Mid-Morning Happy News.
Xander looked at his agent. "What's up?"
"Are you still working your part-time job?" Xander nodded. "Because this last one, Donnie and I agreed was crap, Xander."
"I know. I'm sorry. I was hoping he could read it and give me some idea of what went wrong."
"Not your genre," he said bluntly, tossing it out.
"I wanted to write something more saleable and less geeky for a change."
"We love you for writing for geeks. Keep writing for geeks, Xander. I promise it'll be okay."
Xander nodded. "Only if you've got a check for me. If not, we're officially living on my part-time paycheck."
"You don't have any saved from the last one?"
Xander shook his head. "No. The last bout of grocery shopping and the fees ate the last check for good last month."
"Damn it." He sighed. "Can you subsist on your part time?"
"Yeah. We've got it on that. Since we don't have a mortgage payment we're cool. Though I know my next check, you and Donnie are getting major fees out of. I don't expect that much from it."
"True, but I've been trying. There's a few of them that're being belligerent."
"Pity. When do we have the book coming out? And do I get a party?"
"At a bookstore. Unless you're making major money you don't get ones like you see on tv."
"Damn. And here I thought I might nab me a socialite ho."
Chuck smirked. "Not likely. Most of them are drunk, not evil."
"My present evil girlfriend might mind anyway." He shifted. "So, anything good going on?"
"Not much. I'll email them today to see if they have a decision. Can you maybe enact that wish or whatever it was?"
"I thought it was." He shrugged. "I'm happy that I got nominated before it."
"That is good, yeah." He smiled at the kid. "Go, shoo."
"Thanks, Chuck. Pat Donnie on the head since he said he's got a cold and can't work right now."
"I can do that too." He watched the young guy leave and called Donnie. "You're sick?" He listened to him sniffle. "Okay. I can understand that. Anything good coming that I can shop around on Xander's behalf?" He listened. "Really?" He smirked. "They might like that. Yeah, send me his backlog. Maybe there's something there that can help. I know but it's been nearly six months since he sold anything and he's working part time for a reason now. Thanks, Donnie. Feel better." He hung up and emailed the people he had sent copies to. Maybe one of them had read them and liked them? He liked Xander and wanted to keep him happier.
Xander walked into the apartment, handing Tara his newest work check. "Any news?"
"Two Vice cops who arrested your girlfriend?"
He sighed. "Figures because I've had a bad day and could use the girlfriend action. Is she making bail?"
"It won't be set until tonight."
"Damn." He went to his bathroom. "Let me shower."
"Homeowner's association tonight," she called after him.
She laughed. "It'll get better," she reminded him. She put the check with the other things that had to go out tomorrow. "Any word from the others?"
He came out to stare at her, ignoring her blush because he was down to his boxers. "You've seen me in less," he quipped. "Willow's still taken with that very nice Irish boy. He's still creeped out by her magic. Buffy is doing good in Cleveland. We're invited out in a few weeks if we can manage it." He shrugged. "Same old same old." He went back into the bathroom. "Please deposit that."
"Sure." She grabbed his car keys and went to the bank. On the way she called Chuck. "It's Tara. FYI. Donna got arrested for killing pros. Sure, I can ask him to do that. Why would they want those ideas?" She nodded. "I guess that makes sense. No, going to put his paycheck in the bank. Owner's association meeting. Why?" She nodded slowly. "I can tell him to dress up and meet you tonight. Sure." She hung up and called the house. She got the answering machine. She tried again once she had done the drive-thru of the bank and was on the way back. "Xander, it's me. Chuck said to write down all your girlfriend mishaps but make it for normal people. You're having dinner with him after the homeowner's meeting." She hung up when he grunted. He was probably writing. She hurried back to make sure he heard her. Sometimes his muses were mean. "Girlfriends," she reminded him.
"Am. In glaring detail without the demons."
"Cool. Don't forget Anya."
"How could I?" he quipped. "Tell me if they give Donna bail so I can have some good girlfriend action later."
"Sure." She got into his closet, pulling out his good suit. That would be nice. She heard the printer, going to proofread it for him. She giggled at some of it. It was cute. Six pages. Nearly seven pages. Too many bad girlfriends. "I pulled out your suit."
"Cool. Thanks." He went to shave and do his hair. "When's the meeting?"
She looked at the clock. "An hour." He came back out in his boxers to get back to work on his newest story. "I'll pull you out in thirty." She went to get him a drink as well. He was probably thirsty after working the check-in desk at the hotel all day.
Xander walked up to the table. "Chuck," he said, shaking his hand. "Hi, Alexian Harris." He shook the woman's hand.
"Hi, I'm Paula." He sat down. "So I hear you're his major author at the moment."
"I seem to be his major pain in the backside since I write sci-fi and fantasy stuff."
"That doesn't usually make the bestsellers list, no," she agreed with a smile.
Chuck took the papers from him. "Thank you." He handed them over. "You said a few of yours were stuck. These are why we don't like Xander to date."
Xander just grinned at him for that. "Donna got arrested."
"I saw on the news," he said dryly. "She out on bail?"
"Few hours. She'll come back for sex then run to Mexico." He shrugged. "I know, if I could write other stuff it'd be easier on you."
"I know. But that's not where you're blessed."
She looked at him after reading them. "You have very dangerous tastes."
He shrugged. "They're the only ones who're attracted to me. Not my fault I only get bad girls." He grinned. She shivered but smiled at him. "Anyway, am I getting transferred?"
"No, I wanted her to look at a few of your things. She works with a bigger publishing house in New York and would have contacts I don't, Xander."
"That's cool. I wouldn't mind. I'd love to have an exclusive contract but I know that's naive since I've only been doing this for a bit."
"I've told her what I could." Xander nodded at that, sipping his water. He heard a commotion. "Tell me that's not an ex."
"Nope." Xander stared at the man coming in with a gun. "'Scuse me." He got up and walked over, grabbing the guy to kiss him stupid. The guy fell to his knees with a moan so Xander plucked his gun from his hands. "Bad boy," he chastised with a smirk. "Very, very bad boy. Stay and beg. I'll enjoy that."
"'M not gay," he mumbled, staring at him.
"Yet you're on your knees." He handed the nearest waiter the gun, making shooing motions. "Now, be a *good* boy." He walked off.
"Hey! I'm not gay!" he complained, jumping up and moving to hit Xander. Who hit him back and knocked him down. "Ow."
Xander smiled. "Wasn't the kiss so much better?" He nodded, laying there until the cops came rushing in. Xander sat down again, sipping his water. "Sorry, I have a thing against thugs interrupting a pleasurable evening." He smiled at Paula, who gave him the oddest look.
"Xander's just like that," Chuck promised. "He's a bit dangerous when threatened."
The manager came over. "Sir, did you know him?" he asked Xander quietly.
"No, but I'm having a business dinner and he's mean. These nice people want to make me money. They can't do that if we're being held up. He might've hurt someone too."
"Most people yell."
Xander grinned. "I'm not most people. I'm Batman." The manager walked off moaning.
"You make me do that sometimes," Chuck said blandly. Paula laughed, shaking her head. "Maybe he's trannie and he'll be your next evil girlfriend."
"Maybe. You never know." He waved. "Have a good life." He looked at her. "So, you have contacts that could let me write full time again?"
"You gave Donnie three novel length stories in the last six months, Xander," Chuck complained. "Slow down, work more."
"It's not my fault the hundred page days started again."
"Most writers who have those are going insane," she said.
"No, my muses aren't that sort. Thankfully. They're just insistent."
"We have a backlog of seventeen stories and three magazine length pieces that I'm trying not to glut the market with."
She nodded. "He could use a publishing house contract."
