Author: Jujumaster <ironskul[at]>

Summary: Xander wants to be with Buffy but will a new prophecy keep them apart.

Spoilers: season 6

Rating: PG - 14 for light violence and sexual innuendo

Disclaimer: I think that everyone knows that Joss and M.E. and the WB owns this. Lord knows if I did I be too busy sitting on the beach drinking rum drinks with the little umbrellas to write this.

Notes: <> contain thoughts. I started writing this at the beginning of season 7 but disillusionment, real-life and other things sidetracked me. Most importantly my muse was standing behind my car one day and I accidentally ran over him. I have a new one on order maybe he'll be here soon. :-)

Feedback: Feed me Seymour, feed me.

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Chapter 1

The vampire ran through the cemetery as if its unlife depended on it. And in this case it was true. Not looking back, it could hear the patter of small feet on the pavement slowly getting closer. The vampire redoubled its efforts and started to hear the footsteps fade as it pulled away from its pursuer. A manhole cover up ahead caused the vampire to feel as though escape was at hand. Much to his chagrin he realized that the settling road had bent the outside ring of the manhole pinching down on the manhole cover. In the time it took for him to vainly attempt to wrestle the cover free his pursuer caught up to him and give him a flying kick to the head that left him sprawled on the ground. Looking up, he saw his demise at hand.

"It's bad enough that my destiny is to kill you guys, but do you have to run away so that I get all sweaty and smelly," the Blond Slayer quipped as she stood in front of the vampire holding her fighting stance.

"Look Slayer I wasn't out hunting. I was on an errand run. Can't you just let me go?" the vampire pleaded not wanting to be staked.


Buffy tilted her head back looking into the sky as she contemplated the vampire's request. Her train of thought was broken as she heard someone running up the street toward her. She turned to spy Xander as he came to a stop beside her, out of breath.

She looked back at the vampire, who had gotten to his feet and replied to his question.

"So today no fang just fetch, and what tomorrow you'll still be a good boy?" She eyed the vampire while placing her hands on her hips.

"I'll be good I promise just don't stake me."

Without batting an eye Buffy slammed Mr. Pointy "home" and as the vamp turned to dust Buffy said, "I might woulda let you go, but now I'm all sweaty and smelly." She said scrunching up for facial features to look like she had swallowed a lemon.

Still breathing hard Xander said to Buffy "I don't know Buff you don't sweat as much as some of the guys I know." Xander said with a small grin as he looked down at his short friend.

This earned him a punch in the shoulder from a now pouty-lipped Buffy.

"But I'm a girl. I'm not supposed to be all smelly and sweaty."

"Well I can think of one physical activity that you might what to get sweaty in." Xander said looking at her lecherously.

Of course he expected the slap to the back of the head that this remarked had just earned him. "OW! Man with a concussion here." He said as he rubbed the back of his head.

"Sorry, how's the head anyway?"

"Well six years of getting my head slammed into gravestones and that never gets old," He said with a sarcastic twist of his head.

"At least my pain had some payoff I found this small book that vamp dropped after you staked his buddy", Xander replied as he pulled the small book out of his jacket pocket.

"What is it?" Buffy asked as she took the book from Xander's hand.

Flipping through some of the pages Buffy came to a conclusion.

"It's looks like one of Gile's books only smaller and since it's written in some language I can't read I'm going to go with small book o' bad news for me." Buffy's shoulders dropped as she finished speaking.

Xander put his arm around his small friend and pointed down the street and puffed out his chest and in a deep voice said, "To the Buffy cave, err, house."

"My house is the other way Magellan."

With a defeated look on his face Xander dropped his arm from Buffy's shoulder and nodded his head toward Buffy's house.

"Okay this way then."


20 minutes later in Buffy's living room

Willow was studying the book that Buffy had given her with rapt attention. Every now and then she would look up with a puzzled look on her face and then go back to looking at the pages before her. Finally she stopped reading the book and looked at Xander and Buffy with a look of confusion on her face.

"OK it's in Latin and even though I don't have the ability that Giles has in languages, I have been able to translate some of it and it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, in the sense that it's revealing anything." Willis said as she started to ramble.

"Will", Buffy said.

"Sorry babble- on-e-an girl here," she said with a snicker. Looking at her friends knowing from the look on their faces that they had missed her joke. "Anyway the book seems to be prophetic but they are very vague."

"Such as?" Buffy asked leaning forward to get a better look at the book.

"And on a day of the blue sky, the ground will shake and it will get dark."

Buffy and Xander replied, "Huh, say what?"

"I'm only guessing here but the writer seems to be saying that on a clear day an earthquake happens and the sunsets. Pretty vague huhh?"

"Isn't that like saying that I'm going to go to the kitchen and get a Twinkie like I do every time I come over here just using more words?"

"Pretty much," Willow said looking up at her lifelong friend.

"Cool I got something right, think I'll go get that Twinkie now." Xander started moving toward the kitchen.

Buffy and Willow both rolled their eyes as Xander made his way to the kitchen. "So Wills, anything else in the book more specific or any indication as to who wrote that book or why?"

"No and I think the only person who can answer that question is on another continent."

"Giles?" Buffy asked while frowning

"Giles," the Wicca replied.

Willow looked at her watch to see what the time was.

"It's 11:21pm here so that would make it."

"Zero seven twenty-one Zulu there", Xander stated as he reentered the living room.

Buffy and Willow stared blankly at Xander.

"Sorry soldier guy flash back and Buffy you're out of Twinkies."

"Think he's up Buffy?"

"Don't know, let's give him a call and see." Buffy and Willow made their way into the hallway were the phone was.

Willow dialed Giles' phone number and waited for the Watcher to answer.

"Hello Rupert Giles here," came the distinct British accent of Buffy's former watcher.

"Giles it's Willow, hope I didn't wake you." Willow said apologetically to the man on the other end of the line.

"No, Not at all. Is everything Ok with Buffy and Dawn?" He asked taking on a slightly concerned tone of voice.

"We're OK Giles, I'm calling you because of a book Buffy got from a vampire tonight." Willow stated as she glanced back at the little brown book that was sitting on the table.

"What type of book?" Giles asked worriedly.

In her mind Willow could see Giles cleaning his glasses. "It seems to be Prophetic, but vague. We were hoping you might be able to shed some light on its origin."

"What can you tell me about it?"

"It's small, very vague, and it's written in Latin."

"Can you read me one of the passages?"

Willow read the passage about the sky to Giles while Buffy looked on and Xander watched Buffy.

"Tell me Willow does this book have a passage in the front of it about a fish?"

"Yes, in the very front of the book." Willow said excitedly.

"Ah, Yes. The book is from the sixteenth century. A monk, that had somewhat vague prophecies, wrote it. He was known as Brother Smoot. His writings were never that much use to anyone that read them. Maybe once or twice in the last 500 years have his writings been able to help the council or anyone else for that matter."

"So this guy was a hack?"

"In simple terms, I guess one could say that," Giles replied with a slight air of annoyance.

"Thank you Giles. I'll let you go now so Buff's phone bill doesn't send her to the poor house. Bye Giles."

"Goodbye Willow, tell everyone I said hello." Giles said with a slight bit of fondness.

Willow hung up the phone and turned to face her two companions. She had a smile on her face as she relayed her news.

