Notes: Set in that funny time when Willow was misusing her magic and others were paying for it (sometime around Tabula Rasa or so).   I don't write Anya very well, so you won't be seeing her very often, sorry.  Also, I left a scene blank so you could imagine whatever you want to happen. R, to be safe, just in case.

Summary: Willow's misspoken spell has some very...odd consequences.

Crash Test Dummy For Spells
by Voracity.

Willow winced and quickly tried to magically brace Xander as he went flying.  There was really only open ground, but she didn't stop to think about it.  As she spoke the words to slow his descent, the little voice in the back of her head started to scream.  But she couldn't think about that now.  "Xander!" she yelled, running toward him, letting Buffy kill the demon.  She helped her friend to his feet, all the while looking him over to make sure he wasn't hurt.

"I'm okay," he told her, then he shoved her.  The demon was flying toward them at a high rate of speed.  It actually nearly landed on him as he dove out of the way, but the foot was removed from his back before it could do more than bruise him.  "What is with this thing?" he asked as he stood up.  His back started to itch in *that* spot, the one that you could never reach on your own.  "Did it slime me?" he asked Willow, turning so she could see his back.

Willow nodded, trying to wipe some of it off for him.  She settled on scratching his back for him when he purred at her.  "Is it dead?" she asked Buffy.

The slayer shrugged.  "I hope so, it's not breathing."

Anya poked her head from behind the tree she had been hiding behind.  "Their kind don't breathe," she said helpfully.  "They absorb oxygen through those round things on the top of their heads.  They're like nostrils, only the slime that comes out is purple and sparkly."

"Thank you for that information," Buffy told her, breaking into her ramble.  She frowned at Xander.  "Are you sure you're all right?"  He nodded.  "Then why is Willow still scratching your back?"

"Because it itches?" he suggested.  "And she's nice like that?"

"Yeah, she is," Tara agreed.  She smiled at Xander.  "Feel better?"  He nodded and moved away from Willow before Tara could get jealous.  Tara looked at her girlfriend.  "What did you shout?  Just then?"

"Something to help him not hit anything," Willow told her.  "Why?"

"Um, ground?" Anya offered, pointing at the totally clear area where Xander had hit.  "The only thing he might have hit was a large rock, which would have only inconvenienced him due to the bruising factor."  She stepped out from behind her tree, looking at Willow.  "And what you said didn't have anything to do with catching him, it had to do with changing him."

"Na-uh," Willow protested.  "I used an old spell that Giles taught me.  One to catch and slow him down.  I've used it dozens of times."

"Enough," Buffy broke in.  "Anya, how do you tell if this thing is dead?"

"That's a female and they expel nasty liquid, somewhat akin to human bodily fluids that are released when we die."

"Eww," Xander said, taking a step backward.  "Any other way?"

Spike walked around Xander and suddenly stomped in the middle of the demon's chest.  It coughed and glared at him through its five eyes.  "It's not dead," he said helpfully, getting out of Buffy's way because she shoved him.  "Doesn't like steel," he offered from his new position beside Xander.  He looked at the boy, then at the witch, then back at Xander.  He shook his head.  "Mate, you've got to wash.  You stink."

Xander looked around, then shrugged.  "I can do that, go find me some water, blondie."  He started to unbutton his shirt but Anya shrieked.  "What?"

"What are you doing?"

"I'm going to bathe."

"Huh?" Buffy asked.  She pulled a knife out of a holster on her back and got the demon, making it squeal like a stuck pig...demon.  "Spike told you to take a bath so you're doing it *here*?"

"Yeah.  Here is where I need it," Xander told her.

"Bloody hell," Spike said, blinking at him.  He looked at the demon.  His face started to tense, his lips thinned, but finally he couldn't hold it in anymore and he burst out laughing.

"I'm assuming it is," Xander agreed.  "Wouldn't it almost have to be?"  He looked at Buffy.  "Wouldn't hell have to be bloody?"

"Most likely," Tara said, watching the vampire.  "What's so funny?" she asked quietly.

"No.  Not my man!" Anya yelled, walking over to where Xander was standing, his shirt partially unbuttoned, and punched him in the chest.  "No, you will not turn into one of them.  They're not fun, they don't have imaginations and aren't creative in bed.  You're of no use to me otherwise."

Xander shrugged.  "Sorry."  He looked at Spike.  "Share the joke?"

"They're...."  Spike gasped, holding his stomach.  "They're slaves," he managed finally.

Anya grimaced at him.  "What he's trying to say is that this particular class of demon is a servant to the higher classes.  No imagination, but they have to follow orders."  She waved a hand around.  "They're no fun at all.  I didn't even have to deal with one while I was a vengeance demon because they can't stray."  She frowned at Xander.  "You had better not be turning into one of them, mister, or you're in trouble."

"Why am I in trouble?  Are they contagious?"  Spike shook his head as he fell to his knees.  "Then why is this my fault?"  He looked at Willow.  "Was this you?"

"No," she said quickly.

"We can figure this out back at the shop," Buffy said, trying to sound reasonable.  "Nobody give Xander any suggestions until we get back there, okay?"  She took point, leading them back to the Magic Box.

"Hey, anyone fancy a drink?" Spike called from the back of the group.

Xander looked back at him.  "I like beer, but not that much, thanks."  He said it with a straight face, like he was having a normal conversation.  "I've never really thought that beer was good for sex, it tends to mess with things when you combine them.  Besides, it's not really the sort of substance that I'd want to touch *that* way, you know?  Not the right texture and not so fleshy."

Buffy gulped the snicker she tried not to let out.  "Shop," she ordered.

Xander checked his watch.  "Isn't everything closed?  Or is K-Mart still open?"  He pulled out his wallet to check the contents.  "But I'm good to go if you need me to."  He looked up at her.

She shook her head.  "Tomorrow. You can help me go bra shopping."  She causally grabbed him by the arm and let him 'escort' her back to the Magic Box.  Once they got there, she let everyone go in except Willow. "Fix it," she suggested in a normal, pleasant tone of voice.  "Before he drives us all nuts."  She walked in, leaving the witch to think about it. "Xander, why don't you sit down?" she suggested as she sat on the couch.  "I think we're going to have to do the magic thing."

Tara frowned at Willow as she walked in.  "I'll start looking," she told everyone.  As she headed for the more powerful spellbooks, she heard Willow telling Buffy about the spell she had used.  "That's not what you said," she told her ex-girlfriend.

"What?  Yes it was."

"No, it wasn't," Anya argued.  "You said 'sequamised', not 'sequazed'.  Big difference," she snorted.  "You made him absorb some of the demon."

"At least it's not telepathic," Buffy inserted cheerfully.

Anya looked at her.  "Why would it be?"

"That happened to her before," Willow explained.  She looked at Xander.  "I'm sure I didn't use the wrong word, but if I did, I'm sure it's easily fixed.  Or, hey, wearing off!" she noted cheerfully.

Spike snickered.  "Won't wear off.  You'll have to take it off.  The adult of that species is programmed to follow any orders it's given.  The young aren't, they're somethin' usually."  He patted himself down.  "Blast, forgot my smokes."

Xander held out a forefinger like it was a pretend gun.  "Boom," he said with a grin.

"And they're literal about their orders," Anya added.

Everyone looked at Xander, who shifted uncomfortably.  "What?  I'm not a crash test dummy for spells."

"You were this time," Buffy told him, trying to sound cheerful.  "But it'll all be over soon.  I promise, we're going to cure this."

