Voyage of Rediscovery

Author: Mike McD <o163210[at]iprimus.com.au>

Rating: R

Summary: Two bitter and lost souls on rock bottom decide to go Walkabout. Two years after #39;Chosen'.

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.


If you don't like fics with some Buffy bashing then move along now. Everyone else, enjoy.

Chapter 1

"Mmmm... a journey of self discovery... sounds like a Walkabout."

Xander looked at her in confusion.


"Pack your bags Xander. We're heading Down Under."


A month later saw Willow and Xander board their Qantas flight from Johannesburg to Perth. Comfortably ensconced in first class with all the free alcohol he wanted, Xander was as relaxed as he ever got these days.

Willow, on the other hand, was reading from two books she had purchased in Johannesburg and occasionally making notes. The look on her face wasn't what you'd call relaxed.

"What you got there?" he asked his travelling companion.

"Just some research." She said without taking her eyes off her work. Xander grabbed the thick book she was reading.

"Hey! I was reading that!" she protested as Xander checked out the cover.

"Deadly Creatures of Australia." Xander gave her a strange one-eyed look that made Willow shift uncomfortably in her seat.

"It pays to know stuff like this. I mean in the ads they show all these cute and fluffy animals but they conveniently skip over all the snakes, and sharks, and crocodiles, and... and spiders!"

Xander was careful to mask his hilarity at the situation. Here was Willow, ultra powerful Wicca, shit scared of snakes and creepy crawlies. Hell, he'd seen Willow *vomit* snakes before. Snakes should be scared of Willow, not the other way around.

With one swift movement he scooped up her books and notepad and shoved them into the overhead luggage compartment. Willow was too short to reach the overhead compartment without resorting to standing on her seat.

"But... but... Spiders!" she feebly protested.

"Willow, for god's sake, relax. We're not gonna get swamped by a seething mass of legs and venom as soon as we clear customs."

Xander's declaration helped Willow to relax a little. She was being silly about the matter. Seeing her relax somewhat, he couldn't help but take the opportunity for a laugh at Willow's expense.

"Once we get out of the airport though..."



True to Xander's word, a seething mass of legs and venom didn't swamp them at customs.

Instead, before they could even get to the customs counter, they were dragged out of the line by a severe looking policeman and taken to an interview room. Once inside, a balding man with a large envelope greeted them.

"Miss Rosenburg, Mr Harris, I apologise for the rather... unusual... greeting." He said, his accent unmistakably English.

"No need apologise, happens all the time." Xander replied sarcastically. "Although, for the record, I don't speak Arabic and if you're gonna do a cavity search I'd like to request someone with smaller hands."

The Englishman gave Xander a small smile.

"Most amusing."

"Yeah, I'm a funny guy. Now can we cut the crap? You're Council, right? Mr..."

"Tobin. Commodore Russel Tobin. I am Her Majesty's Naval Attach�in Australia. To answer your question, no I am not a member of the Watcher's Council per se. I am, however, a part of the... support group... so to speak. Mr Giles send his regards and asked that I personally deliver this." He handed over the envelope. There was a wax seal on it, which Xander broke.

"Whoa!" Willow gasped then shook her head.

"What is it?" Xander asked the redhead.

"Magic, I could feel it. That seal was sealed magically. Looks like Giles wanted to make sure than only you or I opened it."

"Humph... Giles needs to grab a dictionary and look up the definition of the word quit." Xander grumbled but continued opening it.

In it Xander found a letter and two mobile phones. The letter was written in Giles' flowing handwriting.

Willow and Xander,

Your phone call came as something of a shock, although in retrospect it shouldn't have been.

I realise that all these years of fighting and sacrifice have taken their toll on us all, but most especially yourselves. In fighting evil for so long and in such close proximity perhaps it has affected us, all be it in different ways.

I understand some of the possible reasons for your actions and feelings on the matter. Indeed your departure has caused me to examine both my own situation as well as the wider one.

In your own crude way Xander, you were correct in that I was lacking willingness to assert my authority over Buffy. I believed that since Buffy had become an adult that I was absolved of any responsibility for and authority over her.

No longer.

This having been said, the situation has deteriorated to such a point that any attempt at re-establishing authority will be problematic at best. But it must be done.

This is my problem now, not yours.

I will respect your decision to leave and wish you all the best in whatever your futures hold. You will receive an ongoing 'retirement pension' equal to your salary and I have instructed that the full resources and aid of the Council be available to you if you request it. Should you, at anytime in the future, decide to return to the Council, you will be most definitely be welcomed back with open arms.

There is one final request I make. You are probably unaware of the falling out between Dawn and her sister. Dawn approached me some months ago for assistance in relocating away from her sister. At the time I mistook it as the natural desire on behalf of Dawn to 'spread her wings and leave the nest'.

I was a fool.

The last information that I had on her was that she was studying at the University of Sydney under the assumed name of Michelle Trachtenburg. I would be grateful if you could find the time to check on her if you ever make it that way. I'm sure that she would appreciate seeing some friendly faces right now.

Best wishes,

Your friend

Rupert Giles.

Willow and Xander read, then re-read the letter.

"The telephones have all the contact numbers programmed into them should you require assistance and the bills will automatically be paid by the High Commission." The Commodore informed the pair.

"Damn it. Giles really knows how to make a guy feel bad for telling him off." Xander grumbled.

"Not to worry, I'll help you write that apology letter." Willow comforted.

"Is there anything else I can do for you?" Commodore Tobin asked.

"Could we grab a lift to our hotel?"

"Which hotel are you staying at?"

"The Four Seasons."

"No worries, as the locals say."

Chapter 2

"Uh... mmm... hello?"

"This is Patricia at reception with your requested seven o'clock wake up call, Miss Rosenburg."

"Oh, right. Thanks."

"Would you like room service to deliver breakfast to your suite?"

"No thank you, I might grab something later."

"Not a problem Miss Rosenburg, the breakfast buffet will be open until nine. Would you like anything else?"

"Actually, could you send up two glasses of orange juice?"

"Two glasses of orange juice, certainly. Is that all?"

"That'll do for now, thanks."

"OK, bye."

Hanging up the phone, Willow rubbed the sleep out of her eyes then got out of her bed, wrapped herself in a large fluffy bathrobe, and headed to the bathroom.

Five minutes later, room service arrived with the orange juice. Willow headed over to the door separating her suite from Xander's, only to find it locked. A quick whispered incantation unlocked the door and she entered his room.

The heavy curtains were drawn and the room dark. Willow opened the curtains, sunlight spilling into the room and onto her friend's face.

"Ugrumph..." Xander mumbled then rolled over.

"Get up Xander, the day is a-wasting."

"Fuck off and shut the curtains."

Willow ignored him; Xander had always been grumpy waking up.

"Come on, I've got orange juice." Willow told him then went back into her room to fetch the juice. Meanwhile Xander grumbled some more as he rolled out of bed and blinked in the sunlight. Willow came in with the glasses and sat at the table near the window over looking the park below. Xander wandered over and flopped down in his seat.

Xander only wore a pair of boxers that allowed Willow to examine him closely. His ribs were visible and pronounced which shocked her greatly.

"You've lost a hell of a lot of weight."

Xander shrugged and picked up his juice.

"Africa isn't a place known for its fat people, Willow."

