Title: "Recovery"

The final chapter in the "Bad Habits" trilogy.

Written by: Shawn

 

Summary: *just read it*

Rated: NC-17

Category: Angst/Drama/Romance

Ship: BX always and forever!

Timeline/Spoilers: Everything is cannon through the end of both series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel: The Series. The only difference is anything said about the Buffy characters whereabouts and activities in the last season of Angel are completely ignored here. After "Chosen" and "Not Fade Away" it's my universe all the way. Reading "Addiction" and "Withdrawal" is a must before reading this one.

My personal archive: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ShawnsLibrary/

Disclaimer: Joss owns it all. I just let them out to play once in a while.

Email: DayShawn1974@hotmail.com

Authors Notes: This story takes place five weeks after "Withdrawal."

Dedicated to: Brooke, who I know is still wanted me to write "Shhhh," but this came out first. Loves ya bunches:)

 

 

~~~~~~

 

You should always learn, with life comes wisdom and with wisdom comes the courage to live your life selflessly. The more you learn about yourself and the experiences surrounding your life the more opportunities you have to make your life better and more fulfilling.

--Amy Candy

To the world you might be one person, but to one person you might be the world

--Unknown

Adventure isn't hanging on a rope off the side of a mountain. Adventure is an attitude that we must apply to the day to day obstacles of life -- facing new challenges, seizing new opportunities, testing our resources against the unknown and in the process, discovering our own unique potential.

--John Amatt organizer and participant in Canada's first successful expedition to the summit of Mt Everest.

 

~~~~~~

 

******

 

******

 

Draycott Place

Parking garage

Buffy's apartment building

Tuesday, December 5, 2005 12:00 AM

Area: Chelsea

London, England

 

 

A storm night like no other, shrouded in darkness, pain, and God's never-ending tears of rain.

The weather-man predicted torrential downpour battered the hood of Xander's black BMW 645I Coupe as he parked next to Buffy's red Porsche 911 in her apartment buildings garage. The Slayer's beside him, quiet.

Deathly quiet.

A litany of pitter-patter raindrops were the only audible sounds when he shut off the cars engine. Xander reclined back in his seat for a brief moment, shutting his weary eyes as the lovely lady to his right did the same. London's wet before him. Brightly lit despite the rain, with shiny slicked roads, dense fog, and a mystery around every corner.

The legendary city of London... they just didn't care.

Buffy and Xander are emotionally vacant after the events of the past three hours. They've been broken before, and so this shattered feeling is no stranger to them. As a memorable friend seen only once in a while, but never

forgotten. Recovering, the art of pulling yourself back together is what drew them together in the last year. The sheer, undeniable need to have someone to share your agony with. And your joy, however little of it

you possessed. To take care of you in your time of need. A favor returned whenever it's called upon. Hand in hand through it all.

The veil of infinite night threatened to eclipse them yet again.

A doomsday cult of viciously powerful, cannibalistic demons calling themselves 'The Final Solution,' hijacked a Virgin Train bound for Liverpool. They abducted two hundred men, women, and children, transporting them away in a massive teleportation spell. Taken to a fifty-room condemned mansion in the countryside, the authorities alerted the Watchers Council of the 'underworld' aspects of the kidnapping.

The public couldn't know. They weren't prepared for this. Society had an appetite for the lives and loves of celebrities, and not things outside of their ability to control, much less understand.

Lives were at stake. Acting fast, Willow used blood from one of the demons captured alive, no doubt attacked by those taken who fought for their lives, to track the cult. Blood led them to a decrepit structure of oppression and

agony. A old dark Victorian mansion of broken windows and shadows, tucked away in the heart of the woods. Buffy, Faith, Xander, and all three of their respective teams assaulted the mansion simultaneously, with Angel providing back-up. They knew, according to Willow's 'suggestive spell' placed on the surviving demon that the cult members were cannibals who felt a soul-damning sacrifice of human flesh would release their God from the Netherworld, and send this one into eternal darkness forever.

There were twice as many demons as expected, all brandishing razor sharp swords they were experts in using. With a ravenous taste for blood and extreme violence, they were strong in body, in skin, and in will. They tore, murdered, and were eating the flesh of well over one hundred of the captives in a huge dining hall of cob webs and dust before the Watchers Council moved in. The battle that ensued could only be described as a blessing of chaotic fury. Buffy, Faith, and the Slayers found themselves being attacked in close quarters by hordes of demons covered in blood and filth. They were outnumbered and unprepared for just how brutal and powerful their enemies were. The captives ran for their very lives while screaming and yelling at the top of their lungs. The Slayers took a primal-beating the likes of which they haven't experienced in recent years, even in victory.

Xander's team of Watchers Council agents fared somewhat better, if for no other reason than they used different tactics to fight. Smoke bombs and small explosives forced demons out in the open, where they were hit with specially made bullets built to rip through the thickest skin as tough as body armor. Xander led thirty-five agents into the mansion. Specially trained, heavily armed, vastly experienced, and all around mean group of men and women who did this kind of dirt for a living.

Including Xander himself, only eight are going home.

Seventy-one civilians saved. One hundred and twenty-nine lost. Add into that death count five Slayers and twenty-eight Council agents. Total death count for one night of madness. One hundred and sixty two lives lost.

There weren't enough body bags brought to the mansion when authorities and Council After-Operations teams moved in. In fact, there were more severed body parts than actual bodies.

Tasting the faint coppery tinge of her own blood on her tongue, Buffy listened to the rhythm of the raindrops, though she paid them no mind. Her gaze lifted towards the unlit window of her apartment on the ninth floor. Her sore, battered body willed her to move. To go. To leave. Shower. Food. Xander. Peace. Xander. Rest. Sleep. Xander. Alas, her spirit could not erase the images of the bodies... the shredded, butchered, half-eaten bodies of men, women and children from her subconscious. She didn't want to talk about it becasue what was there to say? Nothing. Another day was all it was. She did her job, and lived to tell about it.

Raindrops dripping down the car windows in a steady rhythm of rivets. Xander's clothes are uncomfortable, clinging like a second unwanted skin. His left leg is killing him, aching so bad he tries not to even think about it. He's hungry and exhausted. Having sat here long enough, he slowly reached over the divide, gently touching Buffy's hand. They made eye contact. A short nod. A quiet understanding between lovers. He unlocked their doors.

Up ahead, Benny the doorman, who wore the worlds most obvious toupee and a fatherly smile saw them pull into the parking garage a few minutes ago. Pulling his coat a bit tighter around him to ward off the chilling winds, he stood ready to open the door for them when they raced out of the car inside the building. Though a happily married man of well over twenty years, he never passed on an opportunity to open a door for the lovely, charismatic Ms. Buffy Summers. None of the male workers on staff did. She had a way of brightening their day with but a toss of her silky blonde hair and a smile. Heaven help you if she sent a flirty quip your way. She had the male staff in the palm of her hands.

As Benny held his ground just inside the building to keep from getting wet, he spotted her gentleman caller by her side as they exited the car. Such a lucky lad, he murmured under his breath. As they approached the building he realized something was off. They were walking so slowly as the rainstorm drenched them from head to toe that he couldn't understand why they weren't sprinting to the entrance to get out of it. Did that want to get soaked? The reasons of the young often failed him. With a polite, curt nod, he held their door, allowing them inside. "Good evening, Ms. Summers. Sir," he acknowledged Xander. "Rain seems like it's never gonna let up," he smiled good-naturedly, shutting the doors behind them.

Having always enjoyed his familiar smile and easy going nature ever since she moved into the building, Buffy turned to him, dripping all over the carpet, and thought of something... anything to say. He'll be leaving work in about three hours to go home and sleep next to his wife, only to wake up in the morning and be there when his three kids rolled out of bed. Such a boring, normal life. He's the richest man in the world and doesn't even know it. She's envious. She's empty. Without. And so she simply offered her best fake smile. It doesn't quite light up her eyes, but does the trick. Benny is charmed all over again. Up ahead, Xander motions for her. He has a elevator for them. Good. She's not sure how much farther she could walk before she collapsed.

Xander held the door open for her to walk inside, pulling away only when she past by. She smells bad and looks worse. He's her male equivalent. Xander stepped backwards, by her side, always. He sighed when she took his hand in hers and looped his arm over her shoulder to lean into. He understood that she needed him close, that she loved him, and that she's hurt by so many things she cannot say.

His blue-jean jacket is caked in dried blood, and soaked clean through to his torn shirt. His pants are dirty, as is the butt of his gun, nestled in it’s holster. He tries to hide his other hand from her so that she doesn't worry, but she can see the raw skin scratched off his knuckles, and can tell he's in pain. She didn't see his fight, but knew they barely had enough people left from his team to drive the cars back to the Council compound when they left the mansion. He keeps shifting his jaw, and it looks a little swollen. Self-consciously, she tugs the collar of her shirt tight around her neck, hoping to hide the ugly bruises she knows her back is covered with. In a couple hours they'll be gone. By tomorrow it'll be as if she wasn't even in a fight.

Externally, that is. Her heart knows the wars she's fought in. Remembers the pain and suffering. The blood and cruelty. The victims... The hate that she wishes didn't live in the world.

There was a time she was sincerely curious about the darkness. Not only of this world, and in other peoples hearts, but within her as well. Years later she's seen, faced, fought, indulged and studied that darkness until she's an expert. The darkness annoys her now. It is not cool, nor sexy, or a part of her soul. It is simply... utterly... depressingly... darkness. And it is not good.

She rejects the darkness these days. She just has to live with how it affects others.

His sweetness, Xander thought possessively enough, is a interesting, unpredictable sort of woman. Her quirks and charms are legendary, all loved by the man that loves her. Watches her as she slips out of her shoes the second before the elevator door opens to her floor.

