Author: Lysa <lysaharris[at]>

Rating: PG

Feedback: Does anyone seriously put 'no' here? If you feel inspired to tell me how terrible I am, lysaharris[at]

Distribution: You want it, ask first.

Spoilers: Season 7, especially the latter part, 'Touched' mostly.

Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing except my cherished DVD's and signed pictures (thank you to Martin for those), and no one's having them. The characters and stuff belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy etc. No copyright intended.

Summary: Part of the episode 'Touched' re-written with a W/X edge.

Notes: I was completely grossed out by the Willow/Kennedy and Xander/Anya scenes in 'Touched', so I decided to make a few little changes to suit my own little obsession. It's just a load of babble really, but it needed to get onto paper so I could unclog my brain and continue my others. I may work on an NC-17 version of this if I get enough interest, just let me know..

Dedication: To Amanda, for being my best friend, and for giving me some great feedback on my other 'fics that gave me a kick in the butt to get this done, so if it sucks, blame her.

Challenge: I challenge anyone to write their own version of the episode mentioned above, but it has to be W/X!

Chapter 1

"I don't think we should see each other anymore," Willow said clearly and resolutely with her best resolve face to her own image in the mirror of the getting-more-cramped-by-the-day bathroom. "How's that?" she asked the other person. She frowned to herself, "wow," she muttered, "cliché much?" She thoughtfully paced across the tiled floor, catching brief glimpses of moonlight out of the window every now and again. "Who came up with that line, anyway?" she asked. "I mean, it's so lame. Even if you break up with someone, you still have to see them, right? It's not like by saying those words, they suddenly become invisible…" she trailed off as her brow furrowed pensively. "Ooh, thought," she said excitedly, "Maybe I could try and pull that whole not seeing each other thing that happened when I first came back to Sunnydale. I didn't do that on purpose, but it would definitely be a bonus here." She grimaced, "I know, that wouldn't work."

She sat herself on the edge of the bathtub and tucked her hair behind one of her ears. "This sucks," she complained with a pout. "I mean, this is me, Willow Rosenberg, talking about dumping someone, and we're not exactly talking Jonathon Levinson in second grade here. Hey, maybe I can get Xander to do it for me, like he did then," she said, looking up. "No, I know that would just be childish. This sucks!" she repeated. "Sucky, suck, suck, suck, suck!"

She shook her head in defeat. "I can't do this, can I?" she asked. "I don't mean literally. I just mean, I can't do it now. It would just make things really awkward for everyone with us all living in the same house, and with everything else that's going on…it wouldn't be right. God," she berated herself, "I should have thought about this when things first got started up," she said miserably. "I should have held off on getting involved with Kennedy until things were…well, until they were something that resembled normal."

She took a deep breath, stood up and quickly brushed her hair in front of the mirror. "Okay," she said decisively, "so it's all settled. I'll just carry on as usual, wait it out until all of this apocalypse stuff is over, and then break up with her." She looked thoughtful. "Of course, if the world ends, I won't have to." She grabbed the plans Giles had given her earlier from the side of the sink and grinned at the wide-eyed, silent girl who had a toothbrush hanging out of her mouth. "Thanks a lot for the talk, Chao-Ahn," she said as she made her way out of the bathroom, pulling the door closed. "Oh, and a little advice; I'd keep the door locked when you're in here if I were you. Anyone could just walk in."

Chao-Ann watched the strange, red-headed, girl who knew magic walk out of the bathroom in total confusion.


"Okay, guys," Willow said as she crossed the hall from the bathroom to get to her room, talking as she walked, looking at the plans she was holding, concentrating on the information in front of her. "Giles said Faith wants us to start early in the morning, so…" she trailed off as she was surprised to find the room suspiciously empty, except for Kennedy. "What happened to the girls?" she asked, her voice carrying a note of disappointment.

"Looks like there's only one girl here," the potential slayer said, laying seductively in Willow's bed, tousling her hair around her fingers in the dim light of the candles she had lit around the room, not just for the lack of power that was now enveloping Sunnydale, but for romantic effect.

"But what about the other ones?" Willow asked. "With their sleeping bags and their headgear and their snoring?" When Kennedy smiled at her, something clicked in Willow's head. "They're not here, are they?" she asked, a light tone of panic in her voice.

"Nope," Kennedy told her, seemingly not picking up on the other girl's discomfort, patting the side of the bed next to her in invitation.

