Giles' vision was blurring when the clock struck seven, and he removed his glasses and looked up to see Anya standing in front of the cash register, watching him.
"Anya, what are you still doing here?"
"I want to be a good employee, like you and Xander have been telling me I should. I've even been reading a book on impressing your boss, called Succeed in Spite of Your Boss, and it says I should be here before you get in, and stay until after you leave."
"Anya," Giles said slowly, casting about for something to say, "Er, you are, um, a good- I mean, an excellent worker, and-I, um, treasure-er, value your contribution. You don't need to-"
"I also bought another book for you." Anya walked to him and put down a slender volume she had been holding out of sight. "It's about how to be a better boss, maybe you can read it too. I paid nineteen ninety-five. You can reimburse me if you want."
"Leading With Compassion," Giles read. He riffled through the pages, nodding approvingly. "Yes, yes, it looks good. I'll read it."
"With tax it was twenty-one fifty-five."
Giles smiled wanly. "But I didn't ask you to purchase this, Anya."
Anya took a step backward. "Maybe you didn't read the 'compassion' part of the title."
Giles winced. "Fine," he said. "You can reimburse yourself from the till."
Anya smiled cheekily. "Already did. I knew you would get the message. Well, it'll be dark in about an hour. I'll run along."
She picked up her purse and headed for the door.
"Sorry you had to stay so late," Giles called.
"That's okay. I'm not having sex with Xander while he's a girl, so what's to go home to anyway?"
Giles slipped his glasses back on. "Quite right," he agreed quietly.
He marked his place in his book and set it behind the counter. Might as well head home now. While he was locking the front door outside, a young man dressed in a suit walked up to him.
"Excuse me, are you closing?" His voice was pleasant and manly, and Giles surveyed his appearance. He was tall and square-jawed, with close-cropped, black curly hair and an engaging smile.
"Yes, I'm afraid we're closed now. Closed at six, actually."
"Well, that's a shame," the man said, rubbing his palms together with nervous energy. He smiled and cocked his brows self-deprecatingly, and held out his hand. "I'll have to swing by tomorrow a little earlier, Miss, hmm - ?"
Without conscious thought Giles took the proffered hand and shook it. "Mister," he corrected. Then, "No-it's Missus-er, no!"
The man's expression turned wryly amused. "You having a little trouble deciding? We could continue this later."
The sensation of the man's hand had Giles flustered. It was suddenly important to get this right. "Miss! You were right, I am a miss."
The man tactfully disengaged his hand. "Thank you, I'm good at guessing games. I think I draw the line at guessing your name, though."
"Giles! No, no, it's not Giles. Ah, you must take me for an idiot."
"No, but I would like to take you for coffee."
A thrill ran up Giles' spine, and he shook it off. "I'm sorry," he told the man.
"No coffee, then how about dinner?"
"Oh, no. I mean I'm sorry about my manner. My name is Gil-I mean, I'm Julie Andr-oh, bugger it!"
"We can get decaf," the man suggested helpfully.
"Dinner would be lovely," Giles managed to say. "My name is Hermione …"
"Hermione … I'll let you know the rest when I can recall it."
"Wonderful." The young man held out an arm and Giles obligingly took it.
What in God's name are you doing Giles? He's a man, a handsome man, and you're a woman! Aw damn! I mean I'm a woman. I'm a woman! No, it's the opposite. A man, a man damn you, you silly bitch.
His inner struggle remained unreadable on his face, and the young man regarded him contentedly and said, "My name is James. James Garner. Did anyone ever tell you that you look just like Julie Andrews?"
Angel and Buddy walked in the gathering darkness, skirting the gravestones and listening for anything telltale to guide them to newly birthed vampires.
"We don't make a lot," Angel was saying. "And we have some overhead, but there's lots of money in L.A., so we'll do okay. I have a lot of savings, anyway. And I've sold a few antiques … they were new to me when I bought them. I can't believe so much time has passed, there's so many things that've turned antique."
"That's an advantage," Buddy replied. "I don't get much cash, Mom has to buy me everything. I'm always wishing I could help out."
"Buffy, what you do is huge. You keep the world safe."
