Glasgow, Scotland, The UK, The World, The Solar System, The Galaxy, The Universe, Existence
by alejandra

Billy has learnt to live with a lot of things. He's learnt to live with his emotions boiling over -- he's become proficient at keeping things inside, at holding iron control over everything he feels. He's learnt that no one ever does what they say they will do -- so he does what he says he's going to do, every single time. He's learnt that if he stands outside in the autumn Glasgow rain, he'll catch cold, and have to wear jumpers even when he's not chilled, because Ali worries.

Billy has learnt to live with Dom being out of reach, with being the least known of the hobbits, with doing voice over and short film for the rest of his life. He's learnt that he'd rather be happy in Glasgow with Ali than be in Hollywood with Dom and Elijah, because happy but sad is better than happy and miserable.

However, he hasn't yet learnt to live with all of the strange things that have always happened to him, which are possibly only luck but possibly part of a larger plan. He's not sure of either. He makes his own luck? He makes his own fate? He doesn't know. That's not the sort of thing you can read about or do a worksheet on. That's the sort of thing that -- well, you either know it or you don't. And Billy doesn't.


Xander never thought he would be a traveler. He thought he would stay in Sunnydale his entire life. Okay, he never thought much about his life. He just... lived. He went to school, his parents fought, he hung out with Willow, his parents were assholes, he did his homework, his parents yelled at him... life was life. But then Buffy came along and life became something else. Cordelia came along -- Faith -- Anya. And life became something else.

Now Sunnydale is gone, Cordelia and Anya are gone, Faith is -- well, gone, somewhere. His parents are gone, life is something completely else. It is so far else that it's almost not even life anymore, and Xander isn't a one-eyed construction worker fighting the forces of darkness in his spare time. He's a one-eyed fighter of the darkness, traveling around the world to find the darkness, and kick its lousy ass.

Sometimes he has strange dreams, but mostly he just doesn't sleep. This is helpful, because while he's in Glasgow, there's a zombie epidemic. Who knew that there was a Hellmouth in Glasgow? Xander is trying to find it -- the GPS can't pinpoint exactly where it is -- and decides to stop in for a drink at the tiny pub set off the road. Guinness and cigarette smoke and only four other patrons and a mostly-absentee bartender, but something sets the back of his neck tingling, and he turns, and there's a vampire sitting in the corner, nursing his own Guinness.

Xander scowls, the vamp rolls its eyes, and toasts Xander with his pint, so Xander turns back around.

"Oh, yeh know Jacky?" says the fellow sitting next to him at the bar.

"Not really," says Xander. He doesn't mean to be quite so curt, but the guy takes the hint and backs away a little.

Then Xander realizes that the couple in the corner isn't just sucking face -- they're literally sucking face. The woman looks up and her mouth is covered in blood, and her boyfriend's brains are kind of hanging from her tongue.

"That's so disgusting," Xander says to her. "Don't you have any table manners?"

The only way to kill a zombie is to shoot it through the head. Xander's always been a little suspicious of that -- what happened before there were guns? Obviously something happened, since the world hasn't been overrun by zombies and there have been outbreaks before.

Oh, unless the zombie happened to be reanimated by a witch, in which case the only way to kill the zombie was to kill the witch. Xander rubs his hand over his face -- his eye is throbbing, except it can't be, because it was been poked out by a crazy evil priest and now is just an empty socket. But it's throbbing.

"I have a fucking headache," he says to the zombie. "Do you think you can hold off on this crazy infestation until I'm feeling better?"

The zombie hisses at him and lurches out of her seat. None of the other patrons seem to notice, or care. The vamp rolls his eyes.

"Thanks for the help," Xander says to him, pulls his gun, thumbs off the safety, and shoots the zombie twice -- once through both eyes. She collapses to the floor, groaning like all the air's been pressed out of her, and then is still. Another two shots through her boyfriend. Then Xander turns back around to the bar.

"Hey," he yells out. "Barkeep!"

"No need to shout." The bartender materializes from under the bar and glares at Xander. He's got a heavy Scottish accent and is wearing plaid. Xander figures that without the Scottish accent, maybe this is what his life would have been if Buffy hadn't ever come to Sunnydale.

Or maybe he'd be the vamp in the corner.

"Can I have another Guinness please?" he says, and drains his glass. Better than supper -- besides, don't the Scots eat pig brains and stuff? No thank you. The weirdest thing he's ever eaten was that one time in Namibia when he had baked beans on toast and roasted brown hyena. So gross, but it was that or offend the local witches.

He slides his gun back into its holster, cracks his knuckles, and looks back down at the vamp in the corner. He's doing a crossword puzzle. The guy sitting next to Xander looks a little shaken, so Xander leans over and says, "I'm Secret Police. Don't worry about it," and the guy... doesn't seem comforted, so Xander finishes his second Guinness and goes into the bathroom.

