The New Adventures of Buffy and Xander
Episode Five: "So Close"
Summary:The right time, the wrong Country and Buffy and Xander find themselves dealing with familiar foe.
The first thing that Buffy noticed was the smell. The horrible, stinky, rotting smell of vast amounts of people's rubbish. "Ugh… God… please send me back to the trees and the men with the guns and *ewwwww*" Buffy didn't want to know what she'd just put her hand in.
"I will second that" Xander said as he sat up beside her "And throw in a large "yyuccckkk*" he shook something gooey off his hand.
They were outside and it was almost pitch black. They were sitting on some kind of hill; a pile of something Buffy really didn't want to think about at the moment. She looked up and failed to see any stars. The only twinkling lights she could see were the ones from the big buildings in the distance. She looked to Xander, whose face she could just make out in what moonlight there was "OK. I'm guessing we're sitting on a big pile of garbage, yeah?"
"I'll go with you on that one" Xander replied "And now I just want to *go*" he managed to steady himself on his feet "I've been here one minute and I'm ready to pass out right now" he helped Buffy up "I think there's some kind of building down there"
"Please let it have kind and friendly people who will offer us a shower" Buffy followed carefully after him "I just want to soak in bubbles for the next three days"
Xander stepped off the pile and onto more solid ground "I don't think it comes equipped with even a shower" Xander said "It's looks like it's only a step up from our lovely summer retreat we spent last night in"
Buffy wiped her hand on her clothes "Oh yay"
Xander began to walk over to the building "C'mon" he called over his shoulder "Maybe this one'll have running water"
Buffy jogged up to his side, hugging the thin jacket she was wearing closer around her "We can only hope"
Xander grinned at her "If we're doing that, can I hope they have pizza?"
Buffy grinned back "With *lots* of cheese". Her smile faded a little bit as they got nearer to the small brick building. She squinted at the sign on the wall by the door. "Um… Xander?"
"Yeah?" he looked to where she was pointing "Uh… does that say what I think it does?"
"If you see the sign that says City of London" Buffy replied "Then, yeah"
They exchanged surprised looks "Oh boy"
Buffy stared back at the sign "This isn't… we can't be…" she looked back to Xander "Can we?"
"Looks like" he replied "We're somewhere called Lewisham"
"Sean *so* has a lot of explaining to do" Buffy walked away from the building and tried to see what she could in the dim light - there was only one tiny spotlight that hung from the corner of the roof. Buffy noticed another building that stood just behind and to the left of the building they had made their way to. The furthest building backed on to a high metal fence with rather limp barbed wire hanging ineffectively over the top of it. She and Xander were stood in a slight clearing from the mounds of rubbish.
"Eh, I'm guessing it can't be all bad" Xander said, "You never know. We might be able to do some sightseeing while we're here"
Xander shrugged "Why not?"
Buffy gestured around to their surroundings "Well I have to say I'm loving the London metropolitan life so far"
Xander rolled his eyes "C'mon. Lets just find our way out of here. Quietly. They might have guards or something. Then maybe we can find somewhere quiet to get hold of Sean"
"Fine" Buffy looped her arm through Xander's "But just promise me I'll get that pizza soon, 'kay?"
Xander turned back to her and grinned "Sure. Maybe I'll even spring for a-" he broke off when something caught his eye - a dark shadow flitted from out behind one of the rubbish piles.
"I saw that too" Buffy said as they stopped "A guard would have shone a light or called"
"I'm thinking we just go and *not* try to find out what or who it is" Xander said "I don't think we're really equipped to be dealing with thieves or anyth-" he broke off again as his hand curled around something in his jacket pocket "Or maybe we are". Xander pulled out a stake "Huh"
Buffy glanced around warily again as she reached in her own pockets. Her hand came in contact with a cross. She stared at it when she pulled it out then glanced back at Xander "Either I'm deeply religious or this just got a little too familiar"
"Familiar or not. I just want to get out of here" Xander grabbed Buffy's arm and she followed him away from the buildings, both looking for signs of an exit.
Buffy spotted a hole in the metal fence "That's where we might have got in".
"Or maybe it's just where you're not going to get out". A dark figure crashed down infront of them, blocking their planned escape route. In the darkness there was no mistaking the glowing yellow eyes of a vampire.
"Oh, I'm pretty sure we could" Xander replied "Maybe if you just moved a little, yeah" Xander made as if he was looking around the vamp "We could squeeze through that"
But the vampire didn't want to play. The vampire's eyes flashed and he growled loudly, lunging towards Buffy. She jumped back and thrust the cross she held out infront of her, causing the vampire to hiss and turn his face away. Xander took the cross off Buffy and gave her the stake; Buffy going to stand just slightly to the side and behind Xander.
Xander continued to hold the vampire off as it tried to advance on them again. "You're just not taking the hint are you?"
The vamp snarled and lunged again, at Xander this time. The vampire lashed out and knocked the cross from Xander's hands and sent Xander crashing to the ground. Xander stared back up at the vamp defiantly as it loomed above him. Buffy kicked out, trying to draw the vampire's attention away. She almost succeeded, but then their attention was drawn by a shout of:
"Hey! Fang face!"
Buffy, Xander and the vampire all turned to see a group of youths standing about twenty yards away. All three hadn't even heard them arrive.
Buffy took advantage of the vamps second of distraction and hit him with a high kick to his torso. He stumbled back, his eyes flashing angrily at Buffy.
For about two seconds before he turned into dust.
Buffy and Xander slowly turned around to face the gang of youths and saw that one of them had produced a crossbow from thin air. She was a slim, black girl with magenta hair that hung down her back and was dressed in scruffy jeans and a thin white woollen sweater with slashes in the sleeves.
Another two of the group were holding flashlights and Buffy could see there were about ten young men and women, all of them aged between about seventeen and twenty-five. With the exception of the girl with magenta hair, all of them held either a stake or a cross.
"Uh… Hi" Buffy said tentatively.
The young black girl, May, handed the crossbow to a tall blonde guy who stood next to her. She arched an eyebrow and crossed her arms "I though you two were going to stay at the top of the heap"
Buffy was a little surprised at the cultured accent with which she spoke. "We were? I mean I know we were" Buffy amended quickly "But I thought I saw him go the other way and-"
"Yeah" Xander added, "We thought we might be able to divert him back or something"
"Or something?" May's eyebrow was still raised.
Buffy and Xander both just shrugged.
May rolled her eyes "Nevermind" she waved it off with a flick of her hand "We got the vamp. No one is dead. All in all, it's been a bloody good night". May turned to the guy who she'd handed the crossbow to "Foster, honey, why don't you take Donna and Cooper and uh-" she looked around "Mint, Jake and Kez and check out the docklands"
Foster handed May back her weapon "Sure. Are you going to do a clean on your way back to base?"
May nodded "We'll do the tube" she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek "Don't take too long OK? And watch out for the pigs"
"They seem fairly organised" Xander muttered to Buffy out of the corner of his mouth.
Buffy caught Foster's eye as he headed over towards them, followed by another three people; a white, tall and wiry guy with long black hair tied back behind his neck; a dark-skinned guy with no hair and built like a brick outhouse; and a short, slightly overweight girl with short, curly black hair.
Buffy smiled tentatively and Foster smiled back, stopping infront of them both. He glanced over his shoulder briefly and saw May heading off with four other guys and another girl "You two" Foster looked back to them "Are crazy. I know May ain't your favourite person at the moment Cooper" he looked to Xander "But just remember, you piss her off - she stays pissed off for the rest of the day which then means that I don't get any"
"Any?" the question came from Buffy before she realised she knew what he actually meant.
"As in shags, yes Donna" Foster said dryly "Those things you and Coop here have and then the rest of us have to pretend that we didn't hear anything coming from your room"
Xander exchanged a quick glance with Buffy who had flushed a little pink even thought it wasn't *them* Foster was talking about. Xander cleared his throat and looked back at Foster who was smirking along with the others "So, uh, we're doing the docks then yeah?"
"Ther'int anythin' about" Kez stated as she jogged back to join Buffy and Xander who had done there own recon. Kez was the short, slightly overweight girl with curly black hair. She wore cargo pants and trainers topped off with a big fleecy jacket that was zipped up to her chin. Kez, Buffy and Xander had been grouped together to cover one section of the dockside. Apparently when May said the docklands, she didn't mean the swanky business area and the expensive flats - what she really meant was the grotty dockside with the grounded and abandoned boats and the derelict sheds.
"Yeah. We thought we heard something but it just turned out to be really big rats" Buffy replied as she sat down on one of the shorter mooring posts. She looked around "I think the undead have decided to call it a night"
"Tell me about it". Kez shoved her hands in her pockets and kicked at a small stone, making it skittle across the ground. She sighed "I 'member when we used t'get four or five a night round 'ere. T'night we were lucky t'get *one*"
"*Lucky*?" Xander raised an eyebrow.
"Cooper, you know we int never gonna be in no danger from no vamp if we've got our spray an' a spark". Kez took in their blank expressions. "You did bring 'em, dint ya?"
Both Buffy and Xander exchanged quick glances and reached into their pockets but found nothing but a cross and a stake each. Buffy smiled awkwardly "Uh... must have fallen out when we were garbage sitting"
"Garbage?" Kez smirked "You've really bin watchin' too much Yank telly Donna"
"Yeah, you've gotta remember to speak the lingo" Sean grinned at them both as he finally appeared "And you've already got the accent, so no need to put one on. Just think about words and phrases when you speak. An occasional 'Bloody hell' never hurt anyone"
Sean studied Kez as she took one hand out of her pocket to look at her watch. He glanced at Xander "Who's she? I'll get some info"
"Hey Kez" Xander asked the short girl "How much longer 'til we get back with Foster?". Xander glanced back at Sean who gave him a thumbs up and began tapped a few keys on his little computer.
"'Bout five minutes" Kez replied, shoving her hand back in her pockets "I'm gonna go check up there" she nodded towards where a burnt out car had been left "Keep an eye out this end. You'll definitely 'ear me if I need ya" she grinned at them both before heading up alongside the water side.
Sean pointed after her "Kerry Maxwell. Kez to her friends. Aged nineteen. May found her living homeless under a bridge. She was being attacked by two vampires which May and her gang dusted"
"Yeah? Well as great as it is that these people know what's out there at night" Buffy said "They shouldn't be taking on the evil undead with just one crossbow and some attitude"
Xander ran a hand through his hair "Yeah. Kez… Kerry… she seems to be a little blasé about the whole thing. Said we'd be safe if we just kept our uh…" he looked to Buffy "Spray and spark?"
Buffy nodded then looked to Sean "Is that some kind of rhyming slang?"
Sean shook his head. He pressed a few keys and studied the screen on 'Gizmo'. "Ah. Its actually simple form of self-defence" he nodded up to where Kez was "And in another minute you might just see it in action"
As Sean disappeared, Buffy and Xander exchanged worried glances and hurried off after Kez. Running faster when they surprised yell from the dark haired girl.
