Title: "Prey for Reign"
Chapter (1/3) set in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight comic
book universe.
Written by: Shawn

Summary: While Buffy struggles with what her head and heart are
telling her, the Vampire Nation and the Wolf Pride are about to
strike a deal that will doom the world forever.

Rating: M for violence, language, and sensual situations.
Category: Drama/Action Adventure/Romance
Characters: Buffy, Xander, Dawn, Willow, Faith, Renee, Giles, Andrew,
and Robin Wood. Original characters as well.

Ship: Buffy/Xander

Timeline/Spoilers: The entire BtVS series and the first four issues
of the new BtVS comic book for season 8. The entire "Long Way Home"
series.

Email: dayshawn1974@gmail.com
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon owns everything!

Authors Notes 1: Basic BtVS comic book universe knowledge for those
who haven't read it is that the Scoobies are working out of a castle
in Scotland and have rebuilt the Watchers Council with Giles in
charge. There are about 2000 Slayers with 500 spread around the
world. In my humble opinion there have been signs of a possible BX
hookup in the future of the comic and I'm sort of exploring that
here. With this story I hope to capture all that made BtVS so
amazing. Drama, humor, heart, sex, action, quirkiness, and the
characters we all know and love acting like adults for once.

Authors Notes 2: As the comic doesn't really place the year, although
its supposed to be season eight, I'm setting the story in September
2007.

~~~~~~

"If You're Asking If I Need You The Answer Is Forever, If You're
Asking If I'll Leave You The Answer Is Never, If You're Asking What I
Value The Answer Is You, If You're Asking If I Love You The Answer Is
I Do."
~~ unknown author

"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most
intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."
~~ Author unknown, commonly misattributed to Charles Darwin

"The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging
through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's
desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of
our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same
instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the
common thread that bound us all together."
~~ Erma Bombeck

~~~~~~

******

******

An underground cave dwelling
Beneath the Ochil hills
Tuesday, September 25, 6:20 PM, 2007
Scotland

"So," Xander began while trying not to look down, his voice echoing
over the massive bottomless pit he hung over. He was secured by his
wrists to a metal brace attached to the cave's ceiling. With Buffy
tied next to him, he continued, "Do you think this thing is really
bottomless?"

Casting her gaze downward for a moment, Buffy scrunched her nose. "I
can't see anything down there. It looks pretty bottomless to me. That
hole has a without-end sort of charm going for it."

"Personally, I think if we had parachutes and were falling down that
thing we'd land in China."

"Is that a scientific guess or are you using Man Logic again, which
apparently isn't based on facts, expert opinion, or common sense?"

"I so don't ever want to be hung over a bottomless pit with you
again."

"Funny, I don't have a problem with that. It's not like I own any
hanging-over-a-bottomless-pit outfits anyway." She'd laugh if they
weren't about to plummet to their death. Having been gassed and then
taken hostage a day ago, the Byshier Clan told them that at the fall
of the sun the next day they would be dropped in the sacred
bottomless pit for intruding on 'unholy ground' as they called it.

Buffy really didn't like dying, having died twice before. She
especially, though quietly, didn't want Xander to die either. She's
gotten rather attached to her Xander-shaped friend who... and then
she thought to herself how she hadn't seen him as that in a couple of
years now. He was just Xander, this really great guy she knew who was
very close to her. My how the times had changed. "For the life of me
I can't believe a group of deaf midget Satan worshipers got the drop
on us. I've been fighting some very Jurassic Park-sized creatures
lately and yet a group of tiny sign language using devil lovers
caught us investigating their crusty looking shrine and poof, we're
hanging over a bottomless pit with our allies having no clue where we
are."

"You know, Buff," Xander pondered out loud, "On the off chance that
we get rescued I... well, uhm... Look, I don't want anyone to know we
got captured by a group of midgets. I think that might undermine our
badass legacy."

Thinking it over carefully, Buffy surmised only one proper reply. "I
concur."

"We were attacked by a small army of eight-foot tall..."

"Four-armed sword wielding..."

"Fire breathing..."

"Barbarians who rode..."

"Iron-skinned horses..."

"That also breathed fire," Buffy laughed at the end, enjoying herself
despite their dire circumstances. Why did moments of impending doom
always seem lighter when Xander was with her? He had an effect on her
mood in the strangest of ways these days. "Yeah, that outta preserve
our badassness."

"Exactly." Peering downward despite his best attempts not to, Xander
was suddenly struck with an idea. Whether it was a good or bad one
could be debated later. "Okay, I'm gonna try a experiment that's
really experimental and thought provoking." Kicking off his right
shoe, he watched it fall into the nothingness. "Let's listen for when
it lands."

One minute passed.

Five minutes passed.

Ten minutes passed.

"That thing's good and bottomless," Buffy declared, not choosing to
lose either of her shoes. They were her most comfortable pumps.
Glancing down, she noticed, "Your sock has a hole it in."

Xander rolled his good eye. Buffy could notice the most interesting
things during the most dangerous of times. And she looked so damn
gorgeous in that beige shirt she was wearing. "I guess you know what
to buy me for Christmas then."

"Well," Buffy gazed ahead as the suns ray began to fade coming
through a nearby hole in the caves ceiling, "I certainly don't have
to get you any mistletoe, now do I?"

She was smiling at him, still poking around to see if he would fess
up about who kissed her awake from Amy's spell a couple of months
ago. She's never come right out and asked him if he was the one, but
he's sure he's her chief suspect. Especially since she found out
about his cinnamon bun addiction. Dealing with that has been...
interesting to say the least. "Socks, Buffy. I obviously need socks."

He wasn't taking the bait, yet. Considering for a moment, Buffy
wondered if she was fishing? Teasing! She was teasing him! That's
what she keeps telling herself. Denial is in Egypt, after all. "Since
we're going to die soon isn't it about time we get those deepest,
darkest secrets out of the way. You go first."

Subtle, thy name was not Buffy. And yet she charmed him to no end.
Even when facing certain doom. "Okay, alright. I'll fess up."

Shifting her weight slightly, Buffy awaited his admittance while
trying not to react to it to much. Honestly, she didn't know how she
was going to
react. Or why it seemed to mean so much more to her when she thought
about it.

Gazing, Xander met her hazel eyes. "Okay, not that long ago I
kissed..."

Buffy began to smile.

"Renee."

He had the nerve to smirk at her, teasing and toying with her when he
knew damn well he shouldn't be doing that because she could twirl him
over her head with one hand. Need she remind him of what happened the
last time he played a practical joke on her? Indulging her inner-
brat, she fired back, "I hope you fall first."

Xander couldn't help but to chuckle. "That was mean."

Buffy's, "Whatever," was quite Paris Hilton-like.

See, here's the thing. The true crux of the matter. Was she miffed
over his refusal to answer her, or that he didn't give her the answer
she wan... woah, better not get ahead of himself. Their friendship
contained a fair amount of cute flirtatiousness, but that would be
overt flirting if they really talked about the kiss. Still, Xander
couldn't help but to wonder what would happen if he did truthfully
answer her. "Your turn."

"So kissing Renee is your greatest secret?"

Her ire was evident in her annoyed tone of voice. Xander tried to
shrug, although hanging over a bottomless pit made that hard. "Well,
it's kinda gossipy, tantalizing, and politically incorrect
considering my lofty position at Castle Slayer. We had dinner one
night and it kinda happened out of the blue. No big. But never mind
that. What about you?"

It wasn't like she cared who he kissed anyway. Still, Buffy felt
verbal torture was hers to command as she delivered the last thing
he'd ever want
to hear for reasons she wasn't quite ready to admit to herself
yet. "Spike is the best kisser I have ever kissed."