"Giles said that the book was wrote by brother Smoot a minor prophet from the 1500s. Almost useless in the "I see evil scene", so his writings were ignored by the council and almost everyone else."

"Although I trust Giles's judgment I still think that we should look over this book some. If we hadn't gotten it from a vampire, I would just ignore it, but better to be safer than sorry. Let's call it a night and we'll..." Buffy started to say as Willow makes a coughing noise.

"OK. You'll look over it some more after classes tomorrow."

Willow nods her head in agreement and gives Xander a hug goodnight before she heads up the stairs to her room.

"I'll walk you to your truck Xander." Buffy said as she took Xander's arm in hers.

At the truck that is owned by the construction company that Xander works for.

"Xander are you coming by after work?"


"Could you stop by the store on the way over and pick up some stuff. I've got to go by the Social Security office to go another round with that woman that doesn't want to process the paper work, so Dawn can get a check from mom's social security."

"Whacha need?" Xander asked as he looked for pen in the glove compartment

"Well we need eggs, bacon, peanut butter and Twinkies."

"Anything else Buffster?" Xander asked as he wrote the stuff down on a piece of paper.

"Well I do need one more thing." Looking at him with a lost puppy look.

"Don't ask Buffy," Xander replied as a grimace crossed his face.

"Come on Xander don't be a baby."

"But you don't know what it's like to ask a guy to do that."

"Well I could go to the store myself', but I'm going to be tired after all the things I have to do tomorrow and I might forget the Twinkies. Since your here all the time anyway you might get to missing those cream filled treats," Buffy replied in a sultry voice.

"Couldn't you wait till the day after to get them?"

"I've got enough for tomorrow."

"Ok I'll get them but I'm going on record as saying:" Xander just does a weird twitchy jerk.

"Quit, it's a natural body function so just pick them up for me. Do it because you love me," Buffy grinned as she hugged Xander.

Xander hugged Buffy back and thought about the innocent banter between them. If she could still read minds she wouldn't have said what she said. <Everything I've done in the past six years has been because I've loved you. >

Xander broke the hug and climbed into the truck starting it. He watched Buffy as she went back inside then he pulled off and headed home.

Chapter 2

The next day Xander knocked on the door, but didn't wait to be let in. Over the past few months he'd spent so much time at Buffy and Dawn's house he had started to come and go as if he lived there. He proceeded to the kitchen were he unpacked the contents of the bags he was carrying with him.

Dawn came in the kitchen as Xander pulled the rest of the contents of the bag out onto the counter.

"Xander is there something you need to tell me?" Dawn said looking Xander up and down.

"What do you mean?" Xander said looking at the young girl in confusion.

"Well you know I'm the key, and Buffy's the slayer, what are you." Dawn said picking up the little blue box sitting on the counter while an evil grin spread across her face.

"Very funny Dawn," Xander said clearly not amused.

"Put them in Buffy's room please and I'll start on dinner." Xander started putting stuff away in the cabinets.

Xander had started on dinner by the time Dawn made it back into the kitchen. Dawn leaned against the center island while staring at the young man is he went about fixing dinner.

"So Xander, just how much do you love my sister?" Dawn asked Xander out of the blue.

Xander choked on his soda at Dawn's question.

"You know boyfriends and husbands pick up feminine products, male friends of the family don't usually do that. So I figure that you are still in love with Buffy or you're seriously whacked in the head. You're here all the time, you cook and you clean up afterwards." Dawn stood back with her hands on her hips, eyebrow arched daring Xander to deny her accusations.

"I eat your food the least I can do is buy and cook some of it. I make a mess; I like to clean it up. You, Buffy and Willow are not only my best friends, you are my family, so I like to spend time with my family," he stated before turning the back to the stove to stir one of the dishes that he was preparing.

"I think if you would admit your feelings toward a certain short blonde your "family" would be a little closer knit." Dawn said teasingly to the young man in front of her.

Shaking his head Xander disparaged Dawn's observations. "I don't feel that way toward Buffy <yeah! Like I wouldn't dig my on eye out with a spoon if she asks me to> and she not short she's just right."

"Who's not short?" Buffy asked from the doorway.

Xander and Dawn both jumped as Buffy spoke to them. Dawn just grinned at the thought that her sister may have overheard the conversation between them. Xander on the other hand was in a state of panic that she may have.

Dawn started to say, "Xander thinks that..."

"That blond girl from the Scoobie Doo movie is not that short." Xander blurted out cutting off Dawn before turning back to the dish he was cooking in order to hide his red face.

"Okay, what's for dinner Xand-man." Buffy asked as she moved over beside Xander to look at what he had on the stove.

"I have linguini and a nice clam sauce, garlic bread and a nice Pinot Grigio for us and for Dawn a bologna sandwich and a glass of water." Xander smirked down at Dawn as he moved to stand beside her.

Dawn popped her lower lip out for maximum poutage as she replied. "Hardy, har, har, Xander I think we got off track and need to steer our talk back to our earlier conversation." Dawn watched Xander squirm as she started her torment of him anew. Outwardly she had on her pouty face, but inwardly she wore her smile of victory. She didn't realize that victory is only achieved when the enemy is dead or has left the field of battle. Xander brought out the big guns.

Softly and dramatically he spoke to her. "Dawn it's all so new, must we speak of our forbidden love in front of your sister so soon." With that he leaned down and planted a big noisy kiss on a very red faced Dawn's cheek. Dawn stammered and blushed deeper as she looked at Xander and he puckered his lips at her in an air kiss. She then ran from the room. Xander and Buffy heard her squeal after she had gotten to her room.

Buffy just threw up her hands and said, "As long as it's a joke I don't wanna know".

"Are you sure Buffy might be good?" Xander said winking at his little friend.

"A world of no." She said a she threw her hands in the air.

Xander ask where Willow was and Buffy let him know that she said she was going to be working with a language major at college to finish translating Brother Smoot's prophecies.

Xander finished cooking and Dawn came down to eat. She had a healthy blush to her cheeks as she tried to act nonchalant, while taking a seat next to Xander at the table. Something that didn't go unnoticed by the other two at dinner, no mean quips or remarks were made to her.

After dinner Dawn washed dishes as Xander and Buffy sat in the living room watching TV while waiting for the sun to go down.

"You know Dawn's crush on you has resurfaced with a vengeance." Buffy said a she continued to watch the movie on the TV.

"I noticed. Maybe I shouldn't have kissed her this afternoon."

"Don't worry sometimes crushes just come and go." Buffy said in a seemingly offhanded remark.

"And sometimes they just come back." Xander said as he turned his gaze to her.

Buffy looked at Xander after he added the last part to what she had said. She smiled at him as a butterfly flittered around in her stomach. Xander smiled back at Buffy hoping that she hadn't pick up on the meaning of his statement.

The moment was broken as Willow burst into the house all out of breath. "Buffy we have a problem."

Will went to the kitchen and got a glass of water. Returning to the living room Willow sat down and related what she had discovered during the day.

"Most of Smoots work was just these stupid vague references to just every day types of stuff. When we got toward the end of the book we found some more detailed prophecies. Still no biggie. Almost at the end of the book we found a specific prophecy that I knew you were going to want to hear about."

Willow dug around through some papers in her backpack and read her findings to Buffy and Xander.

"I had my strongest vision last night not visions of people or places, but of words as though I were reading from a book and it disturbed me so. I feel as though I may not be able to sleep for the next few days. As always I am compelled to write down the things I see and fear for the good of man. Praise be to our Lord. Amen."

