Part One

"No I'm not," Spike answered quite calmly while channel surfing.

"Please? Willow says it really fun and there are other mixed couples there." Xander added more milk to the mashed potatoes.

"And I'm sure you, Red and Glinda'll have a great time. You can tell me all about it when you get back as long as CSI's not on." Spike stopped surfing at ESPN long enough to get the soccer scores.

"And you're putting in too much milk." He threw over his shoulder.

"No, I'm not," Xander stated.

"Well not if you're trying to make mashed potato soup." Spike returned a little snarkily.

Xander gritted his teeth and smiled, "No, I'm not. I think I know how to make mashed potatoes being the only one here that actually eats them and don't think I don't know what you're doing Mister King of Avoidance. We're having a discussion here, you're not gonna duck it by insulting my cooking."

"No, we're not having a discussion. However, we're on the verge of having an argument." Spike turned around and he and Xander glared at each other.

"I don't see what the problem is? It's just a little barbecue get together." Xander started reasonably.

"No, it's a bleedin gay demon/human potluck complete with Fabulous Fifties dress and theme music." Spike exclaimed with fake perkiness. "I can't think of anything a hundred year old vampire would rather do!  Oh wait, yes I can, I'd rather have dozens of those little wooden cocktail toothpicks shoved under my nails before being staked out to wait for the sunrise."  Spike ended with a yell before flopping back on the couch, arms firmly crossed.

Xander leaned against the kitchen counter and studied the sulking blonde. "You know, I find it disturbing that I often end up being the mature one in these little talks of ours." Xander shook his head with a long-suffering sigh.

Spike kicked at the coffee table before turning to his boyfriend, "Look, it's not that I don't want to go out and do things but it's a big change," Spike pleaded.  "I mean I knew it would be and all that, but it's like being turned all over again; this whole new world's opened up: double dating with the witches and getting sex advice from Anya, who knows far too much about gay sex by the way." Xander nodded in agreement as he sat beside his vampire.

"And don't even get me started on Angel and Giles." Spike and Xander shared a shudder.

"And now to find out that there really is a Gay Demons Support Group of Sunnydale, it's a bit much, luv. I'm trying to get my mind around it that's all."  Xander gave his very vulnerable looking lover, a soft smile.

"It's my fault too; I've been pushing too hard trying to find some sense of balance. I guess I thought that after we got home and told the gang everything would be easy or, well you know what I mean. But we come back and I'm all prepared for a big announcement and ready with all my arguments to counter their arguments and ..." Xander shrugged in confusion.

"There's no argument," Spike finished for him. "We get a 'oh that's nice, you make a sweet couple, did you bring baby pictures?'" Spike also shrugged in confusion.

"It was very, what's the word?" Xander asked.

"Anticlimactic," Spike supplied.

"Yeah," Xander stared at the television blankly. Spike nudged him gently. Xander rolled his head.

"Set the timer on the VCR because I'll be right upset if I miss Grisham and his crew solving some grisly murder," Spike snarled, but his heart wasn't in it. Especially after the truly beautiful smile Xander gave him.

"You don't have to do this, I'm not going to spend the evening pouting if we don't go out, I'm perfectly happy to stay here and eat mashed potato soup." Xander said seriously.

"What's the point in living forever if you don't get out there and experience things; this'll be one more experience to add to the lot." Spike stated valiantly. Xander leaned over and gave his boyfriend a long sweet kiss that Spike tried to deepen considerably but after a month of being together, Xander was now an old hand at getting out of tight corners, so to speak.

Spike growled as Xander managed to wiggle away. "I've got to get cleaned up." Xander entered the bedroom, "And leave the mashed potatoes alone," he called over his shoulder.

Spike didn't answer; too busy mashing another couple of potatoes into the bowl and grumbling to himself.  "Dating, whatever happened to 'want, take, have' eh? Things used to be much simpler back in my day," he grumbled under his breath. "Now where's the paprika?"


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


"Are you sure?" Rolf sat down abruptly it. Unfortunately he completely missed the chair and hit the floor with a thump. He didn't appear to notice.

Nualla stared at the indicator strip in a state somewhere between joy and disbelief. "Oh Goddess I can't believe it."

"I thought sprites didn't...." Rolf gestured vaguely at the strip.

"We don't; usually only once every fifty years. It's so rare as to be almost unheard of," Nualla laughed, "No wonder I've been so sick." She turned to her husband, finally noticing him on the floor. She threw herself into his arms knocking him to his back.