Gladys Myers, the clichéd old lady that lives down the hall stood in front of the open elevator, waiting for them to exit with a thoroughly shocked expression on her face. What in the world have these two young people been through tonight, her eyes seemed to ask. They looked like they had survived a car wreck. Her often polite, albeit short blonde neighbor waved a mute hello. So did the tall guy the laundry room gossip mongers assume is her boyfriend, who trailed behind the wet sock wearing woman as they traveled down the hall towards her apartment. With a shrugging head shake, the older woman felt some things are better left alone.

Key in lock, click, door opens. Buffy limped inside, her hip killing her. She left her keys still in the door. She heard Xander pull them out. She knew he would. He's always picking up behind her. She loves him so that even the small gesture of grabbing her keys warms her heart. It's not a grand romantic gesture that has her wanting to run across a beach of jet-black sand to spring into his arms. It's the little things like simply being there for her that has her, caught in his snare. "Thank you," she offered softly in the dark comforts of her apartment. He didn't respond, instead moving to light her fire place, then kick his shoes off in the corner of the room. One of his socks is bloody. The sight made her stomach clench.

Buffy stood in the center of her living room looking every bit the drowned rat, and yet, she was lovely becasue that was all she could ever be in his eyes. "Come on, honey. We need to get cleaned up." He took her hand, or to be more precise, her finger tips and led her into the master bathroom. Flipping the wall switch, light illuminated more than the room. It fully illuminated how they looked to one another.

And it made them both sad.

They were such a mess.

Self-sufficient, prideful, and never one to play the needy little woman, Buffy accepted Xander's caring of her. As close as he thinks he is to her heart, he's even closer than that. She wonders if it's possible to unbutton and slip someone’s jacket off their shoulders and have that be romantic. Then she knows it's not romance that he's trying for at the moment, with her jacket pooled at her feet. Her pale blue blouse is ripped in two places, and soaked clear to her skin, exposing her rose embroidered bra. Xander unbuttoned that as well, taking his time, knowing that she's tender, and so his touch is soft.

She hates the gasp he does not hide when she's down to her bra. She was slammed as hard as she has been in nine years against a slab of jagged stone. The warmth of his hands rested upon her slim shoulders as he gently turned her back to him. His loving gaze was as soothing to her as his touch. From her hairline to nearly the dip in her back, a mask of ugly purple and black bruises decorated her once ivory skin. From what she could see in the mirrors reflection, the sight made her feel ill. Ugly. Fowl in some strange way.

Low and behold, when he kissed the first bruise adorning the back of her neck, she exhaled a breath she didn't know she was holding. "I know the bruises look terrible."

"Your back has seen better days," he added before brushing his lips over another bruise at the top of

her spine. "How do you feel?"

"Like shit."

"We have so much in common tonight."

She'd smile if her jaw didn't hurt. Never mind her. Buffy slipped off her bra, carrying not where it landed. It's his turn now. After unbuckling his gun holster, her hands rose to help Xander pull his shirt up over his head. His T-shirt underneath was soaked in blood. Not his own, she silently thanked God to herself. Probably when he was helping one of the wounded. He has a assortment of cuts and scratches. Each one she tends to with loving care. Affection through antiseptic spray and liquid bandages. Her hip's killing her. So is his leg. Difference is, in another hour or so her Slayer attributes will kick in and she'll be as good as knew. He'll be sore in the morning. Perhaps she'll get up early and run him a warm bubble bath, then share it with him. Despite the pain in her jaw, she smiles.

Xander noticed. "What turned that frown upside down?"

"Just thinking of you," she said as he kinda hopped on one foot while trying to act as if the antiseptic spray she sprayed on his hand wasn't burning like hell. "You don't have to pretend that doesn't hurt."

"What? Did my wincing face, chattering teeth, and one leg hopping like I have to pee give it away?"

He's her souls doctor in every way. And he makes her smile when she doesn't want too. "How do you feel? Seriously, Xander?"

Her determined stare demanded no less than the absolute truth. "I took a hard fall on my leg. It's sore, but I don't think I broke or tore anything. My hand feels like I slammed it in a couple of doors, but ice will help. Other than that it's just the same ole same ole. I get punched, I get up. I get kicked, I get up. None of those demons had anything on my old man, so I keep getting up."

He makes fun of the abuse he took as a child from his own father because humor helps him cope. To each his own. Buffy won't try to change him. Only love him. "When you found me tonight, Angel was hugging me to console me. I know you didn't get the wrong idea by the way you acted when you walked over, but I just want to reiterate there was nothing to it. At least not from me."

She never needed to say that to him. It's appreciated nonetheless. "I saw it for what it was."

"Are you ever jealous of Angel?"

"He's the first man I ever knew you loved."

"You're the last man I intend to love."

Xander swore he heard soothing music, and the sound of children laughing. Her beautiful words... He tenderly drew her into his arms, softly wrapping himself around her. "Should I take that as something sweet, or that you'll go lesbian if we ever break up?"

"A girl's gotta keep her options open." Surrendering to the safety of his warm embrace, her arms slipped around his waist. When the worlds upside down and inside out, her foundation is found here. Built with him. Solid. She's never been more in love. Or unhappy. "This isn't right, Xander."

"I know." She didn't have to elaborate. What they'd seen tonight spoke volumes. "It's like no matter how organized, well trained, well funded, or the number of good people we have running the Watchers Council, it never gets easier."

"The demons and baddies are getting tougher and smarter."

"We're only getting older."

"Sometimes I wish I was never the Slayer." She lifted her head from his shoulder, her hazel eyes gazing into a brown pair. "I wish I would have met you as just a cool high school girl with a lot of great looking clothes and saw you for the amazing man you were then. We could have fallen in love, lost our virginity together, dated all through high school, and banged like rabbits when we got our first apartment after graduation."

Nuzzling the side of her face as he laughed softly, he pressed a small kiss to her forehead. "No matter all the crazy, not so good things that have happened over the years, maybe things worked out the way they were supposed to."

"I think you're right, but I don't like to admit it."

"Like your true hair color?"

The nerve of him! Buffy playfully pinched his arm... hard. "Shut up. I'm a natural..." His eyes dared her to say it. Absolutely dared her. "My boobs are real, so there." She nodded. He grinned. His grin faded, as did her own. "I think we should burn our clothes."

He took a quick sniff under his arms, then in her hair. "And shower before we draw vultures outside your window."

Buffy side stepped him, entering the shower. She turned the water on hot, then backed away and slipped out of the rest of her clothes. "I feel like crying, Xander," she solemnly confessed out of the blue.

He finished undressing and climbed into the shower with her. "So do I. And before the night's out, I probably will."

"At least we're together."

"Ahead of the curve and below the radar, that's where you'll find us."

"Xander, I want more than this for us."

There were so many ways he could interpret that, and yet he kept it simple. "You got a plan?"

"No," she admitted as the steam began to pillow around them. Clean water never felt so good cascading down her body. "But it begins with us, ends with us, and has us loving each other the whole time."

"Sounds like the beginning of a plan to me."

 

 

 

******

 

 

The monotone fall of the rain is beautiful.

Nature's symphony vocalized the sudden rise and slow relapse of the one thing out of mans control. As the singing of the showers continued nonstop outside this cozy high-rise apartment, on the inside it's occupants enjoyed their good fortune of simply being alive and together.

In this cynical day and age being grateful is considered an art form. One worthy of mastering if you're mature enough to understand it.

The rain played a little sleep-song on windows. Feeling drowsy happy, Buffy loved lying on her large Cirencester sofa bed. While Xander finished preparing dinner in the kitchen, she pulled Kazak lavender cotton fabric sofa bed closer to the fire place. It opened out to reveal a double bed with sprung trampoline base and mattress, which afforded a restful and comfortable nights sleep.

Perfect for the intimate lounging they needed to unwind after a long night.

Just shy of warmer than warm, her living rooms temperature was infinitely comfortable. Sitting at the foot of the sofa bed was a pizza pan with two slices left. After their shower, Xander created and baked a delicious extra large homemade cheese sausage, pepperoni, and mushroom pizza for dinner. Two slices of chocolate cake and a bottle of Chardonnay White Wine were the perfect compliment.

Thoroughly famished, they attacked the pizza more so than ate it. Sometimes when food is good you pushed aside notions of table manners and such. They devoured the deep dish pizza and both slices of cake in mere minutes, eating in bed like children as the rain storm outside continued.

They drank a full bottle of white wine and were feeling decidedly better after showering and changing

clothes. Xander's wearing a pair of dark sweatpants while Buffy's in a satin pale blue pajama set with the long sleeves, button-up top and roomy, full-length pants. She has just a couple of buttons undone to draw her honey's attention whenever she wanted it. As if she ever had to work for it.

Well fed, full, and tipsy enough to fall asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow, they haven't said a word to each other in the last few minutes, choosing instead to soak in this peaceful quiet. Sometimes you just had to enjoy the peaceful quiet. Buffy's absently running her hand in small circles over Xander's bare chest, grazing the short hairs beneath her finger tips. His eyes are shut, basking in her sweet affection and the light scent of her perfume. They've entrusted their hearts to each other, and so there are no worries here. Yes, lives were lost a few short hours ago. People were killed. The blood splattered floors. The dismembered bodies. Tragedy. Violence. The hate-filled eyes of cannibals killing unmercifully. They witnessed all of those things first hand tonight.

So how can they stare lovingly at each other by firelight?

The answer is as simple for them as it is a police officer. Or a fire fighter. Or a emergency room doctor. Some nights your job is rougher than others. Some nights it's fun, and you laugh with the people you work with until you can barely breathe. Sometimes it's so boring all you do is stare at your watch, mentally begging time to move faster before you die of inactivity. Some nights are utterly frustrating, and leave you not wanting to go the next day. Other nights are just bad. Evil. Wrong. Sad. Unfair.

