Boy, That's Good Coffee

Author: Bastard Snow <swtrilman[at]>

Summary: The Scoobies head to Philadelphia, find someone they didn't expect, and find themselves less than welcome.

A/N: Okay, I was flipping through channels a couple months ago and found this show. Got re-hooked, decided to write a fic. Oh. And there's going to be two more Coffee fics at least. They're planned-ish (I know the crossovers). Don't know how soon they'll be out though. And as always, thanks to Drake for editing.

Also, don't forget to join Drake and my Yahoo! Group "PurtyYellowGoatSnow" at There you can find exclusive insights (like the conversation that eventually turned into "About That Bomb" and the never-used alternate beginning for "More Than A Calling.") and all sorts of other cool stuff.

Once again, that's:

Disclaimer: I don't own either of these series

Feedback: Yes, please!


Chapter 1


Dancing was always fun, at least that was what she had said. He listened to her, like he always… well, almost always… okay, occasionally did. But the point was he had gone along this time. She had promised it would be fun, they would enjoy themselves, maybe meet people their own age. And okay, they were only back in Philadelphia for a few days, but that didn't mean they couldn't meet people. New people, and more importantly, fun people. Instead, here they were, in the alley outside the club, with some freaky-faced people who looked like they wanted to inflict pain. Lots and lots of pain. And they were growling. Who growls?

"You guys just never give up, do you?" said a voice from the darkness. He turned his head and saw a short pretty blonde girl. She was wearing a slinky red dress, and heels that enhanced some of her more feminine features, and she was holding a wooden stick. But she was too thin. Why were girls always making themselves so thin? They had very little in the way of curves when they were that thin. Curves were nice. His wife had curves.

Interesting. The freaky-face guys were distracted by her. In fact, they were concentrating completely on her. Why? Were they not good enough? Not good enough to be brutally beaten and possibly killed and why was he complaining again? But here was this small girl, who was now going to be killed, and being a man, he couldn't let that happen.

"Listen, you," he said, grabbing the closer freaky-faced guy on the shoulder. "You had better not try anything funny."

A quick shove saw him back against the wall.

"After," said freaky-faced guy number one. "We will eat you after we deal with this one."

"Don't pay attention to him," the blonde said. "They're not going to be eating anyone ever again."

He looked down at his wife, who was just waking up from being knocked out. Such a firecracker, that one. Always standing up to people, always doing what's right. He knelt down and put his arms around her, protectively.

"You will not survive the night, Slayer," said freaky-faced guy number two.

"Yes, I will," she said. "And I'm not even going to fight you."

"Then you will die."

Suddenly, a couple of arrows shot through the night air and pierced the chests of the two freaky-faced guys. The two weirdo's disintegrated into dust and ash.

"See, that's always the mistake," said a tall blond man, limping out of the shadows, holding what looked to be a crossbow.

"Yeah," said a slightly shorter dark-haired man with an eye-patch, also holding a crossbow. "You never want to threaten her life. That's not gonna go over so well."

"Thanks guys," said the blonde girl. "I could have taken them, but in this dress? I definitely could have been arrested for indecent exposure."

"That's what you get, Buffster," said the brown-haired guy. "Next time maybe think about wearing some underwear."

"Hello!" said the girl who was apparently Buffster. "I totally would have had lines showing. Can't have that."

"Um, excuse me? Hi, just wondering what's going on here."

The two men shared a look.

"Hey, buddy," the blond said, "it's your job. I'm just along for the ride, tonight."

"Yeah, besides," said Buffster, "Sam was complaining about us taking you away from her."

The brunet rolled his eye. "Fine. But when I get back inside, you're telling me where you hid that stake."

The blonde winked at him, and blew him a kiss over her shoulder. "Play your cards right and I might even show you."

"I didn't know you guys were together," the blond man said, as he started to follow the girl.

"We're not," said One-Eye.

"So that was…"

"Buffy's a tease."

"Ah. I'll see you inside."

The brunet nodded, and turned to the young couple who were just getting back to your feet. He smiled warmly at them.

"Are you guys okay?" he asked. He pulled his keys from his pocket, and clicked on a small blue light that made everyone seem alien, but did a good job of lighting up the night. It was a very useful thing to carry around if you were planning on saving someone in a dark alley.

"No," said the woman. "No, I am very much not okay. Those, those men… things just attacked us and then that woman stopped them and then they got shot and then they disappeared, and I don't know what's happening, so no, no, I am not okay."

"Uh. I meant physically."

"Yes," the man said. "Physically, we are okay, except my hand won't stop shaking, and she has a boo-boo."

The one-eyed man nodded and pulled a Band-Aid from his pocket. Holding the light in his teeth, he gently applied the bandage to the wound. "Don't worry about that, it's just a scratch," he said. "And don't worry about your hand, either. That happens sometimes. It should go away in a little while."

