Chapter Twenty-One


"You love him. Tell him," Willow said..

"God this was so simple two weeks ago! I was the Slayer, he was my best friend!" Buffy exclaimed.

"Why are you so afraid?" Cordelia asked.

"Because he doesn't love me," Buffy replied softly.

"Sure he does. Look, you have to consider that I'm the one who's always had a thing for him. But we could never have anything more than friendship. While with you, he could have everything, and then some." Willow responded.

Buffy slammed her coffee mug on the table. Giles and Angel sat with them, all of them wondering how Xander felt. After Falen's destruction, the closing of the gate, and Nicholas' sacrifice, they had all been tired, weary, and in the need of sleep. The next two weeks had been spent relaxing, talking, catching up, and in peace. Except for Xander and Buffy. Buffy refused to tell him how she felt about him.

"Do you know that for sure? He might only love me as a friend," Buffy blurted angrily. "God, I can't even think straight drinking this sludge that's mistaken for coffee here."

"Sorry," Angel responded. "But this was all they had in town."

"Oh, what I wouldn't give for some Tasters Choice!" Buffy sighed.

"Oh that slop isn't that good," Giles responded. "Who in their right mind would like that disgusting beverage?"

From around the table everyone raised their hands, leaving only Giles who continued to mumble about the delight on English Coffee.

"Oh, what am I gonna do? What am I gonna do?" Buffy wailed.

"Tell him. If you love him, tell him that," Willow answered.

"I don't love Xander!"

The table sat in silence, surprised by Buffy's outburst.

"I... I love him so much," Buffy whispered.

~ * ~ * ~

<Tell her. Tell her what? Tell who?> Xander sat at the top of the stairs and brooded. <Cordelia? Buffy? Willow? Who?> Nicholas had told him to tell her. <Tell who about what? How am I going to answer this?>

"But you know this. You know the answer. Close your eyes and feel it."

That was what Nicholas had told him two weeks ago in the cave. Ever since that battle Xander wondered who Nicholas told him to tell. And ever time he tried to think who it could possibly be, those words came to him. <This has more meaning then the battle. This was a message.>

Xander closed his eyes and relaxed. He was parts of his life, parts of Nicholas' life, and dug deeper. He found himself in a tunnel. It was dark and dank. Water was pouring down from somewhere but it didn't matter. He saw a figure at the end of the tunnel walking towards him. He strained to see who it was, but couldn't make out her features. He felt a light tapping on his shoulder and turned around. It was Nicholas.

<Nicholas, how?>
<Hello Xander.>
<I miss you man.>
<Don't worry. I'm at peace now. I'm happy. Right now, I'm here about you and your destiny.>
<My destiny.>
<Xander I know you. I was you. And I know how you felt about her. Tell her.>
<Who?>
<You know who. The one person you dreamed about since you were a boy. You knew her before you met her. You love her. Trust in that. But you know this. You know the answer. Close your eyes and feel it.>

Nicholas faded away, leaving Xander in the wet tunnel. He heard the click of a heel behind him and whirled around. The figure who he saw earlier was emerging into the light. <Buffy.>

Xander gasped as his eyes shot open.

"Buffy..." he whispered.

~ * ~ * ~

Buffy walked into the garden sadly. <He doesn't love me. I just know it. I rejected him. Two years ago. He stood there in the quad. They sat there facing each other, and he offered her his heart. And what did I do? I rejected it. I probably lost my only chance then. My chance to be with my soul mate.>

She walked into the flower garden absentmindedly. She smelled the deep aroma of the roses. She heard the rumbling of an oncoming storm. <God, this was perfect. I can't even enjoy a day in the garden.>

"Buffy?"

Buffy whirled around, expecting Willow, Cordelia, Angel, or even Giles. She didn't expect him. Xander. God he was handsome. His hair was cut short after that whole Falen fiasco. His jawline was firm and muscular. His eyes. Those brown pools of kindness. She could smell the cologne on his body. Polo Sport. God she loved that cologne.

"Xander," she whispered softly.

"I... I need to talk to you," he stammered out.

"Why?" she muttered defensively, almost bitterly.

She didn't mean to, but she just didn't want to hear his voice. It hurt too much. She couldn't have him. She couldn't kiss those lips. Nothing. He didn't love her.

"Buffy, what's wrong?" Xander asked, obviously concerned.

"Oh please, like you care," she murmured softly.

"Of course I care," Xander replied as he grasped her hand.

She threw his hand off of her in a sudden fit of anger. She was tired of this. He didn't need to pretend that he cared. And it was about time he knew that.

"Please! Just say it and go!" Buffy screamed angrily.

"Say what? I don't understand!" Xander yelled back.

"Tell me you don't love me!" she shouted.

The thunder rumbled overhead, emphasizing her words. Xander stood there in shock. She couldn't blame him. He realizes the deception is over and he can go on without pretending to care.

~ * ~ * ~

Xander felt his heart pounding. <Oh my god.>

"I know you don't care so go away!" Buffy screamed, pushing him back.