Willow was going to argue that the money he was being paid should have meant that he could easily get whatever food he wanted. But she held her tongue; Xander's current physical condition had less to do with lack of food and more to do with his liquid diet and current state of mind.

Xander took a sip of his juice and screwed up his face.

"Yack! What's in this?"

"Nothing. I think you've forgotten what non alcoholic drinks taste like."

"I'd think twice before giving me shit about my destructive habits if I were you. I had that door locked. I take it that you voodooed it open."

"Maybe I did, doesn't mean much."

"Sure, doesn't mean much at all. Just give me a heads up when you're planning on going all black eyed."

"Why bother? You'll be laying next to a bottle of Jim Beam all blacked out."

The two glared at each other over the table. Both had touched a raw nerve with the other. Willow's face softened.

"Sorry. I shouldn't have said that." She apologised. Xander just waved her off.

"Don't worry about it. I was being an asshole. I deserved it."

Willow looked at her half finished orange juice.

"We're pretty screwed up, aren't we?"

Xander gave a half grunt of amusement.

"Wills, on a scale of one to ten, we're fucked." He rubbed his eye patch, the emptiness it covered mirroring the emptiness he felt deep inside his heart.

"This is gonna work, isn't it?" he asked his friend quietly.

Willow looked out the window at the beautiful park below. Out there was an endless land full of new discoveries waiting for them to find.

And maybe, just maybe, a rediscovery of something lost.

"It has to."

Chapter 3

They didn't stay long in Perth, just enough to recover from their flight, do some much needed clothes shopping, and hire a car.

They headed south, through the laid back streets of Fremantle and Rockingham, passing through small towns and orchards and vineyards and forests. They drove in silence, taking in the sights around them and feeling an odd sense of d��vu. The landscape reminded them of something in their childhood; a trip on a school camp to a place now forgotten.

The silence was broken when Willow spotted something by the side of the road.

"Stop! Stop! Pull over!" she called out.

"What? What is it?"

"Just pull over!" she insisted. Xander edged the car to the side of the road. Once the car had stopped, Xander noticed what had Willow so excited.


There was a mob of a dozen or so grey kangaroos in a paddock grazing not 20 yards from where they were parked. It was the first time that they had seen any native animals and even Xander had to admit to feeling the thrill of seeing them so close and in their natural habitat. The sight of a joey poking its head out of its mothers pouch elicited a photographic frenzy from Willow.

Eventually the mob moved on and Willow and Xander marvelled at their long, effortless bounding.

"Wow. That was just... wow." Willow was hard pressed to verbalise her thoughts.

"It's funny. In Africa I saw elephants and zebras and hyenas and lions, but it wasn't... I don't know. It was interesting, but it wasn't a really big deal, you know. I mean, every school field trip to the zoo we'd see the elephants and zebras and stuff, or the circus would come to town. Never saw kangaroos though." He admitted.

"Well now you have. You can die happy now."

"I think it'll take more than kangaroos for either of us to that. Not sure if we'll ever die happy, Wills."

They shared a moment of unhappy introspection.

"So, where are we staying tonight?" Xander asked Willow who was acting as navigator for their journey.


"How far is that?"

Willow checked the map.

"About an hour or so. We'll stay there tonight and head to the Valley of the Giants in the morning."

"Uh, maybe I spent too much time living on a Hellmouth, but when you say giants, we're not talking about the fe-fi-fo-fum variety, are we?"

"Trees, Xander. We're going to see giant trees."

"Oh, OK." He said as they got back into the car to continue their journey. "Just don't expect me to climb them, magic goose be damned."


When they were nine, the school had taken their class to see the giant Californian Redwood trees. It was an impressive sight to a group of nine year olds and it had kick started Willow's interest in giant trees.

Now, years later and on the other side of the world, once again the pair found themselves in awe of one of mother nature's giants.

"Gotta admit, this is pretty cool." Remarked Xander. They were standing on the Tree Top Walk, an elevated walkway some 120 feet in the air that spanned its way through the giant trees.

"It's different being up here. These trees must look enormous from the ground."

"You wanna take the forest floor path tour?" he asked the redhead.

"Hell yeah! It'll make for some great photos from ground level."

The Ancient Empire, as this part of the park was called, had a protective boardwalk that wound though the ground level of the forest. From here the immense size of the trees could truly be appreciated. Unlike the Tree Top Walk, they were virtually alone.

The reason for this became apparent as the reached a roped off section of the walkway. They approached the park ranger who was standing there.

"What's the problem?" Xander asked the bearded ranger.

"Had to close off the walkway because of the danger. One of the trees is dying and we don't want any branches falling on our visitors."

Willow frowned at the news.

"What's causing it?"

"A virus, a fungus, we're not quite sure."

"Could I take a look? I'm a botanist with the Forestry Service back in California. I might be able to help." Willow lied. Xander quickly glanced at her, wondering what she was up to.

The ranger thought it over for a moment. Normally he would have refused the request, but there was a whispered thought echoing in the back of his mind to trust this young woman.

"Alright, but I'll have to escort you. For your own safety, that is."

The three of them ducked under the rope and headed toward the ailing giant.

High above them, the once green canopy was now brown and withered. They could see where a number of huge braches had broken off leaving the jagged remains protruding like smashed bone. On the ground around them lay thousands of dead leaves that crunched under foot.

Nobody spoke as they saw centuries of life slowly coming to an end. The incredibly sad look on Willow's face gave way to a look of determination.

"No. Not this time. The dying ends now." She vowed, stepping off the walkway and heading over to the base of the dying majesty.

"Uh, miss! You're not allowed too..." the ranger started calling out to her when Xander laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Leave her be." He advised, never taking his eye off Willow who now stood before the giant. She kicked off her shoes, her bare feet sinking into the leaf litter on the ground. She placed her hands on the side of the giant tree and began to chant quietly.

"What's she doing?" the now confused ranger asked. His eyes grew wide as Willow's feet began to glow. The glow travelled up her body to her hands and from there into the tree.

There was a stunned silence as they witnessed the giant tree seemingly stir to life. It creaked as wood once rotted regenerated into living new wood. Life spread through the dead canopy like green ink seeping onto a page. New branches spouted and grew while new leaves reached out like thousands of tiny green hands catching the sun.

Willow's glow faded and she collapsed exhausted. Xander hurried over to his friend leaving the ranger the stare in total disbelief and amazement. When Xander got to Willow, she was ghostly pale and weak. A small trickle of blood ran out of her nose. He held her close and wiped away the blood with his handkerchief.

"Speak to me Will." He quietly implored. Willow smiled weakly up at him.

"No more dying. No more death." She rasped. Xander gently brushed away a lock of hair from her face.

"Yeah, no more dying." He assured. "Come on, I'll take you back to the motel."

Xander helped Willow put her shoes back on then helped her back to the walkway and the awestruck and slightly fearful ranger.

"What just... how did... who..." a worn but smiling Willow answered the ranger's questions.

"No more death."

Until his dying day, the ranger never forgot her words as he watched the pair slowly making their way together out of the forest.

Chapter 4

It was a slow awaking for the exhausted Willow the next day. Using herself as a conduit between the massive tree and the Earth's life force took a lot out of her. The last thing she remembered was Xander helping her into the car for the trip back to their motel.

