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PAL-a-thon Entry: No Myth, 2/?

Continued from Part 1 

Title: No Myth
Summary: Faith takes it into her head that Xander needs to relax and fixates on the idea that a date—a nice, normal date—is a step in the right direction. Before it’s all over, there is a painful makeover, reluctant double-dating, uncomfortable small talk, spying baby Slayers, something that looks like Cthulu’s little sister, a trashed Starbuck’s storefront, attempted murder, Slayage, police involvement, and a trip to the Cleveland Clinic emergency room. What? You expected any date involving Xander and some random Mary Sue to go well?

 

Chapter 4: If I Were Romeo in Black Jeans…

The next few days were a whirlwind of making over Xander for his hot date. Their two local Slayers, June and Louise, enthusiastically agreed to help with the task, if only because it meant blowing off training in favor of shopping.

Faith was more of a grab-it-try-it-on-if-it-fits-buy-it girl instead of a champion shopper. However, she had to admit that working in concert with June and Louise to make Xander over into someone worthy of his coming date—whose name Xander told her was Inez Morningstar, which in Faith’s humble opinion was the perfect name even if Xander was less-than-impressed with it—was a hell of a lot of fun.

Of course, it would’ve been a lot more fun if Xander didn’t continuously bitch and moan.

“What’s wrong with my hair?” Xander protested.

“It needs to be cut. You’re looking shaggy,” June sniffed.

“I asked her out with this hair,” Xander whined. “Leave the hair alone.”

“Who the fuck do you think you are? Sampson?” Faith asked. “You’re gonna lose all your strength if you get a trim?”

“You’re actually quoting Bible stories at me?” Xander incredulously asked. “That cuts it. Something’s really, really wrong with this picture.”

“Your hair’s looking dull, too,” Louise interrupted. “Maybe if we have them put in some highlights.”

“What?” Xander startled. “No! Nonononononono!”

“C’mon! Just a rinse,” Louise urged.

“For. Get. It. Putting my foot down,” Xander emphatically said. “My foot’s so down that it’s leaving dinosaur-sized imprints. See this foot? This foot is officially down.”

In the end Xander ended up compromising, if only because it was three Slayers against his single Watcher. He agreed to the trim; they agreed not to push the hair dye.

The War over Xander’s Hair was nothing more than tempest in a teapot when compared to the War over Xander’s Wardrobe.

“What’s wrong with my clothes?” Xander yowled pitifully as Faith, Louise, and June began engaging in their special brand of Girl Eye for the Hopelessly Not Getting Any Guy.

“What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” Louise laughed.

“Let’s start with your jeans,” Faith said. “The ass sags and when you bend over we can see crack.”

“Hunh? What? And you didn’t tell me?” Xander looked horrified. “You’re telling me that you could see my carpenters’ crack and you let me let it all hang out? What kind of partner are you?”

“Obviously not the kind of partner who’d tell you how to dress unless it was really, really important,” Faith sniffed.

“Telling me that people can see crack is important,” Xander grumped. “Telling me how to dress for a date? Not so much.”

“Oh, god,” June moaned as she held up a pair of jeans between forefinger and thumb. “Do you actually own anything that doesn’t have stains on it?”

“Yes,” Xander said.

“Then you haven’t been checking out your clothes,” Louise said. “We haven’t found a single shirt or pair of jeans that didn’t look like you killed something while wearing it.”

“I wear those to work!” Xander protested.

“Yeah, and all you own is work clothes,” Faith said.

“Well excuse me,” Xander huffed. “I haven’t had time to go shopping for…”

“SHOPPING!” June and Louise cheered in unison.

Thus began a bigger and better round of fighting centered on forcing a new wardrobe on the hapless Watcher. The running battles were waged in no less than three shopping malls in the greater metropolitan area. They tried everything to make Xander look like the handsomest, smartest, and bravest prince charming in the whole wide world. Shoes and sneakers of every fit, size and style were jammed on to his feet. He was dressed up like living Ken Doll in suits, chinos, dress slacks, dress shirts, and an array of wifebeaters. He was menaced with ties, belts, cufflinks, and even a screw-back diamond stud for one of his ears.

