Title: "Future's Past"
Chapter 1 of 5
By: Shawn

Summary: A desperate time-traveler saves Buffy and Xander's life from a ruthlessly animalistic demon who's hell bent on killing them based on something they do eight years in the future.

Rating: R for language, sensuality, and graphic violence. The rating will change as the story progresses.

Category: Romance/Action Adventure/Drama

Ship: B/X

Slight Warning: This story will deal with some religious elements as it progresses, but nothing resembling a judgment, endorsement, or denouncing of any faith.

Timeline: We begin this story post-Season Six, in late August of 2002, except with these changes. Tara was severely injured and that caused Willow's dangerous episode with black magic, but Tara did not die. Willow did kill Warren, as well as Spike, who died by Willow's fury as he was attempting to flee Sunnydale. After Xander was finally able to get through to Willow and save her, Giles took Willow and Tara to England for the summer so that the Witches Coven could help them recover from all that had happened. In addition, Dawn went with them, needing time away from Sunnydale and all it's memories. Buffy and Xander have been alone in Sunnydale since late May until the start of this story.

Authors Notes: What happens when you stand on the precipice of something grand... something you've wanted since forever, or just discovered made you feel so good, and then your entire world is turned upside down around you? Follow Buffy and Xander as they lay the past to rest, only to fear a future they never imagined.

"The family you come from isn't as important as the family you're going to have."
-Ring Lardner

1630 Revello Drive
Buffy's bedroom
Sunday, August 25, 2002 6:25 AM
Sunnydale, Ca

The very first question that came to mind was, how did she get here?

Okay, she knows perfectly well how she got here. Home last night, at least. Yawning herself slowly awake, Buffy shifted under the covers, feeling the uncomfortable restriction of the same clothes she slayed in last night. While unconsciously refusing to open her eyes, she attempted to go over the events of last night in her head.

Another day, another dollar. All five classes she taught yesterday went by without a hitch. So far, so good after two months on her new job, teaching self-defense at the Palace Fitness Gym. Certainly a step up in pay, as well as self-respect from the Doublemeat Palace.

Arriving home after work, she found two new messages waiting on her answering machine. The first came from Xander, explaining in his trademark sarcastic way how he had a late business meeting, followed by an attempted dinner with his parents, and potential hanging of himself after said dinner. She didn't envy him in the least for the latter. No matter what happened when he came home she'd be there to talk to him if he needed to. The second message however, made her want to slam the answering machine threw a wall, inevitable as it was. Ever since Willow took her walk on the wild side and conjured up such a massive amount of black magic last May, Sunnydale had seen a significant drop in demonic and vamperic activity over the summer. So much so that Buffy was now patrolling a few times a week rather than every night.

No ones tried to take over or destroy the world in well over ninety four days. Buffy and Xander have a Finding Nemo calendar on her refrigerator marking the days. It was either the calm before the storm of the century, or perhaps the bad guys had finally gotten sick of Sunnydale. Take your pick.

Unfortunately for her, a quiet Saturday night with a good book and some ice cream wasn't in the cards as she listened to Clem's phone call. Xander bought the lovable, if skin impaired demon a Nokia cell phone in early June. He's always at the demon bars and poker games. He's been Buffy's chief informant all summer long and gave her the tip that a werewolf had been sighted near the docks the last two nights, and that someone had been attacked. Ever the hero, Buffy put her novel and tub of ice cream down, grabbed a axe, and staked out the docks from 10:00 PM until 2:00 AM in the morning. Thoroughly bored, frustrated, and pissed, she waited and waited. She found no sight of Oz or any other werewolf, but did come across a large stray dog with a bad infection in it's leg. Placing a call to the city's animal services department allowed them to tranquilize the animal and take it in for treatment.

Well, at least the poor animal wasn't in pain anymore.

Having wasted her entire evening, Buffy walked home half asleep as it was, not even remembering using her key on the front door or if she locked it at all behind her. Somehow, she made it upstairs to her bedroom. Thankfully, Xander fell asleep on his side of the bed for once. Usually they fell in together and there were no problems. However, those rare times she's arrived late to find him laid out in the middle of the bed haven't been very good wake up calls for Mr. Harris.

Pushing herself up on her right elbow, the covers drifted from her chest to her lap as the yawns took her again. She blinked a few times, her eyes finally opening to Xander's still-sleeping form next to her. Facing her with one arm resting against her leg. Shaking her head free of the early morning cobwebs, she wondered how no matter the position they slept in, one was always touching the other in some way. She also pondered if he would ever buy another shirt to sleep in than that old and holey, thought not in a religious way, black Los Angeles Raiders t-shirt.

Back to the mystery at hand. Buffy did recall stumbling into her bedroom, sitting at the edge of the bed with the intent to kick off her shoes, and quietly get into her sleeping attire, all while not waking Xander. Her final memory of last night was of thinking those things, but not actually doing them.

Arms stretched above her head, her muscles awakened, and that felt so good, clearing her head a bit. Under the covers she wiggled her bare toes, wondering where her boots and socks had went. As the covers shifted yet again, the top button on her jeans was undone. Curious. Maybe curious. Sighing, her lips curled into a knowing smile as things began to focus. She had an idea of what happened, and when her eyes darted to her night table where the ear rings she did not take out were resting, she figured she had her answers as well.

Slipping quietly out of bed, Buffy made her way to the bathroom to pee, then brushed her teeth. She crept back into her bedroom. Scanning her alarm clock, it's still early. She didn't have to be anywhere, except maybe to get up in a few hours and make breakfast for a very sweet man who takes such good care of her. Scary thoughts, though vastly appropriate.

Her dresser's her next destination. Buffy undressed without a hint of shyness, She never once glanced over her shoulder to see if Xander had woken up or anything like that. All bashfulness has fled their friendship. They've seen each other covered in all types of blood, filth, mud, sewage, puss, slime, gook, and every other conceivable form of something that could cover another person. Seeing each other in their underwear just didn't rank.

Comfortable at last, she donned her pink Hello Kitty tank-top and a old pair of gray pajama pants a size

to big. Loose and so comfortable they were priceless. Climbing back onto her bed, she eased under the covers and laid her head down on her pillow, loving the soft feel of it against her cheek.

Inches away from her slept this guy. A nice guy, but a guy nonetheless. A good guy. A sweet guy. A guy with his mouth slightly open, one arm over his head, and the other lying where her leg had been. His hair's an early morning mess, though kind of attractive to her for some reason. Stubble adorns his face in a masculine way, giving him features a slightly older, more mature appearance.

There's no need to look under the covers. She knows what he's wearing, especially since she's wearing half of it. Having received a matching his and her gray pajama set for Christmas last year while he was engaged to Anya, they never wore them. One day while on patrol, maybe two weeks after Anya left Sunnydale, Buffy remembered complaining about needing a new set. Xander offered the girls half of a set he had never opened, and there you go. He's been sleeping in the guys half ever since. Why? Well, Buffy may not be up to looking into that to deeply just yet.

In just under two weeks things will change yet again. Willow, Tara, and Dawn will be coming home and undoubtedly will ask far to many questions as to why she sleeps with Xander every night. It would be easier if they were lovers or involved with one another. Explaining that it's just more comfortable sleeping with your best friend might not fly. Of course in her head, Buffy could already hear their arguments as to why she's sleeping with Xander. That's a conversation she's not looking forward to. And not even for the most obvious reasons.

It's just that ever since they left, it's been Buffy and Xander all summer long, alone. June saw them simply getting used to their friends absence, as well as their own friendship reconnecting the dots after the worst year ever. They spent more time together than they ever had, just talking. And finally, they talked about everything. Spike, Xander leaving Anya at the alter, Angel, their mutual fear of what Willow is capable of, Dawn's problems in recent months, Joyce's death, Xander's parents, work, college, and everything else under the sun. Slowly, but assuredly the silences faded away and nothing was off the table.

