Buffy, Michael, Xander, and Anya sat in Xander’s basement. The Michael and Xander were sitting on the sofa, with the Anya and Buffy sitting on the floor each in front of her respective boyfriend. They were watching TV, except Buffy, who had a book in her lap and was engrossed in it. Xander was holding the TV remote. Anya’s right arm was in a sling.
“Wish I had something food-like to offer you guys, but the hot plate’s out of commission.” Xander said.
“We think the cat peed on it.” Anya told them.
A Kung-Fu movie was showing on the TV.
“I do have Spaghetti-O’s. Set ‘em on top of the dryer and you’re a fluff cycle away from lukewarm goodness.” Xander gestured at the dryer.
“Hmm. Yeah, I had dryer food for lunch.” Michael said.
Upstairs they heard a door slam.
Looking up, Xander said, “Ah, I guess the folks are back.”
They could hear voices yelling at each other. Xander, Anya, and Michael looked uncomfortable. Buffy was oblivious.
“No, no, I was wrong. Just incompetent burglars.” Xander said but no one laughed.
There was more yelling from upstairs. Then there was the sound of another door slamming. Plaster dust from the ceiling drifted down onto Anya.
“Yeah, maybe it’s definitely time to start looking for a new place. Something a little nicer. Buffy, you’ve been to Hell. They have one-bedrooms, right?” Xander asked.
Michael laughed, then noticed Buffy wasn’t paying attention.
“Hey Buffy, how’s that book? Full of zippy dates and zesty names?” Michael asked.
Not listening, Buffy said, “I’m fine.”
Michael leant forward, reaching his arms over Buffy’s shoulders and placed his palms on the book pages. Michael was wearing a black top that looked like it was made from not much more than fishnet stockings, the sleeves came down halfway over his palms.
“Heyyy. I’m enjoying the studying.” Buffy said.
“Who are you lately? Give it up and watch the movie.” Michael said.
“I guess it has been a long day with the crusades. I can take a little break from the violence for some…” Buffy looked up at TV, “… ooh, fighting.”
Onscreen, the kung-fu guys argued. Their mouths moved and badly dubbed English could be heard.
“Incompetently-dubbed kung fu. Our most valuable Chinese import.” Xander said.
“Much more durable than their hot plates.” Anya added.
Michael leant forward to massage Buffy’s shoulders.
“Just relax.” Michael told her.
“Mm… mm. That feels good.” Buffy said.
Xander looked at them, cracked his knuckles, and put his hands on Anya’s shoulders.
“Ow! What are you doing? I have a dislocated shoulder!”
Xander stopped rubbing. Michael stopped rubbing Buffy’s shoulders too.
“I’m trying to concentrate on the kicking movie.” Anya told him.
“Hey! Rubbing went away.” Buffy said.
Michael started rubbing again.
“Oh... sorry, I got caught up in the action.” Michael said gesturing at the TV.
“Yeah, it’s pretty good.”
On screen, the fighting continued.
“Oh, give me a break! This is all wrong. See, first you would get the big guy, with a flying kick. Then you would take out all the little ones, bam, ba… see, now with the flying kick.” Scornfully Buffy said, “From a dead stop! What’s powering it, raw enthusiasm?”
“Hey Buff, maybe you oughta leave the work behind sometimes. You’re not always on Slayer duty, you know?” Michael said.
“It would drive you crazy if we were watching a music movie and they were all playing their instruments backwards and...writing songs all willy-nilly.”
There was more shouting and banging from upstairs.
Xander and Anya shifted uncomfortably. Michael coughed several times.
“And anyway, I mean, you know, you can’t blame me for being critical. Willow’s the same way when we watch a, a movie about witches, right Xander?”
Distracted by the noise from upstairs, Xander said, “What? Oh yeah, she’s all like, ‘What’s that, a cauldron? Who uses a cauldron any more?’ ”
In a dark lair filled with steam and smoke demon was tending to a huge cauldron full of bubbling yellow liquid. Steam arose from it. The demon pulled the hood of his cloak back, he had brownish orange skin with cracks through which yellowish green ‘light’ shone. His eyes were sunken and red, and his voice was very deep.
“The last step in thy forging is my pain... the price with which I purchase... the death of the Slayer.” The demon said.
He had some kind of rod or stick in his hand. He plunged it into the cauldron, along with his hand. He screamed in pain.
There was a nice modern apartment building surrounded by bushes and grass, with a ‘For Rent’ sign outside.
Willow, Anya, Xander, Buffy, and Michael walked down the hall. Xander wore a yellow T-shirt with a brightly flowered Hawaiian shirt over it. Anya still had her arm in the sling. Michael wore the same ‘fishnet’ top and leather pants.
