Pre-Glory and Dawn.

The Start of A New Day.

Xander walked up the stairs to his and Anya's apartment, pausing when he heard the noises.  He stared at his door for a minute.  Then he called someone, hanging up after the first ring and texting them instead.  //Coming over?//  He heard a phone ring in the apartment.   Well, that answered a question.  He texted another phone with a 'get here now' code and a //I'm at home.  Please.//  He leaned against the stairway wall, staring at his door.  He heard the bottom door slam and waved her up, pointing at his door.

She listened.  Then she looked at him.  "I'm here to keep you from killing?"

"I tried my usual one first and my apartment had the ringtone of _Witchy Woman_," he said quietly but blandly.

"Ah!"  She nodded.  "I'm here to keep you from killing her and her from trying to do something stupid."

He smirked.  "Exactly."  He walked over and kicked in the door, making one of the girls in there scream.  "Good afternoon!" he yelled as he walked in, Buffy right behind him.  He smirked at the duo on the couch as he stared them down.  "Willow, you might want to listen for your phone's ringtone more often.  Like when I have a lifeline call because I wanted stopped."

Buffy cleared her throat.  "Yeah, I'm not sure I'm that strong," she assured them.  "Willow, Anya, would you like to tell us anything?"

"Why would I?" Anya asked.  "She gives very good orgasms."

Xander leaned down.  "Do you remember your former job?" he asked sarcastically.  She glared.  "What would you do to some girl who walked in and found her guy in bed with another person?"  She went pale.  "I'd hike and head out of Sunnydale, Anya.  Because Buffy can't stop me."  He smirked.  "And I'm going to destroy something in about thirty damn seconds."  Willow tried to move away from him.  "Oh, no, you don't get to escape, Willow.  Not until we make sure Tara doesn't want to curse you.  Remember, you have *two* people you just pissed off."  He gave them both a cold look.  "Anya, your time's up."

"Xander, please, not a wish demon," Buffy moaned.  "Pretty please?"

He glanced back at her.  "I've got about a month to decide," he said bluntly.  "So said her rule book that I found."

She relaxed a little bit.  "That's good to know."

"D'Hoffryn won't let anyone hurt me," Anya said firmly, standing up and glaring at him, ignoring her messy, sweaty, naked body.  "They won't do one of their own, Xander."

"You're not one of them anymore, Anya.  You haven't been one for over a year."

"He still won't!" she shouted.

Buffy went to head off the police officer coming up the stairs.  "I'm keeping him from killing his fiancee and the girl, his best friend, that he found in bed together," she said quietly.

The officer stared at her.  "Summers.  Is it one of yours?"

"Yeah, Xander's going to have to be walked off soon."

He stepped back, holding up a hand.  "Call if there's a body."  He walked off.  He was not going to get in between someone who fought like Summers or Harris did and someone who did them wrong.  With Harris' past especially.  Who knew what bad domestic assault ideas he had learned at home.

Buffy walked in, blinking at the demon in there.  "Xander," she sighed.

"Anya called him."  He looked at D'Hoffryn.  "She said you still favor her.  Are you sleeping with her too?"

"No.  She's not one of mine any longer.  Any protections she lost."  He smirked at her.  "You have made quite a mess of things, Anya."

"Oh, she so has," Xander said smugly.  The demon disappeared.  He stared at her.  "Now, I believe I wanted you to *go* before I had to pretend to be my parental donor."  She stomped into the bedroom.  "No, sorry.  Anything bought with *my* money stays here," he ordered.  "Buffy, if you would?"

"Gladly.  Just so I don't have to cover up for a homicide."  She went into the bedroom.  "Anya, if he bought it, it's his, even if you wore it.  Unless you want to end your really long life now, I'd just give up and go."  She stomped off again.  Xander was giving Willow a cold look.  Buffy nearly wanted a sweater and it was July.  "Xander?" she asked quietly.

"Buffy, can you please go be a best friend."

"If you don't kill her."

Xander stared at her.  "It'll be hours before I'm calm enough to get down to murder instead of cellular ripping apart."

She shuddered.  "Sure, I get that."  She fled, running up to the college.  On the way she called her mother and Giles on a three-way call.  "It's me, it's important, Xander found Anya and Willow in bed on the couch.  Xander's alone with Willow and possibly D'Hoffryn because Anya called him.  Anya's running.  I'm going to cushion Tara."  She hung up.  She walked into the dorm, panting a little bit.  She flashed her student ID, getting a nod from the check-in desk.  "Maclay?"

"Haven't seen her."

"Thanks.  Um, ignore the crying."  She took the elevator up there, catching her breath and calming herself down.  Tara would panic if she was panting.  She took a deep breath before knocking on the room's door.  Tara opened it and the kitty came to stare at her.  "Hey."

Tara stared at her.  "What happened?"  Buffy picked up the cat and handed it to her.  "Did someone die?"  She let Buffy into her room.

"Only if Mom doesn't get to Xander in time."

"What happened to Xander?" she demanded.

"He came home from work."  She sighed, sitting on the bed, pulling Tara beside her to hug her.  "I'm sorry."

"Willow did what?" she asked quietly.  Buffy gave her a sideways look and a squeeze.  "Buffy, please be blunt."

"Anya."  Tara gave her a horrified look.  "Xander came home and found them on the couch."

Tara stood up, petting the cat, cuddling it to her.  "She did what?" she said coolly.

"Xander called me to keep him from killing Anya."  She stared at her.  "I'm here for you.  Mom is too.  She had to do this with my dad being a cheater."

Tara paced, cuddling her cat.  Miss Kitty was meowing and wiggling but she'd live - if Tara didn't strangle her.  "How could she do this to me?"

"I don't know.  Neither one offered an explanation beyond Anya's saying she was good."

Tara grimaced.  "I thought she was different."

"This is not the Willow I knew in high school, Tara.  The one then would not have done this."  She pulled her closer.  "Xander made Anya run for her life.  Willow's still there."

Tara shook her head.  "I'll hurt her."  She sat down, letting her cat down to her lap.  She pouted when she jumped down.  Buffy gave her a hug instead, letting her cry on her this time.  "I don't know why people do this to me."

"It's because they're blind to how special you are, Tara.  If I liked girls, you'd be a fabled reward, like that goddess who married the mortal in the one fable."

Tara smiled.  "Thank you, Buffy."

Buffy stood up and pulled her up.  "C'mon, we'll get ice cream and talk to Mom since she's been here too."

"I'm not sure I can.  I might hurt her if I see her."

Buffy smiled.  "If you do, we'll clap.  I about kicked her butt."

"I might be bad.  You'll make sure I won't?"

"Of course."  Tara nodded, letting Buffy walk her out, with a quick stop at the cafeteria's ice cream machine.  Tara really needed ice cream.


Joyce walked up to Xander's door, finding the door still open.  "Xander?" she called, walking into the room.  He looked up.  "Dear, are you all right?"

"She's hiding."  He pointed at the small ball of kitten mostly in an unreachable spot unless he wanted to hurt it a lot.  "I'm trying really hard not to grab her and throw her."

She sat beside him.  "I know it's hard."

He nodded.  "A bit.  Want a beer?"

"No, I can't stand beer."  She took his hand to hold.  "I have been here with Hank, Xander.  I know it hurts.  I know how much you want to hurt her."

He nodded.  "Yeah, which is why Anya's running for her life."  He looked at her.  "I was good.  I called Buffy to stop me."

"I'm very proud of you for that.  I had to get the police to pull me off."

"She shooed one off."  He finished the beer and tossed it aside.  Tara stomped in with Buffy behind her.   He pointed.

"Ice cream?" Buffy asked Xander.

"Beer," he corrected.  "Girls do ice cream.  Guys hit the gym and have a beer or seven."  He stood up, walking her over to where the cat was hiding.  It was a cute little red cat.  He looked at Tara.  "So far I haven't picked her up to throw her at a wall or out the window."

She smiled.  "I'm trying really hard not to let my anger out."

He nodded.  "D'Hoffryn got to smirk at Anya when she called him to prove that she was still protected."

Joyce snorted.  "Was she actually that dumb?"

"Yup, that arrogant too," Buffy told her mother, sitting beside her.  "Any new developments?"

"Go sort out her things to go to the charity box?" Xander suggested.  "Anything nice I can yard sale keep."

"Sure, I can do that."  She went into the bedroom, looking in the closet first.  That had the most likely source of 'good' things.  She opened the other closet, staring.  "Xander, where are your clothes?"

"The blue boxes in the corner that're covered by that sheet thingy," he called.  He leaned in.  "Yeah, I know.  I haven't had a drawer or closet space since the end of our first month here."

"And I thought I could shop," she complained.

"You can," her mother reminded her patiently.  She came in to look, staring at the closets.  "Xander, did she pay for any of this?"

"Anya, pay for her own stuff?" Buffy snorted.  "Dad pays for more stuff than Anya does."

Joyce moaned, shaking her head.  "Half of this hasn't been worn.  It still has the tags on it."

"Most of them came from online shopping, which Willow introduced her to," Xander said dryly.  "But I have to work overtime."

"Where did her paychecks from the store go?" Buffy asked.  Xander walked over to open a drawer, making her gasp.  "Is that silver?"  She nearly touched the silver sex toy but she didn't want to.  It might infect her and make her like Anya.

"Yup."  He grabbed something and threw it at the sneaking witch kitten, making her howl when it caught her tail.  He smirked at her.  "Yes, Willow, I have learned things in the years I've been helping out."

"That was a nice trap toss," Buffy agreed, staring at the ensnared cat.  "What're we going to do with her?"  She went back to packing things.

"I will," Tara told her.  Buffy gave her another hug.  "Thank you."

"We like you for you, Tara, not just because of Willow."

Tara pulled back, nodding.  "I'll remember."

"Good."  She smiled at her mother.  "I've got a date with Riley."

"Tell the Weenie King what happened so Anya can't make him her next pawn," Xander said.

"Sure, I can do that.  Want me to start the gossip chain so none of the peaceful demons help her?"

"I'm sure they'll find out when she has to look for a new place to live."  He looked over at the quiet cough from the door.  "Hey, Giles."

"Xander, what has happened?  Anya came into the store and threw a fit; tried to throw things around even."

"I called you," Buffy told him.

"I didn't understand what you babbled, Buffy.  You were panting."  He heard the pitiful meow and looked down.  "I say, Xander, I didn't expect you to be the sort who tortured animals."

"I'm not.  That's Willow, who was in the middle of things with my ex."

"Excuse me?" Giles asked calmly.

"Xander found Willow and Anya ...together," Joyce told him.

"Graphically," Buffy said.  "I had no idea girls got that messy when they were together."  Tara blushed.  "Sorry, Tara."

"She never was with me," Tara said quietly.

Joyce gave her a hug.  "It's all right.  We'll talk with Willow once she's no longer a cat."  She looked at Xander.  "What are you going to do with the clothes?"

"Give Cordy first right for twenty a piece.  She probably knows a good consignment shop to put the rest in."

"I might let Buffy buy some of it," Joyce offered.

"Anya's two sizes bigger than I am, Mom.  Cordy's taller but about the same chest and waist size.  Pity because some of it's really pretty and if we had formals in college I'd be set with my next stunning dress."  She held on up, making her mother stare at it.

Xander looked.  "I think that'll look good on Cordy for when she goes to midnight plays and things."

"It should," she agreed.  Her phone beeped.  "Crap, I'm late."  She stared at Xander.

"I won't kill her or Anya tonight."  Buffy smiled and gave him a quick hug on her way out the door.  Xander stared at the cat.  "Tara, can we force her to change back?"

"It might hurt her," she said, coming out to stare at her girlfriend.  "Or I might curse her to stay in that form."

"It'd fit since she wanted pussy," Xander agreed, getting swatted by her and Joyce.  He stared at Giles.  "I don't care what Anya did, Giles.  She's on her own."

"I can understand that fully, Xander."  He licked his lips.  "Shall Joyce and I give her her things for you?"

"No, anything I bought is staying here.  Since she never pays for *anything*, she has no reason to need anything in here.  She should feel lucky I let her leave wearing clothes."  Giles shuddered at the cold tone to his voice.  "The close to seven grand of things in the closets are going to be staying here until I give them to Cordelia cheaply.  Because then the clothes will be worn by someone with class."

Giles nodded.  "What about her perfumes and things?"

"Not like she used her paycheck to buy anything but sex toys and I'm going to sell those off to get some of my money back.  If she wants them that much, she can sue me."  He glared at the cat that ran off to hide again.  "I'll deal with you later, Rosenburg."  He went in to help pack.

Giles sighed, working on getting the door to shut again.  Xander's temper hadn't been this high in years.  He and Joyce would have to make sure there weren't an accidents.  Or intentions really.  He glared at where the cat was hiding.  "How could you, Willow?" he sighed.  "Tara's a wonderful girl."  He went in to help once he had the door able to shut and be locked.  The trap on Willow had anti-magic marks.   Xander used them to capture zombies.  She couldn't get out of cat form while it was on her.


Buffy jogged up to where Riley was, leaning against his arm when she stopped.  "We have major sitches tonight."

"Huge demon rising?" Riley asked.  "I've got my gear for patrol in the jeep."

"No, worse.  Spike!" she called, spotting him.  He looked over so she waved him over.  "Stay out of Xander's way for a bit," she warned the vampire.

"Why?  He and demon girl getting frisky?" he said with a mean smirk.  "Sounds like fun I should want to watch."

"No, he found Anya and Willow doing the nasty when he came home.  I kept him from killing them both so far."

Spike dropped his current cigarette, staring at her.  "She did what?"

"Which she?" Riley snorted.  "There's days Anya's like a succubus."

Buffy nodded.  "Yeah but Xander's like the god of Temper tonight."

"I'll go play poker then," he decided.

"He kicked her out and her stuff is *gone*, Spike.  Fully, down to her tampons gone."

"Hmm.  Good to know."  He lit a new smoke, shaking his head.  "Hate to see the vengeance demons lining up for him.  Glinda?"

"I told her.  She's at Xander's with Mom and Giles."

"I'll stay on this end of town, it might keep me from going boom too," Spike decided. "Thanks for the warning."

"Giles said she trashed the store," Buffy told Riley.

"We can go store sit," he promised.  "Is she leaving town?"

"I don't know but he's hellishly pissed. And get this, she had a silver, like coins silver, dildo."

Spike nodded.  "Multi speed vibrator," he agreed.  "She bragged.  I'll let the others know she's a target for the whelp."  He walked off shaking his head.  He wasn't sure he wanted to know what Xander might do.  It'd be fun to watch but he'd have to be too far away for safety reasons.

Riley looked at her.  "Let's get dinner on the way to store sit?"

"I could like that, yeah."  She walked off with him.  "Xander's almost radiating anger, Riley."

"How well does he know explosives?"

"Um, did you hear about graduation?" she asked.

He nodded once.  "Well, maybe he'll do the whole town at once.  Save you some work."

She smiled.  "That's not a bad plan."  They stopped to get coffees and something to nibble on then went to clean up the mess in the store.  She walked in and stared while calling Xander's.  "It's Buffy.  Should I report that the store's been robbed since the register is open and there's some missing books by how many are on the floor?"  He nodded. "Cool.  Riley and I can store sit."  She hung up.  "Giles is on his way back."

"That'll work," he decided, moving carefully around things.  "She was really pissed."

"That she got caught," she snorted.  "Her defense was 'Willow's good'."

Riley stared at her oddly.  "No I'm sorry, nothing?"

"Nope.  Tried to tell him D'Hoffryn would protect her too.  She even called him to prove herself wrong."

Riley just nodded.  "Clearly Cosmo and Harper's Bazaar ruined her."

Buffy nodded.  "Yeah.  Even Mom's pissed off."  Giles stomped in to stare around the store.  "Cops or should I tell Spike?"

"Go tell Spike, he can turn her in," Giles said a bit too calmly.

"Sure, let me get out of the way.  Riley?"

"Yeah, coming," he agreed, following her out.  "He was more angry than I've ever seen."

"Way back in his Ripper days, I'm sure someone would've been beaten for that stuff," She admitted.  He stopped her to look at her.  "You didn't hear the tales of Ripperdom?"


"I'll tell you while we walk.  That way I'm out of the explosion radius since Giles does have magic."  They walked to Willie's, her telling him about what they knew about Giles' past.

"He seemed way too uptight for that," Riley said before they got to the bar.

Buffy nodded.  "Yeah, to us too.  We found out during his stuffy days even."  She walked into the bar, waving at Willie.  "Not here for you guys this time."  She stopped in the middle of the bar.  "Anya is hereby a problem for the Scoobie team," she announced.  "She majorly screwed the pooch, or in her case kitty, and is not on the team."  A few cackled at that.  She spotted Spike, walking over to him.  "She stole books and things from the store," she told him quietly, making him stiffen.  "Giles said you get her first then the cops if you want."

"She's still human," he complained.

She smirked.  "He might let you keep some of the money for cigs.  She took books and at least money."

He smirked.  "That could be fun."

"Coolness.  Giles was back in Ripper land.  We're hiding."

"I can agree with that."  He folded his hand, taking his kitten to eat on the way to wherever Anya was hiding.  He stopped in one of the bigger vampire houses in the city.  The door guard sneered at him.  "Messenger duty.  Slayer wants Anya *gone*."

"Why?  She's on her team."

"Slept with Rosenburg, stole from the store."  He finished the kitten and tossed it aside.

The vampire nodded.  "That could win us a favor.  Thank you."

"Just stay out of the way.  Watcher git knows magic.  Used to dabble in London."  He smirked.  "And Rosenburg's still hiding in pussy form probably."  He walked off.  They'd tell Buffy if he missed her at his first target.  This was not going to be a good night for former vengeance demons.


Xander walked into the office Angel shared with Cordelia, Doyle, and Wesley with a large duffle bag and two smaller ones, putting them in front of Cordelia.  "Twenty bucks a piece," he told her bluntly.  "The rest give me the name of a store?"

She stared at him.  "What happened?" she asked calmly.

"Anya.  And.  Willow."

She stared at him.  "Excuse me?"

He smirked and nodded.  "When I got home from work."

"Oooooh."  She winced.  "Are they alive?  I'm sure Spike would help you hide the bodies if you asked."

"Hiding and still in cat form so I don't kill her stupid ass, or so Tara doesn't."

She let out a groan.  "I was less pissed than this when I got shived on rebar."

"And I wasn't the only one at fault," he pointed out gently.  She nodded she knew that.  "So, we have everything from comfy bras through formal gowns."

"Where would she wear a formal gown in Sunnydale?" she asked, wrinkling her nose.

"Willow introduced her to online shopping."

"Oh."  She grimaced.  "My size?"

"Depends on the thing.  She's about your size, maybe a size bigger in some things."

"Good deal."  She pulled up the first few bags.  "Mrs. Summers help you pack?  This is clearly motherly packing."

"Yup.  Tara too.  By the way she still has two major demon summoning books," he said loudly enough to be heard in the other office.  "Spike said he's not sure why she needs a work-quality version of the Necrinomicon or the one on how to summon the top Hell demons."

She shuddered.  "Will she try it on you?"

"She already talked to D'Hoffryn about her delusions of being protected."

She shuddered.  "Yeah, that'll work."

He smirked.  "I'm down to the point where I don't need a molecular separator."  He kissed her on the cheek.  "If I never said it, I am sorry," he said quietly.

She smiled.  "With last night, who knows why it happened, but I'm still mad at you."

"I know.  This could even be karma for that, but she'll be the one dying if I see her again."

"Good point."  She stared at him.  "I only wanted to curse you."

He smirked, pulling out something to hold up.  She took it to look inside, then gave him a horrified look.  He nodded.  "Can they test to make sure she didn't transfer anything?"

"Got that this morning in the demon clinic.  I brought that in to explain why.  The nurse read the first page and pulled out *twelve* vials for blood and *six* swabs."  She shuddered.  "Yeah.  Thank God I am condom boy."

Angel came out of the other office.  "What?"

"Anya *so* cheated on him with half the town."  She handed over the book, going back to the clothes.   "The skanky ho had good tastes."

"Buffy said if she needed it and it'd fit her, she'd take that silver gown," Xander said, taking the book back when Angel started to give him horrified looks.  "Twenty bucks a piece since I paid for it anyway," he said dryly.  "Cordy, I didn't include the panties, just the bras.  Even the ones still in wrapping got tossed out."

"Did she wear them?" she snorted.

"I guess now and then her clients liked her in them," he shot back with a smirk.  She smirked back, going back to her pulling out clothes.

Angel shook his head.  "Does Buffy know?"

"She was my phone-a-friend to keep me from killing her and Willow last night.  So by now, *everyone* in town knows that I caught her.  She also robbed the store."

"I heard that part."

"We let Spike get it back for Giles.  He was about to go Ripper."

Cordelia nodded.  "I would have too."  She moved onto the bigger bag.  "Jeez, Xander.  You weren't kidding, it's even my cup size."

"Yup."  He smirked at her.  "She made me buy it so I can sell it now."

"Yeah, I can agree with that.  I would have.  You're making a good vengeful girl."

"Thank you.  I'm still hellishly pissed but Giles told me I couldn't build another bomb today."

She gave him a look.  "You might hurt innocents."

"She probably slept with them too," he said dryly.  "That book is only in the last six months."

She snorted.  "Whore."

"Nah, slut.  She didn't get paid for it.  Or if she did, she used it to shop even more."  He sat down on the edge of the desk.  "So how's LA going?  I ask because we've slowed down now that the Initiative's shit is stopped; it's a lot quieter."

"Some ran this way, some needed a lot of treatment," Angel admitted.  "Mostly it's still pretty quiet.  No problems up there?"

"No, not yet.  Then again, it's July and you know Sunnydale summers."  They both nodded at that.  Cordelia squealed when she got to something.  He looked back at her.  "I remember buying that one.  The rest she mostly picked out."

