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What I Did On My Summer Vacation

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This story is No. 1 in the series "Sunnydale Sinanju". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: What really happened during Xander's trip after Graduation?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > Fantasy > Destroyer, TheGreywizardFR15111,5701209,18219 Jun 0519 Jun 05Yes
Title: What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Author: Greywizard

E-Mail: grey.wizard@verizon.net

Rating: Some violence and some language, but definitely not anything worse than Joss and Mutant Enemy showed. After all, I'm not going to portraying a rapist as any kind of role model to be emulated. (Emasculated, possibly, but not emulated.)

Disclaimer: The Buffy characters all belong to Crack-Head Joss and ME. Deal with it. I have. Remo, Chiun and Smith and anything else belonging to the 'Destroyer' mythos all belong to Warren Murphy, Richard Sapir and Harlequin Books, I believe. In any case, the only thing I'm really sure of is that none of them are mine.

Category: Action/adventure. Other than that, you'll have to wait and see. Mostly various friendships.

Summery: What really happened during Xander's trip after Graduation?

Time Frame: Canon up to the end of Season Three, episode 22, 'Graduation, Part 2.' After that it's my very own AU. Note, things have proceeded quite a bit differently from the way they did in the Joss-verse after Graduation. Any and all major differences will be explained in the course of the story.

Spoilers: None

Character Bashing: Is Joss a character?

Feedback: Of course!

Archiving: If you want to archive this, just let me know where, please.

Author's Notes: In case you're wondering, in this timeline Anya hasn't shown up yet, and she's not going to do so. She was last heard from working on the U.N. Oil for Food program.

