I don’t own Buffy or Wheel of Time or any of the characters from either work.
Spoilers: there’s a prophecy in book four, The Shadow Rising, which I use as a plot point. I put my own interpretation on it which may or may not match Jordan’s so I guess it’s a possible spoiler. There are also spoilers for season two of Buffy.
The next day they gathered at the library.
“So you guys just forgot about me?” Xander exclaimed.
“You were guarding Dawn and Mom,” Buffy reminded him. “Thanks by the way.”
“Yeah, but the big fight, the rescue,” Xander said. “Maybe my luck power could have been useful.”
“Well with two slayers, we did okay,” Willow told him. “But you could have helped.”
“Hmm,” Xander said. “Just I thought, with superpowers, I’d be in on more stuff.”
“Does being lucky really count as a superpower?” Buffy asked.
“Well, yeah it does,” Xander said. “And a very good superpower too.”
“It’s a great superpower, Xander,” Willow said. “It’s much better than magic or superstrength or boring stuff like that.”
“Thanks Willow,” Xander said. “You understand.” Buffy shrugged.
“And it’s a shame you missed it,” Willow said. “Drusilla had stolen Angel’s shirt and tied him to a bed for torturing. Buffy rescued him and cut him loose. It was so romantic.” Willow sighed.
“Uh, yeah,” Xander said. He smiled over at Kendra. “So you’re a vampire slayer too.” Kendra nodded, looking at the library table.
“I bet you’ve had all sorts of interesting adventures,” Xander said. Kendra studied the table.
“I bet it was interesting being raised as a slayer,” Xander said. “All that practicing.”
“I am not allowed to talk to boys,” Kendra said.
“Kendra’s led a sheltered life,” Buffy said.
“No boys at all?” Xander said. “Hmm.”
“Xander,” Willow warned.
“I don’t know, Willow,” Buffy said. “Xander’s pretty harmless.”
“Hey! That isn’t true!” Xander protested. “I’m very dangerous.” Willow and Buffy giggled.
“This is good,” Buffy announced. “Ken, Xander is going to ask you out on a date. And you’re going to say yes.”
“I am?” Xander asked.
“I am not allowed to date boys,” Kendra said.
“Yeah, but you’re working with my Watcher now, and he encourages the dating of boys,” Buffy said.
“He does?” Kendra asked.
Buffy nodded vigorously. “Yep, at every opportunity. It’s mandatory. ‘Cause you need it for your development.”
Several hours later Xander and Kendra were seated on a bench in a Sunnydale park watching the sun set over the ocean.
“I always liked this place,” Xander told her. “How do you like the ice cream?” He looked back behind them. Buffy stuck her head out one of the bushes and gave him a thumbs up. He sighed.
“I am not allowed to eat ice cream.” Kendra said. “It is surprising dat Mista Giles allows so many forbidden dings. But de ice cream is very good. I like it. How is Buffy doing?”
“She’s found a comfortable spot in the bushes,” he told her. “You know, Kendra, I don’t want to be pushy, but your life sounds a little on the grim side.”
“A slayer’s life is duty,” Kendra said. “It is me destiny to stand alone against de darkness.” She paused and licked her ice cream cone. “It is a great honor to be de Slayer,” she told him.
“Yeah I guess,” Xander said. “But don’t you need time to relax, and enjoy stuff? You know, to help you keep sharp. Breaking training and that kind of stuff.”
Kendra shook her head, scandalized. “Me training is me life,” she said. “Dat and me duty.” She finished her ice cream cone and snuck a look at Xander’s. He smiled and handed his to her and she dug in eagerly.
“But isn’t balance critical to the martial arts?” he asked. “I mean the great masters; even Musashi spoke of a balance of internal and external force, the world and the spirit.” What had he just said?
Kendra nodded slowly. “Yes,” she said. “But I never dot it meant frivolous enjoyments. I don’t dink me watcher would agree.”
“So what’s he like?” Xander asked. “He raised you right? He must be like a father.”
“No,” Kendra said. “He is me teacher and guide, not me fader. He trains me and helps me prepare for battle. We have a very proper relationship.” She looked about. “What do de other couples do here? Why did Buffy suggest we come here?”
“Oh they’re making out,” Xander said. “It’s sort of a make out spot, which makes me wonder why Buffy was pushing it.” He looked back and saw a flash of blonde hair, disappearing into a bush.
Kendra finished her ice cream cone and studied him. “Make out,” she said. “You mean, like dis?” She leaned forward and kissed him. It was rushed and they banged noses. “Oh, hush,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, no,” Xander said. “That’s perfect.” He tilted his head to one side and began kissing her. She was a quick learner and smelled of vanilla and cinnamon. He slipped his arm around her and snuggled her against him, letting himself go into the kissing. Some time passed…
Buffy tapped on his shoulder. “Okay, Xander,” she said. “Kendra has had enough development for today.”
“I dunno Buffy,” Xander said, feeling a little dazed. “We’re doing okay, you can take off now.”
“Yes Buffy,” Kendra said. “Xander is harmless as you said. I can handle de rest of de date on me own.” Dawn was upset about something. She was moving.
“Uh-uh,” Buffy shook her head. “Kendra, you’ve been too sheltered. I’m not going to trust Xander with you. He has a thing for slayers.”
“That isn’t true,” Xander said. “Well maybe a little,” he smiled at Kendra who smiled back.
“Kendra we have to report back to Giles,” Buffy said. Kendra jumped to her feet and nodded.
“Let us proceed,” she said and strode off purposefully.
“Dirty pool,” Xander told Buffy. She made a face at him. They walked back towards the school, Xander still monitoring Dawn, who was quite angry about something.
“Buffy, Dawn’s coming,” Xander said. “It feels like she’s running, your mom wouldn’t run would she?” He stopped. “Isn’t there a graveyard between your house and the school?”
Buffy looked at him, her face pale. “Show me,” she said.
So they ran, with Kendra following and found Dawn by herself, walking through a Sunnydale cemetery in the early evening. There weren’t any vampires in sight.
“Dawn, what are you doing?” Buffy exploded. “You know not to be out at night, and Mom wouldn’t let you anyway. What are you doing here?”
“Jerk,” Dawn hissed at Xander and kicked him in the shin. He hopped back. “Creep, liar,” Dawn continued. A sudden force snatched Xander up and sent him flying backwards into something hard and tombestoney.”
He jumped to his feet, genuinely angry. “What is your problem?” he growled.
Buffy caught Dawn by the arm. “Dawn, stop that,” she snapped. Dawn ignored her. A large tree limb broke off and went flying towards Xander, who rolled to avoid it.
Kendra stepped in front of Dawn. “You will not hurt Xander,” she said firmly. The tree limb swung around and went flying towards her but Kendra dodged it easily. Buffy slapped Dawn.
The tree limb fell heavily to the ground. Dawn burst into tears and fled back across the graveyard, towards her house. Buffy ran after her. Xander started to pursue, but Kendra caught him.
“No, let de sisters talk.”
He sighed, looking after them. “I’m starting to think maybe you’re right about the simple life. I can’t figure out half of what’s going on.”
“No for dey is no ice cream or making out.” Kendra said. She brightened. “We are alone for our date. Can we have more ice cream? Dey are 29 other flavors to try.”
Xander nodded, a little disappointed that she’d picked ice cream, but perhaps it was for the best. They linked hands and walked off into the darkness.
“I don’t know,” Xander said doubtfully. “Isn’t this the apartment complex where you and Giles live?”
“Uh hunh,” Jenny nodded. “That’s how I knew it was vacant. It’ll be perfect for you.”
Xander, Jenny, Giles, Willow and Buffy were looking around the small one bedroom apartment overlooking the courtyard that Jenny’s and Giles’ apartments overlooked.
“This is really nice, Xander,” Willow said. “You can set up a computer room over there, and a bedroom. It’s perfect.”
“I was kind of thinking of a quiet place by myself,” Xander said. “With a backyard where I could train.”
“This is a very quiet complex,” Jenny said. “And it’s in the best part of town, it’s a great deal. Besides, you’ll need references and a cosigner to get your own apartment and Rupert and I are well known here, so that won’t be a problem.”
“And if you have any kind of trouble, Miss Calendar and Giles will be right here to help you out,” Willow said.
