Author: Cyclone <cyclone[at]>

Feedback: Please be gentle.

Distribution: Gimme credit and a link. Plus, archived at

Rating: I'm gonna go say PG-13 for implied sex.

Spoilers: Technically up to Restless, but few specific references.

Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to the almighty Joss. I'm just borrowing them for a while.

Summary: Not all love triangles end in heartbreak.

Author's Note: This is set in the summer after Season 4. Season 5 and 6 will be duly ignored. Note, also, that this is an X/T/W (mostly X/T) fanfic, so consider yourself warned.

Alexander Lavelle Harris groaned and opened his eyes. He was lying on his back in what looked like some dark cave. The last thing he remembered was fighting that latest Monster of the Week with the other Scoobies: some sort of magic-eating demon that had come to feed on the magic that held the Hellmouth closed, which definitely qualified as a Bad Thing. It had tried to blast Tara with something, and he'd tackled her, trying to get her out of the way.

He looked around and saw her lying prone nearby. Obviously, he'd failed, and that whatever-it-was had sent them both here. Wherever "here" was.

Xander pulled himself to his feet and crouched over Tara, reaching down to stroke her cheek gently, "Hey, Tara, you okay? Tare?"

Her eyes fluttered open, "Alex? So you do remember."

"You thought I forgot?" he asked incredulously. "I could never forget. That was the best summer of my life."

"You never said anything."

"Neither did you, and when I found out you were with Will, I figured you'd want me to let it drop."

"Never, Alex. I mean, Xander. I came to Sunnydale looking for you."

"You did? I'm flattered."

"Yeah," Tara said quietly. After a pause, she added, "But I found Willow instead."

Xander smiled faintly, "Yeah. That you did."

A long silence followed.

"We should try and get out."

Tara shook her head, "I know that spell. We'll get back when they kill the thaumavore. All we can do is wait."


Another long silence followed.

Tara bit her lip and spoke again, "It was Willow, wasn't it? The one you left Sunnydale to forget?"

He blew out a long breath and nodded, "Yeah."

"You want to talk about it?"

"Tare, I told you just about everything I could about it."

"Only you left out the part about demons, Slayers, and the Hellmouth. I knew you were hiding something, Al-... Xander."

"Strangely, that didn't really have much effect on what happened between us." He paused, "Except the magic. When she became Super Witch, I was the only regular person left on the team. I felt, I dunno, left out. You know what happened with Faith."

Tara nodded, listening intently and absorbing what he said.

"That night... that night, the world was gonna end, and I wanted to help. Only, the guys wouldn't let me. The world was gonna end, and I was just in the way. All that crap we went through together, all those times I saved their lives, all of it suddenly meant _nothing_ when the world was on the line again."

Tara nodded in understanding and wordlessly drew him into a hug.


Xander grinned as he carried the last of Tara's stuff into the dormitory. "So, you two crazy kids finally decided to move in together, huh? I'm gonna have to visit more often," he said, leering exaggeratedly at the the lesbian couple. With Buffy moving in with Riley at his apartment, Willow needed a new roommate, and Tara was the obvious choice. He was the only one there to help, since Buffy and Riley had mysteriously disappeared into their apartment, and Giles was out of town, getting more books for his research collection.

Willow turned bright red and smacked his arm, "Xander!"

Tara, on the other hand, blushed a little and giggled. "Why not? I'm sure we won't mind the company. It might liven things up a little," she waggled her eyebrows suggestively.

The redhead's face twisted in horror, "Tara?!" She couldn't believe this! Now _Tara_ was making lewd jokes! Ever since that mess last week with that thaumavore, Xander had made an extra special effort to include the shy blonde in the gang's activities. To Willow's dismay, that also included his penchant for bad jokes, and Tara had apparently decided she liked his sense of humor.

To Willow -- and the rest of the Scooby Gang in general, particularly Giles -- that was a Bad Thing.

"Okay," Xander chuckled, "I think we've picked on Willow enough to remind her of her true origins."

She pouted, "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that no matter how hard you try, Super Witch, you will always be a geek like me," Xander said proudly, puffing up his chest in the most ridiculously overblown posture he could manage.

Willow thumped him again, this time across the belly, and he doubled over with a loud "Ooof!" As he straightened up, he squeaked, "Okay, I'll be good." So saying, he stowed the two bags in the closet.

"You make sure you do, or I'm gonna have to remind you why vampire me was so scary," Willow warned playfully.

Xander shivered in mock fear, then he gained a wicked gleam in his eye and said, with his best hopeful puppy-dog look, "You promise?"

Flushing red, Willow smacked his arm again and hissed, "Xander!"

He was massaging his arm and grinning at them when his watch suddenly started beeping. "Whoops! Shift starts in ten. See you two ladies later," Xander said, waving cheerfully as he left. He stuck his head back in and leered again, "And I'm really looking forward to the return of that leather outfit."

He ducked out and fled, whooping and laughing maniacally as Willow appropriated a wiffle ball bat from Maxine across the hall and proceeded to chase him down with it.


"I just don't understand it," Tara sighed as she nursed her teacup pensively. It had been about a month since she had moved in with Willow, but lately, things between the two witches had been getting kind of rocky, and Tara was at a loss to explain it.

Sitting across the booth from her, her companion, Xander, asked tentatively, "Have you tried talking to her about it?" Tara had asked him to meet her here in the Variation coffee house, and he had been happy to oblige, especially since she had mentioned that what she wanted to talk about involved Willow.

