Leo and his group orbed into the Initiative complex only to find much the same scene as they had witnessed above. Destruction and sprawled soldiers were spread across the massive underground complex like cards across a table.
"My god." Leo said under his breath.
"Are they...?" Buffy trailed off.
"No." Leo said, "He left them alive, I can feel it from here."
"Thank you..." Phoebe whispered to the air.
They were still looking around when the Armored form of Xander Harris strode through a wrecked door and spotted them. "I'm done here." He said simply.
"Riley looked through the door to the control room. "You didn't?"
"She'll live." Xander said coldly. "Don't worry about her."
Riley actually breathed a sigh of relief, though he wasn't sure why exactly he was relieved. Whether it was because Walsh was alive or that Harris hadn't become a murderer was not a question he wanted to answer at the moment.
"Let's go." Xander's voice was still flat and walked up to the group, looking at Phoebe uncomfortably.
She made the decision for him, stepping in close and wrapping an arm around his armored figure. "Leo?"
"Right." Leo said, "You coming?"
Riley looked up at the question, uncertain.
"You still have your job, Riley." Xander said. "I was talking with Walsh's superior. He wasn't pleased with her actions either... Nice guy, for an oily lying privacy invading lawyer type."
Riley looked at him dumbly for a moment, "I'm not going to be court-martialed?"
"Nope." Xander said, a fragment of his old humor reflected in his eyes and voice. "Not unless they want a return visit."
"Then I guess I'd better stick around... clean up this mess."
"Your call." Xander shrugged. "Me? I'm going to throw a party. Tonight. Be there."
Riley snorted under his breath, "I will." He said and walked off, shaking his head.
"Can we go now?"
"Let's go." Xander answered the Whitelighter, and the group vanished into the air.
"Not now, ok Will?" Xander said, cricking his neck as he headed down to the basement, unbuckling his armor as he did. Phoebe looked back at the two girls apologetically and followed him down the stairs.
Willow stared after him, her mouth alternately opening and closing. She started to rush after him.
"Willow." Buffy stopped her with an outstretched arm. "Don't."
"Why?" Willow asked, "I have a right to know what happened!"
"Willow..." Buffy said slowly, "The Initiative people had him captured... Walsh tried to have him turned."
"Turned?" Her hand flew to her mouth as Buffy nodded sadly, "Jessie."
"Excuse me?" An older man, Sidney, Buffy remembered asked. "May I inquire, who is Jessie?"
"A friend of mine and Xander's..." Willow mumbled as she collapsed into a large sofa chair. "He was turned into a vampire... Xander had to kill him."
Sidney was silent for a moment, "I see. And this, Walsh person... tried to turn Alexander into a Vampire as well?"
The two girls nodded, caught up in their own thoughts. Sidney was quiet too, as he mulled over the facts he had just heard.
"Are you ok?"
Xander continued packing away the Yautja armor, shaking slightly as his nerves caught up with him. The anger and adrenaline surging through his body. "No." He answered coldly.
He felt her move in close to him, wrapping her arms around him, and he softened.
"But I will be." He promised softly, "I will be."
Xander's party was in full swing, and for the fourth time in as many days the place was literally rocking with music, laughing, and binge eating (or drinking in a couple cases). This time the entire Initiative complement of 'Agents' had joined in and the first floor was crammed full.
Xander chuckled as he noted with some irony that if they hadn't had the soundproofing installed throughout the building the town would probably be tossing *them* out for the same reasons the previous tenants had gotten the boot. For his part, Xander was a little quieter then usual, but not overly so. A fact that drew concerned stares from several people in the crowd, as they wondered if he was over his ordeal or if the worst was yet to come.
Had they asked him he could have told them that neither was the case. He had a long way to go before he could be 'over' anything. But sometimes, despite what they say on TV, a little revenge shaped justice was just what the doctor ordered. As long as you don't let it run your life then getting even can be a very healthy way to manage your emotions.
He noticed the Agents were shying away from him with the exception of Riley, Forest, and surprisingly, Graham. Of those, Riley was still keeping his distance, probably out of residual anger over the Battle for Cheyenne Mountain.
Forest and Graham, however, were actually integrating fairly well into the group of friends Xander had invited. They and Crow seemed to be almost finished with a drinking contest.
"Pussies." Crow slurred as he finally had the satisfaction of watching the two commandos slide under the table.
"Meow." Came a drunken voice from the ground. Crow burst out laughing, even though he couldn't tell who had said it.
"Youse guys are all right."
Xander turned to smile as Buffy stepped up behind him. "Yeah. Jack really knows how to party huh?"
Buffy looked between where Jack Crow was laughing his ass off at the two commandos, and where Jack O'Neill was sitting between Daniel Jackson and Giles, looking desperately for any possibly escape. She grinned, "For once I hope you mean the Jerk, cause the other one looks like he wants to die right about now."
Xander chuckled, looking at where Crater had joined the conversation. O'Neill looked like he'd be happy to sink through the floor into the ground at that point. Xander didn't want to think what Giles, Daniel, and Carter had managed to find in common. If Jarod went over there, he figured it would be time to abandon the building... cause there was no way he was staying with a hundred meters of those four. They'd be able to suck all the fun out of a room without half trying.
