Identity CrisisBy AngelfirenzeDisclaimer:
DC and Dark Horse Comics, respectively; Heel and Toe; Warner Bros.; Whedon, et al. own all but those unrecognized. Fall Out Boy. "I've Got All This Ringing in My Ears and None on My Fingers." Island, Fueled By Ramen, 2008. Fall Out Boy. "Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes"., "I Don't Care.", "She's My Winona"., "America's Suitehearts.", "Pavlove." Island, Fueled By Ramen, 2009. A Perfect Circle. "Passive." EMI, Virgin, 2004.Summary:
"So you're just going to leave me here!" he yelled as loudly as he could, his fingers clawing at the mesh of the cage. "You can't -- I'm not a monster!"
Oz paused and, without looking back, said, "You keep telling yourself that."Notes:
Wow, this one was a chore. Though, mostly because I couldn't seem to stop writing and editing even in favor of fundamentals like sleep
Also, this is not about Super!Xander or Xander-bashing. As I have said before, I despise character bashing of any kind. This is about the possible toll those alternate personae could take on his relationships with those around him, which would already be strained if they'd realized his dishonesty and other undesirable traits that needed working on a lot sooner, if at all.Timelines:
Batman: post-Batman Begins/Dark Knight
, Heart of Hush
; Buffy, (including the following comics) post-Viva Las Buffy
, Slayer, Interrupted
, and A Stake to the Heart
; post-Child of the Hunt
; post-'Becoming, Part II';
General storyverse, post-Acquainted with the Night
, which is encompassed in its own wonderful universe
where Gregory House was once our dear Timothy Drake...
House, M.D., 'No Reason' -- AU after that.Part IX: Refutation...Do you remember the way I held your hand under the lamp post and ran, oh, this way so many times I could close my eyes...
Oz held Willow's hand, stroking her palm with his thumb as they slowly walked back to her house. "That was...stressful." Willow forced herself not to laugh too loudly and instead simply squeezed Oz's hand harder.
"I don't know if I can do this, Oz. Every time I see Xander, I want to tell him everything -- Buffy's dad, Gotham -- but he lied. I looked him in the eye and told him what...what I wanted him to tell Buffy, but he didn't trust either of us enough to accomplish anything. Let alone what needed to be done."
Willow lay her head against Oz's shoulder and he, in turn, wrapped his arm around her back for extra support.
"I...I have this huge urge to make...excuses for him, but...what excuse could there be for sending Angel to Hell? He didn't trust us? He thought we'd fail? He doesn't like Angel? No, correction, he hates Angel? Well, Angel's a part of Buffy and Buffy's a part of him -- even when Angel was evil, Buffy was all he thought about. That has to mean something."
Willow had to stop herself from straightening up because that hurt too much. "Oz...you know how you said...you said that the wolf feels just as close to me as you do?" Oz smiled slightly despite the serious subject matter.
"Yeah. It does."
"What if it's the...the same for vampires...and even Slayers? Is there..." Willow forced herself to pause, rest, and take a few breaths before she hurt herself.
"I wonder if there's any precedence of vampires and Slayers being mates and the Watcher's Council just doesn't know about it? I mean, they don't exactly go around sharing all the stuff that would give anyone else any kind of power. And a Slayer and vampire fighting together instead of against one another, turning to each other instead of taking orders from...their instincts or whatever -- that'd totally freak them out.
"They'd never tell Buffy or even Giles because they wouldn't trust him not to let Buffy know. They knew Giles had been working with Angel until he lost his soul. They probably know Buffy's the reason why. I mean, who doesn't know what they -- " Oz, biting his lip to keep from smiling, gently covered Willow's mouth.
Willow glared playfully at Oz, but took his hint and breathed again. "We just don't know what anyone's known. Or what they've hidden. We should tell Buffy this stuff." Willow blinked, feeling tears start to come to her eyes again. "Maybe she won't feel so alone."
"We don't know if she'd feel more or less alone," Oz countered, shaking his head and reaching up to stroke a strand of hair on the other side of Willow's face back behind her other ear. "After all, every slayer who came before her died. Who knows how it happened? Maybe telling Buffy that would put her in more danger, not less."
Willow bit her lip, conceding that Oz was right about that possibility.
"Besides," Oz continued, rubbing her palm again. "She does have you and I. We may not know where Giles or Xander or even Cordelia stand, but you and I are on the same side. And that's Buffy's.
"Xander was wrong to do what he did and with Giles, it's just the fact that once he finds out that Buffy's left and gone to Gotham, he'll do whatever he feels is necessary to get her back here, whether she wants to be here or not.
