Great New Days.
Tara looked up at their new building, frowning. "It's older than it looked in the pictures."
He pointed. "See that balcony, it's ours."
She smiled. It had a lot of growing places. "That's pretty." He led her up to the door, handing her the keys. He had gone first into their last place. This time it was her turn. She opened the building's door. "I was going to offer to fix it," Xander admitted quietly. She smiled and nodded, taking the elevator up to their floor. "I painted," he admitted. "The manager was not pleased when he caught me but the others like it. I pointed out it looked better too. Made it look less old in here." He pointed. "That's us." She put the key into the lock and opened the door, walking in and staring. He looked over her shoulder. "He found those neat columns in a mag," he said in her ear. He gave her a nudge.
She walked in and looked around. Their stuff would be there that night. The kitchen wasn't too bright but it had nice lights to mimic it. She opened up a set of doors, finding the washer/dryer, and a small set of shelves next to it. The rest of the kitchen was beautifully done with tile floors, a mosaic back splash above the deep soapstone farmer's sink. The stove was fairly simple but useful. The fridge was new, something they hadn't had before. Two side-by-side doors and two freezer drawers underneath. A subzero. The microwave was off the counter, under a cabinet. The cabinets had plenty of space and the island had the four sitting places and two large areas gouged in.
He pulled the two inserts out, handing them over. "Dishwasher safe in both cases," he told her. "Faux marble. Can be chilled if we need it to be." He opened the dishwasher drawer on the island. It had two of them so they could use it every few days or after huge meals. "Plus this."
She put the inserts into place and looked around. "Did it hang out that far before?"
"No. That's my dressing area."
"Okay." She looked inside the cabinets. "Weapons?"
"Yup. Once a Scoobie, always a Scoobie." He grinned. "See, orange, like you wanted."
She hugged him. "It is. I'll have plenty of growing room." She opened the large window and walked out to look. They had built in some planters for her and others were free standing. She came in to look at the growing trays in the columns around the kitchen and the other free standing ones. "I'll definitely have a use for those. Thank you, Xander."
"It's your home too, Tara." He led her into her room, opening the closet. It had a pull out mirror he showed her. "That is the extra space behind the stairs for a storage area." He smiled at her. "But I made it bigger in case you wanted more clothes." He opened the pocket door into the bathroom. Her sink was right there next to the doorway. He covered her eyes and walked her in. Then he let her go. She looked around, spinning slowly in place. White clawfoot tub, the old sort. Pretty good sized vanity area with a full-length brass mirror next to it. Shower area. She opened a door, finding the toilet. She looked back. "Linens?" He pointed behind him.
She opened it to find a bunch of smaller shelves. "That's pretty handy." She gave him a hug. "Thank you. I love it."
"I thought you might. It's very femme but not delicate, like you are." He beamed and took her upstairs to his room. He showed her the dressing area. She nodded in approval at the built in dresser and closet area. Then the bathroom. The sinks being between the two pocket doors got a bit of a look. "In case someone in there needs privacy." He let her open the other door. He had a nice, deep newer clawfoot tub painted a golden tan color. It had a few jets around the back and was very deep. He had made sure. He had a corner shower unit. He had a toilet boxed in but it wasn't too obvious since it was against the corner. For a triangle shaped room it was well laid out. He smiled at her. "Well?"
"I adore this. It's masculine but very nicely laid out." She smiled at him. "It'll all be here soon."
"Then we'll have to unpack for days," he said dryly. "Did you talk to the realtor?" She held up the check. It had taken an extra two days to clear since the new owners had gotten some government funding. "Cool. The other account?"
"Already transferred since I used a national bank. They'll want new signature cards."
"That's cool." He smiled. "When we put this one in we can do that." He walked her back downstairs. "It's not too low hanging."
"No, it's not," she agreed. She sniffed the dirt in the nearest column. "It smells like growing dirt."
"Put the flowers outside," he said.
"I am." She looked around the kitchen again. She could do some major damage in there. She heard a floor squeak and stepped over it again. He looked over. "Weak spot?"
He came in to test it. No squeak. She tried it again. They were standing still when the next squeak happened with a moan. They both looked up. "I think they're having fun with dinner." She swatted him on the arm but he grinned. "We have neighbors behind the brick walls too."
"That's fine. If I can't have grass, this is the next best thing."
"Once you're satisfied we can have the housewarming." She hugged him. He went to the living room to call Donnie and tell him they were officially in. She stayed in there to call the movers to see where they were.
"It'll take them an hour. Groceries?" she asked. He tossed her his wallet and she left to do that. He picked up too many sweets and no vegetables when he shopped. She got him his stuff and hers - usually at a better price. She had spotted a nursery from the balcony so she could check it for seedlings.
Xander sat down and opened his laptop, going back to his current work of creepy fiction. They had taken out how Tral's dalliance with the tree had made both sides declare peace to get rid of him. They left it at him being found in the woods doing something. So now he had to give the next character in that universe some perverse fun.
Xander walked up to a desk in a police station. "Hi, I was told to come see you and transfer this file out to you."
"Sex offender?" she asked with a grimace.
"No, I've dated two people traffickers, a weapons dealer, three convicted killers, and one that's still awaiting trial," he said. "It's from Detective Morris out in LA."