"That's, uh…nice…" Willow stammered out as she made her way over to the bed, via closing the door to the room first.

"Nice," Kennedy said softly as Willow sat next to her, and seized the opportunity to kiss her girlfriend. "And necessary." She kissed her again, taking the plans from Willow's hands and discarding them carelessly, throwing them over the side of the bed. "Come here, you," she said as she pulled her girlfriend down, laying her head on the pillows and wrapping her arms around her. "Fore play was threatening to turn into twelve play," she said as she pulled away, kissing her once again, lightly this time.

Willow responded to the kisses, even though she knew it was wrong, after everything she had been thinking over the past few days. So, as tactfully as she could manage, she pulled away from Kennedy, turning on her side, nervousness on her face that she didn't want the potential slayer to see.

"Something not right?" Kennedy asked, snaking her arm around Willow and taking her hand, looking down at her expectantly.

Willow felt her whole body tense up, and she thought about denying it. She thought about just rolling over and giving the girl what she wanted, doing the easy thing. But then she realised that this was it: this was an out clause she was looking for. This was the opening that was going to force her to make a decision. But could she really do it?

"It's not, is it…?" Kennedy asked, pulling away from the red head. "Something's wrong…"

The decision had been taken out of her hands, and, both thanking and cursing the goddess for that, Willow sat herself up and looked at Kennedy. When she did, she was surprised. For all of the bravado the girl used, she got the feeling that the tears that were filling her eyes were more than just a tactic to get what she wanted. "Kennedy…" she started. "I think we need to talk…"


"They could show a little respect, you know," Anya griped as she shovelled another spoonful of the ice cream she and Xander were sharing in the darkened kitchen into her mouth, the moans and groans coming from Faith and Principal Wood upstairs putting her in more of a bad mood than she already was. "I mean, they should at least acknowledge the fact that some people might not wanna listen to an a cappella concert of people, you know, moaning and groaning."

"Hmm," Xander said in agreement, not really taking that much notice, as he helped himself to another spoonful of the ice cream.

"Disgusting, is what it is," Anya complained, her body language betraying her, silently trying to get his attention.

"A little jealous, huh?" he asked her with a smirk.

"Of course I am!" she said, saying it as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. "I'm a lot jealous," she told him. "I mean, if we're done having sex, then…I think other people should just knock it off."

"Hey, guys," Willow said, surprising them as she entered the kitchen from the dining room. "Mind if I join you?"

"Yes!" Anya said loudly, looking very annoyed.

"Of course not," Xander said, smiling at her as she took a carton of milk from the refrigerator and poured herself a glass.

"What are you doing here?" Anya demanded. "Shouldn't you be upstairs, sleeping with that girl?"

"Sorry," Willow said. "If I'm interrupting something I can just-"

"It's fine," Xander told her, glaring at Anya with wide eyes. "Isn't it, Ahn?"

Anya glared back at him, eventually conceding defeat. "Yes," she said finally, a forced smile on her face. "Xander and I were just eating some delicious ice cream, and I was thinking of asking him to have sex with me, but please, join us so that can't happen."

"Aha," Willow said with a grin and a knowing look at Xander. "Well, I'll tell you what," she told them. "I'll just make myself scarce and you two can get back to…whatever it is that I don't want to think about you doing."

"No, it's fine," Anya said, annoyed and rolling her eyes as she slipped off the stool she was sitting on at the kitchen counter. "You stay, I'll go."

"Go where?" Willow asked.

"I'll find a floor in some room or another," Anya said. "All this world-saving and gut-wrenching terror really takes a toll on an ex-demon."

"My floor's free," Willow told her. "I mean, Kennedy's in there, but if you want somewhere to crash…"

"Okay, thanks," Anya said as she started for the door. "Oh," she added, stopping and looking back at them. "Kennedy doesn't sleepwalk and get all handsy, does she? I mean, I don't want her trying anything while I'm all asleep and vulnerable."

Willow couldn't stop the smirk appearing on her face. "I doubt that would happen," she told her.

"Okay," Anya said, satisfied at the answer, turning once again to leave.. Then, she looked back at them, hands on hips with the look Xander knew meant a rant was well and truly on its way. "It's the hair, isn't it?" she asked, her tone an octave higher than it had been a second ago.

