Xander pulled at the neck of his shirt. He hated ties with the fury of a thousand suns. They felt like he was being choked and… well, he knew precisely where _those_ feelings had come from to begin with.
“Stop it.” Kennedy hissed at him through a smile, her lips never moving. “If I have to suffer, so do you.”
“You’re not the one being strangled.”
“You’re not the one in these heels,” Kennedy griped.
“Hey, you’re the one who picked them.”
“And you should have talked me out of it.”
“I _tried_ but I was glared at by you and Louise, so I went off to sulk while Michael laughed at me.” Xander reminded her. He then hissed as her heel found his toes. “Stop that. You’re making a scene.”
“_I_ am making a scene?”
“Both of you stop it.” Louise commanded them from Michael’s side. “A few hours, that is all we are asking of you both.”
“I don’t see why we had to be here in the first place, mom. You and dad run the family.”
“Because your mother and I have our parts to play in this, Kennedy,” Michael told his daughter as they started to walk forwards, having been introduced, “and so do you two.”
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Xander said after a few seconds.
“So do I. You armed?”
“Only with my rapier wit, acidic tongue and my sense of humor,” Xander snarked.
“We’re doomed.” Kennedy deadpanned as they, too, were introduced.
“Ah, Kennedy. So very nice to see you again. My, how you’ve grown.” An older gentleman with snow white hair and a body that was just starting to show the ravages of old age greeted her with a smile as he pulled her into a bear hug.
Kennedy’s response was a little muffled as she stayed in the hug, “It hasn’t been that long since you’ve seen me, grandfather.”
“To you, maybe, but to an old man like myself, every day is precious. More of them behind than ahead, you know. Now, who is this strapping young lad?”
Xander now knew where Michael got that analyzing look; the old man’s dark eyes had it in spades. “Alexander Harris, sir.”
“Tobias Ford but, please, call me Toby.” Tobias said with a smile, shaking Xander’s hand with a strong grip.
“He most certainly will _not_ call you ‘Toby’, father.” Came a stern voice not far away, a voice owned by an equally stern-looking redhead.
“Allow an old man his foibles, daughter. All of this high-class buffoonery gives me indigestion.” Tobias said with a well-concealed gimlet eye at the others around him.
“If I did that, you would be here in a pair of blue jeans, one of those God awful shirts and a pair of sandals.”
Xander smiled at this but Kennedy nudged him. Xander nudged her back and waded into the verbal fray, “I assure you, madam, that I will be entirely respectful if I call him anything other than ‘Mister Ford’.”
The redhead sniffed a little at this but nodded and went, allowing Tobias to sigh and shake his head, “I am sorry. That was my other daughter, Sheryl. How she ever got married to that Lamprey man is beyond me.”
“Grandfather!” Kennedy hissed in shock, looking around.
“What? He is what his name says he is,” Tobias said with a wounded look. “So, tell me, young man, how did you manage to snag my granddaughter?”
This time Kennedy wasn’t so quiet about it. “Grandfather!”
“Yes, my dear?” Tobias asked blandly.
Xander chuckled a little bit and paid for it with another heel to his foot, “Ow! If you keep that up, _dear_, I’m going to have to be called ‘Hop Along’ instead of Xander.
Tobias chuckled at the interplay between the pair and could see where Michael and Louise were hopeful about the young man getting through to his granddaughter. Oh, he knew about her choice from an early age about wanting to fall in love and get married to a woman and he personally saw nothing wrong with it, but the rest of his family were all either afraid of a ‘scandal’ or were too narrow-minded for their own good. “Children, children, play nice or you won’t get to sit at the big table with the rest of us.” Alexander chuckled at this and Kennedy’s cheeks turned a rather fetching shade of pink, drawing a few chuckles from those around them. “So, Alexander, how long have you known Kennedy?”
“We met on her first day of school, sir. It seems like we’ve known each other forever sometimes and other times not nearly long enough. Especially when it comes to embarrassing stories about her.”
“Really? You’ve never been told about the time that she was ten and started a food fight at her cousin’s wedding?”
“Grandfather!” Kennedy wailed, her face flaming.
