Chapter Thirty - In Time and Pain


It had been almost two months since Xander had been out of the hospital and longer still that he had seen Buffy - talk to her…watch her smile and laugh…hold her…kiss her… School had long let out for the year and he had managed to pass his junior year with help from Willow, Oz, and Giles while in midst of his rehabilitation. As much as he wanted to see Buffy within that time, a part of him would not let go - could not let go - of the memories of that sad night so long ago that still struck a chord in his heart.

@~~`~~~

It had been so long since she had been in his arms - weeks since she had heard the beating of his heart. Weeks that had turned into months since she had held his hand, and all because of actions beyond her control. Just the thought of that immediate comprehension of those lost days, hours, minutes, seconds made her hurt. The vividness and the bitterness she had felt had yet to fade, and so she concluded that it could be nothing but the same for Xander.

@~~`~~~

"Angel's gone, Dru and Spike's practically gone underground," announced Oz with a sigh at the Bronze, although such words needn't much announcement, "It's safe to say that when its peaceful in Sunnydale, one has to worry."

"I know what you mean," Willow said glancing at her boyfriend, "It's like fear the silence."

"Speaking of silence…" Cordelia said rolling her eyes, "Xander and Buffy? Can those two get more silent?"

"Well, Cordelia, they kinda have a lot of issues to work out," Oz said, "Granted they're taking their precious time to get to it, but after all that Angelus stuff, can you blame them?"

"Let them have all the time they want, I personally don't care, but when it involves me having to put up with Depressed Boy, I tend to care."

"We - Giles included - have been like the sticky stuff in the middle of it all," Willow said.

"Switzerland."

Willow and Oz turned to the brunette with frowns, "What?"

"Switzerland. We should be Switzerland…y'know neutral territory?"

Oz replied, "Actually, Cordelia, Switzerland gave the Nazis usage of their train tracks and stuff. So it doesn't speak too well for their neutrality. Belgium's much better suited because the Germans violated their neutrality."

"Okay, then, Belgium…whatever…as long as I'm not stuck in the middle."

"*We're* not stuck in the middle," Willow prompted.

Cordelia nodded, "Sure…Uh-oh, Depressive Boy at twelve o'clock."

"Hey, guys," Xander said with a mustered smile.

"Hey, how's your leg?" Cordelia said with tried cheerfulness.

He held up his wooden cane and said, "I can walk, but…uh…still in need of this wooden third for awhile longer."

"Um…hey, guys," a familiar voice said from behind them.

Xander looked up to meet Buffy's eyes and then quickly glanced away, "I better get going. See you around."

"But Xander you just - " Willow began, but he was already lost in the crowd of teenagers walking out the door.

"Guess I made an entrance, huh?" Buffy said with a sigh as she sat down in an empty chair.

"What are you doing here, Buffy? I thought you had to do some patrolling or some of your other slayer stuff, " Cordelia asked.

"Not that we're not glad that you're here," preempted the redhead.

The slayer smiled at her friend's attempt at reassurance, "I figured you all were here and I thought I might as well stop by for patrolling. Maybe catch a little fun."

Cordelia eyed her clothing, "Apparently with those pants and that jacket."

"I'm sure the Hellmouth really cares," she replied sardonically, "I better get gone, maybe I'll see you guys later or something."

"Or something," the brunette replied taking a sip of her soda, but the corners of her lips rose to a tiny smile.

"Funny…Cordelia…funny," Buffy replied with a light smile as she left the three teenagers to be alone once again.

@~~`~~~

The clocks struck midnight in the Harris home and Xander lay in his bed wide-awake. He couldn't sleep, as usual. He hadn't been able to sleep much even before the Angel incident. Sleep had been practically non-existent ever since the time he and Buffy broke up months ago.

Xander opened the drawer of his nightstand and held up a white envelope. Except for a few wrinkles, it was still in the same condition it had been when he first saw it in the hospital - unopened. He feared its contents, after all, what does one say to another just before they could possibly die?

He had been meaning to give it back to her and question her, but there never seemed to be a right time or moment. It didn't help much, either, that they hadn't uttered more than a few words to each other within all these months apart. Yet, seeing her today at the Bronze, looking into her eyes for that split second, his insomnia - his wonderment- seemed to intensify.

Grabbing his jacket and his cane, he placed the envelope in his pocket. Slowly, he crept down the stairs and made his way to the door. It was still early in patrol time and she was probably at her usual Friday cemetery. For some reason, this seemed just the right moment - the right time - he was looking for. He didn't know why or how, but just that he had to see her - talk to her. Xander hoped that if anything, she'd listen.

@~~`~~~

Buffy stood up with a sigh. Her watch read that it was nearly one and she hadn't seen any slaying action since a vamp had attacked her when it was ten.

"Go on, Love, call her name," Drusilla said as she slightly loosed her grip on his neck, "Call your precious slayer to help you."

Xander gritted his teeth, "Forget it."

The vampire tightened her grip on his neck and said, "Fine."

Drusilla stepped out from behind the foliage with Xander in tote, "Perhaps you shouldn't leave, just yet, Buffy."

