Finally Seeing the Light

Author: Lysa <lysaharris[at]>

Well, I think this is the longest fic that I've posted, so I decided to send them all out together. It's nothing action-based and is quite fluffy, but it was great to write. Just to let you know, this is basically a blatant rip-off of the John Hughes 80's movie 'Some Kind of Wonderful'. If you've seen it, then you'll get this and probably be sorely disappointed, but it's just another perspective. If you haven't seen the movie, it doesn't really matter, it kinda explains itself. I've got this issue where I sometimes watch a movie or a particular scene in a movie and it's kinda fun to fit into the BtVA universe.



Rating: PG-13

Distribution: If you want it, ask me first

Feedback: Want it, please. lysaharris@f...

Pairing: Willow/Xander slight Buffy/Angel

Spoilers: Early Season 2

Summary: Xander has a new crush on another girl who isn't Willow. Will he see the light? (You can probably guess the answer from the title.)

Disclaimer: As usual, I don't own any of the characters mentioned in this piece of fiction. They belong to Joss Whedon and Co. The new characters are mine, even though I kinda stole one name from John Hughes. The basic plotline and some of the dialogue is also stolen from John Hughes and his movie. Don't sue, I have nothing. No copyright is intended on either the show or movie.

Notes: A couple of months ago I wrote a fiction piece based on a scene I saw from a movie, and I was asked if I had any more plot bunnies. This is one that I came up with from a movie called Some Kind of Wonderful. This is basically set in season 2, between the episodes The Dark Age and What's My Line Part 1, and sort of set AU.

Everything else is more or less explained.

Chapter 1

Alexander Harris looked up at the clear blue sky and squinted at the bright morning sun, stumbling over the first step of the concrete staircase that led up to the school building. He smiled as the sounds of birds chirping in the nearby trees filled the air, and he looked at his best friend, Willow Rosenberg, grinning broadly. However, the grin soon turned into a grimace when he concentrated on what was ahead, seeing the students milling around the entrance of Sunnydale High School, waiting for the inevitable bell to ring. "Another day in Hell," he said with a sigh.

"Literally," Willow said with a laugh.

Xander looked at her with an impressed smirk. "She joked!" he said loudly. "You know, they should give us days off when the sun's out like this. It would give us more of an incentive to get up in a morning." He said as he slung his sliding backpack back onto his shoulder.

"Xander," Willow began, "when you don't have to be at school you don't move out of your bed until lunch time. Besides, if they did that, we'd never actually be at school at all." She explained to him as she juggled the school books she was carrying from one arm to another.

"Explain to me why that's a bad thing?"

"Because, then we wouldn't learn anything."

"Still not getting the badness of that."

"Xander, this is just another Tuesday," she said with a roll of her eyes. "That means that you'll only go to your first two classes because I'll make you, and then you'll sit in the library for the rest of the day, annoying Giles."

"Yeah, it's a tough job," he said with a sigh. "You're probably right." He grinned at her again as they got to the school doors, and he opened them for her while he followed. Suddenly, his eyes widened and he looked panicked. "Wait a minute, did you just say that today's Tuesday?"

Willow nodded, taking an apple from her book bag.

"As in Teen Health Tuesday?"

She nodded again, rubbing the red apple on her shirt.

"Didn't we have an assignment for that?" he asked. "I can't even remember what the hell we've been doing. God, I'm going to get into so much-"

Willow stopped his ramble as she pulled out the plastic-covered, typed assignment from between her books and handed it to him. "We were supposed to work in pairs," she told him. "'The Everyday Demons Faced by Adolescents'." She told him. "Remember, we started laughing at the irony cos Buffy was off helping Giles clear up after that Eyghon thing?"

"Willow, you're a god!" he exclaimed loudly, taking her apple from her before she could take a bite and sunk his teeth into it. "Well, I could have done this," he told her as he quickly looked through it. "But somehow I don't think my descriptions of being possessed by animal spirits and helping to stake vampires would have gotten us an A."

"Well, then, it's a good thing I just stuck to the traditional and predictable demons of alcohol, sex and drugs."

"Yeah, probably," he said, handing the apple back to her, half-eaten. "Wait, how do you know about that stuff?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?" she said mischievously as they got to the balcony.

"What would I do without you?" he asked.

"Um, flunk every class?"

Cordelia Chase, who was stood a group of friends next to the staircase leading down to the quad, cast a disparaging look at them as they approached her direction. "...Of course," she said loudly to Harmony and another girl, the recently-enrolled Amanda Jones, "If I looked like *that*..." she gave a pointed look at Willow, "I wouldn't even leave the house. It's bad enough just having to look at it."

Willow quickly walked past the group of now-giggling girls, throwing her apple in the bin as she whisked by, suddenly feeling sick, heading for the bathroom before her eyes filled with tears.

Xander watched Willow leave, irritation getting the better of him as he came to a casual stop by Cordelia, watching as her face turned to stone, as it always did when her superiority complex came to the fore. "What's with the frown, Cordy?" he asked. "Been chewing on those sour grapes again?"

"Who said you could stand near us, dweeb?" she bit at him.

"Aw, poor Cordelia," he said with a fake sad expression. "What's wrong, are they closing 'Hookers-R-Us'?" She opened her mouth to retort and he quickly cut her off. "Shame. Still, I hope you stocked up on all those Lycra and spandex pants," he said. "I mean, how else are you gonna get through the entire football and swim teams? It's not like you can really rely on your sparkling wit and dazzling personality, since, you know, you don't have either. Anyway, enjoy your day, ladies," he bowed his head to them and left, heading for the girl's bathroom to wait for Willow with a self-satisfied grin.

Cordelia watched him, speechless for a moment. "Can you believe the nerve of that guy?" she asked the two girls. "I mean, here we are, innocently having a private conversation, and he gets all insulting for no reason. How rude is that?"

"I know," Harmony agreed, nodding her head.

Cordelia looked at Amanda, who was seemingly staring down the hall where Xander had disappeared through the doors into the school building. "Hello?" she said loudly.

"Oh, sorry," Amanda said, drifting back to reality. "I...agree...?" she said, not even sure of what the question had been.

"Exactly!" Cordelia said. "One day that geek is going to get his comeuppance."


Buffy exited the library, her eyes hurting from reading, and headed for the soda machine in the lounge. She saw Xander, flopping animatedly down onto one of the sofas, and headed for him, suspicious at the grin playing on his face. "Come on, spill," she said as she sat opposite him.

"Morning, my little Slayer friend," he told her with a wink.

"Okay, I'm guessing you just got the upper hand in one of your little verbal matches with Cordelia."

"What makes you say that?"

"You've got that 'I'm better than Cordelia' grin about you," she told him.

"Yeah, well, she deserved it."

"So where's Willow?" Buffy asked, looking around.

"Uh, the reason for the little 'verbal match' between me and Cordy. She made some nasty comment about Will."

"In that case I'm glad you won."

"Hey," Willow said as she came out of the bathroom and saw them waiting for her. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah," Xander told her. "What about you?"

"Oh, you know me," she said with a smile. "So, Buffy, where were you this morning? I thought we were gonna walk to school together."

"Yeah, we were," Buffy told them. "But I had an early morning wake-up call from Giles. He found some ancient prophecy or something. I've been here since six this morning. My eyes feel like they're gonna burst out of my head."

"Did you find anything?"

"Turns out Giles interpreted the text wrong in all of his haste to have the world end. He was about a hundred years out. So, it's just the usual vampires and demons and their hi-jinx. No big."

"You need some help?" Xander asked enthusiastically. "You know, the kind that involves us having to be in the library all day."

"Xander, you're going to classes," Willow told him in a warning tone as the bell rang. "You heard what Snyder said about you cutting your classes. Detention for a week."

"I'm not afraid of him," Xander said confidently.

"People, the bell just rang," Snyder said threateningly as he passed the lounge. "In case you're unclear on what happens after, it means you have to go to class. Now."

"Yes, sir," Xander said quickly, standing up.

"Not afraid of him, huh?" Buffy asked with an amused smile once the principal was gone.

"I'm working on it!" he said defensively.

"So, are we going to the Bronze tonight?" Willow asked as they started down the hall.

"Can't," Buffy told her. "Giles has me in Super Slayer mode. I have to patrol. But you guys can come with if you want."

"Sounds like a plan," Xander said. "Willow can meet me at work and we'll see you at the Restfield Cemetery. B.Y.O. stakes."

"Great," Buffy said as she headed back to the library. "I'll see you guys at lunch."


Giles came out of his office in the library as Xander closed his comic book and sighed. "You know, Xander," he began, "if you must insist on spending the majority of the day in my library you could maybe help instead of reading that pile of nonsense."

"Nonsense?" Xander said incredulously. "Okay, we spend evenings fighting vampires, demons and other creatures because we live on a Hellmouth and you're telling me that comic books are nonsense? How do you know none of this stuff is real?"

"Because I have a brain."

"You'll see," Xander told him. "One day Spiderman's gonna walk through those doors and ask for our help. How are you gonna feel when that happens?"

"Probably very ill, considering I'll be in some hallucinogenic state brought on by one of the many blows to my head which I seem to keep sustaining."

Xander opened his mouth to argue his point further, but was stopped by the young girl nervously entering through the double doors. "Uh...hi..." Xander said.

"Hi," she said back. "Um, my name's Amanda Jones. I'm new here. I was told by some of my teachers to come by and pick up some text books. History, Math, that kind of thing. Um, do you know where they are?"

Xander shot a quick look at Giles and desperately tried to think of where they were, looking around the library furiously.

"For God's sake," Giles said under his breath, rolling his eyes. "I'm Mr. Giles, the librarian," he told her pleasantly. "The books that you require are up in the stacks, third row along."

"Thanks," she said gratefully, heading for the stairs.

Xander watched her, his eyes fixed on her and mouth open.

"You know," Giles told him as he approached the boy, "considering that you've spent the majority of the past eighteen months or so in this library, you don't seem to know an awful lot about where things are kept."

"That's usually Willow's job," Xander told him. "Besides, why would I want to know that stuff? I have a life." He looked quickly at Giles pursed lips. "No offence."

"Well, I won't take any offence if you'll help me to catalogue some of the new stock that was delivered a short while ago."

"But Giles..."

"Or perhaps you'd prefer me to go and see the lovely Principal Snyder and inform him just how you spend your days."

"I really don't have a choice here, do I?" Xander asked.


"Well, cataloguing sounds Super Fun."

"Good," Giles said with a pleased smile. "They're up in the stacks. Have fun."