Looking around her room, she found Xander asleep, slumped uncomfortably into a chair beside her bed. As she shifted in her sheets, Xander awoke.

"Hey." Willow greeted gently.

"Wills, you're awake. How you feeling?"

"Not too bad. A little tired, that's all."

Xander's expression of concern turned to relief, then to anger.

"Damn it Willow! What the hell were you thinking?"

Willow was incredulous at the attack.

"What was I thinking? How about that I'd caused enough death over the years and that it was time that I started causing life."

"By interfering in the natural order of things? Remember the last time you brought back something from the dead? Didn't work out too well in the long run for Buffy, did it?"

"This was completely different!"

Xander got out of the chair.

"You could have fucking killed yourself!" he yelled in desperation. They glared at each other for a second before Xander turned and headed to his own room.

"Do whatever the fuck you want with your magic." He muttered then slammed the door.


There was a stony silence in the car on the return trip back to Perth. Xander concentrated on the road and did his best to ignore the redhead next to him.

Willow sat fuming over the fight.

Magic was a part of her now, she reasoned then wondered when that fact would seep into that thick head of Xander's. The tree wasn't dead, it was dying and that was an important distinction. It still had life, and with life came hope.

And hope was a rare and precious thing.

She silently cursed at Xander. Just because she did magic didn't mean she would automatically kill the world.

Suddenly she was struck by a realisation.

He didn't say anything about her killing the world.

He DID say he was worried about Willow killing herself.

He had carried her from the car into her room. He had sat by her bed, keeping an all night watch on her.

He wasn't worried about the world. He wasn't worried about himself.

He was worried about her.

She removed the picture of her younger self and Xander from her purse and looked at the young boy in the photograph.

Somewhere inside the drunken and bitter man, the heart of the little boy still beat.

And that gave her hope for the little girl too.

chapter 5

After their return to Perth, they spent the next two months there seeing the sights and making the occasional day trip here and there. But mostly they spent their time doing nothing. No patrols, no hunting down vampires and demons, nothing that had anything in the slightest to do with the life they had turned their back on. Had they gone looking for supernatural trouble they probably would have found it.

But they didn't.

It was slow going, rebuilding their friendship. Both had major issues with themselves, each other, and others.

Particularly Buffy.

Occasionally the two had heated arguments, nearly always over petty issues and nearly always degrading into personal attacks.

It would take more than a few weeks for years of bitterness to fade.

But they always made up after their fights. Sometimes it took a day or two for tempers to cool enough to allow reason a chance to reign. But even their arguments acted as a safety valve; blowing off steam that had been building for years.

They were older now, wiser too. In years gone by their fights would have ended in tears and a broken friendship. Now they knew that their friendship could and would endure anything that the world, or each other, could throw at it.

With all the idle time they had on their hands, introspection both of themselves and each other became a major part of their days. Sitting on her bed, Willow stared at the TV while her mind was engaged in yet another introspection session.


When they were kids all Xander and Willow had were each other. Sure, there were other friends like Amy and Jessie but they were transitory. The only constant they had was each other.

Then came Buffy.

Nine years after Buffy's arrival in the now destroyed Sunnydale, Willow still couldn't decide if it was a good thing or not. Sure, playing superheroes and saving the world a bunch of times had been fun and all, but looking at what years of it had done to them...

On the other hand if Buffy hadn't come to Sunnydale then, according to Anya, she and Xander would have become vampiric lovers and favourites of the Master.

There were days when Willow would have preferred that.

Another favourite game of Willow and Xander was 'If you had your time again, what would you do differently?' Willow knew that Xander didn't share some of the things he would have done differently, but she didn't mind. She held back on a few things too.

Willow noticed that Xander's physical condition was improving. His ribs weren't so painfully prominent as they were before and hints of muscle tone were returning as Xander hit the hotel's gym to blow off steam after one of their arguments or for some other reason that Willow couldn't quite figure out.

Another thing that Willow couldn't figure out was Xander's growing edginess.

He fidgeted a lot lately. He looked jumpy and stressed and on occasion would get the shakes even in direct sun. Whenever Willow asked about it Xander would say that nothing was wrong and dismiss her worries.

Even after all these years, Xander couldn't lie to her face worth a damn.

Willow figured that sooner or later she'd find out one way or another.


Willow sat on her balcony enjoying the post breakfast morning sun. Breakfast had been delicious. Bacon, scrambled eggs, hash browns, and toast washed down with coffee. In deference to her Jewish upbringing, Willow felt a little guilty about the bacon. But the guilt only lasted as long as the bacon did on the plate.

Behind her, Willow heard Xander come in after his morning walk, the concept of Xander voluntarily exercising still strange in her mind.

"How was your walk?" Willow called out to her friend as she watched the sea-gulls swoop and dive in the park across from the hotel.

Xander came out onto the balcony.

"Good. I picked up something for you on the way." He told her and tossed something onto the table. Willow turned around and looked at it.

"Uh... what's this?" she asked waving at the book on the table.

"I've only got one eye and doing long distance driving by myself isn't all that wonderful. So I want you to learn that book and get your licence."

"But I've already got my licence." Willow objected.

"No you don't. Your licence expired, like, twelve months ago."

"What? How do you know that?"

"I went through your handbag last night which was a fairly freaksome experience. I've got no idea just how you women fit all that crap into such a tiny space." Xander shared the belief of most men that women's handbags were just a little to the left of witchcraft.

"Hey! Keep your greasy little fingers out of my handbag!" Willow grizzled. She didn't worry about what he would have found in it, Xander did his share of the shopping including her tampons.

But it was the principle of the matter.

"And another thing, long distance driving?" Willow wondered what long distance driving they would be doing, as they hadn't decided on going anywhere as yet.

"You remember my little road trip after graduation? Well, I never got to drive across America so I figure that now I'm here and I've got the time, I might as well drive across Australia."

"I thought we were gonna fly." It would be a long enough flight as it is from Perth to Sydney. Driving would take the best part of two weeks.

"Come on Will, it'll give us a chance to see some of the country and I'd really like my best friend to be there with me. So, please?" Xander hit her with double barrel puppy dog eyes.

It worked.

"OK, OK! We'll drive. Just put those puppy dog eyes away." She told him. Xander laughed then stuck out his tongue.

"Don't stick that out unless to intend to use it." She waggled her finger at him.

"OK then." He said then started after Willow, his tongue flicking in and out.

"Oh god! What are you doing?" she squealed playfully and she tried to dodge him.

"What does it look like? I'm gonna use it." He smirked.

"Go and have a shower you big sweaty smelly freak!" she laughed. Xander stopped and pouted.

"You only discriminate against me because I've got a penis."

"I don't care if you were the Olsen twins, you still need a shower."

"Alright, I will." Xander grumbled and started heading to his room. He stopped and looked over his shoulder back at Willow.

"Wash my back?" he asked salaciously.


"Fine. I'll just go and enjoy my cold shower for one then." He sighed theatrically and disappeared into his room leaving his friend in a fit of giggles.

Chapter 6

"You wanna go out tonight?"


"I said, do you want to go out tonight?"

"Maybe. What ya got in mind Wills?"

The two of them were indulging in their afternoon ritual of sitting out on their balcony, reading, listening to music, watching the world go by, and enjoying the complete lack of demons, vampires, and other nasties in their lives.

