Return Of The Zeppo

Author: Koos van Winden <koosfanfic[at]>

In fave of the thread, I will release this earlier then planned, so the part is small.

Disclaimer: Characters aren't owned by me, but by ME and Joss Whedon

Rating: PG 15

Feedback: Yes please.

TimeFrame: Post S7

Pairing: Xander has no girlfriend

Beta: Keith

Summery: Apocalypse is about to happen, but Xander won't be helping preventing it, at least through the eyes of the others:) Simply said, based on the ep: The Zeppo.

Chapter 1


Several months after the closure of Sunnydale's Hellmouth, in 'The MotorCycle and Leather Shop: Faith's ridin' ya to heaven.'

Buffy walked over to the counter where Faith just finish selling a Harley, making a good profit. She smiled at the Dark Slayer. "Things are really going well, aren't they?"

Faith grinned back. "Yeah, sell is running like X is attracting demonic gals."

Buffy glanced her a dirty look. "Hey, that's not nice to say."

Faith laughed. "Hey, it's the truth," she said while holding up her hand.

Buffy could barely hold a chuckle herself, but remained her face in a controlled mask. "But not nice. Especially considering it was his idea for you to have your Motor and Leather shop and him doing the management."

Faith still smiled. "And he is earning good money with it. Even though he is spending more time in the hospital than actually working."

Buffy scowled. "Faith."

Faith held up her hand. "Okay, okay. You're right. I am not fair. He is doin' a great job. How is he goin' anyway? Already released and at home?"

Buffy flashed a smile. "He is doing fine and will be present at the dinner tonight."

Faith's bliss disappeared and her eyes darkened. "The Dinner," she spoke like it was a disgusting demon.

Buffy smile only grew at Faith's expression. "And you know we expect you to wear a beautiful *dress*," the blond Slayer drawled the last word with emphasis.

Faith growled like a cat. "Who's idea was this?"

"Mine," Buffy answered with thick humor in her voice. "We need to formally open the Slayer School and you know it. A warm welcome to all the new students. It will make the bond stronger."

"The bond?" Faith groaned, "Between more than a hundred Slayers? Yeah, right."

"Hmm hmm," Buffy confirmed.

Faith thought for a while. "Creating more than a hundred Slayers. That wasn't really of your brightest plans. How are we supposed to get our daily kill? And don't deny it. You get the juices from Slaying too."

Buffy chuckled. "You know I don't deny it anymore. And there are still vamps enough."

"I haven't slayed a vamp in a week. Do you realize how that itches?" Faith complained sincerely. She made a sweep with her arm, pointing out the shop. "This whole business works great. Motors . . . iron work . . . and lots of leather. But it doesn't attract as many vampires as we had hoped. And that *was* the original idea."

"Business is going great," Buffy defended with a smile as she was having humor in Faith's discomfort, "So, the marketing must be good. Don't blame it on Xander's idea."

"I don't. I blame it on you, remember? We have too many Slayers. There aren't enough vamps left. The shop only proves it."

Even though Buffy lost the argument she still smiled. "Only points out how good my plan was."

Faith scowled.

"Buffy's smile widened. "C'mon, Faith. You will get your kill . . . Next week . . ."

Faith groaned.

"Or maybe next month."

Faith groaned louder, but then sighed as she knew that this wasn't going anywhere. "So, X will be there tonight?"

Buffy's eyes sparkled. "Of course. Wearing his 00Xander tux . . ."


"Double O Xander and a hundred Slayers?" the Boston bad finally asked, wondering.

Buffy grinned and nodded.

"Then why does he always wind up dating with evil girls instead of one of the Slayers?"

Buffy shook her head. "Beats me."

The Dark Slayer thought for a moments and suddenly flashed a grin which made Buffy's skin crawl. "Then why don't *you* date him?"

Buffy shook her head in fear. "Oh, no. Not you too," the blond Slayer replied in all defence mode.

"Why not? He likes you and I *know* you like him."

"Faith . . ."

"You can't hide it from me, B. I can see it." Buffy shook her head while the dark Slayer continued. "C'mon, you don't slay much and you also don't lay . . ."


Faith shrugged. "Then not. Suit yourself. I only wanted to say that when Xander gets in trouble all the time all by himself, why would he also need to help patrolling?"

Buffy's annoyed face changed in a warning one.

Faith quickly held up her hand. "Hey! I know he is brave and all, but him fighting vamps isn't really necessary."

Buffy sighed. "I know. I told him, explained him and even begged him to stop. But you know him, its not just *wanting* to help, he simply *needs* it. And now that we have to rescue him more and more, the Slayers are strongly questioning his help with patrolling."

"We are already short in vamps, B. And with him . . ."

"C'mon, Faith. You know that its almost a wonder that he still doesn't need a shrink. Helping is important to him. The least you can do is support him."

