Xander Harris had been known to nap through apocalypses, so it was no surprise he continued his peaceful slumber through what that man, if awake, would have described as 'a really bitchin' storm.' The severe thunderstorm currently shaking the Swedish villa had been identified by his subconscious as nothing to be worried about. On the other hand, the small figure creeping up towards the man lying on a rickety sofa under a hastily-gathered heap of blankets, sheets, and towels had been instantly sensed when it had paused in the doorway of the sitting room to stare at the unmoving figure there in his bed.

Now fully awake, but keeping his eye closed and maintaining his deep, even breathing through his nose, Xander continued to feel the merest touch of a breeze on his face from the moving air currents sent ahead by whatever that was cautiously approaching. Most people would have just thought it was a draft in the room, or simply ignored this faintest wind in their sleep. The immobile man, in his shorts on his back and holding a sharpened stick in his right hand under the bedding, wasn't most people. For starters, there was the whole lifetime for him in Sunnydale, including the seven years with the Slayer that included such minor events as being possessed by an Alpha hyena spirit. Not to mention a couple more years in Africa, where other humans had proven themselves to be just as dangerous as the most aggressive demon.

Waiting with deadly predator patience, Xander felt the minuscule flow of air on his face persist and also grow the least bit stronger, indicating his intruder was almost within striking range. Well, sure, for them, but for him, too. Xander tried his other senses for any new information about his opponent, only to have no luck. His eye was still closed, the raging storm outside battered his ears with its thunder, and he couldn't smell anything but dust and a strong odor of horse. The New Council troubleshooter wasn't all that surprised by the latter aroma, since that animal had undoubtedly been ridden into every downstairs room in the villa by that equine's cheerful owner.

A sudden, worrisome thought now accompanied that reflection, making Xander instantly change his plans, to instead perform the fastest sit-up of his life, his upper body jerking forward and up, throwing the bedding out of the way and freeing his weapon, but simply holding the stake ready rather than striking out with it, as the man snapped open his remaining eye to look directly at the small figure standing at the foot of the sofa.

At that very moment, the biggest flash of lightning yet illuminated the entire inside of the house, flooding the room with a harsh light, followed right after by a tremendous BOOOOOMMMM! that deafened Xander while he stared into a wide-open mouth that must have been uttering a loud shriek of pure fright, as a little girl in her nightgown and having absolute terror on her face now jumped forward with all the strength in her legs, sailing through the air to dive right at Xander, who barely had enough time to shove his stake out of the way down in the sofa cushions, before Pippi Longstocking smashed fully into him, sending him flat on his back, as she desperately wrapped her skinny arms around his chest. In the next second, all four fragile legs of the sofa finally gave way under this unasked-for punishment, sending that piece of furniture crashing down onto the floor, and raising billows of dust in the room.

Several moments later, a laboring voice managed to gasp out fairly kindly enough, considering the circumstances, "Pippi - Pippi! Relax, will you? I can't breathe, honey!" That suffocated appeal resulted in a fractional lessening of Pippi's robust clutch around him, allowing Xander a bit more air, though she refused to lift her head up from where it was pressed against his neck under the man's left jaw, and when the next immense clap of thunder came, the little girl lying next to him on the sofa shook hard enough so the man also felt his own body tremble.

"Hey, now, hey, now," Xander crooned comfortingly, as he stroked Pippi's loose red hair with his right hand, keeping his left arm curled around her thin shoulders that continued to shiver every time there came a new rumble of atmospheric disturbance from the skies. His worried look down at the Swedish girl's head then slowly changed into a thoughtful expression, as Xander stared ahead into the occasional lightning flashes that lit up the room, which soon became a wide grin upon the man's face.

Clearing his throat, and waiting until the last thunderclap died away, Xander now said in a very irritated tone, "Honey, for two cents, I'd get up there and tell the guys in their cloudships to stop firing off their cannons and go somewhere else with all that racket. But, you know pirates. They won't pay the slightest bit of attention to me, even when I'm supposed to be their ruler."

A few disbelieving seconds later, Pippi's head stirred, and she lifted that part of her body up, with glistening tear-tracks shown down her cheeks, but with the girl looking with pure astonishment directly into Xander's right eye, while incredulously asking, "What?"

Whipping up his right index finger to hold it pressed vertically against his lips, the man with an eyepatch hissed, "Shhhh!" His gaze then darted from right to left in an obvious search for eavesdroppers, as Xander then leaned his own head closer to a bewildered girl, whispering to her, "I was gonna keep it quiet, honey, but you might as well know my secret. I'm the King of the Pirates."

"What- Why- King of the Pirates?"

"Yup," firmly nodded Xander, who now grinned at Pippi staring open-mouthed at the man she still had her arms tightly around, as they laid together on the collapsed sofa. However, she then relaxed her grip some more, and encouraged, the Sunnydale survivor said in a confiding tone, "Would you like to hear all about it? I have to say, it's a story and a half!"

As if to mark those last words, another lightning flash and an accompanying clap of thunder came, but this time, Pippi didn't seem to notice, as a timorous smile now appeared on her lips, while she eagerly nodded.

"Okay, then. It all started when-"

Author's Note: Yes, I know the books say that Pippi Longstocking isn't afraid of anything, but, hey, come on! She's a nine-year-old girl on her own, and thunderstorms are something she can't lift over her head and spin around with her hands, scare off, make fun of, or throw gold coins at this. So, I figured she'd both be frightened by that type of violent weather, and also too ashamed to admit this to anyone.