In Xander’s irritated opinion years later while he continued to learn against the backyard tree, the most discouraging part of the whole affair was that nobody had ever
arrived at any kind of reasonable answer to this query. Not then, or subsequently. Dawn and Willow always sheepishly insisted their memories of everything happening that night were a perfect blank a few hours into their drunken carousing. Nor could the Red Witch use her magical powers to regain what she’d forgotten, or find those possibly-hidden recollections elsewhere in her mind, or travel back in time to watch the fun, or a half-dozen even dumber suggestions freely offered by those fortunate enough to be let in on the secret of the terrible twosome’s spur-of-the-moment casting.
All because of the little flesh-colored bandage still stubbornly clinging to the tip of Dawn’s shower-wrinkled left pinky, when she was being put through an increasingly fruitless interrogation by Xander the morning after in his apartment den. A quick “Ow!” yelped by Dawn after giving this bandage a tentative pinch revealed there to be good reason for this application of a sterilized cloth strip upon a pinprick of some kind, which certainly hadn’t been there yesterday. At the same time, Willow morosely confirmed to the others her inner scans had just discovered the Key’s talent to open portals to other dimensions had inexplicably combined itself in some one-of-a-kind manner with the witch’s own abilities at, oh, about six or seven hours ago.
“Midnight,” hollowly identified Xander, letting his head fall forward to drop his face into a receptive palm.
Feeling a massive surge of guilt rise up in her mind, Dawn turned to appeal at a slightly cross-eyed Willow doing some more internal checks, “Listen, Wils, can’t you use your magic to figure out what happened, even if neither of us remembers it?”
This bought Dawn one of the dirtiest looks she’d ever received, when Willow also snapped to her in response, “I don’t have any idea where to start! All my magic can get now is that we did something
together! For all I know, we sent Kennedy and your boyfriend to another dimension and in there, they’re married and the stars of some reality television show named ‘K Plus Eight!’”
There was a short silence in the room while the three people in there thought about this.
Eventually, Xander buried an evil snicker in his hurried cough, to then point out, “Um, guys, I agree that needs to be followed up later. For now, let’s get back to how you were feeling then and what this might’ve set off. Is there any possibility you got the attention of some double-you demon?”
“Not a chance,” Willow firmly contradicted Xander. She went on, “The whole hotel’s warded against D’Hoffryn’s minions, you know that. Besides, I’ve just looked at my protections again, and I didn’t tamper with them last night, anyway.”
“Does that include the wards on my apartment now?” sardonically retorted Xander, a mocking eyebrow raised high.
The witch’s gaze became unfocused, until an instant later, her ears turned bright red. Waving a hand in a mystical gesture, Willow guiltily mumbled, “Sorry, that’s been fixed. I also told your people we’re fine, and they can get back to work. Errr…your place’s been cleaned up too, except the blender and microwave are pretty much a lost cause, I’m afraid. More to the point, Dawn should be the one to replace them, seeing as she must’ve messed up those things.”
“Hey!” indignantly began Dawn, only to wince and touch her throbbing forehead with the fingertips of her free hand. Taking a gulp of water from her cup, this young woman started all over again in the same offended tone but at a much lower volume, “You can’t prove anything!”
Xander got up from his den armchair at that point. Standing there, the man dryly commented, “Says the Scooby who last Thanksgiving tried to deal with the leftovers by shoving the rest of the whole turkey into her sister’s blender and setting it on high!” Grinning at Dawn sticking her tongue out at him, Xander left the room to verify for himself his apartment was indeed back to normal.
When it was just the two of them there, Dawn thoughtfully glanced at her good friend since Sunnydale. As for this redhead, Willow was again looking somewhat preoccupied. Her concentration was promptly interrupted by a worried question, “Did I really break Xander’s stuff last night, Wils? More important, what the hell else did we do?”
Willow unhappily shrugged. “I honestly have no idea, Dawnie. It’s all still a blank, but at least after another check of everything here, I can’t find anything wrong.”
In a very tiny, nervous voice, Dawn unwillingly pointed out, “Not here,
maybe. You don’t think what you said a minute ago really came true? Us doing something bad to that bastard and that bitch, whose names I’m never ever gonna mention again?”
