“Okay, can you please explain to me what in the _hell_ you were thinking? Or were you thinking? No, of course not,” Kennedy growled, stalking around the semi-private room like a caged tigress before stopping and pointing at Xander, “because you _never_ think!”
On the hospital bed, hooked up to more than a few monitors and a ventilator, Alexander Harris lay mostly motionless, a mass of bandages and casts that were doing their best to keep his body together while it healed.
Kennedy’s anger, as it had several times already, faded at the sight of her best friend and partner in the bed and, had she any tears left to cry, she’d have wept again. As such, she sat next to his bed and held his (mostly) undamaged right hand and, closing her eyes, she began to pray for a small miracle.
Nobody was quite sure what had happened; with Finals coming up, there had been a distinct lull in supernatural activities going on, enough that nobody had thought to do much in the way of patrolling or snooping around; school-aged kids were not dying as they had been, transients were not turning up dead, even the local morgues were, for once, getting close to empty. Buffy had joked about it being the calm before the storm, a joke that had gotten her looked at by Willow, Jesse and even Rupert Giles, the Slayer’s Watcher, but then she’d shrugged and said that maybe it was just good luck and to not question it. With Finals only a day or two away, they had been studying in small groups about this or that, Willow doing her level best to help Xander with ‘The Math’ (Kennedy couldn’t help but be amused at how a man who was mentally nearer to thirty than to fifteen was _still_ flummoxed by fairly easy math stuff), Buffy and Jesse were working on various classes together (often alone, often times leading to smooches of various types and intensities) and she and Willow had even found themselves alone on occasion to help one another out with English and their shared computer sciences class.
One night there had been a mass study session at Buffy’s house and Xander had taken orders to go get pizza as both Joyce and Hank were out on a date and Gino’s only delivery guy had gone ‘mysteriously absent’ a few weeks earlier, thus ending their delivery service until a new one could take his place. Orders were given, money was given and Xander had said he’d be back in an hour, tops. Two hours later, he had not returned. As Gino’s wasn’t _too_ far away, they had packed up and had gone down the most likely path Xander would have taken.
They found him beaten, broken and bloody in the middle of the street five blocks over, pizzas scattered to hell and back.
That had been three days before. They had done what they had needed to do with school and all, but their hearts were just not in it. The doctors said that he would be okay, eventually… probably… but whomever (or whatever, they had not said) had worked him over had done so methodically, to cause the most amount of trauma without an overt risk of death. The Sunnydale PD had said that it was related to ‘recently escalated gang activities’ and had promised due diligence, but had not produced anything so far and Armageddon would happen before they did. Xander’s parents hadn’t taken it well; Jessica had thrown herself into her work at the morgue and Tony, a private security contractor, had done the same. It still shocked her that the two people she had heard so many stories about from Xander were actually kind of okay in this world that they had found themselves in. Xander interacted with them, yes, but only superficially because he was afraid that he’d shatter something important if he did, which explained to her why he spent so much time with her and her family.
‘Speaking of my family…’ Kennedy looked over and saw her grandfather standing in the doorway, his face a mask of worry. “Hi.”
“Kennedy, when was the last time you got some sleep?”
Kennedy blinked. What day was it? “Tuesday, I think. I’m not leaving.”
“Far be it from me to order you to do something you don’t want to do, granddaughter, but you’re not doing him or yourself any good by staying here. Go home, get some rest and clean up. You smell.” Kennedy was about to argue with him when she noticed that he was not going to take no for an answer and she relented with a sigh, an act which made him smile and nod, “Good. Now, go. I doubt your boyfriend would want you looking like you haven’t taken care of yourself when he wakes up.”
Kennedy’s cheeks colored at the comment but, again, she didn’t argue; she’d tried telling him again and again that she and Xander were not boyfriend and girlfriend but apparently it was his prerogative to either not listen or to just be of selective hearing. Cutting her losses, she squeezed Xander’s hand one last time and gave her grandfather a kiss on his cheek before she left.