Willow, who was just enjoying a mouthful of ice cream, looked baffled. "What?" she asked, wiping her mouth with the sleeve of the sweater she had pulled on before she had left her room.

"It's the hair," Anya said again, grabbing a handful of her own hair and forcing them to look at it.

"Anya, your hair looks fine," Xander told her.

"There must be some reason why you think Kennedy doesn't find me attractive," she demanded from them. "Am I not pretty enough?" she asked. "Would a lesbian not find me attractive? Willow, do you find me attractive?"

Xander looked at his best friend expectantly with raised eyebrows.

Willow gulped down the cold substance in her mouth nervously. "I'm staying well away from this conversation," she told them. "Let me know when we're sane again."

"Am I fat?" Anya demanded from them. "Everyone keeps rejecting my sexual advances!" she complained. "I'm telling you, if I swung that way, Kennedy would be putty in my expensively-manicured hands."

"Anya," Willow said patiently, "Kennedy knows you're not into women.. Plus," she added, a complimentary tone in her voice that Xander knew meant she was trying to diffuse his ex-fiancée's ramble. "I don't think she'd be interested in anyone who's prettier than she is."

"Oh, okay," Anya said thoughtfully, satisfied with the reply. "Well that does make an awful lot of sense."

Willow nodded as she watched Anya leave. "One question, Xand," she said to her friend, "How did you do it?"

"Cope with Anya?" he asked.

Willow nodded.

"You know, I have no idea," he told her. "I think I used to give her a pile of money to count every night, used to keep her quiet. Plus, impeccable financial records. Always a bonus when the tax man comes a-calling."

Willow smiled, trying not to think about the one thing that was occupying her mind. She looked at Xander thoughtfully. "What do you think Buffy's doing right now?" she asked, wondering. "Do you think she's okay?"

"I think she's fine," Xander said, a part of him still feeling the guilt of Buffy's ousting. "She's not exactly Betty Louise Plotnick of East Cupcake, Illinois."

"Who?" Willow asked.

"It's a thing," he told her. "Long story."

"What do you think will happen now?" she asked. "I mean, I know Faith is a slayer, too, but Buffy's…well, she's Buffy. It wouldn't be the end of the world without her."

"I know," he said. "But I think she'll be back, Will. I mean, the girls needed some time to cool off. They – we – have no idea how hard it is to be her, to have her life. I think that once they figure out that Buffy was trying to do her best, they'll calm down. I know that we weren't exactly supportive when it came to that whole confrontation thing, but I hope she understands that maybe this is the break she needed, to get away from us all for a little while."

"Maybe," she said. "I hope so, anyway." Willow took another mouthful of the ice cream and watched him expectantly.

"What?" he asked, eyeing her with suspicion on his face. "Did I just grow another head or something?"

"No," she told him. "I'm just waiting."

"For…?" he asked, shrugging his shoulders a little.

"You to ask me about what happened with Kennedy," she told him. "I know you want to. I mean, this is the first time we've really been alone since she got here, I thought you'd ask me why I'm not up there with her."

"Don't need to," he told her, straightening up so he was standing and twisting to ease the ache in his back. "You broke up, right?"

"How did you know?" she asked suspiciously. "Alexander Harris, if you were eavesdropping--"

"Whoa," he told her, hands up in a defensive position. "No eavesdropping, I promise," he said. "Well, at least not tonight, anyway…" he added quietly, hoping she wouldn't catch it. "I just…I guess you could call it intuition. Or something. Hey, maybe that sense thing is kicking in."

"You don't sound all that surprised about it," she said inquisitively..

"Well, I'm not," he said. "I've been kinda expecting it," he told her. He leaned over and nudged her in the arm with his elbow. "You wanna talk about it?"

Willow took another mouthful of the ice cream and shrugged.

Xander smiled at her, taking the spoon from her hand, and took her hand. "Come with me," he said.

"Where are we going?" she asked, not at all happy about having to move from her seat and away from the dairy goodness of the ice cream, but happy she wasn't lactose intolerant like Chao-Ahn. Boy, that had been a fun day for her to be on bathroom duty.

Xander didn't say anything as he led her outside into the garden, over the lawn to the wooden bench he had helped Joyce to carry from the little furniture store when she had bought not long after moving to Sunnydale. "Sit down," he told her.

"What are we doing out here?" she complained, but complying with his words. "Okay, middle of the apocalypse, we're sitting in a garden with our nice, juicy necks all bared and everything, tempting the nasties out of their hiding places?" she asked. "Are we trying to attract vampires?"

