Author: Lysa <lysaharris[at]fsmail.net>

Rating: PG

Feedback: It gives me a happy feeling, even criticism. lysaharris[at]fsmail.net

Distribution: You want it, ask first and you can have it.

Spoilers: Season 7 mostly, but lots of mentions of stuff throughout the history. Also, Season 5 Angel episode #39;Damage#39;.

Disclaimer: I want it, but it#39;s not mine. All characters are just borrowed from Joss Whedon and co at Mutant Enemy, Fox etc. the song belongs to Britney Spears and whoever her record company are. No copyright intended.

Summary: Xander thinks about his life, or, more importantly, his friend.

Notes: This is set after #39;Chosen#39;, around the time of Angel episode #39;Damage#39;. This might not exactly match with the correct timeline in the show, but just go with it. I wrote this in, like, three days between work and everything else and I#39;m pretty proud of myself because it#39;s the first thing I#39;ve finished in a while. This was actually inspired by the Britney Spears song #39;Everytime#39;, but don#39;t judge me on it until you read it. Me liking the song may actually be the first sign of the real apocalypse. Anyway, I just kinda liked the words and thought I#39;d include it. It#39;s angst all the way on this one, baby! Such a change for me, I know, but there#39;s a nice little ending.

Dedication: This is dedicated to a very special person who I met recently, and thinking about him just kind of gave me some incentive to write something Xander-based. Before everyone starts thinking that I#39;ve gone and got myself a life, fear not. I am, of course, talking about Nicholas Brendon. I met him 3 or 4 in the few days that I spent at a recent convention and he was just the sweetest guy. He was so amazingly modest and down to earth and genuinely overwhelmed by the level of fan reaction to him, plus he was honest enough to announce to a room of 2000 people that he#39;s been in rehab for the past few weeks because of a problem with alcohol. So, that#39;s where I stole some of the details of Xander#39;s physical traits, and some of the imagery at the end of the story.

Chapter 1

Notice me
Take my hand
Why are we
Strangers when
Our love is strong?
Why carry on without me?

Why is it that you more someone looks at you, the more you become invisible to them? I think that's what happened when Willow looked at me. Wait, scratch that. I don't think I was ever invisible to her. I just think that maybe she stopped seeing me as Xander, and more as the guy who was always there. You know, the guy who, instead of becoming part of the furniture, just rebuilt it time and again after each uninvited demonic attack. That's how I feel about that last year in Sunnydale. I guess that's how I still feel now. With Buffy I didn't mind so much. She had the whole slayers-in-waiting thing to deal with, and let's not forget the inspirational speeches she gave on a regular basis. That was about the time I wished I had lost an ear instead of an eye.

But with Willow it was different. Somehow, I thought that when she came back from England, things would be different. When she first left with Giles after the not-an-apocalypse, I was lost without her. I know that sounds kind of weird after everything that had happened. I mean, she tried to kill everyone. She tried to kill me. And there I was, feeling thirteen again, counting the days down until she got back from her cousins house in Phoenix.

Her parents used to make her spend time there over the summer most years, just to get her away from me. That sounds harsh, I know, but it wasn't that Mr. and Mrs. R. disliked me or anything. They just used to get kinda worried that Willow and I barely had other friends. I mean, we did have other friends, like Jesse, but he only came on the scene when we started Junior High. They wanted her to see what life was like outside of our friendship. She could barely spend a full week there, though, and even then we still used to speak to each other at least twice a day. But, every time she came back, she'd have these stories about what she'd done with her relatives and she'd be so happy.

So, of course, I was jealous. Didn't know it at the time, but that's what it was. She'd start to tell me something funny one of her cousins had done or said, and then I'd have to do something dumb or spectacular, or something spectacularly dumb to make her forget all that stuff and get her to notice me again.

Where was I again? Oh, Willow being in England. She sent letters to us back home. Or, she sent them to me, at least. She kinda got avoidy when it came to getting in contact with Buffy or Dawn or Anya. I didn't tell any of them that she wrote to me. I don't know why. Maybe it was that it never came up. No, that's a lie. We talked about her pretty much every day. We talked about how she was, when Buffy had spoken to Giles. We talked about the old days, when all we had to worry about was the mayor wanting to become a giant snake. And we talked about how afraid we were that Willow wouldn't be the same person when she came back – if she ever came back. I mostly stayed quiet during those discussions because I knew that she'd get through it and come back to us. She had to. I wasn't willing to face the fact that she'd never be Willow again. I guess I never told them because I wanted her to myself for a while. It had been so long since it was just me and her, you know? I didn't realise how much I missed those times – missed us – until we were on the Bluff.

So, when she came back, I was expecting…something. I don't know what exactly. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting her to be all grateful, with her telling me she'd never be able to repay me, because I wouldn't have been able to handle that. She tried saying all of that when I said goodbye to her at the airport and I told her not to. I was just hoping for, I don't know, some kind of affirmation that we were still best friends.

Instead, she came back different somehow. I know that all the magic training was hard on her, and losing Tara was something she'll never get over, but I felt like I was a teenager again, trying to get her to notice me. I didn't want to force the situation because I didn't want her to feel like I was pressuring her in any way, and that I was suddenly this needy guy who felt like he was being left behind, even though it would have been the truth.

