To all who reviewed the first chapter: WOW! I wasn't expecting so many responses ^_^. (Blows kisses and hands out chocolate chip cyber cookies.) A few notes: there is a reason Mira is so advanced in her speech, which will be explained in upcoming chapters, so I won't be aging her up any. To the reviewer who asked for a hetero pairing with Dawn: I actually haven't thought about whether or not I want to pair Dawn with anyone. Is there a particular pretty vampire or yummy shifter you had in mind?
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or worlds of BTVS/ATS and Anita Blake. The creators of these worlds have far more talent and money than I do.
Warnings: SLASH. Also known as GUY-ON-GUY sex and WOMAN-ON-WOMAN sex. I don't know how much plainer I can make it, and this warning will remain for the entire story, just to be safe. Eh, mentions of past abuse and general foul language. The warnings will change for each chapter - it depends on who I'm writing about. After all *authoress pauses to smirk and lick her lips* does anyone think sex with Asher would be very vanilla? For this chapter, there is a mild spoiler for "Blood Noir." You could read what I mention on the summary of the book's jacket, so it doesn't really give away any plot, but I thought I'd better mention it here anyway.
Chapter 2: Getting Settled
The taxi ride to the penthouse apartment Willow had rented for them was uneventful, which was probably a record for the Scoobies. Of course, it was still daylight, though not for long. In the mailbox downstairs (the penthouse was on the second floor) were several packages. Willow snagged them and flipped through the mail that accompanied them. "This one's for you, and this one's for you," she said, passing out packages and papers accordingly as they climbed the stairs.
Dawn took hers and started ripping the package open. "What is all this?"
"It's the ID I arranged for all of us. Driver's license, social security numbers, bank accounts, the whole bit, since we'll be here so long. Xander, I did manage to get a driver's license for you, but it's provisional and has to be renewed every six months due to your eye. It was the best I could do."
Xander gave Willow a quick hug. "Didja get me a car, too?"
Willow wrinkled her nose at him. "I bought three cars - one for Dawnie to drive to and from school, one for me, and one for you. I did NOT buy sports cars - your driver's license won't allow you to drive them, and they're really hard on gas. The prices here are ridiculous compared to our Earth."
Xander gave Willow a mock-pout, then kissed her on the cheek affectionately. "You are a lovely woman, Ms. Rosenburg."
"Yes, I know," she answered. "By the by, Mira's papers say that her parents are deceased and that you, a dear friend of theirs, were left custody in their will."
Xander glanced down soberly at the sleeping child in his arms. "That's close enough to the real thing, I guess." The three Scoobies were quiet for a moment as they remembered how Mira came into their lives: pain and deep-seated guilt flared in Xander's eyes, loneliness and sorrow in Dawn's, and quiet but full-out sadness in Willow's.
"Enough moping," Dawn said, breaking the silence. She glanced around the penthouse pointedly. "Wills, this place is kinda bare."
Willow cleared her throat. "Ah, yes. It came with a sofa, curtains, a fully-outfitted kitchen with silverware and pots and pans... and not much else. I thought we could have fun decorating it and buying furniture and stuff."
Dawn glanced at the sofa, which was an obnoxious yellowish-brown color. "We're getting a new sofa." She glanced at the curtains, which matched the sofa. "And new curtains."
"Okay," Willow said with a smile.
"I have no problem going shopping ladies, but where are we getting all this money from again?" Xander wanted to know. "I'm not exactly rich-o boy here, even with the money from the insurance from Sunnydale. I'd rather not be penniless after this shopping spree."
Willow gave Xander an exasperated look. "You do know you've gotten paid for all the hours you've put in ever since Giles finally managed to get into the bank accounts of the old Council, right?"
"Huh?" was Xander's bewildered reply.
Willow rolled her eyes. "Giles set up yearly salaries for us, and you've barely touched your bank account in over a year and a half since you spent most of that roaming the wilds of Africa. Behold the wonders of compound interest in a high-content account. You've got money, Xander, more than you'll probably need for the next several years. I'll print out an accounting statement for you when I get my computer set up." Of the four of them, Willow had lugged the most suitcases and boxes with her to St. Louis.
"So I'm rich?" Xander summarized.
Willow sighed. "Yes, Xander, compared to what you were stuck with before in Sunnydale with the many Dead-End Jobs of Doom, you are very rich."
"Wahoo!" Xander put Mira in Willow's arms, grabbed Dawn, and started dancing through the mostly empty penthouse. "I'm rich, I'm rich!"
Xander exuberant shouts and Dawn's laughter woke Mira. "'re we there yet?" she asked groggily.
Willow smiled down at her. "Yep."
"'Kay," Mira said, and went back to sleep, snuggling closer to the witch. Willow's expression matched the sappy one Xander'd had earlier, and she mimicked him as well when she pressed a kiss to the top of Mira's head.
"Guys," she called to her fellow Scoobies. Xander and Dawn reappeared, Xander leading Dawn in quite a nice waltz. Momentarily diverted, Willow said, "I didn't know you could waltz, Xander."