Faith wanted to protest but Buffy's caring face made her give up as she sighed. "Alright . . . But only *if* you're gonna date him."

Buffy rolled her eyes, but was rescued by the horn.

Chapter 2

The horn's blare ripped through the room's air as a customer entered the shop. Faith glanced at Buffy. "He is mine," she whispered.

Buffy rolled her eyes and stepped away. The guy, clad in black leather and wearing a lot of what Giles would call, 'unnessesary metal that's only to our advantage and thus bloody stupid'.

Not impressed by Giles' opinion, Faith checked out the big guy. "Hey, cool. . ." she said pointing to a big chain that the man was wearing over his leather pants. The man grinned as he checked out the dark Slayer after he had torn his stare from Buffy. "Hi," he said smoothly, "I was looking for a new jacket."

Faith gave the man her sultriest look. "Like the one you're wearing?" she asked while getting her stake ready. The guy nodded.

"Can I have a closer look?" she asked, now with a hint of sexual intent.

The guy grinned. "Sure."

Faith played with her client a little while longer and then exchanged a quick look with Buffy as the guy started to take off his leather jacket and readied to unbutton his pants. She saw her sister Slayer roll her eyes when they exchanged a look. Then she glanced to the counter where he has laid his wallet, and keys, back to the man again, and flashed a wicked grin.

"Your jacket is enough," Faith said as she took the jacket and checked it out. "I will see if I have something your size in the back," she told him.

"I can look with you," he replied with a smile. Faith looked at the guy and then to the counter. "I trust that it will be safe here . . ." he said before turning into dust, revealing Buffy with a stake.

"You forgot about me," the blond softly commented.

Faith's eyes widened and turned dark. "You bitch! That was my kill!"

Buffy looked at her and smiled. "I didn't get much to slay and lay too, remember?" Buffy reacted by singing Faith's own words as she grabbed the wallet and keys. "But nice of you to make sure this doesn't turn into dust."

Faith angry protest died when a redheaded girl rushed into the shop, making more noise then the horn. "Yeah! We are gonna have vamps. Cleveland's first own vampires!" Willow beamed. The two chosen ones faces lit up instantly.

"Really?" Faith cried.

"Yes. According to Giles tonight."

"Finally. A lot of them, right?" she asked for certainty.

An anxious nod from the Witch confirmed it.

"Oh man, kill kill kill," Faith almost yelled, anxiously, while making stabbing movements. Buffy only grinned. Giles entered the shop with Andrew behind him. Instead of a smile he was wearing his typical harassed face.

"Willow, Faith. This is not reason for having a party. It's a case of our utmost concern and needs our devoted attention. They are here to remove B'lathla's seal and open the Hellmouth."

The girls exchanged a glance, becoming serious. "Bring it on, G."


In the parking lot in front of the bikers' shop.

Dawn stared at Xander as he wheeled the car with one hand into the lot. "You know they are gonna try to get you out of the fights, don't you?" she asked worried.

Xander flashed a smile. "Wouldn't be surprising. But, don't worry . . ." he replied as he looked at the back to properly park the car before returning his gaze again. ". . . I won't let them."

"How? I know you are in pain. You have two bruised ribs. You can't always hide that pain from them."

"Sure I can."

"No, you can't, I saw you grimace at least two times while you were only driving the car."

"No, you didn't."

"Yes, I did."

"That was only excerising my bad boy image." Dawn couldn't help but to giggle a bit as Xander tried to impersonate a character from the Godfather cast.

"C'mon Dawn, its not so bad as you think . . . and by the way I can fool them all very easily anyway."

Dawn made a face as she rolled her eyes. "Sure you can."

They both stepped out and start walking, but Dawn quickly stopped him as she looked at him seriously. "Xander, why do you keep dating those demonic girls?"

"How should I know?" Xander asked gently.

Dawn didn't give him a chance to keep him from joking out of it. "There is more to it, isn't it?"

Xander's smile disappeared. "What do you mean?"

"C'mon, Xan, I know you better. Three in two weeks now, since you suddenly started dating again after six months. Nothing just happens . . ." Dawn thought for a moment, "Okay, some did ensnare you by aiming at your hormones, but . . ."

"Dawn, I just wanna have a date," Xander interjected with a sigh.

"Sure, then why not with any of less violent powered girls, like . . . Buffy?" she casually hinted her sister's name.

Xander looked up in the air and then back to the former Key again. "Please, not you too?"

Dawn smiled. "Yes, me too." Xander sighed. "Why not?" she asked, wondering and a bit pouting.

The young man rather went to the older topic, which he suddenly considered way less problematic. "Those demonic girls, they want something. I want to know why. And as I am the only dateble guy here, uh, well, unless you consider Giles and Andrew . . ."

