And it only took from November 2006 to December 2007. Hooray!
All previous parts can be found here.
Continued from Part 4E.
Part 4F: If It Weren’t For Bad Luck…
All Andrew could do was helplessly watch while Team Cold Storage gently carried Xander up to the guest bedroom while Xander mumbled bits and pieces of his life. Andrew understood some of it, not all. Thank God, no one else could possibly know what all those disconnected words meant. He pretty much came the closest, and even he didn’t get most of it.
Xander’s whole thing was way, way beyond his first aid skills. Besides, the medic was here to actually deal with what needed to be done. Even so, Andrew wanted to go up there and ask if there was something, anything he could do. Before he could get himself to move, however, LaTisha stumbled down the stairs and gave him a wan smile.
“What is the nature of the medical emergency?” Andrew immediately asked, hoping that he could do something to ease Xander’s troubled brow.
“No major injuries, Andy,” she said.
“But Xander—” he began.
LaTisha winced. “Besides the obvious, I meant. Doc’s taking care of Harris, and Terri’s tucked nice and tight into bed.”
Andrew leapt on that. “Terri’s hurt? Maybe I can—”
“That particular medical emergency’s gotta go to the doc, too,” LaTisha said as she placed a hand on his shoulder. “As for Xander, I know it’s hard, and I know he’s your friend and all, and I know you want to help, but Doc’s on it. Meantime, I’ve got a lot of cold Slayers who could use a warm-up. Pretty sure once Team Mob Hit gets back there’ll be even more. You’re the only one around here who can make decaff actually taste like something worth drinking.”
“Andy, let Doc do his thing, okay?” LaTisha quietly pleaded. “Go up and offer to help after things calm down a little and they get Harris and Terri set. Right this second is not a good time.”
“Okay,” Andrew softly agreed.
LaTisha clapped him on the shoulder. “Soon’s I get the girls cleaned up and rallied, I’ll make sure they line up for some of that black gold of yours.”
LaTisha was right. Andrew knew she was right. That didn’t mean he had to like it.
Andrew marched into the kitchen and began perking the coffee. He yanked food out of the fridge and obsessively began working on an array of snacks. Truth to tell, the smell of food was making him gag, but just because he felt like throwing up didn’t mean that no one else wanted to eat.
He could distantly hear Team Mob Hit come into the house during his obsessive kitchen work, but he didn’t go out to greet them. He was afraid he'd find out that someone else got hurt in a way that was beyond his first aid skills. So he stayed in his kitchen and reasoned that if anyone needed him, someone would come and get him.
He was vaguely aware of the sound of chaos — as there always was whenever Slayers came in from the cold — followed by a few exclamations and some hurried whispering. The news about Xander and Terri was now officially out. No doubt they were being told to stay out of the Doc’s way.
Just as Andrew was putting the finishing touches on the cold cut plate, he heard, “Hey, Andy.”
Andrew startled and fumbled with several cheese slices.
“Whoa!” Kristin dove into view and caught the cheese before it fell onto the kitchen floor. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to—”
“No, it’s okay,” Andrew quickly said. “Everything’s been kind of crazy after the tragic events of tonight and my mind was wandering just a little bit. I’ve been waiting to hear word that it’s okay for me to go on up and help with the medical emergency now in progress. Now that I’m done here, I should go up and offer my services.”
Kristin uncomfortably shrugged as she placed the cheese slices on the cold cut platter, like she didn’t want to say what she was about to say. “LaTisha told me to tell you that we all have to steer clear of Xander until at least tomorrow morning. She’d tell you herself, but she’s with Terri now helping her get her head on straight.”
“What happened with Terri? LaTisha wasn’t clear about anything when you guys first came in.”
“She was inside the demon while it was attacking Xander,” Kristin said. “She got a brain full of jumbled images, but really no context. She’s not sure what any of it means.”
“Maybe I can help,” Andrew quickly volunteered.
Kristin shook her head. “Terri’s trying to forget. She said she doesn’t want to remember because of…I guess she feels like she’s invading his privacy. Plus, some of what she saw freaked her out hardcore.”
“Not surprised,” Andrew said he looked down at the now-completed platter. He reached out to rearrange the cheese slices Kristin had placed, since they messed up the aesthetically pleasing pattern he worked hard to create. “Sunnydale was that kind of place. Really, falling into a crater was the best thing that ever happened to that town. Good riddance.”
