Author's Note: If you haven't read Methos' fabulous "Tales From the Barman" yet, you need to. This plot bunny grabbed my ankle at the time, but the story was closed (too large) before I could pry its jaws off my leg. To sum up, post-Chosen, Xander has a bar in Cleveland called "Nights." Think Callahan's Cross-time Saloon with an extra side of Cowboy Feng's Spacebar and Grille and you'll be in the ballpark. Any- and everybody can and does drop in, tell a story, and give Xander a memento to display on his wall.

Xander was studiously not thinking that it was a quiet evening in Nights; he'd jinxed himself often enough with that. Buffy was in, with a group of mini-slayers, studiously not celebrating Buffy's birthday. He smiled slightly at the sight of his friend laughing – actually laughing – and was glad once again that he and his friend had mended their fences. As he turned back to the bar, he heard, "I'LL HAVE WHAT THEY'RE HAVING."

"Sure, I'll just -" His hand was halfway to the correct bottle before he realized that he hadn't so much heard the voice as somehow absorbed it. His smile melted away like a very, very melty thing. He turned very slowly, as if his subconscious wanted to give his Oh-God-I-hope-it's-a-hallucination plenty of time to disappear.

No such luck. He took a quick inventory. Fixed grinning expression? Check. Excessively thin (one might even say "bony") fingers in a death grip around a certain agricultural implement? Check. Voice with depth, resonance, and gravitas to make James Earl Jones weep with envy? Check. All wrapped up in a tall, imposing figure in black robe that no one else seemed to see? Check. Sometimes it seriously sucked wet dog fur to be "The One Who Sees."

No. No, no, no, not here. Not in my bar. Not on her birthday...

"Say," he began, with an insouciance he didn't feel (and since when did he even know the word insouciance, anyway, let alone fake it on his face? Giles must be rubbing off on him), "I don't suppose you would spot me a 9 and a 1 on a 9-1-1 call?"

"WHAT IS THAT? NO, XANDER HARRIS, I HAVE NOT COME FOR YOUR FRIEND." Death paused and, if anything, looked somewhat annoyed. "AGAIN." Shaking his head, he grumbled, "AS IF THE DUTY WERE NOT ONEROUS ENOUGH, THERE ARE THOSE WHO SIMPLY WILL NOT..."

Xander's jaw dropped slightly at the sound of that Basso Profundo of all Basso Profundos trying to mutter under his breath. It made him think of a T Rex attempting to crawl into his lap, meowing like a kitten.

The tectonic plate activity that was Death's voice ceased after a moment, and he appeared to shake himself from his irritation.

"NO, THIS IS A 'SOCIAL CALL', I BELIEVE YOU CALL IT. ONE PROFESSIONAL TO ANOTHER." Buffy chose that moment to glance their way and, for a moment, her gaze landed on Death, instead of sliding off as the other patrons' did. There was a look of almost recognition in her eyes. And then a comment from a mini-slayer caught her attention and she turned back as if she had seen nothing.

Relief welled up in Xander like the wellspring of all relieve-y goodness.

"STILL, ALL THINGS THAT LIVE, DIE, ALEXANDER LAVELLE HARRIS." And the well shriveled down into a trickle as he saw Death pull a small hourglass from his robe.

It was dark wood, like the bar, and its glass had bubbles and streaks in it like the windows. And it wasn't his name written there, but rather it said "Nights" in a sort of Olde Englishe script.

"FOR YOUR COLLECTION," said Death, and offered him the lifetimer.

Xander took it carefully and set it on his shelf, near the sword of a man who had once called himself Death, and turned back to the genuine article.

"Well, then, what can I get you?" he asked.