Summary: Faith and Xander decide to try the dating thing. Romance, revelations, and (of course) mayhem follow. Follow-up to "The Manchurian Slayer."

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

Rating: PG-13, for violence and language.

Time Frame: Post - "The Zeppo" and in an alternate timeline established in my earlier story "The Manchurian Slayer."

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me ( 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.


Part I

"Have you got all of that down. . .good. Faith and I don't like to repeat ourselves. . .all right, Wesley will be on the next plane to England, and I strongly suggest that you either give Giles his job back or send someone else who can punch his way out of a wet paper bag and who won't try to sell us out the first time a demon threatens his kneecaps. . .all right? If not, you guys can find another hobby until the next new Slayer pops up somewhere. . .and I think that Faith and I will have a fairly good life expectancy. . .got it? Okay, ba-bye." Buffy placed the receiver in the cradle gently, then stalked out of Giles' office and glared at the visibly humiliated Wesley as he packed up his things and left the library without saying a word to anyone.

Giles had said very little as Buffy and Faith took charge of the situation after the group had rescued Giles and Wesley from the demon Balthazar. They had heard his fumbling attempts to give up the location of the amulet, then together with Angel, Xander, Oz, and Willow, they had made short work of the Eliminati vampires and Buffy had delivered the coup de grace by electrocuting the repulsive Balthazar. Afterwards, Buffy (with occasional input from Faith) had verbally eviscerated Wesley and informed him that there was no way in hell that they would ever listen to a damned thing he had to say ever again. Giles had almost felt pity for the poor bastard as the Slayers crushed his will to resist, and he said nothing as Buffy and Faith called the Council and delivered a scathing report on Wesley's actions. The Council had agreed to recall Wesley for questioning, and by the time Buffy hung up Giles had the feeling that the Council would be looking at recent events somewhat more closely than they had up to that moment.

Buffy glared at the closed library door for a few minutes while everyone else remained silent. Abruptly, she turned to the others and smiled, commenting, "Well, that was fun. . .Faith, I'm taking off. . .see you at the house. Willow, I'll walk you and Oz home. Later, Giles, Xander." She walked out, Oz and Willow waving to the remaining occupants of the room as they departed. Giles looked at Faith and Xander and commented, "Well, we've certainly had a busy day. . .I need to get some paperwork finished. . .but I suggest that you two call it a night. See you tomorrow." He walked into his office and closed the door, leaving Faith and Xander alone.

Xander turned to Faith, about to tell her good night and head home, when he noticed Faith's expression: she looked stressed, and as if she wanted to tell him something. He grinned and asked, "Something on your mind, Faith?"

The Slayer grinned back and replied, "Yeah. . .I'm seriously stressed, and I think I need a serious change of pace from the Slaying routine. . .remember the conversation we had the night the Hellmouth opened?" Xander nodded. . .that night was quite prominent in his memory. Faith continued, "I think it's time we did something about what we talked about."

Xander paused for a long moment, considering Faith's words, then nodded again: "All right, Faith. I'm game. What do you have in mind?"

* * *

"A DATE?!"

Buffy winced at the tone and volume of Willow's incredulous question. She gave her best friend a dirty look and commented, "A little louder, Will: the Master couldn't hear you in Hell."

Willow looked abashed for a moment, then her face turned unpleasant again as she whispered, "What do you mean Xander and Faith are going out on a date?"

Buffy sighed: this was not going to be easy. "Remember how we found out what Xander was up to while we were closing the Hellmouth?"

Willow nodded and winced: between what Faith had told them and Angel receiving odd reports from his information sources around town, they had pieced together a fairly thorough description of Xander's hectic evening. . .their master plan to keep Xander alive while they dealt with the Apocalypse had almost backfired fatally for Xander. Buffy continued, "Well, after Xander finished saving Faith's ass, they went back to her room and talked for a little while. The bottom line was, from what I've been able to follow from Faith and Xander talking around the subject a lot, is that Xander told her that he didn't just want to be one of the guys she fooled around with and then walked out on, and Faith told him that she didn't have a problem with that, but that she wanted to change her life, and that going out on a normal, everyday date with him seemed like a pretty good way to start. He agreed."

