Author's Note: The story called 'Haven and Home' by phouka on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossover stories website known as 'Twisting The Hellmouth' should be read before perusing this story, in particular Chapter Three of that narrative. So, go do it, and then come back here, because it'll be a lot more fun that way! This story is set in that chapter, but it's not to be considered an actual part of phouka's world. I'm just playing in that sandbox.
Grateful thanks are due from this author to phouka for allowing her creations to appear in my story. Once, again, many thanks for her gracious permission.
The Clean House group was quite content to be at the very back of the crowd clustered together that a few minutes ago had been several dozen people (in some cases, that word managed to apply to several most strange individuals) happily going through a very unique yard sale. Now, everyone huddled next to each other at the same point on the front lawn, nervously watching what was taking place beyond the group.
Not everyone in the gathering was apprehensive. At the front of the crowd, two people next to each other stood easily, seemingly ready for anything, but not all that concerned. Of course, Xander Harris and Dawn Summers had been through a great deal together that easily surpassed the events now occurring -- various catastrophes, apocalypses, and the like. These experiences gave the pair the self-confidence to wait for whatever was going to happen, and the assurance they would indeed calmly deal with any consequences.
In fact, Xander and Dawn were now quietly commenting and comparing notes on how the Slayers were behaving in their own group standing in front of the former Sunnydale residents. The numerous teenage girls, every one of them with their hand weapons out and ready for action, tried not to blush over the pair behind them sardonically pointing out these females should spread out a bit more before someone stuck a knife, sword, or axe into someone's butt. Right after that, a sheepish shuffling happened throughout the mob of Slayers, opening up the crowd a little.
This meant that Dawn and Xander could now see past to where Buffy and Willow were at the forefront of the pack of warrior women. Neither the blonde nor the redhead seemingly gave any notice to what the baby Slayers were doing. Instead, the pair were intently looking ahead, both ready for action at a moment's notice, if Giles gave any signal.
The Englishman, standing about fifty feet in front of his former charges, calmly finished polishing his glasses, and replaced them on his nose. Rupert Giles now looked up, and up, and up.
A thirty-foot giant with gnarled features of pure ugliness carefully examined what that creature was holding in its right hand, its arm extended and at shoulder level, as easily as a normal human could grip a clothespin. Two fingers the thickness of sewer pipe were carefully pinched together, around the ankle of Andrew Wells.
This fast-asleep individual hung limply upside down, several yards above the ground, his arms dangling, and his hair falling over his face to hide his forehead and what was adhered there. The man's eyes were firmly shut, as the cook and total comic-book-geek of the Cleveland Slayers House continued his demon-slime induced state of blissful unconsciousness. A soft snore burbled from Andrew's slack lips.
Giles opened his mouth to say something, only to be interrupted by a pleading voice that sounded like a piccolo the size of a Mack truck. In an extremely high-pitched and plaintive tone, the giant beseeched, "But it'll make such a darling addition to my collection! I've got Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White, and others, but this is the first male I've found! When I put it with my other magically-insensible people, I think I'll call it….let me see….I know! It'll be listed as 'Slumbering Court Jester!'"
"Er, quite," managed Giles. "However, there are laws in this dimension against human slavery--"
The giant blinked, and then its hand brought Andrew's body closer to the creature's repulsive features to intently examine the young man. After a few seconds, a puzzled expression managed to make itself shown past the warts and carbuncles, as the giant looked back at Giles, and asked with total disbelief, "THIS is a human?"
Giles maintained a perfect deadpan as he replied, "We're….reasonably certain. Further, I believe that my charges regard Andrew as their own, ah, pet, and they would be most distressed if he were to be removed from this place."
The giant spent a measurable interval thinking this over, until he slowly lifted his head to shift his gaze from Giles to worriedly stare at the Slayers.
This delay meant that every one of the teenage girls had quickly stowed away their weapons into their clothing, or were now hiding various tools of mayhem behind their backs, as all of them innocently looked at the giant. From where Xander was standing and with great difficulty keeping from howling with laughter, he couldn't see the girls' faces, but he would bet his entire Twinkie stash that puppy-dog eyes, quivering lower lips, and possibly an actual tear or two were being bestowed upon the increasingly despondent giant.
