Time, as it did, passed. Sometimes it was quiet, slow as chilled molasses and as dull as dishwater. Other times, like in combat, it seemed to pass in a few moments of sheer, blinding terror that was interspersed with moments of utter boredom. Still, it was Sunnydale and things were hardly ever dull for long. Such was the case when Willow Rosenberg and Buffy Summers came over to Kennedy Ford’s pool to do a little sunbathing and found Kennedy doing her level best to drown Alexander ‘Xander’ Harris.
Ever since the pair had come back from the family soirée that they had been told about after the fact, there had been a slight tension between them, generally with Kennedy being upset at Xander about something she refused to talk about and Xander refused to admit that he was guilty of. It apparently wasn’t bad enough to where Kennedy’s teacher, a true hunk of a man named ‘Thoms’, needed to intervene, but he was watching just in case.
The pair were continuing to tussle under the water when Xander curled up a bit, put his feet onto Kennedy’s midsection and pushed away, clearing nearly half of the pool before he came up for air with a huge smile on his face and a scrap of blue cloth in his hand. Kennedy got to the surface a split second later and, if looks could kill, Buffy was sure that Xander and most of the pool would have been atomized.
“What?” Kennedy’s hand over her chest, she pointed at Buffy and Willow. Xander blanched and the scrap of blue cloth vanished behind his back. “Um… hi, girls.”
Before Buffy or Willow could say much of anything, Thoms snapped to Xander to return Kennedy’s top and then, as he had so much energy to spare, do twenty laps in the pool and then twenty laps on land. Xander grumbled at this for a bit but, after tossing Kennedy her top, he started his laps.
Kennedy put her top on while still in the pool and was still seething to the point that Buffy was surprised that the water wasn’t boiling, muttering this and that and to the point that, without her Slayer-enhanced hearing, Buffy never would have heard it. “I don’t think that’s physically possible and survivable, Kennedy.”
“I never said he’d _live_ if I did it,” Kennedy pointed out as she got out of the water. It took a moment but she visibly calmed down and nodded at them both, “Hi. Sorry about that.”
“No problem,” Buffy said as Xander finished a lap, made the turn and pushed off. “He can be such a boy sometimes.”
“I know. There are times that I love him to death… and other times that I just want to _kill_ him, you know?”
Willow nodded, holding her towel close to her body and keeping her eyes off of Kennedy’s, or at least trying to, “Y-yeah, he’s such a poopyhead sometimes.”
This made Buffy and Kennedy snort as the trio adjourned to the sunchairs. “I honestly think that’s his default setting, Willow, that or ‘sarcastic pain in the ass’.”
“Can’t we just say ‘it’s Xander’ instead?” Buffy offered. This made all three of them laugh and made the time pass quickly as Xander finished up his water laps and started jogging the parameter of the Ford family home, Thoms in pursuit and occasionally barking out orders to stop, ‘give him fifty’ and to stop ‘mailing it in’ along with various other threats. Xander seemed to take this all in stride and Buffy noticed Willow’s eyes glued on him whenever he passed by. Buffy had to admit that he wasn’t a bad specimen to look at, now sweaty and still in those shorts, but she also knew that the redhead liked Oz…
Apparently, though, so did Kennedy. “So, Willow, how are you and Oz doing?”
This seemed to do the trick and Willow’s face turned red as she told them that she and Oz were doing fine, taking it slow and were happy. This led into Willow and Kennedy turning on Buffy and asking how her fledgling relationship with Jesse was going and, to be fair, both were quite shocked when she told them that it was going well and that they were going out on a date that night to the movies.
As he passed, Xander’s ears perked up a little at this tidbit of information. He knew that Jesse and Buffy were getting a little serious and, honestly, he was happy for them and, yes, it went beyond the ‘he has a pulse’ aspect, too. Jesse’s entire demeanor had changed a bit; he had started to dress a little better, his grades had started to improve and, more importantly, some of his more hormone-fueled attitudes (such as grading cheerleaders on how their outfits raised their relative ‘hotness’ levels) had seemingly faded to the point that, if they still happened, they only happened in his brain and didn’t come out of his mouth.
‘Of course, a lot of things have changed,’ Xander thought to himself as he mentally ticked off another lap and Thoms barked out to do twenty squats. It had taken him some time to actually calm down and stop trying to make things ‘better’ on an overt level; it wasn’t easy, not by a long shot, but he’d been able to actually just sit back and relax for a few days after Halloween had passed. It had been almost peaceful in the respect that he’d been able to just… chill; no looking over his shoulder for something or someone that should have been there but wasn’t, there was no looking in the shadows for a threat that wasn’t there because Deadboy, Not-So-Fangless and Dru were in Europe somewhere, and there was no bi-monthly ‘evil she-bitch hellbent on killing Xander’.
A bucket clattered off the wall not far from his head and Thoms bellowed, “Get your head out of your ass, Harris! Ten more laps!”
‘Sadist,’ Xander thought venomously. There were times that he absolutely loathed the man but other times that the extra push had saved his ass and other body parts. He had instinct, reflexes from a past life, and that was about it to rely on beforehand. Hell, he didn’t even have the Primal or Soldier Boy to rely on now, so he had to work his ass off… and so he did. But with as much as he bitched and complained about it, him and Kennedy both, the results were undeniable.
‘Not that we will ever tell him this,’ Xander thought as he completed another lap before he stopped dead in his tracks.
“What in the _HELL_ are you-“
“Smoke!” He smelled smoke… and it wasn’t smoke from a candle or a grill, either. It smelled of charring meat, yes, but there was hair involved, and something else that he couldn’t put his finger on.
Thoms took in a deep breath and then coughed, looking around, but then shook his head, “Just the wind, Harris. It’s gone now. Get back to your laps.” As Xander left, Thoms looked around for a few seconds before he took off again.