"Who told you to come see me?"
"Someone I share an agent with and Detective Morris." He grinned. "He said you were good." He handed it over. "That's what she sent but her card is stapled on the inside if you need to talk to her in person. She was always amused when I dated." He walked off happier.
She opened the folder, staring at the fact sheet on the guy and his dating habits. "How in the hell?" she demanded quietly. Her boss came out to look over her shoulder, snorting and shaking his head. "Did you hear about this?"
"Rumors at the last police convention." He walked off shaking his head. "At least he'll know who to come to with the next one."
She glared at his back and got back to work. "This is insane. How does one man date this many cons?"
One of her fellow detectives casually read over her shoulder. "That's bad."
"She wanted us warned. That way we weren't surprised when we kept running into him."
"I won't be then." He took it to read. "I have an ex he might like."
"So far there haven't been any leeches listed," she shot back with a grimace. "I'll keep it in mind."
He handed it back. "Spread it to Vice, just in case. That way they know in case he picks up a working girl or someone dangerous that way." She nodded she knew someone over there. This would make a few officer's weeks to read and giggle at. Probably until they ran into him somewhere.
Xander tossed something on Paula's desk as he walked in. She stared at it then at him. "Housewarming. Bring whoever you want. You, Donnie is coming. Me and Tara. We don't know anyone else in the city so bring a date we can chat with."
"I might be able to do that. Fancy dress?"
"Comfortably dressed? Yes, of course."
She smiled. "I know you guys aren't going to be entertaining. Did it come out okay?"
"It came out nearly perfect. Some of the paint was darker than I had thought. My desk is nearly in a blacked out area. I think I gave Tara too many growing spaces. It's making her decide and pout. She complained she had two too many. I told her to plant kitty grass for Miss Kitty but she pointed at one in a corner. So I told her to plant catnip." He grinned. "We can use it the next time a werewolf comes by. Oz said he liked it a lot."
"I don't want to know," she sighed, shaking her head. "Why would a werewolf like catnip?"
"I have no idea. Maybe for digestive purposes." He shrugged. "So, I'm hoping really hard that you have a check for me?"
"I thought I mailed it," she said.
"Mail came today and it didn't." She searched around, finding the envelope. He kissed her on the forehead. "Thank you." He signed what he had to and walked off happier. The bank transfer had went well and everything was set up. So he cashed it and went to get Tara something nice to wear tonight. She needed something nicer to wear. He got home and handed her the bag. "For tonight."
She looked inside then at him. "You're dressing me like one of your bad girls?"
"Fine." She smiled. "I've been thinking." He grabbed an old helmet he had found and put it on his head. "Not that sort. I'm not Willow."
"Thank God, I wouldn't want you to be infected by Anya too."
She pinched him. "I should use my degree for something."
"No it's not. I should be paying some of the bills. I'm a big girl. Big girls pay their own ways."
"If you want to work part-time you're more than welcome to," he said with a shrug. "Don't bitch at me when you forget to pull me out of a story though."
"I won't." She pinched him again. "What are you wearing tonight? And go shave. You look scruffy."
"Scruffy is in."
"I don't care. Scruffy is mean looking on you." He rolled his eyes but went upstairs to shave and put on better clothes. She changed, smiling at the nice mid-calf gray pencil skirt
and tan shirt he had picked out for her. She put on her favorite locket and made sure she had done her hair and brushed her teeth, then put on shoes and walked out. She was fussing in the kitchen when Xander came down. "Clothes," she ordered.
"I said comfortable. Donnie will be in jeans."
"Not if he's coming directly from work and those have holes."
"So does my underwear. So?"
She looked at him. "You can fix that. You should have something nice for signings."
"Those I go in jeans and a nicer shirt." He shrugged, going to put on better pants and underwear without holes. He came back down and saw her look so changed his shirt too. This one was a t-shirt meant to be tucked in. He came back down at the door knock, going to answer it. "Donnie, save me from Tara. She's turning into a fashionable girl like Cordy."
He smiled at her. "About time someone straightened him out sometimes. I don't see how he gets all those bad girls with how he dresses."
"Leather pants," he quipped with a beaming smile.
Tara stared at him. "Maybe that's why they're bad?"
"You never know," he quipped. He showed Donnie around, smiling at his happy look at the areas. "I gave Tara plenty of plant space and Miss Kitty plenty of hiding spots," he said, pointing at where she was crashed on top of a display cabinet.
"I can see she loves New York."
"Last night she got onto the balcony and Mommy had to swat," he told him. He led him back to the living room. "Tara, cable guy?"
"While you were gone. Internet's on too."
"Cool!" He turned it on and she handed him the cable box's remote. "My tv should be able to."
"They said it can't. Music stations higher up." He found one and put it on there, making her happier. She went back to fixing something to nibble on, putting it in the oven. "There, that should be ready soon." She came out to smile at Donnie. "No date?"
"No, not today," he admitted with a smile. "Though I do wish. If you meet any nice girls, send them my way?"
"Of course. They'd never understand Xander." Xander stuck his tongue out at her. She swatted. "Behave." The cat leapt down and onto his shoulder, making him flinch until she purred in his ear. "See, even she knows you need to behave."