"Oh Rolf, we're going to have another baby!" She shrieked peppering his face with kisses.

"Another baby, two babies, well they won't both be babies at the same time but still, two babies." He stared into his wife's face. "I'm going to be a father Nualla." He broke into a broad grin.

She nodded her head at him, "Yes dear," she said fondly. He sat up suddenly, sweeping Nualla into his arms and standing, "You can't be on the floor, maybe you shouldn't be on your feet." He carefully set her in one of the kitchen chairs.

"Sweetheart, the egg won't be here for a couple of months. I'll need to be on my feet at least part of that time," she patted his hand reassuringly.

"Of course." Rolf still looked stunned and Nualla gently tugged him to a chair. He was going to be a mess until the egg arrived she could tell. She made a decision, they needed to get away, take some time off. They'd been talking about it ever since the Naming Day last month but it had been in a vague 'must take a vacation one of these days' way. Events had conspired to make the need to vacation concrete.

"Rolf, do you know what I want?" She started.

"Anything, absolutely anything, simply tell me what to do my love. I promise you that you won't have to lift a finger." Rolf stated emphatically.

"I want to go on one of those cruises we've been talking about."

"We can't go now you're...." He gestured at her slim figure.

"Pregnant," she said slowly, "Not ill. Rolf, I'm a sprite, we're very tough." Rolf rolled his eyes and nodded. She mock frowned at him before continuing.

"We can take that ten day cruise up the West Coast of America to Canada."

Rolf grumbled, unconvinced but she slipped from her chair to his lap, "Please? You said you wanted to go and visit your cousins in Victoria. It's so beautiful this time of year, please?" She rubbed his earlobes and blinked into his eyes.

"And what about Rosie, you know Freya is still away. She won't be back for over a month and you'll be a little round sprite by then." Rolf tried to ignore the ear massage and inject some logic into the proceedings.

"We'll leave her with William and Xander. The ship leaves from Los Angeles. They can come pick her up and it will give William the perfect chance to visit with his Grandsire and introduce him to his great granddaughter." She chirped.

"Angelus, you want our daughter to have dealings with Angelus?" Rolf growled in disbelief, "That reprobate!"

She slapped him gently on the shoulder, "Now you know he's not Angelus anymore you're being difficult."

"Well I have heard that he's gone into trade, living some sort of Bohemian existence with humans all over the place, a veritable den of sin no doubt," Rolf snapped rubbing at his shoulder.

Nualla stood, "Rolf, I never expected you to be such a snob." She sniffed. "Never mind. I thought, obviously wrongly, that you would want to spend some time alone with me on a romantic getaway, but apparently not." She sniffed even more, eyes tearing over.

"Nualla, sweetness, don't be like that. Of course I want to go away with you," Rolf soothed frantically.

"Well, that's not how it seems to me with all these silly excuses you're making," Nualla dabbed at her eyes trying to keep her lower lip from trembling.

Rolf dropped his head in defeat. "You call William and I'll book our room on the ship."

Nualla threw her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply. Rolf groaned and she started backing them towards the bedroom. Nualla broke the kiss, licking her lips and smiling an age-old smile into her husband's dazed eyes. "Why don't we call everyone later?"

Rolf swept her into his arms giving a subdued roar of agreement.

Rosie lay quietly in her crib, staring at the sunlight playing on the ceiling and smiling at the giggling coming from her parent's room.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


"Are you sure you haven't had a vision?" Angel asked for the fifth time.

"Yes I'm sure and if you ask me again I'm going to have to hurt you." Cordy smiled sweetly at the vampire.

"What's wrong Angel?" Wes asked the agitated Champion.

"I don't know I keep having this feeling ...." Angel waved vaguely.

"An apocalypse perhaps?" Wesley moved towards his books, searching for any current prophecies that he might have missed.

"Kind of, it feels like all Hell's about to break loose." 


Part Two

"Oh look, there's Willow and Tara! Hey, over here!" Xander waved one hand wildly, the other firmly clasped around Spike's arm to keep him from bolting.

"Xander, hey!" Willow bounced over to the couple with a laugh, Tara following shyly.