“If you get the apartment, this’ll be your hallway.” Willow said. “We’ll walk down this hall, and we’ll say, ‘La la, I’m on my way to Xander’s.’ ”
“Just warning you, Xander, I probably won’t be doing that.” Buffy said.
“Really? I will.” Michael added.
“Hey, we’re just lookin’. Rent’s way high, so don’t get your hopes all carbonated.” Xander said.
“But you have references.” Anya reminded him.
“No, I have Albert, which is me doing an important voice.” Xander put on an important voice. “Xander Harris? An excellent tenant. And a very nice-looking fellow.”
Anya opened a door and they walked into the apartment. It was large and spacious.
“Whoa! Big!” Willow said.
“It’s nice. And not subterranean. It’s very, uh, above-terranean.” Buffy said.
Xander looked less than thrilled.
“I want it. Pay anything.” Anya said.
“Xander Harris?” said a woman’s voice.
The real-estate manager entered, smiling at Michael.
“Uh, no, Michael Raynes.” Michael shook her hand. “This is Xander.”
Xander wiped his hand on his shirt before holding it out.
He and the manager shook hands.
“Ah.” Was all she said.
“I brought my friends.”
“They wouldn’t always be around.” Xander said.
“But we’re clean and-and quiet.” Willow told her.
Xander looked nervous. The Manager looked uncertain.
Standing in the living room, gesturing around, Anya said, “We can have the Scooby meetings in the living room, and-and Giles can explain the boring things over there.”
Going into kitchen Willow said, “Oh, there’s a microwave! It would be like having hot and cold running popcorn.”
“Phone and electricity are hooked up. There’s a private balcony, ceiling fan, closet space...” the Manager saw Xander opening a door. “And that’s the bedroom.”
Xander opened the door and found Buffy and Michael sitting on the bed, smooching.
“Guys, you can’t save it for the bedroom?” Xander asked.
Buffy and Michael looked around pointedly.
“Okay, good point.”
He walked away. Buffy and Michael got up.
“I brought an application for you to fill out.” The Manager said giving Xander a piece of paper.
“An application? I can’t just... tell you my references? Because there’s Albert.”
“We run your credit check based on the application.”
“Oh! Credit check.” Then nervously, to the others. “Little check on the credit. See how credible my checks are.”
Xander laughed nervously. The others laughed politely.
“And we’ll be asking for first, last, security, and a small cleaning deposit. The total’s at the bottom of the sheet there.”
Xander looked at the sheet. Michael, Buffy, and Willow leaned in to look too. Anya came over and glanced briefly at the sheet.
To the Manager, Anya said, “He’ll take it.” Then to Xander. “Xander, go get the furniture, I’ll wait here.” Then again to the Manager again. “He’s been living in his drunken parents’ basement where something urinated on the hot plate.”
Laughing nervously, Xander said, “Anya, can we talk quietly over there?” Then to the Manager. “Excuse us.”
He pulled Anya aside, leaving the other three with the Manager. They smiled nervously at her.
“Uh, we, uh ... we like the ceiling fan.” Michael told her, trying to make conversation.
“Yes. It’s very, you know, kind of old south.” Willow said.
“But without the unpleasant slavery associations.” Buffy added.
“But why can’t we have it?” Anya asked Xander.
Quietly, Xander said, “I told you, my construction job is ending, and I won’t have any more money coming in. And by the way, you do have your own place.”
“So when I wanna visit you, I have to be in that awful basement?”
“Not forever. Just until things come together.”
“Which is when, Xander? ‘Cause right now, things are looking pretty untogether, and you can’t expect me just to wait around for…” Her voice rose and the others tried not to notice.
“Quiet, please. Anya, what is this? What’s going on with you?”
Loudly, Anya said, “What’s going on with me is my arm hurts... and I’m tired... and I don’t really feel like taking a tour of beautiful things I can’t have.”
She stalked out. The Manager looked a little suspicious. The others smiled gamely.
With a big fake smile, Xander said, “I guess I’ll just start on that application. I think you’ll like it. I’ve been told I have lovely penmanship.”
He took the application, put it on a counter and began filling it out. The Manager watched, looking sceptical.
In the Magic Box Giles was surrounded by boxes, looking at one.
To himself, Giles said, “Miscellaneous curses.” He laughed, picked up something unidentifiable from the box. “Brilliant. Be lucky if I don’t curse my hands off at the wrist.”
He picked up the box, turned, and was confronted by the demon from the cave.
Raising his stick, the demon said, “The Slayer is not here.”
Giles grabbed something out of the box and held it up toward the demon.
“Rabbit’s foot, no, wait...” he tossed it aside and looked in the box for something else.
The demon knocked the box out of Giles’ hands. Giles gasped and held up a wooden statue about a foot and a half high.
