Summary: In an alternate version of the events in "Earshot", Buffy is annoyed at Xander's preoccupation with sex and decides to find out what else is going on in his head. . .and is startled at the answer she gets.

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

Rating: PG-13, for sexually oriented thoughts, remembered and actual violence and general intensity.

Time Frame: "Earshot" , from the point of Buffy and the others sitting in the library dealing with Buffy's new power.

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me ( 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.


* What am I gonna do? I think about sex all the time. Sex! Help! 4 times 5 is 30. 5 times 6 is 32. Naked girls! Naked women! Naked Buffy! Oh, stop me! *

Buffy was irritated. Was that all Xander thought about. . .sex? He was so great to be around. . .at least when he wasn't taking cheap shots at Angel or complaining about his disaster of a love life. . .she hated to think that this was all there was to her friend. She started to open her mouth to deliver a caustic inquiry. . .then it occurred to her: * I'm just picking up on his surface thoughts. . .maybe I can look deeper. . .find out what's going on deep down in his mind * Something inside her recoiled at the thought of invading Xander's privacy at this level, but her desire to know ruthlessly quashed her qualms. She closed her eyes and began thinking only of Xander; amazingly, her guess on how to use the power on a deeper level was correct on the first try, and Buffy felt herself slipping past Xander's conscious thoughts into what seemed to be his memory. She smiled inwardly and thought, * Now we're getting somewhere *

The first thing she saw was a brief flash of Angel's fist striking Xander and knocking him out, then his bitching about it after the matter with Faith had been ended. * Can't blame him for being a little annoyed about that still * she thought, then pressed on further. A brief image of Faith choking Xander flashed in front of her eyes, and she forced down the guilt feelings that she felt about not warning him about her in time as she pressed on. She encountered a sense of resistance. . .as if Xander were protecting something very important, and she paused a moment as she considered: would he ever forgive her if she insisted on intruding after being warned off? After a timeless pause, she continued to press, and the resistance melted away like cobwebs.

She found herself looking at the nest of Apocalypse demons that they had cleared out just before the Hellmouth opened for the second time, from Xander's point of view. She could feel his humiliation as all of his closest friends suggested that he should steer clear of fights from now on. * Damn it, I didn't know we had hurt him so much. Maybe we overreacted. . .those demons were so dangerous, even Faith and I had trouble with them one on one, but that was no excuse to make him feel useless. * Saddened, she continued to probe. She watched, fascinated, as Xander encountered Jack, then saw the creation of the zombie street gang. She could sense his frustration as he tried to recruit help from his friends, only to be rebuffed due to impending apocalypse. * Sorry, Xander, we should have stopped to fill you in. . .maybe listened to your problems, but we were just caught up in it all. *

Then came his encounter with Faith after he rescued her from the Apocalypse demon, and Buffy felt herself blushing as she frantically willed the memory to pass by. Still, she could sense that, while Xander was strongly attracted to Faith and felt loyalty to her as a friend, there was no real love between them. * Good, at least he won't be pining after her: he was just trying to save her when he went to her room the second time. . .he's not in love with her. * As Xander's memories of Faith ended, Buffy felt renewed resistance: whatever he was hiding, the center of it was close. This time it took genuine effort to breach the barrier: Buffy could feel sweat beading on her brow as she concentrated, though the rest of the world outside of Xander had disappeared for her. After what felt like hours, the resistance abruptly stopped, as if a door had been unbarred, and Buffy found herself watching Xander stare at Jack across a ticking bomb.

Buffy knew, from various sources of Angel's and elsewhere, that the bomb that Xander and Jack were standing next to was directly under the library, and that if it had gone off, their efforts to stop the Hellmouth from destroying the world would have been futile. As she listened to Xander calmly deal with the undead gang leader, she felt deeply shamed that she could have doubted that there was more to her friend than sexual obsession: she could sense the inner calm that enabled him to stand his ground next to a ticking bomb while he taunted his foe in order to save himself and all of his friends. She was about to withdraw, when she sensed a deeper level to Xander's resolve. . .his deep, hidden thoughts as he stood his ground. Once again, she hesitated, but her curiosity won out yet again, and she probed yet deeper. She began to hear Xander's thoughts as he watched the timer tick past ten seconds: * Damn, he's not buying it. . .we're toast. . .and so are the others. Sorry Giles, did my best. Sorry Dead Boy, looks like you're not going to be able to come back from this one. Faith, it was great. . .sorry I couldn't come through for you again. Will. . .I guess I've blown this one. . .sorry about everything. . . * There was a timeless pause, then came his last thought before Jack frantically stopped the timer:

* I love you, Buffy *

It wasn't just the words. . .Buffy could feel the raw emotion behind them, and it staggered her. * All of this time. . .while he was with Cordelia, when he was sneaking around with Willow. . .I thought he had moved on, that he just resented Angel on general principles. I was wrong. . .he tried to move on, but he never has. * Buffy felt a confusing mass of emotions: joy, frustration, and most of all, remorse for intruding this deeply into Xander's private thoughts. Instinctively, she recoiled, blocking off the connection between herself and Xander with a force that sent her staggering back into the table behind her.

