Better Living Through Chemistry: Stoichiometry
by Sajinn & Chrysalis



Title: Better Living Through Chemistry: Stoichiometry
Author: Sajinn & Chrysalis
E-Mail: [email protected]
Pairing: Xander/Buffy (briefly), Xander/Spike, Willow/Tara, Buffy/OMC, others mentioned...
Rating: NC-17
Summary: A long romp through the lives of Spike and Xander.
Disclaimer: No, they aren't mine. I just put them in pretty dresses and make them fight each other.
Feedback: Makes a body good! Send lots! Anything sent will be forwarded to the co-writer.
Archive: Lemme know if ya wanna. Can be found at my wee little homepage, http://www.sajinn.com/
A/N: This story is archived in its entirety at my homepage. I'm posting it now because we're starting its sequel, Redox Reactions. There is a bit of het in this story, but it goes away, I promise.

[1] after Jerry McGuire (movie)
[2] Lucille, Kenny Rogers (song)
[3] O Captain, my Captain, Walt Whitman (poem)

*****

Part 1: Stoichiometry

[Stoichiometry (n): the quantitative relationship between two or more substances especially in processes involving physical or chemical change.]


On the surface, Xander looked happy. Actually, on one level, Xander was happy.but only on the surface. He had a great job as a construction worker, making more money than his last three dead-end jobs put together. He had a nice apartment, made that much better by not being located beneath his parents' living room . He had a reliable, moderately new car that he bought just after getting the construction job, great friends, and fantastic sex.

There was only one thing missing to complete Xander's life, the only thing that could make him totally happy: love.

Sure, he had a girlfriend, well almost fiancée, as soon as he popped the question. Anya was gorgeous, smart, still refining her sense of humor, and was an enthusiastic lover. Anya loved him; she told Xander many times that he completed her. She'd seen Jerry McGuire and immediately fallen in love, both with that line and with "Show me the money!"[1] Xander privately thought the latter fit Anya to a tee. She was amazingly...fiscal.

The only problem was that she didn't complete him.

Xander tried to love Anya; he even thought that he could learn to love her if they got married. Xander even went to the local jewelry shop to look for an engagement ring. He did all of this in secret. In front of everyone, including Anya, Xander pretended that he returned Anya's love and affection.

Every night, or almost every night, when Xander slept with Anya, it was just sex-sweaty sex, but nothing more. Most of the time, Anya could not tell the difference since being an 1100 year-old former vengeance demon did not give Anya the knowledge to tell the difference between sex and making love. Anya's definition of sex boiled down to "interlocking parts." She was right, too. Their respective parts did interlock-frequently.

Most of the time, Anya was only concerned with getting as many orgasms as possible before Xander was spent for the night. When Anya was not preoccupied with herself, and wanted to bring Xander pleasure, her face was not the one he saw, but that of a mysterious blonde. Whenever he finally climaxed, it was always this fair-haired stranger who did it for him, not Anya.

Xander felt guilty about seeing the blonde, and desperately tried to make it up to Anya in every way possible. After about a year of this, the brunette finally caught on to Xander's dilemma and confronted him after Xander lost his erection during an extended bout of.whatever it was that they did for hours on end. < Lovemaking? Sex? Fucking? Intercourse? Rutting? Jeez, what do I call it? >

"Xander, don't you love me?"

"Anya! You know that I do."

"But are you in love with me?"

".um.." Xander did not know how to reply. That was Anya's answer. Xander finally tried to soothe his lover, "Anya, you are one of the most wonderful women in the world. You've taught me so much about love, sex, and relationships in general. I do love you."

"But you are not in love with me," Anya supplied. Xander shook his head.

"Have you ever cheated on me?"

"No!"

"Well good! Now I won't have to call D'Hoffryn to shrink your balls until they disappear." The look on Xander's face immediately shifted from intense horror at the mention of her former boss's name to obvious relief. "Even though we're breaking up, we can still have sex."

"An, I don't think that's a good idea. I mean, we are still going to be friends, and we will hang often, but since we are now officially over, that means no sex."

"Oh D'Hoffryn."Anya sang out. "Just kidding, Xander." After seeing the look of unadulterated fear on her now ex-boyfriend's face, Anya thought that she might have gone a little too far. "Xander, you were the best boyfriend; any girl would be lucky to have you, and I better be going." She got out of bed, pulling on her clothes. "If I stayed now, we would just end up having sex and get back together, creating a vicious cycle that would end with your testicles becoming your ears."

"Okay then, see you later Anya," as Xander opened his apartment door and Anya walked through it.

When Anya left, Xander had some time to himself. < What am I going to do now? And who is that blonde I keep seeing in my head? Buffy? Hmm.maybe the girl at the coffee shop. > Xander pondered this question as he finally drifted off to sleep.

