Searching for summer in the winter of her heart

Author: Knife Hand <d_lutke[at]>

Feedback: Constructive feedback appreciated, flames unappreciated

Spoilers: Series 2 of Buffy.

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy. I would buy them but I am broke.

Category: Buffy/Xander

Summary: When Buffy leaves Sunnydale after killing Angel, Xander comes along for the ride.

AN: Xander was just starting to date Cordelia after Angel lost his Soul, otherwise as Series 2. Will contain crossovers. "_" denotes speech, '_' denotes though and *_* denotes song lyrics.

AN2: The songs are 'Full of Grace' by Sarah Mclachlan.
'My Lover is Gone' by Dido and
'Wild Horses' by The Sundays

AN3: I am disregarding when the songs were actually released, I am choosing them because 1) they are appropriate for the mood/emotional response of the scene or character and 2), let's face it, because I like the song.

I apologise for the formatting, did it not me. :)

Chapter 1
Frozen Heart/ Full of Grace?

Buffy stood on the sidewalk outside Sunnydale High, with a sports bag slung over her shoulder. She saw her friends talking near the entrance to the school building. The sun shone down on her, mocking her with a fine day when her heart and dreams had been shattered, sent to Hell by her own hand to save the world from the demon Acathla. She turned and walked away from her former school and her hopes of a normal life in Sunnydale, or even an abnormal one.

Unbeknown to her the last of her friends to enter the school building, Xander, had turned and saw her as she left. When she arrived at the bus station she jumped on the first bus away from Sunnydale, the Hellmouth. She stared out of the window as the bus passed the sign indicating that they were exiting Sunnydale, oblivious to the rest of the bus, until she heard someone speak next to her.

"So, where we headed, Buff?"

She turned and stared at the brown haired teen sitting next to her, obviously without any luggage.

"What are you doing here Xander? You should be in school." She said.

"No. I'm exactly where I should be, and I can't let you go off by yourself."

Buffy stared at her feet for a while before making any further comment.

"I've given up, Xand. I can't take Sunnydale anymore. I'm no hero." She admitted, almost breaking into tears.

"You've always been my hero, Buff. And it is not the Slaying, it is you. I'm not disappointed in you for leaving. I would have left Sunnyhell after the Harvest if it wasn't for you. You convinced me that there are reasons to fight, but there are limits, and you have reached yours. I understand, I've been there."

"And how did you deal?" Buffy asked, looking at her Xander-shaped friend.

"It was you, your courage. You went, faced the master and died, then came back and absolutely kicked his ass. So I figured that maybe I could help you, or at least keep you company."

"Thank you Xander." Buffy honestly said.

"For what?" Xander replied, confused.


The bus rolled along the highway, even fleeing the past, Buffy and Xander felt better that they would face the unknown future together.


The sun had just set as Buffy and Xander walked along the streets of LA. They were heading to their apartment after a long day's work at the café where Buffy was a waitress and Xander was a dish washer. It had been about three weeks since they had left Sunnydale and Buffy was starting to cope with the loss of Angel. Xander had already called Giles in Sunnydale saying that they were alive and asking him to arrange for the other Slayer, Kendra's replacement, to take over the Hellmouth.

As they walked along they saw a young girl running, chased by what, to them, was obviously a vampire. The same aspects of their minds that made them heroes in Sunnydale kicked in again and they were quickly off, chasing the vampire. Buffy quickly gained on the vampire, Xander left slightly behind because of her Slayer speed. Just before the girl turned the corner into an abandoned lot Buffy tripped the vampire and quickly, with the Stake she always carried, out of habit, staked him in the heart.

Xander stoped by Buffy's side just as the dust settled and the pair were confronted by over a dozen people, mostly late teens and early twenties, obviously lead by a black man, around twenty years of age, decked out mostly in black leather, with a black bandana on his head. The group of people were armed with swords, axes, stakes and crossbows.

"Nice moves. Name's Charles Gunn and this is my crew." the leader said.

"I'm Buffy and this is Xander." Buffy replied. "Why do you hunt them? None of you are Witches or anything."

"They hunt us, we hunt them. Why do you do it?" Gunn asked in response.

"Vampire Slayer. Retired. Mystical destiny and all that." Buffy said slightly annoyed.

"She decided to form a band and go on tour. We're called 'I'm want to stick wood in your heart'." Xander quipped.

Gunn and his crew laughed at Xander's joke. Buffy and Xander were invited back to Gunn's building, which was seemingly abandoned but held almost a hundred 'freedom fighters'. Buffy and Xander were warmly welcomed by the group, they all even signed Xander's cast on his healing broken arm, despite the fact that it was almost due to come off.


Xander quickly brought the sword up to block the downwards thrust of his opponent's sword, grunting when the blades made contact.

"Good. You're learning, now attack me." Gunn ordered, moving into a neutral stance.

In a large open area of Gunn's building, a training area was set up. Gunn was teaching Xander how to sword fight while Buffy was doing a gymnastics routine, to maintain her flexibility, a few meters away. Buffy and Xander had been working with Gunn's crew for almost two months, working at the café during the day and training or patrolling with the crew at night. They also helped Gunn plan patrols or raids, Buffy using Slaying in Sunnydale as a reference while Xander dipped into his Military memories from Halloween.

