Two Halves of the Same Coin

Author: Mike McD <o163210[at]>

Rating: PG

Summary: She's fallen in love with Xander but it's love under someone's shadow.

Distribution: Anywhere, just let me know.

Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer nor do I own any other characters. This is a work of fiction written for fun and enjoyment.

Authors' notes: This takes place after 'Once More With Feeling'. Anya and Xander split up just after it.

Latest addition

Chapter 1

Falling in love with Xander wasn't high on my list of things I'd be likely to do. If anyone told me a year ago that I'd fall in love with Xander and end up lying naked on his bed after a night of passion, I would have laughed at them.

But here I am. Naked and in love.

I guess it all started with Dawn. With all that's happened lately, I promised myself that I would spend more time with Dawn. After his break up with Anya, Xander must have had similar thoughts. So the three of us ended up doing stuff together. Going to the movies, shopping at the mall, helping Dawn with her homework, pizza and video nights, and just plain hanging out together.

Often Dawn would fall asleep during the video nights with her head in either one of our laps and her legs draped across the other. The two of us shared a love of Dawn. Xander was Dawn's older best guy friend and confidant on most matters. He was a much needed positive male role model for her.

All the time we spent with Dawn gave us a chance to really get to know each other. Yes, we were friends, but we never really had gotten to know each other that well. We'd shared death defying moments and fun Scooby times on patrols and at the Bronze, but hardly ever just the two of us in a non-Scooby environment.

We began to open up to each other; we became relaxed with each other. We made having lunch together a regular thing. We joked about our lunchtimes being 'dates'. We talked about all sorts of normal things like the weather, movies, food, anything. We also talked about more personal things. We became a sympathetic ear for each other. It really helped me that Xander is a great listener.

He's a great guy. Funny, loyal, loving, brave, and remarkably mature.

That's right, mature.

When you really get to know him, get the past his defences, there are hidden depths to Xander that few would ever give him credit for. The clown is just a mask, a colourful front that hides the true workings behind those chocolate pool like eyes.

On the shallow side, he's great in bed. Magical even. Anya wasn't exaggerating his abilities all those times. He's good with his hands, as you'd expect a carpenter to be. But he's unbelievable with his tongue, lips, and… the rest of his body.

But the one thing that turned friendship into love was his heart. It's strength and purity. His heart is the source of all his finest qualities.

I'd had a bad few days and I just needed someone to vent to. Dawn was away for the weekend and thus Xander was at his apartment catching up on his neglected housework. I started ranting and Xander sat me down and did his listening thing. After five or so minutes I'd worked myself up so much that the tears began to flow.

Heaven knows the issues I was upset about were minor, but I guess my body decided I needed a good cry to restore my balance. Xander held me close to his chest, stroked my hair, and made soothing sounds. I held him back and, when my tears dried up to become sniffles, I suddenly became aware of how good it felt just to be held by Xander. His broad shoulders, his warm embrace, the comforting beating of his heart. I didn't want to ever leave this wonderful, safe place I'd discovered.

He gently kissed the top of my head as he had done dozens of times comforting Dawn. I looked up at him and found myself gazing into the warm pools of his eyes.

Gently my lips captured his and, for long moments, we lovingly kissed.

When I looked at him again, Xander's face was a mix of emotions. Shock, love, questioning. Without a word I left his apartment.

For the next week or so I avoided Xander, not because I regretted what happened, but because I needed time to think about what this development meant to me. Life changing decisions need time to be thought through. Xander understood that, I think, and didn't question me on the avoidance issue. Dawn, on the other hand, noticed the avoidance and pressed the issue with me.

I tried avoiding the issue but she wouldn't have any of that. I tried telling her it wasn't any of her business but Dawn didn't care. I even tried pleading but no dice.

So I told her what happened.

I expected anger. I expected disbelief. I expected the worst.

What I didn't expect was laughter.

Dawn killed herself laughing.

Eventually she calmed down and the two of us talked about it. She wondered aloud what was it about Xander that had so many women fall for him. I know Dawn has her own thing for him. She asked me how I felt about Xander. I raved on about how he was such a great friend and a wonderful guy but Dawn cut to the chase. She asked me if I loved him.

Reluctantly I told her that I did.

Showing remarkable insight, Dawn asked me if my reluctance to admit my feelings for Xander was my issues or the spectre of Willow.

Willow. She's possessive of people she regards as 'hers', and Xander is her most prized possession. She hated every single girlfriend Xander ever had for the simple fact that they were encroaching on 'her' property. When it came to Xander it was a case of 'I don't want him but nobody else can have him either'.