"Wills can I skip the history lesson and get to the point."

"Ok here it is. "And on the mouth of hell, jealousy was born out of this unholy union of good and evil. A lie was told. A love was cast into hell. Twice reborn this vessel of good would be. Five years would pass and in the land of sin the Knight who likes cake would bring about the ultimate end of the name Summers, she who is the slayer. I am a man of knowledge, but I fear these words have no clue that I may be of better service to the forces of good.""

"Ok we live at the hell mouth. I figure the union of good and evil would be you and Angel. You sent him to hell, not your fault. You've come back from the dead twice. It's been five years since the you and Angel thing. And you are Buffy Summers vampire slayer. The knight that likes cake is the unknown part."


"Knights of Byzantium," Buffy spoke.

"Buffy you don't think they're back do you?" Will have asked fearing that the Knights had returned.

"I haven't seen any other knights skulking about lately so my money's on these boys. Xander you and I will, Xander you all right? You're looking kind of pale there. I was going to ask you to patrol with me tonight but I think you need to go home and get some rest. Willow can come with tonight."

Xander stammered an okay before he gets up to leave. Buffy walked Xander to the door and gave him a hug that he barely responded too. She leaned back and looked into his eyes, his gaze seemed to be a thousand miles away. Still holding him Buffy tried to comfort him.

"Xander don't sweat it. We've quashed these prophecies before, as I recall you were there for the first one and you'll be there for this one. Go, rest, come by tomorrow and help us defy another vision."

Buffy hugged Xander again, placing her head on his chest. She had hoped for a more enthusiastic response to her closeness, but all she could feel was his tension. She released him and watched him from the door until he drove out of sight. She knew he was upset more so than usual, what she didn't know was what he said as he reached the truck.

"Your right Buffy I was the guy that help alter the first prophecy, but that time I was a hero. Now the liar, cake eating White Knight is going to be your end."

Xander couldn't hold it in any longer. He pulled over to the side of the road, leapt from the vehicle and threw up in the street. After retching up his dinner, Xander look into the night sky with tears in his eyes and quietly begged.

"Please God don't let this thing happen, don't let me be her end!!"

In the distance the thunder rumbled.


Chapter 3

Later that night as Buffy and Willow patrolled the cemetery. Buffy felt ill at ease over the prophecy that Willow had translated.

"Will do you think that Glory may be back?"

"I don't know Buffy. The prophecy talked about knights, but didn't make any reference toward any gods or demons of any kind. The rest of brother Smoot's visions didn't even have anything about slayers, hell mouths, vamps, or demons. It was just more of those generalizations that the beginning of the book held."

"I'm worried about Dawn. Those bastards wanted to kill her the last time, what if that hasn't changed? Whether Glory is alive or not they may still be sick enough to want to kill her: and since they're human that means that they could attack any time of the day. You know it's kind of slow tonight let's get home and check on Dawn." Buffy said as a feeling of dread filled her body.

Willow vigorously agreed nodding her head, so they left for home. Buffy was practically running as she got to the front door. She fumbled with her keys as her anxiety rose. Willow took the keys from her, opening the door so they could get in. Buffy and Willow ran up the stairs to Dawn's room where they found a peacefully sleeping teen with a large smile on her face. They sighed in relief as they watched the young girl sleep.

"I wonder what she's dreaming about?" Buffy whispered, noting the smile on her sister's face. Glad that the young girl was safe and seemed to be having a nice dream.

"Well since she's holding a picture of Xander in her hands, I'm going to say lusty Xander shaped friend dreams," Willow said as she pointed at the small picture in Dawn's hand.

Buffy spotted the picture that Willow was pointing to. She started to step into the room when Willow pulled her back out into the hallway, closing the door in the process.

"Hey, that's the picture from my nightstand," Buffy pouted.

"You'll survive. Let's go to the kitchen and get a Pepsi." Willow said as she tugged at Buffy to get her to follow her down the steps to the kitchen.

Getting the sodas from the fridge Willow handed one to Buffy and took a seat at the center island.

"I wonder how long her crush has been back?" Willow asked Buffy as she popped the lid on her soda.

"Probably since this afternoon, Xander and her were tormenting one another when I got home. He said that they were in a secret relationship and kissed her on the cheek after I entered the room. She blushed and ran upstairs to her room; I think the neighbors heard her squeal of excitement when she closed the door."

"Well Xand hasn't lost his charm with women I guess. What was she using to torment him with?"

"Don't know. Maybe it was him picking up some tampons for me this afternoon." Buffy said unabashedly.

Willow choked on her soda at this revelation.

"Buffy! Oh my goodness. You're testing him." She looked at the young blond bewildered at what she had just heard.

"Am not!" Buffy denied as she got up and moved around to the other side of the island.

"Are too! Why else would you ask him to get them? And don't give me that I'm almost out excuse. There are two other women in this house and I've got at least a half a box left." Willow said a she eyed the young woman.

Buffy hung her head in shame.

"I can't believe it, Buffy Anne Summers has finally developed feeling for her Xander shaped friend. Will wonders never cease? How long?" Willow ask a she started to get excited.

"It's been over the past few months that this has happened. He's been around a lot since Anya left him. I know it was mostly because he wanted to be close to you so he could help you. Before you get upset I'm not throwing stones. Anyway I noticed how much he loved not just you but all of us. I know he worked his job during the day, calling when he got a chance. Patrolling with me, only to come back here to fall asleep in a chair in your room so he would be close enough to hold you when the nightmares disturbed your sleep. And when you could sleep again he hung around helping Dawn with her homework, the cooking, and so on. That's when it started to sink in; Xander didn't just love with his heart, he loves with his entire being, mind, body and soul." Buffy looked at the ceiling for a second in thought. "Do you remember when I came back from my dad's at the beginning of our junior year and I was acting like a bitch toward everyone?"

"Yeah." Willow remembered the incident in which Buffy danced with Xander to make Angel jealous as well as humiliate Xander.

"Well do you remember how much he was crushing on me at that time?"

"Yes, he ignored me and everyone else because of you." Willow said surprised at the slight twinge of jealousy that was still present.

"The night the Anointed one's minions captured you, Giles, Cordy, and Miss Calendar he told me that he would kill me if anything happened to you. He may not have been in love with you, but his love for you was going to trump any feeling of lust or whatever he had for me. I should have known then how strongly he cares for us, but I allowed the stuff going on around me to distract me from seeing this."

"I didn't know about that, but I do know that his unconditional love for me is what stopped me from destroying the world. So are you going to tell him?"

"In time. I'm not quite ready to move from friend to girlfriend just yet."

"Afraid he's going to say no huh?" Willow asked Buffy as she moved to throw away the soda can.

"Big time."

"Buffy the longer you wait the greater the chance that someone else will come along and capture his heart."

"But what if he doesn't feel that way anymore and feels uncomfortable, and he stops coming around?" Buffy ask as she sat back down on the stool.

"Did he stop coming around when you shot him down after he asked you to go to the spring fling with him?" Willow continued to tidy up the kitchen.

"Well no, and thanks for bringing that up. Okay, what about you and Dawn? How do you feel about it and how would Dawn feel if I start dating the guy she's crushing on big time." Buffy whined to her friend.