“You can train with me in the library,” Buffy said. “It’s boring with just Giles, no offence,” she glanced at her watcher. “But having a partner would be more interesting.”
“I guess that would work,” Xander said slowly. “It'll be nice to have other people around with my first place and all.”
Jenny nodded. “And Rupert will be here if you want to talk about guy stuff.” She looked at Giles.
“Ah, yes,” Giles said slowly. “Ah, Xander, you should feel free to come over. You know, to discuss…manly things. For uh…male interaction. Yes, come by any time.”
“Wow, we can hang out?” Xander said. “Thanks Giles, that’d be great.” He looked around. “I guess this place is perfect.”
“Good,” Jenny said. “I already have the contract set up. You just have to sign it and we can get you moved in.”
“Thanks,” Xander told her as he signed the papers. “I still don’t know how you got my parents to agree to emancipation, but thanks for that too.”
“You should thank Willow,” Jenny said. “She hacked into the hospital and got a copy of your medical history.” Jenny smiled. “Once I reviewed that with your parents they agreed that emancipation was in your best interest.”
“Thanks Willow,” Xander said.
“Glad to help, Xander,” Willow said, giving him a serious look. “I’d have done it a lot sooner if I’d known what was going on. You need to let us know when there are problems, okay?”
Xander nodded slowly.
“Well your folks mentioned that they were going away for the weekend,” Jenny said. “Let’s go get you packed up and moved.”
Xander actually had surprisingly little stuff. Mostly clothes and some sci-fi posters. And a dresser stuffed full of money. And the boxes of money. They pulled it all out and dumped it into a pile. A large pile.
“How much is this?” Jenny asked, sounding a little afraid.
“About a hundred thousand,” Giles said, “estimating from the size of the pile.”
“Well I’ve still got that hot streak going on,” Xander said defensively. “I just started stuffing the money away, I couldn’t carry it around. But it isn’t that much. It’s just from some local games and playing the ponies. It’s not that much.”
“He’s good at picking stocks too,” Willow said. They looked at her. “Well he is.”
“Xander,” Giles said, “this luck power will probably wear off at some point. In fact I’m surprised it hasn’t already. But you should try to save some of this money. It could pay for college at least.”
“It will,” Jenny said firmly. She began stuffing the money back into the boxes. “I’ve got a good accountant. I’ll have him meet Xander. Willow too. Looks like they’ll need him.”
“The trees of the Phantasmal Forest part to reveal Tergeron Manor,” Willow said slowly. “The great house appears shrouded in mist. A pale light gleams from the highest tower. What do you do?” She peered at them from over her DM’s screen. Her eyes were emerald green and sparkling. Hmm, Xander thought.
“At last, action,” Tucker said. His little brother sat quietly next to him, what was his name? Xander couldn’t recall.
“This brings back memories, doesn’t it Xander,” Jonathon said. “It’s so cool that you have your own place. We haven’t done this since…” Jonathon trailed off.
They were sitting at the dinner table in Xander’s new apartment. The apartment was still sparse, but the table was strewn with snacks and cans of cola. It had a familiar look to it. Buffy and Angel were off patrolling, or whatever they called necking these days. Hmm, necking, vampires, bad thought. Giles and Miss Calendar were off to the movies.
“Since Jessie died,” Willow said. “See, we can say his name. And he wouldn’t have wanted us to stop playing, or be sad. He would want us to be having fun.”
“Yeah,” Xander said. “That’s true,”
“We don’t know he’s dead,” Jonathon said. “Maybe he ran off and is doing something cool somewhere.”
“He’s dead,” Willow said.
This was getting depressing. “I get out my bow and arrow and hid behind a tree,” Xander said. “I’ll start sneaking towards the house, hiding behind trees and stuff, and see if anything moves.”
“I get out my magic wand,” the little guy said, “and start sneaking with you. Only behind you.”
“Who are you again?” Willow asked.
“He’s my kid brother,” Tucker said. “Don’t worry, he’s cool.”
“I get out my holy symbol,” Jonathon said.
“Do you guys know there’s real magic?” Tucker asked. “You know, spells like in D&D, but they work?”
“Huh?” Xander said. Jonathon studied his figurine intently.
“Really?” Willow said. “What do you mean?”
“When we stopped playing,” Tucker said, “I was doing research for a new campaign. I found some spells in a book at that magic shop, and they worked.” He nodded. “Jonathon was helping me. We summoned a demon!”
“Wow,” Willow said. “That sounds scary.”
“It was,” Jonathon said. “It wanted us to do things. Bad things.”
“But we didn’t,” Tucker said. “’Cause that would be wrong. But it was going to show Jonathon a spell to make him super cool.”
“Guys, this sounds really dangerous,” Xander said. “It sounds like something you shouldn’t be doing.”
“Do you have the book with the spell you used?” Willow asked. “I’ve been kind of doing some magic stuff myself.”
“Cool, you believe us,” Tucker said. He looked at Jonathon. “You said they wouldn’t.”
“Why do you guys believe us?” Jonathon asked. “Isn’t it hard to believe?” He gave them a haunted look.
“I believe you,” Tucker’s kid brother said. They ignored him.
“Because we’ve seen things Jonathon,” Xander said. “Monsters, hiding in the shadows. But no one wants to talk about them.”
“I thought I was going crazy,” Jonathon said. “Maybe I wish I were. But lately, since I started doing spells, I’ve seen stuff. People who don’t look right. And…things, moving around. There’s a lot of that at the school.”
“You can sense things!” Willow exclaimed. “Xander can tell when people aren’t right. And sometimes I can too. It’s ‘cause you’re sensitive. It’s a gift.”
“We’re getting sidetracked.” Tucker said. “This demon said it could get us money.”
“You shouldn’t believe him,” Xander said. “They’re big liars.”
“There are people walking around,” Jonathon said. “But they aren’t. People I mean. They…they aren’t alive.”
“Vampires,” Willow said. “There are a lot of them around.”
“At the school,” Jonathon said. “There’s something wrong with the school.”
Willow and Xander nodded. “Jonathon, I think there’s some one you need to talk to,” Xander said.
“Giles,” Willow nodded.
“Actually I was thinking Miss Calendar,” Xander said.
“But Giles is exposition guy,” Willow protested. “And he’s the magic expert.”
“What do you guys know about this stuff?” Tucker asked.
“A lot actually,” Xander said. “But we really can’t talk about it until we check with Giles and Miss Calendar.” He looked at Willow. “We can talk to both of them.” Willow nodded.
“We shouldn’t tell adults,” Tucker said. “They’ll ruin it. We can use this to get stuff. And get back at those jocks that are always picking on us. We can finally get even.”
“That’s so the wrong approach,” Willow said. “Your motives in magic affect the results you get. If you’re after revenge, you always wind up in trouble.”
Tucker considered this, nodding slowly. “But, I really wanted some payback for those creeps.”
“Ignore them,” Xander said. “That’s like the best revenge anyway, and they really hate it.”
“Wow, Xander,” Willow said. “That was sort of…wise.”
Xander blinked. That had sort of come from nowhere.
Tucker thought. “Miss Calendar’s really hot,” he said after a moment. Jonathon nodded in agreement.
“If you tell her about the magic,” Xander said, “she’ll want to like, supervise you. You’ll wind up spending a lot of time with her.”
“And Giles,” Willow said.
Jonathon and Tucker conferred. “Yeah,” Tucker said. “We’ll talk with Miss Calendar. And the weird librarian. Mostly with her though.”
“I want to do this too,” Tucker’s little brother squeaked. “I’ve been learning about demon languages and stuff. It’s fun.”
“I guess that would be okay,” Willow said.
Unfortunately Tucker and his little brother wound up working with Willow and Giles, as they turned out to be more focused on magic ritual. Jonathon joined Xander and Dawn with Jenny for training to develop his sensitivity. Dawn made a big fuss over welcoming Jonathon to the group. She was still mad at Xander and pointedly ignoring him. He tried talking to her, but wasn’t having any luck.
Tucker and Andrew were working with Willow at the library table, on some magic stuff. Xander was practice sparing with Buffy, for the first time, while Giles watched.
It was pretty bad. Most times he couldn’t even see her move, and he wound up on his back on the mat over and over again. Still, the warder quick heal helped some, and hey, wrestling with Buffy. Always good.
