Title: "Prey for Reign"
Chapter (1/3) set in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight comic book universe.
Written by: Shawn

Summary: While Buffy struggles with what her head and heart are telling her, the Vampire Nation and the Wolf Pride are about to strike a deal that will doom the world forever.

Rating: M for violence, language, and sensual situations.
Category: Drama/Action Adventure/Romance

Characters: Buffy, Xander, Dawn, Willow, Faith, Renee, Giles, Andrew, and Robin Wood. Original characters as well.

Ship: Buffy/Xander

Timeline/Spoilers: The entire BtVS series and the first four issues of the new BtVS comic book for season 8. The entire "Long Way Home" series.

Email: Disclaimer: Joss Whedon owns everything!

Authors Notes 1: Basic BtVS comic book universe knowledge for those who haven't read it is that the Scoobies are working out of a castle in Scotland and have rebuilt the Watchers Council with Giles in charge. There are about 2000 Slayers with 500 spread around the world. In my humble opinion there have been signs of a possible BX hookup in the future of the comic and I'm sort of exploring that here. With this story I hope to capture all that made BtVS so amazing. Drama, humor, heart, sex, action, quirkiness, and the characters we all know and love acting like adults for once.

Authors Notes 2: As the comic doesn't really place the year, although its supposed to be season eight, I'm setting the story in September 2007.


"If You're Asking If I Need You The Answer Is Forever, If You're Asking If I'll Leave You The Answer Is Never, If You're Asking What I Value The Answer Is You, If You're Asking If I Love You The Answer Is I Do"
unknown author

"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." Author unknown, commonly misattributed to Charles Darwin

"The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together." Erma Bombeck


An underground cave dwelling

Beneath the Ochil hills

Tuesday, September 25, 6:20 PM, 2007

Scotland

"So," Xander began while trying not to look down, his voice echoing over the massive bottomless pit he hung over. He was secured by his wrists to a metal brace attached to the cave's ceiling. With Buffy tied next to him, he continued, "Do you think this thing is really bottomless?"

Casting her gaze downward for a moment, Buffy scrunched her nose. "I can't see anything down there. It looks pretty bottomless to me. That hole has a without-end sort of charm going for it."

"Personally, I think if we had parachutes and were falling down that thing we'd land in China."

"Is that a scientific guess or are you using Man Logic again, which apparently isn't based on facts, expert opinion, or common sense?"

"I so don't ever want to be hung over a bottomless pit with you again."

"Funny, I don't have a problem with that. It's not like I own any hanging-over-a-bottomless-pit outfits anyway." She'd laugh if they weren't about to plummet to their death. Having been gassed and then taken hostage a day ago, the Byshier Clan told them that at the fall of the sun the next day they would be dropped in the sacred bottomless pit for intruding on 'unholy ground' as they called it.

Buffy really didn't like dying, having died twice before. She especially, though quietly, didn't want Xander to die either. She's gotten rather attached to her Xander-shaped friend who... and then she thought to herself how she hadn't seen him as that in a couple of years now. He was just Xander, this really great guy she knew who was very close to her. My how the times had changed. "For the life of me I can't believe a group of deaf midget Satan worshipers got the drop on us. I've been fighting some very Jurassic Park-sized creatures lately and yet a group of tiny sign language using devil lovers caught us investigating their crusty looking shrine and poof, we're hanging over a bottomless pit with our allies having no clue where we are."

"You know, Buff," Xander pondered out loud, "On the off chance that we get rescued I... well, uhm... Look, I don't want anyone to know we got captured by a group of midgets. I think that might undermine our badass legacy."

Thinking it over carefully, Buffy surmised only one proper reply. "I concur."

"We were attacked by a small army of eight-foot tall..."

"Four-armed sword wielding..."

"Fire breathing..."

"Barbarians who rode..."

"Iron-skinned horses..."

"That also breathed fire," Buffy laughed at the end, enjoying herself despite their dire circumstances. Why did moments of impending doom always seem lighter when Xander was with her? He had an effect on her mood in the strangest of ways these days. "Yeah, that outta preserve our badassness."

"Exactly." Peering downward despite his best attempts not to, Xander was suddenly struck with an idea. Whether it was a good or bad one could be debated later. "Okay, I'm gonna try a experiment that's really experimental and thought provoking." Kicking off his right shoe, he watched it fall into the nothingness. "Let's listen for when it lands."

One minute passed.

Five minutes passed.

Ten minutes passed.

"That thing's good and bottomless," Buffy declared, not choosing to lose either of her shoes. They were her most comfortable pumps. Glancing down, she noticed, "Your sock has a hole it in."

Xander rolled his good eye. Buffy could notice the most interesting things during the most dangerous of times. And she looked so damn gorgeous in that beige shirt she was wearing. "I guess you know what to buy me for Christmas then."

"Well," Buffy gazed ahead as the suns ray began to fade coming through a nearby hole in the caves ceiling, "I certainly don't have to get you any mistletoe, now do I?"

She was smiling at him, still poking around to see if he would fess up about who kissed her awake from Amy's spell a couple of months ago. She's never come right out and asked him if he was the one, but he's sure he's her chief suspect. Especially since she found out about his cinnamon bun addiction. Dealing with that has been... interesting to say the least. "Socks, Buffy. I obviously need socks."

He wasn't taking the bait, yet. Considering for a moment, Buffy wondered if she was fishing? Teasing! She was teasing him! That's what she keeps telling herself. Denial is in Egypt, after all. "Since we're going to die soon isn't it about time we get those deepest, darkest secrets out of the way. You go first."

Subtle, thy name was not Buffy. And yet she charmed him to no end. Even when facing certain doom. "Okay, alright. I'll fess up."

Shifting her weight slightly, Buffy awaited his admittance while trying not to react to it to much. Honestly, she didn't know how she was going to react. Or why it seemed to mean so much more to her when she thought about it.

Gazing, Xander met her hazel eyes. "Okay, not that long ago I kissed..."

Buffy began to smile.

"Renee."

He had the nerve to smirk at her, teasing and toying with her when he knew damn well he shouldn't be doing that because she could twirl him over her head with one hand. Need she remind him of what happened the last time he played a practical joke on her? Indulging her inner-brat, she fired back, "I hope you fall first."

Xander couldn't help but to chuckle. "That was mean."

Buffy's, "Whatever," was quite Paris Hilton-like.

See, here's the thing. The true crux of the matter. Was she miffed over his refusal to answer her, or that he didn't give her the answer she wan... woah, better not get ahead of himself. Their friendship contained a fair amount of cute flirtatiousness, but that would be overt flirting if they really talked about the kiss. Still, Xander couldn't help but to wonder what would happen if he did truthfully answer her. "Your turn."

"So kissing Renee is your greatest secret?"

Her ire was evident in her annoyed tone of voice. Xander tried to shrug, although hanging over a bottomless pit made that hard. "Well, it's kinda gossipy, tantalizing, and politically incorrect considering my lofty position at Castle Slayer. We had dinner one night and it kinda happened out of the blue. No big. But never mind that. What about you?"

It wasn't like she cared who he kissed anyway. Still, Buffy felt verbal torture was hers to command as she delivered the last thing he'd ever want to hear for reasons she wasn't quite ready to admit to herself yet. "Spike is the best kisser I have ever kissed."