Willow and Oz rushed over to her, and Willow asked, "Are you all right, Buffy?" Buffy looked at her and nodded. . .then realized that she was no longer hearing Willow's thoughts. She was puzzled for a moment before realizing that she was unconsciously "clenching" still from breaking the connection with Xander. . .it seemed to be blocking her reception of the thoughts from her friends. Experimentally, she consciously relaxed, and abruptly heard Willow thinking * What's wrong with her? This whole thing is just too weird- * At that point Buffy intentionally tried to duplicate the "clenching" effect she had just experienced, and Willow's thoughts went silent. She smiled broadly and hugged Willow, and was about to explain what had happened when Giles burst out of his office with a book and moved over to Buffy. "We've got a problem, Buffy. Apparently the power can't be turned off. . .if we don't get you into isolation while we find a way to reverse it, it could drive you insane from the confusion."

Buffy took a moment to revel in the irony of what had just happened, then looked coolly at Giles and replied, "It's not a problem, Giles. I just figured out how to block it. . .so all of you can relax: I won't be rummaging through your thoughts any more unless you want me to."

She saw relief on the faces of her friends, and Giles blinked before commenting, "Well, that was certainly fortunate, Buffy. . .and unprecedented. How did you figure out how to block the power?"

Buffy smiled ruefully as she pointedly looked over at Xander, who noted her scrutiny and squirmed as Buffy explained cryptically, "I intruded somewhere where I had no business being, and I backed off as quickly as I could. . .and it just happened, that's all. . .lucky for me that I remembered how I did it, I guess." She met Giles' curious gaze and continued, "O.K., this thing is officially useful rather than being a pain in the ass. . .let's take advantage of it. Giles, make a list of things that would be nice to know from non-vampires, and I'll give it a look-see when you're done. The rest of you. . .my apologies for making your life less private for a few minutes. . .it won't happen again." Willow and Oz smiled, then walked out of the library together. Cordelia shrugged, and departed without a look back. Wesley smiled weakly and retreated into the book cage, while Giles nodded at her and walked back into his office shaking his head. Xander started to leave, only to find himself forcefully restrained by the slender arm of the Slayer. He took a deep breath and asked quietly, "Ah. . .you wanted to ask me something, Buffy?"

Buffy searched his eyes for a long moment, and Xander tapped the deepest recesses of his willpower so as not to visibly squirm under the merciless scrutiny. At length, the Slayer sighed and commented, "We're going to have to have a long talk, Hormone Boy."


Xander walked along the dark street, his instincts screaming out at him to find a safer place to be; however, his determination to stay the course was more than sufficient to ignore the dire warnings that his mind and body were sending to him. He took a deep breath and waited: the wait was not long at all.

"Well, if it isn't Xander Harris. . .one of Buffy's friends and my former sex toy." Faith's voice drifted into his ears with a quiet purr that caused chills to go down his spine. He turned around and saw the Slayer standing ten feet in front of him, wearing an evil smile.

Xander took a deep breath. * Here we go. * He looked at Faith and commented, "I see that turning to the Dark Side of the Force hasn't changed your habits any. Killed anyone lately?"

Faith grinned and replied, "No, but the night is young, and running into you has just given me plenty of ideas." She slowly moved towards Xander, circling him as she whispered, "You know, I was so disappointed when Angel turned out to be faking having gone bad again. . .I had heard such interesting stories from you guys about the stuff he did after Buffy screwed him." Xander glared at her, but she went on, uncaring: "Like killing Giles' girlfriend and leaving her body in his bed. . .nasty trick. . .wonder how B would feel if I left you in her bed. . .you're not Angel, but you'll do. . .if you're lucky, maybe I'll give you another taste before I do it." She walked up to him, and Xander could feel her breath as she concluded, "What do you think about that. . .loser?"

Abruptly, there was a hissing sound, and Faith yelped as she felt a sharp sting in her back. She whirled and saw Buffy standing thirty feet away with the tranquilizer gun that they had used to subdue Oz. She felt dizzy, but a burst of anger sustained her as she turned to do some serious damage to Xander; however, he had quickly withdrawn the moment her attention was diverted. A second sting caused her to cry out in frustration, and she dropped to her knees as Buffy walked up to her and stood over her with the merciless glare that Faith had seen on more than one occasion.