// word // indicates translations to English from other languages.

~~~

Title: "What I Did On My Summer Vacation"



A suburban office
Unidentified location
October 9, 1999


A completely unremarkable-looking, middle-aged man with a lemony expression on his face sat behind an equally unremarkable desk. On the other side of the desk, a wizened, white-haired, ancient-looking Asian and a slightly above average height, moderately handsome Caucasian with dark brown hair and thick wrists both sat in standard, run of the mill moderately comfortable and padded office chairs.

“Information has just been brought to my attention that I believe might be of significant interest to you both,” the man behind the desk stated to his guests. “I acquired the following video from sources in one of the National Intelligence Division’s more – esoteric – research units. I have had the video examined by several of the best digital and computer generated imaging development groups in the world and they have all vouched for the authenticity of the scenes displayed.

“Before we proceed any further, I ask that you please forgive the rudeness of my next question, Chiun, but I have been specifically directed by our employer to ask if you have taken on any other students in the past several years, or if you know of any other individuals who might have somehow managed to acquire such training,” the man behind the desk asked the older man seated across from him.

“No, I have not, Emperor Smith,” the wizened Oriental replied in a soft voice, as he bent his head in a show of deference.

“The terms of our contract were quite specific as to any situation in which such a situation as that might develop,” he pointed out. “This pale piece of a pig’s ear you see seated here before you is the only student I have accepted in the course of the past two decades, and I apologize once again for the utter banality of his performance of his duties, while also noting that, when one is forced to start with mud, it is exceedingly difficult to produce the diamonds desired,” he stated, his eyes darting over to glance at the brunet sitting next to him.

“As regards any others who might have gained such training, I know of no others fortunate enough to have been graced with such knowledge, aside from Nuihc and his student, Jeremiah Purcell, and their fates are already known to Your Eminence.”

The younger man sitting by the Asian, once known in another life as Samuel Macon, merely rolled his eyes at his companion’s words and continued looking over at the man behind the desk.

“What is it you’ve got for us, Smitty?” the brunet asked, only to immediately receive a smack on the back of his head from the older man, even though Chiun appeared not to move.

“Heed your tongue, ungrateful one,” the seemingly ancient man hissed at the brunet. “When you speak to the Emperor, you will do so with respect!”

“All right, all right,” the younger man replied. “What is it you’ve got for us, Smitty, SIR?” he repeated his question, emphasizing the last word with a sour glance at the older man next to him. The man behind the desk seemed to take no notice of the sarcastic tone of the younger man’s remarks.

“This video was taken three nights ago in the course of what was termed an ‘acquisition mission’ by the command staff of the facility under discussion, which is located in a small Southern California town called Sunnydale, approximately eighty-five miles north of Los Angeles,” ‘Smitty’ informed them. “I was only able to gather this information when they sent this to higher command for evaluation and instructions. Their own systems seem to be kept isolated.

“The acquisition team encountered opponents termed ‘HSTs’ – hostile sub-terrestrials – in the course of their patrol and suffered significant injuries to the team members, such that they would have been unable to withdraw from the battle without leaving their injured teammates behind, an action the team commander refused to implement. An action I’m sure you would have approved of completely, Remo,” the lemony-faced man noted as he spared a glance towards the brunet.

“The still combat-capable members of the team had depleted their munitions and were about to move to hand-to-hand when they were rescued by a currently unidentified individual. I’ll provide additional details after you’ve seen the video,” he told them, before turning to face a large projection screen hanging on the side wall of the office and picking up a remote control, which he then used to activate a small digital projector.

The video clip that began running displayed a relatively thickly wooded area at night, clearly taken from the point of view of one of the team operatives mentioned earlier, most likely from some type of light-amplified collar-mounted camera, and equally clearly being taken in the midst of battle. Shouted commands could be heard, along with the repeated high-pitched buzz of electrical discharges, interspersed with cries of pain or fear.

The aforesaid team member providing the video feed was fighting an individual who was either severely deformed or was wearing a mask or makeup of some kind, since their forehead was somewhat ridged and protruding, and he was wearing some kind of prosthesis in his mouth to give him fangs, like in the old Bela Lugosi vampire flicks. Several young men wearing forest camouflage patterned BDUs, almost certainly military personnel of some kind, could be seen in the background, firing futuristic rifles that seemed to shoot electrical bolts at other similarly deformed/masked individuals.

// Blood-sucker! // the older man immediately exclaimed in Korean upon seeing the face of the first soldier’s opponent, his voice barely audible to Remo, who looked at him with an expression that might be deemed concern by some.

// Are you all right, Little Father? // he asked in the same language. Like his mentor, his voice was pitched too low for the lemony faced individual to hear.

// We will discuss this later, // the older man said, his gaze focused on the video playing out on the screen. // Pay attention to the film. It may prove significant later. //

Returning his attention to the video, the brunet watched with interest as the attacker apparently ignored the camera-bearing soldier’s blows and was dragging the soldier towards him, his mouth opening wide in a fang-baring smile as he appeared to laugh at the soldier’s futile struggles before abruptly disappearing, leaving behind a small cloud of dust or powder of some kind and revealing the smiling face of a dark-haired young man wearing jeans, a white smiley-face tee shirt and a worn dungaree jacket.

“Everything’s cool, buddy. I’ll be right back,” the new individual smiled reassuringly at the camera’s bearer before turning away to attack the remaining deformed or masked individuals with what looked to be a wooden stake, exactly like those prominently featured in old style vampire movies.

// That’s the kid we met in Fort Collins a few months back. He’s still fighting demons... // Remo noted, a note of interest in his tone as the boy’s voice confirmed the visual identification his image had provided a moment earlier. Chiun merely grunted his agreement as he watched the film, a narrow-eyed expression on his face.

The dark-haired youth moved through the battleground at a deceptively casual gait that belied his actual speed, allowing him to disable and pull the other deformed/masked opponents away from all of the soldiers before focusing his attention on their opponents. Each of the masked assailants seemed to vanish as he attacked, leaving a small cloud of dust or powder in their wake.

The eyes of the elder man and the brunet both narrowed as they watched the youth’s movements, as well as the techniques he used to disable and then dispatch the deformed/ masked attackers.

// Disgraceful! // the older man muttered under his breath. // His elbow was far too high on that last strike! He is as slothful and sloppy as you were when you first began your instruction, // he noted, throwing his companion an annoyed glance as they watched the figure on the screen seem to float through the air as effortlessly as a fish swimming through water, a foot driving through one of the attackers’ heads, their body turning to dust a second later, before alighting behind a second assailant and apparently decapitating him with a flick of his fingers. // Too much wasted energy! More wrist and less fingers, // he commented, a bit sourly.

In the space of less than a minute after his appearance, the newcomer had eliminated all of the attackers, only to then be confronted by a broad-shouldered figure with a crew-cut, the apparent leader of the ‘acquisition team,’ who was now pointing a standard military issue 9mm M9 Beretta at his team’s savior.

“Hold it right there, buddy, and don’t move a muscle,” Crew-cut ordered, his pistol trained on the dark-haired youth’s chest. “Just what the hell did you think you were doing?”

“Uh, saving your asses before all of your people got drained and tossed aside like empty Coke cans?” the brunet replied with a grin that seemed incredibly out of place, given the situation. In the background, several of the team members could be seen administering first-aid to a number of their comrades lying on the ground

“Who the hell are you? And what did you do to those HSTs?” Crew-cut demanded, his pistol not swaying a centimeter away from its target on the center of the newcomer’s torso.

“Sorry, sergeant, but you aren’t cleared for that information. And I don’t think even your bosses are cleared for it,” the brunet informed the soldier with what could, at best, be termed an insolent grin.

“And just what did you guys think you were doing with these bloodsuckers?” the newcomer asked, looking around at the injured people littering the area. “Delivering take-out? Or do all of you clowns just have mind-numbingly powerful death wishes? For a covert operation, you guys seem to have all the finesse of Ronald MacDonald.”

“It’s lieutenant, punk,” Crew-cut snapped, clearly irritated at the answers he was getting, “and we’re going to use them for behavior modifi –“

He broke off abruptly, the expression on his face showing his obvious anger at having been baited into blurting out any information.

“Uh, Nelson,” a voice spoke up from somewhere close by, most likely from the person bearing the videocam. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? That guy’s the reason we’re still alive after this cluster fuck.”

“Shut up, Finn,” Crew-cut snapped, throwing a nasty glance towards the videocam. “I’m in charge of this team. If you’ve got a problem with the way I’m running things, take it up with the commander when we get back to base. And anyone who can take out eleven HSTs single-handedly and not even get scratched can’t be human, so we’re taking him back to base to let Professor Walsh look him over.”

“Look, *lieutenant*,” the brunet interrupted the nascent argument, emphasizing Crew-cut’s rank and drawing the team leader’s attention back to him, “your first priority ought to be getting your people back to base and seeing to their injuries, before the smell of blood starts making the sharks circle. From what I’ve seen, your people don’t have any really serious injuries, aside from that one guy with the head injury.

“Actually, you got off pretty easy, considering these toys you’re hunting these suck-heads with,” he commented, looking around at the half-dozen men being tended to by their teammates. “You took what, about forty percent casualties? And no fatalities. Actually, that’s really pretty damn good, considering that you people obviously haven’t got a clue about what you’re dealing with here.”

“Okay, that’s it!” Crew-cut exclaimed, clearly losing his temper with the brunet’s attitude and critique of the patrol plan he’d come up with, “you’re under arrest for interfering with a classified government operation. Stay where you are, turn around and put your hands behind your back!”

“Sorry, pal, but you’re not my type,” the brunet smirked. “And I definitely don’t do the handcuffs thing on the first date. And just in case you’ve forgotten, you’re military – you couldn’t arrest a flea off a federal reservation without a presidential order,” he said, as he turned to leave.

“Halt!” Crew-cut called after him. “Don’t move, or I’ll fire!” he warned.

“Take my advice , pal, you really don’t want to do that,” the brunet warned, any semblance of humor evaporating instantly as he narrowed his gaze at the soldier aiming at him.

“People shooting at me piss me off. People whose asses I’ve just saved from vampires shooting at me piss me off a *lot*,” he informed his ostensible captor.

As he took a step towards Crew-cut, the soldier fired, the gunshot echoing loudly in the night’s quiet surrounding them. The brunet seemed to sway to the side slightly as he continued his measured advance, swaying a second time as Crew-cut fired again as the brunet crossed the distance between them much more rapidly than his ostensibly relaxed gait should seem to permit.

His hands blurred as he reached Crew-cut and the soldier’s gun flew upward and the soldier backward, the gun snatched out of the air even before the soldier hit the ground. The brunet’s hands moved at eye-defying speed and the pistol seemed to fly apart into its component parts, all of which fell to the ground in a shower of metallic fragments.

Turning to face the videocam, the brunet spoke to the videocam, or more specifically, the person who had been arguing with the now unconscious team leader.

“Better get your people back to your base, Marine,” he ordered. “The nights around here aren’t nearly as peaceful as they look,” he said, before vanishing back into the trees.

The clip ended a few seconds later, and Smith turned back to his guests.

“From the expression on your face, Chiun, I would say that my initial supposition, that the techniques demonstrated by the youth in the video clip originated, at least in part, from your teachings, is correct,” he stated, looking at the deceptively ancient-looking man.

“Yes, Excellency, the techniques displayed are some of the more elementary techniques, and can be numbered among the disappointingly limited repertoire demonstrated by this pale piece of a pig’s ear with whom I have been burdened these past years,” Chiun acknowledged with a slight scowl as he glanced over at the younger man.

“Exactly what is it that you would have us do as regards these people, Your Greatness?” he then asked, as the brunet remained quiet and listened to the other two’s discussion.

“As it stands at the moment, first, we need to determine exactly how this young man acquired his abilities,” ‘Smitty’ replied. “If it is determined that his possession of this knowledge could have an adverse impact on our activities, then you will need to remove him. Or, if in the course of your investigation, you determine that he poses any threat to our operations or national security, then you will need to remove him. This does not, however, include any concerns with regard to the black-operations already taking place in Sunnydale.”

That was one thing about Smith that Remo admired – he didn’t beat around the bush using euphemisms to make their work seem more sanitary. He was also quite business-like about their entire operation; the fact that he may have just ordered the death of the young man in the video clip didn’t seem to faze the man much at all. He seemed to handle balancing the potential lives and welfare of several hundred million people against one person’s life fairly well, all things considered.

“Very well, Excellency, it shall be as you desire,” Chiun agreed. “If there is nothing more you require of us, then we shall leave and begin our task, Your Greatness,” he continued.

Once they were out in the corridor heading away from Smith’s office, Chiun began his rant, reverting to his native tongue as he did so.

// This situation grows more intolerable with each passing year! Are there no competent white people anywhere capable of learning anything properly? // he demanded, earning another roll of the eyes from his companion. // I have yet to meet a single white man who can perform a proper elbow strike that does not leave them open to a return strike by even a moderately skilled opponent. Although that braggart that Nuihc had begun training did show some limited potential, // he noted. // Perhaps if you could train as diligently as he obviously had, you might one day prove to be not the embarrassment that you currently are, should I ever decide to acknowledge that I was peripherally involved in training you, // Chiun announced.

// Gee, you’re mellowing in your old age, Little Father. My heart almost stopped beating, hearing such a magnanimous statement, // Remo responded dryly.

// As it should, // the little man interrupted.

// Now that we’ve settled that matter, // Remo went on, // how do you want to handle this little problem Smitty’s dropped in our laps? //

// The same way we handle all of the tasks our Emperor assigns us, // his mentor replied.

// First, we will ascertain the true facts of the situation, then determine who we need to kill, and do it, // he said. // Any of the empty-ones we kill along the way will just be a pleasant service to humanity…

// Come, Remo. The Young and the Restless will be starting in a few minutes…//

