Title: A Rainy Night in Sunnydale
Author: Lint
Email: CrashDarby@aol.com
Pairing: Tara/Xander
Disclaimer: All Buffy folk belong to Joss, Mutant Enemy, and UPN.
Rating: PG-13
Summary: The rain will wash you clean.

***

She sighed as she rolled dreamily onto her side, absent-mindedly pulling on the covers to wrap herself more fully. Her brow creased at the lack of resistance the other body should have caused, and though she was half-asleep, she immediately felt the emptiness of the bed. Her hand reached to the spot on the mattress where the warmth was rapidly fading away. Opening her eyes and lifting her head from the pillow, she saw that, yes, he was indeed gone. She hopes briefly that he just went to go sleep on the couch like he sometimes did even though she never wanted him to. She liked him in the bed with her. It made her feel warm again. It made her feel safe. She lifted the sheets knowing that he wouldn't just magically appear under them, but she checked anyway.

"Xan... er, uh, a-Alex?" She called out knowing he wasn't in the apartment.

Sighing once more, she threw her legs over the side of the bed and reached for her pants strewn on the floor. The sound of pouring rain beat against the window and she sighed again. Miss Kitty walked into the room, meowing and wanting attention from her caretaker. She pets the cat's head for a few seconds before standing up to look for her shoes. Miss Kitty followed her as she walked into the living room. She found her shoes under the table and sat down to put them on. Miss Kitty stared up at her expectantly.

"You didn't happen to see where he went did you?" She asked, then blinked in confusion as to why she was asking the cat. "Talking to the cat now," she mumbled to herself. "Not good Tara."

She double-checked the kitchen and the bathroom before grabbing her jacket off the coat rack, reaching for her umbrella, and heading out the door. Fumbling with her keys, she ignored the odd look one of her neighbors gave her, and offered a faint smile.

"Never seen someone running out of the house in the middle of the night?" She thought.

The loud crack of thunder made her gasp once she reached the lobby.

"Wonderful," she said. "Absolutely wonderful."

Once outside instinct told her to head left, so left she went. Her shoes splashed against various puddles as she walked along the wet streets, and she silently prayed a stray bolt of lightning didn't strike her umbrella and smite her down. He had wandered off like this on many previous occasions. She doesn't know how many times she'd woken up to find him not there. Of course she always went after him for reasons unbeknownst to herself. She never understood exactly what compelled her to go after him. She knew that if a vampire or some other hellmouth nasty decided to attack him, he could defend himself. On that note, she took out the stake she always kept in her pocket and held it pointing outward. She was approaching the cemetery nearest their apartment, and if any vamps wanted to play, at least she would be ready. Well, sort of.

'Be prepared' was her motto. Sure she had to share it with the Boy Scouts but it was a good motto to have. She peered through the twelve-foot high gates as she came to the entrance of the cemetery. She'd found him here quite a few times before. She knew why he was drawn to it, she understood. They were buried here, both of them. She pushed on the handle, the gate screeching against its moorings.

"I hope you're here," she said quietly as she stepped inside.

The damp ground made squishing sounds underneath her feet as she walked between the rows of headstones. "Goddess," she cursed softly when she nearly tripped and fell into a giant puddle hidden behind a rather odd-shaped marker. She stared at it strangely for a moment, trying to make out its exact shape in the dark. After a minute her eyes adjusted and she could see that it was the figure of a small child crying. She placed her hand atop the faux child's head and whispered a small spell in Latin, asking peace for whatever woes the child's spirit possessed. Her eyes scanned the horizon. She was beginning to get frustrated. It was far too dark to see anything clearly, and she was afraid that any minute a vamp would jump out at her and make her a late night snack. The rain wasn't really helping anything, and to make matters worse her socks were now soaked and her feet were freezing.

"Where are you?" She asked quietly.

A flash of lightning nearly made her fall into the puddle again, but for the brief moment it lit the horizon she was able to make out a figure sitting atop a mausoleum just a few feet away. She stared at it a few moments more, making sure that it wasn't just a shadow. After a minute it was still there and she started toward it. She smiled slightly when she realized that it was him. He didn't move as she got closer, if he knew that she was there at all he didn't show it. She stared up at him a few moments waiting for some kind of acknowledgement. She noticed that his eyes were unfocused, he sat in a slouched position and little droplets of water dripped from his soaked form. He was right in front of her, yet a million miles away.

"Xan..." she began then corrected herself. "Alex?"

He had told her a long time ago never to call him Xander again. Willow had first called him that and he couldn't handle it. With her gone the name to him was a constant reminder of his failure to protect her. He said that anything she had ever given him was a constant reminder. It still took a little getting used to on her part, calling him Alex. Still, she obliged it as well as she could.

"W-what are you d-doing out here?"

He still didn't respond to her, never even moved his head. She walked to the back of the small stone building to where the blocks that formed the structure made makeshift steps allowing access to the top. She approached him cautiously, not wanting to startle him out of whatever daze he was in. She sat next to him on the wet, fake marble, tucking her legs into Indian style rather that leaving them to dangle like his. She positioned the umbrella just between them, keeping the rain just out of reach. Putting one hand on his shoulder, she gently but firmly took hold of his chin with the other and made him face her. Only then did his eyes seem to focus on her with the acknowledgement of her presence.