"I'm going for a bite," Spike told everyone as he stood up.  Xander leaned over and bit him on the arm.  "OW!  What was that for?  Bloody git!"  He rubbed his arm.  "I didn't mean me!"

"He's taking everything literally," Anya said in a snotty voice.  "If you ordered him to, he might even shag you."

Buffy snickered.  "I'm sure he'd stop before he got to that point.  He's got to have some control, right?"  Anya and Spike shook their heads.  "Oh.  So I guess we have to watch what we say?"  Everyone nodded.  "Okay.  I can do that.  Xander, why don't you just sit there and behave.  We'll have you fixed really soon."

"I'm not needed for this.  Think I'll go beat some meaty little bit into a bloody pulp."  He made sure to step far around Xander, just in case.

Willow pulled out a few books to check through even though she knew she hadn't done anything.  Xander was probably playing some elaborate prank on them.  She glared at him.  "It shouldn't take too long.  Sit there and do something."  Xander started rubbing his stomach and patting his head.

"Something not distracting," Buffy suggested, her eyes crossing because she was watching him.  He switched to dancing in his chair.  "Something calm?" she tried.  He danced slower.  She leaned over and hit her head on the table.  "Ow."

Tara came down off the ladder and patted her on the shoulder.  "Xander, please sit quietly and don't distract us?" she asked him.  He smiled at her.  "Thank you."  She sat down with her books and flipped the first one open so she could start researching.  Xander shifted and she looked up at him.  "Problems?"

"He can't sit still," Willow told her.  "Why don't you go home, Xander?  We'll do the reversal spell tomorrow."

"Because he has to work tomorrow," Buffy told her.  "Being like this on a site when he manages a crew would probably be bad."

Willow shrugged.  "Whatever.  Just go into the other room, Xander."  He got up and headed into the training room.  She looked at Buffy.  "He could take the day off."

"No he can't," Anya told her.  "He's already requested leave for our honeymoon and used up all his sick days because of slaying.  He can't take any more for a month."  She walked over to the register and opened it, pulling out the money to count it.

"You could help," Willow told her.  "After all, you and Spike know what that demon was."

"I'm trying very hard not to get mad at you for robbing me of my creative and inventive snugglehoney."  She glared at Willow.  "How else am I supposed to have good sex tonight?  If he can't be creative and turn me on, I won't be able to get off."

"Um, not in front of some of us," Buffy put in.  "Do you know the name of those demons?"

"They're usually called 'the servants' or 'hey you'," she said with a shrug.  "They're usually bred within a family or group and not ever let go.  They're considered very valuable because they'll defend the one giving them orders to the death if asked to."  Anya looked up.  "They're also very valuable in the breeding areas.  Even a half-one of them will follow orders until the point where they die of exhaustion.  I've seen someone punish one before by giving it orders to do jumping jacks until it died.  It took weeks."  She shrugged and went back to counting the profit for the day.

"Is there anyway to make sure that Xander can only take orders from one person?" Buffy asked.  "You know, to make it easier on the rest of us so we don't have to watch what we say?"

Anya nodded, looking eager.  "You have to have a lot of sex with them and prove your mastery over them.  They usually don't like that, they like to be more general but it doesn't always work in some enclaves.  The claimed ones are usually more tired and shorter lived because of the claiming rituals."  She looked at the door.  "We should probably do that though, because if this is going to last I don't want him to take orders from anyone but me."

"Yeah, whatever," Willow mumbled.  She listlessly flipped pages but eventually came to a mention of the demons in question.  "Eww," she said, flipping the page quickly so she didn't have to read about that.  She handed that book to Buffy and picked out another one, not watching as her friend read that sickening part.

"Well, it could be worse," Buffy said finally.  She looked at Anya.  "Will he start to crave raw meat too?"

"Probably not right away.  The closer he becomes to one of them, the more he'll want their food and enjoy their games."  She made a note and bundled some of the cash up. When she had locked it into the special bank bag, she came over to help look through the books.  She took the one Buffy had been reading, nodding.  "Yup, that sounds about right.  They have almost no personal identity and what they do have is usually forgettable if they're ordered to.  They really are quite handy to have when you're building a new enclave or city for demons.  They're all good little worker bees."

"Are they hivish?" Tara asked.

Anya shook her head.  "They live in them, but they don't have a single mentality.  It's more comparable to a herd mentality."

"Oh, goodie," Buffy said sarcastically.  "And they have to take orders?"  Anya nodded.  "What about the literal part?"

Anya shrugged.  "That could just be Xander.  You know how he is."

"Yes, we do," Willow agreed.  She looked at the other books.  "Do any of these really have any information on what I *supposedly* said?"

"This one does," Tara told her, holding up the one she was reading.  "It said it'll wear off, but the amount of time is relative to the demon and the amount of exposure."  She pushed it over to Buffy.  "There's no chart."

"So it could be a day or it could be a year?" Buffy asked as she read.  "Never mind.  It could be five years."  She shut the book and looked at Willow.  "Do me a favor, never do that spell again, 'kay?"  She stood up.  "Xander, come.  I'll walk you home."  Xander came jogging out, standing beside her.  "Are you feeling better yet?"

"The same as usual."  He looked at Anya.  "Are you staying here tonight?"  She shrugged.  "'Cause I'm thinking that it isn't the best idea for us to be together tonight."  He gave her a grin.  "You might hurt me."

She scowled.  "Yes, I probably would, but we could do that position I've been wondering about."

"I'm not a bendy kitty cat," he told her.  "I can't bend that way."

"Fine," Anya sighed.  "I'll sleep on the couch or something."

"You can have my couch," Buffy told her.  "Just so there's no accidents."  She took Xander's arm and led him out of the shop, heading for his apartment.   On the way, they met Spike, who was coming back from grabbing some blood bags.  "Hey, it'll wear off."

Spike grunted.  "Good.  Hate to have to play with him some."  He leered at Xander.

"Are you drunk?" Buffy asked, steering Xander around the annoying vampire.  "Ignore him."

"Okay."  Xander looked back at him.  "But he's dancing."

Buffy stopped to look at him, smirking when she saw Spike trying to pat out the newly lit spot on his thigh.  "Okay, that's funny," she agreed, but she made Xander start walking again.  "Try to take tomorrow off, say you're sick or something."  He nodded dutifully.  "When the Magic Box is open, come over and we'll work on making this stuff wear out of you quicker."  She smiled.  "We'll try to sweat it out of you, until Willow finds something."

"Okay."  He pulled out his keys and opened his door.  "Are you coming up?"

"No.  Go right to bed, Xander, and be a good boy tonight."  She patted him on the arm and watched him walk away.  Then she turned back to find Spike standing behind her.  "Are you going to watch him tonight?"

"Sure, why not," Spike said dryly.  "What harm could I do?"

"That's what's worrying me," she told him, taking him and forcing him away from the apartment.  There would be no telling what Spike might do to Xander in his fragile state.  It might be funny, but he was one of her friends.


Xander turned on the radio as he headed for his bedroom.  He liked hearing music while he slept, it lessened the 'waiting for something to come through the window and attack me' feeling.  He wondered if he could stop in the bathroom instead of going right to bed like Buffy had ordered, but he guessed she wouldn't really mind.

"Stay tuned for the insomniac hour!" the DJ said enthusiastically.  "Midnite Mike and his breathless croonies will entertain all you insomniacs out there."