Kristin seemed so surprised by that statement that Andrew wondered if she had ever heard a word he said about Sunnydale.
“I can help her with the confusing stuff, at least so she’s a little less scared about it. I’ll steer clear of Xander-shaped subjects and just stick only to Sunnydale,” Andrew offered again.
Kristin emphatically shook her head. “She said she doesn’t want company. Heck, she didn’t even want Tish with her, but you know LaTisha.”
Andrew knowingly nodded. “One of her girls is hurt, so she’s not going to let it go. That’s why she’s such a good leader.”
“Yeah,” Kristin agreed. “Doc’s mostly focusing his efforts on Xander right now. Bernie and Faith are helping with that.”
“Faith!” Andrew yelped. “Why is Faith is allowed in and I’m not?”
Kristin looked embarrassed. “She bullied her way up the stairs as soon as she heard what happened and refused to back down. She won’t leave Xander’s room.”
“I’m his friend. I should be there,” Andrew grumbled.
“I know,” Kriten said sympathetically. “But if you threaten to rip off Doc’s arms if he doesn’t let you stay, you can’t actually follow through. Faith can.”
“It’s not fair that Faith gets away with disobeying orders and I don’t,” Andrew huffed.
“Well, Faith said you know Xander pretty well, right?” Kristin asked.
“That’s right,” Andrew said shortly.
“Well, that’s why she said it wasn’t good idea for you to be in the room,” Kristin said.
“Faith said that, hunh? Why? And what right does she have to say—”
“She said that it’s because you know him well enough to figure out everything he’s talking about,” Kristin quickly interrupted. “She’s afraid that he might be embarrassed when he woke up, ’cause even though you know a lot you don’t know all of it. At least that’s what she said. I guess she’s trying to spare both of you from feeling awkward when this is all over.”
Andrew paused and thought about that. Could he really handle days of Xander calling out to Anya like she was still alive? Worse, he’d hear all about their bad times and none of the good. Sure, Anya was Xander’s One True Love, but even Soulmates had their little arguments.
“I, unh, I guess I understand,” Andrew admitted. “But why Faith? She knows him, too.”
“According to her, not nearly as well as you,” Kristin said. “I guess she offered herself as a compromise. Y’know, be the friendly face he sees when he snaps out of it, but not a face that’s friendly enough to figure out anything he’s saying. She said he’ll be less embarrassed if it’s her and not you, especially since you know him better. At least that’s what she said to Bernie while I was helping Tish put Terri to bed.” Kristin paused a moment as she focused on Andrew. “So, is that true?”
Now Andrew was confused. “Is what true?”
“That Faith doesn’t know him that well,” Kristin answered. “The way they acted around each other, I got the impression that they knew each other pretty well.”
Andrew mentally scrambled to find the best way to phrase his answer. He’d heard stories, of course, but none of them were good. Besides, Faith would probably kill him if he told everything he knew.
“Unh, they sort of knew each other,” Andrew fumbled. “Not well, though. Nope. They only worked together a couple of times, but that’s all. Usually it was Xander-and-Buffy or Faith-and-Buffy, but not really Xander-Faith-and-Buffy.”
“Buffy’s like Kevin Bacon, hunh?” Kristin asked.
“Xander is, actually,” Andrew quickly corrected her. “Buffy can be, too. And so can Willow. But Xander’s the real Kevin Bacon of the Scoobies. He knows everyone.”
Kristin grinned at him. “I kind of thought you knew everyone.”
Andrew blushed at the compliment. “I guess since I can’t do anything upstairs, I should just get the coffee and the food platters out.”
Kristin glanced at the coffee pot. “I’d just leave everything in the kitchen and let people get their own stuff when they’re ready to eat or go for the caffeine. Why don’t you get some rest? You’ll probably be juggling everything tomorrow because we’re all going to be tied up explaining to each other what happened. I mean, we know that we won and that we got away with everything and are in the free-and-clear. Everyone’s too blown out to share details, though.”
Andrew helplessly tapped his fingers on the kitchen table. “I…guess, but I’m too wound up to sleep.”
“In that case…nah. Forget it.”
