Xander Harris glanced around the Bronze with a contemplative sigh. The closing of senior year had somehow thrown a majority of the Bronze regulars into non-existence. There wasn't even a band there that night, just some Bronze-like music flowing from the speakers over head. Then, there were people like him - people who were just simply null and void. Those people being the equivalent of two or three, who were - surprisingly - all alone.
Joe, the Bronze middle-age manager, looked slightly relieved at the lack of people. <The lull before the bang, > Xander couldn't help but think as he remembered the rush of people that always came when school ended. Peaceful was definitely not the word to use when that happened. So, for now, Joe could relax, as he always, did knowing what was coming next. Xander, on the other hand, was left to wonder what was going to fill the next in his life, when high school wasn't an integral part of it.
He was about to turn his attention to his drink when he saw Joe walk to the chalkboard on the counter announcing tonight's specials and scribble in huge letters:
CLASSIC JAZZ NIGHT
Soon enough, a jazzy rift and Billie Holiday's voice replaced the music that came from the speakers.
"Interesting," a familiar voice said behind Xander.
He turned around, his lips spread to his reserved smile for her, and said, "Suits a slow night at the Bronze, don't you think?"
Buffy Summers sat down on the chair across from him and nodded, "Yeah, I guess so." She looked around and frowned, "So, where's the rest of the gang?"
"Couldn't come. Cordelia's being the head honcho of the prom committee. Willow's determined that Oz graduate this year and so I'm guessing they're doing the whole studying thing at least some of the time. Tried to call you, but - surprise, surprise - you weren't home."
"I was doing the study and training thing with Giles for awhile after school and did the whole patrolling gig. When I came home my Mom was still at the gallery setting up that new exhibit there. And from there, I came here."
"So basically no time to get calls from your friends."
"No," she grinned, "just from you."
He gave her a Look, "Funny."
"So, what brings you here, Xand? If you knew the gang wasn't going to be here and all, why did you come?"
"Well I " he trailed before he came up with a viable comment, " I didn't know if you were going to come or not."
"Oh," Buffy replied, "you were doing the gentlemanly thing and decided to come and wait just in case I did you come, right?"
"Absolutely correct," he said with a nod and a proud grin.
"You had nothing else better to do, huh?"
Xander thought for a moment as proud transformed into pathetically sheepish and reluctantly nodded, "I cannot express how much of 'uh-huh,' that involves."
"I guess senior year's not everyone's hype."
"No it isn't, especially if you have low SAT scores, low ACT scores, are barely going to pass, and have no idea what you're going to do with the rest of your life."
"I'm sorry, Xander. I didn't mean to bring up sorrows."
"Ah don't be. It's my fault. I've slacked off all my life and it was bound to come and conundrum me in the long run."
"Everyone faces a conundrum or two, and you're just one of the many conundrummed," she smiled reassuringly. "It's a part of life, Xander, and no matter how bad it seems right now, I'm sure you'll get through yours."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Buff, but at this rate, I probably won't even get into SCC."
"Sunnydale Community College?" she frowned and then chuckled, "Xander, FYI, they accept everyone."
"Yeah I know. I can just see the letter now. Dear Mr. Harris - or no - Dear Guy-who-applied. We are not sorry to say that you did not receive acceptance to Sunnydale Community College. Here at SCC we have a policy only the geniuses with no money or the smartest of the stupid. Since you hold neither category, you were not even written under consideration. We thank you for making SCC one of your choices and for making us make such a great waste of paper and ink. Sincerely, SCC Staff of Admissions. P.S. Have you ever considered Clown College? We laughed at your record."
Buffy shook her head as she laughed, "Maybe you should be a comedian you always make me laugh, even when I'm in a non-smiling mood."
"Thanks, but I couldn't be a comedian they make things in life look funny. Me, on the other hand, things in life make me look funny," he smiled.
"Don't be so hard on yourself, Xander antisociality and me go hand-in-hand," she said, "But that's not exactly my present conundrum."
"Oh so you've been conundrummed, too?"
"Yeah, but I'd rather not talk about it."
Xander looked up and then glanced back at her, "I take it, it concerns the guy that's standing behind you?"
Buffy turned around and blinked, "Angel."
"Xa-" Xander was about say, but he shook his head. He was tired of the same old jokes and the same old Xanderesque behavior. For once, he kept silent, only letting out a singular sigh that always followed the usual event of Buffy leaving with Angel. Except this time, it wasn't for some cockamamie, death-defying adventure. This time, it was to the dance floor.
~ * ~ * ~
/How much do I love you? / I'll tell you no lies / How deep is the ocean? / How high is the sky? / How many times a day do I think of you? / How many roses are sprinkled with dew? / Ooh How far will I travel to be where you are? / How far is the journey from here to a star? / And if I ever lost you, how much would I cry? / How deep is the ocean? / How high is the sky? / Ooh How far would I travel to be where you are? / How far is the journey from here to a star?/
~ * ~ * ~
"I'm leaving," he whispered softly in her ear.
