The doorbell interrupted Xander's sleep. Still in a drowsy haze, he
pulled on sweatpants so he wouldn't be answering the door completely
naked. He had learned his lesson about that a few years ago. It had
taken them over a month to convince that delivery driver that they didn't
need pizza every night. He wondered who it could be. It was Tuesday,
delivery day for their weekly cd, book, and movie shipment that made
living in their tiny village possible, but it wouldn't be the Federal
Express driver. She knew the combination to the lock on the porch door
(it may be a remote town, but there were still occasional security issues
at the house), and she always just left their packages on the porch. He
glanced at the clock. Eight in the morning? It wouldn't be FedEx. Even
if Jan was not on the route, her replacement wouldn't have made it to the
house this early. Oz must be out on his morning run with the dog.
Xander smiled at the thought. Domestic bliss -- a cozy house, a friendly
dog, an affectionate cat. Heaven. Even if Oz was crazy. Running every
morning? No sane person would do that. And scratch the house comment.
It was a home. They even had a bread machine. He made a mental note
to try to figure out a recipe for herbed sourdough. Who would have ever
imagined that this would be his life? Making fresh bread to go with the
fresh pasta and sauce he was going to make later that day?
Finally, after tripping over the dog's latest rawhide bone and stepping on
several shredded fur mice, he made it to the door. He hit the lock
release for the porch door and opened the door to the house itself. And
stared in shock at his visitor.
The older man shrugged. "I was in the neighborhood."
Xander blinked. "You just happened to be in a remote town in the
mountains, two states away? And you just happened to find... um, my
"Well, yes, sort of." He held up a book. "I happen to have connections."
Xander turned his stunned gaze from Giles to the book in his hand.
Zombie Jamboree by Harris Daniels. "You know."
"It wasn't very hard to figure out. At least for me."
"I need coffee." He moved to the kitchen, dumping a healthy amount of
ground coffee into the filter basket. As it brewed, he pulled a bag of
bagels from the breadbox. "Want one?" Giles shook his head. "Are you
sure? They're the best bagels you're going to find around here."
Finally, Giles relented. "Toasted? Butter? Cream cheese?"
"However you're having yours."
"Toasted with butter it is." They were silent as the coffee brewed and
the bagels toasted. Finally, breakfast was ready, and they moved back to
the living room. "So you know." Now Xander sighed and took a seat on one
of the overstuffed armchairs, rubbing his face. "Does anyone else? I
mean -- Well, you know what I mean."
Giles shook his head. "And I wasn't planning on telling them. But I did
want to let you two know that I knew."
"And you didn't feel like writing."
He was interrupted by a bounding black labrador and a panting redhead,
back from their morning run. The dog trotted on to the kitchen. "Hey,
you're up." Oz blinked. "And Giles is here. Why is Giles here?"
Now Giles interrupted Xander. "As it turns out, I'm your editor."
"What?" Two voices, both raised in shock.
"Like I said, I have connections. After Xander left, an old friend asked
me to help her out and read a manuscript, checking it for obvious errors
since I was the only one she could think of with a solid background in the
occult with enough time on his hands to help her with this. And then she
asked me to do another. And then another. And then before I realized it,
I had a job. A career, really. Most of the books and stories I dealt
with in the beginning had some pretty glaring holes, but then I began
working on one that had no problems in that area whatsoever."
"What --" Oz began.
"Dreamland." Pieces were falling into place for Xander. The first
editor had sent the manuscript back with notes all over it, lambasting the
two for supposed inaccuracies despite the fact that it a very thinly
veiled account of Xander's experience during his sophomore year of high
school when nightmares became real. But they had changed not a single
word and resubmitted it, and the second editor had merely made a few
spelling and grammar corrections. Suddenly, Xander realized why that
second editor had no issues with the story itself.
Giles nodded. "It seemed extremely familiar when I began reading it.
I knew what was going to happen, but it wasn't a predictable story, so
there was something more than just being able to figure out a routine
plot. There was a reason it was familiar to me. Then one day I was
going through some of my old journals, and I realized what it was. And
then there was the book about the costume ball. I remember that Halloween
well. And the others."
