Shiny, Happy People

by Christina K
Copyright 2002

Thanks to the Horsechicks for the encouragement and suggestions, Kate Heasley for some suggestions, Perri for the edit... and also Perri for the brand-new cool page for all five stories, at Now go bug Tina and Lizbet for more PTB fic. (ducking!)

In Limbo, there is no Last Call.

It's a place where linear time is pretty much an illusion. Time can be looped, stretched, frozen, side-stepped, strung out, re-run, rewound, fast-forwarded, split, and, by and large, ignored in favor of whatever temporary subjective reality is taking precedence. In spite of this, Friday night drinking binges still occur --- no matter *how* hyper-real the reality, the need to get plastered can still outrank the most dimension-altering of events by a light-year. It's closing time whenever you feel like you have to leave, but never earlier than that.

"Who had the Dos Equis?"

"Him," chorused the group sitting at the curved bar. Michael, Tyche and Danae all pointed at Minos, and Nick shook his head at the Accountant before setting the sweating beer bottle down in front of him.

"Why are you *drinking* that junk?" Tyche asked, fishing a slice of watermelon out of her Hurricane. "Get the good stuff, Min. It's a *party*! You don't need to worry about being at work tomorrow morning... unless you're planning on working overtime for some mas-o-chis-tic reason." Tyche's voice had taken on the very careful diction of the completely blitzed, in tandem with the tight grip she had on the bar counter. Her pink-and-silver nails matched the seashells woven through her hair, which matched the pink-and-silver shoes, which completely clashed with the wild Polynesian sarong she was wearing.

"It goes well with the whiskey. Bottoms up, guys." Minos did the shot combination, looking as relaxed as Minos ever would -- the loose tie, slightly-mussed hair and open top button of his shirt was as close to dancing on the bar as he was likely to get.

"Boilermakers? Blick." Dani made a face, sticking out her tongue, then she looked at it cross-eyed to check on its color.

Minos just smiled tolerantly. "What are you drinking, then?"

"Lots of these little Kamikazes. And look! No arms! Or hands!" She leaned forward, engulfed the edge of the glass with her lips, then threw it back with a quick jerk of her body. She swallowed, then let the glass pop free of her mouth with a smacking sound, catching it as it shot into the air. Cheers came from farther down the bar, as well as catcalls and a couple of semi-lewd offers of companionship for later. Dani bowed and nearly fell off her barstool. Michael grabbed her by one fluttering poisoned-apple-red sleeve before she slid away, and shoved her back into place with practiced expertise even though it was only the sixth time she'd almost splatted on the bar floor so far.

"I don't think I heard what you guys were celebrating," Nick commented, bringing by another bowl of peanuts and a Stoli for Michael on his next pass through the bar. Tyche snorted into her drink and Michael chuckled under his breath, while Minos... Minos *smirked*, which wasn't something Nick thought he'd ever seen him do before.

Dani giggled evilly. "They were very, very clever. Almost as good as that thing I did last year, with Darla and the thunderstorm. They deserve little plaques on their walls, for, for, um... 'Creative Interpretations of Requests.' Heh. Yeah."

Nick raised his eyebrows as he polished a beer mug. "Oh? What, did you guys get the Slayer pregnant this time out?"

"Pbbbbbbbbttttttt!" Michael did a spit-take all over the bar top, and Tyche cackled like a fiend as he cleaned off his upper lip. "Nick, do not even *think* about joking about that," he ordered. "Not funny, my friend, not funny at all."

"C'mon, it was funny at the time!" Dani protested. Tyche whapped her on the head while Minos shot her a disbelieving look. Michael just growled. "Well, *I* thought it was."

"No, we did *not* get the Slayer pregnant. Or anyone else, for that matter," Minos added pedantically. "We just... re-adjusted... the alignment of someone's... alignment. As it were."

"You've been listening to the Geek-boys too much if you're using D&D analogies, Minos." Tyche sipped her drink, then frowned at it. "Which reminds me: what happened to Warren?"

"Ah. Nothing, yet." Minos did a shot of whiskey, coughed, but still managed to look cheerful. "He's sort of... tied up at the moment. Awaiting placement. Actually, I think Rham has a pool going on where he'll eventually land: endangered pigeon in New Zealand, or maybe a dog on the streets of Calcutta. We aren't sure which would be more appropriate, since we haven't finished the full evaluation yet."

