Finally, the remix for the author I was originally assigned at buffy-remix!
Made to Be Broken
(the Scars of Your Love Remix)
Copyright July 2013
When Dawn disappeared for long hours at a time, it was Xander that invariably, inevitably, knew where to find her. Buffy’s thought had been to check the graveyard to see if Dawn was visiting Joyce or Tara’s graves, and while that was on the right track, it wasn’t quite right. Xander found her at Kingman’s Bluff, looking at the spot where The Scariest Showdown of His Life had taken place, and quietly sat down beside the coltish teenager, trusting her to break the self-imposed silence when she was ready.
Dawn was grateful for that; she loved her sister, really, she did, but Buffy was constantly trying to get her to talk about it. What was there to say? Dawn had loved Tara (don’t tell anyone, but sometimes, she’d wished that Tara was her sister instead of Buffy) and she’d been a little bit afraid of Willow since the car crash and broken arm incident, and now she was a lot afraid of Willow. How are you supposed to feel when your friend (maybe even your best friend) is murdered and your surrogate sister goes off the deep end to hop a ride on the crazy train going to Nutsville?
Xander didn’t say anything. Just sat next to Dawn and waited for her to talk. Over the years, he’d had his fair share of waiting Dawn out and making her talk first; it was easier for him than the others, because of the crush she’d had on him, but it really wasn’t that hard to do in general. Dawnie was a talkative girl, and wanted to talk about whatever was bothering her. Under normal circumstances, that is. These weren’t normal circumstances, so he didn’t know how long he’d have to wait. He decided to comfort her by draping his arm across her shoulders, giving her a physical reminder that he was there and she didn’t have to deal with this on her own.
They sat like that for over an hour, not saying anything, before Dawn climbed to her feet and offered her hand to Xander with a smile, helping him stand up as well, and the two of them started walking home.
That happened every few days, and for her part, Dawn really enjoyed the quiet time with Xander. It gave her a chance to think things through, without her thoughts getting too heavy. Xander didn’t enjoy it, but he didn’t hate it, either, as evidenced by him not telling Buffy. Then, at one such non-talk, Dawn noticed that the blackberry bushes were growing heavier and thicker and thornier than they really should be. She stepped in closer, and realized that what they’d assumed were berries and thorns were actually words hanging from the vines. She pointed it out to Xander, who showed it to Buffy, who talked to Giles about it, who offered a theory and a way to fix it.
According to Giles, it was likely that all the magic Willow had borrowed from the books had leaked out of her and into the ground, before growing into the thorny bushes. Giles had the coven enchant four cauldrons one for Latin, one for Greek, and one for English, with the fourth for everything else for the three of them to sort the various words into. Once all the words were gathered, Giles would have some friends of his from Los Angeles come out to perform a spell to put all the books back to right.
So, once again, Xander was finding himself cleaning up one of his friends’ messes. Buffy helped him in the morning, before he had to go into work, since the blonde Slayer was usually still awake from her patrolling. Dawn helped in the evening, when he was done with work, and then the two of them would either pick food up on the way back to the Summers house, or Xander would cook for the two girls and himself. He’d all but moved in; Buffy didn’t want to leave Dawn home alone while she was out, and he spent as little time in his parents’ basement as possible, going back to get clothes and that was pretty much it. There had been a few close calls, but so far, he’d managed to hide the scars from the Willow rampage from Buffy and Dawn. He just didn’t want to deal with the questions, or the pity. It was just easier to deal with them on his own.
It turned out that Dawn was the best at de-tangling the magic thorns. She exhibited patience that neither Xander nor Buffy had noticed before. During one of their evening sessions, Xander had commented on it, and Dawn replied with a shrug, “Tara would have been good at this. I’m trying to be more like Tara.” Xander had wrapped her in a hug and made her promise to keep being like the Dawnster, too. Dawn had rolled her eyes, still picking words off the plants and casually flicking them into the correct cauldron, and told him about how, when Willow and Tara were broken up, the Summers house had run out of toothpaste. Dawn had spent weeks brushing her teeth with mouthwash, trying to make Buffy notice (and how stupid was that? she could have picked up the toothpaste herself, no problem, but that wasn’t the point, she was trying to make Buffy buy the damn toothpaste), and one day, Tara had come by to check up on Dawn and see how she was handling things, and brought over a whole bag of toothpaste. Dawn finished the story with, “That’s the part of Tara I want to be. I want to see when people are hurting or need something, and fix it, just because I can.”
Xander had to stop to wonder when the sixteen-year-old became the smartest of all of them.
