That Way

Author: Cyclone <cyclone[at]>

Feedback: Please be gentle.

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

Rating: I'm gonna go say PG or PG-13 for references to sex.

Spoilers: Mostly The Zeppo, Graduation, and Xander's plans for after graduation.

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

Summary: A hasty act by Giles changes the course of a certain relationship.

Author's Note: Yeah, another W/X 'fic from me.

Chapter 1

There is one key night in the history of the Hellmouth's most successful Slayer. In reality, this night is important not to the Slayer herself but to two of her allies and friends, two of her Slayerettes. Two of her Scooby Gang.

That night, Rupert Giles, the Slayer's Watcher in all but name since his discharge from the Council, was researching the Ascension. He had found a promising passage, and in the normal course of events, he would have continued the search alone before calling in the others, and he would have discovered on his own without interrupting his allies that it was just another false lead.

But let us take a look at a different course of events...


Willow sighed as she watched her mother talking with one of her patients over the phone. Right now, she was feeling a little less angry at Xander, but what happened that night still hurt. A lot.

She looked up as someone began knocking, "Wills!"

The redhead opened the door, "Xander? What...?"

"G-man thinks he found something," he replied. "Your line was busy, so he sent me to bring you over. Car's waiting." He nodded toward his Uncle Rory's convertible, which was idling in the driveway.

Xander hopped into the driver's seat, and Willow rode shotgun. They sat in silence as Xander drove toward Sunnydale High School.

Xander grew more irritated as he sensed the anger radiating from his best friend. He'd been putting up with this silent anger for so long, ever since Faith went bad, and now he was beginning to reach his breaking point.

Finally, just inside the school parking lot, he parked, stopped the engine, and turned to face her. "Okay, Wills, what is it?"

"What's what?" she blinked at him in surprise.

"What is it you're so angry with me about, Willow?"

Her eyes widened, and she worked her jaw for a moment. He actually had the gall to _ask_ that? Snarling, she shot back, "You know exactly why I'm angry! You slept with her! You slept with _Faith_!"

He scowled and said stonily, "I'm missing the part where that's any of your business, Willow."

"She's a bad guy!"

"She wasn't when we did it, so I _don't_ see how that's relevant!" he snapped, his voice rising.

"All right," she said, "how about the fact that I told you I loved you _that_ _same_ _night_?!"

"What difference does _that_ make, huh? If you meant you loved me _that_ _way_, then why are you with Oz?" He shook his head in disgust and stepped out of the car, slamming the door, "Forget it, Wills. Just... forget it." He stalked toward the library's back entrance.

A stunned Willow sat in the shotgun seat of the car for a long moment, her eyes wide and her jaw hanging open, before she gathered her thoughts and followed him.


Time passed. Sunnydale High's graduating class of 1999 defeated the Ascended Mayor Richard Wilkins III. And blew up the school in the process.

One Alexander Lavelle Harris prepared to leave Sunnydale. Forever.


Xander hefted the last bags. He had already said his goodbyes and packed nearly everything he needed last night. All he had to do now was load these last-minute on-the-road necessities, and he'd be off.

He turned after locking the door and froze. There were bags in the back seat of the car he hadn't put there, and there was someone sitting on the shotgun seat. Someone he knew very well.

Willow waved.

"Wills, what...?" he trailed off.

"I'm going with you," she said simply. "So when do we leave?"

He blinked as he dumped his load into the back seat with her stuff. He frowned, "Will, what about-...?"

"I broke up with Oz," she interrupted.

Licking his suddenly dry lips, he said, "I was gonna say 'your parents.'"

"Nice try, Xand, but they trust you, and we both know it."

Slumping into the driver's seat, he turned toward her and asked simply, "Why?"

"Because I meant it 'that way.'"

Confusion was etched on his face for a long moment as he tried to decipher what she was talking about. Understanding struck him as she continued on to answer a question he had asked weeks ago.

"I was with Oz because I felt guilty. A-about the Fluke. A-about hurting him, especially after what I thought he said to me in the hospital."

And _that_ statement threw him for another loop. "'Hospital'?" he squeaked.

She nodded, "But... when I talked to him, he knew. He told me it was you, Xander." She smiled faintly, "So... let's hit the road already."

He smiled back and started the engine, and the two drove off.



Toward their future...

...which included a summer in the wonderful little blip on the map known as Oxnard, California. But they didn't know that yet.