It was one of their days off, so Gunn offered to help Xander with his swordsmanship. Xander charged at Gunn, but all his attacks were deflected by the other man. Xander had gained quite a bit of muscles while with the crew, and both he and Buffy had gained a lot of respect, although they never talked about their past. Xander and Gunn were having a break when Buffy finished her routine.

"She moves like an angel." one of the guys watching Buffy said.

When she heard this comment, Buffy dropped to the floor and started to cry. Xander dropped his sword and ran to Buffy's side, hitting the guy over the back of the head as he passed.

"Never say that word. Never say Angel." Xander yelled at the stunned teenager.

Sitting on the floor next to her, Xander placed Buffy's head in his lap and stroked her hair.

"Shush, Buff. It's ok. He didn't know. It'll be alright, I'm here." Xander whispered to her.

Gunn came over to see what was happening.

"Everything alright, Xander?" he asked.

"She'll be fine, but I doubt that we will be able to stay. Not now. Past stuff." Xander told Gunn.

When Gunn saw the pain in Xander's eyes he nodded.

"Gunn?" Xander said.

"Right." Gunn replied. "Everyone out."

Everyone left the training area, laving Buffy and Xander alone, so she could work through the pain. Buffy had cried several times since they had left Sunnydale, but never before in public. Several nights, in the room Gunn had given them and the single bedroom apartment they had rented before meeting Gunn, Buffy had cried herself to sleep in Xander's arms. Xander had become Buffy's support system, and he seriously doubted that she could cope, or would have been able to cope this long, alone. When Buffy finished crying Xander lifted her up and carried her to their room, laying her on the bed.

At any time in Sunnydale Xander would have been amazed that he and Buffy could share a room without having a physical relationship, but Xander knew that Buffy needed emotional support and that kind of relationship would not help, it may even destroy the fractured personality of the Buffy he loved. As Buffy slept on the bed, Xander went around the room packing their things, and after a few minutes there was a knock at the door. Xander opened it he saw Gunn holding a box.

"One of the guys got this package from the post office for you." Gunn said.

"Thanks." Xander replied.

He took the package and opened it on the table.

"Way to go Will." Xander whispered when he saw what was in the package.

The package contained a laptop, especially built and adapted by Willow. The laptop was adapted so that it had a hidden internet connection with access to a secured e-mail account that only the Scoobies knew the address to, and Buffy's mother. Xander hooked up the laptop and checked the e-mail account; there were three messages, one from Willow, one from Giles and one from Buffy's mother. Xander had read Giles' message and was reading Willow's when buffy awoke, brought out of slumber by Xander's chuckle.

"What's so funny?" Buffy asked.

"Welcome back. It's Willow, she rambles even when she's writing e- mails." Xander replied.

"E-mails?" Buffy asked.

Xander explained about the laptop and the secured e-mail account that Willow had set up.

"So what do the e-mails say?"

Xander read out Giles' and Willow's e-mails to Buffy. Giles' contained a very British account of the events that had transpired on the Hellmouth. Highlights included a Jeckle and Hide incident and the arrival of the new Slayer, Faith, and her Watcher, Andrea Waterston (both of whom seemed to like the Scoobies, including Giles). Willow's e-mail rambled from the new Slayer, to how she missed them both, to Oz to the local vampire population. Oz, typical to his stoic style, had added two sentences to the end of Willow's e-mail. 'Missin ya. Be cool.'

"I didn't open the e-mail from your mother." Xander said, getting off the chair so Buffy could read her mom's e-mail.

"She's fine and misses me. She trusts you, apparently. She is a bit on the side of non-coping but if we go back we have a place to stay." she said after she finished reading the e-mail. "So when do we leave, and where are we going?"

"Whenever you are ready. I was thinking San Francisco." Xander replied. "I think Gunn and his crew want to say goodbye."

Twenty minutes later they were downstairs saying goodbye to Gunn and his crew. The crew had all pooled together to get Xander and Buffy gifts. Xander was given a sword and a specially designed crossbow, while Buffy was given a large axe, compiled from scraps of metal. They were both given a photo of the entire gang, and Gunn's sister gave them a picture of herself, Buffy, who she saw as a sister, and Xander, who she had a crush on. There was also a fully fuelled car waiting, curtesy of a rich businessman that they had rescued from vampires.


Xander drove along the highway to San Francisco, the headlights cutting through the night. Buffy was asleep in the passenger's seat and Xander had the radio playing softly. The lyrics of the song stuck a cord with Xander and made him think about their current situation

*The winter here's cold and bitter,
It's chilled us to the bone,
I haven't seen the sun for weeks,
Too long, too far from home.*

Xander felt as if he and Buffy were cut off from their friends, their home and that thought sent chills through him. He knew, however, that the memory of Angel hurt Buffy more that missing his friends hurt him.