"You look great, Wills," Xander hugging the redhead a little awkwardly on account of the rather wide pink and white skirt his friend was wearing. Tara was dressed more sedately in capris and a sleeveless

"Hey Tara!" Xander winked at the shy young woman. "So, Willow lost the coin toss eh?" He smirked indicating the skirt and matching sweater set.

"She cheated, I haven't figured out how, but I know she cheated," Willow gave her girlfriend a mock scowl.

"Good on you luv," Spike nodded his head in approval.

"You two look great," was Tara's response to the gentle teasing. "Nice costumes."

Xander gave a mock bow, adjusting the well-traveled Panama hat that had survived the trip to Brazil as he straightened.

"Except for the hat, Harris is wearing his usual gear!" Spike huffed, indicating the boy's tropical print shirt, t-shirt, baggy shorts and shoes.

"Excuse me Mr. Originality, but so are you! Rolling a pack of cigarettes up in your sleeve does not a costume make," Xander snorted.

"I did my hair too! You try getting a bleeding duck flip just right without a mirror and then come talk to me about originality," the blonde snarled fearsomely. Xander yawned theatrically.

Tara and Willow shared a look, both girls trying to stifle giggles as the two males traded barbs.

Spike turned an evil eye on the ladies. "What are you giggling at?"

"Nothing, um, do you want me to drop the potato salad off at the buffet table for you?" Tara asked very solemnly.

Spike stared blankly down at the large plastic wrapped bowl, having momentarily forgotten he had it in his hands. He gave a disgusted huff and quickly handed the offending entrée to the young witch.


"Uh Spike, there's not usually any drinking at these things; booze, demons, humans, magic users equaling possible recipe for disaster." Willow winced, waiting for the explosion.

Spike blinked, turned to Xander and inquired politely, "Did Red just say this party is dry?"

Xander nodded.

"Did you know that before we came?" Spike asked very calmly with a cute, slightly bemused expression on his face.

Xander nodded and leaned in close to whisper, "Which is why I filled your flask before we got here." Xander slipped the new leather covered flask, which had replaced the previously nobly, sacrificed container, into his boyfriend's jacket pocket.

"If you can't be good, be careful," Xander admonished sternly as the two locked eyes. Spike flashed bit of fang just to show he wasn't a completely domesticated puppy before turning and giving a now relieved Willow a wink.

"Come on, I'll get you a glass of punch to spike, I'm sure you won't be the only one." Willow offered. "I can introduce you to some of the other couples. Oh, I just know you guys are gonna have fun!"

Spike raised an eyebrow at his human, "Well come on Xander, let's go have fun." Spike gushed with a roll of his eyes.

Xander smacked him gently on the back of the head, softening the blow with an understanding smile.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Sweetheart, should I refer to Angelus as "Your Lordship" or do you think simply "Master Angelus" will do?" Nualla frowned thoughtfully, tapping the feathered pen against her chin while gently rocking Rosie in her cradle.

"Rurass..." or something sounding like that was heard from the other room.

"No dear I don't think calling him an 'ass' is going to strike quite the right chord with him." Nualla sighed.


"Mr. Angel? That seems a little silly doesn't it? Honestly Rolf, you're the one who's always such a stickler for protocol. These are your daughter's introductory papers for heaven's sake. Now this needs to be done correctly!" Nualla fumed before coming to a decision and addressing the envelope with a flourish.

"There, simple yet elegant," Nualla nodded happily before quickly sealing the envelope closed with a dollop of hot wax and a signet ring before snapping her fingers. A small winged creature, no larger than a humming bird appeared in a tiny flash of silver light.

Nualla handed it the envelope, as well as one previously addressed, and an acorn cap filled with honey as payment. The pixie gave an appreciative wiggle, downing the drink in one swallow before disappearing in another flash of silver.

Rosie clapped her hands and blew a bubble in admiration.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Is it me or are we being stared at?" Xander viewed the crowd from his stance at the chip bowl. Say what you would about the gay community in Sunnydale, the food was certainly first rate.

"Yeah, well, you are with the best looking bloke here; not surprising really." Spike took another swig of his doctored punch, feeling decidedly mellower as his blood alcohol ratio rose.

"Riiiight," Xander agreed dryly, "what was I thinking."

Spike smirked obliviously his complacent mood suddenly broken by a loud cry of -

"Oh my god puddin', is this them?"

Xander and Spike froze like deer in the headlights as a vision in gold lamé and green skin rapidly advanced on the couple and their companions.

