Summary: Xander spends a Friday evening in the library studying, and things get weirder from then on.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for sexually suggestive dialogue and general themes.

Time Frame: "Bad Girls." A few things are different. . .

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (eilandesq@aol.com) to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.


Xander stared at the trigonometry textbook, willing it to make sense and having little success. He sighed. Friday night, and he was stuck in the library, studying like crazy with the desperate hope that he could keep all of his grades in the passing range. It was bad enough that he was looking at a whole lot of "no way" letters from the colleges he had applied to, but the thought of not graduating with his friends just sucked. . .unlike Oz, he didn't have the consolation of having a girlfriend one year behind him that he could spend the next year with. Not to mention that another year of living under the reign of terror that was Principal Snyder was a serious incentive to study.

He heard footsteps, and looked up, thinking that Giles had returned to do some research. He stared at the sight of Buffy: she was dressed to kill, wearing a leather mini-skirt and a black top that covered very little. Xander willed himself to breathe and called out, "Hey, Buffy. . .are you trying to slay vampires by causing them to hyperventilate?"

Buffy smiled softly and replied, "Naah. . .it's been a slow night. . .when we took out Balthazar, I think it scared the hell out of most of the other vamps in town. . .they're laying low for a while, and there are no new graves to stake out. I was thinking of spending a night on the town. . .but Willow's busy, and Faith isn't one to pass up a patrol even if she thinks there probably isn't anyone out there. . .so I went looking for my Xander-shaped bud." She scowled at the books in front of him and commented, "Studying on a Friday night. . .isn't there a law against that?"

Xander gave her a mock glare and replied sardonically, "Some of us want to graduate, Miss-Skate out-in-the-middle-of -a-Chemistry-test-to-play-with-Faith Girl. Besides, since you seem to be able to keep Sunnydale safe from lard-assed demons without me, I had some time on my hands."

Buffy gave him a look, then walked over and grabbed a chair, turning it around and straddling it as she looked at Xander and replied, "Oh, don't be like that. That was a seriously unpleasant scene. . .vampires with swords are no fun. Faith, Angel, and I had our hands full, even after we freed Giles. . .he's wicked with a sword, you ought to see him in action with one sometime. Besides, wasn't saving our asses from those zombies a couple of weeks back enough to let you know that we need you?"

Xander blinked and managed to croak out, "Uh. . .I mean. . .how did you find out about that?"

Buffy grinned, and replied in the tone of a quote, "Oh come on, Xander. . .just because I'm gorgeous doesn't mean I'm stupid." She visibly enjoyed the startled look in his eyes as she continued, "It started the morning after. All of us remembered running into you that night and seeing that you were upset, but we were too caught up in the whole apocalypse thing to think too much of it. Then I went to check to see that Willy the Snitch was all right. . .and he dropped some comment about 'tell that tough guy buddy of yours that he did O.K. last night.' I started to get suspicious, so I went to Angel. . .everyone knows he has sources almost as good as Willy's. . .and he wasn't out of commission during the last few days. He hemmed and hawed, then told me most of it. Quite a night you had, Xander. . .meeting up with the world's first zombie street gang. . .thwarting their nasty plan to blow up the school and inadvertently take the rest of the world with it when the Hellmouth opened. . .boinking my new little sister before you went out to do battle with-"

"ANGEL TOLD YOU THAT?!" Xander was seriously pissed off, and didn't bother to hide it as he continued, "What business does Dead Boy have telling you tha-" He stopped in mid-sentence at the smirk on Buffy's face, and he mumbled, "Uh. . .Angel didn't tell you that part, did he?"

Buffy shook her head, then calmly replied, "Nope. Faith was asking me some strange questions about you when we first ran into those Eliminati vamps. . .wanted to know if we had ever done it together." Xander flushed, and Buffy continued, "I wondered why in the hell she would ask me that. . .so after we finished off Fat and Slimy, I cornered her and asked. . .and she came clean. No wonder you were in such a good mood the morning after that."

