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Decision - A Buffy Z 'What If?' Scenario

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Summary: What if in ‘Consequences’, Xander decided enough is enough.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Anime > DB/DBZTDMasterFR15133,7993144,4954 Feb 054 Feb 05Yes
Title: Decision - A Buffy Z ‘What If?’ Scenario

Author: 3D Master

Feedback: 3d.master@chello.nl

Website: http://members.chello.nl/~jg.temolder1/

Rating: 15

Keywords: X-Over Dragonball/Z/GT, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angst, Drama, Action, Humor.

Summary: What if in ‘Consequences’, Xander decided enough is enough.

Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its characters do not belong to me, but to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Productions. Dragonball Z, its characters and the concept of the Saiyan race belong to Akira Toriyama.



Decision

A Buffy Z ʻWhat If? Scenario

by 3D Master (3d.master@chello.nl)

website: http://members.chello.nl/~jg.temolder1/

Author’s Notes: The situation: Faith accidentally killed the deputy mayor after Buffy throws him to her. Faith is being eaten up inside, multiple reasons makes her act as if she doesn’t care, and tries to frame Buffy. Xander goes to Faith, and offers to help, to be an ear to listen to. Faith doesn’t take him up on his offer, in fact she goes hysterical and tries to strangle him to death. In canon, Xander can’t defend himself. In Buffy Z canon, he could, but opted to keep his secret well, secret. But he’s said on several occasions it’s been one of his greatest regrets. So what would have happened, if at that point Xander decided the price for his secret was too great? What if he decided to finally let his mask fall?

Xander’s Theme: Linkin Park - Pushing Me Away



[Play Xander’s Theme]

Faith started strangling Xander. She didn’t quite know how it got to it, but she had lowered her face to right above his, and could see everything that was happening. She gave him a few mocking sentences, but then just shut up and squeezed. She was amazed at how easy this was, even from a normal human there should be more struggling, shouldn’t there? And his hands, holding her wrists, they strained, holding on, but they were not pulling her hands outward.

Xander on the other hand knew perfectly how he got where he was right now. The Scooby Gang, as they had called themselves had had a conference. Apparently Faith had killed a guy accidentally. But that’s about all he had gotten out of it. The exact details around the event had been left out. All they had been concerned with was to approach Faith to see if they could correct her attitude. At which point he had volunteered to go talk to her, but was shot down because Faith didn’t take guys she had a ‘connection’ with - meaning had sex with - seriously. Xander wanted to go, because he didn’t see the problem with Faith’s attitude. If it was an accident, it was unfortunate, but that’s it, move on. With the exception of course of Faith’s trying to frame Buffy, but even that he could understand if Buffy’s attitude of ‘must show you’re deeply, deeply wounded over the deal or you’re disturbed’ was also the attitude she’d sent toward Faith.

So, he had decided to go anyway, on his own. For after all, they did have a connection beyond flesh. Xander knew that, it was similar, albeit different than the connection he had with Buffy. He was a warrior, a predator, and so were Slayers. Faith didn’t know this of course except on an instinctual level, but he had felt more in his twenty minutes with her on the bed than just flesh, as well as the predator connection.

So he had arrived at her door, and offered his help, stressing that her act was accidental. Except she got immediately defensive. In retrospect, the failed joke about the character witness may not have been the brightest of ideas. He had continued to try to get through to her, mentioning their connection, but she had only assumed he wanted more of the same. Next moment she started to give him exactly that, pushing him down on the bed, raising his shirt, sitting down upon him, her crotch directly on top of his. Xander had desperately tried to get her off, but being limited to only human and goofball strength, without revealing his secret, made that impossible.

So now she was strangling him, and he saw her face directly above his. He kept himself calm, he didn’t really fight back. Faith wouldn’t kill him, he knew, and even if she really would go there, he wouldn’t let her. He saw her eyebrows come down just a bit, a tiny frown, and he could see in her deep, expressive hazel eyes. There! That’s what he was looking for. It screamed out from deeply inside of her, but he could see the flicker go through her eyes; ‘What am I doing?’

His mouth quirked, almost ready to smile, then he grimaced, his face crunching up. It was not the pressure on his throat that made him do it, it was the presence he felt with his sixth sense - Angel. Angel, that bastard. *Don’t do it! Don’t Angel, please! Just wait a little more!* Xander thought desperately, seeing the emotions play across Faith’s face. She was ready to break down, he could already feel the pressure on his throat lessening just a bit. And those eyes, oh those deep dark hazel eyes in which he could drown if he let himself. The emotions filtering in them seemed to come with greater and greater intensity. *She’s ready, Angel! DON’T interfere! NOT NOW!* Xander thought desperately, but Angel wouldn’t, he could already feel the swing with the baseball bat coming.

This was it, everything slowed down for Xander. One single moment in time, one decision. He remembered all the people he could have saved over the past few years, if he only let his secret out. Jesse, the wound was still incredibly sore. Angel and Buffy; he could probably have swept Buffy of her feet with ease if he didn’t play the insecure doofus - Angelus would never have emerged. Kendra, Jenny, all of them. And his friends through the years. How often had conformed to their view of him, to stay with them? How often had he closed himself off, not talk to them, or lie if he did? The only way to be with them, was to push them away, to keep them at a distance. How often had he pretended nothing was amiss in his home life? And now Faith the same way. This beautiful girl, so much like him, he would have to let her slide into a darkness she knew would be sliding if that corpse interfered. There would be no way Faith would accept him as any teacher if he took her away from this moment where everything she had kept inside of her was ready to spill out.

One moment in time, one decision. Guard his secret, and keep further away from his friends, and once again to fail to save someone. Or save her, let the mask finally fall, let his secret out, and risk being experimented on somewhere in the future - risk Frieza’s minions finding potentially him. Right here, right now, that decision had to be made.

He let go of Faith’s hands, and with fantastic speed grabbed her shoulders and pulled her forward. Faith’s eyes widened in uncomprehending shock, her hands around his neck squeezing reflexively with greater strength. Angel’s eyes widened as well, when he saw the bat go through empty air where Faith’s head had been only moments before. With simple ease Xander pulled Faith’s hands from his neck, and at the same time pulled his legs up. He put them against her stomach, and pushed him off of her, sending her sailing through the air.

Before Angel had even finished the swing, Xander was up, grabbing a hold of the vampire’s bat. “WHY . . .” Xander yelled out in anger even as he smashed his fist across Angel’s face. The vampire was launched into the air, losing his bat to Xander. He twisted around his own axis, feeling the pain of broken bones in his face, until he crashed into wall in the corner of the room, and felt a whole new pain blossom in his back.

At the moment that Angel crashed against the wall with extreme pain, Faith - who had been pushed relatively gently - was still flying through the air. She had watched shocked at the speed with which Xander was moving. The strength with which he had punch Angel. On the edges there he was even getting blurry. As she crashed - mildly painful - into the wall, she saw Xander rapidly run across the room and smash the baseball bat across the right side of Angel’s face, while he said, “. . . CAN’T YOU EVER . . .”

Faith landed on her but and looked to her right, watching in shock how Angel groaned in pain, and Xander casually picked Angel up by his neck. “. . . KEEP YOUR CORPSE . . .” Xander yelled out in anger, running past her with the vampire in his right hand. She turned her head, by the time she had, Xander had reached the door to the outside, while he had yelled, “. . . OUT OF . . .” Xander opened the door, and almost casually tossed the vampire up through the air, saying, “. . . LIVING PEOPLE’S . . .” Angel flew clear across a truck, and didn’t land on hard asphalt of the parking lot, until he had moved fifteen meters through the air. “. . . BUSINESS!?” Xander finished with intense anger, throwing the bat. It twisted on its axis, horizontally, circling through the air, until the business end connected with Angel’s right eye, and sent him back down to his back, groaning. The bat dropped to the floor, and Angel weakly sat up. “Stay out of this!!” Xander warned from his position in the doorframe, “Or I’ll dust ya, and be done with it!”

“Angel!” a female voice called concerned from outside.

Xander turned his head to his right, seeing Buffy there, waiting. Ah, damn! Preoccupied with Faith and Angel’s interference, he must have missed her. So this was Buffy’s solution? Let a two-hundred-forty-year-old vampire with a soul beat up Faith, and do what? Take her to his mansion and try to talk to her? Like that old a dead thing could possibly understand what was going through the teenage dark Slayer’s mind right now, not to mention end with that swing of the bat whatever possible chance he might have had with her.

With a growl of irritation, Xander turned around and walked back into the room, as Buffy called out his name with a little anger, more concern, and confusion. There came a warning groan from Angel, and instead of Buffy coming after Xander, she decided to heed her lover’s warning and go check up on him instead.

Xander reached Faith, and the Slayer slowly stood up. “Wh-what are you going to do to me?” Faith asked with fear. The power the former fool had wielded so casually was frightening, especially if she was right and there was more where that came from.

“Don’t worry, Faith,” Xander told her, and then made an educated guess, “if I wanted to rape you, I could have done so a long time ago.” Xander was thinking things over, he had planned on getting Faith’s side of the story, and then casually make her understand she wasn’t wrong, or disgusting, or dirty, or even sickening with her attitude - once again, apart from trying to frame Buffy. Once he had her to the point where she believed she wasn’t sickening, she could separate her urges, and actions, and find some equilibrium, even with her attempt to kill him that had still been a viable option if she had stopped herself. Obviously that was no longer an option, especially with Buffy and Angel’s interference, and the blonde Slayer knowing Xander was here and what he had done to Angel. She’d be hounding him on what he did, how he did it, and why he hadn’t said sooner - if she ever got around to the last two; he was well aware of Buffy’s blind eye and obsession with Angel. No, doing things here, was out of the question. He needed privacy, and he knew just the place.

“Faith,” Xander said, his lopsided smile adorning his face, calming the Slayer down only a little. “My uncle Rory has this cabin up north in the mountains - and he gave me keys to it - how about you and I take a little vacation?”

Faith shook her head, panic in her eyes. This was all too much for her; first accidentally killing a guy, then Buffy’s hounding her about things, Xander’s confrontation, her trying to kill him, then the whole Angel interference, and Xander’s handling him. Xander saw it clearly, as she inched away from him. Xander smiled, “Sorry, this won’t hurt a bit.” He raised his right hand and charged a small energy ball. Faith’s eyes widened even more, and that’s all she had time for. The ball crashed into her, its low intensity energy spreading through her body, disrupting her body’s energy flows, and then she slumped into unconsciousness. Before she fell to the floor, Xander caught her and put her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.

He exited the motel room a moment later, carrying his burden. He looked around, and he saw Buffy supporting Angel. The two walked away toward his mansion. Buffy looked back, and gave him a strange look. He gave her a smile, and then ran in the opposite direction. After passing two side streets, well out of Buffy’s vision, he checked around. When he was certain nobody could see him, he flexed his energy. A white chi flame erupted around him, and he and Faith burst into the air.

[Stop Xander’s theme]

*****

An hour later Xander was well on his way to the cabin. He estimated he managed a quarter of the way. Faith stirred gently. Xander grinned. Another five minutes later, after several failed attempts on her part, Faith woke up, and blinked. Still groggy, all she was really aware of was being held on someone’s shoulder. “Let me go!” she screamed out instinctively.

“Ok,” Xander said, and moved his hand a little, grabber her by her collar and picking her off his shoulder. He then pulled her forward and down, so she looked straight down . . . and down, and down. Faith’s eyes widened as she noticed the drop to the speeding by ground was high enough to kill her. “Ready?”

“NO! DON’T LET ME GO! DON’T DROP ME!” Faith screamed out in terror.

Xander grinned. Good, she was thinking of her life at least, not dwelling on the past events. “No prob,” he said, motioning to put her back.

Faith was only vaguely aware the voice belonged to one Xander Harris, and she demanded, “Put me down somewhere, gently!”

“No can do,” Xander told her, and put her back on her shoulder, his and on her ass.

“You always want the same! Get your hand off there!” Faith demanded, latching on her anger for fear of the terror.

“Boy, you are a demanding girl, aren’t you, Faith?” Xander asked as he pulled her forward and down a bit. With an ‘oof’ Faith landed with her stomach on his shoulder, and Xander’s hand was now on her back. At the speed with which Xander was moving, there was no smooth way to move Faith quickly such a short distance.

“I always thought I was easy,” Faith remarked, still angry, and terrified, but somewhere deep down realizing that despite her precarious situations she wasn’t in any danger of losing her life. She pondered her situation, and asked, “Boy Toy?”

Xander give a chuckle, and said, “Yes, I see we have to start over though. Hello, I’m Xander Harris, but I was born Littica, son of Ardipel. Who are you?” Faith stayed silent for a few seconds, thinking things over. “Well?” Xander prompted.

“Faith . . . Williams,” she answered slowly, hoping she didn’t make a mistake mentioning her last name, and still thinking about Xander’s whole ‘born’ deal.

“Well, Miss Williams, how are you?” Xander asked her with an unseen smile.

“Five by . . .” Faith started her standard answer to it all, except the angle with which her stomach was pressing on Xander’s shoulder was getting to her, “ . . . actually, this is kind of uncomfortable.”

Xander sighed, and told her, “You really don’t know what you want, do you? I can’t drop you, can’t hold you in proper fireman’s carry, which wouldn’t cause you this problem, so what do you want?”

Faith stayed silent, and said in irritation, “Fine, you can grab my ass.”

“And hear you call me a bastard, and a sexist, and cheap whore, and whatever later after all? I don’t think so,” Xander told her sternly. “I’m going to drop you after all, I’m arm is getting irritated in this position anyway, I only held you so you wouldn’t get the shock of your life waking up.”

Faith listened with shock at Xander’s words, completely missing the meaning of the latter sentences, and felt herself being taken off his shoulder. “No! NO! PLEASE, XANDER! DON’T!!” She looked down at the ground moving past, and then felt the hand holding her by her clothes letting go. She squeezed her eyes shut, and put her hands instinctively in front of her face and hand, and screamed out, “AAAAAAHH!” Wait . . . she wasn’t falling. Tentatively she removed her arms and opened her eyes, and saw the ground moving onward, and she still floating. She became aware of a prickling sensation on her naked skin, felt kind of like the few times she pulled her hand through standing up, statically charged hair. She stayed looking down for a few minutes, looking back and forth, both marveling and fearfully taking in the scenery. Then she looked up, and saw Xander. He didn’t seem to move, just the clouds above him, but that was because she didn’t move in relative position toward him. “Shit! You really are flying!” she said in shock.

“Yep, ready to talk again?” he asked her gently.

“Are you trying to get me in the sack?” Faith asked him genuinely. “Because if you are . . . fuck it, it’s working.”

Xander laughed out loud, big guffaws of laughter, and Faith got annoyed by him, folding her arms across her chest. Xander calmed down, and told her, “No, if I wanted you in the sack, I could have just taken you back at the motel. I’m not interested in using you, Faith.” Faith stayed silent, glaring at him. “Alright,” Xander told her, shaking his head. “Let’s make a deal, I tell you my story, and you tell me yours.” Faith looked at him uncommittedly. “I’ll tell you a snippet of my life, you tell me a snippet of yours. Starting with what happened that night, every last detail. All I got was, you accidentally killed Finch, but that’s it, no real details, other then he stepped into the fight and got himself killed. The truth this time. Deal?”

Faith frowned, angry, looking resentful, but she so wanted to know how the hell the bastard could fly, so she said, “Deal.”

And thus Xander told her he wasn’t human, that he was an alien, casually explaining it to her. He left out the entire ‘why I can fly thing’, and the story of his race, he needed something in reserve after all.

*****

“Where is Faith?” Wesley Wyndam-Price asked to the assembly in the Sunnydale High library. The team that was to bring in Faith to London for a ‘trial’ stood behind him, their hands on their guns.

Giles cleaned his glasses and casually placed it on his face, saying, “We don’t know.”

“Where is she!?” the commander of the team demanded. Oz, Buffy, Giles, Willow, Cordelia and Giles looked at him blankly.

“She’s with Xander,” Buffy finally told him perkily, smiling almost evilly.

“And /where/ is this ‘Xander’?” the man asked her then.

Buffy smiled sweetly, saying equally so, “I don’t know.” The Watcher swat leader growled in anger. Wesley held him back with a gentle hand.

“Mr. Giles, you know Faith has to appear in front of a court. It’s been like that since before recorded history,” Wesley told the older ex-watcher sternly. “You cannot turn your back on these ancient laws, they exist to protect both us and the Slayers from harm.” Giles shrugged.

Wesley turned his attention to Willow, and smoothly he said, “Miss Rosenberg, I know you are not particularly fond of Faith. She killed a man, she might kill again. Do you want to have the next man on your conscience if she kills again? The watchers have far greater experience with Slayers and how they think and act. We are best equipped to handle Faith.”

“I don’t know where they are,” Willow answered, once again the answer was truthful.

Wesley sighed, and turned to the person with the least ties to the others. “Cordelia,” he started, as if addressing a child.

“/Which/ part of ‘/We/ /don’t/ /know/’ don’t you get?” she bit at him in irritation. If she had been attracted to him before it was over now. “And you don’t have to worry about me lying about the bitch.”

“So if you did know, you’d give her up?” Wesley asked her.

“In a heartbeat,” was her cold answer, the others looked at her in accusation, but she ignored them.

“Let’s go,” the swat leader said, and the team left the library, realizing they wouldn’t get anything out of them. A moment later Wesley too left.

“Where /do/ you think Xander took her?” Willow asked nervously once Wesley and co had gone.

“I don’t know,” Buffy replied with irritation. “I’d like to know what the hell he’s thinking. Giles, we need to find him, he can’t handle Faith.”

“I concur,” Giles replied.

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” a voice sounded from the shadows. A bruised Angel emerged from them, and pointed at his black and blue chin. “That’s where he hit me, and I’m an immortal Vampire. My back still aches.” Buffy sped over to him, and checked out his bruises and nearly healed black eye with concern.

“Adrenaline . . .” Giles started.

Gently putting Buffy’s hands away from his aching face, Angel interrupted him, “Oh, no, no adrenaline. From what I gathered, he was barely exerting himself.”

“Meaning?” Oz asked with a fascinated, raised eyebrow.

Angel hesitated a moment, and finished, “I think he could have hit me a lot harder; I always thought there was an odd quality to his smell. He’s more than he seems.” That stunned the room into silence. “Besides, I think a living, breathing, human being has more chance of getting to Faith than a vampire has, who every instinct inside of her tells her to kill. I’m putting my faith in the boy - no pun intended of course - and I think so should you.”

“Come on,” Cordelia said with irritation. “We’re talking about doofus here.”

Angel got a little worked up, he owed Xander big after all, and said, “The same doofus who stared Angelus down in the hospital when Buffy was sick and got him to turn tail, the same doofus who dragged me down in the catacombs so my nose could lead him to Buffy facing the Master. If it weren’t for that, I may still be hiding in shadows and doing nothing but delivering cryptic messages . . .”

“Which probably would mean Angelus never would have reared his ugly head,” Giles stated bitterly, leaving in between the fact that that statement would mean Buffy wouldn’t have considered him attractive enough to fall in love with, whether that was true or not. Angel hung his head in shame, while Buffy started to protest.

Angel stopped her with a hand on her shoulder, shaking his head, then he finished, “There are a lot of things I could call Xander Harris, and although doofus could apply, useless, weak, or stupid do not.” The vampire smiled gently at saying ‘doofus could apply’, a smile filled with respect.

“I’ve known Xander all my life,” Willow piped up unexpectedly, looking at Buffy, feeling a little guilty at ignoring him so after the fluke and as a result be more with her female friend. “And I trust him with it . . .” She looked over to Oz for a moment, and he smiled and nodded, grasping her hand lovingly. She looked back at Buffy and finished, “ . . . so I’ll trust him with Faith’s as well, even if I don’t like her.”

“It’s settled then, we’ll let Xander handle Faith, whatever he has in mind,” Giles stated with finality, much to the annoyance of Cordelia who murmured several unintelligible words - apart from the fact that they were bad. Buffy looked a little perturbed but abided by everyone’s wishes, hoping they were right.

*****

The mountain was covered in a forest of mostly pine trees. Amongst them, exactly as Xander said there would be, was a wooden mountain cabin. A few stairs let up to a veranda and the entrance. Xander landed, putting Faith down on the ground gently. The Slayer looked at him in doubt, her crunched eyebrows made her look odd. Xander smiled and stepped up the stairs, before opening the cabin with his key. He opened the door and gestured for Faith to go first. She did, and looked around the dump. “Ok,” Xander said, observing the cabin seemed about ready to fall apart. No wonder whoever had lost it to his uncle Rory at the betting table hadn’t much trouble with losing this. “It’ll need a little touching up.”

Faith turned her head, and smiled wryly, saying, “You think?”

Xander smiled at her, and said, “I’ll go down to the village we passed, buy some food, and supplies to repair this thing. I’ll only be a short while, you can stay here by yourself till then, can’t you?” Faith snorted, not liking the fact that Xander needed to ask whether she could take care of herself. “Be back soon,” Xander told her, and blasted off.