"It's trashy but cute lingerie," she said, holding it up to the light.

He smirked at her.  "She never got to wear it either.  Unfortunately our anniversary came right before the Initiative stuff."

She nodded, putting that aside.  "That's cool.  Maybe I'll trap a nice guy and wear it for him."  She looked at her pile.  "I should stop."

Angel waved a hand.  "I'll give you your next paycheck too," he promised.

"Twenty bucks a piece," Xander told him.

He stared.  "Who packed it?"

"Joyce and Tara."

Angel winced at that pain in his wallet.  Mothers were excellent at shoving in more than a bag should reasonably hold.

"Whatever she doesn't want goes to a consignment shop she'll recommend."  Xander grinned.  "I'm taking her other love to heart, making money."

"You'll at least get a good majority of it back," Cordelia offered.  He nodded she was right.  She sighed, finding another stack of clothes she wanted and liked.

Angel groaned.  "Give me a final count, Cordelia."  She hugged him and he walked off shaking his head to get his checkbook.  He understood those vindictive urges all too well.  He also understood Cordelia's shopping problem.  It'd save him in the long run.  This way she'd only have to buy shoes.  Which she'd somehow get him to pay for.  When he came back and saw shoes he nearly sent a prayer of thanks up.  Yup, this would keep her from pouting for weeks!


Anya pouted into her drink.  She was ruined.  All her stuff was gone.  The locks at the apartment had been changed last night.  No one would talk to her.  Xander was probably giving away her clothes on her.  And her shoes.  And her sex toys.  And her bras, she'd miss her bras.  She sipped the drink the nice lesbian had bought her because she was so pouty.  It wasn't fair!  Others did it!  Why should Xander mind?

Another demon walked up to her, looking smug.  "I heard your boy took your little black book to the clinic this morning."

She gave him a horrified look.  "What?"

"Yup, walked in with it.  Told the receptionist he needed to talk to a nurse because he found you cheating on him."  He sipped his drink with sludge.  "From what I heard, it took nearly an hour to do all the testing."  He walked off happier.

"I'm not unclean or some prostitute," she complained.  She sulked some more but an idea hit her.  She could get Xander back for kicking her out.  She was within her rights to do that.  She'd ignore the thought that popped up about her former clients saying the same thing.  She knew who she had to contact.  Then she'd get the little dweeb back and then have him all to herself again.  He'd like a threesome, right?  That way she could get more orgasms again.


Anya walked into the hotel room and finished up the diagram she had been putting down earlier.  She walked into it and heard a sigh.  "I don't have to summon?" she asked.

"No, I got a head's up to be on the lookout for you calling from Hallie," he said as he appeared, staring at her.  "Hallie said you screwed the pooch, Anya."

She glared.  "I did not.  Willow's still hiding in cat form."

The other demon stared at her.  "Are you dumb?  Harris knows explosives, weapons, artillery, and you cheated on him!  You, who used to punish cheating men!"

She pouted.  "One man can't give me enough of what I need."

He rolled his eyes.  "You're damn lucky he hasn't called one of us on you and her yet," he told her.

"He won't be.  He loves me.  We're engaged."

"Not any more you're not.  He pawned your ring last night from what I heard."  She glared.  He stared her down, looking smug.  "You royally pissed off the team, Anya.  Stealing from the store?  Hurting him?  Hell, even that white witch is bitching on his behalf instead of hers.  There's tons of bets about which one of us he calls and how bad it'll be on you.  Even some of the highest are betting."

She slumped.  "But it was good and most men don't mind two women together."

"Pegged him wrong I guess," he said smugly.  He smirked at her, getting a silent glare back.  "So, you called?"

"He unfairly punished me."

"You're lucky he didn't burn your stuff in front of you.  Or you instead."

"It's still unfair.   Most men wouldn't care and would jump in.  Just look at the movies he probably tossed out on me."

"Actually, I think he donated them to some nuns," he admitted.

She wailed.  "He *donated*, like gave it away?" she demanded.  He nodded, still looking smug.  "No, that's wrong!" she said, starting to move.  "I have to curse him for this."

"If you do, he can counter curse for that and the cheating.  Plus get Rosenburg."  He examined his nails, then smiled at her.  "But there's a small loophole, as you know."

"I do!  It's based on the greater majority's ideals instead of that individual's."  She stared at him.  "I want to curse him."  She thought quickly.  What would make Xander hurt the most?  What would make him beg to take her back?

"Okay, then I'm your only hope, Anya."

"I wish that little side hobby of his to get noticed by someone," she decided.  "Someone important who likes it and can pass it on."

He stared at her.  "Making him famous?  That's a curse?"

"Yes, it is, all those shows say so when they talk about celebrities.  Plus, it'll make him leave hunting for good.  He won't be able to help Buffy if he's famous."  She sneered.  "It would serve her right for not standing up for my side and her best friend Willow."

Mentally he was cackling.  Clearly all that sex had rotted her mind.  Outwardly he just smiled.  "That would probably cripple the slayer somewhat," he agreed smoothly.  "Are you sure, Anya?"

"Yes!"  She stamped a foot.  "Then he'll have to beg me to come back because groupies are pathetic.  He won't ever get to have as good as I am in bed or to him.  I even listen when he's babbling about *ideas* and *going out*."  She shuddered.  "Wastes of money."

He nodded once.  "You're absolutely certain?"

"Yes!" she screeched.  "Do it!"

"Fine."  He cast the wish, hearing everyone cackle at that one.  "We'll see if he wants you back once he gets groupies."  He disappeared, going to make himself sick from the cackling and rolling around on the ground.  That was the most selfish wish ever.  To give him happiness?  He burst out in new cackling.

D'Hoffryn appeared, staring at him.  "What did she wish for?"

"Him to be noted for his writing so he'd be rich, famous, get groupies, and want her back because they're pathetic but she didn't make that part of the wish," he howled, rolling around some more.

"That would take him from hunting.  The higher ups might well reward her for that," D'Hoffryn decided, walking off shaking his head.  He used to like Anya's mind.  Now clearly something was wrong with it and it had to be Harris' fault.


Xander sat in the bar, in the back, sipping his beer.  "Hey, Jacob," he said as the demon appeared across from him.  He had shown up a few times to see if he was ready yet.  The anger was still getting in his way to think clearly but he knew a lot of higher ups were either betting or having popcorn waiting to see what he'd do to Anya.  "I still can't think of anything vile enough to do to them."

The vengeance demon over scorned boyfriends sighed.  "I know, there's so much out there that you could do to her.  I mean, they violated the pack and all that."  Xander nodded, finishing his beer. "I can tell you that D'Hoffryn gave her one chance."

"So she's got her powers back?"

"No, she wished notoriety on you for it."

Xander stared at him.  "Excuse me?"

"That you'd get famous from that little hobby of yours."

"Why curse me with a good thing?"

"What's she watch every night at seven?"

"TMZ....oh, she thinks it'll bother me."  He nodded.  "You know, I already had plans in case something I wrote got decent attention.  That way I can still hunt when necessary."  He looked at him.  "Can I curse her to change areas?"

"I can't do that unfortunately.  After a rash of cursing their menfolk to be succuba they stopped it."

"Pity.  Though, making a cheating man gay?  Cute, really."

"Her idea whenever she got stuck.  It was the French during the revolution, Xander.  They thought all gay men were imperialistic."

He smirked.  "That's pretty good."

"There is the tried and true 'can't get it up' curse."

"She won't be able to anyway.  I had to get treated for a demon STD she gave me.  Mine was relatively recent.  I doubt she's been checked out."

Jacob burst out laughing.  "Oh!  I so get to tell D'Hoffryn that!  Which one?"  He handed over the note from the clinic.  "Yeah, this is like syphilis.  You get treated and you're fine.  You don't and you go mad."

"Which could explain that curse," Xander said dryly.  "I was wondering, is it you who'd answer Tara or the one who took over Ahn's spot?"

"Melissa.  She's over women scorned now."

"Cool.  I'll tell her that."  He considered it.  He had been itching to make a curse against her.  "What would happen if, not casting a wish here, she got taken in by someone just like her in the hierarchy?"


"Needy, using, cheating on her, all that."

Jacob considered it.  "That might give her status."

"What if it were someone like that demon Demetra?"

"He gambles.....  How did you hear about him?"  Xander just smirked.  "Never mind.  You play kitten poker and he's been in all the tabloids for losing his harem in a stupid bet recently.  He'd be interested.  She might blunt some of his hunger.  But I hear he's interested in her anyway as an oddity."

Xander sighed.  "This is harder than I thought it'd be.  If she liked affection I could curse her to have any interaction go on what she literally said, which with her mouth would mean only sex and never affection."

"I don't think she'd mind most of the time."

"Yeah, me either at the moment."  He got another beer from the waitress, giving her a pathetic look.  "I want to curse my ex who I found cheating on me with my best female friend.  I can't decide what to curse at her."

She stared at him.   "Seriously?"

"Yeah.  You know, throw off one of those 'may you be miserable' ones."

She considered it.  "She have VD yet?"  Xander nodded.  "She give it to you?"

"Treated already.  Which is one thing I didn't know but her black book was about the phone book."

"Oooh.  Whore."  She grimaced.  "She trying to trade up?"

"No.  Not yet.  I guess I could curse her to have to earn her way on her back."

Jacob shook his head.  "Anya wouldn't mind."

"Anya?" she asked, looking at him.  "You're Xander?  That Xander?"  He nodded.  "Oh, honey.  She tapped my ex too."  She patted him on the head.  "Snap off a curse about her having to sell her soul and her body to slavers or something."  She walked off shaking her head.  That round was free for him.  He needed it and deserved it.  She looked at the bartender.  "That's Anya's Xander.  He just found out."

He looked.  "Oooh, that poor guy."

"You might spread it around, she has something.  He said he got treated."

"Yeah, I can do that."  He texted the others he knew had slept with her.  It was almost all of his friends list - male and female.

Jacob smirked.  "That was nice.  Now they all know."

"Good.  Hopefully they get treated too."  He sipped his new beer.  "What about cursing her to make my mother's mistakes?"

"Do you really want to get Hallie down to beat you?" he asked.

"No."  He took another sip, shifting to get more comfortable.  "I don't know, but that's an idea.  Hallie?"  She appeared, staring at him.  "I need a really bad idea to do to Anya."

Jacob wiggled his fingers with a grin.  "He's got bad but not bad enough."

She sat down beside Xander, looking at him.  "What happened?  I've been in Asia freeing some slaves.  I only heard she screwed up."

"Willow and Anya were on the couch when I got home one night."

She blinked a few times.  "Damn."

"You might want to tell her that she did catch something," Jacob said, handing over the letter.  "Or not."

"There's the idea of having to take care of someone totally needy," Xander offered.  "I wouldn't wish spousal abuse on anyone but someone who was totally needy, clingy, and impotent.  An immortal one that she's bound to so he if starts to get sick so does she."

Hallie stared at him.  "You're meaner than that."

He smirked.  "I know.  You'd get me if I cursed her to be a mom to a dozen or so kids with a poor husband though."

"Yes I would, Xander," she assured him.  "Though that is totally evil and I'll tell Melissa that idea for when she goes to talk to Tara."

"Tara's about devastated.  Willow was her first normal, good relationship."

"I heard," Hallie admitted, taking his beer to sip.  She smirked at him.  "What about the curse of being better than she'll ever be, and happier?"

"She already did that for him," Jacob said dryly.  "Cursed him to have his writing habit noticed by someone important.  She thought he'd go back to her after the groupies."

She snorted, shaking her head.  "No.  I love Anya like a sister but no."  She let Xander have his beer back then took it back.

"I know you need it more.  That had to have been bad," he said, giving her a hug.

"Now I see why she liked you so much," she said, pinching him on the cheek.  She took a longer drink, considering it.  "I have no idea if I can be that mean or not."

Xander smirked.  "She's pretty well ruined a lot of her own life."  He looked at Jacob.  "There is the idea that Anya has to support others.  Or do *charity* work.  Turn her into a nun?"

Hallie stared at him then cackled.  "That is very mean, Xander.  Make her go work with the poor, the sick, be the next Mother Theresa?"

He smirked and nodded.  "She'd loathe that.  She couldn't have sex.  Wouldn't be able to care about money.  Would be doing good for the world."

Jacob stared at him in open-mouthed shock.  "That's very mean, Xander."

"Well, she would know where the evil things in the world are and how they can damage the soul."  He blinked his big, brown eyes at him with a smirk.

Jacob moaned, shifting in his seat.  "Xander, to be blunt, that's mean enough to get me hard, dude.  Thank you."  He kissed him.  "Wish granted."  He disappeared.

Xander smirked at Hallie.  "Thank you.  You're great inspiration."

"You're welcome."  She pinched him on the cheek.  "What're you going to do if you do get really famous thanks to her?"

"I have plans on how to hunt subtly whenever necessary.  Call it research."  She smirked and took off.  He finished the beer and went to pay his tab.  "Thanks, guys."  He left, much happier now.  He could hear Anya shrieking about this already.  He went to find Tara, giving her a hug when he ran into her in the store.  "Hallie likes the idea of her being Cheaper by the Dozen," he said in her ear.

She gave him a horrified look.  "That's evil."

He smirked.  "Well, you should've seen mine," he hissed.  "She'll be doing a lot of good for the world."  He strolled off after winking.  "Giles, Buffy, small sitch we've gotta confab about," he called as he walked toward the back area.

"What happened now?" Buffy asked, coming out with a glass of milk.  "You smell like smoke."

"Jacob, Hallie, and I had a few at the bar."  He looked at them then back at Tara.  "You too."  She came over.  He smirked.  "Anya's favorite show of TMZ and her porn habit made her decide she could get around the wish restriction by pleading that she thought normal people wouldn't have minded me walking in on them."

"That's porno thinking, yeah," Buffy agreed.  "What did she curse you with?"

"Someone noticing my writing so I'd be famous, have groupies, and she decided I'd take her back when I got tired of them."

"You write?" Tara asked.

He nodded.  "I have for years.  Short stuff, but yeah.  It also made extra money for her clothing habit."  He smirked at Giles.  "She won't need her job anymore."

"Is she dead?"

"She's going to be doing some charity work for a while."  He smirked.

"Anya hates charity," Buffy said calmly.

"So now she's Mother Theresa."  Giles gave him a horrified look, backing away slowly.

"Who?" Buffy asked.  "The name's familiar but my mind's still in my nap from earlier."

"The nun who helped the poor and diseased in India," Tara said, pinching Xander.  "That's absolutely cruel, Xander."

"Hmm.  But it's good for her.  It'll expand her view of the world and humanity.  She can even help because she knows the evils that come for men's souls."

Buffy was staring in horror now too.  "Oh, God, she'll kill you, Xander."

"No she won't."  He smirked.  "She'll be finding God very soon."

"Mom's going to cackle for *days*," Buffy decided, going to the gallery to talk to her.

"It's a good thing for humanity I suppose," Giles said carefully. "But still.....  Quite mean, Xander.  Nearly evil."

He grinned.  "Thank you.  I would've cursed her to motherhood but Hallie would've swatted me.  And hey, good for humanity while teaching her better."

Giles patted him on the back.  "Go get yourself a donut or something so you can calm down, my boy."  Xander walked off, telling Tara about that book and the movies.  She could like that idea.  It would redeem Willow and help humanity while making sure she didn't do it again.  Giles went to moan and pray to Janus that the boy calmed down sometime soon.  That was too evil even for Ethan.


Xander got the letter from his usual magazine person, calling them back as requested.  "What's up, Ry.  It's Xander."  He listened, kicking back in his chair.  "That's really cool.  Sure, I can find a suit to be there.  Thanks for letting me know, man.  Yeah, that's huge news."  He smiled.  "Thanks.  By the way, when was I nominated?"  He beamed at the answer of three weeks before he had caught them.  "Very cool, thanks."  He hung up and did a snoopy dance there in his living room.  Tara gave him an odd look.  "I got nominated for a young writer's award three weeks before the wish," he said.

She squealed.  That meant he had earned it before Anya had meddled.  He hugged her and it was nice.  "Congratulations!"

He beamed at her.  "If and when I leave, you coming with?"

She stared at him, blushing slightly.  "Xander, you're still a guy."

"Tara, you're like my sister," he said bluntly.  "Even if you liked boys I wouldn't pounce."  She beamed and nodded.  "Good."  He let her go.  "I have to tell Cordy the good news."  He sat down to call her.  "Guess what happened."  He beamed.  "No, I got nominated for an award three weeks before her wish.  Yeah, for my writing.  The twenty-sixth of next month and I need to find a suit.  Thanks, Cordy.  Sure, share away."  He hung up and relaxed, turning up the tv.  Tara settled in next to him.  It was nicer now.  She liked to spend time with him and *talk* to him.  He had missed that with Anya.


Buffy walked into the gallery, sitting down beside her mother's desk.   "Things are moving."

"What things?" she asked, looking at her daughter.

"Everyone.  Some day Xander's going to be well known and have book groupies.  Apparently the wish stuck so Willow's going to be finding a guy to date soon.  I can't see her sticking around here either.  Anya's going to going for sainthood."

"What?" she asked, looking confused.

"They didn't tell you about the post-breakup wishes?"

"No."  Buffy explained them to her.  Joyce shook her head.  "I hope Willow's a better mother, or at least more attentive, than her own was."

"I'm sure she will be but she won't be here if I need her."

"I'm fairly certain if you call for a major situation, they'll come."  She smiled.  "Plus they might send you more people who want to help if they find them.  You did get Riley and I'm hoping he'll be a better person some day soon."

"He's better than he was before."

"I'm glad.  Or else I'd have to kick him around."  She patted her daughter on the knee.  "You're not alone, Buffy.  Even if they aren't here at the moment, they're your slayerettes.  If you need them, they'll be there.  Even if it's just in letter form to rant about Riley standing you up."

"I hope so but I can't imagine Xander being all goody-goody with the press."  She shifted.  "I know he takes his frustration and anger out in the hunting."

"Yes but he can also write it out," she pointed out gently.  "Books are wonderful because you can kill people over and over again.  I know one of them was fairly dark.  I think he wrote that one in his senior year."

"How long has he been writing?"

"I asked and he said he started to write after Jesse died.  After the harvest."

She nodded.  "He needed someone to talk to and we weren't there."

"It was good for him to get it outside and you were dealing with a lot yourself, young lady.  You've both moved on from those days."

She nodded.  "We have.  We're much mor friendy now."  She kissed her mother on the cheek.  "Thanks, Mom."  She left.  Joyce smiled.  Sometime she missed her innocent, airhead daughter.  It was a lot easier to give good advice to her than it was to The Slayer.  She got back to work.  She had to pay for Buffy's shopping somehow.  If Anya's stuff had fit her, she would've bought it all.  It would've cost less than Buffy's usual shopping trips.  Thankfully having a boyfriend was keeping down the shoe and clothing shopping, leaving some interesting lingerie purchases.  Someday maybe Riley would pay for her daughter's little surprises himself.


Angel walked up to the motel room door, making himself knock on it.  He grimaced because it was filthy.  Anya had really hit rock bottom thanks to her stupidity.  "I need to know what you know about a type of demon," he said.

"Come in."  She let him inside.  "What type did you need to know about and why?"

"They're bothering a cloister up the road a bit.  It's a favor for someone I helped."  He held up a picture.

"They're demonic mafia thugs.  I know the one in the back.  Want me to talk to him?"

"It'd mean going to a nunnery, Anya."

"Angel, I want out of this room," she said bluntly.  "It's creepy, it smells, and I can't even find an easy boy when I bring him back here.  It's bad enough I had to hear through the grapevine that Xander gave me something."

"Um, Anya, I heard about that.  He told Cordelia."  She pouted.  "It was a demonic form of VD."  She stared at him.  "Usually found in slime demons.  It didn't come from him."

"Oh.  I didn't know that."

He nodded.  "Yeah.  Are you sure you want to go?  They're not exactly the sort of people you're used to."

"Please.  I want out of here.  Maybe I can talk to them, see why they're bothering nuns."  He nodded, walking out with her once she had her jacket and had changed into something more...decent.  He made sure he put something down on his seat for her since he told her it'd be cold.  Leather and it was a bit chilly tonight meant she'd get chilled.  In truth, he could wash it easier than he could the car's seat.  He drove her out there, taking her around to the back chapel, or the meditation area as it was called.  It was a pretty outdoor chapel.  Someone had done a mosaic of nuns helping people in simple, colored stones.  It had stone benches and was on a small pond/fountain.  One of those that had the small spray in the center but was a pond for the most part.  Anya slowed, looking around her with wonder.  He smiled at the nun.  "Sister.  May we speak?"

"Of course, Mr. Angel.  Have you found anything?"

"This is a friend of my associate's who knows one of the people who has been harassing you.  She said he's...connected."

She sighed.  "Sister Abigail used to have a problem with gambling.  We had to remove her from fundraising bingo as well."  She sat on a bench, staring up at him.  "If that's the reason I can ask her."

"It might be helpful.  Anya will be asking them when they show up."

She smiled at the young woman staring at the mosaic.  "It's very pretty.  One of our parishioners did this all for us while he worked on his health a few years back."

"It's very quiet," Anya said, staring at the picture.  She felt...something.  She didn't even realize the nun and Angel had walked off and left her there.  She sat down, still staring at it.  She had no idea why she suddenly felt this way but she felt almost connected, like the picture was drawing her in.  It made her feel happier than most orgasms did.  Happier than finding a shoe and bra sale on the same day had.  She sighed in pleasure.  This was very...nice.  She nearly jumped when someone sat next to her.  "I'm sorry," she said quickly.

"The calling comes to us all at different times in our lives.  Usually when we're ready to hear them, Anya.  We have service in an hour, before we go to the homeless kitchen to serve food.  Would you like to attend with us?"

"I know nothing about your religion."