Buddy closed his eyes and nodded tiredly. "I know, I know, but Mom is always hustling the next buck. Her health hasn't been so great. The strain…" he trailed off.
Angel had heard it all already. He sniffed the air.
"'Ello, sports fans." Spike appeared from the foliage, wearing her signature black longcoat. She twisted her hair playfully with her fingers. "I hear you're looking for a vampire or two?"
Angel's scowl bordered just north of vamping. "Our first kill of the night," he threatened.
Spike looked shocked. "Is that any way to treat a lady? I liked it much better when you were buying me a drink and trying to pry open my chastity belt."
"You were what?"
"Don't listen to her," Angel spat. "I mean him." He took a step toward Spike, who retreated and put her hands up defensively.
"Come on, Angel, knock it off."
Angel looked at Buddy, shrugged, and flicked his fingers contemptuously at the blonde vampire.
"Your appearance finally matches your interior, after all these years, Willie."
Spike said cattily, "You see? He always knew I was beautiful."
"Were you really attracted to him?" Buddy demanded.
Angel held up his hands defensively, gargling a revolted denial. "Wha-well, look, I didn't know-he came up and asked for a drink."
"Don't worry Buffy, I'm just for you."
"What?" Angel turned on Buddy accusingly.
Buddy gave Spike a look. "Keep it up, Spike, it'll get you nowhere. He thinks," she told Angel, "that he's so appealing, now he's a woman. He rubs everyone like a cat. It's really just … sad."
Spike opened her mouth to retort.
"If you want to patrol with us," Buddy said hurriedly, "you'll shut up and follow along. Otherwise, crawl back under your rock."
Spike fell silent. She tossed her hair back and pursed her lips decisively.
"We good? Okay." Buddy rolled his eyes and led the two vampires along the path, wishing fervently that neither one was there to complicate a simple patrol.
Anya dialed Buffy's number and talked with Joyce. Xander wasn't there, and she hadn't seen him all day. Fine, she thought, I'll call Willow. Willow answered and told her about Xander crashing their little dinner party.
"I'm sorry," Anya told Willow. "I know he can be such a pig."
The line was silent, and Anya looked at the receiver to see if it might have broken. "That's okay," Willow said finally. "Just call his place."
"Okay," Anya said, and hung up. She didn't mention that she had already called several times. The voicemail came on immediately each time, meaning he had his phone turned off. She contemplated going over there, but the thought of seeing her boyfriend all pretty and petite made her want to gag.
She thought of Willow though, with his strong and handsome, Colin Farrell features. It was too bad Xander wasn't more … bohemian, so she could convince Willow to have sex while she was in the man's body. Oh well, this is the way regular people are, she told herself.
She went to her refrigerator and pulled out a slab of Dorchester cheese. Holding it up to her face, she breathed deeply its lovely, sour aroma. Mmm, she thought, you're almost perfect.
Ready to compromise with imperfection, she sliced a nice wedge and munched the cheese slowly. Xander is like this cheese. He's not perfect, but he's pretty darned good.
It occurred to her that Xander might miss her. Even though he disgusted her, she would still be irresistible to him. She hadn't changed
I've been selfish, she decided. Xander was probably playing the hermit because he knew he was hideous. After brushing her teeth and swilling mouthwash to get the cheese off her breath, she changed into a sexy combo and left for Xander's basement. The prospect of his basement made her feel ill, but her magnanimous selflessness allowed her to overlook it.
The basement door was locked, so Anya used her key. Xander didn't know she had it. She had pressed his key against a slab of cold brie and had a felon she knew make a copy. This was her first time seeing if it worked.
It did. She let herself in, flicked on the light, and screamed.
Tara was in bed with her Megan Fox-lookalike Xander.
"Sick," she shrieked, looking for something to throw. She threw her keys, and they ducked as it hit the wall behind them. "You two are perverts. Look at you, Tara. With a man? I thought you were a lesbian."
Tara looked back at her shamefacedly. "I-I am, Anya."
Xander said "Look, honey, I-"
"No terms of endearment, mister." She switched off the lights and stepped out, slamming the door. "Ooh," she graveled, "I should change him into a troll."
Instead, she began to run.