The phone rang. And again. On the third, it was picked up.

"What?" asked the drowsy voice.

"Sorry, did I wake you?"

"Yes, Buffy, you woke me. Go away."

"Wait, Dawn, I have a question to ask you."

There was silence.

"Fine. Make it quick."

"What's shiny mean?"

Dawn was instantly awake.



"Did you talk to Xander?"


"Did he tell you to tell me that?"


Buffy could almost hear her sister's smile growing on the other end of the phone. "Bring coffee," the young girl said before hanging up.

Buffy was confused, but curious enough to comply. She slipped on her coat, grabbed the keys to one of the smaller cars and headed off for a coffee shop, and then the local college campus.

She was met at the door to Dawn's residence hall by Ethan.

"Come on," he said. His eyes were bloodshot and had bags under them, but Buffy was pleased to note he was fully dressed and smelled nothing like sex. Buffy followed the young man, who really did look an awful lot like Xander, and soon came to Dawn's room.

She found Dawn hunched over a notebook filled with various scribblings. Conspicuous by their placement by her desk were a couple of large, unopened boxes.

"Okay," Dawn said. "This is what we need to do. I've got a list of people we'll need to involve, and items we'll need for this whole thing to work."

"Whoa, whoa, Dawn," Buffy said. "What are you talking about?"

"Xander said it's shiny, right? So we need to get working."

"I don't even know what shiny means," Buffy said. "And anyway, I don't even know who his 'right girl' is yet."

"He didn't tell you?" Dawn asked, confused.

"I was talking to him on behalf of a girl, and he said to tell you who it was, and I said what if you didn't believe me, and he said to tell you it was shiny."

"Oh, that loser!" Dawn yelled, her face turning red. "I'm so going to kick his ass."

Ethan was by her side in an instant, stroking her arm and saying something into her ear so quietly that Buffy couldn't hear it. After a few seconds, Dawn had calmed down significantly.

"Sorry," she said to her sister, while taking Ethan's hand in her own. "It's just, shiny usually means everything's a go. I thought he was finally taking the initiative on this whole thing, and I was excited, because they really would look cute together."

"When did you and Xander develop your own language?" Buffy asked, wondering how much over her sister's life she had missed out on.

"It's not a language," Dawn said. "It's to protect me in case something happens. Somebody claims to be... from him, or something, I'm not really sure. And anyway, it was Ethan's idea. But it came to mean, just..."

Buffy smiled at her sister's boyfriend, who looked away, shyly.

"Okay," Dawn said, having calmed down. "So, who was this girl who sent you to feel out Xander?"

Buffy told her. The grin came back.

* * * * *

Xander woke up very slowly. Something was not quite right, and he couldn't quite figure out what. He rolled over and was greeted by the sight of breasts. Pointy, bulbous, plastic breasts from an anatomically correct blow- up doll.

"Ha, ha," he said to himself. "Very funny, Buffy. Guess I was right."

Xander slipped out of bed, after shoving the doll to the floor, and slipped on a t-shirt and some gym shorts before heading down to the kitchen, where he found Amanda and Rona eating cereal.

"Hey, girls," he said.

"Hi, Xander," they replied. Xander grabbed a bowl, his favorite cereal, and the milk, and sat down across the table from them. He mixed his ingredients and dove into his cereal without further thought.

Rona and Vi giggled. Xander looked up at the quizzically, and they only giggled more. It was then that he noticed the writing on their shirts.

"Whuzzat say?" he asked. Rona stood up and stretched out her shirt for him to see. It read 'I'm Cool With Stupid.' Xander shook his head, and looked at Amanda's shirt, which read 'Stupid is Pretty Nice.'

"This some kind of a theme?" he asked.

"Oh, we just picked these up," Rona said.

Xander shook his head and went back to his cereal. When he finished, he dumped the bowl in the sink.