"Oooo! Can I suggest something? Can I? Please? I think he'd make a really good Gulf oyster. There's all the pollution, and they usually get eaten by tourists---"

"You are one sick puppy, Dani. Minos, take notes."

"Hmm. Send Rham an e-mail, will you? He's doing the preliminary work." Minos sighed. "I caught myself considering giving him to Glory for a chew-toy for a year, so I begged off the case until my detachment reasserts itself."

"Good call," Michael muttered.

"Hey. You *still* haven't told me how clever you've all been," Nick said, pointing at Minos and Tyche with the bar towel. "You guys come in here every Friday and kick back, but not like this. You four are acting like your boys from Security, Mike; I think they slam a six-pack every time they get a kitten out of a tree. So what's the story?"

"It was Minos's idea."

"No, it was Tyche's, I remember. *You* said---"

"Hey, I'm pretty sure it was Michael's. He was spazzing out---"

"I do *not* spaz out."

"You keep telling yourself that, big guy. I've seen soap opera divas throw less dramatic hysterics over losing the Emmy for the sixth time."

"He was all upset about Angel and Connor---"

"What happened with Angel's kid? I thought he was one of the good guys," Nick interrupted, breaking into the flow of argument momentarily.

"Undecided. He is officially undecided, right now. But that's beside the point. Which is that Angel is out of the game until someone trawls the bottom of the Pacific Ocean for him--"

"Which would be *so* much easier to *do* if someone hadn't been playing head-games with Cordelia--"

"Don't get her started on that, Nick, you don't want to know."

"--let Skip take on his evil twin, is all I'm saying--"

"--so Michael was going on about how he'd lost a Champion for an undefined period of time--"

"Which was when Tyche-- see, I *told* you it was you -- pointed out that if we had two souled vampires running around, it could only confuse the Opposition more."

"I *did* say that, but Minos, *you* were the one that said, 'Hmmm. I just got an awfully vague request from Spike through Norman, and I think it has... possibilities.' You did, you did, you said 'possibilities.' And you chortled. Wickedly."

"Norman?" Nick asked, glancing at Dani for help.

She nodded, weaving a little as she did so. "He's a primal power on Earth... old, old, plugged into some major energies... Not really a player, he kinda does what he wants, but he consults, sometimes, you know? Hangs out in a cave. Weird guy."


"Hey, if Spike really didn't want his soul back, he should have been more specific. I still say it's what he wanted, even if he never would have admitted it. He's a poet, or he used to be; he *knows* the power of words. Don't tell me that 'I want to be what I was' was a slip of the tongue, because I won't buy it." Minos smirked into his beer stein again. "He just solved about fifty headaches for me, and created a hundred new ones, but at least he fits into a category I can *work* with now. From here on in, it's Angel Rules. Which will piss him off enough to make up some of the karmic debt he's already piled up."

Nick frowned. "You gave him back his soul? No strings attached? What, can any vampire do that now?"

"He earned it," Michael said, looming over the bar, then reaching up to steady himself on the overhanging glasses-and-mug holder. "He went through the trials, proved himself as a Champion, didn't back down, got through pain, fear, anger, darkness, loneliness--- look, it was a long process. He passed. We just gave him the last thing he needed to be a Champion for *us*, instead of the Opposition. His call. His request. And now, he's got to play on our Team. Too late to back out."

Tyche hummed happily and banged her glass on the bar-top. "More, please! And now I've got *two* souled vampires to confuse the Opposition with. Two guys who could fulfill all the prophecies about the Vampire-With-A-Soul. Two applicants for the Job Opening of Slayer's Lover, even if she never wants to see Spike again." She cackled. There really wasn't another word for it. "Let's see those jerks on the other side figure *this* one out. Mess with the Nayazian Scrolls, will they? Get Sahjahn to write false prophecies, did they? Hah! Take *that*, Opposition brats!"

"I think another round is called for," Minos agreed.

"Allow me to recommend a libation." A tall, blue-skinned woman in golden robes leaned over the bar and gestured to a hazy bottle perched over the blender. "Fix a few Romarrii Blizzards for Tyche and her friends, won't you, Nick?"


"Hello, my dear. What a lovely shade of tan you are this century."

Tyche reached up to give the newcomer a hug, laughing in delight. "And you're looking great with hair, Z. What are you doing here? I thought you were still looking after your friends."