It was all for naught. No matter what they tried, Xander did everything in his power to make it look like the clothes immediately wrinkled upon coming into contact with his skin. He slumped. He scowled. He issued a stream of discontented sighs and grunts. He finally began letting loose with a symphony of burps and farts while emerging from dessing rooms. In short, he was trying to the grossest caveman on the planet in an effort to foil the mission.

Pushed to the point of wanting to slap Xander silly for being such an ass, Faith finally broke and asked what would make Xander happy on the new clothes front.

“Comfortable jeans, Timberland boots with steel toes, a comfortable cotton shirt in a solid color,” Xander immediately ticked off on his fingers.

“That’s it?” Faith asked while June and Louise engaged in stereo eye rolls.

“Yes. I want to be comfortable when I get into the inevitable life-and-death struggle with my date,” Xander replied.

“Oh for god’s sake,” Faith threw up her hands.

“You mock, but I know what works,” Xander sniffed. “Overdressing for your own murder is never a good idea. Plus, I’ve found that steel-toed boots can do a lot of damage when properly applied to your average demonic weak spot.”

Once more a compromise was reached. Xander got his jeans, his steel-toed Timberlands, and cotton shirt. However, they were slightly less comfortable than the well-worn, loose fitting clothes he tended to favor. Rather than hiding the bod, the black jeans and hunter green shirt fit well enough to hint that he might actually have some muscles underneath his clothes.

“Can’t I get the jeans one size bigger?” Xander helplessly asked.

“No,” the three Slayers chorused.

“How about the shirt?” Xander begged.

“Hell, no!” the three Slayers agreed.

Although Faith and Xander were engaged in a war over the soul when it came to the makeover, they remained solidly united on the Whyte the front.

“This is unseemly,” Whyte informed them as he sipped his tea. “Allowing your charges to shirk their training to help you prepare for a date, of all the ridiculous things.”

“June and Louise have been working their asses off this summer,” Faith snarled.

“Cut the girls some slack,” Xander agreed. “One or the other is always patrolling with us and they’ve been pretty good about the training. Taking a few days off is not a tragedy.”

“I hardly think Mr. Giles would condone….” Whyte began.

Mr. Giles left me in charge not you,” here Xander planted his hands on the kitchen table as he loomed over the seated Whyte, “Plus, I’ve known Mr. Giles for years while you maybe spent a few days with him during your interview, so trust me when I tell you that Mr. Giles wouldn’t say boo about a few days’ break.”

Faith hid a smile. Hah! I was right! The potential for a little action has given him a little confidence.

Whyte frowned up at Xander. “They’re only getting a break because it suits your purposes,” the Watcher stated.

“Speaking of suits my purposes,” Xander grinned. “I’ve got a mission for you.”

Faith startled. “You do?”

“Yup,” here Xander turned his evil grin on Faith. “He’s your date.”

“WHAT?” Faith and Whyte shouted in unison.

“Hello! Double date, remember?’ Xander bounced on the balls of his feet. “I’m not facing certain death alone, here.”

“Certain death? On a date?” Whyte asked. “Surely you’re speaking metaphorically.”

“He ain’t,” Faith said as she glared and Xander. “He’s got some serious issues. He’s convinced that…”

“Not convinced. I know. I know that before the end of the night I will be once more hiding under the table until Death gets distracted by something shiny and forgets I’m there,” Xander declared. “You promised to play bodyguard…”

“I didn’t promise to…”

“Well, I said it was a double date,” Xander said. “How’s it going to look to Irene…”

“Inez,” Faith corrected.

“Whoever! The demon girl that’s going to try to bite my head off,” Xander said.

“Are you aware that you’re quite mad?” Whyte asked.

“What I’m saying is how’s it going to look if my cousin from Boston and her date aren’t around when I meet Ilene…”

“Inez,” Faith interrupted.

