Chapter Four

Xander watched as the boy threw the ball at Willow. He half expected her to miss the catch. But he knew better. After all, he had been here. Once, years ago, as that boy who threw that ball. Hundreds times in his dreams, as a spectator. He knew how this dream always ended, but every time he hoped that it would change.

He watched silently as six year old Willow Rosenberg jumped up and caught the football. He grinned and walked up to the small redhead. He watched Willow smile smugly as a young Xander.

"Lucky catch." He heard the small boy mutter.

Xander's smile broadened as the little girl stuck her tongue out at the boy. He couldn't help but laugh as the boy stuck his tongue out in return.

Willow, being the mature one, stopped sticking her tongue out and indicated to the young Xander to go long. Xander's young counterpart ran across the street and stopped, indicating for Willow to throw the football. Young Willow Rosenberg launched the football with all her might as it flew across the street. But it didn't stop there. It went over the little boy's head and smashed into the window of the house young Xander was in front of.

"She always had an arm." Xander said, grinning.

At the same moment, his young counterpart said, "Ooooooooh, you're in trouble."

Xander watched as the two children ran, hoping they weren't see. Hoping they would not be caught.

It didn't help though, that the football had Xander's name and address scrawled on it. That night, the owner of the house and broken window came to Xander's house and told his mother. His father had been out of town. Again. And his mother took the easiest punishment, no TV, and punished Xander. Which was no biggie considering he could go watch anything at Willow's house.

Suddenly, everything around Xander shifted. It blurred for a couple seconds and then refocused. He now found himself in front of Sunnydale high. Whenever he had this dream, he would come to this moment, disoriented. It took him less then a minute to realize where and when he was.

"Excuse me. Coming through. Pardon me. Excuse me."

Xander turned around and saw a young boy on a skateboard move through the crowd of students. He also spotted the girl climbing out of the black car.

"Whoa! Excuse me." The boy said as he dodged the bodies around him. "I can't stop. Please move. Whoa! Excuse me."

<Any second now> Xander thought.

"Whoa." The boy said as he spotted the pretty girl climbing up the steps.

"Contact." Xander said, grinning at the site.

The boy then slammed into the handrail of the steps. Xander looked to his right and saw a redheaded girl look at the boy in amusement.

The girl was Willow and the boy was him. This was the day that they first met Buffy. This was the day, that their life changed forever.

"It's okay. I'm feel good." The teenager Xander said, trying to save face. He looked up and saw Willow grinning at him. "Willow. You're so very much the person I wanted to see."

"Oh, really?" Willow replied, trying to repress the urge to laugh.

Xander watched as his teenage counterpart got up and said, "Yeah. Ya know, I kinda had a problem with the math."

Willow's grin broadened and she asked, "Which part?"

"The math." The teenager responded. "Can you help me out tonight? Please be my study buddy."

"Well, what's in it for me?" Willow asked, trying to go along with Xander's jovial mood.

"A shiny nickel." Teenage Xander responded without batting a eye.

"Okay." Willow replied, giving up. "Do you have 'Theories in Trig'? You should check it out."

"Check it out?" Teenage Xander repeated, confused.

Willow grinned and responded, "From the Library. Where the books live."

Xander smiled as his counterpart smiled and replied, "Right. I'm there. See? I want to change."

Xander turned away as his counterpart and Willow walked into the school. He didn't want to see them meet up with Jesse. It was just too painful to bear.

He watched as his surroundings shifted again. Everything blurred, then refocused. He was now in a dark alley. It took him a little while to realize that this was not a memory, but a real full fledged dream. He had always imagined that this was the way it happened, but he was never really prepared with the actions that unfolded.

No! He didn't want to see this again. But he had no choice as he saw Willow walk down the street. He could only silently scream as the vampires attacked her. He wept as the Anointed One bit her neck and fed on her. He sat on the ground and cradled himself as he saw the Anointed one force Willow to suck his blood. He saw her tears as they dropped from her cheeks to the ground. The only thing he could do now was scream.

~ * ~ * ~

Xander felt someone shake him. Someone was screaming. It took him a while to realize that it was him. He squinted as he opened his eyes. Hovering over him was Buffy, Giles, and Cordelia. Buffy was holding him by his shoulders. And Giles and Cordelia were looking at him from their seats in front of him. He felt hot, salty tears falling down her cheeks. Buffy brought him close to her and hugged him reassuringly.

"The dream?" She asked softly.