"Oh, okay," Xander said, nodding as he walked into the bathroom.  He got ready for bed then climbed in, listening to the radio.  They weren't really counter-orders.  He could do both.  Within four hours, he knew all the songs being played were very cool for people like him - the DJs said so.  He was really enjoying the tunes.  So, when it was time for him to call off work, he was still wide awake and hoping that the rest of the day's songs were just as good.  He remembered to pick up the phone and call his boss between songs, so he wouldn't miss anything.  "Hey, boss," he said, smiling because it was a happy song.  "Buffy said I had to call off work."  He listened, then shrugged.  "No, my girlfriend *is* named Anya.  Buffy's a friend."  He chuckled.  "No, she said I had to do sweaty stuff for her.  I have not a clue, but she said so.  Yeah, I kinda do have to take orders from her today. Because she's the one who picked up that beam last year?  Yeah, her!" he said happily.  "Cool, thanks.  Yeah, I should be done by tonight.  Thanks, boss.  No, I'll have her call you if she says I can't come in tomorrow.  You can argue with her."  He smiled.  "Do you think I want to argue with her?"  He laughed as he hung up.  "Smart man, my boss.  He wouldn't argue with Buffy either."  He stayed in bed because the woman on the radio said to hold on.  He just hoped she let him up before his bladder burst.  That would be embarrassing.


Spike pounded on Xander's door.  The twits were too busy to come check on the boy, even though they knew he was susceptible to any random order.  He pounded again, then kicked the door in.  "Oi, brat, you in here?" he yelled as he strolled in.  He kicked the door shut.

"In here," Xander called weakly.

Spike listened, then headed directly for the radio and turned it off.  He looked at the young man, grimacing at what he saw.  "How long you been in here?"

"All night," Xander said weakly.  "Do I have to hold on?"

"No, go," Spike said, smiling and chuckling when the boy ran past him and directly into the bathroom with a sigh of relief.  "Been wanting that all day too?"

"Yes!" Xander called back.  He remembered to close the door finally, and the shower came on.  "Give me ten."

"I'll give you more as long as you're nice," Spike called, heading for the kitchen.  He checked the refrigerator, deciding on some cold chicken.  "Chit musta made it," he said before bitting into the leg.  He grabbed a beer and went to sit down and wait.  It took the whole can to wash out the funny aftertaste.  "What'd she do to this?" he asked in disgust.

Xander stuck his head out of the bathroom.  "If that's the chicken, I'm sorry.  She tried to cook last week.  Not even she could eat it."  He went back into the bathroom.  "Try the ham in the drawer, I bought it yesterday."

Spike took his suggestion, pitching the chicken out for him before grabbing some of the thick ham slices.  He may not need to eat, but sometimes he enjoyed human food.  It had a taste that he missed, which blood would never have - no matter what he put in it.  He grunted at the taste of the ham, this was good.  He grabbed another piece and another can of beer, and went to sit and wait.  A nude body ran past him about ten minutes later, making him laugh.  "Was that a tattoo?" he called after the boy.

"No!" Xander squeaked from the bedroom.  He came out, tucking his t-shirt in.  "It's a stick-on.  Anya wanted me to try it.  She thinks it'd be sexy."

"Then let her get one," Spike grumbled as he stood up.  "Tattoos last even longer than my kind do.  You want to be careful with them."  He checked the boy over.  "Shoes?"

"By the door."  Xander hurried over to put them on.  "Is this almost over?"

Spike shrugged.  "They didn't tell me anything, just sent me over.  Too busy to come themselves."

"Of course they are," Xander said dryly.  He looked at the vampire, who raised an eyebrow.  "I'll make a deal with you.  You don't give me stupid orders and I'll be the straightman for your jokes."  Spike started to smile.  "Trust me, they could be doing something about this."

Spike considered it, then nodded slowly.  "All right, no stupid orders."

"That means no 'go dance naked in the streets' or 'go flash the witches'.  Nothing like that."  Spike's smile slowly got brighter.  "No dangerous orders, nothing that'll come back to bite me on the ass."

"All right then.  I can live with that.  But I get to make you flash them at least once."

Xander winced, but eventually nodded.  "Fine.  I can get away with once.  Twice though, and you're toast."

"Fine.  Let's go.  You ready?"

"Jacket, wallet, keys," Xander said as he grabbed them and put them into his pockets.  "Let's go.  Time to go make them do something about this before I go nuts."

"You or them, hey?" Spike asked, following him out of the apartment building.  "Sounds like somethin' I'd say."

"It probably is," Xander agreed, getting into his car.  "Magic Box?"

"Yup.  Ladies want ta see you tonight."

"That's cool, because if they don't do something about this, then Buffy gets to call me off work tomorrow," Xander said with a small grin.  "My boss said so."  He started the car and headed for the Magic Box.  Yes, they would be doing something about this horrible thing or he'd make their lives a living hell.

Xander smiled as he walked into the shop.  "Buffy, my boss said you get to call tomorrow if I have to stay home," he announced as he walked in.

"Bloody hell, bugger, go sit down," Spike ordered.

"Welcome to Sunnydale."

"Huh?" Buffy asked, looking at the two men.  Well, vampire and man. "Welcome to Sunnydale?"

"He said 'bloody hell'.  Can you think of a better description?"

Spike burst out in laughter.  "Good one, mate."  He headed for the small kitchen area so he could grab some of his blood and warm it up.  "Oi, who took me blood?"

"You sound like the lucky charms guy," Willow called.  "And it's in the freezer.  I moved it earlier."

"It's not," Spike argued.  He moved out of the way so she could see.  "Do you see any?"

"Spike, chill, you can get some more," Buffy sighed.  She looked at Xander.  "Are you able to patrol?"  He nodded.  "Good, then we'll go in a few.  There was a large group of homeless people who were attacked two days ago.  We're pretty sure they're rising tonight."

"I thought that they cremated homeless bodies," Willow said, squinting.  "Which, by the way, is kinda eww to think about."

"They're still people," Buffy told her firmly.  "And if they're vampires, then we'll stake them like ... well, like someone intended me to do."  She stood up.  "Come on, Xander.  Let's go stake some dead guys." She looked at Spike.  "Did you check the ice chest?" she suggested.  "We filled it earlier for the patrol tonight."  She led the way out of the shop, letting him get right behind her. "Don't do anything funny," she warned him.  "No quips, no funny acts, and no stripping!"

"Yes, Buffy.  Any news on how long this is going to last?"

She stopped and looked at him.  "We found out that it'll have to wear off, Xander.  Didn't we tell you that?"  He shook his head.  "Oh. Sorry.  We don't know how long it'll take, but it'll have to wear off."  She shrugged.  "It'll probably only take a few days.  But I'll call you off tomorrow if you need me to.  I'm not scared of your boss."  She started walking again.

Xander sighed mentally and followed her.  This was going to be a fun night, even if he had to egg Spike on.  It wouldn't *have* to wear out, he knew that Tara and Willow *could* do something, if they wanted to.  Lucky him, they decided to let him suffer.  Well, so would they.


Spike joined the waiting twosome at the cemetery, sitting beside Xander on the tombstone.  "Still not up yet?"

"Not yet," Buffy told him.  "Anything back at the shop?"

"Just the witches arguing 'bout Red's magic."  He pulled out a cigarette and lit it, sucking in a deep drag.  "Witchy one is arguin' about none'a this is her fault."

"Bet me," Xander muttered.

"It could be worse," Buffy said optimistically.

"Sure, let's put it on you," Xander told her.  "Let's see you want to hop and do every single order coming at you."  He stood up.  "I'd like to see you go through this."

"Down boy," she said, giving him a small smile.  "I know it's got to suck, but it could be worse. You could have five eyes and your nose on the top of your head."

