The New Adventures of Buffy and Xander
Episode Six: "Oh Boy"
Summary:Buffy and Xander have to stop a murder, but Xander's not happy with some of the aspects of his new role. Luckily for both of them they'll get help along the way.
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 replied with a smile. 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"
Xander froze. After a long pause he spoke. "I'm sorry. What?"
"I said, I thought I should tell you that you're wearing a dress". It must have been divine intervention that Buffy managed to keep her face straight.
Xander stared back at Buffy, trying to fathom whether or not she was joking. He really didn't want to look down and check just for her to go 'Ha ha, fooled you'. Although Xander had just noticed that his arms were bare and he could feel fresh air against the back of his calves. He definitely wasn't wearing jeans or pants of any description. Xander decided to risk it. He broke his stare away from Buffy and glanced down at his himself.
To discover that Buffy was right.
Xander buried his face in his hands "Oh my God" he groaned.
"I think it's a very nice dress" Buffy had to swallow laughter down in her throat "It suits you". Buffy did actually quite like the dress. It was an earthy brown colour with black embroidery around the top hem that came straight across the top of Xander's chest and finished at what she guessed was knee length, and was held up by straps that were tied at the tops of both his shoulders.
Xander frowned and shot her a dark look "You think this is hilarious don't you?"
Buffy clamped her mouth shut and just shook her head. "Mmm unn" she managed through tightly closed lips.
Xander narrowed his eyes "Oh come on Buffy" he said in a coaxing voice "I'm wearing a dress" Xander leant forward over the table towards her, trying to play her "You've got to find it a little bit amusing"
//Mental deep breath... remember inner poise...// "Not really" she cleared her throat "I don't find it funny at all" //Oh God... inner poise... inner poise... stop quoting Bridget Jones...//
"Hmm" Xander put one of his elbows up on the table, resting his chin on his hand "Not even if I told you that I think I'm wearing a thong?"
Buffy's hand went immediately to her mouth, trying to hold back her smirk, but her shoulders were shaking now and Buffy was starting to get ill holding the laughter in her chest and throat. She took her hand from her mouth and tried to compose herself "You mean you... you didn't notice... before?". It was no good. Buffy started giggling "I'm so-orry Xander" she managed through gasps for air "I can't... help it"
"Ha ha" Xander said flatly "Laugh it up why don't you". He folded his arms across his chest and sat back in his chair "Far be it for me to point out that you've actually been a guy on this whirly gig of fun"
Buffy sniggered "Yeah but I was wearing pants" she retaliated "You're not". Then Buffy's eyes widened a bit "Ooh, but hey. Maybe you're not actually a woman" she said "Maybe you're like a transvestite or something and people *are* actually seeing a guy in a dress"
Xander scowled at her "You are *so* not helping"
"I know" Buffy was still laughing.
"Hey you two. Thought I'd get here early this time" Sean suddenly appeared, strangely situated in the middle of the table next to theirs, his lower half not visible at all. Sean's gaze fell on Xander "Y'know I almost wore the exact same thing" he said, not missing a beat.
"You haven't got the hips for it" Xander shot back just as quick.
"Wow. Not a minute in a dress and you're already bitchin' like a girl". And Sean was back in the lead.
Xander's eyes narrowed at the other man "And of course you now a lot about *girls*"
"Now, now" Buffy interjected "Don't mind him Sean" she said "He's just sore"
"Yeah, I think it's the thong" Xander muttered, shifting awkwardly in his seat.
Luckily as Xander was glaring at Buffy who had started giggling again, Xander didn't see Sean's eyes glaze over for a second before the hologram regained his focus. "Yeah, well. I forgive him" Sean cleared his throat "And hopefully give you some good news" he looked at Xander "It doesn't look like you'll be here for too long" Sean informed him, then he looked around "But I think we should get out of here before I give you a run down"
A "Would you two please be quiet!" suddenly got hissed loudly at them from a gap in between two bookcases "Remember where you are. People are trying to study!"
Buffy and Xander turned their gaze to the middle-aged woman who was glaring at them from over the top of her half-moon spectacles and clutching a book to her chest. A name badge announcing herself as 'Rose: Head Librarian' was pinned to her cardigan.
"Oops" Buffy said quietly "Sorry. It's just-"
"We're going anyway" Xander said, although a little hesitant to actually get to his feet "Just give us a couple of minutes OK?"
The woman was still glaring at them "Good" she hissed again "I'm sick and tired of you lot tramping about in here like you own the place anyway"
"Geez. Stereotypical much?" Sean shook his head lightly as he watched the old woman walk away "OK you two, lets get a move on so I can fill you in"
Xander hesitated "You mean 'go', as in 'get up'?"
"That's kind of the idea Xander" Buffy kept her voice low.
Xander folded his arms over his chest. "Well I'm not going"
Buffy rolled her eyes "Oh for Gods sake Xander" she hissed "Me and Sean are the only ones who're gonna see a guy in a dress"
"Yeah" Xander replied through gritted teeth "And it's still more people than I'd like"
"Xander, either you move your ass now or I get Juan to leap you into my body during the time I was getting whipped cream licked off me by a studly, young naked Italian guy who was hung like a donkey"
Buffy had an immediate coughing fit and Xander's eyes went wide and then his forehead hit the table top with a thud. "I really, really hate you Sean".
"I take it that's a yes then?" Sean asked.
Xander pushed himself away from the table and got up, shooting a warning look at Buffy, who still had trouble keeping her face straight. Buffy just held her hands up as some sort of apology and began to gather up what she assumed was her new persona's things.
Xander pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. "My life sucks"
"So did the Italian"
Rose was still muttering under her breath as she walked back to the counter, pushing a trolley full of returned books. She peered over glasses at the young man behind the counter who was busy looking at a computer screen. "Why can they read the books they rudely ask me to get, but can't manage to read the signs that say 'Quiet please'?"
The young man, who hadn't heard her come over, hastily shut down what he was looking at and turned away from the screen and peered at Rose through the dark blonde hair that fell over his face. "Um..." he offered helpfully. His gaze then followed the index finger that Rose jabbed towards Buffy and Xander who were now leaving. Of course what he saw were two blonde girls. One shorter than the other and the taller one had a look of someone who was badly pissed off on her face. He looked back to Rose. "I take it they were being noisy" he said as he took a book from her.
"Very" Rose pursed her lips together. She glanced at the computer screen "Have you finished with that yet?" she asked.
"Nearly" he replied "Couple more things to do"
Rose huffed "Hurry up would you? I want to close up here soon" and with that she moved off again with her trolley.
The young man waited until she'd gone out of sight before he re-opened the screen he'd been looking at before Rose had interrupted him. He tapped a few more keys and went through a few more screens before he finally found what he was looking for. He began to scroll through the names on the school record list until he found one he wanted.
"Katherine Hobbs" he muttered under his breath. He clicked on her name and saw the list of details appear on the screen. He scanned date of birth and grade point averages as he waited for the picture of the girl in question to load. When it did, he smacked his palm against his head in frustration.
It was one of the blonde girls that had just left.
"Ooh, nice off campus place huh?" Buffy turned and grinned at Xander who still had a scowl on his face. Buffy rolled her eyes at him "Xan, the guy was only looking at your legs because you've walking in *bare* *feet*"
Xander pulled a face and waved the shoes he was now holding in his hand "How is any person supposed to walk in things that have just one strap holding them on?"
"Yeah I'm kinda with Xander on that one" Sean added, "I'll never get women and shoes"
"No man will ever get women and shoes" Xander replied "It's genetic. It's the same with purses"
This time it was Buffy's turn to pull a face "Do you want to stand out here all day?" she stated. She jerked her thumb over her shoulder towards the small house that Sean had informed they shared with a young couple. "Let's just get inside huh?"
"Won't we need keys?" Xander pointed out as he followed Buffy up the path towards the house.
Buffy glanced at Sean who tapped a few keys on Gizmo. He grinned at Xander "They're in your purse"
(A short while later)
Buffy glared at Sean "No fair. Why does he get to be prettier than me?" Buffy looked back at both her and Xander's reflections in the bedroom mirror. She gestured behind herself to Xander "And how does anyone get around with a chest that big and-and unsupported and *not* fall over?"
Xander, who was seated on the edge of the bed, glanced up into the mirror and met Buffy's eyes "Does it really matter seeing as how I'm not leaving this house until we leap again?"
Buffy turned around to face Xander "Hey, it's not my fault the girl doesn't have pants that'll fit you"
"I'm not going about in some strange woman's skirts"
"Well I don't think she'd appreciate you walking about in the nude" Buffy retorted "And don't even *think* about saying it Sean"
Sean raised an eyebrow "I don't think she'd mind if you did" he looked at Xander "So long as you don't get her thrown in jail for this murder"
"OK" Xander said "Just so we're clear. She really *really* didn't hack this guy to pieces"
Sean shook his head "Didn't even poke him with a butter knife. Katherine was sitting happily at home with a mug of cocoa watching Star Trek repeats"
"But no one saw her 'cos she was home alone" Buffy said, sitting down in a chair by the window "And circumstantial evidence got her convicted"
"Pretty damning circumstantial evidence at that" Sean said "Traces of Katherine's skin under his finger nails for one thing and also her prints one of the knives used that was found near the scene"
"Uh Sean?" Buffy raised her hand a little in the air "That sounds like *actual* evidence"
Sean shook his head again "Not when the knife came from *this* house and her prints could have got on it anytime and she was friends with the guy which could explain the skin under fingernails". Sean paused "Plus we know who *actually* did do it, so we kind of have the upper hand"
This time it was Xander's turn to raise his hand "So then... are we also stopping someone from *getting* killed?"
Sean shrugged "That's optional"
"Optional!" Buffy and Xander cried out in unison.
"*Jo*-*king*" Sean rolled his eyes "Man, you two *really* have to lighten up" he sighed "Of *course* we're stopping the hacking to pieces". Sean tapped a few keys on his mini-computer "The guy's name - that's the guy who's getting killed - is Michael Holditch. Goes to the same University as you two, well Katherine and Kelly, and is in a couple of your classes - that's why you're quite friendly with him". Sean looked up at them both "The killer - a Terry Bookerson - won't get into town until the night of the murder, but it might be handy to keep an eye on Michael until then"
"Starting when?" Buffy asked.
"Tomorrow is good" Sean replied "Plus it'll give Xander a little time to uh, get adjusted, so to speak"
Xander groaned softly and flopped backwards onto the bed. "Yay"
"And with that enthusiastic response from Xander" Sean continued "I'll take my leave. You two should be fine here for the rest of tonight. Your housemates, Sheena and Patrick, won't be back until late tomorrow, so you'll have free reign of the house" Sean smirked "Maybe you could braid each others hair"
Sean disappeared, barely missing Xander raising his arm and flipping Sean the bird.
Buffy watched Xander's hand then fall limply back onto the bed and heard him let out a deep 'woe is me' sigh. Shaking her head lightly, Buffy got up from her chair and walked over to the bed, sitting by Xander.
"What?" Xander said softly, staring up at the ceiling.
Buffy prodded him in the side and he looked at her. Buffy smiled sympathetically "I promise I won't laugh anymore, OK?"
Xander raised an eyebrow "Really"
"OK. Actually I can't promise" she admitted "*But*" she added quickly before Xander started looking up at the ceiling again "I'm gonna try and make you feel better about it. Be all supportive and stuff"
"Really?" Xander sounded a bit more hopeful this time.
Buffy smiled back "Sure" she tugged on one of Xander's arms, making him sit up "Now come on. There's another guy in this house remember? I bet a whole lotta money on the fact he'll probably have something that fits you which you could temporarily, uh-"
"Steal?" Xander suggested.
"For want of a better word" Buffy turned her head to look at both their reflections in the mirror and grinned. "Anyway, what are big sisters for?"
Rose pushed the finally empty returns trolley to the front of the checking out counter and coughed pointedly, making the young man still seated infront of the computer jump again.
"Michael, if hadn't noticed we've finished here for the night. That means I want to go and I can't until you leave" she paused "So leave"
"OK, OK. I'm gone" he switched the computer off and then glanced at Rose as he grabbed his coat off the back of the chair "Do you want me in tomorrow?"
"That would be nice" she made shooing gestures with her hand and watched as he walked off towards the exit. "Why they insist on having students work here is really beyond me" she muttered before heading off to get her own coat"
"I think she likes you". A smirk. "Really *likes* you"
"She does not like me" the guy who'd just been shooed from the library pulled his coat around him tighter as a sudden chill blew through the air. He turned to the guy next to him who hadn't even been ruffled by the wind "That's just your dirty little mind working over time"
The other guy just smirked again "So, what are you going to do now?"
"Try and *accidentally* bump into this Katherine, I guess. Try and see inside the mind of a possible killer" he sighed "She didn't look like a woman who could hack a guy to bits"
"Don't say I didn't warn you when she comes at you, well this Michael guy, with a machete"
"Always looking on the bright side aren't you Al?"