Willow gave a happy bounce and the boys relaxed, but only slightly.

"Lorne, you made it!" Willow gave the large, green skinned demon a big hug, which was enthusiastically returned. Tara's greeting was a refined kiss on the hand.

"Madmoiselle, as always, a delight," Lorne complimented the shy woman before turning to the wary male couple.

"Gentlemen, an honor."

Xander smiled in confusion but offered his hand in greeting. Lorne gave it hearty shake before turning to Spike and tipping an imaginary hat to the vampire.

"You two are the talk of the community. The crowd was positively my color with envy when they found out that I know someone who knows you."

"What the bloody Hell are going on about?"

Xander would have smoothed the edges out but he agreed with the sentiment voiced by his fella.

"You mean you don't know? Oh, that is so sweet." Lorne sighed deeply.

"You two are the Ryan and Ali of our generation."

The demon was met with blank stares.

"Love Story, sixties, "never having to say you're sorry", great theme song?" Lorne prompted.

"Does this have something to do with Brazil?" Xander ventured hesitantly.

"Does it have something to do...." Lorne spluttered. "Well, yes, everything!"


"William the Bloody, Line of Aurelius stood up and defied convention by taking a boyfriend. And you stood by him, on an equal footing while he announced that you were going steady and to hell with the rules."

'Boyfriend and steady' were uttered with reverence.

"If that isn't romance I don't what is; there's even talk of a ballad being commissioned: William and his Forbidden Amour. You two are famous." Lorne ended with a flourish.

Xander pointed to himself and then Spike. "Famous?"

"I was already famous," Spike muttered indignantly.

"Famous?" Xander asked again.

"William the Bloody, killer of not one, but two Slayers here," Spike grumbled. "Right, I haven't been that active lately but still..."

"So I'm this 'Forbidden Amour' person. What is that like forbidden fruit or something?"

Spike opened his mouth.

"Don't even say it," Xander glared.

The vampire shut his mouth but the grin spoke volumes.

"What can I say fellas? You're the flavor of the month."


* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Feeling a bit better Angel?" Wesley looked up from his book as the vampire wandered in from the kitchen with a warm mug of blood.

"I suppose so." Angel answered as he leaned against the counter but he didn't sound very convincing.

Wesley closed his book and joined his friend. "I've strengthened the wards around the hotel. The weapons are polished and Cordelia went home, still visionless. Whatever it is that has you uneasy, well, we're as ready as we can be; nothing is getting into this hotel without a fight," Wesley stated confidentially which is why he can be forgiven for the rather unmanly squeak he uttered when a plain vellum envelope suddenly appeared, in a shower of fairy dust, on the counter.

"Good Lord!"

Angel carefully set his mug down before picking up the magical missive. It was addressed to Angel, Grandsire of William the Bloody.

"Do you know who sent it?" Wesley peered at the letter suspiciously.

"A female," Angel answered.

"How can you tell?"

Angel closed his eyes and took a deep breath, a faint smile on his lips.

"Oh," the Englishman said.

Angel had already opened the letter and his eyebrows rose as he read the contents before reaching the end and staring blankly at the far wall.

Wesley waited, cleared his throat and waited some more as Angel continued to stare at the wall.

"Well?" There was no response.

"For goodness sake Angel, how bad can it be?"

In answer Angel handed him the letter.

*Dear Angel, please forgive the informality of the greeting but I feel as if we've met and well, we are family.

The reason I'm writing is to let you know that my husband Rolf and I will be visiting Los Angeles within the next two days. We'll be bringing your new great granddaughter as well. I'm sure you're thrilled and there's no need to thank me. I know the only reason you haven't issued an invitation yet is because you've simply been too busy with work.

My husband and I (that is my second husband, William of course being my first) will be traveling onto Canada by ship and I've asked William and Xander to baby-sit little Rosie while we're away. (See attached birth papers and lines of succession. I'm certain they'll be showing up anytime now and I just know the four of you will have a wonderful time.

Now we'll only be gone a week, so don't get too attached. I've also attached a small checklist so that you can baby-proof your nest before we arrive.

Rolf, Rosie and I can't wait to meet you.


Nualla, (H.R.H.)*

"Good Lord!"


Part Three a)


"And then you smite them and drink their blood," Lorne finished outlining the beginning of the ballad of Spike and his Steady that was making the rounds of the demon underworld.

