Xander lay in the hospital bed drifting on a sea of pain killer induced euphoria. His hand had suffered five distinct breaks and three fractures during his battle with Kakistos. One shoulder had been dislocated and he had gained a concussion as well when he had been slammed into the side of a building for his troubles. All in all the battle damage was minor in light of destroying a vampire that was over two thousand years old.
He had maintained that conviction throughout his doctor's explanation of his injuries and the surgery that had been performed in order to save the use of his hand. The potential loss of 30 to 50 percent mobility with it was still a real danger, but to protect his girls and the world, he considered it a minor thing. That had lasted until his friends had come to visit.
Buffy had been subdued, the normally outgoing and talkative – if a little bossy – blonde barely looking at him without tears in her eyes. She had gently hugged him before quickly stepping out of his room. Faith had given him a curt nod before she turned and followed after her. Seeing her tore up over his injuries rekindled a little bit of the hope that he had that she might one day look at him as more than just a friend.
When he turned his eyes to Willow, Xander nearly choked in surprise. His gentle, shy redheaded friend looked nothing like herself as her eyes bore into him. He could see the anger in them as well as damn near taste the palpable fury she was radiating as she looked at him. Fear, concern, sadness; these were the emotions he expected to be confronted with from his longest living friend. Instead, she looked ready to gut him.
“How could you be so careless?” Willow asked, her voice straining beneath her enforced calm tones. Xander tried to make sense of the question but couldn't. When he didn't answer Willow began to elaborate, “You had backup that could stand up against something like that dummy vampire, Xander. Yet, instead of calling for help, which let me tell you Annalyse would have heard, you decide to take him on on your own. Hell, if you had screamed when he first showed up, I would have heard you!”
Willow sighed and shook her head. “But no, you had to go and be a guy! Why didn't you just call for help?”
Xander struggled to focus through the blur that the pain meds – morphine? - had made of his head. “Annalyse was chasing some vamps that ran Giles over with a van. And how would I have known you were close enough to hear me, Wills? I thought I was on my own, so I did what I had ta,” he finally managed to get out as an explanation.
Annalyse raised an eyebrow and seemed to have a contemplative look in her eyes. Willow, however, huffed, her anger barely abating.
“Do you know what you've done, Xander?” Willow asked tersely.
Xander looked at her, his confusion flowing onto his features as he tried to figure out what was so bad about dusting this vamp. Sure he got hurt, but that was a risk they all took. “I dusted a vamp. What's so bad about that?” As he lay thinking it over the barest hints of his own anger started to rise up inside him. “Unless that's the problem? What, is little Miss high and mighty pissed because I stole her thunder?”
Willow's shock at the accusation was readily noticeable as she glared towards Xander. “What? No! Damn it, you stupid, stupid guy type person you! You just proved to Buffy that having you anywhere near a fight is going to cost her, cost us, you!”
The first tear since she had arrived started to form in Willow's eye. She abruptly wiped it away before turning for the door. She stopped as she opened it, glancing back over her shoulder at him. The momentary fear that had welled up just a moment ago was gone, once more replaced by her anger. “Buffy was right, you know. Back when we were planning this thing. You have no business out there fighting on the front lines. You're just going to get yourself killed one of these days.”
Willow fled from the room leaving Xander to lay in silence while Annalyse simply watched him. Her presence was nerve wracking and possibly dulling the pleasant numbness the pain meds had given him. After a full minute of being under her considerable gaze, he finally fidgeted, giving up his attempts to stay still.
“You have anything to add or are you just going to stare at the loser?” Xander sullenly asked.
“They are right, you know,” Annalyse answered calmly. “You have no training. You have no powers. You have nothing to contribute to a battle other than being a liability... at present. And even when you had backup available you refused to call upon it. So either you have a death wish, are too arrogant to ask for help, or are just plain stupid.”
Xander stared openly at his Kryptonian visitor for several pounding beats of his heart before he managed to regain any semblance of composure. When he did his anger flared again, his eyes narrowing as he answered her accusation. “How dare you! This is my home and I have as much a right to fight for it as any of you do! More of a right than you do! Where do you get off telling me I shouldn't fight?”
A flash of anger mixed with a deeper disappointment crossed her features before they smoothed back out to a calm expression but Xander missed the brief show of emotion in his anger. Turning away from Xander, Annalyse made for the door, speaking as she moved, “If that is what you choose to hear, then you are dumber than anyone has given you credit for, Xander Harris. You will not put my team at risk again.”
Once she left the room Xander closed his eyes, trying to absolve himself of his anger. He was furious that anyone would question his worth or value. He had enough of that at home. He could almost expect it coming from Buffy, she was always over protective of him and Willow – 'Just you now,' a small voice reminded him – so it was to be expected. He could have dealt with that, the blonde seemed to have a martyr complex, after all. But to hear it from first Willow then someone who was still a virtual stranger among them had torn at his self-identity.
The nearly silent click of the machine that dispensed his pain meds was the last thing he was aware of as he drifted off into a drug induced slumber.