"Dawn is smart enough to get over you going out with the guy who is to old for her to date. Me, I love Xander, but I'm not in love with Xander and besides I date women now, so now that I've thrown out those feeble excuses, ask him how HE feels about it Buffy." Willow said giving Buffy a pointed stare.

"I swear I will, soon, but I want you to promise that you won't say anything to anyone else about this conversation."

"I promise."

Buffy mumbled something to Willow after the young redhead had finished speaking, but it was so low that the young witch didn't make it out.

"What was that Buffy?"

Buffy hid her face in her hands and spoke low as she answered Willow just loud enough to be heard.

"Can I borrow that big picture on the dresser in your room? I like to look at him as I drift off to sleep". Buffy dropped her head to hide her blush.

"Come on my smitten kitten, let's get you're sleep aide off the dresser" Willow teased pulling the slayer to her feet.

Buffy hugged Willow and thanked her for lending her an ear to bend before they made their way upstairs to Willow's room. She took the large picture of Xander back to her room laying it on her bed as she changed into her pajamas. After removing her makeup and brushing her teeth, Buffy returned to her room and slid into her bed. She held the picture of Xander in one hand while she traced Xander's features in the picture with her other hand.

"Maybe soon I can do this to you for real Xander."

Buffy placed the picture on her nightstand and cut her lamp off. She adjusted the picture until the light from a streetlamp shining through the spaces in the blinds illuminated the picture just right. She stared at the picture as she drifted off to sleep the same way she had done for the past three weeks. That night the two Summers women had smiles on their faces as they dreamed lusty dreams about the same man.

Chapter 4

Two days later at the construction site that Xander was working at.

"Harris, get in here." Xander's boss yelled at him as he walked across the site. Xander could tell by the tone Doug was using that he wasn't a happy camper, and Xander knew why. He hoped for the best as he entered the trailer on the edge of the construction site. Xander moved to take a seat as Doug moved behind his desk to sit down.

"Hey Doug, what's up?" Xander replied, feigning ignorance towards Doug's agitation.

"You tell me? Jimmy told me about this morning. You're lucky that that stack of lumber landed at your feet and not on your head. You want to tell me what's going on? Your mind doesn't seem to be on your job lately." Doug had grown fond of the young man in front of him. Xander displayed a natural talent for the construction field that made his boss proud to have hired him. Unfortunately the past few days Xander had become distracted to the point of endangerment, that had led to the mishap that morning.

"I'm just distracted by something that's going on in my personal life. It won't happen again." Xander tried to placate his boss.

"That's a shame; Frank called me this morning and asked me to send my best prospect for team leader up to Barstow. He wanted that person to be in charge of team five up there until they are called in for that high-rise job that's going on out of state. I was going to send you, but if you've got other problems to work out I can just call him back and tell him you're needed here," Doug stated trying to feel the young man out.

Xander couldn't believe his luck. He had been trying to think of a way to distance himself from Buffy and the scoobies, which led to him almost being squashed by a stack of lumber when he stepped out in front of a forklift this morning, and now a job related way just dropped into his lap.

"No Doug, getting out of town would be just the thing to screw my head back on," Xander replied with new enthusiasm.

"Is it Anya son? Has things not settled down since, well, since what happened?" Doug tried to delicately ask.

<Since I left her at the alter, since she became a vengeance demon again, since I caught her having sex with an undead fiend, or the fact that even though I was in love with her, a part of me loved someone else more. The same someone I'm trying to protect by running away. So the answer to that question would be no.>

"Yes Doug, we keep running in to each other and we can't get past it. So I think getting out of town would do both of us a world of good," The former Zeppo lied to his boss.

"Good to here it," Doug replied with faux enthusiasm. "Frank said you were going to have two months or so to get the crew used to you while you work on the strip mall in Barstow. Then you'll be called in to work on the building they're putting up. It's a multi-team job; you'll have a section of the site assigned to you, while other teams are assigned to other sections. It's a thirty-story building. Due to the size of the project you're going to be out of town for eighteen months or more. We'll put you up in a hotel in Barstow, but you'll need to get an apartment in Georgia. If you make a friend in Barstow ya'll can room together to save on expenses if you like. Either way, unless you are attached to the place you have now, it would probably be a good idea to break the lease on it to save money on a place you're basically not going to see for two years. That is unless your going to be coming back to Sunnydale on your days off, I guess it's about a six hour flight from here to there." Doug informed his newly promoted team leader.

"No, it will be best if I let it go so I can concentrate on my job."

"If you don't have anywhere to put your furniture, like a friends house, be best to sell it. Bugs have a tendency to ruin it when you put it in long-term storage. Take it from someone that knows. Frank's in Barstow until Tuesday, then he flies to Atlanta. He'll discuss salary with you when you see him next week. You'll be paid for the next week but you're going to be tying up loose ends here. After lunch don't come back here, just go ahead and start on it. You have any questions or comments?" asked Doug as he moved from behind his desk.

"I'd just like to thank you Doug, for your confidence in me and to say that I really do appreciate this chance that you and Frank are giving me." Xander stood beaming with pride.

"Alex you deserve it. Go out there and impress Frank and make me look good for finding you," he said as he took Xander's right hand in a firm grip.

Doug shook Xander's hand and ushered him out the door. As Xander exited the office he felt a renewed sense of hope, that maybe the distance that he puts between him and Buffy would quash yet another prophecy.


After grabbing a late afternoon lunch he set about getting his affairs in order. First thing on his list was the apartment he was renting. He made his way to the offices of Jackson property management.

"Miss Elway, how are you this afternoon?" Xander greeted the brunette that had leased him his apartment.

"I'm fine; Mr. Harris isn't it?" the woman smiled at Xander, while taking in his toned appearance. She motioned for Xander to take a seat in the chair in front of her desk.

Xander nodded his confirmation.

"Miss Elway, as you know I work in construction. I'm here this afternoon because my job is going to be taking me out of state for the better part of the next two years and I can't afford to keep an apartment that I'm not going to be staying in. So I'm going to need to break my lease," the brunet stated plaintively.

"I'm sorry to hear that, as I recall you have a girlfriend who I met when you rented the apartment. Would she be able to stay at the apartment while your gone or is she going with you?" She asked Xander as a wry smile appeared on her face.

Xander knew that her question had more to do with her wanting to know his relationship status than his lease. He just smiled slyly at her and shook his head no while adding. "She turned into a demon again, so we broke up", he deadpanned.

"Bad break up huh?" the woman spoke in a comforting voice, while hoping Anya's loss would be her gain.

"You could say that." Xander mused over the cat and mouse game they were playing.

"I get off in thirty minutes," she said looking at the clock on the wall, "want to get a drink?"

"Sure," Xander shrugged.

Thirty minutes later Xander and Sherry made their way to a bar around the corner from her office. A small hole in the wall for people to go after the day of work to knock back a couple of drinks and then hopefully get home before those "special citizens" came out for the evening.

"Sherry you grab us a table and I'll grab us a pitcher", he shot over his shoulder as he made his way over to the bar. Sherry got a booth in a dark corner of the bar to add ambiance to their "meeting". Xander joined Sherry pouring them both a glass of beer.

"So Xander, how long since you broke up; if you don't mind my asking that is?" She said placing her hand on Xander's hand in a show of support.

Xander looked down at the hand she had place on his as a show of sympathy, as well as a means to establish some sort of physical contact; you know, just to show support.

