Chapter Twenty-Six - A Hand to Hold bSupplies=Choose a page add-on,

Chapter Twenty-Six - A Hand to Hold

As much as he wanted to never let her out of his arms, he pulled himself away, and Buffy, surprised at the sudden, cold-reacting move, was reassured of his ongoing presence by the comforting touch of her hand in his. She looked up to meet his eyes and felt his other hand against the hollow of her cheek, quick to wipe tears that had shed. There they stood, eyes fixed to the other, not wanting to move, not even wanting to breath for fear of ending the moment, but soon enough, Xander tore his eyes away from hers and mustered something of a smile, "Come on…I think we should go to Giles."

As they walked towards the school quickly, Buffy's mind began to take in the flood of memories that was contained in those lost weeks, and with it came the pain of loss, the anger of suffering, and the emptiness of uncontrollability. She remembered everything with bitter vividness, being controlled like a puppet the moment her eyes fell on Angel, almost like that past Halloween, but so much more different because this time her awareness was non-existent, her avoidance of her friends, their avoidance of her, etc. Yet, out of the memories held in her mind of those days, the ones that held the most ground, that burned into the deepest crevices of her mind and of her heart, were the afflictions she had set on Xander and the realization of the love he had given her in return.

She was thoroughly aware that he hadn't a clue to the type of spell she had been under, it was obvious in his manner, voice, and form. Half-glad she was about his not knowing, but the other half of her wondered what if he did know…how would he react and as she glanced quickly at him during their gait, she didn't think she wanted to know, or rather, she feared the answer.

"Are you ready?" he asked in a voice filled with concern as they reached the doors to the library.

After how badly she had treated them, she wondered if her readiness really mattered in the overall whole, it was really a matter, if they were ready to excuse her for what she had done. Nodding, she swallowed a gulp of air into her dry throat and whispered, "Yeah, I think so."

"Good," he said softly as he looked into her eyes that once again locked in the matter that they had before.

She saw in his eyes so much pain and her heart ached to think that she had caused that pain to be there, but in the sorrow of his eyes, was the love she had always known, but had been too blind and ignorant to see. Her hand hesitantly reached to touch his face, she felt the stubble of his chin beneath her palm, and her fingers moved to touch his lips…those she was fighting the urge to kiss.

His free hand took hold of her wrist and he kissed her fingers softly before he said, "You have to do this on your own, you know that don't you?"

She nodded slowly, "Yeah, I know, but can't you stay with me…just for a little while?"

He shook his head, "I'm sorry, Buffy, but I can't…I've stayed a lot longer than I should've and I have to go."

"I understand," she said as her eyes fell to the floor when his hands relinquished hers and he began to walk away. Looking up, she called out to him, "Xander!"

He turned and looked at her, "Yes, Buffy?"

Shaking her head in the frustration of memories and words she said, "I wanted you to know that I'm the one that should be sorry…for what happened…for everything."

"But how could you be responsible? You love Angel and - "

"But that's it! I don't love him," she said as she approached him and looked carefully into his eyes, "I love you…Xander, and it's that stupid spell that made me lose you…I don't want to lose you."

"What are you - " he asked in a confused tone, "Buffy…what - what was the spell that was cast?"

Taking a deep breath she replied, "That spell was a love spell. To make me fall in love with Angel, to make me break up with you, to make me do all the stupid things that I've done these past weeks."

"She's telling the truth, Xander," Willow said as the Scooby gang filtered out of the library when they heard the loud voices in the hallway.

"Why didn't you guys tell me that it was a love spell?" he demanded at them.

"Because we didn't want this kind of reaction from you. We weren't sure you would be willing to help if you knew the kind of spell she was under. We weren't sure we had the responsibility to tell you what kind of spell she was under," Giles explained.

"What reaction? I haven't even had time for a reaction," Xander said with blazing eyes, "I don't even know how to react! Lose the love of your life due to the magic of an all-powerful vampirical magician and his buddy, his sidekick, the formerly soul-bound Angel. Anybody care to give me reacting tips?"

"Xander, don't be like - "

"Y'know the last time I heard you say that I didn't fair well, so I think I'm going to get gone," he replied as he gave her one last longing look before he turned and walked away.

Buffy felt a hand squeeze her shoulder comfortingly and she looked to find Willow with her optimistic smile, "He'll be okay, Buffy…you just have to give him time."

They turned to walk to the library and she wondered how much time he was going to need to deal. No matter how long it was going to take…no matter what happened, she was comforted by the knowledge that Xander would always be her friend, he was as loyal as they come…after all, he had come to help her despite what had occurred that night, weeks prior. And she could deal with him being just her friend, as long as Buffy knew there was hand out there that was willing to take hold of hers and never let her fall…she was fine with his being *just* her friend. At least, that's what she told herself over and over again in the midst of the Scooby gang's tried comforting, all the while feeling her hand lost without the warmth of his gentle hold and feeling her heart empty and broken and lost without the presence of his.