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Collateral Damage

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Summary: Plans go wrong and higher ups have to come up with new plans

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Games > FantasyxxmagexFR13210,740174,4706 Oct 066 Oct 06No

Chapter Two

Part 2*

Sunnydale, California. Early May, 1999*

“What do you mean, you haven't staked Mr. Harris yet?” Wesley asked, the surprise evident in his overly stuffy British voice.

“It means, I haven't killed my best guy friend yet. And I don't intend to do so anytime soon, either,” Buffy shot back.

“Ms. Summers, maybe you don’t understand - but Xander Harris is already dead. You won't be killing HIM. You will merely be dispatching the soulless demon that is now occupying his corpse,” Wesley explained, somewhat impatiently.

Buffy, Wesley and Giles were meeting in the library. “I’m afraid we simply have to face facts. It is far too dangerous to allow a vampire with Mr. Harris' memories to remain at large...his knowledge of the group could easily be exploited by the forces of evil to destroy us all.”

“I told you, I'm not staking Xander,” Buffy said with obstinate determination.

“Buffy,” Giles said gently. “I know it's difficult for you to hear, but Wesley's right. The Xander we knew is gone. It was horrible what happened and we are responsible for what happened, but you can't allow this particular soulless vampire to threaten us or kill any innocents.”

Buffy turned to her Watcher, well her ex-Watcher. “But Giles, that’s just it - he's not. I don't know what's going on, but Xander is NOT acting like a regular old vampire!”

“Wishful thinking, I’m afraid...” Wesley said, a look of distaste on his face.

His position of authority over Buffy had in fact grown, ever since Xander had been turned. After all, he wasn’t to blame for what had happened that night. Oddly enough, the other Scoobies seemed more accepting of him now due to that fact; of course, they hadn't heard him advocate the dusting of Xander yet either.

Wes went on, “It is understandable that you’d want to remember your friend the way he was, not as a bloodthirsty demon, but-”

“Not helping your cause, Wesley,” Buffy said tartly. “Besides, I saw him just last night.”

“Buffy,” Giles said with concern. “Did he-?”

Buffy shook her head. “It was in the alley behind the Bronze. There was a couple leaving. And man, they really should have been more careful! A couple of vampires had cornered them...” Buffy left unmentioned that the female half of the couple had been Cordelia Chase.

“Harris has allied vampires working with him now?” Wesley asked worriedly.

“No, no, nothing like that! Xander fought the other sunlight-challenged, and kicked undead ass! He was protecting the humans, just like Angel would have done,” Buffy explained. “I tried to talk to him, but he ran off before I could get close. He’s still probably skittish, ever since I tried to read his mind a while ago...”

Buffy had hoped then to get close enough to Xander to read his mind, when she had been infected by the aspect of that mouthless demon. To know once and for all what kind of ‘creature’ Xander now was, beneath the surface.

But it hadn’t worked, in between Buffy’s inability to penetrate a vampire’s brain - and Xander’s determination to avoid Buffy and any of the Scoobies.

There had been a particularly harrowing chase through the warehouse district, as Buffy pursued her one-time friend. And the smart money would have said that Ms. Summers had finally seen the last of Xander Harris, after that night was over.

But later, when the blonde Slayer had been on the edge of going insane, there had been an additional heart of a demon dropped off in front of her house, besides the one Angel had gotten.

“I don't know how, but he, like, just vanished into the night. I looked for him, but he was gone.” Buffy didn't mention that Cordelia had been trying to talk to her ex-boyfriend as well, while Buffy had approached. She had gotten closer than she expected, when Xander had sensed her and fled the scene.

“Most probably he was trying to get rid of the other vampires in order to attack the couple himself,” Wesley declared obstinately.

“Damn it, Wesley! Listen to me, real carefully. I know what I saw, and it wasn’t wishful thinking. I saw Xander defending people from vampires!” Buffy almost growled at the prat, moving towards him.

Wesley stepped back quickly, sensing that he was not helping his argument with his comments. He tried to sputter out a response, but was saved when Giles spoke up.

“Buffy, be that as it may, Xander is still a soulless demon. He is a, a threat. He must be dealt with.” Inwardly, Giles hated what he was saying, even thought he believed he was right.

Buffy crossed her arms and glared at her former Watcher. Giles could sense he had lost something with Buffy over the last few days; her respect and confidence in him. Where once she would have deferred to his judgment in the past, now? Well, now, his judgment was suspect.

And it didn’t help that his judgment right now was something Giles really didn't have much faith in, himself.

