Characters: The surviving cast.
Spoilers: Seeing Red through Grave. None of the events of A:TS after Billy took place.
Disclaimer: Not mine. I donít 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.
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, isnít it?
Yes. (Uncomfortable chuckle) When you put it that way, I suppose it is. I wonder why Iím always the one targeted for torture when one of our little family goes off the tracks.
I donít know.
(Moment of uncomfortable silence)
So. Youíre back.
I suppose I am.
How long are you staying?
Thatís a difficult question to answer.
The way I see it, itís 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.
Thatís the thing, donít you see? Nothing is "right" here without you.
No. You listen. Buffy tells me that she already filled you in on how messed-up weíve been while you were away. But maybe youíve noticed that she doesnít blame anyone except herself for anything. Well, I do. You shouldnít have left, and itís partly your fault that things got so bad around here.
Thatís not entirely fair.
Iím fifteen. I donít have to be entirely fair. Itís one of the few perks to make up for the fact that I donít get to drive or have sex.
What, now you want to be the daddy? You left. Maybe you couldnít have saved Xander and Anyaís wedding. I know you couldnít have saved Tara, or even helped Willow very much. But you could have helped Buffy.
Could I? I understand that herÖrelationshipÖwith Spike began while I was still here.
Thatís not what Iím 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. Itís like Snyder was right all along, and I just know she thinks about that when she isnít worrying about fighting demons or paying the bills, andÖand I havenít made it any easier for her.
No. You havenít.
Itís 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 theyíre 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? Anyaís a lousy boss, Giles. Oh, wait. You were there then, werenít you?
Yeah. I thought so. It wasnít 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, whatís wrong with a Watcher supporting his Slayer financially? Isnít that the way itís usually been done? You used to be pretty big on tradition once upon a time.
I mean, sheís twenty-one. Let people think youíre her sugar daddy.
Dawn! I believe youíve made your point.
I donít 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. ThenÖBuffy (swallows hard). Then I get Buffy back, but you leave, and Willow and Tara divóbreak up, and then Tara gets killed and Willow goes crazy and Anyaís a vengeance demon again. Every time itís happened, thereís something I wanted to say. But I couldnít say it to Mom or Buffy or Tara, Ďcause they died. Or Angel, Ďcause he didnít have a choice but to go. I could have said it to Dad or Riley or Willow or Anya, but they wouldnít have listened. But I have you trapped here in this bed, and youíre going to listen. Youíre 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 Ďcause sheís afraid people will leave if she doesnít. Iím not like that. I donít forgive easy, and I donít 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 thatís decided, then.
I donít 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 donít believe we have. A most egregious oversight.
Does that mean bad?
Letís fix it, then.
Conversation 2. Setting: Xanderís 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 itís going to be a fun conversation, you just start talking. You donít try to brace the other person for it.
Letís sit down.
Is it that bad?
It doesnít 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 whatís on your mind, Buff?
A lot. Iím not too sure how I feel about you right now, Xander.
That doesnít 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. Iím pretty worried about you, too, with your bandages on your face, and Iím wondering what else she did to you that you wonít tell me about. But I am also monumentally angry with you.
UmÖcan 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 wasnít around?
Donít you think she deserved to know? When were you going to tell her?
I donít know. Maybe sometime after the world-ending crisis was over.
You wouldíve 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 canít believe you didnít 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 donít make him any deader. So then you decide to leave your sister with him?
Letís break this down, Xander: heís the only other super person we have. Heís physically incapable of harming Dawnó
But he can rape you.
I came back with my molecules changed just enough to fool the chip. Which youíd know if I felt even a little bit safe telling you whatís going on in my life. But I donít. If what you said to Dawn proves anything, itís that I can trust you with my life, but not my secrets.
Maybe they shouldnít be secrets.
You know who I felt safe talking to? Tara. Because I knew that she wouldnít judge me or hold it against me. Sheíd 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. Donít 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. Youíve done it to all of us at one time or another, and Iím 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?
Thatís not true! If I did that, Iíd be just likeó
No, youíre not just like them. Youíre brave and youíre generous and youíre already so many things that theyíll never be. But you can also be cruel, and you could become like them if you donít change that. Iíve taken it for a long time, but I wonít let you do that to Dawn.
Hey, BuffÖthatís harsh. Doesnít being a hero cut me any slack?
No. It didnít for me after I got back from the summer I ran away. And you didnít even have to kill Willow.
Oh. Yeah. Wow, I neverÖthat must have been terrible for you.
Finally figured that out, did you?
I didnít 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 youíre right.
Iím pretty sure that I am, but you could take a poll if you want.
No, thatís 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.
Iím not sure. She didnít really say, she just said that she needed to get out.
Oh, boy. Maybe we should go find her. Make sure sheís not planning on doing anything crazy.
Conversation 3. Setting: The Basement of the Hyperion
Willow. Are you sure this is what you want?
Itís not what I want, Angel. Itís what I need. Iíd do something myself, but I thought, you know, youíre kind of an expertóIím sorry. Thatís not what I meant. Ió
No, youíre right. I am. But why? Couldnít you talk this out with someone?
Who? I hurt them all so much. I donít think I could face them.
I know what you mean.
Thatís why I came to you. Youíre the only one who could possibly understand.
Faith came to me for the same reason. Only she wanted me to kill her.
Please donít. I hated her so much for what she did. Now Iím just like her and Iím having a little trouble getting used to that.
Iím not sure if youíre just like her. Her will was free from start to finish. You didnít 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. Theyíd been victimizing other people for a long time. The world is better off without them.
Angel, please. That doesnít help.
Itís probably a good sign that it doesnít. But do you really think this will?
I donít know, butÖdidnít it help your guilt, even a little, that you went to Hell? Wasnít there even one time when you said to yourself: "Iíve been punished for that. I went to Hell, and I suffered. Iíve done my time. Time to let that one go."
Itís my only hope. I canít stand it anymore. Iím going crazy.
Then itís not much of a hope. This is a bad idea, Willow.
It wouldnít be my first.
Are sure about this? Sure?
I told you. I canít take it anymore. If you wonít do this, then Iíll 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 itís over. No starting again.
Thatís right. Okay, brace yourself. Here it comes.
(Crack of a bullwhip)