Tara nodded, "But she keeps brushing it off. Now she won't talk to me about anything but witchcraft."

Xander finished his donut and rubbed his suddenly throbbing temples as he recalled the LAST time someone had come to him for relationship advice. "Umm, this is gonna sound, well, crude, but... when was the last time you two, umm..."

Tara blinked for a moment, then blushed and giggled as she realized what he was talking about. She shot back, "Why do you want to know?"

"Because, well, if I'm wrong, you really don't wanna know."

She wrinkled her nose in irritated confusion but answered, "About three weeks ago."

"Which is about a week before the problems started," Xander nodded thoughtfully. "Um, I normally wouldn't mention this, 'cause, well, you're not exactly comfortable when the topic of Oz comes up, but, uh, right before he left, Willow was, um, how do I put this?" he wondered as he raised his coffee (double cream, triple sugar) for another sip.

"As horny as a bitch in heat?" Tara suggested, cocking an eyebrow slyly at him.


Between coughing his lungs up and grabbing a napkin to wipe off the coffee he'd just spewed all over the table, Xander gaped at her in sheer disbelief, "Wha-? Did you just say...?"

Tara smirked at him. "Yes, I did. You should see the look on your face."

In mock fury, Xander jabbed his finger toward her accusingly, "You... you...!" His eyes narrowed as he collected himself, then he said, in his best Daffy Duck impression, "You're despicable."

She smiled and said sweetly, "I try." Her expression turned thoughtful. "But you're right. Willow is a very... sexual creature, and we haven't... been intimate lately. Maybe that's it."

Xander felt his head start throbbing again. Willow as a very sexual creature brought back some rather graphic but not entirely unwanted memories. Now that he thought about it, he was pretty certain she still had his shirt.

He thought about that for a moment and decided he'd rather let her keep it than risk waking up one morning a rat. *Besides,* he rationalized, *she probably threw it away, and even if she didn't, it probably doesn't fit anymore anyway.*

They finished their respective beverages in silence, both lost in thoughts about a certain red-haired witch.


"Mmm..." Xander moaned as he kissed his girlfriend. He ran his hands down her back, and she matched his movements as they blindly stumbled around, turning as they bumped through the Harris household toward the basement door.

Pressing him against the door, Anya scrabbled at the buttons on his shirt, undoing them while he reached down and felt around, trying to find the doorknob. By the time he had managed to get the door open, she had managed to undo about half his shirt buttons.

He reluctantly pulled away and said breathlessly with a wry grin, "Don't wanna fall down the stairs."

"Right," Anya agreed. The two turned and began to climb down to the basement at a more sedate pace. About halfway down, Xander noticed someone sitting on the end of his bed with her head down.

"Tara?" he asked as he rushed down the stairs two at a time, not taking his eyes off the blonde witch.

"Xander," she said as she looked up, and his worry increased. Judging from the redness in her eyes and the wet trails down her cheeks, she'd obviously been crying. She stood slowly and was clearly fighting more tears.

"What's wrong?" he said as he pulled her into a comforting hug.

"W-Willow," Tara said simply, sobbing into his shoulder.

He held her close and turned. He looked at Anya pleadingly and mouthed silently, "Go." The ex-demon frowned but nodded and departed before Tara could notice her.

"Okay, Tare, spill."

"Sh-she... w-w-we w-were wrong. I-it's not... um, sexual f- frustration. Wh-when I t-tried to s-start something, she gave me th- this awful Look... l-like she never w-w-wanted to see me again."

Xander sat on the bed and continued to hold her close and stroke her back comfortingly, murmuring nonsense into her ear. It was the sort of thing he'd done for Willow countless times in the past, and he had it down perfectly.

Inside, though, a hot anger blazed, and for the first time in his life, it was directed at Willow. Tara was _far_ too nice a person to be allowed to hurt like this, and given how Willow had been shut out by Oz in those last few weeks before he left, she should have known better than anyone how much it hurt to be shut out.

He was going to have to have a talk with his old friend.

"Don't." Xander blinked and looked at Tara, who explained, "I-I know that look on your face, Alexander Harris. I don't want you to ruin your friendship with Willow over this. Sh-she's got some issues she needs to deal with, a-and I'm okay with that, really."


"No buts. We'll just... leave it be, and she'll tell me when she's ready."

Xander blew out a breath and said with obvious reluctance, "If you say so."

"I do say so."


Willow was curled up in a fetal position, and she rocked back and forth on her bed, crying quietly. She couldn't make any sense of what was going on lately, and it was driving her crazy.

First, there was... that thing she'd found, and now Tara had just suddenly run off crying, and for the life of her, Willow couldn't figure it out. Sure, okay, there _was_ that nasty thought that popped up in her mind when Tara had started coming on to her again, but it was just a thought! A paranoid delusion! She _knew_ there was probably a misunderstanding involved somewhere...


There came a knock on the door. Blinking, she unfolded herself and schooled her face before opening the door. "Anya?" she said in surprised. "Wha-?"

"Talk. Why was Tara in Xander's basement crying her eyes out over you?"

"Wh-wh-what? She was _where_?"

"Xander's basement. So talk. Tara's a nice person, and Xander likes her. Time Xander spends comforting her because of _you_ is time he's not spending with me."