That's when the GPS beeper goes crazy.

"Fuck," says Xander.


"A ritual dance?" Billy stares at Ali over porridge. Made exactly the way he likes it, only a little bit lumpy. She's also made him tea.

"It's just a job, Bills," she says, and kisses him right on the spot where he's balding the worst. "I'll be back tonight."

"What about -- do you even know these people? I've never heard of the Council for Safer Lavs or whatever." Billy frowns up at her. Maybe he's balding but she has a big forehead, so there. She's smiling at him, and her crooked smile and freckles and hair and eyes and existence seem to make the world a little better -- so it doesn't matter as much that it's been a week and Dom still hasn't returned Billy's last call, and he has an email from Lij trying to get him to come to L.A. and guest star on some shite telly program about movie stars. He doesn't need his friends throwing him pity gigs; he's working well enough.

Just not today.

"They're Americans, Bill. International Council for Safer Public Toilets." Ali shrugs and tugs on her jacket. "Who cares? It's a job, it's a dance, it's going to be on the telly, and I'll be getting some money for it."

"We don't need money," says Billy and he knows he sounds grouchy but can't seem to get the sulk off his face.

"I need money." They've had this conversation before, and she's about to remind him so, and then she'll say, "I need to be independent, Billy," and "I know you have money, but I've got to have my own, too," and then she'll say, "If you don't want me working, you'll have to get me pregnant," and that's a whole other discussion for a time when his porridge isn't getting cold.

"I know," he says in a rush. "I just don't want you to have to compromise your artistic integrity so Americans can feel better about peeing and --"

"Ta, Billy. Love you too," she says, and then she waves goodbye and closes the door to their flat. It's a very final-sounding thud.

If Billy wasn't in his bathrobe and boxers with slouchy socks falling off his ankles, porridge spoon in one hand and newspaper in the other, maybe he'd have followed her and gone with her to see the Americans For Safer Pee or what the fuck. But no -- no point in getting up and rushing about when he could just do the crossword puzzle in last week's Sunday Times.


The local witches got a local dancer to perform some strange ritual over the Hellmouth that involved a lot of plaid, two sheep, and pouring five pints of Guinness around the pub. What would they have needed to make Sunnydale's Hellmouth dormant? A lot of cheerleaders in bikinis and some sea water or something?

Buffy in a bikini with her legs behind her ears is an image that flits quickly through Xander's mind -- and is, unfortunately, replaced by the image of Andrew in a bikini -- Spike --

"Merciful Zeus, make it stop," mutters Xander, and drinks some of the sacrificial Guinness.

"It's my understanding that Zeus was a right bastard," says the dancer, who is patting her neck with a towel. "Where were the cameras? I thought this was supposed to be a service announcement for American telly?"

"Not exactly," says Xander. "Actually it was a ritual designed to close a door into some strange hell that exists under this bar."

"Pub," says the dancer. "It's a pub."

"Ah," says Xander. "Can you tell I'm a stupid American?"

"Yes," says the dancer, "but I won't hold it against you. I'm Ali."

"I'm Xander," he says, and offers his hand to her, because she didn't look at his eyepatch, not even once that he can tell. They shake hands, and she turns Xander gently so he can see the witches behind him.

"What are they doing?"

"Well," says Xander, who figures that either she's just patronizing him, or she really believes him, "they're doing the final closing ritual thing. I don't really get it. Witches scare me."

"Hm," says Ali. "I think I need a drink."

Xander looks at her from the corner of his eye. Maybe she's hitting on him?

"I'll ring my boyfriend," she continues. Or not. Is he ever going to be good with the ladies? Doubtful. Not even with the help of the all merciful and powerful Zeus -- who, Giles has assured Xander, doesn't actually exist anymore. Mount Olympus was destroyed in the early 900s by crusading Muslims or something.

"I'm sure he's ready for a drink too. Fancy a pint?" She smiles at him. She has freckles all over her face, and even though her sunglasses cover her eyes, he can tell they're twinkling. Whoever her boyfriend is has got real lucky. She's kind of like Willow, before she went evil-crazy and tried to destroy the world.

Xander hefts the pint he's holding and reminds himself not to ask her if she's going to go evil-crazy and try to destroy the world. "This is my fifth today," he says.

"Eat anything?"

"I'm afraid it's all sheep brains or something." Ali laughs, tinkling, like a fairy. That's something Xander's never met, not on any of his travels. "You're not a fairy or something are you?" he asks her.

"No, I don't think so -- but my boyfriend's a hobbit," she replies, and digs in her shoulder bag. She comes out with a cell phone and flips it open and makes plans with her boyfriend to meet up somewhere that isn't on the mouth of a hell. And when she leaves, Xander just kind of... goes along.


