Year Zero

Holiday Homes

Author: Tenhawk <tenhawk[at]>

Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners... none of which are me.

Summary: Xander's back in California, visiting friends and family for the holidays.

Warning: Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.)

Rating: R. For mature themes, sexual content, and all the other fun stuff that rarely makes network TV.

"I can't believe you, Paige... You just vanish for months and you won't tell me anything about it when you get back!?"

Paige sighed, smiling tiredly. "Sorry Liz, it's just a little hard to explain."

Liz grinned wickedly at her friend, "Yeah right. You ran off with some guy and spent the last few months having wild sex on a beach somewhere."

"I did NOT!"

"What? It was a girl?"

"Liz!" Paige growled. "I had some serious things to work out."


Paige shook her head in frustration as she walked through the mall with her friend, "Can we just get our shopping done?"

"Sure." Liz grinned, "I was just kidding you know..."


"I know it wasn't a girl."

"Now what are you talking about!?" Paige demanded.

"Hey, No girl in the world would buy that car you're driving us around in. So come on, tell me about it... who's the guy?"

Paige groaned. "Look. It's not like that, ok?"

"So you didn't find some guy, run off with him, and get a little something on the side?"

"No!" Paige said, then blushed, "Well..."

"I knew it!" Liz crowed, "I knew I'd get the truth out of you eventually!"

Paige groaned. "Liz... please... drop it."

"Come on... tell me what he was like."


"Paige....!" Liz wheedled.

Paige stalked off, heading for the Gap.

Her friend grinned wide and chased after her.

"No! No! And for the final time, NO!" Paige screamed as she pulled up to her building.

"You know I'm going to find out sooner or later, Paige..." Lis grinned.

Paige growled, grabbing her shopping bags. "Well not today you don't."

She walked up to her building with her friend just behind.

"Hey Paige."

Paige froze, dropping her bags as she looked up. "Xander!?"

Xander lunged in, catching the first two bags in each arm, and hooking the third with his foot before it hit the ground. He kicked it up quickly and caught it in a tight hold, then grinned at Paige, "Need a hand with these?"

"Xander!" Paige grinned, hugging him around the three shopping bags.

"Well, it's nice to be missed." Xander grinned over her shoulder, "I'd hug you back you know... but uh..."

"Oh!" Paige looked surprised, "Oh! Hang on, I'll get the door."

"I'd be ever so grateful." Xander grinned.

Paige quickly opened the door and led him up the stairs. Xander followed her up, wondering why he was getting weird looks from her friend.

They got up to the top of the stairs and Paige led them into a very nice loft.

Xander whistled, "Nice place you've got here, Paige."

"Thanks." Paige grinned, "Amanda helped me find it."

Xander laughed, "Amanda has taste."

"She should." Paige muttered.

"So..." Xander said, "Where I put these."

"Huh? Oh! On the counter over there." Paige said.

As Xander dropped the bags off Paige caught a look from Liz. "What?"

Liz just grinned at her.


Xander turned around, his arms free again, and looked confused. "What's going on?"

Liz had a grin that split her face from ear to ear. "So this is him, huh?"

"Him?" Xander looked over at Paige, confused.

"Oh God." Paige groaned.

Liz walked up, checking Xander out with an exaggerated eye. "Not bad, girlfriend... He's definitely got some decent base material to work with."

Xander took a step back from the aggressive girl, looking over at Paige, "Uh... Paige?"

"Ignore her." Paige glowered at her friend, "She's lost in a Harlequin romance fantasy land."

"Ouch." Liz grinned, "That hurt..."

"Sure it did." Paige muttered, then turned to Xander, "How did your um.... thing... go?"

Xander grinned, "No problems."

"Thing?" Liz looked confused.

Xander shrugged, "I had a contract job with the government..."

"Oooh... Does that pay well?" Liz asked, grinning.

Xander shrugged, "Standard fee really. Nothing too big, I took this job to pay back a favor."

"Mmmmm... Government job, AND a sense of morals." Liz grinned at Paige, "No wonder you're keeping this one to yourself."

Paige rolled her eyes, "Liz..."

"I wondered where you were getting the money for this place..." Liz said, "Found yourself a new sugar daddy, huh?"


"Actually," Xander grinned, "Paige earned the money she's been spending."

"Oooo... earned it HOW exactly?" Liz winked at Xander.


Xander shrugged, "She helped me rob a millionaire."

There was a short silence.


"Right." Liz grinned, "Good one. Paige robbing people... You're looking at the most pain in the but honest person I've ever met... even if she is a wild girl at the raves."


Xander laughed, shrugging. "Seriously though, she was working with me on my job this fall... We thought some experience in the job market would help her out when she went back to school in the winter semester."

"And what do you do exactly?" Liz asked, a little suspiciously

Xander shrugged, "Independent contractor."

"What? Building stuff?"

"Tearing it down mostly." Xander replied. "I specialize in demolitions."


Xander shrugged, taking a seat. "It pays the bills."

"I guess." Liz said, as she moved over to nudge Paige again. "So... what was Paige doing for you exactly?"

"LIZ!" Paige tried again, but both her guests ignored her.

Xander laughed, "Interned mostly. Picked up the trade a little, learned the ropes... pretty much got a feel for all the aspects of the job."

"Paige? Blowing things up?" Liz laughed. "Oh god, that's rich!"

"Well," Xander conceded, "We also have a public relations side, you know... and then there's the detail work, and the foot work, and safety, and all the rest."

"Now that sounds like Paige."

"Oh come ON, LIZ!" Paige objected, "You make me sound like some stick in the mud!"

Liz held up her hands, "Hey! I'd never call you a stick in the mud... Not the queen of the Mosh's..."

Paige glowered at her friend, "Hey. You were right there beside me.... and if I remember right, I wasn't the one who yelled out 'Lets get naked!' when the cops showed up to the last one."

Liz flushed, looking down for a moment, "I was really hammered, ok? Besides... I got a date with that cute cop..."

Paige rolled her eyes, "Which was fine, until he had to arrest you a week later for the same thing."

"That SO wasn't my fault." Liz objected.


Xander looked between the two of them for a long moment. "So... Is that a common occurrence for Paige?"

"You don't know?" Liz grinned widely, "Paige here is a regular party girl... You wouldn't believe some of the things she's done..."

Xander leaned forward, "Do tell."

"Liz! Don't you DARE!"

Liz grinned wickedly and winked at Paige, "Sorry girl... but the man asked a question... I gotta be polite and answer..."

Paige waited until the door closed and Liz was gone before turning on Xander.

"How could you!?"

Xander grinned at Paige, and shrugged. "Nothing like a good friend to have all the dirt on someone."

Paige glowered at him, "It's not fair. The only friends I ever meet of yours, never met you before!"

Xander laughed openly and walked over to her, "Someday you'll meet a few that know me only too well... I'm sure that you and Faith will enjoy hanging me out to dry."

Paige paused, looking up at Xander. "So who's this Faith person?"

Xander sighed, turning serious. "You remember what I told you about the Slayer?"

Paige nodded, "One girl in all the world..."

"Faith's a Slayer." Xander replied, "One of two, I presume, that are active right now."


Xander chuckled, "It's a long story. Anyway, Faith is a good friend who's had some rough times."

"Like what?"

Xander quirked a grin, "Well she has the honor of having tried to kill me most."


"It's a long story." Xander said, "Faith once walked the other side for a little while. You remember how I warned you against black magic and personal gain?"

Paige nodded slowly.

"No one warned her." Xander said, "Or if they did, their voices were drowned out by the tragedies in her life."

"She... was evil?"

"Misguided." Xander corrected. "She went to a very black place, and a... very evil man knew how to take advantage of it."

Paige frowned, listening to the tone of Xander's voice. "You love her..."

Xander nodded, seriously. "Yeah I suppose I do. She's one of my girls."

"What?" Paige asked archly.

Xander chuckled, thinking to himself. "Sorry. Kind of a hazard of the job."

"I think you'd better explain real fast." Paige folded her hands over her chest. "And make it good."

Xander smiled, "Well... Since I found out about vampires and such... I've been surrounded by women who were as beautiful as they were lethal. They were almost all stronger then me in some way or another... Slayers, Witches... In one case a borderline Psychotic..."

Paige stared oddly, as Xander chuckled.

"Long story." He said, waving off her curious look before continuing. "But you know... all of them could kick my ass in no time flat... but I always felt like I had to protect them. Elan calls it my natural chauvinism."

Paige smirked.

"Even you, Paige." Xander said, "Even you could probably kill me easily enough in a one on one if you let out all the stops... even if I were at my peak, which I haven't been since before the glitch."

"I wouldn't..." Paige said, alarmed.

"I know... I know." Xander smiled, "I'm just pointing out, that even you have a larger well of power then I do... and you're just starting to explore it. I've been surrounded by women like this... like you... for years, and I automatically think of them as 'my girls'."

"If you didn't sound so chauvinistic, that'd be sweet." Paige grinned at him.

Xander shrugged, "So sue me. It's who I am."

"And I speak for all of your 'girls' when I say, we like you like this." Paige leaned in and kissed him lightly on the lips for a moment, pulling back after a few seconds and smiling at him. "So... How close *are* you and 'Faith'?"

Xander groaned.

"So it's THAT kind of a relationship." Paige frowned at him, though her eyes were twinkling with humor.

Xander sighed, not noting the humor. "More or less."


"Faith is... hard to explain." Xander said, hoping to avoid being grilled about one girl by another.

"Try harder." Paige glowered at him, then suddenly smirked as he squirmed under her gaze. "Relax, Xander. I didn't expect you to be a virgin you know."

Xander suddenly froze, "Hmmm... technically? That one is hard to figure."


Xander shook his head, "I hate time travel."

"Huh?" Paige looked ever more confused as she repeated herself.

Xander rolled his eyes, "It's a..."

"Long story." Paige finished, shaking her head. "You have a lot of those."

"Hazard of the lifestyle." Xander tried, smiling sort of hesitantly.

"I can see that."

"Paige... I..." Xander spoke hesitantly, "I can't make you any promises. I don't live that way... I..."

"Shhh..." Paige smiled, kissing him to shut him up. She pulled back for a moment, "I'm not looking for a marriage, Xander. I like you. That's good enough for me."

Xander slid an arm around to the small of her back and pulled her closer, returning the kiss. Paige quickly wrapped her arms around his neck as they started to move across the open room. She grunted a little as he picked her up and carried her to the large bed that occupied a center place in the room.

