Breaking Point

Summary: Buffy and Xander have it out over a long-standing matter between them. . .

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for violence and themes.

Time Frame: Summer, post fourth season BTVS and first season Angel.

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (eilandesq@aol.com) to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.


BREAKING POINT


Xander walked up to the door of Giles' apartment, noticing that it was ajar. Remembering recent incidents involving unwanted intruders, Xander tensed as he opened the door slowly, ready to grab for a weapon if a demon or other nasty jumped out at him. Nothing did, and the door swung open into an apparently empty apartment. Xander walked in, absently chewing on the Twinkie that he was carrying, then blinked as he heard voices coming from Giles' room upstairs:

"Buffy, I insist that you listen to reason. . .given the wording of the prophecy, your actions could border on suicidal." Giles' voice was tense, and the loudness of his voice betrayed the concern he was feeling.

"You're blowing this out of proportion, Giles," Buffy's voice was calm in reply, though Xander recognized the telltale signs of stress from long experience. "The prophecy doesn't seem all that clear, and I can't just sit around worrying that this is the one where I get it. . ."

Xander tuned out the rest and quietly moved over to the table where Giles had spread out the research materials that apparently had him so worked up. He glanced at the book and noticed that it was written in some language that he was completely unfamiliar with, but that Giles had apparently translated the relevant parts. He squinted at the neat writing on the yellow paper, and his heart froze when he saw the last few words on the page: ". . .Three nights after the full moon, Canor will meet the Slayer, and she will fall prey to his cunning-" The page ended there, and Xander looked frantically for the continuation of the translation, but found nothing except the description of Canor and a map marked with the apparent location where it was to show up. Grimly, Xander looked up at where the argument was continuing, then quickly left the apartment. Automatically, he pulled the door closed behind him, slamming it. He dismissed the slip from his mind as he ran to his car.

A second later, Giles poked his head downstairs and called out, "Hello?" Hearing no response, he walked down, Buffy trailing behind him. They both looked around for a moment. . .then Buffy's eyes fell on the disturbed papers. She ran over and immediately spotted the discarded Twinkie wrapper. She cursed mildly, then turned to Giles and commented, "We've got a problem. . .Xander's gone after Tall, Blue and Scaly. . ." The sound of a car screeching away outside punctuated her words.

Giles blinked, and replied, "Buffy. . .Xander's been rash in the past, but what on Earth would move him to-" He noticed Buffy looking pointedly at the object in his right hand, and he looked down to see the continuation of his translation, and he was moved to comment, "Oh, bugger."

Buffy nodded grimly, then ordered, "Come on. . .if I know Xander, he has his stuff stashed where he can get at it fast. . .we won't be able to beat him home, but we might beat him to the demon's hangout if we hurry."

Giles nodded, and they gathered the supplies they would need before heading for the door. As they walked to Giles' car, Giles noted Buffy's grim expression and commented, "Prophecy aside, I wouldn't want to be Canor right now. . ."

Buffy's eyes turned colder still, and she whispered, "Canor's not the one who should be worried. . ."



* * * * *


Canor calmly toyed with a jeweled dagger as he awaited the inevitable arrival of the Slayer. He had arrived in Sunnydale a week or so back, courtesy of the botched attempt of a would-be necromancer to summon an undead servitor. Canor had shown his appreciation by turning his summoner over to a group of local vampires, who decided that the cringing human would make an excellent undead servitor himself.

The demon lord had taken pains to learn about the local environment, and inevitably the Slayer's name came up. Canor had laughed at the terror in the faces of the vampires and other demons he had questioned. . .Slayers held no terror for him. Over the centuries, Canor had met more than a few Slayers and always prevailed, although not always fatally so. He was seven feet tall, heavily muscled, and covered with thick scales, and that had always served him well, but it was his wits that had allowed him to outmaneuver even the most powerful Slayers that had come after him over the years. . .Buffy Summers would be no different. He coerced several vampires into causing trouble that the Slayer would hear of, resulting in his name being dropped under pressure, and simply waited. Sooner or later, she would show up at this large crypt that he had commandeered as a lair, and he would defeat her as he had the others. There was the sound of approaching footsteps, and Canor smiled.

But it was not a petite blonde that entered the crypt, but a tall, dark-haired man in military fatigues and carrying one of the large firearms that Canor had noted were becoming popular among the humans during the last century. He continued forward, and Canor only had time for an abbreviated curse before the man stepped on the trigger point that the demon had so carefully prepared.