"I've talked to a few of the bigger ones. They're looking for specific things and waiting to see if his first few sell big."
"I've got the space vampires one coming out next week," Xander told her. "The preview copy to the press was well liked. I still don't like that other one."
"It's very psychological, which is well liked," Chuck pointed out.
"I still like Tral better."
"That's a great story but no one on this coast likes it," he told her. He handed over the USB key. "The first book's on there. It's humorous, it's deep in places. It's geeky but it's a half-elf."
She nodded, putting it into her purse. "I'll look it over later. Are you going to the convention in a few weeks?"
"I am. I'm signed up to sit on the young writer's panel since I started at sixteen. I'm sitting in and listening to the experienced authors for the most part. I think I'm sitting on the fantasy panel?" he asked Chuck.
"You're sitting on it as an alternate. A few bigger writers weren't sure if they could make it."
"That's cool. I did get tickets to the new writer's one?" Chuck nodded. "Thanks. I love you, man."
"That's why you make my life interesting."
Xander grinned. "If we could get those others sold I'd make you a hell of a lot of money."
"True. I wouldn't mind in the least. Then you could prepay your bills for a few months."
"Tara handles that."
"Girlfriend?" she asked.
"Might as well be little sister."
"So friend who nags and makes you eat?" she guessed with a smile. He grinned back and nodded. "She sounds sensible. Does she write?"
"No. She's finishing up her undergrad next year."
"What is she majoring in?" Chuck asked.
"I'm not real sure. She never talks about it." He shrugged. "She's happy whatever it is."
"That's cool I guess. You could have brought her."
"Tara's still very shy," Xander reminded him.
"I forgot. It took her a few months to quit stuttering at me," he told the other agent.
She nodded. "I've met women like that. Past relationship problems?"
"That's why they're living together. Where is her ex?" Chuck asked.
"She's with the nice Irish boy she married," he said with a smirk. "I think he's trying to sweettalk her into having kids."
Chuck laughed. "I'm sure she'll have a lot of fun with that."
"Better than her parents were."
"True. I heard about that. Did the Feds get Donna?"
"No, Vice. She was killing pros." He shrugged. "What can I do about it? Only the evil ones like me and I need cuddles now and then."
She snickered. "There's plenty where I am if you wanted to switch coasts."
He grinned. "I like being able to talk to my editor in person and I doubt he'd switch."
"I can understand that. When you find one it's important you maintain that relationship." She patted him on the hand. "How many series do you have backlogged?"
"Four uni's, six stand alones." She gave him a horrified look. He grinned. "Tral is one uni. There's four in his part, could be two short ones that could be shipped off to mags for a preview and to draw in readers. I'm working on the second book in another character's life that ties in with his."
She nodded. "That sounds most promising. The stand alones?"
"A few odd ones, one I blatantly tossed for being crap. One that he calls Anne Rice-y sorta."
"Yeah. Vampires and demons though. It's on there too. I know there's a big field for those."
She smiled. "Thanks. What else is on there?"
"One of the shorter pieces that leads back to another universe. I'm hoping that one will sell this week. I found a new sci-fi mag that's coming open."
"That could be nice." She nodded. "I'll give them a glance over. I work with all sorts of authors and I have contacts in New York and the overseas ones too."
"I love anime but none's very anime-ish," Xander told her. "The other one, it might be. I don't know."
She nodded. "Okay. I'll keep that in mind, Xander. Is Alexian your real first name?"
"No, I have parents."
"I've seen that before. Are they causing you problems?"
"Once. Not since then. I yelled back at that point and they huffed off to drink some more."
"Okay. I can keep that in mind and keep your real name more hidden. Harris isn't that uncommon of a last name." He grinned and nodded. "I like you, kid. You're sweet."
"Which is why I get all the evil girls." She laughed, shaking her head. His phone went off. "'Scuse me. That's Tara." He answered it. "Yuppers." He listened. "Now? No, I'm in a suit. Still. Sure, I can do that." He hung up. "Guys, I gotta head and help someone with something massive that's going to kill someone. If I can be excused and suck up to you later, ma'am?"
She smiled. "You can come suck up to me tomorrow, young man."
"I'm off tomorrow. I can do that." He kissed her hand like a true gentleman and gave Chuck a hug. "Laters. Let me help Angel." He left.
"He's very active," she said.
"He is. But he's a nice kid. He's a fairly decent writer. Donnie said he doesn't have to do a lot of work. He got the editor before me. The first story he sold he asked for anything he could do to help make himself better. They suggested a professional editing service and Donnie got him to me."
"I like the kid. He's sweet." She smiled. "Very cute too."
"Yeah but that's why I let him give you that list for the ones who're stuck."
She laughed. "I know a few who could use it. So, what's good here?"
"I like the fish but that's just me. I know people say they have to-die-for pasta."
She smiled. "I could use a bit of death defying. Is he bi?" Chuck nodded. "Good to know. I know some people who might like him."
He smiled. "They have to get approved by Tara. She's very protective of him."
"Just like real siblings." She smiled, looking at the menu. The waiter walked by pushing in the chair a bit more on his way to another table. Then he came back to remove the spare glass. She motioned him back so they could order. He was very attentive. She liked that.
Xander walked into his first panel and sat down. His shoulder ached but stitches did that. Paula was up there talking to someone so he grinned and waved at her. She beamed and waved back, coming down to talk to him. "Hi."
"Hi. Are you all right? You look tired."
"The thing that night gave me pretty stitches and then the redo a few days later gave me more. I'm fine, just ache a bit."
"Good." She patted him on the head. "I have it on good authority that three different people *love* Tral." He beamed and hugged her around the waist. "Good boy." She patted him. He beamed and barked, making her cackle. "Chuck's coming up to see you tonight."
"I have money for pizza," he said with a beaming smile. "Barely but I have some."
"Good. We'll see you tonight in your room." He nodded, writing it on her program. "Thank you, Xander." She walked back up to talk to her other client, who quipped at her and got swatted gently on the arm but smiled at.
Xander listened as the panel got started. It was interesting. No one up there was in his field but that was fine. He raised his hand and got nodded at so he stood up. "What happens if everyone likes your stuff, and it's really good, but the market's soft for that genre at the moment? Since I can't write emo vampires my fantasy stuff has been having problems getting seen but everyone else loves it."
The head of the panel looked at him. "That's actually a very good question. This is still a business, even though it's a very artistic and individual one. You're in a genre that doesn't often hit the best seller list so you don't get as much attention as those genres that could. Have you tried to write something more sellable?"
"It got tossed very quickly."
"I can understand that. Sometimes things suck when you force it," he agreed with a smile. "I'm guessing that you have a backlog waiting to be vetted?"
"My agent does. My editor hates me because my muses like me too much sometimes."
"You're one of those writers then," he said with a nod. "He any good?" he asked his agent, who had been talking to him.
"I read a non-client's fantasy novel all the way through for the first time in many years," she told him.
"Huh." He nodded. "In that case, I'd think about maybe temping in another genre temporarily under another name. A lot of us have had to publish a really bad romance now and then to survive."
"Then they'd be evil," Paula joked.
Xander nodded. "Yeah, they would. So basically letting him have a backlog until tastes change?"
"You can or maybe check into some sources overseas. They do have a different taste in things."
"It's also important that you talk to your agent about these things," she told the other authors. "We know you're frustrated. Some of you have had to work part-time or full time again."
"It's rare to not work at least part time during your first few years of writing," the head of the panel told them. Most of them up there nodded. "Unless your first book was a best selling success." He smiled at the boy. "How many have you sold?"
"Three magazine pieces back in high school, two after grad, four books last year, and now I've got four unis in backlog with my agent." He sat down.
