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Challenge #1: "Canon Schmanon, Part Deux" -- Franchises (Buffy/Xander, almost NC-17)

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  • Challenge #1: "Canon Schmanon, Part Deux" -- Franchises (Buffy/Xander, almost NC-17)

    Title: Franchises
    Rating: Strong R, verging on NC-17
    Setting: October of 2003, about five months after "Chosen". Still about a year before "The Long Way Home".
    Spoilers: Through Buffy Season 8.03 (settings and themes, not specific events)

    "People are always asking me if I know Buffy Summers."

    Xander watched with satisfaction as the punch line set Buffy off laughing. He never went out of the way to laugh at his own stories too much, but he had just enough of that class-clown ego to always be watching to see if people thought the jokes really were funny.

    "You realize," Buffy gasped, her laughter beginning to subside. "We totally have to come up with the rules for ?Slay Club' now."

    "You're much better to tell that story to, Buff. I tried Andrew out on that story and thought he must have hung up, he was so quiet"

    "You mean he didn't get it? Andrew didn't get a movie reference?" Buffy looked and sounded like Xander had told her he'd caught Giles playing "Dance-Dance Revolution."

    "I know, right? You'd think if he'd seen the movie, he'd have made the ?franchise' connection to our new mission... I told him he really needs to reach for a higher grade of geekdom if he wants to be respected in his new leadership role," Xander grinned.

    As the two sighed out the last of their giggling, Xander looked around the cabin of the private jet they traveled in with fresh disbelief. Not even five months earlier they had been standing around outside the crater of his hometown facing a two hour drive on the shortbus to get a warm meal. Now they were flying around the world like celebrities or business giants in a private jet purchased with obscene millions held in the accounts of the defunct Watcher's Council. Caleb may have been quite effective at demolitions, Giles had said, but the First mercifully didn't think to have him blowing up any banks.

    A big honkin' castle and a few weeks later, Xander and Buffy were off around the world like it was a fundraising tour, helping set-up "clubs" or "camps" or "schools" or "fraternities" to serve as suitable cover for team of Slayers to take over the fight against evil in their corner of the world.

    "I'll say this for being the Executive Vice-President of Slayer, Inc," Xander began, not wanting the conversation to just cut off while they still had an hour or more flying to do. "I finally get to see Florida."

    He glanced over at Buffy expectantly. She was still nursing a daiquiri as she stared out the window from the seat facing his.

    "What is our set up here, again?" Buffy asked, sitting up in her seat. Xander grabbed the folder off the coffee table between them and tossed her a packet of paper from inside it.

    "Right. We're the National Office of the American Council for Women's Self Defense and we're seeding a campus chapter at the University of South Florida to support classes for the Tampa area's colleges and high schools," Xander recited, suddenly glad that his puffy padded suit had been eaten when the Hellmouth was closed. This particular front looked like exactly the kind of thing that could force him back into that get-up, except with fifty Slayers beating on him and not just Buffy.

    "I thought we were opening a fitness center?" Buffy asked, looking down at her paper in confusion.

    "No, that was San Francisco. Remember, I did so many sit-ups that I couldn't get out of bed to tour wine country with you?" Xander rubbed his stomach in feigned agony.

    "Yeah, I remember. Let me tell you, if you ever have a chance to spend two days drinking wine with Faith and Andrew at the same time? run away." Buffy smiled at the memory.

    "Giles has the right idea of using all these cover organizations, and God knows I love the whole mob intrigue angle to it, but it's getting a little hard to keep these straight, isn't it?"

    Buffy shrugged, a what-can-you-do gesture, but didn't try to disagree. She had clearly enjoyed being able to play all these different roles ? fitness guru, women's rights lobbyist, entrepreneur ? as a break from the years of having no career prospects at all.

