Chapter Eleven - Whispers of the Heart

"Xander," Buffy said with raised eyebrows at her heavily bandaged friend, "why are you here?"

"Well…I couldn't exactly let my good friend go vampire hunting by herself, now could I?" he replied with a question glance as he walk beside her.

"You could…" she began as she gave him a look, "and you should. Xander, I'm a big girl now and I'm the slayer…remember? I can take care of myself, although, that's more than I can say about you, you walking infirmary!"

"Why, I thought my devilishly handsome looks made up for that," he said with a light chuckle.

"Devilishly handsome…right…" she replied sardonically and she began to laugh with him.

"I guess I do look pretty awful," he admitted as he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his tan corduroys.

"Awful doesn't cut it, Xander, I've seen vampires that look more alive than you do," began Buffy, but before she could continue, he stopped her.

"Hey! My male ego is taking way too many punches from the queen of the stake, so let's leave the subject of me and my looks alone for awhile."

"Oh, you know I'm just joking Xander," she replied playfully as she leaned against a tree with a sigh, fiddling with a sharp stake, "but what do you want me to say? You're handsome, debonair, well-dressed," she smiled as Xander took in the comments readily, "What? Ya want me to lie?"

He chuckled as he approached her, and meeting his eyes against hers, replied, "Now that was a sharp blow, next thing I know you're gonna stake me with that," he takes hold of the hand that clenched the stave.

"I don't know, maybe I will," she said, "Maybe it'll put you out of your misery."

"Oh, I'm feeling a lot better right now," Xander retorted, and Buffy realized that he was closer to her than he had been before.

"Why is that?" she uttered a little bit nervously at his being so close to her, but she was reluctant to move away as she felt a sense of comfort in his presence. His dark eyes softened under her glance and her eyes shifted quickly at his hand that continued to grasp hers. His lips whispered softly in her ears, and his words touched her heart, "Because you're here."

The momentum hung in the air much like the stars clung to the dark skies above, and the two stood still listening to an ancient zephyr that began to fade into the calm. It had heard so many whispers from lovers young and old and its arrival seemed to want their first words to each other, to have them echo those of such professions from the days of yore.

"Xander?" her voice broke the silence as she recalled his words and her heart skipped a beat just thinking of them.

"Hmm?" he replied as he realized she was looking into his eyes, again.

She leaned closely to his ear and whispered, "I love you, too."