Spike coughed.  "Not with what she did.  The worse it could get would be for the git to be taken in by someone like Angelus."  The humans shuddered.  "So, yeah, it could be worse, but it could be better too."  He took another drag.  "Sit," he told Xander.  "We've got a wait."

Buffy cocked her head, listening to the graves.  "I hear movement."

"Still be a bit," Spike put in.  "Takes time to climb out and all."

Willow jogged up to them.  "Did we miss it?" she asked breathlessly.

Buffy shook her head.  "Nope.  We've got movement, but nothing else.  How goes the figuring out part?"

"Tara thinks it should wear out in a few days."  She looked at Xander. "You okay?"

"No," he said bluntly.  "I spent all day in bed because the DJs on the radio told me to."  Willow winced.  "So, yeah, it could be better right about now.  Why so long?"

"Because you got some major slime on you," Willow reminded him.

"But it was on my *shirt*," Xander argued.  "None of it touched my skin, unless it soaked through."

Willow shrugged.  "Tara's coming, ask her when she gets here."  She sat down beside Buffy.  "How's things with Dawn?"

"She's doing homework.  I got a note."

"Oh."  Willow shrugged.  "I guess it could have been really worse.  She could be, I don't know, pregnant and using drugs."

Buffy punched her on the arm.  "Don't say that!  Not my sister!"

"Sorry," Willow said, ignoring Spike's chuckle.  "I guess that is kinda a bad thought."  She glanced at Xander.  "Why did you spend all day in bed?"

"Because the DJs all said to stay there."  He shrugged.  "It happened, I'm over it."

"Dirt moving," Spike said, tossing aside his cigarette butt and grabbing a stake.  "Time for fun."

Buffy was staring behind him.  "I thought they were all buried together," she said, her nose wrinkling.

"The records said they were," Willow agreed.  She looked where Buffy was staring, frowning at the group of vampires standing behind Xander.  "Um, guys, move."

Spike jumped up so he could get into the middle of the fight, Buffy right behind him.  "Boy, stay," he ordered as he staked the first clueless fledge.  He watched as Xander sat back down.

"But we need him," Willow argued, lifting a piece of wood and sending it at the advancing vampires, getting the ones on the edges of the group.  "Xander, fight," she ordered.

Xander stood up and grabbed a stake out of Buffy's bag, heading into the fight.  He got one fledge, but got thrown into a gravestone by the one right behind him.  He got up again, his head swimming, and jumped back into the fray.

"Sit!" Buffy and Spike ordered when they saw Xander stumble.  He obediently sat down.  The two of them went through the vampires faster, trying to make sure he didn't get hurt.

Xander looked around, and smiled when he saw the one coming up from the grave.  He leaned down and staked that one.

"Good job," Buffy told him, coming over to look at the back of his head.  "Small egg."

Xander scratched the sore spot on the back of his head.  "Wonderful.  Concussion sort of small egg or just an ice pack?"

"Ice pack," she said, giving him a smile.  "You feel okay?"

"Fine.  Just a little wobbly."  He stood up.  "See?"

"Fancy a shag anyone?  A good fight always makes me horny."

Xander started to unbutton his shirt, and both women looked shocked.  He had actually gotten all the way down to pushing his pants down before Willow said anything.

"Xander!  Put it on!"

He shrugged and did it.  "I thought we were all gonna...."

Buffy shook her head and glared at Spike.  "You did that on purpose."  She grabbed Xander's arm before he could put on his shirt and dragged him away.  "You may not follow any orders from Spike," she told him.  "That's an order from me.  No more Spikey orders for you, young man.  You don't know what he'll have you do."

"Bloody hell!"

"Welcome to Sunnydale!" Xander interrupted.

"I was only funnin'," Spike called after them.  Willow hit him on the arm.  "Hey!  What's that for?"

"For taking advantage of him!  He's vulnerable."

"Yeah, because'a you."  Spike smirked at her.  "I'm evil, twit, I'm supposed ta do stuff like that."   He strolled away, having had quite a lot of fun.  The naked-running Xander hadn't shown how well his carpentry job had filled the thin body out.  It had been quite educational.

"Go away, Spike," Willow told him, storming off after her friends.  "He reminded me he's evil," she told Buffy as soon as she caught up with them.  "That was his reason."

"Well, duh, he is evil," Xander agreed.  "I expected that from him."  He looked down at the women.  "At least *someone*'s having fun with this condition of mine."  He walked away from them.  He managed to get halfway across the street before someone yelled for him to 'hold it'.  It wasn't one of Sunnydale's absent cops, it was a middle-aged man.  "Yeah?" he asked him, putting on his shirt.

"Are you offering services?" he asked.

Xander shook his head.  "Sorry, only the women in my life get to screw me."  He smiled.  "But, try the corner of Oak and Eighth.  There's usually someone hanging there who works."  He continued on his way.

Buffy and Willow stood there with their mouths hanging open.  This was Xander? Buffy looked at Willow.  "Fix it faster," she ordered.  "Before he gets hurt."  She headed after the young man, shadowing him back to the store.  She watched as he walked inside and sat down next to Tara, talking to her.  She waited outside, letting Willow catch up.


Xander opened his door, giving the women standing there a bland look.  This was the second day of this spell and he was *really* tired of it. *Really* tired of it.  He frowned as Spike followed the women into his apartment.  "Is this a meeting I missed?"

"No," Buffy sighed.  She pointed at the chair and Spike sat.  She looked at Xander.  "We heard rumors about a gang of humans going around the cemeteries, knocking in some of the vaults and crypts."  She glanced at Spike.  "Unfortunately, it's true.  He ended up at the shop this morning because he barely made it into the sewers before the ceiling fell in on him.  There are now at least a hundred vampires wandering around looking for new housing.  We're going to go hunt as many of them down as we can while you watch Spike and his amazing broken arm."

Spike waved with his good hand.  "Roomies again, mate," he said not in the least bit cheerfully.

Xander looked at Buffy, then opened his mouth.  She shrugged.  "Do I have to remind you that I'm presently under some sort of ...compulsion to follow every order I'm given?" he asked her.  She shook her head, but she didn't seem fazed by it.  "And you're leaving evil boy with *me* while I'm in this state?"

Buffy shrugged.  "I can't find anywhere else to put him, Xander, and he did promise to leave you alone."

"Sure, for how long?" Xander asked coolly.

"Xander, he won't hurt you, he knows we'll kick his butt," Willow added.

Tara smiled at him.  "I'm on your side," she told him, "but I'm being overruled."

Xander nodded, then shook his head as he looked back at Buffy.  "No.  Find somewhere else.  I don't want to be his servant tonight, or any night, so get over it."

"There's nowhere else," Willow reminded him.

"Yay.  Buffy has a basement.  You two have a closet."

"He's staying, Xander," Buffy told him, sounding firm.



"I'm against this too, if it helps," Spike offered, holding his broken arm.  "Doubt you'd be up to helping me reset this thing."

"See, even the *vampire* thinks it's a bad idea," Xander told her.

"Xander, he has to stay here.  If not, he can get into trouble."

"And what do you think he's going to do to me?" he asked, sounding a little screechy.  "Pardon me, but I don't want to help him right now.  I'd rather have this spell be gone first!"

"He's staying, Xander, you're the only one who has his own apartment."

"You have a house!" Xander reminded her.

"With a little sister."

"Yeah, who can't be made to do stuff because an undead evil person tells her to!"

"Xander, I'm ordering you, he's staying," Willow said firmly.

"Willow, no!" Tara told her.  "Xander, you don't have to house him," she told him, getting up to stand beside him.  "Buffy, this is a really bad idea.  He's vulnerable to Spike doing bad things to him.  We don't know what Spike could make him do, even kill people for him."  Buffy frowned.  "This is a really bad idea.  He can stay at the shop."