"I'm just saying-"
"Yeah, I know. Look, can you just get the guys working on why Ziggy is playing up?"
"Already on it" Al smiled around a cigar "You know that Katherine girl was a nice piece of-"
Al raised his hands up "OK OK, I'm gone"
Sam Beckett didn't even blink as a white door opened in the air behind the other man and his friend stepped through it. He just shivered as another cold wind blew around him, glancing up at the ever darkening sky before heading over towards the clump of buildings, one of which house his dorm room that was his home for the time being.
"OK Xander. I really think we have to set some sort of rules here" Buffy set her mug of coffee down on the kitchen counter as Xander joined her "You can't just go around in just a pair of jeans y'know. You need to cover your chest up" Buffy gestured to his bare upper torso. "What if someone looks through the window? They aren't gonna see your pecs, they're gonna see *Katherine* all as nature intended her". Then Buffy's eyes widened "Oh my God. You haven't been looking have you? I told you not to go anywhere near a mirror naked when I'm not around to supervise" Buffy paused briefly "And why did that last sentence sound so different in my head?"
Buffy ignored Xander's smirk. "Just tell me you haven't been looking"
"I haven't been looking" Xander replied "And even though you insist on telling me otherwise, *all* the time I might add, I *can* get dressed without looking in a mirror"
"Well can't you put a t-shirt on or something?"
"Buffy, the curtains are closed" Xander replied "Anyway I'm hardly distracting *you* am I?"
Buffy took up her coffee again "I so hope I don't catch sight of you in a mirror"
"Well it's alright for you" Xander said, coming up to the breakfast counter that Buffy stood behind "You've obviously got no problem finding clothes to fit you" he gestured to Buffy's casual ensemble of loose, white cotton pants and black vest top "Even if you were a guy you'd be able to get into his clothes and still not look like a complete moron"
Buffy sighed "Xander, it's gonna be, like, *three* *days* out of your life" she raised an eyebrow "And we're saving someone's life"
Xander rested his forearms on the counter and hung his head. "Great" he groaned softly "Make me feel worse why don't you?" he raised his head and looked at her "I thought you were going to be 'all supportive and stuff'"
"And being supportive means that I have to tell you the truth some times" Buffy replied chirpily.
"I thought being supportive was all pats on the back and listening to me moan about not having matching underwear"
"No" she paused "That was last week"
Xander shot her a pained look, but Buffy just grinned. "Come on, I know what'll make you feel better" Buffy continued "I found ten dollars crumpled up at the bottom of Kelly's wardrobe" Buffy took a sip of her coffee "Should be enough to get you your own pair of sweatpants from a thrift store or something"
"You're seriously suggesting that I go *out*?" Xander said with disbelief "*Shopping*?"
"No" Buffy replied "I'm saying that *I'm* going out shopping. What part of 'supportive' didn't you understand"
Xander blinked "You're seriously suggesting that I stay *here*? *Alone*?"
"You can come if you want Xander" Buffy said, but there was a 'no way' look on Xander's face. "Then stay here. You'll be fine. And *if* someone comes around, either don't answer the door or tell them you're sick or something" Buffy sighed "I don't know why you can't just deal with wearing a dress like any other grown man would"
"Did that sentence also sound different before you said it?"
Buffy pulled a face, even though she was smiling a little "Just go put your boobs away Xander"
(One hour later)
Buffy had left about fifteen minutes ago and now Xander was alone in the house. Currently he was upstairs in the bedroom that was to be his for the next few days. It was small and incredibly, well, he'd used the word "girly". Buffy had agreed, saying even she didn't own that many stuffed animals and it had to be bad for the eyes seeing that much pastel all together in the same room. Then Buffy had seen her room and had begged Xander to swap.
Barbie had nothing on the Hobbs sisters.
Xander stood infront of the standing, full-length mirror and stared back at his reflection. Katherine was the same age as him and as tall as he was. She had short, natural blonde hair that fell around her pretty face. Xander was still wearing jeans that he'd 'borrowed' from Katherine and Kelly's housemate, Patrick, and also a button down shirt that, amazingly, he'd actually found in Katherine's wardrobe.
Xander took hold of a few strands of his hair and held them out infront of his face, peering at them intently before glancing back at his reflection. He didn't get it. Xander was holding onto the bottom of the lock of hair and the reflection showed that as well, yet Katherine's hair was a good few inches longer than his.
That wasn't the only thing. Letting go of his hair, Xander looked down at himself, at what he was wearing. The jeans fitted him perfectly and the shirt did too, but when he looked back at his reflection, the jeans were baggy around the waist and looked like they were about to fall down. The shirt too, was baggier on his reflection's body, well, everywhere except around the chest. Xander turned around, turning to one side first and examining his image in the glass and then to the other, before realising that, technically, he was checking out another woman's body.
So he only did it for a few more moments before stopping, sighing and going over to the window, opening the curtains a little. Xander stared out the window, which looked out the back of the house, at the world outside. The world outside was currently in 1997 and a little 'burb just outside Boston.
"Just a bit different" he said softly to himself "Today it's the good old US of A. Yesterday it was merry old England". //Had to be... wow, nearly two weeks we were there// Xander realised //That's gotta make it about three weeks since we first leapt//. Xander closed his eyes //Why does it seem so much longer?//.
(Half an hour later...)
"This is a stupid idea Al" Sam muttered out the side of his mouth. He pressed the doorbell "Remind me why I'm doing this would you?"
Al took the cigar out his mouth "So you stop the poor guy getting himself cut into itty bitty pieces. And it was your stupid idea"
"I know" Sam replied as he waited patiently on the doorstep "But why do I have a really weird feeling that something's not quite right here?"
Al tapped a few keys on the multi-coloured device he held in his hand "Because our system is being jammed by an outside source?" he smacked the device "Come on you stupid... who designed this piece of cr-" Al glanced up at Sam who was looking at him with one eyebrow raised. Al pulled a face "OK, you're the expert. You tell me what's wrong with it"
"You just said it Al. Something must be interfering with it. But as it's only intermittent-" Sam broke off and took a couple of steps back, looking up and around the outside of the house "And we have all the information we need for the moment-" he looked back at Al "I'm sure we'll cope" he rang the doorbell again, pressing it for longer "I bet Katherine's not even in"
"Well she didn't turn up for class and she didn't go out with her sister" Al pointed out "Chances are she's sharpening all the knives in the house"
Sam shot Al a withering look "Can't you go and have a look inside?"
"And see if she's sharpening knives?"
"Just go and-" Sam broke off "Wait. I think I hear something"
Al stuck his head through the door and saw the tall blonde girl standing with her back to the door, her eyes closed as she muttered something to herself that sounded like "You can do it. Just tell them you're sick"
Al withdrew his head and looked at Sam "She's talking to herself"
"Yeah? Well to anyone else" Sam said softly as the door began to open "So am I"
Xander peered out through the small gap between the door and the frame to see a young guy about his age, with dark blonde hair that hung in curtains around his face, standing on the doorstep.
"Uh... Hi?" Xander tried to sound sickly.
The other guy smiled "Hey Katherine. I missed you in lectures today" he looked concerned "I just wondered if everything was OK"
"I was... I'm not feeling too good" Xander replied.
"Yeah, and why don't I believe you blondie?" Al mumbled around his cigar. He smacked the little coloured box in his hand "Come on, tell me what's going on"
Sam tried his best to ignore Al. He tried again - after all, the guy Michael that he was, was supposed to be good friends with her. "Well, is there anything I can do?" Sam asked, stepping closer to the door.
"Nope" Xander answered quickly "I'm infectious. It's a nasty horrible thing. You don't want it. Really. Makes you feel like a completely different person. You'd better go" Xander went to shut the door but the other guy put a hand out to stop it.
"Well, you don't look too bad" Sam said "I'm sure I'll be fine"
Xander frowned "Um... fine for what?"
"Sounds like someone's hiding something Sam" Al stood directly infront of his friend "I think you need to get in there.
"To come in" Sam said hopefully "You said you were having problems with some of your study" he shoved both his hands into his back pockets "And I'm free now if you want. Come on, if I get sick, then you can tell me that you told me so"
Al looked over Sam's shoulder and saw another blonde girl heading up the path towards them, an anxious look flitted across her face when she noticed what was going on. "We're getting company Sam" Al warned his friend "Big sister's back"
Sam turned around to see the shorter of the two blonde girls now only a metre from him. Al on the other hand was still looking at the blonde blocking the doorway and saw the look of relief that crossed her face when she saw the other girl return. "Something is not right here" he said again.
"Something weird is going on here" Sean was beside Buffy. He shook Gizmo "I'm getting some kind of interference. There's no info coming through"
"Um, hey, Katherine" Buffy looked to Xander who shrugged behind Sam's back "I see we have visitors"
"I just dropped by to see if Katherine was OK. Seeing as how she missed classes this morning" Sam looked back to Xander "But she told me she was sick"
"Oh she is" Buffy replied, shooting a look at Xander over Sam's shoulder "Real sick" she smiled at Sam when he looked back at her "I went to get medicine" Buffy cleared her throat and gestured past Sam "I should really get inside so I can give it to her"
"It's not that infectious then?" Sam said as Buffy brushed past him, her shoulder just barely touching his arm. Neither of them noticed the faint blue light that crackled over both their bodies.
Buffy kicked Xander's foot as she went past him into the house. She turned around. "I've, uh, already had it"
"She's already had it" Xander repeated "Look, it was nice of you to come around and everything, but I really think I'll get much better if I don't go out or-or see anyone"
"Until she's had her medicine anyway" Buffy added, shooting pointed look at Xander.
This time it was Xander's turn to kick Buffy's foot "Yes. Until then. Maybe we'll study later OK?" This time Xander managed to shut the door "Bye" he called out.
Al shot Sam an 'I told you so' look the moment the door shut in Sam's face. Sam sighed. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose "Plan B?"
Al put his cigar back in his mouth "Plan B it is"
Buffy glared at Xander and thrust the bag she'd been carrying at him "Infectious?" she hissed incredulously.
"Well I didn't want him coming in" Xander dropped the bag at the foot of the stairs and followed Buffy through to the living room "And you told me to tell people I was sick" he pointed out.
Buffy rolled her eyes "And how were you planning to explain not *actually* infecting anyone"
Buffy shot Xander an exasperated look. He shrugged helplessly and sat down on the couch. Buffy looked at Sean who seemed to be having trouble with his little black box. She frowned and walked over to him "What's up?" she asked.
Sean glanced up at her briefly "Something's interfering with the information system. I can't get anything through that makes sense. It's just gibberish"
"Something jamming the signal?" Xander joined in.
"Is it raspberry?" Buffy added. Sean stared at her and blinked slowly. Buffy cleared her throat "Sorry. Guess I've seen Spaceballs one too many times"
Sean rolled his eyes "Well, it could be something jamming the signal" he said, glancing at Xander "Or it could be we just need to boost the signal our end" Sean looked between them both "I'll have to go back. See what's going on"
"It doesn't affect you coming and going?" Buffy asked.
Sean shook his head "Runs on a different system" he told them "I'll let you know as soon as we get something".
When Sean disappeared, Buffy walked over to the couch and sat down next to Xander. "So... anything else happen while I was gone?"
"Well, I flashed myself in the mirror a couple of times"
Buffy smacked him hard on the thigh "If I find out you even *did* that Xander Harris..." Buffy trailed off, giving him a warning look.
Xander just grinned "Yeah? You'll do what exactly?"
"I'll... I'll never buy you pants again". Buffy hated how weak that sounded.
"Hardly a *big* threat, is it Buff?"
"Well...well, I'll uh-" a thought struck Buffy and she smiled sweetly "Maybe I won't give you the one's I just got"
"Oh you wouldn't-"
Both Buffy and Xander's gaze drifted to the bag that Xander had left at the bottom of the stairs. They both turned back to look at each other, Buffy was still smiling and Xander was watching her carefully. Then they both moved at the same time, both jumping from the couch and rushing quickly to the stairs, eager to grab the plastic carrier bag first.
"Ooh, I got it" Buffy just got there ahead of Xander. She moved it just out of reach, but then her quick movements caught up with her and she swayed backwards, her ankles hitting the lowest step of the stairs and Buffy began to fall backwards.
Xander grabbed hold of her waist to stop her falling and he also grabbed hold of the bag. "You can't just give a man pants-" Xander tugged the bag towards himself "-and then take them back"
Buffy, now balanced again, tugged the bag hard back towards herself "Wanna bet?"
Xander narrowed his eyes, his lips forming a mischievous smile "Oh yeah". He took a step backwards, grabbing the back with both hands as he did so.
But Buffy still had a good hold, even though she got pulled forwards towards Xander. Buffy narrowed her eyes too, but they sparkled playfully. Buffy grabbed the bag with both hands as Xander tried to tug it again. She moved around so she had her back to the open doorway to the kitchen and then put one foot behind the other, trying to brace herself against Xander's tugging.