With such a big house and no help coming in, bills were intruding upon Buffy's life once more. She knew she needed a better paying job, but seldom had time to go looking for one. With Xander's lease on his place up at the beginning of July, he posed an idea to her. Allow him to move in and share the bills 50/50 for the rest of the summer, then he'll find a new place when everyone comes back home. Buffy didn't make him wait, immediately taking him up on his offer. They were together most evenings anyway, whether it had to do with Slaying or just hanging out, so this was perfect. The extra money coming in didn't hurt either.

Buffy couldn't pinpoint when perfect became intimate. And not intimate in the widely understood meaning of the term. No, the intimacy she shared with Xander was born in how they shared their lives with one another. Hopes, fears, mistakes, loses, and everything in-between. Intimacy came in the forms of eating off of each others plates as if it was no big deal. Knowing exactly what the other wanted from every fast food restaurant they ordered from without having to ask. Doing each others laundry with no quails about unmentionables. The simple things made intimate somehow.

July 12 saw the first night they slept in her bed, just after a particularly brutal night of slaying. One that saw them discover the mutilated bodies of nine college students before Buffy and Xander were able to track a experienced and vicious vampire down and put an end to his existence. Walking home afterwards, past the news camera crews, grieving family members, policemen, ambulances and body bags, they just didn't know what to say or do. Shit happens and people die. They've heard it all before. As long as you're alive though, some things will still get to you.

Upon arriving home, Buffy asked Xander in such a weary voice to sleep with her. She told him she needed to feel close to something good and warm that night. Something familiar. She needed to feel close to him, and he echoed those same feelings. That night led to the next night, and every night after. The intimacy they shared didn't see them sleeping in each others arms, or waking up kissing or anything clichéd. They simply shared a bed and talked. That was it. That was all.

That was enough.

Either he's dreaming of something's crawling on his head or... Popping one eye open, Xander found Buffy considering his hair, gently combing her fingers through it with a cute smirk on her face. "What are you thinking in that oddly affectionate mind of yours?"

"That you need a haircut."

"Hey, I say," he grinned, turning on his side next to her. "I'll have you know that my hair is the regulation length for all construction crew chiefs."

"I think I'll call you Shaggy."

Casting his eyes over her clothes, he noticed she's changed already. "My name is Xander, thank you very much. And my hair is fine," he stated, smoothing it back for effect. It still stuck up in all directions, much to Buffy's amusement. "It's good hair. Streamlined for speed and efficiency."

"It needs to be sheared down a bit," Buffy continued, pushing his hand out of the way to pull a few errant strands, accentuating her point. Her soft touch was waking Xander up more than anything else. "You need a haircut before people start thinking my best friend is a tall, handsome girl."

"Handsome?" arched a eyebrow, as if he could let that go.

A slip of the tongue... maybe. Switching gears, he did deserve something. "Thank you for last night."

He hadn't expected her to bring it up. Maybe he hadn't wanted her too. Just another awkward moment to go along with all the rest in the past two weeks. "Hey, when I see a beautiful woman pass out on the bed I'm sleeping on, I know that the right course of action is to make her as comfortable as my gentlemanly ways can offer."

"You even took off my ear rings." Spoken with no small amount of surprise, or mirth. She's touched, oddly

enough. "It was a very sweet thing to do. When I walked threw the door I was dead tired."

"Yeah, when I found you asleep I called out your name a few times and even shook your arm. You were comatose and..." he leaned closer, grinning in her face. "When I took your boots off I noticed your left sock had a hole on the big toe."

Her best mock appalled expression. "When saving the world, one mustn't care about ones attire."

"Superman wouldn't save the world with a hole in his sock."

"I'd like to see Superman save the world on his period like I've had to do a few times."

"Well, you do have a point there." As always, the ease of their friendship settled between them, never mind the underlying new closeness of recent days. "How was the slaying?"

Lying down on her back, eyes to the ceiling, Buffy told all. "Last night I became Buffy the Veterinarian." Shaking her head, she looked at him again. "Clem heard reports of a werewolf near the docks and someone being attacked. It turned out to be a big sick dog. I used my cell phone instead of my stake and poof, saved the world via my cheap nights and weekends plan."

"Is the dog going to be alright." She nodded, stretching again. Her tank top rode up just a little, revealing her toned flat belly to his hungry eyes. Despites his best efforts, he took a long gazing look, then away.

Buffy felt that. Felt the heat of his eyes upon her in a most unfriendly way. The only question is why isn't she bothered by it. "How was your evening." His groan had nothing to do with her and no doubt everything to do with Ma and Pa Harris.

"My business meeting went well and boring as usual. At least I'm at the table of the kinda-big boys, and on the road to being at the table with the real big boys."

"And..." she prodded gently enough, scooting closer to him on his sigh, just to be near. He didn't have to tell her he needed her. She knew, and the fact that she knew only underscored how close they've become over

the summer. "Please tell me."

"It was typical, Buff," he began in that new serious tone of voice he used when he's in a somber mood. "Mom and Dad are more focused on making each other miserable than caring about anything I do. Talk of my promotion ended with the passing of the gravy. And after the first few beers got into my Dad, well, it was time for the Xan-Man to hit the road."

Sometimes she wanted to kick down the Harris's front door and beat some sense into their heads for ever hurting and not being proud of their amazing son. Xander's never been given anything and he's made a career for himself that's blossoming. Instead of congratulations and support they add nothing but more grief on the pile. Luckily, two weeks ago when Xander was promoted he and Buffy celebrated with great dinner at a nice restaurant, a expensive bottle of wine... and an almost kiss. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay. Par for the course."

"You deserve better."

Taking an action he's not sure is the right one, his hand sought hers under the covers, heated to the touch. Their fingers entwined briefly. "I have the best."

Her smile's brilliant, even if fear hides behind it. A new world is just over the horizon. She can feel it. Things between them are not how they once were. Then again, after the year they've had how could they

not change. "So what do you want to do today?"

"Not get a haircut," he joked, to which she hit him with her pillow. He'd attack her back if it wouldn't lead to a wrestling match of sorts. One he'd lose, though the idea of her on top of him, pinning him to the bed, straddled across his lap...

"Earth to Xander. Hey, what are you thinking about?" Fighting a losing battle in hiding that he's thinking about her, Buffy surmised with no ego. She knows that grin. "So, today. What's the what?"

"I say we take in a early movie, cause I feel the urge to overpay for pizza and soda while watching things explode onscreen. I still haven't seen Minority Report. Any problems with that, oh pretty girl who would not have to pay her way or for snacks?"

Now that's an offer she can sink her teeth into. "Deal. And while we're out you can get a haircut."

"And you can buy some new socks."

Back and forth as ever. Even with the underlying looks they share these days.

Her clock read 6:50 AM, still much to soon to be thinking about getting up. "I think we need more sleep."

Hearing her include him in her sleep talk does a little flutter thing in his heart. He hides it very well, or at least hopes he does. God, she's so beautiful to him. "I'm all for more under the covers fun." His turn for the slip of the tongue has him scrambling to amend it. "Y... you know what I mean."

"No, I don't. Tell me." No way she's letting that one go. Her smile just kept getting wider...

"You know. Under the covers fun. Sleeping fun. Eyes shut. R.E.M. Not the band, the dreaming state. All that stuff."

"Are you propositioning me for sex, Mr. Harris?"

"Absolutely, positively not... unless you're open to... ... hey! Why did you hit me with your pillow? That's so not nice."

