The morning sun shone down on the shoulders of a solitary figure walking swiftly along the sidewalk. His eyes focused on his feet as he walked, only lifting his head to look for oncoming traffic when he crossed the street. A bike messenger bag hung over his left shoulder and he kept his hands jammed into his pockets. A few birds sang from their perches in the trees and dogs barked at him from behind the windows of their homes. The sky was a crisp sea blue and no clouds corrupted the pureness of it. To anyone else it would have been a perfect day. He hated it. Hated the beauty of the world when now he saw it so ugly. The sun rising again meant another day had come. Another day coming meant another twenty-four hours to live and breathe while she was still gone, and he was still alone.

The early morning crowd of school kids grew larger as he approached the building where he would be trapped for the next few hours. He kept a keen eye for the new girl that was supposed to show up today. He wasn't sure exactly what she looked like. The one picture they had of her was taken at kind of a bad angle and was dark enough to where you couldn't make out the part of her face you could see. Still, he figured he'd know her when he saw her. Not too many new faces showed up in this town as of late. The ones already here just disappeared at a surprising rate. It was no wonder no one new wanted to come here.

He approached the steps to the front of the school and he allowed himself to feel a small sense of accomplishment in actually coming. A small victory to what he was used too, but a victory none the less. His eyes scanned the crowed looking for the girl once more when he spotted her not fifty feet away. He squinted to double check and make sure. Her head was covered with a mane of loosely combed blonde hair; she wore faded blue overalls and plain black t-shirt. He thought that if anything, her outfit seemed most practical for her newfound profession. He kept his eyes locked on her as he walked; not noticing the huge crowd of people was heading toward.

"Hey!" A voice shouted at him when he felt himself run into something. "Watch where you're going!"

He looked up to meet the gaze of one Stanley Royer. Middle linebacker for the football team, Six foot three, two hundred fifty plus pounds, and a jaw so square it could be used for a chopping block. He smirked up at the behemoth and Stanley just sneered down at him.

"Harris," he said bluntly. "If you wanted to give me a blowjob that badly you could have just asked."

His group of friends cackled behind him and Xander merely smiled before sending his fist flying into the giant's face. He felt the warmth of blood run over his knuckles as the linebacker screamed in pain and doubled over clutching his nose. He looked up to Xander in shock and his friends stared on stunned. He looked at his hand like he was examining a bug he'd just picked up from the ground.

"Are you crazy?" Stanley screamed.

"I am," he said. "Haven't you heard?"

"You're dead Harris!"

"Promises, promises. You know, I had you figured for more of a hand job type of guy," he said before turning and walking away.

Stanley shouted idle threats at his retreating form but made no move to advance toward him. Xander scanned the crowd again but she was already gone. He cursed quietly to himself and made his way inside.

***

"She's here," he said as he entered the library. He took a quick look around seeing that it was empty as always.

The older man appeared from behind a bookcase polishing his glasses with his sweater.

"You've seen her?" He asked walking toward his office intending on getting the picture they had for conformation.

"Out front," he replied. "I would have talked to her too but I ran into Sunnydale High's favorite linebacker."

Giles then noticed his young cohorts hands covered in drying blood. He made an attempt at a question but the words wouldn't come out.

"Don't worry," Xander said. "It's not mine. Anyway, back on topic. New girl, here, now. What to do about it? "

"Are you sure it's her?" The older man asked.

"It's her. If she wasn't the new slayer, she still screams of violence. It's like you can just tell."

"Very well then. You'll have to approach her cautiously. From what the council has told me her other Watcher has died and that she's not exactly one to socialize about her...abilities."

"I know," he said. "She wasn't either..."

He let the rest of the sentence hang in the air and absent-mindedly adjusted the strap of his bag. He looked at the older man solemnly and it looked as if he was going to say something but Xander raised a hand to cut him off.

"I have to get to class. I'll come back after."

"Yes of course."

