(2 Days later - Xander’s Lab)
In accordance to her hastily-written last will and testament, Faith Price had declared that her body, should it have ever been found, was to be cremated and for her funeral to be what she termed to be an Irish Wake – lots of booze, family and loud music were her wishes, and while the booze flowed and the music was occasionally subdued, the lab only held two mourners; Xander himself was on his back, laughing bitterly as Linda blasted out a horribly off-key verse to ‘Hurt’, which had first been done by NineInchNails, but later redone (and in Xander’s opinion, greatly improved) by the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash.
Linda, dressed in a pair of black jeans and a black t-shirt, with one hand holding a bottle of Jim Beam and the other holding a microphone, she warbled horribly off key the last part of her stanza from the karaoke machine he had hastily set up before passing the mike off to him, “Shing it, Xand-sher.”
He grabbed the mike and, without missing a beat, belted out (also horribly off-key) as Johnny Cash’s voice belted out, growing in timber and emotion, “If I could start again – a million miles away – I would keep myself, I would find … a way.” The song ended and he put the mike down, sitting, well, flopping, really, down next to Linda as another song, a faster one by Great Big Sea named ‘Kiss My Irish Ass’, started up, but he never lost the grip on his bottle of non-alcoholic liquid (he was going to keep his promise to never become like Tony, come hell or high water), “Can ye feel anything, Linda?”
“Nosh a d-hammed t-hing, Sander,” Linda slurred next to him, her eyes red but dry, having cried herself out over the past two days and ruining several dozen shirts amongst their group. She looked over at him and blinked owlishly, “You?”
He took another pull off of his bottle before nodding, “Everything, but it’s … its getting more numb all of the time.” He raised his bottle again to the picture of Faith he had blown up and put above the screen for the karaoke machine, the picture having been the one of him and her at the prom, and intoned gravely, “Again, to Faith Price – this world was better for having had you, I am a better person for having known you, and may your spirit raise a lot of hell up in heaven.”
“Excellente,” Linda crowed in slurred Spanish, some of her New York accent showing up ever so slightly before taking a hit off of the bottle in her hands. She stopped drinking her alcohol for a second before blinking and standing up, after two attempts, rather unsteadily, “To my da-haughter, may she rhest in pheaseh.” With that final salute, Linda fell down on the couch and passed out – frankly, Xander was surprised she had held out for as long as she did, but even as he scooped her up and carried her to the cot he often used, he remembered that grief did funny things to people.
Putting Linda down and covering up with a blanket, he walked back to where he and Linda had been holding their semi-private wake for the last day and then looked at the picture of Faith again – in accordance to Watcher tradition, Faith’s body had been cremated, enspelled against any sort of resurrection or revivication so that some necromancer or someone dumb enough to try a resurrection spell would not get a Slayer on their hands that they may not be able to control or destroy on their own, and then said ashes had been spread out over the mountains from a teleportation spell that had been preformed by one of the witches that had been hired by the Watchers to do all of this. Linda had, though, used her clout to at least get Faith a grave marker, which would be done in a few weeks, and she was also on grievance leave for the next few weeks to get herself back together – not even Travers, at his most bastardly, would have gone against this tradition in order to start the training of another Slayer, whom had been found in Russia just hours after Faith’s death, and said bastard had even offered some words of condolence before hanging up. Part of the message that he had delivered, though, still ran in Xander’s head, “’it is our solemn duty to protect this world, and all sacrifices that are made will be remembered for all time’”; Xander was sure that he had heard someone cough ‘bullshit’ in the background (or was that him as Giles coughed ‘Bollocks’?), but either way, Faith was dead, gone, and never returning.
“Gee, happy thoughts, why don’t ya?” He didn’t even turn around to look at Tsunami as she faded into the room, walked over and sat next to him on the couch, leaning over until she rested on his side, “Feel any better?”
“Sorta numb – I think I’ve worked past homicidal anger, and denial, and now I’m going headlong into acceptance.” He and Tsunami looked at the other end of his lab, which was utterly destroyed (evidence of his anger stage) and then at his armor, where it lay on the table, ready and waiting to be used, “It never ends, does it, Tsunami? Burry one friend, make another, burry them, wash, rinse and repeat ad nausium …”
She shrugged with a sigh, “Sometimes, it can be like that, Xander – remember, though, that as time passes, we all lose people important to us.” He felt her arm snake around her waist and hug him, which he returned, though over her shoulder, “How is it you drank so much and aren’t puking your guts up?”
He looked down at her, the question having come out of right field, “Well, firstly it’s Washu’s special stuff, it lets you feel all the pluses of a binge drinking session without actually getting wasted.” He shifted his position to where he and Tsunami were upright, but still hugging, “Secondly, my tolerance for alcohol is much higher than any mere humans, even when I was a mere human.”