Willow by now was not thinking very clearly, but a part of her realized she had to tell _someone_ about what she'd found, and Anya was just the right person to tell, despite their conflicts. Especially with what Anya had just said.

Mustering up the will to glare at the ex-demon, she said, "Look, I don't like you, and I don't think I ever will, but there's something I think you should see."


"Okay, An, Will, what's this all about?" Xander asked as he followed them into the dorm. Tara was sitting on her bed, a concerned look on her face. She'd been holding up pretty well since her breakdown a couple of days ago. Xander sat down next to her and turned to her, "You have any idea what this is about, Tara?"

She shook her head nervously.

Anya closed the door and locked it. She and Willow both crossed their arms and looked at them.

"Will? An?"

"What is the exact relationship between you two?" Anya finally asked, her meaning clear.

"_Huh_?" Xander stared at the former demon in bewilderment.

Willow picked up something and tossed it at him. He caught it, held it up, and grinned. "Heyyy, my old swim team shirt! I've been looking for this for _weeks_. Where'd you find it, Will?" he held it up to his face and closed his eyes, sniffing it deeply. It smelled... different. Familiar, but different. He dismissed that thought, completely missing the significance of the shirt's fragrance. He also missed the horrified look on Tara's face.

"I found it in Tara's things," the redhead replied quietly.

He froze, his face still buried in his shirt. He slowly looked up at Willow and asked quietly, "What?"

She repeated herself, and Xander blinked. "Oh."

Willow frowned, "You aren't... you aren't fluking on us, are you?"

"No! There is no flukage here, I swear."

That's when Tara finally spoke up, "W-we should tell them, Xander."

"Ohhhh, no. Not going there."

"They deserve to know."

"I was right!" Anya shrieked. "You _are_ cheating on us!"

Xander glared at her, "No! That is absolutely not true. We are not cheating on you, I swear! I didn't think I'd ever see either of you again, and Tare hadn't even met either of you yet."

"What are you talking about, Xand?" Willow asked, now more puzzled than suspicious. Though his reference to Tara as "Tare" did set off a mental alarm, she ignored it for now. After all, he'd called her "Will" for years when they were just friends. That was just Xander's way.

He sighed and threw himself onto his back on the bed. "Okay, remember my road trip after graduation?"

"Yeah," the redhead nodded.

"Did Buffy ever tell you where I wound up?"

"No..." Willow was trying to figure out where this was headed.

"I got stranded in Oxnard after the car broke down," he said.

"Oxnard..." Willow's eyes fixed on Tara. "You're from Oxnard."

Tara bobbed her head in an approximation of a nod. "W-we met that summer. H-he was doing this gorgeous Bruce Campbell routine..."

"Wait," Anya broke in. "'Routine'? Explain 'routine.'"

Xander sighed again and answered for Tara, "After the car broke down, I got a temp job in the kitchen of the Fabulous Ladies' Night Club. One night, one of the male dancers called in sick, and as I told Buffy, no power on this Earth will make me continue this story."

Willow stared at him. "You were a stripper?" Her voice held an equal mixture of awe, disbelief, and wonder. "And I wasn't there? Not fair," she pouted.

He rolled over and buried his face in Tara's pillow and mumbled something incoherent.

Tara picked it up from there, "I-I had just had a bad break-up, an- and some of my friends thought that maybe I should, um, 'broaden my horizons,' they said."

"So they took you to a male strip club," Anya said. Tara nodded and blushed. "And you saw Xander performing there."


Anya looked at the blonde witch and said bluntly, "You slept with him." It wasn't a question.

Tara merely blushed and looked away. Xander moaned and tried to bury his face deeper into the pillow. Anya nodded, her expression unreadable. Willow's mouth hung open, and she kept looking between the two of them.

"So, tell me, Xander," Anya said, folding her arms. "What is it with you and lesbians?"

He immediately rolled over and sat up, "An!"

"Hey!" Willow glared at Anya.

"B-but that was a year ago," Tara protested weakly. "We're just friends now."

"Oh, really?" Anya said. "Somehow I doubt that. The heart doesn't work like that. I couldn't stop thinking about Xander after I'd left before graduation. Buffy couldn't keep Angel off her mind after he left, and _he_ couldn't even _stay_ gone. In fact, I'll bet Xander left Sunnydale because he couldn't stop thinking about -- what did you call it, the fluke? -- with Willow."

"Oh, _please_," Willow waved dismissively. "Xander and I were friends for _years_. Why would he have a problem with it just because... because..." She bit her lip, suddenly remembering what she'd said to him right after they'd been caught. The redhead looked at Xander, her eyes pleading him to tell Anya that she was wrong. He looked away. "Oh."

Anya shook her head and sat next to Xander, "I'm sorry, Xander, but I think I'm going to have to break up with you."

"What? Why? We told you everything. I swear, I haven't cheated on you."

"Yet, Xander. You haven't cheated on me _yet_. I think you need to sort out how you feel about Tara first." She rose and left, pausing in the doorway to say over her shoulder, "And Xander, I have no idea how you do it, but somehow, you have the ability to inspire women to give up everything for you. Don't abuse it."

"An..." He too rose and followed her out. "AN!"


Xander walked dejectedly through his house, heading for the basement door. He had spent the last two hours trying to convince Anya that there was nothing between him and Tara.

He might as well have tried to tell her the sky was green. He would have had about as much success.

Hanging his head as he opened the basement door and descended into his very humble abode, he was too distracted to notice that, once again, he had someone waiting for him.