"Let's go night clubbing. Have a few drinks, shake our groove things..."

"Meet some hot Aussie chicks."

Willow gave him a less than enthusiastic look.

"You know, when you say it, it sounds much less wholesome than I'd like. But yeah, basically."

Xander had to chuckle and lent back in his chair.

"Ten years ago, if someone said that you'd be the one suggesting that we try to pick up some chicks AND that you'd be more likely to end up scoring with some girl than I would be, I would have laughed."

"Yeah, it's a riot. So? How about it?"

"There are a couple of problems, Willow. The places you're most likely to pick up at, I have a less than zero chance. Hell, just having me around isn't gonna do your chances any good either."

Willow just shrugged, and then got a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

"I find the right sort of hottie we could always share."

Xander went bug eyed at Willow's suggestion and fell backward off his chair hitting his head on the railing.

Instantly concerned for her best friend, Willow rushed over to the now swearing Xander.

"Are you OK?"

"Willow. Never, EVER, joke with a man about having a threesome. Especially a man who hasn't gotten any action in over two years."

The revelation surprised the hell out of Willow as she helped Xander back up.

"You haven't... you know... with anyone since..."

"Anya. Yeah." He confirmed as he sat back at the table rubbing his head.

"But... why?" Willow couldn't understand it. Xander was a good-looking guy who, if even half of Anya's stories were true, had a very healthy libido.

"I just... you've seen what my romantic life is like. Then... after Anya died I just... gave up. The story of my life will not end with 'and they lived happily ever after'. I had exactly one chance at happily ever after and I blew it. The best I could've hoped for after that was convenient companionship. After Anya died I spent the last two years hiding in Africa trying to drown out the fact that I would spend the rest of my life alone in absolute misery."

It was the way Xander said it. His tone was a matter of fact but Willow could see the deep underlying pain in his eyes. Xander had suffered some terrible wounds in their war, his eye the most prominent, but his worst ones were in a place that nobody could see.

Except Willow.

She went over to Xander, wrapped her arms around him, and rested her chin on his shoulder.

"You'll never be alone. You've got me and I've got you. It's a law of the universe."

"Really?" there was an unmistakable tone of cautious hope in Xander's simple question.

"Really." She reassured. He relaxed, wrapped his arms around Willow, and lent his head against hers. The moment brought a memory of something Willow once read.

"Incipit Vita Nova."

"Incipit Vita Nova?"

"Here begins the new life."

Holding his best friend, a ray of hope appeared on Xander's horizon. Here they would bury the demons of their old life and start their new one.

"Here begins the new life."


"Got anymore fried rice?"

The credits were rolling on the TV screen as 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' ended. Rather than going out, Willow decided that they would have a video night. She surveyed the wreckage of the Chinese take away that she'd got to match their first movie and discovered that the two of them had finished the lot.

"Sorry Xander, you're outta luck."

"Story of my life." He sniffed then started gathering up the empty food containers off the coffee table. "I'll clean up this mess, you pick the next movie."

Willow went over to the entertainment unit and flicked through the stack of movies she had picked up at the video store.

"What ya wanna watch?" she yelled out to Xander who was busy in the kitchenette.

"I dunno, you picked the movies, I got the food. Surprise me."

Looking at the collection of DVD's, Willow's eyes fell upon one in particular. With a naughty smile, she loaded the disk into the player and settled back onto the couch as Xander returned. When they were comfortably ensconced, Willow hit play on the remote.

"What did ya pick?" Xander asked as the usual warnings about piracy rolled up the screen.

"It's an 'us' flick."

"An 'us' flick?"

"Yeah, it's a movie that the both of us would like."

With a slight shrug Xander went back to watching the opening of the movie.

About 5 seconds into the opening, Xander cracked a smile and looked over to his best friend.

"Our 'us' movie is 'Wild Things'? I didn't even know that you liked it."

"You'd be surprised at just what you don't know about my tastes in movies, Xander Harris."

"Oooohh... That just screams naughty Willow secrets. Truth or Dare?" he challenged his friend. Willow giggled.

"Truth or Dare? God! Haven't we gotten beyond high school games?"

"No. Besides, it's way more fun as adults with years of untold naughtiness than a couple of high school kids who hadn't even gotten to first base. So pick, Truth or Dare?"

Willow rolled her eyes but decided to play anyway.

"OK, OK! I pick... truth."

Xander thought for a second.

"What's your favourite part of Wild Things?"

"The threesome in the motel room."

"Really? I thought it would have been Neve Campbell and Denise Richards in the pool together. Why the threesome in the motel?"

"Now, now, Xander! It's your turn. Truth or Dare?"


"Why do you like the threesome in the motel?" Willow didn't even need to ask which was Xander's favourite scene.

"Because it sort of reminds me of a threesome between Faith, Cordy, and me. Truth or Dare?"

"Truth." Willow picked.

"Why do you like the threesome in the motel?"

"Because it sort of reminds me of a threesome between Faith, Cordy, and you."

That surprised the hell out of Xander.

"I feature in naughty Willow thoughts?"

"Don't get your hopes all carbonated. Giles makes a guest appearance in a few as well."

"And on that highly disturbing revelation we return to our regularly scheduled movie." Shivered Xander. The sight of a dripping wet Denise helped block out Giles images.

They watched the movie in silence up until they got to the threesome scene.

"Truth or Dare?" Willow asked out of the blue.

"What? Oh, um... truth."

"How far did you and Cordelia go?"

Xander hesitated. His and Cordy's relationship had been a big reason for the near end of their friendship. There had been a lot of water that had passed under that particular bridge over the years; Oz, Faith, Anya, Tara, Kennedy, they both had moved on since then. But Xander still hesitated for a moment.

"Everything but. A couple of times Cordy wanted to... you know... do it, but it never felt like the right time. I didn't wanna live the clich�and loose my virginity in the backseat of my girlfriend's car. That's not to say I didn't have my share of fun in the backseat of said girlfriend's car." He smirked, remembering some of the things he had done and learned.

Like learning that Cordelia could suck start a 747.

"Your turn. Truth or Dare?"

"I don't feel like moving, so I'll have to go with truth."

Xander struggled to maintain a straight face.

"So... uh... does the carpet match the curtains?"

"Does the carpet match the curtains? What the hell are you talking ab..." Willow stopped mid sentence when she realised what Xander was asking. She started spluttering.

"You... I can't believe... there's no... I'm not..."

"Come on Wills, if you don't answer you'll have to do the dare." He taunted. Willow eyed him evilly.

"Fine. I'll answer, but for the record, you're a pervert, Alexander Harris."

"And the answer is..."

"And the answer is yes."

"See? Now that wasn't so hard now was it?"

Willow decided to play with his mind a little as pay back.

"Mind you, I usually do away with the carpet in favour of a polished floor."

The expression on Xander's face was priceless. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, the reason for his discomfort obvious. Willow pressed home her attack, determined to end the game.

"Do you wanna keep playing, or do you wanna go back to the movie?"

Xander decided to call her bluff.

"I pick dare."

Willow had to think for a moment before she came up with a dare for Xander.

"Xander, I dare you to..."

chapter 7

"Your turn. Truth or Dare?"

