Good Grief

Summary: Halloween silliness. Xander, Graham, and Angel run into a little gourd related trouble.
Date: October 31, 2000  
Notes: Okay, this little twisted piece of whatever came about from a combination of the Halloween challenge on the Angelslash list, pumpkin shopping, and the infamous ‘Snoopy dance’. Charles gets the blame ‘cause. . . well, ‘cause he’s Charles. Do I really need any other reason?

**********

“Hmm hmm hmm hm, hmm hmmm hmm hm-”

“What are you. . . What is that. . .” Xander scowled at his patrolling companion. “Graham, are you humming the theme to ‘Ghostbusters’?”

The soldier blinked a few times, a look of complete innocence plastered on his face. “Um. . . yeah.”

“Well, don’t!”

“Oh, okay.”

The two young men continued through the woods in silence until. . .

“Hm hmm hmm hmm hm hmm hm-”

Xander sighed loudly. “No ‘Adams’ Family’ either!”

Graham frowned. “’Monster Mash’?”

“No.”

“’Thriller’?”

“Don’t even. . . No.”

“Oh.” Graham absently kicked at a fallen tree branch. “Man, I thought you were supposed to be the fun one.”

Quite wounded by the comment, Xander said defensively. “I am the fun one!”

“Then why are you stressing so much? It’s the night before Halloween, and you and I are hunting monsters, alone, in the middle of the woods. . . What’s wrong with a little mood music?”

“Well, not to reiterate what you just said, but we’re already kinda choking on atmosphere here. Besides, there’s tempting fate, and then there’s going up to it and sticking your tongue out.” Xander let said delectable tongue out to wet his lips.

“So, if *this* isn’t your idea of fun. . .” Graham shrugged in what he hoped looked like detached indifference. “Then, what is?” Blue eyes discreetly studied Xander’s reaction.

The younger man blushed, in a very suave way, as he realized how loaded that question could be. “Well, um, it all depends, doesn’t it?” He said tentatively. “I mean, there are different types of fun. What kind were you thinking of, like a board game or something?”

“Depends on who gets to be the board.” Graham murmured.

“Huh?”

Graham cleared his throat, and decided to jump right in. “I was actually talking about a different kind of fun. You know, the kind that’s loud enough to disturb the neighbors.”

“Like video games?” Xander smiled at Graham’s expression of controlled exasperation. “Kidding, kidding. I get what your idea of fun is. And, I also get that we’re flirting. . . We are flirting, right?”

“God, I hope so.”

“Well, in that case, on the subject of disturbing the neighbors,” Xander peered up through his lashes. “I suppose I should tell you that my new apartment has nice, thick walls.”

Graham’s eyes sparkled. “Then, we’ll just have to try extra hard. . . to get sound through them, I mean.”

“Extra hard?” Xander took a step towards Graham.

“*Very* hard.” Graham took a step towards Xander.

“Um,” Xander smiled shyly. “You mind if we quit with the subtext and start with the spit swapping?”

Graham matched the smile, and leaned forward, closing the gap between the two men. Mouths touched all too briefly before the soldier abruptly pulled back. “What was that?!” Graham’s eyes were wide as they searched the darkened woods.

“Didn’t hear a thing. Want more kisses. Now.” Xander put his hands on the back of Graham’s neck and tried to force him back into place, however, the older man resisted.

“There it is again!” Graham whispered, and indeed, something could clearly be herd tramping around in the dark recesses of the forest.

“What?” Xander laughed nervously. “Oh, you mean that suspiciously unidentifiable sound?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.” Graham said grimly.

The younger man’s mouth twisted into a grin. “You know, if we were in a horror movie, what with the sex talk, and the kissing, and the spooky woods, and the scary noises, we’d probably be saying-”

“Let’s check it out.” Graham started to move forward until Xander’s hand clamped down on his arm.

“Right. Exactly. Oh, and look, here’s the part where we get horribly mutilated. Right on schedule.”

“Don’t be silly.” Graham admonished. “We’ll just. . . investigate a little.”

“Investigate?” Xander blinked in disbelief. “Is this some weird death wish thing, or have you actually never watched a scary movie?”

“Xander, stuff like that doesn’t happen in real life.”

The younger man raised a questioning eyebrow. “How long have you lived on the Hellmouth again? Look, I know you’re still Mr. Gung Ho Soldier Man and everything, but, well. . . you want to do fun and interesting stuff to my body, I want to do fun and interesting stuff to yours. . . What’s say we just let this demon be the one that got away? We can tell everyone it was *this* big.” Xander threw out his arms and nodded hopefully.

Graham frowned. . .until Xander licked his lips again, then he was sold. “Okay, we can go. It was probably just a raccoon or something.”

Xander smiled, accepted the rationalization, and refrained from mentioning that the possibility of any small nocturnal animal surviving on the Hellmouth was just about nonexistent.

The two young men started to leave, visions of steamy sex already floating in their heads, when a voice came to them from out of the darkness.

“Xander?”

Both humans stopped and glanced at each other. “Um. . . Maybe it’s a very vocal raccoon?” Xander said with a nervous chuckle.

“A raccoon that knows your name?”

“They’re very intelligent animals.”

But, both men knew that it was certainly not a raccoon that was making it’s way towards them. Mutually deciding to neither hide, nor run, they stood their ground. The mortals held their collective breath as a tall figure seemingly materialized from the darkness.

“Angel!” Xander handled the appearance of the souled vampire with only a modicum of jaw dropping and eye widening. “What are. . . Why are. . . Okay, let’s just get the most pressing one out of the way first. Are you evil?”

Angel glared at the mortal. “No. When are you gonna forget about that, huh? Live in the now.”

“Live in the. . .” Xander shook his head. “You have been fully assimilated to L.A. life, haven’t you? Okay, if you’re not evil then. . . Oh, God. It’s Buffy. She’s in trouble, isn’t she?”

The vampire scowled. “I’m not here for Bufffy.”

“Then why-”

“Maybe I’m here to see you?”

Xander’s eyebrows shot up. “Really?!”

“Well. . . no. . . but, I could be.” Angel fidgeted a bit and silently cursed his soul having self’s less then stellar social skills. Being around certain people was so much easier when he was evil and insane. “I’m here because Cordelia had a vision.”

Xander threw up his hands. “Now, see, that was gonna be my third guess.”

Graham, who had been keeping a constant distrustful eye on the undead creature of the night, finally spoke. “A vision? What kind?”

Angel’s eyes shifted, and he gave the soldier an appraising, and extremely thorough, once over. With a more lifeless tone than usual the vampire asked. “So. . . who’s this?”

“Angel, Graham.” Xander nodded toward both of them in turn. “Graham, Angel.”

“Graham.” Angel smirked. “Like. . .the cracker.”

Blue eyes narrowed. “Oh yeah, never heard that before. Very original.” He cocked his head. “Angel. . . like the undead psycho who terrorized the town a few years ago?”

“How nice. You’ve heard of me.”

“Well, Riley’s filled me in.”

Angel smiled sweetly. “And, how is Riley? His ass still have my boot print on it?”

A sudden snort from Xander’s direction preempted Graham’s reply. “Oh, man!” Xander’s head pivoted back and forth between the two men. “I totally understand what Buffy was talking about now. Testosterone poisoning.” He pursed his lips. “You know, it’s kinda pathetic when you watch from this angle.”

“We’re not. . .”

“That wasn’t. . .”

The brown eyed mortal ignored the puffing and posturing. “So, what was this vision thingie about?

Angel took a brief respite from his impromptu glaring contest with Graham to answer. “Cordy only managed to give me the basics before beginning to alternate between demanding an all paid shopping expedition to Tiffany’s, and making retching noises.”

“Yeah,” Xander’s expression was fond. “That's our Cordy.”

Angel allowed himself a small smile. “Anyway, from what I was able to discern, there’s something bad lurking around these woods.”

Graham coughed and mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like, “Yeah, and I’m looking at him.”

Xander smirked and stifled a chuckle. “Come on, let’s go find this thing that made Cordy want to puke.” He hit Graham on the arm. “See, I know how to have fun.”

*****

“Remind me again, who exactly said this was gonna be fun?” Xander grumbled while Angel and Graham very wisely kept their mouths shut. “Is it really so much to ask for monsters to rampage in convenient places? I mean, there hasn’t been any bloodshed at the Bronze in ages. And, besides, that whole evil creatures in the forest thing, isn’t that a bit passe?”

“Well, I don’t think we’re gonna be in the forest much longer.” Angel observed. “It looks like there’s a clearing up ahead.”

The three men stepped out of the woods and into something very different.

Graham crouched down and picked up something small and orange. “It looks like we’re in a. . .pumpkin patch.”

“Oh, no.” Xander paled as the full implication of the situation hit him. “It can’t be.”

“It can’t be what?” Angel moved closer to the younger man. “Xander, do you know what we’re searching for?”