"And we both know it's her choice, not his. She's the Slayer, not him. He's contributed like we all have, but in the end Buffy's the one putting her life on the line. She deserves the right to choose where she does so, not that choice being made for her over and over."
Oz stopped talking then and Willow tried to hide her astonishment at him being so verbose.
Between he and Angel, when Angel had his soul, the two of them could have a conversation that consisted of maybe ten words maximum. She knew he thought a lot, but to hear those words aloud was sometimes a shock. He didn't do it often.
Willow relaxed even further, leaning into Oz's side, knowing he'd hold her up and having complete trust he wouldn't drop her. "Oz, I...this feels selfish, but I'm tired of...God, I'm tired of everyone assuming all sorts of things about me. Buffy was the first one who didn't do that. Even Jesse did sometimes, but...well, we were kids. I did the same to him.
"But with Xander, it's like we've never stopped being those same tenth graders or, even, kindergartners. I appreciate his concern, but I don't appreciate him acting like I can never do anything. He doesn't trust me to be my own person, but then -- why should he? Ever since we were five, I've done everything he does. We've been this package deal and he was always the leader."
Willow frowned, instantly comforted by Oz's hand steadying her within moments. "It was like...like there was only one Musketeer and the others were just D'Artagnan's reflection or something. Well, what if Porthos wanted to make a battle plan or something? What if he had some really good ideas, but D'Artagnan was too convinced of his own right-ness?"
Willow stopped them both and wrapped both of her arms around Oz in a hug, which he returned carefully.
"I just don't want to be a reflection anymore. I want to be Willow. Strong in her own right and her ideas given proper consideration. And I want...I don't want to be second best ever again.
"Buffy -- Elizabeth's made it pretty clear that Xander can't have her, so now what? And I don't want to care so much what he feels or why? It's not like I get any of that consideration back from him. I guess I just want to know who Xander would turn to if he didn't have me to play backup to his one-man-show."
Oz listened, taking a deep breath and kissing Willow's forehead. "You don't have to be. You're already Willow. It's just time to find out who Willow is instead of Willow-is-Xander's-best-friend. And you know what?" Oz tipped Willow's chin upward. "There's nothing wrong with that."
Oz gripped her hand a little more tightly again, "You and I -- and, of course, Elizabeth -- are kind of on a journey together now, you know? I'm figuring out what and maybe who the wolf is. And you're finding out who Willow is, like you knew when you were a kid. I guess it's time for us both to be kids again and do some exploring."
Oz gave her a small smile and Willow felt warmth envelop her. "That sounds great."
With that, they continued their walk, Willow unaware that Xander was standing behind a nearby tree, his eyes aglow with the spirit of the Hyena.
It was only moments later that Oz stopped them both, a growl coming to his lips as he registered an unwelcome presence. "Whoever you are, come out. We both know I know you're there. Stop being a coward."...These friends, they don't love you -- they're just like a hotel suite, now...
Xander stepped out from behind the tree, his eyes still glowing and a growl of his own deep in his throat.
Willow felt her eyes widen in shock and a scream building in her throat, but Oz stepped in front of her and growled back, this time loudly and deeply. If Willow could have seen his face, she'd've seen his eyes were black, the way they'd been when the Wild Hunt came to Sunnydale right before Angel lost his soul.
"The only cowards I see are the ones who know where Buffy is and won't tell us because we'd do something so simple as bring her back where she belongs," Xander growled, balling his hands into fists.
Xander's voice had a rough edge to it that Willow had only heard once before. Oh, my God.
"You lie -- " Willow forced herself to stop talking. Of course he had. Anything he didn't want them to know about him, he lied about. Willow remembered being a ghost on Halloween, so she supposed, now that Xander hadn't forgotten anything about being a soldier, either. How could she forget?
Oz turned back and whispered for Willow to stay where she was before walking forward, fully aware of Willow's fear and her discomfort with his eyes. He didn't hold it against her. The wolf scared the hell out of him, too.
"Xander, I suggest you get out of this annoying habit of eavesdropping on people. It's gotten you into a lot of trouble before."
Xander sneered, a laugh-like sound escaping despite his attempts to control it.
To his immense irritation, Oz actually smiled, "You know, Xander, hyenas don't make that noise when they're amused or happy in any way, despite what humans
like to think. You and I both know you're not at all happy right now. You're pretty damned scared, as a matter of fact."