"So, what was that?" the man asked. "What just happened?"

"That?" asked One-Eye. "That was a thing. You don't need to worry about it. If you want to live a happy life, then go home and forget this ever happened. Or convince yourselves you were drunk. Something. Never think about this night again."

"You saved our lives," the girl said.

"Yeah," said One-Eye.

"You don't even know us," said the man.

"Nope," said One-Eye.

"Why would you risk your lives for strangers?"

"You want to understand two things," One-Eye said. "We do this all the time, and we weren't *really* risking our lives."

"You still saved ours," said the girl. "At least let us buy you drinks. Something."

"Yeah," said the man. "We feel… we owe you, we should do… something."

"Listen, you don't have to do anything," he said. "I'm telling you. Forget this. Go home and when you wake up, convince yourselves this was all a dream."

"We can't," said the man. "I mean it, you don't know us. We won't be able to let this go until we do… something."

One-Eye raised his hands and eye to the sky in a questioning manner. He shook his head and sighed.

"Fine," he said. "Come in, meet the guys, maybe buy a round, and then please, let it go."

"We'll try," said the woman.

One-Eye waved the couple along behind him, and they followed.

"Hey," said the man. "What's your name?"

One-Eye turned around. "Xander," he said. "Xander Harris. You?"

"I'm Corey," said the man. "Corey Matthews. This is my wife Topanga."

"Matthews, huh? Nice to meet you," Xander said, shaking both of their hands. "Come on. Let's get this over with."

* * * * * *

"What is he… I thought he was going to do the whole sending them home thing!" Buffy protested, as she saw Xander leading the two near-victims towards their table.

She turned to Riley to ask his opinion, but then remembered he had gone to the bathroom. She pouted, waiting for either him or Sam, who had gone to get a drink, to get back to the table, but Xander and the newcomers reached them first. Buffy looked at Xander expectantly.

"Buffy," Xander said. "Hey."

"Xander," she said, her voice low and on the cusp of anger.

"This," Xander said, "is Corey and Topanga. Matthews."

Buffy looked up at him, then back to the couple.

"Corey and Topanga Matthews," Xander said, "meet Buffy Summers."

"We just," Corey said, looking at his wife, "wanted to thank you for, you know, saving our lives."

"They really, really do," Xander said. "No stopping them."

"Hey," said Sam Finn, approaching the table with a Fuzzy Navel in her hand. "Who's this?"

"Sam Finn," Xander said, "meet victims number one and two, also known as Corey and Topanga Matthews."

"Matthews," Sam said. "Fun."

"Fun?" Corey asked.

"Say," Xander said. "Would you folks happen to know someone named Morgan?"

Corey looked up. "I have a sister named Morgan. Why?"

Xander looked at Buffy pointedly, and the young woman pulled out her cell phone.

"Is she, like, between the ages of eleven and fifty?" Xander asked.

"She's seventeen. Why?"

"Hey, Willow?" Buffy said into her phone. "Give it up. We just met the older brother. …Well, I'm sorry, how was I supposed to know? You said we should come!"

"Is there… something special about my sister?" Corey asked.

"Have you talked to her much recently?" Xander asked.

"Not a lot, no. We live in New York, we were actually just coming down for a few days to visit."

"She been acting weird, that you know of?" Xander asked as Riley re-approached the table. "Hey, Riley. Corey and Topanga Matthews. This is Riley Finn."

"Hi," Corey said, as Topanga shook hands with Riley. "Why are you interested in my sister?"

"We represent an all-girls school," Xander said, reaching into his jacket. He pulled a card from the inside pocket and handed it to Corey. "We'd like to talk to your sister about maybe attending."

"Oh," Corey said.

"Is the school at all prestigious?" Topanga asked.

"Our principal is the former curator of the British Museum," Xander said.

"And," Buffy said, having finished her conversation with Willow, "we've got a revolutionary curriculum."

"My… parents aren't wealthy…" Corey said, appealing for support from Topanga with one hand.

"Money's not an issue," Xander said. He pulled a pen and another card from his pocket, and flipped the card over. "Would it be possible to get their address? Or a phone number?"

"Um. I don't… can we have, like, a minute?" Corey asked.

"Sure," Xander said. "Take as much time as you need." He turned to Buffy as Corey and Topanga moved a few feet away from them. "Is she going to be joining the happy-fun-dancing time?"

"If she can get dressed in time," Buffy said. "Never know, with her."

"So either she'll be here in five minutes, or we'll meet her on the way out. Fun."

"Yup. Buy me a drink?"

Xander rolled his eye, and went in search of the bar.