"Then I'm sure something will sell. Fantasy is changing but there's a lot of undercurrent in some themes. Basically, use them if you can, and some can't," the head of the panel said. "Realize that this is a business and if you have a successful book, it'll go easier to sell others. They want names that have already sold things. Publishing a book costs them money that they have to recoup from sales. So, if you're stuck with a backlog, try to write something that is more saleable. Your agents probably have a folder of stuff that's backlogged from their authors. They're realistic. They'll shop around everything they can because you make them money but often the business side wins out. The same as they will be changing things on you to make it more viable on the market."
"Though, I do applaud his decision to get an editoring service," another member of the panel said. "It's good to have someone who can polish things before they're sent off. It does increase the likelihood of selling. Some work piece by piece fairly reasonably and some do contract work. If you're as prolific as him, go on contract." That got a few snickers and nods. Xander shrugged at a few grins his way, then winced and held his shoulder. "Even if that one won't go now, it's possible it will go later but it's still time to move onto the next one because it might be one that they like more. Tastes can be fickle."
"Very," the female member of the panel said. "Especially in one that's media driven. For those of you who write in popular genres that get turned into big movies now and then? Everything will be changed on you during editing but it's worth it. You can't pin your hopes on one book and hope that it makes your name. If you're in a backlog because things aren't selling, the magazine work is a good idea. It makes decent enough money. I've done it myself a few times. You can also bring out a part of the longer story and submit that. It might bring more interest in a story. Your agent can advise you on that and what is sellable. That's their job to track." She glared at Xander for his cellphone. "Important?"
"Um, yeah." He got up and walked out, listening. "You sent a 911, Buffy?" He groaned. "I am there." He looked around. "How? I'm due to sit on a panel in about an hour." He paced, nodding. "I can handle it. Laters." He hung up and jogged to the elevator, heading up to his room. He came out with his specially made short battle axe under his jacket and went back down, getting into the car when Gunn paused. "I've got one hour."
"Shouldn't take that long but there's a crapload of them."
"I got something for that too."
"Thank god. Cordy was sure you would and Buffy was even more sure."
Xander nodded. "Yup." They parked and got out, heading into the melee. He dove in with a wince, throwing something off toward the center of the pack. "Angel!" Angel saw him and ducked the explosion, covering his head with his jacket. They kept moving and within twenty minutes they were all dead. Xander looked at his shirt. "I can't sit on the panel in this." He walked out. "Gunn?"
"Coming." He waved. "Well, it's done."
Xander stuck his head back in. "It's important or I'd stay and gossip and pick." He disappeared again. He zipped up his jacket before getting out, heading up to his room to change. He found Paula knocking on his door. "Emergency with a friend," he said, moving past her to open the door. "I know I'm due on a panel in about ten. Let me change." He dropped the coat and axe on the bed then the shirt and pants, going for a baby wipe to clean up the stuff that had soaked through.
"That's green," she noted.
He looked back at her. "Yeah, it is." He smiled. "Unless you want headaches like Chuck has, don't ask." He found something.
"Wear something nicer."
"That was." He pulled on his nicer colored jeans and she handed him a dress shirt. "Thanks." He kissed her on the cheek. "Don't worry, it was important, my friends needed backup."
"Who are you?" she asked.
"Wonder Woman's backup." He grinned. She glared and tapped a foot. He knew what that meant in girl speak. "There's a reason I can't write emo vampires. I've seen them." She moaned. "My town was full of those things."
He nodded. "Hey, I try not to write them from personal experience."
"Maybe you should."
"Tara got creeped out." He shooed her out once he had on his dress shoes. He grabbed his room key before leaving and closing the door. "There, even left my phone in here." He walked off, taking her arm to walk with her. "It's all right. I promise."
"It is. It's fine. This has been an underground thing for years. I'm mostly retired unless it's very bad. Today was pretty nasty. They needed backup."
She shook her head. "You're insane. Is that why you had so many scars and the new stitches?"
"Yeah," he said quietly. He looked at her. "I started writing to work out those things, Paula. I love writing and I was going to have to retire some day. Now, we're doing good."
"Does Chuck know? And your editor?"
"Yeah. I actually saved Chuck's life a few times." He smiled. "It's cool. I promise."
"It's cool," he repeated.
"Is that why you draw evil girls?"
He nodded. "Yeah, sometimes." They got off the elevator. "Young writer's panel," he said. She pointed and he went in there. "Laters."
"Sure." She stared at him then went to talk to her favorite author. He was signing autographs.
"That kid have something that important?"
"He got back about ten minutes ago. Apparently his friend needed some backup."
He looked at her. "That's a phrase that's ambiguous." He signed the last autograph and walked her off. "He didn't seem like the normal young author."
"That's because something needing his help the other night got him a shoulder full of stitches and he had some recently healed on his back and chest."
"Underground fighting?" She shook her head. "Bouncing at a bar?"
"No, his part time is at a hotel check in desk. This isn't paid work and he said he needed to retire anyway. Now he's on for backup."
"Huh. Well..." He considered it. "What is he doing? I can't imagine that sort of stress on a body without fighting."
"I can't tell you. You'll never believe me."
He stared at her. "Is he the one that gave you the idea list for bad women?"
"His last few girlfriends."
"I'm sorry for the kid. Makes my ex look sane." She pinched him. "You're still upset. Why?"
"Because he's doing... things." She looked around. "C'mon." She took him back up there. He worked with law enforcement people. He could tell her if the kid was a psycho. He knew how to break into hotel rooms too. She walked in and moved the jacket, then kicked at the clothes.
"That's green." He looked at the axe and realized. "That's not blood, that's ichor. Do we have dragons here?" He looked at her. She stared back. "So he's doing something that handles those sort of things." He walked her back out, making sure the door was relocked. "I don't think you need to worry about it."
"You know what this stuff is," she said.
He nodded. "I know someone who knows something." He smiled. "If he's the one that I'm thinking about or from where I'm thinking about, he's fine. If he says he wants to retire he probably does. A body can't keep getting that injured and go on for long. Like pro athletes."
"Is he dangerous?"
"Let me call someone who'd know. What's his real name? I doubt his mother named him Alexian. It's too modern for his age."
"Xander is what Chuck calls him."
"So maybe that, maybe Alexander," he said. "Let me make a call." She followed him. He mentally smiled. She was worried! That was so adorable of her. He called his contact. "Hey, it's Richard. My agent is thinking about taking on someone who has a probable file with you guys." He listened. "Harris is the last name." He listened. "Yeah, that's what his agent called him. Why?" He listened, blinking a few times. "How in the hell?" He nodded. "That's good to know. Anything she should worry about? Outside of him dating," he said dryly when that was said. "She heard about them." He nodded. "Thank you. I'll reassure her. Sure, next weekend. This weekend is the convention." He hung up and smiled at her. "He is listed as retired until an emergency."
"We know about these things?"
"His town got shut down because those things overran it." She slumped. "So I'm guessing, and they know, that he's doing good work taking out problems that we can't."
"So probably not dangerous?"
"No more than a guy who just got retired from a combat post." She nodded and relaxed. "His file states he's a nice, goofy, smartass kid. That's how it's put."
"So he's not a danger and it won't impact his writing?"
"No, I'm fairly certain that his writing is taking the place of whatever he was doing earlier."
"He said he's had a few of those hundred page days but he just told me started writing to work things out."
He nodded. "Sounds logical and like therapy or an escape to me."
She smiled. "Thank you."
"Welcome. Don't let on that I know. Those files are sealed."
"I can do that. He really is gifted."
"Is that why you're stealing him?" he asked, walking her down to the bar.
"No, I'm helping out his agent. He's from a smaller agency in LA. He wanted some of my east coast contacts and the overseas ones for the kid. He's got seventeen books backlogged by him."
