FOURTEEN: Xander, Buffy, Kennedy
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or worlds used in this story, including (but not limited to) Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Firefly, Supernatural, and Twilight. No harm is intended toward any of the copyright owners. This story is intended for entertainment purposes only.+++++PREVIOUSLY: Chris checked with his ex-wife, Vi, and found that she too was having the dreams. Then he and Buffy called Satsu to compare notes. Willow, meanwhile, talked to Dawn to see if she was affected, and then discussed the situation with Xander and Tara. I promise it wasn't as boring as it sounds.+++++
FOURTEEN: Xander, Buffy, Kennedy
“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” -Douglas H. Everett
Xander felt decidedly strange. For the first time in his life, he was sitting in a cubicle, pretending to work. In actuality, he was using Willow’s company’s super-fast internet connection to do as much research as possible before Willow introduced him to Buffy.
He’d only begun to scratch the surface when his phone buzzed. She’s in my office
, read the text message.
All right. This was it.
Xander stood up and adjusted his jacket -- he’d drawn the line at wearing a tie, but Willow had been adamant that he at least try to look like he belonged there -- and made sure he was wearing his spiffy guest badge. Then he went down the cubicle hallway to the office labeled “Willow Rosenberg, Chief Technology Officer” and tapped on the door.
Xander pushed the door open. A small, blond woman -- Buffy, it had to be -- turned in her chair to stare at him. “It’s you,” she said.
“Close the door, Xander,” Willow said. He did so. “And sit down.”
Xander took the chair beside Buffy’s. “How... I mean, you recognize me?”
“Well, you aren’t wearing the eyepatch,” Buffy said, “but yeah, I recognize you. I didn’t know your name until Willow told me I was meeting you.”
Xander nodded. “I know you, though. Pretty well. Apparently, in my dreams, we went to high school together.”
“I don’t remember that.”
“I only get flashes.” He looked over at Willow, then back at Buffy. “You’re taking this awfully calmly.”
“What can I do about it?” Buffy asked. “Going crazy wouldn’t help things, and letting it stress me out too much wouldn’t help either. Plus, my daughter would notice.”
Xander felt a cold fist close on his heart. “You... you have a kid?”
“Yeah. She’s five. Her name’s Joy--”
“--Joyce,” Xander said at the same time.
Now Buffy did stare at him, open-mouthed. It took a couple of seconds to compose herself. “You really did know me. In your dreams. Didn’t you.”
It wasn’t a question, but Xander answered it anyway. “I knew you, and your mom, and your sister. I knew Willow, Tara, and Kennedy.”
“Really,” Willow confirmed.
“And,” Xander added, “I knew your girlfriend, too.”+++++
Buffy felt the blood drain from her face. “Oh my God,” she whispered. “Satsu.”
Xander shot a glance at Willow. “How’d she know?”
“Satsu Ishikawa works in the building,” Willow said. “Buffy’s friends with her.”
“See?” Xander said, pushing to his feet and pacing around the large office. “See? Something crazy is going on here! How could I ever have known that a random woman working here would be on intimate terms with your personal assistant? How could any of this be more than a coincidence--”
“Xander!” Willow snapped.
Buffy watched Xander’s face, watched a smile spread across it. It made him look goofy, though still kind of handsome in a class-clown way. She chewed on that thought for a moment, wondered if she and Xander had ever gotten together in his dreams -- they certainly hadn’t in hers -- but decided in the end that all she really got from him was a ‘brother’ vibe. She wanted to be friends with him in much the same way that she wanted to know what Satsu’s lips tasted like.
And, somewhere on the edge of her perception, she could almost remember the flavor.
But she’d never know. She was with Chris now. Hell, last night they’d had sex and Buffy still blushed to think about how good it had been, how much more attentive a lover he was than her ex-husband had ever tried to be.
She shook her head and blushed, then looked down when she saw the expression on Willow’s face. “Sorry. Just thinking.”
