Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

By Nickeltaffy

Disclaimer: The characters used in this story are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. I do not own them.

Synopsis: After Chosen, what if Anya and Spike were given a second chance, this time in Texas with new lives, new memories and new friends. What if Xander and Buffy find out and come to reclaim them, but discover that they're now the outsiders.

….

Chapter 3

Xander decided to leave work early on Thursday afternoon. He went home to shower, shave and find the perfect, yet casual outfit that would show him to his best effect. On his way home from the office, he filled the car's gas tank and checked the fluids, so he wouldn't have to mess with it on the way to Delbrock. He decided to leave an extra twenty minutes early. He didn't think that San Angelo would have a rush hour but better to be safe than sorry. He didn't want to be late for his 6:30 appointment with Anya or Annalee he now had to remind himself to call her.

He drove up to the church parking lot about five minutes after 6PM. First thing he did, was look for her truck. He saw it. It was located in the first row of parking up by the church. She must have gotten here early to help. He pretended to be on his cell phone as the locals pulled up and looked at the stranger in the parking lot. At 6:25, he closed his phone and made his way into the church. There was a meeting hall located at the back of the church. Xander followed the signs pointing to Fellowship Hall which had a paper sign saying Pancake Supper tonight taped to each one. As he paid the $7 entry fee. He thought the hall was a lot louder than he anticipated for a small town church. The room was filled with the sounds of people chatting, children laughing and playing and servers yelling back to the kitchen. There was a buffet table lined up up next to the window of the kitchen pass-through. You could hear the scraping of untensils and voices carrying through the window. Every once in a while, a large pan filled with pancakes would appear in the window which would suddenly be whisked to the buffet line where they soon disappeared. Servers would stick their head back through the window demanding more pancakes.

There were about 40 people milling about the hall with long tables covered with white butcher paper spotted with islands of maple syrup bottles and tubs of margarine located strategically down the middle of each. In the midst, he say Anya. It, indeed, was her. She was standing there wearing a simple cotton dress as she was talking to a pair of an older women who had stopped her. She smiled and nodded. She was so beautiful. His memories of her were a shallow reflection of the real thing. Oh Lord, it was like she was in slow motion, almost like a shampoo commercial, Xander thought. Oh God! I could just stand here forever looking at her. "Okay Xander, you're going to scare the girl. GET IT TOGETHER!" said the voice in his head.

Xander walked up to Anya, smiling gently at her.

"Hi, I'm Alexander Harris, but my friends call me Xander. I believe we spoke on the phone." He said, holding out his hand.

"Oh hi! I'm Annalee. So, you made it!" as she grabbed his hand to shake it.

The touch of her hand, small and warm in his was almost too much for him. Tears rushed to his eyes.

"Excuse me. Sorry, I am having an allergy attack today." He explaining as he pulled his hand back to cover his eyes.

"Ooh, Yeah. Those can be bad if you're new to the area." She said to comfort him. She reached over to a table and handed him a napkin for his eyes.

"It looks like quite the turn out. I had no idea a breakfast food would create such a mob scene. What have I been missing?" he said as a joke while wiping his eyes.

"What can I say?- we're known for our cutting edge night life in this town." she joked.

Just then a gentle faced young man came up alongside Anya. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and placed his face along hers as he spoke.

"It looks like you did good, girl. Your ladies group really got quite the turn out tonight." The young man said with affecttion.

She laughed as he hugged her from behind and then she batted his hands away.

"Oh go on. Oh wait a minute. Xander..is that right? Let me introduce you to my brother, Clay. Clay, this is Xander Harris. He is the one who is interested in buying grandad's old truck. He wants to restore it for his Dad." She told Clay.

Relief flooded Xander. The young man was only her brother. "Brother? Anya had a brother? Huh?" He would think about that later. Xander was also impressed that his sob story about his dad carried from the truck stop. He would have to remember to not to dispel the fantasy later on.

"Nice to meet ya, Xander. I hear you came all the way from San Angelo to have some pancakes with us this evening. I like a man serious about his food." Clay smiled.

"Nice to meet you too. I've been known to travel many distances when there is a good meal to be had." Xander joked back.

Clay laughed.

"So, where's Russell and Bill?" Anya asked.

"Oh, you know those English boys, they always get shanghaied by the pretty girls. I think Mary Sue and her group are keeping them pinned in the kitchen. If the guys don't make it out of there in the next two minutes, I am going to have to launch a rescue operation." Clay said looking around for his friends.

"English? Am I in some cosmopolitan capital? I thought I was in a quaint West Texas town?" Xander laughed.

