Author: Mat Sarnowski <shadows592000[at]>

Category: X/B, X/An

Rating: PG-13, just to be safe.

Summary: Buffy finally realizes her feelings for Xander.

Disclaimer: Buffy and co. belong to people who are not me. Sigh. Specifically Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, WB (for now) and Fox.

Distribution: On my site, Realm of Shadows, Anyone else wants it, just ask.

Notes: Everything up to the Body. < > for thoughts.

<Today's the day.> Buffy thought as she threw her backpack into the corner of her bedroom where it settled in with the clutter. Somehow cleaning didn't seem as important since... for the past few months. Not that she let Dawn get away with it. If there was one room of the house that was still spotless, it's Dawn's.

<Today's the day.> She thought again with a giddy feeling, like she had when she drank the bad beer. But this time it was all good.

<Today's the day.> She thought one last time as she grabbed her bottle of perfumed body wash off her dresser and headed to the shower.

After a half-hour steaming-hot shower Buffy was back at her dresser, with the faintest scent of roses around her. She was wearing a silken white robe tied tightly around her slim waist and was carefully brushing her hair. "Should I tie it back?" She pulled her hair back and looked at it for a moment. "Nah. He likes it better loose." She said and shook it free.

As she did her eyes caught on the pictures she had covering the edges of the mirror. The gang at the beach. Willow at her computer in the library. Her and Giles looking over some demon books. Giles' at the surprise birthday party they threw for him last summer. Her, Xander, Willow and Oz sitting at a picnic table when they were sophomores. It was taken before Angelus, Jenny, Faith, and the Initiative. Before the world came crashing down on them, when they were still innocent.

And at the bottom, where she could see them every day, were two pictures. One of her and Xander dancing at the Bronze that Willow had taken a couple of months ago. They both had the easy smiles of friends enjoying each other's company. The other was Xander at the swim meet in his red Speedo. She grinned. <A girl's got to get through the night somehow.>

"Now, what to wear." She said as she got up and padded over to the closet. She threw the doors opened and looked inside. There were dozens of outfits, short skirts, long skirts, slacks, jeans, and blouses of every color and design. And she didn't even want to get into the shoes. They seemed to breed exponentially on the floor. Xander said at this rate they would be menacing Tokyo by summer.

It was almost like she never wore the same thing twice…

"This has to go perfectly," she murmured to herself as her hand swept through the clothes. Finally it brushed against one and she let out a thousand-watt smile. "Perfect."


"And be careful with those!" Buffy heard Giles say as she walked into the Magic shop, the bell ringing overhead. She looked around the nearly empty store. Giles was kneeling down next to the display case of various animal parts while Dawn was standing next to the display case of crystal animals and Anya was behind the counter checking over the pendants and icons. They were all carrying small clipboards. The monthly fun of inventory day.

"She hasn't broken anything, has she?" Buffy asked and glared at her sister.

"No. It's not like I'm two, ya know." Dawn glared up from the shelf that was covered with delicate crystal statues. "Give me a little credit."

Buffy glared at her, then looked at Giles. "Has she?"

"No. Thank heaven." Giles said without looking up from the jars of newt eyes.

Dawn stuck her tongue out at Buffy and turned back to the shelf. As she did the sleeve of her blouse caught the horn of a crystal unicorn and knocked it off shelf. "Oops."

Buffy jumped forward and caught it just before it could smash into the floor. She stood up and glared into her sister's eyes as she put the unicorn back with a thud.

"Sorry," Dawn said. Buffy just shook her head and walked over to the counter. "If I knew I was going to get treated like this I would've gone with Dad." She muttered just loud enough for Buffy to hear.

Buffy glared over her shoulder at Dawn, but she was back to counting the statues. She might have been smiling, but Buffy couldn't tell.

"Some days I wish I was still an only child," Buffy said just loud enough for Dawn to hear. From the way her sister's back stiffened Buffy knew she had hit a homer. She walked the rest of the way to the counter with a proud smile.

"What do you want?" Anya snapped as she looked up from the icons that covered the counter. "I'm very busy doing work for little to no compensation."

Buffy saw Giles rub his eyes. "You know very well that I'm paying you for the overtime."