"Kez!" Xander called out as Kez stumbled backwards.
"The bloody undead bitch snuck up on me!" she cried, her hands scrambling in her pockets "Don't know where she went!"
Buffy stood back to back with Xander, one hand curled around a stake, the other around a cross. "Kez?" she said quietly as she continued to scan around "Can you hear anything?"
"Bugger all" Kez muttered back.
Suddenly their attention was drawn by a clatter of something metal hitting the ground. All three spun around and faced off with a tall, female vampire in her game face who stood a just a little less than ten feet away. She was tall and slender with white blonde hair that hung straight down her back to her waist. She wore a red halter-neck top and dark trousers that flared out over high-heeled boots. She smiled at them all, taking a couple of steps nearer "Great. Now I've got starters, main and dessert"
Kez stepped forward, keeping her hands firmly in her pockets "*Please*. You could at least be original"
"I rather thought I was sticking with the classics" the vampire replied, taking another step forward but now a bit more on guard than she had been before, noting the cross and stakes that both Buffy and Xander held. She eyed them both up and down as they stood side by side. "What a cute little couple. And they brought toys. How sweet"
Xander narrowed his eyes as the vampire lips twisted into a sneer. "But they're toys we know how to use" he bit back "Maybe you'll find out how well"
The vampire smirked "Ooh, down boy". She glanced at Buffy "Don't you speak?"
"Just waitin' for you to stop runnin' off at the mouth" Buffy replied, looking the vampire in the eyes.
The vampire turned her attention Kez, walking towards the dark-haired girl and stopping only a foot in front of her. "I'll turn you if you want y'know. You can live forever"
Kez stood her ground "Sorry" she shrugged "I want to lose a stone first. How 'bout I get back to you then?"
The vampire laughed and lunged towards Kez. But Kez was quicker, pulling items out of her pockets as she jumped back. The vampire squealed in pain as she leapt back almost immediately, batting out flames that caught her long hair and began licking up the front of her body. Kez stepped back again, still holding out the aerosol can - the flame from a small cigarette lighter held infront of the nozzle.
Buffy and Xander watched on, impressed, as the vampire howled in pain, still trying to beat out flames. Finally the vampire ran and hurled herself towards the water.
Sean reappeared and pointed to Kez "Spray and spark"
Kez turned back to Buffy and Xander, a grin on her face. "This is what they *don't* show how to make on Blue Peter". She glanced at the water "If the flames didn't kill her" Kez said, beginning to walk off down the water side "Then the crap in that water will"
Xander turned to Buffy "I am *so* gonna have one of *those* when we get back to Sunnydale". He jogged on after Kez.
Buffy turned to Sean "Now why haven't I ever thought of that?"
'Base' turned out to be something entirely different to what both Buffy and Xander expected.
After they met back up with Foster and his group, relaying their meeting with the white haired vampire, they'd followed behind the group on a three quarter of an hour walk 'home' through suburbs and high streets of different boroughs, before finally walking up a long winding lane shrouded by oak trees to find themselves outside a large three storey Victorian style house.
Xander could see, even in the moonlight, that the outside of the building could do with a large amount of work - a few of the windows had boards up to replace broken panes of glass and many tiles were missing off the high roof. The driveway was paved but completely over run with weeds and a big pile of rubbish bags stood close to the dirty stone steps that led up to the front door.
As she walked up to the door, Buffy saw the hand-made wooden cross nailed to the arch above the door. She looked back to Xander and nodded up towards it "Better than nothing" she muttered softly to him.
As he was the last one in, Xander closed the door behind him. He noted that the door was actually quite sturdy. It was solid wood - no windows to smash - and on the inside there were three dead bolts at the top, middle and bottom of the door.
As they stood in the area behind the door, everyone else who had been in their groups quickly disappeared off to another part of the house, just giving a shout to Xander to lock the door.
As Buffy stood with her back to the front door, she looked down a long wide hallway. Half way along on the right was a staircase that led up to the next floor. The walls along the hallway were mainly covered with posters interspersed with cracked and flaking white plaster and the wooden floorboards were almost hidden by several tatty and threadbare rugs.
"Well, I have to say" Buffy said quietly as Xander worked the locks on the front door "It's definitely better than the last place. Although I'm not quite sure I want to know what that smell is" she poked at some of the flaked plaster "And it needs a hell of a lot of work"
"I know" Xander said, looking around "Isn't it fantastic?"
Buffy gave him an odd look "Fantastic?"
"If I had the time and the money" Xander said quietly "I could fix this place up no problem"
"Ah. I'm talking to Builder Xander here, aren't I?" Buffy smiled at his enthusiasm "Well maybe they'll let you do some odd jobs while you're here, huh?"
"You think?" Xander climbed up a few steps of the staircase and looked up to the next floor "This place really is incredible"
Buffy just smiled as Xander started to inspect the railing that ran up the length of the staircase. She watched him for a few moments more before stepping back and looking through the open door on the right. There was no main light on in the room but something was flickering and occasionally highlighting objects. Buffy stepped through the doorway and saw that the light was coming from a TV, but there was no sound.
Buffy stepped cautiously around something solid she couldn't quite make out on the floor and then around the side of the sofa. There was someone sitting on it, leaning on the opposite arm of the chair from where Buffy was standing, their legs tucked up beside them on the cushions and eyes staring straight ahead at the TV.
Buffy saw in the flickering of the colours from the TV, that it was the girl that had gone off with May when the group had split earlier. The girl was fairly pretty, but wore no make up and her hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She wore a long, dark flared skirt and a Bon Jovi tour T-shirt that had seen better days. She glanced up at Buffy and gave her a small smile.
"Hey Don" the other girl said, "Your lot get anything interesting tonight?"
"Uh… just the one" Buffy said, "Kez, uh, flamed her… arse"
The girl smiled and looked back to the television "That girl is becoming a right little pyro"
Buffy grinned a little and perched on the end of the sofa, looking to the television too. It was on MTV. "Um, can I ask why you're watching with no sound?"
"House rules, remember?" the girl gestured to the screen "No Hear'Say when other people can hear it" she paused briefly "So how come you're not snuggling up with Coop yet? You two usually hit the sack the moment you get back"
"Oh… uh, he's, uh, just checking" Buffy glanced out towards he hallway. She saw Sean standing there beckoning her "Some stuff out" Buffy turned back to the other girl "I'd better go find him" she smiled and stood up from the sofa "See you tomorrow"
Buffy left the other girl to watch her television and walked back out into the dimly lit hall. Sean was standing where Buffy had seen him a few moments before and Xander was sitting halfway up the staircase picking at the frayed edge of the carpet that ran up the centre of it.
"Been making new friends have we?" Sean said to Buffy, pointing to room behind her "Probably a good thing" he added "'Cos it looks like you two might be here for a while"
Buffy stared at him "A while? You can't be-" she broke off, glancing back to the open doorway "Upstairs" Buffy mouthed to Sean and began to climb the stairs, Xander following after them after they passed him.
Sean led them both across the small landing and along a darkened corridor. There were doors only on the left side of the hallway as another staircase, smaller than the other one, went up the right side of the hall. Sean led them to the furthest door on the left and gestured for them to go in.
Xander felt for a light switch by the inside of the door and found one. As light illuminated the room, they saw it was about the size of Buffy's training room. The door they came in by was in the centre of the room and faced a small, curtainless window on the back wall. In the upper left corner was a double bed, its headboard against the back wall. A small bedside table stood by it with a lamp and a radio alarm clock on it. In the other corner were a small desk and a bookshelf with only a few books on each of the shelves. A wardrobe and a chest of drawers were against the right wall along with a small easy chair covered with a tatty throw, in the bottom right corner of the room.
"Very homey" Buffy said flatly, but raised her eyebrows a little when she sat down on the surprisingly comfy bed.
"Hey, it's nicer than my old basement" Xander said as he sat next to her, he looked around briefly "And apparently we have to get used to it" he glanced back at Sean "At least a week you said, yeah?"
Buffy looked quickly to Xander and then Sean "A week?"
"Maybe more" Sean informed her "These kids are gonna get into trouble. We think they might have pissed some people off, probably not intentionally either. You two have to make sure they can protect themselves"
"Oh, way to sound ominous Sean" Buffy said, "I'm guessing these guys didn't protect themselves first time around?"
Sean shook his head sadly "This place got burnt to the ground. With everyone in it. No one managed to get out"
"That's… horrible" Xander said, "Who'd do that?"
Buffy stood up and ran a hand through her hair "Maybe the vampires they try and fight" she looked to Sean "What does your uh" she gestured to the small, black computer he held "Little computer thingy say?"
"It has a name" Sean replied "It's Gizmo"
Buffy stared back at him "That's stupid"
"Pot, kettle and black sweetheart. Now as to your question" Sean carried on, ignoring Buffy's scathing look "Yes, it could have been vampires"
"But as there were no survivors" Xander added "We can't know for sure"
"OK, lets say it is vamps" Buffy said, becoming all business "We've seen that they're adept at taking one at a time… maybe even two or three if the group stays together" Buffy turned to Xander "But against a big group of fang faces…"
"We can't be sure" Xander finished. He ran a hand through his hair "They do seem pretty tight on the front door security here" he commented "With the cross over the door and the bolts on the inside. But we'd have to check the rest of the house. Basement access, windows… maybe even the roof" Xander suggested "There's plenty of trees tall enough for someone, doesn't even have to be vamps, to get access"
"You're right" Buffy agreed "But It's too dark too check properly now, we'll have to do it tomorrow. *And* I didn't see any weapons laying handy either"
"There's a couple of sheds that the fire didn't quite get down at the bottom of the garden" Sean informed her after scanning the screen "The fire crews found a stash of weapons there. But some have their own weapons as well"
"And expensive ones too" Buffy sat back down on the bed next to Xander "That crossbow that girl May had was top of the range. I know, 'cos I've been hinting to Giles about one similar. They're not your average street kid or squatters choice of weapon either"
"Which comes to another question" Xander said, "How is it that we're all in this place? This isn't somewhere I'd have thought would have been left to be taken over"
"Then it may surprise you to know that it does actually belong to May" Sean explained "It used to be a Government run children's home. It was operational from after the Second World War until the mid-eighties when it was sold off to an American business man who wanted a little bit of England. Unfortunately he never got around to doing this place up and is actually now living in Brazil due to tax reasons" Sean paused for breath "The guy in Brazil is May's father. He was divorced from her mother, who's British and still lives in this country. May found out about this place and when she had a big bust up with her mom and her mom threw her out, she came here with her substantial allowance from her father"
"So where did everyone else come from?" Xander asked "And why fight the forces of evil?"
"May got attacked one night on her way back here" Sean replied "She got rescued by Foster" Sean smiled a little wistfully "Pretty much love at first sight too. That was three years ago, but they didn't really acquire anyone else here until about a year and a half ago when they rescued two homeless kids from a hungry vampire" Sean checked his screen "And that was you two. Donna Ryan and" Sean chuckled and glanced up at Xander "Archibald Cooper"
"Great" Xander said, "OK, what about the rest?"
