The Great Escape

Summary: Graham and Riley loose something, and Willow's not going to be too happy.  
Date: October 5, 2000

**********

When it comes to the inner workings of the Scooby Gang I may be a newbie, greener then even Riley or Tara, but one thing I have definitely learned is that when Giles says  "BLOODY HELL"  turn off the fan 'cause the shit's heading that way.

Everything was going perfectly fine until a few minutes ago when the phone rang. Xander, Riley, Buffy and I have been here at Giles' about an hour researching a new prophecy that's supposed to happen on the feast day of some demon saint guy. . .or something like that. The truth of the matter is I'm not exactly sure what we're looking for. I've been kind of. . . distracted. I almost feel like I'm back in high school, stealing glances at my crush and hoping the teacher doesn't notice. Except, well, Xander's not my crush, he's my lover. My lover. It still makes me grin to think of those two words together and used in reference with the man lounging beside me on the couch. My lover.

Anyway, I also don't think Giles is in the right frame of mind to notice anything just about now. The others seem about as shocked as I am about the outburst. Whatever he heard on the other end of that phone line must have been a doozy. Wonder who-

"Willow!"  Ah.  "How the blazes did that. . . What?!"  There's a look of pure horror on Giles' face. For some reason I'm suddenly really glad I'm not wherever our two little witches are today.  "Just because a *cookbook* says you can substitute certain ingredients doesn't mean it'll work in magi. . . I'm not upset!"  Giles whips off his glasses, and I'm fairly certain everyone in the room just winced.  "All right!  I am upset!  I'm upset!  I'm upset!  I'm upset!  I'd expect this sort of thing from Xander-"

"Hey!"

I squeeze Xan's knee and silently second his 'Hey'.

"-or Buffy-"

"Hey!"  She pouts, and Riley kisses her cheek.

"-But, I had always thought that you, out of all of my charges, were responsible enough. . ."  Giles' face falls a bit, and you can almost see the fury seep out of him.  "I didn't mean. . . I'm not *really* upset. . .do stop crying. . . it's going to be all right.  I'll be over in a few minutes, just. . . stop crying.  Look, try to avoid any ceiling fans, and if you need to go outside, for goodness sakes, tether yourself to something first."  He hangs up the phone and lets out a sigh that for some reason brings to mind a weary parent being called into his child's school.

"Try to avoid any ceiling fans?"  Buffy raised an eyebrow.

Giles rubs at his temple.   "Willow and Tara have successfully performed an anti-gravity spell."

"Cool!"  Buffy withers a bit under Giles' glare.   "Uh. . . not cool?"

"Their intended goal was to magically delouse their cat."

Wow.

You know, Willow seems like an okay girl, but when she reaches the chapter on transmutating species I think I'm gonna pack up Xander and go on vacation for a few months. Not that I don't enjoy her patented 'Whoops. My bad.' chocolate chip cookies, or that pound cake we got the time she made feathers sprout out of Riley's ears, but. . . Hmm, wait a minute. That's an idea. A vacation. Me, Xander, a nice, secluded bed and breakfast somewhere. I wonder where wine country is exactly.

"All right."   Giles picks up a few books from his desk.  "You four keep looking for the rites used to invoke D'Khast, and I'll go sort things out with Willow and Tara. . . again."

*Again*. Man, I'd hate to be under their pointy hats today. That sounded kind of ominous.

*****

"Guys, thanks again for doing this."  Willow adjusts her pack. The thing's huge.  I wouldn't be surprised if she just started waving her arms and toppled over.

"No problem."  Riley smiles.  "So, has Giles told you anything about what's gonna happen this weekend?"

She grimaces.  "No."

After Giles got back from. . . grounding the two girls, he made an announcement. In a nutshell, anyone in the group who wanted to do any spell casting would have to undergo some basic training with him. Sort of a witchy boot camp. Only Willow and Tara volunteered, so the three of them are going to spend the weekend practicing spell stuff. . . far, far, far away from here. . . for the entire weekend.

So, being the upstanding guys that we are, and basically, her last viable option, Ri, Xander and I agreed to take care of Willow's pet while she's away. If we play our cards right, Xan said we might be able to get cupcakes out of the deal.

Willow frowns and glances around the apartment.  "Where's Xander? I want to tell him good-bye."

I sigh.  "I think he called this crappy job number seventeen."

"Not to be confused with crappy job number eighteen, which he'll probably be starting tomorrow."  Funny, ha ha, Riley. Eat my death scowl. Oh, look, Willow has one of them too. That's right, Farmboy. Look ashamed. Look *very* ashamed.

Willow finishes her Riley glowering and shakes her head.  "Sometimes I worry about Xander."  That makes two of us. She puts her hand on my forearm.  "But, I've noticed lately that I've been worrying less and less."  She grins at me.  "You don't know how glad I am that he's found someone that makes him happy. Really happy. However. . . Riley?"

Ri clears his throat.  "If you hurt him she'll beat you to death with a shovel."

"Uh. Okay"

Wills beams at Riley.  "Very good. And, now that that's taken care of, I'm off."  She heads for the door.  "See you guys on Sunday."

"See ya, Willow."  I follow her to the threshold and watch her teeter out to the waiting car. A good-bye wave to Tara and Giles, then I'm shutting the door and turning around to face Riley, eyebrows already raised.  "She'll beat me to death with a shovel?"

He shrugs.  "A vague disclaimer is no one's friend."

"Ah."

Ri grins.  "We should probably get started, shouldn't we?"

Uh. I glance at the clock. It's only around two. Xander doesn't get off work until five thirty and Buffy isn't supposed to get here until six, so. . .  "Yeah. It's probably a good idea to start early."  So we can have plenty of time to clear the smoke out before either of our significant others arrive Why, oh, why did I every agree to this?  "Are you sure we can do this?"

"Graham, we are intelligent, competent, modern men. We can cook."  He scratches his head.   "Besides, it was either us, or Buffy."

I quickly nod.  "We can cook."

"Hey!"  Ri's eyes narrow.  "Are you ragging on my girlfriend's culinary skills?"

"Were you ragging on my boyfriend's occupational skills?"  We both stare at each other for a few seconds.  "Neither one of us has a leg to stand on here, do we?"

"Nope."

"Let's get to cooking."

*****

"Stupid Riley Finn. Stupid recipe. Stupid people with thirteen items in their cart in the twelve item or less lane. . ."   So I'm mumbling to myself. So what?  You wanna make something out of it?

I have had a really crappy hour, okay. An hour. I can't believe it's taken me a whole freakin' hour to get a little tiny bottle of vanilla!

Stupid Riley. "Oh, no, Graham. I got all the ingredients. Oops. Must have forgotten about that one. You just run on to the store and pick some up. 'Kay?"

Forgot, my ass. He must have somehow known about the hell that is the spice aisle. Real, imitation, clear, whole bean. . . could nothing just simply say 'Vanilla'?!

Okay, almost home. Try to avoid the pedestrians. I swear to God, if he's burned down the apartment while I was gone, I'm gonna be so pissed.

Well, no obvious smoke damage. Next time Buffy wants a grown up dinner she can cook it herself. . . at *her* house!

I open our front door and-

"NO! Close the door! Close the-"

"Riley! What's the-"  Gah! Something dark shoots past my foot. Oh. . . no. Oh, no! That was. . . oh, no!

*****

"I can't believe this happened!"  Riley throws his hands up in the air.

"Just calm down, Ri."  He's wound pretty tight about his whole thing. Not that I don't feel bad, but. . .  "It was an accident."

