Title: "I'm not in love with you... Okay, maybe a little"
Written by: Shawn

Summary: Denial isn't just a river in Egypt. It's Buffy Summers middle name.

Category: Romance/Fluff/Humor Rated: PG-13 for suggestive language and sensual innuendo Couple: Buffy/Xander

Timeline/Spoilers: Everything's canon up to the BTVS finale "Chosen" except that Xander never lost his eye and Sunnydale wasn't destroyed. I will never think Xander losing his eye was anything other than a lame ass excuse to have something happen to him. It's stupid and will never, ever be a part of BtVS fanfic I write. For the purposes of this story Sunnydale took a major hit in "Chosen" but a year and a half later where this story picks up it's all repaired and highly livable.

My personal archive: http/groups. Joss owns it all. I just let them out to play once in a while.
Email: Notes 1: After a year globetrotting around the world picking up S.I.T's and helping to rebuild the Watchers Council, the Scooby Gang plus Faith relocated back to good ole Sunnydale. They've been back for six months at the beginning of this story.

Authors Notes 2: Six months ago Giles delivered some very unexpected news that is about to change every thing for the better. During the months that followed Buffy and Xander got a wee bit closer...

I was nauseous and tingly all over. I was either in love or I had smallpox.
Woody Allen

True love comes quietly, without banners or flashing lights. If you hear bells, get your ears checked.
Erich Segal

Cameron Memorial Cemetery 1800 Mocking Bird Lane Friday, November 15 2004 11:00 PM Sunnydale, Ca

"I make vampires go poof."

"That's one heck of a job description, Buff."

Walking alongside Xander as they rounded a cluster of unmarked graves, Buffy shrugged. "I got skills."

"You can't put 'I make vampires go poof' on your resume."

"It's the truth," she stated as if that were more than enough. "The sound a vampire makes when I dust him is very poof-like. It's poofy."

Ever captivated by the beauty walking with him, Xander could barely keep his eyes off of her tonight. Buffy looked good and she knew it. Furthermore, she knew he knew it.

"You are a very talented young woman, my height-challenged friend. You can do more than make vampires go poof."

"And I shall," While twirling a stake she hasn't had to use in a Sunnydale cemetery in months, Buffy came to a halt in front of him. It was time to share her decision with her best buddy whom she did not think of kissing often these days. No matter how handsome he looked every year he got older. "My days of flipping burgers, trying to solve teenagers problems, and kicking demon butt on various continents while being grossly underpaid are over."

Buffy crossed her arms; her head arched high to look into his eyes. "I have decided to go back to college."

"Whoa!" Xander took a tentative step backward, pretending to be shocked when he was pretty darn happy about her decision. "You and early morning classes don't mix."

"Yeah, well getting yelled at for adding tomatoes to a Double Meat Classic when the customer explicitly said he wanted no tomatoes goes a long way in changing a girls mind." They strolled over to a matching set of tombstone for a deceased married couple. He sat on one while she took the other. "And then dealing with some girls latest breakup and why her life is over while trying to stay awake in my office has made me realize I need a higher education so that I can do a job that does not drive me nuts."

Xander inhaled the cool night air. "So your minds made up?"

"It's made up, dressed, and ready to hit the town for a night of dinner and dancing. Come February 2005 I shall be attending Sunnydale University again, only this time I will stay the course and not drop out. I'm not only going to attend all my classes this time, I'm going to pay attention too."

"Is attention expensive?"

"It's fairly cheap these days."

"You're crazy."

"Oh, I know that," Buffy agreed under the stars, her hands resting in her lap. "I'm already dreading having to get up early for classes, and then listening to boring lectures that lead into mountains of homework, essays, and a general lack of sleep." She leaned against his shoulder a little. "I need to challenge myself again. I need to get used to a life that's removed from this so not cool one where I traipse through cemetery's late at night seeking out the undead."

Hearing her talk this way was almost more than Xander could have hoped for. It wasn't that he knew what was best for her life. But he did know she had far more to accomplish in the world than just killing vampires. "I build things. I get sent somewhere. Designs are handed to me. The crew knows who goes where and does what. We made jokes and eat junk food while building. Then I go home."

"That sure beats the hell out of hunting a pack of Raygon demons in a smelly sewer," she decided. "I envy you."

"Is that all?" His curious question hung whimsically in the air, a testament to the way things were between them these days. Flirting had become routine in recent months. There was more than that just below the surface. He just had to make her accept it.

Buffy graced him with a smile that lifted her lips. "The juries still out on that one." Their push and pull game of late has been more fun to her than she's willing to let him know about just yet. "So what do you think?"

