Leading a Horse to Water

Xander quickly changed into some fresh clothes from a duffle bag he'd stashed in the back of Oz's Van before quickly switching places with Oz so he could change himself.

"So, how long have we been gone," Oz asked as he pulled a fresh shirt on over his head.

"About two months," Xander replied.

"Ouch. I can't imagine Anya taking your being gone for that long well."

"Actually, she kinda did - she broke up with me."

"That's taking it well?"

"Well, as in, no veiny-vengeance. She said I wasn't selfish enough for her."

"Not selfish enough?" Oz repeated, finding Anya's reasoning more than a bit confusing.

"Yep, she said that part of being human was being selfish; but I was far too unselfish for her needs. According to her, the kind of guy she wants was someone who was selfish enough to want to make a lot of money to provide for his children which she wouldn't hold it against me because I was probably going to die to make the world safe for whatever children she had."

"Ouch."

"Nah, it really wasn't all that bad and the eight hours of break up sex was surprisingly good."

"Eight hours? I'm surprised you were able to walk, much less track me down the next day."

"The wolf doesn't give you a huge boost?"

"Four hours max, and even then he sleeps through the full moon afterwards. The spirit may be willing..."

"But the flesh is spongey and bruised," Xander finished with a grin.

"So your wolflike adventure left you with godlike stamina?"

"No... Well, not entirely. There was also the swim team incident, and you know those emails you always get?"

"I don't smoke and I'm very secure about my breast size," Oz replied.

Xander snickered. "Well I was laughing at one of them that claimed outrageous things when Anya saw it and said she knew of a demon that could actually deliver."

"You sold your soul to become John Holmes?" Oz guessed.

"No way! I wouldn't sell my soul to become John Holmes. Ron Jeremy… maybe. Anyway I still have my soul. I had to pay him in cheese."

"Cheese?"

"Yes, cheese. I bought out two deli's and had to sacrifice an uncooked egg."

"That's all? Some cheese and an uncooked egg?"

"Well the summoning requires an egg, a small bit of wood, and 7ccs of mouse blood. And he charges 150 pounds of assorted cheeses for the complete enhancement package."

Oz remained quiet for a moment. "You don't happen to remember..."

"I have everything written down, including the price of various packages in case I had some guy friend who was interested. I'll give you a copy later."

"Thanks, not that it's needed..."

"Say no more; remember I bought a hundred and fifty pounds of cheese here."

Oz nodded and they both fell into a companionable silence that lasted until they pulled into the UC Sunnydale parking lot.

Getting out of the van they were both surprised to find an equally surprised Angel climbing out of a black Cadillac.

"What're you two doing here?" Angel asked.

"We live here," Oz replied.

"In the area anyway," Xander muttered, "and didn't you move?"

"Yeah but," Angel began only to be interrupted by Wesley, who'd gotten out of the car where he'd been quietly reading a heavy tome.

"There's a prophecy," he announced without even raising his eyes from what he was reading.

Xander groaned. "What is it?"

"The many eyed face of R'hale shall quail and fall at the sight of the child of the ever hungry something in the Dale of the Sun."

"We figure ever hungry could mean vampires," Angel explained, "Dale of the Sun would be Sunnydale."

"Could mean werewolf," Oz offered.

Xander's stomach growled. "Could mean my stomach. Let's cover all the bases and go as a group."

Angel sighed but didn't disagree. "I hope you brought your own weapons, I didn't bring any extras."

"I got a spare sword I can loan you," Xander told Oz as he climbed back into the van, digging into his duffle bag and returning with a pair of short swords and a piece of paper.

Oz examined the paper with interest, before folding it up and putting it in his wallet.

Wesley finally looked up from his book and winced. "Mr Harris, how did you ever manage to sneak up on anything wearing shirts like that?"

Xander looked down at the nearly fluorescent Hawaiian shirt he was wearing. "I only wear my Hawaiian shirts when I either run out of clean laundry or I'm playing bait. Besides I happen to like this one, it's called Taiwanese Sunset."

Whatever Wesley was going to respond with was forgotten as screams rent the night air.

"Buffy was going to meet us in the park!" Angel exclaimed, before the group took to their heels and sprinted to the small park across from the student parking section.

The four quickly came upon the source of the screams in the center of the small park.

Willow and Tara were hiding behind Giles as Dawn and Buffy hid behind Spike and Riley.

The reason for their screams was equally apparent; R'hale didn't just have many eyes... He also had a lot of tentacles.

Quite frankly Xander was glad none of them were Japanese schoolgirls.

Upon sighting the four the massive demon lord let off a scream that wasn't that far removed from that of the girls and curled up into a ball withdrawing all its questing tentacles and compressing itself further and further, shrinking from something the size of a bus, until in defiance of scientific law it shrank from sight.

"Well that was different," Xander remarked, dropping his sword and catching a brunette projectile that wrapped herself around him and didn't look like she'd be letting him go any time soon.

