~~~~~~~ Chapter Seven – Hollow
Rachel looked up at the knock at her door. Smiling, she waved her visitor in.
“Hi Xander.” she said, as the young psychic entered.
Xander shot her a smile and looked around her room.
“Wow. A little more stainless steel and this place would be right at home in an art deco house.” he said with a teasing tone in his voice.
Rachel, however, wasn’t biting. “What happened here yesterday?” she asked, her good mood fading.
Xander turned and sat down, folding his hands over the head of his cane. “Are you sure you want to know?” he asked, his voice serious.
At her nod, Xander started. “Lynch told DeSantis everything. He didn’t have to, but while Lynch may have been the criminal mastermind, Patrick made sure to cover his own. Kerry kept mementos and… murder weapons. Lynch would pick the girls, did most of the dirty work and left Kerry to clean up and… Well, let’s just say that Patrick got his kicks off Route Sixty-Six.”
At Rachel’s disgusted look, Xander nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I didn’t need to know that, either.
Sighing, Xander stared at Rachel. “It seems that Lynch had an affinity for red-heads.
Rachel nodded. “And my mom?” she asked.
“All Lynch. He asked your mom out on a date and when she declined, he just… snapped.”
Rachel stared at Xander with dark eyes. “My mother died because he couldn’t handle rejection?” she hissed out.
Hesitantly, Xander nodded. “To put it simply. He had been rejected most of his life, apparently. When your mom said ‘no’, that was it for him.” he said, staring at Rachel.
Closing her eyes, Rachel took a few calming breaths and asked the other question on her mind. “And Rand… I mean, Dr. Parker? Where did he fit into this?”
Xander sighed again at the ease of her use of Parker’s given name. “Dr. Parker had been dating your mom… and he had dated almost all of the girls that the sheriff’s department could identify. He was the obvious patsy. His father owned the cabin; he took girls there on dates. That’s where your mother was coming from when her car broke down. Lynch was trying to be a knight in shining armor.” he said, finishing.
Rachel had tears in her eyes as she looked at Xander. “It’s hard to hear, but I needed to know. Thank you.”
Suddenly, she looked introspective. “It’s amazing how something like this makes you re-think your life. And the people you want in it.”
Xander stared at her, fear creeping into his stomach.
Rachel looked at Xander. “I don’t quite know how to say this… Xander, I…”
The two were startled at the knock at the door. They both looked and Xander’s heart dropped as he saw it was Dr. Parker.
“Hey Rach. How are you doing?” he asked quietly.
“I’ve been better.” she said, her voice watery. “Xander, could you give us a few minutes? I need to talk to R… Dr. Parker.” Rachel asked.
Xander, his heart crushed, stood quickly and almost ran headlong into Dr. Parker.
“Xander, I… uh, I never thanked you for believing in me and for getting me out of there.” Parker said, fidgeting.
Xander tried to keep the darkness out of his voice. “To be honest, I didn’t do it for you.” he said, turning to look at Rachel. “I’ll leave you two alone.” Xander finished.
Neither person could speak as Xander limped out of the room.
Dr. Parker caught up with Xander a little down the hall.
“What is the matter with you?” Parker asked, grabbing Xander’s arm. Xander wheeled around to stare at Parker, who took a half step back.
“You saw how I felt about Rachel, didn’t you?” Parker asked, already knowing the answer.
“Yeah, and I also saw how jealous you got at how close we were. C’mon Randy
, I may have brain damage but I’m not stupid. You and I both know how you got the nickname ‘Doctor Don Juan’. You see, you move in, you get what you want and damn the consequences.” Xander hissed out, fire blazing in his eyes.
Dr. Parker had the decency to look sheepish.
“You’re right, that how I used to be. In fact, I tried to charm Rachel before I got called into the sheriff’s office, because I was jealous. I wanted her and you were in the way. But… you know what? Come back and let Rachel tell you.” Parker said, pointing at Rachel’s door.
Xander looked confused and only moved when Parker nodded reassuringly. Xander was about to open the door when it was flung open, revealing Rachel. The two looked surprised to see the other, with Rachel sobering first, grabbing Xander’s arm and pulling him into the room.
Rachel gently shoved Xander into the chair and turned away to gather herself. The young psychic’s eyes widened and he quickly dropped his gaze.
“Um, Rachel…” he started, when Rachel spoke over him.
“No, Xander, I need you to listen to me, now.” she said.
“And, I’ll be glad to listen, but…” Xander tried to say.
“No ‘buts’, Xander. I’m trying to tell you something.” Rachel continued.
“So am I…” he tried to interject, but it was no use.
Sighing, he shielded his eyes, staring at the floor.
“Rachel…” Xander said, trying to be firm.
“What, Xander? What is so important that you keep interrupting me?” she asked, spinning around. Rachel was shocked to find Xander had his eyes averted.
“I thought you might like to know that your gown is open.”
Gasping in horror, Rachel hurriedly threw on a hospital robe over the flimsy gown. Sitting at the bed opposite of Xander, her face red, she smiled self-depreciatingly.
“Thanks. Now, what was with the outburst earlier?” she asked, arranging herself.
Xander lowered his head and started talking. “I helped Dr. Parker by touching him. I did it to find you, but I saw things. I saw how he… how he felt about you. I saw how jealous he was of how close we are. One of the last things I saw was him trying to put the moves on you… At the time, I couldn’t worry about it because you were in danger and we were no closer to finding you. But, earlier, when you were talking about the people you wanted to be with… Add that to the fact that you wanted to talk to him first…” Xander finished, trailing off.
“You put two and two together.” she said, nodding. “But, you put them together and got five. I wanted to talk to him first because what I wanted to tell him was easier than what I wanted to tell you.”