"No, English is their last name. Their family runs the local Feed store. You couldn't have missed it. It has all the farm equipment on display out front." Anya answered bemused. "That's their sisters, Ruby and Maureen helping to man the buffet table."

Everyone could see that the flow of pancakes would ebb and flow depending on the level of sound and giggling coming out the kitchen. Clay went over to speak to two older women who were manning the ticket booth. The more formidable one stood up and went directly across the Fellowship hall and entered the kitchen. There was a sudden quiet that descended upon the kitchen. All sound in the entire hall also disappeared as everyone strained to hear the drama unfolding in the kitchen. The room was unable to hear distinctly what was said but from the tone of the older woman's side of the conversation, you could tell things were being set to rights in the kitchen. A moment later, a tall man with short curly hair and an embarrassed smirk came out the door followed closely by the older woman. The two young women behind the buffet table smothered their smiles behind their hands as they obviously enjoyed the scene.

The tall man sauntered up to the group, raising his eyebrows with a grimace. Clay rejoined the group, not bothering to hide the obvious smirk on his face. The tall man man gave Clay a small shove when he came up to the group as Clay put up his hands in a puzzled expression of innocence.

"Russell, are you never going to learn?" Anya asked

"It wasn't my fault. I was just following Bill. He was the one that got us trapped in the kitchen by coming in the back door. That tosser left me stranded." Russell replied. "He bailed when he saw Mrs. Fryley come into the kitchen. He jumped out the back door as quick as he could. I couldn't make it because Francine Harwell had me blocked in. I took all the blame for being a distraction in the kitchen. Lord help me, I'm going to kill Bill."

"Tosser? Where does that word come up in the Texas dialect?" Xander asked

"Oh, Our dad's english, which makes the last name an exercise in redundancy. The kids in our family have picked up some of his more colorful phrasing as we've grown up. Bill is the worst. He was born over in England and lived there till he was five." Russell went on, "I was only two when we moved back, so I didn't have a chance to develop the English accent like he did. He has worked to get rid of it but it is still very apparent."

"Oh yeah, Bill was teased relentlessly in elementary school for calling the principal, the headmaster. The boys in our class thought it was hysterical." Anya added. "You know boys humor…Head….Master. Ufgh, boys!" She shook her head with remembered disgust.

Anya looked around and saw the buffet line was moving. She decided that the group needed to grab a table while there were still some open if they were going to sit together.

"Come on everyone, let eat. Now that the kitchen is now clear of distractions, I think there's going to be higher production rate on pancakes coming out of the kitchen now." Anya announced.

The group gathered at the end of the buffet line and got their share of pancakes. They gathered at a empty spot at one of the last open tables which was set back by the kitchen. Passing the syrup and margarine, Xander had a few more questions that he directed toward the guys. He was sitting next to Anya, but he didn't want to become too intense on the pretty young woman who meant so much to him. "So the better I make with the friends, the better I can make with her" he thought.

"So, Clay and Russell are you both from around here?" Xander asked as he poured the syrup on his stack of pancakes.

"We better be. We all went to school together. The families around here have been here for generations." Clay responded, passing the margarine. "The English family is the closest thing we have to exotic we have around here."

"Exotic?" Anya nearly choked.

"Hey, I can do exotic- give me a chance!" burbled Russell

"So, Russell, how did your family end up here, if your dad is English?" Xander continued.

"My mom's family is from around here. She joined the navy out of high school and met my dad in Spain while he was on vacation. They fell in love and were married a couple of months later."

"Yeah, and Bill was born seven months after the wedding." Clay announced

"Mom said he was premature." Russell said solemnly.

"I guess your grandma shouldn't have been telling her church group that he was nearly nine pounds when he was born." Clay laughed.

Anya leaned over to Xander and whispered, "Small town. Everyone knows everything about each other."

Russell rolled his eyes and continued. "Mom got out of the Navy and my parents went to live in London. That is until Grandma called. Grandad was sick and they needed help with the ranch, so we all moved to Texas. My two sisters were born here. Dad really didn't take to ranching, so he opened the feed store. That's where Bill and I work, helping Dad out."

Taking a bite of pancake, Xander didn't notice the figure that came out of the kitchen door behind his back. He came up to the table and looked at the small group sitting there.

Russell looked up at the figure with an exasperated expression.

"Thanks for letting hang out to dry, mate!"

"What can I say, Baby? I've always been bad." An low voice with an English accent wafted over the table

Xander looked up and back over his shoulder where that voice came from. He choked slightly on the pancake in mouth, as his eyes went wide.

Standing there behind him was Spike.