He laid her down on the soft duvet that covered the bed and kissed her again, feeling her hands as they ran along his back. He felt her tugging at his shirt, so he shifted slightly and let her lift the loose sweater off over his head. As it slipped clear he glanced to one side and frowned.

"Umm... Paige?" He asked between kisses.

Paige pushed him over and off her, rolling to the top and pressing down against him. Her lips were practically brushing his face as she whispered, "Yeah?"

"Should I be worried about why you have a set of handcuffs on your night table?"

Her head snapped over, eyes wide as she saw the nickle plaited cuffs. She blushed quickly, "I... I... Ummm... well..."

Xander laughed, rolling back over until he was resting just over her, keeping his weight off of her. "Relax."

He kissed her, then grinned mischievously. "But... just to warn you, Amanda taught me how to get out of those things in two seconds flat."

"Why you..." Paige growled, grinning as she pulled his head back down into a deep kiss.

As they kissed, Xander slid his hand under her blouse and ran up along her side, eliciting the occasional shiver and moan from Paige. A few more seconds and some deft hand work from both of them and the blouse was undone.

Paige pushed him back over again and straddled him, gripping his hips tightly between her thighs as she tugged off the blouse. It floated briefly through the air, landing some distance away as she leaned back over him.

"Xander?" She whispered hoarsely, her voice barely reaching his ears as he felt her hands undo his pants.

"Ummmm...?" he got out.

She slipped her hands into his pants and Xander groaned, "How do you feel?"

He just groaned.

She smiled, her lips moving just above his eyes. "I thought you might say that..."

Xander opened his eyes, wrapping an arm around her neck and pulled her down, rolling over on top of her again just as he felt her fingers wrap around him. He felt another groan rise in his throat, but didn't let it distract him as he quickly slid a hand under her skirt and pushed up up and over her hips. Paige moaned in response as his fingers lightly brushed her thighs, then slipped under her panties.

His second hand found the clasp on her bra, lifting her torso off the bed enough to undo it while his lips found her neck. The black bra slid aside a moment later and he lowered her back to the soft bed, following her down as he continued to caress her skin above and below the proverbial equator.

"Paige?" He whispered in his own hoarse voice, letting the question linger as he felt her hands stroking him, and guided his own hands in mirror movements on her body.


He grinned, mirroring her smile. "How does this feel?"

He slowly pushed forward, feeling her hand become trapped between them as their bodies pressed tight.

"Unnnngggggk..." She grated out, her eyes locking with his.

He resisted the urge to smile or smirk, keeping his face serious as he captured her lips again. "I thought you might say that."

"Shut up." She told him, one arm snaking around his neck while she pulled the other free from it's confinement and wrapped it around his back.

Xander did as she told him, and shut up. Rather then speaking he just slid forward further, eliciting another groan from him and a matching moan from Paige. He felt her legs tighten around him, hooking into the crooks of his knees as she trapped him in his position and held him there for a long moment.

Finally she relaxed a bit and he pulled back. Instantly she tensed again, her body arcing toward him as his own ignored his attempts at control and pushed back at her. In that moment control was a forgotten ideal and they clasped together in a feverish moment that left the rest of the world far behind.


Xander turned his head to look at Paige, "Yeah?"

"You're not staying long are you?"

Xander was silent for a moment, "No. I want to see my friends for the holidays... I'm going to catch a plane to LA tomorrow evening and drive up to Sunnydale from there."

Paige was quiet.

"Paige... I..."

"No." She said simply, "Don't apologize. I knew what I was getting into. You know, it's funny, but it's always like this for me."


"My last 'sorta boyfriend' was a traveler too." Paige said, staring at the ceiling. "I went with him to Nepal a couple years ago... just hiking around, you know?"

"Sounds nice." Xander said. "I can't go anywhere without getting into a fight."

"It was nice." Paige replied. "We didn't save the world or anything, but we had a good time."

Xander sighed, "I remember camping with Willow and Jessie... next summer if you can believe that. It was the last time I felt really peaceful. I wish... sometimes I wish I could go back to that."

"We can't go back..."

Xander nodded, "And even if we do... it's not the same."

Paige curled up close to him and Xander responded by holding her tightly in return. "No regrets, Xander. No regrets."

Xander shook his head, "I have a lot of those... but none that will change my mind about what I have to do."

Paige nodded slightly, closing her eyes. "Good night."

"Good night, Paige." Xander whispered, shutting his own eyes.

Dec 20th

"You sure you're ready for this?" Xander asked as he turned the car off.

"Yeah..." Paige said, "I guess... I mean... we're not confessing anything?"

"No." Xander smiled, "That's for you do decide on. I just want to drop off a Christmas gift."

"Ok..." Paige nodded, "Let's go."

Xander nodded and got out of the car, waiting for Paige to join him as the walked up the path to the Halliwell Manor house.

"I'll get it!" Phoebe yelled out as she heard the door chime.

She opened the door and smiled a little uncertainly at the two people standing there. "Hello?"

"Hi Phoebe." The boy said, "I was wondering, is your grandmother in?"

"Umm Yeah. Do I know you?"

The boy winced almost imperceptibly before responding.

"We met briefly a couple months ago..." He said, extending his hand, "My name's Xander Harris."

"Oh... yeah, I remember now." Phoebe said shaking his hand. She turned around, "Grams!"

"Hold your horses, Phoebe..." Penny Halliwell muttered as she descended the stairs. "Now what's all the commotion... Oh... Hello again, young man."

"Hello Miss Halliwell." Xander smiled, "I was just in town again and I wanted to drop by and wish you and your family a Merry Christmas."

"Wow." Pheobe grinned, "That's nice."

"Yes. Indeed." Penny said, her face serious. "And your friend is?"

Xander glanced aside at Paige, who was looking around with what could be considered awe on her face. "This is Paige Mathews... Paige, This is Penny Halliwell and her youngest granddaughter, Phoebe."

Paige snapped out of the trance, managing to put a smile on her face. "Hello... it's so good to meet you both."

"And you too, I'm sure..." Penny said hesitantly. "What brings you both here again?"

Xander smiled, "Just a social call, I assure you. Nothing... business related, Ma'am."

"Oh... well then," Penny relaxed somewhat, "Come in... I insist."

"Thank you." Paige said, smiling widely as they walked in.

Xander hesitated at the threshold of the house, glancing back over his shoulder at the sun as it hung in the air above him. Finally he stepped inside, as he passed Penny he whispered low enough that only she would hear him. "I would be more comfortable if you hadn't invited me so easily. I know the sun is up... but still..."

Penny smiled, winking at him. "Young man, if you think that invitation is the only thing that bars unwanted guests from this house, you are sorely mistaken."

Xander nodded slowly, "I know. Old habit."

"A good one, I'm quite certain." She said in the same low voice, then spoke louder. "May I take your coat?"

Again he hesitated but finally nodded and slipped of his jacket.

Penny took it and her arm instantly dropped to the ground, "Dear lord... what do you have in this thing?"

"I'm sorry..." Xander shook his head, taking it from her again. "I forgot about that... It doubles as a kevlar vest... I work in law enforcement."

She looked at him, her eyes widening. "Young man. I do not generally allow weapons in my home."

Pheobe stared at him, "Jeez. Who died and made you Rambo?"

"Maybe I'd better just keep the jacket on..." Xander smiled, flipping it back over his shoulders and hiding the guns. "I'm sorry... It's just sort of a second nature to me now. I don't go anywhere unarmed."

"Must be a rough job." Phoebe said shaking her head.

Penny eyed him warily, nodding. "Yes. It must. Please, come in and have some tea... I just brewed a herbal mix."

"That's be great." Paige grinned. "I love herbal teas."

Xander shook his head, smiling.

"You don't have a liking for herbal mixes, young man?" Penny asked.

Xander shrugged, "Depends on what they do I suppose. I'm fairly well informed on the subject... mostly against my will... I tend to prefer high energy foods."

"You mean junk." Penny scowled.

"Only in a pinch." Xander replied. "I've had various structures placed on my diet over the past couple years..."

They went into the living room and sat down, Penny quickly producing a steel teapot and pouring cups for everyone.

Xander fished a wrapped pouch from his jacket pocket and dug through it for a moment, "I brought some gifts... Are Prue and Piper here?"

Penny stiffened, "You seem to know quite a lot about my family, young man."

Xander smiled, "Believe me when I say, Miss Halliwell, I consider you practically family."


"If you'd like... you can look over the gifts." Xander said, "I assure you that they are little more then... baubles. Nothing 'special' about them."

"Please." Pheobe grinned, "I don't need Grams permission to receive a gift."

Xander smiled slightly, "In some... traditions, it's considered polite to pass such things by the head of the family. And... traditions are usually put into place for a reason."

"Indeed they are." Penny said, a little stiffly. But then she remembered the events of the dream world so many months before and relented, "But I don't see the harm."

"Thank you." Xander said.

"Prue! Piper!" Phoebe yelled, causing Xander to abruptly rub his ears. "Get in here!"

"Healthy lungs." Xander muttered. "Good for chanting."

"Huh?" Phoebe asked in surprise as Penny pierced him with a glare.

"Nothing. Sorry."

"What the hell do you want, butt pain?" Prue growled as she came into the room, then she abruptly stopped and looked at the guests. "Umm... I mean... What's up Sis?"

Piper stuck her head in, "What!? Oh... guests... Hi."

Xander stook up, "Prue... Piper. Glad to meet you. Phoebe was just calling you down because I brought gifts for the family..."

"Oh... ummm.... ok?" Piper shrugged, coming in.

Prue eyed him warily. "How come?"

"A while ago Your grandmother saved my life." Xander smiled, "After a fasion."

"Huh?" All three of them blurted.

Penny started to speak, but Xander interrupted her. "She... helped me out when I was walking the wrong path."

"Oh." All three of them said, sounding just as confused as before.

Xander smiled, palming the first gift and handing it to Phoebe, then to Piper and Prue in turn.

The opened them, their eyes widening as the took in the silver and gold charms in each velvet box.

"It's beautiful..." Piper breathed in surprise.

"Whoa..." Phoebe muttered.

Prue blinked holding hers up, "The craftsmanship is incredible... but I don't recognize the design..."

"You wouldn't." Xander said, "The language hasn't been spoken on earth in... a long time."