The slayer turned around with stake in hand, "Drusilla, what do you…Xander…"

"Yes, Slayer, I have your little boyfriend."

Xander joked, "Tried to tell her that we broke up, but…uh…she didn't believe me."

She tightened the grip on his neck, "Shut up."

"Okay," he struggled.

"Let him go," Buffy said authoritatively.

"Not until I finish what I came here to do."

"And what's that?" the slayer asked as she cautiously moved towards her.

"To kill you, of course," Dru replied, "After all, you did kill Angelus…ruined our happy home. You and your bloody friends made a mess of everything. I was going to just come here to destroy you, but I saw him sneaking about, and well…couldn't miss the opportunity for bait and…an extra meal."

"Your fight is with me, not with Xander. Let him go," Buffy said.

"Not before I drain him first," she said with a sharp-toothed grin as she bared his neck, but carelessly loosened her death grip on his neck.

Xander seized the opportunity to free himself from her grasp, "Buffy, go."

He limped as best he could away while the slayer took advantage of Drusilla's surprise and kicked her in the stomach. The female vampire hit a nearby tree, but was immediately able to stand up.

Angrily and thoughtlessly, she lunged towards the slayer and then realized that in her enemy's hand grasped a stake. Before she could stop herself, or even think to stop, the sharp apex of the wooden weaponry was deep within the core of her black heart.

"Good-bye, Drusilla," Buffy said as the demon shattered to ashes.

The slayer exhaled deeply and wondered how it was that she had accomplished this so easily. How was it that this tormenter had come and gone so quickly? Before she could contemplate any further, she heard a tired, pained voice coming from behind her.

"Xander…" she said quickly turning around and seeing her former boyfriend trying to stand up, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, the rehab on my leg got pushed back a few months, but…uh…I think I'll live," he said with a pained smile.

Buffy returned with a light grin and helped him up, "Come on, let's get you home. Can you walk?"

"Yeah, just barely," he nodded and looked at her quietly for a moment as they began to walk out of the cemetery.

"What?" she asked.

He shook his head, "Nothing…just - thanks."

"No problem, all in the night's work for a slayer," she said.

"I would think you get some brownie points for the slaying Drusilla," he replied quickly.

"Don't think it quite works that way, Xander," Buffy said with a smile and paused as her grin widened, "Do you realize we're talking?"

"Well, what do you know? We are," he said with a soft chuckle, "Go figure, it takes me almost dying - again - for us to strike up a conversation. Go Hellmouth!"

"How did Dru get to you, anyway?" she asked, "I mean, why on earth were you out at one?"

"I was out for a midnight stroll. Couldn't exactly sleep and haven't been able to since…" he trailed and continued again, "Since awhile. Then, I figured, I might as well stop by your patrol and give you something I've been meaning to return."

They stopped walking as Xander pulled a white envelope from his coat pocket and handed it to her.

She looked at it for a moment and said, "It's the note I left you…before I went and killed Angelus. You never opened it…why?"

He took a deep breath and said, "I guess I didn't want to know what you would tell me moments before you could have possibly died. I wasn't sure I wanted to know and I wasn't sure I was ready to know, either."

She handed him back the envelope, "Open it."

"But I-"

"Please, just - just open it," she said.

Xander looked at the envelope and at her before he opened it. He pulled out the plain white paper and read the simple script aloud, "I love you."

He turned to look at her and she met his eyes with a smile, "Scary, huh?"

When he didn't answer her, she continued, "So, where do we stand, Xander?"

"I don't know," he replied shaking his head, "Buffy, I can't forget that day…I just can't. I want to, but it happened. Whatever the circumstances, the one thing that I was so scared of happening the entire time we were dating…happened."

"Xander, if I could change that, I would," she said, "But I can't, as much as you can't forget. I'm not asking you to forget what happened, but to just know that I didn't mean it to happen."

He looked at her and said, "I'm glad you're not asking me to forget because I'm not going to try to."

His response caused her steady glance to falter, "What do you mean?"

"I mean, I don't need to forget. Buffy, that night I had to leave you…leave a part of me…leave my heart behind. That was one of the hardest things I had to do and to find out that - again - the Hellmouth was responsible for it, it nearly drove me out of my mind. But there's one thing that doing that - hurting like that - made me realize. It made me realize that if ever I was so lucky enough to have the chance to love you again and have you love me, I'd take that chance in a heart beat. It made me realize that although the chance of hurting like that might happen, I wouldn't care. Pain or no pain, I love you Buffy." And with that, he kissed her.

@~~`~~~

From afar, Spike sat in his dark car watching the slayer and her white knight. True love had succeeded once again, but not all true love. In the midst of their rekindling, he had lost Drusilla - his love, his life. His life had crumbled when her form had shattered into ashes at the point of the slayer's stake. He would have attacked then and there, but he was still too weak to stand on his legs for very long.

As he sat looking at them, he was glad that he was not yet ready to battle the slayer - to avenge the death of Drusilla. After all, love deserved some time of peace because time makes things grow stronger - makes love grow stronger. So he would give them their time - their time of happiness and of love - only to destroy it when it would hurt the most. So that when he killed the slayer, there would be one that knew his pain - felt his pain - suffer in life as he was suffering.