"I know," she replied.
He looked down at the top of her blonde-haired head quizzically, "You do?"
"Mm-hmm I figured that was what all of the avoiding was about, or at least, I knew it had to be something bad."
Angel sighed, "This isn't bad, Buffy it's right."
She looked up to meet his eyes, "Is it really?"
"I love you, Buffy, more than I ever thought I could love anyone, but I'm the last person you should be with. You need someone who can be apart of your life - "
"But you *are* apart of my life, Angel an essential part of my life I can't - I can't even see my life without you in it."
"I'll be there, Buffy "
"How?" she asked biting her lower lip as he peered into eyes glazed with tears, "When?! When you're miles away from me when you're everywhere else but in my arms?!"
He held her close to him and felt her tears wet into his white T-shirt, "I'll be there when you need me Buffy I'll never stop loving you, but I can't be that one special someone who's apart of your life in day in night in everything."
"But Angel, how can I make you believe that you are that to me?"
"As much as you want it to be as much as you think I am as much as I've deceived myself into thinking that that could possibly be true I'm not. Buffy, you're the slayer, but the slayer is not you. There is so much more to you than what you've been destined to be. I may be able to glimpse and guess into the other world you live in, but as always, the light traps me out. So before it kills me and you with it I'm saying good-bye and "
As the song reached its finishing chorus, he pressed his lips against her forehead and whispered for a last time, "I love you, Buffy " before walking out of the Bronze.
~ * ~ * ~
/And if I ever lost you how much would I cry?/ How deep is the ocean?/ How high is the sky?/
~ * ~ * ~
Buffy stood on the dance floor in a slight daze. She brushed her tears away, but the more she tried to dry her face, the more the tears fell. She couldn't move she couldn't breathe she couldn't talk, and for the life of her, she didn't want to do any of these things all she wanted to do was make the pain go away. To have the emptiness she felt in her heart disappear, but above all that, she wanted Angel.
"Yo, pal," Joe said placing Xander's refill of coke onto his table, "You might want to go and check up on that friend of yours over there."
Xander's eyes, which had been avoiding the dance floor, glanced over to find a singular, sobbing figure. As he stood up, he gave Joe an appreciative smile, "Thanks."
Joe shook his head and smiled, "No problem."
Xander walked away to the dance floor and placed a tentative hand on Buffy's shoulder, "Hey "
He was taken by surprise when Buffy fell into his arms, still crying uncontrollably.
"Buffy?" he asked with voiced concern. "Are you okay?"
She wanted to lie. She wanted to lift her head up, dry her tears, and say she was going to be all right, but as much as she wanted to, she couldn't. All she could do was cry.
"Whatever it is, it'll be okay," he said.
Buffy was silent as she shook her head.
"It's not?" he asked with raised eyebrows, "Why not? You're Buffy, you make everything okay."
She sniffled and her crying ceased momentarily as she smiled at his confidence in her.
He grinned, "There. See? You're smiling already."
Her smiled faded as she blinked back her tears, "But everything's still not okay and as much as I'm Buffy I can't make this okay."
"What's wrong?" He hesitated before he added, "Does it have to do with Angel?"
"He's leaving Sunnydale - "
"But that doesn't mean he's going to leave "
She continued, "Because he wants to leave me."
"I don't - I don't understand. I thought everything was all right between you two."
"I thought so too, until he kept on distancing himself farther and farther away from me therein lies my conundrum."
Xander realized he was the last person Buffy should talk to about resolving conundrums, least of all those that dealt with Angel. So he did what he did best repressed. As the music shifted to something new he said, "Y'know what? Why don't we forget our conundrums for awhile and make use of this dance floor, huh?"
Smiling softly, she nodded, "Why not?"
~ * ~ * ~
/I need your love so badly. / I love you oh so madly. / But I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you. / I thought at last I found you. / But other loves surround you. / And I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you. / If you'd surrender just for a tender kiss or two, you might discover that I'm the lover meant for you and I'd be true./ But what's the good of scheming. / I know I must be dreaming. / For I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you. /
~ * ~ * ~
The piano keys and the trumpets altered to an instrumental.
As they danced, Xander couldn't help but think, repression might not be that good of a thing. After all, it never got him very far, but reassurance on the other hand there was comfort food.
"He'll be back."
"What?" she said looking up at him.
"Wherever he's going, it's not going to be far. He's Angel. He'll be around when you need him. He always is."
"That's one thing I could say I trusted of Dead Boy for you, he'd do anything."
"You trusted him?"
"When it came to you? With my life."
~ * ~ * ~
/ If you'd surrender just for a tender kiss or two, you might discover that I'm the lover meant for you and I'd be true. / But what's the good of scheming, I know I must be dreaming for I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you. /
~ * ~ * ~
"Thank you, Xander."
"For being here or I'd still be standing hear sobbing like an idiot."
"You're not an idiot," he said recalling their earlier conversation, "You're just many of the conundrummed."
~ * ~ * ~
/ Oh, no, no I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you /