Title : Interludes One : The Long Road Ahead

Author : Tenhawk

Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners... none of which are me. If they knew what they were doing I wouldn't have to write this stuff.

Summary: This short story follows a few days after the events in Home Again. No Big Bad will be rearing his head, this is a character piece... or characters as the case may be.

Warning : I'm a B/Xer and this will be a B/X Series, but NOT FOR A WHILE. The Characters do as they will in this bit, I just toss stuff at them and see how they react. I swear. No really... I'm serious. For the moment X/P just wants to happen... I didn't plan it, but I'm enjoying it myself and hope you are too. At any rate you can expect some serious B/X friendship and confrontations to come as I try to iron out the differences between these two friends. Hang on, its going to get a little bumpy in the months ahead.

Warning : Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.)

Rating : PG-13 to PG-16; for mild cursing, violence, and demonic horror content... in other words a bit more grown up then the series... but only cause I don't have to suck up to censors.

Interludes One : The Long Road Ahead

Sunnydale, California : J&X's Residence.

The racket of the two wooden staff's rapping against each other filled the top floor dojo. The motions were lighting fast as both fighters forced their staffs onto the other's, trying to pierce the defenses with the stout wooden weapons. It was an obviously one sided fight however, for all the speed the two fighters used.

Xander's shirt was clinging to him as he evaded the attack, his sweat had long since soaked it through. Giles didn't let up though, he moved closer and rapped Xander smartly across the knuckles with his own staff.

"Ow!" Xander cursed as he hopped back, rubbing his knuckles through the padded gloves.

"Watch your guard, Xander." Giles admonished him, "You drop it far too easily."

"I know, I know." Xander said, accepting the criticism.

"I really wonder how you've managed to stay alive using a Staff..."

"Two words." Xander said simply. "Batter's up."

Giles stepped back and pinched his nose, as if in great pain. "Please tell me you're joking?"


"Lord." Giles looked up to the ceiling in supplication, "You truly do watch over fools and lunatics."


Giles smirked at the outraged cry from the boy, but his expression became perplexed as he watched the boy tilt his head to the side, as if listening to someone else. Of a sudden Xander's eyes widened again and a new expression of outrage crossed his face. Giles could read his lips as the boy silently mouth one word. Hey.

Giles frowned as Xander took up a combat stance again, then sighed and followed suit. Moments later the sound of wooden impacts again echoed through the large Dojo.


After the session, Giles hurried off to an appointment he had made and Xander stripped down. He was breathing pretty heavily from the workout Giles had put him through, and frankly he was pretty impressed with Giles. He'd actually started to figure that he was in decent shape considering the events of the past months, but Giles had managed to keep up with him and continually beat his best attempts to breech the older man's defenses.

He reached out casually and called Elanthielle to him as he prepared to move on to the second stage of his morning routine. Xander kneeled down on the gym mat in the dojo. He crossed his legs and carefully laid Elanthielle, the ancient battle staff, on the mat in front of him. He closed his eyes and focused on his breathing, taking in the oxygen deeply and expelling carbon dioxide. He felt his pulse slow down from his workout, listened to it as it dropped steadily to the point where an observer would have to pay close attention to be certain he was still alive.

He likewise slowed his breathing as he let his mind wander, his thoughts clearing as his body slowly slipped into a sleep state.

Very good, Alexander. Elan's voice came to him, soothing and calming. This is perhaps the best you've done yet. Now we shall try something new.

He didn't answer in words, allowing instead his acceptance to wash over her in an emotional wave. Though his face didn't change, he smiled inwardly when he heard her pleased laugh echo in response.

Excellent indeed, Alexander. Now try this, Elan began, focus on your eyes. Imagine an energy building within them, charging them. It starts as a tickle just behind your eyelids, and slowly grows into a strong vibration almost like an electric charge but not painful.

He could feel it happen as her words rang across his mental plane. The tickle that begged to be rubbed soon gave way to a powerful vibration that seemed to run through his entire body. Then, suddenly, he could feel it reach crescendo.

Xander's eyes snapped open, and glowed a bright silver white that cast reflections and shadows across the room.