"No," he told her, "But judging by your 'nice, juicy neck' comment I'm beginning to think you are. Besides, we're having a little best friend time," he said. "Pretty much every demon and vampire in town has upped sticks somewhere else with all this stuff going on, and I can't see Mr. Can't-Touch-Anything-Cos-I'm-Non-Corporeal sending anyone after us for a little while yet." When she just sat watching him for a while so intensely it made him shift in his place and look away from her, embarrassed about the exciting new accessory over his eye. "So, Kennedy?" he asked, trying to get her attention away from making him feel uncomfortable. "What happened?"

Willow pulled her hands into the sleeves of her sweater even though the Californian wind was anything but cold. "It just wasn't right," she said simply. "I mean, I was just gonna leave things as they were and wait for the world to be obliterated, but then she decides to get all frisky with it." Willow looked around the garden, listening to the chirping of the night crickets and watching the stars overhead, looking so far up it was like she was looking at another world, and wondering how it could look so pretty when there were so many bad things happening everywhere. "I don't know what I'm doing," she confessed quietly, ducking her head so she couldn't see him anymore.

"You did what was right, Willow," he told her, his words soothing and blending in with all the quiet little noises around them. "But I hoped you guys would have a chance," he said. "For your sake."

"So did I," Willow told him. "Have a chance, I mean. At first, at least."

"So what changed?" the brunette asked. "What changed so much since then?"

"Nothing," Willow told him, standing up from the bench and walking around the bench to the flower bed, kneeling down and inspecting the flowers Mrs Summers had planted so long ago and yet still thrived despite Buffy and Dawn paying little or no attention to them in their hectic lives, even though Willow had seen Xander tending to them regularly when he thought no one was looking. "Nothing changed between us," she said. "I just realised that I didn't know her, and she didn't know me."

"Isn't that the fun part of a relationship?" Xander asked. "The getting to know each other, finding out all those little things that make us what we are?"

"It is," Willow said, "But the more time we spent together, the more I realised that we just didn't fit together. We're total opposites."

"Ever heard the expression 'opposites attract'?"

"I'm not denying that I was attracted to Kennedy when she first came here, Xander," Willow told him.

"And, what, now you're not?" he asked, standing behind her. "Because, when I saw her kissing you, you were kissing back."

"I know," Willow told her. "But it was for the wrong reasons."

"Does there have to be a reason?" Xander asked. "Can't it just be something that happens?"

"I'm not that girl, Xander," Willow told him. "We both know that. Especially after everything that's happened."

"I do know that," Xander told her. "But, I'm trying to be objective here, Will. I'm trying to see this from her point of view."

"Yeah, she wasn't happy when I told her," Willow said. "Maybe it's just me," she said, wondering aloud. "Maybe it's cos I'm so screwed up," she said sadly. "It's just, we've been living together since she first got here, sharing a room, and I haven't let her in at all. She doesn't know anything about me, Xander."

"See," Xander said. "You've been living in the same house, Willow, but that's not the same as living together, believe me," he told her as she stood back up and faced him.

Willow walked across to the back porch and sat down on the steps. "I told her that she didn't know me at all. She knew the getting-ready-for-an-apocalypse me, and, you know, the scared-to-death-of-her-own-power me, but that's not all there is."

"I know that, sweetie," Xander said, following her and sitting next to her, reaching over and placing his hand over hers. "Did you try explaining this to her?"

"She said that she never had a chance get to know the other parts of me," she told him with a sad smile. "She said that when it hasn't been about the apocalypse stuff, it was about me being at the hospital with you. She just didn't understand our relationship, didn't understand why I had to be with you there."

"Will," he said quietly. "I'm…I'm sorry," he told her. "If I had known that you spending time with me was gonna cause this much of a problem, I wouldn't have let you do it."

Willow leaned into him and nudged him playfully with her shoulder. "Xander, come on," she said. "Out of the two of us here, who's the boss of me?"

He smiled at her. "I am," he told her. "Didn't we establish this a while ago? That I was the boss of you?"

"You wish, mister," she told him with a grin. "Even if you had told me to stay away, I wouldn't have done it. She's never had someone in her life who's been there through everything," she told him. "She's never had someone who she could tell all of her secrets to, no matter how small or stupid, and go to whenever she had any kind of problem and know that they would do anything in their power to make it better."

