TITLE: Reality Check
SUMMARY: The view inside Buffy's mind immediately following her "Get it Done" verbal smackdown.
DISTRIBUTION: Go ahead, but let me know.
DISCLAIMER: The characters aren't mine, but I do own Joss Whedon. Wait, what was the question?
They're looking at me with hatred in their eyes. Not the potentials; that wouldn't surprise me. I mean Anya, and Willow, and Spike. That's what it feels like, at least. God, Spike, who loved me after thrashed him almost to death in an alley, looking at me with horror because I told the truth.
The thing is, that's all it was. The truth. They're not used to hearing me say it. I never tell them what I think; that's one of the reasons we're friends. I never told Xander there was no chance for us, so he should just move on; I never told Willow that you don't have to go out with someone just because they're interested in you; I never told Anya I view her as an appendage of Xander's. A severed appendage now, perhaps, but an appendage nonetheless.
The only one of them I ever told the truth was Spike, and even that was only part of the truth. Of course, that wasn't because I was worried about him getting hurt. What he felt didn't matter to me, so I gave him a little honesty. Looks like a little was all he could handle. But he was wrong. He can handle more. They all can.
They're not happy with what I said. That's not hard to see. The truth isn't fun, and nobody likes to hear it. And they're shocked, all of them, to hear it from me instead of from Giles.
But Giles isn't here. It's summer where he is, and he's trekking through jungles and hiking down dirt roads looking for potentials the Bringers have missed. So it's Kennedy out there, training the troops, because she's strong, and wanted to, and because I can't do everything. And it's me in here, giving an anti-pep talk, because I'm experienced. The only one of us who is.
The others would argue that—the Scoobies, I mean. They all think they're experienced, but they're not. Xander has always done what he could, but what he's always done best is just be there. He's never made a cold-blooded decision about who to kill and when; he couldn't. I wouldn't want him to. It wouldn't be Xander.
Willow wasn't herself when she killed. I don't mean she wasn't herself because she was crazed by Tara's death; that's natural, although trying to end the world because of it? Less so. What I mean is, she can't do those things and remain herself. There's always been a sense of separation between Willow and her larger magics. We all say that it was an addiction, because it makes it easier.
It is easier. It's easier than saying, I have the power to destroy, and I'm going to use it. That's what they don't understand. I live with that every day. Knowing I have that power—knowing I have to make the right decision. Because it's not just my friends counting on me, it's the world. That's why I can't lie about this. Because lies are comforting, but they won't help. They'll disguise things; they'll make us feel better; but they won't help. If we're going to lie to ourselves, the girls might as well go back to their families. Anya might as well go back to her apartment. Spike can go hide in the basement again. And hey, Xander can go back to his basement! There's basements for all.
But the thing is, the world needs them. I need them. We need each other. We've always needed each other. They've been my strength, my salvation. They've kept me grounded in life. They've kept me from going mad.
But slaying isn't a democracy, and it never has been. The Council led the Watchers; the Watchers led the Slayers. Well, the Council is gone. And admittedly, they were pretty useless anyway. But they were there, and they were a comforting thought. Now I've got a bunch of teenage girls in the house who are frightened and miss their families; a sullen ex-demon; a witch who wants to repent more than she wants to help; and a souled vampire who feels the need for a century of atonement, when a long lunch hour is about all the time we have. Not to mention Xander and Dawn, who are—
Well, actually, they're pretty damn great.
But the thing is, we can't sit here debating what's the proper plan of action. Nothing ever gets done in committees. And to be blunt, being my friend, occasionally patrolling with me, and helping with research doesn't make them Slayers. It doesn't make them Watchers. It makes them—and I hate, hate, hate even thinking this—assistants. Highly valued flunkies. Even these girls, these chosen girls—it's not up to them, either. Not until they are the one.
That sounds rotten, doesn't it? Like what I told Webs, that vampire from high school that I had to kill? The one who laid his undergraduate psychology expertise on me, before I had to dust him? Sounds like I think I'm better than my friends. But I don't, not really. I just think that being friends—being people I love—doesn't make them decision-makers in apocalypse-y matters. They're not chosen. They don't have a destiny. They have tuition bills, and mortgages, and use knives for things like cooking, not disemboweling. If they're tired from work, they don't patrol. And when there's a fucking dimensional rip, they don't plug it with their bodies. They're not the regular forces, they're the reserves. And it may sound harsh, but it's the truth.