Xander rubbed her back and whispered soothing things into her ear as everyone got reacquainted.

Willow had hugged Oz and was talking too fast for anyone, even Xander to translate.

Angel and Riley were glaring at each other while Spike just seemed really amused.

Giles and Wesley were quickly absorbed in rechecking the translation of the prophecy in the tome Wesley still carried.

Buffy started to go check on her sister, since Angel and Riley seemed content to glare at each other for the moment when Tara touched her arm to get her attention.

"She's fine."

"But she's shaking!" Buffy protested.

"It's mostly exaggerated, look at her," Tara ordered softly.

"But," Buffy began before she saw the smile on her sister's face and the way Xander was holding her cradled to his chest as he stroked her back.

Xander called out "Guys I'm taking Dawn out for some ice cream to sooth her nerves before we head home."

Buffy looked like she might object, but Tara squeezed her arm and she calmed down and waved her off as Dawn grabbed Xander's hand and dragged him off toward the nearest ice cream place.

Giles retrieved Xander's dropped sword saying, "Well, we've deciphered the prophecy."

"It was Angel wasn't it?" Buffy asked.

"It sounded more like Oz's presence is what did it," Willow protested, "after all Spike is a vampire and it didn't react to him."

"Spike doesn't have a soul," Buffy pointed out.

"It was neither of them," Giles began only to have both girls interrupt, "It was Wesley?!"

"Let me read the proper translation," Wesley said, "Son of the ever hungry hound 'in a veil of the sun'. Veil as in clothing…"

"Didn't Xander say his shirt was called Taiwanese Sunset?" Angel asked.

"So droopy saved us?" Spike asked looking shocked.

"Well, his shirt did anyway. A Scooby wearing the colors of the sun," Wesley summed up.

"Should we tell him?" Buffy asked.

"Nah, he hates prophecies," Willow decided.

"How long has Xander been dating Dawn?" Buffy asked, surprising everyone but Spike.

"Bit got her claws in him the first Sunday he came back to check on everyone," Spike said with a grin.

"He's been back?!" Buffy and Willow chorused again.

"Yeah, every Sunday and Wednesday he'd only stay for a couple of hours to make sure everything was fine here before heading back to wherever he and Wolfy were staying at, but Little Bit slowly lulled him into a false sense of security and monopolized his time. Joyce has been giving her tips. The last couple of weeks he'd head straight for the shower and as soon as he was out, Dawn would have him twisted around her little finger and taking her out to eat."

"But he's three years older than her!" Buffy complained. Everyone just stared at her until what she'd said finally sunk in. "Ok, big old hypocrite here."

"He doesn't realize they're dating yet," Spike said with a smirk.

"Oh come on!" Willow complained, "How can you not know you're dating someone? I mean, you get together to do things, you go out to eat, you cuddle up and watch movies, you have an emotional connection..." Willow's voice trailed off for a moment. "Tara, are we dating?"

Tara blushed and stuttered out an answer, "Y-yeah, k-kinda."

"Ummmm..." Willow said unable to think of anything to respond with while blushing profusely.

Oz decided to break the awkward silence, "Legally, as her girlfriend, it is now your responsibility to go shopping with her and watch chick flicks."

"I- I can do that," Tara offered with a shy smile that Willow and Oz both felt themselves returning.

"Hey you got cured!" Buffy announced after noticing the full moon and Oz's lack of extra body hair.

"I found control," Oz corrected her, holding up an arm while slowly changing it back and forth.

"What are you?" Riley asked suspiciously.

"A musician," Oz replied seriously, responding with what he considered the most important aspect of himself.

"And all musicians grow claws and hair?"

"Only eighties hair bands and the ones bitten by werewolves," Oz replied, "or had sex with them. Lycanthropy is sexually transmitted."

"So we're all three going to end up furry?" Tara asked as Willow turned bright red, realizing Tara had just admitted her sexual interest in her.

"Yep. So you'll have to do a lot of navel gazing in the next couple of years. So you'll be ready when it happens," Oz explained.

"But it only took you two months!" Willow pointed out.

"Yeah, but it was one of the most difficult things I've ever been through. I don't want you two to have to go through that," Oz said fervently, "and Xander went through the entire thing with me to help."

"So how did you gain control?" Giles asked.

"Xander took me to a shaman and I had to work on it constantly with little sleep for the entire time. That's all I'm allowed to say. I promised to keep the rest secret unless someone else needed help, but enough navel gazing beforehand will avoid having to go through it."

"Thats..." Riley trailed off for a moment, "Good I guess."

"There are advantages to being a werewolf, for instance I can tell who's in a relationship with who, which helps cut down on surprises and I can read emotions almost as well as someone who's an aura reader."

"Reading auras does help me a lot when I want to know if someone is a good person," Tara chimed in.

"Life in Sunnydale is always surprising," Riley said, still a bit shocked from everything he'd learned that night.

"This is nothing. We could probably pile on crazy things until you go insane. The life of a Slayerette is fraught with confusion and peril," Buffy grumbled.