Xander rolled his eyes in frustration as Giles went back into his office, and he headed for the cardboard boxes piled against the back shelves. As he reached them, he slumped down onto the floor, grabbing the box from the top, and tore it open. "Great," he said to himself. "More books. Just what we need." He took a few from the pile and set them down on the floor. A humming sound caught his attention and he looked to where it was coming from, seeing the new girl, Amanda Jones, browsing the shelves. He watched her, enthralled, as she absently twisted her sleek blond hair that had been pulled back into a ponytail that accentuated her petite features, concentrating her clear blue eyes on the book spines in front of her, occasionally pulling one out to flick through the pages. Once she had found one she was interested in, she hugged it tight to her slim figure, continuing to read, totally unaware she was being watched.

"Xander!" Giles called loudly from inside his office, startling Xander back into reality.

"Yeah?" Xander called back, standing up and heading for the man's office. "What's up, G-Man?"

"I have asked you to refrain from calling me that. Would you be able to run down to the students lounge and pick up some cold drinks from the vending machine? I'd go myself, but seeing as we have our first actual student who isn't related to us in terms of demonic activity who actually wants to check books, I'd rather not scare her off by leaving a young man with a crush who seemingly loses the ability to form sentences in charge of my library."

"Okay, I don't know what you just said, so just give me the money and I'll go. But if Snyder sees me I'm telling him to come to you."


Xander stood at the vending machine in the student's lounge, his finger hovering over the buttons. "Pepsi, Coke...Coke, Pepsi..." he closed his eyes and allowed his finger to press forward, and opened them again when he was rewarded with the loud bang of the two cans of soda hitting the bottom. "Ah, beverage..." he said to himself as his change clattered into the change tray. "I'm sure Mr. Giles, the kindly librarian, won't mind me using his change to subsidise my need for candy." He fished the money out of the small metal hole and began to feed it back into the machine.

"...Trust is the basis of any relationship..."

Xander turned as inconspicuously as possible to see Mitch Holden, one of the school's star football players, talking very intimately with one of the freshman girls, and leaned in closer, listening to what he was saying with curiosity.

"Now, I want you to stay close," Mitch told the pretty young girl with whom he was sat with on the sofa, facing the window. He reached up and gently held her chin between his thumb and forefinger, with his other arm around her back, looking intensely into her eyes. "But not too close, okay? When I tell you to back off, you back off." He leaned into her, ready to kiss her, when he heard footsteps. He looked around quickly to see Amanda exiting the library, and he motioned for the younger girl to leave as quickly as possible. As she did as she was told, he smiled at Amanda, standing up to greet her. "Amanda, baby," he said huskily. "I was just coming to find you."

Amanda looked at him with a furious glare in her eyes. "I'll bet!" she bit at him as she began to march away.

"Hey, wait," Mitch said, heading after her.

Xander watched the tall, muscular, broad-shouldered, blond-haired, blue-eyed jock go after her, jumping over the sofa he had previously been sat on in the process. "Hey," he said as he caught her. "What's wrong?"

She rolled her eyes at him, amazed at him thinking she was so stupid.

"She's a friend of Kelly's, you know, my sister? Her brother was hurt a couple of nights ago by some weird guys and she was a little upset. You don't think I was...?" he laughed gently. "Come on, Amanda. Why would I be trying to get with some other girl when I know you're meeting me at any minute?" he cupped her face gently in his hands. "Trust is the basis of any relationship..."

"Fine," she said quietly, although still slightly suspicious. "Whatever you say."

"Okay," he told her. "I'm going to go and get the car. I'll meet you out front."

She nodded wearily as he left, knowing that what he had told her had probably been a lie, and looked around to make sure no one had witnessed her humiliation. As she did, she saw Xander standing by the vending machine and smiled awkwardly at him.

Xander smiled back, a genuine smile, as he collected the sodas from the machine and quickly selected a candy bar before heading back to the library.

Chapter 2

"...Yeah, so this guy comes in, and he's all, like, 'fill her up, dude,'" Xander told Willow as they sat perched on a tomb in the middle of the Restfield Cemetery, and grabbed the bag of chips from her, stuffing a handful into his mouth. "And this girl's sat in the passenger seat of this guy's convertible, and she's giving me this look."

"What kind of a look?" Willow asked as she watched Buffy get in a particularly brutal kick to the vampire she was fighting a few feet away from them.

"It was kind of a 'hey' kind of look. So anyway, this guy gets all pissed and he's, like, 'stop looking at my girl and just fill the car up already!' And I just look at him and go 'you know what, I don't have to take this kind of crap from a loser like you'. Then, the girl smiles at me with these big adoring eyes and-"

"You filled the car up, didn't you?"

"Pretty much."

"There was no girl, was there?"


"Excuse me," Buffy said, slightly breathless, as she dashed from her foray with the vampire and grabbed the stake lying on top of the tomb between her friends. "Thanks."

"No problem!" Xander called to her. "Hey, you want some-?" he stopped when the vampire turned to dust from the unsuspecting stake through his back. "Never mind."

Buffy dusted herself off and headed for her friends. "Well, that was bracing," she told them as she grabbed the bag of potato chips and stuffed some hungrily into her mouth, droplets of dust contaminating the bag. She held out the bag to them, both of which politely declined with a trace of a grimace. "So, Xander, what were you saying?" she asked.

"Oh, nothing," he told her. "I was just trying to make myself sound more interesting."

"How'd that work out for ya?"

"Willow can see right through me."

"You know," Buffy said, "I still can't believe you've managed to hold onto that job at the gas station for so long. I mean, it's been what, a couple of months now?"

"I know," he said wistfully. "It turns out I'm actually good for gainful employment. Yeah, it's just filling cars with gas and all that other minor stuff - let's face it, I'm no VIP Slayer like you - but it's cool. I get a couple of hours alone - except for those pesky interruptions. It would be so much better if there weren't any customers coming in and out every five minutes. But I can deal. I'm learning all this practical stuff, and I'm getting paid for it. My father's actually pretty impressed, you know, when he's not too busy being drunk." He and Willow hopped off the tomb as they began walking through the cemetery casually. "Hey, what do you guys know about Amanda Jones?"

"Amanda Jones?" Willow asked. "Cordelia's friend?"

"The new girl?" Buffy asked. She shrugged. "Only that she's new. She transferred from a girl's school. Oh, and doesn't she go with Mitch Holden?"

"Yeah," Willow told her. "I've seen them together a few times, getting all smoochie." She cleared her throat unnecessarily and nervously. "What do you wanna know for?"

"Oh, no reason," he said thoughtfully. "She was in the library today while I was helping Giles, and-"

"Wait a minute," Buffy said, interrupting him. "Someone other than us went into the library? Did they actually want books? Hey, was Giles all excited?" she watched as Xander glared at her and she shrank back to the potato chips. "That really wasn't the point you were trying to make, was it?"

"Believably enough, no," he told her. "And I'm not really making any point. I just thought she seemed kinda...interesting. She just seems like she has a few more brain cells that what Cordelia and Harmony share, and it kinda got me curious as to why she hangs with them."

Buffy looked quickly and inconspicuously at Willow, who was busy looking at the ground as she walked, a saddened look on her face, fidgeting with the buttons on her sweater.

"Anyway," Xander said, "not that I'm not having a fabulous time with you ladies, but some of us have been working and need a shower. Plus, I have homework. My brain isn't as absorbing as Willow's, and I definitely don't have my Watcher librarian to do my homework for me."

"Hey!" Buffy objected.

"I'm just kidding," he told them. "I'll see you both tomorrow."

"Bye," Buffy said.

"See you tomorrow," Willow told him with a forced smile as he jogged away. "I'm fine," she said suddenly, looking at Buffy."

"But I didn't say anything," Buffy said innocently.

"You were gonna ask me if I'm okay. I am."

"Are you sure?"

"No," Willow said as she looked at Buffy, her eyes sad, but her expression unchanged as the vampire started towards them. She nodded to Buffy, who took the stake she had used on the other vampire from her sleeve, and turned to face it.

"Do you mind?" Buffy asked, her tone annoyed. "We're talking here." She lunged forward with her arm and staked him quickly. "Vampires have no manners..." she muttered to herself. "You were saying?" she asked Willow.

"Oh, nothing," Willow told her. "Can we go home now?"

"Uh, sure," Buffy said, slightly worried, but knowing from Willow's expression that she wasn't ready to talk about it. "I'll walk you home."


The convertible car pulled up to the tennis courts to the side of the Sunnydale High School campus in the late morning sun.

Xander watched from the bleachers as Amanda Jones quickly kissed Mitch Holden goodbye and jumped out of the car. Dressed in her gym outfit and carrying her tennis racket. He stuffed the Twinkie from his bag into his mouth as she sidled into the courts by the hole in the wire fence and joined the quickly dispersing crowd of girls heading back into the school building.

"Oh, Miss Jones?" Coach Foster called suspiciously.

Amanda, who was busy talking to Cordelia, trying to make sure it seemed she had been there for the whole class, rolled her eyes as she approached the teacher. "Is there a problem, Coach?" she asked innocently.

"I would say that cutting class to leave school campus with a boy in the hot car constitutes a problem, yes."

"We were just talking," Amanda told her.

"If all you'd wanted was talk then you wouldn't have left the school campus. One week of morning detention."


"Don't argue with me, Miss Jones. Now get inside with the rest of the class and change."


The bell rang loudly as the students began to emerge from the cafeteria and lounges inside the school, all heading to their next classes.

"Well, its back to the mines," Buffy said with a sigh as she headed down the hall towards the English class with Willow and Xander.

"Yeah," Xander said distractedly, purposely hanging back in the group.

"Xander, you're gonna have to hurry," Willow told him. "You know what'll happen when Snyder catches you cutting again."

"I'm...I...I need the bathroom," he said suddenly, backing away from them. "I'll see you in class." Buffy and Willow watched him, both bemused, as he quickly disappeared from sight.


Principal Snyder exited his office and locked it behind him, slipping his jacket on in the process. He walked into the empty hall, nearly walking into Xander Harris full on. "What are you doing, Harris?" Snyder said threateningly.

"Uh..." Xander said, purposely hesitating. "I'm sorry, I was just on my way to-"

"You were cutting again, weren't you?"

"Well, if you wanna get technical about it..."

"You know what we said about this. One week's morning detention, starting from tomorrow."

"Gosh, darn," Xander said, his tone falsely disappointed. "Well, you caught me fair and square. I did the crime, I'll do the time."

Snyder watched him. "You're weird," he said before walking away.


