Straight on Till Morning: Visitation
TtH100 Xander/Galactica: Prompt # 10 – Dreams
Timeline: “Visitation” occurs in the magic dreamtime of neverwhen
Summary: Xander gets clued in?
Spoilers through BSG Season One – “You Can’t Go Home Again”; BtVS Series – especially “Graduation I&II”, Season Four, and the end of Season Six
Disclaimer Haiku: I’ll bet you thought
It was over.
I still don’t own
The good stuff.
Xander came to be aware of himself slowly, as if a thick, numbing fog was clearing from his senses. He turned slowly in a full circle and then rubbed his eyes vigorously. He blinked and stared, but his surroundings didn’t change. The tall young man reached out a tentative hand and grasped the black wrought iron of the railing before him. It looked like the old banister from the G-man’s apartment in Sunnydale. It felt like the twisty railing and was firmly fixed into tile steps, and the perspective was perfect from his place at the top. He leaned over carefully and saw the battered couch and fireplace, the rough wooden table, the thick, arched front door set in whitewashed walls hung with weapons. Even the air smelled faintly of tea and metal polish and, yep, there was the musty perfume of old books.
“If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck… at the bottom of a humongous crater.” His faint murmur split the heavy silence as Xander craned his neck to try and see into the dark corners of his impossible location.
“Maybe it’s duck season. We could make Duck Soup, Brother Marx.” The calm soprano voice ringing out from behind him made the young man twirl like an angry ballerina before he settled into a fight stance.
“You know, if I’m going to see dead people, I’d rather see my ex-girlfriend than Willow’s,” Xander suggested from his tense crouch. “Especially if she’s going to make with the cryptic. You’ve really gotten out of practice taunting people since we kicked your ass, haven’t you?”
“I’m not the First Evil, Xander. Or the Last or the Only. That’s the rub, honey. Dreams may come.” Large, doe-innocent blue eyes stared back at the Scooby over a long, sharp nose and full, smiling lips. Tara Maclay blinked gently at him and tucked her honey-blond hair behind her ear as she ducked her head shyly.
When he didn’t come out of his crouch, yet didn’t move to attack the phantom before him in a puffy peasant blouse and long skirt, the image before Xander stepped slowly forward and laid a gentle hand on one of his upraised fists. The young man gaped in sudden amazement as he felt the warm pressure of the witch’s skin.
“Boo!” Tara exclaimed.
Xander jumped and stood limply staring, all his hard-earned fighting skills crumbling at his feet as the specter giggled and grinned.
“But… but… you… and then Willow… and then crayon! Yellow crayon!”
“It’s nice to see you, too,” Tara smirked gently at his befuddlement. Then her face lost all humor as she reached forward again and grasped his hand. “I have to say that was a very brave thing you did, with Willow on the bluff. Thank you for being there for her when I couldn’t.”
Xander’s mouth snapped closed as he took in further proof that the apparition in front of him was not, in fact, a manifestation of the First Evil wearing the image of Willow’s late girlfriend. Not only was she touching him, a feat the First had never managed to perform, she was thanking him for stopping her beloved partner from ending the world in a mad miasma of grief-driven rage. “I, uh, yeah. Thanking, thanking is good. Are you a ghost?”
Tara smiled with a wicked edge as she answered. “Not exactly.”
“Altered plane of reality?”
“Maybe. It’s your head, I’m just visiting.” With that answer, Tara laughed and twirled in a skirt-flaring circle. “Well, sort of. I liked this place. I felt at home here and so did you. It was convenient for us to think ourselves here together.”
“Is this a nightmare? A dream?”
“Definitely not. To both.”
“Anya would be here, then, wouldn’t she,” Xander muttered as he considered the possibilities.
“She would be,” Tara agreed solemnly. “But she can’t. Just like I don’t visit my lost love. Heaven is beautiful, but some things can still hurt.”
“Wait, then…,” Xander’s scrunched frown conveyed his seriousness and confusion. “Tara, why are you here?”
The witch’s manifestation nodded vigorously. “Good question. Long answer. I am and I’m not the Tara you knew, you understand.” Her solemn, dark blue eyes glowed an intense pure white as she explained. “Heaven is rest and peace and plenty. This isn’t, but it’s close enough for the Powers to work. Faith didn’t want to help when she was in the there-like-here. Buffy had hurt her, put her there, but Angel’s arrow balanced the scales. And the Mayor’s orders for his not-a-daughter balanced the apartment and the dresses and the cookies he gave her. So lots of metaphors, talking around. But Faith didn’t really want to hurt Buffy either. Slayer sisters are complicated. Like now. I want to help.”