"These mean something?" Phoebe asked, looking at hers.

Xander nodded. "Yes... Yours, Phoebe, is the sign of second sight combined with an old symbol of protection against evil."

Penny's eyes widened slightly.

"Piper, yours is an ancient symbol for motion and energy... at rest and in action." Xander explained, "also combined with the same symbol of protection."

"And this one?" Prue asked, eyeing the intricate design work on her charm.

"The symbol for power... pure and without limit." Xander said. "Again, I combined it with an old symbol of protection from evil."

"So these are supposed to protect us from the big bad world?" Phoebe grinned.

Xander shook his head, "No... just wishful thinking. The symbols only have the power you give them. I didn't think that offering you enchanted items would go over very well."

Piper, Prue, and Phoebe chuckled lightly at the joke, but Penny merely eyed the gifts suspiciously.

"Good bye, Xander!" Piper, Prue, and Phoebe echoed as Penny showed him and Paige to the door.

"Bye." He returned.

At the door he was stopped by Penny, "If I find that you've given them cursed charms..."

Xander stopped and stared at her, "I would never do that. The charms are what I said... baubles. Nothing more."

"They mean too much to be 'baubles'." Penny said, her voice tight.

"I told you before... I know a lot of things I can't talk about." Xander said, "And I've had time to think about the advice you gave me when I came here the last time... You weren't talking about my friend... were you?"

She was silent.

"No..." Xander said, "You were talking about them..."

"You don't know what you're talking about."

"I know that those three are the Charmed Ones, Miss Haliwell." Xander replied, "I know that they are destined to stand side by side with the most powerful defenders this planet can produce... and go toe to toe with the some of most powerful things the universe has ever produced. Don't underestimate them..."

Penny paled slightly. "They can't. They're too old to learn now... once maybe..."

"Fate doesn't care much for what we think," Xander said. "Fate has a habit of making things happen the way they are intended. Don't meddle with fate unless you know what you're doing... believe me when I say that it's a very, very, bad idea."

With that he produced a small card and handed to her, "If you ever need help... call me. Phoebe, Piper, Prue... they're family to me."

Then he was gone, taking Paige with him as he walked down the driveway to the Charger.

Xander walked casually out of the airport, carrying his weapons case in his left hand as he looked around the area. He quickly spotted his ride, grinning to himself as he walked up.

"Jeez Kev," He smirked, "You look like a bad Bogart character."

Kevin Sorbo, aka Hercules, was shifting nervously as he stood there wearing a grey longcoat, a fedora, and dark sunglasses. He scowled back at Xander, "Yeah yeah, yuk it up... you know last time I showed up here without a disguise it took me six hours to get out. I was signing autographs for damn near the whole time..."

"Serves you right for being a nice guy." Xander grinned, patting the Greek Demi-God on the back as they left the airport. "If you were an ass like any other celebrity, maybe you'd be able to walk around in public without looking like a movie cliche."

As they reached Herc's Vette the demi-god stripped off his hat, glasses, and coat and tossed them behind the seats. "Real funny."

Xander chuckled and hopped over the car door, dropping easily into the passenger seat. "Thanks for picking me up."

"No problem." Herc grinned as he slid behind the wheel. "How'd the mission go?"

"Handled." Xander said simply.

"What happened?"

"You know the Tarakan's?"

Herc grimaced. "Too well. I've tried to take them out a few times, but their group is setup in cells... almost impossible to take out. I had a real shot at it about fifteen hundred years ago... but I missed. Now they're spread out too much."

Xander shook his head, "I had to kill three of them... One was a girl no older then I am."

Herc glanced aside, "Damn. I'm sorry..."

"No option. The people they were sent after were good people, Herc... Heroes even." Xander replied, "Given the choice I made my decision and I stand by it."

Hercules nodded as he steered the car into the city. "I understand."

Back at Herc's place, Xander checked out his bike and grinned at Herc. "Thanks for letting me keep it here."

"No problem, Xander." The big guy said with a smile. "I've got more room then I need... and it feels good to see you do what you do."


Herc grinned, "It's been a long time since my... 'Legendary Journeys', Xand... It's nice to see people still doing that... fighting the good fight, instead of burying their heads in the sand. Gives me hope."

Xander shook his head, smiling sort of self consciously. "Come on, man... I'm just a normal guy... I'm sure as hell not in your league."

"Normal isn't what I'd call you, Xan." Herc said, leaning on his car. "But that's not the point. The fact that you are human is what makes it all the more special. You know, History never even remembered Iolus... but he was the bravest, most loyal, man I ever knew... He faced every danger that I did, and he did it as a pure human. I can't tell you how much in awe I was of that man."

Xander dipped his head, not saying anything for a while. Then he looked up at the big guy and reached out his hand, Herc accepted it and the two clasped each other's forearms for a moment. "Thanks Kev... that means a lot to me."

Herc nodded, then let go. "So what are your plans now?"

Xander shrugged, "I'm going to see Andy, then drop in on Dawn... after that I'll probably cruise up to Sunnydale... I haven't seen my friends there in months, they'll be worried."

"Touching base is good." Herc said. "I'm glad to see you do it. You need to stay grounded... otherwise you run the risk of forgetting why you do what you do."

Xander nodded, hefting his helmet and straddling his bike. "I know... Thanks again."

"No problem... hey," Herc grinned. "Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, Herc." Xander replied, "I'll catch you on the flip."

With that he pulled the helmet over his head and slipped the starter on the bike. A moment later he was roaring down the street.

Andy looked up, mildly surprised when Xander walked into the store. "Hey kid, how's it going?"

"Not too bad, Andy." Xander grinned. "That shipment from Terry come through here?"

Andy nodded, jerking his head to a box in the corner. "Over there."

"Thanks." Xander said, glancing at the work bench. "Whatcha working on?"

Andy growled, "Pain in the ass bastard can't seem to keep straight the difference between a gun and a sword."


"Nothing." Andy pushed the work away, "It's just the third time I've had to repair this gun and it's getting on my nerves."

Xander shook his head and grinned. "Ok... Other then that, how's it been?"

"Same as always, Kid. Bad to worse." Andy said, his face solemn but betrayed by a twinkle in his eye.

Xander laughed in response and walked over to his 'shipment'. He grabbed a prybar and made short work of the crate, checking out the stuff packed within. He pulled up a vest and looked it over, sighing. "Well... at least it doesn't look like a reject from a comic book..."

Andy chuckled. "Terry told me you had him make up a custom order... What happened?"

"Assassin with a sword slashed my coat... it got me thinking that it's safer to err on the side of caution." Xander replied, trying the vest on.

Andy shuffled over, shaking his head as he looked at the kid. The armored vest Xander had put on was dyed black, and had been obviously designed for military use. It had various load bearing clips and straps that gave it an almost sinister appearance.

"You'll draw attention with that on, kid." Andy said.

Xander looked down at it, then moved over to catch a look at himself in the mirror. He nodded, "Yep. I guess I have to wear the coat over it."

"Are you nuts, kid!?" Andy looked at him oddly. "They have to weigh over forty pounds together... and that doesn't count your gear!"

Xander shucked off the vest and grinned, "I've actually gotten used to the coat, Andy... time to put some more weight on."

With that he turned back to the crate and drew out a pair of 'leather' pants that looked more like standard biker gear then the vest. He nodded. "These'll do fine."

Andy nodded, "Terry told me to wish you a profitable new year, kid. He likes it when you call."

Xander chuckled, "Yeah. Tell me about it... I think I'll have to rob a couple more bad guys... just to keep my cash flow going north, ya know?"

Andy shook his head, "Damn it kid, you really remind me of someone I used to know."

"Oh yeah?" Xander grinned, "Who's that?"

Andy settled back into his chair, thinking about his time at The Farm. "You ever hear of Mack Bolan, kid?"

Xander choked, then broke out laughing. "Heard of him? I raided a Yakuza stronghold with the guy a few months back."

That was Andy's cue to choke. And he did choke, and sputter, and finally speak. "What!?"

"Guy told me his name was Mike Belesko..." Xander grinned, "I found out there a few weeks ago that he was Mack Bolan."

"Jesus..." Andy muttered, "How'd you find out?"

"Carl told me."

"Carl LYONS!?"

"What?" Xander shrugged, "You know him too?"

"You didn't tell them about me did you?" Andy looked worried.

"Umm... no. Why?"

Andy leaned back, "Because they think I died back when I became... well, Immortal."

Xander looked shocked for an instant, "Shit. Man that's got to suck..."

Andy nodded, "yeah... back then it was the toughest thing I ever did... they were family to me... but I couldn't have dealt with all of this if I were trying to deal with them knowing too..."

"You could tell them now..." Xander said.

Andy shook his head, "No... no... it's better left in the past."

"Andy," Xander said hesitantly. "If there is one thing I've learned... the past has a habit of snapping you on the ass when it's least convenient."

Andy shook his head, "Doesn't matter. They don't need to know about my world."

"Mack faces a lot of bad asses..." Xander said, "No knowing something like this could get the guy killed."

Andy was silent, then shook his head. "Mack's the best. He'll survive."

"Could be. Could be." Xander said, fitting on his new armored clothes and throwing the coat on over top. "It's your secret, Andy... I'll keep it for you, unless lives are at stake. You know where I stand past that."

Andy nodded. "Thanks, kid."

"No problem. Look, I've got to go..." Xander said, shaking the armorer's hand. "Merry Christmas, man."

"Merry Christmas, kid."

Dawn Summers walked into her room, tossing her jacket haphazardly on the floor, and then walked over to the large mirror mounted on the wall. She frowned as she always did lately when she looked in a mirror, trying to remember how she was going to look in a few years. Finally she gave up and turned away.

"You look great."

She spun to the voice, startled to find Xander standing by her window, and grinned. "Xander!"

"Shhhh!" He hissed, catching her as she threw herself at him. "See? I remember this time."

She grinned as he put her down, "It took you long enough."

"Pardon me. I've been distracted." He smirked. "How's it going?"

She rolled her eyes, "Buffy's still a ditz, school still sucks."

"But other then that?"

"Everything peachy." Dawn said sarcastically.

Xander grinned, "Good... Here, I got you something."

Dawn looked down to where Xander was holding out a small box. He grinned and accepted it gleefully, "Whatcha get me? Huh?"

"Open it." He smiled.

She did and blinked in surprise as she pulled out a fine gold chain with an elegant silver cross attached. She looked up at Xander, her eyes wide.

