An Antidote Insert To Earshot

[Cole's Note: This was written the morning after I first watched Earshot. Some hanging subplots refused to leave me alone until I wrote an insert that presented a path towards resolution. For those who are watching Buffy for the first time and remain in the vicinity of Earshot, this will not spoil anything. Hopefully, it will give you some of the relief that it did me. For those who know the whole series, please forgive those bits that do not fit into the overall Buffy storyline – I did the best I could with what I knew at the time.]

[Buffy, Xander, Cordellia, Oz, Giles, Willow, and Wesley all are together in the library. Buffy has just told them that she can read thoughts. She catches Xander trying not to think about sex. This insert begins with Buffy's line: "God, Xander. Is that all you think about?"]

"God, Xander. Is that all you think about?"

Xander fidgeted furtively, then startled with an epiphany. Settling into himself, he raised his eyes to meet hers.

"I can't control my thoughts." He sent to her silently. "And I did not invite you into my head. You're trespassing – you have no right to judge."

Buffy was chastened. "You're right." She said out loud. "I'm sorry."

Xander smiled. "No sweat." He sent.

"Do me a favor." He continued after a pause. "Look in on Cordy for me."

Buffy recoiled a little, trying not to look hurt.

Xander's eyes narrowed. "What?" He sent. "You rejected me, remember? Now Ms. Rejection wants to be number one in Xander's broken heart? You're not. Not any more. Cordy is. I don't know why, but it's true. And I need to know if I can get her back. But neither of us is even marginally competent at heart-to-hearts. Help me. Please?"

Buffy was staring at him quizzically, cautiously intrigued. "I felt that." She said softly. "I . . . I can hear what you're feeling. I wonder if . . .." She closed her eyes, and searched Xander's mind for images.

She saw a close up of her own face and bare shoulders. She was laying on the library table. Her face was flushed, her mouth open in a silent ecstatic scream. The vantage point was from above.

Buffy retreated hastily. The image winked out.

Xander smirked. "Trespassing." He reminded her silently.

"What are you two doing?" Cordelia was looking back and forth between them suspiciously.

"Learning." Buffy replied. "I can do more than read thoughts. I can feel what people are feeling. I can actually see what other people imagine."

"And what do you see in Xander?" Cordelia's tone made it clear that she expected the answer "Nothing at all."

Buffy smiled affectionately. "That Xander's a good friend." She replied.

"Cordy." Xander forced his way into Buffy's mind.

"How'd you do that?" Buffy sent back. "How'd you make me hear you?"

Xander's eyes widened. "I heard that." He thought. "You can send as well as receive."
"This is getting out of hand." Buffy's nervousness trickled into Xander. "Please don't tell the others. Relationships could get complicated."

"Cordy." Xander insisted again.

"No, Xander. That's not fair. Trespassing, remember?"
"Trespassing's okay." Xander rationalized. "As long as you're doing it to help a friend." His thoughts took on a desperate edge. "Please, Buffy. I can't go on like this."

Buffy pursed her lips. Xander felt her withdraw from his mind.

Trying to keep the guilt from showing on her face, Buffy reached out to listen in on Cordelia.

She heard nothing.

Buffy's brow furrowed. Cordelia must have something going on up there.

Changing tacks, Buffy searched for images.

She and Willow were back on the stakes to which their mothers had tied them. The fires were lit beneath their feet. But this time, Giles and Cordelia weren't there to rescue them. There only was Wesley, trying ineffectually to convince Buffy's mother not to burn her only child.

"GET OUT!" Cordelia's silent scream was furious. Buffy felt Cordelia physically throw her out of her mind.

"And stay out!" Cordelia shouted over her shoulder as she stalked from the library.

Oz and Willow looked at each other. Confused. Not wanting to know.

Giles guessed immediately, and pretended to be engrossed in his book.

Wesley was befuddled, his mouth opening and closing but no questions forming.

"And? Xander crept into her mind.

"She doesn't think in words." Buffy realized out loud. She turned to explain it to the others. "She thinks in images. Bright, clear, painfully detailed images. What she actually says – the words that the images become on the way to her mouth - is an afterthought, like an echo. By the time she says what she's thinking, she's no longer thinking about what she's saying."

"Explains a lot, really." Oz spoke up detachedly.

"It does." Buffy nodded. "To answer your question, Xander. Yes, she still loves you."

Xander jumped. "Um, I didn't think we'd be talking about that out loud. Remember that telepathy thing?"
"She's hurting so much." Buffy ignored him. "She thinks Wesley's pathetic."

"Join the club." Xander, Giles, Oz, and Willow thought in unison.

Buffy winced. "I'm sorry." She said to Wesley. "I didn't think."

Wesley tried to cover his hurt. "That's quite all right." He stuttered. "I'm a Watcher. My skin's too think to be pricked by the opinion of a high school girl."

"However," he almost pleaded with Buffy. "If it's alright with you, I'd very much prefer that you don't read my thoughts right now?"

Buffy nodded emphathetically.

"She fantasizes about watching Willow and me get burned at the stake." She turned back to the table.

"Well, this is all good news, right?" Xander clapped his hands together, elated.

"Yeah, unless you happen to be me, Willow, or Wesley."

"But I don't understand." Willow broke in. "Cordelia saved us from being burned at the stake."

"I know." Buffy said softly. "And she would – and probably will – save us again."

"She's our friend. And we've all let her down. Some of us more than others." She watched Willow and Xander squirm. "But we all should have done more. Should be doing more. Her popular-girl friends . . . ." Buffy flashbacked to her pre-Slayer life among the In Crowd, and shuddered.

Buffy pushed herself off the tabletop and headed towards the door.

"Now where do you think you're going, young lady." Wesley attempted to assert himself.

"To find Cordelia." Buffy didn't slow.