“Well. . .” The younger mortal’s face suddenly flashed in realization. “No, wait. That’s impossible. Today’s Monday. It’s only the thirtieth.”

Graham frowned and looked down at his watch. “Actually, the time’s twelve oh two am, so technically it’s now Tuesday. . . Halloween.”

“Oh, crap.” Xander suddenly moved into a crouch. “Get down!”

Graham and Angel reacted instantly, both immediately acquiescing to the authority in the younger mortal’s voice.

“Did you see something?” Graham whispered, his eyes quickly, yet thoroughly scanning the surrounding area.

“No, not yet.” Xander glanced up at the starry night sky. “But, if what I think is out there is really out there then we should stay low.”

Angel followed his gaze. “What do you think is out there?”

Xander’s voice spoke with a learned knowledge far exceeding his twenty years. “It’s The Great Pumpkin.”

The vampire and soldier both blinked at the younger man, then. . . they blinked some more.

“It’s what now?”

“Excuse me?”

Xander rolled his eyes at having to repeat himself. “It’s The Great Pumpkin.”

Graham shook his head. “You mean, like from Charlie Brown?”

“Uh,” Angel raised his hand. “Someone mind filling in the culturally inept over here?”

Graham sighed. “It’s a thing from the Peanuts comic strip. Linus waits in the pumpkin patch all Halloween night hoping to get a glimpse of ‘The Great Pumpkin’.”

Angel grimaced. “Comic strip?”

“Yeah, you know, every Halloween the Great Pumpkin flies over the land, giving toys to all the good little boys and girls of the world.”

“That's just another example of pop culture distorting the facts.” Xander’s eyes anxiously peered out into the night. “In actuality The Great Pumpkin is an evil harbinger of retribution. It prowls pumpkin patches on Halloween, looking for people to gut and carve so it can exact revenge in the name of all the helpless gourds sacrificed for this holiday.”

Graham sighed and looked pityingly at the younger man. “You’ve been forgetting to wear your face mask around the industrial strength glue fumes again, haven’t you?”

“No! Well. . . maybe. . . a couple times. . . three tops.” Xander shook his head. “But, that’s completely irrelevant.” The brown eyed mortal ignored the pained look shared by the other men. “Look, the whole pumpkin thing, it was in this book me and Wills found, ‘Beloved Twentieth Century Icons, and Their Demonic Origins’.”

Graham looked at him incredulously. “You’re joking, right?

“Wait, I’ve heard of that volume before.” Angel leveled his intense stare at Xander. “Do you remember what the passage from the book said?”

“You mean, besides the whole gutting, and carving, and revenge thing?”

“Yeah.”

Xander furrowed his eyebrows in concentration as he tried to remember the non-interesting, non-gory parts. “It said The Great Pumpkin rises from a pumpkin patch in the dark of Halloween-”

“Well, it’s only been Halloween for a few minutes. Maybe it hasn’t risen yet.” Graham said hopefully.

Angel nodded at the young soldier. “And, if we can figure out which pumpkin it is, we can destroy it before it even gets a chance to rise.”

“But how are we gonna figure out which one it is? Xander asked.

“There must be at least a hundred pumpkins in this field.” Graham sighed in frustration. “It would take too long to destroy all of them. There's no telling when this thing might wake up.”

“Then we spread out.” Angel said, putting on his commanding voice. “Look for anything strange, any irregularities that you don’t see on the other plants. It’s here somewhere.”

The three men began to search the area, trying not to disturb things too much, fearful of accidentally awakening the homicidal vegetable. . . fruit. . . vegetable. . . whatever.

It seemed like an exercise in futility until Graham called out. “I think I’ve got. . .something.”

Xander came up to stand beside the soldier. “Um. . . I’m no gardener, but I don’t think normal pumpkins come complete with the evil face forming feature.”

Angel peered down at the orange monstrosity. “No, I don’t think they do.”

“Okay, weapons check.” Xander dug around in his various pockets. “I’ve got a stake and a crucifix, and. . . another stake. Too bad it’s not an undead pumpkin.”

Graham nodded. “Yeah, somehow I don’t think my taser would be very effective.”

“That’s okay.” Angel seemingly pulled something out of thin air. “I brought one of my battle axes.”

Graham stared at the rather large weapon. “Where the hell did that come from?”

“Under my coat.” The vampire shrugged. “It’s an immortal thing.”

“Okay.” Xander motioned towards the dormant creature. “Well, chop chop. Literally. Get to hacking.”

Angel rolled his eyes, and hefted the ax above his head.

Xander leaned closer to Graham. “You know, if *this* was a scary movie-”

“The monster would open it’s eyes and attack us right before Angel brings the ax down.” Graham finished with a triumphant smirk. “See, I’ve seen some horror movies.”

“Do you two mind?” The vampire glared at them.

“Sorry.”

“Sorry.”

Angel started to bring down the ax, when he paused, his own memories of certain sporadic exposures to horror films making him realized that this *was* the classic time for a last ditch attack. He kept a suspicious eye on the seemingly inactive creature. After a few seconds of holding that pose, the vampire mentally shrugged, prepared for the worse, and dropped the blade, neatly cleaving the demonic gourd in two.

The three men quickly backed away as a vile stench filled the air. Both halves of the pumpkin began to liquefy into a gelatinous mess.

“I guess we know we got the right one.” Graham observed.

Xander let out a deep sigh. “It’s almost disappointing though. I mean, you kinda expect more from an icon.”

Graham frowned, shook his head, and decided not to comment on that. Instead he turned his attention to the tall vampire. “So, Angel, are you gonna head back down to L.A. now?”

Angel warily regarded the soldier. “Is that a request?”

“Not necessarily.” Graham replied in a steady tone.

Angel studied the other man for a moment. If he was reading things right L.A. could certainly wait. “Actually, I was thinking about staying in town for a couple days. I guess it’s the season, but for whatever reason Cordy’s gotten on a scary movie kick and if she points to me and says ‘I see dead people’ one more time I’ll. . . It’s not funny Xander!”

The brown eyed mortal snickered. “No, it’s not. It’s very rude, and I can’t believe I never thought about doing that to Spike.” Xander’s face brightened. “Hey, that’s an idea for tonight. We can head over to the ole crypt and torment Blondie!”

“As much as I’d love to see my wayward childe, if for nothing else then to beat the crap out of him again, what are our other options?” Angel asked.

Xander thought for a moment. “Well, we could all go over to Riley’s place and watch his ‘Children of the Corn’ movie marathon.”

Angel rubbed at the back of his neck. “Does anyone else find that a bit. . .”

“Disturbing? Yes.” Graham said succinctly.

Xander’s eyes gleamed. “Or, we could engage in that time honored Halloween tradition.”

“You mean, eating candy til we puke?” The soldier asked.

“That’s the one.”

Angel diligently tried to smile at the humans. “That sounds. . . really. . .I think I’ll pass.”

“Hey, your loss.” A rather wicked smile worked it’s way across the younger mortal’s face. “I guess there is one other option. We could all go back to my apartment, take off all our clothes, and have lots and lots of orgasms.” Xander paused for a moment. “Okay, I spent *way* too much time around Anya.”

“Well, regardless of the interesting phrasing, I think that’s definitely doable.” Blue eyes sparkled as Graham turned a small smirk towards Angel. “You in?”

The vampire calmly regarded the two deliciously lovely mortals standing in front of him. Well, outwardly he was calm. Internally, however, it was taking every ounce of will power he had to refrain from ripping off clothes and jumping them both, right then and there. “I suppose so.”

“Cool.” Xander said. “Let’s head back to civilization and break in my new mattress.”

And, that statement was enough to propel the trio back through the woods in the hope that Halloween would end up being very happy indeed.

*********

The Greatest Gift. . . Or Not
Summary: Christmas silliness. Xander gets a. . . unique present.  
Date: December 21, 2000
Notes: As always, thanks and love goes to Charles

**********

An almost maniacal grin was stretched across Xander’s face as he surveyed the interior of his apartment. It was two days before Christmas, and he was happy. That in and of itself was enough to occasionally send the young man into a slight panic until he once again determined that, no, this wasn’t an alternate dimension, and yes, he was awake.

Of course, it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the reason behind this strange Yuletide behavior. Oh, the new, above ground apartment played a part, to be sure. But, the majority of Xander’s cheery demeanor could easily be traced back to the two other men currently occupying his living room.

In the two months since Halloween, Xander, Graham, and Angel had faced some interesting challenges in their relationship. Buffy’s reaction. . . Riley’s reaction. . . zombie turkeys at Thanksgiving. . .

But through it all the trio had managed to persevere, even riding through the roughest of storms - like when Graham ‘accidentally’ used the last of Angel’s specially imported hair gel. It took some work (not to mention thinly veiled threats on Xander’s part, involving conditioner bottles and depilatory creams) but the two men finally worked it out. That particular argument ended with Graham on his knees and Angel swearing if the mortal could just do *that* again he’d get a whole case of the stuff. Xander personally thought the soldier’s hair had never looked spikier.

