Title: By My Side
Spoilers: None really…unless you haven't seen any of season 6.
Summary: Minutes before the wedding, Buffy seeks out Xander…happy friendship stuff ensues.
Website: Still My Girl - http://www.angelfire.com/mo3/fanfic/SMGMain.html
Feedback: Warms me on these cold winter nights.
It had all come down to this. Six years of friendship, and now she was going to watch him walk down that hideously tulle-covered church aisle and marry the girl of his dreams. If she could find him, that is.
Buffy hitched up the skirt to her revolting green ("The color of the American dollar!") bridesmaid's dress and roamed the halls of the Twenty-Fourth Presbyterian Church of Sunnydale, searching for the groom who had disappeared about a half-hour earlier. She'd happily left Willow, Tara, and Dawn in the room with Anya, who was driving them nuts because nothing was going wrong. Buffy ushered herself out as the bride continued her litany of all the things that might go wrong, convinced that the smoothness of the morning was nothing but a portent of things to come.
In the (peaceful) halls of the church the Slayer wandered, the heels of her dyed-to-match shoes clicking softly as she went. At the far end of a sunlit hall she rounded the corner and there he was, sitting alone in a vestibule, staring at a beautiful stained glass window, the colors sparkling over his gorgeous tux.
She entered the room softly, shutting the door behind her. "Hey," she called softly.
He'd heard her. "Hey," he answered, just as softly, his eyes never moving from the glass depiction of Moses parting the Red Sea. "Is it time?"
She shook her head. "No…you have a few minutes still." He was strangely subdued, for Xander, but probably not for a man only moments away from matrimony. She cocked her head slightly. "Got a few minutes for an old friend?"
He smiled and patted the bench. "Always."
"You doin' okay in there?" she asked, taking a seat next to him on the cushioned bench.
He nodded. "Yeah…I'm good."
She nodded. "Good."
Buffy suppressed a smile. "She's…ah…she's good," she lied. "Calm as…a really mellow tornado."
He chuckled. "Yeah, I'm sorta glad I'm not supposed to see her before the ceremony."
They were quiet for a moment before she put her hand on his knee and gave it a friendly squeeze. "You ready for this?"
Now he looked at her, brown soulful eyes into soft green. "Yeah…I am." His voice was confident, his eyes untroubled.
She gave him a soft smile. "I'm so glad for you Xander," she told him sincerely. "You're going to be very happy, I just know it."
He grinned. "Thanks. I think so, too."
There was a beat and then, "I was hoping to get you alone before the ceremony started, Xan. I wanted to…I wanted to tell you something."
He turned concerned eyes to hers. "What's up?"
She smiled. "Nothing bad, promise…I just…I just wanted to tell you how much you mean to me. I love you. You're my best friend…and I'm just really glad you're still here."
His eyes grew misty. "Hey…what's with the mushy talk? You doin' okay?"
She nodded, tears now shining brightly in her own eyes. "Yeah…I am…but you know, you're supposed to cry at weddings, so I thought I'd just get a head-start…" She started again. "Marriage is supposed to be the next big step…and I just started thinking about all the steps we've already taken together…and how this time I don't get to come along."
"Whaddya mean? You're here…you're always here."
She shook her head slowly. "Nah…this is your deal. You and Anya alone. I'm just…the jolly green Slayer," Buffy moaned, indicating the dress.
He smirked. "I had nothing to do with those."
"I'm sure," she told him wryly, then sobered. "I'm serious. I kinda had this whole thing worked out, so…just let me get through it, okay?"
Xander nodded and shifted to face her, taking one of her hands in his.
She took a breath. "From the beginning it's been you, me, and Willow. Us three. We've been through a lot, especially lately…but I don't forget the old days when our problems seemed like life-in-peril stuff…before we really knew what life-in-peril stuff felt like. We got through graduation, and I mean we actually graduated, not survived the battle…we got careers or went to college, or did both. And then there's the stuff that people shouldn't ever have to face…like losing a parent…or losing a friend."
She paused as both their eyes grew sad at the memories of Joyce's death and of the months spent without Buffy.
"And through it all, you've been the one of the constants in my life, guy-wise. I seem to have a…track record. The men in my life leave me. My dad…Angel…Riley…Giles. But…you're here. You stayed. You didn't have to, but you did. And, I just wanted you to know…I know you didn't just stay for me…but I appreciate that you're still around, and I recognize it, and I love you even more for it."
Tears slipped down her face now and he smiled gently, reaching up to wipe them away. "Anya'll kill you if you ruin your makeup," he teased.
Buffy sniffle-laughed. "Can't have that…"
He handed her his handkerchief and she blotted at her face. "Buffy," Xander began, "You're one of the most magnificent women I've ever met. I'm awed by you…in a friendly way, of course. I can't imagine what my life would like if I hadn't stalked you like I did sophomore year. It certainly wouldn't be as exciting…and I know I couldn't find friends like the ones I have here…wherever I'd be right now would be far more lonely. Here is where I want to be. And you're a big part of the reason why I've never gone anywhere else. I risk my life to slay demons because it means I get to be a part of your world…you let me in."
Buffy wiped furiously at the tears that refused to stop.
"I love you, too, Buffy Anne Summers. I loved you before I knew you were the Slayer…and I loved you because of it and in spite of it sometimes. The guys who've left you?" he shrugged, "I think they're all crazy. Your mom knew how lucky she was to be in your life, even if your dad doesn't. Angel still knows it. Riley…well…we'll just stick with the 'he was crazy' option. But Giles…I know Giles misses you more and more every day. I can hear it in his voice when he calls, and I can see it in his words when he writes. You changed his life in ways I'm sure he never imagined. Someday…you're going to find someone…and I'm going to be sitting in the back of a church, in a tuxedo, getting hotter and hotter by the minute from the streaming sunlight…and I'm going to be telling you how much I love you…even though I know…you'll already know." He grinned, his Xander-grin. "But it's still nice to hear."
She watched him, stunned at the emotion she had never known was there. "I really missed my chance with you…huh? Sitting there right under my nose…all this time."
He shrugged good-naturedly. "It happens."
Buffy reached for him and hugged him fiercely. "Thank you," she said happily, a smile shining through the tears.
He hugged her back, his eyes closing.
Pulling back she straightened his tie. "Now…I think you need to go get 'hitched."
They stood and linked arms, then headed down the hallway where the organ music had just started to play.