"I think going back to college is insane. But seeing as how you're insane it makes perfectly good sense. The only question is what will you major in?"

"I'm undecided as of yet, but I will pick something before the month is out."

"How about stripping?"

"We're talking about a major for me and not a wet dream for you." He had the nerve to pout. She almost had the nerve to kiss it away. Then she remembered that thinking about kissing Xander was on her not-to-do New Years resolutions list. Dammit, she wished the New Year would hurry up already.

"I like your new life plan. It gets the Xander seal of approval."

"I figured since us old dogs are gonna be put out to pasture at the end of the year it's high time we looked forward instead of backward." Xander leaned over, invading her personal space and gave her a gentle elbow nudge. The gesture's meaning was quite clear. "You know what I mean."

"Education and not romance. Got it," he teased her while pretending to wipe a tear from his eye. She rolled her eyes next to him. "It's hard to believe that last week we probably had our last Hellmouthy-like mission."

"And to think it involved killing a four-armed demon in Kentucky that emitted crack smoke from the pours of it's skin."

Xander shuddered from the memory. "Hearing very a drug-high Willow yelling 'I'm Rick James Bitch!' to any and everyone she ran into will serve as one of the all-time great highlights of my life."

Buffy knew she would take the pictures she took of Willow on her camera phone to the grave with her. Again, if need be. "I still can't believe Dawn ate three boxes of donuts and an extra large bag of Doritos and then passed out in the hotel elevator."

"Faith took it all strangely in stride."

"She drew midget clowns all over the walls of her room. It was disturbing."

"You're one to talk, Buff." Xander would never let her live that night down. "You were laughing hysterically at the floor. You kept pointing at it in the hotel lobby and laughing your pretty little head off. The other guests thought you were having a nervous breakdown."

"That's a heck of a lot better than stripping naked and running around the block the way you did."

Xander lowered his head in shame, wishing none of that had ever happened. "I was singing that dumb 'Milkshake' song. I kept yelling that I could teach people, but I'd have to charge. The police officer that arrested me was a kind and compassionate man."

"When they brought you back to the hotel all naked and handcuffed... I peeked," Buffy confessed with her tongue firmly planted in cheek. "Perhaps that's what led to the unmentionable badness of a few days ago."

As his mind swept through a catalogue full of snaky replies to keep the flirtyiness going, Xander pushed them all aside. He confidently took Buffy's hand in his and rose to his feet. "Let's get out of here."

Surprise colored a blush over her cheeks, though she let it pass with a gentle squeeze of her hand. They walked through the rest of the cemetery in comfortable silence, enjoying the brisk fall weather while embracing that maybe just maybe things aren't the same way they used to be.

The 'event' that took place a couple of days ago served as evidence to one new aspect of their friendship, but friendship, at least in Buffy's mind, was all this was.

One very intimate, affectionate, trusting, and curiously sweet friendship.

Xander led Buffy through the empty, dimly lit parking lot past his car to hers, stopping only to lean against her passenger side door. He held her hand between them, linked in a way they've never been before. "I think we've pretty much repaired the train wreck that was our friendship, right?"

Not quite trusting her voice due to the adoring way he was staring at her, Buffy gave a nod in reply.

Having held this in long enough, Xander just blurted it out. "I wish you would pull my hair."

Titling her hair to the side as if she heard him wrong, Buffy commented, "Your hair's pretty short. There's not all that much to grab."

"Playground rules dictate that if a girl pulls a guys hair she likes him."

Buffy was sure he was kidding. "Uhm, Xander. It's the other way around."


"Guys pull girls hair and that's how they let the girls know they like them. That's canon for grades first through eighth."

"Dammit," he swore under his breath, exaggerated as ever. "That's why I never got the girls on the playground. I was waiting for them to pull my hair when I should have been pulling theirs."

"One day I'm going to lose you to a mental institution. And that's going to be a very sad day for me."

"Why? You won't be the one in the straight jacket."

Buffy gazed down at their joined hands as the feel of his touch wasn't an unpleasant one in the least. Far to many shared late night dinners, long phone conversations, and hanging out alone together created this new level of intimacy she's fought so hard to deny.

"So you want me to pull your hair?" Buffy recognized the expression on his face as 'Are you kidding?' How could he seem so at ease with this? Of the few times she's considered something happening between them in the past it was always with her being the aggressor and him stuttering and drooling a little. "Hair pulling is a big step forward, you know."

Having waited long enough, Xander finally asked, "Do you want to pull my hair?"

Before she could answer his hand tugged her closer, and then turned her around so that her back pressed to his chest. His free arm snaked around her slim waist in a snuggly hold that was far to snuggly to her. What was worse, she enjoyed the feel of being held by him far too much. He was cuddling her to him.