Now, it was Christmas time, and Xander’s new home was decked out with just about every kind of decoration known to man. . . and a few that weren't, courtesy of Giles’ shop. A wreath was on the door, various solstice trinkets were resting on end tables, and several sprigs of mistletoe were liberally positioned around the bedroom.

There were still things to be done, however, and the large undecorated tree by the shaded windows was a testament to that fact. Brand new boxes of ornaments were waiting, and from the state Angel was in, it seemed they would remain that way.

Xander’s grin faltered slightly as he was hit with a wave of sympathy for the six foot two vampire covered in strands of blinking lights. Wait. . . blinking?

“Hey, Deadboy, aren’t those lights supposed to be sol-”

A low, dangerous growl cut through the apartment.

“-nevermind.” Xander quickly turned his attention to the third man in the room.

Graham sat at the table, an intense look of concentration on his face, as he carefully wound a thin piece of wire around a bunch of velvet.

Xander’s eyebrows rose. “Nice bow, Graham. They teach you that at Quantico?”

“Getting decorations. Two hours. Craft shop.” The soldier blinked at him. “You pick up some skills.”

“Ah.” Xander began to slowly back away from the obviously demented person wielding the large scissors and wired ribbon.

“Oh,” Graham’s voice stopped the younger mortal’s retreat. “I almost forgot. This was beside the door when I got home.” Graham leaned over the table, picked up a brightly wrapped gift, and handed it to Xander.

Xander carefully took the package with both hands. “Who’s it from?”

Graham shrugged. “Didn’t check.”

Xander pulled out the attached card, and promptly dropped the package like it was crawling with brimstone ants. “Holy God!!!”

Trailing several strands of lights, Angel rushed over to his mortals. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

Graham, who had risen and instinctively put himself between Xander and the suspect box, said, “Not sure. Xan?”

Xander gulped as a shaky finger pointed towards the present.

Skillfully raising one eyebrow, Angel contemplated the younger human. When nothing else was forthcoming, the vampire sighed, picked up the gift, and read the card. “To, Xander. From, Anyiiipe!!” The vampire jumped backwards as the present once again, ended up on the floor.

Graham calmly looked back and forth between his two lovers, who kept their eyes trained on the innocuous looking box. The soldier crossed his arms over his chest. “Okay, explanations. . . anyone?”

Xander looked up, his brown eyes wide with fear. “It’s from Anya.”

“Huh.” The muscles along Graham’s jaw twitched almost imperceptibly at the reference to an ‘ex’. Although, the soldier’s limited reactions to Anya were much better then the narrowing of eyes and grinding of teeth that happened whenever Darla’s name was mentioned. “So, your former girlfriend sent you a Christmas present. That’s. . . nice.” Graham growled out the last word. If she thought she was going to get Xander back then she was. . .

“Nice?!” Xander looked disbelieving at the other human. “Graham, this is *Anya* we’re talking about. You know, the woman who could write ‘A Hundred and One Ways to Make an Unfaithful Penis Fall Off’.”

Graham grimaced. “Okay, yeah. But you two broke up months ago, and as of this morning, everything was still attached.” The soldier couldn’t help the slight leer that accompanied that statement. “What makes you think this is anything other then a nice Christmas gift?”

“Experience.” Xander said sensibly.

Graham frowned. “With Anya?”

“With the Hellmouth.”

“He’s right.” Angel said. “Even if Anya meant well, this town is still geared towards mayhem, death, destruction. . . there’s no telling what might be lurking inside that seemingly innocent package.”

Part of the soldier wanted to roll his eyes, but another, larger part, was more than willing to acquiesce to the over two hundred years of experience Angel possessed. Graham lightly pushed the box with the toe of his shoe. “Well, it’s not moving.”

“Or leaking.” Angel added. “Leakage is never a good sign. Freshly extracted hearts, decapitated animal heads, hydrochloric acid. . . the box always ends up mushy.” The vampire looked up into the pale faces of his companions. “What?”

Graham shook his head and, not for the first time, wondered about his. . . colorful taste in men. He turned his attention back to the box. “I guess, one of us should open it.”

“Why?” Xander asked, honestly perplexed. “Didn’t you hear Angel? Death, mayhem, death?”

“We can’t just not open it.” Graham argued. “Don’t you want to know what’s inside?”

“Once again,” Xander said, enunciating every word. “Death, mayhem, death.”

Graham folded his arms. “So what’re we supposed to do? Just stick it in the back of some closet until it disintegrates, or the next tenant in this apartment finds it?”

“Yes!” Xander exclaimed. Graham was finally learning.

“We could just pass it along to someone else.” Angel said thoughtfully. “There’s this lawyer in L.A. . .”

“No. No re-gifting. It’s our responsibility. Whatever *it* is.” Graham was wearing his determined face. . . which, surprisingly enough, looked remarkably like all his other faces.

“Well, if you really feel that way. . .” Xander offered a nervous smile to the commando as he took a step closer to Angel. “You can open it.”

Graham nodded, then bent over to retrieve the gift, missing the look of relief on the other men’s faces. It wasn’t that Angel and Xander didn’t care about what happened to their soldier. It was more a case of. . . tough love. But, hopefully not tough enough to involve any stitches.

Graham gently put the package on the dining table. Steady hands carefully pulled on the ribbon, causing it to unfurl and fall away from the box. The soldier hazarded a glance towards his companions who had distanced themselves by a few more feet. “Thanks for the support, guys.”

“What? We’re still here.” Xander crept forward and quickly patted Graham ‘s shoulder. “And if anything jumps out and attaches itself to your face, we’ll pull off as soon as we can, ‘Kay?” The young mortal hurried back to his peripheral position.

Graham shook his head and sighed. He gently ran his finger under the edge of the paper, peeling off the tape. The wrapping came away easily, and Graham laid it to the side and began concentrating on the box. He crouched down to table level and peered around the exterior of the object. It seemed normal enough. No wires, or ticking, or skulls and crossbones.

“Everything looks okay. I’m gonna open it now.” The soldier took a deep breath, and lifted the top. Graham stared into the box for a few seconds. He began to chuckle, then laugh. . . hard.

Angel and Xander warily watched as Graham practically convulsed with mirth. Tears streamed down the soldier’s face as his arms curled protectively around his stomach. “It hurts.” He wheezed.

Angel slowly inched his way towards the chortling commando and whatever might be inside Anya’s ‘gift’. He had never heard of an object that caused death by laughing, but a vampire known for his stoicness could never be too careful about something like that.

Angel got his first glimpse of what was nestled in an abundance of holiday themed tissue paper. He started to snicker.

“What. . . what is it?” Xander asked fearfully.

Angel pulled an object out of the box. Snicker. “It’s a. . .” Snicker. Snicker. “Nutcracker.”

Xander stared at the wooden soldier in the vampire’s hand. “That’s not funny.”

Angel smirked. “Oh, come on. You have to appreciate her sense of irony.”

“No, I don’t.” The young mortal’s lower lip began to inch it’s way outward, promising a full blown pout in a matter of moments.

Graham, still recovering from his happy fit, panted, “Come on, Xan. Don’t be that way. We could try out your new present.” He and Angel helplessly chuckled again.

“Or, you two could kiss my ass.” Xander’s pout was suddenly averted by the twin looks of lust that spontaneously appeared on his lover’s faces. “Or, you two *could* kiss my ass.” He grinned as the conversation was quickly moved to the bedroom, and Anya’s present was soon forgotten.

*****

Xander woke suddenly, his head shooting up from where it was pillowed on Graham’s stomach. Regardless of whether it was his five years as a Slayerette, or his twenty living on the Hellmouth, the young mortal immediately knew, with utmost certainty, that *something* was wrong.

He slowly sat up, gently moving Angel’s heavy arm off of his chest, and listened. All too human ears strained, trying to pick up any irregularities in the blend of normal night sounds. There were no overtly evil noises coming from the rest of the apartment. But Xander still had an overwhelming sense of unease, one that he knew could only be quelled by a good, old fashioned look around.

With a grimace, Xander began the tedious undertaking of getting out of his bed. Like always, the three men had simply collapsed in the last position they had found themselves. This habit sometimes made extraction from the tangle very difficult, especially if one didn’t want to wake the other occupants of the bed, and Xander found no reason to disturb his two lovers. . . At least, not yet anyway.

Oh, if there was a big, ugly beastie sitting on the couch, Angel would be more then welcome to take care of it. However, if the intruder was nothing more then a simple zombie, Xander wasn’t about to wake his companions for something he could handle himself.

The mortal quickly pulled on a pair of pajama bottoms (regardless of how exhilarating Spike found it, Xander was not about to fight potentially slimey things in the nude), and cast a baleful look at the comfy figures on the bed. Graham, dead to the world. Angel, just. . . dead. The young human shook his head, firm in his priorities. Vanquish evil first. Snuggle later.