Chapter 2


"Corey, honey, there is something very strange going on with these people."

"Oh really?" Corey asked, sarcasm dripping from every syllable. "They carry crossbows, and shoot people who have really weird faces and those people make a little poof sound and turn to dust. They want to know about my sister, and carry Band-Aids in their pockets. Who carries Band-Aids? I'll tell you who. People who have some very strange things going on, that's who."

"Don't get snappy with me just because you don't know what's going on," Topanga said.

"You're right, I'm sorry," Corey said, wiping his brow and placing his other hand on his hip. "What's going on?"

"I don't know," Topanga said. "I think the real question is about Morgan. Why are they interested in her? And do we trust them enough to give them any information?"

"They saved our lives," Corey pointed out. "And that Xander guy has an eye-patch."

Topanga waited for the other shoe to drop, but it never did. "So?" she asked.

"So, what? He has an eye-patch."

"Is that supposed to mean something about, you know, his credibility?"

"No, it was just an observation. The eye-patch looks cool. Should I get one?"

"Corey, if they constantly do whatever it was they did out there, then I'm guessing the patch isn't just for show."

"No eye?" Corey asked. "That's a little scary."

"Yeah," Topanga said, a worried look on her face. "And now these people are interested in your sister."

Corey looked decidedly pensive. "But they saved our lives."

"I know," said Topanga.

The couple looked over to the table they had just left, and saw a redhead walk up to the table. Xander leaned down to hear something she was saying, then straightened back up, head tilted back and laughing heartily. Buffy was smiling not, it appeared, because she thought the joke was that funny, but rather because she was happy to see her friend laugh.

Corey smiled. "They don't look dangerous."

"I know," Topanga said.

"What do you think?"

"I think they might be dangerous, despite their looks, and there's definitely something strange going on. But they saved our lives, and I think that whatever reservations we may have, that buys them some leeway."

"What do you think a Slayer is?" Corey asked.

Topanga's face curled up in confusion. "Wasn't that a band at some point?"

"It's what those weird guys called that girl Buffy. You were still knocked out a little bit. They called her a Slayer."

"I don't know," Topanga said. "Maybe we should ask them."

"Ask them. Okay, we can ask them, and when we have answers to all of our questions, we can make a decision about Morgan."

"Right," Topanga said.

"Okay. Let's do this."

The couple walked back to the table.

"So, did you make up your minds?" Xander asked, a comforting smile on his face.

"We actually have a couple of questions, first," Corey said.

"Sure," said Xander. "What's on your mind?"

Corey looked to Topanga for support, and his wife nodded at him.

"What's a Slayer?"

The entire table muttered various curses.

"Slayer," Xander said, "comma, The. Or these days, comma 'a.' Sorry Buff."

"'s okay."

"Still not getting it," Corey said.

"Right. Slayer. Girls given powers to stand up to those things that others don't realize exist."

"Wow," Riley said, nodding his head. "That was impressively vague and cryptic."

Xander bowed slightly toward the older man. "A-thank you. Basically? A Slayer is a superhero who has the power to fight the supernatural."

"What, like ghosts?" Topanga asked.

"Not so much ghosts," Xander said.

"They're really hard to hit, anyway," said Buffy.

"And occasionally they take over the bodies of you and your undead lover and force you into a gender reversal role which makes you face up to some of your biggest fears," added the redhead.

"Undead lover. That's not a phrase you hear everyday. And, I'm sorry, you are?"

"Oh, my mistake," Xander said. "Willow Rosenberg, meet Topanga and Corey. The Matthewses."

"Nice to meet you," Willow said, smiling.

"Undead lover?" Corey asked.

"Vampire. I didn't… well, it wasn't me," Willow said, followed by a round of denials by everyone but Buffy, who was oddly distracted at that moment.

"Anyway," Xander said. "It's this whole thing, and it kind of happened that a lot of Slayers got powers in a really abnormal fashion. We're hoping to find the girls and teach them how to use their powers for good, and to protect themselves and all sorts of stuff."

"So, my sister is a superhero?"

"Well," Willow said, "it's more like she has superhero potential."

"I see," Corey said. "Honey? We've run into a bunch of crazy people. Let's buy them drinks and be on our way, shall we? And I'd like to remind you that coming out tonight was your idea."

"Corey, I think they're serious," Topanga said, a worried look on her face.

"I know they're serious, honey," he replied. "That's why they're crazy people." He turned to them. "No offense, of course, but you're all whacko."

"None taken," Xander said, as the group watched their interaction with mild amusement.

"Corey," Topanga said. "How do you explain what happened outside?"

"What do you mean how do I explain that? I can't explain that, it was the craziest thing I've ever seen, or experienced. There is no explanation for it."

