Disclaimer – I own nothing and anyone who says differently better shut up before my creditors overhear you.
Summary – We all have them and some are more foreboding than others.
Feedback – Wanted and hopeful that it is positive. If you have abuse, go shovel it elsewhere. If you insist on sending it I will be happy to splash it with Tasbasco and feed it to Fluffy my pet hyena. He likes them.
It was cold.
One of those things you really don’t think about arid and almost desert like landscapes is how quickly blazing heat turns to chill when the sun finally sets on another day.
It’s funny that with all that we had gone thru over the past eight years that something so basic could remind me how much things had both changed and not.
Xander put down the pen and just looked at the words he had written. He questioned for the thousandth time the value of a journal to the one person who could never seriously discuss anything. He also wondered for maybe the hundredth time whether the journal was to log his travels or to let Giles know just how close he might be to breaking.
It was an ugly fact of life the soldiers cannot be on the front lines indefinitely. In fact, if exposed to one skirmish too many they started down a whole list of psychological phrases for what was simply the inability to function anymore.
Xander could never decide whether to be annoyed or concerned that he might be only one disaster or apocalypse away from a padded room and men with butterfly nets. The more time passed though, he seemed to settle on disturbed. His soldier memories while faded somewhat had shown him the gritty reality of losing one’s grip with reality when cracks started to show thru. Combine that with what he had willingly exposed himself to as a combatant on the front lines of a war without end, only breaks between rounds and he knew that it was only a matter of when not if he would start to drift.
He wished he had the luxury to take time away like Buffy. To go to a city and lose himself within the real world. Or maybe go off to exotic beaches like Willow and spend the days aimlessly searching for slayers while really taking time to explore a largely physical relationship. He doubted Giles was having much fun between the endless meetings and protocol that needed revising, not to mention the pain of trying to make sense of all the Council had left behind. No, not fun at all, but even there he was off the front lines and in some sense of comfort and safety.
Would he really want that himself? No. Definitely not while there still remained girls out there without any idea what they were and what had happened to them. He couldn’t abandon them, couldn’t leave them to the misunderstanding of people who would rather fear and hate them than accept them.
He turned quickly tracking the figure that appeared as is from nowhere.
Lost for words he stood there resolutely looking at the brunette beauty for what seemed like ages before finally asking, “When?”
A smile graced her face and what appeared to be amusement glittered in her eyes.
“When what dork?”
Not willing to utter the word himself he could only reply simply, “You know what I mean.”
Disappointment began to radiate from the feminine form as she stood there assessing him, as if unsure as to how much he knew and how much to reveal. Finally giving up and almost grunting out her frustration.
“You won’t let me have any fun. You know that was why I never visited you before, don’t you. Anyway, to answer your question she passed away just yesterday morning. You will probably be happy to know that she went in her sleep.”
“Did she ever recover from her coma?”
“Well, the Goofs that Be let her say her fare the well to Angel and then let her go off and join one of their groups. I really stopped trying to follow their dealings as they let themselves get way too bogged down by the bureaucracy.”
“Why are you here?”
“Well… I mainly came to rub a little salt in the wound of one of the leaders of light, but also to say thanks.”
While Xander couldn’t get the words out his eye screamed out his frustration for the game being played.
“Oh, don’t give me that, you know damn well what you did. Well, what they did anyway. It was almost too easy to bait the hook and lure your friends. It was just too tantalizing and their belief in themselves sealed the deal.”
Suddenly Xander felt himself being pulled back to a memory from the night before the destruction of Sunnydale.
Location: Buffy’s house (back porch)
“Okay Xander, you got me out here now what is it you wanted to talk about?”
“Buff… Something doesn’t fit here. I think there’s something wrong with your plan for the fight tomorrow.”
Buffy was flummoxed. “What?!”
“Don’t get me wrong Buff, your idea is good on the surface. I mean it allows the other SITs to be able to really contribute to the fight and we have seen before that taking the fight to the big bad can usually knock them off their game, but still…”
“What Xand? It’s the only play we have left.”