"It's a bit of a practical gift, I admit..." He said slowly.

"Xander!" She whispered, "I love it!"

"Good..." Xander hugged her, and she hugged him back. "Merry Christmas, Dawnie."

Welcome to Sunnydale.

Xander slowed his bike as he roared past, tempted for a brief moment to draw a weapon and make short work of that damned sign. Instead he brushed the feeling off and twisted the throttle once again, causing the bike to roar a little as he headed into town.

It was late, well after midnight when he arrived, and he pulled the bike into the little rat trap motel that Faith had once stayed in. He walked into the main building, catching the night manager as the man slept at the desk.

"Hey." He said, not loudly, but loud enough to wake the man. "I need a room."

The man started awake, but quickly nodded and grabbed a set of keys. "Forty for the night. Check out is at noon."

Xander dropped two twenties to the desk and grabbed the keys.

He was halfway to the door when he looked at the room number and stopped in midstep.

"Somthin wrong?" The guy asked in a nasal voice from behind him.

He looked at the room number for a long moment before shaking his head. "No. I'm fine."

Then he walked out and pushed his bike over to the room in question. He left the bike in front of the room and walked over to the door, unlocking it. He hesitated a moment before stepping inside, but eventually forced himself in.

Faith's room.

He shivered at the memories tied to the place, both good and bad, then sighed and closed the door behind him.

Dec 22

The next day Xander drove his bike to a stop outside his house. He didn't get off the bike, just stared at the house he had grown up in for a long moment.

It was funny. He'd cut all ties with his parents over a year ago by his estimation, but he also knew that to them, he had just walked off without warning a few months earlier. He sighed, wondering if maybe that was too much. Maybe he should have done more then leave the short note that announced his intention to leave home.

He shook his helmeted head as he looked at the home that didn't seem to have changed in the entire time he lived there. Either timeline.

After a moment he sighed and gunned the engine of the bike, kicking the powerful german motorcycle into gear and taking off.

He arrived at The Rosenberg residence moments later, parking the bike in their driveway and slowly walking up to the door of the home. He rapped on the door, tucking his helmet under one arm, and waited.

The door opened and Xander recognized Mrs Rosenberg as she looked out, a little apprehensively. "Yes...?"

He was about to speak as her eyes widened. "Xander??"

He nodded, smiling a little sheepishly. "Hi Mrs R."

She stared at him for a long moment before saying anything, taking in the changes. His face was covered with a short growth of hair that effectively made him look years older then he was, and there was something in his eyes that seemed harder. But when he grinned at her, with that same goofy smile that she had seen the first time Willow had brought home 'her' friend, Mrs Rosenberg knew it was still the same boy.

"Xander!" She said in shock, actually hugging him contrary to what her books on child psychology would suggest. "My god! What on earth were you thinking!? We've had the police looking everywhere for you!"

Xander smiled, this time in amusement. He'd kept an eye out for any runaway notices in his name, and knew that the Sunnydale PD hadn't let anything leave the small town. If they had looked for him, they had done it all here, and nowhere else.

Still he pushed that aside and just shrugged, "I had to get away for a while, Mrs R."

She frowned, but nodded. "Please... come in! Come in!"

Xander shook his head, "I'm not sure if I have time... I'm not back in town permanently... Is Willow in?"

She shook her head, her mind scrambling for anything to keep him here while she got ahold of his parents. "No... She has a course at that dojo... She'll be back soon though..."

"That's ok." Xander smiled, "I'll be back... I'm not leaving town again until I check in with everyone."

As he started to walk away the older woman frowned, "Xander!"

He stopped, looking back. "Yes?"

"Are... are you alright?"

He smiled, genuinely pleased at the question. "I'm great, Mrs R. Don't worry, I haven't been neglecting myself or my education... I think I'll come home and be ready for school next year. Don't worry about me."

She looked at him in mild surprise as she absorbed his words. He looked fine, even better then fine. He looked healthy, and fit, but there was something missing.

His smile.

That was it, she noted finally. Despite the brief smiles he had given her, the omnipresent goofy grin was gone from his face. The odd thing was... His face looked more... *him* without it. Like he'd dropped a very old mask that didn't fit anymore.

While she was thinking all that he'd remounted his bike and roared out of the driveway.

<Xander isn't old enough to drive a bike... is he!?>

Xander wheeled the bike through the mid-town traffic of Sunnydale with ease. After LA and San Francisco, small town driving wasn't something that was going to bother him. He was glad that Willow had kept up the lessons, and was just as happy that there was a lesson going on now. It would give him a chance to greet his friends all at once.

He stopped outside Lee's Dojo and parked the bike, casually flipping the helmet under one arm as he walked up the steps of the building and casually pushed his way through the large glass doors.

Inside he could hear the sounds of training from the Dojo and he moved quietly as he stepped in to see.

On the mats were Willow, Jessie, and Jonathon, as he'd hoped to find. Master Lee was walking them through a Kata that Xander recognized as Kung Fu with a strong Akido influence. Probably a result of the Master's own style preferences.

For what it was worth, Xander whole heartedly approved of the combination, and wondered if Lee had some inkling of the things that haunted the Sunnydale nights. The focus and control of energy necessary in Kung Fu, combined with the shifting of motion and energy in Akido, would make for an effective style against stronger and faster opponents.

Xander leaned against the wall, nodding politely to Joy when she came out to investigate the door chime.

"Xander..." She said quietly, but with surprise. "You're back..."

Xander grinned and walked over to the counter, "Yeah. Guess I am. For a while anyway. How's the new students doing?"

Joy glanced over to where the three were still being drilled by Lee. "Quite well. They test for their next belt just after the holidays."

"Oh?" Xander raised an eyebrow. "What color?"

"White." She grinned. "My father doesn't put much stock in the rainbow, I'm afraid. White, brown, and black, are all you'll find here. But they'll be at the third level white... one belt away from first level brown."

Xander nodded. "Nod bad. I'm glad they're taking to it."

Joy smiled, "Jonathon comes in all the time for extra practice. My Father has even let him handle some of the younger classes... he is quite good with children."

Xander smiled, nodding. "Yeah... I can see that I guess... Willow and Jessie?"

"About even. Jessie is stronger, and faster... But Willow is more skilled." Joy replied. "It balances out... much to Jessie's embarrassment."

Xander laughed, a sharp sound that echoed through the building and attracted the attention of the students.



"Hey dude!"

"Hai!" Lee snapped as his three students almost ran off the mats without proper respect. As one the three of them froze and turned back to their Teacher and bowed. He watched, a trace of a smile on his lips as he purposely held them in place. Finally He gave into the barely contained glare he saw on Willow's face and nodded. "Dismissed."

The each nodded gratefully and turned to rush to Xander.

But he was gone.

They stopped, and frowned in confusion.

"Where'd he go!?"

"You know," Xander spoke casually to Master Lee behind them, "You've done good work with them."

"Perhaps." The Master said gruffly, "But their attention to detail still requires great work."

Xander shrugged, "They do ok for teenagers."

Master Lee merely snorted.

Jonathon looked around, back at Joy, then back to Xander. "Wicked awesome, dude! How'd you do that!?"

"Where have you been!?" Willow broke in, glaring at Xander. "You didn't even say goodbye!!"

"Sorry Wills." Xander said, shrugging. "I had to get out of town for a while."

Willow didn't respond, merely fell quiet and looked hurt.

"Don't be like that, Will..." Xander said, smiling gently. "I did call you..."

"Twice!" Willow said, glowering at him. "You only called twice!"

"I've been busy." Xander said with a grin, "Seeing faroff places, well as far as New York anyway, meeting strange and interesting people..."

Jonathon laughed, "And killing them, right dude!?"

Xander didn't say anything right away, watching as Jessie and Jon laughed at the joke. Then he forced a smile, "Yeah, sure Jono... but not all of them."

"Right. Saving some for others huh?"


Jessie walked up to him and Xander extended his hand. Jessie grabbed his forearm and Xander matched the grip. "Bro."

"Always, Jes." Xander grinned.

Jessie returned the grin, "Glad to have you back."

"Just home for the holidays." Xander said, "I'm moving out to New Mexico afterwards... and then I think I'll head for Miami."

"What? California don't have enough babes in bikini's for ya?" Jessie asked with a grin.

Xander shook his head, "It's not that. There something in that direction that an.... old friend wants to see again."

"Who's this old friend?" Willow asked, "Do we know them?"

Xander shook his head, "Sorry Will... you never met her."

"Her?" Jessie grinned, "Got yourself a girlfriend, huh?"

Xander chuckled, "Not exactly, and not this girl. She more like... a mentor."

"Like Master Lee." Jonathon said instantly.

"Exactly, Jono." Xander grinned, "Exactly."

"She the one who taught you to kick the football teams ass?" Jessie asked with a grin.

"Actually she did."

"Cool. When do we get to meet her?" Jessie grinned.

Xander turned serious, "I don't know."

After a moment of silence, Xander grinned again. "Come on guys. Enough of this silence bullshit. I'm home, it's Christmas... Let's shop, then let's party."

Xander clasped his arms around Jessie and Willow and nodded to Jonothan, "You coming? Grab your stuff man!"

"Cool." He grinned, grabbing for his jacket.

Xander glanced at Joy and Master Lee, "You two want in?"

"I think not." Master Lee said with a slight smile, "However if Joy would like to accompany you, I am certain that I could find my way to closing the Dojo tonight."

"May I?" Joy grinned suddenly, "Thank you, Father."

"Do not be too late," He said, "And have fun."

"Come on," Xander grinned, "Tonight... is on me!"

"Whoa! Cool bike!"

"Thanks, Jon..." Xander said, "But I think we'll just hoof it for now."

"Xander..." Willow frowned, looking at the bike. "That... that isn't the same bike is it?"

"Nope. This one's bigger Wills..." Xander grinned, "Come on, Let's go to the mall and do a little shopping, grab some food, and then maybe we'll buzz the Bronze."

"Sounds good to me." Jessie grinned, "Everyone have some spending money?"

Xander dropped a hand on his shoulder, "Your money is no good tonight, Jes. Or any of you. I've got it covered."

"How'd you get all the money?" Willow asked tentatively.

Xander shrugged and grinned as he led the group along the road toward the mall. "I robbed a rich black mage, and did some contract work for the CIA..."