~~~

After watching his two trouble-shooters leave Smith turned back to his computer and his ongoing research into Sunnydale and the supernatural.

Thirty minutes of effort found answers in three separate databases.

The first was the fifty year-old records of the ‘Demon Initiative’ first created back during World War 2. It had originally been developed to counter the Nazi fascination with the occult but, although it had claimed several small successes, had been shut down in ’47. Apparently the communists’ aggressive atheism had rendered the organization without work during the Cold War.

The second find was in the Vatican archive, and the size of it was in the terabyte range, a true mother lode of information. It seemed that the town of Sunnydale sat on a dimensional weak point, a nexus between this world and worlds so terrible that they could easily be mistaken for hell itself. The energy it gave off seemed to attract demons of all sorts and the opening of this ‘Hellmouth’ could lead to, at the very least, a demonic invasion of the continental U.S. and, as a worst-case scenario, an ELE (Extinction Level Event). The ramping up and down of the energy given off by the dimensional portal rose and fell in some irregular fashion and led to times of maximum danger where the portal could be opened. In 1937, this had almost happened; only the heroic sacrifice of the Vatican’s best operative, a Gabriel Van Helsing, had stopped a master vampire from unleashing hell on earth.

The third source was British intelligence’s tap into the database of an organization known as the Council of Watchers. And it was there that he finally determined the identity of the young man in question, who apparently assisted the Council’s operative known as ‘the Slayer’.

‘Harris, Alexander L.,’ had evidently assisted several Slayers (all of whom, it turned out, were young women gifted by some unknown source with superhuman strength, speed and sensory abilities) against nearly a dozen demonic incursions. And yet, despite the young man’s at-times quite invaluable assistance, these Watchers did not seem to hold him in high regard; various notes made by a Quentin Travers and Wesley Windom-Price made him sound like the small group’s comic relief. That the small group in Sunnydale had accomplished so much with so little support from this ‘Council’ angered Smith. Or at least angered him as much as anything ever did.

Obviously, whatever the purpose of this new Black Operations group in Sunnydale might be, it was not there to protect the town or to guard the ‘Hellmouth’ against invasion. That meant it might find itself in opposition to, or at very least interfering with, the group already in place which was keeping the situation under control. The NID’s history in this regard was far from exemplary; there were too many recorded instances of the agency placing its own agenda above both the country’s best interests and basic common sense.

It was beginning to look as though he might need to have Remo and Chiun drop by and remind the people in charge over there that their charter required them to act in the best interests of the *country*, and not whoever they might take a liking to, or who was currently in power.

And it might even be time to suggest to Senator Kinsey that he consider retiring, while he still had the option.

All in all, the consequences of anything going wrong around this ‘Hellmouth’ which might allow it to open were entirely too serious to allow even the most remote possibility of something like that happening.

That was something that simply could not be allowed to occur. Not on his watch.

Further consideration of such a state of affairs left him with little choice. The situation had been, to his mind, out of control for far too long, and CURE’s operational security came in a poor second place when compared against a potential threat of this magnitude to the nation’s very existence.

He sighed and opened a locked drawer on his desk and picked up the phone inside. Pushing the single button on its surface, he waited for the security encryption to synchronize with the phone on the other end of the dedicated line. It rang twice before being answered.

“Mr. President, we have a situation that you need to be made aware of…”

~~~

Near UC Sunnydale
Sunnydale, CA
October 9, 1999

Sounds of fighting echoed through the cemetery as a tall brunet, dressed in a black tee shirt, jeans and a dungaree jacket, cut his way through a group of ten vampires like a chainsaw through a field of corn, effortlessly dusting their collective asses. His hands were mere blurs cleaving the night air as he ripped the head from one vamp’s shoulders while a well-aimed side kick drove another into a nearby tree, impaling the demon on its branches, the dust of its remains drifting to the ground below and mixing with that of two others already piled around the tree’s roots.

A shriek of pain died almost immediately as the brunet effortlessly ripped out one vampire’s throat entirely, effectively decapitating it. As his victim dusted, the youth then drove his hands into the two closest demons’ ribcages, and used his grip on each to pick both up and slam them against each other to knock them senseless, before then turning and using their bodies to bludgeon their remaining companions to the ground.

Casually slamming the two bodies against nearby trees, the muffled Crack! of their spines splintering against the tree boles clear to his ears, he bent and picked up a small branch lying on the ground and used it to stake all of the supine vampires.

As the two remaining survivors attempted to run away in opposite directions, the man pulled a pair of stakes from a concealed sheath inside his jacket and casually flung them at both vampires, scoring simultaneous perfect heart strikes and dusting both.

As the final vamp disappeared in a puff of smoke, the man turned as he heard the faint sound of footsteps and pivoted to face whoever was approaching.

A diminutive blonde carrying a stake in her right hand cautiously entered the clearing and glanced around suspiciously, as though expecting to find something unpleasant awaiting her in the clearing.

The man stepped forward as the blonde’s eyes passed over the shadowed area in which he had been standing and a beam of moonlight illuminated his face.

“Xander? What are you doing out here?” Buffy Summers, one of two young women chosen by destiny to fight demons and other monsters, asked, a look of surprise on her face at her friend’s unexpected appearance.

“Oh, just taking a shortcut home, Buffster,” he smiled at her. “Good thing you showed up when you did. I thought I heard something moving around in the trees back there,” he told her, indicating the forest behind them.

“You shouldn’t be out here alone, Xand,” the Slayer cautioned him. “There’ve been a number of ‘animal attacks’ around here the past three days,” she informed him, her fingers making quote marks in the air as she used the University’s euphemism for the local wildlife. She thought that one was only slightly more believable than the ever-popular, ‘Gang members on PCP’.

“I haven’t been able to run down more than half a dozen vamps since then, but one of them threatened me that his whole nest would be coming after me before I dusted him. He made it sound like there were about another dozen around,” she said, as she continued looking around.

“Did you hear anything while you were out here?” the Slayer asked. “I thought I might have heard a scream, but it was cut off, if I actually did hear it.”

“Nah, didn’t hear anything worth mentioning,” the male Scooby shook his head in negation at her question.

“Hey, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you walk me home, and we can stop at Eddie’s Ice Cream Hut on the way,” he suggested. “And then you can regale me with tales about all about the wonders of collegiate life you and the Willster are experiencing.

“Ya know, I think I can hear a Double Chocolate Super Fudge Swirl Sundae calling our names, even as I speak,” he added with a grin as he held his hand up to his ear.

“Heck, I’ll even buy,” he offered as he held out his arm towards the petite blonde.

“Can I get sprinkles?” Buffy asked in a little girl voice, her face holding a hopeful expression. At his nod, she let out a happy little squeal.

“You talked me into it, Xand,” the Slayer smiled up at him as she hooked her arm around his. “Come on! Hurry up! Let’s not keep the ice cream waiting.”

