Title: What Friends Are For (Flow My Tears Remix)
Summary: Xander takes steps to make sure he remembers what he needs to.
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Characters: Xander Harris, Willow Rosenberg
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon’s, not mine
Original story: ”What Friends Are For” by nwhepcat
Notes: Many thanks to my husband for the close beta-reading and for pushing me to crank up the intensity.
I swear to you that every word you’re about to read is true.
Please read all of them. I know they’re not smooth reading. I’m not what anybody would call a writer. Mrs. Beakman, before she got vamped on graduation day, said I had the prose style of a ham sandwich. What she said about my handwriting I won’t repeat. I hope you remember it. You were there.
That’s the point. There’s some stuff you need to remember. I want you to wake up every morning and read this through and see if it matches what you think the world is like. If it doesn’t, you’re in big trouble and you’re going to have to be smart. I hope you’re smarter than me, but maybe not. If you’re reading this and there’s a big “buzzuh?” in a thought bubble over your head, she got you.
Your name is Xander Harris. You’re engaged to marry Anya Jenkins, and she is not engaged to the British guy Giles. The red-headed girl is Willow, and she’s your best friend. The short blonde chick is a superhero named Buffy. The bleached blond jerk is a vampire named Spike, and yes, you can kill him. Please.
Is all of this ringing a bell? Hope so. ’Cause for a whole day it didn’t for me.
The story is that we all had amnesia, from a spell. Willow and Tara had a big fight, and she just wanted to make it all better, but she screwed up and it got all of us. It was a memory spell, make her lover forget the big fight, kiss without the need to make up. I don’t even know what the fight was about, but it must have been brutal. So she tried to work the mojo, and it went kablooey, and we all spent a day not knowing who we were or what vampires were or anything at all.
It was almost fun while we were in the middle of it. Buffy was happy again and we all liked each other and it was like it had been in high school. The band was back together and kicking ass. And then I stomped on this crystal completely by accident and it ended. Crystal went crunch and I blinked. In the time it took to blink I realized my fiance had spent the day macking on Giles like he was made of sex, and I had spent the day chasing after somebody I love like the little sister I wish I had, and then I saw Buffy all kinda crumpled in on herself.
That moment puts the “big” in “ambiguous”.
Scares the crap out of me to think that if I hadn’t accidentally stepped on that thing, Anya would now be married to Giles and I’d be engaged to Willow and Buffy would be a superhero named Joan. Maybe you’re thinking that would be okay. I’m thinking not. Amnesia’s not a valid lifestyle choice. But the point is: our memories were saved by accident. What if next time I kick the crystal into a dark corner?
How do you know if some piece doesn’t come back?
Broke my pencil underlining that. Didn’t know I could get so worked up writing something. But scary, huh? I can think of worse stuff, too.
Willow is smarter than I am. I knew this when we were putting crayons into the boxes first day of kindergarten, and she had hers in a rainbow and mine were broken in half already. The braingap feels wider now, way wider. Willow’s taken to magic like she took to computer hacking back in the day, back in high school. And have I told you yet how much I miss high school sometimes? Everything was simpler.
So yeah, Willow, smart. Willow practices things. Willow gets better. Willow wants to be the best. She’s a skillful witch. And if she had the whammy put on her, who’s safe?
What got me on this trail was this. The day after the big amnesia spell went down, I went to the Espresso Pump, mostly to escape the Magic Box and Anya, who’s still grumpy with me about not recognizing her, as if I didn’t have my own reasons to be grumpy. I was having a big existential crisis, too, going all Camus and “who am I anyway?” and I needed to get out of there. So, Pumpward ho, get some fuel, think a bit, calm down, remember that Anya is really pretty awesome and that she’s probably just as freaked as I am inside.
The walk helped me get some perspective, remember a few ways in which I’m a decent guy. That’s another thing you (I? We?) need to cling to. You, Xander Harris, are an okay guy in some ways. You’re a good carpenter. You’re starting to get the foreman gig. You’re finding your place in life. I remembered that, and I relaxed a little bit, calmed down, and started joking with the woman ahead of me in line, waiting for the morning jolt.
