Title: Learning Curve
Author: Lit Gal
Disclaimers: In case no one has noticed, I'm not Joss or the guys who own Sentinel, so I'm just doing this for fun... no money made, no harm done.
A/N: This story was posted at livejournal and at my website, but I'm revising as I post here, and there will be at least one completely new chapter.
"Xander, we really need you to do this for us," Willow blinked in that' helpless little girl' expression she'd been using on him ever since the yellow crayon. Xander crossed his arms and squinted his eye. When she was four and her crayon broke, that look had made him hand over his own crayon. It didn't work nearly as well now that she was one of the most powerful witches on earth.
"Right. And the fact that it's on the other side of the world?" Xander demanded.
"The council hasn't seen an active Sentinel in like five hundred years. This is big. It might be some sort of apocalyptic sign big."
"You're just trying to make me feel better, aren't you?"
"Maybe," she admitted in a small voice. "But knowing how to work with a Sentinel, that would of the good, yes?" she quickly added. "I mean, we already know that a lot of Sentinels end up doing the crazy thing, and if you understand Sentinel psychology, and then we find another Sentinel and this Sentinel is losing his marbles… what with the seeing and hearing things, and really that does sound a bit like schizophrenia, so you really can't blame the doctors for thinking the Sentinels are doing the crazy. There was a guy in the 1800's who might have been a Sentinel and he… let's just say it didn't end well what with mental health field using more chains and boiling water than Prozac." Willow paused in horror, and Xander jumped in before she could continue. He knew her babble well enough to know that she'd just keep right on going.
"So you want me to train to work with some weird nearly-human thing even though no one has seen one in five hundred years and it'll probably be another five hundred before another pops up? Thinkin' I'm not going to be around in five hundred years, Wills."
"Bloody hope not," Spike growled as he aimed his car at another hapless citizen of Springfield. Xander glanced over as Spike backed the car up and aimed it at Ned Flanders again, sending the man rolling down the street. No wonder Spike could never beat his scores on the game, he was too busy mowing down the pixilated population.
"Of course you'll probably still be here mooching," Xander snapped.
"At least I'm of some use, mate. Red's sending ya on this chase 'cause none of us need ya 'round here."
"HEY!" Willow protested that, but Xander turned his back and started walking out of the common room. Yeah, he knew he was big on the useless scale, but he didn't need it pointed out by Spike. The missing eye meant he was more a danger to his own side in a fight. He couldn't even count the number of times Buffy or Spike had to save him from some baddie running up on his blind side. They kept trying to blindside him, he quipped to himself as he strode down the hallway, but even he didn't find his joke funny. One little case of malaria and Buffy wouldn't even hear of him going back on the road to track down slayers. Which left him… it left him nowhere he realized.
He could hear Willow's footsteps running behind him in the hall. She had probably stopped to give Spike shit, which was kinda emasculating, but then he should be used to it by now. He started down the main staircase of Watcher HQ.
"Xander, wait," Willow called. Xander considered ignoring her, but too many years of listening made his feet stop before he'd even made a decision.
"Xander…" Willow came up to him and put a warm hand on his bare arm. He could feel the love there, but he could also feel her helplessness, the fact that she wanted to help and didn't know how. "He didn't mean it."
"Yeah, he did," Xander answered. Spike didn't say things he didn't mean. Spike was rude, blunt, sexy, sadistic, lithe, and honest. Then again, Xander had always fallen for the sadistic ones, and the way Willow was looking at him, he wasn't fooling her much with his 'I hate Spike' campaign.
"You just need some time to sort this out," she said softly, and Xander made the connection.
"You're sending me away from *him*," Xander accused her. "So, how many of you are in on this little plan? Giles? Buffy? Wait, did you call Angel and talk about ways to keep me from making the worst mistake of my life?" Willow pulled back in the face of his anger, and Xander immediately felt guilty. Yep, Xand the Insecure Man spreading unhappiness and misery everywhere he went. Xander wondered what kind of cape came with those sorts of super powers.
"No! I didn't… I just thought…" Willow started tearing up, and Xander's anger evaporated. He reached out and pulled her into a hug.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean it. You know me, I say lots of stuff I don't mean—it's a disease. I'm just a sick, sick boy… got diarrhea of the mouth here."
"I haven't said anything to anyone," Willow whispered into his chest, and Xander knew she was telling him the truth. "I just don't want you to get hurt."
"Yeah, my skills of pickage suck when it comes to partners," Xander admitted.
"You just deserve someone who loves you."
"Yeah, I know. Maybe you're right about needing some time. So, what's the weather like in Cascade this time of year?" Xander asked as he laid a cheek against her head, smelling the sweet fruitiness of her shampoo.
"Um, I think rainy," Willow said. Xander glanced toward the windows where a grey English drizzle misted the glass.
"Great. More rain. Yippee," Xander said unenthusiastically. Willow poked him in the ribs. "I mean, Yippee," he repeated with a fake smile and a strained enthusiasm. "I'll go pack a bag."