~~~

“So, what’s new with Xander Harris these days, hmmm?” Buffy asked, as she paused in her annihilation of the Double Chocolate Super Fudge Swirl Sundae her companion had tempted her with, earlier. “Willow says she hasn’t seen you practically at all since you got back from your cross-country trip of self-discovery.

“In fact, we never seem to be able to find time to get together,” she observed. “Almost every time either of us call you, we end up getting your answering machine, and it’s like another day or so before you get back to us,” she semi-complained, giving him the full-strength Buffy Summers-sad-puppy-dog-eyes-and-pouting-lips as she looked at him, and Xander grinned to himself even as he admired the way she reflexively tried to manipulate him by making him feel guilty.

Actually, he thought to himself, it wasn’t all that different from the way most people tried to manipulate their environment. It was just that women were usually intuitively much better at doing it through emotional manipulation than men.

“Sorry about that, Buffarino,” the tall brunet apologized, “but I’ve got my hands full with this new job I’m working, and it’s been keeping me really busy. Usually, by the time I get your calls, it’s late, and I figure you guys are probably busy with school stuff.”

“I guess you’re partly right about the school stuff,” the petite blonde admitted somewhat reluctantly. “Luckily, we haven’t had any Apocalyptic-type stuff showing its face around town since we took care of the Mayor, so we haven’t even been having any research-type parties lately. Well, at least not demonic research. Keeping up with classes is of the hard, though,” she noted, with a small shudder as she thought of some of the classes that Willow had managed to talk her into taking.

“So, how is this new job thing going for you, Xand?” Buffy asked, latching onto the new topic of conversation offered in passing by her friend’s explanation for not returning their calls. “And just what exactly is ‘restorations and recovery,’ anyway?”

“Well, the company comes across a lot of older stuff in the course of our work; you know, jewelry and paintings and stocks and bonds, that kind of thing, and we clean up the stuff we recover as much as possible, then try to trace the things back and determine who the original owners of the items might be and see if they’re interested in reclaiming the items. If the stuff’s been reported as stolen, we contact the insurance companies and inform them of what we’ve found and we get a percentage of the value of the item as a finder’s fee,” the Scooby Gang founder explained. “If we can’t determine who the original owner was, then we usually sell the stuff for whatever we can get for it on the open market.

“You’d be surprised to see what kind of money people are willing to pay for some of the older stuff we’ve come across,” he informed the blonde. “One house we were clearing out had an entire collection of the original Star Wars figures, still in the unopened packages; we ended up making a pile of money on them when we advertised them on E-Bay! Even found an unopened mint-condition Millennium Falcon!” he crowed triumphantly. “Boy, we made a REAL killing on that place!”

“Oh, and that reminds me – I found some old vinyl albums of some groups from the sixties I thought Giles might be interested in, the other day. I’ve been meaning to give him a call about them, but I keep forgetting,” he lamented.

“Well, I’m glad to hear things are working out so well for you, Xand,” Buffy smiled when she heard that, for a change, things seemed to be going smoothly for her friend. Especially given the particulars of his home life while they were in high school. “I remember you were kinda concerned about what you were gonna be doing with your life when you were getting ready to leave on your trip.

“Which reminds me,” she said as her eyes lit up, “What are you doing tomorrow night?”

“Uhm, nothing in particular that I can think of,” Xander replied, a bit warily upon seeing the petite blonde’s bright smile. “Why?”

“You haven’t gotten round to telling us about everything you did and saw while you were away on your trip, yet,” the Slayer pointed out to him with, in his opinion, a rather predatory grin.

“You owe me and Will and Giles, too, a full National Geographic travelogue-type description of everything you saw and did while you were gone, mister!” she smiled. “Complete with any photos you took and postcards and any other vacation-type stuff you brought back with you. And you’re gonna give it to us tomorrow night! You owe me and Will the WHOLE story about your summer vacation,” she informed her smiling audience, giving him a stern look to quash any possible protest.

“And you can tell Giles about those albums you found, too, when you see him,” she pointed out as she looked for additional reasons for the four of them to get together again.

“So, we’re all gonna meet at the Bronze tomorrow night and you’re gonna tell us about everything that happened. We’ll get together for dinner and we can all just hang out, like we used to,” Buffy told him, her enthusiasm at the idea of an opportunity for the four of them to re-bond obvious to him and infecting him with the same desire to see his friends and reminisce about ‘the good old days.’

