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Title : Interludes Two : When You Cast Upon A Star

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.



*****

Faith lunged forward, intending to catch her opponent off guard with palm strike. She was surprised when her target pivoted and delivered a reverse elbow strike that winded the dark Slayer.

"Whoof!" Faith crumpled, cursing her blunted reflexes.

"You're getting faster, Faith." Phoebe grinned down at her and offered the fallen Slayer a hand

Faith accepted the hand, grimacing inwardly as she clamped down on an impulse to slap it away. "Thanks. I think."

"I'm serious, Faith." Phoebe said earnestly, "You've advanced by leaps and bounds in the last four days."

Faith nodded, accepting the praise as the truth she knew it to be. The coma had taken its toll on her body, but her Slayer healing had started to kick in as soon as she started moving again. After the first day she was cramped up so badly that Xander and Giles had to carry her to her room. The second day left her in pain, but still mobile. Yesterday had left her a little weak, but mostly fit, and today she felt almost normal. And yet the brunette witch had continued to defeat her in sparring matches with annoying consistency.

Faith had been surprised when Xander suggested that she spar with Phoebe. Surprised and more then a little skeptical. The young witch had surprised her though, easily taking her down in the first match despite the Slayer's increased aptitude for hand to hand combat.

When she had inquired about Phoebe's skill the young brunette had shrugged and replied, "Out of my sisters and myself, I have the least active power. Seeing the future tends to get us into trouble, not help us out of it. Learning to fight was my only recourse... That and spending a lot of time learning the in's and out's of witchcraft." Phoebe grimaced at the memory of the late nights spent studying the book of shadows and practicing her craft in secret, even from her often doubting sisters.

Xander's answer to her inquiry left her even more confused. "Sorry, Faith." He had replied easily, "But my style of fighting doesn't lend itself well to sparring. I get my ass kicked a lot unless I'm willing to let out the stops."

Faith shrugged off the thoughts as she shifted back into a combat stance and faced off with Phoebe again.

*****

Xander watched the sparring match with a certain level of interest beyond the standard fascination any male had with two beautiful women trying to put each other to the ground. Phoebe's style is very good. But Faith is more adaptive... When her strength and speed make a full return neither of us will stand a chance on the mats against her... just like Buffy.

He winced as Faith landed a jarring blow to Phoebe's jaw, stunning the young witch, and then followed up with a foot sweep that dropped Phoebe to her butt on the practice mats. Even with the padded hand guards and head protection, Xander figured it must have hurt.

"Time!" He yelled as Phoebe hopped back to her feet, looking for a rematch.

"Come on!" Phoebe complained, "I'm not going to get many more chances to taker down afew pegs before she's at full speed."

Xander chuckled, "Just accept that I'm saving you from some of her payback later and be happy."

Faith grinned nastily at the young witch and spoke to Xander, "Oh, your not saving her from much, lover. I still owe her for putting me on my ass in front of Red, Jeeves, and B."

Phoebe shot a glare at Xander. "Why does she keep calling you THAT?"

Xander winced. Shit. I'm so screwed.

Faith grinned at the pained look on Xander's face and decided to twist the knife. If she's the jealous type I'm not going to like her anyway... lets find out. "He hasn't told you?" Faith asked with a mock innocence that sounded completely evil coming from her.

"Told me what?" Phoebe growled.

"About us."Faith said simply.

Xander instantly objected. "Whoa! What us? I seem to remember you kicking me out of..."

He trailed off as he realized what he had started to say. Fuck.

Faith watched as Phoebe's face reddened and grinned. This is getting fun.

"Kicking you out of WHAT?"

Xander sighed, he honestly didn't see anyway out of this. Time to come clean.

He opened his mouth to speak, but Faith beat him to the punch. "My room of course. Didn't need him hanging around once we were done."

At that point Xander was seriously trying to sink into the floor. He cast a plaintive look at Faith but all he got in return was an unrepentant grin. Payback. He though glumly. For me and Phoebe... Faith isn't one to let a debt slide.

"Done!?"

Xander had to try. He didn't expect anything to work, but he had to try. he raised his hands in supplication, "Phoebe...this happened almost a year ago now, long before I met you."

"That's supposed to make it better?" Phoebe growled, half turning away from him. "You invited an ex-lover to stay in your HOME!"

Xander actually laughed bitterly. "Lover? Hardly." He looked at Faith, a touch of old resentments flaring up.

This time it was Faith's turn to wince. Kicking Xander out of her room wasn't precisely what she thought of when she imagined her finest moments. She spoke into the silence, her words halting as she fumbled for the means to express herself. "Xander... I...Well, I'm sorry for that."

Xander's eyes widened in surprise, he didn't remember Faith ever apologizing before.

"For what?"Much of Phoebe's anger was temporarily gone, curiosity having replaced it on her tone.

Xander stared at Faith for a long moment before she broke and started to speak. "I used him." She admitted painfully.

"How?" Pheobe demanded instantly.

Xander, wisely, kept his mouth shut for once, reasoning that he had somehow shifted from the villain of this piece to its victim. And while he wasn't happy with the role of victim, it was yards above the role of Villain when he was facing down Phoebe.