"Oh yeah," Rona said as Xander was leaving the room. "Dawn's here. She was looking for you earlier. Looked pissed. And Faith said something about a broken... something. I think she's in the gym."

Xander groaned and slammed his head against the wall. "Okay," he said. "Thanks."

Rona nodded, and Xander left the two giggling girls to themselves and headed for the gym, to deal with Faith before Dawn. He found the raven- haired beauty teaching a couple of the new recruits a few steps.

"Hey," he called.

Faith turned at his call, blocking a kick with her forearm as she turned. "Hey," she said, jogging over to Xander. He was plainly looking at her chest. "Eyes up here buster," she said with a smile. "Those ain't for you."

"Huh?" he asked, looking her in the face. "Oh. No, I was reading your shirt."

"Yeah, that's what they all say." She winked at him. "What do you think?"

Xander read the shirt again. "'I've Got Stupid's Back,'" he read. "I'm seeing a pattern in shirts today."

"Yeah, weird, ain't it? I saw that too. Anyway, I was wondering if you could take a look at my headboard. I think I heard it crack."

Xander shook his head. "Made up with Robin?"

"Hell yeah," she said. "Makin' up's the best part."

Xander sighed. "I'll be happy to take a look at it, but change your sheets first?"

"Already done," she said.

"Okay. I'll try to get to it today."

"Oh, B was looking for you," Faith said, as she walked back towards her students. "Think she went to see Jeeves."

"Thanks," Xander said. "Seems everybody's looking for me this morning."

"Hey, you're a popular guy, ace. Catch ya later."

Xander padded through the house, looking at the girls' shirts. A bunch of them were watching TV. Kennedy wore a shirt that said 'Stupid Saved My Life.' Vi wore a shirt that said 'I Want to Sleep With Stupid.' The newer girls, those who he didn't yet know, were dressed as normal. Xander shook his head and continued on. Giggling followed him out the room.

As he was about to knock on the door to Giles' office, he saw Andrew coming down the stairs wearing a shirt that said 'Stupid is My Friend.'

"Andrew!" Xander yelled, motioning for the young nerd to come over to him.

"Yes?" Andrew asked, clearly nervous. "What is... going on?"

"You tell me. What's with all the shirts?" he asked.

"Shirts?" Andrew asked, innocently. His act failed completely.

"Andrew," Xander said, a warning tone in his voice. The young man sighed, and cast his eyes down to the floor.

"Xander," he said, looking up. "I'm not going to lie to you."

Andrew nodded and skipped off towards the kitchen, leaving Xander alone in the foyer.

"What is with these people today?" he muttered aloud.

"What's with today, today?"

Xander turned and saw Ethan standing in the door to Giles' office.

"Oh, hey, Ethan. Empire Records."

"Very good."

"That's an easy one," Xander said, shrugging. "Do you have any idea what's going on here?"

The young man smiled. "They're waiting for you," he said, tilting his head towards Giles' office.

"Who?" Xander asked.

Ethan just grinned, turned around and walked back into Giles' office. The back of his shirt said 'I am Not Stupid!' Xander followed him into the room, where Buffy, Dawn and Giles were sitting and drinking tea. Ethan sat next to Dawn, who clasped his hand and kissed him on the cheek.

"Ah, Xander, I'm glad you've arrived," Giles said. Xander looked, jaw agape at the older man, who was wearing a t-shirt that read 'Stupid is Like My Son.' "We have important business to discuss."

"Giles, what the hell is going on?" he asked. "Has everybody in this house gone completely nuts?"

"I don't know what you mean," Giles said, brow creased. Xander looked over at the sisters, and saw Dawn wearing a shirt that read 'Stupid Loves Me.' Buffy wore a sweater.

"Buff. Thank God. You're not insane. What the hell is going on? Everybody's wearing these... Stupid shirts!"

"They're not stupid, Xander," said the petite blonde, looking at her sister.

"Can somebody please tell me what the hell is going on?" Xander asked, loudly.