She smiled.  "Then it's a good place to learn.  We're the quiet, helpful sort when you need us."  She stood up.  "Come on.  I'll show you the way inside so you can read some of the books.  Aren't you chilled?  That outfit is a bit thin for today's weather."

"I'm fine, thank you."  She followed her.  She wasn't sure why.  She hadn't liked faith in her original life.  But now, it almost felt like a bit of holy water'd neosporin over an open wound.  Very comforting and soothing.  She got sat in a pew by the nun and handed a book.  She stared at it then opened it.  It had some things wrong.  She knew that because she had been there.  She looked around.  They'd never understand her here.  She wasn't the nice sort.  She had done many things that they wouldn't approve of.  After the service she snuck off but took the book with her.  She knew there were people of faith who deal with demons.   Maybe they would be able to explain it to her?  And this sudden strange urge?


Angel got back to the hotel just before dawn, realizing he had left Anya there.  He paused and looked up.  "I hate being an instrument of a wish," he complained.  "Get another pawn."  He went up to bed, shaking his head the whole way.  Wesley stopped him in the hallway, giving him a look.  "The demons bothering the nun have been paid off.  They won't go near her again."

"Then why do you look so distressed?"

"Anya stayed at the cloister to talk to the nuns."

"Ah!"  He nodded once.  "I don't think they're the sort she'd understand but I do know a priest who deals with the supernatural if you think she needs someone to talk to."

"Yeah, she probably does, since the rumors of the wish Harris laid on her for cheating say she's going to find faith and help people."

"A wish to redeem her?" he asked, smiling at that.

Angel nodded quickly.  "From what I heard."  He went to his room.  "She's in the Augustine.  Room 12."

"That's a filthy hole but I'll call him."  He went to call his friend and a snitch to see when she got back there.  She had just come in and collapsed.  Carrying a bible from what they had said.  "Father Joseph please.  Wesley.  He'll know.  No, the matter of a soul who may have just found conversion."  He smiled.  His friend came on the line.  "Joseph, I heard you were local.  Yes, it has been a long time since watcher training.  No, I believe you need to talk to a young woman I know of who has just found faith after centuries as a demon."  He said something quietly.  "No, I believe it's ordained but I think it just hit her earlier when she went to help my coworker Angel with a nun who was being bothered by demons."

He smiled.  "I'll even buy you breakfast, how's that?"  He nodded.  "That's wonderful.  I will warn you we're going to a hovel of a motel.  Yes, the Augustine.  Thank you.  About an hour?"  He nodded.  "That's wonderful, I'll see you then."  He hung up and went to get ready to go out.  He had a few other books that she might like to read through.  If what Angel had heard was true, it might help her decide which order to go to.  He walked out to his car, smiling at the very idea of Xander's revenge being to redeem her.  He drove to the church he needed, waiting patiently.  His friend got in, leather jacket over the jeans and formal shirt/collar he wore.   "Where would you like breakfast?"

"Anywhere's fine," he said quietly with  a stronger accent than Wesley had.  "Tell me of this young woman?"

"Anya is... very unique."

"Why is she suddenly finding faith now?"

"Do you want the truth?"  Joseph nodded.  "From the rumors we have heard, a former lover has made a wish to redeem her from her whoring lifestyle."

"How would that relate to me?"

Wesley smiled, pulling into the drive-thru of the local restaurant he favored.  "She's a former demon."

"Interesting."  He gave his order when the board started to say something.  Wesley gave his and they drove around, letting Wesley pay for it and then get their food so they could be on their way.  "How well do you know this young woman?"

"Not very closely.  She lost her power center a few years back, when I was stationed in Sunnydale."

"The hellmouth?" he demanded.

"Yes, Rupert told the Council to bite him and then I ended up doing the same once they decided I was ineffectual for sticking up for the slayers."  He smiled.  "She had been helping the Slayer Summers' team.  Unfortunately then her boyfriend found her in a compromising position."

"So he cursed her to faith?"

"To find faith and help people from what Angel heard."

"So basically to redeem her."


"Is this considered a good wish or a bad wish?"

"That depends on your point of view," Wesley admitted with a smile.  He shot him a smirk.  "You'd have to talk to Anya yourself to learn more about her.  Angel took her to the cloister on the outskirts of town to help a nun being plagued by some demons.  It apparently caught her attention then."

"So early on.  Has she even read our books?"

"I do not know but I did bring some I can lend her.  I think she'll be helped by them.  One is by Father Octavian Oswerd."

"That may help her more than anything else," he agreed.  He nibbled through his breakfast.  "What position was she in before?"  Wesley smiled at him.  "Higher ranks?"

"We're nearly there."  He pulled into the motel's parking lot and parked, getting out with him and the books.  He walked him to the door, covering his hand with his sleeve to knock.  "Anya, it's Wesley," he called when he heard a grunt.  She opened the door, giving him a bleary look.  "This is Father Joseph.  He's a priest."

She stared at him.  "How did you hear?"

He smiled.  "I'm one that hears many things, child.  May we?"  She got out of their way.  He walked in and looked at her.  "You look tired."

"I was staring at a strange mural all night," she admitted.  "I don't know why it affected me."

"I can explain some things," he promised, sitting down without looking.  She smiled at him. "Wesley tells me you used to be a demon."

"You know about us?"

"I do.  I'm the one who gets sent to deal with demons possessing people here in LA, Anya."

She smirked.  "Anyanka," she corrected.

He smiled and nodded once.  That explained Wesley not telling him.  If she was truly converted, this was the redeeming of the ages.  "I've seen some of your work in the past, young lady."

"I'm not that young.  I'm almost eleven-hundred-and-fifty."

"Compared to the Lord, you're a mere infant," he offered with a gentle smile.  "As I am."

She sighed.  "You have a pretty smile.  For some reason it's not doing anything for me like it was before."

"Hmm," Wesley said, handing over the books.  "Here, I thought those might be helpful while you think about this issue, Anya.  I'll leave you two alone since this is a personal topic.  Joseph, I'll be around the corner at the bookstore.  Call when you need a ride back."

"Of course."  He waited until they were gone then smiled.  "You've figured out what's going on?"

"Someone made a wish," she pouted.  "They must have."

He nodded.  "To help you find a purpose in life, Anyanka.  Something that will be carried through the ages beyond stories of fear of you."

She stared at him.  "Huh?"

He picked up one book.  "We still know about this one priest, even though he died in the twelve hundreds.  We have multiple people studying him and his deeds.  Even though he used to be a feared general in one of the bigger armies of his day."  He handed it to her.  "Stories of his works in the church lasted well beyond stories of him as a warrior."

She stared at the book then at him.  "I never believed in faith before."

"I know how that can be.  I was Wesley's yearmate in the Council's training program until one day, during a hunt, a quiet voice told me that I was more important than helping a girl.  I could help hundreds on my own, counsel thousands of others, or I could die a simple watcher after a bit in the field."

"The mosaic struck me and I don't know why."

"We'll figure that out.  If you have questions about the faith, I'm here to help you.  More than anyone in the current priesthood, I understand where you've been."  She gave him a sad smile.  "I also know the astounding peace that is in front of you if you listen to it."

"There are others like me?"

"A few here and there.  None that were vengeance demons but a few who were possessed and kept a lot from them.  Some that are gifted with magic as well, though they can't use it for more than healing within their duties."

She nodded.  "I've seen those that could heal."

"So have I.  I've worked with a number of them actually.  Possessions do mean things to an innocent body."

"I've seen that."

He smiled.  "Now, how familiar are you with our faith?"

"Not very.  I've heard of it, tormented some supposed men of faith."

"There's always been and always will be men who claim faith that they don't understand or feel.  If you hadn't gotten them for it, then God would have," he said simply.  "That's what He's there for."

She leaned forward.  "I started to read earlier and it had wrong parts.  I was there for some of it."

"The book was written by men, Anya, not a direct account of it either.  The Good Book has many things that people object to.  Including things that would have gotten you called before."

"I saw that."  She tipped her head for a bit.  "Why is it hitting me now?  It could have hit me earlier."

"You could have felt it and ignored it.  I know I ignored it the first few times it happened.  I was downright pissed when I realized I couldn't ignore it and it meant I'd have a calling."

"But you don't get sex."

"No I don't.  Then again, did you as a demon?"

"No," she admitted.  "But I hated that.  That's why I made up for lost time."

"We all try to but we can never reclaim what we've lost.  We have to live in the present and hope for the future.  Dwelling is not good for you."

"I miss my working days," she sighed.

"I know why.  I miss my own days when I was out having fun now and then.  It's a lot easier to forget that the world is a cold place when you can get drunk."

She nodded.  "It would be.  I don't understand."

"About what?"

"Why do this to me?"

"I think they were hoping to help you.  I don't know who did it so I can't say for sure."

"Do you think it might be my last ex?"

"If it was it was because he wanted to make sure you were helped," he assured her.  Though it was probably a lie.  From what he'd heard about her in the rumors she was quite possibly made this way to solve her libido.

"Then maybe it was meant to be a good wish.  I don't know what I'm going to do since I can't have sex and I suddenly don't want to shop."

He smiled.  "We can help others if you want."

"But they're needy."

He nodded.  "You have some of the best experience in seeing what the most hurt and needing need to heal.  You saw them and their children when the mothers called on you."

She stared at him. "It can't be as fun as sex and bra shopping."

"That's fun but helping others is soothing to something inside instead."  He leaned back.  "We can do that whenever you want so you can compare it."

She nodded.  "I'll think about that.  Did you know there was incest in the book?"

He nodded.  "I do."  She sighed, shaking her head.  "Even back then it happened, Anya.  As I'm sure you saw sometimes."

"Yes I did."  She sighed, looking at the other books.  "I still don't know why me."

He smiled.  "Why not you?  You have experience that could be helping hundreds of people a year.  You can counsel couples so they don't make mistakes that would get you called upon."

"The new holder for my job would be upset."

"Anya, be honest.  You were overworked when it was your job.  Wouldn't you have rather let the lighter cases go so you could focus on those who *really* deserved your attention?"

"Well, yes."

"That's who you'd be working with."

"I still don't understand these urges.  It's worse than when I want orgasms."

"Hmm.  That can happen.  There's a small church up the street.  We can see if it'll make you feel better."

She stared at him.  "How would it?"

"You'll see."  He pulled her up.  "Come on."  He walked her up the street, opening the door for her.  She walked in and suddenly sighed and smiled.  "It's a feeling you can't describe but it happens to all who are called to service," he said quietly.

She looked at him.  "It's like a hug after an apocalypse."

He smiled and nodded.  "It can be, yes."

She sighed, staring at the banners in the front of the church.  "This is going to screw up the way I see things.  There's no hope of being rich, or of having orgasms."

"No, but the feeling you get instead is better for you and you'll have what you need even if you don't have extras."

She nodded.  "I can see why."  She took his arm, walking him back out.  "Tell me what I can be doing?"

"Of course."  He patted her on the hand.  "I'll help you find your footing and a place to fit in.  Remember, none of us are perfect, that's why we have confession."  He smiled.  "For non-Catholics, they have therapy.  Works about the same."

"Do I need to?"

"If you become serious, it's part of the faith.  It helps you live in the present instead of dwelling."

"I guess that makes sense."  They went back to her motel room to talk some more.


Xander came home from the award.  "Honorable mention."

"That is still fantastic," Tara reminded him.  She smiled and gave him a hug.  "It could have went to thousands of people, Xander.  You did really good."

He grinned.  "Thanks, Tara.  I have a meeting on Saturday."

"Don't you have to work Saturday morning?"

"Shoot."  He called his agent.  "I was wrong, I can't make Saturday.  I have to pull some overtime on the site."  He smiled and nodded.  "Thanks, man.  Yeah, I'm here.  We're cleaning up the former high school's site.  Sure."  He hung up.  "He'll show up to talk later this week instead."  He put her under his arm, making her blush.  "We have to have a meeting.  They're going to rebuild the school."

She shuddered.  "I'd hate to be a student there."

"At least they won't have Snyder breathing down their necks."  He walked her out and down to the car, driving them to the Magic Box.  It was wonderful how not having Anya had freed up his paycheck for other things.  Especially with Sunnydale style overtime from missing people.  "Our people," he said as he walked in.

Buffy stared at him, ignoring the 'wow, he's kinda cute' thought going through her mind over and over.  "Did you win?"

"Honorable mention."

"Which means he still beat thousands of others," Tara reminded him.

"Congrats," Buffy said quietly.  "So why show up in the fancy clothes?"

"Got a head's up on the drive home from my boss.  They're rebuilding the school."

"Let me guess.  They're going to name it after Wilkins and put it on the same spot?" Buffy guessed, sounding sarcastic, yet tired.

"Don't know about the name but yeah.  Once we have plans I'll slip you a copy for future reference."

"It never ends," Riley moaned.

"No, not around here," Buffy sighed, slumping against his shoulder.  "How soon?"

"Probably about two years.  They have to approve a plan, get it passed through City Council.  Pass a funding amendment in the town.  We won't be done with the clean up for another six months so they're doing the plans right now.  Then we'd have to start with the foundations but we'll be done about spring mudslide season.  That'll push that back a bit because we'll have to pump the water out of the holes.  The boss said we'd be pushing for completion and opening for the start of the school year in two years."

"Then there'll be more teenagers terrorized by the hole of doom," Spike joked.  "Can't wait."

"Also on the head's up side," Xander said cheerfully.  "Prom has been announced in the paper if we did not read it today."

"Tell us, Oh Great One, where will I have to guard and worry about having flashbacks at?" Buffy teased.

"Flashbacks?" Riley asked her, giving her a confused glance.

"Yeah, someone was training hellhounds to hate formal gear.  I had to kill three of them, do a quick change and my hair in the bathroom, then go."

Xander grinned.  "You didn't look bad but your hair was a bit messy," he offered.

"Thank you.  The beauty of a slip dress," she quipped back.  "Next time I'll bun my hair beforehand and make sure it can't come down."

"It'll be easier since the town's inviting everyone to sit and watch the prom so they can remember their own youth and happy times.  Ten to whenever in the main park, the gazebo will have the DJ, the pond will have specially colored lights.  Streamers in the trees.  Specially put down floors for the dancing."

"Running vampires.  Pond monsters," Buffy quipped.

"That one that was eating at the mall," Tara reminded her.

"What if it's going to rain?" Riley asked.

"Tents," Xander and Buffy said with a sigh.

"According to the paper, if the adults wanted to dance too, it's allowed," Xander told her.  "It's the start of the big anniversary weekend.  The next day is a parade.  VFW dance later that night with the Council of Founders' Families.  The college will have a dance that night. There will be mass partying."

"Were we running behind on our body count this year?" Buffy asked him.  "We'll have a whole weekend of feasting opportunities right around apocalypse season."

"Adam's College is restarting their Winter Ball," Xander offered.  "Hundred bucks per person to dress up, shmooze, all that."  He sat down, Tara beside him.

"Outside?" Buffy asked.

"Remember the frat where you nearly died?  They've renovated it for the new alumni center.  It'll be in there."

"At least that demon's dead," she decided.

"Demon in a frat house?" Riley asked, looking at his girlfriend.

"The first time I snuck off from my duty for a night off at a frat party," she said dryly.  "Cordy and I nearly died thanks to the giant demon the frat was worshiping to make them powerful and rich."

"Almost beats yours, huh, Riley?" Xander asked with a smirk.

"They probably threw worse parties," Riley shot back with a grimace.

"I don't know, it wasn't too bad," Buffy said dryly.  "Those virgin sacrificing parties can be pretty cool now and then.  I had fun until I was knocked out."

"And what did we learn from that?" Spike taunted with an evil smirk.

"Clearly it wasn't 'frat boys are bad'," Xander said dryly.

Riley glared.  "Not all of us."

"When sober?" Xander taunted.  "Or in general is there a small minority?  Ten, twelve percent?"

"Probably closer to forty," Buffy quipped.  "Some of them don't drink."

"They do coke instead," Xander said smugly.  "Like the two in the paper being buried today?"

"Did it," Riley said quickly, standing up.  Buffy smirked at him.  "Bronze?  Since Xander's dressed up he might even attract a woman this time."

"Anya's wish promised me groupies, I'm waiting on them," he said dryly.

"Did it make you impotent too, whelp?" Spike asked, looking totally evil now.

"Nope, but I still don't want to sleep with someone else who might've slept with Anya and have to be treated again."  He stood up, pulling Tara up.  "Aren't you glad vampires can't get those things, Spike?"  He walked out with Tara, Buffy snickering behind them.

"You did?" Riley asked Spike.  "Was she any good?"

"You're probably one of about ten in town that can't tell from experience," Spike shot back.  He stood up.  "Could use a fight anyway.  Wonder how long it'll be before we have to tell the boy what to do with a groupie."

"I can't believe vampires get groupies," Riley said dryly, walking out too.

"Look at how popular we are and all those goth kids," he said smugly.  "We get plenty 'a tail."

Riley shook his head.  "I'm sure some enjoy it."  They ran into the main group at the Mocha Pump getting fortifications for the six block walk to the club.  He saw Xander muttering at his cup and wondered why but he'd leave it alone if the guy wanted to talk to his iced coffee.  It was probably from whatever funny thing Anya gave him.  When they ran into the obligatory vampire group - because no night would be complete without being attacked by a group of vampires - he saw that it had a reason.

Xander noticed Buffy had lost her stake and took one last sip of his coffee before handing it over.  "Iced holy coffee, Buff?"

She gave him a strange look but took it to splash on the vampires in front of her.  "How did you figure that out?" she demanded since they were screaming as they melted.

"Not that hard.  Coffee is mostly flavored water.  It's really fun when you do it with tea.  Especially with lemon.  Makes them squeal first and the lemon bits stick to the dust.  Which means it doesn't get on you.  Too solid to stain, too liquid to clump like mud," he quipped.

Spike looked over at him.  "You're bent."

"I'm not going to answer the allegation of being bisexual today," he said with his best 'accepting the award' smile he had practiced for days.  "You'd have to catch me out on a date to know for sure."  He ducked a blow from a vampire's fist.

"Xander!" Buffy complained, stopping her butt kicking to swat him at the vampire.  "That's bad!"

"I agree but he looks good in that suit," the vampire she was fighting said.  She staked him.

"No, he can't date anyone that harmful to the group," she told the ashes.

"At least Anya wasn't," Riley agreed.  He'd heard *stories* from Spike.

Xander looked at him.  "Cordelia wasn't either."

"Cordelia was a half-step," Buffy admitted.  "She was still mean and a bit evil back then but not dangerous.  So good job!" she said, patting him on the arm.  She saw another vampire running their way with a victim in front of him.  "Xander, can you do that thing to the coffee again?"  He blessed Riley's cup, since his was at his feet.  He tossed it over the victim's shoulder, getting the vampire in the face.

"Ahhhh!  Cinnamon and mocha, gross!" he yelled as his face melted off.

Buffy staked him.  "I know but he's weird that way.  Blame the military people."  She rolled her eyes.  "Okay, let's go.  We all pretty?"  She dusted off as they walked off again.

Xander had to blot one spot on his jacket.  "Drool," he said in disgust.  He paid his and Tara's cover to get inside.

Tara helped him clean it up, earning a smile.  "There, now find someone pretty to practice groupie things on," she teased.  She and Spike were at a table for now.  Spike would protect her.

Xander shook his head.  He'd still have to make sure they didn't sleep with Anya too.  Maybe he'd put an ad out in the paper to warn them?  No, the demon newspaper had already done that for him.  The humans would realize it eventually.  He found a cute thing to dance with, seeing her appreciate looks.  "Awards dinner," he said with a smirk.

"For what?"  She moved closer.

"Short stories.  My first one.  I'm celebrating."

She cooed and moved closer.  She could use some celebration in her night.  Nicely dressed guys weren't bad ones, right?

Buffy shook her head at the cheesy pickup line she had heard Xander use.  How he got girls with that sort of bad line she wasn't sure.  She winked at a vampire and moved to dance near him.  If he wasn't a vampire, he was a throw-back to the seventies, white boy 'fro and all.  The guy in front of her when she turned around was in 80's gay cowboy gear so he was even if his buddy wasn't.

Riley got Tara and him a drink, sitting down again.  "I can't believe how easy they do that."

"It's practice," she said quietly.  "Plus he does look nice tonight."

"Maybe," Riley said dryly.  "I don't look at guys."

She glared at him.  "Neither do I."  He backed down on that point.  "Buffy's going."  He groaned, going to back her up.  She shook her head, taking a sip of her drink.  She looked at Spike, who was studying the crowd.  "Anything really dangerous outside of whatever is dancing with Xander?"

"Not yet," he admitted.  "But when the door opens I can smell something."  She nodded. He stiffened, looking around.  "Get out now, go out the back way with the whelp."

"We can help."

"Not this time.  Fireheads."  She took her drink with her, tapping Xander on the way past him.  He stared.  She nodded.

He nodded.  "My buddy needs to talk.  Get some air with us?  I promise, nothing funny," he told his dance partner.

She shrugged.  "Sure, why not.  You're too cute to be some serial killer guy."  She followed him out into the alley.  "What's going on?"

Buffy finished dusting the other vamp and Tara leaned over to whisper in her ear, getting a nod.  "Damn, those gangs of arsonists," she sighed, heading inside.

Xander looked at Tara.  "Fireheads?"  She nodded.  "Crap."  He took off his jacket and handed it over, jogging inside to catch Buffy.  Too late, two were inside.  He paused at the bar.  "Those guys set a club on fire by the college," he told the bartender.

"Okay.  I'll watch 'em."

"Watch the crowd, make sure they can get out?"  He pounced one, driving him back outside.  His friend screeched and followed.  "Damn, I could use a weapon," he complained.  He kicked one back at Buffy, knocking her into her demon, and that one fell, rolling over her while she ducked to the side.  "Sorry."

"S'okay, I'll kick you later," she said.  "Could use a sword myself."  He tossed her his large hunting knife.  "That may work but we'll be a wreck."

