Rating: PG
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
By Matt

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, isnt it?

Yes. (Uncomfortable chuckle) When you put it that way, I suppose it is. I wonder why Im always the one targeted for torture when one of our little family goes off the tracks.

I dont know.

(Moment of uncomfortable silence)

So. Youre back.

I suppose I am.

How long are you staying?

Thats a difficult question to answer.



The way I see it, its 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.

Thats the thing, dont you see? Nothing is "right" here without you.


No. You listen. Buffy tells me that she already filled you in on how messed-up weve been while you were away. But maybe youve noticed that she doesnt blame anyone except herself for anything. Well, I do. You shouldnt have left, and its partly your fault that things got so bad around here.

Thats not entirely fair.

Im fifteen. I dont have to be entirely fair. Its one of the few perks to make up for the fact that I dont get to drive or have sex.


What, now you want to be the daddy? You left. Maybe you couldnt have saved Xander and Anyas wedding. I know you couldnt have saved Tara, or even helped Willow very much. But you could have helped Buffy.

Could I? I understand that herrelationshipwith Spike began while I was still here.

Thats not what Im 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. Its like Snyder was right all along, and I just know she thinks about that when she isnt worrying about fighting demons or paying the bills, andand I havent made it any easier for her.

No. You havent.

Its 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 theyre 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? Anyas a lousy boss, Giles. Oh, wait. You were there then, werent you?


Yeah. I thought so. It wasnt 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, whats wrong with a Watcher supporting his Slayer financially? Isnt that the way its usually been done? You used to be pretty big on tradition once upon a time.


I mean, shes twenty-one. Let people think youre her sugar daddy.

Dawn! I believe youve made your point.

I dont 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. ThenBuffy (swallows hard). Then I get Buffy back, but you leave, and Willow and Tara divbreak up, and then Tara gets killed and Willow goes crazy and Anyas a vengeance demon again. Every time its happened, theres something I wanted to say. But I couldnt say it to Mom or Buffy or Tara, cause they died. Or Angel, cause he didnt have a choice but to go. I could have said it to Dad or Riley or Willow or Anya, but they wouldnt have listened. But I have you trapped here in this bed, and youre going to listen. Youre 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 shes afraid people will leave if she doesnt. Im not like that. I dont forgive easy, and I dont 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.


I see.

Do you believe me?

I do.

Youd better.

I suppose thats decided, then.


I dont 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 dont believe we have. A most egregious oversight.

Does that mean bad?


Lets fix it, then.




Conversation 2. Setting: Xanders apartment

(Knock, Knock)

(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 its going to be a fun conversation, you just start talking. You dont try to brace the other person for it.


Lets sit down.

Is it that bad?

It doesnt 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 whats on your mind, Buff?

A lot. Im not too sure how I feel about you right now, Xander.

That doesnt 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. Im pretty worried about you, too, with your bandages on your face, and Im wondering what else she did to you that you wont tell me about. But I am also monumentally angry with you.

Umcan 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 wasnt around?

Dont you think she deserved to know? When were you going to tell her?

I dont know. Maybe sometime after the world-ending crisis was over.

You wouldve 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 cant believe you didnt 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 dont make him any deader. So then you decide to leave your sister with him?

Lets break this down, Xander: hes the only other super person we have. Hes physically incapable of harming Dawn

But he can rape you.

I came back with my molecules changed just enough to fool the chip. Which youd know if I felt even a little bit safe telling you whats going on in my life. But I dont. If what you said to Dawn proves anything, its that I can trust you with my life, but not my secrets.

Maybe they shouldnt be secrets.

You know who I felt safe talking to? Tara. Because I knew that she wouldnt judge me or hold it against me. Shed 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. Dont 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. Youve done it to all of us at one time or another, and Im 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?

Thats not true! If I did that, Id be just like

No, youre not just like them. Youre brave and youre generous and youre already so many things that theyll never be. But you can also be cruel, and you could become like them if you dont change that. Ive taken it for a long time, but I wont let you do that to Dawn.

Hey, Buffthats harsh. Doesnt being a hero cut me any slack?

No. It didnt for me after I got back from the summer I ran away. And you didnt even have to kill Willow.

Oh. Yeah. Wow, I neverthat must have been terrible for you.

Finally figured that out, did you?

(Two sighs)

I didnt 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 youre right.

Im pretty sure that I am, but you could take a poll if you want.

No, thats okay. Can I go back to being a hero again, now?

Yes. You may resume basking.

Oh, good.

Is Willow around?

No, she went for a walk.

Where to?

Im not sure. She didnt really say, she just said that she needed to get out.

Oh, boy. Maybe we should go find her. Make sure shes not planning on doing anything crazy.


Conversation 3. Setting: The Basement of the Hyperion

Willow. Are you sure this is what you want?

Its not what I want, Angel. Its what I need. Id do something myself, but I thought, you know, youre kind of an expertIm sorry. Thats not what I meant. I

No, youre right. I am. But why? Couldnt you talk this out with someone?

Who? I hurt them all so much. I dont think I could face them.

I know what you mean.

Thats why I came to you. Youre the only one who could possibly understand.

Faith came to me for the same reason. Only she wanted me to kill her.

Please dont. I hated her so much for what she did. Now Im just like her and Im having a little trouble getting used to that.

Im not sure if youre just like her. Her will was free from start to finish. You didnt 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. Theyd been victimizing other people for a long time. The world is better off without them.

Angel, please. That doesnt help.

Its probably a good sign that it doesnt. But do you really think this will?

I dont know, butdidnt it help your guilt, even a little, that you went to Hell? Wasnt there even one time when you said to yourself: "Ive been punished for that. I went to Hell, and I suffered. Ive done my time. Time to let that one go."

Truthfully? No.

Its my only hope. I cant stand it anymore. Im going crazy.

Then its not much of a hope. This is a bad idea, Willow.

It wouldnt be my first.

Are sure about this? Sure?

I told you. I cant take it anymore. If you wont do this, then Ill 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 its over. No starting again.

Thats right. Okay, brace yourself. Here it comes.

(Crack of a bullwhip)




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