Xander sighed. "We didn't mean to invade --"
"No, it wasn't an invasion." Giles began pacing. "It was, if anything a
tribute. At least that's how I chose to see it." He stopped, turning his
attention to Xander on the armchair -- and Oz, now curled up on Xander's
lap, running his fingers through Xander's hair. "And now I see why you've
dropped out of sight."
Oz stood. "It's not how it looks."
"It's not?" Now Giles smiled softly. "It looks like you had some
problems, Oz, so you moved to a remote area and cut yourself from all
contact from your past. Then months passed, and somehow Xander found you,
and the two of you grew closer despite the distance. Then he moved here.
Finally, you began writing horror and fantasy novels together, using your
lives in Sunnydale for inspiration and your combined names for a fairly
unoriginal pseudonym. And at some point after Oz came up here, the two of
you began a relationship that I am not going to mention to anyone after I
leave because it is obvious that it's something you don't want publicized.
And I'm not going to mention that I've seen you because it's clear you
don't want anyone to know. Am I close?"
Xander nodded and opened his mouth to reply, but Oz spoke first. "Except
I found him. I'm going to go now. I need a shower and clean clothes."
He gently kissed Xander's forehead on his way out of the room.
"So how long have you two been married?"
Giles' voice brought Xander's attention to the platinum band on his
finger. Xander smiled. "Since just after I left Sunnydale and moved up
here. Seven years ago. We found a house to move into, and we did this
corny commitment ceremony thing. It was fast, and it was silly, but it
was right. There I was, nineteen, not even acknowledging that I was
attracted to guys, and I suddenly had a husband. Who was my best friend's
ex-boyfriend. But I've never had any regrets. I know, it's not legal,
and if this got out, we would probably be raked over the coals for being
immoral and evil and wrong. After all, a good chunk of our fan base is
unable to vote, and heaven forbid that someone should be willing to admit
that they're attracted to someone they're not 'supposed' to be attracted
to." Xander sighed. "You can hate whatever group you want for no
apparent reason, and people barely blink, but say you love someone of
the same sex, even if it's one of your best friends who you've known for
years and who you trust with your life, and forget it. Instant
condemnation from people who don't even know you. But this -- us -- it
feels right. No matter what anyone else thinks. Forever." Xander
stopped his tirade, probably deciding that Giles was not someone that
needed to be convinced. "But I know what you're going to ask next, and
that's not why we keep our identity quiet. Oz and Xander aren't in
hiding, but everyone thinks 'Harris Daniels' is a pen name for some
middle-aged woman who wants to appear to be male for the purpose of
selling more books, so revealing the fact that we're a couple of young
guys would ruin the mystique. It wouldn't matter if he and I were just
two buddies writing or if it was just one of us doing this. These authors
have to be women pretending to be men. In this case, she's two men
pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man." He grinned. "Are we
living some weird version of Victor/Victoria or what?"
"So this secrecy is just to keep the fake name thing quiet because you
want to keep writing?"
Xander shrugged. "Pretty much. Okay, so we're in this little bitty
hidden town, but we're here because, well, it's pretty here. And we like
it here. And people who know us -- basically, everyone in this town --
are aware that we're married. To each other. And it's not an issue,
except when someone new comes to town, mistakes us for just roommates, and
decides she can make a move on one of us. But, yeah, we keep things quiet
where the books are concerned. It keeps us in the lifestyle to which
we've become accustomed. I don't mean the gay lifestyle, whatever that
is. As if there's any such thing. I mean no worrying about getting days
off together, no getting up early unless we want to, no dress code to
complain about, no worrying about what other people's business goals are."
Giles smiled. "Sounds familiar."
"That's true." Xander frowned thoughtfully. "We have a symbiotic
relationship now, don't we? I mean, you and us. Us as in Oz and me."
Giles continued to smile, nodding at Xander. The younger man's casual use
of the word 'us' was going to stick in Giles' head for days to come.