*I feel just like I'm sinking,
And I claw for solid ground,
Pulled down by the undertone,
Never thought I could feel so low,
Oh, darkness, I feel like letting go.*

The memories of Acathla, Angel and the whole Hellmouth experience were a great weight that threatened to consume the petite, blond Slayer and Xander was the only place she could turn to for help, and he knew that he would always be there, even if it dragged him under as well.

*With all of the strength, and all of the courage,
Come and lift me from this place,
I know I can love you much better than this,
Full of grace, full of grace, my love.*

Xander would never leave Buffy, no matter what. The infatuation with her that had formed when he had first laid eyes on her had steadily grown into deep respect and unconditional love. Because of these feelings, Xander would follow Buffy to the ends of the earth and gladly give his life for her, even though she would never fully realise why.

*It's better this way, I see,
Haven't seen this place before,
Everything we say and do,
Hurts us all the more.*

Xander had always stepped back for Buffy. He had always felt that Buffy dating Angel would lead to her being hurt, even before he found out that Angel was a vampire. Never the less, Xander had stepped back because the relationship seemed to make Buffy happy, even though it killed Xander to see them together. Even his making out with Cordelia hurt him, because he felt that he was betraying his feelings for the Slayer he loved.

*Just so we stay, too long,
In the same old sickly skin,
Pulled down by the undertone,
Never thought I could feel so low,
Oh, darkness, I feel like letting go.*

She had never seen it, but her love for Angel was doomed to fail, and Xander had always feared the day she realised it, for the pain it would bring her. Angel was to live forever and Buffy's destiny wanted her dead young. Now she had outlived him, sending him to Hell herself, and she blamed herself for everything that had happened, including things beyond her control, like the death of Jenny Calender. On occasion she had even gotten suicidal.

*With all of the strength, and all of the courage,
Come and lift me from this place,
I know I can love you much better than this,
Full of grace.*

Xander had stood by Buffy through thick and thin, talking her out of her suicidal depression and helping her through her pain. Through it all he had gained even more respect for the petite blond Slayer, who fought the forces of darkness fiercely, always winning, even when she longed for death to escape the pain.

*I know I can love you much better than this,
It's better this way.*

Xander now loved Buffy with such devotion that he would take on the armies of Hell to see her smile, gladly endure eternity of torture to spend a minute in her company, greet death with a smile on his face to keep her alive a second longer. He loved her with such a passion that he gave up any chance to be with her so that she could rebuild her life, because if she knew it would stop her seeing him as the friend that she desperately needed.

'It's better this way. Better for her.' Xander thought fiercely.

The song faded and Buffy stirred in the passenger's seat. Returning from his musings, Xander glanced quickly at the waking girl as she stretched and finally opened her eyes. She was so cute when she was waking, he knew this from experience. Xander and Buffy had spent almost every night since they had left Sunnydale in the same bed, although nothing sexual had happened.

Sometimes Buffy would fall asleep in his arms crying, other times she just needed to be held and on rare occasions, Xander needed her comfort, either because he needed medical attention or because the effective loss of Willow that he had suffered because Buffy needed him, not that he ever put it like that. Now it seemed that neither of them could sleep without the other present, like a safe haven in an endless battleground.

"Morning. Have a good sleep?" Xander asked.

"Yep. Where are we?" Buffy asked back.

"Just getting into San Francisco." Xander replied.

As he said this, the car crested the final raise and they both saw San Francisco sprawling beneath them, bathed in the pale light of pre-dawn.

'I hope things are quiet here.' Xander thinks as the drive down into the town.

Chapter 2
New Friends/Same Old Problems

Buffy let the warm water of the shower flow over her, washing away the sweat and, hopefully, the painful memories. They had been in San Francisco for almost six months and had not encountered much demonic or vampiric activity. With the money that they had saved in LA they had rented a decent apartment and they had gotten decent jobs. Buffy worked as an instructor in a self-defence gym, and was currently showering in the locker room after a session with students, while Xander worked as an apprentice with a carpenter just down the street.

'Who would have thought that he was so good at woodwork?' Buffy thought to herself.

Buffy shut off the shower, quickly dried off and got dressed. She rummaged through her locker, looking for gum, knowing that she had a half hour wait till her next class when a song came over the radio that released a wave of unpleasant memories, causing her to drop onto the bench in front of her locker like a log.

*My lover's gone,
His boots no longer by my door
He left at dawn,
And as I slept I felt him go.*

Swept up in her memories, Buffy was trapped like an observer in her own mind on the morning that the whole thing started. Waking up alone, not knowing if he was dead, hurt or just in the next room. The search of the apartment, talking to her friends and finding out he had not checked in, the meeting where he insulted her and watching him try to kill Willow and Xander at the school.

*Returns no more,
I will not watch the ocean,
My lover's gone,
No earthly ships will ever,
Bring him home again.
Bring him home again.*

She blamed herself for every death that he caused as Angelus, especially that of Jenny Calender. She wished that she could have been stronger, faster, and smarter. She could have saved Jenny, saved all of Angelus' victims. If she had not given in to her passion, then Angelus would never have emerged, she had failed as the Slayer, she had failed everyone. It was all her fault!