Spike broke into a big grin and took another swig of punch. "Did ya hear that luv? Now that's how you start a ballad - blood and guts right up front." Spike slapped Xander's back nearly knocking the human down. "Eh?"

"And may I say 'ow'," Xander grimaced rubbing gingerly at his back. "And what am I doing while all this 'smiting' is going on?" Xander asked Lorne.


"Never mind, I'm probably huddling in a corner somewhere waiting to be saved," Xander groused. "Sure, sure the poor little human,"

"Now pet,"

"Don't 'now pet' me." Xander slapped at Spike's hand. "I'm making a stand here, a moral stand." Xander shook his finger in emphasis.

"A moral stand?" Spike raised an eyebrow in question.

"Well - okay a personal one but this is important."

"Xander?" Lorne tried to get the young man's attention.

"Sure, I know you look at me and you see prey. I'm like a big cartoon steak to you."

"Well, some form of swallowing does figure into my plans for you later, yeah." Spike leered, nudging him suggestively.

Xander blushed bright red, closed his eyes and shook his head in resigned acceptance before looking up at Lorne's gentle, sympathetic smile.

"You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but no, I'm not; gets me every time." Xander heaved a long-suffering sigh.

"Actually petunia, I was trying to say that while your snuggle bunny here is busy smiting demons right and left, you, my stalwart hero, are busy protecting those soldiers boys from a fate worst than death."

"Really?" Xander beamed, his earlier pique forgotten.

"Hey guys, what's up?" Willow and Tara returned, with enough veggie tacos for everyone and what looked like tomato juice for Spike.

Spike's nose wiggled and Xander caught himself before he uttered 'awww' and embarrassed the Big Bad in mixed company.

Willow grinned and handed him the drink. "It's a Virgin Bloody Mary or maybe a Bloody Virgin Mary or something. Anyway I was assured that no virgins were harmed in the making of this drink."

Spike took a deep sip, "Lovely, thanks."

Xander eyed the happily grinning vampire and then eyed the punch bowl speculatively before turning back to Lorne and the girls.

"So, Lorne, how did you meet Willow and Tara?" Tara blushed and Willow got an evil glint in her eye.

"Well, actually I met Tara first. I own a little karaoke club down Los Angeles way and we do occasionally cater to small private parties." Xander watched with interest, as Tara seemed to be trying to dissolve into the ground. The phrase, 'I'm melting!' suddenly popped into his head and he gave himself a swift mental slap and a stern admonishment to focus.

"Now, normally we don't do bridal showers but I was breaking in a new bartender and there was a fast approaching apocalypse and well, you know how it goes. I didn't check the reservations carefully and next thing I know I've got a gaggle of giggling girlies invading my posh little lounge. Well what could I do but say 'batten down the hatches ladies and call me


Spike burst out laughing before staring at his friends' blinking in confusion. "Bloody Hell, Julie McCoy? Captain Stubbing? The friggin Loveboat kiddies; doesn't anyone else watch cable?"

Xander raised an eyebrow at the blond in fair imitation of his honey before turning back to the club owner. "So, Tara was part of this bunch?"

"It was my cousin's wedding; her friend Sheila made the reservation, we thought it was a strip club. I didn't know!" Tara burst out in defense.

"Yeah because watching the male of the species stripping down to their g-strings is so much more acceptable than belting out Barry Manilow tunes while crying in your Pina Coladas." Spike snorted.

Xander swatted him none too gently on the back of the head and returned the vampire's growl with one of his own because Tara looked miserable.

"Ignore him. I can't because I love him but the rest of you aren't cursed so, ignore him."

That got a smile out of the shy girl and Xander indicated that Lorne should continue.

"They had a wonderful time and there is nothing wrong with a well made Pina Colada" Lorne scolded, "and let

me tell you, give this one," he motioned to the permanently blushing witch, "a feather boa, a little encouragement, and a stiff drink and you get a mighty fine rendition of Mr. Springsteen's 'Born to Run'."

"Oh yeah," Willow nodded smugly to the two shocked males.

* * * * * * * * * * * *


"Hey there English, what's..."Gunn trailed off in his greeting as a very short demon covering in pale lavender scales and wearing an apron wandered by, arms loaded with furniture polish.

Wesley smiled a brief greeting to Gunn before returning to his phone conversation. From the snatches of dialogue Gunn caught, it sounded like Wesley was probably talking to Giles.

