The morning had passed quickly and lunch was announced through the loud rumblings of Vin’s stomach.
“Abby, can I take you out to lunch?” Vin called out to the girl who had sat quietly reading while they had been working.
“Hey, what about me? I’ve been slaving away on your chair all morning,” Xander complained.
“If you insist. I was just planning on making it me and the pretty lady, but I suppose I can put up with your ugly mug too.” At Xander’s mock gasp Vin cracked up.
Xander turned indignantly to Abby, who was watching their antics with a smile. “Are you just going to sit there and let this Neanderthal insult me?”
“I thought a knight was supposed to protect a lady’s honour, not the other way ‘round,” Vin said with a chuckle.
“He knows?” Abby’s startled exclamation caused the jovial atmosphere to fade.
“Yeah, Vin knows about my stupid nickname. Seems to have followed me from Sunnyhell. He doesn’t, however, need to know more. Nor any of the others, ‘kay?” Xander replied.
“But you protected Buffy from... the bad man when she was sick. Why wouldn’t you want them to know that?” Abby asked innocently.
“Who told you that?” Xander was surprised that a newbie slayer knew the true origins of the name.
“Willow makes sure everyone knows what you did for them all. And all without…,” Abby paused and threw a glance at Vin, “...training.”
“Right, training. Oh, god, what else are they saying about me?” Xander looked a little panicked, uncomfortable with the knowledge that they were telling stories about his actions in Sunnydale.
“It’s all good. We know that you were the heart. Willow calls you the glue,” Abby replied with a smile.
“’The glue,’” Xander parroted weakly.
“Andrew does a training session with the new girls about the merits of retreat. He’s named a manoeuvre after you.” Abby smiled brightly.
Xander groaned, before shooting a glare at Vin as he snorted.
“I’ll take your silence on this as payment for my services this morning,” Xander offered to the sharpshooter in a vain hope for some damage control.
Shaking his head, Vin turned to Abby. “Come on, let’s go get some lunch, and you can tell me more about these training sessions.”
Abby shot a guilty look at Xander but followed the man with the smiling blue eyes. “I am
Xander sighed. This was the brightest he’d seen the girl since her arrival the previous evening; he couldn’t bring himself to shut the line of conversation down. At least if he was there to hear it he had a chance to implement a bit of damage control along the way.
Lunch had been enjoyable and filled with idle conversation. Xander had been grateful to his normally quiet friend for making Abby feel welcome. He’d seen the slayer visibly relax over the course of the meal.
They’d accompanied Vin back to his office and were going to take a leisurely trip back to Xander’s apartment to allow Abby to see some of the city.
“Thanks, Abby, it’s been a mighty fine morning.” Vin held out a card. “If you need anything and can’t get in touch with Xan, you call me or come here. Ask for Team 7 at the front desk and one of us will be down. Friend of Xander’s is a friend of ours.”
Abby reached for the card after a quick glance at Xander. “Thank you, Vin.”
“Thanks, Vin.” Xander gave his friend’s arm a firm grip. Vin gave them a final nod before heading into the building.
“He’s right, you know. They’re good people, and while they don’t know about the things that go bump in the night, don’t hesitate to go to them if you need help. Alright?” Xander was glad that there was already someone else in Denver Abby could turn to if anything happened to him.
“OK, Xander. He was very nice. I hope I didn’t say anything I shouldn’t,” Abby apologised.
“It was fine. I’m going to get teased mercilessly about a number of things, but it’s all fine. We had fun, didn’t we?” Xander looked across at her.
“Then it’s all good. Come on, I have been trained well by your sister slayers: I’ll show you where the best mall is.” Xander gave a put-upon grimace, which melted at the light laughter from the girl beside him.
They had worked together to prepare a meal for supper before Xander set up in the living area with his laptop to work on his dreaded accounts, leaving Abby to watch TV. Xander was pulled from what he was doing when Abby turned off the set.
“Xander, why haven’t you asked me what happened?” Abby asked quietly. Xander looked at her thoughtfully before closing up what he’d been working on and moving over to sit on the coffee table opposite the nervous-looking girl.
“Abby, the only reason you’re here, in my home, is because you need some time and space to come to terms with what happened. Back in Cleveland you were surrounded with people who you can’t help but look up to. Naturally, you expect them to judge you, and I suspect that has led you to judging yourself even more harshly than you might realise.
“As far as I’m concerned you are just a girl who had something terrible happen to her. It’s not easy doing what you do, and most importantly,” Xander reached out and placed a hand upon her arm, “You. Are. Human. We make mistakes. It’s inevitable. All that matters is how we deal with them.” Xander sat back again, giving her space.
“If all you need from me is a place to stay – you’ve got it. If you need to talk, I’ve been told I’m a good listener. If you’d prefer, we could find a professional for you to see.” Ignoring the look of uncertainty on her face he continued. “I also have a friend who has experienced something similar. If you’d like I could ask him if he’d be willing to talk to you, and then it would be up to you to decide if you want to talk to him. I guess you’ve already talked with Faith, but maybe talking to others who can understand what you’re feeling and going through would help.
“I know that I’ve just given you a lot to think about but it’s important that you know that you have options, Abby. I’m going to be guided by you in this.” Xander stood.
“In the end the only person who can get you through this is you.” He gave her shoulder a squeeze, then headed into the kitchen to check on dinner.
Supper was a quiet affair. Once everything had been cleaned up, Abby headed for her room, pausing in the doorway.
“Xander, your friend, the one who… could you talk to them, please?” Abby looked anywhere but at Xander, missing the warm smile at her question.
“No problem, Abs. Good night.” Xander felt one of the bands of worry wrapped around his heart loosen. At least she was considering help. Picking up the phone he moved into the living room.
“Hey, JD. I was wondering if you were free for lunch tomorrow.”