"You are changing topics."

"What do you want? Talking about your concern for my recent dating history or the possibility of dating Buffy?"

"The last one."

Xander rolled his eyes and start walking, but was quickly stopped by Dawn. "Just joking, Xan. Why do you think that those girls want something? And . . . what do they want?"

"I don't know. That's precisely what I wanted to find out."


Giles frowned at Faith's nickname for him, but let it go. "With Xander still in the hospital, Wood and Kennedy are arranging the dinner, we will have to discuss the matter alone. I already consulted Angel and Wesley. They will be here later in the afternoon."

Buffy spoke. "Xander will be here within the hour, Giles. We can wait for him . . ."

"With urgency of this situation, we can not allow us the luxury of waiting for him, Buffy. Besides it might be better if we don't let him in on this matter, considering his current condition and recent events."

"Giles, we can't just leave him out of this," Buffy protested.

"Buffy, I appreciate your concern to his mental welfare. But allowing him into this fight will endanger him unneccesarily and only risk him another mental blow if not his life. And despite his 'clocked field time', he isn't of any real value considering the amount of Slayers at our disposal."

Buffy looked at Giles' sincere face and reluctantly nodded, deciding to wait for the opinion of the others. Then she saw Faith grinning wickedly.


"Why do you wanna keep X in the fight anyway? Its not like you didn't send him away with this whole First Evil thing," Faith asked. "Or did little D have anything to do with it?" she continued when she remembered her first day back in Sunnydale as an ex-con.


Faith was in the kitchen, alone. Faith went for the fridge. <Why is saying sorry so damn hard?>

She took a Corona from the fridge. <Fuck, Faith. The sooner the better. Otherwise he must going to be thinking he is still a loser in my eyes.

She saw a shimmering of light through a reflection on the fridge's door, turned her head around and recognized Buffy's little sister coming in. At the determined look on the girl's face she guessed that Dawn must have waited for Faith to be alone.

Her face was stern and her eyes cold as she lectured the Dark Slayer. "That chick fight between you and Buffy about who is the better Slayer doesn't mean a shit to me, Faith. Actually, I would rather see you take command . . ."

Faith didn't believe what she heard from the little squirt.

". . . But if you hurt her and most of all Xander again, then you will go to bed without waking up . . . *ever*."

Faith - a fugitive for murder, the Super Chick, the Dark Slayer, and all other nicknames people had given her for her image and attitude - felt herself trembling as she stood there with her beer in her hand, like a little girl, when Dawn simply walked out of the kitchen, giving the rogue Slayer no chance of responding.


A shiver ran along her spine as she still remembered those words and the look Dawn had on her face. It had prevented her from seeking *any* contact with Xander, all this time, no matter how much she had wanted to. Especially when not longer after Dawn, Anya had threatened her too, claiming she knew an appropriate vengeance demon when she would use him for her own benefit again. That in it self wasn't enough to scare the Boston Bad, but the oversexed Anya could not only describe in full colour all the sex exploits with her boyfriend, she could also give a damn good lecture in how to torture for pain . . . from her own experience.

"What do you mean?" Buffy asked.

Faith grinned, quickly hiding her fear. "She wants him as much in the fight as herself. And she is pretty good when it comes to handling a tazer."

Buffy stared at her for a moment before chuckling. "No, that's not it. As a matter of fact they proved to be decent in that fight. Dawn told me all about the ingenious fighting skills they used."

Again the honk of horn interrupted the conversation as the two people in question entered the shop.

Chapter 3

The discussion of Xander's commitment to the battle was always reason to give Willow a headache. She found herself between two fires. Just like Buffy she hated to see her life-long friend getting hurt. But she also realized very well that Xander didn't want to be kept out of it. She knew his drive to be someone, to be unlike his father, like no-one else.

But on the other hand she also knew his greatest asset: his wonderful and caring heart. It had saved her from her own, when she went all world-ending evil. She was still very grateful for that.

Therefore she really didn't want to lose him. Then he had lost his eye while protecting her girlfriend, who had done nothing more than see him as a joke. Something had changed in Willow from the moment that Sunnydale had collapsed. He not only had lost his girlfriend Anya - a feeling she shared with him - but there was more, something the only two from the group had in common: born and raised in Sunnydale. She remembered how he dealt with the loss, when she came to him for support.


In front of Sunnydale Canyon, shortly before heading to Cleveland



Willow smiled wryly at him as he stared as far as he could over what once was their city. "How are doing?" she asked.

He turned his head and faced her, returning the smile. "I'm okay. Just making a trip along memory-lane."

She nodded and crouched next to him. "Good or bad ones?"

"Both. Well, depends, if I am thinking about you, mostly bad," he teased.

She slapped him gently at the back of his head and then laughed. They exchanged some memories from the past. Stories from elementary school to, of course, good old Sunnydale High.

