She glanced casually over the room. It was tiny, but despite its dimensions in 'smallness' it was also very comfortable. Not showy or exaggerated, just practical and within reason.
Surrounding her was a room lacking in glamour but offering an abundance of necessity only. There was a desk, a small kitchenette consisting of a mini bar fridge and a microwave oven, a built in wardrobe and a bed. Nothing outlandish or overdone. She supposed the overly protective sister in her should have been horrified at the Spartan-ess of it all and preferred more space and amenities, but instead all she felt the glow of pride. True her own accommodations at Sunnydale College had three times the room, but that excess room was occupied by nothing but vacentness and it made her own loneliness more pronounced. Casting her eye over the distance of corner to corner her mouth started to tug upwards; it was not right for her to compare SC to Oxford because in truth there was no comparison. When Dawn had been accepted as a student on a full Watcher's Scholarship, Buffy had to admit she supported doubts whether her baby sister could manage the pressure and the reputation forever linked to this world famous institute of higher learning. The Giles and the Council might have been able to pull some strings to get her a place within the ivy covered walls, whether or not Dawn was able to keep herself there, well, that really depended on her. But two years on and her sibling's grades remained steady and sitting comfortably in the top 15-percent of all her classes. She was even making some headway into becoming a known, if not small and independent voice, within the archaeological department of the esteemed campus. Yes, no doubt about it, her baby sister was achieving everything she had set out to achieve and despite the obstacles that had placed themselves in her way over the several years of her existence, little 'Dawn Patrol' Summers was finding a path singular to her alone and not one that trailed in the footsteps of her Slayer big sister.
Without meaning too, the most accomplished Vampire and Demon Hunter in human history paced the cosy and worn path from bed to desk and back again, spanning all of eight feet in her limited journey. Doing her best to try and exercise in her mind the lifestyle her sister had chosen to pursue over her own. The walls before her had scatterings of boy band poster's and pictures from glossy magazines of the latest on-screen hottie. A smirk grew over her smile as she spied in the corner the latest 'Twilight' Poster and realising that it had been converted into a target for several darts. Dozens of dimples and divots were easily noticeable on the papered forehead and faces of Edward, Bella and Jacob.
On the desk that sat in front of the only window in the room laid a laptop surrounded by several photographs. Two of the pictures were of herself, one with the Colosseum in the background. One image was of Giles sitting behind a large mahogany table. Three of Willow and Kennedy standing in an embrace during the happier moments of their tumultuous relationship and one token picture of Andrew. The eighth photograph was not of a person however, it was infact a Post Card of an expansive tundra at sunset. A giraffe and the darken outline of a mother and baby elephant in the far off distance roving together under the redding sun, a standard comment in bold italic print across the front of the bordered image of 'Wish you were here.' It did not take too many brain cells to work out who had sent this to her. Errantly she picked up the Post Card and stared adorning into the image in front of her face.
The visual absence of the missing male Scooby face from this collection of friends and 'family' smiling features pained her heart at the acknowledgement of it loss. It had now been years since everyone went their separate ways. After Sunnydale and the destruction of the Hellmouth, then Cleveland, the team were all given their choice of Assignment. For herself and Willow the decision was one easily made. Will and Kennedy selected Rio de Janeiro and she picked out Rome. To say that the resident father figure was disappointed with their choices was an understatement. Giles had secretly supported hopes that both his 'daughters' would chose to remain in Merry Old with him and help rebuild the Slayer Organisation anew. That his offering of worldwide locales, accommodation, and a stable AND excessive weekly salary would be declined with grace. It was, in his line of thinking, a generous gesture that would never be exploited by the pair. But to his surprise and sorrow he proved himself wrong.