She had to diffuse that ticking time bomb. Problem is, it's still ticking. It's been ticking for two weeks now. "Nice is not a requirement for a Slayer. Now behave and go back to bed. You'll need to get your own again in two weeks, so you better enjoy this one while you're here."

"That sucks."

Her eyes opened wider than she intended. Maybe her heart to. He seemed to be savoring her surprise. She's somewhat stunned by his openness. "Why is that?"

"I like sleeping with you." Okay, baby step time. He's been working up to this. Just one little baby step. "I love spending time with you when it's just us, hanging out or patrolling or shopping or even researching the things that go bump in the night." Stealing a quick breath, one that's as deep as the one he took years ago in front of Sunnydale High School when he asked a girl out, Xander pressed on. "I've never felt as close to you as I have since we've been sharing the same bed. There's something about sleeping with you that makes me want to do the Snoopy dance. Makes me feel at peace. And I hate that we are going to lose that."

We don't have to, Buffy longed for the courage to say. Wished and wanted to find that part of herself that could admit the impossible. Admit that her friendship with Xander has evolved into a loving relationship of sorts. It's terrifying because unlike Spike, she can't lose him. Then again, she's reminded, he'd never leave her. Not in the sense of her life. He's taken a huge risk here. His eyes can't hide that from her. He's out on that limb all by himself, and for once, she's going to join him. "I'm not sure of everything or even some things sometimes. I do know what makes me happy in my life. And right now you rank so very high, Xander. It's our business what we do, and when Dawn, Willow, and Tara come home, I still want you to sleep here... with me."

In the midst of taking his baby step, he never looked sideways to see she had taken one too. Now he knows that he's not been seeing things he's wanted to see in recent weeks. Exhaling, he had to cover all this up with something funny. "God, your tummy looks sexy." That damn Xander charm. She's laughing at him, and moving closer, her pillow now resting right next to his. "Go back to sleep. You've had a long night."

Not a hint of a complaint from her would be filed. Feeling good after their talk and admission without admitting anything, Buffy's eyelids slowly shut on a yawn. "I like your arms."

"You do? I got two of them you know." More laughter, though he knows she needs her sleep. "You take care of the whole world, Buffy. Let me take care of you."

"You're the only person I trust for the job."

North Riverside Mall
Monique's Boutique
Sunday, August 25, 2002 1:30 PM
Sunnydale, Ca

Ever eternal, time kept on ticking by.

The very first time Buffy stepped inside the dressing room, Xander sat back and relaxed in a gray comforter far more comfortable than even the one he had at home. This minor detour of a shopping excursion was a spur of the moment decision, and not one made by him. The second his lady friend saw that Monique's Boutique had finally opened, she made it her prey and he was just along for the ride.

One doesn't say no to Buffy. One simply nodded accordingly.

Feeling the relationshippy vibes of going shopping with your girlfriend, only in his case she's still just his girl-friend, Xander enjoyed the envious looks he received from other guys. Being drug around the mall by a beautiful woman had it's high points, especially when Buffy looped her arm in his. Unfortunately, it also had it's low points. Points such as being in one store for well over an hour as other shoppers seemed to come in, find what they want, and leave. Buffy seemed to find what she wanted, tried it on, liked half of it, then went off in search of what would complete the look she's striving for.

Fun has evolved into a mute agony the likes of which has Xander nearly about to pull his hair out of his head.

Sighing to himself, he flipped through the last page of the last Cosmo magazine lying around, no doubt left for the shoppers frustrated boyfriend/husband, who had nothing better to do than read about things he'd otherwise not want to know. Never one to shuck knowledge, Xander's learned several ways to win a conversation with women, though he's used six before and lost every one. He also discovered nine things to look for incase his man is cheating on him. And if he were gay that might have been a helpful tip. He did, however, get a great recipe for cherry cobbler. He even stole the page when no one was looking.

"Thanks for being patient, Xander. I'm almost done. This is the last thing I'm going to try on. I promise," came from behind the maroon curtain.

He would have shouted 'Take your time,' but he said that thirty minutes ago when his patience was near an end, and not at the end it is now. The real problem is that to him, she looked amazing in everything she tried on. Short skirts, Capri pants, boot-cut jeans, light summer dresses, just everything. Her never ending search for clothes seemed so unnecessary, as well as appearing very Cordy-like. Pushing that bad thought aside, the optical-Viagra before him when she exited the dressing room simply took his breath away.

A vision of elegant carnal sex appeal. One little black cocktail dress with a high neck adorned her slim figure perfectly, as if it were made for her alone. As sexy as the dress made her feel, the way Xander hungrily stared at her caused her goose bumps. His best attempts at giving her a normal once over fell flat. That special way a loved one could make you blush just by the way they looked at you, that was how he was looking at her right now. She felt naked under his ravenous gaze. "I haven't bought myself a little black dress since forever. Of course, I haven't had a date since forever either."

Her self-depreciating humor aside, his breath was taken away the second she walked out. Say something cool, sexy, and mature. Something that Angel would say if he had a personality and his hair could move. That's what Xander quickly thought to himself. "Buff, you put the ow in wow."

Smoothing down the side of the dress, she had to admit it looked damn good on her. "You think?"

"Let me buy it for you," Xander blurted out before he even knew he said it.

Where did that come from? Buffy fixed him with a exasperated expression. "I can buy it, Xander. Money's not an issue," she laughed while moving in front of the full length mirror on the side of the dressing room. A sudden flush of warmth echoed over her when Xander suddenly shadowed her, hands in his pockets, gazing at the picture they made. Watching him, she's energized by his obvious approval. The want in his eyes felt so good. "What?"

"Barring the opening of the Hellmouth, that devastating earthquake geologist have predicted will hit California someday, aliens from Mars attacking, and another demon attempting to take over or destroy the world, will you please do me the honor of going out with me Tuesday night? On a date, I mean. I wouldn't make you pay half the tab."



A date... A date with a boy. Well, she is straight, but still. A date... A date with Xander... An actual going out with him as a guy-guy and not her Xander-shaped friend. A date where she's supposed to make herself look sexy and he'll try to look handsome. A actual, real life date with Alexander Lavelle Harris. Good God Almighty! Buffy needed to take a long deep breath to process all this. No, what she needed was a drink. Her world suddenly began spinning faster than normal. Dates are meant to be romantic. Romance. Buffy knew she didn't mix well with romance. In fact, she mixes badly with romance. But something inside her wants this so badly. "I'm really scared to go out with you, Xander," she admitted honestly. "Cause if we go out, we might enjoy ourselves. And if we enjoy ourselves, we might kiss. And if we kiss, that could lead to more romance and eventually sex. Lots and lots of hot exhausting sex."

"Okay, where's the bad here?" he considered behind her with a timid smile, wishing he had the power to read her mind so that he could say all the right things.

"I am Man-Poison, Xander," Buffy declared with her hands helping her accentuate the point, going so far as to air-trace a skull and crossbones. "Hasn't my every relationship shown you that?"

"I certainly hope you don't think I'm the cure judging by my previous relationships. He who leaves a woman at the alter shall not cast the first stone."

"But... but... but." She's stuttering all of a sudden. Her hands are fidgeting at her sides. She damn near needs to run. Just get away before everything goes to hell. "You're Xander."

"Well that's obvious. And you, my height-challenged gorgeous friend, are Buffy."

"Buffy and Xander don't date."

"Who says?" he teased over her shoulder, moving in a little closer. "I will hunt down the person who said that and beat some sense in him. Or her, if that's the case. Okay, not if it's a girl... I could pay another girl to beat her up."

Ducking her head from his gaze, Buffy's voice turned slightly fragile. "I haven't really liked someone in a long time. Not in a good way that made me all tingly and want to write my name and the guys in a notepad over

and over."