"You have to see the things in a positive light, Wills. You know the phrase: 'you take the good with the bad?' Well, this is a chance to leave the bad behind, and take the good with us."

"What do you mean? Hellmouth-y bad?"

Xander chuckled. "No, Wills. I meant the memories. Take the good ones and leave the bad where it belongs." He pointed in the direction where they had come from, "In that hell-hole, buried underneath all that stuff."

The redhead looked confused and even a bit sad. "I can't leave all the 'bad' things. I can't-I mean, well, you know what I mean."

"Memories, Will. Bad memories . . . Tara will be there always," he pointed to the spot between her breasts, "in your heart. And where you are, there is . . ."

She nodded slowly as she understood what he meant. It hadn't disappeared. She had buried her love for her beloved one underneath it. The pain of her lost . . . the guilt. And that same lost wasn't only for their lost girlfriends or common friend Jesse, the same held true for all the others they had to leave behind.

". . . Your's," she finished for him, as she laid her head in his chest while a tear rolled over her cheek.

Xander wrapped his arm around the young woman and both stared quiet over the perimeter for a while.

"It's a fresh start, Wills. New chances for all of us." She nodded and he continued, "Especially for me. All my ties to this Hellmouth has been broken," he chuckled. "It seemed, felt, like a curse, you know. As if I couldn't get out of this hell-hole . . . figuritively with my life and literally . . . " Willow frowned. "I finally can see what's beyond Oxnard."

The redheaded girl smiled. "Yeah, with one eye . . . Uh, sorry. It slipped."

Xander just laughed. "It's okay, Wills."

"It's not okay, Xan. I'm the most powerful Witch in the world and I can't even help my best friend getting a new eye."

"Willow?" he asked sympathetically, "You do remember what I told you, don't you? It's not your fault . . ."


She would make sure that he got his eye, no matter what, she had promised it to herself. She and Kennedy had discussed it and she also wanted nothing more then to help him. The brunette would make sure he was safe and in good spirits.

It had resulted into finding every possible way to keep him busy. And Kennedy got help from Faith in that mission and quickly became very good friends. Xander not only did the management for Faith's shop and setting up a high-tech business, in which she was a valuable and respected employee, but he also got involved in designing the new school, and basically acted as a wonderful M for all the Slayers.

But as long as it kept him safe.

Willow and Buffy had tried to convince him to keep out of the fight a couple of times too, but after he and Dawn had made it in 'stunning' way clear to them that it was important to him, they agreed. To their surprise they had to admit that his abilities weren't bad at all. And even the last weeks didn't change her opinion, as she looked out for this day and felt a little squared box in her pocket . . . her own promise.


Ouside the shop

"Promise me to keep this a secret, Dawn," Xander asked her.

The teenager looked at her 'brother', her face not hiding any of her worries. "You're playing a dangerous game Xander."

The young man flashed a little smile. "I know."

Dawn's worry intensified. "Damn you," she pouted, "You really like it."

"Hey, you started calling me 007," he replied with a grin, "Time for me to live up to the honor."

"00Xander, and I didn't call you that for commiting suicide."

Xander laughed. "Suicide? This is not suicide, it's serious undercover work."

"Suicide," she replied stubbornly.

"C'mon, Dawn, where is your trust in me?"

"I left it at home . . ." She responded while looking at him, straight into his puppy dog eye. ". . . Home . . ."

Awkward silence.

"Damn, you!" She sighed. "Alright, I won't tell."

Xander smiled. "Besides, I am way better than that stiff Brit. At least I can *lie*."

Dawn snickered. "Ha, you couldn't even lie convincly to me. I knew you were up to something with all that dating. And I was right."

Xander rolled his eyes. "I can lie," he drawled.

"No, you can't," she drawled back.

"Yes, I can. You just had dumb luck, and punched me below the belt."

"I was not!"

"Dating Buffy . . . That was the lowest trick to get me talking if I have seen one."

The teenager giggled. "Yeah, I had you there."

"You get know me too well." She laughed as he pointed to her, "You," and then to himself, "And I . . . we are the normal two out there, but we are gonna save the world, again . . ." Dawn started to smile, "Again and again. And you know what the beauty is?" She shook her head. "They will never know. Only you and I."

The young woman beamed back. "Maybe I should go undercover too. Seduce bad guys and . . ." She said dreamingly. ". . . Why not?" she pouted as Xander shook his head.

He raised his finger, moving it like a teacher. "Now, that would be suicide."

"What? Don't you think I couldn't do it?" She stood up straight and walked like a lady while smiling sexily to Xander. She trailed a finger along his chest, grinning like an oversexed Faith. "I can seduce anybody." Xander gulped and she removed her finger. "Now, where is your trust in me?"

