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Food for Thought
by Gypsy Gray


"Xander can I ask you something?" 

"Sure Ri. What's up?" 

They were in the kitchen making breakfast for themselves. When Riley 
woke up that morning he was terrified of facing Buffy. She would expect him 
to kiss her and coo over her, and he couldn't stand the thought of touching 
her. He was still uncomfortable with himself after all the things he'd done 
and watched her do. He wasn't up to pretending everything was ok. Not even 
for the sake of keeping himself off her "to be killed on sight " list. 

But Wes had said it would be alright. The ex-watcher and apprentice 
sorcerer had put on his glasses, kissed Oz, ruffled Riley's hair, and 
strolled out into the hall the like nothing was wrong. Oz had grinned at 
him, shrugged in a frighteningly profound way, and follwed Wes out. Riley 
was a half second away from hiding under the bed when Spike stepped through 
the door, grabbed his hand, and hauled him out. That was how he found 
himself walking into the living room with Xander and Spike in front of him 
and Oz and Wes behind him. They had surrounded him. 

Reaching their destination was rather anti-climatic. Buffy was asleep on 
one end of the couch, Willow was asleep on the other. Cordelia was sitting 
in one of the chairs eating a plate of what looked like scrambled eggs. By 
the mutual agreement of their stomachs they moved to the kitchen to find 
Angel taking a mug of blood from the microwave, while Doyle and Giles ate 
their own plates of eggs. 

Xander immediately appropriated the stove, and after murmuring a spell 
that caused the lights to dim for a second, he began asking for things from 
the fridge. Riley and the other men watched in awe as Wes, Oz, and Spike 
scrambled around the kitchen pulling down pans and ingredients from cabinets 
and a refridgerator that had been all but empty. When Doyle asked what was 
going on, Giles explained that it was a simple relocation spell. Xander had 
brought the things he wanted from somewhere else. Wesley laughed and said 
that he recognized the pans from their own kitchen in New Orleans. 

Watching Xander do something so amazing, and seeing everyone else treat 
it so casually was begining to bother Riley. He'd heard what Xander said 
about the magic causing Willow to change, and something about it driving 
someone from Giles' life. Xander had talked about it like it was alive. 

"When you were talking to Willow, you said the magic changed her. 
Which is right, cause she isn't acting like herself. But you use magic, and 
yeah you're changed. But..." 

"But not like Willow." 

"Yeah." 

Xander sighed and stared down at the pancake batter he was mixing. 
Turning his back on Riley he took the batter to the stove and called Spike 
over. 

"Take over Blondie." The sorcerer handed the now empty mixing bowl 
to Wes and set him to making the next batch. Then he sat down at the table. 
Riley took the seat across from him and Angel came to stand behind Doyle. 
Xander stayed quiet for a moment, his eyes on Wes and Oz teasing each other 
while they mixed. Spike's voice joined the mock battle with threats of B 
positive instead of blueberries if they didn't hurry up. Finally, the dark 
haired young man turned his eyes back to the table. 

"Angel and Doyle know some of this. Giles know more. But I've 
discovered things...I don't think even the counsel knows what I've learned." 

"Xander, the counsel has experts that spend their lives studying 
magic." 

"Yes Giles, but they're experts that focus on one or two different 
types of magic. And they rarely use them together. I taught myself, I'm 
still teaching myself. I didn't find out that you weren't suppose to be able 
to do more then one type of magic until I'd already learned a bunch of them. 
It made sense to me that if you needed a spell that had something to do with 
water you used the magic that the beings who were connected to it used. Same 
with everything else. I'd been using magic for over six months before I 
figured out that no one else would combine the spells and chants that I 
had." 

"Good lord, no wonder you're so powerful. You're calling on multiple 
disciplines. Remarkable." 

