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Title : Interludes Three : The Way

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.

*****

Lowell House

Sunnydale, California

Riley paced the common room at Lowell House, his face etched with worry and confusion. The Commando's sat around looking at him in slight confusion as they watched their commanding officer wear a path in the rug.

"What's up with him? Graham nudged Forest as he whispered.

Forest didn't answer, he just kept watching the odd sight in confusion. It was an uncommon occurrence to see their 'together' CO look this bothered by something. He thought about it for a moment before he finally decided to step up to the plate.

"Yo, Finn."

Riley stopped in mid step, turning to glare at Forest. "What?"

"Look, Man. You want to take this upstairs? You're starting to scare the enlisted guys."

Riley looked around, seeing that several of the gathered commandos were looking distinctly nervous, some of them even refused to meet his eyes as he swept the room. Riley mentally berated himself and nodded to Forest.

"I'm going out." He said as he grabbed his coat off a wall hook. "I'll be back later."

"Later, man." Forest mock saluted, "Clear your head before you come back here if you can."

Riley nodded and left the building.

*****

X&J's Residence

Sunnydale, California

"So..."

"So..."

Xander and Buffy shifted uncomfortably as they looked at each other. It was the first time they'd had to be alone together since waking up that morning. And waking up hadn't left them the best of situations for developing a conversation.

"Look," Xander tried, "This is ridiculous..."

"Right." Buffy interrupted him, "I mean... it was just a spell right? No big... I mean, I just slept with my best friend... and his girlfriend... and the woman who tried to kill my boyfriend... and my best friends... and me..."

Xander winced as Buffy just trailed off, losing whatever vaguely optimistic start she had managed to forge. He didn't think it would do her any good to find out that the spell had merely lifted inhibitions, and hadn't in fact added any emotions that weren't already present.

Instead he took a breath and agreed with her, "Right. Just a spell. We'll get past this right?"

"Right." Buffy repeated, unable to really get past that one word it seemed.

"I'm serious, Buff." Xander said earnestly, "I don't want to lose you as a friend over something that neither of us could have controlled."

That brought her back fast. "You won't!" She promised fervently, "Look... Xander, I'm a little weirded out right now... ok, a lot weirded out. But *we* will be ok..."

Xander nodded, a slight smile on his face as he felt the certainty in her voice. "Good... cause I really didn't want to..."

"Me neither Buffy said quickly, "Friends?"

"Forever."

*****

"How dare they!" Willow fumed, pacing her room in irritation. "I don't need a babysitter... I don't!"

Her voice was trembling as she finished up, and it occurred to her that she wasn't certain who she was trying to convince. It certainly wasn't the others... they weren't even here. She collapsed onto her bed, frustrated as her emotional walls began to crumble.

I... I don't... do I? Willow asked herself as she stared morosely into the mirror across the room. It was just a simple spell... Just a small mistake... Buffy slept with Faith... God... I made Buffy and Faith sleep together... and Xander... They had an orgy... Ewww...

She stopped, considered her thoughts, Or is it 'ewww'? mmmmmm.... Xander, Buffy, Phoebe.... mmmmm.... Faith... EWWWW.

*****

Halliwell Manor

San Francisco, California

Phoebe dropped into the think sofa chair and adopted a brooding pose, her legs thrown over the arms of the chair as she stared at the cieling. She had come home with Leo when he returned to say that he had set the wheels in motion, and she needed todo some heavy thinking.

"Well... This is a disturbing picture."

"Hello, Prudence." Phoebe said without looking at her sister.

"Prudence?" Prue looked at her youngest sibling with a concerned look. "Alright, what happened?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Tough." Prue sat on the Sofa across from the chair. "Spill."

Phoebe looked at her sister sourly, deciding to see exactly what Prue was willing to handle. "Ok. I joined in an Orgy last night."

Prue would have staggered if she'd been standing up. her face dropped in shock, her breath caught in her chest, and she leaned back heavily against the back of the sofa.

"Wow." She said, "I... I...Wow."

"Very helpful, Sis."

"I always knew you had a wild streak Phoebe... but that?"

Phoebe shot her sister a dirty look, "It was a spell gone haywire. Xander's wiccan friend, Willow."

Prue winced, that was actually worse. "Ouch."

"Yeah."

"So what happened exactly?"

Phoebe told her, electing to leave out the majority of the details.

"Wow." Was Prue's only immediate reaction.

"Helpful as always, Sis."

"Xander does seem to attract the weird ones you know..."

"Hey!"

