Conversations in the Light
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.
Xander tossed the spoon back on the tray, next to the small pile of gray stuff that the nurse swore was mashed potato.
No wonder people in hospitals lost weight.
He pushed the swiveling table aside, settled back into the bed, and once again wondered when Sydney would be getting here.
She'd stayed for a little while, last night, when he'd woken up. But Xander had seen the exhaustion in her face and had insisted she get some rest. She had left promising to be back the next day.
He'd already had visitors this morning. Two FBI agents wanting to ask him questions. After their interrogation they had stated "that he should not disclose the events, or his involvement therein", at the airport to anyone. And they said that someone would be giving him notice of what he was allowed to talk about. They'd actually had him sign a form to that effect.
Sydney's voice broke into his thoughts. "Hey."
He looked up to see her standing in the door. "Hey there. Feeling better?"
She gave him a smile saying, "Quite a bit. You?"
He made a show of thinking about it and then said, as if coming to a momentous conclusion, "Excellent, all things considered."
She made her way from the door to the chair next to the bed. As she sat she asked, "The ribs not giving you too much trouble?"
"Nah," he said. "You know, the usual: only when I breath, move, think." He followed her gaze to the IV that was slowly emptying into his veins. "Yeah, they took away the good stuff this morning and put me on this. I'm already missing the morphine. You think if I faked withdrawal they'd give me more?"
"Somehow I don't think so."
"Well darn it," he said. "Then what good are they."
She gave a little shrug, saying, "They may have taken away your drugs but at least they're feeding you. I had to cook my own breakfast."
"Food?" He gave her a look that clearly asked, what are you smoking? "This isn't food. I haven't quite nailed down what it is yet, but it's not edible. And from me...that's saying something."
She raised an eyebrow and said, "Yeah? Well, neither is this, but I'm still sneaking it in for you."
He had a moment of confusion as she reached into her bag to retrieve something. Then-
Xander shot a glance out the door toward the nurse's desk as he snatched the package from Sydney. "You beautiful. radiant, goddess of a woman. Can I marry you?"
Sydney chuckled as he tore into the packaging and then she said, "Not without flowers, and my dad would probably insist upon meeting you."
Getting the wrapper off he held the Twinkie up to the light before, with rapture, stuffing it into his mouth. He glanced back to Sydney. Her eyebrows climbed as she watched the Twinkie disappear.
"Ow dif wou nonw?"
She blinked, "What?"
"Oh. How did I know?"
He nodded, vigorously.
"When we were talking you told me that you friend, Willow, would keep a stash of Twinkies at her house for when you visited." She smiled. "It was a safe bet that you liked them."
He swallowed the last of the Twinkie and said, "Well, thank you. If I could get out of this bed, I'd kiss your feet."
"I don't think we need to go that far. You did save my life after all. I owe you a lot more than a Twinkie."
His good mood faded and he felt the smile on his face become fixed. He realized he'd begun to rub his hands. He stilled them even as she glanced down at the motion.
He changed the subject fast, not wanting her to comment.
"Friends don't owe friends anything, Sydney. And you're my friend, right?"
Her gaze moved from his hands to his eyes and he knew he wasn't fooling her for a second. But she didn't comment on his motions, she just looked back at him with a complicated welter of emotions on her face and said, in a soft voice, "Yeah, I am."
He looked down at his hands. The silence in the room stretched out for painful seconds.
"I did what you wanted."
He looked up at her and said, "What?"
"Sunnydale statistics. I looked them up."
He closed down, not giving anything away. "And?"
"The numbers were frightening," she held his gaze steadily. "On multiple levels. Twelve cemeteries, a death rate that surpasses any major American city, the number of missing persons is larger than the populations of some towns...and no one saying a word."
"Yup," he said. "That would be good old Sunnyhell."
How much could he tell her? She clearly wanted to know more but he didn't want to spend any time in a rubber room. So he said, “You really don't want to know what went on there, Sydney. Trust me, you really don't." He gave a little chuckle and continued. "Not that anyone who hadn't seen it would believe me."
She gazed at him, silent for a moment and then said, "You might be surprised at what I'd believe."
"Maybe," he said. "But I've told people before, and they pretty much freaked out. One of my friends spent time in a mental institution because she told people about it. No one would believe her."
She was silent again and he just held her gaze. There was no anger in her eyes, just concern, puzzlement, and worry.
"I won't try and force you to tell me. But I would like to hear, when you're ready. " She reached out and squeezed his hand.
He nodded, grateful that she wasn't going to push. He'd lost enough people to the weirdness that was Sunnydale. Losing friends to it's memory was not something he wanted to do. But at the same time he didn't want to leave her in the dark, he had to interject some type of warning.
"Sydney," he said. "Just listen to the next thing I say. Don't respond, just think about it."
Her eyebrows came together, but she nodded.
"You know all the stories of things that go bump in the night, all the creatures of legend? Some of them aren't as," he paused, searching for the right word. "Fictional as you might think."
He studied her face for some clue as to what she was thinking. She was confused, but taking him seriously. So he continued, "Two pieces of advice: one, read up on them, you never know if it will come in handy, and, two, don't go out at night alone. Only with friends." He shrugged. "You probably won't need it; most people go their whole life without coming in contact, but I'd rather you be safe than sorry. And I'm gonna shut up now because I already sound too much like a lunatic.”
He took a deep breath, taking the moment to cast about for a safer topic.
"I had two FBI agents in here today." He decided on. "Asking me all about what happened."
She nodded, taking the change in topic in stride, and said, "I know. I had to give a statement as well. Being employed by the government, of course, it was in triplicate."
He smirked, then said. "They said I couldn't talk about it and that someone would be by to give me the public story."
"Yes, that would be me."
He blinked. "You?"
"Yeah. I was given the story earlier and the people in charge seem to think our stories should match. Just in case."
"Hunh. The government making sense. Weird."
He saw her lip curve upward slightly at his comment and she said, "The official story is simple. You saw the two gunmen and tried to stop them from shooting someone."
"But that's true."
"Yes, up to that point. But here is where it differs: you don't know who the woman was who was also involved. You didn't get a good look at her and you have no idea where she went. As far as you know I wasn't involved in that. You meet me when you were chasing the gunman and saved me from being killed by the bomb."
He stared at her. The government didn't want it known that Sydney was involved. Why? As he looked searchingly at her all of the little inconsistencies and oddities he noticed gelled. He wasn't entirely sure what it all meant but he could see enough to ask, "You don't just work for the State Department do you?"
She looked unhappy as she said, "I can't say anything to that Xander."
She didn't say anything.
A spark of anger flared inside. "So, I'm supposed to lie about what happened. What about my friends? Do I lie to them too?"
Sydney actually flinched.
There was a miserable look in her eyes as she said, "Yes, I'm sorry. I understand. Oh, believe me, I understand. And I don't want for you to have to do that. It's an awful thing to have to live day to day with."
The tone of her voice and the look in her eyes instantly quenched any anger he felt. He felt a rush of sympathy and took hold of her hand.
Well, if Sydney had been able to do it he could at least try. It was the law after all. And it wasn't like he hadn't lied to the guys before.
She looked down at their clasped hands and said, "I've come to believe that, sometimes, lying to those you care about can be an act of love."