"She's purring and that means she likes me so she must be a bad kitty girl too," he teased, getting out of pinching range. Donnie snickered at that. Tara scowled. "All kitties have evil kitty days. That's why I found her hanging upside down in my closet this morning."
"Hanging shoe organizer," she told Donnie, cracking him up more. "She likes it, thinks it's a comfy kitty sleeping bag." Xander nodded. "She was head down again?"
"Yup, and snoring."
"She doesn't snore."
"Yes she does. Often."
"Cats don't snore," she said.
"Like mommy like kitty in this case, Tara. Your familiar picked up yours." He handed her back with a grin. "Neither of you are heavy snorers at least. Unlike your last bout of the flu when you turned into a chainsaw."
She blushed, swatting him again. "Meanie."
Donnie snickered. "It's clear why he calls you a sister, Tara." She went to check on the oven, letting the kitty rest in one of the growing beds. It had kitty safe leaves and she liked them. "I love those. Where did you find them?"
"The construction guy found them in a magazine. They're special order but I thought she'd like them and they're good architectural elements for some necessary support structures." Xander grinned. "She has two too many right now." Tara nodded at that. "Planting more herbs?"
"I might but things I need she can't get into. It's poisonous for kitties."
"Isn't that why you pulled out the squirt bottle again?" Xander asked her.
"I'm thinking about it. I don't use them often."
"Then plant some lesser kitchen herbs, Tara." She smiled at that and shrugged. "Maybe mint? Then we could have a minty fresh kitty box."
She snorted. "She might like that." She went to answer the door. "Paula. No date either?"
"No, I couldn't find anyone tonight. Unfortunately." She took off her jacket, letting Tara hang it up for her. "Boys." She shook Donnie's hand. "How much are you sending me this week?"
"I've got a few of his last batch left to do but I haven't gotten anything in weeks, not since the move."
"He's been writing," Tara assured them dryly. "I forgot to make him eat a few meals too. The grumbling woke me up." They smiled at her. Miss kitty brushed against Paula's feet, getting petted by her. "Miss Kitty, go lay down and be admired," she said. The cat looked at her then went back to her cool kitty saunter to the back of the chair that Xander wrote from. She liked it and even if he was in it, it was hers.
Paula smiled. "She's settled in well."
Xander nodded. "Very well. She likes to haunt my closet. Let me give you guys the short tour while Tara makes more stuff to nibble." He showed them around, earning a look from Paula at his closet. "What?"
"Signing clothes?" He pointed at his single suit and the few nicer dress shirts. "Not good enough."
"Then take me shopping, Paula, but I hate suits. Usually I wear nice jeans and a nice shirt."
"The fans expect better, Xander."
"Remember, I write sci-fi/fantasy stuff, Paula. They expect clean and Star Wars t-shirts."
"Good point. Still." She stared at him.
"Take me shopping and it had better be comfortable."
"Fine. I'll see if one of the other authors can do that since *some* of them have taste."
He shrugged. "I'm a comfy guy, nothing more." He let them see his bathroom.
"Xander, why the double doors?" Donnie asked.
He looked at him. "Because all I've had for friends since I was sixteen and lost my only guy friend was *girls*. I might need to use the sink while there's one in there."
"Oh, that reason. We have got to find you more guy friends," he offered, patting him on the back.
"Sure, I could appreciate more guy friends. Even gay guy friends. It might be an easier transition."
"Your female friends let you get away with the ugly shirts?" Paula asked.
"It's all part of being a Xander," Tara called. "Paula, phone, or your purse is ringing for some other reason." She hurried down to get it.
Xander shrugged at Donnie. "If you know some nice, friendly guys...."
"I'll introduce you, kid." He walked him back downstairs, watching Xander's hair get ambushed by the cat. "She loves you," he joked.
"Yet another picky woman in my life," he joked, cracking Tara up. Paula was on the balcony. "Can we help, Tara?"
"Pull out the salad and stuff." He did that and she pulled out the rest of the dinner, setting it on their new table. It might be the only time this was used but it was nice.
Paula came in, phone still to her ear. "Xander, which detective had your dating file on the west coast?"
"Detective Wyans, Brooklyn homicide. She told me to hand it to her."
She smiled and repeated that, going back out there. She came back a minute later. "One of the crime writers is stuck yet again for an evil woman." She sat down. "It looks very nice, Tara." She smiled at the shy girl. "You could come to the writer's conventions and things with him."
Tara shook her head, brushing her hair back over her shoulder. "No thanks, I might pick up muses and have to write too. Then we'd have to get someone to mind us both when we forgot to eat." Xander pinched her. "Hey!" She swatted him but smiled. "You would have starved to death by now, Xander."
"If I was that hungry, I'd get food and bring it back to eat while writing."
"When am I getting my next avalanche of stuff?" Donnie asked before taking a bite. "Tara, does the oven work?" She nodded. "The fish is a bit chilled still."
"Oops." She took it to warm in the microwave. It was fully cooked, she didn't know what had happened. She handed them back with a blush. "Sorry."
"It's all right, dear." Paula patted her on the wrist. "I've done it myself and in front of important people." Tara giggled. "Fortunately I said that my oven wasn't working and I hadn't realized. Just stuck it in and went back to tidying up for them." She looked around. "You two don't do wine, do you?"
"Not real often," Xander admitted. He ate a bite. "Nice job, Tara. We have some beer," he offered. "Or there's iced tea."
