Alone in a crowd.
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.
Feedback is a wonderful thing; it feeds the soul.
Xander sat quietly, watching the crowds of people flow by. Most were simply part of the faceless masses that passed through the airport daily, but here and there his eyes picked out a face or figure of interest. Here, a mother with four children in tow walked past, pushing a baggage cart, her face a study in harried patience. There, a young African woman in traditional dress.
He glanced down at the polished wooden bar-top as his thoughts wandered between his surroundings and the events of the previous week.
Sunnydale was gone, reduced to one freaking huge crater, and the gang was headed for Cleveland. In fact they were probably already there.
Due to the stab wound Robin hadn’t been able to continue on with everyone, and so they’d taken him to a hospital. The doctors had said that he would have to stay for a least a week. Neither Buffy or Giles had been willing to leave the new Hellmouth unguarded for that long, so Xander had volunteered to stay.
Robin was up and around, if a little gimpy, and Xander had seen him to his flight just an hour before. Now he just had to wait for his own.
It was just his luck: he could get a friend a ticket, business class no less, on a mid-morning flight, but his kept getting bumped until he was flying coach three hours later.
Someone settled down on the stool next to him and a female voice told the bartender, “Scotch with ice.”
His chest suddenly felt tight; Scotch had been Anya’s favourite. Giles had introduced her to it, one evening after a triumph over the week’s latest big bad. He stared down into his drink, oblivious to the world. His thumb rubbed gently at the engagement ring he had never taken off.
Minutes must have passed before the woman’s voice penetrated the haze of memory.
“How long has it been?”
He looked up at her, “What?”
He examined her for a moment: straight brown hair that fell just past her shoulders, brown eyes, a high delicate bone structure, and a smattering of freckles on her nose and cheeks. Probably in her late twenties.
Her face was a study of sympathy as she said, softly, “Your fiancé. How long has it been since she died?”
She must have seen both his stiffening and the question forming because she immediately continued, “It’s in your face. And you’re wearing the ring of course.”
Oh. Yeah. Come to think of it he probably didn’t look too hot. With the whole not sleeping well and all.
He looked down at his drink again. “About a week.”
Out of the corner of his single eye he could see her give a little nod. “I don’t mean to pry, it’s just,” there was a little shrug. “I still get the same expression on my face sometimes, and it’s nice to have a sympathetic ear.”
Almost unwillingly his gaze rose back up to meet her eyes. Sympathy, was in them and sadness, and perhaps most devastating, understanding.
Her eyes met his one, frankly, without flinching. Her eyes didn’t, not even once, twitch to his eye-patch. That was something he’d noticed with the gang. They kept looking at it and then away.
His vision began to blur and he, blinking furiously, looked away out into the faceless crowd.
She was silent, and he was grateful.
He cleared his throat and said, “You too, huh?”
“Yeah. My fiancé, was killed, about four years ago.”
Killed. Not died. Killed, like Anya.
She was gazing out into the crowd just like him. “It gets better, you know.”
“Really?” His tone said clearly that he wasn’t sure about that.
“Really,” she said. There was certainty in her voice. “There are good days, where life seems normal, and bad days, where all you want is to curl up and cry your heart out. But the pain does begin to fade.”
“I just…” he trailed off, and then tried again. “She didn’t have to die. She never would have been there if it weren’t for me. I’m the one that got her involved in the first place.”
“She made choices too, didn’t she?”
“No, no buts. People have to make their own choices…”
He closed his mouth; that one wasn’t one he could argue with.
Her voice got soft. “…no matter how much we want to protect them.”
She fell silent again and they both looked out into the crowd, he, thinking about Anya, and she, apparently with ghosts of her own.
Surprisingly the silence wasn’t awkward. It was the silence of understanding and of a shared pain.
It was odd. This perfect stranger seemed to empathize more than his best friends. Oh, they had expressed their sadness and condolences and said they worried about him, but none had really offered to talk to him. They should understand; after all Willow had lost Tara and Giles had lost Jenny, but there was some barrier there, something that neither had tried to overcome to reach out to him. It hurt.
A pair of soldiers made their way along the hall outside the bar. Xander watched as the crowd just seemed to unconsciously part around them. He’d seen the same thing with Vamps in the Bronze. The people would unconsciously register the presence of a predator and move out of the way.
Over the last few years, ever since nine-eleven, the military had become a familiar sight in airports. Xander was about to look away when something else caught his attention. One man’s uniform was wrong. He looked closer. It didn’t fit, not quite.
In fact there was something odd about both of them. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but the more he looked the more he knew that these two were not what they appeared.
His heart sped up. Okay, the best idea would probably be to go find Airport security. He took his eye from the two of them to find that his companion was staring at them intently as well.
On a sudden inexplicable impulse he asked, “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”
Her eyes swung to his, but he noticed that she kept the two men in her peripheral vision. She said, “They’re not military.”
“That was my take. The question is who are they and what are they doing? Impersonating military personnel and carrying weapons on the wrong side of airport security checkpoints isn’t exactly an indicator of good intentions.”
“Possibly terrorist, possibly something else entirely,” she said.
He kept his head turned in her direction, letting her do the observing. “Shouldn’t we be going for airport security?”
She stiffened a little just prior to his question, and after it, said, “I don’t think there’s going to be time.”
Xander risked a casual glance in the two men’s direction. They had split, each moving to one side of the entrance to the restaurant across the way. He said, “They’re setting something up.”
Xander looked her in the face again. She wasn’t behaving like a normal bystander would. No, she was behaving like a professional. That meant experience, which, in this situation was more than he had. His next decision was reflex of choice, honed by the last seven years. He was simply incapable of stepping away from a situation like this.
“So, what’s the game plan?” He asked.
Her eyes focused sharply upon his face.
He could see the thoughts flickering behind her eyes, and he said, “By the way, my name is Xander Harris.
“Sydney Bristow,” she said.