That's life.

And as a mature adult, and a professional, you compartmentalize your personal feelings and experiences, accept them as par for the course in your line of work, and move on. You have your own life to lead off the clock, and so you leave work behind in whatever way suits you best. That's the way it is. But it only works if you love your job. You can't do those types of jobs for any reason other than loving them. The downside will always outweigh the upside. Doctors love medicine and helping to save and preserve lives. Why else would anyone push themselves through eight plus years of schooling. Cops have within them the need to serve and protect. They don't go into law enforcement for the money, or fame, or any reason other than that they want to.

The key is wanting too. Loving what you do when your job deals with traumatic, stressful, life and death situations is necessary to maintain the energy to do it every day. The occupation itself must fulfill something within you. Must give you something any other job would lack. Otherwise...

Finishing off the last of her wine glass, Buffy sat it on the floor, then shifted on the sofa bed closer to Xander, lying her head on the pillow next to his. She followed his line of vision, smiling before she even reached it's

destination. "What is it about that rocking chair that has you so enamored with it?"

A gift from Andrew to her on the anniversary of the day he officially, at least in his own mind, became a member of the Scooby Gang; the oversized high-back upright rocking chair with the Oak Wood and walnut finish called out to Xander, whispering a sirens song. There's a strange pull he couldn't quite explain. Or wasn't ready to

just yet. "That chair is much to big for you. That's bigger than any chair at my place."

"It's super comfortable though. The cushions are so soft you can fall asleep in it. I almost did reading a book one night. It almost rocked me to sleep like a affectionate father made of wood."

Sitting just to the right of the sofa bed, the rocking chair called his attention. "It's classy."

Perhaps so, Buffy pondered to herself, balancing on her elbow. "My furniture set needed classy."

"It wasn't exactly ghetto. Not like those old couches in my parents basement."

"Yeah. True."

"All Andrew got me were three pair of jeans that were too tight," Xander grumbled with a wry smile. "I could barely take them off after I tried them on. I thought I was going to have to peel them off."

Her honey, though insightful, sometimes missed the more obvious things. "Andrew likes the way your butt looks in those tight jeans." Wide eyes shifted her way, curiously. Was that surprise written all over his face? "Oh yes, Andrew is still Xander-crushing big time."

And to think he was sure Andrew's Xander-crushing had become a full on case of Spike-crushing. Shrugging, he took it as a compliment. After all, who would anyone want more in Xander's eyes? Himself, or the dead anorexic blonde guy. "I am a hard man to get over."

"He'd love to get over you alright."

Ever the tease, his Buffy. She couldn't resist that one. And she's so beautiful tonight, no matter the hell she's been through. "I thought he just didn't know my correct pants size."

"Nope. He likes how good you look in tight jeans. He bought them becasue he feels they make your ass look hot. So do I, hence my less than angry-face over his choice of gift."

"At least they were free. Maybe if I break out my old sewing machine I can cut two pair and make on good pair."

"You're so sexy when you're resourceful."

"I'm like a living Swiss-Army knife. Only I'm not Swiss." With a soft bed, a roaring fireplace and the woman he loves by his side, Xander felt truly blessed. True, his life wasn't peaches and cream, and probably never would be. But it had it's moments. This was one of them. "Willow seems to have bounced back from her surgery pretty well."

"Yeah, I noticed. She's already teaching her classes again. Plus, I saw her speeding away from the Council compound yesterday after a meeting. The Nascar side of her personality hasn't been affected at all," Buffy replied, mindful of their best friends stabbing injury due to a mad sorcerers bladed-staff three weeks ago. As scary as those hours were just before and during the surgery on her abdomen, the hours and days afterward saw a closer bond not seen in quite some time return between the Slayer and the Witch. One they sorely missed and hoped to build on again. "Wills is a fighter. She can't die. I told her so. If she did I would just bring her back. I owe her one anyway," Buffy joked about a subject years ago she wouldn't have dreamed of joking about.

"Just as long as she's alright." Xander appreciated Buffy's hand covering his, offering a little squeeze. She knows of his deepest fear, losing the one person that's been there for him since day one. She never acts jealous, nor envious. Only supportive. He's mildly surprised by that, coming from a woman. Then again, she is no ordinary woman.

Rolling on his pillow, Xander carefully appraised the right side of her neck and shoulder, brushing some of her hair aside. Her bruises were already fading away, barely noticeable. "You look a lot better."

"You smell a lot better."

"Your bruises are almost gone." He lifted the side of her collar, inspecting just below her neck. "I hate it when you're bruised."

He sincerely cares for her in a way she's never doubted. She knows how protective of her he still is after all these years. Unlike her, his bruises and thankfully minor injuries will still linger tomorrow. At least his hand looks much better than it did when they first arrived home. Her smile half-hidden, when did she start thinking of her place as 'their' home? Then again, maybe wherever they are together, that is home. "I'll be fine. You should let me take care of you for a while."

"You do everyday, Buff."

"Don't expect that to ever change," she found herself saying, though she didn't mean to. Suppressing her feelings around him isn't something she can do anymore. She doesn't even try, and dear God, it's liberating. She doesn't withhold her thoughts, or think about what she's going to say or how it'll be perceived. In him, she's found her ultimate sounding board. Needing to feel closer, she slinked over his body, settling just over his lap. Not on that part of him she desires, but just intimately enough to rest on top of him. "I hope I make you feel as safe and secure as you make me feel."

"You don't need to hope," Xander assured her, toying with the hem of her top. "You make me feel... you make me feel... you make me feel like a nat-u-ral woomann," he sang to her just to hear her laugh at his silliness. She's the light, and all that is good and sweet in his world. His hands settled over her thighs, possessively squeezing

them. "After Anya's death I didn't give up on finding love again, or anything like that. I just wasn't looking. I had no energy to look and try to find someone to trust and fall in love with."

"You're better than me. I gave up on finding love long ago," she confessed, adjusting her position more comfortably now. "It takes so much out of you when a relationship ends. You second guess yourself like crazy. You feel so alone, and it's like everyone around you is involved and in the best relationship ever. Then if you're a girl, there's all the crying and ice cream eating and checking your boobs in the mirror and wondering if you're crazy and not him. Oh, but I have come to understand that it's always him." She nodded confidently.

Buffy's to cute for words sometimes. "I did think that when Angel returned it would only be a matter of time before you two hooked up."

"You and everyone else," she recalled with a note of annoyance. "But what you all seem to forget is that I'm just not that starry-eyed seventeen year old anymore. I've been through so much and I've changed. He's changed. Our worlds have changed. He has a son. I have a sister. I lost my mom. Heck, I lost my whole town. He fought a dragon, as well as lost Wes, Gunn, and Cordy. Everything’s different now."

"Despite all that, he still loves you. Buffy. I can tell by the way he looks at you."

"I can't control other peoples feelings. But I can always tell you the truth about mine. I haven't been in love with Angel for years now."

"So if I am understanding you correctly, you're done baking?" he joked yet again after she told him of her one-time silly analogy. "Are you gonna move on to frying? Char-boiling? I hear grilling is in this time of year."

Buffy shut him up with a long hot kiss, introducing her tongue to his wickedly funny one. They shared that kind of lazy, wet, probing kissing that clung soft lips and hearts. With a exaggerated smack, the Slayer pulled pack first, resettling over him. His hands found her hips, anchoring her where he wanted her. That felt so good. Staring down at him with the fire place in the background, he's never looked so sexy. "I only love you."

She's possesses a part of him he wants no other woman to have. Her moody hazel eyes can make a man forget to breath. He exhales involuntarily. "So, you're fully baked, is what you're saying?" Buffy looked like she either wanted to hit him or kiss him again. "Sorry, honey. I love you too."

There's a fiery heat simmering between them, just below the surface, threatening to crest. It's a patient

heat. Knows when it's needed and when it must lie in wait. There's intimacy outside of passion, and a right time for everything. Now was a time for contemplation, and a sharing of whatever came to mind.

"My psychiatrist says I'm making progress," Buffy heard herself speak and wondered how strange that sounded. For years she felt if you needed to see a shrink, you're already just standing in the door of a sanitarium, waiting for the straight jacket. She's learned a lot over the years. "Dr. Chandler told me to find something to channel my anger into."

"And that would be?"

"I'm taking up boxing."

Buffy looked proud of herself, and even though Xander wanted to laugh, he let her be. "You're one of a kind, honey."

"He also asked me about my love life." She knew that would pique his interest. "He asked me about my previous relationships and my Dad, then related them to my issues with trust. Specifically, trusting men. I don't trust men."

"I could have told you that and saved you eighty bucks an hour."

"Seventy-two, thank you very much," she corrected him, grinning triumphantly. "He's a good guy, my shrink. His M&M dish is always full when I go to his office and he lets me eat as many as I want."

"I'm guessing that seeing him is helping then?" Buffy acknowledged that it was, stretching her arms over

her head. "Good."

"I told him that I'm with a man now."

"As opposed to a woman?"

"I'm being serious."

"Okay, Buff. Here's me putting on my serious face."

"That's your silly face."

"No it's not."

"It also doubles as your confused face. And if you pouted a little, your pleading face."

"I'm so gonna dump you."

"Such an empty promise," she explained what she knew he was thinking. His knowing expression said it all. "I told him I'm deeply in love for what feels like the first time in my life. He asked me why I felt that way, and I said that I've never felt like as a adult, that I truly understood what it meant to give all of myself to another person and truly accept all of that person. I've never shared all of me with anyone, except you now. He asked me if you inspired me. I told him yes."

