Title: Emerald Flame: Coast City Getaway (8/8)
Feedback: Please be gentle.
Distribution: Gimme credit and a link.
Rating: Just a little bad language.
Spoilers: Anything and everything.
Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to other people. I'm just borrowing them for a while.
Summary: Cortana has a suggestion on how Xander spends his suspension.
Author's Note: I suppose it was a matter of time before I broke away from the Emerald title theme. Despite my best efforts, I simply could not figure out a good title for this one that fit the naming theme. Oh, well.
"What is this place?" Paige hissed, looking around warily.
"You said you wanted to talk in private," Xander said with a shrug. "Folks here are... discreet."
"I was expecting something a little more... romantic," she said. "Not some... seedy bar."
"Hey!" he snapped, mock-offended. "This is a diner, not a bar. And I'll have you know, it serves the finest pies on the west coast."
"I'm glad you think so, darlin', but I don't remember seeing your face in here before," the waitress asked. She made a show of eyeing him up. "I'd've remembered a cutie like you."
Xander gave her a dazzling smile and made a show of reading her nametag. "I haven't, actually, Moira. A friend of mine let me try a piece, and I just had to come to the source."
"Well, you've made the right decision," she said. "What'll it be?"
"I'll have the fried chicken, a Caf-Pow, and the pie of the day," Xander said.
"Cheeseburger and a beer," Paige said, glaring at Xander. "Something German. And leave the bottle."
Paige rifled out her wallet and flashed her driver's license.
"And pie," Xander added for her. "Mustn't forget the pie."
"Fine," she said. "And pie."
Moira nodded. "Be about ten minutes," she said before turning and walking away with their order.
"So," Xander said, "what did you want to talk about?"
"Well," she said, "what are you planning on doing? With... you know."
"Remember what I told John's mom?"
It took Paige a moment to recall his words. "'Save the world'?" she asked skeptically.
"'There are more things in heav'n and Earth,'" Xander quoted.
"Can I help?"
"I dunno," Xander said, leaning back. "Can you?"
Paige opened her mouth, then closed it, then opened it again.
"Don't answer that yet," he said. "Just... think about what you actually want to do."
She frowned and slumped down, pondering his question.
Xander watched her as they ate. He knew what her potential was. The power of the Halliwell bloodline coupled with her Whitelighter heritage was a potent combination. Even Willow at her best couldn't match them, not without absorbing a lot of external energy.
He could see her turning the question over in her mind. It was clear she wasn't even tasting her food. He supposed he could tell her. It wouldn't be that hard, really. But then again, so far as he knew, she didn't have any bindings on her powers, so why had they manifested so late in the last timeline? Was that all she was upstairs? A backup for the Charmed Ones? Would she still get her powers without meddling from on high?
Because there was no way in hell he was going to allow one of the Charmed Ones to die. Even if Phoebe scared the hell out of him with her wandering eyes.
Paige continued to struggle with the question, eating automatically, until the dessert arrived. Scooping up a piece of the pie automatically, she paused.
Xander watched as she seemed to freeze on the first bite. She carefully pulled the spoon out of her mouth - lips sealed around it to get every last crumb and smear of pie off it - and declared solemnly, "This... is the best pie... in the history... of pie."
He smirked. She glared at him. He kept smirking right up until she threw her napkin in his face. He responded by trying to take her pie and nearly got a fork in his hand for his trouble.
"Mine," she growled, putting her arm protectively around her pie plate.
They finished the rest of their meal in silence, then left the diner. It was a clear night, the late November air chilling Xander a bit.
"I guess you're right," Paige broke the silence, her voice despondent. She paused to take another swig from her third - or was it fourth? Xander wasn't sure - bottle. "I mean, I'm still in college, and it's not like I have superpowers."
"Don't be too sure about that," Xander muttered under his breath.
"What was that?"
Her eyes narrowed suspiciously, but she let it pass... for now. "Riiight," she said skeptically.
Xander resisted the urge to start whistling.
Shaking her head, she sighed. "But yeah, I guess you're right. I'm not ready to help with something like this. I just wish-mmph?"
"Don't. Ever. Say those words." Xander then jerked his hand away. "And don't lick me like that!"
"There some other way you'd like me to lick you?" she asked, grinning saucily.
Xander blinked, his eyes going distant for a moment. He shook his head. "Stop that!"
She stuck her tongue out at him. "Not while I'm winning!"
"Put that away unless you're going to use it," he snapped, then paled. "I walked into that one."
Xander's ring glowed.
"Mmmm, kinky. I'm not normally into bondage this heavy, but I'm always willing to try something new."
"Gah! Just how much did you drink?"
