Xander's Job, Chapter 12: Intervention
Faith shoved Xander into the women’s restroom, while asking herself how she managed to get into situations like this.
It used to be so easy: See monster, kill monster, party, avoid complications. Now she was practically ... Buffy.
Ah, well. Might as well get some licks in before the Scooby gang knocked down the door and mucked things up. “What the hell’s wrong with you?”
“I don’t know.” Xander stood in the middle of the room and looked around. “Something’s missing in here.”
“Yeah, sanity. Get yourself together, Harris.”
He glared at her for a moment, then looked away and mumbled, “Nobody knows –“
“I know. You were like this on the bus ride to Chicago last year, but everybody else was freaking out so much they didn’t notice. They lost their home, and their friends, and some were still in the hospital. Robin was almost dead. Anya was just one more casualty.”
Xander turned on her, his breathing ragged. “Shut up. This isn’t the same.”
“Sure it is. A guy can have more than one big love in his life, even if they don’t realize it at the time. You and Anya were It, I get that – but you never completely got over Cordelia, did you?”
“Since when are you the big expert on relationships?”
Ouch. Would have hurt worse if he wasn’t right. “Never was, but I’m getting to be an expert on you.”
“Gimmie a break.” Turning from her, Xander started down the line of stalls, throwing each door open in turn. “Don’t girls ever do graffiti?”
“There’s nobody in here, I would have heard.” She could hear quiet voices outside, and it sounded like Willow and Buffy were trying to convince Lorne to let them in without violence. Lorne should be the one in here, Faith thought bitterly. Xander’s right – what do I know about people? “Would you stay still? Which would you prefer, that I get all weepy and hug you, or break your nose?”
Giving up, Xander leaned against the sink and crossed his arms. “Fine. What the hell are you doing, anyway? When did you start giving a damn?”
I haven’t figured that out, myself. “Look, you help me and I’ll help you. I’ve got a relationship now, remember? It’s tough. I had no idea how tough it was to have somebody love you.”
Faith held her breath, and got the response she’d hoped for when Xander’s veneer of hostility faded. “Yeah. It’s scary.”
“Commitment. It’s like walking into prison again.”
“Commitment.” Xander nodded. “You and Robin. I never thought it would go the distance.”
“You know what did it?” He shook his head, and she took only a moment to consider how much she hated talking about this kind of stuff. “Common history. We both grew up with – shall we say broken families? We both found a cause, to train and fight the bad guys. We both used that as an excuse to avoid anything else. Anything. We grew a thick skin and didn’t get personally involved, and I guess maybe we were both looking for revenge.”
She paused to make sure she still had him. She did. “See, we had a lot of problems getting used to having somebody else in our space, but what did it was the fact that we know how it is. We don’t get clingy, and we make sure to spend time apart, like I’m doing now. That actually makes us closer, ‘cause we understand. Get it?”
“Yeah. I’m still working on what that has to do with me, though.”
Faith scratched her head. “I had that a minute ago, but now it’s gone.”
“Wait, I remember. You’ve got friends – friends who love you so much that they’ll fly halfway around the world just to help you through a hard time, to stay by you even though they weren’t all that close to Cordy, themselves. I’m not clear on how that whole thing works.”
He watched her closely. “You’re not, huh? I think you underestimate yourself.”
Suddenly uncomfortable, Faith barreled on. “But what I am familiar with is hitting the bottom. I know what it’s like to think nobody cares, nobody understands, and nothing will ever get better again.”
“I don’t think that.”
“Sure you do. That’s why you put on a show out there. Everybody starts their usual soap opera infighting, and you’re thinking nobody but you gets that we’re supposed to be here for Cordelia – nobody but you understands. And meanwhile, every woman who gets involved with you kicks off. Am I getting warm?”
He stared at her.
“Sure I am. I’ve got wicked skills. I’m thinking of becoming a shrink, or maybe a sex therapist.” Hopefully Xander wouldn’t realize how relieved Faith was to see that she was right. This whole understanding the subconscious thing was a bitch. “So what I’m getting at is, I help you scrape yourself up from the mud, and you help me figure out why people can be such pains in the ass. Deal?”
Xander held her gaze for a moment more, then shook his head. “You are so full of crap.”
Faith waved a hand to remind him they were in the women’s restroom. “Then I guess I’m in the right place.” She moved forward, throwing an arm over the towel dispenser. “They did care about Cordy, Xan. Some more than others, maybe ... but right now they care about you.” She reached out to touch his cheek, and was gratified that he didn’t flinch. “You’ve had some rough experiences with women, huh?”
He looked away. “You ought to know.”
She ignored that. “And now they’re dying off on you. Does that mean I’m next? How will you act at my funeral?”
Stiffening, Xander turned back to stare at her. “What the hell kind of a question is that?”
“A girl wants to know she’s gonna be missed. Morbid, I know, but we are at a funeral.” Then, taking the big jump, she held her arms out. “Come on, Harris, lay one on me.”
His eye widened, and he started to scoot back. “Are you insane?”
“Don’t panic, I just want a hug. I figure you need one too, and I also figure neither of us wants anyone else to know that.” She spread her arms wider. “Don’t get your hopes up – I’ve turned into a one man woman, somehow.”
For a long moment, he just stared at her. Then, his voice trembling, he said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“It’s grief, dude. Has it happened since you left Chicago? Hell, has it happened since that bus ride from Sunnydale? You’re not just upset about Cordy; you’re upset about Anya, and losing your home, and your screwed up family, and that dashing eye patch that makes you look so hot.”
She waited, holding her breath.
Xander was able to hold it for just another moment. Then, sobbing, he collapsed into Faith’s arms.
It was easier than Faith had thought it would be, especially since that hadn’t been her plan when she dragged him into the bathroom. It was good, even, and she teared up a little herself. The voices outside silenced – slayer hearing and hand signals, no doubt – and the world fled as Xander let his insides out. Not in a literal way.
She wasn’t sure how long it was before he reached past her, grabbed a paper towel, and turned away. Taking the cue, Faith backed away and waited.
“Thanks,” he said, finally. That was all. That was enough.
“I saw it on ‘Good Will Hunting’,” Faith admitted.
Chuckling, Xander turned to splash cold water on his face. “You’ll make a good shrink. If you ever decide to do that sex therapist thing, let me know.”
“You’ll be first on the list.” She touched him lightly on the shoulder, than stepped away a respectable distance. They opened the door, and walked back into the world.