“Okay, Buffster,” he agreed, to the smiling blonde’s delight. “Sounds like a plan.”

~~~

Sunnydale Howard Johnson Motel
Sunnydale, CA


“I still can’t believe that more people die here than in New York City and Washington, D.C. combined and this is the first time Smitty’s noticed,” Remo complained as he deposited the last of Chiun’s trunks in his room. “What happened to all of the super computer analysis and evaluation programs he’s got running that‘re supposed to catch any kind of weirdness that happens anywhere in the world? Didn’t anyone notice that more people died from ‘animal bites’ here in this town than died from gunshots in Washington, D.C.?”

“The Emperor has more important things to occupy his time than to wonder about the prevalence of animal bites among his subjects,” Chiun informed him, as he turned on the television and began channel surfing.

“How do you think the kid managed to learn everything he did?” The younger man changed the subject of their conversation to focus on the reason for their presence here in town. “He wasn’t around us more than a couple hours, at most, and I know neither of us did anything out of the ordinary while he was around.”

“The boy’s techniques are just like yours were when you first began training,” the older man said in response to his protégé’s comments.

“Okay, okay, I’ll admit that I really sucked when I first began training,” Remo declared, throwing up his hands in annoyance at the reminder of his earliest education as Chiun’s student. “Happy, now? Can we get back to the subject at hand – namely, how and where the kid learned what he knows?”

“You misunderstand me,” Chiun responded. “I have been giving the films of the youth we saw much thought and I meant that his techniques are *exactly* the same as yours were when you first began learning the Sun Source. The way he performed that elbow strike and the position of his fingers when he decapitated the empty ones were done in precisely the same manner as you first used during the initial stage of your training.

“His techniques were not merely similar to yours; his moves were *identical* to yours. He moved as though he possessed the same memories you did during your initial instruction,” the foremost assassin in the world stated with a degree of certainty Remo was unable to dispute.

“How he could accomplish that is what we need to determine before we do anything more,” the ostensibly frail old man decided, and Remo merely nodded his agreement.

~~~

Sunnydale General Hospital
Long Term Care Unit


“Well, kid, looks like it’s time to either put up or shut up,” the dark-haired youth murmured quietly to himself as he stood beside the hospital bed and looked down at the wan-looking, but still beautiful, comatose brunette lying in it.

“Do you really believe in redemption? Or were you just talking out your ass last spring?” he asked himself. “And are you ready to make the hard choices and follow through if things don’t work out the way you hope they will?”

Hearing a noise coming from the hallway, he stepped back and blended into the shadows, watching without a sound, unseen and undetected, while the night nurse on duty came in and took the sleeping girl’s vital signs.

He smiled silently to himself as the woman took a moment to affectionately brush her patient’s hair back from her face and murmur quietly, “Come on now, sweetie. You need to wake up soon, so your knight in shining armor knows to come get you. You can’t just sleep your life away. You’ve got your whole future ahead of you.”

Once the woman had returned to her rounds, he stepped out of the shadows again and smiled down at the sleeping girl.

“Looks like I’m not the only one who thinks you’re worth saving,” he observed quietly.

Reaching down, he began carefully pressing his fingers against various nerve clusters and pressure points whose existence he had not even suspected several months earlier. After a few moments, he ceased his actions and stood waiting patiently for the expected results to appear.

Several minutes passed before the still figure began to stir, and he remained where he was even as signs of consciousness began to emerge.

When a small moan issued from the girl’s mouth, and her eyes began to flutter open, he leaned forward, allowing her to see him.

“Xa- Xander?” the brunette asked as she blinked her eyes uncertainly, clearly not completely certain of who or what she was seeing.

“Hi, Faith,” the first Scooby said. “I need you to listen carefully, ‘cause I’ve got a proposition for you...”

~~~

“Hi. I’d like to check out, please.”

The throaty, unexpected voice startled Cheryl Jacobson, the R.N. on duty, and she jerked in her chair as she looked up at the pale-complected brunette standing quietly on the other side of the nurses’ station.

“Wh-what?” she gasped as she stared in amazement at the young woman, one Faith Wilkins according to her charts, whom she had last seen lying comatose in her bed less than an hour ago.

Ignoring the fact that the girl shouldn’t even be able to stand up by herself, where had she gotten her clothes – the man’s tee shirt, the sweatpants and tennis shoes – that she was currently wearing?

“Oh my lord in heaven! Are you okay, sweetie?” she asked as she began scrambling to her feet and moving around the desk towards her charge, her professional concern clearly mixed with honest worry as she looked at the young woman standing before her.

Young woman, hell; despite what the identification she had been carrying when she was admitted indicated, the girl in front of her couldn’t be more than nineteen. In fact, she was most likely more like seventeen or eighteen, the nurse judged, measuring the brunette in her mind against her own daughters.

“Yeah, I’m fine, thanks,” the drawn but still beautiful brunette managed to give her the barest of smiles as she answered Cheryl’s question. “I just want to check myself out and leave, that’s all.”

“Faith, you can’t do that, honey,” the nurse protested automatically, as she came around the nurses’ station and began trying to examine the young woman, who politely but firmly rebuffed the nurse’s attempts to get her to return to her bed

“Why not?”

“Why not, what?” Cheryl asked, not understanding the girl’s question.

“Why can’t I check out? Am I under arrest or something?” the brunette politely questioned her.

“Uh, no,” Cheryl shook her head negatively. “Not at all, honey. I just meant that you shouldn’t leave, because you’re probably not strong enough. Even if you’re feeling good enough to walk out of here right now, you’re probably gonna collapse before you get very far,” the older woman warned.

“And do you even have any place you can go when you leave here?”

“Yeah. As a matter of fact, I actually do,” the brunette almost seemed to smirk to herself as though she were appreciating some subtle, inside joke, Cheryl noticed as she watched her formerly comatose patient nod her affirmation to her question before turning around and heading down the hallway to the elevators.

“Look, nothing personal, lady,” she heard the brunette call over her shoulder, “but I hope I never see you again.”

~~~

The Bronze
The following evening

“…one of the male strippers called in sick, and no power on this earth will *ever* be able to make me tell you the rest of that story,” Xander stated with a wry grin, his statement producing a burst of giggles, together with wide-eyed, inquiring looks from both girls and a loud chuckle from Giles.

“Suffice to say I traded my car in for one that wasn't entirely made of rust,” he continued, “and came trundling back home to the unwelcoming arms of my parents, who informed me that, as I was now eighteen and a legal adult, they were going to graciously allow me to live in the basement and pay rent for the privilege.

“I somehow managed to resist accepting that magnanimous offer, went out, got my current job and found my own place to stay, thus concluding this fascinating chapter in the life of the legendary Alexander Harris, connoisseur of life, beautiful women and Twinkies, and avid supporter and advocate in helping the Buffster stake anything that goes bite in the night,” he finished his story, with an elaborate half-bow while still seated that managed to rattle the table and threaten to send the glasses and plates on it flying, as well as sending his audience into peals of laughter.

“Oh man, I didn’t realize how much I missed all of this,” Buffy announced, once she had stopped laughing at her friend’s antics, her hand gesture encompassing the four of them sitting at the table.

“What’s that, Buff? The threat of imminent dish break-age?” Xander asked her with a grin as he leaned back in his chair and casually looked around the room in a completely unconscious and reflexive check for any possible threats. “The possibility of finding yet another chance of injury in an establishment which has provided us with numerous opportunities for death and possible dismemberment over the past three years?”

“No, you goof,” the blonde shook her head as she smiled at her companions. “I meant the four of us getting together and just being here, talking and enjoying each other’s company.

“We’ve never seemed to have enough chances to do that, what with the various Big Bads showing up week after week and never giving us a chance to catch our breath,” she pointed out.

“Unfortunately, Buffy, we do know exactly what you mean,” Giles agreed with a small sigh of regret. “However much I might desire that we did not, we do, and I have to agree with you that I, too, have missed our finding occasions to reunite and reminisce over times past.”