"Or maybe there is an explanation for it," Topanga said, "and it's so strange that you're not willing to listen to it."

"Topanga, *vampires*?"

"Well, I don't know, honey. But think about it. The teeth, and the dust… I mean, they kind of acted like vampires," said Topanga.

"But vampires don't exist," Corey insisted.

"This from the boy who once thought he was turning into a werewolf."

"I was in seventh grade, and much more gullible than I am now.


"Maybe," Topanga suggested, "we need to be a little more gullible."

"Listen," Xander said, stepping up to the couple. "You two obviously have a lot to think about. Why don't I write my cell phone number down on the card I gave you, and you can sleep on it. Sound good?"

Corey looked at Topanga, who nodded. "Sure," he said. "That sounds good. We'll… call you tomorrow. Either way we decide."

"We appreciate that," Buffy said.

"Well, you saved our lives," Corey said. "The least we could do is maintain common courtesy."

"You mean aside from calling us insane?" Xander asked. He shook his head. "Don't worry about it. You guys have a car, right?"

They nodded.

"Good," Xander said. "I'll walk you guys out, make sure nothing happens."

"Thanks," Corey said. "We appreciate that."

Corey and Topanga bid farewell to the group then led Xander out to their car.

"Listen," Xander said. "I know you think we're nuts, but we're not. There's a few things that will have happened, if we're right. Your sister will have been a lot stronger since, roughly, late May. She probably broke things, cups, doors… the occasional person, although probably not on purpose. There would also be nightmares. Other girls, from different times. Always fighting. Usually winning. And a common theme seems to be a girl who looks a lot like Buffy taking a swan-dive off a platform high in the sky."

Corey and Topanga looked at each other.

"I understand this is scary stuff," Xander said. "I've been dealing with it since I was fifteen. If any of this stuff is happening to your sister, we can help. She needs to know what's going on."

The couple nodded, then got in their car and left. Xander took note of their license plate, just in case.

* * * * *

"So…" Buffy said.

"So, what?" Xander asked.

"Xander, what are we going to do?" Willow asked.

Xander looked at them, his eye wide with disbelief. "You're asking me? Why are you asking me?"

"You kind of, you know… talked to them more than us," Buffy said.

"By three minutes! Not a significant time span."

"Face it," Riley said, "you're the man in the group."

Xander snorted. "For once. I don't even remember the last time that was true."

"Yes you do," Buffy said, narrowing her eyes at her friend. "Remember? You, me, a desk, a severely undercooked pig?"

"What's this?" Riley asked, looking to his wife who merely shook her head in confusion.

Willow grinned, one might say evilly, at Xander. "Yeah, Xander. And then there was me, and something about math, and, you know, a cage?"

Xander looked truly afraid for his life. "You, uh… heh, you knew about that? I mean, that I remembered?" He was sweating in huge beads.

Willow and Buffy smiled devilishly at each other. "We do now," Buffy said.

Xander paled.

"I seem to remember… something about never seeing my pasty face again?" Willow said, as she slowly, predatorily walked towards him. "And how everything would be better if Buffy had never shown up?"

"And about you getting mean?" Buffy said, matching Willow's movements step for step. "And dangerous. You remember that, Xander? About Willow not deluding herself that you could settle for anyone but me?"

Xander's eye darted from one to the other and back, many times as they approached him. When they got right up next to him, fire in their eyes, Buffy and Willow silently nodded at each other and lunged. Xander closed his eye, flinched - and felt a quick kiss of each cheek.

He peeked his eye open, and saw Buffy and Willow leaning against each other, laughing.

"I still have my limbs," he noted.

"Sweetie, after everything that's happened, you think we're going to hold that against you?" Willow said, hugging his arm to her.

"Really," Buffy said. "You weren't even yourself when you attacked us. You were all possessed and stuff. We just wanted to have some fun with you."

Xander shuddered.

"Aww, I think we scared him," Willow said.

"Did we scare the little Xander-wander?" Buffy asked in her best baby voice.

"You people are mean," Xander said. He looked down at Buffy. "And weren't you going to show me where you hid that stake?"

Willow raised an eyebrow at that statement.

"I guess now's a good a time as any," Buffy said. She sat down on a chair, and leaned back in it, seductively.

"I kept it…" she said, her voice low and sexy, as she slowly slid her legs apart, "right…" Xander and Willow were watching the show intently. "Here," she said, and thrust her purse in front of their eyes. She leaned forward. "You guys are such goons."

Willow smiled weakly, then looked at Xander's watch. "Uh oh, guys, it's our bedtime," she said.

Xander and Buffy nodded. The trio said their goodbyes to Sam and Riley, then left the married couple sitting in the club. Sam appeared to be deep in thought.

"What's on your mind, babe?" Riley asked.