“…at that Starbuck’s on Cedar and Fremont, chosen for it’s convenient location near the Cleveland Clinic without actually being in the Cleveland Clinic, I might add,” Xander continued, not even acknowledging the correction. “It’s going to look really suspicious, that’s what it’s going to look like. That means she might try to eat me immediately instead of saving me for desert.”

Faith flashed a wicked grin. “Ya know, Cyclops, I’m thinking Whyte’s got a point about you. Most guys would think getting eaten is turn-on.”

“Only guys who haven’t seen the headless corpses littering the basement of the hot older woman they hoped would free them from the pain of 16-year-old virginity,” Xander huffed.

“Definitely mad,” Whyte muttered.

“You know? I think I’m gonna be wicked sorry I asked, but I gotta do it,” Faith said with a pained expression. “Why is getting saved for desert better than immediate demon attack?”

“She might be full after eating people food and drinking people drinks, so if I’m desert instead of the main course I’ve got a better chance of only being nibbled instead of chomped. Better chance of surviving if there’s nibbling instead of chomping.”

“Is Mr. Giles aware that you are in dire need of professional help?” Whyte asked.

***

Chapter 5: A Man (Sort of) and a Plan…

Whyte remained stubborn in his refusal to participate in the double-dating scheme. Faith tried everything from asking nicely to threatening nicely, but nothing doing. Furthermore, he threatened to write up a report about her’s and Xander’s behavior so he could present Giles with evidence of their unfitness to serve as lead Slayer and Watcher respectively.

Faith was hanging at the end of her rope. Xander was adamant that he would not go on his date with Inez unless Faith tagged along with a date of her own capable of defending themselves when the inevitable attack on his person happened.

Faith vehemently argued back that Xander was being unreasonable above and beyond the call of paranoia and that there was no way that a sweet, gorgeous, little thing like Inez was a big, ugly, hungry demon under the surface. Admittedly her arguments were punctuated with quite a few more cuss words, but she didn’t think it distracted from her main point, which could be boiled down to, “Stop being such a fucking wuss.”

“Are you even listening to yourself?” Xander asked. “If you and a second bodyguard aren’t with me, I’m not going.”

“You’re not gonna stand her up,” Faith said as she cracked her knuckles.

“I don’t believe this! Are you seriously physically threatening me? Over a date?” Xander yelled as he paced around her and waved his hands in frustration. “You don’t even know this girl and you’ve got it stuck in your head that she’s the most wonderful, perfect person on the planet! I’m telling you that something’s wrong!”

“I can tell that she’s…”

“You haven’t even talked to her!”

“Don’t need to talk to her to know that you’re acting like an ass.”

And so the argument continued non-stop for days. About the only time they didn’t argue was on patrol, but that was because they were so frustrated with each by that point in the day that they were barely speaking to one another.

On Wednesday, something in the back of Faith’s mind began question why she was so adamant about hooking Cyclops up with Inez. If he didn’t want to go, he shouldn’t go. In fact, she got the distinct impression that the only reason why he was going was just to shut her up. Whenever the prickle of doubt surfaced, however, the urge to drag him to the date by his hair and toss him into Inez’s graceful arms kicked back even stronger.

By Thursday, Faith was fighting war of wills with herself. On one side, she wondered why she was so hell-bent on Cyclops going on that date. The other side insisted that the reason was obvious. Cyclops and Inez were made for each other and that they would have an eternal, perfect love if only Cyclops would stop being so stubborn. This internal battle took such a toll on her that she was ready to throw in the towel and let Cyclops have his way.

Once more, pernicious Fate stepped in to resolve the issue. And before anyone out there starts blaming Fate for the events that later transpired, please do keep in mind that Faith was only getting exactly what she wanted. Although you might want to make sure that you’re very, very polite should you ever have the opportunity to point this out to Boston-born Slayers with wicked awesome tempers.

But we’re getting a little bit ahead of ourselves.