Oh, and let's not forget the madness of King Spike, the arrival of the mini-slayers and the downright creepy visits from the First. Things kinda got a little crazy for everyone. Buffy was training, Willow was trying to be super Wicca without reaching for the back hair dye and I was fixing windows. Yep, I was a pretty integral part of the operation. That was sarcasm, by the way. So, as you can probably tell, not much time for the deep and meaningfuls.

Then everything started falling apart.

Even when I was still sedated from the operation on my lack-of-an-eye, I knew she was there. I knew she was sat by the bed from the minute I'd gotten out of the operating theatre. I could feel fear the fear radiating off her. Fear that I wouldn't make it, like Tara hadn't. I could feel that she loved me too. I wasn't kidding myself that it was of the 'in love' kinda intensity, but I could feel she was afraid of losing something familiar from her life.

When I did wake up, she tried so hard to make me feel better. But as she sat there, holding my hand, she felt different, like she had gone and grown up and carried on with her life while she had been in England and I was still the same old Xander who'd never accomplished anything more than holding down a steady job that didn't involve a name tag or a paper hat of some sort. She felt like a stranger, and that scared me more than losing my eye.

And everytime I try to fly
I fall without my wings
I feel so small
I guess I need you baby
And everytime I see you in my dreams
I see your face, it's haunting me
I guess I need you baby

After Sunnydale was gone, we all headed to L.A. It was the closest, biggest place we could find. After small-town Sunnydale, it was nice to be somewhere you could get lost so easily. Plus, no Hellmouth, so, bonus points there..

Everyone was too tired to think about anything else other than resting, especially when there were so many people still injured. Of course, it wasn't just the physical stuff. There was the fact that we had lost so many people. But, even though so many had sacrificed their lives in that final battle, there was only one person I was thinking of, and, surprisingly enough, it wasn't Spike.

Andrew had said that she had given her life to save his. Not quite sure if I believe that. But, at least she died the way she wanted to. She died young and pretty, instead of growing old and withering away like she had been so afraid of doing. It was no consolation to me, she was still gone, but I dealt. It's not like I had to go through it all alone. Buffy and Willow were great because they both understood, but it wasn't long before Buffy was getting too preoccupied with being in the same city as Angel and his Fang Gang and Kennedy was complaining because I was taking Willow - her new toy - away from her.

Then Giles told us that he was leaving for England. He had to go back to meet with some other former Council members and reorganise things, get ready for all the newly-activated slayers. He asked if we wanted to go with him, and visiting the U.K. seemed as good of an idea as any. Europe was a new experience for nearly all of us. Willow had been before, so she was all cool and 'oh, look, it's a doily', but me and Buffy were so embarrassing we could see Giles cringe every time we opened our mouths. Everyone spoke like Giles and was so prim and proper, and we were like the lousy American tourists invading the place. Did you ever see that episode of 'Friends', where they're all in London? Did you see the way Joey was? Well, think of that multiplied by ten, and you'll get how me and Buffy were. We even did the 'London, baby' thing so many times that Willow threatened to give us magical laryngitis.

Then, one day, Giles called a meeting. We knew it was pretty official from the way he got all stuttery when we asked what it was about. He told us that they were looking for new Watchers to train. Me being the dolt that I am, I didn't realise he was asking us to be involved in his usual subtle British way of not-asking. Obviously, Willow had to be involved because of the whole slayer mojo she had, plus locater spells were going to be needed. Buffy was up for it because she had the experience and knowledge behind her, and she really wanted to travel. Faith was happy that Giles and the influence of the Council were able to bypass the whole going-back-to-prison thing, and Robin Wood had already volunteered himself as her new Watcher. Andrew had jumped up and down on the spot like he had just been crowned Miss Trailer Trash 2003, promising that he would do all he could to serve the queen and bring world peace. And me…I didn't really do anything – until Willow told me she was leaving.

Knowing that she wasn't going to be around made me feel so…lost, I guess is the word for it. She asked me if I wanted to go with her, wherever it was she was going, and I was so tempted to say yes. But then I had seen Kennedy watching us, giving me this glare that said she didn't want me around and I realised that I wouldn't have been going with Willow. I'd have been going with Willow and Kennedy, as in them as a couple, and I wasn't up for that. I can't blame Kennedy for not wanting me around. I didn't want her around. But if she made Willow happy, I had to let them be together.

So, I spoke to Giles. I told him that when Buffy and Dawn left for Italy, and when Willow and Kennedy and everyone else were gone, I was going too. I was going to go back to visit my parents, make sure they were okay. Giles told me that I was avoiding who I was. I told him I was nothing, not compared to my friends. He basically repeated what Caleb had told me: I see everything. He said that I had been there, saving the world over and over, even though I didn't have to. We talked about all of the stuff that happened before Sunnydale was swallowed into hell. He told me that me being hurt was the catalyst that made things fall apart, albeit temporarily. He wasn't trying to blame me or anything, he made that clear. But he told me that he thought I was the heart of the group, the one that held things together. When I got hurt it made everyone realise that we weren't infallible and if I could get hurt, they all could, and it made us do the wacky – if you can believe it, his words, not mine – hence the arguing and the bickering and the ousting of someone who meant a lot to us. He asked if I could really go back to the kind of life I had before I met him and Buffy, before I knew that the things that went bump in the night bumped during the day too and the things that hid under the bed hid anywhere they could, waiting to bludgeon you to death with one of their spines or tentacles or mucas. Hello to the imagery of that one.