She gave him a smirking look, “Honey, I’ve seen your past – there’s nothing ‘mere’ about you.” They often flirted back and forth to ease tensions and add a little humor to situations (Asuza had looked dumbfounded when they had done so – who had the nerve to flirt with a goddess, anyway?), but they both knew it would go no further than that. After a few minutes, though, they separated, Tsunami gliding to her feet, “So, are you going to go see Joyce?”
He nodded, also coming to his feet, “Yes, I am – she’s getting released from the hospital today under threat of Slayer’s mother, I think.” He’d gone to the hospital to get some of the wounded patched up, but had not seen the eldest Summers woman in fear of having to actually speak to her and face her wrath – women were like that, sometimes.
“Oh, we are?” Xander winced at the playfully stern tone in Tsunami’s voice, “My, I wonder what, oh, I don’t know, Sasami and Mihoshi would have to say about that?”
He turned to her and he proceeded to grin the grin that Faith always told him could melt all things female, turning on the old Harris charm, “Is there any way I could dissuade you from telling them?”
She walked forwards and smiled, reaching out and tracing his jawline with her finger, stopping at his chin before tapping him on the nose, “Nope.”
“Damn,” So much for the old Harris charm.
It was apparent from the second he stuck his head into the room that things were not as they should have been – Xander could see both Buffy and Joyce glaring at one another, Willow holding the blonde Slayer in place, Jenny and Giles both by Joyce’s side, and both Oz and Cordelia off to the side, trying to stay out of the vocal fire line, “Uh, hi?”
Joyce and Buffy both looked at him and while Joyce smiled slightly, Buffy scowled at him as they both intoned, “Hello, Xander.”
Joyce’s response was cheerful, even a touch perky, but Buffy’s was angry and more than a little resentful, which put him on edge even as he entered the room fully, wishing he had brought his gun with him, “Um, what’s wrong?”
“Buffy, it seems, still has issues with her father,” Giles put in from his place next to Jenny. “Hank has, apparently, offered to help Joyce with the expenses of her treatments – Buffy, as you may expect, isn’t pleased to hear this.”
“And her opinion on the matter itself is not needed or welcomed,” Joyce put in rather primly, which enraged the vertically-challenged Slayer even more, but she went on, looking at him rather narrowly, “So, Xander, I have been told that you drugged me in order to get me into the hospital and to get treatment.”
He did his best not to shrink into himself at her look, “And if that is true?”
He didn’t miss a beat, “To make sure you got treatment and to make sure you lived in order to give Buffy a good, swift kick in the ass when she needed it.” The others looked at him oddly as Joyce snorted, “What? It’s not like you guys don’t want to kick her in the ass when she does something really bone-headed!”
“As true as that might be, Xander,” Giles added in smoothly even as Buffy gave vent to a rather affronted noise, “it’s rather rude to say such things in front of her.”
Xander shrugged, “True, but sometimes, when she’s allowed to think for herself –“
“Xander!” He grinned unrepentantly at Buffy as she seethed, “Look, if you’re done defaming my character, I have _real_ problems to deal with.”
“My dad is coming here – I distinctly remember telling him to go to hell when he told me he was getting married to that streetwalker Barbie reject!” She simmered even as the others gaped in the room, but Xander himself didn’t even bat an eye as she began to pace, “He left mom for that bimbo and now he thinks he can waltz into our lives again like nothing happened?”
“Oh, grow up, Buffy.” She spun and glared daggers at him, but honestly, Sasami’s were much better, “Buffy, how long were your parents married? Twenty years? Don’t you think that, even after a divorce that time counts for something?”
Buffy just glared at him icily, “Your point?”
“He’s trying to tell you your father still has feelings for me, Buffy, and that he’s coming here to make sure I get better,” Joyce snapped, her humor gone. She looked at him and patted the spot of bed that was open, and he took up residency there even as she put her hand on the small of his back, “Now, when you’ve been married, had children, and divorced, find out your daughter is a mystical warrior and then are drugged to ensure your growing brain tumor is taken care of by said daughter’s best friend, then you can be angry at your father – until then, stop acting like you are five all over again.” Buffy, instead of doing as asked, just pouted, so Joyce turned back to him, her hand now trailing up and down his lower back, “Xander, when … when do you leave?”
“Tomorrow, noon,” he answered quietly. “Apparently I’m needed to keep the Second Crowned Princess from killing her middle sister via wok-ing to death, and though it would behoove me greatly to not get involved, Sasami doesn’t need any blood on her hands.”
“Well, as long as _Sasami_ is taken care of,” Buffy griped sullenly, drawing his attention and his ire. “Oh, get off it, Xander – you don’t care what happens to us, you just want to get to your precious Sasami and we’re just holding you back.”
Xander opened his mouth but then closed it, standing up instead, “Buffy, outside – NOW.” His tone left no room for argument, and even though she did appear to want to argue, his grip on her wrist and rather undeniable yank towards the door told her she wasn’t going anywhere but with him. Xander ignored her rather agitated grumblings and walked her out of the hospital and then let her go, “Okay, what in the hell is your problem, and don’t give me that shit about your dad coming here.”