Ali brings some American bloke with an eye patch along for tea, and they all order beer instead of food. Ali looks from the American kid to the menu, and then orders him a burger, well done.

"You look like a well done kinda guy," she says, and giggles, and Billy knows that giggle -- that's her "I kinda like you" giggle.

The bloke -- Xander -- says, "I am, in fact, a well done kind of guy," and clinks their glasses together, and Billy would fight him, except he's about twice Billy's size, and even though he's a bit on the skinny side, he could probably kick Billy's arse without even breathing hard.

Of course, Billy knows jeet kun do, and is no slouch with the kung fu -- and he considers trying to fight Xander, but then Xander clinks his glass to Billy's too, and gives Billy the same smile he gave Ali, so Billy relaxes.

But only a little.

"So how did filming go?" he asks them both. "Get your commercial all done?"

Ali glances from Xander to Billy and back again, and Xander shrugs. "Well," she says, "we didn't actually film a commercial." And Billy is tense again, and Xander is going to fucking die if he laid one finger on Billy's girl -- fucking die.

"You see," Ali continues, and this is it, Billy knows, this is where she's going to tell him that she's going off with Lij to Hollywood and they can write their script through email and phone calls. Or maybe not. "It's complicated."

"It's not complicated," says Xander. His burger arrives. "Do you guys want some?"

"No," says Billy, who is still ready to kick his arse.

"No," says Ali, because she doesn't eat red meat.

"Okay," says Xander, and doesn't put anything on top of it, just bites in. Sick fuck.

"You see," says Ali again, "there's this thing. It's a door into hell, apparently."

"One of many," says Xander around a large mouthful of bun and cheese and meat and tomatoes.

"And it needed to be closed. So I did one of the ritual dances I learned while we were in New Zealand last year, and then a load of witches sang some songs, and then some sheep peed on the floorboards and we poured a couple of pints of Guinness in a circle around the pub, and that was it."

"No, then the witches sang again, but we left before they were finished," says Xander.

Billy takes a long drink of his Guinness and then looks up at them. Ali is sitting between him and Xander, so it's like two against one, just like Lij and Dom, and Billy can feel himself scowling but isn't going to try to make himself stop.

"Are you taking the piss?" he asks. "Because it's not funny."

"No, of course not!" Ali sounds astonished. "Would I ever lie to you, Bills?"

"Taking the piss?" says Xander, and takes another bite of his burger.

"There's a door into hell?"

"It was under a lav," says Ali, as though that explains it all.

"Oh, well," says Billy. "That explains it all."

"You don't need to sound so disbelieving," says Ali, and she looks hurt, and Billy feels like a sheep's arse, but really -- did they think he'd buy that shite? Doors into hell? That's the stuff of bad telly programming and stupid movies about Hobbits and Kings.

And he knows all about stupid Hobbits and stupid Kings.

"I'm going to the loo," he says abruptly, and slides out of the booth.


Xander follows Ali's boyfriend into the bathroom, even though he doesn't have to piss. Might as well figure out what bug's in his butt. Maybe it's an evil bug that Xander can somehow exorcize and prove to Billy that he and Ali weren't up to anything. It was pretty obvious that Billy thought Xander was all Zeusing up his girl.

"So you were a Hobbit," says Xander, and unzips his pants.

"Yeah, and?" says Billy.

"You must be pretty sick of people confusing you with Dominic Monaghan," says Xander, determined to plod on.

"Yeah," says Billy. He's pissing in a hard stream, and it sounds kind of angry to Xander. He wouldn't want that pee directed at him. Not that he'd want it directed at him anyway, but -- whatever.

"Okay," says Xander, and pees a little, and then puts his dick back into his pants and washes his hands. There are no towels, so he wipes his hands on his jeans to dry them and leans against the wall to wait for Billy to finish. "So we're not lying."

"So much for the International American Bugger All Loo Saver?" says Billy.

"Listen, you think I can just call up a dance company and say, 'I need a special dancer to come close a Hellmouth'? Are you kidding me?"

"Why'd you tell her the truth then?" Billy shakes off and zips up and brushes by Xander to wash his hands.

"I didn't think she'd believe me. Sometimes people do and sometimes they don't." Xander lifts his shoulders and then lets them fall again. His eye is hurting and he drank too much too early in the day and all he wants to do now is go back to his hotel room and sleep it off. And the burger was way too well done.

Billy wipes his hands on his jeans and leans against the wall next to Xander. "And you thought I'd believe you?"

"She did. She said you were a Hobbit and that weird things happen to you all the time."

"Well I don't believe you. Not at all. I think you're a lying --"

"Hey, man." Xander backs away with his hands up. "I just needed a dancer. I just wanted some beer and a burger. I'm cool. You should chill."

