Improving Key Traits
"Can I come with you please?" Dawn begged, batting her eyes and trying to think of anything she could do to convince Xander to take her with him, well anything she could get away with while her sister was present anyway.
Xander was acutely aware of two things, one everyone in the library was listening for his answer and two he couldn't just say no to those eyes. Thinking quickly he remembered Giles' latest discussion with him on diplomacy entitled 'If someone asks for the moon tell them you need authorization from god, or how to pass the buck without pissing people off'. "You'd need your mom's permission and some sort of consent form signed by her, cause taking a minor across state lines is a felony without parental consent."
"So a consent form for the trip and Mom's permission?" Dawn asked brightly, her mind already working on how to pull that off.
"Yep," Xander agreed readily.
"Woohoo!" Dawn cheered, hugging Xander and bouncing out of the room.
"What do you think you're doing?!" Buffy demanded.
"Something that doesn't concern you," Xander said mildly, showing that Giles' attempts to teach him diplomacy had helped with his temper problem.
"Doesn't concern me!? That's my little sister!"
Xander just stared at her. "You attempted to sacrifice a human being to save Angel. You almost succeeded in killing her. You stabbed a sister slayer in the gut because you wanted to use her as a human sacrifice."
"We need Angel!" Buffy protested, wondering what Faith had to do with this.
"No, in the end he's just one more fighter, worth maybe a half dozen armed humans and that's being generous. Of course after nearly killing Faith you tried to sacrifice your own life to save him, despite the fact that our whole plan depends on you luring the mayor into the school. You chose the life of a vampire over the lives of every man woman and child in this town, including Joyce and Dawn."
Buffy stared at him speechless. She'd been so focused on saving Angel that she'd ignored how important she was to the plan to stop the mayor.
"Let's look back a bit to where Angel lost his soul. Angelus was known for torturing and killing the families of people he was pissed at and you'd previously invited him into your house and despite all that you still weren't willing to kill him," Xander stopped, took a deep breath and slowly let it out along with some of his anger. "Yeah you loved Angel, but the fact is you put Joyce and Dawn in danger because you value his life more than theirs. So no, I don't think anything I do with Dawn is any of your business unless it involves slaying, which this doesn't. The only person whose opinion matters in this is Joyce. I trust Joyce, if Joyce says its fine, then I know it's okay. If Joyce says it's a bad idea, it's a bad idea."
"So my opinion means nothing?" Buffy exclaimed.
"Remember that plan you came up with which ended up with me unconscious on the street and night from Angel sucker punching me?" Xander asked. "You left me out of the loop and a demon saved me. I'd either be a vampire or a corpse right now if not for a friendly demon by the name of Clem. I awoke to fangs in my neck and pain in my jaw, just in time for Clem to save my life."
"There are friendly demons?" Cordelia asked.
Wesley nodded. "Not so rare as you'd think either, but since they tend not to make waves we rarely see them."
"What does this have to do with you trusting my opinion?" Buffy asked.
"Have you once heard me complain about it?" Xander asked bluntly.
"Well no, not unless this is a complaint," Buffy admitted.
"I'm bitching about it a bit because I had to adapt to the fact that there are friendly demons now, but not once have I complained about the plan. It was a good plan. Sure keeping me out of the loop almost cost me my life, but exposing Faith as a traitor was worth that risk, so no I don't think your opinion is worthless. In slaying matters I actually value your opinion unless it involves Angel. Your opinion on anything else I'll take with a grain of salt, but I will always listen to Joyce over anyone else when it comes to Dawn."
"B-But you cheated on Cordelia!" Buffy exclaimed getting to the heart of what was bugging her.
"And how many times did I risk my life to save hers while she was a total bitch to me?" Xander asked.
"A couple," Buffy admitted.
"And yet you think the fact that I cheated on Cordelia says more about me than the fact that I saved her life at the risk of my own while my life would have been more pleasant with her dead," Xander said thoughtfully. "I seem to recall you were dating the quarterback at your old school while seeing Pike behind his back."
"That was different!" Buffy protested, not expecting Xander to bring up or rather piece together the facts from her old stories.
Xander just looked at her. "Sure it was," he finally said, his voice saying it was anything but. "But back to what I was saying, the only person whose opinion I care about in this matter is Joyce's, period."
Joyce stepped out of Giles' office, where she had been having lunch with him. "You have my permission to take Dawn on your road trip."
Xander blinked stunned.
"And the moment's done," Oz said.
"Good, because I have to pack," Xander said.
"You're not still going to drag my underage sister all across the US are you?" Buffy asked emphasizing the word underage.