Despite the less than romantic atmosphere provided by the cemetery, Buffy felt something special for him. She intended to fight that tooth and nail. "I'm hungry."

"You're trying to change the question."

"Food will assist me in coming to a proper conclusion on whether or not I want to pull your hair."

"I like you."

"Do you like me or Winnie Cooper like-me like me?"

While holding her in his arms, Xander bent down to her ear. "We kissed."

Every day since 'the event' she's contemplated how he instinctively knew just the way she liked to be kissed. He made her toes curl and that shocked her because the idea that Xander could make her toes curl made her toes curl. "Our lips met, yes."

Being attracted to such a difficult woman made for quite the challenge. Xander was more than up to it. "I'm not afraid to tell you that I want you, Buff. And I'm not so insecure that if you say you don't want me back my world will end. I just want to see what might happen. Sure, dating would be an experiment that could blow up in our faces and ruin a decade plus of buddyiness. But what good is living life without taking a risk?"

Having enjoyed the luxurious feel of being held close to him long enough, Buffy needed some distance. She carefully pulled out of his embrace. She paused to collect herself and then turned around. "Blueberry pancakes."

"Is that French for 'I'm gonna jump your bones now'?"

"No silly." Though the jumping his bones part wasn't such a bad... Buffy had to shake the naughtiness clear from her mind. "I want to go to I.H.O.P. I want blueberry pancakes."

"So the International House of Pancakes will help you decide if you want to pull my hair or not?"

"And you're buying."

"Why is that?"

"Because I made you pancakes last time," she dared mention a moment associated with 'the event'. His eyes widened, so appreciative that she wasn't going to act as if 'the event' didn't happen.

"Those weren't pancakes, those were Olympic disks." Buffy shrugged, offering no defense of her cooking skills. "Can we finally discuss the night we made love?"

Buffy's eyes shut as soon as he finished the sentence. The feelings behind that deeply emotional night were still a blur to her. "We made friendship."

"No one makes friendship."

"We did."

"In the nude."

"It was very... friendly."

"We made love in my bed twice."

And it was so freaking good, which is yet another reason Buffy's so freaked out. "We made friendship in your bedroom twice. And it was very, very, very satisfying friendly."

She's not sane. He loves her but she is simply not sane. And the fact that he's less than sane as well only made the attraction greater. Alas, patience was needed in dealing with this particular Slayer.

Having wasted enough time in this cemetery, Xander backpedaled away from the car towards his own. This battle would continue. It just needed a new location. "I.H.O.P, right?"

"In ten minutes. You're buying."

"Any chance we can make friendship again tonight?"

Buffy smiled, and then slipped behind the wheel of her car.

I.H.O.P aka The International House of Pancakes 325 North Avenue Saturday, November 16 2004 12:20 AM Sunnydale, Ca

Darting her eyes around the mostly empty restaurant to make sure no one was staring, Buffy whispered, "Don't you dare point bacon at me."

Xander did indeed point the brown strip known as 'pancakes sidekick' at the slightly embarrassed vampire Slayer. "You are still stalling."

"I am not stalling." Her palm swept over her plate of blueberry pancakes, Mississippi sausage, and cheese eggs. "I'm just taking my time with my dinner."

"We came here to eat and talk, remember."

"I'm talking. Hear the verbiage leave my lips. Watch my mouth move while your ears pick up the sound. I am definitely talking." What she was doing was pressing his buttons. Frustrating the boy she liked and couldn't say she liked because when she liked boys bad things tended to happen. "Anyway, it's not polite to point your food."

Xander leaned over the table, still pointing the bacon strip at her. "It's also not right to 'friendship' a guy silly twice and then pretend it never happened."

Buffy snapped the strip from his hand and ate it in his face. When she expected him to glare he looked like he wanted to kiss her. Food theft was a Xander turn-on. She marked that in her mental rolodex. "I have not pretended that it didn't happen. I have simply avoided discussing it with you in any way, shape or form."

"You look like you actually think what you just said makes sense."

Cutting into another syrup drenched blueberry pancake, Buffy slowly bit the piece from the fork, and then curled her tongue slowly around a drop of sticky syrup. When a woman wanted to change the subject with a man from one she sought to avoid she needed only to arouse him. That hard swallow in the back of his throat wasn't because of his Southwestern omelet.

"That was evil. I'm talking First Evil kinda evil."

"It's a gift." Despite her flirty ploy Xander went back to eating with a hint of a smile curling his lips. He's got it so bad for Buffy and while she knows it, and even likes it, she wished she didn't have it so bad for him. Somehow over the years he's become this new guy. A guy she's fallen hard for.