"I know it was an accident, Graham."  Riley sounds exasperated.   "But Willow trusted us with that."   And, boy am I glad Buffy's mom agreed to at least keep Miss Kitty.

I shrug. "She should have checked the lock before she left."

He gapes at me.  "How can you just be so blasé about all this?"

"Look, this isn't the end of the world, okay. We messed up. But, it's not like it was her first born or something. We'll just find out where she got that one from and get her another one."

"Yeah. I guess."  Riley's shoulders slump.  "Still feel bad about it, though."

"I know. We blew it. But, I mean, come on."  I roll my eyes.  "It was just a rat. . . right?"

**********


"You. . . lost. . . Amy?"  Buffy blinks a few times.

Amy?  Was that its name?  I thought it was Annie. Oh, well. Amy, Annie, Rizzo, whatever. But, hey, dinner turned out great.

"Yeah."  Riley has on his best sheepish look.  "We're really sorry. And, as soon as Willow gets back we're gonna go right down to the pet store and buy her a new one."

"A new. . ."  Xander shakes his head.  "But, you lost *Amy*!"

Wow. He and Buffy are taking this a lot worse then I expected. They're both just staring at me and Ri like we committed this horrible sin.  "Xan, it was an accident. I guess the cage door wasn't latched properly, and then I was coming in from getting more vanilla, and it just. . . scooted out the door. Riley and I accept full responsibility, and like he said, we're gonna get Willow a new rat. I promise." See, sincere face.

"Amy wasn't a *Rat*!"  'Kay, Buff. Getting kinda close to screeching there.

"Oh."  Ri frowns. "You mean it was one of those South American things?"

Buffy gives him an incredulous look.   "No. She's a girl!"

"Well, she was a girl."   Xander amends.

"Huh?"  Oh, Riley and I just said that in unison. Aren't we just the cutest when we don't know what the hell anyone else is talking about!!

"Technically, she was a witch."  Buffy scrunches her face.  "See, Senior year, a bunch of townspeople got possessed by Hansel and Gretel and tried to burn me, Willow, and Amy at the stake."

Uh. . .

And, let's everyone take a moment to absorb *that* shall we"

"Whoa, wait."  Riley shakes his head.  "Hansel and Gret-"

"Not done yet!"  Buffy glares at him.  "Anyway, Amy turned herself into a rat to escape, but she wasn't able to undo the spell, so she's been stuck in furry form ever since."  She's silent for a few seconds.   "Now I'm done."

Riley blinks a few times.  "So, basically, what you're saying is, we. . . lost. . . Amy."

No shit.

Oh, this just isn't good at all. Why the hell didn't someone bother to tell us we were keeping an enchanted rodent?!  Why am I living in a town where there are enchanted rodents?!  I think I need that vacation now. But, no. This needs to be dealt with first. I wonder if there's anyone to notify?  "Did she have any family?"

"Well, she's been rat-like for over a year now."   Buffy frowns.  "I'm not sure what her father thinks happened to her."   She crosses her arms over her chest.   "I can't believe this! Especially now."

"What do you mean?"  Ri asks.

"I'm positive Wills was getting closer to figuring out a way to turn her back, and. . ."  Buffy's eyes get all wide. "Oh, no. Willow! Xander. . . Willow!"

"Willow."  Did Xan just. . . pale?  "Oh, God. She's gonna kill them!"  She's gonna what?  Kill who?  Us?!  Willow?!

"Willow's not gonna kill them."  Thank you. Who knew Buffy could provide a voice of reason?  "She's probably just going to turn them into something really nasty." She sighs heavily.  "Great! There goes *another* boyfriend!"

Riley and I glance at each other.  "You're not serious?"  He asks.

They glance at each other, then turn back to us, and. . . uh, that's a bad look, isn't it?

"There must be some way to find Amy."  Xan starts to pace.

"How?" Buffy snorts.  "Go, 'here ratty, ratty, ratty'?"

Xan glares at her.  "No. What about. . . Ooh, what about a spell!"

Isn't that what started this mess in the first place?

Buffy looks at him dubiously. Right there with ya, Buff.  "A spell?"

"Sure."  Xander's eyes are bright.   "Like a. . . finding spell, or something."

Buffy's nodding her head and she and Xan are both bouncing a little bit. I don't think I like this.

"And, who exactly is going to perform this spell?"  Riley's got on his skeptical raised eyebrow look.

The bouncing stops.  "Well. . ."  Buffy chews on her bottom lip.  "We could!"

What exactly does an ulcer feel like?  Oh, yeah. This. Obviously time for voice of reason duties to fall to me.  "I don't know if that's such a-"

"I mean, magic isn't *that* hard, right?" Buffy makes a wavy motion with her hand. Well, Riley, would you like to smack your girlfriend upside the head, or shall I?  "All you need is will power and concentration. I could. . . well, no. Xander, you could. . . uh, no."  She turns to me. "Graham, how are your Latin skills?"

*****

Riley glances furtively towards where we left Buffy and Xander in the living room. They're whispering together. I admit, I'm more then a little frightened by that. "Okay, we are in total agreement that there has to be some other way to fix this, and there's no way in hell any of us are performing any spells, right?"

"Right."  I nod.

"Good.  'Cause it might end up coming down to the two of us against the two of them, and we've got to remain sensible about this whole thing."

"Agreed."  Especially since-

"Hey, guys."  My, Buffy's voice sounds awfully perky. Suspiciously so, in fact.  "You plotting something?"

"No." I stare at her.  "Why, were you?"

"Uh. . ."  She peers up at Riley.  "We need to talk. You and I. Alone. *Talk*."

Ri's mouth drops a little.  "Talk? Right, we do need that, don't we. Uh. . . we're just gonna talk." He looks at me and manages to shrug a little before Buffy drags him down the hall.

Talk. Right. They don't talk! They. . . Oh, yeah. *Real* sensible of you there, Riley. Oh, but, you two go right ahead. Just leave me and Xander here to try and figure out-

"Come on, Graham."  Xander takes my hand and starts pulling me towards. . . our bedroom? Uh. . .

Why. . .What. . . Why. . .

We enter the room and he shuts the door. While I appreciate his eagerness, this really isn't the time.

"Xander, shouldn't we be dommph-"  Okay, okay, kissing now. Kissing now. I can't believe. . . he just pushed me against the door and. . . and. . . God, he's never been so. . . forceful before. Maybe I should lose friends of his more often.

Suddenly, his body pulls away from mine, but his hands stay on my shoulders, still pressing me back into the wood. His eyes are so dark, almost fierce. What the hell kind of game is he playing?  And. . . why the hell hasn't he played it before?

"Stay."

Okay. I can do that.

I watch as he walks over to the dresser, and starts to rummage through one of his drawers. He palms something then moves back to me.  Something's pressed into my hand before his arms wrap around my neck, pulling me away from the door and close to his body. It's a. . . tube of. . . oh.  "You, you want. . ."

"Oh, yeah."  Oh, *liking* husky Xander voice.

"Now?"  Dammit, Miller, just shut up and say thank you.

He leans in and. . . licks around my ear.  "Why not?"

"Uh. . . "  I had a reason. I think.

"I love you, Graham."  He says, his fingers rubbing small circles over the back of my neck.  "I love everything. . .all your. . . Graham-ness."

I raise my eyebrows as a smile tugs at the corners of my mouth.  "Graham-ness""

He blushes, and the 'want, now'  attitude falters just a bit.  "You know, you're just so you. You're calm, and sensible, and strong and not just in that ripply muscle way, although believe me when I say I am quite appreciative of that aspect of you also."  His eyes drift down my body and he licks his lips.