Thursday night patrol was another round of the same-old, same-old. There was the routine long walk at night, this time along the waterfront. There was the complaining bored baby Slayer, in this case June. There were a few hopeful attempts at action that dissolved into disappointment because the suspicious shadow turned out to be an animal, a shady human character, or an actual shadow.

As for Faith and Xander, they limited their discussion to what was absolutely necessary. Given that both of them were equally stubborn and equally prone to letting their tempers show when they weren’t getting their way, it should be no surprise that they both defined absolutely necessary discussion as “a monosyllabic word uttered once-an-hour.”

Xander, who was positively convinced of the righteousness of his situation and that his patrol partner, to quote from yet another argument held earlier in the day, had “gone batshit insane from boredom,” was showing no signs of wavering.

Faith, on the other hand, was starting to think that maybe she was going batshit insane from boredom. It was the only explanation. Besides, B had warned her that Xander and dating didn’t mix. Cyclops was telling her that he and dating didn’t mix. Hell, she had first hand experience that both Buffy and Xander were right, considering that she was one of those “dates” that tried to kill him.

The crack in Faith’s resolve grew wide enough for her prison-honed horse sense to finally take control of her brain when they pulled up in front of the Mother House an hour before sunrise.

As Xander threw the car into park, Faith ventured, “Cyclops?”

Xander let out an irritated sigh as his head thunked against the steering wheel. “No. I’m not having this discussion with you. I’m sick and tired of fighting about this.”

“I…”

“Stop it right there.” He yanked the key out of the ignition and opened the driver’s side door in a series of jerky moves.

“But…” Faith began.

Xander bolted from the driver’s seat and slammed the car door behind him.

Faith grumbled to herself with irritation as she exited the car. “Stupid one-eyed jerk. Martyr. Damn it. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Won’t even listen.” Each word was punctuated with a boot stomp down the walk and up the stoop. “Stubborn ass. That’s what he…”

Her subvocal tirade was interrupted when she was forced to stop short. Xander was standing frozen on the top step. Judging by the tense set of his shoulders and the fact he was standing ramrod straight, it was pretty clear that he was staring at something unpleasant through the open door.

“Yo! What’s wrong?” Faith asked as she hopped up and down on the step behind him in an effort to get a look inside. “Did someone break in? Don’t tell me all our shit’s gone.”

“It’s worse than that,” Xander said in a tense whisper.

“Worse? What could possibly be…”

Xander shifted so Faith could get a clear view of the scene that had spooked him.

Standing in the entrance hallway armed with nothing more than a plateful of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and a hopeful smile was none other than Andrew.

“Greetings gentle housemates. I have in my hands a peace offering.”

Faith and Xander exchanged looks.

“Unh, peace offering for not calling ahead. Well, actually I called when I landed at the airport, but you had already left for patrol and Whyte was afraid he’d get lost so I had to take a cab. I dipped in petty cash to pay the cab driver, so if you were planning on splurging on something good since there seemed to be more than there is normally in there I just want to say that I’m really, really sorry and I’ll try to replace the money.”

“Weren’t you in Hong Kong?” Xander asked.

“Oh, that.” Andrew’s smile took a turn for the nervous. “It’s a very, very long story.”

“All your fucking stories are long,” Faith pointed out.

“It is!” Andrew protested. “It’s a story that’s full of swashbuckling adventure where Giles and I were the Three Musketeers…”

“Weren’t there only two of you?” Xander asked.

“Details!” Andrew sang out as he turned and headed for the kitchen.

Xander and Faith once more exchanged looks, only this time they were silently commiserating with one another, a welcome change from the open warfare of the past few days.

“I bet we’re gonna be sorry we asked,” Xander said quietly.

“Let’s get it over with, because you know we’re gonna be fucking hearing it anyway,” Faith replied just as quietly.

Andrew continued to prattle on, seemingly unaware of Xander’s and Faith’s initial reluctance to join him. “…there was also secret 007 missions that would do Timothy Dalton proud…”

“Who?” Faith asked.