“Oh, Mister Ford had told me a few things like that, but nothing… _juicy_. She has my two oldest friends to draw o- ow!” Xander yelped, clutching his foot. Quite obviously Kennedy had had enough of the two males having fun at her expense.
Tobias laughed at this and slapped Xander on the shoulder with his great paw, causing Xander to flinch a little, “I think I like you, Alexander. We will speak again in the near future when Kennedy isn’t around to do harm to you.” Xander laughed nervously at this while Kennedy glared back and forth between the men in her life before she sighed.
‘Don’t get mad,’ she heard her mother’s voice time and again through her head. ‘Get even.’ Oh, she would get even. Yes, yes she would. But she would need help…
“So, did they tell you where they were going?” Willow looked up from her computer science homework with a ‘huh?’ look on her face, causing Buffy to roll her eyes and smile. Sometimes Willow was so fixated it was cute. Other times (like when Buffy wanted to gossip), not so much. “Xander and Kennedy. Remember last week when we were at the mall and we saw them at the formal shop?”
“Was this before or after you got Jesse to play pack mule for you at the shoe store?” Willow asked honestly but Buffy swore that there was a little slyness to it, too.
“Hey, he could have said no.” Buffy defended quickly.
“But he didn’t. He wouldn’t tell you ‘no’.”
“Well, he could have,” Buffy griped. “And before. You’d just fast-talked that guy at the coffee trolley into extra whipped cream and chocolate shavings on your mocha.”
“Mmmm,” Willow purred, remembering the drink. “Vaguely, yes. What about it?”
“Did they tell you where they were going?” Buffy asked again. She’d tried asking both Xander and Kennedy earlier that week but both had been tight-lipped and, in Xander’s case, quite smug about it. She would have to do something about the smugness he had been showing of late. ‘Maybe I can talk him into the padded suit instead of Giles? Giles would be all for it…’ “I mean, you two were all Secret Squirrel for the longest time and I’m sure he’d tell you something.”
“He didn’t,” Willow said, her face dropping a little. “You know he’s been… distant for a while. I mean, ever since the Hyena thing, yeah, I can understand that, but now? It seems like every free minute he has is with _her_.” Willow’s dejected tone turned a little bitter.
“I thought you liked Kennedy.”
“I do. Kinda. Sorta. I mean, it’s…” Willow’s cheeks turned a little red at the memory of Kennedy’s needing her ‘help’ with her costume on Halloween. Kennedy, she had learned, had few taboos and one of them was with nudity and near-nudity. Instantly Willow’s mind brought up just how much of Kennedy she had seen when the girl had taken the armor off, the lean muscle that was starting to show definition in some areas and-
‘Stop it!’ Willow argued with herself, mentally shaking her head. The image had been plaguing her for weeks now and it had started showing up in the strangest places. Like her dreams. ‘You like boys. Not girls. Think of Oz. Boyfriend. Nice boyfriend. Very _MALE_ boyfriend.’
“Hey-lo-oh.” Willow jerked out of her stupor as Buffy waved her hand in front of her face, “Anyone in there?”
“Huh? Oh, sorry, Buffy. Just… thinking.”
“Oz!” The look Buffy gave her told her to pull the other one, it had bells on it. Willow winced. “Kennedy.”
“Just… thinking. She’s very strange sometimes.”
“If she hurts, Xander, I am going to hurt her. Lots,” Willow growled suddenly, her voice firm and resolute.
“Make sure you tell me when you’re going to do that. I know a few people who I can sell tickets to that’d want to see it.”
“What? You know it’s true.”
“Is not,” Willow huffed before she sighed.
“I’m just… I’m not sure what to do, Buffy.”
“I say that we wait for them to come back and then we get answers out of the both of them, one way or another.”
“Do you think that will work?”
“Honestly? No, but it’ll make you feel better. You said Xander liked those Babylon 5 plates, right? Let’s go after them first…”
AN: Gates McFadden as Sheryl Lamprey and J. G. Hertzler for Tobias Ford. Yes, the Trek invasion continues!
AN2: Yes, Buffy’s evil. We’ve known that for years.