She glared at him for a full minute before sighing and allowing her shoulders to sink, “I’m losing one of my best friends and you’re asking me what my problem is?”
“This goes beyond that, Buffy – you’ve had time to get used to the idea of my not being here, so what’s your deal?”
She didn’t even look up, “I’m the Slayer now, singular, and as cool as that is, I can’t even keep you here.” She looked up and he wasn’t surprised to see tears in her eyes, “I mean, the past three years, I know we haven’t always been friends, in fact I can honestly say that, for a while, I barely tolerated your existence, but … but now you’re going away, leaving me alone.”
He resisted the urge to roll his eyes, “Buffy, think about that last statement for a few seconds – you have your mother, Willow, Oz, Jenny, and Giles here. My leaving is pretty much a non-issue in that a major source of your irritation is gone – I can count on one hand the number of times you and I have agreed on methods and tactics in the destruction of demons since Halloween, and I would still have enough fingers left over to give you the ‘one-finger salute’.”
She squeezed her eyes together as something sank in and she nodded, “You’re right, we don’t agree on a lot of things, but it’s that … that way you stood up to me when I got too full of myself that I don’t want to leave.”
This time he didn’t resist the urge, he rolled his eyes, though only slightly, “Trust me, the only reason I did it was because I got to it before Willow did – when you need a good, swift kick in the ass, she will provide it to you without delay, believe me on that part.”
Buffy still pouted, “But who am I going to get to tell me that my butt isn’t too big?”
He gave her a look, “Trust me, Buffy – as too-skinny as you are getting that won’t be an issue unless you try and stuff yourself into pair of size six-month corduroys.” She gave him a slightly offended look, but she let it slide … for now, so he went on, “Now, are you going to act your age when we go back into your mother’s room to apologize, or is she going to have to spank you?”
“You wish, gutter brain.”
He gave her a smirking smile, “No, any wishing has me dolling out the spankings on someone else other than you.”
Buffy smirked at him, “Mihoshi?”
Xander blatantly ignored the giggling in the back of his mind as he smirked back at Buffy, “No – someone else who is of legal age. What can I say,” he went on blandly, “Kiyone likes it rough.” His efforts did not go unrewarded as Buffy blushed a brilliant scarlet color and plaintively cried his name ala the Willow of old.
(Later – Summers Residence)
Even as Xander, for the tenth time, patrolled the room and fluffed this and turned that, Joyce could not help but smile as, in his words, he wasn’t going to leave her (Joyce) in a sty of mediocrity – he was a sweet young man who would make a wonderful husband and father one day, provided he ever settled down enough to find someone. “Xander? You’ve fluffed that pillow to death – let it lay.”
He looked at her and then sighed, before adjusting the loose blue short-sleeved t-shirt he was now wearing under his black button-up shirt, “Alright.” She could tell that he was as nervous as she was about Hank’s impending arrival with his new wife, but what she also knew was that he had a rather large hand cannon tucked under his left arm in order to ‘keep the peace’ – if he got close enough for her to grab it … no, that would be wrong. After all, there was no need to get Xander into more trouble than he could get into himself …”So, Joyce, tell me, what do you think of this?”
“I made my peace with Hank long ago, Xander,” she groaned, not wanting to rehash a subject that hurt as much as it did, especially with someone who was young enough for her to be his mother.
He gave her a level look, “I mean about Buffy and her … animosity … towards her father – I mean, trust me, I get the whole ‘I hate my father’ thing, hell, I think I perfected it, but …”
Joyce sighed and nodded at him, “Buffy was Hank’s little princess, Xander, and just when she was about to prove her father could do no wrong, he files for divorce – he not only broke her heart, but he shattered her world … and she hasn’t recovered from that.” Joyce lay herself back further into the bed that Xander had flatly refused to let her out of since he had personally carried her up the stairs upon getting back home, an order that a naughty part of her mind didn’t consider a bad thing as long as someone else was in the bed with her, but that part of her mind was quickly silenced as she began to think some more, “I just hope Buffy doesn’t do something that she and I will both regret.”
Xander nodded but then smirked at her slyly, “Right – shoot her before she gets that far?”
Joyce mock-glared at him, “To wound, only.” The doorbell rang and she sighed once again, “Come on, Xander – time for you to carry an old woman in your arms down the stairs to meet her ex-husband and his new, young, mostly-plastic wife.”
Xander walked over, a smile on his lips even as he pulled her comforter back and scooped her up easily, “Give me a good woman like you any day of the week, Joyce, over whoever she may be – there is nothing more sexy on this planet than a woman who knows how to fill out a pair of pajamas that are printed with cows, moons, stars and clouds.” Joyce found herself blushing at that comment even as he walked out of the room, humming the tune to Simon and Garfunkle’s ‘Mrs. Robinson’, which made her blush even more, but when he deposited her in the den and answered the door, she schooled her features into a flat mask.