Xander quietly retrieved the battle ax they kept by the nightstand, and then made his way out into the main area of the apartment. Everything seemed fine. The door wasn't splintered. The windows were unbroken. There weren’t any symbols painted in blood on the walls. Xander let out a deep breath and relaxed his hold on the axe, convincing himself it was just his sometimes overactive imagination.

The mortal was halfway back to the bedroom when he heard something to his left. It was a soft, scurrying sound, like something had just darted under the couch. Xander’s hands tightened on the weapon, his eyes narrowed. He was ready to deliver pain to whatever had gotten into his home, no matter what it was. But, wait a minute, what exactly was it? There weren’t *that* many demons who could fit under a couch. Enter Xander’s timid and oft ignored voice of common sense which stated quite plainly that it probably wasn’t a demon at all. It probably was just a mouse. Just. . . a. . .

Xander stifled a yelp, and in a very manly manner, hopped up onto the nearest chair. It was one thing to unflinchingly face down a six horned, eight clawed, Marandian Fighting beast, but it was quite another to have a tiny, furry harbinger of disease run across your foot.

“Angel!” He half whispered in the direction of the bedroom. “Angel!” A scratching sound came from under the couch. “ANGEL!”

A few moments later a sleepy vampire appeared in the doorway to the bedroom, followed closely by an equally sleepy commando. “What’s wro-” Angel blinked a few times. “Xander, why are you holding the axe and standing in a chair?”

“Uh. . .” Xander bowed his head, and mumbled something.

Graham squinted at him. “What was that?”

“I said, it’s a mouse.” Xander blushed. Why couldn't it have been a nice zombie? “There’s a mouse in the apartment. Kill it.” When no immediate action was forthcoming Xander rolled his eyes. “Come on, Deadboy. You used to eat these things. It’s snack time.”

Graham’s face scrunched up. “You ate mice. That’s just. . . yuck, man.”

Angel sighed. “What, you’d rather I chomp down on the general populace?”

The soldier thought for a moment. “As a guy protecting the general populace, no. As a guy kissing you on a regular basis, yes.”

“Look, you don’t have to eat it. Just kill it!” Xadner said impatiently.

“There’s nothing to kill.” Angel announced calmly.

Xander looked disbelievingly down from his perch. “What do you mean, there’s nothing to kill.”

“I mean,” The vampire’s features shimmered as he slipped into gameface. “I can smell you, I can smell Graham, but that’s it. There are no other scents. You two are the only living creatures in this apartment.”

“Then what the hell is under my couch?!” Xander indignity looked at the offending piece of furniture.

Angel shared a pained look with Graham before turning back to Xander. His mouth opened to say there was nothing under the couch when the nothing that *was* under the couch darted out into the middle of the living room. Its brightly painted face sneered at the men, then it ran for cover under the Christmas tree.

Xander watched with clenched teeth as the soldier, and vampire took action. When they were situated, he said, “Graham, the next time I tell you not to open something. . . you'd damn well better not open it!"

The soldier standing on the coffee table looked suitably ashamed. “Sorry.”

“Okay,” Angel glanced around the apartment from his position on the couch. “The nutcracker’s alive. . . Strangely enough, I’ve never been in a situation like this before. I’m not exactly sure how we should handle this.”

“Killing it should work.” Xander said.

“It might not be that-” Angel stopped and cocked his head. “It’s on the move.”

“What?” Graham shook his head. “I didn’t even see-”

“It’s fast.” The vampire said.

“So, where is it now?”

Before Angel could answer Xander’s question Graham yelped in pain. A sudden flurry of movement around the coffee table had ended with a tiny metal sword being embedded into the soldier’s bare foot. “Son of a-” Graham growled at the empty space where the creature had been only a moment before. “Little holiday bastard!”

“Graham! Are you okay?” Angel called out, his concern overriding the ‘duh’ness of the question.

“I’ll live.” Was Graham’s terse reply. “Any idea where it- Xander!”

At the cry of warning, Xander looked down to find the homicidal Christmas present holding onto the edge of his chair. With a surge of rage, the mortal swung his axe like a golf club, connecting solidly with the creature’s head. The nutcracker went flying across the room, hitting the far wall with a loud thump, before sliding down to the floor, and. . . picking itself up again.

“Jesus!” Graham exclaimed. “What the hell is this thing, part cockroach?!”

The nutcracker obviously was not pleased with that analogy. It scowled and ran towards Graham, who had no earthly idea what to do. . . besides telling the Major that dealing with animate inanimate objects needed to be added to the training sessions.

Suddenly, the door to the apartment burst open, admitting a slightly winded ex-vengeance demon. “You!” The authority in Anya’s voice stopped the nutcracker cold. “Stop that terrorizing this instant and come over here!” The wooden figure walked over to her and stood at attention.

The ex-demon smiled winningly at her gaping former boyfriend. “Now, aren’t you glad I made copies of all your keys while we were still dating?”

“Why. . . What. . . Why. . .” Xander put a hand to his head. “Look, you probably know everything I’m trying to ask, so just go ahead and start answering.”

“Okay, first, let me just say that I’m really. . . very. . . sorry.” Anya said sheepishly. . . well, as sheepishly as Anya could get. “This has all just been a big mistake.” Her explanation stopped as she caught sight of Angel and Graham, who both seemingly agreed with Spike when it came to evil fighting attire. Anya arched an eyebrow and said to Xander, “Your choices in sex partners makes much more sense now.”

“Yeah, great, back it up.” Xander glared at her. “Mistake? What do you mean, *mistake*?”

“I mean, I accidentally mixed up the gifts that were laying around my apartment, and you got the wrong one.” She folded her arms and started tapping her foot. “It’s really not *that* hard to understand.”

“Wait,” Xander frowned in confusion. “So, you didn’t mean to send that thing after me?”

“No!” Anya exclaimed. “Of course not. Your present is right here.” With a bright smile she held out an oblong box, almost identical to the one that had contained the homicidal piece of wood.

The three men exchanged wary looks with each other as they slowly climbed off their pieces of furniture. Xander edged towards Anya and the currently benign Christmas accessory standing beside her. He hesitantly took the outstretched gift and said, “Uh, I’m almost afraid to-”

“They’re socks.” She supplied.

Xander raised his eyebrows. “Evil socks?”

“No, Argyle.”

“Wait a minute,” Graham frowned at the ex-demon. “If Xander wasn’t your intended target, then who did you mean to give that thing to?”

“No one.” She said defensively. “Actually, that gift was sent to me.”

Angel frowned. “Who would. . .?”

“D’Hoffryn.” Anya snorted. “The girl he finally found to replace me turned out to be a complete moron who wouldn't know a fitting act of vengeance if it fell on her face and started to dance. So, he’s trying to woo me back.”

“Oh.” Xander’s eyes widened. “Oh! And. . . have you been wooed. . . I mean, successfully?”

The ex-demon looked pityingly at her former boyfriend. “Xander, will you stop with that? You know darn well that if I had wanted to do something to you that was horribly disfiguring and potentially fatal, I would have done it by now, power center or no power center.”

Xander thought about this. “That's true.” He grimaced at the homicidal wooden soldier by Anya’s feet. “So, what’re you gonna do with that?”

“I’m sure we can figure out some way to permanently destroy it.” Angel said.

“Maybe. Or, I could just send it back to the netherworld.” Anya’s lower lip jutted out slightly. “But that would mean I’d have one less present.” She sighed. “I think it’s going to depend on how many gifts I ultimately receive.” She gave the men a pleasant smile. “One from each of you should do it.”

Graham sputtered. “But. . . but that’s. . . that’s. . .”

Angel put a restraining hand on the soldier’s arm. “Self preservation.” He turned back to Anya. “Any preferences?”

“Oh, I don’t know. . . something shiny and metal and jewelry shaped.” She smiled at them. “Diamonds are optional.”

“Good thing.” Graham grumbled.

Satisfied that her new gift quota would be met, Anya picked up the nutcracker, and headed for the hallway, leaving three more than dazed men in her wake. The ex-demon paused just outside the door. She bent down and picked up something. “Oh, yeah. Almost tripped over this earlier right before I rushed in and saved all of your ungrateful male butts.” Anya sent a pointed glare towards Graham before she read the tag on the nicely wrapped present. “Angel, it’s for you, from Buffy. Oh, be careful where you put it,” She gingerly held it out towards the vampire. “It’s leaking.”

**********


A Tail to Remember

Summary: It’s the Saturday before Easter, and Angel and Graham are preparing for an overnight visit from bunny phobic Anya.  
Date: April 13, 2001

**********

“I don’t like this.”  Graham grumbled as he lugged a rather heavy suitcase through the doorway and into the apartment.

“What part?”  Angel asked through gritted teeth as he followed the soldier, laden by the rest of the matching luggage set.  “The two of us being turned into valets, or-”

“The *reason* why we had to cart all this stuff here.”

“Oh.  None of us like that.”