"If I pull your hair and run will you say yes?"

He could always make her laugh at the most inappropriate times. Turning around slowly, her eyes lifted to finally face him. "This has been one of the very best summers of my life, Xander. I feel good and strong about myself again. I've had so much fun with you. I feel safe with you, and that means a lot to me. I never eat alone or wonder who I'm going to see the new movies with, because I know it's you. I haven't felt alone one time this summer. I'm actually feeling for the first time like my life might turn out okay ever since my mothers death." Thankfully, the stores pretty empty, so no ones around them except the casual shopper walking by. "A great deal of where I am in my life now is do to you. If we dated and it didn't work out and you left, I don't know what I would do."

"So you'd rather not date me because you would lose me if it didn't work out? Is that what you're trying to say?"

"I'm a big ole emotional fraidy cat, okay." Her eyes shut as his arms slipped around her waist, tugging her flush against his body. He rested his chin on top of her head, so much taller and bigger than she was. Here, she felt safe and loved. In the mirrors reflection she had to admit they did make a nice looking couple, causing her lips to curl into a smile. "I'm terrified by how deeply I care for you."

"I feel the same way, Buffy. Up until this summer I hadn't really thought about us in a coupley sense for well over two years. I fell in love with Anya and it was the real thing. It just wasn't the lasting forever kind of thing."

"Like being turned to stone?"

"Exactly. I wished I would have handled things differently, but I just didn't want to be turned to stone with her forever."

Having spent the last six years together, even their personalities were in sync. They talked and related in a way no one else could truly understand. Wincing, Buffy had to ask a painful question. "I'm a little surprised you still want me after..."

Spike. He's always in the room, even now as he's dust blowing in the wind, courtesy of Willow's rampag last May. "Buffy, you hooked up with the wrong guy, had a bad relationship, and broke it off. Ultimately, that's all it was. I've never not wanted you. It's just now I want you more than ever, if that makes any sense. I'm tired of hiding it from you. I think I'm finally at a place in my life where if you say you don't feel the same way about me that I feel about you, then I can deal. My world won't end. Oh, it'll be turned upside down, but it won't end."

"What if I feel exactly the same way you do."

Hope began to swell in his chest. Bending to her ear, he whispered, "Then you'll let me buy this dress for you, take you out to dinner on Tuesday night, and kiss you in the not to distant future. Please."

He's nervous as he holds her, attempting to convey confidence, but she knows different. His attraction to her is as undeniable as his affection. He's just looking for a ghost of a chance. Invoking a shyness within her is a surprise indeed. She just might be in love with this boy. "Okay, spell out this date in detail?"

Exhaling softly, Xander had his answer. That playful smirk is one he knows all to well. It's usually the one she wears when they are playing Monopoly, he's low on money and about to land on one of her properties. "I'll let you buy the lobster and not even expect sex later on in the evening."

"Wow," she giggled in his embrace. "That's so generous of you."

"I'll buy the oldest bottle of wine I can afford from the menu."

He's excited now, nuzzling the side of her face with his smile. "You're not going to try and get me drunk, are you Mr. Harris?"

"Ms. Summers, I'll be so nervous on our first date that I will need the alcohol to calm my nerves."

Sweet and honest. Kinda perfect in her eyes. "What else?"

"I'm not a great dancer or anything, but I'd like to take you out dancing after dinner. We can cut a rug someplace nice, just not the Bronze. I want to take you somewhere we've never been before."

He kissed the top of her head and she simply cannot stop smiling. "That sounds really nice. The cutting of the rug and all. I won't have to bring scissors, will I?"

"Oh, and you can expect white roses and chocolate candy before the date. I have no intention of shortchanging you on the romantic stuff."

"Who hit you with the romantic stick?"

"I've been hit with everything else while slaying with you, so the romantic stick had to come around eventually." Spinning her in his arms, he's face to face with the woman he knows he's falling in love with all over again. Precious is the only word that comes to mind when he looks into her beautiful hazel eyes. "I believe the answer you want to give me is yes."

"Yes." Fortune favors the bold, or at least she'll get a good steak dinner. One of those phrases will apply to her date with Xander. His smile is brilliant, lighting up her day. "Xander, I'm going to go back in that dressing room and take off this dress. I'm going to put my clothes back on, grab the other stuff I'm buying, and hand you this dress. Then you're going to go pay for it." Standing up as tall as she could on her tippy-toes, she pressed a light kiss to his cheek, testing the waters. His lips were so close... "While I'm gone I want you to think about this." A little lip bite accompanied the soft whisper that escaped. "There's a very good chance you're going to get shagged out of your mind Tuesday night." Feeling that she struck the right cord, Buffy slipped from his arms, backing towards the dressing room. She turned to walk in when he spoke.

"From your mouth to God's ears." Grinning wildly, Xander took his seat again.


"Yeah, Buff?"

"God's listening."

"I haven't held hands with a boy in the mall since the eighth grade on a school field trip."

"You're way ahead of me, Buff. I've never held hands with a boy in the mall at all. When I was younger, Jesse and I made Willow walk in the middle so if the need to hold hands and not get lost was necessary, we never had to hold each others."

"You don't know what you missed out on. Holding hands with a boy at the mall is like waiting in a long line to ride a Ferris wheel, if I remember correctly. I may be wrong."

"I'll take your word for it."

Riding the escalator down on their way to the food court, Buffy felt enough was enough. For some inexplicable reason she wanted to touch him, so she did, taking his hand in hers after they dropped off their shopping bags in the car. Clichéd and old fashioned, it felt nice being connected to someone as they walked through the mall together. Blending in with the sparse crowds on a quiet Sunday afternoon saw them learning to enjoy and accept this new level of closeness they shared.

"What do you have a taste for, my dear?" Xander led her by the hand down the center of the food court. "Pizza to the left, ribs to the right, Mexican delights up ahead. Ladies choice, of course."

Tapping a curious finger against her lips, Buffy surveyed the scene. "I do believe that my low cholesterol has been due to a general lack of pizza in my life. I think it's time we correct that."

"I will do my very best to aid you in your quest for higher cholesterol."

"You're so considerate." Time after time Buffy's allowed herself to accept that normalcy had no place in her life. And while a great deal of that statement might be true, she's come to realize she's due some moments of levity amidst the chaos. Moments such as this one.

There's nothing terribly exciting or morbidly epic about standing in line to buy pizza while holding a guys hand. In most instances it's down right sappy. Of course, if you adore the guy and he has really nice hands, then it becomes not so bad. Add in a sense of new romance her life has sorely lacked and it made for a uniquely pleasant experience. She's not alone or with Dawn watching other couples look happy together while hiding behind her wall of pride that she's not lonely as hell. She's with a man who she knows loves her, and whom she loves equally. Confirmed years ago, though now that love's deepening in a way she never suspected could feel so good.

As soon as they reached the head of the line Xander ordered for her, though not out of some macho way of doing things. He just knows what she likes. She does the same thing for him at Chinese restaurants and donut shops. That's a scary level of intimacy in it's own way, and a sure sign of love just around the corner. They're so comfortable with each other after having spent the entire summer together that it's not even a question of having to ask the other person what they want concerning anything.

She always has two slices of deep dish cheese, sausage, and mushroom pizza, while he gets a large slice of stuffed pizza and a double cheeseburger. Two Coca Cola slushies, a large and a medium, seal the deal, and they're off to find a table.

"You still need that haircut."

"Are you ever going to let that go?" Xander appealed while pulling out a chair for her. Her curt little bow

was cute. "My hair is just fine, thank you very much. It's length is concurrent with the size and shape of my head."