"You rely on us for work, and we rely on you to make us look good so we
can give you more work." Xander stretched and downed the remains of his
coffee. "Anyway, he and I are together in a way that I don't think I
could ever imagine before with anyone. I don't know what I would do
without him, and I don't think he knows what he would do without me. Two
halves of a whole or something."
"And that's what matters, isn't it?" Giles sighed. "So should I tell you
Xander shrugged. "If it involves her coming back in our lives, it might
be a good idea. Oz still feels weird about that. It's strange. He's
okay with living in the middle of nowhere, being married to another guy,
and spending three nights each month in a cage due to lycanthropy. He
finally worked through that mess. But the fact that Will and I were best
friends gets to him sometimes. Guilt because he can be with me but not
her. And the whole lack of closure thing bothers me."
"Well, would it make you feel better to know what she's up to?"
Again, Xander shrugged. He really wasn't sure if he wanted to hear this.
When he left, she was still devastated by Oz's departure. But then
again... "It's probably a good idea. I mean in case she tortures you and
finds out about Oz and me."
"Actually, there's another way she would find out." Giles removed his
glasses and rubbed his eyes. He was preparing for a long, tiring
conversation. "But I think we should wait for Oz to rejoin us. It's
something that concerns both of you."
"Giles, please? I need to know now. I need to know if I have anything to
worry about. And I need to find out without Oz here with me so I know
what I'll have to deal with. She was still a mess when I left."
The older man put his glasses back on and observed a very nervous man
staring at and twisting his wedding band on his finger. "No. You don't
have anything to worry about. Shortly after you left, she began dating
someone from high school. Apparently, she tutored him during senior year,
and he developed a crush on her, but she paid no attention to him when Oz
was still around. Then she finally recovered from... that, Buffy urged
her to follow her own advice and reconsider nice guys. And so she and
Percy have been dating ever since."
"Just dating?" Xander blinked. "They've been dating for as long as Oz
and I have been married?"
Giles nodded. "I don't think she's ready for marriage."
"Does it have anything to do with..." Xander's eyes drifted down the hall
toward the bathroom.
"No. Actually, I think she just wants a boyfriend -- someone to talk to,
but not someone to live with. Marriage involves responsibility,
cooperation, and compromise, and that's not something she's willing to
Xander chuckled. "Yeah. I can believe that."
"Believe what?" Oz wandered back into the living room, rubbing his hair
with a towel as he walked.
"Willow not wanting to be responsible or compromise."
"Ah." He tossed a ball of fabric at Xander. "Put this on. You're
distracting me. And don't even start with the 'Is that a bad thing'
routine. Because right now, yeah, it is." The affectionate sarcasm did
not go unnoticed by Giles. Oz sat not on Xander's lap, as Giles realized
he expected, but on another chair. "So what is she up to now?"
Giles smiled. Oz's voice held mere curiosity, as if he was asking about
whether a certain restaurant was still open -- and not faked distance, as
if he was trying to put his partner at ease. This detachment was real.
And when Giles glanced at Xander, he watched the tension drain from the
brunette's body and a relieved smile spread across his face. "She's a
game designer. Computer games. Mostly horror and fantasy. Just like you
use your past for your books, she uses it for her games. And there has
been talk of having her design a game to go with one of your books. And
before you ask, no, she doesn't know that it's you. I don't think she's
even read one of them, but her company is interested in them."
"Our books?" Confused, Oz turned to Xander. "Did I miss something? I
thought the agreement was no game tie-ins."
Xander nodded, equally confused. "Yeah, that's the deal. And that's how
I would like it to stay."
"That's what I expected." Giles jumped slightly when a very happy dog
rested its head on his leg. "But I was told to ask. That was the deal --
I could have your address if I could ask about your feelings regarding
changing the contract and allowing game tie-ins. I did, so I held up my
end of the bargain. And now I have to ask who this is." Gingerly, he
scratched behind one canine ear, jumping when the animal sighed.
The two younger men laughed as one. "That would be Diane." When Diane
sighed again, Oz couldn't resist one more remark. "You found her happy
spot, Giles. You have a friend for life."
"So I see." He attempted to pull his hand away from the dog's head, but
she just shifted position and forced him to keep contact. "I suppose I'm
lucky she's not trying to climb up on my lap."