I love it when Xander looks at me like that. He moves in closer, his mouth finding mine, and. . .

I want him. He wants me. He wants me to. . . unh, but we. . . oh, that feels nice. . . No, no, we can't! I grab his arms and try and disengage his body from mine. "Xander, we can't do this now. We need to concentrate on Amy."  Oh, don't. . . don't give me puppy eyes. How the hell does he get them to do that?

"But if we don't do this now, we may not be able to. . . later."

Is *that* what this is all about?  "You don't honestly believe Willow's gonna do something bad to Riley and me. . . do you?"  'Cause, if that's what Xander really thinks is gonna happen then. . . Oh, shit. I'm gonna spend the rest of my life as a salamander, aren't I?

He sinks down onto the bed.  "I don't think she's gonna do something purposefully bad, but. . . Graham, you've never seen Willow upset. Pissed, yes. Upset, no. And, when Willow gets upset. . . well, she doesn't always think before she does things."

I swear, he looks worse than I feel right about now. . . which is saying a lot. I sit down beside him and put my arm around his shoulders. He immediately snuggles closer.  "It can't have been that bad."  And, who exactly was that meant to reassure?

Xan sighs.  "The last time she got really upset, Giles went blind, I started oozing demon pheromones, and Buffy and Spike got engaged."

"Oh."  There's really nothing else to say to that, is there? Except, maybe, 'we're screwed'.  "There's gotta be something we can do."  Think. Think. Think.  "Maybe. . . maybe we should try a spell. I mean, if you and Buffy are right, and Willow's gonna go postal, what would it hurt?"

"I guess. . ."  He frowns.  "I still don't like it, but there's no one. . ."   Suddenly there's this kind of blank look on his face.

"Xander?"

"I think I might have had an idea."  He expression is grim.  "There is one person we could go to."

*****

"Ah, rats. Once there was this shopkeeper's wife in Amsterdam who wished for rats to gnaw off her husband's genitalia while he watched paralyzed with pain and fear. I admit, it wasn't very original, but he certainly didn't diddle anymore barmaids, did he?"  Anya smirks, and I suddenly feel like sending flowers to every woman I've ever gone out with. . . just in case.

After ten minutes of yelling at Riley and Buffy to put their clothes back on, and roughly forty five minutes of searching, we found Anya at the Bronze. She was alone, so we quickly told her what had happened. It would be great if we could get away before Spike shows up. For some reason I don't think he would be very touched by our plight. Now, we just need Anya to stop with the nostalgia trip and agree to help find Amy.

"Wow. That was very. . ."  Riley swallows, hard.  "Uh, yeah. So, will you help us?"

"No."

But. . . "Why not?"

She looks at me.  "Because Spike broke our date in order to play poker with a couple of Kailiff demons. Right now I have nothing but contempt and animosity for your entire gender. In fact, if I still had my power center, you'd be hanging from the second story railing by your small intestine. And, you-"  She looks Riley up and down.  "I'm thinking sand crabs in *very* sensitive places."

Yipe.

"Anya!" Xander scowls at his former girlfriend. Girlfriend. Man, he must have been horny as hell. That had to be the reason, right?

Anya snorts.  "Oh, I'm not even gonna get started with you, Mr. Refused-to-Give-Me-Orgasms-Two-Nights-in-a-Row."

"I was tired."  Xan snaps.  "And I bought you that extra pack of batteries, didn't I?"

Okay, I'm just gonna pretend I don't know what that means.

"What about me?"  Buffy speaks up.  "If you find Amy you'd be helping me. A female."

Anya shakes her head.  "The only reason you're here is because of him."  She points at Riley.  "My answer is still no. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to try to think up a spell that would give a vampire hemorrhoids."

Poor Spike. And, I can't believe I just thought that. Maybe when Willow gets finished with us, me, him, and Riley can commiserate together. We can start a special commune for vamps that can't sit down and humans who look like wombats. Oh, God. I am never agreeing to pet-sit again!

Never, ever, ever, ev-

Buffy smacks the table in front of her. Oh, yeah. My nerves need more sudden noises. Thanks.  "Anya wasn't our last, last option."  She grins.  "We can call Wesley!"

Who's Wesley?

"Wesley!"  Xander's face falls.  "
Oh, my God. We really are that desperate, aren't we?"

Oh, this bodes well.

Buffy pats Xan on the arm.  "Don't worry.  He's not nearly as incompetent as he used to be."

Anybody care to join me in *not* dancing for joy?

Ri holds up his hands.  "Wait! Who's Wesley?"

"He's this ex-Watcher guy, like Giles. Wes lives in L.A. and helps out Angel."  Buffy does her big doe eye thing.  "He *really* has gotten better."

"Are there any other options?"  I ask. Heads shake.  "All right, call Wesley."

*****

We're back at the apartment. Buffy's got the phone to her ear and everyone's got their fingers crossed.

"Hey, Wes. It's Buffy. . . Oh, no. Everything's fine. Big bad free at the moment. No, I was just calling to ask you a question, a totally hypothetical question. . . Okay, well, what if a witch turned herself into a rat, and got stuck in that form, and a couple of dumbasses-"

Yeah, okay. We deserve that.

"-that were supposed to be taking care of her let her escape. Is there any possible way for us to find her, you know, hypothetically speaking. . . Uh huh. . . Uh huh. . . Uh huh. . . Really. . . Okay. . . Right. Thanks, Wes. And, remember, this was completely hypothetical."  Buffy turns off the phone.

"Well?"  Xander asks hopefully.

She takes a deep breath. "Wes said that since Amy was a witch when she was human, she's a creature of magic, and all creatures of magic are naturally attracted to large sources of power. Magical humans possess enough free will to usually resist it, but Amyrat should be drawn right in."

"Into where?"  Ri asks.

Buffy glances at Xander, who looks startled for a second, then nods.  "The library."  He says.

I frown. Not getting the correlation.  "Why would she be drawn to a library?"

Xan turns to me.  "Because that's where the Hellmouth is."

Oh. . . goody.

**********


Man, and I thought my high school experience bordered on hellish. "What happened here?"

Xan kicks a charred piece of. . . something out of his way. "Oh, we blew it up."

Oh, they. . . excuse me? "You what?"

Buffy shrugs. "Demon."

Ah. Pretty much the standard answer for any and everything around here. "What kind of demon?"

"Uh," Xander thinks for a minute. "A big one."

"Watch your step, everyone." Riley nimbly sidesteps a big pile of. . . Uh, I don't think I want to know what that's a big pile of. "This place looks even more unstable than it did last time I was here."

I glance at him. "You've been here before?  When?"

Ri ducks his head. "Not important."

What is. . . what is *that* look exactly?  "Riley?"

Buffy wrinkles her nose. "This is where he hid after we broke him and Oz out of the Initiative. You know, when you guys were chasing him."

Oh. . . Right. Okay, admittedly not one of my finest hours. More like the absolute worst of my entire life. I mean, I was hunting one of my best friends, watching the other start to self destruct, and all the while, telling myself that if I was so ordered I could put a bullet through Xander Harris' head, no problem. Yeah. . . not a problem at all.

For a little while there. . . I think I might have actually believed that. I was either a liar, or an idiot. . . or both.

"Graham." Riley's voice pulls me back to the present. He squeezes my shoulder. "It's okay."

"Yeah." My hand reaches out and I'm not sure if it's instinctive, or if he was waiting for it, but Xander grasps it, holds it, squeezes, and just lets me know that he's there. I allow myself a small smile. "You know, I don't think it ever crossed our minds to search here. It's just so. . . anti-you."