Faith sat down on a creaky chair and looked around. *What the hell am I doing?* she suddenly thought, her distrusting nature resurfacing. *I should be getting the hell out of this prison,* she thought to herself. Agreeing with the sentiment, she quickly got up, and ran outside. She looked around, chose a direction at random and ran with all her speed.

Somewhere else a flying Xander shook his head in disappointment.

*****

Faith ran, and ran. She was going to put enough distance between her and Xander he could never find her, flying or no flying. So she used all the speed being a Slayer provided. It didn’t take long before she reached the edge of the forest, and there was only one way to go: up. So she did. She ran, and jumped up the grass-covered mountain. With her jumping ability it didn’t take long for her to reach the altitude that not even grass could live. The bare rock quickly gave away to snow after that. She really should have stopped then, but her confidence in her Slayer stamina was too great. Rapidly she trudged onward into the snow, higher and higher. Soon after a cold wind was cutting into her being, but she ignored it. She was the Slayer, a little wind couldn’t stop her. She really should have realized that leather pants, and a cut-off t-shirt to show her belly button wouldn’t protect her from the cold, but she was desperate, and the Slayer.

*****

Xander had already bought wood and carpeting tools and put them all in a large car he had also purchased. Some clothes and underwear for himself and what he thought would fit Faith lay on top of that. Food he had bought as well and placed on top of the rest. Done with all that, he went to a pay phone, and dialed. #Rupert Giles,# came the answer.

“Hello, Giles, I call- . . .” Xander tried but Giles interrupted him.

#My god, boy, where are you two? No wait, don’t answer that, I wouldn’t put it past that prick Price to tap my phone. There’s a Watcher task force here that wants to take Faith to England for ‘trial’,# Giles told him rapidly.

“That’s not good,” Xander replied with a frown. “A ‘trial’ is something Faith /so/ does not need right now.”

#We know, and I’m looking forward to hear your story soon,# Giles told him.

“Giles, I called to tell you we’re both fine, and give our location just in case, but that last one is out of the question now,” Xander told Giles on the other end of the phone.

#That’s ok, Alexander. We all pretty much unanimously decided you should handle Faith, and let you do what you think is best,# Giles told him, which surprised Xander. #Take care of her, son.#

“I will, Giles, my quarter is running out, see you guys soon,” Xander greeted. Giles returned the greet, and Xander hung up. Then he took the car and pushed up the mountain, until he was far enough away from the village, and burst into the air.

*****

Upward Faith went, ignoring the freezing wind, ignoring the snow that came falling down with ever greater volumes, ignoring the wind that kept coming with ever greater speeds. After another ten minutes she started feeling really cold. Her stomach hurt, so did her feet and fingers. She pulled them up and looked at them. Shocked she saw the tips of her fingers were blueish and purplish. She looked around, and was suddenly gripped by a shock colder than the temperature. There was nothing but snow. She could not see the top of the mountain she was on, left and right there was only snow, wind and falling snow. When she looked down, there was once again only white. Fear gripped her, but she forced it away. The top had to be close, it just had to be. She trudged onward, further up. She was too cold to continue jumping, so she was forced to simply climb. With every meter she made, with every second that past, and the tip stayed out of sight, fear started to grow in her.

Finally after another few minutes, she decided to turn back. But going down didn’t go much faster than going up. She bit her lip in desperation. Several minutes later, there was still only snow. *I’m going to die,* the thought came to her like that. She shook her head, she was determined to go onward. Progress was slow though, and everything hurt. Her leather pants felt like ice picks sticking in her legs, her uncovered belly button was now covered in a fine sheet of snow and ice. Her hair was covered in snow and froze to her skull. The cold in her face was just as bad, if not worse. Her feet felt like clumps of ice, and moving her fingers was nearly impossible. *I’m gonna die,* she thought again. “HELP ME!!” she screamed out in fear, at the horrific realization. “HELP ME!! SOMEBODY!! ANYBODY! I NEED HELP!!”

But there was no answer. “XANDER!!!” she screamed out in fear, the stress of near death enough she started crying. Shocked she felt her tears freeze before they were halfway down her cheeks. “Oh, god!” she told herself, as she felt the frozen tears with her near frozen hand. Her desperation grew and she prayed, but no god answered, apart from the lightning starting close by. “HELP ME! HELP! PLEASE!! HELP!!”

Faith sobbed and sank to her knees. This couldn’t be happening. The wind howled along her. She forced herself up, to keep moving but it took every little bit of effort she had. A normal human in her position and in her clothes would have been dead by now. “Please,” she whimpered, as she dragged herself forward.

“You asked for me?” Xander’s voice sounded. Faith looked up, shivering as she slowly froze to death. Xander floated there, his arms across his chest. Faith was flooded with relief. “Not very smart of you, you know. You can’t get away from me. I’ve got a sixth sense, allows me to pinpoint you down the centimeter from ten miles away,” Xander told her with a smirk.

“FUCK YOU!!” she screamed out with a raw throat. “Fuck you!”

Xander grinned, and cocked his head, holding out a hand, saying, “Going into the mountains alone so high you find snow. Do you have a death wish?”

Anger at everyone and everything, especially the way her life had gone, and Xander’s condescending tone made Faith lash out, “GO AWAY! I DON’T NEED YOU! I DON’T NEED ANYONE!!”

“Suit yourself,” Xander answered coolly, and blasted up and away.

Anger pushed Faith onward, but that only lasted barely a minute. With every endlessly difficult step she took, she realized more and more just how big a mistake that was. “XANDER!!” Faith wailed out. No answer. “XANDER, PLEASE! HELP ME!!” There was still no answer, and no one arrived from the air. “PLEASE!! I DO NEED YOU. HEEEELP MEEE!!! HEEELP!!”

But there was no answer. “No, please!” Faith whimpered, sinking to her knees. She cried and sobbed in the snow there, unable to dredge up the strength to get up, her tears freezing on her cheeks again. *I’m gonna die here,* she thought, crying harder, cold and pain lancing through every part of her body. “Help,” she sobbed out one last time, before she grew still except for crying.

There was a light, and a sound but Faith didn’t react to it immediately. She had to dredge up every last bit of will power to look up, half expecting the light to be tunnel of light people often described. Instead she looked at an outstretched hand, and the smiling face of Xander Harris, all surrounded by his white light. She had never seen a more beautiful light in her entire life. She grabbed for Xander’s hand and managed to grasp it. She felt herself being pulled up out of the cold, cold snow, and a moment later enveloped by the blessed, comforting warmth of Xander’s life force. He pulled the Slayer to him, and she grabbed onto him, sobbing as relief beyond anything she had ever felt before, flooded her being. She grabbed a hold of him with every last ounce of strength she possessed, and forced her head against his shoulder. There she broke down completely, sobbing, and crying for all she was worth as she felt herself warm back up.

“Sh,” Xander said, and give her a gentle kiss on the top of her head, the snow already melting, leaking down her face from her hair. “Everyone needs somebody, Faith, everyone needs help sometime. Nobody can do everything alone.” He placed his right hand on the back of her head, and held her gently as he flew down, back toward the cabin.

Back at the cabin, Xander got her out of her freezing, and wet clothes. She was too in shell shock and relief to complain when he took off her freezing panties and bra. He quickly brought out the new clothes he had brought, and was glad when he found they fit. Now dressed in new panties, and warm but very unstylish pyjamas, Xander gently carried the shivering Faith into her new bedroom. He placed her in bed, which she vaguely recognized as being comfortably warm. Several hot-water bottles had pre-heated it for her, and they would keep her warm. Xander gently tucked the distraught Slayer in, and brushed a few hairs from the shivering girl’s face. “Go to sleep, Faith,” he told her gently, “sleep all afternoon and night, tomorrow is a new day.” She nodded weakly, and he gave her a kiss on her forehead, and finished, “I’ll be in the living room, you’re safe here, ok?” Shivering Faith nodded again, a few tears of gratefulness misting up her eyes. Understanding her pride, he got up and left before they spilled over.

*****

As told, Faith slept all afternoon and night. She woke up at seven the next morning by a delicious smell. She moaned as she opened her eyes, and looked around in confusion. Where was she? She grabbed a hold of cold metal, and she recognized the now cold hot-water bottles that had warmed her so when she went to sleep. Everything of the past few days rushed back to her then. The kill, Buffy’s incessant - we must do this, we must do that - her lie to Giles, and then Xander coming to her motel room, and what followed after.

She stayed lying still for a few moments, remembering how close to death she had come. The horrible feeling when she thought she would die, when she thought Xander had abandoned her. He had prepared the bottles on beforehand, she realized now he would never have let her die. The smell called to her again, and now that the jumble of emotions and memories had aligned themselves somewhat, she recognized it too: pancakes. Her eyes widened, and felt her stomach growl with hunger. She hadn’t eaten anything the day before, and her guilt had barely made her eat before that. She got out of bed as quickly as possible, and one of the metal bottles dropped noisily to the floor. Then a second one fell on her toes. “OW!” she yelled out, and grabbed her foot, jumping up a few times to lessen the pain. She blinked as she looked at her foot, then at her hands, and she flexed them. Nothing, no damage. She sighed in relief as she realized her Slayer healing had solved her problems with frozen limbs.

She smiled, and stumbled about, seeing herself in a mirror. The pyjamas looked awful to her, they were fluffy things that small children wore, not hard as nails Slayers. Her stomach growled again, it was not to be denied, so she shrugged and opened the door back to the rest of the room. She looked around in shock. The cabin that was ready to fall apart was cleaned up now. The holes repaired with new boards, the roof retiled, someone had swiped the floors clean, as well as the furniture. She shrugged off the shock, and wonder how Xander had managed to do all that without waking her up. A moment later she had reached her intended destination: the kitchen. Several kinds of coverings stood on the table, in the middle of which stood a /huge/ pile of pancakes. She looked over at Xander, wearing an apron happily baking the deliciously smelling food. Xander grinned at her, having anticipated her hunger, and of course also his own Saiyan appetite. “Dig in,” he told her.

She could not help but grin and rapidly sat down at the table with enthusiasm. What a feast! She grabbed the top pancake, almost burning her fingers, and not caring. Heat was a blessing after yesterday. Rapidly she pored treacle from a bottle, rolled up the pancake and ravished it. Once finished with it, in less than a few seconds, she grabbed another. This one she covered with strawberry jam before she gulped it down hungrily.

“Slow down a bit, before you choke on it,” Xander told her with a huge grin.

Faith looked up at him, as she swallowed. “Thanks,” she said weakly, and quickly went to eat more.

Xander smiled, used up the last of the dough and joined her. Faith watched astonished as Xander ate away a nice thick pancake even faster than she did. He picked the next pancake, and realizing that he might finish the whole pile if she just kept watching him, and her stomach demanding much, much more she quickly grabbed a new pancake. Xander watched the girl across from him hungrily, and tastefully stow away pancake after pancake as he ate himself. He quickly reached his fill, himself /having/ eaten yesterday, and watched as Faith continued to stuff pancake after pancake down her gullet. He marveled at the Slayer. Sitting there without make-up on, and in simple pyjamas, her hair falling down her face and happily eating away, she looked nothing like the tough Slayer he knew, but like a simple, young girl.

“What’s your birthday?” Xander asked intrigued.

Faith looked up, chewing away the pancake and gulping. “August seventeen,” she answered as she grabbed a new pancake from the rapidly swindling pile.

“Year?” Xander prompted gently, smiling at this new and deceptively - or not? - fragile Faith.

She looked down, preparing the pancake with some covering for consumption. Finally she looked up, and decided to answer truthfully, “Nineteen . . . eighty-three.”

Carefully she gauged Xander’s reaction, as she started to eat the new pancake. “Fifteen . . . and a half,” Xander translated nodding his head at the implications. Xander smiled encouragingly, but Faith stayed silent, so he prompted, “We had a deal remember? I tell you a few snippets of my life, you tell me snippets of yours, starting what happened the other night? Exactly?”

Swallowing the last of her pancake, she slowly looked up, and then started telling her tale. “We heading toward the demon’s lair, when the vampires attacked. We were in an ally, we killed several of them. I don’t know what happened exactly. According to Buffy he was just suddenly there, and she mistook him for a vampire in the heat of the battle. All I know is, Buffy threw him to me, expecting me to dust the vampire. I caught him and slammed him against the dumpster. Buffy noticed he wasn’t a vampire, and yelled out a warning, but it was already too late. I was already swinging the stake, and it was far too close to his heart. I didn’t even get the time to slow my swing down. The next moment I’m looking at the life flowing from his eyes, and the blood from his body.”

Faith looked Xander in the eyes, and he saw pain there. It told him more then any words ever could, for one thing, this was not a lie. Faith breathed heavier and heavier, her eyes tearing up, her near death experience yesterday had broken down her mental walls very effectively. “Now I tried to kill you, I’m a monster, a worthless . . .”

“It was an accident!!” Xander powerfully interrupted her. “There was nothing you could have done different. From where I’m standing Buffy would be more to blame than you are, if there was any blame.”

Faith shook her head as tears flowed from her eyes, and she backed up, dumping the stair. “I tried to kill you, my mom and dad were right, I’m nothing, I’m worthless . . .”

Xander was in front of her in an instant, and he grabbed her supportively, but firmly by her shoulders and told her with an intensity, “You are not worthless, you are a beautiful, young girl, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Faith wrenched herself free, “WHY!? YOU WERE WORSE! At least my mom beat me up, and my father considered me good enough to rape, but you didn’t even think I was worthy enough to acknowledge my existence!!” In rage, grief, and anger, Faith smashed her fist through one of the wooden walls, and trashed about. “None of you did! You just left me to rot in that motel room! And I tried, I tried to get any of you to notice me! I even stole fancy clothes for that stupid dance in school! And yet none of you even visited me, not you, not Red, not even the damn watchers, except the evil one!! You only called me or talked to me when there was something to kill.” Xander was at a loss. Faith was breaking down and trashing about in front of him. He felt guilt for himself as well as the others. Faith made another dent in the wall, as she finished, “And Buffy, Buffy pretty much quit the moment she thought she could get out of Sunnydale to college, and I could stay behind and rot!!”

Desperate to keep Faith from completely destroying the cabin, as well as herself, Xander did the only thing he could think off. He lunged forward, and grabbed her, forcing Faith into a hug. “Shh, I’m sorry. It’s going to be alright, I promise,” he said as Faith struggled against his superior grip, crying. “We screwed up, I screwed up. It’s no excuse, but we were all wrapped up in Buffy’s return after leaving us, and her covering up Angel’s return. And I as always was busy keeping my secret.”

Faith slowly stopped struggling, and wrapped her arms around his waist, just holding on for dear life. She didn’t trust Xander just yet, but it was the only thing she could do to keep herself from completely going off the deep end. “You just left me there,” she cried out.

“I didn’t get to see the room the first time, you threw me out before I could. After that I figured you preferred to be alone, I’m so sorry, I wish I could go back in time and do things differently,” Xander whispered to her, holding on for dear life, hoping the girl wouldn’t slip through his fingers. “I guess it’s my turn to tell you a little of my life again. Saiyans are born with tails, as I told you. I had to cut mine off before landing here. The Harrises who adopted me were infertile. The man’s sperm didn’t have the punch needed. I was a thorn in his eye, a constant reminder of his inadequacy. He started drinking and then beat me up. My adoptive mother ignored it out of guilt. I know what it’s like to be abused, to be called worthless, or useless, but I suppose compared to yours, my life was a picnic.” Faith whimpered, not understanding what he was getting at. “So, let’s make another deal, ok? We won’t call each other worthless ever, and we’ll defend each other with words first and then violence if necessary, against anyone who will ever call the other that. What do you say?”

Faith slowly looked up, and looked into Xander’s chocolate brown eyes, then whispered, “Ok, deal.” Xander just held her close, the two staying like that.

*****

Two hours later the two were sparring right outside the cabin. Faith punched, and Xander casually flipped her through the air. Angry she got up and tried again, only to hurt her hand on his chi field, and then being sent flying several meters till she crashed against a tree. She stayed put, groaning. This had gone on for twenty minutes, always with the same result.

“What’s the matter, Faith? I thought Slayers were supposed to be tough,” Xander told with a big grin.

Faith groaned, sitting upright, ready to attack, and then her shoulders slumped. “This isn’t fair,” she told him.

“What did you say?” Xander asked her smiling.

“It isn’t fair, I can’t even /hit/ you,” Faith complained angrily.

Xander smiled and went over to her. He knelt down just to her right, and placed his right hand comfortingly on her stomach. Smiling, he said, “It’s about time, I was afraid you lost your tongue.” Faith looked at him in confusion, not particularly hating his hand on her body. “You spent inside that motel room for months, Faith, you hated it there. We were negligent, but you never once spoke up about hating it either. You just stayed there, fuming, and thinking you somehow deserved it, trying to get our attention. One shout, ‘IT ISN’T FAIR!!’ would have done that just as well, you know.” Xander actually yelled out ‘it isn’t fair’. “Next time when someone treats you wrong, or makes you do things, or stay somewhere where you shouldn’t be, address it. Get angry, shout, whatever, just don’t stay fuming silently. This time we very much neglected you, next time we might just fail to see it - we’re not mind readers, ok?”

Faith nodded. “Good,” Xander said, smiling. He got up, and offered his hand. Faith hesitated, but decided to get over her ‘I don’t need anybody’ mind set and took his hand. Xander pulled her to her feet, and he said, “Now I’ll teach you what I can do.”

Faith looked at him incredulously, questioning, “Teach me?”

“Of course,” Xander said, backing away from her so he could demonstrate Tai Chi moves. “What? Did you think I was Superman or something? That I just got every one of my abilities thrown into my lap?” Faith shrugged, and Xander grinned. “No, Faith, training, lots and lots of training. In fact, a lot of what I can do, I learned from humans. I guess I should explain to you what it is that I do then, another snippet in the sordid mess that’s my life, and that of my race.” Xander thought over how to explain this, and said, “All right, talking while training, repeat these moves, Faith.”

And so Faith started repeating Xander’s movements as he started explained Saiyans’ power and concept of chi. Once Faith mastered the movements, Xander set about explaining the philosophy behind them, what they do, and what they are good for. Soon lunch time had come and gone, and dinner was approaching, so they stopped their training, and went inside the cabin.

*****

Faith woke up the next morning in her bed. Groggily she looked around until the smell of baked eggs assaulted her senses. Not long after that the girl was sitting at the diner table fully dressed, and happily eating the eggs. She watched Xander put away his eggs twice as fast as she ate hers with a grin. During their breakfast, Xander asked, “So, what has your watcher taught you?” Faith looked down, pained. “Educationally speaking, not how to stake vamps,” Xander added.

“Uh, not much, hardly anything really,” Faith muttered in disdain.

“All right, then,” Xander said, engulfing another egg on sandwich, “we’ll go down to the village after training, let you choose some clothes, and then we’ll get some educational books: science, biology, math, that sort of thing. This afternoon I’ll start teaching you, you’ll do the exams at the end of the year, and next year you’ll be able to start in the same grade as others of you age.”

“WHAT?!” Faith exclaimed shocked. “Back to school? Hell, no!”

“High school, Faith, you’ll go to high school,” Xander told her.

“Why should I!?”

Xander gave her smile, saying, “Because I said so. Besides, you want to be able to get a job and pay your bills and food later, right?”

Faith bit her lip, then let her lower lip drab down in pout of defeat, saying, “I’m going to be dead by then anyway, so why bother? The last few years fighting of my life fighting vampires I want to enjoy myself, not waste away in a classroom.”

Xander charged an energy ball and held it up for her to see. “Faith,” he said, “when I’m done training you, do you think a vampire . . . an army of vampires would stand a hope against you? Hell, the army of the United States? You’ll catch bullets with you bare hands, Faith. You’ll move too fast, and be too maneuverable for rockets to catch you. Trust me, you’ll have a very long life.”

Faith looked at him, revelation on her face. “I could live to see old age?” she asked doubtfully.

“Yep, thus school,” Xander told her, a smile adorning his face. Faith still didn’t look entirely convinced. “Trust me, Faith, have I steered you wrong even once?” Faith looked down again, and nodded, still not liking having to study. “There, see, Faith, just remember I’m always right, and you’ll do just fine,” Xander joked with a wide grin, making Faith look up at him.

Faith couldn’t quite keep the smile off of her face, when she replied, “You really are an arrogant bastard, aren’t you?”

“But one who’s always right,” Xander joked onward.

Faith chuckled, and said, “I hate you, I /really/ hate you.”

*****

The next afternoon, Xander sat in the couch in the small living room of the small cabin reading ‘The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World’. Faith sat on the floor at the low table. Her ass was squarely on the rug, with her legs out in front of her under the table. She had a pen and was busy writing out a math problem.

Faith sighed, put the pen down in disgust, and said, “Xander, I can’t do this, I’m not smart enough.”

“Bullshit, Faith, you can do it,” Xander told her, not looking up from his book.

“Help me, please? Give me a hint?” Faith pleaded.

“Faith, trust me, you’re smart enough to figure it out. We’ve been going through example after example, I’ve helped you out, this time it’s all for you. If you give up every time things get a little difficult, Faith, you’ll never get anywhere. Now, go on,” Xander told her friendly.