He pushed his way through the doors and out into the hall keeping his eyes peeled for the new girl. He had the feeling that he wouldn't see her again, and for some reason accepted it as fact. He stopped to buy a soda from the machine and made his way to class. Once inside he saw Stanley with a makeshift bandage of gauze and tape on his nose. He'd nearly forgotten that they shared first period. He shot a death glare toward Xander and flinched in pain, putting his hand over his nose. Xander ignored him and made his way to his seat and stared out the window.

The rest of the day involved looking for the new girl and staring out of the window of all his classrooms. He never paid attention to the teachers anymore because he thought there was no point to it. He figured that any day now he'd end up dead. Whether it was by whatever demon the hellmouth conjured up or his own hand was yet to be seen. The final bell rang and he made sure he was the first one out of the door. Walking through the hallway he heard the whispers of Cordelia and her gang of morons snickering and pointing at him. He turned his head toward them and all but Cordelia looked disgusted that he would even dare look at them. She smiled softly at him. They'd hated each other for years, and made no bones about it. But by his own count he'd saved her life at least three times. Her gratitude resulted in no more insults. She was even nice to him on a few occasions.

He kept walking as the girls went back to giggling, and made his way into the library. To his surprise Willow was there, sitting at the biggest table with her laptop in front of her, tapping the keys madly. She noticed him and gave a small smile before returning to her work. Giles was leaning on the counter sipping at a cup of tea and reading a book that was older than he was. Xander threw his bag on the counter and sat at the table with Willow. He closed his eyes and let the quiet of the room soothe him.

After awhile Giles finally looked up from his book and noticed Xander's presence.

"No luck," Xander said before Giles could speak. "I didn't see her again."

Giles nodded and took another sip of tea before taking off his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose. He walked around the front of the counter and idly stretched his back.

"There's always tomorrow I suppose," he said.

Xander nodded and looked to Willow still typing furiously. There was a giant stack of books next to her and every now and then she would read one of them for a minute before going back to typing.

"What's she working on?" He asked Giles, not wanting to interrupt her.

"The database," he replied. "Dreadful thing will be of no use to me, but I thought that it would be easier on the two of you rather than going through all my volumes. You do seem to hate it."

"Books smell," Xander said flatly.

"Uh, yes," Giles replied quizzically. "Indeed."

He went back to the counter to read and drink his tea and Xander sat back down at the table. Willow didn't look back up to him; she was far too busy. He leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes. He dreamed.

***
She was so beautiful it hurt to look at her. The blinding light surrounding them was no help either, but he ignored it as best as he could. She stood there in a simple black dress, the one she'd only worn for him once at a school dance in the beginning of junior year. It'd taken him forever to convince her to go. Her dark hair stood a in a stack of curls atop her head. Smiling at him brightly she took his hand and pulled her into his arms. Her felt her body so close him, the scent of her hair, the smooth skin of her bare shoulders. He ran a shaky finger along the skin and sighed brokenly. She was here. She was real.

"Faith," he whispered.

"Shh," she cooed gently.

"You're dead," he said.

"Not here I'm not;" she replied pulling back so that they were face to face.

He smiled sadly and moved his hand to run along her cheek.

"I miss you so much," he whispered.

"I know you do," she said. "I miss you too. It's all vanilla where I am, no kinks."

They laughed lightly together. He moved in to kiss her and she returned it eagerly. He kept his arms wrapped tightly around her. He didn't want to let her go. She kept her chin rested on her shoulder like she always did when they hugged for a long time. He felt the tears sting his eyes and he quickly batted them away.

"I have to go soon," she said.

"No."

"I have to."

"Please don't leave."

"I'm sorry."

He gave her one last desperate kiss as her form began to fade against the light.

"I love you Faith."

"I love you too Xander."

Then she was gone.

***

He awoke with a start to the concerned faces of Willow and Giles. He jumped from his chair causing them to back away. He wiped the sweat from his forehead and tried to calm his heavy breathing. His hands shook and he leaned onto the table for support. Giles and Willow looked at each other, unsure of what to do. He wasn't as unstable as he used to be, but they still felt like that had to walk on eggshells around him.