Billy's gonna hit him -- Xander can tell. Instead of waiting for it, he leaves the bathroom, and leaves Billy standing next to the sinks with his fists clenched.

He drops some Euros on the table -- why be stingy with the Council's money? -- and kisses Ali quickly on the cheek as he pulls his jacket on.

"Here," she says, and pushes a piece of paper into Xander's hand. "It's my mobile number. Call me if you need another dancer." She seems sorry to see him go, and kisses him back, and he feels her hand in his pocket, leaving something there.

When he gets outside, he puts his hand into his pocket and pulls out his half-eaten burger, wrapped in a napkin. He tucks it back in and hunches his shoulders and walks back to his hotel. There's a soap opera marathon on, and he settles onto the bed, calls around for updates from Dawn and Willow and Giles and Andrew.

Andrew is last, because he knows Andrew will take the longest.

"I met a Hobbit," Xander tells him, and he's pretty sure he can hear Andrew squealing across two oceans without the aid of the phone.


"You didn't need to chase him away," says Ali. "He's leaving anyway. We could have been nice to him for his last few hours in Glasgow."

"No we couldn't have," says Billy. He folds his arms across his chest. Ali's eyes are glittering -- she's so hacked off at him. He might as well give in now, get down on his knees and beg her forgiveness, because that's the only way she's going to ever be nice to him again.

"Why not? I helped him out, his company or whoever he works for paid me, and then I invited him for drinks with us. He seems lonely, Bill -- surely you'd understand that."

"He seemed --" Billy flails for a word in his brain. He knows it's there, he just can't find it. "Lecherous!" he says triumphantly, and Ali glares at him.

"You're joking," she says, and stands up. "I'm leaving. You're clearly in a snit today."

She stands up and pulls her jumper on, wraps a scarf around her neck, slides on her sunglasses. She looks posh, too good for a bloke like Billy Boyd.

He groans.

"Ali, I'm sorry; I don't know what's wrong with me."

"You're a jealous sodding bastard, that's what's wrong with you," she says, but sits back down.

"Yes, you're absolutely right," he says, and she leans against him, and he lets out a long breath of relief.

"All right, jealous sodding bastard," she says. "Let's go home." She drains her pint, and then his, and then slides out of the booth again.

He follows her. "We could try to find your friend the hell hunter," he offers, feeling generous now that she knows he's really a jerk and loves him anyway. As though she didn't know before? Hah.

"He has my number if he wants us for company," she says, and he knows that she picked those words really carefully -- because she could have said, "He has my number if he wants me to come over," and that would have really set Billy off, because his short fuse has been even shorter lately. Today. Right now. At the idea that Ali would leave him for some weird American who thinks that there are places where the ground falls away into hell.

Not so unlikely, when Billy really thinks about it.

"Do you think he's telling the truth about the hell thing?" says Billy.

"Who knows?" Ali looks around. "Want to see if we can get a taxi?"

Billy grabs her hand and nods. "Sure, fine," he says.

"He was kind of cute, wasn't he? In a piratey kind of way." Ali's eyes are twinkling now -- she's joking. And Billy can be a relaxed kind of guy, he knows he can -- he used to be, before everything went to shit.

"Cuter than Orli," says Billy, and squeezes her hand.

"I don't think I'd go that far!" says Ali, and squeezes back.


Xander's phone rings at four a.m. He rolls over and answers it with a groggy, "Uhhhhhnnn."

"It's open again." It's one of the witches from the previous afternoon. The pretty one, with the streak of grey at her temple like that one X-Man from the movie who's in love with Wolverine.

Well, really, who isn't in love with Wolverine?

"Whhhhhuuuh?" says Xander.

"There's a zombie infestation," she says briskly. "Come on. We need you. Bring the dancer."

Xander hangs up the phone and rolls onto his back and stares at the ceiling. He fell asleep with the television on; it's a news feature on motorcycle racing. He watches for a moment, takes a deep breath, and pulls on his eye patch.

"Time to be a hero," he says out loud, but it's not so appealing when he's by himself. Not so appealing when he has to call Ali and brave her crazy Hobbit boyfriend. Not so appealing when it's four a.m. and dark outside and he didn't eat anything for almost the whole previous day and he has a horrible hangover and no aspirin.

Shower fast, call Ali, wake her up, jump in a cab, and pick her up at her apartment. Billy's dressed, too, and ready to go when Xander shows up. Ali is wearing a leotard and tights and leg warmers and looks like one of Xander's fantasies from 1989 or something. She stretches in the car on the way out to the pub.

Billy glares at Xander, but passes him the thermos of hot, black coffee anyway. Xander takes this as a peace offering. It's too bitter, with a sour undertone, but it's hot and it's caffeinated, and it wakes him up. As he sips, and is burned by the hot metal rim, he remembers when he and Buffy used to drink out of the same cup and Xander would tell himself that drinking from the same spot she did was almost like kissing her.