When no more answer came, Faith sighed theatrically, and picked her pen back up. A few minutes later Xander looked over the edge of the book, and checked her out. He smiled as she saw her tongue hang out of her mouth in deep concentration, writing away. He went back to reading his book, waiting.

Ten minutes later, Faith piped up, “Xander.” He looked at her, and she nervously pushed her work toward him. Xander picked up her notepad, and started examining her work. After one minute of thoroughly checking out her calculations, he looked up, and regarded the nervously fidgeting Faith.

“Correct,” Xander told her with a lopsided grin, filled with anticipation.

“Correct? As in, I didn’t make a mistake?” Faith asked Xander with wide eyes of surprise and hope.

“Not even a single small one,” Xander answered her, and Faith looked incredulously at him. “You’re pretty smart, Faith.”

“I’m smart?” she asked, almost shocked. Xander nodded. “I’m smart!?” she asked again, her face lighting up. Xander nodded again. “I’m not stupid?” she asked, this time a bright smile on her face.

“You’re not stupid at all, Faith,” he replied with a grin.

Faith looked at him silently for a few moments, jaw dropped. “I’m not stupid,” Faith tried softly. “I’m not stupid,” she said again, this time with some more conviction. “I’M NOT STUPID!” she yelled out in joy, jumping up from the floor, banging against the table. She cursed and wiggled out from underneath it. Then she jumped up again, properly this time, yelling again, “I’M NOT STUPID!!” Xander smiled widely at the exuberant Slayer, almost not believing the change in the young girl.

Instantly Faith’s cheer was gone, and in its place was a sensualness. She crossed the difference to Xander and knelt down on the couch over him, whispering huskily, “I’d like to thank you, Xander.” She leaned forward, ready to kiss him.

Xander grabbed her by the waste, and gently pushed her back. “Faith,” he said gently, looking up in her hurt eyes, “you don’t have to have sex with me in order to thank me. Not that it isn’t a very nice ‘thank you’ gesture, but it’s not the only way to thank someone. I don’t want to have sex with you, when you think it’s an obligation.”

Faith looked at him, her look smouldering, then she grimaced, got up, and stormed off to her bedroom. Xander decided to let her cool down. An hour later she came back out again, and sat herself down upon the chair. She pulled her legs up, and wrapped her arms around her knees, regarding Xander. He waited. “How come I get pissed off for you not having sex with me,” Faith said with pain in her voice, “and yet I’d be equally pissed off with you, if you did?”

Xander shrugged, answering, “I don’t know.” Xander beckoned her over, and she hesitantly did. Once she sat next to her, he slung an arm around her shoulders hugged her supportively. He felt her relax and he smiled. “I’ve done this for Buffy and Willow often, nice supportive friend hugs, yet they still don’t know who I am. Feel better?”

As Xander tightened the hug, Faith said, “A little.”

“Not pissed off at me anymore for not taking advantage of you?” Xander asked. Faith shook her head. “Good,” he said and smiled down at her. “I don’t know why you felt what you felt exactly, Faith, but before I took you here, do you think you would be sitting here next to me?”

“No way, I’d be long gone,” Faith answered on autopilot.

Xander nodded, and said, “Then I don’t think feeling like that every time a guy enjoys great sex with you, or decides not to accept your advances will last. I want you to trust me, Faith, and through me, give the male species the benefit of the doubt. I’m pretty sure more are like me, or at least on the good side of the spectrum than whatever assholes you’ve had the displeasure of experiencing.”

“You didn’t even call,” Faith accused.

“You threw me buck naked out of your room,” Xander countered.

Faith couldn’t keep the giggle from escaping her mouth, and was embarrassed she actually giggled. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“So am I.”

The two stayed put there, in a comfortable silence. After two minutes, Faith admitted, “Obligation, smobligation. I’m aroused.”

Xander gave a laugh, and suggested, “Use your fingers.”

“I haven’t needed to use my fingers in ages,” Faith muttered.

Xander grinned, telling her, “Don’t worry, it’s like driving a bike, you never unlearn, and practice makes perfect.”

Faith sat up, and as she stood up, she said, “I hate you.” Halfway to her room, she called out, “Don’t expect me to go easy on your ears.”

“Finally!” Xander called after her. “I’m a /hear/-/eur/.” A few moments later Faith returned at the door to her bedroom, looked incredulously at him. “What can I say,” Xander told her with smile and mock guilt, “you were right: men are evil.” Xander failed to duck the pillow that came flying at him at that point, and it smashed right into his face. He laughed, and so did Faith. Before long she started producing very different sounds.

*****

Two weeks later Faith stood on the ground in front of the cabin. Her face was crunched up in concentration, her arms straight down along her body. Small waves of chi flowed from her down and outward. “Relax,” Xander told her gently watching her. The trees around them gently waved in the wind, and the animals were quiet, as if they were watching Faith try this monumental event. Finally, slowly, bit by little bit, the Slayer lifted off the ground. Faith looked down astonished as she hovered ten centimeters in the air.

“I did it!” Faith exclaimed with happiness. “I spent three days looking like an idiot, but I finally did it!” Gently Faith went a little higher, then moved forward then to her right. “You see, Xander!? I’m flying! I can’t believe this.”

“Believe it, Faith,” Xander said with a wide grin looked at the elated Slayer. “You’re flying al right.”

Faith was sweating, and breathing heavily now, and she said, “Damn, this is tough.” She wiped sweat off her brow, and asked, “How do I get the power needed to start doing stunts and stuff?”

Xander grinned at her, and told her, “Balance, Faith, balance.” Xander smiled at the still floating Slayer, and he added, “That’s what’s so good about teaching you chi martial arts. I will teach you how to find an inner balance, balancing out all the bad stuff you’ve gone through; and from balance . . . the balance of chaos, comes this.” Xander gave a scream and a moment later his chi flame burst around him.

“Whoa, woaw,” Faith exclaimed flapping her arms. A moment later she was dumped unceremoniously on her butt. “Ow,” she complained, sitting back up and rubbing her ass cheeks with a free hand. Xander grinned at her, and Faith grimaced. “Alright then,” Faith said, getting up and then placing herself in a flawless battle stance. “Teach me, teach.”

“Sensei,” Xander corrected her as he stepped in a battle stance himself, his chi flame growing less intense.

“That’s what I said, teach,” Faith said, half joking, half darkly. “Let’s go.” Xander grinned and then attacked. As punches and kicks were exchanged, Xander explained to Faith the finer points of building up one’s chi.

Two hours later, in the living room after the two had taken a rudimentary shower, Xander started, “Faith, I’m planning on going on a trip back to good ole’ Sunnydale tomorrow, it’s time I give them a few explanations.” Faith nodded with her face down at the wooden floor of the cabin. “You can handle being alone for a day, can’t you?”

“Yeah,” Faith said weakly.

Xander nodded, “Good. I’m not going to tell them where you are, Faith. I’m not going to tell them anything you’ve told me in confidence in the past two weeks: that stays between us. I do however plan on giving the watchers a piece of my mind. This isn’t a prison, Faith, don’t run away.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t,” Faith said, smiling.

*****

Xander walked onto Sunnydale High premise with a confident grin. A few students looked at him with astonishment, a few girls with lust. Xander had put on a tight sweater and tight jeans, the improvement showed. “Harris!” an annoying voice called, and Xander turned around.

“Hey, Cordy,” Xander greeted the ex queen of Sunnydale High and smiled at her.

“Where have you been, Dweeb Boy?” Cordelia asked, unconsciously checking out the familiar package, only now not hidden. “I missed my favorite punching bag.”

“What? No fun when they don’t punch back?” Xander asked her with an evil grin. Cordelia sputtered, looking shocked. Xander always talked back, but never this direct, he usually darted around the subject somewhat. “I love you to, Cor,” Xander told her with a grin, and walked onward. He walked into the building smoothly, leaving a flabbergasted Cordelia Chase.

“Harris!” a far more annoying voice called, one that could make Xander’s day turn sour and Xander slowly turned around.

“Principal Snyder,” he slowly said, a fake smile on his face.

“My office, NOW!” Snyder ordered and walked into his office. Xander followed the troll into the office. Snyder stood behind his desk, and grinned gleefully at Xander. “You’ve been from school for weeks, Harris! Do you know what that means? I get throw you out of his school, /that’s/ what it means.” Snyder chuckled evilly. “In fact I already did, you should have heard your father’s screaming when I told him over the phone. Promises of lots of punishment.” Snyder almost laughed.

“Is that so,” Xander said coldly, still smiling. Just before Snyder managed to answer, Xander jumped over the desk, grabbed him by the neck and put him against the wall behind him as he landed. Xander held the little troll a foot above the ground, and Snyder looked terrified at Xander’s cold look. “Do you know what happened to your predecessor?”

“Attacked by wild animals,” Snyder wheezed out with difficulty and fear.

Xander’s smiled deepened, and he said, “Eaten by Hyena possessed students to be precise . . . You will turn back the decision of throwing me out of school, you won’t mind me not being here for the rest of the year, I’ll be here for finals. Then you will prepare for a new student, one Faith Williams. She’ll be making several tests proving she can get into sophomore year, where she’ll go next year. If you refuse, I’ll make what happened to Principal Flutie look like a picnic in comparison to what I’m going to do to you, understand?”

“Yes,” Snyder wheezed out, and Xander let the little troll go. He took a few step towards the exit as Snyder felt if his neck was still attached.

“Oh,” Xander said, turning back to look at him. “Don’t be stupid, don’t call the cops. What are you going to tell them? He held me against the wall? Pulled a gun? It’s going to be difficult making that stick since I don’t own any guns. And oh yeah, just because my morals say I shouldn’t unless absolutely necessary, doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy every minute of torturing you to death.” Snyder swallowed audibly. “Good little troll,” Xander said and walked out the door.

*****

“Xander’s back?”

It was Giles that asked the question. He had asked it with the same curiosity, the others had in their eyes. They were all in their usual positions around the table in the library, Giles was standing on the stairs leading to the second level.

“That’s what I said. Deaf much?” Cordelia stated with annoyance. “I ran in on him when he came in.”

“Is Faith with him?” Buffy asked the cheerleader.

“Not unless she’s invisible,” Cordelia returned smoothly.

Willow asked with wide eyes, “You think Faith is invisible?” Cordelia glared at her, and the others just looked with wide eyes. “It’s happened before,” Willow defended herself and sank back into her chair.

“When Xander enters here, he shall lead us to Faith, or face the consequences,” Wesley stated as he calmly walked from behind the counter, holding open a book.

Buffy’s eyes narrowed at the watcher, and she said coldly, “If you hurt Xander, Faith won’t be the only Slayer needing a trial.” Wesley gulped.

“Yeah, a-and not just Slayers,” Willow added for good measure.

“Not just Slayers what?” Xander’s voice sounded as he entered the library. As everyone gawked at him he walked over to the table.

“X-Xander, you’re . . . different,” Buffy muttered taking in the very differently dressed Xander. Training - thus not thinking about clothes - and Faith sneaky suggestions on what clothes he should be buying in their short shopping trip had changed his dress code: much less hiding. The muscles in his lower bare arms for example were practically rippling. The tight t-shirt under his open jacket - whose sleeves he had rolled up a little to make sure they didn’t touch the troll - showed off his physique.

“Uhuh,” Willow said, nodding with wide eyes, then quickly turned to Oz and placed a hand on his leg. Xander smiled at them all, making Buffy gulp.

“Hello, Xander, how’s Faith?” Giles asked the teen with a solemn but friendly face, while Wesley slipped back into the small librarian office.

Xander turned his head to Giles, and said, “Much better, but not quite there yet.” Giles nodded. Xander took a deep breath, and said, “I’ve got a lot of things to tell you, and I wonder if this place is secure enough for some of it.” Xander looked over at Giles, who shook his head. Xander looked back at Wesley finishing a phone call and sneaking half back to listen in. He nodded grimly, “Then, I’ll start with the non sensitive parts.” He looked around into confused faces. Buffy had started to ask about Xander, but she had shut up after Xander mentioned secrets, so they sat waiting for Xander to start. “The way we treated Faith was abysmal, I’m disgusted with all of us, me included.”

“Hey- . . .” Willow started to protest.

“Quiet,” Xander ordered, and Willow closed her mouth, fidgeting under Xander’s stern gaze. The others looked startled at Xander. “You were really bad, Willow. You barely spoke to her, a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ was the most you could muster, and that was in meetings here. You never went to her, never tried to get to know her, you shunned her and gave her the cold shoulder. /You/, Oz, well . . . you don’t say much period, but you certainly didn’t do anything to make her feel welcomed.” Before anyone could get in between, Xander went on, like a onrushing freight train. “Cordy,” Xander told the cheerleader, and that and a narrowing of his eyes was all it really took. Cordelia shifted from left to right on her chair, looking down in guilt. Xander turned to Buffy, and said, “And Buffy Summers, did you enjoy seeing Faith’s motel room and letting her rot there?” Buffy shrank back, wide eyes, a mixture of guilt, and shocked realization on her face. “Did you like it to have a nice replacement to stay here in this hell hole all by herself while you go off to college? Did you feel better knowing Faith didn’t have any friends, and wasted away in a motel room filled with cockroaches? And then, you sicced a /vampire/ on her.”

“Now, see here- . . .” Giles started, annoyed his Slayer got attacked, and planning on defending her.

“August seventeen, 1983,” Xander interrupted the Watcher, everyone looked confused. “Faith’s birth date.”

Buffy still looked confused, but the super calculating machines that were Oz and Willow made the subtraction instantly. Willow’s jaw dropped, and Oz looked pained. “Fifteen and a half,” Willow slowly said. “Oh, god, the way I treated her.” Willow clamped her right hand over her mouth, as her eyes filled with compassion and revulsion at herself and the others.

“Fif . . .?” Buffy didn’t get any further, Cordelia stayed uncharacteristically silent.

“Bloody hell,” Giles muttered.

Xander turned around and took Giles, and Wesley that had a mixture of emotions on his face in with one look. “Which brings me to you two!” Xander practically growled out. “/We/ were bad, but we could have just told Faith, ‘Listen, you’re nice and all, but I have no interest in any friendship.’ It would have been cold and callous, but not disgusting, we don’t have an obligation to her. BUT YOU DO!!” Xander looked at them, face contorted in anger, and went onward, “You two really disgust me right now. It was your /duty/, your /job/ to take care of her, to protect her, to counsel her, to give a decent place to stay, to give her food and drink. Especially you . . .” Xander pointed at Wesley, eyes blazing, making the watcher step back, “ . . . Buffy had a watcher, friends, a mother, Faith had nothing, /and/ you came here specifically for this job, which is /still/ your job, /you/ haven’t fought with her once, you haven’t been to the hell hole she stayed at, the only thing both of you managed to do was order her around and that was /it/. It’s not a fucking wonder she didn’t trust any of us anymore.” Giles and Wesley looked down in shame.

“That’s real nice, but that doesn’t matter to me,” a tough voice stated. Xander turned to his right, the Watcher commando team had arrived, six in all, and one commander, who was the one who spoke. The Watcher team was heavily armed. “Where’s Faith?”

While Xander had spoken the Scoobs had slowly gotten up, readying to take them on if necessary. Xander gave them a halt sign, and smirking he turned fully, and walked straight at the team leader. “I will never tell you,” Xander said, as he watched the leader pull out a big handgun, his team mates cocked their own guns. Xander just grinned and walked onward.

The leader cocked his own gun, and said, “That’s far enough.” Xander’s grin turned to a smirk and continued walking. The tension in the room shot upward with every step he took. The Scoobies held their collective breath, worrying the man would shoot. Giles understood the full situation, able to keep a more level head, and was thus more concerned for Wesley and the Watcher team and what Xander might do to them. The other commandos aimed their guns at Xander as well. Finally Xander stopped, forehead resting against the nuzzle of the gun, and grinning he looked straight and unwavering into the leader’s eyes. “You’re nuts,” the leader told him, a quiver in his voice.

“Am I?” Xander asked him still grinning. Then his grin disappeared and he looked with dead seriousness into the man’s eyes. “You can’t shoot me, because if you do, you will /never/ find Faith. As for Faith, she’s with me, and she’s not leaving me until I’m certain she’s stable enough to do so. If this . . . ‘court’ is to decide whether or not Faith is to blame, or is evil, or could go evil, there is only one living witness and she’ll tell you it was an accident, right, Buffy?”

“Yes, it was an accident,” Buffy answered after a moment, her voice lightly quivering.

Xander’s gaze bore into the other man’s eyes, as he continued, “If you’re so desperately aching to bring a Slayer to Britain for trial, Buffy here was the one who first encountered the guy, grabbed him, and threw him over to Faith with the implicit message, ‘Vampire, kill.’ She’s more responsible for the guy’s death, than Faith is. It seemed this is something Buffy failed to mention.” The man looked into Xander’s eyes, shivering slightly. Xander finished, “Now put the little toy aside, it’s starting to annoy me.” Behind Xander everyone turned their head to Buffy, who looked down at the floor with reddening face.

The leader continued looking into Xander’s eyes, not knowing what to make of this. Suddenly Xander’s hand snatched out, and took the man’s gun away in an instant. The other team mates reacted to the sudden disarming of their leader, and starting moving their guns in position. Xander rapidly moved his hand so it was pointing forward, and with a yell he released some of his chi. The men were knocked off their feet, and some of the guns clattered. “Now,” Xander said out loud, getting their attention, “if you ever point one of these toys at me or my friends again, I will put you in a hospital, a second time I will kill you, is that clear?”

“Yeah, the leader muttered,” watching how Xander unloaded the gun’s bullets and tossed it back. “Now get lost, all the way back to Britain.”

The Watcher Team scrambled to their feet and out of the door. When they were gone, Xander turned around and saw his shocked friends’ faces. He grinned a bit, and then Giles managed to speak up, “Xander, I do not think dabbling into magic is a prude course of action.”

Xander regarded Giles for a moment, and then turned his head and glared at the shocked and slightly fearful Wesley. He quickly walked over to Giles, and whispered in his ear, “Summers house, secure?”

“Yes,” Giles whispered back.

“Completely?”

“As completely as possible,” Giles whispered again.

“After school, there,” Xander finished his whisperings, and then turned around and walked out the door.

“Hey!” Buffy finally exclaimed just before Xander passed by the doors.

Giles walked over to her when she was about to chase after Xander, and he whispered in her ear, “Your home, after school, pass it on.” Outwardly he made it look like he was holding the Slayer back, which he had to do for real just before he started his whisperings. Buffy blinked and looked at him, then nodded. Then Willow cried out in indignation.

*****

First Xander went into a bookstore, and after looking around for a while, he chose three: The Iliad, Dune, and a flimsy romance novel. Smiling after picking out a nice selection for Faith, he went to find himself an apartment. Still having money from his patents, and Sunnydale’s death rate, it didn’t take long to hire a roomy and stylish one with a nice view of the beach. He went over to Buffy’s house, where’d he be waiting for the others, but first, more importantly, talk with Buffy’s mother. He hoped she wasn’t at the museum today, or he’d have to go there. He rung the bell, twenty seconds later Joyce Summers opened the door.

“Xander!” she exclaimed surprised. “Where have you been?” she asked as she ushered him in. Xander smiled, Buffy’s mother never ceased to make him feel good about himself, and the world in general, she was just one of those people - how in blazes her daughter managed to fall in love with a demon-animated corpse was beyond him; of course he’d never met Buffy’s father.

“Cabin up in the mountains,” Xander asked with a bright smile, as Joyce guided him to the kitchen. She gestured to a stool, and Xander sat down at the counter that sat in the middle of the kitchen.

“Coffee?” Joyce asked, Xander accepted. As Joyce went to get the cups, she asked concerned, “And Faith?”

Xander could here Joyce’s concern and he smiled, “I guess you heard?”

Joyce nodded, and pouring coffee she explained, “Buffy kind of broke down, and angry, at herself more than anyone else, she just takes it out on you and Faith - since you were not here.” Joyce turned back around and placed one cup in front of Xander, and the other in front of herself. She continued, “She has let on out there she’s Miss Agreeing, in here she usually curses to you two to no end, about not following her orders, not doing as anyone would, not letting ‘Angel’ work his magic . . . but like I said, especially when she cries about that night, she’s confessed to me she threw Finch to Faith after he showed up out of nowhere, she’s mostly angry with herself.” She drank from her coffee.

“She’s not my commanding officer, I don’t have to follow /any/ of her orders,” Xander told her, and Joyce nodded in agreement.

“I think it’s also about time someone put in some counter weight, some shared responsibility,” Joyce confided in the young man. “My daughter is a fantastic girl, I raised her well, but . . . it can’t be good for anyone so young to have that much on her shoulder and no one to share it with, and tell her off when she’s wrong - especially since she’s a cheerleader.” Joyce gave Xander a pained smile, she had no idea why she had confided her concerns to him, but it alleviated her a great deal. The last comment was a half joke, but it was obvious she meant it.

“I’ve lived with it all my life, since I was four years old,” Xander returned the favor, and Joyce looked at him surprised. “I’m an alien, Joyce, my home world and my race were destroyed by a tyrant, I’m the only survivor, as my father told my me, ‘I’m my race’s only hope for justice.’ I still have to get back to make the bastard pay.”