“It’s okay,” Willow said. “Look, I’m going to put a meeting on the calendar for two today. You, me, Xander, Satsu, and Kennedy. We’re going to get to the bottom of this, one way or another.”
Buffy nodded and absent-mindedly wrote it in her notebook. “Two o’clock. Got it.” She felt Xander staring at her. “What?”
“Nothing,” he said. “Just... after the dreams, this isn’t really what I expected you to be like.”
“What were you expecting, exactly?”
“I don’t know.” Xander sat in one of the chairs at Willow’s little conference table. “I guess someone more ass-kick-y, y’know? Someone who wasn’t just a personal assistant.”
“Xander!” Willow said, and Buffy heard the recrimination in her voice.
“It’s okay,” Buffy told her. “I... I mean, he’s right. I like working for you, Willow, and this is a great job, but I’m not going to change the world here. Or save it.” She sighed. “But, Xander?”
“I’m okay with that.” She took out the new phone Willow had gotten for her and touched the button to turn the screen on. Joy’s kindergarten photo was set as her wallpaper. “I’m a mom, Xander. I have the best little girl, and to her, I’m the whole world. Every bandage I put on a scraped knee, every story I read her, every time she wakes up in the middle of the night and I hug her... I’m a superhero to her. I’m her whole world, and she’s mine.” She put the phone back in her pocket. “Maybe in our dreams I save the world, and maybe I even have someone to love... but I’ve never seen myself as a parent. Not in there.”
Xander shook his head. “Me neither. We know lots of parents -- in the dreams, I mean -- but none of us have kids. None of the core group, anyway.”
“That’s the feeling I get too,” Buffy agreed. “But here, in the real world, I have Joy. And even if I lose everything else, as long as I have her, I don’t care about anything else. That’s what being a mom is about, Xander.” Buffy looked over to Willow. “You have a 10:30,” she said. “Is there anything you need before then?”
Willow shook her head. Buffy gathered up her things and left the office. Why had she given such a long speech like that, and to someone that -- dreams notwithstanding -- she’d never even met?
She looked at the picture of the Summers women that she kept on her desk, right next to her monitor. Herself, Dawn, and Joy, all smiling, all happy. She reached out and touched Joy’s face. “Love you,” she whispered.
Buffy hadn’t been lying when she’d said all that stuff to Xander. Joy was the most important part of her life.
Though if he could help her stop the dreams, maybe she’d be willing to carve out a little place for him as well.+
Chris had been pretty miffed that he couldn’t be with Buffy for the meeting with Willow and the others, but Buffy had placated him as best she could by pulling him into the stairwell and kissing him. “Just be careful,” he’d said. “I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
She’d smiled. “I’m just going to be in Willow’s office. I think I’ll be safe.” Then she’d kissed him again.
Now, though, was the moment of truth. Buffy was sitting between Kennedy and Satsu, her notepad at the ready; neither Xander nor Willow were there yet. Kennedy, for her part, looked absolutely terrible; she was wearing barely any makeup, and her eyes looked bloodshot and haunted. She was drumming her fingers on the table, clearly nervous. “Are you all right?” Buffy asked.
“The dreams,” Kennedy said. Gone was the poised, confident young woman Buffy had known for the past several days; Kennedy now looked frightened, lost at sea, ready to swim for shore if only she could figure out the right direction to go. “The dreams,” she repeated. “They’re really bad.”
“I know how you feel,” Satsu said. The scent of her perfume made Buffy want to press her face to the bend of her friend’s neck, to get as close as possible to her, but no... no, that wouldn’t be okay. Not at all. “I just hope this Xander person can give us some answers.”
The office door opened and Xander and Willow stepped in. Willow locked the door behind them. “Okay,” she said, dropping a small stack of papers on the table. “Before we do anything else, I want everyone to read these. Feel free to make notes.”