"WHO THE HELL ARE YOU CALLING SCARED?" Xander screamed, launching himself at Oz and forcing himself to ignore Willow's scream. She wasn't screaming because she was afraid of him. She couldn't be. Not him, her Xander-shaped friend --
Oz reached up with both hands and boxed Xander's ears as hard as he could, leaving Xander whimpering as he lurched back. "I would have thought someone would've taught you about eavesdropping, but I suppose not. That part isn't your fault, but -- "
Oz growled again, swiping at Xander's face and drawing blood and leaving Xander growling as he stepped backward again. "Your choices had to start sometime. You don't lie because it's necessary. You lie because of your own twisted sense of self-preservation. You have that little trust and faith in the people who've stood by you through everything life's thrown at you. And how do you repay them?"
Oz leapt forward, knocking Xander back and punching him in the stomach. "By using them to complete an underhanded agenda and hurt one of the few defenses this town has because she won't go out on a date with you. And, what's worse? You don't care whether you were right or wrong."
Oz yanked Xander to his feet and punched him in the face, snarling as he watched Xander's soldier persona come forth. "Where were you when we needed you, soldier? Don't tell me you went AWOL?"
Xander spat out a glob of blood and wiped his mouth before scowling at Oz, "You've got a lot of talk for a munchkin of a pup who's probably not even housebroken yet."
Willow covered her mouth as hard as she could, forcing herself not to defend Oz. This was his fight, his and Xander's.
"Really, soldier, do you think you're serving your country, your hometown, letting petty one-sided rivalries get in the way of the fight?"
Oz scratched the side of Xander's face again, prompting Xander to reach for a gun that wasn't there.
"Yeah, that -- that wasn't smart," Oz chided, punching Xander as hard as he could in the head and knocking him out.
Exhaling sharply, Oz strongly considered leaving Xander lying there, but knew that'd make him just as bad.
Reaching down and hoisting Xander onto his shoulder, he turned back to Willow, hating the tears he could see streaming down her face by now.
Oz bit his lip, longing to reach out to her, but knowing his hands were raw and bleeding where they'd been scraped during the fight.
"I'm sorry, Willow. I'm so sorry. Look, I...I need to go put Xander in the cage until he's got control of himself again. I need to know if you're up to that. If not, we'll stop at your house first, no questions asked."
Willow shuddered, dithering at first, unable to choose, but then one simple fact reminded her why this had all just taken place and Willow wiped her eyes before whispering, knowing Oz would hear her, "I'd like to go with you -- to the library, please? I...we actually need to see if Giles is there first. If he is, I think I can distract him. While...while you take care of..."
Willow's voice broke and she merely nodded at Xander's unconscious form....They always bring up how you've changed...Never the same person when I go to sleep as when I wake up...
When Xander's eyes opened the next morning, Oz was sitting at the table in front of the bookcage, his face expressionless.
Xander stared around, instantly alert, but Willow was nowhere to be found. When he looked at the table again, Oz had already gotten up and was halfway to the door.
"So you're just going to leave me here!" he yelled as loudly as he could, his fingers clawing at the mesh of the cage. "You can't -- I'm not a monster!"
Oz paused and, without looking back, said, "You keep telling yourself that."
With that Xander's eyes widened as the library doors opened and closed and he sank to the floor, turning and huddling into himself as he fought the urge to cry.
Flinching at the sting coming from his face and hands, Xander stared at them, noting the scabbing forming over his knuckles before reaching up to touch his face and watching as his fingers came away red.
Within moments, memories assaulted him of the previous night, of fighting Oz because he and Willow were abandoning him. Willow was abandoning him.
-- Xander immediately felt a growl rise up in his throat at the very thought of the vampire and fought his hardest to shove it down but, in the end, was forced to let it out.
The sound reverberated around the cell, followed by Xander's stifled sobs.
***...I want to make you as lonely as me so you can get addicted to this, now...
Cordelia listened to Oz's, as usual, just this side of useless 'informational' call about where she could find her currently ex-boyfriend. That he believed
it was in their best interests to at least talk to one another.
Cordelia had considered ignoring him, but Oz had actually sounded...emotional, for once. It was weird, but Cordelia got the vibe that he -- and Willow, probably, they were pretty much conjoined nowadays -- really did feel it was important that she and Xander talk, not only for her sake, but for his.
Oz and Willow, she told herself, were the only reason she was setting foot back in this godforsaken library, where Oz had told her he'd left Xander.
Cordelia stopped in her tracks as she stared at the bookcage. He didn't say anything about Xander being locked up in here, or the left side of his face being a collection of bruises and scratches and the right having four long gouges down his cheek. Cordelia hurried over to the bookcage and stared in horror as Xander slowly, painfully sat up.