Xander walked into the classroom where morning detention was held full of confidence, his shirt and pants impressively pressed by himself the night before, and his hair combed into an actual style. Expecting to see Amanda, he instead saw the group of usual no-brainers and losers he had always associated with detention. " this detention?" he asked, unsure.

"No, we're having a party," one of them told him.

"Mr. Harris," Mr. Pole, the Drivers Ed. teacher said as he walked past the classroom, Amanda at his side. "If you'll just take a seat with the others, I'll be with you shortly."

Xander did as he was told, curiously taking the seat closest to the door, watching them.

"...Thanks for understanding," Amanda told Mr. Pole in her sweetest voice. "It just felt a little weird being in a room with a bunch of guys."

"Well," he told her with a smile, "I don't see any problem with you serving your detention in my office."

"Well, see, I was thinking that maybe I wouldn't have to serve detention at all."


"Coach Foster was right to punish me, but it wasn't what she thought. And I promise that it would never happen again."

"Well...I'm not sure..."

"Please, Mr. Pole?" she said pleadingly. "I mean, I've heard all the girls talk about what a great Drivers Ed. teacher you are, and that you are so understanding. And I love the way you wear your hair, it really suits you."

"You do?" he asked, sounding proud and flattered, his hand automatically running through the dark brown curls on his head. "Well, I can't see there being any problem with me letting you off just this once. You are new here, after all, but I don't want to hear of a repeat performance of this, okay? And we'll have to keep this between ourselves."

"Okay," she agreed, fluttering her eyelashes at him. "Thanks, Mr. Pole. You're the best."


Buffy and Willow got to the library as the last bell rang, and headed straight over to the large table in the middle of the room.

"How did detention go this morning?" Buffy asked Xander, seeing him already in the stacks.

"Oh, you know," he said with a shrug as he headed back to them. "Pretty boring."

"You know, you were pretty well dressed for a morning of detention."

"Hey, that was my new image."


"Yeah, it wasn't really for me."

"Amanda wasn't there, huh?"

"No," he said sheepishly. "Mr. Pole let her off."

"See, that's what gets me so mad," Willow said suddenly. "Everyone else in the school serves their detention like we're supposed to, and she gets off with a flutter of her eyelashes."

"Will," Xander said gently, "you've never had a detention in your life."

"That's not the issue," she said miserably.

"So, what is this thing you've got for Amanda anyway?" Buffy asked. "I mean, she has a boyfriend."

"Yeah, and what a fine specimen of man he is," Xander commented.

Buffy and Willow raised their eyebrows at him.

"I was being sarcastic," he pointed out. "Do you know what kind of a guy he is?"

"Rich, handsome, athletic..." Buffy said.

"He's a jerk," Xander told them. "He cheats on her. He doesn't care about her."

"Xander, come on," Buffy said honestly. "She's a new face in a sea of old ones."

"Yeah," Willow said quietly. "We all know how much you like new girls..."

"Hey," said, "I just think she's-"

"'Interesting'," Willow and Buffy said with him in unison.

"Okay," Xander said. "So maybe I'm just wondering what it would be like to make out with her.

"Wow," Buffy said. "You're about as deep as a puddle."

"Hey, I'm just being honest. I have needs, you know."

"Xander, like I said before," Willow said, "I don't need to know. Besides, you don't even know her," Willow pointed out.

"Look, you don't know how I feel so why don't you just back off," he told her.

"How do you know?" Willow asked.

"How do I know what?"

"That I don't know how you feel."

"Because, I know everything about you. If you had been in love before, I'd have known about it."

"Not necessarily," she told him. "Besides, I'm just trying to help."

"Yeah, well, maybe I don't need any help."


Willow stood miserably among the girls in the locker room after gym class, her hair still wet from the shower she had taken a short while before, and looked at herself in the full-length mirror. She frowned at herself as she saw the dowdy overalls and shirt she was wearing and self-consciously looked around the room. She saw Amanda Jones a few lockers away, smoothing down the pretty cotton dress she was wearing and running her fingers through her hair. She looked back at the mirror, her heart sinking. She heard a giggling and turned to see where it was coming from.

"You know," Harmony said, "I'm sure Sears has an adult section for when you grow out of those overalls."

Buffy rounded the corner, standing at Willow's side with her arms crossed across her chest.

"Yes?" Harmony said. "Can we help you?"

Buffy took the hockey stick that had been resting against a nearby wall and held it firmly in her hand. "Have you ever seen a girl with a hockey stick protruding from one of her orifices?"

"Is that some kind of a threat?" Cordelia asked.

"Would you like it to be?"

Cordelia gave her an icy glare as he grabbed her bag and motioned to Harmony to leave.

Once they had gone, Willow sunk to the bench, depression clouding her features.

"Don't worry about them," Buffy told her soothingly as she sat next to her.

"Oh, I'm not," Willow told her. "I'm used to it. I've had to put up with Cordelia and her friends for longer than I care to remember. It's just..."

"Xander," Buffy said for her.

"Xander," Willow confirmed. "You know how I said that I was either gonna wait for Xander to notice every other girl that's not me, or I could move on with my life?"

"I remember."

"Well, as it turns out, I chose waiting. I just...I don't know how long I can do this, Buffy. Being his friend and seeing him fall for every other girl."

"So make a choice now," Buffy told her. "You have to get on with your life, Willow. There are other guys in the world."

"Not for me," Willow said sadly. "But you're right. I do have to get on with my life. Xander can do what he likes."

"That's the spirit."

"Yeah," Willow told her, half-heartedly. "Life, here I come."

Chapter 3

The band at the Bronze finished the last song of the set and left the stage, chatter replacing the music in the club.

"You know," Buffy said to Willow as she sipped her soda. "I'm glad we did this."

"Me too," Willow told her. "It's nice to do something normal for once."

"I can't believe the band's finished," Xander said as he placed three more drinks on the table from the bar. "I was just about to put my dancing shoes on."

"Thank heavens for small mercies," Buffy said jokingly.

"Ha, ha," he told her. He saw Mitch Holden sat with the freshman he had seen him with a few days earlier and shook his head, looking at his friends. "Look at that," he told them. "I told you guys he was cheating on her."

"They're just talking," Willow said.

Xander kept his eyes on them as Mitch leaned in to kiss the girl, and saw Amanda entering the club with Cordelia and Harmony in tow. "Oh, this should be fun..." he said to himself.

The girl motioned to Mitch to look behind him and he did, his eyes meeting Amanda's furious ones. The younger girl disappeared quickly as Mitch stood up, approaching Amanda.

Amanda turned and stormed back out of the club, only to have Mitch catch her arm as she reached the outside. "Get off me!" she yelled at him, pulling away from him.

"What?" he asked innocently. "She was upset. I was comforting her."

"Yeah, I'll bet," she spat at him. "I'm sick of this, Mitch."

"Sick of what?" he asked with a small laugh. "How can you be insecure and so beautiful at the same time?"

"Mitch, I only came to this school because of you. I was perfectly happy at Kent Preparatory, but no, you wanted me 'close by'. Two years!" she yelled at him. "We have been together for two years, and in all that time, that's all I've heard from you. 'Come to Sunnydale High. It'll be so much better'. After everything I did to convince my parents to let me move schools, now I'm here and you do this to me?"

"Do what, Amanda? I don't know what you're talking about."

"Look, if you were more of a man then maybe you'd be able to handle two girls, but you're not. This - us - it's over."

"But Amanda-"

"Hey," Xander said, interrupting. "Is everything okay?"

"Yes!" Mitch snapped at him. "This has nothing to do with you!"

"Amanda?" Xander asked.

"We're fine," she told him. "I was just leaving."

Mitch rolled his eyes as she turned and headed away from the club. "Stupid bitch..." he mumbled under his breath as he pushed past Xander and went back inside of the club.

Xander watched Amanda disappear around the corner and went after her, his pace quickening as he realised she was walking down an alley, alone, at night, in Sunnydale. "Hey!" he called as he saw her in the distance. "Amanda!"

She turned, confused, smiling at him. "Uh...hi," she said, unsure. "It's Xander, right?"

"Yeah, it is," he told her. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay. You know, a lot of bad stuff happens at night in this town."

"So I've heard," she told him. "I heard stories at my old school."

"Well, I, um...I also wanted to see if maybe...maybe you wanted to go out sometime. With me. But if it's not the right time or you think it'll be too awkward or you don't like-" he was stopped when the vampire jumped on his back from the fence around the alley which Xander had his back to. Xander managed to pull the cross out of his jacket pocket and held it to the vampire's hand. They both stumbled back into the yard of the Bronze, the empty kegs and crates making a loud clanging sound as he and the vampire thrashed around.

"Is everything okay?" Amanda called as she stood back.

"Fine!" Xander called back as he tried to avoid the punches and kicks being thrown by the vampire. He fished around in his pants pocket and found the small vial of holy water which Buffy had made him carry at all times and smashed it into the creature's face. He breathed a sigh of relief as the vampire ran away with his hands over his face, cries of pain coming from him, but only after a blow to his stomach which made Xander double up in pain and sink to the floor.

Amanda appeared and helped Xander to his feet. "Are you okay?" she asked, concerned.

"Yeah, I'm okay," he told her, running his hands through his hair. "What about you, are you hurt?"

"Just a little shocked."

"Good. Where were we?"

"You were asking me out on a date," she informed him.

"Oh, right," he said. "You mean I was embarrassing myself."

"And I was about to say yes."

"That's okay, you don't have to...did you just say yes?"

"Yeah," she told him. "I mean, it's not everyday a guy saves your life."

"Wait until you've been at Sunnydale High a little longer. It becomes an everyday occurrence."

Amanda laughed. "You know, suddenly I don't feel much like going home any more."

"Well, how about I just accompany you back inside?"

"That would be nice."


"So, she just left?" Cordelia asked Mitch inside of the Bronze.

"Yep," Mitch told her and Harmony. "I mean, I know she's mad and all, but-"

"Oh, look, she's back," Cordelia pointed out as she saw Amanda re-enter, Xander close behind. She watched them say something to each other and looked stunned as Amanda approached them. "What were you doing with that loser?" she asked, almost outraged. "Hanging with him is going to give you nothing but very rapid downward mobility."

"He just wanted to ask me something," Amanda told them.

"Which was?" Cordelia demanded.

"He wanted to ask me out on a date."

"And what did you say?"

Amanda looked at Mitch pointedly. "I said yes."

Cordelia was speechless as the new girl headed to the bar and ordered a drink.

"She's just mad," Harmony told Mitch awkwardly, seeing his stunned expression. "I'm sure she'll come to her senses.