The young man took a deep breath and chuckled, his face showing some shades of red. "Sure you can, Dawn. No doubt in my mind. Only I can't let you, if Buffy would find out she would kill me instantly," he explained while opening the door to the shop.

"No, she would not," she responded while slapping him playfully on his back.

"Aaah," was his sincere reply, but luckily for him the sound was muffled by the horn.

Her own laughter was lost in the same ugly noise as she watched him enter. She stood for a moment as her thoughts trailed back.


In the bus, heading to Cleveland

Dawn sat next to Xander. She'd been staring out of the window for more then an hour, all the time her face showing a clear mixure of sadness and anger.

Suddenly she felt his hand on her shoulder and turned to face him. He stared warmly at her. "Joyce . . . " The teenager opened her mouth at the mention of her mother's name. ". . . She will always be with us, Dawn."

He silent for a few moments, before she felt a tear wiped away by a caring touch. "I know she won't say it, that's the way she is, but have to realize that she is also in Buffy's heart . . ." She swallowed as she stared in his gentle eye when he continued with a soft tone. ". . . And you too."


She never forgot his words. He had promised her that the future would be different. Better. That her sister would care more for her. It wouldn't be perfect, far from that, but certainly better then she would have ever hoped for.

She smiled as she followed his direction.


"Xander? Are you already out of the hospital?" Giles asked, surprised, when he saw him coming in, followed by Dawn.

"Yeah, it wasn't much. I am tip top in shape according to the nurse."

The others looked at him and then to Dawn for confirmation. After a second she nodded.

"Good," Buffy responded, "Then you can help us with the upcoming . . ."

"The management, I sold a Harley today and . . ." the Dark Slayer quickly interjected.

"Faith," Buffy sighed, her eyes rolling.

"Hey, business is business and there is a lot of work to do."

Giles looked at the two and then to Xander, trying to make out the best judgement of the situation regarding the young man's involvement. He surprised Xander by gently poking him in his side causing the younger man to groan. At the glare he got, the young man quickly defended himself. "Hey, not my fault, Dawn drives like crazy."

Giles saw the teenager looking up at Xander, with her mouth open, stunned. "I do not!"

<Oh, bloody hell, not again!> the old man thought as he corrected the position of his glasses, when he felt a head-each coming as he was subjected by another dreadful discussion between the young adults about bikes, especially with Buffy and her younger sister.

"You drove?" Buffy interjected, a bit angry.

"On the new black Yahama," Xander explained.

"Wow, she is really growing up," Faith exclaimed, flashing a grin.

While Buffy responded in the opposite direction. "Dawn, do you know how irresponsible that is?"

Dawn switched her gaze between the two Slayers, totally speechless, to Xander again. "I told you that she would get angry, Dawn," he responded gently. "It's, okay, Buffy. She can ride really well." He pointed to his patch. "Safer than I ever could."

Buffy stared at his sincere face, to Dawn, back to Xander. "You are not protecting her, are you?"

He chuckled uncomfortably. "I gave her some lessons. And she showed talent . . ."

He hold up his hand as Buffy scowled. "No, really, she is excellent. I-I just shouldn't have asked her to make that one sharp circle, but, hey she wanted to prove her driving capabilities. It made my back hurt a bit, but she really convinced me." He sighed, his face pleading for understanding. "She just wants to get her license, Buffy."

Buffy looked at them both. "Okay, we will talk about it later. Maybe," the Slayer swallowed as she spoke, "Maybe I'll let you drive a bike."

Giles took a breath, glad, as finally this argument had settled down.

Dawn beamed. "Sorry, Xan, I forgot all about the strong g-forces."

"Its okay, Dawn. So, anything Apocalyptic coming?" Xander asked jokingly, getting away from the onerous topic concerning his health.

Buffy, Faith and Willow exchanged a glare with the Brit. He and Faith nodded reluctantly and the blond looked at Xander. "Tonight."

Xander's eye widened. "Oh?"

Chapter 4

Andrew walked around a table in centre of the shop while recording current events. "Things are good in command central this afternoon. Buffy is thinking the situation over with her keen intellect and her typical confidence, while Giles and Willow have provided her with all the information."

Buffy looked at Giles, her hand scratching her head. "Okay, let me recall this. A vamperic group called The Vampirehood of Katis . . ."

"K' hatis."

"Thats what I said. And they are about to bring the world's destruction by breaking Bla blath's seal and open the hellmouth at midnight . . . tonight?"

Giles nodded and Buffy looked lost.

"That vamp earlier that *you* killed, might have known something more," Faith offered.

Buffy nodded as she took out his wallet and trimmed through all kinds of papers and money, until she found a small paper. "I have found an adress. I'll check it out. If we are lucky we'll find some clues."

"Wait, Buffy," Xander interrupted, stopping her.