“That is a fertility God.” The Demon told him.
Giles looked at it in dismay.
“Feeble man, you are not going to distract me…”
Giles hit him in the head with the statue. He reeled backward. Giles hit him with the statue a few more times, then the demon shoved Giles, and he fell into a pile of boxes.
Pointing his stick at Giles, “You are not the Slayer.”
Giles rolled over and looked up at him.
“You do not concern me.”
The demon turned and walked out, his black cape flowing behind him. Giles watched, stunned, then let his head drop back onto the floor with a groan.
Later on that day Giles was standing, holding the statue, making hitting motions.
“Like this... and this... and this...”
Giles took a step across the magic shop floor with every swing. Kaz, Michael, Buffy, Willow, and Xander had also assembled in the magic shop. Willow, Anya and Buffy sat on the floor with books in their laps. Michael, Kaz and Xander were standing around watching Giles demonstrate what happened.
“That thing’s pretty heavy.” Michael said.
“That’s Oofdar. Goddess of childbirth. She’s got some nice heft to her.” Willow informed them.
“How badly did you hurt him?” Buffy asked Giles.
“Well, hurt, uh... maybe not... hurt.” Giles said.
“Well, I-I’m sure he was startled.” Willow said.
“Uh, yes, yes, I’d imagine it gave him, uh, rather a turn.”
Grinning, Buffy said, “He ran away, huh?”
“Um, sort of more... uh... turned and swept out majestically, I suppose. He said I didn’t concern him.”
“So a mythic triumph over a completely indifferent foe?” Buffy asked.
Insulted, Giles said, “Well, I’m not dead or unconscious, so I say bravo for me.”
“Good for you, Giles.” Kaz said and gave him a friendly punch on the arm, Giles gave her an odd look.
Holding up a book, Willow said, “Some good demons in this one. See if your guy’s in here.”
Giles walked over to take the book.
“So you bought the magic shop and you were attacked before it opened. Who’s up for a swingin’ chorus of the ‘We told you so’ symphony?” Xander asked.
Hefting the Oofdar statue, Michael said, “Owning this place does seem kinda dangerous.” He took a few experimental swings with the statue.
Looking up from the book, Giles said, “Toth.”
“What?” Michael asked.
“He called you a Toth. It’s a British expression. It means, like, moron.” Buffy said.
“No, Toth is the name of the demon.” Giles said and saw Xander holding a crystal. “Be careful with that.”
Xander looked around at the others then put the crystal down carefully.
“Ancient demon. Very strong. Last survivor of the Tothric clan.” Kaz said peering over Giles’ shoulder.
“It also says that for a demon he’s unusually sophisticated.” Giles added.
“Sophisticated. So I should discuss men’s fashions with him before I chop his head off?” Buffy asked.
Exasperated, Giles told her, “They’re referring to the fact that he does not fight barehanded. He uses tools, devices. Oh, he’s also supposed to be very focused. And since he mentioned the Slayer, I think we know what the focus is.”
“He mentioned Buffy? Where do we find him, and how hard can I kill him?” Michael asked.
Consulting book, Giles said, “Well, there’s no mention of the types of places he might frequent, but...” he closed book and stood up. “I have an idea.” Giles walked around, talking thoughtfully. “He had a very specific olfactory presence.”
“Well, I guess we’re off to the olfactory. I hate that place.” Xander said and everyone rolled their eyes at him. “I’m joking, I know what it means. He smelled.” Uncertainly. “Right?”
“Some demon rituals involve anointing with oils. Was it sort of... sandalwoody?” Willow asked, hopefully.
“Um ... not even remotely. But he was very, um... distinctive.”
Giles, Xander, Buffy, Michael, Kaz and Willow walked along cautiously, in the city dump. Buffy carried a large axe.
“The city dump. Where smells go to relax and be themselves.” Buffy said.
“People say they’re recycling.” Michael shook his head. “They’re not recycling.”
Xander patted Michael on the shoulder.
“I found a spell so you can’t smell anything, but it does it by taking your nose off, so... no.” Willow told them.
“That one’s difficult to reverse as well.” Kaz added. “Could spend the rest of your life without a nose.”
“Eew.” Buffy said.
They heard noises and saw someone rooting around in the trash.
“What are you doing here, Spike?” Michael said, shifting his crossbow.
Spike straightened up, holding a mannequin arm.
“Oh, there’s a nice lady vampire who set up a charming tea room…” Spike said almost pleasantly. “…Over the next pile of crap. What do you think I’m doing? I’m scavenging, ain’t I?” He held up a small lamp in the other hand.
“Very pretty.” Willow said.
Spike nodded and turned to put the arm and the lamp in a shopping cart nearby.
“Spike, um... we’re looking for a demon, um... tall, robed, skin sort of hanging off. Deep voice?” Giles said, hopefully.