"That's it. I'm taking you shopping tomorrow. New shoes and some sparkling bling for your hand or wrist."

Luxuriating in the protective warmth of his body, Buffy gave a little, "Yay."

"I'm happy that seeing him is helping you."

"Have you ever thought of seeing someone?"

"Yeah," he considered thoughtfully, "sometimes."

Approaching a long overdue topic required gentle care. And a loving touch. "Maybe you could talk to someone about your days growing up, and your dad." Xander's face fell as surely as the sun at dawn. If she weren't sitting on his lap he'd shifted away from her. At least he'd try to. She won't let him get away. "What is it?"

"My Dad made his life, my moms life, and my life miserable. He made me feel worthless because he felt worthless. That about covers it."

"And the hitting," she could talk about because of who she was in his life, and he couldn't get mad. "You've only mentioned bits and pieces over the years."

Xander's empty vacant stare changed the mood. He'd rather no one know about that, or if they did, never speak of it. He's angry that after so many years those dark days still haunt him. It's not that Buffy brought up that painful period in his life. It's that it still gets to him. "My dad's was drunk," he stated flat out. "He used his drinking as a crutch. He took out his failures in life on me. He needed me to be a failure so that he wouldn't be alone in the failing. He never encouraged me a day in his life."

"And you know none of that was your fault, right?"

"I do now, but accepting that doesn't change the fact that the man who should love you more than his own life beat the crap out of you because he hated his own. That's what's hard to live with. Especially when you'd like to have kids one day like I do and you worry about repeating what was done to you."

"Xander, you could never be like your father to our chil... I mean... ah, you know," Buffy stuttered. Unfortunately for her, the words were already out in the open, and when he smiled so beautifully she couldn't take them back if she wanted to. And she didn't want too. God, did his eyes ever light up with hopeful joy. "We don't have to make the same mistakes our parents made. I would never abandon my son or daughter the way my dad did Dawn and I. He kicked us to the curb, stopped calling, and that was that."

Buffy's hands are fidgeting. Xander knows why because he knows her. He's still riding an emotional high, but tries to maintain some maturity. "We're good people, Buffy. We hard work at being good people. We're not perfect. We have our bad days and we still make mistakes. But we're still good people at the end of the day." Xander rose, slipping his arms around her waist to pull her to him. "You slipped up a moment ago," he forced her to face no matter the faint blush clouding her cheeks. "What were you going to say?"

Trapped in his embrace, the loving expression he wore caused something warm to tingle in her belly, only to flood her whole body. Something deeply personal. "It was... oh come on, you know. I said it, so there," she concluded in a way she hoped would change the subject. He pressed a soft kiss to her lips that served as notice he wasn't going to let this drop. His arms trapped her, fusing their chests together. His eyes captured hers, holding onto the moment. She's a little embarrassed and feels a bit put on the spot. She knows what he longs to hear. She's not sure if she can say it. "What?"

"Have you thought about it?" quietly asked a breath away from her lips. His seriousness caused Buffy ducked her head in an attempt to hide, shy suddenly. "Truthfully?"

Buffy wishes she could dismiss him with a cavalier wave and an apologetic smile. She's a jumble of conflicting emotions. "Yes, I've thought about it." His smile bore a touch of euphoria.

"Kids?"

"Yes."

"Us and kids?"

"Someday... maybe... yes." Xander knows the woman she is, so he pushes for no more, lying back down on the wing tips of a sigh. He appears pleased. An emotion that matches her own.

"I have a confession to make."

Resting her forearms on his chest, she leaned over him. "Do tell."

"I would move heaven and Earth to get to that someday you were talking about."

Indescribable feelings of devotion fluttered over her. She's humbled suddenly. A virgin to his sweet brand of love. "We need to change our lives first," she had to say. "Before we entertain any long-term thoughts like those we have to get our individual lives together first."

Xander nodded. "How do we go about doing that?"

As if she had all the answers. But maybe the point was that nobody did, and you just had to find a place

to start. "First step, we stop complaining about our lives. It's like all we do is say we're unhappy all the time, but we don't do anything about it. Complaining does not fix anything."

"I think one of the reasons we fear change so much is that while we know what doesn't make us happy, we're unsure of what might."

Him and her both. "As far as my personal life goes, I have all my answers," her smile rained down for his

eyes only. "Professionally is where I don't know what I want to do."

"We could move away and open up a coffee shop somewhere."

"Nah, I wouldn't want to get up that early."

"A Taco Bell?"

"Gives us both gas."

"How about a clothing store?"

"Dawn might be tempted to steal. Ole Sticky Fingers still grabs a blouse or three when I'm not looking."

"Toy store?"

"Sex or kids?"

"You gotta have sex to get the kids," he winked her way, to which she rolled her eyes at him. "I'm not sure what I want to do with my life. I know that working for the Watchers Council gave me confidence I've never had before. I worked so hard when he arrived in England. I trained and studied and applied myself like I never have before. So for me, leaving all this behind is scary becasue I’m successful now and I like how that feels."

"But are you happy?"

"Personally, yes. Otherwise, no."

"Why?"

"I don't want to play super-cop for the rest of my life. It's just not in me the way it must be in other people. All the killing and blood and cruelty are affecting how I sleep at night. I'm restless, on edge, and depressed when I come home... unless I'm with you," he finished after a pause. "I don't want to walk around with a gun most of the day. I don't want to see dead bodies every night. I don't like some of the little ways I can feel myself changing into someone bitter and overly negative about life. Nothing about my job makes me smile. Nothing fulfills me about it. I love the pay. I'm over the excitement. I know if I put my mind to something, I can accomplish it. But this is the most respect I've ever gotten as a man. That's addictive. But it doesn't make me happy."

His blunt honesty inspired her loyalty. "I never, ever want a young, unprepared untrained girl to have to go through the insane crap I went through if she's called to be a Slayer. I need to know, not only for my own peace of mind, but for the legacy of the Slayers that there's a support system set up to help guide them, and good people surrounding them so that they can be all they can be. Those things are important to me. Fast forward years later, with Giles, Robin, Stephen, Gwen, and Charles running the Council, I feel things are the way they should be."

"Then why aren't you happy?"

"Because I'm not living, I'm existing," she declared her inner hurtful most thoughts. "I'm not enjoying life, or doing the things that inspire or fulfill me. I've watched no less than one girl die every single week for the past

two years. I have this destiny, but it isn't one of my choosing. Nonetheless, I did it to the best of my ability, and I feel I've done enough." Buffy exhaled a deep breath. "I feel lost most days. I don't have any energy to want to do anything fun. I don't go to concerts or clubs or anything. I feel old and worn out. I'm seeing a psychiatrist for crying out loud. I'm bored all the time I'm not with you. I feel drained. I'm sick of all the senseless murders. I don't get a rush from it. I just..."

"You just what?"

"I want it to end," she said directly to the point. "I need it to end."

"Then I guess we know what we need to do."

"But how?" Sighing, Buffy fell softly in his arms, her head resting on his shoulder. "How do we walk away from all this?"

"I think we just took the first step. We know that we need to." Silence except for the rains never-ending fall from the heavens. They've crossed a line tonight. Illuminated a path they previously could not name, and now freely admitted as one they want to travel on together. Snuggling in each others arms, they share their strength, stronger together than apart. Xander's caressing her back, resting his head against the top of hers. This is joy. This is peace. This is what matters most to him, and to her. "I need you forever, Buffy."

Solid sexy, warm, and so loving. She yawns in his arms, accepting that her fears are all conquered by his love for her, and so she can trust her heart to speak for her. "Forever sounds impossible."

"So does the possibility of Angel's hair moving even if he were standing in the eye of a hurricane."

"Are you comparing spending the rest of your life with me to my ex-boyfriends hair?"

"When you put it like that, it sounds kinda..." Her fingers gently grazed his cheek. Her warm gaze conveyed something so special. And then she spoke...

"I'm terrified to say this, but I think you and I could do forever. So I say we should go for it."

"I love you so much."

"And I love you even more than that.

She's being kissed senseless that very next second.

Eager hands roaming, giggling fiendishly amidst rolling around the sofa bed, rustling the covers and accidentally knocking one of the pillows on the floor. The simmering heat between them torched their skin as it finally flared out of control, setting off fire alarms of the sensual kind. They felt the world come unglued as pure erotic need swept over them, unable to suppress this bold passion any longer.

Shifting around her in the center of the sofa bed, Xander's devouring the side of her neck, his body braced closely behind hers. So close the heat of his hard erection pressed into backside, creating bubbly pleasurable sensations to churn through her belly. Slightly short of breath, Buffy arched her back, grinding into the hardness she needed inside her. The husky grown he emitted turned her body moist in a heartbeat.

She secretly loves his strong hands. Especially now after they completed the simple task of unbuttoning her top, only to glide upward to cup her soft breasts in a firm hold, kneading them so perfectly her thighs clenched in pleasurable response. Vibrations of a deep moan escaped her lips as her stomach tightened. Those beautiful hands squeezed her breasts in time with the duel grinding they settled into. "You drive me crazy," she confessed just loud enough for him to hear.

So overcome with need, Xander's lungs refused to provide him with speech. Can't form any words at all. His hands left her breasts, roaming over her shoulders to slip her long sleeved top off, tossing it to the floor. His left hand brushed the hard brown tip of her nipple before squeezing the supple fullness of her breast again. His right hand slowly ghosted down her chest, past her navel, invading her panties to cup her weeping mound in the palm of his hand.