Oh, was that a vein that throbbed in Xander's neck, wasn't it? And why was his jaw tightening? Yep, Buffy knew she had gotten him good. Stupid Slayer-smooching Xander-shaped friend that he was again. Let him chew on that a while. Even though it wasn't true it... and then she blushed because she realized that the emotion she had felt when Xander told her he kissed Renee was... gulp, a wee bit of the green eyed monster. Boy oh boy, she didn't ever need to feel that feeling that over him.

"Now that was mean." After a moment Xander's face broke out into a affectionate grin as he understood her need to goad him and how his revelation had obviously affected her. They were being juvenile and silly because as strange as it was, he felt things were slowly changing between them. Very slowly, but still changing. And instead of joking about it, or trying to force the other person to admit something first, he figured it was time to actually try to take a step forward.

After all, they were hanging over a bottomless pit after having been kidnapped by a group of deaf midget Satan worshipers.

"Buff?"

"I'm so not talking to you."

"But you just did."

She frowned. "Don't bother me with the facts."

Buffy was being difficult... and cute... and soon enough she was making that little sweet half-laugh noise of hers at how stupid they were acting. Xander desperately wanted to kiss her... again. And it almost seemed like she wouldn't be opposed to it. "Let's call a truce. How about we forget the whole deepest, darkest secrets thing and I break all my manly man rules and take you to see Hairspray?"

Perking up immediately, that almost sounded like a sorta kinda date. And since she hadn't been on anything resembling a date since... well, if you considered alone time with a straight guy hanging over a bottomless pit was as close to one as she's had in well over a year. And don't even talk to her about sex. "It's a musical, you know."

"I have a vague recollection of seeing a commercial or two. I'm well aware of the singing and dancing and all around High School Musical 2-like performance pieces."

"I knew you saw High School Musical 2. I heard you humming something about bet on it, bet on it."

"I was blackmailed by Dawn. We shall never speak of this again."

Truthfully, Buffy did want to see Hairspray and just hadn't had time lately with all the demon Slaying, beheading, stabbing, kneeing, roundhouse kicking, zombie skull crushing, dimension jumping, and Andrew's great stew debacle that did far more damage to her Slayers than any evil had recently. Seeing it with Xander would be cool. Seeing it alone with him would be nice. Just two buds watching a romantic musical. "So you're taking me to see Hairspray, huh?"

"Yes, although if anyone asks you I took you to see Die Hard 4 or Transformers. Something with a gun being fired and men running in slow motion with things exploding behind them. Something manly and American."

Xander was sweet and quirky, both traits Buffy enjoyed having around her. Handsome and courageous and hard working and very good at coordinating her Slayers and taking care of her and being a great confidant and... Dammit, she worried that she liked to much about him these days. And the eye patch was sexy, something she loathed to admit. "If we live through this we'll go this weekend. Deal?"

"Deal. I'd shake on it, but well, you know."

"Yeah, the bottomless pit thing."

Suddenly their arms lifted them high into the air as they heard soft chanting, and then saw the most appreciated sight of Willow casting some sort of telekinesis spell that carried them over the bottomless pit onto a ledge beside her. They rushed in and hugged her tightly as she hugged them back.

"You are the best witch ever and I totally forgive you for trying to destroy the world once," Xander complimented upon hugging Willow tightly, as his arms were killing him from hanging over the pit so long. "How did you find us?"

Wincing slightly from Buffy's Slayer strength, Willow noted, "Well, since we have search and rescue spells on both of you, we were pretty scared when they turned up nothing."

Buffy quickly interjected, "It was the, uhm... eight foot tall, four armed, sword wielding, fire breathing barbarians on iron-skinned horses who also breathed fire that took us to this cave they said no one could find."

Blinking, Willow looked back and forth between her friends, trying not to laugh. "That's funny. Faith beat up a couple of deaf midget Satan worshipers with a bat who tried to use some kind of knock out gas on her and thankfully Sandy knew sign language and was able to learn where they said you would be." Buffy and Xander looked oh so busted. She enjoyed her triumph. "Four armed barbarians, huh?"

Xander gave a defeated nod. "We're never going to live this down, are we?"

"Not in your lifetime, no," Willow replied. "What happened to your other shoe?"

"Scientific experimentation, Wills."

"Your sock has a hole in it. A pretty big one."

"Holy sock or not, Xander's taking me to see Hairspray," Buffy chimed in, waltzing past them out of the cave. She overheard some gentle whispering and the line, "...so did you tell her?"

Yeah, Buffy was pretty damn sure who kissed her. What she wasn't prepared for was how that knowledge made her feel and what to do with to do with those new feelings for her former Xander-shaped friend turned handsome, single, breathing, straight, grown man wearing a sexy eye patch.


The Full Moon Casino

Private V.I.P quarters in the Upper Floor

Tuesday, September 25, 9:30 PM, 2007

Monte Carlo, Monaco

"Eventual extinction is the end result of a stagnant people," Adam boldly declared with a thick Russian accent as he casually circled the long marble business table, hands behind his back, eyes focused on the prize to be won tonight. "Our histories have clashed with bloodshed and violence since time began, and so shall it until there is no more. Peace is impossible for us, but working together to ensure our proper place at the top of the food chain is smart business."

Seated in a brightly lit private luxury suite surrounded by fifty heavily-armed guards, the intense meeting many thought would never take place was in actuality taking place. One that would fade into legend as the decades passed. On one side of the table, Lord Dimitri Vamos, head of the worldwide Vampire Nation sat in a dark black business suit with his personal entourage of killers and lawyers.

Seated across from him was a rival he's been trying to kill since the 1800's, Lord Solomon Trask, leader of the worldwide Werewolf Pride sat with his personal death squad and his accountant. Both organizations were the true power behind their respective races across the globe. Operating outside of the Nation or the Pride could get you killed faster than you could blink.

Standing tall at the head of the table, Adam Masikroft purposely made direct eye contact with every man seated at the table, conveying the utmost respect. How his beloved Eve was able to convince Solomon Trask to come here only underscored her considerable abilities. Though a vampire himself, he was obsessively in love with this alluring female Lycan. Both of whom were supremely ambitious. "Some believe vampire lore began in Russia or Bulgaria. Others, Serbia or Poland prior to 8th century AD. The legacy of the werewolf legend began to emerge from the middle ages, especially from the 15th to 17th century. Our kind, both Vampire and Lycan, have survived every war, every plague, and every monumental shift of history Earth has endured. But we are not without flaw as evidenced in the errors of our genetic design. Today, my brothers, I offer to broker a deal that will ensure we retain our proper place in the world for hundreds of years to come, all the while giving us new avenues to pursue that we've never had before."

Standing to the side in a slinky little black Versace dress, Eve Collins closely watched the man she loved in his finest hour. Her dark green eyes followed his ever move, as primal as the forbidden passion they shared. Powerfully built and handsome despite the hard lines of his face, she knew he was the only one who could turn this potential blood bath into a business deal. He was better than the best at talking his way in and out of any situation, while she was brutal enough to get her hands dirty if need be. They were a perfect match in so many respects. The information she shared with him could still get her killed, but she rolled the dice, betting the odds that they could pull this off and make a fortune at the same time.

Provided they weren't slaughtered first.

