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The Debriefing (Number Two)

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  • The Debriefing (Number Two)

    Title: The Debriefing, #2
    Characters: Buffy, Xander, Willow, Satsu
    Rating: PG-13
    Spoilers: Through Buffy 8.09 "No Future For You", Part IV.
    Notes: This is going to become an ongoing series of theoretical codas to each four-issue arc of Season 8, wherein I just sort of reflect on some of the character issues raised in that arc and maybe amuse my own ideas about directions that Season 8 could go.
    Beta: Dorian's Kitten

    Buffy was sitting on the pillowed sofa in the training room staring out into the darkening sky outside their castle home. This was one of the two most private rooms available to her. She refused to go to her room after she left the command center; it had felt too much like pouting, which wasn't what she needed to feel. That left this small training room. One of several located throughout their spacious digs, this was the smallest, and was housed on a level where only a few quarters were occupied. It wasn't put down in any kind of rules ? she didn't like putting down a lot of written rules ? but the Slayers that lived in the Castle all thought of it as the "executive training room". True enough in practice, Xander was the only other person Buffy thought had ever used the place alone. Upshot? Buffy reflected. I get a place to come throw a fit without anyone thinking I'm hiding under my covers throwing a fit.

    The fit hadn't really hit, though. She didn't know what to feel, it was too cold and too distant to be the kind of pain that could make her cry. So she just stared.

    She didn't turn around or look up at all when she heard the door click open behind her. Xander, she thought, naturally.

    Xander drew a breath as he opened the door, and a quick three count later, he stepped inside. When he saw Buffy sitting there, he wearily let his breath out in a slow sigh, quieter, he hoped, than even Slayer ears could pick up. She didn't allow any acknowledgment that he had entered, and he pulled the door shut behind him.
    "There you went," Xander said gamely. "We missed you down on the bridge, Captain Kirk." Sometimes Star Trek humor worked. When Buffy just rolled her shoulder uncomfortably and continued to stare out the window, he scratched that hope off his list.

    "Willow's off the phone," Xander tried the direct approach. "Giles needed some kind of force field dropped down in England. He didn't really ?"

    "Xander, don't," Buffy cut in. "I was down there, he needs to keep crazy one and crazy two from killing each other, or make sure the right one wins, or whatever. I'm sure it's all way over my pretty little head, anyway," she breathed with a sad annoyance.

    Buffy allowed herself the smallest, wry smile as she finally turned slightly in her seat to look at Xander. He was still standing in the door, wearing his trademark grey sweater, his hands folded in front of him patiently. "So, how bad is it in there?"

    Xander's visible eye narrowed questioningly as he answered her. "What do you mean?"

    "I mean the dozen or so Slayers that watched me and our most experienced Watcher and the closest thing to a father figure I have get into a spitting contest on the phone."

    She watched him **** his head to one side slightly. His expression never changed from one of polite misunderstanding. "I don't think I follow you, Buff," he answered. "They all saw what I saw. You were still fired up from a three Slayer battle royal and let it out on the phone, so you came up here to let the sandbag know how you felt." He gestured toward the heavy bag chained in the room.

    "Fired up?" Buffy asked skeptically. Xander's expression didn't budge at all.

    "Buffy, come on. I told them you always get short-tempered, even with Giles, after a big fight. You didn't expect it to be a secret from them forever, did you?"

    Buffy realized what he was doing finally, and her face brightened a little. "Yeah? that's always been a problem for me."

    Xander felt a surge of optimism at the improvement in her expression, but it started to taper off as he saw her start turning back toward the window. He moved across the room towards her and stood next to the couch. Looking down at the top of her head, he could make out Buffy's expression and saw that she was determined to ignore him.

    "I'm not going to let you do this to yourself, Buffy," he admonished gently. "If we didn't have arguments with crusty Englishmen, we wouldn't be the heroes we are, we'd be? we'd be on NPR. Okay, that joke sucks, but you get my point."

    "Xander?" Buffy inhaled, ready to start what he was sure would be some kind of excuse. He curtailed it by pulling her chin around with his finger and meeting her eyes.