"Think whatever you want, 'Shaggy'." Seeing him mock her out the corner of her eye, Buffy kicked him under the table, though not to hard. "No mocking the slayer."

"Are you going to speak in the third person from now on?" The nearly erotic sight of her luscious mouth tearing a large bite from her pizza slice, as her tongue curled around a string of cheese has suddenly captured his undivided attention. "You even eat pizza sexy."

That made her giggle as she chewed, slightly embarrassed all of a sudden. "You do realize you said that out loud, don't you."

Eyes raising to meet hers, Xander almost looked surprised. "Yes, and I am embarrassed for doing so. Allow me to look away as if I didn't."

"Permission granted." Devouring a long sip from her slushie produced in Buffy the dreaded brain freeze, a sort of reverse orgasm for your skull that makes you go a little batty for a few seconds. "That's good slushie."

The amusing sight of Buffy Summers going through a full blown brain freeze just trips him out. The faces she made were far from a cover girl, not that he cared in the least. Watching her let go and enjoy something as simple as this makes him happy he's here to see it. "You are so beautiful, Buffy. Even in the throes of a brain freeze."

"Just wait until you see me in the throes of an orgasm," she taunted him with a smirk, adding a bit of shock to their late lunch. A minute later it's her turn to laugh as a brain freeze hits Xander, who gave his best drug-overdose face, much to her chagrin. "You okay?"

"As a veteran of the slushie brain freeze, I feel I shall survive." Shuddering from the cold, he's working on that double cheeseburger now. "After we leave here we still have time to get you some socks before the movie starts."

Throwing caution to the wind, she threw a French fry at his head. "I have plenty of clean and unholy socks at home."

"You have demonic socks?"

"I have the panty and bra set too." They are openly flirting with one another, testing the waters, enjoying what they've found so far. Today has fast forwarded, or at last shined a light on how things have changed between them. Attraction is such a hard thing to predict. You can't create it for someone no matter how nice or sweet they are. You either feel it or you don't, and for the longest time Buffy honestly never felt it for Xander. She'd die for him, but never thought about kissing him.

So what changed on her end, seeing as how at least attraction always existed on his? Buffy thought this over for a time as they ate together, laughing at two little kids chasing each other whose Dad chased them. Xander's so sweet and attentive to her, so that has to be one element. Riley was affectionate, true, but he never knew her the way Xander does. He'll go out of his way to make her smile or laugh and he longs to make her feel safe even when he knows she can protect herself. The strength of character and never give up attitude of his inspires her more than she's ever admitted. His loyalty to her, his understanding even through the rough spots of their friendship have opened her eyes to his growing maturity over the years.

Forgiveness is another sign of love, and both have offered it to the other without making it vindictive or propping up one as being better than the other.

Xander knows her so well. Better than she knows herself, and has seen her rise and fall in every way possible. Others loved her in the past, but he's been by her side since day one in Sunnydale. She cannot imagine a day in which he is not by her side, not even when her feelings extended only as far as friendship. Only now does she realize how attached to him she has always been, long before the romance.

Buffy loves his hands. Strong, large, and gentle, that can massage away a nights worth of aches and pains. His arms embrace her in a way that never allows her to feel alone, because those arms are always open to her. Always. The sheer comfort at being able to talk to him about anything has allowed her to open up in ways she's feared in the past. She's told him things about her relationship with Spike she never thought she'd be able to confess to anyone, much less him. He hated to hear most of it, but he never judged. He allowed her to get things off her chest and confide in him. Listened as she explained the why's and the how's. The things he shared with her concerning Anya, his parents, elements of his childhood she never knew about only heightened their closeness.

Her fears are exposed before him. Her faults, failures, and triumphs. And through it all he's never taken her choice away from her, save that one time he feared her life was in danger. He did the right thing then. He almost always does.

When Buffy looked at Xander from across their small table, the sounds of a hungry man enjoying his food made her smile. He didn't invoke Spike's damning sexual rapture, or Angel's tragic magnetism. He had his own allure, and it was more powerful enough. He simply loved her. He never wanted the Slayer to focus solely on being the Slayer. He never wanted Buffy Summers to do something she didn't want to do. He never told her where she belonged, or how she should live her life. He only shared it with her. All the ups and downs living throws at you.

And she loved him for it.

Following a second brain freeze, Xander caught Buffy's curious appraisal of him. "Do I have pizza sauce on my shirt or something?"

"Actually, you do. But that's not why I'm staring."

Wiping his shirt with a napkin, Xander grinned like a kid. "Okay, I'll bite. Why are you staring? Is it my animal magnetism?" Leaning over the table, he whispered as if it were a secret, "I've been told in the right light I look like a young Denzel Washington." Nodding for effect, he sat back.

Titling her head a bit, Buffy took a good long look at him. "Well, as you get older your obviously African-American side is coming out, but no, that's not why I was staring."

"Then tell me why."

"I was staring because it feels so strange to me to be so attracted to you now and to be thinking about kissing you and looking forward to it. My mind's doing back flips because this is so unlike us."

"Buffy, you managed to resist me for a little over six years. You outlasted Willow, Faith, Dawn, and Cordy. That ole Xander charm hit them years ago. You were bound to fall before deliciousness eventually."

Raising her closed fist, Buffy began counting off one finger at a time. "Willow turned gay, Faith tried to kill you, Cordy dumped you after she was impaled on a jagged piece of metal, Dawn's crush status has moved on to Justine Timberlake, and I have not even kissed you... yet."

"Your point is?"

He had a way with words. Mostly a crazy way. Crazy Xander logic. "Will you be serious," she laughed at him. "I'm just saying that it comes as a huge surprise to me that I have all these feelings for you, and I'm just getting used to it in my own head. I don't regret them in the least, I'm just processing them."

"I love you."

Spoken as if that was all the thinking he had to do on the matter. "I'm sorry I'm a girl and we go over things in our head so much."

"It's okay," he assured her. "I'm dealing with my own surprise too, you know."

"And what would that be?"

He hesitated for a moment, pushing through only when he knew he had no choice. "Well, uhm... last night after I pulled your shoe off... and saw the hole in your sock... well, the odor coming from the foot wasn't to pleasant either." Being the smart man that he was, Xander ran for his life, with Buffy chasing right up him, now running up a downward escalator.


15 Minutes Later

Her hazel eyes never left the big screen, giving Tom Cruise her complete and undivided attention. Buffy shook her

head, no. The only answer Xander's getting anytime soon on any subject.

"Extra buttery popcorn?" Xander politely offered the large carton on his lap. "I got it just the way you like. I even paid for more than extra butter. It's like a whole stick of butter melted for your snacking pleasure. There's no way you're living past age fifty eating these," he joked in hopes of tugging a smile from her. He'd settle for a smirk. Zip. Zero. Nada. Nothing at all.

Rolling her eyes in a pose of clear annoyance, the Slayer simply looked away, ignoring him altogether.

Never has the nickname 'Scooby Gang' been more appropriate for a group Xander belonged to, especially since right at this very moment, he's in the dog house. In fact, he's so far in the dog house, he's sitting on the back porch. Better yet, he's sitting in a lawn chair in the backyard of the doghouse.

Great. Just great. He's babbling in his own head about living in a dog house. There goes his sanity. What's next, his hair?

Having purchased her every weakness in the sweets department at the theater snacks counter, Xander even chose the seats he himself has laughed at and generally made fun of since he learned of their existence. Seated on the twenty-fifth row, he chose those new 'love seat' theater chairs for two, just to make things cozy. Maybe even cuddle a little. Something different than the norm, to mark their new status as firmly being on the threshold of some future dating and hot loving.