He snickers to himself.

"What?" says Billy.

"Nothing," says Xander. "Just remembering something from a long time ago."

The witches are already there when they arrive. Xander's brought a duffle bag of guns -- there's nothing he can do to help Ali and the witches; he can only protect them from rampaging zombies.

"How are you at shooting?" he asks Billy as Ali confers with the witches on where to begin her dance and what went wrong the last time.

"Shooting what exactly?" asks Billy.


"You are joking." Billy looks disbelieving, so Xander puts a gun into his hand.

"This is a Beretta SD," says Xander. "Shine the attached light into their eyes. Squeeze the trigger gently -- don't pull on it like in the movies." He stops, hesitates, then keeps going. It's grim business, killing zombies, and he's not going to apologize for not coddling a Hollywood type. Even if the Hollywood type is a Hobbit. Times like this his soldier-guy from his second Buffy Halloween comes out and takes over -- civilians beware.

He should wear a sign or something.

"It's a semi-automatic," says Xander, not waiting for Billy to catch up. "It shoots more than one bullet at a time. So squeeze and move, and you'll get the top of their head. That's where you have to aim. Through the eyes is always good. There's no safety, so you have to be careful. When you run out, give it to me and I will give you another gun and reload this one."

"Okay," says Billy, and he doesn't look lost at all. He takes another sip of coffee, screws the thermos lid on, and puts it down between his feet. "I'm ready."

"There's a jerk," Xander warns. "Brace yourself when you fire."

"Okay," says Billy. Then, under his breath, Xander hears him say, "Bloody zombies. Can't wait to tell Dom and have him call the madhouse."

"Are you better with a pistol?" says Xander. Pistols need more accurate shooting, though -- he doesn't want to give up his pistols if Billy's not a good shot.

"Never shot anything but an arrow before," says Billy, so Xander keeps his pistols. The Council worked out a deal with Beretta, which is good, because they're military guns even though their plastic grips get sweaty, and Xander likes military guns. He's holding a Cougar, and it feels comfortable in his hand, like if he picked it up, he could unload all ten rounds into exactly where he aims.

Billy looks a little shell shocked, so when the first zombie comes stumbling up to them, Xander takes him out with a shot in each eye. Billy's skin is pale and his pupils are a little too wide, but he holds his own and protects the witches and his dancer and Xander's impressed even though he doesn't want to be.

When Xander first demanded guns from the Council, Buffy was horrified. Giles was horrified. Dawn wanted one too. Willow wanted him to learn magic and use that instead. But magic doesn't work on zombies -- magic doesn't work on a lot of things. And there are only so many creatures that can be killed with a stake through the heart. So many being one: vampires.

At least there didn't seem to be an active vampire community in Glasgow.

Thank the non-existent Zeus for small things?

Billy turns out to be a pretty good shot -- a solid guy. A solid mate, as the Scots would say, although Xander hasn't heard anyone say that yet, and it makes him think of sexy things that he shouldn't be thinking of while shooting zombies next to a Hobbit who has a girlfriend who he could also think sexy things about.

Anya would be so proud.


Billy's never shot anything before but he feels like he's pretty good at it. He catches a glimpse of Ali dancing out of the corner of his eye while he shoots zombies in the head. Who'd have thought he'd be living Resident Evil? Dom and Lij will be jealous; Hannah will want to know if Xander looks anything like Milla Jovovich -- which he doesn't. But he does seem to be a pretty good guy after all. He drank the scotch-laced coffee without even blinking, and gave Billy the semi-automatic, which is pretty fucking cool.

Generally Billy doesn't believe in killing things unless he's going to eat them, but he decides to make a special exception for zombies. He and Xander don't finish until way after Ali and the witches are done -- but finally a bullet goes between the eyes of the last zombie and Xander unloads all his guns and sits down right there to clean the blood and brains off them.

"Disgusting," he says.

"What are we going to do with all these bodies?" asks Billy. There weren't too many, but someone will definitely notice that there are bodies in various stages of decomposition leaking brains all over Pollokshaws Road.

"A clean up crew will take care of them," says Xander. A sheep noses him sharply, and he drops one of the guns. "Hey, there," he says, and wraps his arms around the sheep's neck.

"Zombies, huh," says Ali, coming up to stand next to Billy. Despite the cool night air, she's sweating, and sipping from a bottle of water. "Hm."

"Better than orcs," says Billy, and slings an arm around her shoulder. She looks at him and he looks at her and he's happier than ever that he stayed with her in Glasgow instead of going to L.A. with Dom and Lij. L.A. isn't his scene. Besides, who would have helped Xander kill the zombies if Billy was off doing coke and getting drunk and buggering Dom in California?