After drinking from a chalice of blood, Adam pressed on, "Vampire scientists have studied the virus/curse hybrid of vamperism for decades, as have the Lycan scientists researched their own genetic/mystical origins. Neither have found solutions to their respective problems. But recent developments have become rumors that I have proof are facts." Seated again, his hands calmly clasped on the table, taking in Solomon and Dimitri's interest. Though they shared a hatred for one another and detested the business of their organizations becoming public knowledge to the other, both were smart enough to hear him out. "The Vampire Nation has discovered a cure of sorts for the Lycan community, while they have in turn found a serum that would greatly aid Vampires."

Solomon and Dimitri, both graying old relics... horrifically powerful and ruthless, listened on with keen interest. Aware of their own groups findings, those of the other were intriguing to say the least.

"As I stated before, peace between us is simply not possible. The wounds are far to old, and run too deep. But with the worlds governments becoming much more interested in underworld activities, as well as demonic forces growing stronger by the day and even extraterrestrial entities becoming more than idle gossip we have to ensure that our respective races are prepared for this great new world."

"And let us not forget the accursed Watcher's Council." Adam felt the tension grow with that organization's mere mention. "Where once they were a dated, uninspired governing body with but a single Slayer across the pond in their control, now there are over two thousand trained Slayers working together against us worldwide. The Council is reorganized and thinking ahead rather than backwards. They are led by the most power Slayer ever, and their considerable wealth is being used to design new weapons and technology to fight us. They intend to eradicate us!" his fist pounded the table for effect. "But we can combat them. We can become anew. Watch and absorb the wonder."

Thirteen-inch monitors rose from the table in front of each person. Adam began detailing the facts as video footage accompanied his statements. "Vampire scientists have named their Lycan serum 'Prey.' One injection will forever alter the DNA and mystical curse itself of a Lycan. It will allow him or her to change into werewolf form at any time, the full moon be damned, as well as turn back when they choose. Silver will have no adverse effect in the way of its usage as a deadly weapon against you. Immunity is guaranteed. Furthermore, a Lycan will be able to maintain its human sanity while in werewolf form. Imagine all that power and strength, but without the mindlessness of the beast being in control."

"Watch your tongue, dog," Solomon spat out, his gnarled finger aimed at the vampire. "Lest you lose it."

Swallowing hard, Adam lifted an apologetic hand. "I meant no disrespect, my Lord. But the facts and proof of my claims are before you, as well as two of your rogue Lycans tied up in the basement in full werewolf form, yet completely sane. You may inspect them as you wish, and are free to take them with you to study should you agree to my terms."

Having no trust ever for a vampire, Solomon couldn't chance this not being a lie. "Continue."

One down, Adam thought to himself. One to go. "Eve has informed me that the Lycan scientists have dubbed their Vampire serum 'Reign.' One injection will render a vampire immune to all forms of ultraviolet rays including sunlight." A hushed silence fell over the vampire contingent as the ramifications of their true worst enemy, the sun itself, could now be vanquished. "In addition, a stake through the heart will render no more than a flesh wound. The ability to dust our kind will be a thing of the past."

Video footage of various tests being run by the scientists, as well as time-stamps showing research had been ongoing for nearly twenty years was shown for the next sixty minutes. Adam answered questions and reassured fears.

Standing once more to his feet, Adam addressed the entire room, his voice rising dramatically. "Hate exists between our race's and forever shall it be that way. But if we make this one pact we will fortify our individual position in the world and ensure the preservation of our race against these growing, powerful enemies who looking to the future while deeming us the forgotten past. I propose that each side hand over its serum and all research done to create it. A fair trade, and one that I will personally guarantee will be cordial, private, and well guarded." He then added the kicker. "I only ask the sum of twenty million dollars each due upon the moment the cures are exchanged."

"Tell me, young one?" Dimitri finally spoke, his voice old and cold as midnight. "Why should I not kill you where you stand for attempting to bargain with your lord?"

"Because for your ten million I will not only guarantee a safe and secure transfer of both serums, but I will hand deliver Buffy Ann Summers, the leader of the Slayers, to you as a prize. You could tear her apart if you like, or perhaps divide her body amongst yourselves. But I always keep my promises, my lord. " Bowing respectfully, he fell to one knee before Dimitri. "It is but a small fee I ask, my lord. For it, our greatest enemy shall be at your feet and the bonds that have restricted us since time began shall be broken."

"The girl," Solomon added with fire. "Turning a Slayer into a Lycan would be most interesting... as a pet, of course. Or a whore."

Dimitri's icy blue eyes bore into Adam's, seeking his undivided attention. "How can you assure us you will capture the Slayer? Many have tried and were never heard from again."

Wearing a maniacal smirk, Adam said, "Trust that I will lure her into a trap she will not be able to resist. Instead of throwing bodies at her to battle, I will use cunning and her caring for those around her. The risk is mine alone and death awaits me if I fail. I assure you though, I won't." His daring confidence seemed to sway things in his favor. Whether they believed he could deliver or not, the opportunity was still to great to miss. He sensed victory was at hand. "My Lords, your will be done. But do we have a deal?"

Gazing one at the the other, despite it all this was worth the ultimate risk. And with the most powerful Slayer on the planet as a prize how could they refuse?

"It shall be done," both answered at the same time.


Castle Slayer

Formerly "Amhuinnsuidhe Castle"
Situated on the Isle of Harris

The War Room

Wednesday, September 26, 5:00 PM, 2007

Scotland

Having taken his plush, luxury seat next to Buffy at the oval 'War Room' table where the leadership gathered to discuss such pressing issues like how best to protect the world, solve petty castle domestic squabbles, critique the cooks menu's, and gossip; Xander gasped at the sight of Andrew attempting to park his new bright yellow hover-chair. The self-professed 'Worlds Greatest Geek' backed his hover-chair in, found it to long and then tried to situate it sideways, only to accidentally bump Faith's chair and earn himself a death glare. "Andrew, please explain to me why you need a working replica of Professor Xavier's chair from the X-men comic books when you have to perfectly working, albeit chicken-like legs?"

Solving his minor dilemma by finding a sweet spot to park, Andrew explained, "This chair adds speed and mobility to my leadership role that genetics failed me by not providing. I consider my parents rather nonathletic DNA as the culprit."

"And that makes sense to you?"

"Well, you weren't complaining when I built that Slurpee machine for your bedroo..." The pen that was thrown at him silenced him quickly. He was delicate that way, you know. "Carry on."

Buffy favored Xander with a mild frown while chewing her grape Bubblicious bubble gum. "That was my pen. The good one with the hearts and stakes on it. I actually killed a vampire with that pen once."

"I'll retrieve it for you before the meeting is over with, Buff. And I was with you the night you pen-staked that vamp. It was very impressive."

"He was wearing a Vanilla Ice t-shirt. He deserved to die." Xander concurred. Buffy looked up when Willow and Giles entered the room and then took their respective chairs. Dawn, newly de-gigantisized, sipped her diet Cola while Faith sat backwards in her chair, ready for this meeting to get on. With Robin handling the more business-like Watchers Council affairs in London, it fell to this rag tag group of heroes to deal out the day-to-day assignments.

Sighting a serious topic, Buffy felt she needed to remind everyone, "It's spaghetti night in the cafeteria. You guys are late and the spaghetti's getting cold."

Patience, Giles reminded himself, was still his most useful ally in dealing with his former charge. "Yes, well I'm sure they will reheat it for you, Buffy. And I love how you're far more concerned with spaghetti night than the possible end of the world."

