Departures and Arrivals
A/N As always, I have no proprietary claim on either Criminal Minds or BTVS. Despite how this chapter feels, there is indeed more to come, so enjoy.
Departures and Arrivals
Buffy didn’t get much sleep that night, or the next night as well. Kevin’s final question kept buzzing around in her head, refusing to quiet, refusing to let her ignore it, refusing to allow Buffy to lie to or deceive herself. She did a lot of soul searching those twenty four hours, struggling to conclude exactly how she felt about Xander and whether or not she truly respected him. Buffy knew that there were times that she did, Graduation being the most obvious example but there were other times as well; like when the two of them snuck into the Initiative to rescue Oz. But Buffy also realized that there were times when she’d dismissed the young man’s abilities and suggestions out of hand because it did not seem that he could measure up to Angel, Riley or Spike. It had honestly not occurred to her just how much courage it took to be there every night without much more to go on than guts and a desire to help. In the end, Buffy concluded that she had rarely given Xander the respect that he was due. With that conclusion also came the knowledge that while there was nothing she could do about the past, it did not mean that she could not change her attitude. Buffy recalled that even before she encountered Kevin she had resolved to stop treating Xander like he was still in high school; now she was sure that it was one resolution she would be sure to keep. Once she had finally decided on a course of action, she left the sanctuary of her room and interacted once more with the other residents of Slayer House. Everyone immediately noted the change in her attitude but only Willow and Dawn felt comfortable enough to ask her what was going on. To both, Buffy replied that she had been doing a lot of thinking and had just needed time to process it all, she thanked them for their concern and took them both out for ice cream to celebrate her new non-hermit status.
Ever since she’d come out of her room, Buffy had been shooting surreptitious glances at Kevin, looking for some indication that he had heard from Xander. In a way it was fun for her to observe Kevin, to watch him ‘play’ Xander; to see where he was spot on and where he needed some work. The facial expressions were first rate, but the movie quotes and other pop culture references that Kevin used were a bit geeky for Xander. The big thing, though; was that it was clear from the way he moved and stood that Kevin still had both eyes. Many times it was subtle, but as Buffy continued to watch, the differences became more and more obvious. Buffy debated as to whether she should say anything to the guy or if she should hold it back as her personal tell. This thought let to a question that Buffy really wanted to ask, but at the same time, she was afraid to do so because of the answer. She wondered if this was the first time that Kevin had done this, been in their lives as Xander without anyone knowing. Buffy filed that question in her mental trash can and went back to watching Kevin play the role of a lifetime.
Every time that Buffy caught his eye, she would raise her brow in question, and every time she did so, the young man would simply shake his head. There were a couple of times they interacted, but they never found time to talk in depth due to prying ears. A couple of days after the end of Buffy’s self imposed exile, Kevin/Xander made a public comment about needing to run a couple of errands; while saying this, he caught Buffy’s eye and gave a little nod a grin, a grin that she answered. Xander was coming home and he was OK. Buffy asked if it was alright if she came with him on his errands, a couple of the mini slayers were surprised but both Willow and Dawn had knowing looks on their faces, like they’d just worked something out and in a way they had. But while they might have an inkling about what was going on, Buffy smiled to herself with the knowledge that they didn’t know the whole truth. As for Kevin, he looked surprised at her offer, but agreed readily enough.
There was silence in the car for the first five minutes, and while Buffy was not the greatest with either maps or directions, even she could see the signs along the road that were directing them to the airport. “So how did I do,” Kevin finally asked.
“Not too bad,” Buffy replied. “You need to make your movie quotes more goofy rather than geeky, but the big thing is the way you move.”
“Well, it’s hard to describe,” Buffy started, “but if you pay attention it’s clear that you still have both eyes.” Buffy continued quickly as Kevin looked confused, “Xander is always very careful of who and what is on his left side. You, on the other hand, are pretty indifferent to what’s on your left.”
“So what should I do,” Kevin asked.
“I don’t know,” Buffy said. “Xander’s had to become that way out of necessity and by now it’s so ingrained in him that he doesn’t even think about it. Unless you wear that thing,” she pointed at the eye patch that was now around Kevin’s neck, “constantly for a couple of months straight, you’ll never be able to duplicate how he moves.” Here she looked chagrined; “but I imagine that wearing that thing constantly would inspire a lot of questions that you wouldn’t feel like answering.”
“You’re not wrong there,” Kevin answered. “The Bureau is really twitchy when an agent starts doing strange things or things that he hasn’t done in the past. It’s a good way to get you a weekly psych eval.”
“And you’d be out in a second if you told the truth and said you’re practicing to impersonate your secret twin brother so he can go deal with demons, vampires and crazy witches.”
“Either out or locked up with an ‘all you can eat’ drug diet and a wrap around jacket.”
“Maybe, but don’t you think that somewhere in the FBI, the CIA and the Army are groups that actually know what’s really out there. Especially the FBI, I mean; they’re investigators right, I can’t believe that every crime they investigate is just human on human. So there would almost have to be some group on the inside that takes over those type of situations.”
“That; or anything monster related just goes into the unsolved file,” Kevin suggested.
