Eames is sharp, much sharper than a man wearing a bright pink shirt with a paisley tie has any right to be.
“Listen love,” he says, methodically going through Xander’s file back in his room, “we know that your boy has a hero complex, yeah? And we know that he looks up to you,” he considers her thoroughly, appraisingly, “so much so that he made you a real life superhero.”
They’re back in Xander’s room, off to the side- where the small, wooden table sits between two hospital grade chairs- stiff with metal backing and leather seats. Anne started, furious at Eames’s audacity when he pulled out the file but then she had realized what happened- who had really compiled all the information in Eames’s hands. She recognizes the neatness of the notes first, the thorough research, with point by point paragraphs- full of tiny details someone else would have considered insignificant, but never him.
She recognizes some of the pictures in the file, some taken candidly, most of them government issued ID pictures and monitoring shots of Xander on missions, on leave- but very few of the pictures are with Xander smiling, his full on happy grin. Cleaning his gun, sweaty from a workout, grinning with oatmeal in his teeth- it’s all Xander during his happier years, before…
She takes a deep breath before letting it out, ignoring the knowing look in Eames’s eyes. Let him look. Let him look all he wants. Anne knows how she screwed up. She’s had to live with it ever since.
Willow, she lets herself have a moment of remembering the younger girl, should never have come after them.
“So what do you suggest then?” she asks Eames, shifting position so that she’s sitting crosslegged now, the smoothness of her skirt that she had wrinkled earlier, when on the phone with Arthur.
She’s made it a point to differentiate from who she used to be, to who she had become
. She had never worn skirts in the past, preferring fatigues and wifebeaters in the past and ill fitting suits that dwarfed her small frame whenever she was requested to attend a meeting on Washington Hill.
“Every hero needs a love interest,” Eames offers slowly, slyly- sliding forward a sketch of Lord Byron- tall, with dark hair and piercing dark eyes, brooding silently into the vast unknown, “and we’re going to give you one that will shake up the very core
of Xander’s foundation.”
“What?” Anne frowns, not liking where this is going.
“We’re going to give Xander someone to hate, someone to fight-“ Eames says with relish, “someone, so absolutely broodingly heroic
that it’s going to be sure
to piss Xander off.”
“And then?” Anne asks, because Eames is smart, and cunning and a little bit crazy and she can’t help but feel like she’s warming up to him whenever they talk. Plus, Arthur’s regard
for the man certainly helps matters.
“And then,” Eames smiles winningly, “we help Xander bring you back from the dead.”
Eames is slow grace, and a smirk that hides the layers of the intellect within.
Anne doesn’t trust him, but Arthur does- and she’s long learned to believe in Arthur, who is intensely loyal as well as pretty terrifying. So when they go below, and Anne sees exactly what Eames has planned under the guise of this ‘brooding hero’ of his- it’s all she can do not to start laughing.
Xander’s subconscious knows her from the years of training exercises they’ve done within each other’s minds- but even Anne knows how careful she must be down in his mind. Still
though, it takes almost all of her decade of training not to start laughing when Eames first starts showing himself to Xander’s projections, first to Cordelia, then to Jesse and finally to Willow who breaks Anne’s heart all over again when she tells her to ‘go for it’.
Even down in Xander’s mind, with him hating Angel for all he’s worth- his projection of Willow is still the same, shy, wonderful girl that Anne got killed.
This time though, after rescuing Willow from Xander’s manifestation of what he figures a vampire to be- Anne wakes up resolute.
She had gone under weaker, weakened
but seeing Eames’s plan put into fruition, seeing just how good
the man is- she feels strong again, like she has a backup system in place. Like she won’t be let down, left alone and defenseless, left to answer for the mistakes that her younger, more confident, brasher self had made.
Eames smiles at her, watching Cordelia remove the IV with deft, quick fingers- “You alright there, love?”
“Yeah,” Anne stretches and thinks- Buffy
, “I’m really, really good.” She takes out the canula herself, watching a tiny droplet of her blood ooze onto her skin. ’It’s all about the blood,’
she thinks, remembering William’s deadened eyes before the last time they took him away from the cell.
“Is there a shooting range anywhere near here?” she addresses Cordelia directly, almost startling the other women if the way she flinches from where she’s checking on Xander’s vital signs is anything to go by.
“I feel like doing something relaxing,” Anne explains to Eames, whose quirked eyebrow is rapidly becoming one of his biggest tells that his curiosity has been piqued.
“Yeah,” Cordelia narrows her eyes, crossing her arms with the clipboard, “there’s the practice range down in the basement- but that’s bound to be booked up this late in advance.”
“That’s alright,” Anne shrugs, hopping off the reclining chairs they’d had set up specifically for the purpose of immersion, “I’ll get my way.”
Dreams are never real, except for when they are- and being Buffy, having that strength still playing in her veins, that perpetual buzz of a predator shifting beneath her skin- Anne feels good
She feels strong again.
“Would you care to join me?” she asks Eames.
He nods his head with enthusiasm, “of course darling,” and goes to pick up his hideous tweed jacket where he had dumped it on the back of a chair.
“I’ll see you tomorrow Cordelia,” Anne tells the other woman, even scrounging up a smile for her, something like glee bubbling over at Cordelia’s expression of disgruntled envy at Eames and her being able to relax so easily.
“Yeah whatever,” the scientist turns her back to them, already focused on her little world where the numbers are the only thing that matter and annoying blonde ex-soldiers of fortune don’t exist.
“Tell me Mister Eames,” Anne walks beside him, matching his steps easily as she glances up at his outfit again. Walking side by side, she’s afforded a truly thorough look at the ‘masterpiece’ that is his shirt and jacket combination, topped off with the alligator boots on his feet, “are you color blind or do you just have horrifying taste in clothing?”
She snickers at his look of outraged affront, quite confident that it’s a sight he’s playing up purely for her benefit.
“I’ll have you know that this is a very fashionable statement I’m making with my clothes,” Eames sniffs, “in Europe
. I wouldn’t expect an American heathen like yourself to understand.”
“Mmm,” Anne hums nonchalantly, “and this statement you’re making, is it one from the twenty first century? Cause from where I’m standing, it looks like you robbed one of those foofy guys with the powdered wigs and the velvet capris for a jacket and tie, and then dipped the whole thing into the most hideous colours you could find.”
Eames laughs at her, opening the door before her as they exit the elevator, a small corridor separating them from the muffled sounds of the practice range.
“It’s almost like being with dear Arthur,” Eames says to her as she gives him a mocking bow, before entering grandly.
“Mmm,” Anne agrees absentmindedly, “we both have excellent hair, and are likely to break both your kneecaps before you can do anything about it. You’re quite right about that.”
That night, when she calls Arthur for a recap- he sounds like he’s smiling with genuine delight at their byplay.
“Though my hair has always been better than yours,” he says haughtily and something like a small grenade goes off on his end.
“It’s because of the vat of grease you dump on it every morning,” Anne tells him gleefully, only to laugh out loud at the outraged, sputtering sounds that Arthur makes on the other line.
She hangs up before he can come up with a retort, fully aware that this is the first time she’s laughed out loud since accepting the assignment in Bolivia.
Figures that it’s Arthur that brings it out of her.