Joyce looked at him, shocked, and then broke into a smile, saying, “Demons, magic, witches, watchers, Slayers - I really should have realized aliens were just around the corner.” They shared a laugh, and drank some coffee.

“Before the others get here and I get to give the explanation speech, let me ask what I came here for,” Xander muttered out, and then looked into the expectant eyes of Joyce Summers. God, how she always managed to make him feel loved, and appreciated, he wished she had been his mother. Shaking the thought from him, he said, “It’s Faith, she doesn’t have a place to stay anywhere, and we can’t stay up in the mountains forever.”

“Yes,” Joyce asked Xander with an inkling of what was coming.

Xander continued, “I’m too young to adopt her, Faith won’t trust Giles for a long time, my parents are definitely out - we might as well chuck her into hell - Willow’s parents only know apathy, and putting her back with that bastard Wesley or any other Watcher crony is completely out of the question . . . so, I wanted to ask if you would be willing to adopt her.” Joyce looked at him, stunned, even if she did already foresee what it was heading to. “Of course Faith has to agree with it, forcing her to do something like this against her will won’t do, but even if she said no, do you think you can investigate all the possibilities? Including emancipation and such if she doesn’t want to be adopted?”

“Oh, yes, sure, I’m honored you think of me . . .” Joyce stated obviously moved deeply, “I hope she’ll have me, I’ve been focusing a bit much on Buffy lately.”

“Buffy’s your daughter, no one can blame you,” Xander said, and handed over a paper. “This is all she knew about herself, birthday, full name, no social security number or anything though.”

“I’ll find out anything I can,” Joyce assured Xander with a smile, which faltered the moment she read the birth date. “Eighty-three? But . . . she looked . . .”

Xander smiled deeply, and said, “You should see her without all those layers of makeup on, and without her tough as nails attitude, she looks every bit like a fifteen-and-a-half-year-old. She’s pretty smart too.”

“You’ve got feelings for her,” Joyce accused him with a smile. Xander blushed, and tried to sputter out a response, failing miserably. Joyce added, “She’s young, isn’t she?”

“Two-and-a-half-years,” was Xander’s answer, kind of indignant, but not at Joyce. “Four years from now, a nineteen and twenty-two-year-old-year-old won’t draw even a blink. People are so overreacting, plus, the girl is more experienced in sex than I am.”

“Don’t worry, I’m not judging,” Joyce answered him, once again reminded of just how fast time went by.

Xander sighed, and said, “Doesn’t matter anyway. She’s not for me. I’ll guard her, protect her, teach her, and heal her. She’s my friend, and I’ll do all that for her, and watch her fall in love a year or two from now with a great guy I will undoubtedly loath, at least at first. She’ll marry him, and have lots and lots of kids. The trust issues she has which are worse with men pretty much mean I can’t start anything with her if I want to heal her and I do, so . . . if I get lucky, someday, perhaps, I’ll meet someone only half as great at her . . .” Xander looked down with embarrassment, and Joyce tapped him on the knee, smiling a bright proud smile.

“Xander Harris,” Joyce told him, “if every woman would spend some time with you, they’d go out there with a rock-solid faith in men, and I’ll bet the average male would enjoy the new environment a whole lot more.”

“Oh, come on,” he said blushing deeply, which annoyed him to no end. What was it with this woman?

“I know I am,” she told him with an actually sexy grin. Xander gulped, Saiyan or no Saiyan, Slayer or no Slayer, if Buffy knew Joyce was lightly flirting with him he’d be spending some time in his regeneration pod. “I’ve been cooped up in here and at the museum far too long, tell me there are some places to go here for people my age that are /not/ infested with bloodthirsty demons?”

“Uh,” Xander started his answer, nervous as hell, “don’t really know, apart from where Tony Harris goes to drink himself into a stupor and where I had to pick him up regularly when the bartender once again called me - but I doubt that’s what you had in mind.” Joyce looked at him, compassion flooded, what this boy had gone through - his parents and entire species dead, planet destroyed, and then living in what could only be hell - and he still was a good guy. Joyce patted him appreciatively again on the arm. “That reminds me,” Xander said, and pulled out a piece of paper. “I bought the cell phone a week ago, so the few people I trust this number with can call me. Don’t give it to Buffy, or Willow. I’m teaching Faith, and that’s hard enough without everyone calling all the time.”

“Don’t worry,” Joyce said, taking the piece of paper.

*****

Several hours later the rest of the gang finally arrived from school and filed into the house. Xander had been helping with chores around the house, cleaning, vacuuming, an occasional fixing in the meantime. Joyce had made coffee and tea for Xander’s big outing. They were all in the living room, everyone sitting around in various positions. Buffy in a chair, Willow on the couch in Oz’s arms, Cordelia - nervous, it was not often she came here - in the couch opposite next to Joyce and Giles in another chair. Xander was standing in front of the tv, waiting for everyone to settle.

“Alright, spill,” Cordelia said impatiently. “I still have an appointment at the hairdresser.” Willow and Buffy rolled her eyes, and Joyce looked over at the cheerleader with undisguised surprise.

Xander grinned and shook his head, and then said, “I’m not Human, I’m Saiyan.” Several surprise exclaims came from around the room, a ‘huh’ here, and ‘what?’ there. Xander pointed up, and said, “I’m from a planet about two light years that way, and across a dimensional barrier. My home planet was destroyed by an evil warlord, I’m the only survivor.”

Everyone, except Joyce and Oz looked dumbfounded, the latter flippantly remarked, “Cool, the whole Superman thing.”

“Nah,” Xander answered with a grin, shaking his head. “Superman is a wimp in pyjamas, I’d kick his ass.”

“Yeah, right,” Buffy snorted out loud, and added, “Superman huh? The guy can fl- . . .” Buffy’s eyes bugged out of her head as she saw Xander floated with his feet higher than the coffee table. Now even Joyce was staring with her mouth ajar. “That’s a trick!” Buffy accused and got up. She ran over and ran her hand underneath Xander. She frowned and ran her hand behind him. “It’s got to be a trick,” Buffy added and used her Slayer strength to jump higher than Xander and fling her hand above him, once again she felt no line. Xander grinned at her as she landed on her feet, “How are you doing that?”

“I’m using my life force to push me off the ground,” Xander told her with a smile as he lowered himself back down.

“That’s not fair!” Buffy pouted, her arms crossed across her chest like a little child. She turned to Giles and whined, “Giiiles, why can’t Slayers fly? I mean, protector of humanity here; if Xander can fly, I should be able to fly!”

“You didn’t use magic against the watchers,” Giles said as his brain slowly kicked back, “but your life force, your chi right?” Xander nodded. “Eastern Martial Arts,” Giles added his jaw slowly closing properly again.

“Still can’t fly,” Buffy pouted.

With a smile, Xander commented, “Took me over a year to learn how to do it, with my teaching and coaching, it took Faith three days.”

Once again jaws dropped, and Xander’s grin deepened. “FAITH CAN FLY!?” Buffy screamed out in shock and disbelief.

“Yeah,” Xander said. “Sorry, I can’t stay and have to get back to her, Buff, but when Faith is ready to come back to the real world, I can teach you too . . . just depends on how determined you are to learn.” Buffy snorted, moving her arms back across her chest.

Willow slowly disentangled herself from Oz and she walked over to Xander. She looked up at him, and asked with a betrayed voice, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Area 51, and in case the Tyrant’s men came looking for me here,” Xander answered her gently, locking eyes with her. They all looked as the two long term friends spoke volumes with just their eyes.

Willow placed her hand gently above his heart, and said, “I forgive you.”

“I DON’T!!” Cordelia screamed out, and jumped off the couch. “YOU BASTARD!! You let me date a loser! You could have been the most popular guy in school! Because of /you/ I lost my popularity!!”

“Cordy- . . .” Xander started.

“Don’t you ‘/Cordy/’ me, mister!!” Cordelia spat out in anger. “I will never forgive you for this!! I don’t ever want to see you again!!” Then the cheerleader stormed out of the house in anger. Xander watched her go with pain in her eyes, he had been expecting something like this, but he had hoped for better.

“I don’t understand that girl,” Joyce said sadly.

*****

Xander reached his parental home. He was still frustrated at Cordelia’s reaction; perfect time to blow of some steam. He pushed the bell, and waited calmly, grinning. He had waited for the day to do this for so long.

The door opened and Tony Harris’ opened in the doorway. “You worthless piece of shit,” he told Xander angrily. The Saiyan’s smirk only deepened. “If you think I let you back in here, you ungrateful loser, you’ve got another thing coming. We pay for your education, and not only are you flunking out, now you don’t even show up anymore!”

“Hello to you too, /dad/,” Xander told him eerily, Tony instantly tensed up when he realized something was wrong. All he managed to do before Xander’s fist hit his chin was widen his eyes. The man’s jaw broke as he was launched backward and he groaned in pain as he landed. Xander calmly walked in, as Tony mumbled something bad under his breath and tried to get up.

“Here, let me help,” Xander said friendly grabbing one of Tony’s hand and hauling him to his feet. He immediately rammed his knee into the man’s stomach, doubling him over, then sent him into oblivion with a well placed elbow to his neck.

“What did you do to him!?” Xander’s mom shrieked, running into the hall from the kitchen in the back. Xander grinned and pointed his hand. With a shockwave of ki, Jessica Harris was launched backward until she dropped onto the cold, white-tiled floor.

“/Mom/,” Xander said hatefully, grinning. He walked over to her, and she looked in fear at her ‘son’. Xander stopped in front of her and squatted down, looking directly into her terrified eyes. “Listen, bitch, I just came here to get my things, you don’t have to worry about me anymore. Don’t come to me for any help, I won’t help . . . at all. If you’re bleeding to death, I’ll watch you bleed to death, got that?” She nodded. “Good, now you better not have thrown away my stuff, because then I’ll get pissed off.”

Xander got up, and started to go toward the stairs up, but Jessica said, “It’s in the basement, I put it there after he wanted to throw it all out.” Xander took a calming breath, and then turned toward the stairs leading toward the basement. Once down, he looked around the place, counting everything that was his, and then muttered, “I need a car.” So said, he went out to go get Uncle Rory’s car that he had lent earlier in the year, and returned. He stuffed everything inside and drove his stuff to his apartment, then made a second run for the regeneration pod.

*****

When Xander landed in front of the cabin that night, he was greeted by Faith running out of the cabin and firing an energy ball at him. Xander squatted it aside with ease, much to Faith’s delight, and Xander asked, “What was that for?”

“To show you I can do it!” Faith exclaimed excitedly. Xander looked at her, narrowing his eyes. “Uh . . . sorry?”

“For what?” Xander asked her sternly. Faith looked down, how the hell he managed to generate such guilt inside her she didn’t know. “With great power comes great responsibility, Faith,” Xander told her, deeply disappointed, making Faith actually cringe back. “If you cannot handle the responsibility, then I’ll have to quit training you. Those blasts are deadly weapons, weapons of destruction, and potentially mass destruction, not toys, you do not fire them at anyone alive unless he’s evil and needs to be killed, or if you’re sparring with them and they know they can expect one.” Xander sighed deeply, pulled out the Iliad from his plastic bag, and tossed it to Faith. The Slayer caught it, and looked at it in confusion. “You would have killed someone less fast and powerful, Faith, go to your room. Stay there for the night, think over what I said, and read the book.”

“I don’t like reading books,” Faith said half angry, half annoyed.

“Read the book, now get,” Xander told her, and pointed in the house. Angry and annoyed Faith turned around and walked to her room where she plopped on the bed, looking at the cover of the thick book.

“Bastard,” she muttered tossing the book aside, and wondering what he would do if she decided to go back out. From wondering about that came back Xander’s words, and she did think over them. After a while, her head hurt from both the revelations she achieved thinking about things as the boredom and looked unconsciously down at the floor and the book. She stared at it for a minute, a minor war going on inside of her, and then she muttered, “Xander Harris, I hate you.” Then she reached over, picked up the book, and started reading it.

*****

The next morning Faith found a letter on the kitchen table. She read it. It said Xander was taking another quick trip to Sunnydale and would be back that afternoon. She sighed, completely not in the mood to train, she walked to her room and looked at the book, part of her wanting to know what happened next. “I really hate him,” she commented annoyed and went to pick the book off her night stand.

*****

As promised, Xander returned that afternoon with two plastic bags filled with something. Faith, sitting on the couch reading the book and more than halfway through it, looked as he walked to his bedroom and placed them there. He returned to the living room and let himself fall into the couch next to her.

“Phew,” he muttered, breathing hard. “Flying that long really takes a lot out of you, especially twice in a row.” Faith breathed in the fresh sweat and felt herself curl up inside taking in the muscles in Xander’s arms. “Like the book?” Xander asked with a smile.

“Uh, yeah, I do, strangely,” Faith said unable to keep the blush off her face. She hated that she had protested so much and now had to admit she liked it, worse was the hotness of the guy who was seemingly celibate from now on. *Shit, this is /not/ fair,* Faith thought to herself, tearing her eyes away from Xander’s arms.

“I didn’t have time to tell you last night with that stunt you pulled,” Xander began remembering what he had discussed with Joyce yesterday. “I talked with Joyce, Buffy’s mom, about her adopting you.”

“WHAT!?” Faith yelled out angrily, the book was instantly closed and on the table. “You did that behind my back!? I do not want to live with that bitch, and . . .”

“FAITH!!” Xander yelled, overpowering the Slayer, who now just glared at him. “If you say ‘no’ it won’t happen, she’s also investigating what to do if you want to emancipate yourself and other possibilities I might not know of. Would you please stop being so distrustful?”

Faith folded her arms over her chest, and said, “I will /not/ be adopted by that bitch, period. One night of, ‘Ooh, how nice you are, look at the nice decorations we did for Christmas too’, and then it’s gone.”

“Hardly any mother will check up upon every friend her daughter brings home, unless there are serious indications something is wrong, you know,” Xander told her gently. Faith looked away. “Suit yourself. I’m hungry, and thirsty,” Xander said getting up and walking to the kitchen. “Of course emancipating yourself means you have to get a job, doing your own laundry and such. You’re probably used to some of it, but it couldn’t hurt living in luxury for a change.” Xander reached the kitchen and opened the refrigerator picking out juice then getting a glass. As he filled the glass, Xander added, “I understand your reasons.” Faith looked over as Xander put the juice away, and took a sip from the glass, before continuing, “Buffy would be quite upset if you were her sister, I understand if you want to avoid such a clash . . .” Xander took another sip, and finished, “Especially if you decided to let Joyce change your family name, which I think is possible, ‘Hi, I’m Faith Summers.’ ‘She’s your sister?’ Buffy’d be completely pissed off, she might even go ballistic, absolutely something you should avoid. I agree, adoption is not an option.” Faith knew what he was doing, he was manipulating her plain and simple . . . and damn it, it was working. Pissing of B was a huge incentive, perhaps she shouldn’t dismiss the notion of adoption so quickly? Xander continued, “I’ll go call Joyce and tell her she shouldn’t get her hopes up, I don’t want her all excited at the possibilities and then crush hers if it’s not necessary.”

“No!” Faith said quickly. “I should check out the pros and cons first, I think. You know, think before you do impulsively that gets you in trouble? See, I’m learning.”

Xander looked at her, then smiled a knowing smile, and said, “Good that you’re learning.”

*I hate him,* Faith thought, picking the book back up. *I really hate him.* She gave a sigh before continuing to read.

*****

“A Slayer would kick Achilles’ ass,” Faith stated indignant the next day.

“No way, Faith,” Xander disagreed shaking his head. “The guy is invulnerable, can only be killed through his heel, and even if he wasn’t, he’s the best that was out there. He probably knew how to use chi to, no Slayer would stand a chance.”

Faith folded her arms across her chest in irritation, telling him, “I’ve had dreams, Xan, of previous Slayers, in those days they knew how to use chi as well. They’d kick his ass.”

“Which part of ‘he’s the best’, don’t you understand?” Xander asked her grinning.

“The best of men, he may have been,” Faith countered, pissed off, she had to defend the Slayer line’s honor after all, “but take in Slayers, and he gets his teeth handed to him all in one hand.”

“Sorry, Faith, but I’m not buying it, Achilles rules, it’s that simple,” Xander countered and sat down resolutely in the chair in the living room.

“Xander, you’re a chauvinistic pig. You’re just going to have to accept that Slayers are better than any man could ever hope to be,” Faith told him smugly. She stood in front of him with a superior smile.

Xander grinned at her and said, “Well, look at that. Faith ‘I don’t like books’ Williams discussing a book she read and obviously liked, and Faith ‘I was absent the decade of my education’ Williams using the word ‘chauvinistic’.”

Faith narrowed her eyes at Xander - there went that last argument. She groaned in frustration and dumped herself on the couch. “I hate you,” she said in frustration. Xander smiled at the sulking Slayer for a few more moments and went to his bedroom. He brought out the stuffed plastic bag and returned to Faith. He tossed the bag to Faith and gestured at it once she had it.

Faith pulled out what was in it, and looked astonished at the pile. “Spider-man comics?” Faith asked dryly. “Come on, Xan, books; fine, I get it. But comics?”

“Not just Spider-man, a few other choice comics are in there. Read them,” Xander ordered her. Just to be sure, Xander added, “That is not a request, you /will/ read them.” Faith looked at him, trying to determine if he was joking or not, and then he looked pointedly at her.

“Fine, fine,” Faith said irritated, “I’ll read them if it makes you happy.”

*****

Later that night she looked up at the ceiling, she had chosen the upper one of the bunk bed, and lay their thinking. Why should she have to do what Xander told her? Why shouldn’t she? What was it that made it she wanted to do as he said? Her traitorous mind supplied several answers: he’s hot, bad reason, but still, he’s the first guy to look beyond a quick romp in the sack, the first person to take an interest in /her/ and not her body, the first person to genuinely care for her and not expect anything in return, the first person who was a friend to her . . . and she wanted friends, she had so desperately wanted a real friend for so long, she’d fallen for many fakes - Xander wasn’t fake. Faith sighed, “Being a good girl really sucks sometimes.” She reached over to the comics and started with number one.

******

A week later Fait came out of her bed for breakfast contemplating things. She sat down at the table and slowly started eating sandwiches. Xander was sitting across from her, and she’d been complaining he hadn’t trained her anymore for the first several days. Xander still trained /with/ her to keep her at her present state, but he did not /train/ her anymore.

Finally she spoke up, “Those aren’t just pictures and a few choice words and nothing but action.” Xander looked up at her for a moment, and then nodded. Faith continued, “Please tell me you do not want me to turn into a second Peter Parker, he’s dreary and depressing.”

Xander grinned and said, “Do I look dreary and depressing to you?” Faith shook her head. “I don’t want you to be either,” Xander told her, and took a bit from his sandwich. Once swallowed he said, “Peter Parker has no balance. The dude had a trauma of failing to stop someone who then killed his uncle, while he easily could have stopped him, because he abused his powers, and didn’t use it for anyone but himself. Now he’s on an everlasting quest to save his uncle after all. To the point of letting his marriage break up, to the detriment of his own happiness and thus well being. I want you to find a balance, Faith. You can enjoy what you can do, there’s no reason why you can’t. And sometimes you can even be selfish, enjoy yourself and let people die because of it. Nobody can save everyone, sometimes you just have to make sure you’re happy and can recharge your batteries, so you don’t run out of steam in the middle of a rescue or fight and not only get the person you were trying to save, but also yourself killed, and thus everyone you could have saved if you were still alive after. If it isn’t physical exhaustion, it’s mental. If you’re not happy, if you’re constantly second guessing yourself, you might make that one mistake that gets you killed that you would have seen easily otherwise. Sometimes in order to be selfless, you have to be selfish.”

Faith looked down at her plate for a moment, and raised her right hand, charging a small chi ball. “This isn’t some nice cool thing, is it? Like you said, it isn’t a simple toy - it’s a responsibility,” Faith said and looked at Xander. He lightly smiled with her. “Do you trust me with it?”

“Now I do,” Xander said. He got up and left, returning a few seconds later. He offered Faith the two remaining books. Faith took them with a smile, and regarded first Dune which lay on top, and then the flimsy romance novel. She looked up at Xander in disbelief. He shrugged, and explained, “The other two are classics, and I didn’t really know what else you liked, so I thought I’d buy something that’s for girls, since you are a girl.”

Faith gave a wry smile, before completely over the top and sarcastically acted out, “Oh, you big, blond love-god you, I’m fainting. Please, catch me.” Faith twisted her voice into an approximation of a big, hunk of manly man and said, “Of course my sweet, I shill press my fiery lips to yours, and bring forth all the wicked desires society says you should suppress. Smack, smack, smooch. I shall love you tender, and love you deeply with all the passion in the universe, and bring you to peaks of pleasure.” Faith looked at Xander with a big smile, and he looked astonished at her. She threw the book at him, and he caught it dumbfounded, as she said, “What were you thinking, X? God, if you want to buy me something that entertains me that way, get some good hardcore porn stories, preferably with some gay male lovin’ in it.”

“Pictures?” Xander asked with big puppy dog eyes.

Faith laughed, and answered, “Please.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Xander told her, and then grinned wickedly. Faith looked uncertain, wondering what she had gotten herself into now.