“If you want him dead, you'll have to do it yourself,” Buffy said in a flat tone.

Giles’s eyes widened at that. Wesley stuttered for a second and then spoke, “Ms. Summers, that is highly irregular. Watchers do not slay vampires, we only watch and record - we haven’t the skill or power to engage in-”

Buffy shook her head. “Oh no, that one isn’t gonna cut it anymore. Besides, you've already killed once Giles. Why is it so hard again now, after all - it's the same person, isn’t it?”

Giles naturally blanched at Buffy's words. “Ms. Summers-” Wesley started to say.

“No,” Buffy cut off Wesley, her eyes never leaving Giles the whole time. “It was your plan, Giles. You came up with it. Now Angel and I went along with it, so we're at fault too just as much as anyone. However, I'M not going to make it worse by dusting him. Maybe you can get Angel to do your dirty work for you, or maybe you'll have to do it yourself, but either way I'm not doing it. And I won't ever forgive you if you do-”

“Do what?”

The three in the library turned, and saw that they had been joined by Oz and Willow. Neither teen looked particularly happy to be there. In fact, they were only there because Cordelia had told them that the subject of Xander might be discussed today - after the events of last night.

“You want to tell them?” Buffy asked Giles and Wesley sarcastically.

Giles looked at Willow. She had that look of anger on her face that he had become very familiar with, during the past few days. Willow was clearly not in the mood to forget or forgive. Giles was a little bit surprised that she was even in the library. “We were discussing Xander,” the British man said quietly.

“And?” Willow said.

“He’s a threat to the group, no matter what else any of you may want to believe. He knows too much about all of us, especially our strengths and weaknesses. And that knowledge might be used against us,” Wesley explained.

Willow glared that the only active Watcher in the room. After a few seconds she spoke, “You don't know him the way we do, so I'll let that slide - for now...”

The redhead turned and glared at Giles as she continued, “And Giles? Anyone who's known him for years like I do is a fool to think he's a threat.” Her stare at Giles was almost a challenge for him to disagree.

The silence lasted for several seconds. “What was it I said to you all, the night of the Harvest? Ah, yes - when, when you see a vampire, you’re not looking at your friend anymore. You’re looking at the thing that killed him, or words to that effect,” Giles said somberly.

“Then it’s obvious what we gotta do, right? Giles, we need to get ourselves another Orb of Thesulah,” Willow said vehemently.

Oz looked concerned at that, but nonetheless stayed silent. Buffy spoke first, “Willow, just gotta point out that what you're thinking of doing is dangerous-”

Willow turned and glared at the Slayer. “Really? Well, that’s kinda funny - coming from you! Like, like, I don't recall you saying that when Angel's soul was the one we were talking about!”

That had the effect of quickly shutting Buffy up in embarrassment. So Giles spoke up, “I don't have one here, I’m afraid...” He was hoping to buy some time for passions to cool, anyway.

“Then get one!” Willow almost demanded, well actually - there was no almost about it, she did demand that.

Wesley suddenly spoke up, “Might I remind you all that we still have other concerns as well? We need more information as to the Mayor's plans...”

“I thought we’d already learned about the Mayor's plans. And paid a high enough price to do so,” Oz commented.

Buffy and Giles both turned pale from hearing that, the stoic statement communicating more than a wild rant ever would have. Wesley just continued on though, “Agreed. However, we need more information before we can formulate a plan or a proper response, or the...loss...will have been in vain.” That seemed to have the desired effect on Willow and Oz.

Willow spoke up, “How do we go about finding out, though? I mean, I don’t think that Faith will be answering any more questions, not after that little sting operation...”

Giles nodded. “True. And from what we’ve learned, ALL of the Mayor’s people know we might come asking questions now. It took quite a bit of persuasion to even get that information from Willy.” Both Angel and Giles had had to be quite threatening to the bar owner.

“We’ll find a way,” Buffy said. “Something will come up.”

***************************************

< Well, guess something did come up after all, > Willow thought to herself the next night, as she looked around the Mayor's office.

After the gang’s tense meeting in the library, later that night Buffy had seen a limo arriving at City Hall, and then seen Faith carrying a box inside. The Scoobies had quickly put together a plan to snatch the box, assuming it was vital to the evil enemy’s plan.

The scenario hadn't quite gone as planned, though. Buffy and Angel, and in the privacy of her mind Willow inwardly fumed that Angel had been involved, had managed to obtain the box and get away clean. But in the confusion, Willow had tried to get out of the building, only to run into her least favorite Slayer.