"Donna and Cooper got brought back here. May and Foster gave you both an address to make it easier for you to get a job. Which by the way Xander, is something you don't have at the moment. Buffy, however, has to leave here at ten tomorrow to wait tables at a delightful little restaurant in the city"
Buffy sighed "Oh joy"
Sean continued "In turn Foster and Cooper saved a young girl called Judith a couple of months after they got brought here. Foster and Cooper went out every so often after that, saving the odd kid from being killed. If the kid doesn't have a home, they can come back here" Sean looked at his screen "It's not a free ride however. You have to be prepared to work. Either here or outside in the world. But you don't have to go out with Foster and Cooper on patrol if you don't want"
"I pretty much got the idea that May led this group" Xander said.
"Its kinda three way. Works on a sort of a rota between her, Foster and Cooper" Sean replied "Foster and Cooper always want a big group to go out hunting with, but May isn't so keen" he looked to Xander "That's why you'll find she's a little off with you. She's a little threatened, that's all. Anyway, I'm gonna leave you two now. I'll pick up with you in the morning Buffy. Give you directions to work"
"Sure" Buffy pulled a face "I'll be raring to go". Buffy yawned as Sean disappeared and scratched her head absently "Xander?"
"Flip you for the bed?"
"Nope. You got it last time" Xander fell backwards onto the bed "You can have the floor or the chair"
"What the hell happened to chivalry? I am *not* sleeping on the floor *or* the chair"
"Then you'll have to share" Xander kicked off his shoes "'Cos I'm staying right here"
"You expect me to share a *bed* with you?"
Xander clasped both his hands behind his head "You don't snore do you?"
Buffy stood up and put her hands on her hips "Y'know what? Fine" she said, "I can be adult about this. We can sleep head to toe" Buffy then narrowed her eyes "But the moment you steal *any* bit of *my* part of the duvet, you're getting kicked. Hard"
Xander rolled his eyes "Fine" he sat up again, his hands falling into his lap "But I'm getting changed 'cos these clothes stink" Xander looked her up and down "And so do yours"
Buffy's hands stayed on her hips "I wonder what Anya would say about us sleeping together"
"I'll tell her I rejected your advances" he paused, managing not to smile "You know I sleep in the nude don’t you?"
Buffy kicked his ankle. Hard.
Buffy stirred when she heard the soft patter of raindrops against the window. She screwed her eyes further shut and pressed her face further into the pillow, tugging the covers up over her shoulders and under her chin. When she noticed that the covers had more give than they normally would have, Buffy opened one bleary eye and saw that half the cover that had previously been over Xander was now bundled all around her.
Xander shifted, but didn't wake up. Buffy sighed inwardly and pushed her hair out of her face before trying to move some of the duvet back over Xander. Only half succeeding, Buffy slid out from out of the bed, her bare feet hitting the wooden floorboards. Standing up, she re-arranged the long T-shirt she'd had to use as a night shirt as Donna apparently favoured the more skimpy nightwear that Buffy was *so* not wearing while she was sharing a bed with Xander. They'd had enough trouble getting changed in the same room, resorting to turning away from each other and heads covered by pillows. Well that's what Buffy had made Xander do; Xander had decided to just give her a couple of moments warning to turn her back while he apparently stripped to his boxers and then jumped into the bed, taking the side nearest the wall.
If there were people in the next room, Buffy didn't want to guess what they thought was going on.
Buffy glanced over at Xander, whom it seemed she hadn't woken up. He slept on his back, his chest was rising and falling slowly and his face was a mask of peacefulness.
//At least someone is getting some sleep// Buffy glanced out of the window. It was still dark outside. //*I* get woken by drizzle//. Buffy padded slowly over to the window, leaning her forearms on the sill and gazed out into the night. She yawned quietly and rested her forehead against the glass, her eyes following the odd rivulet of water making a pathway down the other side of the window.
After a few minutes of staring out into the blackness, Buffy drew back, looking into the eyes of her reflection. Buffy couldn't pick out the finer details of her new face; only that she had dark blonde hair with a few streaks of colour at the front, that Donna's eyes were dark and her face was slightly fuller and rounder than Buffy's.
Buffy glanced once more outside before walking back from the windows and towards the bed, cursing softly under breath along the way when her heel scraped against a rough piece of floorboard. She sat down heavily on the bed, bending her leg to see what the damage was. The moonlight coming in through the window was enough for her to see that there was no major damage. As she set her foot down again she heard a muffled noise from behind her.
"Buff?" the muffled noise became clearer the second time "What are you doing?"
Buffy twisted around "Hurt my foot a little. S'okay though"
"Oh" Xander was still lying down, studying her through half open eyes that peered out from underneath his too long hair "You couldn't sleep?"
Buffy shifted around so she was facing him "Nope. Too many things going on up here" she said softly, tapping the side of her head.
Xander pulled the covers back up over his waist then propped himself up on one elbow so he was facing her. He gave her a look of understanding "Thinking about the things we should be doing? Wondering what the people we should be doing them with are doing?"
Buffy smiled a little sadly "Something like that, yeah" she began to pick at the duvet cover "I just want to be able to walk next door and find my mom there"
Xander reached out and put his hand over hers "I'm sure it'll be soon Buffy. I can't promise but, it's not gonna be forever"
Buffy squeezed his hand back "I'm sure Anya's missing you too"
Xander nodded and sighed, a small smile on his lips "Look at us both" he said "It can only have been a few days and we're already depressing each other"
"That's because we're so in touch with our emotions" Buffy said with a light smile "We're adult".
Then she hit Xander with a pillow.
Xander glared half-heartedly at her from underneath his hair that had then fallen in his face. "Really". He reached around behind him, getting his own pillow. Xander sat up, brandishing it in his hand. "Buffy Summers. You are so dead"
A few miles away, a pale hand emerged from the water of the Thames and caught hold of a slimy and half-rotten mooring rope. A few moments later another hand, red raw and blistered, came from the water and took hold of the rope just above the other hand. The rope was tugged on, the lower hand moving above the scarred one, making the small fishing boat move slightly in the water. Then a woman's head, with almost white hair plastered to it surfaced, it's owners ice blue eyes set with determination. The woman's pale, china doll features were marred with blisters and welts.
She groaned in pain as she began to haul herself up into the boat using the rope, her blistered and raw limbs scraping painfully against the fibreglass hull of the boat. Her clothes were burnt and in the patches where there was no cloth, burned skin was visible.
Finally she fell limply onto the floor of the boat; one leg still hooked a little over the edge. Her head lolled to one side as she took deep breaths she really didn't need. Her eyes closed and unintelligible words fell from between her lips as she lay there trying to gather some strength to move again.
After a while she opened her eyes and glanced up at the sky. It was getting close to sunrise, she could feel it. She had to move.
In one big effort she pushed herself up, holding onto the side of the boat for support. She took hold of the mooring rope again, putting hand over fist again, slowly pulling herself closer and closer towards the shore. Eventually she made it and clambered over the side of the boat onto the wooden walkway. She stayed and gathered herself for a moment, knowing that she had to keep moving. Had to keep moving find somewhere dark to stay so she could get better. She had to get better so she could find the little bitch that tried to fry her.
And get revenge.
When Buffy next awoke the next morning it was because 'Walking on Sunshine' was coming from the radio alarm at the opposite end of the bed. She groaned sleepily and pushed herself up and towards the offending radio and turned it off, also noting that Xander wasn't at his end of the bed. Figuring that he was around somewhere, Buffy just snuggled back down into bed again.
She had only dozed for a few minutes when she heard the door open and quiet footsteps on the floorboards. They eye that wasn't on the side of her face pressed into the pillow, opened a little and Buffy peered out from underneath her lashes. She was immediately greeted with the sight of a half naked Xander, obviously fresh from a shower; a towel was wrapped around his waist and damp hair that refused to stay slicked back fell around his face.
Buffy stayed still but her eye fluttered open just a little bit more. //OK. I can honestly say I've woken up to worse things//. Buffy continued to look on as Xander padded over to the wardrobe and rummaged through, pulling out some jeans. //And he never had *all* of those muscles before did he?//. Buffy paused in her thoughts. //What the hell am I doing? I am not supposed to be looking at half-naked best friends. I should be closing my eye now. Really. Maybe I should just mention to him that his towel is slipping//.
Xander jumped at Sean's exclamation and luckily (or unfortunately - depending on who you were) caught the towel before it completely fell off his hips and revealed anything too private.
"Jeez!" Xander exclaimed, readjusting his towel "Don't *do* that!"
"Make you jump or ogle you?" Sean asked innocently.
Buffy groaned loudly and sleepily, pretending they had just woken her. "Do you two mind?"
"He started it" Xander muttered "He shot an accusing look at Sean as he started searching through the chest of drawers for some clean underwear "And I bet you did it on purpose"
Buffy sat up and pushed hair out of her face, glancing at Sean who immediately became fascinated in looking out of the window. Buffy rolled her eyes and looked back to Xander who now stood clutching a pair of jeans and some briefs "I see you found the shower then?" she said.
"I woke up early and went for a wander" Xander told her as he headed back towards the door "I'm gonna change in the bathroom and head down to the kitchen. Find some food for us both"
Buffy smiled gratefully "Make sure it's loaded with sugar" she said "I have to have energy to work"
Xander gave her a quick nod and then headed out. Buffy looked back to Sean who was still looking out of the window. "Sean, why *are* you here? I thought you weren't dropping back until ten" she pointed towards the clock "It's only nine *and* if it was just to see Xander in a towel, then you have to find a new hobby"
"But I *like* this hobby"
"So you have absolutely nothing new for us then?"
"One of the guys fished something out of the files for this leap last night" Sean told her "It could be something, we don't know. There some reports a couple of months later from the fire stations that had crews attend the blaze here. They were visited by some type of investigators, wanting to talk to the crews that were here that night and if they saw anything they thought was out of the ordinary. They weren't reporters so we had them plugged as official investigators. Maybe insurance. But we found out that no one actually instigated an insurance claim for the building. Not even May's parents"
"What about relatives of the other kids?"
Sean shook his head firmly "We can't find out who these guys were. They may very well be legit, but we don't know for sure. Just some more stuff for you to look out for I'm afraid"
After having a shower and dressing, Buffy finally wandered into the kitchen about half an hour later. It was a little bigger than she had expected and also fairly clean. There was a big table in the middle of the kitchen surrounded by a few high stools. Xander sat on one of them; staring into a half-eaten bowl of cereal and was poking at it with his spoon.
"Are you expecting it to do something?" she asked lightly, taking the stool next to him.
Xander glanced across at her "Lost my appetite a bit" he said, "I couldn't find anything loaded with sugar either". He went back to staring at his bowl.
Buffy frowned "Are you OK?"
