Zan tossed back a shot and sank down into the couch. He ignored Max's pointed glares where he was seated on the floor with Liz and the baby. Tightening the lid on the bottle, the dizziness washed over him. He sat back and turned his head to stare at the ceiling. He didn't even turn when the couch dipped next to him. "Drinking won't solve anything."
"Because you're an expert." His head rolled around to look at her.
"I kinda am." Liz squeezed his shoulder. "Zan… It's gonna be okay…" No response. "Zan…" Laid her head on his shoulder and tickled his side. "Zan…"
"Should I be jealous?" Max cleared his throat from the floor where Chris was climbing all over him.
"Not my fault if your woman can't keep her hands to herself." Zan managed a weak smile that looked more painful than anything else.
Liz huffed and strode into the kitchen area. She opened the freezer to look for ice cream. "It's one test. Granted, it was the final but I'm willing to bet you'll do just fine."
"Then you don't know Haberman." Max shook his head.
"Habber-man is the debil." Christopher announced, producing a glare from Liz and grins from his father and uncle.
"That's real cute, guys." Liz nodded. "Real cute."
"He is." Max had to laugh. "What on earth are you looking for in the freezer?"
"Ice cre—" Liz caught the look too late.
"Ice cweam?" Christopher's eyes lit up.
"We don't have ice cream." Max sighed. "And he's sick and now he's going to want some and he can't have any."
"Ice cweam." Christopher turned huge puppy dog eyes on his father but Max shook his head. "Ice cweam."
"Nope, sorry buddy." Max pulled him into his lap. "When that cold clears up, maybe. Until then, you know what you get?"
"No medcin!" Chris started to scramble from his father's grasp but Zan scooped him up and headed for the kitchen. "No!" Zan held the kind under one arm like a football and popped the lid off the medicine with his free hand. He popped the baby syringe out of the drawer and filled it. "No!" He flipped Chris over and Max was already ready to hold his body still while Zan shot the medicine into Chris mouth.
"Swallow… or there'll be more." Zan warned. The kid sputtered a little but swallowed most of it. "See, it wasn't so bad. We don't hafta do this every time if you just take it."
"Come here." Max hefted Chris up and into his arms. "You good?"
"That is horrible you guys." Liz shook her head at them.
"I'm the bad guy." Zan protested. "I'm the one that makes him take it. Max gets the cuddles and 'I wuv you's. I get the closet monsters and medicine details…" When Max wandered off, he leaned into Liz. "And I baby-sit. That kid is a chick magnet."
"Zan!" Liz swatted him. "You used him to pick up girls?"
"He does it all the time." Max shook his head and settled on the floor with Chris on his lap and a book in front of them. "That's how he picked up Sh--- the last one." He winced when he almost spoke the forbidden name.
"She's two-timing whore." Zan bit out and sank onto the couch once more.
"Watch your mouth." Liz smacked him upside the head. "It's no wonder he picks this stuff up."
"Would you stop hitting me?" Zan shook his head. "You're making me dizzy."
"Hey, Zan." Max jerked his head to the bedroom. "Mind?"
Zan made a disgusted noise but nodded after a few moments. He gathered the sleeping boy and disappeared into the bedroom. Liz blinked at Max. "Should I be upset that there is a code?"
"Code?" Max turned innocent eyes on her. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"And that's why Zan was so reluctant and slightly disgusted that he had to go to bed with Chris?" She slid off the couch and onto the floor with him. "Were you planning something?" She settled next to him. "I'm not having sex with you in your living room with Zan and your son in the next room."
"That's not—" Max sighed. "I just wanted some time alone with you." He reached out to touch her hair. "Whenever you come down, it's always me, you and Chris. Or me, you, and Zan… or Maria and Michael, or Maria, or Kyle." His eyes ran over her face. "Just wanted you all to myself for a few hours."
"I'll be here all summer." Liz kissed his lips softly. "I'm getting an apartment for the summer. I've got a job lined up at the hospital. I'm gonna work in the lab. Nothing big or important. They're probably only going to let me type up the reports or something. We'll have plenty of time together. You taking summer classes?"
"No. Gonna get more hours this summer. Mom's going to take Chris when she can." He rested his head on her shoulder. "I've missed you."
"How are things, really?"
"Good. Zan's got his scholarships, makes extra cash by uh… sharking down at the club." Max laughed and pulled Liz closer. "He says the tourists are easy marks."
"They are." She reminded him.
"But you know, he pulls his weight around here. Laundry, dishes, dusting, baby-sitting and all." He sighed yet again. "But sometimes I feel like I'm not spending enough time with Chris, you know? Like I should make more time but it's hard to do without sacrificing school, studying, or work."
"I'm sure you're doing the best you can, Max."
"Yeah, I know but… you know?" He chuckled. "See, I'm tired. I'm not even making sense anymore."
"Well, at least things have been quiet."
"Thank goodness for small favors."
Liz pushed him away and took a breath. "You know, I should go… and when I get that apartment I talked about… um… we'll pick this up again." She got to her feet.
"Pick what up? We weren't doing anything."
"But I was touching you and you were… transmitting and that alone… was a little… too much." She backed toward the door when he stood, a sly grin on his face. "And you're not going to make a liar out of me."
Max couldn't help but chuckle when the door shut behind her. That felt good. Really good.
Dawn read over the letters. There weren't many of them and they were all on the short side… a page and a half at the longest. He had never mentioned girls in his letters but from time to time, she remembered, she had alluded to them in her life. Was that why he had never seriously written her back? Has she scared him off? Or had he realized she was too young? Or not what he wanted?
"Hey. Nostalgia much?" Buffy entered the room and sat on the bed. "What is all this stuff?"
"You still write to him?" Buffy blinked and picked up the one on top. "Yikes. What did you do to deserve that?"
"I kinda expressed my feelings for Jared too soon." Dawn shrugged and sagged. "Kelly was gloating."
"Gloating." Dawn brushed away the tear. "I just need to get away from here, you know. It's just all building up and I'm thinking too much. I can't even really go into your room anymore. Mom, Tara. Willow's getting better but it's still pretty bad. Spike is… I'm really ready for the roadtrip."
"About that." Buffy set the letter aside. "I can't leave him here. You saw, he almost dusted himself."
"Wait." Hand out, stern tone in place. "We're going on a demon-hunting road-trip. We're going to be gone all summer. Spike could be useful. You can't tell me that he's not there and fighting when we need him to be?"
"Well, yeah but—"
"Willow's going to stay. She's doing really well at the library with the computer room or whatever. She'll keep up the house. It might actually do Spike some good to get out. We can hang during the day while he sleeps and all go hunting at night."
"Yeah, I guess." Dawn nodded.
"What I need you to do… is to chart a course and be map keeper. Don't tell people where we're going though. It could get us in trouble." Buffy kissed her head. "Come on. Three more days and it'll all be over."