Oh, was that a vein that throbbed in Xander's neck, wasn't it? And
why was his jaw tightening? Yep, Buffy knew she had gotten him good.
Stupid Slayer-smooching Xander-shaped friend that he was again. Let
him chew on that a while. Even though it wasn't true it... and then
she blushed because she realized that the emotion she had felt when
Xander told her he kissed Renee was... gulp, a wee bit of the green
eyed monster. Boy oh boy, she didn't ever need to feel that feeling
that over him.

"Now that was mean." After a moment Xander's face broke out into a
affectionate grin as he understood her need to goad him and how his
revelation had obviously affected her. They were being juvenile and
silly because as strange as it was, he felt things were slowly
changing between them. Very slowly, but still changing. And instead
of joking about it, or trying to force the other person to admit
something first, he figured it was time to actually try to take a
step forward.

After all, they were hanging over a bottomless pit after having been
kidnapped by a group of deaf midget Satan worshipers.

"Buff?"

"I'm so not talking to you."

"But you just did."

She frowned. "Don't bother me with the facts."

Buffy was being difficult... and cute... and soon enough she was
making that little sweet half-laugh noise of hers at how stupid they
were acting. Xander desperately wanted to kiss her... again. And it
almost seemed like she wouldn't be opposed to it. "Let's call a
truce. How about we forget the whole deepest, darkest secrets thing
and I break all my manly man rules and take you to see Hairspray?"

Perking up immediately, that almost sounded like a sorta kinda date.
And since she hadn't been on anything resembling a date since...
well, if you considered alone time with a straight guy hanging over a
bottomless pit was as close to one as she's had in well over a year.
And don't even talk to her about sex. "It's a musical, you know."

"I have a vague recollection of seeing a commercial or two. I'm well
aware of the singing and dancing and all around High School Musical 2-
like performance pieces."

"I knew you saw High School Musical 2. I heard you humming something
about bet on it, bet on it."

"I was blackmailed by Dawn. We shall never speak of this again."

Truthfully, Buffy did want to see Hairspray and just hadn't had time
lately with all the demon Slaying, beheading, stabbing, kneeing,
roundhouse kicking, zombie skull crushing, dimension jumping, and
Andrew's great stew debacle that did far more damage to her Slayers
than any evil had recently. Seeing it with Xander would be cool.
Seeing it alone with him would be nice. Just two buds watching a
romantic musical. "So you're taking me to see Hairspray, huh?"

"Yes, although if anyone asks you I took you to see Die Hard 4 or
Transformers. Something with a gun being fired and men running in
slow motion with things exploding behind them. Something manly and
American."

Xander was sweet and quirky, both traits Buffy enjoyed having around
her. Handsome and courageous and hard working and very good at
coordinating her
Slayers and taking care of her and being a great confidant and...
Dammit, she worried that she liked to much about him these days. And
the eye patch was sexy, something she loathed to admit. "If we live
through this we'll go this weekend. Deal?"

"Deal. I'd shake on it, but well, you know."

"Yeah, the bottomless pit thing."

Suddenly their arms lifted them high into the air as they heard soft
chanting, and then saw the most appreciated sight of Willow casting
some sort of telekinesis spell that carried them over the bottomless
pit onto a ledge beside her. They rushed in and hugged her tightly as
she hugged them back.

"You are the best witch ever and I totally forgive you for trying to
destroy the world once," Xander complimented upon hugging Willow
tightly, as his arms were killing him from hanging over the pit so
long. "How did you find us?"

Wincing slightly from Buffy's Slayer strength, Willow noted, "Well,
since we have search and rescue spells on both of you, we were pretty
scared when they turned up nothing."

Buffy quickly interjected, "It was the, uhm... eight foot tall, four
armed, sword wielding, fire breathing barbarians on iron-skinned
horses who also breathed fire that took us to this cave they said no
one could find."

Blinking, Willow looked back and forth between her friends, trying
not to laugh. "That's funny. Faith beat up a couple of deaf midget
Satan worshipers with a bat who tried to use some kind of knock out
gas on her and thankfully Sandy knew sign language and was able to
learn where they said you would be." Buffy and Xander looked oh so
busted. She enjoyed her triumph. "Four armed barbarians, huh?"

Xander gave a defeated nod. "We're never going to live this down, are
we?"

"Not in your lifetime, no," Willow replied. "What happened to your
other shoe?"

"Scientific experimentation, Wills."

"Your sock has a hole in it. A pretty big one."

"Holy sock or not, Xander's taking me to see Hairspray," Buffy chimed
in, waltzing past them out of the cave. She overheard some gentle
whispering and the line, "...so did you tell her?"

Yeah, Buffy was pretty damn sure who kissed her. What she wasn't
prepared for was how that knowledge made her feel and what to do with
to do with those new feelings for her former Xander-shaped friend
turned handsome, single, breathing, straight, grown man wearing a
sexy eye patch.

******

******

The Full Moon Casino
Private V.I.P quarters in the Upper Floor
Tuesday, September 25, 9:30 PM, 2007
Monte Carlo, Monaco

"Eventual extinction is the end result of a stagnant people," Adam
boldly declared with a thick Russian accent as he casually circled
the long marble business table, hands behind his back, eyes focused
on the prize to be won tonight. "Our histories have clashed with
bloodshed and violence since time began, and so shall it until there
is no more. Peace is impossible for us, but working together to
ensure our proper place at the top of the food chain is smart
business."

Seated in a brightly lit private luxury suite surrounded by fifty
heavily-armed guards, the intense meeting many thought would never
take place was in actuality taking place. One that would fade into
legend as the decades passed. On one side of the table, Lord Dimitri
Vamos, head of the worldwide Vampire Nation sat in a dark black
business suit with his personal entourage of killers and lawyers.

Seated across from him was a rival he's been trying to kill since the
1800's, Lord Solomon Trask, leader of the worldwide Werewolf Pride
sat with his personal death squad and his accountant. Both
organizations were the true power behind their respective races
across the globe. Operating outside of the Nation or the Pride could
get you killed faster than you could blink.

Standing tall at the head of the table, Adam Masikroft purposely made
direct eye contact with every man seated at the table, conveying the
utmost
respect. How his beloved Eve was able to convince Solomon Trask to
come here only underscored her considerable abilities. Though a
vampire himself, he was obsessively in love with this alluring female
Lycan. Both of whom were supremely ambitious. "Some believe vampire
lore began in Russia or Bulgaria. Others, Serbia or Poland prior to
8th century AD. The legacy of the werewolf legend began to emerge
from the middle ages, especially from the 15th to 17th century. Our
kind, both Vampire and Lycan, have survived every war, every plague,
and every monumental shift of history Earth has endured. But we are
not without flaw as evidenced in the errors of our genetic design.
Today, my brothers, I offer to broker a deal that will ensure we
retain our proper place in the world for hundreds of years to come,
all the while giving us new avenues to pursue that we've never had
before."

Standing to the side in a slinky little black Versace dress, Eve
Collins closely watched the man she loved in his finest hour. Her
dark green eyes followed his ever move, as primal as the forbidden
passion they shared. Powerfully built and handsome despite the hard
lines of his face, she knew he was the only one who could turn this
potential blood bath into a business deal. He was better than the
best at talking his way in and out of any situation, while she was
brutal enough to get her hands dirty if need be. They were a perfect
match in so many respects. The information she shared with him could
still get her killed, but she rolled the dice, betting the odds that
they could pull this off and make a fortune at the same time.

Provided they weren't slaughtered first.