"Why, because I'm not older than her great-grandfather and haven't let people die because I was a coward?" Xander asked innocently.
"Ouch," Oz said in the sudden silence.
"You really don't want to play this game with me Buffy," Xander said seriously. "You won't win and you just might lose a lot more than you bargained for."
"Angel isn't a coward," Buffy muttered.
"He was when you started dating him and you really don't want to get into a conversation about him either."
"What's with the sudden hostility?" Buffy asked.
"What in the world makes you think it's sudden? I think I've been consistently hostile towards him. The question is what's with the sudden hostility from you?"
"I just think she can do better," Buffy said only to pale as she realized what she'd said.
Xander's face might as well have been carved from stone for all the emotion he showed as he turned around and walked away.
Buffy started forward but Oz held her back. "Not a good idea."
"But I didn't mean," Buffy began.
"Yeah, you kinda did."
"What's wrong?" Joyce asked.
Xander winced. "Am I that transparent?"
"I'm a mother; we're given special abilities to sense these things."
Xander chuckled. "Something Buffy said after asking if I was really going to drag her underage sister all over the US."
"She said Dawn could do better," Xander admitted.
Joyce instantly engulfed him in a hug.
"And it's not like I'm saying me and Dawn are going to start dating or anything, but it hurts to have her think so little of me."
"Buffy, as much as I love her, isn't that great a judge of people. Look at who she's chosen to date," Joyce said dryly. "Her criteria for judging boys still rests on looks, popularity, money, how 'cool' they are. Now you Xander aren't a boy that girls would show off like a prize they won to increase their status."
"You are the kind of guy they want around as a friend because they know when things go wrong you can make things better."
"And you are the kind of guy women want to date, because what they look for in a man is completely different than what girls do."
"What?" Xander asked surprised.
"Hey mom," came Dawn's voice from upstairs. "Did you get my birth control refill and where's my brown jacket, the one with the pockets that Buffy likes to steal?"
"I put the refill in the top drawer of your dresser and check Buffy's closet," Joyce called up the stairs.
Xander stood frozen in place.
"Dawn is growing into quite the young woman," Joyce smirked at Xander's expression. "Hopefully in a couple of years Buffy will too."
"Do you think I'll need my hiking boots and camping gear?" Dawn called down.
"Bring the boots and gear but leave the tent," Joyce called back up.
"Will I need a sleeping bag or can I just share his?"
"Bring yours and you can zip them together. Two people in a single sleeping bag is a bit cramped."
"Can I take Mr. Gordo and mail ransom demands with pictures of him tied up and blindfolded in front of famous landmarks?"
Joyce chuckled. "Fine, but no mailing bits of him home as evidence. He has to be in one piece when you get back."
"Deal! Let me know when Xander gets here!"
"He's here now."
"Xander if you have any objections to my evil plans speak now or give up all resistance," Dawn called down.
Xander smiled as Dawn came bouncing down the stairs in faded blue jeans and a Metallica shirt that was thin enough to almost see her bra through. She had a duffle bag and a backpack and had tied her hair back in a ponytail.
"I've got a purse and a suitcase in addition to this, hope it's not too much."
Xander grabbed the aforementioned items from the living room placing the purse on her duffel. "Nah, this is perfect and there'll be plenty of room in the trunk."
"Good. I'm not a clothes horse like my sister, but a woman simply has to have some necessities," Dawn said mock haughtily.
Xander laughed. "Well Madam, I'll put these in the car and offer my active assistance in your evil plans concerning Mr. Gordo," he swore before going to start the car and put away the luggage.
Dawn blinked and looked at her mom. "I have evil plans involving Mr. Gordo?"
Joyce laughed and hugged her daughter. "I expect some postcards and a call every week or so. Have fun."
"I will," Dawn promised. "How could I not when I get to have Xander all to myself?" She chuckled evilly as she left.
Joyce smiled and started a pot of coffee, she'd hardly finished her first cup when Buffy came in looking for her.
"Um mom, can I talk to you for a minute?" Buffy asked hesitantly. "I have a problem and I may have made a huge mistake," she paused for a moment. "Again."
"Sure dear," Joyce said pouring Buffy a cup since she knew there was going to be a long conversation.
Xander grinned as the passed the burned out high school. "We're on our way!"
"I can't believe it!" Dawn squealed. "Are you sure this isn't some dream?"
"If so I don't plan on waking up till August," Xander replied.
"Sounds like a plan," she agreed still shocked that she was going to get to spend the next two months with Xander without her older sister getting in the way.
"Wish I'd had a bit more time to work on the engine though," Xander said just before the world around them vanished in a swirl of color and sound, leaving them standing by the side of the road in front of a truck stop.
