WHAT CAN HAPPEN IN NINE MONTHS?

Disclaimer: I do not own nor have rented anything to do with Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series. I do however have a nice collection of 19th century wooden spoons that I have prepared to let out for a reasonable sum of money, offers on the back of a postcard please.

Background: This story is set after the series finale but with one minor difference. Sunnydale was not destroyed.

CHAPTER ONE - THE RETURN

Xander stepped off the bus. He was home. He was back in Sunnydale. Six months had passed since he had last stepped foot in this town. Nine long months. Xander had changed; for starters he now possessed a formidable beard. Kind of like a cross between Santa Claus and old Canadian lumberjack. He had left nine months ago almost to the day to go work in China. It was hard work but it paid well, very well. His construction company had been contracted to built a series of dams across the Yangtze River. It was the opportunity of a lifetime and he hadn't regretted going one bit but he was glad to be home. He missed America. He missed Sunnydale. He missed his friends. During his time in China he had met lots of people, beautiful women, more beautiful women, and those old wise Chinese guys that he didn't understand a word of what they said, but he hadn't met anyone like his friends from Sunnydale. They were special to him. They were his family. However, as I would expect, contacting America from the deep dark heartland of rural China is quite a task, hell, contacting the rest of China from there is difficult at the best of times. He hadn't spoken to his friends for quite a period of time, nine months to be precise. They didn't even know that he was back in Sunnydale. He had considered calling them from LAX but decided the surprise would be too good to spoil. He liked surprises.

So he found himself standing on an anonymous street in an anonymous Californian town feeling glad to be home. It turned out he quite liked the Californian accent. He liked it so much he came to miss it. But now it was all around him and he was loving it. He felt like hugging the next guy who walked past him. He didn't. He hadn't been away that long.

Meanwhile across town in an average suburban house the age-old struggle continued as it shall continue long after it's current players are gone. "Hey! I've got the remote. That means I choose what we watch." "That's so unfair!" A blonde girl had a small black rectangle object in her hand, which she held gloriously above the two other girls in the room. A young brunette stared on with fire in her eyes and TV guide in her hand, while a redheaded woman lay curled up in a sofa. "Anyway, who died and make you king?" Asked Dawn. Buffy looked confused for a moment before responding, "I did." Dawn realised what she had said, "Oh, yeah." She struggled to regain her place in the argument, "Yeah, well, I want to watch it!" She knew she sounded like a spoilt rich kid but she didn't care. Buffy was acting so damn unreasonable.

Xander approached the house that he had spent so much of his life in. Good times, bad times, and late night movies. This house had seen them all. For some reason he hesitated on the curb outside the house. His heart started to beat like he had just run a marathon. His palms sweated like he was on a first date with that hot chick he had met on the plane. What was he so nervous about? This was Buffy, Willow and Dawn. They were his friends. They were his family. Despite that a wave of uneasiness cascaded over him. A lot could happen in nine months. What if they had changed? What if everything had changed? What if he had changed? He thought for a minute. He didn't feel like he had changed. He didn't feel any different, apart from the beard of course. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a slight movement in the curtains of a house across the street. He had better not loiter any longer. What would the neighbours think? Maybe he had changed. Maybe he had changed into a 1950s housewife. Jesus Christ! He had gone all the way to China on his own but he couldn't walk the ten yards to the front door. What sort of a man was he? He should just walk up to the door and knock. Just walk up and knock. Oh, for the love of God, just walk damn it! He walked.

Inside the house the argument had continued and turned ugly. There was hair pulling, name-calling and improper use of a lifestyle magazine but thankfully everything had calmed down. Willow had acted as peacekeeper and put on the mutually acceptable E! Entertainment network and a show called Hollywood's Hottest Hook-ups. It was at number 23 in the countdown when there came a knock at the door. The three girls looked at each other. None of them had been expecting anyone. "Dawn, answer that, would you?" Commanded Buffy. Dawn's face became a picture of annoyance, "Me?!?" She shrieked. "Why me?" Before Buffy could answer, Willow, feeling the return of conflict, stood up and said, "I'll get it." Satisfied the two Summers' girls went back to the television and a series of clips of Matt Damon and Minnie Drivers. Willow reluctantly tore herself away from the screen and made her way to the door. She reached the handle, turned it, and opened the door, and her mouth dropped.