But talking with Dawn made me realise that if I wanted to be truly happy then I would have to stand up to Willow. I had to take what I wanted with both hands and not let go. There are enough issues between me and Xander to worry about without importing Willow's as well.

I'm laying naked on Xander's bed, the sheets permeated with the scent of our sweet love making, and I'm thinking about Willow.

We know this is going to hurt her and the idea of it is killing the both of us.


Xander's back from his shower, wearing the tweety bird boxers Willow got him for Christmas.

I don't think there's not a part of him that doesn't have Willow's mark in someway.

I know that there's little of me that doesn't either.

Seeing my worry, he lay next to me and held me close. He knows what's worrying me; it worries him too.

"We'll be alright Tara."


Chapter 2

They must have given Dawn advanced warning, I mean it's a little too convenient that Dawn decides to stay at one of her friends place for the entire weekend. If I had known what was gonna happen I would have arranged to be elsewhere too.

But if I had, I wouldn't have been there to witness the single greatest turning point in the lives of three of the people closest to my heart.


"Dawn! What's the big hurry?" Buffy asked her sister who was tearing down the stairs with her bag ready for the weekend.

"I gotta go right now Buffy." Dawn told her. Dawn went up to Buffy, dropped her bag and gave her big sister a hug.

"Just remember, it wasn't a fluke the first time and it's not a fluke now." The former Key whispered as she hugged her confused sister.

'Great. My sister's been taking lessons in cryptic from Angel.' Buffy thought. Outside a car horn beeped twice and Dawn let Buffy go. Grabbing her bag, she opened the door and raced out, nearly knocking over Tara and Xander who were coming up the porch steps.

"Bye guys! Good luck!" Dawn yelled to the pair as she got into the waiting car. Buffy was still puzzling over Dawn's comments and failed to take much notice of Tara and Xander holding hands.

"Was I ever like that? No wonder I drove mom nuts at times." Buffy remarked with a shake of her head. She turned her attention back to Tara and Xander who were no longer holding hands.

"What's up guys?" the Slayer asked her friends.

"We're here to see Willow actually." An unusually serious Xander told her.

"Um, sure... she's up stairs." Alarm bells started ring inside Buffy's mind as Tara and Xander sat down on the couch while Buffy went upstairs to get Willow. Their entire demeanour was unusual. Serious, quiet, lost deep in thought in Tara's case, apprehension in Xander's.

Buffy's mind searched for an explanation. They wanted to see Willow. Were they trying to do an intervention for Willow's growing use of magic? Was Tara wanting to get back with Willow? Why was Xander here with Tara then? To act as a neutral third party?

While Buffy was upstairs, Xander was down stairs worried. Worried about what was going to happen, and worried about Tara. She hadn't said a word on the trip to Buffy's place. Xander recognised the look on her face, she was lost in deep thought. He could guess at what she was thinking.

His guess, however, would have been wrong.

Xander's thought processes were cut off as Buffy sat on the recliner off to the side while Willow sat on the couch opposite.

To say that there was an uncomfortable silence would be a massive understatement.

"What's going on Xander?" Willow asked cautiously. She could clearly see the play of emotions across Xander's face, but Willow couldn't get a clear reading of Tara. The redhead didn't know which one was more concerning and the first flicker of fear appeared in the pit of her stomach.

Xander swallowed hard, his mouth dry.

"I... uh, we..." he wiped his sweaty palms on his pants. Tara reached out and took his hand into hers, the silent gesture of support giving him the courage to go on.

"We've got something to tell you."

The silence hung in the air like a guillotine. Xander placed his left hand over Tara's and his thumb caressed gentle circles on the back of her hand.

Buffy watched the interplay and saw Willow stiffen. Unable to see the reason for Willow's reaction, Buffy watched on in confusion as Willow slowly started to shake her head in denial.

"No." Try as she might, Willow couldn't deny what she now knew. "No way."

For the first time, Tara spoke up.

"I-I-I love... I-I-I-in love, with Xander. We're... we're in love."


Buffy's POV.

Her jaw dropped and her eyes went as big as saucers. Three words echoed in her otherwise shutdown mind.


Buffy had heard of things coming out from left field... hell; this was out from the car park. Or the Twilight Zone.

Buffy so did not see this coming.

'But Dawn did', Buffy thought to herself.

That made sense. Dawn had spent so much of her time with Tara and Xander, it would only be natural that she'd notice something so major going on. The three had spent so much time together that they were virtually family, a fact that sent a brief twinge of guilt through the Slayer.