Xander stared at the Dojo around him with, literally, new eyes. The entire place seemed clearer and more... perfect. Like seeing a composite of a thousand pictures of the same room, but only taking the clearest point in each picture. Where before the light was dim, everything was now clear.

In the back of his head he could hear Elanthielle giggling with pleasure at the force of his emotional response. He was awash in it himself, the sheer wonder of it all echoing through his mind and reaching crescendo. Then it was gone. His concentration shattered, the glow in his eyes dimmed and the room returned to normal.

"Wow," was all he could think to say as he slumped in place, mentally exhausted.

Very well done, Alexander. But you do need to work on your focus.

"What was that?"

That was a small portion of what your mind is capable of, Alexander. In essence you did the same thing your armor's mask does when you use the light amplification mode. You took many images over a period of less then a fraction of a second and overlayed them on top of one another, using each successive image to enhance the whole.

"I did?" Xander shook his head, "No... it was you... it had to be."

Her sparkling laughter echoed through his mind again. Hardly. I'm merely... the catalyst... I'm the teacher, and you the student. Nothing I can show you is beyond the capabilities of any human. Between the supernatural events in your life, and my help, you merely have a head start.

"Wow." Xander said again, stunned.

Indeed. He could feel her bubbling laughter welling below the surface of his mind, adding a bounce to his step as he got up and headed for the shower.


Xander slipped down the stairs, taking them three and four at a time, a little anxious for breakfast. When he got there, Jarod and Miss parker were already sitting down to their meal. Xander smiled his early morning greetings, and wise mildly surprised when Miss Parker smiled back.

"Sleep well?" He asked, wincing as he started preparing his regular breakfast. Gruel. Damn, I can't believe I've been reduced to this.

"Very well, thanks." Jarod answered as he shoveled another spoonful of Cap'n Crunch into his mouth.

"Perfectly." Parker purred, a slight look of disdain entering her eyes as she watched Jarod shovel the sugary cereal into his mouth.

"Cool." Xander dropped into his seat, looking enviously at the bowl of cereal in front of Jarod. "Man, I miss that stuff."

"It's very good." Jarod grinned through his spoon.

"I remember." Xander said mournfully as he began quietly eating his porridge.


Buffy Summers and Willow Rosenberg entered the building just after their last class of the day, chatting and laughing and generally relieved that they didn't have any afternoon classes.

"Hey Jarod!" Willow called into the building as they entered.

"Hello, Willow." The tall man smiled, looking up from a newspaper article he was clipping.

"Xander around?" Buffy asked as she eyed the article over his shoulder. Woman killed under mysterious circumstances, death ruled accidental by local Sherif's Department. Eww... Morbid much?

"Yes. He's in the basement with Miss Parker."

Buffy looked at Jarod strangely, "Why?"

Jarod smiled, "Go on down and see for yourself."

The two girls nodded and headed for the basement.


"Told ya." Xander cocked his head and smirked at the older woman.

"Best two out of three." Miss Parker snarled.

Xander grinned at her, "Your funeral."

He racked the slide on the .45 in his hand, putting another round in the breech. In reality he had to admit that he was being overly cocky considering the measly three point lead he had on the woman. He slipped a pair of ear guards on and shifted to a combat stance as he focused down the length of the shooting range, waiting for the targets to turn.


The sound of gunfire assaulted the girls ears as they walked down the steps and they shared a concerned look as they slowly continued. When they got to the bottom, they could see Xander and Miss parker standing side by side as they fired along the length of the basement, at a pair of silhouette targets at the far end.

"Xander?" Willow asked, slightly taken aback by the look of pure focus on her oldest friend's face.

Both shooters ignored her, if they could even hear her through the blasts of gunfire and the ear guards they both wore. Finally they emptied their clips and thumbed the return on the targets, both grinning in a cross between enjoyment and competition. They watched the target roll in, Xander with a nervous smile and Miss Parker with an absolutely feral one.

"Ha." Miss Parker grinned. "Gotcha."

"I'm still ahead by points," Xander defended himself.

"One point." Miss Parker carefully enunciated the lack of a plural component to the word.