He’d always healed fast, and the ward bond accelerated this to almost slayer levels. Giles had wanted to experiment with a serious of controlled injuries but Xander had backed out and Jenny and Buffy had supported him. But he healed fast.
“I don’t know if this is helping you,” Xander said, from where he lay on the mat. “I mean, I’m not putting up much of a fight.”
“Oh it’s great,” Buffy said. “Beating up Giles is getting old, besides, he’s so breaky. You’re much tougher. I can practice lots of moves on you.” She helped him up.
“Not to worry Xander,” Giles said as he leaned back in his easy chair. “You’re being a great help to Buffy. Now try a frontal assault.”
Xander swung a round house towards Buffy’s face, wincing a little as he did so, swinging at her just seemed so wrong. She caught his fist in a blur of movement and a second later he was flying over her head and back onto the mat with a heavy thud.
“Excellent work Buffy,” Giles smiled from his chair. “Well done. And you too, Xander, of course.”
Buffy helped Xander up again and looked over at Giles. “Giles, didn’t you always wear padding for these sessions? Maybe Xander should have some of that.”
“Oh, would you like some padding Xander?” Giles asked. “How thoughtless of me. There should be some in the storage closet.”
Sword practice was better with Xander able to anticipate and parry Buffy’s attacks. It was mostly guess work as he could barely see her move, but her stance told how she’d strike. She was surprised at this, and hesitated. He caught her blade in a bind, snapped loose, and spun it out of her hand. She stared at him.
“Giles! Did you see what Xander did? How did he do that?”
“Extraordinary,” Giles said. “I’ve never seen that move before. Xander, could you demonstrate it again?’
He did and Buffy repeated it several times until she’d learned it. And then she learned the counter move in the same way. And thereby mastered in about five minutes what had taken Xander weeks of training to learn. Years, a voice whispered in his head, decades, lifetimes really.
But there was a reason for that, Xander reminded himself, and overall, being the Slayer was a sucky gig. He was actually much luckier with his luck thing. If he could ever really figure that out.
“Is there more?” Buffy said eagerly. “There’s more isn’t there? I can tell.”
“Yeah, there’s a lot more,” he said. “I’m just getting worn out though. Can we take a break?” The sun had set. Buffy looked disappointed but let it go.
“This is fascinating Xander,” Giles said. “I originally dismissed your fantasy skills as so much make believe. But you apparently have mastered a real and unknown martial art. It’s similar to Kendo, but unique as far as I can tell. It seems to have a flexibility that other styles lack. Tell me–.”
“He’s dead on his feet, Giles,” Buffy interrupted. “I should be getting home for dinner anyway,” she glanced at the wall clock. “Mom’s been on the warpath lately. You bachelors should probably be heading home too.”
“Ah, well. I’ll give Xander a ride,” Giles said.
“Thanks Giles, I’m wiped,” Xander said. “How long have we been at this?”
“Three hours nonstop,” Willow said. “I was timing you.”
“Really," Giles glanced at the clock. “Extraordinary.”
“Hey, is that like superhuman?” Buffy asked.
“No, but its close,” Willow smiled.
“Well good for you Xander,” Buffy said, punching him lightly in the shoulder. “You’re getting some super stuff after all.”
“I guess,” Xander shrugged. “Coming Will?” Willow hopped up and collected her books. Xander swiped them from her.
“Coming?” Buffy raised an eyebrow.
“Oh there’s a B5 marathon tonight Buffy,” Xander explained. “Will’s coming over for pizza and sci-fi geekiness. You can come if you want.”
“Buffy’s not really into B5,” Willow said. “Or I would have invited you,” she told Buffy.
“How cozy,” Buffy said. “Maybe I should come by.”
“But you’re going patrolling with Angel, remember?” Willow said.
“Oh, okay,” Buffy said. “Don’t let Willow have too much coke, Xan, You know how wild caffeine makes her. We wouldn’t want things to get out of hand.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of her Buff,” Xander assured her. Buffy smiled.
They went home and Xander called in the pizza order, then showered and changed. By the time he’d finished it had arrived and Willow was setting up in front of the couch.
“This couch is nice,” she said. “Did Miss Calendar give it to you?”
“How’d you know?” Xander asked, helping himself to the pepperoni.
“Just a guess,” Willow smiled. “You’re sort of going for a basic look here. Well, I’ve never been in a bachelor pad before, so maybe it’s typical.”
“You’ve been in Giles’ place,” Xander pointed out.
“Yeah, but he’s British, so it doesn’t count,” Willow explained.
“Yeah, well,” Xander said. “I’m going for a Zen look, you know, the serenity of empty space.” He smiled at her. “Want to help me decorate?”
“Furniture shopping?” Willow nodded. “Yep, and computer and home theatre. We need to pimp this place up.”
“Thanks, Willow,” Xander said. “I feel kind of funny, being in my own place. I’m not sure what to do with it.”
“Do you ever get lonely?” Willow asked, leaning against him. He slipped his arm around her and gave her a squeeze.
“No, you’re always here. Thanks Willow, for being here for me.”
“Always,” she smiled, snuggling a little. Her breasts pressed against him. Willow breasts. Willow girl parts. Hmm. The doorbell rang.
“Now who could that be,” Xander asked. He untangled himself from Willow and answered the door. It was Dawn.
“Hey, I didn’t sense you,” Xander said. He could now.
“I’ve been practicing separation,” Dawn smiled. “Isn’t it coo1? Has the show started yet? Mmm, pizza. Did you get any anchovies?” She pushed past him and settled on the couch.
“But I didn’t invite you,” Xander said. “Hey it’s a school night. I thought your mom didn’t let you go out on school nights.”
“I sensed it.” Dawn smiled, “I couldn’t miss a B5 marathon, and pizza with my buds.”
“How did you get here Dawn?” Willow asked. “You didn’t walk did you? It’s dangerous at night.”
“Mom dropped me off,” Dawn said. “She’s cool with it, like I said.”
“Hmm,” Willow said. Xander shrugged but got Dawn a plate and glass and settled her in. The three of them sat down and began watching. The doorbell rang.
Xander got up and opened it.
“Miss Calendar?” he asked.
Jenny brushed past him. “Ah, Dawn, there you are. Your mom just called to let me know she’d dropped you off. Apparently we’re having a late training session?” She smiled. “I guess you forgot to tell me about it.”
“Oh Dawn,” Willow shook her head. “You shouldn’t lie to your mom like that.”
“What, you guys do it,” Dawn replied.
“That’s different, Dawn,” Jenny said softly.
“You guys don’t understand,” Dawn said. “None of you do. I have to spend time with my warder. It’s part of the bond. But you don’t understand. This is endangering me. I could get sick if I don’t have warder time. But none of you understand or care!”
“Wow, Dawn,” Xander said. “We all care. Is there something wrong? I haven’t sensed anything. I thought you were mad at me anyway.”
“Have you been experiencing some discomfort Dawn?” Jenny asked. “You haven’t said anything.”
“Well,” Dawn shifted in her chair. “I just should be close to my warder is all. We need to spend more time together.”
“And that’s worth lying to your mother about?” Jenny asked. Dawn sulked.
“Hey Dawn look,” Xander said. “I’ll set up some time. You know, with you and your mom, and maybe Buffy. We can do stuff.”
“No, not with Buffy. That doesn’t count,” Dawn said. She looked at Willow. “Her either.”
“Dawnie,” Willow said. “You’re a very sweet little girl. But you have to understand that certain things just aren’t going to happen.” Dawn glared at her. Willow glared back.
“”Kay, just you and your mom.” Xander said. “I’ll work on it. And just let us know if stuff is bugging you okay?” Dawn nodded and gave Xander a small smile.
“Come on, Dawn,” Jenny said. Dawn got up and went to the door with her. Jenny turned back and faced the two. “Oh Willow. It’s a school night for you and Xander as well. I’ll call your mom and let her know you’re headed home. She’ll probably be worried.”
“Gee, thanks Miss Calendar.” Willow said. “I’ll head straight home.” Dawn smirked at Willow.
“Hold on Will, I’ll walk you,” Xander said. “It’s dangerous to be out alone remember.”
“Thanks Xander,” Willow said. She let him help her on with her coat. “Have a good night Dawnie,” Willow smiled.
