Small Fry goes to Los Angeles


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As much as Anya loved managing the shop, sometimes a seven-months-pregnant woman just needed to sit down and put her feet up. Or so she'd explained to Xander when he asked her if she was really trusting him to manage the Magic Box for a couple of days. After that last incident with the Girl Scout Troop, the Urn of Klaateru, and the box of imported yak gizzards, Xander had been told in no uncertain terms that he was not going to be left alone in the shop ever again. But now Anya was ensconced back at the apartment, probably with Spike fluttering around her bringing her cocoa and sushi and other, more demony substances Xander didn't want to know anything about. She'd packed Xander off to the shop with orders to sell many items to customers, along with a few special errands.

"Wesley's asked us to order him some items with our retailer's discount, because the 2% overhead we charge still offers him substantial savings, and Wesley -- unlike some other Englishmen we could mention, by which I mean Giles -- understands value. I've placed an initial order with our supplier which should have gone through by this morning, and you can just go online to her website to process the order."

So now Xander was here doing the forbidden -- playing around on Anya's computer in the shop, which she held so sacred that he usually wasn't even allowed to use it to play FreeCell, and all because of one nasty spyware incident which had led to some... interesting images appearing on customer invoices. Fascinating, really, if you looked at it from the sociological perspective of the ethics of installing malicious spyware from porn sites. Which Anya hadn't. So it had been months since Xander had last been permitted to use the shop computer, and now he could, because his darling wife was currently home having her feet massaged by her pet vampire.

Ever the dutiful husband, Xander pulled up the eThaumaturgy.com bookmark and checked Anya's shopping cart. There were the items Wesley had requested: a three-volume Proto-Akkadian demonology set that, disturbingly, listed Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution under "people who purchased this item also bought..."; two pounds of Peruvian bloodroot; the Misselthwaite stiletto; and a box of Scrabble letters marked with the wrong point value which was listed as "magical ingredients". He clicked the button labeled "Select All Items and Check Out", and was about to click on the button labeled "Purchase" when he noticed that they were extra items in the shopping cart. Crap. If he screwed something up, Anya would have his 'nads, possibly even in an unfun way.

What's happened here? Xander switched back to the previous screen, and realized what he'd done. The "Check Out with Shopping Cart" button is what he should have used -- the "Select All Items and Check out" button grabbed everything which was advertised on the website sidebar and added it to the shopping cart. Bastards! And clever. Good thing Anya doesn't know about that, or she'd add it to the Magic Box site. It occurred to Xander that he hadn't been to the Magic Box site in a while, and maybe he didn't want to.

He was about to reprocess the shopping cart when he noticed something interesting about the items from the sidebar ad. It wasn't the branded rubber duckies that caught his eye, though they were adorable. And it wasn't the complete DVD set of Dark Shadows, although he made a mental note to whine at Spike until he gave in and bought them for Xander with money he would steal from the Magic Box cash register. No, it was the third item. That tall, funky thing. How tall! How funky! How very irresistible. And when they all came after him, he could claim that he had been misled by the site design (true!), and what did they expect if Anya was never going to let him near the computer so he could learn how to use it, and then suddenly send him to malicious sneaky sites that wanted to steal their money and do amusing things to Angel & Co.?

Xander's hand hovered over the mouse as his better nature asserted itself. Luckily, he'd become quite adept at beating his better nature into submission.

Click.


At Airborne Express, We Move the World

"Angelcakes, someone's at the door," said Lorne over his shoulder as he entered the Hyperion lobby from Angel's office. "And Cordelia's out getting tacos, and Wes and Gunn are too busy sucking face in the corner to pay attention. You want me to get it?" It must have been a hypothetical question, perhaps one designed to set the scene for the newly-arriving reader, because Lorne promptly opened the door. The Airborne Express deliveryman stumbled in, almost overbalanced by the unusually long box he was carrying.

"You people always get deliveries that are strangely shaped or stink," complained the deliveryman, as Lorne helped him bring the box into the lobby. "And there was that one that exploded tiny goats. What was up with that?" Lorne ignored him, as always. The Airborne Express guy complained all the time, probably because he didn't realize how easy he had it. Federal Express wouldn't even deliver to the Hyperion anymore, after that incident with the barrel of oversized leper-grubs and the three cases of Play-Doh.

