...is not so bad after all. I mean we're not talking give him the keys to Watchers' Council HQ (Hell, I'm still having trouble buying that *I* was supposed to be working for them - can you picture that, seriously? Alternate futures, man, WTF) but he did make the right call when things got hairy.
about that last year but can't remember if I ever mentioned it to Parker - is way, way bad news. Something happened with his real girlfriend, or ex, I guess, and he ended up killing her. Accidentally, Andrew and Jonathan said, but it happened when he was pulling some mind-control schtick on her, and ...ecch.
, called up demons that mess around with time and really had her believing she did it. She'd have turned herself in to the cops if his buddies hadn't finally decided that was one step too far and met up with her on the way to the police station. Andrew still wasn't too keen on turning him *in*, I guess, but at least they didn't let Buffy get herself arrested.
I'd say all's well that ends well, except it didn't exactly end well for the girl, and the guy who killed her's still out there somewhere. Just in case you thought Sunnydale didn't have its share of totally human evil, too.
Xander could hear the sound of the punching bag getting pummeled the minute he walked in the front door to the shop, which meant wow was somebody -- had to be Faith or Buffy -- hitting it hard. Like hard enough to collapse the frame if somebody wasn't holding it for her, whichever her it was.
"Hey, I'll vouch for the craftsmanship on that thing since I was crafty guy," he said as he pushed the door to the training room open, "but I didn't make it out of titantium or anything."
Buffy just grunted in greeting and punched the bag again. She was obviously not in a quippy mood. Hitting bag, hitting bag, hitting bag.
Ooohkay then. Clearly going into the room would be the stupider option here, so Xander naturally took it.
"You don't have somebody holding that for you, you're gonna knock it off the chain and... possibly take the wall out," he said as he walked around to the other side, though not quite within range of getting his head taken off. "I know Giles was thinking about a little remodeling but that might be kind of extreme."
Buffy paused long enough for Xander to catch and hold the bag. "I'm just working out. As I do every day." And then she punched the bag again. "Giles can do his own remodelling."
"If you worked out like this every day, you'd have arms the size of me." Xander held the bag patiently, trying not to cringe at the impacts. "Which admittedly useful for monster-pummeling, but overdeveloped biceps are my schtick -- you've got the Chosen One thing."
This made her snort. "Do I? Aren't you forgetting someone?"
Xander winced, and not just from the muffled hits on the bag against his shoulder. "Okay, Chosen Two, fair enough. But I'm still liking 'the Blonde Slayer' better than 'the Slayer with the huge upper arms.' Or you could just be Buffy, even. That works too."
"I'm being all -" punch. "-The Buffy-" punch. "-I can be." Jabjabpunch. "Right now." And then she paused and looked almost... sad for a moment before going back to pummeling the bag with renewed vigor. "Why are you here? Has anyone found out anything new?"
Xander shook his head. "No sigh of robo-creep. Tracked the other two down at Jonathan's parents' place, but they didn't have any ideas on where Warren might've holed up."
Buffy shook her head, unnerved. "From demons I expect evil and trickery, but Warren freaks me the hell out. How do you become that screwed up?"
"Beats hell out of me." Xander shook his own head. "What scares me is how easy a guy like that gets people to believe he's the truth, the light, and the way out of sad geekdom forever. I mean Jonathan? The worst he ever did before was try to hurt himself. And I met an older version of that guy Andrew when I was on Spring Break from Fandom. He was on our side; he worked for the Watchers' Council."
"That's just freaky," said Buffy and went back to hitting the bag again. Thinking was so overrated. Especially when it inevitably lead to thinking about things she did not want to think about. She punched the bag a little harder than strictly necessary.
"Not saying he wasn't still a dork on the level of I speak Tev'Meck and I still cringed whenever he opened his mouth, but he did seem to be one of the good guys." Xander oofed as the force of the back actually knocked him a step back. "This one's...not exactly there yet. Though he did make a good call on telling you guys about Katrina."
"Maybe he'll end up on the side of the angels then." For some reason this made her attack the bag, pummeling it as though she was trying to drive demons out of her mind through her fists.
It wasn't that Xander could feel individual bruises forming; it was more like his shoulder was going to turn into one giant one. "Whoa, Buff - what'd the bag ever do to you? It needs to live to fight another day, y'know."
Buffy punched the bag hard and didn't answer.
"What's wrong?" Xander asked quietly. "Did something happen? Besides, um, dead girl and timeshifting demons."