    The two spent the next hour before landing rehearsing their pitch. The point of these trips was to basically provide credible cover for Slayers that they've identified and contacted to be drawn together and for other Slayers they haven't identified to be naturally attracted into joining. Aside from the castle in Scotland, they already had set Andrew up as Professor Xavier for a ?finishing school' in Rome and a women's fitness center in San Francisco that Caridad and Shannon were going to run. The hope was if they could set up about ten of these organizations, they could get a world of Slayers protecting each other and the people around them and give them a support system of people with the most experience. And here were Buffy and Xander, the sales team.

    Xander couldn't pretend he didn't love the chance to spend time with his friend alone on trips like this. Willow and Kennedy had gone off who-the-frack-knows where, and Dawn had her own problems. Buffy was the closest friend Xander still had, and Buffy didn't have the annoying habit of calling him "Mister Harris".

    "Sir? Miss? The captain would like you to know that we'll be arriving in Tampa in five more minutes. If you'd like, I can take your glasses for you," their flight attendant offered.

    "Oh, of course," Buffy replied, smiling pleasantly as she handed her nearly empty daiquiri to the middle-aged flight attendant. Xander did likewise, marveling at the natural ease with which Buffy took to the VIP status they were given these days.

    "Okay, Xan, you ready to get slapped around and thrown against the wall?" Buffy's eyes twinkled as she posed the question. Her expression was mischievous, like she was already picturing dozens of Slayers in the "American Council for Women's Self Defense" practicing their cover on him.

    "And me without my Puffy Xander suit. I knew there was some reason this trip wasn't just a day at the beach," Xander frowned, but not unpleasantly. He was still staring back at that mischievous twinkle in Buffy's eyes as the private jet set down on the tarmac.

    "So, Jessica, that's the basic ?it'. You'll have all the money and materials you need to look like the most active and respected ?women's self defense' support group on your campus. Don't be afraid to throw irresponsible parties, but in my experience, you'll probably have to be ready for vampires, zombies, or hellhounds.

    "Watch out for yourselves, watch out for each other, and watch out for the world. We're here if you need us," Buffy concluded. She gazed levelly across the dinner table into the eyes of the woman who would be responsible for the new Tampa team. Jessica was the last of their dinner mates to leave the fancy steakhouse, a black-haired, pale college sophomore suddenly running a franchise of Whitehats ?r' us.

    Buffy smiled warmly as Jessica looked down at the table and their empty plates. She looked to Buffy like she had a million questions, and she was ready to answer them. A quick glance to her left around the table showed the same anticipation she felt on Xander's face. But, if Jessica had questions, she also wasn't ready to ask a lot of them. Buffy understood that well enough, too ? leading others into the type of danger they could face was daunting enough, and thinking about all the questions at once was not always a good plan.

    Having spent the better part of the day around her since arriving that morning, Buffy expected her to have at least a few questions. Not a lot; Jessica had mostly gone through the days ?training seminar' and demonstration, and the evening's fancy dinner, in silence. Instead, the new Slayer ? new leader, Buffy corrected ? just smiled, quietly thanked them for dinner, and walked away from the table. Buffy watched her leave until she was out of sight, before turning to Xander.

    "Was it too much? I feel like Dr. Phil sometimes with the affirmations and encouragement," Buffy asked with a touch of embarrassment. Despite what people might have thought about her, she didn't like to make big speeches and usually felt pretty uncomfortable giving advice to strangers.

    "I don't think you have to worry. As a rule, as long as they don't laugh it off or leave the table in tears, we probably won't have to worry about them. It's not like we won't be checking in on them, and it's not like they can't take care of themselves. You're more than enough proof of that, Buf," Xander answered. Buffy narrowed her eyes slightly, wondering if he was deliberately trying to use his Jedi Master voice, or if it only happened when he was in recruiting mode.

    "You made a good pitch. I'm not just saying that because you managed to get two dozen Slayers to buy the idea without letting them kick me in the groin and shout "no"," Xander continued. Buffy laughed a little as she reached for her wine glass. Xander was a good enough sport not to complain about her using him for a few judo throws in front of the "instructors" that would be making the cover story believable to anyone who came asking.