“Is Joyce in, young man?” Hank’s voice had not changed much in the past few years, and it always amazed her how professional he sounded, unless he had drank one too many.
“And you would be, sir?” Joyce blinked at the same level tone in Xander’s voice as he responded and made a mental note to scold him properly for it.
“Hank Summers, her ex-husband,” Hank replied cordially, but a bit surprised as Xander took a step back, not asking him to enter though the sun was out. Hank walked in as if sensing the invitation in and Joyce caught her breath – he had slimmed down some, back to his solid 180 pound body that she had married him at, his hair was dyed a darker brown to hide his advanced graying, but he was still Hank, “Hello, Joyce.”
“Hank, darling,” came another voice, a younger and female voice, from the doorway, one laced with honey and venom in the same words, “you never told me you had a son that was this handsome.” In walked the slut herself, dressed in a red miniskirt, halter top and three-inch pumps, her hair black as a raven’s wing, her eyes green and her skin artificially tanned. She stood at nearly five feet ten inches tall, most of it being legs that were toned and sculpted, but she had also, apparently, gotten the best implants that Hank’s substantial money could buy as they jutted out like the Goodyear blimps.
Hank, however, just frowned, “He isn’t my son, honey – Joyce, who is this young man?”
Joyce, for a moment, contemplated telling Hank that Xander was her lover, her 18 year-old, virile, LEGAL, lover, but decided against that due to the fact that it would get back to Buffy, somehow, as Xander closed the door and ghosted to where she sat in her pajamas, “His name is Alexander Harris, and he’s a friend of Buffy’s who is helping me today, Hank. Why is _she_ here?”
The woman gave her a look of sheer venom as Hank coughed, “She insisted, Joyce – I ask that you keep this meeting … civil. Joyce, this is Candice, my wife. Candy, this is Joyce my ex-wife, and … Alexander, Buffy’s friend.”
Candy smiled at Xander and Joyce felt her maternal instincts roaring at her as the woman blatantly flirted with Xander, “Hello, Alex! Call me Candy.”
“Mrs. Summers,” Xander corrected levelly. “Joyce has worked very hard to hammer some manners into me over the past few years, so I think I’ll just call you Mrs. Summers.” Candice gave him a slightly dark look even as Joyce found herself crowing in her mind in delight as Xander leaned back and crossed one leg over the other, “So, Mr. Summers, how do you intend to help Joyce?”
Hank, for his part, narrowed his eyes, “You talk about her teaching you in the ways of respect, and you call her ‘Joyce’?”
“By my own insistence, Hank,” Joyce broke in. “Xander was the soul of civility and has never tried to be anything but nice to me, except that once, but that was mainly our own mutual faults.” She blushed, remembering the one time she had undressed and redressed Xander, after he had stumbled back into his lab from being out and about for over a month, keeping Sasami safe. “Either way, he poses a good question – how are you going to try and help?”
“Transportation to and from your treatments, charged to me, and upkeep of the house while you are taking your treatments,” Hank offered even as Candy scowled from behind him. “We may no longer be married, but … we had a good thing, Joyce – yes, I screwed it up, but there isn’t anything I can do about that now.”
Joyce nodded slowly, having gone over this many times in her own mind and also with Buffy, “That’s sweet, Hank. Thank you.”
Candy decided that things were far too out of hand and broke the moment, “Why can’t Xander take you to your treatments? After all, he’s almost like your son, right?”
“Because I’m leaving the country tomorrow, Mrs. Summers,” Xander stated somewhat coolly, “and I don’t know when I will be back.”
Candy just gave him a look, “What for?”
“Business – I’m technically contracted out as a bodyguard for a young woman in Japan, and I start my job in a few days.” Joyce was amazed with how easily the lie slipped off of Xander’s tongue even as he leaned back, shrugged off the look that both Candy and Hank gave him, “No big.”
“I would think that a man of your wealth would not take up a job like being a bodyguard.” Joyce arched her eyebrow even as Candy’s eyes lit up slightly at Hank’s words, who went on as Xander’s face went into a flat mask, “I mean, I’ve done some looking, and someone named ‘Alexander Harris’ has been buying up stock in the right places in the technology firms and is making quite the bundle.”
Joyce looked over at Xander and he simply shrugged at her, “What can I say? I made a few investments and they paid off big.” Of course Joyce knew that there was more to Xander’s story than that, but she let that issue slide even as he tensed up and his hand went for the gun under his shoulder.
Everything happened at once – Joyce winced as her front door was kicked open and Xander shot to his feet, Candy and Hank jumping up as a pistol came out of a holster and trained on the intruder, who turned out to be Buffy, who did not look at all amused as she stalked in, Willow, Giles and Jenny not far behind her. Buffy froze in place, her eyes almost glowing with anger even as she zeroed in on her father and Candy, Xander finished bringing his gun up and Giles appeared to slip on a piece of broken doorframe.