Watching his granddaughter leave, Toby turned back to the bed-ridden form of Xander and smiled a little, nodding, “She really likes you, my boy. She won’t admit it, of course, and she’ll react poorly to anyone who says so, but I can see it.” Leaning closer, Toby’s voice changed a little, going from musing to lethal with only a slight pitch change, “If you hurt her, I will make your eventual death _legendary_.”
Xander’s heart monitor blipped for a second and Toby pulled back, chuckling. Yes, he still had it…
(Two days later - Sunnydale High School)
Kennedy exited her last final of the year, knowing that her mind had been on anything _BUT_ English, but there was a little bounce in her step. The doctors had taken Xander off of the lung machine and he was breathing on his own, he was starting to heal and, more importantly, his occasionally warped sense of humor was intact, so Kennedy knew that he would be okay. Maybe not one hundred percent but at least okay, a fact which did her entire mood a great deal of good. Buffy and Willow had been elated and Jesse had sighed, muttering a silent prayer before he’d made a joke about his bro looking like Boris Karloff’s ‘The Mummy’, which had gotten him double dope-slapped by Willow and Buffy… and neither of them had held back any.
‘He’s lucky I’d actually slept,’ Kennedy thought as she made it to her locker and started cleaning it out.
“We’re all lucky you slept, kid.”
Kennedy grabbed the side of her locker and planted her right foot, lashing back and up at the source of the voice and smiled when said foot connected with something hard and slightly mobile. She wasn’t the Slayer anymore, she knew that, but it still felt good when a kick connected. As the body collided with the lockers behind it, Kennedy snapped a reverse roundhouse kick and caught the body on the rebound, sending it crashing to the floor. Pouncing, she pinned the guy’s arms behind his back and wrenched them up to the point that the guy wheezed in pain. “Give me one good reason I shouldn’t rip your arms out of your sockets, buster.”
“’Cause you ain’t the Slayer anymore, kid!”
If the person had been expecting her to let go, he was sorely mistaken as she pulled the arms higher, just like Sergeant Thoms had taught them. “Who are you?”
“Name’s Whistler! I was sent by the Powers to tell you what the skinny was.”
“You know who attacked Xander?”
“Then talk fast and don’t lie to me,” she growled.
“Look, you two are part of a Trifecta, alright? Three wishes made, each of them connected to you two somehow, and the people involved _should_ have resolved it already.”
“Well, are you home yet? No, because you two ain’t doing what you’re supposed to. Can you let me go now?”
Kennedy considered leaving him there for a second before she let his arms go and got off of his rather tacky jacket. “You know, the seventies went out of style almost as soon as they happened. If you don’t want to stick out, try updating your wardrobe.”
Whistler got to his feet and rolled his shoulders, wincing on occasion, before he growled, “When I want fashion advice from someone who can’t even drive yet, I’ll ask. Alright,” Whistler said as Kennedy’s dander got up, “the point is that you two have two thirds of the wish done.”
“And people are starting to get a little impatient about the last third.”
“Who are ‘they’? You’re a little vague on that part.”
“It’s above your pay grade, kiddo,” Whistler said with a shrug. “Point is, this timeline, this universe, was supposed to be a one and done thing because of your teenaged hormones and Harris… being Harris. You two’ve dragged it out for so long now that universe is solidifying and expanding, becoming _real_.”
“And this is a bad thing?”
“For a lot of people, yeah. I mean, Ratboy’s not around with his soul and Darla’s not going to fulfill her thing, McNally’s not kitty litter and there’s a whole bunch of people who are alive who shouldn’t be and some people who’re dead that ain’t supposed to be dead.”
“Blame that on Xander.”
“Oh, we have. There’s a long list of people that want to take strips outta his hide over this.”
“And they’re the ones that attacked him?”