After drinking from a chalice of blood, Adam pressed on, "Vampire
scientists have studied the virus/curse hybrid of vamperism for
decades, as have the Lycan scientists researched their own
genetic/mystical origins. Neither have found solutions to their
respective problems. But recent developments have become rumors that
I have proof are facts." Seated again, his hands calmly clasped on
the table, taking in Solomon and Dimitri's interest. Though they
shared a hatred for one another and detested the business of their
organizations becoming public knowledge to the other, both were smart
enough to hear
him out. "The Vampire Nation has discovered a cure of sorts for the
Lycan community, while they have in turn found a serum that would
greatly aid Vampires."

Solomon and Dimitri, both graying old relics... horrifically powerful
and ruthless, listened on with keen interest. Aware of their own
groups findings, those of the other were intriguing to say the least.

"As I stated before, peace between us is simply not possible. The
wounds are far to old, and run too deep. But with the worlds
governments becoming much more interested in underworld activities,
as well as demonic forces growing stronger by the day and even
extraterrestrial entities becoming more than idle gossip we have to
ensure that our respective races are prepared for this great new
world."

"And let us not forget the accursed Watcher's Council." Adam felt the
tension grow with that organization's mere mention. "Where once they
were a dated, uninspired governing body with but a single Slayer
across the pond in their control, now there are over two thousand
trained Slayers working together against us worldwide. The Council is
reorganized and thinking ahead rather than backwards. They are led by
the most power Slayer ever, and their considerable wealth is being
used to design new weapons and technology to fight us. They intend to
eradicate us!" his fist pounded the table
for effect. "But we can combat them. We can become anew. Watch and
absorb the wonder."

Thirteen-inch monitors rose from the table in front of each person.
Adam began detailing the facts as video footage accompanied his
statements. "Vampire scientists have named their Lycan serum 'Prey.'
One injection will forever alter the DNA and mystical curse itself of
a Lycan. It will allow him or her to change into werewolf form at any
time, the full moon be damned, as well as turn back when they choose.
Silver will have no adverse effect in the way of its usage as a
deadly weapon against you. Immunity is guaranteed. Furthermore, a
Lycan will be able to maintain its human sanity while in werewolf
form. Imagine all that power and strength, but without the
mindlessness of the beast being in control."

"Watch your tongue, dog," Solomon spat out, his gnarled finger aimed
at the vampire. "Lest you lose it."

Swallowing hard, Adam lifted an apologetic hand. "I meant no
disrespect, my Lord. But the facts and proof of my claims are before
you, as well as two of your rogue Lycans tied up in the basement in
full werewolf form, yet completely sane. You may inspect them as you
wish, and are free to take them with you to study should you agree to
my terms."

Having no trust ever for a vampire, Solomon couldn't chance this not
being a lie. "Continue."

One down, Adam thought to himself. One to go. "Eve has informed me
that the Lycan scientists have dubbed their Vampire serum 'Reign.'
One injection will render a vampire immune to all forms of
ultraviolet rays including sunlight." A hushed silence fell over the
vampire contingent as the ramifications of their true worst enemy,
the sun itself, could now be vanquished. "In addition, a stake
through the heart will render no more than a flesh wound. The ability
to dust our kind will be a thing of the past."

Video footage of various tests being run by the scientists, as well
as time-stamps showing research had been ongoing for nearly twenty
years was shown for the next sixty minutes. Adam answered questions
and reassured fears.

Standing once more to his feet, Adam addressed the entire room, his
voice rising dramatically. "Hate exists between our race's and
forever shall it be that way. But if we make this one pact we will
fortify our individual position in the world and ensure the
preservation of our race against these growing, powerful enemies who
looking to the future while deeming us the forgotten past. I propose
that each side hand over its serum and all research done to create
it. A fair trade, and one that I will personally guarantee will be
cordial, private, and well guarded." He then added the kicker. "I
only ask the sum of twenty million dollars each due upon the moment
the cures are exchanged."

"Tell me, young one?" Dimitri finally spoke, his voice old and cold
as midnight. "Why should I not kill you where you stand for
attempting to bargain with your lord?"

"Because for your ten million I will not only guarantee a safe and
secure transfer of both serums, but I will hand deliver Buffy Ann
Summers, the leader of the Slayers, to you as a prize. You could tear
her apart if you like, or perhaps divide her body amongst yourselves.
But I always keep my promises, my lord. " Bowing respectfully, he
fell to one knee before Dimitri. "It is but a small fee I ask, my
lord. For it, our greatest enemy shall be at your feet and the bonds
that have restricted us since time began shall be broken."

"The girl," Solomon added with fire. "Turning a Slayer into a Lycan
would be most interesting... as a pet, of course. Or a whore."

Dimitri's icy blue eyes bore into Adam's, seeking his undivided
attention. "How can you assure us you will capture the Slayer? Many
have tried and were never heard from again."

Wearing a maniacal smirk, Adam said, "Trust that I will lure her into
a trap she will not be able to resist. Instead of throwing bodies at
her to battle, I will use cunning and her caring for those around
her. The risk is mine alone and death awaits me if I fail. I assure
you though, I won't." His daring confidence seemed to sway things in
his favor. Whether they believed he could deliver or not, the
opportunity was still to great to miss. He sensed victory was at
hand. "My Lords, your will be done. But do we have a deal?"

Gazing one at the the other, despite it all this was worth the
ultimate risk. And with the most powerful Slayer on the planet as a
prize how could they refuse?

"It shall be done," both answered at the same time.

******

******

Castle Slayer
Formerly "Amhuinnsuidhe Castle"
Situated on the Isle of Harris
The War Room
Wednesday, September 26, 5:00 PM, 2007
Scotland

Having taken his plush, luxury seat next to Buffy at the oval 'War
Room' table where the leadership gathered to discuss such pressing
issues like how best to protect the world, solve petty castle
domestic squabbles, critique the cooks menu's, and gossip; Xander
gasped at the sight of Andrew attempting to park his new bright
yellow hover-chair. The self-professed 'Worlds Greatest Geek' backed
his hover-chair in, found it to long and then tried to situate it
sideways, only to accidentally bump Faith's chair and earn himself a
death glare. "Andrew, please explain to me why you need a working
replica of Professor Xavier's chair from the X-men comic books when
you have to perfectly working, albeit chicken-like legs?"

Solving his minor dilemma by finding a sweet spot to park, Andrew
explained, "This chair adds speed and mobility to my leadership role
that genetics failed me by not providing. I consider my parents
rather nonathletic DNA as the culprit."

"And that makes sense to you?"

"Well, you weren't complaining when I built that Slurpee machine for
your bedroo..." The pen that was thrown at him silenced him quickly.
He was delicate that way, you know. "Carry on."

Buffy favored Xander with a mild frown while chewing her grape
Bubblicious bubble gum. "That was my pen. The good one with the
hearts and stakes on it. I actually killed a vampire with that pen
once."

"I'll retrieve it for you before the meeting is over with, Buff. And
I was with you the night you pen-staked that vamp. It was very
impressive."

"He was wearing a Vanilla Ice t-shirt. He deserved to die." Xander
concurred. Buffy looked up when Willow and Giles entered the room and
then took their respective chairs. Dawn, newly de-gigantisized,
sipped her diet Cola while Faith sat backwards in her chair, ready
for this meeting to get on. With Robin handling the more business-
like Watchers Council affairs in London, it fell to this rag tag
group of heroes to deal out the day-to-day assignments.

Sighting a serious topic, Buffy felt she needed to remind
everyone, "It's spaghetti night in the cafeteria. You guys are late
and the spaghetti's getting
cold."