"But it's not enough. I could be at home having sex with Xander." Anya snapped back without seeing Buffy's wince.

<Not for much longer if I have anything to say about it.> Buffy growled at the ex-demon. <Skank.>

"Yes, and as much as I hate depriving you of those five minutes the inventory needs to be done."

"You say that every month." Anya said. "I don't know why you don't just put any anti-theft spell around the store. And I'll have you know that Xander lasts much longer than that. Why there was this one time...."

"Why don't you just put a spell on the place?" Buffy cut her off, as often as she had thought about Xander, she didn't want to think about him with HER. Besides she saw Dawn glance over when Anya started the story and didn't like the look in her sister's eyes.

"Because all of those spells involve the perpetrator loosing a body part and I don't relish the thought of having to explain that to the police. 'Oh yes officer. The man's arm fell off because he tried to steal a monkey's paw. We should just be glad that he didn't try to steal any of the fertility spells.'"

"Actually, that reminds me of something that I did to a man in Venice around the turn of the century...." Anya began.

Buffy held up her hand. "Please, as much fun as hearing about you disemboweling men isn't, I can't deal tonight."

"Fine," Anya said and rolled her eyes. "You're the one who came over here, what do you want? Did you decide to pitch in with the inventory?" Her eyes flashed with hope.

"Nope, sorry. I just wanted to know when Xander was supposed to get home today."

"Oh. Why?" Anya asked.

"I need someone to look after Dawn tomorrow night while Giles and I do a patrol of the new cemetery." Cemeteries, the new Starbucks. At least here in Sunnydale.

"Goody, we can play Life again!" Anya said and clapped her hands together.

"Will not." Dawn said.

"What's wrong with Life?" Buffy asked.

"She tries to sell the children for money!"

"I do not!" Anya shouted back, only to shrug after a moment's thought. "Well, once."

"Good lord, you can't be serious!" Giles looked up from the display case in amazed horror.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time." Anya said meekly. "How was I supposed to know that it was out of style now?"

Buffy rubbed her temples and tried to fight off the headache. <How on Earth did Xander fall in love with you? Not that he will be much longer.> "Whatever. When does Xander get home?"

"He's supposed to be home in ten minutes. Can you do me a favor?"

"What?" Buffy asked as the headache surged forward under her fingers.

"Tell Xander I got him a pizza on my break. It's in the oven waiting for him." Anya said with a beaming smile. "I got his favorite."

Buffy smiled as she remembered all the pizza they used to eat back in the library. "Extra cheese, pepperoni and onions."

"God, no. Where have you been? Triple cheddar cheeseburger. He calls it a man's meal."

"Oh." Buffy said as her smile faded. "When.... when did he start ordering that?"

"Last year, right before the whole Adam thing." Anya said as her hands went to her hips. "Will you tell him or not?"

"Sure, I'll tell him." Buffy said and walked to the door.

Giles got up with a grimace. "Buffy, I have to talk to you for a moment."

Buffy stopped and closed her eyes. <Please no Hellmouth. Not tonight. Hellmouth tomorrow, but not tonight.> Then she turned and looked at Giles, "Yeah?"

"I just wanted to make sure that everything was going well. You've taken on a lot of responsibility as of late. Especially now that you're trying to take care of Dawn and the house on top of Slaying and college."

"I know," Buffy said and plucked at the sleeve of her jacket. "I won't lie, it's been rough. But you've been a lot of help."

"I try," Giles said softly, then glanced over at Dawn as she moved down to check the powdered unicorn horn bottles on the next shelf. "But things might've been better if you let Dawn go with her father, at least until we deal with Glory."

Buffy shook her head, "Un uh. At least here we can watch her. If she left and Glory went after her we wouldn't know until it was too late. Besides, I don't trust the slut dad's hanging around with." <Or the one Xander's has to deal with> She glared at Anya, not that Anya noticed.

"I know. I support your decision. I just wanted to remind you that I'll always be here if you need anything." Giles said and put his hand on her shoulder.

"I know," Buffy said and sniffed back the tears. She's cried too much over the past few months and she swore that she wasn't going to cry again for a good long time. Her hand went up to wipe off the one tear that had slipped through. "I'd better get going if I'm going. I still haveta patrol."

Giles' hand slipped off. "I know. Report back to me if you find anything unusual."