“I find that one hard to swallow,” Buffy answered. “Because you guys are supposed to look for patterns and similar crimes and that kind of thing. With all the vampire deaths out there, some bright young investigator would have noticed and treated it like a serial killer case and stumbled onto what’s really going on.”
“That could be, and then he’d get eaten and the investigation would die there.”
Buffy shot Kevin an incredulous look, “are you telling me that if an FBI Agent dies or goes missing, that no one would look into it?”
“I suppose not,” Kevin replied distractedly. He’d never really considered the possibility that the Bureau knew about what was really out there but the more he considered what Buffy had suggested, the more possible it seemed. After several minutes of silence he turned to Buffy. “I’ll do a little discreet digging when I get back to work and let you know if I turn anything up. If nothing else, it might give you guys someone to work with in case you all have to operate outside of the shadows.”
“Thanks,” Buffy replied, “but don’t take too many risks doing that. I mean it would be good for us to know if there’s a group out there, but it’s not worth losing your job over.”
“I’ll be careful,” Kevin promised as they pulled into the curb in front of the airport. They got out and stood looking at each other on the sidewalk while the car idled, it was clear that both wanted to say something but for whatever reason, neither wanted to be the first to speak. Finally, as the silence drew out Buffy reached out and put her hands on Kevin’s shoulders. “I just wanted to thank you,” she said. “What you said to me hurt, but mostly because there was a lot of truth in it.” Buffy seemed to find the ground suddenly fascinating, “every now and again I need someone to smack me with the ‘Duh’ stick and I’m glad you did it.” She suddenly looked up into his eyes, “I promise I won’t forget what we talked about, and I swear I’ll do everything I can to make it right.”
Gently Kevin put his hands on her shoulders, “I believe you,” he said. Then he leaned forward gave her a soft kiss on the forehead, turned and entered the terminal. After Kevin had left, Buffy got a curious gleam in her eye and jumped into the car and careened off towards the short term parking lot. It was a successful trip in that nothing was damaged, although a couple of people swore off driving after watching the maniacally grinning blond weave between pedestrians. Buffy quickly found a spot and dashed into the terminal after Kevin.
Buffy had found Kevin easily and was now shadowing him at a distance, using her lack of altitude to blend into the shifting crowds so she could keep an eye on him without giving herself away. Partly, she was making sure that he was OK, but mostly she knew that the quickest way to find Xander was to follow Kevin. Buffy watched as he checked a board and headed for the Arrivals gate. After what seemed like forever, but was probably more like five minutes; Buffy watched as Kevin suddenly seemed to snap to attention and moved to where he could easily be seen. That was when Buffy saw Xander. As she watched her old friend move through the crowds, she wondered, eye patch aside, how anyone could ever mistake Xander and Kevin. Kevin moved well, but he seemed almost like a puppy, all energy and smiles; Xander moved like a predator, focusing on where he was going while still noticing everything that was going on around him. Buffy found it kind of amusing that people seemed to unconsciously move out of Xander’s way, it was like watching fish on a reef avoiding a shark. Buffy watched and grinned as the two brothers met each other. There was much back slapping, manly hugs and smiles. Buffy watched their conversation, noting the ebb and flow and somehow being able to follow it despite not being able to hear the words. She could tell exactly when Kevin asked Xander about what had happened because Xander seemed to slump in on himself even though his eye hardened. She saw Kevin talk earnestly, with a lot of gestures, but despite his passion, Buffy could tell that the words were just not getting through to Xander. Buffy watched, fascinated; as Xander finally answered Kevin. Buffy realized that Xander was putting on a front, the look in his eye never changed; and was kind of surprised that she could pick up on it and Kevin couldn’t. She watched as the conversation continued, then Kevin glanced at his watch, the two brothers hugged once more and then they went their separate ways.
Buffy melted even deeper into the crowd; she knew that following Xander without him knowing would be a lot harder than following Kevin. As carefully as she ever stalked a vampire, Buffy followed Xander through the airport. As he emerged from the terminal and was starting to signal for a cab, Buffy spoke from directly behind him in what she fancied was a ‘New York cabbie’ kind of voice. “Need a ride buddy?” It was pretty good if you didn’t mind that the ‘New Yorker’ sounded like he’d spent the last twenty years in LA and ‘his’ voice was a couple of octaves too high.
Xander whirled around, his hand reaching for something under his jacket when he realized who had called out to him. Buffy noted the attempted shift to nonchalance, but she could see the wheels turning in his head, could see him wondering why she was here now and what she knew. “Hey Buff, fancy meeting you here,” he said with a goofy grin, but the smile didn’t touch his eyes.
There were so many things that she wanted to say to him, so many things that she’d practiced in the last couple of days; apologies for past transgressions, vows to never repeat such offenses, discussions of issues they disagreed on, and much more. But somehow all of these things were caught in her throat and try as she might, nothing would come out. Finally she just darted forward and wrapped him in a hug, being sure to moderate her strength. As Buffy felt his arms tentatively encircle her, she murmured, “I’ve really missed you,” into his chest. Looking up, she watched as his eyes softened, the wariness on his face fading and being replaced with genuine affection. As his arms tightened around her, Buffy realized that for once, she’d said the perfect thing.