The answer was, of course, no. That meant going back to a life that used to be just me, Willow and Jesse. I didn't have them in my life now, not like I did then. Jesse was gone forever, and I would have been kidding myself if I thought things with me and Willow were going to be like they were before. I always felt like, if I had my friends, I had everything I ever needed.. I could be anyone I wanted, do anything I wanted. I even felt like I could fly if I'd have wanted to, but now I felt kind of like a bird in the sky, trying to fly, only minus the wings, so now I was plummeting towards the ground, waiting to explode on impact.

So, I guess that's how I ended up here, in this tiny little room that feels like an oven. How come no one told me how hot Africa gets when I volunteered myself for this little voyage? Jeez, I feel like I'm baking in here. Giles may have major pull with the whole Council thing and they may be able to get Faith off murder charges and have connections in every part of the world, but realtors they are not. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful country, but it's not so impressive when you're able to fry an egg on the floor. Apart from all of that, it's amazingly calming being here, but I still feel lost. I feel like I'm still falling out of the sky, and I've begun to realise that it's because of her. I thought that it was because I was losing everyone I cared for so much - well, not so much losing them as we were going in different directions. But now I realise that it's just because of losing Willow. I guess you could say that she was my wings.

I still dream of her. That would probably sound weird if it weren't for the fact that I started dreaming of her from the day we met. It's funny how those dreams change over the years, though. It used to be me and her bouncing around on candy floss we'd bought at the funfair, or being turned into frogs, or her being Robin to my Batman – or maybe it should have been the other way around since she's saved me so many times. Only now, when I eventually manage to get to sleep - which isn't an often occurrence - it's just her face. It's like she's watching me sleep from inside my head, and, while it's a freaky notion, it's kind of reassuring too. Sometimes stuff happens in my dreams, stuff that I'd rather not disclose, but mostly it's just like she's haunting me, except for the fact that she's not dead, and now I can't sleep if I'm not thinking about her. It's funny how you can need someone so much even when you're sleeping.

I make believe
That you are here
It's the only way
I see clear
What have I done?
You seem to move on easy

When someone's been such a huge part of your life, you sometimes forget that they're not around anymore, you know? When I first got here, there were so many new things to get used to, new cultures to absorb, new snack foods to discover. Every time I saw something cool, like when I was being driven from the airport and I saw some zebra's mating, I turned around to ask why it was so different seeing it in the wild when we saw it when we visited the zoo, and I realised she wasn't there. The first time I had to go shopping for necessities, like candy, I asked her if she happened to know any African that could translate what some of the stuff was. Obviously, the guy who was running the place thought I was a loony toon since I was talking to myself. Even now, even when I've been here a while, even when I'm actually getting to like being this new guy, I still have to remind myself that she doesn't live around the corner anymore and I can't run over there when things get tough.

And they totally don't get my humour here. You know, the slayers that Giles has sent me to speak to and train until they all get individual Watchers, I'll crack some kind of joke, because, well, I'm me and I can't help it, and they all just kind of look at me like they either don't know what the hell I'm saying because of the whole language barrier or they're asking themselves how long I've been out of the loony bin. I'm opting to believe the jokes get lost in translation. No one understands the whole joking-in-face-of-danger thing like Willow did, or the value of a good pun when you're facing down an enemy. Or, more accurately, when they're facing down an enemy and I'm trying to be all Giles-like Watcher Guy with a stuff upper lip, fighting all the instincts that are telling me to run and call Buffy and hide until it goes away.

When things get really bad, and I miss her so much it hurts, I pretend that she's here. I'm not really crazy, you know. But when I was younger, when I used to lie in my bed and my parents would be downstairs, drunk and throwing things at each other, screaming about whose fault it was that I was born, I used to pretend that Willow was there with me. Not in a groiny way, because I was too young to think about her like that then. This was when we were still in grade school, and the only foray we'd had into relationship world was when we were five and we broke up because of the Barbie abduction.

But I used to have this picture by my bed, strange as it seems at that age. It was from when we were in kindergarten, and we had a class photo taken. I used to put the photo next to my face and zoom in on her face and imagine her telling me that everything was gonna be okay, that I should stay in bed, put the comforter over my head and close my eyes and think about being at the park, or being at the playground, and if I thought about that kind of stuff then all the other crap wasn't really happening and it couldn't hurt me. It was the first thing she had told me when she first figured out what used to go on at home. We were, like, six or seven, and I came to school with a bruise on my arm after I'd mistakenly gone downstairs to ask them to stop. Even at that age, she was a genius. She knew exactly what had happened.

Of course, as I got older I just used to crawl out of the window and run over there. She even gave me a key to the patio doors outside her room, but whenever I used to go over there, it was like she already knew what was going on because she'd be sat on her bed, waiting for me. Then we'd lie in her bed for the rest of the night, a comforter over our heads and a torch between us, holding hands until we fell asleep or until the sun came up and then I'd go home, crawl back in my window and wait for my mom, hung over and bleary-eyed, to come and tell me it was time for school.