"I've dealt with the end of the war on numerous occasions. But not many people make spaghetti like Harriett does. She adds this really spicy sausage and..." Her former Watcher's polite glare halted that line of thinking. "K, what's the what?"

Opening the first of his two folders, Giles adjusted his reading glasses and then addressed the table. "Before I begin I feel I need to note that while the Council's wealth greatly exceeds our actual operating costs, the sheer amount of items purchased in the last six months that seem to have nothing to do with our battle against the underworld must be discussed."

Giles continued, "We've been lenient in our open expense account for the leadership brass, but that has to be within reason. To that end I feel we must address the following." Noting the rather nervous looks circling the room, he began reeling off the Council's latest accounting expense report. "Now let's see here. Someone out sourced a small elf-operated company in Finland to design a large specialized cauldron with a DVD player and 15'inch flat screen HD television embedded on its exterior." Pointing a stare at Willow, she smiled brightly.

"I..." she stuttered just a bit, her hands folded in her lap. "I sometimes like to mix potions old school style and watch my favorite TV shows while I do so. Trust me, that product was a very necessary and useful one."

Giles felt a small headache began to throb in his temples at making sense of that. "Yes, I'm sure watching Charmed reruns while combining goat's feet and bat's tails aided in the proper mixture you were conjuring." Moving down the list. "Faith, did you absolutely require a Pacific-Blue 2007 Harley Davidson FXCWC motorcycle to fight the forces of evil?"

With her feet up on the table over the Watcher's Council symbol, Faith shrugged. "No, I needed that to look good."

"Vanity matters. Check," Giles shook his head before going to the next item. "Dawn, did you truly need 200 bars of Dial soap?"

Dawn felt just a bit insulted. "I was twenty-feet tall and bathing in a lake, Giles. You do the math."

"Alrighty then." Moving right along, Giles added, "Xander, there's a thousand dollar crystal disco ball and a 55'inch HD television on your expense account. Kindly explain why you needed those items?"

Sitting up straight, Xander appeared serious as he attempted to convey why they were necessary. "My good man, do to my lack of an extra eye and subsequent 10/10 vision, the television screen I watch needs to have the sharpest, clearest, best picture possible. Sony Electronics aided in that regard. As for the disco ball, I was channeling my inner John Travolta and wanted a Saturday Night Fever sort of decor to my bedroom. I've been catching up on his 1970's movies via the Encore channel."

Giles just stared... and stared some more... and kept right on staring.

"Giles, I'm just a big TV loving, Staying Alive watching, disco ball hanging over my bed American male. I can't change who I am. I am what I am and that's all that I am."

Willow complimented, "That was quite Popeye the Sailor Manish of you."

Cheesing, Xander replied, "I try."

Some things never changed, Giles surmised. Brushing his hand over his head, he moved on to the last items on his list. "We have two anonymous purchases. One is a two thousand dollar autographed photo of Jean Claude Van Damme purchased from an EBAY auction, while the other is a crate of Cinnamon Buns from Sara Lee." Lifting his gaze about, he sighed, "Would anyone care to pursue the honest route and admit they procured these items?"

Her interest p[piqued, Buffy quickly studied the room as she knew she hadn't anything to do with those items. Andrew had an expression on his face that she swore screamed 'I LOVE VAN DAMME!' She was sure he was the EBAY culprit. Dawn seemed oblivious, lost in a Bradgelina article. Faith didn't care. Willow seemed to be hiding a mildly curious smile, while Xander seemed particularly guilty looking in maintaining a poker face when she knew good and well he didn't play poker well. His walking back to his room in only his Scooby Doo boxers post a Slayer's strip poker game last week was testament to that. Yes, it had to be him with the cinnamon bun addiction. But if he had one why hadn't she noticed it by now?

Offering a gentle nudge of her leg against his, Buffy leaned close to Xander's ear, warming the shell. "Care to fess up?" She watched his lips curl into a whimsical smile despite trying not too.

"I have loved Van Damme for years," he smirked in her face.

"Yeah, right." Sitting back in her chair, her leg was still brushed against his, though he didn't seem to mind. He was massaging his left wrist, apparently still sore after yesterday's hanging over a bottomless pit episode. "You okay?"

Nodding, he replied, "I'll live."

"I bet a cinnamon bun would help," she grinned.

"Larry the janitor always has one," Xander fired back, to which she rolled her eyes. That man was the hairiest man alive that wasn't a werewolf. Nice, but damn hairy. "And doesn't he have the most kissable lips you've ever seen?" He had the nerve to wink at her.

Buffy wanted to kick him.

Hard!

And then maybe, possibly, kiss him back... provided he kiss her first and admit he kissed her awake out of her magic induced coma.

Groaning, Faith interjected, "Look, we are all abusing the fuck out of our endless expense account and after all at that Sunnydale business I see no reason to stop at least until the new year. I mean, Giles ain't driving a new BMW for his health," she taunted in a way the former Watcher could only bow his head most guilty. "I, for one, am tired of hearing about the expense accounts and watching Xander and Buffy's continuous flirting which everyone knows will end up with them having loads of sex. So can we please get on with the business of the day?"

"Hey," was spoken at the same time by Buffy and Xander, who both turned bashful really quick when Dawn and Willow gave them interesting looks.

"Yes, Days of our Slayer Lives will continue in a moment," Giles noted before opening his second folder. "Onto the real business of the day then. An undercover operative working security at a Monte Carlo Casino run by a very dangerous Vampire has delivered extremely disturbing news. It appears that scientists for the Vampire Nation and Wolf Pride respectfully, each have created serums that would greatly aid the other."

Taking his time, Giles went on to describe the intricate details of the undercover Slayer's report, explaining what each serum would do for the Vampires and Lycans, as well as the dire long term ramifications it would have on the world. "We aren't looking at our general end of the world scenario. We are in some ways looking at organizations like ourselves. People positioning themselves to be able to fight this war for the long haul. And if Dimitri Vamos and Solomon Trask, rivals who have wished death on the other for over two hundred years sat a mere five feet across from each other we have to assume these serums are the real deal. This become our new worldwide top priority."

"The serums should be impossible," Willow said, voicing her expert opinion. "We're not talking about just the chemical and genetic parts of the Lycan and Vampire virus, but the mystical as well. Merging science with mysticism is tricky, extremely dangerous, and should be impossible."

"All the more reason we need to get all the research those vamps and dog-boys have," Faith added. "Let's face facts. Those scientists aren't playing fair or by any rules at all. Why wouldn't they be far ahead of what we think is possible when they won't say no to anything they want to try? I guarantee you plenty of people died for those serums to be made."

"Faith's right," Xander agreed, his now aching left wrist in his lap. "They're both playing Dr. Frankenstein with no morals or ethics at all. So we need to know everything they know. If Vampires could move around during the day we'd be in huge trouble. And a Lycan is almost as strong as a Slayer, but if you add in human sanity you would have an army of powerful wolfies ready to cause all sorts of mayhem."

"If the serums work, we could turn them into weapons." Andrew couldn't help going over the possibilities. "Having them could turn the tide of everything."

Buffy observed Dawn listening closely and taking notes. New to the day-to-day team, her sister was very serious about contributing to the group while Xander was training her to fight. Speaking of the guy she wasn't sure quite she was crushing on, he kept massaging his sore wrist, tugging some affectionate heart string of hers. She tried to push it out of her mind. "When and where, Giles? That's all we need to know?"