"Xander," his name fled her lips in a low whimper as she felt so utterly possessed by him. Her thighs clutched hard around his wrist, trapping him. The deeds of his hands have her half bent over, with the base of his wrist grounding against her clit. Deep throaty moans filled the air, joining the crackling fire and the pouring rain in a concert of desire. She's gently thrusting into his hand now, soaking his fingers until he turned his head next to her and captured her lips in a ravaging French kiss. Her nervous system went into overload, with the feel of her nipple being manipulated, her center being stroked, and her tongue being sucked upon.

A low pitched cry seperated their lips, allowing Xander a brief glimpse of the heaven that is a thoroughly flushed, lovely beyond words, Buffy Summers. The wetness glistening his fingers could be ignored no longer. He drew his hand from her panties straight to his lips, lashing the slickness from his hand. “I can't get enough of you. Never enough of you," he branded heat on the back of her neck, pressing the fullness of his lips there. Breathing goose bumps onto her bare skin, he began kissing his way over her slender shoulders, then taking his time running his lips down her perfectly sculpted spine, while his hands anchored her hips, holding her tight against his aching cock. Moisture flooded her in a molten stream of sensation. She's shuddering under his affection. He's so hard from this alone, shifting back on his knees so that he had the room to thoroughly bathe the dip in her lower back with his tongue.

Some men make love. Some men fuck. Some just have sex and some don't know what the hell they are doing. Then there are men like Xander, who in Buffy's eyes, knew how to pleasure every square inch of woman’s body, having thoroughly mastered her every need. After divesting her of the rest of her clothes, his kisses left faint traces of saliva down her back, cooling onto her skin. When his lips found her left cheek, he again kissed her, three times before moving to the other cheek, adoring it with the same, and even a gentle bite. He has, will, and loves her body from the crown of her head to the soles of her feet. Having always been the aggressive type who likes to get to things without a ton of foreplay, with Xander, she accepted his worship gratefully... pleasurably... always and only for him.

Sitting back on his heels behind her, the glistening pink pouty lips of her sex were rewarded with a long lazy lick from her entrance to her clit. Then another, as he slowly lashed his tongue down her slit, separating her petal soft folds, lapping softly at the end. Savoring the passion swelling inside her, Buffy leaned over, braced on her hands. The taste of her has awakened the animal within, and before Xander knew it, he rolled down onto his back, pulling her thighs over his head, arching his neck to settle her above him.

Sight, scent, and taste collided as Xander hungrily ate her pussy.

Sitting astride his face, knees planted either side of his head, Buffy’s chest heaved in a steady rhythm as his long, agile tongue made love to her with exquisite care and tenderness. She imagined he held himself in check at first, wanting her slow climb to burn every step of the way. When he licked up and down over her swollen clit in one long smooth motion she whined softly. Her eyes closed shut, her mouth wide open as she breathed in short gulps, rolling her hips over his tongue. Her nipples tightened while her entire body flushed. Describing how he made her feel simply was not possible. The slurping, noisy sounds he made as his mouth absolutely enveloped her whole and sucked hard caused her to cry out. She's as wet as she's ever been, and he can't seem to get enough of her taste.

Xander's lips were locked in a fierce French Kiss over her sensitive little clit, his hands firmly kneading her backside, loving the supple curves and muscle underneath. She tastes divine because she is a Goddess, and his humble worship will never end. She's grinding against his tongue now, rocking her hips, forcing him to tongue fuck her. He obliges, delving inside, sampling her sweetness, digging his fingers into her cheeks to hold her in place as he pushed his tongue in swirls.

A moment later he gasped so loud he swore the neighbors would heard him. Buffy had leaned back and shoved her hand down his sweatpants, wrapped her fist around his aching length, and started lazily corkscrewing him in the words best hand-job ever.

Silk wrapped around a thick heated bar of steel. That's how Xander felt in her hand... hands now, from behind her, two-hands stroking him from root to tip. She slowed... arched her body strung so tight when his mouth assaulted her clit with devilishly fast strong licks, then suckled her, nursing with such force she came with a keening

cry. God, how hard she came! Her face contorted in a deeply straining grimace, soaking his tongue, grounding into her face until the shivers subsided. And then she began stroking harder on his cock, clutching her fist around him in a firmer grip. With his hips pumping into her hand, Xander's moaning from the very depths of his soul. Her pre-cum slicked stroking, using one hand now to twist and fuck her hand until he erupted in long bursts of satisfying spurts, coating her fingers and wrist in his warm seed.

Xander's so far gone he can’t even look up at her. Grinning, Buffy scooted back until she straddled his chest. When his eyes finally opened for her, shining by firelight, she rested her hand over her breast and heart, effectively rubbing his cum into her skin with an absolutely wicked smile on her face. "I just showed you seven kinds of heaven," she taunted him playfully, her eyes transfixed on the heaving rise and fall of his chest.

Politely pushing her off him, Xander quickly gathered her back into his embrace, kissing her soundly until she relaxed in his arms. "You're my favorite meal."

"It's a good thing you’re full, since that's all you’re getting." Putting on her most mature expression, she saw no sign of acceptance from him. He knows she's out of her birth control pills and hasn't taken one in a few days because she's been to busy, or lazy as he calls it, to pick any more up. Enjoying a monogamous relationship with blood tests done on them once a month for the Watchers Council, they knew they were clean and never used condoms, only concerning themselves with pregnancy. They never bought any. "Wanna play chess?"

With the taste of her still on his tongue, clouding his sanity, Xander edged closer. "No, I don't want to play chess."

"Cards?"

"No."

"Monopoly perhaps?"

Bad, wrong, politically incorrect, Xander's mouth fastened hungrily over hers to shut her grinning self up as much as sample the flavor of her tongue again. He's ravenous, demanding of her relinquishment of control, and loves that for him, she can do that. He's turned her into a wanton aroused woman, moving over her now after having kicked off his sweatpants. The blood thickened length of his cock prodded her stomach as their tongues brushed against each other, then started reaching deeper into the others mouths.

Buffy's luminous blonde hair spread out over the pillow, her face in disarray as she erotically groaned against his lips. Whimpering and sighing in pleasure, they kissed and cuddled, so unsatisfied no matter how satisfying their last encounter was.

The Buffy-thirsting beast within his eyes stared daggers into her soul when he eased off the bed, but not without grabbing her hand. She half expected him to lead her to the bedroom, but he wasn't backing that way. Oh no, he was taking her to the rocking chair. Wearing a devilish smile, he sat down, tugging her to him. She stopped between his spread thighs, licking her lips at the sight of his painfully hard shaft. "It's not safe," she heard herself admit in the most fragile, unsure, weak voice she could ever remember sounding like.

"I'll pull out."

"Oh no, no, no," she playfully wagged her finger in his face, amused beyond words. "My mom taught me all about boys that said that." Despite her clever retort, shivers of passion swept over her every time his cock throbbed, as if calling out to her. Naked, handsome as hell, his hair tousled from her fingers combing through it, he was the picture of all she craved. "We're ma... mature and responsible, uhm... adults, remember?"

The most beautiful hazel eyes ever shone passionately down at him. He simply needed her. Not in just one way, but in every way. He needs her now... badly. Without a saying word, he extended his hand to her. She quirked a brow, considering, trying not to smile, thinking over pleasure versus consequences plus them equals...

Her hand seemed to fit his perfectly as he gently pulled her over his lap. Thankfully, as the chair reclined backwards from their combined weight, there was enough room for her knees to rest on the cushioned seat outside of Xander's thighs. "Is this your someday?"

"Only you can tell me that."

Trapping him against her heat, Buffy slinked her body in a rhythm along him. "This isn't someday," she whispered, lifting over the head of his cock, positioning at her entrance, then slowly gliding down, "This is forever," she whimpered in a breathy tone as her arms locked around his neck. She methodically pumped her hips a few times, making sensual little ovals until she lowered herself fully. Her inner walls clenched up and down his deeply buried cock. Testing the chairs rocking, they quickly found a desirable rhythm, very slowly moving back and forth together.

With comforting heat of the fire place so close by, they rocked as one, locked tight, throbbing heat being rode so slow. Their sweat gleamed by firelight, as the rain outside picked up yet again, cascading in strong rivets against the window panes. Buffy buried her face in Xander's shoulder, sighing in pleasure as the chair rocked him deeply inside her, stretching and filling her over and over. She's impaled on his cock to her very core, asking every inch of him within her. Connected in some grand design of mercy.

The soft lushness of her kiss swollen lips beckoned him, and so Xander pressed his trembling lips to hers, his arms locked around her slender waist, holding her close. Choirs sang. Angels wept. She sank onto him time and time again as the chair rocked, her slickness coating his shaft as the ring muscles of her sex engulfed him. She's a master at riding him to madness, and even with the added rocking chair motion she’s still rolling her hips, sliding up and down so good... so slowly, taking her time and he's harder than he's ever been before. He could hear a whimper in her voice, and loved her all the more.

His cocks size, width, and curve somehow fit her body as if he was made specifically to be able to sexually please her. She pleases him as well, milking and stroking the hard muscle that is invading wetly between her legs. There is no part of her brain not overcome with raw pleasure. The creaking hardwood floor and the sound of the rocking chair reclining echoed around them as they picked up the pace. Their cries of passion became one voice, bellowing in the dark.

"Love you... God, love you so much," Buffy panted, her breath whistled through her teeth. Her wilder gyrations almost pulled him from her, only to shove him deeper when she sat down fully, riding him as the chair

rocked faster, taking on a amusement park ride sort of feel. Xander's sweating and shaking in her arms, his head bowed in supplication, lips curled around a pebbled nipple he suckled progressively harder. The intoxicating scent of his skin has her licking and biting on his neck. Her body liquefied, quaking around him as her features winced. The flutters began slowly, building... rising to a zenith until he took her down deep one last hard time and she released a full-throated scream of ecstatic relief, her body writhing more wildly from the out-of-nowhere climax that sent her flying. She chanted his name again and again, shattering in his arms. Her fingers dug painfully in his hair as he wrenched every ounce of the violent climax from her body.

