Title: That Way (1/6)

Author: Cyclone

Feedback: Please be gentle.

Distribution: Gimme credit and a link.

Rating: I'm gonna go say PG or PG-13 for references to sex.

Spoilers: Mostly The Zeppo, Graduation, and Xander's plans for after graduation.

Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to the almighty Joss. I'm just borrowing them for a while.

Summary: A hasty act by Giles changes the course of a certain relationship.

Author's Note: Yeah, another W/X 'fic from me.

* * *

There is one key night in the history of the Hellmouth's most successful Slayer. In reality, this night is important not to the Slayer herself but to two of her allies and friends, two of her Slayerettes. Two of her Scooby Gang.

That night, Rupert Giles, the Slayer's Watcher in all but name since his discharge from the Council, was researching the Ascension. He had found a promising passage, and in the normal course of events, he would have continued the search alone before calling in the others, and he would have discovered on his own without interrupting his allies that it was just another false lead.

But let us take a look at a different course of events...

* * *

Willow sighed as she watched her mother talking with one of her patients over the phone. Right now, she was feeling a little less angry at Xander, but what happened that night still hurt. A lot.

She looked up as someone began knocking, "Wills!"

The redhead opened the door, "Xander? What...?"

"G-man thinks he found something," he replied. "Your line was busy, so he sent me to bring you over. Car's waiting." He nodded toward his Uncle Rory's convertible, which was idling in the driveway.

Xander hopped into the driver's seat, and Willow rode shotgun. They sat in silence as Xander drove toward Sunnydale High School.

Xander grew more irritated as he sensed the anger radiating from his best friend. He'd been putting up with this silent anger for so long, ever since Faith went bad, and now he was beginning to reach his breaking point.

Finally, just inside the school parking lot, he parked, stopped the engine, and turned to face her. "Okay, Wills, what is it?"

"What's what?" she blinked at him in surprise.

"What is it you're so angry with me about, Willow?"

Her eyes widened, and she worked her jaw for a moment. He actually had the gall to _ask_ that? Snarling, she shot back, "You know exactly why I'm angry! You slept with her! You slept with _Faith_!"

He scowled and said stonily, "I'm missing the part where that's any of your business, Willow."

"She's a bad guy!"

"She wasn't when we did it, so I _don't_ see how that's relevant!" he snapped, his voice rising.

"All right," she said, "how about the fact that I told you I loved you _that_ _same_ _night_?!"

"What difference does _that_ make, huh? If you meant you loved me _that_ _way_, then why are you with Oz?" He shook his head in disgust and stepped out of the car, slamming the door, "Forget it, Wills. Just... forget it." He stalked toward the library's back entrance.

A stunned Willow sat in the shotgun seat of the car for a long moment, her eyes wide and her jaw hanging open, before she gathered her thoughts and followed him.

* * *

Time passed. Sunnydale High's graduating class of 1999 defeated the Ascended Mayor Richard Wilkins III. And blew up the school in the process.

One Alexander Lavelle Harris prepared to leave Sunnydale. Forever.

* * *

Xander hefted the last bags. He had already said his goodbyes and packed nearly everything he needed last night. All he had to do now was load these last-minute on-the-road necessities, and he'd be off.

He turned after locking the door and froze. There were bags in the back seat of the car he hadn't put there, and there was someone sitting on the shotgun seat. Someone he knew very well.

Willow waved.

"Wills, what...?" he trailed off.

"I'm going with you," she said simply. "So when do we leave?"

He blinked as he dumped his load into the back seat with her stuff. He frowned, "Will, what about-...?"

"I broke up with Oz," she interrupted.

Licking his suddenly dry lips, he said, "I was gonna say 'your parents.'"

"Nice try, Xand, but they trust you, and we both know it."

Slumping into the driver's seat, he turned toward her and asked simply, "Why?"

"Because I meant it 'that way.'"

Confusion was etched on his face for a long moment as he tried to decipher what she was talking about. Understanding struck him as she continued on to answer a question he had asked weeks ago.

"I was with Oz because I felt guilty. A-about the Fluke. A-about hurting him, especially after what I thought he said to me in the hospital."

And _that_ statement threw him for another loop. "'Hospital'?" he squeaked.

She nodded, "But... when I talked to him, he knew. He told me it was you, Xander." She smiled faintly, "So... let's hit the road already."

He smiled back and started the engine, and the two drove off.



Toward their future...

...which included a summer in the wonderful little blip on the map known as Oxnard, California. But they didn't know that yet.

* * *

Author's Postscript:

Okay, I thought this up while trying to sleep the other night and kept thinking about it while working in the yard the following morning. So when I finally had the chance, I just sat down and banged this out. Took me less than an hour.