Another Year Older

Act One

Guest Starring:
Fred Ward as Seward, Christopher Gartin as Gretz, Stephanie March as Bonnie and special guest star Nicholas Brendan as Xander Harris.

Fade In
Int.
Giles's Office – Morning

"Xander!" Willow cried again as she raced over to him. 

Xander gave a grin at her enthusiasm and rose to meet the redhead now barreling down on him. He barely had enough time to open his arms when she threw herself into his waiting embrace.

"Ooph," Xander said as she nearly knocked the wind out of him before hugging him tightly.

Giles smiled warmly at their display as Rowena and Faith walked into the office. Andrew continued to bounce on his heels in excitement and Kennedy simply leaned against the bookcase with her arms folded.

"Dude!" Faith said happily. "Welcome to Cleveland."

"Thanks," Xander said smiling at her over Willow's shoulder. "Uh…Will? You gonna let me go before the end of the year?"

A muffled "No" came from the redhead buried in his shoulder as she shook with emotion.

"Okay," Xander said. "Just checking. Take your time." Affectionately, Xander rested his chin on the crown of Willow's head as he stroked her hair.

Finally, Willow pulled herself far enough away to look at him, yet still refused to let him go. She wiped a shaking hand across her wet face. Giles came around the desk and handed her his handkerchief.

"T-thanks," Willow sniffed as she dried her eyes. Xander kept both hands planted firmly on her hips and looked down, cocking his head.

"Y'okay?" he asked.

Willow sniffed again as she nodded. "Yeah," she finally said. "Just surprised. A-and where have you been?" she said and gave him a smack in the chest. "We've been looking everywhere for you."

"Ow!" Xander said. "Easy, Will. I'm breakable, remember?"

Xander still wore his grin but it appeared half-hearted.

"Oh!" she said loudly. "You gotta call Buffy! We called and now she's worried about…"

"Already covered, Will," he replied in a tone softer than hers. "Giles made me call the moment I got here."

"H-how…how's your…?" she began gently touching his cheek near the eye patch. "Any more infection?"

"Not so far," he said, shaking his head. "I could get that prosthetic if it doesn't flare up again so I'm taking it one day at a time."

"Good," she said and looked him over. She seemed to want to say something about his appearance and then imperceptibly shook her head. "I'm just so glad you're here," she said instead, tears coming to her eyes again. She put an arm around his neck and ran her hand through his long and dull hair before pulling him into another hug.

"I couldn't miss your birthday, Will," he said into her hair. "It's not every day someone turns 21. Here, I even got you a present."

He reached with one hand for a plastic grocery bag resting on the desk and held it open for her. Willow peeked inside and smiled.

"Let me guess," Kennedy said from where she was still standing by the bookcase. "Twinkies."

"Yeah," Willow beamed. "What's this though?" she asked pulling a bottle of cream liquor from the bag.

"Remember that time Jesse stole the Bailey's and we injected it into the Twinkies?" Xander asked.

"Oh goddess!" Willow laughed, replacing the bottle so Xander could return the bag to the desk.

"Sounds like fun," Faith said. "Red get drunk on spiked sugary goodies?"

"God no," Xander said. "She got all huffy on us and said it was illegal to drink if you were underage. We called her Sister Mary Rosenberg, the patron saint of prohibition and she ran off crying."

"Yeah, but I got you back, Xander," Willow said and turned to the others. "I followed them after they ate the Twinkies, just to…you know, make sure they were safe. A-and they ended up skinny dipping in Mrs. Golden's pool so I…I stole their clothes."

"Wicked," Faith said, laughing.

"Not when you're twelve," Xander said. "Getting caught bare-assed naked by an eighty-year old woman is enough to inspire a lifetime of therapy."

"Well, you survived with your manhood intact," Willow said fondly.

"I'll testify to that," Faith smirked and Giles cleared his throat.

"Yes, well," he said, looking as if he wished Willow would give him back his handkerchief. "Welcome to the Watcher's Council, Xander. It's wonderful you're here."

"Thanks, Giles," Xander said.

"Is today your birthday?" Ro asked. 

"Tomorrow," Willow shook her head. "Oh! Xander, this is Rowena Allister. She's one of our senior Watchers."

"Pleased to meet you," Xander said politely as Rowena stepped forward to shake his hand.

