Beck was sitting on the school loading dock waiting anxiously when Xander came up behind him. "Hey Beck whatcha doing?"
"Today is the day my friend. The vehicle for the slayer express should be arriving any minute."
Xander sat down on the dock next to beck dangling his legs. "Slayer express."
"You know it's the traveling road show. Gunn and I are taking some of the slayer out in to the world and."
"Oh I know the plan. Giles told me you guys finally got a bus."
Beck nodded happily. "Oh not just any bus. It's a tour bus we ended up getting for practically nothing?"
"Turns out that Giles has some connections to some British super group and they sold us two old tour busses for practically nothing."
Xander scratched his chin wondering. "Who is this super group?"
"Giles wouldn't say. Just that in his wild and reckless days he had partied with whomever it was on occasion."
"Wild and reckless days? Well I guess that takes the Spice Girls off the table."
"I'm thinking it was either Rolling Stones or The Who."
"Sounds like you are pretty psyched about this whole taking the battle to the road."
"Still got a long way to go before we are going anywhere. I mean the busses have to be upgraded a little. We are going to put the vamp friendly glass so that Spike can travel."
"Yeah I heard he is leading up the road show for B squad."
Beck just nodded. "Well he's coming with. Some of the newer watchers are going to be taking the lead but Spike and Illyria are going to play a part."
"I have to tell you Buffy loves the whole idea. When she pitched the idea all those months ago. All of us coming together to be this massive force for good. She sees this a major step to not just being a protector for Cleveland but the world."
He couldn't help but laugh "The world? Really? We are just traveling the continental United States and usually nothing more than 2 weeks at a time."
"I think it's the idea to her that we are getting out and we are going to represent something bigger."
"Well like I said I still have a long ways to go. Even once we get the buses. We have to upgrade them. All of them are going to need communication centers, a weapons hold, and we need to have enough bunks for each slayer and watcher coming with us."
Xander just patted his back. "Hey relax and give yourself some time to breathe. We will all figure it out together."
"So what is Dawn's take on you hitting the road?"
"She'll be starting college when I'm hitting the road but I'll be back enough I think we will be fine. She also knows the vision I have here so she has been very encouraging."
"Well I'm glad you two are so happy."
Beck stood up stretching his legs and arms. "You know it's funny I think when I first arrived you were the person who was dead set against me ever setting foot one in this place."
Xander put his hands up in a surrender motion."I will be the first to admit when I am wrong."
"All the same though I get it. My dad did a whole lot of damage. Not just to Buffy but to slayers before her."
"Quentin Travers was a lot of things. Most of which I would have to use a lot of R rated four letter words. I couldn't stand the man. You have shown us though you aren't him"
Beck just smiled. "Thanks Xander." They were suddenly interrupted by a blaring horn as Gunn turned the corner on a long tour bus. Giles pulled up in a matching bus behind him. Just then Buffy and Dawn came meeting there boyfriends on the dock. Dawn tilted her head reading the side of the bus.
"Who are the Sex Pistols?"
Buffy and Xander let go of a collective sigh. Beck just took Dawn's hand. "Punk Band big in England."
Buffy looked at Xander and found his hand intertwining their fingers. "Take a walk with me?"
Xander smiled. "Nothing I would rather do." They hopped down from the dock and walked around the side of the school.
"So Xander there has been something on my mind since you've been back?"
"Never known you to hold anything in. Let's hear it."
She stepped in front of him and walked backwards. She fished a gold chain out of her shirt. Around the chain was the familiar ring he gave to Buffy before he left. "Does this look familiar?"
Xander nodded and swallowed the lump in his throat nervous. "Yes it does."
She went back to his side and took his hand again as they walked. "You asked me to marry you before you left You've been back almost a week but you haven't really asked me about it."
Xander looked nervous. "Yeah well I was afraid to ask."
"You afraid? I've never known Xander Harris to back down because he was afraid."