Richard shuddered. "Poor kid. Very talented?"
"As good as you are. Like I said, I read that fantasy novel and I only intended to glance it over."
He smiled. "That's good. The world could use more good writers, even if they're writing fantasy."
"He tried to write something more drama and it was trashed."
"It happens to the best of us." He got a beer, she got her own martini and they went to sit down. "Where is he?"
"Young writer's panel. He started at sixteen."
"Some do. Why the name switch to something so unusual?"
"Parents. That's all he said on the subject. Though he is living with a young woman who is like his sister. She apparently tempers him and makes him eat."
"I've had those days." He sipped. "I love these things. There's always reminders of a young me." He pointed his bottle at a kid at the bar who was trying to look hip. "I did it so much better."
She looked then nodded. "You did. The kid's still cuter."
He smirked. "You said he liked dangerous women."
"I can pretend to be a bad girl," she quipped with a smirk. He smirked back, taking a sip. She heard a scream and looked. Xander came out and pulled the couple apart, saying something to them. They fled in opposite directions. He went back in there, shutting the door this time. "He's a white knight."
"Classic really," he agreed with a smug look. "He'll be fine. The group he was working with had to break up due to their town being shut down for being so dirty there was no way they got to fully ignore it without higher ups being dirty. The fantasy book anything I'd let my daughter read?"
"The main character drinks some and keeps trying to seduce some priestesses who flirt but don't follow through. They sounded like cheerleaders to me. Some jokes about dwarfs being the right height to blow him." She took a drink. "They're sure he's okay?"
"Then later on I get to give them good news. He's got three people drooling for that series."
"One of the big sci-fi/fantasy ones. Two smaller ones that it will make their catalogs. I know his first four went to a smaller one to make their catalogs. Vampires in space." He nodded at that. "Chuck, his agent, compared it to Kindred a few times in structure but deeper in plot and emotion."
"Can they make a card game from any of it?"
"No, but they could make a new D&D universe from that one." He nodded at that. "Give it a few years and she might like it."
"If I let her read it. I don't want her to read a lot of drunken fooling around yet." He watched as the panel got out, waving the kid over. He smiled and came in. "That was a very insightful question."
"Thank you. I'm hoping I can be self-supporting within a few years. I don't mind working part time but it's tiring to commute in LA."
"It is in New York too, kid. So, what are you going to do if this one sells?"
"Pay the rent ahead, the homeowners association fees ahead. It was cheaper to buy using my first sales."
"I did the same thing," he agreed with a smile. "I will give you some advice since Paula said that plot list of bad girls was your dating history. Prenups are your friend."
"I've heard that from Chuck but I only got there once so far. She's presently a month into her novitiate vows."
Richard stared at him. "She turned into a nun?"
"Longer story than that, but yeah."
"Can you write her story? It might make a good one."
"She'd want all the money." He sat down. "So, how does it feel at the top? I know I don't get book premiere parties and probably won't unless I get a major thing on the best seller's list."
"It's still the same drudge only there's press attention. People who ask you the same stupid questions multiple ways for each magazine. Paps sitting around waiting for you to show up and do things." Xander shuddered. He smiled. "Otherwise, it's not bad to be financially secure. I do have to admit, I'm a bit envious. I have to do research for my stuff."
"I have some research, like medieval weapons. I'm actually very good with a crossbow now."
He smiled. "That's good. How heavy can you make a real sword?"
"That depends on what you can lift. I was doing construction before I had to leave my last town. I can use a twenty pound sword. I prefer not to because it's tiring after a bit. You get tired very quickly doing that stuff."
"I can see why." He finished his beer. "So now what?"
"I'm hoping the beautiful one with us has good news for me. For which I will splurge and order a pizza from somewhere."
"I do have good news." She smiled. "Want to hear it now or wait?"
"Will I squeal and snoopy dance?"
"Hopefully," Richard teased with a smirk.
"Even one sale is a miracle at my level."
"I know. I never quite got to the snoopy dance but I had a wife then."
"If I had a wife, she'd have to be better than the last one. She got arrested recently. The Vice guys were very nice when she left after some goodbye nookie and headed for the train station. I thought she'd hit Mexico because it's so close. She was going to hit Canada for some reason."
Richard shook his head. "That's insane."
Xander grinned. "Now and then." He laughed. He looked at her. "What good news?"
She smiled. "I have a major fantasy publisher and two minor ones who want to look you over." The boy got up and did indeed snoopy dance. She smiled. "That's so cute I want to coo but I'll need insulin."
Richard laughed. "It's good he's happy. Everyone celebrates differently. Kid, sit." He plopped down, hugging her. "I'll let you two discuss that without me." He walked off happier. That had been goofy but it was good to see the young guys getting sold. Gave him something to compete against too. Not that he read fantasy but some people did read both genres. He heard a squeal and looked around. "I hear a fangirl," he quipped, cracking up a few more experienced authors coming out of another panel. He shook one's hand. "Paula's in the bar with a young fantasy writer that she's been helping for his agent."
"That's good. Is he any good?"
"According to her, she read instead of glanced over it. First time in years that she did it for a non-client."
He nodded. "I look forward to seeing him in print. Who?"
"I've seen a few of his things in some magazines." He went to introduce himself. The boy nearly drooled on his shoes and got excited but he was still a young, new author. He was supposed to be excitable. He left. "Poker?" he called.
"Next weekend. Tonight's the farce panel." He smirked. "I love the farce sets." They all laughed. Some of their wannabes were so bad. It was good to read.
Xander stepped into the house, staring at Tara. "I only had one thing on the farce panel and they said it was cute instead of giggle worthy."
"Pity." She gave him a hug. "You're bouncy and happy."
"That's because I need you to go to the bank with me." He beamed. "Since I have no idea which bank we're using."
She laughed. "They find you something?"
"They found me someone who wants all four series." She squealed and hugged him. He squeezed back. She pulled back to stare at him. "I had to decide between money and a bigger house and a smaller one that wouldn't get so much publicity. Chuck told me to take the smaller one. That they were good people and probably going to get snapped up into the larger house. Plus they'd give us more leeway on the edits. The bigger guys wanted to take out some of the drinking and the dwarf jokes too. The smaller ones didn't. So we went with the smaller one. They're looking like they might be snapped up within a few years so we'll get more lights on us then."
"I'm so proud!"
He beamed. "Good. Because the new agent caught me coming in from an emergency backup time."
She groaned. "She okay with it?"
"She talked to someone. I asked but Chuck said it wasn't him. She calmed down. Thankfully it was green blood."
"That is good news. So she gets a small cut?" He nodded. "Then Chuck and Donnie get paid back and their cuts." He nodded with a smile. "Then we get to buy new lamps? Since Miss Kitty broke one?"
"Sure. If you take me to the bank since I have no idea where the account is."
She smiled and grabbed the keys, towing him out by his hand. "We need to tell the others."
"I told the gang that night when they called to get more help with something simple. Buffy gave me her blessings to go write instead. And for some reason I heard someone moan 'no' for a while."
She looked at him. "Pesky Powers?"
"I think so. But anyway, we can pay the bills ahead." She beamed at that. "And I can quit working for at least another year."
"Work for a bit longer," she advised. "You'll stress over the edits until then."
"Fine. Is Donnie done working for others and back onto me?"
"Not that I've heard." She smiled. "I'll ask tomorrow while you're at work." He smirked back. "Dinner?"
"If you want and call ahead." She nodded, getting in to ride while he drove. "I don't know where we're going."
"I'll navigate." He nodded, starting the car and heading out. "Turn right." He pointed at the bank and she nodded. "It was closest."
He grinned. "It is." He pulled into the drive thru, which was still open, and let her hand him the check. "Hi."