"Oh, I am. But one of my acquaintances needed a guide for the next stage--- he's utterly lost, poor man. Re-acclimation for atheists is always the hardest. Especially when you add martyrdom into the equation." She sighed, then smiled winsomely at Michael. "I understand you're celebrating tonight. My congratulations on averting that apocalypse in Sunnydale. "

Michael took a sip from the mug Nick set down before him, and grinned his appreciation. "Thanks. My boy came through again. At the last *second*... but we're pretty damn happy anyway."

Tyche pouted. "*Your* boy? Xander's my boy, Michael."

"He is not your boy. I'm getting him a Security T-shirt, second he gets up here. Kid doesn't have an ounce of foresight, so he's playing for my team."

"Is too my boy. He screwed up more prophecies by bringing Buffy back from the dead the first time--- not to mention this last save--- to *not* be my boy. I would have that kid's *baby* if I were still human."

"You'd have to stand in line," Dani commented, then hiccuped. "And get past Anya. I think she's thawing. I wonder.... If she stays a vengeance demon, and keeps working with Buffy... You know, that could be really interesting."

"Bop her over the head before she gets 'creative' again, okay, Mike?"

He rolled his eyes. "If she remembers this when she recovers from tomorrow's hangover, I'll bop her then."

Tyche's acquaintance laughed, moving aside for a dark-haired younger man who was trying to catch Nick's attention. "I'll leave you to your party, I have a friend I must contact via dreamscape now... Wonderful to talk to you again, Tyche."

"See you, Z," Ty said, waving at her as she left.

"Is this a private party, or can anyone join?"

Minos swiveled in his chair to regard the younger man who'd just arrived. "Hey, Ben. Did you get Tara squared away all right?"

"Yeah. Eventually. One Michelob, Nick." Ben rubbed at his eyes, the gesture hinting at exhaustion. "She wasn't exactly happy to see me when she got here."

"You couldn't expect anything else."

"No, I know, but... After a year of looking out for her, it was hard to remember that the last time we met, I was on the wrong side." He took a pull on his beer and shook his head. "Tara wants to go back, man. She wants the deal I got."

Minos grimaced. "I know. She'll have to wait on that until it's necessary, though. If it ever is. We can't justify another guardian beyond those assigned right now, not when we're spread so thin. Besides... it isn't the same situation, for Tara. She's expected elsewhere."

"I figured. But I wasn't going to tell her that. She was pretty pissed with me as it was." Ben snorted. "I hid the Lethe branch under her pillow, I put her on to what Willow was doing to her head, and she was *still* madder at me about the brain-sucking Glory did than she was at her girlfriend. I had to show Tara the bitch-queen's little dimension-cage before she'd let it go." He grinned suddenly. "I never get sick of watching Glory drop-kick recliners through pool tables."

"Anyone ever told you that you've got a petty streak, Ben?"

"Yeah, you. But it beats being a megalomaniacal hell-bitch any day." He took another gulp of his beer. "Anyway, Tara's mom picked her up a little while ago, and she seemed all right then. Said we were... okay."

"Ah." Minos gave him a penetrating look. "How's it feel to earn some forgiveness?"

"Pretty freakin' weird." Ben shook his head again. "And like it's not enough. Do you have another assignment for me yet? 'Cause I was thinking, Dawn's going to be facing some scary stuff soon if she's going to be making like Xena---"

Minos snorted into his drink, and grinned. "Take it easy, Ben. You'll get another assignment, but we'll talk about that later. Tonight is a night to relax. Nick! Another Michelob for the trainee!"

"I'm going to put on some Talking Heads," Dani announced, slipping off her barstool and wobbling unsteadily. "Any other requests?"

"Dire Straits. 'Walk of Life.'"

"Tom Petty!"

"Pretenders, all the way."

"Come into the twenty-first century, people. Put on some Barenaked Ladies. Or the Tuscan Chihuahuas," Tyche suggested.

"The Tuscan Chihuahuas are thirty-first century, Ty," Michael pointed out as Dani careened across the room to the jukebox.

"Big deal. Like there's a difference. One millenium."

"It's attitudes like *that* which screw up prophecies, you know," sniped a redhead leaning across the bar to retrieve a handful of wine coolers.

"Bite me, Moira. I didn't see you predicting Holtz's little jaunt to Quarrtoth."

"I could have told you that there was no chance that Connor would survive as a child in this reality, and that different measures would have to be taken---"

"Then why *didn't* you do that? Or mention it to any of the Seers who were writing the Nayazian Scrolls ten centuries ago? Let me guess, you thought it would be more fun to make them work it out for themselves."