“Maybe,” Whistler hedged. “Nobody knows who it was, really, and they aren’t in a big rush to find out who it was because nature might take its course and kill him instead.” Whistler backed away into the lockers as Kennedy growled and took a menacing step towards him, holding his hands up to stop her, “Hey, cool it! Don’t kill the messenger, alright?”
“Then tell me something _important_. Like the last third of the wish.”
“You two’re supposed to kiss.”
“We’ve done that a few times already.”
“No, you ain’t. Those were just pecks on the cheeks. I’m talking long, lingering, soul-searing stuff. Real kissin’, the stuff with emotion behind it. Love.”
Kennedy grimaced. It was like her mother from the original timeline was now forcing her way back into her life and now she had _logic_ somehow on her side. “Of course I love him. We’re _friends_-“
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Whistler said, waving her off, “but the wish is different here. You love him, he loves you, but not _LOVE_ love, kiddo. Apparently someone got the half-baked idea that you seeing him like this would make you professor your love to him and resolve the wish.”
“All it resolved is making sure we have a clear target when he gets back to rights,” Kennedy growled.
“Says you, half-pint. Anyone capable of pulling this off is a little outside of your weight class, you and Harris both. Just kiss, mean it, and it’s over and done with.”
“How can you mean it when you don’t?”
“Well, there’s always sex…”
Kennedy’s cheeks burst into flame as her mind supplied just how that could be. Traitorous imagination. ‘I sure as _hell_ wouldn’t be wearing the Slave Girl Leia outfit…’ “Think again, buster. Maybe we like it here.”
“Hey, no skin off my nose, sister,” Whistler said with a shrug. “You two ever want to go back home? Make with the lip lock and mean it.” With that, Whistler walked around the corner and promptly vanished.
Kennedy shook her head and sighed as she went back to cleaning out her locker. Why was her life so complicated? Closing her locker, she left the campus for the year… and never saw Jesse McNally and Buffy Summers walk around the corner, their faces a mask of shock and their eyes filled with doubt and a little betrayal.
“So, we lay one on, mean it and… poof? We go home?”
“According to Whistler, yes. Personally, I’m not so sure.”
“Is the idea of kissing me that repulsive? Thanks, Ken, my masculinity needed to be stomped on.”
Xander’s tone made Kenney flinch a little. It reminded her of all of those times she’d tried to get him laid and it’d ended poorly, a fact which, hopefully, they wouldn’t have to go through this time. All she had to do was find him the right girl… or girls, who knew. Guys liked harems, right? ‘Eyes on the prize, Kennedy.’ “It builds character, Xander.”
“Then I should have ‘character’ with the constitution of the pyramids of Giza or the Himalayas,” he grunted as he slowly worked himself up to a more sitting position as opposed to just laying semi-upright. “A constitution I could really use right now,” he gasped as he lowered himself back down. After a few moments to get his breath back and for the pain to recede, he looked over, “Did Whistle Butt say anything about who did this to me?”
“Only that they were outside of our weight class.”
“And that’s stopped us before precisely… when?”
“You didn’t have the Slayers when Glory came to town, either,” she reminded him.
"Hey, we did more with less before," Xander reminded her.
“True, but I want you to take it easy, okay? You got pretty messed up,” Kennedy said, her voice hitching just a little. “I mean,” she said quickly, recovering her composure, “you can’t just _DIE_ on me, you know? Who would I get to beat on?”
“I’m sure if you asked Buffy very nicely to borrow Jesse and wore that blue spandex number that’s too tight on your hips and around your chest for him, you might get a wiling volunteer,” Xander chipped in with a slight smirk.
Kennedy’s mind froze as part of her realized that he _HAD_ been looking on occasion, something that didn’t make her unhappy, while another part berated her for making such a silly mistake. “Yeah, but then I’d have to spend all that time training him like I’ve trained you. I’m not sure he’d survive that.”