    "You have a thing for getting thrown around by powerful women, admit it. I knew it even when I knocked your hyena-cized ass out with a desk."

    "You're not wrong. But it's sort of a universal love of self-punishment. I didn't like research and I'm just not of the ninja. ?Witty cannon fodder' might not be the best demon-fighting resume, but it sure was validating."

    "Wait, so Nighthawk wasn't the name given to you by the ancient master who taught you the beautiful art of the samurai sword?" Buffy asked with false confusion, before playfully jabbing him in the arm. She loved to occasionally throw Xander's ridiculous ?codename' at him from time to time. She'd only mocked him with it once, silly as it was. The truth was, she admired the way he seemed to have stepped into her role as a ?slayer' that long ago summer, and if giving himself a corny name had helped him get the nerve to do it, it couldn't be that bad.

    As they shared the old jokes, Buffy lost any real sense of time. To anyone watching, they might have just been the last two left from a dinner party or some fraternity or business function. Too old for a prom, obviously, but maybe not for a Halloween semi-formal. They were certainly dressed for it. Although they both traveled in casual clothes, they always put on their show in fancier dress.

    Xander had opted for a dark grey three button suit that Buffy was certain Giles had helped him pick out at the tailor. Buffy herself had taken advantage of the warmer weather and had traded the heavy pant-suit she packed for the presentation for a royal blue evening gown with tank top straps that opened in the back and a skirt that flowed loosely down to her calves. It was light and airy, which is why Buffy had picked it out at the shop that afternoon, thinking only of the unfamiliar 80 degree heat. But, looking between them, maybe they did look like they were on their way to or from a cocktail party.

    Eventually ? is it already nine? Did Jessica really leave an hour ago?, Buffy thought ? the server brought their check, setting it down between her and Xander's seats. Buffy was playfully swirling the last, unwanted sip of wine in her glass when it landed, and therefore was unprepared to reach for it as Xander grabbed the bill up.

    "Xan, CEO always pays, remember?" Buffy protested with a giggle. She wasn't nearly intoxicated as such, with her Slayer constitution, but she still didn't drink regularly and therefore did feel just the slightest early signs of dizziness and warmth in her cheeks. Xander's cheeks looked a little flushed as well. "Besides, I saw you limping on your way into the hotel earlier, this is hazard pay time."

    "Are you kidding me? If I pick up the check, the upper crust of this whole city will have to remember me as the swarthy one-eyed man dining with the most beautiful woman in the restaurant. Group of women," Xander corrected, almost unconsciously. Buffy still heard the compliment for what it was, and lightly touched Xander on the wrist, a reproving smile on her face.

    "Well, let it never be said that I stand in the way of your shallow desire to score pimp points to go with your dashing secret agent looks in front of a room full of strangers"

    Xander nodded at her gratefully as if she had bought him the perfect Christmas present. Then she watched as Xander's face wrinkled in surprise as he actually read the bill he'd picked up.

    "Egad! I've handed out construction estimates smaller than this," Xander said, astounded but amused, "I'm glad Giles doesn't expense us on these trips, or I'd feel guilty about this."

    After they'd paid and walked away from the table, Xander made a point of opening the door to their rented limo for Buffy. It must feel a little like prom to him, too, Buffy speculated.

    They rode in comfortable silence, making only occasional remarks about jetlag, all the travel, and looking forward to a good night's sleep. Buffy found herself fascinated by Xander's left hand resting on the seat between them, and decided to rest her hand next to it. The back of their hands lay against each other. It was like a game, to see how much like a prom date this could feel like without being weird. Xander didn't take her hand, but she could sense the muscles in his forearm stiffen slightly. He was aware of the contact, without question.

    At the hotel, Buffy leapt out of the car and held open the door for Xander, smiling indulgently as he climbed out. "See? You're not the only gentleman in the limo," Buffy joked, before furrowing her brow and realizing that hadn't been quite what she'd meant to express.

    "Thank you, my dear," Xander answered, lowering his voice and adjusting his tie.