Now, I find myself picturing her here with me again. Instead of the kindergarten photo, I have one of me and her, taken just after she had gotten back from England. Dawn had just gotten one of those cool digital cameras for her birthday from her father in L.A., cos he seemed to think she'd prefer that over a visit from her only living parent, which, luckily, she did. The guy didn't skimp on the thing either. So, she went snap-happy. She clicked everything she could find. She got a few cool ones of Buffy staking a vampire and the resulting bones turning to dust. She got a couple of Spike being insane in the basement of the school, although I'm not quite sure how she got those. She got a whole bunch of us doing some pretty mundane stuff and some group shots when we were trying to figure out the timer thing on it, but the ones I like the most are of me and Will. Luckily, Dawn had kept that damn camera with her everywhere she went, which is how we managed to salvage them when we lost everything else.

I'm not hiding away from my parents anymore. I'm pretty sure I could floor my drunken old man with one punch. I guess I'm hiding away from how lonely my life is now. It doesn't matter how many times people tell you how useful you are, or how invaluable you are, or how you mean so much to them, you have to believe it for it to mean something. I believe that what I'm doing now is something important. I believe that, no matter how scary it is, I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. When Buffy used to tell me how much she needed me around, I didn't get it. I was the guy fixing the windows, not fixing the world like she was. But it was the support she appreciated, and I understand that now that I don't have it so readily. I know they're only on the other end of a phone line, but it's not the same thing, you know?

So, now, I imagine Willow's here with me, when I've had a bad day and I'm smarting from a beating from one of the demons of a non-specific origin, and I'm feeling like I'm the only person in the world. She tells me that everything's okay, just like she used to do. She tells me that she's proud of me, like she did before we said goodbye at the airport, and she tells me that I can get through it. All I have to do is pull the covers over my head, close my eyes and think of those days when we used to go to the park and the playground. She tells me that when I'm thinking of her, I'm not alone, cos she's thinking of me, too.

And everytime I try to fly
I fall without my wings
I feel so small
I guess I need you baby
And everytime I see you in my dreams
I see your face, you're haunting me
I guess I need you baby

I may have made it rain
Please forgive me
My weakness caused you pain
And this song is my sorry

I told her I loved her.

And I don't mean what I said to her on the Bluff. Well, if you wanna get technical, I suppose you can include that. But I'm talking about after that. I don't know why, I don't know what made me do it. How is it that something gets so screwed up with just one wrong sentence?

She didn't want me to come out here. She was the first person I told when I realised that I had to do this whole spiritual trip thing. She said that I should go with her and Kennedy, or stay with Giles and Andrew, or even go with Buffy and Dawn. She said she didn't like me being out there on my own, didn't like not knowing where I was going to be. I told her I'd be okay, even if I wasn't entirely sure of that myself. She said that she'd always worry about me, no matter where I was, be it next to her or on the other side of the world.

We were at the airport when I said it. It was just me and her. Buffy and Dawn had already left for Italy, eager for their European adventure to begin after so many years stuck in the same place. They were all excited and giddy, and Buffy said that all she needed to do was marry Christian Slater and all of her life ambitions would be fulfilled. Wasn't quite sure what she meant by that. Anyway, I pretty much left a few days after her, not long after I had made the decision to take Giles up on his offer. I didn't see the point sitting around his place in England, procrastinating – I heard that word from Giles. Am I the only one who thinks it sounds kinda dirty? - about what was happening. I knew we were all going in separate directions, not just literally but metaphorically, and I couldn't handle everyone leaving one by one, saying goodbye and not knowing when we'd see each other next.

Willow came to the airport with me to make sure I got on the plane okay. I swear, she still thinks I'm a hormonally-charged teenager. This is all because of when I was 14 and I was supposed to be visiting my aunt in L.A. when my parents went AWOL. I got on the wrong plane and nearly ended up in Alaska. I tried explaining that it wasn't my fault, and that it was all down to that girl with the blonde hair. It's a good thing the stewardess caught my stupidity, otherwise I might have ended up being cannibalised. I saw that movie, 'Alive'.

I told her not to come. I told her that anything we said would feel too much like a forever kind of goodbye. But she gave me the Resolve Face and she knows I can't win with that. For a while, everything was okay – great, even. We played a couple of games, made fun of some of the people around, and then she starts crying. Do you know what the saddest thing in the world is? Willow crying, that's what.

It's a reflex thing, for me to put my arms around her and tell her I love her when she cries. It's what I used to do when we were younger. It's what I did on the Bluff. But, for some reason, I meant it in a different way than before. She didn't realise, of course. She just kind of looked up at me with these huge green eyes, full of tears, and told me that I'd forget about her. God, how could I? It's just like her not to know that once you've met her, it's impossible not to think about her. Or maybe that just happened to me. She was crying and babbling about how much she'd miss me and how she never thought we'd ever be separated. I told her then that this was what I had to do. It had taken me long enough to figure it out and I couldn't change my mind now. She knew I was going to do it just on principal because I said I would, and she cried some more.