“You’d be surprised what we can survive, Kennedy." Kennedy spun around and came face to face with Jesse and Buffy; neither teen was smiling and Buffy had a stake in her hand. Jesse wasn’t finished, “Especially when you find out that you’re supposed to be dead and ‘kitty litter’.”
“His words, not mine,” Kennedy instantly defended. “Look, we can explain-“
“Yes, please, explain away,” Buffy said, twirling her stake in her hand. “Make with the ‘splainy quick before I decide to slay first and ask questions later.”
“You’d ask questions later? How thoughtful of you,” Xander deadpanned. When Buffy turned to him and glared, he held up a nozzle and a bag full of yellow liquid, his urine bag, “Watch it, Miss Slays-a-lot. I’ve got a full bag of piss here and I’m not afraid to use it.”
“Alright, everyone just step back and cool it. No rancid piss has to fly, alright?” Kennedy reached over and struggled with Xander for a second over control of the bag before he let it go and she put it a rung lower on the side of his bed, where he couldn’t reach it. “Now, do you two want answers?”
“Then you’re going to have to wait until Willow and Giles get here. We’re only telling this story once. If you don’t want to wait, there’s the door,” Kennedy said, gesturing at the door. “Don’t let it hit you on the way out.”
(One hour later)
As the group finished walking in, Kennedy noticed that they were one heavy and growled when she put a name to the face. "Darla, what are you doing here?"
"I was invited," the ensouled vampires said with a slight shrug, her bangs covering his eyes a bit.
"I don't remember inviting you. Do you, Xander?"
"Nope," Xander said, shaking his head. His eyes matched his tone; glacial.
"I did," Jesse said, drawing a look of surprise from Buffy. “Hey, the guy said that she was supposed to be road grit and evil. I figured she needed to be in on this, too. It’s not every day you find out you’ve dodged a bullet.”
“May we please get on with this, children?” Rupert Giles had aged a as Xander remembered, only there was a little something that he couldn’t quite place in the man’s appearance. “Buffy tells me that you two are not from ‘around here’.”
“Something like that,” Kennedy said, holding a hand up to stop Willow. “These bodies are; _WE_ are not. We’re from another time, another dimension, because of a Wish.”
“Well, three wishes to be exact.” Kennedy glared at Xander, “What? It’s the truth. You three were arguing, your dad and I were at the bar and you three made wishes. Presto change-o, we’re in the Master’s Cave, I’ve got two eyes again, Angel’s been replaced with Darla, Jesse’s alive and _you_ are there, Kennedy. The Devil and the details, remember?”
“I was going to _get_ to that,” she growled. “That’s kind of a lot to drop on them all at once.”
“Yeah, but I’ve been on the end of the ‘mysterious guy with not so much useful information’ thing way too many times to put others through it,” Xander countered. “Point is, this is an entirely different world than where we come from. Think the Mirror Universe from Star Trek, bro, only with less evil.”
“Don’t call me that.”
Xander blinked. “Don’t call you what?”
“’Bro’,” Jesse growled. “We’re _not_. You said so yourself, remember? Different timelines, different dimension. Hell, I’m supposed to be _DEAD_!”
Xander felt like someone had reached into his chest and had torn his heart out. He’d been overjoyed to have Jesse back and, for the longest time had reveled in it. Now, though… an old hurt was back, one that had haunted him after the accident that had staked Jesse and dusted him. It took a few seconds but Xander did what he had done so many times in the past; he took those feelings of hurt, balled them up and put them into a deep, dark region of his mind to let them sit for some time, when he would let them out at a later date safely… or at least semi-safely. Schooling his features into a solid mask of resolve, Xander glared at Jesse and Jesse actually took a step back as Xander growled, “Yes, and? So? What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? You’re alive now; I don’t know _why_ that is but you are alive now. Be glad for it.”