There was a flash of light, and three spells were triggered, focusing their energies on the startled young man. One was designed to completely dull the blade of any edged weapon that the target was carrying, and there was indeed a glow at the man's belt as a high quality K-Bar knife became useless. The second was designed to snap every bowstring on the target: that one shimmered and faded without finding a target. The third was a doozy: it was intended to completely incapacitate the target by manipulation of various chemical balances within the body; unfortunately for Canor, he designed it for maximum effectiveness against the Slayer. . .meaning it was tuned to work only against females. Xander blinked in surprise, glanced down at the irregular lump of metal that had been his good combat knife, then looked back up at the demon and asked in bewilderment, "What in the hell was that?"

The demon lord sighed and replied, "Eight hours work, actually, and I really wish that it hadn't gone to waste." He frowned in irritation as Xander moved into the crypt and circled around closer to Canor, the assault rifle leveled and unwavering, then commented, "The vampires said that all of you soldier types had departed for parts unknown after the big conflagration a few months ago. . .apparently I need to get better sources of information." He sighed again, then concluded dismissively, "Look, why don't you just leave. . .I have some preparations to make before the Slayer arrives, and I don't need an audience."

Xander's eyes flared with anger, and he snapped back, "The Slayer's not coming. . .she's got better things to do than to deal with minor leaguers like you. . .I'm here to punch your ticket."

Canor stared at Xander for a moment, then began chuckling. Xander waited for a moment in growing irritation, then said aloud, "Screw it," and began firing.

Xander had obtained the state of the art assault rifle from his raid on the National Guard armory a couple of years back. It was an extremely deadly piece of work, designed to keep three round bursts fired at a rate of almost a thousand rounds a minute on target. Xander continued pulling the trigger until the gun was empty, and was gratified to see that his target was no longer standing as he reached for a fresh clip.

The figure moved, and Xander found himself pinned to the far wall of the crypt by his throat. From his vantage point, he could see that the wounds made by the rifle were healing with appalling speed, and his heart sank as the echoes of the gunfire died down. After a moment, Canor threw Xander to the ground, stunning him. Dazed, Xander heard Canor say, "You've got a lot of nerve, boy. . .coming here, thinking you could defeat me with that toy. . .nerve is lacking these days. I came here by chance, and stayed here to add to my Slayer collection. . .but perhaps I should broaden my horizons. I haven't had a good assistant in decades; of course, you'll need to undergo some changes. . .but change is good, wouldn't you agree?" The demon lord reached over and grabbed a spell book, and smiled evilly as he found the spell he was looking for. He glanced down at the helpless Xander and asked sardonically, "Was there anything you wanted to say before I start this dreadfully painful and irreversible process?"

Xander's eyes widened, and Canor's smug expression was abruptly frozen in place as the blade of a katana sliced through the air, severing the demon's neck. The head rolled into a corner, then glowed as both parts of the demon lord's body disintegrated, with Canor's spirit sent howling back to hell with a vigor that caused both Xander and Buffy to shiver. Xander blinked again, then managed to stagger to his feet as he stammered, "Wow. . .Buffy. . .thanks. . .you really saved me that time."

Buffy sheathed the katana, then walked up to Xander with a neutral expression on her face as she asked, "Are you all right, Xander?"

Xander took inventory, and realized that he was unharmed. He nodded and replied, "Yeah, Buffy, I'm fine."

Buffy raised an eyebrow, and asked again, "Are you sure?"

Xander nodded impatiently and replied, "I said I'm fine, Buffy."

Buffy nodded and smiled coldly as she responded, "Good."

Xander never saw the fist that knocked him unconscious. Xander slumped back against the crypt wall, then crumpled to the floor.

Giles clucked in disapproval from the door, but a glare from Buffy silenced him. She picked Xander up in a fireman's carry, and started out, commenting, "Just drive, Giles. . .I'll take it from here."

They got into the car and drove off, leaving an empty crypt for the three police officers to discover half an hour later. They were bitching for days about the reports that the abandoned assault rifle forced them to fill out.


* * * * *


Xander gradually regained consciousness, and he perceived that he was being restrained in some way by his wrists and ankles. He feigned continuing unconsciousness while subtly testing his bonds. He appeared to be fastened to something, probably a bed by the feel of it, with metal cuffs. He frantically tried to remember what had happened, but his memories after entering the crypt were a bit sketchy. * All right, let's review. Someone has captured me and handcuffed me to a bed. Using my limited thinking abilities, I figure one of the following things has happened. One, Canor captured me and is preparing to do something nasty to me. Two, Dead Boy fell off the wagon again, and I'm about to become a piece of performance art. Three, Faith busted out of the joint, and is planning to do god knows what. . .which will undoubtedly cause Anya to hunt me down and kill me later. Four-- * Xander carefully opened one eye, and froze when he saw Buffy sitting in a chair at the foot of the bed, giving him her most devastating glare. * Crap. . .Two or three are looking pretty good right now. . . * He opened his eyes fully, forced himself to meet the withering gaze of the Slayer, and called out, "Hey, Buffy. . .what's going on?"

