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Xander assembled the hand-held crossbow slowly, making an effort not to use his soldier memories. This wasn't about the soldier memories. It was about making new memories. About being able to do this, to do this fast. To be a warrior. To be—

His thumb caught the bow-string, pulling it taut and snapping the crosspiece against his knuckles. He let out a shriek that was vaguely unmanly, and dropped the entire assembly, which hit the floor and exploded, sending little bits all over the floor.

To be a big klutz, apparently.

He sighed and began picking them up, glaring at the dishwasher, which was making a humming noise. He was sure it wasn't supposed to hum, but lacking amazing mechanical powers, a skill that being a soldier for one night hadn't given him, he wasn't sure how to stop it.

He had, however, managed to make it run again, after only eight hours of bruising his knuckles and cracking his shins on the nearest object.

He looked down at his battered knuckles. He looked like he'd been in a fight. Which was ironic, because whenever he HAD been in a fight, the bruises had shown up in other places. His ribs, his head, ...

Good memories.

Claire was working outside, putting up more crosses, strategically arranged mirrors, and the occasional crossbow, loaded and ready for action.

She was remarkably tough. Once he'd shown her what to do, she'd gone nuts, simply covering the place with wards and anti-vampire measures.

Of course, if Spike ever returned, Xander knew that wouldn't help much. After all, Spike had grabbed the cross out of his hand. Xander had never seen a vampire do that before. He'd faced down vampWillow with a cross (or, well, Giles had, but Xander was there!) and she hadn't grabbed it.

On the whole, Spike was a level above most vampires. Xander knew that.

That's why he'd killed two Slayers.

Xander glanced at Claire, who came in. "What should I do now?" He asked.

"Just sit there." She advised. He tried to stand up, and couldn't.

That was a good thing. Because as long as Claire could still give him orders, then he was in good shape.

They'd established, so far, that nobody else could give them orders. Only those who had been under Gissard's spell. The four of them. And Ricky was gone, and Spike would be gone as long as the spell lasted.

And Xander hoped very much it would last forever.

He took a drink from the cup nearest him, and made a face. Water, eugh! He wanted chemical, sugary goodness, right about now.

He could almost hear Willow and Buffy chanting in his ears, health consequences, healthy choices, blah blah blah blah... He tried to get up to go fetch one, but was still stuck, thanks to Claire's compulsion.

Oops.

He glanced at Kam, who glared back from over his hot stove, a feral grin on his face.

Xander winced. No, no soda from him. He looked around, hoping that somehow a soda would miraculously appear in front of him. He contemplated yelling Buffy's name, since that usually got him out of any trouble he was in.

But she wasn't here.

He glared at the water. "I will have my revenge on you for this insult!" He promised the water, taking another drink.

He gave Kam a goofy grin, and Kam responded with a snarl.

He swallowed and went back to the crossbow. New memories. New skills. A warrior...

*Snap!*

He couldn't get off the stool, but he could let out a yelp that sounded like a thirteen year old girl.

It was good to know your limitations.

**

Xander limped through the empty club. "Claire?" He called.

"Yeah?" She said from behind him.

"Yaah!" He jumped up into the air, which wasn't so very high at all. He came down breathing heavily, clutching his chest. "Don't do that!" He stuttered.

"Sorry." She said unapologetically. "What?"

"Whew! I was wondering about Kam."

"What?" She asked impatiently. "That's it? Kam? He's a cook."

Xander stuttered, but Claire went on by, and he let out a sigh. "Right, he's a cook. So silly of me."

He went back to the kitchen. The dishes were clean, the dishwasher was running, the place was vampire-proof—he had nothing left to do, did he?

He really needed to move on. See the world. At least the grand canyon. Wasn't there some purple mountain majesty out there for him to see? Hm.

He heard a noise behind him and checked for a stake in his pocket. Nope. Waistband? Double nope.

"Gee, I sure hope that's Lee!" He said cheerfully, turning around to come face to face with the girl, who was frowning at him.

"Weirdo." She said, moving past him. "Payday already. God, I am so going to blow this weird joint!" She glanced back at him. "Hey, what?"

Xander shook off the look of horror on his face. "Right, yeah, payday, great."

She'd said she was going to blow the joint. And, right then, he'd remembered that he was supposed to put the green washer back into the dishwasher, on top of the funny bolt assembly in the middle of the engine.

And, hmm. He hadn't, because there it was, right there.

He groaned. That certainly explained the groaning and knocking noises. "Uh, want to give me a hand with the dishwasher?"

"What? Ew, no way!" Said Lee. "I'm just here to book. Get my pay, and gone. Whoosh." She nodded enthusiastically.

He tried to come up with a snappy rejoinder, but managed to finally say, "yeah, sure," in a vaguely insulted tone of voice.

Then he grabbed the screwdriver and got back to work. "I just put this thing back together, Chewie!" He said under his breath.

**

Xander grimaced, clutching his forehead. Claire squinted at his forehead. "It doesn't look broken." She said skeptically.