That weekend was a particularly good one for Xander, leaving him especially flush. He wound up buying a car. It was a ‘94 camero. Not in the best of shape but he could fix it up. His memories actually included a lot of mechanics and carpentry. He seemed to have a natural aptitude for both fields. And others too. Odd spaces were appearing in his head. Mathematics, languages, all kinds of weird stuff.
He pulled into the school on Monday, thinking about how fun it would be to show Willow and Buffy his new acquisition. As he got out, Cordy and her clique were walking past. Cordy froze and glared at him.
“Well if it isn’t dork boy and the dork mobile,” she snapped at him. “When did you rate wheels?”
“I just got it,” Xander said with a shrug. He looked over at the white camaro. “It needs some work I suppose, but it’s fun to drive.”
“That’s actually a nice car,” Harmony said. She looked at Cordy. “Uhm, for a dork mobile,” she said.
Cordy pointed her finger and poked it into Xander’s chest. “What’s with the car? Where are your Hawaiian shirts? What’s that you’re wearing? Is that leather?”
“Uh, yeah,” Xander said, retreating. “I won the jacket in a game, thought it looked cool. I still got the shirts; they just didn’t go with the jacket. But hey, I can wear ‘em again if it bothers you. I didn’t know you were so concerned.”
“Oh you wish I cared, loser boy,” Cordy snapped. “I can see what you’re trying to pull with this car and jacket crap, and this working out kick you’re on. But it doesn’t fool me. You’re a loser. L, o, s, e, r, and don’t you forget it.”
“Say, he has been hitting the gym,” Harmony said. Several of the Cordettes nodded. Cordy glared at Harmony. “In a loser sort of way,” Harmony said quickly.
“Thanks Harm,” Xander said. She smiled at him. He smiled back.
“Harmony,” Cordy growled warningly.
“Yeah,” Xander said. “But as I have a life, I can’t stay and make with the chit chat Cordy. But hey, missing the Hawaiian shirts, I’m all over that.” He excused himself and blended into the crowd.
“So Cordy hated the car?” Buffy asked, attacking him fiercely with the sword.
“Yeah,” Xander said, retreating and parrying desperately. She moved so fast he could barely see her. Fortunately her stance still gave her away.
“She’s nuts, it’s cute. Say, how’d you afford it?” Buffy replied.
Xander saw an opening and thrust desperately. But it was a trick. Buffy caught his blade and spun, disarming him. Xander shook his fingers and blew on them.
“Gambling money. Also playing the ponies, that’s where the real money’s at. Your stance is still telegraphing your moves.”
Buffy nodded, “I’m working on it,” she said.
Willow looked up from the table of the library, “It’s a really cute car Xander. Can you take me riding in it?”
“That’s what it’s for Willow,” Xander said. “I can’t have you walking places, too dangerous.” Buffy handed Xander his practice sword again. He took it grimly.
“It’s a Willow mobile,” Buffy smiled, raising her sword and dropping to guard position.
Giles stirred. “Perhaps that’s enough sword practice for this afternoon.”
Buffy glanced at the wall clock. “It’s only 5 PM. We still have time.”
“Yes,” Giles said, “but a package arrived for Xander. I wanted to show it to him.” He went inside his office and came out with a long narrow box. It was covered with stamps. He began opening it.
“I must say, the Council was quite puzzled by my request. But as we paid for it, they decided to allow it.” He opened the box which contained a wooden case. It was mahogany, and beautifully crafted and glowed with polish. He opened it carefully, reached within and raised a long pole, with a blade at the end. The blade was long and slightly curved, like a wakasashi. He handed the pole to Xander.
Xander spun the naginata in his hands, twirled it and performed a basic kata. “This is perfect Giles,” he said. It felt right, in a way the sword hadn’t. This was part of him, the feel of it in his hands. It meant something. He tried to will the memory to the surface, but nothing came.
“What?” Buffy said. “That’s for Xander? But, but I’m the Slayer. New toys are supposed to be for me. Look at that. It’s pretty. Giles–.”
Giles had reached into the case and produced a second naginata. This one of lighter wood and inlaid with gold runes. He handed it to Buffy. She snatched it eagerly and swung it about.
“Mine’s prettier,” she told Xander smugly.
“That would sort of fit,” Xander replied. He examined his weapon admiringly. “These are master crafted,” he said. “Where did they come from?”
“The Council has certain resources,” Giles said. “But I should tell you that they weren’t easily come by. Please guard them well.”
Xander nodded and performed a second kata. Buffy watched him.
“You know how to use these,” she said. “Show me.” Her eyes were lit with an eager fire. Xander sighed and began teaching her. It came easily, his hands remembering old skills even before the memories appeared in his head. When the memories caught up, they rushed in with a whirl of images, forests and fighting, deserts and fighting, mountains and fighting. Xander felt dizzy and suddenly sat down.
“Hey are you okay?” Buffy asked.
“Yeah, just a memory surge. I get them now and then,” Xander said. “Just need to a moment to catch up.”
“Do this happen often?” Giles asked.
“They used to, but not so much any more,” Xander replied. “Miss Calendar says I’m getting all integrated.”
“Well, perhaps that’s enough for one day,” Giles said.
“But Giles,” Buffy started to protest. Then she smiled at Xander and helped him up. “Tomorrow,” she told him. “You can show me more then.”
“Tomorrow,” he agreed.
But tomorrow Xander was gone.
*Xander? Xander can you hear me?*
*Hey Dawn, not so loud,* Xander thought back, stretching lazily. It was morning and Dawn’s shouting (thinking?) must have wakened him. He opened his eyes.
His apartment was gone. He was in some sort of master bedroom looking area, all done in pink and gold, so garish it hurt his eyes. He was on a huge bed, piled with pillows. On the ceiling, a mirror showed a dazed looking him blinking sleepily.
“Where am I?” he said.
*I don’t know. Some where east. You’ve been gone for days. Are you okay?* Dawn thought.
*Yeah. I think so.* He sat up slowly and looked around. His clothes were scattered on the floor, what looked like his good suit, near his suitcase. Near them lay a black cocktail dress and a pair of stiletto heels. Across, lay a table with an empty champagne bottle and a pair of glasses. Down the hall, came the sounds of a shower.
No, this couldn’t be happening. This wasn’t possible.
*Xander, you’re scared. What’s wrong? Why are you scared?*
*Nothing Dawn. I can’t talk now* he thought hurriedly. He pulled his clothes on in a blind panic. He snatched up the suitcase and quietly moved down the hall.
As he passed the bathroom, he heard the shower being turned off. He ran down the hallway, out the door, and down the hall to the elevators. He was still breathing hard when he reached the hotel lobby.
The elevator was wrong, going down at some sort of weird angle, and glass, exposed to a large interior space. It was a casino, the largest he’d ever seen and he felt his spirits pick up. But still, this was all about the wrongness.
The lobby opened to the casino, with the attendant noises, lights and smells. One the desk clerks smiled at him.
“Good morning Mr. Harris. Do you need anything sir?”
“Do you know me?” Xander asked. “Where are we?”
“Of course, our big winner,” the clerk smiled. “This is the Luxor sir. You must remember. Last night? Very exciting play, I must say. Everyone is talking about it.”
“Uh Vegas right?” Xander said. He had a headache, it was hard to think. He glanced nervously at the elevators. This wasn’t happening.
“Yes sir.” The clerk looked puzzled. “Would you like a table for breakfast sir? Or will you dine in the casino?” Xander stared at him. “Perhaps your car?” The clerk asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “My car. I need that.”
*Xander. What’s going–*
“Not now Dawn!” he snapped angrily.
“Of course sir,” the clerk said. “Right this way.”
Outside a valet drove the white camaro up. Xander reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a wad of bills. He slapped them into the valet’s hand and drove off.
A half hour later, racing south on I-15 he began to calm down.
*Sorry I yelled, Dawnie.*
*Are you okay? Where are you? You’re moving again.*
*I was in Vegas. I’m heading home. Uhm, I’m okay. I think.*
*Be careful. We’re all worried sick.*
“Yeah, me too,” he said.
Dawn, Jenny, Buffy, Giles and Willow were all waiting for him when he pulled into the parking lot at the apartment complex. As soon as he got out of the car he was enveloped in hugs.
“Hi guys,” he said.
Buffy wrinkled her nose. “Booze, smoke and sweat,” she announced. “Is that what Las Vegas smells like?”
