DISCLAIMER: The characters in this story are the property Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and FOX.
SPOILERS: Everything up to "The Gift"
"Anya, you should be home resting."
"Now, Xander. It will only be a few days before I can get out of this chair. Much as I adore the idea of you waiting on me hand and foot, I'm a modern woman, now, and a modern woman works!"
"I think Giles is more than willing to let you have the time off."
"Xander, I have to make sure everything is in order. With those watcher creeps having Giles deported, I'll be running the place soon."
"I can't believe them! Buffy is barely cold in the ground,a nd they pull this."
"Men can be very petty when they're thwarted."
"Let's not make this a battle of the sexes. I met a female watcher once, and she was pretty creepy."
"Probably, the result of having to claw her way up in a male-dominated system."
"Why do I do this myself! I can't win! Am I doomed to be the only guy in the group? First my best friend gets turned into a vampire"
"You still blame me for that?"
"I was referrring to Jesse, not Willow."
"Never mind. Next I finally get on civil terms with Oz and he leaves. I thought Riley had plenty of buddy potential. Then he reenlists and ships out."
"I wonder if he's still paying vampires to drain him. You know that's a tough habit to break. I remember one particular case where I was summoned by a woman who's husband was hopelessly addicted."
"I know I'm going to hate myself for asking, but what happened?"
"Oh she made a really stupid wish. She wished that he would be turned into a vampire."
"Sounds like a bad idea to me."
"Well, he turned her into a vampire and they lived happily ever after at least untl they ran into a slayer. They even invited me to their 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration. It was nice to take a day off. But unfortunately, most vampires don't realize all demons don't like everything blood flavored. "
"Anyway, I was saying .that with Giles being shipped out of the country. I'll be the lone male in the group."
"Not exactly best buddy material. Anyway, Oz called me today."
"He'd heard about Buffy. He wanted to come and pay his respects but wanted to make sure he didn't run into Willow or Tara. I invited him over for Dinner."
"Oh, now it comes out. You don't want me here earning money. You want me slaving over a hot stove."
"No. I'm taking care of dinner. I bought a meat package today. We're having steaks! The beefy kind. Not the wooden kind."
"Well you can cook them on the New Foreman Grill I got."
"Xander, if you use that cheap smoky indoor grill again, we'll be evicted. It's only 5 easy payments, and it will cut down on our fat intake."
"Are you on that health kick again?"
"Most kids my age, my apparent age, think they're going to live forever. I know living forever. We need take care of ourselves. Anyway you'll love it . You know how you get when you have a toy."
"Did you get the offer with the free bread machine?"
"Yes, but we only get it after the Grill's paid for. I guess I need to get home to change if I'm going to play hostess. You should have given me more notice if you were expecting me to entertain."
"Hey, this is Oz. He's Mr. Casual. I'm sure anything too fancy would offend him. He wouldn't say anything, but he'd be offended. What you're wearing now will just be fine. Besides he wasn't familiar with our apartment building, so he's going to meet us here. Seems he came here lots of times with Willow back when Mr. Bogarty owned the place."
"You're really looking forward to 't you?"
"Yeah. It'll be like old times. I mean things have changed so much, so fast. I actually feel guilty that I'm doing so well. From the sound of it, I think Oz could do with a little socialization.
"Is the wolf going to be a problem? I mean that's very freaky. I never heard of any thing like that outside the show with the green muscle guy. And this is the first night of the full moon."
"Hey Oz is control guy now. With Willow out of town there should be no problem."
"I thought Willow's witch friend went to L. A. to bring Willow home. I remember her saying it was taking too long just to relay a message."
"I don't know what's going on there. Maybe Willow needs a break. I mean Buffy's death has been tough on all of us. But Willow's the best friend now. I was just the hanger on."
"This upsets you?"
"I guess it's a moot point now. But the first time Buffy 'died', I was able to save her. Pretty much single-handedly. I mean Deadboy was all caught in defeatism. I practically had to force him to help."
"That's because you were too stupid to understand the significance of the prophecy."
"Well being stupid worked for me then, I guess. Have I gotten too smart?"
"I don't think so, Xander."
"I'm not sure if that's an insult or a compliment. It's just that I did so much less this time."
"I'm sure the wrecking ball helped."
"Yeah, the wrecking ball. Still, it seems like I did less than I used to. That I'm way past Zeppo and am now in Gummo territory."
