"I need to use the little girl's room," Buffy said. "What's closest?"
"Employee restroom, second door to the left," Xander said, waving to the hall behind the counter.
"Be right back," Buffy said.
Kennedy waited until the door had closed behind Buffy before speaking, "We didn't actually grab any clothes from the faceless horror, just shoes, jewelry, and the occasional purse, and while I wouldn't mind Buffy walking around like that, I doubt she'd go for it."
Willow got a thoughtful look on her face, clearly picturing the scene in her head and then tried really hard to pretend she hadn't heard it and hadn't just been picturing her best friend naked.
"We could mug another one, but grab the skirt and blouse as well," Dawn offered, amused at Willow's response.
"Knock her out before she has a chance to pop out the wings and the blouse won't get damaged," Xander agreed.
"Plus they are really easy to find and have decent taste in clothes," Dawn added. "For a faceless horror they rate pretty high in the useful resource category."
"Do you think she was missing anything else?" Kennedy asked.
"How do you mean?" Dawn replied.
"I mean, do you think she's like a mannequin down there?" Kennedy asked, pointing at her crotch.
"I hadn't thought of that," Xander admitted, "but if she was, they'd still be called faceless horrors 'cause crotch-less horrors doesn't sound nearly as scary."
"There's probably something in the council archives about it," Willow decided.
"There isn't," Xander replied.
"Why are you so sure?" Kennedy demanded, his cocky erm… confident manner rubbing her the wrong way as she forced her eyes to not dip down below his mini-skirt again.
"Because I regularly consult with Sam when he and Janice make sure I have the latest council wish list," Xander replied with a fond smile at the annoyed Slayer.
"You were in charge of hiring," Willow recalled as she put a couple more pieces together.
"And making sure they had what they needed to do their job properly," Dawn added. "Which I'm guessing you never stopped doing."
"Making sure Slayers have what they need is my job," Xander said, reaching down to scratch himself.
Kennedy stiffened and turned away. "Selfless jackass," she muttered, making Xander grin.
"Do you have to scratch like that?" Willow asked with an exasperated groan.
"Yes, yes I do," Xander said cheerfully. "It's just too convenient not to."
"How do you afford the books without the council's accounts?" Dawn asked curiously.
"I steal a lot of them," Xander replied. "The kind of stuff we need is often in the hands of people I don't like and things I would cheerfully kill, so cost is literally not a problem in most cases."
"And anything you can't get that way you can just drop word to the council about and they can send Buffy to buy it," Dawn said.
"If we'd asked any of the people you'd hired we could have found you in a day," Willow realized.
"Not all of them," Xander disagreed. "Just the ones I can help or I ask for help from or those that are part of our Slayer mailing list. The list is just basically anecdotes, tips, and a lot of bad jokes, and there are a couple of people who wander in and try and make song lyrics that fit the anecdotes, but mostly tips and jokes."
"Who all are part of the mailing list?" Dawn asked.
Xander opened his mouth and then closed it again. "Um… everyone I hired, all the Slayers I got to join the council, and a good chunk of the Sisterhood…" he admitted.
Buffy stormed out of the hall, naked and carrying a stack of clothes that she thrust at Xander. "Here!"
"What?" Xander asked accepting the clothes.
"Buffy!" Willow exclaimed. "Why are you naked?!"
"Because Xander rushed into the bathroom, thrust these clothes at me, demanded the clothes I was wearing in trade and said I had to come out here and hand them to him immediately because we were in a time-loop!" Buffy complained. "I didn't even get a chance to get dressed!"
"Put them on," Xander said with a sigh, holding the clothes out for Buffy to take.
"What about the time-loop?" Buffy said, not accepting them back.
"If I rushed off to hand these to you in exchange for the men's clothes you were wearing, then where did they come from in the first place?" he said, keeping his eyes glued to Buffy's.
"So… what just happened?" Buffy asked, accepting the clothes.
"Time-loop's don't create objects that exist only in Loops!" Willow realized.
"So… not a time-loop?" Buffy asked confused.
"Probably not," Xander said. "I'm guessing Solstice heard the talk about me talking her version of you out of clothes and you worrying about it and decided to see what it was like."
"I'm going to go get dressed," a red-faced Buffy said, backing out of the room with the clothes in front of her.
"I thought she only did female avatars unless she switched everyone's gender," Willow said.
"Normally she doesn't," Xander agreed. "So why…"
Buffy came out of the hall dressed in the men's clothes she'd worn into the bathroom.
"Why are you wearing those?" Kennedy asked.
"What, you expected me to walk out here naked?" Buffy asked confused.
"Did you come out here a minute ago carrying a stack of clothes?" Dawn asked.
"No," Buffy said, giving her a strange look.