"Four days from now at the Full Moon Casino. We aren't sure if the Vampire and Lycan lords will be there this time or will send representatives, but we expect you all to be in the eye of the hurricane. In addition, the Full Moon Casino's owner, Adam Masikroft switches security teams and personell every seventy-two hours from his other business interests in the area. The new team goes to work tomorrow night. Our inside contact is Virginia Howell, one of Robin's Slayers. She's been undercover there the past three months gathering information. She's getting you all jobs at the casino where we'll set up our operation."

When Xander winced painfully while turning his wrist, Buffy slid her hand over his, and then gently took his wrist between her hands and began massaging the pain away. Unconsciously, she offered, "Then we need to get packed tonight and we need full mission briefs by first thing in the morning. Make sure we have schematics of that casino. Andrew, you handle transportation."

Already typing at the lap top on his hover-chair, he gave a nod. "I'll have a plane ready to go no later than 2:00 PM tomorrow afternoon. A non-stop flight coming right up. I'll make sure our gear is ready as well."

"Good." Buffy continued her tender care of Xander wrist, using her thumbs over and around it while planning. "Dawn, we'll need fake ID's as well as passports and money in their currency."

Cheeky in her response as she was watching her sister closely, noting her caring of Xander, Dawn smiled, "No problem."

Xander meanwhile, he didn't mind the loving care he was receiving, never mind Buffy didn't seem to realize what she was doing, or that everyone was watching her take care of him like this. It was to nice to get hopeful about, no matter how much he wanted to. Then again, she was so set for him to reveal that he was the one who kissed her that he had to accept that maybe she wanted it to be him. Not just to know it was, but was hoping it was him.

Willow's head shaking tease wasn't helping.

"I think we're all set," Giles declared upon grabbing his folders. "We're going in with a small team, you guys, just our best. We can't risk spooking anyone with a larger force. We're taking both cures however the opportunity arises. And I suggest you prepare for one bloody hell of a fight."

"Sounds like a plan, G-Man." Faith stood to her feet, stretching her arms. "Now if Buffy's done giving Xander a wrist-job over there," snickering all around the room, "I think this meeting is over."

Delivering a sudden blank and then partially embarrassed expression, Buffy casually released Xander's wrist and then looked away as the others left the room chuckling. Now she was all alone with her... friend. Yep, her really nice, handsome, sexy, funny friend who she most definitely did not want to bone.

"Thanks for the wrist-job, Buff."

His teasing couldn't go unpunished. "I'm sure its the most action you've had in a very long time."

"Sadly enough, I will neither confirm nor deny that charge, although I may nod." With everyone else gone they were still sitting there, alone, as if there were more to say. He'd already made up his mind about this situation after the Amy/Warren incident, but something inside him just needed to know if... Hadn't he buried that part of him years ago?

"I... I don't often give wrist-jobs." Okay, as soon as Buffy said that she realized she was probably number 3 on the all-time dumbest things a woman has ever said to a guy she might someday date. "Take off shoe, insert foot."

Seeing Buffy act slightly nervous was making Xander slightly nervous. This was so out of his element. And why did she look so damn hot and her hair smell of strawberries? Why was he so close to her he could smell how her hair smelled? And why was he stressing over that when he should say something cool and witty like to impress her. Here goes nothing. "I often give myself wrist-jobs."

After a weird sorta pause they looked at each other and then started laughing their asses off because that had to be the worse excuse for non-flirting flirtatiousness in the history of mankind.

"Xan, you need to get that wrist checked out before we leave tomorrow. And that's an order."

Her smile was infectious and her caring felt good. Plus, his wrist was bothering him. "I need some BenGay and a night free from using it."

"No masturbation."

"I have two ha... I so am not finishing that sentence."

"Good, cause I can't believe I said what I said." Why did she feel sixteen again, struggling for something to say. "So..."

"Want a kiss?"

Exhaling a chuckle, her eyes raised to his good one, finding him just a little to close. "Maybe."

"Maybe?"

"Yeah, maybe. As in possibly." She watched him sit back, relaxing in his chair once more. He had the nerve to be waiting for her to ask for a kiss. He had some nerve! Much like Rick James, she was Buffy Summers, BITCH! Men came back from hell to kiss her! And yet how did any of that work out? Maybe she needed a new strategy. She sighed, "Why can't you just admit it?"

He's been asking himself the same thing. "Why is it such a big deal?"

"Because..." And then she couldn't answer. The words lodged in her throat, pitched a tent, and began camping. After all these years how could they possibly go from friendship to something else? Especially when she couldn't even admit to herself that something else seemed like a really good idea. And then she mentally said screw it all. "Xander?"

"Yep?"

"Give me a kiss."

Having waited nearly a full decade to hear that, Xander's reply was to reach in his pocket and produce a small, silver confection. "Here you go."

Now at this point Buffy wanted to grab a baseball bat, but she refrained as in a strange way his tease gave her an out. She wasn't sure what she would of done if he actually honored her request. Standing to her feet, she unwrapped the Hersey's kiss, ate it, an then made her way towards the door. Turning to face him one last time, she said, "Maybe one day you'll have the courage to give me the kiss you want too."

She left him breathless when she walked away... and short one less Hersey's Kiss. Oh well, he still had half a crates worth of Cinnamon Buns left.


Castle Slayer

Formerly "Amhuinnsuidhe Castle"
Situated on the Isle of Harris

Buffy Summer's bedroom

Wednesday, September 26, 10:45 PM, 2007

Scotland

"Face it, Buffy. The most action your king-sized bed has seen is when you carried it in here."

Popping another deliciously warm Pizza Roll in her mouth while lying beside her sister, Buffy complained in her beige pajama's, "You have some nerve critiquing my nonexistent sex life when yours caused you to go all Jolly Green Giant, minus the green."

"Point taken, but still," Dawn replied, "You are going through a severe drought the likes of which would make a poor African village feel sorry for you."

"Boy, you're a big help." Sitting up at the head of the bed while Dawn laid at the foot, Buffy tossed another Pizza Roll in her mouth. Missing spaghetti night had her bummed already, and now being dissed by your own sister wasn't helping. "Seriously, guy advice from you is like Helen Keller asking Stevie Wonder to describe a donut."

"You, oh Queen of choosing the wrong guy, and mostly the guy who is already dead, have not leg to stand on."

"I'll cop to having made some bad choices before in the daring pool, but at least I was never super-sized."

Rolling over onto her back, Dawn stared at the ceiling, her fingers drumming impatiently over the covers. "I'm never going to live that down, am I?"

"You bathed in a small lake and barely fit in it. You slept in a hollowed out wine cellar. Kinda hard to beat that one." Yawning, Buffy propped a pillow behind her head, winding down from a wonderful Pizza Roll dinner high. She's spent the last couple of hours packing her bags, detailing the Slayers schedules while she was gone, and avoiding a certain Mr. Harris who still hadn't given in to her charms yet. "I'm going to take a sabbatical from dating. Its not like I have time to date anyone. My schedule's hectic and wacky. Then there's all the killing I do. Killing turns guys off. I read that in Cosmo."