"Buffy, gimme my pants"
"Well, technically, they're mine" Buffy replied, valiantly trying to hold on to the bag that Xander was slowly eeking from her grasp //Damn not having Slayer powers// "*Noo*. I'm gonna hold them hostage-" Buffy struggled as Xander was actually now pulling her with him as he moved slowly backwards into the living room "-'til you swear that you won't even joke about looking at Katherine naked"
"Nope. No can do" Xander tugged harder "Joking is my coping mechanism. You can't just take it away"
"Xa-and-er" Buffy was trying not to laugh now at the fact she was actually partaking in a tug of war over a pair of second-hand sweatpants. Still, she wasn't about to give up too easily "Come on Xan" she whined playfully "I'm only looking out for Katherine's well-being"
"I wasn't going to look at her-" Xander tugged hard one more time "-well being... ooh and *yessss*" Xander held aloft the bag he'd finally prised from Buffy's grasp "I win. I am *the* master"
"Hey!" Buffy tried grabbing the raised arm of a now laughing Xander "Not until you promise"
Xander tried to prise Buffy from his body as she now actually had hold of his arm and was trying to pull it down towards her. Buffy pouted when he swapped the bag from one hand to the other making her efforts redundant as he now grinned at her waving the bag in the air. "Sometimes it's good to be tall Buff"
Buffy stepped back a little and matched his smug look "Yeah? And sometimes it's not good to be standing infront of something"
Before Xander could look back, Buffy pushed him so he staggered back and hit the backs of his knees on the arm of the sofa. Buffy tried grabbing at the bag again as Xander started to go backwards, unable to retain his balance, but she didn't manage it. She only managed to get caught hold of by Xander so they both fell backwards over the sofa and lengthways across the cushions.
"Gimme the bag!" Buffy wasted no time in trying to scramble over Xander as he still continued to hold the bag out of her reach; both of them still sprawled on the couch. Buffy started laughing "Xa-and-er come o-on"
"*No*. *Mine*" Xander laughed as he kept holding the bag just out of Buffy's reach "Hey! Watch where you're putting your knees!"
"*Al*" Sam hissed "Can you see anything?"
Al withdrew his head through and looked back down at Sam who was crouched down underneath the window "Only something I usually pay good money to see" he leered.
"*Al*" Sam whispered "Just tell me what's going on"
"They're fighting over some bag. Last time I looked Kelly was winning"
"Play fighting" Al corrected, then looked at Sam pointedly "I told you that Katherine girl wasn't sick"
Sam sighed "OK. OK" he said softly "Fine. Now we've got to figure out just what exactly *is* amiss"
(Mid-morning - next day)
"I'm never going to believe anything you say again" Xander muttered as he walked, albeit uncomfortably, along side Buffy.
"What if it involves lots of people dying and the end of the world?"
"OK. Let me rephrase" he glanced across at her "You're *mean*"
"Mean? You're the one who kept threatening to flash himself" Buffy pointed out "And-" Buffy said, pretending to be hurt "I'm *being* supportive. I could have let you come here by yourself, y'know"
"Supportive my ass"
Buffy suppressed a smirk and lowered her voice "Xander, how can you say that?" she said, then paused briefly "Your ass is totally supported". Buffy managed to keep her face straight, although it meant she wouldn't be able to look at Xander to see his expression. "You've got those Lycra panels and everything"
Xander stopped walking and put his hands on his hips when Buffy finally stopped and turned around to face him.
Buffy ignored the pained look Xander was giving her. "What?" she asked innocently.
"Oh you know perfectly well *what*" Xander said "Y'know, I am *so* glad you can't take pictures of this". He pointed at her "And just so you know" Xander added "I *will* get my revenge"
"Yeah yeah" Buffy chuckled as Xander reluctantly began walking with her again "So you keep saying" she looped her arm through his "Xan, come on. I *had* to get those jeans back to Patrick. They *were* *his*. *Plus* you're the one who wanted to fight over the other pants. It's not my fault they got ripped in two"
"Oh, and I suppose you didn't buy easily destroyable sweatpants on purpose then?" Xander's tone was laced with sarcasm.
Buffy matched his tone "Oh and I suppose all Katherine's shoes went missing just *poof* like that did they?" she glanced across at him, noticing that he studiously avoided her gaze and had a trace of a smile on his lips. Buffy looked ahead again, smiling a little too as she carried on "Funny how the only things left were a pair of trainers"
"Just a shame that the trainers are bright pink. And a size too small"
"Better than heels"
Buffy glanced down at Xander's feet as they still walked "Actually I think you could pull heels off with your legs"
"Do you want to stay friends with me?"
"Hey, I'm paying you a compliment" Buffy looked at him and smiled. Then she said in a low voice "Xander, you look fine. If you didn't, believe me, I wouldn't have let you leave the house. I'm pretty sure Katherine's got an image around here, and if people think she's acting weird, it's not gonna look good for her if this all goes down the toilet"
Xander looked across at her as they walked up the steps to the college library "Buff, you don't have to keep guilting me, 'kay?" Xander's voice got quieter too "I'm *wearing* a skirt"
Buffy bit down a grin and Xander rolled his eyes. Buffy nudged him in the side gently "Look, we'll make this as painless as possible. All we've got to do is keep an eye on this Michael guy. Sean said he works here. We can just sit and pretend to look at books"
"Ah, sitting around and looking at books. Like we don't do that enough"
Sam was in the staff room getting some things together before he went out to the front desk. "Is Ziggy really sure they're both gonna be here?"
Al looked at the small, occasionally flashing device he held in his hand "Says they left about twenty minutes ago" Al shrugged "They're on foot and were headed in this direction. That's about as much as I got anyway before Ziggy went crazy again"
"Have you run her through all the system checks again?"
"Once, twice and thrice" Al replied "And so far all Guchy's come up with is taking the whole system up a notch so it'll stop the interference"
"Fine. But just remind him that Ziggy can't take too much for too long, OK?" Sam smiled fondly "She's getting old"
"We all are Sam" Al replied, giving Sam a small smile in return. "Look, we've got it under control Sam" Al reassured him "Now just get out there and keep tabs on the girl who might be chopping off parts of your anatomy in a couple of days"
"You've gotta be kidding me" Xander whispered to Buffy as they ducked behind a bookcase. They'd both just seen the guy who'd come out to the front desk and had quickly hidden from his sight. "That's the guy from yesterday"
Buffy grabbed Xander's arm and pulled him over towards some less populated rows of bookcases. Buffy looked around to see if anyone was paying them attention before hissing, "*Sean*"
Xander turned to her "Y'know, it would've been nice to know this yesterday before we gave the impression that we were slightly nuts"
Buffy stared back at him, amused "We?"
Xander pulled a face but before he had the chance to say anything in return, Sean appeared, startling them both. Xander looked expectantly at the other man "So? How come we didn't know yesterday?"
Sean waved 'Gizmo' infront of Xander's face "*Hello*? Technical problems remember?"
"Well, can you tell us now if that guy is Michael?" Buffy murmured "Or has someone your end spilled coffee all over the computer again?"
"Yes, it's Michael" Sean replied, checking Gizmo "And *no*, no one has spilled coffee. We're in the process of fixing it. We've just got to boost the system" he looked between them both "So... have you two got a plan?"
"I've got dying of embarrassment as something to do later" Xander answered "But until then, we're just gonna play stalker"
"Y'know, I had a stalker once" Sean said "Actually he looked a lot like Xander does now" he paused "But with better legs" Sean paused briefly again before glancing at Buffy "Who's idea was the lip gloss?"
(A short while later)
"Uh huh, see I told you" Al nodded towards Buffy and Xander who were sitting at a table in the quiet library, notebooks open infront of them and open textbooks to complete the studious effect "Hobbs sisters at one o'clock"
Sam, who was slowly pushing the returns trolley around the library pretending to work, glanced over to the two, in his eyes, blonde girls. "OK, so they're studying" he murmured softly "What am I supposed to do? Start asking intrusive questions and put their backs completely up?"
Al shrugged "Worth a shot"
"I'm just observing for now Al" Sam reminded him.
Al wandered over a little further towards Buffy and Xander "Well I'm OK with observing bit" he turned back to Sam and grinned "There's some nice pairs to observe". He ignored Sam's exasperated look "Oh come on, don't tell me you hadn't noticed"
"Just leave to my books OK Al?"
"Great. Now nature calls" Xander said flatly, getting up from the table "Anything evil I should know about that lurks in the little girls room?"
"There's never enough mirrors and there are never any tampons in the tampon dispensers"
"Glad I could help" Buffy smiled brightly
"Appreciated" Xander couldn't help but smile back at Buffy before he headed off.
Buffy kept smiling to herself as she watched Xander depart. //Well at least he's trying//. Buffy glanced over towards the front desk, noting that their quarry was heading off again with yet another trolley of books to return. //Gee, how more exciting can this get?//. Buffy sighed and picked up one of the textbooks they'd been pretending to study and began idly flipping through the pages, unaware that she was being watched. Very closely.
Al was standing directly infront of Buffy, the lower half over his body totally encompassed by the table Buffy was sitting at. "Now, lets get a look at you Kelly while Sam checks out your sister" Al began to peer intently at the blonde girl he saw sitting infront of him. Al frowned "Just what little secrets are you hiding missy?"
"OK... and I think it was a left by archaeology..." Xander murmured to himself as he made his way back to where he'd left Buffy. "Or was it a right?" he questioned as he started to come to the end of the row of bookcases. Xander turned around and started walking backwards, hoping he could remember where he'd come from. "Nope, I think it was a *ow*!"
Xander fell to an undignified heap on the floor, tripping around the long skirt he was wearing, after getting hit hard in the hip by something large and solid. Xander pushed his hair out of his face and scowled up at the person who'd been pushing the trolley he'd just been hit with "Hey, *ow*, watch where you're going with that thing would ya?" then Xander blinked and realised who had knocked him down "Ohhhh, it's... you"
"Damn. Man, I'm sorry, uh, Katherine". Sam offered him his hand, but Xander just brushed it away, not noticing the faint crackle of blue light that danced over both their bodies. Sam stepped back a little "Are you OK?"
"I'll live" Xander began to use the bookcase to try and get himself to his feet "But I think I'll have huge bruise on my ass". Xander had gotten about halfway up when he tripped again on the skirt, nearly ending up on the floor again - if it hadn't been for Sam grabbing hold of his arm.
Then it was like he'd hit by a small electric shock. Xander flinched back when he saw the blue light, visible this time, that flashed completely over the other man and also over himself.
Xander blinked rapidly, trying to focus his eyes on the person standing in front of him, the flash of light having made coloured spots dance infront of his face. He staggered backwards, keeping his balance though, when he finally focused on the guy infront of him. Xander's eyes darted about, looking for the guy who should be before him. Not seeing anyone, Xander looked back at Sam warily. "What did you do?" Xander demanded "Where's Michael?
Sam blinked and looked Xander up and down "Well, this explains a lot"
"Hey, I asked you a *question*" Xander backed up from Sam "You just changed into a completely different person. I think that deserves an answer"
"Well, in all fairness you've just changed into a completely different person too. And don't try telling me-" Sam added before Buffy could reply "-that you're Katherine Hobbs, because you sure as *hell* ain't"
"And how exactly do you know that"
"Because you're now a guy wearing a skirt and horrible pink training shoes"
"You mean you can see..." //No. Dying of embarrassment comes later//. "Look, can you just tell me what the hell is going on?"
"Not until I know what program you're with"
"Program? I don't *know* what you're talking about" Xander replied "And-and I'm not telling you anything either. You could be some sort of evil shapeshifter thing that... that I'm now stuck with in a completely unpopulated area of the library. Oh god, I'm gonna die wearing a skirt. I hate my life"
Sam blinked "Evil shapeshifter thingy?"
"Yeah. Like a-a bad Odo"
"A bad odour?"
"*Odo*" Xander was getting impatient "What are you some sort of culturally *defunct* shapeshifter?"
Sam's brain was beginning to hurt "OK, this is... this is *really* getting us nowhere" Sam cleared his throat "I'm not a shapeshifter. I don't even know if they even exist. What I *am* is a leaper. And so are you"
"Ohhhhhhh". Suddenly the fog began to clear for Xander. "The quantum leap-y thing"
"You're with our program?"
"No, I'm asking you. Are you QL2?"
"Can I phone a friend?" Xander saw the look odd look on Sam's face "No really, I need to..." Xander glanced around "Uh Sean? Sean, you here?" Xander looked back at Sam "He knows more stuff about this than I do"
"Sean's your hologram guide?" Sam asked.
"You called?" Sean joining them stopping Xander's reply "What's up?". He looked at Sam "Oh holy Mary Mother of God. OhmyGodohmyGodohmyGod. This is *sooo* cool!" he looked back to Xander "It's *Sam* *Beckett*! Do you know what this means?!"
Xander arched an eyebrow "That you're scaring me by how excited you are?"