Xander smiled at her. "That's what I am to you?" he asked.

"You're my best friend, dingbat!" she told him, "and when you were hurt, you needed me, whether you knew it or not, and I needed you too. I needed to know that you were okay." She took a moment to hold his hand in both of hers. "I know that things were weird since she got here, with the Bringers and the Uber-vamps and the carnage, but the thing with me and Kennedy is…it comes down to the fact that we shouldn't be together."

"Okay, I get that you might have doubts about getting hurt again," Xander said. "But how can you make that decision so quickly?"

"This isn't a recent thing," Willow told him sadly. "I wish it was, because then I'd be listening to all of your arguments and thinking that maybe this is the wrong decision and this wouldn't be so hard. But the fact is, everything you're saying, it's nothing that I haven't already told myself ten times over. Whatever it was between me and Kennedy, it was convenience."

"And how do you figure that?"

"Because…" Willow said with a sigh. "I know that she lost someone really important in her life. I mean, she didn't have the same kind of relationship with her Watcher as Buffy did with Giles, but he was a big part of her life. She's known who she was since she was, like, eight years old, and her Watcher was with her through all of that. She was brought here because this crazy evil power wants to eliminate the slayer line. And from the time she got here, she made it perfectly clear that it was more than just the slayer training you were interested in. And that was nice, if a little scary at first, and it was great to have something else in my life that wasn't about the supernatural stuff."

"You're saying all of this like it's a bad thing," Xander told her.

"I know," Willow said, "and it's not a bad thing. It's just…I feel like the relationship only happened because she thought 'hey, I'm gay and you were in love with a woman, let's get together'."

"You have to be willing to take a chance," Xander said softly.

"I know," Willow said. "But there's also the magic stuff. She said once that she thought the magic thing was kinda cool, but when she saw it, she was freaked. I don't blame her, cos what happened that time with the portal was pretty major, but I can't handle dealing with all of that if I have to worry whether or not she's gonna get all avoidy when it happens. And it will happen, Xander, cos this power is inside of me and it always will be, and with everything that's going on, statistically speaking, I'm gonna need to use magic again soon. I have to concentrate on the magic when that time comes, I can't worry about whether or not she'll like the Goth makeover."

"And you're not willing to let her get used to all of that stuff?" he asked.

"I don't need to," Willow said, looking him in the eye. "It's just…I know that it's never going to go any further."

"But how do you know?"

"I don't love her, Xander," Willow told him sadly. "I know we've only been together a little while, but I don't feel like I ever could, no matter how much I want to. That connection that I've felt with every single person I've loved…Oz, Tara…you…it's just not there between us.."

"So, that's it?"

"That's it," she said. "I mean, she came here and she was all flirty and sweet, and that attention was flattering. But then, I realised who she was, you know? She may not be one yet, but inside, she's a slayer. She's all Pro-Active Girl, and I'm pretty much I-Don't-Wanna-Kill-Anyone-Else Girl, and we just didn't mesh. I hated the way she made me takes sides with her and Buffy, and you saw how pushy she was earlier with Faith. She's not happy unless you're following her plan. It's great for her to be that confident in herself and her abilities, but me…that's not what I'm about," she told him, somehow knowing that he already it, "At first I thought that was what I needed, you know? To be with someone so completely different to Tara, and I was so tempted just to leave things as they were, because even though I don't love her, maybe it's easier that way because if you don't love someone they can't hurt you when they go away. But really," Willow said gently, pulling her legs up under her and trying to get comfortable. "This isn't about Kennedy, because she's a great person. After Tara died, I thought I'd be dead inside forever. But she made me realise that, no matter how much I want it to, life doesn't stop happening because something bad happens, and the world doesn't stop turning. I'm grateful to her for that," she whispered, "but…"

"But it's not enough," Xander finished for her, not quite knowing if it was a question or a statement.

"No," she told him. "It's not. I realised that I loved Tara so much, I can't close myself off to the possibility of loving someone else, however scared I am, however much I feel like I'm drowning now. Kennedy is just not the person that's going to happen with."

"Maybe you should give her a chance," Xander said slowly. "Maybe you need to give her the chance to save you."

"What, like you did?" she asked, smiling at him, gripping his hand tightly. "You not only saved me, Xander Harris, you saved the world."