Jonathon bust out laughing, and soon so did Jessie and Xander. Willow just glared at him, "Xander! Tell me the truth!"

Xander just kept laughing for a while, trying hard to gather his breath. "Someday, Wills... someday."

Willow just glared at him as they walked down the road.

They spent the rest of the day shopping, with Xander footing the bill for all the little trinkets that caught their eyes, and generally just goofing off.

After a short while he noticed that both Joy and Jonathon were a little on the outs though, and were obviously shifting away from the group as He joked with Jessie and Willow. Xander frowned, he'd lived through being the shutout, and had also seen others go through it as well, and didn't plan on letting that happen to anyone around him if he could help it.

"Hey, Joy..." He grinned, walking up to here as she looked over a jewelry stand. "See something you like?"

She immediately fell back, shaking her head. "No."

Xander shook his head, his eyes falling to the small gold dolphin pendant she had been eyeing. "Right... It's nice. You like Dolphins?"

She shrugged a little, then nodded.

He turned to the cashier, "I'll take it."

"No!" She objected, "You can't spend your money on me..."

He slid the cash to the cashier and nodded at her to ring it up, then took the pendant and let it trail in his hand. He smiled at Joy, "Turn around..."

She shook her head.

"Come on, just turn around."

Joy Lee finally acquiesced and turned around. She saw his hand flip the gold chain and charm over her head, and shivered as his hands brushed aside her hair and did the clasp.

"Money doesn't mean anything to me, Joy. I don't need it, not really, and I don't want it. But I have it." Xander said, "So I'm going to make certain that it is put to good use. Now, you've been looking after my friends for months, your father has been training them... I paid your father for his time, but consider this a Christmas gift. Alright?"

She reluctantly nodded, and he grinned suddenly. "Good. Now come on... we've still got to hit a few more stores before we go Bronzing."

She smiled, almost grudgingly, and nodded. "Alright..."

Xander grinned as she did, <Bingo. One down, now for Jono.>

He moved on Jonathon a short while later, "Hey man, you look down... what's up?"

"Huh?" Jon looked up, "Oh. Nothing, Xander..."

"Sure..." Xander elt the word drag out to emphasize the sarcasm in his voice. "Come on... tell me."

"It's nothing, ok?"

"Feeling a little left out?" Xander asked, almost rhetorically. "Maybe worried that Jessie and Willow are forgetting about you because I'm back?"

Jonathon looked up in shock, but quickly covered.

"And, while you think that I've got some cool toys... you don't know how you fit in, right?" Xander said, his face solemn. "Am I hitting close to home here?"

Jon was silent for a while, "How... how'd you guess?"

Xander grinned, "Been there, man. Done that, and didn't even get the stupid T-Shirt. Relax man, If Jessie and Willow are your friends, then they'll always be your friends. They're the loyal types."

"What about you?"

Xander laughed, "You don't want me as a friend, Jono. Trouble likes to follow me around like a lost puppy."

Jon grinned, but shook his head, "Y... you know... I... I think that I'll take my chances."

Xander grinned and slapped the shorter boy on the back, "Come on Jono... let's go find the others and get into a little trouble."

As they walked off, Xander chuckled. "You know man, you seem to be getting into shape."

Jon actually preened a little bit, looking very proud. "Yeah... you think?"

"Don't let it go to your head, Jono." Xander grinned, "You're still short."

Jonathon scowled at him, but took it for the joke it was intended to be and laughed. "And you need a personality transplant."

"Are you kidding me? Where on God's earth would they possibly find a compatible donor??" Xander laughed out loud.

That night the entire group hit the Bronze, dressed to the nines courtesy of Xander's debit cards.

Xander himself had even abandoned the armor in favor of a loose fitting turquoise dress shirt and a pair of black dress pants. His hair trimmed back and styled, but still swinging down to his shoulders, kept his overall look away from the Biker reject style he'd been perpetrating as of late, though he still needed a shave.

Willow had found herself talked into a white blouse and pair of pants that felt more like they were painted on then something she would normally wear, a fact that meant that she was constantly walking around with a face almost as red as her hair.

"Relax, Willow..." Joy grinned at her as she pushed the reluctant girl into the club, "You look great."

"But... but... but..." She tried, but quickly found herself shoved into the loud club anyway.

Joy grinned, shaking her head, as she followed. Her style of dress was a little more daring then Willow, though she'd be certain to change back before she went home. Her father wouldn't approve of the tight wrapped red top that showed almost as much as it covered, and the skirt that didn't quite qualify as a bathing suit.

Behind them Xander pushed Jessie and Jon ahead of him, laughing and joking as they followed the girls into the club. Inside the swell of music flowed over them and they immediately moved toward an empty table that was a little back in the shadows.

"Good band." Xander said as they took their seats.

"Yeah, man!" Jessie yelled over the noise, grinning. "They got a new lead guitar not too long ago... the guy is a real wild man on stage!"

Xander looked up to the stage and suppressed a grin. "Oz."

"How'd you know!?" Jessie asked, "You know him??"

Xander shrugged, waving a waitress over. "Hey could we get five... cokes ok for everyone?"

Everyone nodded.

"Five cokes for the table." He said and the waitress nodded and vanished.

"How do you do that man!?" Jonathon asked over the music.

Xander looked confused. "Do what?"

"You're not yelling, but I can hear everything you say!"

Xander blinked, shrugging. "Never thought about it."

Jon shook his head, grinning. "It's damned cool man!"

Xander eyed Jon for a moment, suppressing a frown. Jonathon was starting to worry him. The last thing he wanted was this guy pulling a hero worship deal with him. Finally he shook it off, and grinned again. "Why don't you guys go dance!?"

The other four looked at each other, shifting nervously, then shrugged.

Xander rolled his eyes, "Well, I'm going to dance. Joy? Willow? Care to join me?"

To the everlasting shock of Jessie and Jonathon, both girls smiled and got up. Xander shrugged just before following them to the dance floor, "Close your mouths guys. What did you expect? Women *love* to dance."

Jessie and Jonathon stared as he followed the two girls to the dance floor and started dancing with both of them.

Jessie turned to Jonathon, "Why are we sitting here while Xander dances with *two* chicks?"

"Face it man," Jonathon sighed, "We're dweebs."

Xander swayed to the music as he faced both Joy and Willow, mildly surprised that Willow had consented to getting up on the floor with two other people. He shrugged it off, uncertain if his memories of the 'shy little Willow' were exaggerated or if maybe her martial training was bringing out the take control power freak Willow ahead of schedule.

He quickly covered a frown at that last thought and promised to keep an eye on Willow while he was in town. There was an off chance that he might want to stick around longer if she was already pushing into dangerous areas. Still, he didn't think she could get into as much trouble without the Magic, and a big part of putting her under Master Lee's tutelage was to teach her discipline and control.

For the moment he shrugged the thoughts off and grinned as he danced with two very hot young ladies.

"Hey... is that Harris?"

Cordelia Chase turned in surprise, "Where?"

Aura shrugged and pointed, "Over there... Dancing with Rosenberg and Lee..."

Harmony scowled, "He's got some nerve showing his face here again."

Cordy rolled her eyes, "You're one to talk. The Football team hasn't got a chance in hell of making the playoffs this year because of you."

Harmony Kendall shut up, face reddening.

Cordelia nodded with satisfaction before turning back to look at Xander. After the fiasco at the start of the year, 'Queen C' had cut her closest rival down to size because of what Harmony did with Xander and the Team. And it was now her pleasure to keep the, still recovering, social climber in her place.

She watched Xander dance with mild interest, wondering at the changes in the boy. The last time she had seen him dance had been during the summer, and his style at the time could be best described as a vertical form of epilepsy. She had to admit, he looked better now.

"I wonder what happened to him?" She said quietly.

"I don't know." Aura shrugged, "He's definitely climbing the hotness meter though."

Cordelia shrugged, "At least he seems to have recovered from that childhood bout with color blindness. And he's not dressing like a Biker reject like he did in September."

"Out of ten?" Aura asked, smiling slightly.

Cordy shrugged, "Six... pushing seven."

"Three." Harmony said, but no one paid attention.

Aura tilted her head, "Seven. But I'd go nine if he's managed to ditch the sense of humor."

Cordelia grinned in response, "This is Xander we're talking about."

"Right. Seven it is." Aura smirked.

The three girls snickered and turned back their attentions back to their own table and the group of guys sitting three tables down.

"So... Mike, out of ten?"

"Definite eight." Harmony responded instantly.

"I'll agree with that." Aura said, nodding.

Cordy shrugged, "Eh... I'll give him a seven."

Xander and the girls returned to the table, flushed but grinning.

"That was fun, thanks Xander." Joy grinned.

Xander shrugged, "My Pleasure. Trust me."

"Ours too." She answered, grinning at Willow. Then glared mockingly at Jon and Jessie. "Most guys have to be dragged onto the floor... and once they're there they look like they've been caught with their hands down their pants or something."

Jonathon instantly flushed red enough to match Willow's hair, Jessie just sort of laughed it off nervously.

Xander grinned at the two, "She's not kidding guys... Best way to catch a girls interest... Ask her to dance."

Jon thought about it, "So... are there any dance classes running around Sunnydale now?"

Joy rolled her eyes and grabbed his arm, "Classes! Come on... I'll show you..."

"Hey! Wait! I was just...." Jonathon protested as he was drug onto the floor.

Xander and Jessie watched them go, and Jessie shrugged. "I ask Cordy to dance all the time... doesn't do me any good."

Xander laughed out loud, "Cordelia is an exception, Jes. Trust me on this, it'll take a lot more then the dance floor to break down her armor."

"Like what?"

"A good near death situation might help." Xander shrugged with a grin.

Jessie scowled at him, "Gee thanks, funny man."

"Who was joking?" Xander asked seriously. "Trust me, man. Cordy ain't gonna thaw out anywhere this side of a blast furnace. She's invested too much time into the Queen C persona..."

Jessie sighed.

Willow looked between them as if they were nuts. "Can I say, Hey! I'm sitting right here you know... I'd be grateful if you didn't talk about how to get into a girls pants in front of me!"

Xander laughed, "You got it, Wills. What do you want to talk about?"

"Where have you been!?" Willow said instantly.

Xander shook his head with a smile, "One track mind, Will... Don't ever change."


"I told you." Xander replied, "I've been visiting the country... Spent some time in LA, San Fran, made a run through Dallas, some time in New York... even A few days in Washington."