Buffy's eyes blinked wide as that revelation dawned clear in her mind. It was soooooo past time to change the subject of them hooking up to something else entirely. "When I retire as a Slayer on January the 1st I should ask the Watchers Council for a whole new wardrobe. I have lost so many shoes, skirts, jackets, blouses, earrings, and watches over the years fighting the undead. They could at least give us some Wal-Mart gift certificates or something."

"Or a 50'inch HD-TV."

"50 inch?"


"So size matters?"

"When it comes to men and televisions, yes." Xander had long ago accepted that Buffy-tactic 101 was avoiding what she didn't want to discuss. He saw through it like something clear you can see through. What he can also see is that she's not fighting a fear of letting him down, but of letting him in. "This whole wacky aura the closed Hellmouth gives off is the best thing that could have ever happened to our neck of the woods."

"I know. Isn't it great? What once attracted demons and vamps now repelled them nearly out of the entire state of California. We haven't Slayed anything other than the weeds in my backyard since we returned to Sunnydale."

"Robin and Kennedy are kicking butt in Cleveland while the G-man is running the show in merry ole England. I shall root for them from afar."

"While we get to retire." Buffy held her orange juice filled glass over the table.

Xander toasted his glass against hers. "To retirement. May it last forever." When Buffy sat her glass down she reached over and stole one of his hash browns. He watched her eat it. Why in the hell did that turn him on?

While eating the hash brown, Buffy wondered why in the hell that seemed to turn him on? She adored such a quirky man. "So, the other day I had a talk with Faith and she mentioned you."

"Whatever did my ex-con turned law abiding poker buddy have to say about moi?"

Buffy wiped her mouth with a paper towel while remembering her conversation with Sunnydale's other Slayer. Her mood downshifted pretty fast. "She asked me if you were seeing anyone."

Interesting indeed. Xander casually ate while mentally back flipping over that little hint of jealousy in her voice. "Why would she ask you that?" Buffy shrugged while staring at him, trying to gauge his reaction. He used his best secretive smile just to... and there it was. Buffy-Scowl 104. He now had the power to make her scowl over the attentions of another woman. She was so close to giving in and then they'd be friendshipping all the time.

He continued to smile.

She continued to scowl.

"What did you tell her?"

"The truth," Buffy practically barked. His grin was seriously pissing her off. "That you were single." She added bitterly after a moment, "I think she wants to use you for sex."

Xander looked up, eyes wide. "Hello!"

"You jerk."

"So make me not single," he challenged her point blank. "You can do that right here and now." Squinting his eyes in his best Clint Eastwood impression, he added, "Go ahead. Make my day."

How was he always able to make her smile when she didn't want to? How could he always keep her interested and laughing? How did he effortlessly make her feel like she was so special to him? "Xander..."

The clank of his fork hitting the plate only illuminated his mounting frustration. "You're still avoiding this."

"What is 'this'?"


Disappointing him was the last thing Buffy wanted to do. Summoning up her emotional courage, she at least had to make him understand where she was coming from. "My love life reads like some crazy story a nut job writer wrote about a girl he likes to torture in the most ridiculously painful ways possible."

"And mine is a Harlequin Romance novel?"

"You read those, don't you?"


Lifting her hands in defeat, she continued on topic. "The first man I fell in love with was a vampire. The first time I had sex the guy turned evil and started killing people. A couple of my dates have tried to kill me. I sent that first guy I loved to hell. I had a stupid one-night stand in college with a jerk who treated me like crap. In my infinite wisdom I ditched the bad boy vibe for the nice guy possibility, who in turn allowed himself to become a blood whore for skanky female vampires. And then instead of working his tail off to make it up to me he left me behind for a jungle full of demons as I chased after his helicopter like an idiot. Now I know I wasn't perfect to Riley and I had my issues, but I never cheated on him."

"No one has dated more people that have tried to kill them than me, Buff. Not unless they are in prison and date there. Even then I doubt their big male lover ever turned into a giant insect."

"We're talking about me and my issues." Xander gave her the floor. "So in the same year I lose my mother, die, get resurrected, and then start having sex with Spike to numb myself so that I didn't have to face what had happened to me or deal with the hardships of life. I used him like he was nothing and then tossed him aside when I found my bearings again. After that I was too busy to date until the Immortal for a short time. And when he told me three months into our relationship that it took him two thousand years to realize he was gay I knew right then and there I had no business entering into romantic relationships."

"I left Anya at the alter."

