Chapter Two: An Early Night's Sleep

After a moment or two of observation she suddenly realised that the apartment was not so much clean as it was… barren.

"You doing alright there?" Buffy asked casually as Xander supported himself by sitting down on the edge of the fountain, seemingly unaware of the water dripping off of him.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm just super," he replied, "It's just that the bastard hit me in the same place that some other bastard got me a few days back." He nursed his left side, wincing slightly as he moved just the wrong way. She sat down next to him patted him on the back.

"Buck up, big boy," she said, her grin cutting out the sting of her words, "We've got work to do and I need you at peak form. So that means no dying on me."

"Ha, ha, ha," he deadpanned, "Xander Harris is never going to die, he'll live forever. Apparently he's also going to speak in third person. Ha ha. Seriously though, if I ever do die, I promise that it won't be at the hands of some vampire." She laughed as she sat down next to him. "So what's the job?" he asked, "You said that you were putting the team back together because something big was coming. What's coming?"

"Worry about that later," she said, "When we're all together we can talk about it. Where are you living, anyway?" She turned to look at him. "Did you know that there are over ten Alex Harris' living in New York City? I couldn't actually find a Xander Harris that was you."

"Well, there wouldn't be," he replied, "However, if you instead looked for a Jimmie Reese you would have discovered that he owns a little bar not too far from here and he lives in the apartment above it." She looked at him with a blank expression. "I'm Jimmie Reese," he clarified.

"Why Jimmie Reese?" she asked.

"He once played second baseman for the Yankees and I always use Yankees second basemen for fake names," he said. Once again she looked at him blankly. "Remind me to lend you a Jack Reacher novel some time."

~o~O~o~

The first thing that surprised Buffy about Xander's upstairs apartment was that it was surprisingly roomy. It had the kind of space that you could only find in a sit-com based in New York, rather than an actual New York apartment.

The second thing to surprise her was that it was spotless. From what she remembered, Xander had never been the most finicky people when it came to general tidiness. After a moment or two of observation she suddenly realised that the apartment was not so much clean as it was… barren. Aside from the furniture, a cheap looking television set and exactly six well-thumbed thriller novels, there were no signs that someone actually lived here. While she couldn't see inside the bedroom due to the interior door being closed, she was reasonably certain that it would look the same as the living room and kitchen. The lack of personal possessions made the place look even larger.

"Well, welcome to mi casa," said Xander, letting Buffy enter before him, "Sorry about the mess, the maid has been very lazy lately. The maid being me."

"How did you get this place?" she asked as she looked around, "Even for a dump like this, New York is expensive."

"Hey," he said defensively as she grinned at his reaction, "This is my home. Anyway, I won it in a card game… oh… just about two or three months ago."

"A card game?" she laughed, "It sounds like you've had a couple of adventures while you were away."

"One or two," he said cryptically, cracking a smile. Neither of them said anything for a while after that and the friendly silence soon evolved into an awkward silence. "So," he said awkwardly, clearly speaking just to shatter that deafening silence, "Can I get you anything to drink? Water? Coffee? Tea?"

"Actually, now that you mention it, tea would be great," she replied. As he boiled water for the tea she couldn't help but feel terrible over just how awkward this was, how guarded they were both acting. There was small talk but nothing of substance had actually been said. They had been friends but now was the first time that they had spoken in almost three years. The fight against the First Evil had been long and brutal, taking all of them to a very dark place and none of them had handled it well. He had allowed himself to become more and more withdrawn to the point of just one day up and leaving after Anya died while she had gone to the other extreme, forcing her commands onto everyone without care for anyone else thought.

"Just let it sit for a minute or two," he said as he placed a steaming cup of tea before her as she sat at the kitchen counter.

"So how have you been?" she asked, internally wincing at the lameness of the question. "I mean, vampire dusting vigilante aside," she quickly added.

"I've been alright," he said, shrugging, "Among other things, I grew a beard." He pointed to his chin to illustrate the point. "What about you?" he asked, "How's things with the Slayers?"

"Quite good actually," she answered, "It's all changed quite a lot since you… uh, left. We've become a lot more organised. You remember Kennedy?" He nodded.

"She and Willow were dating right?" he asked.