“Me, too, guys,” Willow nodded. “I really missed seeing both of you guys during the summer, what with my job at the Science Center and everything. And I don’t even see Buffy that much now, either, since we have almost completely different class schedules and roommates,” she pointed out.

“Well then, why don’t we plan on making this a weekly event?” Buffy suggested practically, smiling at the other three. “Since we all want to do something like this, why don’t we make a point of getting together for dinner each week? We could either meet here or at some other restaurant, if you want to get something different to eat.”

The petite blonde’s suggestion was met with favorable responses from all three of her companions, and they were discussing the most favorable night for them to meet when their table was jostled by as a tall, broad-shouldered blond man stumbling into to it as a group of high school students charged by and jostled him.

“Oh gosh, I’m really sorry about that,” the guy apologized immediately as he reached past Xander to grab at the table and stabilize it. “I kinda lost my balance.”

“Riley?” Buffy asked, her voice surprised as she looked up and recognized the cause of their interrupted conversation.

“Buffy?” the man replied, an expression of chagrin on his face. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you and your friends, ” he repeated himself.

“Oh, it wasn’t your fault,” Willow instantly chimed in. “Those guys bumped into you. I saw it.”

“Well, in any event, I didn’t mean to interrupt your dinner,” Riley apologized yet again.

“There’s nothing to apologize for,” Giles replied graciously. “We all had finished with our meals, and were merely sitting and talking. I’m Rupert Giles, by the way,” he introduced himself, rising slightly to offer his hand to the newcomer.

“Riley Finn,” the blond replied politely, shaking Giles’ hand. “I’m a teaching assistant at the University.”

“Yeah, guys; Riley’s one of Will’s and my instructors,” Buffy elaborated, smiling at him.

“And this is Xander Harris, another friend of ours,” she added, indicating the brunet sitting to her right.

Smiling politely, Xander stood up and turned to face the newcomer, who had been standing behind him during the course of his conversations with the other Scoobies and whose voice he had immediately recognized upon hearing it, and looked into the clear blue eyes of the Marine who had attempted to intercede on his behalf during the brunet’s confrontation with the unidentified demon-hunters, earlier in the week.

“I’m – quite pleased to meet you,” Riley stated, managing to almost completely cover his initial surprise and astonishment at recognizing the other while offering his hand.

“So, I guess you live in the area, huh? You look kinda familiar,” he continued without a break, his tone friendly enough in a meeting-casual-strangers-for-the-first-time manner.

“Yeah, I live here in town,” Xander replied easily. “You’ve probably seen me around somewhere. It’s not like Sunnydale’s that big, or anything,” he shrugged negligently, then looked at his watch.

“Uh-oh. Sorry, guys, I don’t mean to eat and run, but I’m supposed to be meeting someone in twenty minutes, about some training I promised I’d do with them,” he explained apologetically, “and I don’t want to be late.

“Will, I’ll give you or Buff a call sometime tomorrow about dinner on Tuesday, okay?” he grinned at his oldest friend.

“You better not forget, mister, or Buffy and I will be coming after you, and I can promise you won’t like that,” the redhead mock-threatened with a narrow frown.

“Oh yeah. Having two gorgeous women scouring the town looking for me has always been one of my major phobias, Will. You know that,” Xander shot back with a Grocho Marx-like wiggle of his eyebrows.

“And I’ll drop those albums by your apartment sometime tomorrow, either late morning or early afternoon, okay, Giles?” he added as he turned to address their mentor and surrogate father.

“That would be fine, Xander,” Giles nodded his assent to the brunet’s suggestion. “I expect to be in all day, tomorrow. Should there be any change in my schedule, I’ll give you a call, all right?”

“Fine. See ya, guys.”

And with that he was out the door.

“Something wrong, Riley?” Buffy asked, noticing the way that her T.A.’s eyes had followed her fellow Scooby Gang member as he left.

“Huh? Oh, no, Buffy,” Finn shook his head as he turned back and smiled down at her.

“Uh, it was, uhm, just that your friend seemed, uh, familiar…” his voice trailed off as he realized that his interest in the departed brunet had drawn the diminutive beauty’s attention. “I guess he was right; I must have seen him around town or something.”

< Funny, he never struck me as interested in guys, > Buffy thought to herself, feeling the slightest bit of disappointment at the thought.

And maybe just the tiniest little bit of frustration, too.

< From the way Willow was talking after that party the other night, I would have sworn that he seemed like he was interested in me. Oh well. Don’t ask, don’t tell, I guess. >

< Although I should probably mention Riley’s interest to Xander. I’m sure he’d prefer to avoid another misunderstanding like the one he mentioned he had with Larry sophomore year, > she reminded herself with a small grin.

With a mental sigh, she set those thoughts aside as she listened to Willow enthusiastically begin questioning the tall blond about Dr. Walsh’s predilections and dislikes as far as various students’ participation in her classes went.

~~~

Xander’s Apartment
Above Jackson Hardware
Downtown Sunnydale, CA

“Here you are, Faith: stir-fried chicken and vegetables, some dried persimmons and fresh pineapple slices,” Xander said, as he handed the wary-eyed brunette the bag he had carried in with him.

“What’s with the health food kick, boytoy?” the brunette asked as she sat up and looked into the bag before dropping it onto the coffee table in front of the couch she was currently sprawled on. “I thought you were the original fast food king?”

“I had to make some major changes to my dietary habits this past summer, along with a number of other things in my life,” the tall brunet smirked as he dropped bonelessly into the chair opposite the couch and looked across the coffee table at his current ‘houseguest.’

"And the name is Xander, Faith. Not boytoy, stud, or anything else you might think up.

"Just Xander."

“Hey, I didn’t mean anything by it…Xander,” she said, looking at him with an uncertain expression on her lovely features. “It’s just the way I talk, that’s all.”

“I know, Faith,” he nodded his calm acknowledgement of her statement. “And I’m just telling you what I want to be called.”

“Okay,” the brunette Slayer agreed, still obviously uncertain of how she should react to him. “You mind if I ask you something?”

“Go ahead, ask away,” Xander grinned. “Doesn’t mean I’ll answer, but go ahead.”

“Why are you doing this? Helping me out?” she questioned him. “What do you get out of it? I know you told me back at the hospital that you weren’t expecting anything from me,” she said, although the male Scooby noted the shadow of suspicion and skepticism still lurking in the depths of her gaze.

“I’m pretty sure B and Red would shit themselves green if they find out you’re helping me out. There’s probably nothing B’d like better than another chance to gut me, if she could. And your little witch friend would cream her jeans if she thought there was a chance to put me in the ground six feet deep,” the brunette Bostonian noted with a realistically accurate assessment of her relationships with the two distaff members of the Scooby Gang.

“So why are you sticking your neck out doing this? What do you get out of it?” she asked.

“Well, I’ve always felt that we never really gave you a chance to fit in and be a part of the Gang, once you showed up in the ‘Dale,” he replied as he looked over at her. “I think we, and by that I mean everyone in the Scooby Gang, failed you when you first showed up in Sunnydale, Faith, and that if we’d been there giving you the support you so obviously needed, you wouldn’t have ended up turning to the Mayor for that support.

“God knows, I’ve made my own share of screw-ups over the past few years,” he added, “so it’s not like I can stand back and cast stones at you.

“And as far as Buffy and Willow are concerned, I don’t see where they’ve got any room to complain about giving you a second chance, not after the way Buffy behaved when Angel came back from Hell and she insisted that *he* get a chance to prove himself,” he noted with the hint of a sardonic grin.

“And since Willow supported her on that, she’ll look like a real hypocrite if she doesn’t give you the same chance to redeem yourself. And the fact is, we can always use as much help here at Demon Central as we can get,” he said simply.

“So you’re getting a chance to show that you can change, and come back to the Light, Faith. But it’s just the one chance. Screw this up and I’ll take you out myself, before any of the others even know something’s wrong,” he told her calmly, looking at her with an expression that somehow left no doubt in her mind that he could, and would, do exactly what he said.

“And besides, the chance to point and say ‘Neener, neener, I was right and you were wrong’ when Buffy and Willow finally do find out is something I just can’t pass up,” he added with a mischievous grin that momentarily made him look about ten years old in Faith’s estimation.

“Don’t let me down, okay Faith?’ he asked, looking deep into her eyes.