Then there was Willow, dragging in, looking about five times as bad as Buffy does at her most crumpledy. And she had that green around the eyes things my folks used to get when they’d had a noisier than usual Saturday night. So I snagged my bestest friend and bought her some coffee to try and cheer her up.
That wasn’t so easy, because it turned out Tara really did move out last night. Giles, Tara, the both of them gone in one day. Both of them, too selfish to remember who matters and who needs their help and love. I don’t know why Willow loves Tara as much as she does, but she does.
I put my foot in my mouth right away by suggesting that maybe we were better off without Tara, though I’m not sure why I would have said something like that to her, and we were off to the races. Willow reminded me of every single crappy thing I’ve ever done in my life, from turning her inside out when I was a hyena, to making my own charming mistakes with spells gone kablooey over entire towns, to talking her into resurrecting Buffy. But I did some fancy dancing and patched it up, because she’s Willow, and she’s been my best friend our whole lives, from crayons to computers to covens. And I’m not going to let go of her any time soon.
I pulled it off and got her feeling better, and we were okay with each other again. Then I offered her another coffee.
She said, "No, I should be getting to campus. I missed an exam, and I need to find the prof during his office hours."
Now, what went through my head is weird, and I’m not sure why: the time Amy put the whammy on Mrs. Beakman to get out of doing homework. Not that Willow can’t do homework, because I remind you, she is running with Giles in the braininess sweepstakes.
“Tara would just tell the prof what to think,” was what went through my head. Only it slipped out, because my brain-mouth connection is way too direct.
But Willow just got this really thoughtful look on her face, and she said, “Xander, you know I’ve stopped using magic because of how Tara’s been behaving,” and I blinked, and then I realized what a shitty thing it was to be thinking about my best friend’s girl friend. Right after she pulled that stunt-- no way, trying it again. Willow broke up with her because messing with people’s minds is not cool.
But the idea stuck with me. Tara might try it again. She might have the best of intentions, because who wouldn’t want to get back together with Willow? You have to remember that when you’re freaking out about what Tara’s done to your head: she’s got good motives.
Or maybe she hasn’t done anything. If you’re reading this and nodding along, it’s all okay and I just had a panic attack.
The next thing Willow said to me was, hey, could I ask Tara to call her? Because Willow and Tara belong together. And then she told me we were still bestest buds, no matter what. I was feeling crappy again, though.
“You got some blue on you,” Willow said to me.
She giggled a little bit, then she told me that I’d really cheered her up. And that made my day. And we were off, me to work and her to meet with her professor. But the further I got from the Pump, on my way back to Anya with a decaf chai, the more it bugged me. Here’s what I was thinking: Tara calls Willow, and they see each other, and Tara does a little mind whammy again. What’s to stop her? Who’s to know any better?
That was my glitch in the matrix moment.
I thought about this all day at work. Thinking is not my strong point, see previous, but I came up with this idea here. Hit the office supply store on the way home, snagged a couple of wire notebooks and a package of 2Bs with erasers on the end, and here I am.
So. Xander. Future me. Just to recap. Previously on The Adventures of Buffy:
Buffy died. She fell and died.
Willow resurrected her in a move that we’re not sure was good, because Buffy was happier dead.
Willow and Tara broke up because Tara’s been misusing magic.
Willow has stopped using magic as a good example for her.
You love Anya, even if she’s not really perfect for you.
Is this your version of reality? If it isn’t, get up now and jam a chair under the door until you figure out what’s changed.
I know your version might feel better. I know it’s probably better to have Buffy believing none of the bad stuff happened, and Tara staying with Willow, and the threat of marriage not coming at you like an onrushing freight train pulling twenty cars loaded with adulthood. No guilt lingering about ripping Buffy from her eternal reward. But if it’s not real, it’s no good. Believe me, please. Take the red pill.
Call Giles. He’s far enough away that Tara can’t reach him. Tell Anya. She’s got connections in the mystical world who can undo this stuff.
I’m going to sign my name and put the date on it. Then I’m going to draw a big line across the bottom of the page, and I want you to write what happened today below it. Your very own Watcher’s diary, just like you used to want to keep when you wanted to play in the big leagues. Do it every day. It’s the only way you can trust anything.
November 15, 2001