Buffy ran through the park quickly, not knowing where she was going. It had been a hour since Mrs. Harris' frantic call. Buffy had called Cordelia and Giles and told them about what had happened. Right now they were all searching for their lost friend.
Buffy ran faster through the park, being pushed by an unseeing force that she had learned to trust. The sun was just rising and lit the sky in bright oranges and light reds. A beautiful sight, if one was not worried that her best friend was dead. As she ran through the path, Buffy pleaded upwards, to a higher force.
<Please God, let Xander be okay. Don't take him away from me. I need him. I can't lose him. Please let him be alive.>
A year earlier, they had stopped the Anointed One from reopening the Hellmouth. The little bloodsucker had tried to accomplish where the Master had failed. In the battle, the little bastard mocked them. He used their grief over Willow to disorient them. He gave them a step by step play of what they did to her. Xander had been so angry, at himself more than the Anointed One, that he had started crying. He screamed at the Anointed One, asking him why.
All the little bastard could do was smile, as if it was some big joke. A game.
That was all Buffy could take. She had launched herself at the little monster. Fought him and his minions. After a long battle, Buffy had finally beat the little demon. She had plunged the stake in the monster's heart herself. She watched in satisfaction as the Master's greatest warrior erupted into a pile of dust. They had beat him. Punished him. Avenged what had happened to Willow. But the satisfaction soon turned to sadness as she hugged a sobbing Xander.
After that moment, the Hellmouth closed. Permanently. Sunnydale would still draw it's share of freakiness, but nothing the Slayer and her Slayerettes can't handle.
Or at least she thought. Now Xander was missing, maybe dead. He could be laying in a alley or a ditch somewhere. Buffy shook that though from her head. She needed to concentrate on finding Xander. She felt her legs move faster, the adrenaline pumping through her. Pushing her to find Xander.
She stopped suddenly as she approached the picnic area of the park. On a hill to her right was a picnic table and benches. More importantly, on a bench, with his back to her, was Xander.
She approached Xander slowly. He was looking intently at the sun, rising over the town. She sat down next to him, not knowing how to react to this site. If Xander noticed her, he did not show it. His hair was hanging over his brown, puppy dog eyes. His cheeks had dry tear trails down them. He was wearing a crumpled set of jeans and a blue T-shirt.
She placed a hand on his shoulder, trying to shake him from his trance. She felt the muscles underneath her hand tense.
"Xander?" She asked quietly
Xander didn't look at her as he said, "I figured you would find me."
"Your parents are worried." Buffy said, concerned.
Xander laughed bitterly, as if laughing at the most ironic joke he ever heard.
Buffy sighed as Xander gazed at the sun, peaking through the trees. It is true that Xander's parents wouldn't win a prize for their parental skills. Buffy had found out a couple months after Willow's "departure", that Xander had a pretty sad life. His father was a executive in a corporate firm in San Diego. He barely got home to visit Xander, except for holidays and such. His mother was a lawyer at Sunnydale's most prestigious law firm, and was rarely home. Xander would go home every night to a empty home. His family explained a lot about Xander though. It explained his need to be humorous and witty. It was his was of coping with all the things that happened to him.
"Xander, they do care." Buffy said, trying to sound convincing, even though she couldn't convince herself.
But obviously Xander didn't feel like being cheered up as he replied, "Yeah. Sure. Whatever."
Buffy watched Xander's face as the orange glow of the morning sun illuminated his face. She could see the pain in his eyes. A fresh pain.
"Xander, what happened?" She asked, concerned. "You can tell me."
Xander looked at her finally. Tears were forming in the boy's eyes. Buffy brought her hand up to wipe away the tears that were now falling down his cheeks. Xander sniffled as he turned away, trying to push away the feelings that were building in him. He looked away at the playground down the hill.
"You know." He said, sniffling. "Willow and I used to come here as kids. We would come here and play on the swings. I remember once, that I was on the monkey bars, and I fell. I had scraped my arm and I was crying like crazy. And Willow sat right next to me, crying too. Not for any real reason, just because it made us both feel better."