“No, thank Gaia!” gratefully exclaimed Willow. Noting Dawn’s puzzlement, the witch told her, “I did it as fast as possible, checking up on them too without either knowing about it, but they’re in this dimension and alive and well, for what it’s worth. Not that I ever want to see or talk to…”
“What?” prompted a suddenly concerned Dawn at observing Willow’s vacant gaze after her statement trailed off into brooding quietude for a few moments.
Bringing her attention back to the den, Willow scratched her chin intently. “It’s too hard to pin down. For a fraction of a second there, I got the vaguest impression we set up some way to settle…scores? No, that doesn’t work.” Willow narrowed her eyes towards Dawn, who was herself appearing at something of a loss. “You’re great at languages. Give me some other words for revenge, will you?”
“Oh, so I’m a walking thesaurus now?” snarked Dawn at Willow. This other woman responded by impatiently nodding several times before staring with a genuinely expectant air in Dawn’s direction. Grumbling under her breath, the Key thought for a moment or two, before saying, “Well, naturally because of Anya, the first word which comes to mind is vengeance. How’s that?”
Willow merely shook her head.
Rolling her eyes, Dawn tried again, “Payback? Retailation? Reprisal? Reckoning? Retribution? Say, it’d be interesting to find out how many words starting with ‘re-’ have to do with the subject--”
“Wait, go back!” Willow excitedly broke in. “The last one, what’s it mean?”
Dawn blinked in confusion at the elated witch. “Retribution? Uh, something justly deserved. Another definition’s, I think, something done or given to somebody as punishment or vengeance for something he or she has done.”
“Yes, that’s it, exactly!” declared Willow, with an actual edge of triumph now in her tone.
Dawn cooed, “How nice. What did we do, exactly?” She finished off that last comment with the same sarcastic manner.
Willow opened her mouth, only to abruptly shut it again, all while a flood of scarlet swept up under the woman’s fair skin from the collar of her bathrobe to completely cover her blushing features. She finally muttered, “I still haven’t figured that out yet, okay? But I’m sure it’s got something to do with retribution, even if we were totally blitzed and did a magical spell far beyond our normal weirdness--” Stopping short in her assertion, Willow unexpectedly sniffed the air, right before prayerfully asking, “Is that coffee?
An astonished Dawn just stared at Willow beginning to discreetly slaver, until delicious scents further wafted their way from outside the den. This was followed by Xander staggering into the room under the heavy load of a massive dining tray loaded with a great many plates, glasses and pots, all filled with scrumptious food and drink. Carefully sinking down onto the sofa between a frozen Willow and Dawn, Xander settled the tray in his lap, and he breezily announced to his friends, “Breakfast, ladies! The kitchen sent it up when your mojo told ’em it was safe, Wils. I also arranged with Melanie, our House Mom, to replace your clothes with new outfits of sweats. She’ll leave those outside-- Mmmm!”
This last gleeful sound was due to Xander being enthusiastically given a simultaneous double-kiss on his cheeks from Dawn and Willow. These women then starvingly fell upon with both hands the array of breakfast delicacies. Chuckling, Xander started eating from his own plate. In between this, the one-eyed man was informed amid loud munching and sipping by the female pair about what they’d just established.
Which soon further led to some weepy discussion on exactly why the Sunnydale girls had dropped in on their Xander-shaped friend in the first place. However, there wasn’t all that much disheartened talk as might be expected. It could’ve had something to do with how Willow and Dawn had already blown off most of their emotional steam last night, even if they still didn’t recall precisely what’d transpired then. An additional reason may perhaps have been to avoid spoiling their superb breakfast due to, for example, turning their yummy fruit danish soggy with tears. Or, maybe, it was due to the constant, loving hugs given to his visiting family by a man who clearly showed no matter the distressing reasons for it, he adored having them around.
An hour later, more embraces were traded among the trio. In his once-more tidy living room, Xander reluctantly let go of both women starting to gasp in his lengthy squeeze. Taking a step back while doing an offhand swipe at his eyes (*Gotta be the dust, you betcha*), Xander smiled at a sweatsuit-clad Dawn and Willow affectionately gazing back at him.