“Buffy?” To say that Hank was shocked would have been the understatement of the decade even as Xander put his gun away, shaking his head in what Joyce assumed to be disgust, “What in the world…?”
“Hello, Father,” Buffy bit out even as she walked forwards, only to be intercepted by Xander, who held her firmly in place. “Who’s your whore?”
“BUFFY!” Joyce snapped out, at once mortified at her daughter’s lack of manner but, at the same time, wondering just how long Xander could hold Buffy back if she decided to attack ‘Candy’, “Apologize to your father, now.”
Buffy gave her a look, her eyes narrowing, but she then sighed, “Fine – I’m sorry for kicking the door in, dad.” Joyce waited for a second, hoping to hear an apology from Buffy to Candy, but wasn’t too surprised when it never came.
Hank introduced Candice, who smiled winningly at Buffy, “Hello, Buffy.” That smile waned noticeable as Buffy said nothing in return, her forward motion halted by Xander’s hands on her shoulders, his lips close to her ear an whispering something fiercely but softly, too softly for Joyce to hear, but it, apparently, was having the desired effect as Buffy appeared to calm down enough for the homicidal smell in the room to dissipate to an appreciable level.
“You appear to have some experience in keeping my daughter in check, Xander,” Hank said somewhat dryly even a Candice glowered and sulked lightly. “Do you do that often?”
Xander just shrugged, “Normally I’m the one causing her irritation because I don’t follow her as blindly as I once did – our methods of doing things are vastly different and she doesn’t like what I do half of the time.”
“You cheat,” Buffy griped. “You use technology and stuff when old fashioned elbow grease can do it.”
Xander just snorted, “The first time you heard that term you and Cordelia started using lotion on this and that and exfoliates that to get that ‘grease’ off of your respective skin.” Buffy glared at him even as Joyce found herself giggling at that particular thought, but Xander went on, “More to the point, when it comes to things like that, I’m lazy.” Joyce could see the confusion in Hank’s and Candy’s eyes but said nothing as things went back and forth.
Later on, after Willow, Jenny and Giles had been properly introduced, not to mention that she herself had taken her medications, Joyce found herself rather drowsy and being carried up to bed by Xander, but not alone as Hank followed her up and sat by her side as Xander left, leaving them alone to speak somewhat freely, “What is it, Hank?”
“It’s just that … this ‘Xander’ is more than he appears to be. I mean, he seems like a nice young man, but he’s going to be a bodyguard, and is _armed_ right now … and you don’t seem fazed at all by it.”
Joyce snorted, “I’ve gotten used to it, Hank, and don’t let his face fool you – I’ve seen Xander at his worst, in situations that defy the imagination, and that’s when you see him for what he really is.” She shifted in her bed and looked out of the window, seeing the sky as the sun set, “He’s lead a hard life, all of the kids have here in Sunnydale, but where most would say that the things that happen here don’t, Xander, Willow and Buffy stepped up to the plate, as it were. You’d be proud of them all, Hank.”
“I don’t remember Buffy ever being this … violent, Joyce – I know her last semester at Hermey wasn’t ideal, but … isn’t her wanting to kill me and all a touch extreme?”
Joyce looked at him for a long moment before sighing, “Put yourself in her shoes, Hank…”
Hank, showing her a sense of humor that often rivaled Xander’s, looked down at his feet and shook his head, “Nope, not with gunboats like these, Joyce.”
She gave him a level look and he became rather quiet, “As I was saying, Hank, she loved you and, to her, the world revolved around you – you broke that trust and she’s angry. Trust me, if she can vent like this, let her so she can get it out of her system – it’s not healthy.” He nodded and Joyce smiled, “Good, now go get Candy and save her from Buffy – she and Xander are walking the town one last time before he leaves and I expect there to be a screaming match between them.”
Hank arched an eyebrow, “Are you sure they aren’t going out? That’s how you and I got started, as I recall…”
Joyce shook her head, “No, there’s nothing romantic there – once it was Xander pining after Buffy, but he got over that and it went to her pining after Xander for a while. They’re friends, only.”
(Later – Sunnyside Cemetery)
Xander ducked another wild swing from a lone vamp while Buffy continued to break her vamp’s skull open like a coconut on a handy headstone – they’d been on a final patrol for a little over an hour when the pair of vamps had popped up and while Xander was finding his vamp to have once actually having some training in the martial arts, Buffy was just venting her pent up anger with her father and his new wife. After about five minutes, though, his vampire was dust and Buffy’s was looking like he’d been dropped, repeatedly, from a tall building, “Buffy. Finish him.”