*****

Some time later

“So,” Xander said looking at a studying Faith. Faith looked up. “Finals in a few days, aptitude tests for you, and the prom not long after that.” Faith looked at him, silently waiting for the punch line. “Well, seeing as there’s no other girl here, and there’s no other guy here, how about we go together? I’d like to see if ‘tough as nails’ Faith can pull off a dress.”

Faith sat up straight, and looked at him sourly, “Are you saying I’m not a woman? Are you saying I’m a skank?”

“No, but if that’ll get you to put on the dress to prove me wrong, I’ll add it to what I was saying,” Xander answered with a twinkle in his eyes.

Faith actually growled, and told him, “Prepare to be dazzled, buster. I can pull anything off that I damn well want to!”

Xander chuckled, and threw something, saying, “Twinkie?”

Faith snatched the candy out of the air. Glowering at Xander she unwrapped it, and gobbled it down.

*****

Sunnydale High

Finals started today. Xander and Faith had arrived back in Sunnydale the day before, and took up roots in Xander’s new apartment. The two of them were walking on the school grounds, and suddenly there was a squeal.

Xander and Faith looked to their left in astonishment, and before they knew it a red whirlwind burst at them. Willow wrapped herself around Faith, and babbled, “I’msosorryforthewayItreatedyou,Faith. ThehorrorsI’veputyoutrhough,thepain,alltheabuse. Canyouforgiveme,sweetinnocentfifteen-year-old?”

“Uh?” Faith managed.

Oz managed to casually saunter into Faith’s and Xander’s fields of vision, and remarked, “What she said.”

“What /did/ she say?” Faith managed with a now inaudibly babbling, and sobbing Willow still wrapped around her neck.

Xander grinned, and with a gesture to go ahead from Oz, he translated, “She’s sorry for the way she treated you, and whether the sweet innocent fifteen-year-old would be so kind to forgive her.”

“Red, I’ll forgive you, just give me back the function of my neck, will ya? And I’m not innocent, or sweet,” Faith told the apprentice witch with dread.

“Oh, sorry,” Willow quickly unwrapped herself, and looked with large, puppy-dog eyes at Faith. “I’m so sorry,” she said again.

“Yeah, yeah, fine,” Faith said, making shooing gestures at the insane witch.

“Sweety,” Oz said, and slowly pulled Willow out of Faith’s path, “a little less.” Willow nodded as she let herself be wrapped into her boyfriend’s one-armed embrace.

The group walked toward the school slowly, and Xander asked, “Where’s Buffy?”

“Oh, already sitting on a bench in front of the classroom no doubt,” Willow said enthusiastically, nodded her head happily. “Trying to cram that last little bit of knowledge in that brain of hers. I try to tell her she should study /before/ finals, but you know how she is, always thinks she can get something done in the last minute. She’s more liable to kick whatever is in there /now/ back out.”

“I’m going to ace these tests,” Faith said resolutely, making the others look at her. “Buffy’s going to be so jealous.”

“Buffy’s actually pretty smart . . . according to her SATs,” Willow defended her friend, making the others look at her. She pouted, and added, “Ok, she isn’t the brightest, but still . . .”

“Well, coloring a square isn’t so difficult to do,” Xander commented with a grin, making the others laugh, even Willow.

*****

Later at lunch they were all present in the library as Xander entered. “So, how’s the big bad front?” he asked looking around the room.

Willow swallowed, and Xander took an involuntary step back at Buffy’s smouldering look. “That bastard Trick,” the blonde Slayer hissed out, “damn coward, always has a huge wall of demons and vampires in between him and me. He just keeps slipping through my fingers. Just give me a boxing ring and nothing in between him and me, and I’ll tear his black skin off his flesh before dumping him in a vat of holy water, then I’ll dust him!”

“African-American skin,” Willow commented. Everyone looked over to her. She added, “we horribly abused them, enslaved them, linked chains around them and stuffed them away . . . please forgive us, Faith.” Faith shrank back, almost in fear, she really hoped the redhead wouldn’t wrap herself around her a third time. When Buffy and Giles and Wesley rather profoundly apologized the redhead hadn’t been able to control herself a second time - Faith was starting to think Willow was starting to like hugging her a bit /too/ much.

Giles actually groaned, saying, “Bloody- . . . would you please cease and desist with the whole ‘we were horrible to Faith,’ Willow. We know it already, we all apologized, in the end nothing catastrophic came from it. All’s well that ends well and all that.”

“Yes,” Wesley’s even more cultured voice filtered in. “Let us focus on the task at hand, hopefully with the return of Faith and Xander we stand a better chance.” Wesley gave a suspicious look at Xander.

Xander reached a chair and sat down in it relaxedly, saying, “I hate to agree with Captain Stiff-upper-lip over there, but he has a point.” Wesley glared at him.

“We know the bastard is invulnerable until around graduation,” Buffy explained the situation to the two who had been missing. “We know he’s planning something that is called an ‘Ascension’. Which means he’s going to turn into a pure demon, whatever that means, like I haven’t slayed enough demons already. We got that from some of the pages of the ‘Books of Ascension’ we bought from that demon. The Mayor got his hands on this ‘Box of Gavrok’, which we managed to liberate, but had to trade back because they managed to take Oz hostage. Problem is, we don’t know what demon the Mayor is going to turn into. This Box of Gavrok is used for a lot of different ones. And it still doesn’t make sense why the Mayor would trade invulnerability for whatever demony thing he’s going to turn into.”

“Religious fanatics,” Oz commented and pointed at his head.

“It would be nice to know what he’s going to turn into,” Faith said and then looked at Xander. “Not that I’m too worried we can’t handle whatever it is.” The group looked around, and stayed silent. They sat there for a few more seconds.

Buffy got up first, saying, “All right, I’m out of here - I still have to cram for this afternoon’s test.”

*****

Summers residence

Xander was sitting in the living room waiting, while Faith and Joyce were discussing the final choice for Faith. There had really been only one choice: adoption. Joyce was excited about the prospect, after getting to know the girl in phone calls in the past few weeks, and now in the flesh, getting to know a few pieces of information on the girl’s youth - horrible to consider it in the past tense when she wasn’t even sixteen yet. She’d be proud to call this girl ‘daughter’, and more proud to raise her in these last years toward the light, not further into darkness.

Joyce was filled with pride and joy when not only did Faith accept her offer to be a real ‘Summers-girl’ but that she practically suggested it herself. She was also very curious about what Buffy’s reaction would be, seeing as she was bound to Faith’s protection she hadn’t yet found it appropriate to tell her other daughter.

“So, about Xander,” Joyce decided to approach the other subject. She knew the age difference, she also knew how good he would be for her, and it would smoothly pre-empt any and all possibilities of a 17-240 age difference. “He’s nice, isn’t he?”

“Nice?” Faith asked, looking at the blonde woman with a smile. She had talked to Buffy’s mom over the phone some, and now in real life she was even more impressed by her. Joyce Summers was caring, Faith could feel it coming off her in waves. She was a mother, a real, honest to god, loving mother, and her motherhen protectiveness was obvious. Faith was certain the woman even felt motherly toward Xander. “Nah, he’s fantastic, a great friend, caring . . . truthful,” Faith said.

“And hot,” Joyce said, a twinkle in her eye and then looking into the living room dreamily.

“J- Mom,” Faith said with an admonishing tone, smiling at her first use of ‘mom’ in regard to Joyce.

Joyce turned back to look at Faith, and said, “Hey, I may be a little older than you, and have had a child, but that doesn’t mean I’m dead. I do have eyes in my head, and don’t forget what I had to do to get that child. I’m still a woman, and Alexander is one hell of a young man.”

Faith blushed when she thought about Xander that way, and Joyce. Not of embarrassment, but simple heat. “Isn’t he a little young for you?” Faith asked, not knowing why she’d like to keep Joyce eyes off of Xander. Well, she did know, but she would have to acknowledge things about how she felt, of which she knew Xander would never reciprocate.

Joyce looked at her with amusement, “Me and him would be one hundred percent legal, unlike you and him.” Faith blinked at that, and hated that Joyce was right. Why couldn’t she be at the age she had pretended to be? Joyce put a hand on Faith’s knee, and said conspiratorially, “Then again, I did some research on the subject, it seems the only reason the Californian government started the rule of eighteen, was because the cost of single teenage mothers is too high - so if you were /not/ to be single, you’re on the pill and Xander on the condom, you’re more experienced than him, and your legal guardian has given her blessing, it’s going to be hard pressed for a district attorney to get Xander thrown in jail.”

Faith smiled, then frowned, and asked, “Why would you put in research on the subject? You don’t have interest in a-. . .”

Joyce looked at Faith incredulously, and then said, “No, Xander confessed to me he’s got feelings for you.”

The blood drained from Faith’s face, her eyes misted up, then she got angry. “So, he’s wants me in the sack after all, just long term,” she growled out.

“Don’t be stupid, Faith,” Joyce told the girl sternly, and Faith looked at her. “I know how smart you are, and stupid doesn’t become you.” Faith looked at her uncomprehending. “Think about it, Faith. Do you really think Xander would do that?” Joyce asked still sternly. Faith turned her eyes away. “Look at me,” Joyce ordered and Faith looked back. “You know as well as I do, he wouldn’t do that. He said, and I quote as best as I can remember, ‘She’s not for me. I’ll guard her, heal her, and protect her. With her trust issues that means I can’t make a move. I’ll watch her fall in love with a great guy someday, who I’ll loath at first. She’ll marry him and have kids. If I’m lucky I’ll meet someone only half as fantastic as Faith is.’”

Tears welled up in Faith’s eyes, as she said, “He . . . would do that for me?”

“For all of them, for all his friends. He already did it for Buffy, although I wish he had dusted that bastard. He’s just that good of a guy, loyal to a fault,” Joyce told Faith her eyes equally misting up, Faith’s emotions getting to her, they were so raw.

Faith looked over toward the living room, where Xander was zapping away at the tv, and felt emotions well up she hadn’t often felt before. She looked back at Joyce, and the woman decided to give what she obviously needed but would never do herself. The blonde got up from her stool, and then pulled Faith from hers and into an embrace. Faith happily embraced her soon to be mother, and muttered, “God, you people turned me into a wimp.”

*****

In the meantime Buffy had gotten home through the front door. She dropped her bag and sighed as she took off her coat. She then walked into the living room, and found Xander. “Xander,” she pouted, “when are you going to teach me how to fly?”

Xander turned to regard, and said, “Not at all with that attitude. This isn’t a toy, Buffy.”

“I know, I’ve had power for years, and the burden of the world on my shoulders, Xander,” Buffy told him bitterly. “Flying just seems like . . . freedom, and so much fun.”

“It is,” Xander answered with a smile. “All right, after I get back from my road trip, too little time in between now and graduation.”

“You’re still going on the road trip?” Faith asked when she and Joyce entered the living room.

“Yeah, you can come with if you want,” Xander suggested, smiling.

“Five by five,” Faith answered with a smile, while Buffy looked suspiciously at her mother and Faith. Her mother’s hand was lying on Faith’s shoulder.

“Buffy,” Joyce started smiling. “I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I’d like you to meet your new sister Faith Williams, soon to be Faith Summers. I’m going to adopt her.”

Buffy’s jaw dropped, and looked at her mother and Faith in disbelief. Faith instantly sported a giant smile, it was better than her imagination. “WHAT!?!?!” Buffy suddenly screamed out in horrified disbelief.

“Yeah, B. Sisters, you and me,” Faith said and offered her hand.

Buffy squatted the hand away, and said, “Never. I like you and all, but sisters!? No way. Don’t you love me anymore, mom?”

Xander laughed out loud, and said, “You two are going to hit it off so well, you’re like two peas in a pod.”

Buffy glared at him, folding her arms across her chest, and asked him, “Do I look like a slut who jumps into bed with every guy she sees?”

“Hey, you could do with some nice one night stands,” Faith defended herself, narrowing her eyes at the blonde, “just loosen up, and have some fun, get some taste for a living, breathing, warm-bodied guy with a pulse.”

Buffy was fuming, and ready to let out a tirade, when Joyce authoratively interceded, saying, “Now girls, you’re sisters, play nice.”

“Yes, mom,” both Slayers answered, and with a satisfied nod Joyce left to go to the kitchen and make diner. Buffy glared at Faith for having the audacity to call Joyce ‘mom’, and Faith glared right back. Xander laughed out loud, louder even then before, and got up. He went to the exit, laughing all the way, shaking his head. Both Slayers had stopped their glaring and looked from Xander to the other and back again with an astonished look.

*****

Xander and Faith were in his apartment. Apart from toothbrush and the like, all of Faith’s stuff was packed to take over to the Summers’ home the next day. Xander sat on his couch, looking at his tv, zapping away. Suddenly Faith landed in his lap, wearing nothing but flimsy white panties and a matching top that stopped just above her belly button. Without giving Xander a chance to protest she pressed her lips to his, and started a heated French kiss.

Xander pushed her away from him, and looked at her, a mixture of arousal, guilt and disappointment. It didn’t help that Faith was undulating her crotch against his rapidly stiffening penis, and that she was giving him the smile of a hungry predator - one hungry for sex. “We’ve been over this Faith, it’s nice you’re grateful and all- . . .”

“I’m grateful,” Faith confirmed, interrupting him, the smile growing in intensity. Xander gulped as Faith continued, “But this isn’t out of thanks, Xand, I need you, I want you. You’re hot, and I’ve been falling drop dead in love with you, but I thought you didn’t want me.”

“You’re not- . . .” Xander started dumfounded.

“ . . . for you? Yeah, I heard,” Faith said, continuing her grinding, “you were going to watch me fall in love with another guy. All great outcomes, Boy Toy, but you know what? I’ve got something much better in mind, and Fate is just going to have to deal.” Faith dipped forward again, Xander’s arms having lost most of the determination, and she resumed the kiss, then let her hands roam across Xander’s sadly still clothed body. She pulled back, and looked at the defeated face of Xander Harris. “You’re hot, your loyal, your sweet, your lovable, your tough, did I mention hot? If I didn’t want you, Xander, I’d be insane, or a lesbian.”

“I love you too,” Xander sat hotly, and then pulled her back into the wild, passionate kiss. Faith eagerly helped him along a bit too much, and the entire couch tipped over backward. The two exclaimed in surprise and pain as they crashed to the floor, then laughed. Instantly Xander picked up Faith and threw her over his shoulder, then marched her off to the bedroom. Faith laughed and made an ‘oof’ sound when she was unceremoniously dropped on the bed.

“Mmh,” Faith purred and opened the drawer of the night stand. She pulled out the condoms she had bought earlier in preparation, and threw the packet to Xander who caught it. “Hurry up,” Faith told him huskily. Xander’s grin deepened.

*****

Xander walked across school grounds with a big grin on his face. He just couldn’t keep it off: Faith was his girlfriend. This time he had not been thrown out, this time, and the nights she spent at his apartment afterward, when she decided not to sleep in her new house and new bed he woke up with her snuggling against him, which had obviously come as a surprise to Faith as well. Life was good.

“Hey, Xander!” a girl’s voice sounded, and Xander looked back watching Anya come to him.

“Hey, Anya, demon smiter of men, how is that going by the way?” Xander asked her sarcastically, Anya falling in step.

“I’ll get my powers back it’s only a matter of time, then I’ll bring down righteous retribution upon the evil that is the male species again,” Anya told him slightly uncertain.

“Yeah, good luck with that. Uh, why are you talking to me again?” Xander asked her.

“I don’t have a date for the prom,” Anya stated, hugging a small pile of books to her chest.

“Let me say, huh?”

Anya fidgeted for a moment, and then said, “You’re not quite as obnoxious as the other alpha males, and well, I know you don’t have a date yet.”

“First of all, I /do/ have a date,” Xander replied, making Anya look disappointed. “Second of all, what happened to ‘men are evil’?”

“This is all your fault,” Anya accused him as they entered the school building, “if you hadn’t cheated on Cordelia I wouldn’t have showed up in the disguise of a twelfth grader. When I lost my powers I got stuck in it. Now I have all these feelings and emotions and I don’t know what they mean. All I know is there is this dance and really want to go there with someone.”

Xander was getting annoyed and told her, “Perhaps you should work on your sales pitch. ‘Men are evil, I’d like to dismember you after drowning you in acid, go to the prom with me,’ just doesn’t work. Perhaps you should try sticking out your chest, and say, ‘You’re hot, go to the prom with me.’ Look there’s Jonathan, he doesn’t have a date yet, try it out on him.”

“You think I should? He’s awfully short,” Anya replied dubiously. Xander narrowed his eyes at her, and she jerked back once he looked up at him. “Ok, ok.” Xander sighed as Anya walked over to Jonathan. She removed the books, pushed out her chest and pinned him to the lockers. “Hi, you’re hot, wanna go to the prom with me?”

Jonathan stuttered several unintelligible syllables, before managing to stammer, “S-s-sure.” Anya grinned broadly at him, and then walked back to Xander. Jonathan tried to ask her something but she was already gone.

“It worked,” she said proudly to her sensei.

Xander shook his head at the floor and said, “God, are you stupid, obviously.” Anya looked hurt. Xander turned to her, and said, “I can’t believe you didn’t discuss when and where he can pick you up.”

“Oh, right,” Anya answered perturbed.

“You know, just once you’d like to get a memo, ‘Hey, I know I planned this Ascension right smack on graduation day, but I noticed I mixed a few numbers up, it’s the day after,’” Xander muttered, and then became aware of Anya staring at him. He looked at her, and saw how white she had become.

“Did you just say ‘Ascension’?” Anya asked in fear.

*****

Somewhere else in Sunnydale

Later that day

Faith walked along the pavement, and looked into the window sill of a dress shop. She let her eyes glide across the display, and thought she might find something here. Then she recognized Cordelia looking at a dress that hung out on a rack within the shop. Faith grinned, if Cordelia shopped here, they had to have the best of the best, and that’s exactly what she wanted. She held the credit card that Xander had leant her - wrapped in his written authorization - tightly inside her right pants pocket and entered the shop.

“So, Cordelia,” Faith sat, and noticed how Cordelia jumped up and turned around rapidly. Faith shrugged it off, and finished, “burning a hole in your daddy’s wallet?”

“Yeah, you know me,” Cordelia said trying to get rid of the Boston Slayer. “What are you doing here?”

Faith held up the credit card - folding open the letter - briefly, and said with a smile, “Burning a hole in Xander’s wallet.” Cordelia’s eyes bugged out. “I heard you refuse to speak with my boyfriend, I find that behavior very bad.” Faith let her eyes go over Cordelia’s body, and watched her cover something up with the collar of her blouse. “Why do you have a name tag?”

“Uh . . .”

“Cordelia, is this a customer?” a new voice asked and a sales woman who was obviously above Cordelia in rank appeared from behind.

Things clicked for Faith instantly, and she said with an evil grin, “Yes, I’m a customer, and Cordelia here is not helping me fast enough.”

Cordelia glared trying to recover herself somehow. The woman said, “Miss, I could take over for her.”

“No!” Faith said, grinning, “I want her to help me out.” Cordelia’s glare grew, but where it turned men to a puddle, it bounced off of Faith’s thick hide without leaving a scratch.

“Of course, Miss,” the manager slash sales person said and left the two girls alone.

Faith looked at Cordelia, waiting for an explanation, and Cordelia answered imperiously, “My father had a little run in with the IRS after he made a little mistake on his taxes . . . twelve years long. I’m broke, happy? You can go tell everyone that Cordelia Chase is broke and is working to pay for a dress for the prom on layaway.”

“Not happy,” Faith said widely grinning. She had noticed how much Xander suffered under the fact that Cordelia refused to even acknowledge his existence, time for payback. “But I will be, after may boyfriend’s ex helps me pick out a dress that will blow her ex-boyfriend away. I want him completely, utterly, and totally dazzled, and you better not doublecross me by choosing the wrong one dress for me, Cordelia. I’ll show him suggesting I can’t pull off a dress.” Cordelia glared once again, with even greater intensity this time.

Forty-five minutes and a picked out dress later, a smiling Faith put the credit card away and picked up the large box in which the delicate dress awaited to be worn. Cordelia stood close by, annoyed, sad, and generally miserable.

With a growl and a crash a dog-like beast came through the window. The Hellhound, for that’s what it was, aimed at the sales manager and a customer she was helping. Cordelia shrieked in fright, Faith looked at the big box she was holding, and realized she couldn’t attack the thing until after she put it back gently unless she attacked the thing with just her feet, and seeing as the hound was already dangerously close to the customer and the sales manager, that was the only option. “Shit!” Faith cursed as she ran forward, lifting the box in both hands above her head. “If this ruins the dress, /somebody/ is going /really/ pay.” She reached the hound and put a vicious kick in its back. The hound howled out in pain and turned to look at her. Faith backed up, looking around at how to keep the hell dog off her, or a place to safely put the dress. “Good, doggy,” she soothed. The hound was about to jump at her when it caught something out of the corner of its eye and it turned to look at a guy wearing a tux. It growled hard suddenly and attacked the guy. “Hey! I’m right here!” Faith called out in protest and then she ran after the Hellhound, thinking, *Xander should have taught me how to fire chi balls from my feet!* Talons shred skin easily, though, and in less then a second the guy was more than bleeding to death. Just as Faith was about to hit the dog again, it suddenly looked around and then ran out, thus avoiding Faith’s kick. Faith turned around to watch the dog disappear through the window from which it came, and then looked down at the bleeding boy, who gave two final coughs and died. “No,” Faith whispered, trembling.