Graham dispassionately deposited his bag beside the couch.  “*She* sure seems to be getting a kick out of it.”

A low, irritated growl was the vampire’s only response as he dropped his burden by Graham’s

“Damn, I wish I could get my vocal cords to do that sometimes.”  Graham moved into the kitchen area.  He snagged a bottled water, and a blood bag from the refrigerator, taking a large swig from the former and pitching the latter in the vampire’s general direction.  “You know, sometimes I wish Xander wasn’t so...”

Angel, having adroitly caught his tossed dinner, joined the mortal in the kitchen, and retrieved a large mug from one of the cabinets.  “Nice?”

“Yeah, and...”

“Helpful?”

“Exactly, and...”

“Easily manipulated by certain people of the opposite sex who are in the Scooby Gang and shall all remain nameless?”

“Bingo.”  Graham grimaced as Angel expertly opened the bag and dumped it’s coppery contents into the waiting mug.  “That just doesn’t get any less grosser.”

“Then don’t watch.”  Angel countered, setting about to heat his meal.  “Go... get our couch presentable for our esteemed guest.”  The sarcasm was almost thick enough to drown out the microwave’s tiny electronic ding of completion.

Graham grumbled again.

“You know,”  Angel thoughtfully stared into his cup.  “We don’t *have* to stay.  I could go back to L.A. early, you could spend the night on base.  It’s not like anything really evil is going to happen here.”

“Except for Anya getting all grabby with our Xander.”  The Marine groused.

“Then, think of it that way, we’re not spending the night protecting Anya from some imaginary, candy bearing, rabbit-”

“We’re protecting Xander from a nymphomaniac, scheming, bunny-fearing, she-beast.”  Graham nodded.  “Okay, my mission is clearer now.”  A sly smile suddenly spread over his face.  “You know what?  I just got a craving for something.”

Angel raised an eyebrow.  “Craving?  For what?”

“Some of those little marshmallow bunnies.”

The vampire’s answering grin was reminiscent of one of his soulless phases.  “Can we get different colors?”

“Oh, yeah.  And, maybe some solid chocolate ones, you know, for variety.”

“Uh huh.  Definitely.”  Angel nodded, then thought for a moment.  “You know something I’ve always wanted?”

“What’s that?”

“Bunny slippers.”

“Is that right?”  Graham, while never having met Angelus, nonetheless seemed to emulate his smirk perfectly.  “Well, that’s a slight to your wardrobe we’ll have to rectify.”

Angel checked his watch, then put his arm around the human’s shoulders.  “Wal-mart’s still open now, right?”

*****

Angel and Graham had just finished strategically placing Easter products around the apartment when the door opened, admitting Xander, and Anya.  The ex-demon was fearfully clinging to the young human.

“Are you sure it’s safe in here?”  She whispered dramatically.

Xander rolled his eyes and looked helplessly at his two lovers.  “I’m positive Ahn.  You’re completely safe... and you can really let go now.”

The matching scowls on Graham, and Angel’s faces dissipated slightly as Anya released the younger human.  They both moved towards Xander, and flanked him.

Anya rolled her eyes at the territorial display.  “Males.”  She muttered.  “Where are my things?”

Without moving a budge from Xander’s side, Angel inclined his head towards the couch.

“Good.”  Anya grabbed one of the smaller bags.  “I’m going to take a shower.”  She strode towards the bathroom, but abruptly stopped halfway, and turned around.  She gave Angel, and Graham each her sweetest smile, which only resulted in sending a chill up and down their spines.  “I just wanted to thank you for going to my apartment and getting my bags so I wouldn’t have to spend more time in transit than necessary on this horrid, horrid night.”  Her pleased expression faltered a bit and she glanced at Xander.  “That’s all you wanted me to say to them, right?”

Xander’s face held a pained expression.  “Yeah, Ahn.  That was it.”

She grinned and continued her bounce into the bathroom

Xander waited until she had shut the door before he turned to his lovers and offered them both an apologetic look.  “Um... it’s the thought that counts?”

Angel leaned forward and planted a soft kiss on the younger human’s forehead.  “And, we appreciate *you* thinking of us.”

“She really is grateful.”  Xander insisted as he was led over to the couch.  “Really.  She is.”  He was gently pushed into the cushions, the vampire and Marine taking their seats on either side of him.  “She’s just... just...”  His brow furrowed.  “Just...”

“Anya?”  Graham’s explanation was simple, concise, and accompanied by his large, hand settling on Xander’s nearest knee.  Angel followed suit, gently rubbing a soothing circle on the younger human’s other leg.

Xander smiled and sighed, a happy little exhale of breath as the two bodies beside him, one warm, one cool, pressed closer.  “You know, I just want to say, I really appreciate you guys not making a big fuss about this.”

“Fuss?”  Angel crinkled his forehead.  “Why would we make a fuss?”

“Because both of you hate Anya.”  The younger mortal said indulgently.

“We don’t exactly *hate* her.”

“Hate is a very strong word.”

“Uh huh.”  Xander rolled his eyes.  “Anyway, she didn’t want to be alone tonight, you know how hard this holiday is for her, and I was really expecting, I don’t know, more dissent about the whole situation.”

“You mean, from us?”  Graham asked guilelessly.

“I know, it was silly.”  Xander smiled again as his hands found the ones belonging to his lovers and gave them a firm, reassuring squeeze.  “But still, I really appreciate this.  And, I figure, later on, after Anya drops off, I can show you two just how *appreciative* I am.”

The vampire and Marine grinned their consent, and moved in to seal the deal with a quick suckle on either side of Xander’s neck, when, suddenly, a scream ripped through the apartment.

“AAAAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEE”

“What the, Anya!”  Xander bolted from the couch, rushed to the bathroom, and pulled open the door, immediately becoming enveloped in a wall of steam.  Angel and Graham kept their places on the couch and simply cringed.

“I guess it’s too much to hope for that she was screaming because she was attacked by an actual demonic Easter bunny and not because she finally noticed the stuffed one we put above the shower head?”  Angel asked sullenly.

“Uh... yeah.”

“Damn.”

*****

“How could you two do that?!”  Xander glowered down at the two contrite looking men sitting on their bed.

“Uh...”

“Um...”

“That was just mean!”

“Well...”

“See...”

“No, that wasn’t just mean, that was, that was... malicious.”  Xander blinked.  “Wow, who would have thought that during high school some of that vocabulary stuff actually seeped in.”  He blinked again.  “Anyway, if malicious means what I think it does, then that’s what you were.”

“Yes, the usage of the word is right.”  Angel cleared his throat, the gears in his centuries old mind had been diligently trying to formulate a feasible excuse, and with an imaginary clock ticking in the background he decided to go for broke with the least absurd of his choices.  “But, that’s not what we were trying to be.”

Xander raised an eyebrow.  “It’s not?”

Graham raised both eyebrows.  “It’s not?”  He let out a little whoosh of air as an undead elbow caught him in the stomach.  “It’s not.”  He agreed.

Angel glared at his cohort.  “We were just trying to be... festive.”

“Festive?”

“Festive.”  Graham nodded.

“That’s right, because, you know, Easter only comes once a, uh, year, and since it’s a big holiday for, um, a lot of humans we-”  Angel threw his arm around Graham’s shoulders.  “thought we should, you know, celebrate.”

Xander looked at the faces of his lovers.  The vampire.  The Marine.  They were so different in so many ways, yet at that instant they shared one striking similarity: the ‘we’ve been completely misjudged and were just trying to do something nice and innocent, yeah, that’s it’ smiles plastered across their faces.”

“Ce-le-brate?”  The younger human drew out the word, sounding out each syllable.

“Yeah.  Celebrate.”  Angel nodded as enthusiastically as a souled vampire could.  “So, we got some decorations and chocolate-”

“Wait!”  Xander’s nose delicately sniffed the air.  “There’s chocolate in here?”

“In the kitchen.”  Angel said.  “A whole bag full.”

“Big bag, little bag?”

“Big bag.”

Xander chewed his bottom lip.  He was racked with indecisiveness.  On one hand he knew he should continue taking the other men to task for their little prank.  On the other hand... chocolate.  The fight was over before it really began, but he still felt compelled to explore one tiny flaw in their explanation.  He crossed his arms over his chest and gave them his best Giles expression, a look mixing equal parts disdain and barely controlled exasperation.

“Just so I’m clear on everything,”  Xander said.  “The toy above the shower was for *decoration* because Easter is such a big holiday here and you guys just wanted to be *festive*.  Am I right?”

“Yep.”

“Uh huh.”

“Okay.  And, exactly what part of the holiday were you thinking of when you painted it’s eyes red and glued construction paper fangs to it’s mouth?”

The conspirators stared at him with wide, unblinking eyes.  Somehow they knew ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’ wasn't going to fly in this situation.  Finally, an idea sprouted in one of their heads.