Xander cradled her to his chest, sprinkling kisses around her ear before needing to see her face once more. When Buffy recovered her sheepish grin was met with a equally sheepish one. They scarcely remembered to breathe, but they did smile... they did kiss again, joined as one... And he hadn't cum yet. The rocking chair was mad fun, and the change of pace kept them hot, but she knew what would drive him crazy. She knows his every kink.

She is his every kink.

Her mental course set, Buffy brushed her lips over his with a decadent kiss, then carefully dislodged him as she felt the wood floor beneath her feet again. Smiling so naughty his way, she backed up a few steps, the moisture of their arousal trickled down her thighs, illuminated by the flames of the fireplace. His eyes conveyed absolute adoration, lust, and undying love. Devotion. Need. She added just a hint of a strut to her hips when

she moved. The back of her knees hit the sofa bed as she crawled back on, watching him from his seat in the rocking chair. Once she centered herself, she turned around, arched back like a snake, her backside bared to him fully, open for his eyes only, spread for his cock, for his need, for his pleasure... she slinked down until she was spread eagle on her belly, lying nearly face down, grinding herself against the sheets until the bed dipped. He straddled her lower back, his cock thick with want, slapping wetly on her backside. She quivered

beneath him. "Take me."

Her order, command, or submission, it didn’t matter. Xander had to have her as he had to breath to survive. He gently pressed the head of his cock into her, gliding down, spreading her around him as he settled over her body, buried to the balls, gasping for his every breath. The rush was so intense he had to fight off a wave of dizziness. It wasn’t just the heaven of being encased within her wet heat, but the submissive pose no other man was allowed to have her in ever again.

His first deep thrust tore a sensuous cry from her lungs. She's filled full to bursting, being taken as the audible smacks of their flesh filled her ears as surely as the man she loves filled her everywhere else. Long and hard, he felt more than incredible. He felt indescribable. His slow deep thrusts made her squeal and pant into the pillow. The slippery noises of his shaft throbbing and straining as she bucked her hips, increasing the intense friction between them. She loves this. Feels so good. Feels alive and primal and loved and viciously needed.

Every time he stared down he felt himself harden even more as he disappeared inside her. Those sweet curvy cheeks of her backside made his mouth water every time he pulled out, and then dove back in. With lustful admiration, he knew he was looking at perfection in human form. "I love you so much," he bit against her ear, panting,

"Fuck me like you love me.... fuck me like I belong to you."

Lost in another world of desperate need, Xander fucked her unmercifully, ramming the whimpering writhing Slayer into a wild frenzy. Her muffled gasping exhalations of delight spurred him on. Her hot sucking flesh caressed every vein, every ridge of his cock as it slipped in and out of her pussy, all the while her wanton pleas ringing in his head. Setting a powerful rhythm, captivated in the smacking against her ass. Ectasy coursed throughout his body as her tightly clasping sex nearly drove him to madness. He could feel that familiar tingle coming on like a out of control freight train. "Close, Buffy... love you... love you."

His desperate moans, she loved, but needed something more. "Pull out." His angry grunt almost made her laugh, until she rolled over and tugged him with her legs back into the cradle between her thighs. His cock found her easily, sliding back inside her as her legs locked over his back, opening herself up to the deepest surges. He fucked her so hard and fast, igniting fiery passions. She felt him in her heart, soul, her body; all around her and everywhere. Their sweat mingled bodies worked in tandem, the constant pounding rocking the sofa bed on the wood floor. "Love you... uhnnn, love you so..."

Immensely close to the edge of the great beyond, Xander relished in the slick tightness as her inner self squeezed the dear life out of his cock, rippling around him in a constant litany of convulsive waves that signaled Buffy came again, albeit quietly this time. Her gorgeous features wincing through her thundering climax. Slamming relentlessly in her, Xander screamed her name in one long howling exhale as several savage ejaculations erupted inside her, absolutely bathing her inner walls with wet heat. She wrung him dry, her fists clutching frantically at the sheets, her body milking his cock of it's final drops.

At last, they were finished.

With his heart pounding so hard he worried it might burst through his chest, Xander simply had no energy to do anything... not even move. With such understanding, Buffy gently shifted up and away, allowing him to slip from her. He slumped, collapsing in her arms as she held him, loving the comforting feel of his warm body over hers. She's exhausted, sated, and thoroughly in love with this amazing man. He's so good outside the bedroom and in. Her hands grazed slowly over his back, monitoring his deep even breathing. The warmth of his breath on her neck is a soothing way down from the heights of ectasy. This is beautiful and right the way they are together. The passion is undeniable and satisfying, but for once she has the full package. She's always had one of the three most important factors, but never all three at the same time. Not like now. With Angel, there was trust and love, but never experienced passion or sharing her life. Her real life. Buffy Summers life, not the Slayer. With Riley she had the sharing, but never the real love or trust. Or the passion she shared with Spike, which left her empty afterwards, though satisfied physically during. Not so with Xander. He's exhilarating, loving, trustworthy, and she's already sharing her life with him without even trying.

He's everything every other man she's been with wasn't, and more than the sum of them all.

Suddenly, she stopped trying to not grin like a damn fool. She’s laughing softly to herself. No, she's not crazy. She's simply happy. Happy, a bit drunk, and after three great orgasms, all's right in her world. Heck, she's downright giggly happy. This is that all to seldom moment of pure joy, minus annoying soul curses, she smiled. For the first time in a sadly long time, she wondered when she got so lucky.

"I'll... I'll move in a second, honey. If I don't... you know, you can just shove me over. I shove over easy."

He sounded weak, exhausted, and drowsy happy. She fucked him good and thorough. She liked the sound

of that. "It’s okay honey. I like this. Go to sleep. You're safe."

His girl was gonna get to go shopping on his credit card tomorrow, just as soon as he had the strength to move again. "Love you."

"I love you too," she pressed a sweet kiss in his hair, gently brushing her fingers through it, enjoying the gentle exhales of his breathing.

It's still raining outside.

But rain doesn't remember the rain of yesteryear. A year is a trained beast with no memories. It comes and it goes when called forth, and doesn't dwell on what fell before it. Leaving things behind doesn't factor into it’s

existence. It simply, lives. Comes and goes. Changes. Moves on after it's done. Buffy enjoys the rain. Finds some insight into the weather and her own life. Into Xander's as well. Rain never stayed the same. It couldn't.

Life dictated change was needed by all living things.

"Change," Buffy pondered just before her eyes shut.

 

 

******

Two weeks later.

******

 

 

Belushi's Bar

161 Borough High Street, SE1

Monday, December 19, 2005 8:30 PM

Shepherds Bush, London

 

Belushi's Bar.

The advertising asked that you not to be put off by the fact that it's an American themed bar, as Belushi's has more than a few things going for it. Firstly they have a very popular BBQ three times a week, as well as employed some of the most skilled, and beautiful bartenders in all of London. Boasting an unbeatable array of drinks, both elaborate and expected, the sprits ran free all night long. Dimly lit for mood and atmosphere, the performances of local live bands added to the ambiance of an already unique experience.

A little slice of home in England, nonetheless.

Although it took Dawn some time to warm up to European music, she's a die hard fan now. Sitting by herself in a cozy corner booth, she's enjoying the acoustic guitar player's amazing range as she waited for her typically late sister to arrive. Buffy being a bit late wasn't unusual in the least, especially in recent months. Things have been strained between the sisters for a while. Sadly enough, Dawn had to accept she allowed a man to come between her and her sister. Fixing things wouldn't happen overnight, but she had to start somewhere. Tonight’s dinner and drinks is a first step towards bridging the gap. Dawn called for it, offering the olive branch she knew was her responsibility after their last argument saw Buffy slam the phone down and hang up on her in disgust.

You had to crawl before you could walk. Tonight’s all about baby steps.

Feeling a new-found freedom of self, Dawn flirtatiously absorbed the second and sometimes third come hither looks sent her way. The one-time shy wallflower has blossomed into a lovely, confident woman in every sense of the word. Ego aside, she knows she's more than a little attractive. If only her inner peace of mind joined the peace she's made with her looks.

When you’re a girl, if it's not one thing, it's another.

Tonight’s male attention is even more welcome. Not only does it come on the heels of a bad breakup, one she's still painfully coming to grips with, but also a major change in her life of the somewhat shallow sort.

She cut her hair.

Having worn her long brunette strands forever it seemed, Dawn went radical earlier today. Feeling the need for change, especially since her personal life had detonated already, a new look was in order too. Casting caution to the wind, Dawn opted for short cut with layers and soft edges so she could have the freedom to wear her hair in more than one style. It's a drastically un-Dawn like look, and yet, she's so pleased with it. It's new and fresh. Just what she needed. No regrets so far, and none from the men glancing her way.

She's nursing a broken heart, so the amorous looks aren't exactly unwanted, though she has little interest in offering more than a appreciative smile their way. She's on a man-break, and so they can looky, but no touchy. Not for a while until she's ready to step back in the social arena. Maybe a long while after her last grueling bout in the dating ring.

"Oh my God!"

Shaken suddenly from her inner perspective by her sisters voice, Dawn quickly recovered. Buffy's smile grew as she came closer to the table, pulling off her coat. "I hate it when you do that Batman creeping thing where you sneak up on me and I don't know where you came from." Despite the retort, her sister traced her fingers over her new hair cut, slowly nodding in approval. Buffy looked pretty fabulous in her own right. Better than she had in a long time which was welcome indeed. Her scowls gone. "What took you so long? You're almost twenty minutes late."