"I sent Angel to hell, not Six Flags Great America Amusement Park. I'm talking fiery, smoky, depths of despair hell," she pleaded for him to understand. "When I break up with a guy that connection is broken for good. I usually don't see him for a couple of years, and then when I do it's for a short period of time and it's always awkward."

"Can I please get a summary?"

"I suck at relationships. And I mean capital S.U.C.K suck at them."

Xander smiled to himself. They were so wonderfully screwed up. "No you don't. No more than I do. You just haven't met the right person until now. He's sitting right across from you."

How far had the boy who nervously asked her out for a date in high school come to be able to say that to her now? At what point did she fail to see he'd become a man who wasn't afraid of her or rejection?

"Do you want to be with me?"

Finally, he asked the big one. The full on question without any wiggle room or trademark humor. Buffy ducked away from him, sighing to herself while trying to sort out her true feelings. Deep down she knew what they were. You can lie to everyone in the world, but not yourself. "Kinda sorta."

Xander could only laugh. He ate his remaining hash brown while shaking his head. "You're priceless."

He's exasperated with her. Buffy couldn't blame him. "The best case scenario for us is we hook up, date a couple of months, 'friendship' our brains out, break up for whatever reason that always creeps up in my relationships, and then you go away. You'll leave me like every other man has and never come back."

"And that's your best case scenario?" Her expression said yes. "What's your worse?"

"Well, I sent a guy I dated to hell once."

"So if we don't work out I get the ole heave-ho to another dimension."

"It's not like I'm planning on it." Buffy knew she was pushing him further away, even when that wasn't what she wanted. What shot out of her mouth next only underscored her warped view of relationships. "So, until I fall in love with someone else you can't date anyone."

Blinking wasn't an option when the absurd was heard. "What kind of insane clown logic is that? Were you raised in the Twilight Zone?"

Good. He hadn't picked up on her slip of the tongue. Buffy could breathe again. "I don't think I would be in favor of you dating anyone else right now."

"But you won't date me?"

"We're talking about you here." There. That sounded rational. Buffy nodded. Xander stared. That stare had to mean he agreed, she hoped. She smiled. He didn't. "I'm trying my best to explain this to you."

Pushing his plate aside, Xander reached across the table for her hand, taking it in his own. "Do you value having me in your life?"

"Yes, of course."

"Do you think I'm a good guy?"


"Do I make you laugh?"


"Are you attracted to me?"

Deep breath time. "Yes."

"Do you enjoy my personality?"


"Do you feel like you can count on me?"


"Do you like the way I kiss?"

"... yes," she spoke softly.

"When I made love to you, was it good?"

"Absolutely," she smiled.

"And the second time?"

"Was even better than the first."

"Then explain to me why we can't date?"

When her eyes met his she saw such hope for them. Xander made his case. Buffy couldn't deny that. Nor would he ever understand why she needed to keep him close, but not too close, no matter what her heart wished for.

Buffy just had to say it before she lost her nerve. "I might need your friendship more than I want your love."

Damn... She just wasn't going to give them a chance. How could he argue with her when he had laid it all on the line already? Xander saw no reason in beating a dead horse. If she didn't want to give them a chance, even denying what he could see in her eyes, he wasn't going to beg. Begging women wasn't what he did anymore.

So he nodded politely, choked back the hurt, finished his meal in silence, and then said. "I'll back off."

It was both what Buffy wanted and the very last thing she needed. She had hurt him... again. Only his time she was hurt as well. And confused over so many conflicting emotions. However could they make it work when neither of them had much luck in love? Especially when their friendship was rock-solid again.

Suddenly, Buffy had to know the answer to the eternal question.

"Are you in love with me?"

Xander never looked up. He dipped inside his wallet to slip a ten-dollar bill under his glass for the tip. He stood from his chair, grabbed the check and his jacket. "If you have to ask that, it says a lot."

With a heavy heart Buffy watched him walk around the tables to the cashier. He paid for the bill, and without looking back one time left the restaurant... and her, behind.

Xander's apartment 1200 Western Avenue Saturday, November 16 2004 1:20 AM Sunnydale, Ca

"I will not listen to you," Xander emphatically told the offending country western CD he held in his hand. Parked in front of his apartment building, he had gone through his car CD collection and found the disk he made. It was filled with some of the most depressing 'I just lost my job, my dog died, my car broke down, my mother has cancer, my brother's sleeping with my wife and the kid ain't mine' music compiled anywhere on Earth.

He was in that sort of mood.

