'm guessing it's something that we weren't told was on the ship." He looked at Derek. "It's the most amazing things that you find." He pulled out a pendant he had been cataloging yesterday, holding it up so Martin could see it but not take it when he tried to. "Ah-ah-ah. Nope, not for you. It goes back to the family."
"He may be a part of the family," Derek said tiredly. He took the pendant and examined it. "What is this?"
"It's got a drop of blood in it," Xander told him. "I'm guessing it's one of the mythical bloodstones."
"Yes, and it's mine!" Martin said, taking it from Derek. "I'm a member of the family and I'm the only one who can use it."
Philip walked out. "We know of a cousin who can," he noted. "That's who the rest got sent to." He looked at the pendant. "I doubt he needs that, Derek, it's not his bloodline. We did a thorough search for other living relatives before the dig started."
Derek took the pendant back, having to stun Martin to get it. "So this is what this has been about?"
"Yeah, think about it, Dad," Xander told him. "A drop of blood is one powerful thing in magic."
Derek slumped but he nodded. "I know." He looked up. "Martin, how many other things like this are there?"
"My grandmother was a sorceress and she said that there was a whole *trunk*full. Why haven't you found it yet! That's why I called you down!" He shoved at Derek. "Why can't you find what's rightfully mine?" he ranted.
"Because it's not there," Xander said calmly. He walked into the workroom and brought out a silk-wrapped something in a lead box. "We found this on the second day," he told his father. "I took proper precautions and called Giles to have him start the investigation." He handed it over to his father. "I'm betting something in there is what they're looking for. If not, I probably know where it is. There's an area we just started to dig into that's holding a few more of the personal trunks."
Derek carefully unwrapped the remains of the box, looking at the corroded trinkets in the box. He pulled out one that was calling to him magically, holding it up in the light.
"That's what I need!" Martin shouted, making a grab for it, but Nick stopped him.
"No, no one needs it," Nick told him. "Derek, is that what I think it is?"
"It holds something," Derek admitted. "I can't be sure what." He looked at Martin, then around at the group. "Xander, what did you want to do with this?"
"I was going to talk to you about destroying a few things and reburying the rest so it wouldn't be coming back up."
Philip shook his head. "We have a cavern full'o things like that," he reminded the young man.
"Yeah, but how many of the things down in the cavern are going to bring bad guys to our doorstep?" Xander countered.
Philip's mouth opened and he shook his head. "It can't be that dangerous." He stopped as he heard a voice, closing his eyes to receive the message. "I understand," he whispered, then opened his eyes to look at Derek. "If either of them get that, they'll be overloaded and forever harmless, there's been too much other blood in the line," he told him. "If we send it to a holding spot, we'll be besieged until they get it. If we destroy it, we release them. There's no good choice but burying it again." He looked at Xander. "I had to get a messenger to tell me that, how did you know?"
"Giles told me." He grinned. "I was thinking somewhere that we had a close eye over it, but there wasn't anyone nearby."
"The Watcher's village?" Derek suggested with a smile.
Xander shook his head. "Stonehenge." Everyone looked at him. "What? The magical aura of the place would cover up anything that might float through the earth from the contents of that box. And if we wait for a few days to get the rest of the personal effects up, we can bury everything else that needs to go there too."
"Have a Druid do it," Philip suggested with a shrug. "It's their holy place. They'd protect it."
"True," Derek said, turning to look at his friend again. Martin looked devastated. "If I give this to you, what will you do with it?" he asked.
"I'll use it to reunite my family," he said petulantly. "To make them strong again. We used to be some of the greatest sorcerers in Europe." He glared at Xander. "How do you know this?"
"Easy, I'm furry now. Some of us can do that." He shrugged and finished his soda. "Dad, do you really need me anymore?"
"I've got it," Nick said. "Go be with Oz and Junior." Derek nodded to back him up so Xander waved and left.
"Late tomorrow then. We need to get a few things for the baby." He walked out, heading down to the ferry dock.
"Derek, you have an amazing son," Martin said, swallowing hard as he looked at his oldest friend's face. "Treasure him. But do it off my island."
Derek chuckled. "Martin, this isn't your island right now. We do have a contract." He patted his friend on the shoulder. "We'll leave in three days time, once we get the dig properly shut down."
Martin nodded. "Fine. I'll be back then and I'll expect you to be gone." He stormed out of the house, heading off into the woods.
Derek looked at Nick and Philip. "Is the crew still here?"
"Yeah," Philip said. "Most of them. A few took the chance to get to the mainland."
"All right. I'll cut checks for the rest of the contract time, you go tell them to get those last few personal items out and then close down the dig." He looked at Nick, who still looked pretty blank. "Nick, go back to bed." He walked into what was his office and started on everything that needed to be done in the three short days.
Oz answered his phone, smiling at the harried voice on the other end. "Of course, Derek. Do you need us or should we go home?" He looked up as Xander walked through the door. "Okay. Call us up a plane and we'll leave tomorrow." He hung up. "Dad's closing down the dig. We're going home."
Xander shrugged, walking over to give his husband a hug. "I had to destroy his friendship," Xander said quietly. "I hate that."
"I would have too, but it was for the best," Oz reminded him. "You had to tell him. Dad's not mad. He told me to tell you that." He pulled back, kissing his love on the chin. "Let's get Junior and go have dinner, okay?"
Xander nodded, letting go of him. He looked around the room. "Junior?" he called, checking under the bed. Their son had this habit of hiding under them, he liked to grab people as they walked past. He looked at the open door and walked out, looking both ways. "Junior," he called, jogging toward where he could hear an elevator opening.
Oz groaned and called down to the front desk. "Hi, this is Daniel Osbourne-Harris. I think our toddler son may have just escaped on the elevator. Can you catch him for us? Yeah, we'll be right down. My husband's probably on his way." He walked out, going to search for his son too.
Junior toddled back into the room a few minutes later and crawled up onto the bed, snuggling in with his cat. He had to go find his friend, he couldn't leave him there after all.
Derek looked around the lawn as the helicopter landed, sighing when no one came running out to meet him. You'd think that everyone might be happy to see them back, but no such luck this time. He trudged up to the house, Nick and Philip running on ahead because they needed to use the bathroom. Derek stepped into the kitchen, then jumped as everyone jumped out from behind something yelling 'Surprise!'. He held his chest as he looked around. "I didn't think it was my birthday," he said with a smile.
"No birthday," Xandra said happily, coming over to give him a hug. "We're celebrating Wednesday." She grinned up at him. "You okay, Grandpa?"
"Yes, love, I'm fine now." He picked her up to hug, smiling at everyone in the room. "Thank you all," he told them.
Alex brought out a cake. "Here we are, the official Wednesday cake." She winked at Derek. "The new butler made it."
Derek's smile got brighter as he went over to cut it, putting Xandra down in a chair. "Then we should properly appreciate this by having a wonderful party," he told everyone as he cut the first piece out and handed it to Alex. "There you go," he said, giving her a fond smile.
Nick stepped to the wall to answer the phone, holding it up. "Derek, it's Paris. They're in the middle of a riot?"
Alex licked off her finger and took the phone, walking up a few of the stairs to talk to them in private.