"I love you," he whispers into Ali's sweaty hair, and she leans against him and closes her eyes. He watches Xander hug the sheep until he can't take it anymore. He detaches from Ali and crouches down next to Xander.

"Hey, mate," he says, and Xander looks up. His eye is red, and his eye patch is a little skewed, and he looks exhausted. The sun is coming up, though, and the sky is pink and blue and orange. "Come on -- we have a spare bed and some porridge."

He turns back around when he stands up and Ali is beaming at him like he just cured cancer and negotiated world peace and got her pregnant all in one go.

"Thanks," she mouths.

Xander says, "I have to finish this before the blood corrodes -- zombie blood, you know, not very --"

"Come on, Xander," says Ali, and holds out her hand. "Bring em along and we'll help you."

Xander takes her hand, and Billy grabs his other hand, and they pull him to his feet. He's taller than they both are -- Billy feels like he's standing with a giant. Then Xander slings the bag of guns over his shoulder -- how did he get that into the country anyway? -- and says, "Gimme a second; I need to talk to Lottie," and he goes toward the pub to talk to the witch with the grey streak in her hair, the one who looked a little like the girl from the X-Men movies, who had a crush on Wolverine.

When Billy says so to Ali, she says, "Doesn't everyone have a crush on Wolverine?" and Billy groans.


Xander goes home with Billy and Ali, but not because he was still thinking the sexy thoughts. No siree, he's thinking no sexy thoughts at all. He could still hear Anya in the back of his head, though, saying, "I can't believe you had sex with a Hobbit! Don't you love me at all? How come you didn't let me watch!" Xander figures he could fuck anything as long as he let Anya watch; at least he didn't let her talk him into having sex with Spike while she watched. That was, like, her number one fantasy. It made Xander feel kind of funny.

And maybe it turned him on a little, but Spike was a blood-sucking fiend from beyond the grave! So what if he had a soul? That would be like fucking Angel. It would be gross. And bad. And wrong.

He sits on their couch in front of their television in his undershirt, socks, and boxers while Ali runs his clothes through the washer to get the zombie blood off them. He told her to put some vinegar in with the detergent -- nothing else really gets the blood out. Now he's kind of wishing that he wasn't wearing the boxers Andrew bought him for his birthday -- Batman, of course.

Billy doesn't seem to notice. He's flipping through channels at an alarming speed, although he does stop when an entertainment program pops up, interviewing Sean Astin.

"Hrph," Billy says.

"Can I have more coffee?" asks Xander.

"Kitchen," says Billy, and flips channels again.

When Xander comes back in, Billy's putting on a DVD. "Resident Evil," says Billy, before Xander can even ask the question, and Xander laughs.

"Appropriate," he says.

"I'm thinking about what else I thought wasn't real," says Billy, and he sounds a bit too serious.

"I can tell you that there's a hell whose army looks a hell of a lot like orcs," says Xander, but thinks his attempt at levity has fallen short, since rather than look amused, Billy looks concerned. So Xander says, "Mind if I make a call? I'll reverse the charges."

"Go ahead," says Billy, and waves him to the corner, where a phone sits on a table.

"Thanks." Xander dials Willow's number and explains to her what's going on. She sounds groggy; she could be anywhere in the world where it's nighttime. Or she could have just been taking a nap.

"Where are you now?" she finally says.

"I'm with the dancer and her boyfriend -- I'll probably be here for a few hours," says Xander, and looks over at Billy, who is watching him with a funny look on his face. "Number?" he mouths at Billy, who reels it off. Xander repeats it to Willow, and adds, "I have my cell, but the battery is dying. I forgot to turn it off while we were fighting and I haven't charged it."

"Xander..." Willow sighs.

"What's going on?" he says.

"Nothing; we just heard about a Potential -- a Slayer, I mean -- who. She. Angel." Willow stops talking. "Nothing. I'll tell you when you get back."

"Okay," says Xander, and even though he wants to know, he doesn't want to know.

"Spike is still alive," she says. "He's with Angel. He's a ghost, but he's alive."

"Oh." He pauses. There are so many things to say. "Have you told Buffy?"

"No, not yet." Xander can see Willow in his head, rubbing her eyes and almost crying. Maybe Kennedy is there -- hopefully not. Maybe Willow's met someone where she is and is having crazy lesbian sex.

"Okay," says Xander. "I'm going to go and see if I can scam some food." Willow laughs weakly.

"Love you," she says.

"Love you too. Oh -- hey. Tell Giles that if we could have closed the Sunnydale Hellmouth with a weird tribal dance instead of, you know, the end of the world? I'll be pretty pissed at him."