"Like I said, I didn't know I wasn't suppose to. And reading the 
books, well they weren't all just spells and lists of ingredients. I've read 
and studied the ideas about magic and it's origins and nature from a ton of 
different species and races. There a few very common ideas. The first is 
that magic is a living force. Now the human disciplines view it as a sort of 
mindless, directionless, power, that does the will of the magic user. Like 
an obedient slave. But others view it as an entity with a will and wants of 
it's own. And if you think about it, that makes a lot more sense. If it were 
mindless power we wouldn't be affected by using it. But that isn't how it 
works. People are constantly being reshaped and altered by their own use of 
magic. Sometimes, depending on what's already inside the person, they become 
a better person then they were before. Doyle for example, his visions are a 
type of magic. While he can't control them, they effect him the same way. 
His life had fallen apart, he was falling apart, but the magic changed that. 
It changed him. And because he was essentially a good person, because in the 
end all he wanted to do was help....the magic is making him into the person 
he needs to be to do that." 

"But Willow was a good person, she only started using magic to help 
the Scoobies. I mean I didn't know her when you guys were in high-school 
together. But she's changed even from when I frist met her on campus." 

"Perhaps I could answer Mr.Finn's question Xander?" 

"Go ahead Giles." 

"Willow was a good person, but she was very young. Very unsure of 
herself. She was dealing with disinterested parents, being ostracized at 
school, and her own self-doubt and uncertainty. When she began practicing 
magic it was with the best intent, but the power of it was too much. 
Suddenly, she didn't have to be afraid of the cruelty of her fellow 
students. She could do things they never dreamed of. Her desire stopped 
being to help others and became to gain power for herself. Emotions provide 
energy, the stronger the emotion the more energy, greed is a very strong 
emotion." 

"That's something that all the texts I've read agree on. They also 
agree that magic "feeds" on that energy. In the end, magic strips us down to 
our strongest feelings. If their good feelings we change for the better, if 
they're not... I'm just glad I found my way back to the good guys. If hadn't 
been for Spike and the guys... I don't want to think about what I could've 
become." 

"But Xander...you're a good person." 

"I'm a better person. I wasn't for awhile. Riley, before Spike and I 
found each other...I did somethings that... I'm not proud of them. My 
motives when I first turned to magic were anything but altruistic. And I was 
changed. I'm not the person I was. I'm not innocent anymore. I am guilty of 
evil, including arranging the death of someone in order to protect my own 
interests. But then Spike came into my life. He helped me shed most of the 
anger and hate that was drving me, and when Wesley came...he brought me a 
purpose. He gave me my own means of redemption. And because I've returned to 
fighting the good fight, because my motivations for using the magic are 
positive ones... I'm still changing, but now I'm becoming someone better 
suited to helping people. Before...I don't know what I was turning into. I 
don't wanna know." 

There was quiet in the kitchen for a moment. Spike came to sit beside 
Xander while Wes and Oz brought over plates, silverware, and a platter full 
of pancakes. Plates were filed and sighs of pleasure filled the room as the 
food was sampled. The smells and sounds brought Cordelia from the living 
room. Snagging her own plateful she joined the others at the table. 
Breakfast was consumed in silence. It wasn't until Doyle and Cordy were 
washing the dishes and the others were playing bridge that the evening was 
interrupted. 

A knock on the kitchen door stopped all activity in the kitchen. Spike 
and Angel moved to the door in perfect unison. They waited a moment until 
the knock was repeated; then the door was yanked open. Tara tumbled into the 
room barely conscious. Pale and shaking, she was trying to say something 
with lips so cracked dried blood had caked inthe corners. 

Xander was pulling her into his arms while Wes chanted madly. Oz ran for 
their herb bag, while Riley brought a wet rag and a bowl of blean cool 
water. Cordy ran into the living room, there was a yelp and a thud, and then 
she was back with the blanket that had been covering up Willow and Buffy. 
Giles was kneeling next to Xander with a first aid kit. The young witch's 
wrists were raw and bleeding, and the Watcher was cleaning and bandaging 
with a skill most doctors would envy. Oz was back then, trailed by the 
half-asleep and all pissed occupants of the couch. 

"Tara....Tara can you answer me? I need to know what happened to you 
so I can help you. Come on Tara, talk to me." 

tbc