"We don't usually see anyone with her," she said with a smile for Tara. Tara blushed but waved back. "Can I see some ID, sir?" He wiggled and pulled out his wallet, sending that over as well. "Thank you, Mr. Harris." She looked at the check then put it into the proper account plus the cash back the slip had said. "There you go." She sent it back with his ID. "Have a nice evening." They smiled and took off. She checked the clock, closed down her system, and it was good for the night. Her boss came over. "Mr. Harris' account."
"That's huge. What does he do for a living? Or did he win something? That's a corporate check."
"The nice girl who deposits for him said he's a writer."
"Oh. So he probably sold something." She nodded and bundled it up to double check her count for her.
Xander walked into the Hyperion with Tara carrying bags. "Ribs?" he asked.
"You're back?" Gunn asked.
"We're celebrating and I'm still on call for major things. Just not minor things anymore. At least until the promised groupies happen."
"You'll turn them evil anyway," Cordelia quipped. "Did you get me anything non-barbeque?"
"Salad?" Tara offered. "With garlic chicken."
"That'll work." She took it. Buffy took one of the bags. The others got their own food. She looked at Xander. "So, how good was it?"
"Very pretty check for the advance. Next month I should start seeing royalties from the first ones going on sale. Basically my cut of whatever is sold."
"Which is?" Buffy asked.
"I make ten cents a dollar and the books sell for twenty-five in hardback, eight in soft cover."
"So, if you sell a lot, you make a lot."
"I'd make more but the advance is part of that. I make ten percent. Chuck makes ten, Donnie makes five above the contract I pay him to keep him on retainer. Then the publishing house gets the rest."
"So it'll still depend on how many you sell," Buffy said. Xander nodded. "Are they doing ads and things?"
"That's up to the publishing house but they might ask me to talk to a reporter doing books. I don't know. If I get rich and famous, on the bestseller list, then we get parties and things. For now, I get minor things. Good reviews, pimping it at conventions.... Those things."
"Does that mean they pay you to go be a fan?" Cordelia asked.
"No, they'll pay for me to go sit at a table all day and be a fan after hours. I won't get to any of the panels unless I'm on them."
"You were on a panel already?" Gunn asked.
"Young writers." He grinned. "There were a lot of hopeful ones. We gave them good advice. Including having someone to read over your shoulder before you send anything out. Especially if they'll edit it for you. Find an agent once you can. They're expensive when you sell something but they can help you sell more than you can shipping it unsolicited. I was backup on the fantasy panel but the writers all showed up. I got to meet a bunch of really nice, more famous writers. Some that I've seen the name of and have no idea what they looked like."
"Like any career, you have to start at the bottom and move your way up," Angel said. Xander nodded with a grin. "Then it's going good?"
"So far. That new publishing contract is great. They want first right of refusal on all new things I put out. I don't know how they'll market it. The other stuff comes out tomorrow. It's new book day."
Tara gave him a pat. "It'll be okay. We can go look at the bookshelves."
He grinned. "I have tomorrow off, so yes we will."
"Fine." She pinched him on the arm. "You can go blog it up online too."
"Really?" She nodded. "Have you been?"
"On two sites. Including the Young Writers Association site."
He hugged her. "Thank you."
"Welcome." She patted him. "Now, eat." He settled in to eat, ignoring the fond looks the others were giving him.
"Buffster, it was suggested that I try my hand at writing paranormal stuff."
She grimaced. "Don't include me."
"I won't. Not slayers. Just hunting stuff."
"That's fine them. Who knows, maybe more'll jump in," she said dryly. He grinned. "You already have one, don't you?" Tara held up two fingers. "When?"
"Years ago for the first one. The second about a month before the assault on ADAM. Chuck shuddered at them but it's a growing field."
"I did some pre-reading for Donnie when he mentioned them. They're a bit dark," Tara told him.
He nodded. "It can be, yeah. Some of it's not. The mechanical bull comes to mind." She pinched him. He grinned. "We ran into cowboy vampires."
Buffy nodded. "We did. Well, I did." He grinned at her. "Mechanical bull riding vamps?"
"See who can drain the virgin while staying on the longest. Interrupted, thank you very much."
"Male or female leads?" she asked.
"Depends. I do seem to have more heavyweight females since I'm always surrounded by girls and I wouldn't know guy speak if it bit me some days." Tara pinched him again. He pinched her back. "Blame Willow and her."
Tara nodded. "He saw me sniffling at a movie and got me just what I needed, including a soft throw blanket."
"Maybe he should work part-time at a sports bar or something," Gunn quipped.
Wesley nodded. "It could help."
"I'd be in the kitchen so I'd never see the sports anyway," Xander said dryly.
"I'm shocked you can cook," Cordelia said dryly.
"The things you learn working in the kitchen at a strip bar," he shot back with an evil smirk. "Then at a few other handy places that pay almost no money."
"He can cook when I drag him out of the computer," Tara admitted. "He's really good but he can't bake." Xander shrugged at that. "Maybe if you could bake you could get a better class of evil woman," she said with a smile.
"Why? Donna was fairly high class. Upper executive branch. Had her own home, mercedes, diamonds. Was in it for the sex and cuddling. Liked my warped mind. Even if she did kill three prostitutes." He ate another bite.
Wesley gave him an odd look. "Another one?"
"Before he went to the convention," Tara told him.
Cordelia nodded. "I caught them out on a date to the movies. She was clingy and cooing at his nipples in public."
"She was damn good at it too," Xander said with a smirk. "That's why she came by for goodbye nookie before trying to flee the country."
"Is that why you said you got the call wondering if he was dating again?" Buffy asked Tara, who nodded. "Homicide?"
Xander shrugged. "I didn't even pick up any women of easy virtue at the convention. They can catch their own bad girls."
Tara looked at him. "You need to date better and smarter bad girls. That way they don't get caught as soon."
He smirked at her. "Then you'd have to put up with her squealing more often."
"Silencing. Spell," she said simply. "I sleep very well since I did one on my room."
The others cracked up at that. It was good to be among friends who picked on Xander with her. He didn't mind right now. If he did, he'd pounce her and tickle her until she begged.
"Don't let him pick out one for you, Tara girl," Gunn said with a huge grin.
She gave him a horrified, comical look. "No! He can't pick out good lesbians. I need sweet girls, not naughty, loud, squealing girls."
"If I get fangirls I'll let you pick out the sweet ones," Xander teased. She swatted him harder this time. He pulled her over to tickle, making her yelp and try to get away. Gunn was her big hero, helping Wesley pull her away from Xander. And Gunn shoved Cordelia at him instead. He gave his most evil cackle and got her, making her squeal, scream, and try to wiggle away.
"Ears," Buffy complained.
"I'm more worried about my eyes being burned with that image," Wesley sighed, going to help Cordelia get away. She kicked Xander on the leg once she got free, only getting a laugh and a grin back.
"What's wrong, Wes? Need the brain bleach the fangirls talk about?" Xander teased.
"Dear lord yes." He walked the girls off to the kitchen to save them.
Gunn smirked. "Good job, man. She's needed that for days."
Xander beamed. "I'm a good boy, or I play one in a book."
Buffy moaned. "So bad, Xander." He grinned. "Eat more, quip less. Clearly the muses have rotted your brain from lack of good food."
Tara came back straightened out. "He's being naughty because the check means I can go lamp shopping."
He shrugged. "Two?"
"Two," she agreed. "Finish up and we'll let them calm down while we go shop. Maybe we can find some of them out already." He wolfed down the rest of his food and hugged Buffy then walked out with her.
Buffy shook her head, stuffing her mouth. "He's very hyper tonight." Tara came back for the dropped wallet and waved again on her way out.
"It's nice she's getting to play more," Wesley told her.
