If I die before I wake...

Author: Michael Wilson <wyrdradio[at]yahoo.com>

My website: http://www.angelfire.com/hero/wyrdradio/

My Yahoo! Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Collected_Works_Of_Wyrdradio

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: Joss, Mutant Enemy, and a lot of other people own the characters from Buffy and Angel. I get nothing by writing this except maybe some kind words of encouragement and a few cheers... at least I hope.

Spoilers: Season 7 ending.

Summary: It’s all over... and the White Knight is needed no more...

Distribution: If you like it... please feel free to place it on your site... but please tell me first.

The bus rolled down the highway through the darkness that was the hours between midnight and dawn. Alone or in pairs, most everyone was asleep. It was quiet, peaceful, not a care in the world was the general feeling... for now. They had won. Slayers were awakened all across the world and the First Evil was gone. There was nothing left to do now except go gather the new Slayers and make sure they understood what had happened to them.

In the back of the bus, a lone man slept. His face, sullen and pale in sleep, twitched and moaned softly. He was alone, separated from the rest, by choice - his choice. He didn't belong, not anymore, but he had no way of leaving them, he couldn't. He needed them too much.

While he sleeps, he dreams... and the die is cast over his fate as he begins a new journey...


Xander blinked as white light flooded his vision. He raised a hand to his face and the light faded as his eyes adjusted. He blinked a few times and saw someone walking toward him. It was a woman, and as she drew nearer... he could make out who she was.


Tara smiled and moved to embrace Xander, resting her head against his chest.

"Hey sweetie... I missed you."

Xander stared down at her upturned face, tears beginning to fall from his eyes, and swallowed hard.


Tara nodded and smiled.

"Yes, Xander, it's me."

Xander closed his eyes and felt a shudder pass through him. He sighed, knowing what was happening.

"I'm dreaming... aren't I?"

He opened his eyes and saw Tara nod.

"Yes sweetie... you are. It's ok though... you're here for a reason. There's something you have to do, something important."

Xander nodded and smiled, pulling the beautiful woman against him.

"Tara... I've missed you so much. Willow... we all... you were a big part of us... we all missed you so much."

Tara nodded, tears falling from her eyes.

"I know... I saw everything. I... thank you."

Xander frowned slightly, confused.

"For what?"

Tara smiled.

"For saving her. You were the only one who could."

Xander understood her now and nodded.

"I wasn't alone. I could... feel... you with me. I could feel how much you love her too. I think it took the both of us to make her see, make her understand."

He paused.

"You were with me... right?"

Tara nodded, a grin crossing her face.

"Yes... and go you for feeling me. I'm so proud of you."

Xander smiled his goofy best and picked Tara up, twirling her in his arms. Tara giggled and then pulled away slightly as he set her down and let her go.

"Xander... I'm monopolizing your time here. There are others who want to... who need to talk to you."

Xander looked around... but they were alone.

"Where? I don't see anyone."

Tara smiled.

"Oh... they're here... you're just not ready for them... yet."

Xander scratched his head.

"Not ready... then why could I see you?"

Tara blushed.

"You could see me... because deep inside yourself, you loved me too. I make you feel safe... or I did when I was alive. I'm in there... Xander... and so you're always ok seeing me."

She tapped his chest as she spoke and then motioned to her side.

"I have someone with me right now. She needs to talk to you... but only if you can accept what you need to hear."

Xander looked to the empty space next to her and frowned.

"What I need to hear... what do I need to hear?"

Tara bit her lip.

"You need to resolve your feelings."

Xander's frown deepened.

"My feelings? I'll tell you my feelings. I just fought a battle with Evil... that's capital E for Evil, Tara. I lost the only woman I really loved... and I wasn't there... to say... goodbye."

He looked down and trembled slightly.

"She was all alone... and how she died..."

It had taken a few days and some yelling and threatening, but he had finally gotten the truth out of Andrew. He had finally learned exactly how Anya had died... and it ripped him apart. From then on, he had just faded more and more into the background... hoping that maybe one morning they would all be gone... having forgotten about him... and then he could let things happen as they would.