"Give it a rest, Xander. Things change. Trust me, as someone who's been around 1000 years. And though I don't think I'd have said this 3 years ago, but change isn't always bad."
"Why Thank you, Anya!"
"Actually, I was thinking of the shop."
"And I'm learning that comic misidirection thing," Anya smiled at Xander. "You know where you're expected to say something, so you say something else so it will be funny."
"I guess I'm rubbing off on you," Xander said stroking Anya's chin.
"Oh Xander, I love it when you rub off on me."
"Ahem," Xander and Anya turned to face Willow. "I don't believe it you two are still together."
"You've been gone what? 2 weeks. You really think our relationship Is that shallow? That flimsy?" Anya stared at Willow's clothiing. "What's with the get up?"
"Oh it's just something I picked up in my travels."
"In L. A.? You obviously didn't have Cordelia shop with you. She has taste."
"Oh yeah, I forget. Not only are you an ex-demon, You're a former Cordette, Not that there's that much difference."
"Hey!" protested Xander.
"What? I'm not allowed to make comments on your relationship? You called Angel, 'Deadboy". You made comments about flea collars and rabies shots about Oz. Now your dating someone who's like 4 times as old as Angel, you don't like getting a taste of your own medicine."
"Okay, Will, you made your point. Is Tara with you?"
"Umm no, she's not."
"You have a fight?" asked Xander.
"No, she wanted to stay in L. A. to do some shopping."
"Why can't she spend her money here?" asked Anya.
"There are things in L. A., you can't get in a small town like Sunnydale."
"Hey, since Giles hired me. I've made sure that I keep a well-stocked store. We have everything a spellcaster needs. Except the really, really, dangerous stuff. You know the stuff that no shopkeeper should sell if she wants to enjoy a long life. Tara isn't hunting up something really dangerous, is she."
"Oh, I don't think so. You know, she's doing clothing shopping."
"She has even less fashion sense than you! Oh, I get it. I remember some stores in L. A. that sell some real interesting items. She's probably picking out a few nice surprises. Think she's getting any nice Toys?"
"Well, I guess it's a good to get your Christmas shopping done early and beat the Holiday rush. I'm sure Tara has all sorts of young relatives at home."
"Young children?" Anya asked. "Oh, I didn't mean that kind of toy."
'Well, what other kind of toy is there?" Then it dawned on Willow. Oh! I don't really concern myself with Tara's sex life."
Xander dropped his soda bottle. "Xander, don't get soda all over the floor. What do you mean you don't concern yourself with Tara's sex-life. You mean you don't care who she sleeps with?"
"Well, she's a grown woman and in college. She can make her own decisions."
Xander seemed at a loss for words at once. But not Anya. "Wait a minute. You're telling me you two have an open relationship? Because I've seen enough failed relationships to know they don't work. Otherwise I'd let Xander fulfill his fantasies while I experimented with Spike"
"Hey!" exclaimed Xander.
"OK, as visually scary as that is, what do you mean Open relationship? I think you have some mistaken impression about my relationship with uh, Tara. You make it sound like were sleeping together or something."
"You mean you're not having sex?"
"Don't tell me you're buying into that 'witches are lesbians' stereotype too? You should know better. I mean everyone here knows I'm not gay. If I was I never would have smooched with Xander and nearly destroyed my relationship with Oz."
"Oh this is another one of those April Fool's Day type Holidays. Isn't it Xander?" Xander was apparently stupefied. "Oh come on, you can't fool me. You say you're gay more than Tom Cruise says he's straight."
"I don't see how that could be possible. Tell her, Xander."
"Willow, you sure haven't fiddled with any memory spells or anything."
"No, Xander my memory's fine." Willow added softly as if speaking to herself. "It couldn't be."
Just then Spike strutted in. "Look, the prodigal has returned."
All eyes turned to his companion.
"Oz!" declared Xander.
"Xander, quick hide the breakables!" ordered Anya.
END PART 4
"Hello, Oz. You feeling calm and mellow?" asked Anya as she produced a tranquilizer gun from behind the counter and handed it to Xander.
"Yeah. I'm good," replied Oz.
"Where's Giles?" asked Willow.
"He'll be here later. He's still packing."
"Packing? Is he going on a trip?"
"The council is having him deported, you know that."
"The Watcher's Council? Why?"
"Because the bloody Slayer's dead, the Council wants things their way."
