Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Stargate SG-1. Written for fun, not profit.
The Zeppo and the Space Pirate
~A story told in a series of shorts.~
Close Encounter 5:
~In which Xander and Vala take a road trip, and Xander attempts to pop the question. No, not that question, the important one: Do you believe in vampires?~
"I think we're being tailed."
"We're not being tailed."
"You've been tailed before. You have a nice tail, so I don't blame them for tailing your tail, but I don't want to be tailed. And if anyone tries to take your most excellent tail from me, I'm going to have to kick their tailing tail."
"Xander. Dearest. We're not being tailed. Do you want to know why we're not being tailed?" She didn't give him time to answer. "Because it's 4a.m. and even the worse villains don't wake up before six, even to kidnap and torture their enemies. I know this from experience. Now eat a Twinkie, and do shut up."
"Twinkies for breakfast?" Xander took his eyes off the road a minute, shooting her a glance. He smiled slowly, unable to contain his excitement. Sure, there were five boxes of snack cakes in the backseat, but still…Vala, half asleep and her pigtails askew from the pillow propped against her headrest and window, shoved one whole cake into her mouth. "See, this is why you're the girl for me," he said, in awe. "Twinkie me."
She peeled the wrapper off one and stuck in his mouth. "There. If I weren't so tired, this would be kind of kinky."
He pretended not to choke, too enthusiastic to be stopped by cake alone. Through a mouthful of cream, he announced, "And so begins our first roadtrip as a couple."
Vala wiped the sleep out of her eyes. "I couldn't be more thrilled to be spending my R&R time with you, Xander." She paused to yawn. "But, couldn't we have slept in? You already said this trip will take us a few days."
Xander rolled his good eye. "I thought you said that you wanted a real roadtrip—you can't have a family-style vacation without leaving at an un-godly hour in the morning."
She sighed. "I know, I know—and one must also load up on junk food and play unfortunate music…I recall. I can't believe you flew all the way to Colorado from Ohio just to drive me back to Ohio. It's really rather sweet."
Xander's cheek flushed. "Hey, I wanted to. This'll be fun. A non-deadly adventure."
Of course, he didn't tell her his real reason for wanting to extend their journey to Cleveland…It was time to pop the question. The important one. The one that went something along the lines of, "Vala, do you believe in vampires?" Xander sucked in a nervous breath just thinking about it. This could go so many different kinds of wrong.
She could call him crazy. She could break up with him. She could actually believe him and report the threat to the SGC, and as he knew from experience, well-meaning military types could turn into your evil-arch-nemesis when it came to interfering with the lives of slayers and demons…Yeah, this could get messy. It would probably be better for everyone if he just kept his mouth shut.
This was Vala.
They'd been seeing each other for over a year. Actually dating, long distance style, for several months now. And, in all that time, she'd been satisfied with thinking he was some kind of multi-national spy-for-hire for the secret organization known mysteriously as the "ISO." Meanwhile, he'd learned about aliens and the Stargate and his alien girlfriend who came through a Stargate. It wasn't fair, the whole not sharing info thing. But that wasn't the main reason he wanted to tell her.
If she was just another girl he was dating, he wouldn't even try. But he cared about Vala, and in a year from now, he wanted to be right where he was, crammed in a rental car eating Twinkies with the woman.
"Are you constipated?" Vala asked.
Xander blinked. "Huh?"
"There's a doctor I heard on the television—"
"My bowels are great," Xander interrupted. He gave her a crooked grin. "I was just thinking about something, that's all…" Clearing his throat, he wriggled in his seat, trying to find comfort. And failing. "First up on the mini-couple's-roadtrip extravaganza…Nebraska."
"We should destroy Nebraska."
Xander raised a brow. "That's a bit harsh."
"It's so boring," Vala said, as if that were justification enough.
She was currently contorted in the front seat, her back against the door, her legs on the lowered back of the seat. Xander was certain he was going to get a ticket, but he didn't have the heart to tell her to sit up straight. Boredom was an event in the Torture Olympics for Vala.
"And you're the one who wanted to go through Kansas…" Xander huffed. "If you think this is boring, you should cross the entirety of that state. You'll start poking things into your eyes just so that you can pretend to see a different landscape."