The moment of introspection over, Buffy concentrated on the three others.

Tara was looking at Xander's hands in hers, unable to look back up at Willow. Buffy had always found it hard to read the wiccan's emotions, but it was clear enough that happiness and joy weren't in the mix.

Xander, on the other hand, was easy to read. Sadness, regret, and... fear?

A million different emotions flickered across Willow's face in the blink of an eye before it settled down to just one.



"So, you love him, do you?" Willow directed the question to her former girlfriend. Tara took a deep breath and summoned the courage to look Willow in the eyes.


Willow got up out of her seat.

"Well, that's easy fixed." She said as she started towards the stairs. Both Tara and Xander shot to their feet, Xander grabbing Willow by the arm.

"What the hell are you doing?" Xander demanded. The redhead yanked her arm from Xander's grasp.

"Come on Xander. Isn't it obvious? I'm going to break the spell you've put on her."

"It's not a spell Willow. It's how I really feel." The blonde Wiccan insisted. A look of realisation and a cold, humourless smile spread on Willow's features.

"Oh, I get it now. You're the one who's put the spell on him just to get back at me. Like I said, it's easily..."

"ENOUGH!" Everyone jumped at Xander's yell.

In all the years she had known Xander, Willow had never seen him so angry. His voice rang with rage, his eyes burned with murderous fury and it was totally directed at her.

For the first time in her life, Willow truly feared Xander.

"Nobody's done a love spell." He said, the rage subsided but the hardness of his tone was evident.

Willow's earlier fear was overwhelmed by renewed anger.

"Oh, that's right. Noble and pure Xander would never do a love spell." Sarcasm virtually dripped from the redhead's lips "But wait! I seem to remember a little love spell back in high school. Gee, I wonder who did that?"

"That was three years ago. I learnt my lesson about messing with magic after that." Unlike a certain red headed Wicca I could name, Xander didn't need to add.

"Really? I also seem to recall someone summoning a singing and dancing demon..."

"That wasn't him." Tara interjected and everyone looked at her. "He... he was covering for Dawn. She wanted... she wanted to make everything right. She wanted Buffy happy again. I spoke to her, afterwards. She admitted it. She didn't know what would happen. Xander... wanted to save Dawn from the demon. So he lied."

Buffy's eyes filled with tears at the revelation. She had hurt Dawn, enough for Dawn to turn to the black arts to make everything right. So deep in the well of her own misery, Buffy had no idea how much she was hurting Dawn.

"No. You did something. You had to... did something to her mind... to betray me..." Willow backed away from Xander in denial, her mind grasping for straws.

"Betray you?!" she froze at the sound of Xander yelling at her, his anger returned. "I'm not the one who played with Tara's mind like it was a fucking etch-a-sketch! I wasn't the one who couldn't cope with her feelings back in high school and decided to do a de-lusting spell!"

Buffy and Tara saw the anger build in Willow's eyes, mirroring Xander's. Buffy had never, in all the years she had known them, seen or heard Willow and Xander fight each other anything like this.

Eighteen years this had been building. Every hurt, every slight, everything that had ever been locked away between the two was now surging to the surface. It wasn't about Tara and Xander anymore. It was about eighteen years of Xander and Willow.

Tara sat back down to think as Willow and Xander slowly circled each other.

"You come here, shove this... whatever the hell it is between you two, in my face and expect me to be all hugs and puppies for you two?"

"It's called love Willow." Xander countered.

"Love?!" Willow near spat the word "You wouldn't know what the word means."

Xander glowered at Willow who cut off any reply with her continued tirade.

"Love? How can you love him?" Willow asked Tara while pointing at Xander "'Cause last time I heard you were gay! This isn't love, it's a goddamned experiment!" yelled Willow as she advanced on Tara. Her angry advance on Tara was stopped as Xander bodily intercepted her, the male Scooby towering over the redhead.

"Don't." his single word clearly conveying to all Xander's intention of protecting Tara.

Even from Willow.

Buffy watched the confrontation between her two friends in total shock. Xander, who had once threatened to kill the Slayer if Willow had been hurt, now stood ready to protect Tara by any means.

He was prepared to hurt Willow to protect Tara.

"Xander." Tara's soft and clam voice stark in it's contrast with the harsh and angry tones of the others. Xander looked back at his girlfriend who gently touched his legs as if to move him aside. "Please."

