Characters: The surviving cast.
Spoilers: Seeing Red through Grave. None of the events of A:TS after Billy took place.
Disclaimer: Not mine. I don’t want them anymore, not in the condition Noxon and Greenwalt left them in.
Summary: After a season of disasters, the characters deal with the aftermath.
Three Conversations in the Wreckage
Conversation 1. Setting: A hospital room.
Dawn! (Rustle of a book being set aside) Good evening!
Wow. She really beat you up.
Well, yes. Yes, she did.
One of our best friends losing their soul, threatening me, torturing you, and finally trying to use a demon in a statue to destroy the world. This is all pretty familiar, isn’t it?
Yes. (Uncomfortable chuckle) When you put it that way, I suppose it is. I wonder why I’m always the one targeted for torture when one of our little family goes off the tracks.
I don’t know.
(Moment of uncomfortable silence)
So. You’re back.
I suppose I am.
How long are you staying?
That’s a difficult question to answer.
The way I see it, it’s pretty simple. You just pick a length of time and tell me.
I have to stay at least long enough to help set things right.
That’s the thing, don’t you see? Nothing is "right" here without you.
No. You listen. Buffy tells me that she already filled you in on how messed-up we’ve been while you were away. But maybe you’ve noticed that she doesn’t blame anyone except herself for anything. Well, I do. You shouldn’t have left, and it’s partly your fault that things got so bad around here.
That’s not entirely fair.
I’m fifteen. I don’t have to be entirely fair. It’s one of the few perks to make up for the fact that I don’t get to drive or have sex.
What, now you want to be the daddy? You left. Maybe you couldn’t have saved Xander and Anya’s wedding. I know you couldn’t have saved Tara, or even helped Willow very much. But you could have helped Buffy.
Could I? I understand that her…relationship…with Spike began while I was still here.
That’s not what I’m talking about. Every day, she comes home from Doublemeat Palace and she looks a little more dead, not less. She smells like their food all the time, and the uniform they make her wear is awful. It’s like Snyder was right all along, and I just know she thinks about that when she isn’t worrying about fighting demons or paying the bills, and…and I haven’t made it any easier for her.
No. You haven’t.
It’s not fair, you know? She did as well as she could in high school and she did as well as she could in college. Slaying is the only thing that kept her from doing much better. She did everything right and she still ended up working at Doublemeat Palace, which is, like, the hell people go to if they’re bad in school. There were other jobs she could have had if she was a normal person, but slaying kept interfering.
The door was always open at the Magic Box.
Hello? Time loop? Poorly packaged mummy hand? Paycheck docked for one stinking mistake on the first day? Anya’s a lousy boss, Giles. Oh, wait. You were there then, weren’t you?
Yeah. I thought so. It wasn’t long after that that you left for her own good and she was condemned to the Ninth Circle of Fast Food, was it?
I mean, what’s wrong with a Watcher supporting his Slayer financially? Isn’t that the way it’s usually been done? You used to be pretty big on tradition once upon a time.
I mean, she’s twenty-one. Let people think you’re her sugar daddy.
Dawn! I believe you’ve made your point.
I don’t think I have. My point is this: a lot of people have abandoned Buffy and I over the last few years. Our dad went first. Then Angel. Then Riley. Then Mom. Then…Buffy (swallows hard). Then I get Buffy back, but you leave, and Willow and Tara div—break up, and then Tara gets killed and Willow goes crazy and Anya’s a vengeance demon again. Every time it’s happened, there’s something I wanted to say. But I couldn’t say it to Mom or Buffy or Tara, ‘cause they died. Or Angel, ‘cause he didn’t have a choice but to go. I could have said it to Dad or Riley or Willow or Anya, but they wouldn’t have listened. But I have you trapped here in this bed, and you’re going to listen. You’re used to dealing with Buffy, and Buffy forgives just about anyone for anything, right away. Heck, she never even raised her voice at me when she found out about me stealing, and you just know that Mom would have grounded me until I graduated from Med school. Part of it is probably ‘cause she’s afraid people will leave if she doesn’t. I’m not like that. I don’t forgive easy, and I don’t forgive quickly, and I promise that if you leave now that you know what kind of crap we went through without you here, I will never forgive you.
Do you believe me?
I suppose that’s decided, then.
I don’t want the undying enmity of a Summers woman following me down the halls of time. I suppose I must stay, then.
Oh. Good. (Pause) Have we hugged yet?
I don’t believe we have. A most egregious oversight.
Does that mean bad?
Let’s fix it, then.
Conversation 2. Setting: Xander’s apartment
(Creak of a door being opened) Hey, Buff.
Xander. We need to talk.
Uh, oh. Good things never come of an opening like that.
If it’s going to be a fun conversation, you just start talking. You don’t try to brace the other person for it.
Let’s sit down.
Is it that bad?
It doesn’t have to be, but it has the potential.
Oh-kay. Sitting down sounds good.
(Two overlapping creaks as they sit down on the couch)
So what’s on your mind, Buff?
A lot. I’m not too sure how I feel about you right now, Xander.