"I'm just wondering," she said, as her husband took a sip of his beer. "Do you think they all have sex together?"

Sam was then covered in the remains of what was once a Bud Light.

* * * * *

Xander, Buffy and Willow walked, skipped, hopped, danced and generally cavorted their way back to the motel, in high spirits, and intent upon watching "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," as had become their ritual.

As they approached the motel, Xander was patting down his pockets. "Hey," he said, "do either of you have the -"

"Faith?" Buffy interrupted.

"I was going to say room key, but okay."

Buffy pointed in front of them to the motel entrance, where a young woman was sitting, her knees pulled up to her chest, and her head cradled in her arms on top of them. Xander held up a finger to his girls, and approached the Dark Slayer first. As Xander walked away, he heard Buffy telling Willow about how Xander and Faith were trying out the whole 'friend' thing.

Xander approached her quietly, kneeled down and tapped the girl on the shoulder. Faith looked up groggily, seemed to take stock of her surroundings, then shook her head to wake herself up.

"Hey," she said.

"Nice night for a snooze."

"Seems like."

"Uh, Faith? Not that it's not nice to see you, but… why are you here?"

Faith shrugged, an act that had Xander's eye wander vaguely downwards for a split second. "Got bored," she said.

"That's it? You just got bored in Cleveland so you came out to find us? And when did you all of a sudden start talking like Oz?"

Faith stood slowly, allowing Xander time to rise as well.

"I just couldn't hack it out there," she said. "Too cooped up. I'm not a teacher. Kept wanting to beat the shit out of Andrew."

Xander closed his eye for a moment, picturing the scene fondly in his head. "So, you just came out here?"

"Yeah, you know… ever since Angel and them lost it out in LA, I don't really have anywhere else to go. If you guys are busy though…"

"Don't be ridiculous," Xander said, waving the other girls over. "We're a little crowded, but there's room."


"Yeah," Xander said. "We got the last room in town. Some convention or something. Not really sure."

"What's up?" Buffy asked.

Xander explained the situation, and the girls agreed that Faith should crash with them - at least for the night.

* * * * *

Faith followed the Scoobies into the hotel and settled herself into the room as much as was possible. Despite its popularity back at the Slayer compound in Cleveland, driven by Dawn's love of all things Jon Stewart and Andrew's love of all things Xander enjoyed, Faith had made a distinct habit of not watching The Daily Show. She wasn't too interested in hanging out with all the little kiddies.

However, this time she found herself enjoying the ironic humor of the show, not so much because of the subject matter, but, she was surprised to find, because of the company. They had all changed from their clubbing clothes into much more comfortable attire.

Faith looked around at the casual familiarity between the three of them. There was a lot of touching going on, but nobody thought anything of it. Xander and Willow were leaning against the headboard of their bed. Willow's head was on his shoulder, and his arm was around her midsection, holding her close. At the foot of their bed lay Buffy, on whom Xander and Willow rested their feet.

She was reading some fashion magazine during commercials, and seemed to think nothing of the feet resting on her back, or the ones resting on her butt. Faith was amazed at their friendship. She felt a little bit left out.

And she was more than a little jealous.

As soon as the show was over, Faith rose with a sigh, borrowed the room key, and headed outside for a smoke. As she was lighting up her second cigarette, Willow joined her outside.

"Hey," Faith said.

"Hi," Willow said, with a little wave. "You okay?"

"Fine," Faith said as she blew smoke out through her lips.

"Oh, okay," Willow said. "Just, you were a little quiet in there, and we were worried that maybe it might have been more than just you were bored in Cleveland."

Faith shook her head and laughed a little. "Drew the short straw, huh?"

Willow looked confused. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, you got delegated to come out and see what's buggin' the outsider."

"Faith, I don't -"

"Don't worry about it," Faith said. "I'll be outta your hair tomorrow."

"What are you -"

"I'm sorry I interrupted your little vacation, I just thought -"

"Faith, shut up," Willow said.

The dark slayer looked up at her, surprised.

"First," said Willow, "we didn't draw straws. Xander said he thought you might be feeling bad about something, and I volunteered to come talk to you. Second, who said we think of you as an outsider? And third, you're not in our hair to begin with, so how could you get out of it?"

Faith took a moment to process what the witch had said. She took a breath to say something, then stopped herself. Her mouth opened a little, and she shook her head.

"Don't worry about it," Faith said.

"Well, that's the thing," Willow said. "I worry. Can't help it. It's in my nature. Sorry."

"Persistent, ain't ya?"

"Is it working?"

Faith sighed. "You're right," she said. "I wasn't just bored in Cleveland. I mean, I was bored, but that wasn't it. I can deal with bored. I was in prison, bored is a way of life."