Buffy moved down the lunch queue, pushing her tray as her mind thought of all the possible alternatives of where she could be that would be better than school. She smiled absently, hardly even realising it, as her thoughts turned to a particular souled vampire. She handed her tray to the lunch lady, indicating to the fries on offer, and took a carton of milk from the steel food dispenser.

"...You just know it's a joke," Cordelia said to Harmony and another girl as they took the table next to the lunch queue. "I mean, come on, Amanda is only doing it to get back at Mitch. But, I can think of plenty better people to use then the Loser of the Year, Xander Harris. That's just desperate. I'm telling you, before the week is out, Xander Harris is going to get what he deserves."

Buffy suddenly stopped in her tracks, right in the middle of the lunch queue, hearing everything Cordelia had said. She anxiously waited for more information, but when the topic turned to the latest colour in nail polishes, she abruptly left her tray and bolted.


"Good," Buffy said loudly as she hit the library doors and saw Willow and Giles at the wooden table, their noses immersed in books. "You're here."

"Well, yes, Buffy," Giles said. "This is my job."

"Not you," Buffy said. "Willow."

"What's up?" Willow asked curiously. "I thought we were meeting in the cafeteria for lunch."

"Yeah, change of plans," Buffy told her. "Listen, I just heard Cordelia talking-"

"If you'll excuse me," Giles said as he left the table. "I have the distinct impression that this conversation somehow isn't going to turn into a debate on the latest demons terrorising Sunnydale."

Buffy waited for him to take refuge in his office and sat down beside Willow. "Where's Xander?"

"Oh, we both have the next two periods free so he went home to grab a change of clothes. He's working at the gas station later."


"What was that about Cordelia?"

"I heard her and a couple of her friends talking, and she was going on about this whole thing with Xander and Amanda. Cordelia said she thinks it's all a joke. That it's Amanda's way of using Xander to get back at Mitch." Willow's eyes lit up. "That's gre...terrible," she said. "Absolutely terrible."

"It's okay," Buffy told her. "I know you weren't exactly happy when we found out about their date."

"Yeah, but if it a joke then we have to tell Xander. I don't want him to be hurt when he finds out all of this is some big joke on him. He really likes her."

"I know," Buffy said. "But we do have to tell him. How do you think he'll take it?"


"No. Way." Xander said determinedly as he finished filling up an SUV with gas, and took the credit card from the driver.

"Xander, it's true," Buffy told him. "I heard Cordelia saying it today."

Xander ran the plastic card through the machine at the counter inside the gas station and waited for the receipt to print. "Oh, well, if Cordelia said it, then it must be true."

"Will you just listen?" Willow asked. "Amanda's only going out with you to make Mitch jealous."

"She wouldn't do that," Xander said as he took the credit card back out to the car and handed it back to the driver with the receipt with a smile, with Willow and Buffy following close behind.

"How do you know what she would or wouldn't do?" Buffy asked him. "It's not like-"

"Look, I get it," he snapped at them. "But me going out with Amanda isn't going to affect my friendship with you guys."

"Wait, wait, wait," Buffy said. "You think this is about us being jealous?"

"Well, isn't it?"

"No, it's not."

"We just don't want you to build your hopes up," Willow told him. "Just to have them dashed. We don't you to get hurt."

"At this point, the only thing that's hurting me is your attitudes in this," he told them. "I thought I'd be able to count on you both for support. It looks like I was wrong."

Buffy looked at Willow, giving up. "We're sorry," she told him. "You can count on us."

"Yeah," Willow agreed. "Whatever you need, we're here."


Willow slumped onto Buffy's bed and lay lifeless for a moment, her hands covering her face as she let out a sigh of frustration. "He doesn't believe us," she told Buffy.

"I know," Buffy replied. "Why can't he just see what's right in front of his face?"

"He just doesn't want to believe that this whole thing with Amanda isn't for real."

"I wasn't talking about that," Buffy said as she sat next to Willow. "I was talking about you."

"What?" Willow asked, propping herself up on her elbows and looking at Buffy with obvious confusion.

"Well, if Xander could just see what he's missing with you, maybe he'll finally realise what he's been looking for is right in front of him."

"I sense a plan," Willow said as she looked at her suspiciously. "Somehow, I don't think I'm going to like what you're about to suggest."

"Jealousy," Buffy said simply. "We'll make him all jealous."

"Oh, no..."

"Yeah," Buffy said enthusiastically. "It never fails."


"It worked with Angel. You saw how he reacted when I danced with Xander that time."

"There is no way I'm going to press myself against some poor guy just to make an idiot of myself." She looked at Buffy, cringing. "No offence."

"None taken," Buffy told her. "Besides, we don't have to be as direct as that. I have an idea."

"Oh, no..."

"This is gonna be fun!"


Xander walked into the cafeteria and grinned when he saw Willow's red hair glinting in the sun against the window she was sitting next to. He could see sipping her juice box through a straw and knew her mind was working overtime, probably on one of her assignments. "Hey!" he said cheerily as he bounded over to the table, sitting in the empty chair next to her.

"Oh, hey," she said, putting her drink down.

"So, I was thinking..." he stopped when he realised there was a male figure stood behind him, and he turned to look at him. "Uh, Jonathon, is there something we can do for you?"

"Uh, well..." the boy began nervously.

"You're in his seat," Willow told Xander.

Xander looked at her with a confused glare, noticing that there was a backpack on the opposite chair, and knew it belonged to Jonathon. "Oh." He said as he stood up. "I, um...I didn't realise."

"That's okay," Willow said as she smiled at Jonathon and motioned for him to take his seat back.

"Well," Xander said awkwardly, stuffing his hands in his pockets, "I'll leave you guys to it."

"Okay, thanks."

"Yeah, see you." Xander backed away from the table, his eyes still fixated on his best friend and her new companion, and felt a strange churning in his stomach and sinking feeling in his chest. Before he had time to think, he quickly turned, knocking into someone in the process. "Oh, sorry," he said quickly.

"It's okay," Amanda said with a smile. "You seemed like you were kinda in a hurry."

"No, not really," he told her, trying to loosen up, and with a quick glance at Willow and Jonathon at their table. When he looked back at her, something caught his eye. There was a silver locket hanging at her neck, oval in shape, shining at him in the sun. "Oh, hey, that's a pretty necklace."

"Thanks," she said, looking at it. "It's my sister's."

"I'm glad I ran into you," he told her. "You know how we were talking about going out sometime?" he waited for her nod so he could continue. "How's Saturday night?"

"Um...Saturday's good," she told him.

"Great," Xander said. "Uh, I have to go right now, but we'll arrange the details soon."

"Okay, that sounds good. I'll see you around?"

"Yeah," he said distractedly. "Bye."


"Thanks for everything," Willow told Jonathon as she finished her lunch. "I hope you didn't feel too pressurised into having lunch with me."

"Oh, no," Jonathon said enthusiastically. "I mean, Buffy did give me five dollars - but I would have done it for free."

"That's sweet," Willow said as she stood up.

"Listen, I know that this whole thing was part of some prank on Xander or something, but I was wondering-"

"Hey!" Buffy said brightly as she rushed over to the table. "How did it go?"

"Oh, fine," Willow told her. "Although, I don't think Xander was jealous. I mean, why would he be?"

"Xander's an idiot," Jonathon said out of blue, surprising both girls. "I mean...I didn't mean to interrupt or listen in, but I think Xander's an idiot for not noticing you."

"Uh...thanks..." Willow said awkwardly. "I've gotta go."

"Wait up, Will!" Buffy called after her as he rushed out of the cafeteria. "That was really nice, Jonathon," Buffy told him. "Thanks for everything."

Chapter 4

Xander stumbled into the library, his eyes still half-closed with sleep, and set his bag on the counter. "Sorry I'm late," he called to Giles in his office.

"So you should be," Giles called back as he came out to the front. "Just because I managed to coax Principal Snyder into letting you serve out your detention in the library that does not mean you get off any more lightly than anyone else." He held out a small pastry box to Xander. "Muffin? Donut?"

"Thanks," Xander said as he took a jelly donut. "I'll make up the time after school."

"No, that's alright," Giles told him. "I'm just glad we managed to make our lovely Principal Snyder think it was all his idea. You can start by going through that box of inventory on the table. I have to make a trip back to my apartment. It won't take me long."

"Sure," Xander told him. "See you in a while."


Xander was busy placing the book pile in his arms on the shelves in the stacks when he heard the library doors open. He quickly looked at his watch on his free arm. "Wow, that was quick, Giles," he called. "Did you get magic wings fitted to your toy car or something?" when he got no reply he placed the books on the floor and headed to the front of the library, only to stop when he saw Mitch Holden leaning against the check-out counter. "Mitch," he said in greeting as he walked down the stairs. "I didn't even realise you knew where the library was, much less what it was actually for."

"I'm not here for books," Mitch told him.

"Well, that is a surprise."

"I heard you got morning detention."

"You heard right."

"So, how come you're serving it in here?"

"Snyder thought it would bug me more, seeing as how he thinks I can't read. What are you doing at school this early?"

"I wanted to talk to you," Mitch told him. "In private."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah," Mitch said with a shrug. "You look nervous."

"I'm not," Xander told him. "Just curious."

"The truth is, I came here to thank you. I was looking for a way to get out of the whole Amanda thing and you saved me a job."

"Is that right?" Xander asked suspiciously.

"Yeah. I mean, she got kinda clingy, you know."


"Anyway," Mitch continued, "I'm having a party this Saturday night at the Bronze, and I was just wondering if you and Amanda would like to come, providing that you don't already have plans that is."

"No, not yet."

"So, will you come?"

"I don't know, Mitch," Xander said honestly. "You're inviting me to your party?"

"Yeah, I invited a lot of people. Look, I've known Amanda for a long time, since we were kids. She's always been a big part of my life. In case you may not have noticed, I've been getting a lot of stick from my friends about this. I'm being the bigger man here, inviting my ex-girlfriend and the guy who stole her from me to my party. But hey, if you don't think you can handle it-"

"No, it's not that," Xander said, interrupting. "But see this from my point of view. You've gotta admit, it looks pretty suspicious."

"Yeah, it probably does. But this is for real. Will you come or not?"

"I'll ask Amanda."

"I've already mentioned it to her and she's fine with it."

"Well, then, I guess we'll see what we can do."

"You know what would be really weird?" Mitch asked with a grin. "If we actually became friends."

"Yeah, that would be weird," Xander said quietly as Mitch left. "Seeing as how it would only happen in some alternate universe..."