"I didn't want to go through Kansas—I simply said that if we took that route, we could drop Cam off at his family's house…but he decided he'd leave early. You don't think he did that on purpose, do you? So that he wouldn't have to ride with us?"
"Pretty sure of it, actually." Xander's goofy grin widened. "Probably afraid of what I might tell his mother."
"About that night with the Jell-O shots? When you went out with the boys again?" Vala raised a brow. She was wearing her sneaky face. Xander knew he would be defeated by the sneaky face. It wasn't worth resisting. "What exactly happened? Cam and Daniel weren't speaking for a week after that night." She shifted positions, her breath hot on his neck. "You can tell me. I can keep a secret."
"Bro-code," he managed, and squeaked when her hand slid over his thigh.
"Mmm," Vala purred against him. "You know, as a formal criminal, I've very experienced in getting men to talk… However, I find it works best to simply offer a reward for information."
"I swore…" Xander let his voice trail off as she popped her top button. "It involved macaroons and a co-ed's cleavage."
"Good boy." Another button. "And?"
"And Cam might have played a game of pool with a very friendly biker gang." Another button. "A friendly biker gang whose leader thought Daniel was pretty." Her fingers squeezed his leg tighter and slid north. "And he might have promised Daniel to them if he lost the game. The good news is, Cam won. The bad news is Daniel found out about the wager."
Vala found the information satisfactory for blackmail. Xander pulled off the highway to receive his pay-off. Nebraska, it appeared, would take longer to cross than he'd originally intended.
"Wouldn't you rather see the world's largest wooden nickel?" Xander asked, unable to stop the slight whine in his voice. "It's not shiny, but it's a nickel."
Vala frowned. "No, no, no—you chose the last tourist stop. I get this one."
"Pfft—you wanted to go to the Kool-Aid museum, which, as fun as that sounds, was nothing compared to 'Johnson's Museum of the Odd.' You're always trying to define what it means to be an Earthling, well, there's nothing more Earthling, or American, than a guy who collects a bunch of random junk and organizes it so he can invite strangers into his home." Xander took a breath, certain he'd made his point. "And, plus, that was back in Nebraska. New state, new round."
"Take a right, Alexander Harris, or so help me, I will shove that nickel so far up your—"
Xander cut his wheels into the merging lane, shooting her a sideways glance as he obeyed. She grinned, clapping her hands together in excitement.
"Was that so hard?" she asked. "Now we get to see a beautiful sculpture, after all. Granted, it's not made of butter…" She still looked disappointed at that…It wasn't Xander's fault the butter sculpture of the Last Supper wasn't on display at the moment. Maybe someone ate it or something. "But this one certainly looks magnificent in the travel guide."
Xander realized he should never have let her out at the rest-stop. She'd returned with a stack of pamphlets and flyers and a declaration that she knew exactly where they'd be stopping on their way back through. At this rate, they'd never actually reach Cleveland in the first place.
He sighed, put out as he saw the sign for the cemetery in the distance. He couldn't believe it. On vacation and he was stopping at a graveyard. At dusk.
Xander knew his luck. They were going to be attacked by a horde of demons. No doubt about it.
Vala was already out of the car before he could even park it. He followed, dragging his feet. Okay, so she was right. The statue of the Black Angel, looming high, its head and wings downturned to the gravesite, was probably gorgeous, and he'd probably want to see it if he hadn't spent most of his teen years in cemeteries staring at smaller versions. On the plus side, if a vampire tackled them, he would have a much easier time telling her about things that go bump in the night.
Yeah. Glass half full.
"Come on, Xander!" she snapped. "If you don't hurry up, I'm going to beat you there. Then I'm going to kiss it, and I'll probably drop dead, as apparently it's cursed."
Cursed? Seriously? Xander shot off after her, silently apologizing to the graves in his way. "Vala! Don't kiss any angels or no sex for a month!"
"You know, Earth history isn't nearly as boring as Daniel would lead one to believe," Vala mused, enjoying her ice cream cone.
"See, I told you you'd love the Chicago Field Museum. Lots of shiny gems and stuffed tigers…And they don't really force you to read all the signs and actually learn stuff. I've taken a couple of the girls here before." Xander leaned forward, kissing a drop of cream off of her nose. She blinked up at him, surprised. He shrugged it off. "That's for not stealing anything."
