Fury by SLynn

Chapter 20: Aftermath

Won't it be dull when we rid ourselves
Of all these demons haunting us
To keep us company

Won't it be odd to be happy like we
Always thought we're supposed to feel
But never seem to be

Barenaked Ladies, "War on Drugs"

In the end he had survived, but now he wasn't sure how to live.

Xander wasn't sure what he was supposed to do at all. He had no idea what to say, how to act, what to feel even. Aside from knowing, really knowing it was over at last, nothing else seemed certain.

Willow's father, he soon found, had been the acting executer of his parent's wills. While the case surrounding their deaths remained open, Xander wasn't considered by local police to be a suspect. In a town use to strange occurrences, this was just one more. Not that that helped him any. He almost wanted to be thrown in jail even though he now knew it was completely out of his hands and Constance really was to blame. Knowing that however didn't make him feel any less guilty.

The house, surprisingly or not left to his uncle Rory, was sold. Xander found that after all of this, when he could once more try for a relatively normal life on top of a hellmouth, he had no where to go. Not even a basement which had been bad enough. Of course, that's not to say he wasn't without friends. Everyone had offered to take him in. Joyce, Giles, Willow and Tara, even Willow's parents, but in the end he choose Giles. Without knowing why, Buffy found herself disappointed.

Xander worked very hard at putting it all behind him. He started by getting a job. Of course in reality, he didn't so much as find a job as a job found him. Giles not long after the whole thing was behind them began to think of reopening the Magic Box. Xander took hold of the idea with zeal and worked non-stop in the restoration. He showed even more enthusiasm then Anya once had. Giles was rather impressed.

And it wasn't the only thing he showed renewed interest in. He really struggled to be there for his friends again. Threw himself back into their lives almost, but only vicariously. He didn't really live it with them. Xander listened and interacted, but it was all very forced on his behalf. He wasn't out there experiencing anything for himself. Not yet at least.

Over the next few weeks he slowly began to look and act like his old self, but it wasn't the same. Thanks mainly to Joyce he regained some of the weight he'd lost and owing entirely to Dawn a part of his humor. But Buffy couldn't help but notice that all of the changes seemed superficial. He looked better, acted normal, was as much involved with them as he'd been previously, but it all felt false.

But maybe she only felt that way because of how he treated her.

Xander had begun, almost immediately after the end of the whole incident, to treat Buffy like a stranger. There was no better word for it. No better description. He wasn't mean to her, didn't ignore her or avoid her, but he didn't talk to her either. Not if he didn't have to. He had just shut her out and it hurt.

She couldn't imagine why and finally, after weeks of this kind of cold treatment, she couldn't take it anymore.

Finding him alone at the Magic Box was hardly a surprise since Giles was out of town for the next few days to gather inventory. He'd obviously left Xander in charge and since they were due to reopen in another week, Xander decided to work late.

"Hey," he said as she came in through the back, "How was the patrol?"

"Not bad," she answered coming over to where he was building a new shelf, "How's this thing going?"

"Not bad," he echoed without really looking up.

A moment of awkward silence followed.

"When is Giles coming back?" she asked, not sure what else to say.

"Tomorrow afternoon. He called tonight to see how things were going. He shouldn't have any problem opening on Monday as planned."

"That's great."

Again, silence. This was what it was like between them now. She'd ask questions which he'd answer, but never volunteer information on his own. Never start a conversation with her if he didn't have too.

"So," she blurted out, "are we ever going to talk about this?"

"About what?"

"Don't do that," she said somewhat angry, "Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about."

"Buffy," Xander he answered in an equally agitated voice, "What is it you want me to say?"

"I want you to tell me what's going on. I want you to talk to me again Xander. You're letting everyone else back in, why not me?"

"Buffy, you were never left out," he tried explaining. "You know things that they don't, that I can't even begin to tell them. It's harder with you because of that."

"Why is it harder? Xander I'm not trying to hurt you, I just want to know how I could go from being the only person you wanted around to meaning nothing to you that quickly."

"That's not true," he said flatly.

"No," she countered growing irritated, "It is. You're pushing me away like I don't mean anything. I did go through this with you Xander, I thought that might make it easier for you to talk to me about it."

"It doesn't. It just doesn't Buffy. And I'm just not ready to deal with it, alright?" he blurted out, "You are a whole separate issue then this, and I'm not through this yet. I can't handle it all at once. I'm having a hard enough time just with this."

"I don't know what you mean? How am I different? How am I separate from the rest of it?"

"Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about," he said matching her earlier tone exactly.

She just continued to stare at him, dumbfounded.

"You were in my head Buff," he started to explain more quietly, "You have to know."