    "Buffy, ?alone time' isn't the only kind of time. Hasn't been just ?alone time' for a long time, now. I don't understand what Giles is up to, and at this moment, I don't care. Dawn is here. Will is here. I'm? I'm here, too." Xander tugged at Buffy's fingers to drag her up to her feet.

    Buffy acquiesced and let her feet drop bonelessly off the couch and stood at Xander's prompting. "Xander, you didn't hear him. It was like I was just this big obstacle to some master plan that's good enough for him, good enough for Faith, apparently even good enough for Willow, but too much for stupid Buffy. Or too dangerous for fragile Buffy. It's a choose your own condescension book. I thought? I thought things were better between us."

    She saw Xander looking down at her, not planning to start talking until she was done. "We don't talk much, but? I thought things were better after Sunnydale."

    "Buff, nobody can fix that now but him. I don't know what he's up to or why. But this alone thing? Usually ends with some kind of intervention or one of us deciding the others have to die. Or us stopping the end of the world. One of those."

    Buffy laughed a little in spite of herself and slid her arms around Xander's waist, pulling him into a hug. "Xan, you know you suck at interventions," Buffy said, determined not to cry. The feeling wasn't as cold or distant now, and even though she was cheering up, the crying was a little easier.

    Xander flexed his back slightly as he felt the Slayer-strength hug squeeze him just slightly too hard, but he didn't even think about trying to move away. "I think you'll find my psyche-fu has improved. Plus, there's no telling what kind of crisis counseling would start between 50 Slayers and all of us under the same roof, with a giant living outside. Do you really want to see what issues these people could find with each other if we encourage that sort of thing?"

    They both laughed, and Xander relaxed for the first time since he'd entered the room. She's not going to close up again, he reassured himself. Without thinking about it, he began stroking her cheek, pulling a small strand of her hair along in his fingers. He kissed her on the forehead, out of relief more than anything else.

    Pulling away, their eyes met, and held.

    "Xander?" he heard her whisper. Their eyes stayed locked on each other, but he moved his lips closer to hers. Am I out of my mind? He asked himself.

    Their lips brushed against each other, just beginning to press firmly, when his earpiece chimed. Buffy nearly jumped away at the sound. Xander could only close his eyes tightly in frustration before clicking onto the line.

    "Yes?" he tried not to breathe fire.

    "Mr. Har? Xander?" The voice in his ear belonged to Satsu.

    "It's funny how many people around here call me HairXander, Satsu," he answered with a sigh. "What's the situation?"

    "Willow asked for you, she says she talked to Mr. Giles again, and you should see something."

    Xander furrowed he brow and looked over at Buffy. She probably couldn't hear the conversation, and she was barely paying attention. She was crossing her arms and pacing a small circle. Whether it was embarrassment or frustration, Xander couldn't tell. He really needed to remember to turn off his damn Bluetooth if he thought he might have a completely spontaneous moment of intimacy.

    "Okay, Satsu, tell her I'll? we'll be right up," he corrected. Xander clicked off after the younger Slayer said thank you. "Buffy, Willow's got something from Giles, I should? I mean, we?"

    "Go ahead, Xander. I think I might still be working off some post-fight frustration here," Buffy wrinkled her nose as she said it.

    Xander nodded, and headed for the door. "We'll talk more, later?" he asked, by way of taking his leave. Buffy just smiled.

    Xander muttered mild profanity to himself all the way back to the command center, making sure to put his happy, leadership face back on before stepping inside.

    "Xander, thanks for coming," Willow addressed him without him speaking, despite the fact that she wasn't facing the door. It always creeped him out a little, no matter how much he loved her. "Where's Buffy, is she??"

    "Still getting in some bonus training time, yeah," Xander jumped in, sharing a knowing look with Willow. From the small nod of her head, he knew she understood the company line. "What do we have?"

    Willow turned around and grabbed something off one of the workstations. When she turned back, she had a black book in her hands. He recognized the blood red symbol on the cover instantly ? Twilight.

    "Make-up present from Giles, for starters," Willow answered, smiling awkwardly.
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