"Not anymore," she said, "From what they both told me it was really more of a fling than an actual relationship. But now I've got her acting sort of as my second in command. She deals with all of the little things so I can focus on the direction of the organisation as a whole. Giles is always on the move, bringing new players on board. He even managed to find a few Watchers that survived the purge to join us. He seems to enjoy being the highest ranking Watcher on Earth." The corners of Xander's mouth twitched.

"That sounds like him," he said, grinning before taking a sip of tea, "He always loved being in charge."

"I catch him grinning at the thought whenever he thinks that I'm not looking his way," she stage whispered, leaning forward conspiratorially. They both laughed and for a second it felt like that the past few years had never happened and that they were as close as ever. "So where did you learn to fight like that?" she asked him before draining half of her tea, "You jumped off a bridge like it was nothing and all of that flipping and punching was new."

"You do that all the time," he pointed out.

"Yeah but I'm a Slayer," she said smugly, "What's your excuse."

"Fair enough," he replied, "I got some training a few years back. It wasn't deliberate preparation for what I do now or anything like that. If anything, it just out of sheer boredom."

"Seems reasonable." They were both silent as they finished the rest of their tea.

"So," he said after another awkward silence, "The bedroom is through that door. You can have that tonight. There's also a shower in there if you want. You know I'm surprised that you didn't book a hotel or at least bring a change of clothes."

"Well to be fair I didn't even know that I was coming to New York until, oh, six hours ago," she replied, checking her watch, "It was sort of a spontaneous, last minute thing." She screwed up her face as she realised something. "I don't suppose you have anything in my size?" she asked, really wishing that she'd brought a travel bag.

"Yeah, I might have a t-shirt and some shorts that could fit you," he said, "They'll probably be a little baggy but I'm sure that a woman as accomplished as you will find some to manage. And don't worry about the towels, they're clean."

"Thanks," she said, "I feel bad about taking your bed. Are you sure that you don't want me to sleep on the sofa?"

"Nah, it's fine," he said easily, "I usually fall asleep out here watching the TV anyway so it's all good."

"Well then, I think I'll turn in," she said, "After all it's… oh god, two-thirty in the morning."

"It's always good to have an early night's sleep," he said sardonically as she walked to the bedroom. She paused at the bedroom door and turned to look back at him as he settled onto the sofa.

"Hey, Xander," she called out softly. He looked up at her. "I don't think I said this before but… It's good to see you again." He smiled crookedly at her.

"Likewise, Summers," he replied, lying down on the couch and closing his eye, "Goodnight."

~o~O~o~

Buffy savoured the sensation of hot water on her naked skin. She hadn't realised how much she had been wanting a shower until she saw the en suite. She immediately stripped down and tuned on the water to as hot as she could stand and stepped in. As she washed she let her thoughts drift to the others and wondered how they were doing. Odds were that Willow would still be in China for the next few days while she dealt with a sorceress that traded in Slayer blood. Giles and Dawn would be back at their base in Edinburgh along with most of their Slayers. Finally, she regretfully turned off the water as she really needed to sleep. She rummaged through Xander's closet and drawers until she found something that was close enough to her size to wear to bed. Just as she was about to turn out the lights she noticed something at the bottom of one of the drawers. Curious, she reached down to pick it up and saw that it was a photograph, the only one that she had seen in the entire apartment. It was heavily folded and worn as though it had been carried a pocket for some time. She turned it over and choked back a tear when she saw what it depicted. It was a photo of them, all of them, clearly taken some time during her first year of college because Riley, Tara and Anya were all there as well. She smiled sadly. It had been a much simpler time then, all of them together and happy. Nothing had been the same since her resurrection. It had just led to one dark thing to another and another and another until there were times where she would wonder if the warmth and friendship off those early years had ever been real. The sad part was that it had been real and that they still had allowed themselves to drift apart from one another.

She placed the photo on top of the bedside chest of drawers and laid down on the surprisingly comfortable bed. As she slowly drifted off to sleep she let her thoughts wander. While putting the whole team back together again was an action strictly borne of necessity, a small, possibly naïve part of her was hoping that it could also help heal the rifts that had grown between them all.

~o~O~o~

I hope you enjoyed this. The next chapter will feature the other Scoobies. Please let me know how you are finding the story, what you like and what you think could be improved.