Looking back on the moment now, Buffy had to admit that both she and Will felt that they needed a break from the things that went bump in the night. That it wasn't so much of an 'indulgence', as Giles had put it, in as it was an escape. The fact that their chosen objectives were considered the Party Capital of the World and the origin of everything true and pure in fashion and sophistication was just a bizarre coincidence. Xander on the other hand was the only one of the three who took the Senior Watcher's offer seriously, much to the staggered disappointment of herself, Willow and Dawn. Afterall, if there was anyone in their quartet who needed a sizable break from dealing with the supernatural and anything Slayery in nature it was, in their collective opinion, Xander. He had lost much during the destruction of the Hellmouth. His eye first and then the life of someone he loved. Anya's death haunted him and it didn't take Dr Phil for everybody to work out that he had held himself responsible for it. Willow tried to employ armchair psycho-babble by telling him that choosing the hardships of Africa would do nothing to ease his soul at his sense of guilt, but all this did was make him make puns. It was his standard defensive and they all knew it well. Make jokes so that no-one would know how scared, lonely on in pain you really were. The badder the humour, the more fragile he truly was. When he started straying into 'letting his inner hyena come out and stretch his legs' on the Serengeti Plains, well, everybody around him who knew how much the 'Hyena' Episode 8-years earlier had truly affected him were not finding their funny bone. Instead of sharing in his forced and canned laughter or it did was have people exchange worried looks.
With Willow's approach striking out she decided to wait a day and then try an alternative option that was always her popular fallback whenever Xander was planning to do something she disapproved of. It was the tough love angle, and though it sometimes had the tendency of blowing up in her face, desperate times called for desperate actions in her opinion. She had cornered him in the new Watcher's Library as he was restacking burned and chard books that had been rescued from the old and now demolished building. She drew him to the far side of the room, away from prying eyes and a hasty and available exit, she then proceeded to tell him that he was not up to the challenge of managing all of African Territory all by himself and for him to be more realistic towards his own capabilities. She then began drumming home the point that if he found himself in danger this time that there would not be a Willow or a Slayer within a thousand miles who could come to his rescue. That if he chose to do this that he would be doing it on his own.
To be honest, as soon as she crossed that line she pretty much knew what she would be expecting. That little ultimatum of hers ended up being as popular as syphilis at a 'Swingers Convention' and it lead to an exchange of words that still haunted some of her nightmares even to this day. She had known he resented the group's earlier decision, one made in their third year together, to distance him from some of their selective adventures whilst at the same time she and Giles drew Willow and Oz closer to the fold. How could she not? But she never really appreciated the depths of his anger until that moment when all guises were off. He hated that the two of them had always nurtured Willow's curiosity for magic, dark AND white, and yet at the same time freely dismissed any opportunities for him to 'grow' as a combatant in their care. He challenged her memory, taking it to dark places, stating that every success he had as a fighter against Vamps and Demons alike, as a defender, he learnt on his own and with only the experience of bruises and repeated beatings being his teacher. That Giles and she could not spare 5-minutes to show him how to use a sword properly, but the Englishman had hour upon hour to spend hunched over a dusty old book teaching Willow incantations and her touching up her nails for her midnight date with the souled vamp. That she lost any right to stand before him now at instruct him that he wasn't good 'enough' when it was her and Giles who made that decision years earlier not to *MAKE* him good enough. That he survived the Hellmouth and Cleveland without her advice and that he could survive Africa just the same.
Her legs felt as though they were crumbling beneath her, but she aligned herself with the wall and allowed it to offer her its support. She saw his frustration and anger and she saw the righteousness of his fury as he recapped their lives. The Mayor, ADAM, Dark Willow, Glory or even The First, it was always Xander who was the one that would make a sizeable contribution which ended up saving the day and in so doing also save … the World. He was not just her 'Key Guy', he was *THE* 'Key Guy' in nearly every success. During the Battle of the Hellmouth, sure it was her, Faith, Willow, Spike and Giles who had the rank and rep as the 'Heavy Hitters'. But it was Xander who the Potential's, or baby-Slayer's as Faith would call them, looked too for inspiration and to force the fears they were feeling away. It was him who was the example that they could all survive what they were all about to face. Xander was the 'normal' they all trusted to make the tough and big calls, just like their Graduating Class during the Mayor's Ascension. To them it was Xander who had called the retreat at the Vineyard. An attack that was her plan and her failure. It was Xander that ended up saving many Potential lives that night, even at the cost of his own eye. In the span of 48-hours after that failed initiative of hers, and as he laid in a Hospital bed, in the whispers of the multi-mattressed bedrooms that made up the Summer's Home, stories of his courage swelled to near mythic levels by those who had bared witness to it. From one Baby-Slayer to the next, Xander became like a hero from Greek Mythology; of coarse throw in some of Anya's additional stories of 'Viking-hood' and his Norse-like stamina under the sheets and collectively it was enough to have the most hardened 16-year old blush and daydream of what might be … if they survived of coarse. Even now, four years on from Sunnydale, Baby-Slayer's who had never met him giggle and blush at the stories that are told and have grown to exaggerated proportions by those who had the chance too fight beside him during the battle with 'The First'. He was the Snake Piskin of the Demon World.
