Notes: And it's all because D'Nalia asked what I was willing to do to keep my muses happy.

Demands From the Muses

I sat at my computer, same as I had almost every morning for the last three years, and turned it on, groaning when I realized how loud it was. I shook my head as I saw little shadows moving around the apartment, not quite sure what they were. It didn't *look* like my cats, but it couldn't be. . . .

As soon as I had opened my WordPerfect 7 program, I felt a little hand on my leg. I thought it might be Chocolate, the tiniest kitten - and personal stalker - but it wasn't a cold paw and she always had cold paws. I looked at the jacket-covered box behind me but Oz was still sleeping too. I finally looked down and squeaked. Yes, I squeaked.

Standing there was a miniature pouting Ares.

Now, I admit, I've got an Ares muse, almost, or at least sometimes, but to see him standing there was just very strange to me. I'd only seen my muses once before, they always climbed into my ears while I napped and read stories to me from inside there. But here one was, pouting at me. I reached down and touched him on the top of the head, making sure he was real first of all and not some figment of high blood sugar or lack of caffeine. He bit me, he was real. I carefully helped him up onto my desk, watching the little eight-inch high man strut and snarl. "What?" I asked finally, not able to do anything while he was giving me those looks.

"We've come to a decision," he said, blocking my view of my screensaver and the naked men doing it on it. "We like D'Nalia's idea. What will you do to keep us happy?"

Now, this is me here. My muses wake me up to give me stories. So I glared back at him and said simply, "not what you want. I'm not writing that piece with you screwing everyone you can find because of that strange flower that made you irresistible. Get over it already. I still haven't written the one where Xander submits himself and becomes a puppy or where he and Ray K get kidnapped and turned into slaves. Your story is *way* down the list."

He waved a hand. "That's not what I was talking about, though we'll be discussing that fic tonight." He smirked at me. "The muses have been talking about Unionizing." My mouth fell open and he laughed. "Yup, we want better treatment."

"Hey! I treat you guys like princes. I let you live in my head. You get to play with my cats and Newt's fairies. What more do you want?"

"Well, for one thing," he said, making a list appear in his hand. "We want you to get voice rec. software so you can just say it as we tell you the stories."

"Working on it, when I get money. Keep going." I leaned back in my chair and crossed my arms on my stomach. "What else did you guys want?"

"Well," a tiny, calm voice said from beside my ear, making me jump. "I'd like to have some better roles. I'm always the comforting one. Why can't I be comforted too? Or even bad? There are days I'd like to be bad."

I reached over and carefully stroked the eight-inch Oz's head. "I'm working on one, okay? Let me get this stint of Family out of the way and you can manipulate Xander while being a vamp. You can even get him to destroy Sunnydale itself this time."

Oz nodded. "Deal. I'll be nice as long as I get to be the smarmy one sometimes."

"GHS," I said slowly.

Oz snorted. "Only if he teaches me how to dance."

I winked. "We'll see." I turned back to Ares, letting Oz crawl up onto my shoulder from the stack of papers and lounge. "Keep going, leather boy."

Ares frowned at me. "That's another thing that has to stop. I won't allow Xander and Strife to make fun of me any more!" He stamped his foot.

"Sure. We'll try. I don't do a great job of writing Strife; I don't have a Strife muse so it comes out funny. But I'll try. What else?"

"I want more time in GHS," Methos said, crawling up the boxes holding stuff to get onto the desk and pout at me. "I want more time on screen. You don't have to write me having sex, though I'd like it if you did, but I need more screen time. That naughty one needs a firmer leash."

"Cool. I'll start giving you bigger segments, but that means no going back to Chicago for a while." He shrugged. "What about what Ray wants?"

"He just wants more nookie," Oz told me, stroking over the hoop I always wore.

"I think I can do that," I temporized. "You guys know I'm having problems with sex scenes, making them sound more interesting and different. There are only so many ways to have sex."

"We know," Methos said, reaching out to pat me on the chest, the only place he could reach me. "We'll work on your inspiration there."

I nodded. "Okay, that's reasonable. What else?"

"I would like to see more character stuff," Methos said. "More thinking stories."

"Hey, I write what you guys give me. You guys give me GHS and Family, you get GHS and Family." I smirked. "Blame yourselves." I glanced around. "Is the kiddie muse around too?"

"Yes, but she's off sucking her thumb as Miri. She's not happy about something but she won't tell us," Methos said. He looked off the edge of the desk and smiled. "Oh, Xander," he called, getting the muse's attention away from the Oz kitten. "Weren't you supposed to give out the next part of the list?"

He nodded and climbed up the boxes, coming up to sit on the edge of my desk. "Listen, I know your wrists are starting to hurt," he said calmly, giving him just the merest hint of a grin, "but we need you to put out more stuff. I like being watched and read. I like what you've been doing with us, but we need more action. I need more in depth stories, ones where I get to stretch and grow, become a man or figure that I am one." He winked at Oz. "Great work with Family 11, I *liked* that. And with Family 12. And with the recent Alignment stuff, I've really been liking that. I like how I'm growing up and growing into Oz at the same time." He shrugged. "I guess I want you to write more serious stuff. More like the original stuff you do. I want more meat and potatoes sort of stories instead of fluffy ones. Can you?"

"Sure. What do I have already started that you'd like to see me finish?"

"Well, I don't think that there's very much in that stuff. The only thing I can think of in that group is the puppy story." He shivered. "I really would like to see the end of that one by the way."

I nodded. "I'll see what I can't do one of these days when I'm bored, but you guys have got to quit giving me stuff night and day. If you don't quit, I'll never get the backlog done. I know Blair's been pissed because I left him hanging in that superheros story. Not to mention the big hate crimes story that's been on my hard drive for almost two years now. I'm barely keeping up with the stuff you give me, and I'm not even going to think about the stuff I've lost."

"See, and that stuff was some of the stuff that I'm talking about," Xander said quickly. "The stranded story where I get to be noble and suffer to get Oz and me free. The puppy story that keeps popping up. The other stuff that you think when you're so pissed at us. I want to see those come out."

I blew a kiss at him. "Then give them to me when I'm doing something other than enjoying myself, Xander." He nodded, biting his lip. "Was there anything else?"

"Yeah, we want a shrine," Xander said, hopping up to grin brightly at me. "Just a small one, one where we can go and rest when it's not our turn. Oh, and it has to have one of those lotto ball machines so we can pick whose turn it is."

I shook my head. "Nope. Not even." His face fell. "Listen, I'm still working on the plans to a shrine for one author, the only one I've ever built. I don't know what I'd do for yours and it'd take me forever."

Xander pouted at me, bringing out his GHSness. "Please?" he begged. "We'll be good and play with the cats. We might even leave Kaiya alone for a few days."

Oz nodded, kissing my ear. "I agree. I'd like to have a home to go rest in when I'm not in your head. It's getting kinda cluttered and we could use a home."

"Nothing fancy of course," Methos added.

"Yeah, just some good thrones with leather curtains. Oh, and silk. I *like* silk," Ares purred.

"No!" I screamed, blinking, and they were all gone. "D'Nalia!"

the end.