They've chatted playfully, teased, and accomplished more flirting between them in the past couple of hours than in the last six years combined. Xander even felt that if he tried to kiss her, if he finally made the move he's wanted to make since the day he met her, she would not have pulled away. Maybe even wanted it. That was until he inserted both his big feet in his mouth by having the audacity to insult the scent of smaller ones.

Now really, he expected her to know he was joking. Deep down, of course, he knows she knows he's joking. He's Xander. He jokes. Water's wet, fire's hot, and Britney Spears can't sing. Those are known things. Problem is, Buffy graduated from that school of 'Make A Man Work For Forgiveness When He Screws Up' College of Feminine Wiles. Her degree mandates he pay for a sufficient amount of time, minus any affection or attention from his honey, whether she's his official honey yet or not.

So here he sat, a Super Big Gulp of Coke on his left, a huge yellow crazy looking carton of popcorn on his lap, with a large bag of Buffy's absolute favorite snack, chocolate covered raisins. To his right sat the greatest, most beautiful, sensual, alluring, deviously evil and sweet five-foot two, one hundred and fifteen pounds soaking wet vampire Slayer on Earth, who's acting as if he's not even there. The only shoulder colder than the one he's getting resided in a morgue.

A sparse crowd at best on a Sunday afternoon, around forty people filled the theater capable of seating a couple of hundred. Just another quiet day at the movies.

Even as she's sorely tempted to grab a handful of that delicious popcorn, there's a lesson Buffy's aiming to teach today. There will be no dissing of the girlfriend. Okay, she's not the official girlfriend yet, but... oh crap, Buffy mentally slapped herself. Even in her own head she's already his girlfriend. She's doing all the girlfriendy things, like ignoring him even though she's not all that mad and just wants his attention and for him to try hard. Crap! Crap! Crap!

But he bought me Raisinets, she argued with... herself, she supposed. She loves Raisinets, and he knew to buy them even though she only eats a few, never finishes the bag, only takes them home in her purse and eats a few a day until they're all gone. Occasionally she shares them with him, but never anyone else.

Just last week he brought her home a bag when he went to the drug store for some fly spray and Midol for her... Oh Jesus, he bought Midol for her! That's big time boyfriendy stuff. Buffy's staring harder at the big screen now, her hands fidgeting in her lap, trying to process all this. How had so much escaped her notice? She's not blind or anything. It's just... well, Xander lets her drive his car, and he drives hers sometimes. They don't even ask anymore. He's the only person she'll allow to go through her purse for a stick of gum. Her access to his wallet is a match, as well as a picture of her inside. A pretty nice one, with her hair up and wearing her cute pale blue


Bad, bad boyfriendy stuff there!

As if finally coming out of a fog, Buffy felt a major revelation coming over her as she cast a quick glance at Xander, who seemingly for the time being has garnered interest in the movie again, giving her the space she's been acting like she needs. Her eyes fell to his hand on the armrest. He has two of them, she considered in a dorky sort of way. He knows that she's extremely strong and durable, able to take almost any attack without even a bruise, and it's almost impossible to break her bones. Even with that knowledge, the gentle way his arms pulled her close as they watched TV in the dark on her couch never ceased to win points with her. Whenever she laid her head on his shoulder, she knew she'd receive a loving forehead kiss for her trouble. It was like an automatic reaction. One she's never consciously accepted until now.

Double crap. She likes forehead kisses nowadays. Specifically, his.

With Steven Spielberg's latest creation captivating today's moviegoers, Buffy began systematically going over a number of recent events in her and Xander's 'friendship.' A clearer picture began to form. The night she was hired at her new job, they fell asleep on her couch while watching a Three's Company marathon. She woke up around 2:00 AM in his arms, and remembered how if she didn't have work the very next day she would have loved nothing more than to sleep right there for the rest of the night, in his arms. Then there was the time he was knocked out cold in late July by a vampire wielding a crowbar, and she was so scared as she drove him to the hospital, relieved only when the doctor assured her he only had a mild concussion and needed a few stitches. He had to hold her nearly thirty minutes when they arrived home for her to stop shaking. And that was a month ago.

She didn't let him out of her sight for the next two days, just to make sure he was alright. No patrolling and no work. Her orders.

The day he was named a crew chief at his construction company, Buffy walked through the front door and Xander had been on the phone with Willow for almost two hours, yet hadn't told his oldest friend a thing because he wanted to share his good news with her first. Her compliments came time and again all evening, giving him what he deserved. Pride for his accomplishments. She remembered unused to compliments Xander was, defusing them with humor. She thought he looks so nice in that dark suit. They dressed up went out to dinner to celebrate, had a ball laughing all evening long, shared a entire bottle of expensive wine until they were giggling wildly as they left the restaurant... and almost kissed up against his car after a hug lasted just a little to long.

That night, she sincerely wanted that kiss. And she never brought it up the next day, or even acknowledged that anything happened after that. Neither did he. It was business as usual. And still, she missed that kiss.

Then there was that late evening they were talking for hours in bed, lying side by side before falling asleep. Though unable to remember what they were even talking about, Buffy recalled that for the first time in a very long time, she didn't want anything more than what she had. Everyone in her family were healthy and safe, she had her new job with the pretty decent pay, and she had her Xander.

Possessive much, Buffy hid a grin to herself.

Nonetheless, her Xander, who cooks... crap, she really likes his cooking. Who calls her while she's on patrol to tell her dirty jokes he heard at work... that always make her laugh and hang up on him. Then there's the food shopping together, sharpening of swords together, demonic text deciphering together, laundry sorting together, drowning the ungodly bones of a Lyncaster Troll in holy water together, going to the car wash together, buying logs of wood for more stakes together, returning DVD's at Blockbuster together... that is all... but she couldn't have not seen... wait a second... hold everything... just wait a cotton picking minute... No... No no no no no no no... ohmygod... OH MY GOD!

"OH MY GOD, XANDER! WE'RE ALREADY IN A RELATIONSHIP!" Buffy shouted, or better yet, erupted loudly, standing to her feet as she leaned over him, only to slowly peer around as every single person in that theater stared at her like she had lost her mind. Embarrassed and thoroughly shocked, Buffy quickly took her seat again, ducking her head, shaking it in disbelief. "I can't believe I just did that."

"Neither can I," Xander whispered over in her ear, still able to feel the eyes of the entire theater on them. "Are you alright, Buff?"

"No!" she groaned more in frustration than volume. Staring at him, Buffy felt a swell of misplaced anger rise. "You already knew we were in a relationship and you never said a word," she accused with her pinky finger. "Why? I want answers!"

Having seen Dawn's list of who would go mad first among the Scooby Gang and why, he always assumed the younger Summers was right when she surmised he'd go mad first with the whole axe wielding thing quicker than anyone else. She cited a online survey that stated most mass murderers had great senses of humor before they went nuts. Buffy was chosen as a solid number two, and now is looking like a number one with

a bullet. "Again, with the are you alright?" He watched her cover her face with her hands, as if trying to shield herself from facing something. "Do you want me to change seats? I mean, are you really that mad at me?" he asked gently, nudging her arm. No response just yet. "I don't really think your feet stink at all. They're quite footastic in many ways. You have pretty feet. They're small and dainty, right down to your polished toenails. I'd kiss them... okay, maybe that's not what you wanted to hear right now."

Laughing at his casual insanity, she smile at him so dear, as he was to her. "Sorry I went spazzo for a second."

Wrapping his arm around her, Xander leaned in, checking on her. "You sure?" She nodded her reply, resting against his solid frame, enjoying the warmth of being so close. Whatever she's thinking, it can't be all that bad seeing as how she's holding his hand, caressing the palm with her fingers. "What's on your mind?"