    "You really weren't kidding when you said Willow had a good idea with the secret agent look, were you?"

    "C'mon," Xander came back, "there's only so many ways to make the eye patch work." He offered Buffy his arm.

    With a bemused smile, Buffy hooked her left arm into his offered right, and they began to walk regally into the posh hotel they'd booked. They'd booked a luxury suite with a fold-out sofa under Xander's name rather than book separate rooms. Too many people looking for the great ?terrorist' Buffy Summers, she thought ruefully. This must complete the look for Xander's ego. Everyone in this lobby figures we're off to bed together.

    On the elevator, Buffy released her chaperone's arm and they took the ride upstairs in silence. When the door opened, they were facing the corridor to their room and coughed in mild embarrassment. The whole tone for the evening had turned a little flirtatious, but it was made more awkward by the couple making out in the hallway by one of the room doors. They were almost blocking the hallway only twenty feet or so away. Buffy and Xander stepped off the elevator and watched the couple's ravenous kissing.

    Buffy touched her hand to her throat and coughed, hoping to get their attention. She noticed Xander's posture straighten up awkwardly beside her. The couple ahead paid no attention. The woman, maybe Buffy and Xander's own age, had what looked like a business traveler in his late 30s or early 40s pressed against the door to one of the rooms, and her leg pushed salaciously up against his hip.

    "I know we're kind of doing a prom date flashback, Xan, but you're not getting that kind of send-off tonight, I hope you know," Buffy joked uneasily. Xander smiled back, but she noticed his eyes lingering on her a bit before turning away.

    "Seriously, guys, ?get a room' is redundant. Try opening the door," Xander called over to the pair in front of them. It was no use, Buffy saw the woman leave the man's face and begin sucking on his neck.

    And then she head him groan in something not quite pleasure.

    "Xander, we may have just met the unluckiest vampire on the east coast."

    At the sound of the word ?vampire', the woman turned up. Her face was contorted into the demonic ?game face' unique to vampires, and blood dribbled from her lips. She let loose her grip from her victim, who slid to the carpet holding his neck and still groaning.

    I can't catch a break, Buffy complained to herself, if it even looks like I'm on a date, there will be monsters, period. The Slayer sprinted forward, already moving to block the vampire's first, clumsy punch at her and to deliver one of her own. The two exchanged blows and Buffy felt a thrill. She didn't get a chance to just pound an ordinary vampire as often as she used to.

    Xander took the opportunity to rush forward as Buffy pushed the fight further down the hall. He grabbed the bleeding man under his shoulders and dragged him back down the hall. As she fought, Buffy heard the elevator door slide open and Xander shove the lucky man inside.

    In the moment of distraction, the vampire caught Buffy with a hard right that spun her against the wall. The vampire bolted down the hall toward Xander and the stairwell entrance.

    Buffy recovered and grabbed a wooden salad spoon of a nearby room-service cart, preparing to head after the vampire when she saw something that dropped her jaw in surprise.

    Xander had stood his ground and was blocking the hallway. As the vampire came at him, he lashed out to his side with his right hand. From inside the cuff of his suit coat, some sort of locking blade weapons unfolded from his wrist into what appeared to be a two foot sword. Xander slashed at the surprised vampire, clearly hoping to decapitate it. The demon ducked under his attack and pushed him toward the wall, apparently having lost interest in anything other than escape. Astoundingly, Xander grabbed the vamp's arm and pulled her back in front of him, at the same time stabbing her through the stomach with his fancy weapon.

    The vampire, while stunned, kicked out at Xander, catching him almost in the groin and growling "No!" Xander dropped to his knees in front of her while the vampire tried to extricate herself from his weapon.

    Buffy shook her head in disbelief and charged in. She spun the vampire by the arm to face her just as the creature had freed itself.

    "Yes, actually," Buffy corrected, and gave the stupefied monster a hip toss to the floor. The vampire stared helplessly up to Buffy as she drew back the wooden spoon with the shaft aimed at her chest.