~~~

“Xand, we’ve got some seriously bad news,” the tone of Buffy’s voice on his answering machine clearly revealed her worry and concern.

“Faith woke up the other night and left the hospital. It looks like she’s just dropped out of sight and nobody has any idea where she might be. We just found out about her waking up this morning, so you need to be careful ‘cause she might be looking to get even with everyone in the Gang for us blowing up her sugar daddy, Hizzoner the Mayor. I’m gonna stop by your place and Giles’ apartment later when I’m patrolling, just in case, but if you see anyone suspicious hanging around or anything weird going on, give me a call on my cell and I’ll head right over.

“Oh, and I thought I should probably give you a head’s up notice,” she added, a hint of laughter now clearly in her voice. “I think that our T.A., Riley Finn, the guy you met when we had dinner at the Bronze, might want to ask you out, you heartbreaker, you. Talk to you later. Bye.”

“ 'Anything weird going on’?” Xander repeated to himself after listening to the message. “What the heck’s she thinking about? This is Sunnydale…*Everything* around here is of the weird.

“And what the hell did she mean their T.A. might want to ask me out?” he mumbled to himself as he began making himself a breakfast of raw fruits and some chicken cutlets left over from a previous night’s dinner.

“Is your switching teams one of those lifestyle changes you mentioned you made this past summer, Xand?” Faith smirked as she settled down on one of the chairs lining the kitchen table and began munching on an apple she grabbed from the basket of fruit on the table.

They’d just spent the last two hours with Xander teaching her how to breath properly. She had kinda felt like a tool doing it, at first, but she had to admit that she was feeling stronger and much steadier than she had before, with most of the aches that she had since waking up in the hospital finally gone. It reminded her of the centering exercises that her old Watcher had made her do back before she’d died. However, the exercises that she used to do with Linda had never effected her like these had; sitting Indian-style in front of Xander, she had completely lost track of time as she listened and did her best to duplicate the brunet’s breathing pattern. She was feeling better – not 100% yet, but definitely better.

“NO!” the apparently newly empowered Scooby half-yelled in response to her question, his exasperation at the blonde Slayer’s message clearly evident. “I still play all the same positions I used to,” he insisted, the hint of an embarrassed blush coloring his cheeks as he answered her question.

“Still prefer the missionary, huh?” Faith asked with a grin. “Gotta say I prefer riding cowgirl, myself. You do make a great bucking bronco,” she added, her smile widening as her host’s cheeks reddened.

“Are you feeling up to working out this afternoon?” Xander asked, completely ignoring their current topic of conversation and changing subjects as he realized that there was no way he could possibly win a verbal skirmish on that subject with Faith.

“What did you have in mind, Xand? Some one-on-one exercises, maybe?” she asked with what could only be called a lascivious grin. “You and me getting all hot and sweaty?”

“Yeah, something like that,” he grinned back, and the expression on his face made Faith wonder (and maybe worry the least little bit) exactly what he had in mind.

After all, the last time she’d seen an expression like that on his face had left B acting like she was suffering from a super case of PMS for nearly a week. She’d never really figured out exactly what it was that Xander had done to piss the bottle blonde off like that, since neither she or Xander would discuss it at all, but it had left the ‘normal’ member of the group limping for three days, evidently as a result of her kicking him in the ass in retaliation for whatever it was he’d done, from what she could gather.

And the weirdest part was that the goofy-ass SOB evidently thought the price was worth it. He’d worn the biggest freaking smile she’d ever seen at the time for the whole week following whatever it was that he did, and for the first few days afterward, it got even wider every time B saw him and gave him her patented ‘death glare,’ which he’d ignored completely, something else he did which seemed to piss the Chosen drama queen off even more, in her opinion.

~~~

“You’re out of your fucking mind, Harris! Okay, I know all of you guys think I’m crazy, but I’m definitely not nuts enough to try any crazy-ass shit like that! Sure, the breathing thing feels great and the running on the beach with no footprints was mega-wicked, but this is just plain whacked!”

The expression of wide-eyed disbelief the younger Slayer was wearing was definitely one for the books, Xander thought to himself as he smirked and watched her reaction to his suggested course of training.

“What’s the matter, Faith? Afraid you won’t be able to do it?” he asked her somberly, after consciously wiping the smirk from his face and replacing it with a somber expression.

“Fuck, *nobody* could do something like that!” the brunette argued. “You’d split your dumb-ass head wide open the first time you tried anything like that.”

“Ehhhnnnn! Wrong!” the founding Scooby declared with a small grin.

“Watch and I’ll show you how it’s done,” he said, as he left her standing by the out of bounds floor marking for the basketball court and headed towards the closest backboard.

Once he reached it, he jumped up and grabbed hold of the rim on his first attempt, then effortlessly pulled himself up one-handedly, smoothly curling his body upward in a reverse somersault that left him standing on the backboard, his feet straddling the rim, ten feet off the lacquered floor.

“It’s simple enough to do, Faith,” he told her with a completely serious expression as he glanced over at her. “Once you can feel your hair touch floor, you just flip over onto your feet.”

“Xander, no!!” the brunette cried out in protest as their eyes met. “I believe you can do it, okay? Just, please, don’t try! Don’t show me! I believe you! Please, don’t!”

“Okay, Faith, just relax,” Xander said as he smiled reassuringly at her. Seeing her relax slightly from her tensed-up body stance, he smiled at her again as he straightened up to his full height.

Mentally centering himself, he relaxed the grip his feet had on the rim slightly and allowed himself to fall forward, not releasing the rim completely until he was dropping head-first straight down towards the floor.

Faith had calmed slightly once the young man who had rescued her from her coma a few days earlier had seemed to rethink his insane proposal for training and apparently given up on his clearly demented idea.

Sure, training to such a level that you could actually completely flip your body over and land on your feet, once you felt your hair touch the ground, would be really wicked and would definitely put you at a whole new level when it came to fighting the bloodsuckers that infested the area around here! But who the hell was he trying to kid?! Being that agile only happened in the movies or if you were some kind of a video game character, and most definitely not if you were someone made of flesh and blood, who’d break their freaking neck trying to do anything like that, she reminded herself.

She was going to wait patiently until he had gotten down from his elevated perch, but once he did, she was going to kick his ass, first, for just suggesting such a harebrained idea and then again for scaring her and making her think he was actually going to do something like that!

She was just letting out a relived breath when she saw him begin tilting forward and recognized with a mixture of disbelief and horror that the dumb ass was actually going to try to do what he had insisted he could do.

“NO!”

She began rushing forward the instant she realized what was happening, ignoring the fact that she knew that even she wasn’t fast enough to catch him before he could fall the ten feet, hit the floor and probably shatter his neck and spine like a piece of peanut brittle.