"But what if he worked closely with you already?" Dawn couldn't help to taunt, glancing away when Buffy's obvious glare sought her out. "I was stupid and dumb, alright. It happens at my age. No more Thricewise sexing for me. I'm strictly anti-mystical from now on. But you, you have a great honey prospect."

All out of Pizza Rolls, Buffy groaned, "Can't we talk about something else?"

"All you talk about is that damn kiss! I'm sick of hearing about it."

"But you and I both know it was Xander."

"I was outside stomping zombies in my resized Reebok's, so I don't know who kissed you. But I can clearly see through your little secret."

"Secret?" Buffy huffed all pouty like, her arms crossed. "What secret? I have no secret except my deodorant. And it never tells."

Sitting up to face her sister, Dawn was tired of beating around the bush as Buffy's behavior had only gotten stranger the last couple weeks. "Why can't you admit that you want it to be Xander?" Watching her sister's lips part, no sound came out. She gave a sorta head shake/shrug hybrid that didn't make any sense. Typical Buffy. "You want it to be him. Fess up."

"No I don't... mostly."

"If it was Willow you would have talked it out with her a long time ago. You just aren't Will's type and she sure as heck ain't yours."

"What, I'm not good enough potential lesbian material for Wills?"

How could Buffy actually be defensive about this? Dawn was sure her sister was clinically insane but never diagnosed. "If it was one of your Slayers someone would have slipped up by now and exposed themselves. You're around them all day long and would notice if someone was acting strange."

"That makes some sense."

"Neither Angel nor Spike were anywhere near Scotland."

"True, but what about Satsu and her lip gloss?"

"I caught her making out with Paul, one of Giles personal bodyguards two weeks ago. That girl doesn't want woman parts," Dawn explained bluntly. "You and I both know it was Xander who smooched you awake. And furthermore, you want it to be Xander. Admit it! ADMIT IT!! ADMIT IT!!!"

Hands over her face, head shaking against her palm, Buffy drowned in her denial until her heart finally broke free and at long last the truth erupted from her lips. "I THINK I WANT SOME XANDER LOVING!"

"Okay, that was kinda loud. Good thing you have thick walls." Laughing affectionately, Dawn leaned over and gave her sister a hug. It was a good moment. "Look, I don't know for certain it was him, but I couldn't imagine it being anyone else. I just want you to keep this in mind, okay? Whoever kissed you had to be to be in love with you. That means someones feelings have been exposed without their consent. And if they know you don't feel the same way then that causes a whole host of problems, insecurities, and all around emotional pain the likes of which suck the ass of a donkey. And from what I hear donkey ass sucking truly sucks."

Buffy kinda stared at her sister... for a while.

"I tend to go off the deep end at times, but my motives are true," Dawn pointed out.

Yeah, they were. Buffy stretched her arms out in a relaxing pose, feeling better about things and having reached a more profound understanding. "Thank you, sis," she acknowledged, hugging her again. "I might of needed that, but it's not easy to say."

"That's what I'm here for. Just for once make the first move. Then you might actually get what you want. And don't forget he's had it as bad relationship wise as you have."

Agreeing with her, Buffy followed Dawn to her bedroom door. "I got personal work to do, I guess."

"Yep, you sure do. As for me, I'm gonna create us some fake names and ID's. You're gonna be Mike Honcho."

"You're been watching Talladega Nights to much."

"I love me some Ricky Bobby. Night, Buff."

The door shut and then Buffy leaned against it, tugging her bottom lip with her teeth, deep in thought. Her head hung low while going over and over in her mind the pro's and cons of dating Xander, or even admitting that she might want too. They've been the best of friends forever, and honestly, even moreso than Giles she knows she can trust and count on him. Risking a person that dear to her was a scary thing, and yet what might she be missing out on?

Okay, Xander makes her laugh and smile a lot.

He's great at coordinating everything around her so that she can concentrate on the training and leading the Slayers. He's damn reliable, loyal, smarter than anyone gives him credit for and very brave. She never has to look over her shoulder because he always has her back.

"And mercy, has he been working out," she was pleased to note in the pro category. Six pack heaven lived on his belly now and she's noticed more than a few times. He's just older and everything about him feels different, yet at the core the same. The patch does change how he looks to her on some elemental level. There's a darker edge that appeals to her, though he's still the same guy she's always loved.

Only now they are almost three years removed from Sunnydale. Three years was a very long time and she's changed as much if not more than anyone. Maybe it was high time everything else changed too. Nothing ever stayed the same.

Exhaling a slow, nervous breath, Buffy Summers prepared for the longest and quite possibly most meaningful journey of her entire life. One that would take her closer to her best friend than she's ever been before.

Taking three steps to cross the way, she was at Xander's door. Yeah, their rooms were that close. It still felt like she walked a freaking mile.

Raising her hand she knocked hard twice and then waited. Footsteps came closer before the door swung open, revealing an open shirt of muscles owned by one Alexander Harris. In his hand, a Coca Cola Slurpee. He greeted her warmly. "Sorry, Buff. I'm all out of kisses."

"I don't want anymore of your kisses," she replied with a smile. Grinning in that cute way he did as it seemed he didn't believe her, Buffy rolled her tongue around her cheek before speaking. "I'm bored. Care for some company?"

She was naturally gorgeous with her blond hair down in those beige pajamas. Xander tried not to stare at the top button being undone, revealing a hint of... Moving aside, his hand extended into his bedroom. "Far be it from me to turn down a lovely woman at my door." She brushed past him wearing her somethings-on-my-mind expression. And she still smelled like strawberries. Dammit, he liked strawberries. But she was staring at his abs and looked like she enjoyed what she saw. Chuck Norris was going to get one hell of a Christmas basket for his new workout plan. "Can I get you a Slurpee? I have Cola and Root beer?"

Having no furniture besides a king-sized bed and his computer chair, Buffy chose the former. Deciding to dive right into the danger zone, she crawled over his bed, taking a seat with her back to the headboard. She felt his gaze follow her closely. "No, I'm good." Quickly recognizing what he was looking at on his big screen HD TV, she questioned, "Why are you watching the remake Dawn of the Dead? Don't we fight enough of the dead already? Haven't you had enough of dead people?"

"I watch and kill them, not other unmentionable things, unlike some people," he fired back, but not with an attitude as she seemed to brush it off.

"My unmentionables with any of the dead are long over and shall never return."

"Good to hear." Standing perfectly still, he hadn't made his way over to the bed yet. Verbally flirting was one thing, but lying in his bed next to her was something else. It wasn't like they hadn't done it before, but this time with all the flirting and eye-sex they've been having, he was treading lightly to insure he wasn't reading her wrong. "The dead people in this movie run a lot faster than zombies do in real life."

"Yeah, I've noticed." Buffy turned up the volume a little. "Real life zombies are very unathletic, stumbling, groaning, wanna-eat-your-brains like. Those zombies are track star zombies. I like my zombies slow moving and retarded. None of that Road Runner zombie crap for me."

"You'll hear no disagreements from this end." Sensing the growing tension between them, Xander mentally slapped himself for being this nervous. Whatever was or wasn't happening between them had to be faced head on. And despite wanting to run, he finally made his way over to his bed, slipping in beside her. There was space between them, but it was still very cozy... intimate even. "They aren't enough men in this castle. It's a very Y-chromosome deficient environment I'm working in."

"Hey, there are at least six guys on staff, excluding you."

"Versus forty-three women," he countered.

"Not my fault."