"No, this is good. Just wondering. I would've brought a bottle of wine but I knew you two didn't do wine with nice dinners."
Tara shook her head. "Neither of us drink a whole lot."
Donnie shrugged. "That's better for you anyway and sensible, Tara. Which I've always liked about you. Some of his other female friends weren't so sensible."
"Cordy had sense," Xander said. "And fashion sense." He stuffed his mouth.
"The one time I talked to Buffy, she was chattering about some date thing as she called it," Donnie told him.
"Yeah, I was on one and had left my phone with Tara. You made her squeak according to Buffy so she took it to talk to you."
"I talked to Anya a few times too and she wasn't real solid either," Donnie reminded him.
"With Anh, it was always about the money or the orgasms, and that's how she put it. You made us one so she liked you a lot." He grinned.
"I'm glad since she demanded I make you more."
"Yeah, she probably wanted to go shopping again," Xander admitted. He stuffed his mouth.
"Please don't marry a girl like that, Xander," Paula said.
"If she hadn't been dumb, that would've been an issue."
"I'll see if I can set you up with anyone," Donnie and Paula both offered. Tara snickered.
"I do know some very strong women," Paula assured her. "They never seem evil to me."
Donnie looked at her. "I think that might be in the eye of the beholder, Paula."
"Quite possibly with a few of them since they're agents too." She smirked.
"As long as they won't try to lure me to sign with them with offers of finery, gold, and dancing girls," Xander quipped.
"No, you're not a top ten writer yet," Paula said, patting him on the wrist. "Maybe next time."
He smirked. "Does that mean I get groupies then?" Tara moaned, shaking her head. He smirked at her. "You'd like groupies."
"No I won't. They're pushy."
"Not always. The one I know about so far was very nice. A bit sweet, liked Avenger comics."
Paula and Donnie both shook their heads. "No, you get those in other genres," Paula told him.
He shrugged. "Anya's curse threatened me with groupies."
"To get his writing noticed, become famous, get groupies who he'd find lacking and go back to her," Tara told her. "Which he can't since she's taken novitiate vows."
"Thankfully, the nomination for that award, which got me noticed, came three weeks before her wish," Xander added. "I made sure."
She smiled at him. "That's good to know. No sudden downfall at the end?"
"No, she was an avid watcher of TMZ and the like."
"Ah, that explains that. I wondered why she'd curse you to good things," Donnie said.
"You knew?" Paula asked.
He nodded. "Yeah, and that they can't be retroactively cast. I saw Anya and asked her one day."
"Yup, no going backwards in time," Xander agreed.
Paula smiled. "So you lucked out before you lucked out?"
"Yup." He beamed. "Not that I wouldn't take it if it had happened, but it's much more satisfying this way."
"Yes it is," she agreed. Her phone beeped. She pulled it out to glance at it. "Excuse me."
"You have to hand hold, I know that," he promised.
She walked out onto the balcony, calling him back. "What's wrong?" She listened. "No, I'm with Harris, why?" She smiled. "His housewarming. I did invite you, you had kid duty tonight." She listened. "That's bad, yes. Any idea who?" She nodded slowly. "Anything that wasn't backed up on it?" She grimaced. "What did the police say? Ah, stalker?"
Xander leaned his head out. "If that's Richard, tell him to look in Atlanta. Tara said she caught a news story earlier about his laptop being stolen and someone in Atlanta was crowing online about having seen his newest book." He went back inside.
Paula smiled. "Hear that, Rick?" She snickered. "Yes, those two. Lexington. Go right ahead. Thank you for warning me." She hung up and walked inside. "It was him, he hadn't seen that yet, and he's very pissed at someone."
"I'd be ready to skin alive," Xander agreed. "Maybe even mean enough to wish some of my muses on them."
Donnie shuddered. "Don't wish that many muses on anyone, Xander. It's mean."
Tara snickered. "We're still wondering if the puppies that one landlord saw were his muses."
"If so, they could come out to be petted," Xander said dryly. "Because sometimes I have no idea where they're going and I feel like I'm only taking dictation from them."
Paula smiled. "Feel lucky for them though."
"I do, but still. Sometimes it's like they're all high. Especially in the newest hunter story." He stuffed his mouth.
Tara looked at him. "Did they get high?"
"Well, the demon did capture, drug them, and is trying to make them beg him to take them in. Which I'm not real sure why. I remember that one's dead."
Tara nodded. "Sometimes you've got to write what you know."
"It wasn't me the thing had, it was Spike. Which is a scary thought if my muses are channeling Spike. That means I might turn into Dru." She cackled, patting him on the arm. "With how batty she was, she might've tried to be a writer. Spike was a bad poet."
She shook her head. "No, I think Dru's problems were beyond muses."
"Maybe. I hope so. Especially if she was just as batty before Prague." He ate a bite of salad. Paula was giving him an odd look again. "Spike was the vampire that was helping our team. The government got hold of him once and put a control chip in his head. He couldn't hunt so he made a deal with us. His former, century long, girlfriend, Dru, was a seer who had tea parties with the stars. Batty as hell."
"She liked you?" she quipped.
"Yeah, called me her kitten a few times." He beamed. "She offered to turn me too."