"It's been quite a week." Buffy ventured.
"I hear you had an interesting summer." She tried again.
This time Buffy stayed silent, she didn't really know what else to say.
Finally it was Xander who spoke. "I'm not really ready to talk about it, Buff."
"You told Leo and Phoebe..."
"Leo and Phoebe have their own ways of finding things out." Xander corrected. "And I think Phoebe is sorry she did... She hasn't been sleeping well since she did."
"Oh... umm... you two are...?"
"Serious?" He asked.
"Yeah... I guess we are. We fit, you know? She and I see things the same way."
"How is that?"
Xander considered his answer for a long time. "We look at the world and see the darkness... but we also see the light, you know? Neither of us can leave the light to face the dark alone... it's not our way."
Buffy looked a little confused, maybe concerned. "But... didn't you guys say that she was a 'Charmed One' some kind of destined champion? She can't ignore the darkness... It's her destiny."
Xander shook his head, a little annoyed. "You just don't get it. She doesn't fight because of her destiny, Buff. She enjoys what she gets out of helping others, She's embraced who she is and what she wants to be... That's a miracle of a sort... To have who you are, *BE*, who you want to be..."
"I..." Buffy trailed off. She understood what he was saying but she didn't really feel it.
"I know." He said simply, "You and Piper have a lot in common you know? You dream of homes in the suburbs with white picket fences and two cars in the garage. You know something though, Buff?"
Buffy didn't say anything, just looked at him curiously.
"Those people who have the two point five kids and the homes with the white picket fences? They dream about saving the world, and making a difference. They dream about being you."
Xander turned and left, leaving Buffy to stare after his retreating back in shock.
"So..." Tara said, sitting across from the red headed wiccan.
"So..." Willow echoed, not really knowing what to say. Finally she looked up, "I guess I should explain a bit more about me and m... my friends huh?"
Tara smiled slightly, "It might be nice..."
And so Willow talked, telling old stories and new ones. Occasionally skimming over bad times, and glossing the good ones. Generally just telling her stories in the grand tradition of the bards, and the occasional Hollywood writer.
And Tara listed, her eyes widening and occasional gasps of surprise and shock punctuating Willow's telling. She began to have an understanding of the events that had forged the young woman sitting before her, and as she listed she grew sadder and sadder as each moment passed.
I wish I had friends like this. Tara thought as her mind trailed back to her parents, and her family in general.
Xander sat on the stairs and watched quietly as the party wound down. His and Jarod's guests had mostly retired for the evening, heading to their rooms to sleep or just to get away from the crowds. Jarod seemed to be in his element, reveling in every new phrase or comment, absorbing everything that happened around him as he watched the party slow down.
As Giles was making his excuses to Daniel and Carter, Xander intercepted him. "Hey, G-man?"
Giles sighed, "Yes, Xander?"
"I was wondering... You're pretty good with a Quarter Staff right?"
"I'm passing fair. Why?" Giles asked him curiously.
"I'm going to need some training." Xander said simply, reminding Giles of the weapon he had seen Xander wielding.
"Ah... yes." Giles said, thinking furiously. "I'm sure that can be arranged."
"Thanks... Giles." Xander grinned. Have to let him have his small victories every now and then.
Giles smirked at him, obviously reading the boy's mind. "You are most welcome... Alexander."
Xander grimaced comically as the Englishman tossed on his coat and left the building, his distinctive chuckle echoing behind him until the door closed and cut it off.
Xander shook his head and turned away.
It's about time. Elan smirked into his mind.
"Oh shut up." Xander said tiredly as he climbed the stairs to his room.
"I hope you're not talking to me." Came a mildly amused voice from behind him.
Xander smiled and turned back, extending his hand to Phoebe. "No, never. Just trying to silence the voices in my head."
"Oh? Anyone in particular?" She cocked her head to the side, grinning.
Xander grinned back, "Other than the annoying on?"
"Other than that."
"Well... the voice of restraint is getting to be annoying..."
"Cause right now, holding your hand... restraint is the last voice I want to listen to."
Phoebe leaned in close and whispered into his ear. "Shut up."
He grinned and hooked his arm around her and the two of them disappeared up the stairs.
It was four am and the town was quiet, even the demons it seemed had called it a night. In a private Hospital room only the steady beep of a monitoring machine indicated the slightest presence of life.
A beeping that, for a moment grew faster as the signals began to approach those of a waking person. Then they slowly tapered back off, dropping back to the slow steady rate of a comatose victim.
No one heard the change, and no one would bother to check the printout for a long long time. But the machines continued their jobs paid, as they were, by a private fund in the name of the late Mayor Wilkins.
I know, I know... Didn't give you all the scenes I promised last time.. I'm sorry, but sometimes the characters just don't cooperate, Y'know? :)
Relax. The scenes WILL be used. I'm not abandoning anything.
They'll just pop up in the next story... or the one after that. Sorry for any disappointment. :)