(for Mistral)

by Kathryn A


All the breath went out of Xander's body as the demon threw him against the tree. It turned back towards the real threat: Giles and Willow chanting over the fire.

Distraction, you're supposed to be a distraction, Xander thought as he pulled himself to his feet. He opened his mouth to yell at the thing, but was beaten to it.

"Hey, putty-face!" Buffy called out as she sprang in front of the creature. It did look rather like putty -- as if someone had taken a bit of flesh-coloured clay and poked holes in it for eyes and mouth; holes filled with nothing but blackness; as if the putty face was a shell over a devouring nothingness. "Why don't I fill in some holes?" Buffy quipped.

Hey, that's my line, Xander thought as he watched as Buffy kick and punch at the demon. But even Buffy's actions were just a distraction, because none of her blows were able to connect with the creature, as it flowed out of the way of her hands and feet. It was solid enough when it hit back, though. As he well knew. And if he tried to get into the fray again -- well, he'd just be in the way.

It had just tossed Buffy aside again -- a toss which she naturally turned into a backflip -- when Giles and Willow shouted together, "Accompli! Accompli! Accompli!"

A cloud of pink smoke surrounded the demon, and it shrieked, high and thin like an old-fashioned tea kettle. The smoke whirled, faster and faster, spiralling tighter and smaller, until it vanished, the demon vanishing with it.


"Giles, have you ever thought of investing in a more comfortable couch?" Xander squirmed uncomfortably as the bruises in his back sent screaming pain messages into his brain.

"That's what cushions are for," the Englishman answered mildly, gesturing at the cushions which had all apparently migrated to the couch Xander wasn't sitting on.

Buffy perkily threw a cushion in Xander's face.

"Thanks," Xander said dryly, and put the cushion behind his back. Thanks to Slayer healing, Buffy probably didn't have any bruises at all.

Buffy turned back to Giles. "So, do you think we'll be having any more of those liquid-clay demons turning up?"

Xander ignored the continuing slayage post-mortem. It wasn't like he had anything to contribute to the discussion. It wasn't really like he had anything much to contribute, period. Buffy was the muscle, Giles was the brains, Willow was the brains too, and the magick. She and Giles had stayed up all night researching the spell they'd used. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Willow yawning next to him. What was he? He was the comedy relief. Something light and fluffy -- like a pillow. He had the muscles of a pillow, that was for sure. As useless in a fight as a pillow. Xander sighed. Mister Pillow-man, that was him.

His eyes turned back to the general conversation. Buffy was gesturing excitedly, and Giles was shaking his head. Xander moved restlessly in place on the couch, then froze as something bumped against him.

He looked down. Willow had fallen asleep on his shoulder.

Pillow-man, indeed! For a moment he was tempted to wake her up, but instead he put his arm over her shoulders, and she snuggled unconsciously closer. What was he moping about, really? Worried that he wasn't a macho hero? But he was here, he stuck around after the hero departed into the sunset, he helped pick up the pieces. Provided comfort and rest. Mister Pillow Man! Because isn't that what pillows are for?

Xander smiled.