Hit 50k on my book and I'm segueing into a plotty section so writing should come faster. That's always good.
And I survived the latest round of LAS. The prompt was canon pairings; here's my offering...
TITLE: Again, We Try
RATING: PG13, for one or two bad words
SETTING: Africa, post-Chosen
LENGTH: 770 words
DISCLAIMER: Not mine, which is a shame because usually we're nicer to them than Joss was.
It was a little bit of pigheadedness that kept him from reading it. Xander knew that. In fact, every time he opened his wallet and saw the folded edge of the telegram tucked in amongst his receipts, he made a little oinking noise under his breath. Well. Until the first time Jendayi heard him and gave him that one-brow-what-do-you-think-you’re-doing-t
But really, what did Angel expect? The message wasn’t about anything important. The first thing Xander had done after it had arrived at his apartment in Cairo was call Giles and make sure everybody was okay. And then he had called Buffy just to doublecheck. And then he had texted Willow because the last time he had called her, Kennedy had ripped into him about forgetting the time difference. Everybody was fine. There was no apocalypse on the horizon. Whatever Angel wanted wasn’t worth worrying about. He was evil again, remember? It gave him a small measure of satisfaction to be able to flip the vamp the bird from halfway across the world.
The edges grew soft in the weeks that followed, until they blended in with the thick sheaf of receipts he was going to have to turn into Giles some time soon. He forgot about it when Jen insisting on going out with a group of young Slayers to roust a new nest. He forgot about it when they came back and knocked on his door without her. He didn’t even think about the telegram as little Nailah told him how a vamp had slashed Jen’s throat.
He ended up at a loud bar around the corner. Giles was going to argue and say they had seen far worse losses than one Slayer down, but Xander knew better. Jendayi had been more than a Slayer. She’d been a teacher, a mentor to the younger girls. She should never have been called at her ripe old age of twenty-four, but she fought anyway. Because she believed in what they did.
And she had been his friend. The one who kept him in Africa long after Giles suggested he move on.
He drank until the wee hours of the morning, the first time in months he’d had anything heavier than a diet coke. When it came time to pay, his fingers fumbled with the bills, spilling the contents of his wallet across the tabletop. It took effort, but eventually everything found its place again, everything, that is, except for the telegram.
“What the hell,” Xander muttered, unfolding it. It wasn’t like the night could get any worse.
He was wrong.
Cordy died last night in her sleep. Doctors say she didn’t suffer. Thought you would want to know.
He stared at the message, reading and re-reading as if his blurry eye would eventually change the words. He didn’t move until the bartender barked out his final reminder for closing time. Even then, all he did was get up, walk out onto the street, and throw up in the gutter.
Somehow, he got home. Somehow, he got into bed. Somehow, he slept.
None of it changed a thing. When Xander woke up, Jendayi was still gone, and the note from Angel still announced Cordelia’s death. He didn’t need to look at the calendar to know that it was almost a year since they’d closed the Hellmouth.
May was the worst fucking month of the year.
He did what needed to be done as if he was on autopilot. After all, Xander had had to deal with the deaths of other Slayers in the past year. It was part of the job. It was the shittiest part of the job, but still, not new territory. This time, though, he handled things slightly different.
For Cordy, he went down to the best store in Cairo and bought the most expensive designer tie he could find.
For Anya, he went to the street market and haggled with a local to get a new shirt at a third the cost.
For Jen, he went straight to her parents’ home, dressed in his new clothes with his hair slicked back and his best grown-up air, and told them in person their daughter was dead.
For himself, he called Giles.
“I’m done here,” he said. “Faith wouldn’t need a one-eyed ex-construction worker in Cleveland to take over where Robin left off, would she?”
It wouldn’t be new territory. A Hellmouth was a Hellmouth. A Slayer was a Slayer.
But this time, he would be there. Maybe this time, he could make a difference.