As Lorne steered the deliveryman out, Angel emerged from his office, buttoning his shirt and looking frazzled. Or smug. Maybe both. "That must be the latest shipment from Sunnydale," he said. "Cool. I've been waiting for the Misselthwaite stiletto." He ripped open the box, and reached in among the packing peanuts. "Wes, some books for you."

Wesley removed his lips from Gunn's long enough to say, "wonderful, thank you, Ang-- ohhh." He ground his hip toward whatever it was that Gunn was doing with his left hand, then went back to necking.

"What's this?" asked Lorne, rooting in the box and emerging with a purple rubber duck emblazoned "eThaumaturgy.com".

Angel shook his head. "Dunno. A freebie, maybe?" He shuffled around in the carton some more, and smiled at Lorne, holding his eyes as their fingers met and entwined amongst the packing peanuts. He reached to caress Lorne's wrist, and -- "Ow!" Angel pulled out his thumb and stuck in his mouth. "I think I found the Misselthwaite stiletto." He carefully groped with his other hand until he found the knife, and laid it by the bag of herbs Lorne had already snagged from the box. They both reached back in. "What's this thing?" Angel asked, as his hand wrapped around something long and hard and cylindrical.

"Hey, sugarplum," said Lorne at the same time, raising one eyebrow. "Did you ask Anya to order us any special toys? Because that's what this feels like."

Distracted by the raised-brow leer, Angel smiled soppily as he started to pull out whenever it was he held in his hand. He was looking at Lorne, not the box, so at first he didn't realize the reason for the expression on Lorne's face as the item he was holding -- the item they were both holding -- emerged from the packing peanuts. Eventually, it filtered in that Lorne was looking at him, and he glanced down to see at what.

"Fuck."

Gunn and Wesley had pulled apart finally at the sound of unmitigated horror in Angel's voice. Which meant that Gunn, eyes still somewhat glazed, was in prime location to catch the Urdeku as Angel wrenched it from Lorne's hand and flung it randomly away from both of them, and smack into Gunn's hands.

"Oh," said Gunn. "Shit."

Wesley laughed. "Language, young man. You can use words like that when you're older." He pinched Gunn's cheek, who stood tall, glaring and growling at him. And then, after a moment, glaring looking up, growling in a higher-pitched voice. Adorable as always -- but in a substantially different way, Wesley noted -- 4-year-old Gunn was standing in a pile of clothes. Wes' smile grew softer as he glided his hand gently over the tight black curls that covered Gunn's tiny head, and though Gunn glare didn't abate, he nuzzled into Wes' petting.

The tiny green demon on the other side of the lobby spoke up, in a lovely lisping soprano that ran clear as a bell. "Muffin? Would you mind terribly killing somebody for me?"


Sulking

"I am not going to spend the next month in the body of a 4-year-old." Angel was sitting in Cordelia's chair, kicking at her desk. He -- like Lorne and Gunn -- was wearing a T-shirt like a dress, because the first thing Cordelia had said upon returning with tacos was "I am not looking at my boss naked between now and when we go out shopping."

Well, that was more like the fifth thing she said. The first was a fit of uncontrollable giggling, if that counted as saying something, and the second was rushing over and saying "Ohmigod, you're also cute!", and her third statement was, "if any of you think I'm touching that tall, funky thing, wherever it is, you should reconsider whether or not you value your life," and the fourth thing was "I need my camera!" But since she had said all five things in the course of about 7.3 nanoseconds, it counted as "the first thing she'd said".

"It's only nine days, Angel. The box was delivered late in the month," Wesley explained for the third time. He was holding a scowling Gunn on his lap; though Gunn still didn't look happy, he hadn't stopped sharpening his suddenly-much-larger-than-himself axe until Wesley had picked him up and snuggled him.

Angel pulled back his leg to kick Cordelia's desk again -- but stopped suddenly at the look on her face. The sheepish expression which made adult vampire Angel look like, well, a sheep, made the 4-year-old version look like a constipated Teletubby. "It doesn't matter if it's nine days or nine months, Wes. I can't leave L.A. undefended that long. Gunn and I are both not at the top of our form."

"You can't even reach the top of your form," Cordelia snickered.

Angel glared at her, looking more constipated than before. "The point is, what will happen to you guys if something big and bad comes after you and needs to be beaten up by strong and muscular men?"

"Good point." All three toddlers shot surprised looks at Wesley. They'd expected argument at the implication that he wasn't strong and muscular. Wesley grinned. "Since this mixup must be Anya's fault, I think we should make her send us Spike to defend us from any attacking nasties."