Xander sighed and let his spoon drop with a clang into the bowl and handed Buffy the folded up newspaper that was just in front of him. "Look at the date"
Buffy looked at the paper for a few moments in silence before turning back to Xander. "But this means… it must be only-"
"A day after we first leapt. In real time"
Buffy stayed still for a while, taking in the news before sitting back down next to him "Sean… Sean never said anything"
"Guess he didn't want it to affect whatever we do here" Xander bitterly "Man, I can't believe he didn't tell us"
"Maybe he couldn't" Buffy tried to reason it out "Like, he wasn't allowed or something"
Xander sighed "Yeah. Maybe". He looked across at Buffy "We're also only a plane ride home"
Buffy looked into his eyes and knew what he was thinking. But they couldn't go home. Not like they were, with different faces and bodies. No matter how much they wanted to. Buffy swivelled to face him a little more and put a hand on his arm "But we've got a responsibility here as well now" she said gently.
"I know" Xander said quietly.
"Bloody hell" a new voice interrupted them both "What up with you two? You look somebody just forced you to watch Live and Kicking"
Buffy and Xander looked towards the kitchen doorway to see a young Indian girl looking at them both. She had sounded amused at first but seeing the looks on their faces, a small frown settled on her pretty face. "Look, if it's something bad" she said "Just tell me to piss off and I'll go"
Buffy gave the girl a brief smile "No. It's fine" Buffy took her hand off Xander's arm "Really. We're OK"
The girl still looked at them a little oddly as Xander went back to poking at his cereal. "OK then" she said to Buffy, going to the refrigerator "Anyway, I was only seeing if Kez has left any fruit juice"
"Sorry Judith". Mint, the tall, wiry guy with the long black hair who had been out with them last night, had now appeared in the kitchen doorway. He spoke with a thick Irish accent "There's sod all in there" Mint sat on one of the stools opposite Buffy and Xander "Gerry 'n Sal have gone down Tesco's though"
"Well in that case" Judith said "I'm going to watch that Hollyoaks omnibus I taped yesterday and ogle Ben and Luke" and she headed out of the kitchen, casting another odd look at Xander as she went.
Mint looked over at them "What's up your arse?" he asked Xander, who glanced up at him "I'm not spendin' the next couple of hours with ya looking like that mate". Mint rolled his eyes when Xander looked puzzled "Fixing the fence?"
"Oh… yeah" Xander tried to sound a little more focused "Sorry. I think I'm still half-asleep"
"I think I wore him out" Buffy added with a sly smile, attempting to keep up the 'couple' act.
Xander shot her a look "Thank you *honey* for sharing that"
Buffy smiled sweetly back at him "Ah, but you love me really"
"The light of my life" Xander replied, his voice laced with sarcasm for Mint's benefit. Buffy stuck her tongue out at him. Xander couldn't stop a genuine smile from gracing his lips.
"See mate" Mint said, "A smile from your bird is all you needed"
It hadn't taken long to fix the fence, no more than an hour. During that time he'd spent with Mint (but still not knowing why he was called that), Xander had been able to gain some more information about the place and the people by asking subtle questions or making deliberate mistakes and being corrected.
And now Xander was left alone as Mint had gone back inside to "worship Richard and Judy", Xander wasn't quite sure where he should start first. He really didn't want to go back inside because he might get roped into another task but he didn't want to stay outside either. Xander looked up at the sky; he had never seen so many clouds and in that many shades of grey.
It was humid too. //Freaky British weather//. He pushed damp hair back off his forehead and began to walk back to the house. //Maybe if I sneak in, I can get a drink and then decided what to do//. Xander almost walked past the shed before he remembered what Sean had said. //Weapons//.
Xander backtracked. The shed was pretty average as sheds went; wooden with four walls and a roof. It also had a sturdy padlock on the door. //Nothing a good lock picking won't cure, but-// Xander looked around //It's gonna seem odd if anyone is watching me, seeing that I should know where the key is//. Xander cupped his hands around his eyes and peered through the window.
Xander could make out a few things hanging up on the wall - another, slightly less new crossbow; two small air pellet guns; two small harpoon guns; and leaning up against the wall were a few long, hand sharpened wooden spears. On a table in a darker corner of the shed stood two crates, but Xander couldn't quite make out what they held, if they held anything at all.
Xander sighed and stood back. //Great. If they're all out here and in the shed when the bad guys come, then they'll be fine//. A stereo started up as Xander began to head back towards the house. Xander looked up to the open window it was blaring out of and saw Kez waving at him.
"Hey, Coop!" Kez leant out of the third storey window and yelled down at him "Love the no shirt look!" she grinned "You busy?!"
Xander sighed again. //Well, Sean did say we had a week//.
(Later that evening)
Xander had only vacated his seat on the comfy sofa for a few minutes to grab a coffee, when he came back to find Buffy in his place, sprawling over it on her stomach, her face pressed into a cushion and one arm dangling so her fingers brushed the floor.
Xander set his coffee down on top of the television and couched down next to her. "Um, Buff?" he said softly "Are you OK?"
"Mmm hmm" Buffy mumbled into the cushion "Tired" she yawned to prove her point "Some one called in sick and it was busy". Buffy moved her head to look at him "Sean kept me company for a while. He'll be around later"
"OK. But just so you know" Xander smiled " I'm not carrying you upstairs"
"M'okay" Buffy said "Just need to lie here for the next… five hours or so"
Xander sat cross-legged on the floor "Have you eaten?"
Buffy nodded "Burger King right next door. I got good tips" Buffy moved her dangling arm towards the door, indicating a large bag "Got present for you too"
Xander fetched it and sat back down again. He looked inside and his eyes widened "Oh. My. God" he looked back at Buffy "It's not a trick one right? This is actually real?"
Buffy pushed herself up a little and smiled at him "I expect you to share"
"Pfft" Xander pulled out the item "You think I'm sharing" he read the package "One point seven kilograms-" Xander looked back up at her "-of Dairy Milk with you?"
"Believe me" she said "I can, and *will* make you". Buffy smiled again "OK, put it down now, 'cos I've got something else for you as well"
Xander reluctantly put the massive chocolate bar to one side "You think you can do better than this?"
"Xander, just shut up and close your eyes"
Xander pulled a face at her but closed his eyes. "Does this mean I have to get you something now?" he said, forgetting about the shutting up part of Buffy's request "Because I'll tell you now-" Xander stopped mid sentence when Buffy kissed him in the middle of his forehead. He opened his eyes and looked back at her "Uh… huh?"
"That was to say thank you for saving the world" Buffy told him "Better than the slap I gave you last time huh?" she grinned.
//Ah, the bomb thing//. Xander held her gaze and grinned back at her "Much"
Buffy somehow managed a mixture of a yawn and a smile as she sat upright, shifting over on the sofa to make room for Xander while he retrieved his coffee. That was until he sat down and she turned and put her feet up on his lap. Buffy gave him an innocent look "It's not like I'm heavy" she said, snuggling back into the cushions. "So… are you and the girl who let me in, the only ones here?"
"Oh, that was Gerry" Xander replied "And yeah. Apparently they like to have at least two people here whenever they can. I think mainly just to let the others back in though. The rest have all gone down to some pub" he explained "I thought I'd better stay for when you get back"
Buffy smiled warmly "Thanks"
Xander smiled back "So, do you want to hear about my day?"
Buffy pouted "Is there any chance you could tell me after you've rubbed my feet?". She sighed when Xander gave her a firm look. "OK. Tell me about you day"
"I've made notes" Xander told her "Places where weapons could be stored, what repairs to the building we need to make it more secure that sort of thing. Also, there are about fifteen people living here at the moment that I've counted so far and that's including us. There were twelve of us out last night"
Buffy looked at him; impressed "Sounds like you've been as busy as me" she said "You got a good look around the place then?"
Xander nodded "I helped Kez move some stuff earlier" he explained "Explored the place a bit more. Also, I found the key to the weapons shed after a good deal of searching. You ought to check it out, they've got some good stuff" Xander paused, thinking "Uh… I haven't been up to the attic and the roof yet, but that's on the agenda tomorrow and I might see if I have time to check out the basement. Also," he continued "I think it might be a good idea if we kind find out what kind of hand to hand skills the people here have. Maybe you could give some of them pointers, 'cos you seem to be still with the Slayer moves" Xander took a breath "Actually maybe Sean could find that out for us. Also, we need to figure out the places it'd be best to have weapons handy in case of attack. There's plenty of wood at the back of the garden I can use. I'm going to speak to Foster tomorrow. He seems more approachable than May. They should be OK with it though, it's for their own good after all"
Buffy blinked and stared back at him. "… I'm going to be waiting a while for you to rub my feet, aren't I?"
(Three days later)
As it turned out, Xander had had to approach May as Foster had taken off in the early hours of the following morning to go Manchester. May had listened to him, but had also told Xander that he had to provide her with evidence of his idea before she would stump up any money from the group's slush fund.
Xander was grateful for the career he had outside leaping.
Now on his fourth day here, Xander was now currently finishing off his fifth creation. He’d been making small "cabinet come chest type things", as May called them, which were to go under the windows. They weren’t any bigger than a metre across and half a metre deep, but they were adequate enough for their purpose and Xander was going to put wheels (which were the only things he'd ended up buying) on the bottom before they were filled so that they could be moved about if needed.
Xander sighed as he knocked the last but one nail into one of the joints. And it’d been easier if there’d been someone to give him a hand. It had been one thing for May to give him some money for supplies, but trying to find someone to help was a bit more of a problem. Xander had found that the British had their Gods and they were named Richard and Judy, and that dragging an unemployed/student Brit away from daytime TV would inevitably lead to bloodshed.
And Buffy wasn’t around either. His little blonde friend had been at work all hours, not wanting to lose Donna her job. Buffy was coming home tired and any free time that she did manage to snag was spent trying to convince the others in the house that Sean had identified, to practice some self-defence moves with her. So far Buffy had only managed to interest Gerry (a small, brunette girl that barely spoke) and Louis (a tall, acne ridden guy, who Xander suspected was only taking part because he liked Donna).
It had only been a short space of time, but since they’d been thrown together in the leaping thing, Xander had realised that he hadn’t spent as much time with Buffy before they’d leapt as he’d thought. Now that they were practically twenty-four hours of the day together, Xander was been enjoying it. The fact that he wasn’t in this alone and with someone who would crack in a crisis, made it easier to get through without constantly think about what they’d been forced to leave behind.
And since finding out that they were practically in the same time and date zone as all the people they cared about, both of them had been finding it tough. At one point Buffy had literally had to prise a telephone out of Xander's hand to stop him from calling home. Even without the Slayer strength, Buffy could still be tough. Xander had appreciated it in the end. He knew that it probably would have made things worse.
So Xander told himself once again not to think about it and carried on with his work, wondering when Buffy was going to get home this evening.
(Later that evening)
Buffy entered the bedroom she was currently sharing with Xander, towelling her hair dry. She had just showered and then changed after another long, hard day waiting on people in a busy restaurant that had broken air conditioning. So far, Buffy was not having fun on this leap.