He blinked, his shirt half off. "Uh, Tara. What're you doing here?" he asked as his arms continued with the last commands his brain had sent to them.

"It's... Willow said she trusted me," Tara said quietly, looking down at her hands. "She said she trusted me, and then she broke up with me."


"She said... she said she wanted me to be sure about how I felt about each of you and that maybe the two of us should, you know, try and see where it goes." It was obvious to Xander that Tara was trying very hard not to break down into tears.

Xander sat down beside her and pulled her into a fiercely protective hug, leaning against the headboard. "Shh... it'll be alright, Tara. She trusts you. She just wants you to be happy."

"B-but all those problems we were having..." she sobbed into his bare chest.

"I bet the reason she was acting wonky is 'cause she'd found my shirt and didn't know what it meant."

"Y-yeah, you're p-p-probably right."

He held her close and stroked her hair as she cried herself to sleep in his arms. Not wanting to wake her, Xander simply sat there, holding her and wondering just what was going to happen next.


"I can't _believe_ this!"

Xander woke with a start to find Anya glaring daggers at him, her hands clenched into fists and resting on her hips. "Huh? Believe what?"

"_This_!" his girlfriend -- *Ex-girlfriend,* he reminded himself -- said, gesturing in his direction. He looked down and saw Tara curled up, her head on his chest, blinking her eyes open sleepily.

Realization hit Xander like a thunderbolt. Or a half-demon, half- human cyborg Frankenstein's monster. "Hey, it's not what it looks like!" he insisted.

"I'm sure it isn't," Anya said acidly. "I'm sure there's a perfectly innocent reason why you're half-naked in bed with Tara the same day we break up because of your unresolved feelings toward her." The sarcasm was palpable. She turned and left.


Tara, now awake, blinked owlishly at him. "Was that Anya?"

"Yeah," Xander answered deadpan, "and this is just a hunch, but I think she got the wrong impression here."

"Huh?" Tara sat up, then looked down at Xander's shirtlessness. "Oh. OH! Um, sorry. If I hadn't..."

"Don't," he sighed. "It's no big deal. You needed comfort. I'm a comfortador, after all."

She _stared_ at him. "'Comfortador'?"

"Uhm, never mind."

She rolled off his chest and lay beside him, staring at the bare ceiling. "So," she said, "what now?"

"Well, there's the traditional dating thing," he said. "Never actually tried that, come to think of it. Oh wait, I _did_ do that with Ampata, but her being a life-sucking mummy kind of put a damper on things."

She laughed and asked, "So what do you suggest? Go straight to the sex and groping?"

He paused in mock thoughfulness, then shook his head. "No, no. That's how things started with Cordy, An, _and_ Will, and those obviously didn't work out. Hmm... I know! I'll tell you we can't be together, then pack up and go to LA and brood all night long for the rest of my life, pausing to show up in Sunnydale every so often to rescue you and vanish into the night! How does that sound?" he suggested with a huge grin.

She rolled her eyes and fought back another gale of laughter. She'd heard snippets of Angel's story off and on from the Slayerettes until she'd finally asked Giles about it. While the Watcher's version of events was far more complete, the rendition Xander had just recited was certainly more entertaining.

"I think," she said finally, "we should stick with the traditional dating thing for now."

"All right," Xander agreed, then said with an amused grin, "but we're gonna have to do the asking of the date thing later, when I'm not half-naked in bed with you."

She smacked his arm, and a tickle fight soon followed.


Xander stood over his bed and looked at the three outfits he had laid out. *Okay,* he pondered, *what to wear to dinner and a movie on a sorta first date with your best friend since kindergarten's not-quite- lesbian ex who just _happens_ to have been your summer fling a year ago?* It was just a hunch, but he doubted there were very many -- if, indeed, there were _any_ -- who had ever been faced with this rather unusual dilemma.

"Hey Xander."

"Gah!" he whirled. "Willow, wh-what're you doin' here?"

"I'm here to help you get ready for your date."

"Uh, Will, you _do_ realize this date is with your ex-girlfriend, right?"

"Yes, I know," the redhead nodded absently as she picked up one of the shirts he had laid out and scrutinized it.

"Okay, so obviously you're doing this because..." he paused, "um... I'm definitely missing something. Help me out here, Wills."

"Hey, this wouldn't be the first time I've helped you get ready for a date, now would it? Remember Homecoming?" He gave her a Look, and she blushed and said sheepishly, "Okay, bad example."

"Seriously, Wills, why?"

Turning and giving him a Resolve Face, she said, "Because I love you, Xander, and I love Tara."

"Uhh..." he blinked, "still not gettin' it."

She gave an exasperated sigh, "I love you both, and I want you two to be happy, even if it's with each other, and Tara would feel weirded out if I tried helping her."

"And _I_ wouldn't?" he asked, flabbergasted.

"At least you won't think it's because I really wanted to break up with her."


"So let's get on with this before I lose my Resolve Face."


"Oh, goddess, I can't believe I'm doing this," Tara said a little panicky. She turned to Buffy, "Can you believe I'm doing this?"

"Actually, not really," the Slayer said blandly. "So, what's the story behind this again?"

"Um, Xander and I had a fling last summer, and Anya and Willow found out."

"Oh. Just checking."

"So, uh, how do I look?"