"*Some* of us believe that mortals should be allowed to make their own mistakes with the absolute minimal amount of temporal manipulation---"

"Fatalistic elitist twit---"

Both Michael and Minos grabbed Tyche's arms as she started after Moira and hauled her back to the bar before she got three feet. "That's how you got thrown out of here the last time, remember?" Minos asked under his breath.

"I swear, if she weren't so good at figuring out the alternate outcomes I would have her reassigned to your division, Min. She might be on our team, but she gets under my skin like no one else--"

"Let it go, Ty."

"Sorry. I'm just... I'm still pissed off about Sahjahn." Tyche slumped back against the bar and took a large slurp from her Blizzard. "I *hate* the ones that can screw us up like that. Too subtle to disprove and too removed from reality to capture.... All that work our section put in on those prophecies completely *trashed*, because he started a few rumors and got his hands on some White-Out. Not to mention what it did to Wes and Connor. If I ever get my hands on that son-of-a-time-shifting-demon, it will not be pretty."

"Hear, hear," Michael rumbled.

"Are you talking about the Sahjahn that the Opposition trapped in between dimensions a while ago?" asked a new arrival. Her face and body were painted with twisting sapphire and silver designs, matching the gold-and-silver patterns drawn on her companion. "I understood that Angel's son was the only one qualified to destroy him."

"Hey, Giana. Xian. Yeah, that's still right. It's just twenty years ahead of schedule, that's all. If it's even going to happen now."

"Time travel?"

"Trip to a demon dimension."

"Oo. That's always messy." Xian shook his head regretfully. "I still say this wouldn't be happening if Vocah hadn't killed us two years ago. Or if we hadn't stayed dead."

"Re-manifesting on that plane would have involved far more effort than it was worth, brother. We got cocky and we paid for it. Besides, Angel avenged our deaths shortly afterward, and Vocah returned to the source of all demonic energy." Giana took a sip of her wine, shaking her head as she looked off over the dance floor. "*You're* just annoyed that you're assigned to that Psychic Hotline while we wait for another shaman to summon us into existence."

"Oracles of our experience should be accorded more respect! Minos, can't you do something about this assignment?"

"I'm Accounting, not Personnel, Xian. Take it up with Rafe, I'm sure he'll be happy to place you elsewhere." Minos smiled at a disgusted Xian over the rim of his Dos Equis. "I understand they're looking for someone to run interference for the fortune-telling machines in Hong Kong--"

"Never. Mind. Forget I said anything. *Ever*."

"It wasn't you guys being dead that screwed things up for Connor," Tyche broke in, her expression becoming more morose. "It was... well, let's see who's on the list: Holtz, who messed with Connor's head until he was a little clone of himself."

Dani frowned, then leaned around Tyche. "Hey, Min, what happened to Daniel Holtz? Where did he end up?"

"Don't ask. *Please.* I'm trying to forget that case. I'm not happy about it. Let's leave it at that."

"Justine, who helped Holtz kill himself and frame Angel," Tyche went on doggedly.

"Maybe we could have her sister haunt her for a while," Dani mumbled through a mouthful of peanuts. "That might straighten her out."

Michael snorted. "Doubt it. It'd probably just send her further over the edge. I know the type."

Tyche was still listing people who were more responsible for Connor than Xian and Giana, who were smiling in amusement at the tilting-sideways Predictions Specialist. "Wes, who... just breaks my heart. Minos, is he off the rolls for our side yet?"


"No?" Michael raised an eyebrow. "Are we sure about that?"

"*Yes.* Intention outweighs many things. And he hasn't done anything else. Yet." Minos rolled his eyes. "He still believes in protecting the innocent, and that's what counts. Though not for lack of trying on Lilah Morgan's part."

"I never liked that woman," Giana observed. "She was just a little too smug when that law firm set Vocah on us...."

Tyche pouted and banged her mug down. "Hey, I'm still talking here. Is anyone paying attention?"

Several heads nodded agreeably, and Dani hiccuped an answer. "Sure we are."

"Then what did I just say?"

"'Is anyone paying attention?'"

"Exactly, yes. So... Holtz, Justine, Wes... and--"

"CORDELIA!" yelled a penetrating voice on the other side of the bar.