"I didn't say goodbye. She was all alone... and she didn't know..."

Something materialized next to Tara as Xander spoke.

"... know that you love me."

Xander looked up to see Anya standing next to Tara.


Anya nodded, her eyes red from crying.

"It's me."

She opened her arms and Xander rushed into them, crying on her shoulder.

"Shh... it's ok baby... shh... just let it all out."

Xander wept against her for what felt like hours before he finally stopped and pulled back to see her concerned face.

"Anya... baby... are you?"

Anya nodded.

"I'm ok. I mean, dying wasn't fun and all... but it's not bad up here. They actually like me here and I've even... um..."

She looked down at her feet and Xander felt her stiffen some in his arms.

"You've met someone else..."

Anya nodded as Xander pulled away, a sad, defeated expression on his face.

"Things are different here. Time moves differently. It's been a long time for me. I've moved on. I'm... I'm sorry."

Xander swallowed the pain and nodded.

"I understand."

He looked into her concerned eyes and faked a smile.

"So... who's the lucky guy? Do I know him?"

Anya nodded.

"Actually... you do."

She looked to a spot behind Xander and smiled. Xander looked over his shoulder and saw someone appearing. It was a guy. He looked familiar... but Xander couldn't place him until...


Jesse, now looking closer to 21, nodded and smiled.

"Hey bro... hope you don't mind me snagging your girl... but you know it was bound to happen. I'm just too hot for words."

Xander smiled and held back a laugh... for a few seconds... before it was too much to contain.

"Right... you and hot are two words that do not go together."

He watched as Jesse walked over and took Anya in his arms, placing a kiss on her lips tenderly.

"You two are happy together?"

Anya nodded and smiled. In that moment, she looked more human that he had ever seen her.

"Yes... we are."

She turned to look at Xander and smiled.

"I love you, Xander, and I always will... but Jesse makes me feel..."

Xander smiled.

"... special."

Anya nodded.

"You understand."

Xander nodded. He knew the feeling. He had only felt it with a few people in his life.

"Completely. I'm happy for you."

Jesse smiled and reached out a hand to Xander.

"I'll take real good care of her, bro. Trust me."

Xander nodded.

"I do... and I know you will... cause if you don't, when I get up here... I'll kick your ass from here to hell and back again for hurting her."

Anya smiled and looked to the side as someone only she and Jesse could see.

"I know... I'm sorry... ok."

She looked at Xander and smiled.

"Our time's done. Tara's coming back to lead you to the next person in line..."

Xander looked around and noticed that Tara wasn't there. He hadn't noticed her leave... and for some reason he now felt a bit panicky at her being gone.


He looked around and he was alone.


He was getting worried now.

"Tara... where are you?"

Suddenly Tara appeared and Xander pulled her into an embrace.

"What's wrong Xander?"

Xander slid his hands up to her face and held her, staring into her eyes. He had felt lost, abandoned, for some reason with her gone. It was as if a piece of him had been ripped out of his body... his soul.

"You scared me. You were gone... I couldn't find you. Please don't do that again..."

Tara looked into his eyes and saw fear, terror even, looking back at her. She also saw something else... something she wasn't yet ready to examine.

"I'm sorry sweetie. I'm here now... ok?"

Xander nodded and let out a shuddering breath. He moved closer to her and brushed his cheek against hers before finally letting her face go. His hand dropped to his side and he failed to notice Tara suck in her breath in shock at his actions. She took his hand in hers and leaned back to look in his eyes.

"You have one more person to see before you have to go back."

Xander nodded and felt a feeling of fear wash over him. Go back. He hadn't thought about going back... and he wasn't so sure he wanted to now.... because going back would mean leaving her... leaving Tara... and that, for some reason, made him feel like dying.

"I have to go back?"

Tara nodded as she walked with him.

"Yes... you're not dead... yet."