Eventually, a depressed sigh was heaved by the giant, blowing half the feathers off a crow that had the misfortune to fly past the creature's face at that exact instant, to staggeringly flutter away while uttering squawking corvian curses. The enormous being looked sadly at what it was holding, and then he bent down to gently deposit Andrew onto the ground. It really wasn't the giant's fault that Andrew landed on the lawn face first.
A quick glance by Giles showed that even though Andrew was going to feel it in the morning, he wasn't really hurt, and so the Englishman looked back up at the dejected giant, and said most sincerely, "Thank you very much! Is there anything else here you'd be interested in purchasing? I'm sure we could give you a discount--"
The giant slowly shook his head, and said in his piping voice, "That was all I wanted," as he gestured at Andrew lying on his stomach, with the man now making walrus-style snorting sounds into the grass. A massive shrug was made by the giant, as he turned and walked off away from the house, muttering under his breath a last pouting comment that was quite understandable by everyone in front of the building, "I should have gone to Dracula's castle sale instead. He always has a few leftover thralls--"
Everyone waited until the last pounding footsteps faded away, until a sigh of relief came from all there, and the crowds began breaking up, only to freeze again at a commanding voice from Giles. Looking at the blonde Slayer, he ordered, "Buffy, take Andrew back to the house, and this time put him in a room with a lockable door."
"Gotcha, Giles, it's beddy-bye for our Andrew. I'm not gonna strip him, though. Once was enough for seeing his Chewbacca underwear."
Giles just rolled his eyes as Buffy advanced to scoop up Andrew and toss him over her shoulder, not bothered at all by his weight as she walked towards the front door of the house. The crowd of Slayers and others watching this had their attention abruptly brought back to Giles by his deep growl, accompanied by a cold eye aimed at everyone in sight, that showed Ripper had decided to visit.
"Which one of you lot decided it would be hilarious to sneak Andrew out of the house and into the stacks of items purchasable right after plastering on his forehead a 'For Sale' sticker?"
In the frozen crowd, people glanced out of the corners of their eyes at each other, waiting to see who would confess. For one particular individual, their lips suddenly became dry, and a sense of resignation came over this person, as a mouth was about to open to plead guilty--
"I am Spartacus!"
Xander looked over with total disbelief at Dawn next to him who had just shouted this declaration in her clear voice. An instant later, one of the baby Slayers also yelled, "I am Spartacus!"
"I am Spartacus!" "I am Spartacus!" "I am Sparkplug!"
The last came from Buffy, who'd stopped right before the front door, to turn around with Andrew still over her shoulder and out cold, while she watched with a gleeful expression her Slayers and the rest of the crowd happily call their false confession into Giles' thunderous face. Finally, the Englishman had enough.
The crowd fell silent, still mischievously smirking at the man who was glowering at them all. Huffily, Giles snapped, "All right, I'll get to the bottom of this another way, I swear I will! In the meantime, every one of you can wait and wonder when I'll spring on you a proper English breakfast and expect you to eat every bite of your stewed tomatoes, beans on toast, and kippered herrings!"
At that, the irate man stalked away, as the snickering crowd dispersed, with the customers carrying on in looking at the items for sale, the Slayers going around their daily business, and the Clean House group heading back into the dwelling, with a comment overheard from them, "Besides a totally new outfit provided by a sailmakers', that huge guy really needs a facial…."
Now by himself, Xander was in the middle of breathing a deep sigh of relief, until a purring voice spoke into his left ear, "Good one, Xander."
"Yeep!" Xander flinched away from whoever had sneaked up on his blind side, relaxing only when he turned his head to see Dawn standing there next to him, with her arms folded and a faint frown on her face. Indignantly, as she knew full well he hated being surprised like that, Xander began, "I don't know what you're talking--"
"Oh, give it a rest! You were never able to lie to mom, Xander, and while Buffy's always been more gullible, the Summers lie-detector genes passed onto me," declared Dawn, a hint of dryness in her voice. She cocked her head, and asked coolly "So, how'd you do it?"
Xander tried to look as innocent as possible, until he saw Dawn wasn't buying any of it. Finally, a grin broke over the man's face, as he confided, "Comes from years of Hyena and Soldier-boy, with it sneaking up on prey and him slipping past sentries, superior officers, and NCOs looking for someone to put on KP. Also, little miss helped by standing lookout and warning me of anybody near, and also providing distractions."