“You mean a great tall robey thing like that one?” Spike said pointing behind them.
They all turned and saw Toth standing there. He pointed his stick at them, energy flashed out of it and they all ducked just in time.
“Take cover!” Michael called.
“Big guy! Kick her ass!” Spike called.
Toth fired again. Buffy and Xander ducked aside, and the bolt shattered Spike’s lamp which he was still holding.
“Oh, very nice! I was on your side!” Spike angrily tossed the pieces of lamp aside.
Toth fired again.
“Watch out!” Xander said.
Xander thrust Buffy behind him. The blast hit him full in the chest and he flew backward into a pile of trash. The others rushed over.
“Hey, you okay?” Michael asked.
“Buffy, he’s gone.” Willow said.
“I’m fine.” Xander said again.
“Easy, easy.” Michael said.
Michael and Giles helped Xander up. He groaned.
“He disappeared.” Michael said.
They looked around. There was no sign of Toth. They started to walk off.
“That had to hurt.” Michael said.
“Take it slowly.” Giles said.
They walked off.
Unknown to them, among the bags, there was another Xander, lying apparently unconscious.
Scruffy Xander was lying in a pile of trash bags, yawning and beginning to wake up. With his eyes still closed, he made a disgusted face.
“Anya... you trying to use the hot plate again?” he said.
Slowly he opened his eyes, and looked around. He could hear flies buzzing.
He got up and walked off.
Scruffy Xander was walking around the corner of his parents’ house, looking confused and dishevelled. He went down the outer stairs to his basement door, tried to open it but it was locked. He knocked.
“Anya? Ahn?” he called.
He knocked some more, then kicked the door, hurting his foot, and hopped around in pain. He limped up the stairs and went to the nearest window. It was at ground level. He lay on the ground, wiped dirt off the window, and peered in.
Inside was a person wearing khaki pants but no shirt, combing his hair in front of the mirror inside Xander’s room.
Peering in the window, Scruffy Xander said, “Oh my god!”
The person inside looked just like Xander.
“What? No way! Who is... me?” Scruffy Xander said to himself.
Suave Xander was putting on a blue button-down shirt. His hair was neatly combed and appeared to be wet.
“What am I doing in there? Buffy. Need Buffy.” Scruffy Xander said.
He got up, tripped over his own feet and fell over.
Scruffy Xander was standing at a pay phone with the receiver tucked under his ear as he dug in his pockets.
Scruffy Xander said into phone, “No, it ate my quarter. Uh-huh. But see, I’m sort of having this aggressively bad day.” He pulled quarter out of pocket. “Ooh! I found a quarter! I found a quarter!... Well, ma’am, for me it is worth getting excited about.”
He hung up, put the quarter in, and dialled.
“Come on, Buffy.”
He turned and saw Suave Xander walking toward him, looking very tidy and confident. Scruffy Xander quickly turned away and hid his face with one hand, then watched as Suave Xander walked past him.
On the phone Buffy said, “Hello?”
Scruffy Xander dithered for a moment, then hung up and went after Suave Xander.
“They hung up.” Buffy said.
She hung up and picked up an axe. She was in her bedroom. Michael sat on the bed wearing leather pants and a long sleeved, blood red top. Buffy moved toward the bed, where she put the axe in a bag with some other weapons.
“Well, if this guy wants to fight with weapons, I’ve got it covered from A to Z. From axe to... zee other axe.” Buffy said.
Michael looked tense. She walked over to him.
“Relax. Another day, another demon.”
“Right. It’ll be good.”
She leaned down to kiss him. They continued kissing, and then they heard choking and gagging noises. Dawn stood in the doorway, pretending to gag. Buffy and Michael stopped smooching, looking annoyed.
“My friend Sharon’s older brother knows a girl who died because she choked on her boyfriend’s tongue.”
Annoyed, Buffy said, “Go away, Dawn.”
Michael looked amused.
“I’m not in your room. I’m in the hallway. The hallway doesn’t belong to you.” Dawn said moving back slightly to make sure she was in the hall.
Joyce came out of the room across the hall.
Moving toward the door, Buffy said, “Get out of here.”
“Mom, I can stand in the hallway, right?” Dawn asked.
“She’s watching us like a big freak!” Buffy complained.
Joyce sighed and put her hand to her forehead, “This must be my ‘two teenage girls in the house’ headache. I thought it felt familiar.”
“Good work, Dawn. You gave her a headache.”
“I did not!” To Joyce. “Did I give you a headache, Mom? I’m sure part of it is Buffy’s.”
“But part of it is Dawn’s.”
“It’s so nice you’ve learned to share. You girls, sort this out yourselves. It’s good for you.” Joyce left.