Patience, Giles reminded himself, was still his most useful ally in
dealing with his former charge. "Yes, well I'm sure they will reheat
it for you, Buffy. And I love how you're far more concerned with
spaghetti night than the possible end of the world."

"I've dealt with the end of the war on numerous occasions. But not
many people make spaghetti like Harriett does. She adds this really
spicy sausage and..." Her former Watcher's polite glare halted that
line of thinking. "K, what's the what?"

Opening the first of his two folders, Giles adjusted his reading
glasses and then addressed the table. "Before I begin I feel I need
to note that while the Council's wealth greatly exceeds our actual
operating costs, the sheer amount of items purchased in the last six
months that seem to have nothing to do with our battle against the
underworld must be discussed."

Giles continued, "We've been lenient in our open expense account for
the leadership brass, but that has to be within reason. To that end I
feel we must address the following." Noting the rather nervous looks
circling the room, he began reeling off the Council's latest
accounting expense report. "Now let's see here. Someone out sourced a
small elf-operated company in Finland to design a large specialized
cauldron with a DVD player and 15'inch flat screen HD television
embedded on its exterior." Pointing a stare at Willow, she smiled
brightly.

"I..." she stuttered just a bit, her hands folded in her lap. "I
sometimes like to mix potions old school style and watch my favorite
TV shows while I do so. Trust me, that product was a very necessary
and useful one."

Giles felt a small headache began to throb in his temples at making
sense of that. "Yes, I'm sure watching Charmed reruns while combining
goat's feet and bat's tails aided in the proper mixture you were
conjuring." Moving down the list. "Faith, did you absolutely require
a Pacific-Blue 2007 Harley Davidson FXCWC motorcycle to fight the
forces of evil?"

With her feet up on the table over the Watcher's Council symbol,
Faith shrugged. "No, I needed that to look good."

"Vanity matters. Check," Giles shook his head before going to the
next item. "Dawn, did you truly need 200 bars of Dial soap?"

Dawn felt just a bit insulted. "I was twenty-feet tall and bathing in
a lake, Giles. You do the math."

"Alrighty then." Moving right along, Giles added, "Xander, there's a
thousand dollar crystal disco ball and a 55'inch HD television on
your expense account. Kindly explain why you needed those items?"

Sitting up straight, Xander appeared serious as he attempted to
convey why they were necessary. "My good man, do to my lack of an
extra eye and subsequent 10/10 vision, the television screen I watch
needs to have the sharpest, clearest, best picture possible. Sony
Electronics aided in that regard. As for the disco ball, I was
channeling my inner John Travolta and wanted a Saturday Night Fever
sort of decor to my bedroom. I've been catching up on his 1970's
movies via the Encore channel."

Giles just stared... and stared some more... and kept right on
staring.

"Giles, I'm just a big TV loving, Staying Alive watching, disco ball
hanging over my bed American male. I can't change who I am. I am what
I am and that's all that I am."

Willow complimented, "That was quite Popeye the Sailor Manish of you."

Cheesing, Xander replied, "I try."

Some things never changed, Giles surmised. Brushing his hand over his
head, he moved on to the last items on his list. "We have two
anonymous purchases. One is a two thousand dollar autographed photo
of Jean Claude Van Damme purchased from an EBAY auction, while the
other is a crate of Cinnamon Buns from Sara Lee." Lifting his gaze
about, he sighed, "Would anyone care to pursue the honest route and
admit they procured these items?"

Her interest p[piqued, Buffy quickly studied the room as she knew she
hadn't anything to do with those items. Andrew had an expression on
his face that she swore screamed 'I LOVE VAN DAMME!' She was sure he
was the EBAY culprit. Dawn seemed oblivious, lost in a Bradgelina
article. Faith didn't care. Willow seemed to be hiding a mildly
curious smile, while Xander seemed particularly guilty looking in
maintaining a poker face when she knew good and well he didn't play
poker well. His walking back to his room in only his Scooby Doo
boxers post a Slayer's strip poker game last week was testament to
that. Yes, it had to be him with the cinnamon bun addiction. But if
he had one why hadn't she noticed it by now?

Offering a gentle nudge of her leg against his, Buffy leaned close to
Xander's ear, warming the shell. "Care to fess up?" She watched his
lips curl into a whimsical smile despite trying not too.

"I have loved Van Damme for years," he smirked in her face.

"Yeah, right." Sitting back in her chair, her leg was still brushed
against his, though he didn't seem to mind. He was massaging his left
wrist, apparently still sore after yesterday's hanging over a
bottomless pit episode. "You okay?"

Nodding, he replied, "I'll live."

"I bet a cinnamon bun would help," she grinned.

"Larry the janitor always has one," Xander fired back, to which she
rolled her eyes. That man was the hairiest man alive that wasn't a
werewolf. Nice, but damn hairy. "And doesn't he have the most
kissable lips you've ever seen?" He had the nerve to wink at her.

Buffy wanted to kick him.

Hard!

And then maybe, possibly, kiss him back... provided he kiss her first
and admit he kissed her awake out of her magic induced coma.

Groaning, Faith interjected, "Look, we are all abusing the fuck out
of our endless expense account and after all at that Sunnydale
business I see no reason to stop at least until the new year. I mean,
Giles ain't driving a new BMW for his health," she taunted in a way
the former Watcher could only bow his head most guilty. "I, for one,
am tired of hearing about the expense accounts and watching Xander
and Buffy's continuous flirting which everyone knows will end up with
them having loads of sex. So can we please get on with the business
of the day?"

"Hey," was spoken at the same time by Buffy and Xander, who both
turned bashful really quick when Dawn and Willow gave them
interesting looks.

"Yes, Days of our Slayer Lives will continue in a moment," Giles
noted before opening his second folder. "Onto the real business of
the day then. An undercover operative working security at a Monte
Carlo Casino run by a very dangerous Vampire has delivered extremely
disturbing news. It appears that scientists for the Vampire Nation
and Wolf Pride respectfully, each have created serums that would
greatly aid the other."

Taking his time, Giles went on to describe the intricate details of
the undercover Slayer's report, explaining what each serum would do
for the Vampires and Lycans, as well as the dire long term
ramifications it would have on the world. "We aren't looking at our
general end of the world scenario. We are in some ways looking at
organizations like ourselves. People positioning themselves to be
able to fight this war for the long haul. And if Dimitri Vamos and
Solomon Trask, rivals who have wished death on the other for over two
hundred years sat a mere five feet across from each other we have to
assume these serums are the real deal. This become our new worldwide
top priority."

"The serums should be impossible," Willow said, voicing her expert
opinion. "We're not talking about just the chemical and genetic parts
of the Lycan and Vampire virus, but the mystical as well. Merging
science with mysticism is tricky, extremely dangerous, and should be
impossible."

"All the more reason we need to get all the research those vamps and
dog-boys have," Faith added. "Let's face facts. Those scientists
aren't playing fair or by any rules at all. Why wouldn't they be far
ahead of what we think is possible when they won't say no to anything
they want to try? I guarantee you plenty of people died for those
serums to be made."

"Faith's right," Xander agreed, his now aching left wrist in his
lap. "They're both playing Dr. Frankenstein with no morals or ethics
at all. So we need to know everything they know. If Vampires could
move around during the day we'd be in huge trouble. And a Lycan is
almost as strong as a Slayer, but if you add in human sanity you
would have an army of powerful wolfies ready to cause all sorts of
mayhem."

"If the serums work, we could turn them into weapons." Andrew
couldn't help going over the possibilities. "Having them could turn
the tide of everything."

