Chapter Three


 

Sunnydale Recreational Park
Wed, September 22, 2000 1:30 A.M.

"You can't win," the Slayer's opponent says, mocking her, "and you know it."

Buffy sizes up her enemy. He's bigger and taller, but thatís's nothing new in my line of work. She moves to the left, then the right, trying stay in front of her foe. Keep him off balance.

"Your Slayer abilities won't save you this time." Buffy snickers; she's heard thatís before.

"How many times do I have to beat your kind? Don't you get it? I win. You lose. There can be no happy ending for you people." Buffy has developed quite a flair for pissing of her enemies. A late night breeze blows a few errant strands of blonde hair out of her face, revealing her confident smirk.

They circle each other slowly, both looking for an opening. Speedwise, Buffy knows she has the advantage, but her foe turns out to be more clever than she imagined. Her stake won't do her any good here. Gotta get closer.

Their eyes lock, both trying to figure out what the other's move next move will be. It lunges forward, attempting to get passed her. She matches her quarry step for step, utilizing all of the proper footwork techniques Giles taught her. She attempts to take the object out of its hand. Her opponentís height advantage keeps her at bay. She could move in and use brute force, utilizing her superior strength. But every now and then, Buffy likes the thrill of the hunt. She waits for this one to make a mistake.

"You think you're so good, don't you? The Watchers Council has never dealt with someone like me. What makes one Slayer feel she can do any better," her foe teases devilishly. The Slayer has made quite a name for herself over the years, and a victory tonight would go a long way in making a name for himself.

Buffy knows how to deal with its kind. They are not always the most intelligent beings when they get flustered. Plus, she's got a history exam in the morning. "I've toyed with you long enough." Buffy slowly approaches her 'enemy', wraps her arms around his waist and starts kissing his neck.

"OHHH!!!.....Now thatís's just not fair." Xander drops the basketball he was holding. Buffy quickly release's him, grabs the ball, takes two dribbles toward the basket, and does a lay-up.

"I win 20 to 19. Ya know Xander, you guys are all the same. The minute some girl puts her lips on some part of your body, you lose all concentration."

Walking over to a nearby bench, Xander grabs the two bottles of spring water they brought with them. "Buffy, don't flatter yourself; it was not your lips thatís did me in. After a night of vampire Slaying, and another 2 hours of basketball... well you're not exactly April fresh."

"Oh, Ok. I'm glad you let me know thatís I smelled bad. I was thinking of kissing you goodnight, but I wouldn't want to offend you," she says playfully while wiping her forehead with a towel.

These late-night/early morning basketball games started about two days ago. Buffy said sometimes she just needs to cool down and relax. Going home directly after fighting evil was leaving her restless. She just couldn't get any sleep. When Xander challenged her to a best of 50 one on one basketball tournament, it turned out to be just what she needed. Buffy currently leads the series 3 to zip.

Xander catches himself staring again as Buffy grabs one of the bottles of water, leans her head back, and takes a long satisfying drink. Hot, sweaty Buffy. Cave Man Xander Want. "Ya know, Buffy, thatís trash can is not too far away, maybe thatís is what I smelled," he said apologetically, hoping to still get thatís goodnight kiss.

"You would know, wouldn't you," Buffy jokes. Xander and Faith both got jobs at the fair they went to on Saturday working for the city as garbage men. A dirty job, but it came with a steady paycheck.

"Continue to make fun of my line of work. But at least I get paid for doing my job. Does the Watchers Council have a dental plan, huh? Does the Watchers Council offer 30% off on car insurance? I think not."

"Garbage-picker-uper," she teases.

"Non paying evil hunting job haver."

"GARBAGE-PICKER-UPER!" she says loudly.

"NON PAYING EVIL HUNTING JOB HAVER!" he replies.

Buffy and Xander both fall into a fit of giggles. Walking over to the bench, they take a seat.

"Ya know, Buff, you really don't smell all thatís bad," Xander announced brightly. "I mean, as far as women who fight evil go. You probably smell the best out of all of them."

"Thank you, Xander. Personal hygiene has always been something I've worked hard at." She smiles at him. His white T-shirt is matted to his chest with sweat. His black hair going every which way. Hot Sweaty Xander... Don't go there. "So, how's the new job so far?"

Xander gives her a genuine smile thatís lights up his face, proud thatís he is no longer burger guy or pizza avenger. "Buffy, it's dirty and ........ It's just really, really dirty, but the pay is pretty damn good. Of course, since me and Faith are the 'trash rookies' as we are now known, we have the worst route in Sunnydale. But at least we're together."