Xander woke up and went to work the next morning with a smile on his face, a spring in his step, and not a worry on his mind. He briefly wondered at his lack of distress at last night's breakup, but his mood was just too good, and such dark thoughts didn't stand a chance.

.......

Construction work was demanding, especially since Xander had become foreman. He liked this aspect because it didn't give him a chance to think about what happened last night, but when he came home the situation came back to him with a vengeance. < What the hell did I do last night? How am I going to react when everybody questions me about our breakup? I'll just say that An and I are better friends than lovers, yeah that's it. > Xander took a shower, and readied himself for another Scooby meeting, his and Anya's first since the break up. As he drove to the Magic Shop to meet up with everyone, nervousness set in. < Just don't mention the dream lover, and everything will go smoothly. You're smooth, X-man. > As he walked in the door, he saw everyone huddled around Anya, looking over at him, and fear set in. "Hey everybody, Anya, what's the latest big bad that needs to be taken down?"

"You--Xander! How could you do this to Anya?" Buffy asked, apparently pissed but secretly giddy. < Anya mentioned someone else; do you think that he meant me? My feelings toward Xander haven't always been as platonic as I've tried to keep them. Ever since I slept with Parker-the-ego-destroyer, Xander has been trying to build me up again. But that's just what friends do, right? >

Anya spoke up, "Don't blame Xander, he wasn't trying to hurt me, and I believe him. Otherwise his balls-"

"Anya, I appreciate the defense," Xander cut in before Anya went into graphic detail about the destruction of a favored part of his anatomy. Those images were not what he needed right now. At that, Xander walked over to the counter, leaning against the display case. He cast an expectant eye at Giles, studiously avoiding Willow's attempts to catch his attention. Xander knew he was going to get a lecture about hurting girlfriends, but he really didn't want to deal with it right now.

"If tonight's episode of Passions is concluded, may we begin?" Giles looked expectantly at the huddled group of youths. In all honesty, he wasn't surprised at the breakup. Xander was like a son to him and he had had misgivings about the relationship from the start. Although the boy joked and gamboled about like an overgrown puppy, he was quite capable of deeper feelings. But in the end, Anya was selfish and shallow. Xander might be immature at times, but he had more heart than the rest of the group put together. The boy willingly put his life before the rest of them, something Anya could neither do nor appreciate.

Since no one objected, he began. "It seems that there is a prophecy about the Hellmouth that will come about-" Giles was interrupted by a Greek chorus of moaning.

"Another prophecy?" Buffy began making gagging noises.

"Y'owe me twenty, whelp. I told you there'd be another one before summer." Xander reluctantly parted with the money as the sometimes Scooby smirked.

"As I was saying, there seems to be a prophecy about the Hellmouth, the Prophecy of Terula, to be exact." Giles shuffled some papers and came up with a single sheet, covered with poetry.

"The Prophecy of Terula? What's that?" Buffy popped her gum.

"Do quit that!" The Watcher handed her a tissue, which she used to discard her gum, rolling her eyes.

"The Prophecy is written in Thlakonian octameter-" Giles began to recite,


Ok nguliammgla isthmos'slal nish-pal usulal mak Ge
Anf delpeckna mmjugnan yagvl s'n pargra delmpff
Uska ninefeis oldrie of-blnaggn marshkg'nnalln muk

Pikxaair trasslamlk nahhrun opviernnne rrrrroukkkkli

Y'lllali manfuill ugnnoki ml olilgvlki rui fap quigllkskn...


The Watcher looked up at his charges. He was greeted by two blank stares from the witches, a standard smirk from Spike, a giggle from the Slayer, and shocked horror from Anya. Xander was rummaging through his backpack, muttering something about chocolate.

"Um, Giles? Are you ok? You, uh, you sound like you were coughing up a hairball." Buffy tried unsuccessfully to stifle another round of giggling.

"Buffy! Do be serious. This prophecy is quite explicit. Translated, it states that in precisely three days time a group of N'ktharan demons will use the Hellmouth to open a portal to their home dimension and bring through an army of ten thousand, set to overtake this world!" Giles had begun in his usual put-upon Watcher voice, but had ended his short tirade with an angry shout.

"Giles is right. The wording of the prophecy is very specific. And every prophecy I've ever seen written in Thlakonian has come true." Anya had recovered from her earlier horror, but still looked concerned.

The witches scurried over to the many bookcases along the walls, set to finding all they could about N'ktharan demons. After a pointed stare from the Watcher, Buffy and Spike joined them. Meanwhile, Xander took up the paper containing the prophecy. After studying it for a minute, he asked, "So, exactly what's the army made of? It doesn't say here, just that the N'ktharans will be bringing it through the portal." Xander replaced the paper on Giles' pile of materials and bit into the chocolate bar he'd found in his bag.

