The Game by SLynn

Chapter 10: The Talk

The two of them sat for what seemed an eternity with Zothos' eyes upon them, the same thoughts in their heads. 'Could that be it?'

To Xander's relief, he found he was no longer in any serious pain. It took a moment or two for him to realize something else was different. He could hear again.

Buffy, who hadn't been seriously hurt physically, merely stunned, found that her own body had recovered itself rather quickly. One of the perks of being the slayer.

"I have healed you both as much as I could," Zothos finally spoke, relieving a bit of the tension.

His voice no longer sounded like thunder, as it had when addressing Constance. It was calmer, nearly serene.

"I felt that I owed you more then just an explanation, and have yet to fully recover myself, so it is all I can manage."

He paused, looking earnestly at both of their faces for a moment.

"Constance summoned me, it could well have been yesterday for all I can recall; time is a mortal concept. She summoned me. She wanted protection. Wanted only that nothing should happen to him, her watcher. In exchange, she would give me her soul. If I failed, you both know the price of failure"

He paused again and then fixed his gaze firmly on Xander who had a look of disbelief on his face.

"You're right. A deity as I should have seen through her scheme, but she was a slayer. No slayer before her had used the dark arts such as she. I was not prepared."

"I don't understand?" Buffy asked tentatively.

"Constance was the one leading the charges against her watcher. With dark arts, she worked the town into a frenzy, and he was lynched. I am not much in contact with mortals, I still am not, and was unfamiliar with their ways. If I could have stopped time itself, I couldn't have saved that man. It was done nearly at the moment our deal was sealed."

"So for years I waited, waited for her to use the rules again. Hoping, for it was all I could do, that she would be tricked as I had. It was the only way for me to regain myself, as I have."

"What will you do now?" asked Xander.

"Return to my dimension and rest. My lesson was well taught. Mortals should not share the power of gods, and are not to be trusted."

Xander and Buffy remained where they were, still taking in what had been told to them.

"I leave you with this; a mortal life is short, take care of each other. Be well and be wary. Constance has gained much power, power that is entirely her own. Death is but a door and powerful creatures can find their way back through it."

He turned briefly to Buffy and held her eyes with his.

'She has scarred more then his body. Be watchful,' she heard him say inside her head.

He then turned to Xander and locked him in his gaze.

'Do not despair for long. It will weaken you. Despair is death,' he whispered in his head.

The yellow light that surrounded Zothos grew in intensity and then faded.

He was gone.

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They sat for a long time in complete silence, neither quite sure of what to say. The words Zothos had spoken still echoing in their heads.

Buffy looked his way and was a bit disappointed to see that he had not done the same. He sat so still, his eyes, which had briefly seemed alive again while Zothos had been with them, again shone dull. He didn't look like he was in pain, he didn't look like he could feel pain anymore.

'Be watchful,' sounded again in her head. It chilled her.

"Xander," she said, softly. Her voice soft, carried on barely a breath, but he heard her.

Xander seemed to awaken. He seemed to snap out of whatever trance the moment had left him in, and he turned to her.

"Hey Buff," was all he could think of to say. Xander had done it with his normal, half smiled, easy expression, but it felt forced.

Xander looked in her eyes and saw her hurting. Tears were welling in her eyes and it made him ache.

"I'm alright," he said not sure if he meant it, but knowing she needed to hear it, "I am Buffy, please. It's over, right? We've made it."

Buffy tried to say something, anything, but it was all too much. She could still feel his thoughts, the ones Constance had forced on her, in her head.

"You are alright?" she managed, finally able to choke out the words.

"Yes," Xander said, a bit more solidly, as he got to his feet.

"Good," Buffy replied, wiping her face and quickly regaining her composure, "good."

Xander reached a hand down to her, which she took after a moment's hesitation.

They headed for the door, but before they could leave, Buffy touched Xander briefly on the shoulder.

They both stopped in the doorway and faced each other.

"Xander," Buffy started but was quickly stopped by Xander almost bringing a finger to her lips, but suddenly stopping.

"Please," he said, his voice sounding pained, "let's not talk about this right now."

She had never seen him look at her quite like that. He was so intense, so determined. Buffy had no choice, but to nod her head in agreement. They could talk later.

"I just want to go home."

"Let's go then."

Together they headed out, careful not to look back.

The End