Chapter 2

I see her walking up the road with her Resolve Face on, and I know.

I've lost her. To him. Always him.

I suppose I should be happy that she stayed with me as long as she did, even after the Fluke. Of course, if I had had any sense or self- respect, I wouldn't have taken her back after she cheated on me.

But then again, that's how much I love her. I loved her enough to take her back.

He loved her enough to let her go.

You know, I'm still not quite sure how I feel about that.

I don't even know when I really started to lose her. It was after the Fluke, after I took her back. We were getting closer, once she got over her guilt, but a few weeks ago, I'm not sure exactly when, she started growing more distant. Sure, we dated, we had fun, we kissed.


Whoa, sorry there. Thoughts of Willow kissage.

Anyway, while we did the things couples do -- well, except for _that_ thing -- she stopped opening up to me. We'd talk about trivial things, but she wouldn't talk about the things that hurt, the things she feared. Right before graduation, I think, is when I knew I was losing her. When she chose to spend what may have been her last hours alive with him instead of me.

I get up and head downstairs. She should be at the door right about now, and I'm rewarded with the sound of the doorbell ringing just as I get there.

Hey, I'm a musician. Timing is everything.

When I open the door, I see her Resolve Face crack. I also see the tear tracks running down her cheeks, though they've long since dried.

I try to put on a brave face. I don't know how well I succeed, but I try. And then she struggles to say the words I know she wants to.

This is hurting her. There's got to be some way I can make this easier for her.

And then it hits me, and I blurt it out. Totally uncharacteristic of me, I know, but I was desperate. I needed something, anything, that would make her feel better, and I latched onto the first thing that came to mind:

"It wasn't me."

Now, wait, that didn't make a whole lot of sense, did it? Judging from the confused look on her face, I'd say she agrees, so I clarify.

"That time... in the hospital... it wasn't me. It was him."

Okay, did that make sense? Nevermind. It looks like she understands. She pulls me into a hug, and I feel her lips brush gently against mine.

A bittersweet kiss goodbye.

As I watch her walk away, it occurs to me. I guess I do love her as much as he does. Enough to let her go. Which makes this remarkably unfair.

But I guess... it's just that way.


Chapter 3

There they go, off into the sunrise like a destined-to-be-happy couple out of some movie.

Except... the movie couples always went off into the sunset, not the sunrise. Figures they can't even get _that_ right.

It hurts, ya know? I'm not gonna lie and say it doesn't. That's just _so_ not me. Oddly enough, I think that's one of the things he liked about me.

I'm always honest, even if it hurts.

I think one of the other things he liked was my pride. I don't know much about his parents, but I'd heard some things. I feel kinda sorry for him.

Even if I do want to tear him a new one.

But I'm getting off-track. His folks gave him some serious self- esteem issues, and I think he admired me for the way I was always so sure of myself. Even when he was insulting me, I'd give as good as I got, and the insults just slid right off.

But sometimes, my pride makes me do some pretty stupid things.

Like making that stupid wish...

Like trying to make him jealous...

Like letting him go...

God! I'm crying! I promised myself I wouldn't cry, damnit!


Sorry. I'm under control now. No need to worry about that happening again. *sniff*

I don't even know why I ever let myself believe those two wouldn't end up together. She's been in love with him since, like, forever, and the dope always put her first.

When he wasn't lusting after Slayers, anyway.

Bitter? Me? Nahhh.

Well, maybe a little.

But that's all in the past now. I've gotta move on. Don't think about how I want to break them up. They do make a cute couple, after all.

Ugh! That stuff's supposed to annoy me, sicken me with its sugary sweetness, not make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside! I guess fighting the forces of evil has an effect on you.

Brr! I guess it _is_ contagious.

But I'm leaving all that behind now, along with the first person I ever loved... that way.


Chapter 4

I knew it.

Knew it, knew it, _knew_ it.

I _knew_ those two would end up together. They've been through so much, and they always put each other first. I knew from the moment I met them that they were madly in love with each other.

Even if he was too dense to see it and latched on me instead.

Those two have had so much trouble between them. As a couple, they've run into as many problems as me and...

Well, okay, neither actually tried to _kill_ the other, and neither had to send the other to hell. So maybe not quite as bad as the two of us.

But still! Queen Bitch and Wolfy! Even us Slayers! All three of us! We all got between the cutest, bestest couple I've _ever_ seen in my life.