"N'ktharan demons, duh!" Buffy said over her shoulder, "Look, Xan, why don't you go run me an errand-tall mocha latte and a glazed." With a small sigh, Xander pulled out a pencil and paper.

"Order up! I'm off for munchies," he walked over to Tara and Willow.

"Um, raspberry filled and a cappuccino for me, Tara?"

"A-a latte, please." Willow pulled out a five, pushing it into Xander's hand as she searched the stacks of books.

"Giles? The usual?"

"Ah, yes, thank you, Xander. By the way, a very astute observation on the army." Xander grabbed a stake and headed out the door.

"You know, Giles, you don't have to coddle him. It just encourages his.jokes." Buffy scowled at her Watcher, tapping a foot against the nearest chair.

"Buffy, please, N'ktharan demons?" Giles sent her back to the books with a distracted wave. He was already pouring through a pile of prophecy texts.

After making sure Buffy was back to researching, the Watcher began looking in the books in earnest. Giles knew he was one of the few privy to one of Xander's hidden faces, the fascination with literature and languages, most of them demonic. The boy's command of the demonic languages he'd learned, as well as his understanding of the nuances of the literature written in those tongues, was truly remarkable. It was apparent that he knew Thlakonian, so if Xander had a question about the prophecy, Giles knew better than to brush it off. Therefore, he was trying to find out more about the army. Actually, he had more questions about the prophecy to ask Xander, but until he was finished being Buffy's doughnut boy, those questions would have to wait. Giles also desperately craved caffeine.

"Ah-hah! N'ktharan demons! I've got a whole chapter on them." Willow set the book in front of Giles with a satisfying thud.

The Watcher turned from his own book to look at the one the witch had retrieved. "Hmm, let's see." Giles began reading, his face scrunching down in concentration.

"I'm baaaaack!" Xander walked into the store laden with pastries and drinks. He began passing out the orders to their respective consumers in a singsong voice. "Anya, éclair and café regular. Buffy, glazed and a tall mocha latte. Spike, black French roast."

"I hate French roast, whelp." Spike stared at the cup in mild disgust.

Xander looked guilty. "Sorry, fangless. They were out of Kenya AA. You'll just have to cope and deal, like the rest of us."

"Christ. Pig's blood, pig's coffee. This place is he.actually, this place is hell." Spike took a sip of coffee anyway.

Everyone sat quietly drinking their coffee for several minutes, until the lack of motion other than liquid being consumed and pages turning became too much for Spike and Xander. The vampire picked up a lump of some resin from the counter and lobbed it at the boy's head. It bounced off, landing on his danish. Grimacing, Xander plucked up the lump and tossed it back at Spike, aiming at his mouth. Unfortunately, vampiric reflexes allowed Spike to niftily intercept the resin, deflecting it back towards the human. Xander tried to catch it, but missed. The stuff landed with a soft plop into his coffee. "Gross! Ew!!!" Xander began to fish out the resin.

"Um, you're not going to drink that now, are you?" Willow asked, watching Xander chase the lump around the Styrofoam cup.

"Well, yeah. I mean this coffee will kill almost anything." With a triumphant flourish, Xander caught the lump, lifting it out of his coffee.

"B-but that's alpaca dung, X-Xander." Tara stuttered, wide-eyed.

"WHAT! You threw alpaca dung in my coffee! Giles, you keep alpaca dung in the store! This is soooooo disgusting!" Xander pitched the coffee cup into a garbage can. He walked over to Spike, reaching for his coffee. "Give me that! You ruined mine, I get yours."

"Fine, here." Spike handed over the coffee without argument.

"Yeah, thanks," Xander muttered. He took a sip. "Damn! This is foul! What did you do to it? Oh, wait..I'm drinking after a vampire! Ugh." Xander began making gagging noises, throwing the coffee into the garbage can along with the other cup.

"Told you it was nasty." Spike just shrugged.

"Children, please behave. We now have information on N'ktharan demons. It seems that they are approximately two and a half meters high and weigh about 300 kilograms. They have three eyes and six arms. Each arm has a hand with eight fingers. The entire epidermis is covered with a thick exoskeleton impenetrable to iron and steel. They also have a tail one and a half meters long, prehensile and heavily spined with poisonous barbs. They can run twice as fast as humans and are three times as strong. They are also somewhat resistant to magic. The chapter also says that they usually travel in clans or tribes of about twenty-five, sometimes as many as fifty but never less than twenty. The only way to kill them is to.oh my. They only way to kill them is to destroy all three of their eyes, which are solid and have the consistency of quartz." The Watcher finished his recitation, looking up at the group.