Faith had prevented Willow from getting away, and insisted that she stay for a while. The bad guys had locked her up in a file room, guarded by a vampire. Not very a bright vampire, as well, as he had come in to drain Willow; but a neat trick of telekinesis with a pencil had removed that vampire from redhead's concerns.

Willow had subsequently tried to find her way out of City Hall. But she had wandered into the Mayor's office instead and found the Books of Ascension; the blueprints for what good ol’ Dick was planning to do, upon becoming a pure demon.

She had just finished skimming through the last few pages, when Willow heard someone coming. She put the books back and tried to get out, but Faith came through the door first.

“There you are, Red. God, you keep scurrying so much that I get dizzy,” Faith said with a feral smile.

“Bitch,” Willow growled out. She held Faith ultimately responsible for what had happened to Xander, after all. If not for her, the others never would have come up with that Stupid plan that they’d hatched and gotten her best friend killed.

Faith just smiled. “Mouthy, aren't ya Red? Why don't you keep quiet like a good little girl...” Faith started to advance. Willow noticed she had a knife in her left hand. “Maybe, I'll do something about that.”

“You just try it, skank!” Willow snapped back, her anger growing.

“Ah, Red? Me Slayer, you nerd. This is not going to end well for you,” Faith shifted the knife from her left hand to her right hand.

“Yeah, well, you'll find this nerd has some teeth...” Willow said, as she concentrated. A ceremonial envelope opener lifted from the Mayor's desk. Faith's eyes widened for a second, as the sharp instrument quickly flew towards her.

However, Willow was tired - as was clear from the fact that the envelope opener slowed down during its trip, allowing Faith to easily dodge it. She glared at Willow momentarily, and then leapt towards her.

Willow felt the cold steel of the knife on her throat. “Second best doesn't win this race, Little Red,” Faith said with a sickly smile.

“Let me go!” Willow protested.

“Now girls, you play nice!” the Mayor walked into the office. “Besides, the janitorial staff always hates cleaning up blood from the carpet. Do you know how much a year I have to spend on carpet cleaners?”

Willow blinked her eyes several times at Wilkins' statement. Even with a knife to her throat, the statement just seemed...odd.

“She started it,” Faith whined.

“Now, now, Faith. We must rise above being provoked, mustn't we?” Wilkins walked to his desk. “Her little friends called a few minutes ago. They want her back, and they're willing to trade for her.”

Willow could swear that she felt Faith smile at that. “So that means I can play with her before she goes back, can't I?”

Wilkins smiled at Faith, the way a father indulges an overeager child. “Well, I suppose a little horseplay would be all right, but don't get too rough,” Wilkins said with affection.

“Cool,” Faith said simply.

Willow suddenly saw the Mayor's face scrunch up a little bit, as he looked past both Faith and Willow towards the door he had just come through. “Hey, now, I gave orders that I wasn't to be disturbed-”

Suddenly, Willow felt the knife pulled from her throat. She then stumbled forward, as something or someone yanked Faith away from her.

“Motherfu...” Faith cursed, as Willow hit the floor. She rolled over to see what was happening. “Who the hell are-”

Faith was being pushed up against the wall by someone whose face Willow couldn't see, her question interrupted by her impact on the wall. Wilkins was saying something about how this was unacceptable, but no one was listening to the politician.

Faith's face showed shock, as she got a look at her attacker. “God damn. You!”

Two vampires came through the door in response to Wilkins’ shouting; they only hesitated for a second, before attacking Faith's opponent.

The first one managed to pull him off of Faith, with a punch to the side of the head. The guy staggered back for a second, and finally Willow saw clearly who it was.

“Xander!” she cried out.

Faith's feral smile had returned. “Well, so, two of them huh? Guess I can play with you both now. But since they only wanted Red back, Boy Toy here I can carve up and send back to the white hats in a body bag,” she said with glee.

Xander looked at Faith, as he stood up. “Bit late, sorry to say. You've already done that, Faith,” he said stonily.

“Shit!” Faith shouted as Xander shifted into game face and pounced on her, backhanding her away viciously enough that he drew blood from the brunette girl.

The vampire who had punched him didn't even have a chance to react, as Vamp Xander then instantly slammed into him and almost threw the undead thing back out the door.

The other vampire approached and threw a punch at Xander's head, only to have the former Scooby duck underneath it. Harris quickly thrust upwards with his hands, and Willow saw a stake appear in Xander's hand from underneath his leather jacket.