"Dry cleaning bills, yay," he said flatly, taking a swing at the next one.  Spike had two more that were trying to drive him back.  "Spike?"  He ducked the one the vampire threw at him.  "Good job, behind you, footing."  Spike glanced then moved around the dead body that would trip him.  Buffy finished cutting off the head of the one she was fighting so Xander kicked his newest one.  No moving backward.  He advanced and hit it back, little movement.  He shoved it, that worked.  She got it from behind and cut off the head with less sawing this time.  He dove in to help Spike's fighting, ducking one of the vampire's wide swings.

"Eww," Buffy said, brushing at her skirt.  She heard a bad noise and looked around.  "Company."

"Yay us," Xander said, grabbing the one by the neck that had ducked to avoid a blow and heaving until the demon screamed and went to his knees.  Then he kicked him in the head.  "Dress pants, not good for a fight," he quipped, starting to pant.  He heard the bad noise too.  Not sirens thankfully.  No, this was reinforcements of some kind.  "Crap.  Tara and Riley are in the alley."

Riley came jogging over, tossing Buffy a sword.  He took on one of the ones Xander and Spike had.  "Sorry, had to hit your car, Xander."

"That's fine as long as it's closed back up again."  Buffy's sword got knocked out of her hand so he grabbed it as it skidded nearby, stabbing the other one and tossing it back to her with a grin.  He looked at the reinforcements coming their way.  "Yeah, this is not good.  Riley, did you get anything else out?  Like say a flare?"

"Nope.  Sorry."

"Buffy, leave that one alive."

"They're probably working together."   She looked up.  "Oh, non flamey sorts."  She kicked that demon back into them since he was trying to manifest some fire.  The two nearest to where he landed went up.

Spike lit a cigarette and tossed his spare lighter in the middle of the group, letting them all duck backward as it exploded.  That brought down more of them. None of them screamed, which was odd.  "Suicide pack," Spike decided.

"Yay them," Buffy said, staring at them.  The fire went out really fast and only one was left pouting.  She shrugged.  "Next time, jump into it if you want to go that badly."

"Fine."  She huffed off.

Buffy looked at Xander.  "You're covered."

"I know," he admitted, looking at himself.  "I'll remember this and change next time."  He found his phone, texting Tara.  She came over with his jacket.  "Let's head to clean up?"  They nodded.  This was Sunnydale, no one would mind the dead demon bodies lying there.  Or the ashes.

"I might miss that lighter," Spike complained.

Xander looked at him.  "It cost you two bucks at the pawn shop.  Get a new one."  He handed him two bucks.  "There, from my soda fund."  Spike laughed, tucking it into his pocket.  "How did you avoid being gooed when we didn't?"

"I ducked," he said bluntly.  "Made 'em bleed while bending over too."

Buffy looked at him.  "Not even I'm that good, Spike."  He smirked at her.  She looked at Tara.  "Coming over?"

"Maybe.  Need me to?"

"I don't mind.  We'll have movies.  Riley?"

"Sure, I don't mind, Buffy.  I'm not messy."

Xander kept his mouth shut.  Buffy would kick his ass if he let out the thought he was having.  He glanced at Tara, then Spike.  Apparently they were thinking the same thing by the looks on their faces.  He took his car keys back from Riley and headed for home.  It was closer than the shop or Buffy's.  Good thing Riley didn't know he had weapons there too.  He'd hate to embarrass the poor guy.  Xander walked into his building, finding his manager growling at someone else. "'Scuse me, don't want to get in the way."

"Harris!" he snapped, making Xander pause to look at him.  "We don't allow pets."

"I don't have pets."

He pointed at his feet.  "What are those then!"

Xander looked down then at him.  "There's nothing there."

"There's puppies!"

Xander shrugged after looking again, moving all around him.  "Where?"  He looked at the other resident.  "Do you see dogs?"

"No, I don't.  What happened to you?"

"Car broke down on the way back."  He walked up the stairs shaking his head.  "Puppies?"  He walked into his apartment, locking it back up.  He checked again, no puppies sneaking around his feet.  Maybe it was fumes from the goo?  That made *no* sense, even in this town.  He took off his shirt on the way to the shower but an idea hit him.  He grimaced.  "Let me shower," he told himself.  "Before I smell like this forever."  The idea kept going but he itched, he stunk, and he could type while air drying naked.  No matter what his muses wanted, he was going to get a shower.  He yelled in frustration, going to start the idea going then take a shower so it'd leave him alone for a few moments.  He finally got a shower a few hours later.  Some days his muses were not amusing.


Xander slid into the booth, grinning at his usual editor.  "Hi, Donnie."

"Hi," he said cautiously.  "Why do you have that 'up to no good' look most teenagers have?"

"Because if my muses don't shut up, I'm finding them a new home."

"Ah.  One of those marathons."

"We're both damn lucky I didn't get fired."

"Sorry," he offered with a small wince.  "So, anything *good* come of it?"

"Total crap, like usual."  He handed over the USB key.  "One's fairly dark, one's kinda funny."

He ran the stories on his notebook computer, staring at him.  "The third?"

"Muse spew due to finding Anya cheating."

"Then I won't return her calls later after all."  He looked up.  "Speaking of, why was she surrounded by bells?"

"Maybe she went to church," he said with a smirk.

"I don't want to know, do I?"

"Nope.  Though she did make a wish that I'd get really well known, get groupies, and then hopefully get tired of them and take her back."

"There's very few author groupies."

"I know that.  Half of them are at conventions."

"Clearly way too much caffeine, Xander."

"Yeah, well, if they'd let me sleep I wouldn't need so much to function right now."

"Take a benadryl."

"Can't.  Got knocked in the head the other night.  The muses were even more active that night but I had to go back and fix a lot of typos for you."

"Thank you for that."  He glanced over the dark piece.  Yeah, that was seriously dark.  He looked at him.  "Most people want fluffy, emo vampires, Xander."

"I'd like that one to move off my couch so they could have him too," he said with a small shrug.  "His last real girlfriend was like that story.  So are most of the ones I know.  I also included from the human side of things."

"You went to goth clubs for research?"

"No, I went to a goth club to stake a vampire," he said, giving him a look.

The older man looked around then at him.  "I know what you do, kid.  I remember the ulcer I got when you accidentally sent me your journal."

Xander grinned.  "It was work related."

"Uh-huh."  He went back to glancing over it, then at the page count.  "Damn, how many weeks did this take to write?"

"Have you ever heard of those 'hundred page days'?" he asked dryly.

"Twice and both times they were going insane," the editor said dryly.

"Donnie, you have *no* idea and it's all Spike's fault.  That's why I want him off the couch."

"Uh-huh."  He went into the 'muse spew' one and stared at him.  "More of that triumvirate?"  Xander nodded.  "Someone compared it to Kindred."

"I wrote the first one before I learned about Kindred, the card game version.  The second-in-command is based on my ex Cordy's father."

"I remember you telling me about her.  How is she doing?"

"She's working with my friend's ex here in town while going on any auditions she can find open."

"That is the glamorous side of acting," Donnie said sarcastically.  "It's what made me decide I did not want to act and wait tables at the same time."

"I don't know, you probably could've charmed your way into huge tips," Xander teased with a smirk.  His editor smirked back, but looked a bit evil.  "Plus they say waiters get all the good, higher class, easy chicks."  He sipped his coffee.

"I didn't in high school, kid."

"Yeah but back then I doubt you wore Ralph Lauren suits and had two hundred dollar spa treatments."

"That's a good point."  He went back to his glancing over.  The boy was watching around them.   It was an interesting story.  Clearly still a bit dark but with some humor.  He switched to the one that had to be funnier.  That one....  He stared at his favorite near-teen writer.  "Elves?"

"Of little morals.  There's a reason why all those elves were too pretty to be anything but gay, Donnie."

He moaned.  "You're insane."

"It's lack of sleep."

"Someone asked about the romance you write right after you and Cordy broke up."

"Then I was upset.  This time I'm just pissed."

"Is that why she found faith?" Donnie quipped.  Xander gave him a pointed look and the older man paled.  "Xander?" he asked quietly.  Xander tipped his head a bit to the right.  Donnie ran his hands through his hair.  "That bad?"

"Her last six months of her little black book was thicker than your rolodex.  Her and my best friend?  Yeah, I got a bit pissed."  He smiled sweetly.  "Willow's having some fun too."

"Oooh.  I'm sorry."

"Not your fault.  I have no idea why I get women like her all the time."  He finished his drink.  "So, they look okay?  Promising?  Really horrible since it's coming out like a river of word diarrhea?"

"Not bad.  A bit worse than your usual.  Is this going to keep up?"

"Anya did wish fame and notoriety on me," he quipped, standing up.  "Let me know when I can start rewrites."  He put down money for his drink and left him there.

Donnie smoothed out his hair.  Things were never boring when Xander was around.  At least it was being resolved in interesting, profitable ways.


Buffy wandered around Xander's apartment, waiting on him to change.  "I don't see any books of yours," she called.  He came out without his overshirt on but in his hand, handing her the magazine he usually submitted to before putting it on.  "I thought you collected those."

"I did, but only because I get those copies free," he said with a smirk.  "Anya and I had to have a talk about that too when she tried to throw them out."

"She decided it made you more money?"

"She decided that some day I could write things that would make more money.  Now I was just practicing."  He smirked.  "You can borrow it."

"I'll do that after patrol.  That way nothing gets slimed."  She put it back and walked out with him.  Riley was going to meet them at the shop.  "How's the school coming?"

"Clean up's half done. The boss hates it when we find new parts of the former mayor.  One guy swore up and down that a part he found moved so I kindly tossed it in the burn pile for that night and set it on fire early."  She smirked at that.  "I don't know whether or not it was but I didn't want to risk him regenerating really slowly.  The guys all felt better so now we burn the parts we find each night."

"I guess that's a good thing."

"Probably, yeah."  He smirked at her then they walked around the corner into an ambush.  Tara was grinning like mad.  "Hmm, looks like the ho ho fairy showed up often in your life today.  Good news?" he asked, smiling and giving her a hug.

"The best news!"  She bounced some.  "My paper got accepted.  That means that I'm able to use it for some of my hours."

"Congrats," Buffy said.  "I'm dreading my senior thesis paper in my major.  I don't know why they make us do the stupid thing anyway."  She walked off, letting them follow.  "I still have no idea what I'm doing it on."

"Mythology?" Xander suggested.  "Female roles in it?"

"That might not be so bad.  I can cite myself," she quipped.

"You can cite some of our more mundane research," Tara added.

"Giles probably has a lot of books," Xander agreed.

"I might do that."  They walked into the shop, finding Riley waiting on them.  "Tara's senior paper got accepted," she said.

"Congrats, Tara.  Mine about drove me nuts."  She beamed at him.  "If you need help finding the right research in psychology, let me know.  I've still got all those books in storage."

"Thank you."  She beamed at Giles, who smiled back.  "I might need a book ordered."

"I'll see what I can find for you."  She nodded.  "Why are we gathered tonight?"

"The oh so fun patrol after the huge senior year's first party," Xander said dryly.  "Which spilled from one house to four others and the cops actually stopped it."

"That had to be really noisy," Riley said with a smirk.

"Yeah, it went from 'just seniors drinking and doing stupid things' to 'even the geeks can come'," Buffy told him.  "Plus some loser college kids who were looking for a party to be at.  We've got at least seven buried today, we need to swing by both funeral homes, and the morgue just in case, and I've still got an english test at two tomorrow."

"You and Riley hit the cemeteries, Spike is at Willie's.  I'll pick him up and make him help me do the funeral homes and morgue then meet you at Riverside?"

She nodded.  "That'll work since the first two only had one or two burials and the rest were there."  She grabbed gear and walked off with Riley, getting his ideas on her paper.  She needed all the help she could get.

Xander looked around.  "SPIKE!" he bellowed.  He came up out of the basement.  "Patrol."

"M'not your lap dog," he sneered.

Xander stared back.  "Time to pay the rent for the couch," he shot back.  Spike groaned.  He smirked.  "At least I'm not making you pay it on your back, Spike," he quipped.  "A guy gets used to daily sex with Anya around."

"I'd.  Kill.  You," Spike said slowly and clearly.  But he was smirking back too.

Xander just beamed.  "You'd have to provide references before I believe you're that good.  Especially since you'd be taking it."

"I believe I want a drink now," Giles moaned.  He went to his office to get away from those two.  "Have a good patrol."

Spike snickered.  "Good one."

Xander beamed.  "Thank you.  C'mon, funeral homes, morgue, then Riverside to get the rest."

"I heard.  You told her I was at Willie's?"

"Yup, sure did.  That way she and Riley could take off."  He walked off with him, going on their nightly jaunt of fun and fighting.  Once they were alone he looked around then at him.  "I think we've got another inter-Scoobie problem," he said quietly.


"I don't want her in Willie's until *after* she finds out that Melissa will be coming to see if she wants a wish too."  Spike stopped to stare at him in horror.  Xander nodded.  "Have you seen his neck?  I did earlier and there's no way he's been bitten that many times on patrol.  On both sides?  Without us noticing?"

"Hell," Spike muttered.  "I didn't notice.  I can smell him, see who it is."

"Please.  We'll have to cushion her."

Spike nodded.  "A lot."  He walked off shaking his head.  "Any other good news?" he asked sarcastically.

"My editor buddy is very happy that I gave him an excuse to duck a family reunion.  The landlord swore up and down that I had puppies again.  Got the letter earlier saying he was going to evict me for it.  So we'll have a short court date."  Spike nodded at that.  "Have you seen puppies around me?"

"No.  Haven't," he admitted.

"Hmm."  Xander shrugged, pointing.  "Snack alert."  They went to save the teenager and kept going on their patrol.


Xander looked at the judge, then shrugged.  "I haven't had a puppy since I was four.  I have no idea what he's talking about.  I don't even have stuffed dogs in the house."

"He does have them and they're still around him," the landlord complained.

The judge looked.  "I'm not seeing any puppies, sir."

"It's probably some freaky cult thing!" he shouted.  "We all know he's in one with those girls!  His last ex clearly wasn't normal!" he sneered at Xander.  "Did you kill her?"

"No, I think she's presently at a nun's retreat," he said blandly.  "Do you see any puppies?" he asked the judge.  "I've been trying to figure this out for days.  I shouldn't be held responsible for his delusions."

"No, you shouldn't.  Though I'd advise you move anyway, Mr. Harris."

"I'm finding a place right now but I'll be damned if I'm going to be evicted for things I'm not doing."

"No, I don't believe that would suit the law."  He looked at the landlord.  "It's too bad I can't commit you for a mental health check.  Case dismissed, there is no eviction."  He banged his gavel, shaking his head as the young man left.  He had no idea why that landlord was so odd now.  He didn't used to be.

Xander walked out and found Tara waiting.  "You could have come in."

"It didn't involve me," she said quietly.

"We're good."  He walked her off.  "The judge didn't see the puppies either."

She smiled.  "That's good news.  There's a few nicer open ones in your price range."

"Cool beans."  He grinned.  "My boss heard why and he nearly laughed himself sick.  He warned me not to tell the crew, they'd get me a stuffed dog."  His phone beeped so he pulled it out of his pocket and answered it.  "Yeah?"  He grinned.  "Hey, Donnie. What's up?"  He nodded slowly.  "No.  A few friends played the card game and introduced me in eleventh grade, after that got to you.  Besides, it has nothing in common with them.  There's no other clans, nothing.  It's more based on the mafia idea than not."

He heard him repeat that and the guy groaned.  "Did he not read that?  No, those two aren't related.  They're not in the same universe."  He smirked.  "Hey, I can write them multiple ways, thank you, and they're still not in the same universe.  Because it's my work and I said so," he told the idiot who barged into the conversation.  "That one was to get my frustration out.  Yes, I know that.  No.  Do you know how many people named Nathan there are in the world?" he demanded.

"Fine, I'll rename him but it's still not based anywhere near that concept.  I didn't learn about yours until well after that first one was written.  In fact, that's based in the new longer series, which is in a different world completely."  He smirked.  "Yup, it's in there.  If Donnie hasn't gotten that far yet, it's in chapter seven I think.  Maybe eight.  I had to renumber once."  Donnie said he still missed a number.  "Sorry.  Search it for Tlar."

He did that and read the scene, making the other person moan.  "See, not in Kindred's world at all!"  He smirked.  "Thank you for bringing this to my attention.  Yes, they do tend to live in sire/child bonds and some do live in multi-generation enclaves for togetherness, help hunting, and protection.  Because they'd have enemies too."  The man apparently stomped out.  "Thanks, Donnie.  Anything good come of it?"  He smirked.  "Thanks."  He hung up.  "I guess it's good that someone thinks I'm too close to another idea," he said dryly.

She patted him on the hand.  "It'll be okay."  He nodded it would be and they headed to look at new apartments together since he had the afternoon off.  He'd have to make it up Saturday but that was fine.  He could even miss his overtime this week.


Xander heaved the last box into the apartment and stopped to stare.  It was all unpacked.  It was arranged.  Not how he'd want it but he knew who had done it.  "Willow's here," he called down the hallway to Tara.

She came in with the last suitcase, looking around with a sigh.  "I think she is."  She put the suitcase into the bedroom.

Xander put the box in the kitchen.  It was kitchen stuff.  That's why it was so heavy.  He put the food away then turned to find her coming in off his small balcony.  "Thank you for unpacking so I can rearrange things later."

"Not a problem.  The placement's just a suggestion."  She smiled.  "Are you going to be okay out here?"

"I'll be fine.  Why wouldn't I?"

"You're further away from us."

"I'm like two blocks from Joyce's."

"Oh."  She sat on his new bar stool, looking at him.  "I'm sorry."  He shrugged.  "Fine, you won't forgive me."

"Nope.  Not yet."

"Fine."  She smiled as Tara came out.  "Hi."

"Hi."  She looked at Xander.  "We still have to clean your old place."


She smiled.  "That'd work.  I sprayed the scrubbing bubbles stuff on the shower before we left since it needed to be done so badly."

"I was about ready to regrout it on the landlord anyway," Xander admitted.  "I can go rinse it off in a few hours."  She nodded at that.  He looked at Willow again.  "So, why show up?"

"Buffy said we're doing the housewarming today."

"Tomorrow, but yeah.  Unless she's buying pizzas today I don't get paid until tomorrow."

"Huh."  She shrugged.  "I don't know.  I can call."

"Sure.  You do that.  Let me go wash off the shower cleaner."  He glanced at Tara, who came with him.  Once outside he looked at it.  "It did save us a lot of work."  She nodded.  He nudged her with a shoulder.  "You okay?"

"I'm fine."  She smiled at him.  "We'll be okay.  I can stay friendish with her."

"Good."  He found a vamp up the street and staked him after knocking him down without warning to pickpocket him.  "Hmm, nothing good on him."  He got the next one, who was wearing a suit and tie.  That one was a lot easier.  Had a lot more cash too.  He held up the wallet.  "Pizza?"

"Maybe."  She stared at him.  "That's wrong."

He smirked.  "They're vampires.  They won't need it in the land of dust."

"They never do," Riley admitted as he walked up to them.  "Pickpocketing the vamps?"

"Yup, since Buffy decided we're having the housewarming tonight and I don't get paid until tomorrow."

"I thought she had that wrong," he admitted.  "Anything going on?"

"Shower cleaner at my last place.  Willow unpacked."

"I got the shower cleaner when I walked in and smelled it," Buffy said, walking up behind Riley.  She smirked.  "Did I get it wrong?"

"Yeah, but I pickpocketed a vamp.  So we can still have pizza while I set up the stereo."

"Cool.  I could use a night off."

"Willow's there," Tara blurted then groaned.

Buffy sighed.  "We'll figure it out, Tara.  You know we will."  Tara nodded, walking off with Riley behind her.  Xander stopped her from moving though.  She stared at him.  He scratched a spot on his neck.  She shook her head.  He nodded.  "No way," she hissed.

"Buffy, I don't even have scars like that and he's got a fresh bite," he said quietly.  "Spike and I suspected but we weren't going to come to you until we figured out what was going on."

She nodded once.  "I'll talk to him later."

"You can talk to him in our place, just don't get me kicked out for the yelling."

"I won't."  She walked off with him.  "Anything good on the vamp?"

"Accountant.  Very organized billfold with about six hundred in it."

"Oooh, shoes," she moaned.

"Nope, sorry," he shot down with a grin.  "Mine.  Get your own."

"I taught you to stake."

"Telling me the pointy end goes in the heart isn't teaching and Giles did that."


He patted her on the arm.  "I might buy ice cream but I know how you shoe shop.  You want to shop that badly, go find an enclave."


He smirked.  "Someone came to my editor wanting to talk about how close I was to some specific books already on the market.  I had to shoot it down."

"Is that good or bad?"

"It means that they can market it toward them better than just doing a general one.  I even based a character off Cordy's dad.  She cackled when she saw that one."  He let her into his apartment.  "We're here."

"Pizzas are ordered," Riley said.  "Plain pepperoni because I know the girls wanted it."

"That's fine.  I have canned onions if I need to add some."

Buffy shook her head.  "Onions, eww."  She looked around.  "Xander....."  He pointed at Willow.  "Let's rearrange things, Riley."

"Big couch goes where the coffee table is.  Tv goes on the wall," Xander ordered.

"It hangs up?" she asked.  He nodded.  "Wow."

He smirked.  "I found it on major sale.  Tara, help me move the desk?"  She nodded, helping him move it where he wanted.  Then they decided to turn it around so he could stare outside but he'd have to turn painfully to watch tv.  That way when he wanted to write he could hear it but not see it immediately and distract himself.

Buffy and Riley moved the couches.  He wanted the smaller loveseat in another spot but she ended up winning that debate because she could move it on her own.  "So, Xander, editor?"

