Feedback: Please be gentle.
Distribution: Gimme credit and a link.
Rating: Harsh language, violence, and possibly gratuitous explosions.
Spoilers: Up to Chosen and... well, that would be telling.
Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to other folks. I'm just borrowing them for a while.
Summary: Xander Harris's past comes back to haunt him.
Author's Note: Annoying bunnies.
It was the day after the dancing demon Sweet had come to Sunnydale.
"Willow, don't," Xander said quietly, breaking her concentration. "Messing with people's memories, it isn't right."
The redhead turned and stared at him for a long moment in astonishment.
"How dare you," she hissed, her voice low, her eyes blazing. "How dare you judge me when you did the exact same thing!"
He flinched and looked away. His voice low, he replied, "It wasn't the same thing, Willow. All I did was give you a... a sense of familiarity. The rest was your own mind rewriting itself. That's the way it was with everyone. Even me. Don't do this, Willow."
"Even you?" she blinked in surprise, her anger deflating rapidly. "You charmed yourself?"
"I had to get away, Will," he said, looking up. "If you knew about that... then you know why."
She nodded slowly and looked away herself, "Yeah... yeah, I guess I do."
"Whatever you decide to do," Xander said, shaking his head, "I won't judge you. I just wanted to make sure you considered the consequences." He turned to leave.
"Thank you... Harry."
"Harry's dead," he said coldly.
It would be a year and a half before they spoke of their hidden history again.
The ragtag band stood over the sinkhole that was once Sunnydale.
"I just want to sleep, yo," Faith said, "for like a week."
"I guess we all could, if we wanted to," Dawn noted.
"Yeah," Willow smiled. "The First is scrunched, so... what do you think we should do, Buffy?"
"Yeah, you're not the one and only chosen anymore," Faith added. "Just gotta live like a person. How's that feel?"
"Yeah, Buffy," Dawn chimed in. "What are we gonna do now?
They turned in surprise as helicopters landed and vehicles pulled up. Military medical teams flooded out, and after a long and tense moment, they began seeing to the injuries sustained by the Sunnydale refugees. Out of one helicopter climbed...
"That lousy son of a bitch," Xander muttered as he stalked toward the chopper.
"What's the big idea, huh?" Xander demanded. "We could've used some firepower in there!"
"Nice to see you too, Xander," Riley said, holding his jaw, not bothering to get up.
"So, where were you, and don't give me that 'need to know' shit," Xander snarled.
Riley sighed, "We had direct orders from on high, Xander. Because of the Initiative mess, our standard policy is to assume that you guys can handle things here. Besides, we had a team in there, and Buffy told them to leave, so we concluded that you had everything under control."
"Buffy told them to what?" Xander asked, his voice suddenly very calm.
"Um, Xander?" Riley said nervously. "Calm down."
"I'm perfectly calm. Answer the question."
Buffy jerked and blinked in surprise as Xander stormed into the medical tent the Army had set up for the injured.
"What is it, Xander?"
"Didn't you think flamethrowers just might have been useful?" he asked.
"What are you talking about?" she frowned. By this point, every one of the wounded had their gazes focused on them. The medics were too professional to be distracted much, but they too paid attention.
"Riley just told me about the offer for help and your answer."
"He what!" she bolted to her feet. "Where is he?"
"Getting some ice for his jaw."
"Whoa, hold up," Rona broke in. "You mean we could've had help? Flamethrowers?"
Xander nodded at her, "Flamethrowers, incendiary grenades, you name it, we could've had it." He turned to Buffy, his eyes blazing, "Do you even realize, Buffy, that with their help, we could have won that last fight without losing anyone? A single thermobaric is all it would have taken, and Anya and even Spike would still be alive right now!"
He took a deep breath and added, "And I use the term 'alive' loosely. Hell, with their help, we wouldn't have had to pull this mass Calling stunt, and there wouldn't be dozens of girls out there with big fat bull's eyes on their backs!"
"Don't try and pin this on me, Xander!" she snarled back.
"Who should I blame it on, then?" he shot back. "Giles? No, you were in charge, you made those decisions without consulting any of us, so you are the one responsible for getting those girls killed. And you get to be the one to tell their familes their daughters are dead. And as time passes, you get to tell all those new slayers out there that they've just been drafted. By you. Just like you were."
"Xand-" she said, her voice breaking.
"I'M NOT FINISHED YET!" he roared. "Do you like being the leader now, Buffy? Hope so, because this is just the first taste of the shit that's about to come down on you. We had the f---ing ARMY waiting on our doorstop, with enough firepower to incinerate every ubervamp as soon as they got out of the seal, and because you told them to take a hike after they unchipped Spike, they sat out the whole damn fight!" He leaned in close, "You want the glory? You get the blame."
With that, he turned and stormed out of the tent.
Buffy followed... and blinked as an owl suddenly dove out of the sky and landed on Xander's out-stretched arm. He looked at the owl for a long moment, then continued walking.
She moved to follow him again, "Xander, what...?"
"Don't, Buffy," Willow said, stepping in front of her. "He needs to be alone for this."
Oh, Xander, Willow thought, looking over her shoulder at the owl Xander carried with him as he sought privacy. It's been so long since you've used magic. Can you really...?
Her eyes widened. "Oh, no."
Xander had just finished reading the letter when Willow barrelled into the tent.
"Xander, whatever they want, you can't go. You don't have your magic anymore. I do!" she babbled breathlessly.
Xander chuckled, "You're just figuring it out now? For someone so smart, you can be really dumb sometimes, Will."
She opened her mouth, closed it, then opened it again, but no words came out.
"Nice goldfish impression there, Will," he grinned. "You've had my magic ever since the Enjoining Spell."
Her gaze swept around, until it finally settled on the letter, "So, what's it say?"
He shrugged, "About what I expected."
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to go there," Xander said, his voice deceptively calm. "And I'm going to shove my axe in someone somewhere very uncomfortable."
"Now Xander, what have I told you about being polite?" she scolded mildly.
"Will, given what I want to do to them, that is me being polite."
Another one of my random plot bunnies. I've had this one for a while, and only now decided to polish it up and post it.