Author: Faith Harris
Summary: Xander finds Buffy as she tries to process the events post-seventh season. He comforts her.
I find her crying on the hotel room floor with a picture on her hand, and it's the first time in a long time that I remember that she is human, and not just the super-slayer.
Instead of saying anything at first, I sit down beside her, crossing my legs Indian-style and taking a look at the picture that she was holding. I don't know how she saved it from the wreckage of Sunnydale, and I don't really think asking that is my place at the moment. I think that maybe she just needs somebody to sit with her, and sitting's practically my forte. I'm an expert when it comes to sitting.
The picture's one of me, her, and Willow, and it's a bit creased and torn, as if it's been stuffed in a small pocket for way too long. I'm giving her a pig back ride, and Willow's beside us, laughing. It was obviously taken in high school by the length of Willow's hair and the fact that Buffy hasn't worn overalls since senior year, and yes, I'm aware of the strangeness that I've noticed that. I've always noticed things about her, at least, I've always noticed the little things. The details that make her- made her- the Buffy I'd spent six years of my life in love with.
"I think…" Buffy sniffles, and it's the first time that she's acknowledged my presence, "I think I kept this to keep from forgetting who we were. Who I was. It didn't work very well."
I shook my head, and took the picture from her gently. "That's not true, Buff. Things got out of control. It happened to all of us." I can name a million times in the last year of Sunnydale that I did things I shouldn't have done, wouldn't have done if I'd been thinking straight. "The First got to each and every one of us, and we were all very sick." I've never said that out loud before, but I've never been comfortable enough to say it before, either.
Back in Sunnydale, I said a lot of motivating things for the girls, especially for Dawn. I didn't believe half of the words that came out of my mouth. I talked about being brave when I was scared shitless, talked about banding together when I was halfway to running away, got angry when Buffy tried to remove me from the action even though some nights I prayed that I'd get killed by a vamp so that I wouldn't have to watch my heroes fall against the First…I was as torn up and screwed up as the rest of them, in my own way, but I'd pretended to be strong.
"No, not everybody," Buffy counters, as if that's the only thing that she knows for sure. That type of trust, from Buffy, is something that I haven't seen in a very long time. "Dawn wasn't messed up, Faith, for once, wasn't…you weren't." She wipes her eyes, hard enough to be scrubbing them, and tilts her head to look up towards me. "You always told me the truth, and you were always right…I just never listened to you."
I wish she wouldn't say that, because that just brings me back to that funeral home back in high school, when Angelus killed Theresa. That day Buffy collapsed in my arms, crying, and I held her, and she thanked me…and it was one of those few moments that I knew my place in the world, as complicated as it might have been at the time. It's been a long time since there has been a moment that's really been between the two of us. Maybe we haven't had a real one since…since Glory, since the Geek Squad.
Jesus Christ, it's been a long time since I've talked to Buffy. I've missed her even more than I realized.
"I say a lot of things, a lot of the time, and the only things that you remember are the right ones," I explained. "But, yeah, I was sick too. I was trying to force this—this perfection with Anya, and then she died…I was trying to be Super-Xander for the Potentials. Stress is a thing of many forms, and stress and fear don't mix." I fingered the picture carefully, not looking at Buffy.
Buffy was silent for a moment. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you. I'm sorry I wasn't there for any of you."
"Hey, you were busy saving the world, so, I get it," I shrug, a short dismissive laugh.
Buffy grabs my hand, her grip tight enough that I look up, startled. Her eyes are wide with something like sick horror, and it scares me. "But I didn't, Xander. I mean, I've thought about it, again and again, and I'm not sure that I did the right thing." I've never heard Buffy doubt something that she did in the past before, at least not when it comes to anything that's not relationship related. In fact, when I think about it, I'm not sure that I've ever heard her admit regret when it came to that.
"What do you mean?"
"What did I really do, Xander? I died again, and I talked a big talk," Buffy says, "but I didn't do anything but cause more problems."
"I'm not understanding, Buff."
"It wasn't the Slayers that saved the world," Buffy tells me, "It was Angel and Spike." She lets out a sharp, painful twitter of laughter, an almost Drusilla like giggle, and she brings her hand up to her mouth as she starts to hiccup, starts to cry again. "After every horrible thing I said to him, about the lawyers, and everything I did to Spike, with Spike…and they were the heroes. IF it wasn't for that little medallion thingy that Angel gave me, that I gave to Spike…we would have all died down there."
I sit in silence, because I never looked at it like that before. The psycho Slayers that have all been sent to Buffy to be judged, and the hundreds that were probably still out there, the ones that let the power they've been given go to their heads. That's all that there is, really, if the Slayers didn't save the day.
The Slayers didn't save the day…and that hits me, like a ton of bricks. It was all luck, fate, and all these other things, but it wasn't the Scoobies. We just happened to be conduits for whatever else was supposed to happen. It made all of our work, our loss, and our pain seem…pointless.
"Shit." It is all I can say, and it makes this part of me, this deep down part that always seemed to run back to my Hero Buffy hurt.
Buffy nods. "That's why I was crying. Because I realized that I became a monster for no good reason."
I grab Buffy by both arms so that she has to pay attention, as to listen. "You are not, and you have never been a monster. You were a scared kid, just like I was, just like we all were. We all had our issues, but we're not in Sunnydale anymore. We've all made mistakes, some of them really really stupid, but you tried. You did your best, and that was all that you could do. It was all any of us could do."
Tears flow from Buffy's eyes and each one hurts as if I'm a vampire and Buffy's tears were blessed by a god himself. "I'm a disgusting monster, and I keep fucking up, and I never learn."
"Really?" I ask her, tipping her head up a little so that she is looking me in the eyes again. "Because I think that if you're willing to admit that you screwed up, you must have learned something." Buffy blushes and tries to look away from me again. "I'm serious, Buffy. Take it from someone who knows you." And who loves you, I almost say, but I don't know where that comes from. I haven't been in love with Buffy for awhile, at least, that's what I thought, but maybe I was wrong. Maybe I do love her still. Maybe I just need to be there for her.
Buffy's watery eyes finally fully meet mine and she looks as if she's about to put her life in my hands. "I'm not so sure, Xander."
"Fortunately, I'm sure enough for the both of us."
"Will you…" I know this is difficult for her to say, because it's not often that she actually asks for anything from anyone. She likes to be independent, and I don't blame her. I think that there's still a part of her that envies the way Faith never seems to need anyone. I also don't think that she realizes how much Faith has come to rely on the rest of us now that she's part of the group. "Will you help me?"
I smile at her, gathering her up in my arms so that she lays against my chest. She's still crying, but it's softer now, it's no longer a river. She feels…well, she feels right in my arms, but I feel like crap for thinking that. "Of course, Buffster. That's my job. I'm an official Buffy Helper."
She laughs at that, but it's a sad laugh, a laugh that's not much different than crying. "Thank you, Xander. Thank you."
And we sit some more on that hotel floor, and it's the longest time I've spent with her in ages, but I think that it's what she needs. As I hold her closer, and she falls asleep, I think that maybe it's what I need as well.