"Maybe," he said with a shrug, no hint of the usual proud attitude he had whenever he had discussed it with Buffy and Dawn over the last summer. "But maybe that's not why I was on the Bluff that day."

Her brow furrowed as she watched him get up from the steps and stroll across the lawn in a straight line, like he didn't want to be near her when he was saying this. "What do you mean?" she asked. "Why else would you be up there?"

"Well, I just always liked the view up there," he said with a smirk.

"Xander," she said impatiently. "Come on, be serious."

Serious was something that Xander was becoming more and more used to. "Will, I know that what you felt after Tara was so strong that you lost yourself in the magic," he told her, walking a line back to her, concentrating on his steps carefully, watching where he was walking the whole time. "You know, I blamed myself for everything that happened. I thought that if I'd been quicker, or seen the gun sooner, it would've made a difference. So, when I heard what you were doing with the temple and all…I went up there to be with you. As far as I was concerned, the world could go to hell – literally – for all I cared. The only thing I wanted to save was you. And if that couldn't happen, I was willing to die with you."

Willow knew that her heartstrings had been well and truly tugged. She gulped back the lump forming in her throat but not bothering to wipe away the tears that were forming in her eyes. "Really?" she asked. "You really felt that way?"

"Felt?" he asked her. "Hell, I'll always feel that way, Will. You know that you're the most important thing in my life, don't you?"

"I used to," she told him. "When we were growing up, I knew that you needed me, just like I needed you. But, when we grew up, somewhere to becoming these people we are now, we lost that," she said sadly. "When I was in England, I thought about you all the time, you know?" she asked. "Every time I felt that stab in my heart when I thought about Tara, and whenever I felt like I couldn't handle the power inside of me, and every time I saw that fear in Giles' eyes when he looked at me…the only thing I wanted was for you to put your arms around me and tell me you loved me again. I was grieving for Tara…but I was grieving for us too, Xander, for our friendship, because I didn't think you'd ever want to look at me again."

"Yeah, well, you're a dummy," he told her with a smirk. "You always have been, Rosenberg."

"And look who's talking, Harris," she said with a grin.

"If I had been able to," he began, kneeling in front of her, seriousness back in full force, "I would have come to England with you. I asked Giles if I could. I didn't want you to go through whatever it was that you were going through without me being there to help you. But he told me I couldn't, because it was something you had to do alone, and that me being there could distract you. I'm telling you, though; Buffy had to physically stop me, on more than one occasion, from getting in my car to drive to the airport so I could get on a plane and coming over there, despite what Giles said. I didn't want you to be alone." He shook his head. "And I do love you," he told her. "In more ways than you'll ever know."

"I love you, too," she told him. "I know that I haven't said that much over the past few years, but I do, and I always have," she said. "And I mean that in more ways than you'll ever know."

"No…" he said. "I mean it, Willow," he told her. "I love you."

She nodded her head. "I know that," she told him. "I've always known that."

"But you never…" he trailed off. "I mean, you didn't say anything.."

She smiled sadly at him. "It never felt like the right time," she said. "But I think we both know that there's no such thing. I just…I didn't want to spoil things between us. I mean, there was Oz…then Anya…then Tara… There was always someone else in our hearts."

"I still love Anya…"

"I still love Tara…"

"But what about us?" he asked. "Every time another one of these guys comes along with the big 'I'm gonna end the world' complex, it feels another day at the office," he told her. "But this time, and it may be the hole where my eye used to be talking here, I think there's a real chance that this is it. I don't think all of us are gonna make it. I don't want to die without us being okay."

She placed a finger over his lips. "Shush," she told him gently. "We don't need to go over the past, Xander," she said. "We both know what happened between us, and, whether we want it to or not, talking about it isn't going to change anything. But, I'm telling you this now, whether we were in first grade or seniors in high school or spending the summer apart because I tried to kill you, you have always been my best friend, and however long we live, be it a few more days or a hundred more years, like it or not, you always will be." She put a hand to his face and smiled at him in a way that lit up her whole face. "One thing that has become clear to me through all of this," she said, "through the whole breaking up with Kennedy thing, and sitting here with you now, is that the future is what counts now. I don't know what's going to happen here, Xander. I don't know how we'll win over this evil thing, but I can feel that we will."

"How do you know that?" he asked her.

"Because I'm not ready for us to say goodbye," she said. "There's too much we haven't done, Xander. Too much we haven't seen, and I want us to do those things together."

