TITLE: Waiting

AUTHOR: Shadowlass

SUMMARY: The Yellow Crayon of Goodness saved the world, but for Xander, it seems like old times. Post-"Grave" ficlet, follows "Aftermath" and "Price Tag."

RATING: G

EMAIL: shadowlass2000@yahoo.com

DISCLAIMER: I don't own BtVS. I like to think that if I did, the yellow crayon reference wouldn't have come out of absolutely nowhere. Eh, I'm probably kidding myself.

Life was easy, years ago. I went to school and hung with Willow and Jesse. I didn't date much, because I didn't want to be tied down and I especially didn't want to be turned down. I didn't play sports, because I didn't want a coach telling me what to do all day, and also because that would have involved trying out, which is kind of like asking a girl out with all your friends watching. See above for dislike of being turned down.

Then she came to town, and for most of the time since then my life's revolved around her. I don't love Buffy, not like that. I thought I did, but come on: I was 16. I wasn't the most popular guy in school. She was new and cute, and I got the first shot at her. She wasn't like the girls I usually liked; she wasn't a giant bug, for instance, or particularly well-hydrated mummy. Or Cordy, even. Scary thought.

So I couldn't have her, but I could help her. And despite the way they acted that time they saved the world while I was dealing with dead Chuck Norris-loving rednecks, and Faith and I—well, despite that, I'm good at helping. Even the first time, when it was an accident, with Jesse—okay, I try not to think about that. But if living with my parents taught me anything, it's how to destroy the ones you love and not miss a step.

So I helped her. She had this big Romeo and Juliet thing with Angel that I never really got, fine, I got over that: hello, Cordy. Then, after a while, hello Willow, goodbye Cordy, goodbye Willow.

Admittedly, good judgment where women are concerned hasn't always been my strong suit.

Fine, it's never been my strong suit. What, are you keeping score?

But the thing was, I helped her, and she helped me. She helped me to find myself. I'm not the guy that everybody laughs at anymore; I'm the guy who helps save the world. I fight at her side, I carve her stakes. I knock hellgods down with my mighty construction skills. I'm not as strong as she is, or as smart as Giles is, or talented with the magic like Will, but I could help.

Ever since she died, things went downhill for me. Sounds really self-absorbed, doesn't it? It hurt. She was one of my best friends, had been since she came to town. She helped me become me. An adult. Someone who can do things, who deserves respect.

But she was gone, and life went on. It was hard, but it went on. I had Anya, and that was something. Willow was still here, with Tara, nursing her pain over Buffy's death. I had my job—I got to tell people older than me what to do. Willow was still in school, but I had a career. When Willow said we'd bring Buffy back as soon as Giles left, I didn't want to. It wasn't right. I missed her, but she was gone. People don't come back.

You might thank it's kind of funny that I'd say that, what with my bringing her back a few years ago. The difference is that then she'd only been dead for a couple of minutes. She still was. She had…skin, and bone, and muscle, and all the things she didn't have when we brought her back last time. She was still human.

Is it wrong to think that everything started going to hell when we brought her back? She was happy, where she was. We were…not happy, but we were getting along. But Willow was so determined.

I think she felt guilty that when we went to fight Glory, she was more interested in helping Tara—restoring her—than saving Dawn. Because if she'd concentrated just on Dawn, then she never would have been cut. And Buffy never would have jumped.

Before, Will and Tara chanted and tossed dust on Glory and sent her to god knows where. But after that Willow attacked Glory, to get revenge, and she absorbed unbelievably dark magic from books Giles kept locked up. Locked away from customers, and away from Willow. She became more powerful than we ever thought she could be. I'd never say it to her—to anyone—but I know she could have done it, without being anywhere near Dawn. She could have said a few words, and clapped her hands, and zapped Dawn off that tower. But if she'd done that, it would have drained her power, and she wouldn't have been strong enough to restore Tara. And she wanted to help Dawn, but she wanted to help Tara more.

It's not that I blame her. She was trying to help the one she loved most. So was Buffy, when she said none of us could touch Dawn. Neither of them cared if the world was overrun by hellbeasts as long as the ones they loved were okay. Not really superhero behavior. It's okay, I understand. Like Buffy not staking Angel when she had the chance, before he killed Miss Calendar. I really do understand. That doesn't make it right.

So last year we brought Buffy back, and she was miserable, and slept with Spike. Giles left, and came back, and left again; Anya and I planned out our wedding, and we all know how well that one turned out; Anya became a demon again, and slept with Spike; Spike attacked Buffy, and she didn't dust him; Warren killed Tara and almost killed Buffy; and Willow tried to end the world.

So a fun year, all things considered. On the plus side, it wasn't all bad, right? We all went swing dancing at the Bronze, and that was nice. So the final score is bad things 52, good things 1.

I don't know who I was for most of the year. Whoever he was, he was very responsible. Engaged. Good job, nice apartment. He wasn't me. I was made to live in a basement and be a janitor. Or possibly a delivery man.

No, that's not who I am. That's the whole end-of-the-world, everything-going-to-hell thing talking. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow, because at this point Prozac is sounding good. Maybe Paxil. Something, at any rate.

It was Willow's doctor who suggested it. She's on…well, she's on a lot of things at the moment. I come to see her almost every day—it's like old times, almost. Just the two of us.

I haven't seen Anya in weeks, and I don't even want to anymore. Buffy's okay. Everybody's okay. I'm myself again. Not Mr. Responsible anymore, but I always felt like I was wearing someone else's clothes when I was him. But I helped. When the world was ending, I wasn't pushed to the side to get doughnuts and I wasn't doing something just to help myself.

I would have done it for the world, or just for Willow. I'll be seeing her in a few minutes. I don't really care for the waiting room, much, but I try to get here early, because I know she looks forward to it. It's the only thing she'd got now. She needs me the way she did when we were kids, when we didn't anyone else.

I like feeling needed. Maybe things haven't changed so much over the years after all.

The End