"So, I guess you came here to gloat, too, huh?" he asked morosely and right away Cordelia's horror evaporated into anger, "No, you jerk, I was coming to see what the hell happened to you! Oz, as usual, wasn't very specific, but he said you two got into a fight. Xander, what the hell would make you fight a werewolf? Are you looking
to get your ass handed to you?"
"They know where Buffy is, he and Willow," Xander snapped back, a faint growl coming back to his voice and Cordelia stepped back, her eyes wide and her face pale in anger.
talk to me about Buffy, Xander. I don't want to hear it. Her mother kicked her out and she went to find her real dad and on pain of death that better not reach Giles, or you'll have me, Willow, and Oz again
, up your ass."
Xander's heavily bruised mouth fell open, causing him to wince as one of the bruises split and more blood dripped down onto his shirt. "I can't believe you're on their side all of a sudden. You three -- "
"Shut up, Xander," Cordelia ground out and Xander's mouth snapped shut. He had a feeling she'd look for a particularly tender spot and punch him in it. "All Oz and Willow care about right now is Buffy's happiness and, ours, apparently. They wanted me to talk to you despite the fact that you and I have made a sport of ignoring and mocking each other since kindergarten.
"They want you and I to work things out like they did, if it's possible. But the first thing you're going to have to do is get over little Ms. Slays Her Ass Off And Just Had to Kill Her Boyfriend because, I guarantee, she's not going to accept sloppy seconds anymore than I'll accept being them
."...Said I don't care just what you think as long as it's about me...
Xander was frozen now, staring as Cordelia continued talking, a strange falling sensation in his chest that made him feel sick to his stomach. Cordelia was glaring at him now
"Buffy's not here anymore, dorkface, and it looks like she's not coming back and you're going to have to give me one good reason why I should stay with you if this is how you'll end up all the time. Oz had to stop you from -- whatever you were doing. Oz, who's two steps from being a Buddhist monk."
Cordy threw up her hands and then turned to glare at Xander as hard as she could, "Also, feel free to tack on 'hypocrite' in addition to 'dorkface'. Buffy's got Angel, Willow's got Oz. If I've got you, then there isn't a girl in our crazy-assed group that hasn't fallen for a supernatural guy. SO WHY ALL THE HIDING? I don't damned well appreciate it!"
"Okay, that's not fair!" Xander cried, banging the bars for emphasis, though he didn't mean to. "It's like the second Angel or Oz come around, you three are all over them -- pheromones or some crap and suddenly -- hey, it's two hot guys, all quiet and smoldering and -- "
"EXACTLY MY POINT, DUMBASS!"
Cordelia turned away to toss her purse and bookbag onto the nearest table, one she didn't know Oz had vacated however long before. She turned back to see Xander's genuinely confused face and took a breath to try and calm herself down.
"Have you ever stopped to think that the appeal isn't Angel, himself, but his powers? And his attitude? His personality -- same with Oz. Yeah, Angel's been dorky sometimes, but he never dwells on it
. He lets it go. Again, the same for Oz. It's actually three
hot guys, but you're so insecure that you don't notice how much -- "
Cordelia swiped angrily at the tears now trailing down her face and laughing softly at Xander's astonished face. "If you stopped obsessing over how cool you want to look, you'd've realized a long time ago -- before you ever got interested in me -- that Willow was totally jonesing for you, but no. You had your head up your ass just like you do now.
"Angel and Oz are more cool-tempered
than you, if you want to be specific. A million times more so. You, on the other hand, never let anything go
. Gee, can't imagine why Buffy would prefer a guy who actually looked at her before himself. And Angel does. Boy
, does he."
"Well -- well, what about when Buffy drowned while fighting the Master, huh?" Xander objected, turning away from Cordelia and folding his arms, not realizing how immature that particular posture made him look. Cordelia rolled her eyes, but ignored it in order to listen to what he was saying. "Angel was just sitting there, sulking
-- he didn't even try -- "
"What could he have done? What did you
do before you got there? It was a prophecy, you jerk. And imagine if you were Angel and -- and I was Buffy and you'd just heard it written down in stone that the person you loved more than anything in the world was going to die and there wasn't anything you could do about it?"
Xander turned around then, shock marring his face as he realized Cordy was crying. "Wouldn't you...wouldn't you be a little bit paralyzed with fear, too? Angel's not perfect, he never claimed to be. The last six months have told us just how much he's not -- but he still tried to help Buffy before he lost his soul. And when he had, he was still 'Buffy, this, Buffy that'. He may have been an evil psychopath, but there was only one thing in the world he wanted and damn
, did he go for her.