Suppressing a grin just this side of badness, Buffy took her seat across from her, setting her purse on the table. "I left something at Xander's apartment and had to pick it up. Then I got caught in some traffic and had a hard time finding a parking space. I swear if I have to walk more than a block again to get here I’m going to use one of Willow's parking spells."

"Yeah, I bet," Dawn replied teasingly enough, in a way that told her sister she's not fooled in the least. For nearly a year now the rumors that began with 'did Buffy come home last night,' and 'Buffy picked up the phone at Xander's apartment... at 3:00 AM,' were early signs of a little more than friendship between the best friends. Of course the outright lecherous sounds of them having sex that she heard outside her sisters front door one day when they obviously never made it to a bed sealed the deal. "Buffy, you have a well-sexed glow about you this evening. I bet you got yourself some Xander-loving and that's why you're late. Fess up about the Xander-loving."

As hard as she fought it, Buffy's smirk didn't help her in refuting Dawn's claims. They've debated and parried this argument for months, though only recently has Buffy come to the answers that made sense in her

own head. "I shall neither confirm nor deny the partaking of Xander-loving."

"Will you at least admit Xander-loving is of the good?"

"Xander-loving is of the great," Buffy flushed just a little, having missed these sisterly moments of levity. Ready for a change of subject, at least for now, she offered, "By the way, I love the new hair cut. It's trendy, cute, and says 'I rock' in a classy sort of way. Your face seems to love it."

"That may be the nicest thing you've ever said to me."

"Shall I say it again for future reference?"

"No. Two compliments from you just might scare me." They shared a similar smile, and as they grew older, felt the other favored their mom more and more each passing year. A gentle quiet settled over their small corner booth as they worked their way through the murky waters of sisters who haven't acted much like the word in

recent weeks. Dawn felt the need to take the first step. "I'm sorry, Buffy."

Time after time, ever since her ex-boyfriend Simon began to show his true slimy colors, Buffy's waited for her sister to say those words to her. And yet, as she sat across from her, noticing that a little less of her sisters innocence clung to her since last they spoke, she loved her enough to forgive her. "You don't owe me an apology, Dawn."

"Yes, I do. You were right, Buffy. Every time I took Simon back after he cheated on me, I made a fool of myself, and when he hurt me I took it out on you rather than listen to your advice. I should have never taken him back or believed his lies. I should have listened to you."

"Dawn, you're a grown woman and you don't answer to me or have to do what I say. But I try to give you advice based on things I've already been through. I'm never trying to run your life."

Nodding thoughtfully, Dawn sighed, "He was the first man I ever truly loved."

"First loves are the toughest to get over."

"But I should have known better," Dawn hated to admit, having beat herself up so much over this already. "I guess I just believed what I wanted to believe. I thought he'd change for me. I thought if he loved me enough he would mean it when he said he'd never cheat again."

"Me, Willow, Xander, and just about everyone you know has at one time or another been cheated on. It sucks so bad, especially for us girls."

"I still treated you like crap, sis. Every time Simon broke my heart I came running to you, and you always gave me good advice. And every time I talked to Simon again he'd convince me to take him back. How could I have been so stupid?"

"You weren't stupid, you were in love. And being in love makes you do the wacky. It's a fact of life. You have to forgive yourself becasue stuff like that happens sometimes. Take it as a learning experience and move on."

"So you forgive me?"

Buffy smiled. "There's nothing to forgive. You're my sister and I love you. I always have your back. I don't care what happens to you, or what you do, I always want you to come to me if you need help." Buffy sincerely hoped her younger sister was getting all this. "We have to stick together, Dawn. I need you to lean on just like you need me."

"I feel like I should hug you, but that’s just not how we are."

"How about we toast glasses when the alcohol arrives?"

"Sounds like a plan."

"And my offer to kick Simon's ass is still available. Heck, Faith said she'd do it for ten bucks. Maybe even a six-pack of beer. Xander said if you called him his team would grab Simon off the street and do bad things to him that he would not verbally describe or write down on paper." Dawn's laughter has been sorely missed. "Oh, and I know this new S.I.T. who is really good at keying cars and letting air out of tires. And don't get me started on what Wills would do to him. He’d wake up with a vagina." Buffy nodded, enjoying the humorous moment of sisterly bonding. "I love you, Dawn. No guy, no relationship, and no situation could ever change that."

"Not even when I act crazy?"

"Like I haven't acted crazy before. I dated a vampire, remember."

"You did have lousy taste in men for years."

"Hey, they weren't that lousy."

"Half of them weren't breathing."

"You do have a point."

At the end of the long, troublesome, sad day, Dawn knew she could always count on her sister. She's lucky to have her and probably hasn't said that as often as she should have in recent years. "Thank you."

"You never have to say that," Buffy assured her.

"I know. But you deserve it. So just accept it already," she playfully ordered her older sister, who finally

accepted.

"Excuse me," entered a waitress with very short red hair. "Can I take your orders please?"

"We'll each have a Sex on the Beach," Dawn said as the waitress wrote the order down. The Summers sisters just loved that combination of Vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice and citrus juice.

"Alright, and would you like something to eat?"

"I'll take a Mexican chili burger."

Dawn followed up her sisters order by asking for a, "Cheese and bacon burger with fries."

"Will that be all?" the waitress asked, receiving two nods in reply. "Would you like your drinks now or when the food is ready?"

"When the foods ready is fine," Buffy said.

"I'll get those orders for you. Fifteen minutes, tops." The waitress walked off.

As a new band took to the stage, the crowds cheered their approval. No doubt a local favorite. As nice as the music was, Buffy's here for her sister. "So how are you holding up?"

Dawn shrugged it off, her eyes downcast. "You want a lie or the truth?"

"The truth, no matter how sucky it might be."

"I'm lonely. I don't trust my opinion when it comes to men. It seems I'm not a good judge of character after all," she regretted to say. "I go back and forth between wanting to strangle Simon for wasting half a year of my life versus begging him to come back to me and never cheat again. I cry entirely too much and every song on the radio seems like it was written for my relationship. And I really wish mom was around to tell me everything was going to be okay?"

Those were awfully familiar shoes her sister was wearing. "I wish there was a quick fix I could give you, sis. The old cliché is right, even though it sucks right now. Time does heal all wounds."

"Simon messed with my head so much, you just don't know," Dawn confessed darkly, sighing. "There were times he made me feel like if I lost him I'd have nothing."

"At one time Spike did the same to me."

Looking up, Dawn asked, "How did you get past it?"

"I realized he was lying," Buffy explained, thinking back on a dark time in her life. "He said that because he was afraid of losing me, just the same way Simon was afraid of using you. It's a way men try to control women. But the trick is to never forget you were a good whole person before him, and you'll be even better after him. Right now the pain is still raw, and it takes time to get over, but you will get over him. The only thing you lost when you lost him was the dead weight he brought to your life."

"I don't make good decisions when it comes to men."

"Neither did I for a number of years. As a matter of a fact, you'll need two or three more Simon's before you can come close to my mess ups and bad relationships."

"I don't have the energy to try again, Buffy. I feel drained."

"That's how it's supposed to feel, Dawn. Us girls grieve relationships almost as badly as everyone else grieves the loss of a persons life. We're emotional creatures, and that's not a diss. We're not less than. We just feel more, and so the highs are the best and the lows are the worst. Believe me, I know."

"How did you finally get over Angel?"

"Time, distance, and occupying my day and life with things that didn't include thinking about him twenty-four hours a day. Life goes on no matter how you deal with what happens in yours. It took me a very long time to get over him becasue I didn't want to. I had made it up in my mind that we had a forever kind of love and one day when things calmed down and we were both in the same place, we'd be together. I wished for that for almost five years. I was stupid. Don't be like me. Learn from my mistakes."

"I'm kinda sick of love."

"You still have to be willing to risk your heart because you never know when a winner might come along."

"Like you and Xander?" Dawn half-questioned, half-assumed as she gently prodded her sister for the answer, finally, to her most well kept secret. "Everyone knows you two are having an affair."

"Our personal lives are our business, nosy little sister." Though deflecting the query, Buffy sure didn't sound as if she didn't want to talk about it. Her light-hearted tone of voice spoke volumes.

"It's a friends with benefits sort of thing, right?"

"It's more than that," Buffy confessed at last, and sadly enough, last to her own sister. Faith knew the whole deal, as did Willow now. How far had they fallen apart that her own sister is the last to know.

"Fess up, sis. I told you all my stuff. Now I need your stuff becasue I get the feeling your stuff is happy. I need happy right about now."

How strange was it that her personal life right now is just that? Happy. And the world just keeps turning. "Dawn, Xander and I are on the frontlines more than most people, and our jobs are.... brutal, at times."

"Yeah, I know. I get that. I'm mostly clean-up at the Council. You guys are the soldier types."

"Well, we’re best friends who comfort and listen and talk to each other."

"And one night it led to you making love to him?"

If it were only that simple. "We didn’t call it that until recently. It was always a physical release shared with a close, trusting friend. No strings attached. No labels. Just having someone to be there for you no matter what, with whatever you needed."

"And tons of great sex, right?" Dawn teased, her hands on the table.

"Yes," Buffy admitted with a small, loving smile. "But there were cooked dinners, and movie nights, and breakfast in bed, and just holding each other while the other cried their eyes out."

"Xander cried in front of you?"

"Many times," she recalled. "We're very open with each other. More open than I've ever been with another man."

Dawn's seen enough to know the truth. And a beautiful truth it is. "So when did you fall in love?" Her sister slumped in her chair, somewhat embarrassed. She slowly shook her head, as if collecting her thoughts.

"We didn't try to fall in love," Buffy told her the truth. "We never set out to date or have this romance with each other. It just... we spent so much time together and slept in each others arms..." Nearly overcome with emotion, Buffy had to take a long deep breath before meeting her sisters eyes again. "He's the sweetest man, Dawn."