“Yes, among other things,” Giles said. “Xander, are you well? What happened?”
“I don’t know. I went to bed, and then I was there.” Xander said. “I guess it’s Sunday?”
“You were gone Thursday morning,” Jenny said. “You must have left late Wednesday night.” She shook her head. “Do you remember anything?” Xander shook his head no.
“Let’s get him inside,” Willow said. “We need to make sure he’s okay.”
They bundled him in and appeared to take the idea of an examination seriously. After some fast talking, he was able to take a shower, with only Giles giving him a brief once over. He changed clothes and rejoined them.
The girls had gone through his clothes and were now gathered around his suitcase. It was…full of money.
“Xander,” Buffy said. “Do you remember robbing a bank?”
“No, I don’t remember anything,” he said, shaking his head with frustration. He turned to Jenny. “What’s happening? How do we stop this?”
“I’m not sure,” Jenny said. “The integration seemed to be going well. Your dreams have stopped right?” He nodded. “This shouldn’t be happening,” she said.
“Xander,” Willow said. “I found this.” She held out her hands. It was a revolver, a snub nosed .38. He took it and checked it. Loaded. He emptied it and pocketed the bullets, putting the safety on for good measure.
“I should probably take that,” Giles said.
“No, I need it,” Xander replied. He looked at Giles. “Oh, sorry. Of course you can have it.” He handed the gun to Giles.
“I want to put you under again,” Jenny said. “There’s a spell I can try, that may help.”
“A spell on his mind?” Giles asked.
“A minor one,” Jenny said. “And safe. It’ll help keep his mind…well…his. No more outsiders poking around.
“That other guy was creepy,” Dawn said. “He had tight control, I couldn’t reach him. But a little bit seeped through. Miss Calendar, I don’t think he’s a nice man. I think he’s…bad. He’s cold and mean. He laughs but he’s mean.”
“This has got to stop,” Xander said desperately.
“Then we should start now. Lie down on the couch Xander,” Jenny said.
“Can I help?” Willow asked eagerly.
“Yes, fetch the moon statue on the shelf in my apartment and the candles next to them,” Jenny said.
Xander lay down and everyone surrounded him, peering at him anxiously.
“Relax, Xander,” Dawn commanded.
“Yeah, take deep breaths,” Buffy said.
“Okay,” Xander said, taking a deep breath. He closed his eyes and then opened them. They were all staring at him. Willow ran up with candles.
“What’s next?” she asked eagerly.
“I’m not a science experiment Will,” Xander said. She smiled absently at him and turned back to Jenny.
“I can take it from here, Willow,” Jenny said. “Close your eyes, Xander and relax.”
“So no more scary evil guy?” Buffy asked. They were walking up the stairs to the school, heading for morning class.
“No sign of him,” Xander said. “Hopefully he’s gone for good.”
“So what do you think?” Xander asked them. He’d put Dawn on the bay mare. She was quiet and steady and wouldn’t give her any trouble. Joyce was on the palomino. A little more spirited but nothing she couldn’t handle.
“This is a nice treat Xander,” Joyce said. “I haven’t been riding in ages.”
“This is so cool,” Dawn said. “Daddy took us riding for my birthday a few years back, but never since then. Is it safe?”
“Of course, Dawn,” he smiled. “You could float off the horse if there was any trouble after all.” He checked her seat a second time and made sure she was comfortable. Then he swung up on his roan mare.
“There’s a nice ride up through the forest,” he called back, watching them over his shoulder as he led them along.
It was a clear morning and the Los Padres forest was cool and pleasant in a southern California spring. They found a stream and rode along it until the trail led off through a meadow. Xander reined up.
“Are you guys okay?” he asked.
“Fine Xander,” Joyce called. Dawn gave him a wide smile. “They seem to know you at the stables,” Joyce said.
“I come here a lot,” Xander explained. “Riding helps me think. I think it’s from some of those past lives integrating thing that I’ve been doing with Miss Calendar.”
“I’ve wanted to talk to you about that,” Joyce said. “You don’t really believe all that stuff she’s saying? I’ve read about how hypnosis can create false memories. That could be happening with you.”
“Maybe,” he said. “But the memories seem real. And I know stuff. Like how to ride for instance.”
Joyce studied him for a moment. “I can’t really tell,” she said. “But you seem to sit very easily, like you’re flowing with the horse. Is that hard to do?”
“Sort of,” Xander replied, “but there’s stuff I could show you.” He began teaching them. Which was fun. Dawn was always a joy, and Joyce had an easy grace to her.
After about an hour he broke off. The sun was climbing over head. “Are you guys hungry? I brought a lunch. Deli stuff, not my cooking I promise. There’s a pool down by the stream that’s kind of pretty.”
“Yay!” Dawn shouted. She urged the bay forward into something like a gallop, heading down to the stream.
Xander galloped after her. She was riding a little quickly through the grassy meadow and he was somewhat concerned. He caught her easily and helped her rein in.
“Gotta be careful with these meadows,” he told her. “A gopher hole and you could have a spill.”
“I was afraid the horse would run away with me,” Dawn said excitedly.
“Uh, no,” Xander said, patting the gentle bay mare about the neck. “That wasn’t really a problem.”
They’d reached the pool and Joyce trotted up behind them.
“That was fun,” she laughed. She looked about. “This place is lovely. Xander thank you again for inviting us.”
“It’s because of me,” Dawn told her mother. “I told him I needed warder time.”
“Well then, thank you to Dawn,” Joyce said, giving her daughter a measured look. Xander helped them down from their saddles and led the horses off. He’d unpacked the lunch and they began setting it up.
“I’m not sure how I feel about the whole warder relationship,” Joyce said after awhile. “I’ve been reading the books and I’m not really comfortable with it. It seems manipulative. The men and the women seem to resent each other and try to control each other. Sometimes there’s real hostility. And very little understanding.”
Xander nodded. “I’ve been rereading it and I get some of that. It all seems really focused on power. Which kind of messes things up. But with Dawn and me, that’s not a problem.”
Dawn nodded. “Yeah. Warders help the Aes Sedai and serve and protect them. But the Aes Sedai protect the warders too. But the warders serve and help. That’s perfect, isn’t it? I mean someone has to be in charge.”
“I think in real life, a more balanced approach is better,” Joyce said. She thought for a moment. “I guess I’m trying to say that the nature of the relationship worries me. It seems unhealthy.”
“I’m not sure,” Xander said. “I mean, Mrs. Summers, I can see what you’re saying. But if the bond were freely entered in to, it wouldn’t be so different from oaths we swear in real life, like marriage or holy orders.”
“Are you Catholic, Xander?” Joyce asked. She smiled. “It’s funny that I don’t know that about you.”
“Yes,” Xander said. “Uhm…wait…no. I’m an agnostic. My folks didn’t believe in church.” He shook his head, confused. Why had he said yes? “Yeah. I’m an agnostic,” he said firmly.
“You don’t know what you are,” Joyce said. “It’s this integration thing Jenny’s been doing. It’s affecting you. I can see you changing.”
“He’s fine,” Dawn said. “I’d know if there was a problem. Jenny’s helping him. Making him more him.” She nodded. “It’s good what they’re doing.”
“I hope you’re right dear,” Joyce said.
After lunch he led them back to the stables. Dawn was a little reluctant but a couple of hours of riding were enough for a start. He found himself promising to take them again, and looking forward to it. He saw Dawn and Joyce off and went back to put the horses away. The roan was nickering at him, hoping for another ride. He began brushing her down.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Cordelia said, coming up behind him.
Xander looked up and smiled at her. “Hey Cordy. I haven’t seen you here before. How are you doing?” She was wearing some kind of riding habit and looked very cute.
“Are you stalking me or something? What are you doing here?”
“I come here a lot,” he said. “It’s not a big deal. Hey why are you here?”
“None of your business,” she snapped. One of the stable hands walked up to them.
“Hey Xander. Miss Chase has signed up for riding lessons, and I’m a little shorthanded. Could you take her out? I’d appreciate it.”
“Sure,” Xander said. “No problem.” Cordelia’s mouth opened and closed several times, as the stable hand walked off.
“Have you ever ridden before?” Xander asked her.
“Oh, no.” Cordy said. “I don’t know how you set this up, but it isn’t going to work.”