The stake found its target and with a scream that halted in mid-shout, the vampire exploded into dust.

“Well - when did you go all bumpy forehead, stud? I normally don't backtrack, but might have to give you a second look now,” Faith said with a leer, as she recovered her senses.

Willow muttered out an obscenity in response, as the first vampire came back into the room and lunged at Xander.

Xander easily blocked the attack, grabbing the arm the vampire had led with. Xander then pulled him forward, kneeing him in the groin with sadistic pleasure when the other vamp got close enough. < That’s gotta hurt, huh? >

The bloodsucker shrieked in pain and doubled over, his momentum carrying him forward onto the floor where Willow had just gotten up from. Willow had to almost jump back to avoid the falling vampire.

Xander leaned down - and to Willow's amazement grabbed the vampire by the hair on the back of its head with his right hand and pushed its back down with the left hand. Xander jerked up with his right, suddenly when pushing down hard with the left.

A horribly gruesome ripping sound resulted as the head came up, but the body stayed on the floor. And Willow would swear for years later that the vampire's eyes actually blinked in stupefaction and looked down at its now-detached body, before turning to dust.

The office was silent for a moment. The three non-Xander occupants of the room simply staring in disbelief, at what the fledgling vamp had just done.

Faith broke the silence. “No frickin’ way,” she growled as she brought up the knife that she had been holding, and attacked.

“Faith! No!” Wilkins shouted out, with genuine concern in his voice. But his warning came too late, as Faith stabbed at the soulless vampire with her gift weapon.

Xander easily blocked the dark Slayer's thrust, and punched her in response. She grimaced and launched a counterattack. The two started slugging it out, and it was impossible to say who would win...

“What is he?”

Willow looked over at Mayor Wilkins in response to his question. He was staring at the two combatants, his mouth almost hanging open. Willow then looked back towards her friend and his opponent.

It was clear that Faith was not having as easy a time as she had expected from her former one-night-stand. “You ate your wheaties this morning, Zeppo?” Faith snapped.

Willow frowned at that, < Zeppo? The forgotten Marx brother? Where did that come from? >

Faith slashed out at Xander with the knife. “Thing is I heard you and Cordy talking, back when the Sisters of Jhe were doing their whole end of the world thing. Heard her call you that. Guess the cheerleader bitch got that one right, huh?”

This seemed to distract Xander for a second and Faith managed to stab the knife into Xander's shoulder, with the accompanying grunt of pain from the former Scooby.

“Xander!” Willow cried out.

“Don't worry, Red. I'll treat him good, like I did last time,” Faith leered at Willow.

This time it was Xander who took advantage of his opponent's distracted state. He launched a kick into Faith's gut, and she dropped the knife and fell back in pain. And the soulless vampire quickly pressed his advantage...

Xander launched vicious punch after punch to keep Faith off balance, and it was working. Faith tried blocking Xander's attacks, but to no avail. He was clearly stronger than his opponent, and that was enough to worry Richard Wilkins even more than he already was.

Willow was just amazed by the ferocity of Xander's attacks, even as Faith managed to lunge again with the knife. “Just so you know, I'm going to make you watch me kill all the others, boy toy. Starting with Red over there,” she said with cheerful bravado.

Xander allowed Faith's knife to go by him, as he dodged. He then grabbed her outstretched arm, and punched the evil Slayer hard in the face.

“You're not going to kill anyone, ever again,” he said in a monotone to the dazed Faith. He then pulled her to him, in a horrible parody of a lover’s embrace. “I’m hungry...”

And then to Willow's horror, the Xander vampire sank his face downwards and bit Faith mercilessly - plunging his fangs deep into her throat. And obscenely gulping down the rich, vital fluid spraying out of her neck.

It was like nothing else he had ever experienced, alive or undead. The youth could feel the Slayer's blood coursing into his system like a drug, and Faith's screams of pain were also enough to make the male teen feel like he was getting high on PCP.

No doubt about it - Xander at that moment felt like a god amongst insects, and Heaven help anyone who got in his way.

“No!” Wilkins shouted and rushed forward. He got to Xander, who promptly backhanded the older man away across the desk - after being briefly distracted from his meal.

Willow blinked, and then summoned up all her courage. She took several steps forward. “Xander?” she begged. “Xander, please stop...”

Vamp Xander stopped sucking, feeling Faith’s heart starting to slow down, and looked up. He blinked twice, and his eyes flashed gold towards her. “Willow?” he asked simply

“Please. Don’t. You're better than this,” Willow actually reproached what looked like her oldest friend.

