by Symphonyflute
Rating: none given
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Disclaimer: I'd never claim to own the movie, and I can't claim to own the show
Author's Notes: I'm sorry there's not much sneezing I always have trouble putting it in.

It was the twenty third of March, 18 days after Xander left me at the alter, at 3:42 in the afternoon when Willow walked through the doors of the Magic Box. She had Tara with her, that's her lesbian lover, and they were talking very intently like they do when there's a new demon or big-bad vampire or something.

"Is there a new demon?" I asked them. I think they were surprised to see me, which is weird considering it's my place of employment, because they kind of jumped when I spoke.

"Oh, hi Anya," Willow said, and Tara waved at me. "We're not sure yet. There were these slain wild animals down the road, and we're thinking there may be something hell-mouthy going on."

I found that odd. "Just because some animals are dead doesn't mean it's a demon," I told them. "They could have died of natural causes. Or another animal could have killed them. Animals tend to do that."

"Do they behead and pull out all the internal organs?" Tara asked.

She had a point there. "So what are we going to do?" I asked.

Willow shrugged. "I don't know. We're having a Scooby meeting later. It'll be the whole shebang-Tara, you, me, Xander, Buffy, Giles, Spike, books, doughnuts." Xander? They were planning to bring Xander into my store? Didn't they know that he wasn't welcome here? Well, obviously they didn't, or they wouldn't have mentioned it. That sucks, cause I really don't want him here. Maybe I should mention that I'm a vengeance demon again. Then they won't want to bring him here. Oh, but wait; maybe they won't want to come here anymore either. Maybe Giles would fire me and I'd have no more source of income.

Okay, I had my crutch for handling Xander. Every time he made me mad, I'd think of money.

* * *

Willow told me they'd all be here at closing time, and I was locking up. That meant they'd be here any minute.

"Could it be a vampire?" That was Buffy. If she was here, it meant everyone was. The witches, the librarian, the vampire, the ass. No, I couldn't let myself think like that. Money, think money. I can do this.

I finished locking up and headed to the back room. They were all there, having come in through the back door like they always do for Scooby meetings and to take my merchandise without paying.

"It can't be a vampire," Giles told them, rubbing his eyes like he does when he's frustrated. "Vampires primarily feed on humans and even when they do feed on animals they don't decapitate them and remove their internal organs."

"Maybe it's like a snack for them," Buffy argued, "like they need blood to live but lungs are just so dan tasty."

"And they're afraid they'll get caught taking them from humans," Tara added.

"No no no," Giles shook his head vehemently, "vampires aren't afraid of anything."

"Then it's a new demon," I told them.

Buffy looked at me surprised. "When did you get here?" she asked.

"I work here," I informed her. Duh.

"The obvious solution is a demon," Willow told me, "but we're trying to cover all bases."

"What bases?" I asked, getting tired of standing in the doorway and sitting in the only seat left-next to Xander, of course. "it has to be a demon, there's nothing else to consider."

"Just in case though," Willow pressed, "Xander, you've been quiet. What do you think?"

"I think it's really cold in here," he told her, then turned his head away from the table and sneezed. "hihshoo."

"Bless you," Tara piped up from across the table.

"Thank you Tara. And what do I think? I think it could be some cult thing. You know, some creepy guys who do animal sacrifices to big bads?"

"See Anya," Willow looked over at me, "another base."

"A demon is still the best possibility though," Xander added, "Anya was right."

"I don't need you to stand up for me," I told him. think of money, think of money.

He didn't answer, just sneezed again, louder then last time. "Ich'HISSH!"

"Um, bl-bless you," Giles stuttered like her does when something startles him out of his train of thought. "Are you coming down with something"

"Um, no. What would give you that idea?" he replied, his ears turning red. Willow and Buffy raised their eyebrows to each other and then him in a classic nonbelieving expression. "Fine, maybe I'm coming down with a little something, but it's really nothing."

"It's either nothing or something, it can't be both," Buffy told him. "Which is it?"

"It's um, it's..Where's Spike? Shouldn't he be here?"

Typical Xander, move on when something bugs him.

"Spike's out doing patrol," Buffy told him. "And don't change the subject. Are you sick?"