Prue grinned, unrepentant. "Face it, Phoebes. Here is a guy who, by rights, should be...oh, a construction worker or something, married, kids, mortgage... the whole nine yards. And he winds up fighting demons, dating a witch, sleeping with mystical warrior women... He's living an adolescent dream."

Phoebe almost grinned until she remember the other details of Xander's life. She turned a little sad and shook her head, "But he's not... not really. He's riding on the edge, Prue... Sure he is gaining some perks from living fast, if you can call sleeping with his best friend and maybe ruining their relationship a perk..."

Prue tilted her head slightly, "Why do I hear a bigger 'but' coming along?"

"But..." Phoebe said deliberately, "He's accumulating the dark side of the life as well... nightmares... responsibilities... nightmares..."

"You said that twice." Prue pointed out.

"It bears repeating."

Prue was quiet for a while, "You haven't been sleeping well either... not for a week or so..."

Phoebe nodded, "I had a vision."

Prue was shocked, "Why didn't you tell us?"

"It wasn't a future vision... It was the past... Xander's past... What happened to him over the summer."

Prue was silent for a long moment, "Nightmares?"

"Terrors."

"damn."

Phoebe just nodded and the two sisters sat in silence.

*****

X&J's Building

Sunnydale, California

Xander grabbed the phone on the eighth ring, having had to run for the phone form the living room where he had been talking with Buffy. Faith was upstairs, sleeping off a fit of laughing she had started when they had left Willow at Giles'.

"Phoebe?" he asked, hopefully.

"Not unless the Doctor really messed up my last appointment." the voice on the other end answered.

"Terry, Sorry... was hoping to hear from someone else."

The voice chuckled, "Yeah, figured that much. Look, kid, I don't have much time... I wanted to let you know that I think I found ya someone who can handle the special work you wanted done."

"Yeah?" Xander was interested now, "Who? and where?"

"Guy works out of a shop in LA... He doesn't like his name being spread over open lines though... just check out the address I left you on the secure message board on my web site. K?"

"Cool." Xander said, "Thanks Terry."

"No problem, kid. See ya soon?"

"I'll try, man... but this town needs watching 24/7."

"Shit." Terry said succinctly, "Same type as we had here?"

"Usually more dangerous."

"Shit."

"yep." Xander grinned.

"Ok, kid. Good luck."

Thanks Terry."

"No problem."

Xander hung up the phone, smiling. That was some good news at least. He started back toward the living room but was side tracked when the doorbell rang. When he answered the door he found a very troubled looking Riley Finn waiting outside.

"Xander...can we talk?"

*****

Xander backed up in surprise. "Riley?"

Riley grimaced, "Look, I know we're not the best of friends... but I need to talk to someone about Buffy... a Guy preferably. That leaves me you... or Giles."

Xander nodded, still a little stunned. "Ok... I guess I can see why you chose me... but uh..." he started to try to explain that Buffy was actually in the next room but Riley cut him off.

"I don't know what happened..." Riley said, striding into the room, his hands in his pockets and his back hunched. "I didn't mean to do it... I don't even know what I did for god's sake!"

"Riley..." Xander tried to interrupt. "I really don't..."

"Last night I was doing my rounds... Well... damn... that's sort of the last thing i remember until this morning..."

Xander winced. He had a fair idea of what was coming. "Look.. Riley, there's something I think you should know..."

"I can't figure out what happened... the next thing i remember I'm waking up next to this blond... I thought it was Buffy!"

"Riley, please listen for a..."

"You know who it was!?" Riley turned on Xander, his eyes actually blazing with anger. "That same damned *HST* we pulled you away from!"

At this point Xander forgot about what he was trying to say and just goggled. "You slept with Harmony!?"

"Is that her name?" Riley asked shaking his head. "Damnit! I just don't get it! I don't DO things like this!"

"Neither do I."

Riley turned in shock when he heard the soft voice from the doorway. "Buffy?"

Xander winced, "That's what I've been trying to tell ya man..."

*****

Buffy listed as Riley came in, babbling about last night, and her heart sort of sunk. She hadn't even thought about him the entire day. She'd just *cheated* on her boyfriend and she had been so preoccupied with everything else that she forgot to consider what it would do to him when he found out.

Then she heard what he was saying, and her heart dropped even further. It hadn't occurred to her that Willow's spell may have reached farther then her own experiences. At least not on a visceral level.

Harmony!? Buffy cringed, feeling sorry for Riley... then for herself, then riley again, and then herself. Ewwww!