"Will do." She turned back to the door.

"Is it cold out? The jacket seems a bit warm."

"What this?" Buffy said and looked down at the black coat the covered her down to the knees. "Just to keep the mud off." She said and walked out.


Buffy knocked on the door of Xander's apartment. "Hello?" She said and looked down at her watch. Maybe he's tied up at work. She thought and fought down the image that came up. <Spent way too much time hanging with Faith.>

Then she heard him answer, "That you, Ahn? Did you forget your key again?" He said as he opened the door. He wore a pair of jeans and a Hawaiian T-shirt and his hair was still wet from the shower. "I didn't think Giles' would let you go so early."

"Nope, just little ol' me." Buffy said, then slipped on a fake pout. "You're not too disappointed, I hope."

"You know I'm always glad to see the Buffster. Come on in. I just heated up some pizza."

"Thank you, kind sir," she said and followed him in.

He walked over to the table, "Paper plates okay? I'd offer real ones but they're all in the sink. The only other ones I have are the Babylon 5 ones. And we'd eat of the floor before using those." He said with a suddenly serious look.

"Paper's fine. I love what you've done with the place." She said as she looked over the antique candleholders, trinkets and prints that covered the walls.

He looked around and let out a mournful sigh. "Well, you can thank Anya. Most of my stuff is in the closet, bottom shelf." He chuckled. "Which is probably for the best. I'd never hear the end of it if the guys at work saw my Star Wars posters."

Buffy tried to think of something to say to that, but all that came out was an "oh."

"Take off your coat and stay a while." Xander said as he opened the stove and pulled out the pizza box. "Pizza a la Xander. Hope you like..." He turned around and the words died in his throat when he saw Buffy.

Buffy had put the coat down over the back of the couch and was standing in front of Xander in a light green dress that clung to all the right parts of her body. The neckline plunged down while the hem of the dress was high, though there was only a few inches of tanned leg before the black leather boots started.

"Buffy, that dress... It looks..." He squeaked out after his tongue hooked back up with his brain. "I mean...."

"What, this old thing?" She asked and spun around so he could see the back. The dress was held together by the thinnest of strings, so he could see almost everything from her shoulders down to just above her bottom. When she turned back she was looking at him with the most innocent of looks. "Just something I bought to go slaying in."

"When vampires see you in that dress they'll turn to dust on their own," Xander said and swallowed hard. "Hold on a sec, I need some water."

"Sure." Buffy said. Xander nodded and stumbled over to the sink. His hands fumbled over a plastic cup, he dropped it once before finally scooped it up and got it under the faucet.

After he had finally drained the cup he turned back to Buffy. "Let me be the first to say that that dress is...." He said and turned to where Buffy was standing, but she wasn't there any more.

She was right in front of him, close enough for him to feel her warm breath. "Trust me, you're the only one who matters." With that she leaned forward and pressed her lips against his. She felt him leaned into the kiss as she pressed her body against his. "My poofy Xander."

Then he pulled his lips away. "Buffy."

"Xander," she moaned and started nibbling on his neck.

"Buffy," he grabbed her arms and pushed her away. "Stop it."

"What?" She saw the anger in his eyes. <Do I need a Tic-Tac?>

He took a step back. "Why are you doing this?" He said, his voice hot. "Is this some kind of joke?"

"No," she said. "I finally realized that everything I wanted was right here, with you. I spent the last few months wondering why all the men in my life leave, when I finally realized that one hadn't."

"Who? Giles?"

"No, you." Buffy said and reached out to his hand. He tried to pull it back but she was quicker. She wrapped her small hand around his, and felt the rough calluses on his fingers. "You're the only one who never left. And after what happened, I knew I couldn't wait."

"So that's it? It's finally my turn? Hallelujah for me." He said and ripped his hand out of hers.

"Wha... what are you talking about."

"The fact that my number's finally come up. After Angel, Scott, Parker, and Riley. Well here's a news flash, I'm not interested in you like that."

"No... I thought you stayed for me. You called me your hero."

Xander closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened them again the fire had gone out of them. "You are. You're strong and brave and smart. Some days I wish I was half a person that you are."