Xander stared at her, a questioning look on his face. Rachel took a breath and looked at the young man.
“For almost a year, you and I have been telling each other everything, no matter how hard it was or how embarrassing. I feel like I know you better than I know myself…” she trailed off, looking at Xander, who still had a questioning and confused look.
Rachel sighed and ran a hand through her hair, “What I’m trying to say is… Oh, the hell with it.” she said, before leaning forward quickly and kissing Xander.
Xander’s eyes shot open in shock before his hands drifted up, coming to a rest on Rachel’s hips and his eyes closed.
Dr. Parker slowly closed the door on the couple and sighed sadly. What Xander had said to him had hurt, but Parker also knew that it was the truth.
Sitting down in the waiting room, Parker put his head in his hands and sighed again.
‘The Rachel dream is over, I guess.’ he thought to himself
Looking up, he saw a brunette girl having trouble with the coffee machine. Standing, he walked over.
“Here, you have to…” he said, hip-checking the machine while slapping the side. The girl watched with surprise as the machine finally dropped a cup and started filling it.
“Thanks” she said, grabbing the coffee.
“My pleasure. My name’s Randy.” he said, holding out a hand. The girl took it demurely.
“Faith.” she said.
Randy grinned then, grunted after a second.
“That’s, uh, quite a grip you’ve got there, Faith.” Parker said, shaking his hand.
Faith just smiled and walked off.
A few days later, Sheriff DeSantis was sitting in his office drinking a cup of coffee with a healthy shot of whiskey in it while reading one of the many reports on the Lynch case. He was so distracted that he didn’t notice his visitor until he dropped his cane in an effort to get his attention.
“Xander, are you trying to give me a heart attack?” the sheriff asked after nearly hitting the roof, setting his mug on the desk and leaning forward to put his head between his legs.
“Sorry Sheriff, but you weren’t here, so I had to do something.” Xander said, a half smile on his face.
DeSantis finally got his breathing under control and looked up to glare at the young psychic before noticing his look.
“Ah, you and Rachel finally figured each other out, huh?” he asked, leaning back, a smile on his face.
“How could you possible know about that?” Xander asked, shocked.
“I used to be an Inspector with the San Francisco P.D. It was my job to see things like that.” DeSantis said, smugly.
Xander smiled again before leaning down to pick up his cane.
“The day you found Willow’s car, you grabbed my wrist.” he said, his head down. When he didn’t get a response, Xander looked up at the sheriff, who was cycling between anger and panic. “Relax, sheriff. I just came here to tell you to take a chance on her. It could be special.” he finished, before standing and limping toward the door.
“What if I screw it up?” DeSantis asked, quietly.
Xander turned back to the man. “Sheriff, I could go over there, shake her hand, thank her for all her help and know for sure what happens, but it would take all the thrill out of it. But, if you find out on your own, it will be a surprise. Life is supposed to be a surprise, sheriff. It’s supposed to be a chance. I think the second option is the better of the two, don’t you?” Xander finished, smiling.
Waving goodbye, Xander walked into the squad room. Not watching where he was going, he bumped into a deputy: a deputy with long, blonde hair.
“Sorry, that was my fault. I wasn’t paying attention.” he said, gesturing for her to continue. As she started past, Xander brought his hand up to touch her shoulder. Hesitating, he gave himself a wry smile, dropped his hand and continued to the door.
Xander knocked on the door in front of him and paused, looking around. He was standing in one of Sunnydale’s more affluent neighborhoods, looking decidedly out of place in his leather jacket and jeans. He turned back as the door opened.
“Hey Oz.” he said, looking at the short man. Oz just stared at him, silently indicating for him to continue.
“Giles told me where you lived. Nice neighborhood.” Xander stated, his nervousness obvious. Oz just raised an eyebrow.
“Right.” Xander said, nodding, “I just thought you would want to know… We got the guy who killed Willow. He’ll never see the light of day again.” he finished, lowering his eyes to his cane.
When Oz didn’t respond, Xander looked back up at him. Oz’s eyes were filled with unshed tears and his mouth was trembling.
“I’m so sorry, Oz.” Xander stated, his gaze unwavering. Breathing a sad sigh, Xander turned to leave, before halting and saying, over his shoulder.
“Do you remember the promise I made to you, when we first met? About why I got these powers?” he asked, his voice low. Oz nodded and wiped away a stray tear.
“I got these powers to help people. I know that now, and while I may never understand why I couldn’t help Willow, I know that she would want me to use them to help others. After she’d gotten a chance to study them in depth first, of course.” he said, drawing a half sob, half laugh out of Oz.
Turning, he handed Oz a piece of paper. At the shorter man’s confused look, Xander explained.
“It’s my address and phone number. If you ever need anything, a friend to talk to or a place to stay… to get out of here, anything at all, you call. Day or night, I will do everything in my power to help.”
Before Oz could reach out to grab the paper, he seemed to collapse. Xander reached out and embraced the man, trying to comfort Oz as he sobbed uncontrollably. Two kindred spirits brought together by a tragedy. It wasn’t until later that Xander would come to find out that Oz had not cried at Willow’s funeral and he had never been offered a true hand of friendship, just empty apologies and false attempts at comfort. By extending his hand, Xander had reaffirmed Oz’s belief in humanity and friendship.
Oz looked up at Xander, his eyes stained red from the tears and said, “I can’t stay here anymore. Everywhere I look, I see her.”
Xander just nodded and started guiding Oz towards the cab. “I understand,” Xander said, helping the broken man into the awaiting taxi, “And I have the room.” he finished, closing the door.