Spike snorted. "You take things far too seriously, Slayer."

"How can you not take saving the world seriously?!" Buffy practically growled.

"Because it isn't really at stake most of the time."

"We go through world ending events at least once a year," Giles pointed out.

"Yeah and I'm not saying you don't, but at the same time I'm saying that even if you failed it wouldn't be the end of the world."

"I think I speak for everyone when I say, huh?" Riley said unintentionally copying one of the absent Xander's favorite lines.

"Listen, do you really believe that all of these end of the world events just happen here? Or that they didn't start until you lot all got here?" Spike asked.

"We do get the occasional report from the Council about events that have occurred that could have quite possibly caused the end of days, stopped by either independents or Council teams so it's not just here and now," Wesley agreed.

"Quite right. I have read of quite a few accounts myself," Giles added.

"Yeah, exactly my point and do you truly believe that with all of this going on around the world that no one has dropped the ball before? Or come up just a bit short in the final accounting?"

Everyone was shocked into silence.

"So we do all this for nothing? All the pain and the deaths..." Buffy trailed off, her eyes looking a little wild.

"No!" Spike glared at her, barely restraining himself from shifting into game face. "It is never for nothing! For some reason, everyone expects life to be sunshine and puppies, but it has never been that way and it never will be. Life has always been joy and pain, evil and good..."

"Chunky and creamy," Giles interrupted before clearing his throat as everyone stared at him. "Sorry, please continue."

Spike snickered and lit a cigarette. "You are not the last line of defense, you're the first. The champions of the powers that be are there to inspire others, because life isn't about winning, it's about the fight."

"So we haven't really saved the world?" Buffy asked, confused.

"If you catch a baby before it falls out a window and it turns out there was someone on a ladder ready to catch him if he fell, does that mean you haven't saved him?" Spike asked.

"Well, no..." Buffy admitted.

"Then there you go. You guys have saved the world, but even if you had failed the world wouldn't have ended. Of course you'd be dead along with all your friends and who knows how many of the walking bloodbags in this city."

"Was there a point to all of this?!" Buffy demanded.

"Yeah, stop thinking it's all about you and how doomed you are because you're the slayer. Every single vampire you meet was someone who has had it worse than you. They fought and they died without any of the perks of being the Slayer. Every last one of them, and more than likely they didn't see it coming or have friends that fought beside them."

"Anything else?" Buffy asked, clearly irritated at being told she didn't deserve any pity for being the Slayer.

"Yeah that blouse doesn't go with those pants at all!" Spike sneered.

Buffy growled, clearly restraining herself from committing violence upon the person who had been protecting her sister from a fate worse than death just a little while ago. Finally she simply stormed off.

Spike turned to Riley. "This is where you go after her, remind her that the walking corpse has no fashion sense and reap the benefits of being her boyfriend. If she says anything about her hiding behind you tonight, just remember it's a trap. Remind her that usually you're behind her and that as your boyfriend it's your job to keep other willies away from her. Compliment her a lot, reassure her that she's a good person and it's just that being the Slayer isn't all that bad, but she couldn't have known that before tonight. Shoo!"

Riley quickly took off after Buffy, leaving everyone else staring at Spike.

"What?" he asked, obviously playing dumb.

"What was all that about?" Giles asked.

"Doing a favor for Joyce. She said Buffy was wound way too tight. Now she'll have angry sex with her boytoy and think about what I've said when she's relaxing and realize I'm right. She's always been a bit tense, but ever since Joyce became a Slayer she's been close to cracking. Joyce asked me to fix the problem, so I did."

"How does pissing off Buffy factor into that?" Angel asked, trying to distract himself from the fact Buffy would be having sex with someone who wasn't him shortly.

"Well I needed to make her actually think about what I said. Best way to make a woman think about something is to piss her off. If I'd just told her, she'd shrug it off as being unimportant. But piss her off and she'll dissect every word I said to figure out every last mistake I made so she can nail me for them later," Spike said smugly.

"And insulting her clothes?" Willow asked.

"Gives her something I'm obviously wrong about so she can feel superior and count it as a win against me. It also lets Captain Cornbread score some points in her playbook. Sex and some deep thoughts and she'll be almost as good as she was before she became the Slayer."

"And you did all of this out of the goodness of your heart?" Wesley enquired skeptically.

"Hell no! I did all this because Joyce asked me to. Let me ask you this, how many people here would willingly disappoint her?"

There came a chorus of agreement from everyone there, not a one of them would willingly disappoint Joyce, much less piss her off and that was before she became a Slayer.

"Well, I'd love to stay and chat… actually that's a lie, goodbye."

Everyone watched Spike leave.

"Well at least he hasn't changed any, I was almost worried for a moment there," Giles remarked, idly cleaning his glasses.

"I think I missed something, somewhere..." Oz remarked, wondering why Spike was getting along with everyone "And Joyce is a Slayer?!"