“Who?” Andrew whirled to face them. The fact that not one cookie shifted on the plate was enough to get Faith wondering if the cookies were glued in place. Given this was Andrew, she wouldn’t put it past him to employ glue so he could present them with a perfect pile of cookies. “Timothy Dalton is only the best Bond that ever was! He could crush…”

“Andrew? Not this argument. At least not now,” Xander pinched his nose like he knew there was a headache sneaking up on him.

“But…” Andrew began.

“Just tell us what happened,” Xander said. “Given we didn’t even get a hint you were heading back, I can only assume that something went really, really wrong? Or would I be totally off-base on that?”

“I’m getting to that,” Andrew said as he entered the kitchen with Xander and Faith trailing behind him. “This story includes delicate diplomacy, tense negotiations, and maybeacommonstreetbrawlthatnearlygotmeandGileskilled.”

“What?” Xander exploded.

“He’s fine! He’s fine!” Andrew said quickly. “Most of the damage was done to, you know, cars. But no damage to Giles. Or me. Or innocent bystanders. Or to the demons we were negotiating with, which, ummm, I guess is good because they have these books, see? And…”

“If this brawl was bad enough to get you sent home, why isn’t Giles here with you?” Faith asked suspiciously.

“He’s still has some negotiations to finish with the Water Demons and we really need to get this important set of books that date all the way back to …”

“Andrew,” Xander interrupted. “Why are you back here and not helping Giles with the negotiations since you’re the demon language expert guy?”

“Unh,” Andrew shuffled, “they speak Cantonese and I don’t. I couldn’t even pronounce their names properly, which is how we sort of got into the fight because when I said the rank of the head Water Demon I, completely and totally by accident, respectfully called him a…” Andrew blushed up to the roots of his hair as his voice dropped. “Well, it involved donkeys and…and…sex…and maybe a banana. A big banana.”

Xander glowered at him. “So what you’re saying is that this was a job for Dawn? And that you were about as helpful as I would’ve been?”

“Well…” Andrew began as he shrank back.

Faith stepped between the Xander and Andrew before Xander’s ragged-around-the-edges temper prompted him to say something they might all regret. “Right, boys. It’s late and I’m just too fricken tired to deal with this shit right now. What say we hit the sack and have this chat when we’re not ready to rip people’s heads off,” here she gave a certain one-eyed someone a meaningful look.

“Have you two been fighting?” Andrew piped up.

“Yes,” Faith said at the exact same moment Xander said, “No.”

Andrew brightened and rubbed his hands with glee. “Sounds like someone needs a little morale boost. And as your duly appointed cruise director…”

Xander groaned while Faith rolled her eyes.

“…I’ll just have to come up with something super special great. All aboard the cheer-up train. I am Andrew and I’ll be your conductor.” Andrew was now bouncing on the balls of his feet.

“I blame you,” Xander muttered at Faith. “You should’ve never told him that…”

Andrew deflated. “You don’t want me to help?”

“Not that I don’t appreciate the thought, but we’re a little busy,” Xander said. He quickly added before Andrew could speak, “Not drowning in evil busy, just everyday busy. You know. Keeping the house running. Balancing the books. Training with the local Slayers. That kind of stuff.”

“Yeah, boring stuff,” Faith echoed in a dull voice.

“You two sound like you need a night off for fun time.” Andrew nodded sagely. “I haven’t had a chance to see Spiderman 2 yet since I was in Hong Kong when it opened and all. Let’s take Saturday night off and we’ll all go.”

On “Saturday night,” Faith’s gaze snapped to Andrew so quickly that she thought sure the boys could hear the bones in her neck snap.

Xander apparently read her mind. “No. Faith? No. Absolutely not.”

Andrew was flabbergasted. “But don’t you want to see Spiderman 2? You’ve been talking about it for months.”

“Andrew,” Faith said in a sickeningly sweet voice, which caused Andrew to shrink back in fear.

“Faith,” Xander growled in a warning tone.

Faith ignored Xander. “How’d you like to go on a date?”

“Faith!” Xander barked.

“I, unh, gee, I mean, with a girl?” Andrew looked positively terrified by the prospect.