"It wasn't *that* bad." Ri smirks. "It was kinda like camping, except for, you know, the whole mouth of Hell thing. Speaking of which. . ."

Whoa, *this* is the Hellmouth?  It's not exactly what I expected. There's not even any brimstone or anything. It's just a burned out room with a hole in the ground. Still, not wanting to spend a lot of time here, so. . . "Let's get everything set up." We've got a rat to catch.

*****

"The greatest minds the modern military have to offer, and they come up with something out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon." Buffy scowls.

"No." Xander rubs his chin. "I think it's more Wile E. Coyote-esque."

Thank you, peanut gallery.

Riley rolls his eyes. "Look, I know it seems like it should have come out of a box that has the word 'Acme' stenciled on the side of it, but it was the fastest thing we could come up with. And, it. . . should work."

Hopefully.

No, it's actually very logical, you know, considering the circumstances. Amyrat will smell the bait - one of the greasiest cheeseburgers I have ever seen, which is placed at the back of the cage - she'll come up to investigate, and once she's happily munching away someone will pull the string that's attached to the door and. . .

Okay, okay, okay. So, maybe, ever since classes ended Riley and I have been spending an exorbitant amount of time watching the Cartoon Network. So what?  This *can* work, dammit! It's completely logical, if not a bit sophomoric. And, hey, it's been a *really* long day.

"You know, I don't think all four of us need to be here." Buffy looks meaningfully at Riley. I just *love* those meaningful looks.

"You're right, Buff." Xander grabs my hand. "You and Riley stay here. Graham and I'll look around."

"Hey!" Uh oh. Pouty Buffy. "How come we get stuck here?"

Xan shrugs. "'Cause I called it."

Good reason.

Buffy thwaps Riley on the arm. "What, you couldn't have called it?"

*****

"And, this is where I almost got eaten by a fishmonster. Ooh, ooh, and over there is where Angel offered me up as a snack to Spike.  And, down that hall is where I killed a zombie jock by pushing a soda machine over on its head."

"Wow. That sounds. . ." Wait a minute. "What do you mean, Angel offered you up as a snack for Spike?!" Okay, I might just have to have some words with the large undead person.

Xander snorts. "Aw, that was Deadboy being Deadboy." Deadboy? Hmm, I think I'll remember that. "Personally, I think it was really just an excuse for him to nibble a little." He smirks at me. "I'm moist and delicious, you know."

"Oh, yeah." I grab him. Pull him close. "I know." Moist, delicious, soft. . . talented. . . Oh, God, he has the most amazing mouth. . . and his tongue, can't forget his tongue. Love kissing him. Venues sometimes get a little strange, but. . . Mmmm, kisses are always-

"Graham?"

-Over way too soon. "Yeah?"

He's still in my arms, his fingers are threading through my hair. His eyes. . . they're so warm, and deep, and just the absolute perfect shade of brown like. . . warm molasses, which. . . uh. . . okay, really doesn't sound that poetic, but. . . Anyway, I love his eyes, and. . .

Oh, man. Can I get any more pathetic? Ooh, he just did the cutest thing with his. . . Guess I answered my own question there, huh?

I'm so beyond gone with this man.

"I just. . ." Xander stares right into my eyes. "I just want to make sure that you know that. . . Well, that I meant what I said earlier."

Uh oh. What did he say? Um. . . Oh! "You mean, about wanting to-"

"No." Crap. "I mean, yes." Yay! "I mean," Xan shakes his head slightly. "I mean, yes, I want to do. . ."

Me?  PleasePleasePleasePleasePlease

"Stuff. . . or, things. . . or, stuff. . . or. . ." He shuts his eyes in frustration. "Fuck!"

"Yeah, we can do that too." Xan looks startled for a second. I grin and he grins back. There, the language barrier is broken.

"Okay. Personal rule of mine, before we do it, I need to at least be able to say it." His eyes are twinkling. "I want you to fuck me."

Oh, yeah. We can definitely do that.

"But," He smiles at me. "That wasn't what I was talking about."

Oh. "Oh."

"I meant. . ." He takes a deep breath. "I just wanted to make sure you know that I love you." His hand comes around to stroke the side of my face. "I don't think I say it enough. But, I do. . . love you, that is. I always will, no matter what."

What. . . what can I say to that. Just 'I love you too' doesn't seem. . . enough. "Xan, I-"

He pulls back a bit and shrugs. "Of course, depending on how pus happy Wills gets I may not always want to touch you."

Okay, the 'moment' is officially over. I roll my eyes. "Oh, you're funny. Funny guy."

"One of my many charms."

"Yeah. it is."

His expression sobers. "Seriously, though, if this doesn't work. . . "

"I'll spend tomorrow screwing you through the mattress." Uh. . . that was out loud, wasn't it?  Damn. "I mean-"

"Okay." Xan's grinning. That's a good sign. I mean, if anyone should be able to forgive foot-in-mouth-itis it's- "Well, I was gonna say, Willow will just have to deal, 'cause I'm not loosing you, but. . . your idea sounded really good too." Oh, he's really just. . . that's so sweet. "So, what's gonna happen if this *does* work?" His grin grows wider.

Well, it got a pretty good response the first time I said it. "I'll spend tomorrow screwing you through the mattress."

"Okay then." He chuckles softly. "We've got a plan."

"A very good plan." I mumble my agreement against his mouth. I pull back before we can really get going. "We should probably head back, see if the mighty hunters have caught anything yet."

Xan pouts a bit. "Oh, come on. All they have to do is pull a string and. . . we should probably head back."

We start to walk down the scorched hallway when suddenly Xan stops and points towards a closed door.

"Wow." He grins. "And, that's the utility closet where. . ."

"Where what, Xan?"

"Uh. . . where. . . they used to keep the cleaning supplies."

"Oh." Ooh, cleaning supplies. . . scary. "I'm sure lots of Hellmouth related stuff went on in there."

He nods. "You'd be surprised."

*****

"Wow." Riley finishes securing the little latch and peers into the cage. "I mean, we've seen some strange stuff in this town, but. . . it's hard to believe that that's really a girl."

"A witch, Riley." Can't forget that, and. . . Uh oh. That's a really not good thought. "Uh, you don't think she'll remember any of this, do you? You know, like when she's human and all power having again?"

"Oh, God, I hope not." Ri pales a bit. "You don't think-"

"No! No." Well. . . "Probably not."

He visibly relaxes. "Good. "Cause, you know, one possibly pissed off witch is pretty much all I can handle."

"Tell me about it." Oh, yeah. "By the way, you might want to see if you can spend the rest of the weekend at Buffy's place."

Ri frowns. "Why""

I shrug. "Xander and I are planning on having loud, messy sex tomorrow."

"Oh." He blinks a few times. "Well, thanks for the heads up."

"No problem." I smile at him. "What are friends for?"

*****

I can't believe he did this.

I swear, this has *never* happened before.

He's. . . he's. . . he's made me giggle.

Hee hee.

Shit!!

I don't giggle. I have never giggled. Well, okay, there was that one time in South Carolina when I was really, *really* drunk. . . but, I didn't even think that sober me came equipped with that feature. And, I'm definitely sober. Of course, I guess I could say I'm drunk on love, but then I'd have to throw myself in front of a moving vehicle.

And, it's not just about the sex, although that was definitely. . . Hee hee. Dammit!

No. It's about. . . him. Xander. He's not perfect, I know that. What we have isn't perfect either, nothing can be. But, it's good, and I've never felt so content in my entire life.

