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Xander - OMWF

dipenates in still_grrr

134 Fic - A Watcher Scoffs at Gravity

Title: A Watcher Scoffs at Gravity
Author: dipenates
Rating: R (for language) 
Word Count: ~1600
Prompt: 134 - The Scoobies bring back Buffy
Characters: Xander, Willow, Giles 

 

Years later, Xander made a training video.

(A training video, like he was teaching the latest Watcher class to work a checkout at Wal*Mart. Or operate fire safety equipment.)

It had surprised Xander that, even after the annihilation of the Watchers’ Council, there was institutional memory of slayage in Britain’s finest, most ancient academic institutions. It somehow, with Giles’ encouragement, ensured a steady supply of young men and women with the requisite grasp of Latin and Ancient Greek and Sumerian to the Modern Academy of Slayage and Watching.

Of all the things in the Watchers’ curriculum, though – Practical Combat and Weaponry; Combat Strategy; Training for Combat; Practical Magic for Beginners; Theories of Magic; Introduction to Prophetic Texts – Pastoral Care was the hardest thing to teach to the bright, tweedy twenty-somethings.

Most of it was about boundaries, about establishing a relationship with a slayer or slayers that was caring and professional. There had been too much of the other kind, and Xander had learned first hand that there were Faiths as well as Buffys and Kendras in every group of slayers.

The hardest thing of all, though, was to pass on the knack of knowing when things were about to go wrong.

(Hence the video, and if Giles had raised his eyebrows at first he’d eventually liked the idea of a case study of wrongness; of roads taken, and not.)

The old Council had been so careful to guard its known Potentials, but how much more potent and desirable were the new slayers? Willow had told him once, offhandedly, as if she was thinking about something else, about the kind of magic you could do with the blood or the bone or the eyes of a slayer. He’d thought of Buffy first. The one true slayer. The true horror had only rolled, ice cold, across his brain when his eye had caught, through the window, a group of the new slayers giggling on the grass.

But, of course, having your body harvested for ingredients wasn’t the only way things could go wrong in their world.

Giles had taken him once to the narrow space in the top of the building the coven owned. A long, thin network of rooms that housed two young witches who hadn’t been able to be pulled back from the brink of some dark magic. Dark and gloomy, with the dour autumn light barely penetrating the attic windows. Giles had sat with scone crumbs down his olive sweater; making polite conversation as he lifted his cup from his saucer, but Xander had been transfixed by the pain radiating off the young women. On the way back down the creaking stairs, Xander had been going to say something silly about St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies but the memory of their eyes, so blank and so staring, made the joke die in his throat.

After he’d recovered from the what the fuck? of it all,  Xander had seen magic as a kind of transaction. Burn herbs; get smoke. Follow recipe; get dinner. Say spell; find demon. The enjoining spell that Willow had done to find Adam had shown him how subtle and nuanced the transaction could be.

(The video stopped right there to appreciate, with irony, how scared the Scoobies had been of Adam. Adam, who was a collection of demon parts and not a hell god, nor evil itself. Because as much as it was nice to feel a classroom full of admiring eyes on you, the myths of the original Scooby Gang needed to be made light of if this new generation was ever going to kick ass and take names.)

He’d tasted Willow’s power when they’d joined, tasted the sheen of metal on his lips. He’d felt what she had done and it had been like they were skimming above the surface of a dark, forbidding sea and then Willow had summoned a wave. A wave that had scoured his face with salt. A wave that had thundered in his ears and could crash them all onto rocks if Willow lost her slippery grasp on its power. A wave heaving with massive, unknown sea creatures, bucking against their watery prison. He’d felt the rush of standing on top of the wave and riding it to the edge of the cliff, but it left him sick and dizzy and afraid.

Not Willow, though, who had gasped on the floor of the Initiative like something had just made her toes curl up.

(“There was a point that a watcher might have intervened,” he said, pausing the video. And he watched them write it in their neat leather notebooks, pens scratching under dazzling electric light.)

Buffy’s death – Buffy’s second death – was written about in The Modern Watcher: A Multi-disciplinary Approach, a copy of which rested on every desk. A deluge of facts, and Giles had slipped neatly past the aftermath, alighting on one or two points like a butterfly, before taking off again.

He had wondered, many times, about Giles’ take on that period. There were thousands of moments in the long summer that followed Buffy’s death – Buffy’s second death – that might have given a watcher pause. Inexorably, Willow had integrated magic into every element of their ersatz slayage, and Giles hadn’t raised so much as a peep.  

The telepathic quarterbacking hadn’t been the fulcrum, though, of the pivot that Willow had made from floating a rose to Kingman’s Bluff.

(The video mostly concentrated on events that no one else alive, other than he and Willow, had been around for. Andrew had helped him make the video, and when they’d storyboarded it out Andrew had looked at him like the kind of darkness Xander was describing might fuck him up, even if the only thing he did was animate it. Andrew. Who had slit the throat of one of his best friends.)

He’d asked Anya once, during what she liked to call the shopping phase of the plan, whether she’d ever seen this done before.

“Once,” she’d answered, and there was something in her tone that made him not want to ask a follow-up. He’d regretted a thousand times since Sunnydale rumbled into a crater that he hadn’t.