"So what was it?" Willow asked. "How come you left?"

"Cuz I was miserable," Faith said. "Everyone there treated me like… like a second-class citizen, or something. I mean, I'm the oldest slayer there, but… I mean, I can't get in with none of the kiddy slayers. The Watchers don't got time for me, cuz I can hold my own, you know?"

"What about Dawn? Or Andrew?"

"Who did Dawnie have the biggest crush in the world on back on my first run through SunnyD? And who did I try to kill in the aftermath of Deputy Finch?"

"Can't let go?" Willow asked.

"Nah," Faith said, taking a pull from her cigarette. "Can't say as I blame her. Not for Angel, Xander'd be dead. Then where would we be?"

"We'd all be dead," Willow said. "I would have destroyed the world."

"And that'd just be all kinds of suck," Faith said. "I just… I couldn't find a place there. There was nobody… I didn't…"

"No friends?" Willow asked.

"Never bugged me before."

"Things change."

"Guess so."

They stood there for a moment.

"Well," Willow said, "I'll be inside. You're welcome, you know, to stay with us as long as you want."

"Hey, Red," Faith said.


"Two questions. You think I'm worthy of being Xander's friend?"

Willow looked up at the girl, and cocked her head to one side. "That's really important to you, isn't it?"

Faith nodded.

Willow shrugged. "I don't know. It wouldn't shock me if you weren't, but I have a kind of a high standard of Xander-worthiness. I didn't think Anya was Xander-worthy for the longest time. And anyway, he's the one who gets to make that decision. What's your other question?"

"How come it's always me and Buff, and you and Xander?"

"Worked out that way," Willow said. "We switch who gets their own bed. Buffy did tonight, but you're here, so you're with her. Anything else?"

Faith thought for a minute. "If I stuck with you guys for a while… I mean… cuz, free beds aren't… what I'm really asking…"

Willow grinned. "You've got a crush on him."

"What? I do not."

"Yes you do. I'm the reigning queen of the Xander-crush, I know the symptoms! Heee!"

"I do not!" Faith protested, stamping out her cigarette on the asphalt, as Willow started skipping a circle around her, chanting, "Faith likes Xander, la la la la la."

Faith found herself laughing despite her denial.

Willow stopped skipping. "You do, don't you?"

Faith rolled her eyes. "Maybe a little…"

"I knew it!" Willow said, hefting a triumphant fist in the air. "Faith and Xander sitting in a tree," she sang. "K-I-S-S-I-N-G Spot, G-spot, go, go, go!"

Faith turned redder than Willow's hair, as the witch collapsed on the ground in laughter. The nearest door opened and Xander stepped out, wearing sweatpants and a wife-beater.

"What the hell are you two doing out here?" he asked. "It's been forever and a day." He said nothing of Willow's prone state. Faith quickly averted her gaze as Willow picked herself up off the ground.

"Nothing," Willow said, smoothing out her pajama bottoms. "Just a little girl bonding."

"Yeah?" Xander asked, suddenly interested. "Was it sexy bonding?"

Willow rolled her eyes. "We'll be in soon," she said.

Xander nodded, tossed a wink at Faith, and went inside.

"Listen," Faith said, grabbing Willow's hands. "You can't say anything, okay? I'm sure it's just some… thing."

"Oh, it's something all right."

"Willow!" Faith said.

"Whoa," said the redhead. "Using my real name. You're serious about this."

"I'm not used to it," Faith said. "I don't have… crushes. You know?"

"Well, you do now, sister," Willow said.

"Oh, God, this sucks," Faith said. She sat down on the sidewalk, her feet stretched out over the curb.

"Okay, a couple pieces of advice," Willow said.

"What, because you had so much success in snagging and keeping him?"

Willow stared at her silently.

"Damn," Faith said quietly. "Look, I didn't mean it like that. It's just, this whole thing's freakin' me out."

Willow sighed. "Okay, listen, I know you don't like pity, but that's what I'm taking on you for the moment, so just deal with it, okay? Okay. Two things. One, Xander doesn't like smokers. Two. Don't get jealous of me and Buffy. We're very touchy-feely with Xander, and that's kind of in the literal sense, but we're just very close friends."

Faith nodded, sullenly. Willow patted her on the shoulder and started to go inside.

"It goes away, right?"

"What?" Willow asked.

"Crushes. You know… the liking people and not knowing if they like you back. That goes away?"

"Usually, yeah," Willow said. "Not if it's him, though."


"I'm just saying… people who like Xander, even if they don't know why, they tend to stick with him for a long time, like, until they die, or turn gay, or he screws up. And even then, they have to move out of town to be really sure about it."

Faith looked up at the witch.