"It's been about six months now."

"Are you still in love with her?" she pried while hoping she could entice him to love her or make love to her, which was foremost on her mind at the moment.

"In a way I guess I still am. I still see her when we get together with our friends to participate in the group activities that bring us all together from time to time."

Sherry was not a wonton woman, but she had desired Xander, albeit a split half of him, since she had rented him his apartment a few months ago. So going with the motto nothing ventured nothing gained, she put it out there. "So you want to participate in an activity that doesn't involve her or your friends?" squeezing his hand after she finished speaking.

<Why is my life just stupid? In high school I couldn't get an attractive looking woman to look my way until Cordy, and that was almost as much a fluke, as the me and Willow fluke. Now more and more women are looking my way, and I still just want to give my all to one woman who doesn't want me. The very same woman I'm prophesized to be the end of. Man I hate this town.>

Xander being quite for a while prompted Sherry to speak "Alexander no commitment here. Just dinner, dancing, and we'll see what happens after." She said thoughtfully looking into the young man's brown eyes.

Xander smiled at Sherry and thought how attractive she was and about what she was offering, but he thought better of it. "Sherry that's a nice offer, but there's someone else I care for. For my sake I think I would be making a mistake that would cause a lot of hurt for everyone involved." Xander stated truthfully.

Sherry slipped her hand away from Xander's and looked down at the table in front of her. She felt shame and then anger that she had made a fool of herself.

It's not easy to put ones self out on a limb. It's even worse when you do it and get rejected. Willow knew how it felt, she knew how Sherry felt and she was sad for the other woman, but she was glad for whatever reason Xander had rejected the other woman for.

"I hope it's Buffy," the redhead thought to herself. Willow had spotted Xander and Sherry as she was on her way to her biology lab. Curiosity got the better of her and she followed her childhood friend to the bar. Just to make sure he was all right, since he was supposed to be at work and not walking arm in arm to a bar with some skank-ho. But seeing her friend, nay her redeemer rejecting the other woman, even though she couldn't hear their conversation, made her not so worried about her friend. She was however worried about herself, since the other woman was getting up and leaving and she was afraid Xander might see her.

Xander walked with Sherry out of the bar stopping by the bar to give some money to the bartender. After exiting the bar he apologized to Sherry before she turned to walk away, head down cast, still feeling that she had made a fool of herself.

Willow gave Xander a few minutes head start before she exited the bar, as to not get caught. Coming out of the bar she looked up and down the street but didn't see Xander or the other woman, so she started back toward campus. Clearing the edge of the building she screamed as some one grabbed her from behind wrapping their arms around hers, trapping her while huskily whispering into her neck.

"Damn you smell good little sweet thang."

As he released her laughing, Willow slapped at Xander while yelling. "Damn it Xander, that's not funny!"

"I thought it was, my little spy," Xander replied still snickering.

"I thought you didn't see me."

"Oh, you mean the redhead that tried to disappear into the almost empty bar during happy hour. No didn't see her at all," he said while sliding an arm around his childhood friend.

"Well when I saw you pay your bill I thought you didn't see me and was leaving" The young Wicca pouted.

"I gave the bartender a tip so he wouldn't throw my beer away while I walked Sherry out. Speaking of beer mine's getting warm come on and help me finish up," he said while guiding Willow towards the door.

"I would, but I've got to get to lab. We'll talk later," Willow replied pulling out of his grasp and glancing at her watch.

"Sure swing by my place after class."

Willow strode off to class leaving Xander, who went back into the bar.

"Well might as well tie up some of my relationship loose ends. Guess I'll start with Wills since she's my best friend and it'll probably be worse on her. I think Dawn might take it kind of rough. Buffy will probably just ask for my couch and say have a good one," Xander thought to himself, as he sat down to finish his beer.

"This is not going to be pretty. Waitress another pitcher if you will," Xander called to the waitress.

Chapter 5

Zandar strode across the floor majestically coming to rest in front of the French doors. Sunlight bathed across his bare chest. She watched as a drop of glistening sweat ran down his finely sculpted torso before being absorbed into the waistband of his jeans; jeans that fit so tightly across his shapely buttocks that you would find it hard to believe that air could squeeze in.

Dawn ran her hands down her body to toy with the buttons on her pants.

Another drop of sweat formed on Zandar's rock hard chest, but it clung to his shapely pecs just above his hardened man nipple. She drew in a deep breath of air and stepped closer to his form feeling the heat coming off of his tense body. The energy that passed between the man and the woman was palpable.

Dawn took a deep breath as she thought about the man's hands. Dawn unsnapped the button on her pants grasping the zipper with the hand she had just run through her long brown hair.

Zandar then spoke to her in a low sultry tone..


Dawn jumped up from the kitchen table tossing the book she had been reading on to the counter in an effort to hide her shame and her guilt. She hung her head down not able to look into Buffy's eyes. Her face was burning red and she felt as if someone could cook an egg on her face. Finally she looked up into her sister's eyes expecting to see one very angry Slayer, what she saw was one very shocked and embarrassed sister.

"Dawn I'm sorry I yelled at you like I did, but seeing you doing, errr, what you were about to do in the kitchen caught me by surprise is all. I know what it's like to have, well urges that are new and exciting. I don't want you to be embarrassed any more so I'll just say, not in the kitchen okay?" Buffy stated almost as embarrassed as Dawn was.

Dawn looked away in embarrassment again over almost getting caught in a compromising position. Buffy walked over to the counter and picked up the book that Dawn had been reading, her eyes grew wide as she read the title of the book "Zandar Man of Mystery". Dawn saw an opportunity to get back some of her dignity at Buffy's reaction to the book.

"That's right it's your book. I found it when I was in your room the other day looking for something to wear," the Key indignantly said.

Buffy felt a flush travel over her face and she started to stammer. "I, I ah, got that book ah before we moved to Sunnydale. Back when I was still a normal girl. And why were you in my room? I've told you to stay out of my room a thousand times." She finished trying to steer the conversation away from the book.

Dawn defiantly stepped up to Buffy and took the book from the Slayer's hand and opened the cover. She smirked at her sister as she read from the book. "Copyright 2000, now I know I'm new to this world, being the key and all, but as I recall we moved here around six years ago. It had a little dust on it, so I don't think you bought it yesterday, but I would say not to long ago."

"Well, I can't remember when I bought it". Buffy spoke haughtily to her sister as she turned away from Dawn to move into the living room, and hopefully out of the conversation. But Dawn like a petulant child who's found a hornets nest and has a long stick, just kept poking at it hoping not to get stung.

"So you have a thing for Xander huh? And don't give me that just as a friend crap. I read that book and nowhere in the book did Sarah ask Zandar to be her friend. She wanted to do things to him that gave me tingles, and I'll bet that it gave you tingles too. So spill so I can go get a shower, preferably cold," the young brunette snidely remarked.

Buffy couldn't deny the subject matter of the book and the name similarities were also obvious. With an exasperated sigh she blurted out her answer. "ItwasajustafterRileyleftisawitinastoreandpickeditup."

"English this time please."

"After Riley had left, I found out that Spike had a thing for me. I was angry and confused. I was beating on Puffy Xander, taking out my frustrations about my, once again failed love life. Giles left to get some ice for Xander I think, and I continued complaining, when Xander told me that one day I would find someone that would see my wonderful heart and spirit," Buffy smiled remembering the day with a special fondness.

