I wasn't supposed to hear her.

After our hug I had noticed she seemed a bit off. I think Willow could tell too, but it seemed like she didn't want to see it. Not after Buffy had just said thank you. She went back to stocking books with Tara with a small smile on her face. I think she needed that thank you more than anything else in her life. Anya took the whole thing in stride. There are some things that just don't seem to reach that girl. The hug was heartfelt. I mean, I know being that I was the other half of it, but she felt so off. Her words were genuine, but they seemed rehearsed. Like she stood up all night practicing them.

I smelled her hair. I had my arms around her. My mind kept saying the same thing over and over again. "She's back," my thoughts raced. "She's back and that's all that matters."

But that's not true.

Because there are more things in the world to worry about. I know it's bad to say that but it's true. We were all just so selfish. Life without Buffy was hard. She was the most important person in our lives and she was gone. It was difficult living with the fact that she wasn't going to come back. And all Willow had wanted was to have her near again. To be whole. To be the complete Scooby gang. For awhile, while we were researching the spell, all we were thinking was that we needed her back. Nothing else seemed as important. I didn't want to announce my engagement because it just didn't seem as valid in comparison. Willow got closer to finding out how we could pull it off and I began to have my doubts. What if it didn't go right? We if she came back different? What if she came back and wasn't really herself?

I kept these things to myself up until the end. It seemed like a group effort kind of thing to stay in the positive. I only voiced my doubts when everything was drawing near. I remember being so scared when we were kneeling down around her grave. Oh, I've been scared in my life more times than I can count, but it wasn't like this. I was scared this time because no matter how much good I thought could come of it. To have our closest friend back. I knew it was wrong. When she was gone, it felt like I had lost a limb. Something inside just always seemed so vacant. And while we sat there, and Willow started chanting, the vacancy inside seemed to subside. But it was replaced by something else.

All we wanted...

It felt wrong.

Just kneeling there felt so miserably wrong.

Then Willow seemed like she was in pain.

Then she starting throwing up snakes.

I wanted to stop.

At that moment I didn't care what it meant. I didn't care if were going to lose Buffy forever because she was already gone. Willow was hurting herself. She seemed so damn determined, but she was hurting herself. I'm not one to dismiss any omens that come my way. Life on a hellmouth makes you watch the little things in the universe just a little bit closer. Sometimes the fates, or the powers that be, or whatever you want to call them try to tell you things.

Demon biker gang running rampant through the fair streets of Sunnydale?

Big fucking omen.

I had known it before, but when the motorcycle ran circles around us and Willow still wouldn't stop. I knew we had to. It had to be done. She only seemed to agree when one of those things ran over the urn. Only when the power was cut off did she stop.

Running through the woods with her, trying to get away...

She seemed so sad when she realized it wouldn't work. The tears streaming down her cheeks. I felt the vacancy turn to sadness inside. But I felt the greatest sense of relief as well. One thing I've learned in all my time of knowing that evil existed ten-fold of what I had any remote idea of. If it lies dead, leave it to rest. I've seen way to many dead things in my time. Way, way too many. And the last thing I ever wanted to see was the body of a girl I cared more about that myself walking around after being finally at rest.

That's what she looked like at the funeral. She looked too peaceful. The kind of sanctuary a person can only find in death. I know what you're thinking. Wow, how did Xander Harris get so deep? I'm not. This just happens to be a rare occasion where my thoughts aren't involving chocolate and sex. I had to cover my mouth with my hand when I stood next her casket. Everyone thought I was just trying to hold back my grief, but I had to cover my mouth so they wouldn't see me smile.

I'd watched her fight all those years. Each battle taking its toll on her. Chipping away at the core. Day in and day out with barely any rest. I honestly don't know how she did it. Oh, I know being the Slayer made her strong. The one girl in all the world and all that jazz. But that was only in the physical sense. The essence of the slayer does nothing to toughen up the mind. And in that respect, she was the strongest person I had ever known.

I had loved her forever, still do, always will. It's something I've come to terms with and I can function normally because of it. I remember looking down at her, the simple black dress, and the small golden crucifix. For the first time I'd ever seen her, she didn't seem strained. She was so peaceful looking. She was at peace. I looked at her resting in that coffin and I had to cover my mouth so no one would see me smile. Because I was the only one who knew she was free.

I had my doubts when Willow had gotten closer and closer to finding a way to bring her back. I felt so selfish for wanting her back as much as everyone else. But even deeper, I felt ashamed because I knew that in someway, I'd be taking her from the peace she so richly deserved.

We thought it didn't work.

The urn was busted and Willow wasn't done with the spell yet.

But then, later when we were being attacked, she was there. At first I thought it was the Buffy-bot. She seemed so out of it, so lost. That's when I saw the blood on her hands. That's when I knew it had worked. And we left her there to dig herself out of her own grave. The emptiness inside of myself was then filled with the unrelenting shame of knowing what I'd done.

No one else knew it.

But at that moment I did.

She had been at peace. I'd seen it. I knew it.

Seeing her there crouched in that alley, bloody knuckles, that plain black dress covered in dirt...

I knew we'd robbed her of that peace she deserved.

I tried to delude myself. To make it seem like everything was okay. I tried to ignore the question that was picking away at my mind.

"Did she want this?"

She seemed so disoriented most of the time. Like she wasn't really there. It was like walking on thin ice in those moments. No one knew what to do around her. Everyone kept asking her if she was okay. I kept asking her if she was okay. It was like I had to. I wasn't asking the same question as everyone else.

They were asking about her well being.

I was asking of she was okay with coming back.

She couldn't tell the difference, though I really wished she could.