Willow shrugged. "I was in love with Xander… if I'm really truthful with myself, which I very rarely am… until I found Tara. I mean, I loved Oz, I really did, don't get me wrong. But I found out that you can love two people… and when I was with Oz, I never stopped loving Xander. But then Tara was there… and she was my whole world." She smiled at the thought of her former lover, but there was sadness in her eyes.

Faith was surprised that Willow opened up this much.

"Why are you -"

"I don't know," Willow said. "I like you well enough, but as I just said, I'm not sure you're entirely Xander-worthy. Just… call it a feeling."

"Was she really your whole world?"

"What?" Willow asked.

"I just… I mean, tell me if I'm out of line, cuz I don't wanna be stirrin' things up, but… was she? I mean, if the X-man wasn't at least a part of it… I mean, he talked you down. Would that have worked?"

Willow frowned. "I don't know. I'll be inside."

Faith nodded at the redhead's retreating form, then sat with her thoughts for a few minutes, shivered at the slight chill in the air and headed back inside.


Chapter 3


As Xander came out of the bathroom, he was attacked by a flying redhead. He slammed down onto the bed and gently, confusedly, put his arms around the small woman who was now latched onto him for what appeared to be dear life.

"Will?" he said, tentatively. "Are you okay?"

She nodded into his chest. "I love you, Xander," she said. "You know that?"

"I know Willow," he said, a laugh in his voice. "I love you too."

"Mmkay," Willow said, pulling away from him and wiping her eyes of a few small tears. She and Xander adjusted themselves so they were in a vague sleeping position on the bed. Willow maintained her grip on him, and soon fell asleep.

Xander looked over at Buffy, questions in his eye. Buffy shrugged her ignorance.

A few minutes later, Faith came back in the room. She saw Willow and Xander, smiled, and wished everyone a good night, then went to sleep.

Xander had no idea what was going on.

* * * * *

The phone rang. And rang. And rang. And rang again.

Then it stopped.

Then it rang again. A hand shot out from underneath a comforter and grabbed it.


[Dad, hey. Did I wake you?]

"Who is this?"

[It's me dad… it's Corey.]

The comforter was thrust aside and Alan Matthews tried to wake up. "Corey?" he said. "Son, what time is it?"

[It's a little after one a.m.]

"Are you all right, is everything okay?"

[I'm not sure… I mean, I'm fine. But… listen, is Morgan okay?]

"Morgan? What? Corey, what are you talking about?"

[Dad, I just… I need to know. Is everything okay with her? I mean, is she all right?]

"Your sister is fine, Corey. What brought this on?"

Amy Matthews rolled over in bed. "Is that Corey?" Alan nodded. "Well, tell him to go to sleep, and we'll see him in the morning."

"Your mother says go to sleep, Corey."

[No, Dad, listen. It can't wait. Morgan, is there anything… weird, going on with her?]

"Define weird."

[Has she been breaking things? Cups, doors, you know… people?]

"What? No, I don't think so. Not for a while."

[A while? How long.]

"I don't really remember, Corey."

[Maybe since late May?]

Alan sighed, and racked his brain for the last time he could remember something like that happening. "Around then, I guess. Early June, maybe? I do know she's been having nightmares about once a week"

[Nightmares?] Corey asked.

"Yeah. She wakes up in a sweat probably once a week. I guess that also started around late May. We asked her if something was bugging her, but she assured us it was fine. Why?"

"Sweetie, what are you talking about?" Amy asked. Alan held up a finger to keep his wife quiet for a minute.

[Dad, listen, this is very important. Did Morgan ever tell you what she dreamt about?]

"Once," Alan said. "She said there was some girl, looked like she was dressed really old-fashioned, and she was in a fight with someone."

Alan heard his son groan on the other end of the line. "Corey, what's going on?"

[Dad, do you mind if I bring some people by the house tomorrow?]

"Corey… what?"

[I just… Dad, it's important. I need you to trust me.]

Alan sat there, stunned for a minute, before responding. "Well, of course we trust you, son," he said.

[Good. Okay. Good. I'll see you guys tomorrow then. Tell Mom I love her. Good night, Dad]

"Goodnight, Corey," Alan said. He hung up.

"What was that all about?" Amy asked.

"I don't know. I guess we'll find out tomorrow."

Amy rolled over in bed. "That's your son, you know."

"Sure," Alan said, pulling the covers back up over him. "When he calls at one in the morning, he's my son. When he does something good, he's yours."

"Yup," Amy said groggily. "That's just the way it works."

* * * * *

The next morning, after a call from Corey asking them to come by the house, Willow and Faith went out and bought Faith some nice clothes (read: not a tank-top and super-tight jeans) that, Willow casually mentioned, seemed to be the kind that Xander would like. Faith scowled and denied everything, but ended up buying those same clothes anyway.