~~~

“Yeah, what do you want?”

Remo’s standard response when answering the phone probably would have given Sister Rita Charles a coronary, and possibly an aneurism, too, had she been able to hear him, considering the endless hours she’d spent teaching the children at the orphanage proper manners. At least, she probably would have after first boxing his ears, that is. So it was probably lucky for both of them that she’d passed away nearly twenty years before, a victim of the high blood pressure she claimed had resulted from caring for all of the children that had passed through Saint Mart’s doors back in Newark.

“Have you located your assignment yet?” Smith’s voice was just as lackluster and uninspiring over the phone lines as it was in person.

“Yeah, he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be, Smitty,” CURE’s premiere assassin confirmed as he idly watched the doors of the high school gymnasium the kid and the brunette looker he’d had with him had entered.

“Still haven’t figured out how or where he picked up the skill set he’s got, though,” he informed his boss. “Chiun insists he’s got exactly the same moves I did at that point in time, even down to the same mistakes in techniques he said I had. The kind of things you don’t pick up from just watching tapes of someone training,” he amplified his statement. “We’re taking things slow, trying to figure out what he did and how he did it, but no luck so far.”

“All right,” Smith accepted the progress, or rather lack-of-progress, report Remo had given him with the briefest of acknowledgements.

“I’ve spoken with the President and there have been some revisions to your mission objectives,” the completely nondescript man who headed up the widest-ranging law enforcement program in the nation advised. “Here’s what you need to do…”

~~~

Faith simply couldn’t believe her goddamn friggin’ eyes! What she had just seen was just simply fucking impossible!

She’d been right about her not being able to reach Xander before he’d hit floor, but she’d been wrong about HOW he’d hit the floor.

She hadn’t been more than five feet away from him when he’d first touched the floor and she *knew* she’d seen the ends of his long brown hair brushing the floor, because she’d felt like her stomach was contracting into a black hole when she realized that he was about to break his neck and that B and Red would most likely find some way to blame her for that, in addition to everything else they held her responsible for.

And then all of a sudden, SPLAT!, there was the sound of his feet hitting the floor, and then there he was, standing on his feet right in front of her, looking like he hadn’t just done something that was simply fucking impossible!

NO ONE could do that shit! Let alone Xander Harris!

Hell, the guy she’d first met last year would have had a problem throwing himself at the ground and hitting it three times in a row. There simply wasn’t any way he could do flips that would have been damn near impossible for her or B to do without breaking their necks!

And what was even weirder about the whole thing was that he had let out this low-voiced “Shit!” as he landed and now he was standing there in front of her with this annoyed expression on his face, like he was pissed at himself!

She really, really, REALLY needed to know just what the hell was going on, so that was exactly what she said.

“What the fuck’s going on, Xander?” she demanded, her face wearing a combination of fear, relief, anger and disbelief as she spoke. “And what was that ‘shit’ you let out when you hit for, huh?”

“Sorry about that,” the one-time, so-called Zeppo apologized, an embarrassed and rueful expression on his face as he did so. “It slipped out when I screwed up my landing.”

“What do you mean, you screwed up your landing?” the clearly baffled brunette replied upon hearing his explanation.

“You wouldn’t have heard my feet hit the floor if I had landed properly,” he answered, his response causing her to look at him with an even more perplexed expression than she had before.

~~~

It had taken him a while, but he had finally managed to convince the russet-haired Slayer that he had been completely serious when he explained why he was upset about his landing on the gym floor after dropping head-first from the backboard.

Of course, his inability/refusal to explain to her exactly how he had managed to acquire his new abilities didn’t help the situation very much. His oft-repeated “Believe me, you’re better off not knowing,” was beginning to sound a little thin to his own ears, so he could well understand why it didn’t do much to make the only recently-awakened Slayer put any more trust in him than she absolutely had to, at this point in time.

He’d spent the next hour and a half explaining to her the basics behind the demonstration he’d just given her and working with her to develop the confidence in her own abilities that would let her, eventually, accomplish the same feat. She wasn’t anywhere near the mindset she’d need to pull it off, but she was actually a lot closer than she believed herself to be, so he was more than satisfied with everything they’d achieved as they left the gym and started heading back to his place.

Of course, it was as they were walking out the side door that he noticed the brunet with the thick wrists and the seemingly frail Asian getting out of the late model Ford parked in the school lot.

“Faith, I need you to trust me and not ask any questions,” he said quietly as the two newcomers began heading towards them. “I’ve got some personal business to take care of, right now, so I’ll meet you back at the apartment once I’ve gotten things straightened out, okay?”

The younger Slayer had picked up on the approaching duo almost as quickly as he had, and she took a moment to give him an appraising glance before quickly looking back at the newcomers.

“Sure you won’t want a witness to what goes down?” was all she asked him, however.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” he nodded and grinned at her, even as he consciously damped down on the involuntary surge in his heartbeat the sight of the two new arrivals had precipitated.

“Now, go on. I’ll see you later,” he lied to her with a straight face.

After giving him one last look, and throwing a narrow-eyed frown at the two visitors, she nodded and headed off towards his place at a quick jog.

Moving off to the side of the gym away from the street, so as to avoid any chance of their meeting being witnessed by passers-by, Xander patiently waited for Remo and Chiun to join him.

Turning to face the elderly, but still manifestly deadly, Korean, Xander bowed politely as he addressed him.

“Greetings, Little Grandfather. To what do I owe the honor of this meeting?”

Turning to face Remo, he repeated the bow.

“And greetings to you, too, Not So Little Father,” he smirked at the man’s barely visible reaction to his salutation. “Come to see what I’ve been doing with my legacy?”

“Actually, kid,” Remo replied, hesitating a barely perceptible fraction of a second, “we stopped by to see if you’re interested in a job.”


FIN

The End

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