It had become a ritual of sorts for Buffy Summers to sit at the edge of her bed after a night of patrolling, random music from the radio softly filling the room, and cry. She didn't sob and the tears were few, merely a small number of heavy droplets rolling down her face and onto her lap. But Buffy was far from a sad woman. In fact, she was happier than she had been since she had become the slayer in the first place—or at least, she should be. However she couldn't go to bed at night without thinking of those who had been lost along the way, those who she as the Slayer hadn't been able to protect. And it left her with a throbbing ache in her chest that she carried around with her throughout each day.

It didn't take long for construction to begin on the outskirts of the crater formerly known as Sunnydale. In the year since the Hellmouth had been destroyed, the area surrounding it had become a buzzing metropolis. One would think magic had been involved if they didn't know any better—actually, truth be told, magic was still probably involved. The Hellmouth may have been gone, but the legend surrounding it and the town it and its demons inhabited had only grown since its demise. The demons had similarly grown, although mostly just in numbers, giving Buffy the excuse she needed to rent a high-rise apartment in the new town of… well, they had just named the expanse of desert surrounding her former home Sunnydale.

"Well, Buffy, I guess not everyone can have your wit and originality," Xander had said at the official town naming ceremony.

Her best friend of the male variety had moved into the apartment across the hall from her and her younger sister. For the most part he was the same Xander as he had been since the two had met, but there was a new look in his eyes—er, eye. It was the physical representation of the sadness Buffy could sometimes hear in his voice. It was the look of someone who had not yet, and probably never would, recover from losing the love of his life. That common bond had pulled the two best friends into a deeper connection than they ever thought possible. Often they would spend the nights at each other's apartments, despite the closeness of their respective homes, one on a couch and one on a bed after a night of board games or movies. Other tenants in the apartment building had gathered that they were a couple—and they were. They were a couple of people who had lost something—someone—important to them in the biggest battle of their lives. One always knew how the other felt and when either of them were having a hard time coping, they knew that the other understood exactly how they felt. That bond… it was something.

It was so much of a something that after one of their movie nights, Buffy had found herself rising from the couch and scooting her bare feet across the carpet to his bedroom.

A small crack of light hit Xander's face and he shifted to see Buffy leaning against the doorframe. Her face was moist and the red, oversized jersey she wore to bed bore dark wet marks from her tears. He sighed as he lifted his sheets and comforter and patted the bare spot beside him. Her ponytail whipped from side to side as she made her way across the room and into his bed, facing away from him when she lied down. When the bed started to shake with her sobs he began to rub her shoulder, before pulling on it and turning her towards him. Buffy gave in, laying her head on his chest and sobbing with all of her slayer strength, forcing Xander to tighten the grip he had around her.

"Why?" she cried out. "I knew. I knew for so long and I didn't… I waited until it was too late."

"Shh," he whispered, "it's okay. It'll be okay."

"It hurts, Xander," she forced out, her voice raspy. "It isn't supposed to hurt this much, not after…"

"I know. I know, Buffy. I hurt, too. I hurt everyday and I don't know when it stops. I don't know if it ever does. But I know you have me, and you have Dawnie, and you have Willow and Giles and…," he paused, "he would be proud of you."

She let out a gasp for air and wiped at her eyes.

"Buffy, I wasn't too fond of the guy, but he loved you. Everything about you. He'd like that you still go out and patrol, even though there are thousands of other slayers in this world. He would like that you let Dawn go with you," he said with a chuckle.

Buffy let out a small laugh as well. "Yeah, he always saw her as stronger than I did. Tougher. He knew she had it in her."

She raised her head from his chest and looked upon his face. Her hand made its way softly across his cheek as she whispered, "Thank you."


Buffy was surprised when she opened the door to her apartment the next morning only to find Willow standing at the kitchen table unloading a box of donuts.

"Ooh. Yummy, sugary goodness," Buffy said excitedly as she reached out for an apple fritter. She stopped before the treat entered her mouth, looking confused. "Wait. How'd you get in here?"

"Duh, Buffy. I'm a witch. Locked doors, they don't got nothin' on me," she replied.

"Will…" Buffy said in her best 'stern mother' voice.

"Kidding, only kidding. Dawn let me in. Another night across the hall?"

"It's nothing. Just friends. He just… He knows how I feel."

"I know how you feel, too, Buff. But I don't see you getting all snuggly-wuggly with me on movie nights," Willow replied with a sheepish grin on her face.

"That's because Kennedy would kick my ass. And you'd enjoy it too much," she laughed. She quickly stopped laughing. "Wait. You don't think…?"

"That maybe he enjoys it a little too much, too?"

"No. No. He couldn't. Could he?"

"Buff, he did kinda have a thing for you all the way through… Well, I don't really know when it ended," she said, her eyes showing her drift into though. "I guess it was when Anya showed up."

"It's not totally crazy, you know. It kind of fits, us being together after everything. But right now he's more, you know, just comfortable. Like Mr. Gordo."

"He's… like a stuffed bear?" Willow asked slowly.

"Well, he has gotten kind of soft," she said. "By the way, how's the new place?"

"Ah, I see you're honing the slayer skill of changing the subject. Could use a little work," she laughed. "The house is… kinda roomy, actually. It's nice; it's just not what I expected. You know, me and her alone all of the time. Definitely a new kinda thing for us."

"You'll get used to it, Will," Buffy said.

The door opened to reveal a recently showered and dressed Xander, who quickly spotted the donuts and made a beeline for them. The two women watched him in amazement as he ate a powdered cruller in only two bites—still standing the entire time- something that would have been sort of impressive in a fray boy way had it not been for the fact that his black shirt now had a white bib of powder marring it.

"Hey Buff," he said, leaning over a chair to give her a peck on the head. "Will," he said, nodding to her.

"Hey there, teddy bear," Willow replied. "Oh. Heh. I rhymed."

Buffy began to relax, lifting her feet to place on Xander's lap when her eyes widened and her coffee almost spewed out of her mouth. "Dawn. It's time for school. Where is she?"

"Woah, momma bear," she said, laughing inwardly at her own inside joke. "Janice came by and picked her up before you got here."

"Oh. Well, in that case, I'm going to go use up the rest of the hot water. Excuse me," she said before getting up and leaving the room.

Wrapped only in a towel, a soaking wet Buffy sheepishly made her way to the door of her bedroom to peek into the living area. Xander had already left for work, leaving Willow lying on the couch watching the morning news shows. Buffy made her way to the closet, slightly relieved that Xander wasn't there. She pulled out a plain white t-shirt and had laid it on her bed when the phone rang.

"Hello?"

"Buffy? It's Angel. We need to talk."


Author's Note: I promise there will be Spuffy eventually. We'll just have to build up to it because we all know that Spike is good for building up some… er… tension. Please review and let me know how you're liking the story so far and, you know, just discuss what you'd like to see happen or rant about how there isn't an Spuffy yet. You know, whatever.