DISCLAIMER: Another day, another…they don’t pay me anything at all. I just do this to amuse myself and you. That’s what allows me and mine to slip under the radar while playing with characters created by those more fortunate than us.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to Howard Russell for all of the lovely commas.
ARCHIVING: A master list of my fiction can be found here. Please do not archive or distribute without my permission.
FEEDBACK: valyssia[at]gmail.com

Cross Examine
By Valyssia


I turn the corner onto Revello Drive just in time. From like almost a block away, Buffy flies out the door of her house—at least I assume that’s what she does from the clatter and the way she tears to the end of the walk, turns in the opposite direction, and—well, shoot. I sigh. Not even a glance. Things always go this way. I should’ve called. Like planning ever helps. Besides, what was I going to do, ask Will if I could borrow her phone?

I call out, “Buffy, wait up,” trying not to sound tired. Being heard would be useful too. That little bit of extra gusto— It’s not like I can catch her if she—

Dammit. She doesn’t. She must not’ve heard me. Either that or she’s ignoring me. I try again, a bit louder, “Buffy!” and take off running. A little exercise is exactly what I need. The perfect end to a perfect evening.

She slows, and with perfunctory poise, half turns, looking expectantly over her shoulder, ready to go again the moment I catch up. I swear she should be tapping her foot.

Meanwhile, God really does hate me. Really, sainthood should be in my future. ‘Saint Xander’ has a nice ring to it. Patron saint of…

Of what?

Of the infinitely patient men who befriend the most irrational of creatures: otherwise known as women. Of men who are by definition already saints. That works. Of course, my jog up the block, which is actually, more accurately a slog, makes me think I need to rethink. Underachievers are what I’d be saint of, if the sainting occurred.

I arrive panting, exhausted, ready for a nap, or at least a snack, a comfy chair and some quality time with the remote. Instead, I get to question, and probably threaten, one of the most dangerous women in the world.

Oh, I like that. It makes what I’m doing sound almost daring. A death-defying discussion with—

It might actually be. She kinda is. Somehow, in the last ten seconds, she’s managed to look even more impatient and she still isn’t tapping her foot.

Okay, so…here goes nothing. “What did you do?”

That came out a whole lot more biting than I meant for it to, which is probably why she gets defensive. “What do you mean ‘what did I do’? I didn’t do anything.”

I decide to go with it. “Well, neither did I.” Might as well.

“Good,” she retorts. “Glad we got that straight. Now, if you don’t mind, I—”

And with things going so well, I need to just cut to the chase, “Willow’s pretty upset.” It’s either that or let Buffy go. “Are you sure you don’t know anything about that? You were with her last night.” If the look on her face is any indication, I might’ve been better off letting her go. “There was the whole thing with the excitedness before, and after—well, not so much.”

“Yeah, I know,” she grumbles. “I just don’t see what business it is of yours.” The best part is how she looks away. She won’t meet my eyes. She even folds her arms.

Busted. And her arms, they make a nice frame. But I won’t be totally shameless. It is nice cleavage. Some of the best at school. I appreciate her cleavage for…

There. I’m done. Now, I should make my case—tick off a few points without the nifty visual aids, because she isn’t watching. “Willow’s my friend. You’re my friend. You saw her. Now she’s having a meltdown. It was my shoulder that got wet. That kind of makes me involved.” If she was, I would’ve totally been using my fingers. As it is, I just plant my fists on my hips. No sense in rubbing in my somewhat unfamiliar position on the moral high ground. The view’s nice up here. I could plant a flag. Maybe stick around. Maybe sneak another peek at—

Nope, she’s looking at me now. And I’m looking at the ground, like she was. Moral high ground, you were nice while you lasted. I mumble, “I’m just concerned, okay?” Great. Now I feel like a heel and I have no idea why. I didn’t—

“I get that,” she says as I try to figure out what the heck to do with my arms. I hate that. Not knowing where to put them. I could cross them like she did. Lucky for me, she takes pity on me and starts walking. Or that’s how it seems. We walk. I swing my arms. She talks. It’s good.