Tyche pointed at Minos, her finger bobbing up and down like a vertical metronome. "*Precisely*. That is who I am going to give a *severe* talking-to, the second she gets here. How could she be so gullible and silly and distracted and--"

"Cordy, what are you doing here? You're not supposed to arrive for another fifty-seven years!" The same voice was demanding loudly.

"Hunh?" Ty blinked, swiveled around on the bar stool, then gaped in astonishment. Skip was hugging a bewildered-looking Cordelia Chase, holding her up off the floor with her feet dangling. Nice shoes, Tyche noted, then shook her head to get the dizziness to settle. "Minos? Wha...?"v "We had to hijack Cordy from a trip to another dimension. She thought she was Ascending, and said 'yes' to someone she shouldn't have." Minos didn't even bother to turn around.


"And we really ought to have given her a handbook to go with the new demon attributes last Christmas."

"We were in kind of a hurry, if you'll remember!" Ty slammed back the rest of her drink, then wiped her mouth, looking defensive. "Besides, how hard was it to figure out?"

Minos finally turned around, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "She's been using her celestial aura as a nightlight."

"Oh. Uh... Oops."

Dani cocked her head to the side. "Neat. We should tell Danny about that. I bet he'd like it, he still gets weird nightmares even as a glowy Ascended Being."

"Wait, I thought Woo went back down?" Michael interrupted, eyes a little glazed as the Stoli (or the long, long month) finally caught up with him. "Time-loop reversal or erase-button or universal re-set or something?"

"No, the other Danny." Dani waved at a blonde guy in a cream sweater at the other side of the bar, sitting next to a darker-haired guy who was trying to wring water out of his trenchcoat. "Over there with Secret Agent Guy, eating the sushi."

"Okay, now that's just *wrong*," Xian muttered, grimacing. "Jellyfish of light eating sushi--"

"Warped anthropologist humor, I guess." Giana finished off her drink and handed the glass back to a surprised Nick. "Too many Dannys and Danis for me. Xian, let's go, we're still on-call tonight, the strangeness is multiplying, and I think we want to avoid Miss Chase, if I'm reading the look on her face correctly."

"Good call," Xian muttered. "I don't want her to ask me about Doyle, she'll never believe us if we tell her where he is."

Skip and Cordelia had been engaged in an intense conversation while Minos brought everyone up to date, but Cordelia caught sight of Xian and Giana, her brow furrowing in concentration. She broke away from a still-expostulating Skip and plowed through the dancers twirling and twisting across the floor. "Hey. Hey! HEY! You in the robes! I wanna talk to you!"

"Bye," Xian said as he and Giana quickly headed for the exit and vanished into the shrouding mist.

"HEY!" Cordelia came to a stop in front of the group of celebrating Powers just as the departing Oracles faded away, and puffed out a breath in outrage. "Can you believe them?" she demanded of the surrounding bystanders. "Two years I've been working on their side -- three if you count without the migraines, *longer* even, if you count high school, which I wouldn't because it's not like I had a choice-- and they *ditch* me! SCUM!" she yelled after them.

"Are you sure those were the right guys?" Dani asked doubtfully, leaning off her barstool precariously to look in the direction of the departed beings, only to be snagged back at the last second by Tyche.

"Did they say they didn't know me? Because they are full of it if they said that--"

"Not exactly." Minos's smile was becoming... skewed, Tyche was horrified to see. He might have actually been approaching drunk. "But they weren't in charge of giving you the visions, Cordelia."

"What, does everyone know who I am?" the Seer asked, hands on her hips. Skip was hovering in the background, looking concerned and on the verge of wringing his hands. "Am I a celebrity up here instead of in Beverly Hills like I deserve to be?"

"Pretty much," Dani and Michael agreed in chorus. Tyche snorted. Minos took another drink from his beer and vibrated with silent laughter.

"Perfect. Fabulous. Then *you* can direct me to the person I need to dope-smack for giving me the last few months worth of totally unhelpful visions and almost making me crash my Jeep, right?"

"You want a dope-smack, girlfriend?" Ty lurched out of her seat and tottered on her heels, mimicking Cordelia's confrontational stance and driving the Seer back a few steps before she stood her ground, her frown deepening. "I'll give *you* dope-smack! Yeah! For believing whoever it was that told you that you were Ascending!"

"It was Skip! Okay, he said it wasn't, so I guess it was Skip's Evil Twin, but that is *not* my fault!" Cordy's eyes suddenly narrowed, and she poked Tyche in the chest with her index finger. "You. *Youuuu.* You're the one, aren't you! You're the one that's been messing with my life!"