Willow smiled at the description of Xander's reaction, then frowned again as she looked towards the stairs. Faith had moved into the Summers' guest bedroom two days after the defeat of the Sisterhood of Jhe: Buffy and Giles had decided that enough was enough, and that Faith was not going to spend any more time isolated in that rat-trap hotel the Council had been putting her up in. Upon hearing their suggestion, Faith had playfully suggested that she move in with Giles: this suggestion was immediately vetoed by Buffy and a visibly uncomfortable Giles on grounds of living space and propriety. Buffy had gone to her mother and suggested the idea of Faith moving in; unsurprisingly, Joyce Summers was thrilled at the idea, and had refused Faith's offer to give her the money the Council was sending her for motel rent. It was Faith's entry in a visibly upbeat mood, followed by her heading upstairs "to get ready" that had prompted Willow's questioning and Buffy's hesitant answer that told Willow what Buffy had known since that morning.

"So Xander's going to be here in a little while. . .and they're going to go out just like that?" Willow asked, her curiosity now overcoming her discomfort. Buffy nodded and replied, "Just like that, I guess. Faith put Xander in charge of picking the restaurant and the movie, and he'll swing by to pick her up in his uncle's car in a couple of hours. Sounds pretty nice to me." She looked a little downcast, and Willow felt moved to ask, "What's wrong, Buffy?"

The Slayer sighed, then replied, "I don't know. . .it's just that for all the time I was with Angel, and how much we cared about each other. . .we never had an evening like the one that Xander is going to have with Faith. Oh, we'd cuddle in a cemetery, or kiss through my window after Mom grounded me for some slaying-related offense, but we never really went out on a date type date. Even that stupid coffee thing we were going to do got screwed up by an ambush and my insecurity about Cordelia moving in on him. I told him that dating was something normal girls got to do. . .not Slayers. Now, I wonder if I was wrong, and if it was not that Slayers can't date, but that I can't."

Willow could see that Buffy was hurting, and she reached out and squeezed her friends arm before saying, "Buffy, if things are calmed down enough so that she and Xander can have a night on the town without demonic interference, it's because you and Faith. . .with a little help from the rest of us. . .have cleaned this place up. The Mayor is dead, the Hellmouth is closed, and two of our friends are going to have a nice evening together. I say, good for them! Why shouldn't. . ." The redhead paused and frowned yet again, then looked at her visibly amused friend before continuing her thought in a rueful tone, ". . .wait a minute, wasn't I the one who was ticked off at this? How did I end up being a cheerleader for them?"

Buffy grinned and replied, "Maybe it's that Xander is your friend, and that you want him to be happy. Maybe it's that you know that Faith has had a rough couple of months, and that you realize that a quiet evening with a great guy will do wonders for her psyche. Or maybe it's that Oz was a little annoyed at your reaction when Faith laid that kiss on Xander and if you slip up again, you might be without Oz-snugglebunnies for a while."

Visibly annoyed, Willow replied, "Buffy Summers, I will not dignify that last comment with a response," before smiling ruefully and reaching for a textbook. "All right, fun is fun, but we've got some English homework that requires our serious attention. Let's get cracking."

* * *

Two hours later, the doorbell rang, and Buffy and Willow could hear Mrs. Summers go to the door and open it. They heard her exclaim, "Xander! You look wonderful. . .come in! The girls are in the kitchen." Buffy and Willow hurried out and saw Xander, who did indeed look good. He wore a dark blue jacket and slacks that fit him as if they had been custom made, and the shirt he wore complemented the outfit perfectly. Willow called out, "Xander. . .where did you get that? I've never seen you wear it before."

Xander looked uncomfortable, then replied, "Uh. . .someone I know said he owed me a favor, so he took me to a few places last night and we picked this outfit out. . .it looks all right?"

Buffy and Willow nodded in assent, then Buffy asked with a wicked grin, "Oh, Xander. . .who was your mysterious benefactor. . .surely you wouldn't mind telling us?"

Xander glared at her, then mumbled something under his breath. Buffy put a hand to her ear and feigned deafness before goading, "I'm sorry, Xander, I didn't catch that. . .who was it?"