"Oh, great, now you're corrupting the dryad?" Dawn lifted her eyes to the heavens for a moment, and then she again stared at Xander, her now-annoyed voice matching her stern look. "Uh-huh. And did you really expect to sell Andrew? To who? For how much? Plus, you actually thought you'd get away with it?"
At this barrage of questions from Dawn, Xander looked a bit offended. "Hey, it was just a getback for him bringing in strangers, even though that turned out okay, with the Clean House gang being a cool bunch. I thought we'd have a few laughs, and I never dreamed someone would actually want to buy him!" Xander wasn't discouraged by Dawn's disbelieving look, instead going on. "Besides, I was gonna come up with a clever plan any second now, with the giant."
"Oh, at the point right after the really embarrassing part. I figure that would have been when Andrew woke up when that giant was stripping him to make sure he had all working parts."
Xander took a few moments for himself to have a private fit of the giggles, letting his gaze drop to the ground as he laughed. His chuckles abruptly stopped, as his eye caught sight of Dawn's slowly tapping right foot, to rise to see her arms still folded over her chest, and to finally stop at her grim expression.
"Alexander LaVelle Harris!"
*Uh-oh to infinity.*
Before Dawn could start her presumed rant, Xander hastily blurted, "Okay, okay, what's it gonna take to keep you quiet about this? Me building your own private spa? A big-screen TV? Chocolate?"
His heart soared at her suddenly-thoughtful expression at the last offer/bribe, as Dawn slowly nodded to herself and then she looked directly at Xander, saying, "Yes."
"Well, all right, what size of Godiva box do you--"
"Chocolate. Flowers. Formal outfit. Candlelight dinner. Expensive restaurant. Dancing. And after all that, me getting lucky. Luckier. Luckiest."
Xander's mouth had been opening wider and wider at every item being listed by Dawn, until the totally shocking statements at the end finally made his brain go 'pop' and his frantic voice now squealed most unmanly, "You….you can't be serious! You're just a kid, her little sister -- BLUB!"
The last sound had been caused by Dawn's right hand shooting towards his mouth for her fingers to grab and squeeze Xander's lips shut, pooching out his face. She kept her firm grip on this part of his frozen body, as the young woman stepped closer to look him straight in the eye, which was not all that comforting to him, considering how livid was her expression.
Her voice was as cold as liquid nitrogen, as Dawn stated, "I am nineteen years old, fully and completely legal." The woman's right hand still maintained its clutch on Xander's face, and now yanked his head down for him to stare as Dawn used her left hand to gesture as she illustrated her next statements, wrenching his head along it all for him to watch, whether he wanted to or not.
"I have legs." An left index finger ran up the front of her long, long, left leg, starting at above her knee to travel on to stop at the top of her thigh.
"I have hips." A slap against her side showed the nature-given wideness of these parts of the body between her waist and her legs.
"I have an ass." A slight turn of her body was made, and Xander's eye bulged as Dawn ran her left palm over the smooth material of her skin-tight jeans covering her left buttock cheek.
The left hand then traveled upward, on its inexorable journey, as Xander felt a roaring in his ears that was interrupted by her next statement.
"I have tits." A shake, and twin bounces.
A final wrench, and Xander was again looking Dawn in the eye, as she finished by murmuring, "I have lips and a tongue, and I'm gonna use them, and everything else, to do the job. Wanna know what that is? Yes, you do," finished Dawn, as she shook his head up and down to express his forced agreement.
Dawn Summers made the supreme announcement. "I'm gonna make you mine."
For Xander, there was nothing but her eyes staring into his, eyes that were clear and loving and fierce and laughing and patient and hungry and exasperated and joyful and…and…. She was speaking again.
"I'm gonna do what I swore to myself years ago, when I watched and waited, when I saw Buffy and Faith and even Willow all had their chance with you, and they blew it, every one. Well, I'm not them, and I'm gonna prove it to you. We're going to be together, always, and you just might as well get used to it."
From deep in his mind, memories from the last moments of Sunnydale that had still had the power to install heartache took form, and Xander Harris expressed these with a choking sound of pure pain.
Dawn's look of stern mischievousness now changed at once to pure compassion, as she whispered the name Xander was trying to say. "Anya."