*My lover's gone,
I know that kiss will be my last,
No more his song,
The tune upon his lips has past.*

She could still remember his eyes. She and Angelus were fighting to the death when suddenly his eyes glowed and HE was back. For a moment she though they could be together, like she had when they had been possessed by the ghosts in the school. It was too late, however, the gateway was opening. She pulled him into a kiss, trying to savour the moment, and then she stabbed him, sending him to Hell and shattering her heart into a million pieces.

*I sing alone,
While I watch the ocean,
My lover's gone,
No earthly ships will ever,
Bring him home again.
Bring him home again.*

At first she was furious with Xander. He knew that Willow was going to try the curse and he had lied to her, costing her the love of her life. Then he had shown up on the bus, giving up everything he knew to keep her company, the typical unselfishness of Xander.

In that moment she realised why he had lied to her, and while she was still hurt that he had, she no longer hated him. He knew her, and he knew that if she thought that she could get Angel back, she would not have given it her all, and she would have died. Without that holding her back, she had been able to fight with focus and drive. With a clarity that only comes from great loss, and as a result she had survived when she otherwise would not have.

*My lover's gone,
His boots no longer by my door
He left at dawn,
And as I slept I felt him go.*

She had not survived unscathed, however. He heart had been shattered into a million pieces and she feared that it would never be whole again. Over the last few months she had slowly began to rebuild trust and repair her broken heart. She was nowhere near being ready to date, let alone fall in love, and the pain was still there but it was getting slightly easier to deal with, except when it swamped her.

*Returns no more,
I will not watch the ocean,
My lover's gone,
No earthly ships will ever,
Bring him home again.
Bring him home again.*

Ever since she had arrived in Sunnydale, she had relied on Xander, now he was her only lifeline, her shelter in the storm and he was such a devoted friend that he would never leave her. Buffy knew that Xander would follow her to the ends of the earth in the name of friendship. He had always offered a comforting shoulder for her to cry on, a warm embrace when she felt alone.

Sometimes she wished that he could comfort her in another way, particularly when she was hyped up, from Slaying or after an invigorating self-defence class, and felt like she needed release. She never mentioned this, or acted upon these feelings for fear that she might drive him away or lose her emotional support system that he provided.


Xander entered the self-defence gym, nodding to the girl at the front desk before moving to the female staff locker room and knocking on the door.

"Buffy?" Xander called.

He knew that there would not be any other instructors in the locker room at this time of day, so when he heard the sob he did not hesitate to enter. Buffy was sitting on the bench in front of her locker in tears.

"And that was My Lover's Gone by Dido. Next up is How Do I Live Without You by Leanne Rymes. Stay tune...CLICK" came over the Radio, cutting off when Xander turned off the set.

Xander sat down next to Buffy and pulled her into a comforting hug.

"Xand?" Buffy asked when she felt the arm around her.

"Shush. It'll be OK, Buff. I was going to invite you out to lunch but now I'm taking you home." Xander said. "I'll be right back, OK?"

When Buffy nodded Xander stood up and left the locker room. He instantly pulled out his mobile phone and dialled one of the programmed numbers.

"Greg? It's Xander. I won't be back after lunch... It's Buffy... nah, I won't need tomorrow off, she'll be better by then...ok, I'll give her your complements. Thanks, bye."

With that he hung up the phone and walked into Buffy's manager's office.

"Janice. Can you cancel Buffy's afternoon classes?" Xander asked.

"Depends. If you two are going to..." Janice began.

"She had a breakdown in the locker room." Xander said flatly, not liking the innuendo.

"Oh God! Of course. Take her home." Janice said, genuinely concerned about her best instructor, and almost friend.

Xander went back into the locker room, quickly packed Buffy's stuff, slinging over on shoulder in her sports bag, then her gently lifted her, cradling her in his arms with her head resting on his shoulder, her tears soaking his shirt. He carried her out of the gym, surprising her colleges and some of the students, and quickly placed her in the passenger side of their car and drove her home.

When they got there, Xander laid Buffy out on the bed, and quickly fixed something to eat. When he returned, Buffy had begun to calm down. Xander spent the next few hours watching Buffy sleep, unable to move for two reasons. The first was that he had always been mesmerised by watching Buffy sleep, she always seemed so fragile and peaceful, she was the embodiment of everything that needed protecting, contrary to when she was awake and was the protector. The second reason he could not move was the fact the Buffy was using his chest as a pillow and had his legs practically pinned under one of hers.


When Xander awoke it was dark. He awoke due to Buffy's movements, particularly the one that involved sharp contact between her stretching fist and his kidneys. Buffy finally rolled over onto her back and opened her eyes.

"Hey." she said nonchalantly.

"Hey yourself." Xander replied. "Feeling better?"

"Yah. Sorry about that. It's just I..." Buffy began but stoped when Xander placed his fingers over her mouth.

"It's OK. Feel up to going out?" Xander said, changing topics.

Buffy simply nodded before charging off to the bathroom to shower. When she was out of sight, Xander slowly brought the fingers that had touched Buffy's mouth up to his own.

'Probably the closest I'll ever get to actually kissing her.' He thought sadly.