"It was Angel, all right?" Xander snapped, looking trapped and embarrassed. "He came by and suggested that averting his being blown to smithereens was kind of a big favor, and that he had heard about my impending date and wanted to help out. I couldn't afford a decent suit, and my cousin's tux would be overkill . . .so I reluctantly accepted Dead Boy's help, OK? I don't want a lot of kidding about it. . .by the way, how did you guys find out what I was doing that night anyway?"

Buffy grinned and replied, "Xander, it's difficult to do as much as you were involved in that night and not have someone notice. Between Faith and a lot of eyewitnesses around town, not to mention the bomb that Angel saw the janitors sneaking out of the building early that morning, it was not difficult to figure out that you didn't stay home watching TV that night. Sorry, Xander, you just have to live with the fact that we know you saved all of our butts that night, and that no matter how hard we try to prevent it, you find ways to nearly get yourself killed. At least if you go out with Faith, you'll have an effective bodyguard."

Xander winced, then laughed hollowly before retorting, "Very funny, Buffy. It's nice to know that my sad excuse for a love life still provides amusement to you all." He looked over at Willow, who was watching him with a sad smile on her face. "Are you having problems with this, Willow? I think we can do without a repeat of the whole thing with Cordelia."

Willow nodded and replied simply, "I just want you to be happy, Xander, and I think Faith could use some quiet time right now. Just be careful, OK?"

Xander grinned and replied, "Don't get too concerned, Willow. It's just a simple, normal date tonight. . .nothing earthshaking. Still, on the whole, I'd say things are looking u-" He paused in mid-syllable and stared up the stairs with his jaw slightly slack. Puzzled, Willow and Buffy moved into position to see what Xander was looking at, and were startled at what they saw.

Faith was standing at the top of the stairs, looking down at the transfixed Xander. She wore a black evening dress with translucent fabric loosely covering her arms: the rest of the dress flattered her curves while leaving a lot to the imagination. The dress was slit to the midpoint of her thighs, showing a view of legs that Xander and the others usually saw only in jeans. She wore a classic pair of black pumps, surprising Buffy, who had heard Faith bitching about how uncomfortable heels were ("If some guy thinks he's going to get me to wear those things, he's got another thing coming. I'll put up with a fairly substantial amount of crap to get laid, but those damned shoes aren't going to be one of them."). She had cut her hair to medium length and apparently done so at a good stylist: the hairdo framed her face perfectly, revealing light makeup that subtly enhanced her natural beauty. She was smiling softly, apparently waiting for comment, only to see that all three of her friends were staring at her, and that Xander seemed comatose.

Faith walked up to Xander and waited impatiently for a long moment before asking, "Uh. . .Xander, do I look all right?" Xander remained silent, still staring, and Faith seemed to be getting exasperated until Buffy came to the rescue, commenting, "Generally, Faith, slack-jawed staring by the male of the species can be considered as a 'yes' to that question; however, it can be overdone." She walked over and nudged Xander in the ribs, breaking the spell. Xander blinked, looked Faith up and down slowly and deliberately, and managed to quietly reply, "Uh, Faith, I'd like to be able to say exactly how great you look, but as Buffy and Willow can tell you, the SAT proved that my vocabulary is not up to the job. . .but I think it can be summed up with. . .wow."

Faith grinned and replied, "I'm glad you think so. . .and 'wow' is just fine, thank you. Are you ready to go?"

Xander nodded and replied, "Your chariot is waiting outside, milady," as he bowed deeply. Faith actually giggled at the spectacle before looking over at Joyce, who had just walked up and was also obviously taken aback by the transformation of Buffy's friend. "I won't be too late, Mrs. Summers. Later, guys." She offered her arm to Xander, and he accepted it after waving to his friends and Joyce. They walked out, closing the door behind them. Joyce smiled and exclaimed, "My goodness, Faith really looked wonderful. . .I hope they have a nice time tonight." She went upstairs, leaving Buffy and Willow still looking at the closed front door.

Willow recovered first, turning to Buffy and asking, "Well. . .now what?"

The Slayer frowned, then replied, "I'm going to visit a certain vampire I know and let him reassure me of my attractiveness and dateworthiness for the next few hours. . .how about you?"

Willow replied, "Ditto. . .but substitute werewolf for vampire." Relieved that neither of them was the only one feeling slightly insecure at the moment, they went to use the phone, ignoring the sound of the car pulling away outside.

. . .to be continued

As always, comments are welcomed and desired