Xander's Job, Chapter 9: Revelations
Xander stepped into Buffy’s apartment, feeling much the same way he had her first year in college, that time when everyone had thought the Slayer to be dangerously insane. She had that look in her eyes, as if she was going to bash his head into someone else’s again – Giles, probably, since Oz wasn’t around for this bit of abuse.
Giles also entered, looking the way Xander felt, while Willow turned to help Angel to his feet. But before Buffy could speak, while Xander was just starting to wonder how – and what – Buffy had found out about events in the states, a whirlwind swept into the hallway outside.
“Willow!” Dawn grabbed the witch and whirled her around, which made Willow lose her grip on Angel. The vampire was going down again when Dawn gripped his arm to steady him, then planted a kiss on his cheek. “Angel!” She paused, and her other hand dipped into a purse that matched the red silk dress she wore. “You’re not evil this week, right?”
Angel shook his head. He looked rattled – and the side of his face was already bruising – but instead of seeing that, Dawn noticed the other visitors inside the apartment. She went from Giles to Xander, applying bone crushing hugs that made them both gasp. “Why didn’t you call to say you were coming? I’d have come home before curfew and stayed out of trouble.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “We’ll talk about that later – where did you get that dress?”
Xander had been wondering the same thing. It covered …way too little. But Dawn merely whirled around, making him look away out of fear that they were about to get a free underwear show. “El Bigshot full-of-himself Immortal gave it to me for Christmas, Buffy. Remember, you told me I couldn’t wear it until I graduated?”
Buffy crossed her arms. “I thought I had another year to worry about that.”
“It’s nice,” Willow said, before catching Buffy’s eye. “It would look better with a long, full length coat, or maybe some leggings and a coat, and a cape.”
Now it was Dawn’s turn to roll her eyes. “I’ll be back. Don’t start gossiping until I return!”
She hurried into her bedroom, and as soon as she disappeared Angel leaned toward her sister. “Does she know people can almost see her underwear when she does that?”
“Why are you looking?” Buffy demanded. Angel stepped back, looking mortified. “Every time you’re around her you turn into big brother, but right now you’ve got other troubles.” Buffy turned to take them all in. “It seems you’ve all been hiding things from me.”
Giles began cleaning his glasses. Willow became extremely busy studying the painting on the wall. Xander was trying to decide on the closest escape route when Buffy turned toward Angel. Thank God.
“How long ago?” Buffy demanded.
“How long …?”
“Cordelia. How long ago did she die?”
At that moment Dawn entered the room, and skidded to a halt. “Cordelia’s dead?”
Xander was looking at Angel, who got that bleak, tortured look on his face again. For an instant that puzzle piece Xander had been pondering seemed almost ready to fall into place, but he still wasn’t quite sure what nagged at him.
“A few days ago,” Angel said, staring toward the floor. “She – never came out of her coma. I couldn’t get away immediately, but I really thought you should all be told in person.” His gaze flickered toward Xander, then away. “I’d like us all – the originals, from back in the first year – to say goodbye together.”
Xander felt a touch from his blind side, and turned to find Dawn putting her arm around him. “I’m sorry. Cordelia and I didn’t get along well those few times we were together, but …”
Buffy’s angry expression faded away, as she too regarded Xander, and he suddenly realized that none of them had given much thought to the fact that he and Cordelia were a couple, all those years ago. None except Dawn and – of all people – Angel. “Thanks, Dawny.”
“I’ll get ready.” Buffy turned toward her bedroom, but stopped when Giles spoke, for the first time since entering her apartment.
“We’re not rushed, Buffy, if –“ He stopped short when she turned toward him, anger again in her eyes.
“A long trip would be the perfect time for you to fill me in on everything you haven’t been filling me in on.” Taking a deep breath, she turned to her sister. “Dawn, I have a huge, huge favor to ask of you. Can you stay behind and make some arrangements for me?”
“I’m heading back to the states. It’s time to get back into the slayer business, and there’s no point in waiting. You can stay here if –“
Dawn leaped into the air, letting out a war whoop. “We’re back in the game! I’ll take care of everything, and let Andrew know – we’re not bringing El Immoral along with us, are we?”
“I –“ Buffy shook her head. “No. I’ll call him later.” With a glance toward Angel, she walked into a hallway and opened a closet door. “What kind of transportation?”