She looked up at him, her eyes slightly red and two wet tracks marking her face, but she nodded and slammed her foot into the vamp’s chest, crushing his ribs into his heart and dusting him, mercifully. She then sat down on top of the dusty headstone and sniffled as he walked over to her, “I was a complete bitch, wasn’t I?”
Xander sat next to her, arching his eyebrow, “Is this a rhetorical question? Because if it is, I’m not going to answer,” he stated with a slight smile as she sniffled and chuckled softly at the same time. After a few minutes of just sitting there, he spoke up again, “Do you want to talk about it?”
“What’s the point? You and everyone else will just tell me I’m acting like a brat who needs to get spanked, hard, and repeatedly, until I learn my lesson … and if you say one thing about wanting to watch, I will hurt you,” she glared up at him and Xander put on his best ‘Who, me?’ face, but he knew she could see right through it.
“It will help if you do talk about it – trust me, like you told your mom, I pretty much perfected the ‘I hate my parent’ technique, and it does work if you do talk about it.” He put a friendly arm over her shoulder and pulled her close, which she didn’t resist, “Besides, if you don’t I’ll have to resort to either tickling you or go grab Willow and make her give you the Resolve Face.”
“Cheater,” Buffy grumbled as she pulled away. “Mom told you about dad and me, right? I was his little princess and he was someone who could do no wrong?” Xander nodded and she went on, “Well, what she didn’t tell you was that he filed for divorce behind my back, while I was in that asylum that mom put me in before I moved to Sunnydale and never told me about any of this until _after_ the divorce was final.” Xander winced at the raw emotion in her voice as she got off of the tombstone and began to pace, “I mean, shouldn’t he have at least had that much courage to tell me he was leaving mom for that bitch, Candy?”
Xander just shrugged, “And how does rehashing all of this now accomplish anything?”
Buffy stopped pacing and was silent for a moment before she spoke, “It doesn’t really, but … I just want to be so _MAD_ at him …”
Xander nodded, standing up and leading her away from the main part of the cemetery as he did, “When you come up with a better reason than that let me know – for now, though, let’s go back to your house so your new step-mom can attempt to hit on me again.”
Buffy growled, “Oh, I hope she tries that in front of dad so he’ll kick her to the curb…”
Xander looked at her, “You know, it’s a good thing I didn’t get you those anger management classes as a going-away present like I first intended, Buff – you’d need a lot of them … and I’m going to shut up while I’m ahead now.”
Buffy growled and took a swipe at him, but he dodged, “Oh, too slow, Buffy – must be your old age showing …” he teased as he skipped again out of her range before taking off across the cemetery with Buffy The Vampire Slayer right on his heels.
(Summers Residence – Later)
Joyce watched Xander gingerly move the ice from one part of his arm to another from the ‘rabid animal attack’ he had sustained between the cemetery and her house, but Joyce could see some of the bruises that were shaped just like Buffy’s tiny little fists and knew that he had done something ill-advised to set her off – funny, she was sure, but ill-advised, “Xander? Are you okay?”
He nodded at her, “Sure, Joyce – just thinking about how bad of an idea it was to tease your daughter when she’s that much stronger than I am.” He winced again as the front door opened and the trio of Buffy, Hank and Candy walked in – Hank was in one piece, and Buffy was actually semi-smiling, but Candy looked more than a little sullen as Xander spoke up, “Ice cream?”
Buffy nodded happily as Hank sighed, “I swear, you could make her the President of the United States, but give her some Rocky Road with double fudge sauce and sprinkles and she’d let you have the keys to Fort Knox.”
Buffy sniffed, “No, it’d have to have cherries with it, too, for that.” She walked over and flopped next to Xander, who grunted slightly as he replaced the ice pack, “Oh, quiet, you big baby – I didn’t hit you that hard.”
Joyce winced as Xander looked up and glared at her daughter, “Feel lucky that I have a thing against hitting girls who aren’t in the process of trying to kill me.”
Candy perked up slightly, “And if she had tried to kill you?”
Xander didn’t miss a beat, “Then I’d be running for my life from Joyce and Buffy would be in a body bag.” Joyce paled slightly at the slightly hollow sound of Xander’s voice, but kept her face in check as both Hank’s and Candy’s jaws dropped in shock “What?”
“You … would kill my daughter?”
Xander just shrugged at Hank’s question, “If she was trying to kill me, then yes – she and I have hashed it out long ago over this and I don’t want to go back into it, namely because she gets all ‘girl power’ on us and tries to challenge me for some kind of ego prize of some kind, but she really starts to pout when I don’t let her win.”
Hank blinked at this and Buffy growled, “”Let’ me win, Xander? I had you beat, cold, those four times we sparred, but I let _you_ win.” Xander just gave her a rather smug grin that said ‘you know you’re wrong, but you won’t admit it’, but he let it go as she sighed, “Look, another topic, please?”
Joyce nodded, “Very well – Xander, when is your … departure time?”