Buffy was growing more concerned now. She took Xander's face into her hands and turned it so they were looking at each other. Face to face.
"Xander, please tell me what happened." She pleaded.
Xander sighed and brought his hands up. He placed them over hers and said, "After the graduation yesterday I went home and celebrated with my parents. Later on, when I was leaving so I could go to the Bronze, a guy came to my house. He had flowers for me."
Xander brought down his hands and pulled out a small envelope from his pocket. He looked at it solemnly, then placed it in Buffy's hands. He looked up at her and said, "Read it. It came with the flowers."
Curiously, Buffy looked at the envelope. Typed on the front were two names. Xander and Buffy. She looked at Xander, who was staring at the ground, not wanting to look up, and she pulled a letter from the envelope. It was rather long and was obviously written with care. It took Buffy less then a second to realize the handwriting was Willow's.
Dear Xander and Buffy,
Hey, it's me. Long time no see huh? I realize that you never expected to hear from me again. But I figured that since this is such a special day, I would send you guys something. I realize that it's been two years, but you guys have been in my thoughts for that last couple years. I miss you guys. I miss my parents. I even miss Sunnydale. Can you believe it?
I wish I had been able to send you two something. Anything, to say I was okay. But I was scared it would open old wounds. I realize that Giles couldn't keep the secret I asked him to. You guys would have found out anyway. Tell Giles that I'm all right with everything. Tell him I forgive him. It's okay with me, but you know Giles and his British honor. I know that you guys have been worried. Knowing you two, you're blaming yourself for this whole mess. But I want to tell you to something. Don't!!! I'm fine. I've been able to control my demonic side with Angel's help.
I want you guys to move on with your lives. No matter what!! Do whatever it takes!!! Heaven knows you two deserve it! I have to go now before I start crying harder than I am now. I love you guys. Tell Giles "Hi!"
With love, you friend,
Buffy put down Willow's letter. Warm, salty tears were streaming down her cheeks. She looked up at Xander who was crying too. She reached over and took him in her arms. For her sake as much as his own. After a long moment of crying on the other's shoulder, they separated at looked at each other.
"I'm leaving Sunnydale Buffy." Xander stated slowly.
Buffy looked at her best friend in astonishment and asked, "What? Why? When?"
"You forgot Where and How." Xander replied, chuckling. "I'm leaving in a couple days. I saved up enough money and I have to go. I have to find Willow."
Buffy shook her head and said, "She doesn't want to be found. And how could you even find her?"
Xander smiled and responded, "You forget. I am computer man now. I know where she is. I hacked into the telephone records and found out that a call came from a village in England to the flower shop. I have to find her."
Buffy looked into Xander's eyes and asked, "Why?"
Xander sighed and replied, "To say goodbye. I didn't get the chance to say goodbye to Jesse when he was taken. And I didn't get to say goodbye to Willow. But I have that chance now."
"If you are thinking of pledging your undying love for her..." Buffy started.
Xander shook his head and replied, "I wouldn't do that to her. She knows that I don't love her that way. I've known her my whole life. I have to say goodbye. She said that we had to move on. To move on, I have to say goodbye. I have to let her go."
Buffy sat there solemnly, pondering Xander's words.
"I'm going with you." She stated.
Xander looked at her curiously and asked, "Uh, how? I know that you don't have any money."
Buffy looked at Xander smugly and responded, "My mom and dad are looking for a way to congratulate my graduation. I mean, for a while they thought I wouldn't make it to be a junior. This is perfect. And Giles could come with us. He misses Willow too. And he could translate for us."
Xander smiled and said, "Uh, Buff. They speak English in England."
Buffy looked at him and replied, "I know that. But they have those cockney accents. And they are so very confusing."
Xander's smile broadened and he said, "Good point."
Buffy smiled proudly and walked away, with Xander in tow. They were going to find Willow. They were going to find their friend. And they both knew that neither would give up until they did.