“But that doesn’t mean that it’s the right one. (sigh) I just keep thinking back to you over the years and how many times that you wished that you had been given a choice in becoming a slayer. You were never given the ability to decide what you wanted, it was forced upon you. Now, if it goes as you plan then there may be hundreds if not thousands of girls who will have the same thing forced on them with no say in the matter. They will be committed to a fight they know nothing about and be hunted for what they are by things they only think are nightmares.”
“So what would you have me do then? Just give up?! I can’t do that! I won’t do that!”
Seeing that he was running into a brick wall with that argument Xander tried a slightly different attack.
“Okay then, but what if this is what this whole escalation has been about? What if this whole situation we have been forced to deal with is to make us to play this card? What if we are doing exactly what the First wants tomorrow by calling all the slayers?”
“It doesn’t change things. We have to win or the world falls Xander. There is no losing this battle. It is either victory or the end of the world. I will do whatever it takes to see this thru to the end.”
“Look Buff, I’m not saying that this is the wrong thing to do, but I do want you to just think about more than the battle tomorrow. I don’t see how having a few dozen slayers will stem back a tide of who knows how many ubervamps that you say you saw down there. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t be there right by your side every step of the way, just like I always have been. (Sigh) I don’t know why I brought this up, but something just doesn’t sit right with me for all the reasons I mentioned and more. I feel like we’re being shown only the positive to this and there is a pitfall just hidden from sight. I don’t know maybe I am just seeing things to account for the impared vision.”
“Ugh. Even for you Xander, that was a bad one. Just go get some rest or whatever. Tomorrow’s going to be hard enough dealing with what we know. Don’t go inventing things for us to worry about that we have no control over.”
Sighing in defeat, Xander walked back into Case de Summers looking for something that could help him shake the funk he was in.
Location: Somewhere in Africa
Coming back to himself in the present, Xander knew that those feelings were what the First was talking about.
“I was right wasn’t I? Calling the slayers was what you wanted us to do all along, wasn’t it?”
“Give the man a cookie. You know, I wondered if you would still have enough of a mind to remember that, but then you are the One Who Sees aren’t you? Funny thing, no one ever told you what that really means did they? Since I am feeling generous and in a mood to gloat, I think I’ll share. You see, it isn’t some mystical thing or magical calling. It more of an ability to perceive what is always there, merely hidden from plain sight. You can look at someone and see them as they truly are, not as who they appear to be. Take Angelus for example, you took one look at him and knew he was no good. Later you would tell yourself that it was because Buffy loved him or that he was a vampire, but the truth is you saw Angelus behind the mask Angel wore. You saw the beast that lay dormant and you could tell that he would break loose. Now, you didn’t know when or how, but you did know on some level that he would and because of that you disliked him. You grew to hate him when you saw that he would allow himself to get close to those you love making the damage when he eventually broke free all that much more painful. I mean, just look at me. Cordelia was a snobby elitist of the worst sort to most who knew her, but you among all those around her saw who she was inside behind all those walls she used to protect herself. You saw the hero that she could be if only given the encouragement and right influences in her life. And you loved her because of what you saw at her core.”
Choking back the tears brought forth by the memories that the First called to mind with ease, Xander found himself trying to hold onto his anger at the being before him.
“Go to hell. You’ve had your chance to gloat. You’ve had your fun. Now just leave me the hell alone. I have work to do and an army to continue recruiting. You may think you have all the long term plans laid out for victory, but if there is one thing I have learned over the last eight years of fighting this war it’s that free will is what determines the outcome to this war not your plans. As long as we all allow ourselves to make the choices and make them for the right reasons, then fate, chaos, God, whatever you wish to call on will make sure the whole thing keeps moving forward. And that’s whether it agrees with your plans or not.”
Chuckling to herself as she walked away into the ether she left these words with him, “Believe what you wish Xander, but every story has to end sometime. And sooner or later the author grows too tired to continue to move the pen. Just hope that that day hasn’t come yet.”
As Xander stood there staring out at the vast savannah that lay before him a small ripple of wind caused him to shudder. The story wasn’t over yet. Not by a long shot. But to keep it going meant a long road ahead for him and his friends. He only hoped they were up for the journey.