"Then why?" She asked as she felt the tears come again. They burned in her eyes as she fought against them. "I thought you were waiting for me. Waiting for me to open my eyes." <I thought you loved me.>

"I was."

"Well, I finally did!" She said and felt the panic rise up in her. <He's still waiting. He has to be. He's just playing hard to get back at me.> "If this is about how I turned you down at the Spring Fling I'm sorry."

"It's more than that." He said and walked around her to the couch, where he plopped down heavily.

"I can make up for it!" She said as she sat down next to him and pleaded with her eyes. "I'm sorry I didn't feel like this before, but I do now."

He looked into her eyes and saw something in there that made him nod. "Maybe you do. But I don't. Not anymore."

"What?" She asked as she felt more chips break away from her heart. <You were supposed to love me. There should be kissage.>

"It was five years ago Buffy. I loved you with all my heart back then."

"Loved?" She whispered.

"Yeah. I couldn't wait forever. Not when you looked everywhere else first."

"It's not like you were a monk." She said as a bit of fire wrapped its way around her heart.

"I know."

"I mean, first Cordelia, Miss Queen of Mean, then you cheated on her with Willow. Now Anya." <Cheep dirty skank, trying to steal my Xander- shaped friend away from me. I'll show her.> She leaned against his arm and batted her eyes. "We could still make it work."

Buffy looked up into his brown eyes and saw the struggle in his eyes. She knew a part of him wanted to. That part wanted to declare his unconditional love and prove it on the spot. But to her amazement the part was smaller than she thought, just a speck really.

"No. I learned my lesson with Willow. I won't do to Anya what I did to Cordelia."

"Why?" She asked and scooted as far from him as she could on the couch. "What makes her so special?"

"Because she saw something in me that I never did, because she was with me no matter what, and because she's innocent." He said simply.

"Please, do you know how many people she's killed over the years?"

"More than Angel, I know - not that his body count never seemed to bother you - but she was a demon back then."

"Don't bring Angel into this. Besides, at least he doesn't sit around telling stories about the good old days."

"No, he sits and broods. Quite an improvement."

"Besides he's trying to make a difference."

"So's Anya. She helps out. She knows as much as Giles does about demons."

Buffy tried to argue, but couldn't. Anya might complain the whole way, but she did help. "Besides, she's so weird. Wills is right about her. I mean, she tried to sell her babies for money in Life!"

"It's just a game. Besides I'm not exactly a poster-child for normal myself." Xander said and motioned around the house. "I mean, I lived in a basement for a year, have Babylon 5 plates and occasionally dress like a cartoon character. So if weird's a problem then you're after the wrong guy."

"I didn't mean that! I love how you are. You keep everything stirred up and kooky."

"Just like Anya does."

"And she's always saying whatever pops up in her head."

"Yeah. She does lack in the tact department. But I love the look that comes in her eyes when she finds out something new," he said while a smile tugged at his lips. Then he got serious again. "And at least she's being honest about what she says."

"Not like me, you mean."

"Not like you." He agreed quietly. "You hide too much, you keep too much inside. Riley was right about that, at least."

"If you hate me so much why do you stay around?"

"I don't hate you. You're my best friend."

"But you don't love me anymore?"

"'Course I do. You're still the Buffinator, but… It was a high school crush, and we all outgrew high school a long time ago. For the first time in my life I'm happy. I have a good job, I help make a difference, and I have a girlfriend who loves me as much as I love her."

"Fine." Buffy said and got up. She quietly got her coat and put it on. "I'm sorry I bothered you."

He got up and put his hand on her shoulder. "You didn't and you don't have to…" The words died in his mouth as his hand slipped off her shoulder. "I'll see you tomorrow at Giles'?"

"Sure." She said, her face as mask. It was the same face she had on when they buried her mother.

"Someday you'll find the right guy, Buff." He said as she walked to the door.

"Sure." She repeated as she walked out the door and made her way home. Deep in her heart she knew that she had already found the right guy, but passed him for the dangerous one, then the reliable one.

<And now I've lost them all. Angel left because we didn't have as future, Riley because we couldn't give each other what we both needed, and now Xander because I was too blind to see what I could have had until it was too late.>

Her vision blurred as the tears ran free. But she barely noticed. Her heart was as much ash as any staked vampire's.