She turned around and ran off. It took him a second to collect himself an his thoughts, but he ran after her. His legs ran faster then they ever ran before. <I have to tell her.> She was right ahead of him, but she had the stamina and energy to run longer, he didn't. One choice. Xander leapt into the air and caught her in the waist, tackling her. He felt drops of rain fall on him as the rolled to a stop. Buffy got up to walk away again, but Xander wouldn't let her. He ran forward and grabbed her by the shoulder, turning her around.

"What makes you think I don't care?" Xander screamed over the crackling of the thunder.

"Stop lying!" Buffy yelled, pain riddled in her voice. "I know!"

"Know what?" Xander shouted.

"I know that you don't love me," she whispered.

The rain was falling heavily now. Xander's clothes were clinging to his body, but he didn't care. All he cared about was her.

<Tell her.>

Nicholas' voice echoed in his head. <Why am I so scared? I have to do it. This is my last chance.>

"I'm going to tell you something, so promise me you'll listen!" Xander yelled with sheer conviction.

Buffy stared at him, but nodded silently.

"After Jesse died, a part of me died," Xander admitted. "When Willow was taken from us, I felt I couldn't live on. A part of me did something that I never realized till a short while ago. It made me lonely. I was afraid. I was afraid that if I ever got close to someone ever again, I'd lose them. I didn't want to deal with that pain. I vowed never to be close to anyone again. But I couldn't. I had you. You are my best friend. I could never close you out. A part of me wanted to. I was always afraid of losing you. But with all the demons, the vampires, the darkness... Somewhere in the middle of all of this I fell in love with you. And that scared me more than anything else. I refused to love you, then later lose you. So I closed those feelings off. I wouldn't ever get that close to anyone, ever. I was afraid that you'd one day die, and I knew that the rest of me would die with you. But after everything that happened to us, I... I can't hide my feelings. Not to you. Not to myself. I need to let these feelings out, because... I need you. I... I love you."

~ * ~ * ~

Buffy stood there, awestruck. She looked to the ground and felt a drop of rainwater slide down her back. She was feeling so much right now.

"You don't love me," Buffy whispered softly. "You just don't want to hurt me."

"I love you," Xander replied with a burning intensity. "I love the way you pout when you don't get your way. I love the way you smile when you're happy. I love the way you tuck your hair behind your ear when it blocks your vision. I love the way your voice gets higher when you are excited. I dreamt about you before I even met you. I love you."

"I wish I could believe you," Buffy sighed softly.

Xander looked at her intently. He took his hand and brushed one of the many wet locks of her hair from her face. His hand moved down and rested on her cheek. She felt the smoothness of his palm. He took his other hand and smoothed some of her hairs back, and then moved it down and held her face in his hands. He leaned forward and opened him mouth.

"Trust me," Xander whispered.

He moved in closer and made contact with her lips. She was shocked at first, only at first, then leaned into it as well. She felt the stubble on his face rub against her fair skin, but really didn't care. The kiss was so gentle and loving, like nothing she's ever felt before. His hands ran through her wet hair, coming to rest onto her neck. She wrapped her arms around his neck and felt his arms fall and wrap around her waist. She felt the cool rain fall on them, but didn't care. Right now, time was frozen for her. This kiss spoke volumes. The tender passion became a message to each other. Each felt the deep and powerful love that they had for each other. They felt the fears and hopes. The joys and sorrows.

Xander lifted Buffy from the ground and swept her into a huge hug. They each felt the other's happiness. Buffy broke off the kiss and looked deeply into Xander's eyes.

"I love you."

Xander smiled and lowered her to the ground, never breaking eye contact. "I love you, too. I just wish I told you earlier," he replied.

"Me too. But there is only one thing you can do about that now," she responded.

"What's that?" Xander asked with a grin.

"Hold me," Buffy answered, still smiling.

Xander's grin broadened and he pulled her close to him and wrapped his arms around her. Neither cared that they were standing in the rain. The only thing that they cared about right then and there was each other.

~ * ~ * ~

Willow, Angel, Cordelia, and Giles watched Buffy and Xander from the castle. They all knew that they were spying, but none of them could help it.

"Do you guys still love them?" Cordelia asked.

Willow and Angel looked up and smiled.

"I'll always love Xander," Willow said. "He was my first crush."

"And I'll always love Buffy," Angel said. "She brought me closer to my humanity than even before I became a vampire."

The two looked at each other, knowing what the other's thought was.

"But the love they have for each other is stronger than what we ever could have." Willow continued. "We're happy for them. They were meant to be together. It's destiny. It's what they deserve."

They looked outside at the two embracing figures.

~ * ~ * ~

Xander slowly let Buffy loose from the hug and planted a soft kiss on her forehead. He looked down on that angelic face and smiled happily.

"I love you," he whispered

"I know," Buffy said confidently back while smiling happily.

Xander's grin widened and the two walked towards the castle, and the future. Together.