In the hedges, Darla hissed as her sun-scorched skin slowly healed. This was becoming too damning of an issue for it to continue… and too dangerous, too. She needed to forget about the boy, no matter what her instincts (and libido) told her; if he didn’t kill her, the Ford girl would.
‘Focus, Darla,’ she thought to herself as she slipped into the sewer and made her way towards her lair. ‘Focus on Jesse and how to get him away from the Slayer.’ She had a plan, a cunning plan, but with that cunning came danger. If the plan worked, it would break the Slayer and Jesse up, but if it didn’t… Darla shivered at the thought of her centuries-late ultimate demise.
“What do you want?”
Darla froze. How had she snuck up on her? Turning, she saw the Slayer standing there in the darkness, dressed in a red two-piece bikini, the smell of suntan oil tickling Darla’s nose through the smell of the methane and detritus. “To talk. An honest, no bullshit talk, Slayer.”
Buffy arched an eyebrow, crossing her arms over her chest and doing her best to block out the stench of the sewer. What was it with vampires and sewers? Weren’t they supposed to be the home of aligators and mutant turtles? “Okay, so talk. What do you want?”
“Jesse,” Darla said with no hesitation. “I want him to be happy and I don’t think that is possible with you.”
“From the way I’ve been seeing things, he’s happy now.”
Darla crossed her own arms over her chest and took up a stance of neutral aggression as she countered, “Now? Yes. But what about in the future? Have you thought about that? I mean, you _do_ know the average life expectancy of a Slayer after she’s been Called is only two years, yes? And how long have you been active?”
Buffy instantly went on the defensive and her voice showed it “Longer than two years. I guess that means that I’m beating the odds.”
“You are… for now. How do you think Jesse is going to take it when your luck finally runs out?” This brought Buffy up short and Darla saw this, so she pressed the issue, “Do you think he will sit there forever and pine for you? Do you think he’s going to renounce his love forever? No, he isn’t that kind of person.”
Visibly shaken, anger started to build in Buffy’s soul as she realized what the vampire was trying to do. It wouldn’t work, either. “And you would know this how? Oh! That’s right. You’ve been stalking him.”
Darla’s response to Buffy’s snide remark was an even snider smirk, “What you call stalking, I call keep tabs on for future reference, Buffy.”
“That makes it sound even worse, you know. You’re trying to justify it. Alright, so if you think that you’re the better option, prove it. Come on, living dead girl, woman up and walk out with him in the noonday sun. Oh, that’s right, you _can’t_.” Okay, so it was a little childish, maybe something Xander would have said, but it made her feel a bit better.
Darla, though, wasn’t going to play ball as she uncrossed her arm, growling, “Grow up, Slayer. Or at least attempt to for his sake. I am simply stating a fact; you will inevitably die in your Calling and Jesse will be left alone. Save him the heartache of your loss and break it off, now.”
“Or what? You’ll start eliminating the competition?”
“No, that is something Angelus or William would do. I… will simply let time prove me _right_.” With that, Darla turned and left, her coat flapping a little in an unseen breeze.
(Ford Residence, evening)
“So, are you still mad at me?”
“Is that a ‘no’no or a ‘yes, but I’m going to tell you no’ no?”
“You took my top off.”
“You started it, Ken Doll, remember? I was relaxing all by my lonesome in the middle of the pool, floating like a leaf on a pond, when you did a cannonball and nearly drowned me?”
Kennedy glared at Xander for a long second but sighed, leaning her head back into her chair. He was right and, worse, he knew it. “You knew that they were there.”
“Um, no, I didn’t. I was a little busy defending myself from you and the first idea I had that they were there was when I saw them,” Xander defended himself.
The truth, though, only went so far. “And what about later when you ‘accidentally’ missed Buffy’s mouth with that French fry and it landed in Willow’s cleavage?”
Xander was tempted to ask ‘what cleavage?’ but he was already in enough trouble as things sat. “Okay, I’ll cop to that. Besides, you restrained yourself, didn’t you?”
‘Barely,’ Kennedy allowed.
“And I’ll stop helping, okay? I get it; you want to do this on your own.” Xander sat next to her and they were quiet for a little while. He was right and knew that she wanted Willow and wanted to get her on her own, so he was going to take his nose out of the equation before it (or something far more valuable) got hacked off in the process.
The silence lasted for a whole ten minutes before Kennedy broke it. “Things have been quiet.”
“Yes they have.”
“Have you been getting that ‘disturbance in the Force’?”
“No, but that’s because Hank’s been a good guy of late and hasn’t been pissing Joyce off.” Kennedy elbowed him. “Ow. You know, one day I’m going to take that personally and start treating you like Janice.”
Kennedy snorted, shaking her head, “Like I said, you haven’t grown the balls for that, Xander. Besides, I like to be the one _giving_ the spankings, not _getting_ them.”
“There’s a first time for everything, Ken Doll.”
“In your dreams, buster.”
“Hmm…” Xander hummed, his eyes narrowing a little and his head tilting to the side. “I guess I can do that. Especially if I have Miss C in there in her Elvira costume, with chocolate sauce and-“ Xander shut up when Kennedy hit him in the face with a pillow.
“Willow was right; all boys are perverts.”
“Hey, all man here! Besides, there is nothing wrong with appreciating a fine specimen of womanhood.”
“Hey! Don’t use my own words against me.” Kennedy griped, remembering the multiple times she had said such things to others.
“And you can use mine against me?”
“Of course. Woman’s prerogative,” she stated promptly.
Xander snorted, shaking his head and muttering, “You sound more and more like Buffy every day.”
Kennedy paused, frowning. Was that an insult? She pondered it for a second and then hit him with the pillow again, just to be sure.