"So if you see the scary looking, dark haired, pale woman wearing Victorian gowns," Tara quipped. "Warn him. Especially if she's talking to her doll, Miss Edith, or the stars."
"We can do that," Paula promised. "I have heard some goth kids like your paranormal series."
"That because I have better bad guys, who aren't all bad always."
"I've noticed some of the bad guys are a lot more likeable than the supposed heros," Donnie admitted. "Especially that one female."
"Yeah, now and then she can be a bitch," Xander admitted with a small shrug. "She's also confused sometimes."
"I've heard someone asked if she had MPD," Paula said.
"No, she gets pissed as hell whenever you confuse her."
"I'll point that out."
"Have them read her book four, the guys point that out to her," Xander quipped.
"I'm sure they were blunt with the way you've written them so far," Paula said with a smirk for him. Donnie nodded quickly since his mouth was full. "Everyone seems to like how you write the main characters though. It's why it got so far up. For a first, popular genre book, it's done phenomenal."
"Thank you," he said happily. "I'm hoping I have many more. Groupies or not." Tara smiled at him. Paula's phone rang.
"Sorry." She answered it. "What's wrong now?" She listened. "Tara, dear, where did you find that note that someone had read the newest story?" She got up to get her own laptop and find it again for her. Paula read the web address to him and the signer's name. He hung up so she did. "Thank you. The police are being very helpful at the moment. They'll track it and his laptop."
"I've got LoJack on mine," Xander admitted. "So if it's lost I can find it."
"Regular?" Donnie asked quietly. Tara shook her head. "In addition?"
"Of course." She sat down. "He does need to upgrade but he'll have problems with his word processing program. They don't work well together." She put her napkin back in her lap and took a sip of her tea.
"There are ways around it," Paula admitted.
"I hate word," Xander told her. "I don't like how it reacts or anything."
"There's other options," Donnie said. "Including an open-source version of word."
"That does the same goofy things, which would lead to you finding more problems," Xander pointed out. "Plus I hate the interface. I learned this one and I like it but other things don't. Like the newer operating system."
"Can you get a copy of the operating system disk?" Paula asked. "We can reformat something newer to something older. Or I do know someone who has separate hard drives for each operating system so their programs are in their preferred environments. The main computer is in one but they have external hard drives that hold the programs they wanted to keep."
"That would be sucky to bring with me," he admitted. "Tara wants me to go to the park and write sometimes, or to a bookstore if I can find a local writing group."
"There's two small ones," Paula said. "They've both had people published out of them, and most aren't the jaded sort you said LA's were at times."
"Only a few of the guys. Some were still shipping things around so they're not being as jaded." He finished his dinner and leaned back. "Good job, Tara."
"Thank you." She smiled. "He needs to get out more."
"I can understand that. It'll help him stay connected with people," Donnie agreed.
Xander smirked. "Not as much going on out here either."
"Xander, can you not risk your life?" Paula asked.
He shrugged. "If I need to, better me than some innocent kid who has no idea what to do."
"True," she sighed. "Are there other hunters?" He nodded. "Can you prompt them to help your friends?"
"We're only on call for local problems and apocalypses," Tara said quietly, looking up at her. "For those we'd usually like more help."
"That's reasonable. How bad is the local city in relation to what you guys used to do?"
"There's no nightly patrols. I've only caught three listed deaths that might've raised in the papers in the last month," Xander told her. "I handled two and the other had a family member there waiting. He was horrified when his daughter dug her way out but sobbed and handled it." She nodded at that. "Like the ones in LA, generally most of them are really peaceful and hiding. I've been debating finding the local watcher and introducing myself," he told Tara.
She shook her head. "They hate us, Xander."
"So? Still better to know who he is if I run into him some night in a club or something. He might have a worse reaction and spill it then."
"That might tank sales or get him put in a hospital," Paula said. "I'd say meet him somewhere. Like a park or something so he can't hurt you or out you."
"That's what I was planning. Sending him a letter to meet me on a park bench, citing Sunnydale issues or something." He grinned. "It'll be fine. He won't bother me. The guy doesn't even keep a patrol locally, Paula. He's got a potential slayer to train and he's not keeping up patrols."
"I don't need to know."
"Good." He beamed and got up, coming back to hand Donnie something. "Yours I do believe. You gave it to me last time you had me fix something."
"I did," he agreed, putting it in his pocket. "Does it have more work for me on it?" He shook his head with a grin. "Thanks, Xander."
"I know you needed a weekend off for a wedding, Donnie."
"Yours?" Paula asked.
"Ah." She nodded and smiled. "Have fun and be safe. I'm not sure if I could wean him onto another editor."
"It's not that far from here. It'll be loud and have a lot of drinking." He shrugged. "I'll be fine and my mother will complain that I'm single." He grinned at Tara. "I could bring you to make her not nag."
Tara shook her head quickly. "No thank you. I don't get along well with families and it's fairly clear I like girls, Donnie."
He gave her a short hug. "I know you do, Tara. You need a good girl so Xander can see what nice women are like. That way he starts to date some."
"They're not attracted to me," Xander said with a smirk. "I don't know why I have bad girl magnet powers but I do. It even makes life a bit more interesting."
Tara looked at him. "Let's hope none of the ones in LA take someone hostage to get you to move back," she joked.