I know what's coming. I mean, after. I've been dead, more than once. More than anybody in this house. And I've known for a long time that I have an expiration date.
They have an expiration date, too, but as far as they're concerned, it should be years in the future. It's hard to fight full-out if somewhere at the back of your mind you're saying, I don't want to die. Because then you'll be careful, and being careful doesn't win anything.
I bet Anya wasn't so careful when she was a demon. Now she'll do things like visit the Eye of Blah-Blah, but she has to be pushed and prodded. She never does anything willingly, never does anything without someone insisting. Except for complaining, of course; she has that down to an art.
The thing is, Anya's been in this world longer than any of us. She's killed as many people as Spike. More, really, although it's strange to think of someone small and blond as being deadly.
Although maybe that's not so strange when you think about it.
Sometimes I don't know if she's really chosen sides yet. In the big vs. evil throwdown, I mean. She's here, but she's doing as little as possible. And she wasn't here, wasn't helping, until D'Hoffryn's minions threatened her life. Until then she was content to sit in her pretty girly apartment, just like she was content to sit out the Ascension, years ago. Even now—after living with us, working with us; after sitting next to my mother on Christmas morning, and standing beside her grave on a frigid, cloudless day—she hasn't moved. She's still fine with being Anyanka, who lost her powers. Not Anya, who helps.
Spike should be just like her, shouldn't he? But he's her opposite. Anya doesn't care enough about what she's done, and Spike cares too much. Spike is paralyzed with caring. He doesn't want to hurt anyone or anything. He's so far from the dangerous, sexy bag of sex I slept with last year that I don't think they live in the same zip code. I remember the glee in Spike's eyes, the night we destroyed that house. Not because we were fucking, but because we were fighting.
Well, because of the fucking, too, but that was later. He was wildly happy to hear the dull crack of his fist connecting with my jaw, the sick bastard, and he loved it when I threw him across the room hard enough to rattle the fireplace. He was an animal, refined by intelligence and the experience of being the slayer of Slayers, but an animal nonetheless.
Now, he's just another flunky, one who's afraid to risk taking my hand, even when I've wrapped mine around his first.
They're not what I need. And I'd like to help, I would. The thing is, we haven't got time. This is not a group encounter session; it's the last days of the earth unless we stop it.
The potentials? God, they think this is summer camp, only summer camp with no boys. None of them will have a sense of her power until the one before her dies.
They all want to have their say. I understand, really I do. The thing is, an army can have a lot of captains, but only one general. Because the First Evil? Is not sitting around bitching and arguing with its friends the Second Evil and the Third Evil and the Third Evil's ex-girlfriend, the First Bad Hair Day. It's carving us up like a Thanksgiving turkey. It knows what its chain of command is. It doesn't have to fight like a dog with a bone for every. Damn. Decision. The thing is, we don't have to elect a president of our little team. She was elected years ago. And it doesn't make me better or smarter, but it does make me the Slayer.
I don't want to lose them, any of them. I told the girls weeks ago: They had to be in this a hundred percent. If they weren't, they'd be dead. And with every one the First kills we get weaker, not because there are fewer of us, but because it hurts. They think it doesn't hurt me too? God, it's hard, so hard to go on after one of them has been killed. They may be potential Slayers, but they're just children. I remember what it's like to be young, and frightened. I remember it because that's where I'm at right now.
Do they think this is what I want to do? That I want to work all day with a bunch of teenagers I don't know how to help, and then go home to a houseful of, yes, teenagers, who speak different languages, want different foods at meals, and glare at me every time I correct their fighting technique? That I want to come down on them, all of them, like I'm Quentin Travers' perfect little robo-Slayer? That I want to cut them and their weaknesses up like they don't matter to me?
They don't like taking instructions. Or orders, if that's how they look at it. They want us to sit around and laugh and talk.
That's what the Scoobies want, too. I can see it in their eyes. They want things to be like they were.
And god, so do I.