When Buffy saw that Xander was still in the same position in which she'd left him half an hour ago - sitting on the floor, surrounded by odds and end of wood as he worked on a rack to put into one of the cabinets he'd been working on. Buffy sighed and tossed the damp towel on the bed. "Xander, I thought you were going to stop that"
Xander didn't look up "I'm nearly done"
Buffy stood beside him "You said that half an hour ago". Buffy crouched down and put her hand over Xander's, stopping him as he was sanding down some of the edges of the wood. "Xander, you've been working all day"
Xander shook her hand off "So?"
Buffy put her hand back over his more firmly this time "*Xander*"
He looked up at her "Buffy, I'm trying to finish this"
"And you can finish it tomorrow" Buffy sat down next to him, letting go of his hand "I'm pretty sure you've done enough for today" she smiled a little "Come on, you've barely stopped since we've been here"
Xander turned his attention back to his work "That's kinda what I was planning on"
Buffy gave him a puzzled look "What do you mean?" she stopped him yet again "Xander?"
Xander sighed heavily "If I keep busy" he said, "I don't have time to think about anything else. I don't have to think about how easy it would be just to pick up a phone and call my girlfriend, if only just to hear her voice. I want to *so* *bad*, but I *can't* and you really hurt my hand last time and-" Xander broke off. He stopped and closed his eyes, sighing again. "I'm sorry"
"It's OK" Buffy said softly. "Come on" she said, putting a comforting arm around him "Some of the others are going out for a drink. It'll be our chance to buy and drink alcohol legally"
Xander glanced at her, an eyebrow raised slightly "And getting drunk will make everything better?"
Buffy shrugged "That's my plan"
Xander paused briefly. "Good plan"
(Much later that evening and possibly into the next day)
The taxi pulled to a sharp stop just outside the house, causing Buffy to slip forward into Xander's lap. She started giggling as Xander helped her to sit up again. "That was fun" she said in a stage whisper "Can we do that again? Huh? Can we, huh?'. Buffy didn't wait for Xander to answer, turning and pressing her face up against the window separating them from the driver instead. "You are the *best* cab driver *ever*"
"Well thank you very much, luv" the driver called back to her "But I don't s'pose you could pay me as well?"
"I got it" Judith passed some money through the hatch. She opened the door for the others in the taxi; Jake, the black guy who'd been with them that first night and who was also Judith's boyfriend and the other person was Gerry.
Xander helped Buffy out as she seemed to be having a lot of trouble co-ordinating her limbs. Buffy leant against him when she was standing, clutching at his jacket to help her stay upright. "This is fun" she looked up at him, grinning "I'm having fun. Are you having fun? You were supposed to be having fun" she giggled "I'm having fun. I like England. They let you drink when you're eighteen. That's nice"
//Babbling, drunk Buffy. Truly, I don't think I've seen anything cuter for a while// Xander caught her as she stumbled. "Yes, it's very nice" he told her as he helped up yet again "And you can ask me again when we get inside. The others are waiting"
Buffy looked towards the door to the house "Oh are they waiting? I didn't know that. You're very clever for knowing that. I didn't know that. Ooh, we're walking. I like walking. And you're walking too. I told you you were clever"
Xander couldn't help a smile from settling on his lips as Buffy continued to babble as they headed up the short distance where the taxi had left them and the steps to the house. It had been a good evening. Buffy had finally gotten him to relax and he hadn't even drunk that much. Which seemed to have been the best choice as Buffy had discovered something pink called Aftershock and then the others had decided it would be fun to see how many of them they could get her to drink. It had been a lot. Xander would just be glad if she didn't throw up on him.
Buffy slumped a little more against him as they took the first step "Oop, you caught me… that's because you're strong. You have muscles" she giggled "I like muscles. And you're cute. Very cute and muscley… that's nice"
//OK. Maybe I under-estimated how wasted she was//. As Buffy lost more of her balance before she had even made it up the next step, Xander circled an arm around her waist "C'mon, let's just get you to bed, huh?". Xander shot an apologetic look at Jake who was left standing in the doorway waiting.
"But I'm not tired" she whined "I don't want to go to bed. You can't make me y'know. I'm the Chosen One. I have… I have…" Buffy glanced up at him, confused "What do I have?"
"Right at this very moment you have me" Xander replied.
Buffy smiled brightly "Oh yeah"
Xander grinned back "Now move your arse girl, s'freezin' out 'ere"
Buffy burst into fits of giggles again and wriggled out of Xander's hold. She stumbled up the next two steps and leaned against the doorframe, causing Jake to step further back. Buffy turned back to look at Xander "Best I race you indoors then innit?"
Xander folded his arms "Well that's great seeing as how you've technically won"
"That's a pity" a low female voice came out of the shadows behind him "Because I'd love to see how fast you can run"
Xander spun around to see a figure stepping out from the dark cover of the trees; a mirthless laugh came floating across with her. Xander began to back up the steps. Even without her game face and the fact that her white hair was now shorter, Xander could recognise her as the vampire they thought had gone into the river a few nights ago.
"Hey, didn't we kill her?" Buffy frowned; she turned to Jake "I thought Kez killed her"
Jake's eyes widened and he pulled Buffy inside with him "Coop! Move it!
Xander briefly met the vampire's eyes before he turned and prepared to bolt up the remaining steps. He'd barely moved though before he was suddenly tackled from the side by something large.
Xander landed on the hard concrete with a painful thud and found a big, angry looking male vampire pinning him to the ground. Had he not been winded by his painful landing, and definitely suffering from bruised ribs and possibly broken ones, Xander was pretty sure he could have come up with a quip for the occasion.
The female vampire stood at the bottom of the steps, looking up at Jake who was trying to decide whether he should close the door or go and help his friend whilst at the same time trying to hold a tiny blonde girl back.
The vampire smiled sweetly at Jake as her accomplice hauled Xander to his feet by his throat. "I just thought I'd stop by and say hi" she said, walking up a couple of steps "Don't worry, I'm not going to kill any of you. Pete here might. He seems quite taken with the pretty boy there" she jerked her thumb back towards where Xander was struggling, being held off the ground by the huge vampire "Perhaps I should mention he likes it when they try and fight back".
She laughed again when she saw Buffy trying to get past Jake, but Buffy's intoxicated state meant she was making little headway "I see his little girlfriend is getting worried. That is so sweet"
"What the hell… do you… want then?" Xander managed to choke out. He tried kicking at the big vampire's midsection but it had no effect except make the vampire grip on his throat stronger. He glanced over at Buffy, who he could just see behind Jake, but he began to lose focus as more and more black spots began to appear infront of his eyes.
"Pete, put him down" the female vampire instructed "I want to talk to him"
Xander hit the ground hard again, his shoulder taking most of the brunt and Xander knew it had been dislocated. He didn't have much time to think about the pain when he was hauled to his feet again. Not by his neck this time but by his collar. Xander looked into ice blue eyes. Closer up he could see that the female vampire would have been beautiful if her face wasn't marred by healing burn marks and still slightly raw welts. Her hair was singed in some places along her hairline, showing patches of pale scalp. And she did not look happy.
"What I'm planning to do little man, is leave this fucking group a present for being so nice to me the other night" she grinned evilly "Looks like you'll do just fine"
"Hey, put him down you bitch!" Buffy's voice came out loud and clear. She had stamped hard on Jake's foot and got past him and had been about to run down the steps when Pete stood infront of her, not attacking her, just holding her back.
The vampire morphed into her game face "Get past him and make me then!" she called back "I thought this little gang were bloody fighters!". She pulled Xander closer, gripping hold of his dislocated shoulder tightly, making Xander cry out in pain "Maybe I should introduce myself seeing as how your friends can't seem to find their arse from their elbow at the moment. I'm Marion. You?"
"Robin Hood" Xander spat back.
"Oh because I haven't heard that one before" Marion's voice dripped with sarcasm "You think you're funny? Well try this-" she grabbed hold of Xander's hair, pulling his head to one side "-for funny" she finished before sinking her fangs into his neck.
Unless he counted the time he'd been blown up, Xander had never been in so much pain. Marion was twisting his dislocated shoulder as she fed from him, her fangs tearing through his flesh. Xander's anguish got caught in his throat as he found himself getting weaker with every gulp of his blood that spilled down Marion's throat. Those black spots were dancing infront of his eyes again and he slumped against the vampire. Xander clutched weakly at the sleeves of her leather jacket and he could hear Buffy calling his name from what sounded like far away.
And her voice got further and further away as the only things he became able to hear was the loud rushing sound of his life being taken away and the thump of his heart getting slower and slower… and then suddenly he was sinking.
Xander's eyes closed as the pain neck lessened and although his shoulder still hurt, it was no longer being twisted. Xander hit the floor hard though. Again. He could feel the cold, damp concrete against his cheek and then a sudden wet splash of raindrops against the other. Xander briefly heard Buffy's voice floating around him and then everything went black.
(Next day: mid-morning)
Xander's fluttered open a tiny fraction. Even then everything was too bright. Hospital lights. Xander shut his eyes again "Ow"
"Xan?". There was the sound of a hopeful, but tired, female voice from beside him.
"Ow" he said again hoarsely.
Buffy almost collapsed with relief. "Oh, thank God" she clutched at his forearm (the one that wasn't now in a sling) and scooted forward in her seat "Oh, you had me so worried"
Xander allowed his eyes to open a fraction once again and peered at her from underneath his lashes. "Ow"
Buffy let go of his arm. "My hand or the holes in your neck?"
"No, *ow* and also… shoulder". Xander tried to smile a little but failed. Smiling hurt.
Buffy smiled sympathetically "But you're not dead" she pointed out.
"Apparently not" Xander paused, looking at her more fully now "Why not?"
Buffy's smile faded a little "You were just a warning"
"She couldn't have sent a card?" suddenly there was another voice in the room.
"Sean" Buffy shot a warning look him.
Xander turned his head a little to look at the other man "Hey Sean"
"Hey" Sean gave him a smile "Was getting blown up by a car bomb not exciting enough for you?"
Xander picked up the concern under the light tone "I'm OK man. I think it's just the hospital bed that's killing me now and not the undead"
Buffy took hold of his hand again "But it nearly was. That's one hangover cure I certainly don't want to try again" Buffy paused "She left you on the brink and then left with the other guy. And that's one pissed off vampire that you know will be back for more"
Xander closed his eyes, swallowing hard to ease his suddenly dry throat "What about the others?" he asked.
"It was just us who were in the cab and two others that were in the house" Buffy replied "By the time anyone else realised what was happening and got there…" Buffy trailed off, dropping her gaze "I'm sorry" she whispered softly "I tried to help-"
"Buff don't" Xander looked at her, a firm expression on his face "Don't"
"Buffy" Sean added "That vamp guy was huge. He would have splattered you"
"And splattered Buffy is never good" Xander replied, smiling a little and getting a small one back off Buffy. Then Xander's expression changed into a painful wince "Broken ribs as well yeah?"