*****

Xander lead Anya into the library by her left arm. She shook it loose, as he said, “Hey, guys!” Wesley, Willow and Oz, Buffy from the stairs and Giles looked up. “Meet the only living person to have been /at/ an Ascension.” Everyone got up suddenly and looked at Anya, who became nervous at the attention.

A few moments later Anya was seated at the table, and everyone was standing or sitting around her. “All right,” Giles was the one to speak up. “We know the Ascension involves a human being becoming a pure demon. We learned that from these books of Ascension, but we don’t know which demon the Mayor is going to turn into, although we can narrow it down to twenty that are mentioned in them that require similar ingredients and rituals.” Giles showed Anya the rituals and ingredients they knew the Mayor had used.

“Sorry, I don’t recognize them,” Anya told them quickly. “The only thing I can tell you, is that after tonight’s prom I’m out of this town. The Ascension . . .” Anya shook her head, and restarted. “Eight hundred years ago in the valleys of the Urals there was a sorcerer there who achieved ascension. I was there cursing a shepherd who had been unfaithful to his wife, she wished all his . . .”

“Focus,” Xander interrupted from his position leaning back in the chair.

Anya looked up at him for a moment, and then returned to her tale, “Lohesh was . . . it decimated the village within hours. I’ve seen some horrible things in my time, a lot of it was done by me, but . . . I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“Uh, excuse me,” Wesley spoke up, and came from behind the counter. “Lohesh is a four-winged soul killer, is it not? I was given to understand they are not that fierce, and in fact of all the demons . . .”

“You’ve never seen a demon,” Anya interrupted him.

Everyone looked odd at that, even Buffy still sitting on the stairs. “Uh, excuse me?” Willow squeaked out. “We’ve been kicking their butts for almost three years now.”

Anya shook her head. “All the demons that walk the Earth, that you’ve face are hybrids, part human, like Vampires. This will be a pure demon, they are different.”

“How different?” Xander asked with a frown.

“For one thing, they’re bigger,” Anya said looking up at them, hoping she could get them to understand they didn’t stand a chance.

As Anya explained more about pure demons, Xander leant over to Willow, and whispered, “What’s with droop face?”

“Oh!” Willow exclaimed in a whisper. “Uh, Angel broke up with her.”

“Oh, /Oh/ that’s great!” Xander said out loud. Everyone looked at him. “Nothing, private conversation, return to you regularly scheduled program of demon mayhem and death.” They did, and Willow gave him a glare. Xander glared right back, and she sighed, nodding.

The library doors swung open, and Faith with Cordelia in tow entered. She was holding the box with her dress still, while Cordelia held a video tape. “We’ve got a problem,” the Slayer stated resolutely, completely in control. “Pop it in, Cordelia,” she ordered. Cordelia gave the slayer a snide look, but took the tape over to the tv and vcr and pushed the tape inside. She also grabbed the remote and after turning the tv and vcr on, she played the tape. Everyone looked, Faith put her dress gently on the table. Buffy remained seated on the stairs and looked over.

Cordelia half-tossed the remote to Xander, but didn’t even give him a look. The tape had already been rewound to the right position, and everyone watched as the Hellhound tore into the shop, Faith’s first intervention, and then tore apart the guy in the tux. Xander gently turned his head to look at Faith, she was poised perfectly, all business, but he knew her better, he saw the signs; Faith was deeply burdened. He would talk to her later, as he rewound the tape, and everyone watched again.

Cordelia said, “Look at that, that thing’s got a sense of style. It left the skank alone, and went straight for the formal wear.”

“Cordelia,” Giles admonished.

“What? I’m right, just look at it,” she defended herself.

“It was odd,” Faith added, and Xander heard the quiver in her voice. “It was ready to attack me, and then suddenly it just turned around and attacked the guy.”

“I think we’ve seen enough,” Oz commented after the second time. Xander paused the tape.

“Quite, I do believe that’s a Hellhound,” Wesley stated.

“Yes,” Giles confirmed. “A Hellhound is foot soldier raised during the Makesh wars. It has limited intelligence, all brawn, no brain, particularly vicious.”

“So someone’s raising Hellhounds,” Faith commented, folding her arms across her chest angrily.

“Run that back a bit,” Cordelia said, and Xander did. “Here, zoom in.”

“It can’t zoom in,” Xander told her bitterly.

Cordelia folded her arms across her chest imperiously, and said, “They do it all the time on tv.”

“/Not/ with a normal vcr they don’t,” Xander bit back and paused the vcr where his ex had told him to. On the screen it showed the broken window and a guy holding what seemed like a remote. “Well, /hello/, /hellhound/ raiser,” Xander said with an angry look.

A few minutes later Oz had found the offender in one of Sunnydale High’s yearbooks. Oz patted the picture and said, “Tucker Wells.”

“Let me guess,” Wesley said with annoyance at the offender. “He was well-adjusted and he seemed like a good kid.”

“He didn’t look like the Hellhound raising type, at least,” Oz answered coolly.

Willow piped up, “I hacked into Tucker’s e-mail account. Listen to this one he sent do this David Kobb, ‘The sheep of Sunnydale High have no idea what’s coming for them. They won’t survive their biggest night’.”

“A prom, one disgruntled student, and a Hellhound trained to attack people in formal wear,” Giles clarified uselessly.

“Oh, catching on now, are we?” Cordelia bit at him in irritation.

“And once again the Hellmouth puts the ‘special’ in ‘special occasion’,” Oz stated bitterly.

Xander slammed a few books on the table in irritation, saying, “Great, we’ll be busy slaying Hellhounds all night, and trying the find the little bastard and his puppies. Why do I even bother getting tickets to these things?”

Willow than forlornly said, “I wonder if I can get a refund on the dress . . .”

“Don’t you dare!” Buffy interrupted suddenly and came down the stairs, suddenly determined. Everyone looked at the Slayer who had remained mostly quiet till now.

“Butt, Buffy, Tucker is gonna . . .” Willow tried.

“No!” Buffy stated resolutely. “You guys are going to that dance tonight, and you’re going to have a fantastic time. I’m going to make sure that alien or not, werewolf or not, Slayer or not, you will all have one normal, ordinary, perfectly happy occasion even if I have to kill every living being on the planet to do it!”

They looked at her, and Xander said sarcastically, “Uh, yay?”

“Wesley,” Buffy said taking charge. “You go check out Tucker’s home, he’s probably not there, but it’s worth a shot.”

Wesley looked somewhat shocked at Buffy, and then said, “I believe there is this theory about strength in numbers . . .”

“You can take Cordy along,” Buffy told him rapidly.

“Hey, I hate his guts almost as much as I hate Xander!” Cordy protested, Buffy glared at her. “Fine!” she said and followed Wesley out the door.

Buffy turned to Oz and Willow, and ordered, “Oz, Willow, you go check out this David Kobb, and see if he’s in on it somehow, or knows something!”

“Ok,” Willow answered, and Oz nodded. They got up and went toward the exit.

“Remember,” Buffy told them on their way out. “Not too long, you still need time to put on your dress and makeup!” Willow nodded and she and her boyfriend went out the door.

“All right, Xander, Faith,” Buffy went onward, and the dark Slayer picked up her dress in the box gently and walked over to her boyfriend. “Someone needs to check out the Magic Box, see if anyone bought Hellhound raising ingredients, and if they know where they live.”

“Ok,” Xander started to take a step and then looked at Faith and blinked.

Faith turned her head toward Giles and asked, “What /are/ Hellhound raising ingredients?”

“I’ll write it down from the book,” Giles said pulling a book free and got a pen and paper.

Xander got an idea, and said, “Giles, what do they eat?”

“Brains,” Giles answered automatically.

“Any brains?” Buffy latched on, giving Xander a smile. Giles looked up, giving the paper to Xander and Faith, who went out the door then.

“I suppose so,” Giles replied.

Buffy grinned, saying, “He’ll need to get his brains from somewhere. I’ll go investigate butcher shops and the like!” Giles nodded, and then Buffy turned and went out the door herself.

*****

Outside in the empty hallway Xander and Faith were walking, and Xander prompted, “So, wanna tell me what’s bothering you? Or should I take an educated guess?”

Faith stopped walking and she looked down at the box with her dress, trembling, a few tears of guilt leaving her eyes. “I could have saved him, I failed to save him, Xan,” Faith muttered, sadness, and anger at herself quickly taking over. “Because I kept a hold of this box, with the stupid dress! I was selfish, I should have just tossed it aside!” Enraged, Faith grabbed the box on either end and prepared to tear it and the dress inside to pieces, but two strong hands grabbed Faith’s, and the dark-haired slayer looked aside astonished, directly into the face of her blonde counterpart.

“It’s not your fault, Faith,” Buffy said, her expressive eyes boring deep into Faith’s soul. For a moment she looked up at Xander and smiled reassuring at him. She returned to Faith instantly, removing her right hand and slinging it around Faith’s waist and said, “I’ve screwed up too, I’ve screwed up a whole lot worse in fact. I saw the tape, Faith. You had it under control, you had it turn to you and leave any of the ones we’re charged to protect alone. I’ll bet with whatever Xander’s been teaching you . . .” Buffy gave Xander a glare saying ‘I expect training’, before continuing, “. . . you could have killed the thing with just your feet. There was no way for you to know it was trained to attack people wearing formal wear, no way for you to know the guy wearing the tux would come out of the dresser at that moment, and no way for you to know the demon would turn away from you to kill him. Okay?” Faith gave a nod, and sniffed slightly. “And trust me, Faith, my reasons for screwing up were a whole lot less clear cut, so don’t punish yourself uselessly. You go give me whatever information you find at the Magic Box, then go home, put on the dress and wait for Xander to come pick you up for a fantastic dance night with your boyfriend.” Buffy looked up and Xander and give him a warm smile, then she finished a determined tone, “I’ll handle the creep and his puppies.”

Buffy then took a step forward and placed her hand on Xander’s shoulder, and nodded at him, smiling. Then her face went determined and again, and she said, “I’ve got some meat markets to check out. See you later.” Then she was off.

Faith was looking after Buffy as she got herself back under control, then she looked up at a smiling Xander. “Damn, I never thought B could be so cool when she’s determined to stop evil and takes her head out of the sand,” Faith told her extra-terrestrial boyfriend.

Xander smiled than laughed out loud, wrapping his arm around her waist and walking toward the exit of the school. “Yeah,” Xander said with a wistful smile, “she can be pretty fantastic when she wants to be - sadly she has quite some difficulty with taking her head out of the sand.”

“Perhaps I should ease up on the teasing a little,” Faith wondered out loud.

After a few moments Xander and Faith looked at each other, and they both said, “Nah.”

As they were on the way, Faith suddenly remembered something, and said, “You’re going to love this, Xan. Cordelia is broke! The IRS took everything away, she even has to work at that clothes store to pay for her dress tonight. And she’ll never make it.” Faith looked up at Xander who stopped his walking.

He looked at the smiling Faith, and he said, “Is that true?”

Faith nodded enthusiastically, “Yep, some justice in the world. She shuns you for being different, the IRS takes away her money.”

“All right then, let’s take a trip past the store, and buy the dress for her,” Xander said with a smile. “Lead the way, Faith.”

“But- but, why?” Faith asked incredulous. “She’s treating you worse than shit!”

Xander walked onward, jerking Faith along, and said, “Yep, she’s not talking to me because I lied to her, so much worse than getting strangled because I tried to help.”

Faith took a slower step, Xander looked at her, and he saw a flicker of guilt, “Oh, yeah . . . this being a hero stuff doesn’t include pettiness, huh?” Xander smiled and shook his head.

*****

Xander rung the bell to the Summers’ house, and he was in full tux regalia. The door opened revealing Joyce. “Ah, Xander, come on in,” she told him, and he did. “Now without further ado, Faith Summers.” Joyce gestured to his left to the living room, and he turned to look. His jaw dropped, and he blinked several times. Faith smiled at him, wearing a beautiful red, gleaming gown. It was very low and widely cut, offering up the sides of her breasts. Her hair hung loosely around her neck, not strait, but having gentle waves in them, something Joyce obviously helped with. Her make up had lighter colors than usual, bringing out her hazel eyes and smooth cheeks, her lips were a ruby red, a color called ‘Harlot’ - but Xander didn’t know that, or cared for. The dress hugged her hips and hung slightly apart from her legs, accentuating her waist, and below she wore high heels.

“Wow,” Xander muttered dumbfounded. “If I hadn’t seen you naked, I would say this is the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.”

“Xander,” Joyce admonished sternly as Faith’s face lit up. The Saiyan was made to look at Faith’s new mother, and he gave her a nervous smile. “Somewhat less crude would melt a woman’s heart much better,” Joyce told him sternly, but smiling.

“Did I say that out loud?” Xander said blushing.

Faith swayed over to Xander and embracing him around his neck she said, “I can’t pull off a dress, huh?”

“Well . . . I knew you would be able to, I just had to get you to put one on,” Xander answered and Faith narrowed her eyes at him.

“Ok, picture time!” Joyce exclaimed enthusiastically.

“Oh, god, mom,” Faith pleaded.

“No buts,” Joyce warned and gestured for the two to go stand next to one another. Xander slung his arm around Faith’s back, and the Slayer leaned close. They both smiled and Joyce snapped off the picture. Joyce looked at the camera, and said perturbed, “I wish I could photograph Buffy. Where is she anyway?”

“Out killing Hellhounds, a creep trained them to attack the prom,” Faith explained to Joyce.

“On her prom?” Joyce asked deeply saddened, and sympathetic.

“Yeah, no rest for the senior Slayer, it seems,” Xander told Joyce sadly.

Joyce perked up a bit as Xander and Faith went to the exit. “Remember,” Joyce started, seemingly all business. “Curfew is ten o’clock, bring her back a minute later and I’ll call the cops.”

Xander looked at Joyce in disbelief, and Faith said sweetly, “Yeah, Xander, no staying over tonight, and no sex, ten o’clock right back here: after all, I can pull off a dress, you don’t.”

“You aren’t serious, are you?” Xander whined.

Joyce grinned widely as she pushed the two gently out the door, saying, “I don’t know, Xander, only Faith owns the key to her heart, you’ll have to figure out how to get it.”

Then the door closed and Faith nodded her ascent at him, beaming. Then she frowned, and said, “Key to my heart? I know what’s going on! There’s a conspiracy to really turn me into a wimp, right!?”

“Of course, wimpy Faith is the only one to love,” Xander joked, and led her to his uncle Rory’s car. “Oh, damn!” Xander suddenly exclaimed and turned to Faith, who looked at him strangely. “Here’s proof just how beautiful you are, Sugar Babe.” Xander pulled out the corsage he bought, and gave it to her. “You fried my mind so much, I completely forgot.” Faith’s face lit up at the compliment, and the heat in Xander’s eyes and tone.

“Half the key already, Boy Toy,” she told him with a sizzling look and a husky tone.

*****

The two arrived at the prom in the gym, and entered. Several students looked over, and some of their eyes widened in appreciation at the vision that was Faith Summers - officially still Williams, but the paperwork was already being processed. Xander smiled at her, and Faith managed a smile back as he led her over to their friends. Before they reached them though, a very becoming Cordelia in a beautiful dress intercepted them. “Hi,” Cordelia said looking from Faith to Xander. “Uhm, thank you for the dress, and . . .” Risking an attack from a jealous Slayer the high school queen bent forward and gave an astonished Xander a kiss on his cheek, “. . . I’m sorry for being such a bitch, and you’re forgiven.” Then Cordelia turned to a half-scowling, half-smiling Faith, and said, “Thank you for not blabbing to everyone.” They stayed there in an uncomfortable silence, before Cordelia quickly and very unsmoothly excused herself and left to go see if she could ask someone for a dance. She didn’t really care if it was someone unpopular, she realized, as long it was someone nice.

Xander and Faith reached Willow and Oz a few moments later, and Xander asked, “Buffster not back yet, is she?”

Willow shook her head, and asked, “Do you think she . . . uh, will pull it off?”

“If not, Boy Toy and me are here,” Faith said smiling.

“Boy . . . Toy?” Willow asked incredulously.

Xander grinned at her, and said, “Well, ‘Red’, Faith has this nasty habit of giving people she likes humiliating or degrading nicknames.”

Faith grinned evilly at Willow. Willow gulped, and muttered, “But, but - sweet, innocent fifteen-year-old?”

“Willow, fifteen yes, but sweet and innocent, I don’t think so,” Oz told his girlfriend.

“Thank god,” Xander replied with a straight face, make Oz smile.

And Faith exclaimed, “Hey!”

“I’m just saying, Faith, if you were; having sex with you would deserve me time in jail,” Xander explained smiling.

Faith nodded, and said, “Damn straight.” Then Xander steered his girlfriend to the dance floor when he saw Willow’s confused face.

“Say,” Willow asked Oz with her confused frown, “if Faith were sweet and innocent wouldn’t that mean she wouldn’t have had sex with him in the first place? And wouldn’t that mean he wouldn’t possibly have sex with her now?”

Oz grinned, and shook his head, realizing Xander had pulled a fast one, and then led his girlfriend onto the dance floor himself. As they casually danced to the slow rhythm, Willow hugged Oz close.

A little further away Faith was doing the same with Xander. She had her right hand on his upper left one, and was holding onto his right with her left a little awkwardly. Xander’s right hand was at the small of her bag, holding her close enough her chest touched his. Faith accidentally stepped on his foot, and quickly took hers off again. “I’m sorry,” she said, and Xander smiled down at her. “We probably should have practiced this first.”

“I doubt you need much time learning, besides, I’m guessing it even happens to experienced dancers some times,” Xander assured her.

Faith looked around the gym slash ballroom for a moment, and then looked back up at him. “I never thought I could be at something like this,” she told him with an amazed tone. Xander smiled, and then she changed her arm positions. She let go of his right hand and put both around his neck, and Xander moved his to her hips. Then they gave each other a gentle kiss, tongues touching. Finished with that, Faith smiled up at him, before resting her head against his shoulder, and letting him guide her around the dance floor.

Willow was in the same position with Oz, but since she was practically the same height as her boyfriend her head was lying down upon his shoulder and she had free sight, and in her sight was Xander and Faith. She lifted her head from his shoulder, and pointed the other couple out at Oz. The werewolf looked over, and Willow said, “They look cute together, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, yeah they do,” Oz answered and smiled at Willow. “I’ll bet we look cute together as well.”

Willow smiled at him, and replied, “The cutest.”

Oz gently turned the two around, and Willow asked, “Do you think they can overcome the age difference, and the law?”

Oz smiled, and said, “Two months, she’ll be sixteen, if need be they move to a state where the legal age is sixteen and they can live happily ever after.”

Willow smiled and murmured, “I love you.”

“Love you too,” Oz murmured back.

A few meters away from them Xander and Faith suddenly looked up, and then gave each other a glance. They then walked over to the exit of the makeshift ballroom, and exited. A guy in a tux was just in front of them and he froze because a Hellhound soared right at him, teeth bared ready to rip him apart. “Hit the floor, now!” Faith ordered, and remarkably the guy ducked down instantly. Xander - because he wore pants - raised his right foot and kicked out directly in the Hellhound’s face. The hound whimpered as some of its bones were crushed and it was launched backward, where Buffy caught it, and snapped its neck twice with two vicious yanks. She collapsed to the floor on top of the Hellhound, and breathed hard. She looked up at Xander and Faith. Both of them smiled and Xander gave her a quick thumbs up. Buffy gave them a quick smile as the guy stood up and looked shocked.

“Rabies,” Buffy explained still breathing heard.

“Real nasty,” Xander supplied, but the guy continued looking with dropped jaw at Buffy.

“Bathroom?” he muttered shocked.

“Oh,” Buffy said, looking around and finding a sign. “That way,” she said pointing.

“Right, thank you,” the guy said and went to the bathroom an autopilot.

“See ya in a bit, B,” Faith said, and she and Xander turned back around giving Buffy a quick wave.

They waited on the other side of the doors, where Buffy met them a few minutes later. “So,” Buffy - now in her dress - asked, still a little out of breath, “everything going ok in here?”

“Fine, Buff,” Xander smiled at her, and she smiled back.

The trio slowly walked toward the dance floor, where they found Jonathan and Anya dancing. “Jonathan and Anya?” Buffy asked with hunched eyebrows.

“Yeah, I kind of suggested him to her,” Xander said with a smile as the little guy was happily dancing with the beautiful girl.

Then Jonathan’s face suddenly looked up into Anya’s and his face went into a shocked expression. “Uh, Xan, did you tell her she shouldn’t threaten her dates with dismemberment?” Buffy asked worriedly.

Xander’s eyes were wide as the music stopped, and he said, “Not dismemberment specifically, but certainly torturous death in general.”

The geek and the ex-demon came over to her, Jonathan looking scared. “What did you say to the poor kid?” Faith asked the ex-demon looking concerned at the white-faced social outcast.