"I don't feel like moving, so I'll have to go with truth."

Xander struggled to maintain a straight face.

"So... uh... does the carpet match the curtains?"

"Does the carpet match the curtains? What the hell are you talking ab..." Willow stopped mid sentence when she realised what Xander was asking. She started spluttering.

"You... I can't believe... there's no... I'm not..."

"Come on Wills, if you don't answer you'll have to do the dare." He taunted. Willow eyed him evilly.

"Fine. I'll answer, but for the record, you're a pervert, Alexander Harris."

"And the answer is..."

"And the answer is yes."

"See? Now that wasn't so hard now was it?"

Willow decided to play with his mind a little as pay back.

"Mind you, I usually do away with the carpet in favour of a polished floor."

The expression on Xander's face was priceless. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, the reason for his discomfort obvious. Willow pressed home her attack, determined to end the game.

"Do you wanna keep playing, or do you wanna go back to the movie?"

Xander decided to call her bluff.

"I pick dare."

Willow had to think for a moment before she came up with a dare for Xander.

"Xander, I dare you to..."


"Mmmmm... ooohhhh..."

"Sounds like my little Willow likes."

"Mmmmm... Willow likes..."

"I have Willow seal of approval... excellent."

"Ooohhh god... Anya wasn't lying... ooohhh do that again."

"What... this?"

"Yyyyeeeeaaahhh... I can't believe... I've been missing out... on this for years... ooohhh boy..."

"To be fair, you had Tara. Besides... it took lots of... practice with Anya... to get this good."

"Oz... aaahhh... was good... ooohhhh... but not this good..."


"Uh huh... he was too gentle... mmmmm... afraid he might hurt me..."

"You like it hard, do you?... Is this... hard enough?"

"Mmmmaaaaahhhhh... harder... harder..."

"You sure?... I'm bigger than Oz."

"Harder!... eeeeeee... sogoodsogoodsogood..."

"I thought you weren't into this... surprised the hell out of me... when you dared me to do it..."

"Mmmmmm... always wanted to know... if you were... ooohhh yeeeaaahhh... as good as Anya's stories..."

"I gotta admit... doing it with you... better than Anya..."


"Big time... You don't smell for starters..."


"I'm sorry! But it's true... she was a little smelly. You aren't."

"Thank you."

"Plus the no hair thing makes it easier."

"Huh? Anya was hairy... down there?"

"As a Hobbit... Viking heritage I suppose."


"You know what I'd like to try? Two at the same time."

"Haven't you done that before?"

"Never tried it... lack of coordination on my part."

"If I were you... mmmmm... I'd stick to... one at a time... aaahhh... god... you're good."

"I wanna hear you say it..."

"Say what?"

"I'm the king."

"I'm not saying that."

"Then I'll stop."

"Don't you dare!"

"Then say it!"


"Stopping now..."

"Alright, alright! Xander Harris is the king of foot massages! Happy?"

Suppressing a smirk, Xander sighed theatrically.

"Not really, but it'll have to do."

Willow's eyes narrowed with disapproval.

"Humph... men." She grumped, looking down at Xander who was seated at the other end of the couch. He was massaging her foot with hands that seemed so big compared to the daintiness that was her right foot. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the work of Xander's skilled hands.

A minute later Xander stopped. Opening her eyes, she saw a stony faced Xander staring off into space. Instantly Willow became alarmed at the look on his face. She hadn't seen such a look since they had left Africa.

"Xander? Xander? What's wrong? Xander?"

Xander suddenly got up, his body language was tense and Willow knew him well enough to be able to tell he was struggling with something.

"I gotta... just... um..." Xander turned and hurried to his room, locking the door and leaving Willow very concerned and frightened for her friend.


Inside his room, Xander leaned against the door. His chest was heaving as he struggled to keep control.

He quickly made his way to the mini bar where he grabbed a large bottle of rum. Not bothering with a glass, he drank straight from the bottle.

The alcohol burned its way down with a familiar pain in an effort to overcome yet another familiar pain.

In the darkness of his room he took great swigs of rum, all the while cursing himself and cursing the name of Buffy Summers.

Chapter 8

Willow was worried.

No, scratch that. She had been worried three days ago.

Now she was worried multiplied by sick with concern multiplied by shit scared squared.

The fact that she was able to feel worried about anything was a good sign. For a while after Kennedy's death she hadn't felt anything at all.

For someone with the power to snuff out the world not to give a damn one way or another about the world's continued existence was the definition of bad.

Things had been going so well between her and Xander. Not perfect by any measure, it never was even back in the day when their friendship was the centre of their world. They had established a comfortable routine and the world, while still being something that the two of them tried to avoid as best they could, wasn't looking as bleak as it had once before.

Willow had thought there was a new openness between them, an openness that encompassed the entire spectrum of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And the ugly for both of them got real ugly.

But something happened that night which saw Xander retreat into his room and into the bottle. What had triggered it was what had Willow so scared.

Was it her? Was she the reason for Xander's retreat into the bottle? Had talking about the intimate moments that he and Anya once shared opened up old wounds? Had she been too demanding, too smothering, too clingy? Had she crowded Xander too much, constantly in his face and leaving him with no personal space?

Was she an emotional vampire?

It was these fears that had kept Willow from going into Xander's room and trying to talk to her friend. If Xander's problem was 'All Willow, All the Time', them more Willow definitely wouldn't make things better.

So for three days she had given him space and privacy and tried to ignore her growing feeling of unease. She tried to ignore the sounds that drifted from Xander's room, the clink of bottles, the loud music, the drunken shouts. Her fear of making things worse warred with her instinctive impulse to go to him and try to make things better.

She went out to a local restaurant for dinner, reasoning that if she sat around in her room any longer she would kick down Xander's door in her rush to be there for her friend. The food was excellent but she didn't enjoy it as much as she otherwise would have.

She missed Xander.

Willow would have been the first to admit that she was pathetic. For nearly two years she and Xander hadn't spoken, separated by 5000 miles, and rarely she thought of him. Now, after three days of not speaking, separated by one door, he was pretty much all she thought about.

Walking back to the hotel Willow's mind wandered.

Was she an emotional vampire?

Xander, Buffy, Oz, Tara, Amy, Kennedy, she craved their attention and approval, their love and friendship like a vampire craved blood. Ever more desperate, she latched onto whoever gave her what she craved, the pathetic cycle culminating in her relationship with Kennedy.

Their relationship wasn't based on love; it was based on mutual self-gratification. Willow got her emotional fix and Kennedy got her power fix. The prime attraction of Willow to Kennedy was Willow's power, not Willow's heart.

Slayers and their attraction to the dark and the powerful. If Spike hadn't returned to Sunnydale then maybe Buffy would have fallen for Willow.


Probably not.

It wasn't so much that Buffy wasn't into girls (the jumping the fence wasn't a big as jumping the undead and demonic), more it was a matter of Willow not being up to standard.

Was she powerful enough? Without a doubt. Was she dark enough? No.

In Buffy's eyes, Willow would always be the cute, pink, fluffy Wicca of years gone by. Sure, she had gone all Darth!Willow, tried to kill Buffy and destroy the world, but it didn't rate. In Buffy's eyes Willow was the diet Coke of evil; only one calorie, not quite evil enough.