Buffy wasn’t bad at dealing with the magic bushes. She just kept trying to treat it like how a Slayer would handle anything: hack and slash and rip it apart and force the words into the right cauldrons. Convincing her to use the spell-protected gloves that Giles had sent to all of them had been a pain and a half, but eventually, she’d started using them, mostly because otherwise she’d be complaining about her ruined nails.
Secretly, even though it meant Xander was there cleaning up Willow’s mess more than either of the other two, he was glad that neither of them were doing it alone. He didn’t completely trust Buffy to not just yank them all out by the roots and shake them over the cauldrons and mix up all the words.
And then there was the day everything almost went to hell. He and Buffy were working on the deepest section of blackness, and the vines kept slipping right out of his hands. “Do you have any garden shears or anything?”
Buffy brightened. “I can break it up for you!” She liked being able to resort to Slayer brawn sometimes.
But as she offered, Xander’s hand slid into a crevasse underneath the plant. “I think I have it now. I can stretch here, and if you pull over there —” He pointed with a nod of his head. “— I bet you can get a grip right on the heart of the … thing.”
Buffy leaned back and studied it. “I think you’re right.” She grabbed the other side, where he’d nodded at, and Xander was glad she was wearing the magic gloves this time. “Ready? Let’s be heartbreakers, Ramon.”
A comment like that shouldn’t have had an effect. It was a quip, and Xander was used to Buffy quips, but as Buffy pulled, Xander was thrown off-guard by a bleak reminder of what he’d done to Anya, and it meant that he didn’t pull the way he was supposed to, and when he tried to, it was already too late.
With a startled yelp, Buffy staggered backwards, the entire mess of blackness and magic in her hands. She snatched deeper into it, trying to balance herself and her hold before she fell, and the magical vines started tangling themselves around her, the vines further away from her arching towards her as though she was sunlight and they were greedy flowers. She grunted, trying to maintain her hold as the vines wrapped themselves around her legs.
“Hey, don’t feed the evil bushes.” Xander tried to keep his voice light. “They don’t need you feeding their dark menacy badness with your Slayer mojo.”
Buffy gazed at the tangle in her hands. “Can you feel it?” She looked at Xander, a tear snaking its way down her cheek and a vine chasing after it.
Xander tugged at one of the tendrils in his hands and looked into her eyes, scared to see only black. “What am I supposed to be feeling, Buf?”
“I can feel Willow. The magic smells like dirt and plants, and I can feel what she felt that day.” Buffy tugged back at the tendril that he’d pulled on, yanking it out of his hands.
Xander stopped trying to reason with her, and instead tackled Buffy, rolling them down the hill. None of the vines had sunk in under her skin; it looked as though her Slayerness protected her from that the way the gloves protected his and Dawn’s hands. It was a good thing that Buffy wasn’t fighting him, or he’d be in real trouble, but as it was, he managed to roll her clear of the bushes, and most of the vines around her had broken off from the mess of tangled branches she’d been holding. “You have to resist this, Buf. I love you, but I don’t have a broken crayon story for you. I can come up with other ones if you need me to.” He snatched at one of the free vines and started to pulling as hard as he could. “Badness is bad, okay?”
“I can feel the love,” Buffy protested, twisting away from him and pushing him away none too gently. “I’ve never felt anything like this …”
Xander took the push, allowing it to propel him and flowing with it (and why couldn’t he do anything like that in a fight?) to latch onto another broken bramble poking out of her and try to tug it out, gathering more and more of the thorny vine into his hands. “Buf, you gotta listen to me. That love you’re feeling is twisted, it’s just pain —”
“No!” Buffy protested insistently. “It’s love, it’s real love, pure love. It doesn’t hurt. It’s everything else that hurts. The world hurts.” Blackness started clearing from her eyes slowly. “But you have to let yourself feel that pain,” she continued softly, “or you might as well just give up.”
Xander tugged harder, panicking, and a thorn just barely grazed his arm. It itched, rather than hurt, so he paid it no mind. “Come on, Buf, help me out here.”
“Stop trying to protect me, Xan. I’m the Slayer. I’m used to the power.” Buffy calmly swatted him away.
Xander countered quickly. “Then why are your eyes black?” They weren’t as black as they’d been, but they were still not green. He kept tugging on the vines coming out of Buffy, and hadn’t noticed the thin tendrils creeping around underneath his skin.
“Because I want to believe that someone can love me like that,” Buffy answered wistfully. “That I can find love like that. Where he loves me so much that nothing else in the whole world matters.”
Xander snorted, more thorns digging into his skin. “Buffy, if you don’t know by now that you’ve had that love for years, you’re an idiot.”