"At least 50 vamps?" Xander asked.

Giles nodded. "Most likely many more."

"At midnight?"

Giles nodded again.

<Damn, there is really something going on here. More than it seems,> Xander thought, wondering what it could be. <Is there a connection with those demonic girls?> asked himself, but shrugged it off as he not only had any evidence at all, the chances of any connection were very slim. <Probably just a group of idiots.> He looked at Faith and then to the Brit. "We have dinner tonight. You know, that 'socialising, but very expensive and dreadful event', Giles."

"Quite expensive, yes. I think that it is best to cancel that, considering our current situation."

Faith nodded firmly, but scowled at Xander's reaction. "I think its better to let it continue."

"Why?" the Dark Slayer snorted angrily, but dimmed after Dawn's scary look.

"I think I have a plan," was the only response.

Andrew zoomed in on Xander's face as he started to explain.


Andrew zoomed out and moved his camera slowly along the group, filming all their reactions.

"Xander, yet again you have surprised me with this simple, but marvelous idea," complimented Giles.

The young man smiled. "Everybody agree?"

They all agreed and even the Dark Slayer smiled. "Wicked plan."

"Do you think you can arrange it all on such a short notice?" Giles asked. "Excellent!" the Council Head beamed at Xander's nod.

Xander picked out his cellphone, thought for a second before placing it back on the counter. "Better to use a secured line," he explained to Faith's surprised face, as he walked to the back of the shop.

Buffy opened the door to walk out of Faith's shop and almost bounced into a new costumer, who drew Faith's immediate and devoted attention, as the big guy laid on the ground. Willow and Andrew also went to the back of the shop, helping Xander.

"What can I do," Dawn asked anxiously.

"Dawn, it's best if you make your homework."

The teenager shook her head firmly.

"Dawn, you are a young woman. One who still needs to have a basic education, before moving on to college and I strongly advise you to take that opportunity and . . . "

Dawn's loud protests were smothered when she saw Buffy's head curling around the entrance's door, making a face.

"Okay," she pouted and stumbled to the back of the shop.

This left Giles alone, undecided what to do. Then he saw Xander's phone. <I'll keep Angel informed with latest progress.>

He picked it up and tried to find the 'On/Off' button.


Buffy walked outside and scanned the parking area until wher eye caught a spankin' brand new Aspen Silver BMW 750iL. <Wow.> She smiled brightly as she felt the vamp's keys in her pocket and took them out and totally blinded by its beauty she walked towards it. She tried a few of the keys before one of them actually fitted. She twisted the key, but the door failed to unlock. She frowned, disappointed and slid the key in and out a couple of times, then suddenly the door opened. A huge smile spread across her face as she stepped in.

"Welcome, please fasten your seat-belts and follow the instructions for a safe trip," said a gentle woman's voice with a German accent.


Giles made a break-through discovery when he opened the front desk of the cellphone and was surprised by what he saw. The upper-half was a kind of mini-screen for video-display and the lower-half contained, next to some buttons, a circulair shaped touch-pad. He tabbed a couple of times on the pad while deciding what to do next. "Hmmm," he murmled as his thumb dragged slowly downwards, making a half-cirle over the pad. <What would all those buttons mean?> he wondered. He checked out a couple of them, but didn't get any reaction from the intriguing apparatus.

After a minute it started to irritate him, and his thumb twisted over the pad. Making circulair movements.


"WOOOwoooWOOOwoooWOOOwooo," Buffy screamed as she clenched her stomach with one hand and the streering-wheel with the other. She tried to focus herself on one point to supress dizziness as the car circled fast around its axis while still moving forwards.

Suddenly the car stopped spinning and Buffy took a deep breath while refocusing herself to her surroundings before the car began twist again, in the opposite direction.

"noooooNOOOOOnooooNOOOOnoooNOOOnooNOOnoNO . . ."


In the back of the shop

Dawn was sitting at the same desk where Xander had made several calls as he had just made all the necessary preperations for tonight. Proudly working when Xander nodded once again in approval, evne though her attention was mainly devoted to boys, school boys, and college boys. This topic disappeared instantly as Xander smiled to Willow. "Okay, T-time," he joked.

Willow chuckled.

"Hello, T-Man." He held moved his head backwards and grinned to Willow and Dawn. "Yes, I'm sorry. Won't happen again . . . Yes, the BMW has arrived today. I already drove in the silver tiger. It's great . . . No, I haven't checked out everything. Of course not . . ."

"No, not the roof-missiles."

"Tyre shredding spike dispenser? Was tempting, I admit. Very tempting. That asshole behind me really deserve a few metal claws. But no, didn't use it."

"Not nerve gas."

"And certainly not the turbo-boost."

He made a face to Willow, who was pratically wet from all the high- tech options her boss had mentioned. "Brits are so boring."