"What's so funny?" Buffy demanded.
"We were just discussing how we'd accept your decision to go nudist, wearing just shoes and a purse, when – " Xander began.
"What?!" Buffy interrupted. "Is that what you guys talk about when I'm not here?"
"All the time," Dawn deadpanned.
"No!" Willow exclaimed. "We didn't, it just came up in conversation about crotch-less horrors!"
"Crotch-less horrors?" Buffy asked, making a face.
"Let me talk," Xander interrupted firmly. "Solstice is in a good mood, so she came out naked and tried to hand me a stack of clothes for you, but we thought she was you and sent her off to get dressed."
"That makes a lot more sense than a time-loop," Willow said.
"I'm confused," Buffy admitted, "and I'm not sure any explanation is going to make sense of what you guys are saying."
Xander chuckled. "We never stole the clothes off the faceless horrors, so dressing you in what we did steal would have left you just wearing shoes and carrying a purse. Faceless horrors may be missing other bits, but since we didn't strip them of clothes we don't know and the council library doesn't have an answer, I've checked."
"Xander is part of a mailing list that encompasses at least a quarter of the council, any one of whom could have told us where he was, but we didn't ask," Dawn interjected.
"He's still procuring books for the council, he's just not paying for them," Willow added.
"We all have no problem with you walking around naked, but we don't want you uncomfortable, so we are perfectly willing to jump another faceless horror and strip them naked this time," Xander said.
Buffy smiled broadly. "Thanks guys!"
"Solstice made us think a time-looping Xander went to the bathroom and swapped clothes with you," Kennedy said, not wanting to be left out. "But there were holes in her story so she-you was sent off to get dressed and then you-you came out here and everything got even more confusing."
"But rest assured if you want to go naked, we'll support you," Xander assured her solemnly.
"Xander…" Willow complained.
"You don't think it should be her choice?" Kennedy asked, sounding surprised.
"Well, yeah, but…" Willow trailed off unsure what to say. "Do what makes you comfortable," she finally said.
"Okay," Buffy drawled out. "Well… I'm not big on nudity, but thanks?"
"Let's just go change so Xander will cover up," Willow said with a sigh.
"Do you own a kilt?" Dawn asked Xander as they followed him to the elevator.
"Yes, but I don't have any of them with me," Xander replied.
"There is a big difference between a kilt and a spandex mini, three sizes too small," Buffy said. "Though I will admit you have nice legs."
"Thanks," Xander said, waving everyone into the elevator.
"The legs are nice, but it's the easy access option I like best," Dawn said. "It makes it easier to be spontaneous too."
"I never considered that," Xander admitted, "but that's another big plus for wearing a kilt."
"I've missed conversations like this," Buffy said with a big smile as the elevator doors opened, disgorging the gang.
"About spontaneous sex with Xander?" Kennedy asked, surprised.
"Yes," Dawn deadpanned once more, but unable to keep a straight face as the Scoobs shared a quick laugh.
"Just off the cuff strange conversation that made Giles clean his glasses," Buffy explained. "For every one we deliberately planned out to annoy him at least three came out of nowhere."
"Everyone remember your room, and Buffy follow Dawn," Xander reminded them as he opened the door to his own. "Back in five and don't wander off or crawl under any furniture."
Everyone turned to stare at him.
"Don't ask, just don't do it," he ordered before vanishing into his room, closing the door behind himself.
"Not going to ask," Buffy decided.
Xander raised an eyebrow at Buffy's shirt, as she'd borrowed clothes from Dawn but was still wearing the men's undershirt from the twenties.
"It's comfortable," Buffy defended.
"And prevents me from talking you out of your clothes?" Xander guessed.
"What?" Kennedy asked.
"As long as Buffy is wearing that shirt, Xander wouldn't try and get her naked to pass the clothes to Buffy," Dawn explained.
"Ah, right," Kennedy said. "Forgot about that."
"We're all dressed, tell us about the penetrating Buffy story!" Dawn ordered as they followed Xander.
"Do you have to put it that way?!" Buffy complained.
"Yes, yes I do," Dawn said cheerfully.
"We could call it 'The foot fetish Buffy' story," Kennedy offered.
"Or 'A quest for filthy footwear," Willow added.
"I'll take that one!" Buffy exclaimed quickly.
"Fine, then let us begin 'The tale of Buffy Summers and the uncomfortable shoe," Xander said. "I woke up and was in the mood for some ice cream, so I slipped out of bed, sliding a pillow into Solstice's arms because she gets grabby in her sleep."
"What form was she in?" Dawn asked.
"A female me," Xander replied.
"Is that incest or masturbation?" Kennedy asked.
"We've already had that conversation," Willow told her. "If it's the same consciousness in both bodies, and yes time turners count, then it is masturbation, but if it's a completely separate person it's incest."