"Why?" Jessie asked, frowning.

"See the country, man... enjoying myself." Xander replied.

"How are you paying for it?" Willow asked, worridly.

"I've done some jobs here and there, picked up a government contract through an old friend..." Xander replied, "Nothing big, but more then enough to pay the bills and keep things moving."

"What kind of government job doesn't need highschool? Or being old enough to vote?" Willow frowned at him.

Xander grinned, "Why, Will? You looking to make some money?"

"No!" Willow said quickly, "I'm happy in school, thank you very much!"

"Uh huh. As opposed to hacking the DMV files?"

Willow blanked for a second. "How'd you know about that!?"

Xander grinned, "Lord Nikon says hello."

"You know Nikon!?"

"Ni-Who!?" Jessie asked.

"I met him in New York a while back. Nice guy... a little freaky the way he remembers stuff though." Xander said, "He and his friends tried to ram a wooden stake through my back."

"What!?" Jessie asked.

Xander shrugged, "Those hacker types are kinda weird."

"Hey!" Willow growled, "I'm still here you know!"

Xander grinned, "Really... I hadn't noticed. You notice, Jes?"

Jessie shrugged, "Notice what?"

Willow folder her hands over her chest and growled at them both.

Dec 23

Xander got up slowly the next morning, feeling comfortable as he felt the relatively weak rays of sunshine strike his face. He rolled over in his motel bed and hopped to his feet, stretching as he settled into a quick morning workout.

Stretching came first, as always. Kani'Maro was one helluva kick ass fighting style, but it was dependent on him firing on all cylinders, as the expression went. So staying limber, fit, and clear headed were all number one priorities if he wanted to continue to use the style and grow in it.

He was three quarters of the way through his morning workout when he heard a hard rapping on his door.


Xander smiled and shook his head, walking over to the door. "One sec, Wills..."

He unlocked the door and walked back to the center of the room as Willow came in.

"Xander! What the hell happened in..." She instantly cut off, turning aside as she blushed fiercely. "Oh my god! You're naked!"

"I am not." Xander replied defensively, "I have underwear on."

"Well..." She waved a hand in his direction as she stared at the wall, "Put some pants on at least!"

Xander sighed and grabbed his biker leathers from the ground and slid them on, quickly zipping them up. "Alright. I've got pants on. What did you come in here to scream about?"

"I was not screaming!" Willow snapped as she snuck a peak to be sure he'd gotten dressed. "I just want to know why Nikon seems to think he's working for you now!?"

Xander laughed. "Is that all?"


Xander shrugged, grabbing for a black denim shirt and flipping it over his shoulders. "I told you I do some contract work, right?"

"Yeah... but..."

"Well I subcontracted some of it." Xander said simply. "Nikon and his friends are damned good hackers, and I needed some computer work done."

"Xander..." Willow's jaw worked, "That's... that's... Insane!"

"Excuse me?"

"Your only sixteen years old! You can't hire people! Or work for the government! You have to be in school!" She said, waving her hands around.

Xander laughed, and tossed his wallet through the air to her. "Here."

"What's this?" She frowned flipping it open.

"Look at my ID."

She did.

"Alexander Harrison... Your name isn't Harrison! Hey! You're not twenty one!" She glared at him, "This is a fake!"

"Ah, I beg to differ." Xander grinned, "Alexander Harrison is a real person as far as every computer in the country is concerned..."

"So *thats* what you hired Nikon and his friends for!?" Willow looked outraged.

"Please." Xander scoffed, "They're good, but they aren't polished enough for that kind of work. I hired a professional."

"You.. You... You can't DO that!" Willow protested.

Xander shrugged and spoke derisively, "Since my parents *lost* my birth certificate when I was two, the only real evidence I exist is my school records at Sunnydale and at City Hall. Now, I happen to know that anyone going to City Hall looking for birth records is only going to get the runaround... So that pretty much means I can be anyone I choose to be Will... if I know the tricks of the trade, and have the cash to ante up."

Willow stared at him dumbly for a long moment and Xander walked up to her and gently guided her to a chair. "Have a seat..."

She sat down, shaking her head. "Xander... w... what happened to you?"

He smiled, "That's a long story, Wills... And as much as I love ya, you aren't ready to hear it."

She looked up at him, eyes wide as her face fought over two reactions.

Xander waited patiently for her to finish, sitting himself down on the edge of his bead and making certain that his weapons stash was still safely hidden under him.

Willow blinked, finally seeming to center herself. "You left me... us... And you won't tell me why?"

Xander sighed, "It was just something that I had to do. There are some big changes coming... for all of us, Willow... you, me, Jessie... all three of us. And I had to get out of Sunnydale for a while to get ready for them."

"What kind of changes?"

"Big ones." Xander said, "That's all I'm going to say for now. Just... trust me, ok?"

Willow looked at him, hesitating for a long moment as emotions warred across her face. Finally she scowled, but nodded. "Alright. I trust you."

Xander smiled, "Thanks Will."

"But don't think that gets you off the hook!" She glared at him, "You still left without saying goodbye!"

Xander grinned, and grabbed his coat. "Come on. Time I made that up to you."


"Oymygod!!" Willow screamed as she hung onto Xander as tightly as she could, eyes clenched tight so as to blot out the sight of the road speeding by underneath her.

Xander grinned, accelerating a little just to hear the squeal again, then heading the bike toward the business sector. He pulled up to a courier and let the bike wind down. As he popped down the kickstand he turned and pulled his helmet off Willow, and grinned at her clenched eyes.

"It's over now."

She slowly opened her eyes, shaking a bit as she did. Xander helped her get off the bike and she walked around for a bit, unsteadily trying to ascertain that the ground was indeed solid.

"Fun ride?" Xander grinned.

She scowled at him, but didn't say anything.

Xander just laughed, "Come on..."

He led her into the courier shop, grinning at her confusion. "Xander... what?"

He walked up to the desk, motioning her to silence. "Hi, do you have some packages for Alexander Harrison?"

The clerk checked his books and nodded, "Yes Sir. We just received several packages yesterday. Are you Mr Harrison?"

Xander nodded, showing his ID.

"Very good. Would like these delivered, or are you claiming them now?"

"Delivery... to this address..." Xander said, giving them Jessie's address. "But I want the package marked Willow1 now."

"Yes Sir."

A moment later Xander and Willow had left the building with the package under his arm. He grinned at her, handing the helmet back. "Read for another ride?"

She looked at the bike, wide eyed. "No! No way! Uh uh. Not gonna happen!"

"Get on." Xander ordered with a grin. "Or you don't get your pre-Christmas present."

"Present?" Willow eyed the package.

Xander grinned at her.

Willow groaned and got on the bike.

"Sucker." Xander grinned.


Xander gunned the engine and took off, forcing Willow to hang onto him as the bike accelerated down the road.


"Go ahead... open it up." Xander grinned.

Willow looked from the slim package to Xander, then back again. "Xander... I..."

"Jeez, Willow... It's a gift. Open it!" He order with a laugh.

Willow opened the package, pulling the paper off it and hesitantly sliding the twine out of her way. Her eyes widened as she pulled the slim laptop computer out and looked at it. After a moment of examining the machine she looked up at Xander with wide eyes.

"Xander! They don't sell these yet!"

"I got a favor from a friend." Xander grinned, "These'll go on the market next year, but this is one of the promo models."

"Xander... I... wow..."

Xander grinned widely at the look on her face, genuinely enjoying her shock and awe. "That's what I wanted to hear..."

Willow's eyes gleamed as she opened the computer and turned it on, and moments later she was lost in the myriad of cybernetic passages that only hackers ever really saw.

Xander smiled again, this time amused at her reaction, sat back, and idly flipped through the channels on the Rosenberg TV. <Saw that... damn saw that too...> He sighed, <This time travel crap is a real pain in the ass when it comes to TV.>

Dec 25th, Jessie's Place

Xander grinned around the festively decorated living room as he sipped lightly at the hot cocoa that was a yearly tradition at the Burnham household. He looked up as Jessie's mother walked in with a bag of marshmallows and grinned.

"Thanks Miss B."

She smiled at him, "You're welcome Xander. It's good to have you back... You worried a lot of people, you know..."

"Sorry." Xander smiled apologetically. "I decided to get out on my own."

Miss Burnham nodded, her face creasing into a frown. She didn't know what to say because, unlike a lot of the people in Xander's life, she knew about his homelife.

"Don't frown," Xander grinned. "I've made my move is all."

"You shouldn't have had to run away from home to do it, Xander." She said with a frown. She had tried calling his parent several times since Xander had shown up, but to little avail. The one time they had bothered to answer the phone, his father's reaction was 'Xander who?'. The cops weren't a lot more helpful, they couldn't seem to find any case file for the boy, and as far as they were concerned that meant that nothing was wrong.

"I didn't run from anywhere," Xander said, his voice stead and serious. "I moved out and on. There's a difference. I don't run from anything anymore, not even my parents."

She nodded, setting down the marshmallows, "Jessie will be down in a minute... and I think Willow will be here soon too."

Xander smiled, nodding.

Christmas had been one of the few days of the year that Xander had always looked forward too and dreaded most when he was younger. He, Jessie, and Willow always got together at Jessie's place for Christmas and to exchange gifts. He loved the day for the feeling of family it had always brought, but he'd hated it for the fact that he could never give his friends much to match their gifts to him.

This year, at least, he figured he could make up for that. Of course, it wasn't really about the money or the gifts. That was a lesson he'd learned from Jarod and others, but it was still nice to have the flex to put money where his heart was.

"Jessie and Willow added someone else to the gang since you left, you know." She said softly.

Xander smiled, "Jono. I know."

She smiled, "Good. I was..."

"Worried that I'd feel left out." Xander finished smoothly, smiling. "Relax. I learned a long time ago that there isn't a limit to the number of friends a person can have."

She nodded, her face clearing up. "He's coming over too..."

Xander grinned, "know. I had a gift delivered for him too."

"Oh." She said, surprised, then smiled. "Good."

"Wow! Cool!" Jon grinned, his eyes wide as he pulled the Playstation out of the wrapping. "Thanks, man!"

Xander shook his head, "No worries, man. I just thought you might appreciate it."

Jon grinned, "I do, man. I do!"

Xander grinned back and flipped a smaller pack to him, "Here... it's pretty useless without these."

Jonathon looked at the pack of games, then grinned wide. "No Way!"