It's after 1:00 AM in the morning and here he was sitting behind the wheel of his car waiting for the woman he loved, who was parked four cars down from him, to finally get out of her car, come over and apologize, and then suggest they 'friendship' like bunnies all weekend long. But it seemed Buffy would rather risk carbon monoxide poisoning then get out of her car and tell him what they both knew. That she loved him as much as he loved her.

With a frustrated shake of his head, Xander shoved the CD back in its case. His eyes darted towards Buffy's car again. Her lights were still on. The cell phone inside his jacket hadn't gone off once since he left I.H.O.P or on the drive home. He's been sitting outside for 15 freaking minutes waiting for the strangest woman in the world to get over her issues and give him permission to love her. Unfortunately, she's the most bullheaded woman on the face of this planet.

If only he didn't love her so much.

That one insanity-inducing emotion snuck up on Xander suddenly like a Bradgelina paparazzi stalker. Post the Hellmouth's big swan dive the Scooby's were all tight again, having rebuilt their fractured friendships over the year they spent together touring most of the United States and Europe in search of super-powered women. They had all the little and big talks needed to air out all their arguments and when the decision to return to Sunnydale was made, the Scooby's made it as a group. The family wanted to stick together.

From the moment they returned to a vampire/demon/Armageddon-less Sunnydale it dawned on them that their lives would never be the same again. Without all the Hellmouthy weirdness they were just a group of young people needing to make a life for themselves. With the overwhelming burden of Slaying and assisting the Slaying out of the way, they had to adjust to finding their place in the world.

For Xander and Buffy, they just started hanging out more and more and more for whatever reason. Something began to click that hadn't before. Some switch was flipped and they weren't the same people who left Sunnydale a year earlier.

Xander's old feelings for Buffy hadn't returned. He developed all shiny new ones that kept him awake at night. What was wacky though was that he could tell, and it took him months to accept he wasn't seeing things in a town people used to see weird things in all the time, that she had shiny new feelings for him too. Romantic feelings. Feelings that saw them coming close to kissing more than a few times before they actually gave into it. She simply wanted to be around him more than anyone else. She enjoyed his company as much as he enjoyed hers.

All of a sudden they had chemistry. And once Buffy realized that she ran from it. Thus tonight...

Unlocking his seat belt, Xander pulled his keys from the ignition. He sat there for a long while contemplating this amazingly complicated woman.

Buffy is so beautiful, but that's only a small part of who she was. Her sexual magnetism was a given. She was courageous in a way he had seen few people sincerely live their life. She's so quirky he can't believe it sometimes. She's more affectionate when she's not around a lot of people and alone with him. She's kinda shy around strangers. She drives him nuts, and yet he knows her deep, dark well-hidden secret.

Buffy Anne Summers is vulnerable.

She can and has been hurt many times, often by those that claim to love her. It may have begun with her father, but the list didn't stop there. She's afraid of giving too much of herself due to it always blowing up in her face. That's her problem now, as she sat alone in her car as he did in his.

Pushing past his thoughts, Xander finally had enough. He knows can't force her to do something she just doesn't want to do. So to that end this night was over. He tried. It was time to move on.

He slammed his car door shut loud enough for her to hear it and then took the eight steps up to his front porch two at a time. He paused to listen for her... nothing. Whatever. He entered the building with purpose, his destination the elevator that would take him to his twelfth floor apartment.

When the elevator doors shut Xander knew it was time to screw his head on straight.

He drove a damn nice looking car, had a killer apartment, and made good money at his job. Having caught more than a few appreciative looks from attractive women, he knew he wasn't the Elephant Man by any means. He knew he'd find romance and love from other girls.

"Time to get back on the horse," Xander said out loud to himself, and then vowed to not make a habit of talking to himself out loud and to get back on the girl hunt. He was determined not to let tonight deter him. He had plenty to offer a beautiful woman and he knew it.

Xander could be a player; he nodded rather than said out loud. He could do the ladies man thing. He had savwafair even if he couldn't spell it or fully knew what it meant. It had something to do with cool, and cool he was. No woman had ever complained about his prowess in the bedroom. And since his first time was in a hotel room, he seeks not to count it. Anya called him a 'Viking in the sack'. Not a Hobbit. Not a Smurf. No, he was called a big and tough Viking. A sea faring, ship plundering, wench stealing, ale drinking, land conquering Sex-God of a Viking!

"I am a 'Sex-God Viking' dammit!" Xander puffed his chest out, ready to take on the world.

The elevator door opened. Xander proudly strolled out into the darkened hallway. He reached his apartment, produced his key and let himself in...

... only to hear some strange rattling noises coming from his living room. He quietly shut the door, and then reached inside the closet next to it for his trusty 'Intruder Bat.' With the weapon in hand he crept around a corner into his living room. What he saw made him lower the bat and laugh, "Do you do anything normal?"