And then there was just this moment. Maybe it was some kind of magic, even though I don't remember Willow casting any kind of spell, but everything just seemed completely still and silent. It was like the world just stopped, and only me and her existed. It seemed like a good idea at the time. She was crying and I was holding her and she told me that she'd always be with me and that if I ever needed her to just let her know, and I told her. I said 'I love you'. She pulled away from me and smiled, not really understanding how I meant it, and she said she loved me too. Then, I put my hands on her face, wiped away her tears, and I told her that I loved her. Really loved her. In that moment, it was so important for her to know that. I had to make her see what I felt.

Then, as quickly as the silence had descended upon us, it all ended. Suddenly, there was this voice on the loud speaker, telling people that the flight to Africa was on a final boarding call, and all passengers should hurry to their gates. I remember vaguely wondering when the first boarding call had happened because I hadn't heard it at all, but then I had been a little preoccupied with something else, and, strangely, why it always sounded like the people announcing stuff at airports always sounded like they were pinching their noses. Willow had pulled away from me, not responding to what I had told her, but then I didn't really expect her to. She quickly wiped her face and grabbed my bag and pretty much pushed me through the doors to my gate. She was babbling about all kinds of stuff: she was telling me she'd put some stuff in my bag in case I got bored on the long flight, she'd filled it up with snacks for me in case I didn't like the food they were serving, even though she knew that wasn't a possibility, instructions that Giles had already given me ten thousand times before, where to go when I landed and who was going to pick me up, where I was supposed to be staying and the names of the first few girls I was supposed to be looking for. But she didn't say anything else. She gave me a quick hug, one that didn't have any of her warmth or feeling, and then I was leaving and she was waving and it was over.

Now I know what made me do it. It was a moment of weakness. And because of that one moment of weakness, my friendship with her and everything else is gone. You know what I saw when I looked back at her at the departure gate? I saw pain. Pain that I had caused her. That's something I can never forgive myself for.

I haven't tried contacting her since then. I couldn't face it. I mean, there's also the fact that I don't even know where she is, but I'm sure I could solve that if I really wanted to. Giles did mention that she and Kennedy were headed for Brazil not long after I got here, but I cut him off before he got to any of the specifics. I speak to him a lot, every few days or so, getting caught up on where we stand with the slayers and all. Apparently Andrew's training is coming along well, even if he is taking Giles as a mentor a little too seriously. For some reason, the mental image I have of Andrew wearing tweed just makes me laugh out loud.

I think Giles knows that I don't want to talk about her. Every time he mentions her name, I just change the subject. He hasn't asked me about it yet, but I know he wants to. And I know that Buffy knows something's up. She's asked me to go to Italy when the new Watchers are here. I told her I would, but I think she knows I don't intend to. They're worried that I'm cutting myself off from them. Maybe I am. Maybe that's what I need to do.

At night I pray
That soon your face
Will fade away

I never really got the whole brooding thing when Angel was around. I used to hate the way he always looked like a kicked puppy, but the girls all fell for it. And now…sometimes the girls that I'm training here look at me like people used to look at him, and I wonder if I look like that. If I do, it's probably an annoying, yapping little mutt and not the adorable, silent type like him. I don't realise I'm doing it most of the time. It's just, I'll be in the middle of explaining something or showing them a particular move I've seen Buffy use, and someone will do something, or I'll see something, or I'll think of something that reminds me of her, and I'm suddenly stoic guy. I'm starting to worry that the people here think I have some kind of split personality disorder.

I guess they're the moments when stuff gets too much for me. I usually have to make my excuses and go find something to punch. I'm telling you, they just don't make walls like they used to. It's a good thing I can patch stuff like that up, or I'd be looking at a hefty repair bill. You know, it's not even that good of an idea. You get, like, one second of an adrenaline rush and everything is released, but then it just hurts and I can't use my hand for a couple of days, but at least that pain gives me a break from the other stuff.

You know, I feel bad for even thinking it. But sometimes…sometimes I wonder if life would be so much easier if I hadn't even met her. It probably would have been, I'd either be dead or a drunk or in jail. Maybe all three. You think that's pretty extreme? Take a look at my parents. You think I'd still be the same person if they'd had anything to do with it? Willow was the one big influence in my life. It's not even like her parents had a lot to do with it either. Yeah, they told her what was right and wrong, but everything else she just knew. She's the one who made sure that I grew up right. She's the one who told me that I could be more than what they ever thought I could be, more than what I thought I could be. I guess she kinda raised me in a way, which is kind of…well, creepy. So, I guess I'm glad she was in my life, even if I do feel like I've had my heart ripped out every time I think about her. There are too many good things that happened in my life that were there because of her. All she ever wanted to do was make people happy.

History is always going to be what me and Willow have in common. We didn't have separate childhoods. We grew up together, more or less. I can't remember my life before I met her and I know she feels the same. The second I saw her, that was it, you know? I remember knocking her over when I was running around in the playground outside of our kindergarten class, and when she cried, I started crying too, but not because I'd been hurt. She just seemed so…fragile. One of the first thoughts I remember having is thinking that I couldn't let anyone hurt her again, couldn't let anyone do anything to make her cry. Looks like that resolve flew out of the window as we grew older and I became the reason she cried.