Tyche backed away now, almost falling over. "Me? Mess with *your* life? I like that! I do everything I can to keep you safe and keep your Champion alive---"

"Everything that doesn't cost you Powers anything, you mean! Everything that's *cryptic* and easy for you, and *impossible* for me and---"

"And you go off with the barbarian boy-toy and take a potion that blocks the visions, and dye your hair some gods-awful color while you're at it---"

Cordy gasped. "Hey! There is nothing wrong with my hair! Nothing! It looks good!"

"Oh, you don't *really* believe that, do you?" Dani asked, breaking into the argument. "I mean, you're just saying that so you don't cry about it, right? I can fix it for you," she offered, stretching out her fingers toward Cordelia's shorn locks. "I can even make it violet if you want, with some spit curls?"

"Gosh, that's nice of you, Little Fashion Waif from Hell. NO. No touching the hair!" She whirled back to Tyche. "And I *cared* about Groo, and I deserved a vacation! There was nothing wrong with what I did! And what do you mean, 'take a potion that blocks the visions'? I didn't do that!"

"So, you're admitting you hate the hair."

Ty and Cordy both stopped yelling to direct a joint glare at Dani, who ducked her head behind Michael. The Power shook his head and raised an arm to tuck her against his side protectively, as Minos chortled softly.

"Forget the hair. It'll grow back. And some conditioner will repair the damage from the dye." Tyche's shoulders slumped as she rubbed her eyes. "Cordelia, didn't you think that a potion that prevented transmission of the visions to Groo via sex *might* have some side-effects? Like, maybe blocking them altogether? Hunh? How did you *think* that was going to work?"

"Oh." Cordy stared at Tyche, her eyes widening in horror. "Oh, no. But--- no. They would've told me, or said something---"

"Right, because demon bordello owners? They're all about full disclosure."

"Oh." Cordelia closed her eyes, one hand covering her mouth. "Oh, *no*... this is all--- Connor. Connor going away is all my fault...."

Minos winced as Tyche looked stricken. "Cordy. Cordy honey---"

"God, I'm *such* an idiot, I just... And if I'm not supposed to be here, how's Angel going to manage without the visions? How can I tell him what I chose--?" For one second, Cordelia appeared on the verge of tears. Then her spine straightened and her hand fell away from her mouth as her eyes fixed on Tyche's. "You have to help me fix this. You *have* to. Send me back."

"We can't." Minos broke in on their conversation with a sigh. "Cordelia, we got you out of that dimension by means that were... more of a short-term fix than a long-term solution. If we set you back down on the L.A. freeway, you'd just get snatched up again."

"Then what good are you!? Look, you're supposed to be Powers, so show some!"

"We'd be able to if you hadn't said yes to the Anti-Skip in the middle of traffic," Michael observed acidly. "We may be Powers but we're not all-powerful. Every action has consequences---"

"Consequences?" Cordelia got up in Michael's face the way many deceased linebackers were afraid to, as Dani hid behind him, sipping her drink with a doleful expression. Fortunately, Michael only looked mildly annoyed by all this. "Consequences? You want to talk about *consequences*? If I'm not back down there to tell Angel where to go and who to help, there will be a lot of people suffering consequences real soon--"

"No, there won't." Danae frowned. "Well, there will, but putting you back won't fix it. Will it?" she asked Minos. "I mean, it would if she could find Angel, but--"

"Angel's missing? Are you just randomly losing people in the space-time wash, or what?!"

"Not so much missing as... temporarily misplaced." At Cordelia's expression of imminent explosion, Minos added, "We know where he is, we just can't get to him yet, okay? Nobody's hurting him, he's not in any danger---"

"But he's *really* not having any fun," Dani added mournfully. At the concentrated glares aimed at her, she blinked, then smiled brightly at an aghast Cordelia. "I'm Danae, by the way. I don't think we've met in person before? Welcome to Limbo!"

"Gee, thanks, I'm hating it already." Cordy put her hands to her head. "If we were in L.A., I would now be getting a migraine from either the stress or--- you, right?" she pointed a finger at Tyche, who rolled her eyes.v "Only if there was a point to it. It's not like I'm a sadist, you know. And you can't get headaches here. Well, not real ones. The metaphorical ones manifest real well to make up for it." Tyche sighed and slung an arm around Cordelia's shoulders. "I'm Tyche. Ty to my friends. And you *are* one of my friends, Cordelia. Even if you don't believe it right now. So let me buy you a drink, and get you some food, and we'll fill you in on what's going on." She patted the Seer on the shoulder and steered her to one of the empty stools. "Worst case scenario? You have to hang out with us until we can send you back, or make other arrangements."