"Well of course I knew about it but I had no idea they were royalty."

Gunn's ears pricked up.

"I'm sure he did but did he think to inform us? No and now Their Majesties and the baby will be here shortly." Wesley sounded very annoyed.

"Oh, I intend to have a very stern discussion with him if he every leaves his room."  The Englishman's voice rose significantly at the end of the sentence and there was a brief pause as if he were waiting for something before he gave an elegant little sniff and attended to Giles.

Gunn noted at least three more of the little lavender demons popping in and out of the lobby; dusting, mopping and putting childproof safety plugs in all the electrical outlets. Gunn nodded to himself; strangeness afoot, that was for sure. He refocused on Wes.

"Rupert, I would be exceedingly grateful if you could fax the proper protocols. Thank you and I shall certainly keep you apprised of the situation. Unlike some people I know." Wesley's voice again rose at the end of the sentence and Gunn followed the brunette's gaze to the stairs. Again, there was a pause but no Angel appeared and Wesley huffed in annoyance before bidding Giles farewell and hanging up the phone.

"So, family coming to visit huh?" Gunn asked cheerily, already knowing the answer.

Wesley opened his mouth to respond when a Cordy shaped whirlwind entered the premises. At least it appeared to be Cordy. Her hair was covered in a scarf, dark glasses covered her eyes and she was wearing a trench coat. She was closely followed by an irate cab driver.

"Hey lady, you owe me $7.50!" He stopped suddenly upon spotting one of the cleaning demons. The cabby's eyes shifted right, and then left noting at least two more of the creatures. Cordy didn't stop moving, like a ship under full sail.

"Of for God's sake, I said I'd be right out with the money. Well," she stared at her associates. "Somebody pay the man."

Wesley and Gunn both reached into their pockets but before they could extract the necessary currency, one of the creatures started to dust the petrified hack and he let out a scream as he ran out the door. They heard a squeal of tires and the roar of an engine dwindling in the distance.

There was a slamming door from upstairs and Angel appeared practically flying down the staircase, axe in hand, hair in wild disarray as if hands had been repeatedly run thru it; shirtless.

"Who screamed?"

"Nice of you to join us." Wesley snarked.

"What happened to your hair?" Gunn asked mildly.

"Would someone please tell me what the Hell is going on that I had to leave my nice comfortable apartment

and come back to work, Cordy snapped whipping off her sunglasses.

There was an audible gasp from the assembled men.

"Cordy, you ain't wearin' makeup." Gunn sounded faintly scandalized.

"Are those curlers?" Wesley asked hesitantly.

Angel merely blinked.

Cordelia Chase drew herself up to her full height and glared. " I was in the middle of my mid-week facial when some idiot," here she turned to Wesley, "called and told me that all Hell was breaking lose and being us, I thought he meant that literally and what is up with all these?" She waved at the conscientiously cleaning demons.


"There was a letter,"

"I don't know I just got here."

"Stop!" She waved her hand imperiously. "Wesley, drinks! Gunn, chips! Angel, go put some clothes on. Company meeting back here in ten." The men scattered as the young woman dropped to the settee in the lobby and propped her bunny footed feet up on the coffee table with a sigh. Men!


Part Three b)


"So 'Born to Run' eh luv? I knew you had it in you." Spike raised his punch glass in a toast, smiling benignly at a now permanently blushing Tara.

Xander again eyed the punch bowl suspiciously. Spike seemed pretty darned mellow for one flask of whiskey diluted with cherry-apple spritzer punch or at least that's what the buffet card proclaimed it.

"I thought your family was all a bunch of uptight prigs? Didn't seem like the type to be having bachelorette parties and all." Spike took another healthy swig of his Bloody Mary. Whoever had donated the blood was a tasty little thing.

"Uh, well, my cousin Sandy was pretty much written off as a lost cause years ago. That's probably why she's my favorite relative," Tara shrugged.

"So is she a witch? Or something even scarier: demoness, sorceress, scourge of the underworld?" Xander piped up, ignoring the fake glare of death he received from Willow.

"No, she's a flight attendant," Tara grinned back.

"Feet set straight on a highway to Hell eh?" Spike nodded sagely before breaking into a full-throated laugh.

Xander and crew blinked in astonishment, being as how one rarely if ever saw the blond vampire laughing out loud. "Right," Xander thought, "there is definitely something going on with the punch."