“I just don’t get this. Why does it have to be so hard?” Her speechifying hits a hiccup. We exchange glances. No surprise, she looks disgusted. “Not this right now. This thing. I mean, everything. It’s like life just has to get extra complicated with me. Like I signed up for the advanced ‘life’ class. Like—” Movement from her draws my attention. It must be bad. She’s racking her hair back. “You remember those placement tests?”

I nod. “Yeah, I hated those,” I mumble, like it means anything at all.

She ignores me, quickly picking up the thread of her own thing. “It’s like I tested really well. Now I’m some s’posed to be sort of protégé at living. I’m not. I want to drop a level. Enjoy a little life one-oh-one for a while.”

“Okay.” I get what she means. She does have a little more than most of us. “But—”

“I told her the truth. That’s all.” 

“Well, there’s your problem. Honesty’s never an excuse.”

I hate it when this happens. That was meant to be funny. I thought it was funny. I even smiled. She didn’t. We’ve covered another half a block. I don’t really remember it happening. I’ve been a little busy trying to figure out how to follow up my faux pas. All I’ve got so far is ‘what truth?’ but I can’t ask that. I know there was affection and rejection. I got that much. And umm…

It suddenly seems important to ask, “Where are we going?” Or at least it’s something to talk about.

“I’m meeting Giles at the cemetery just up here,” she says, pointing vaguely ahead of us and to the right. I know which one she means. I can’t remember the name either. It’s a small one. There are so many. “Mom thinks I’m going to the library—that he’s going to try to help me study for that test tomorrow. She’s got it half right. We’re doing a history cram session while we wait for Mary Potter to wake up and do the Thriller shuffle. Remember her? I think we had bio together. I’m not sure. Anyway, she’s—”

I interject, “Porter,” but Buffy’s too wrapped up in sighing to hear me. She’s right. Our lives really do suck. How many places can you grow up in America where it’s perfectly normal to lose a classmate every couple of months to monsters—in this case vampires, or probably ‘vampire’?

I don’t know, though. Maybe it is normal. Maybe it happens all over. Maybe Hollywood is the only place that makes a big deal over kids disappearing. I’ve only ever seen it in movies. I’ve never lived anywhere else. I never even thought about it before Buffy.

She said something else. I have no clue what. I should get to my point before we meet up with Giles. Actually, I sort of want to skip the Giles part. It isn’t like I want to go home, but there are worse things, and when I think of those worse things, the words ‘study,’ ‘test’ and ‘Giles’ often come up. The idea of waiting for a classmate to return from the dead by digging her way out of her own grave while being grilled by Giles—yeah, there are hells that sound better. A little flaying, some fiery torment and—

Yeah, so“Y’know, I know,” I say, coming to a stop, because suddenly the idea of getting any closer to that graveyard….

Buffy stops too. She even looks attentive.

“You’re the slayer and I know you could pound me into the ground, but I have to say this. It’s a thing—a ‘male ego’ thing—which incidentally, the fact that you could pummel me into the ground is really hard on. Willow’s my friend and you’re my friend, but you hurt her, so consider yourself threatened.”

“Duly noted,” Buffy says. She even smiles, which is—

I’m not sure. If it was a happy smile, I might be, but I’m not. She looks so miserable. I guess it’s no wonder with the history and Giles and the—

“I didn’t do it on purpose,” she says, but her expression suggests a rethink. “Okay, I did, but I didn’t. I didn’t—” She stops mid-thought and studies me. I try not to show how nervous it makes me. I have no idea what she’s thinking, other than the obvious ‘this is none of your business’ thing she touched on earlier. She wants to know how much I know. I know too much. I know more than I should know, but only because—

“Never mind,” she says.

I should tell her I know. She needs someone to talk to. This has gotta suck for her as much as Mary Porter and the pending history grill-a-thon with Giles. It’s a little late though. She’s walking away. I should stop her. I should tell her that I understand. Maybe she’d see me as more than—

I let her go.

How did we end up here?

End of Part Ten: Cross Examine

Continued in Part Eleven:

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