...But Not Forgotten

By: Jai L
Chapter One

Story Note: This is a sequel to Anya's "Gone" series that may be found here.

Buffy looked up from her drink and watched Cordelia cross the dance floor and sit down next to her.

"Hey, you talk to Matt yet?" she asked smiling.

Cordelia shook her head and frowned. "What am I going to do?" she questioned, pouting sadly. "He doesn't even notice me."

Buffy grinned while stirring her iced tea. Two years ago, Cordelia would have been the last person to ask her for anything. Buffy used to think that Cordelia had been a lot like her when she had gone to school in Hemery. But, Buffy had changed, and so did Cordelia. Now, she was sitting with her, considering her to be one of her best friends. Their friendship began on that day that Cordelia had come up and said she was sorry about Willow.

<Willow.> God, Buffy missed her. <She would have graduated with us this morning. Probably as valedictorian. But, she didn't. She was off in Europe, with Angel, trying to work on controlling her demonic impulses. And the guy who had been valedictorian instead, deserved it as much as Willow would have.>

<Alexander Harris. Valedictorian of the Sunnydale class of 99'.> That junior year, Xander had become a new person. He had become the dedicated student. As had Buffy. He had gotten his low average to A+'s. She, on the other hand, had to deal with monsters and could only pull off a B+ average. Willow would have been proud. Buffy could still see Xander, on that podium, making his speech.

~ * ~ * ~

Xander fidgeted nervously on stage. He coughed slightly, not knowing how to get the words out. But he did.

"I didn't know what to say today. I mean, everything I wrote sounded silly. I didn't want to give the usual "We are moving into a new world" speech. And I couldn't think of anything that I could say today, that we all don't know now, until last night. So, I decided to tell you about a friend of mine. She told me that I was her best friend, despite everything that ever happened to us. She told me that my belief, my support, my teasing in her made her stronger. We had known each other all our lives. We played together as kids; we cared for each other as friends. She told me that I was many things to her. A big brother, a confident, a enemy, a hero, and a wonderful person. She told me that she loved me."

Xander sighed and continued, "It's funny. Because I can say the same things about her. Willow Rosenberg was the best friend I ever had. I have no doubt, that if she was here today, she would be standing at this podium, not me. No matter what she would have thought, she was the strongest person I have ever known."

Xander paused and looked down at the blank piece of paper in front of him. He didn't need a paper to remember what he had come up with last night. He knew the words. He knew the feelings. He felt warm tears fall down his cheeks and land on the paper. He looked out at the huge crowd of people in front of him and continued, "So, I'm going to give you one last lesson. A lesson that was taught to me by my best friend. Be well, live well, be happy. Enjoy life to it's fullest, because life is so unpredictable. You never know what awaits you. You never really know."

Xander stepped back from the podium, towards the seats of the faculty. He felt a hand grip his shoulder reassuringly. Xander turned to Giles, who was smiling sadly.

"She would have been proud," Giles stated sadly.

Xander nodded and walked back to his seat, trying to see through his tears. He sat down next to Buffy, who was crying as well. In fact, many people were crying. He didn't hear Principal Snyder begin calling the names. He just sat there, in his chair, holding Buffy's hand.

"Alexander Harris."

Xander slowly let go of Buffy's hand and walked towards the podium. If only Willow was here to see this.

~ * ~ * ~

Buffy shook herself out of her reverie and looked at Cordelia. Cordelia was smiling sadly, knowing what Buffy was thinking. Buffy brought her hand up, wiping away the tears.

She sniffled and asked, "So, seen Xander anywhere?"

Cordelia shook her head and responded, "No, not since this afternoon."

Buffy smiled and said, "He's probably off with his family, celebrating."

~ * ~ * ~

Buffy squinted as she opened her eyes. After being asleep for so long, the light stung her eyes. Soon her vision cleared, and she saw her mother standing over her, shaking her. She had an expression of sadness and worry on her face. Buffy looked out the window, and saw that it was still dark outside. She grabbed her alarm clock and saw that it was 5:36 in the morning.

"Mom?" Buffy asked hoarsely. "What, what's the matter? It's way too early for a bonding moment."

Joyce Summers didn't smile. Her expression was all too serious when she said, "Xander's mother is on the phone. She wants to talk to you."

Buffy stumbled out of bed and grabbed the phone from her.

"Mrs. Harris? What's wrong?" Buffy asked, groggy.

The voice on the phone was panicky as Mrs. Harris replied, "It's Alexander. He didn't come home last night."

Buffy was immediately awake. One thing racing through her mind.

<Oh, god. Not Xander, too. I can't lose him...>