Xander pause for a moment then nodded. He took a step to the side, locking his eyes on the redhead, watching for the first hint of trouble. Tara took Willow's hand and looked up at her ex girlfriend.

"Do you remember that day we sat under the tree near our dorm? How we talked about love? Do you remember what you told me?" Willow didn't reply and instead looked at Tara stony eyed.

"You said that when people fall in love, they fall for the other persons heart and that the plumbing shouldn't be an issue." Willow snatched her hand back angrily.

"Don't try to sugar coat this bullshit to me Tara! This isn't how it works. You don't go from being gay all your life to being straight."

"Oh, so it's Ok to go from being straight all your life to being gay but going from gay to straight is against the rules? Well, sieg heil the fucking Political Correctness Gestapo!"

Willow wheeled about onto Xander who stood defiantly before her. Before she could say anything he pressed home his attack.

"You're a hypocrite Willow. If me or Oz or anyone else had carried on like this when you started dating Tara, you would have torn them a new asshole and with good reason! But instead YOU'RE the one who's acting like an asshole! You and Tara aren't together anymore so who Tara dates or falls in love with is none of your goddamned business! Hell! You and me haven't been going out since we were 5 so who I love is none of your damn business either!"

Xander's tirade stopped as fundamental questions of their friendship formed in his mind.

"If it's none of my damn business then why are you here?" Willow demanded to know.

Xander scratched his chin in contemplation as he mulled over her question.

"That's a good question. A very good question. When I started dating Cordelia, I felt the need to hide it from my friends. But that's not exactly true is it? I didn't particularly care what Buffy thought of Cordelia and me. But you... I wasn't hiding it from my friends; I was hiding it from you. Why? We weren't together. You and Oz were getting together, so why did I feel the need to hide it from you? Why did I feel so bad when you found out me and Faith?

"Then there was when Anya and I got engaged and again I felt the need to hide it. Who was I hiding it from? It wasn't Buffy; she was dead. Hell, I should have shouted it from the rooftops 'cause god knows we could have used with some good news right around then. You were happy with Tara. So why did I feel the need to hide it from you?

"And now Tara and me are together, but this time it's not just me feeling the need to hide it from you. But we're here telling you. Again with the why?"

"Maybe because you knew that it would hurt me!"

"WHY? Goddamn it! We've been dancing this dance for fucking years now and I don't even know why! Things have changed, you've changed and all I can ask is why?" there was real desperation in Xander's voice. He was pleading, pleading for answers to questions he couldn't fully form in his mind.

"Why? You have no idea what it was like. Being so close to you, day after day, year after year. Watching you chase one girl after another, each time it was like having you stab me in the heart. I couldn't... I couldn't keep doing it to myself. I had to move on, I had to put you behind me."

"So you jumped at the first guy to show some interest?"

"At least Oz showed some interest. You, you'd rather be with someone you hate than be with me. Of course that all changed once me and Oz were going out. All of a sudden you couldn't keep your lips to yourself!"

"You know what? I'm sick to death of everyone blaming me for that! I didn't tie you up and force you to kiss me! We both were equally responsible for our lips! Obviously it didn't mean all that much to you, seeing as how once we got caught you went running back to Oz. You made your choice abundantly clear. You got your boyfriend back while I lost my best friend. After that you didn't want anything to do with me." Xander's words were soft, the pain clear in them.

"Whenever I got close to you I got hurt and I didn't want to get hurt anymore. But a part of me kept getting drawn to you and I couldn't let that happen again."

Listening to Willow's admission, Tara spoke up.

"So you changed, trying to run away from that part of you. Running away from Xander."

Willow, tears in her eyes, looked at her ex girlfriend.

"You and me were real. We weren't about me running away from him. I loved you and I still do." Willow was crying freely now.

"But no matter what I do... no matter how much I try... it's always..." Willow broke down completely. She sunk to her knees, weeping uncontrollably. Xander knelt down and wrapped his arms about her his own tears forming. Between her cries Willow kept repeating one word over and over again.


Watching them, the answer to all their questions became clear to Tara.

Why had she fallen in love, first with Willow, then with Xander? Why had they fallen in love with her? Why did Xander feel guilty all the time? Why did Willow hurt so much? Why were Willow and Xander so completely unable to separate their lives from each other, no matter how hard they tried?

They were two halves of the same coin.

In the same way that you can't have Ying with out Yang, you couldn't have Willow without Xander. They were two separate people who were never the less closer than conjoined twins.

Tara embraced them both, filled with love and a truth that Oz or Cordelia or Anya never completely got.

To truly love one of them, you must love both of them.