"Well, I'll just go get my handy and always available quartz-eye-gouge and get right on it!" Xander quipped, pretty much summing up the tight, uncomfortable feelings around the table.

"Spike, have you ever fought a N'ktharan demon?" Buffy asked.

"Nah. Usually just run like hell the other way. Nasty buggers. Hate everybody, not afraid to fight. Strong as all hell too. Tail's the kicker. They can wrap it around you, swing from it, I've even seen some use swords with'em. Can't get them alone either. Always with the clan."

"Oh." The Slayer looked nonplussed.

"Is there any magic that does work on them?" The witches asked the Watcher.

"The book says that some more powerful blinding spells will work temporarily, but once cast, its effects will only function once. Then the demons gain resistance to it, and another spell must be used. I'm afraid that at best magic will be a partial weapon against the N'ktharan demons. We will have to find a way to eliminate them using force as well." The Watcher pulled off his glasses, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

"So, we've got to go punch out the eyes of a bunch of big, strong, nasty demons with only partial magical aid before they lead a huge army into our dimension.There are seven of us and at least twenty of them, probably more, and we have three days?" As Xander spoke, he grew more and more animated.

"Six."

"What?"

"There are six of you to fight the demons. I'm leaving."

"What do you mean, leaving?" Giles asked this to the ex-demon.

"Well, Xander's not giving me orgasms anymore and none of you have offered to give me any. Besides, none of you has a chance against N'ktharan demons. Even when I had my power center I avoided them." At that, Anya grabbed her purse and headed for the door. "By the way, I quit."

As she headed toward her car, Spike muttered, "Y'didn't ask me. Orgasm's are us, right here!" The rest of the Scoobies just stared at the door.

"Well, big vote of confidence there." Willow slapped down the book she'd been reading.

"We can do it. We just need a plan, right, Giles?" Buffy gave the Watcher her best puppy dog look. It didn't work nearly as well as Xander's.

"Ah, yes. A plan. Well, then, we should definitely be developing a plan, shouldn't we?" Giles rambled aimlessly as he looked about for another cup of coffee. "Nasty stuff, but so much more potent than tea."

"Plan, G-man?"

"I have asked you repeatedly to cease referring to me by that odious diminutive of my surname. If you do continue, I will seriously consider transforming you into a six-toed ground trisk." Giles hissed at Xander.

"Ripper, old man! Good to see you! Say, can I borrow-"

Spike was cut off by a fulminating stare from the Watcher.

"All right. Buffy, Spike, go patrol. Xander, Willow, Tara, go home. Everyone think on the situation and meet here tomorrow. A plan will have formed itself by then." Giles looked at the group, who were just staring at him. "NOW!" he shouted at them. With worry in their eyes, the Scoobies made their way out of the shop, leaving Giles muttering to himself.

.......

"Need a manly escort home, my fine witchy women?" Xander wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

"Nah. We've been practicing these defensive spells-"

"Alrighty! I'll just go my merry way-as fast as I possibly can! Bye girls! Um, catch ya later!" Xander loped away, toward his apartment and as far from the witches as he could get.

"Gee, major confidence booster!" Willow scowled at her best friend's rapidly retreating back.

"Maybe he's still.upset about his clothes?" Tara asked, bringing up once again the glamour-gone-awry that had permanently left Xander's normally blindingly bright clothes a pale rose color.

"Hey, we apologized, and I even got him two of those Hawaiian flowery shirts he wears! I mean, it was a sterling opportunity to make a life-altering fashion change for him." Willow opened the door of the dormitory for her girlfriend. The pair made for the stairs, still discussing Xander's wardrobe.

Meanwhile, Xander was letting himself into his apartment. He closed the door behind him, first locking it, then leaning heavily against it. He could still smell her here. Light, flowery perfume, lotion, and something else he never could put a name to, but was always Anya.

It hurt. A lot. Yes, they'd broken up, and no, he hadn't been in love with her, but he did love her. She'd been the central focus of his existence for so long, Xander wasn't sure what to put in the space he now had inside himself. Sighing, he went to the refrigerator and pulled out a beer. Nothing like killing a few brain cells to wash your worries away. Beer in hand, he walked over to the couch, flopping down gracelessly.

He reached for the remote and flipped through the night's offerings. "You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille, with four." Xander snorted, "Guess she got tired of living on dreams." [2] He noticed moisture on his face and raised his hand to his cheek. "Damn, I'm crying to Kenny Rogers. Pathetic." He finished the beer quickly, turning off the television. He stood up, stretching languidly, and headed to the kitchen. Xander pitched the empty bottle in a bin under the counter and went to brush his teeth.

