TITLE: Through the Windshield Glass and What Buffy Found There

DISCLAIMER: Joss Whedon, Joss Whedon, Joss Whedon, Amen.

SETTING: Set between the Sixth and Seventh Seasons.

RATING: Call it a hard T.

Part One: Lost in the Supermarket

"Thanks for taking care of this, Xander," Buffy said gratefully (if a little embarrassed.)

"Hey, no problem," Xander smiled. "I can't have you and Dawnie starving... you're the only two women left in my life who've never tried to kill me."

Buffy raised a guilty eyebrow.

"Well, there was that one time when you hit me with the frying pan," he admitted. "But you were temporarily insane, so... let's call it a freebie."

Buffy smiled slightly and nodded.

It was amazing how foreign the local grocery store was to Buffy, most likely due the relative infrequency of violent demonic activity there... coupled the fact that first her mother then Willow had tended to do most of the cooking. Oh, Buffy could bring home take-out with the best of them, but when actually called upon remember what she and Dawn actually consumed over the course of the week, she was somewhat baffled.

She was also somewhat broke, which was another reason she was glad to have a friend like Xander.

"The point is," Xander continued, "after all the non-injuring things you've done for me, I have no problem buying you some groceries until you find a new job."

"Preferably one that doesn't fire you for consistently not showing up," Buffy quipped darkly.

"Or leaving in the middle of your shift," Xander chimed in.

"Or having a history of violence," Buffy concluded, smiling. "Anyway, I promise that I'll keep it with reason. I will purchase nothing unless it is 100 percent essential... ooh, TaB!"

Xander shook his head in disgust. "Buf, don't you know how many lab rats that stuff killed?"

"After the thrilling series of violent deaths I've had, Xander, I'd welcome a quiet, lab ratty death," Buffy replied calmly. "Besides, maybe they were evil lab rats."

Xander shrugged. "I don't know, if I was going to pick a drink to kill me, I'd rather have something bolder and more masculine... like a fierce home-brewed moonshine... or a quirky Vodka-spiked Tang."

"So, my corpse will be skinnier," Buffy raised an eyebrow.

"Also prettier," Xander granted. "Of course, living in Sunnydale has made me deeply afraid of the idea of leaving a beautiful corpse, but... Hey, could you grab me some fabric softener?"

Buffy eyed him quizzically. He really had made progress over the last few years.

As Buffy reached for the fabric softener, she found herself being dragged forward by an invisible force. To struggle was useless, she found, and within mere seconds she was being pulled another frame of existence. Buffy tried her best to be amazed by the experience, but it just wasn't happening. After all, she reflected, this sort of thing was fairly common in LA.

When she landed with a thump, her primary emotion was mild annoyance.

Buffy quickly took note of her surroundings: the room was cold, incredibly dark, and the walls and ceiling appeared to be made entirely of metal. For a moment of abject terror, she considered the possibility that she hadn't been dragged into another dimension at all and she'd actually fallen into the store's freezer section.

"God, that would be embarrassing," she said aloud.

Buffy could sense movement within the pitch black and, as her enhanced Slayer vision began to adjust, she was able to make the rough sketch of her fellow occupant: twenty feet tall, forty foot wide, covered in heavy armor, and sporting a nasty-looking set of pincers.

"Great," Buffy snarked. "Giant crab enemy."

She approached the massive creature, very aware that she was unarmed, but that never stopped her before... only to be somewhat surprised to see it scuttle away from her in abject terror.

Buffy cocked her head in confusion. "You get the part where you're the size of a post office and I'm barely five feet tall... right?"

The crab apparently didn't, as it continued to cower as Buffy got closer.

"Leave that crab alone," a voice from behind her called. "He's just minding his business trying to be a crab."

Buffy turned to face a pale, pasty, out-of-shape, middle-aged man with a bow-tie and small, round glasses. He was completely nondescript, which in Buffy's world invariably meant dangerous.

"I'm sorry," Buffy snapped back. "But generally when someone hurls me into another dimension, it means they're looking for a fight. I guess I'm letting my past experiences color my judgment. I'm sorry if I was being prejudiced."

"Oh, it's all right," the normal man replied, missing the sarcasm. "You're actually right to think that because there is a fight coming... But not from him," the man explained, gesturing to the crab.

"In fact," the man said thoughtfully, "I think he'd like to help you along."

"Right," Buffy quipped. "Because a having a giant crab following me around isn't going to make things difficult at all."

However, when she looked back at the crab, it seemed small enough to fit in the palm of her hand.

The average man scooped the crab up and offered it to her. "Keep him well-fed and he won't bite," he confided. "He should come in useful later."

Buffy tucked the crab silently into the pocket of her denim jacket. Stranger things had happened to her lately, so she had no real reason to be shocked. "Who are you, anyway?" she asked. "Whistler's brother or something?"

"I'm just a friend," the average man answered cheerfully.

"My friends tend not to speak in clichés," she replied, which was a half-truth at best, but didn't need to know that.

"Oh, not yours," he corrected. "The crab's."

Buffy nodded, that made much more sense.

"Now," the unremarkable man told her as he ushered her on her way. "Remember where your strengths lie, don't lose track of what matters, and, when the time comes... follow the dog."

Buffy cocked an indignant eyebrow, wondering if this was supposed to be some kind of rude metaphor. Before she could ask, however, she was shoved forth into the light, emerging from a previously-unseen wormhole in the Häagen-Dazs rack.

"Hey Buffy, what do you think," Xander asked, holding two bottles aloft. "'Bold' or 'All'? Because I could actually go either way at this point in life..."

------

"So, you slip in the supermarket, fall into the basement, and some weird guy gives you crabs?" Xander asked, trying to divide his attention equally between driving and playing sidekick.

"There was only the one crab, but... yeah, basically," Buffy admitted.

"And he's sure this crab will be rich in usefulness despite the fact that it's now essentially just a thorny spider," Xander continued.

"Without any of the nifty web-slinging," Buffy sighed.

"I don't know, Buf..." Xander shrugged. "Seems kinda lightweight for you."

Buffy smiled and shook her head, glad to have things put back into perspective. "You know, I really don't know what I'd do without you, Xander."

Xander was feeling good; better than he had in months. Sure, he'd destroyed the best relationship of his life and his oldest friend had nearly murdered the entire species... but as long as he was alive and well and he had a friend like Buffy, he knew life could only get better for him.

It was less than ten seconds later his car slammed into the rail.

The Dog... a mastiff of so biggly huge that Xander couldn't help but feel somewhat inadequate by comparison, came running across the street... Xander was forced to swerve to avoid slamming into it. As Buffy flew through the windshield, she couldn't help but reflect on how useful those lessons about proper seat-belt use really were.

She only wished she'd paid more attention.