In the main foyer of the small hotel the New Council had bought to house the Slayers and Watchers guarding the Hellmouth that had appeared in Cleveland after the collapse of Sunnydale, Willow Rosenberg and Dawn Summers were currently standing by the table against the east wall of the foyer. These two women were happily catching up with each other since Dawn’s last visit from Scotland and the castle there that housed the main headquarters of the supernatural organization that guarded the world from demons, monsters, and other unholy creatures. As they chattered together, Dawn and Willow paid no attention to the hustle and bustle around them, of numerous girls and older women in addition to several men, all who were going around their day’s business such as weapons training, research, and school. Not to mention those cautiously eyeing the pair while wondering if they actually dared to interrupt legends in order to ask for their autographs.
All the activity in the lobby came to an abrupt halt, along with the just as sudden end to the Sunnydale natives’ conversation, when the left-hand door of the front entrance was kicked open, swinging back inside on its full arc to hit the inner hotel wall with a loud ‘bang!’ and starting to swing closed, until it was once more shoved ajar, as someone squeezed himself through the doorway, with a certain degree of difficulty. It was clearly evident why this male visitor hadn’t entered the hotel through the central revolving door that was the hotel’s main entryway. The numerous packages held in the man’s straining arms, piled right up from his waist to under his chin, would have made it plainly impossible to pass through this pivoting panel.
Everyone in the foyer who’d just been interrupted in their affairs by this sudden intrusion remained frozen, all of them staring at a beaming Xander Harris walking across the lobby towards Willow and Dawn, with this burdened man wearing a green fabric headband that had a peace symbol embroidered in white thread on the front of this strip of cloth around his head, jeans that had been cut off into shorts ending in ragged strips of blue denim at mid-thigh, and leather sandals covering his bare feet.
As he came to the table where his friends were watching him in shock, Xander whooped with delight as he dumped his armload of boxes and parcels upon this piece of furniture. “Guys, it’s great to see you again!” Turning from where he’d put down his packages, the man held out his arms, obviously about to embrace Willow and Dawn.
Both of these women then heard faint, choked-off whimpers coming from quite a few of the other females in the lobby, as all there now saw what was revealed by Xander’s discarding of what he’d been holding in front of him. The man was wearing on his upper torso only an open, sleeveless leather vest that covered just his back and sides, leaving bare for all to see a wide, muscular, masculine chest that rippled down to rock-hard abs, with every inch of this shown flesh deeply tanned from his construction work. Willow and Dawn simultaneously went weak at their knees at this sight, but fortunately for them, help for their frailty was on hand, as Xander now enthusiastically wrapped his arms around the women’s upper bodies, easily lifting them off their feet, as he brought both of his favorite girls into a massive hug.
Willow’s breath exploded out of her lungs in a startled ‘whoosh!’ as she was lovingly squeezed, with her shoes dangling several inches off the floor, and she bewilderedly looked past the back of Xander’s head at her fellow captive also held up in the air by the other arm of somebody who’d better have a really good reason for this. Dawn didn’t return Willow’s dumbfounded gaze. Instead, the Key was staring down towards the floor over Xander’s shoulder. Willow followed Dawn’s intent look, and the redhead in turn ogled Xander’s superlatively taut butt in his skin-tight shorts, the firmness of those rear muscles currently evident due to bearing the weight of the women in his arms.
There was now actual drool being produced from the lips of several Slayers in the hotel lobby, as they all zealously memorized every single moment of what they were watching. Soft, sad sighs of disappointment that this wasn’t happening to them were now made by those warrior women, as Xander finally put down Willow and Dawn, to then end his embrace, as he turned back to the table where he’d put down his burdens. Busy with searching through these packages, Xander didn’t notice his girls were both gently swaying on their feet, and they possessed the same glassy-eyed expressions of absolute bogglement.
An instant later, Dawn blinked back into what was close to her normal state of consciousness, looking down at what had just been thrust into her hands that had automatically grasped a cloth-wrapped square package in a very familiar shape, as she dazedly listened to Xander happily chattering, “Yeah, Dawnstar, this is your very own spell book, with lots of honkin’-old undecipherable scrawls that nobody else in the world can understand! I know you’ll have lots of fun figuring out how to read this, since the Halliwell sisters couldn’t make head or tails of anything in there.”
As she stared at her new present, Dawn looked up to see where Xander had gone back to rummaging around in his bags, boxes, and other items on the tabletop. Opening her mouth, Dawn’s initial demand that he tell her what the hell he’d been up to was diverted by her eye catching sight of something odd that Xander now shoved aside on the table during his hunt through his new possessions. The younger Summers sister weakly inquired, “Xander, is that a lava lamp?”
At that casual answer, Dawn narrowed her eyes in exasperation, and gritting her teeth, she now shot her best glare at the still-searching man no longer paying any attention to the about-to-explode young woman, who then snarled, “Why would--”
“Ah-ha!” delightedly crowed Xander, which cut off Dawn’s beginning outburst, as he finally found what he’d been searching for, with that man also snatching off a cloth sack covering one of his packages, producing an explosion of greenery, as a large, bushy plant was now revealed, resting in its pot on the tabletop. The man then beamed at where Willow was now staring in horrified recognition at the plant with its long, ragged leaves, her attention then being distracted at her friend’s enthusiastic voice.
