"Xander, what have you done?" Willow gave him the tragic eyes of doom, and Xander wanted to scream with frustration.
"What I had to. Those guys were dangerous. They were going to turn Buffy into a pile of goo, or have you forgotten that?"
"They're just stupid kids," Buffy said.
"They're the same age we are, and we've managed to kill a hellgod."
Buffy turned white, and Xander had that nagging feeling of wrong. He hadn't wanted to hurt her. He'd done all this to help her--to help all of them. She couldn't carry the weight of the world, which she'd proved by going and dying.
"But the military? You gave them to the military?" Willow's tragic eyes were still in full force.
"I reported that they were engaging in illegal activities, you know, things like rape and murder. Murder bad."
"Cooperating with the military bad," Buffy shot back. "Spying on friends bad."
"Not all the military is like the Initiative."
"Oh no. I'm sure your friends care all about rights and my role as the slayer." Buffy was laying on the sarcasm a little thick, but she'd been like that ever since she'd come back from the dead. She was harder, but at the same time, there was a brittle sharpness there that Xander sometimes feared. It was like she was on the verge of shattering and he was going to be shredded by all the razor edges. The other guys told him he was right--that she was dangerously out of control. Without the guys, Xander didn't know what he'd do because the girls never listened to him anymore. They had Spike now. They had the new and improved Super Buffy who knew everything.
"They do care," Xander said as calmly as he could manage. “They care about this planet as much as we do."
"Then they shouldn't be here," Buffy shouted.
"Oh, so the whole world should just wait on you? You are the only one to fix everything?" Xander demanded. He felt his temper flare. He was training now. He had skills, and she still treated him like the worthless one.
"I'm the slayer!"
"And you died!" Xander shrieked. The room fell absolutely silent. Xander shifted his weight--the need to apologize fighting with the need to finally be listened to.
Buffy gave him one of her hard smiles. "Right. And you'll do anything to make sure you don't have to stand on your own, including turning to the military."
"Most of the military are good guys. These are people who've given their lives to defend their country. Do you think they'd be any less dedicated to defending their world?"
"I think they're wrong. They're interfering, and you're giving them information. How am I supposed to trust you?" Buffy demanded.
"Hey!" Willow said loudly. "No name calling. Absolutely no name calling."
"I didn't call him a name. I just said I couldn't trust him," Buffy said coldly.
Xander could feel his heart break a little at that. He'd stuck by Buffy through everything. He'd breathed life into her, risked Angelus for her. He'd stood at the front lines of a battle against hell and sacrificed his soul to bring her back from the dead. Willow could lie to herself all she wanted--Xander knew full well that the magic they'd done had damned them all, and he'd paid that price for Buffy.
"I've always tried to be your backup," Xander said.
Buffy stared at him, her silence condemning him even before she said, "You're the guy with the rock."
Willow's eyes got large and her mouth fell open. Xander wanted to talk about all the ways he was more now. He had training. The military had given him classes and a sergeant worked with him on hand-to-hand combat every day. When he lost his job again, once more because he'd been too injured from slayerette duty, the military had let him move into the safehouse with the guys. He wanted to say all of that, but looking at Buffy, he realized that it wouldn't matter. She didn't care about any of it.
"Buffy," Willow finally said in a small, wounded voice.
"I mean it, Will. If he's going to spy on us and tell his military buddies all about the sitch, I don't want him around."
Xander felt frozen in time, so Willow was the first to respond. "You don't mean that."
"Yeah, I do," Buffy said, and Xander could see her utter honesty in that statement. She didn't want him. Oh, maybe he could beg and grovel and plead for some small piece of her life, but she'd want him to admit that she was all right and he was all wrong. And he was tired of being all wrong.
Willow looked at him, and Xander could almost see the script she wanted him to follow. Apologize. Beg. Grovel and call Buffy the queen of the universe. The problem was that Xander didn't believe that anymore. There were men who had been in war longer, who knew more strategy, who knew how to ask for help when they needed it. There were people who didn't ignore rapists and killers just because they were human. Xander would absolutely not apologize for doing the right thing.
"Think what you want, Buff," Xander said. He could hear the coldness in his own voice. "But at least the NID did something about those three. They saved your ass, and you aren't grateful enough to even acknowledge it. You don't trust me? Fine. But maybe you should worry about whether you should trust yourself.” Head held high, Xander stalked out. For the first time in a long while, he was absolutely sure he was doing the right thing.
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