"God, Xander, if you turned truly evil tomorrow instead of just having this spirit
inside you, would you be saying that about any of us? When that thing first took over, I don't recall you giving a damn about Buffy or even Willow or any of your happy little family of freaks, here. You totally dropped them for your new pack
and just started picking off prey.
"Angelus -- hell, even Spike
had a plan. You just wanted to kill. And then you lied to us about it. You've lived with it all this time and never bothered to tell us -- does it talk to you like Buffy said Angelus talked to Angel? Do you ever give in to it like you did last night?"...I must confess, I'm in love with my own sins...
Xander couldn't breathe, his eyes were full of tears again. Angelus talked to Angel in his head? Why would Buffy tell Cordy that? They're not friends...
He whirled back around, gripping the bars desperately as he tried to say none of what Cordy was saying was true except for the part where he loved her. But he couldn't. And she kept talking.
Cordy perked up, then, her voice full of sarcasm, "Oh -- and hey! Angel's not here, either! Did you ever stop to think what you were doing to Buffy, who you claim is your other bestest friend in the whole world
"Yeah, Willow called me after she touched base with Buffy and got word that she was freaking alive. You took her heart and staked it, yourself. Well, you couldn't get Angel, yourself, I guess..."
Cordelia leaned right up close to the bars of the bookcage, where Xander was standing, tears streaming silently down his face, "Who's the bad guy now, Xander?"
Cordelia leaned backward, "Harm and the others keep asking me am I in or am I out? And you know, once I wouldn't have given you nerds the time of day. But then I found out there was more to all of you guys. Especially when Angel and Oz came along.
"And Buffy -- she was totally popular once, at her old school, which I'm sure you know." Cordelia leaned forward again, surprising Xander by giving in to the urge to wipe his face through the bars as best she could.
When she was finished, Cordelia stepped back again, "But she gave it up. And she got you guys in return. And sometimes I think she misses her old life, but mostly because she got to be just as ignorant as everybody around us. But -- and I repeat this -- then she met you guys and you didn't just climb back into the same old Sunnydale river of denial."
Cordelia let out a tiny breath of laughter, "You guys actually asked for rope to climb out. Or I thought all of you did. But you, Xander. You say you're not a monster? Well, Angel accepted that there was a demon in him and that that demon even loved Buffy enough to want to end the world. Who knows what Oz's wolf feels for Willow?"
Cordelia looked at Xander with a saddened, lonely face, "But it's pretty damned obvious your hyena doesn't feel a damned thing for me. And the soldier? Whatever else you've got crammed in there now -- none of it gives a damn about me.
"So why should I care enough about letting you out of that cage? Because you'd just be thankful to be free again or because you love me and can be near me again without barriers? Because it's pretty obvious that nearly dying isn't enough to make you remember that you care about me. Hell, you'll trick Willow into thinking she doesn't care about Oz. So, why? Why, Xander?"
He didn't answer, couldn't get his mind to pull words together to say she was wrong, and Cordelia sneered, "I didn't think you knew. You're all about what you want, Xander. Do me a favor and call me when you've grown the hell up."
With that, Cordelia turned around and stalked out of the library, like Oz, without another word....Someday, I will walk away and say 'you disappoint me'...
"He just -- he's GONE!" Cameron burst out for the second time in as many hours.
Foreman had taken to wearing earbuds and Chase was ensconced in one of the many books House had left in his possession. He was no longer surprised to find the tiny 'T.J.D.'
written in the corners, though he'd at first wondered what the 'J' stood for, he'd dropped it, figuring everything else that had happened to him in the previous day and a half more than made up for privacy for House.
Movers had personally come to his apartment and moved all of his things from not only it, but the storage his larger possessions had been forced into and placed them carefully around what was apparently his new apartment at his instruction.
He was still rather lightheaded about that, to be honest, let alone the Corvette that now belonged to him.
Only that morning, House had called him and told him not to screw up. He'd only figured out what that meant when he looked at the caller ID and realized the call had come from Gotham.
He'd lain in bed for nearly an hour, the shock drifting over him like a cloud, before he finally managed to stumble into the shower. When he'd gotten to Cuddy's office this morning, the Dean had merely taken a look at him and laughed at a joke he didn't get.
"House is quitting for now," she'd affirmed, gesturing grandly toward Chase, himself. "You're on probation, according to him. Try not to let Foreman -- just...make sure you check your car before getting into it."
"House gave me his -- his Corvette," Chase had corrected absently, a little dizzy just then.