“Wils, meet Herbie! Herbie, this is Willow Rosenberg, your new owner. I know you’ll both get along great, and she’s got a nice, sunny greenhouse where you can grow big and strong, with lots of room for more clippings from you, so we can have our very own Cleveland strain of Phineas’ best-producing weed.”
As he said the last, a very thoughtful look appeared on Xander’s face, while he eyed his packages spread upon the table, and then the man reached out to snatch up a bulging paper bag that had several rubber bands wrapped around it. Experimentally bouncing this bag up and down on his palm, as if he were judging this container’s weight, Xander offhandedly said to the pair of women, whose mouths were now hanging wide open, “Hey, guys, I’ll be in my room, working on my report for Giles, and uh, it might take a while. A day, maybe. Or two. Or three. You know he’s a bear on the proper use of the semicolon, so I want to make sure I get it right. Oh, by the way, when the pizzas and other take-out get here, just tell ‘em to leave it by my door. I’ll owe you, okay?”
A last grin was sent towards the two women now giving him identical disbelieving looks, as Xander then swept up his remaining packages of his own personal gifts from the Freak Brothers, and cheerfully nodding goodbye to a dumbfounded Willow and Dawn, the man strode off towards the main staircase of the hotel, not paying any attention to those fascinatedly watching him climb the stairs, until he got to the first landing where the stairs turned to run up along the hotel wall. There, Xander stopped, and as he turned to face his awestruck audience below with their eyes glued upon him, the man juggled his various packages, until he could hold them all in his left arm, while he used that other, newly-freed limb to thrust his clenched right fist straight up in the air, as Xander Harris now bellowed, “POWER TO THE PEOPLE!”
A few moments later, as the astounded crowd in the foyer began to disperse after seeing an original Scooby Gang member who’d unquestionably lost all his marbles bound up the stairs, the buzz of their excited discussions among themselves was being firmly ignored by Willow standing there by the table, her eyes closed, as she rubbed the back of her right hand against her forehead in an unsuccessful attempt to soothe her growing headache. Finally, the red-haired witch muttered, “All right, Dawn, there’s got to be a reasonable explanation for the last few minutes. Uh, probably. We’re talking about Xander here, right?”
There wasn’t the slightest response from the younger Summers sister.
“Dawn?” frowned Willow, who now opened her eyes and glanced around, only then seeing that woman standing a few steps away before the wall mirror by the table. Dawn was intently examining her reflection in this mirror, and she swept back her long hair over her ears, pinched her cheeks, and nibbled at her lips, with a satisfied nod then made by her at all the results of this quick primping. As the Key reached out to gather up the cloth-wrapped spell book she’d left at the edge of the hotel table, Willow finally found her voice to ask in utter astonishment, “Dawn, what’re you doing?!”
Turning to look at Willow, Dawn smirked, and said aggressively, “What do YOU suppose? You’re crazy if you think I’m going to pass up this chance! I’ve been throwing myself at him for years, and he’s never gotten past seeing me as Buffy’s little sister, and I haven’t ever been able to catch him at a time when his defenses are down. Well, a few minutes from now in his room, they sure as hell will be, and I’m gonna take full advantage of it. AND him.”
At Willow’s shocked expression, Dawn’s smirk became even more evil, as she held the spell book under her left arm, bringing up her right hand to unfasten the top button of her blouse. There was an actual cackle in Dawn’s voice as she continued informing her Sunnydale friend, “Besides, Xander was right about one thing regarding his report. He’s not all that good at punctuation, so I intent to be there and demonstrate for him the proper employment of quotation marks, hyphens, and exclamation points. Which from what Anya was more than willing to tell the whole world, he managed to perform the last multiple times!”
At that, Dawn left behind a flabbergasted Willow to sashay over to the row of hotel elevators at the far wall, with the witch gaping after her departing friend, who pushed the elevator button to open the doors, and then she entered the compartment, to turn around and wave farewell at a dazed Willow. After doing this, Dawn looked down at her blouse, and then she undid the next button of her shirt, as the elevator doors closed.
This time, as Willow leaned back against the edge of the table, she used the tips of her first and middle fingers of both hands to rub these in small circles at her temples, in a vain attempt to relieve her returned headache, which was now at least triple than before both in size and in the intensity of the throbbing of her cranium. After several moments of feeling like she actually missed the old days in Sunnydale when the only thing the Scooby Gang had to worry about was the occasional pimple and next Tuesday’s apocalypse, a very odd feeling managed to get through Willow’s agony.
She felt as if there was somebody there right next to her, who was currently regarding the witch with both intense curiosity and strong amusement. A sudden surge of annoyance welled up in Willow’s mind at that moment, since she was totally unwilling to tolerate those irksome sentiments by someone who’d just invaded her privacy. Her eyes springing open, an irritated Willow dropped her hands, to spin around and confront the intruder at her side.
The marijuana plant resting there on the hotel table looked totally innocuous.
As she gaped at this truly prime and possibly sentient specimen of Cannabis sativa, an incredulous Willow Rosenberg now heard in her head a California-accented, mellow drawl of:
*Dope will get you through times of no magic better than magic will get you through times of no dope.*