I've had other lovers, other people who've made me moan, and scream, and dutifully thank some exalted higher power. But, I have never spent a Sunday afternoon just curled up on a couch with someone. Never. Never wanted this with anyone else. And, maybe it was the combination of yesterday's activities - not to mention last night's, and this morning's - and the absolute rightness that I'm experiencing right now, but every so often I'm just hit by this wave of complete and total. . . giddiness.

He's sitting between my legs, his back pressed against my chest, his head resting on my shoulder. The only sounds are the occasional rustle of paper as we switch sections. I've got the comics now. I'm just gonna blame any happy-like sounds on them.

There's a knock at the door. Xan and I both frown but neither one of us moves. We're comfy, dammit. Maybe whoever it is will just go away. I mean, Riley has a key and who else would be coming over here today?

Xan starts to extricate himself and I put my arm around his waist. Where exactly does he think he's going?

He softly kisses the tip of my nose. "It might be Willow."

Oh, right. Willow. We both get up, and I watch as he opens the door.

"Hey, Wills." Xan glances back at me. "You're back kinda early."

"Yeah." She steps around Xander and into the apartment. "Giles had a little disagreement with a plant, and let's just say the poison oak won."

Oh, poor Giles. Maybe he'd like to visit our commune.

"Hi, Amy." Willow stuck a finger through the cage on the table, and rubbed a furry little nose. "She looks good."

She said she looks good. Oh, thank God. Everything's gonna be okay.

"So, how was your weekend?" Wills asks. "I bet you guys had a lot more fun then I did-"

Well, yeah. Fun was. . . fun was definitely had. Hee hee. Stop it!

"-Especially on Friday night."

"Uh, Friday night?" Why did she specifically say something about Friday night?  What exactly is she implying?  Huh?!

Oh, no, *I'm* not paranoid.

Get a grip Graham. Secret government conspiracies have officially fried your brain. She's probably not implying anything. . . Probably.

Xan flashes his nervous smile. "Friday night was boring. . . boring on Friday. In fact the whole day was. . . was. . ."

"Boring?" Willow supplies.

"Completely!" Good, Xander. In no way are you acting suspicious. "Why, what did you do on Friday?"

"Oh, Giles had us practice remote viewing." Willow says airily.

Wait, isn't that. . .

"Oh!" Xander perks up a little. "Isn't that where you're in one place, but you can see what's going on somewhere. . . somewhere else?" Oh, crap.

Willow's smiling. Why is Willow smiling, and what kind of smile is that anyway? Is that the 'guess what really happens in Brendan Fraser's bedroom' smile, or is that the 'you screwed with a fellow witch and I'm gonna make a third arm grow out of the middle of your forehead' smile?

"You know what," She knows. "You guys are right," Oh, yeah, she knows. "I probably had a much more exciting weekend then either of you did." She *so* knows.

Why isn't she chanting, or saying any Latin words, or. . . or. . . doing bad things to me?

Willow picks up the cage. "Thanks for looking after Amy."

"Oh." Okay. . . maybe she doesn't know. "It was no. . . problem." And, I got that out with only a slight choking on the words.

"I'm glad." She coos at the rat. "I'd hate to think you guys had to go out of your way because of her."

Shit! She knows. . . Doesn't she?

Willow gives us another one of those smiles. "So, I thought I could just bring something over tomorrow, you know, a sign of my appreciation. How do cupcakes sound?"

Um. . . I'm really not sure. I'm just kind of generally confused right now.

Xander crosses his arms over his chest. "They're not going to be evil cupcakes, are they, Will?"

"Xander!" She giggles.

Giggle, laugh, chuckle. . .he's a wacky, wacky guy, but. . . "They're not, right?"

"Graham!" Willow shakes her head. "I'm heading home. I think you two need to get some rest."

Yeah, we probably do. That's *one* thing we haven't done a lot of this weekend.

I wonder. . .

"Willow," Xander frowns. "You only did that remote viewing thing on *Friday* night, right?"

She. . . Okay, now what the hell kind of smile is *that*?!

**********

Hanky Panky
Summary: Graham picks up some interesting information at the local laundromat.
Date: February 7, 2001

**********

You know, if there was one skill in this world that I never thought I would become proficient at, it would have to be the fine art of doing laundry. I've been washing my own clothes for a while now, but before it was always like, jam as much stuff into a machine as I could, add a little detergent, close the lid, turn it on, and pray for the best. Now? Well, now I know successful pre-treatments for nine different types of blood, and five varieties of mucus.

Check me out. I'm all domestic.

See, this shirt's saved, and so's this one, and... Huh, I guess even club soda can't do anything about claw marks. Oh, well, one for the rag pile, but this one's... Oh Shit!

Okay, don't make eye contact. Turn around. Blend into the appliances. I'm not here. I'm not here. But if I am here, I'm invisible. I wonder how much of a blow my manhood would take if I tried to crawl out the door? Maybe she won't see me. Please, don't let her see me. Not here. Not here. Not-

"Hello, Xander's boyfriend."

Damn it! "Um... hi, Anya."

She looks perky. Too damn perky. Probably been torturing Spike again. Not that there's anything wrong with *that* per say...

She smiles at me. "So, how have you been?"

"Uh... why?"

She frowns. "Isn't that an appropriate greeting for acquaintances?"

"Usually, yes, but we're not really..." How can I put this in a way that won't end with me being covered in scales and/or fur? "Anya..." You're a shrewish bitch and Xander must have been the most desperate man on the planet to... No, that probably wouldn't be a good idea. "The last time we met you threatened to hang me off a balcony by my small intestine..."

"Oh, piffle." She dismissively waves her hand. "There's no way I'd *actually* do something like that. Do you know how messy disembowlings get?"

"Not off hand, no."

"I just was feeling upset towards Spike and I projected it onto any good for nothing male I could find." She pats my arm "It was nothing personal."

Oh. Her plotting a gruesome death for me wasn't personal. Good to know. "Okay."

"So..." She stares at me, eyes wide, bright, slightly manic looking.

I give her a small smile and slight nod. The universal signs for 'It's been nice to see you. Go away now.' Why isn?t she going away now? And, why is she jut staring at me. You know, with all I've gone through, and seen, it takes a lot to get under my skin. But, surprise, surprise, being the center of an eleven hundred year old ex-vengeance demon's attention has managed to do that quite nicely.

"So..." She says again. "You and Xander have been together for several months now. I assume you both have proceeded on to the physical aspect of a romantic relationship." She punches me on the arm. "Good for you. You canine."

"Thanks?" What the hell is this about? Wait. Oh my... She's not... Is she? Trying to... bond with... over Xander?! I finish pulling the clothes from the washing machine. "I have to go now." Where the hell's the nearest exit?

"You can't go yet." Anya looks at me like I'm the insane one. That's irony, right? "Your clothes are still all wet. Aren't you going to use a dryer?"

"Um. No."

"Why not?"

Why not? "Um..." I'm sure there are plenty of logical reasons why a person wouldn't want to use a clothes dryer. "I'm morally opposed to it." However, I doubt that was one of them. It's amazing the ways Xander's rubbed off on me. Not only do I talk more, I also have less control over what spontaneously comes out of my mouth.

"Oh." Tiny lines appeared on Anya's forehead as she thought this over. "Why?"

She couldn't jut accept it, could she? No one grills Willow, or Xander, or Buffy when they do strange things. What, ex-Marines can't be randomly eclectic? I mean, Riley and I *aren't* randomly eclectic, but if we were it would be nice for it not to be questioned. "It, uh, wastes energy." Wow. That half way makes sense.

"Ah. Then why do you have dryer sheets in your laundry basket? And, why is your eye twitching all of a sudden?"