He didn't remember when he started vomiting, only that he came back to awareness with Cuddy rubbing his back as he leaned over her private toilet, his empty stomach turning itself further inside out as she rubbed his back.
She'd given him water and crackers and told him to take it easy for his first day. She wouldn't give him any cases for a while, let him make the adjustment -- let Cameron and Foreman do the same.
"Just...just remember you're not a fellow anymore. You're an attending now and I expect you to behave like one."
They'd both laughed rather insanely at that very idea.
Once Chase had gotten his bearings again, he'd somehow managed to propel himself up to Hou -- his new office. Someone had emptied everything of House's out of it. They'd left a very polite, if mildly joking note saying for him to mark his territory before it was too late.
On the desk had been a lockbox with keys. He'd opened it to find...a life...waiting for him. He didn't vomit again, but it had been a pretty close thing.
He'd just managed to finish rinsing his mouth in the conference room sink when the others arrived. As predicted, Foreman was hacked off and Cameron looked like Chase had done his earlier vomiting on a new dress she'd bought. Oh, joy....I'm coming apart at the seams, pitching myself for leads in other people's dreams...
"DON'T YOU PEOPLE EVER SLEEP?" Elizabeth had yelled for the third time that morning alone.
Bruce humored her with a 'shy' smile, "Um, not when it's dark."
"How'd Dad go to school? That's still during the day, here, right? And Bart said something about him going to private school once. Day time!"
Tim cut in, snarking back, "How did you
go to school after patrolling all night?"
Buffy rolled her eyes, "Slayer stamina. Du -- " she forced herself not to complete that sentence, much to her father's wicked amusement. "Slayer stamina, you person-who-is-a-jerk."
Tim sighed dramatically, "And here I thought I'd escaped that label..."
Bruce snorted into his coffee and Tim shot him a filthy look.
Tim decided to ignore Bruce for now. Turning to Buffy, he asked in a mock-innocent tone, "Any calls to or from your friends in Hell on Earth?"
Buffy's eyes widened, "AGAIN! SLEEP? EVER?"
"I love not being the youngest anymore," Tim gloated, reaching over and kissing Elizabeth on top of her head again.
"Whose fault is that?" Elizabeth bit out and Tim snorted, "Mine. Mi-i-i-ine!"
Bruce sighed and glanced at Selina, who had slipped in at some point and was now smirking terribly smugly at him. He ignored that and simply said, "I don't know who to chastise here, or to even be irritated at."
Selina refused to humor him even a little and Bruce turned to Buffy and tried not to sigh, "Elizabeth, would you kindly not bait your father? He already has a serious problem with not knowing how to act his age. Please don't make it worse."
Tim gave Bruce a murderous glare, "Says the guy who says Superman and Superwoman are flying in
and The Flash, Jr., is taking a run over
to see me! Like you can talk!"
Bruce gave in to the urge to sigh and conceded Tim's point. "You're right about that. My -- I'm sorry. I took the subterfuge too far that day. Your friends were coming to the party, too, and that's all I should have said."
Tim froze, blinking. That was the second time Bruce had apologized to him. "You've really got to stop apologizing. I don't think my blood pressure could take it."
Elizabeth strongly resisted the urge to punch her father in the shoulder and merely said, "Hey! Slayer blood and healing, transferred right to you! Not to advertise myself as a snack or anything but why do you think vampires love it?
"It's not just yummy, they get this whole power boost from it that's better than sugar, magick...I may be about to quote a Red Hot Chili Peppers album title there, so I'll just say vampires want Slayer blood because it boosts their healing abilities, too.
"It's why Spike and Dru wanted to capture me so bad. So Dru could feed off me and then she could finally heal properly. Or whatever. Too bad for them."
Elizabeth sighed when she realized that now everyone was staring at her.
Tim scowled, "You realize that you are never leaving this house again, correct?"
Elizabeth resisted yet another urge, this time to roll her eyes, "Try and stop me. You may have some of my blood, but compared to me you're basically a Potential. I could kick your butt up and down that Cave and then have time for a quick scaling of Mount Everest."
"There's a vampire right down there who wanted you -- "
"NO, ANGEL DIDN'T!" Elizabeth jumped up, stomping over to where her father sat and poking him in the chest again, this time ignoring his subsequent flinch.
"Not even Angelus did! He was nuttier than a Baby Ruth bar from having a soul for so long, yeah, but the record played the same: he loved me. I'm not defending any vampire's actions except Angel's and that's only because of his soul. When his soul is there, he's basically the same guy he was when he was human, only a hell of a lot more mature."