The two of them stood there, lost in the memories of a human, once demon, human again, who had loved, and been loved by the pair.
The girl still held Xander helpless with her grip on his lips, and Dawn now gently shook his face to get his attention from his misery. "Xander, I want you to think of something. Besides you, who was the person Anya was most around with?"
Xander was actually distracted by her question, as his face frowned in thought, and then smoothed in astonishment, as his eye flickered right into Dawn's look of affection, as she smilingly said, "Yeah, it was me. We spent hours together in the Magic Box, remember? Well, what did you think we did all that time, take inventory? Nope, we talked. Can you guess what about?"
The man promptly blushed brick-red, his embarrassment actually felt on the young woman's fingers as body heat, as she giggled in utter delight, before gasping, "NOT THAT! Well, there were a few times…."
The flush changed from brick-red to absolute scarlet.
"Oh, you're so easy," chortled Dawn, who then became more serious. "Xander, what hurt Anya the most about her life, all the thousand years of it, was how alone she was during it. It was the one thing that made her cry, she told me. And she cried again, when she talked about it." Dawn stepped closer to Xander, so near that her breath caressed his cheek as she confided, "Whatever else, she never wanted anyone to feel so alone as she did. Especially you."
Despite Dawn's grip, Xander managed a short headshake that was interrupted by Dawn's skeptical snort, as she firmly said, "Yeah, you're alone. Oh, you're around people all the time, helping Buffy, Willow, Giles, the Slayers, everyone, but you won't let anyone into your life. Why do you think it hit you so hard about the dryad, how alone she was so long, and why it feels so good now to have her with you?"
An earnest Dawn now stepped back to steadily consider the man she was still holding in her clutch. The sight of his stubborn expression that had come at her last words made her serious mood darken a bit, as her indignation rose, in the usual Summers-woman reaction to a totally thickheaded, brain-dead, male nincompoop who needed to be hit with the biggest rock around to get his attention and acquiescence.
"Now, you listen to me, and you listen good, Xander. I'm not a dryad. I'm a full-grown human woman who doesn't give a damn that you evidently decided to spend the rest of your life alone. I've decided we're going to grow old together, and Saturday night is going to be our first date of many until you cave in and get with the program! You -- got -- that -- buster?!"
Just before Dawn's last sentence, she finally let go of Xander's lips, though his relief was short-lived, considering her next actions of jabbing a stiff right index finger painfully into his solar plexus, very hard once per word, as she delivered her concluding statement.
Xander had so many thoughts whirling in his brain over all that had happened that he couldn't decide what to say or do first. So, he simply made the most reflexive decision, just to stop the hurting poking, and squeaked in total surrender, "Yes, ma'am!"
Well, apparently that worked, as the stiff finger that was zeroing in for another painful prod stopped in mid-air, and then was lifted to chuck Xander once under his chin, as Dawn cooed, "You're so cute when you crumble."
"Hah?" choked Xander, whose disbelieving eye watched Dawn give a satisfied nod, and then she spun away to walk towards the house. After a few steps, the woman turned her head to call over her shoulder while still striding away.
"Remember, you pick me up at the house Saturday night, five p.m. sharp! I want roses, and the high-grade chocolates, and, oh, yeah, get a fresh condom for your wallet! Better make it a couple, on second thought."
Xander was too stupefied by watching Dawn walking away from him while she was being (as the female host of Clean House would have approvingly expressed it) "a foxy sista really workin' her booty" to react then to what she'd just said. It wasn't until his tongue started hurting that he realized it had turned dry while hanging out of the side of his mouth, and as he finally pulled that part of his body back past his lips, it was met on the way by a horrified scream right from the bottom of Xander's lungs.
Bargain-hunters are serious about their work, as proved by all of those there at the yard sale. They weren't easily distracted, even by a one-eyed man walking in short circles on the lawn, pounding his fists simultaneously against the sides of his head, and babbling, "Take away the bad thoughts! Take away the bad thoughts!"
This pleading abruptly stopped, as Xander froze in his tracks, a totally appalled look on his face, as he considered how Buffy Summers was going to react to all this. To be precise, into how many soggy pieces was she going to tear his body, right after she found about what Dawn had just said?