"What just happened?" Dawn asked as she looked around.
Xander grabbed her hand. "Run," he said pulling her along as they sprinted for the diner, just as the two semis parked at the gas station's islands roared to life. The few seconds it took the big brown Kenworth and the semi with a big Green Goblin mask glued to its grill to start moving proved to be enough time for Xander to get inside with Dawn.
After they took a few minutes to stop panting and calm down, Dawn said "Ok, pretend I asked some intelligent questions and then dumb it down for me."
"Only if you'll do the same for me," Xander replied, as they both crouched beneath a table in one of the booths.
"You don't know?" Dawn asked beginning to worry.
"Fraid not. I can honestly say nothing like this has ever happened to me before."
"Then how did you know we had to run?"
"Ever seen the movie Maximum Overdrive?"
"A long time…"Dawns voice trailed off and her eyes shot open. "Ok, now I know why this looks familiar. All the machines have been taken over and given some sort of sentience by a UFO, right?"
"You got it in one. I've got all of Stephen King's movies on tape so I recognized it at once."
"So what do we do?"
"No idea. Unlike the movie I'm not seeing anyone here but us."
"So keep out of sight, search for clues, and take everything valuable that's not nailed down?" Dawn suggested. At Xander's surprised look she shrugged. "I've played D&D before."
"That's an excellent plan, just remember, survival first."
"Of course," Dawn promised. "How about you check behind the front counter, while I look in the backroom?"
"Good plan, but I think I should check the bathroom first," Xander said.
"Because I have to pee," Xander replied.
Dawn laughed. "Ok, bathroom then backroom. Meanwhile I'll be crawling my buns over to see if there is anything behind the counter."
"Aye, aye captain."
"I'm off," Dawn said, making sure to stretch and show off her curves before crawling to the front.
Xander blinked a couple of times, took a deep breath and reminded himself that she was several years younger than he was before he started crawling towards the bathrooms, passing various sales displays on his right as the store/diner was set to cater to the truckers and tourists that passed by. Glancing to his left at every booth he was relieved to find them all clean and empty. He wasn't sure what was going on but the lack of people meant they either weren't' here or they were here but were no longer people and he'd rather find the corpses now than have Dawn stumble upon them later.
Safely out of view of the windows, Xander stood up and rubbed his knees. Crawling on dirt and grass was a lot easier than tile floors. He followed the hall to the left where the signs pointed and was happy to discover the bathrooms were clean and empty of people being several single person unisex bathrooms with lockable doors, rather than large tiled affairs with a plethora of stalls he'd have to check one by one to make sure no one was hiding in them.
Dawn stood up as she got behind the counter and safely out of view of the windows. Looking around she saw a couple of monitors set at an angle below the counter that showed views of outside and strangely enough some showers. She didn't remember the movie that well but she was sure it featured a much less modern truck stop. A touch screen computer sat beside the register and Dawn paged through the menu's finding controls for the interior temp and to close the blinds.
Xander was happy to see the showers at the other end of the hall. He didn't recall seeing them in the movie, but he knew most truck stops had them and if they were stuck here for any length of time they'd make things much more comfortable. Satisfied that nothing was hiding back there Xander returned to the edge of the hall and prepared to crawl towards the front when he saw a display that made him smile. He'd never heard of the Arizona Ice Hawks, but the hockey gear included knee pads which he gratefully put on and grabbed another set for Dawn.
Dawn watched Xander crawl across the store as she familiarized herself with the commands. Climbing to his feet next to her he offered her a pair of kneepads. "Here. Bathrooms are empty and we have clean showers if we need them."
Dawn put on the knee pads and knelt in front of Xander under the pretense of trying them out. Grabbing hold of his hips 'for balance' she smiled up at him. "Thanks Xander, these are so comfortable I could be on my knees for hours without strain."
"Yeah," a suddenly red faced Xander agreed.
Seeing Xander was frozen and not going to say anything more, Dawn decided to stop being so subtle. Wrapping her arms around him she hugged him to her pressing her cheek against his crotch before slowly rising to her feet rubbing against him as she rose.
"I promised your mom I would be a perfect gentleman," Xander groaned.
"Do you know what Mom told me the definition of a perfect gentleman is?" Dawn asked, before kissing the side of his neck.
"Mom told me a perfect gentleman was a man who would do for you what you would do for him."
"I doubt she meant it this way."
"I have a signed statement from one Joyce Summers stating that she consents to me having a sexual relationship with one Alexander Harris," Dawn purred.
Typing by: The Last Primarch!
AN: This was my first attempt at a Disgaea type crossover.