Xander chuckled, "Enjoy, Jono."

"Man, I WILL!"

Willow and Jessie smiled over at Jon, then turned back to Xander.

"Thanks you Xander." Willow said, motioning to the boxes that contained the full sized computer system he had given her to compliment the laptop. Xander smiled, remembering the explaining he had to do to get her parents to accept those gifts.

"Bro, I still have no clue how you can afford all this."

"I told you man," Xander grinned, "I started a little contracting business."

"Dude," Jessie said with exaggerated patience, "You're *sixteen*. No one is gonna hire you to do anything more then deliver their paper!"

Xander winked at Willow, and grinned. "Oh I don't know about that. The CIA seems to like my work."

Jessie snorted, "Yeah. Right. Tell me another one."

Xander smiled, "Just relax man. Enjoy the day, and trust me... ok? I'm not doing anything immoral."

"Immoral hell." Jon grinned, "I don't care, I just want to know where I can sign up!"

Xander shot him an odd look, but just smiled. "Sorry. Not looking for partners just yet."

"Too bad."

Xander rolled his eyes, but didn't comment.

The rest of the morning went pretty much the same as everyone took a shot at trying to figure out how he could afford the gifts he gave, and Xander put them off with the same old lines. Finally he turned to Jessie's mother and smiled at her.

"My gift to Jessie goes through you, Ma'am."

She looked confused, "Huh?"

He haded her a small box, which she accepted oddly.

"Bro, if your proposing to my mother I'm gonna have to pound you into the ground." Jessie said from where he was sitting.

"You could try." Xander grinned in response, but then laughed. "But I'm not proposing. Open it up, Miss B."

She did, her eyes widening as she saw the key inside. "A car key??"

"Bro!" Jessie sounded shocked, "You're giving me a car??"

Xander grinned, "Not exactly. I'm giving you're mother a car to hold for you until you pass your drivers test."

Willow snickered, drawing an irritated look from Jessie.



Xander chuckled, remembering Jessie's first attempt at passing the test. "Anyway, since I figure it'll be a Looooong time before you pass that test, I thought you're mother might like to hold onto the keys."

"Xander..." Miss Burnham said slowly, "I don't think we can accept this..."


Xander shook his head, smiling. "Please. Do. I promise you, there is nothing remotely illegal involved here... The car isn't stolen, it's legally leased from a local dealer in my name and paid up for three years. After that, you just turn it in..."

"Xander..." She repeated herself, "This isn't a gift you should be giving at your age... it's way too much."

Xander smiled again, "Well... you can take it back if you like... but first let me explain..."

Xander took a breath before speaking, "I've had a run of good luck financially since I left Sunnydale. I work freelance, and that pays a lot more then most people get... I also have a broker handling my money in the markets and I've even helped out some very wealthy and powerful people, who have given me a hand with investments..."

Xander paused, reflecting on how that was the truth. Herc had directed him to a brokerage that was very reputable, and Amanda had directed him to some people who were very good at hiding money from the government. His new connections with the CIA also tending to give him a little more leeway concerning certain rules, though eventually they might cause him more problems on their own.

Finally he kept going, "Given all that... I just want to share my good fortune. I swear, it's not making me feel any squeeze and it's all legal and on the up and up."

She shook her head, "I still don't..."

"Mom... come on!"

"Jessie..." She said warningly and he instantly quieted down.

Xander was silent as he watched her consider the gift for a long moment. Finally she sighed and nodded, "Alright. You can keep it."

"Yes!" Jessie crowed.

Xander grinned at the look on his friends face.

"What kind of car is it? Huh? A 'Stang? Maybe a Vette?" Jessie looked eager.

Xander shook his head.

"No? Ok... ok... A Cavalier then?"


Jessie's mother smiled as she lifted the keys up and showed off the keychain.

Jessie paled.

"A VOLKSWAGEN!?" He shouted, "How could you!?"

Xander laughed out loud, "It's a very safe car."

"I may as well wear a sign saying geek!"

"Hey, ANY car is cool at your age." Xander said seriously. "It's only for three years. Then you can get whatever you like, I'm sure."

"But... A Volks??"

"I... I think it's very cool." Willow said softly.

"Oh, what do you know? You think school is cool!"

Xander laughed while the two started fighting and arguing, remembering the days when he would have joined in. Now it was more like an echo to him. He sighed, sobering from his elated mood quickly.

The only person to notice was Jessie's mom.

"Are you alright?"

Xander nodded. "Yeah. I'm fine."

"You're leaving again, aren't you?"

Xander nodded again. "Yeah. I have responsibilities now. People who need me..."

"You have people who care for you here, Xander. Don't be away too long."

"I won't." Xander said, his face becoming a little more relaxed. "Believe it or not, I am keeping up my education... and I'm coming back to Sunnydale for next year."

"You are?" She sounded surprised. "Well... Good. I'm glad."

Xander smiled, "Yeah. Me too."

The morning after Christmas Xander woke from a fitful sleep, his eyes stinging from the glaring sunshine running into his room.

"Uhhhh..." He muttered, staggering to the sink in his small bathroom. He washed his face with cold water and looked at his reflection blearily. "What the hell was that?"

<A dream, Alexander.> Elanthielle informed him, but her voice sounded pensive at the same time.

"I may be new to this dreaming stuff by your standards, Elan..." Xander said softly. "But I know that this wasn't no normal dream."

Elanthielle gave a sort of mental shrug and didn't respond.

Xander shook his head, staring at his reflection as he tried to grasp the nebulous memories of the dream. There was a woman, he knew that, maybe two... and they... or was it she? Was asking for help.

Xander washed his face, then hands, and grabbed his gear from under the bed. Something told him it wasn't a normal dream, but he just couldn't get a lock on it. The only thing he knew for certain was that his time in Sunnydale... was over.

Xander pulled the bike up to the Rosenberg residence and tapped the horn once. That was all it took and Willow was instantly out the door and coming across the lawn. "Xander!"

She came to a stop as she caught the look on his face, skidding slightly on the damp grass. "Xander? What is it?"

"I'm leaving town again, Wills." He said, "I just came to say goodbye."

"What?" She looked around, wild eyed. "Why?"

Xander hesitated. "It's just... time. Something's pulling me away."

"W... where are you going?"

Again he hesitated, "I'm not sure... north... San Francisco I think... for now."

"Why do you keep leaving me... us?"

Xander looked down at the face of his oldest friend, taking a deep breath. "Will... It's not you guys, believe me. It's all me. I just need to be on the move right now."

Willow shook her head, looking for something to say. The pain on her face was such that Xander could feel it across the space of air between them. He resisted the impulse to give her a hug, or kiss, not wanting to cause her more pain in the long run. "Will... I'm coming back... don't worry about me, I just have a life outside of Sunnydale now."

"Away from... us."

Xander was silent. "Not as far away as you think."


"Look... I have to go." Xander pulled his helmet down over his head and thumbed the starter on his bike. "I'll be seeing you."

As he pushed the bike off it's stand, Willow ran forward impulsively and grabbed his arm. Xander turned to look at her and flipped the visor up on his helmet.


"Come back soon." She pleaded.

He sighed, "As soon as I can."

She nodded, dropping his arm and stepping back. Xander looked at the pain in her eyes and felt his stomach churn. As he rode off his thoughts were going a mile a minute.

<How do I let Willow know that she's family to me... not something... else?>

Jessie's place was the next, and last, stop before he left SunnyD behind again. He found Jessie already waiting for him, sitting on his doorstep and staring out at the street. As he slowed to a halt Jessie got up and walked out. Xander kicked down the stand and got off the bike.


Jessie nodded. "Hey."

There was an awkward silence.

Finally Jessie spoke, "Leaving town again, huh?"

Xander nodded, "Yep. Willow?"


"Figured." Xander said, then grinned internally. <Feels like talking to Oz.>

"I wasn't sure if you would come by, Bro." Jessie said softly.

"You doubt me?" Xander asked seriously.

Jessie shook his head, "No. But I wish you felt the same."

Xander shook his own, "Man, you are my brother. You know that. I don't doubt a single thing you've ever done, or will do."

"But you don't trust me either."

"I trust you with my life." Xander said seriously. "I trust you with my soul, Jes. And believe me, that's not something I do easily."

"But not your secrets, huh?"

"My secrets would hurt you, Jes." Xander said, his face deadly serious. "They would screw with your mind and make you stop believing in the world around you. I keep my secrets to protect you from them... not them from you."

Jessie shook his head, "You keep telling yourself that."

Xander sighed, "I don't have time to argue this now. I promise you, bro... I will fill you in."

"You said that the last time." Jessie reminded him.

Xander sighed, "I don't have time. This stuff would take at least a week to sink in and I just can't stick around."

"What's the rush?"

"I... I don't know."

"Oh, that's convincing." Jessie said sarcastically.

Xander sighed, "I really don't know. I just get this feeling that I have to get moving."

"New Mexico?"

Xander shook his head, "Not yet."

"Huh? Why?"

"Don't know." Xander said flatly. "I honest don't have a clue... Just... something makes me want to go north."

"Oh." Jessie shook his head, "I guess that makes about as much sense as anything you have to say..."

Xander chuckled, "If you say so."

Xander reached out and Jessie grudgingly clasped his hand. "I'll be back, you know."

Jessie nodded. "I know, Bro. I know."

Xander smiled and let go, re-mounting his bike and hitting the starter. He fit his helmet on, and then looked back at Jessie, "I'll be seeing ya."

"Not if I see you first." Jessie grinned as he wise cracked back at Xander.

Xander laughed and flipped his visor down, tossed Jessie a sloppy salute, and kicked the big bike into gear.

Jessie watched him roar off, taking the road out of town, and shook his head. "Damn it, Bro... what the hell is up with you anyway??"

San Francisco

Paige Mathews locked her front door behind her and then walked down the stairs to the street below. She fumbled around, looking for the car keys in her purse, her head suddenly snapping up in shock as she heard the loud familiar roar of the Charger starting up.

In the driver's seat, Xander Harris grinned at her. "Can I offer My Lady a driver for the day?"

"Xander!" She grinned, running over, first heading to the drivers side, then correcting and running around to the passenger door and slipping in. She reached over and hugged Xander across the seats, and he instantly reciprocated. "I didn't think you were coming back this way for a while?"

Xander grinned, "What can I say? I couldn't resist the siren call of the Mathews girl..."