Buffy observed Dawn listening closely and taking notes. New to the
day-to-day team, her sister was very serious about contributing to
the group while Xander was training her to fight. Speaking of the guy
she wasn't sure quite she was crushing on, he kept massaging his sore
wrist, tugging some affectionate heart string of hers. She tried to
push it out of her mind. "When and where, Giles? That's all we need
to know?"

"Four days from now at the Full Moon Casino. We aren't sure if the
Vampire and Lycan lords will be there this time or will send
representatives, but we expect you all to be in the eye of the
hurricane. In addition, the Full Moon Casino's owner, Adam Masikroft
switches security teams and personell every seventy-two hours from
his other business interests in the area. The new team goes to work
tomorrow night. Our inside contact is Virginia Howell, one of Robin's
Slayers. She's been undercover there the past three months gathering
information. She's getting you all jobs at the casino where we'll set
up our operation."

When Xander winced painfully while turning his wrist, Buffy slid her
hand over his, and then gently took his wrist between her hands and
began massaging the pain away. Unconsciously, she offered, "Then we
need to get packed tonight and we need full mission briefs by first
thing in the morning. Make sure we have schematics of that casino.
Andrew, you handle transportation."

Already typing at the lap top on his hover-chair, he gave a
nod. "I'll have a plane ready to go no later than 2:00 PM tomorrow
afternoon. A non-stop flight coming right up. I'll make sure our gear
is ready as well."

"Good." Buffy continued her tender care of Xander wrist, using her
thumbs over and around it while planning. "Dawn, we'll need fake ID's
as well as passports and money in their currency."

Cheeky in her response as she was watching her sister closely, noting
her caring of Xander, Dawn smiled, "No problem."

Xander meanwhile, he didn't mind the loving care he was receiving,
never mind Buffy didn't seem to realize what she was doing, or that
everyone was watching her take care of him like this. It was to nice
to get hopeful about, no matter how much he wanted to. Then again,
she was so set for him to reveal that he was the one who kissed her
that he had to accept that maybe she wanted it to be him. Not just to
know it was, but was hoping it was him.

Willow's head shaking tease wasn't helping.

"I think we're all set," Giles declared upon grabbing his
folders. "We're going in with a small team, you guys, just our best.
We can't risk spooking anyone with a larger force. We're taking both
cures however the opportunity arises. And I suggest you prepare for
one bloody hell of a fight."

"Sounds like a plan, G-Man." Faith stood to her feet, stretching her
arms. "Now if Buffy's done giving Xander a wrist-job over there,"
snickering all around the room, "I think this meeting is over."

Delivering a sudden blank and then partially embarrassed expression,
Buffy casually released Xander's wrist and then looked away as the
others left the room chuckling. Now she was all alone with her...
friend. Yep, her really nice, handsome, sexy, funny friend who she
most definitely did not want to bone.

"Thanks for the wrist-job, Buff."

His teasing couldn't go unpunished. "I'm sure its the most action
you've had in a very long time."

"Sadly enough, I will neither confirm nor deny that charge, although
I may nod." With everyone else gone they were still sitting there,
alone, as if there were more to say. He'd already made up his mind
about this situation after the Amy/Warren incident, but something
inside him just needed to know
if... Hadn't he buried that part of him years ago?

"I... I don't often give wrist-jobs." Okay, as soon as Buffy said
that she realized she was probably number 3 on the all-time dumbest
things a woman has ever said to a guy she might someday date. "Take
off shoe, insert foot."

Seeing Buffy act slightly nervous was making Xander slightly nervous.
This was so out of his element. And why did she look so damn hot and
her hair smell of strawberries? Why was he so close to her he could
smell how her hair smelled? And why was he stressing over that when
he should say something cool and witty like to impress her. Here goes
nothing. "I often give myself wrist-jobs."

After a weird sorta pause they looked at each other and then started
laughing their asses off because that had to be the worse excuse for
non-flirting flirtatiousness in the history of mankind.

"Xan, you need to get that wrist checked out before we leave
tomorrow. And that's an order."

Her smile was infectious and her caring felt good. Plus, his wrist
was bothering him. "I need some BenGay and a night free from using
it."

"No masturbation."

"I have two ha... I so am not finishing that sentence."

"Good, cause I can't believe I said what I said." Why did she feel
sixteen again, struggling for something to say. "So..."

"Want a kiss?"

Exhaling a chuckle, her eyes raised to his good one, finding him just
a little to close. "Maybe."

"Maybe?"

"Yeah, maybe. As in possibly." She watched him sit back, relaxing in
his chair once more. He had the nerve to be waiting for her to ask
for a kiss. He had some nerve! Much like Rick James, she was Buffy
Summers, BITCH! Men came back from hell to kiss her! And yet how did
any of that work out? Maybe she needed a new strategy. She
sighed, "Why can't you just admit it?"

He's been asking himself the same thing. "Why is it such a big deal?"

"Because..." And then she couldn't answer. The words lodged in her
throat, pitched a tent, and began camping. After all these years how
could they possibly go from friendship to something else? Especially
when she couldn't even admit to herself that something else seemed
like a really good idea. And then she mentally said screw it
all. "Xander?"

"Yep?"

"Give me a kiss."

Having waited nearly a full decade to hear that, Xander's reply was
to reach in his pocket and produce a small, silver confection. "Here
you go."

Now at this point Buffy wanted to grab a baseball bat, but she
refrained as in a strange way his tease gave her an out. She wasn't
sure what she would of done if he actually honored her request.
Standing to her feet, she unwrapped the Hersey's kiss, ate it, an
then made her way towards the door. Turning to face him one last
time, she said, "Maybe one day you'll have the courage to give me the
kiss you want too."

She left him breathless when she walked away... and short one less
Hersey's Kiss. Oh well, he still had half a crates worth of Cinnamon
Buns left.

******

******

Castle Slayer
Formerly "Amhuinnsuidhe Castle"
Situated on the Isle of Harris
Buffy Summer's bedroom
Wednesday, September 26, 10:45 PM, 2007
Scotland

"Face it, Buffy. The most action your king-sized bed has seen is when
you carried it in here."

Popping another deliciously warm Pizza Roll in her mouth while lying
beside her sister, Buffy complained in her beige pajama's, "You have
some nerve critiquing my nonexistent sex life when yours caused you
to go all Jolly Green Giant, minus the green."

"Point taken, but still," Dawn replied, "You are going through a
severe drought the likes of which would make a poor African village
feel sorry for you."

"Boy, you're a big help." Sitting up at the head of the bed while
Dawn laid at the foot, Buffy tossed another Pizza Roll in her mouth.
Missing spaghetti night had her bummed already, and now being dissed
by your own sister wasn't helping. "Seriously, guy advice from you is
like Helen Keller asking Stevie Wonder to describe a donut."

"You, oh Queen of choosing the wrong guy, and mostly the guy who is
already dead, have not leg to stand on."

"I'll cop to having made some bad choices before in the daring pool,
but at least I was never super-sized."

Rolling over onto her back, Dawn stared at the ceiling, her fingers
drumming impatiently over the covers. "I'm never going to live that
down, am I?"

"You bathed in a small lake and barely fit in it. You slept in a
hollowed out wine cellar. Kinda hard to beat that one." Yawning,
Buffy propped a pillow behind her head, winding down from a wonderful
Pizza Roll dinner high. She's spent the last couple of hours packing
her bags, detailing the Slayers schedules while she was gone, and
avoiding a certain Mr. Harris who still hadn't given in to her charms
yet. "I'm going to take a sabbatical from dating. Its not like I have
time to date anyone. My schedule's hectic and wacky. Then there's all
the killing I do. Killing turns guys off. I read that in Cosmo."