Xander just shrugged in a slightly deceptive way, “12 noon, enough time for goodbyes, a light lunch, and to lock down my lab until Jenny gets out of the hospital.” Joyce winced at the thought of Jenny, how she had been thrown clear of the blast that had killed Faith, but her left leg had been broken in four places and she was going to be in the hospital for a while yet.
“Good, then I’ll have cookies made for you before you go!” Joyce looked at Buffy, as did Xander, but while Joyce held out hope for her daughter to, one day, learn how to make edible food, Xander just looked sick, “What?”
“No need, Buff – they’d probably get destroyed by the end of the trip, anyway,” Xander said smoothly, forcing Joyce to giggle silently, knowing that he’d probably just throw the cookies away (or try and figure out a way to use them as weapons against the undead).
Xander felt her glide up just behind him and hover there for several seconds, the smell of strawberries and her bubblegum perfuming the air as Buffy and Hank argued over the spelling of a Scrabble word, a game that had been taken up when Hank had decided that his winning streak in the game needed to be lengthened, and Joyce tried to play referee, “Hello, Mrs. Summers.”
“Please, while we’re alone, call me Candy, Xander,” she purred as her arms went around his waist before her hands began to travel up and down his front. “Tell me, why is it that you and Buffy aren’t dating? I mean, you two would be so cute together…”
He reached down and removed her hands from his chest, “We’d kill each other first, Mrs. Summers, and that boat sailed a very long time ago.” He stepped away from her, but she persisted and followed him to the other side of the opening to the dining room, “Must I remind you that you’re a married woman?”
Her hands now rested on his shoulders, massaging them lightly, “Oh, don’t be such a prude, Xander – from what I caught earlier, Joyce has done more than this, on occasion.”
“Once, and that was because I was passed out from over a month of trial by fire training,” he said, moving away once again before turning and looking at her rather pointedly. She smacked her gum at him in an almost sultry manner, but he ignored her, “Now, I’m not sure what game you’re playing, ma’am, but I don’t play games.”
She stepped forwards and traced a red-painted nail up his shirt to the throat and then down to his navel, “Too bad – I like games.”
“Is that so, Candy?” Hank’s voice melted out of nowhere, which was odd, given that he was still sitting at the table with Buffy, who, from the sound of her whimpering, was getting thrashed at Scrabble, “Because it appears to me that you’re doing your level best to seduce a younger man while you are married.”
Hank’s voice held a chilled note to it, Xander noted, while Candy’s held a slightly panicked tone as she looked around his torso to Hank, her face slightly flushed, “Um, Hank, darling, I was just … eh … playing around?”
“Really?” Xander pushed away from the wall towards where Joyce was while Hank stood up, his green eyes shining lightly, “Because as I recall, that’s how you started out with me.”
“Is that so?” Joyce stood up and used him as a semi-cane, her medications often making her legs weak, “Is that how you stole my husband from under me?”
At this, Candy just snorted, “Please, doing that was easy, Joyce – it’s not like you were anything special to keep him at home…” Candy’s voice trailed off slightly as she realized what she was saying, even as Hank’s face hardened slightly and Buffy stood up, “Besides, he’s a cute guy – there’s nothing wrong with flirting.”
“Flirting? Absolutely not, but you were about to start molesting him,” Joyce steamed lightly her grip hardening on his shoulder before it slipped to his arm. “Why, Xander and I flirt all the time.”
Candy smirked slightly, “And what about what Willow said earlier, about your changing his clothes once?”
“That was when he was passed out from exhaustion and he was injured – like I told him later, he had nothing I hadn’t seen before,” Joyce stepped forward and, for a second, Xander was worried that she was going to jump on Candy and beat her into the ground. “Of course, it had been a long time since I had seen a male body that was that hard and yummy-looking, but my flirting with Xander went back much further than that. I’m 37, not dead,” she finished before sitting down in the chair that was right there, but Buffy just stared at her, scandalized.
“Candy, honey, can I have a word with you in private?” Hank walked out of the room, towards the front stoop, with Candice in tow, while Xander sat himself next to Joyce and Buffy joined them.
Buffy looked at her mother and said, very cattily in Xander’s mind, “Robbing the cradle, mom?”
“At least I’m only 19 years older than him, Buffy – how much older than you was Angel?” Xander winced at the sharp tone in Joyce’s voice even as Buffy also winced at the truth in it, but all three of them winced at the occasional harsh word that floated towards them from where Hank and Candy were. After a moment, though, Joyce sighed, “I’m sorry, Buffy, but that … that woman makes me want to … to,” Joyce then let out an aggravated growl, to which Buffy nodded.
“I know the feeling, mom. So, just how much of Xander did you really see? Last time I saw anything was when Willow got that picture of him in his swimming Speedo,” Xander lowered his head and repressed a whimper at that particular memory, from when he had infiltrated the school Swim Team and, in a fit of evilness, Willow had gotten a picture of him crawling out of the water.