"H-hi," she said softly.

He stared blankly at her and she wanted desperately for him to smile, make a joke, or tell her to go away. Anything. Instead he shook her hand from his face and looked back across the cemetery.

"Cemeteries are really depressing when you know people buried in them," he said.

She nodded agreeing with him, not moving her hand from his shoulder.

"It's pouring," she said. "A-and you d-don't even have a raincoat."

He looked up at the sky, noting for the first time the sheets or rain pouring down from the heavens.

"Oh," he said quietly. "I hadn't noticed."

"Alex," she said. "Please come home. It's raining c-cats and dogs out here and... Well I... The bed was so cold w-without you."

His head was still tilted toward the clouds and for a moment she thought he hadn't heard her. He looked over to her with such sadness in his eyes that she nearly turned away.

"It's been five years Tara," he said. "Five years ago today that we lost both of them. Five years since I..."

She nodded her head and fought back the tears spilling into her eyes. Five years since Willow had possessed too much power and gone mad with it. The complete balances of nature thrown askew with her wrath and the burning desire to hurt those close to her. She doesn't like to remember any of the details. The pain of the memories is too great and she purposely forgets them. All she really allowed herself to think about is the once beautiful face of the then love of her life so pale and cold. The cruel smile on her lips, the threats of harm against her, and the enjoyment in her eyes at the thought of causing that harm. And Xander, doing what he had to do, to save her, to save all of them. The details are fuzzy, but she remembers the blood. How it all covered his face and hands, the stiff lifeless figure at his feet.

A tear slips down her cheek and she's surprised when she feels his fingers wipe it away.

"You still blame yourself for Willow." She said.

He shrugged the casualness of it nearly causing more tears to fall.

"You still blame yourself for Anya," he stated matter-of-factly.

Her eyes grow wide for the briefest second. He never said Anya's name. Though he still kept the ring her gave her, he refused to utter her name. Ever. He was right though. She'd been with Anya that day in the Magic Shop. Stood helpless as magic's coursing from Willow's fingers slowly burned her body to cinders. She tried to push the memory away but it captured her mind quickly and now she cried uncontrollably. She had fought the memories for so long, been the strong one for him. She only stayed in Sunnydale because she thought he'd needed her. And now it was all catching up to her. All that she had tried to push away. Instinctively she always knew why he'd vanish in the middle of the night and come here, or wherever else he happened to roam, but her mind refused to accept it. He'd come to grieve. Something she'd done only at the funeral and bottled away ever since. Now, sitting here in the pouring rain with the only other person in the world who might possibly understand, she let herself cry for Willow and Anya. Let herself grieve and accept the loss because a few years ago it'd been too much to handle. She'd focused on taking care of him while he'd let himself be buried in his grief. Him being out here and not even noticing the rain was proof enough of it.

She felt herself be pulled to him, and his arms wrapped around her, The umbrella slipped from her hands and she made no move to grab it. It was such a strange turn of the tables for her. She'd always been to once to hold and comfort him. The rain beat against her hair, her jacket, and her pants. The water quickly soaking every part of her body. She let it consume her, cleanse her, wash away everything she'd ever felt in the past five years. Now she fully understood why he had come here. Why she had always followed after him. She wanted what he got from it.

Release.

Sweet release from the guilt and the pain of not being able to do anything to save the lives of the ones they held so dear. She let the tears and the raindrops take it all away.

She's not exactly sure how long she cried against his shoulder, but he never moved and never silenced her. Merely let her get it out. She moved her head from his shoulder and studied the contours of his face in the darkness of the night. She moved her finger along the small stream of water running from his hair to his chin. He turned toward her and she pulled him closer to her, kissing his lips gently and moving his head farther down so that he rested it rested in her lap. He smiled faintly at her, and she nearly sighed in relief at the small gesture she wished for a few minutes ago.

"Now you see," he said.

"D-does this mean we're free?" She asked in a whisper.

"I don't know," he answered. "I think so..."

She smiled down at him; gently brushing the wet locks of hair from his forehead. She had felt this thing growing between them for sometime, though she knew he denied it with his last bitter thought. It was slow and subtle building but now it exploded into an acceptance for both of them. They were one in the same. She leaned in for another kiss and he responded by wrapping his arm around her neck and keeping her there. Past was past. Loves were dead and gone, but now would sprout anew. The rain has washed them clean.
Their mouths moved together as one, their hearts and souls now free.

They weren't sure how long they'd embraced when they came up for air. Not that it mattered.

"I love you Alex," she said so lightly it was barely audible.

"I know," he said just as lightly, reaching his hand to pull her to him once more.

She smiled when he nipped at her lips and began to kiss her again.

Neither had noticed that the rain had stopped.

"We watched our friends grow up together.
And we saw them as they fell.
Some of them fell into heaven.
Some of them fell into hell."

The Pogues-Rainy Night in Soho.