"So. Where are we going?" Buffy shouted over the sound of the water.

"I don't know. You choose." Xander yelled back, gathering clothes together to wear.

"How about P3? It is a club owned by one of my students and her sisters. She gave me an open invitation" Buffy replied.

"Sound's great." Xander said.

Twenty minutes later Buffy and Xander arrived at P3 and were surprisingly met at the door by one of the owners, Buffy's student, who was just entering at the same time.

"Buffy. How's it going? I heard you were sick, and that's why this afternoon's class was cancelled." Phoebe said.

"Yah, sorry about that, Phoebe. Personal problems. This is my friend Xander." Buffy responded.

By this time they had moved into the club with Buffy and Xander staring in wonder.

"Way better than the Bronze." Xander whispered.

"Pleased to meet you, Xander." Phoebe said.

"Charmed." Xander said, causing Phoebe to choke.

When Xander's hand touched Phoebe's she was overcome with a vision. Unlike her normal visions, this one did not end in a few seconds. Phoebe, through Xander's eyes, saw everything that had happened in his life, and a few things that might happen in the future, but they were all crammed together, overlapping each other till they were impossible to make out.

After about ten seconds Phoebe dropped to the floor, almost unconscious. Seeing this from halfway across the club, Piper instantly froze the entire room and, with Prue right behind her, ran across the room calling for Leo. Leo appeared in a shower of lights and bent down to look at Phoebe. Needless to say, Prue, Piper, Phoebe (who was coming around) and Leo were all shocked to hear a voice from the frozen room.

"So. You're witches? Cool." Xander said.

"Who's the guy though?" Buffy said right on his heels.

"What the fricken hell is going on here. You are supposed to be frozen." Piper shouted.

"How do you know about witches?" Phoebe asked.

"You first." Buffy stated, unconsciously slipping into a fighting stance.

"We are the Charmed Ones." Prue said, causing Xander to snicker at his earlier comment. "Leo is our Whitelighter, like our Guardian Ang..."

"For that sack of some people's sanity, please do not finish that word." Xander interrupted. "I wonder why Wills doesn't have a Whitelighter?"

"Who is Wills? How do you know about witches? Why aren't you frozen?" Piper asked.

"Simple. Willow has been my best friend since kindergarten; she is a witch, well a beginner. She can only float some stuff, ensoul a vampire, do basic tracking spells." Xander said.

"Umm. Ensoul a vampire?" Leo asked.

"Don't go there." Buffy warned.

"OK." Leo said seeing the look in Buffy's eyes.

"I don't see why she doesn't have a Whitelighter. Where does she live?" Leo said.

"Sunnydale." Buffy said.

"Yah. Good old Sunnydale. Also known as, Boca Del Inferno." Xander said with a wiry grin.

"Shit. The Hellmouth! No wonder. Whitelighter's can't go near that place."

"Back to the important question. Why aren't you frozen?!?" Piper said, agitatedly.

"Whoa, obsess much. For Buff it is probably a Slayer immunity. What do you think Buff?" Xand said.

"Yah probably. Don't know bout you. You were always the normal one in the group." Buffy said.

"How normal?" Leo said suddenly very interested.

"Extremely. Always kept us laughing, even saved my life a few times." Buffy replied.

"I'm honoured." Leo said kneeling before Xander.

"What the hell are you doing?!?" Xander screamed.

"You are a White Knight. Sire." Leo said.

"Not that again. Just because tall, dark and Soulless called me that. Oh god. Sorry Buff." Xander said, realising his slip.

"It's ok." Buffy said to Xander before turning to Leo. "Explain now or I kick your ass across the club and back."

"Let's go sit down." Leo suggested.

Piper unfroze the club and they all went and sat in the private booth, cordoned off from the rest of the club by rope. Leo began to explain the concept of the White Knights.

"For centuries there have been the White Knights. There are only seven walking the planet at any one time, when one dies another is born. They are destined to lead the Armies of God during the End of Days. Not all of them are natural fighters; they are the embodiment of all that is good in Humanity.

"Some provide emotional support, others are brilliant doctors, yet others are warriors. All the White Knights are fiercely loyal to those they feel deserve it and they love unconditionally. They are immune to some kinds of magic, like freezing of time, yet are very open to other kinds. That is what happened to Phoebe, she was rushed with Xander's life and possibilities." Leo explained, with appropriate gestures.

"Umm. Wow." Was all Xander was able to say.

"OK. Enough shop talk for one night. You two need to relax." Prue said to Buffy and Xander. "Go and dance or I'll throw stuff at you all night. My power is telekinesis, so move."

Xander and Buffy weighed their options for a second before complying with the command. As the pair walked out onto the dance floor, the live band began to play and they began to dance.

*Childhood living,
Is easy to do,
Those things that you wanted,
I brought them for you.*

Buffy and Xander started to dance; it was a slow dance, matching the mood of the music. At first they felt uncomfortable at dancing so close but after a minute or so they began to relax and felt more comfortable.

*Graceless lady,
You know who I am,
You know I can't let you,
Just slide through my hands.*

The dancing couple became totally oblivious to the entire club, except for the music and each other. Buffy leaned in and place her head on Xander's shoulder and the both forgot all the troubles of the world they lived in.