No! Giles and Mom do _not_ make a cuter couple! Don't even _go_ there!

Of course, it was all unintentional. Well, unintentional on my part, anyway. _I_ certainly didn't want him drooling over me.

Well, except maybe that one time he cast that stupid love spell.

In any case, it's nice to know that at least they're gonna be happy, even if...

God! I still can't believe he left me! Just because of that annoying little soul-curse-loophole-happiness-clause thingy.

Stupid gypsies. Couldn't even get a simple curse right.


Hmm? Where was I? Oh, yeah.

They've had to deal with a lot of stuff that kept getting between them, not the least of which was their own thick-headed stubbornness.

First, he's too dense to even see her, even when they were on that pretend date that one time. Then, she feels sooo guilty over that so- called Fluke she was willing to lose their friendship over it.

He told me about that night, when she was in the coma, did you know that? I feel so privileged. I have Willow rights now. I'm to him what Willow used to be before the dork realized he was in love with her.

Wait... that's not good, is it? I mean, he isn't gonna fall in love with _me_ again, is he?

No, of course not. He can't. Not when they're going off together on that big road trip.

Well, anyway, like I said. I knew it. I knew those two would end up together that way.


Chapter 5

He has his arm around me while he's driving. Probably not a good idea, driving-safety-wise, but I'm not complaining.

He's warm.

Okay, I know, it's a silly thing to notice. There's no reason for him to be cold, unless he were dead or a vampire, which he's not, and I'm very glad about that, by the way...

I'm babbling, aren't I?

It's not like I babble all the time. Just when I'm nervous or afraid or happy or excited or...

Okay, so I babble all the time. Happy now? I'm just feeling a little giddy here right now, okay? I've always loved him, and now I know he loves me.

I honestly didn't know it was him, that time in the hospital. I really thought it was Oz.

That's why I went back to Oz after the Fluke. Because I thought it was Oz who loved me so much that he could bring me back from the brink of death. I couldn't bear to hurt anyone who loved me that much.

Except I did.

I hurt him, so much, and I'm still amazed he can forgive me after what I've done. I broke his heart, twice, and he still loves me.

I don't think I love him as much as he loves me. He loved me enough to let me go, to still love me after I broke his heart twice. Me? I... he broke my heart just _once_... and all I could think about was how to get revenge, how to hurt him back.

I'm so ashamed.

But now I've got another chance, and I'll be damned if I screw it up this time. I won't mess up again. Resolve Face.

"What's wrong, Willow?" I look up. He's looking down at me, a worried expression on his face.

I smile and reassure him, "Nothing, sweetie. Eyes on the road."

He's my Xander.

He's goofy, a little dense, and just as much a babbler as I am.

And he's just perfect that way.


Chapter 6

I'm keeping my arm around her. I shouldn't really. It's dangerous driving like this, but I can't help it. I need the contact, to make sure she isn't going to vanish on me.

Yeah, I know, it's irrational, but I've never been a very rational guy.

I take a quick peek at her and smile. She's got this incredibly cute look of intense concentration that tells us experienced Willow watchers that she's babbling in her mind again.

She's so beautiful.

Maybe we should just stop, go back to Sunnydale, help Buffy with her Slaying. 'Cause the only sight I want to see is sitting right next to me.

Okay, laugh. I know. Real corny. But that's how I feel.

I'm still amazed that she still loves me, even after all we've been through. Even after Buffy, Miss French, the hyena thing, Ampata, Cordy, the whole Valentine's mess, Faith, Oz... even after all that, she still loves me.

I don't think she even realizes just how much she does love me.

For so long, I was so afraid of becoming my dad, turning into an abusive drunk, hurting Willow the way Dad hurts Mom...

I don't even want to think about it.

I look down at her again and frown. She's got her Resolve Face on. What's that all about?

Concerned, I ask, "What's wrong, Willow?"

She looks up and smiles back at me. Nothing better on this world than a Willow smile, no sirree. She replies, "Nothing, sweetie. Eyes on the road."

I better do as the lady says. It would suck to find happiness and then get ourselves killed 'cause I was too busy enjoying it.

"Sweetie." She called me "sweetie." I smile. I like that. Being Willow's sweetie.

She's my Willow.

She's a babbler, shy but bull-headedly stubborn when she puts her Resolve Face on.

And she's just perfect that way.