The Willing Ear
A Chance Meeting
Disclaimer: I do not own either set of non-original characters and I do not make money off of this endeavor.
Time period: After Season seven of Buffy. And the other show, season 3.
The air of sadness that hung about him as he’d hunched over the bar had drawn her attention. The expression on his face as he’d stared into his drink, fiddling with the ring on his finger, had been familiar enough to put and ache in her chest.
It was an expression she’d seen in the mirror.
She stared at him, keeping the two faux-soldiers in the corner of her vision. God, she didn’t want to have to deal with this. She just wanted her dad to come meet her and take her home.
The two soldiers were getting ready to do something, so there wasn’t much time to act. The young man in front of her had just offered to help.
Could she justify getting a civilian involved in this? He didn’t act like one. There was something in his eye and voice that spoke of wounds to his spirit that weren’t consistent with him being just a random person off the street. Besides, he had picked up on the two almost as fast as she had.
She looked him in the eye, searching for any deception and asked, “Answer me honestly, Xander. Can you handle yourself in a fight?”
He gave her a nod.
She stared back at him for a long moment, measuring.
All right. She stood and tossed some cash to the bar top. He stood with her and she took his arm steering him to the bar entrance, speaking to him, her attention never leaving the two men.
“We’re just a couple strolling over to have a bite in the restaurant.” She smiled at him, slipping into character. “Relax.”
They exited and moved through the crowd at a diagonal to keep their motion from drawing the eye.
Sydney drew him to a vendors cart selling dried souvenirs about fifteen feet from the restaurant entrance. “Look, honey,” she said.
“Snow globes. Weiss loves to collect these things, one would make a great present. ” In a murmur barely over the noise of the crowd she asked, “Can you see who they’re focusing in on?”
She scanned the interior of the restaurant even as he bent, ostensibly to look at one of the globes. She didn’t see-
Wait, there. A man had just come out of the bathroom and both of the men had shifted their balance and weapons. Damn, waiting till they had a better shot at the two men wasn't an option.
She gave a laugh and leaned into him whispering into his ear, “I’ll take the one on the right, you take the left. Don’t let them use their guns. We can’t let them start firing in this crowd.”
She could feel the sudden tension in his arm. She smiled up at him while giving his arm a firm squeeze. They moved toward the doorway. They were going to pass in between the two men.
Ten feet. Five.
One of her hands went for the wrist holding the gun the other went for the man’s face.
He was fast. He managed to twist his head aside and turned her strike into a glancing blow. It still put him off balance and she twisted the gun from his grasp. She brought it to bear on him, but he kicked up and knocked it from her grasp.
She registered yells and screams from the crowd as they faced off. She got a good look at his face. He was middle-aged, brown haired, blue eyed, with a bit of a crook in his nose. He eyes went wide on seeing her.
Adrenaline kicked her in the stomach. Julia Thorne. The only time she’d used that name was during her missing two years. Which meant that here was a lead on what had happened to her. Suddenly this was much more than just her stumbling across a hit in a airport.
He recovered before she did and she blocked a strike to the head. As she launched her own combination a small part of her mind focused on how Xander was doing. She hadn’t heard any gunshots. That had to be good.
A fist glanced off of her ribs; she managed to deflect most of it, but it opened up a space between them.
The yell came from behind her. There was a sort of meaty “thunk”, and wet gurgle. She dove to the side twisting to look as she rolled and flipped back to her feet. The second gunman stood behind where she was a gun in his hands, pointed at where her back had been. Only one hand was on the gun, though. The other was at his neck where a combat knife, matching the empty sheath at his hip, was embedded. He scrabbled uselessly at it and bubbles of blood issued from his mouth. He dropped to his knees the gun falling to the floor.
Xander lay half prone on the ground about ten feet to the side. Blood was dripping from a split lip and his arm was extended in the follow through of the knife throw. His eye was wide and his face pale.
She took this in a split second and returned her attention to her opponent. The man stared at his compatriot as the other dropped the rest of the way to the ground and a death rattle issued from his chest.
From the corner of her eye she saw Xander get to his feet and move to the corpse. He kneeled beside it even as Sydney resumed her motion toward the other man.
Crook nose, as she labelled him in her mind, took a step back, looked between her and Xander and then ran.
She scooped up his gun and sprinted after him.
He dodged some people and shoved others aside, but she could see that his flight was anything but random; he seemed to be making for some place specific.
Thirty feet in front of her he kicked open a service door and disappeared through. A couple seconds behind him, she slammed it open again with her foot and spun to the side, expecting gunshots to issue from the doorway.
They didn’t come.
The door began to shut but she stopped it with her foot and looked around the door frame. An empty hallway stretched away into a sharp right turn twenty feet ahead. She padded through the doorway, holding the gun out supported by both hands. Reaching the turn she peeked around the corner.
A bullet whined past her head, blasting plaster out of the wall. She jerked back. He was down through the door at the end of the hall. She’d have-
The door behind her opened and she snapped around pointing the gun at the new arrival.
Xander stopped, eye wide, holding his hands carefully away from his sides.
Sydney put up the gun and turned her attention back to the hallway. She grabbed a second peek from a different spot before another bullet drove her back.
“He’s dug in the room at the end of the hallway,” she said.
Xander didn’t reply.
At his silence she turned to look fully at him. He was staring blankly at the far wall. His face was pale and he was absently rubbing his right hand. There was red on his fingers. Blood. Of the man he'd killed.
Oh, damn it.
He didn’t respond.
Silently cursing herself for getting him involved in this. She switched on the guns safety and tucked it into the waist of her jeans.
She stepped right in front of him, put her hands on either side of his face and forced him to look straight into her eyes.
“Xander. I know what you did makes you feel sick, but you can’t give into that right now. Box it up. Wrap it up and put it away. You can deal with it later. I need you here now.”
She kept eye contact. He took a deep breath and gave her a shaky nod.
She gave him a little nod and a tight, sad, smile. Then she turned back to the hall.