Faith’s grin widened. “With Xander…”

Andrew gulped as his eyes got wide.

Xander hit the wall with his fist.

The sound of Xander’s knuckles making contact with the wood resulted in ten seconds of silence before Xander yelped with pain and began hopping around the kitchen as he clutched his injured hand. While Andrew ran for the freezer to get an ice pack, Xander let loose with a litany of profanity that left Faith deeply impressed with his knowledge of the multiple uses of the word “fuck.”

Andrew rummaged around in the freezer until he found what he was looking for. He yanked it out, slammed the freezer door shut, and was by Xander’s side so fast that Faith wasn’t entirely sure she saw him move.

“H-h-h-h-here. T-t-t-t-try th-th-this,” Andrew stuttered as he blushed scarlet.

Xander looked at the bag in Andrew’s hand and stopped mid-“fuck” to say, “That’s a bag of frozen peas.”

“Yeah,” Andrew said shyly.

“Sharp as ever, Cyclops,” Faith remarked.

Why are you handing me a bag of frozen peas? Faith? Why is he handing me frozen peas?” Xander’s voice was just a little too calm, considering he almost put his fist through the wall not even one minute before.

Andrew explained, “Ummm, because I couldn’t find the ice pack? Besides, Tucker used to use frozen peas all the time when he’d get bruises from training his hellhounds to attack the…” Xander’s eyes narrowed into glare. Andrew gulped. “…the prom?” Andrew finished lamely.

“That’s what I thought you were going to say,” Xander growled as he snatched the bag away from Andrew with his good hand, gave it a speculative look, and then put it on his injured knuckles. He hissed in pain when the cold came into contact with his skin.

“Your brother raised hellhounds to attack a prom?” Faith asked. “I didn’t even know you had a brother.”

Andrew’s face lit up with a wide grin. “Why thank you, Faith. That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”

“It is?” Faith asked.

“Don’t encourage him,” Xander warned.

“So, about this date,” Andrew said with more confidence.

“Yeah, ya didn’t let me finish, Andy.” Faith kept her voice casual and friendly. “You’re actually going with Xander and me.”

Andrew’s gaze whiplashed several times between Faith and Xander.

“See, I set Cyclops up on a date with the most perfect woman on the planet…”

“Impossible,” Andrew declared. “There’s only one perfect woman and she’s…”

Knowing that the name ‘Anya’ was hovering dangerously close to this conversation, Faith interrupted. “You ain’t met Inez Morningstar.”

Xander looked like he was ready to drop the frozen peas and strangle Faith, but he kept mercifully silent. Faith figured he was counting on Andrew’s aversion to chicks to save him. Of course, she was counting on Andy’s man-crush on Cyclops and his willingness to do anything to make the big lug happy to override that. She grinned. The battle was joined. Time for Cyclops to find out just how beat he was.

Andrew looked like he was trying very hard not to laugh. “That’s a really…wow…nice name.”

“You tell her, Andrew,” Xander agreed with a nod.

“That’s very…I don’t know what that is.” Andrew was grinning.

“Amen,” Xander agreed again as he gave Faith a nasty grin.

“If you saw this chick, you’d know it was the perfect name.” Faith flashed a smile at him. “But the problem is that Cyclops here is a little gun shy.”

“Well, he’s already had the most perfect woman alive, a veritable angel on earth, the greatest and the best and the sweetest and most understanding woman that has ever existed anywhere,” Andrew stated. “You can’t ever beat that.”

Xander looked confused. “I have?”

Andrew deflated and he spared Xander a hurt look. Xander’s confusion seemed to deepen.

That’s when Faith knew she won the battle. “Andy, I know you got some pretty fixed ideas about…unh…well some people. But this lady, and I’m tellin’ ya Andy, she’s a true lady to end all ladies. She’s got ’em all beat.”

“Talk about your weird ideas,” Xander grumbled.

“She’s not the only one with weird ideas about people,” Andrew responded sullenly.

That’s when Xander clued in that he’d lost his last hope of gaining an ally. He grimaced, shook his head, and snapped out, “Fine. You win. Happy?”