“Private plane,” Angel supplied.
“Good.” She walked in with a large canvas bag, laying it on a coffee table that creaked in protest. “Then we can get this back to America without causing an international crisis.” She headed back to the closet.
Weapons, Xander thought. Or she didn’t want to declare all her souveniers. But probably weapons.
Buffy’s voice floated out of the closet. “Giles?”
“You had an insane slayer?”
“Dana, yes. She’s much better now, although not completely cured.”
Dawn looked away, and unfortunately for her Buffy entered with a suitcase, just in time to catch her sister’s expression. “Dawn? Does this have anything to do with when you and Andrew came back from Chicago all bruised up? You told me it was a training accident.”
“It was, kind of.” Dawn cleared her throat. “It was kind of a magic training accident. Well, maybe not so much training as practice. Um, emergency practice. See, we had a time limit and we needed to cure Dana and Willow wasn’t around and Andrew had a magic bone –“
“So you were hiding things from me, too. Where was Willow?” Now it was Willow’s turn to look away. Buffy dropped the suitcase on the floor. “Willow? Were you and Kennedy holed up in that little town I heard about?”
“Holed up?” Willow shook her head defensively. “Star’s Hollow is practically a hotbed of demonic activity!”
“And a good place to snuggle?” Looking disgusted, Buffy scooped up the suitcase and walked into her bedroom, where they heard drawers being opened and shut. “Now, when were you going to tell me about the Buffybot?”
The others – all of them still standing in the living room – threw challenging looks at each other.
“I thought you destroyed it, Wil,” Buffy continued.
“Well, kinda. I put the parts into a self-storage building in Sunnydale, and when the town was destroyed, I figured that was it. But then the military found the pieces, and Riley gave them to us because he knows where the –“ Giles shook his head violently, but Willow wasn’t able to stop in time. “-- Watchers … headquarters … is … now …” She trailed off, looking horrified.
“Riley – the government knows where we are?” Another drawer closed, a bit harder than necessary. “You were supposed to destroy it, Wil. How did it come back to life?”
“Well,” Willow ventured, “I had used a spell to supplement its self-repair programs, and when the magic used to help Dana kind of backfired, the excess energies got sucked into the Buffybot and – oh, come on, Buffy, she’s so cute!”
Buffy poked her head around the doorway. “Of course she is,” she said dryly. “How could she not be?” She disappeared again. “But she’s also wearing my face, and I don’t want the first people who see me in Chicago to yell, ‘Look out! It’s that crazy overly-caffeinated girl who talks about having hot monkey sex with Spike!’”
After a moment Giles spoke. “The robot has been very helpful in the training of the new slayers, Buffy –“
“What difference does that make if you’re never going to let them out of the building?” Giles looked offended, but clamped his mouth shut. “When’s the last time they went on a mission, Giles?”
“Kara and Robin went on a quite successful mission to Cleveland recently,” Giles said, not mentioning that the result had been Dana trashing the Watcher headquarters– and the reanimation of the Buffybot.
“Okay.” Dragging a huge suitcase behind her, Buffy reentered the living room, stopping at the doorway to take them all in. “Here’s one for you: When was somebody going to tell me about Spike?”
Instantly, everyone stilled. After a moment Buffy pointed an angry finger at Angel. “And you two – coming here to spy on me, and not bothering to –“
“They stopped to see you,” Dawn said quietly. “You were out partying with The Big Sop. Andrew convinced them to let you get on with your life, which includes not worrying about them coming around.”
Buffy stared at her.
“Andrew swore me to secrecy, but I wouldn’t have said anything, anyway. You were so happy then, back before you remembered that there was more to life than dancing and shopping.” Dawn stuck her chin out, as if daring Buffy to deny it. “I don’t know how you found all this out, but it was time, anyway. You weren’t happy anymore, Buffy. I could tell.”
With a long suffering sigh, Buffy closed her eyes. “Everyone’s so busy keeping me happily in the dark. Could I please start making my own decisions, again?”
“We’re sorry,” Xander told her, to the general agreement of everyone else. “I guess we all got so wrapped up in being the ones who protected you, instead of the other way around, that we lost track of what our friendship is supposed to be about.”
Everyone looked at him. Thinking back on how lame that sounded, Xander added, “Brutal honesty and emotional pain. That’s what our friendship is about.”