"Yeah.  The guy who sends me info on books that people want to have written for them suggested I sign on with an editing service to polish my stuff.  I'm not the most grammatically correct writer always.  Donnie gets it, I get it back to fix what he fixed, then give it to him for a reread and minor edit.  Then we send it to wherever.  The magazine, the agent to shop around."

"When did you get an agent?" Willow asked.

"After my second publishing thing and I talked to the guy I submitted through about something that was too long for them that I had done.  He suggested it.  Since I had been published, it made things easier.  He knows who to send the longer stuff to so it might be included somewhere like an anthology.  I lucked out and found Donnie first and he told me who to go see.  I went to a few different editors before he and I clicked.  He's even been mugged by a vampire," he joked with a grin.  "He and Chuck work pretty closely trying to make me write stuff that's more 'modern taste' than some of my stuff."

"That would probably sell faster," Riley admitted.

"Maybe but I can't write emo vampires."

Buffy snickered.  "I saw that book advertised."

He nodded.  "I read it, I'm not sure why but Donnie suggested I read it to see what was selling.  I told him where she got it wrong and he groaned but agreed."  He shrugged, taking money out of the new wallet to pick up the pizzas from the delivery guy.  Instead he found an officer.  "What?"

"Mr. Harris, we saw you pickpocketing someone," he said smugly.

"Prove it since that person doesn't exist and never made a report."

The officer gaped.  "Excuse me?"

"I do not know where you guys get your delusions but apparently your cousin's from the puppies have spread.  There was no one there."

"We saw it on tape."

Xander snickered.  This was the new guy to the department, it figured.  Most of the old ones only wanted to ruin Buffy for taking down the Mayor.  "Prove it.  Let me see the tape."  The officer grumbled but he went with him to view it with Buffy.  That way she could nag if he got into trouble.  Xander pointed at the monitor when it was done.  "What pickpocketing?"

The officer growled.  "I saw you.  There was a person there!" he told his boss.  Willow had apparently called him about false accusations and the press coming down on them.  They were under a state review at the moment and jumpy because of it.

"You saw me practicing something for a new story," Xander corrected.  "Not me pickpocketing invisible people."

The head officer glared at him.  The state review guy coughed.  "Clearly there was no crime," he said quietly.  The head officer slumped and nodded.  "Have a good night and I'm sure they're sorry for inconveniencing you based on a sight illusion."

"It's cool," Xander promised.  "Happens now and then."  He walked off with Buffy, shaking his head.

"New guy," she snorted once they were outside.  They walked back to the new place.  "You sure about that, Xander?"

"Yup.  Look at his neck, Buffy.  He has more scars than Spike did from the week he said it took Dru to turn him."


"Get him shirtless later and discover them."  She beamed at that idea.  "Not the first time I'm sure," he teased.

"Nope.  I guess I was more concerned about other things before."  She shrugged.  "We'll see.  Maybe he's in thrall or something."

"Maybe," Xander agreed.  Not that he agreed but it was important for her to have that hope.  Otherwise they'd see her going dark and killing Riley 'I let vampires suck me off' Finn. "Look at it this way, Buffy.  He didn't have Anya."

"Which makes me very happy," she assured him.  They opened the door of the building and locked it behind them, going up to his new place.  "This one is seriously bigger and has more light," she said, nodding in appreciation.

"I'll have light curtains up in a few days," Xander said with a grin.  "Sunlight can be annoying when I'm trying to do things."  He ignored the idea that came at that line, eventually writing it on the pad on the fridge.

"I think it's nice your muses are stronger than I am," Buffy teased.

He smirked back.  "You have no idea."  He looked around.  "Willow, where's the comic and magazine collection?  Buffy wanted to borrow one."

She grimaced.  "They're childish, Xander."

"The comics are worth money," he said impatiently.  "And the magazines are ones I submitted to."  She grumbled but went to get them out of the dumpster before he did mean things to her.  Xander looked at Buffy.

"I'll keep her on a short leash," she promised.  "You know sometimes she acts without thinking, Xander.  We all do."

"The sad thing is that she knew that," Tara said dryly.  "Xander, you might want to mention your *collection*," she said dryly.

He walked out onto the balcony.  "And the smut you threw out too, Willow.  Bring up everything you threw out."  He went back inside to get some pizza.  "Movie?"

"Please.  I want to see that screen in action," Buffy said lightly.  He grinned at that, going to make sure it was properly hooked up.  It was, so apparently Riley or Willow had done it.  "Put in something funny?"

"Sure.  Lethal Weapon?"

"That'll work," Riley agreed.  "It even has a few mushy moments for the girls."

Xander opened the case then a few more until he found it.  "Sorry, case roulette."  He popped it in and handed Tara the remotes, moving the pizzas out to the coffee table for now.  Plus cans of soda so they wouldn't have to get up.  He sat down, watching Willow float boxes up, considering what she had objected to in *his* place.  Someday he'd have to remind her she wasn't his mother.  Who really hadn't cared if he had porn or not.  He mentally counted.  "That leaves how many?" he asked when she sat down.


Tara sighed and floated up the last three boxes, putting them in the kitchen since it had linoleum and they were messy from the dumpster.  "I think that's all of them.  All that I tagged anyway."

He went to look and grab his other two, of smut of course.  He didn't care what Willow liked at the moment.

"That's dirty," she complained.

He shrugged.  "I'm single.  I can read as many Playboys as I want, Willow."

She glared.  "It's not healthy for you."

"We like him doing it that way.  The next girlfriend might get worse again," Buffy complained.  "If he wants porn and stuff, it's his choice, Willow.  It's his house and I'm sure he won't be sharing with us girls."

"I did give Tara a naked girl pictorial when she was pouting after that science test but she tried to beat me for it," Xander quipped.

"I nearly managed it too but he ducked too often," Tara assured her, cracking Buffy up.

Willow glared at him.  "You're corrupting her."

Xander smirked at her.  "Unless you want dropped off that balcony, I'd behave and not hurt Tara again," he mouthed.  She slumped and turned around again.  He went back to checking.  "I think Spike took last month's."

"He did," Buffy said dryly.  "Mom was cackling about him reading it."  She shook her head.  "Mom's got strange tastes in humor these days."

Riley nodded.  "Definitely."  He put an arm around her shoulders.  She snuggled into his side.  It was nice.  "Which is the new couch, Xander?"

"The loveseat.  That one's had the cushions replaced by some I found in the thrift shop."  He came out with another soda for him and Tara.  "The desk is new.  So's the coffee table.  Both on massive sale.  The tv was on massive sale too since they're discontinuing the brand."  He opened his can and took a sip.  "All together it took about a paycheck worth."

"Not bad considering the tv should've cost that much," Riley admitted.  Xander grinned at that.  "Have Tara help?"

"Of course.  She's reasonable when she helps me shop.  Unlike Buffy, who makes me help her shoe shop.  Or dress shop."

"Mom won't let me shop right now," she said with a small pout.

"Maybe if you donate some of your older stuff or get it ruined on patrol," Xander offered.

"She's really good at getting goo out," she said with a small shrug.  "It means less things get ruined.  I'm almost a full season behind now."

"The holidays are coming.  Maybe you'll get some gift cards," Tara said.

"That could be nice.  Maybe to the mall?"  Tara smiled at that.  "Not to be hinting or anything."

"Of course not," Riley agreed.  "It's very practical and lets you figure out what you want to get on your own."

"Plus you can drag your mom along for some mom/daughter time," Xander offered.  "Without her wincing at the pain in her credit card."

She pinched him but smiled for that suggestion.  "She might like that."  She shifted, snickering at the guys on the screen saying they were too old to be doing that.

"Yeah, I've had a few mornings like that too," Riley assured her with a grin.

"You?  I'm ancient for a slayer."

Xander pinched her back.  "And still don't look legal."

She poked him.  "I am so legal."

"Yeah, because I didn't serve you with your really bad fake ID," he said dryly.

"We will not be mentioning that again," she said firmly.

He smirked.  "Sure I won't."

She poked him extra-hard.  "Meany.  Tara, you need to make him more cookies.  He's getting mean from lack of sweets."

Willow choked.  "That clearly didn't come out right."

"Tara's been my idea bouncer," Xander said dryly.  "And she has been making cookies in my ovens, Buffy.  Just not chocolate chip ones."

"You ran out," Tara reminded him.

"I'll buy some more when I make it grocery shopping."

Tara looked at him.  "Those muses of yours are being mean."

He shrugged.  "I'm making it to work on time again now that the gay elf one is done."  She snickered at that.  "What?  He looks like one, even if he is sleeping with half the universe in his world."

Willow stared at him.  "You write smut?"

"No.  I write sci-fi/fantasy but people still get sex there too.  It means more people, especially teenage boys, want to read it.  I gave them a very good, geeky hero who gets a lot of evil chicks and there's even a temple of Cordy-ites there for him to long after because they're supposedly pure."  Buffy burst out cackling, hiding her head in Riley's chest to smother it.

"It's really sad that the temple's pure little girls pick on him sometimes and then they give him come-on looks to encourage him to 'rescue them' but they get him in trouble if he does," Tara told her.  "It's really funny, Buffy."

"I'll read it sometime."

"I'll give you my promo copy," he assured her with a grin.  "Donnie's still giggling about those three.  Even though he does want me to have emo vampires in space instead of more realistic ones."

"Emo vampires?" Buffy snickered.  "Why?"

"He said they're hot right now."  He shrugged.  "I can't read them without giggling my ass off.  Get this, one *sparkles* in *sunlight*," he said, making her fall onto the floor giggling.  "Yeah, that's what I thought too."

"Are they killable?" Riley asked.  "They may be some strange cross-species that we haven't seen yet."

Buffy snickered, shaking her head.  "If so I'm sure their heads come off."

"I couldn't get far enough in to see how they died.  There are werewolves against them though."

Buffy shook her head, climbing back into her spot.  "I should get Giles that one so he can giggle too."  He got up and found it on the shelf, handing it to her as he sat down with a new piece of pizza.

She flipped through it.  "Looks like something girls would like."

"Yup but the heroine's a bit weak and whiny in my thoughts.  But who knows what girls like to read.  They like Barbie and she's unrealistic too."

"Yeah, I wanted a body like hers once until Mom showed me how bad it was."  She put the book in her lap.  Maybe she'd read it first.  She could use some good humor in her life.  The movie finally ended and the Scoobies clapped.  "Put in part two, Xander?"

"Let me find it."  He got up to find the movie while Tara put the first one away.  "I really have got to quit playing case roulette."

Tara nodded.  "Could help with your CD's too, Xander."  She handed it to him.  He grinned and put it in, sitting down again.  It was comfy, even if Willow was there.  Xander and Buffy would leash Willow if she started to cause trouble or upset her.  If Riley didn't just throw her off the balcony.  He looked like the sort.


Joyce walked into her daughter's room, giving her very strange daughter a look.  "Why are you laughing that loudly at two in the morning?"

"Sparkling," she howled, tossing the book while she rolled around and giggled.

Her mother read the first few pages, shaking her head.  Buffy was still snickering as she got up to find a page for her mother, making Joyce laugh too.  "Okay, I agree, this is very funny."

"I should taunt Spike with it," she said with a huge grin.  "Xander got it from his editor person because he said emo vampires are cool right now and wants Xander to write them instead of more realistic, grr ones.  I thought I'd read it and then give it to Giles."

"He could probably use the laugh too."  She handed it back.  "Let me have it first."

"Sure, Mom," she agreed with a smile.  Her mother went back to bed.  That had been a good reason to wake up to.  Buffy climbed back into bed to go back to reading.  It was *funny*!  Even if she did think the heroine should just knock him down, take what she wanted, and then walk off into the sunset with someone more manly.  At least her boyfriends were manly and not wimps.  That gave her an evil thought.  She'd have to tell Cordelia to get the book so she could taunt Angel.  He could use some good taunting time to keep him from getting too happy again.


Xander sat down across from his favorite editor a few weeks later, giving him a grin.  "The muses let up enough that I made it to work on time all week, and actually made it to the store to get groceries instead of letting me run out for two days and having to eat take out while defending myself from the takeout delivery boys."

"Congrats.  Does that mean I have more work?"

"If you want," he offered with a grin.  "Tara loved Tral."

"I liked him a lot too.  He reminds me of you," he teased with a smirk.

"Now and then but I only date dangerous women it seems."  He winked at the waitress, who blushed.  "I need a new girlfriend.  Are you dangerous?"

"I'm a good girl," she said, walking off with a swish.

Xander grinned at him.

"You're really happy today."  Xander handed over the USB keychain.  "Thanks.  I sent your agent the last three and he was very happy."

"I didn't get back post-edits?"

"Two of them need some but he wanted to see them before you did this time.  He should be calling this week."

"Cool."  He sipped his coffee, letting Donnie glance over those two.

Donnie looked at him.  "Isn't that your ex Cordy?"

"Yes.  She'd be amused at the temples."

"I'm sure she will be."

"I'm introducing her to emo vampires later on at Buffy's orders.  That way she can giggle too.  Buffy nearly hurt herself with that one."

"I'm glad I could amuse the scary girls around you.  Any other traumas going on?  I see this one has some angst."

"Willow showed up at the apartment welcoming party.  Threw out my smut and my collection of what've I've got published."  Donnie shuddered.  "She had to crawl into the dumpster to fix it too.  Or I was going to throw her into the dumpster because of it.  Buffy's sad but we're not looking forward to her kicking his butt for doing dangerous things on purpose."


"Her boyfriend."

"You guys seem to keep having this problem."

"Yeah, most people in the life do," he admitted.

"I can understand that, kid."  He moved to the second piece.  "Hey, a short one.  Thank you."

"Too many patrols.  It could be longer if someone wanted it to be," he offered.  "Tara loved it."

"I'm sure she did.  It has a strong female lead character.  Who is or isn't a lesbian?"

"No clue," Xander admitted.  "Never went there."


"She's almost like one of the Temple girls in the other one but not quite.  More warrior and less flirty."

"That's fine."  He closed them both, staring at him.  "Your agent was amused that the muses attacked you that way."

He shrugged.  "Unless they're the puppies my last landlord spotted around me, I have no idea."

"If they are, don't tell me that."

"Fine."  He grinned.  "So, anything else good?  Like maybe they sold?"

"No idea."  He shrugged.  "Call Chuck."

"I will.  Thanks, Donnie."  He shook his hand.  "Happy reading."

"Of course.  I'll even remember to not take out any foreshadowing this time.  I had to go back to undo it this last time."  Xander just smirked.  "Go play."

"Fine."  He paid for his drink, winking at the waitress, who giggled at him.  He had to stop at a bookstore.  Then he went to where Cordelia was, strolling inside.  "My beauteous one.  A payment since I have taken the vein of your former sheep in vain."

She snorted.  "Like they'd care."  She looked at the back cover.  "Vampires?  Gee, whatever will I learn from them?" she asked sarcastically, glaring at him.

He leaned down.  "Buffy was cackling so loudly at the first book, the neighbors called the cops and they actually showed up," he said quietly with an evil smirk.


"Yup.  She sends those as well so someone can snort and not get fully happy when you twit him about it," he said quietly.  She gave him a mean smirk back.  He patted her on the head.  "If Chuck calls, since he seems to call you to find me, I'm somewhere.  My phone works again.  The muses have even slowed down for a bit."

She snorted.  "That bad?"

"I handed Donnie three novels in a little over a month, Cordelia.  Only one in something I'd written before."  She moaned.  "Hundred page days," he said bluntly.  "He was amused as well.  Speaking of, Tara loves the new series if you wanted a preview too."  He winked.  "I'm heading home if you hear from him."

"I'll do that.  Are you going to visit Anya?"

"When she wants to talk to me, she'll call," he said.  "You might warn him that Buffy's on the cocoa and ice cream diet for non-cycle reasons so coming up will get angsty, but those vamps, he'll get."  He smirked.  "Donnie wanted me to write like that."  He left, heading for home after a quick stop for a burger.  He was starved since the muses had woken him at four this morning to write some more Tral stalking priestesses.

She leaned back, opening the first book.  She tipped her head to the side.  "Xander does it *so* much better," she decided.  But it was a good enough read.  She didn't like the heroine but that happened.  She was used to stronger women, like her, Buffy, and Joyce.  She kept going, outright laughing at some of the problems that she went through.  Then the part that really made her cackle showed up.  She nearly peed herself.  No wonder Xander had said she could pick on Angel!  Yes, she could do that!

Doyle walked in and looked at her.  "Do I want to know?"  She waved him over, letting him see that line.  He snorted.  "No way."

"Xander showed up with them as a present for me and Angel to read.  Said he'd get the vamps and I'd giggle my ass off like Buffy did."

He checked the cover.  "Some of my students read the first one for class," he said, shaking his head.  "Total shite."

"Well, yeah," she said dryly.  "Can you think about hunting those sort?"

He snorted.  "Definitely.  Plus they do brood.  A lot."  She smirked.  "I'll make sure he reads it," he promised with a smirk.  "He could use the levity."  He walked out to the elevator, going downstairs.  "Angel, Cordelia has a joint present from Xander for you two.  She's reading it now."

"That's fine."  He looked up.  "You look amused and happy."

"That book."  The vampire gave him a curious look.  "You'll have to get it from her.  I don't have a copy of my own."  He went to get a bottle of water from the fridge while Angel went cautiously upstairs.  He could hear the cackling so he knew Angel did.  He smirked at the stairway door.  Yeah, that was a good present.


Spike stomped into Xander's apartment, slamming the door.

"You break it, you fix it," Xander grunted, going back to his typing.

"Patrol, whelp.  We've got a lot tonight."

"Six more pages and I'm done.  Get me some stakes and a new t-shirt?"

"Pants too?" Spike prompted.  "Or are you just wearing a t-shirt tonight to scare the demons off?"

Xander glanced down and nodded.  "Could help since I'm in boxers, yeah.  Thanks."  He waved a hand but went back to his typing.  He was nearly there.  Spike pulled the plug on his laptop.  Thankfully his battery was charged.  He saved and went on, finishing within ten more minutes.  He sighed in pleasure.  "That's good but total shit."  He shut down his laptop, putting it in the safe in his desk so he could get dressed.  "Thanks, Spike."

"Wondered why you didn't answer your phone," he said dryly.

"The muses said so.  If it was important, you'd call back."  He pulled on the t-shirt, looking at it. Then he shrugged.  He didn't care if Buffy didn't like his bomber babe t-shirt.  It was comfortable and dark outside of the image.  "I'll tell her you picked it out if she fusses."  He stepped into his sneakers, took the weapons, his cellphone, and walked out.  He came back to get his keys, a donut, and his wallet in case he needed it.  "Sorry, forgot to eat today," he admitted as he walked out, locking the door before bouncing down the stairs.

Spike shook his head.  "We've got to get him some muse venom."

Xander grinned.  "Now and then it's all right.  They agreed they can be this way on the weekends to make up for low word count nights after work and slaying."  He ate his donut in two gulps.  He also ran into the convenience store to get a hot pocket and a soda.  He came out happier.  "That's better.  Good breakfast."

"Only if you're turned," Buffy said from behind them.

He turned to look at her.  "Writing all day.  Missed food."  He finished it off.  He saw her glare at his shirt and pointed at Spike.

"You're letting him dress you now?" she asked.  "Some group news we need to hear?"

"He was only wearing boxers," Spike said dryly.

"Fine.  That stuff still stinks."

"Then it'll draw them since I'm so ham and cheese tasty now," Xander quipped, opening his soda and taking a large gulp.  "Ah.  Much better."  He walked off after Buffy, pulling out his phone to read the missed calls.  "Chuck."  He dialed it, putting it against his ear while he walked and drank.  "Hey," he said between sips.  Buffy looked back at him.  "My writing agent."

"Do you have one for some other reason?" she asked dryly.

"Well, I am handsome enough to act," he shot back with an evil smirk.  "I gave Cordy that set of books."

"I'm sure she'll cackle too.  Probably twit Angel about not being sparkly enough."  She shook her head.  Those two had a strange relationship.

Xander listened to his agent go over what he wanted to talk about.  "Huh," he said.  "Which one did they like?  I like Tral, so does Tara and Donnie, Chuck.  What else did they like?"  He nodded.  "I thought that was absolute crap," he admitted.  "But if they like it that much, go for it.  Yeah, I might be able to but you will be getting more of Tral.  Soon even."  He grinned.  "He gets cutesy too but he does finally get a priestess in part three.  Or he just did earlier.  I have a few more short things that need to hit Donnie in a few weeks and that one.  Yes, on the weekends.  I know it's not good for me, Chuck.  I just ate breakfast and now I'm out helping Buffy."  He finished his soda in two gulps, tossed the cup, and grabbed the stake out of his back pocket to get the one trying to sneak up on him.  "Anyway," he said, seeing Buffy's amused look.  "No Captain Iowa tonight?" he asked her.

She shook her head.  "Nope."

"I am paying attention, Chuck.  Yeah I am.  Isn't that low?  You know what?  Have them test read it before deciding that.  Yes, like the full first three chapters.  Tara said the best stuff was in chapter two.  Thanks, man.  Sure, next weekend?  That'll work.  Thanks."  He hung up.  He checked the missed calls, putting Cordelia's voicemail on speaker, which made Buffy howl with laughter again.  He grinned.  "I knew she'd have fun and he'd understand them very well."  He hung up and put it into his pocket.  "There, all done."

She shook her head, smiling.  "What are you going to do when you get rich and famous?"

"Come back when you need me for major stuff since I'm writing under a pseudonym.  If I get caught, I'll say it's research."

She nodded.  "Cute."

"Yeah, I know, but I'm fun too," he quipped, making Spike groan and her swat him on the arm.  "That was good news."

"From the wish or before?" she asked.