Willow laughs for real this time and Xander hangs up the phone before she's finished. Then he looks back to Billy. "So can I?"

"Can you what?" asks Billy.


"Yeah, of course." Billy leads him into the kitchen. Ali left the porridge on the stove, and he dishes some up for Xander. "So... who was that?"

It smells good, and Xander is ravenous; he digs right in.

"That was Willow. She's kind of in charge. She's the boss of us, but not really. She's like the liaison boss or something." Xander stops eating and waves the spoon around for emphasis. "I don't really understand it. She tells me where to go and what I'm looking for and then I go and look and report back to her. But I also report back to Giles, because he's the head of the organization."

"What kind of organization?"

"You know -- a demon killing organization."

"Demon killing?" Billy raises his eyebrows and gets up from the table. He comes back with his own steaming bowl.

"Okay, so vampires? Demons? Werewolves? Zombies? All real. And a bunch of my friends and I fight and kill them, except for the ones who are good. Like Willow's ex-boyfriend is a werewolf but he's a good dude and doesn't kill humans."

"Okay." Billy eats silently for a moment and Xander kind of feels like someone's kid brother who's being humored. But then he says, "That's pretty cool."

"Yeah," says Xander.

"Yeah," says Billy.

And then they stare at each other until Ali comes home. Xander isn't sure what it means, but something has definitely shifted. For sure, Billy no longer regards him as some kind of Lothario, coming to steal Ali away. And Billy believes in zombies now, because he has to, because he's killed them himself -- although years of living in Sunnydale have definitely given Xander a new perspective on the depths of denial some people can live with.

They sit together on the couch with Ali between them, and they drink tea and watch Alice kill zombies -- Ali's favorite character is Rain, though, and she mimics her: "Bitch isn't standing now!" Xander thinks maybe that's the only time Ali's ever cursed in her whole life. With the freckles and the light hair and the big smile, she looks about twelve, and really innocent.

He falls asleep with his head on her shoulder and his feet on their coffee table and her hand on his knee under the colorful afghan she draped over him when they sat down.


Billy yawns and stretches when the movie is over, and turns to Ali. "Too real," he says to her. She shifts a little -- Xander's fallen asleep on her. His eye patch looks uncomfortable, but Billy's not going to touch him to see if he wants to take it off. It's Xander's own business. Billy's kind of curious, though.

"Do you know why he wears that?" he asks Ali softly.

"He told me his eye was poked out by a crazy evil priest who looked a lot like the guy from Firefly," says Ali, and strokes Xander's hair. "But..."

She looks back up at Billy, and there's a question in her eyes.

"Do you ever think..." she stops and looks down again.


"Do you ever think that you'd be happier with Dom and Elijah?" she asks, and Billy is thrown totally out of the loop.

"Jesus, Ali," he says. "What do you mean by that?"

"You know what I mean," she says. "I know we've never talked about it, and I know you don't want to, but I think... I mean... it's there. It's something I need to know. Are you going to leave me for them? Is that why you don't want to have a baby? Are you secretly homosexual, just like all the tabs say?"

"No," says Billy. "I never cheated on you with them."

"Now you're lying."

"No," he insists. "You and I had stopped seeing each other. And Dom... it was like finding my best friend."

"I thought I was your best friend," she says and his stomach twists.

"You are," he says, but she doesn't believe him, and he doesn't blame her.

"Do you want -- Xander?" She doesn't look at him.

"I think you're confused," says Billy. "I'm here with you. I want you. That's the way it is. I don't regret not going with Dom and Lij. They chose each other -- I chose you."

"Did you really?" she asks, and Billy leans over and kisses her, and slides his hand over her back and around her and someone gasps, but it's not him.

It's Xander.

"Whoa!" he says and jumps back, and wraps the afghan around his waist. "Whoa."

"Sorry," says Billy.

"No, no, it's your apartment."

"Flat," says Ali. "It's a flat." She's laughing a little.

"Okay, it's your flat, whatever," says Xander. He's backed up so far he's hit the wall. "And I will just -- leave you -- alone."

And Billy watches Ali watch Xander and thinks that maybe what she's looking for isn't for him to tell her that he's not interested in other blokes, but, rather, that he's more interested in her.

Maybe she is the one interested in other blokes.

Billy gets up and walks over to Xander. He has to stand on his toes to reach Xander's mouth, and even then he can barely do it, but Xander bends down a little and they kiss. It's awkward and sloppy, and Xander has morning wood even though it's not morning, and Ali is moaning in the background, and kissing Xander is just like kissing Dom -- maybe more like kissing Viggo, having this big man under him, not moving, waiting to see what Billy's going to do next like he's a dangerous animal.

When he pulls away, Xander coughs.

"Uh," he says.

"All right?" says Billy.

"All right!" says Ali, and she sounds disbelieving. Billy turns to her.