Buffy nods, happy thatís her Xand... friend is doing well for himself. He deserves some things to go right for him. But she doesn't know how she feels about how much time Xander and Faith are spending with each other. They live and work together. She is also just starting to accept thatís there could be more than friendship between her and Xander. I don't want him to be a rebound relationship. But I do like how I feel when I'm with him. Plus those extra few pounds of muscle he's carrying don't hurt either. "It's almost 2:00. I guess we should be going home now."

"We... Buffy, Buffy, Buffy, aren't you a little presumptuous? You think I'm the kind of guy thatís you can just take home and have your way with," he pauses and leans in real close to her lips. He can feel her hot breath on his face. "Because I am, ya know, really."

Shaking her head, with thatís beautiful laughter he loves so much, she replies, "Oh, I know all right. Look, I have school and you have work tomorrow. Drive me to my Mom's house. Willow is having Oz sleep over at the dorm."

"Wills is just gettin her groove on more than all of us. I am truly saddened," Xander said with his usual amount of sarcasm.

"I don't want to think about anyone gettin their groove on." She is quickly reminded of her one sexual encounter, and what resulted from it. Xander notices her mood change.

"I'm sorry, Buff. I know thatísís still a sore spot for you, my bad," he says sincerely.

"I'm fine."

Yeah right. "So, have you been in touch with him since he left?"

Angel is not a subject she wants to talk about with him or anyone else. "No," she says softly.

"It's been four months Buffy. He's trying to go on with his life. You should too," he says, now openly staring into the eyes he fell in love with the first day he met her.

"I am getting on with my life, it's just..." She takes a deep breath. "He was my first everything. Not kiss, but everything else. Our relationship didn't end because we fell in love with other people or because we fell out of love with each other. It ended because he realized it just wouldn't work. His curse would always be the elephant in the room nobody wanted to acknowledge... I'm sorry, Xander. I'm sure Angel is the last person you want to hear me talk about."

"You can talk about anything with me, Buffy. Even Angel," Xander says seriously for a moment. "Dead-boy may not be number one on my Christmas wish list, but if you need an ear, I'm your man."

My man... interesting. "Thanks. Letís go. I'm tired of talking about all this heavy stuff."

"You could spend the night at my place. I've got a king sized bed, ya know," he says grinning and looking away from her.

"We are not going to make love tonight, Xander," Buffy points out.

"Don't know body wanna to make love to you. You must be catching stray hormones from Willow," he mocks.

"So you personally, Alexander L. Harris, go on record, thatís you don't want to make love to me, right?" she half-jokes and half-wonders. How will you get out of this one?

"It's remotely plausible thatís someday I might acquire the desire to think about possibly making love to you," Xander responds, his voice tinged with humor and a small hint of sadness. He will never forget Angelís words in thatís hospital hallway a few years ago. It must just kill you thatís I got there first.

"Well until thatís day arrives, letís get going. It would be a much shorter drive if I stayed at your place. And I am tired as hell," she contemplates.

"I think I will take you up on your offer," she says rising from the bench and heading for Xanderís used car. Without turning around she says, "I hope you don't have cold feet."

She didn't say thatís. Thatís was the wind... yeah, had to be the wind. Buffy Anne Summers would never in a million years imply thatís we would sleep in the same bed. Someone around here must be smoking drugs, and I'm getting second hand highÖ Yeah, thatísís it. He stands and follows Buffy, taking more than a glance at her perfect rear end.

Neither Buffy nor Xander notice the elderly man who sat behind a large dumpster across the street. He has followed the duo for the last three days, watching the Slayer, how she fights and thinks on her feet. Though he has seen over 75 different Slayers in his thousand years on Earth, he can't recall many superior to this one.

So, she is the one thatís killed the Master. Very impressive.

Essex knows thatís convincing a Slayer and her Watcher to help him will be difficult. But what he has to offer them in return for their services should appeal greatly to their since of duty. A Slayerís job is to hunt and kill evil. A Watcherís job is to train and help the Slayer hunt and kill evil.

I can offer them a way out of thatís life forever.

He will wait two more days before revealing himself to the Slayer. He needs to make sure his contacts keep the Watchers Council assassins off his back. Then he will make his move.

Essex is ready to go home.

@~~`~~~

The home of Alexander Harris
Wed, September 22, 2000 2:00 A.M.