“Willow,” Xander said again, his voice this time tinged with sorrow. He dropped Faith to the floor like garbage, without even a glance downwards. “I-”

“Later, right now we have to get out of here!” Willow took control, grabbing Xander's hand. “Do you know a safe way out?”

Xander nodded. “Yeah, come on-”

He led his childhood friend out of the office, as Wilkins picked himself up off the desk. Silently Richard watched the two run out, then he saw the brunette girl on the floor.

“Faith!” he shouted and hurried to her.

******************************************

Willow hurried into the library later that night. “Guys, guys!” she shouted out.

Her appearance definitely got a reaction from the Scoobies, who were clustered around the table in the center of the library.

“Willow!” Buffy shouted out and she jumped up to run over to her friend. However, she was beaten to the redhead by Oz, who almost leapt across the table to get to her.

Daniel grabbed and hugged his girlfriend fiercely, smelling her all over like the wolf he was deep down. He then leaned back and looked at the others. “It's her.”

“Well, of course I'm me. Who else would I be?” Willow said in confusion.

“Well, we were kinda scared after you just sorta popped into thin air in the school cafeteria like that. We thought maybe the Mayor had pulled a fast one, and we were getting ready to storm City Hall to get you back...” Buffy explained.

Willow was now confused. “Cafeteria? Uh, Buff, what are you talking about? I've not been in the cafeteria at all tonight...”

“Where have you been then, did the Mayor just release you?” Giles came up behind Buffy.

“No, I - we escaped. Sorry it took so long to get back, but we had to go through the sewers to avoid the vampires chasing us. And wow, let me tell you, the Mayor sent everything he could after us! Took us forever to lose them, but then we came straight here-”

“We?” Oz asked, who was still holding onto Willow.

“Yeah, me and Xander...” Willow turned around to the door she had just come through. “Xander?” she asked plaintively to the empty doorway.

The redhead turned back to the others. “Where did he go?”

Buffy walked to the doorway and looked around. She looked up and down the darkened hallway, letting her Slayer senses do their work. “He’s not out there,” she declared.

“But he was right behind me. He walked me here, when we managed to get out of the sewers. He never got more than a few feet away from me!” Willow explained.

“You were that close to a soulless vampire, for that long?” Wesley said with concern.

Willow turned and looked at the Watcher with a frown. “It was Xander, Wesley. He saved my life.”

“Saved you how?” Oz asked.

“The Mayor had Faith holding me in his office, and she wanted to...” Willow paused for a second. “Um...play with me, I guess. But then Xander came charging in, and fought her off. Almost killed her, too! He dusted two other vampires that I saw. He then...”

Willow suddenly stopped, as a fragment of something popped into her mind. “Wait a minute, what do you mean I just popped out into thin air in the cafeteria?”

“We met the Mayor and his pet vamps, to exchange the Box of Gavrock for you. They brought you in. We passed the box over to them as you walked to us, all prisoner exchange-y like. Soon as the box got to them, the Mayor said some gibberish and you just disappeared. Then the black hats kinda ran for the hills,” Buffy explained.

“That wasn't me,” Willow said simply.

“Well, we know that now,” Giles replied. “The Mayor must have used some kind of glamour spell to make us think you were there. He must have decided to do the spell after-”

“Xander rescued me,” Willow finished the former Watcher's sentence. Her features turned into what someone who had known her for years would recognize as her Resolve Face. “Giles? Do you have that Orb of Thesulah yet?”

Giles nodded. “Yes, I got one from the magic shop this morning, but Willow - I really think...”

“Don't think, just give it to me,” Willow interrupted Giles.

“If I may say something?” Wesley interrupted. “I’m sure we all realize you have the best possible motives for this...undertaking, Miss Rosenberg. But may I remind you that this is a CURSE that you’re about to perform?”

Suddenly, Wesley’s face lost that bloody annoying pompous look. And that made everyone actually pay attention for once. “I spent quite a bit of time investigating Angel’s situation, after I arrived here - and that’s how I know those magicks were never intended to Help anyone, I’m sorry to say. Least of all, the vampire in question. Willow...you may think you’re doing this to get your friend back, but the truth is - you’re about to summon a soul from its appropriate place in the afterlife, and make it engage in a perpetual war with a demon in a dead body. Is that what you really want?”

Willow hesitated, and instinctively turned to her boyfriend. Oz said nothing, but his eyes communicated his love for and confidence in her. And that was all the redheaded young witch needed to see.