"Wills?" He indicated the punch with a worried frown. She caught his drift immediately and ladled out a cup, murmuring a quick spell and smiling in relief as the punch briefly glowed a faint blue before settling back to it cherry hue.

"It's a simple 'good cheer' enchantment. It won't hurt a thing and doesn't really affect humans. I think it was put on for the more volatile members of the gathering, kind of a precautionary thing." Willow tried not to focus on Spike as she made the


Spike tapped his nose sagely, "Good idea, there's some pretty impulsive folk here; wouldn't want them getting out of hand."

Lorne, Tara and Xander all exchanged a look before nodding agreeably at the serious blond.

"Hoo boy," Xander sighed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


"I'm telling you Frank, that's them," a middle aged human dressed in a purple and orange bowling shirt insisted.

"Naw, what would they be doing at a mixer?" The large Scopic demon argued back in a distinctly Brooklyn accent before taking another bite out of his bratwurst. "Besides, I heard from Marty that Spike's huge, an enormous mountain of a vampire. That's how he was able to kick Marty's ass last time they ran into each other."

"Well, Mary told Inez who told Jim that they were going to be here and Jim told Bobby who told me - and that's Lorne!" The human gestured emphatically to the nattily dressed club owner, "And he said he knew Willow who everyone knows is Xander's best friend." The human stated confidentially. "Besides, how many bleached blond vampires with cheekbones to die for are there in Sunnydale?"

"Cheekbones to die for huh? What am I chopped human liver?" The demon sniffed.

"Oh honey you know I didn't mean it that way." The human patted his companion's fanny appreciatively. "Come here you big lug," he coaxed. "You know you're the only fella for me."

The demon let himself be hugged before taking another look at the group staked out near the punch bowl. "You know, I always thought living legends would be a little taller."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


"Alright, let this company meeting of Angel Investigations come to order." Cordelia knocked on the coffee table forcefully. "The Secretary will read the minutes of the last meeting." Cordy flipped open a leather bound notebook.

"Angel sucks and we're out coffee," she intoned solemnly

"Hey!" Angel objected.

"Ah well, we haven't had a meeting since the reorganization of the company and before that there was some residual resentment on our parts due to our rather untimely termination." Wesley explained in a slightly embarrassed voice.

"What he means to say is we started every meeting with 'Angel sucks,' no hard feelings." Gunn shrugged.

"Well, can we not start this meeting that way?" Angel asked in a tone half way between diffidence and snark.

"Right, make a note, 'Angel doesn't suck'. That okay?" Gunn shuffled the new deck of cards he'd brought out along with the stack of poker chips. "Name of the game is five card stud, one eyed jacks are wild." There was a respectful silence as Gunn dealt the hands.

Angel popped the top on a bottle of warm stout, a coaster quickly supplied by a frowning demon, it 'tsked' in warning. Angel mouthed 'sorry' before setting his bottle down on the coaster provided.

Cordy sighed deeply and shook her head. "Why am I here? What is going on? Is this late night cleaning frenzy some sort of vampire thing? Because it's weird, okay? And what's all this about a letter?"

"May I?" Wesley asked Angel, pulling the letter from his shirt pocket. Angel sighed in resignation while Wes handed it to Cordy. She quickly scanned it and the men winced as she let loose with a high-pitched squeak, quite unlike the usually cool seer.

"Oh my God, the baby is coming for a visit!" She suddenly looked up and quickly located the various cleaners before standing and waving, "No, don't worry about trying to clean those curtains, they're hopeless. We'll be buying new ones in the morning, thank you."

The little demon nodded agreeably, impressed that the vampire finally had a minion who knew what it was doing in charge.

Cordy tapped her chin, "there's no time to get this furniture reupholstered unfortunately but maybe some throw pillows." She broke into a radiant smile, squeezing Angel's arm, "this is going to be so much fun. It'll be so nice to see Xander again too."

"And Spike," Angel added as he tried to pry her fingers off his arm. Thank goodness he didn't have any circulation left to worry about.

She waved, "yeah, whatever. Anyway I can see why you sent for me and thank God I'm here."

"What's this HRH mean after the lady's signature?" Gunn thought seeing the baby might be okay although he wasn't too sure about the demonic side of Angel's family coming for a visit considering the whole 'Darla' fiasco. Still, it was kinda fun watching the old man come out of his brooding long enough to panic; made him seem more human somehow.