"Yeah, you are." Xander stood, reaching for the animal's collar. "Come
on, you're bothering Giles. Time for you to go outside."
"Xander, it's all right."
"No, it's not. Another five minutes, and we're going to have a puddle
here. I heard her drinking after she got back from her run with Oz. I'll
be right back."
Giles watched Oz watching Xander, contented smile on the redhead's face.
"You're happy." A statement, not a question.
"Yeah, I am." Oz turned his attention to Giles. "There was always
something off with Willow. But then I started writing to Xander after I
left, and things started falling into place. And then he came up to visit
when the photo place closed down, and... I don't know. A little voice
inside my head told me to not let him go? I decided to do the exact
opposite of what I normally would have done? Anyway, two weeks later, he
moved up here, and we did this." He held up his hand with a ring that
matched Xander's. "So here we are." He pulled his hands back to his lap,
rubbing and gazing at the band for a long moment. "So how are Cordelia
"Fine. Did you know that both of you do that?"
"Stare at your rings and twist them when you mention a former romantic
interest of the other person."
"Oh." Oz pulled his hands apart and sighed. "I guess we don't think
Giles nodded. "Well, here's closure. Cordelia married a very nice
half-demon that she met when they both started working for Angel."
"Half-demon?" Oz's mouth quirked into a grin. "Oh, don't tell me.
Doyle." Giles nodded, and Oz chuckled. "How did that happen? I met
him that time I went to give Angel that ring. Doyle makes Xander look
like a fashion plate by comparison."
"Hey, I resemble that remark." Xander returned, carrying the coffeepot
and a mug. "Here." Oz accepted the mug. "Giles? Refill?"
Giles nodded his head. "Thank you. As I was saying, Cordelia married
someone that she wouldn't have even glanced at a second time if she had
still been in Queen C mode. They're expecting their third child in a few
"Third child?" The thought of a pregnant Cordelia made Xander grin.
"The first time around, she had twins."
"Oh, man. Cordelia, pregnant with twins? I would have paid good money
to see that."
Giles pulled out his wallet. "I thought you might." He smiled as Oz and
Xander leaned against each other, examining the photographs. Then he
cleared his throat, preparing to address a potentially thorny issue. "And
Xander frowned, handing the wallet back. "Don't tell me. After I left,
she went to Willow for help with that whole vengeance thing and got her
powers back because she was even worse the second time around."
"Not quite." Giles stood and paced. "Actually, not even close. After
you left, she devoted herself to helping Buffy and me. She apparently
forgot her obsession with you. And as it turned out, she's a very
intelligent woman, and her knowledge about demons is unsurpassed." His
words sped up as he continued. "Because of her age and background, she
has been instrumental in coming up with obscure bits of information that
saved the day more than once, and she shows no signs of pulling away from
Oz and Xander exchanged an amused glance. "Um, Giles, is there something
you would like to tell me about you and my ex-girlfriend?"
The older man froze. Then he turned to Xander, now sitting in an armchair
with Oz sitting on the floor in front of him, head rolled forward while
Xander kneaded his shoulders. And Xander was grinning at Giles. "Well, I
think the conclusion you just jumped to would be the correct one."
"Good." Now Xander frowned. "Laura! Stop that." Giles looked down and
found a cat grasping his pant leg, first stretching and then reaching for
Giles' hand. "I'm sorry, Giles. She can be too friendly sometimes."
Xander grabbed a plastic spray bottle from the end table.
"No, that's okay." Giles bent over and picked up the cat, cradling her
like he would a baby.
Oz and Xander exchanged another amused glance. "So, Giles, was it a girl
or a boy?"
"A girl. Jocelyn Marie. She's beautiful and smart, just like her mother.
She's starting kindergarten this year, and she's only four." Giles
stopped turned to Xander. "Wait. How did you know?"
Xander shrugged. "Just a guess. Come on, Giles, you're talking about how
wonderful Anya is and then you're holding our cat like an infant. Even
I can pick up on that." He sighed. "Okay. So we've covered just about
everybody. But we've missed --"
"Buffy." Now Giles sighed, releasing the cat and pulling a videotape from
his jacket pocket. "I thought you would want to know about that. I
brought this so you could see for yourself."
