It used to be that the mere mention of the word brought up a bit of bile in his throat at how badly things had gone at his graduation, taking out Mayor McSnake, blowing up the school (well, alright, that was actually one of the happier moments, but what kid didn’t like that thought?), and the list of the dead. Twenty three kids, fifteen parents, seven faculty, including Snyder, plus the Mayor…
Now? Well, it still occasionally brought up that same old bile in his throat but he didn’t have any booze around to try and wash it down.
‘A single malt. My kingdom for a nice single malt,’ he thought as the EMT pressed a wad of gauze to his head. Apparently he had taken a chunk of the school to the head, knocking him on his ass and cutting open a pretty good gash up near his hair line. Like all head wounds it bled like a stuck pig but, according to the EMT, it wouldn’t be too bad. Hell, he might not even have a rakish scar to talk about.
“Aside from the bells that’re ringing and the whole ‘gas leak’? Peachy with a side of keen,” he drawled as he saw Buffy, Willow, Oz, and Giles making their way over.
“You got lucky, kid. Another inch or so down and to the right and you’d have taken that rock in your forehead and it’d have probably killed you.”
“Given how hard my head is, I’d have given even money on the rock loosing.” Alright, maybe it was the concussion talking…
The EMT left and Xander laid back, keeping the gauze to his forehead. Damn it, now that everything was slowing down the wound was starting to hurt.
“Xander? Are you alright?”
“Head hurts. You?”
Buffy sat next to him and shrugged, laying back with him, “I’ve been better. Fire bad, tree pretty and all.”
He found himself chuckling, “Sometimes it takes a fire to burn away the detritus so that something new can grow.”
Everyone looked at him.
“It’s the concussion talking. Enjoy it while you can.”
Buffy looked around for a moment and then frowned, “So… now what?”
“I think we move on with our lives,” Oz opined with a shrug. “We survived, after all.”
Giles nodded and removed his glasses, polishing them with the hem of his shirt, “Yes, the battle was quite bracing.”
Oz shook his head, “No, I mean we survived high school.”
They all sat there for a moment and marveled at the simplicity of the statement. Yes, they had indeed survived, and he had survived again. Whoopee!
Slowly he sat up and his head swam a bit as he got to his feet. He waved off Buffy’s and Willow’s help, though. This wasn’t his first concussion and it wouldn’t be his last. He just had to get used to this again.
“Where are you going, Xander?”
“Home, Giles. I’m going to pop a few Tylenol, pull my shades and sleep for a few days.”
Willow gave him a startled look and shouted, “But you have a concussion! You can’t sleep!”
He winced, unable to stop a rather pathetic, “ow,” from escaping his lips. “Shhhh! Inside voice, Willow. Inside voice.”
Willow blushed and spoke softly, “Xander, you can’t go to sleep, not with a concussion.”
“Then I’ll read a book or something, Wills,” he said, trying to placate her. Granted, it hadn’t worked for sixty years, but it didn’t hurt to try. “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”
She nodded, “A… alright, Xander.”
With that and a jaunty wave, he started (slowly) walking away.
None of them realized that he wasn’t walking towards his house.
It would have been so easy to just pull the plug, as it were. All he had to do was to push the big green button on the ventilator and, poof, no more Faith. He’d seen Dawn do it to Buffy when the doctors had declared her brain dead after a traffic accident thirty years ago… thirty years ahead? There had been a few very weak jokes from Dawn about how Buffy was proving her wrong, how she had not been ‘brain dead’ all of those years by actually being brain dead now.
Nobody had laughed.
He’d offered to do the job himself, just as he always had, but she had refused. Buffy was her sister, Buffy had made some of the hard decisions before, and now it was her turn.
Xander shook his head. Temporal mechanics on top of memories sucked. Either way, it’d been such an easy thing to do and yet so difficult for Dawn and it had torn her up inside until the day she died. And now he had the chance to do it to Faith… and in doing so, he’d send another little girl’s life to hell when she got Called.
He was a bastard, a true son of a bitch of the first order, but he wasn’t going to do that. No, he’d be back here in a few months when Faith woke up. If there was any chance of helping her, he’d try. Granted, they had not exactly been friends before she betrayed them or after she came back to Sunnydale to help with he First, but if he got a second chance (and if Angel and Spike got multiple second chances), so did she. After all, until she woke up and went after Joyce (and maybe Dawn, he’d never been clear on that part), she hadn’t done anything too unforgivable. The worst had been shooting Angel with the poison arrow so far and, more than anything, Buffy had been mad about that. Xander? Well, he was just mad that he hadn’t thought of it first. It was funny how things like that could be overlooked…
Xander’s head throbbed and he sat down, weary, sore and more than a little cranky, but he couldn’t go to sleep, not yet. He had too much left to do before the night was done.
“Are you alright, young man?”
He looked up at the nurse that had entered the room and he nodded, “I’m fine. I was at the gas explosion and took a header.”
The woman nodded but didn’t leave, instead she reached into her pocket, pulled out a pen light and examined the wound. She then clucked her tongue and shook her head, putting the light away, “Why didn’t they stitch this up at the scene?”
“Probably because they had more pending wounds than some kid who didn’t know how to duck,” he joked.
The nurse sighed and took his hand, pulling him up, “Come with me, then. I’m going to put a few stitches into this and get you cleaned up.”
“I’m fine,” he said as he tried to resist her urgings. He _hated_ needles and stitches involved them.
Her grip was firm, though, as he was pulled out of Faith’s room and towards one of the examination rooms, “No, you’re not. Now sit down, young man.”
Xander sighed and sat. It was like a mixture of being ordered by a wife, by Joyce and by a Slayer all at the same time; you wanted to resist but your common sense knew better.
Twenty minutes, two shots of lidocaine, six stitches, some instructions on how to clean the wound surface carefully, some gauze and instructions to have the stitches taken out in two weeks, Xander walked back to Faith’s room and stood by her bedside. He had plans to go on his ‘road trip’, plans that were going to be put off by two weeks (not just for the stitches but also because he was going to get a REAL car this time, not the POS that Rory had pawned off on to him), but he could spare a few minutes for Faith.
With that few minutes up, though, he patted her on the hand and left. No rest for the wicked, after all.
AN: Probably should have put this in the first chapter but didn’t. Oh well. What do you think? Setting up a few things, putting a few others off… procrastination is the spice of Scooby life, just like Denial is not just a river in Egypt to them (of which there is question as to whom owns said river). Reviews, if you don’t mind.