“Oh!” Anya said with a smile, “That in a few days the Mayor of Sunnydale is going to turn in a giant monster and its going to level Sunnydale and eat everyone inside, leading to Jonathan’s certain death.”

The trio looked slack-jawed, Jonathan seemed to be getting paler. “Then the music stopped so I didn’t get the chance to tell him that I bought a car, that I’m packed, and that tomorrow morning I’m getting in that car to drive as far away from this place as I possibly can and I hope I’m far enough away when the US government decides to nuke the western coast, and finally that there’s an empty seat that he can have and come with me if he wants to.” Anya looked at Jonathan, and he looked back at her, blinking his eyelids.

“Is she telling the truth?” Jonathan asked weakly.

“No, of course not,” Faith tried friendly.

“Yes, she is,” Buffy confirmed right afterward, making Faith and Xander look at her. The blonde shrugged.

Jonathan looked from one Slayer to the other, and then turned to his dated. “Empty seat?” the boy asked.

“Uh huh,” Anya told him, nodding her head.

“Ok, I’m coming with,” Jonathan answered her with relief.

A new song started playing, and Xander held out his hand. “Faith?”

The dark-haired Slayer smiled and took his hand, both of them walking back onto the dance floor. Jonathan and Anya following suit. Buffy looked both happy and sad at Xander and Faith dancing, and equally happy and sad when she saw Oz and Willow. She slowly walked over to the punch table and pored herself a drink. Buffy just watched the proceedings, then watched as a few awards and the king and queen of prom were announced.

When someone else than Xander got the class clown award, Xander complained, “Man, I would have won that award if I wasn’t absent looking after you, Faith. Its all your fault I’m awardless.” Xander pouted.

“Oh, poor baby,” Faith soothed him, giving him a kiss on his cheek, then looked up in his disappointed face, “I’ll give you my very special award tonight.”

Next to them Willow made a few gagging gestures at Oz, who smiled at her, as smiling she whispered in his ear, “God, she lays it on thick, doesn’t she?”

Xander looked into Faith’s eyes, and she smiled, “Whole key found, you better be in top shape tonight.” Willow made another gagging gesturing, giggling at Oz. “And Red, I heard that, Slayer hearing.” Xander looked around confused, /not/ having Slayer hearing.

Willow gulped, and she replied meekly, “I was joking.”

“I know, relax will ya?”

When the award ceremony /should/ have been over, Jonathan came on the stage and tapped the microphone. “This on?” he asked, and then continued, “Buffy Summers? Buffy, I know you’re here, I just saw you. Where are you?”

The people in the ballroom turned around and the spotlight found Buffy at the refreshment table halfway taking a bite of something. Shocked, Buffy froze for a moment, and then quickly took the food in her mouth and gulped it nervously away, looking at her classmates, and friends looking at her. “Ok, I know normally we would have been done now, but there is one more award to give away. Buffy, we are not all your friends, some of us haven’t even talked to you, but the Sunnydale High class of ‘99 has the lowest death rate in the history of the school. . .” The people in the ballroom erupted in cheers and whoops, before dying down again, allowing Jonathan to continue, “. . . and we have seen you, we know you are at least for a large part responsible for that, so we’d like to present to you the class protector award for the class of ‘99.”

Buffy looked shocked, and looked around the suddenly cheering crowd. She found Giles and Wesley first, the first giving her an encouraging smile, and then her friends. They smiled at her and gestured for her to go forward. Buffy smiled and the crowd dispersed leaving a clear path to the stage. Blushing, flattered, the blond Slayer trudged forward in her slightly ruffled dress. When she took her award from Jonathan - a sweet, small rain screen - Faith bent over to Xander gently, and asked, “Do you think they’ll give me a protector award in three years, Xan?”

Xander nodded and answered, “A much bigger one.” Faith grinned and leaned against him, happy, something she’d seem to be a lot lately for the first time since she could remember.

A short time later a gentle music started again, and her friends dragged a reluctant Buffy in a big group dance of five people. “Thanks guys,” Buffy said with a smile. “Did you have anything to do with his?”

“Nothing,” Willow answered.

“Didn’t have a clue,” Xander added, “I’ve been away, remember?”

Faith smiled as she joked, “I’m just the skank who stole your best friend’s heart, I’m far too young to be giving out awards.” Willow gave Faith a nudge, and smiled at her, shaking her head.

“And even if we did, we could never have persuaded the others if they didn’t know it was true,” Oz finished for everyone.

The group dance a little more, and Buffy commented, “This is nice.”

“I hope I can cut in anyway.” Buffy whirled around, freeing herself from the dancing embrace.

“Angel,” she choked out, “of course you can.” The two moved away from the others gently. Dancing with Angel, Buffy asked, “I thought you wouldn’t come?”

“Sorry, I’m late. We’re going to be apart soon enough, I thought I’d at least be present on your big night,” Angel told her, and noticed her award. “It’s not going to rain, is it?” Buffy smiled and let her head fall onto his chest.

*****

A day before Graduation day

Sunnydale High library

The Scooby Gang was present, when Buffy got out a newspaper and gave it to Giles. “Trick,” she said darkly. Giles and Wesley were busy fencing.

“You certain?” Giles asked, skimming the article before offering to the Scoobs sitting around the table.

“Yeah, recognize the workmanship, all ‘executive’,” Buffy said darkly.

“He killed a college professor? Food?” Willow asked a little nervous.

“He hasn’t killed anyone high profile enough for a first page yet, why start now?” Buffy asked the witch, who shrugged.

“So it’s an order from on high,” Faith said with a confused frown. “I’m going to turn into a giant demon at graduation but I take the time to take out a harmless college professor?”

Buffy nodded, and said, “I’m thinking the professor knew something or the Mayor thought he knew something that he didn’t want us to know.”

“Ah!” Wesley said, lifted his sword and pointing it upward, swinging it around triumphantly. “By attempting to hide a valuable clue from us, the Mayor may have inadvertently led us right to it.” Then he placed the foil with the point on the floor, and smiled broadly.

Everyone looked at him, and Xander commented, “Tremble in fear all who are evil, behold the power of stating the obvious. Teach me!” Everyone snickered at Wesley’s expense.

“Very funny, Mr. Harris,” Wesley remarked dryly having the urge to clean his glasses. “Buffy, Faith, you shall go to the professor’s apartment tonight and see if you can find something useful.” Everyone looked at him. “Will you go?”

“We’ll go,” Buffy assured him.

The doors to the library swung open and the Mayor casually walked inside. “Well, so this is the inner sanctum,” the Mayor casually remarked as he walked onward. “Mr. Trick speculated this is where it was located.” The mayor reached the table and finished, “It’s good to see some young people are still interested in reading.” He took a few more steps, saying, “Now let’s see what kids like to read nowadays.” The mayor picked up a book, and read, “‘The beast shall walk upon the Earth, and all the races of man shall be one in their terror and destruction.’ Oh, that’s kind of nice, all the races coming together.”

Buffy spoke up, “You never even get a /little/ tired of hearing yourself speak, don’t you?”

The mayor turned to Giles, and told him, “Wow, that’s one spunky little girl you’ve raised.” He waited a moment, and said, “I’m gonna eat her.” Giles acted, he grabbed his foil and stuck it through the mayor’s chest in anger. Xander’s eyes widened as the mayor staggered back, and exclaimed, “Whaow! Now that was a little thoughtless.” The Mayor took out the sword with casual ease. He got a handkerchief from his jacket and started cleaning off his blood, saying, “Bursts of anger in front of children is not good, Mr. Giles, they look to you for guidance and examples how to behave.”

The mayor put the sword back on the table, and Buffy said, “Get out.”

“I smell fear, that’s smart,” the mayor said with a wide grin.

“Do you smell any fear from me?” Xander said, standing up from his chair, and walking to right in front of the mayor, drilling his eyes into those of the mayor.

“Then you must not be very smart, but I’m willing to send a recommendation to Sunnydale University anyway,” the mayor told him with a smile.

“Really?” Xander asked, and everyone else watched a little stunned. “Tell me, then, smarty pants, if you’re invulnerable, why didn’t the sword just bounce off you?” The mayor stayed silent, looking at the smiling Xander, who continued, “Where I’m standing, you just heal very fast. If I put a nuclear bomb in your hands and set it off, are you going to come back after being reduced sub-atomic particles?” Xander took a step forward and bent closer to the mayor’s angry eyes, and told him, “If I stuff a hand grenade without a pin down your throat and blow you into a thousand little pieces, are those pieces going to nit back together? And what happens if I transport those pieces to the corners of the Earth before, hmm?”

“I will make your death slow,” the mayor told him.

Xander laughed, and suddenly lashed out. His right fist moved faster than the mayor could follow and landed on the mayor’s torso. The mayor was launched from his feet and flew through the air until he crashed to the floor and bounced on the lowest step of the stairs before falling back to the floor. He groaned in pain. Xander walked over to the mayor who got up. Again he bore his eyes into the mayor’s and he said, “See you at graduation, you can’t miss me, I’ll be the one having the barbeque.”

The mayor snickered and then laughed, before walking out the library. “Boy Toy? Was it smart to piss him off like that?” Faith asked him.

Xander turned around, and said, “It isn’t like he wasn’t going to turn into a giant demon and try to destroy Sunnydale before.”

*****

Buffy was packing a suitcase, when her mother entered the bedroom. “What are you doing? Are you leaving again?” Joyce followed Buffy through the bathroom and into another bedroom. “And you’re taking my clothes?”

“I’m not going, you are,” Buffy told her mother.

“What? I can’t do that, your graduation is coming up,” Joyce said to her daughter, but said daughter just continued packing. “What? Is a scary demon going to eat graduation?” Buffy paused and looked at her mother. “Oh,” Joyce muttered, and then continued, “Well, I’m not going. If you’re going to fight this thing, I’m going to be there with you.”

“Mom,” Buffy said filled with emotion. “I know you wish I’d be the best student, or the best athlete . . .”

“No, I don’t,” Joyce interrupted.

Buffy smiled a serious smiled, and finished, “You do, but there’s something I do best, and I can’t do it if I’m worrying about you.”

“Except me and Xan,” Faith said as she walked into the room. “What?” she asked as both Joyce and Buffy’s faces turned to her.

“You’re going to fight this demon too, Faith?” Joyce asked worriedly.

“Yeah,” Faith answered her new mother, “besides the big ole’ sacred duty, there’s this pesky thing Xander taught me called, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ I kind of have to, besides, I get to kick demon ass and that’s always fun.”

“You don’t seem as worried,” Joyce said, and then looked at Buffy.

“That’s Faith, the more worried she is, the cooler she seems,” Buffy explained and looked over at Faith who was startled for just a moment that Buffy was observant enough and smart enough to figure that one out.

“It can’t hurt to get out of dodge,” Faith said softly.

“Ok, fine, I give up, if both my daughters think I should get out of town, I’ll go,” Joyce said with a slightly hurt. Then she hugged Buffy close, and when she saw Faith looking forlorn she added, “Come here, you.” A moment later both Slayers were hugging their mother.

*****

Faith tore the police tape aside and casually kicked the door in. It splintered and fell down, and Buffy commented, “Couldn’t you have checked if it was open first?”

Faith’s eyes widened in revelation, and said, “Oh, right, sorry.” Faith gestured for Buffy to enter.

The older Slayer sighed and did so, with Faith close on her heals. “Faith, I’m not saying you have to become some stick in the mud, but some self-restraint might help you know. Partly because of that attitude we got ourselves in our mess in the first place.”

“Are you blaming me?” Faith asked defensively as the Slayers looked around the apartment.

“No, /both/ of us,” Buffy told her, flipping through some books. “Look, I was wrong okay? I should have been the older and wiser girl, drag you out of that hell hole of a motel, and stop us the moment you came up with, ‘Want, take have,’ okay? /Me/, /I/ should have known like you said Xander taught you, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ . . . and doesn’t that come from a comic?”

“They’re pretty deep,” Faith said defensively as she pulled some underwear out of a drawer and dropped them on the floor. “Check it out,” Faith suddenly crowed and pulled out a porn mag, “the old prof had his kink on, I say ‘Go, teach.’” Buffy looked at the cover of the mag, and saw that it had a schoolgirl on it lifting her skirt revealing a chastity belt. Buffy shook her head as she found an officious looking rapport lying underneath his desk, as if someone had kicked it off. Buffy shuddered as she imagined the professor doing it while struggling against being strangled to death. “Whoa, kink indeed!” Faith said and opened the centerfold. Buffy looked over as she leafed through the rapport, and saw the picture of a sexy mistress in tight leather outfit and letting a whip come down upon a - thirty-something pretending to be a teen - schoolboy’s and right next to him a nineteen- or twenty-year-old schoolgirl’s bared asses.

“Get your mind out of the gutter, Faith,” Buffy said with a smile and shaking her head. “And he’s dead you know.”

Faith stepped over toward Buffy, while saying, “All I’m saying is, I hope the dude gets to heaven and some angels fulfill all his fantasies - and I get to watch.” Buffy sighed, her new sister was worse then men in her opinion. “Say B, which are you, the schoolgirl, or the mistress?”

“Faith, mind, gutter, out?” Buffy repeated her earlier request turning around and watching Faith come to a stand still in front of her, and tossing the mag on the couch.

“Alright already, what have you got?” Faith asked taking the rapport out of Buffy’s hands.

“Some research rapport,” Buffy answered her sister.

“Strata, cretaceous, upper-blah, blah, blah,” Faith read, and quickly closed the rapport.

“Yeah, the commas are the only thing I understand too, Giles can probably figure this out,” Buffy said taking the rapport back.

“Really? I managed ‘the’, ‘and’, ‘volcano’, and ‘lava’ as well. You’re not too bright are you, B?” Faith teased with a big smile.

“Very funny, let’s just get out of here before some of the neighbors wonder what two young loudmouth girls are doing here, and call the cops,” Buffy suggested, and then went for the door.

“Sure.”

When the two arrived at the stairs they climbed earlier, Faith asked, “So, which /are/ you, Buffy? Schoolgirl, or mistress?”

“/Faith/,” Buffy whispered in exasperation, starting down the stairs, Faith next to her.

“Oh, come on, B. We’re sisters now, I’m genuinely curious, all in the interest of getting to know one another,” Faith asked smiling, but with a semi-serious tone.

Buffy turned around on the stairs, looking up at Faith who stopped a step higher, and said, “You don’t get to know /that/ part of me.” Buffy turned back around, and added, “Mistress, I’m absolutely /not/ into getting pain inflicted upon me.”

“I don’t believe you,” Faith teased onward, loving the way she could get to the blonde so easily. “I’ll bet you secretly fantasize about Oz and Willow taking you hard together and then punishing you for liking it.” Faith made the motion of striking Buffy - who had stopped and turned around to look up at the other Slayer, mouth ajar - with a whip and added the sound for effect.

Faith climbed down onwardly, and passed Buffy, who half exclaimed, “I’m soo /not/. What are /you/ then, huh?”

Faith grinned up at Buffy who started walking again, and said, “Oh, I’m definitely the schoolgirl, I’m /way/ too much of a bad girl far too often /not/ to deserve a good whipping. Hmm, Xander with a whip, now there’s a vision.”

“Oh, god, you are really sick, Faith,” Buffy complained.

“Big guy,” Faith said a little surprised as she came face to face with the guy, then smiled when Buffy came into the field of vision.

“Angel,” Buffy said surprised, and then swallowed deeply. “What are you doing here? Did you hear anything?”

“He heard everything, vampire hearing, remember?” Faith told Buffy with a grin, this was better then she could ever plan it. Buffy’s face went fiery red. How Angel could manage to keep a perfectly straight face was beyond Faith, who had a perpetual grin on her face, and could barely keep from laughing out loud. Faith quickly passed the two so they could walk together.

By the time they were outside - Faith leaning against the wall of the building and waiting for the other two to finish their big conversation - Buffy had forgotten about the conversation Angel overheard and was complaining to him, “I cannot believe you’re here. Why are you here? You show up on the prom, then disappear again for days.”

“Are you complaining I’m here too often or not enough?” Angel asked the blonde Slayer, as they walked out to cross the street.

“Yes,” Buffy said.

“Which?” Angel asked as the two stood still on the pavement on the other side.

“I don’t get you,” Buffy stated.

“And I don’t get you, but what did you expect, when you’re acting like a brat,” Angel told her a little angry.

“Oh, I’m a brat now, huh?” Buffy told him back, getting worked up.

“Well . . . Aah!” Angel screamed out as the point of an arrow came through Angel’s upper shoulder.

“Angel!” Buffy exclaimed in horror, and Faith immediately went into action, joining her sister by the downed vampire a moment later. Buffy looked around noticing a few yellow eyes and black skin disappearing behind a sign. “Trick,” she hissed out angrily. “Faith, help me with Angel, we’ll get the bastard later.” Faith reluctantly agreed.

*****

Back at the library Buffy and Giles removed the arrow, while Wesley read through the rapport. “Fascinating, the good professor seemed to have found a carcass - a big carcass - from something he thinks is a heretofore unknown dinosaur.”

“A demon?” Giles asked as the arrow was completely removed. Willow, Xander, Oz, and Faith got up and went closer to Wesley for the big unveiling.

“I think so, it’s a . . . sixty foot snake . . . and he found it in a lava bed near an extinct volcano,” Wesley said shocked looking up from the book.

“Great, now all we need is several hundred tons of lava,” Buffy muttered sarcastically, as she fussed over Angel.

“Ah, here’s the baby,” Oz said pointing at the snake in one of the books of ascension. “If you manage to decapitate it, or damage its brain it can be killed as well.”

“Oh . . . we just need a really big sword,” Willow said excitedly, and then her excitement died down when she realized just /how/ big that sword had to be.

It was then that they noticed Xander was grinning. “Boy Toy?” Faith prompted.

“Piece of cake,” Xander answered.

“You certain?” Giles asked.

“Oh, yeah, this’ll be as easy as eating pancakes,” Xander said with a Saiyan battle smirk on his face.

“Glad you’re . . .” Angel started as he got up, and then he slumped down with a groan, and then he moaned louder.

“Angel, what’s wrong?” Buffy asked shocked.

Giles already had a suspicion, and sniffed the arrow head. “It’s poisoned.”

“My shoulder’s numb, it’s poison alright, I can feel it,” Angel answered holding his shoulder with his other hand in pain. Buffy looked up at her friends with panic on her face.

“We need to get you to your mansion before the sun is up,” Giles told the vampire, and he nodded weakly.

Wesley got up and said, “The council has all known toxins, normal and mystical on file, I’ll give them a call right away.”

*****

Later in Angel’s mansion Giles, Faith, and Buffy waited with concern. The vampire had yet to get better, and he was now sweating heavily, groaning almost continuously. The three had left the vampire alone in his bedroom for a while. “Damn it,” Buffy cursed. “That damn Trick, I’m gonna kill him, I’m going to dip my stake in holy water and ram it in every part of his body, then I’ll tear him apart! I’m . . .”

Luckily for Giles and Faith the door to the mansion opened and Wesley entered. “And?” Buffy asked.

Wesley took a few steps inside, and said, “I’m afraid I don’t have good news Buffy. The council says they don’t help vampires.”

“WHAT!?” Buffy screamed out in shock and anger.

“The council’s orders are to focus on . . .”

“Orders?” Buffy answered Wesley. “The council tried to kill me, tried to kidnap Faith, while I and my friends have stopped the world from coming to an end several times over, they won’t help me, and they think they can order me? I’m thinking you can takes those orders, call the council and tell them they can stuff their orders somewhere unpleasant, because I’m not taking any orders from them anymore.”

“Right with ya, B,” Faith added coldly, and Wesley looked shocked.

“Giles, Faith, you look after Angel, while I go see if Willow and the others found something?” Buffy asked them. Giles nodded.

“This is mutiny,” Wesley told Buffy shocked.

“No, this is graduation,” Buffy told him and then stalked out of Angel’s mansion.

“Buffy, don’t you see? This is exactly what the mayor wants, everyone distracted from the Ascension,” Wesley tried desperately.

“If that’s the big problem, Wesley, why don’t the council simply fork over the cure, heal Angel and be done with it, no more distraction,” Faith bit at Wesley who looked at her. Giles grinned at Wesley, loving it. “You know why? ‘Cause the council doesn’t give a damn about us or the people we’re trying to save, do they? They just want to order us around and feel important. And don’t worry about the Ascension, you heard Xander, the mayor is as good as dead.”

*****

“Council bastards!” Buffy exclaimed as she entered the chemistry classroom, where her friends were trying to determine which poison was used on Angel. “Have you guys found anything?”

“Sure, it was a simple mystical compound, called Killer of the Dead, is used on vampires,” Willow answered.

As Buffy reached her friends sitting around the chemistry counters reading in books, Xander added, “Finding a cure though, that’s a lot more difficult . . . haven’t found one . . . a few maybes, but not really.”

“Yeah,” Willow added circling around and looking at Buffy apologetically, “there’s one or two . . .”

“Oh, I found something, I think,” Oz called out, and everyone turned to him. “Killer of the Dead, yep, there’s our baby, and here’s a vamp that walked away from it . . . oh . . .”