Buffy nodded "Two. And a lot of bruised ones"
"Which brings us to another point" Sean looked at Xander "Can you walk?"
"The doctors were real interested in the fang marks " Buffy explained, glancing around quickly "I don't think they bought the big dog story" she paused "And vampires can get into hospitals. I… I don't want you here"
Xander saw the worry in her eyes. He sighed. "OK. How long can I stay here before I really have to go?"
"The nurse is coming to check back soon" Sean told him "I suggest you try still being unconscious when she does. We'll see after that"
Buffy looked at Sean "Sounds good" she looked back to Xander "I'm going to find a bathroom and be back for the nurse OK?" Buffy gave Xander's hand a squeeze as she got up "I won't be long"
Xander gave a brief smile as she left. Sean followed her out of the small side ward and came to walk alongside her.
He cleared his throat "You didn't tell him"
"No" Buffy replied quietly and continued along the corridor.
Sean stopped and watched after her for a couple of seconds before going back to Xander.
(Later that evening)
"I should think it's a *bloody* good reason!" Buffy folded her arms across her chest and narrowed her eyes at May "My boyfriend nearly *died*! You can't just *ignore* that!" Buffy uncrossed her arms and put her hands on her hips "None of us are going to be safe unless we *deal* with this!"
"Safe?!" May matched Buffy's glare "You wanna talk about safe Donna?! Why the hell couldn't you have left Cooper in the hospital? So the police wanted to ask him some questions. You could have just said 'Big guy, big dog'! " May sighed exasperatedly "Cooper is sick and *now*, this vampire that was *supposed* to have been *dust*" she shot a look at Kez "Is supposedly threatening us"
"What I want is for you lot to realise that this isn't a game!" Buffy said "Do you really think that it's just vampires that are out there? There are more monsters out there than you'll ever want to know about! What you guys-what we are doing is just the tip of *really* big iceberg!"
"And when did you suddenly become the expert?!"
"Ladies please" Mint stood between the two glowering women "Just calm down OK? This is not makin' tings any better"
"Damn right it's not" Buffy said harshly "And it's not going to get better until everyone realises just how much danger we're facing". Buffy met May's look "I've told you what I wanted you to know and what I want you to understand. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to check on my boyfriend"
With that, Buffy swept out of the room and thumped her way up the stairs. She flung open the door to her and Xander's room and let it slam shut. Only too late to realise that it would wake Xander. Which it did. He yawned heavily and groaned a little in pain.
"I'msorry-I'msorry" Buffy said hurriedly and giving him an apologetic look "I'll be quiet, I promise. Just… just go back to sleep"
With his one good arm, Xander gingerly pushed himself up and lay back against the pillows Buffy had propped there earlier "With all the stress waves I'm getting from you" Xander replied sleepily "I can't see that happening" he paused, studying her "You wanna talk about it?"
Buffy shook her head "Thanks, but no. I'll get loud and-and yell and I don't want to yell anymore. Not at you anyway" she paused, looking concerned "How are you?"
"Sore" Xander replied truthfully "But I'm learning to live through the pain"
Buffy's brow furrowed "You didn't smoke that stuff Gerry gave you, did you?"
"No, but I'm beginning to wish I had" Xander winced again, putting his hand briefly to his ribs.
Buffy sat by him on the bed "I shouldn't have got you to leave the hospital" she said "Maybe May was right. I mean look at you, you're hurting. All your ribs are all broken and bruised and all taped up and your shoulder was really, really bad and-and-". Buffy's voice began to get caught in her throat "Y-you have h-holes where you shouldn't" she sniffled "And-and I can't do anything and no one will-" Buffy broke off when she felt tears brimming and her shoulders began to shake "No one listens to me". She put a hand over her mouth to stifle a sob "And I feel so useless". Buffy gave up trying to hold everything in "I'm sorry" she sobbed "I… I hate… this"
"Buffy, please stop it" Xander said, trying to comfort her but he couldn't reach "Please. I hate it when you cry. You're not useless, OK?" he held out his hand to her, his own voice starting to get thicker with emotion as he watched fat tears roll down her cheeks "Come here. Buff, please"
Buffy tried to scrub away some tears with the heel of her palm "I can't" she said between sobs "Y-you're… all hurt-" Buffy sniffed "- 'n stuff"
"I'm pretty sure I can spare my non-dislocated shoulder for you "
Xander nodded, a flicker of a smile appearing "Just don't snuggle"
Buffy let out a small, strangled laugh before nestling herself as gently as she could against Xander, resting her head against his uninjured shoulder. Xander's arm fell across her shoulders and down her back and he could feel her sobbing quietly against him. Xander kissed the top of her head softly.
"If I could still slay" she tried to hold back her tears "If I'd slayed those two vamps last night. Then they'd listen. They'd know I knew what I was talking about. At least a little bit" Buffy sniffed "Wouldn't they?"
"Sure they would"
Buffy was silent for a couple of moments. "Thank you" she whispered finally, her tears waning "I just…"
Xander reached up and began to brush his fingers over her hair "Just what?"
"Miss it" Buffy tilted her head up to look at him "It's such a big part of me"
"You really feel that don't you?" Xander replied softly. Buffy looked at him a little confused "What I mean is" he elaborated "You shouldn't just cling to being the Slayer as the only thing you are. Sure it's a big part, but it's not the only thing that makes you, *you*". Xander's hand fell across her shoulders again "Personally, I don't care whether you can fight demons, kill giant snakes or that you can beat the crap out of seven foot trolls. The fact that you're Buffy is enough for me". Xander smiled "And you'll still be my hero too"
Buffy blinked back her remaining tears and stared into his eyes and just for a second Buffy thought she felt… something. Something that made her hold his gaze for just a split second more than she probably should have. Buffy blinked again and dropped her gaze, resting her head against his shoulder once again.
"Thank you" she said again.
(A couple of hours later)
Buffy thumped the can of soup she'd just gotten from the cupboard down onto the kitchen counter top. She'd just had another argument with May. Less heated this time, but still the other girl refused to prepare herself and the others more than they usually did, for when or if the vampire that had nearly killed Xander came back. May refused to believe the vampire's threats were real enough. Buffy couldn't understand that. Had May only been humouring Xander when he wanted to bring more weapons inside?
//I am really getting tired of that girl's attitude//. Buffy began to twist the can-opener as aggressively as she could around the can. "Why can't she understand that things can't go back to normal?" Buffy muttered "I bet if it was bloody Foster, we'd be at the bloody windows with all sorts of bloody weapons waiting for the little vampire bitch to come back and *God* when did I start swearing like a Brit?". Buffy threw the can opener across the counter top when it had finished its job.
Buffy began to empty the soup into the waiting saucepan, becoming more agitated and irritated when it didn't come immediately. She slammed the can into the saucepan and thumped it down a couple more times for good measure until enough of the soup came out.
Then the gas wouldn't ignite. When matches weren't immediately available, Buffy kicked the oven door. "*Stupid*, *stupid* thing! Why won't you work!". Buffy picked up the saucepan, complete with soup and started hitting the top of the cooker, raising the pan high and slamming down hard. "Come on!" her words became punctuated with the sound of metal on metal "What the hell is wrong with you. What? Didn't I say please?!". Soup began to splatter her and the kitchen as she continued to attack the defenceless appliance, all the time trying to hold back tears that threatened to fall again.
Then someone grabbed hold of her wrist and Buffy spun around, almost hitting them with the pan with the other hand.
Mint raised his hand in time to grab hold of the pan. "*Hey*. Come on Donna. Calm down"
Buffy let him take the pan from her and he set it down on the counter. "It wouldn't work" she said weakly "I couldn't…" Buffy trailed off, looking around at the kitchen before looking back at Mint "I was trying to heat soup"
Mint looked at the cooker "Never tried to do it that way meself. Plus, I think you pretty much killed the oven, so…" he looked back at her "Tell me, whose face did ya see on it?"
Buffy's shoulders slumped and she turned away from Mint to sit on one of the stools around the kitchen table. Buffy stared intently at the fake wood grain of the table top in silence for a little while before speaking, her voice barely audible. "His heart stopped twice in the ambulance" was all she said.
"I didn't know" Mint replied. He sat on the stool next to her "Does he?"
Buffy just shook her head.
Mint sighed "I won't tell him" he said "Not if you don't want me to". When Buffy didn't say anything, he carried on "Y'know it wasn't May's fault that he got hurt. She wasn't even there" Mint hesitated "And she does have a point"
Buffy looked at him "Am I the only sane one here?"
"Donna, you just tried to murder the cooker" he pointed out gently "And, I wasn't finished". He rested one arm on the table "Donna, May has a point because…" Mint started again "To put it one way, we’re not the sort of people you can lock in a shed with a MIG welder, a car chassis, an outboard motor and a small aubergine and expect us to come up with some almighty vampire crushing machine. That’s not us"
"But I don’t want an almighty vampire crushing machine" Buffy replied "I just want May to know that we’re in some real danger here. And you’re right. She wasn’t even there. But then that means she has no idea of what exactly went on. That vamp was serious" she paused briefly "Mint, there are vampires and there are vampires" Buffy said "You get your stupid ones and you get the ones who get a few big kills and think they’re the big bad. And then you get the ones who are, the ones who are cold and calculating and want to end the world" Buffy stopped when Mint raised an eyebrow. "I’m not crazy" she said, "I know it sounds like it, and there is oven evidence, but I’m not crazy"
"And you think that this vampire is one of the clever ones?"
Buffy wasn’t quite sure whether he was humouring her, but she answered anyway. "Maybe. She wasn’t stupid. She knew exactly what she was doing" Buffy paused "Sometimes you just get a feeling"
"You’re really stuck on this aren’t you?"
"I just want everyone to be careful. It’s not safe out there in the evening. She found out where we were living for God’s sake and I’m *sitting* in *here* attacking the damn *oven*" Buffy began to get frustrated again, getting up and pacing "When I *should* be watching out for her with a *big*, *pointy*, wooden *stick* in my hand"
Mint watched her for a moment before her sighed "Alright"
Buffy looked at him, frowning "Alright what?"
"You have a point too" he told her "We’re not careful enough here. I mean, I know at least two other ways to get in here not using the front door for a start" Mint stood up and put a hand on her shoulder to stop her pacing "An' I also want to get the bitch who made a mess of me mate"
Buffy looked up at him "What are you saying?"
"I’m saying, d’ya want a hand with the big pointy sticks or not?"
Buffy rested her hand on the windowsill as she looked out into the ever-darkening evening sky. She glanced down at the driveway, which had been illuminated by fairy lights strung from the trees, hoping that they would provide enough light to stop anyone using the trees as camouflage. But no one had been.
Buffy had her own holographic projection guy to tell her that. Sean was able to lock himself on to just Buffy to make his range stretch a little wider, enabling him to check further outside. But Sean hadn't been able to detect anything so far. No vampires, not any kind of demon, bad guy or anything. It didn't make Buffy feel any easier.