"Are you all right?" Willow asked sheepishly.

"I..." Xander started. He grabbed his bag from the table and threw it over his shoulder. "I'm going home."

He ran out of the library before either one of them could say anything more.

Once he got home he ran right by his parents, who probably didn't notice he was there and headed straight up the stairs for his room. He threw himself on his bed and covered his head with his pillow hoping to drown out Faith's voice inside his head. He knew sleep wouldn't come easy tonight, if at all.

***

He busted through the doors of the library, walking quickly like a man on a mission. All he wanted to do was sit in the library with Giles and Willow and pretend he slept all night instead of smoking cigarettes and staring out of his window. He stopped dead in his tracks at the sight of the girl he'd spent all of yesterday looking for. If he had known it would have been this easy he wouldn't have bothered. She stood in the middle of the floor looking around like a mouse in the middle of the maze. Of course she could probably just burst through the walls if she actually was a mouse and... He shook his head. That train of thought was bound for nowhere. He stood there staring at her until she finally noticed him. She didn't wave, or say hello, or introduce herself. She merely scowled at him. He looked at her in confusion for a second before walking toward the counter to put his bag down. She quickly scuttled away from him as he passed her by which earned her another odd look from him.

He noticed the scar along her cheek and he automatically moved to pull the sleeves of his shirt down over his wrists just a little further. She caught him looking at her and he turned away.

"I'm looking for Mr. Giles," she stated gruffly.

Xander craned his neck and peered into Giles' office and saw that it was empty.

"He's not here," he said.

"How observant of you," she replied.
"Well, I'm sure he'll be back in a few minutes."

She didn't respond again; just stood there ramrod straight with her arms wrapped around her waist.

"So what's your name?" He asked, pretending like he didn't already know.

She looked back at him in annoyance and sighed heavily.

"Buffy," she said.

"Buffy," he repeated.

"What are you deaf?"

"No, just thought it was an interesting name that's all."

"Yeah well, whatever," she replied waving her hand dismissively.

He gave up any hope of starting up a conversation with her, but still stared when she wasn't looking. He looked at the scar on her face and wondered what had caused it. The scarred tissue was whiter than the rest of her pale skin and stood out. She wore the same overalls as yesterday, and her shirt was the same style, but was red rather than black. She carried a messenger bag similar to his, which hung loosely and the small of her back. His eyes traveled back to her face and he noticed the bandage taped to her neck. With all the vampire bite cover ups he'd seen in his time he's a little surprised at himself for not noticing it earlier. He didn't want to piss her off again but he couldn't stop his mouth once it opened.

"A split second is all they need," he said.

"What?" She shot back. "What are you talking about now?"

"Vampires," he replied pointing at her neck.

"What the hell do you know about it?" She asked, her brows furrowing in anger.

He sighed light heartedly. He didn't need this right now. She was here, she was looking for Giles, and he didn't need to look for her anymore. His services were no longer required at the moment. He grabbed his bag from the counter and walked briskly passed her. He paused at the doors and looked over his shoulder.

"More than I ever wanted to," he said pushing his way out.

She stared after his retreating form through the small round windows, her hand involuntarily touching her bandage.

***

The cafeteria bustled noisily with the lunchtime crowd. Trays clinked, bits and pieces of conversation were overheard, everyone separated into their clicks. He sat alone at a table picking at the mystery loaf that was supposed to pass for meat. It was a wonder he didn't weigh fifty pounds less with the food they served. He pushed the tray away and scanned the crowd. He saw the table full of popular kids. Each one crisply dressed in the latest trends and talking adamantly about nothing of importance. He looked over the table full of geeks. He knew half of them through Willow, and he himself didn't think of them as geeks but his opinion was drowned out by popular theory. He looked to the jocks and for a brief second his eyes met Stanley's. His nose was still taped and there was slight bruising around his eyes. Stanley mouthed a threat to him to which Xander grabbed his own nose and mimicked pain. Stanley scowled at him and he smiled in return.