"But what if he worked closely with you already?" Dawn couldn't help
to taunt, glancing away when Buffy's obvious glare sought her out. "I
was stupid and dumb, alright. It happens at my age. No more
Thricewise sexing for me. I'm strictly anti-mystical from now on. But
you, you have a great honey prospect."

All out of Pizza Rolls, Buffy groaned, "Can't we talk about something
else?"

"All you talk about is that damn kiss! I'm sick of hearing about it."

"But you and I both know it was Xander."

"I was outside stomping zombies in my resized Reebok's, so I don't
know who kissed you. But I can clearly see through your little
secret."

"Secret?" Buffy huffed all pouty like, her arms crossed. "What
secret? I have no secret except my deodorant. And it never tells."

Sitting up to face her sister, Dawn was tired of beating around the
bush as Buffy's behavior had only gotten stranger the last couple
weeks. "Why can't you admit that you want it to be Xander?" Watching
her sister's lips part, no sound came out. She gave a sorta head
shake/shrug hybrid that didn't make any sense. Typical Buffy. "You
want it to be him. Fess up."

"No I don't... mostly."

"If it was Willow you would have talked it out with her a long time
ago. You just aren't Will's type and she sure as heck ain't yours."

"What, I'm not good enough potential lesbian material for Wills?"

How could Buffy actually be defensive about this? Dawn was sure her
sister was clinically insane but never diagnosed. "If it was one of
your Slayers someone would have slipped up by now and exposed
themselves. You're around them all day long and would notice if
someone was acting strange."

"That makes some sense."

"Neither Angel nor Spike were anywhere near Scotland."

"True, but what about Satsu and her lip gloss?"

"I caught her making out with Paul, one of Giles personal bodyguards
two weeks ago. That girl doesn't want woman parts," Dawn explained
bluntly. "You and I both know it was Xander who smooched you awake.
And furthermore, you want it to be Xander. Admit it! ADMIT IT!! ADMIT
IT!!!"

Hands over her face, head shaking against her palm, Buffy drowned in
her denial until her heart finally broke free and at long last the
truth erupted from her lips. "I THINK I WANT SOME XANDER LOVING!"

"Okay, that was kinda loud. Good thing you have thick walls."
Laughing affectionately, Dawn leaned over and gave her sister a hug.
It was a good
moment. "Look, I don't know for certain it was him, but I couldn't
imagine it being anyone else. I just want you to keep this in mind,
okay? Whoever kissed you had to be to be in love with you. That means
someones feelings have been exposed without their consent. And if
they know you don't feel the same way then that causes a whole host
of problems, insecurities, and all around emotional pain the likes of
which suck the ass of a donkey. And from what I hear donkey ass
sucking truly sucks."

Buffy kinda stared at her sister... for a while.

"I tend to go off the deep end at times, but my motives are true,"
Dawn pointed out.

Yeah, they were. Buffy stretched her arms out in a relaxing pose,
feeling better about things and having reached a more profound
understanding. "Thank you, sis," she acknowledged, hugging her
again. "I might of needed that, but it's not easy to say."

"That's what I'm here for. Just for once make the first move. Then
you might actually get what you want. And don't forget he's had it as
bad relationship wise as you have."

Agreeing with her, Buffy followed Dawn to her bedroom door. "I got
personal work to do, I guess."

"Yep, you sure do. As for me, I'm gonna create us some fake names and
ID's. You're gonna be Mike Honcho."

"You're been watching Talladega Nights to much."

"I love me some Ricky Bobby. Night, Buff."

The door shut and then Buffy leaned against it, tugging her bottom
lip with her teeth, deep in thought. Her head hung low while going
over and over in her mind the pro's and cons of dating Xander, or
even admitting that she might want too. They've been the best of
friends forever, and honestly, even moreso than Giles she knows she
can trust and count on him. Risking a person that dear to her was a
scary thing, and yet what might she be missing out on?

Okay, Xander makes her laugh and smile a lot.

He's great at coordinating everything around her so that she can
concentrate on the training and leading the Slayers. He's damn
reliable, loyal, smarter than anyone gives him credit for and very
brave. She never has to look over her shoulder because he always has
her back.

"And mercy, has he been working out," she was pleased to note in the
pro category. Six pack heaven lived on his belly now and she's
noticed more than a few times. He's just older and everything about
him feels different, yet at the core the same. The patch does change
how he looks to her on some elemental level. There's a darker edge
that appeals to her, though he's still the same guy she's always
loved.

Only now they are almost three years removed from Sunnydale. Three
years was a very long time and she's changed as much if not more than
anyone. Maybe it was high time everything else changed too. Nothing
ever stayed the same.

Exhaling a slow, nervous breath, Buffy Summers prepared for the
longest and quite possibly most meaningful journey of her entire
life. One that would take her closer to her best friend than she's
ever been before.

Taking three steps to cross the way, she was at Xander's door. Yeah,
their rooms were that close. It still felt like she walked a freaking
mile.

Raising her hand she knocked hard twice and then waited. Footsteps
came closer before the door swung open, revealing an open shirt of
muscles owned by one Alexander Harris. In his hand, a Coca Cola
Slurpee. He greeted her warmly. "Sorry, Buff. I'm all out of kisses."

"I don't want anymore of your kisses," she replied with a smile.
Grinning in that cute way he did as it seemed he didn't believe her,
Buffy rolled her tongue around her cheek before speaking. "I'm bored.
Care for some company?"

She was naturally gorgeous with her blond hair down in those beige
pajamas. Xander tried not to stare at the top button being undone,
revealing a hint of... Moving aside, his hand extended into his
bedroom. "Far be it from me to turn down a lovely woman at my door."
She brushed past him wearing her somethings-on-my-mind expression.
And she still smelled like strawberries. Dammit, he liked
strawberries. But she was staring at his abs and looked like she
enjoyed what she saw. Chuck Norris was going to get one hell of a
Christmas basket for his new workout plan. "Can I get you a Slurpee?
I have Cola and Root beer?"

Having no furniture besides a king-sized bed and his computer chair,
Buffy chose the former. Deciding to dive right into the danger zone,
she crawled over his bed, taking a seat with her back to the
headboard. She felt his gaze follow her closely. "No, I'm good."
Quickly recognizing what he was looking at on his big screen HD TV,
she questioned, "Why are you watching the remake Dawn of the Dead?
Don't we fight enough of the dead already? Haven't you had enough of
dead people?"

"I watch and kill them, not other unmentionable things, unlike some
people," he fired back, but not with an attitude as she seemed to
brush it off.

"My unmentionables with any of the dead are long over and shall never
return."

"Good to hear." Standing perfectly still, he hadn't made his way over
to the bed yet. Verbally flirting was one thing, but lying in his bed
next to her was something else. It wasn't like they hadn't done it
before, but this time with all the flirting and eye-sex they've been
having, he was treading lightly to insure he wasn't reading her
wrong. "The dead people in this movie run a lot faster than zombies
do in real life."

"Yeah, I've noticed." Buffy turned up the volume a little. "Real life
zombies are very unathletic, stumbling, groaning, wanna-eat-your-
brains like. Those zombies are track star zombies. I like my zombies
slow moving and retarded. None of that Road Runner zombie crap for
me."

"You'll hear no disagreements from this end." Sensing the growing
tension between them, Xander mentally slapped himself for being this
nervous. Whatever was or wasn't happening between them had to be
faced head on. And despite wanting to run, he finally made his way
over to his bed, slipping in beside her. There was space between
them, but it was still very cozy... intimate even. "They aren't
enough men in this castle. It's a very Y-chromosome deficient
environment I'm working in."

"Hey, there are at least six guys on staff, excluding you."

"Versus forty-three women," he countered.

