Despair by SLynn
Disclaimer: I own nothing but my own thoughts; everything else is borrowed from ME, Joss Whedon and the writers. Well, I guess I own Constance, but I'm not certain I want her.
Thanks: Thanks so much for all of the great reviews. You guys got me really ready to move on this one, so hopefully it won't disappoint.
Setting: Alternate Season 5. Riley – out of there; Dawn – not a key; Joyce – alive and kicking; no Glory. Takes place immediately after "The Game". It'll make more sense if you've read that one first.
Notes: This is actually the story I first set out to right, but realized I'd need a whole lot of back filler, so "The Game" was born. As I got more involved in writing the first one, the second one became harder and harder to write. This is my fourth start, but I think I've gotten it straight now. Hope you enjoy it!
Chapter 1: Alone
It was the longest car ride of her life. Buffy knew that the distance between the high school and the Magic Shop couldn't have been more then ten miles, but it felt like a million. They had sat in complete silence the entire trip. When they finally arrived they just kept sitting, not moving or talking, neither willing to make the first gesture. Buffy couldn't take it anymore.
"We should go inside," she said, surprised at how quiet her own voice had become, "it's almost sunrise and everyone will be really worried."
"Everyone is going to be real excited to see you."
He hadn't even blinked.
"We can do the whole question and answer thing with Giles later…"
"I don't want to."
He had spoken so quickly that Buffy wasn't really sure what he'd said.
"I don't want to go inside. I don't want to see anyone. Not now."
"Are you sure?" she asked, knowing that he was. She couldn't blame him. She didn't really want to go inside herself, but couldn't help feeling what was owed to everyone else.
When he still hadn't answered a few minutes later, Buffy took that for a yes and made her way out of the car. Before she got far she came back to the passenger's door and knocked once or twice to try and get his attention. Before he could respond, or more likely before he could "not" respond, Buffy raised her voice a bit to be heard through the glass and told him she'd be right back. He still hadn't moved.
Taking a deep breath, Buffy stepped inside the Magic Shop. It was quiet and dark, with only the lamps in the back and at the counter lit. Giles, having heard the faint ringing of the bell, had literally hopped up from his seat behind the counter and hurried to her.
Judging from the look on his face, Buffy figured she must look pretty bad. Zothos had fixed the broken parts but hadn't really done anything for the bruising.
"Are you alright? Where's Xander? What happened?"
"Slow down," Buffy said, barely above a whisper, "Where is everyone?"
"Sleeping mostly, or trying too," he answered, lowering his voice as well, then raising his eyes expectantly towards her.
"I'm fine and so is Xander, he's waiting in the car so I can't stay long."
"Why is he outside? Buffy, are you sure you're both fine?"
"Yes we're fine," she said a bit harsher then she meant too. She couldn't help it, her mind was reeling, "Xander just doesn't want anyone to see how he looks right now."
"How bad…" Giles began to ask, concern written clearly on his face.
"It's bad," was all she said cutting him off and turning her head away.
"But he'll be alright?"
"Yeah I'll tell you about it later, I really should be getting him home."
"You're taking him back to his place?" he asked doubtfully knowing Xander's parents.
Buffy paused. She hadn't thought about it really until now.
"No, I guess not. I'll take him to my house. Mom won't mind, I can sleep downstairs for the ni.." she stopped before finishing 'night', realizing it was now over. The deadline was up.
Giles felt it too. The last twenty-four hours had been excruciating.
"Go then," Giles said, sounding a bit more like himself, "I'll let the others know and perhaps we'll all get together this afternoon."
Buffy just nodded and headed for the door.
She turned once more and looked over at him, but he didn't really seem to have anything left to say. Giles just smiled a bit and nodded his head and then they both turned their separate ways.
Joyce Summers had gotten use to a lot of things since discovering her oldest daughter was the slayer. First of all, slayers kept odd hours. She'd never really approved of that, but I guess when your daughter has a destiny, destiny can't be kept waiting. This morning though, she was surprised.