"Other arrangements?"

At Minos' frantic signaling behind Cordelia's back, Dani chirped, "No biggie. No other arrangements. Nope. Not a chance. Not with us on the job. So no worries, 'kay?"

"Color me un-reassured. And vaguely nauseous. Which doesn't coordinate well with this dress, I should point out." Cordelia finally noticed their bartender, and blinked in shock. "Santa?"

Nick turned around from getting a bottle of champagne out of the fridge, and beamed at her. "Cordy darlin'! Have you been a good little girl this year?"

She rolled her eyes. "Oh, and how. Fill 'er up, St. Nick." She shook her head. "Nothing about this place is going to surprise me pretty soon."

"And an order of hot wings," Tyche added, balancing precariously on the next stool over. "If they're good enough for an ensouled vamp, they're good enough for Powers and Messengers."

Cordelia frowned. "What are you talking about? Angel doesn't like hot wings."

"Nah." Michael's grin was wicked again as he gulped another shot of Stoli. "But Spike does."

"Spike? What has he go to do with---" The penny dropped and Cordy choked on the champagne, then glanced from a giggling Dani to a smug Tyche, her eyes widening. "Are you *kidding* me?"

"Nope," Tyche purred.


"Weirdly enough, no." Minos grinned happily and leaned against the bar.

"We never kid," Michael declaimed, then reconsidered. "Wait, we do. But most mortals don't find it funny. This, though... *This* is funny. No matter *who* you are. Especially considering how it happened."

"Spike kind of had an --- epiphany? An anti-epiphany? Either way, he left Sunnydale to mess with some very serious mojo---"

"And sort of got... bit." Tyche snickered and Michael smirked at the gaping Seer.

"Be very very careful what you wish for, Cordelia," Danae said, nodding slowly. "Because ancient entities have very weird ideas of what's funny. And the Powers are easily amused."

Cordelia blinked, exchanged a look with Santa Claus, then slammed back a shot before coughing and taking a deep breath. "Okay, you know what? I want a full explanation. But from what you've been saying, it can wait until I'm drunk enough to deal with this. Barkeep, mas cerveza por favor!"

"Wait, wait-- I've got a toast." Tyche raised her glass gravely. "To another averted apocalypse. To... attempting to avert prophecy. To... uhhh...." She smirked. "Job descriptions. And filling the positions with the available talent-- no matter where we find it. To mortals who try, in other words."

Skip raised a beer can and boomed, "To Cordy!" Who blinked, shook her head, and fought back a smile.

"Xander!" From Tyche and Michael, who clinked glasses in almost-harmony.

"Buffy!" Dani finally fell off the stool, and raised her glass from the floor.

"Wes!" St. Nick raised a stein.

"All those guys...." Minos sighed, and drank to all the people who weren't so lucky.

"Here, here!"

Powers, Messengers, Angels, Guides, Guardians, Ascended Beings, lost souls and bartenders all raised their glasses to those fighting the harder fight. And for a moment, the fog around the bar thinned, so that the sunset illuminated Limbo, making it shine like someone's idea of Paradise.

Author's Afterword
For those of you who are wondering who the characters wandering through from other dimensions are:

Z is Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan from "Farscape", who kinda 'died' (sort of) about a year ago. A 10th level Pa'u (priest), she gave her life to save her friends. The acquaintance she's referring to is Captain Bialar Crais, who sacrificed himself about four months ago, and would have severe difficulties if we woke him up in a bar.

Danny (Woo) is the partner of Witchblade wielder Sara Pezzini on "Witchblade". He died in the first ep of first season, but he's alive again, thanks to some fancy time-rewinding on Sara's part.

Daniel (the glowing Ascended Being eating sushi) is Daniel Jackson from "Stargate SG-1", who pulled a Spock about four months ago, then was offered the chance to... well... 'ascend' the same way Cordelia did. They really need to get drunk together.

The guying wringing out his coat and looking annoyed is Michael Vaughn from "Alias", who may or may not be dead, but was last seen floating underwater and making fish-faces.

Everyone else is either an original character mentioned in previous stories, or someone who originally belonged to Joss & David Greenwalt before they were hijacked and force-fed alcohol.

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