“What?” he said. “I set this up?” He thought for a moment. “You really do think its all about you, don’t you?”
“When it comes to desperate losers, it is all about me,” Cordy told him. “How long have you been working here?”
“I don’t actually…” Xander stopped, why bother? “I just started,” he snapped.
“Well, I want my money’s worth,” she told him. “Go saddle something or whatever it is you do.”
He gave her a mock bow. “At once, Queen C.” he smiled. She sniffed.
Cordy actually was a pretty good rider, at least as moderns went. She was a little rusty but caught on fast.
“My mom wants me to brush up,” she told him. “I think she’s planning something debutantish. I told her to knock that stuff off, but she’s at it again.”
“Well its good exercise and fun,” Xander said. “Hey, maybe you should just talk to your mom and–.”
“What’s with the personal questions?” Cordy interrupted. “I don’t talk with the help. Mind your own business!”
“But you brought it up.” She galloped off before he could finish. He sighed and followed after her.
She reined up before she’d exhausted the palomino. He drew up beside her.
“What’s the idea of giving me this old horse,” she said. “She’s ready for the glue factory.”
“You wouldn’t tell me how much you’d ridden before,” he reminded her.
“Not very good at your job are you?” she sneered.
“Look, Cordy,” he began.
“Miss Chase,” she corrected him. “I’m paying you remember.”
“Right. You seem to be okay here. Since I’m bugging you so much, maybe I should just wait back at the stables.”
“I’m paying for lessons. Don’t try to weasel out of it.” She galloped off again. He sighed and followed after her.
“You’re pulling hard on the bit there,” he told her at the next stop. “You shouldn’t yank so much,” She rolled her eyes.
“Please. As if you could teach me anything. It’s obvious I’m wasting my time here.” She turned back towards the stables.
Xander actually tried to help her dismount, but she glared him away. He took her horse back to its stall. Behind him, she started in on the stable hand.
“That Harris boy is rude and incompetent. I never him near me again, is that clear?”
“Yes, Miss Chase,” the hand replied. “I’m very sorry. He’s not usually like that. I’ll speak to him.”
“See that you do,” Cordelia sniffed. She stalked off.
“What happened?” he asked Xander when she’d left.
“I go to school with her,” Xander explained. “She hates me. It’s a school thing. Sorry, I should have told you. I thought we could get through a lesson though.”
The man shrugged, “Well, no harm done, I guess.”
“You kids are in big trouble now,” Ted roared as he staggered through the graveyard.
“I told you he wasn’t human!” Dawn shouted.
“Dawnie get out of here,” Buffy shouted. Ted took the opportunity to punch her and she went flying. Xander reminded himself that Ted wasn’t human and thrust home. The naginata plunged into Ted but stopped. It was like stabbing plastic?
Ted batted the naginata away. “That’s an illegal weapon,” he told Xander. “I’m placing you under citizen’s arrest.”
“I’ve got him,” Tucker shouted, dragging his hell hound over. This was a large grayish beast, vaguely doglike, with horns and glowing yellow eyes.
“Tucker, get that thing out of here,” Buffy shouted, returning to the fray. She tackled Ted, just as Tucker loosed his hell hound from its leash, and it also charged Ted. The three, Ted, Buffy and hell hound tumbled together in a confused whirl. Angel dove into the pile.
Ted emerged from the tumble of bodies, and staggered for them. He’d been badly damaged and circuitry sparked about him. Behind him, Buffy, Angel and the hell hound continued wrestling furiously.
“Don’t hurt Rover!” Tucker shouted.
“No corporal punishment. That’s what’s wrong with you kids,” Ted shouted. “And I’ll fix that right now.” He staggered towards Dawn. Giles and Xander raced to Dawn’s side, but before they reached her she’d thrust out a hand and Ted burst into flames.
“Good heavens, he was a robot all along,” Giles said. “He must have been trying to fool us.” Buffy and Angel had stopped fighting and gone to join Giles as Tucker attempted to re-leash his hell hound.
“He was trying to trick Mom,” Buffy said.
“And it would have worked too,” Ted said, “if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.” He exploded in a shower of sparks.
“Wow,” Willow said.
“See,” Dawn said. “You all should have listened to me.” Xander was helping Tucker wrestle Rover down.
“Hmm,” Giles said. “Joyce will be terribly upset.” He glanced over at Tucker and Xander, and Rover panting happily at Tucker’s feet.
“You know, Tucker,” Giles said, “the hell hound idea may need more work. It has potential I agree, but perhaps Rover needs more training before we continue with field trials.”
“It’s not Rover’s fault,” Tucker said. “They got in his way.” He glared accusingly at Angel and Buffy.
“That thing’s a menace Giles,” Buffy declared. “And it drools. It’s smelly too.”
“He’s cute, Buffy,” Willow said. “He could be our mascot, like Scooby Doo.”
“Nope,” Buffy said. “Not without a bib and a bath.”
“You’re just jealous,” Tucker said, “because you know that an army of hell hounds could replace the Slayer.”
“What?” Buffy said. “Tucker, what the hell are you talking about?”
“I thought I was Scooby,” Xander said.
“You’re Shaggy,” Buffy said.
“I’m Velma aren’t I,” Willow said. “Wait, don’t answer that.”
“I guess that makes me Fred,” Angel said. They all stared at him. Angel, oblivious to their stares, knelt beside Rover and began petting him. “Who’s a good boy,” Angel told Rover. “Did you get the bad robot? Oh, good boy.” Rover wagged his tail.
“I rather thought I would be Fred,” Giles said. They all stared at him. “What?” Giles asked. “At least I can tie an ascot.”
Andrew picked up Ted’s fallen head and studied it. “This is cool,” he said. “I took shop class with this kid who builds robots. He’d probably be interested in this.”
“A teenager who builds robots?” Giles sighed. “Well, he can’t have this one. This is important and probably dangerous evidence. And you should discourage your friend. Experimentation on a Hellmouth is extremely dangerous.”
“Can I have Ted?” Willow asked.
“If you like,” Giles shrugged, “but be careful with him.” Xander began helping Willow load Ted into his car.
Later he helped her unload Ted onto the work table in Willow’s room of Xander’s apartment. She’d taken the extra bedroom over as a lab and computer area. Some of the computer stuff she had there looked very expensive, but there was plenty of money and he loved watching her play with new toys.
She spread Ted out and began examining him with a big light/magnifying glass thingy she had. She hummed under her breath, intent on the work. Xander watched her for a while and then left, returning with sandwiches and a soda. She picked occasionally at her plate, focusing on her new project. He watched her work for a time.
“Willow, do you ever wonder…where we’re going and stuff?” That had come out lame. Xander tried to phrase it better. “I mean, what our future is like.”
“Hmm?” Willow said, looking up at him. “We’re going to finish school and work for the Council right?’
“I thought you were going to be a scientist,” Xander said.
“Yeah, but with the Council,” she said. “They’ll pay for college and the research is more fun. Why? Did you want to do something else?’
“I’m not sure,” he said. “I don’t really know how I’d fit in with that.”
“We can’t really go back,” Willow said. “I mean, you can’t forget all the things you’ve seen. We have to help deal with them. You wouldn’t want to quit on Buffy would you?”
“No,” he said. “But…maybe someday she won’t…be here.”
Willow looked at him. “I can’t think about that,” she said. “I won’t.”
The doorbell rang. It was Jenny Calendar.
“Hi Xander,” she smiled. “Is Willow here?” He nodded and she moved past him, towards the computer room. “Hello Willow,” she said. “Its time to go home.”
“Uhm, this is really interesting,” Willow said. “I’d like to look at it a little more while it’s fresh. I’m not sure if there’d be changes later.”
“It’s too late Willow,” Jenny said. “I can’t stay with you guys tonight and so you need to be home.”
“Xander and I are okay on our own, Miss Calendar,” Willow said.
“Yeah, we’re fine,” Xander said.
“No,” Jenny said.
“Oh.” Willow said. “You don’t think we should be alone together too much,” she gave a small smile.
“I’ll give you a ride Willow,” Xander said.
When he’d finished dropping Willow off, Jenny was waiting for him.
“Xander I need to talk to you,” she said. There was a sudden urgency about her manner.
“Sure, come on in.” he told her. “What’s up?”
“It’s Angel,” she said. “I don’t trust him.”