"Not my fault."

"Most are Slayer's. And all Slayer's are girls. It most certainly is
your fault because you called them."

Buffy felt the need to remind him, "You helped."

"Yeah, but still. More men mean more male things to discuss," he
noted. "I like Giles, but the generation gap erodes our ability to
have a good male
conversation. He didn't even know who Jackie Chan was. And Larry the
janitor is just to hairy for me to talk to and when he eats food it
gets stuck in his thick, scary beard."

"Ewww times twenty."

"Then there's Andrew who's cool sometimes when it comes to comic
books and Star Wars, but lousy for talking to about sports, women,
sex, women, cooking, women, cars, sex, or naked women."

"You possess a marvelous, varied array of verbal topics."

Xander continued, "Then you have Paul and Mike who work for Giles and
are very hardcore Watcher's Council-men. I'm not British and I don't
always get their sense of humor and belief that James Bond could kick
Rambo's ass. Finally, there's Kyle the driver. He feels his lot in
life is to stare at you when you walk by. So I've got nothing to say
to that jerk."

Buffy noted a small swell of jealousy there? She rested her head on
one of his pillows, considering how nice it felt to be this close to
him while doing something as domestic as watching television. "Kyle
is eerie, but he knows his way around Scotland. The man is a walking
GPS locater."

"I don't like him. He has shifty eyes. They're usually focused on
you." Catching her smirking out the corner of his eye, Xander
realized how that must have come out. "I'm happy you're enjoying
this."

"I know you look out for me. I value that. It's no big."

"That's not what I meant and you know it." A heated look passed
between them. One that they were only now getting used too. Her
vibrant, beautiful hazel eyes drew him in, though he fought it tooth
and nail.

"I feel safe with you," Buffy confessed on her side, facing him as
the movie played in the background. "I'm not sure what's so different
now or why things are the way they are. I just know that being with
you feels right. Being close to you makes me a happy Buffy."

Exhaling a shaky breath, Xander could help the pleased expression
emerging on his face. What she said wasn't a confession of undying
love, but it was more than friendly and that was enough for now.

And then she surprised him out of the blue.

Lifting his right arm, Buffy drifted along his side, soaking in the
warmth of being curled next to him. His arm circled her hip, drawing
her just that much closer into a cuddle. A sweet silence fell over
them as neither moved a muscle or even shared a glance. This was
enough for now, being this close, in each others arms at last.

Thinking it over and their past history, for her making the first
move Xander offered a simple, "Thanks."

"It was my pleasure," Buffy yawned peacefully in his arms, her
fingers playing over his chest, lazily drawing patterns. They've
never acted this way before and yet it felt so normal, as if this
were the natural progression of their friendship into more. She was
falling hard and saw nothing at all wrong with that. "A little while
ago Dawn helped me realize that whoever kissed me, their feelings for
me were revealed without their consent. And that person might not be
comfortable with that, as well as not knowing how I feel." Lifting
her gaze to his, she added, "Whether if it was you or not that kissed
me, i I just want you to know that I'm exactly where I want to be."

Throwing caution to the wind, Xander pressed a loving kiss to her
forehead, holding her closer now, reveling in his someday fantasy
made perfect. There was a long way to go still, but this was a
start. "Buff, you have just made Dawn of the Dead the most romantic
movie ever." Her soft laughter lifted his
soul. Hey, he had to walk through this final door sometime, no matter
where it led him.

"When you take me to see Hairspray... I... I, uhm. I want it to be a
real date. You know, one where you shave before we go and I try on a
bunch of outfits looking for a sexy one and we eat dinner somewhere
that doesn't have a kids jungle gym or any sort of Happy Meal."

"I think I can manage that, Buff. I'll go all out and spend a whole
twenty dollars on dinner."

"You're going out of your way to impress me, aren't you?"

"I might even spend thirty dollars and take you someplace where its
mandatory you wear shoes. And I promise my socks will not be holy,"
he joked while yawning himself as his breathing grew slow, falling in
line with Buffy's. Time passed as eyes grew sleepy until at last they
fell. The living battled the dead in the background as they were
asleep fully clothed, but one step closer to something magical.

******

******

A black Boeing Business Jet 2
The Slayer's private executive jet, currently flying a 540 miles per
hour.
Thursday, September 27, 5:22 PM, 2007
Enroute to Monte Carlo

"I gotta warn you, this will be as pleasant as drinking a cold glass
of Liquid Plumber." Circling the small black table Dawn sat at in the
back of the jet, Xander watched her wince painfully while vigorously
rubbing her eyes. "They hurt like Angel's favorite vacation spot the
first time you put them in. Good thing it doesn't last."

The burning fog that was driving her crazy the very second she put in
her 'special' contacts began to slowly fade as her eyes watered. She
blinked a couple of times, staring at herself in the mirror on the
desk until her vision cleared. She exhaled as the pain ebbed away
into nothingness. "Will it hurt like that every time?"

"Same soup, just reheated," Xander offered as he's only in the last
six months become accosted to the magically-augmented contacts that
allow him to see a Vampire or Lycan via an aura-like glow around
their bodies. "Trust me, someday you will want to kiss the small,
well manicured feet of Willow when these babies save your life. And
they most certainly will."

With that out of the way Dawn could see again. Tying her hair back
into a loose ponytail, she peered over the items spread out on the
desk. Her greatest interest fell on the twin lightweight hand guns,
newly designed for non-Slayer Watcher's Council operatives, were hers
at last. "I'm really, finally gonna get to shoot someone," she almost
giggled.

"Say that with a bit less awe, oh violent one." Coming around to the
chair on the other side of her desk, Xander sat down, his hands lying
palms down on the table. Sensing him in serious talk mode, Dawn sat
up straighter, waiting for him to begin. "We're not Slayers or
mystics or witches, D."

"Believe me, I know? Gotcha." She gave him the thumbs up. He was
still serious with his whole lack of expression and so she lowered
her hand.

"Do you really?" Xander questioned with no small amount of care as he
adored her. Nonetheless, she needed to get this hardcore and
blunt. "When I say that, I mean you'll see things you've seen before,
like Buffy and Faith and Wills attacking the unholy heck out of
anything in their way. But this time you're expected to fight with
them, only you can't fight like them. You have to never lose track of
that or you will see the inside of a closed coffin."

"How would I see the inside of a coffin if I'm dead. I'd think I
wouldn't be seeing anything."

"Dawn, work with me here. I'm trying to be all Optimus Prime-like and
inspire you." Lifting her hand in apology, he continued. "The first
time I hit a vampire I thought my hand was broken. And the first time
a vampire hit me I didn't get up until someone helped me up, and he
didn't even hit me as hard as he could have. Now I know you've seen
all of this for years and heard about it and even participated in
some of our badassness, but now you have finished your training under
Giles and I. You're ready to go out there full-time and kick demon
ass. But I want you to keep in mind that you have to fight and defend
the way you were trained, and not the way the Slayer's, witches, and
mystics do. You have to always be mindful that they can take
punishment you can't and so you have to be more patient and cautious."

"Patient and cautious. Got it."

Moving on, Xander held up a sixteen-bullet clip. "These bullets are
split in two, as you well know. One half triggers the vampire virus
in a vamp and effectively causes him to explode from the inside out.
The other half is pure silver and will kill a Lycan with a single
shot. But these bullets will also kill humans. Again, unlike the
others we have to be very, very careful who we attack and how. Buffy
knows how to hit a human and not kill him. But these babies," he
pointed to the bullets. "They will kill whatever they hit. So we have
a responsibility to be sure of what we are doing at all times."

