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The Debriefing -- PG-13 (Season 8)

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  • The Debriefing -- PG-13 (Season 8)

    The Debriefing
    Rating: PG-13 for language
    Spoilers: Through 8.04 "The Long Way Home", Part IV
    Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine. They are Joss Whedon's characters. They are really fun though, so I write about them.

    The cold breezes swirled around the castle ramparts as Xander stared down into the valley below. The south face of their fortress home was at the top of a cliff, and a beautiful field stretch out from the base to the hills about a mile distant. Xander rested his elbows against the masonry and leaned as he thought things over.

    Buffy is nuts if she thinks she's the only person who comes out here to think, Xander mused. Even if he had figured out where his friend kept her fortress of solitude, he realized that there were flaws to it. The temperature was a big flaw ? standing outside without a jacket in a Scottish November wind was enough to give even Xander's inner child frostbite. But it was a loud kind of quiet, with the wind lashing the walls and whistling over the open land around them. And there was plenty to think about.

    It had been, with a glance at his watch, seven hours since Buffy and Satsu had brought Willow home. Their own magic workers hadn't been able to keep the portal to Sunnydale open to bring them back faster, so the three ladies had been forced to fly commercial all the way back. At least Renee had been able to swing them business class on their flight home for no cost.

    The cost was already high enough. Cost of information ? Buffy had been forced to abandon her prisoner in Sunnydale when the portal failed. There would be no way to sneak a US Army general out of the country on a commercial flight without serious problems, whether he was part of a world-wide conspiracy against them or not. And, cost of time ? the trip to Sunnydale had taken an instant, literally, and they had rescued Willow within 15 minutes. And yet, it had taken nearly 20 hours to get them home. Twenty hours in which they were vulnerable and all the kids weren't back home in bed. Twenty hours that their new enemy, something Buffy said was called Twilight, had to respond to their attack and make new plans.

    But at least they were home now. Buffy does a great job worrying about the other Slayers on a mission, but I do a great job worrying about her. And Buffy had clearly chosen well ? Satsu had fought shoulder to shoulder with Buffy like she'd been born doing it, and the younger Slayer hadn't flinched in helping pull their trap on Amy. Amy, the witch had still gotten away, with Warren, of all the random dead people. That bastard had tried to dissect Willow for revenge. She had shrugged it off easily, and scarily, enough, but it still made Xander clench his fists involuntarily to think of Warren Meers still on the loose and trying to kill more of his friends.

    "Hey, One-Eyed Man. Everything okay out there in the kingdom of the blind?"

    Xander smiled before he turned to answer Willow. He liked the eye joke where he got to be ?king', but unfortunately she's the only one who ever really used it.

    "You should tell me, Will, you're the only one who lost an eye recently."

    "I got better." Her tone was warm but her expression distant. "Besides, you wouldn't want me to be one of your subjects."

    Xander laughed, but without enthusiasm. "You're okay, though? I mean, he didn't ?"

    "Xander, I'm fine. I just feel so stupid for getting suckered in by Amy's trap. I should have seen the magic building up around her."

    "Willow, who cares? They took you. You're not all-powerful, it only matters that you're back now. And staying. For a long time. Right?" Xander raised his eyebrows expectantly.

    "Xander, it's not that simple," Willow let out a sigh, "I'm not a part of what you guys have made here. I don't even know if I'm supposed to be. I still feel like I'm out of control when I use magic, holding the hammer isn't getting easier." Xander recognized the metaphor for controlling her powers he proposed and understood her.

    "Even after the spell, it didn't get better. It's never been alright since before I killed Warren. Since before Tara left me," Willow's voice started to break as she mentioned her lost lover. Xander saw her eyes fill.

    "Willow, you didn't kill Warren," Xander said, choosing not to make this about Tara. "You said he's alive. That Amy pulled him out of there before you killed him."

    "I murdered him, Xander!" Willow fired back. "I waved my hand and his skin flew off. I was so sure he was dead I lit a flame to consume his body. Whatever Amy did she was careful enough that I couldn't tell, but I killed him, I wanted him dead, I made it happen, and I killed him!" Willow started to sob quietly as she rambled.

    Xander couldn't stand seeing her with tears streaming down her cheeks, and he pulled her into his arms without a thought. He cradled her head through her red-hair and felt her hands bundle his sweater into her fists as she wept into his chest. Xander said nothing, could think of nothing. When Willow caught her breath, she pulled back up to face him, his arms still wrapped around her.