She nodded. "It is." She finished eating and tossed out the boxes. "That was a really good celebration dinner."
Angel nodded. "Not bad. He got me a very rare steak." He stretched. "Let's turn in, guys. Calm down, recuperate from Xander bouncing into things, and we'll do it again tomorrow."
"You can if you want," Cordelia said. "I'm going to catch up on the mail." They finished up and went back to their more mundane jobs. Not everything was fighting demons. Sometimes it was fighting the evil filing cabinet or the demonically run utility companies. Cordelia kept a special bat for both things in case they started to fight back.
Xander walked into the gaming shop and looked at the guy who ran it. "Johno."
"Xander?" he asked cautiously. "That expression looks like you're up to no good."
"I'm sharing a good book."
"Not that sort of good book." He held his up with a wicked smirk. "It's new book day. My first full novel."
Johno squealed and pounced him to steal the book. "Oooh, vampires?" He gave Xander a pointed look.
"Space vampires, please. Who live in clans and travel, or work."
"Huh." He read the blurb, then turned to the first page. "Nice style, Xander."
"Paid promotional copy. If you like it, tell the other geeks. The more I sell the more parts of the series will come out."
"There's more?" he asked, going back to reading.
"Three more stories already written. I'm under orders not to write any more in this one until we know how it'll sell."
Johno moaned. "There's sex?"
Xander thought about it. "You know, I don't know if this one has sex or if it's in the second book. They shifted some of the chapters back." He took it to look for something. "Yup, non-descriptive het sex. Later on, in book three, there's a gay couple."
Xander grinned. "Try it. Pimp it if you like it. Let me know?" Johno nodded, going back to reading. "I'll be at home. Still have the same address."
"Sure," he said absently.
Xander wrote it down just in case then left. He had two other places to visit today with promo copies. Maybe it'd make sure it would sell a ton and he'd do good. Go on to sell more books and then get those groupies the curse promised him. He could use a few good groupies at the moment. He was way too bouncy.
Xander leaned into Chuck's office. "She paid you, right? I don't have to hide because I let Tara buy lamps?"
"No, Donnie and I both got paid for that advance, Xander." He clicked on the phone. "I'm still here. Sorry, popping in client." He glared at Xander when he sat. Xander opened his bag and pulled out his laptop, getting a head shake back. Xander wouldn't know anything while he wrote. He got into the details of the contract spotting Xander glancing at him. He threw a paper ball at him, making him shrug and go back to his writing. He finished up, sighing at him. "You have bad timing, Xander."
"You told me to show up around eleven, before I hit work for the afternoon." He looked at him, saving and putting the laptop back in the bag. "So? Anything good?"
"Decent sales for a first week of a little known author."
"So, ten, twelve?"
"Fifteen hundred." Xander squeed. "That's not great."
"But I've only been in mags before. That means it's good, right? More next week?"
"Many more next week hopefully. Did you do anything to promo the book?"
"Went to three shops where people read fantasy. One I knew and he squeed at me later about it. He knew me in high school. I signed a story for him."
"That's good." His phone rang. Xander pulled out his phone to fool around with it while he took the call. He finally got off and sighed, looking at him. "Okay." His phone rang again. Xander just grinned. "Fine." He answered it. "Chuck D'Lancy," he answered. He listened. "Actually, Paula, I have him here with me. He's trying very hard not to listen in because I've had a few others."
"Hi, Paula," Xander called. "He told me good news."
Chuck put her on speaker. "I have better news that will make you do that goofy little dance."
"Really? Does this mean I get groupies sometime soon?"
"Possibly. Chuck sent me that paranormal set you pulled out of the dusty archives."
"Yeah?" he asked, leaning forward. His phone beeped so he hung it up and put it into his bag. "Did we hate it?"
"I ran it past my assistant, who reads that stuff. She cried, Xander. A lot."
"I didn't think it was that bad or that dark," he said with a wince.
"It's not. She was very sad that the bad guy died."
"She's strange," she admitted.
"Is that very good news?" Chuck asked.
"Yes. I didn't know this but she told her sister that she was previewing a copy for me. Her sister works in a magazine. I've used that connection before. Her sister wanted to see some of your other stuff so I kindly slipped her the book that just came out and a few others that will be published soon."
"And we're looking at this because it's good?" Xander asked.
"It's very good, little one."
Xander squeed and got up to dance.
"He's snoopy dancing but is she going to write him up?"
"Yes, she's going to give him a good write up. She said she nearly pissed herself reading the Tral story." Xander let out another squee. "So it looks like you'll be getting some good notice. How was his first week?"
"Fifteen hundred. He did some promo work here in town with some people and places he knew."
"Excellent news. Xander, calm down. No groupies yet. Find your next evil girl and write another paranormal one. Or ten. Today."
"Yes, ma'am," he said with a saucy grin. "Thank you!"
"You're welcome. We love you guys. You know that. You guys make us money and you're sweet. Now, shoo, go write."
"Work," he complained. He checked his watch. "And I'm late." He called in using his cellphone. "Sorry, boss, with my agent. Be in soon," he said as he hung up. "Okay, Paula. Are we talking *major* love or just cute love? Or maybe kitty and puppy love?"
"I'm thinking major love. We think. We hope. Now, quit and go write."
"I have to pay bills."
"Dear, you can pay them with the royalties," Paula said.
"No I can't. Not right now."
"Fine. You give two weeks notice."
"I'm only going part time and I'm writing plenty, I promise."
"Good! Get me more of those today! Same deal, Chuck?"
"Go for it," he promised. She hung up. He beamed. "You're going to be to be available for interviews." Xander pounced him to hug. "Oooh, damn it you're heavy, Xander." Xander kissed him on the cheek. "Enough or I won't pay you!" He got let go and dug out Xander's file, letting him sign for the check. "I'll call in two days. That should be long enough." Xander beamed and left, stuffing the check inside his laptop and closing it again. Chuck wiped his cheek off, shaking his head. "Goofball," he muttered but he was smiling. He liked the kid. He called her back. "I have heard dirty rumors about our bosses dating."
She hummed. "So have I. We need the west coast people."
"I guess that'll help us but that'll screw up the ones I've shared with you."
"Who knows how it'll work. Is Donnie really overloaded by him?"
"Not at the moment. He's babying two others with writers block and Xander's backlog. She loved it that much?"
"She loved it enough to nearly snoopy dance on her own."
"Wow. I knew he was good."
"She's a bit evil so maybe it's whatever gets him evil girlfriends." He laughed and hung up. They'd deal with the demented company marriage some other time.
Xander walked into the office, looking at the receptionist. "Hi, I'm Alexian Harris and I got invited to talk to a book reporter today?" he told him. He handed over the note Chuck had made for him. "I think that's today." He grinned.
The guy smiled. "First book?"
"First real novel. More coming soon hopefully. Are they nice?"
"Sometimes." He called. "There's an Alexian Harris here nearly doing the pee-pee dance waiting on you."
"I'm not that bad. Just a bit nervous. It's my first interview."
"Relax. She won't shake your hand if you've got sweaty hands." The boy wiped them off and used the hand sanitzer. He made sure it was wiped off on his shirt tail then tucked it back in. He also looked in a mirror to check his hair and his breath. "You're good," he said firmly. The reporter came out. "Him."
"Hi." He grinned and shook her hand. "Call me Xander."
"Sure." She walked him back to her office.
"He primps more than any gay wannabe actor," the receptionist muttered.
She sat him down in her visitor's chair. "I know it's your first one. Chuck told me that."
He grinned and nodded. "Yeah, it is. I think I made a bad impression on the receptionist. I'm sorry."