Xander was mortified, and found that he couldn't look at Buffy as he replied, "Uh, yeah, Buffy. . .it was one of those things that just happened, you know? She was worked up from fighting that Apocalypse demon and, well. . .just how mad are you at me?"

Buffy raised an eyebrow and responded, "Mad? Why would I be mad, Xander? It's not like you forced yourself on her, and. . .Xander, you do know that she takes these things kind of casually, don't you?"

Xander snorted and replied, "Getting kicked out of her motel room in my skivvies two minutes after we had finished was kind of a tip-off that she wasn't looking to wear my class ring any time soon. . .assuming I had a class ring to give her." He frowned at her and asked suspiciously, "What, did she send you over to see if I was going to bug her from now on? You can tell her I'll leave her alone. . .I just hope I haven't screwed things up with her in general. . .I like her, you know."

Buffy's expression softened, and she replied, "She's cool with it, Xander. . .she was having second thoughts about it too. There aren't many guys around who have saved the lives of two Slayers, you know. . .Faith asked me to pass along a 'thank you' that didn't involve the exchange of bodily fluids." She gave him an appraising look, then stood up and walked around to his side of the table, pulling up the chair next to him as she continued, "Talking with Faith got me to thinking. . .maybe I've been wrongheaded about a lot of this stuff myself."

Xander blinked, puzzled, then asked, "Could you clear that up a bit? I'm not following you."

Buffy looked at him calmly, then replied, "Xander, I've been all caught up in the idea of having the perfect love. . .the normal life. . .but I'm beginning to think that it's just silly for me to be obsessed with that. . .not to mention the fact that even when I try to be responsible. . .it comes back and bites me in the ass. I waited for almost a year to sleep with Angel. . .and BAM! Instant murderous stalker. . .just add Buffy." Her face contorted momentarily, and Xander was preparing to say something comforting when she continued, "Damn it, the odds are that I'm not going to be alive that much longer anyway. . .why not just enjoy life while I can while I'm fighting the good fight. . .carpe diem and all that." She smiled at him and commented, "Maybe Faith has the right idea, Xander. . .why don't we just enjoy ourselves without all of the obsessing over true love and all that crap?"

Xander stared at her, disbelieving, before asking, "Buffy. . .you haven't died recently, have you? Wait, wrong question. . .you're being nice to me, so the question should be whether some idiot has cast a random love spell on you. . .because the last time we had a conversation like this, you were about two minutes away from a serious cheese obsession."

Buffy chuckled, then replied, "Nope, it's just me. No black magic. . .no post-death trauma. . .just me looking at my life and asking, 'Why not?'" She met his eyes with a questioning look, then asked, "So, Xander, why not?"

Xander was feeling an unpleasant mixture of arousal and uneasiness: he swallowed and asked, "So, what's your plan, Buffy? We do it in your room for fifteen minutes, then you toss me out of the front door in my briefs? That's good for a chuckle once, but I'm in no hurry to have it happen again any time soon."

Buffy grinned at him and replied, "Not a chance. . .you're way too important to toss aside that way, Xander. . .what would I do without you around to save my ass when I do something dumb? No, I'm just saying. . .no strings. If we find someone we like better, we break it off. . .no regrets. Just two buds having a good time together. . .what do you say?"

Xander stared at her for a long time, then took a deep breath and responded, "I say no, Buffy." He looked away, willing himself to stay calm.

Buffy laughed and replied, "Really? What, you'll sleep with Faith but I'm not good enough for you? Is that it?"

Xander could tell that Buffy was trying to get a reaction out of him, but the shot was well wide of the mark, and he managed to calmly respond, "Buffy, I was seriously stressed that night. . .and Faith was even more worked up than I was. Maybe I should have shown a little more restraint, but I didn't. I've got a little more time to think about things right now, and I'm worried that you're not firing on all cylinders right now." He met her eyes again and commented, "It's been a rough month for you. The Council pulling that stupid test on you and firing Giles. . .sending that idiot Wesley to replace him. . .it's all thrown you for a loop, Buffy. . .and I'm not going to take advantage of that. . .it would be like if I tried to seduce you when Angelus killed Theresa and turned her into a vampire just to send you a message. . .that's not what I'm about."