"No, Gunn stopped her and handed her over to the nice guys who used to tail me on dates." Paula let out a small whimper. "Sorry. But, hey, she's getting help." He grinned at her. "She hates flying too. I only went on one date with her so I'm not sure why she's addicted. I didn't even have sex with her."
She patted him on the cheek. "Go gay, Xander. Please?"
"Then the bad girls would have to find someone less ready for them," he said dryly. "Or might take me hostage to make me change my mind."
Donnie snorted, nodding as he choked. "Yeah," he wheezed. "They might, kid." Tara helped him by patting him on the back. "Thanks, Tara." He wiped his mouth and cheeks off. "We'll try to find you a nice place to play safely." He looked at Paula.
"I don't know that many evil girls. Not his sort. Some of my girls are lesser evils."
"Do they like oral sex?" Xander asked. Tara whimpered and swatted him hard this time. "Ow!"
"Anya shared *way* too much, Xander, and you're following that bad habit."
He smirked. "I'm going to make sure your next one likes it too. That way you can find someone who makes you make those squeaky, happy noises again."
She turned bright red and ducked her head down. "You heard that?" she hissed.
"Yeah, came to get Willow for patrol one night," he said dryly. "I decided that was more important and left her there. She showed up when she remembered later on. Sorry. I tried to give you guys a night off." She grinned at him for that niceness.
"Every woman should get oral sex," Paula told them. "It's very nice." Donnie gave her a look. "Not offering," she said with a smirk.
"Thankfully. You're not really my type, Paula. Too femme."
She smirked. "It's New York. Anything goes," she quipped. Xander smirked at her. "I'm not that kinky so I couldn't tell you where."
"I'm sure I can find some good clubs to go move at." He got up to get some more tea and came back with the pitcher, doing refills for the others. Then he put the pitcher back and sat down again so he could sip. It was good to be among friends in the huge city. Made it feel more like home.
Xander looked up from his reading at the horrified gasp. "I told you it was about Sunnydale matters," he said dryly. He put his bookmark in place and shifted so he could sit down. "Sit, Henry, please."
"Harris?" he demanded.
"Yeah. My agent and editor had me move out here. So it's me and Tara."
"Willow's ex, Tara. The blonde girl? Shy? Her?"
"Oh." He sat down. "So you're here officially?"
"Yeah. Have been for a few weeks. I thought I'd touch base, see if there's any huge issues I need to be aware of, if you're keeping a rotation so if your potential needs help I can back her up. 'Cause let's face it, she's not got the gifts yet so she's not a slayer."
"No, I keep my girl in training, not on patrol," he said firmly.
Xander beamed. "It's good when the girls get some sort of life. Kendra needed one before she was called." He shifted. "So, I've gotten two raising."
"Thank you. We're mostly quiet and hidden. I know LA had a lot of problems that the main people are complaining about."
Xander looked over the top of his sunglasses at him. "Yeah, we know. We were there for the ten months helping Angel's team." That got a nod and a grimace. "The Powers called, dude. So anyway, I'm on Lexington if you do find something I need to jump into."
He looked at him. "The Council hates you jumping in."
"If I didn't, we'd only have Faith."
"They probably would've gotten her out of the way."
Xander nodded. "They've tried a few times. I'm telling you this because I've done some homework and I know you're not the usual stick-up-the-ass sort who tongues the Council's head."
"No, I'm not," he said quietly. "Who told you that?"
"Wes. Which means that I don't hate you like I do Travers, so relax. Just a head's up that I'm here if something huge is going on and no one can step in." He stood up, looking at him. "I didn't want to accidentally bump into you some night and have you blurt it out or anything."
"Thanks, Harris. Travers clearly got you wrong since he said you were a brown nosing fuck up."
"Untrained when I stepped in and brown nosing helps during PMS. Travers either doesn't have a wife or she sleeps in a different part of the house if he doesn't know that."
"All higher watchers are commanded to have offspring," he said dryly.
"I'm sorry for her then. Anyway, let me know." He handed over a small card. "That's my phone at home. I'm usually there writing."
He sat up, staring at him. "You're Alexian Harris?" he hissed. Xander just smirked and walked off. "Damn." He put the card into his shirt pocket and stayed there to think. That might be good and Harris wasn't going to make him toe the line the Council commanded for the girls. Though, if he caught him hurting the girl he had assigned to him, he'd kill him for it. So it might come in handy to have him here. At least all the bad demons would be drawn to him to make him handle them instead of his young apprentice.
Xander heard Tara start to nag the cat again and looked up something online. That would work. He got up and picked Tara up, grabbing his wallet and keys, stepping into his shoes, no matter how much she complained and wiggled on his shoulder. He spanked her, making her yelp. "Stop it." He walked her down to the car, putting her in it and buckling her in, then walking around to get in and drive.
"Xander!" she complained. He glared. She shrank back. "Xander?"
"Hush. It's for your own good." He started the car and headed off to the place he had looked up. When he got there, he found a nice magically protected parking spot and parked, getting out and walking around to haul Tara out. He put her back over his shoulder and carried her inside, putting her down facing the check out desk. Then he walked off to go play somewhere happy.
Tara blushed. "Sorry," she whispered. "He thinks I need a break."
The woman behind the counter stared at her. "He seems a bit mean, dear."