Xander nodded and then continued to walk along with her, in silence, letting everything process in his mind. He was thrown out of his thoughts when Tara stopped.

"We're here..."

Xander looked around and noticed he was standing on the porch of Buffy's house.

"Buffy's place... what... why are we..."

It suddenly hit him and a smile cross his previously sad face.


He squeezed Tara's hand and ran up the stairs, pulling her along behind him. He knocked on the door and smiled as it opened to reveal Joyce Summers herself.

"Mo... Mrs. Summers. I've missed you so much."

Joyce smiled at Xander's mistake and then opened her arms to him... to her almost son.

"I missed you too honey."

Xander hugged Joyce and held her tightly... but didn't cry this time. He was getting used to it now and was just happy... very happy. As he broke the hug, he reached behind him and groped until he felt Tara's hand slide into his. A smile crossed his face and he pulled her along with him inside... unaware of the look that Joyce and Tara shared.

"I sure missed..."

Xander paused. He could smell brownies baking.

"Is that?"

Joyce nodded.

"Yes, Xander, I made brownies today. They're fresh from the oven and very chewy. Would you like one?"

Xander nodded, a line of drool trailing down his chin.

"Yes please. I've been craving them for so long. Buffy can't cook to save her life and Dawn doesn't know anything about the kitchen."

Joyce smiled and moved to the kitchen. She returned a minute later with a plate of hot, steaming brownies. Xander moaned and reached to take one... but was stopped by Tara.

"You don't have time for that, Xander. We are on a schedule."

Xander pouted and poured on the charm, treating Tara like she was his girlfriend.

"Aw... please... please?"

Tara stared at Xander's puppy eyes and felt the emotions she had been trying to hide surge to the front. The love she had been hiding for the man in front of her awakened and she tried everything she could to keep it under control.

"One... but eat it quickly. We don't have much time left. You wake up in less than 10 minutes."

Xander nodded and snagged a brownie. As he bit into it, a low moan escaped his mouth and his eyes rolled back in his head. His tongue slid out and licked the melted chocolate off his lips and Tara found herself staring at said lips... her mouth suddenly getting very dry.

"This is so good..."

Joyce smiled, watching the interplay between the two of them, and nodded.

"Thank you, Xander. I'll be sure to have plenty for when you visit me again in the future."

Xander opened his eyes and smiled.

"I love you, Mrs. S... you know that, right?"

Joyce nodded and smiled.

"I love you too Xander. You took such good care of my girls for me. Thank you."

Xander nodded and smiled.

"They're still alive. Lived through the Hellmouth closing and everything. I think my job's probably done now."

Tara jerked her head at Xander and blinked in shock. He understood things. She hadn't been expecting that.

"You know?"

Xander glanced at Tara and slowly licked the chocolate off his fingers.

"I had a hunch. You kept showing me people who died because of or on the Hellmouth. You also said... not dead yet. I put two and two together and got warning. It also doesn't hurt that I've felt this funny pain in the back of my head for the last week now. I kind of figured something was wrong with me. I'm right... aren't I?"

Tara nodded slowly, still stunned.

"Yes. You're in a small coma now. They think you're still asleep. Dawn is snuggled up against you... to keep an eye on you. I..."

Xander smiled.

"You've been trying to... prepare me... right?"

Tara nodded. Xander smiled and leaned over to kiss her cheek.

"Thanks Tara... I love you, you know?"

Tara smiled.

"I know. I love you too."

Xander smiled and sat back.

"So... when is this happening and what's the big message?"

Tara frowned slightly.

"You have two options. One, you go back and remain in a coma for a year. Everyone feels sad over you and worries. People break up and some die before Giles pulls the plug after one year, four months, and eight days."

Xander nodded to himself.

"Option two?"

Tara swallowed.

"Two, you go back and wake up for a second or two to say goodbye to Dawn... then you die and come back here. The Powers That Be want to offer you a job."

Xander raised an eyebrow.