Cautiously, Oz stood and accepted the videotape. Then his eyes fell on
the case, and he stared at the cover. "Uh, Giles? This says it's that
new John Woo movie that hasn't even been released in theatres yet."
"Yes. Yes, it is." Giles grinned. "It seems that Buffy was in Los
Angeles, fighting some creature with Spike and Angel, and a stunt
coordinator saw her. One thing led to another, and now Buffy has a
high-paying career as one of the most in-demand stunt women in the
business." He tapped the videotape. "Except in this movie, she has a
substantial speaking part. So now she's branching out into acting. We
keep telling her that she's going to end up known as the American Michelle
Yeoh. And as her advisor, I received an advance copy. So I'm giving it
"Wow." To Giles' surprise, Oz hugged him tightly. "I love John Woo." As
an afterthought, he added, "And it will be nice to see Buffy in action
again." Giles gazed uncomfortably at the redhead still clinging to his
Xander removed the tape from Oz's hand. "Sweetie, you're getting drool on
his shirt. You can watch this later, okay?" As if he were a toddler
getting chastised by his mom, Oz nodded and pulled away from Giles. "I'll
put it with his other movies." Task accomplished, Xander turned back to
Giles. "So. Two more to go."
"Ah, yes. Spike and Angel." Once more, Giles sighed. "Well, short
version, they're living in Los Angeles in a house much like this. Except
it's an underground apartment, and they're detectives, not writers." He
stopped his list of exceptions there.
"Wait." Oz frowned. "Let me get this straight. Spike and Angel -- well,
aren't straight?" He began laughing once more. "Well, I knew that about
Angel, but -- Spike?"
"Hey. Angel can be fairly persuasive." Xander flushed. "I mean, do you
think we would be here if..."
"Ah. Point taken." Oz grinned. "Maybe I should send him a thank you
card." Xander turned even redder, and Oz's grin grew wider. "I could ask
him if he's the one who taught you to --"
"Oz." Xander's voice was almost pained.
"Xander." Oz's voice softened an amazing amount. Giles felt like a
voyeur. "I know. I'm sorry. I know that the chance of you and Angel
happening is about the same as the chance of me and Angel. I just..."
He rested one hand on the side of Xander's face, brushing his thumb
against Xander's lips, and Xander opened his mouth and caught Oz's thumb
with his tongue.
Suddenly, Giles realized he had stumbled across a very old issue for the
other men. And a familiar foreplay routine. He cleared his throat. "Yes.
Well." The two pulled away sheepishly, as if they had forgotten he was
there. He realized that they probably had forgotten about him. "I
think my time here is up."
"What? You're leaving already?"
Giles turned to Xander, surprised at the disappointment in the brunette's
voice. "Yes, I have a conference call in a little while. I have to
report the bad news about the games." He glanced at his watch. "In
twenty minutes, to be precise."
"But you're staying in town? Will you be here tonight?" Giles nodded.
"Come back for dinner? Please? Say, sevenish?"
Giles paused, pulling on his jacket while considering the offer. As if
afraid to give Giles a chance to refuse the invitation, Oz spoke up.
"He's a good cook. He has to be for me to allow him to mess up my
"Hey. You didn't mind that time I made that Greek chicken thing."
Giles recognized that tone of voice. It was old married couple. He
turned to see Oz standing in front of Xander, being held firmly in place
by a tight hug, head tilted to one side so Xander could trail kisses along
his neck. "Hmm. You're right. But I think this is why it wasn't an
"Well." Once again, Giles felt like he was intruding. "Yes, dinner would
be nice. Seven sounds fine."
As he made his way down the walkway, he could hear soft laughter and
conversation. He strained to hear the words, afraid they were discussing
him, but he was relieved to discover he was wrong. "Hey, Oz?" Xander's
"Can I take my shirt off now?" Silence, then more laughter. "Okay, that
Giles sighed, drawing what he felt were fairly likely conclusions. And
And they all lived happily ever after.