Faith actually lost some of her bluster by the point, admitting guilt of any sort was her achilles heel. She would never have done it, even now, if she didn't think that she owed something to Xander. "I was fight some apocalypse demons... trying to open the hellmouth, ya know?" Faith shrugged, its was a common place occurrence around Sunnydale, she knew.

"They had me..." Faith grated this out, loath to admit that she had been asclose todeath as she had been that night. "I was as good as dead when X- man over there," She nodded toward where Xander was leaning against the wall, "Pull one of his shining knight moments and rammed the demons with his car."

Phoebe actually snickered at that. It was a perfectly Xander moment.

Faith smiled too, grateful that some humor had broken the tension in Phoebe. "Ya, I guess you know what I mean, huh?"

Phoebe nodded, struggling to regain her earlier imposing aura.

"Well," Faith continued, feeling surprisingly ill at ease for someone who had actually initiated this line of talk in the first place. "He drove me home...patched me up... and..."

"One thing led to another." Xander finished, deciding that Faith had made enough of an effort.

The Dark Slayer smiled at him, gratitude showing itself again in her countenance.

"You slept together." Phoebe's voice was flat.

"No sleeping involved." Faith smirked, Xander's help had reinstated some of her confidence.

"Faith!" Xander reproved her instantly, but soon found himself under the glare of the witch once again. "Dammit Faith! You have to keep stirring things up, don't you?"

Faith grinned back at him, unrepentant this time.

He growled and turned back to Phoebe, "Yes. We slept together... or rather we would have slept together if she hadn't kicked me out of the room in my underwear after we finished... the... ah... pre-sleeping part."

The couple ignored Faith's barely contained laughter when she heard Xander describe the event as 'pre-sleeping'.

"So..." Phoebe drawled, stretching the word to torture Xander. "There's nothing between you two?"

Xander looked at her, knowing that he was in a catch-22. he couldn't say yes or she'd be pissed with him for having feelings for another woman, and he couldn't say no without her being pissed with him for sleeping with someone he had no feelings for. He looked plaintively toward Faith, hoping against hope that he'd recieve some help from that unlikely direction.

Faith snorted again, but decided to take pity on Xander. She turned to Phoebe and said, still grinning, "No. There is nothing between us."

"Good." Phoebe said, acting satisfied. Xander breathed a sigh of relief, It's over, he breathed. Then Phoebe flashed an evil grin of her own and asked Faith, "So, why'd you kick him out? Was he that bad?"

Xander collapsed onto the floor, groaning."I don't want to hear this!"

"Tough." Phoebe said, "I do."

Faith laughed, grabbing Phoebe by the arm, and walked out of the Dojo. "Come on, I've got some snacks in my room...we can compare notes away from his tender ears."

Xander was still moaning when the two left the room.

*****

Willow leaned heavily on the door of her dorm room after she closed it behind Tara. She actually began shivering as she let out a long breath that she hadn't realized she had been holding. Gaia, Earth Mother... What am I doing?

She could still remember the single instant in time as perfectly as if it were happening in every passing heartbeat. She and tara had just solved a major problem with a Wiccan ritual they had been researching and they had been so excited that they hugged each other. No big deal right? Of course not... she hugged Buffy all the time. But I don't come a few millimetres from kissing Buffy... EVER.

She forced herself off the door, still shaking as she considered how close she had come to Tara's lips. How the blond's breath had felt against her mouth as her eyes locked with the young Wiccan. How she had wanted to lean those few millimetres that it would have taken to brush against the redness of Tara's lips.

Willow shook her self free of the imagery as she fell back onto her bed and tried to figure out what she could do about the whole situation. Buffy! I can talk to her.... No... No! How can I tell Buffy that I'm attracted to a girl!? Xander? So not going to happen... He might actually understand, but how can I talk to *Xander* about sex stuff?? Giles then... EWWW! Not going to happen.

The Red Wiccan rolled off her bed and stared out the window of the dorm room at the milling students in the Quad below. What am I going to do?

*****

"He actually did that?" Faith laughed as she popped another chocolate into her mouth.

Phoebe laughed, "Uh huh. Charged right into a fight with a major demon with nothing but a machete."

Faith shook her head, it was so much like him that she wondered that he was still alive. "It's a miracle he's still breathing you know. He's been like that since B walked into his life from what I can tell."

"Buffy?" Phoebe said curiously, "Why her?"

Faith shrugged, "Well... what I know is all second hand you know? I wasn't here during that stuff..."

Phoebe nodded at Faith to continue.

"From what I've been told, Xan-man was the first of the 'scoobies' to find out about Buffy being the Slayer. And, true to the form he would later pursue, as soon as he realized it was for real he threw himself into the fight."

Faith shook her head, "I never got that about him, ya know? He doesn't just do it because it feel's right... Something drives him into the fight, more surely then 'destiny' pushes any of us."

Phoebe nodded, "I know what you mean... It's like he takes the darkness personally or something... as if it's an affront against him that it exists..."

Faith nodded, "Exactly. I don't know... maybe we're just reading too much into it..."

"Maybe...." Phoebe didn't sound convinced.