"That's because I'm in total hero worship mode" Sean replied.
"O-kaay" Xander said slowly "Uh, is there any chance you could tell me what the hell QL2 is?"
"We are?" Xander then looked back to Sam "We are. Uh, QL2 that is" Xander held out her hand tentatively "So you're Sam huh? I'm Xander"
"OK" Sam smiled back, taking his hand and shaking it "Now we're getting somewhere" he glanced around "And now I'm thinking we should probably get out of here before other people start hearing things they shouldn't"
"The man's right" Sean said "We need to identify what both our gigs are so we don't get a conflict of interests"
"OK" Xander agreed "Can you get Buffy to get our things together and meet us by the front desk?". Sean nodded and disappeared.
Sam looked at Xander, confused. "Buffy?"
"I can't believe I was looking at a guy's breasts" Al tried to bang his head against the wall but it just went through it.
"Yeah? And I can't believe that you never checked for QL2" Sam replied, opening the door to Michael's dorm room "I thought it was procedure"
"Well we hadn't had a case in over three years" Al tried to defend himself "It just... slipped our minds. Anyway" he then realised "Its not like you reminded us"
"Because I didn't think I had to" Sam responded tersely.
Xander looked at Buffy as they followed Sam into the room "Is this how odd *our* one sided conversations look?"
"Yeah, but there's two of us" Buffy replied with a smile, closing the door behind her "We can just pretend we were talking to each other"
"Is your guy still here?" Sam asked as he took a seat on the bed, leaving Buffy to sit on a chair near the desk that stood underneath the small window and Xander to lean with his back up against the door.
"Sean went to give his guys the low down" Buffy explained "Seems they didn't pick you up either"
"She must mean Sean Packard" Al said tapping away on his hand held link to the main computer "He's been with the project for a couple of years now. Pretty good success rate too"
Sam just nodded in acknowledgement. He looked between Buffy and Xander "OK, we've established why we're all here-"
"To stop the slice and dice" Buffy added helpfully.
"-Exactly" Sam finished "And we've also established that you *actually* *know* who did it... which-" he frowned and looked at Al "Kind of makes our bit a little redundant don't you think?"
"Yeah because now you know who to avoid" Al worked it out "But then... you still here" Al looked at his computer link as it flashed something at him "OK. Guchy's working on that Sam" he glanced back at Sam "Apparently Michael is still climbing the walls and has a face like a rabbit that's about to get creamed by a Mack truck. So far, zippo out of him"
Buffy glanced at Xander while Sam was listening to Al, shooting him a 'so-what-now?' look. Xander just shrugged. Buffy turned back to Sam. "You mean there could be something else now that's keeping us here?" she asked.
Sam looked back to her "It happens. We wipe one thing off the board and then another just gets scribbled back on"
"Perhaps we just have to make sure that this Bookerson guy gets caught so he doesn't have the chance to do it to someone else" Xander suggested
"That's probably the most likely scenario" Sam agreed. He got up and went over to the small cupboard that was Michael's wardrobe and pulled something out. Sam smiled at Xander as he tossed a pair of jeans at the brunette "Here, these should fit"
Xander smiled gratefully "Much appreciated" he glanced around the room "Um... I don't s'pose there's anywhere..."
"Take a left out of the door" Sam said "And the bathrooms are about twenty yards down the hallway"
Sam saw Buffy roll her eyes and smile as Xander made a hasty exit. "His first time in drag?" Sam asked.
"As far as I know" Buffy replied, still smiling "I make it my business not to know too much about what he and Anya get up to in their private life"
"His girlfriend" Buffy explained, then she saw slightly surprised look on Sam's face "Ohh, you though me an' Xan were..." Buffy said slowly "Uh... no. We're just friends. Nothing untoward going on"
"Sorry, it's just usually people who've been involved for a long time that make the best candidates for leaping. Stronger links" Sam explained, sitting back down on the bed "It makes it barely impossible to separate during the transfers" then he added, "I know QL2 only leaps in pairs"
"Then they must have a pretty strong link" Al interjected, raising an eyebrow.
Sam ignored Al's pointed comment. "And you're young too. Both of you. No offence, but I don't understand how you got through the selection panel"
"Ah... well, here's the thing. We didn't go through any panel"
"We kinda got sucked in by accident and now we can't get back until they track down to the last detail where they got us from" Buffy paused "I have so many responsibilities back home..." she trailed off, smiling sadly "It's hard not to worry". Buffy tried to smile a little brighter "So... how did you get into all this?"
Sam looked at Al who just held up his hands. Sam looked back to Buffy and smiled wryly "It's like this..."
Xander untied the tails of the shirt he was wearing and buttoned them back up so it hung properly over the jeans he was now wearing. He grabbed the skirt that he'd draped over the door of the stall and unlocked the door, exiting the cramped cubicle and going over towards the sinks.
Looking in one of the many mirrors that hung above the sinks, Xander readjusted the jeans around his waist and hips and then stared back at his reflection. //OK. I'd like to thank Sloggi for making comfortable women's underwear 'cos I'm not that sure about going commando in somebody else's stuff//.
Xander sighed as he brushed his hair back off his face, hoping that if he looked long enough into the mirror, looked into Katherine's own brown eyes, that he might see something of himself in them. But he couldn't. It was just Katherine's pretty face that stared back at him, Katherine's eyes that blinked when he did and Katherine's lip that moved when he chewed on his bottom lip.
And Katherine's eyebrows that raised when two girls came barrelling through the door an almost into him, not even giving him a second glance before they started pulling off the T-shirts they were wearing and scrabbling around in the bags they'd been carrying.
Xander suddenly found trying to do something with his/Katherine's hair extremely interesting - or in other words hoping that they wouldn't notice where his eyes were straying as they apparently found just standing around in their underwear whilst swapping clothes, completely acceptable.
He bit down a grin //And Buffy said there was evil in the girls room//.
Xander left just after the girls rushed out of the room as quickly as they had come in. Realising that maybe there were some perks to being a girl after all, a small grin appeared on Xander's face as he strolled back to Michael/Sam's room.
Completely unaware that he was being watched.
And not by someone who was a leaper or a holographic projection.
He was being watched by someone who had a strong dislike for Michael Holditch and a penchant for knives...
... and tall, pretty blonde girls.
(Two days later - evening)
"Uh Xand?" Buffy stopped in her tracks, as she just happened to glance through the open door to Katherine's room "What are you doing?"
Xander was sitting on the floor in front of the standing mirror in just a pair of boxer shorts and a t-shirt, with one leg bent up towards him at an angle, as he appeared to be examining it. "Oh, Buff" Xander craned his neck around towards her "You have to see this" he looked back to his leg "It's so cool"
Buffy stepped into the room "Your leg?"
"Uh huh" Xander tapped the mirror "This is so weird, look"
"Xander" Buffy crouched down beside him and looked at his reflection in the mirror "Why am I looking at your leg?"
"'Cos look" he prodded his own leg "See? Hairs all over the place on *my* leg and yet none on the leg in the reflection"
Buffy bent further over Xander so she could look more closely at the reflection of Xander's leg in the mirror. "Oh yeah. Y'know she probably waxes" Buffy sat back down on the floor next to Xander "Although it's more just *interesting* than 'weird' and 'cool'"
"OK, what about the fact that I have stubble and Katherine doesn't, huh?"
"All right, I'll admit I'd be *surprised* if Katherine had five o'clock shadow". Then Buffy smiled at Xander "And I'll admit that it's nice to see you a little bit happier. It was a good thought of Sam's to loan you some of Michael's clothes"
"And the sheer entertainment value of seeing me in a skirt and heels...?"
"We all have to make sacrifices"
"Lovely pyjama's Buffy" Sean said dryly as he graced them both with his presence "How many shades of pink is that?"
"I stopped counting when I ran out of fingers" Buffy replied looking down at her clothes and grimacing slightly before looking back at Sean "But the others had Forever Friends bears on - I didn't even want to go there"
Xander looked at Sean questioningly "Methinks Sean isn't just here to make fun of us Buffster. He has 'pissed off' face"
"I was going for extremely pissed off face actually" Sean replied.
"Then you should grind your teeth more" Buffy suggested "What's up?"
"They're thinking about pulling me out" Sean told them "Just for this leap though". He sighed "Were still getting the intermittent problem with the information 'cos the two systems aren't correlating like they should be. It's very annoying and it's hindering us getting to the bottom of why you're all still here. At least one lot of us should have leapt out by now" Sean sighed again "And having two hologram systems running is getting to be more and more of a factor"
"They won't pull out Al?" Xander asked.
Sean shook his head "Al has seniority. *No* *one* is more senior than Al. He's been with Sam for, like, *ever*"
"Um question?" Xander raised his hand "Can I just ask why you're actually running two systems if we're all working for the same project?"
"Because the original Quantum Leap project that Sam started up and couldn't wait to test out is dated" Sean explained "The system is old. It's only running to keep Sam sustained. The computers, the technology... we've updated it as much as anyone is prepared to do"
"Prepared to?" Buffy frowned.
"Sam built it. Sam knows it inside out. Sam's the only one who can figure out what the bug is - or whatever it is - that won't leap him home. And Ziggy - their system - can't handle more than one leaper or hologram" Sean carried on "That's why *our* program was instituted. Quantum Leap Two. All of Samuel Beckett's plans for the original project were followed - only we used bigger and better equipment and well, adjusted it a little. We were and still are able to leap people in and out as much as we can - into themselves, into other people - and we can bring them out when ever we want-"
"-provided you know where you got them from" Xander added.
"Exactly" Sean clarified "And we can stream our leaps. Put people in where they're most wanted, where their skills will be most valuable etcetera etcetera". Sean sighed "My brain hurts now"
"Mine too" Buffy said, "The shorter answer would've been fine"
"That was the short answer"
"In that case" Xander raised his hand again "Is there any chance we're nearer to finding out why we're still here. On either system?"
"We definitely know it's still to do with the knife guy. Terry Bookerson" Sean told them both "But it's still unclear on who his next victim is"
"So there's going to be another victim?" Xander asked, "That's not good. What if it looks like it's gonna be one of us?"
"Yeah" Buffy added, "I'm not happy about the fact that this guy is out there. Why can't we just get the police onto him now?"
"And have them charge him with what?" Sean pointed out "Looking a bit dodgy?"
"OK. Point taken" Buffy replied "But still... what do we do?"
"Sit tight?" Sean suggested "We get even the slightest whiff of anything, I'll be straight back here"
"Great" Xander muttered as Sean vanished. "Sit tight?" he looked at Buffy "You'd think with all these brilliant computers Sean keeps telling us they have, the information would always be at hand"
"It does seem odd that they don't always know what's going on" Buffy pondered "Yet always have the information just in time to stop either of us getting killed"
"Just bitten and blown up"
Buffy hadn't needed Xander to point that out. She realised what she'd said the moment the words had passed her lips and her thoughts had immediately flashed back to days ago when she'd been rudely sobered up by the fact that the man sitting before her now had been bleeding to death at her feet.
"Hey, you OK?" Xander asked, seeing the slight frown that appeared on Buffy's face, as she seemed to drift off for a second. He put a hand on her arm "What?"
"Just stuff" Buffy's gaze drifted away from his.
"Stuff I should know about?"
Xander's tone was light, but Buffy detected the concern that lay underneath it. She looked back at him and smiled fondly "Just that this time I promise I'm gonna do my best to see you don't get hurt" Buffy said "That no one gets hurt"
"Sounds good" Xander matched her smile "Just so long as I can do the same. And about other people too".
As Buffy smiled a little wider, Xander held her look for a moment before he realised that he was actually *holding* her gaze. He blinked and his smile slipped easily into a goofy grin "So, come on" he said, hoping that the change was subtle enough - Buffy hadn't seemed to notice anyway - "We need to find something else to do" Xander continued "Because, not that looking at my leg wasn't fun, but..." he trailed off "You got any ideas?"
"Not really" Buffy kicked her legs out in front of her, just nudging Xander's "TV?"
"It's all the way downstairs" Xander pointed out "Plus I think Patrick's watching porn on it anyway"
"Then I guess he's best left alone" Buffy responded "OK, uh, what does that leave?"
"Stains probably" Xander joked. His grin faded with Buffy's withering look. Xander cleared his throat "Sorry I'm out of ideas"
Buffy's eyes widened "Ooh, we could pretend this is a slumber party and we could swap makeup tips" she grinned "I could give you a total makeover"
This time Xander shot Buffy a withering look. Until he noticed that her grin hadn't faded. "Oh my God. You're serious" he waved his finger at her "Nuh uh. No way"
"Pleeaase?" Buffy whined "It'll be fun. I promise". Buffy let her lower lip jut out a little in a pout "Pleeaase?"
Buffy pouted a little more and tried for the puppy-dog look "Please?"
"Please?" Buffy began playing with a stray lock of hair.
"No, no and no"
Buffy let her lower lip quiver a little "Pleeaase?"