*And wild horses,
Couldn't drag me away,
Wild horses,
Couldn't drag me away.*

Their emotional attachment to each other was so strong that any observer would be easily forgiven for thinking that they were a couple, or even married.

*I watched you suffer,
A dull, aching pain,
And now you decided,
Just to show me the same.*

What the observers missed it the buried pain that the pair had suffered through. The horror of knowing what goes bump in the night, watching loved ones fight, risking their lives for a world that would never know their name or that they even existed. The suffering caused by watching friends and loved ones die.

*No sweeping exits,
Or off-stage lines,
Can make me feel bitter,
Or treat you unkind.*

All that they had gone through was being forgotten for the length of the song, where they were swept up in the simple pleasure of life and the sure knowledge that they would always be there for each other, no matter what.

*And wild horses,
Couldn't drag me away,
Wild, wild horses,
Couldn't drag me away.*

Unbeknownst to them, a spot light had been turned on Buffy and Xander as they danced. The sight was spectacular, as they danced with effortless grace and, what looked like, pure and complete love. No one in the crowd had ever seen anything so beautiful as the sight of these two teenagers dancing (remember that they would be 17 or 18 at the time). The band took the display as a complement, that something so beautiful could be based on their creation.

*Faith has been broken,
Tears must be cried,
Let's do some living,
After we die.*

Xander and Buffy danced. They danced to escape the pain of their lives. They knew that they were just delaying the pain, that the tears would come later, when they were alone, away from public eye, but at the moment they did not care. They just wanted to dance, to hold each other and make the real world go away. It was desperation more than anything that filled their movements.

*And wild horses,
Couldn't drag me away,
Wild, wild horses,
Couldn't drag me away.*

Desperation to escape the past. Desperation to keep the other close. They both knew that in order to eventually deal with their problems and return to some kind of normal life depended on the emotional support of the other person. Although it appeared that Buffy was the one who needed the most support, that assumption was wrong.

Xander had great need for Buffy, he was just able to put Buffy's needs ahead of his own, knowing that they would eventually get dealt with. Until they had both recovered and could get on with their lives, the paths were bound, with the bond of need and true friendship that were always stronger that steel.

*Wild, wild horses,
We'll ride them someday,
Wild, wild horses,
We'll ride them someday.*

The sound of clapping broke into the world that Buffy and Xander had transported themselves to as they finished the dance. They looked around and saw a ring of clapping onlookers, who seemed impressed by what they had just seen. Feeling uncomfortable in the spotlight, Buffy and Xander hurried back to the owner's table where the Halliwell sisters were waiting. Once there they made idle conversation for a while before excusing themselves.

Chapter 3
Echoes of the Past/Old Friends

Buffy and Xander's Apartment, 7am the next morning (Friday)

Buffy and Xander awoke at almost the same time, wrapped in each other's arms. They both got out of bed and went about their normal morning routine. Xander put on the coffee and laid out his clothes while Buffy showered and then Buffy dressed and cooked breakfast while Xander showered. They sat over breakfast talking about events of the day, what happened the previous day and general plans for the future.

It was not obvious to the pair, but their relationship had changed since leaving Sunnydale, which they would have noticed if they had thought back to their prior lives. That, however, was the one thing they tried not to do and when they did it was not of pleasant memories. Their relationship had slowly changed from that of close friends who had faced death together, to one resembling marriage. Their emotional and mental connection exceeded that of most married couples, communicating volumes with a touch, gesture or look that would be missed completely by any outside observer.

The only part of a marriage that they did not share was physical intimacy of a sexual nature. If you were a fly on the wall observing them you would believe that they were a perfectly normal, married couple, except for the tendency for one or the other to break down for no apparent reason and the unusual assortment of weaponry hidden around the apartment. After breakfast Xander and Buffy exited the apartment on their way to work, glad that it was a Friday.


Halliwell Manor, 8:15am

Even with only two more members, the Halliwell household in the morning did not resemble the orderly dance of Buffy and Xander, more a semi-organised chaos that revolved around the kitchen.

"I'm worried about them." Phoebe announced into the pandemonium.

"Who?" Prue said as she passed.

"Buffy and Xander." Phoebe replied.

"Why? Buffy's got Xander to lean on." Piper commented from her position in front of the stovetop.

"Exactly. But who can Xander turn to?" Phoebe countered.

"She's got a point, honey. Xander's a White Knight. He will always put everyone else before himself and it will destroy him. We lost a lot of good White Knights that way." Leo said from the table, where he calmly sat reading the paper and drinking his coffee.

"Yah. I'm going to go see Xander at lunch and talk to him. I think he needs someone to talk to." Phoebe said, grabbing her bag and leaving for morning classes.


Xander's Workplace 12:42 PM

Xander finished the butterfly joint on the piece of wood that would become a cabinet and went outside to have lunch. Sitting on bench outside the carpenter's shop Xander was calmly eating when he was surprised by Phoebe.

"Hey Xander." She said as she sat next to him on the bench.