He smirked.  "Before.  That and the award.  Thanks to the award, someone wanted to take a look at some of my longer stuff.  They liked the vampires in space, which Donnie hated and I thought the first was my crappiest piece to date since it was so long ago.  The stuff I like they didn't want to give a test read but I'll get them to do that with the deal for this first one hopefully.  If not, he's got others he can shop that to.  Which means I can update my stereo," he finished with a grin.

"I want a kick ass present if you do make millions," she warned with a grin.

"Of course you do."  He winked.  "We'll see.  I might give you one to the smut shop."

She pinched him.  "Girls don't need smut like that."

He held up a hand with a grin.  "They sent me a letter saying they missed mine and Anya's business.  With a twenty percent off coupon."  She snickered at that, walking off shaking her head.  "Yeah, exactly.  So I can get you one if you want."

"Mom would have multiple cows."

"Joyce could use some good bath time reading too," he quipped.  She snorted, shaking her head.  He grinned at Spike.  "Should I pick you up dirty old man mags or anything?  I know there's a cheesy vampire porno.  I threw out two copies of it."

"No thanks.  Got yours from what you threw out."

Xander shrugged.  "Good for you.  I didn't need it."  He jogged ahead to catch up and get the guy sneaking up on her.  "Oh, hey, Riley," he said once he had him on the ground moaning.  "Next time, tell us it's you so we won't pounce."  He got off him and walked off.

"He's been writing all day," Spike told Riley, hauling him up.  Buffy came back to check him over.  Spike walked off shaking his head.  The sugar was getting to the boy's head.  He hoped that hot pocket kicked in soon.

Buffy smiled.  "He just ate."

"Figures."  He finished dusting himself off.  "Patrol?" he suggested with a smile.

"Sure.  That's what we're here for."  She heard Xander's phone ring and sighed.  "Xander, mind on patrol please?" she asked.  "Before you draw them with that thing?"

"It's Tara."

She sighed and nodded.  "Fine.  She okay?"

He listened then shook his head.  "I'll be there at a run, Tara.  You stay locked in."  He hung up.  "Riley, I need a man's help but you'll do.  Willow's threatening her."  He took off running.  Buffy and Riley followed.

"Spike, tell Giles!" Buffy yelled.  "We might need his help!"

"Okay," he said, wondering what was going on this time.

Buffy outpaced the guys, but she was lighter, faster, and a slayer so of course she did.  She got there in time to hear the campus guards go flying down the hall with a magical hand.  "Willow!" she snapped, making Willow flinch.  "What are you doing!"

"I'm trying to talk to my girlfriend!" she shouted back.

"Clearly, she doesn't feel the same," Xander said as he walked up behind Buffy and around her.  Willow snarled and pulled up magic.  He pulled a gun, pointing it at her.

"Hey, that's mine," Riley complained.

"I know that," Xander told him.  He stared her down.  "Back down, Willow."

"You wouldn't...."

He snorted.  "Really?  You so sure of that?"  She stomped off.  He handed Riley back his gun.  "Go after her, Buffy.  Make sure she can't magic her.  Tara said she was pulling magic to do something."  She nodded, going after their friend.  "Go," he told Riley.  He nodded, moving to help the guards.  Xander knocked on Tara's door.  "Tara, it's me."  He used her spare key; he'd had it since she had kicked Willow out.  He walked inside and closed the door with a kick, locking it.  "There."  She looked up at him, shaking.  "Shhh.  Buffy has her and I nearly shot her."  He carefully moved next to her.  "C'mere."  She started to sob so he pulled her into his arms.  "Shh, I've got you.  No more scary redhead," he soothed, stroking her back.  She was shaking and crying.  He looked at the staring cat.  "C'mon, Miss Kitty."  He picked her up and put her in Tara's lap, letting her cuddle her cat.  She didn't protest too much this time.  Xander let her calm down naturally, just being a good friend for now.  Someone knocked.  "Who is it?" he called.

"I'm the RA on the floor, sir.  Isn't this Miss Maclay's room?"

"She's in shock."  He stood up, letting her curl up on her bed for now.  He peeked outside then let her in.  "Sorry about the disturbance Willow caused."

"It's happened before," she assured him.  "Are you all right, Tara?  We have extra security tonight."

"She'll be coming to stay with me or our friend tonight," Xander said quietly.  She nodded at that.  "Can they keep Willow out?"

"We can try.  I'm not sure if they can do all the entrances though."

"That's why she's coming with us."  She nodded at that.  "Thank you for checking on her.  We worry about her."

"I know I would too.  Boyfriend?"

"Friend.  She's not into me that way.  I see her like a sister."

"Good.  That's always good for a young woman."  She looked at Tara.  "If you want to, there's a form we can help you fill out to report the attempted domestic assault.   It's sad but we have a few on campus every year."

She shook her head.  "They'll take care of her," she said quietly.

"That's fine.  Keep it in mind.  You'll need it to get a DVP against her.  Call if you need help, Tara.  You know where I am."  She left them alone.

Xander locked the door again.  "Pack.  I have that spare bedroom that would look really nice with an anti-magic protective circle on the floor."  She stared at him.  He stared back.  "Want me to pack for you?"  She blushed, shaking her head.  He smiled.  "I can even have cats there."  She smiled, putting Miss Kitty into her carrier.  He called Giles.  "It's me.  I need a ride for Tara to get to my place if you're not busy helping stop Willow."  He nodded.  "Please."  He hung up.  "He'll be right here."  She looked at him.  "I'll fully expect you to put a warding circle around your bed, Tara.  So that no magic can get in there at all."  She nodded at that, adding a few books and a roll of masking tape.  He let her have another hug when she whimpered.  "If she tries shit I'll get her myself," he promised.  "I nearly shot her earlier for this."

She looked up at him.  "Thank you."

He smiled.  "You're my pack," he reminded her gently.  Someone knocked, making him flinch.  "Buffy, that you?"

"Yup."  He opened the door.  "We good?"

"We're taking her to my spare room."

"That makes sense.  You have better security.  Giles is here."  They helped her carry her bags downstairs to the car.  "Coming back?" she asked Xander.

"After I get her settled."

"That's cool.  Thanks."  She watched them drive off, then turned to look at Spike and Riley.  "Willow?"

"In the woods," Riley admitted.  "I lost her."

"Me too," Spike admitted.  "She masked herself."

Buffy nodded.  "We're going to do the sensible thing.  She doesn't need magical equipment tonight.  Not after trying to hurt Tara."  They nodded, going back to her dorm room to remove all of Willow's working supplies, and then Tara's, to Xander's apartment.  It'd be safer there.  Plus she'd nag him about the daily necessities like eating.  That would work out good for both of them.  She paused in her dorm room to call her mom.  "Willow tried to magic Tara," she said when her mother answered.  "She's temporarily moving into Xander's."  She smiled.  "That's why I'm calling, Mom.  Thanks."  She hung up.  "She'll go cuddle her for Xander."  The guys nodded at that.  Joyce was that way.  "Then we'll finish tracking down Willow.  Tonight."  She walked out, the guys following carrying the trunk.  She locked the door and followed them down to Riley's jeep, which was on campus.


Xander walked onto the site the next morning with Tara.  "Her girlfriend tried to beat her," he told his boss.  "She's going to be doing my paperwork for me today."

"This isn't a habit, right?" he asked him.  "I understand why but it's not good."

"No.  They're searching for her girlfriend today."

"That's fine.  She can read at your desk."

"She says she can do forms," he said with a smile.  His boss snorted but let them into the trailer.  He put her in his chair, looking at her.  "If the guys come in to gawk, just blush and tell them you're Tara.  I praised your cookies so they may want some."  She blushed, ducking her head.  "Most of the guys are nice.  A few.... not so much.  You'll be okay.  If not, I'll hear and get fired."  He kissed her on the top of the head.  "Rest.  Or try to."  He left, going out to work.  "Guys," he said once he was at the morning meeting.  "I have Tara with me because of her girlfriend being a witch last night.  Don't pick on Tara."

"We won't," one guy said.  "She okay?"

"Still shaky.  We're looking for Willow."  They all smirked at that tone of voice.  He'd used it on a few idiots before.  "Okay, clean up crew one, mine, where are we today, boss?"

"Two, you guys take the pool area."

"Watch out, the office floor was weakened back in my junior year," Xander warned.  Some of them nodded.  "So we've got.... library?"  His boss nodded.  "That's fine.  Get one last drink, guys."  They did that and put on their dust masks and gloves.   He did the same and went inside to clean up more parts.  The Mayor really had made an unholy mess.  Xander paused in the former doorway, staring around.  "This isn't right," he said quietly.  "Guys, no.  Get the boss."

They ran off.  They knew if he said something wasn't right it was a problem.  He had found someone hiding in the basement a few weeks back.  It had scared most of the crew when it turned out to be feral and tried to eat him.  He had stabbed it easily enough and handed it to Buffy to finish off since it needed to be set on fire.  He heard a scream and went running toward the pool area.  "Shit, Jack!"  The fish monster stared at him and burbled.  "I know, shoo.  We're tearing down the old school so they can build a new one."  The fish monster pointed at someone.

"No, you can't have him.  Go.  Before I call Buffy."  The fish monster slid back into the sewer.  Xander checked the guy over.  "Get him outside," he snapped.  They carried him out.  Xander went back to the library, moving inside cautiously.  That's when he saw it.  A very faint glow and one tentacle tip.  "Aw, shit," he said, calling the store.  "It's me.  Tentacle at the library."  He hung up.  His boss walked in scowling.  He pointed.

The boss looked at it then at him.  "Okay.  We'll clear it today."

"I'm hoping we can get it closed today," Xander admitted.  "But I think I know the reason why.  Can you get Tara?"  He nodded, going to get her from the office while he watched.  Buffy came jogging in from the former side door.  He pointed. "I sent one of the swim team off too.  He headed into the sewer."

"Wanted a coworker?"

"Yup.  I sent him off already."

She stared at the tentacle tip.  "This is creepy with last night."  Tara walked in.  "You called her first?"

"She was reading at my desk."  He let her see it.  "The hellmouth," he said dryly.

"Her?" Tara asked quietly.

"No clue," Buffy admitted.  "We have her.  She's knocked out in our basement, Tara.  Mom's not happy with her."  Tara nodded once.  "So I don't know."

Xander looked.  "It's inside the floor.  That's where the portal has nested."  They both nodded at it.  He looked at his boss.  "I can blow the floor but the portal will still be here.  Small chance of it opening again.  We can try to close it, but I can't be sure."

"Will the creepy, waving thing go away?"

"It's the tip of a Kraken's tentacle," Buffy said with a smile.  "You should see the full thing."

Xander shrugged.  "It'll be destroyed no matter what.  The stump being pulled in should let it shut.  It would speed up the clean up, boss."

"It'd also blow the chunks of whatever all over."

"I can lay it so it'll collapse into the basement," he offered.  "Then we'd just have to shovel out the hole.  I'd need six points weakened.  That's the only way I know to do an outward-in blow."

Buffy looked at him.  "What about the portal?"

"That'll be done at the end of the day.  If we need to, I can come back to inspect and reflect on my blow," he said dryly.  "With my faithful female helpers if anyone asks."

She looked at Tara.  "Willow said the explosion made the energy flowing out of the hellmouth balloon upward instead of just pouring out."

"That should make it easier to shut," she decided.  "I need that book."

"It's in the stuff in your room," Buffy told her.  She smiled and nodded, going to get the book.  Buffy looked at Xander.  "I'll be here when you blow it," she said.  "Just in case that small chance happens."

"Of course you are.  I'm good but you're a slayer," he said with a grin.

"Good.  You finally learned that."  She punched him on the arm before following Tara.

Xander walked the boss out there.  "Guys," he said, making them all stare.

"We're going to blow this site with the problems we're having," the boss announced.  "We need to weaken a few spots.  I'll need to get loader and a truck to dig out the hole."

Xander got the plans down, looking at them.  "Here, here, here, here, here, here," he ordered.  "We need them weakened so it falls toward the center when it goes."  The older guys nodded at that.  "Make sure you don't collapse it fully.  Otherwise we'll have to clean that up too.  We're aiming toward the basement under the former library and gym," he said.  "Inside first then outer ones falling in on top of it."

"We can do that," one really experienced guy promised.  "C'mon, guys.  We have to weaken some walls while Xander makes bombs."  A few gave Xander uneasy looks but that was fine.

The boss smiled.  "They think you're scary," he teased.

"They know I'm scary.  I let other people dress me," he quipped back.  "Like those two girls."  He held out a hand.  "For all that I hate being called girlish, card."

The boss took out the corporate card and handed it over.  "Cheap."

"Of course."  He took off his hard hat and gloves, putting his dust mask inside the hat before handing it over.  "Give me an hour."  He left, going to Willie's Bar and Cantina.  The local hardware store would have what he needed for minor bombs but why when he could get plastique from some demons for the same price.  "Hey," he said as he walked in.  "Need Gromans."

"He's in the tunnels," Willie said dryly.

"I get to blow the school," Xander said with an evil smirk.  "Hellmouth's partially open."  Willie grabbed the phone, calling the demon's cellphone.  "Also, FYI, Willow's in deep."  Willie looked at him.  "Tara."

"I heard."  He finished speaking and hung up.  "Give him ten minutes to put on clothes."

"That's fine.  I don't want to see him naked anyway."  He sat on a bar stool, taking the bowl of peanuts to nibble on.  "I even have the corporate card."

"Decent of you.  Where is your ex?"

"Last I heard, on a retreat this month."


"Yeah.  She's found doing good makes her happy."

Willie gave him a horrified look.  "That's evil, Harris."

"Thanks."  He grinned.  The big, fat demon came up through the entrance in the back room.  "Hey, Gromans."

"Xander," he said.  "Why come to me?"

"The hellmouth's open, we have to finish destroying the school.  I don't want to blow things by creating more fertilizer bombs."

"That's a good cause."

"We have a tentacle tip."

"Oooh," Willie said with a wince and hiss.  "The slayer know?"

"Yup.  We're doing it at the end of the day if anyone else wanted to watch."  He grinned at the demons.  "I need plastic explosives."

"I only have a bit right now," Gromans admitted.

"How much is a bit?"

"Enough to maybe do the center.  I sold the rest to some vampires last week.  Sorry."

"What do you have?" Xander asked.

"I have some new thermal stuff but I'm not sure how strong it is."

"I'd have to do a test blow," Xander decided.  He ate another nut.  "Anything else around?"

"Not that I know of.  Sorry.  That thermal stuff is supposed to be really strong and you can use it like a pipe bomb."

Xander considered it.  "How strong?"

"All I heard was very."

"Huh.  How much in each tube?"

"Sixty ounces in the original tubes.  In pipe bombs?  Not real sure."  He pulled out the tube he carried, letting him see it.  "It has something written on it."

Xander looked.  "Classified, NID test subject 3," he read.  He called Riley.  "If I read something, tell me what it is?  NID test subject 3?  It's a thermal explosive?"  He listened, nodding some.  "How strong?  Because I'm going to be blowing the school for real later, Finn."  He smirked.  "Thanks."  He hung up.  "He said they hyped it but it tested crappy.  Has to be frozen to work."  He handed it back.  "Usually we have such a good stash."

Willie moved to call someone else, nodding while he spoke.  He hung up and looked at the boy.  "Outside of town.  It'll cost real cash, not on plastic."

Xander nodded.  "How much for what?"

"Ten grand for enough for a war.  For the school, probably a cool grand."

Xander considered it.  That was more than he was probably going to be allowed to spend.  He sighed and pulled out his own card to put in the difference.  Willie ran it.  "Six," he ordered.  The demon bartender nodded, running it for that and cashing it out.  He ran Xander's and handed over that cash too.  "Thanks, guys.  Come watch if you want.  I hope it goes okay."  He left, heading to the meeting spot Willie had written on a bar napkin.  He sighed when he saw Feds pulling in.  He came out with his license.  "The town doesn't have what we need and we don't have time to order," he told the head agent.  "I'm not going to terrorize the town with it."

He checked the license, getting a nod from a coworker that it was good.  "There's official channels, boy."

Xander smirked.  "Here in town?  Not really.  They won't ship to Sunnydale.  Haven't in sixty years.  So unless I wanted to bring you guys in with a propane or a fertilizer bomb, I had to."

"At least that's a legal use," the agent decided.  "Still wrong to do it this way, kid."

"You'd get me if I lied about where it was going.  We're demo'ing because we found things growing and dead creatures, or their parts really.  I'm planning to blow it down into the old basement for easier and safer cleaning up."

"Good point."  He let the boy check over what they had for the buy.  "We have to see it used to make sure it's not being stored."

"Okay.  I'm at the old high school's site."  They all moaned.  He grinned.  "Yeah.  That's why we're doing it this way."  He got back into the company truck and drove back, calling his boss on the way to alert him.  He knew they had to do it this way.  The old Mayor had made sure no legal places would sell to anyone in Sunnydale.  That gave him an idea.  He'd have to look at it on his lunch break.  Or send Riley.  He'd be goody-goody about it because it'd get him out of some trouble.  He pulled back onto the site, handing the boss his card then the six hundred. "The rest was mine."

"That's fine, Harris.  It's all weakened."

"I said at the end of work."  He went to check.  It was well weakened.  "Paul!" he yelled.  He came in.  "Get this wall out of the way.  It's leaning the wrong direction."  He nodded, getting some guys in to help with that.  Xander inspected the other areas.  There was clean flow for the explosive forces.  And hey, the agents had brought a lot more than he really needed.  Their boss had said he could dispose of it this way, which meant it was someone who knew about Sunnydale.  He'd have to write them a thank you note in Buffy's name.

The boss came up before lunch and he got to thank him in person.  He was one of Riley's former teammates who only smirked at him.  He told him quietly why and got a nod back that it was fine.  He called Riley.  "It's me.  Go to twelve twelve nineteen eight three five.  Yes, that site.  Make sure it's cleaned.  If not, we have some agents on hand."  He hung up.  "The old Mayor's stuff," he said quietly, getting a nod back.  He got a text back with a frowning face.  He called.  "Bad, good?  Rodent infested?"  He laughed.  "Seriously?  Cool.  I have ATF here at the site since we're blowing it later.  Yeah, you can do that.  Taylis is here."  He hung up.  "Go to the Corral and then west three blocks, then up eight to the north.  Find Finn.  He has presents and surprises that'll make your higher ups piss themselves in joy."

"I hate Riley," he admitted.

"I'm not fully fond of the guy myself but the Mayor's old stash has a countdown that's measured in months."

"Shit."  He took his guys and went to see what was going on.  He left one guy there to guard the explosives.

Xander looked at the boss.  "Someone found a bomb."  He sat down with the case of plastique, wiring what he needed and making all the little bombs he needed.  He would overplan it so it'd all fall in.  He hoped.  He didn't want to fail at this.  He marked a spot on the map for each one.  He had to consider the one longer hallway and put an extra one there.  He pulled the top three guys in.  "See these dots," he said, pointing at the plans.  "These babies go there, with the wire end pointing toward the outside of the building."  They nodded.  "You connect them by putting the plug into the end," he said, showing them on one.  "Then this wire into the main one I'll be running."  They nodded, taking their people to do that while Xander connected the fire wires.  He ran those and left them for the guys to connect.  So when it was time he glanced around.  There were a lot of people waiting and watching from outside the gates.  "Guys, clear the site!" he called.  The crew cheered because they hated cleaning this site.  He got a nod from the boss everyone was clear and pushed the button.  He tried it again then moaned.  "Did we connect the wires?" he called, putting it back on standby.  "To the main cable?"

"Oops," someone called.  They ran in to do that for him.

Xander did one last check, making sure the building was clean.  One guy had left his hard hat so it got tossed to him.  Xander strolled over and put it back to active and looked, getting a nod from the boss.  This time something happened.  Half of the site did what it was supposed to.  The back fell backwards.  Xander looked at the crew responsible for that.  "Wires were supposed to go pointing outside, guys."  They groaned.  "It'll work.  Not as pretty but it'll work."  He set off one last one he had put in the basement area.  This one spumed up then fell back in smaller bits.  It was a pretty show.  He looked at his boss with a smirk.  "There, how's that?"

"Show off," he snorted, but he was smiling.  "Guys, clean up tomorrow is outside then into the hole," he called, getting some cheers.  The townspeople clapped at the show.  Xander took a theatrical bow but Buffy shoved him and he grinned at her instead.  "Harris, I take it back, you're goofy and scary, not just goofy," he called, getting a few laughs.

Xander grinned.  "Thanks, boss.  Makes my week.  I should go write elf smut for that."  His coworkers all snickered on their way to their cars.  He looked at Buffy, who was staring at him.  "Well?"

"Good show.  Would've been better if the back had cooperated."  He gave her an elbow nudge.  "But it was good.  Probably a lot easier now."

"Yeah, we can use a back ho."

"Decent.  Elven smut?"

"Yeah, elven smut.  He's finally going to get the priestess of his dreams.  She's going to let him get about halfway, remember her vows, and if he's lucky he'll be able to talk her around.  I haven't decided yet."

"Happy ending?" she asked.

He snorted.  "Hell no.  The hero never gets a truly happy ending unless you're woosey.  Then there's no reason for a sequel.  He'll get to be happy for maybe a year.  She might get to smite him for still looking at other women."

"I'd do that too," she agreed.  "Maybe he gets a happy eventually?"

"Not with her, but yeah sometime.  After he decides if he's man enough to deal with zombies."

"Eww."  He gave her a pointed look.  She glared back.  "Not the same as vampires.  They're not rotting."

"Which is the decision he'll have to make."  He strolled off.  "See you later."

"I'll make sure you get out of your elf smut in time for patrol."  She shook her head, calling Tara.  "He's coming home to write elf smut.  Patrol after I deal with this after dark."  She hung up, going to look at the wreckage.  Everyone else was gone so she could stare down in it for a bit.  She saw a small wiggle but it was a sand demon.  They had migrated into town a few months earlier for a clan-wide vacation and were harmless.  "That's from the hellmouth," she called quietly.  The demon looked up at her.