Buffy closed her eyes, and Xander could tell that she was remembering that horrible night. After a moment, her eyes opened and she replied, "Wesley's not a problem anymore. That little weasel offered to give up the amulet to save his kneecaps, and Faith and I called the Council and screamed bloody murder about it. Those tweedy bastards are recalling him, and unless they send someone a hell of a lot more competent, they can just sit on their hands until the two of us buy the farm. . .we've had it." She locked eyes with him and continued, "So that excuse is history, Xander. The Council isn't a problem, Wesley is history. . .and I'm feeling pretty good about things. So, I ask again, how about it?"

Xander closed his eyes for a long moment, then looked at her and replied, "Sorry, Buffy. . .I still have to say no, though I will admit that there is a strong minority position inside my head that thinks that you have come up with the greatest plan of all time." He looked at her, seeing that she wanted an explanation, and shook his head before continuing, "Buffy. . .this hasn't been the best year for me. . .helping to save the world aside. I've been really harsh to you. . .and I almost got Angel killed a couple of months back when even I have to admit he didn't deserve it. This whole big Angel thing is still hanging over your head. . .the point is, I'm amazed our friendship has lasted this long, given what has happened between us, and I'm not going to risk it by rushing into something unless it is worth risking it over. . .and as theoretically appealing as fooling around with you whenever you get into the mood is, it's not enough."

Buffy raised an eyebrow at him and replied, "You think I'd drop you over an ended love affair? Xander, you have to know that you mean more to me than that."

Xander closed his eyes for a moment, then replied, "I know, Buffy. . .and it means a lot to me. But rushing right into something casual after breaking it off with Angel. . .deep down, you'd see it as a reproach to what you had with him. Eventually, you'd start blaming yourself for that. . .and it's not far from that to blaming me for participating in it. . .particularly since you know that I've never been a big fan of Dead Boy anyway." He paused at the odd expression on Buffy's face, then continued, "It was one thing when you started dating Scott Hope: you were taking it seriously, then events kind of blew it all to hell. . .which happens, even in places without a Hellmouth. But you're going into this with the thought that it isn't going to lead to anything. . .and that isn't good."

Buffy looked at him with intensity, then responded, "You're not being straight with me, Xander. . .what's really your problem with this?"

Xander looked at Buffy, and noticed that the visible emotion on Buffy's face was not anger, nor concern. . .it was simple curiosity. He had spent over a year considering what he would do if she asked him a question that led to the answer that he was so terrified of giving her, but his carefully laid plans came to naught as he looked into the intense green eyes and whispered, "I love you, Buffy."

Buffy blinked, hard, but said nothing. Xander found that he could no longer look at her, and he continued, "Angel called me on it when I went to him to get him to lead us to the Master's lair. . .I didn't bother to deny it-to him or myself--then, but I did later. I cared about Cordelia. . .I still do. . .but deep down I think I knew that I wasn't truly in love with her. . .and she knew it too. She always watched me like a hawk when I was around you. . .I think that's why she took the thing with Willow so hard: we blindsided her. Willow and I had the attraction for awhile, but the way it ended made it clear that the friendship came first between us. I've tried to make the same choice with you. . .and it's been hard. It's not easy being in love with your hero. . .and knowing that it just isn't going to happen between you and me. For the record, I think that I would have mostly behaved the same way about you and Angel if I didn't feel the way I do. . .but I'd be lying if I didn't admit the green-eyed monster was at least nudging me along. . .I'm sorry. I know you think that you're suggesting what's best for you, but I think you're wrong. . .and I'm sure it isn't what's best for me, either." He took a deep breath and forced himself to look at her as he concluded, "Buffy. . .I'll understand if you don't want to see me for a while. I'd do anything for you. . .except knowingly betray our friendship. . .and I think I'd be doing that by going along with your plan."