“Angel!”  Graham blurted out, surprising even himself.  “That was for Angel.”  He smiled at the vampire, silently urging him to just go along with whatever might be coming out of his mouth.  “He was feeling a little left out, so we took one of the stuffed animals and... customized it.  It’s a vampire bunny.  Like... uh... Bunnicula!”

If nothing else, Xander knew he had to give him points for creativity.  “Bunnicula.”  He gave up.  “You know what?  Whatever!  Just whatever!  I need chocolate.”

As Xander practically ripped open the door to the bedroom and went back out into the living area, Angel leaned into his accomplice and, with a frown, asked.  “What’s a Bunnicula?”

But before Graham could answer yet another scream shattered the tentative peace in the spacious apartment, immediately propelling the men on the bed into action, because this time it was clearly Xander’s voice that could be heard yelling-

“NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”

*****

It was a moment Xander Harris would never forget.  It surpassed the time when he was six, and having just gotten a hand on the whole reading thing, discovered that despite its name, Candyland game pieces tasted like cardboard for a reason.  It even went beyond the moment when, at nine, Willow gently explained to him that ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ was a movie, not a documentary.

It was truly a shocking tableau he was witness to that Easter eve.

While Xander was in the bedroom, wondering when the two men he loved had regressed into three year olds, Anya had been finding the candy bunnies.  And, when Xander came out of the bedroom, his first sight was of the ex-demon systematically biting their heads off.  The decapitated corpses littered the floor around her.  It was an outrage no true chocolate lover could have stood for.  So, with a few quick, terse phone calls, and the promise of a newly built bookshelf for the Magic Shop, Anya and her matching luggage were on their way to Giles’ apartment.  At first she was none too pleased with the new arrangement, but a quick look in Xander’s eyes told her the move was definitely for the best.

While Xander drove the unusually quiet ex-demon over to Giles’ place, Angel and Graham were sent to Wal-mart in search of unscathed chocolate.

When they returned to their apartment, loaded down with blue plastic bags, they found Xander already home and solemnly cleaning up the confectionery carnage.

“What a waste.”  The younger mortal said as he sadly shook his head.

Graham put a gentle hand on Xander’s arm.  “We’ve got more.  Cadbury, and Nestle, and Hershey’s.  All without preexisting teeth marks.

Xander smiled as he allowed himself to be led away from the disaster in the kitchen.  His spirits buoyed, possibly because of the thought of all that unblemished chocolate, but more likely due to the slightly chilled hand that had found it’s way into his pants, and the warm tongue that was lovingly laving his earlobe.

The trio quickly made their way into the bedroom, and as fingers began fumbling with buttons, Xander asked,  “Deadboy, could you close the curtains?  I know Buffy already broke Spike’s telephoto lens, but just in case.  You remember how hard it was to track down those negatives, not to mention all the copies.”

Angel glowered.  Graham scowled... but then, the Marine reconsidered.  “Yeah, Spike’s a jackass, but I am glad we didn’t burn *all* the copies.”  His eyes drifted over to the bottom drawer of the nightstand.

Two sets of eyes followed his lead, and the temperature in the room seemed to go up several degrees.  Then Xander swallowed hard, and said, his voice low, and unusually rough.  “Deadboy.  Curtains.  Now.”

Angel quickly moved to comply, but stopped short at the sight in front of him.  “Uh...”

Graham and Xander turned at the peculiar note in their lover's voice.  They too were struck by the scene on the other side of the pane of glass.

In an instant, it was gone.

Angel stared, flabbergasted, out the window.  “Did you just see-”

“A pair of red, glowing eyes, floppy ears, a twitching nose and long, curved fangs, hovering outside the window?”  Xander blinked.  “No.”

Graham managed to stop gaping long enough to say, “I didn’t see a thing.”

“Oh good.”  Angel quickly closed the curtains.  “Neither did I.”

Somewhere in the night, a fuzzy little tuft of a tail twitched, and vegetables all over Sunnydale quaked in fear.

**********

It’s a...
Summery: The boys get a Father’s Day surprise
Date: June 17, 2001  
Notes: Big thank you to Charles for the beta

**********

Graham plucked a card from the rack, quickly scanned the cover and contents and with a  sigh he put it back.  Then, he repeated the action with another card... and then another... and then another... and then another... and then another.... and then-

"Graham!!!"

The Marine calmly, yet quizzically glanced at his agitated companion.  "What?"

Xander threw up his hands.  "Just pick a card already!  I want to get back to the apartment before Angel gets there."

"Angel's not due to arrive for five or so hours."

"Exactly."

Graham scowled.  "Look, this isn't easy."

"Well, it can't be that hard either."  Xander picked up a card.  "What about this one?  'To my Dearest Father'..."

"Too stuffy."

"Okay.  How about 'Hey Dad'..."

"Too informal."

"'I Love my Daddy'."

"Do I look like I'm five?"

"Did you say look like, or act like?"  Xander sidestepped out of the way of a not-so-playfully aimed swing.   “Just pick one!”

"I can’t!”  Graham insisted.  “It has to be special.  It has to tell him how much I love him, and respect him, and miss him."

"Wow.  Well, if that's how you feel why don't you just call?"

"And actually speak to him?!  God, no.  No, no, cards are good."

“You know, if you mail it tomorrow it’s never going to reach him by Sunday.”

“The postmark is what counts.”

“Uh huh.  Can I just say, I have never been so glad to be estranged from my blood relatives.”  Xander shook his head.  “There’s no reasoning with you on this, is there?”

“I am being reasonable.”  Graham said, stubbornly picking up another card.

“Fine.  Whatever.  I’m going to the comics section, just meet me there when you’re done.”  Xander turned, more than ready to take his leave of the greeting card aisle, when something stopped him dead in his tracks.  He spun around again, eyes wide.  “What did you just say?”

Graham blinked.  “Huh?”

“It sounded like you just said ‘At least nothing Hellmouthy can happen on this holiday’, but I know you couldn’t have said that because then you would have jinxed us all to another holiday filled with unspeakable torment.  You didn’t just do that, right?  Right?!”

“Um.  Right.”

“Oh, good.”  Xander put a hand to his heart and smiled.  “Whoo.  Was a little worried for a second there.  Okay, find me when you’re done.”

Graham nodded, and watched him go, then turned back to the cards and uttered two simple little words.  “Uh oh.”

*****

Xander frowned as he got out the keys to the apartment.  “Are you okay?”

Graham smiled, nervously.  “What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s just that ever since we left the store you’ve been a little... jumpy.”

“No, I haven’t.”

“What’s that behind you?”

“What?!  Where?!”  Graham dropped the bags he was carrying and spun around, immediately moving into a defensive position, ready to protect his love from anything the Hellmouth might have spewed out this time, including... absolutely nothing.  He turned back to Xander, ire overcoming protectiveness.  “That wasn’t funny.”

“Then you should have seen it from this angle.”  Xander crossed his arms over his chest.  “Now, are you going to tell me what’s wrong or am I going to have to... Oh, for fuck’s sake, you said it, didn’t you?”

Graham briefly considered feigning innocence, but from the younger man’s already stormy expression he knew he woudn’t get very far.  “Yes, I said it.  But, come on, Xan, it’s Father’s Day.    Halloween, I totally get.  Thanksgiving, okay, sure, why not.  Christmas, Easter, all right Flag Day... was a bit of a surprise, but *Father’s Day*?!  What evil thing could possible want to come out and play on *Father’s Day*?”

“What is wrong with you?  Do you have a death wish or something?  Stop saying... Oh, my God.  Oh, shit... Graham, look out!”

The Marine snorted.  “That worked once, Xan, but there’s no way I’d fall for it agaurrrkkk!”

*****

“You do know this is all your fault, right?”  Xander hissed.

“What?  I’m not the one who invited her into the apartment.”

“Uh, she would have *killed* you if I hadn’t.”

“Oh, so now she can slaughter both of us.  Good plan.”  Graham said scornfully.

“Well, excuse me for not wanting your intestines to get ripped out.  Next time it’ll be different.”

“There probably won’t be a next time because *somebody* let her into the apartment!”

“And, what would you have done, Mr. I’m a Big, Stupid, Commando Guy?  Huh?  Huh?”

“I don’t know, but I’m sure it would have been way beyond anything you’re capable of!”

“Oh, is that right?!”

“That’s right!”

Suddenly a high pitched squeal broke into the argument, making both men on the couch wince and turn towards their captor.

“You’re making bad noises.  Bad noises!  Baby’s ears are hurting!”  Drusilla stuck out her bottom lip, and she stomped one dainty foot.

Xander looked at the pouting vampire, then at Graham, then back at the vampire.  “Uh... we’re sorry, Dru.”  After a few seconds of silence he gave the Marine a hard nudge.

“Yeah.  Sorry.”

“You shouldn’t fight.”  Drusilla said, wisely.  “Fighting is bad.  Shhhh.  Especially in front of the children.”