"The pleasure is mine," she replied. "You're spoken of quite highly here at the Council."

Xander simply shrugged.

"Hey, wait a minute," Faith said holding up a finger. "I thought you were already 21. You were in the same class as Buffy."

"She and Xander are both older than I am," Willow explained. "Until Dawn came along I was the baby Scooby. I think my parents were on a quest to get me out of the house as quickly as possible so I started school earlier."

"Good thing you were able to buy us drinks at the Bronze," Kennedy pointed out.

"So much for Sister Mary Rosenberg," Xander teased and Willow yanked on his earlobe. "And again I'll say OW!"

"Membership has its privileges," Willow said to her lover. "Only Anya got carded at the Bronze and she was older than all of us, by like eleven hundred years."

"Yeah," Xander said softly and Willow's face dropped as she realized what she had said.

Giles cleared his throat again. "Well, Andrew," he finally said. "Why don't you show Xander up to the guest suite so he can get settled in?"

"Sure, Giles," Andrew said, bouncing over to the door, his goofy grin never leaving his face.

"Uh, I've got the camper parked on the street," Xander said. "You guys have a place I can keep it? Don't want it towed while I'm here."

"You can park it in the garage," Willow said. "Andrew will show you. We just got in a fleet of cars last week but there's plenty of room. It can stay there forever and never get in our way. In fact, I'll make a sign that reads 'Xander's Camper Only' and permanently affix it there. And I'll even threaten to turn anyone into a toad if they dare to park there. Not that I would, you know…but…oh! I'll just put underneath your name 'all others will be toad'…heh, t-o-a-d, get it? But in any case, it's your spot. Okay?"

"Okay, Will," he smiled as Willow finally ran out of steam. He gave her a final hug and walked towards Andrew, who was gazing off into space as if he was imagining Willow's sign. Xander waved his hand in front of Andrew's eyes and startled him back to reality. With a shake of his head Andrew gave Xander an awkward chuck on the shoulder.

"Come on, Xander," Andrew said and the two men left the office.

Willow looked at Giles, her face worried and grim. Giles's expression was equally grave. Kennedy watched the exchange carefully.

"Yeah, well, we've got work to do," Faith finally said. "Come on Brat, the girls are waiting and these two have an interview to conduct."

"What?" Kennedy said turning to Faith. "Oh yeah. Okay." She went over to Willow and kissed her lightly on the cheek. "Later, sweetie."

Willow gave her a ghost of a smile and then moved to sit down in the chair Xander had vacated as the Slayers left followed by Rowena.

"Willow?" Giles asked, sitting on the desk in front of her. Willow looked up at him, her eyes shiny again.

"Anya was right, Giles," Willow said. "He's slipping, I can feel it. Just like the postcards – cheery but sour at the same time. He's trying but…I mean he sounds like Xander but…"

"The same spirit's not there," Giles finished.

Willow simply nodded in agreement with a concerned look.

"The ritual you've been researching," he began, "is it enough to help him?"

"I think so," Willow said, her thoughts turned inward. "It's like he's got no hope left, Giles. Perhaps if I…if the gods…can give him back that one thing… it would give him enough to want to go on."

"Are you sure you can do it?" Giles asked. "You know this is very dangerous, Willow."

"Well, I have skills," she protested, a blush rising to her face.

"That's not what I'm talking about," Giles said, shaking his head. "I know you're perfectly capable of performing your…priestly duties. I meant how will this affect you afterwards?"

Willow thought about that for a long moment. "When I was with you in England, Althenea told me if a ritual is performed for the right reasons and with the blessing of the gods, then the 'after' part takes care of itself."

"Do you think your endeavor will have the blessing of the gods?" he asked.

"Yes," Willow said, for the first time her voice sounding sure. "If anyone deserves this kind of blessing, it's Xander. He didn't have Slayer strength or Wiccan skills or-or Watcher insight. He fought with his courage, determination and humanity year after year."

"Then I guess I have my answer," he smiled.

"Thanks for your support, Giles," Willow returned his smile, but then she frowned again. "I need to talk to him. He has to agree to it."

"Very true," Giles said. "But someone else does too, I think."

Willow looked at him. "Kennedy," she whispered and Giles nodded.