"Are you sure? It feels broken." He said, never letting go for a second.

"Not broken." Said Claire definitively. "Just a little dented."

"Oh, okay." He muttered. "And the overwhelming agony?"

She glanced from the red welt on his forehead to the dishwasher. "That's your brain's way of telling you I'm going to kill you for blowing my dishwasher up." She said calmly.

"Uh, I can fix it." He said quickly. "It's just the front axle thingy."

"Do I need to get a professional down here?" Asked Claire.

"No!" Said Xander. "This, I can do this. Fix dishwashers. Really! That is something I can do."

"Where's Lee?" Asked Claire.

"Did you pay her?" Asked Xander.

"Yeah."

"Whoosh." Said Xander. Off Claire's look he added, "Gone like the wind. She booked."

"Oh." Said Claire, disappointed. "Now I'm down a dishwasher."

"I can cover it till you get somebody." Said Xander. "I mean, considering I blew up your dishwasher, it's the least I can do."

She gave him an odd look. "You know, most guys spend their time trying to stay out of the kitchen."

He shrugged. "I'm just that kind of sensitive nineties guy, I guess." He said with a grin.

She rolled her eyes. "I wish I could find reliable help for this place." She said, standing up and moving away. "Kam! Chicken tonight, I think."

Kam nodded and made some odd muttering noises, glaring at Xander. Xander grinned nervously in return, sitting up and edging away from the cook. Kam glared some more, and Xander climbed to his feet, breaking away.

Later that night, as he washed dishes, Xander realized that he could have done all this back in Sunnydale. And then he probably could have spent time with his friends.

But wasn't this some kind of coming of age experience? Designed to make him a man? Or at least make him moderately less wimpy. Was that too much to ask for?

Apparently it was. Jenny entered the kitchen, just slightly tipsy.

Xander did some quick mental arithmetic. From her state of inebriation (ha! Take that, Wills! Big word! Big word!) he would guess the time to be about 9:30. He checked the clock. 10:15. Hm.

"Get off work late?" He asked her.

She blinked. "Uh, yes." She said. "How did you know that?"

He shrugged. "Call it my amazing mutant ability." She was always tipsy before ten, and flat out drunk by eleven. Passed out drunk by midnight. And at closing time, one in the morning, she was still passed out, but awake enough that Claire would drag her off to her home.

Her empty home.

And what could Xander do about that? The big ol` Zeppo had run away from his own family. His big, loud, drunk, obnoxious family. He spent Christmas camped out under the stars to avoid his drunken family.

What did he know about domestic bliss and missing your family so much you drowned your sorrows? About now he missed Will enough to drown his sorrows, true enough.

Well, not quite true. About now he missed GILES enough to drown his sorrows.

And how sad was that? Giles and he barely got on at the best of times! Giles barely tolerated him, he was sure.

Back to Jenny.

"Okay, it's your amazing mutant ability." She said, amused.

"Darn tooting." He said, borrowing Will's favorite saying. For a moment he floundered, wanting to say something witty, wanting to change her life somehow. He came up with a total blank, and smiled his goofiest smile again, getting back to the dishes.

"Don't you ever cut loose? Party?" She asked him.

"No, not often." He admitted.

She grinned. "You should."

She was swaying slightly. Okay, maybe she was a little drunker than he had thought. "No, that's okay." He said. "It's almost eleven." And why would that mean anything to her? How would she know that vampires usually waited till later to show up?

"Eleven?" She asked.

"Rush hour here in the kitchen." He said, smiling.

What a lame cover up. No wonder he wasn't a cool superhero like Buffy; if he had been, he would have blown it. Clearly.

Claire entered the kitchen. "Hey, we have issues." She said.

"What?" Said Xander. Was it a vampire already? He hated vampires.

"No, one of the dancers has stage fright. Can you try to talk him down? Or, er, up."

Hm. Too bad it wasn't a vampire. He would have loved a vampire attack about now.

"Sure!" He said cheerfully.

"Oo, can I help?" Asked Jenny.

"Sorry, Jenn, honey, but no." Said Claire. Xander left, stripping off the horrible yellow gloves he wore to wash dishes as he did so.

The stripper was blubbering, standing by the stage entrance wearing feathers. Lots of feathers, for the moment. "I can't do it, man, I can't do it!" He whimpered.

"Hey." Said Xander. "I did it." Oh, and what a mental image that was. Memories and everything.

The dancer looked at him, terror in his eyes. "I need money to get through college. I thought it would be easy money. But look at them! They're monsters!"

Xander snuck a peek out, and had to agree. The one in the front row kept flinching back from the cross hung beneath the curtain between her and the stage. "Yep. Monsters." He agreed. "Just remember, they can look, but they can't touch."

"Just the thought of their eyes on me!!" Whimpered the stripper.

Xander sighed. "I'll be right back." He said.

Now, how was he going to get that vampire out of the crowd?