"Most are Slayer's. And all Slayer's are girls. It most certainly is your fault because you called them."

Buffy felt the need to remind him, "You helped."

"Yeah, but still. More men mean more male things to discuss," he noted. "I like Giles, but the generation gap erodes our ability to have a good male conversation. He didn't even know who Jackie Chan was. And Larry the janitor is just to hairy for me to talk to and when he eats food it gets stuck in his thick, scary beard."

"Ewww times twenty."

"Then there's Andrew who's cool sometimes when it comes to comic books and Star Wars, but lousy for talking to about sports, women, sex, women, cooking, women, cars, sex, or naked women."

"You possess a marvelous, varied array of verbal topics."

Xander continued, "Then you have Paul and Mike who work for Giles and are very hardcore Watcher's Council-men. I'm not British and I don't always get their sense of humor and belief that James Bond could kick Rambo's ass. Finally, there's Kyle the driver. He feels his lot in life is to stare at you when you walk by. So I've got nothing to say to that jerk."

Buffy noted a small swell of jealousy there? She rested her head on one of his pillows, considering how nice it felt to be this close to him while doing something as domestic as watching television. "Kyle is eerie, but he knows his way around Scotland. The man is a walking GPS locater."

"I don't like him. He has shifty eyes. They're usually focused on you." Catching her smirking out the corner of his eye, Xander realized how that must have come out. "I'm happy you're enjoying this."

"I know you look out for me. I value that. It's no big."

"That's not what I meant and you know it." A heated look passed between them. One that they were only now getting used too. Her vibrant, beautiful hazel eyes drew him in, though he fought it tooth and nail.

"I feel safe with you," Buffy confessed on her side, facing him as the movie played in the background. "I'm not sure what's so different now or why things are the way they are. I just know that being with you feels right. Being close to you makes me a happy Buffy."

Exhaling a shaky breath, Xander could help the pleased expression emerging on his face. What she said wasn't a confession of undying love, but it was more than friendly and that was enough for now.

And then she surprised him out of the blue.

Lifting his right arm, Buffy drifted along his side, soaking in the warmth of being curled next to him. His arm circled her hip, drawing her just that much closer into a cuddle. A sweet silence fell over them as neither moved a muscle or even shared a glance. This was enough for now, being this close, in each others arms at last.

Thinking it over and their past history, for her making the first move Xander offered a simple, "Thanks."

"It was my pleasure," Buffy yawned peacefully in his arms, her fingers playing over his chest, lazily drawing patterns. They've never acted this way before and yet it felt so normal, as if this were the natural progression of their friendship into more. She was falling hard and saw nothing at all wrong with that. "A little while ago Dawn helped me realize that whoever kissed me, their feelings for me were revealed without their consent. And that person might not be comfortable with that, as well as not knowing how I feel." Lifting her gaze to his, she added, "Whether if it was you or not that kissed me, i I just want you to know that I'm exactly where I want to be."

Throwing caution to the wind, Xander pressed a loving kiss to her forehead, holding her closer now, reveling in his someday fantasy made perfect. There was a long way to go still, but this was a start. "Buff, you have just made Dawn of the Dead the most romantic movie ever." Her soft laughter lifted his soul. Hey, he had to walk through this final door sometime, no matter where it led him.

"When you take me to see Hairspray... I... I, uhm. I want it to be a real date. You know, one where you shave before we go and I try on a bunch of outfits looking for a sexy one and we eat dinner somewhere that doesn't have a kids jungle gym or any sort of Happy Meal."

"I think I can manage that, Buff. I'll go all out and spend a whole twenty dollars on dinner."

"You're going out of your way to impress me, aren't you?"

"I might even spend thirty dollars and take you someplace where its mandatory you wear shoes. And I promise my socks will not be holy," he joked while yawning himself as his breathing grew slow, falling in line with Buffy's. Time passed as eyes grew sleepy until at last they fell. The living battled the dead in the background as they were asleep fully clothed, but one step closer to something magical.


A black Boeing Business Jet 2

The Slayer's private executive jet, currently flying a 540 miles per hour.
Thursday, September 27, 5:22 PM, 2007

Enroute to Monte Carlo

"I gotta warn you, this will be as pleasant as drinking a cold glass of Liquid Plumber." Circling the small black table Dawn sat at in the back of the jet, Xander watched her wince painfully while vigorously rubbing her eyes. "They hurt like Angel's favorite vacation spot the first time you put them in. Good thing it doesn't last."

The burning fog that was driving her crazy the very second she put in her 'special' contacts began to slowly fade as her eyes watered. She blinked a couple of times, staring at herself in the mirror on the desk until her vision cleared. She exhaled as the pain ebbed away into nothingness. "Will it hurt like that every time?"

"Same soup, just reheated," Xander offered as he's only in the last six months become accosted to the magically-augmented contacts that allow him to see a Vampire or Lycan via an aura-like glow around their bodies. "Trust me, someday you will want to kiss the small, well manicured feet of Willow when these babies save your life. And they most certainly will."

With that out of the way Dawn could see again. Tying her hair back into a loose ponytail, she peered over the items spread out on the desk. Her greatest interest fell on the twin lightweight hand guns, newly designed for non-Slayer Watcher's Council operatives, were hers at last. "I'm really, finally gonna get to shoot someone," she almost giggled.

"Say that with a bit less awe, oh violent one." Coming around to the chair on the other side of her desk, Xander sat down, his hands lying palms down on the table. Sensing him in serious talk mode, Dawn sat up straighter, waiting for him to begin. "We're not Slayers or mystics or witches, D."

"Believe me, I know? Gotcha." She gave him the thumbs up. He was still serious with his whole lack of expression and so she lowered her hand.

"Do you really?" Xander questioned with no small amount of care as he adored her. Nonetheless, she needed to get this hardcore and blunt. "When I say that, I mean you'll see things you've seen before, like Buffy and Faith and Wills attacking the unholy heck out of anything in their way. But this time you're expected to fight with them, only you can't fight like them. You have to never lose track of that or you will see the inside of a closed coffin."

"How would I see the inside of a coffin if I'm dead. I'd think I wouldn't be seeing anything."

"Dawn, work with me here. I'm trying to be all Optimus Prime-like and inspire you." Lifting her hand in apology, he continued. "The first time I hit a vampire I thought my hand was broken. And the first time a vampire hit me I didn't get up until someone helped me up, and he didn't even hit me as hard as he could have. Now I know you've seen all of this for years and heard about it and even participated in some of our badassness, but now you have finished your training under Giles and I. You're ready to go out there full-time and kick demon ass. But I want you to keep in mind that you have to fight and defend the way you were trained, and not the way the Slayer's, witches, and mystics do. You have to always be mindful that they can take punishment you can't and so you have to be more patient and cautious."

"Patient and cautious. Got it."

Moving on, Xander held up a sixteen-bullet clip. "These bullets are split in two, as you well know. One half triggers the vampire virus in a vamp and effectively causes him to explode from the inside out. The other half is pure silver and will kill a Lycan with a single shot. But these bullets will also kill humans. Again, unlike the others we have to be very, very careful who we attack and how. Buffy knows how to hit a human and not kill him. But these babies," he pointed to the bullets. "They will kill whatever they hit. So we have a responsibility to be sure of what we are doing at all times."