Vala smirked instead of denying the temptation and skipped down the stone steps in front of the museum. "I'm not allowed, unfortunately. If I'm caught, I'll be sent to Area 51 and locked in a cell—" His eye widened, and she rolled hers in reply. "I'm kidding…mostly. But, I'll admit, I haven't been able to resist the urge this entire time."
Xander caught up beside her, his voice lowered. "Oh, please tell me you didn't."
Vala shrugged her shoulders. "What can I say? Once a space pirate, always a space pirate." She pulled her fist out of her jacket pocket and held it out to him. With some trepidation, Xander took the item. He was almost afraid to look down at it, but, when he did, he chuckled in surprise. In his palm sat a tiny plastic blue figure in a white dress.
Vala smiled proudly. "I knew you'd like her. But, if you want, we can return her to her Smurf family at the Museum of the Odd—"
"No!" Xander gave a crooked grin, ignoring the glances from a group of school children. He scratched the back of his neck. "I mean, that guy's got like ten…We're really doing him a favor if we keep it, I guess."
Vala looked rather proud of herself as she looped her arm into his, leading him down to the sidewalk. "Am I correct in saying our next stop, after we partake in this 'deep-dish pizza' of yours, will be Cleveland? I must say, I'm somewhat nervous about meeting your family."
Xander pulled his arm free so he could wrap it around her. He couldn't remember ever calling his girls, and the Scoobs, his family, at least not in front of her, but there were just some things that were easy to pick up on. Especially for space pirates, apparently.
"Don't be," he assured. "You'll fit in just fine."
"You see, that's what worries me."
Being that it was the most active Hellmouth still in existence in the United States, all the founding members, AKA the Scoobies, visited the slayer "school" there at some point throughout the year. Rarely did they get the chance to all visit at once outside of Christmas. So, Xander knew it was going to be a treat just to have his girls meeting his girl.
Only, at the moment, his stomach was doing backflips and forwardflips and maybe a little shimmy to the side, too.
He hadn't told Vala yet.
It wasn't necessary to tell her before he arrived. If the slayers determined she should be in on it, they'd give her the History 101 presentation. But, that wasn't an issue. They'd even went so far as to assure Xander that the west wing of the school would be all but empty of things that might "give his girlfriend the wiggins," as Dawn had told him.
So it wasn't necessary to tell. And maybe it wasn't his even his place. But Xander couldn't stop himself. He eased the rental car to a stop just in front of the gates to the Cleveland Summers Academy.
"We should talk," he said.
There was some awkwardness. Sedans didn't make for the best face-to-face conversations. He slid out his door and circled around. Vala joined him a moment later, worry etched across her face. But, for once, she remained silent.
"There's something I need to tell you. And I know this probably isn't the best place to do it, but I just can't put it off any longer…" Xander reached out, cupping her hands in his. "Vala, I…"
She stared at him, her soft smile trying to make the moment easier for him. Other people didn't know this Vala. She was brash, and loud, and clever. She was overtly sexual, extremely dangerous, and always playful… That was all easy to spot. But they didn't know this woman. Not the way he did. They didn't know what a heart she had in her.
"I love you," he said.
Vala reached up, pressing her palm against his cheek, then leaned in for a gentle kiss. "I love you, too, Xander Harris."
She let her lips slip down and chuckled quietly against his neck. "For a moment there, I thought you were going to make some elaborate confession."
"No kidding?" Xander swallowed. "Why would you think that?"
Vala wrapped her arms around him, hugging the chill from his limbs. "Oh, mostly because we're two hundred yards from our destination, and you still haven't told me about vampires. I thought you would have folded by now."
Xander decided right then and there to never let Vala and Buffy talk on the phone ever again.
END NOTES: Okay, I purposely left that last line a bit open ended, because, as you probably know, there will be more stories in this series. Hope you liked this one. Thank you for all your kind reviews and comments both here and at LJ/TTH. However, please, no more real life dating advice. I honestly don't care if you'd never date a girl who wanted you to hang out with her friends. (Personally, as a twenty-five-year-old woman, I'd never date a guy who couldn't hang out with my best friends for one day, doubly-so if those friends literally saved my life on a weekly basis.) This is written for comedic purposes to highlight the more light-hearted aspects of Xander and Vala's dating lives, with very brief vacations into serious territory. So don't stress, just enjoy the ride.