Fade Out

Fade in
Int.
Slayer Weight Room – Mid-morning

Willow peeked her head into the room and saw Kennedy alone and wrapping up her hands with athletic tape. She took a hesitant step inside and the brunette looked up and smiled. Noticing that Willow looked pensive the grin slipped away from Kennedy's features.

"What's up?" she asked the Wiccan.

Willow closed the distance between them and cleared her throat. She stopped and looked around. "We alone?"

"Yeah, Faith's with the girls on a run. They should be back soon. What's up?" she repeated.  

Willow opened her mouth to speak but stopped. Seeming to find a starting place she finally spoke. "I told you about the rituals I've been researching…for Xander, right?"

"Yeah, healing spells for his eye," Kennedy said, pulling the tape tight. "But the ones you found required a sacrifice, which you want to avoid."

"Well, I found one," Willow said. "A-and it doesn't involve a sacrifice."

"That's great!" Kennedy answered as she looked up. The grin she wore began to fade when Willow didn't seem quite as excited by the news. "It's not great?" she asked.

"It is," Willow quickly said, but then shrugged. "It means Xander could get his eye back. But…well, the spell takes energy, lots of energy and there's only one way to generate that kind of intense human energy," Willow explained. She pursed her lips and took another breath. "I don't want to babble this," she told Kennedy.

"What do you mean? You haven't said anything yet," Kennedy teased, but then grew serious. "Wait, it's not dangerous is it? Because..."

"No!" Willow jumped in. "Not dangerous and it'll work, I'm almost positive, but…it's just…" Willow squared her shoulders. "It's sex magic, Kennedy. The only way I can cure him is to use the energy generated during sex."

Willow paused and Kennedy began to play with the tape on her hands. "You mean you have to have sex? With Xander I'm assuming?"

Willow simply nodded.

"I don't think so," she answered defiantly.

Kennedy walked away and approached the punching bag. Willow paused a moment and then followed her. "I didn't jump into this decision. I've been looking for a way to cure him for months a-and…"

"You've already decided?" Kennedy asked her.

"I have."

Willow didn't add more. Kennedy snorted and crossed her arms. She looked everywhere but Willow's eyes. "Gee Will, thanks for including me in your plans."

"I know i-it's hard to accept at first…" Willow began. 

"Excuse me? Hard to accept? Try never accept. You wanna sleep with Xander and I'm supposed to say 'sure honey, go for it'? I can't do that Willow and I won't!" Kennedy set her feet and took a few tentative swipes at the bag.

"You don't understand," Willow said.

"You're damn right I don't understand!" Kennedy hit the bag harder. "You wanna shack up with an old flame and I'm supposed to turn the other cheek. In what? The name of magic or unconditional love?"

"This isn't about love. It's about healing Xander. I have a duty to…"

"Oh boy, the torture," Kennedy snorted sarcastically as she took another swing. "Jesus, this is proof that nothing good comes outta magic."

"Enough with the butch already. Just let me explain," Willow's face flashed her anger at the constant interruptions and she stepped in front of the bag.

Kennedy began shaking her head. "Besides nearly shooting me when you turned into a murderer and sucking the life outta me, what good has magic done?" the Slayer challenged.

"It's given Faith a second chance. It's saved countless lives. A-and it took you from a potential to a Slayer," Willow answered firmly.

Kennedy rolled her shoulders and began shaking her head. "Yeah and it's letting you live out a life long fantasy. Sorry Willow, but I refuse to share."

"There are no fantasies," Willow sighed in frustration. "A-and there's no 'sharing' here. I have no designs on Xander other than the deep friendship we already have. He needs my help Kennedy."

"People go blind every day, Willow," Kennedy countered. "What good will any of this do besides give him a happy?"

"I told you this isn't about sex. Is that all you can think about?" Willow said, her voice raising in frustration.

"When my girlfriend tells me she's decided to get sweaty with someone besides me, yeah it is," Kennedy refused to look at Willow as she moved around her and began to beat out a steady rhythm on the bag.

Willow took a deep breath to calm herself. "Look Ken, I know Xander. A-and Anya was right – he's nearing the end, quick. Giles can see it, too."

"Then let Xander see a shrink and work out his problems. Or let Giles sleep with him," Kennedy sneered. "Taking you to bed isn't going to be the saving grace for him, Willow."

