Xander stood at the window, still shaking with the after-effects of Chris’ visit. He’d managed to calm Abby enough that she'd fallen asleep in her room.
He was startled by a touch on his shoulder.
“Jesus!” Xander spun, throwing a punch, which Vin easily dodged. Seeing who it was he stood down.
“Easy, Pard. The door was unlocked." As they moved toward the kitchen, Vin’s attention turned toward Abby’s room. Xander gave a barely audible moan as he realised the soft sounds of crying had resumed.
“Nate told me some of what happened.” Vin gave Xander’s shoulder a squeeze.
“I’m going to fucking kill him,” Xander growled.
“I’ll hold him while you give him a whupping, but right now you need to go and let Abby know that it wasn’t about her.” Vin gave Xander a nudge toward the door.
“I know, I’m just...” Xander thumped the kitchen counter. “I’m not going to be much use until *I* can calm down a bit.” Xander suddenly grabbed a cup and threw it against the wall with an incoherent yell of rage.
The sound drew an armed and dangerous slayer out into the room. Abby stood down as she took in the scene.
“Sorry, Abs.” Xander gave her a sheepish grin. Xander took in her tear-stained face and sighed.
“Come here.” He opened his arms to offer a hug. Abby didn’t hesitate and quickly crossed the space between them. Xander gently guided them to take a seat on the couch.
“I’ll make some hot chocolate.” Vin slipped quietly into the kitchen at Xander’s nod of appreciation.
“I’m sorry.” Abby’s pain-filled whisper cut into Xander. Giving her a squeeze, he wiped his own face before gently lifting her chin to look her in the eye.
“Abby. You have nothing to be sorry for. That...” Xander sighed. “Me and Chris, well, we’ve been heading for this for a while now.
“He’s a good man but reacts badly to any perceived threat to his family or an innocent. And that’s what he really sees you as, Abby - an innocent.
“By necessity I’ve kept secrets from him, and that rubs him up the wrong way. On top of that, a couple of weeks ago that problem I helped Spike out with involved a bust where Ezra--Dad--got stabbed.” Xander drew in a deep breath at the remembrance of all the blood. “We could have lost him, and all Chris knows is I was involved. Riley Finn stepped in and it’s all been hushed up as a matter of national security. It’s one big mess and, unfortunately, you’ve got caught up in the middle of it.”
Abby had listened to him quietly, but her response was full of distress.
“But he was right, I am. Just because he doesn’t know all of it doesn’t change the fact that I’m a killer.” Her voice broke on the last word.
“Oh, Abs.” Xander pulled her into a rough hug. Hearing movement he looked up to see Vin’s pained expression from the doorway. Xander held his gaze, praying Vin would understand, knowing what he had to say wouldn’t wait.
“I know that’s what you feel like right now, and yes, you’ve killed, but you are not a killer. Honey, you were made for this – you didn’t ask for it but the burden landed on your shoulders and you stood tall. All you girls have done us so proud. We ask so much of you and you give it all. In some ways Chris is right: we did this to you, and that’s damn near unforgivable and for that I am truly sorry.”
“Xander.” Vin didn’t have all the answers but he could see that Chris’s words had torn deeply into both of the people sitting on the couch. “Here, Abby.” He handed the pair their drinks. Vin sat opposite them and waited until they were both looking at him.
“I need you to both listen to me. Larabee can be a cold bastard, and as Xander pointed out we don’t have all the information.” Vin halted Xander’s attempt to speak. “You don’t need to tell me anything. I know you, Xander; you’re a good man. You understand the necessity of duty. I have no doubt that whatever the two of you do, or did, it is important.”
Vin turned to Abby. “I grew up fast. Didn’t have what you’d call a conventional upbringing. Done some things I ain’t proud of, but I wasn’t left with many choices. I like to think I turned out all right; think my Mama’d be proud.
“I see that same kind of strength in you. I think you’re gonna turn out just fine, Abby.” With the last statement Vin rose. “You two drink up, then get some rest. I’ll call in tomorrow morning to let you know about where things stand with what happened at the mission. Josiah smoothed things over with the PD, so there’s nothing else for you two to worry about tonight.”
Vin left the weary, stunned pair on the couch.
“He really meant that, didn’t he?” Abby finally spoke up with a note of wonder in her voice.
“Yeah, he did.” Xander’s voice was tight. He was truly blessed with the friends he’d made over his twenty-odd years. “He had a point. I’m tired and achy. You?”
“Not so much with the achy. Maybe you’re getting old?” Abby answered with a small smile.
“Hey, just you wait ‘til tomorrow, missy. I’ll take ya - just give me sleep, steroids and a ten-man backup team.” Xander pulled himself to his feet. “You going to be OK?”
Abby shrugged. “Ask me again tomorrow.”
“Deal.” Xander watched as she headed off to her room.
Xander looked toward his bedroom before shaking it off. He cleared up the remains of the shattered cup before heading up to the rooftop where his pacing was less likely to disturb his charge.
A/N - I swear it won’t be as long a wait until the next instalment!
Thanks for reading & sticking with me. Also thank you for all the reviews. I really do appreciate them - they inspire, support and encourage more bunnies. J
Finally, I tend to have a story fully written before beginning posting, so what’s best - spaced out like this one was to reduced time in-between tales or more rapidly with longer breaks between stories?