This time even Cordelia looked annoyed. "Wes? Spike is an idiot. Why on earth would we want him here?"

"Spike. 4-year-old Angel. Figure it out, Cordelia."

The dawning comprehension and unholy glee on Cordelia's face had made greater men then Angel quail. "I want my nap," he announced.


Three Phone Calls

1.

"Hi, Anya? It's Cordelia"

...

"Yeah, great, great, except Angel's a toddler."

...

"No, not behaving like one. That's hardly news. Being one. Why the hell did you send us an Urdeku in that last passage?'

Through the receiver, everyone in the Hyperion lobby could hear the yell. "Xander!" Cordelia held the phone away from her ear, smiling nostalgically. She could almost see the cartoon cloud of dust with a hand or a foot occasionally emerging, until at last a disheveled Anya stood victorious over a prone Xander, birds tweeting prettily over his dazed noggin. At last the sounds of arguing ceased, and Cordy put the phone back to her ear.

"It was what? Yeah, right. You can't possibly belive that."

...

"Okay, I admit he's a fuck-up. But not that much of a fuck-up."

...

"Oh, for god's sake, Anya. I'm the only reason you ever met him, and I can call him a fuck-up if I want."

...

"Whatever. Can you send us Spike for a week?"

*********

2.

Cordelia answered the Hyperion's phone. It was her job, of course; she always answered the phone. At the moment, however, she was the only person available. Angel couldn't answer it without sounding like a four-year-old (with an American accent, which confused Cordelia no end). Shouldn't he have reverted to his Irish accent? When he regresses, will he be shouting "faith and begorrah!" And wouldn't it be funny if Faith's here when he does? And wouldn't it be hysterical if we could get Faith to touch the Urdeku?

Wesley was ensconced comfortably on one of the lobby couches, holding Gunn in his lap and promising to take him to fight dinobots in the museum.

"You'll be my son. And everyone will think I'm such a good and giving man, adopting a poor underprivleged boy from the projects and taking him into my well-funded home, where I'll teach him to speak in Received Pronounciation and appreciate Masterpiece Theatre."

Gunn laughed, which was sexy when he was a grownup, but when he was a toddler wearing the green Osh Kosh B'Gosh overalls Cordelia had picked up in an emergency Sears run (none of toddler Wesley's clothes fit stocky four-year-old Gunn), it was just adorable. "I ain't watching Masterpiece Theatre without Alistair Cooke hosting. It's just not the same."

Wesley patted his head. "Nonsense. You'll soon come around. You and your adopted siblings, whom I rescued from squalor in Beijing and Budapest."

"Hey! Nobody here's from Romania," said Angel, from the heap he'd landed in after Lorne made him slide down the banister.

Lorne wriggled out from under Angel. "Actually, I'm pretty glad you went to Romania. That curse worked out great as far as I'm concerned."

"I'm with Lorne on that one," said Cordelia, as she hung up the phone. "Wesley, I just took a case."

"What?" Everyone started yelling at once. "How can you take a case when half the team is midgets?"

"I am not a midget! I'm four."

Cordelia waved her hand dismissively. "It's nothing we can't handle on our own. Just a pooka."

Gunn scrunched up his face in confusion. "We're going after a six foot tall invisible rabbit?"

"See, I told you the poor lad from the hood would need education." Wesley said the hood like he was carefully pronouncing a magical word in Fyarl or Urdu. "Pookas, or phoukas, are trickster spirits, Celtic in origin. They are most emphatically not six feet tall, rabbits, or named "Harvey", though they are animal shapeshifters. But I can deal with one handily on my own, thank you."

"You'll be careful." Gunn's concerned look now involved massive eyes and trembling lip. Wesley felt himself melting into a big puddle of goo, prepared to promise anything to the small boy in his arms. "And you'll bring me back a pony." Gunn grinned at the look on Wesley's face. "I'm forseein' nine glorious days of revenge, here. Can I be as mean a little kid as you were?"

*********

3.

"Hello, Angel Investigations, we help the -- oh, hello, Buffy."

...

"Angel, she wants to talk to you."

Angel grabbed the receiver. "What's wrong? Is everything okay?" Giggling sounded through the telephone, and Angel's face scrunched up like he'd bitten something sour. "I do not sound cute. What's going on?" He paused while Buffy spoke again. "No, I don't really remember Spike from the last time the Urdeku came around. We were in L.A. for most of that time, remember? Plus I ignore him whenever possible."