"What you wanted, innit?" he asks, and she looks confused and tousled.

"What?" says Xander. He slides down the wall until he's sitting on the floor, his knees tucked up under his chin.

"It's what she wants," says Billy and shrugs, and smiles at Xander -- and Xander smiles back.

"Okay," says Xander, and leans toward Billy, and Billy leans toward him -- it's so different with a bloke, which isn't to say that it's better, but maybe he has missed this, more than he's willing to admit -- and suddenly Ali is between them.

"This is not what I want," she says fiercely.

"Is this what you want?" asks Xander quietly. He kisses her, and it looks intense. Billy wonders if that's what it looked like when he and Xander kissed, if it seemed to Ali as though Billy was going to drown in Xander's huge body and wide mouth and big hands.

Ali melts into Xander and all the muscles in her back loosen -- Billy can see it under her tank top, all those long muscles moving. He runs his hand over them, around, and her nipples are hard. Down, into her pyjamas, and she's wet. He leans over until his face is close to theirs, and Ali turns to him, kisses him, and she tastes like Xander. Xander turns to him, kisses him, and he tastes like Ali.

Maybe Billy does regret not going with Dom and Lij, but how could he have given up the taste of Ali on his tongue? He couldn't have this with Dom and Ali or Lij and Ali -- they were too young, would fall in love too easily, would confuse things.

But Xander... Xander is leaving, and Billy knows it, and Xander knows it, and Ali knows it, and there's no harm -- hopefully -- in indulging themselves when it's going to be over so quickly.


Xander showers back at his hotel the next day. Sex with Billy and Ali was -- well, it was. He's definitely not going to tell Andrew that he had sex with a Hobbit, because it wasn't like it mattered that Billy was a Hobbit. Xander had always thought of himself as relatively sexually open -- no one could date Anya and keep any weird sexual phobias -- but he didn't ever think that he would have sex with another guy, especially without Anya to urge him on.

But Xander didn't seem to care that Billy was a guy -- it was just like having sex with a person. And Ali.

Xander had come to Glasgow to find one of the Potentials, except she didn't seem to be in Glasgow anymore, so it was good that he helped close the Hellmouth -- twice -- because that meant this wasn't a wasted trip. Close the Hellmouth, have a threesome, eat sheep brains...

He leaves that afternoon for the Northwest Territories -- some place with an unpronounceable name where he'll probably have to eat caribou and sleep with wolves. There's a particularly deep bruise -- hickey, his mind whispers -- on his hip, right where the seat belt in the airplane crosses his lap, and it reminds him of everything he did the day before. Not uncomfortably -- well, maybe a bit uncomfortably. But not really. Just a little.


Billy sits and watches Ali stretch on the floor in front of the television. Her legs go on forever -- he knows she's not even his height, but she seems so long and tall. There are freckles on her bum -- maybe they're covered by her leotard, but he knows they're there. He's kissed them. He's watched someone else kiss them. She can even kiss them, if she's feeling limber enough. Or maybe not -- maybe that's just a dream he had once.

He's reading a script, and it's about zombies, and he's seriously considering it, because it's funny as hell, and maybe he could talk the director into giving Dom or Lij a part, and then he'd get to work with his best mates again.

Maybe not, though. Maybe what he wants is to build himself a little career of quirky parts, a little nest egg of money to take care of things with. Maybe he'll get Ali pregnant and she'll never be called to do a ritual dance for the Fit Americans With One Eye Trying To Singlehandedly Save The World Society or what the fuck.

Billy has learnt a lot of things and one of them is that he really doesn't regret going off with Dom and Lij because there's more important things to do here in Glasgow -- like Ali, every chance he gets. And making sure the Hellmouth stays closed; Xander gave them a number to call if they started noticing anything "weird or creepy or strange or at all disturbing."

Ali had made a mean joke about Billy's guitar playing, but then kissed his hurt pride better -- chances are good she didn't really believe Billy's pride was located near his bum, but she played along.

"Tea?" he says to her, and stands up from the couch.

"Sure," she says, and stretches herself over backwards, and makes a little bridge out of her body, right there on the floor.

As he's pouring the tea, Ali's voice, sharp and high, calls him. "Bill! Come here!" she says, and he forgets the tea, runs into the room, scared she's cut herself on something, or twisted herself into a shape she can't get out of, or turned into a vampire.

She's standing by the window that looks onto the street, looking through the lace curtains. "Look," she says softly.

Billy looks. He'd known that lurch anywhere. "Zombies," he whispers.

"What are we going to do?" she asks.

"Call Xander? Get guns? Shoot them all dead?" Billy looks at her. She smiles at him, but her nails bite into his arm, so he kisses the darkest freckle on her chin. "It's nothing we haven't done before."


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