Buffy stared at him for a few seconds, then began laughing. Xander tensed up, then the tone of the laughter set in: it wasn't mocking or otherwise unpleasant; rather, it was joyful and genuinely amused. He waited as she regained her composure and whispered, "Damn. . .she was right."

Xander was puzzled, and asked the obvious question: "Who was right, Buffy. . .and about what?"

The Slayer shook her head ruefully and replied, "Faith. . .Xander, we had a close call the night we took out Balthazar. Faith and I were going through this alley, and we kept getting attacked by those sword-crazy Eliminati vampires. We had a nice fighting rhythm going, then someone grabs me from the shadows and I toss him against a dumpster. To make a short story shorter, Faith came within an eyelash of staking this guy who turned out to be the deputy mayor. . .who was coming to give us the goods on his boss-who is apparently a major league baddie. Big problem. . .but the more immediate problem was that both of us were seriously shaken up by the close call: we had been living life in the fast lane since Wesley arrived, and it almost blew up in our faces. After we took out Fat and Slimy, I suggested that we head back to her room for a lengthy heart-to-heart, and she agreed. . ."

* * * * *


Faith winced and pleaded, "Easy, B. . .the walls are thin, and I don't want to get kicked out of here."

Buffy flushed, then replied, "Sorry. . .didn't mean to react like that. . .it's just a shock. . .I didn't know that you two were close in that way."

Faith shrugged and commented, "It was just one of those things that happens sometimes." She quickly told Buffy how it had happened, and Buffy frowned before commenting, "You were lucky he came along. . .that was kind of cold, Faith, throwing him out like that."

Faith looked embarrassed, then replied, "Yeah, I know. . .but it's the way I've been doing things, you know? Nothing personal about Xander. . .he's a good guy. . .never crossed me." She grinned and commented, "At least we kept him clear of the battle zone that night. . .that would have been bad for him."

Buffy laughed and replied, "No, we didn't." She told Faith what she had found out from Willy and Angel about what Xander had been doing that night, and Faith laughed and commented, "That sneaky bastard! He never said a damned thing. . .why didn't he just rub our noses in it. . .we tell him to stay clear, and he saves all of our asses. . .I'd think he would have been gloating about it."

Buffy smiled softly and replied, "Xander has a way of keeping quiet about these things. . .I wouldn't know a lot of what he's done without Angel to spill the beans." She smiled wickedly and commented, "Still. . .we don't have to let him be smug forever. . .I'll let him know we know, and watch him squirm. . .should be fun." Buffy looked at the younger Slayer thoughtfully and asked, "Faith, I know you're all invested in this 'all guys are beasts' thing, but Xander's a great guy. . .why don't you give him a shot? I know the two of you well enough to know you've got stuff in common. . .and he's a good guy to have watching your back. . .I ought to know."

Faith noted the earnest expression on the older Slayer's face, and nodded as she replied, "I've thought about it. . .but I see one major problem in the way."

Buffy looked at her, thinking, then responded, "Willow? She might not be thrilled. . .but after that whole mess last year, I think she's permanently attached to Oz at the hip. Besides, if she wanted Xander, she had a clear shot at him after his breakup with Cordelia. . .I think they got each other out of their systems."

Faith nodded and replied, "That was my take too. . .but I was talking about you, B."

Buffy snorted and responded, "Me? I told you, Faith. . .I love Xander, I just don't LOVE Xander. . .besides, it seems like we've been fighting for most of the last year. . .great future for a relationship there."