Xander never faltered, he never gave up, and he never wished he was someone else or that he had some other destiny. He kept true to the course. He was truer to the title of 'Slayer' then she ever was and if it wasn't for the fact that he had a penis, he probably would have been. He was by far one of the bravest people she had ever met. He fought without excess strength, without magic, without curse or without physically enhancing 'vitamins'. He fought the fight because if he didn't then he doubted anyone one else would. He had done so much for everyone she loved and cared about and he did it without complaint or desire for anything in return or recognition. So what did she try to do? She compare his abilities to that of Andrew.
He left that Library back then with a grim and determined frown as she began to sink to the tiled floor in tears, surrounded with regret towards the damaging of a friendship that was more valuable to her then gold and diamonds. They had never fought one another as hard as this before. But given the stakes of what might have happened to him if she had backed down, she had no problem with being despised as long as he stayed safe and healthy. She just wished that it didn't hurt as bad as it did.
On the second day post his announcement Dawn took a try and was the one who came closest to getting him to change his mind. Maybe it was because she had, the day before, whittled down his defences or maybe because instead of going on the 'attack' her little sister chose the more passive route. Pleading for him not to go with her doe-like eyes full of tears caused him to falter and if it wasn't for Giles 'accidentally' stepping into the room at that particular moment to throw in his nickel's worth of pride then the waterworks of her younger sibling would have won out. Afterall, if there was one thing in the world that was Xander's kryptonite it was the tears of any of 'his Girls'.
For the month prior to his departure date to the Dark Continent, Giles strutted around the fresh Hall's of the Council like a proud father and it was, in truth, more then she, Dawn and Willow could bear. Not because of Giles attitude, but because with each passing day they were both becoming more and more aware of the various dangers Xander would be facing and of the enormity of the task he had willingly placed before himself. Africa was a destination rife with civil unrest, a place where bloody politics and allegiances changed with every would be 'tin-pot' dictator that took control. Xander would be travelling alone into regions where to do so was unheard of and it was considered by many hardened and experienced explorers to be in itself a self-imposed death sentence.
In those remaining four weeks efforts were repeatedly made to make their favourite Xander-shaped-friend aware of their many misgivings, but he dismissed them all casually away. It seemed that her earlier effort to dissuade him by 'revealing the truth that everybody all believed' him not capable to the task of finding the origin point of the First Slayer had sadly set into place Xander's notorious stubbornness. Whereas Willow and Dawn had come close to changing his mind, her own independent efforts had had the opposite and most lasting effect. Xander was now going to Africa not to prove himself right, but rather to prove her, Buffy Summer's, wrong. Eventually she gave up the hardline she had taken earlier and instead tried her own pleas and waterworks, begging him to listen to reason. She even invited him to come to Rome with her, asking him to put his plans on hold for just a single month more so he could see what opportunities he would be missing out on if he went. Her thoughts being that the two would have a holiday together, spend a few weeks or so in each other's company, and who knew maybe the thought of hot and cold running Italian babe's would win out over sweltering heat and famine. Strangely enough the stray possibility of having Xander share an apartment with her back then did not seem all that bad; she was actually starting to convince herself towards the goodness of this plan. Unfortunately Andrew was within hearing distance of her proposal and had chosen to invite himself into her private inducement claiming that it all sounded to him to good an offer to turn down. With Andrew now onboard and chatting about him and Xander being room-mates, well, Xander's on-the-fence thought of living in the historic city of Rome with her suddenly lost all it's appeal.