“What are they?” Kennedy asked, snatching up a stapled packet.
“My last dream,” Xander said, sitting down at the table. “It’s the most vivid I’ve had. And it’s a bad one.”
Willow nodded her agreement. “Xander told us about it -- me and Tara,” she clarified. “It’s bad.” Buffy knew Willow well enough by now to hear the stress in her voice. “Tara... Tara... she d-d-dies... in the dream, I mean. She dies in the dream.”
“Oh, God,” Buffy said. “Willow, I’m sorry--”
“Save it,” Xander said. “Just read. We can talk when you’re done.”
Buffy didn’t like his tone, but she did as he asked.+
“I don’t believe it,” Kennedy said. “How the hell did you know about Faith?”
“Who’s Faith?” Buffy asked.
“Faith is a woman that I...” Kennedy swallowed hard and blushed. “I see her. From time to time. She’s actually in town now; she came down to visit me.”
“She’s a hooker,” Xander said.
Kennedy slumped in her chair and ran one hand over her face. “How..?”
“Internet.” Xander’s face was actually kind of apologetic. “I didn’t mean to spill the beans, but we’re all grown-ups here. You can sleep with whomever you want.”
“But why’d you look her up?” Kennedy asked.
“Because I wanted to know more about her, and I haven’t had time before now. I only know her from the dreams -- the dreams in which,” he added, “you and she are friends with benefits.”
“I don’t believe it,” Satsu said.
“Believe it,” Kennedy told her. “I’ve seen it in my own dreams, and--”
“No, not that.” Buffy saw that Satsu had tears in her eyes. “I knew, from the moment I saw you, that there was something about you.” She was staring at Buffy now. “I had this feeling that we were supposed to be together. And now -- at least, in the dream world -- we never will be. Except in death.”
“Yeah, about that,” Kennedy said, and Buffy watched her visibly reassemble her composure. “So we all save the world -- the three of us, plus Faith and Willow’s partner -- and then a bomb takes out our airplane?” She laughed harshly. “What a way for superheroes to go.”
“A bomb on an airplane would kill Batman too,” Xander pointed out. “Everyone except Tara had super-healing powers, but even you all could die if someone hurt you badly enough. And it was one hell of a bomb.”
“Right,” Satsu said. “So we all... we die... and then Willow goes into a deep depression and... and what?”
Xander sighed. “I wish I knew. I mean, I remember when Tara got shot -- this was about ten years before the bombing; the bullet was meant for someone else. In the dreams, Willow and Tara are both witches, and Willow -- dream-Willow -- told me that in that moment she wanted to suck up all the evil magic in the world and kill the shooter as painfully as possible. But Tara was okay; it just hit her shoulder.”
“What did I do?” Willow asked. “You never told me. And it’s not in here,” she said, tapping the papers in front of her.
“You and Tara went away for a couple of months to study with a coven in England. You both came back more powerful than before, and you, Willow, had learned control over your magic. But you never killed that guy. I think, if I remember right, he was trying to do a spell and it backfired on him.”
“Good,” Willow said, and Buffy was surprised by the vehemence in her voice. “He got what he deserved.”
“That’s all well and good,” Kennedy said, “but you were talking about us getting killed.”
“Yeah. Sorry.” Xander sipped from the cup of water he’d brought in with him. “Anyway, my dreams are pretty detailed, as you can see, up until the point where my dream-self realizes none of us can help Willow. After that... that’s it.”
“Well, I don’t remember anything,” Buffy said. “I was dead by that point.”
“I know,” Xander said. “I just don’t have the information. It’s like something is blocking me from remembering.”
“Your subconscious?” Satsu suggested. “Maybe your dream-self did something so horrible that it can’t cope. Maybe you helped Willow kill herself.”
“I would never--” Xander protested.
Willow laid her hand on his arm. “I know you wouldn’t. But Satsu’s just throwing an idea out there. Right?” Satsu nodded. “See? Just an idea.”