None of the browsers looked up from their hunt when the despairing man started his circles again, more seriously trying to punch himself out, all while moaning, "Bring back the bad thoughts! Bring back the bad thoughts!"
In the middle of all this, a mental twinge suddenly impinged upon Xander's mind, entirely different from the headache he'd just received from clouting himself. "Huh?" blinked the Sunnydale survivor, as he came to a stop and let his arms fall to his sides as he stared with surprise at the house. It looked at the same, which was odd, since his newfound sensation was due to the dryad adding a new room to the house that was a magical representation of her tree dwelling/self. Over the last few days, he'd become used to suddenly feeling, well, 'bigger' as best as he could explain it to the others, when the magical creature expanded the home standing before him and this impression had also been passed along through their link with each other.
Eagerly seizing on the distraction as an escape from his worries, Xander closed his eye and concentrated, trying out something he'd accidentally learned just a short time ago. Sure enough, after a few seconds, the darkness in his mind slowly cleared, and Xander found himself in a psychic impression of the exact room the dryad had just created.
Absently feeling almost weightless, which now exemplified his non-physical nature, Xander curiously looked around the small, bare room that was bright and airy, as benefiting its position overlooking the rear garden. A mental eyebrow was raised at the emptiness of this part of the house. He hadn't seen this before. All of the other rooms created by the dryad had at least some furnishings and other objects, ranging from a table and a few chairs, to a total jumble of items that in one case had actually included a torn-down Harley-Davidson motorcycle engine.
Puzzled, Xander looked around again, since the bareness of the room didn't make it feel austere and bleak. Instead, it felt….snug. Soft. Welcoming. Something caught Xander's attention out of the corner of his eye, and he turned around to stare at the back wall of the room, which was entirely covered by a mural. The wall painting was a bit dusty, but its cheerful colors of bright balloons, a rainbow, and a glorious sunrise still managed to shine brightly through the grime.
Xander's stomach abruptly dropped right down to his boots, as he came to a horrified realization of what this room's purpose was to be, and why it was totally empty. After all, as he unseeingly stared at the cheery painting that was meant to catch and soothe an infant's eye, any parental pair would want to decorate according to their own wishes and hopes their coming child's nursery.
Another mental twinge suddenly resounded in Xander's mind. In a mood of absolute doom, the man slowly turned around, to look at where an ornately-carved wooden crib had now materialized in the center of the room.
A few minutes later, an interested crowd of baby Slayers had formed a ring around Xander Harris. The White Knight, the One Who Sees, savior of the world from Dark Willow, friend of the Slayer, boytoy, their handyman and possessor of emergency chocolate, had fallen to the lawn to curl up with his arms wrapped around himself, and was brokenly babbling, "Diapers….three o'clock feedings….scraped knees….dating….driving….Daddy, can I have the keys to the car so me and my boyfriend can go to Makeout Point?…"
One of the baby Slayers elbowed her friend at her side in the ribs, and confided, "I saw something like this when my older brother got engaged. A few days later, we found him flat on his back on the living room couch, moaning that his life was basically over."
Fascinated, the other Slayer watched as Xander began to pound his head against the ground, and not taking her eyes off this, she asked, "So, what happened?"
"Well, Mom called his fiancée, and she came right over. She grabbed him by his ear, dragged him to his bedroom, and they stayed in there all day. Dad opened his mouth to say something, until Mom just gave him a look, and he shut up, going outside to rake the leaves. After that, things went okay to the wedding."
"Uh-uh." The other Slayer brightened up, mentioning over the man's whimpering, "So, what do you think they're gonna name the kids?"
The first Slayer looked thoughtful, and then shrugged. "No idea, but…." A look of glee appeared over the girl's face, as she announced, "I call dibs on being the godmother!"
"Hey!" This came from another indignant baby Slayer in the crowd. Looking over the crumpled body of Xander lying on the lawn, the girl glowered at the smug face of her fellow Slayer, and snapped, "It isn't like calling shotgun! There should be some kind of other way to chose, like a lottery or, I don't know, maybe bribery…."
The crowd of vigorously debating baby Slayers now wandered off, leaving behind themselves a man with no hope stretched out on the ground, now desperately sucking his thumb and listening with total gloom in his mind the silvery laughter of the delighted dryad, who thoroughly approved of the potential mate of her champion.