Open Arms

Author: Bastard Snow <swtrilman[at]>

Having gotten the listowner's okay... I proceed. Hope you enjoy.

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I own neither the characters portrayed herein, nor the lyrics disseminated (I like that word). They belong to Joss Whedon, etc, and Mariah Carey, etc, respectively.

Summary: The follow-up to She Will Be Loved.

A/N: I forgot (or was too lazy) to mention last time, that the challenge that inspired this whole thing was from Drake (cuz, really, were you expecting it to be from anyone else?). And thanks to him for beta'ing.

Feedback: Yes, please!

Chapter 1

It was her own fault. Of course it was, there was literally nobody else to blame. Okay, maybe she hadn't actually forced him to leave, but she was certainly the cause of it, there was no questioning that. Giles, her mom, even Willow said that, and Willow almost never blamed her.

But here she was, alone, and it was her fault. After all, she had asked Willow to go over there. She had avoided him for three days while she sorted out stuff in her head. What was he supposed to think? What were any of them supposed to think? Buffy sat on her bed, hugging her arms tightly across her chest, and thought of him with longing.

Lying beside you, here in the dark
Feeling your heart beat with mine

She knew he'd be angry. She knew he might not understand, but she hoped that he would. She also knew she had to put things right in her head before seeing him, of that she was certain. Which, as Willow pointed out, didn't mean she couldn't have, you know, said something. But she didn't.

Now all she had was the memories; of sweet nothings whispered in her ear when he was asleep, and not aware of what he was doing; of nights spent together when she felt safer and more loved than she could remember. With Angel she had loved truly, though neither wisely, nor well. With Xander, she had fixed one part. She still had work to do on that whole 'well' thing. And the part where she actually told him this.

Softly you whisper, you're so sincere
How could our love be so blind

Willow wouldn't tell Buffy where he had gone. He had made her promise, and that was one promise she wasn't about to break. Willow told Buffy that he was okay, and somewhere safe, but neither where this place was, nor when, or even if, he would be back. It tormented Buffy not to know, but she had made her own bed, and she would lie in it.

And since it was not her style to sit around and do nothing, she threw herself into other things. She excelled in her classes, and patrolled with a deadly fervor. But at night, when she was tired, she went to Xander's house, let herself into the basement, and fell asleep on his bed, creaky and uncomfortable though it was. She told Willow she was sleeping at home, but she was sure Willow didn't believe her. Buffy loved her, though, for not calling her on it.

We sailed on together
We drifted apart
And here you are by my side

She played out their reunion in her mind a million times. It would be emotional and romantic, she would beg forgiveness, and he would of course accept, and they would fall into each others arms and make love until the sun came up. They would move in together, and get married, and have hundreds of fat children, who would never have to fight the forces of darkness, unless it was an argument with the ever-annoying, yet surprisingly helpful Spike, who seemed not only to enjoy fighting the demons, but to be getting along with Giles as well.

But for that to happen, Xander had to come home, and she didn't know when that would happen. He would, she knew. He had left too many things in the basement to have moved permanently. And when he did return, she would tell him everything she hadn't yet, but had meant to since the night he asked her why she stayed with him.

So now I come to you, with open arms
Nothing to hide, believe what I say
So here I am with open arms
Hoping you'll see what your love means to me
Open arms

Xander's bed was cold at night, without him in it. Buffy always had to wrap the comforter closely around herself. At night, she dreamed of his arms wrapping themselves around her, encompassing her, keeping her safe. She longed to touch him, to kiss him, to wake up and look into his big brown eyes, and see that smile he saved just for her.

And then one night, about three weeks after he had left, Buffy showed up at Xander's house and there he was, asleep in his bed, looking peaceful, well rested, and utterly adorable, sprawled out across the expanse of the bed. She didn't know where he had been. She did know why he had gone, and that they needed to talk. But all of that could wait until the morning. She stripped down to her underwear, and slipped on one of his shirts that was just way too big on her. Then she lay down next to him and went to sleep.

Living without you, living alone
This empty house seems so cold
Wanting to hold you, wanting you near
How much I wanted you home

Come morning, Buffy woke first to find Xander's arms around her, and she savored the sensation. She inhaled his scent, something she had missed while he was gone. Unable to stop herself, Buffy pressed a gentle kiss to his forehead, then watched as Xander's eyes fluttered open.

She could see the confusion play out across his features. He looked at her, then at his surroundings, and then back at her. Xander opened his mouth to say something, but Buffy pressed a finger to his lips, silencing him before he could speak. She kissed him once on the lips, then pulled very slightly away from him.

But now that you've come back
Turned night into day
I need you to stay.

Buffy told him everything she had been feeling. How she had been hurt, and felt lost after Parker. How he had been there for her, with such love and caring that it had touched her heart. She told him how slowly, but surely, she had fallen in love with him, only realizing it herself on that one night when he had posed his question. She told him how she had felt when Angel returned, that she had been confused by her feelings toward him, but only because they were unfamiliar. Angel, she said, would always have a place in her heart, but he was no longer the main resident.

So now I come to you, with open arms
Nothing to hide, believe what I say

Buffy said that she knew she had hurt him, and God had she ever not meant to do that. She had needed time to organize her thoughts, to organize her heart, to really think about her life. She was sorry, she said, that she hadn't told him this. She knew he would have given her whatever time she needed, but she wasn't thinking about that.

Buffy told Xander that she was in love with him, and needed him in her life, and hoped that he would forgive her.

Buffy waited in silence for his answer. Xander opened and closed his mouth a few times in what were, presumably, aborted attempts to put his feelings into words. After about thirty seconds of this, he gave up, and shook his head.

Xander leaned forward slowly, pushed a strand of hair from Buffy's eyes, and cupped her cheek with his palm. Softly, tenderly, he kissed her. Buffy and Xander pulled apart after a few moments, and he set her fears at ease.

So here I am with open arms
Hoping you'll see what your love means to me
Open arms

"I love you."

The End