Gunn watched Angel's face as he listened to Buffy chattering away in Sunnydale. Confusion melted to enlightenment melted to unholy glee.

"You're kidding."

...

"Buffy? You know that you're the most wonderful and diabolical person ever? This might give me so much happiness that you might have to re-ensoul Angelus the Scourge of Preschool."


Family Reunion

Anya had explained to Cordelia that under no circumstances were they taking Spike away from pampering-his-wife duties. The two women compromised; Anya and Xander were coming to Los Angeles along with Spike. Cordy didn't argue. She was glad they were getting Spike at all (and she hoped to God he'd never know she'd thought that), and she wasn't about to kibbitz about the details with an ex-vengeance demon who had swollen ankles.

Three hours after dark, the Hyperion door burst open. "Right, where's my wee little toddler man of a sire, then?" Spike came forward, arms outstretched, ready to harass any vampires who were too small to escape. He stalked up to Angel, reached down to pick him up -- and stopped.

Angel stood on the lobby sofa. He was wearing a pair of Superman overalls which he had resolutely refused to wear, absolutely, positively, over his deader body, until after his conversation with Buffy. A tear welled in the corner of each enormous eye and his lower lip trembled, just a bit. He raised both arms to Spike and spoke in a quiet, worried tone. "Spike? I have an ouchie on my elbow."

With vampiric speed, Spike was on his knees in front of Angel, putting his arms around him. "It'll be okay, vamplet. Show me where it hurts."

Angel couldn't help it. He snickered. Spike shot back like he'd been burned. "Hey, now. None of that!" He sent a beseeching gaze over his shoulder to Anya and Xander. "Kill me now?"

"Nonsense, Spike. I can see you'll be an excellent father." Anya walked heavily to the nearest chair and plopped herself down.

Spike turned back to the still giggling Angel. "Watch it, mini-me. I'm bigger than you, now. And were you born with stupid hair? Because there's no way that Cordelia was going to let you put mousse in, but you look like you've got it. And you ..." Once again he ground to a halt. Angel had stopped giggling, and turned back on the trembling lip. Spike's hand reached out to hold the teeny vampire, but he noticed and yanked it back. "Xander? Love? Help me?"

"You're on your own with this one, Spike. Just like I am, apparently, with all this luggage." Xander lugged a massive duffel over to his wife.

"Fine," snapped Spike. "Wes, you had a demon you wanted me to fight. Let's go fight it." And he stormed out of the lobby.

"Damn. I was this close to getting him to turn a pony for me."

Xander looked up, curious. "Can you do that?"

"I once had a vampire Shetland," mused Anya. "Xander, I believe that you and Spike should provide vampire ponies for our children."


Harvey

Several hours later, Wesley and Spike returned to the hotel. Wesley looked grim, although his scowl faded to an expression of goofy bliss when Baby Gunn glommed onto his leg as soon as he passed through the door. Spike, on the other hand, was grinning madly.

Xander was at his side instantly. He knew that face. It was Spike's "I've got something on somebody and I'm not afraid to use it" face. "Spill," he ordered. Spike's expression grew lecherous, and Xander whapped him on the head. "Spill whatever is making you look so smug, I mean."

Wesley turned his black look on Spike, but it was ignored. "Oh, it's just the pooka."

"What about it?" asked Gunn, from his perch on Wesley's hip. Wesley looked down at him surprised, as if he didn't remember reaching down to pick up his tiny boyfriend.

"It was an invisible rabbit. Five foot ten. Named Bertha."

Anya hauled herself to her feet. "You took Spike there? You risked the father of my child around a six foot tall bunny?" Her voice rose to a piercing yell.

"Five foot ten, I believe Spike said."

Angel cleared his throat. "Isn't Xander actually the father of the b-- ow!" He glared at Lorne, who was looking innocent. "What'd you pinch me for?"

"Ah, fatherhood." Xander sighed. "Let's have a passel of children, shall we? Maybe nine?"

Anya turned to him in a flash, anger morphed into a sunny and optimistic smile. "Oh, Xander. I so hoped you both felt that way." And she threw her arms around him, while Wesley laughed quietly at the identical looks of horror on Spike's and Xander's faces, and Gunn climbed down Wesley's leg to get any kicking fight with Angel.

"He took my Misselthwaite stiletto!"

"Did not!"

"Did too!"

"Did not!"

"Did too!"