The sweet phantom frowned in frustration and seemed to struggle for clarity. “We’re not sisters or brothers, so it should be easier. We both loved the same person, you and I, but in different ways. That means the words come clearer, but there may still be cheese. Stinky dairy keeps us from breaking the rules. That’s why the Man with the tray pushes.”
Xander Harris was much smarter than he usually revealed, but his personal experience with Slayer dreams and visions from the Powers That Be was sorely lacking. He stared at a patient, hopeful Tara and racked his brain for the meaning of her Drusilla-esque rambling. The twenty-something man went into Watcher Mode and ran down the clues as if they were the only hope to avert yet another apocalypse.
He tracked back to the time before he met Tara and remembered the unrepentant, anti-reformed Faith from the months they’d first met. It was hard to equate the tough, angry high school drop-out with the nuanced woman he’d come to know and respect over the last four years. Still, Angel’s arrow was a clear reference to the time Faith shot the vampire full of mystical poison and Buffy had to bring him a Slayerful of blood to cure him. That had happened just before the two Slayers fought to the apparent-death, leaving Faith in a coma with her own knife sticking out of her gut… where Buffy had shoved it. The Scoobies might not even have known about the dark Slayer’s injury if Buffy hadn’t forced Angel to feed from her own neck and ended up in the hospital at the same time as her vegetative sister Slayer…
Suddenly, the circumstances surrounding Tara’s visitation were all too clear.
“Waitaminute! Coma? I’m in a coma?!”
The menacing fog rolled back in instantly and Xander was lost to consciousness.
The next time the red-tinged fog lifted, Xander found himself scribbling frantically on the wall. As he became aware, he leaned back to find that the wall was actually an enormous bathroom mirror and he was craned over a row of sink-cabinets in order to pour out a hideously complex math equation. And now that he was thinking about it, he had no idea what the equation was for or how to complete it. But it was vastly important, vital even, for him to finish calculating on the silvery mirror with the grease pencil in his hand. He stared. He squinted. He sweated.
And he had the sudden hideous realization that the ‘grease pencil’ in his hand was actually Faith’s favorite eyeliner. Oh, Gods, he was a dead man!
“Carry the Six,” a calm soprano suggested from behind him.
Xander spun to find the blond witch perched on the edge of a gigantic tub, merrily swinging her feet and banging her heels into the porcelain side. “Tara,” he gasped, “help!”
The specter sighed and jumped down, her arms full of a furry kitten. “Hold Miss Kitty Fantastico,” she instructed as she traded her armful for the Eye Pencil of Doom.
“No, wait, that’s Faith’s- ”
Tara ignored him to lean over and carefully scribe a ‘6’ into the top of a column of numbers Xander hadn’t even noticed. The entire mirror-full of characters writhed and rearranged into a glowing, golden harmony as the Eyeliner o’ Flaming Death morphed gracefully into an actual grease pencil in Tara’s hand.
“See,” she declared as she reclaimed her cat, “simple.”
“How did you do that? And what the frilly heck does it mean?” Xander twitched his gaze back and forth between the phantom-Tara and their glowing, golden creation.
“You forgot the Six and it all fell apart. You’re not supposed to do that, you know. Not seeing Six will make it slow and painful. That’s what it means.”
“Which six? What?”
“Remember Six. Pretty packages can drive you mad if there’s a nasty surprise inside. You’re The One Who Sees.” Tara smiled softly and brushed her kitten-free hand over his bare left temple. “With perfect depth perception.”
Xander frowned until she gently grasped his hand and brushed it over the place where his eyepatch’s string was supposed to be. Both his brown eyes widened as he realized that he had stereoscopic vision again. “Wait? How did you do that? Will it still…,” he gulped and swallowed his amazed hope, “will it still be there when I wake up?”
Tara smiled a bit sadly and traced the dimensions of the absent patch. “Beloved’s steadfast faith will heal you, if your Faith survives Beloved’s Steadfasts. Destiny twines oddly, doesn’t it?”
And with that the blond apparition began to fade despite all Xander’s frantic entreaties. The last thing he heard before the fog wisped in again was her whisper, “You think you know who you are, what’s to come?”
Her voice stilled, then resumed in an echoing, ominous tone. “It has begun.”
This chapter is dedicated to everyone who reviewed or emailed, wondering when there would be more, because it wouldn’t be here without you. I hope you like it.