“Yes,” Faith lightly said.

“I’m going to bed,” Xander said between clenched teeth. “When you two are done plotting to kill me, let me know.” He slammed the bag of frozen peas down on the table, spun on his heel, and stalked out of the kitchen.

As Xander’s footsteps stomped upstairs to his room, Andrew asked, “What was that all about?”

Faith figured she needed to restore Andrew’s faith in Xander, since the plan wasn’t going to work unless Grasshopper was on board 200 percent. “He don’t wanna go out on this date. On account of, you know, Anya. The news about Cordelia didn’t help things, but mostly Anya.”

Andrew’s face relaxed into a misty-eyed smile. “Well why didn’t you just say so?”

“He’s diggin’ his heels in as it is, Andy. Last thing we needed to do is remind him of Anya, right?”

“Right,” Andrew agreed with a curt nod.

“And you can’t expect him to be alone the rest of his life, right?” Faith asked smoothly.

“But this plan is unfair to the Other Woman,” the way Andrew said ‘Other Woman’ telegraphed the capital letters, “given she’s competing with Anya.”

“Don’t you worry about that,” Faith gave him a wink, which caused Andrew to blush yet again, “this is about his happiness, get me? But for this plan to work, we gotta keep it on the down low. Just you and me can know about this plan, sport. Only you and me can make this happen.”

Andrew looked positively thrilled that Faith had singled him out to join her in a conspiracy to make Xander happy. He snapped off a salute and asked, “So what’s the plan, boss?”

Faith thought sure her grin was going to split her face apart.

***

Chapter 6: Loving the Plan That Came Together…

Friday was yet another round of shopping and makeovers for Andrew. Unlike a certain one-eyed jerk, Andrew was enthusiastically on board with agenda. June and Louise were simply over the moon. Not only did they get out of training for a third day in one week, this time they had a cooperative subject on which to test their fashion sense.

Faith initially planned to give the fun a pass because shopping, as has been mentioned before, simply wasn’t her thing. She ended up tagging along after she had the following conversation with Xander:

“Whatchya watching Cyclops?”

There was an answering grunt while one of his hands fished through a bag of Cheesy Poofs.

“That’s like…unh…Farscape? No. Wait. Star Trek?”

Xander angrily glared at her as he shoved a handful of Cheesy Poofs into his mouth.

“Oh. Babylon 5. Shouldn’t you be, I dunno, balancing the checkbook? I thought you said you had to do that today.”

“I’m not spending my last Friday alive balancing the checkbook,” Xander sullenly replied between chews. Radioactive orange sludge was running out of a corner of his mouth.

“Wow. Never pegged you for a drama queen.”

Xander remained slumped on the couch, kept his eyes fixed on the television screen, and held out a legal pad to show Faith that the top page was covered with his messy, nearly incomprehensible handwriting.

“You’re showing me this why?”

Xander swallowed, but did nothing to brush away the damp Cheesy Poofs crumbs clinging to his chin. “This is my last will in testament.”

“Oh for Christ’s sake! Will you just cut it out?”

“I’ve bequeathed all my earthly possessions to the New Reformed Watchers Council for the creation of a fund to aid innocent bystanders who’ve been mauled by their demon dates.”

“You really should get that PTSD checked, you know that right?”

“I’ve also left instructions for Willow to turn both you and Andrew into newts.”

“Why newts?”

“Because I’ve left instructions for Buffy to step on the pair of you and squash you two dead after Willow turns you into newts.”

Faith boggled at the pure non-genius of Xander-logic for a good five minutes. Xander studiously ignored her as he shoved yet another handful of Cheesy Poofs in his gapping mouth.

Deciding that there was no pleasing some people, Faith tagged along on the shopping expedition so she could hang with people who were a hell of a lot easier to get along with. To her great shock, she had a blast. Andrew modeled anything and everything June and Louise threw at him before settling on a simple button-down shirt, dark slacks, and loafers. Hell, she barely recognized Andrew by the time June and Louise were through with him and she had watched the transformation.