"You look good. Just as good as you did with the last three outfits you tried on. _Relax_, Tara. This is _Xander_ we're talking about." Buffy paused, then asked, "What are we hoping for again? That it does or doesn't work out?"

"I-I'm not sure," Tara admitted. "I mean, I love Willow, I really do, but... Xander's a sweetie, and he can make me laugh, and... and he's so caring it hurts to see him hurting."

"Girl, you've got it _bad_," Buffy said, shaking her head in sympathy.


"So... why are we doing this again?" Riley asked as he handed the binoculars to Buffy.

"Curiousity. Plus, Willow wants to know how this turns out," she replied, leaning out the open car window and using the binoculars to watch the couple enter the dimly-lit restaurant. "Can't really see much, but it's looking good so far... assuming, of course, that we _want_ the relationship to work, which I'm not entirely sure we do."

"You mean you don't even know what we're hoping for?"

"Nope, not a clue." She shook her head as she lowered the binoculars, "It's all pretty weird, though, and I'm still kinda freaked out. I mean, first Oz is gone, then Oz is back, but Willow's a lesbian, and now Willow's lesbian girlfriend is dating Xander. It's been, like, one big long year packed with extreme weirdness."

Riley shook his head with a wry smile, "This from a girl who spends her nights saving the world from vampires."

Buffy considered smacking him but decided against it. Instead, she settled for sticking her tongue out at him as she continued to watch.

"Uh, oh," Riley said. "Hostiles at eleven o'clock."

She turned to look at him, not understanding the military- speak, "Huh?"

"Two vampires just ducked into the alley behind the restaurant."

Buffy sighed, "Time to Slay."


"Wow, Xander, this is my favorite place. How did you know?"

"Uh, well, Will kinda mentioned it," he said, adding silently, *about twenty minutes ago when she helped me pick out my shirt.*

"Oh," she said quietly as her face fell.

"Oh, hey, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have-..."

"N-no. It's all right. I did ask."



"Hey!" Riley called, grabbing one of the vampires by the shoulder and spinning him around. Before the vampire had a chance to react, he caught the vampire's other shoulder and slammed him against the wall.

At least, he had _thought_ it was a wall, but when the door gave way and swung open into the restaurant's kitchen, he revised that assumption.

He didn't let that distract him and kept pushing the vampire, knocking him over onto his back on a shelf or table. It wasn't until the vampire started screaming that he realized it was a grill he'd pinned it on.

Behind him, Buffy backed into the kitchen, fending off the other vampire's attacks. That vampire lost his patience and charged, and she twisted, flinging him onto his back on a counter. He slid across the counter, knocking everything off of it, until his head slammed into -- and through -- the wall in the corner.

Buffy's opponent pulled his head out of the wall and picked up a steak knife, leveling it at the Slayer. Grabbing the nearest thing that came to hand, she found herself armed with a large, stainless steel, soup serving spoon.

The vampire Riley had pinned clocked him in the face, and he tumbled over, catching hold of a handle in a vain attempt to keep himself from falling. The handle flipped the frying pan, sending its contents splashing everywhere.

After a clanging clash of steel against steel, Buffy simply threw the spoon at the vampire, conking him on the head, and the undead bloodsucker stumbled back, slipping on the oil and falling on a sack of flour, which exploded and somehow contrived to cover a good portion of the kitchen. Pressing her advantage, Buffy hauled the vampire up and dropped him on an ingredient counter. She grabbed a wooden spoon and staked him.

The other vampire was unable to press his advantage, as he was currently rolling around on the ground in a vain attempt to douse himself. Riley grabbed the vampire and flung him back on the grill and turned the dial up. The vampire vanished in a column of flames.

Slayer and ex-Initiative commando paused to catch their breath. Riley gingerly fingered his left eye, where he was sure he was sporting a rather prominent shiner.

"You... you two wrecked my kitchen! AND got vampire dust in my half my ingredients!" the cook finally sputtered, catching their attention.

"Hey, we saved your life!" Buffy retorted.

"You brought them in here! So how are you going to pay for the damages?"



Willow was sitting discreetly across the room from Xander and Tara, watching them surreptitiously, when a waiter walked up to her table. "Uh, yes, I... Riley? What are you...?"

Riley winced and shook his head, "Don't ask, Willow. Just... do _not_ ask."

"Well, okay. So will you still be able to keep an eye on them?"

"Yyyeah. At least until they leave the restaurant. Uh, could I take your order?"

"Oh! Right. Um, I'll have a Coke and the spaghetti."

"One Coke and one spaghetti," Riley jotted down.

Just as he was about to leave, Willow asked, "By the way, what happened to your eye?"


The couple left the restaurant awkwardly. The meal had been little more than one really long Uncomfortable Silence. They sat in silence as Xander drove them toward the Cineplex.

Outside the theater, Xander clear his throat and finally broke the silence, "So, ah, what movie do you wanna see?"

"Umm, I-I dunno. Maybe this one?"

Xander cocked an eyebrow at her selection and quirked a small smile, "Scooby Doo? You have a fascinating sense of humor."

She merely grinned at him, weakly at first, but his smile broadened and hers did in turn until they were both grinning like idiots.

The tension relieved, Xander chuckled and said, "C'mon, let's get those tickets."



Xander and Tara shared puzzled looks on their way out of the theater.

Turning to Tara and pausing the consumption of his beverage, Xander asked, "Is it just me, or did the girl who played Daphne look suspiciously like Buff?"