Exhaling a raspy huff, Buffy drug her left leg out of his window and then shut it behind her. She brushed his curtains aside. "That's no way to say hello."

"I was about to ask if you were going to steal my TV."

With her back to the window, Buffy nervously chewed on her bottom lip. "If I was going to rob you I'd take your computer. It's much better than mine. My Emachines sucks."

With curiosity killing the cat, Xander took a couple of steps toward to her. "How did you get in here?"

Glancing over her shoulder, Buffy looked back to him with a weak smile on her face. "I broke the latch on your window after taking the fire escape."

"You took the fire escape up twelve flights of stairs?"

"I was highly motivated."

Standing in the dark with her, Xander hoped her intention all along wasn't to drive him crazy. Like really crazy. Like straightjacket and happy pills every morning crazy. "What do you want?"

Following Xander home after he left the restaurant was either the smartest or dumbest thing Buffy had ever done. And she knew that was saying a whole lot considering her life thus far. Whatever it was that stirred inside her when he left his car forced her into action. She just had to be here. She knew something very special was within reach if she could just take it.

Buffy summoned the nerve to approach to Xander. She stood face to face with him now, took a deep breath, and confessed, "Of course I know you're in love with me." She shoved her trembling hands in her jacket pockets. His reaction was well guarded so far. "I... I super scary unmentionable you too."

"Super scary unmentionable?" Xander just knew Buffy's true gift had to be her uncanny ability to appear normal when she was anything but. "At some point you're going to have to make some sense?"

Inspiration struck Buffy, who quickly dove in her purse and produced a couple of quarters in the palm of her hand. She smiled really wide. He didn't.

"Not funny."

"I had to take a shot."

Inside Xander's head he thought it was pretty funny. He was high-fiving her for her cleverness. But he was still a little bit heartbroken. She had to fix that, but he wasn't going to make it easy on her. "So you super scary unmentionable me?"


"And we made friendship, not love?"


"And I can't date anyone until you fall in love with someone else?"


"Someone else, huh?" Xander smirked triumphantly. Ha! Double Ha! She thought that comment flew right over his head. Well only planes fly over Alexander Harris's head. Not important things like that. At least not too often. Her enjoyed watching her squirm. "Gotcha."

Admitting defeat here would probably lead to smooches and plenty of 'friendshipmaking'. Unfortunately for men, Buffy just couldn't give up that easy. She stood tall; her arms crossed her chest, and accused him with seriously accusing eyes. "You seduced me."

Xander shook his head from side to side and even wagged his finger in front of her all Diva-like. "Oh no, my dear. I did not seduce you. You were the one who stayed here late watching TV with me, and got so sleepy you didn't want to drive home. If anything I was cordial."

"You kept pouring me drinks!" Buffy pointed out.

"It was Dr. Pepper!"

"It was spiked!" He glared. That was a bad choice of words, Buffy mentally berated herself. Spi-anything wasn't to be used in his presence. "You had all my favorite snacks and we watched all my favorite funny movies. You seduced me with humor and snacks. We had a three-way with Little Debbie cupcakes."

Xander figured that someday God would get around to sending him a sane woman. That day was not today. "You were supposed to sleep on the couch." His grin defied her to deny what he said next. "It wasn't me who.. ahem, 'sleepwalked' into my bedroom in her undershirt and panties."

As the memories of that incredible night came back to her, Buffy still didn't know what she thinking when she walked into his bedroom? While watching movies that night they cuddled on the couch with her head lying on his shoulder and his arms wrapped around her. Being so close to him messed up her head and... and... dammit, she wanted him. He looked handsome and he made her laugh and he smelled good and he told her she was beautiful. "You... you pulled back the covers."

The doubt that 'sleepwalked' in her voice told Xander she was slowly weakening. He towered over her and with a piercing stare held her captive. "You crawled in next to me," he reminded her.

"You reached for me." Buffy recalled how aroused the feel of his warm skin against hers left her shivering in his strong arms. She could barely look at him now that he knew her so intimately.

"You took my shirt off."

"You kissed my fingers," she smiled, shy all of a sudden. "You undressed me."

"You kissed me first."

"You slipped me the tongue."

Xander lifted his hands to her face, forcing her to look at him. "We made love, Buffy." When she tried to avert her gaze he gently held her in place. "We rolled around my bed while engaging in all sorts of naked circus theatrics."

Her smiled revealed all her white teeth. "Naked circus theatrics?"

"It sounds a whole lot sexier than 'friendship'." The softening expression falling over her lovely face eased his heartache. She was allowing him the privilege to touch her. She's finally letting him in. He felt it was time to go for it all.