"No way in hell"
"... and you have to remember to moisturise, 'cos it helps your foundation sit better on your skin". Buffy rubbed the last little smidgen of moisturiser into Xander's cheek. She drew back and saw the slightly pained look he was giving her. Buffy ignored him "You're the one who gave in" she pointed out.
"Buffy, I gave in 'cos I was scared that if your eyes had gotten any wider, you'd be animé"
Xander was sitting with his back up against the bed and his legs stretched out in front of him. Buffy was sitting by his left hip, one leg tucked underneath herself and the other leg bent up and over both of Xander's so her foot was on the floor by his right side.
"Well, I learnt it from Willow who claims she got it from you, so nyah" Buffy refrained from sticking her tongue out though. She rummaged through he huge vanity case that stored Katherine's make up "D'ya want liquid foundation or cream, 'cos she hasn't got one of those three in one stick things"
Buffy turned back round to him "Once more with enthusiasm"
"I believe I only agreed to cleanse, tone and moisturise"
"Kohl?" Buffy waved a stubby black pencil in his face.
"Buffy" Xander said patiently.
"It'll bring out your eyes". She produced something else "Mascara? This one doesn't clump"
"Actually, I don't think you need it. You've got lashes to die for anyway..." Buffy trailed off when she saw the patient look Xander was still giving her. She sighed and deflated a little. "What?"
"It's one o'clock in the morning. I'm tired. I attended two classes today on a subject I know nothing about - luckily I had Sean to answer any questions that might be thrown my way - but I still had to take notes. And now I just want to go to sleep"
"Ugh" Buffy sighed "I'm sorry. It just... I guess I'm-"
"A little antsy? Guy with a knife might be lurking about?"
Buffy nodded "Plus everytime I go into Kelly's room I want to vomit"
"So trying to make me the next Cosmo cover girl is just your way of avoiding pastel?"
"Yup" Buffy leant a little on Xander as she got to her feet "But I guess fears have to be confronted" she stretched and yawned "If you hear retching - now you know". Buffy got about as far as the door before she stopped and turned back around "Um... Xan?" she cleared her throat "Can I stay here? We can go head to toe again. Then we can both keep an eye out for badness"
Xander had just sat himself cross-legged on the bed. He looked at Buffy warily when he saw her bottom lip begin to jut out. "If I say no" he said "Are you gonna get so animé, they'll have to give you a series?"
"I'll even have my own annoying title theme *and* *I'll* sing it"
"Fine. Stay here" Xander threw her a pillow "If only to avoid your version of 'Gotta Slay 'em all'"
Xander pushed the cover from over his head and groaned sleepily. He opened one eye and peered out at the red LED light of the digital clock on the beside table. Xander groaned again when he realised that he'd slept right through the alarm call he'd set and was now half an hour late for a class he was supposed to fake being interested in.
He glanced down to the other end of the bed. Buffy wasn't there. Xander yawned as got up, absently running a hand through his mussed hair to smooth it down. Still wearing the boxers and t-shirt from the previous night, he shuffled his way to the bathroom, remembering what Sam had told him about not even thinking about the physics of how *Katherine* looked when nature came-a-calling.
Xander yawned again as he made his way downstairs, mumbling a "Mornin'" to Sheena who passed him on the way up, before heading into the kitchen, looking for Buffy.
But Buffy wasn't there. Instead he saw Patrick writing something on a scrap of paper.
Patrick looked up and then screwed up the paper. "OK. You've just saved me having to write you an essay as a note. Uh, Kelly said she had to get to class and told me not to wake you up for yours. Said that she's already asked Michael to take notes or something for you so you didn't miss anything. Then she said something weird like 'Tell her not to go anywhere unless Sean calls'. Yeah I think that was it. *And* your mom called and said she was gonna drop by this morning".
"... 'kay" Xander couldn't really say much more as Patrick beat a hasty retreat. Xander scratched his head and wandered over to the fridge, taking out some juice and then headed out of the kitchen and into the living room and was about to sit down when the doorbell rang.
"Ugh. Great" Xander groaned "It's just my luck to have to deal with the parents". Xander took a deep breath and set the juice carton down on the table by the door before he opened the door...
... and was immediately enveloped in a bone crushing hug by a pink chiffon wearing woman in her fifties who seemed to have drowned herself in Chanel.
"Oooh darling, I haven't seen you in an absolute *age*. The woman drew back and clamped her hands either side of Xander's face and drew his head down so she could plant a wet kiss in the middle of his forehead. "And how is my beautiful little girl?" she looked Xander up and down "Oh my, what on *earth* are you wearing?"
Xander managed prise himself from her grasp "Clothes?"
"Yes, I can see that darling" she looked Xander up and down again "But they're not *yours* are they dear?" a sly smile graced her lips "Does my baby have a man that she's not told me about? Is he still here?"
Xander groaned internally "No, mom. No guy. They're just clothes that I happened to put on"
"Well dear" she brushed past him "In that case you really should put on a brassiere. Gravity is not your friend"
There was really no answer to that. Xander followed the older woman into the living room "Why are you here?"
"I know I'm early sweetie, but we've had this little shopping trip arranged for *ages*. Surely you can't have forgotten?"
//Why me? What have I *ever* done?//. "Shopping?"
Katherine's mother sighed exasperatedly and grabbed hold of his arm before he had chance to move out of the way "Shopping. Remember? Where you spend money on lots of clothes?" she began to pull him gently towards the stairs "And as you've decided to not go to the classes today that your father and I are paying good money for, you can just go and get dressed and we'll go now"
"But I can't go" Xander planted his feet firmly on the floor "I've got to wait for a phone call"
"Which you have just got" Sean grinned at Xander from over the woman's shoulder "Have fun and remember you can't take underwear back"
"A phone call? Katherine darling, I'm sure if it's that important, they'll call you back later. Go on" she started to shoo him "Go and get dressed"
"Xander, we're still all in sit tight mode. Buffy's got Al watching over her and Sam's pretty good at taking care of himself. If we get anything, we're gonna tell you"
"I really don't want to go shopping" Xander still stood firm, ignoring the despairing look Katherine's mother was giving him.
Sean coughed loudly and Xander shot him a quick look over the older woman's shoulder. "Xander, you need to have some fun" Sean said "And I'm gonna say three words" he added "Communal. Changing. Rooms"
"Y'know what mom?" Xander said "Give me ten minutes"
(Two hours later)
Buffy turned around when she felt some one tap her on the shoulder. She looked up and saw Sam and smiled. "Hey, how's it going" she asked him as he fell into step with her as they walked down the bustling hallway "Heard anything?"
"Al's not got back to me yet" Sam told her "How'd your class go?"
"Fine. Just tried to be invisible and wrote down everything that was said". Buffy raised her hand to shield her eyes from the light as they emerged from the lecture hall and outside "Although I'd like to find myself sometime just being able to relax on a leap and not end up doing something I've just gotten away from"
"University?" Sam glanced across at her.
"Well, that too" Buffy replied "But I meant the other stuff" she paused "In a manner of speaking"
"Manner of speaking?" Sam's brow furrowed, although he didn't press too much "Sounds like you have an interesting life"
"And it's about to get a hell of a lot more so Sam" Al said anxiously, appearing beside them both "It's bad news"
Sam grabbed Buffy's arm, taking her by surprise and he took led her to one side out of the way of the students milling around. "What's wrong Al?"
"We've found out who the next victim is"
"What is it?" Buffy asked Sam anxiously "What's going on?"
"There's gonna be another murder" Sam told her sombrely. He looked back to Al "Who?"
Al shot a sad look at Buffy even though she couldn't see him. Al looked at Sam "The body was finally identified as belonging to Katherine Hobbs"
(Five minutes earlier - before the bad news hit)
"I am *so* going to hell" Xander mumbled to himself as he took the numbered tag from the shop assistant as he made his way into this fifth changing room of the morning. Xander turned the corner into the changing room and tried not to stare too much at the two young women changing infront of the mirror wall. //And, oh look, all the cubicles are full//.
He'd had to spend time in one of those little cubicles the first time he'd told Katherine's mother he was just going to "see if they look all right on", because it hadn't been a communal fitting room. The second one though, he'd hit jackpot when he'd got there the same time as a group of three women, all apparently friends and not adverse to whipping off their tops infront of each other.
Of course he hadn't been able to just stand there and hold the clothes that he'd bought in to 'try'. Xander had kept on the boxers he'd woken up in and then pulled on a pair of jeans loaned to him by Sam, which were a little tighter than he was used to wearing but Buffy said he looked fine in them. Then came the crunch decision. Gravity really wasn't Katherine's friend, but there was no way in hell he was putting on a bra unless it was life or death. Deciding that he really did want to experience the changing rooms, Xander had found a sporty-crop top type vest thing (he had no idea what to call it) and had put that on (eyes closed) and then slipped one of Katherine's tighter t-shirts on. The training shoes he wore had also been loaned to him by Sam from Michael's wardrobe.
So Xander had just taken tops in to the fitting room, mainly shirts that he decided that Katherine really should have more of if she was going to get leapt into by another male leaper. //In all honesty I'm providing a good service here. I'm being thoughtful and thinking of the future... // Xander found his attention wandering to one of the females a few feet away //...and god bless the thong, for the thong is Master and Destroyer of VPL//.
Xander's gaze lingered on the pretty brunette's thigh that had caught his attention before one of her friends suddenly flashed him an odd look and Xander immediately found everything else but the people in the room, fascinating. Slowly his gaze returned to Katherine's reflection, then he closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. //I really am going to hell. Buffy is going to find out. She'll tell Anya and then I'll never know the touch of a woman again//.
"Xander get changed and move your ass out of here"
Xander's eyes snapped open at the ominous tone in Sean's voice. He met the hologram's eyes in the mirror and saw the anxious look the older man was giving him. Xander replied with a look of understanding and began to hurriedly discarded the shirt he'd been pretending to try on and shrugged on the one he'd come in with. Gathering up the clothes, he exited quickly from the fitting room, thrusting the clothes and the tag at the assistant before heading towards the front of the shop.
"Not outside" Sean warned him, though, before he'd even gotten halfway. "Stay inside where there's people. Buffy and Sam are on their way here," Sean added, then he saw Xander shoot him a questioning look. Sean hesitated a moment before replying "Look, Xander. It's not good news" he told him "I need you to ditch Katherine's mom. Make something up. I don't care. Just anything so you can get out of here without hangers on when Buffy and Sam arrive"
Xander processed all this. "I just knew someone would find some way to punish me"
Buffy hit her fist against the dashboard of Michael's car then she hit the button that slid the window down. "Come on assholes!" Buffy yelled out of the window " Don't you know where your gas pedals are?!"
Sam couldn't help but flinch and try to sink back lower into the car seat as several pairs of eyes focused on the both. "The lights are on red Buffy" Sam pointed out gently "They're going as fast as we are"
"Well I don't care!" Buffy turned to face him, her eyes flashing "It's not good enough"
"Buffy, just try and keep calm, OK?" Sam replied, although one of his own hands was beginning to tap impatiently on the steering wheel.
"Man, I wonder what she's like when she's got PMS" Al remarked, his face suddenly appearing mid-windscreen.
"Anything new?" Sam asked him.
"Huh?" Buffy shot Sam a puzzled look.
"No, uh, not you. Al" Sam indicated where Al was. "So, anything?" Sam asked Al again, putting the car in gear as the traffic began to move off "Sean's got things covered?"
Al nodded "Keeping him in public view 'til you get there". Then Al shot an apprehensive look at Sam "But I still don't see just how you plan on stopping this crazy by simply taking-". Suddenly Al stopped, as if he was listening to something else before his attention quickly turned to the little coloured device that he held in his hand.
Sam frowned at Al's anxious look. "What is it?" he asked.
"You're being followed" Al informed him.
Sam just glanced briefly into the rear-view mirror as the car continued to move along in the slow traffic. He couldn't see anything suspicious. "Who is it?"
"Y'know these one sided conversations are *really* beginning to get annoying" Buffy interjected.
"We're being followed. *Don't* turn around" Sam added quickly, placing a hand on her shoulder as well. He looked back to Al, his hand drifting back to the steering wheel as the traffic began to pick up pace "Is it Bookerson?"
"Some friends of his" Al mumbled around the cigar he'd just put back in his mouth. "They're about four cars back. A dark blue Buick" Al looked again at the device in his hand "Two guys-" he tapped a few keys "Yep, they're in cohorts with Terry Bookerson alright. Hired heavies"
Sam repeated all this to Buffy. "Great" she groaned in frustration "So what do we do now?" Buffy asked "We are *so* not leading them to Xander. I can tell you that *now*"
"The thought had crossed my mind too" Sam murmured, trying to think of something else.
"God, I hate this" Buffy swiped a hand over her face and then into her hair, pushing it back as she looked into the driver's mirror on her side, and just catching sight of the blue Buick. "I see them Sam"
"OK. Just keep an eye on them while I try and figure a way to get out of this" Sam said "Al, let QL2 know and tell them I've got to lose these guys first" Sam glanced into the mirror again.