"With Anya and the magic stuff?" Buffy asked.  "And the weapons?"

"He can't hurt her.  He can hurt Xander."

"No, he won't," Buffy told her, glaring at Spike.  "Because he knows that we'll hurt him just as much as he tries to do to Xander."

"Buffy, there's probably stuff he can do to Xander that we'll never find out about, especially if Spike orders him not to tell us," Tara told her.  Sometimes, she wondered if anyone besides her liked Xander. This was a really bad idea.

Buffy shrugged.  "I'm sure he won't," she said stubbornly.  Spike put on his most innocent look.  "Will you leave Xander alone tonight?"

"Probably," he said with a slight shrug.  Willow glared at him.  "What?  You want me to *promise*?" he snorted.  "I am evil, and a vampire, witchy's right."

"There's still no other way," Buffy sighed.  "Spike, you're staying."

"Then I'm staying too," Tara told her.  Willow glared at her.  "What?  Do you think that Spike is *so* much nicer to a victim than some of the other vampires?  I'm staying!"

"Fine," Buffy agreed, heading for the door.  "Willow, come on.  We'll go patrol by ourselves."  She and Willow left, slamming the door behind them.

Xander sat down, not looking at Spike.  "As soon as they're gone, so are you, Spike," he said quietly.  "I'm not taking this chance."

Spike snickered.  "Bet that'll cause a row."  He put his feet up on the coffee table.  "'Sides, I need to fix this first."  He looked at his arm, which had a bone sticking out of it.  "A night with some good blood'll fix me right up."  Tara cleared her throat.  "I won't hurt him."

"I bet," she said, sitting beside Xander.  "That's why I'm staying."  Spike chuckled.  "Besides, I can help fix that."  She held out a hand and Spike held out his arm, letting her see it.  "Take off your jacket."  She looked at Xander.  "Do you have anything for a splint?"

"Some cardboard," he offered.  "A few pieces of trim that're only a couple of inches long."

"Cardboard," she said decisively, and he went to go get it.  She helped Spike take off his jacket and worked his overshirt off too, so she could get a better look at the break.  "I'll have to set it," she told him.

He nodded.  "Figured as much.  Been here before.  Know it'll hurt, so go ahead."  She smiled at him.  "Don't have to be nice," he told her, looking away from her.

"I'm nice as long as you are," she told him quietly.  He smirked at her. "I mean it, if you hurt Xander, I'm going to do a spell on you that'll make what you put him through look pleasant."  She looked up as Xander came back with the promised cardboard.  "Can you fold that in half?" she requested.  He did it for her while she finished examining the wound.  She tried to pull the bones straight, but she wasn't strong enough.

Xander handed her the cardboard and the bandages.  "Let me."  He braced a foot on the chair and grabbed Spike's wrist, pulling hard.  The bones grated but they shifted back into place.  "There," he said proudly.

Tara smiled at him and fixed the splint and bandages.  She backed away.  "There you go. All done."  She forced Xander to sit on the couch beside her.  "Now what should we do?" she asked after ten minutes of silently staring at each other.

"We could do naughty stuff," Spike smirked.

"Only if you want to be a fish out of water," she reminded him.  "A breathing one."  He shuddered.  She looked at Xander.  "Do you have any board games?"  He nodded.  "Want to play something?"

"Sure," he said, hopping up to get his tv trivia game.  "Here we are."  He cleared off the coffee table and set the game up.  "Spike, there's a packet of blood in the fridge.  You left your emergency stash again," he reminded the vampire when he was stared at.  "He can go last," he told Tara.

"We'll kick his butt," she agreed happily.  After all, the vampire didn't really watch much modern tv, only soaps and the brit shows on PBS.

"Hey, I resent that," Spike called. "Only got two channels on the tele."  He found the packet of blood and popped it into the microwave to defrost first.  "Crackers?"

"Second cupboard to the right of the fridge," Xander called. He rolled to see which one of them would go first, which gave Tara the advantage.  She landed on a 'seventies' show block and he picked up a card.  "Name two characters from the Love Boat."

She laughed. "Um, Gopher and the Captain?"

"And the name is?" Spike asked as he poured the unfrozen blood into a mug so it could be warmed up.

"Stubbing?" she guessed.  Xander clapped and rolled to move his own piece. Tara picked up a card, smiling at the question.  "Name one horror character in a movie from the eighties?"

"Werewolf," Xander said quickly.  "Teen wolf and assorted sequels and knockoffs."

Spike laughed in the kitchen.  "Go ahead and roll for me, twits."

Xander rolled for him.  "Seventies trivia," he called.

"Bugger," Spike said as he joined them. "Hey, I want the bronze wheel." Xander changed pieces with him. "What's the question?"

"Name the three assistants to Dr. Who," Tara read.

"Figures I'd get somethin' the boy'd be able to answer."  He sipped his mug of blood.  "Not a clue."  Xander laughed.  "Bet only the Watcher git'd know too."  He dunked a saltine into his blood.  "You need to buy better food, mate.  Better munchies."

"Anya threw them all out two weeks ago," Xander said grimly.  "Said I was becoming chunky."

Tara patted him on the shoulder.  "It's muscles," she assured him.  The phone rang and she answered it.  "Hello?"  She smiled.  "Hi, Giles!"  She looked around.  "No, they're out patrolling.  Some kids took down a bunch of crypts."  She looked at Xander, then got up and took the phone into the bathroom to talk to him.  "Giles, I have to ask you something.  Why did you call?"  Her smile came back.  "You knew? Oh, Dawn told you.  That's good.  Do you have any idea how to cancel it?"  She looked at the door.  "Really?"

"You might as well tell us," Xander called.  "Eww, Spike!"

Tara opened the door and glared at Spike.  "Leave him alone," she warned.  The voice on the phone said something.  "No, Buffy forced Xander to house him for tonight.  Yup, that's him."  She handed the phone to Xander.  "For you."  She walked over and dug through her purse, eventually coming up with her phone book.  She handed it to Xander once she found Buffy's cellphone number.

Xander listened to the man on the other end, feeling comforted.  Giles would make them leave him alone.  He smiled at Tara when she handed him Buffy's cell number.  "Really? Will total isolation work?"  He shuddered.  "Yeah, that'd be bad.  Yup, right here."  He read off the number.  "Did you need the area code?"  He laughed.  "No, I didn't think you'd been gone that long.  Of course we miss you, especially me right now because Willow won't do anything and Tara said it has to wear out."  He listened, his smile falling away.  "But that's not what she did."

Tara took the phone back.  "She mispronounced a spell which made him absorb some of the demon's aspect into him."  She laughed.  "Yeah, that one.  How long?"  She looked at Xander.  "Cool.  Yeah, as long as you can make Buffy take Spike."  She giggled.  "Of course I think you're that strong, she didn't listen to us at all.  No, he's here."  She handed the phone to Spike.

Spike listened.  "Won't do that," he assured him.  "Just a bit'a fun, and the boy agreed," he protested.  "Fine," he sighed, handing it back.  He finished his blood and stood up.  "Told me to go play in the street so I'll go do that."  He sneezed on Tara, spraying her with blood.  "Sorry, didn't mean to do that."  He smiled and headed out the door.

Xander listened to the voice on the other end.  "Really?  Who called you anyway?  Oh, Anya.  And Dawn?"  He smiled.  "I guess she was looking out for me."  His smile slipped some.  "Really?  Well, I guess it's still of the good. Yup, bye."  He shrugged and handed the phone back to Tara for a moment.