She thinks I didn't know. How she felt, I mean. I did. It took me a while to work it out though. Jesse used to tease me mercilessly about it. But then, he always had kind of a soft spot for her, so when he used to taunt me by saying that he was gonna ask her out one day, I suspect he was actually telling the truth. If I'm being honest, the reason why it used to bug me so much is because I was jealous, even though I'd never admit it. He told me once, seriously, that he'd never stand a chance, though, because it was always gonna be me. I just blushed and told him to stop being such an ass, that Willow would never feel that way about me, and I'd never feel that way about her. I just always figured that Will and I would be best friends forever, you know? The kind that stays close, no matter what, and nothing would ever change between us. You're probable wondering just what a deluded little brat I was. Brat? Yes. Little? Not so much. I was sixteen. God, how naïve was I?

It was when we got to high school that I started to notice stuff about her I never had before. You know, stuff that makes your cheeks go red and causes involuntarily bodily reactions. I never put that down to me having feelings for her, I was just a teenager with hormones raging from here to kingdom come. I remember the very first sex education class we had in Junior High. The girls were all in one room, talking about all of the gross girly stuff, and the boys were in another room, talking about the gross boy stuff. They told us about all of these changes that would happen over the next few years and not to get freaked out by it, but that's not much consolation when you're getting turned on by the person you've known forever. It's funny how things change in such a small space of time. Like, one minute you're playing the movie quote game and eating ice cream together, and the next, she's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen and all I want to do is kiss her.

I grew up a lot after that night. It took me a while to figure myself out. I had never known anything other than her, so it was hard to work out what I was supposed to be feeling for her as a friend, and what the difference was between that and how I actually felt. I'm not saying that I was in torture over it then because I wasn't. Cordelia Chase has the ability to make any man weak at the knees and make him forget his own name. But I did figure it out eventually. Granted, it was at the worst possible time, with her being in a coma and all, but no one ever said I was a rocket scientist. Again, another moment that changes everything. Okay, so it turns out Xander Harris is a little slow on the uptake. Hardly a revelation. Oh, and let's not forget the great Fluking Fiasco. That was just a disaster waiting to happen. I knew it then that it'd never happen with us, though. It was just this moment of clarity in this crazy situation, and I never wanted to make her feel like she had to choose between me and Oz, because I knew who was better for her. I had to forget what I felt for her.

It's amazing what changes when you spend a summer strip—let's just say 'working' at the fabulous Ladies Night Club in Oxnard. When I got back to Sunnydale, it was like Willow and Buffy had developed these Xander-free lives and suddenly I was just this no-hoper who didn't fit in anywhere. I guess that's where Anya came into the picture. God, Anya… It's strange the amount of confidence a little bit of interest from someone of the opposite sex can give. She was…she was more than I could ever have imagined in a woman. She was beautiful and smart and everything I needed, and it may have taken me a while, but I loved her. Why is it, though, that love is never simple? I wanted it to be so badly, but in the back of my mind, I always knew that I could never give her my whole heart. When I walked away from her at the wedding, it wasn't because I doubted my feelings for her, or the intensity of hers for me. I was scared. I was scared that I'd put her through hell like my parents did with each other. And I was scared that I would always be wondering 'what if…?' I knew that I'd always have doubts when it came to my feelings for the other woman in my life, the girl who had been my best friend since I could remember. I've just never been able to buy into the whole thing where you can only love one person. I think there's too many possibilities out there for that.

I can't dwell too much on my time with Anya, though, cause when we were together, it was so close to perfect, and when I think of her lying somewhere in the rubble of our old town I feel this urge to go back there and try and find her. I know I couldn't save her, bring her back to life like we did with Buffy, but I could say goodbye to her properly, you know? But then, I believe you get to live more than one life. I know what lie there is just a shell. She probably went off and got herself reincarnated or something, probably as a pampered noblewoman in some rich family, and hopefully not as a bunny.

So, now I know that I can't forget Willow – like that was ever going to be an option, anyway – I'm hoping that over time she'll…I don't know, fade away. Or at least these feelings will. Hey, sometimes long shots work, you know. I want to be able to think of her and of our past without all of this gut-wrenching pain and heartache, but I know it's going to take a while. Good thing I didn't have any plans for the next few years, huh?


And everytime I try to fly
I fall without my wings
I feel so small
I guess I need you baby
And everytime I see you in my dreams
I see your face, you're haunting me
I guess I need you baby

I'm standing at his door and, Goddess, I don't think I've ever been so nervous in my life.

He told me he loved me.

He told me that he was in love with me.

And I froze. What kills me is that he looked so defeated when he said it. Like he knew there was no possible chance that I'd ever feel the same about him, and it was like he was saying goodbye forever. I should have been surprised when he said it. But somehow, I felt like it was something I had been expecting, which is crazy, considering our history. But is it really such a crazy idea? Once upon a time, I was so love with him that I couldn't see straight. Then all of this stupid life stuff happens and things change.

There's always been something between us, and I can't deny that, but I wasn't exactly planning on bringing it up ever again. I always felt like things were kind of left unfinished between us in the romance area, you know? There was no kind of closure on what happened between us in high school, even though we both moved on.