"If I wanted to sleep with Xander for kicks, I would and there wouldn't be a damn thing you could do about it," Willow hissed as her face flushed red. Finally she threw her arms up and began to walk back to the doorway. "I don't know why I even bothered mentioning this," she muttered.

"Hey," Kennedy said following her and grabbing Willow's arm to turn her around. "We're not done here. You're not just gonna drop a bomb on me and walk away!"

Willow stopped and turned back around, pulling her arm from Kennedy's grasp. "What's the point? Anything I have to say you won't hear so I'm just wasting my time."

"So now I'm a waste of time?" Kennedy put her hands on her hips.

"I didn't say that! Damn it, Kennedy!" Willow closed her eyes and put her hands up. "All I know is Xander needs my help. I have the chance to heal him – just like Buffy did for me after the gnarl demon attacked me, just like I did when Jordon decided to use Ro as a human ashtray."

"Yeah, but you didn't have to sleep with either of them, Willow," Kennedy argued. "Or did you?" she asked in afterthought.

Willow sighed. "Oh goddess above give me strength," Willow said to herself. "No I didn't but does that mean if this ritual didn't involve sex you'd have no problem with me doing it?" Willow asked.

"Absolutely!"

"Why? People lose eyes every day so why bother doing a spell at all?" Willow shot back.

"Well, because," Kennedy answered.

"No," Willow retorted waving her finger. "You tell me why!"

"Because it's Xander," Kennedy spat.

"Exactly! He's Xander," Willow said, her eyes tearing up. "I love him, Ken, but not the way you're thinking right now. That man has saved all of us, even the world. He…he saved me when I…when I thought I lost everything, his devotion pulled me through. So I won't desert him now that he's come back. Sorry, but I won't. A-and I don't want to lose you over this but I can't stand by a-and watch him waste away knowing that I can help him…I just can't. I've found the cure, Kennedy. And I have to do it."

"Yeah, and it doesn't hurt that he's a good looking stud who's a stallion in the sack," Kennedy added. Willow crunched her eyebrows in question. "Anya liked to brag to anyone who would or wouldn't listen," Kennedy added in explanation.

"What's your point?" Willow prodded.

"I'm saying it's easy," Kennedy pushed. "Let's face it. If it was Andrew or Giles would you be willing to have sex to heal them? I think not."

"To heal an eye," Willow began. "No, I wouldn't." Kennedy harrumphed but Willow continued. "Because an eye isn't important to what they're passionate about. I watched Xander flounder after our high school graduation. He wandered from job to job but one day he found something he loved – construction; carpentry. If you could have seen the look of pride on his face when he gave me a tour of the high school he created you'd know exactly what I mean. But now he can't even get a decent job."

"Willow we have enough money to keep the man set for life! He doesn't need a job!"

"It's not about money Kennedy! It's about having something that you feel passionate about that it makes you want to get up each day. Xander lost practically everything in that last battle. I can't give him Anya back but I can do this. So you want to know if I would heal Giles's eye, then no, I wouldn't. But if I had to do the same type of spell to restore his memory or-or give him back the ability to read, things that are associated with what he loves most in the world, then I most certainly would."

A noise from the door caused them to turn around and they watched as Faith and the Slayers filed inside.

"If he agrees, then I'm doing the spell," Willow said in a quieter voice. "Like you said, it's Xander."

Willow began to make her way to the door again.

"Hey Will," Kennedy called out making Willow stop to face her. "What would Tara say if it were her choice? Or maybe I should ask would you be so quick to hop into bed with Xander if it were her instead of me here?"

Willow stepped closer to Kennedy and lowered her voice so the others couldn't hear.

"Tara was Wiccan," she finally said, looking closely at her lover. "If she were alive, I would ask Tara to do the ritual with Xander or she would ask me and neither one of us would be concerned with our relationship. We both knew where we all fit together and that included our relationship with our friends. So I'll say again, this is not about sex, Kennedy. It's about healing."

Kennedy's eyes began to shine with tears. "I think you're wrong about one thing, Willow." 

"What?"

"You are making a sacrifice," Kennedy whispered.

Kennedy sniffed noticeably and inhaled deeply before quickly rubbing her eyes. She walked away and headed over to spot the nearest girl. Bending down she added more weight to the bar, despite the girl's protests. Willow's bottom lip began to quiver as she turned and finished her journey from the room.

Fade Out

End of Act One
Onto Act Two