He remembered thinking that they weren’t going to go ahead, that something would stop them. Because raising people from the dead was so far outside what was possible that it was almost ridiculous that they would try. Somehow, though, the resolve inside of Willow had hardened until it was a flawless diamond of desire. For Buffy. For the restoration of the Scooby Gang. For power.

(The video lingered over their discussion in the Magic Shop, when Anya had passed Willow the Urn of Osiris and Xander had caught the lust in her eyes. The moment when a braver man than he could have, and should have, called time on her hubris.)

He hadn’t known about the discussions that Willow and Tara had had. Tara pleading, afraid. Willow determined, angry. Willow had mentioned them only once; his return from Africa prompting enough relieved nostalgia that he could ask about the worst thing that she had ever done.

(He’d asked Giles once whether Buffy would go back to heaven when she died, and Giles had turned away from him too slowly for Xander to miss the tears in his eyes. He’d wanted the class to know what the cost of their failure might be, but he couldn’t put that on film. Not that.)

Willow had told him what he had known; that she’d lied to Tara about how bad it would be. That she’d known Tara would suspect that Willow loved Buffy more than her own girlfriend, but that she hadn’t cared. She had also told him what he hadn’t known; about the fawn struggling in her arms as she killed it and drained its blood, brutally efficient as any vampire. About Giles calling her a rank, arrogant amateur.

(It wasn’t his moment to talk about, but he’d put that in the training film. The words that someone should have said to Willow before she was so juiced on the magics that there was nearly no way back for her.)

She was pretty blissed out, these days, and had waved away his concerns about his re-telling of their story, careless as a child. In her head she’d paid for what she’d done in post-Kingman’s Bluff misery. In knowing what she’d done. In losing Tara. In calling the slayers and sharing in the hard donkey work of setting up the Academy.

There was so much she’d never seen, though. She’d never heard Giles’ voice shake as he performed even the most basic of protection spells, the kind of which even Xander could do without blinking. She’d never talked about, even on their day of jubilee, the fact that she had slashed Xander with her magics before yielding to the love he had for her.

(There were some things he still couldn’t talk about, even though the newbie Watchers needed to hear them. He should have talked in his film about what happened when the people you Watch hurt you. About how, if you have people in your past who hit and kicked you – Tony Harris, I’m talking to you -  that sometimes the raw, physical power of slayage can flick one of those raw spots.)

Willow felt like there was balance in the force now, and who was he to say different? Except that Willow had thought that she was riding the crest of a wave that night in the cemetery, and it had crashed and smashed over all of their lives.


Comments

This was amazing and one of the pieces that took me beyond anything else i could expect. This is truly a great work and i like to thank you for sharing it.
Thank you so much and you are very welcome. :)
This is great. Really in depth and interesting; making us think about the complicity of the others in Willow's magic, and the fragility of 'normal'.
Thanks for the really thoughtful comment.
WOAH! Powerfully written!
Thanks.
This is incredible. Well done!
Thanks. This is a particularly lovely compliment coming from you.
I really don't know what to say, but I just wanted you to know that I was blown away reading this. Bravo.
Thanks. You found a lovely thing to say!
This is so incredibly good.

This sentence made me pause for a while, remembering...

Inexorably, Willow had integrated magic into every element of their ersatz slayage, and Giles hadn’t raised so much as a peep

When you have to stop like that and think, it's a sign of a very good story!
Thank you so much for the lovely comment, and sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you.
Wow! That last line is killer!
Thank you!

(Sorry for the delay in responding - I've been away from lj.)
Wow - that's just breathtaking. What an amazing look at the internal dangers the gang endured while the external ones seemed the most pressing.
Thank you so much. What a lovely comment!

(Sorry for the delay in responding - I've been away from lj.)
Thank you!

(Sorry for the delay in responding - I've been away from lj.)
Brilliant and chilling.
Thank you very much!

(Sorry for the delay in responding - I've been away from lj.)
This is fabulous - such a rich and dense look into Xander's head. You make me believe that he does see everything, even if not the first time round. Love it!
Thanks. I really love Xander, and do believe that he eventually did see enough to Watch.

(Sorry for the delay in responding - I've been away from lj.)

Here from buffyversetop5

Very interesting take on the fallout from their actions.

Re: Here from buffyversetop5

Thank you.
This is a brilliant, thought provoking piece. The idea of Xander making a training video had me believing this was going to be a light hearted read but I got a chill with this passage: Willow had told him once, offhandedly, as if she was thinking about something else, about the kind of magic you could do with the blood or the bone or the eyes of a slayer. He’d thought of Buffy first. The one true slayer. The true horror had only rolled, ice cold, across his brain when his eye had caught, through the window, a group of the new slayers giggling on the grass.

Seamlessly segueing from that scene to a visit with witches not fortunate enough to have a Xander to talk them down from their magical near apocalypse worked beautifully. Willow could easily have been one of those empty eyed women and it's no wonder Xander wants to make sure there's a safety net in place next time. Willow may think she's paid for what she'd done, but Giles and Xander and Buffy are still paying the price for her hubris. Beautifully done.
Thanks so much for your really lovely comment.
Thanks very much!
This is such a powerful piece. There's such love in it, even as he dwells on all the unfairness and failure and malice that have come before. Really well done.
Thanks so much.
It's been a while since I've thought about the Buffy fandom, but you've just sparked my interest again!
Cordy Grrr

January 2017

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