"It's all right. Calm down. Deep breaths. This is your career now." He nodded, taking a deep breath. Then a second. "Good boy." He beamed. Then he barked. She cackled. "I think this will go fine." She turned on a tape recorder.
"Is it going to be a bad review?"
"No, dear. It's not a bad review. I only write those, I don't interview for them." He beamed. She patted him on the hand. "I know you're new. You'll get used to us."
"Hopefully. Though I'm told some of you are scary."
"Okay." He made himself relax. "What did you want to talk about?"
She smiled and pulled out her question sheet. "Penname?"
"Okay, I won't talk about your youth. Now, you're from that small town that got closed, right? Sunnydale?"
"Very polite, but finish relaxing."
"If I relax too much I'll make a really bad impression because I might burp or be rude if I treated you like I do my friends."
"I don't mind an occasional burp. Some people are very touchy during these things."
He relaxed more. He would still be polite and treat her like he would Joyce. Because Joyce would swat him otherwise. Chuck would kill him if he screwed this up too. Paula too and she seemed a bit scary, which made him happy to think about since she was kinda pretty too.
Xander leaned into Chuck's office, getting waved in and pointed at a chair since Chuck was reading something. Xander waited. Chuck grunted. "Did I do bad?"
"No." He highlighted a spot and let Xander see it. "Find the point?"
Xander read it and highlighted it then crossed out a few things and made 'move me' marks. He handed it back. "That?"
"That," he agreed. He put it down. "This one needs an editor badly."
"Suggest one of Donnie's coworkers?"
"I have. He doesn't want to pay for it."
"Then have him date an english major or ask one of them?"
"Point out that he can't sell with that?"
"I have," he sighed. "I'll work on him or hand him to Julia. She's mean."
"Really?" Xander asked with a grin.
"Not mean enough for you."
"Damn. Think Paula is?"
"Word of advice, kid, don't sleep with your agent."
"Sorry." He slumped. "So, how did I do on the interview?"
"She called you charmingly young and nervous but said it was because this was your first one. She praised the book, she praised the preview copy she had of the other books. She did call Tral a juvenile fantasy come to life, but she's a woman. That won't turn off any readers in our target audience."
"But there is big, huge news."
"My company and Paula's have been talking corporate marriage."
"Who'd be the wife?"
"You authors." He smirked.
"Well, as long as I get some sweet talking and things, we'll be fine. A little bit of lube, some nibbling on my neck, and it'll be good."
Chuck shook his head. "We don't hand-hold that much, kid."
"Quick and dirty happens but it'd better be safe, I'd better be slightly tipsy, and it'd better make me smile in the morning."
"That I might be able to do. It'd mean you wouldn't have to pay both of us."
"Oooh, more to spoil Tara with a new outfit so she can find a nice girl."
Chuck smiled and nodded. "Did she?"
"She's going to a lesbian's tea this weekend."
"Good for her. Will they like her?"
"I will kick any bull dyke's ass if they threaten her."
"It's good to know you're still scary, Xander."
"Thank you." He grinned. "So, good numbers? Did they fall?" Chuck nodded. "That's bad," he sighed.
"The interview will help."
"That's coming out next month. Which means I quit too soon."
"No, not hardly." He held up something. "Contract from the other books? Contract for the paranormal books?" Xander pounced him. "Oooh, you're heavy, get off," he complained.
"I love you, man. You're my favorite man behind Santa and Jim Henson." He took them to look over. "I need to take a class on contract law."
Chuck took them back, going over it clause by clause. It looked good to him, good to Xander, and it covered any future books but didn't push for them. In case the muses didn't cooperate. "What have you been working on?"
"Something for Tara and a few other things that're more crappy than usual."
"Am I getting them?"
"No. Tara's my monitor for the crap level. If she hates it that much it doesn't go to Donnie."
"How many has she turned down?"
"Two I think."
"Uh-huh. We might look at them some day."
"That's fine. When your crap tolerance is raised and I'm desperate I'll hand them over."
"Good thinking." He smirked. "Any more like these?"
"Um, yeah but Tara hates it."
"Tough. Send anything in that series to Donnie. Today."
"Good boy." He held up a piece of paper. Then a second. "Payday." Xander beamed. "We've already taken our cut and Paula promised to take hers shoe shopping." He let Xander sign that he had received them and gave him the checks. "Take Tara, make her pretty so she gets a girlfriend. Then go find a way to cure the bounciness."
"Sure, I can hit a brothel." Chuck snickered but Xander bounced out. He was a happy boy. He was nearly happy enough for twins. He drove back to the house, walking in. "I'm home."
"I'm in the tub!" she squeaked.
"Well, get pretty. We've got money and you've got that tea. Which I'll be a very protective brother figure for. They'll love you or I'll be mean to them."
"You can't be mean to them." She came out in a robe with a towel on underneath.
"I can if they're mean to you."
"No. You can't."
He stared her down. "Bet me. Get ready. We're going shopping so you can make them drool."
She gave him an impatient look. "Drool?"
"Drool. Because one of us needs a nice girl in our lives."
She snorted but walked off, going to her bedroom. She came out. "Weekly check?"
"Contracts signed." He flopped down. "I'm under orders to send anything in the hunting series on even if you don't like it." He patted himself down and went out to check the car. He found the checks and came back with them in case. She came out in a dress and her shoes on. "Good." He got up and made sure he had them. She held out a hand. He handed them over, walking behind her. He'd be stopping to get her some chocolate ice cream as well as the clothes. He put them in the bank, smiled at his balance, and drove her to the nice store Chuck's secretary had liked. Once she was browsing he left, going up the street to the small ethnic store. He came back and handed her the bag, getting a blush. He grinned. "Not like I don't know."
"I know. Eat it or I will. Chuck ordered me to find a woman later on."
"Please don't make me sob on the newest evil woman tonight, Xander."
"I wasn't going to. Club maybe." He shrugged.
"Then you need clothes more than I do."
"No, I have stuff in the bottom of the closet."
"I didn't see anything like that."
He smirked. "You didn't look. It was packed." He looked at the curious sales girl. "I'm her big brother in all but genetics. She needs something for a tea this weekend to meet some nice people." He saw her look over Tara. "Yes, they're always long."
"Lesbian, sweetie?" Tara nodded. "What's your budget?"
"Under ten grand?" Xander said patiently. "Make her cute and I want them to drool."
"I'm more modest than that," Tara said.
"They can drool and you can be modest," he told her. "The art is in making you pretty." He pointed. "What about something like that?"
"Too light for this time of year. It's supposed to rain." She looked around, finding a long pencil skirt and a top that wasn't going to be trashy tight but pleasantly tight.
"Does that match?" Xander asked. "I don't know but I wear hawaiian shirts."
"It's not exact but we have this shirt in tan and light blue. Either of those would go. Or white."
Xander looked at the skirt. "Tan, Tara?"
"Tan," she decided. She checked the size, got the next one up and the right size in the shirt, and he took it from her to put over his arm. She stared at him.
"I'm used to shopping with Buffy."
"I'm more picky."
"Not hardly. I spent a good few hours watching her try on shoes one weekend."
"Family of a different sort?" she asked.
He grinned. "Bi but surrounded by girls. I never get any guy time."
The sales clerk giggled. "I'm sure that'll change."
"Maybe. Hopefully." He shrugged. "Make her very pretty. One of us needs a good woman in our lives." The sales girl snickered gut helped Tara pick out a few more outfits. Xander paid and they went down to the other store. It was a lot more goth. She gave him a look. He pointed. "Corset dresses like you like?" She went to look. He waved at the sales boy. "Anything really interesting in the hunting stuff?"
"No, Mr. Harris." She gave him the oddest look. He smirked. "We keep track of any hunters in town."