“We have to hurry, he's slipping away from us. Buffy, start drawing the sacred circle. Wesley, you're on herb detail...”

*******************************

“Kid, you have got to watch yourself. I mean busting into City Hall, which is full of vampires and demons by the way, and then going gangbusters on a Slayer and her demon wannabe master?” Whistler lectured Vampire Xander.

“Had to be done,” the undead guy replied, not bothering to look up from his evening brooding session.

< Yeesh. This is even worse than what I had to go through with Rat Breath, > Whistler thought. “You'll get yourself dusted. And you don't want to do that.”

“Why not?” Xander said simply.

“You know why...”

“OH yeah, the great plans of the PTBs and all that. Well tell me, what exactly are these great plans again?” Xander asked sarcastically.

Whistler's response to Xander was prevented by the fates, when the vampire screamed out in pain and his eyes flashed gold. Something similar to what had happened when Angelus’s eyes had glowed orange in his mansion, almost exactly a year ago.

“I believe one of them just arrived,” Whistler said in a sarcastic tone of voice.

***************************************

Wilkins looked up as Faith stalked into his office. “You went to the school without me?” she demanded accusingly.

“Yes, well, I had to move quickly. I told the annoying minions to do everything they could to catch or delay your little friend Willow, and her...companion. Plus a little magic hocus-pocus, and gosh! Dear old Buffy and her friends didn't realize till too late they were just seeing an illusion,” Wilkins explained to his surrogate daughter with a broad smile.

“You left me behind,” Faith said again.

“Ah, dear Faith. You were healing from your encounter with young Mr. Harris, after all! And I must admit, this new development has taken me by surprise. I hadn’t known of him being turned! Still, we may be able to use this to our advantage. I'll have to find out more-”

“Just find out where my favorite boy toy is. I want a rematch, ASAP,” Faith said angrily.

“Now that’s my girl!” Wilkins said with a smile. “Care for an icee?”

***************************************************************

In the library, the two girls were alone when Buffy sat down next to Willow and handed a cup of tea to her. “Here you go. This should help.”

“Thanks,” Willow took the cup and sipped from it.

“How do you feel?” Buffy asked her best female friend.

“Tired, pretty much. And before you ask - it’s kinda weird, but it didn’t exactly feel like it did when I did that for Angel last year. So, so, did it work?” Willow replied.

“Nobody knows. We still don't know where Xander’s hiding out these days to check, so we'll just have to keep an eye out for him,” Buffy replied. She hesitated a second before speaking again. “So, what was it like?”

Willow frowned at Buffy's question. “What, the spell? I just told you-”

Buffy shook her head. “No, Xander. You saw him as a vampire, up close and personal like. That had to be...strange.”

“No. It was still Xander,” Willow said passionately.

“But...” Buffy was silent, unsure how to proceed.

Willow started talking. “You remember that time when everyone was having those weird awake nightmares?” Buffy nodded as Willow continued, “Well, you got turned into Buffy vampire. He was kinda like that, I guess.”

“But that was just a dream,” Buffy said. “One we could wake up from,” she finished sorrowfully.

The two friends were silent for several minutes after that. Finally Willow spoke up, “He still thought you were hot then, you know.”

“What?”

“Xander. He thought you were one hot chick, even as a vamp,” Willow explained.

Buffy half-smiled at that. “Really. He thought I was attractive, even as a vampire? Cool.”

“Things have changed so much over the past three years, huh?” the redhead asked pitifully.

“Yeah. Nowadays Xander’s a vampire, you’re a witch, Cordelia’s a Slayerette, and I can’t look at the guy I love without always being reminded of what he did - leaving Xander on the street that night.”

Willow stared at Buffy. “Uh, do we need to tell Cordy about what’s happened? She wasn’t here tonight, after all...”

A shrug. “Myself, I think we’ve got more important things to worry about - but if you wanna do it, go nuts. Just be ready to duck, if Cordelia decides to start throwing things at you...”

Willow sighed. “Well, that's one constant at least, Cordy being mad at me-”

“Just be grateful that you’re not in my shoes. Or that of Angel, or Giles. Have you even heard her rants about how badly we screwed up, that night? I swear, if senior year wasn’t about to end in a few weeks, I’m sure she’d do something drastic...” Buffy’s voice trailed off.

The two were silent again for several minutes. “Buffy, I wish I could wake up from this,” Willow said, sounding very old and tired.

Buffy reached over and hugged her friend. “I know, I do too.”

-fin-

The End?

You have reached the end of "Collateral Damage" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 6 Oct 06.

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