She nodded, "Especially in that last fight scene... but when did Buffy ever have time to make a movie?"

"It can't be her," Xander said emphatically. "Buffy wouldn't be caught dead wearing that much purple. And we'd have noticed the hair dye."

Tara looked at him speculatively and asked, "So, what's this 'Scooby Gang' thing all about anyway?"

"Ah, well, back in the day, Oz was Fred -- 'cause, y'know, the van -- Cordy was Daphne, I was Shaggy, Wills was Velma, and Buffy was Scooby 'cause of her super Slayer powers. Nowadays..." he paused. "Well, Buff and I are probably the same, but Will's changed herself to our Daphne. I guess Riley's our Fred now," he looked at her, "leaving you to be our Velma."

She smiled, "I'm honored. I-I didn't think I was really a Scooby yet."

"Oh, come on. You've helped loads since you joined our little coterie, and at least you don't turn into a man-eating wolf three nights a month."

"No," she stuck her tongue out and said, "just a man-mauling bitch."

He grinned, his eyes twinkling, "At least it's only three days a month. Cordy was Super Bitch year-round."

They both burst out laughing.


Unknown to the couple, they were being watched, but not by one of the many deadly denizens of Sunnydale's nights. Willow bit her lip as she saw them laughing together. She watched as they stopped and looked in each others eyes. Xander reached up to Tara's face, and the redhead turned and fled, tears in her eyes, not wanting to see what transpired next...


Elsewhere, Buffy and Riley were diligently mopping the floor of a restaurant under the watchful eye of the restaurant's owner.


Xander plucked the speck of dust out of Tara's eye, "I think I got it."

Blinking, Tara nodded, "Thanks."

Their gazes locked, and they slowly leaned toward each other...

...until Tara pulled back, their lips millimeters apart.

"I-I'm s-s-sorry, Xander," she stuttered. "I-I-I think I love you, b- but..."

"You love her too," he said, a faint smile on his face. He leaned toward her and pulled her into a hug.

And then he whispered his greatest secret into her ear.


Crying softly, Willow rocked herself back and forth, swinging slowly on the park's swing set, deserted at this time of night. Ever since she was little, this had been her little safe haven, but she hadn't had to retreat here since she'd met Xander. Until tonight, anyway.

"Hey, Wills."

Her head jerked up, her eyes wide. "X-X-Xander!" she sputtered. "Wh- what are you doing here?"

"You weren't home or at my place, so I figured you'd be here." He stopped and placed his hand on the swing's support bar, looking up into the night sky.

Her forehead furrowed as she frowned and asked, "How did you know about this place? I never went here after we met."

"You mentioned it to me, day after we met," he answered simply. He looked at her and said with a grin, "And your forehead still wrinkles in that really cute way when you're confused."

Blushing, she hissed, "Xander!"

He gazed at the stars again, "So, let me guess. You're here moping around because you think you lost both me and Tare, right?"

"Um, well..." she hmmed and hawed for a long moment.

"You were probably spying on us. You probably co-opted Buffy and Riley to keep an eye on us too." He looked back at her and grinned, "I know you too well, Wills. Well, here's the skinny. Yes, I'm in love with Tara, and yes, she's in love with me..."

Willow felt her heart constrict, but Xander wasn't finished yet.

"...but there's kind of a hitch. We're both in love with you too."

She blinked. And blinked again for good measure. Then she positively _stared_ at him. "_WHAT_?!"

"I-it's true," came a voice from the forest. Tara stepped into view and stammered, "I-I c-can't imagine being w-w-without you, W-W- Willow."

The redhead stood and gawked at each of them in turn, looking from one to the other again and again until she finally asked, baffled, "Are you two serious?"

Xander turned and grabbed her shoulders, "Willow, you have always been the most important person in my life. I love you, I always have, and I was a really thick idiot for not realizing it sooner."

"Y-you mean the Fluke..."

He shook his head, "Wasn't a fluke. God, Wills, it hurt so much when you said his name that night, but I could deal, and I did... but now it's such a huge mess..."

Willow's forehead furrowed again until realization dawned on her. "Oh, God. That was _you_?!" she screeched. "Why didn't you _say_ anything?"

He looked away, "You were happy with Oz, and when he left, I had that... thing with Anya."

"Yes, that 'thing' I never liked and always warned you about. That 'thing' that I never understood. What did you ever see in her?"

"Well, she does have a nice rack," Tara said off-handedly. When they goggled at her, she grinned and blew imaginary smoke from her finger.

Xander snickered. Willow began to giggle. Tara lost her composure. Soon, all three were doubled over in laughter.

After a moment, the redhead, still gasping to catch her breath, looked up at the other two, hope and fear both shining on her face. In a very small voice, she asked, "are you... do you guys really mean it, mean what you said?"

Xander smiled lopsidedly at her, "Darn tootin'!"

Tara nodded, then gave a wicked grin and cocked an eyebrow, "Want us to prove it?"

Turning a brilliant shade of crimson, Willow sputtered, "W-what?!"

"Hmm," Xander mused, "I think I had this dream before... OW!" He glared at Willow, who had smacked his arm yet again.

"Pervert," she said quietly, though there was no real passion behind the accusation as she herself began entertaining some... interesting thoughts. She was still a little dazed by their pronouncement and was quite certain she must have fallen asleep and was dreaming all this.

This just couldn't be happening.