That's why she still stood on the third storey landing looking out of the small round window, a loaded crossbow by her feet that waited to be picked up and used when Sean let her know that something was amiss.
And the time ticked on. It got darker and rain began to pelt against the window, making it more difficult for Buffy to see. She heard footsteps behind her and turned around to see Kez.
The short, dark haired girl was holding two steaming mugs of coffee in her hands. Kez smiled a little awkwardly at Buffy as she held out one of the mugs towards her. "May thinks you're crazy"
Buffy took the coffee "I know" she took a sip of the black liquid "I don't think she's pleased that Mint's taken it up as well"
"Yeah, she had a few choice words t'say about that, I'll tell ya" Kez grinned "She thought I was nuts too"
Buffy's eyes widened in happy surprise "You mean you wanna… oh, Kez thanks"
Kez shrugged nonchalantly "Well y'know me. Always up for a spot of violence. Bit of vigilantism an' all that" she grinned again when she saw Buffy's slight frown "Joke. Alrighty then. Where d'ya want me boss-lady?" Kez saluted Buffy exaggeratedly "Want me to go find Mint?"
"Uh, actually can you take over for me while I go check on Cooper?"
"I get the cross-bow?" Kez's face lit up.
Buffy smiled "Sure"
"Cool" Kez said as she and Buffy swapped places "Point and shoot, right?"
"Pretty much" Buffy called over her shoulder as she left. Buffy knew that Sean would alert her as soon as there was any danger, but it helped that there were now others who wanted to take her seriously. Mint was downstairs and he'd half convinced two others (Sal and Louis) that they should take up some sort of guard/watch post and now there was Kez and Buffy couldn't really fault her enthusiasm.
And Buffy knew that Xander was with her as well, even thought he was still laid up in bed, he'd told her he was with her in spirit. Buffy just wished that he was more of a physical presence at the moment, she missed having him to talk to.
Quietly, Buffy opened the door to their room. She left it slightly ajar when she saw in the soft white glow from the bedside lamp that Xander was asleep. Buffy couldn't blame him, it was nearly midnight. Asleep was something she wanted to be as well. Buffy sat by his side and just watched him in silence for a little while, listening to Xander's slightly laboured breathing, not really thinking about anything in particular, just content to watch him sleep. Buffy absently reached over and brushed some of his hair off his forehead.
After a few more minutes, Buffy got up and padded softly over to the window. It was still raining. Buffy sighed inwardly and began to head out of the room. Once out on the landing, Sean materialised infront of her, making her jump.
"Anything?" she asked in a hushed voice.
Sean shook his head "Not even a vicious looking squirrel". He began to walk alongside side her as she headed towards the front of the building. "Y'know he's pretty when he's sleeping isn't he?". Sean saw Buffy roll her eyes. "I'm serious" he continued "He just looks so untroubled. Just ordinary-guy-like"
Buffy glanced across at Sean as she reached the window that looked out towards the front. "Didn't I tell you that you needed a new hobby?" she whispered, smiling a little.
"I'm just looking" Sean reminded her gently "Are you going to stay up all night?"
Buffy shrugged and turned her gaze to the dark night outside "Maybe" she paused "I just want to feel like I'm doing something"
Sean stood by her side "You *are*" he paused for a moment and sighed "I'm just sorry I can't help more. With this whole thing being so unpredictable…" Sean trailed off again, looking across at Buffy who met his look "It makes it more difficult" he checked 'Gizmo' "And with this place getting burnt sometime in the future it, uh, doesn't… umm… huh" Sean looked up at Buffy, puzzled, then looked back down again "I'm just gonna-" he looked up again "I'll be two ticks, OK?"
Buffy didn't have a chance to reply. She didn't have to. Sean was gone for literally two seconds before he was back.
"So, uh, what's up?" Buffy asked.
"Well I think it's good news" Sean replied "But, also *not* because you haven't leapt". Buffy looked expectantly at him and he continued "Well the house doesn't burn down anymore. We got some more info. Uh, turns out it was actually a gas explosion - a faulty connection on the oven. Someone didn't turn the gas off, it built up and someone flicked on a light switch and kaboom" Sean cleared his throat "But as someone broke the cooker, leaving it completely useless…" he trailed off, looking meaningfully at Buffy.
"You mean because I had a complete spaz attack, I stopped everyone dying from a horrible fiery death"
"Go me" Buffy grinned.
"But it also means that you have to stop this Marion vamp chick to get you and Xander leaping out of here"
Buffy stopped grinning. "Bugger it"
"Y'know, you've been here way too long"
"Tell me about it"
Discounting the night Xander had been attacked, it had been three whole days and three nights that Buffy had spent trying to balance having to do enough hours at the restaurant so Donna didn't get sacked, spending the majority of the night prowling around the house ever alert for any danger that Sean might miss outside and trying to get more people to understand that there was real danger. The others were proving a little difficult to convince that everything couldn’t go on as normal.
Right now, at about ten o'clock on the fourth day of Operation 'Let's See How Much We Can get Buffy To Do', Buffy was having a well-deserved hot beverage as she sat infront of the TV.
Then a backpack landed on the floor by her feet and the sofa suddenly dipped under the weight of another person. Buffy turned her head to see Foster. He had barely been around since she and Xander had first been here, always flitting off to different parts of the country.
"Hey" Foster greeted her "May tells me you been busy"
//Yeah, I'll just bet she has//. "Probably told you that she thinks I'm nuts too" Buffy went back to staring blankly at the TV.
"You can't blame her"
Buffy snorted "See how much I don't care"
"Donna, you want to form some sort of vigilante group but you don't want to go outside with it. *Hmm*" There was sarcasm in his voice "I can see how *that* would work"
Buffy glared at him "It'll work fine" she said through gritted teeth "I'm not asking for a lot. Just that people co-operate and take care"
Foster smirked "Well thanks for that Xena wannabe". He grabbed his bag and got up "Well I hope you have a *fun* day at work". Foster went to leave the room but found Xander blocking his way. "Hey. So… how's the neck?"
Xander gazed stonily at him "Sore"
"Well, it's, uh, good to see you up and about"
"Isn't it" Xander said flatly, moving aside to let Foster through. Xander glared at the back of his head before he went and sat down next to Buffy. "Morning" he nudged his knee against hers.
"Morning" Buffy gave him a smile which then faded a little "I have him on my asshole list now" Buffy paused briefly "You couldn't have got dressed?"
"You try putting on pants with an arm in a sling and painful ribs" Xander defended himself wearing only boxer shorts. "Anyway" he settled back into the soft cushions of the sofa "The TV is down here" Xander paused "Are you really OK about what that idiot just said?"
Buffy saw Xander looking at her with concern. "I'm fine" she reassured him "He's ignorable" Buffy shrugged "And at least May is now just letting me get on with things". Buffy sank back into the sofa and watching the TV screen as Xander flicked through the digital channels "Xander?"
"Please don't ask me to help you put your pants on"
(Later that evening)
"Are you really sure you should be doing this?" Mint asked Xander. They both sat on high stools borrowed from the kitchen which had now been placed on either side of a window that over looked the back garden. Xander had just grimaced in pain as he leaned back just ever so slightly wrong and set off the pain from his ribs. And in his shoulder.
"I'm OK" Xander was still wincing a little "Just need my trigger finger anyway"
Mint looked at the air rifle that rested on the windowsill "True. But you're really not gonna cause much damage with dat thing are ya?"
"All depends on where I shoot 'em" Xander replied, he turned around gingerly so he was looking out of the window. He picked up the rifle "But I’m just hoping it'll distract them enough for you to get them with the crossbow"
"And I keep tellin' ya that my aim is shite"
"Better than mine" Xander said "I can only just mange the rifle with this sling"
"You and Donna really are a pair aren't ya" Mint gave a little shake of his head and grinned at Xander "An' ya don't seem to mind her taking charge"
Xander was looking out of the window. "She knows what she's doing" he replied. Xander glanced across at Mint "And I notice you don't seem to mind either"
"I not looking to make a move mate" Mint replied a little awkwardly "Plus she's totally into you" Mint finally looked back at Xander "Any eedjit can see that"
"Where is she?" Buffy asked. She stood just far enough back from the window, the tip of the crossbow bolt pointed in the direction that Sean insisted that Marion was. "I can't see her" Buffy hissed quietly "Not even with the lights we strung up"
Sean checked his computer "I'm telling you" he said "She *is* down there"
"Well show me then" Buffy hissed again. Sean gave her an odd look. "Go out there" Buffy continued "And jump about around where she is"
"I can only do that if tune myself into just you" he told her "I'll lose track of Xander"
"Xander's fine at the back of the house with Mint" Buffy replied "Just do it will ya?"
Buffy jumped and turned around to see Sal, one of the other girls in the house, and who she hadn’t heard creep up the stairs. "Show herself" Buffy covered quickly, turning her attention back to the window "That vampire's out there"
"How do you know?"
"I just do" Buffy replied, trying to look for Sean as he had disappeared from beside her "Call it instinct"
"Riiight. OK then" Sal cleared her throat "In that case, you might want to know that May and Foster are planning on going out"
Buffy spun around "*What*?"
Sal cowed a bit at the expression on Buffy's face "T-they have stakes and, uh, Foster's got a water gun with holy water in it 'cos he figured-"
"I can't *believe* those two!"
"-if it worked in From Dusk till Dawn'" Sal finished weakly.
Buffy groaned loudly in frustration "This is just typical. I *asked* *nicely* for crying out loud"
Buffy turned and looked out of the window. She couldn't see May and Foster yet but she could see Sean waving back up at her, although he wasn't jumping around. Buffy turned back around to Sal "OK. Go and tell Coop and Mint. They're in the far back left room on the next floor down. Ask Mint if he can go downstairs and cover them and tell Coop that I want him up here"
"And *you* can't do this because…?"
Buffy's expression was firm "Because I've got a shot at her from up here and I'm not going to lose it. Now *please*"
Sal rolled her eyes "Fine. Anything for your Majesty" Sal turned and headed back down the stairs.
Buffy looked back out of the window again, aiming her crossbow at the point where Sean was standing. Except she still couldn't see the vampire. She could barely see Sean - the lights were making him slightly transparent from this distance. Buffy didn't want to take a shot and miss which would alert Marion that they were wise to her presence. Instead Buffy kept her aim on Sean, hoping that sometime soon she could fire and reduce the bitch to ashes.
"Coop?" Mint readied his crossbow "Something just moved out there"
"If it is" Mint said, raising an eyebrow slightly when Xander started to take off his sling "It's one big fat bastard" he paused "What are you doing?"