I can't do this. I'm just not covert-y. Why can't someone tell me to shoot something. I'm good at shooting things. "I... lied."

She blinks a few times. "You're strange." She begins fiddling with the washer in front of her, leaving me to quietly gather up my soggy clothes and skulk over to the wall of dryers.

And I do. Skulk, that is. I am *no* good at lying. I just feel so rotten afterwards. Damn moral upbringing. My parents couldn't teach me the important things in life. Oh, no, they had to instill values. Still, my pitiful attempt at duplicity did manage to scare Anya away.

"Would you like a "Nilla Wafer, Xander's boyfriend?"

Or not. Damn. "Graham."

She glanced down at the yellow box in her hands. "No, I don't have any of those. Though, I've tried the cinnamon variety and found them quite pleasurable."

Sigh. "My name is Graham. Not Xander's boyfriend."

Those tiny lines were back again. "Why did your parents name you after a cracker?"

Explaining that I was named after my great grandfather would take too much time and energy, wouldn't it? "They really liked snacks."

She seems to accept that. What is it with Xander and dating complete wackos? And, since I'm dating him now, what does that say about me? Okay, stopping that train of thought.

Anya smiles at me. Damn, but that's unnerving. "Back to you and Xander. How's the sex?"

Did she just ask me what I think she... "Excuse me?"

"You know," She gives me a conspiring wink. "The ole daily grind?"

"That's bump and... nevermind." I'm not... This isn't... I don?t like this laundromat.

"I'm still not actually certain about some of the logistics, but lately I've found myself becoming more and more interested." Her eyes light up. And I thought I knew fear. "You don't think I might be able to observe the two of you one night, do you?"

Observe? Oh yeah, and she can just bring a video camera for slo mo instant replays and post game critiques. Okay. I just thought about Anya video taping me and Xander having sex. Yes, that train of thought needs to come to an end also. "No. I don't think that would be a good idea."

She actually looks disappointed. "That's a shame. I was looking forward to comparing techniques he uses with you to ones he and I perfected when we were together." She sighs. "I have to admit, sometimes I do find myself missing my little Viking."

Viking?! Uh...

"Why, I remember this one time when I took him shopping at the sex store-"

This isn't happening. I'm, I'm not listening. That's right. La la la. La la la la.

"-And then I actually had to explain to him what the cock ring was for-"

LA LA LA LA LA LA LA

God, I know it's been a while since I've spoken to you on any kind of a regular basis, but if you see fit to get me out of this situation, I promise I'll-

"-Oh, but the thing I enjoyed the most was the spanking. Are you enjoying the spanking?"

The... "What?"

*****

What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do?

I could always *not* use this little piece of information. And, Anya wasn't really forthcoming with more details. Of course, that may be because I grabbed my still soggy clothes and hauled ass outta there while she added fabric softener to her machine. So, now, I'm sitting on the couch in the apartment, waiting for Xander to finish his after work shower, and wondering what the hell I should do about this new piece of information... or, if I should even do anything at all.

But, I can't just ignore this, can I? If there was one thing Xander and Anya had going for them, it was completely amazing sex. I want Xander and me to have completely amazing sex. 'Course, personally, I already think we've reached that point. But what if he doesn't? What if he's really frustrated and just itching to explode in some kind of display of erotic tinged violence?

Then again, I might over thinking this. But, this idea is just so new to me. I've always thought of myself as being a pretty liberal, open-minded kind of person. Yeah, yeah, I know, this coming from a former 'Sir, yes, SIR'-boy, but all of that was in my professional life, when I got on leave, I generally raised a little hell. Yet, no matter how much boys will be boys crap I indulged in in bars or poolhalls, any time I ended up in an apartment or hotel room I was strictly vanilla. It's almost embarrassing how many kinks I *don't* have.

Bed, lube, condom. . . Thank you very much.

Stuff like... like... *that* never even crossed my mind. But now it's not only crossed my mind, it's decided to take up permanent residence. God, I'm not even sure I can broach the subject, let alone participate. And how exactly would we do it? I mean, would Xander be the spankee, or the spanker? And, if he's the spanker, could I actually let him...

"Graham?"

"What?!" Jesus! Make some noise when you're sneaking up behind people, would ya?

Xander cocks his head to the side and gives me this strange look, like he's trying to figure out what's going on inside my head. Oh, no. I wasn't just thinking about you spanking me. Nope.

"Uh," He flashes me a worried look. "I was gonna ask if you felt okay, but I'm betting that's pretty much a no. What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong." Good. Try and lie, Graham. 'Cause, you do that so well.

"Oh, something is wrong. You look tense. You never look tense." He sits down beside me. "Does this have anything to do with school starting up again soon? Going back to the campus?"

"No." Surprisingly enough, I'm actually kind of looking forward to returning to academia.

"Then, if it's not school, what is it?" He looks at me. I look back. He sighs. "You're not gonna tell me, are you?" He looks at me. I look back. He sighs again. Then, his mouth twists into a smirk. "Well, the least I can do is try to help relieve some of that stress. And, with no Riley, no Buffy, and forty seven minutes 'til Farscape, I can think of just the thing."

He slides off the couch onto his knees, his fingers going for the button on my jeans.

I cover his hands with mine, stilling them. He looks up at me, licks his lips... unnn... No! Be strong!

I can't believe I'm going through with this. I clear my throat. "Is there anything... you know, else that you'd rather be doing now?"

Xan's eyes flicker towards the T.V. "In forty five minutes, yes, but I'm good til then."

"No. I mean, is there anything else that you'd rather be doing now, here... with me?"

"Oh! Sure." He grins and gets up. "That we should probably do in the bedroom, though. And, remember, forty four minutes."

I place a hand on his arm. "No. I didn't mean *that*, I meant... something else."

Xander frowns and sits down beside me on the couch. "Um, I know I'm still kind of new at this whole gay sex thing, but I thought we pretty much covered what could go where, so, I gotta ask... What the hell are you talking about?"

Okay. Just... Get it out. "IhadatalkwithAnyatoday." There. That was easy.

"You had a..." Xander's eyes widen. "Oh Graham, are you okay?"

"Um. Yeah, I'm fine."

"No extra toes, or horns, or anything?" He ruffles my hair, probably looking for protrusions.

"No, no. She didn't seem to be in a vengeful kind of mood."

"Well, good" He strokes my cheek. "'Cause if she ever does anything to you..." He blinks a few times. "Wait. What exactly did you two talk about?"

"Uh..."

"I mean, Anya only really talks about two things, and if it wasn't vengeance, then... Oh God!"

Uh oh. "Now, Xander-"

"You Talked About *SEX* With *ANYA*!" There?s no point in hoping the neighbors did'?t here that, is there? "Why did you talk about SEX with ANYA?!"

"*I* didn't... Anya talked to me about sex. She cornered me at the laundromat. I still had to use the dryers, I was trapped."

"Well what exactly did she say that's managed to carry itself over into our sex life?"

Oh, yeah. That's his pissed voice. "Truthfully, I managed to tune most of it out, but one thing slipped through."

"About?"

Oh, just *say* it! "Spanking."

The look on Xander's face is about as close to abject horror as I've ever seen. He puts one of his hands to his head in what I'm sure is an unconscious, yet eerily Giles-like movement. "This isn't happening."

"See, tha'?s what I kept thinking." I move closer to him. "Look, the reason I brought up an event that will probably fuel many nightmares, is because I love you. I want to do things that make you happy, and if-"

He looks at me and raises an eyebrow. "So, basically, what you're saying is, if I told you to drop your pants and bend over my lap, so I could smack your ass 'til it turned this really nice shade of pink, you'd let me?"