That doesn’t sound good. Why not?
I am so enormously, unbelievably grateful to you for stopping Willow and saving the world and I will bake cakes and cookies and give you numerous other tokens of my gratitude. I’m pretty worried about you, too, with your bandages on your face, and I’m wondering what else she did to you that you won’t tell me about. But I am also monumentally angry with you.
Um…can I bask in the gratitude for a little while longer?
No. You can bask later. The air needs clearing.
Okay. Fair enough. What did I do this time?
Did you think that when I asked you not to tell Dawn about what happened with Spike, I just meant to wait until I wasn’t around?
Don’t you think she deserved to know? When were you going to tell her?
I don’t know. Maybe sometime after the world-ending crisis was over.
You would’ve found some other reason to put it off.
Probably. Does that give you the right to just go behind my back and tell her something that important?
I can’t believe you didn’t stake him.
That was my choice. Maybe I still felt guilty enough about the times that I beat him to a pulp to let him live.
Fine. You let him live. Or at least you don’t make him any deader. So then you decide to leave your sister with him?
Let’s break this down, Xander: he’s the only other super person we have. He’s physically incapable of harming Dawn—
But he can rape you.
I came back with my molecules changed just enough to fool the chip. Which you’d know if I felt even a little bit safe telling you what’s going on in my life. But I don’t. If what you said to Dawn proves anything, it’s that I can trust you with my life, but not my secrets.
Maybe they shouldn’t be secrets.
You know who I felt safe talking to? Tara. Because I knew that she wouldn’t judge me or hold it against me. She’d just try to help.
You were willing to leave your sister alone with a soulless monster who tried to rape you. Maybe that deserves judging.
(Deep, shuddering breath) You know, Xander, I asked her how she found out. She told me about the little conversation you had. Don’t pretend that you told her because she deserved to know, or needed to know, or any bullshit like that. She hurt your feelings, and you said what you knew would hurt her the most. You’ve done it to all of us at one time or another, and I’m not going to let you do it to her.
What are you talking about?
You defend by attacking, Xander. Someone hurts you, and you hurt them back just as hard as you can. You find a weak spot and you just smash it. Is that the kind of friend you want to be? Is that the kind of big brother you want to be to Dawn?
That’s not true! If I did that, I’d be just like—
No, you’re not just like them. You’re brave and you’re generous and you’re already so many things that they’ll never be. But you can also be cruel, and you could become like them if you don’t change that. I’ve taken it for a long time, but I won’t let you do that to Dawn.
Hey, Buff…that’s harsh. Doesn’t being a hero cut me any slack?
No. It didn’t for me after I got back from the summer I ran away. And you didn’t even have to kill Willow.
Oh. Yeah. Wow, I never…that must have been terrible for you.
Finally figured that out, did you?
I didn’t want to turn this into a fight, Xander. All I wanted to tell you was that you should have let me tell Dawn about Spike. But I warned you that the potential was there.
Yeah. You did. And I still came out swinging. Maybe you’re right.
I’m pretty sure that I am, but you could take a poll if you want.
No, that’s okay. Can I go back to being a hero again, now?
Yes. You may resume basking.
Is Willow around?
No, she went for a walk.
I’m not sure. She didn’t really say, she just said that she needed to get out.
Oh, boy. Maybe we should go find her. Make sure she’s not planning on doing anything crazy.
Conversation 3. Setting: The Basement of the Hyperion
Willow. Are you sure this is what you want?
It’s not what I want, Angel. It’s what I need. I’d do something myself, but I thought, you know, you’re kind of an expert—I’m sorry. That’s not what I meant. I—
No, you’re right. I am. But why? Couldn’t you talk this out with someone?
Who? I hurt them all so much. I don’t think I could face them.
I know what you mean.
That’s why I came to you. You’re the only one who could possibly understand.
Faith came to me for the same reason. Only she wanted me to kill her.
Please don’t. I hated her so much for what she did. Now I’m just like her and I’m having a little trouble getting used to that.
I’m not sure if you’re just like her. Her will was free from start to finish. You didn’t lose your soul like I did, but the magics did poison it. And you got back on the magics for a good reason. No one can blame you for wanting Tara back.
And from what you tell me, this Warren and this Rack were evil. They’d been victimizing other people for a long time. The world is better off without them.
Angel, please. That doesn’t help.
It’s probably a good sign that it doesn’t. But do you really think this will?
I don’t know, but…didn’t it help your guilt, even a little, that you went to Hell? Wasn’t there even one time when you said to yourself: "I’ve been punished for that. I went to Hell, and I suffered. I’ve done my time. Time to let that one go."
It’s my only hope. I can’t stand it anymore. I’m going crazy.
Then it’s not much of a hope. This is a bad idea, Willow.
It wouldn’t be my first.
Are sure about this? Sure?
I told you. I can’t take it anymore. If you won’t do this, then I’ll do something on my own.
No. You win. You remember those rules I discussed with you?
Yes. I let go, even on the very first one, and it’s over. No starting again.
That’s right. Okay, brace yourself. Here it comes.
(Crack of a bullwhip)
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