And suddenly Buffy did know. It wasn't about how he didn't need her anymore; it was about how he did.

"I didn't think," she offered.

"It's alright, it's not like I expect anything to be different between us now. I just need some time to get over it is all."

"Oh," was all she said.

"I'm not trying to make this weird," he continued figuring it was just best to get it all out now, "I'm just trying to make this easier on both of us. I just need some time and things will be back like they were before."

She nodded but not really in agreement.

"I guess I'm just trying to tell you that I'm not going to start following you around like some love-sick puppy or anything. I'm not going to get jealous or moody or anything like that if you start dating some guy. This is my problem and I can handle it. I can be an adult about it."

Her complete unresponsiveness was beginning to make him nervous.

"I just want us to be friends again. I don't expect anything more and I'm not even going to even try," he continued not really convincing either of them.

She still didn't know what to say to any of this. Didn't know what she felt herself while he continued deciding for the both of them.

"So that's it," he finished flatly but with sincere emotion, "I love you and I... I can't believe I'm saying any of this."

He turned away and started quickly towards the back room, Buffy fast on his heals.

"Wait Xander," she said catching him by the arm, "How do you... how can you just assume..."

It was the closest they'd been in weeks and Xander, feeling all the awkwardness of it, took a few steps back. But that didn't deter Buffy. She let her grip on his arm slip to his hand and continued to demand his attention.

"Buffy," he said looking down towards his feet, any where but at her, "we're well past that. I've always known how you've felt about me, and I don't expect that to change. We've been friends now for too long."

"Maybe I don't want to be friends anymore," she countered, moving in a bit closer to him carefully avoiding his eyes.

"Um," was all he managed as he too moved a bit closer, "I just really don't know what I'd do if you and I can't..."

"Can't what?" she finally looking up at him.

"If this doesn't..." he tried to say, but couldn't finish as he looked into her eyes.

After years of dreaming about, wishing for it, and imagining it, it finally happened. Xander Harris kissed Buffy Summers.

And she kissed him back.

"I... uh..." he stammered taking a few steps away and a deep breath, but not letting go of her hand.

It was the first real smile she'd seen on his face in a long time. Involuntarily she laughed. She couldn't help it. She was so happy.

"Okay, ouch," he replied to the sound, but she knew he wasn't serious about it.

"No," she said smiling herself, "I'm not laughing at this. I'm happy."

"Happy we...."

"Kissed?" she finished, "Yes. Very."

"I am too."

"Good," she said nodding her head and feeling very self-conscious. "So no more avoiding me?"

"No," he said equally ill at ease, "No that I can assure you will not be happening."

There was another awkward moment. Neither knew what to do next.

"You're really..." he started, "I mean, you and me, really?"

"Yeah," she said smiling up at him, "I think so. You and me."

"Okay then," he answered stepping closer to her again.

"Okay," she echoed his answer and his movement, "Are you going to kiss me again?"

"I was thinking about it," he said as he wrapped his arms around her waist.

"So was I."

The End

A/N – Finally it is done! Couple of notes here and thanks to all whom have read and reviewed!

I can not believe it took nearly a year to write this story! I'm relived it's done but also kind of sad. I've always felt that this would be a three story arc, but now I'm having such second thoughts I might continue on with it, but not any time soon. I've learned my lesson. Next time I will be much more organized.

Mostly I struggled with this story because I knew where it was going (most of the time) but didn't know how I was going to get there. Another huge struggle with 'Fury' was, almost from the beginning the ending was not going to be happy. At one point I was the closest I've ever been to killing off my favorite character Xander. This whole thing was originally, no kidding, going to end with Willow killing Xander and then finding out it was suppose to be Zothos. But I couldn't do it. And as soon as I knew I couldn't I knew Constance was going to be the one to in fact save the day.

Enough of that. If I do write a fourth, and again it will be a while since I'm long over due for a Firefly fic stuck in my head, it will very likely deal with the true aftermath of this event, Buffy and Xander's new relationship and probably a new big bad. I love Constance as only I can, but it's time to move on.

Thanks again to all the reviewers: eckles, Aurora Snowstorm == you both have kept me writing and helped me get over that dark patch. katrine, Calen (thanks for reminding me to putting some backbone back into Xander), Shpadoinkle, The Lost Slayer, Lady Moiraine, salvery, liptornm, David, hipchick, Louise, Randall Flagg, Brandywine421, danuamo, and Brooke1. I've read every review and really appreciate them all and do take your messages to heart!

Whew – okay this is starting to sound like an Oscar speech. Thanks again for reading. I hope it hasn't been a disappointment.