"No, also not the Stinger missile."

"Only one? Behind the left head-light . . . Press M . . . Okay . . . Launching after five seconds? . . . What!? Wow!"


Giles stared suspiciously at the infuriating machine, and pressed every control-button he could think of. Nothing worked. "Bloody modern gadgets. Why can't they make a simple 'On/Off' button, painted with a big label above it and then let me dial that bloody number," he muttered, not wanting to scare Faith's clientele.

He took a deep breath and checked out the whole cell-phone, and was about to throw it away until he found three little buttons on the left-side.

<EB? What could that be?>



was the sound of four tires ripping into the asphalt, when it decelerated under the high pressure of the Emergency Brake system.

Buffy jerked forward as the BMW came to a complete stop . . . on the middle of a three-lane hightway.

"Congratulations on a safe journey."

Her paled face whitened even more as she saw an incoming biker in the rear-mirror. With amazing skill the biker barely avoided a collision and made a finger to her when he had passed her.

She took a deep breath, but was slammed back into the seat when the car suddenly accelerated like a rocket. At 75 Mph it made a perfect 180 degree turn, and rushed forward again . . .


"Self-deflating and re-inflating tires. Yeah, that can come in handy."

"Miniature gatlin guns beneath the headlights . . ."

"Machine guns."

"What type of rockets?" Andrew asked, almost shaking in anxiety.

'You don't want to know," was his answer, making him pout.

"Of course it has a GPS tracking-system . . ." he said through the phone, before he placed his hand over it and spoke softly to a trembling Willow. "Huh, they just want to check my driving-style."

"They can't," Andrew offered, receiving a questioning look from Xander.

"H-he is right, Xan," Willow acknowledged.

"Oh," he moved his mouth to the speaking part of the phone again. "I promise I will drive safe . . ."

<Driving safe? Me? Huh! I'm an american, so I woudn't count on it. Who does he think I am? . . . Giles!?>


Giles removed his finger from one other tiny button. He was surprised by another break-through as its face lit up, just like the video- screen. The LCD display monitor showed a view from a camera ounted just behind the grille at the front end of an automobile. It showed him the view from a driving car. His victorious smile disappeared quickly when he saw a huge oil-tanker coming straigth towards him. At least it seemed like that. Instinctively he pressed on the right side of the touch-pad, and the video-image moved along as he slipped into the right traffic lane, which brought him face to face with a trailer.

Again he smoothly avoided a messy confrontation. <This is one of those bloody games!> He quickly looked over to Faith, who was apparently wound up in an heated argument with her customer, back to his 'game' again. A feral smile appeared on his face as the Ripper resurfaced and he concentrated like a little boy on the screen. <Buckle up, Rupert,> he thought to himself as his gently touched the directional steering pad.


"Holy vamps!" the blond Slayer yelled as the haunted BMW cut off car after car when it wove smoothly through the traffic that was still coming towards her.

Several heart-attacks later the car chipped out of a dangerous mess as she drove from the high-way into saver terrain, creating a new one. Horns blared at her as the german verhicle dodged bumpers with astonishing grace.

"Warning, pedestrians ahead of you."

A spectacular roller-coaster ride later - after some sight-seeing, car-testing and just married couple scaring driving - she was brought back to Faith's biker paradise. There it accelerated a last time, before it stopped after a full 360 degree circle only a fraction of a inch in front of the shop's wall, at the same spot she left and the door opened.


Giles removed his finger from 'M'' and shot down the front-panel and smiled. "Good for unwinding after a rough day at the office," he quipped. But then sighed as Giles returned. <Dangerous realistic, I must concur. Those games, way too tempting for kids to try out for real.>

"Hey, G-Man," Xander said as came back, "Did you call Angel?"

"No, all that bloody high tech is nothing for an old Brit like me. I wasn't even able to make a simple phone call."

Chapter 5

Giles handed Xander the cell-phone. His cheeks reddened as the young man quickly punched a couple of buttons, enabling him to make a phone call.

A honk distracted him in his thoughts and turned his head to see Faith's customer leaving, an angry expression on his face, almost bumping into Buffy on his way out. The blond Slayer looked unhealthily white and dazed as she waited to let the man out first. Then she staggered in.

He opened his mouth but was pre-empted by Buffy holding up her hand. "I have had it," she said, "and I'm not going to drive anymore . . . ever. I don't understand cars and I never will. We aren't meant to be. Waaay too dangerous for a girl like me. 'll stick with slaying."

Giles shot Xander a warning glance to head off any smart comment. "The kids of today are poisioned by bloody dangerous video- games and therefore they don't know how to drive safely anymore. Don't blame yourself Buffy. It's a wise decision."

The only reaction he got was laughter from Xander and a grin from Faith, and an agreeing nod from the blond Slayer.