Ulp.

"Yeah, I would." What did I just say? Wait, *what* did I just say?

"Really?"

E-evidently. "Yes," I say, with a hell of a lot more conviction then I feel. "I mean, I'm at least willing to try it, and I do trust you."

"You do?"

Why does he keep looking at me like that? "Yeah, Xan, I do."

"Wow. That's like... frightening."

Tell me about it.

He smiles shyly, a blush spreading over his cheeks. Wait, *now* he's starting to blush? "Not that the idea of you..." He makes a vague motion with his hand. "Isn't almost enough to forgo the Sci-Fi channel, but I kinda like being the one who..." He makes another vague gesture.

The one who? Oh! The one who! Oh. So, that would make me...

"It's not like I ever planned to like it. Didn't even plan on trying it. I just," His cheeks flush even more. "I was trying to get Anya out of one of her 'Poor me, I can't smite men anymore' moods, and I kind of made an offhanded remark about how she could... 'punish' me anytime." Xan shakes his head. "I was joking, but she really liked the idea, and when Anya latches onto something... Anyway, we tried it, and..."

"And?"

"And, I did like it." He smiles. "This is freaking you out, isn't it."

"It's not freaking me out." No, the fact that it's not freaking me out is freaking me out. "But, if you like it so much, then... I mean, we've been together for almost three months now. Why didn't you ever say anything?"

He shrugs. "I don't know. No, I do know. You're just so straightlaced about so many things. I guess I didn't want to scare you off."

"Xan, the first time we kissed I ended up being thrown across a crypt by something that looked like it came straight out of a Predator movie, not to mention all the other assorted demons, vampires, and ex-girlfriends of yours I've run into-"

"You know, Faith was never really my *girlfriend*-"

"She was scary enough to be. Anyway, the point is, if there was any chance an aspect of this relationship would have scared me off, I'd have been screaming and running for the hills a long time ago."

"Is that a compliment?"

"I'm not sure. But, it's the truth. I'm in this with you for the duration, deviant behavior and all." I grin at him.

"Good to know." He grins back. "And, speaking of deviant behavior... You're really okay with all this?"

"Think so. Though, you might have to talk me through it the first time." I bet he thinks I'm kidding.

"Uh. You smack my ass. That's basically it."

"Ah. Yeah, I think I can do that." Actually, the more I do think about it, the more... "So, after Farscape good for you?"

Xan's face just lights up. "See, that's why you are the bestest boyfriend ever."

**********

Drinking Buddies
Summary:  Graham and Riley spend some quality time with Spike
Date: August 7, 2001 

**********

“You two are pathetic.”

Yeah, thanks,  Spike.  Now, why don’t you go on and tell us something we don’t know... you... you.... fuck!  Jackass.  Yeah, ‘jackass’ will work here.

You jackass!

“I mean, completely and totally pathetic.”  The blond vampire gestures wildly with his half empty beer bottle.  “I’m talking capitol letters and italics.  PATHETIC.  Or, maybe capitol letters and bold.  Either way, it means the same thing, basically.  You two are-”

“Spike!  Shut the hell up, or I’m ramming, something-”  Riley pauses in his threat to the vampire long enough to let out a truly massive burp.

“Good one, Hayseed.”

“Thank you.  Now, as I was saying, shut the hell up, or... or...”

“Or what?”

Riley’s face is all scrunchy.  “I don’t know.  I forgot what I was going to threaten to do to you, but I’m sure it would have been bad, and painful, and just shut up.”

Way to strike fear into the heart of a demon, Sir.

“Well, *somebody* isn’t a very articulate drunk.”  Spike smiles as Riley demonstrates his continued fluency in rude hand gestures.  Then... oh great.  Now the vamp’s looking at me.  “What about you, eh, pet?  Know you’re about as verbose as Red’s little chit, but come on!  Even you can do better than *that*.”  He gestures over to Riley, who seems to be in deep thought contemplating the horsies on the label of the bottle in his hand.

I’ve got to say something.  And it should be a good something.  Smart, and glib, and smart, and... uh... smart.

“Shut up, or I’ll stake you.”  Okay, Brain, what happened to smart?  What happened to glib?  And, is a rock supposed to be moving like that?

“Oh, very nice.  Very inventive.”  Spike sneers.

“Very effective.”  No, I don’t think a rock should be moving like that.  Maybe inanimate objects moving on their own is a sign I should stop with the alcohol consumption.  Then again, this is the Hellmouth.  Maybe it’s just a sign that one of my feet is about to get gnawed off.

Oh, good.  That means I can have another drink.

“No, but really,”  Spike pitches his now empty bottle in the direction of his crypt.  That’s not right.  Dead people shouldn’t litter in cemeteries.  “I mean, I thought I was pathetic after Dru left me, but the two of you are taking being abandoned to a whole new level of-”

Whoa, *abandoned*?!

“We haven't been *abandoned*!”  Riley must have gotten bored with his horsie picture.  “We’ve just been... been...”

“Cast aside?  Deserted?  Forsaken?”  Ooohhh.  Not only is he a vampire, seems Spike is also a walking thesaurus.  That must come in handy.

“No.”  Is that me talking? Huh, I guess it is.  “We were just left behind.”  Oh yeah, that sounds much better.  “But they’re gonna come back.”

“Oh, of *course* they are, pet.  Of *course* they are.”

“Yeah, they are so too coming back.”  Oh, Riley, next time Buffy asks you to baby-sit Dawn, just say no.

“Well, if they ‘are so too’...” 

Stupid vampire with his sneers, and high tolerance alcohol level thingie.  Um...  Spike stretches and gets up without even having to hold onto anything.  “I’m still a bit thirsty.  Gonna get me another.  Either of you boys want?”

No.  We really shouldn’t.  I mean *really* shouldn’t.  “Okay.”

Riley nods.  “Sure.”

We watch Spike walk on completely non shaky legs (stupid vampire) back into his crypt, and Riley and I are left sitting on the ground, leaning back against some really dead, not just partially dead, people’s headstones, and.... Oh God.

“What the Hell are we doing here?”

Riley blinks at me, long, slow blinks.  “You mean existensil... exestenshl... ex-is-ten-ti-ally shpeaking?”

“Uh... I don’t think so.  I mean, what the Hell are we doing *here*?  With Spike.  In a graveyard.  At night.  We don’t like Spike.  And we’re not too fond of graveyards.  And, well, night can be okay for some things but not when it’s added into the whole Spike/graveyard equation.”

Ri smiles wistfully.  “You sounded just like Xander when you said that.”

Aw.  That just... Yeah, that deserves an Aww.

He sighs.  “They are coming back, right?”

“Of course they are.  They live here, remember?”

“Yeah.  But, Cordelia and... *Him* used to live here too, then they went to L.A.  Now Buffy and Xander have gone to L.A.  There’s a preche... presin... pre-si... ah, fuck it, you know what I mean.”

I rub my eyes.  Damn.  I either need to try and sober up, or get more drunk, I haven't decided yet.  “Somehow, yeah, I do.  And, you know that there is a big difference between moving, and just visiting long enough to pick up an ancient manuscript that, for some reason, can’t be trusted in the hands of the United States Postal Service.”  Personally, I think it was because Angel was too cheap to foot the postage.

“Yeah, but I also know that there’s a big difference between what Buffy and I have and what she and... *Him* had.”

Oh, boy.  Here we go again.  “Riley, you’re-”

“Absolutely right.”  Spike says from right beside me.

And, GAH, by the way!  How did I not hear him?  Stupid vampire.