The Scoobies showed up at the Matthews house right on time, and were ushered into a sort of an awkward silence that had apparently been caused by Corey not explaining what in the hell his call the previous night had been about.

They were introduced to Morgan, who looked more like her parents than Corey did. She was short, as almost all Slayers seemed to be, and wore olive green cargo khaki's, a ripped up black shirt advertising Sonic Youth. The hair on the left side of her head was shaved down to peach fuzz, the hair on the right side was down past her shoulder.

And she was very shy. Her current image clashed with the family photos they saw around the living room.

The group got down to business, accepting with grace from Topanga a blend of coffee that they had never heard of before, but liked all the same. The presence of the beverage seemed to naturally lead to talking. It made things easier when somebody could take a sip, delay for a second and gather their thoughts.

When the Scoobies finished explaining everything, Morgan was the first one to speak.

"So I'm a freak."

Xander, Willow and Buffy glanced at each other, not quite sure how to handle that.

"A little," Faith said, to everyone's surprise. "You're different from most everyone you know, that's for sure. But ain't nobody gonna push you around anymore, unless you let 'em. There's a lotta this thing that's a sweet deal."

"That's right," Xander said. "But, there's also responsibility that comes along with it."

"Like Spiderman," Corey said, nodding very seriously.

"Corey," his father said, "I don't think Spiderman is probably the best way to go about this."

"Actually, he's not far off," said Buffy. "Slayers have a lot of power, and it gets to you. It's hard to ignore. You see something happening, and it occurs to you, 'I could have stopped that,' or 'I could have helped those people.' It doesn't feel good to know you could have made a difference, and didn't."

"But, you have to weigh that against the danger," Willow said. "What we do is very dangerous. And we have ways to protect from being discovered by most demons."

"Why her?" Amy asked, as Alan wrapped his arm protectively around her. "Why did you do this to our daughter? What gave you the right to make this decision, to just wave your hands and change the lives of all of these girls?"

"We didn't have a choice," Xander said, softly. "If there had been another way, we would gladly have taken it. But there wasn't."

"I don't believe it," Amy said, shaking her head. "There had to be something else, there had to be some way that… that *this* didn't have to happen. There had to be."

"There wasn't," Willow said softly, her head bowed in apparent shame. "The world was going to be overrun by demons if we didn't win. The four of us, and about thirty other people were the first line of defense. We had a second group in Los Angeles who would be another line."

"And after that, there was nothing," Buffy said. "The military can't handle this type of thing, we know that first hand. Police, national guard… there's nothing they could do. If we didn't make it, the rest of the world's best chance for survival was if they had a bunch of Slayers out there who instinctively knew what to do."

"It's not fair," Xander said. "It's cruel, and it exposes people to things they should never have to deal with. And we're sorry. It doesn't help anything, I know, but it's the truth. None of us wanted this. We know how hard it can be. Losing people you love, being an outcast, knowing what's really out there and how scary it is. It's a horrible thing to do, and if we could take it back we would. But we can't. The best we can do is find everyone who was affected and tell them what's happening."

"And who's to blame," Faith said. "We're the ones that did this, we deal with the consequences. It's a responsibility we don't take lightly."

"I know exactly who's to blame," Amy said, anger and tears in her eyes. "Please leave my house."

The group shared looks with each other.

"Mr. Matthews," Buffy started.

"No," Alan said, standing up. "You heard my wife. Please leave us. Corey, see them out?"

"Sure, dad," Corey said.

"Thank you for your time," Xander said, as Corey ushered them out. "And… we're sorry."

Corey joined the group outside for a moment.

"I'm really sorry about that," he said. "I know that they're not -"

"You don't have to apologize," Willow said, shaking her head. The others nodded in agreement. "They have every right to be angry. They have every right to want to hurt us, and to yell at us."

"The important thing is, they're taking it seriously," Xander said as Willow pulled out a couple of things from her bag.

"Here," she said. "This is some literature on our school, and a necklace that will help protect your sister. And please tell your parents thank you for listening to us."

"And to call us," Buffy said. "If they need anything."

"I will," Corey said, accepting the materials from Willow. "And thank you, again. For last night."

"Of course," Buffy said. "And thank you, too. For listening."

Corey nodded, then rejoined his family inside the house. The Scoobies stood there for a moment, then nodded at each other and headed back to the car. They drove back to the hotel in silence.

Willow checked her cell phone messages, and found one from Riley, saying that he and Sam had to head off to Fiji for some demon something or other, and one from Giles. She began furiously taking notes as she listened Giles' message

"Guys," she said, as the others were packing their belongings. "We've got a problem."

"Where to now?" Faith asked.

"West," Willow said. "And Xander, we might need your fire truck."


The End