"Oh, that so sweet."

"I know that's what I said when I hugged him. It changed some of the ways I thought about him. I felt that it would be kinda nice if he would be the one to fill that spot, but he was with Anya and I didn't think he felt that way about me anymore. A couple of days later I saw the book in a store and bought it. I didn't know it was going to be as racy as it turned out to be. After I got through reading it I put it away, I had to deal with Spikes obsession and all my slayer duties and it just got pushed to the back. Then when I died things definitely changed. What I felt at one time just went away, just like what he felt for me at one time went away when he found Anya." Buffy told her sister almost sadly.

"So you don't feel that way any more?"

"No." The young blond lied.

"Well, I think that all the time he's spent around here those feelings that he "outgrew" might be back," Dawn tried hinting around slightly to her sister.

Dawn didn't elaborate on the topic of conversation that her and Xander had the day before. Buffy herself didn't acknowledge her feelings for Xander nor did she share any of the topics of discussion between herself and Willow. Both girls were at an impasse since neither one wanted to let the other know what they knew or felt. They just looked at each other for a few more seconds when Dawn decided to break the silence. "Willow called and said she was going over to Xander's after class. She said she didn't know whether they would eat somewhere else or come back here. She also said she would call to let us know one way or the other."

Buffy nodded her head, and then watched as her sister went up stairs. She sat down on the couch and thought about the past few days. She wondered whether her feelings for Xander were becoming apparent to everyone except for Xander himself. <I wished I knew how he felt. I thought things between us were improving, but after that stupid prophecy was translated he seemed like he was pulling away or stressed or something.>


Meanwhile across town Xander was in the process of packing up his belongings for storage. "Once I'm gone Buffy will be safe. I hate this damn town and all of the prophecies and demons and vampires. Damn, sometimes I just hate my life," Xander harangued.

"Tried to destroy the world lately?" Came Willow's voice, having caught the last part of Xander's sentence, causing him to jump.

"Jeez Will, cause me to have a heart attack," Xander moved to hug his lifelong friend. As he pulled away she noticed a twinge of sadness in his eyes as she took in the boxes scattered about the living room.

Willow walked around the room and looked in some of the boxes. She was hoping that the sadness coupled with the boxes would just be from Xander packing up the last of Anya's personal stuff that she left there after her and Xander had called it quits. But as she looked in each additional box she saw more and more of just Xander's stuff, she definitely knew he was moving when she spotted his Babylon 5 collector plates carefully wrapped and placed in bubble wrap. She looked into his bedroom and saw that some of the smaller pieces of furniture were propped up waiting to be moved out.

"Moving into a new apartment?" questioned Willow.


"Moving in with Buffy, Dawn, and me?"


"Ok, then what are you packing all of you stuff up for? Not thinking I'm going to like the answer," she said as a look of concern marred her otherwise pretty face.

"Calm down Will, I'm just going out of town for a little while to do a construction job. I packing all this stuff up to put it in storage so I don't have to pay rent on a place I'm not staying in; unless you want to move in and take up the rent on it?"

"Well, no job girl here, and I don't think that Ira Rosenberg would want pay the rent on a place this expensive. Most importantly would be me abandoning the needy support group that the women of the Summers' household make up. Oh, oh, oh, that's why you were with the skank-ho this afternoon," Willow excitedly piped up.

"Calm Wills, yes I was having a drink with her while I told her about my need to break my lease. We talked a little about me an Ahn; then she hit on me," the young man explained.

"And what did you tell her" Willow asked coldly.

"What, do YOU want a date?"

"Hey! Gay here," Willow flushed while pointing at herself.

"Then why the jealous woman routine? Skank ho? And that aditudno problemo." Xander asked his best friend.

"Well I guess, I guess I do have a problem with outsiders interfering with our group."

"Willow sooner or later someone is going to "invade" our dysfunctional group, or did you plan on being celibate the rest of your life." Xander immediately felt bad for saying what he had said; as he saw the pained look that passed over his friend's face. "I'm sorry Will. I know how much she meant to you, and I have no right to put a time limit on your grief." Xander apologized to his hurting friend.

"No Xander it's alright," Willow replied with tears forming in her eyes.

"No Willow it's not all right, I just acted like a big dumbass and I'm sorry." Xander said moving toward her.

Xander moved to pull Willow into a hug as she burrowed her head into his chest and started to cry. Xander stroked her red locks as he whispered words of comfort into her ear. After a few minutes Willow stopped crying and pulled out of Xander's arms and smiled meekly at him.

"You all right?" Xander asked while brushing some loose strands of hair behind her ear.

"As all right as I can be under the circumstances," she weekly smiled at him.

"Let's not be sad today. Call Buffy and tell her and Dawn to get gussied up, as I'm going to take my harem out for a night of fine dining at Sunnydale's finest eatery." Xander rocked back on his heels grabbing hold of his shirt above the pockets as though he were wearing a pair of suspenders.

"Xander!" Willow bemoaned as she swatted at him affectionately.

"Come on, chop chop, I have a Xander sized hunger and food is what I need."

Willow called Buffy to let her know what was up for the night while Xander took a shower. She let herself out of the apartment to go and get ready for dinner with the people closest to her heart. <Well Xander seems to be in better spirits I guess this job out of town was causing him to be worried that he wouldn't be around to help with this new prophecy. I'm glad things seem to be coming together for our little group.> Willow continued on with her happy thoughts unaware as to how wrong she was.

Two hours later in front of Ogaties' Mongolian restaurant, Xander came to a stop in front of the parking valet. Xander got out of the car and went to drop the keys in the young mans hands, instead the keys hit the ground as the valet stared longingly at the three young women now exiting, what has to be the luckiest man in the worlds car. First Dawn crawled out of the car she was wearing the pale blue gown that had been magically willed on her by the demon Sweet, innocent yet eloquent at the same time. Her full lips glistening with the Cherry lip-gloss that she had applied and the simple diamond stud earrings that she had borrowed from Buffy sparkling almost as brightly as her smile. Willow exited next wearing a black velvet pants suit ensemble with a choker. Three low mounted buttons pulled the jacket together over a white gossamer blouse. When she moved just right anyone looking would catch a brief glimpse of the lacey black bra she wore. It was a strong feminine look that the very sexy redhead wore well. Then Buffy got out of the car, she was wearing a long red evening dress, made with embroidered lace utilizing an intricate flower pattern. The front of the dress tied around Buffy's neck giving the dress an open back that hung just above the soft curve of her buttocks, and a neckline that plunged to just above her belly button. A platinum cross settled softly on her skin just between her almost unfettered breasts while a pair of turquoise earrings dangled from her earlobes. Xander just smiled at the young man acknowledging his envy. The four of them made their way inside as the valet stood with his mouth agape.

"Good evening sir, how can I be of service today?" the maitre d' gave his false servile smile.

"Harris party of four," Xander said; almost feeling like James Bond standing there in a tuxedo surrounded by three beautiful women.

The maitre d' smiled at Xander but he wasn't impressed, for he had once met the man who had met Andy Griffith.

"Right this way sir," a young woman said to him after the maitre d' had snapped his fingers and waved her over.

The hostess led them to the back of the restaurant to an intimate circular booth toward the back. Willow slid in first, Xander moved in behind her as she slid around. The slayer made a move to follow Xander in when Dawn made a statement that caused everyone to stop. "Isn't that Angel coming in the door?"