He forcibly turned his mind to the current apocalyptic crisis at hand while finishing his evening ablutions. < Big herd of nearly invincible demons bent on taking over the world..and we're way outnumbered. Knowing Giles, he'll call in the cavalry and get the L.A. gang up here for the cookout.At least there's no ditzy hell-goddess! >

Flipping off the light, Xander headed for bed. Of course, he wouldn't be able to sleep. She was there in the bed, her head on the indentation in the pillow next to his, her warm little body curled under the sheets, her breath washing gently over his arm. He turned over, then over again, but he couldn't get away. < Maybe she did call on D'Hoffryn. >

He lay there, trying to avoid the guilt and hurt, making himself think of the prophecy. < The army.there's something about the army. The wording was wrong.what was it?.Tense? No, the tense was fine. > Delving deeper into the intricacies of the Thlakonian poetry that made up the prophecy, Xander won the battle, at least temporarily, over his sadness, and drifted off to sleep.

The next day found Xander once again at the construction site. The weather was beautiful, more than just pleasant. The often-blazing heat of summer was past, leaving in its wake soft, comforting warmth coupled with a sweet breeze. Just like the past day, in the light of morning, Xander's problems disappeared, unable to stand against the perfect day.

His good mood lasted until lunch. Sitting on the site, eating yet another peanut butter and jelly sandwich, thoughts of yesterday's events crept through Xander's mind again. His cheer evaporated; coworkers noticed his face falling and tried not to see a tear rolling down his cheek. "Xander, y'ok, man? Seem a bit, uh, down, all of a sudden." Matt, one of the permanent crew, commented.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Broke up with Anya yesterday. She split town already."

"Damn. Sorry, Xan. You two seemed in it for the long haul, y'know? Sorry, man." The crew nodded quietly, leaving Xander to his ruminations. As the day wore on, Xander returned to last night's tactic for warding off thoughts of Anya-the thought about the impending demon battle. < What would break those eyes? Stakes aren't going to cut it this time. Wood's just no match for quartz.Neither are swords, for that matter. > Xander pondered the situation nearly until quitting time.

Putting up his tools, he said to himself, "Forget it. Plans just aren't your.specialty. As if you have a specialty, Xan-man. Other than doughnuts, of course. Another latte, o Slayer mine? Or maybe-" Xander stopped talking as he looked down at the contents of his hand-a ball peen hammer. Rounded on one end, flat on the other. Large, solid metal. Hefty, blunt.perfect tool for crushing quartz. A smile graced Xander's face for the first time since lunch. He quickly finished up his foreman duties and jumped in his car, whistling. < Go home, shower, grab a bite. Plenty of time to stop by the hardware store before the meeting. >

.......

"Found anything, Tara?" Willow pitched her satchel on the bed, sliding down onto the floor next to the blonde witch. They had been taking turns pouring through their small collection of dark magic books all day, making up a collection of blinding and obscuring spells for the demon battle. Most of their spells were obviously weak, so they were left with a few strong ones and a lot of other ones they could either discard or alter to strengthen them.

"Not much more. I looked at that one you pulled from here, " Tara picked up a narrow volume bound in leather, "But I don't think adding dragon's blood is going to make it strong enough. Besides, it could.explode instead."

"Oh. Well, then, I guess we should move this to the Magic Box then. Have you fed Miss Kitty?" At the mention of her name, said feline unfolded herself from the pillows at the head of the bed and slinked down to her humans, casually suggesting a treat, perhaps? Willow grinned. Their cat was shameless. She reached over and fished out a baggie of cat treats. "Salmon today for the princess?" The cat chased the morsels across the floor and under the bed, growling a bit as she pounced.

"If I dance around, will you give me a treat?" Tara whispered in Willow's ear. Willow shivered, closing her eyes as Tara licked her way up Willow's earlobe.

"Um.yeah, dancing is of the good." Tara chuckled at Willow's attempt to answer as she bit down softly. Reluctantly, the blonde pulled away.

"We'd better get to the shop." Willow pouted briefly, but then shrugged and picked up the spells they'd written out.

"If you insist." Tara just opened the door, making sure Miss Kitty stayed on the right side of it. The two girls trekked over to the magic shop, stopping along the way for a coffee.

Buffy was already at the Magic Box, training for the upcoming battle. < Damn! Why now? I was hoping to get a break from this whole destiny shit. Speaking of breaks.I wonder what the Waiting Period is before I can get at Xander. It's not like I'm going to buy a gun or anything. Anya was very forthcoming about.how he is in the sack-damn it, now I'm getting all hot. > Buffy threw a few more punches, trying to relieve her sexual frustration before she saw the object of her current fantasies.

"Buffy are you back there? Ah good, I was hoping you would get some training in before you patrol tonight. I want everyone to prepare before the upcoming battle." Giles spoke, relieved she was taking the prophecy seriously.

The front door opened, signaling a possible customer, "Oh, it's just you."