“Well, it was a stupid idea,” Xander said.
Satsu shrugged. “I’m sorry. But, like you said, we just don’t know.”
“How can we find out?” Buffy asked. “It’s not like Willow can do a magic spell that unlocks your memories.” She looked at her boss. “Can you?”
“I don’t think so. I don’t even have a magic wand, and the only herbs I like are in my tea or my dinner.”
“Fair enough,” Buffy said. “But I may know someone who can help.”+++++
“Who?” Kennedy asked. It was as if Buffy was standing on an approaching boat, about to throw a life-preserver to her as she fought the undertow. “Who is it?”
“My therapist,” the blond woman said. “He has a certification in hypnotherapy.”
“I’ve never much believed in that,” Willow said. “It seems too much like...” She smiled. “Well, like magic.”
“Exactly,” Buffy said. “I can call him, see if we can get an appointment for Xander. Maybe if I tell him it’s an emergency, he’ll squeeze us in.”
“What do you say, Xander?” Willow still had her hand on his arm. “You willing to try?”
“It creeps me out,” he said -- and it was weird as all hell to see him in person without the eyepatch he always had in her dreams. “But if it’ll get me answers, I’ll try it.”
“Okay,” Buffy said. “I’ll call him.” Just then, someone’s phone started to ring. “That’s not me.”
“It’s me.” Kennedy took her phone out of her pocket and pressed it to her ear. “What is it?” she asked, keeping her voice low. “I’m busy.”
“And I’m bored,” said Faith. “Bored, locked away in this hotel room like a kept woman, waiting for you to come home so we can fuck again.”
“I’m paying you for the time,” Kennedy hissed. “Play on the internet or something. I’ll be there when I can.” She felt everyone’s eyes on her and her face went hot; she got to her feet and stalked as far away as she could without actually leaving the room. “Look, Faith, I’m on the trail of these dreams, and I think maybe tonight--”
“I don’t fuckin’ care about the dreams,” Faith said. “You’re not paying me to talk about your dreams. I’m not your therapist; I’m just the girl you fuck, remember?”
“But don’t you want to know?” Kennedy felt the beginnings of a headache; whenever Faith got like this, it went right under Kennedy’s skin. “Don’t you want them to stop?”
“Why?” Faith chuckled. “In the dreams or out, I’m still fucking you, right?” Kennedy growled, and Faith just laughed again. “That’s my girl,” she said. “Gonna be good tonight, aren’t you?”
Kennedy couldn’t help it; she flung the phone across the office. It bounced off Willow’s desk, hit the window, and broke into several pieces. She shuffled back to the table and plunked herself in her chair. “Sorry,” she said. “That woman... just...”
Her blood boiled at the very thought and, before she could stop it, she slammed her fist on Willow’s conference table.
Kennedy slowly lifted her hand and stared at it; it wasn’t damaged, not even a bruise, but there was the break in the table, clear as day. “Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to break your table.”
“Xander,” Willow said, “hit the table.”
“In the dreams, you know martial arts, right?” When he nodded, she said, “did you ever break a board? Do you remember doing that?”
“So break my table. Everyone else, you might want to get back.”
Kennedy and the others took a few steps away. They watched Xander center himself -- Kennedy guessed that was what he was doing; though she’d played soccer and volleyball from kindergarten all the way through college, she’d never done any sort of martial arts. Then, without warning, he let out one of those karate grunts and drove his fist into the hard, shiny surface of Willow’s table.
And immediately grabbed his hand. “Holy shit,” he moaned, holding his right hand to his chest. “Holy shit, I think I broke my fingers.”
While Willow examined Xander’s hand, Kennedy stared at the table where he’d punched it.
Not even the tiniest crack.What the fuck is going on with us?+++++
+++++Your reviews, readership, and continued support are greatly appreciated, as always.
Next time: Faith comes face-to-face with Buffy for the first time... right?