"If you make the next right turn" Al directed him "You'll end up on a fairly deserted street. They might not follow you up there"
"But we'll also be blocks away from where Xander is" Sam pointed out. He looked to Buffy "Al says the next street is deserted. If we turn up there, we might lose them if they think they might be found out"
"And we might not" Buffy argued "I don't like this Sam. If Katherine is supposed to be this Terry's next victim, they why are they following us?" she reasoned "And not following Xander?"
Sam's brow furrowed "Al, check out the stats again" he asked his friend "Find out the exact-" Sam paused briefly when he saw the turn coming up "-circumstances of the death if you can-"
"Are you gonna take the turn or not" Buffy asked, interrupting, not taking her eyes from the mirror and the reflection of the Buick.
"Yeah" Sam flipped on the indicator "Al, I know you can be... persuasive when you need to be. Now is the time" Sam slowed down as he began to turn the steering wheel " Michael is still involved in this. There has to be another reason other than Michael was just in the wrong place at the wrong time" Sam was now driving along the other road "I beginning to think" he continued "That something isn't sitting right"
Buffy's eyes were still on the mirror, looking for their pursuers. "Sam" she said slowly "They haven't come up here. They've gone straight on"
"Good" Sam said, relief in his voice "It'll give us a chance to try and think of something else". Sam glanced at Al who had been studiously examining his link to Ziggy "Uh... Al? You're still here"
Al just held up a finger, signalling Sam to wait for a moment while he tried to read the information that what was now coming thick and fast. "Sam, you're still being followed"
"Damn" Sam cursed "Buffy, check the mirrors again. Al say's we're still being followed"
"White VW van?" Buffy asked. She glanced across at Sam who nodded when Al confirmed Buffy's query. "They must have been further back. Great, so much for thinking time..." Buffy then trailed off when she glimpsed the passenger in the VW speak into something that looked suspiciously like a radio. A nagging feeling started in the pit of her stomach "Sam" Buffy said warily "Can we find out where that other car went?"
Sam shot a look at Al who cursed and gave Sam an ominous look. "They've circled round" Al said.
"Can we lose either of them?" Sam asked. Then he saw the blue Buick pull around the corner of the block. It started to slow down as it travelled towards them and as the white VW behind them closed the distance, the Buick pulled to a stop straight across the road infront of them, blocking their path.
Sam had no choice but to bring Michael's car to a stop. He glanced at Buffy, who's face was eerily defiant. Sam watched as two figures in black climbed out of the car infront of him. Sam exhaled slowly. "Oh boy"
Buffy shot him an angry look. "Next time *I* drive"
Xander was waiting in a quieter area of the store, having extricated himself from Katherine's mother and was now waiting for Buffy and Sam's arrival. Sean had gone for a few minutes but had now suddenly reappeared and the flow of curses from his mouth, needless to say, had Xander worried.
"What is it?" Xander hissed anxiously, ignoring the few odd glances he got.
"Really, really bad stuff" Sean replied "Follow me and I'll fill you in"
Xander started after him "I thought I was supposed to be waiting for Buffy?"
"Remember how I told you that we hadn't been able to get anything out of Michael 'cos he was shit scared? Well he finally started spilling stuff. I had a whole load of info suddenly coming at me on Gizmo that's why I had to go - I thought something was wrong with the system again. Turns out it wasn't"
Xander was nearing the exit of the store now "What else did you find out?" Xander asked "And where's Buffy if she's not here?"
Sean deliberately ignored Xander's last question for the time being. "We found out why Bookerson is after Michael. Turns out that Michael owes Bookerson's employers money. *Lot's* of money. Gambling debts mostly and some other assorted stuff. Michael's been trying to pay it off but he's missed the last couple of payments and seeing as how these guys are not the sharks willing to give you a bit of leeway, they sent Bookerson after Michael to, uh, persuade him"
"If they were still after Michael" Xander said, as he now walked quickly along the sidewalk out of the store "Why did Katherine get killed"
Sean hesitated "She didn't" he said finally. "We checked. The body was identified as Katherine" he paused again "What was left of the body anyway"
Xander paled and stopped in his tracks. He got jostled from behind as somebody shot him a dirty look before going on his way. Xander stared at Sean "Left?"
"Katherine and Kelly's mom, was only able to identify an arm - and only from jewellery left on the fingers and a scrap of fabric from clothing. Things that were apparently Katherine's. It's was Hobbs DNA..." Sean trailed off.
"Kelly" Xander whispered. "Buffy said she'd taken some things from Katherine's wardrobe..." Xander swallowed hard "Buffy... she's not..."
"No" Sean's tone was tentative "But... she's been taken hostage". Sean silently cursed when he saw the look of utter horror on Xander's face. "They're using her as an incentive for Michael to come up with the money. *All* of it" Sean said. He paused while Xander took a step back, leaning up against a store window, giving the brunette a chance to process everything. "Xander. We need to get moving"
"That's why we're moving" Sean replied "They ambushed Buffy and Sam on their way here. They tried to fight back, but the bad guys had guns and Sam got beat pretty bad. He's waiting for us where they were stopped"
A determined look settled on Xander's face "I guess we'd better get moving then"
Xander met up with Sam after Xander had sprinted seven to where Sam was leaning with his back against a low wall off the sidewalk a few feet from Michael's car. Xander automatically winced when he saw the blood tricking from a large gash over Sam's right temple. There were the beginnings of some nasty bruises along his jawbone and also blood around his nose. "Jesus" Xander said softly as he crouched with Sam as the other man just sat for a while, gathering himself. Xander looked around and saw a couple walking towards them; beginning to get interested in the situation "Can you walk?"
Sam nodded "I tried to stop them" he said as he wrapped an arm around his stomach, standing with Xander's help. "Apparently my spinning kicks aren't as effective as they used to be. I'm really getting too old for this"
Xander draped Sam's arm over his shoulder and had his other arm around Sam's waist as he helped him towards the car "I take it Al's filled you in?" Xander said.
"Yeah" Sam replied, leaning against the door "And I got told by Bookerson's guys that I had until midnight tonight to bring the cash. All of it"
"Which we don't have" Xander helped Sam into the car "Do you need to go to the hospital or can you manage?"
"I can manage" Sam assured him. He met Xander's eyes as Xander climbed into the driver's seat. "We'll get her back OK?"
"Oh I don't doubt that" Xander said, steely determination in his eyes as he slammed the door "And if even *one* of those guys lays so much as a finger on her, I'll rip their spleen out through their nose"
"Now that's a manoeuvre I'd like to see" Al said, taking the cigar out of his mouth as he appeared mid-windscreen "Their guy Sean is going to stick with her as much as he can". Al then shot a quick look at Xander as he started the car then al looked back to Sam. "They gave her a pretty good crack on the skull Sam" Al told him "She's out for the count. But otherwise, she's OK" he paused "But I wouldn't suggest telling him that just yet" Al indicated Xander. "I've got the feeling he won't need any more incentive other than the fact that she's just not here"
(A while later)
Buffy awoke as she was being carried out of the van and she immediately closed her eyes again when she realised her brain was trying to explode out of her ears. It was then that she remembered being hit - hard. She tried hard to stifle a groan as her head continued to throb painfully.
Sam had told her to stay in the car and he'd gotten out and gone over to the guys who'd pulled infront of them. Then she'd sworn when one of them pulled a gun. Everything after that seemed a blur. Sam had fought back and had been doing OK, but one of the bigger guys had gotten a good blow on his back and Sam had gone down. She'd been dragged from the car at gunpoint and cold steel had been pressed up against her temple whilst Sam was still getting beat. Then they'd been given directions as to how much money was wanted, when it was wanted and what would happen if they didn't get it. She had been forced into the van and had been driven a short way before her world had gone black.
Buffy cautiously opened her eyes again and realised that she was being carried between two people. It was still light but the sun was low in the sky, signalling it was nearing dusk - which also meant she must have been travelling for a while. Buffy let her eyes flutter shut a little, lest her abductors decide to make her headache any worse, but she kept them open just enough so she could see out through her lashes.
Buffy appeared to be being carried around the back of a building; flashing neon lights at the front and a few cars parked out front suggested that it could be a bar and Buffy could hear the faint strains of traffic travelling at speed.
And her captors weren't saying anything interesting, at least not anything she didn't already know or anything that would indicate where in the hell she was. Then she heard a familiar voice over the tops of theirs. Mainly because it was loud in her ear.
"Hey Buffy" Sean was smiling at her, trying not to let the worry show on his face, but Buffy could see it around the edges of his lips and in his eyes. "Good to see you. We're working on a plan, OK?" Sean carried on "Just hang in there"
(Dusk. Katherine and Kelly's abode)
Sam stared at Xander as the younger man came down the stairs. "Do you mind if I reiterate the fact that I think this plan is crazy?"
Xander ran a hand through his hair. He really wanted to be out of here. But they had strict instructions not to arrive before a certain time and they had ten minutes before it was really the earliest they could leave. "If it makes you feel better," Xander replied "I've had crazier ones that have worked"
Sam leant against the stair rail as Xander walked past him into the kitchen "How crazy?"
"Stealing from the US Military for one"
".......Okaay". Sam joined Xander in the kitchen and found the other man rummaging around in the cutlery drawer. "Xander, please don't tell me you're doing what I think you're doing"
Xander turned around, a medium sized breadknife grasped in his hand "Fine. Then I won't tell you". Xander shut the drawer and grabbed a tea towel off the drainer and started to wrap the six-inch blade of the knife up.
"Xander I really don't think that-"
"Sam" Xander interrupted; setting both his hands down on the counter that came out into the middle of the kitchen, the knife still in one hand. "Do you honestly have a better idea?"
Sam hesitated. "Not honestly, no" he replied "But I think that we should involve the police"
"We are involving the police" Xander shot back.
"But not until it could be too late" Sam closed the distance between himself and Xander, standing himself infront of the counter opposite the other man "Or until you decide to give Mr Bookerson a taste of his own medicine"
"Purely self defence" Xander picked up the knife and held it up "Promise"
"Uh huh" Sam's hand shot out and grabbed hold of Xander's wrist of his knife-holding hand "Xander" Sam said evenly "We're not playing games here. This could end up being life or death"
"Life or death isn't new to me Sam" Xander wrestled his wrist from Sam's grasp "Not to me or to Buffy" Xander stalked away from Sam and out of the kitchen "Now I'm prepared to do this without you" Xander continued, knowing Sam was following him. Xander stood infront of the mirror "But it's gonna be a damn sight easier if I don't have to do it alone" Xander met Sam's eyes in the mirror "So?"
(Half an hour later)
Sam and Xander had travelled west bound out of the city and were now pulling onto the parking lot of a truck stop. Sam drove the car into an empty space and turned off the engine. He sat staring ahead for a moment then turned to Xander. "Point of no return I guess"
Xander took a deep breath and then exhaled slowly "Buffy's definitely knows what we're gonna be doing?"
Sam nodded in conformation "Relayed through our respective projects". He paused. "I'm not sure these guys are gonna buy my act for long. Especially with what I've got to give them" he gestured to the brown paper wallet that laid on top of the dashboard.
Xander picked up the package and handed it to Sam. "It's all we've got to give them. And I think the fact that you're turning up there alone like they said, might lend something our way" then he added "Plus it's my act that we want them to buy". Xander opened the passenger door and started to climb out.
"You *definitely* sure you're going to be able to get a ride?"
"I think I've got it under control Sam" Xander replied "Just make sure you give me at least a half hour head start" Xander paused "Good luck"
"You too" Sam replied as Xander let the car door slam shut. He watched the other man walk up to the road café that formed part of the stop off area. "Tell me something Al" he spoke to the hologram that had just appeared "I've never had an idea like this have I?"
"Nope" Al mumbled around his cigar "You're pretty sane"
(Outside 'Pooley's' bar twenty minutes later)
"OK" Xander said firmly "Either you remove your hand from my thigh or I'm going to have to break your fingers"
The balding, middle aged guy, who'd let Xander hitch a lift with him, just leered at Xander. "Oh come on little girly, I ain't doing *aghowwww*! Jesus Christ!"
"And this is just me squeezing tightly" Xander smiled thinly as he gripped the man's offending fingers in his left hand, opening the passenger door with his right.
"Aww come on" the guy pleaded and then winced when Xander released his fingers. "You really are *ow* a strong girl"
"You don't know the half of it" Xander shoved the door open quickly and got out "Thanks for the ride anyway" Xander managed a half apologetic smile "You're saving a life". Xander ignored the odd look the man gave him before he let the door slam shut, not looking back as he started the small journey up towards the entrance to 'Pooley's'.
"Oh my God" cam a voice from beside Xander "I'd be laughing my ass off if this wasn't deadly serious"
"Well feel free to laugh it up afterwards" Xander replied, stopping and turning to Sean "How's Buffy?"