"That we are already in a deeply romantic relationship, and we're both to blind to even know it."

"We are?"

Surprisingly enough, her Xander didn't know either, and he wasn't toying with her. Buffy wondered if any two more clueless people could have ever fallen for one another. "I'm afraid so," she concluded with a sense of

wonder. "Think about it. We do everything but kiss and make love." Watching the play of questions and answers play out emotionally on his face, she continued, "We sleep in the same bed. We know each others social security numbers by hard. I even use your credit card to order stuff from EBAY."

"You do?"

She nodded.

"I never knew that."

"Your Visa limit's bigger than my MasterCard."

"You have credit card envy."

She shrugged.

"Buffy," he chuckled next to her. "I do think we would know if we were in a romantic relationship or not. I mean, we've both been in relationships before. We'd know, Buff."

"Would we?" Buffy practically pleaded with him to open his eyes. "Xander, newsflash here. We suck at relationships. Royally suck. We hooker on skid row suck. It would make perfectly good sense if we were in a romantic relationship and didn't even know it."

"We're not that clueless. We might play the board game, but we do not live it."

"Remember when we downloaded that movie from the internet about 'Watersports' cause we thought it had to do with water skiing and we were thinking of taking lessons this summer?"

"That was a dark and scary day," Xander remembered with a shudder. The 'Watersports' that movie was about had zero to do with what they thought it had to do with. Naughty sexual grossness indeed. "Let's strike that day from our memories, okay."

"Oh, and don't forget when those three vampires laughed at us because we were debating if Siefried

and Roy were gay or not."

"I just think two men who happen to live together in a huge mansion for well over twenty years with no women and raise animals could be just good friends and I'll leave it at that."

Well, after hearing that Buffy had no doubt how truly clueless they are. "Xander, we are in a romantic

relationship. I think... I think we're going to have to deal with it."

Unsure of all this, Xander scratched his head. "Buffy, we've never even admitted we're in love yet."

Exhaling the last of her denial, Buffy's eyes raised to meet his. It's big step time. "Think about what you just said, Xander. We haven't admitted it because we didn't need too. You never asked me because you already know the answer. And you know that I know you're in love with me too."

"... Okay, I think we are doing all of this backwards."

"We even had sex and blocked it from our minds." When his eyes bugged out she just about lost it, gripping his hands to free them from their iron tight hold on the armrest. Xander looked like he stopped breathing. "Kidding. I'm kidding."

"I don't need a heart attack, honey."

An unexpected, and sweet endearment. Buffy hadn't felt butterflies in such a long time. "Honey?"

Heart racing a mile a minute, Xander worked his butt off to remain calm, cool, and collected. "If you'd prefer cup cake or pookie, I could call you that."

"Honey works for me. No pookie ever." Just like that, the world shifted off it's axis. He's her sweetheart and she's his honey. Lifting her hand to his cheek, she gently pulled him down to her lips, whispering, "I think it's time we finally kiss."

The winds of change were blowing and he was just caught up in the gusts. "I'll never take it back, Buffy."

His heart. That's what he means. "I'll never ask, and I'll never give yours back either."

"Okay, just for the record, could I have you sign something to verify that you are of sound mind and body, are not under the influence of drugs, alcohol, demonic influence, possession, or a shape-shifting warlock or clone or..."

"Xander, I'm going to kiss you now and you're going to like it, so shut up." At the sight of his bashful smile, something shifted, deep and hot in the pit of her stomach. It was a little like reaching the top of a roller coaster and then beginning the swooping decent. The same bottom-dropping out feeling.

At the last possible second, she closed her eyes, her head slanted to the side to align her mouth over his. Bliss, at long last, from the moment their lips met. Xander seemed drugged by the power of her kiss, any will to resist sapped by the slow, hungering caress of her mouth as he embraced her finally, fully within the safe harbor of his arms.

Buffy's kiss changed from tender and sweet to passionate, then primitive, her tongue and lips attacking his with a loving need that he was readily awaiting to quench. Her arms suddenly returned to his back and she clutched at him tightly, as if the joy he brought to her heart could somehow be wrenched away from her, and she had to hold on for all it's worth. Little cries of delight escaped her lips as they melted against his.

It was the sexiest, hottest and most intoxicating kiss either of them had ever received.

Slipping his hands through her silky soft honey-blond hair, he returned her kiss with equal fervor, eyes shut, savoring the sensation as her tongue wrapped around his, sampling her passion at long last... until...

A slow to build buzzing noise from above them impeded on their monumental moment as Xander broke the kiss first, lifting his attention skyward. "Well, I think it's only... ohboy!" Pointing, he knew trouble had once again found them. "Buff..."

"I see it... whatever it is."

Something very weird was happening on the ceiling above the movie screen. A wide kaleidoscope of shimmering light climaxed in mid-air, as if reality itself shattered like a mirror. Energy pulsed, crackling the air around it with a power not of this world. A mystical sort warping effect rippled, then detonated in a rush of blinding light so brilliant everyone was forced to look away from it.

As quickly as it came, the buzzing noise dissipated. Buffy and Xander stood to their feet as chaos erupted around them. People ran from their seats, bolting towards the nearest exits, screaming as the theater filled with smoke and dust particles. Buffy and Xander would followed them had this been some kind of normal accident, electrical fire, or anything easily explainable.

What was not easily explainable kept them frozen where they stood, staring in front of the first row, dead center. The eerie outline of a man-shaped being. hunched over on one knee, shrouded in smoke, captured their undivided attention. Even in the dark of the theater, he did not appear human. Not in any way. No, he looked far from human.

On instinct alone, Buffy reached for the stake she always kept in her purse. "Stay back. Keep your eyes

on it." Her orders, as the Slayer moved around the seats, now standing in the aisle. Thankfully, the theater emptied pretty fast. Whatever this thing was, wherever it came from, she'd only have to face it without worrying about others being around.

Unarmed, Xander looked for anything around him that he could use as a weapon. Fate stalled his progress as two theater ushers and a security guard ran from a side entrance near the first row towards the 'thing'. "DON'T! WAIT! YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING?" he shouted to no avail, looking on as Buffy made her move down the stairs.

"Freeze, whatever you are," Frank Waterson ordered. his gun aimed at whatever it was, crouched perfectly still, it's head down, seemingly ignoring everyone around it. The guard finally caught a good look at it, and having some knowledge of Sunnydale's less than normal citizens, knew they were all in deep trouble.

The guard kept his weapon trained on 'it', staring as it slowly stood up straight, it's full height revealed to be around six foot ten, with huge broad muscled shoulders. Closer inspection revealed it's ashy, dry, and cracked skin, it's body draped in dirty torn white rags. Long thick veins criss-crossed it's chest, arms, and legs. It's skin drawn tight over such a gruesome frame of muscle on top of muscle, giving it such a dramatically domineering visual. "Put your hands up and don't move." Casting a quick nod to one of the ushers, a silent call for immediate back up as the teenager rushed for the door. They needed help now!

None would ever come.

Before Buffy could reach them, the beast lunged at the guard, taking three gun shots to the chest that produced no blood. Razor sharp, jagged metallic nails wrenched from the guards stomach to it's neck, slashing through clothes and flesh, slicing threw his internal organs as so much blood splattered the big screen behind him, killing the guard instantly.

The second usher turned, only to be caught by the collar. The beast wrenched it's victim around, revealing it's face to the horrified usher.

"Please... please... don't... I have a daughter," the usher pleaded for his life, hoping for a mercy not to be found in the black, pupil-less eyes of his attacker. It's face carried no emotion at all.

"Put him down now."