Paige Matthews stirred, clutching her head as sunlight pierced her eyelids. "Ugh," she muttered, curling up into a fetal ball. "I am never going to drink again."
"I've heard that before," she heard someone snort, "mostly from my parents."
Paige's eyes snapped open, and she saw Xander sitting on a chair next to the bed. "Oh, God," she said. "Did we...?"
"No," he said, shaking his head as he got up, satisfied that she wasn't going to expire any time soon.
"Because we hardly know each other, Paige," he answered, entering the bathroom.
"Even after all we've been through together?"
"Relationships based on intense experiences never work," he called from the bathroom over the sound of running water. "Believe me, I would know."
She pouted, then grinned evilly. "Well, then, we could just base it on sex instead."
John Connor didn't ask where his mother got the car. Instead, he sat in the back seat with the guns as she drove them out of the city, musing over the offer Mr. Beacon had made.
"I thought I told you to be careful, John," Sarah said, breaking the silence.
"It's been three years," he retorted. "I thought I was safe." His voice dropped. "You said I was safe."
"I was wrong," she admitted. "I know that now. No one is ever safe."
They sat in silence for another long moment.
"Tell me about these people you were with."
"Only if you tell me about the SEAL you shot."
"That was an accident!"
"I know you, Mom. You don't shoot people by accident. I don't shoot people by accident, and you taught me everything I know about guns."
Sarah pursed her lips thoughtfully.
"He reminds me of your father," she said finally. "His face, his voice, that same... intensity."
John's eyes widened. "Mom. Could... could he be...?" he trailed off.
"I thought... I thought he was another Terminator," she said, ignoring his question. She paused, then added defensively, "I only winged him."
"Mom," he deadpanned. "You shot a man who might be my grandfather."
"Are we going to Sunnydale?"
Buffy, Tara, and Willow waited outside the hotel while Xander returned the rented Impala.
"Hey, I just realized something," Buffy said.
"What?" Willow asked.
"Well, Xander gave his car to Mister Knight, right?"
Tara nodded. "Yeah..."
"So... how are we gonna get home?"
The three girls looked at each other as it dawned on each of them that neither of the others had the answer. Moments later, however, a beat up canary yellow 1976 Camaro with twin black racing stripes pulled around the corner and squealed to a stop in front of them.
Xander waved from the driver's seat. "Hi, ladies. Since I gave away our ride, I figured I needed a replacement."
Finally, Willow broke the silence. "Xander, do you realize how wrong it is for you to be driving a yellow car?"
Xander grinned. "Yeah, but they didn't have one in red or black. Besides, I managed to talk him down from five grand to four, and I'm gonna have fun fixing it up."
"Shotgun!" The fight was on.
Xander had dropped off Tara and Willow first, then pulled in front of 1630 Revello Drive. He winced when he saw Joyce Summers storming out to the car. Ever since she found out about Buffy's costumed antics, she seemed to have decided to blame him for everything.
"You have a lot of explaining to do, young man," she said sternly.
"Taking my daughter on this... this road trip!"
Xander paused, then turned and glared at Buffy. "You said you got permission!"
"No, I said mom didn't have a problem with it," the Slayer corrected as she climbed out of the car.
"You didn't even tell her!"
"She obviously couldn't have any problem with something she didn't know about," Buffy reasoned.
"And you, young lady, are grounded," Joyce added. "I told you I don't want you spending time around him or Willow anymore, not after that costume stunt."
"No!" Buffy snapped. "You can't dictate my life to me, Mom!"
"Buffy..." Xander said quietly.
"You don't get to choose my friends, especially not over this!"
"I owe him my life! If it weren't for Xander, I'd have died last year!"
"Buffy, she's right!" Xander snapped. The Slayer looked at him in shock. He shook his head and elaborated, "The costumes were a bad idea, Buff. They still are. Mine's a uniform, part and parcel with the power ring, but this whole Birds of Prey thing... it's making us lose perspective. It could get someone killed."
"I'll talk to Willow," he said, pulling out of the driveway.
Xander sighed as he fished the key from his pocket, then fumbled, dropping the key.
"Damn it," he muttered. He bent over to pick it up, only to be surprised as the door opened from the other side. He looked up. "Setsuna?"
The Senshi of Time nodded. Xander picked up the dropped key and followed her in. "What are you doing here?"
"I was following him," she said, pointing at the dark-haired man lounging on the couch.
Xander cocked his head at the stranger. "And you are?"
The man rose to his feet and stood at attention. "Colonel Cameron Mitchell, United States Air Force. I'm from an alternate future."
There was a long pause.
Xander buried his face in his hands. "God, I just can't get a break, can I?"
And there he is! As promised, a time-traveling character named Cameron.
So, who expected that last scene? Anyone? Anyone?