"Holding up" Sean replied truthfully "Now straight to business" he continued "There's one guy sitting at the bar" Sean said as he followed Xander inside "He wasn't in on the ambush but he's with Bookerson. A look out guy"
"Which one is he?" Xander murmured as quietly as he could.
"The one who pitched a tent in his pants the moment you walked in this place" Sean replied "Although, looking around, that could be any one of the guys in here at the moment". Sean indicated a young, Italian guy sitting by the bar with a couple of empty shot glasses infront of him. "That's Gianni"
"Gotcha" Xander's voice was barely audible as he deliberately made fleeting eye contact with Gianni before focusing his attention more on the guy behind the bar as Xander headed towards the counter.
The bartender took the cigarette out of his mouth and looked Xander up and down appreciatively. Of course he wasn't seeing a twenty-year-old brunette guy in drag.
He was seeing a six foot tall, beautiful, blonde girl wearing a black leather mini skirt; a barely there, stretchy, black lace top which showed the skin underneath in all the right places, save for what the black satin bra underneath covered; knee high black leather boots over fishnets; a mid-length black leather coat and the finishing touch of make up consisting of dark red lipstick and dark kohl around the eyes.
"And how can I help you" the bar tender leered at Xander.
Xander decided that now was the time for him to say goodbye completely to his pride and anything else that might prove a stumbling block if he was going to pull this off. He took a mental deep breath and spoke; raising his voice just a little, even though he knew Katherine's voice was the one everyone was going to be hearing.
"You haven't seen a woman come in here in the last couple of hours?" Xander asked "Pretty, dark hair, about my height?"
The bartender shook his head "Sorry sweetheart. Haven't seen anyone like that in here for a *long* while"
"Well that's just typical of her" Xander put his hands on his hips and huffed "She's the one who told me to be here, *half* an *hour* ago I might add, and where's *she* huh?"
"I always say you can't trust women"
Xander turned to Gianni who had just spoken. "You are so right". Xander sat down at a stool one away from Gianni at the bar "I mean, I have my cell phone too and no calls *at* *all*. Xander leant one forearm on the bar so he was facing Gianni and then crossed one leg over the other. "I have wasted so much time getting out here tonight" Xander continued, turning to the bartender, who still hadn't taken his eyes off Xander's chest "Can I get a JD and coke?" Xander asked, then he turned back to Gianni "I'm sorry. You don't really want to hear me bitch about my ex do you?"
Gianni spluttered. "Your ex... *girl*friend?"
"Wanted to see if we could give it another go" Xander replied nonchalantly "Obviously *she* had second thoughts". Xander stopped "Are you OK? Your eyes have gone really wide"
"Y-you're a lesbian?"
Xander took a five-dollar note from Katherine's purse and laid it by the drink that had been placed by his elbow. "Well I won't lie to you" Xander replied, taking the drink and downing it in one "I have been known to have sex with women". Xander put the glass back on the counter and then rolled his eyes. "Let me guess" he said, "Your entire experience with lesbians has been through porn? I'm right, aren't I?
"In a nutshell, yeah" Gianni replied "So... you don't... with men... ever?"
"Never" Xander replied "Although I'm beginning to wonder if I shouldn't switch sides. See if there really *is* a guy out there for me"
"Sweetheart" Gianni said with a smile, indicating the bartender to get Xander another drink "I don't think you're gonna have to look far"
(Half an hour later)
Sam pulled into the car park out front of the bar and parked. He took the brown package off the passenger seat and got out. Sam stood looking at the building infront of him and could probably guess why it had been chosen. 'Pooley's' as the large neon sign above the door read, was slap-bang in the middle of nowhere.
Sam gripped the package tighter n his hand as he started to walk towards the entrance. The sun had set, but there was still enough light in the sky to see by and just as he stepped up to the door, it was opened and a large, thickset man emerged.
It was one of the men from earlier - the one who'd dragged Buffy from Michael's car. Sam met his eyes and the other man just gave him a thin smile. "Just checking to see if you turned up alone," the large man said, stepping aside from the door.
"You didn't exactly give me much choice" Sam responded as he walked past the other man and into the bar. He'd only gone a few steps when there was a hand on his shoulder.
"What's in the bag?"
"The money" Sam answered.
"Lets see" the guy pulled the package from underneath Sam's arm and tore a strip off the top so he could see inside. Sam said thanks that it was dark and smoky inside the place, because it meant that the other guy couldn't see as well as he might.
"Looks OK". He didn't give Sam back the package. "I hope you were smart enough to not bring any weapons"
"You can frisk me if you want" Sam replied, relived to that he'd also managed to convince Xander to leave behind the knife. Of course it had also been in his favour that Xander could find no where on his person to actually conceal the knife in the first place without I being seen "You aren't going to find anything on me"
"Smart kid". The man started to propel Sam forward.
"I wanna know where Kelly is," Sam said. In fact Sam already knew where 'Kelly' was he was just hoping that by asking, he wouldn't arouse suspicion. Al had informed them that Buffy and three other men, including Bookerson, were in an old storeroom that had been converted for gambling purposes. Apparently Bookerson was a 'valued customer' of the establishment and it was understood that he wasn't to be disturbed. It was unknown though whether anyone else other than Bookerson and his men knew that someone was being held hostage.
"Yer friend's fine" was the reply "For now anyway. Got Joe and Taylor keeping her company. I tell ya, she's a feisty little thing. Taylor tried to get inside her shirt and she kneed him in the balls so hard it brought tears to *my* eyes"
"Yeah, and I happen to know you gave her a slap for it as well" Al appeared by the bar counter "These guys are a bunch of assholes"
Sam quickly shot Al a worried look as he passed Xander apparently engrossed in conversation with a young guy in one of the booths. Sam didn't even give the brunette a glance. "Well I hope he learned his lesson" Sam said "And you shouldn't be laying a finger on her. Kelly has nothing to do with this". Sam winced when he felt the grip on his shoulder tighten and the other man's fingers pressed onto bruises he'd received earlier.
Al moved infront of Sam again "The guy manhandling you is Peter Cordale" Al paused as he started to walk next to Sam "Buffy's holding up Sam. They haven't tried anything else" Al paused again "Yet". Al caught the look Sam quickly darted his way. "I think that Bookerson guy has his eye on her for more than merely a hostage"
Sam cursed silently as he now neared the back of the bar towards two closed doors side by side. Peter let go of Sam's shoulder and opened the door on the left and stood on the other side, waiting for Sam to follow. Sam stepped through and found himself in a dimly lit space - hardly long enough to call a hallway. At the 'far end' was a fire exit that Sam noticed had numerous objects piled up against it, rendering it useless. The other door to Sam's right was shut - but Sam guessed that was where he was going.
Sam took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "I guess this is it"
"Do you know where the ladies room in this place?" Xander said, "I think that last drink went straight through me" he faked a hiccup "I they're catching up to me too"
"To the back of the bar and take the door on the right"
"Thanks". Xander began to make his way to the back of the bar where he saw Sean hovering by the two doors.
"Buffy's through the left one" Sean said "Lovely performance by the way"
Xander headed through the door on the right, letting the door swing shut behind him before he spoke "That was the plan. Hook 'em so they stop paying attention to what they're supposed to be doing"
"Yeah? Well I think it's working better than you hoped" Sean replied "Gianni is now on his way through here"
"Well God damn". Xander started thinking fast "OK. Gianni has a gun. I want the gun. The gun is tucked in the back of his pants, so..."
"You've got to get in his pants" Sean added "Considering he was talking to your breasts the entire time you've been here, I shouldn't think it'd be to hard-difficult. I meant difficult"
Xander rolled his eyes "Thanks...". Xander sighed and then tried to look surprised when Gianni joined him. Xander then smiled and put his hands on his hips, putting his weight on one leg "Now I've got a feeling that you didn't come here 'cause nature called". Xander stepped close to Gianni "I'll bet you came in here to try your luck. See if you'd be the guy to convert the lesbian"
Gianni smiled widely at 'Katherine's' bluntness and took a step closer to Xander "I like a challenge"
"Y'know you're gonna have to be pretty convincing" Xander said, teasing. "I'm not *that* easy" he paused "Actually I didn't say no when Faith jumped me and Anya kinda just de-clothed herself and propositioned me-" Xander broke off when Gianni stepped right up close to him, invading his personal space. Xander tried not to tense. //Got a girl on the other side of this wall that needs rescuing...//.
Gianni put a hand on Xander's thigh and pulled Xander's hips flush with his. "Stop talking' already would ya girl?"
"Sure thing" Xander let his smile drop and before Gianni had time to react, Xander had kneed Gianni in the groin and as he doubled over, Xander slid his hand around Gianni's waist and under his jacket, snatching the gun that had been hidden.
Xander jabbed the gun hard into Gianni's stomach as the other guy tried to recover. "I seriously suggest" Xander hissed "That you don't make a single sound"
"So Michael..." Terry Bookerson smiled thinly across the table at Sam, and the thin, but well muscled man, kicked his feet up on the table and leaned back in his seat. "I guess all we have to do now is let you and your little friend go"
"That was my general thinking" Sam replied. He looked over towards Buffy who was huddled in a corner of the room; her knees drawn up to her chest and her arms looped around them, her wrists tied tightly. Buffy's head rested against the wall next to her and even in the dim light of the room, Sam could make out bruises on her cheek and one on her temple that had a gash across the middle of it. She was also being 'guarded' by a Greek looking guy who looked like he seriously worked out. He had a gun that was pointed at Buffy.
Buffy looked at Sam and met his eyes. She smiled briefly before looking at one of the two large guys that hovered behind Sam. Namely the one who'd tried to feel her up earlier. "Then why aren't we going" she said, "You've got your money"
Peter handed Terry the package that he'd taken from Sam. "I had a quick look" Peter said, "It looks like it's all there"
Terry just put it on the table "I'm surprised you managed to get it all" he remarked "Seein' as how you've actually missed the last few payments"
"I won a couple of grand a week ago" Sam replied "I-I was going to give it to you then. The other is a small loan from the bank and some of it's from some friends"
"I hope you didn't tell these so-called friends why you needed it" Terry replied "That wouldn't have been sensible"
Sam was beginning to get impatient "Look. I haven't told anyone. You've got your money. Plus interest. Now I just want Kelly and to get out of here"
"I like Kelly" Terry said, ignoring Sam and his request "I was thinking of keeping her around"
"You can't be serious" Sam exclaimed. He caught Buffy's eye again, seeing the apprehensive look she gave him.
"I keep her instead of your payment" Terry continued "I'm sure Mr Howell would prefer a new girl for his business"
"Excuse me?!" Buffy interjected "Wow. A new job. And you guys haven't even seen my references"
There was a ghost of a smile on Sam's lips as he met Bookerson's eyes "Mr Howell isn't getting any new girl" Sam said evenly. "You've got your money. Kelly and I are going to go". Sam went to get up from his seat but a firm hand on his shoulder pushed him back down again.
"I don't think you understand Michael" Terry said "You aren't *getting* a choice. He looked at one of the men behind Sam. "Taylor, get Gianni in here" Terry instructed "He and Joe can take the girl out to the car while we have a few more... words-" there was a smile on his face that didn't reach his eyes "-with Michael"
Taylor smirked at the back of Sam's head and turned to leave. He opened the door and took a step outside.
And came face to face with the business end of a Smith and Wesson.
Xander gave him a cold look. "Gianni couldn't make it"
As soon as he heard Xander, Sam took everyone else's momentary shock as the opportunity to shove the table forward, hard, unbalancing Terry from his chair and propelling him backwards into Joe. Buffy rolled over onto her side to stop Bookerson and Joe falling onto her. Joe's gun had almost dropped from his hand and as he fought to retain it, Buffy lashed out with her feet and knocked it completely from his hands and sent it skittling across the other side of the small room. Joe grasped his hand in pain and made a move for her, but Buffy kicked out at him again, just catching his jaw with her feet and she rolled out of the way.
Xander stepped forward, still holding the gun in Taylor's face. Sam was on his feet now and blocked a blow from Peter who stood behind Xander and Taylor, separating them from the rest. Sam blocked another blow and this time kept hold of Peter's arm, twisting it around the larger mans back and slamming him face first up against the nearest wall.
"OK. I'm thinking all of us should just stop and take a moment here" Xander spoke evenly as he manoeuvred Taylor back into the room. "I'm aware that maybe more than one of you in here has a gun. I suggest they get shown so we don't get all confused"
Bookerson got to his feet, holding out both his empty hands. He narrowed his eyes at Xander, who was still holding the gun at Taylor. "I've seen you before" he said "You're a friend of that idiot there" he nodded to where Sam stood, still pushing Peter up against the wall, Peter's arm twisted painfully up behind him. Terry smirked "Hey Michael, how 'bout I you let me take both these girls off your hands"
"Funny, but I don't see that happening" Xander retorted. "In fact we're all just gonna stay calm and make no sudden moves and the good guys are gonna leave"
Buffy finally managed to get to her feet, using the wall to slide herself up "Sounds like a good idea to me".