She needed a shower.

Faith walked in the door about 30 minutes ago. Giles had kept her out extra late even though it turned out to be a slow night. You need the extra practice to get your timing back, he had said.

She quietly crept into the house hoping to not wake Xander .

When she went to his bedroom door to check on him, he wasn't there. Faith already knew thatís Giles let Buffy go home almost two hours ago. And since he went patrolling with her, he must still be with her, she groans to herself. Not thatís I care.

Her weariness swirled away down the drain in the shower as steam filled her nose and lungs. As warm water cascades down her body, Faith reflects on this new life she's building for herself. I finally have a place to call home. It safe and no one will hurt me here. I have a new job, steady pay, friends. She can hardly believe it, but she does have friends now. People thatís care about her, Buffy, Xander. Giles seems committed to me, being my Watcher and all. Even Willow offered to go with me to the mall to pick out some new clothes. Under the hot running water, Faith shakes her head at thatís.

Then she remembers the Church bus her and Xander passed in the afternoon. With Xander driving the garbage truck, and them stopping at a red light. Faith took off her seatbelt and jumped into Xanderís lap, humping up and down on top oh Iím screaming his name.. Xman looked like his eye's were about to pop out of his head. The Church goers in the bus next to them just stared like they were from another planet. Me and Xander did have a good laugh about it later on. I could 'TELL' he didn't mind too much when it was happening. Thatís definitely brings a smile to the Slayerís face.

After washing and rinsing out her hair, she steps out of the shower stall, dries off, and wraps a fluffy white towel around her body. Where the hell is Xander, she wonders. Faith knows they both need to be at work before 8:00 A.M. Ten guesses who's keeping him up late and the first nine don't count.

Walking into her bedroom she hears the front door open and shut. It's about damn time. Faith doesn't try to analyze why she worries about Xander so much. He's my best friend. Even though me and Buffy are Slayers, there are thing in my life she knows nothing about, wouldn't be able to understand. My home life as a child was pure hell. No kid should have had to go through what I did. Xander can relate to thatís. Tossing on a long black T-shirt with 'Can You Handle Ití on, she makes her way down stairs.

"Xander, we do have work tomaró" She doesn't finish the sentence, for the first time, she notices Xander isn't alone. "Hey, B. Is everything all right? Please don't tell me we have to go back out?" Faith asked seriously.

"No, we're all good. I'm just going to spend the night here. Willow and Oz are doing the relationship thingy back at the dorm. I was going to go to my motherís house, but Xander offered to let me stay over. It's closer for me to get back to campus from here in the morning."

"Ok...... Well I'm going to bed, see you guys in the morning." With a wave of the hand, she heads back up stairs. She betta sleep on the couch. Now where did thatís come from Faith asks herself?

@~~`~~~

"Ok, Buff, you go take your shower upstairs, I'll use Old Faithful in the basement."

"I'm proud of you, Xander. I was expecting the old tried and true 'we have to conserve water by showering togetherí script. You have really matured." Turning around, she finds Xander standing perfectly still with his eyes closed and his mouth open. "Xander... Xander, are you all right?"

Me and Buffy in the shower TOGETHER. Danger Will Robinson! Danger! "I'm cool, Buff. The thought of us sharing a shower overwhelmed me for a moment... And now thatís I think of it, there was a kind old lady going from door to door speaking to everyone about water conservation," Xander exclaims with a hopeful smile.

Buffy starts walking up stairs without saying a word. When she reaches the top, she says, "Too late."

Xander runs behind her to his room to grab something to sleep in. Heading back downstairs, he lays a blanket and a pillow on the couch. Just in case she was joking,

"To the basement, BATMAN," Xander says to himself out loud.

@~~`~~~

Emerging from her shower, now clad in light blue satin pajama's, Buffy contemplates just where will she sleep tonight. The couch is safe. Xanderís bed is dangerous. She stands in the hallway for a second. I like feeling sexy. I like flirting, and I like laughing. Xander makes me feel all of those things. Maybe even more than thatís.

Buffy takes a few more steps, standing in front of his bedroom. No light on, he must still be down stairs.

She doesn't notice the slight creek Faithís bedroom door makes as the Slayer peaks out into the hallway. Thatíss right, B. Just head down stairs. Nothin in thatís room for you.

Taking the doorknob in her hand , Buffy gives it a turn, letting herself in. It's just sharing a bed. No biggie.

