The gentle rain of California winter cascaded across the sky and onto the earth. The sun had just set beyond the sea and the wind blew slightly, the air chilly enough to require a heavy coat. Xander stood underneath the awning just outside the hospital doors, cupping his hands to his mouth and breathing onto them. He leaned close enough to the building to keep from getting wet. The last few days had been a blur to him. He had flashbacks of the sea. The ice cold chill running so deep inside he thought he might simply freeze to death floating out in the watery abyss. The winter breeze seemed like nothing compared to it, but still he blew into his hands to keep warm. He inhaled the odd stale scent of wet concrete and smiled to himself. He was alive. He had never felt more alive than he did at this moment. The small black box he twirled inside his pocket helped fuel the thrill of life.
He stood watching her through the thick paned glass of the hospital doors. He longed to run inside and pick her up in his arms and twirl her around until they both collapsed from dizziness, but some part of him was oddly content watching her inside. She sat at the desk mulling over paperwork scattered all around her. He assumed it was an inventory list of the entire hospital's supplies. He felt his lips stretch into a smile at the sight of her. For the last four days he sailed on a cargo ship bound for the mainland just to get here. To see her. Four days of scenarios in which to ask her. Four days of anticipation, apprehension, and excitement. The last twenty-four hours had been the worst. His body practically screaming with the need to see and be near her. He thought it funny that after all of that he stood outside watching, afraid to go in.
His breath caught in his throat when she looked up at the doors for a moment. It only released when it seemed as if she hadn't seen him and continued with her work. She seemed like a wondrous jewel in a window display, lit up underneath the hall lights, her beauty causing her to shine. His hands shook slightly, nerves bundling inside his stomach. He placed a palm on the glass, looking on as Willow approached Buffy and the two of them appearing to be chatting away. His eyes closed as he took a deep breath.
"You came back for her," he thought. "She was the cause of the light that guided you home."
He knew he would have died if he had never made the promise to return to her. All his love and devotion to her so focused at this moment. He was home. He was alive. He was going to be with her again. She was more than the world to him. She was life. Images of them together flashed through his mind. A love so pure he knew it couldn't possibly exist outside of fairy tales. His fists clenched together at the well of emotion brewing inside.
He thought of what he had said to Commander Giles upon returning to Hawaii. He had told, not asked, told him that he had to go back to the mainland. He had to see Buffy. The promise of getting back to her is what kept him alive. Giles reluctantly allowed it. Xander was most grateful and had to keep himself from hugging his commanding officer.
He took off his hat, ran a hand through his hair, took another deep breathe. He pushed open the door and stepped inside.
Buffy's head turned upward at the creak of the front door and her heart skipped a beat at the sight of the shape of a man making it's way toward her. A shape she had burned into her memory. Her pencil clattered to the floor as it got closer, the sound of its shoes against the tile echoing through the halls. Her hands shook and her breath came in short rapid bursts.
"Buffy?" Willow asked, not seeing or hearing the man approaching. "Are you all right?"
"Xander," Buffy said in a voice barely above a whisper.
"What about him?" Willow inquired. "Did you forget to write?"
No words could come as he came into view. The smile on his face causing tears to run down her cheeks. She knew she wasn't imagining this no matter how many times she had before. He was here. He was real. She jumped from her seat and rounded the desk at top speed, nearly knocking Willow over. Catapulting herself into Xander's arms and almost toppling them to the ground.
"Xander," she said in a dream like tone. "You're really here."
He kissed her gently, her lips matching perfectly with his own. She actually giggled, she felt so giddy. He lowered her to her feet, their eyes never wavering from each other. Her hand slowly ran down his chest, over his shoulders, the feel of reassuring her of his presence. She threw her arms around his neck, burying her head against him.
"I think I'll leave you two alone," Willow said.
They didn't hear her. They stood with their arms wrapped around each other lost in their own world.
"Okay," Willow said shyly. "Leaving now."
"How?" Buffy asked after a content silence.
"I told Commander Giles I had to come back," he replied.
"He just let you go?" She questioned with disbelief.
"Not exactly," he replied. "The circumstances were a little uh, understandable to him I guess."
"What do you mean circumstances?"
"Here," he said pulling her to the chairs next to the elevator down the hall. "You should sit down for this."
Tears dripped down her cheeks as Xander told her the story. Being shot down in the middle of the Pacific, keeping afloat on the remains of his plane. Dreaming of her the whole time. She leaned into his shoulder and she spoke, her arms wound around him, keeping a firm hold. With all he was telling her she had to keep telling herself he was here.
"You could have died," she said softly.
"But I didn't."
"You could have..."
"Hey," he said, gently lifting her chin and making him face her. "I could have died yes, god that water was so cold, I could have just rolled over and given up..."
More tears spilled as he spoke to her, she couldn't help them from falling.
"But I didn't die," he said. "All I thought about, all I wanted, was to come back to you. I don't break my promises Buffy. I promised I'd come back and I'm here."
He kissed her forehead.
"I'm here and I'm not going to let anything like that ever happen again."
"How can you be so sure?" She asked.
"The powers that be," he said simply. "They brought me back to you once, what's to stop them from doing it again?"
She didn't know whether to laugh or cry more. Instead she just buried her head between his head and his shoulder, squeezing herself as close as she could get.
"I missed you," she said. "God, I missed you so much..."
"I missed you too. And I'm here now. We're together..."
He slowly reached into his pocket, his palms becoming slick with sweat as his fingers wrapped around the small box. His eyes met hers and as he pulled it out, and remained locked on as he gently placed the box in her hand and closed her fingers around it.
"I want to ask you a question..."
Her mouth hung open slightly, fresh tears brimming around her eyes. These tears were different however, the sadness of Xander's near death experience nearly forgotten with the sound of six simple little words.
"Buffy Summers," he said taking in a deep breath. "Will you marry me?"
She nodded her head numbly before she realized it. No words could come, the tears spilling uncontrollably. She threw her arms around his neck and crushed her lips to his. Her hands wound into his hair, his arms firmly embracing her against him. Their lips melded perfectly together, tongues eager to meet. She lost herself so completely in his arms, in the wondrous simple rapture of his mere presence, and the pressure of his mouth. She felt her head grow light, her knees beginning to shake. If she hadn't already been sitting down, she sure would have needed help standing upright.
"Yes," she gasped breaking the kiss. "Yes, yes, yes."
A thousand watt smile broke across his face as he pulled her from the chair and began to twirl her around in circles across the hall.
"Aloha Wau Ia Oe," he murmured against her neck.
"What does that mean?"
"It means, I love you."
She laughed softly and smiled against his shoulder. They didn't see the five nurses standing at the foot of the main desk watching them with content smiles. They didn't see the doctor get off the elevator right beside them. They didn't see anything but the promise of their lives together.
The rain poured outside, lightning flashed, thunder clasped. The two of them never heard a sound. Only the joyous laughter between them, and the beating of their hearts, pulsing in synch.