She listened to his careful instructions, writing them down on the handy little notepad in her purse.  "Okay, Mr. Giles.  I'll do that.  You're going to call Buffy, right?"  She smiled.  "Cool.  Yup, thanks.  Bye-bye."  She hung up.  "It'll be okay really soon," she promised Xander.  "He told me where to look to counteract the spell."  She gathered everything together and put it back into her purse.  "Remember to lock the door behind me," she called as she left.

Xander walked over and locked it, making sure no one would be able to get in.


Buffy answered her cellphone, smiling when she heard the voice on the other end.  "Hey, Giles."  She staked a charging vampire then sat on a headstone to talk to him. "No, nothing major.  Just some homeless vamps."  She waved Willow over.  "What's up?"  She frowned.  "Who told you?"  She rolled her eyes.  "I'm sure it's nothing."  There was a long pause while he chewed her out with a lecture about harming those who helped her.  "But he...."  She trailed off as Giles told her exactly what Spike could be doing to Xander at that moment, in graphic detail.  "But he can't hurt..."  Another long pause.  "Oh.  Well, can it be fixed?  Because this is really a drag, the whole being careful around him thing."  She saw Willow rolling her eyes.  "Speaking of which, Willow is right here," she said, handing over the phone so she could go clean her ear.  The filth that Giles had just told her was making it feel scummy.

"Hi, Giles," Willow said cheerfully.  Her smile fell away quickly.  "But...."  She shook her head.  "But, Giles!"  He chewed her out for a few more minutes.  "Yes, Giles.  I'll help Tara fix it.  Thank you for telling us where the spell is."  She handed it back to Buffy and sat down to pout.

Buffy listened.  "Sure.  I'll make sure he stays in his apartment."  She smiled.  "Of course.  Well, we tried..."  Her smile fell away.  "But Spike can't hurt anyone!"  She slumped in on herself.  "Yes, Giles, I realize that he can get around that with Xander.  But I didn't think he would!"  She frowned.  "Yes, Giles.  I'll go get him.  Yes, Giles.  Thank you, Giles."  She hung up.  "Did he get you with the lecturing too?"

Willow nodded.  "He called me immature and purposefully harmful.  He reminded me of the three-time rule."  She stood up.  "Should we go get Spike?"

"Nah, we'll stop by on the way home.  We've still got about ninety vamps running around looking for homes."

"Yeah, Tara can hold him off for that long."  They headed further into the cemetery, going to do their job.  Spike could wait.


Xander woke up to the feeling of a hand over his mouth.  "What?" he mumbled.

"Listen to me, mate, you won't remember this later and you won't tell anyone 'bout it either," Spike hissed in his ear.  "You will blank your mind and not remember any'a this."

Xander nodded, his mind going blank.  He had to obey.  If a suggestion was like an order to him, an order was the word of God.  "How did you get in?" he mumbled.

Spike smiled down at him.  "Your chit gave me a key last week to water the plants."

"I want it back," Xander told him.

"If I feel like it," Spike told him.  He leaned closer.  "Blank out now."  Xander's face went blank. "Good boy," he purred.


Buffy knocked on Xander's door, but there wasn't an answer.  "I guess he managed to get rid of Tara and Spike already."

"I tried the house, Tara's not home," Willow told her, biting her lip.  "I have a key."  She dug around for her keys, pulling out the set and finding the one for this door.  She let them in, heading for the bedroom.  "Spike!" Willow screamed.

Buffy headed that way, hoping to catch him doing something.  What she saw made her sick.  "Get out," she snarled, hauling the vampire out of the apartment.  "Get out and never come back!"

Spike smirked at her and sprayed something on her bare shoulder.  "Forget," he told her, then sauntered off.

She wiped her skin, but it was starting to tingle.  "Eww!"  She jogged back inside, still wiping herself off.  "He sprayed me with something!"

"I think Xander needs some medical attention," Willow told her.

"He sprayed me with something!" Buffy repeated.

"Buffy, focus!" Willow ordered. Buffy looked at the bed.  "He needs medical attention."

"No, he needs a shower, it can't be that bad."  She looked the body over.  "He looks okay, just messy."  She hauled the body up and carried him into the bathroom, sticking Xander in the bathtub and turning on the showerhead.  The water hit the body, making it flinch, so she turned on the hot too.  "I'm not scrubbing him," she noted.

Willow snorted and walked in, already rolling up her sleeves. "I did it when he had chicken pox, I can do it now."  She grabbed a bath puff and poured a liberal amount of soap onto it.  As she knelt beside the bed, she looked at her friend.  "You'd better hope he doesn't remember this," she warned.  "He will come after you for this."

"I'll order him not to remember then," Buffy said with a shrug. "It won't hurt him."

"Bet me," Willow told her.  "Tara tried to warn us."  She started to scrub Xander's arm.  "We'd better get a solid story going, in case he wakes up."  She switched to his chest.  "We should tell him."

"It'll hurt him, Will, we can't."

"If we don't, he'll kill us," Willow argued.  "He'd want to know.  I would and I know he would."

"I think he'll react really badly if you tell him."


"You're insisting that he be told," Buffy reminded her.  "I want him to not know so he won't have bad mental images."  She shuddered.  "Giles was right, we shouldn't have left Spike with him."

"I want to know what happened to Tara," Willow told her.  "She was here when we left."  She skipped Xander's lower stomach and pelvic region, moving down to his legs.  "Call the house and check for her?"

"Sure."  Buffy gladly left her to clean up Xander, going to do the easy job.  She dialed the house, frowning when her sister picked up the phone.  "Dawn, it's two a.m., why are you up?"  She heard the excuse and sighed.  "Fine.  Did Tara make it home?  Really?  Okay.  No, wake her up.  Because Willow needs to talk to her.  No, it's not something that the group's going to have to deal with."

"Done," Willow called.

Buffy handed over the phone and went to lift Xander out of the tub.  Then she thought about it and went to change his bed for him.  By the time she was done, Xander was sort of blue around the extremities, and had bumps all over his body.  She made sure he was tucked in tightly then went to join Willow in the living room. "He's in bed."

Willow hung up.  "Tara said that they fixed Spike's arm and he left.  She went home after that."   She crossed her arms, looking at the door.  "He must have had a key."

"We can respell the door tomorrow.  C'mon, let's go home."

"We should stay."

"I'll pop over first thing in the morning."  Buffy tugged on her friend's arm. "He'll be fine.  I told you he wasn't that hurt."

"No, he wasn't that hurt," Willow agreed reluctantly.

They left the apartment together, Willow locking the door not only physically, but magically so Spike couldn't get in.  Tomorrow would be soon enough to deal with this.


Xander woke up with a yawn.  "Work," he mumbled, heading for the shower.  He winced when he stepped onto the wet bathmat, but he didn't worry about that.  It was too early in the morning.  Maybe after he had some coffee.  He went about his day, getting ready for work, and never even wondered why he felt sore and stiff.  As he walked out the door, he felt a tingle but ignored it.  He was going to be late.  Once he got to the site, his boss decided to razz him about calling off yesterday because Buffy said so.  The guys all got into the teasing, except the guy who didn't like Xander because he was the crew team leader.  He glared at Xander and told him, why don't you 'go fly'.

Xander, because of what was going on, answered him.  "Because humans aren't aerodynamically shaped to fly.  Not only don't we have wings, we don't have any other structure that would allow us to even glide, and our body shape is all wrong to do anything but fall.  That's why the myths about Dracula flying have got to be false."