"No, he's not, but I've been mother henning again. It's a bad habit. I'm sorry."
An older woman leaned out of the office then came out to stare at her. "Tara?"
She flinched, staring at her. "Auntie Marge?"
"Yes!" She gave her a hug. "What are you doing up here? It's good to see you away from that asshole father of yours, girl!" She pushed her back to look over. "You look tired."
"I've been nagging Xander. He decided I needed a break so he dropped me off."
"He was a bit mean. He carried her in and dropped her off," the counter girl told her boss.
"You're with a boy?" Aunt Marge demanded.
Tara shook her head quickly. "No! No. He saved me from getting too sad after Willow and I broke up. I help him since he's got really strong muses and keeps getting stuck." She ducked her head a bit. "I guess he decided I was nagging too much again."
Aunt Marge hugged her. "The Goddess has plans for us all. You especially, child." She walked her into the office. "So, tell me what happened. The last I heard you had escaped to go to college."
Tara nodded. "In Sunnydale." Her aunt gave her the most horrified look. "Remember I wrote about the stuff?"
"The blonde girl? Yeah."
"Buffy, she's a slayer," she said quietly. "I helped her. So did Xander. Now I'm helping Xander because he gets lost while writing. He forgets to eat."
"So he dropped you off?"
"I was nagging Miss Kitty. He picked me up and carried me to the car, then in here," she sighed. "I guess he decided I needed a day off."
"That's fine. It's good he brought you here."
"I'm wondering why he brought me here. I didn't even know this store was here."
Her aunt winked. "We've been here for a long time, Tara girl. We even have a nice coven here."
"Really? I used to work with Willow but the campus group was more of the new age sort."
"I've seen many of them coming in for meditation supplies. C'mon. I'll introduce you, dear." She stood up and walked her out. "This is Giana. She's my faithful helper." Tara smiled and waved. "This is my friend's daughter, Tara Maclay."
"Like used to date Rosenburg?" she asked. "I've seen her on some various posts moping about you."
Tara nodded. "We used to date. Then she was bad and cheated."
"That stupid bitch," Giana said bluntly. She smiled at her. "So that guy?"
"I was nagging my familiar."
Marge hugged her around the shoulders. "She's doing mothering duty on him and he thought she needed a free day." She smiled. "She'll be joining us for the coven dinner tonight." Tara gave her a look. "There's only one other new member. You know some of the others. Jess moved with me." She walked her off to call the ones upstairs down. Jess came squealing down to hug Tara. "She was on the hellmouth helping hunt."
"Oh, you baby!" Jess sighed, giving her a bigger squeeze.
"It's okay. I was needed."
"Good. Now you're safer."
"Helping Xander to make sure he eats."
Jess looked at her. "Why can't he do that?"
"Oh." She nodded, leading her back up there. "We're researching healing spells."
Tara got a book she remembered, handing it over once she had found what she wanted. "I used that one before and it worked well on broken bones."
She looked at it then at her. "That takes some power."
"Willow's that powerful," she offered.
"This is my friend's daughter Tara."
Jess smiled. "We watched Tara be raised until her mother died. Too bad we couldn't curse your father or brothers."
"That's wrong," Tara said. "Unless you cast one to redeem them. I did that to help Willow because she was having problems with her powers. She was getting addicted," she finished quietly.
Marge looked at her. "Addicted?" Tara nodded. "That means she had some real strong power." Tara nodded, pushing her hair back behind her ears. "Huh. She better?"
"When she cheated I asked the vengeance demon that showed up to help her find a nice guy to marry and love. Someone who'd support her and hopefully let her have a lot of children."
Jess cackled, waving a hand. "That's almost mean, child!" She leaned on the table. "How is she?"
"Her husband is a very nice Irish boy, first generation. He doesn't really understand the craft but he's supportive of her helping Buffy. She's had to be very good while teaching him what she can do and what's good magic versus everything else. He's still uneasy but he understands most of the time and he'll let her teach any of their children that have a gift."
Marge gave her another hug. "That is the most redeeming, selfless wish I've ever heard, child." She smiled at her. "Who did she cheat with?"
"Xander's girlfriend. She's a former vengeance demon and now she's taken vows."
"Marriage?" Jess guessed.
Jess and Marge both cackled at that, hugging the girl. They wanted to hear more about her life. It sounded exciting and they could probably use her in the coven. She clearly had sense and compassion.
Xander walked past the club's back entrance, staking the vampire that was going to eat someone. He slid the stake back into his jacket as he kept walking like nothing had happened. The intended victim spun then stared at him. "Stalking is bad, kid," he said.
Xander stopped to look at him. "I'm not stalking you. I'm here for the same reason you probably were, to pick up someone nice and possibly fun." He grinned.
Richard stared at him. "What was that?"
"What was what?" he asked.
"Don't play stupid." He stared at him. "I know, have known. Someone told me when you freaked out a certain agent."
"Oh. Well, yeah. Welcome." He grinned. "Didn't think you'd want to go to the ER for nibbling."
"No, not really. So you're here why?"
"I need a day off and I'm hoping that someone in there is of questionable virtue and easy to talk into doing nasty, fun, entertaining things."
"I was here to talk to my ex-wife."