"I love you, Buffy."

He meant it. He truly did. That made his beautiful words all the more special to her.

Not willing to face the hurt on his face, Buffy stepped away from him, turning around with her arms wrapped around herself. She swallowed hard, nearly choking on her emotions. "I'm scared."

"You don't have to be scared of me."

"I'm not," Buffy pleaded for him to understand with tears moistening her eyes. "I'm afraid of my track record, Xander. I'm scared of getting my hopes up again. I'm scared of being hurt by love." She began pacing the living room. He followed close behind. "My father wanted no part of my life when my mother divorced him. I needed him in my life. He just didn't want to be there."

Buffy continued, "Angel left me for my own good, only he made that decision. I never did. He removed himself from my life. I didn't have a say in the matter. Then Riley cheated on me and left. He never came back to me. I begged him to stay. I called him. I wrote letters. He was done with me, Xander."

Holding his peace, Xander gave her the space she needed. He listened closely to everything she said, and everything she didn't.

"Giles left town and never once asked me if I wanted him too. He never asked if I needed him to stay." She wiped a lone tear from her cheek with the back of her hand. "Do you know what they all had in common?"

"Aside from none of them being me?"

"They all said they loved me too. They swore it in one way or another and then left. Not one of them cared if I wanted them to go or needed them to stay. My opinion didn't count. So pardon me if I'm terrified of losing you too."

"It's not written in stone if we date that you will lose me."

"Maybe I don't want to take the risk."

"Even though you love me?"

"Yes." Buffy's tense confession tore at her heart. "For crying out loud, I dated an Immortal who was over two thousand years old. We went out for three months and I had a blast. It was fun and exciting. Then he wakes up one morning and realizes that despite dating the girl allot of guys say is beautiful and sexy he wants PENIS!"

"Did you have to yell the word penis?" Xander winced.

"I needed to emphasize that." Buffy nodded. "I'm relationship poison."

"No, you're just living in the past. And I know a whole lot about that."

"Can't you see why I can't risk this?" Buffy felt him close in behind her, and then take her in his arms. She leaned into him, nestled against his larger frame, and felt his chin rest atop her head. "You are one of the most important people in my life. We have an amazing friendship. Risking that could end what we have."

"We could have so much more." Xander turned her around, gazing down into her moody hazel eyes. "Life is about risk. You know that more than anyone else. I'm afraid that I won't be enough for you. I'm afraid that I don't have that darkness inside me that will keep you interested. I'm afraid that at the end of the day I'm just too normal for you."

"You're wonderful. I'm crazy."

"I'm in love with you."

"Don't you think that's crazy?"

"Are you calling me crazy too?"


"Then if I'm crazy and you're crazy wouldn't it be crazy if we weren't crazy together."

"Why must you confuse me with things like logic and sincerity?"

"No woman has ever said that to me before." Buffy smiled that lovely smile of hers. The one that lit up her whole face and made his day better. She embraced him tightly. Her faced buried in his chest. His arms embraced her in such a protective way. "I'm not afraid to try, Buff."

The year was 2004 and not 1997. Buffy knew they weren't in high school anymore. She wasn't a Slayer and he wasn't just another teenage boy. Things change over time. That's how life works. Nothing stays the same. Neither do people. And while taking a chance with her very best friend is terrifying to her, she feared what she might be missing out on even more.

Lifting her face from his chest, Buffy made peace with the desires of her heart. When all of the men that had fallen in love with her the past wanted her on their terms, Xander simply wanted her. He never told her who she was, where she belonged, or what she could never run from. He never took choices away from her. He never asked for what he couldn't give. And she loved everything he gave her.

Who was this man holding her?

His name is Xander.

He's won her heart.

"Can I pull your hair?"

Exhaling the long breath he held while she did all her mental thinking over things, Xander felt high like he did that night he inhaled the crack smoke seeping out of that demon in Kentucky. Only, he wasn't going to run around the block naked. "You said it's pretty short."

"It's a good thing I have small fingers." Buffy reached for his hair, as much of it as she could grab onto, and yanked him down to her lips, finally kissing away all her fears. They held on as their lips caressed for the longest time, enjoying the natural evolution of their relationship into so much more.

"So..." Xander whispered while pecking small kisses over her lips. "What's next?"

"Well," she softly kissed him again and again. "I think we should 'friendship' like crazy all weekend long."

Xander scooped her up off the floor in his arms. "Are you in love with me yet?"

"Nope," she lied against his lips with another kiss as he carried her towards his bedroom. "Okay, maybe a little."

The End