"Gonna kiss you now."

She blinked at Xander, "Huh? Mmph!" Her first love leaned in and captured her lips with his.

"Mmm..." she moaned and practically melted into his arms. Then the realization hit her, *Oh, my God! This _isn't_ a dream!* Panicked, she shoved him away, and he fell on his rear in surprise. Staring back at forth between them, she babbled, "Oh, God. Xander, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry..."

She whirled around and ran. She couldn't deal with this! This was just... just too bizarre!



"Sh-she ran," Tara's voice cracked.

"She's afraid," Xander said. Looking over at the blonde witch, he continued, "C'mon, let's go find her."

Tara nodded and followed.


Xander leaned over, his hands on his knees, breathing hard. They were in the back room of the Sunnydale Public Library. "I don't get it. I know all of Will's hiding places, and she's nowhere in sight. Where could she be?"

Tara frowned thoughtfully and said hesitantly, "Not... all of them."

He looked up, confused, "Huh?"


Willow sat leaning against the tree. She needed time to think, and this was the only place she could think of that Xander didn't know about. She was in a small secluded spot in the UC Sunnydale quad, completely at a loss on how to deal with this.

How was she supposed to choose?

"Wh-what's wrong, W-Willow?"

She looked up, and her breath caught in her throat, "Tara."

The blonde hesitated, then walked over to sit on the grass in front of Willow. "H-hey."


For a long moment, the two witches sat in somewhat awkward but companionable silence.

"Why now?" Willow asked.

"Hmm?" Tara looked up but did not speak.

"Why you? Why him? Why me? Why _now_?!" the redhead's voice was climbing steadily. "You two just waltz in and tell me you both love me, but how am I supposed to _choose_?!?"

Tara crawled over and pulled Willow into a comforting hug. Rocking her lover back and forth and stroking her fiery hair, she waited until Willow's mild hysteria ended and asked, "Who said you had to choose?"

"What?" Willow drew her head back, certain she had misheard.

"Who said you had to choose?" Tara repeated.

Willow squeaked, "Do you mean... what I _think_ you mean?"

Tara flushed and nodded.

"Oh," Willow nodded. Then fainted.


"Ooh..." Willow groaned as she sat up, blinking her eyes open. *What a strange dream...* she thought as she stretched and looked around the room.

And froze. Even in the dim light of the small lamp, she recognized where she was.

*Why am I in Xander's basement?*

Her panic rose as she heard the sound of a shower emanating from the basement's tiny bathroom... along with the sound of Xander singing.

Her eyes went round, and she began babbling in her mind, *Oh my God. I'm in Xander's house. In Xander's room. In Xander's bed. With Xander in the shower. Wait! No! I'm not with Xander in the shower, but _he's_ in the shower. Stop! Don't think about Xander in the shower! Wonder if he'd mind... No! Focus! What did we do?!*

"Oh, hey. You're awake."

Her eyes tracked the voice to the bottom of the stairs, where Tara stood, wearing -- was that Xander's shirt? Yes, it was -- and carrying in her hands a tray from which wafted a smell that assaulted her nostrils and mercilessly reminded her stomach of how empty it was.

Her stomach growled, and her face turned a bright scarlet.

With a smile, Tara walked over to her and said, "Here. Sounds like you need this more than us."

She placed the tray on Willow's lap, and the redhead began wolfing down the food. Spying on the two of them earlier hadn't given her enough time to get more than a few bites from the Cineplex's snack counter, and she was ravenous.

About halfway through the food, she slowed, wanting to delay the inevitable confrontation that she knew was coming. She _still_ didn't know what to make of Tara's comment that initiated her faint.

She heard the shower stop while she was picking at the last few blobs of what was once an egg, but it didn't really register in her mind until Xander emerged from the bathroom and waved, "Hey, Wills."

Startled out of her reverie, she snapped her gaze up at him and replied weakly, "Hi, Xander." They sat on the bed on either side of her, and she fidgeted uncomfortably.

Looking between them, she asked with no small amount of trepidation, "What, um, what happened?"

Xander brushed a lock of hair out of her face and replied with a wry smile, "You fainted on us, Will."

Tara nodded and sidled closer to the other girl, "Yeah."

"So, um, what was with the shower?" she asked, trying to ignore Xander's hands massaging her shoulders.

"Oh," Tara said, running a hand along Willow's thigh, "w-we kinda ran into a vampire on the way here."

"And Yours Truly got himself covered in dust upon Slaying said vampire," Xander finished, moving to the redhead's neck.

"Oh, I -- mmm... -- I see." Willow closed her eyes and leaned back into Xander's hands. A small sigh of pleasure escaped her lips as she felt the tension in her muscles practically vanish.

It had been soooo long since she'd felt his magic fingers, not since the Fluke...

The Fluke. Where she cheated on Oz. With Xander.

Her eyes flew open, and she tried to get up, but Tara put one hand on her chest and met her lips with her own, stopping her from rising.


Tara broke the kiss and asked quietly, "Do you love me?"

Wordlessly catching her breath, Willow nodded. Somehow, Xander had managed to maneuver out from behind her without her noticing, and his face filled her vision almost as soon as she had answered Tara. His lips captured hers, and she blissfully sank into the kiss.

He too broke the kiss and asked, "Do you love me?"

"Uh-huh," she mumbled, still feeling a little dazed.

She made no more protest as the night's activites grew more intimate.