Spike hands each of us a new bottle, then takes up his former position on top of the final resting place of some guy named Roger.  “What Buffy and Angel had was... the stuff that sonnets are written about.  What music is composed for.  What-”

“Remind me again why we can’t kill him?”  Ri glares at the vamp.  “I mean, really *really* kill him?”

“Because Willow said it would be tantamount to clubbing a kitten.” 

“But, what if it’s a really annoying kitten?”

“Hey!”  For an evil guy Spike is very good at looking all offended.  “Here I am just trying to be supportive.”

“You, supportive?”

“Well, yeah!  Remember, I don’t like His Grand Gelledness any more than you do.  The huge, bloody wanker.  If the Slayer has an ounce of sense in that pint sized brain of hers she'll keep her distance.  Food for thought, kiddies.  Grand love does not always equal great love.”

Wow.  That was almost, no, that was... poetic.  Or, if not actually poetic, it was really nice.  Maybe Spike isn’t as much of a jackass as I thou-

“Personally, I could never understand what she saw in the bastard.  I mean, he’s not exactly someone you drive three hours to see, you know.  Not like that Cordelia.  Mmmm.  Feisty little thing, she is, all dark eyed and hot tempered.  And, that body!  Gods below, it’s enough to make a gay man go straight.”

Oh, no, I was right the first time.  He is a jackass.

“You are a jackass.” 

“No, I’m a vampire.  An *evil* vampire.  Why the hell can’t anyone remember that?!”

“Believe me, we haven’t forgotten what you are.”  Huh, now Riley’s doing the whole sneer thing.  Wonder if I should try it next?

“Really.  Then, why did you two come ‘round to see me tonight, huh?”

“We didn’t come here to see you, Spike.”  I snort.  “We were patrolling the cemetery and you... offered us free beer.”

“Which reminds me of my original point.  You two are pathetic.”

Okay, yeah, I can see how that might be considered

“Come on then.”  Spike abruptly stands up, and again, there’s no grabbing or clutching onto anything.  Stupid vampire.  “If you lot can get up without puking, I’ll walk you home.”

He’ll what?!

Riley’s doing that slow blinking thing again.  “You’ll what?”

The vampire sighs.  “I said, I’ll walk you home.  It’s not exactly how I wanted to spend some prime hunting time, but if anything happens to either of you, especially in my cemetery, the Slayer’ll reduce me to vacuum fodder.”  That would almost be worth getting all dead.  “So, let’s go.  Come on, get off your arses, and then it’s one foot in front of the other.  Make Uncle Spikey proud.”

Home.  Yeah, that would be good.  Of course, there’s the whole ‘getting there’ part, which starts with the whole ‘getting up’ part.  But, I think I can do it.  I’ve stood up before.    Yes, okay, here goes.

Oh look, everything’s all spiny, including Spike, who’s gone from sneering to glaring.

“One more thing before we start our little trek.  If either of you throw up on me, all bets are off.”

*****

One foot in front of the other.  One foot in front of the other.  One foot in front of the other.  One foot... Oh, yeah.  This walking thing’s a piece of cake.

One foot in front of the other.  One foot in front of-  Okay, Spike, if you want me to walk, you can’t just stop all abrupt like right in front of me, ‘cause no matter how funny it looks on T.V., in real life running into somebody like that would probably hurt.  And, when the hell did I start channeling my mother?

“Well,”  The vampire grins.  “Would you look at that?  Maybe the evening won’t be such a wash after all.”

Look at what?  All I see is that great big demony looking thi... Oh!  Look at *that*!  “It’s a demon.”

Crap.  And, hello sobriety.

“Very good, pet.  You deserve one of those gold star stickers and a lollipop.”

“Shhhh.”  Riley hisses at us.  “Will you two pipe down before that thing spots us?!”

“News flash, Soldier-toy, it already has spotted us.”

And, oh yeah, there it is, looking straight at us.  Just looking right... just looking... hey, why is it just looking?  “Why isn’t it attacking us?”

“Because, it’s a Bry’ath demon.  They’re scavengers, and mostly don’t give a fuck about things that aren’t already dead.”

Riley’s eyebrows raise.  “Then why isn’t it attacking you?”

For just an instant, Spike let his face change.  “Because it’s smarter than that, pet.”

“So, it doesn’t bother humans?”  Wow, talk about lucking out.

“That’s right.”  The vampire scratches his chin.  “Unless, of course, it’s provoked.”

“Okay, so we’ll just refrain from poking it with big sticks, and we should be all right.”

“Oh, that’s not how you provoke a Bry’ath demon.”  Spike’s grinning again.  Oh God, I hate it when Spike grins.  “*This* is how you provoke a Bry’ath demon.”

“Spike!”

“No!”

Riley and I both move, but before we’re able to cover the vamp’s mouth some sort of strange gibberish comes out of it.

I grab Spike’s duster.  “What did you just do?”

He’s still grinning.  I fucking *hate* it when he grins!  “Well, see, the Bry’ath have quite a mother complex going on.”

“You insulted it’s mother?!”

“Not exactly.  Actually, I told it *you* insulted it’s mother.”

Gah... Urg... “Why?!?”

“Because,” 

Oh, right. Evil vampire.  And, hey, so that’s what an enraged Bry’ath demon looks like when it’s charging.

Well... shit.

*****

Ow.  Owowowowowowowowow.  OW.  Owwwahhh.  Okay, this is a good position.  Laying on my bed, pillows all propped up in just the right way.  Remote control in one hand, painkillers in the other, and copious amounts of liniment rubbed on various places.

Stupid, damn, stupid, fucking, son of a stupid bitch vampire.  Oh, sure, ‘It was just a bit of a lark, pet.  I just thought we could all work off some tension, pet.  Do you think your ribs are cracked, or just bruised, *pet*.’

OW!

I didn’t know you could actually bother muscles by just emoting, but then again when have I ever...

What was that?  It sounded like.

There’s a soft click as the bedroom door opens.

I can feel my entire face light up.  “You’re home!”

“Hey!”  Xander grins at me.  Now, I love it when Xander grins.  “I didn’t think you’d still be up.”  He moves over to the bed and leans in for a kiss.  “And, why do you smell like an old person’s home?”

“Long story.”  I reach up and bring him back to me.  I just need to feel him right now.  Taste him.  Touch him.  Not that I was actually worried about him being away, or anything.  Nope.  Not me.

“Mmmm.  If this is what I get when I come back, maybe I should go away more often.”

I pull him down on the bed, and Owowow... fuck it.  I’ll live with the pain.  “Don’t even think about it.  So... how was the trip, and... seeing... everybody?”

“Well, I’m back home at almost four a. m.  That alone should tell you something.”

“Didn’t have much fun, huh?”

“I don't know?  Does watching an entire evening of the tense, painful, angst filled drama that is any Buffy and Angel meeting sound like fun?”

“Uh, no.”

“Then, no.  Although, it was kind of neat to see Cordy again.  And even Wes wasn’t that bad.  Oh, and the new guy they have working with them, Gunn, yeah, he’s pretty cool.”

“Oh... good.  So, neat.  It was neat.” 

“Yeah.  You know,”  Xan looks at me with way too innocent eyes.  “She wants to meet you.”

She does?!  “She does?!  Is that a good thing?”  Oh, well, at least she’s not the ex who’s a convicted murderer... I mean, I don’t think Xander had more than one of those, right?

“I haven’t decided yet.  But, she did say we could stay with her, you know, if we wanted to.” Xander leans in and starts to nuzzle my neck.  He murmurs something that... I can’t quite...

“Wait, *what* did you just say about her roommate?!”

********

the end


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