“Brutal honesty?” Buffy repeated.
“Right. And puns. And sharing donuts.”
“Fine.” Buffy took him by the arm, then grabbed Willow, and drug them both toward her bedroom. “We’ll be back – don’t get too comfortable; I’m almost ready.”
“Getting comfortable won’t be a problem with this lot,” Giles said, shooting a glance at Angel as Buffy shut the door.
As soon as they had some privacy, Buffy turned to Willow. “Wil, tell me about this town where you’ve been staying.”
“Oh, it’s full of … um …” Under her friends’ gazes, the young witch faltered. “It’s full of wonderful, weird people, and quiet, and lots of snuggling with Kennedy, and there’s not a monster to be seen. In fact, I think it’s actually being protected, somehow.”
“Oh, Wil …”
“I’m so sorry, Buffy. I took a little vacation, and never came back.”
“When you put it that way …” Xander began, looking at Buffy.
“I get your point. Don’t worry, Willow, we’ll get you extricated out of whatever web of lies you told to stay on Giles’ expense account. But you’ve gotta get back into the game, okay?” Looking relieved, Willow nodded, and Buffy turned to Xander. “Now – is there anything you want to tell me?”
“Me? Nah, my life’s been going great.” When she continued regarding him, he tried to think of some deception he personally had been responsible for. “Granted this has been the mother of bad days, but otherwise my life’s been going okay. I’m an official watcher, I’ve been put in charge of a big renovation so I’m back in the construction biz, and the loss of one eye has led to a fifty percent improvement in my sense of smell.”
“What about …” Buffy laid a hand on Xander’s arm. “What about alcohol?”
“Huh? Oh!” So, that was it. Xander shoved back a wave of defensiveness, reminding himself that if there was anyone alive who truly cared for him, it was these two women. Anyway, it was about time the Buffster got some good news for the day. “No, no, that’s all over. I started to feel a little down, and hit the beer some, but Faith gave me a good talking to and I dropped it like a Caleb fan club.”
Buffy and Willow both looked completely unconvinced. “Let me get this straight,” Buffy told him. “Faith turned you back on the narrow path?”
“What did she do?” Willow added with a sarcastic tone. “Give you a lecture on responsibility?”
“Well … yeah.” Off their looks, he added, “Seriously. She got some of the older slayers drunk –“
“That sounds like Faith,” Buffy interrupted.
“Really drunk, like sick drunk, and made sure I found out. When I tried to chew her out, she got all subtle on me with the point that I shouldn’t lecture about responsibility when I was sneaking six packs into my room. So see, not one, but a whole bunch of us have now sworn off the booze.” He thought about it, then smiled. “Faith the teacher. Who’da thunk it?”
“Xander, you’re sure –“
“I’m dry, Wil. Scout’s honor. Sober scout’s honor.”
“So we’re okay?” Buffy asked, taking in both of her best friends. “No more hiding? Back to talking out our troubles?”
“Us, yeah,” Xander told her, thinking about those still out in the living room. “But something’s up with Angel – it might just be seeing you again, but I’m not sure. And Giles has … issues.”
“Issues?” Buffy repeated.
“Maybe part of it was coming over here, when he thought you were so happy being kept in the dark. But that’s not all – he’s been sniping with Angel from the moment they saw each other.”
“Well …” Willow lowered her voice. “There was … Jenny.”
“He was Angelus then,” Buffy reminded them.
“But Buffy, Giles loved her, and he’s here with the man who killed her – even if he didn’t have his soul then. And the way he did it –“ Willow shivered. “Even after all this time, it still has to be hard. Heck, I still get mad at him for killing my fish.”
Xander couldn’t help smiling. “Way to put it into perspective, Wil.”
‘I’m just saying – besides, Buffy, you’ve been a little hard on Giles ever since that thing with Spike, and Robin, and everybody trying to kill everybody else. That was a year ago.”
“Okay, you’re right,” Buffy agreed reluctantly. “I’ll ease up on Giles, but let’s watch him – and Angel. We operate as a team – none of our friends slips through the cracks.”
“All for one,” Xander said, holding out a hand. He expected a Three Musketeer style handshake, but instead his two best friends pounced forward and enveloped him in a hug that he didn’t at all mind returning. “And one,” he murmured, “for all.”