    "You really shouldn't just order salad," Buffy quipped, staking the vampire and wiping her hands as it dusted. "The service just isn't the same if they don't think you're going to give a decent tip."

    Standing up, Buffy looked over to Xander, where he was struggling to get back to his feet but still folding up his new toy. "Well, at least my quips are still in everyday vamp-fighting shape," she offered, meaning it as an apology. Xander didn't appear to notice, as he stared at the dust pile of the vamp.

    "You know, you get a new toy, you practice, you get a chance to use it, and the sissy kicker goes right for the ba--," Xander muttered. Buffy interrupted him with a finger on his lips. She knew that Xander had stood up one on one to vampires many times, but she'd never really seen it happen, and she couldn't say it didn't agree with him.

    "Fear not, samurai," Buffy reassured, "You can take the next one solo if you want. I'll just watch."

    "I've long since learned not to complain about you rescuing me," Xander answered, stretching his back and straightening any wrinkles from his coat.

    "I'm not even tired anymore," Buffy shifted topics, "we could go patrol. Or dancing, I don't care."

    Dancing it was, then.

    Tampa had a lot of dance clubs and night life in the small district called Ybor City, and Xander Harris, Sharp-Dressed Man was not ashamed to fit right in there with Buffy Summers, Wanted Woman, Blonde Hottie, and Vampire Slayer beside him. It was already after midnight, and the two of them were on their second club already.

    He and Buffy effortlessly took the middle of the floor wherever they went and danced with pretty much whoever came around them. Buffy exuded self-confidence and playfulness with everyone that came near them, and Xander felt his own mood rising to match hers.

    And they danced with each other. Buffy glistened a little, Xander could tell, and he couldn't help but staring at her as they moved. She's never not going to be the sexiest woman I've ever met, he admitted. If he ever doubted that, it was confirmed for him by the envious eyes he occasionally spotted from men dancing nearby.

    The DJ was saying something to the people on the floor about using some of her old favorites for them, and the crowd clapped in approval as the music changed. However, Xander and Buffy stopped dancing in surprised recognition. It had been remixed, and the atmosphere in here was much different, but there was no mistaking "Sugar Water". Years before, Buffy had given Xander several interpretations of a hard time in the Bronze when that song came on, and when he was honest with himself, he thought about it every time they were out dancing.

    "You know, you never actually did thank ?," Xander began, trying to break the tension that was building with a joke. How else? he thought. He didn't have to bother.

    "Shhh," Buffy cut him off. She was smiling at him and just pulled him closer to her on the floor. Then she began dancing around him. She was acting it out all over again. It was a little faster, and a little louder, but just as hypnotic. Xander barely moved at all as Buffy moved against him.

    Just like back then, she turned her back to him and he felt her grinding against him. He could feel his breath pick up and the first rustling of arousal in his slacks. If she detected either, she ignored it, and continued to turn and sway against him. For pity's sake, how long is this song? Xander thought helplessly. The answer became irrelevant when Buffy next spoke. She leaned up to his ear, her lower lip brushing against the lobe, and whispered seven words.

    "Don't you think it's time I did?"

    The door to their suite was barely open before Buffy had yanked Xander through it. She bit her lip hungrily for an instant before kissing him again. The tension had built in the shapeless minutes it had taken to ride back to the hotel, but it had snapped as soon as they stepped past the still unswept dust of the vampire they'd killed, and she'd grabbed both his cheeks and driven her lips against his.

    And now she pulled him down to her around his shoulders, pulling at his jacket. I can't believe I'm doing this, she had time to think, before the voices of lust and loneliness spoke up to silence any doubt.

    Xander stood in unguarded awe and desire as Buffy stepped away from him, backing toward the bedroom with her hips swinging. He stepped deliberately after her, pulling his tie off and opening his shirt as he did. By the time he stepped into the bedroom after her, he was shirtless ? a solidly muscled man in dress slacks, slicked hair, and an eye patch who Buffy lustily wondered why she hadn't jumped before now. As if perceiving her romance novel mental picture of him, Xander stepped closer and took the lead, devouring Buffy's mouth and letting his hands glide down her body and pull the hem of her dress up until he could grip it.