The whole no-talking, much-punching thing was really working for Buffy so she stuck to that. She was getting flushed and sweaty and somehow it was very satisfying.
Okay, silence. He could totally do silence. He was golden with silence. Silence and he were like two dark, peaceful, broody buddies.
Oh wait, no, that was Angel. He was Xander. So easy to mix up, except for not.
"So you know that thing where Willow almost lost it and brought you back from the dead by herself and there were forget-spells and people leaving and I was standing there going buh through most of that because I had no clue anything was going on with her?" He managed to spit most of that out between punches, and was absently impressed with his ability to speak without drawing breath. "I kind of swore this vow that I wouldn't miss anything like that again because I wasn't looking. It was all very dramatic. There was thunder and lightning. In my head."
That Xander brought it up. This thing that was so much on her mind, but never spoken of, startled her badly and her fist flew past the bag and connected with Xander's face resulting in an audible organic crunch.
"Oh god! Xander!"
Buffy stared at him in shock.
From the floor with one hand over his streaming nose, Xander said muffledly, "So I was gonna follow that up with m'looking? But ri.. now not so much." He shifted and started to rise to his feet.
She dropped down beside him, reaching out to grab his shoulders. "No, no, don't move. Just stay right there, and I'll --" She looked around desperately. "I'll get you an ice pack or something. Is it broken? Oh, god, I'm so sorry!"
Xander felt his nose gingerly, and shook his head. "Nah broke, don' thin--" He wiped the back of his hand and grimaced. "Towel would be good." He obeyed her order not to get up, but did sit up and scoot back against the wall.
Buffy left him to find a towel, and came back quickly with several she handed over to him. She was obviously a little off-balanced. She sat down beside him and watched him.
"It's.. You have to promise you won't tell Dawn or Mom or Faith or anyone, okay?"
Xander blotted at his nose, which was...crackly, but yeah, not broken, as far as he could tell from unfortunate experience. "As long as the world's not gonna explode, okay." He rested his other wrist on his knee. "What's wrong?"
She fidgetted a bit, then blurted out, "I think I was in heaven. When... When... Before you guys brought me back, I think I was in heaven. It was..." A small soft smile appeared. "Peaceful."
"You..." Xander dropped his hand from his face and blinked hard. Nothing else seemed to want to come out of his mouth, though blood was about to drip into it, before he finally remembered to lift the towel again. He shook his head. "We thought...why didn't you say?"
Buffy frowned at him, upset. "Why should I have to? I'm the slayer! I've fought evil every day and night for the last six years!" She gestured. "That wasn't enough for you? You had to bring me back?"
"Buff..." Xander spread his hands helplessly, about to to answer that they 'd needed her help, but ... she'd already pointed out that she wasn't the only Slayer around to do the job. It wasn't a fair answer, anyway, because it was only a tiny part of the truth. "Not having you wasn't enough for us," he finally said.
"You ripped me out of heaven," Buffy said again, because she thought it was a pretty important point. "I'd made my choice and I was done."
Xander dropped his hand to his knee again, frowning at the reddened towel and wadding it up a bit in his fingers. "You wanted to be dead? I know you wanted to save Dawn, but that's not the same thing."
Buffy hesitated. "No..."
Xander sighed, still slightly shellshocked, and tried to come up with something, anything really, to say. "Okay so..." He dabbed at his nose again, and was glad to see the towel come away not much messier. "If I tell you something, you promise not to tell Giles?"
Buffy nodded solemnly. "I promise."
"When we figured out what Willow was doing, we didn't know if we should try to stop her or not. I was sitting at a red light stabbing my phone trying to send e-mail back to the Dawn in Fandom, even, just on the crazy chance that it'd get there and she could tell me what happened to her Buffy." Xander half-smiled and shook his head again. "Not so worky. But while I was sitting there not getting through, I remembered that I already knew somebody who got brought back from the dead, and seemed to be pretty okay with it."
Buffy blinked at him in surprise, then asked, faintly suspiciously, "That's not another me, right?"
Xander shook his head. "No, the other you's weetiny. From right after you left Hemery." He glanced at his shoes and wondered why he seemed to feel more guilty for not having told her this, than he did about where she might've been. "But...Ms. Calendar's there."
Her face froze. "Jenny Calendar? The one who Angel..."
Xander nodded slowly. "She showed up towards the end of first semester when things got kind of crazy. I didn't get all the details, but..." He set the towel on the floor beside him and laced his fingers together. "She was definitely from after Angel... yeah. But she seemed glad to be back - she said being dead was, well. Boring."