And for maybe twenty minutes, when she seemed like herself, I thought that maybe in some crazy way it might have all been okay. I went home and actually slept soundly. The self-delusion was working. And then Willow called all frantic about Buffy yelling at her and magically disappearing, and Anya comes walking into the room with these ghastly looking eyes, laughing manically and cutting her face. It was something straight out of the Evil Dead. And once again, my stomach turned to knots, and I knew it was wrong.

Spike yelled at me that there are prices to be paid for doing magic. Nothing ever comes without some kind of consequence. He was so mad that we didn't tell him. I tried to turn it on him, tried to make him see that it needed to be done. I wanted him to look me in the eye and tell me that seeing her again wasn't the happiest moment in his existence. I tried to make him see, even though I couldn't.

I wouldn't let anyone else see my guilt. We researched on why everyone was getting possessed, we found out that we created something that wanted to hurt us. Something that should never have existed. Like always, we fought and we won. The thing was killed and Buffy was back.

And that's all that was supposed to matter.

Still, I felt it. The wrongness of what I'd done.

But she came in the Magic Shop, told us that she was in hell. That she couldn't really think of it, but she knew it had to be. She thanked us for bringing her back. It's all I thought I needed. The words that would make it go away. She was grateful. Willow and I hugged her, and I even said "Welcome home."

She broke away from us, said she needed a minute to herself. So Willow smiled and went back to shelving books, and Anya went back to counting money. I watched her back as she made her way to the door at the back of the shop. I needed to tell her I was sorry. No matter if she was really in hell or not, I had to say I was sorry.

I give her a minute before I followed, just so she could clear her head or whatever she had to do. When I got to the door I heard her talking. I didn't know who she was talking too and I didn't dare open the door to take a peak. What I heard made me want to dig myself a hole, so I could curl up and die. There I was, leaning with my ear pressed against the door listening to her.

She knew she was in heaven. Or whatever it could have been.

She knew she had finally reached peace. That she was done. That it was all over and she felt so warm...

I think I started to shake, because for a few seconds my hands couldn't open the door and my eyes were closed fighting the tears of shame from my eyes.

She had gotten her rest just like I knew she had.

And we took her from it.

Just because we couldn't exist without her.

We had to rip her from existence where everything was okay and she was done with this world.

She had her heaven.

And we stole it all away.

She wasn't talking anymore when I finally got the door open and I saw Spike sitting there. He looked about as shell-shocked as I felt and he barely noticed me. When he did there was so much anger in his eyes. I forced myself not to turn away because I knew I deserved every bit of it. We stood in silence. He noticed the tears in my eyes, and he knew I'd heard.

I wasn't supposed to hear her.

"You had no right," he said quietly. "Bloody selfish gits, all of you."

I nodded.

"No!" He shouted. "Don't you do that, don't you stand there nodding at me. You have know idea what you've done do you mate? What you've cost her? She had what she wanted! And you, the bleeding Scooby gang getting all self righteous with yourselves had to pull her out. Had to bring her back cause life just happen to get a little too hard without her around. Well let me tell you something Nancy-boy. Life is hard! People live and people die. Buck up, take one on the chin and accept it. You don't going wallowing in the mystical to bring them back!"

I felt my fists ball, but I knew that I couldn't do anything to him. I knew it was pretty hypocritical that a vampire was lecturing me on bringing someone back from the dead. But he was right.

"Sodding selfish wankers, the whole lot of you."

He would have walked away from me if he could have. But the sunlight kept him there.

"Where did she go?" I asked him.

He swung at me and I barely blocked. I haven't seen him this mad since getting the chip. He winced with the pain that no doubt was shooting through his mind.

"No," he said venomously. "You don't get to chase her now. You don't get to apologize after hearing all of that. You should have known all along mate."

"I did," I said.

He glared at me with another hate filled look, took another swing and this time I didn't bother trying to block him. I didn't really feel it. One second I was standing and the next, I was on the ground wiping blood from my mouth. I looked up to see him grabbing in vain at his head, is if the contact would ease his agony. When it passed he stuck out a hand to help me up.

"She went that way," He said pointing off past the back of the shop. "Don't know how far she's gotten but you should be able to catch up."

"Thanks," I said and turned away to go after Buffy.

"Xander!" He called after me.

I turned and looked back to him.

"Grovel," he said simply.

I nodded and started into a jog.

I found her sitting on a bench at the park just down the street. She was watching some squirrels run around in front of a tree. I stood back for what felt like forever. We had our awkward moments in the past, even had a few times where we were at each other's throats. But it was never like this. I felt so hollow watching her sit there. Because I knew she shouldn't have been sitting there. She should have been in her simple black dress, six feet in the earth.

I walked to her slowly, every step and every breath filled with guilt. The sun was shining, birds were singing, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Ask anyone else in that park and they would have told you it was like heaven. Ask the girl sitting on the bench, and she would have told you it was hell.

I stood next to her and she didn't even turn her head. I put my hand on her shoulder but she didn't move. I was crying again and she wasn't asking why. I know it may have seemed undignified to anyone who might have been watching, but I threw myself at her feet. I deserved so much less. I threw my head in her lap. She remained still. I cried into her skirt and all of what I was feeling rushed out of my mouth so fast I'm not even sure if it resembled English. I confessed everything I was feeling and everything I had felt. I told her I knew. I knew and I did it anyway. After awhile I felt her stroke the back of my head. She said nothing. No words to soothe my guilt away even though I didn't deserve it.

I didn't deserve anything.

I was selfish.

I was selfish because I brought her back.

I was selfish because I wanted her to forgive me.

I was selfish because I needed her to forgive me.