"That's the school."  The demon nodded and went back into its tunnel.  She checked, nothing else was wiggling, moving, or felt weird.  So maybe it was going to be okay for a few days?  She could use a few days off.  She walked off then turned back.  Nothing.  She smiled and walked off but stopped at the gate.  Still nothing.  Yeah, it'd be a few days.  Hopefully.  She'd pass by here later.  Just in case.  You never knew and the hellmouth liked taking advantage of her happy days.

As proven by the vampire that came up and tried to grab her shirt a few minutes later that she got to kick around for trying to get a peek.  "I'm not some pinup," she complained as she kicked his ass.  "Quit!"  She finally staked him and made sure she was straightened out.  Then she sighed.  She looked back toward the school but she didn't hear ghostly laughter, see a glow, or sense anything weirder than usual.  So yeah, she'd get a day off sometime soon.


Xander walked into his agent's office, shaking his hand.  "Chuck, and this is?"

"Xander, this is Mr. Shalls."

"Sir," Xander said, shaking his hand.

"You know, young man, I expected you to be older."

"Some days I feel really old if that helps," he offered with a grin.  "I've been writing since I was in tenth grade."

"Then you probably earned that award I heard you got."

"Honorable mention," Xander corrected.  He sat down.  "So, you like the one I thought was crap?"

He smiled.  "Most good authors think their stuff is."

"Actually, the people I let pre-read it before my editor and Chuck think that Tral is better and funnier.  They thought that one was odd."

"I think it's odd but it does have some promise for a future bit of work."

Xander nodded.  "I have no idea where it was going.  It ended and pretty well disappeared.  I tried to reread it last night and got nothing new."

"Okay, I can understand that.  What about that vampires in space?"

"Yeah, that one there's more of.  I have another one with Donnie, who is my editor.  It was suggested that I get a professional editor when I started to write and got into a magazine."

"That's not a bad idea.  It helps you polish your craft and gives you good ideas."

"Recently he's been pouting because I've been overworking him.  The muses are a bit overactive this last two months."

Chuck put a pile on his desk.  "Really?"

Xander grinned.  "I'm only having those days on the weekends so I make it to work.  My boss is very amused at my muses."

"I'm still wondering if those puppies your former landlord saw were your muses."

"I'm not sure.  No one else has seen puppies."  The other agent gave him an odd look.  "My former landlord tried to evict me for having puppies always around my feet that no one else could see."

"We all joke that maybe he's a wanna be author since half of them are insane."

Xander nodded.  "I can see that happening some day in my future."

"So can I since you look like you lost weight, kid," Chuck said.

Xander shrugged.  "Tara brings me out to make me eat."

"New girl?  Donnie said you had problems with Anya."

"Tara is Willow's former girlfriend and like my sister.  I'm shielding her from Willow.  She makes great cookies.  Her cat likes to sit with me when I watch tv."

"That's good," Chuck said.  "How many more is Donnie sending me?"

Xander shrugged.  "You'd have to ask him.  I know I've sent in three short ones, and.... I think four or five long ones but he hates one."

Chuck dialed Donnie's phone.  "It's Chuck.  I have Xander here."  He listened, then looked at Xander.  "He's starting to feel sorry for Tral."

"Yeah, that'll happen.  Especially around chapter 9 or so.  He'll get a happy ending sometime.  Buffy demanded."

Chuck smiled at what Donnie said.  "That's fine.  That one with the space vampires?"  He nodded once.  "Okay.  How much have you seen of it?  Pre-edit read.  Any good?  His usual standard....  Really?  Cool.  Thanks, Donnie."  He said something else.  "Really?  Damn.  Xander!"  Xander just grinned.  "How bad and graphic?  Uh-huh."

"The dark or the other one?"

"The dark one.  There's *another* one?"

"Kinda Anne Rice-y maybe?" he suggested hesitantly.  "I was missing Anya."

"We'll see."  Donnie said something and he laughed.  "I'll want to read it, Donnie.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "Take a break from writing so I can catch up?"

"Yell at my muses!  When Anya left she cursed me to get successful and get groupies I'd find boring so I'd take her back.  Of course, she's on retreat with some nuns this month."

"I don't want to know," Chuck decided.  "He has another one of that one, one of Tral's, and a few others."

"I'd like to see those others."

"Donnie's sending them over as soon as he can save one down."  He turned on his computer, finding two emails.  "Here we go."  He copied them to DVD for him.  "For you."  He smiled at Xander.  "The magazine did accept that last short one."  Xander beamed.  "They loved it."

Xander got up and did a happy dance.  "Cool."  He sat down and smoothed out his hair again.  "I'm happy they liked it."

"They did and I was thinking maybe sending part of Tral, or even a side story, to them to get some interest going?"

Xander shrugged.  "If you guys want it.  There's two short ones started on the computer  I can have Tara send it over."

"Please," Chuck said.

Xander pulled out his phone to call home, putting it on speaker.  "Tara, me.  Can you get into my computer."

//It's in the safe.//

"8-19-25.  I need you to find the Tral folder on it, the two short stories that I did two weeks ago, and email them as an attachment to the one labeled 'Chuck' in my address book please?  The guys want to see it."

//Give me a second.//  A few beeps.  //There's three under 50K.//

"The one I didn't start at three this morning."

//Okay.//  A few clicks.  //The one marked Chuck won't go through.//

"Try editor?"

//That's an actual email address.  The other was an address.  Saved as an attachment and sent.//

"Thanks.  I'll pick up dinner?"

//Get me a mushroom burger please.  For Buffy too.  We're watching movies.//

"I can do that, with veggie fries from the good spot.  Laters.  Few hours."  He hung up.

Chuck reloaded his email a few times until it popped up.  "Wrong format," he said but he got into that program.  "Sorry."  He resaved it.  "It may have undone some of the formating," he warned, handing a copy to the other agent.  "I can get a clean copy if you like it."

He nodded.  "I'll run them tonight.  I've seen some horrible formatting changes from Word to Word Perfect."

"They're in Word Perfect seven," Xander told him.

"I saved them in that form as well," Chuck told him.  "In case."

"That'll work.  I'll talk to you tomorrow, Chuck.  Firm up the details on what we like."  He shook Xander's hand.  "Good job, young man."

Xander beamed.  "Thank you."  He waited until the guy was gone to get up and snoopy dance again.

Chuck smiled, shaking his head.  "You're goofy, Xander."  He leaned back.  "He wanted to buy at least one book."

"Whoo-hoo!  I sense a pizza party coming on!" he said happily.

"And a tour to promote it."

"Okay," he said, sitting down again.  "I knew if I got famous it'd happen some day.  My boss knows too.  Even if he buys the book this week it'd take a few months, right?"

"Definitely.  Probably at the holidays."

"I can probably do that.  We'll be slowing down due to the weather.  We don't get snow but we'll get a lot of rain."

"Good.  Then I can send you to a convention in a few months?"


"Friday through Sunday."

"I can probably do that, yeah.  Fandom convention?  The big comic con?" he asked hopefully.  "I've always wanted to go."

"You can go to that as a fan.  This would mean you'd have to talk to the people as an author instead.  There's a sci-fi and fantasy convention coming up with an author's panel."

"Sure.  Let me know when."

Chuck smiled.  "I like you being so easy, kid."

"You know what's best for my career.  When I know more I might fuss and throw fits but not yet.  Wait until I'm established and Tara has to nag because I'm spoiled."

"Fine."  He smirked.  "No new girlfriend yet?"

"I need one but no.  Not yet."  He shrugged.  "The next bad girl will come sometime soon."

"Just don't marry without warning me.  You'll need to do a prenup so she can't claim any of your work.  I've seen it ruin a few very good authors."

"I don't plan on marrying anytime soon, Chuck.  I nearly married Anya before I found her cheating."  His agent winced.  "Yeah.  Exactly.  Hence the dark piece."

"Last time it was a romance."

"Last time I moped.  This time I was pissed."

"I'd be pissed too.   So, feel good?"

"It feels really good.  I won't get arrested if I go find a hooker though."

"You'll have enough money to go to a real brothel, Xander."  Xander just grinned.  "Go.  Shoo.  Let me call around to make others money.  I'll let you know how he liked them."

"Cool."  He stood up and shook the older man's hand then left, nearly dancing in the elevator again.  He went to Angel's office, finding Cordelia getting stitched up by Wesley.  "Her skin tears really easily, don't pull so tight."  He moved over to get some gloves and finish it for him.  "Local?" he asked her.  She shook her head, biting her lip.  "Wes, my front right pocket has my keys and my trunk has my patrol med kit.  Including local.  It's in the red box."  Wesley got it out and went to get the kit. He looked at her.  "I may have sold a whole bunch of novels," he said.

She squealed and hugged him.  "Congratulations!  I need a huge holiday present."

"You and Buffy," he teased with a grin.  "Tara didn't ask for one."

"She's probably not a demanding girl like we are."

"Nope.  Kinda quiet and shy."  He heard someone come on.  "Hey."  He waved a hand.  Wesley brought in the box.  "That's my baby."  He got into it, finding what he needed, pulling out some local.  "Small pinch."  He stuck her as she drew in a breath.  "There we are."  He opened the next stitching packet.  "Finer threads," he promised, smiling at Wesley.  "Less scarring."  He closed it, then looked her over.  "Leg, tummy, any others?"  She moaned, moving to let him do the others.  He finished on her stomach and gave her forehead a kiss.  "Any more?"  She shook her head.  "Good.  You're too pretty to be so cut up."  He helped her up, taking off the gloves.  "Wes, any more need done?"

"I've done Doyle's already," he offered.  "Thank you."

"Not a problem.  I do them at home too."  He smiled.  "So, we'll know in a few days if I sold," he told his former girlfriend.  "But I did get new sale to that magazine.  Chuck wants me to do a convention board too."

"Wow.  Really moving up."  She patted him on the arm.  "You'll still be a geek forever."

"Of course I am.  That's why my elf got smut time from a priestess."  She moaned, shaking her head.  He smiled at Wes and Doyle.  "Hey," he said, nodding at the one he didn't know.  "You must be Doyle.  She's said nice stuff about you.  I'd be terrified of her for that."

"I usually am," he said with a quiet Irish accent.  "You must be Xander."

"I am."  He shook his hand.  "Any other injuries?"

"No, we're fine.  Angel claims he's already healing."

"I guess that depends on if he's healing as slowly as Spike is or not."  Angel came out of the kitchen to stare at him.  "Spike said his broken foot didn't heal for three days due to drinking animal blood?"

"It can make you heal more slowly but I have some donated from one of the demon bars."

"Good.  I need to find him some of that and give it to Joyce so he goes back to Buffy's basement instead of my couch.  Tara's cat is getting too used to him."  He closed up his case, looking around.  "I came to share good news and I have.  Did you like those books?"

Angel walked off shaking his head.  "It was definitely different, Harris.  Yours?"

"Hell no.  I might have a real novel by next year though."

"Still Alexian Harris?"  Xander nodded.  "Good."  She gave him a hug, making him grin.  "It's not that sort of hug, pervert."

"Still nice.  I need a new girlfriend."

"Well, this was all done by a female demon," Wesley offered.

Xander glared at him.  "Do you guys need Buffy to handle her?"  He backed down at that.  "Beyond that, I'd never date a harmful demoness.  Peaceful maybe, but not a harmful one."

"Good," Cordelia agreed.

"Buffy said you're as mean as I'm allowed to date."

She pinched him, making him yelp.  "Some day you'll have an ex-wife and she'll be even meaner."  She slid off the table.  "Shoo, go.  I'm sure you're going to be needed for patrol since she's been pouting."

"Yeah, we know why.  We're all real surprised she hasn't killed his ass yet," he said quietly.  She gave him a curious look so he touched a mark on her neck.  Her eyes widened.  He nodded.  "Yeah."


"On purpose."


He nodded.  "We know.  She knows kinda but is denying.  I'm pretty sure Spike was going to make sure she saw it later on."

"Oops," she said dryly.  "Guess you'll have less people."

"We're not sure yet.  She's been watching movies with Tara since I found that nice tv on clearance."  He looked around then at her.  "Would you maybe like to work some reality magic on during a witchly visit?" he asked quietly.

"Still?" she asked.

"She tried to get in last night."

"I'd love to.  I never met Tara but this isn't like Willow."

"Thank you.  I'm about to handle it."  She nodded once at that.  He kissed her on the cheek.  "Have a good night."  He looked at the guys.  "Night, guys.  Easier days."  He grabbed his kit and walked out.

Cordy dialed the phone, getting Buffy's cellphone.  "We'd like to talk to Willow, Buffy Summers.  Yes, for that reason."  She listened then snorted.  "Buffy, did she magic you?  And is Tara all right?"  She smirked.  "Yeah, you do know the reason for that.  Want me to call Xander?"  She listened to the complaining how Xander had left years ago.  "Um, nope.  He's still there.  You're in his apartment I do believe."  She snickered. "Good!"  She hung up, calling the number she had snuck from someone.  "Riley Finn, this is Cordelia Chase.  Yes, that Cordelia.  Willow has apparently magicked Buffy into thinking that Xander left years ago.  No, he didn't.  She's in his apartment trashing things."  He groaned.
Angel took the phone but Wesley got one of his books and took it instead, repeating something.  Riley yelped.  "Did that clear the spell?" he asked.  "Good.  Then I would go stop Miss Rosenburg in Xander's apartment.  He's on his way back.  Exactly.  Yes, she's done it to others."  He hung up.  "What is wrong with that one?"

"I don't know but she nearly hurt Tara the other night," Cordelia said.  She texted Tara's phone.  Xander had given her the number.  Tara sent back it was.  "Good."  She looked at them.  "Tara guarded his laptop and books."  She texted Xander's phone.  "We might get Willow in tiny pieces."

 "If it is necessary," Wesley said firmly.  "Witches should not do such things."

"No, they shouldn't," Angel agreed.  "Can we do something about her?"

"Not that I'm aware of," Wesley admitted.  "I can look."

"Please," Cordelia agreed.  "It's time for an intervention."  She walked off to find something to drink.  She might need a moist throat to scream at Willow later.


Xander walked into his apartment, shocking them.  He pulled something out of the drawer.

"What are you doing?" Buffy demanded, standing up.  "You left years ago."  She came over to get into his face.  He held up the slip.  "What's that?"

"Where I pay the rent since this is *my* place, Buffy.  Look around, do you decorate like this?  Though I do see she moved the furniture on me."  He stared at her.  Then at Willow.  "Put it back.  Now."  She opened her mouth.  He threw something else he had gotten out on her, making her scream.  "Now," he snarled.

Buffy backed off.  "Um, Xander, you're growling," she said.

"Duh.  She's hurting the pack."  He moved closer.  Buffy tried to get into his way but he picked her up by her arms and moved her.  She was too stunned to struggle.  He grabbed Willow by the back of the head, making her scream as her hair was pulled.  "Put.  It.  All.  Back.  Now!" he finished in a yell.  She let out a whimper but he pulled her around.

"Xander, put her down," Tara ordered.

"No!  I won't have her defiling *my* house."  He glared at her.  "You have one last chance, Willow Rosenburg.  And then I'd head for rehab for whatever problem this is.  Do it now, Willow.  Or I will end you."

"Hey," Buffy complained.  "So she moved furniture."

"Tara, did you get to save all my books?"  She shook her head.  "Where are they?"

"She burned them.  I couldn't stop her."

He looked at her.  "I know you couldn't.  I'm not blaming you.  I know exactly who the problem is."  He shook the problem, making her scream.  "I've had enough."  He walked her to the door.  He opened it to find the cops.  "Good."  He handed Willow over.  "She broke in, stole my things, tried to claim my apartment was hers, and I'm going to kill her.  It'll be the easiest homicide that you'll never solve."

"Someone reported screaming?" one officer asked.

"He doesn't live here," Willow squealed, trying to get away.

Xander went to get the rental agreement forms, handing them over.  He also handed over the payment slip.  "Really?"

The officer looked at her.  "It's in his name, ma'am."

"It's not!" she said, opening her mouth.  Xander glared.  "You're evil!"

"You're a bitch," he said bluntly.  "I don't know what your problem is but end it before it's ended for you, Willow.  I don't want your rants, your theories, your supposed skills, anything in *my* apartment.  You've now ruined a *decade* of friendship.  Get her out of here, please," he told the officers.  "I don't want to be violent.  It was a good day earlier."

"Do you know where she lives?"  Xander wrote down an address and handed it over.  "We'll get in touch with them."

"Thank you."  He closed the door once they had walked her off.  He sighed, looking at the horrified Buffy and then at Tara.  "You good?"  Tara nodded.  Riley pounded and walked in.  "Were you in LA too?" he asked facetiously.

"No, I was arranging for someone to deal with her and end her spells."

"Cordelia wants her."

"That'll work.  My contacts can pick her up from there."  Xander stared him down.  "He's not part of us, Xander.  He's with a coven some of our people ran into that was strong enough to keep from being captured for years."

"Good deal then.  Think they can fix her?"

"I don't know.  I know they can probably contain her at the very least."  Xander nodded once at that.  "They faxed me how to remove the spell.  Tara?"  She took it to work on.  Buffy moaned and grabbed her head.  Xander looked around.  Tara pointed at the safe, getting a smile and a nod.

Buffy moaned, rubbing her forehead.  "I'm sorry, Xander."

"It's not your fault, Buffy.  It's hard being stuck in the middle."  He pulled Tara over to hug her.  "You sure you're okay?"

"I'm fine," she promised.  She got free.  "She only got a few of them, Xander.  Plus anything she didn't like in your wardrobe and other books."

He smirked.  "Did she *burn* them or just magic them away?"

"I saw fire," Buffy told him with a frown.  "Why?"

"Because half the stuff she burns by magic comes back when you end her spell.  Remember that one demon body she burned?"

"Oh, yeah," she admitted.  "It came back when she ended the fire spell."  He nodded.  "How would we get her to end it?"

"The cops are sending her to Cordelia."  He smiled.  "She wanted to talk to her.  Or there's the easy way."  He walked into his weapons closet, coming out with something he dripped around the room and a candle he lit.  All the spells unraveled if they were inside the drops of stuff.  The power went back to their casters because Tara was glowing with it.  A few things got unhidden and a whole pile of things appeared in the middle of his floor.  He let Tara have them.  "Put them back while I toss my clothes into my room?"

"What is that?" Buffy asked.

"Magic neutralizer.  It basically kills organic energy flows inside a specific area.  Lasts for about ten hours unless you remove things from the area then it's permanent.  Found it in one of Giles' books years ago."  He grabbed his shirts and regular smut, walking it into his bedroom to toss it onto the bed that clearly needed to be remade.  "Hey, she bought you some new sheets, Tara.  Because I don't sleep on little blue flowers."  He walked out, looking at his roomie.  "Which means she planned it."

Buffy nodded.  "Sounds like it," she sighed.  "We'll deal with her if she comes back, guys."

"I can block her out," Tara said quietly, looking at Xander.

"Like a vampy uninvite?"  She nodded.  "Go for it."  She smiled, going to find what she needed for it.  He looked at Buffy.  "You know you're always welcome over."

"I know."  She gave him a hug.  "What about the ugly statue thing?"

Xander picked it up to look at, then tossed it to her.  "I think I saw that at the store."

She looked it over.  "It's got the price sticker on it.  I'll give it back to Giles."  He grinned at her for that.  "Any other shocks?"

"Depends, did she go grocery shopping?  Because we were even out of sweets."

"I went earlier," Tara told him as she came out checking a book.  "I need paint.  Blood red, a small brush to draw the marks."

Xander nodded.  "I can get you some.  Have to be organic or can it be craft paint?"


"Can you put it on masking tape so he can take it down and not get charged for it?" Riley asked.  "Damage deposit," he said at Xander's odd look.

"I can paint over red paint, Riley.  Thanks for the Mayor's stuff by the way."

"Welcome.  No one wanted it here anyway.  The demons might take some of it to use on us."

"Most of the demons holding higher weapons in town are either selling to off-plane contacts and it's easier to hide that here, or they're part of our two suicide cults or they're vampires.  They're on East Toffer."

Riley gave him a horrified look.  "How do you know this?"

"It's my job, Riley.  I'm her gear and weapons person since she likes them but can't restring a crossbow to save her life.  Giles doesn't like modern weapons.  Willow hates weapons.  Someone has to pay attention to that."

Buffy nodded.  "He does.  Anything bad about those suicide cults?"

"Got a few months before they get to the point where they're ready to try.  Neither are going to be acting here.  One's going to try to bring down the aliens by firing off a specific wavelength of beam weapon into the night sky.  Which I'm not sure will work.  The other's a standard suicide cult and they'll try something but they're still working on their devotion and desires to die for their gods.  The human one is really interesting and I've been debating calling someone about them since they've got kids they're brainwashing but aren't hurting them yet.  Just annoying the crap out of everyone else."

"The flower power people?" she asked, looking confused.

"No, they're fine.  A cult but peaceful.  The one on Alverna?"

"Ooooh!  Them!" she said, nodding.  "Yeah, we should probably tell someone about that.  Are they being that annoying?"

"Yup.  I'm not sure how their plans of bringing down modern science, literature, and buildings is going."

"Buildings?" Riley asked.

"Buildings take science to build, house unholy things, people read literature in them," Buffy told him.  "Last time I checked on them, Willow found their website and they were trying to find something that would eat brick and cement so they could pour it on our library or the science building at the college.  The most evil things of all first."

"Do they expect us to live in tents?" Riley asked.

"No, once their bad buildings purge is done with, they'll let us build wooden houses like they did in the old west," Xander said.

Riley nodded.  "How close are they?"

Xander shrugged.  "I can go scout in a bit.  Make sure.  If I find anything too bad, I'll call or visit someone tomorrow."

"That'll work," Riley decided.  "They hate it when one of us calls."