The day he eventually departed was a solemn occasion for all and though he had forgiven her for what she had said to him in the new Library weeks earlier, tensions still existed on the subject of him going. The three 'girls' who had the deepest claim on his heart all united in their collective decision to remain at the Watcher's Council. Choosing to not see him off. The void of their presence amongst Andy and the only man he had looked unto as a father at the Departure Gate of Heathrow spoke silent volumes that he did not have their blessing on this grand adventure and expedition. When Giles eventually returned from seeing Xander away the distain and contempt he had for all of them showed clearly in his smokey blue eyes and it refused to migrate away for a long time. Even now, after all these past few years all it would take is an errant reminder from one of the three to enquire about Xander's well being to initiate a momentary chill.
Willow lasted only a fortnight before she crumbled and tried to make contact and restitution to her childhood friend, Dawn's own resolution faltered a week after that. But herself? Even after three years she had yet to initiate contact. In that time Xander had made many discoveries and had many adventures. Earning repeated demonstrations of pride from the man whose approval, she knew, Xander always secretly yearned for. Each grand discovery would have Giles puff out his chest and talk down to the many trainee-Watchers he was now responsible for. Using the former Sunnydalian as an example for what they could all accomplish if they had half the nerve that his surrogate son possessed. But as great as Xander's successes were she always heard of these assorted accomplishments third hand and the various titbits that were shared were usually aged by weeks and months. Buffy could not help but suspect that this was a subtle effort to force her to break the silence and for her to finally forgive Xander for leaving against her wishes. The trouble was Xander had never done anything that warranted the need to be forgiven. It was she who was in the wrong and deep in her heart she knew that Xander knew this as well. And as such that it would not be him to be the one to lay down the olive branch of peace. Her isolation from him was not, as Willow, Giles and Dawn believed a 'relief from his stupidity' as it was more a self imposed punishment for having doubted him. She sliced herself out of his life because she now felt that he no longer needed her.
He had accomplished so much in Africa, that he had long since proven his capabilities to her and everyone else to who had earlier doubted, right to the point that she now wondered that if they had been strangers who met casually on the street would they have enough in common to even become friends? Over the past decade, changes had been made within the ranks of the original Scooby's. Willow was once a Jewish and mousish bookworm and computer geek, now she was an all powerful and confident Lesbian Wicca. Angel, who was always so mysterious and tormented presently behaved casual and possessing even of a sense of humour … on a good day. Giles had changed as well, he had become less wishy-washy then the first time she had met him when she could easily manipulate him with a pout. As for herself? She had died twice, stopped a dozen Armageddon's, slept with two vampires and an immortal being. But had she learned anything from these experiences? No. At least she didn't think so, she still kept making the same mistakes, going first with her gut reaction to things before she ever tried to listen to what her head was telling her. But Xander? He surpassed them all in personal growth. The guy who was once the Class Clown was now the guy that when he spoke, a hundred pairs of ears perked up to listen without question or hesitation. He had now become the one who everybody took seriously. Not Willow. Not Faith. Not herself. Him. The true tragedy of it all though was he did not know of it, he was all the way in Africa so he was not aware of the impact he was making. He did not hear Giles gush during the monthly meetings over newly discovered Demon's that had now been made Allies because of Xander's diplomacy. Or of the discovery of spells and enchantments so rare that Witchdoctors and Shaman's for a hundred generations refused to share with anyone outside of their own tribe and people, until now of course. Until Xander came into their midst. The Zeppo had even discounted half a wall of tomes and texts in the new Watcher Library as nothing more then 'Baloney', information that had been revered as truth for centuries had now been exposed as pointless ravings and nonsense. She had even heard on the grape vine of last years Potentials all getting drunk one night and all having a tattoo strategically placed on some body part of theirs with the letters: 'WWXD?', meaning 'What Would Xander Do?' He was guiding and making so many people proud and he didn't even know he was even doing it.