Buffy's eyes remained hard, but her face remained neutral as she pulled her chair up next to the bedside, making no move to release Xander as she replied, "Well, let's see. . .I was having a conversation with Giles last night about a little Slaying-related problem, one that would involve a certain amount of risk, but hey, nothing new for this career girl. Anyway, we hear a noise downstairs. . .and when we check it out it turns out my very good friend Xander has heard about my problem, and has decided to make it the occasion for one of his patented suicide runs. Naturally, we have to haul ass down to the bad part of town to keep my good friend from, you know, TOTALLY GETTING HIMSELF KILLED FOR NO GOOD REASON!!"

Xander flinched at the volume, then locked eyes with her and snapped back, "If keeping you from going to certain death is no good reason, Buffy, then you should be glad I was such a dumbass three years ago." He expected her to recoil at that, but she only reached into her back pocket and pulled out a sheet of paper. Xander blinked and asked, "What's that?"

"The last page of the translation. . .you know, the one that wasn't there when you looked for it?" Buffy replied coldly, carefully unfolding it and holding it up so that he could read it. Xander scanned the page, and it wasn't long before he reached the crucial sentences, and he bit back a stream of curses. Buffy pulled back the page, and her eyes were accusing as she prodded, "Well?"

Xander flushed, then replied, "All right. . .it isn't exactly the prophecy about the Master killing you. . .but you could see how it looked. . .OK, I screwed up. . .I'm sorry, all right?" He rattled his chains for effect, then asked plaintively, "Could you let me loose now?"

Buffy sat down again, and the look in her eyes changed slowly from anger to sadness as she shook her head and replied, "Damn it, Xander. . .don't you get it? Giles and I were working on a plan. . .one that easily could have involved you, Willow, and maybe even Tara. . .Willow says she's been asking about helping. God knows I don't want to expose any more of my friends to mortal danger, but the fact is that sometimes I need them. . .and I'm going to take that help when I can get it. But you show up, read one incomplete translation, and dash off to face a demon alone that you think I can't handle even with help. . .Xander, did it ever occur to you that having to rush in to rescue you could have been even more dangerous that just fighting it straight up?"

Xander blinked hard at that, and Buffy didn't let up: "Or even worse. . .if I had gotten there too late, and he had turned you into the demonic version of an office gopher. I don't know if you've been paying attention, but I kind of have a hard time killing demons wearing the faces of my best friends, and you've come close to that way too many times in the last few years."

"Laying it on a little thick, aren't you?" Xander snapped, thinking that she had gone over the line.

Buffy glared at him, then replied, "Remember the night we all turned on each other? I had just had my ass handed to me by Adam, and you all yelled at me for wanting to do recon on my own? Do you know why I was so determined not for you to come? Forrest was in that cave with me and Adam." She took a breath, visibly trying to stay in control, then continued. "He opened up full force with his blaster, and Adam just soaked it up. I yelled at him to run, but he wouldn't listen and went at Adam with bare hands. Adam gutted him like a trout and I had to watch, Xander. I knew he hated me, but as screwed up as he was, he thought he was doing the right thing. . .and I had to watch him die. Not to mention having to see him as one of Adam's robo-zombies later. . .he nearly killed me with his bare hands. Do you know what I was thinking all of that time, Xander? That I was just grateful that it wasn't you. . .because Forrest didn't do anything that you didn't do when we were all fighting Adam. The only reason that he's dead and you're alive is that you didn't figure into Adam's plans one way or another. . .that's the only reason I didn't lose one of my best friends when he charged a demon--one that had taken my best punch and smiled, mind you--with his bare hands: because he chose to ignore you."

Xander was looking increasingly appalled as he listened to Buffy, but her last sentence touched an old raw nerve, and he retorted, "So we're back to that, huh? Useless Xander is getting in the way." He subsided, but the hurt was visible on his face.

Buffy blinked, and Xander was surprised to see the implacable stare soften into what looked like a bizarre mixture of exasperation and affection. She took another deep breath, then locked eyes with him and replied softly, "Xander. . .if the only way to get through to you is to tell you what we both already know, then I'm going to do it." Xander flinched, waiting for a harsh flood of words from Buffy, and was startled as she began, "Xander, I would have been dead for years now if you hadn't been around. You brought me back from the dead, you kept Angelus from attacking me when I was helpless, and you managed to keep all of us from being blown into kitty litter the night the Hellmouth almost opened again last January. Not to mention coming up with the idea of using the rocket launcher on the Judge when I was not exactly in a condition to come up with a great idea, and doing the leader thing on Graduation Day and keeping the casualty rate way down. Oh, and did I forget last fall when I was at my lowest point in years and you showed up and told me exactly what I needed to hear? I can't imagine doing this whole thing without you. . .are you hearing me?"