Sensing it's reason for living, the beast shoved the usher backwards so hard he crashed into the wall, falling to the floor. The beasts eyes riveted on it's prey at last. Raging hate swelled within his twin souls...

No rookie to this, Buffy had faced many demons in her day, but even she had to admit this one took the top prize as ugliest of them all. Deep dark stitches seemingly held it's chest together, cascading down from it's neck. The beast's mouth was also stitched shut, emitting animalistic grunts as it stalked toward Buffy, growling as it leapt into the air at her.

It fell five feet short, the stake Buffy threw firmly embedded in it's gut hit in mid-air, crumbling it to the ground. Less than an inch stuck out, so powerful was her throw. The beast did not bleed. Not one single drop. On it's feet again, war set in his every step forward.

"We can do this the easy way," Buffy offered, ducking a fierce swinging slash, unleashing her own vicious roundhouse kick to it's face, slamming it against the big screen. "Or the hard way. But your type seems to prefer the hard way. Fine by me."

It tackled Buffy to the ground so fast she had to time to react. The backhand blow snapped her entire head sideways, hitting her as hard as she had ever been hit, tearing a instant gash in her upper and lower lip. She managed to toss it off her, but wobbled to her feet. She's... she's dizzy, for some reason. Eyes blurry. She's been hit before, but this was... stumbling backwards as it advanced, she assumed a fighting stance.

Having seen that they are dealing with a heavyweight, Xander raced down the aisle. He wrapped his jacket around his fist and arm, then bashed it into the glass wall mounted cabinet that held a fire extinguisher, swearing that those things shouldn't be under lock and key in the first place.

Finding the glare of disorientation in it's prey's eyes, the beast never felt Xander approach it from behind. Swinging as hard as he could, the blow bashed the back of it's skull, tumbling it forward a few steps. Upon seeing it's newest foe, the beast roared behind it's stitches, the burning need for vengeance on this one in particular fueling it's rage. "Gen..o...cide," it grunted, garbled, barely intelligible in it's own way as it stalked Xander.

"No attacking the boyfriend, Mr. Ugly." Buffy lashed out, having torn a theater chair from it's very foundation, she cracked it over the beasts back from behind, causing it to finally howl in pain. Three times in succession, she pounded the beast with the chair's steel flooring as it attempted to get back to it's feet. She still couldn't make it bleed, or even cut into it's skin. Her arms are hurting so badly she could barely believe it. She to tired to fast, and doesn't know why. She doesn't have time to think about it. Fortunately, Xander fired the extinguisher in it's eyes, temporary blinding it to give them a moment to think.

They didn't know they had none. Absolutely none.

The sight of her staggering gripped his heart. "Buff, are you..." Xander never finished, running at the beast who turned it's attention back to Buffy. He had seconds at best.

"Di...e!" Reaching back with all it's might, the beast rammed it's fist to Buffy's face, sending her clear off her feet, up five rows until she bounced off a chair, landing on the stairs, her face now a mask of blood.

Furious, Xander had to keep a level head, aware of Buffy's body and it's endurance. Knowing he had no chance against this thing one on one, he crushed the fire extinguisher into the beasts knee from behind, hoping to knock it off it's feet so that he could grab Buffy and get out of there.

The blow didn't even stagger the beast, who in turn grabbed Xander around the necking, effectively lifting him off his feet.

Bringing the 'hated one' face to face with him, the beast gritted between it's stitches, "Mur.. der... er!"

"Wha... what are you..."

Suddenly, a second explosion of blinding light and smoke sounded appeared above them, exactly where the first one originated from. This one fractured the very air around it, opening a portal of sorts. In it's wake, it left a woman dressed in a black jumpsuit. Shoulder length blonde hair framed a face grim with determination, carrying a duffle bag over her shoulder, and a gun the likes of which Xander could not identify. "Goodnight, sleeping beauty." She fired once, the dart blasting through it's thick hide, embedding itself in the beasts chest.

Xander fell to the ground with the beast, who convulsed violently next to him until it stopped. He didn't see it breathing, but wasn't sure it ever did. The woman helped him to his feet immediately, grabbing his hand. "I'm alright. Just help my frie... Awwwww!" Pain. Unending, roaring, deafening pain so bone deep exploded in his head, causing him fell to his knees, never noticing the silver ring that the stranger slipped on his finger. A second wave of pain now, as four small pink pricks were shoved in his finger by the ring. He could barely move.

Gasping for breath so hard, his head pounding, he looked up, unable to speak. To his right, the beast appeared... dead, he hoped. Out of the corner of his eyes he watched helplessly as the stranger slipped a ring on Buffy's finger, then did her lifted the unconscious Slayer onto her shoulder, now running down the stairs back to him. "Who are you?"

Brown eyes locked on his, hoping to convey an instant trust she knew he wasn't capable of. "I don't have time for a complete explanation, and when I do have time you'll think I'm nuts. Just listen to me, alright. Please."

Her eyes... something about her eyes were familiar. Pushing that aside, Xander took Buffy into his arms. "What is that thing?"

"Where I'm from, don't call it anything. It's belongs to a nameless race. It's the last of it's kind and it's only goal is to kill you and M... Buffy," she stumbled over her word. To much to fast wouldn't help them. "That things body builds a natural resistance to anything we use against it. I drugged it with something that knock out a herd of elephants. I think it will keep him knocked out for at least several hours. No more than that. And I'm hoping at best."

"Let's go." Holding Buffy to him, Xander and the girl raced towards the exit, Xander could see Police cars filing into the parking lot, building a perimeter. "We don't have time to answer their questions." Spinning on his heel, Xander made a run for the exit on the far left side of the theater. "Come on."

The stranger followed him, still awed by the sheer sight of him so young, not that he looked that different from the man she knew and loved. "I hate to say this, but I need to. That thing will wake up and kill whoever's around it. People are going to die. It won't ever stop until it kills you and Buffy. That's it's sole reason for living."

"Okay, so how do we kill it?" Xander asked as the sun's warmth fell upon them, now outside on the street side of the theater.

"We don't." The stranger felt his eyes fall over her. She's in so much trouble already, and it's only going to get worse. "I thought every single one of it's race were dead. Someone from my time kept it alive and sent it back to kill you and Buffy."

Xander's eyes widened. He didn't like the sound of that at all. "Your time?"


"Look, my name ain't Sarah Conner."

"No, and this isn't the Terminator movie. Believe me, I wish it was. I liked all seven of them" Producing a syringe from the duffle bag, she tested the needle, then injected Buffy.

"Hey, what are you doing?" Xander swatted away her hand, but not before she injected Buffy with half of what was in the syringe.

"That thing can track Buffy's Slayer essence. I had to dampen it to the point that he won't be able to track her. Unfortunately for us, she won't have her Slayer powers for at least a day, and when she gets them back I'm going to have to dampen them again." Pulling her sleeve up, she then injected herself.

"You're a Slayer too, aren't you?"


As if he and Buffy's first day together could have gone any other way. "If I didn't have bad luck..."

"You'd have no luck at all. Yeah, I know," she managed to grin for a moment.

In the light she favored Buffy in a way that made him feel like his world was about to be turned upside down. "Let's get out of here."

"Go get your car. I'll stay here with Buffy." Fear and distrust clouded his face. She could understand, but had no time to explain more. "Please. I'm not here to hurt her or you. I'm here to help you, if I can."

"Who are you?" Xander asked at last, to which she took a long deep breath, before answering.

"My name is Kiera Joyce Harris. You and Buffy are my parents. I'm your daughter."

Xander could only stare at her, shocked from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, even without any proof. "I reserve the right to pass out in the near future."

"Duly noted, Dad. Now get the car. We gotta get the hell out of California by nightfall, or all of us are dead."

The End of Chapter 1