"What kind of job?"

Tara smiled.

"They want to make you a Whitelighter... Willow's Whitelighter in particular."

Xander smiled.

"Is that anything like a Guardian Angel?"

Tara nodded.

"Something similar."

Xander chewed on his lower lip.

"Why me?"

Tara looked at her hands.

"Because you love her... because I love her... and because..."

Xander's eyes widened. He finally understood something. He had been feeling... something... since arriving, only he couldn't place his finger on it. He had been drawn to the gorgeous woman next to him... but he didn't see it for what it was until just that moment.

"Because I'm in love with you... and her... and they want all of us, together?"

Tara blinked in shock.

"Yes... something like that. I can't do it myself... things are too hard for me emotionally. They asked me who I trusted... who else I loved enough... to ask. All I could think of was you?"

Xander smiled and looked into Tara's eyes.

"So you love me back? Are you ok with loving both me and Willow?"

Tara nodded.

"Are you?"

Xander grinned.

"Always did, Tara, always did."

He moved in and placed a gentle kiss on her lips and seconds later felt her kiss him back. In that perfect moment, Xander felt something awaken within him... and he knew everything would be ok. He broke the kiss and stared lovingly into her eyes.

"I choose option two... my love."

Tara smiled as tears fell down her cheeks. She looked up and then nodded as the Powers spoke in her mind.

"It's time. You'll awaken and only have a few seconds. Are you ready?"

Xander nodded. He kissed her one more time then grinned.

"Be back in a little bit, hon."

He closed his eyes and vanished...


Xander blinked and opened his eyes. He felt terrible. He was weak, very weak, and it was hard to breathe. Dawn was sitting next to him and the act of him awakening caught her attention.


Xander turned to her and smiled.

"Hey Dawnie. I... I don't have much time. I need you to tell everyone goodbye for me..."

Dawn shook her head.

"No... you can't leave... you can't die!"

Xander coughed.

"I don't have time to argue, Dawn. Do this for me. Tell Buffy and Faith to be good, to trust in their hearts. Tell the girls to follow their example and become the best Slayers they can be. Tell Giles he was the best Dad I almost had."

Xander coughed again, feeling his time almost up.

"You be good Dawn. Make a life for yourself. Don't let anyone lead it for you. Also... tell Willow I love her and that I'll be watching out for her from now on."

Dawn nodded, tears streaming down her face.

"I promise..."

Xander nodded and closed his eyes then softly left this world behind. Dawn watched his body relax then collapsed into tears. The sound of her crying was the sound of her heart breaking. It drew the attention of first Vi and Rona... then onward to the front of the bus. Whispers traveled from Slayer to Slayer until it reached Buffy, Willow, and Faith. They looked back down the bus and found a small group forming around the seat where Xander was sleeping. Buffy stood and got a feeling that something was wrong.

"Robin... stop the bus."

Robin Wood looked at her, then the others, and quickly pulled off to the side of the road. Buffy, Willow, and Faith moved through the gathered Slayers until they were standing over Dawn and Xander.


Dawn turned her head toward them and looked up with red-rimmed eyes. Her face was pale and tears were falling down her cheeks. With a broken voice, she spoke just two words.

"He's gone."

Buffy's eyes widened in shock and she sucked in a breath... before her whole body began to tremble.

Faith took a step back and then fell backwards, lading on her butt on the floor, her head shaking in disbelief.

A tortured scream filled the bus as Willow's heart was ripped in two.


She backed away, her mind not understanding, as tears poured from her eyes. Kennedy took her in her arms and held her, letting her cry.

One by one they moved towards him until a small group had formed around his seat. They stared down, not fully knowing what to do, for the heart... beat no more.


Xander opened his eyes and was stunned to see a crowd of people around him. Some he remembered while others he didn't... but he had touched all of their lives. As he stared at them, Tara slid up next to him and placed her hand in his.

"Welcome home, my love."

Xander smiled down at Tara and nodded.

"It's good to be home."