Aside from clothes for Andrew, Faith, June, and Louise grabbed some new clothes for themselves and charged it to the Council credit card. What the hell. They were in the mall anyway and they all had wrecked their clothes in the line of duty at some point or another, so it was only just for the Council to pick up the tab. Then they decided to splurge on a few hours at a day spa. Hair was died, split ends were trimmed, facials were done, and manicures were accomplished. Faith felt like a new woman by the time she strolled out of the salon and back into the main mall.

A day like today could definitely change her mind on the shopping front. All it took was a credit card with a $10,000 limit to get her singing the mass-consumerism-is-good tune. Although, if you pushed her hard enough, Faith might be willing to admit that she maybe, just maybe, was doing it in the spirit of competition. After all, Inez was an amazingly hot chick with the world’s best personality to go with the bod. While Faith doubted she could ever truly compete with Inez on any level, she figured she could at least impress Inez just enough to convince this amazingly wonderful creature to maybe be her friend.

This happy thought carried her through the rest of the day until it was time to patrol.

“Yo! Cyclops. Get your ass in gear.”

Xander, who had at some point during the day got off the couch long enough to dig up a blanket, burrowed under it and refused to leave the couch. “No.”

“You’re passing up on patrol?”

“I don’t want to go anywhere near you right now.”

“Why not?”

“I might push you in front of a bus.”

Faith shook her head. “What’s up your ass?”

Xander popped off the couch, his jaw clenched with fury. “I’ve been telling you. This girl is vibing all wrong! You won’t listen to me. That means you don’t trust me. I am not going to work with someone who won’t trust my judgment.”

“You’re overreacting.”

“I. Am. Not. Faith! Look at you! Just look! I’ve been trying to tell you all week that you’ve been acting weird and I’m telling you that this thing is the cause of it!”

“Inez is not a thing,” Faith said in a low, dangerous voice.

Xander fought to bring himself under control. “Let me repeat,” he said in an even voice, “you haven’t even spoken to her. Not once. Not at all. And you’re acting like she’s your best friend.”

Faith felt sting. “Could happen. What? You think I ain’t good enough for your lady love?”

“Lady…lady…lady love? Faith, listen to me,” Xander was practically pleading with her, “you’ve been whammied somehow, don’t ask me how, but you have. Please. Back away from this. Let’s not go on patrol tonight. I think we need to research this because this isn’t you. I mean, I don’t even know who you are right now and frankly, you’re kinda scaring me. Not in a you’re-going-to-kill-me kind of way, but more like you’re-pushing-us-in-over-our-heads kind of way.”

“So. I don’t trust you? Seems to me that you don’t trust me,” Faith angrily spit at him.

Xander closed his eyes and hung his head. “Faith, I trust your Slayer instincts. Usually. But only when you’re you and right not you’re not you. And I don’t trust your Slayer instincts when you’re not you.” He paused. “Please tell me that made sense.”

Faith glared at him. The silence stretched out long enough for Cyclops to lift his head, open his eyes, and allow hope to creep into his face.

“Fine,” Faith said calmly. “You fucking be like that. You wanna blow off patrol? Go right ahead. I ain’t. Wonder if Whyte is busy. Betchya he’d like a tour of the ’hood.”

Xander’s face fell.

“Yeah. Be nice to hang with a real man for once,” Faith growled.

Xander’s eyes narrowed. “Get out of my sight. Right now.”

Faith blessed him with a sneer. “Make me.”

To her surprise, Xander crossed the room in three steps and stood right in front of her. Then he shoved his face down and forward until they were nose-to-nose and looked hard into her eyes. Faith glared at him and refused to back down.

“Yeah. I’m right and I know I am,” he said quietly. He straightened up and looked down his nose at her. “Go on. Take Whyte. Me? I’m done relying on you to get your brains back. You need me? I’ll be in the library. Researching.”

On that note, Xander stomped out of the living room, leaving Faith to glower after his retreating back.

Continued here.

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