"Amanda!" Mitch called as he saw his former girlfriend head into the girl's locker room.

Amanda saw him and cast an icy glare as she continued on her way, opening the door to the locker room determinedly.

"Amanda!" he called again as he caught up with her inside, amongst the shrieks of surprise and protest from the other girls. "Excuse me, ladies," he called as he approached an angry-looking Amanda at her locker. "This won't take a minute."

"Leave me alone, Mitch," Amanda told him through gritted teeth.

"No, I won't," he told her, using his arm to support himself at the metal lockers, standing in front of her. "Not until you listen to me."

"Listen to what?" Amanda snarled at him. "What could you possibly have to say to me that's of any importance?"

"Look, you call this thing with Harris off, okay? You only did it to hurt me, and guess what, it hurts."

"Good," she told him. "Then that's just the added bonus."

"What is wrong with you?"

"YOU!" she yelled at him. "*You're* what's wrong with me. You think I didn't hear about you asking Xander to the party on Saturday night?"

"What?" Mitch asked. "It was a friendly gesture."

"I know you're just using it to get back at me. You just wanna prove how big a man you are by getting Xander there by being all nice, just so you can beat the crap out of him."

"That's not why I'm doing it," he told her as innocently as possible. "I'm doing this to show you that I can be a good loser. All I want is for you to be happy."

"Yeah, well, I don't care." She took off the silver band she had on her finger and threw it at him.

"Uh, excuse me," Coach Foster said as she came in and saw Mitch. "Just what is going on here?"

"Oh, relax," Mitch told her, obviously irritated. "There is nothing here that I haven't seen before."

"Well, I suggest that you leave now, before I report you to Principal Snyder."

"I'm going, lady! Why don't you go and shave your chest hair!" he snapped at her, bending to pick up the ring that lay on the floor. He looked at Amanda. "This really isn't over."

"That's where you're wrong," Amanda told him. "It really is."


Buffy stood patiently at the bar of the Bronze, her fingers absently tapping on the counter as the bartender served the group of guys next to her. She glanced back to the table she had been sitting at and smiled at Angel, who promptly returned the compliment.

"...So, anyway..." Buffy heard a familiar male voice say, "Everything's set for this Saturday."

Buffy realised the voice belonged to Mitch Holden and her eyes widened as she discreetly moved closer to them, using her hand to hide her face as inconspicuously as possible.

"Amanda's bringing him?" Blaine, a friend of Mitch's, asked.

"Like I said, it's all set," Mitch boasted. "She's gonna take him out, and then bring him back here so we can give him the beating of his life."

Buffy froze for a second as she realised her hunch had been right all along, and she quickly weighed up the options in her mind.

"What can I get you?" the bartender asked, startling her.

"Uh..." she said, confused, "uh...nothing, thank you." She quickly went back to her table and grabbed Angel's arm, yanking him from his stool and pulling him towards the exit.


Buffy and Angel get to the gas station as Xander was locking up for the evening, and they quickly caught his attention to gain entry into the building.

"Hey," Xander said, pleasantly surprised to see Buffy, and not-so-pleasantly surprised to see Angel. "What can I do for you two this fine evening? I have some very special premium unleaded if you're interested."

"I think we'll pass," Buffy told him with an amused smile. "I, um, came by to talk to you," she said awkwardly. "It's kinda personal."

"I'll wait outside," Angel said as he headed back out the doors.

"Okay," Xander said suspiciously. "It must me serious if Dead Boy doesn't wanna be around. What's the deal?"

"See, we were at the Bronze, and-"

"The Bronze?" he asked. "Hey, was that band-"

"Xander," Buffy interrupted. "The band isn't the point here. I heard Mitch and some of his friends talking. I know that Willow and I said that we would give you all of our support here, but I can't just stand by and watch you get hurt."

"What do you mean?"

"It's a joke, Xander," Buffy said gently. "It's all a joke. Amanda, the date... Mitch just wants Amanda to get you to the Bronze so he can beat you up."

"But that's not possible," Xander said, shaking his head.

"Xander, it is. Look, I'm sorry, okay, but it's the truth. I wouldn't lie to you."

"I know," he said sadly.

"It was all I could do to keep from pounding his face into the ground when I heard him."

"Don't worry about it," Xander told her. "I'll take care of it."


Willow carried the cup of hot tea into her dark bedroom and closed the door behind her. She carefully placed the cup on her nightstand, and wearily sat on her bed. With no lights on in the room, her tiredness seemed to grow, and all the thoughts she'd had previously of studying for the paper that needed to be in the following week went right out of her head. She flopped back on the bed with a sigh of contentment, only to scream loudly and jump back to her feet when her head connected with something that was obviously not part of the bed. The lamp at the side of the bed turned on and she froze when she saw the distinctly male figure lying on her bed, his arms behind his neck supporting his head.

"Didn't mean to scare you," Xander told her.

Willow tried to regain her breathing pattern and her hand flew to her chest, somehow thinking it may ease the feeling inside. "God, Xander!" she exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"

"What, I can't visit my best friend for no reason?"

She raised her eyebrows at him. "Yeah," she told him suspiciously. "But you haven't been over here for a while - well, not just for a visit anyway. How did you get in here anyway?"

"Used my key to your door," he told her, indicating the door at the other side of the room. "I hope you don't mind."

"No, of course not," she told him.

"Buffy came to see at work," Xander explained. "You know how you and Buffy told me that this thing with Amanda could be a joke? Well, it is."

"A joke?" she asked. "As in a joke on you?"

"That's right," he said with a sigh and nod. "She's going out with me to get me to the party so that Mitch and his friends can use me as their punch bag. So, as it turns out, you were right."

"I didn't want to be," she said sincerely. "So when are you gonna tell her that you know?"

"I'm not," he said simply. "I'm going through with it."

"Xander, you can't," she told him as she sat on the edge of the bed.

"I can," he said determinedly. "I'm sick of people like Amanda, Cordelia and Mitch and everyone else like them who think they're better than me - than us. I've had enough of being the loser who's always the butt of everyone's jokes. I have to prove to them that I'm better than that, than them. I need to prove it to myself. If I don't do this, I'm always gonna be the geek who hangs out in the library with two girls and an old guy - don't tell Giles I said that. I mean, I'm still gonna be the guy who does those things, but at least I'll fell better about myself."

Willow mimicked his position and lay beside him on the bed, her hands behind her head. "I get it," she said reluctantly and slightly disapproving. "I don't want to, but I get it." She hesitated a second. "I am sorry, you know."

"I know," he said sincerely. "And I'm sorry for being such a jerk to you."

"I'm used to it."

He nudged her slightly. "You always hurt the ones you love."

"Yeah," she said with a forced laugh. "So when are you beating up Amanda Jones?"

He laughed at her and felt his mood lighten a little, not seeing the hurt look on her face and tears in her eyes.

Chapter 5

"Amanda!" Xander called as he saw her heading across the school campus to where Cordelia and Harmony were chatting, and ran to catch up with her.

"Oh, hey," Amanda said politely as she turned to face him.

"I was just wondering what time you wanted me to pick you up for our date on Saturday night."

"Well..." she said, glancing at Cordelia and Harmony.

"It's a simple enough question," he snapped at her. "But if you wanna check with your friends first, let me know."

"No," she said quickly, surprised at his sudden change in demeanour. "Just pick me up whatever time you like."

"Okay, how about seven thirty?"


"If that's a problem, give me a call."

Amanda watched, speechless, as he left as abruptly as he had appeared. She shrugged to herself as she dismissed it and headed over to her friends. "Hey," she said brightly.

"So, you're actually going through with it?" Cordelia asked, her tone curt.

"What?" Amanda asked. "You mean the date?"

"No, I meant the plastic surgery," Cordelia spat. "Of course I meant the date!"

"Yeah," Amanda told them, confused. "Why wouldn't I?"

"Uh, maybe because Xander Harris is a loser."

"He's not a loser," Amanda told them. "He's a really nice guy."

"You haven't known him as long as we have," Harmony pointed out. "Trust us on this."

"Look, maybe this guy doesn't measure up to your standards, but I'll go out with whoever I like."

"Hey," Cordelia said, her tone warning. "Whatever is with the attitude, drop it. We are just two concerned friends who care about the reputation you're likely to get by going out with someone below you. Even if it is just to make an old boyfriend jealous. I mean, Mitch is a hottie, and I can see why you'd be angry at him for what he did, but-"

"Who are you, the Queen of Sunnydale?" Amanda asked. "Xander's a nice guy. That's the only reason I'm going out with him. I couldn't care less about Mitch or what he thinks. Now, if you'll excuse me."

Cordelia turned to Harmony with pursed lips as Amanda stormed away. "It'll all end in tears, mark my words."


Buffy, Willow and Xander walked out of the Sunnydale Bank and headed for the Espresso Pump coffee house across the street.

"So," Buffy said, "how does it feel to have all that money burning a hole in your pocket?"

"Pretty scary," Xander told her. "Every cent I ever earned in the past two years - which wasn't really much until I was gainfully employed at the gas station - is just hanging around in my pants pocket, calling 'spend me, Xander. Go on, buy that limited first edition Superman comic that you've had your eye on'."

"Do you smell toast?" Buffy asked him. "Cos I think you're having a stroke."

"Yeah," Willow said with a grin. "I wouldn't tell Amanda that you've been hearing voices."

"I'm not planning to," Xander said as they reached the coffee shop, sitting at a free table.

"So, what were you saving up for anyway?" Buffy asked as Willow ordered their drinks at the counter.

"Oh, I was trying to get enough money together to buy a car, maybe go to college."


"Yeah," Xander told her. "But on second thoughts, I don't think I could handle four more years of rules and authority figures. I don't think I could deal. So, I don't know, maybe a little travelling."

"You don't have to do this, you know," Willow told him as she sat at the table.

"Yeah, I do," he told her. "It's something that I just feel like I have to do. I was looking forward to spending that money, though."

"What's your dad gonna say when he finds out?" Buffy asked.

Willow looked at Xander. "You won't be able to measure how angry he's going to be with existing technology," she told Buffy.

"Yep," Xander agreed. "He's going to be pissed alright. I think he was looking forward to me using that money to get out of the house."

"Do you want me to tell you again how much of a bad idea this is?" Buffy asked him, concerned.

Xander smiled and shook his head. "I think I already got that part."


"Okay, so this is what my future looks like," Xander said as he looked into the antique jewellery store window, seeing the lockets and pendants on show. "So, which one?" he asked the girls.

"I don't know," Buffy said with a shrug. "You're the one taking her out. You should decide."