“Look, everyone has secrets, alright? What would you guys have done if we’d come out after the Master was dealt with and told you this?” Kennedy asked, taking her cue from Xander and becoming ‘the bitch’, looking down at each and every person present. “Here’s a hint; we _both_ know how to get out of straightjackets, so your Plan A would have failed. Besides, most of what we know is circumspect at best, given you two were still alive… or what passes for alive with you, Darla.”
Things were silent for a long second before Rupert Giles spoke up, his voice frosty and his entire demeanor resentful, “Who the bloody hell do you two think you are, keeping this kind of information from us?”
“I could ask you the same thing, _Watcher_,” Xander snapped back almost instantly, his heart monitor having only fluttered a handful of times and only a few beats per minute. “Don’t tell me you don’t keep secrets from them or yourself.”
“I do not-“
“Have you told Buffy about what’s coming up on her eighteenth birthday?” When Giles’ face went white, Xander smiled ruthlessly and went in for the proverbial kill, “Do you know why Slayers don’t live that long these days, Buffy? Here’s a hint: it’s not because they don’t have a support network. They get injected with a special serum one night and made powerless and stuck into a place with a batshit crazy vampire. If they survive, they are ‘worthy’,” Xander snarked, holding up air quotes, “and _maybe_ one out of ten survive, though our records said it was closer to one out of twenty five, and they were all Council-trained ‘found’ Potentials… and most of them were not what you would call social butterflies or even normal. You didn’t take it particularly well when it happened in our timeline and somehow I think that history will repeat itself here, regardless of if you know or not.”
Buffy and Jesse instantly turned on Giles, one shocked and the other furious, both demanding an answer, “Is it true?”
Giles gaped and sputtered for a few seconds before he got his feet back under himself and growled, “Of course not! That… that abomination hasn’t been used in decades!”
“Are you sure? Hardliners like Quentin Travers and his ilk wouldn’t use it?” Kennedy asked, catching Xander as he was caught up short.
This had the desired effect and brought the Watcher up short, making him frown. “Quentin Travers was excommunicated from the Council nearly ten years ago after an attempted coup de tat, Miss Ford. How would you know about him?”
“Because I had to deal with the asshole a few times before the First Evil did the world a favor and used her minion to blow him and the rest of those old bastards up in England,” Xander snarled. “So don’t act all surprised, Watcher. We know a lot of your dirty laundry and I’m personally not afraid to air it out… Ripper.”
“I think we should leave,” Darla said after a few minutes of silence. “All of us are angry and nothing is going to be worked out until we all have a chance to calm down and digest what has been said." Internally her mind was going a thousand miles a second and in as many different directions. So many things made _sense_ now… ‘But how can I use this to my advantage? Two children at one time… that tends to end poorly for the sire involved and I haven’t lived this long by being overly stupid.’
Buffy’s response was to turn on her heel, grabbing a furious Jesse and silent, stunned Willow by their wrists and dragging them out of the room, stalking away. Her Watcher wasn’t too far behind but it was obvious that his mind was elsewhere, most probably going over what he had heard and putting it up against what he knew. Darla gave Xander and Kennedy one last long, lingering look before she too turned on her heel and walked out of the room, her coat flapping slightly.
It took a few minutes but both Xander and Kennedy let a breath that they’d been collectively holding ever since the meeting had begun out, both of them sagging back. Kennedy leaned against the bed for a second before she prodded Xander a little and he budged over, allowing her in. Settling in carefully, as to avoid his ribs, she sighed, “Well, that went about as well as I expected. I mean, we both knew it was going to happen, eventually, but…”
“I was hoping to wait a few decades and all of it to be a moot point, Ken Doll.”
“When have we ever been that lucky?”
“There’s a first time for everything,” he pointed out.
Kennedy looked over at him and decided that it was now or never. “Hey, Xan?”
She kissed him.
AN: Is it finished? Isn't it? Hmm... I think I'll keep that under my hat. What do you think (about the chapter, not the question of ‘is it/isn’t it’)? Reviews, please.