"I figured you did since Spike used to talk about coming here for stuff." He grinned. "My first book just came out. I'm spoiling Tara."
"That's Tara? Spike said a lot about her."
"Yup, though half the time he called her Glinda." He noticed Tara blush and grinned. "He did."
"He still does." She pulled something down. "I can't fit in that, right?"
He stared. "If you do *I* might drool, Tara." She swatted him hard. "Ow," he said with a grin, rubbing it. "You'd look very slinky."
"I don't do slinky." She put it back. He got a few things in her size and handed it over. "You can pick out women's clothes?" she teased.
"Yeah, I can." He smirked. "I learned by watching Buffy and Willow shop when they needed a bag boy." The sales boy laughed. "Buffy can shop, dude. Seriously shop. Bankrupting a country shop."
"I figured she could. She always seemed fashionable."
Tara put two of his things back. "I can't fit in those." He stared at her. "I can't."
"You can so."
"I don't need a skirt with leather patches."
He sighed and got her something else, bringing it back. "For the next awards dinner." She blushed but put it in her pile. He picked out a few more things. Including some poly/nylon/rayon skirts that were a bit slinky but very free moving and very comfortable. They were soft, didn't wrinkle if you scrunched them up, and cutely long enough for her. He handed them over. She stared. "What?"
"Never mind," she sighed.
"Fuss, watch me buy you a corset," he taunted with a point at one that had a halter collar attached. She went bright red and shook her head quickly. She let the sales boy check her out. Of course it was more than what he had on him in cash. The ATM card wouldn't run here, they couldn't do debit. He had to use his lone credit card but it was worth it. It declined. He frowned at it. "It worked last week when I bought a soda. I know we paid the bill this month."
Tara pulled out something from her wallet. "You had three unexplained charges so I had them changed. I thought I told you."
"You could have but I was probably in muse land." That one declined. "What the hell?"
"I don't know. We can hold them back for a few hours."
Tara sighed and did something she didn't want to do. She went out to the car and came back with a slim case. "Emergency funds," she said. "We can replace them in a few days."
"Considering what I earlier put in the bank, yeah," Xander agreed. "I have no idea why the card declined."
"I'll talk to them later." She took her bags once she had signed the slip. "Thank you for putting up with us."
He smiled. "I love it when people come in because they enjoy the clothes and aren't posers, Tara. Have a good night."
"You too," Xander said with a grin. "There's a paranormal hunting series coming out in a few months too. Ask Spike about it. He read one of them over my shoulder when he was annoying me."
"I can do that." He waited until they were gone to call Spike. "Harris and Tara were just here. Making her pretty. Few things. He said something about a paranormal book coming out?" Spike moaned and told him about it. "I might give that a try. What else does he write?" He smiled. "I'll ask my brother. He reads that stuff. Thanks, Spike. I gave them your discount." He hung up and went to restock those items. They would look adorable on her.
Xander walked Tara into the place for the tea, handing her over. "Here you go, my sister." He stared at one bull dyke, who only smiled back. "I'll be back to pick her up in a few hours if she doesn't call. Then she can send me away if she finds new friends." He walked off, going to the bar next door. It was a sports bar and he needed some manly time.
"Sorry, he's very overprotective," Tara said quietly.
"It happens when we're lucky. I'm Tal."
"Tara," she said with a smile, shaking her hand. "Are there many of us?"
"A lot but you'll be fine, dear. First tea?"
She nodded. "I haven't been in town long and my last girlfriend didn't go to these things."
"That's fine." She walked her inside. "Guys, this is Tara. She's newish to the area. This is her first tea. She has a big brother who'll be back in a few hours unless she tells him not to." They welcomed her and sat down to get to know the new member. She was sweet and shy and adorable to them. They didn't get many of the femme sisters in their group outside of girlfriends. One gave her the address of the more femme shops too. That way she could shop without her brother dressing her. Tara slowly relaxed and it was nice. They could handle this with her. Tal saw Xander and waved him off, getting a nod. He strolled off to get a candy bar and hit the car to write for a bit. She'd come out when she was ready. It was good for her to make new friends who could introduce her to nice girls.
Xander walked into the bookstore and smiled at the guy behind the counter. "Hi. I'm told I need to talk to the manager about an arrangement my agent did?"
"She's in the back, sir." He paged her. "You're an author?"
"Alexian Harris," he said with a grin, shaking his hand.
"I saw your first book. It's been well liked. No one's brought it back." The manager came out. "This is Mr. Harris?"
"I talked to your agent." She walked him off. "We have a few of the local science fiction and fantasy writers locally who meet here and sometimes have book signings."
"I didn't know we meet. I'll have to start coming to those."
She smiled. "Wednesdays at seven."
"Cool. Thank you. So, book signing coming up?"
"There is one. He wanted us to include you. You've just had your first book published?"
"And three more coming in the next six months." She stared. He smiled. "I have a backlog."
"Oh. That's good. I guess." She walked him into the office. "This is...."
She looked up. "Xander. What are you doing here?"
He pointed at his book on her desk. "'Tis me too."
"Oh!" She smiled. "They wanted you to come to the book signing." He nodded with a grin. "That's fine. We can arrange that and get you in with the weekly group too. Most of them are nice guys but a few are grumpy pains in the ass."
"I've met many people like that," he quipped. He sat down. "So I show up, be pretty, have a pen to sign with?"
"You will. I'd suggest a gel writer. Easier on the wrist but it won't seep through." He nodded at that. "Since this is your first one I won't expect a lot of people coming for you. Are you free tonight? Some of us are going out for a drink. I can introduce you so no one thinks that you're muscling in on their spotlights."
"Sure. I can do that." He called home. "It's me. I've been invited out for drinks with the local writer's group at the bookstore. Sure, I'll be good. You have fun on your date and remind her I'm scary if she moves in ways you don't like." She laughed and hung up. He put his phone back in his pocket. "Tara's good with that since she's got a date too."
"Good." She smiled and called someone to warn them. "Hey, Melvin, it's Patsy. We have a new writer joining the group. He didn't know we had one but his first book has just come out. He's joining the group and the book signing. Harris. Alexian Harris, yes. Why?" He said something. She rolled her eyes. "He wants to join the group too, Melvin. Really. I'll bring him around tonight for drinks." She hung up. "He's having a grumpy day."
"They happen to everyone sometime." He grinned. "When?"
"Six, Saturday evening. Tonight, in about two hours at the Marquez Hotel's bar?"
"Can I sit out there and write? I'll give you a ride."
"Sure. We don't mind." He beamed and shook their hands before bouncing off. "He's a bit hyper and happy today."
"He's new. He'll get jaded like Melvin later on." She looked at her co-manager. "He has more than one coming out?"
"I don't know." She logged onto the book tracking site they used to order from. "They're pre-listing two others."
"Hmm, not bad."
"No, very not bad." She shut it down after printing that. He must be good. She only knew him from the comic shop they both used. She called down there to see if they knew he had published something. The owner didn't but he mentioned it and a few said they had heard about it.
Xander came home muttering. Some of the guys were very stuck up. He guessed they were the cranky cheerleaders for the writing world. He listened. Tara was being happy. He smiled and went to his room with his laptop. He needed to do some work anyway. Plus he needed to check his email. He had in-house wifi so he could do that. He turned down the sound too.
"Xander?" she called in a loud pant.
"I'm fine. In my room. Make her squeal more, my sister needs it." He shut his door. It activated the silencing spell she had put up for them. In his email were his most recent sales numbers. He was picking up monthly checks from Chuck now instead of weekly. They were still selling so that was pretty good. Hopefully it'd keep getting better with each book. Then he could make sure Tara was well set up if one of his girlfriends killed him. Because you never knew, some evil girls could be that way. Especially the ones he liked.