Elizabeth took a breath and thought for a moment, "You know what, actually, I'm going to defend his line, kind of -- except for Darla and the Master -- the first one, not Angel. Spike and Dru may have been evil, but the Judge wanted to kill them at first, just like he wanted to kill Angel. Because they love one another. That was too much humanity for Big Blue to take -- er, the other, evil Big Blue.
"Anyway, I think...I think love is the one thing that sets Angel's line apart from every other vampire that's ever been sired. Because none of the others can. Now I get your worry, believe me, I do, but Angel's back now. Willow put his soul back and -- and from where we currently stand, I'm guessing it's never going anywhere again since, hey, we might be married but it's not like we can be together that way ever again. So, either way, you guys get what you want!"
Elizabeth turned to run up to her room, but Tim gently gripped her shoulder and then ducked around her to stand in her way. He saw the tears on her face again and hated himself for sticking the knife back in her gut like the asshole he was now so used to being.
"We don't want -- I don't want that and I'm sorry I said that. It's a little hard to get used to the idea that your daughter's supposed to just put her life on the line for people who don't even thank her, and yes, I realize that's hypocritical."
Tim exhaled. "We got off-track. I was merely trying to point out that your blood has done what no amount of therapy, drugs, or anything else I've tried could accomplish. I may not be whole, per se, but I'm not in pain and I have one hell of a daughter to thank for that.
"As for that other stuff..." Tim sighed, "It's time for you to stop feeling guilty over circumstances you had no control over. Yeah, you loved -- love Angel. You did what a lot of teenagers are out there doing. I don't like it, but that's because I'm your dad. That's my job. If I did, there'd be something wrong with me. I guess I should be thankful you trust us enough to be this open and honest. You haven't been given much reason to."
Buffy sniffled, sagging and Tim wrapped his arms around her again, kissing the top of her head yet again and Elizabeth found herself chuckling against her will. "But like Bruce said when you got here. This is your home as much as it's mine."
Tim fought to hide the infinitely bothered expression on his face. "You've already been through hell. We'll be damned if we're going to add to that. You say there are vampires that can love, then who the hell am I not to believe you? You say Angel down there loves you even when he doesn't have a soul -- who the hell am I not to believe you?
"I already know love makes anybody to really crazy things. Everyone in this room knows that. You know the difference between the good Angel and the psycho, snacking-on-people Angel, so we're just going to have to trust you. Not that hard since you're putting so much trust in us. I...I just want to make sure this husband
of yours, once he's sane and crap again, takes the care of you that you deserve."
Tim didn't bother to hide his glare this time as he said, "If he doesn't, vampire or not, I'll kick his ass. Simple."...Singing vows before we exchange smoke rings...
"We're not up on this whole Slayer and vampire lore thing, so if you'd kindly fill us in, that'd be great. Obviously, we're missing something in this lovely corrupt home of ours. Or maybe not. Maybe we've just never noticed them."
Elizabeth shrugged, "Worked for the vast majority of Sunnydale..." She took a deep breath and let her dad direct her back to her seat, where she picked at the waffles Bernard had re-heated for her. "This is going to take some time."
"We've got nothing but," Bruce said, favoring her with a gentle smile.
"Yeah, I guess so. But can you guys do me a favor and stop listening in on my phone calls? And if I need to go slay, then I need to go slay. If I'm going to trust you, then you're going to have to trust me. I may not be wearing spandex, but if I'm a part of it and don't plan on leaving anyone who wants me around unless I'm forced to.
"As it is, since Barbara and Cass gave me a computer that I'm pretty sure Willow would sell her soul for, I'm hoping I can have the privilege of emailing her and Oz without you guys thinking...whatever you guys are thinking.
"Right now, we're just trying to find a way to get Angel okay again. Oz gave me some tips on keeping him occupied for now. He's starting to remember what happens when he transforms.
"Before you ask, I explained some stuff and he did say it was cool to tell you, he's a werewolf. Yeah, the full moon kind. He said it was important to get Angel back in the here and now and you guys have resources he and Willow don't right now.
"Willow's Jewish, but she's dabbling in witchcraft because it was really important and she was the only one who could figure out how to re-ensoul Angel and not make vengeance a part of the package. Nobody else had the knowledge or, if they did, they weren't interested.
"Right now, as far as Sunnydale goes, it seems to be me, Willow, and Oz -- possibly Cordy, as weird as it is to say that. If you guys want to meet them, I guess that since Bruce bought the mansion Angel lived in with the statue in it, you guys can go. I..." Elizabeth sighed.