Buffy continued as though he hadn’t spoken, unwilling to trust what he was saying when Xander was being all caterpillar-veiny. “I’m used to feeling like this, though. I can handle it. The loneliness, so bad it feels like it’s crushing. I can deal.” Her gaze sharpened, more black fading from her eyes. “The real question is, can you?”
Xander scoffed. “Nothing to handle. I’m so pitiful I don’t get a superpower.”
“Yeah, well, you’re covered in thorns, so unless you want your superpower to be bleeding on other people really well, you should listen to me and put the tangle down.” Buffy worked to keep her voice even and calm.
Xander made an ENKKK! buzzer sound. “Wrong answer. My superpower is being utterly and completely powerless. Being so pitiful that even amped-up magic that would have let Willow end the world can’t do anything to me. I’m so normal that the only thing I can do to neutralize the powers of evil is be there and be powerless and be attacked by black magic lightning from a black magic woman and be there for everyone when they need it, you and Willow and Anya and the times that I’m not, everything gets torn apart and it’s horrible. So you want to talk about love? Figure that one out.”
Buffy tried to do for Xander what he’d done for her, grab hold and yank on the thorns, but Xander screamed, the thorns dug in deeper, and black lightning flashed out, hitting the ground next to Buffy and knocking her away.
“Ooh, hey, there’s the lightning that Willow blasted me with!” Xander’s voice was faux-cheerful. “Let’s see if we can figure out what that means about how much she loves me. I mean, she blasted that stuff right at me, while I just hit the ground. Guess no matter how you roll that set of dice, it still comes up with the Xan-Man being pathetic.”
“Xander, listen to me. You’re right, you’re always here for everyone. Do you know why things go to badness when you’re not? Because we need you.”
“I can fix that.” Xander started to focus, and there seemed to be something shimmering in the air next to him.
“Xander, if Willow —”
“I’m not going to do anything bad,” Xander assured her. “No killing. No ending the world. I’m just going to make a happy ending. I’m going to make things right.” Xander raised his arms. A black arch formed above him. He grinned at Buffy. “See? Time portal. I’m going to go back and fix my parents so I have a normal life. Then I can really be what everyone needs me to be, except maybe this time I’ll get something out of it, too, instead of always being the butt-monkey.”
“That’s destroying the world, Xander.” Buffy spoke quietly. “It’s destroying this world. You’d kill everyone here, replace them with new versions, kill yourself and replace it with a new version, just because of those stupid thorns?”
Xander froze. He could hear the voices coming through the archway, hear his parents yelling at each other and the crash of something against the floor signifying that someone had just thrown something, and he could almost taste how badly he wanted the reality he could create.
It would be easy. And things, for once, would be going his way, and he wouldn’t screw it up. Everything was made to be broken, he’d learned that lesson all too well, but he could fix this —
Buffy stepped forward cautiously. “Can I have you?”
Xander’s head swiveled to look at her. “What?”
“You said you didn’t have any broken crayon stories. I don’t either. But that’s what I have. When we first met, you asked if you could have me, and if I could do things all over again, I think that’s the moment I’d pick. Where I would just look at you and say yes. Because you’re my best friend, Xander, and you’ve had my back when no one else did and you emotionally kicked my ass when I needed that, and if you go and change things, you’re not going to be the same YOU that did that.” Buffy took a deep breath. “I’m saying that I love you and I need you, and if you do this, you’re not going to be the Xander that I love.”
Black lightning flashed, and his voice grated out in tight-lipped anger. “The thing about the ‘I love you’ to save the world? You have to mean it.”
Buffy grabbed Xander’s hand and yanked him towards her. “Not lying.” She poured everything she had into the kiss, trying to force him to feel the truth there.
When she pulled away, the crackling in the air had gone away. She opened her eyes to see the black lines underneath Xander’s skin fading, dripping into the ground. Buffy sighed, and tried to go for an upnote. “This means more magic bushes to deal with, doesn’t it?” She slipped her hand into his.
“Wouldn’t surprise me.” Xander let out a sigh of his own, before looking at their joined hands. “Oh, man. Where do we go from here?”
Buffy shrugged, keeping her voice casual over the sudden, tremulous excitement within her. “I was hoping we could for a movie night. Maybe get some pizza on the way home, and a movie Dawn would like, and you can tell me where the scars I’m seeing through your ripped clothes came from, since I know they weren’t there in April.”
He grinned, wide and goofy; yep, definitely back to normal. “You know how the song goes, Buf. Love hurts, love mars, love wounds and scars.”
Buffy rolled her eyes, gathering up their things to take home. “Goofball. Now come on. I need to pick up toothpaste. We’re down to, like, the last quarter-inch of one tube in the house, and Dawn won’t put it on the list for some reason. She wants me to trust her with a sword, she’s going to need to take the chores more seriously.”