Not that it mattered much, Willow had never been into Buffy anywhere near as much as Xander used to be.

When did Xander stop being into Buffy?

Had Xander stopped?

The seething look of utter hatred he got in his eyes whenever the topic of Buffy was brought up said yes.

He had plenty of reasons to dislike Buffy. If Willow had been in his shoes, on the receiving end of Buffy's bullshit treatment, she would have told Buffy to fuck off long ago.

But he didn't just dislike Buffy, he hated her. Hate on a par with Angelus and Spike.

Something didn't quite add up with that.

Yet another thing that worried Willow about Xander.

Getting back to her room the sound of indistinct music filtered through the wall from Xander's room. Willow went up to the door separating their rooms and touched the handle. It took all her will power to not open the door and instead sit down on her sofa and turn on the TV.

She flipped through the channels, her mind not focused on the images.

She turned off the TV.

"Fuck it!" she spat, tossing the remote.

She was going into Xander's room and sorting it out, one way or another.


Willow opened the door and stuck her head cautiously into his room.

The place was littered with empty bottles. Xander lay on the sofa, a half-empty beer in one hand and the stereo remote control in the other as he slurred along with the CD that was playing.

Do ya fuck on first dates?
Does ya Dad own a brewery?
Can I feel your tits?
Or will ya show 'em to me?
'Cause you got a nice head
And ya look pretty honest
My face will be leaving in a quarter of an hour
I'd like you to be on it.

Xander spotted Willow in the doorway and drunkenly fumbled with the remote before turning the music off.

"Sorry 'bout that. Just a little Kevin Bloody Wilson ta help get in touch with ma inner asshole." Xander slurred, waving at the CD player with his beer "Women dig assholes. 'Cept you of course, you're all into women 'n that's OK, Tara wuz lush."

Willow went over to Xander, took the beer and remote out of his hands, helped him sit up, then sat down next to him.

"You're not an asshole." She reassured.

"I left 'er at da altar. Ripped 'er fuck'n heart out 'n left 'er stand'n there. Anya shoulda fuck'n killed me."

"Is that what this is all about? Anya?"

Xander shook his head.


"Buffy? This is about Buffy? Why?" Willow asked, relieved that her fears that this was her fault were unfounded.

"'Cause of 'er, no happy ever after for me."

"Buffy was the reason you left Anya at the altar?" Willow asked, trying to make sense of what Xander was saying. He had never said exactly what happened that day to anyone.

"Nah... that wuz Dad."

Willow was confused, Xander was making no sense at all. She mentally tried to backtrack.

"Buffy took away your happily ever after?"

A nod.

"Buffy took away your happily ever after with Anya?"

Xander shook his head.

"Buffy took away your happily ever after with Buffy?" Willow tried in desperation. Xander looked at her as if she was crazy.

"I fuck'n hate that bitch."

Willow ran her hand through her hair in frustration. It was beginning to turn into a game of twenty questions and Willow wasn't in the mood to play.

"Talk to me, tell me what's going on here." She pleaded.

"I wuz laying there, gutted like a fuck'n fish 'n Buffy practically steps over me ta get ta Spike. All the lies, the slinging 'er pussy at undead cock, the 'I am da law!' bullshit. Sorry, ya must be this evil to ride Buffy.

"But, get this. I don't hate Buffy for that. That's just Buffy being Buffy. Ya wanna know why I hate Buffy?"

Willow nodded.

"I wuz all about Buffy. Buffybuffybuffy and I fucked up the only shot at happily ever after I'll ever get. And the funny thing? There wuz no happily ever after. No noth'n.

"That's the punch line to the joke that's Xander Harris. He doesn't hate Buffy for what he should. He hates her for an illusion that wasn't her fault."

Tears welled up in Xander's eyes and spilled down his cheeks. Willow cradled his head to her chest and gently rocked him as he wept.

"What am I gonna do, Willow? What am I gonna do?"

Chapter 9

Xander's first mistake was waking up.

He had had hangovers before but rarely like this. This was a new level of pain and misery. He simply wanted to die and end the suffering. He shut his eye again.

Never again.

"How many times have you said that?" Willow asked him. Unaware that he had spoken aloud, he risked opening his eye to find his friend. He saw her laying on his sofa, wrapped in a blanket and noticed that she had kept the heavy curtains drawn shut and the room was nice and dark.

God bless that witch.

"Dying." Xander croaked, his mouth as dry as desert sand. Willow got up and brought over a glass of water with a straw to her suffering friend. He sipped at it and noted the taste of aspirin.

"Don't drink too much at once, we've got all day to get you back to the land of the living." Once he had had his fill, Willow set the glass aside on the bedside table and gently ran her fingers through his hair.

"Do you think you're up to a shower and a shave? Don't get me wrong, I love suave sophisticated Xander and I love stinky hung over Xander, but..."

Xander managed a weak smile.

"Give me a minute. Give the aspirin a chance to kick in and hopefully I won't throw up."

"Well, if you do feel like throwing up there's a bucket next to the bed." Willow indicated.

Looking around his room, Xander noticed the complete absence of mess that one would normally expect to see after a three-day booze bender.

"Did you clean up?"

"It gave me something to do while you were sleeping it off. The place was pretty trashed."

"I didn't get... um... you know... violent... or... uh... stuff..." Xander trailed off. He didn't remember all that much and he was worried that his inner daddy Harris had come out to play.

"You broke a couple of things, bottles mostly but that was before I came in. Said some confused but nasty things about Buffy, but that was about it."


Willow looked at her friend and wondered what it was like to be Xander. She knew him better than anyone on the planet and yet there were parts of Xander she didn't know. Parts that were hinted at in his darkest moments, things that had happened while she wasn't paying attention to Xander.

Willow wanted to throw light on those dark parts, to ease the burden he felt carrying them.

And maybe, just maybe, save the little boy she grew up with all those years ago.

"What was your happily ever after?"

Xander shifted uncomfortably in his bed at the question.

"Not now, Willow. Maybe later. Please?" he asked quietly. Willow considered pressing the issue for a second or two but decided to let it go for now. It would be a discussion for another day.

"Do you want me to organise some food while you're cleaning up?"

"I don't think I could handle food just yet." Xander admitted as he gingerly got out of bed and headed into the bathroom. Looking in the washbasin, Xander swore.


Willow hurried into the bathroom to see what the problem was.

She saw Xander pulling bit of broken electric shaver out of the basin.

"Have you got razors you could use?" Willow enquired. Xander shook his head.

"After I lost the eye, I had to switch to electric shavers because I'd ended up slicing half of my face off with a razor."

Willow looked at the broken shaver while she thought things out.

"Go and have a shower and I'll think of something in the mean time." She told him.


Xander stood unmoving under the shower; the pummelling spay of hot water massaging his abused body. After a few dry heaves, his stomach settled down to a general unhappy state and gave Xander hope of being able to eat something in an hour or two.

He was a mess, a wreck. He wasn't stupid; he knew that he was slowly killing himself with alcohol. He had seen it happen before in his parents and his Uncle Rory. It wasn't pleasant to watch and even less pleasant to suffer because of it. Xander idly wondered what horrors, what demons they drank to forget.

But up until now it hadn't mattered. Xander could have happily spent the rest of his life in Africa with a Harris death grip on a bottle of whisky and he would have done so with a clear conscious that comes from knowing that the only person he was hurting was himself.