"Like I said, I wasn't here then..." Faith paused before continuing, "But from what everyone told me it sounds like when he first saw the darkness was a moment of... what do they call it? A... revolution?"

"Revelation." Phoebe said, instantly connecting the word with Xander. She thought about it and nodded. "You're right I think... I wonder what the revelation was though?"

"Dunno." Faith admitted with a shrug. "But it's something burns inside him. You can almost feel it when he drops his guard.... Even though that's a rare occurrence."

Phoebe grimaced, "I know. If it wasn't for my powers I wouldn't know about what happened to him last summer at all."

Faith looked up in surprise. "You know?"

Phoebe nodded. "He told me about your conversation... and what he told you... so, yes. I know."

Faith shook her head, "It's a real mind job, ya know? He killed fourteen people... innocent people... and the only reason he didn't kill more was because he ran out of bullets."

"I know. I saw it from his perspective. Felt what he felt... lived his nightmares." Phoebe said quietly.

Faith looked at the witch blankly. "How?"

"You remember I told you that I can see the future sometimes?" Phoebe asked and, when Faith nodded, she continued. "Well, it can work the other way too... I get flashes of the past too... And One night he was having a nightmare..."

Faith grimaced. "Mind job." She said flatly.

"You have no idea."

*****

Xander moved through his Kata with lightning fast movements, swinging Elanthielle through a series of complicated movements in an attempt to burn the image of the discussion he knew must be going on in Faith's room from his mind.

ARRGH! He screamed mentally as he spun the ancient weapon through a series of three hundred and sixty degree spins, passing the weapon from hand to hand behind his back and striking out at an imaginary target on his left flank. God! Why me!?

He could hear Elan's smirk before she even spoke, something that he rarely thought about but occasionally confused him. How can you hear a smirk anyway?

You 'hear' my emotions because you'r mind isn't sufficiently advanced to process simultaneous visual inputs.

"Huh?" Xander stopped in mid motion, confused.

Your mind fills in my emotions and postures as sounds because it would produce a form of vertigo if I were to overlay my visual cues onto your brain's visual centers.

Xander jammed Elan into the floor, leaning on the seven foot staff. "Oh, that *really* helps."

You'd get dizzy if I tried to present myself visually Elan said, sounding frustrated.

"Oh." That made sense. "Why didn't you say so?"

I did.

"I meant in English."

Elanthielle didn't bother to dignify that with a response.

*****

"Hey Willow." Buffy walked into the room, smiling at the red head as she did. "How's it going?"

Willow looked up from her desk, startled and... guilty? Buffy shook her head. Just my imagination... that's all.

"Oh! I'm good... very good... yep, no badness here... none at all."



"Ooookay." Buffy said slowly. "Spill."

"What?" Willow said, entirely too innocently.

"I don't know, but your weirding me out here... and coming from hellmouth girl that's saying something."

Willow shook her head. "Nothing weird... well, nothing hellmouth weird anyway. Just something I'm trying to figure out."

"Oh." Buffy said, smiling. She sort of *bounced* over to Willow's side with a grin on her face. "Anything I can help with?"

Willow stared at Buffy's blond hair, her mind overlaying Tara's face on Buffy's. She swallowed and turned away, her face turning beat red. "No!" She said forcefully.

Buffy took an involuntary step back, looking at Willow, perplexed. "Will...? What is it?"

Willow didn't look at her, she could feel the heat rising from her red face. "It's nothing, Buffy. I swear. I just have something to work out for myself... that's all."

"Oh." Buffy sounded disappointed but she stepped away from the Red Witch. "Ok. I guess I can handle that."

Willow turned back around, her head bowed, and Buffy could barely catch a glint of the grateful smile that was hidden under her scarlet locks. "Thanks."

Buffy nodded, "No problem, Will. You'll come to me if I can help though... right?"

Willow nodded.

"Promise?" Buffy said, her voice earnest.

"Promise."

*****

Xander was finishing up his routine, his eyes shining with a silvery light as he looked around the darkened Dojo.

So... I can copy the features of my hunting mask with this?

No. Elan's voice was firm. Only certain aspects. You can't, for example, see thermal images or into the x-ray spectrum... or see air pressure changes.

"How come?" he asked as he moved through his Kata again, this time in the dark as he fought to maintain the focus on his eyes.

Because your eyes are unable to perceive those things. Your mind still depends on what your senses feed it, I'm just showing you how to better process the data.

Xander didn't respond. He was concentrating so hard on maintaining his focus that he didn't have the desire to make Elan dumb down her explanation. Besides, he had to admit, he was getting used to her manner of speaking. It wasn't too far removed from Giles-speak, and he had eventually managed to decipher most of what the Watcher had to say.

He wound down the kata, his body covered in a thin sheen of sweat, and shifted into his cooling down routine. As he allowed his focus to drift the silver glimmer in the pupils of his eyes slowly ebbed away in time to his accelerated heartbeat.

Excellent session, Alexander. Elan complimented him, her emotions washing through him... satisfied, pleased... approving.

"Thank you, Elan... thielle." Xander said, his tone almost formal.

*****