Graham looked quizzically at Xander who responded with a shrug.  “You’re right, Dru,”  the younger man said,  “it’s just, sometimes grown-ups have differences of opinions about certain things and-”

“But, you still love him, right?”

“Of course.”  Xander said immediately.

“And you?”  Dru turned her gaze to Graham.

“Always.”  The response came without hesitation.

She clapped her hands together.  “Goody!  I knew nothing was really wrong, but the salt shaker told me bad tales.”

“We’ve been meaning to get rid of that salt shaker.”  Xander said gravely.

Dru nodded.  “As well you should.  Telling lies about my happy family.”

Graham’s eyebrows rose.  “Her happy what?”

“Family.”  Xander calmly patted his knee.  “It’s okay, I think I get what’s going on.”

“Mind sharing?”

“No!  No, sharing has to wait ‘til later!”  Dru looked beseechingly at each man.  “We must wait ‘til Angelus gets here, then my three Daddies can open their pressies together!”

“Pressies?”  Graham’s eyes widened.  “Daddies?!”

“Congratulations.”  Xander slapped him on the back.  “And, this is still *so* your fault.”

*****

More often than not, whenever Angel arrived at the Sunnydale apartment, he was bone tired, completely wiped out from the ‘good fight’ back in L.A.  The weekends with his two young humans were meant to rejuvenate and relax the vampire, who, in-between dodging tentacles this past week, could only think about chocolate flavored kisses and strong USMC trained hands working out the kinks in his back.

So, it came as a bit of a shock to find what was obviously his lovers’ grocery bags sitting in the middle of the hallway.  Obvious because, as far as Angel knew, no one else in the building read ‘The Amazing Spider Man’, or ate Berry Blast protein bars.

Neither Graham nor Xander would have just left those things.  No, something had happened.  Something bad.

Pure rage brought Angel’s demon to the fore and without thinking of his own safety, or how much a new lock for the door was going to cost, he burst into the apartment.

“Hey, Angel.”  Graham glanced up from his cards.  “Go fish.”

“Dammit.”  Xander stared at his hand in disgust.  “I hate this game.  Oh, hi, Angel.”

“Daddy!”  Drusilla threw down her cards and then threw herself at her confused Sire.  “You’re home!  We’ve missed you so!”

“What the *hell* is going on here?!”  Angel asked in a roar that made Xander and Graham flinch, and Drusilla shrink back, lower lip once again threatening to push out.

Xander stood and motioned to the elder vampire.  “Deadboy, a word, if you please?”

“But-”

“In the bedroom.”

“But-”

“*Now*, Deadboy.”

When he heard that Xander was using his ‘Don’t mess with me on this’ tone, which so closely mirrored Willow’s it was frightening, Angel had no real choice.  He meekly followed the younger mortal into the bedroom.

Graham got up, preparing to join them, but Drusilla promptly pushed him back in his seat, and climbed onto his lap.  “While Daddy Xander chats with Daddy Angel, I thought you and I could have a chat too.”

“Uh...”  Graham looked longingly at the closed bedroom door.  “What kind of... chat?”

“The lamp says that you would love to hear all about my latest tea party.”

*****

When Angel and Xander walked back into the living room a few minutes later they found an animated Drusilla happily blathering away to an almost comatose Graham.

“Dru,”  She looked up at the sound of her Sire’s voice.  “We’re all here now, isn’t there something you wanted to give us?”

Drusilla’s face lit up.  “Oooh!”  She rushed to the balcony.  “I left them out here when I visited last night.”

“You were here last night?”  Xander asked.

“Mmm, yes.  Somebody forgot to close the blinds,”  she said in a sing song voice.  “Naughty Daddies.  Tsk.  Tsk.”

Xander and Graham blushed heavily, and Angel made a mental note to insist they *demonstrate* just what went on there the previous night.

Dru was still giggling when she came back into the living room, a shopping bag in one of her hands.  She reached into the bag and pulled out three nicely wrapped boxes.  “Here you are.  Pressies.”

Angel, Xander, and Graham each dutifully took a package, though, mindful of the previous times strange women had come bearing gifts, they tried to only hold them by the corners.

“Well?”  Dru bounced a bit, a trait she had apparently inherited from Xander.  “I hope you like what I got.   A shop girl at this quaint little haberdashery on the street where the horsies play-”

Angel sighed.  “That’s Ro-da-o, Dru, not rod-e... nevermind.”

“She said a special day was fast approaching, a Father’s day, and that I should get each of my daddies something because she said...”  the vampire scrunched up her face as she tried to remember,  “that families can have more than one daddy.  Screw the Republicans.”  Dru smiled wistfully.  “She was so sweet.”

“But, sweet in a she was nice to you and helped you out way, not in a mmm, mmm, good way, right?”

“Silly, Xander Daddy.   Open your pressie.”

“Okay.  Here goes.”  Xander tore into the paper...

*****

“I still can’t believe it.”  Xander once again found himself staring fondly at his present.  “A Snoopy tie.  She got me a Snoopy tie!”

Graham lovingly hung up his own tie, which was adorned with little teddy bears in full Marine dress.  “I guess having a psychic in the family won’t be all bad.”

“Yeah, but who’s gonna take her to tumble tots?”  Xander asked with a grin.

“I think Angel should be the soccer mom.”  Graham said, the grin on his face just as devilish as his lover’s.

“He can trade in the Plymouth and buy a minivan.”

“With cup holders.”

“And safety locks.”

“And Barney sing along tapes.”

“And he can wear his martini tie.”

“That should make the other parents feel at ease.”

“Oh, yeah.”  The banter ended as their mouths met, and hands beagn to anxiously work at getting the clothes that always seemed to be in the way, off.

That was the scene that Angel walked in on, and for a few moments he simply stood and admired the view.  Then, he said,   “Started the demonstration without me, huh?”

Xander took his mouth off of one of Graham’s nipples long enough to say, “You took too long.”

Angel looked chagrined as he took off his shirt.  “I know, but, hey, do either of you know why the lamp that used to be beside the couch is in the trash?”

**********


A Capitol Holiday
Summary: Xander and Graham run into an unforeseen complication while on ‘vacation’  
Date: July 4, 2001
Notes: Okay, so midnight has come and gone on the East coast, but I’m pretty sure it’s still the 4th in Hawaii.
Yay to Charles, sticking with me ‘til the end. 

**********
July 3rd
*****

Graham carefully checked over his appearance in the bathroom mirror.  He grimaced as he tugged at the tie around his throat.  It had been a long time since he’d had to wear an official uniform and he had all but forgotten how stiff and constricting the material was.  But, like most things about the trip, it was a necessity, though at least he could get away with leaving the dress blues in the closet a little while longer.  Not like some other aspects of his life which were going to be harshly thrown out into the light of day and most likely poked with pointy sticks.

Pointy sticks.  Graham sighed.  Even three thousand miles away from Sunnyhell his analogies were still suffering residual effects... not that they’d ever been *that* great to begin with, but...

A low, appreciative wolf whistle from the doorway intruded into his rapidly expanding shroud of misery.

“You are definitely being all that you can be.”

Graham sighed.  “That’s the Army slogan, Xander.”

“Yeah, I know, but I couldn’t think of anything lecherous about ‘The Few, The Proud....”  He gave his lover another thorough leer.  “And, believe me when I say; you, in that outfit, requires lecherous.”

Graham grinned in spite of his remaining apprehensions.  “Thanks.”  He patted his tie down one last time, then turned to his boyfriend.  “I’m glad I’ll look presentable for the firing squad.”

“Oh, come on.  It won’t be *that* bad.”

Graham raised an eyebrow.

“Will it?”

The Marine let out a long exhale of breath.  “Nah.  They’re probably just going to make me give a detailed summary of the Initiative’s activities for the past six months, and then tell me they’re cutting our funding.”

“At least you’re keeping your hopes up.  That’s the most important thing.”

“Uh huh.  So... have you decided what you’re going to do today?”

Xander scratched his unbrushed hair and stifled a yawn.  “Being Non-8AM-Meeting-at-the-Pentagon Guy, I am going to crawl back to bed and sleep for at least two more hours.”

Graham sighed again at the completely delectable image those words conjured.  Spending a lazy morning in bed.  The whole being next to Xander thing would just be icing.  And, if he could just stay in the hotel room it might alleviate the not quite right feeling that was skittering up and down his spine.

“Are you sure you really want to go out today?  I mean, you could just stay here until I get back.  They have cable.  You can order room service... or, um.  Hey, pay-per-view?”

Xander scowled.  “Don’t tell me you’re starting up again, *Angel*.”

“Hey, I am not as bad as Angel.”

“No, you’re not.”  Xander agreed.  “You know, I’m surprised he untied us in time for us to catch our plane.”

“I’m surprised he didn’t try to stow away in the luggage compartment.  Although,”  Graham’s expression softened somewhat.  “I can understand why he’s a little worried.”

The younger man rolled his eyes.  “I’m not going to say nothing's going to happen, because, well, we all know it’s wrong to say *that*-”

“You’re never going to let me live that down, are you?”