"We talked about it and they -- Willow and Oz -- both said they'd be cool with coming here, especially if WayneTech is still looking to make them interns or whatever. They understand I don't want to go back there. Oz can tell his aunt and uncle it's a summer thing and Willow...I guess she can say the same thing."
Buffy shrugged, refusing to go into Willow's home situation any more than Xander's. Elizabeth popped the last bite of waffle in her mouth and watched her dad, who was staring at her in slight awe. "You're Jewish."
Elizabeth scowled, "I am so close to impaling you with this fork. DID YOU HEAR ANYTHING ELSE I SAID?"
"Of course I did," Tim pointedly didn't yell back or
rolling his eyes. See, personal growth. "I just never knew your mom was Jewish."
"We didn't practice. Plus she's kind of absentminded. She never said a thing about all the crosses I have everywhere. I kind of found that weird, but if Mom has this family here she doesn't speak to, then I guess it makes some sense. My stepfather didn't have a religion, as far as I know, but we did have a Christmas tree and stuff. But one of the fun things Will introduced me to was Chinese food and movies on Christmas. Total fun."
"You've never been to shul
," Tim said quietly, after listening to this bit of babbling that he was slowly getting used to and tilting his head a bit in awe.
"To what?" Elizabeth turned to him with a completely confused expression on her face.
Tim had to restrain himself from rolling his eyes. "I met your mother when she was leaving synagogue
one night and she was attacked -- I'm not sure what family her father was affiliated with, but I'm guessing it had some bad memories for her. Not that I can't totally understand, but she still should have told you at least something. There's denial and then there's denial."
"You're one to talk," Dick defended, his eyebrow raised in query. "And, anyway, what do you care? You gave up religion as a whole decades ago, along with Robin."
Tim frowned darkly, "Robin will always be a part of me, who I am -- you know that. Secondly, I am not my daughter and she is not me. She is not her mother. She wasn't even given a choice."
"What religion were you?" Elizabeth asked, now really interested.
Tim sighed heavily, "Christian, but nothing in particular. Still, Christian. The point is that your mother -- did Joyce tell you anything?"
"Well, yeah," Elizabeth acceded, not understanding any more than Dick why her father was so bothered. "She said her family had been religious once, but we didn't really go into it."
Elizabeth shrugged. "If it makes you happy, I asked Willow what the Hebrew form of my name was and she told me. You've been calling me 'Lisbet', are you going to call me Elišéva
"I was actually going to let you choose. That's not..." Tim sighed, "I'm not really sure what the point is. I guess it's that she was dishonest with you. I have a really big problem with that."
Elizabeth's eyes widened satirically, "I'd noticed
Tim forced himself to spare her a glare. "Don't do that," he said quietly and Elizabeth blinked before backpedaling, realizing she'd touched a nerve. "Sorry."
Tim glanced up at the ceiling and then exhaled, "It's okay. My baggage isn't your fault."
"What did you mean 'family'?" Elizabeth asked asked suddenly and Tim sighed.
"I'm pretty sure her father -- uh, your biological grandfather was a soldier for the Marconi family. I'm also sure you'll hear plenty about them while you're here. Mobsters pretty much run all the major businesses in town. Even the banks, though some of them actually have something approaching scruples, from what I've heard. One of my favorite stories was from when the Joker first established his foothold.
"Guy got out a rifle and started shooting and talking about honor. A mobster talking about honor..."
Buffy snorted, "Sounds like the Master talking -- um, Angel's Grandsire talking about the same thing. Though I'm guessing this guy wasn't so bad?"
Tim shrugged, "I have no idea. The Joker shot his kneecaps out and then poisoned him with an overdose of laughing gas. I'm pretty sure he went insane and probably starved or something."
Elizabeth's eyes widened and all she could do was blink. "You say that like this is so normal
Tim frowned, "Says the girl who's had more death threats against her than the last three Presidents of the United States combined. I don't want to hear it."
Elizabeth spared her father her own eyeroll and then gestured to where she knew the Bat Cave lay in wait, "And let's not forget you were just shot the day before yesterday! Say, that wouldn't have anything to do with any of these Marconi people you've been talking about, would it?"
Tim blinked, "That...actually hadn't occurred to me. Wow, I'm an -- " He cut himself off at everyone's looks.
Elizabeth started talking again after leaving off her own irritated expression, "So, all this talk has been fun but do we want to get the friends I do have left here or leave them in Sunnyhell?"
Bruce finally spoke up for the first time in what felt to him like hours. "We should speak to them first. And their parents and relatives, if at all possible."
Elizabeth felt her stomach sinking. Oh, goody....I know you've heard this all before, but we're just hell's neighbors...