Xander grinned.  "It'll be fine.  I am a construction foreman.  I'm more natural to call about their plots anyway.  I'll check on the other two at the same time."  She nodded at that.  "To blatantly change the subject to my happy news.  I deserve a happy dinner because I may have sold anywhere from one to five books."  Tara squealed and hugged him.  He grinned at them.  "It depends on how much the guy earlier likes the follow ups and those short ones.  So by next week, I can maybe cut back on the overtime," he said happily.  "But we definitely deserve decent food tonight before patrol."

Buffy nodded.  "Mom could probably make a good dinner of sandwiches."

"Call and tell her the good news before we stroll over?" Xander suggested.  "If not, I've got Chinese."

"Cool.  What about...."  She waved a hand around.

Xander smiled.  "She's in jail for the night or in the hospital's mental ward."  Buffy snickered.  Either way the cops probably had her drugged up in case she was dangerous.  "Then Cordy gets her tomorrow."

"I almost feel sorry for her," Riley sighed, shaking his head.

Buffy nodded.  "Me too.  Evil thoughts begone, Xander."

"I'm trying but I'm hungry.  Oh, and your burgers are in the car."  They left, him locking up and turning on his security system this time.  It'd stop her at least a little bit since it was demon crafted and could detect magic.  Buffy wouldn't like it but oh well.  It had been a nice favor from Spike to point him out since he owed the guy who designed them some kittens.  They walked over to Buffy's house, making Joyce give them strange looks.  "Mom, I may be asking your opnion next week or so on some major home purchases."

"Why, Xander?"

"Because I may have sold a book or I may have sold about five books."  She squealed and hugged him.  He grinned.  "We came over to do a celebration dinner and were hoping you had sandwich fixings.  I got the girls good mushroom burgers."

"I can make some nice ones with the minute steaks," she promised, taking them into the kitchen to feed the group.  "No Willow?"

"She decided to magic us," Riley told her quietly.

"To make them all believe I had left years ago so she could have my place with Tara," Xander added.  "The cops came at her screaming when I grabbed her.  I told them she lived with Cordy since Cordy agreed to do the vacuum duty to get her head out of her ass."

"I'm sure Cordelia will have a lot of fun snarking at her," Buffy said.  She gave Tara a nudge and a grin.  "This means he's got to shop."

"I still can't shop like a girl but I can see maybe adding another chair to the house, and maybe some new kitchen stuff, maybe a new lamp."  Tara grinned at that.  "Definitely a new stereo."

"You need a new laptop," Tara said.

"I know but my word processing program won't work with the newest OS so it'd drive me nuts learning a new one.  Besides, I hate Word.  I tried it but at the beginning of sentences it won't automatically capitalize after quote marks."

She shook her head.  "That would suck," she agreed.  "Stop your flow a lot more often."  She gave him a hug around his shoulders.  "Flowered sheets?"

"Yup, she put on sheets with little blue flowers."

"My bed's smaller.  You have a queen."

"It'll fit on yours, just be a bit baggy."  She shrugged.  "We'll see.  Or maybe you'll get a bigger bed.  Who knows."  He kissed her on the cheek.  "For making sure I made it today."

She beamed.  "You need an alarm clock."

"I have one.  You complain it goes off without me some mornings," he quipped.

She nodded.  "It does and it keeps going until I turn it off on you."  She sat down, smiling at Buffy.  "He lets me do all the girl stuff too."

"He should since you're a girl," Riley pointed out.  "I can't see him color coordinating curtains and throw pillows or even buying healthy food."

"We do okay," Tara assured him.  "He can match things."

"He still wears horrible shirts," Buffy reminded her.  "I'm surprised some throw pillows haven't shown up in hawaiian print."

"I can't find any," Xander said dryly.  "Joyce?"

"I couldn't bring myself to buy them," she admitted.  "But I think Pier 1 had some."  She finished up the meat frying and made them good sandwiches.  She handed them to the boys and got her own.  "Which ones may have sold, Xander?"

"The one that I absolutely hated, that deserted island story."  She shuddered and grimaced.  "Maybe Tral.  Maybe the vampires in space one."  She smiled at those.  "Tral is kinda geeky but a very fun loving and priestess desiring half-elf."

"He gets his own for a while then something bad happens in book three," Tara told her.  "You feel sorry for him when he's trying to decide if he's manly and desperate enough for a zombie."

Joyce snickered.  "That's bad, Xander."

"I know."  He grinned.  "But I'm a good boy most of the time and so is Tral.  He'll get another priestess someday soon.  After a few battles to take some frustration out on.  A few inn girls.  Once a drunken fun night with a tree that the battling sides catch during a running and chasing fight; they both decide he's too scary to be in their war.  They actually make peace talking about how to banish him from the war because they're so creeped out."

Tara looked at him.  "You've got book four done already?"

"Half.  He's going to pout and go kidnap a priestess, who'll slap him around for days but travel with him when she's ordered to by the head priestess.  On the way she decides he's not *so* horrible as all the stories and fixes him up with a novitiate who really doesn't want to be a priestess but her mother really wants her to buy her way into a happier afterlife that way.  It solves multiple problems and she's more than happy to let him pounce all he wants.  As long as that tree doesn't end up pregnant."  He stuffed his mouth.

Riley shook his head quickly.  "I never got D&D type stuff."  He stuffed his mouth.

"I don't usually but Tral is really funny," Tara assured him.  "He's sweet and confused and geeky but he's got a good heart.  Even if he does want to debauch the whole Cordy-loving temple."

Xander nodded.  "He'd adore that.  He'll never do it but he'd adore being the guy doing that.  Tral's a good half-elf.  Not one of the poncy ones like in Tolkien.  Pretty enough to be in it but not fully that serious."

"He has this running joke asking Dwarves for favors since they're at that height anyway," Tara said with a small blush.  Joyce bopped Xander on the forehead but she was smiling.  "It's how he gets into many bar brawls."

"He's very likeable but very strange sometimes.  He blames it on being a half elf."

Joyce shook her head.  "That's strange, Xander, but it sounds funny."  She ate a bite.  "Preview copy?"

"Sometime soon.  I'm hoping he doesn't cut out all the funny bits.  Donnie knows not to.  This new guy I'm not too sure about.  I'll see what he wants to do.  Then I'll decide if he gets that one.  Chuck might throw a fit, but yay."

She nodded.  "That seems reasonable.  Some people would want to make it more serious like some of them out there.  Some humor would be nice."

"It would be, yeah."  He smiled.  "If he won't take it and keep it funny, then I might start a website dedicated to me and put the first few chapters up on it."

"That could get you some attention," Buffy agreed.  "You've already got some fans for the shorter stuff."

"Which are a lot more like Tral."  He shrugged.  "We'll see."  Tara's phone rang.  "Problems?" he asked when she hit the ignore key.

"Not yet."

"Her?" Buffy asked.


She just nodded.  "I can still kick their butts, Tara.  All you have to do is ask me."

Xander snorted.  "You and me both," he assured her.  She beamed at him for that.  "Are we patrolling tonight?"  They all nodded.  He finished up and hugged Joyce.  "I'll brag when I hear for certain."  She smiled and kissed him on the cheek.  "Thanks."  He left with the crew.  Tara decided to stay and help her clean up for a bit.  It was good to keep things as normal as possible for as long as he could.  It'd keep him humble, straight, and tired.


Xander walked into the meeting with Chuck.  "Hi."

"Hi.  You won't be happy."

"He's going to try to change Tral into a serious book?"

"He'd like it to be more serious."

"Yay, I like him the way he is.  He's very likeable."

"He did not like the dwarf jokes."

Xander shrugged.  "He'll definitely hate the tree part in book four then."

"Damn, kid."  Xander just smiled.  "He still wants the vampires one.  He wants the other one, and hopes you can make it a series."  Xander shook his head.  "Or we can continue to show it around."

"Do they want me exclusively or just exclusively with that series?"

"Just those series."

"Can we shop Tral around?"

"We definitely can.  He's from a smaller publisher.  With the small following you already have that could make a lot of difference to their business."

"I'm not against that but not if they're going to majorly change it that way."

"I agree and he said you'd probably see it that way.  He wasn't upset about it."

"Then I can give them those at a fair price.  Is it a fair price?"

"Very fair price," he promised with a smile.  "All that backlog of yours is really helping out."  Xander beamed.  "Book four?"  He tossed over his USB key drive.  "Going to see Donnie later?"

"I thought he'd be here since he's my editor."

"It needs a bit of work but not that much.  When we get down into the formal details, before we sign things, then he'll be there."  He plugged it in and looked at the folders.  "Backlogged?"

"Some that's ancient and could use the work," he admitted.  "Some of it could use a lot of work.  I put a letter on there asking him to see if any of it was any good and worth the effort.  Tara liked it but I know that most lesbian girls don't read sci-fi or fantasy."

"That's not a bad idea.  Is this all of what you had stored and unlooked over?"  Xander nodded.  "Donnie and I will look it over, kid."  He smiled.  "You were prolific before.  Is it easing?"  Xander shook his head.  "Why?"

"Anya's wish."  He smirked.  "Though I'm very happy I got nominated before then."


"I dumped her for finding her with another woman."

"Eww.  Had that happen to one ex wife.  Know it sucks, kid."

"Yeah, well, Anya is a former vengeance demon.  Which is a type of wish demon.  She cursed me to find fame and groupies, which she thinks I'll toss over to go back to her for.  I decided since she wanted sex and money so often that maybe she should find a purpose in life."

"That's....very odd and strange."

Xander smirked.  "I was a bit mad."

"Clearly.  Does that happen often?"

"You have to really be feeling it to get one down to you."

"Huh.  I'm glad two of my ex's didn't then."  He went back to glancing over it.  "Hunter?"

"Demon hunting."

"Biography?" he asked dryly, staring at the boy.

"No.  Fictionalized.  Buffy hated it.  Claims it gave her nightmares and bad hair."

"Okay."  He glanced over that one, getting into Tral's fourth book and doing a search for 'tree'.  He skimmed that part, bursting out giggling.  "They find peace because he was ...."  He snickered louder.  "I'm really liking Tral, Xander."

"Thank you.  I'd bow but my back has a huge ass bruise on it after last night."

"You okay?"

"Got pounced.  I'm fine.  Bit sore, big bruise.  So, am I going to be able to give Cordy and Buffy the huge holiday presents they demanded if I made major money?"

"Yes."  He smirked.  "Two or three each."   Xander beamed.  "You sure you want to stay up there?  It's dangerous."

"Yeah but I'm needed up there.  When I can't be up there anymore is one thing.  For right now I'm still pretty unknown.  Still pretty minor and no one up there knows me.  If she had more help I'd move closer and somewhere safer."

"I understand.  That's a duty, not a pleasure."  Xander nodded at that.  "Well, I can safely say you won't have to work for the next year."

"Oooooh.  Sounds promising."

"Very."  He pulled out the contracts to go over with him.  Xander wanted one change made and he put a post-it note on it since it wasn't that big of a problem, just a change to put things under his pen name instead of his real one.  He knew the kid was worried about his parents finding out and coming for money.  That he understood perfectly well.  He called Mr. Shalls for a meeting and Donnie to come over as well.  They had a good dinner meeting, with Xander being very polite and using good manners instead of guy manners, and it went well.  Xander left with a nice sized advance since they were written and only had to be edited.  Donnie had called someone he knew in another publishing house about the Tral series.  They were interested and would call Chuck the next day.  So it was all going to work out.


Xander wobbled into the doorway, knocking with a frown.  Cordelia opened it.  "Are you drunk?" she demanded.

"Exhausted."  He grinned, holding up the check.  "The advance money for three vampires in space and one that I hated."

She stared at it then at him.  "Wow."  She let him inside.  "Are you okay?"

"Just really tired.  The muses got me up at three."  He flopped onto her couch.  "Can I crash since I shouldn't drive?" he asked, snoring a second later.

She smiled, putting the check in the shoes she took off him.  It'd stink tomorrow but it was safe.  She tossed a sheet overtop of him and went back to her own room.  "Dennis, leave him alone.  He's my ex and he's very nice to me," she said quietly, talking to her ghost.  The ghost went to stare at him but that was all.  He was good about some stuff.  She climbed back into bed and drifted off, happier that her ex was doing so good.  He'd do anything she needed if she really needed him and now he had the means to get out of harm's way.  She didn't want him dead anymore.  Hadn't for at least a year.


Xander walked up to his boss the next day, seeing the scowl.  "I didn't get out of the meeting until nearly midnight.  I had to crash on an ex's couch," he admitted with a grin.

"Fine, Harris.  You okay?"

"I'm good.  Though I have something to show you."  The guy quirked up an eyebrow.  Xander brought him out to his car, showing him the deposit ticket.  His boss gave him a long stare.  "They bought four," he said with a huge grin.

"Congrats, kid.  Are we losing you to the glamorous life?"

"I'm probably going to cut down to part time if I can," he admitted.  "That means I don't have to work for a while but I don't want to rely on my savings.  That's the advance but it'll be months before they go into print and then I'll get royalties.  I'm not expecting a lot right now.  Maybe in a few years but not off my first book."

"I can do that," he decided.  "We'll be sorry to have you fall back so far."

Xander grinned.  "This is as satisfying but the muses are driving me nuts, boss."

"I've seen the tiredness.  So, part time?"  Xander nodded.  "Can I talk you into three-quarter time so I can keep you as crew lead?"

"Yeah, I think you can," he admitted with a grin.  He put the slip back and shut the door again.   "I'd like to stay crew lead."

"Good."  He clapped him on the arm.  "Congrats, kid."

"Thanks.  I kept out a bit so we could have a good celebration dinner later on."  He smirked.  "Let's go clean up this mess from hell."

"You're an hour late," he taunted as they walked.

"I had to be.  Traffic was a bitch today for some reason.  It's like someone called recess in LA and they all fled for some afternoon hookie playing."

His boss laughed.  "They might have.  LA is a strange city."  They got back to work.  He liked how honest Xander was.  He was a good kid.  He'd hate to see him leave eventually.

Xander walked over to check on his crew.  "Sorry, guys.  Ended up having to crash on an ex's couch last night and drive in from LA."  They all smirked.  "Nothing else happened.  She's an ex."  He grinned.  "Let's see what we've got beyond a problem."  He looked at the mess then at them.  "That's all stone."

"We have the crane setup," one said.   "No dumpster or truck though."

Xander looked at the boss.  "Ten," he called back.

Xander checked his watch then nodded.  "Okay, so let's deal with the lines."  He pointed at the exposed ends of the water, sewer, and gas lines.  They had all been shut off after the explosion.  "We can use the crane to dig them up.  We'll have to smooth and fill in pits anyway."  They nodded, getting some shovels to help and the crane operator to help them rip out the old pipes.  They'd have to lay completely new ones.  Codes had went up since these had been built.

Seven hours later Xander got done with everything and went to clean up at the water tub's spigot.  He got his hands, face, and hair cleaned of the dirt, taking some dish washing detergent some of the guys used as hand soap to do his hair quickly.   When he had it rinsed he flipped upward, sending the water down his back.  "Ah!  Refreshing!"  He grabbed a few paper towels to do his hair on the way to the car.  "See you tomorrow on time, boss," he called as he walked past the trailer.

He changed his shirt once he got into his trunk.  His pants were dusty but he'd get in trouble changing them in the open.  The porta-potties were out of the question.  Too small to maneuver in.  He drove to Joyce's, finding the house alive with music.  He got out and grabbed the important slip.  Plus his wallet he had locked in his glove box.  He checked, it was still full.  He tucked it in his front pocket and headed inside after locking his car.  "Oh, my family!" he shouted as he walked in.

"Xander!" Willow shouted.

Xander stared at her then at Joyce.  Who shrugged.  "I don't know.  Buffy doesn't either.  How did the meeting go?"

He smirked.  "Family dinner?"

She beamed.  "Congratulations!"  She gave him a hug.  "They're at the Magic Box.  Something is coming up."

"Cool.  We can have the family dinner there."  He walked out with her, helping her into his car.  He got in to drive.  Willow hopped in the back.  He ignored her for now.  "So," he said, backing down her driveway.  "We have a huge announcement.  Including that I'm cutting back to three-quarters time at work."

"So something sold?" Willow asked.

Xander glared at her.  She shrank back.  He smiled at Joyce again.  "Dinner was so good and went so long I had to crash on Cordy's couch."


"She has a ghost, did you know that?"  He drove her down to the Magic Box, parking and letting them out.  He locked the car and made sure he had everything, walking inside.  Everyone stared at him.  Willow moved around him to sit down.  Tara shifted away from her.  "Yesterday's meeting went *very* long."  He stepped down off the steps in front of the door.

"Give already!" Buffy complained, nearly whining.

"We need to celebrate."  Tara squealed and bounced over to hug him.  He patted her, giving her a squeeze.  "I am cutting back my work hours to three-quarters time.  They did not want Tral, because they knew I didn't want to make it more serious.  They did still want the one I hated and the vampires one."  Buffy squealed and hugged him too.  He grinned.  "So we have to have a great celebratory dinner, ladies, and Giles."  He looked.  "And you Riley and Spike of course.  Since we need to research, we can eat over it."

Buffy stared at him.  "Are you staying?"

"For now.  Until it's impossible.  Then I'll come back when you need me to."  She nodded at that, letting him go.  He smiled.  "What am I ordering for dinner?"

"It's an apocalypse," Buffy quipped.  "Chinese is traditional."

"Good deal."  He called over there, making their usual order plus about twice as much because he was starving.  He called Willies' too to get Spike some blood.  Then he hung up and handed Spike a hundred.  "Willie's got your dinner, Fangless."  He walked over to the table.  "What's coming this way this time?"

"We're not sure yet," Buffy admitted.  "Someone said something at Willie's about something coming that wanted to drink our brains?"

Xander stared at her, then at Tara.  "That sounds familiar."  She nodded.  He looked at Buffy again.  "Are they about four feet tall, silver with blue marks, and have a snork-like antenna?"

She nodded.  "How did you know?"

"Because I wrote that before graduation?"

She groaned.  "Honestly?"  He nodded.  "Are they real?"

"Not that I've ever seen.  Do we think this is a fan thing?  I've never had to deal with fans before.  Outside of Jonathan wanting me to autograph one of the magazines I got published in."  He sat down after handing Tara his wallet.  "For the rent."  She nodded, pulling out enough for dinner.  "I added, Tara."  She pulled out a few more bills, making him grin.  "Make sure I pay the rent ahead tomorrow, okay?"  She nodded, tucking it into her pocket.  "I haven't seen them in any books, around town, nothing, Buffy.  I can go ask."

"Please," she agreed, closing the book in front of her.  "Giles was muttering that was impossible; head breathing tubes were usually underwater creatures."

"They are," Giles complained.  "You totally made up a new species?"

"Yeah, and they're scary because they eat flesh but they're not real as far as I know."  He shrugged.  "Tara, save me some."  He went to Willie's, finding Spike in there negotiating.  "Someone pranked Buffy?" he asked the bartender, getting a horrified look.  "The silver things with the head breathing tubes?  Didn't I *write* those?"

"He's had nightmares about them.  We had no idea she had heard that he was having a breakdown because whatever wouldn't let him sleep."

Xander nodded once at that.  "I'm glad I could scare him I guess but the story wasn't that scary really.  You guys totally flummoxed Giles."  Willie smirked at him for that compliment.  "Don't prank Buffy this week though.  It's *that* week."

"Thanks for the warning," Spike said dryly.  He grabbed his head as the bad thought set off his chip.  Willie handed him three packets of blood.  Xander stared at the bartender, who sighed and gave him an extra two, one that he had arranged, one for pranking the team.  "Ta," Spike said, putting them into his jacket so they could leave.  "You wrote those things?"

Xander nodded.  "Before grad."

"Always wondered what was wrong with your mind," he snorted.

Xander grinned.  "Clearly something good since I'm now going to be fully published."

"Bragging is for weenies," Spike shot back with an evil smirk.

"I'm allowed to be happy since no one thought me writing was worth anything.  Including Willow, Buffy, and Giles.  Joyce was the only one that supported me."

"You leaving then?"

"Not until I have to.  You guys need me around.  I doubt we'll keep Riley for much longer," he said quietly.

"He does have that smell of desperation," Spike agreed.  "Might go back to commando things.  What about those cults?"

"I was going to recheck my findings later," he admitted.  "I meant to earlier in the week but I had to sleep so badly."  He let him into the Magic Box, taking his carton of food.   "Mmm, beef," he moaned, taking his fork to dig in.  He smiled at the pile on the table.  "Apparently I'm the boogie man, or they are, that's keeping this one demon awake at night from nightmares."

Buffy shook her head with a small moan.  "Is it that scary?"

"No," he said with a grin.  "So maybe he's being cursed or something.  I don't know."  He ate a bite with a moan.  "Good food.  Ate breakfast in the car and had to eat off the truck for lunch."  Tara shuddered.  "It's not that bad."  He ate another bite.  "I'm going to recheck my findings on the cults tonight."  Buffy nodded since her mouth was full of noodles.  "They're getting to the point of borderline worrying," he told them.

"Your last report wasn't good," Buffy reminded him.

"I meant to recheck last week but I collapsed on the couch with Miss Kitty."

"You needed it," Tara reminded him.  "You had overtime that day."

He nodded.  "I remember, kinda."  He sighed and ate another bite.  "Patrol otherwise?"  Buffy shrugged.  "Bronze?"  They all nodded.  "K, let me check then I'll join you guys."  He walked out with his carton.

Tara looked at the stack.  "The rest can stay here or go home with us," she offered.  They all smiled and got a second carton to eat from.  It was good to have a good meal.  It'd go well with the dancing later.  Plenty of energy from chinese food.  You had to take the fun when you could, because Sunnydale would take it from you.  You had to learn how to go with whatever hand Fate had dealt you and take the happiness whenever you could to thumb your nose at the hellmouth.  Otherwise you lost the game of life.

The End.