His boss gave him a funny look.  "Know that from experience do you?"

"Yup.  When I was ten, I managed to finally fly off the roof."

"You waited that long?" another guy asked.

"I had to be able to climb up onto the roof and I couldn't do that until I was nine and a half.  It took me half a year to finally fall.  Every other time I managed to glide over to the tree I was jumping for."  He smiled.  "Then the tree got cut down and I didn't quite manage to glide to the ground, which is how I know that humans are not meant for flight."

His boss clapped him on the back, smirking at the wince.  "Good story.  Now get to work.  You're drywalling today."

"Yes, sir."  He headed for his part of the job, his crew following him.

Xander's boss watched him go, wondering if there was something wrong with that guy.  He wasn't usually quite so...different.


Buffy woke up with a yawn, and the first image that hit her mind was Xander, lying in a bathtub, and being a mess.  "Eww," she groaned.  She climbed out of bed and headed for the shower.  She had time to go get him.  By the time she finished getting ready for the day, it was nearly ten.  She walked over to Xander's apartment, but he wasn't there.  She hit herself on the head.  "Work," she groaned.  She jogged over to where Xander was working, smiling when she saw him hanging off a scaffold inside the building.  She stopped at his boss' office, giving him her most winning smile.

"You," he grunted.

"Yuppers, me."  She pointed at Xander.  "I need to steal him for a few more days."

He looked up at her.  "Oh, really?  Why?"  He leaned back in his seat, his posture saying 'prove it'.

She thought quickly.  "Because if I don't, his head injury will probably show up and scare people."  She touched the back of her head.  "He's got a nasty egg right about here.  He was jumped the other night."

"Did he report it to the police?"

She snorted.  "Like they're going to do anything.  Have you ever tried to get them to do anything?"

"Point," he admitted grudgingly.  He looked outside, just in time to see Xander walking across the top of the scaffolding like it was a tightrope.  "Harris!" he yelled.  Xander shifted, but caught his balance and climbed down so he could run to the office.  "Show me your head," he demanded.

Xander turned, letting him see the egg on the back of his head.  "I hit a gravestone."

"A gravestone?"

"We were out for a walk," Buffy told him quickly.  "Some goth kids."

"Yeah, the vampires were really strong," Xander agreed.

His boss shook his head.  "Fine, take him home.  Bring him back once he's normal."

"Will do," Buffy told him as she grabbed Xander's arm.  "Go get you stuff, we're going to go to the shop."  She let him go so he could go grab his lunch.  "It shouldn't be more than a few days," she told the boss.  "The doctor who saw him said it'd probably be about that long.  That's why I had him call off the other day."  She quit babbling when Xander came back.  "Come on, the girls are waiting for us."  She drug Xander from the office, taking him to the safety of the shop.  "You weren't supposed to go to work," she said as they walked.

"You didn't say I couldn't go today," he complained.  "Besides, I need the money.  Money is good, it pays bills."

"Yes, but humiliation is bad," she reminded him.

"Oh, *now* you're concerned about that stuff?"

She stopped to look at him.  "I'm sorry, Xander.  I thought he would behave himself.   If I had known he wouldn't play nicely I would have let Dawn torture him."

Xander shook his head and walked off, heading for his car.  "You did know, you refused to acknowledge it."  He got in and slammed the door.  "I'm going home.  Leave me alone."  He drove away, hoping to have some time alone until this fixed itself.

Buffy watched him go, frowning at his trunk.  "I'll make them stop," she promised the air.  She strode off, going to light a fire under Willow.  Possibly literally.


Xander looked over as his door opened, showing Spike standing there.  "Go away," he warned.   "I will be alone."

"Don't be that way," Spike smirked, walking into the apartment and slamming the door.  "It's not like I *hurt* you or anything."  Xander rolled up his sleeve and showed off the bite marks.  "Ah, come on, I'm being myself."

Xander drained his beer and threw the can at the vampire's head.  "Go away!  Get out!  I know what you did last night and it's not happening again."  He saw the smirk.  "Oh, no.  I don't have to listen to you.  Giles said I didn't when I called him."

Spike laughed.  "Of course he did, he's not here though."

Xander shrugged.  "I still don't have to listen to you."  He picked up a marker and lifted his pants leg, finishing off the design Giles had faxed to him.  "Me," he said as he connected the lines.  A small glow shone around his head.  "You can't hurt me."

Spike held up a crystal, still smirking.  "In here, I have some of your blood.   I can make you do anything I want."

Someone knocked on the door.  "Go away!" Xander called.  The door opened and Willow walked in.  "What do you want?"

"Xander, you don't have to be that way."  She noticed the crystal Spike was holding and squealed.  "Where did you get that."

"Break it," Xander told Spike.

"But..." Willow said.  "It's important."

"Break it," Xander repeated, harsher this time.  "I can always take off this rune, but if that gets out, someone's going to pay."

"But, Xander," Willow protested.  "It's an important stone.  It's even prepared so it can be worked with."

"Yeah, with my blood!" he yelled.  "Break it, Spike!  Before I break you!"  Willow tried to snatch the crystal but Spike kept it from her.  "Break it now!"  Spike laughed and put it into his pocket.  Xander pulled out a crossbow.  "Break it!" he hissed.

Someone knocked on the door.  "Are you all right, Mr. Harris?" the landlord called.

"No, but they're *supposedly* friends!" he called back.  He got up and walked over to the door, opening it.  "The blond one stole from me and the redhead is trying to claim what he stole."  He glared at Spike, then at Willow.  "Get out, Willow.  Now.  Fix the problem that you're having."

She snorted.  "There's no problem, Xander.  That can't be yours."  She looked him over.  "After all, Spike can't hurt you."

"Giles is on his way back," Xander said with a cold smile.  "He's promised me to stop this shit.  You know, the thing that you caused and that you're refusing to stop?"

Buffy walked up behind the landlord. "Problems?" she asked calmly.

"Spike has something of mine and Willow's trying to claim it," he told her.  "Take the crystal from Spike and break it, Buffy."

"It'll release something," Willow told her.

Buffy looked at Xander.  "Release what, Xander?"

"My blood."

"Oh."  She walked in and started to pat down Spike but he tried to move away from her.  "Hold still."  She grabbed the front of his duster with one hand and patted him down with the other.  She found the crystal and showed it to Xander, who nodded.  "What is this thing?"

"It's a power holding crystal," Willow told her.

Buffy nodded and handed it to Xander.  "If it's yours, keep it safe.  If not, give it to Willow in a few days."  She watched as Xander dropped it onto the floor and broke it, and a little trickle of blood flowed out of the remains.  "Okay then."  She smiled at the landlord.  "I promise, this will be solved."  He smiled and walked away.  Buffy nodded at the door. "Close it, Xander."  He shut the door.  "Did you call Giles?"  He nodded.  "You don't trust us?"

"Would you?"

"We haven't done anything to you."

"No, you just left Spike here and gave him the idea to do whatever else he did last night," he said coldly.  "You haven't forced her to end the spell, you never told me that there was a counter to it to protect me from the orders, and you never made her stop.  Guess what I saw earlier today," he said, turning to look at Willow.  "I saw Dawn following a stupid order."  Buffy's mouth opened.  "Something about playing in traffic."  Buffy looked at Willow.

"Wasn't me!" Willow complained.

"And who else would have done it?" Spike smirked.

"You, shut up," Buffy told him.  She looked at Willow again.  "Did you cast it on her?"

"No," Willow said indignantly.  "You're just pissed that you're suffering, even though we've been working on the cure.  Tara's working on it right now," she told Xander.