"Phoebe? What are you doing here?" Xander asked

"I came to see you. To see how you are coping." Phoebe replied.

"I'm ..." Xander began.

"Don't give me that I'm fine crap." Phoebe said firmly.

"We're dealing. Sometimes it's harder, sometimes it's easier."

"And sometimes all you want to do is cry till you can't see and scream till your voice goes horse but you can't because you don't want to let Buffy down." Phoebe concluded.

Xander retreated into his thoughts, pain visible in his eyes, but he resolved to deal with it. Again the guiding force behind his reflection was a song in the background.

*Spend all you time waiting,
For that second chance,
For a break that would make it ok,
There's always some reason,
To feel not good enough,
And it's hard at the end of the day.*

Xander had always been an outcast, never being very popular. He had hung out with Willow and Jesse for most of his childhood, but when Buffy had come into his life things had changed. She was what he had wanted to be near. When she had turned him down for spring fling, he had been devastated and he had been waiting since for another chance to be with her.

In the Scooby Gang, he had always been the normal one. He had joked around to hide some of his own insecurities, like never being good enough for Buffy. While the others had seen him as a symbol of what they were fighting for and a dear friend, Xander had never felt that he had contributed enough to the group.

*I need some distraction,
Oh, beautiful release,
Memories seep through my veins,
And maybe empty, oh, and weightless,
And maybe, find some piece tonight.*

Xander had never been satisfied being a symbol. The others often wondered why he so often threw himself into the fighting and why he never got any better. Two reasons kept bringing him back to the fight. The first was a character flaw in which he compelled himself to fight for those he loved, even if they could do it better. The other was distraction from himself. The truth was, Xander was not a bad fighter, had he ever been inclined to he could probably have beaten a fair few of the bullies around school, but he was no match for the undead.

*In the arms of the angels,
Far away from here,
From this stark, cold hotel room,
And the endlessness that you fear.*

Like Buffy, Xander took personal responsibility for the deaths in Sunnydale. Unlike Buffy, the deaths were not of nameless faces or people met once and forgotten. Xander knew almost all of them, he grew up with them, knew the parents, siblings or children of the deceased. They were friends and acquaintances that he had failed to protect, knowing that he would have to look into the eyes of their relatives and friends who wanted answers, answers he had but ones that he could not give them.

*You are called from the wreckage,
Of your silent revelry,
In the arms of the angels,
May you find some comfort here.*

He had seen the desperation in the eyes of families looking for their 'Missing Relatives' and knowing that he either had or would willingly shove a stake in the heart of their loved one and watch them turn to dust. There would be no reconciliations, no closure for their pain, just questions that would never be answered.

*So tired of the straight life,
That everywhere you turn,
There's vultures and thieves at you back,
Stone keeps on twisting,
Keep on building the lies,
That you make up for all that you lack.*

At first he had thought that if he stopped this one vampire, that maybe he could save one person's family from that pain. That had changed. After a while, Xander went into the fights expecting to be hurt, wanting to be hurt. As if the pain could erase the memories of too many missing people, too many funerals with no body, or with bodies that he would soon have to fight. Naturally Xander had lied to cover up this disturbing fact from the rest of the Scooby Gang, but then something had happened to restore the mission, so to speak.

*Don't make no difference,
Escape one last time,
It's easier to believe,
And this sweet madness,
Oh, this glorious sadness,
Brings me to my knees.*

The death of Miss Calender had been a wakeup call for Xander. He got to fell what it was like for the families for the victims of the Hellmouth. He now understood the full depth behind those faces that haunted him and from then on he used them as a source of strength, a reason to fight rather than the addictively self-destructive manner he had been fighting. Now he stood the line against darkness so that others would not have to, for the hope of a better tomorrow and a blond girl he could never have.

*In the arms of the angels,
Far away from here,
From this stark, cold hotel room,
And the endlessness that you fear.*

Even at his most self-destructive, Xander was still looking out for the other members of the Scooby Gang. Most of the jokes he cracked while in the library, researching the latest bad guy, were to relieve tension. He had lost count on the number of times he would see Buffy about to snap or storm off to either beat up anything she could find or attack a demon with out knowing what it could do, or Willow in the third stage of either panic or mental overload, both of which generally lead to extensive babbling then passing out.

Then he would crack some joke, often not that funny, and everyone would laugh, Giles would often yell at him, but when they stopped laughing, Buffy would be calm, looking through the books, or Willow would be back from the edge, her razor sharp mind back on track.

*You are called from the wreckage,
Of your silent revelry,
In the arms of the angels,
May you find some comfort here.
In the arms of the angels,
May you find some comfort here.*

Now all the security in Xander's life was gone. The sanctity of the Library that he had pretended to hate to get at Giles, and the stuffy old Brit with a book or a cup of tea or both in his hand. Willow, the best friend he had known since forever, since the day he had thought her hair was fire and he comforted her over a broken crayon.

Oz with his stoic personality and firm attachment to Willow. Cordelia and their constant fighting. Even Joyce, who had always been kind to him, treating him like the son she never had. The only thing that had remained constant in his life was Buffy, but now he was the security in her life, not the other way round.