"Well apparently Angel here forgot to inform us that Spike's wife's second husband is royalty." Wesley said dryly shooting a very polite glare in the uncomfortable vampire's direction.

"Royalty! I don't have anything to wear for royalty!"

Cool, now Cordy was in full-blown panic mode as well. Gunn smirked as Angel didn't even bother arguing, already reaching for his wallet. There was a slight tussle because the vampire's fingers didn't seem to want to part with the platinum card but in the end Cordy emerged the victor.

"Yes, well luckily I keep the tux cleaned and ready; one can never be too prepared. We'll need to review protocols of course. Giles is faxing them for us, Angel won't need them, Master Vampires have their own protocols in these matters." Wes was obviously still a little peeved.

Angel started to stand, "Well, you all seem to have the matter well in hand and I'd just get in the way. Why don't I...."

"Angel, sit." Wesley's tone was all steel. "We have less than 48 hours to get ready for your in-laws who are making what amounts to a state visit. They are bringing their first-born child to meet her great-grandfather. We have to prepare for that and hiding in your room is not helpful. There are a myriad number of items that can go wrong and on top of that, when all is said and done we have an even bigger worry." Wesley swallowed hard, "Spike and Xander will be here as well."

"May the Powers help us!"

* * * * * * * * * * * * *  *  * * * * * * * * * * * *


"So then I says to him, I says, 'you and what army?'" Spike snorted. The crowd laughed appreciatively; the blond was in the spotlight and in his element. Xander smiled at his vampire with undisguised affection. The big goof. He still wasn't sure how he felt about the enchanted punch but he couldn't argue with the fact that it was certainly keeping the demonic half of the crowd in a good mood. Which was a very good thing, considering that Spike had run into at least two old sparring partners at the party so far. Luckily with the charmed punch running through their veins the only thing traded had been a few witty barbs and then it had been, 'Hey Harris luv, c'mon over here and meet Jerry and his husband.'

Jerry had turned out to be something that looked a lot like the Creature from the Black Lagoon and apparently he could get them a very good deal on a waterbed. Apparently scaring the dickens out of the human population was only a partime job for him.  Jerry's husband, Martin worked in electronics and Xander was surprised to learn that he'd actually talked to Martin on the phone about work. Martin was one of his company's subcontractors on a job they were doing.

They'd laughed about what a small town Sunnydale really was and apparently the fact that Spike hadn't ripped anybody's throat out and Xander seemed approachable was all it took and suddenly they were getting questions right and left: did Xander really save over 200 soldiers and did Spike really fight off an entire army of ravening foliage and was the Slayer

really ten feet tall and had Angelus actually gotten a job?

Xander was a little uncomfortable to say the least. He'd never been popular and while being with Spike had definitely upped his self-confidence quotient he was still not quite 'center of attention guy'. Spike on the other hand was eating it up with a spoon.

"Hey Xan, you okay?" Willow rubbed his back softly.

"Yeah, Wills, I'm fine. Just thinking, that's all." Xander sipped his soda as he watched Spike hold the crowd in the palm of his hand.

"Oh oh, thinking, sounds deep, deep and serious; what about?" Willow teased very gently.

"He's really something you know? Look at him; he's like a rock star or some big celebrity. What's he doing with a guy like me?"

"Alexander Harris, what's that supposed to mean, 'a guy like you'? You're pretty darn special mister and don't you forget it! Spike is one lucky guy, vampire, vampire-guy; you know what I mean; so just you get those thoughts out of your head. Don't make me get all mojo on your behind. I'll do it. I can kick, you know, when I have to." Willow gave him her best version of resolve face.

"Mojo on my behind?" Xander grinned at the annoyed redhead. "Oh, I don't know, sounds kind of kinky." Willow blushed. "Is it a witchy thing because I'm thinking maybe we shouldn't mention it to Spike because he'd probably be all over it."

Willow slapped his arm, "Xander! Seriously, you're both lucky and I know exactly what Spike sees in you."

"You're right. I'm fantastic." Xander hung his head and mumbled before peeking up and giving his best friend a shy smile.

"Hey Luv, c'mon over. We're going to Mambo!" Spike yelled happily, waving his arm and grinning madly.

"Mambo? Can this night get any weirder?" Xander raised an eyebrow.

At that moment, across town, with a faint tinkle of bells and a slight shimmer, a small envelope appeared in the Harris/Spike living room.