Xander choked back a sob and nodded.

"It's okay. It's okay." She cooed. "Willow's okay. We'll find her."

All Xander could do was nod as Buffy slowly let go of him. She pushed him back into his seat and brought the blanket up so it covered him.

"Get some sleep." She said softly.

Xander's eyes widened and he shook his head. "No." He replied. "No. I don't want to dream. I don't want to see it."

"Don't worry." Buffy said as she ran her fingers through his hair. "I'm here. We're all here. Don't be afraid."

Something about Buffy's words caused him to relax. He laid back against the chair and closed his eyes.

~ * ~ * ~

Xander plunged the stake into the vampire's chest. He watched in satisfaction as the vampire burst into a shower of dust. He turned around and saw Buffy fighting some of the Anointed one's minions. He wanted to rush over and help his friend, but saw that others needed his help.

Xander rushed over to Giles and Cordelia, who were trying to keep three vampires at bay. Xander tackled one of the vampires and tried to shove a stake into the vampire's heart. But the vampire managed to throw Xander off before he could do anything. As he landed onto the floor of the rooftop they were fighting on, Xander noticed that the wind was picking up. They needed to stop the Anointed one before he could open the Hellmouth. Xander got up, but was slammed to the ground again by a vampire. The vampire stood over him, with a predatory grin on it's face. It was about to tear him to shreds, when suddenly a liquid splashed onto it's face.

Xander turned away from the howling vampire and saw Cordelia standing behind him. She grinned at him as she held up a bottle of holy water. Xander pulled a stake from his pocket and plunged it into the screaming vampire's chest. He turned around and saw Buffy finish off the last of the Anointed one's guards.

They all turned to the Anointed one who was looking at them with a smile.

"You're not going to win, ya little bloodsucker." Xander muttered as he approached the vampire.

The Anointed one looked at him and asked, "Tell me, have you heard from the redhead?"

Xander froze in his tracks at the small vampire's question.

The Anointed one's eyes were glowing red. "Her name was Willow, wasn't it?" He asked mockingly.

Xander's resolve started to diminish. He still wasn't over the loss of Willow. This little bastard had hurt her, and Xander had not been there to stop it.

"Yes." The Anointed one said. "It was Willow. How could I forget? She had the tastiest A positive blood."

That last comment caused something in Xander to snap. He screamed at the little vampire.

"Why?!" He asked, screaming. "Why did you hurt her?"

Surprisingly, the Anointed one gave him an answer.

"I was thirsty." The Anointed replied with a grin. "You should have seen it. We attacked her. I bit down onto her neck, sucking her life's blood. When I was done, I made her bite into me. She was crying, but I think she enjoyed it."

Xander couldn't take anymore. He crumpled onto the ground, not wanting to hear anymore. He felt hot tears run down his cheeks. He watched as Buffy launched herself at the Anointed one. He really didn't care if she killed him. He didn't care about revenge. It had driven him for the last year, but now it didn't matter. All he could think about was what the Anointed one said.

"We attacked her."
"...sucked her life's blood."
"She was crying"

Xander fell into a rack of sobs. He dimly heard a scream as Buffy plunged a stake into the Anointed One's chest. He could tell that the Anointed One didn't really care about opening the Hellmouth. He could tell that this confrontation was really the Anointed One's final way of torturing them.

It was all sick joke to him.

He cried even harder, letting a year's worth of pent-up emotion finally surface. He felt two arms wrap around him. Buffy's arms. He heard her crying as well. He felt her tears fall on his face. He could dimly hear Cordelia crying as well.

"It's okay." Giles whispered to Cordelia as he consoled her.

At the same time, he heard Buffy say softly to him, "It's over."

Silently, Xander acknowledged her statement. But he knew that it would never really be over.

~ * ~ * ~

Xander woke up with a start. He heard the flight attendant say, "Please buckle up as we are now about to land at Heathrow Airport."

Xander buckled his seatbelt absentmindedly. He was really thinking about the dream. Well, it was more a memory then a dream. That was the night that they had beaten the Anointed one. The night that the Hellmouth closed. The night that Xander let go of his hate and anger.

He looked over at Buffy, who was staring at him.

"I'm okay." Xander said softly.

Buffy nodded at him. He knew that she knew better. She knew he wasn't okay. Neither of them were. They both had scars inside them that would never fully heal. Neither of them had really tried.

But it was time to make the first step. The first step of many to healing.