“That’s my line,” Xander grinned. “The undead thing gives me the creeps, but the guy has been reliable. He’s pretty gone on Buffy. I think we can trust him.”
“No,” Jenny shook her head. “There’s something…about the spell. I think he might become bad. If he did, he might go after Willow or Dawn. Dawn’s become so powerful lately. I want you to be ready to protect her, or them I mean.”
“What do you mean? What’s wrong with the spell?” Xander asked. “You mean the one that gives him a soul?”
“Maybe. I’m not sure," Jenny said. She’s lying, a voice whispered in Xander’s head. “Just watch Angel, and be ready if he…changes. Keep Dawn and Willow safe.”
“What’s going on,” Xander asked.
“Nothing. I mean I don’t know.” Jenny replied. “I hope I’m wrong.” She’s lying and hiding something, the voice whispered.
“What are you lying about?” Xander said. “Jenny, tell me what you know. Tell me now.” He spoke slowly and deliberately.
Jenny’s face went white with shock. She stared at him, her face twisting in some silent effort. She backed against the door and shook her head.
“Please,” she whispered. “I swore an oath. Please don’t make me.” She looked pleadingly at him. Make her, the voice whispered. Then bed her.
Xander shook his head and suddenly laughed. The laugh had a harsh, mocking sound. He shook his head again.
“Hey,” he smiled. “Sorry about that. Don’t know what got into me. Sorry. Hey, watch Angel. Okay, I’ve got it.”
“Yes,” she said, giving out a little gasp. “Yes, well, just a warning. Well it’s late. Good night Xander.” She opened the door and left, closing it firmly behind her.
He stared at the closed door and frowned. “This is just getting weird,” he said.
“And then Drusilla staked him,” Buffy said. “Xander, what if it wasn’t just a dream?”
“Well Angel wasn’t worried right?” Xander said.
“Yeah but he was just being a guy,” Buffy replied. “All reassury.”
They were walking along through halls to morning class. There were the usual hallway noises, murmuring, laugher, and shouting. Principal Snyder stood by the stairwell, scowling at everyone.”
“Well, don’t take this the wrong way,” Xander said. “But Drusilla’s a girl. And Angel’s her sire. I bet if we all swarmed her at once, we could take her.”
“Maybe…” Buffy said slowly.
“And then,” Cordelia said loudly to her clique, “I said these stables are a disgrace, muck out that stall. Then he goes, I just mucked it out. And I said; well muck it out again, muck boy.” She and the Cordettes all laughed, turning to look at Xander.
Cordelia wrinkled her nose. “Is there a manure smell around here?”
“Yeah, it’s from that story,” Xander said. Hmm, that was lame. He wracked his brain. Cordelia frowned at him, as did Buffy. She who smelt it dealt it? Ugh. He gave up and kept on walking.
“You’re off your game,” Buffy said, after they’d left Cordy behind.
“Yeah, I can’t seem to focus on the zingers anymore,” Xander complained.
“What was that about anyway?” she asked.
“Well anyway let’s stop by the library and get Giles working on the Drusilla angle.”
“You know,” Xander said musingly. “Tucker’s hell hounds should be able to sniff her out. Assuming she’s still around that is.”
“Oh no,” Buffy said. “Don’t even start with drool boy and the drool gang. My slaying is strictly slobber free.”
They’d arrived at the library where Giles was waiting for them. He attempted to say something but Buffy immediately launched into an explanation of her slayer dream.
“Well,” he said when she was done, “that certainly is alarming. But you checked on Angel and he’s fine?” Buffy nodded. “Then there’s no immediate problem. I’ll begin researching Drusilla, see if she has any patterns.”
“Good Giles,” Buffy nodded. She turned to head out.
“Just a minute please,” Giles said. “I also have disturbing news. Apparently Mr. Zabuto is having difficulty with Kendra.”
“Oh? Is she okay?” Xander asked.
“She’s fine, at least physically fine,” Giles replied. “But she’s been increasingly disrespectful to him and has neglected her training. He says she’s been getting phone calls. Xander have you been talking to her?”
“Yeah,” Xander said. “Just a couple of times. I called about a week after she got back and about a month ago. Oh, I should call her again and get caught up.”
“No you should not,” Giles said firmly. “Hmm, are you sure you haven’t been calling her more than that? Several times a week for instance?”
“Nope. What’s she been up too anyway? Something naughty I hope,” Xander grinned.
“Well she’s been out talking to people. Teenagers I’m afraid. She’s left her quarters at strange hours, without informing her watcher. Last night he followed her and found her at a nightclub, dancing with boys.”
“Wow,” Buffy said. “That’s shocking.”
“Yes and when he confronted her she was defiant and claimed she intended to continue this behavior. She then produced another boy who she claimed was her…her boyfriend.”
“That’s outrageous,” Buffy said. “How can she defy her watcher like that?”
“Yes, well,” Giles polished his glasses. “I’m afraid Mr. Zabuto traces Kendra’s defiant behavior to her time in Sunnydale. And to these phone calls she’s been receiving. Xander, you spent time with her, did you say anything to make her question her watcher?”
”I think I said something about balancing,” Xander said with a sinking feeling. “But I didn’t think she’d do a whole life changing thing over it.”
“I thought as much,” Giles said grimly. “You young idiot. Do you realize you’ve put her life in danger? And the lives of all those she protects?”
“But balance is a good thing,” Xander said.
“Xander I’m shocked,” Buffy said. “You should never come between a slayer and her watcher. The watchers are here to protect and guide us. They only have our best interests at heart. That’s why it’s so important that we slayers always respect and obey them.”
“Yes,” Giles said, a little taken aback at Buffy’s words. “Quite right Buffy. Thank you for putting it so clearly.”
“Sorry guys,” Xander said. “I’ll call her and tell her no more balance, and that I’m a big goof.”
“I’ll call her too Giles,” Buffy said. “I’ll tell her how appalled I am by her shocking irresponsibility. Dancing and boys, it’s outrageous. I’ll talk some sense into her Giles, you’ll see.”
“Thank you Buffy,” Giles said. “That would be very helpful.”
“Do you need her number, Buff?” Xander asked.
“Oh, no, I have it,” Buffy said.
“You have a date?” Xander asked, astounded. He’d met up with Willow after discussing Buffy’s surprise party with Giles. “I mean, well, um sure.”
“Why are you surprised?” Willow asked. “It’s not like I’m seeing anyone, you know, that way.”
“Well who is he?” Xander demanded, feeling strangely irritated.
“Oz.” Willow said. “He’s a musician. He plays guitar for the Dingoes. Guitar players are so cool.” She sighed.
Xander searched his brain, unable to place the name. “Is he a nice guy? I mean safe, you know.”
“No,” Willow replied. “I hear he’s very dangerous. Fast. You know how those musicians are.”
“But Willow, you don’t want to go out with guys like that.” Xander said.
“You’re just jealous because you don’t have a date.” Willow replied. “I think I like fast and dangerous. Maybe I’m heading for a fast and dangerous dating phase. That would be cool. And it’s okay, because I’m not seeing anyone.”
“But you could get hurt. Willow, this is serious. You can’t date this guy.”
“Oh I can,” Willow smiled. “I’m sorry you’re so upset, Xander. I didn’t know it would bother you. But I can and am dating him.” She smiled again. “Maybe you’ll feel better when you’ve gotten used to the idea.”
She walked off to class. Xander stared after her, his mouth hanging open. Cordelia passed him with the Cordettes.
“Nice slack jawed look, retard,” she said. “Watch out for flies, muck boy.” The Cordettes all laughed.
Buffy was way late to her surprise party which was all about not surprising. Oz had come with Willow. He had a narrow sort of pinched face with beady eyes. He was drooling over Willow, all over her, trying to cop feels. And poor Willow seemed oblivious. He kept looking at her like she was something good to eat. Xander half expected him to smack his lips.
“What are we going to do about that guy, Giles?” he asked the librarian as he helped him set up the decorations.
“What? Oh Oz? Yes, quite talented. I heard him play once.” Giles said.
“No about him and Willow.” Xander said impatiently. “I hear he’s fast.”
“Oh well,” Giles shook his head dismissively. “We can trust Willow. She’s such a fine and level headed girl. I’m sure we can rely her good judgment.”
“But she’s not used to dating,” Xander pointed out.