He looked to the lunch line to see Buffy standing in front of Lunch Lady Fran receiving a fresh square of mystery meat. His eyes followed her as she walked around the tables looking for an extra seat. She passed the table full of the Cordettes and they laughed shrilly at her. He watched as Buffy stopped, turned around and walked over to them. He couldn't hear what Harmony was saying but the look on her face said something along the lines of "you can't sit here." He laughed loudly when he saw Buffy pour the contents of her fruit cup across Harmony's shirt. The girl's screech filled the room and a bunch of people turned their heads to point and laugh. Buffy moved swiftly from the table and seemed to be heading in his direction.

She passed his table without even seeing him but stopped quickly and turned around to look at him. He saw brief recognition in her eyes, but it faded fast and turned into another scowl. He thought that if she wasn't careful her face might stay that way. She moved closer to his table but made no move to sit down. They glared at each other, eyes never wavering in the form of a small staring contest. Finally she rolled her eyes and sat across from him. They picked at their food in silence. He was unsure of what to say to her. If she had met with Giles earlier then she knew he was in on the defending the world from darkness routine. Somehow he thinks that it's not the wisest topic to begin with.

"What do you know about vampires?" She asked quietly.

"I know they're not of the good," he replied, mildly surprised that she spoke first. "Walking undead, can be killed by sunlight, stake through the heart, beheading."

"No," she said moving her hand to the bandage on her neck. "What do you really know?"

He smiled sadly at her, his own hand moving to his neck. He wasn't going to show her his own scar, just as he knew she wouldn't be likely to show him hers.

"I know enough," he said.

She nodded and they were quiet for awhile. She looked around the room and it seemed to him like she wasn't comfortable with so many people around. She kept her shoulders hunched together and it looked like she was trying to block out all the noise.

"I know," he said regaining her attention.

"Know what?"

He leaned in closer and dropped his voice to a stage whisper. "That you're the slayer."

Her eyes grew wide with anger and she stood from her seat quickly and turned to bolt. He jumped up and grabbed her shoulder, a move she rushed to counteract, knocking his hand away.

"Don't touch me," she said coldly.

He put his arms up in surrender and gestured for her to sit back down. She hesitated a moment before complying.

"And just how do you know that?" She says, her voice quiet but menacing.

"Giles," he said.

"What?" She exclaimed. "He's a Watcher! He's not supposed to tell anyone else."

"You have to understand how things work around here," he said calmly.

"I don't have to understand anything," she said.

"Fine, whatever. All you have to know is that I know who you are and what you can do."

"You don't know me," she spit out.

"No," he conceded. "Maybe I don't. But you don't know me either."

"Maybe I don't want to."

"Then why'd you sit here?"

"Because..." She said slowly, looking around at other tables. "There was nowhere else."

"Right," he said.

"Look, I don't care what you know. I'm the slayer not you. If you think for one second that you can help me you've got another thing coming."

"I helped the old slayer just fine," he said, his mouth feeling numb that he could say such a thing so easily.

"Yeah, well I heard that Angela wasn't the best skilled slayer that ever existed."

"I didn't help out Angela," he replied. "I..." He couldn't say her name out loud.

Buffy stared at him, impatiently waiting for his next sentence. He fought back a few tears in his eyes and struggled with the single syllable of her name.

"Faith," he said, struggling with the word. "I... she..."

"Okay, so you helped out one of the big guns. That doesn't mean I..."

He slammed his fist on the table causing her to flinch slightly. She scowled at him yet again.

"I'm assuming you knew of her," he said coldly.

She nodded.

"Then you know she was more than just a 'big gun' as you put it."

"Touchy," she muttered.

"Look," he said calmly. "Giles is a good man and a damn fine Watcher. He'll train you well if you take your time and listen. And as far as helping you out with the Slayer gig, it's what I've been doing for over a year. If you don't like it tough. I've been at it longer than you."

She opened her mouth to retaliate but clamped it shut. She began picking at her food once more and he soon followed. They ate in silence once again.