"Sounds bad to me" Joe was back on his feet. He shot out his arm and a gun flew into his palm from a spring loader strapped to his forearm. He clicked back the safety and aimed his sights at Buffy.
Bookerson raised an eyebrow "Well, well. Looks like we've got a little stand off here". He looked over to Sam "Let go of Peter, Michael. There's a good boy"
Sam shot a glance at Buffy, before sighing frustratedly and releasing his hold of Peter. Sam stood back and now looked between Xander and Buffy. Sam doubted Xander's expression had even wavered. The younger man was still holding the gun at Taylor who didn't seem quite sure whether to make a move or not. Buffy's expression didn't give anything away either. She was staring evenly at Joe; her hands, still tied, were bent up towards her and rested against her chest. Sam guessed these were two people who'd learned never to give anything away in times like this. And that made him wonder, just exactly how many times they'd done stuff like this.
"OK. As much as I'm loving this Reservoir Dogs moment" Sean's voice was the next one heard, "I think it's time to start negotiating"
Then it was Taylor's turn to speak. "Y'know Terry, I think Mr Howell will like this girl better anyway. Why don't we just shoot the guy and the other girl? And I'm sure we can all get as friendly with this one as we did with the other girl"
Xander's eyes flashed angrily and his gaze flickered over towards Buffy. Taylor took advantage of Xander's momentary lapse in concentration and let his right arm fly, out hard and Xander's gun holding hand, knocking the weapon from Xander's grasp. Xander snapped back to attention and immediately attempted to retaliate, but Taylor blocked Xander's blow and delivered on of his own, sending Xander backwards where he stumbled into Sam, unbalancing himself of the high heels of the boots he was wearing. Xander cursed loudly as he fell to the floor, his hands going out to break his fall. His only saving grace was that his eyes also fell... on something interesting.
Buffy shot a worried look Xander's way as she saw him taking a longer time than he should to get up, but her attention quickly focused back on the gun that was being pointed at her when the barrel of it was pressed closer to her face.
Joe grinned "Guess the rescue party just got crashed"
Terry smirked and shot an amused glance at Xander as Peter grabbed hold of the back of Xander's coat, hauling the brunette to his feet. But he wasn't prepared for Xander spinning around quickly, letting fly with his fist this time, the back of Xander's hand swinging hard into Peter's face and the sound of a nose being broken was audible through the room and visible was the blood that sprayed out in a small arch.
Buffy saw Joe's attention snap away from her and she took a gamble, launching herself at Joe, her weight and the surprise of it, sending Joe to the floor. Buffy was just on top and as Joe struggled for his gun, Buffy once again hit out at him, both her fists slamming into his face and delivered a hard blow to his groin with her knee.
At the same time, Sam grabbed hold of Taylor as he was about to attack Xander as Peter went down after Xander had hit him again, this time with a knockout blow. Sam grabbed hold of Taylor's collar and threw him up against the door face first. Taylor recovered quickly and launched himself at Sam, but this time Xander blocked the blow and lashed out hard with his foot into Taylor's knee cap, enjoying the cry of pain from the pan before he let the man fall into Sam's arms. And Sam really didn't need any further encouragement from Al who'd been yelling, "Hit him!" at him over and over again.
Xander turned around, the gun in his hand that Buffy had first knocked from Joe's hand and that he had found when he'd gotten intimate with the floor. But what he saw was Buffy being dragged off Joe by her hair by Bookerson and now she was being held infront of him. Terry had one arm tight around Buffy's neck, pulling her back towards him; his other hand was on one of her shoulders. Bookerson was about a foot and a half taller than Buffy so her head rested against his upper chest.
But Buffy still struggled against her captor's hold. Over Sam's shoulder she saw Sam hit Taylor one more time and the villain stumbled over Peter's body and he soon lay sprawled next to his comrade. Buffy met Xander's eyes and they exchanged silent words. She hadn't understood what exactly was going to happen when Sean had told her that Xander had come up with a rescue plan. Sean had just told her to hang on and just wait. Looking at Xander now, she wondered exactly how much he'd done just to get the gun off this Gianni guy.
Bookerson sneered at Xander "OK bitch. Whatcha gonna do now? 'Cos I'm gonna tell ya. I get *very* angry when people knock off my friends" he jerked his arm against Buffy's throat and she choked a little "You might want to put that piece down before she starts finding it harder to breath"
Xander's response was held as Sam was suddenly struggling with Joe. Joe had struck Sam when Sam had tried to stop Joe going yet again for his gun, but Sam had taken Joe with him as he travelled back across the room. Xander didn't manage to move quickly enough out of the way and fell to the floor again as Sam and Joe crashed into and then through the door, taking their fight out into the small area outside the room.
Xander still had the gun in his hand though as he looked up at Bookerson. "Just let her go and we'll be gone" Xander said "You're just making it harder"
"Oh yeah, it's harder all right" Terry's hand began to travel down from Buffy's shoulder, approaching her breast. Buffy struggled against him furiously but his grip around her throat was tight and she had to fight harder to breathe.
Xander's eyes went black. He lifted the gun and cocked back the safety "I really suggest you stop that"
Terry looked back at him innocently "What? Surely you wouldn't shoot an unarmed man?"
Buffy was struggling against the bonds on her wrist now. She tried kicking back at Bookerson but he just shook off her feeble attempts and jerked her neck sharply again. Terry's hand was on her breast now and she knew what she could feel in the small of her back. //God... why does it have to come to this? It's just like it was with that creep Derran outside the Bronze//. Buffy could feel herself getting dizzy through lack of oxygen, but she kept struggling against Terry as his hand started to wander again.
"Let her go" Xander hissed with menace.
"What are you gonna do huh?" Bookerson sneered at Xander "Glare at me so much I give in"
"Let. Her. Go" Xander repeated.
"Idle threats" Terry replied "Come on. Just walk away. My boy's'll be waking up soon. What are you gonna do then? His hand moved down to Buffy's stomach "Tell you what. I'll let you take her place" he leered "Or join in". Terry's fingers began playing with the waistband of Buffy's skirt.
"I'm not going to tell you again asshole"
"Language language" Terry tutted as he shifted his arm, his hand still playing with Buffy's waistband "Lady, words ain't gonna change things" he moved his hand down lower "It's stick's and-" Bookerson was cut short.
Buffy stood still as the gunshot continued to ring in her ears and then she couldn't hear anything. Suddenly the weight behind her disappeared and she could breathe better. Buffy blinked quickly, trying to see what had just happened and then she felt dizzy again and her knees began to give way.
Strong arms caught her just as she was about to hit the floor. "Buffy?". It was Sam's voice "Buffy?"
"Buffy" there was another voice. Xander's. He dropped the gun and went to her side. Taking her from Sam's arms, he held her as he sat back on his heels and brushed her hair out of her face. "You OK?" he asked, concerned, starting to untie her wrists "God, I didn't get you did I?"
Buffy blinked again, focusing on Xander while Sam checked on an unconscious Bookerson. "You shot him"
"In the shoulder" Sam replied "He'll live"
"Unfortunately" Xander muttered. He helped Buffy sit up "Buff, you sure you're OK?" Xander looked at her neck, touching his fingers to it gently "He had you pretty tight there"
"Just a little sore" she replied. Buffy looked directly at him. "You shot him" she repeated, "With a gun"
"Just a bit" Xander answered "But, like Sam said, he'll live"
Buffy was still looking at him "You shot him. With a gun. With, like, actual bullets"
"Damn" Xander swore, running his hands over Buffy's head looking for more bumps "Sean said they knocked you out. Maybe we should get you to a hospital"
"Stop it Xan". Buffy took hold of his hands and brought them down between them, holding them tightly. "Xander you shot a guy. I can't believe..." she trailed off.
Xander sighed and closed his eyes, leaning forward slightly and resting his forehead against her shoulder. "Buffy, if you're going where I think you're going with this, then can we do it later?" he tried to lighten it up "Preferably when I'm wearing pants"
"Hey, I hate to break this up" Sean said "But we've got the cops about a minute away"
Buffy looked at Sean as Xander moved back from her "That was quick"
"I already called them" Xander told her. He glanced at Sam who was doing a good job of patching up Bookerson's shoulder and also seemed to be having a conversation with Al. Xander then turned to Sean "I guess they'll have some questions huh?"
Sean looked at Gizmo and tapped a few keys. "Ohh yeah" he said without looking up "Lots of 'em. But also a lot for all these guys lying around here on their backs". Sean looked back up at them "But in a couple of days you get some witnesses come forward who'll confirm the attack on Sam in the middle of the street and the abduction of a girl at gunpoint shortly afterwards" he added "And it seems all of these guys are high on the cop's 'wanted for questioning' list round these parts. Bookerson particularly - seems he was the last one spotted with a girl who was found dead a couple of months ago"
"What about Michael?" Buffy asked, "What happens when these guy's boss finds out?"
"Mr Howell decides to lay low for a while in case he's linked with them" Sean replied "Michael get a loan from the bank and some from his parents to pay him in full. They're less likely to take a baseball bat to his kneecaps I guess" he shrugged "And Katherine and Kelly go back to living their fluffy pink lives"
"How are you two?"
Buffy and Xander turned around to face Sam, who smiled at them warmly. "We did OK, don't you think?" Sam said.
Buffy and Xander looked around and then back to Sam "We did OK" Xander said. "The bad guys are unconscious. We're not"
"Can I ask something?" Buffy said, "How did you guys get the money?"
"We borrowed it from a cousin" Sam said with a smile.
"A cousin?" Buffy looked at Xander oddly "Explain"
"My Cousin Vinny" Xander replied "There's only about five hundred bucks in that bag" he offered Buffy a small smile "Hundreds wrapped around a bunch of ones"
Buffy blinked "Your plan hinged on a film and a Wonderbra?" Buffy rested her forehead against his shoulder "Alexander Harris, what am I going to do with you?"
"I don't know" Xander replied "But I'd like it if you never mentioned the Wonderbra to anyone else"
Sam's attention was drawn away from the couple when he heard raised voices coming towards them. "I think I'm sticking around here as Michael for a while longer" he said with a sigh "But you two" he smiled "I think you're out of here" he crouched down and placed put a hand on one of their shoulders "It's been interesting working with you, I have to say". Sam glanced at Al before looking back to them and smiled wider "I wish you two the best of luck"
"Thanks" Buffy and Xander said together. "Uh," Xander continued by himself "Maybe we'll meet again huh?"
Sam stood up "Maybe we might". Sam took a step backwards, still smiling at them both, as they become engulfed in a white and blue light and were gone. Perhaps he was the only one to notice that since Buffy had taken Xander's hands from her head, she hadn't actually let go of them.
"Huh" was Xander's first word as he blinked away the white light that had crackled over them both. He looked down and found that whilst he wasn't wearing a skirt or anything else that screamed female, he wasn't wearing much of anything else. Only a towel.
In his hand he appeared to be holding a bottle of something and on closer inspection he realised it was sun protection cream. He was also sitting on the edge of a sun bed with someone else laying stretched out on their front on the lounger beside him. Buffy. Wearing just a bikini.
Buffy opened one eye and looked around. //OK, I'm laying down. It's warm. There's a pool... better than unconscious criminals...// she trailed off in her thoughts when she realised someone was sitting by her thigh. She twisted her head around and squinted against the sun that was behind Xander's head.
"Nice change of scenery huh?" she said.
Xander set down the bottle of lotion on the ground. There might have been a faint smile on Buffy's lips but he could see in her eyes that she was still upset from what had happened just a little while earlier.
"Much better" he smiled warmly.
"And you don't have breasts anymore"
//OK, so she wants to keep this light for a while. I can do that//. "Well, until I look in a mirror or Sean tells me," Xander smiled back "I'm not gonna take your word".
Xander looked around at their surroundings. They seemed to be in someone's back garden. Actually garden was a poor term. More like garden, verging on small National Park.
They were both by a pool underneath a hot sun that beat down nicely on them both. Behind them about fifty feet away was a large, expensive looking house. Both Buffy and Xander seemed to be the only people about.
Buffy rolled over so she lay on her back. "This is nice," she said, closing her eyes.
"Then you stay here" Xander said patting her thigh lightly "I'm going to find something other than a towel to wear"
"'Kay". Buffy settled back as she felt Xander's weight leave the lounger. Buffy sighed, a little agitated. //He shot some one. A person. Not a vampire...// she paused in her thoughts //... for me//.
Xander turned around when he hit the top of the marble steps that led up to a patio. He ran a hand over his hair as he watched Buffy try to relax. Xander knew she was only trying. He'd seen her tense enough times before to know when she was faking it.
Xander closed his eyes and sighed //I had to stop that guy// he told himself. Xander opened his eyes again and started across the patio. "I've told her before" he murmured softly to himself "No one hurts any of my girls"
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