True, she came close to contacting him on his birthday last year when she felt this 'feud' had gone on long enough and also when she discovered he had gotten the sharp end of a machete during an investigation of a Witch Doctor Scam in Botswana. The latter incident was relayed to her an easy month and a half after the event so even though her insides were spinning out of control with nausea at the thought of his near death experience as though it was current she was equally relieved to know that he survived and was back on his feet and out in the Field once more. She often wondered if she *had* contacted him at that point, six-weeks after the attack, if it would only have illustrated to the one-eyed adventurer how out of the loop she had now chosen to be where his fate was involved. So instead of embarrassing herself she continued instead offering an air of indifference even though on the inside her tears were drowning her soul at being so harshly disconnect from his life. It was at this time of the 'Machete Incident', which she now referred to it as, that things between herself and the 'Immortal' took a sour turn. How could someone blessed, or cursed, with eternal youth truly understand the frailties of life in general? In actuality he didn't. He hardly showed any indication that he even gave a damn. He had outlived a thousand lovers and seen a hundred dynasties rise and fall, so what was the fate of one handicapped carpenter playing Indiana Jones? His lack of sympathy for the near loss of life to someone she treasured was the last straw in an already strained relationship. The 'old' her would have tried to find excuses and eventually blame, of all people, Xander for the destruction of her relationship. But for good or bad, Italy and 'Morby', helped change that type of narrow perspective, so maybe she had evolved a little since her Scooby days after all?
When she first arrived in Rome, she set off to take down the biggest name in the place to help establish her reputation of not being someone to mess with. That person was 'The Immortal'. Instead of trying to test the theory of whether or not he could truly not die, she instead succumbed to his charms and abilities to seduce. Even though everyone was telling her to avoid him like the plague she jumped into the dating scene with the Immortal with complete and full understanding of what she was getting into. Knowing that at worst it would be no different to the various heartaches she had had with Angel or Spike, at best that it would be a temporary arrangement. In the beginning she used to kid herself by falling asleep and image Xander having gotten word about her new relationship and then do the Xander-ish thing and swoop in and try and save her from herself. Just like he tried to do when she started seeing Angel and when he found out about Spike and her. But no swooping was to be had.
She knew from the Immortal's reputation that he barely ever stayed with one lover for more than five years at a time. So knowing that this relationship had an expiry date helped her enjoy the moment even more and enjoy it she did. With full gusto. Clubbing every night, dinners in the best restaurant's Rome could offer. Slaying eventually started to slip in favour to maintaining a social life. But Morby's indifference to Xander when she discovered he had been seriously injured, well, how could not be with someone like that, even if it was just for three more years?
"Sorry. So sorry. Professor Crawford had to speak to me after his lecture and I kinda got caught up with the bigness of his news." Like of tornado of chestnut hair, Dawn entered her room, threw her satchel onto the bed and enveloped her elder sister in a hug. "I'm so glad they let you wait for me in my room. I hope the House Master didn't give you a hard time. She can be a real Nazi with visitor's loitering around the common area."
Buffy returned the embrace. "Are you kidding me? I've stared down Primordial Evil; do you really think a middle aged woman in a tweed skirt sporting an attitude can faze me?" Buffy then hugged Dawn once more for good measure, taking extreme comfort in the contact that had been denied her for close to a year.
"Well you probably caught her on a good say then, because I've seen some Mom's and Dad's leave her presence in tears. So I have to ask, and I'm sorry if it's nosy, but what are you doing back in London? You were pretty sketchy with the details when to telephoned the other day."
"Looking for a change. Rome has started to become a little … tiring since my break-up with the Immortal, that and it's hard for the denizens of Darkness to take a Slayer seriously when they find out you sleep in an Elmo nightie. I don't have to slay 'em, then end up giving themselves heart attacks from laughing so hard. So as my Year Review is around the corner and Mr Rupert Giles: Head Watcher has been on my case for the last month and a half about my slay-ratio. Well, I thought I would kill two birds with the one stone. Get the yelling out of the way and maybe ask for a re-assignment away from Italy."
"Any idea's on where that would be?"
"Dunno. I liked the weather, reminded me a bit of California. But way too many people, y'know. There were more tourists in Rome then Roman's."
"You mean Italians."
"Whatever. I was just thinking of someplace warm, isolative and where I can hear myself think, y'know."
In the briefest of seconds Dawn's face lost all colour as her eyes grew with steely anger as they strayed down to her sister's hand and then up to the blonde's face. "Don't you dare! You better not be thinking what I think your thinking." Dawn then stalked across the small space and stared harshly at the other female, her gaze demanding a direct reply.