"But I'm a guy," he stressed. "That means that when it comes to clothes, shoes and jewellery, I know not a lot."

"I'm sure whatever you choose will be fine," she told him with a reassuring pat on the arm. She watched as he pointed out one in the corner. "But not that one."

"Well, what about...?"

"Or that one."

"That one," Willow said suddenly, her eyes drawn to one in the centre. It was a delicate silver chain with a pretty oval locket hanging from it, an intricate detail engraved onto it. "That's the one."

"Wow," Buffy said, quietly impressed. "You have quite the eye for detail."

"Are you sure?" Xander asked nervously.

"Oh, yeah," Buffy told him. "That's the classic choice."

"It's perfect," Willow said. "Any girl who gets that would have to be pretty special."

"Yeah," Xander agreed half-heartedly as he watched her, something feeling not quite right, but unable to put his finger on what it was. "She would."


"Okay," Willow said as he ran a pencil through the last item on her checklist. "All the arrangements have been made." She told Xander, who was finishing up filling a customers car on the gas station forecourt. "You're all set for tonight."

"Cool," Xander told her as he took the cash from the driver of the car, and waved them off.

"Are you nervous?" she asked.

"A little," he said with a shrug as he headed back into the workshop with her. "I mean, it's not every night you get to take out one of the best-looking girls in school. Even if it for some kind of joke."

"You know you're going to have to make this look like a real date, right?" she asked. "I mean, you can't let her realise too early that you know it's a set-up."

"I know that," he told her, wiping his oily hands on his already-dirty overall.

"So, what are you going to say?"

"Whatever comes to mind."

"Okay, but don't you think you should plan it out a little?"

"No," he told her. "I want it to be spontaneous, you know, natural."

"Amanda Jones isn't some minor leaguer who's going to be swept off her feet with the usual Xander Harris charm."

"I think I can handle it."

"We need some kind of a plan."

"Well, yeah," he said. "Isn't that what we've been going through for most of the afternoon?"

"Yeah, that's the practical side of it," she told him. "I'm talking about, you know, what if she wants you to kiss her?"

"Then I guess I'm just going to *have* to kiss her," he said with a cheeky wink.

"And what about dancing!" she exclaimed loudly. "What if she wants you to slow dance with her?"

"Willow, stop panicking," he said casually. "Anyone would have thought that it was you going on this date. There's not something you wanna tell me is there?"

"Ha, ha," she said with a mock-annoyed face. "I'm just saying that you can't dance." He looked at her, a false expression of hurt. "I mean, you can dance," she corrected quickly, "I think your Snoopy dance should have won awards. But we're talking slow dancing. You know, the romantic kind."

"Well, I can do that," he told her. "I mean, when Miss French-"

"Giant Preying Mantis who wanted to eat your head," Willow told him. "She didn't want to dance with you, Xander. She wanted you to mate with her. To fertilise her demon spawn."

"Then there was Buffy-"

"She danced *around* you, Xander," she told him. "You just kinda stood there looking awkward."

"Yeah, tell me again why I did that," he shook his head. "There was Ampata-"

"Life-sucking mummy," she pointed out.

"Okay, I give," he said, his hands up in a defence position. "I don't have a whole heap of luck with women, but I think I can handle a little dance."

"Fine," she told him, closing her notebook and putting it in her bag. "I was just gonna help you work on it, but if you say you can handle it-"

Xander watched her, worry and doubt beginning to etch on his face. "What, you don't think I can?" he asked.

"If you say you can then you probably can."

"Well, how do you work on it?"

"I thought you said you were okay?"

"Well now you've got me worried," he said frustrated. "Will, come on, I need help. This whole self-doubt thing is your fault. Help me?"

"Okay," she said, turning the up the volume of the radio that had been playing quietly in the background and smiled as a slow ballad came on. "Pretend I'm a girl."

Xander felt an amused noise escape him.

"Pretend I'm *her*," Willow said with a smile as she rolled her eyes. "Amanda." She took a breath as she tried to summon all the courage she had from the pit of her stomach. "I know it's a big stretch but try it."

"Okay, fine," he conceded as he put down the rag he hadn't even realised he had picked up on the car that was waiting to be serviced. He slowly walked over to where she was standing, waiting for him in the middle of the empty workshop, wiping his suddenly-sweaty palms on his overalls, stopping when he was only inches away from her.

"Okay," she said nervously. "Where do your hands go?"

"Depends," he told her.

"No, it doesn't depend," she told him. "They go on her hips." She took his hands in hers and placed them on her hips, closing her eyes momentarily against the feel of his hands on her.

Xander felt the nervous laugh escape him before he knew it, and looked down at the floor.

Willow moved his hands. "Hey, I don't have to do this, you know," she warned.

"Sorry," he said quickly and sincerely, trying to stretch his facial muscles and placing his hands back on her hips. "I'll behave."

"Good," she told him with a warning tone. "Now, look into my eyes."

"You're not gonna hypnotise me, are you?"


"Sorry," he said again, doing as she told him.

"She'll probably do this..." she said as she snaked her arms up around his neck and clasped her hands together.

"How do you know all this?" he asked huskily.

"I watch a lot of T.V.," she said. "Okay, now just feel the music. Look into my eyes and once you feel the soft beat of the music, start moving."

Xander did as he was told, smiling as he listened to the song, and his body began to slowly move of its own accord, responding to the music. He surprised himself. Usually, he was all flailing arms and kicking legs, but this was different. He had danced with her before, but never like this. The feeling of butterflies in his stomach wasn't exactly new to him, but he'd never had them like this before, and certainly never around his best friend. He rationalised to himself that it was this intimate situation, and the role-play she was using. He looked at her as he thought, realising she had her eyes closed, and he smiled. He watched as her mouth, slightly open, turned into the slightest of smiles. His hands gripped her hips tighter and he leant forward, not really sure of what he was doing until it happened.

Willow felt his lips on hers and she melted. In her dreams, this had happened a million times, but she suddenly realised that this was really happening. A voice inside her told her to pull away right there and then, knowing that it wasn't really her that he was kissing. It was Amanda. But something held her there. She knew that this was probably going to the only time she would ever know what a kiss from Xander Harris felt like, so when she felt his tongue gently touch her lips, she opened her mouth and met his tongue with hers, feeling that all-too-familiar light-dimming she had discussed with Buffy turn into a full-scale blackout. The feeling overwhelmed her and she broke the kiss suddenly, backing away from him.

Xander was shocked back into reality when he felt the cold air hit his face where the heat of her had previously been and it took a few moments for his eyes to open willingly.

"Lesson's over," she said quickly, her face blushing as she grabbed her bag and sweater.

"Willow, you're blushing," he told her, laughing nervously at the predicament.

"You're all set for tonight," she told him again as she headed for the door.

"Will, don't go," he called after her. "I didn't mean it in bad way. You're pretty when you blush."

"I'll see you later!" she yelled, already out of the doors.

"Yeah," he said quietly. "You will..."

Chapter 6

Xander hurried into his house, bypassing his parents in the kitchen, eating their famous Chinese take-out with his sat by the microwave, and went straight to his room. He dropped his bag of dirty overalls in his bed and headed into the bathroom. He sang to himself, sometimes throwing in the odd dance move, as he started the water spray from the shower. He quickly took off his clothes, throwing them in a heap on the floor, thinking that if his mom found them lying there again she was sure to yell at him, but he reasoned to himself that he'd pick them up later. He jumped into the stream of water, a small of contentment escaping him as the heat took care of the knots and strains of tension in his back and neck, and grabbed the soap, washing himself before moving onto his hair. He was busy singing to himself loudly, his head soaped up, and yelped when the water suddenly turned to freezing. He jumped out of the water and yanked the shower curtain back, only to find his father stood at the door, one hand on the handle of the toilet. Xander knew that the cold stream was the result of said toilet handle being flushed. "*Dad*!" he yelled. "What are you doing?" "Get dressed," Tony Harris said sternly. "I want to talk to you."


Xander walked into his bedroom, where his father was already waiting, with a pale blue towel wrapped around his waist and his hair still slightly soapy.

"Something you wanna tell me?" Tony asked as he leant himself against the wall.


"Made any trips to the bank lately?"

"How did you find out?"

"The bank called. They wanted to know if you wanted to close your account seeing as how you emptied it. Where's the money, Alexander?"

"The money's gone, dad," Xander told him.

"Well, it's going back," Tony told him, his tone rising. "Do you hear me?"

"No, it's not."

"What did you spend it on, huh?" Tony asked. "Something to impress the girls? You don't spend all that time saving your money and working at that gas station to throw it all away. You're putting it back!"

"It's not going back, because I don't have it. I spent it."

"Well, whatever you bought, you can take it back. And you are taking it back."

"I can't," Xander told him. "I don't want to."

"I don't care what you want. The money's going back in the bank, and that's final. You had no right spending that money."

"I had *every* right!" Xander yelled at him suddenly and angrily. "That money was *mine*. *I* worked for it."

"Are you trying to piss me off?"

"Dad, calm down. This isn't about the money. Will you just listen to me for once? Whatever the big plan you had in mind for me and that money - whatever the hell that was - is over. I earned that money for me. *For me*, dad." He took a breath, claming himself down. "Dad, look, I'm going out with a girl tonight, and she's beautiful and smart and all the guys at school are in love with her, and she's going out with *me*. See, to most people, I'm a nothing. But I wanna show this girl, and myself, that I'm just as good as everyone else."

"And you think flashing money around is the solution?"

"Didn't you ever have guys at your school that didn't fit in?"

"Yeah, of course."

"Well, I'm one of those guys."

"What? I thought things were going okay for you."

"Yeah," Xander said. "My two best friends - and might I add only - friends are girls, I spend most of my time at school, hanging out with them and the old in the library and spend my nights - well, that doesn't really matter. My point is that those things don't exactly go down well in an all-American High School like Sunnydale High."

"But how could you blow all that money?" Tony asked, exasperated. "I don't understand."

"Look, the money is irrelevant here, okay? I'll put the money back. I still have my job at the gas station. I know what I'm doing."

"Well, you'd better," Hank said eventually as he headed for the door. "Have a good night."


The turquoise and cream convertible pulled up outside of the modest-looking house a few blocks away from the Summers house on Rovello Drive, and Xander took a deep breath, hoping it would give him more confidence as he got out of the car and smoothed down his pale blue shirt and navy pants. He grabbed his jacket and the other item from the back of the car and checked his hair in the side-view mirror. He stood up straight as he opened the wooden gate at the entrance of the path and headed for the door, a bunch of red roses in his hand. Before he could knock, the door was already open, with Amanda standing in a sleek black dress with matching shoes and purse. "Oh, hey," he said, looking up at her.