Joyce arched an eyebrow, “There’s a picture? I’ve heard tales of this Speedo from Jenny and Willow, but I never knew there was a photo.”
Xander just shut out the world and pounded his head into the table, repeatedly.
(Next day, Summers Residence – 1100)
Buffy was literally bouncing in place, which very rarely boded well for anyone, as she only did it before she destroyed something nasty and made it hurt a lot, but with the way that Joyce was smiling, Hank was, though he looked a touch more than frazzled, smiling and Candy was spectacularly missing, Buffy had either been allowed to kill her step-mother or, “Gone?”
“Yeppers!” Buffy proceeded to bounce around in a series of circles, her pigtails flying around as she squeezed Mister Gordo to a stuffing-rent death, but both Hank and Joyce smiled on tolerantly as she did.
“Apparently Hank saw too many things that she had hooked him with that she was apparently starting to do with you, Xander,” Joyce explained a few moments later when Buffy calmed down. “He’s called his lawyer already to file papers, and she ran off this morning … after sunrise.”
“I shouldn’t be surprised,” Hank sighed as he sat back into the couch, “but I must say that I am almost sorry to see her go.” He winced as both Joyce and Buffy glared at him, but Xander didn’t feel a bit of pity for him at all, “I mean, we were … are, still, married.”
Xander just shrugged, “Okay, so you made another mistake – pre-nup?” Hank shook his head negative and both Summers woman sighed, “Good, you possibly avoided another.”
“And what makes you such an expert on pre-nups, young man?”
“Nothing, but I make deals with your daughter all of the time, and I’m still alive to talk about it,” Xander said, somewhat cheekily. The cheek, though, stopped when Mister Gordo came in and, with some semblance of a flying head butt, slammed into the side of his face, startling him and knocking him over.
“You were saying, Xander,” Joyce asked as he got up and Buffy retrieved the stuffed swine. “Still, you have dealt with Buffy enough to learn when you can and cannot win against her.”
“Yes, just play her in Scrabble and you’ll always win, as long as you have a dictionary next to you,” Hank added smoothly, touting his latest victory over his daughter.
Buffy just growled, “Hey, I still say ‘transmogrification’ is NOT a word! It isn’t even in the dictionary for crying out loud!”
“Dear, your dictionary is easily ten years out of date – I assure you that it is a word,” Hank pressed gently, as if trying to defend his word against his daughter. He then turned to Xander, “Right?”
“I do believe it is a word, but if it is in the Dictionary yet, I’d be impressed – Transmogrify, I’d say no doubt, but …”
“YES! HA! YOU LOSE, DAD!” Buffy’s scream rattled through the house, but she soon stood down fro the couch, and put her pig down, “So, Xander, what’s Sasami’s parents have to say about her hiring you behind their backs?”
Xander thought about it, “Well, Misaki loves the idea that her youngest is finally showing that she can wield power, Funhao wants some of my tech stuff, but Asuza isn’t all that thrilled with me, something about my disrespecting his eldest.” He and Asuza got along like fire and grease – it wasn’t pretty, but they tried to at least be civil in front of the others, “In most respects, the entire Misaki household is as dysfunctional as they get, but somehow they make it work – not sure how, but they make it work.”
Hank just blinked, “And the daughter is the one who hired you? How did you two meet?”
“Through a scientist friend of hers,” Xander hedged slightly, “but after we got to know each other, I was hired.”
“Are you coming back?”
He looked over at the doorway and saw both Willow and Giles standing there, Cordelia having left the day before and Oz parking his van, and he nodded, “I’ll stop in from time to time, just to check up on you guys, but don’t expect those visits very often – Sasami is my first priority, and if she’s safe, I’ll see about coming here.” With that, he stood up and stretched out, “Now, I’m not one for long goodbyes, so I’ll make this quick – I’ve got you guys presents, you _will_ accept them, and then I’m gone.” He reached into his bag and pulled out several manila envelopes and passed them out to the appropriate people, “Now, Giles, give Jenny and Linda theirs, Willow, give Oz his, and when you get Cordelia’s address, send her hers, and for God’s sakes, don’t open any of them until I’m gone – no gag gifts, but there’ll be some tears, some joy and, in one instance, maybe some homicidal tendencies.” He pointedly ignored Willow’s glare at him, one that demanded answers, but he just picked up his shoulder bag (given to him by Washu – it held everything he owned, armor included), hugged everyone goodbye, and walked out of the door.
He was nearly to the end of the block when he heard Buffy scream, “ALEXANDER LAVELLE HARRIS, GET YOUR SCRAWNY ASS BACK HERE!” Yes, he decided as he picked up his pace from a walk to a light run, getting her those anger management classes as a gag gift was enough to really set her off – if he was lucky, he’d get to his lab and to the Misaki residence before she got to him.
On cue, the heavens opened up and poured their wet rains upon him.
R&R, please - I hope to finish this fic by the end of the week.