“Oh? ‘Oh’ is good right?” Buffy asked desperately. “Right?”

“What do you mean ‘oh’?” Willow asked and walked over to her boyfriend. “‘Completely reversed the effects’ . . . that’s exactly what we need . . . oh . . .” Willow looked up, and then went on with read, “Perhaps there’s something . . .”

“Hey, the suspense is killing Angel, hurry up, guys, what is it?” Xander prompted them hastily. Buffy nodded and gestured for Willow and Oz to hurry up.

“Uh, well . . . the vampire drained a . . . Slayer,” Willow weakly said, making Buffy reel back.

“Ok, two Slayers here,” Buffy said slowly.

“Buffy, no, you cannot feed Faith to Angel,” Willow told Buffy with a determined look. “I know you love Angel and all, but you can’t kill a living person in order to save one that’s been dead for over two centuries. I forbid it, see resolve face.” Willow pointed at her very determined face.

“I wasn’t thinking about Faith, Willow,” Buffy told her best friend.

“Oh . . . oh! No! Buffy . . . tell her Xander,” Willow said in shock.

“I’m not planning on dying, Will, an evil vampire wouldn’t stop draining a Slayer, whether he was cured or not, right?” Buffy said hopefully.

“You’re gambling on Angel despite being delirious being able to stop before killing you? Or Faith tearing him off of you?” Oz more stated then asked, and Buffy nodded. Willow looked scared.

“It’s perfect,” Xander announced, making Willow look in fright at her longest friend. Xander smiled and continued, “we drain two liters from you, Buffy, then drain two liters from Faith, mix it all together in a bowl, get a slice of an orange, give Angel a straw and one of those nice mini parasols and we’re set. If he really does need the full five liters you both donate another half, and all you need is some food and a few liters of water, Slayer healing already supplied, and voila!” Buffy grinned. “Now we only need to convince Faith to donate blood for the /vampire/ that wanted to knock her out with a baseball bat . . .” Xander said with a smile that suddenly faltered.

“Oh, boy,” Oz muttered.

*****

“I’m not doing it!” Faith exclaimed with indignation. “He doesn’t need staking, but if you think I’m going to let him drink from my blood, uh, uh.”

“But Faith,” Buffy pleaded with her sister Slayer, “please, what if Xander needed something from me, and I told you, ‘Screw you.’”

Faith seemed to think that over and answered, “If he had tried knocking you out with a baseball bat to the /head/ potentially turning you into a vegetable, I would understand.”

“You were killing, Xander,” Buffy defended Angel.

“I was strangling Xander, big diff, I couldn’t kill him even if I tried, and even if he were human I would never have killed him,” Faith spit back still somewhat angrily, “I would have given him a good scare, but I would have stopped myself, I was already busy stopping myself.”

“That’s true, I saw it in her eyes,” Xander stood up for his girlfriend from his position by the fireplace, where most of the observers of this tug of wills were situated.

‘Sugar not vinegar, bribe her.’ Buffy remembered Xander’s advice, so what the hell did you bribe a fifteen-year-old, abused Slayer with? “I’ve got toys, they’re in boxes up in the attic, you can have them if you want to, after you give blood,” Buffy tried.

“What?” Faith asked surprised.

“I’m negotiating a price,” Buffy said with a ‘duh’ tone.

Faith narrowed her eyes, and told her, “I’m not ten.”

Buffy had seen a flicker in Faith’s eyes though, and so she took an educated gamble, “I’ve got Barbies, lots of them.”

Faith’s eyes widened for a moment, and muttered in pained nostalgia, “I’ve always wanted a Barbie when I was young. NO! Some dolls aren’t worth having a vampire drink my blood.”

“I have the house too, and I think I had the camper, or was that the car?” Buffy frowned, trying to remember which of the two vehicles belonged to her best friend then. “Either way, I’m adding them in, I had some Skippers and Kens too!”

“Nope!” Faith said resolutely.

“I’m willing to add in my G.I. Joes, I still got a few in the boxes,” Xander offered.

Faith looked at him, half in betrayal. The other half made her say, “G.I. Joe, now there’s a boyfriend for Barbie, not that wimp Ken.”

“Heeey, I liked Ken,” Willow complained.

Faith whipped her heads about at her, and Oz pulled Willow back, whispering in her ear, “Will, honey, don’t interrupt the /super/ beings’ argument.” Willow pouted but wisely stayed back.

“Pleeeease, Faith,” Buffy said, feeling her pockets. She pulled out a note, and said pitifully, “I’ve got ten bucks.” Faith snorted.

“I’ll add in three consecutive nights of oral pleasuring,” Xander offered with a wide smirk.

Almost everyone’s eyes bugged out, and / or they gasped at Xander’s offer, and Faith - snatching the ten dollar note out of Buffy’s hands - said, “Sold!” Faith then turned to Buffy and said, “I’m expecting the dolls in my room after graduation. Alright people, let’s get this blood drive on the road.”

Buffy turned her head to regard Xander and with narrowed eyes told him sarcastically, “Oh, my hero, what great sacrifice.”

Xander shrugged, and said, “It worked didn’t it?”

“You couldn’t have said that a little sooner?” Buffy asked as Faith placed herself on a stool and Willow started to administer the blood letting tools they had swiped earlier from the hospital. “Now I have to give her my Barbies,” Buffy finished with a pout.

“Don’t worry, I’m certain Faith would much rather play with the dolls alongside her sweet sister,” Xander told her with a wide grin, making Buffy glare at him.

*****

Trick grinned evilly as he closed the door of his luxury apartment behind him. Turning the owner had been a stroke of genius on his part months earlier, now not only didn’t he have to pay rent, his income /included/ whatever rent the owner got from other apartments he rented.

The apartment was dark, and Trick walked along the short hall, hanging up his coat along the way. Working for the mayor was much better than that halfwit Kakistos he observed. Now the mayor had smarts, long term plans and the will to put them into action. Soon Trick would rule the world along the mayor’s side.

He opened the door to his living room, and became aware of a presence - a mere silhouette seating in front of him on one of his chairs. He narrowed his eyes and took an involuntary step back when the silhouette got up. “There was a cure,” the silhouette stated menacingly.

Trick rapidly reached over to the light button and turned it on, looking straight at Angel. His eyes widened when Angel grinned evilly, vamped out and said, “I think I’m going to show you why the soulless version of me was called the ‘Scourge of Europe’.” Trick’s eyes widened as Angel jumped forward and bashed him across the face.

Trick raised his arms to defend himself and called out, “Help! He’s in here.”

Angel lifted him off the floor, and told him, “You’d be surprised how easy it is to walk into a stronghold of evil when you’re vamped out. None of them even gave me a second glance, or my companions that I lead behind defensive lines.” Angel tossed Trick against the wall to his right, making a painting drop. He growled as he charged forward beating the black-skinned vampire across the face several times before kicking him back. Trick looked to the door, and to his horror he saw Buffy standing there leaning against the door frame, smirking.

“Not so tough without your army, are you?” Buffy asked him.

Trick got up and attacked Angel, who blocked a few hits, the two trading places.

“Has it started yet? Has it started yet?” Xander asked as he appeared in the doorway. “Ooh, just started.”

Buffy looked at him as Faith joined him. The two quickly walked to the doorway to the living room to get the best seats. Buffy joined them and watched incredulously as Xander pulled out two cans of cola and tossed one to Faith. Both of them opened the cokes and then Xander pulled out a bag with popcorn. “Popcorn?” he asked Faith who nodded and took out a handful. Then Xander pointed the bag to Buffy. Shrugging, the blonde Slayer took a handful herself. Putting the bag in his coat pocket for easy access, Xander took a sip from his coke before taking out a handful of popcorn for himself.

Angel looked at the three dumbfounded, and said, “I’m fighting for life or death here!” The three nodded, and Trick made use of Angel’s momentary distraction. He viciously smashed a right-left combo across the other vampire’s face, and followed up with a kick to Angel’s stomach.

“Ooh, watch those combos, don’t get distracted!” Xander offered his advice, then popping some more popcorn in his face. Angel growled in frustration and bashed the black vampire back. “You know guys, this the first time I’m going to enjoy watching a vampire kill someone. There’s always a first, eh?”

“Yeah, Xan, and you’ve got to teach me how to fire those energy balls, please?” Buffy whined to Xander.

“Patience, Buffy, like I said, when Faith and me get back from our road trip around America, and perhaps a side trip to Europe, I’ll train you too, I promise,” Xander told her. Buffy pouted, but Xander’s eyes were trained on the fight, popping in some more popcorn.

Trick doubled over when a particular vicious kick to his side connected, and answered with an uppercut that missed, but the left that followed didn’t. “Mmh, more popcorn,” Faith mumbled. Xander grinning, pulled out a handful from the bag in his pocket and placed it on Faith’s hand, then did the same for Buffy as she held out her hand.

“Is it wrong to find Angel sexy when he kicks evil ass?” Buffy asked before putting some popcorn in her mouth, looking with a big grin at Angel smashing Trick’s face into his knee, making the vampire stagger back.

“Nah,” Faith commented, taking a sip from her coke watching the progression of the vicious fight between the vampires, “it’s only natural, deeply ingrained instinct of ‘strong man, protect me and my kids’. Just don’t let it get to your head, and start screwing every vampire you meet.”

Buffy snorted and returned, “This coming from the biggest slut on the face of the Earth.”

“Hey, I’m not dating the vampire!” Faith defended herself, and Xander started to chuckle as both fights continued.

“No, your boyfriend is an alien, and you’ve got no idea what kind of icky sex diseases he’s got,” Buffy countered, making Xander laugh a little.

“At least /my/ boyfriend is a living, breathing /man/, not a demon-animated /corpse/!” Faith returned glaring at her older sister, who glared back.

Xander took a sip from his coke and laughed out loud after swallowing the liquid away, making Faith and Buffy stop glaring and look up at him. “You two should charge admission, you’re barrels full of laughs.” That earned him two punches, and he exclaimed, “Ow, hey! What was that for?”

Both Slayers had their arms folded across their chest, and Faith said, “I thought you said we were hilarious.”

“God,” Angel commented, blocking a punch for Trick, and swiping his legs out from under him. Angel turned to Xander as Trick struggled to get up and added, “Never get in between two sisters, or two women in general for that matter, I could have told you that over two centuries ago.” Angel lashed out and smashed his fist into Trick’s stomach doubling him over.

With a roar Trick attacked, and Xander commented, “Kneecap.” As prompted, Angel ducked a punch and then kicked out. There was a crack and then a roar of pain as Angel broke Trick’s kneecap and the black vampire sank to the floor in pain.

Angel turned to Xander and said, as Trick continued screaming pain, “I’ve been doing this for over a century before I got my soul, I think I can make use of an opening when there is one!”

“Hey, if it weren’t for me, you’d still be cowering in the shadows, I have no idea what you can, and can’t do,” Xander bit back, and took out another handful of popcorn.

Angel growled in anger, and sunk to Trick’s level, grabbing him by his hair and telling him, “Killing me, fine, hurting Buffy: unforgivable.” With a roar Angel rammed his free hand with an uppercut into Trick’s nose bone and smashed it up into his brain. As Trick screamed in pain, Angel proceeded with braking bones and ribs.

At the same time Buffy leaned back and ‘psst’ at Faith, who leaned back as well. “What do you say we oil these two up and let them fight it out?” Buffy asked Faith who grinned widely at the suggestion.

“It isn’t really fair, Xander can kick Angel’s ass with his hands tied behind his back,” Faith told the older Slayer.

“Not if the rules say he can’t use his energy,” Buffy said with an evil grin.

Faith shook her head, “Sorry, B, but even than Xander will still kick Angel’s ass without much trouble.”

“Would not, Angel will win,” Buffy countered a little angry at the talking down of her ex-boyfriend.

“Will not,” Faith countered.

“Will too.”

“Will not!”

“Will too!”

“Will not!”

“Will too!”

As Xander sniggered at the Slayers, Angel was done half-torturing Trick. Leaving the vampire lying unconscious on the floor, he said, “God, are you two eight? My boyfriend is better than yours?”

Faith and Buffy looked at Angel and growled. They slid a sliding door on either side slightly behind them aside, and looked at the jackpot. A few of Trick’s shoes, were on both sides. Both Slayers picked up one shoe and both threw them with precision at Angel’s head. Both shoes hit dead on, and Angel yelled out at the pain, “Ow, hey!”

“What did you say about not getting in between sisters again, Dead Boy?” Xander asked the vampire with a wide grin, causing the vampire to growl at him. Angel then looked down at the still unconscious and broken Trick, and grinned. He reached inside his coat and froze. He then felt elsewhere eventually moving his hands around his body and looked up. Xander figured it out, laughed and said, “I can’t believe you forgot your stake.”

“I just woke up from poison-induced delirium, some thoughtfulness would be nice,” Angel dead panned.

Xander grinned and tossed his stake to Angel, who caught it, and used it to dust Trick.

*****

The next day

Everyone was nervous, at least the Scooby Gang was who knew what was going to happen. Only Xander wasn’t nervous. With the destruction of the vampires under Trick the night earlier, the others - meaning not Xander and Faith - should be able to handle the remaining vampires and demons under the mayor’s command, which left the two chi users to take out the big snake. Which was why the others were nervous, they weren’t as confident in Xander’s abilities as he himself was; it was going to be a big snake.

“Oah,” the mayor groaned out, as up above the sun started to get blanked out. “Oh, my, I still had this entire speech planned, but I guess we go the killer ending right away.” The mayor laughed, and then groaned again, as his body started twisting and turning. The classmates looked on in shocked surprise, as Xander rose from his seat, as did the other Scoobs. He pointed to the only way out of the courtyard of the school, where vampires and a few assorted demons emerged. The Scoobies quickly pulled their weapons from under their toga’s and ran to the vampires before their panicked classmates could block the way. Angel emerged from the building behind the vampires and charged them as well.

Xander looked over to his left, and he saw Faith emerge from the school right on cue. He grinned at her and they both lifted in the air, shocking their classmates more, and then those classmates tried to run away. With a giant roar the mayor finished his transformation, making the classmates run faster. Faith had flown next to him, circling him so she was to his right. “Power up,” Xander said and roared out, his chi flame emerging and growing in intensity by the second, and so did Faith’s.

“Order! I said order! I will not stand for this in my school!” Principal Snyder raged at the big snake, who just looked down, growled and ate the principal.

“Well, that’s a plus,” Xander commented and then grinned at Faith, who smiled back at him. “Hey, Snake Boy, remember me?!” Xander called out, and the mayor looked up at the floating Xander. The snake’s eyes widened momentarily, and then growled. “Start charging,” Xander told Faith, who nodded and brought her hands back, needing more time to power her attacks up to the max. Xander shot forward and rammed his fist into the snake’s snout, making it reel back and roar in pain. “What’s the matter? Need to shed your skin?” Xander asked the mayor and he roared at him. Xander ducked below the snap, and uppercutted the snake demon in his chin, making its head snap upward. Xander landed a kick just below the mayor’s right eye, making the snake very angry.

Suddenly Xander shot backward and brought his hands similarly backward, charging the same ball as Faith. “SNAKE BARBEQUE!” Xander offered the mayor, and he and Faith both roared out, “TANEKAKOSA!!”

“Well, darn,” the mayor snake muttered as he saw the twin beams lance at either side of his head.

“Willow, look,” Buffy said, tapping Willow and Oz on their shoulders. They looked back briefly, seeing the two beams impact on the snake’s face. Then there was a massive explosion, and the snake’s head was torn apart. Its flesh was strewn about. Blood, small pieces of bone and brains showered the fleeing students as most of the vampires were dusted by the Scooby Gang, including Angel, and Wesley. The snake’s body writhed, swung back and forth for a short while, and then collapsed to the ground.

Xander and Faith then flew over to them, and made quick work of the remaining vampires from the air.

*****

Some time later some officious people in environmental suits were loading up the snake to who knows where. “We survived high school,” Buffy said with elation.

“We survived hell,” Willow added.

“Hey, I still have to start,” Faith complained at the others doom and gloom about the place.

“Quite,” Giles said.

“So, about that barbeque, we could still liberate some snake,” Xander said with a grin, making the others groan. “What?”

*****

A few days later

Xander and Faith stumbled into the motel room in some place called Oxnard, where the engine of Uncle Rory’s car literally dropped out. They had gotten the room after Faith had managed to convince Xander to perform a ‘job’ at the Fabulous Ladies’ Nightclub instead of tapping into his bank accounts to pay for a new car and the motel room.

Faith laughed out loud as both of them managed to fall on the bed and slowly started undressing each other. Half-naked, Faith commented, “I still can’t believe you decided on /that/, and I still can’t believe how hot it actually was, not to mention what you raked in.”

Xander chuckled and kissed her, and they both looked up as they heard a squeaking bed on the other side of the wall. They laughed again, and Xander started kissing her gently down her neck. “Xander,” Faith said hotly, pushing him away from her. “I don’t want you to make love to me.”

“What?” Xander asked shocked.

“Xan, do you hear the squeaking of the bed, they’re really putting it through its paces,” Faith said pointing to the wall. Xander looked confused. “I saw the striptease, I’m hot as hell, I don’t need nice and sweet. I know you want to protect me, and be gentle, never be like the bastards that have raped me when I was little, but Xander, I’m a woman, or at least growing into one. I need /that/ as well, just a good, hard, deep fucking, understand what I mean?”

“Uh, I guess,” Xander answered, and then the guy on the other side groaned audibly. Xander frowned and looked at the wall, and asked, “Did he sound familiar?”

“Huh?” Faith replied and then the girl became audible as well. Faith too frowned and looked at Xander, muttering, “No way.”

“OH, GOD!! OH, YEAAH!! OH, FUCK!! UH, UH, AH, OH, JONATHAN KEEP GOING!!”

Xander and Faith’s jaws dropped looking at each other. “YES, YES, YES, OH MY GOD, JONATHAN!! I’M GONNA COME! I’M GONNA COME! YES, JONATHAN, I’M COMMMMMIIIINNNGGGG!!!”

“Shit,” Xander muttered in disbelief.

“OH, YES! OH, MY GOD, DON’T STOP JONATHAN, I’M COMING AGAIN!! YES!! YES!! YES!! YESS!! AAAAHH!!”

“Well, what do you know, the guy turned Miss ‘I hate men’ into Miss ‘I love fucking men’,” Faith said with disbelieve and mirth.

“Oh!” Xander suddenly said, Saiyan pride raising its ugly head, “There’s no way I’m going to let little Jonathan outdo me.”

“Who says he’s little?” Faith asked, ginning suggestively as the sounds on the other side slowly bit by bit raised in volume again.

Xander growled and flipped Faith on her stomach, startling the girl for a moment. “On your knees, babe. You wanted to get fucked, well, Faith, get ready to get fucked like you’ve never been fucked before.”

“Oh, yes,” Faith answered with shiny eyes of lust as she put herself up on all fours.

Not long later;

“YES!

“OAH!”

“FUCK ME, XANDER!”

“JONATHAN!!”

“XANDER!”

“OOH! YEEEES!”

“MMRH!”

“OH!”

“AAH!”

“SHIT THIS IS SOO GOOD, OOH, YES, YES, XANDER!!!”

“MMHH, AAH, UGH, UGH, UGH, DON’T STOP JONATHAN!!”

“XANDER!!”

“JONATHAN!!”

“XANDER!!”

“JONATHAN!!”

“MMMMHHHAAAAAAAAH!!!” CRAAAASSSSSHHHH!!

The End . . .?

Author’s notes: And this still isn’t all that I had. There were still two scenes planned for this:

One was Xander’s transformation (after being abducted by the Initiative, drugged out of his mind, Faith and the Scoobies come rescuing him, and he hears Faith getting (mildly hurt) and he completely loses it, killing all initiative personal (thus including Riley) while Super Saiyan rage burns through him, blowing away the demon holding cells, tearing apart the door into 314 where Walsh had just fled activating Adam, Adam’s energy absorption being overwhelmed by a Super Saiyan energy beam, vaporizing him, and Walsh burning and vaporizing to death in the resulting explosion and fire, then Faith calming Xander down).

And two was Xander and Faith going to the Dragonball dimension (and Xander telling the just arrived Trunks Freeza is his, destroying Freeza, Faith killing King Cold, followed by meeting with Z-fighters, gravity room, etc., etc.)

Anyway those scenes just wouldn’t really work as a tag along at the end, even though they’d be some cool scenes, and one of the very few I had when I started writing this, but this simply demanded more and more fleshing out, and I had lots of fun with the character dynamics once Faith and Xander returned, most notably the Buffy / Faith sister bickering. (I hope you all liked it!) So with some pain I realized I had to snip them.

Anyway, I’ve quickly got to work on a new part for the Inn Joshua and I are working on (no, I’m not going to spoil you guys), full on into the next episode of canon Buffy Z, and the new Dana story I know a lot of you are waiting for. Which means, no sequel by me to this story anytime soon, and thus, if anyone is willing to pick it up and do S4, (and perhaps hear two more tiny snippets of stuff that could become scenes I had in mind to use it –> contact me) go ahead, run with it, and have fun writing it.

Anyway, as always, give me feedback here 3d.master@chello.nl.

The End

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