Buffy just watched her for a moment, then commented, "That first dart will put you out for the count in another minute or so. The second one contains that wonderful stuff that the Watchers used on me during my Cruciamentum. . .it should keep you nice and manageable so that even those clods on the Council can keep you under wraps."

Faith desperately tried to get to her feet to attack her tormentor, but only succeeded in sprawling on the ground before Buffy. There was a genuine sense of betrayal in her eyes as she whispered, "How could you, B?"

A touch of sadness mixed with Buffy's glare as Faith began to lose consciousness, and she whispered, "Because you gave me no choice. . .I'm sorry, Faith." The younger Slayer slumped into unconsciousness, and Buffy's expression turned somber as Xander walked over to her and asked, "Are you all right?"

Buffy stared down at the fallen Slayer and replied, "We had to do it, Xander. . .but it still hurts." She turned to her friend and asked, "What about you? I'm not the one she just threatened to turn into a piece of performance art."

Xander looked downcast as he replied, "I did my best, Buffy. . .she just wasn't having any of it. . .for what it's worth, she was a hero at the time we were together, whatever she became later. I guess that will help me live with it." He grimaced and commented, "Come on, Buffy, we'd better get her to Wesley and his goon squad before some of the Mayor's people notice their new assassin is missing." He picked Faith up in a fireman's carry, and they silently began walking back to the school.

Xander's mind wandered as they continued the long walk, and he remembered Buffy stopping him after she had gained full control of her telepathic powers and the others had left. She had looked at him for a long moment, and had then quietly asked him, "Xander, do you trust me?"

He had looked at her for a long moment, then replied honestly, "I'm a little paranoid about anything involving you and Angel, but, other than that, absolutely."

She nodded, then continued, "Xander, I'm going to ask you something. . .and I don't want you to answer me with your voice. . .I'm just going to listen to what your thoughts tell me. . .will you let me do this?"

Xander had a brief burst of primal fear. . .but he did trust her, ultimately. He looked at her and nodded, and Buffy looked directly into his eyes and asked, "Xander, are you still in love with me?"

* Of course I am, what kind of obvious question is-omigod, I didn't want her to know that. . .she'll think I'm trying to sabotage things between her and Dead Boy. . .not that would be a bad thing. . .oh great, idiot, she heard that too. . .what in the hell made her ask that. . .I wasn't thinking about that. . .well, not really. . .I mean. . .oh, crap *

Xander closed his eyes in sheer embarrassment, then opened them to find Buffy standing directly in front of him, staring into his eyes. He blinked in shock, and was further surprised when Buffy leaned over and pulled him down into a kiss that made him tingle from head to toe. After a moment, she released him, and he backed off a step and stared at her as he asked, "Ah, Buffy, would I be out of line to ask what brought this on?"

She looked at him with a smile and replied, "I was nosing around where I shouldn't have been, and what I found made me feel so guilty for intruding on your privacy that I accidentally figured out how to shut off this psychic power that would have had me in solitary confinement for the rest of my life. . .you've saved my life again, Xander. . . and since what I discovered was that you still care about me as much as you ever did. . .I've decided that, if you want to, I want to try to make a go of it with us."

Xander felt dizzy, and he sank into a nearby chair as Buffy sat next to him with an amused smile on her face. After a minute or so, he looked at her with doubt in his eyes and asked, "But Buffy. . .what about Angel?"

Buffy sighed, and hey eyes were sad as she replied, "I still love him, Xander, but we can't be together. . .that's the bottom line. Every time we get back together and then break it off is like re-opening an old wound over and over again. . .it's just getting to be too much for both of us. We both need to get on with our lives, and right now I can't imagine anyone I'd rather do that with than you. . .but, it's your call. I wouldn't be surprised if you had serious doubts about the whole thing."

Xander had indicated a complete absence of doubts by sweeping Buffy into a kiss even better than the one they had just shared, and they had left the library holding hands, to the accompaniment of Wesley's surprised stare and Giles' approving smile.

They had spent most of their waking hours together for the last week, and it was Xander who had come up with the plan to lure Faith out once Buffy had picked up on Faith's desire to emulate Angelus by killing Buffy's friends. Buffy had resisted, but Xander had been persuasive, and the plan had worked perfectly.

Xander looked over at Buffy as they approached the library: she smiled encouragingly at him as he began to tire from carrying Faith. Being in love with Buffy had never been easy, and even now, with her returning his affection, it was not going to be a bed of roses. . .but he was damned well going to give it everything he had. . .he couldn't imagine anything more worthwhile to devote his efforts to. He winked at Buffy as they entered the school, and her laughter echoed through the hallways like a victory chorus as the doors closed behind them.

As always, comments are welcomed and desired