While Xander and Willow shot a glance at the doorway, the slayer spun around to face the doorway. As Buffy completed her turn toward the door Dawn sat down next to a confused Xander, pushing him further in to the booth. When Buffy turned around to question whether or not anyone else had seen Angel, she was at a loss for words as she looked at her sister sitting beside Xander, looking straight ahead as if nothing was wrong.

Willow noted the extremely disappointed look on Buffy's face.

"Dawn," Buffy started with a note of annoyance in her voice.

"Slayer strength and speed are no match for deceit and treachery," Dawn smirked at her sister.

Buffy took a step toward Dawn when Willow spoke up, "Buffy come sit by me, so we can talk about school".

Buffy didn't want to cause a scene so she did as her best friend bid her to do, and took a seat next to the recovering witch. Dawn stuck her tongue out at Buffy when she caught Buffy looking at her whilst Xander's head was turned away from her. Dawn then linked her arm in Xander's as she leaned her head onto his shoulder. When Xander turned his head to see what she was up to, she just batted her eyes at him and said, "Xander thanks for taking us out to dinner this evening. It's a shame that some people never saw what a fine catch you would make."

Xander was worried that Dawn was trying to hint to Buffy that he was interested in her, not knowing that Dawn was the only one that knew they both liked each other.

"Thanks Dawn patrol, one day you'll be a fine catch for some lucky fella."

"Well if I was two years older you would get lucky tonight," Dawn purred into Xander's ear.

The other people at the table were incredulous as they all blurted out "DAWN!!" The waiter bringing their water to the table was shocked a little more as he dropped the tray in the floor having overheard what Dawn had said. Dawn rolled her eyes and mockingly replied, "I know Xander to old, Dawn to young, jeez people give me a break it was a joke."

Xander replied to Dawn "Dawn I love to joke as much as the next guy, but that was in poor taste and out of line. I'm only saying this because that kind of sexual innuendo could get you in a lot of trouble. What if you had said that to someone who took you serious or was the type of person that would just take advantage of you? Do you think some glib, I'm sorry would get you out of it?"

Dawn hung her head as tears formed in her eyes "I'm sorry," she mumbled before she got up and ran to the ladies room. Buffy got up and followed her sister leaving the two old friends sitting at the booth.

"That was very profound Xander," Willow offered to her friend. She was proud of the young man that Xander was turning out to be.

"Thanks Wills, I just don't want to see any of you get hurt."

"Always the heart, huh Xander?" Willow said reaching over and squeezing the young man's hands.

Xander squeeze Willow's hand back, "Every beat Will, every single beat. Did you say anything to Buffy about me leaving town?"

"No, why?"

"Let's not mention it until were back at Buffy's. I don't want any more negative thoughts interrupting the evening."

Willow nodded to her young friend as they both waited for Dawn and Buffy to return from the bathroom.

Chapter 6

Dawn opened the door allowing the rest of the group to file in the doorway then she ran to the bathroom. At the doorway Xander stopped and just stood there, blocking Willows path into the house. Buffy turned to see what was taking so long.

"Xander what's wrong?"

"Aren't you going to invite me in?" Xander asked with a wicked gleam in his eye.

Buffy slightly paled at Xander's question. There was no time to react; Xander yelped in pain as Willow slapped him very hard across the back of the head. Buffy realizing that they had gone to the restaurant before dusk and not having lost site of one another stepped out onto the porch violently grabbing Xander by his ear and pulling him through the doorway.

"Here Xander let me invite you in," Buffy said with an evil tone to her voice.

"Ow, ow, ow, I sorry, please let go now, pretty please, I sorry, I'll love you always." Xander said as he tried to twist out of Buffy's grasp.

Buffy released Xander as he said he'd love her always. She looked at him in shock and awe. Xander trying to cover his perceived faux pas grabbed both Willow and Buffy in a crushing bear hug. "You know I'll always love my girls."

Xander held on for dear life as he realized that soon he would be leaving behind the people he loved more than anything in the world. Dawn came into the living room and ran over to the group and threw her arms around Xander's back and gave him a big hug. Xander couldn't fight back the tears anymore and started to cry. Buffy could smell the salty tears in the air, Willow felt the tears as they landed on her cheek and Dawn could feel the little heaves he made as he tried to fight back the tears. All of the women stepped back from Xander and looked at him with worry marring their features.

Dawn spoke quietly from behind Xander " What's wrong? Is everything alright?"

"Could you guys take a seat I have something I have to tell you." Xander stated as he wiped the last of the tears from his eyes.

The girls sat down on the sofa as Xander started to pace back and forth.

"Willow already knows what's going on", Xander started as Dawn and Buffy shot an accusatory glare at the redhead. Willow shrunk back from the glare and then steeled herself and spoke up. "I just found out today and Xander asked me not to say anything."

"That's right Buffy, Dawn: Willow saw me with my real-estate agent and thought I was "dating her", I explained to Will that I was just breaking my lease so I could move.

"Well since I don't think that moving across town would cause such an emotional outburst, that would mean you're leaving town aren't you," Buffy said sadly. She could feel the anxiety climbing up in her throat as the images played across her mind. Dad, Angel, Parker, Riley and Spike; hell even Giles, they had all loved her one way or another, yet the had all left her. Now the man in front of her, who she felt at one time would walk through the fires of hell for her was now going to tell her that he was leaving. She could feel the bile rising up in her throat. Willow seeing the play of emotions on her friends face decided to jump in and sooth her friend's fears, but not having all of the information she spoke with no authority.


"Buffy; Xander's just leaving town for a little while to work on an out of town construction job is all. He'll be gone a couple of months and then he'll be right back. Tell her Xander." Willow implored her friend to make things right.

"It's more like two years Will."

"TWO YEARS, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN TWO YEARS? YOU DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT TWO YEARS THIS AFTERNOON WHEN I SAW YOU!!!" Willow exploded at her friend as she jumped off the couch, not liking his answer at all.

"I didn't say anything because I wanted to have one good peaceful dinner with my girls before I left." He tried to explain to his childhood friend.

"So how long do we have before your gone? Two, Three weeks?" Willow asked somewhat snarkily now.

"A few days. I have to go up to Barstow and take over a crew up there so we can get used to working with each other." Xander sadly replied, feeling bad that he was bringing any pain to the people he loved.

Dawn put in her thoughts. "Well that's not to bad Buffy. Barstow's only a couple of hours from here, on the weekends Xan doesn't have to work he can come down and stay here." Dawn was saying trying to make Buffy feel better before Xander spoke.

"After we finish up at Barstow we go to Atlanta to help put up a high-rise."

Buffy stared blankly at the young man in front of her before she excused herself. Buffy got up and went to the bathroom to wash her face and try to calm down. She had strong feelings for Xander, but like most people she tried to hide and suppress those feelings when the possibility of being hurt was present.

In the living room Dawn was busy prying as much information from Xander as possible. "So Xander why are you going across country? There are lots of construction jobs here in Southern California." She said just as annoyed about the situation as the other two women were.

"Well, the people that sign my paycheck want me to head a crew of my own. Since I want to get ahead in my job I have to take what is offered otherwise I will wind-up being a gofer or some other low paid lackey."

"Lackey?" his red head friend queried with a raised eyebrow.