    "I killed him, and it broke me, and he's back but I'm not put together again. The whole time I was there I thought I could fight him but that I didn't deserve to get away?"

    Xander cut her off immediately, ducking his head and holding her face up to him by scooping her chin. They must be cutting a romantic looking profile that way, on the high wall of the castle, Willow's long skirt fluttering against both of their legs in the steady wind.

    "He doesn't get to do that, Willow, for the same reason you weren't supposed to kill him. The same reason he wasn't supposed to shoot Buffy, or Tara. We need you, Willow, you can't let this control you. You don't owe Warren or Amy anything."

    "You need me, I know? Twilight is falling. Buffy said that's what Ethan told her." Willow wiped her eyes quickly, focusing on the new enemy. "I can put up magical barriers around here, maybe even for miles around, and the other teams as well, I mean, if you want me ?"

    "I didn't say the organization needs you, Will. We need you." Xander cupped both of Willow's cheeks, looking into her skeptical eyes. It never ceased to amaze him how someone so immensely powerful could seem so small and fragile at times. He leaned in and kissed her on the lips. It wasn't a romantic gesture at all, but simply the warmest thing he could think of to make clear to her who "we" were and what "need" meant ? Willow was part of their family, part of everything that mattered to him, to Buffy, to Dawn, and they had already been without her for far too long.

    "Ahem" Buffy mocked from the balcony door. She was leaning in the frame casually with a teasing smile. A blast of the warm air from inside the castle rushed out past her and blew across Xander and Willow's faces as they turned to face her, still holding each other. She had her leather jacket zipped up before she even stepped outside, making her the leading candidate for smartest person in the castle tonight.

    "You guys need some kind of alone time?"

    Xander pulled away first. Willow stepped back and wiped the last of her tears away, smiling at Buffy through her flushed face.

    "Well, it's been a kissy kind of week around here, we didn't see the harm," Xander joked, his voice tighter than he'd meant for it to be. Amy's cute little trap of a true love spell and its resultant Snow White act on Buffy wasn't quite as funny as it would be later. "Buff, you did great work out there. That magic thing you two have going is damn handy."

    "Yeah, it was the glowy green justice, but don't count on many repeats ? I don't think Willow gave me more super-serum than that."

    Xander nodded in agreement, and satisfaction that Buffy pulled a capable Captain America reference, while Willow shrugged in confirmation. Clearly, Buffy wasn't wrong ? Willow wasn't a magic pez dispenser, no matter how powerful she'd become.

    "Buffy, I know I slept through most of the flight, and I've already said it, but tha-"

    "Will, you don't get to finish that sentence. Thank you for surviving long enough for Satsu and me to get to you."

    "Well," Willow answered, "I'll still thank her when I see her. She went right to her room after we got back to the castle."

    Xander winced. He didn't know how much Buffy knew about Satsu from the last 24 hours, but Buffy had wanted to know who kissed her before. Xander had seen without meaning to, and thought Satsu must have had her own reasons for wanting to get away as soon as possible.

    "And, I know perfectly well how kissy a week it's been," Buffy jumped back to take that tangent, "but at least you two are awake."

    Xander and Willow both shuffled their feet guiltily. "It wasn't a kiss of true love, at least," Willow told the stone floor of the balcony instead of meeting Buffy's eyes.

    "Yeah, about that? you never told me who kissed me, neither of you," Buffy reminded them.

    "And I'm not going to," Willow answered quietly, but not defensively, "because whoever kissed you is in love with you, Buffy, and if they wanted you to know it, they'd have told you. I'm not going to give Amy the satisfaction. Nobody here is." She said, throwing a glance to Xander. He realized she had seen him peeking, although it hadn't exactly been in order to cheat.

    "I know Will. I'm trying not to think about it at all, actually. I guess it's nice to feel loved that way, and its actually pleasantly uncomplicated if I don't know by who. Whom?" Buffy shrugged after a moment of grammatical introspection.

    Xander coughed, louder than he meant to. "So, can we get you in on the group hugging?" He and Willow both opened an arm toward Buffy, and locked their other hands behind each other's backs again.

    Buffy smiled and strolled over. "I guess. But I'm not kissing Willow for you, Xan."

    "Who says you didn't already?"

    They both elbowed him in the side as they hugged.

    "Buffy?" Xander asked, pulling his mouth out from the tangle of red and blonde hair on the heads he'd just kissed. "We're going to need to talk to Giles about Ethan."
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