Xander's expression showed a quiet sadness for a moment. "Anya made me learn, that and the tango. She thought they were sexy." It had been three years since Sunnydale had become a sinkhole. Xander had come to terms with his ex-fiance's, and then nearly-fiance-again's death, but he still missed her, and probably always would. Africa had helped him; a spirit visit from Anya herself in a dream, who told him to get off his ass and stop moping, did the rest.
Willow blinked, then got back on the subject. "A lot of the stores around here stay open really late to cater to the vampire population." She glanced pointedly at the nearest window, which showed that the sun had set, and ignored Xander's scowl. "We'll go shopping for the important furniture - beds, sofas, dressers, nightstands, etc. - tonight, and stop for a quick run of vital supplies - bathroom stuff and food - on the way back. We'll have to use sleeping bags for a couple of nights, probably, until the stuff is delivered. Xander, while we're shopping, if we run into vampires, BEHAVE. This isn't our world, and we can't play by our rules. That means no stakes."
Xander narrowed his eye at her, then grinned a slow, evil grin that Willow didn't like the look of at all. "I'm driving us."
(Insert page break/pause thingie here. Authoress comments: I always imagine elevator music playing whenever I come across these for some reason.)
Anita Blake, infamous Executioner, Bolverk, Nimir-Ra, and necromancer, stared at five extremely innocent-looking faces. "Oh, I'm going to enjoy hearing this one, I can just tell."
"Ma petite, whatever do you mean?" Jean-Claude asked. He, Asher, and Jason had shown up at Anita's home shortly after sunset. Nathaniel had let them in, and he and Micah had talked with the visitors until Anita had gotten home from a police investigation that turned out to be a bust as far as she was concerned. The perp was a normal human that had tried to make the killing preternatural-looking. She'd actually caught the moron on the scene, and on the whole was disgusted by the idiocy allowed to flourish in certain parts of the human gene pool.
Anita narrowed her eyes at him. "You're plotting. Don't try to tell me you aren't, you never look that innocent unless you're plotting something you think I'm going to say no to." She gestured at the others. "And you've roped them into helping you."
Micah said mildly, "Jean Claude hasn't 'roped' us into anything, Anita. Are you busy tonight?"
The fact that Micah never made assumptions about where Anita was going to be at any given time, instead ASKING her, normally pleased her, but now it just made her more suspicious. "Why?" she asked, matching Micah's mild tone.
Now Nathaniel spoke up. "You've been meaning to get a bigger bed for a while, right?" Anita's bed was full-size, but didn't always easily accommodate multiple occupants when the pard wanted to cuddle. There were bigger sizes to be had by special order, Anita just hadn't gotten around to it.
Anita's eyes narrowed further. "Yes," she said, drawing the word out slowly.
"I have been meaning to redecorate my bedroom," Jean Claude said sweetly, and Anita began to see where this was going.
"I'm moving to a bigger room at the Circus, so I need some new furniture, too," Jason spoke up. "Jean Claude's paying, since it's for me being his pomme de sang, so he gets input."
Anita looked at Asher, who offered her a small smile. "I wish to look for a few new decorations as well."
Micah spoke. "I've been meaning to look for some new lamps for the living room." An impromtu fight between two of the leopards had smashed the single lamp in the room previously.
Anita stared at the five men. "You...want to go furniture shopping."
Anita pressed her fingertips to her temples for a moment, and sighed. "If there's some big undercover plot behind this, I don't want to know about it after dealing with the dregs of stupidity all day. I'm going to shower. Decide who's going to drive." She climbed the stairs to her shower, wondering if she was growing soft - or just growing tired.
Downstairs, the men stared at each other in some surprise. Jason, of course, had to say it. "That was too easy." Nathaniel and Micah both smacked him upside the head. "Ow! What was that for?" The vampires shook their heads at the werewolf's naivety.
"Mon loupe - what is the expression?" Asher asked Micah, stopping in the middle of scolding Jason to ask the question.
"Looking a gift horse in the mouth," Micah answered ruefully, and Asher and Jean Claude nodded in agreement.
"Oui. Do not question the good fortune of ma petite's consent," Jean Claude said.
Jason opened his mouth, then thought about what Anita had recently done for him - flying down to his old home, meeting his damned father, for chrissake. "You're right," he murmured.
A few minutes later, Anita reappeared, her still-damp hair pulled into a braid that semi-controlled the riotous curls. Anita had stopped cutting her hair in order to keep Micah from cutting his; Micah's now hung beneath his shoulders blades when loose, and Anita's braid fell down past her butt. "Who's driving?"
Jason pasted the most innocent expression he could muster on his face. "I don't mind," he said sweetly.
Anita stared at him, then turned to the others. "Seriously, who's driving?"
Authoress comment: Here's a question for all of you out there. What do you think would happen if Xander and Jason were left alone together to plot for an hour or so? If I like an answer, I may stick it in the story with appropriate accrediting. I just KNOW those two have the potential for huge trouble together...