Dawn loaded both her personal hand guns with clips, admiring the cool feel of each in her hands. She was finally ready. "Responsibility and maturity. I'm with you 100." She recognized his slightly nervous mood. Even before she turned all super-sized and the last two months after she became normal again he's trained her as well as he was trained in London for a year when the Watcher's Council was being rebuilt. He's turned her into a crack shot and helped her see how he's survived so long being just a normal person. "Were you scared the first time you fired one of these?"

"Well, mine is bigger," he joked, holding his larger gun. When she rolled her eyes he turned back to business. "I'm scared every time I fire my gun because I worry about a bullet ricocheting off something and killing a innocent person. Or a bullet going through a wall and doing that. I just try and stay focused on the task at hand and make the best choice that I can make. Slayers have the luxury of swords, stakes, and other medieval weaponry because they are so strong they can kill anything with them. They have the ability to take a ton of pain and survive almost anything, so they will fight a heck of a lot more reckless than us. We have to use everything around us to our advantage. We have to anticipate things faster, take things slower, and make sure whatever we fire at we intend to kill it."

"I understand." Having chosen this life for herself, Dawn accepted the responsibility that came along with it. She's in the best shape of her life and ready to follow in her sister's footsteps. "Go over the other stuff with me one more time."

Xander reached for a golf-ball sized glass object. One of several on the table. "Bright light flares. They'll blind virtually anything not wearing our eye contacts. Press the little button on the side and you have five seconds before they go off. Use them to save your life." Next, he pointed towards a small cache of square glazed objects. "Miniature explosives are our good friends. Andrew has built this tiny remote detonators. They're attuned them your watch. Just be very careful what you blow up."

"Don't blow up everything. Check," she smiled at him. It wasn't easy for him to see her about to finally go into battle and she was aware of that. He was the big brother she never had, and one of her closets, most reliable friends. He was also damn good at his job and when she made the choice to stay on at Castle Slayer and join the fight she wanted him to train her more than anyone else. "Can I say thank you without you getting all teary-eyed?"

"Considering I'm down to one good eye, don't expect all that much moisture." Joking, his best coping mechanism. "I know you're ready and I trust you with my life. I just love and worry about you, is all."

"I know, but look at it this way." She held up both her guns. "You taught me how to use these and if I accidentally kill someone its all your... okay, that sounded far more complimentary in my head."

"You think?" he laughed a little, sighing. "You're my Padawan and I just don't want to lose you to the dark side of the force. And deep down I know I won't. I'll just have to get used to dangerous Dawn and not just barely legal Dawn who's not so barely legal or innocent anymore."

"Yeah, I had sex. Lots of it. And I'm good at it too."

"That's far to much information. Now please, honor my final request. Please never, ever speak of your sex life again." Grinning, she rounded the table and wrapped herself around his upper body, smooching his cheek.

"I love you too. And I shall not ever again speak of the loads of hot, sweaty sex I've had." When he shuddered dramatically she declared, "Of course after finding you and Buffy asleep in your bed this morning I get the feeling there's some hot and sweaty sex in your future too."

"God, I certainly hope s... hey, kindly remove yourself from my slowly developing personal life." She hugged him again and then began loading her supplies in a duffel bag. "I'm going upfront. Try not to accidentally shoot yourself."

"Like you did once?"

"It was a minor flesh wound. And we will never speak of it again." Feeling as though he's done his best with her, Xander exited the rear of the plane, taking the short corridor where Faith, Willow, and Andrew slept in the dark of the cabin. Upon looking up he found Buffy exiting the pilot's cabin with a pillow in her hand. He pointed to their seats upfront, not wanting to wake up the others.

Thankful for a wee bit of privacy, Buffy settled in close to her almost but not official honey, warm and comfy. After a short pause he lifted his arm over her shoulder, nestling her against him. Affection was definitely of the good. "How's she doing and is she ready?"

"I think she's more than ready and she's doing great," Xander replied quietly, enjoying this newfound closeness with Buffy. It was going to take some getting used to, but this was progress indeed. "Dawn and I went over the important stuff and her memory is already five times better than mine. The bad guys better watch out. There's a new Summers gal out to kick demon booty and take names."

The words sounded nice, especially coming from him. But Dawn was her only sister and it almost bothered Buffy in some way her sister chose to come into this crazy life of hers. Of course she was impressed with how hard and dedicated Dawn went after here training. Unfortunately, this world she was about to dive head first into was cold and unforgiving. "She was in the best hands with you, so I'm confident she'll be fine. I just worry cause, you know, after mom died I have to look out for her. We're all we have left of mom."

Xander squeezed her closer. "You do a great job, Buff."

"Yeah, I think so sometimes. Other times I think she wishes anyone but me was her sister."

Drawing her closer, Xander pressed his face into her hair, inhaling softly. She seemed to laugh at the action. "I think that goes for most siblings at some time or another. It's time to face facts. Our Dawnie is now Dawn the grown woman."

"This new Dawn better stop banging Thricewise's."

"Oh low and behold, she went non-normal for her first sexual experience. Whoever did she learn that from?"

With his gaze upon her she felt a certain guilt all her own, although she knew her sister didn't have to make her mistakes. "Perhaps I could have been a better example, but she's a grown woman now. Its all her fault she was turned into a huge girl. I just want her to remain a normal sized, alive girl. Key word being alive." Whispering near his ear, she added, "Alive is my new thing too. I'm into heartbeats and guys who are sunlight friendly and can see themselves in mirrors."

Throwing caution to the wind, Xander reached under his chair and produced a small wrapped pastry. "What about a guy with a small addiction to Sara Lee cinnamon buns?"

It was as much of an admission as he was going to give her right now, all the more intriguing her. And it was sweet in a totally Xander-like way. Breaking off half the cinnamon bun, she ate it with a smile. "I am very pro cinnamon bun."

Using the side of his thumb, Xander tenderly swiped a bit of white glaze from the side of her lips, and in the half shadows of the cabin she was more beautiful than he ever thought a woman to be. Knowing enough about romantic movies to see a special moment when one was staring him in the face, he leaned in at the same time she shifted closer, their lips a breath away before...

A sudden jarring blast shook the the entire plane, barreling it into a hazardous roll that threw everyone around the cabin before the jet leveled off shakily.

Drawing herself up from the floor, Faith flew to the window looking outside. "We are so fucked. The right wing's engine is..."

"What, on fire?" Xander gasped, helping Buffy to here feet before checking on Willow as Dawn stumbled in from the back.

"No, gone!" Faith shouted, wrenching Andrew off the floor. Out the corner of her eye she caught the shadow of a massive dark wing... then saw the plane dip outside the way of a blazing burst of fire that flew right past them. "I think we have a dragon on our ass. An actual motherfucking Harry Potter looking dragon!"

"Let me get to work on it," Willow announced, shutting her eyes while summoning her powers.

Charging towards the pilots cabin, Buffy shoved the door open. "I think we have a problem."

"Understatement of the year, Ms. Summers." The pilot pointed to his instrument panel. "Our right engine is gone, we're leaking fuel, and whatever that thing is outside, its following us. We can't outmaneuver that thing and I doubt I'll be able to land. We're going to crash."

Holding onto the door with loud shouting behind her, Buffy felt the jet begin to nose dive towards the Mediterranean Sea. "I swear as soon as I fall for a guy, BOOM, POW, death's just around the corner!"


The End of Chapter 1