Buffy stared at him, then burst into laughter. "I don't remember if it was or not," she giggled. "It was warm, and loving, and peaceful..." she trailed off, frowning. "I think. I think maybe something of me is still in heaven."
"What do you mean?" Xander touched her arm gently. The one she'd accidentally hit him with, but that didn't seem particularly important at the moment. "You seem all here to me."
"It's..." She took a deep breath. "Spike can hit me."
Belatedly it hit her that perhaps she could have worked up to that a little more.
Someday Xander is so going to demand credit for his first reaction not involving the word 'chip' and the object 'axe.' Someday in the far future.
It did involve pushing himself to his feet, though, and crushing the towel into a tiny ragged ball in his hand. "Spike hit you?"
Buffy jumped up and waved her hands disarmingly. "No! Well, yes, but he was just trying to stop me from going to the police!" She paused and bit her lip. "We didn't know he could hit me, anyway. Not without getting an uber-migraine. Which he didn't get."
"You were...fighting about turning yourself in. Okay. I get it." Xander ran a hand through his hair. "But ... his chip's gone belly-up?"
And again? Someday there will be requests for both points and possibly chocolate chip cookies for the axe thing not entering the conversation at this juncture.
She shook her head. "No, it's just me. It's just me he can hit, so I think... I think I came back wrong, but I don't really feel any different." She sighed heavily. "Oh, I don't know."
"He tried to hit somebody else and still got brainfried?" This was not one of Xander's quick-on-the-uptake moments, no. He leaned back against the wall, but standing now. "Right, you guys shook it up with Andrew and Jonathan before you figured out you were on the same side. Okay. That doesn't have to mean there's something wrong with you. Maybe you're like... Super Slayer now. Like Bitterwoman after she woke up in the Cave of Morkipanji."
Buffy gave him a doubting look. "Xander, you can't find the solution to everything in old Bitterwoman episodes. I'm almost sure of this."
"Whoa there with the crazy talk, now!" Xander clasped a hand exaggeratedly over his heart.
Buffy gave him a reluctant grin. "Well, I did say I was almost sure."
"Okay," he admitted grudgingly in return, "possibly not everything can be solved with platform boots and an airbrushed-gold bustier, but it's a short, short list." Xander smiled, but then his voice grew serious.
"So... maybe coming back did change you somehow. But you're still Buffy. That chip's not magic, and it's not human - it can't see anything but physical stuff. We know you're Buffy."
"But what if you're wrong? What if there's something in me that's evil? Or maybe I'll go evil because something is missing? Or maybe I'm not becoming the über-slayer, but, like, a weaker slayer and I'll get killed and I don't want to die again!" It all rushed out of her, and when she finished she wobbled a little, surprised she'd actually said all that. She looked at Xander with worried eyes.
And the bubble of fear that had sat in his head since she'd said the thing about being done finally burst like someone had stuck a really big pin in it. Like a sword-sized pin. "That's good to hear, 'cause I don't want you to die again either." He rubbed at the end of his nose, and then winced because ow. "Will and Tara could do something, maybe, to find out? A spell?"
It was weird saying their names together when they weren't, but they were... maybe closer to that than before? And Willow wasn't doing much of anything magic on her own anymore, so the word 'spell' didn't often get said without both of their names attached.
"But then I'd have to tell them," Buffy pointed out.
"Well, yeah, if they're gonna figure out why, they have to know--" Xander stopped. "You mean where you were." It hadn't stopped throwing him, he'd just managed to step aside from it for a bit, and here it was, right back in his face. "What we did. I... think you should, yeah, Buff."
"They'll be upset," she predicted. "And then I'll be upset and it'll be this whole upset thing."
"...yeahprobably," Xander admitted. "I mean... I'm physically incapable of seeing you being here as a bad thing. Like I'm trying and all I'm getting is static in my head. But if we did something wrong, or even if it was the right thing but it still hurt you..." He shook his head. "Maybe we should be upset about that? People should have a chance to be sorry. You should have a chance to be mad without having to pretend you're not."
Buffy looked at him. "When did you get to be all smart, grown-up Xander?" Having to hide her anger and pretend she wasn't angry at all and that everything was peachy, had been exhausting. Without Spike, she would probably have blown up weeks ago. She sighed, brushing her hair away from her face. "Do you really think they can help?"
"I think you're mistaking me for the Xander who doesn't play with action figures and sleep with a stuffed frog, but yeah." He nodded. "We're Scoobies; that's what we do. We take care of each other."