"Yeah, Doug used it in his recruiting speech when he hired me; I looked it up", the young man smiled, "That's me with the learning." Xander smiled at the intelligent redhead.

"Well don't quit your day job. Oh, your not, you're moving across country because of it aren't you", Dawn snidely remarked.

"Dawn", Willow said with a note of warning in her voice. "Don't act that way. We knew sooner or later someone was going to leave us."

"Why? Why does someone have to leave? We have a nice little group of family and friends going on here and I don't see why we should break up our little group." Dawn stated almost starting to whine.

Willow felt sorry for the girl as well as herself and Buffy. They did have a strong family vibe going on, and now that she knew that the Slayer was starting to have more than friendly feelings toward Xander, it was going to throw their little group into chaos once again.

"Xander isn't there some way to get ahead without leaving the state." Willow said as she retook her seat beside Dawn.

Xander took a seat in the chair beside of the couch, he was more calm now. But Willow knew he was still agitated because of his fidgeting. Xander took a couple of seconds to compose a self before he continued. "Willow it's not like I have a choice in the matter. This job is one of the best things that's ever happened to me. I don't want to spend the rest of my life trying not to be a failure. Look at my father; you see why how well he's turned out of life. I would like to be able to break the Harris curse and make something of myself. It's not like I'm sitting around trying to think of ways to get away from you, but the golden ring is within my grasp and I'm going to grab hold of it." He looked in the green eyes of his best friend as he watched her take in and comprehend the information that he had just given her. Of the people he knew, he knew that Willow was going to be the hardest one to convince. They had known each other almost all of their lives, and he knew that she wasn't just going to let go.

Willow opened her mouth a couple of times to say something but just before she would speak, she would close her mouth again. "Xander I know that it's selfish of me but I don't want you to leave. When I came back from England you were the only thing here that was grounding me. All because when we were up on the mountain and you talked me down from destroying the world I knew then that you loved me more than I deserved. So when it came time for me to come back to Sunnydale, I knew that you being here would make it easier. I need you Xander; we all need you." Willow looked slightly pale when she finished speaking to Xander. She was getting better as time went on, the pain that she held in her heart from the loss of her girlfriend was slowly going away. Xander had played a great role in the healing process. He had been the first to meet the young woman when she got off the plane from England. Xander had forgiven her even when Buffy and Dawn had had their reservations. Where he had helped the most at was the sleepless nights. The first month and a half that she had been back she had gotten very little sleep. The nightmare of seeing Tara shot had plagued her sleep, but Xander had been there night after night ready to pull her into a comforting hug when the tears fell unabated. Even though she felt she was getting better she didn't realize how much Xander's presence had a calming effect on her. The thought of him leaving was causing her to panic.

Xander moved to embrace his young friend. He held her as the few tears that she shed finally stopped. "Willow I love you. I always will, but I have to go. You still have Dawn and Buffy to help you through the rough days. This job means a great deal to me. If it were closer I would be here as much as possible but it's not. You don't know how much this hurts me. Not being able to be here and hold you and comfort you when you need it, is tearing me up inside. I'm not going to see little Dawnie grow up and graduate from high school. And I'm not going to be around to help fight all the big bads that Buffy is going to have to face." Xander could tell by the looked on Willow's face that she had resided herself to losing her oldest friend. She may have a few more things to say over the next few days but she wouldn't fight him over this.

The only thing that you can used to describe Dawn's attitude was "anger". The young woman was almost livid. Her crush for him had resurfaced strongly and she was having a hard time dealing with it. She knew eventually that she would get over it but she was mad at Xander because her sister was now also in love with him. Willow was going to have a hard time of it and the young brunette girl didn't want to see her suffer any more than she already had.

"I still don't see why you have to go. I think if he looked around you can find a perfectly good replacement job close by and you wouldn't have to leave us." Dawn was trying to fight back the tears and the frustration of the situation was wearing her down. Growing more and more agitated by the second she was almost on the verge of exploding.

"Dawn when you get older you will realize that sometimes the things that we want to do and the things that we have to do are often two separate things. I want to stay but I HAVE to go. There's nothing I can do about it."

Finally the frustration of the evening caught up with Dawn. She moved across the room swiftly to slap a stunned Xander but before she got there she stopped and lowered her hand. Standing in the middle of the room looking at Xander she felt ashamed of what she was going to do. She started to cry as she stared at Xander with a look of shame. "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry Xander. I, I, I don't know what I was thinking." Making a pitiful wailing noise Dawn turned and fled from the room.

Xander and Willow looked up the stairs were the young teen had ran, surprised and still in shock that Dawn had such an adverse reaction to Xander's news.

When Buffy returned from the bathroom she found Willow and Xander still sitting there, occasionally glancing at one another but mostly just staring up the steps were Dawn had fled. She had missed the entire exchange between the young man and her sister so she was unaware of what had happened and didn't know why the two people still left in the room had looks of horror and shock on their faces.

"What's going on?" Buffy looked at her two friend slightly worried.

"Dawn just freaked out," Willow told Buffy as she said there still in a mild state of shock.

Buffy could understand why Dawn reacted the way she did, a little part of her wanted to do the same thing. She had just recently acknowledged the stronger feelings that she had for Xander and now just when she was ready to talk about it was someone else, even if it wasn't Xander, he was going to leave. This caused the young woman to want to smack him herself but she had more control over her emotions than Dawn did.

Buffy suddenly felt very tired. She didn't want to argue any more and she didn't want to fight over a love that she wanted and had never had. A love that may not even still be there, so she decided it was best for everyone if they called it an evening. "Xander, I think we've all had enough excitement for one evening. Why don't you head on home and we can talk about this some more tomorrow. Willow would you go and make sure that the back door is locked for me. I'm going to walk Xander out to his car and I'll be right back. I don't feel like going on patrol this evening."

Willow left her position on the couch and went to the kitchen to lock the back door as she left the room.

Xander stood and moved for the front door. After Buffy took her position besides Xander she opened the door and moved out onto the front porch. Then the two of them walked in an uncomfortable silence has they made their way to his car. Buffy and Xander stood beside his car for a few seconds, both looking at one another not knowing what to say. Finally the uncomfortable ness of the situation proved too much to bear so Buffy gave Xander a quick hug and said goodnight to her friend. After Xander was secured in his car she told him to drive safe and watched as he drove off down the road. She slowly made her way back into the house were she ran into the young redhead who was coming out of the kitchen after having locked the doors.

"Buffy are you okay?" Willow asked the tired looking young woman.

Buffy looked at the young woman and knew what she was asking. Willow was worried about her friend just the same way that they had all worried about Willow when Tara had been killed. Right now she didn't know how to answer the question. She opted to handle the situation the same way she normally handled situations that she had no answer for, with violence. "I'm going out for a quick patrol of the block and I'll be back and a little while".

"I thought you didn't feel like going on patrol Buffy, are you sure this is what you need to do?"

"Right now Willow I have a strong desire for violence and I'm going to go out there and some vampire is not going to be very lucky person this evening, because whatever anger and aggression that I have I'm going to take out on him."

Willow was still tidying up downstairs when Buffy returned from having changed out of her dress and shoes. She had slipped on a pair of sweats with sneakers and a lite jacket. She glanced over at Willow and give her weak smile just before she left the house to do some massive violence to some unfortunate vampire.