Buffy's brow crunched in confusion to the sudden shift in mood. How it had gone from pleasant to Icelandic in less time then it took a heart to beat. "What the Hell do you mean?!?"
"You can't just waltz in, bat your eyes at Giles and steal Xander's posting from under him. How could you do that to him after everything he's done there. But then again that would be just like you, wouldn't it? Let other people do all the work and just as everything is about to pay off you meander into Town, shout out that 'I'm the Slayer' and steal all the glory and the recognition for yourself!" The younger sister then snatched out of her grasp the Post Card that she had been absently holding and returned it to the front of the arrangement of photographs on her desk.
Realisation washed over the Chosen One. "NO! No. I would never do that! I was just snooping and I saw his Post Card to you and then kinda got lost in a few thoughts before you came it. But I would never, EVER do that to him. Not in a Billion Years. I was actually referring to perhaps getting a posting to Spain. Y'know, give Roseanne a change of address. Her slaying rate this year is nearly as bad as mine at the moment, so I didn't think Giles would see it as a major hassle for swapping one Slayer who was in the slumps with another. Y'know shakes things up a bit, new start, and new Slaying life."
Dawn's eyes narrowed, trying to determine the honesty of the words being provided to her. "No Africa?"
Buffy rapidly shook her head in the negative. "Absolutely not. Besides Africa is a big continent, Dawn. Even if I was to go there I doubt Xan would have any problems keeping his distance. Anyway, he's Giles 'Golden Boy', no way in Hell he'd take his best researcher and Demon Hunter out of his comfort zone."
"You got that right" Dawn sighed and relaxed a bit, a small smile stretching itself across her impish face. "'G' would have to be dead and five-years buried before the Council would even consider it. He says that Xander is the 21st Century version of Alan Quartermain."
Dawn smirked, letting the question slide knowing that it would most likely begin driving her elder sister crazy shortly. "But honestly, he wouldn't care if you were assigned there or not."
"I hope so. Because Buffy needs to be in Barcelona. If Giles shakes his head and says the whole 'You asked for Rome, you're getting Rome' deal, then I don't know what I'm gonna do."
"No. Not Giles, Xander. He wouldn't care if you two were in Africa together. He'd only care if you tried to take it away from him."
"But he hates my guts."
Dawn flopped down onto her bed and rubbed her temples, preparing herself for the standard juvenile angst that typically came out of her sister's mouth when she forgot she was supposed to be the older of the two of them. "Since when? He always asks how your doing when I chat to him, you never call him yourself so I'm left relaying the personal stuff. By the way, he's tickled pink that you kicked 'The Immortal' to the curb, or as he calls him, 'Mr Pretentious'. He worries about you, Buffy, like we all do and that's never going to change."
"If he doesn't hate me then why hasn't he tried to call me then, huh? Why is the ownership on me alone? Don't get me wrong, this is great news. For years I've been imagining him sticking pins in a Voodoo Buffy Doll. But if he doesn't hate me anymore then why hasn't he called me up to say so?"
"Come off it, Buffy. You know why. He hasn't tried to call you because so far he hasn't succeeded at what he originally set out to do. Which is to find the origin point of the First Slayer. You're the one who told him he wasn't capable of finding it and so far you have been proven right. Xander has accomplished a lot of things in Africa; he's surpassed everyone's expectations including mine and Willow's. But he hasn't succeeded in meeting his original goal, until that happens I doubt you'll hear 'Boo' from him. Because until he does that he'll still think you were right and he was wrong."
Buffy sat down on the bed besides her sister. "That's kinda lame."
"Lame or not, that's Xander and that's why I love him to death. Don't try and over think it, it'll just give you a headache. Just accept it. Did you know that when he got poisoned last month …*"
"Ahh, you weren't told about that, huh? Sorry. Yeah, a blow dart to the shoulder. A booby-trap. If the poison on its tip was still fresh instead of a couple of hundred years and dried up he probably would have dropped like a stone. Fortunately it was weak enough so he was able to get himself to a nearby Aide Station. They were able to id the poison from the dart, he was given an antidote and he was back in that cave three days later. Only this time he was wearing a little more extra padding. Willow did that astral projection thing and stayed with him through out the fever and the delirium. Trust me, Buffy; from the stuff she said Xander was saying, he doesn't hate you. She said that he misses you like crazy. According to Will, he kept rambling and talking about you."