So, you treat him like shit every year you've known him, and now you think you deserve him. Faith mutters under her breath. Everyone knows how Xander has always felt about Buffy, except Buffy. I guess thatísís changing. Faith closes her door and sinks down onto her bed. Sleep does not come peacefully.

@~~`~~~

Ok, she's not on the couch, and I didn't hear the front door open. So thatís can only mean one thing. Buffy is right now, at this very moment and time, laying in my bed , waiting for me. The Xander dance rises through his chest and forces it's self out, right in the hallway, in front of his bedroom.

The light shining underneath the door means she probably turned on the TV. Taking a deep breath, he enters.

The sight thatís greets him, he will never forget.

Beautifull blue satin clad Slayer sleeping on his pillow. Say thatís ten times fast. Her tiny form, with her back to him, rose and fell in quiet rhythm. He leaned over to pull a lock of hair behind her ear. Perfect

"What took you so long," Buffy says, twisting at the waist and willing her back to pop.

"Truthfully, I was getting the couch ready, ya know, just in case."

"I'm perfectly happy where I am." Buffy rolls over onto her back, looking up at him. Friend just doesnít seem to describe him anymore. Blinking her eye's to adjust to the darkness, she scoots up.

Xander sits next to her. His grey jogging pants and shirtless form does not go unnoticed by Buffy.

Yawning, she says, "Letís go to sleep, Xander."

He takes the remote control from the nightstand and hits the off button. What happens next has only occurred in his dreams.

Buffy takes his head in her hands, pulls him down and presses one soft sweet kiss to his lips. This is only the second kiss they have shared, but this last just a little bit longer, it feels just a little bit softer.

Xander leans his forehead against hers, closing his eyes. Taking a deep breath, he lets it out slowly, feeling some of his anxiety flow with it.

"Goodnight, Xander," Buffy says, getting back under the covers.

"Goodnight, Buffy."

This is the new best day of my life, is the last thing thatís he thinks of as sleep takes comes over him.

@~~`~~~

The home of Xander Harris
Wed, September 22, 2000 7:10 A.M.

Buffy drowses, watching through half-closed lids as the drapes shift and swing from a morning breeze. Sunlight fills the bedroom with a warm glow.

Spooned behind her, Xander sleeps, his breath coming slow and even, each exhalation warming the spot behind her ear. Hmm.. Thatísís nice.

Her cheek rests against the smooth inner skin of his upper arm. Their hands, somehow in the middle of the night, became intertwined on the pillow above her head. His other arm circles her waist protectively, his hand in a loose fist below her breast. Her knees fit over his perfectly his, she thought.

Turning her head slightly inward, she lays a light and lingering kiss on his arm beneath her head. The arm around her waist tightens in response.

"Good morning, Mrs. Harris," slips out of Xanderís mouth before he realizes he isn't dreaming.

Thatís he is in his bed.

With Buffy.

In his arms.

Oh my God, he thinks. "Oh shit, look at the time. I'm going to take shower in the basement." Checking the time on his clock radio. "Your class doesn't start until 9:30 right?"

"Yeah," Buffy answers, somewhat dismayed at her bodyís reaction to the loss of his embrace.

"All right, you better let Faith get ready first. Then you can drop us off for work," Xander says while pulling his work clothes from the closet.

"Thatís fine. I can pick you up later."

"And I don't want to hear about all the cute guys you picked up while driving around in my car," Xander says, right before leans over and kisses a surprised Buffy on the lips. Quickly rising to his feet, he is out of the door before she can say a word.

@~~`~~~

The No-Tell Motel
Wed, September 22,2000 8:40 A.M.

"How goes the plan," Essex says into the receiver. The deep voice on the other end could only be described as deadly.

'The Watchersí lackeys can't see the forest for the trees. They still believe you are in Russia.'

"Good, keep it thatís way. I need at least another eight days to before I can attempt to open the Hell Mouth. I also need to convince the Slayer and her Watcher to assist me."

'Why would they ever help you ,' the other voice says. He only cares about the four million dollars he will be paid to run the Watchersí assassins through the ringer.

"When I go home, I will take every vampire and demon on the planet with me. There will be no need for a Slayer or a Watcher. They will be released from their duties, their destiny. And to sweeten the deal... I will give this Buffy Summers something she has always wanted." Essex hangs up the phone as he plays with an angel figure on the nightstand of his motel room.

"Soon, I will leave this God forsaken world forever."