Xander laughed freely, "That's all it takes."

"Third match, you little brat."

"Uh... Xander?" Willow tried again.

Both shooters turned to face the girls, a total lack of surprise on either face.

"Hey Wills," Xander said genially, "What's up?"

"We... ummm... wanted to know if you'd like to go out to the Bronze tonight?"

Xander shrugged, "Sure. I'm flying Solo though, Phoebe is back in San Fran for a while."

"No problem." Buffy said, cheerfully. "Not a date night... just some friends time, then?"

"Sounds good." He said, "What time?"


"Eightish it is." Xander grinned, slipping his ear guards back on. "But first I have a bet to settle."

"You bet your ass you do, G.I Joe." Parker growled as she slipped her own ear guards into place.

"Yo Joe!" Xander mock yelled as he slapped the new clip into place and racked a shell into the breech.

"Let's do this." Parker snarled, a slight grin actually tugging at her lips.

Willow and Buffy watched as the two shooters shifted their stances and again forgot that anyone else was in the room.


"So who won?" Jarod asked as the two shooters and the two girls came back up the stairs.

"Xander," Parker said, smiling sweetly, "Why don't you go get me a drink? Something not too sweet, if you don't mind."

Xander grimaced but dutifully headed for the kitchen.

"I see." Jarod said smiling.

"Was there ever any doubt?" Parker asked, her look warning Jarod that he should be careful.

"Of course not." Jarod grinned as he listened to Xander's mumbling from the kitchen.

"One lousy point!" Xander yelled.

"And *that* is all it takes." Miss Parker returned softly, but somehow her voice managed to carry.

"Let me be sure I understand this," Jarod began as Xander entered the room carrying Miss Parker's drink. "You bet her... what? A session of servitude?"

Xander shrugged, "Figured it would be good for a laugh."

"It is." Buffy grinned from behind him.

Jarod shook his head, "Trust me, Xander. You came out better then you think."


"If you had won the match do you think she'd be getting you a drink right now? Or practicing with you as the target?"

Xander considered, swallowing. "You probably have a point."

"Rat boy knows me." Miss Parker smiled as she accepted the drink from Xander.


That Night, The Bronze

Xander walked in, a little slower then he'd been walking earlier, and winced under the grins of the girls.

"Have a nice day?" Buffy asked him, grinning wide.

"Don't." Xander said as he dropped into the chair beside them.

"Was the bad lady mean to you?" Willow asked him playfully.

Xander groaned and waved over a waitress. "Willow... do not go there. This is Bronze time, ok?"

Willow and Buffy snickered into their hands as Xander ordered a diet soft drink. Xander groaned into his hands. It was going to be a long night. It had already been a long day.

"Can we please forget about that for a while?" Xander begged.

"Ok." Willow said easily, "How about you tell me what classes you're going to take next semester... I was thinking that you could get caught up on your math and maybe get one of the Calc courses..."

Xander groaned as Willow droned on. He was smiling slightly, couldn't really help loving Will for her priorities, but she sometimes bored him into the ground.


Sunnydale Hospital

"Where is she!?"

Two nurses and a Doctor stared at the empty bed that had held, until recently, the comatose body of one of their more mysterious patients.

"Get security looking through the building, and someone get me her chart and contact information." The Doctor ordered wearily. He'd had a pretty bad day and losing a patient wasn't something he felt like explaining to the board.

"Right away, Doctor."


Two floors down the brunette slayer known as Faith was slipping into some stolen clothing and slipping out a second floor window. Seconds later she had vanished into the night.


The Bronze

"So... Xander... How are you and Phoebe getting along?" Buffy asked.

Xander grinned, Thank you, Buff, I don't think I could take another minute of Will planning my future. "Relationship conversation is it? You ready to spill about Riley?" He asked jokingly.

"Well... He's really..."

"Stop!" Xander said quickly. "I do NOT want to know. That was a rhetorical question."

"Oh." Buffy grinned at him. "So... about Phoebe? What's it like dating one of the most powerful witches on the planet?"

"Scary." Xander grinned, "But at least she doesn't mess up spells as often as Willow."