"Well, hello to you, too, Giles. Just us? Sheesh, thanks for the complement. You'd think we weren't your best customers."

"Well, I didn't mean." Giles stammered.

"That's okay, Mr. Giles, we know that you are worried about the prophecy." Tara whispered.

"Have you found any other spells that might work, I mean that could hold then off for even a little bit?"

"I'm afraid not, and I have not been able to reach Angel at all." Giles spoke quietly, hoping Buffy could not overhear. Although Buffy was over Angel, Giles still thought it best not to bring his name up in conversation. "We may not have his help for this one."

"Hey if it isn't my favorite witches, been doing any *spells* lately?" Xander snickered.

"Just the ones that keep you away while we're having sex," Willow replied.

"Children, please! I do not want to hear about that; let's focus on the task at hand, you know, *keeping the world from being destroyed yet again?*"

"Right, have I got just the thing to smash those eyes into funky Swiss watches!"

"Really, Xander, you actually have an idea?" Buffy had heard Xander come in to the shop and quickly checked her look. Shirt ok. Capris ok. No sweat.No sweat!

"Yeah. They come to me when my back's turned, real sneaky-like." Xander let a pair of large bags hit the floor of the shop with a resounding thud. The noise was enough to attract the attention of everyone in the store, including the few remaining customers.

"Ah, dare I ask what you have there?" Giles questioned the boy.

"Hammers, G-man, hammers." Xander looked more satisfied than the Watcher liked. The lingering customers heard the young man's declaration, and with wide eyes quickly made for the exit, bumping into a certain blonde vampire on their way out.

"Care to explain, Xan?" Willow questioned her friend.

"Bringing work home? You know, Xander, there's all sorts of stuff written about men who can't leave the office at the office." Buffy said teasingly to Xander. She walked over to him, peering into the bags briefly before straightening up. She posed as casually as possible, one hand on her hip, the other twirling a strand of Sun-Kissed Autumn Wheat hair. The display earned a raised eyebrow from the chipped vampire.

"No..I was thinking last night about those N'ktharan demons. See, stakes are a no-go. I mean, they're great for vamps and thirty other flavors of demons, but quartz? Uh uh, not even gonna make a scratch. Same thing for swords. Sharp and all, but there's too much effort involved in making a long, thin strip of metal break up a chunk of rock.

"I was putting up my tools at work when I realized that hard, blunt, metal, objects would do the trick. I went with ball peen hammers 'cause they've got two fairly blunt ends. The claw on the end of other hammers wouldn't do as well-" Xander was cut off by the gang as they grabbed at the tools he'd been placing on a table.

"Hammers. You bought, let's see, thirty-five hammers?" Giles surveyed the makeshift weaponry with a cautious eye.

"You expect me to fight with a household utility item?" Buffy picked up a hammer by the handle with two fingers, holding it out like a dead rodent.

"Um, Xander, I love you like a brother, but maybe Buffy was right-you are taking too much work home with you."

"Right in one, whelp. Best-natch-only idea so far on these nasties." Spike picked up a matched pair of hammers and gave them a practice swing. "Well-balanced and with solid metal handles no less-no accidental friendly-vamp stakings." He continued twirling and tossing the hammers in the air, occasionally knocking one against the stair railing.

"You're kidding," Buffy picked up another hammer to match the one she'd been holding and began copying Spike's movements. "Giles, you got any spare quartz around here? We need to practice making quartz dust." She punctuated her question with a solid hammer-blow to the doorframe leading to the training room.

"Yes, I do, and please move all hammer activities into the training room before you break something either dangerous, expensive, or both!" Giles stood between Spike and Buffy, hands on his hips.

After a moment, the two moved over to the training room, where they began sparring with the hammers. Soon the sounds of metal-on-metal could be heard, interspersed with the occasional soft thump of a hammer impacting undead flesh. "Bloody hell, chit! You're not fighting vamps with those things. Leave off with the tenderizing, I'm moist and delicious already!"

"Hey, that's my line you.undead motto-thief!" Xander trotted over to the training room to see Spike sprawled out on the floor, holding his ribs. Buffy looked over guiltily at Xander. Her expression quickly turned into a sunny smile, eyes half closed.

"I'll beat him up for you, Xander. Just say the word." Xander just shook his head.

"Nah, he gets it enough already." Xander turned around and headed back to his hammer collection.

"I'll beat him up for you," Spike mimicked in a falsetto, sing-song voice. "Beat me up, hell, bint, you do that already. 'Sides, haven't done anything to the whelp.lately. No need to come after me with a stake.er, hammer." Spike pulled himself up from the floor, glaring at the Slayer.

"Shut up, Spike." Buffy resumed her practice, aiming at the traditional punching bag instead of her vampiric one.