Xander stared at the ceiling of his basement room. He was -- what was the word? -- content. Yeah, that was it. He was content in a way that boggled the mind, really. What happened last night was the sort of thing that only occurred in his most lurid fantasies, but it was surprisingly gentle, lacking in the loud noises and other colorful things that usually filled his imagination.

Still, he wouldn't have traded it for a billion dollars or half the supermodels in Hollywood. Heck, he wouldn't have traded it for a billion dollars AND half the supermodels in Hollywood. All he needed was right here.

And it wasn't even about the sex either. Just being with them... made him feel whole, made him... well... content.

With that thought on his mind, he settled back in. There was no way he could get out of bed without waking one of his angels. He slowly drifted back to sleep


Tara slid out of bed, ideas already forming in her head. Last night had been good, but next time would have to be... really special. She'd have to put some thought into it.

She was sure the other two would enjoy the surprise. A naughty grin appeared on her face as images danced through her mind.


Willow blinked and yawned. She tried to roll over and froze, finding a body -- a male body -- in her way. Her eyes tracked up to the face, which she instantly identified as Xander's. Her mind still foggy, she blinked a couple of times and wondered, *Another one of _those_ dreams...?*

Then the memories of the previous night flooded her conscious mind, and her eyes widened. She sat up, completely speechless. Looking around, she saw Tara, dressed in the swim team shirt that started all this, clearing some of the clothing carelessly scattered around.

The blonde looked up and smiled, "Good morning."

"I, ah, did we...? I mean, you, me, him?" Willow babbled.

Tara's eyes dropped, and she nodded, tossing her one of Xander's bathrobes, which Willow mechanically donned.

The redhead blinked and squeaked, "Oh."


"Are you sure we should do this? I mean, isn't this invasion of privacy?" Riley asked, concerned.

*Aha, revenge!* Buffy thought triumphantly, recalling her boyfriend's comment last night. She shot back, "This from the guy who had -- and used -- access to every building in Sunnydale?"

"Err, right," Riley muttered. "You sure they'll be here?"

"Well, they won't be at the dorm, not with Willow around," Buffy said as she felt out the spare key from its hiding place.

The door swung open just as Buffy was about to unlock it. Willow and Tara stood on the other side. The former was wearing a bathrobe, and the latter wore a Sunnydale High Swim Team shirt that was clearly too large for her.

Buffy goggled as she put two and two together, "Oh. My. _GOD_!"

Riley snapped to attention and did an immediate about-face. "I do _not_ want to know."

"Hey, what's all... the... ruckus...?" Xander trailed off when he caught sight of the new arrivals. "Buffy, Riley, uh, hi. What's up?" he asked nonchalantly.

Refusing to turn around, Riley asked, "Did I just hear...?"

"Yuh-huh," Buffy nodded, quite certain she had must have entered Bizarro World -- or perhaps the Twilight Zone -- sometime in the last few minutes.

Or maybe the last couple of days.


Author's Intermission:

Now, some of you are probably wondering what happened to Anya. Well, I'm kind of undecided on that, so I decided to give you four different Anya-centered epilogues to appease the Anya fans out there. And a fifth one to piss them off.

That's right. Choose your own ending. The fate of Anya is in the hands of you, the reader.


Anya Epilogue One: Older Man, MUCH Older Woman

"There, there. It'll be all right."

Anya sniffed as she took another Kleenex and blew her nose again. She had just finished telling her bitter sob story and was still trying to recover.

Her companion reached a comforting arm around the ex-demoness, who clung to him like he was a life-preserver. He pulled her closer and repeated, "It'll be all right, Anya. I'm here."

"Thank you, Gi-... Rupert."


Anya Epilogue Two: Demony Good- err, Evilness

"So, what's this then? Mr. Part-Time leave you twistin' in the wind, eh?"

"Oh, shut up! I don't need to take this from you." Anya glared at the chipped vampire and twisted the proverbial knife, "After all, didn't that psychotic girlfriend of yours leave you?"

"Now, see here, there's no need to get personal. What say you an' me share a drink? Maybe kill something while we're at it?"

Anya contemplated that idea for a moment before giving a tired sigh and shrug, "Sure, why not?"

And the two walked off into their future.


Anya Epilogue Three: Demons and...

Anya screamed. She'd been human long enough to relearn the art of screaming, and the three vampires that had her surrounded in the Los Angeles alley were a pretty damn good reason for doing so, especially since they'd managed to get her stake away from her after she dusted their two friends.

Without warning, one of the vampires exploded into dust. A shadowy figure moved in for the kill, and the other two soon joined their companion in dustiness.

"Uh, thank you."

"No problem," the stranger turned.

Recognition lit Anya's face, "I know you. You're Angel. The jerk that left Buffy."

The vampire with a soul winced.


Anya Epilogue Four: Once Human

A rundown diner in Oxnard was not what Anya considered to be the height of cuisine, but it was food, and she needed to stretch her meager funds as far as they would go.

Then her eye caught someone who seemed to be studying her. He looked familiar, and it took a moment for it to click. Dispensing with such nonsense as etiquette, she got up and walked over to the booth where the young man sat.

"Hi, Oz. What are you doing here?"

The werewolf shrugged, "Not much. Join me?"



Anya Epilogue Five: "'Til Death Do Us Part..."

Through some sheer ridiculous contrivance, the bus Anya was riding flipped over and exploded, killing all inside.