"Hey!" Willow yelled, "Right here you know..."

The other two laughed at her expression of mock hurt and outrage until Willow joined in. The three friends spent the rest of the evening talking and joking about anything they could think of, and for a while they were in their golden day's again. The Scoobies forever.


Abandoned Building, bad side of town.

Faith stared at the screen, trying to absorb what she had just heard. The Mayor lost? He's dead?

Despite herself she felt a sheen of tears well up in her eyes, and a lump form in her throat. The Mayor was a bit of a prude true, and evil and all that... but he had cared about her. And now he's dead. Like the others.

Her hand sort of limply held the device the Mayor had left her. Revenge. She took a deep breath and set her face. Revenge. She nodded slowly. Revenge. Not for herself, though she had enough reasons, god knew, but for the Mayor. She owed him something, maybe that was it. Revenge.


"I'll catch you guys later!" Xander waved as he Buffy and Willow headed back up to their dorm. He was smiling as he drove away, it had been too long since they had a scoobs night out. It took him only a couple minutes to reach home and he parked quickly and headed down to the basement.

He had business with Elan tonight.

In the basement he opened up one of the armored weapon cabinets and pulled out one of the items he had... appropriated from the Initiative a little over a week earlier. Elan had been putting him off when he asked about them, insisting that he wasn't ready. Tonight, she said, he was ready.

"All right, Elan." Xander said as he took the small item and headed over to a work table. "Spill."

Place your hand on it, and focus like we've been practicing in your sessions.

Xander held the small palm-sized item up and laid his hand over it, trying to clear his mind as he did. It took three minutes for him to calm himself sufficiently to reach the necessary point of focus. When he did his eyes shot open wide and he stared at the small item.

Above it glowed a circle of reddish light, at its center floated a lone silver dot of light. Around that were a few specs of, barely visible light, extending outward from the center. Xander whistled. The light was very pretty, and the display was impressive.

"What is it?" He whispered reverently.

A San'Quai. Elanthielle responded. It is a... detector of magical energy.

"What?" Xander looked intently at the display, this time trying to fathom what the lights meant.

Each light you see are indications of magical power, either latent or in use. The more powerful or active the brighter the light.

Xander nodded, suddenly understanding. "And the silver dot?"

Is me. Elan said, somewhat proudly.

Pride Xander could understand. The Silver dot was the only light that was plainly visible, a veritable spotlight compared to the other specs. "It's pretty tough to read the other lights."

That is due to interference. Elan said simply.


The red globe of light is interference from the Hellmouth.

"Damn." He said, looking at the device with new understanding.



Buffy was heading for her class, in a fairly good mood. She'd had fun at the Bronze, and felt that her friendship with Xander was finally beginning to rebuild itself after the long time out the seemed to have taken after his summer trip. She shook her head, thinking about what must have happened over the summer bothered her... as much because she didn't KNOW, as because she knew that it was bad.

"Hey, Killer."

Buffy spun around, coming face to face with someone she hadn't really expected to see again.

"Faith." He voice was flat, but the tone of threat still managed to sound clearly through. Buffy dropped her books and shifted to a fighting stance.

"Blondy." Faith smirked, shifting her own stance as she waited for her opponent to move first. She knew Buffy. She knew what to expect.

"Let me guess," Buffy smirked herself, "Hospital kick you out? Stick up the room maybe?"

Keep talking, twinkie. Faith cricked her neck, feeling the tendons crack under the unaccustomed pressure. So predictable.

"What? No banter?" Buffy brought her fists up, still loose but ready.

"Naw." Faith smiled, "I'm not feeling so good so I thought I'd just kick your ass."

That did it, Buffy growled and swung for the head. Faith stepped back and intercepted the punch easily, grinning wide as Buffy's hand slapped into the device she had been holding. Buffy's eyes grew wide as she felt something change. Something fundamental. Everything went white for an instant, then black. A wave of nausea passed over her then she straightened up again, feeling weaker then before. Here vision cleared and her eyes widened as she stared into a mirror.

"But I'm five by five now." She saw herself say. "Good night."

She saw the fist coming but her body wouldn't react fast enough, and everything went dark again.