He took a deep breath and stepped into the room just as Riley turned on Xander, saying "I don't DO things like this!"

Buffy grimaced and forgot to check her words, instead stating the first thing that came to mind. "Neither do I."

"Buffy?"

*****

Riley rushed to her, his toungue stumbling over his apologies. "I didn't... I mean, I don't... I... Hell... I'm so sorry!"

Buffy looked sick. She couldn't believe what was happening, not only the events but the position she was now in. She could hardly imagine saying what she knew she going to say. She took a deep breath, "Relax, Riley... Xander and I... we have something to tell you..."

Riley stopped in mid speech. "You... and Xander?"

"Whoa!" Xander held up his hands, "not like that.... ummm well... actually yeah... sort of like that I guess."

Riley turned on Xander, a glint of anger in his eyes. "What!?"

"Last night, man..." Xander stumbled a little himself as he spoke. "It was a spell."

Riley unclenched. He stared between the two in confusion. "What?"

Xander shook his head, "Come on. Let's sit down and try to muck through this."

Xander lead the two into the living room where they all grabbed seats. Far away from each other.

"It's like this..." Xander began, "Willow was a little insecure last night so she cast a spell to figure out what she wanted to do..."

"Huh?"

"I know, I know..." Xander commiserated with Riley, "I think it's a dumb ass way to solve a problem too... anyway, She called on one of the Old Gods... very old. Summarian actually. Problem is, this Goddess, the goddess of love and sex I might add, also happens to have a wicked temper and an equal sense of... humor... justice... whatever. Presto chango... instant Spell SNAFU."

"And this affected me, why?"

Xander shrugged, "Don't know... might have affected the entire town for all I know... or maybe just the friends of Willow. It also caught up with me and Buff."

Riley winced. His own indiscretions aside it still wasn't easy to hear that his girlfriend had just slept with another guy. "Did anyone else get caught up in this... spell?"

Buffy blushed.

"What?" Riley looked between them, "Why do I get the idea that things are worse then I thought."

Buffy got up and left the room, still beet red.

Xander winced. "We... well... we also woke up with Phoebe..."

Riley's eyes bugged.

"... and Faith."

"WHAT!?"

Xander was quiet. He didn't really know what to say. It was always a good sign that Riley hadn't attacked him yet, but the hits just kept coming for the Commando.

Riley got up, his eyes fixed on Xander. Xander tensed as the Commando stepped closer. "I asked a question. What the hell happened!?"

"The Spell happened." Xander said, as calmly as he could. "I think you probably got off lucky."

"Are you insane!?"

Xander shrugged, "Do you care what Harmony thinks of you?"

"No... what the hell does that have to do with anything?"

"Buffy and I are friends. Best friends." Xander said, "This is going to seriously mess with that. And now Buffy also has to worry about what Faith knows about her... and Faith has tried to kill her before... and me... and our friends. Trust me on this, Buffy is seriously messed up right now."

Riley shook his head, turning around and starting to pace again. "I can't even remember what the hell happened! Hell, I don't even know how she got out of containment... I checked the records after she disappeared this morning... but they're blank... God... what if I let her out!?"

Xander thought about it, "I doubt you did."

"How would you know?"

"A friend of mine explained how the spell worked to me..." Xander said haltingly, "And it doesn't exactly override your common sense... You wouldn't risk others lives because of it... though you might risk your own if you have a repressed thrill-seeker side..."

"Oh great." Riley said, still pacing around the room. "Now I'm a freaking adrenaline junkie!"

"That's one possible explanation I suppose..." Xander said hesitantly.

"Possible!? What other possible reason would get me in bed with a damned vampire!?"

Xander didn't think that was a question that Riley actually wanted answered, so he didn't. "Look, Riley... Go talk to Buffy. Work it out. Last night was so far beyond either of your control that it's not even in the same solar system."

Riley stopped, staring at Xander for a moment, uncertain whether to hit the young man or thank him. He settled for neither, opting instead to take the advise and try to salvage his relationship with the most beautiful girl he knew.

Xander watched the Commando go with mixed feelings. He knew that he should take his own advice and at least all Phoebe but something held him back. He couldn't decide if that was a blessing or a curse.

He finally settled for getting up and heading to his room. Last night hadn't really given him much time for actual sleep. And he had a trip to LA to plan.

Leo, I hope to hell you get someone here fast. If Will pulls another one like this then I'm not certain if I'll be holding Buffy back or helping her beat some sense into my best friend.

*****