“-No.  But, come on.  We’re miles away from the Hellmouth, on the other side of the country, no, wait, the other side of the *continent*.  That makes it seem further away.  And, I know a major holiday is coming up tomorrow, but I really don’t think we should worry.”  He put his hands on the broad, uniformed shoulders in front of him.

The Marine moved closer to him.  “I know, it’s just...”

“I’m gonna be fine.  Hey, born and raised on the Hellmouth, here.”

“Yeah, but...”

“I’ve looked into the eyes of creatures that bounded straight out of hell, and seen Buffy before she’s had her morning grooming.”

“It’s a little different-”

“’Sides, how the hell am I supposed ot get into trouble when Willow has so carefully planned out every single breath I’m taking.”  With that Xander once again whipped out the non-governmental itinerary for the trip.

When the other Scoobies had caught wind of the not quite vacation, they had jumped at the chance to offer their own suggestions on ‘must see’ locations.  Each of them had written down a detailed listing of everything Xander and/or Graham just *had* to experience while they were in the nation’s capital.  The spots ranged from the Library of Congress (Giles), to the piranha feeding at the National Aquarium (Spike), to the Treasury Building (Anya - “I know that’s not where they actually make the money,  but that place has some kind of association with it.  Go there.  I mean it.”).  Not to mention Willow’s contributions...

Xander began to read down the redheaded witch’s list.  “The National Geographic’s Explorer’s Hall, the F.B.I building, the National Air and Space Museum.  the National Museum of Natural History-”

‘Wait, isn’t that where they keep the Hope Diamond?”

“Um...”  Xander rifled through a few more pages.  “Maybe.  Yeah, I think so.”

“Okay, if I can’t convince you to stay in the room, can I at least have your promise that you’ll stay away from any openly cursed objects?”

“You’re just no fun.”

*****

Three hours after Graham left for Arlington, Xander found himself in the hotel’s lobby giving the clerk behind the desk his most winning grin.  “Hello.  I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of the nearest Metro station?”

The hotel clerk, who was always nice to tourists (especially cute ones with big brown eyes) smiled gamely.  “Sure,”  he said.  “there’s one about two blocks  south of here.  Just take a right when you exit the building.”

“Thanks.”

“No problem.  Here’s a map to the system and how the stops relate to museums and stuff.”  The clerk held out a thin white brochure.  “You know, the zoo, Union Station, the White House...”

“Oh, great.  Though,”  Xander frowned slightly, thinking of his to-do list. “none of those places are really on my itinerary.”

“You’re in D.C. and you’re not planning on going ot the White House?”

“Do you think I might see anybody from the West Wing?”

“You mean the President and his cabinet?”

“No, the t.v. show.”

The clerk blinked a few times.  “Oh... probably not.”

“Harrmph.”

“Well, what about the Capitol building?  You really should tour the Capitol.”  The clerk thought fast.  “You might not see any actors, but there’s a chance you might see a ghost.”

Xander leaned heavily against the marble topped concierge desk.  “A what?”

“A ghost.”  The hotel clerk replied gleefully.  “Oh, yeah.  They’re all over the place.  Did you know that a lot of people consider Washington D.C. to be the United States’s most haunted city?”

“Oh... goody.”

*****

Graham took a sip of beer, then glanced at his watch.  It was just a little variation on  the normal pattern of glancing at his watch, then taking a sip of beer that had developed over the past ten minutes.

Xander was late.

Xander was ten minutes late.

That was okay, though.  There were all sorts of plausible, non demonic related reasons why he might be ten whole minutes late.  His watch might have stopped (or someone might have mugged him and taken it).  One of the trains he was taking might have been delayed (because it crashed into the Potomac).  He might be stacked up in the city morgue (because Graham should have never, ever, ever, ever, ever let him go out by himself-)

“Hey.”

Graham’s eyes snapped up as Xander plopped down into the seat across from him.  “Thank God!  Uh... I mean, hi.”

Xander eyeballed him.  The Marine smiled weakly.

The younger man snorted and opened his menu.  “So, how were your meetings?”

“They made me me give a detailed summary of the Initiative’s activities for the past six months, and then they told me they’re cutting our funding.”

“Damn.”  Xander thought for a moment.  “Now we know which side of the family Dru takes after most.”

“Yeah.”  Graham brought the bottle back up to his lips and took another swig.  “Too bad I can’t use her method of solving things, and just pull their intestines out and string them up in the... uh, yeah, we need a few more minutes.  Thanks.”  Graham grimaced.

“Way to convince our waitress you’re a psycho killer.”  Xander nodded approvingly as he watched the young woman swiftly retreat into the kitchen.

“Right.  So, how was your day?  Get anything on the list done?”

“Quite a bit, actually.  Though, I gotta say, Spike would have been incredibly disappointed.  The food they feed the piranha is already finger sized.  There wasn’t even  hint of a bloody frenzy.  Such a let down.  Oh, by the way, did you know that a demon cat haunts the Capitol building?”

“What?!  A demon... Dammit!  I really didn’t want to have to kill anything on this... What?  Oh, uh, we’ll take a basket of cheese sticks for an appetizer.  Thanks.”

Xander waited until their now rather pale waitress was once again out of earshot.  “Think all this talk of death is going to help the service any?”

“Xander.”  The solider growled.  “This demon cat, did you see it?  Do you know what it wants?  How do you think we should stop it?”

“Whoa, hold on there.”  Xander held up his hands.  “No, I haven’t seen it.  In fact, the only times it comes out are during a national tragedy or when there’s a change in the power of the government.”

“Oh... um...”

“Oh, do you know who else haunts the Capitol?”

“Uh.  Who?”

“President James Garfield.  There’s also marble staircase that still has bloodstains from this gunfight that happened back in the 1890’s.”

“Gunfight?”  Graham cleared his throat.  “Um... I... don’t... Are *you* okay?”

“Me?  I’m great!  Would you like to hear about who haunts the White House?”

‘Not right now.”

“Okay.  I bet you didn't know we’re going to spend Independence Day in one of the most haunted cities in America, did you?”

“I know this is a working vacation, but, come on.”  Graham mumbled.  “Okay, what are we supposed to do?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“That's right.”  Xander smiled at their waitress, who shuddered and quickly dropped their basket of cheese sticks on the table.

“Nothing?”  Graham repeated again.  “We’re going to do nothing?”

“Well, we can’t exactly go up to Abraham Lincoln and tell him to stop haunting his bedroom, can we?”

“Good point.”

“Look,”  Xander popped some fried cheese into his mouth.  “Near as I can figure, most of the transparent citizens are more welcome here the solid ones.  The living and the dead seem to get along with each other, for the most part.”  He shrugged.  “Why mess with a good thing?”

Graham thought about this for a moment.  “And, my budget did suffer some pretty serious cuts... Okay, I’m sold.  No ghostbusting this trip.”

“Great.  Hey, think we might see anybody famous among the ranks of the pulse impaired?”

“Look, the only dead person I’m interested in seeing anytime soon is the one we’re sleeping with... Oh, hey.  Yeah, I’m ready to order...”

**********
July 4th
*****

Xander entered the hotel room, his sneakers still swishing into the carpet.  “Okay, who the hell thought of having an open air celebration in the middle of a monsoon?”

“Ah, it wasn’t that bad.”  Graham hopped on one foot, struggling to remove a wet sock.  “I mean, we did get to see the fireworks.”  He straightened, his bare toes digging into the dry carpet.  “Among other things.”

“Yeah, who knew that old Honest Abe could get down and boogie.  And, that other guy, by the bandstand, that was Thomas Jefferson, right?”

“Hmmm.  I don’t know.  All the ones in wigs kind of look the same to me.  Besides, I was a little too busy watching you.”  Graham’s cheeks dimpled.  “Do you know how unbelievably sexy you look completely drenched?”

Xander tugged at his soaked, form fitting tee shirt.  “The wet look works pretty good for you too.”  He grinned in anticipation as Graham’s own shirt was slowly peeled away from his body.  “So, you’re free tomorrow, right?”

Graham finally got the soggy piece of material over his head.  “Yep.  My next meeting is on Friday.  Why?  Already planning our day?”

“Maybe.”  Xander licked his lips as Graham pushed his shorts down.  “I was thinking we could head up the road to Baltimore and see Edgar Allen Poe’s grave.”

The Marine paused in the act of removing his boxers.  “Uh... no.”

“Oh, okay.  Then, maybe, we could head down the road to Richmond to see Edgar Allen Poe’s birthplace.”

The now naked Marine began to slowly advance on the still clothed and slightly shivering younger man.  “I don’t think so.”

“Fine.”  Xander lifted his arms as Graham relieved him of his shirt.  “Or, I guess we could always call Angel and indulge in some phone sex.”

“That’s more like it.”  The Marine murmured against Xander’s neck.  “Wait.  That’ll be a collect call, right?”

**********


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