A flush of anger now took over from her guilt. "I was chatting to Willow last week, she never mentioned any of this!"
"Of coarse not. We all remember what happened when you found out that some scam artist Shaman when he tried to hack off Xander's head. You practically screamed bloody murder, demanding the Council get you a plane ticket to Botswana so you could hunt down that bastard and do to him exactly what he tried to do to Xander. The only think that stopped you from packing your bags and leaving that very minute was being told that it happened months earlier."
"Wait a minute. What do you mean 'being told?' When was Xander attacked?"
"Giles, me and Willow found out pretty much an hour after it happened. The injury wasn't fatal, he lost a lot of blood and got a nasty scar, but it wasn't life threatening. We were going to send you down so that when he awoke the next day from the operation you would be there. After all, Rome was the closest. Will volunteered to astral project and give you the info herself. But as soon as she told you about what happened to him you went into near hysterics. I'm not surprised you can't remember, Will said that you were on the cusps of a having some kind of nervous break down. So she used a calming enchantment, a no-easy feat given that it was cast all the way from Brazil. And when you were dazed and sleeping it was decided by her and Giles that maybe you weren't up to dealing with seeing him in a hospital bed, so they sent me instead and told you that the incident happened months earlier and everything with him was better."
Buffy's small hands clenched into fists at the telling of this story. "You should never have done that."
"Hey, *I* didn't. That was Giles and Willow's call, and they only did it because they honestly thought if they didn't you would have ended up in the Looney Bin or arrived in South Africa poised to make 'The Punisher' look like Mary Poppin's. The guy who tried to kill Xander was already being held in custody. Xan was injured, like I said, but it wasn't fatal. He still had enough in him to overpower the guy, restrain him and get him to Police before he collapsed and the Police bought Xander to the Hospital. The Hospital notified the Council because Xander had in his wallet instructions to notify them as his 'Next of Kin'. That's how we found out he was hurt. All Giles and Willow and me wanted from you was a smiling and reassuring face for Xander to wake up too. But with you going ballistic, we couldn't guarantee that. So they asked me to go instead."
"Did Xander find out?"
"About you going out of your mind?"
"No, we told him you were on a deep cover slaying type mission and couldn't be reached. He was actually relieved; the last thing he wanted was to worry you. So everybody pretty much from that time on decided to down play it. For his and your benefit."
"And you were never going to tell me about this?"
"Of coarse we were. But after that incident your love life with The Immortal started to go down the drain. Willow wasn't sure if there might have been some remanent stuff going on, after all, Rio is along way from Italy and you were hyper-distressed. Maybe you didn't get the benefit of the full 'whammy' as was hoped because she wasn't physically in the same room as you. And then when you told us the reason why 'Mr Pretentious' was out of favour with you was because of his lack of sensitivity to what had happened to Xander, well we decided to let sleeping dogs lie and come clean when the dust settled. Which is what I'm kinda doing right now. Nobody set out to con you, Buffy, let alone me."
Buffy took her sister's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. She could doubt a lot of things, but she would never doubt that the people closest to her in life would ever go out of their way to hurt her intentionally. "So you guy's actually went around calling Morby, 'Mr Pretentious'?"
"Xander did the rest of us just referred to him as the Non-Vamp Guy." Dawn's mouth crept into another small smile, one that was then shared by her elder sister.
A quiet moment hung in the air as the two enjoyed the silence of the other breathing. Suddenly Buffy shock her head clear of 'Xander Thoughts' and looked pointedly at her sibling. "You said before some thing about some big-ness type news. When you came in, remember? What was that about? Should we be celebrating? Are you graduating early? Or are you going to have a Library named after you?"