"Hey, guys." Xander turned and saw Robin come into the office. "Sorry I'm late, I had a couple of errands to run. Is everything ready for the meeting?"

"Yes, it is," Giles said. "Xander could you – Xander?"

The young man was too busy staring at Robin's shirt, which read 'I Respect Stupid.'

"I think it's a bit hot in here, Giles," Robin said. "Xander seems flushed."

"I agree," Buffy said, drawing Xander's attention. She removed her sweater to reveal a shirt that read 'Stupid is My Best Friend.'

"Okay, that's it," Xander said. "You are all crazy people. I have to get out of here."

Xander ran out the door and took the stairs to his room two at a time. He rushed inside and decided a shower would clear his head. He grabbed a towel and headed into his bathroom. He tossed his towel onto the rack, and went to turn the water on, very hot. As he passed the mirror over his sink, he noticed writing on his forehead. Taking a moment to decrypt the message, Xander finally got the joke.

"Stupid," he read, the word written backwards on his forehead.


"Just a second!" he yelled. Xander scrubbed at his forehead with a sponge and some hot water.

"Xander, can I come in?"

He recognized the voice as Willow's, and shut the water off, both in the sink and the shower.

"Will..." he called through the door. "I... no. I can't take this right now, okay?"

"Xander, please come out," she said, her voice gentle, but pleading.

"Will... this... damn word won't come off," he said, slumping down against the door. "It's stuck."

"No, it's not," she said. "And, it was for a good cause."

Her voice was right on the other side of the door, at the same level as his head.

"Yeah," he said. "Telling me I'm stupid."

"That was Dawnie's idea," Willow said. "And from what I've seen, there were lots of other messages in there as well."

"Yeah," he said. "I just... why permanent marker?"

"Xander, please come out," she said. "I really need for you to come out."

Xander closed his eyes. "Okay," he said. "But only because it's you."

Xander stood, opened the door and stepped into his room. And he froze. Willow stood there, in front of him, an adorable grin on her face, the one he loved so much, but his eyes were unable to leave her shirt.

"Xander?" she asked, sounding a little worried.

His brown eyes slowly dragged up to her deep green ones. His eyes asked hers a question. She nodded. Xander's eyes slowly went back down to her shirt, where he read the words again. 'I'm In Love With Stupid' it said.

"Really?" he asked, his eyes watering. "Because... because that's a thing that... that you can't just say. You can't just say something like that and then not mean it, and you can't take it back, there is not taking back a statement like that, and –"

"Sometimes, when you're falling to pieces," she said, reaching up to touch his lips, "your mouth, it just does the sweetest thing."

Xander looked up into her eyes, which were tearing up as he watched. "Oh, God, Willow I hoped it was true. I wished... I know I shouldn't have, but last night I wished..."

"I think somebody heard you," she said, stroking his face with her fingers.

Xander ran his hands through her hair. "I still don't know how to get this off my forehead," he said.

"Let's see if I can help," she said. Willow leaned up and kissed Xander tenderly on his lips, a kiss he returned quickly and forcefully. Xander felt a tingling on his forehead, but refused to break the kiss first. When eventually they had to come up for air, Willow inspected his forehead. "There. All better."


Willow nodded. "Best kind. Cured with a kiss."

"But will it stay gone?" he asked.

Willow frowned and considered the spot where the words had been.

"Better go for another dose," she said. "Just to be sure."

Xander grinned and dove in for another kiss. Willow pulled away just as he reached her lips, and he looked at her, confused. She muttered a few words, and suddenly all sound from outside of the room vanished from his senses. Xander raised an eyebrow, questioningly.

"Well," she said. "You're not stupid anymore."

"And?" he asked, still not sure what she was doing.

Willow smiled. "And... that means my shirt is wrong."

Xander grinned.

And outside of his room, a confused Slayer and Key were wondering where all of the sound went.


The End