"Is she fun and of questionable virtue? Since only evil girls like me?" He grinned.
"Yeah, she might be," he decided. He stared the kid down. "Thanks."
"Where are you now?"
"Lower Lexington. I fixed it up very nice for me and Tara, and her cat." He walked closer. "I told her she could invite anyone she wanted to the housewarming but she decided she couldn't. Did you get your laptop back?"
"I did. Thanks."
"That was all Tara." He smiled. "I dropped her off at a wicca shop for her day off."
"That's cool. How's it going?"
"I've only had one of those major days this month so far."
"It's only the tenth, kid."
"It's not my fault."
"I know." He clapped him on the arm. "Try not to hit on my ex-wife? That'd be too weird and she might compare. Plus you'd be buying her designer stuff."
"No, I learned that lesson with Anya. I don't spend more than a hundred bucks on anything clothing. Though Paula is trying really hard to make me shop." He grimaced. "She thinks nice jeans and a good shirt aren't good enough for signings."
"With your fanbase it's possible that's good. In mine they'd expect a suit." He shrugged. "To each their own."
"I told her if it wasn't good enough to drag me shopping some day." He grinned at the person staring at them. "What? We can talk."
Richard looked. "Paps," he said, waving at them. "First one?"
"I'm talking with my fellow author, Alexian Harris."
"Wow. Some people have wondered." He snapped a picture. "So, anything new coming out soon?"
"Of course," Xander agreed with a smile. "There's more in each of the series coming out sometime in the next year."
Richard shook his head. "You need another hobby."
"I have Tara's cat to play with now and then." He grinned and walked off. "Have a good day."
"You too, kid." The pap took another few pictures. "He's a nice kid."
"Good. Is he off to meet someone?"
"He said he was looking for a new girlfriend." He put on his sunglasses. "Let me get back to my own chains and laptop."
"Anything new coming out?"
"Hopefully in about a year. I'm working on it." He smiled. "Ask me in a few months and I'll know better then." Which was a really bold lie but it happened. He walked off, heading for his car. This was getting very interesting. He slid behind the wheel and suddenly had an idea. "Huh. That's not bad." He started the engine and drove home so he could write.
Xander walked into the store, taking off his sunglasses to look at Tara. "Are you going to nag the cat some more?"
"No. I've had a good day off." She smiled. "What did you do?"
"I found a woman of questionable morals and virtues," he said with a grin. "And she's got a lesbian sister if you want introduced."
"No thank you. I prefer good girls."
"They don't like me so have all you want," he promised. "Coming? I'm ordering. I'll even clean up the kitty puke."
She sighed. "I need to plant more cat grass." She looked at her aunts. "This is Xander."
"Boy, I'd treat our niece better," Marge said firmly.
Xander stared at her. "I treat her like my sister. I don't make her do anything, I don't ask her for anything outside of the occasional change of what she's making for dinner, I gave her a huge ass bathroom, a room rent free, and basically free run of my life. Just because she was being grumpy and needed a day off doesn't mean I'm mean to her and she's more than woman enough to tell me that herself. Because I don't like *anyone* who tries to turn her back into the more shy young woman she was before when she was hurting so damn much. I would hope you weren't one of them."
"Xander," Tara warned. "They aren't. They're my mother's friends."
Xander stared at her. "You sure?" She nodded. "Fine. But if they upset you, mega witch or not, they're toast."
"Fine." She smiled at her aunts, who were both smiling. "He did make me a very nice bathroom and growing spots all over the house. Can they come over for dinner?"
He shrugged. "If they want and you want to deal with it. I'll probably be writing anyway. It's not like I don't expect you to bring over friends, Tara. Same as before."
He gave her head a nudge. "Quit being so nice. All women are bitches now and then and you keep forgetting that."
"Some of us are nice."
Xander stared at her. "Yeah, then you have PMS and slam my girlfriend against the ceiling," he shot back dryly.
"She had a knife and she was mean. She deserved it."
"Well, yeah. Not into blood play." He shrugged. "Are they coming over tonight? I'll order extra."
"Next week." She looked at her aunts. "See, he's not mean to me. Just tired of my fussing."
Xander nodded. "Yup." He smirked at her. "I nearly went to Coney Island but they had it closed for school trips."
"Shoot. We'll go next weekend." She took his arm. "What're you ordering for dinner?" He shrugged. "Mexican?"
"I can do that." He looked at the aunts over her head. "By your leave, ladies?"
"We agree, you're good for her. Making her less shy," Jess decided. "And you're cute."
"Yes, but only bad girls like me," he quipped back with an evil smirk. "Do you want to take over the world, start an apocalypse, or kill people in a ritual manner?"
Marge cackled, shaking her head. "I hope not. I'd hate to take her out. Go, shoo. Have fun, children."
"She's only my nagging helper," Xander reminded them. "She doesn't like boy parts and I'm clearly a huge boy." Tara elbowed him. "Fine." He walked her out after she waved. "Want to stop by the Puerto Rican section, the Mexican section, or the South American section?"
"Okay." He let her into the car and walked around to drive. He could do that easily enough. It was only a few blocks out of their way.
"Did you look up just any shop or that one specifically?"
"I looked up covens." He smirked, pulling into traffic.
"That's a nice surprise then." She checked her seatbelt because traffic was worse than usual right now.