Paige grinned, slapping him lightly on the shoulder, "Flattery will get you into positions you didn't know existed."

Xander's eyes lit up slightly and glazed at the images. "Hmmm... I can live with that... Just one thing?"

"What's that?"

"No handcuffs, ok?" Xander smirked.

Paige smacked him again, a little harder. "Don't mouth off."

Xander looked worried.

"What?" Paige asked, catching his expression.

"I'm not sure I know how to do anything else..." Xander admitted with a quasi-serious confession.

Paige growled, "Smart ass."

"Always." Xander said, "So, where are we off to?"

Paige smirked at him, "Fir I have an apointment at the beauty salon..."

Xander groaned.

"Then I need to get some groceries..."

"Oh god..."

"And finally I need to stop at the pharmacy... for feminine products."

"Thats it." Xander announced, "I'm going back to Sunnydale."

Paige locked him in his seat by pulling his head over to hers and capturing his lips in a deep kiss. After she broke it she smiled sweetly at him, "You were saying?"

Xander swallowed a couple times, shaking his head clear. "Ummm... Where's this salon at anyway?"

"So... what was it like?"

Xander shrugged, taking a sip of his water and then slicing a piece off the steak he had ordered. "What?"

"Going home?" Paige asked as she took a bite of her pasta salad.

"Oh." Xander chewed thoughtfully on the stake. "That."

"Yes that." Paige rolled her eyes, "So?"

"Went about as well as I could have expected I supposed." Xander said non-commitally.

"That bad, huh?"

Xander nodded, then paused and shook his head. "No... no it wasn't, not really."


"But... they expected me to be a sixteen year old." Xander confessed.

"Imagine that." Paige smiled as she took a sip of her wine.

Xander chuckled slightly, "It's just... I don't connect with them anymore. They don't know me... and I can't tell them who I really am."

"Why not?"

Xander stared at her as if she were nuts.

Paige nodded, "Ok. So I see your point."

Xander smiled slightly, nodding. "Right. Anyway... it wasn't bad... it was just..."

"Not you."

Xander nodded, sighing. "Yep. That's it alright... not me. And it's not like it's their fault either... they're the same as they were... I'm the one who's different."

Paige shrugged, "I know that feeling."

Xander looked at her questioningly, not willing to challenge her statement. He'd had others do that to him far too often.

"When I was younger..." Paige began, "I lost my parents in a car accident. I'll spare you the details of what a rotten kid I was and just say that... afterwards, I lost a lot of my friends too... not because they were different, or wrong... but because I was."

Xander nodded, "Yeah... it's something like that."

Paige looked at her plate for a moment before registering that it was empty.

"Done?" Xander asked with a smile.

Paige nodded.

"No desert?" Xander managed to look disappointed as he finished off his steak.

"Oh... I think we can manage that part on our own." Paige grinned wickedly at him.

"My week just keeps looking better and better." Xander looked around, "Check!"

Paige pushed him back into the pluch sofa chair that adorned the center of the floor in the 'living room' section of her loft. Xander just sort of hit the chair limply, his attention diverted by the wicked smile on her face as she slowly climbed onto the char and straddled him.

He tilted his head up as her lips came down, just managing to graze the glistening red skin with his own. He smiled up at her as she pulled back, licking his limps. "Mmmmm Peaches."

She smiled at him, her eyes still glinting wickedly as she lifted her shirt off over her head and tossed it aside.

Xander's breath caught at the sight of her naked skin, covered only by the flimsiest of bras, the same way it always caught when he was this close to her lately.

"Ohhhh Paige..." He moaned softly, his hands sliding up her bare back as he felt her slim, yet strong, fingers reach under his shirt and slowly pull it up his chest.

"Yessss?" She hissed almost silently as Xander's fingers found the clasp at the back of her bra and flipped it apart with ease. The chill air caressed her breasts as the material fell away, but the cold had no time to sink in before Xander's hands replaced it with an almost searing heat. "Mmmmmmm...."

He gently cupped her breasts, letting his palms slide over them and under her arms until they were wrapped around Paige's back. He pulled her close as she ripped his shirt over his head and tossed it away. As her breasts pressed hard against his chest he whispered into her ear, "You're so beautiful, Paige..."

"Mmmmmmm...." She moaned, the heat of his breath on her ear sending a corresponding chill down her spine.

Paige shifted slightly, capturing Xander's lips in a kiss as she fumbled blindly with the button of his pants. It came undone easily and she pulled the flaps apart, ripping a lout noise from the zipper as it was forced open. Niether of them broke the kiss as Xander's hands made short work of the four buttons that ran up the front of Paige's jeans, slipping them loose one at a time as he felt her cool hands slip into his boxers and wrap firmly around him.

"Uhhhhhhhhh..." He groaned as she pressed closer to him, her body trapping her hands tightly between them as she slowly stroked him.

"That's it..." She whispered, finally breaking the kiss, "louder..."

He quickly complied, groaning out another time as she squirmed in his lap. He slid his hands under her tight jeans, pealing them off and forcing them halfway down her thighs until her legs were practically sealed together by the material.

"H... hey!" She muttered, shocked as he surged up, pushing her off. "No fair!"

He grinned wickedly at her, not answering as he hooked an arm under her bound legs and lifted. Paige squealed as she suddenly wrapped her arms around his neck to steady herself. "Xander! No... Now, cut that out! Xander, don't you...!"

Her last protest was cut off as he dropped her unceremoniously on her bed, letting her bounce a couple times before kicking his pants and boxers off and pouncing on her. Paige squealed as he straddled her body, catching her hands with his own as she tried to push her own jeans down further.

"Uh uh." He whispered to her as he slowly pusher her hands up over her head, catching her lips in a brushing kiss.

Paige moaned when he pulled away, bending her head up to follow him, but couldn't hold the kiss as Xander slid his mouth down her jaw and kissed lightly along her throat and neck. She moaned again, squirming as he moved lower still, kissing along the top of her breasts. "Xander...!"

He abandoned his course and slid back up, grinning at her as she mock glared at him from her vulnerable position. She was about to speak again when he descended on her lips, silencing whatever protest behind another moan and a renewed kiss.

Without breaking the kiss Xander rolled her onto her side, pulling her trapped legs up until her knees were just touching her breasts. The he pulled back slightly, looking down into her eyes.

She looked back up at him, her eyes wide and clear as she whispered. "Do it."

He reached down with his free hand, still entrapping her hands above her head with the other, and guiding himself in as he thrust forward. The both groaned out loud at the growing pressure until the bare skin of Xander's thighs brushed lightly against the bare skin of Paige's. Then they both held very still for a long moment, their eyes locked into a silent stare.

After an indeterminable time, Xander pulled back slightly, eliciting a moan from both of them that seemed to gain an echo in the large loft, then thrust again.

Xander's eyes flashed open like lightning, rolling around as he examined the room he was in. Paige was curled up beside him, her head resting on his chest, and their legs were entangled together. He gently extricated himself from her, ignoring her quiet protests, and pushed himself out of bed.

"Xander?" She looked up as he stood, naked, in the center of her loft.

"Go back to sleep." He whispered.

"What is it?" Paige got up, pushing the blankets aside as she joined him.

Xander frowned, "Do you have a map of California?"


"I need a map..." Xander frowned again.

Paige blinked, then went and rummaged through a drawer. "Will this do?"

Xander accepted the Rand McNally road map and nodded as he unfolded it and laid it on the bed. "Yeah... I think so."

Paige held herself slightly as the cool air sent chills through her, wrapping her arms around herself, and watched as Xander poured over the map as if a life depended on it.

"Damn it... no... no..." He muttered. "Hey! Cut me some slack, ok? It's not like your friend gave me a GPS grid to her location."

"Xander?" Paige asked with worry, "Are you ok?"

He flashed her a suddenly embarrased look, smiling at her as he reached out and grabbed her hand. He pulled her in and kissed her lightly, "Yeah... I'm fine. Just have a discussion with the voice in my head."

Paige giggled slightly, "You know... from anyone else that would sound insane."

"Who says it isn't?" Xander asked with a grin, then suddenly winced. "Hey! Elan! Cut that out??"

Paige frowned at him curiously, but he didn't say anything as he returned to the map. "What are you looking for?"

"Someone who needs help." Xander said. "She's buried in a cave out here somewhere..."

"That's a big mountain range..."

Xander nodded. "I know."

Paige watched with worry as Xander became increasingly frustrated by the difficulties in the job. Suddenly, though, he stopped and looked up at her. "Paige... where's your Crystal pendant?"

"Huh? Oh... it's right here..." She pulled the long pendant chain from her night table.

"May I borrow it?"

"Of course..."

Xander took the pendant, frowning as he let it sway over the map. Paige hissed in surprise as his eyes took on a silver gleam, and his face became a mask of concentration and suppressed pain. "Xander?"

"Shhh..." He gritted out as the pendant suddenly ripped from his hand and thumped to the map. He sighed, marking the map point, then fell to one side as he groaned from exertion.

Paige pushed the map away, crawling over to him. "Xander? Are you ok?"

He nodded, his face flushed and covered with sweat. "Just... used a lot of power..."

"You should have asked me..." Paige said, "I could have done it..."

He shook his head, "You didn't have the connection... you didn't know what to look for."

"That was still very foolish." She said, straddling his naked body. "What if you overdrew your limit?"

"Wouldn't be the first time." He smiled weakly at her.

Paige smiled through her worry and kissed him, "You're insane you know that?"

"People keep telling me." He smiled.

"But in a good way." Paige assured him, "So what now?"

"In the morning I'll need to take the car..." Xander said, "I might not be back for a while..."

"I know..." Paige said, a little sadly but mostly with understanding.

"Take the card I gave you and lease something nice." Xander grinned.

"You mean I get to drive something that doesn't roar like it needs a new nuffler?" Paige returned the grin. "I like."

"In the morning." Xander said, his arms wrapping around her and pulling her closer, "But for now..."

Paige squealed as he pulled her down. "What makes you think you can ju.... Mmmppphhhhhhh"

Xander cut off whatever protest she was going to make with a long drawn out kiss. "Sorry... you were saying?"

Paige scowled at him, her eyes dancing with humor. "Alright wise guy..."

She reached down between them, wrapping her fingers around him as she leaned close and whispered hotly into his ear. "But this time... I'm on top."

An instant later a loud male groan filled the loft.


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