As Phoebe listened to the song and watched Xander's face, she saw that he was facing and dealing with at least some of his inner demons. When the song finished she knew he had resolved some issues within himself.

"Are you ok?" she asked.

"No, but I will be." Xander said.

Xander glanced at his watch then began to pack away his lunch.

"Time to get back to work. Thank you, Phoebe." Xander said with genuine feeling.

"Hey, no problem. It's my job too." Phoebe replied with a smile.

Xander smirked back at her then he walked back into the carpenter's shop. Phoebe watched him for a second before standing and walking away, a faint smile on her face.


Buffy and Xander's Apartment, 4:17pm

Xander was home preparing dinner. Buffy, because she was teaching a late class, would not be home for a few hours. Xander was cooking pasta, a recipe that he had learnt from a brilliant cook back in LA, and to get the best flavour from the sauce, you had to let it simmer for a while before serving, which is why he was cooking now. As he was stirring the unfinished sauce, he heard a knock at the door. Giving the pan one last stir and tapping the wooden spoon clean and turning the hot plate off, Xander wiped his hands as he made his way to the door, thinking that it may be Phoebe again.

"Hey, Phoebes, wha..." Xander began as he opened the door.

"Hi Xander." Willow said shyly.

"Guys, hi. Umm, come on in." Xander said, unworried about them being vampires as they were all standing in direct sunlight.

Willow entered first, with Oz following closely behind. Joyce, after being waved in by Giles, entered next followed by the British man.

"What is everyone doing here?" Xander asked.

Xander ushered them into the living room. Willow and Oz sat on the couch while Joyce and Giles took the single seaters, Xander sitting in a chair from the dining room. When they were all seated, Giles, acting as spokesperson, explained in his 'here's the demon of the week' voice.

"Willow and Oz are in town because Oz's band has a gig on Monday to which Willow wished to attend, as well as seeing the city itself. Joyce and myself, on behalf of her Gallery, had an appointment today with one of the Auction Houses down here, but due to a mix up they could not fit us in. As we were in town anyway, we decided to come in and say hello to yourself and Buffy."

"How is Buffy?" Joyce asked with concern.

"She's kind of coping, as long as you don't say the A word. She's at work at the moment, I'm expecting her home at about six." Xander said. "Say, Mrs S. was the Auction House Bucklands?"

"Um. No." Joyce replied.

"I think I can help you then." Xander said.

Xander grabbed the cordless phone and dialled a number from memory.

"Hey Leo. It's Xander, is Prue there?" Xander asked.

-Yah, I think so.- Leo replied.

"Cool, put her on."

-Hello?- Came Prue's voice a few seconds later.

"Hey, Prue. How's things?" Xander said cheerfully.

-Terrible. The band for tomorrow cancelled at P3 and Piper is having a fit.- Prue responded.

"Hold on a sec." Xander said before covering the phone with his hand. "Hey Oz. The Dingo's playing anywhere tomorrow?"

"Nope." Oz replied.

"Want to play at P3?"

"Cool." Oz said nodding.

Xander smiled and uncovered the phone.

"Hey, Prue. I do a favour for you, you do one for me?" Xander asked.

-Depends.- Prue replied.

"How's this. I got a band that is willing to play tomorrow night, however Buffy's mother and a friend from home got jacked around by and Auction House. Here's the deal. You get the band for tomorrow, they get an appointment on Monday. Deal?" Xander said with a smirk.

-Who's the band?- Prue asked.

"Dingo's Ate My Baby." Xander replied.

-Deal. Phoebe will be pleased. She had tickets for their gig on Monday. Thanks Xander.- Prue said.

"No problem." Xander replied before hanging up the phone.

"Mrs S, Giles. You have an appointment on Monday at Bucklands with a Prue Halliwell. Oz and the Dingo's will be playing tomorrow night at P3 and we'll all be guests of the owners, one of them is a major Dingo's fan." Xander said.

"There's something else. You have that look." Willow said.

"I think you'll benefit from this most of all Wills." Xander said.

"Why?" Giles asked.

"Because the Halliwell sisters are the Charmed Ones and Leo is their Whitelighter." Xander said.

"Oh my." Giles said.

By the time Buffy got home Xander had them organised as to sleeping arrangements, him insisting that they say there for at least one night. Joyce and Giles each got one of the two spare rooms, while Willow and Oz were to sleep on the foldout couch. Everyone seemed surprised at first that Buffy and Xander slept in the same bed, but they accepted it after Xander had a quiet talk with Joyce.

When Buffy did arrive home, Xander met her at the door, with dinner on the table, stretched to feed an extra four people. Xander quietly explained about the others arriving before Buffy met them. Buffy was pleased to see them, as long as conversation steered clear of the Hellmouth. Buffy spent several hours catching up with Joyce, and while she did, Xander just sat and watched her.

"I haven't seen her this happy in a while." Xander admitted.

Before everyone turned in, Buffy suggested that they stay until Tuesday when they would be returning to Sunnydale. They agreed, circumstances permitting.

As he fell asleep, with Buffy using his chest as a pillow, as usual, Xander thought that today had been a good day.