But then along came Willow with her damn fool idea of rediscovering their inner child or some such crap.

He should have told her to fuck off.

Sure, he'd feel guilty about it, but what was one more thing in the great heap of shit he called a life?

But he didn't and he had to face the fact that what he did impacted on Willow now.

Just. Fucking. Great.

He hated this. Willow was a big part of his past; many of his happiest memories as well as the most painful ones revolved around the redhead. Having her in his life again hurt. She stirred emotions and feelings in him that he had tried to forget. She made him care about things and caring meant the inevitability getting hurt even more.

He resented her for that.

He hated himself for resenting her.

Xander picked up the soap and started washing the grime off his body.

He could only hope that in the end it would be worth all the pain that this was going to cause both him and Willow.


It was a cleaner and slightly better feeling Xander that emerged out of the bathroom half an hour later. Standing in the middle of his room was Willow who held up a can of aftershave and a razor.

"Shaving problem solved." She declared happily.

"Uh, Willow, remember how I said that the last time I tried to use a razor I nearly bled to death?"

"That's why I'm gonna do the shaving. No need to worry, it's a fresh blade and I know how to use a razor. So sit down and let me get to work." She hit him with resolve face to kill any argument.

With great trepidation he sat on the chair that Willow had set up as her impromptu barber's chair. Willow took a handful of shaving cream and started applying it to his face, the coolness of the cream and her fingers a contrast to the warmth of Xander's freshly showered face.

"Why are you doing this?"

"Shaving you?"

"Shaving me, cleaning up my mess, everything."

Willow finished applying the shaving cream before answering.

"Because I want to." She shrugged.


"Do I need a reason?"

"There's gotta be a reason."

"Shush! You keep flapping your lips and I'll end up slicing your face to bits."

Willow started carefully shaving off his three-day growth, a look of intense concentration on her face.

Xander closed his eye, fighting to maintain his composure. He didn't want to look at her. It felt like his skin was trying to crawl away from her touch as she shaved him. He didn't want anyone to be so close, physically and emotionally. Especially Willow.

That was the beauty of Africa; it had plenty of room to hold people away at a nice comfortable distance.

But even with his eye closed the feel and smell of Willow still managed to get through his defences. For a brief moment the sensation of Willow overwhelmingly filled his head and his mind screamed out in primal fear.

His body flinched.


He opened his eye and saw Willow looking at him, a questioning expression on her face.

"Sorry." He apologised to the redhead who began to fuss over the cut on his face that started to bleed.

As Willow recommenced shaving, Xander alternatively opened and shut his eye in an attempt to distract himself from the unpleasant intensity of Willow's close proximity and the conflicting craving of human contact after living so long in self-imposed isolation.

Once Willow had finished with the razor, she wiped Xander's face with a wet cloth.

"I'm getting my drivers licence tomorrow." She informed Xander as she worked.


"When do you want to do this drive across Australia thing?"

Xander thought for a moment.

"Monday. I wanna get something a bit more suitable for the trip. Maybe a Range Rover or a Land Cruiser or something like that. Just in case we want to head off the beaten track."

"Getting off the beaten track in this part of the world is an invitation to a world of trouble, I doubt I'm going to be making too many detours. But it's your call."

"Don't worry too much. After two years in Africa where everything is off the beaten track I think I've got it covered."

"Like I said, it's your call." She told him and started to move away. Xander grabbed hold of her hand.

"Will, I..." Xander faltered, not sure what to say.

Willow gave him a reassuring smile.


Chapter 10

Once Willow had got her licence the next day, she and Xander headed to the car dealerships for a new set of wheels. They had contemplated renting a vehicle for their journey but in the end decided that they would buy one instead. It gave them the satisfaction of knowing it was theirs.

They ended up buying a Land Cruiser Sahara and Willow joked that they would have to buy a stepladder for her to get in and out of the beast. With the extras that Xander had insisted on, they had to wait a week before they could take delivery of the Cruiser. This suited Xander just fine as the week would give them time to plan their trip.

The week also gave Willow a chance to engage in some serious power shopping in anticipation of their trip.

It was funny; ten years ago Willow never showed much enthusiasm for shopping. Not that Xander blamed her for it, Willow's mom would insist on going with her and that was a drag at the best of times. Willow loved her mom but Shelia and Willow Rosenberg were no Lorelai and Rory Gilmore.

But exposure to hardcore shop-a-holics such as Buffy and Cordelia had awakened Willow's hither to dormant shopping gene. Having been dragged into countless stores by every female Scooby at one stage or another, Xander had to admit that shopping with Willow wasn't too bad. She wasn't the most enjoyable Scooby female to shop with (Tara would forever hold that honour) but he loved to see her smile.

Her smiles used to come so easy and so readily. These days, her smiles were fewer and hard won.

So were his.

Seeing a big, genuine smile on her face made Xander feel warm inside in a way he hadn't felt for years and he silently vowed to try to get her smile like that at least once a day.

But not if it meant taking her shopping everyday.


"Are you sure we've got enough gear? I'm pretty sure that I could find some room for more emergency water if I ditch my suitcase and all the clothes therein."

"Very funny, Xander."

"I'm dead serious, Wills. You've got more camping and survival gear here than a troop of boy scouts and enough food and water to see us into the next century."

Willow had packed the Cruiser solid with gear and food in anticipation of their trip.

"It's just in case we run into trouble out in the middle of nowhere."

Xander opened his mouth to enquire just what kind of trouble she was expecting, but shut it quickly in an effort to avoid an argument. They had everything they needed (and them some) and Xander was anxious to get started on the trip.

"Fine. Are you sure you've got everything?" he asked her. Willow nodded.

"I triple checked. What about you?"

"I'm good to go." Xander assured.

"Then let's do it."

Xander smirked and Willow whacked him on the arm.

"What was that for?" he protested, fanning his innocence as he rubbed the sore spot.

"You know exactly what that was for, gutter brain. Get in the car and drive." Willow ordered, suppressing her own smirk. Xander saluted and got behind the wheel.

"Aye, aye, Captain Willow!"

Willow rolled her eyes.

"This is gonna be a long, LONG trip."


They headed north to their first destination, the coastal town of Geraldton, which was about 300 miles north of Perth. A little smaller than the now departed Sunnydale, it never the less had the same relaxed atmosphere that Willow and Xander remembered growing up in their pre Buffy days.

"You're not getting any hellmouthy vibes here, are you?" a slightly worried Xander asked. The last thing he wanted was to end up fighting for his life on the antipodal version of the hellmouth.

"Nothing. Not even the quiver of a healing crystal. Plus, if you look at the map, you'll notice only one cemetery and the high school is in one piece. I'm pretty sure we're safe here."

That pronouncement started to look shaky when they discovered St Francis Xavier Cathedral. A grandiose Byzantine style building, designed by a priest who ended up becoming a hermit on a Caribbean island, it was totally out of place in a small town like Geraldton.

It gave the two ex Scoobies a major case of the wiggins.