"But what if…?"

"Don't," she said.

And then, taking one of the biggest risks of her life, Willow Rosenberg kissed her best friend.

He didn't know what was happening at first. He wasn't quite sure whether he had spaced out again, and was having another one of those familiar no-one-exists-but-me moments that had happened on and off for most of his life.. He could usually feel them coming on and always tried to avert them, because there's nothing worse than fantasising about your best friend when you're happily in a relationship with a vengeance demon. Or, ex-vengeance demon, even though the 'ex' thing was something that didn't usually register with his terrible fear of being eviscerated slowly with a spoon by a scorned woman.

Usually these fantasies happened at the worst possible time, like when he was in the middle of a math test in high school, back when the love he felt for Willow was more lust. Is it any wonder he flunked just about every test he took? He thought teachers were supposed to be smart. How clever was it to sit a hormonally charged teenage boy behind the hot girl who was his best friend? Or, like when he was in a meeting with some prestigious client, and boy, was his boss pissed about that time he zoned out and spent an entire hour staring at a the guy they were supposed to be doing a job for with a grin on his face the Cheshire cat would have been proud of. Or, in the middle of waiting for an apocalypse, like right now.

But, wait, he could actually feel her lips on his, soft and sweet and everything he remembered from before, but he knew this shouldn't be happening, because, hello, she's gay and she just broke up with her girlfriend and this is probably just a pity thing and he can't figure out why Willow is kissing him, but why isn't this enough to make him pull away?

Eventually, grudgingly, mindlessly, he pulled away, breaking the kiss, and feeling like the stupidest human in the world for willingly giving up one of the things he never thought would happen but always wished would.

Breathing hard, he looked at her, and she was sitting in front of him, her eyes still closed and looking like the girl he grew up with, the girl who had seemed lost to him until now.

Slowly, Willow opened her eyes, the effect of his lips on hers making her feel things she never thought she would again, and she had to lean forward and rest her hands on his shoulders to make sure she wouldn't fall from the step. "Wow…" she whispered, trying to breathe normally again. When he looked at her, though, there was sadness in his eyes that made her heart sink.

Xander got to his feet, saying nothing, as he turned away from his, running his hand through his hair and letting out a long breath.

She stood up and went to him, touching his shoulder gently and feeling him tense under her grip.

"Don't do this…" he told her, his voice breaking.

"Don't do what?" she asked.

"Don't make me feel like this," he said. "Don't confuse things between us, not now. There's too much going on. Buffy walked out of her own house tonight because we told her to. Anya was trying to get me in the sack less than an hour ago, right around the same time you were breaking up with your girlfriend, emphasis on the word 'girl', and my best friend just kissed me. I can't deal with this right now. I don't know if I can deal with this ever."

"Xander," she told him, using the hand on his shoulder to turn him around to make him look at her, even though he was doing everything he could to avoid eye contact. "We've spent too long thinking about other people. Things are screwed up, and we're screwed up beyond repair, but don't throw excuses at me."

"Have you forgotten that I have a penis?" he asked, eyes wide and arms in the air.

"Surprisingly, no," she told him, rolling her eyes.

"How did we get here?" he asked. "How did we get from your relationship problems to us kissing?" he said. "What are we playing here, 'How to Screw Up Your Friendship in Five Easy Steps'?"

"We're not playing anything," she said softly, taking one of his hands in hers and holding it tightly. "I just know that when something feels right, you should grab it with both hands, and in the middle of all of the wrong stuff, this feels right." She moved one of his hands to rest on her waist, and the other to her cheek, and as she felt his skin on hers, she closed her eyes and leaned into his palm.

"What are you doing…?" he asked.

She opened her eyes briefly as she took a step forward, their bodies closer than they had been for the longest time, and she placed her hands on his face, her thumbs stroking the skin softly. "You saved me on the Bluff that day, Xander," she told him softly. "Now it's time for me to save you…"

And when he kissed her, she knew everything was going to be alright. She didn't know why, how, or even when it would work out, she just knew it would. She felt safe, and happy, and loved and she knew that he was the thing that's always grounded her, the thing that always will ground her, and now she can finally let herself feel all of the things she's suppressed since high school. She realised that Kennedy had made her see that the world didn't stop turning because something bad happened, nothing could stop it, and life went on, no matter what.

And being in Xander's arms and feeling his lips on hers…she realised that she wanted it to.

The End