Dawn loaded both her personal hand guns with clips, admiring the cool
feel of each in her hands. She was finally ready. "Responsibility and
maturity. I'm with you 100%." She recognized his slightly nervous
mood. Even before she turned all super-sized and the last two months
after she became normal again he's trained her as well as he was
trained in London for a year when the Watcher's Council was being
rebuilt. He's turned her into a crack shot and helped her see how
he's survived so long being just a normal person. "Were you scared
the first time you fired one of these?"

"Well, mine is bigger," he joked, holding his larger gun. When she
rolled her eyes he turned back to business. "I'm scared every time I
fire my gun because I worry about a bullet ricocheting off something
and killing a innocent person. Or a bullet going through a wall and
doing that. I just try and stay focused on the task at hand and make
the best choice that I can make. Slayers have the luxury of swords,
stakes, and other medieval weaponry because they are so strong they
can kill anything with them. They have the ability to take a ton of
pain and survive almost anything, so they will fight a heck of a lot
more reckless than us. We have to use everything around us to our
advantage. We have to anticipate things faster, take things slower,
and make sure whatever we fire at we intend to kill it."

"I understand." Having chosen this life for herself, Dawn accepted
the responsibility that came along with it. She's in the best shape
of her life and ready to follow in her sister's footsteps. "Go over
the other stuff with me one more time."

Xander reached for a golf-ball sized glass object. One of several on
the table. "Bright light flares. They'll blind virtually anything not
wearing our eye contacts. Press the little button on the side and you
have five seconds before they go off. Use them to save your life."
Next, he pointed towards a small cache of square glazed
objects. "Miniature explosives are our good friends. Andrew has built
this tiny remote detonators. They're attuned them your watch. Just be
very careful what you blow up."

"Don't blow up everything. Check," she smiled at him. It wasn't easy
for him to see her about to finally go into battle and she was aware
of that. He was the big brother she never had, and one of her
closets, most reliable friends. He was also damn good at his job and
when she made the choice to stay on at Castle Slayer and join the
fight she wanted him to train her more than anyone else. "Can I say
thank you without you getting all teary-eyed?"

"Considering I'm down to one good eye, don't expect all that much
moisture." Joking, his best coping mechanism. "I know you're ready
and I trust you with my life. I just love and worry about you, is
all."

"I know, but look at it this way." She held up both her guns. "You
taught me how to use these and if I accidentally kill someone its all
your... okay, that sounded far more complimentary in my head."

"You think?" he laughed a little, sighing. "You're my Padawan and I
just don't want to lose you to the dark side of the force. And deep
down I know I won't. I'll just have to get used to dangerous Dawn and
not just barely legal Dawn who's not so barely legal or innocent
anymore."

"Yeah, I had sex. Lots of it. And I'm good at it too."

"That's far to much information. Now please, honor my final request.
Please never, ever speak of your sex life again." Grinning, she
rounded the table and wrapped herself around his upper body,
smooching his cheek.

"I love you too. And I shall not ever again speak of the loads of
hot, sweaty sex I've had." When he shuddered dramatically she
declared, "Of course after finding you and Buffy asleep in your bed
this morning I get the feeling there's some hot and sweaty sex in
your future too."

"God, I certainly hope s... hey, kindly remove yourself from my
slowly developing personal life." She hugged him again and then began
loading her supplies in a duffel bag. "I'm going upfront. Try not to
accidentally shoot yourself."

"Like you did once?"

"It was a minor flesh wound. And we will never speak of it again."
Feeling as though he's done his best with her, Xander exited the rear
of the plane, taking the short corridor where Faith, Willow, and
Andrew slept in the dark of the cabin. Upon looking up he found Buffy
exiting the pilot's cabin with a pillow in her hand. He pointed to
their seats upfront, not wanting to wake up the others.

Thankful for a wee bit of privacy, Buffy settled in close to her
almost but not official honey, warm and comfy. After a short pause he
lifted his arm over her shoulder, nestling her against him. Affection
was definitely of the good. "How's she doing and is she ready?"

"I think she's more than ready and she's doing great," Xander replied
quietly, enjoying this newfound closeness with Buffy. It was going to
take some getting used to, but this was progress indeed. "Dawn and I
went over the important stuff and her memory is already five times
better than mine. The bad guys better watch out. There's a new
Summers gal out to kick demon booty and take names."

The words sounded nice, especially coming from him. But Dawn was her
only sister and it almost bothered Buffy in some way her sister chose
to come into this crazy life of hers. Of course she was impressed
with how hard and dedicated Dawn went after here training.
Unfortunately, this world she was about to dive head first into was
cold and unforgiving. "She was in the best hands with you, so I'm
confident she'll be fine. I just worry cause, you know, after mom
died I have to look out for her. We're all we have left of mom."

Xander squeezed her closer. "You do a great job, Buff."

"Yeah, I think so sometimes. Other times I think she wishes anyone
but me was her sister."

Drawing her closer, Xander pressed his face into her hair, inhaling
softly. She seemed to laugh at the action. "I think that goes for
most siblings at some time or another. It's time to face facts. Our
Dawnie is now Dawn the grown woman."

"This new Dawn better stop banging Thricewise's."

"Oh low and behold, she went non-normal for her first sexual
experience. Whoever did she learn that from?"

With his gaze upon her she felt a certain guilt all her own, although
she knew her sister didn't have to make her mistakes. "Perhaps I
could have been a better example, but she's a grown woman now. Its
all her fault she was turned into a huge girl. I just want her to
remain a normal sized, alive girl. Key word being alive." Whispering
near his ear, she added, "Alive is my new thing too. I'm into
heartbeats and guys who are sunlight friendly and can see themselves
in mirrors."

Throwing caution to the wind, Xander reached under his chair and
produced a small wrapped pastry. "What about a guy with a small
addiction to Sara Lee cinnamon buns?"

It was as much of an admission as he was going to give her right now,
all the more intriguing her. And it was sweet in a totally Xander-
like way. Breaking off half the cinnamon bun, she ate it with a
smile. "I am very pro cinnamon bun."

Using the side of his thumb, Xander tenderly swiped a bit of white
glaze from the side of her lips, and in the half shadows of the cabin
she was more beautiful than he ever thought a woman to be. Knowing
enough about romantic movies to see a special moment when one was
staring him in the face, he leaned in at the same time she shifted
closer, their lips a breath away before...

A sudden jarring blast shook the the entire plane, barreling it into
a hazardous roll that threw everyone around the cabin before the jet
leveled off shakily.

Drawing herself up from the floor, Faith flew to the window looking
outside. "We are so fucked. The right wing's engine is..."

"What, on fire?" Xander gasped, helping Buffy to here feet before
checking on Willow as Dawn stumbled in from the back.

"No, gone!" Faith shouted, wrenching Andrew off the floor. Out the
corner of her eye she caught the shadow of a massive dark wing...
then saw the plane dip outside the way of a blazing burst of fire
that flew right past them. "I think we have a dragon on our ass. An
actual motherfucking Harry Potter looking dragon!"

"Let me get to work on it," Willow announced, shutting her eyes while
summoning her powers.

Charging towards the pilots cabin, Buffy shoved the door open. "I
think we have a problem."

"Understatement of the year, Ms. Summers." The pilot pointed to his
instrument panel. "Our right engine is gone, we're leaking fuel, and
whatever that thing is outside, its following us. We can't
outmaneuver that thing and I doubt I'll be able to land. We're going
to crash."

Holding onto the door with loud shouting behind her, Buffy felt the
jet begin to nose dive towards the Mediterranean Sea. "I swear as
soon as I fall for a guy, BOOM, death's just around the corner!"

******

The End of Chapter 1