Andrew was immediately on alert, as he always was when his lambs wanted something but were too shy to ask. “What do you need? Really, you’d be doing me, like, this huge favor if you gave me a mission.”
Kristin took a deep breath before quickly saying, “I was wondering if maybe you could say something to the others.”
“Like what?” Andrew asked.
“Maybe if you told Susan and Cheryl that everything was going to be okay it might help. You’re one of Xander’s best friends from Sunnydale, right?” Kristin asked. “I mean, Susan and Cheryl are really upset about Xander and Helen’s a little freaked out because she was the one holding his hand immediately after and heard a lot of stuff that scared the stuffing out of her. Honestly, I’m a little freaked too, but I did most of my freaking right after it happened. I’m not as crazy right now as the others, but I definitely could stand to hear something uplifting.”
Andrew swallowed. He wasn’t sure that he could do as Kristin asked. Oh, he knew that Xander would be okay, because being okay was just something Xander did. He just wasn’t sure how he could tell the girls that. The right words simply weren’t there for him to say.
“Please, Andrew?” Kristin quietly pleaded. “They really need to hear you say something positive. To keep their spirits up.”
Kristin’s hopeful face as she shifted uncertainly from foot to foot decided the issue. Andrew would do it. Maybe the words weren’t important. Maybe the attempt was the thing.
He nodded, simply because he didn’t trust his voice. This earned him a grateful smile from Kristin that warmed him to his toes.
As he followed Kristin into the living room, he feverishly tried to think of a good Xander story that would illustrate that the guy would be okay. Before he could figure out which story he could tell, however, he was in the living room and surveying the devastated faces of his little chicks.
Terri and LaTisha were absent, of course, but Cheryl and Susan were there. He saw Cheryl sitting on the couch looking positively devastated. Susan had an arm slung around Cheryl’s shoulders and was talking low and fast, probably offering comfort. Helen was present also, but she was pacing back and forth across the width of the living room. She occasionally threw worried looks at her compatriots on the couch, but she didn’t interfere since Susan seemed to have everything well in hand.
Andrew paused for just a moment, and marveled at how his girls really were a family. They may snipe and bicker at times, and sometimes he had to step in and soothe feathers that got ruffled and broker little peace offerings, but on the whole they were there for each other.
Kristin nudged him in the back to propel him forward. “Go get ’em, Andy,” she whispered as she walked past him and flopped into a chair.
In an effort to stall while he mentally flipped through his catalogue of stories in search of something that would fit the bill, Andrew asked, “Hey, where are your Watchers?”
“Library,” Helen said as she continued to pace. “Team Mob Hit won the jackpot on information, so they’re on the phone to the Council now.”
Andrew looked questioningly at Susan and Cheryl, who were still huddled together on the couch.
“We pretty much have the same information so we’d only be in the way,” Susan answered his silent question. “We’re supposed to be getting some sleep so we can really contribute to the full pow-wow tomorrow, but…” Her voice trailed off into an uncomfortable shrug.
Andrew took a breath. “Xander’ll be okay, you’ll see. So will Terri, of course, because, y’know, she’s a Slayer and LaTisha is with her and everything. When this is over, you won’t even know either one of them were hurt.”
Helen paused in her pacing and spared him a glance. “You weren’t in that SUV with Xander and Terri.”
“Terri will be fine, once she gets over what she saw,” Andrew assured her. “And Xander’s been through worse. A lot worse. And he’s still fighting demons and things despite all that.” Andrew knew he was scrambling to keep his footing. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t think of a single story he could tell.
“He’s been through worse, hunh?” Helen remarked.
“He, unh, that is Xander…well, he did lose an eye.” Kristin turned her hopeful eyes to Andrew. “That left one is fake, right Andy?”
“That’s right,” Andrew nodded. “And Xander isn’t unlucky at all. In fact, he’s very lucky. I mean, thanks to him discovering all those new demons, he’s single-handedly added more new information to the Council’s demon database than was added to it for like a century before that. And he’s still alive. He usually doesn’t even get hurt in his adventures. Unh, except this time. And a few other times. But he always bounces back. He’ll be up and joking in three days, tops.”
“Yeah, well, his luck didn’t do him any good this time, did it,” Helen said as she flopped into a chair.
Kristin made puppy-dog eyes at him. Andrew knew she was silently begging him to say something — anything — that would lift his beloved students out of their blue funk.