    He broke the kiss, and read the silent consent in her eyes. Xander pulled the dress up over her head and tossed it to the floor. She stood before him at the foot of the bed ? their bed, now, she realized ? and watched his eyes take her in. She had worn a strapless blue silk bra and matching panties. She had shaved that morning when getting ready for the day's work and decided to enjoy the evening without stockings. Now she could feel Xander's obvious adoration for her body fueling her own desire.

    "Stop staring, you can have it," she murmured, grabbing Xander by the belt and pulling her to him. Moments later, they were fully undressed and Xander was leaning over Buffy as she lowered to the bed, caressing tongues and each other's chests as they did.

    "Xander? taste me," Buffy breathed, and without word Xander kissed down her body, pausing to nip lightly at her hardened nipples. A moment later, his tongue was flicking at her sex, and Buffy moaned in satisfaction as she put her hand in Xander's hair, a push on his head telling him not to hold back.

    Xander got the message, and twirled his tongue, licking and sucking as he worked a finger inside her tight canal. Buffy had known that other women had appreciated what Xander did for them, but now she understood completely. She felt a quick orgasm wash over her as she thought again of how crazy this was.

    She needed to have all of him. She whispered that need to him and he rose back up to kiss her lips again. She saw his eyes as he set his hardness to enter her. In them, she saw desire, doubt, fear, kindness ? love? Is he in love with ? and then she felt him enter her, sending the question away to where it could wait the rest of the night. She rocked her hips as she felt him fill her up, biting at his earlobe in pleasure and digging her fingers into his back.

    She felt his breath against her cheek as he built a slow but powerful pace inside her. Her ankles met behind his back and he was kissing her. The pleasure was extraordinary, but she needed more, and now. Xander may want time to stop and go all night, but Buffy wanted to feel overwhelmed and consumed. She took his head in her hands and kissed him again, using the interruption in his rhythm to spin him onto his back. Once straddling him, she placed his hands on his chest and began riding him, faster, more urgently than he had been setting the pace for them. He alternately massaged her supple breasts and guided her hips as she plunged down again and again on his shaft. Time meant nothing at all as she began coming, oh she was coming again already.

    She felt like she was being carried on a wave when she sensed Xander's breath getting ragged, his body clenching, and then his release inside her. She fell against his chest and they kissed each other anywhere they could as she slid off of him. He was already dozing off when she laid her knee over his waist, set her head on his shoulder, and fell asleep beside him.

    Xander woke up before six that morning, having slept less than four hours. Buffy, never a morning person, was still asleep. He got up without disturbing her, trying not to notice how beautiful she was when she slept. He winced as he felt around his shoulder. She had scratched him deeply without him realizing it. Xander quietly got up to make the gourmet coffee that had been left in the suite. Had he really made love to Buffy? Yes and no, he knew. He wanted to, but what had happened was far more lurid and physical than what he had dreamed of in years past. Had she been making love to him, was the big question, he realized. Shamefully, he found himself completely incapable of asking it.

    An hour or so later, when Buffy was awake, the moment to ask it arrived and Xander faltered. He had every excuse in the world in his head for not asking it. So soon after Sunnydale, the work they had to do, all the responsibilities they held at the castle. He had every excuse and not a single reason. When he heard Buffy's sleepy "hey" coming from the bedroom door, he moved right to business.

    "I already called the pilot to make sure to let the tower know we were leaving for Cleveland this morning. It'll be nice to see how Faith is getting set up before we head back over to Scotland, don't you think?"

    He tried not to notice the flicker in Buffy's expression before she moved right back to business and answered the question, or the way she pulled his dress shirt tighter around her body before going back inside to change into a hotel robe. All at once, he had the courage to ask, to make love to her again and find out. Screw Tyler Durden, he thought randomly, Another woman is the answer that I need. Maybe on the next trip, the next franchise, he would get another chance.
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