"I must have missed that one," Dawn said, "but that neatly clarifies matters."
"That female me was a young teen, so no sex, just cuddling," Xander said. "Anyway, I put on some footwear and a robe and took a shortcut to a time when the freezer was packed with gourmet ice cream."
"You are showing me that route!" Buffy ordered firmly, while giving Xander her best pleading look.
"Sis, demand or beg, don't do both at once, it's confusing," Dawn complained.
Buffy shrugged. "I learned the technique from Xander, blame him."
"This is why it takes forever to tell any of our stories," Xander noted with a smile, enjoying spending time just hanging out with his friends. "So I get to the kitchen and there's Buffy, naked, covered in blood, carrying my severed head in her left hand and an axe in her right."
"Holy crap!" Kennedy exploded. "That must have been horrifying!"
"Kinda," Xander agreed thoughtfully. "You know how your mind will pick out odd details to focus on in surprising situations?"
"Yeah," Buffy said curiously.
"Well, I'm pretty sure this Xander and Buffy were from the seventies," Xander said.
"I know I'm going to regret asking this," Buffy said, visibly bracing herself, "but… why?"
"My head had the classic seventies hippie mullet and that Buffy had long hair with flowers woven into it and did not shave… anywhere!" Xander explained.
"How not shaved are we talking here?" Buffy asked, looking like she wasn't sure if she wanted an answer or not.
"It looked like she had a midget in a leg lock," Xander said. "There was more hair between her legs than on top of my head."
"Anyway, she sees me and gets into a wide legged stance, pulling back the axe while getting ready to block with my severed head," Xander explained. "So… I kicked her right between the uprights."
All the girls winced and clenched their thighs in sympathy, making Xander grin, pleased to be on the other side for once.
"You were just wearing a robe," Dawn pointed out. "So… slippers? I mean, I can't see you putting on work boots to get a snack."
"True," Xander agreed. "At the time, I didn't know better so I wasn't wearing boots."
"Thank god," Buffy said with a relieved sigh.
"I was wearing a pair of handmade Italian shoes that an old school cobbler made for me personally after I saved his grand-daughters life," Xander explained. "He actually made molds of my feet so he could ensure the leather was the exact right shape when it dried."
"That's what you wore to get ice cream?" Buffy asked incredulously.
"Most comfortable footwear I've ever owned," Xander said with a wistful sigh.
"Don't have them anymore?" Buffy asked sympathetically.
"Oh, I still have them," Xander assured her. "But… I'm pretty sure they're cursed now. Not from kicking hippie-you in the crotch, well… probably not, but from the sheer amount of blood I've waded through and demon gore they've soaked up. I know how to take care of my stuff, which is why I often have to get rid of things because of bad mojo clinging to them, rather than stains or damage."
"And we just replace everything too often to let any bad vibes soak in," Willow realized.
"Plus, guys don't really change fashion all that much," Xander admitted.
"So, if they're cursed, why haven't you gotten rid of them?" Buffy asked. "Wow, it feels like sacrilege to even suggest that."
Xander grinned. "Stained blood red and voices whispering about killing everyone around you or not, when the head of an Italian family gives you a gift, you do not throw it out."
The girls stared at Xander in shock until Willow snickered.
"What?" Xander asked.
"Xander, only you would have ruby red slippers from your fairy godfather," Willow said.
Xander grinned and then got a thoughtful look on his face.
"I know that look," Buffy said. "It precedes explosions and or screams. What are you thinking?!" Buffy demanded.
"Do we really want to know?" Kennedy asked cautiously.
"Probably not, but we probably need to." Dawn admitted.
Willow rolled her eyes. "Like it's that hard to figure out."
"I don't think any of them were with us for the blue suede shoes discussion," Xander pointed out.
"Oh," Willow said. "Yeah, that would make it hard to guess."
Kennedy sighed. "At least I'm not the only one in the dark this time."
"Nope, right there with you," Buffy agreed.
"You'll like this one," Xander promised. "If Dorothy's ruby slippers took you home when you tapped the heels together three times, where would Elvis' blue suede shoes take you?"
"Vegas," Kennedy and Buffy chorused.
"Graceland," Dawn and Willow answered.
"Forgot about that," Buffy admitted. "Yeah, Graceland sounds about right."
"So, what were you thinking?" Kennedy asked. "When this all started out I mean."
"Where would he go if he tapped the heels of his cursed shoes together," Willow answered.
"A man with a lot of blood on his hands makes you a pair of shoes you've waded through rivers of blood in," Buffy said. "I vote not finding out where they'd take you."
"Yeah, we already know where they've been," Dawn snarked.
"Hey!" Buffy complained.
Typing By – Sitheus Maximus