Giles scowled. "I will let you know that I will drive my own Citroen. Decent and safe."

"G-man, always goes for the French ladies," Xander responded.

"Here, you can have it," Buffy said as she tossed the keys to Faith, who in return smiled.

Xander gathered his things and walked out, when Dawn rushed after him. "I'm coming with you," she yelled anxiously.

Xander glanced at Buffy and she nodded. "Have fun," she replied tiredly.


"Welcome, please fasten your seatbelts and follow the instructions for a safe trip."

"I definitely must have a talk with T about her accent," Xander muttered.

Xander slid his finger along a small section under the desk. "Finger print recognition. Alexander Lavelle Harris, confirmed. Weapon systems on-line. For use, please . . ."

"Yes, yes, I know. I don't think it will be necessary," Xander interjected, irritated. He looked through the windshield. <I really thought I had parked it with the back to the wall?> he wondered, puzzled. He shrugged it off as he turned his gaze to the left and saw Dawn jumping up and down in her seat. "C'mon, Xan, drive!"

Xander grinned. "Don't touch anything."

Dawn rolled her eyes in response.


Xander looked at the paper Buffy had given him and slipped out the vamp's keys. He opened the apartment door and went through to the living room. After a quick search he turned the answering-machine on, almost jumping when he recognised the voice from one of the messages. It was his 'date' from yesterday, asking John, the vampire, to check out Faith's biker's paradise.

<Probably they had been promised eternal power.> He chuckled a bit at the thought of how easy those vamps must have been fooled.

<A link between a demonic girl and a vampire cult. What would that link be? Who is behind this? Connections.>

He settled himself on the couch and was thinking about all the possiblities, until his eye fell on a long black hair. He picked it up and slid it through his fingers. <Maybe the link I'm searching for.>

Dawn had searched other parts of the apartment and had come back empty handed. "Found nothing," she stated, her tone disappointed. "You?"

Absently he traced the hair. "Maybe . . ." He replied dreamingly and felt himself begin to day-dream as he found himself in a nice old restaurant, having a candlelight dinner date with a wonderful young woman.

The decor of The White Horse was classically English; quaint and 'old fashioned', reflecting and complimenting the actual age of the 17th century building. The eatery had subdued lighting, both its customers and staff dressed in the latest season's fashions. The restaurant's seating area was roomy and the area outside blanketed with snow, making for a wonderful view, a fine accompaniment to the wonderful silver service cuisine.

"Red wine, please," Xander ordered for himself and his companion, savouring the elegant grace of the sexy woman sat opposite him. Only one word was required to describe her: beautiful. For the first time in a long while he was struck by an attraction he couldn't describe. The woman had light rouge make-up on her high-boned cheekbones and light brown lipstick on her full curved lips. Black mascara on her eyelashes accentuated her sparkling yet mysterious hazel eyes, perfectly matching the color of her deftly cut short hair. And then there was her dress: a sequined black cocktail dress, long and slim, hugging all her perfect curves, its cut-out bodice hinting but not revealing her wonderfully full breasts.

She was certainly not a name tag person.

Xander pulled nervously at the collar of his black tuxedo, he knew he looked good in it but he was far from comfortable in such clothes, preferring his usual Hawian shirts and casual pants. "Any plans for the furture?" he asked in an attempt to jump-start the conversation.

His companion grinned, "I still want to become an actress."

Xander chuckled. "Some things never change." He smiled at the woman's slightly annoyed, but perfect face. "You really look beautiful in that dress."

The woman smirked at his compliment. "So do you, Xander. Black really suits you."

"No colors?"

"I still wanted to thank you, Xan."

Xander smiled sympathetically. "You're welcome. It was the least I could do to make it right."

Her face turned serious. "No, really, not everybody would have done that. And certainly not the men I wanted to date before getting to know you. The real . . . wonderful you . . . And stop blaming yourself."

Despite all the kind words Xander's face saddened. "We could have had so much more. We could have outshined every couple in the whole world. And I blew it."

The brunette woman smiled wryly at him and leaned forward, giving him a kiss on his cheek. "It's alright, Dorky." Xander smiled back, embracing her touch. "You know what? We could make it up tonight. You and I, the whole night. Are you up to it?"

Xander's face lit up, but sunk away immediately as he recognized a blond woman wearing a business suit standing between them, her face furious.

"Xander! You bastard!" she shouted. "Traitor!!" She pointed at his date. "And of all the women in the world it had to be with her!"

Sweat poured off his body as he was jerked back from the Twilight Zone, his heart pounding in his chest. <Damn!> he shouted in his thoughts, furious and deep saddened as memories for his lost Anya and his probably forever lost Cordelia haunted him again.

"Xander!" A concerned shout brought him back to reality and he looked up into Dawn's big eyes.