"No," he said. Only thing is, he said it so firmly it was obvious he was trying to convince himself. They really should have noticed, except Buffy of course, she never notices anything but herself. Willow and Tara though? They're both quite observant. And Giles is a watcher, shouldn't he be able to, well, watch?

He even looks sick for God's sake. His eyes and cheeks are all red and he keeps scrunching up his nose and rubbing his forehead. Not that I feel bad for him or anything. Of course that's not the case. He's a bad human being, he doesn't deserve sympathy.

But still... "Xander?" He looked up at me. "You're leaking."

"I'm...what?" He looked confused. He really was stupid sometimes.

"You're leaking," I clarified, "from the nose."

He turned bright red and wiped his nose with his sweatshirt, which is really gross, and excused himself from the room to get some tissues.

"Felling better?" Tara asked when he returned, bringing the entire box of Kleenex we keep out for the customers with him. I don't know why she bothered asking, it was obvious that he was feeling worse the way his eyes were all droopy. Not that I cared or anything, it was just so obvious.

"I feel fine," he said, a blatant lie, how could anyone believe him? "Just leaky."

He plopped back in the seat next to me again and set my Kleenex box, which he'd be paying for if he used too much of course, on the table in front of him.

"Back to the dead animals," Giles began, and ruffled through some papers I swear he hadn't been holding a minute ago. "It says in these reports that killings like this were prevalent in Rochester in 1979."

"That's fascinating," Buffy told him, "but where the hell is Rochester?"

"Rochester's in," Xander began, but broke off to sneeze again. "HEPTSCHOO!"

"Rochester's in..." Buffy continued. That's a little rude, he obviously can't answer her seeing as he's coughing so much. Not that he doesn't deserve rude, because he does, of Course. But still, let the poor boy cough in peace.

"New York," he finally choked out, "And ow! That hurt like a bitch."

"Watch your language Xander," Willow warned, "or we may have to wash out your Mouth with soap."

"You did that when we were nine and I said 'crotch'," he told her, "didn't work then and it won't work now."

"If Rochester's all the way in New York," Buffy began, changing the subject back to the thing that absolutely ad to be a demon again, this was getting hard to follow, "and we're in California, can we be sure there's a connection?

"Would you rather believe there's two demons out there with a taste for live spleen for lunch and head for dinner?" Xander asked. "Cause I sure don't. I've already got Anya with all her old vengeance demon friends who hates me, I don't need anyone else to want me dead."

Xander thought I wanted him dead? I like that, gives me some power over him. Sadly though, my happy moment of realizations was ruined by his ill-timed sneezing fit.

"You should go home," I told him when he was through. "You're sick and your whole 'macho man I'm not sick' thing doesn't work when you're sneezing your head off too much to tell us were Rochester is."

Xander gaped at me. "You care about my health?" he asked in wonder.

Of course I didn't care about his health. The way he was sneezing nonstop didn't bother me at all. And his tired eyes didn't make my heart melt every time I looked at them. And of course his horrible sounding cough didn't make me want to cook him some chicken soup. That's absurd. Right Anya? Totally absurd. Money, think about money.

"I don't care about your health," I said, "I care about my customers'. If they get sick here they might stop coming and then I wouldn't get their money. Plus, if you give me your cold I'd be forced to kill you, and I don't want to go through all the hassle of a murder trial."

He seemed to take my word for it and got up to leave the room. As he reached the door, I was forced to call out for him to stop. I tossed the Kleenex box at him, which he dropped, and told him "it's depleted. Take it home and buy me a new one."

"Thanks," he replied as he picked it up.

"Don't thank me," I told him in what I hoped was my bitchy voice. "I'm not giving it to you for you, I'm giving it to you for me. I don't give a damn about you."

Xander nodded solemnly. "Of course," he said in that hoarse voice he had tonight. Then he snapped forward with another sneeze "Etchoo!" He pulled another tissue out of the box and rubbed his nose tiredly with it as he turned to the door again.

"Xander," I called out before I could stop myself. He stopped moving but didn't turn around. That was probably good, I didn't want to see his face again, right? Once he stopped, and you have to realize I couldn't control myself, or I wouldn't have one it at all, I said "Feel better soon."

He thanked me and left, and we got on with the meeting. I was glad Xander was gone. And I don't really care if he gets better, I really don't.

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