Dawn giggled and then laughed giddily, her face awash of excitement at remembering what had gotten her all worked up. "Better. A thousand times better. I have been selected to … I don't know … 'intern' would probably be the best word for it. I've been asked if I would be prepared and game enough to intern with my absolute hero. Hundred's, no THOUSANDS, of archaeological student's apply to be mentored by her. She's turned them all down flat. But me? She's agreed to interview me. ME, Buffy!"
"It's that bigger deal?"
A scowl crossed the 21-year olds face. "Buffy, it's like if Indiana Jones himself offered to show me the ropes. The difference is that Indy is a fictional character. So yeah, big deal to the extreme."
"So-o-o-o-o-o-o why you?"
"Professor Crawford said she was visiting the campus one day and poked her head in during one of his classes. She just wanted to offer him a nod 'hello' so that he wouldn't be put out if he found out she had visited her old stomping grounds and didn't bother to come around and acknowledge her favourite lecturer. At any rate, she stepped in from the back of the Lecture Hall so none of us saw her, except for the Prof of coarse. Anyhow I was in midst of calling him and his line of thinking 'Narrow minded'. From memory he was on about the impossibility of an Amazonian Tribe actually existing. As I had some experience living in a house full of 50 Slayer's, aka Warrior-Women, I kinda felt I had a relevant stake in the topic. I was telling him that such a thing was indeed possible and if he doubted it that he should meet my big sister. He seemed to think that me referring to you as a masculine female meant that I was outing you as a Lesbian. I then asked him if he had a problem with women have alternate sexual preferences to men, he kinda floundered at that. I then asked if he could tell which of the other six girls in his class at that moment were gay, there were two that I knew of. And I knew that because at the beginning of the year each of them made passes at me. At any rate, it looked like he was going to have a heart attack and quickly moved off the Amazonian subject entirely. Anyhow she was watching everything and Professor Crawford said she liked my 'fire' and was amused by my stubborn determination."
"Fire? What the hell does that mean? And who the Hell is he to belittle Gay's? You should tell Willow what he said; he'll wake up the next morning with a uterus."
"Crawford doesn't have anything against Gay's, Buffy. The guy is a Dinosaur, but a sweet one. He only enquired if YOU were gay, and I took the ball and ran with it knowing that the subject would make him uncomfortable. He's the kind of guy whose mind and manners are trapped in 1950's and thinks that when a female dare challenges his logic and claims, it's because they are having an 'irrational moment', which loosely translates to 'her time of the month'. He probably thought I was dealing with my monthly visitor, which is why he let my antics in the class slide."
"They let people like that Teach here?"
"Sure. Look, Buffy, I have nothing against Crawford. None of the girls do. He's a real sweetheart. To be honest, I wish I could bottle him up. He calls us all 'Dear' and he's not creepy or condescending about it. He opens the doors for us even if he's not going into the room himself. He is an English Gentleman through and through. And that's just him personally, as a lecturer he always gives extensions on our Assignment's and he never asks for a reason. He has an Open Door Policy and unlike a lot of other academic's here he has actually done what he preaches. He discovered Tombs in Egypt, Buffy. He helped excavate Troy. He has more stories and experience then any of the other Lecturer's here put together. In short, he's brilliant. You sit down talking about Inca Ruin's and you end up yarning about the time he was on an expedition to discover Atlantis. You never want his classes to end and you start despising the clock with every tick it takes to the end of his lecture. He's the Mr Chips of this place, Buffy, and despite all his faults I think he's adorable. Some even say that JK Rowling's based her Albus Dumbledore on him, but that's just a rumour with no credibility, but I can certainly believe it if it's true."
Another genuine smile spread over Buffy's face as she watched Dawn defend her teacher, she wished she had that type of relationship with her own Lecturer's at SC, maybe if she did she probably would have returned to classes after she returned from the dead the second time instead of happily slide into being a patty-flipper at the 'Double Meat Palace'. "So who exactly is this person you're gushing over?"
Dawn showed a genuine effort to compose herself and maintain a very restrained demeanour, but at the last second she started to bounce up and down with excitement, like she was told she had a date with the lead singer of one of the guys that were stuck upon her bedroom wall. "It's Lara Croft, Buffy. Lady Croft has asked to see. The one and only Tomb Raider, Buffy. Isn't that incredible?"