Xander nodded slowly, and Buffy nodded in return as she continued, "Good. . .now that we have that established, I'd like to point out to you that all of those things had one important element in common. . .you were using your head. You went to Angel to try to find the Master, even though I know you hated him. You kept your head and used the fact that Angelus wouldn't attack you in a public place to hold him off. You tried to get help from us before dealing with Jack and his gang yourself, and you did the best you could on your own. You used your brain to get the military equipment and to lead the students on Graduation Day. . .these are all things you can be proud of, Xander. . .but you need to realize that you don't always stop to think. " She paused, took another breath, then continued, "Xander, you've almost been killed by Spike twice because you charged him with bare hands. . .the first time might have been reasonable. . .Willow was in trouble, and you had no time to think. But last year when Spike had the Gem of Amara? That was just suicidal, Xander. . .good thing he didn't decide to finish you off, because I doubt that I could have stopped him. . .I barely stopped him from killing me as it was."

Xander swallowed hard, and Buffy continued, "Then there was the fight in the lab. . .there was a loose gun you could have gone for, Xander, but you just charged at Adam. Xander, you're pretty decent in a fight, but if I can't beat the crap out of something, neither can you. . .period. What you did wasn't a rescue attempt. . .it was a suicide attempt."

Buffy watched Xander's eyes as he mentally re-evaluated his actions, and was ambivalent about seeing the full realization of how foolish he had been enter them. After a few minutes, he looked up at her and whispered, "So. . .this is it, then? You don't want me around any more?"

Buffy blew air through her lips in frustration, then snapped, "Weren't you listening? I do need you. . .as much as I need Willow or Giles. You pick up my spirits, come up with plans at times when the rest of us are spinning our wheels, and I can depend on you to walk into hell with me, if I ever have the need. That's the point, Xander. . .you're too damned important to me to lose to a stunt like the one you pulled last night. . .I'd be just as pissed off if Willow or Giles pulled something like this. . .and the one time Giles did, I knocked him on his ass too. . .before we started crying." At that moment, tears appeared in her eyes for the first time since she had begun speaking. She took a deep breath, then continued, "Xander. . .I need you. . .but if you are going to keep doing this. . .I am going to have to call it quits between us. . .no matter what the consequences are to me, or to the rest of us." She locked eyes with him again, and concluded with a tone of desperation: "Please don't make me do that, Xander."

Xander blinked, and there were tears in his dark eyes as he looked at Buffy, then nodded once before elaborating, "All right, Buffy. . .I'll try. . .and I'll at least compare any dumb stunt that I'm about to pull with the ones you just mentioned as a sanity check before I do anything again. . .is that OK with you?"

Buffy looked at him, then nodded and removed the chains that were holding him down before capturing him in a ferocious hug. Xander returned the embrace, then followed Buffy out, realizing that they were in the old mansion that Angel had lived in. He stopped, then asked Buffy, "I know why you punched me out. . .but why the chains, Buffy?"

Buffy sighed, and responded, "Because I wanted to make sure you would stay and listen. . .and because I had already hit you once. . .I didn't want to do it again, and if Spike couldn't annoy me enough to make me hit him in chains. . .I knew that you wouldn't."

Xander smiled, and responded, "I see your point. . .all right, I'd better get my car at the other cemetery. . .see you at the Bronze tonight?"

Buffy nodded, and Xander walked out, inwardly shivering as he jogged down the front walkway and out of Buffy's sight. Buffy sighed, then turned to see Giles come out of the shadows. The Slayer smiled and commented, "You've been working on your lurking skills, Giles. . .what's the story with the cops?"

Giles smirked and replied, "Shockingly enough, it is being dismissed as gang activity." They both smiled at the predictability of the Sunnydale police as Giles continued, "Willow and I went back to the crypt today and ran some tests to see what Canor had been doing there. . ." He handed Buffy a sheet of paper, which described the spells that had been set up, then triggered by Xander's entrance. Buffy turned pale and whispered, "So if I'd been the first one across that threshold. . ."

"Canor would have made short work of you, unless the rest of us could have prevented him from doing so." Giles replied, his eyes clearly indicating the doubtful chances of that proposition.

Buffy shook her head in disbelief, and stared after the departed Xander. She turned back to Giles and whispered fiercely, "Not a word of this to Xander. . .understand? If he thought-"

Giles nodded in agreement, "Yes, Willow had the same reaction. . .not a good thing for him to find out when we're trying to get him to take less risks." He smiled and commented, "Think of it as a parting gift, Buffy. . .and hope that it never happens again."

Buffy sighed again and replied, "You've got that right. . .come on. . .let's get out of here." They walked out, leaving the mansion alone with its substantial history of dramatic events having been increased by one on that day.


As always, comments are welcomed and desired