"But Buffy and Giles haven't been affiliated with the Council for a long time."
"Alright, who are you really?" asked Spike threateningly. Oz moved to protect Willow.
"What are you talking about?"
'The real Willow knows that Giles was reinstated as Watcher."
"She pointed out that without an active slayer, the Watcher's Council was bloody useless, and that she had all the negotiating power."
"Wow! That sure sounds like Buffy! I hope she really let them have it."
"Now, who are you?" Spike asked gripping her wrists.
"Don't touch her," said Oz in a low but firm voice producing a cross.
"She smells sort of human," said Spike backing away from the cross "But there's a subtle difference. You won't harm her. I won't let you harm the Key."
Oz was flabbergasted. A lot had changed. "I know there's a difference," replied Oz. "One that I should have noticed the last time I was here."
"You were here? In Sunnydale? " asked Willow. "But that's impossible! I was supposed to be informed if you came back."
"OK, I'm lost here," commented Xander. "Wait a minute! Toth! Somebody split Willow."
"Split?" asked Willow.
"I don't think so, Xander," commented Anya. "She doesn't seem to be missing memories. You're from another dimension, aren't you?"
"No," said Willow touching Oz's cross, "Not a vampire. See."
"I didn't say you were a vampire. I mean the vampire you had an entirely different sense. There are a lot of different worlds. Do you have shrimp where you come from?"
"Oh Good. Because the World without Shrimp is one of the worst places to be. Second only to the World of Nothing but Bunnies."
"Anya. That's ridiculous," said Willow. "How could a world only have Bunnies. What would they eat."
"They eat each other." said Anya with a shudder. Xander was finally realizing the source of his girlfriend's inexplicable phobia. "You'd think that would keep their numbers down. But no, they breed so quickly. They're quick and ruthless and they hunt in packs. One poor brave soul tried to introduce vegetation to their world. He did succeed in growing a variety of carrot before the rabbit hordes got him, but that only wound up giving them better eyesight."
"Anya, calm down.:" said Xander massaging Anya in her wheelchair. "The Bunnies can't get you here." Then he started whispering in her ear.
"Gee, Harris. I can't believe those phone sex people fired you," commented Spike.
"Hey!" shouted Xander. "Mind your own business."
"You were talking dirty to Anya in front of us?" asked Willow.
"It relaxes her, OK. It's not like I expect vampires with super sensitive hearing to listen in."
"What? We vampires have sensitive hearing. It's a survival trait. I can't just turn it off. How would I defend myself if attacked?"
"Uh huh. And you don't get cheap thrills from listening in."
"Nah, I've heard better."
"What do you mean better?" asked Anya.
"Wait a minute," asked Willow. "Weren't you trying to determine if I'm an impostor?"
"You're just trying to change the subject,:" declared Anya. "It always has to be about you, doesn't it?"
"Let's say I'd rather be accused of plotting to do horrible things to my friends than listen to that."
"They don't eat vampires, do they?" Spike asked.
"What?" asked more than person."
"Those blasted cannibalistic bunnies. They wouldn't eat a vampire, right?"
"Oh they'll eat anything with flesh and bone. They're like piranhas with fur."
"OK. OK. I'll talk. And I thought I knew how to interrogate people. I should add something like this to my interrogation technique except I think it would be banned under the constitution."
"Alright, spill," said Spike. "These bunnies they're demon Bunnies, right. My chip would let me fight them, right?"
The question was directed at Anya. But Willow couldn't resist responding. "Well, actually Spike. As disturbing as it sounds, It's theoretically possible that the rabbits evolved that way due to natural selection. Given the limited dietary choices, rabbits that would have survived would have been the ones that best adapted to their environment. If your chip, wouldn't allow you to hurt an ordinary earth bunny., it's possible you wouldn't be able to hurt this carnivorous version. Of course the only way to be sure would be to expose you to one of the species and see how the chip reacts."
Spike drew on his cigarette and exhaled. He paused as if he was thinking about it. He then said in a quiet voice "No. I don't think so." Then in a much louder voice, he said, "Now. who bloody hell are you?"
"OK, I'll spill. But first let me say that something must have gone horribly wrong. Because I never meant for this to happen."
"For what to happen?" asked Spike.
Just then someone entered the shop. Willow turned around to see who. "Buffy! Oh my god!" Willow fainted.
END PART 5