"Hi," she said nervously.

"These are for you," he told her, handing over the flowers.

"Uh, thanks," she said, taken aback. "They're beautiful." She ducked back inside of the house for a moment before reappearing without the flowers. "You look different," she told him, looking him up and down, seeing he had out his jacket on.

"Then what?" he asked, his tone short and with an edge to it.

"Then before," she said.

"I'm wearing a suit," he pointed out. "So, are you ready or what?"

"Well, I'm standing in an open doorway, fully dressed, so yeah, I'd say I was about ready to go."

"Good," he told her, standing aside as she passed him.

Amanda looked ahead and saw the impressive-looking convertible and looked back at him with s stunned open mouth. "Wow, did you steal it?"

"Yep," he told her. When she looked at him, almost afraid, he jingled the keys in front of her. "I'm kidding. It's on loan from my Uncle Rory. I figured your ass was too precious to walk."

"You figured right," she told him, the same sharp tone in her voice that he seemed to have.

Xander opened the passenger door of the car for her and waited for her to get in, before getting in himself. "I hope you're ready for a fun night!" he said sarcastically.


Two crystal glasses were placed down on the table, one in front of both Xander and Amanda, as they sat in awkward silence at the dimly-lit, expensive restaurant.

Xander smiled at the waiter as the five-piece orchestra played quietly in the background. He looked down at his entré and glanced at Amanda, who was looking confused. "Is it moving?" he asked.

"What is it?" she whispered.

"It's Beluga Caviar," he told her. "It's the most expensive thing on the menu. I thought an up-town girl like you would know that."

Amanda's face reddened as she looked around the restaurant, narrowing her eyes at him. "Look, why don't you stop giving me attitude?" she hissed through gritted teeth.

"Oh, I'm giving *you* attitude?" He asked, annoyed, in the same tone. "When did I give you attitude?"

"Oh, uh, let me think, right now?" she spat at him. "And the other day, pulling that crap about me asking my friends for permission to go out. I didn't appreciate that."

"Well, it's true, isn't it?"

"At least I have friends."

"Do you?" he asked. "I have all the friends I need."

She grabbed the napkin from her lap and threw it on the table, getting to her feet. "Look, if you wanna end this thing right now-"

"Hey, look, I'm sorry," he said hurriedly as she grabbed her purse from the back of her chair. "We've already ordered. I don't wanna end this. Enjoy the atmosphere, pretend I'm dead."

She grudgingly sat back down and took a sip from her soda. "I wish..." she said, breaking the tension with a small smile to indicate she was joking.

Xander watched her. "You know, you have a great smile," he told her sincerely.

"Thank you," she said, trying not to smile. "Whenever I try not to smile, I end up smiling more."

Xander laughed, slightly grazing her hand on the table with his. "You should smile more often."


"Tell me again why what I'm doing here," Willow complained as she, Buffy and Angel walked into the Sunnydale Movie Theatre.

"Because, I need you here to keep me company," Buffy told her, hooking her arm in Willow's. "Okay," she said to Angel, "which screen is it?"

"Willy said his contact worked in screen three," Angel told them, making his way to the door straight ahead. "Here it is," he said, holding the door open for the girls.

"Wow," Buffy said as they walked into the screening room that was reserved for only the most special of occasions. The ceiling stood high above them, cream in colour, with intricate red roses detailed throughout that ran down the walls, accentuated by the lighting. Each chair was covered in red velvet, each row standing slightly higher than the one in front. "This is nice!" she said, impressed.

"Yeah," Willow said, trying to sound more positive than she felt. "It is..."

They followed Angel up the few stairs at the back of the theatre to reach the projection room, where a horned, green demon looked startled to see them.

"Willy said you'd be expecting us," Angel told him, barging into the room without waiting for an invitation.

"Oh...yeah..." the demon said nervously, backing away from the vampire. "You must be Angel. Willy, uh, told me what you needed. I didn't know you were actually coming down in person, though. He said I should just wait for this couple to come in."

"Yeah, well, Willy and his associates aren't that well known for keeping their end of deals," Angel told him. "We're just here to make sure everything goes to plan."

"They're here," Buffy said suddenly, dodging behind the wall she couldn't be seen.


"Wow!" Amanda said as she followed Xander down the aisle to a row of seats in the middle of the theatre. "This is!" she looked at him, full of admiration. "How did you swing this?"

"I have friends," he told her simply as he indicated to two seats, sitting on one, waiting until she sat next to him. He gave a signal to the projectionist whom he couldn't see, and the curtains pulled back and the beginning credits of 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' rolled onto screen as the lights went out.

Amanda looked at Xander with wide eyes and an open mouth. "This is my all-time favourite movie!" she exclaimed.

"I know," he whispered.

"How did you-"

"I told you, I have friends. The particular friend in question was able to gain access to all your academic files with just a click of a button - well, maybe not just a click, but you know what I mean."

"Yeah," she said, looking at him with new, impressed eyes. "I think I do."


Buffy watched Willow out of the corner of her eye, seeing it was taking all that the redhead was worth to keep herself from running at the sight of the couple seated in the theatre, and touched her arm reassuringly. "Are you okay?" she asked quietly.

Willow nodded.

"Are you sure?"

Willow shook her head. "I'm really trying to be okay with this, for Xander's sake, but I just can't." Her eyes sparkled with unshed tears and she edged closer to Buffy, not wanting Angel to hear.

"I'm sorry," Buffy told her, "for making you come here."

"Don't be," Willow told her. "I needed to see this." She watched Xander and Amanda down in the theatre. "You know, I don't think Amanda had anything to do with this Mitch thing. I mean, she looks like she's having a really good time."

"She does," Buffy observed.

"I have to stop putting myself through this, Buffy," Willow said with a sigh. "There are plenty of other guys out there. Maybe it'll take me a while to find someone who might actually contemplate liking me, but it's what I have to do. I have to accept that this love that I have for Xander is never going to be reciprocated, not the way I want it to be. I was kidding myself to think he'd ever want me."

"Hey, don't say stuff like that," Buffy told her sternly. "You are great."

"I know," Willow said, managing a genuine smile. "But it was just never meant to be, I guess. Seeing him here tonight, it's opened my eyes to that. It's time for me to move on."


Amanda dabbed her eyes with a tissue as the end credits of the movie rolled onto the screen and the dim lights came back up. And she looked at Xander. "God, I love that movie," she told him. "I mean, Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard...what a couple."

"Yeah, she was pretty much a hottie," Xander commented. He caught her glare and shrugged. "What do you want me to say, what a great actress she was? I'm a guy. A *seventeen year old guy*, in point of fact."

"Have you ever sent the movie before?"

"Yeah, once," he told her. "A couple of years ago at Willow's house."

"You two are pretty good friends, aren't you?"

"The best," Xander said proudly. "She's been a part of my life since before I can remember."

"Can I ask you something?" Amanda asked nervously. "What do you see in me?"

"What do you see in me?" he asked back. "You first."

"Well, you're nice and sweet and funny," she said with a smile. "But I don't think anyone looks at me and sees past my looks. I always went along with that because I'd rather be next to someone for the wrong reasons, then be alone for the right ones."

"I'd rather be right," Xander told her. "Nobody can stand being alone. The minute you stop thinking that there's someone out there for you its over, isn't it?"

"I don't know..."

"Here's what I don't get, though," he told her. "I don't understand why you did this."

"Did what?" she asked, confused.

"Stop pretending, okay? I know that this whole thing is a set-up. You're using me to get back at Mitch Holden."

"You think I'm using you?"

"Aren't you?"

"I don't know," she said honestly. "In a way-"

"'In a way'?" he asked. "Amanda, there's only one way you use someone. You either do or you don't."

"You hypocrite." She spat at him. "You're not using me?" she asked. "You're using me to pay back every guy with more money, more power than you. You can paint it any way you like, it's still you using me."

"You're right," he said shamefully. "I did you use you, and I'm sorry."

She nudged his arm with her shoulder and smiled. "Can we call it even?"

"We're even," he told her. He smiled as he took her hand in his, carefully placing the small, navy, velvet box in her palm and closing her fingers around it. "This is for you." He told her.

"What is this?"

"My future," he told her. "In this box is every cent I've earned, plus some I had before that, all for you."

She opened the box and saw the beautiful locket glinting in the pale light of the theatre, and her eyes filled with tears. "I can't take this," she told him, handing the box back.

"Why not?" he asked. "I know you like stuff like this. I saw the one you were wearing earlier in the week."

"But you don't even know me," she argued. "This doesn't make any sense."

"You shouldn't have to borrow from other people. You're too good for that." He watched as she put her head down and a tear rolled down her cheek. "Why are you crying?"

"Because I'm a terrible person," she told him. "All my life, I've been surrounded by people who have more than me, and over the years, I became one of them. My parents scraped by for years so I could have the best possible education at Kent Preparatory. Then Mitch comes along, filling my head with all these empty promises, and I turned my back on my family because I didn't want to be rejected. I'm ashamed of myself."

"Don't be," Xander told her gently. "You know now what's important. You can live your whole life on regrets and maybes, but it doesn't change anything. If you do the right thing now, that's great, but you can't punish yourself for the past. That's gone. You can't change it."

"You're right," she told him, coming to a realisation. She turned and looked him in the eyes. "You're a great guy, Xander Harris."

"Well, I try," he said with an embarrassed shrug.

She placed a hand on his face and leaned in, meeting his lips with hers.


Willow watched the scene below and felt tears roll down her cheeks.

Buffy tapped her on the shoulder. "We have to go," she said gently.

"I know," Willow said. "I was just saying goodbye."

Chapter 7

Buffy hopped off the hood of the car she had been sitting on outside of the Bronze when she saw the convertible pull into the parking lot. She, Willow and Angel approached it as it came to a stop. "Xander, what are you doing here?" she asked, obviously annoyed.

"Yeah," Amanda said. "I thought you said we were going for ice cream."

"We are," Xander told her, getting out of the car. "After we're done here."

"Are you kidding me?" Buffy asked. "You know Mitch wants to beat the crap out of you."

"I have to face them sooner or later," he pointed out.

"It's not just Mitch," Amanda said as she got out of the car and joined him. "It's his friends."

"I know."

"Xander, Willow can beat the crap out of you," Buffy told him. ""You're not gonna last ten seconds with those guys."

"I know what I'm doing," he told her.

"Xander, please don't do this," Willow said pleadingly as she caught sight of the locket around Amanda's neck. She felt herself freeze before she continued. "He's not worth it. You're just gonna get hurt."