"I'm fine. The painkillers are kicking in" Xander raised the rifle and held it so he could look down the sight. He was still grimacing. "Well, kicking in a little". Suddenly Xander saw what Mint had seen "And what d'ya know. That’s the big, fat bastard that broke my ribs in the first place"
"Shoot 'im in the bollocks" Mint suggested "That should distract 'im"
Xander took aim and fired, but a recoil took him by surprise and he staggered back and tripped back over the stool that he'd previously been sitting on. Xander cried out as his bad shoulder took the brunt of the fall, but waved Mint away when the other man tried to help him. "No. You shoot… him now" he managed to gasp out, wrapping his good arm around his chest, holding his bad shoulder still in the vain hope that it would stop the pain that was throbbing through it "Did I, ow, get him?"
"Well he's not moving" Mint replied, taking up Xander's position at the window, aiming the crossbow at the vampire who hit the ground "But I don't think you got him in the bollocks" Mint moved to the left a little "I think I can get a shot…" he trailed off as he started to take aim "And ready… aim… fi-"
"I've just got orders from her highness Donna" Sal's voice was urgent and loud enough to distract Mint just as his finger pulled the trigger.
"Bloody hell Sal!" Mint cried, turning round and glaring at "Did ya have ta?" he looked back around to check on his target "Oh wait, actually I think I got him in the arse… but, oh, now he's getting up"
"Hey, I didn't know!" Sal protested.
Xander stood up; steadying himself against the wall then held onto his shoulder again "What's wrong?"
"May and Foster have gone out" Sal replied quickly "She says that the other vampire is out front"
"Well we've got our hands full here" Mint replied; keeping his eye on the vampire who was trying to figure out where the shot came from. "What does she expect us to do anyway?"
"Donna wanted you to cover out front Mint" Sal looked Xander up and down "She wants you with her… probably because you look like shit" she glanced back at Mint "Look, I can take over here, you'll be better out front"
"OK, OK" Mint handed Sal the crossbow "He's still trying to get the arrow out of his arse, but he keeps moving around - I couldn’t get a good shot'. He then hurried quickly over to Xander and caught him just as he stumbled slightly "Cooper mate, are you gonna be OK?"
"I’ll be fine" Xander said "Go on, go"
"Sean what the hell are you doing" Buffy muttered "When I said jump around I didn't mean attempt the Macarena"
Xander cleared his throat as he came up behind Buffy so as not to startle her "Hey Buff"
"Hey Xan" Buffy kept her eyes on Sean "Did Sal fill you in?"
Xander stood beside her "Yeah" he paused "What are you aiming at?"
"Sean" Buffy replied "He's not tuned into you" she explained "We needed a bigger range"
"What's he-" Xander stopped when his shoulder twinged painfully "-doing?"
"He's mirroring the vampire. Trouble is, I can't quite be sure whether I'm going to get her heart or not"
"Her big rib crushing friend is out back" Xander told her "We got a couple of shots at him, although nothing fatal. Sal's on him at the moment and she'll yell if he comes out front… oh *God* *damn*" Xander screwed his eyes shut when his shoulder spasmed badly.
Buffy turned and saw him clutching his shoulder "Xander, what happened?" she asked anxiously.
"Tripped" Xander replied through gritted teeth "Shoulder… out again… I think" Xander looked at her "Just dust the bitch quick so we can get out of here, huh?"
"Planning on it" Buffy took aim at Sean again and frowned a little "Sean, what the hell are you doing?". Sean was trying to get her attention, pointing to his hand that held 'Gizmo' and then using both hands to draw something in the air. A few moments later, Buffy realised what it was. A heart.
Then he reached out his arm to the side, holding a now glowing ultraviolet 'Gizmo' out as a target.
"I can't see May or Foster yet" Xander pointed out "What are they doing?"
Buffy smiled "It doesn't matter" she lowered the crossbow a little, looking directly down the wood-tipped arrow, pointing it directly at Sean's hand.
(Just a few moments earlier)
Marion kept herself in the shadows of the trees and shrubs that led up to the house. With her enhanced sight it was easy for her to see through the leaves and branches and more importantly what was happening at the front of the house. She hoped that Pete was making himself obvious around the back of the house, drawing the pathetic little gang's attention to him and away from her.
Marion smiled when the front door opened and a young black girl and a tall blond guy came out. They were both dressed up to the nines and were obviously going out. Marion kept smiling //Obviously they have no plans on looking for me//. She moved silently forward through the shadows, waiting for the moment when they would pass her and she could take them out. Marion had wanted to get another taste of the gorgeous brunette she'd snacked on a few nights previously, but she guessed she'd just have to make do with getting these two.
She took another step forward into a more open area of the, waiting for the young couple to venture further down the steps. Out of the corner of her eye she saw movement at one of the ground floor windows. Marion shrugged it off. There was no way one of those little bastards could spot her through the trees. It wasn't as if she was wearing a glow in the dark target.
Then she felt a brief spark of pain. Marion looked down and saw the end of an arrow protruding from her chest. "Oh bloody he-"
"And score one for the Slayer" Buffy lowered he weapon and looked to Xander "I guess I still got it"
Xander smiled back "Good for you" he paused "Although… don't you feel it was a little…." Xander trailed off, searching for a word.
"Anti-climatic?" Buffy suggested.
"Just a little" he agreed "I feel kinda cheated"
Buffy shrugged "Well we've still got a guy out the back" she replied "Sal didn't yell, so I guess-"
"Guys!" came a call up the stairs "Slight problem!"
"Or maybe we spoke too soon" Buffy said, "I'll go" Buffy sprinted down the next flight of stairs and was met at the bottom by an anxious looking Sal.
"I took a shot at him" Sal explained quickly "But I missed and he was gone before I could get another arrow in"
"Damn" Buffy swore "I'm going down" she called up to Xander who was now standing at the top of the stairs looking concerned.
"I've just seen May and Foster go out" Xander told her as she started down the next lot of stairs "Be careful!". Xander headed down towards Sal "You'll have to give me a hand down the stairs, the blinding pain in my shoulder is affecting my balance".
Sal took his arm and he leaned against her a little "Coop, what the hell are you planning to do? You look like you're about to pass out"
"I just want to make sure she doesn't end up going in head first" Xander told Sal as the moved "She's gotta remember that she's not the Sl-" Xander stopped himself in time "I don't want her doing something she's not capable of right now"
"He came past my window" Mint almost ran into Buffy as they headed for the front door at the same time "May and Foster went out"
"I know" Buffy said, "Have you got any arrows for this thing?" she held up her weapon "I don't want to have only one shot at him"
Mint handed her one more arrow "That's all I've got Donna"
"Then we'll have to be spot on" Buffy said with frustration as they both got on to the front steps. "Hey dead boy!" Buffy called out to the vampire "Where d'ya think you're going?!"
May and Foster turned around when they heard Buffy cal out. It was just in time to see the big vampire come lunging towards them. Foster grabbed may and threw her and himself to the ground and the vampire dived over them and landed in a heap a few feet away from them.
He growled and got quickly to his feet. He looked over to who had shouted, warning his victims, and saw a petite blond haired girl and a tall wiry, dark haired guy both aiming crossbows at him. Pete then looked to the other couple who were scrambling away, reaching for what he guessed were weapons in their pockets.
"Marion!" he called out "Get your undead arse out 'ere!"
"Marion's not going to answer" Buffy called out "At least I think I'm right in thinking that piles of dust don't talk"
Pete sneered. He didn't know whether to believe the girl or not, but he knew that he didn't like her. "You don't scare me little girl" he morphed his face into vampire visage "I'm gonna get a meal here to-"
Pete fell forward and Buffy saw an arrow protruding from his back just as he turned to dust.
"What the-?" Buffy glanced around "Where did that come from?"
Buffy turned around to see Xander "He's dust but…" she trailed off and looked around again "But no-one this end fired. Did you see anyone else out there?" she asked May and Foster as they came hurrying back up to the house.
They both said that they hadn't. Buffy turned around to Xander again "No one else was outside" she said "That shot came from behind"
"Then I think maybe we should get in" Xander said "I think we've had enough drama for the moment"
"But we should go and check-" Buffy started to go down the steps.
"Buffy" Sean materialised on front of them both "They're gone. There's no one here"
"But-" Buffy hesitated. //But Sean could be wrong//. She looked to Xander. He was holding out his hand of his good arm towards her. She sighed frustratedly and walked back up the steps.
Xander rested the hand of his good arm on the small of Buffy's back as they headed in, leaving Mint to lock the doors quickly as May after May and Foster. "Just take a break for a minute OK?" he said gently.
Buffy glanced across at him "I just can't stand not being able to-" she stopped and sighed. Buffy walked away from him and over to a mirror that hung on the hall wall between the posters and the flaking plaster. Buffy gazed at her reflection //It shouldn't be all that different//, Buffy thought, looking back at a face that was framed by long dark blonde hair and into eyes that were a fraction off being the same colour as hers //I'm still the same person inside//.
Xander joined her, standing close by her shoulder and they met each other's looks in the mirror. Buffy then realised that this was the first time she'd seen what Xander looked like in this leap. The person she saw standing next to her reflection of a pretty, small blonde, was a tall, good looking guy with brown hair that curled over his forehead and threatened to fall into eyes that were like chocolate.
"Freaky huh?" Xander smiled a little.
"Hell yeah" Buffy replied softly, a trace of a smile on her own lips. She tilted her head and looked up at the real Xander "Y'know, we should get your shoulder fixed"
Xander was about to nod when he saw Sean shaking his head. "You two are done here" Sean said "You started them off thinking" he nodded towards Mint "And you got a guy to take up your crusade"
There was a flash of white light and a crackle of blue energy and then there was black.
A couple of seconds later Buffy found herself seated at a small oak table. She had an open book infront of her and she was holding a pencil in one hand. Xander was standing just a few feet away infront of her by one of countless bookcases, in what was obviously at first glance a library.
She looked at him and smiled "Why is it we can never get away from piles of old books?"
Xander shrugged and sat down on the chair opposite her "Perhaps we did something in a past life" he grinned "Anyhow, I have full use of my shoulder and as I'm now able to breath in the musty air without being in agony, I'll cope" he nodded at the book Buffy had infront of her "Anything good?"
"It's been tough going" Buffy joked. She glanced down at the page, studied it for a few moments and then frowned. She glanced back at Xander "I *can* read *English* can't I?"
Xander raised an eyebrow "You should know"
Buffy rolled her eyes and pushed the book towards him. Xander turned it around so he could see. "Well…" he said shortly "It looks a little like English… but" he started reading out loud " 'Now, sir, and eft, sir, so bifell the cas that on a day this hende Nicholas fill with this yonge wife to rage and playe while that her husbond was at Oseneye'" Xander stopped reading the text and looked back at Buffy "It's like a five year old wrote it. And I don't have a clue what it means"
"Hey" Buffy said brightly "Maybe that's our challenge. Translate this and then we leap out"
"I do like the sound of that" Xander said "But if that's not it, well… I don't care what it involves so long as I don't get blown up" he started counting on his fingers "Bitten by a vampire, dislocate my shoulder or anything that means I end up in severe, agonising pain"
"Me too" Buffy agreed. Then she paused "However, I do think you should know that you're wearing a dress"
Go to the next episode... Oh Boy
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