"Now, it seems we have decided upon using Xander's idea of the hammers for killing the N'ktharan demons. We still have not uncovered what exactly they are trying to raise from the Hellmouth. Tomorrow we will practice with the hammers and coordinate the spells we can use to gain some advantage, but tonight we must research." Giles spoke over the sounds of the Scooby gang attempting to use the hammers, some more successful than others from the look of a hole punched though the wall. "Right now I am not going to ask what happened, but whoever is responsible will pay to fix it."

With that, everyone moved to the main room to grab a book. Giles made sure to give Xander the book of prophecies, sure that the boy could decipher more specifics about the timing of the spell.

"Giles! Look, here is something about the raising of Kipingin demons from the Hellmouth. They can only be raised by other demons, and will literally liquefy any living thing in their path. They look nasty." Willow practically jumped up and down with excitement.

"Wills, no more caffeine for you, and besides-these Kipingin demons, aren't they a type of fish?"

"Those are kippers Slayer, I can't believe this; one foiled one of my plans, I mean before the soddin' chip, and once I get this bleedin' thing out of my head."

"I know, I know, then you'll be the Big Bad again, and we'll be your nummy treats." Xander rolled his eyes at the vampire proclaiming his evilness yet again.

"The good thing is, they are easier to kill than the N'ktharan demons, all it takes is a bullet through the heart. The bad thing is their hearts are in well, sorry boys, their groin area."

The Slayer looked excited, "You mean I get to aim where almost every woman has wanted to since the dawn of time? I can do that!"

"Yes, Buffy, I'm sure you can, but I hope it does not come down to that, because then we will be fighting two separate types of demon, instead of just one, and while they may be easier to kill, there will be ten thousand of them instead of just a few dozen of the other. Since we have figured out what the demons might be trying to raise, now we just have to stop them before they start. Now Willow and Tara, go home. Buffy and Spike can patrol tonight. See you all tomorrow." As the gang started to leave, Giles motioned for Xander to stay and talk.

"Have you found anything else in your research?"

"Yeah G-man, it seems they have to start the ritual when the moon is shining onto their circle. Thing is, with the position of the Hellmouth in the ruins, they'll have hours to complete the ritual."

"Well then we must get there while preparations are being made, probably right after sundown."

"Is that all, Giles? I'm kinda tired after lugging all those hammers here."

"That's fine, go home and get some rest. Good night."

"Good night," Xander called out while walking to his car, preparing for another night alone. < I hope all this has left me tired enough to sleep without thinking tonight. > He was, but his dreams were still plagued by the elusive blonde, but this time whenever he thought she would never leave, the blonde disappeared without a trace, still not allowing Xander to see her face.

.......

The following day was much the same as the previous two for the Scoobies: go to class or work and try not to think about the upcoming evil until the next meeting at the magic shop.

They gathered in the training room with Xander in protective gear and Spike and Buffy learning how to use their new weapons most effectively while Giles and the witches gathered the necessary ingredients for blinding spells

< I can't believe they think I need this thing. It's not like I haven't used hammers or fought demons before. The Zeppo returns, no good deed goes unpunished, the universe plays a big cosmic joke on me. >

"Xander, we really need to practice, so no fooling around--unless it's with me. But since Spike is here." Buffy spoke while finding her grip on the handle.

"Hey, I don't mind watching, though I'd rather be in on the action. No, wait, never mind, let's just get on with the practice."

"Spike, first I have to say ew! Never on this earth; Second, what's wrong with me? I've never heard any complaints about me in the 'love' department." Xander sneered.

"I know I would never have any complaints about you, Xander" Buffy spoke coyly.

"Uh huh, so you've shagged the boy recently, 'ave you?"

"No! I'm just saying that from what Anya said, there would definitely be no complaints."

"And Anya has this wealth of experience? Wait, she probably does, being a former vengeance demon an' all."

"Please, can we stop talking about my sexual prowess and start practicing?" Xander shifted uncomfortably in his protective gear.

"Does Giles have any stones? I need to smash something, I mean so I can see how much power it would take to use these hammers." Spike started searching the room for breakable items.

"I think we had better go outside for that part, especially since Spike has already put that gaping hole in the wall."

"Me? I think that was you, Slayer."

"No it wasn't!"

"Was too!"

"Was not!" Buffy started pulling out 'Mr. Pointy' to emphasize her side.

"Children, children, save the fighting for tomorrow. Buffy, please put away the stake. I really don't feel like cleaning up after Spike."

"Was too, and if it wasn't for this bloody chip..." Spike muttered while following them outside, his mood only brightening due to the prospect of smashing something.

Meanwhile, Giles and the girls were discussing the order of the spells.

"I think we should start off with this one." Willow pointed to an intricate white light spell.