It was the witch who spoke first, “All right, Xan, we’ll tell you first thing if either of us remembers more about last night.”
“Uh-huh,” agreed Dawn, who then grimaced over what’d just come into her head, a more recent memory of a very embarrassing apology she and Willow had made together to the entire Cleveland House over disrupting the residents’ sleep.
Xander smirked at the Key, as if he’d just read her mind. This wouldn’t have surprised Dawn at all, not after their years together. His gaze shifting back and forth, the man told both women, “You need to talk about something else, or want to come here again, do it anytime, okay? Just do me a little favor: call ahead in advance so I’ll be here. If not, I’ll leave a message with someone so you know where I am.”
Dawn and Willow glanced at each other out of the corners of their eyes. These woment then glowered in unison at Xander sincerely looking as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. It was his kindergarten pal who accused, “You’re never going to let us forget about what we did here, are you, Xan?”
Upon hearing this from Willow, Xander’s air of perfect innocence appeared to reach angelic levels. He assured the pair skeptically gazing at him, “Hey, it wasn’t all that much of a bother. After you apologized and I cooled down, we had a good laugh about it, didn’t we? It’ll just be a minor Scooby story if I ever mention it to the others.”
Now it was Dawn’s turn to snort, “Yeah, and there’s no way you won’t be planning the perfect time, place and occasion for bringing it up to Buffy and the rest!”
“Would I do something like that?” inquired Xander in his most hurt tone.
With faultless synchrony, Willow and Dawn loudly announced, “YES!
Drawing himself up in mock dignity, Xander then spoiled his fun by impudently winking at the two women. Also unable to help themselves, the Key and the Red Witch burst into mutual giggles, and they stepped forward to give him one last parting hug.
As ever the man eagerly hugged them back, all too conscious of the smartphone resting in his pants pocket. After he picked the clearest picture there and wiped all the others, that little photo of Dawn and Willow sharing the most mortifying moment of their lives was gonna be his limited edition, tightly-restricted Christmas card for the inner circle of the New Council. He already had the ideal caption for it: Not A Creature Was Stirring.
Happily waving goodbye a little bit later, Xander watched Willow tuck Dawn’s arm into hers, and with matching cheerful farewells, these ladies standing side-by-side magically vanished from his apartment. A second from now, the pair would be back in England for the younger Summers sister to return to her studies, and then Willow would teleport herself to Scotland. Bringing down his hand, Xander looked around at his familiar living room, which seemed to be emptier than usual. His formerly buoyant mood beginning to diminish into actual loneliness, the man already missing his family sadly sighed once.
Allowing himself a few more moments of melancholy, Xander soon shook off feeling down in the dumps. He sternly gave himself an inner pep talk, pointing out he needed to return to ably running the Cleveland House, protecting the world from all the evil demons around the Hellmouth here, and keeping his Slayers and Watchers on the job without those dear little maniacs ever suspecting how many headaches they caused him. Yep, time to get back to work.
Without further ado, Xander strode out of his apartment, on the way downstairs to his office and the ceaseless paperwork there. For once, he was actually looking forward to burying himself in bureaucratic red tape in an attempt to get over his recent blues. And in truth, this was how things worked out for the next couple of hours, with Xander being so zealous about it that he managed to clear off his whole L-shaped desk by lunchtime.
The one-eyed man rewarded himself for this by leaning back in his executive chair and putting his boots on his bare desktop in celebration. Licking his lips in anticipation, Xander lazily reached out to the side with one hand at the short end of the desk where the meal he’d ordered in today had been left there a minute ago by one of the house staff. There, awaiting its doom, a thick, freshly made roast beef sandwich cowered on the plate shared by its fellow victims of a large pickle and a mound of potato chips.
Barely registering the office’s antique grandfather clock at the other end of the room about to announce it was noon, Xander grabbed the sandwich. Bringing this food of the gods up to his face, the Sunnydale survivor happily inhaled the scent of warm sliced meat garnished with piquant horseradish sauce…