Things did change pretty drastically, though. I mean, Tara…wow, never saw that one coming. I don't think anyone really did, except maybe my evil vampire doppelganger. But one thing I always loved Xander for – in a platonic way, of course – was that he never put a label on me, which is what I seemed to be intent on doing. Suddenly, in my mind, I was gay, but that meant that Oz and Xander didn't mean as much to me as my relationship with Tara did, and that felt…wrong, because they did. Xander meant more to me than anything, but I figured then that I must have fallen out of love with him a long time ago, even if my heart wasn't totally convinced of that. Xander always said that I was more perceptive than most people. He told me once that he didn't think I suddenly turned my sexuality around. I just fell in love, and it just happened to be with a woman. I don't think I've ever been as proud of him as I was then, at that moment.

When I came back from England, I desperately wanted to make sure things were okay with us. I mean, I wrote to him as often as I could when I was away, and it felt like it did when I used to go to stay with relatives. I used to write all of these letters, telling him how much I missed him, but I never ended up mailing them back then in case he figured out how big a crush I had on him. I remember not long after I got back, we went to his place when we were on the way to the movies because he had forgotten his wallet or something, and while he was looking around for it in the bedroom, I saw something sticking out from behind the sofa. When I looked closer, it was a sign that he had made. It just said 'Welcome Back Willow' in this obscenely bright yellow crayon. He doesn't know I saw it, though. I realised I wasn't ready for the big talk, where we analysed our relationship and just made each other uncomfortable. I just needed him to be Xander for a little while, because I wasn't really sure I was still Willow, and while I was with him, I could pretend. When it was just me and him, I tried so hard, but every time I looked at him, saw the faint scars on his cheek – scars that I had put there – I just felt this overwhelming guilt again.

Then Kennedy came into my life, and she was…well, would I be a really terrible person if I said she was convenient? If I was spending time with her, I wasn't worrying about what was happening everywhere else. When I had to cast the big spell mojo, she thinks she was the one who grounded me. She wasn't. It was him. It was the thought of him, and all of the faith he told me he had in me before we left the house that day. Kennedy…she showed me some attention at a time in my life when I wasn't exactly the most confident person in the world. I needed that. I needed someone so completely opposite to Tara and me so that I couldn't feel so intensely about someone else. I guess it was also the slayer thing as well. Ew, not like that. I guess being close to her I got to understand some of the stuff that Buffy had to go through all the time.

I haven't told anyone what Xander said that day at the airport. After he left, I just kinda stood there. I think I babbled to him about something. I felt kinda like a mom, taking their kid on their first overnight sleepover, trying to cram as much information in as possible and not giving him the chance to speak or wait for the awkward silence that was sure to descend upon us. While I was doing that, I wasn't thinking about what had just happened. Because when he said those words, I remembered every other time in my life that he said it, and that's not exactly a few times. I even remember him saying it in the hospital when we were in high school, but that's only something that came back recently.

When I got back to Giles' place later that day, all I wanted to do was be alone, and Kennedy barely noticed there was anything wrong. She just whined about something or other. Giles knew, though. He didn't know know, but he knew something was up. He just kinda gave me this look that I remember from the very first time we all sat in the library, researching something or other, and he caught me staring at Xander. Giles' looks speak volumes, you know. He was saying that Xander would be okay on his own, and that he was there if I needed to talk about it.

But I put it out of my mind, I couldn't think about it without it driving me stir crazy so I decided to just…not. A couple of days after Xander had left, Kennedy and I were gone, too. We had to go to Brazil where a couple of girls had turned up. I still felt…I guess empty is the right word for it. It turned out there were more slayers than we had expected, I could feel them all when we got there, so we were pretty busy and we didn't really get to spend much time together, which I'm grateful for, as awful as that sounds.

I thought that I could just go someplace new and forget everything – no such luck. I wasn't really intending to get in touch with him. I figured the more distance between us for the time being, the better. I guess my subconscious didn't think so. I thought it was a dream at first. Only, the problem was that I was a) wide awake, and b) in the middle of fending off the attention of a vampire who wanted to get nice and snugly at the time. I could feel what he was feeling, just like I used to when we were kids. The vampire was gone pretty quickly, four slayers around and they don't really have much hope, you know? I just kinda stayed there on the ground for a while, waiting for the feeling to pass, but it didn't. I remember thinking about how much I missed him, how proud I was of him for doing this amazing thing and starting his life over, and how if he just closed his eyes thought about some of the times we spent together, he'd be okay. It was after it had happened a couple of times that I realised I was actually talking to him. It was the mind-melding thing we used to use for slaying and that time when Buffy had to fight the Uber-vamp. I don't think he's ever figured that out though. He probably just thinks he's imagining it. He always did have a vivid imagination.

I left Kennedy in the middle of the night. Cowardly, yes, but it wasn't that I couldn't face her. I just…didn't particularly want to. I tried to wake her, to let her know what was happening, but she'd had a hard nights slaying, so she wasn't willing to open her eyes. I left a note – possibly one of the worst ways to leave someone – explaining that I didn't think we should be together anymore. It was something that I had been thinking about for a while, and I hadn't exactly been Miss Emotionally Available since Xander had left so she couldn't have been that surprised by it.. I travelled for hours, not exactly sure how many with the time differences and everything, and now it's the middle of the night and I'm stood outside his door.