Geraldton's other (and slightly less wigging) claim to fame was the Bratavia. The Bratavia was a Dutch sailing ship that ran around just off the coast of what is now Geraldton. The survivors set up camp on some islands off the coast and sent the surviving ships boat to head to what is now Jakarta and bring a rescue party. It took three months for a rescue party to arrive and in the mean time a mutiny of the survivors on the islands saw 120 of their number murdered. The ringleaders were hung and two of the mutineers were dumped on the coast, never to be seen again.

By unspoken agreement, Willow and Xander decided to cross sailing off their list of things to do.


Lunchtime the next day saw Willow drive them to the HMAS SYDNEY memorial on Mount Scott. The memorial, overlooking the ocean where the SYDNEY had been lost with all 645 men during WWII, was a tranquil spot for the two to have their lunch.

"What happened between you and Buffy? When we left Sunnydale you two were best buddies. These days you haven't got a kind word to say about her." Xander enquired, taking a bite out of his sandwich.

"I was wondering when you'd get around to asking that."

"I thought you'd tell me when you were ready." He explained with a mouth full of food.

"So why are you asking now?"

"Got impatent. So spill, why the lack of kind words for the Buff?"

"I seem to recall a big inspirational 'I've seen her heart' speech somebody made once." Willow reminded.

"Yeah, but I've had two years to think, and besides, God knows the potentials needed some inspiration after weeks of Field Marshal Von Buffy's 'everybody sucks but me' rants."

Willow sighed and put her sandwich down on the bench.

"I was in Mexico City sending a couple of new Slayers off to the Slayer School that Buffy and The Immortal had set up in Rome, when I ran into Oz."

"Oz? How is he?"


Xander did a double take at the news.

"Oz is dead? When? How?"

"I'm getting to that. So, here I am at the airport, my girlfriend's back in Rio, and I run into my ex boyfriend. A little awkward to start with but pretty soon we're catching up and it's all happy. I asked him what he was doing here.

"Turns out that some crime gang has started expanding in the demon world and lots of demons are being taken out, especially the peaceful, non violent types. Oz lost a couple of friends and he was tracking down who was taking them out."

"I'm not liking where this is heading." Xander mumbled.

"What do you know about The Immortal?" Willow asked him. Xander shrugged.

"Not much. He's rich, immortal, not exactly human, boning Buffy. Not much more than that."

"Well, he's rich alright. Huge house in the middle of Rome, biggest private collection of Leonardo de Vinci artefacts in the world. He's also the Godfather of an underworld demonic crime gang. Oz found out that the Slayers we've been sending to Buffy in Rome are being used to take out the competition and put fear into the rest of the underworld."

Xander's shoulders slumped and he buried his face in his hands.

"I've been helping recruit an army of Slayers to work for a demonic Mafia."

Willow put her arm around her friend and consoled him.

"You weren't to know. None of us knew."

After a while, Xander looked up.

"So what happened next?" asked Xander.

"Oz needed to get more proof and he headed for Poland. I flew to Rome to see Buffy and tried to tell her what her boyfriend was up to. You know what she said?"

"Somehow I doubt the words 'I believe you' are on the cards."

"She asked me if I had been talking to you."


"Yeah, because apparently that's the sort of thing you'd say out of jealousy, according to her."

"SHE SAID FUCKING WHAT?" Xander exploded.

"It gets better. When I told her I hadn't spoken to you since we left the states, she accused ME of jealousy and told me to forget it as she didn't swing that way. We got into a massive argument which ended with me getting kicked out of the house and told never to come back again."

Xander's hands were balled into fists as he raged at his one time friend.

"I'll fucking kill her."

Willow tried to calm him down.

"I don't think Buffy's in her right mind. I think The Immortal is controlling her or messing with her mind or something. I went to Giles to tell him what was going on and he ummed and ahhed and said he'd look into the matter. I was getting nowhere so I headed back to Rio. A week later, a friend of Oz calls and tells me that Oz had been found dead in St Petersburg. Apparent suicide."

It was clear by the tone of her voice what she thought of the 'apparent suicide'.

"So why didn't you go charging in and make with the witch-fu on her ass?"

Willow waved the question of.

"What's the point? I'd already duked it out with Buffy once before. Giles wasn't any help, you were AWOL in Africa, and I couldn't take on a demonic Mafia by myself without going all vein-y and destroying the world.

"So I gave up. I went back to Kennedy and started sending all the Slayers I could find to Faith and Wood in Cleveland. After Kennedy died, I headed to New York to see Mom and Dad."

"How are they?" Xander liked Willow's parents far more than he ever liked his own. Both families made it out of Sunnydale in the final days. Willow's headed to New York to start again, while Xander's got as far as Vegas.

"Good. Dad's taken up a partnership with Uncle Benny and Mom's working at NYU. They knew that I'd lost everything in Sunnydale and so they gave me a couple of photo albums that they'd brought with them. In one of them was that picture of us. You know the rest of the story."

Xander felt old and worn out. He was tired; tired of fighting, tired of the constant struggle. Watching the waves rolling across the Indian Ocean and the vista of the town below them, a thought came to his mind.

"Donkey Kong."

Willow stared at him, wondering what the hell he was taking about.

"You remember back when we were little and your parents brought you that Donkey Kong game?"

Willow snorted.

"Ugh! Stupid game. Between you and me, it's a wonder that our little thumbs didn't fall off." Grumbled the redhead. The two of them had been obsessed with the game.

"This... us... the whole Scooby lifestyle. It's like Donkey Kong."

Willow couldn't follow Xander's logic.

"You wanna fill in some blanks here, because right now we're entering Crazy Town, population: you."

"It's like Donkey Kong. You've got this big bad hurling these barrels at you. Two steps forward, three steps back, jump and dodge the barrels and make your way to the top to take out the big bad. If you're lucky and you survive long enough, you'll end defeating the big ape.

"But here's the thing. You might have taken out the big guy and got the girl, but then you end up back at square one again, only this time it gets harder. The barrels come down faster and harder. Jessie's death, Buffy's death, Jenny's death, Joyce, Buffy, Tara, Anya, Cordelia, Kennedy, Oz... faster and harder. And each victory brings a new face to that mad monkey. The Master, The Anointed One, Angelus, the Mayor, Adam, Glory, Spike, the Nerds..."

"Me." Willow added softly.

"Yeah, you too." He had to admit. "And now it's Buffy and her new man. Each time it gets harder and harder, faster and faster. No matter how good you are, no matter how many times you clock the score, it never ends. And you remember what happened? We walked away from it. Gave the game to someone else to play it and found something else to do.

"We could fight Buffy; we could fight The Immortal and his demon Mafia. But even if we won then there'll always be a never ending line big bad evil to fight. You might be a kick ass witch but you're human, just like me.

"I'm tired, Willow. Tired of the fight and I can see you're tired of it too. It's time we walk away from the game. Let somebody else fight the good fight. We're finding something else to do with our lives."

The pair sat in silence, watching the never-ending procession of wave crash upon the shore as they had done for untold years before and would do for untold years after.

"So, you've come up with any ideas what we should do with our lives?" Xander asked.

"Not really. But I'm kinda hoping that whatever it is, it'll include my best friend."

Xander sniffed theatrically and wiped away a non-existent tear from his non-existent eye.

"That's just so sweet of you! Awww!"

"You big dufus!" Willow squealed and shoved him. The shove was returned and a playful wresting match broke out.

Xander had got his Willow smile for the day.