“Yeah, well, even when he’s unlucky he’s lucky,” Andrew declared.
Cheryl sniffed like she was holding back tears. Susan kept her arm around Cheryl, but was now studiously staring at the floor.
“An unlucky that’s lucky?” Helen mumbled as she shook her head with a frown. “That doesn’t even make sense.”
Wait! I’ve got it! The perfect story. “Yes it does,” Andrew protested. “And I can prove it, because, see, this was something I saw with my very own eyes in Brasilia. An entire Council house was drowning in bad luck until Xander came to visit and figured out how to fix it.”
Cheryl looked up at Andrew with red-rimmed eyes. “What did he do to get rid of all the bad luck?”
Kristin seemed relieved as she leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms.
Andrew tapped a finger to his temple. “He used his brain while the rest of us were, unh, panicking.”
“Here’s hoping he gets his brain back, because it took a nasty hit out there,” Helen mumbled.
“Don’t say that,” Cheryl protested.
“I think now is the time to think positive,” Kristin said.
Susan released Cheryl from her one-armed hug and stared at her fingernails.
“Fine. Positive,” Helen said as she sunk even deeper into her chair. Despite her attitude, however, Andrew could see that he had her undivided attention.
“When I was in Brasilia, I found out that once every three months Xander stops by to visit Willow,” Andrew began. “Usually, Xander’d come in from the airport on his own. The second he’d step through the door, there’d Willow be trying to strangle him with a hug.”
Andrew paused. It was usually at this point someone would interrupt with a question or two. This time no one did. Instead, all four girls were focused so completely on him that it seemed like they had forgotten the first rule of good storytelling: audience participation.
This was worse than telling a story to a camcorder.
“Anyway, Xander’d barely have time to say ‘hello’ to everyone before Willow was dragging him away to take some whirlwind tour or another. They always took off just the two of them for three days. Never more than that, and never less. I guess that was because she was always showing him stuff that was easy for them to get to, but not too easy ’cause, you know, they probably had to travel a little bit to see it,” Andrew lamely added.
“Kennedy was okay with her girlfriend and Xander taking off alone?” Kristin asked.
“Sure! I mean, why not? Kennedy likes Xander. Besides, Willow and Xander are best friends,” Andrew answered. “Anyway, sometimes after they got back from wherever they went, Xander would stay for a few more days and hang out. Sometimes he had to leave right away for his next assignment. In any case, every three months, like clockwork, Xander visits Willow.”
Susan groaned and began to shudder. “Oh, God. Please tell me that he’s not due for another visit anytime soon.”
Andrew regarded Susan with surprise. “I…don’t know, actually. I can check if you want. Why do you make it sound like that it’s a bad thing if he is?”
“The best friend of the most powerful witch in the world gets hurt on our turf,” Helen said as Susan seemed to shrink into herself. “You do the math.”
“Willow’s not like that! Well, she’s not like that any more,” Andrew awkwardly protested. “It isn’t like what happened was your fault, right? It just happened. I mean, is anyone surprised that the Emo-thing went after Xander right away? I’m not. I think anyone from Sunnydale would pretty much be a target no matter what.”
Susan hunched even lower as her hands began to open and close like she was making fists.
“Andrew’s got a good point,” Kristin said. “Besides, he’ll recover. It’s like Andy says. Xander’s been hurt a lot worse and has come out all right.”
Andrew almost jumped with glee. Kristin just handed him the perfect segue. “Besides, Willow would be the last one to point fingers, on account of the fact that she knows first-hand how things can go wrong. I remember the last time I saw Xander in Brasilia, oh, this must’ve been a little over a month before I left. That instance was totally out of everyone’s control, just like this instance right here.”
Cheryl’s mood shifted into a slightly lighter shade from where it was just moments ago as she asked, “Is this the bad luck Council house you were talking about?”
“Unh-hunh,” Andrew nodded with a grin. He was pleased to see that his scheme was working, and he hadn’t even started with the real story yet. “I was there for three of Xander’s visits, but that last one was something else.”
“What happened?” Helen asked, finally getting into the spirit of things, albeit reluctantly.
Andrew grinned and cleared his throat. “The whole thing actually started shortly after the second visit Xander had while I was there…”