"Willow, please," he said gently. "I have to do this. I don't want those guys thinking they got the better of me. I have to prove that I can do this."

"Promise me you won't go overboard?" Buffy asked him.

"Scouts honour," he told her.

"Xander, you were never in the scouts," Willow reminded him. "You were thrown out of the first meeting you ever went to for making fun of the leaders."

"Okay, then, I promise." He said.

"You know you don't have to do this, don't you?" Buffy asked.

"I do."

"We'll be here if you need us."


Larry was the first person to spot Xander and Amanda walking into the club, hand in hand, looking every inch the happy couple, among the sea of faces in the Bronze. He quickly left the girl he had been chatting with and headed for Mitch, who was cosying up to the freshman girl he had been seen with so may times before. "Guess what?" he said to Mitch, almost excited. "Amanda brought him."

Mitch grinned at Larry and kissed the girl quickly as he stood up from the sofa they had been sitting on and straightened his shirt. He gave a nod to three other guys around the room and they joined him, walking over to where Xander and Amanda had found a space at the counter. "Welcome to the party," he told them jovially as he approached them. "It's getting late. I was worried that you weren't going to make it. So, did you have a good time?"

Amanda looked at Xander and smiled sincerely. "Yes, thank you."

"Yeah," Xander said with a grin, clutching her hand tighter in his.

"She's so deceptively naïve and innocent, don't you think?" Mitch asked Xander. "Did she do you?"

Xander and Amanda exchanged embarrassed, awkward glances as the guests at the party turned their attention to them, only the music playing faintly in the background.

Xander felt something snap inside of him as he rushed at Mitch, slamming him into the concrete pillar, and launching a particularly vicious punch at his jaw, sending Mitch to the floor in a heap. He suddenly felt two pairs of arms grab him and he knew it was Mitch's friends holding him back.

"That wasn't very smart, friend!" Mitch yelled at him, picking himself up from the floor with a hand to his bloody lip. "This isn't even about you. She's the trash, you're just the fool." He looked at the two guys holding Xander back. "Take him outside and beat the crap out of him."

"Why don't you take me outside?" Xander asked.

"What?" Mitch asked, caught off-guard.

"If you've got such a big problem with me, why don't you take me outside?"

"Because...this is my party. I'm the host here. Can't you see? I have guests here." He looked at the guys again. "I said take him outside!"

"Mitch, you don't wanna do this," Amanda said, cutting in as she tried to pull Mitch's friends off an angry Xander. "You said it yourself, I'm the trash. This isn't about him. It's my fault he's in this mess, why don't you just deal with me?"

"Oh, that's nice," Mitch said with a laugh. "Standing up for your new man. I like that."

"Just do something right for once in your life."

"Amanda, he's worthless," Xander told her. "You can't talk to him. Leave it alone."

"What do you want?" Amanda asked Mitch.

"You know what I want," he told her, stepping closer to her and running his finger along her cheek.

"Okay, fine," she conceded, glancing at Xander and feeling so much guilt that all the trouble he was facing was all down to her. "You want me back? I'm back. Now let him go."

Mitch laughed. "What, you think it's that easy?" he asked. "You're gonna have to convince me. Beg."

"Mitch, let him go," Amanda said desperately.

"Come on," he encouraged. "Beg."

"You asshole!"

"You're gonna have to beg."

The tension was interrupted by the door being thrown open, and everyone turned to see who had caused the noise.

"I'm sorry," Angel said laughingly, with menace in his dark eyes. "Were you in the middle of something?"

"This is a *private* party," Mitch told him through gritted teeth.

"Well, I'm a pretty private guy," Angel told him.

"That's great, but you're not invited."

"That line doesn't work as well when it's a public building," Angel said with a shrug. "So I guess I'll go ahead and tell my friends outside that they can come on in." He turned his back and sensed two of the guys heading for him at each of his sides. His reaction was to strike out with both arms, punching each of them in the face, and looked at Mitch as they fell to the ground, both unconscious. "See what happens when you rough house?"

"Angel..." Xander said under his breath, not sure if he was happy or angry to see the vampire as Amanda breathed a sigh of relief, realising she had seen him outside and that Xander knew him.

Mitch backed off, indicating to his friends to do the same. "Look, I don't want any trouble," he said to Angel. "I don't have any problem with you."

"Well, see, that's where things get a little complicated," Angel told him. "See, he's a friend of my girlfriend and, being perfectly honest, it's really better for that it's me standing here and not her. She'd already be breaking faces by now. You know what girls can be like."

"Look, there's been some misunderstanding here," Mitch said nervously. "I'm perfectly willing to forget this. It's all just been one big joke that's gotten out of hand. I don't see any reason to carry this on any longer. As far as I'm concerned, it's over, okay?"

"You want the truth?" Xander asked, standing inches away from him. "You're nothing, Mitch." He turned to walk away, only to be stopped by Amanda taking his hand and pulling him back.

"Are you just gonna leave?" she asked.

"Yep," Xander told her. "There's nothing we can do that he hasn't already done to himself."

"I wish I could live with that..." she said as he pulled out of Xander's grasp and approached Mitch with a seductive smile. Suddenly, her right arm flew up and the palm of her hand connected to his cheek with a loud slap.

"Okay," Xander said as he pulled her back. "I think we'll just be leaving." As he passed Angel, he saw Buffy enter the club. "Hey," he said in greeting.

"Hey," she said back. "You guys go. Angel and I are gonna stay, enjoy the party a little."

"Have fun," Xander told her as he and Amanda left.

"Always," she said with a wink.


Xander felt the doors of the Bronze close behind him and Amanda and he felt a sudden exhilaration, laughing to himself. "Remind me never to get you mad," he told Amanda jokingly.

Amanda was laughing herself and shaking the hand she had used to slap Mitch, feeling it go numb from the impact. She looked at Xander with a look somewhere between shock, absolute amusement and the slightest hint of love. "Did you see the look on his face?" she asked.

For the first time in Xander's life, he knew how it felt to be wanted, to know how it felt not being rejected. It was a new experience to find that she wasn't laughing behind his back like Cordelia and Harmony and the others so often did. After all that pent-up frustration thinking it had been a set-up, it felt good to feel it all flow away - well, almost all of it. There was still something inside that remained, and he didn't even realise it until he saw her. He looked dead ahead and saw Willow stood in the parking lot, leaning against Rory's car, having opted to stay outside while Buffy and Angel did the intimidation thing inside. It was then he felt things fall into place very confusingly. His mind flashed through images of times when Willow had been in trouble, like the night she had been taken from the library with the others, and again when Ampata was around. Finally, the image of her that earlier afternoon in the gas station came into view and he felt his breath stick in his chest.

Amanda, who was still laughing, watched his face when he saw her and she realised what was happening.

"Will!" Xander called, trying to act as normal as possible.

"Hey," Willow said as she slowly walked over to them. "I heard what happened from out here. Sounds like I missed quite a show."

"Yeah, you did," he told her, quietly impressed with himself.

"Well, I'm glad everything went okay," she said, trying to keep her voice from breaking. She held out a hand to Amanda. "I'm sorry I misjudged you," she said sincerely. "I thought you were just another Cordelia, and I shouldn't have assumed without getting to know you."

"Hey, it's okay," Amanda said, shaking Willow's hand.

"Well, I think it's time for me to leave," Willow said as she backed away.

"What about-?" Xander began, concerned.

"It's okay," Willow said, cutting him off. "Buffy loaded me up. Have a nice night."

Xander watched her retreating back for a second, a sense of sudden and important loss filling him. He took a breath and turned his attention back to his date, grinning at her as widely as he could manage. "So, ice cream?"

"Remember how I said that I'd rather be with someone for the wrong reasons than be alone for the right ones?" Amanda asked. "Well, I think I'd rather be right."

Xander looked confused as she unhooked the chain around her neck and held it out to him, placing it in the palm of his hand.

"It's going to feel good to do something right for a change," Amanda told him. "In your heart you wanted to give this to someone else."

Xander looked down the road, seeing Willow in the distance, and looked back at Amanda in confusion.

"Go and catch her," Amanda told him. "Go..."

Xander quickly kissed the girl's cheek before he took off down the street.

Amanda watched him, tears beginning to form in her eyes, realising that there really were some nice guys out there.

"Hey," Buffy said as she came out of the club with Angel.

"Oh, hi," Amanda said. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah, the party's pretty much over," Buffy told her. "It's no fun when they give in so easily. Where's Xander?"

Amanda motioned down the street where Xander could be seen running after a female figure in the distance.

"He finally saw the light, huh?" Buffy asked.

"Looks like it," Angel said.

"Sorry," Buffy told Amanda. "I know you liked him."

"It's okay," Amanda told her. "He should be with the one he loves. I'll be fine."


"Willow!" Xander called as loud as he could as he ran down the street, absently wondering how she could have gotten so far away in such little time. "Willow!" he called again as he got closer.

Willow stood still, her face soaked with salty tears and she quickly tried to wipe them away, without much luck, and turned to face where he was now standing. She looked into his eyes and tried to figure out what was going through his head. It was then she saw something that she thought she never would. It was love. She tried to remind herself to breath as he suddenly rushed forward and scooped her into his arms, lifting her from the ground as their lips met. She clung onto him with all that was worth, reassuring herself this wasn't another one of her many longed-for, far-fetched dreams.

"Okay, need to breath..." he mumbled as he put her back on the ground, but keeping his arms around her.

"Oh, sorry," she said, wiping her cheeks, the tears of sorrow being replaced with ones of joy.

"No," he told her, using his thumb to help her. "I'm the one who should be sorry. I...I didn't know."

"Yeah, well, you're dumb," she told him, grabbing his jacket lapels. "I always knew you liked being the dumb one."

"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked.

"You never asked," she said simply.

He leant down and kissed her again, this time softly and tentatively, feeling something inside so strong that he felt like kicking himself that he hadn't realised sooner. Knowing she had a crush on him wasn't the same as knowing that she loved him, but this was something he definitely wanted to keep feeling. "I love you..." He whispered as he hooked the locket around her neck.

Willow looked down at the silver locket and picked it up, grinning. "I wanted this," she said excitedly.

"Well, it's yours," he told her, appreciating the smile he felt like was made for him only.

"How do I look wearing your future?" she asked jokingly but proudly.

He placed his arm around her shoulders, drawing her closer so he could place a kiss in her hair, smelling that familiar Willow scent as they started back to the Bronze parking lot. "Baby, you *are* my future..."

The End