So, here I am.

Dutch courage, anyone?

I'm guessing that I must have knocked at some point because I can hear someone shuffling to the door. Is it too late to turn and run? I know that I'm here because I miss him, but that can be solved with a quick spell or a phone call. But why am I really here?

I think I hear him yelling something. "Oh," I say as he opens the door and I know that my voice has gone up an octave or five, "that's why…"


"God," I say as the incessant knocking continues at my door and I have to get up to answer it. "We better be under some kind of demonic attack, otherwise someone is going to get cranky and someone is going to be losing a limb. And I know which one I'm gonna be." I don't turn on any lights as I try and make my way across the floor with my one good eye trying to pick out the obstacles.

I open the door and the world stops again.

"…That's why…" he hears but doesn't comprehend.

She's here.


I don't know what makes my mind up for me. But I get the feeling that maybe it was just something I knew all along. We need to be together. We can't be apart after everything that's happened. Slayers and werewolves and witches and sexual preferences and demonic lovers aside, we're supposed to be together. I know that as soon as I see his face.

Oh, yeah. And I love him.


She steps forward so she can take a better look at him because he looks different to how she remembered. Different…but better, which she never thought possible because he's always looked good to her, even when she was in Lady Land. He has no shirt on because it's the middle of the night and she probably woke him up, and she can see he's lost a lot of weight - probably because they don't have Twinkies in this country - even though there's only the dim, dim light in the hall outside of his room and there's no illumination inside, but she can see it suits him with the tan he seems to be getting from the strong African sun. Somehow, she never saw it before, but she can see now that his job working construction back home agreed with him, especially with the perspiration from the humidity in this country that accentuates every muscle. The girls here probably all have crushes on him. And he's rubbing his head, which is now shaved of the brown locks she's used to seeing, probably because of the heat, and his eyes are kinda glistening with tears because he looks like he doesn't know why she's here.

Xander doesn't really know what to do with himself and he can feel the tension building between them, although he's not quite sure what kind of tension it is. He asks himself if he's fallen asleep thinking of her again, because this sometimes happens in his dreams. She's standing there in front of him and she's not wearing a blot of make up and her hair's all pulled up on the top of her head with bits falling down and she looks like she hasn't slept in days.

He's never seen her look so beautiful.

She doesn't say anything, but she looks like she wants to, and he can see her hands fidgeting and…and suddenly she's kissing him and everything changes again.

His hands automatically come to her face as her arms wrap around his neck and this is when he realises that he's not dreaming, that this is real, because usually in his dreams this is when he wakes up and realises he's alone. But he can actually feel her skin on his, feel her lips on his, all warm and pliant and familiar. But this isn't like it was before, before they were all grown up, and when they had the infidelity angle flying around their heads – or maybe they do because she hasn't mentioned her girlfriend, but somehow he knows that she won't betray someone else.

And now she's coaxing his mouth open, and he wants to taste her, but he wants to remember this because he's not sure what's going to happen after and he wants this feeling to last forever. But now he can't hold back any longer, and he delves his tongue into her mouth at her waiting invitation and he wraps his arms around her back and pulls her further into the room and pulls her closer to him because he can't believe this is happening. The moment ends all too soon for both of them, and as they look at each other, they're breathing heavily.

He touches her face, stroking the smoothness of her cheeks and tracing the outline of her lips with his thumb. She returns the favour by brushing her fingers along the day old stubble of his chin and now she's the one with tears in her eyes as she leans in to kiss him again, this time chastely on the lips.

He's in wonder of her, because he's been dealing with these feelings since he could remember, but she's actually here, and there must be a reason for it. "What…" he mumbles out, afraid that if he doesn't say something now, he'll lose the power of speech forever. "What…why are you here…?"

"Because I want to be Willow again…" she whispers to him. Her whole body is shaking, trembling because of so many emotions that she feels like she can barely stand up and she's glad that he's there, holding her, because that's what he's always done. He's always been the one to keep her standing when she feels like she's going to fall and she needs him more than anything else in her life. "And the only thing that makes me Willow is Xander…" she tells him. "I love you, Xander."

And he smiles at her, his first real smile since the last time he saw her, and he pushes the hair back from her face so he can look into her eyes and he knows that she means it. He closes his eye and kisses her again, and this time it's soft and gentle and it's full of everything he always knew it would be because kissing Willow is something he's always known would be perfect.

He feels her pressing lightly against his chest with soft, trembling hands, pushing him gently back into the room and he manages to disengage one hand from her to push the door closed, and he hears it slam gently with an audible click, like a part of his life is closing with it. But he welcomes it, because this change is something that he's never going to look back on and regret or wish he'd done differently.

Something else is starting now, something uncontrollable and insane and he needs it – needs her – more than anything else.

He lets her push him down onto the bed and the world disappears.

And everytime I try to fly
I fall without my wings
I feel so small
I guess I need you baby
And everytime I see you in my dreams
I see your face, you're haunting me
I guess I need you baby

The End