"I know," she smiled in reply.

"He treats me so good."

"I can tell."

"We can talk for hours and never get bored. We can sit around and not say a word for the longest time, and if he looks at me, I know what’s on his mind that instant. I've never felt so open with anyone as I do with him. I can't hide from him. He won't let me. And neither of us are perfect, but we don't care. We just... fit."

"You in love with him," Dawn concluded happily.

"Yes," Buffy confided in her at long last. "I've told him and he's told me. We've accepted it for a few weeks now."

Clearly surprised, Dawn wondered if she heard her right. "A few weeks?"

"We haven't talked much lately, sis."

"Yeah... I know. But that's going to change. I want to hear everything about you and Xander except the graphic sex stuff, which would only wig me out. But I must admit, if you have naked pictures of him, I'd like to see one."

Buffy put on her best appalled face, staring at her sister, "I cannot believe you just asked me if I had naked pictures of my honey. And I certainly cannot believe you asked to see them."

"Oh yeah? Well what are you going to do about it?" Dawn laughed so hard, for what felt like the first time in days. All laughter stopped when Buffy whipped out her cell phone, pulled up a picture, and showed it too her. Au-natural Xander lying on her bed asleep, nude as the day he was born. "You lucky bitch."

"Don't ever tell him I showed you this."

"A sisters oath." Dawn extended her hand, wiggling her baby finger. Buffy took it with her baby finger, tugging away.

"A sisters oath."

Wonderful baby steps indeed.

 

 

******

 

******

 

The rooftop of Grayson Freight Export

Tuesday, December 20, 2005 10:30 PM

Cockney East London, England

 

 

The blight and decay of East London, with its tenements, warehouses, and docklands seemed perfectly at home in tonight’s torrential downpour. Cold, blustery winds blew frigid temperatures at the two men standing on the rooftop of the Grayson Freight Export warehouse. They're keeping a close watch over a condemned factory three buildings down.

"Team-3, take up your position on the south-end of the factory. Team-2, maintain your position until the vans are within visual contact. Team-1, do not lose those black vans under any circumstances," Xander detailed commands to his trio of teams through a secure radio frequency. Receiving confirmation from his team leaders of their status, he slipped his Nikon 20x120 Binoculars from around his neck and laid it on the snowy railing. "Don't vampires read weather reports? Don't they watch TV long enough to get the days forecast? How can they keep up with pop culture, and yet avoid knowing if it's gonna rain cats and dogs tonight?"

Some things never change. Xander's zany brand of humor allowed Giles to focus on him rather than the bitter cold. It's a good thing we wore a hat, scarf, and gloves tonight since the temperatures are down right frigid. "I'm sure when they aren't sleeping, eating people, or draining blood from their victims they truly do care if the poeple who are trying to stop them are comfortable on nights they do their evil."

"European vampires make me sick."

"As opposed to the American variety?" Giles quipped.

"Good ole U, S, of A blood suckers stay out of the bad weather. Vamps over here feel a couple of rain drops, and once they see it's not holy water they go out like it's a festival." Xander sneezed loudly, pulling his coat tighter around him. Freezing rain is what they have been standing in for the last hour. Earlier this evening a Watcher's Council underworld informant gave them the heads up on a mystical artifact called 'The Chasm,' that had been flown into England from wherever it was unearthed and was going to be kept at a condemned factory until the buyer arrived to pick it up. 'The Chasm' was, according to Watcher's Council historians, a amulet with the means to confer with dead vampires in Hell. The knowledge that could be gleamed from the millions of vampires slain over the centuries could cause unimaginable damage. Such was the mission to stop them tonight. "As soon as those vans we've been tracking from the airport arrive and our guy on the inside confirms the artifact is there, we're moving in."

"It would help a great deal if we knew the identity of the buyer before going in. As important as retrieving the artifact is, we need to find out who wanted it and why."

"Even if we're surprised we have three fully armed teams with us, including five Slayers. Kicking it's butt shouldn't be a problem. Once we have the buyer in custody we can interrogate him. I'm sure Faith will enjoy that." The loud sound of Giles hacking cough over his shoulder caught Xander's attention. It's frequency of late hasn't gone unnoticed. "You alright, G-Man? That's a pretty rough cough."

"I've been a bit under the weather in recent days, but I'm alright. I've spent far to long over the last couple of years kooked up in my office. I need to get out more, hence coming with you tonight."

Xander looked around, then back at his old friend. "And you chose this sunny, warm day to do so?"

"Well, it seems I neglected to check the weather report as well." Giles coughed again, wheezing his breath. Light puffs of air escaped through the fingers of the hand over his mouth. He felt Xander's careful appraisal

of him. "I've been nursing a rather nasty case of bronchitis for the last couple of days."

"Again, why come out tonight?" Xander asked a bit more seriously. For some reason Giles being here didn't feel right. "I could have handled this alone, you know."

"Xander, your skills have never come into question. It's just the longer I stay at the Council headquarters and attend meeting after meeting and phone call after phone call, I find myself feeling trapped there. I needed some room to breath again. A change of pace if you will."

Understanding that wasn't hard at all for Xander. "So you miss the fieldwork?"

Giles paused thoughtfully as he peered out over the side of the building. The dark, gloomy skyline and frost capped buildings gaze East London a Gotham City sort of appeal. "I miss a lot of things, Xander," he confessed with some regret. "I guess the only difference is now I'm trying to figure out what I've missed out on."

Cryptic for sure. Xander observed that while Giles was still the same Giles he always knew, he had begun to show his age a bit more in the last year. The sprinkling of gray had evolved into his hair. His voice sounded a note lower than usual. All of the original gang looked older these days. Harder lives forced them to live harder. They had so much more on their minds and far more responsibilities than they ever had before. Their job has certainly taken a toll on them all. "How's things working out since Angel joined the Watcher's Council hierarchy?"

"Surprisingly well, actually. He's seriously committed to the job, and I think it actually fulfills something in his life. He's taken to his new position with no small amount of enthusiasm. He also brings a definitive perspective to our work from the other side, so to speak. It feels like a good fit so far."

Xander tucked his gloved hands back inside his coat, seeking to warm them for a few moments. "Angel lives to make up for his past and to keep busy and not think about Buffy."

Giles managed a curious expression. "He is rather obvious, isn't he?"

"It's annoying, but then again, Angel is annoying. At least to me."

Despite his attempts to hide it, Giles picked up on the faint whispers of a younger Xander in the current

model. In some ways he might always see Angel as something of an obstacle or rival. "Things have changed a great deal since Sunnydale. And for the better, I feel."

That off-distant compliment assured Xander that news of his relationship with Buffy had reached his ears. As an equal, something he's not always felt when standing side by side with Giles, they kept watch over the warehouse while navigating this personal stretch of information. "Who told you?"

"I have two good working eyes, Xander. I've suspected something was brewing between you two for some time. Only recently did Willow fully confirm my suspicions." He paused momentarily, thinking matters over of life and

love. And time... "I've always wanted the best for Buffy, and I hope you know I've always wanted the best for you too."

"Do I hear a but coming?"

"No," Giles laughed quietly, sharing a smile with Xander. "Actually, I've very happy for you both. I have to utmost respect for you, Xander. Every bit as much as I have for Buffy, and I realize you haven't always known that because I haven't said it."

It's nice to hear, nonetheless. "I think you're a swell guy to, Giles."

"Yes, well, thank you." Allowing himself a moment to observe his friend, Giles was intrigued by the focus he had learned to utilize to his advantage in life. Xander may have lost some of his trademark sense of humor, but no more than any other adult once real life caught up with him. He's a fine young man. Capable, strong, dedicated, and flat out good at what he does. He's also tired, moody, and sticking around because he feels like this job is

his duty. Giles figured as much seeing as he imagined Xander's reasons were not far from his own. And after recent events, that made him even more sad on some level. "I take it you and Buffy are happy?"

"Like two peas in a pod," Xander replied with a smile when thinking of the Slayer. "It's still strange sometimes, given how long we were close friends and never dated or anything. Now I'm so in love with her it feels like the first time ever. I guess what they say is true then."

"What's that?"

"Oh, I was hoping you remembered." Xander shook his head, shivering with a grin on his face. "You know my memory sucks."

"Don't make jokes about your memory until you're old enough that it begins to fail you. Then you'll need something to laugh about." Giles coughed again, inhaling deep gulps of air as he struggled with his breathing for a moment.

"Giles, you should go home."

"Your concern is appreciated, but I'll be fine. Besides, life's too short to be lived in an office forever."

For some reason Giles poetic words didn't sit well with Xander. A somber mood came over him. "You could always leave the office, you know."

"You could leave the field."

"I might... someday."

"Don't wake up every day with lives left unlived in your heart, Xander. There's a time and a place for everything. Just as things begin, so must they end someday. Life is forever changing."

Wise words. "You think maybe you should take some of your own advice?"

"My timings bad," he muttered softly to himself.

"What was that?"

"Oh, nothing." Looking up, Giles quickly slipped his binoculars back on. "I have visual contact with the vans. They're coming around the south end."

Xander tapped his headset ear-piece. "Team 2, stand by for visual contact any second now. Team-1, fall back. We have them. Team-3, it's show time. Remember, we aren't trying to kill them. We want the artifact and the buyer. Move out." Xander looked to Giles as they made their way to the stairwell. "We need a weather shaman on the payroll, G-Man."

"I don't know about you, Xander. But I'm kind of in the mood to play in the snow tonight."

Giles descended the stairs before him, as Xander looked on, carefully considering the odd mood he's been in all evening.

 

 

******

Chapter 2 coming soon