Faith smiled and commented, "I've watched you two together, B. Sure, the whole Angel thing has had you screaming at each other for a lot of the time. . .but I've seen how he looks at you: it ain't just lust or hero worship, 'cause I've seen both of those. As for you, I know that you think Angel is the center of your world, but you've been trying to move away from all that. . .which is good for you and the rest of us, since I've heard all the stories and I've fought enough crazy super-vampires for a while, thank you very much. But I've noticed how you look at Xander: you may not even be aware of it, but you're starting to notice he's a guy. . .and I think you're starting to wonder what it would be like if-"

"Of course I've wondered," Buffy admitted, looking at the younger Slayer with a sheepish look on her face. "A guy asks you to a dance, you turn him down, and a day later he saves you from a thousand year old prophesy about your death. . .you start to wonder whether someone's trying to tell you something. But I was in love with Angel, and Willow wanted him. . .I couldn't-" Her eyes widened as Faith smirked, and she shook her head and concluded, "No . . .maybe. . .I just don't know, Faith. . .it's not something I've been giving deep thought to, you know?"

Faith grinned and replied, "Yeah. . .I know. You'd better find out, though, one way or another. I'm not going to go to all of the effort of breaking him in just so you can decide he's boyfriend material and grab him. . .between my own experiences and watching what happened with Cordelia, I'm not going near that scene. Go for it. . .and tell him thanks for me. . .I think I'm going to stay clear of him for a while. . .might be tempted to do something stupid." She smiled tightly and changed the subject: "So, you were going to tell me about that whole thing with Ted?"

* * * * *

Xander stared as Buffy concluded the narrative, then asked quietly, "So, this was all about finding out how I felt about you? There was no need for the song and dance, Buffy. . .you could have asked."

Buffy shook her head and replied, "That's not all it was, Xander. . .I needed to know how I felt about you. As close as we've been over the years, we've hurt each other a lot, too. . .I wanted to know how real my feelings were for you. I've got as much at stake as you do. . .I needed to see how you would react, and how it would make me feel before I did anything."

Xander nodded and asked, "So. . .what conclusion did you come to, Buffy?" He waited for a response and was startled when Buffy leaned forward and kissed him very softly on the lips.

Buffy saw the confusion in Xander's eyes, and she explained softly, "Faith was right. . .I need to move on from Angel, and I have wondered what it would be like with you. . .and I've decided that I want to give it a shot . . .a real shot, not just me fooling around with you whenever the mood strikes. . .but it's up to you, Xander. . .what do you want?"

Xander exhaled, then looked back at her and asked, "Is this a trick question? It sounds great. . .Buffy, what would you have done if I had gone along with what you were proposing earlier?"

Buffy looked at him thoughtfully, then replied, "I would have gone through with it. . .then figured out how to end it without losing you." She shuddered and whispered, "Thanks for getting me off the hook. . .that would have been tough."

Xander leaned over and kissed her softly on the forehead, and replied, "Not a problem. . .all right, so we're going to do this seriously, huh? Well, I think we should start by spending the rest of the evening here studying, since while your awesome SATs have insured you a future in higher education, I'm still looking at barely getting out of this hellhole come June. Then tomorrow. . .I want to take you out on the town. . . fancy dinner, movie. . .the whole nine yards. Non-negotiable. . .how about it?"

Buffy pouted and mumbled, "Studying on a Friday. . .seems immoral somehow. . .but I guess it's part of the package. . .O.K." In spite of her complaints, she quickly settled down and actually managed to concentrate on the trigonometry equations. Neither of them noticed the dark-haired figure quietly watching them from the stacks.

Faith frowned. * Being right sucks sometimes. * She shrugged and left the library. * At least I avoided a big mess with B and Xander. . . * She thought for a moment, then it occurred to her that there was another single man she trusted as much as Xander. . .a guy who had always been attractive to her, and who was as of now no longer (officially, anyway) her Watcher. It would be a challenge. . .but, hey, the whole point was to change the way she did things, right? She grinned and went out into the night, planning the gradual seduction of one Rupert Giles while Xander and Buffy remained behind, scribbling notes and smiling softly at each other.

As always, comments are welcomed and desired