She walked over to Buffy and quiet as possible sat down beside her. She choked down tears as she looked over the deep purple bruise forming on her daughters jaw line. Odd hours were one thing, huge hideous bruises were another. No one ever gets use to seeing their child hurt, even if that child had super-human powers of recovery. Knowing the risks, just having Buffy home again made her exhale in relief. Whatever it was, Buffy must have beaten it, Joyce would delve no further then that.
"Hey Mom, do you know…" Dawn called bounding down the stairs.
"Shhh. Your sister is still sleeping."
"No buts just go into the kitchen and I'll make us some breakfast."
"Okay," Dawn said as she let her Mom push her towards the door, "but Xander's sleeping in Buffy's bed and I just thought you'd want to know what kind of immoral things are happening under your roof."
"Dawn," Joyce said in her most serious tone pointing to the kitchen.
"I'm going, I'm going."
Before following her, Joyce looked once more at her daughter and then gave a harder more skeptical look up the stairs towards her room. Shaking her head, she followed her youngest.
Buffy had wakened in time to join them just after they had finished.
"Good morning," Dawn chirped and then immediately changed her tune when she got a better look at her, "what happened to you?"
"Let's not talk about it." Buffy grumbled as she grabbed a bowl and a box of cereal.
The three of them were quiet for a moment.
"Why is Xander in your room?" Joyce finally had to ask.
Buffy wanted to say, 'because he looks worse then I do,' but decided against it. Before she could say anything, the phone rang.
"I got it," Dawn said, jumping up and across the room.
"It's a long story Mom, and if you don't mind I'm sure I'll be telling it a lot, so I'd rather not right now."
Joyce wasn't really happy with that answer, but accepted it.
"Buffy it's Giles," Dawn said holding her hand over the mouth piece, "and I think Anya, but I couldn't really tell because she's yelling. A lot."
"Great," Buffy mumbled and took the phone, "Giles?"
"Buffy, sorry to call so early but…"
"Ask her why she didn't wake us up?" Buffy heard Anya shout in the background.
"Anya, will you please just let me talk."
"Buffy," he began again, "I am sorry to disturb you, but it seems everyone has gotten a bit impatient waiting to hear from you."
Buffy checked the clock. 9:30am. She felt better, but doubted Xander was up for company.
"Xander isn't up yet. I was just getting ready to go and check on him."
Buffy turned around to escape Joyce's watchful eye which she could sense was aimed right at her.
"Good then, um, well, you may have company."
"They've left already haven't they?"
"Well, you might as well come over too. Let's get this over with" Buffy sighed, not quite sure if she was really ready herself.
"Alright then, see you shortly."
Buffy hung up the phone and turned back around.
"I'm going to go check on Xander. If they get her before I get back, just keep them down stairs."
"Alright," Joyce said as she watched her head out the door. She had been surprised at tone of Buffy's voice. She knew her daughter was loyal to her friends, she just hadn't imagined she was also so protective.
Xander heard the footsteps approaching. She was coming for him. His hands beginning to tremble so he clenched them tightly until his knuckles shone white, trying to stop the shaking. The door was creaking slowly open behind him. He was lying on his side, facing the opposite direction, but he could tell she was there. She was getting closer and closer. His heart was racing.
'It's daylight now. She said she'd kill me when the sun came up. Maybe it will be quick,' he thought.
It all ended when she spoke. Buffy. It was Buffy, not Constance. He was at Buffy's house, not the high school. She'd saved him. She'd made it in time.
"Are you awake?"
Xander just lay there, not moving. He wasn't ready for this. Buffy would want to talk about it and he wasn't ready yet. He wasn't sure he'd ever be ready.
He felt her lean across him and pull the blankets up over his shoulder and then she just walked away and shut the door behind her.
Xander still hadn't moved. He knew Buffy was only trying to help, but he didn't want help. He only wanted to be alone, but it seemed he couldn't really have that anymore.