"Good, why aren't you?" he asked.  She huffed.  "Buffy, you?  Shouldn't you be helping her with it?"  Buffy shook her head.  "Why not?"

"Because I don't touch magical stuff," she said with a shrug. "I mess it up.  But she's right, Tara is working on it."  She pulled out her phone and called the Magic Box.  "Anya, tell Tara to check Dawn for the spell too.  Xander said he saw her playing in traffic."  She hung up and looked at Spike.  "Disappear before you're dust," she told him.  He walked out quickly, but looking calm as he went.  Buffy looked at Xander.  "Giles said he was giving you a shield.  Does it work?"  He shrugged.  "Jump up and down, Xander."  She watched as he fought off the order.  "Okay, good, it works.  Then we're all going to go back to the Magic Box and get this spell off you.  Giles said he'd be there at midnight."  She waved a hand at the door.  "Go ahead, I want to talk to Willow."  Xander grabbed his keys and left them in his apartment.  "Did you do something?" she asked quietly.  Willow shook her head.  "I'm not believing you right now and I don't know why."  Willow gave her a hurt look.  "You've been doing bad stuff, Willow, and I'm not happy with it.  Tara's not the only one getting the wiggin's from your spells."  She opened the door.  "Let's go.  We'll deal with this later, when Giles is here."  She followed the witch out to the parking lot, watching as she headed off into the night.  Buffy took a shortcut, having felt a small vampire party out for a hunt.


Xander was sitting on the table, talking to Dawn, when Buffy came in.  "Sorry, hunting party."

"That's fine," Xander told her.  "Where's Willow?"

"She left and headed back while I hunted," Buffy told him with a frown.  "She's supposed to be here."  She glanced around.  "Did Spike come back here?"  Xander shook his head.  "Damn.  I wonder where they are."

"Not caring about Spike at the moment," Xander pointed out.  "Tara is almost ready to cast the counter for both of us."  Buffy frowned at her sister.  "And Willow didn't cast it on her.  Spike transferred it to her through my blood."  He slid off the table.  "She has to finish mixing the potion stuff and we'll be free."

"Good," Buffy said firmly.  She looked around.  "Do we think that something happened to Willow?"  Xander shrugged.  "Not caring?"

"Not at the moment."  He stretched.  "Tara, Buffy's back," he called.

"I heard."  She walked out of the training room with steaming cup of something and a book under her arm.  "Both of you come here, this is hot."  They hurried over and stood still while she painted their foreheads with the stuff.  "There, one more part," she told them.  She put down the cup and opened the book.  She started to slowly say the chant, frowning over some of the words.  Giles had gone over the pronunciations with her, and she was getting it right, but it didn't feel right.  She said the final word and looked up.  Both of them had glowing yellow eyes.  "Um, didn't quite go right," she said quickly.  Buffy walked over and looked at the two others.  "I think we'll have to go through a few.  Spike must have put some of his blood into Xander and Dawn."

"You think?" Dawn growled.  She licked her lips as she looked at her sister.  "I'm hungry, sis, you?"

"Nope, I ate dinner.  You should have too."  She looked at Xander.  "Totally possessed?"

"Not yet," he purred, reaching for her.  "C'mon," he whined.  "I've been good.  I need a treat."  He stalked her around the store.

"Xander!" Tara shouted.  "Leave Buffy alone or I'm leaving you like this.  And you don't have the stomach to drink blood!"  He pouted at her, which looked really pathetic with the fangs.  "We'll have to wait until Giles gets here," she said firmly.  She checked her watch.  Three hours.  "Buffy, why don't you take some of the petty cash and go get them steak dinners?" she suggested.  "It's going to be a wait."  Buffy nodded and ducked behind the register, coming out with Anya's special box.  She quickly grabbed some money and hurried out.  "Why bite her?"

"Because we're keeping you," Xander told her with a grin.  "You're powerful and you'd make one hell of a childe."  He winked.

Dawn giggled.  "Besides, who else would teach us how to do things?"  She walked over and sniffed Tara's neck.  "You smell nice, but my sister's blood calls out to the demons we're infected with."

"Oh, yay me," Tara told her.  "Sit and wait.  We've got a few hours."  The two pseudo-vampires sat staring at her.  "Watch each other," she told them.


Giles walked in the door and stopped, frowning at what he saw.  "Possessed?" he asked Tara, who was petting Dawn's head, which was in her lap.  Xander was curled up on the table behind her.

"No, Spike tainted the blood he gave Dawn and Xander when he attacked him.  The removal turned them into pseudo-vamps.  Buffy's hiding."

Dawn looked up and yawned.  "Hi, Giles!" she said, showing off her fangs.

Giles walked closer.  "Xander?"  Xander peeked out from behind Tara.  His face was even more vampiric.  "Dear God.  How did this happen?"

"Do you remember the night you bitched Buffy out?" Xander asked.  Giles nodded.  "Spike left and came back."  He shifted, stretching against Tara's back.  "No one said anything about what they found when they found him doing stuff, but I have bite marks and cuts on my body.  I found them after a day of work."   Giles shook his head, looking upset.  "So, can you fix it or am I going to go have someone turn me?  I really don't like this halfway spot.  It's creepy.  I want to bite and turn Tara but I know I can't."

"No, you can't," Giles agreed, coming up to Dawn and lifting her chin so he could look in her eyes.  "How long have they been like this?"

"Three long hours," Tara told him with a sigh.  She squealed.  "Xander!"

"Couldn't resist," Xander said against her back, licking over the sweaty flesh there.  Giles pulled him off the table and stood him up.  "Sorry," he told Tara, giving her a smile.

Giles looked him over, then shook his head.  "I can fix this, but it's a very intricate spell.  We'll have to have complete isolation and many more supplies than we have here."  He glanced around.  "Xander, do you know where Anya is?"

"Pouting and sulking at the motel."  He grinned.  "I wouldn't have sex with her and she's really upset."

"That's fine.  Does she have the petty cash?"

"No, Buffy raided it earlier," Tara told her, pointing at the box.  "What do we need?"

"We'll need food, a rental of an out-of-the-way place, magic supplies, and a large enough cauldron to brew for a few days."  He looked at the affected people.  "Go wait in the training room.  I'll be right back.  I think we can do most of that tonight."  He left the shop, going to confer with someone who might help them.  On the way, he ran into Spike and Willow, who was crawling after him.  "Getting revenge?" he asked dryly.

Spike looked down at Willow, then up at the Watcher.  "Yup."  He smiled.  "Did you like it?"

Giles grimaced.  "Not at all.  Do you know how long it will take to remove it?"

Spike giggled.  "Not if you knew what you're doin'.  It's really simple."  He took a flask out of his pocket and poured it on Willow's head.  "Forget it all, witchly-one.  Then get over it."  The put the flask back into his pocket and walked away whistling.

Giles watched as Willow shook herself.  "Are you all right?" he asked when she looked up at him.

"Why am I on the ground?"

"I have no idea.  I walked out and found you this way."  He helped her up.  "Come with me, we've got to break a spell on Xander and Dawn."  He subtly pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped some of the solution off her; he could figure out what it was later, maybe it would help.

"What did Xander do now?" she asked.  Giles glared at her.  "What?"

"Willow, you cast the spell presently affecting them.  We removed it from your memory so you could never do it again."  She started to make a protesting noise.  "Shut it or I'm going to cast it on you and give you to Spike."  He walked away, heading to his rental car.  "Come along.  You caused this problem, you can help me stock up on things so I can fix it for you."  She obediently followed along behind him, pouting the whole way.

It would be fixed, one way or another.