"Willow, you know that is much too dangerous, and should only be used as a last resort."

"Yeah, but if we start with that, then the others won't be necessary."

"Yes, but if we start with that and don't get all of the pack, we could still end up bloody well dead since that spell will make us all blind if we're not prepared for it."

"Mr. Giles is right, Will, why don't we start is the obscuring spell, where fog clings to the demons. We may not need the others, besides, the white light spell is very draining, and we'll need our energy to fight."

"Okay, okay, we'll start with the obscuring spell, and then the occularis spell, but if those don't work, I'm using the white light spell."

"Agreed, and now that we have the spell order taken care of, you two should get the components together while I go check on the others." Giles headed out toward the more destructive group smashing rocks.

"Nothing like a spot of violence, eh Ripper?"

"Spike, please stop calling me that. How go the preparations?"

"Great, except for Xander; he keeps falling on his butt." Buffy spoke while crushing a rock with her new toy.

"It's this stupid protective gear, I can't get my stance. It's not like I'm going to wear this stupid thing tomorrow anyway. I'm going to go inside and take it off." Xander started walking toward the shop.

"I can't wait to see you at your best, Xander!" Buffy called out.

"Now, how are things shaping up out here? Do you feel you can defeat these demons?"

"No sweat, Giles. I can take these suckers, vampire pun intended."

"Hey!"

"Right. When Xander returns, start training without the hammers, to get a feel for the necessary battle stances."

"Boy, I feel much better not looking like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man." Xander picked up his hammer and steadily smashed his pile of rocks into a powder while Spike, Giles and Buffy looked on in amazement.

"What, you didn't think that my experience in construction would give me an edge with these little rocks? You all should come out to the site sometime and see what I do during the day." Xander smirked < Well, I showed them! >

"Let's go inside and to some hand to hand," Buffy walked past Xander, angry at being shown up, but turned on at the same time. < I wonder if he's that forceful in bed. >

Xander, Spike and Giles followed the Slayer into the training room. The witches were finished organizing the ingredients and were now ready to train as well.

"Willow and Tara, start warming up. Spike, help Xander with his balance. Buffy, we need to work on your blocking." The group split into their assigned pairs, readying for the upcoming battle.

Xander and Spike started throwing punches at each other; well Xander throwing the punches as Spike defending himself so the chip wouldn't activate. "Can't you throw a good punch, whelp? Like this..AHH! Stupid chip, I wasn't even close to hitting you!"

"So, do all secret vampire attack techniques involve migraines? "Xander laughed as Spike tried to gain control over the pain.

"Never mind that. I was trying to do a bloody good deed, and look at what that did for me! A bloody pain in the neck you are." Spike grumbled.

"O captain, my captain![3]" Xander cried, sweeping around the vampire flamboyantly.

"Let's just get back to this. Don't bother me any if you die; maybe I'll even get a little taste." Spike scowled at the boy, still rubbing his forehead.

"Spike, I'm not going to die, so there is no way you'll be able to feast on me." Xander threw a wide punch toward the vampire, who danced back and then shot forward. Xander fell forward as the energy behind his swing carried him to the ground. Spike reached out a hand, helping the human to his feet.

"Like I would want to eat you anyway." Spike said. He put Xander back into position, then walked him through the same scenario, except this time pushing and tugging the boy's body until Xander understood where to place his weight to recover from such a missed shot.

"You so would, oh chipped one." Xander said, this time managing not to fall on his ass. He bowed deeply to the vampire, who clapped farcically in return. They continued their lesson until Giles gathered the troops for the evening's pep talk.

"Tomorrow night will be most dangerous. It is imperative that we do not stray from our designs. Remember, first we must do some reconnaissance to find where the demons are going to open the portal.

"Tara and Willow will need find a place to cast the spells from that will protect them from the demons, if possible. They will perform the first two spells while the rest of us stop the N'ktharans.

"Spike, you must protect them; I fear that we will not be able to stop the demons without any assistance on their parts. If the final spell is necessary, there is a possible danger to all us.

"Buffy, you and the others must follow Willow and Tara's instructions precisely. If you do not close your eyes at the end of the spell, you will be blinded, and will remain so for several days.

"I recommend that you all go home and get some sleep. Tomorrow will be exhausting." Giles finished his speech, watching the gang's reactions carefully.

The Scoobies left for the night, but sleep was not an option. Buffy was excited from flirting with Xander and the prospect of the fight. Willow was upset that Giles underestimated her magickal capabilities and Tara had to stay awake to listen to Willow grumble. Spike was Spike, who needed to fight something before dawn and headed towards Willie's. Xander tried to sleep, but was plagued by both Buffy's innuendos and his usual erotic dreams.

*****

Part 2

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