“Well I’ll ask Buffy to talk to Willow, make sure she’s alright. But really, you’re worried about nothing. Oz seems to be a fine boy. I understand he’s a top student, and a computer hobbyist. He and Willow should have a great deal in common.”
“Hmmm,” Xander said.
They all gathered about the box, staring at the arm.
“Did everybody see that guy explode into dust?” Oz asked.
“I’ll explain it later,” Willow told him.
“We need to get this out of here,” Angel said. “Before Drusilla can reassemble the Judge. We need to get it far away.”
“You should take it, Angel,” Jenny said. “You’re the only one who can keep it safe.”
“I can catch a steamer and make my way to Nepal,” Angel said. “It should take five or six months.”
“Months,” Buffy said. “But you could fly, that would only take a few days.”
“I can’t fly Buffy,” Angel said. “Because of the sun.”
“I can fly,” Xander said.
“So…this is good bye,” Buffy said, staring deeply into Angel’s eyes.
“It has to be Angel,” Jenny said. “After all, Xander, you don’t have a passport.”
“Only for awhile,” Angel said, staring deeply into Buffy’s eyes.
“Yes I do,” Xander said. He hoped they didn’t ask why he had one. He didn’t know, it was just something he had to have, like the second I.D. and the cash he’d stored in a locker at the bus station. Something had just made him get those things.
“Well, you’re too young,” Jenny said.
“We may never see each other again,” Buffy said softly.
“Giles could come too,” Xander said. “He has to have a passport. And there should be local watchers in Nepal right? You’d think that place would be watcher city.”
“Actually there are,” Giles said. “It could work.”
“I’ll be back,” Angel told Buffy. “I’ll always come back for you.”
“So you’re just going to disappear for six months?” Jenny asked Xander.
“No like four days,” Xander replied. “It’ll take that tops by air. Hey Giles, you could write me a note for school.”
“I suppose I could,” Giles said. “And a trip to Nepal should be at least as educational as four days at Sunnydale High.”
“What?” Buffy said. “Wait. Xander should go.”
“So you’ll just leave the Hellmouth unguarded?” Jenny asked.
“No. Buffy and Angel and you and Willow should be able to watch the place for a few days,” Xander said.
“I want to go to Nepal too,” Willow said.
“Okay, what about the arm that tried to strangle Buffy?” Oz asked.
“Later,” Willow told him.
“I guess that makes sense,” Angel said. “If Giles and Xander both went, and there were watchers waiting, it should be safe enough.”
“No. It has to be Angel,” Jenny said.
“Why?” Buffy asked.
“Yes, Jenny,” Giles said, “is there some reason Angel should go?”
“It just seems like we should have …someone strong go.” Jenny said.
“Well, I believe I can handle a simple delivery trip,” Giles said stiffly. “And Xander can help of course. We aren’t supermen, but we might muddle through.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Jenny said. She shook her head. “Sorry.”
A quick trip to the apartment complex for clothes and a quick warding spell by Giles and Willow on the box, and they were off to Sunnydale Airport. Giles fretted over their scheduled transfer at LAX but there weren’t any direct flights.
“Why don’t we charter a private plane?” Xander asked.
“Because we can’t afford it,” Giles said.
“Sure we can,” Xander said. “How come the Council is so tight with the money anyway?”
“He can,” Jenny told Giles. “You’d be amazed. It’s a good thing my people are so used to …explaining windfalls.”
But Giles refused, and then spluttered when Xander upgraded their seats to first class.
“Coach across the Pacific?” Xander shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
It was about then that the vampires attacked the luggage racks. Buffy and Angel had been outside, watching them but were overwhelmed by the attackers. By the time the others arrived, they were picking themselves up off the ground.
“You guys stay here, we’re going after them.” Buffy said.
“But–,” Xander said.
“You’ll just slow us down, head back to the library,” Buffy shouted over her shoulder. And in a blur she and Angel were gone.
It was a chastened group that returned to the library and waited. The decorations for Buffy’s party were still up, and looking sad somehow. Oz had gone home and the group began researching again.
“We could have protected the arm at the docks,” Jenny said. “Angel should have gone.”
“We don’t know that,” Giles said. “With so many vampires, it may not have made a difference.”
“What’s up with you and Angel anyway?” Xander asked. She gave him a stricken look and shook her head silently no. Xander frowned, but let it go.
Buffy and Angel returned about an hour later, empty handed, and joined in the research. It was slow going until Buffy fell asleep and promptly had a dream that revealed Drusilla and Spike’s location.
“You guys cover the entry points to town and watch for Judge parts. Docks, bus stations, airport whatever. Angel and I will go and reconnoiter, and see what they’re up to.”
Reconnoiter? A voice laughed softly in Xander’s head. Such a big word, does she know what it means? He pushed the thought away angrily.
“Right Buffy, we’re on it,” he said.
The Sunnydale bus station was a shadowy and gloomy place, run down and populated in the late night by…colorful personalities.
“I’d love to wash your hair,” the fat man with the tattoos asked Andrew a second time. Andrew squealed in fright and hid behind Tucker.
“Hey Andrew, he only asked us once,” Xander said. “Maybe you should be flattered.”
“I’m too young for this,” Andrew complained. “It’s past my bedtime.”
“I could tuck you in,” the fat man offered. Xander gave him a narrow look and he retreated. Hmm, people didn’t use to do that.”
“This is boring Xander,” Tucker complained. “I can’t get my superhero groove on without action.”
“Excuse me,” the security guard approached and asked. “But what are those?” He pointed to Rover and Fido, Tucker’s hell hounds.
“Those are my dogs, dude,” Tucker said. “I don’t go nowhere without my dogs.”
“Those aren’t dogs,” the guard said. “I don’t know what they are, but they aren’t dogs.”
“El Chupacabra,” an elderly lady pronounced nervously. She clutched at her rosary.
“Uhm I think they are dogs,” Xander said firmly. He glared at Jonathon, whose glamour spell must be fizzling. Jonathon began murmuring under his breath. “If you look again,” Xander said, “you’ll see that they are dogs, large and ugly, but dogs.”
“Smooth buddy,” Tucker hissed at Jonathon. His friend, the robot guy snickered. The guard moved off. The old lady continued counting her rosary, while glaring at them. Outside, clouds were rolling in and the wind was picking up.
“I guess I've got this guys,” Xander said. “Looks like a storm is coming in. You might want to get on home.”
“This is so lame,” the robot guy, Warren, said. “I can’t believe you guys dragged me out here. This is your friend the superhero?”
Xander had been bummed when Warren had shown up with Tucker and crew, but he’d been hanging with them when Xander had called, and apparently he wanted to meet Xander. At least they hadn’t told him about Buffy. He’d tried to scare them about that, and so far it seemed to be working.
“Not a superhero,” Xander said. “We’re just kind of public spirited people. You know. Trying to help out.”
“We’re the Civic Minded Five,” Andrew piped up.
“But there’s only the three of you?” Warren said. “Oh yeah, Rosenberg.”
“You told him about Willow?” Xander glared at Tucker.
“He’s cool,” Tucker said. The hell hounds looked up at Tucker and wagged their tails happily.
“Tucker said you had money,” Warren told Xander.
“Uhm, some.” Xander said. “So what?”
“I told you,” Tucker said. “Warren’s a genius. He makes gadgets. Crazy stuff. He could be like our Q.”
“Gadgets are cool,” Andrew said.
“I’ll wash those dogs for you,” the fat man said.
“He made a phaser fire once,” Jonathon said.
“You mean like, with a flashlight?” Xander said. Jonathon shook his head nervously no.
“Hah,” Warren scoffed. “Flashlights. You’ve been hanging out with that lame brain Rosenberg for too long. My stuff works.”
“Hey!” Xander snapped. “Didn’t she beat you at the science fair last year?”
“Affirmative action,” Warren sneered. “It’s ruining this country.”
“He made a robot,” Tucker said. “But it blew up.”
“A prototype,” Warren said dismissively. “Look, if you want to be superheroes, I can make it happen, but it’ll cost you.”
“All right,” Xander said. “We aren’t superheroes, but there is some stuff we could use.”
“Good,” Warren rubbed his hands together. “Now let’s talk funding.”
Outside, thunder cracked, and rain began hitting the windows in sheets. It looked like the storm had arrived.