"Vampires or Demons I can deal with but rejection. That is the monster I have always feared most."
As they turned the corner they were now in front of the school. "While you were gone I had a lot of time to think."
"What did you come up with?"
She felt the sun on her face, "Well to be honest we haven't been dating that long. Xander of all the relationships I have been in. I mean I dated Riley 2 years and Angel 3. I mean we haven't even hit a year yet."
Buffy came to the front of the school steps and sat. Xander sat next to her. "It's okay Buffy. I get it. It's not."
"Just shut up and let me finish." The only thing is though when I was dating Angel you were there. When I was dating Riley you were there. When I was" She bit her lip trying to find the words. "What ever I was with Spike you were there."
"So that is good?"
"But like I've said I had a lot of time to think. I know I was panicking before you left. I also know that you would do anything to ease my mind. You told me that this ring was a promise that you'd be back." She looked in his eyes. "So if you proposed because you were trying to make me feel better. I'd understand. I wouldn't even hold you to it."
"Buffy I did it because." He put his hand on top of hers. "I love you Buffy. I have always loved you. I've learned a lot lately. I learned that even when I was with Cordy I still loved you. When I was with Anya I loved you. A part of me felt guilty at first. Like I was emotionally cheating on them or something but in the end you can't choose who you love. The second I saw you I knew you would always be the only one I'd ever be able to give my heart to 100 percent."
"Which is why you took me to that mock Sunnydale to propose. You wanted to take me to the place where you fell in love with me. I get it."
"The real Sunnydale wasn't available."
"The idea was nice and it got me thinking. I was thinking about where I could go that we would have an emotional connection to."
"What did you come up?"
Buffy shook her head. "It wasn't love at first sight for me. I don't have that same thing."
"Buffy it's okay."
"The reason I don't have that is cause I have so many memories of you in so many places that I fell in love with you." She smiled. "It's kind of like." She thought for a second trying to explain it. "You know those cheesy romantic comedy movies. The girl is spending the entire movie chasing the wrong guy when the guy she should be with is in front of her all the time. Usually they have some big cheesy musical montage where they play some pop hit. Than they show clips of the nice guy and her and she suddenly realizes how she really feels about him."
Xander laughed. "So you are saying what you feel for me is a musical movie montage."
"I"m saying that I didn't fall in love with you instantly. I fell in love with you in a million places. I loved you when you picked me up after Riley left, You know the time you were wearing the puffy suit."
He just laughed and nodded. "I told you that you should wait for a man who see how truly amazing you are and love you for who you are."
Buffy just nodded. "I loved you when the potentials started to doubt me before battle in Sunnydale and you stood up to those slayers and told them I wasn't about the kill. The whole taking the short bus in to battle."
"And when I didn't know who I was you didn't give up on me. I loved you when the other me said that falling for you would be a mistake. In the end though I couldn't help it." She stood up pacing a bit her hands behind her back. "The truth is that Xander falling in love with you has been just about the easiest thing I've ever done. I don't know why I've fought it for so long. Your love is my safe place. It's where I know I belong. Loving you is the most natural thing I know."
"You've made me happier than you'll ever know."
"I told you I didn't have a place like you did. I don't have a railing that I crashed in to and suddenly." She faced Xander and again took his hand pulling him up. "But I have this out here."
Xander looked around where he was. "The School?"
Buffy shook her head. "This is where the portal opened and you left. I made my own silent pact that day."
She nodded. "I decided that when you came back to me I would do it ever took to make sure I spend every day of the rest of my life with you."
He cleared his throat. "So it sounds like maybe you have an answer."
"Not so fast." She offered her own smirk. "There will be conditions."
"I am thinking snipers on the roof of the church. If you get the sudden urge to run for it."
'You'll kill me?"
Buffy laughed. "Of course not. Just a leg shot. You'll just walk with a limp."
Xander laughed. "That sounds fair to me."
"Next I want us to have a real engagement. We don't need to race to get married."
"A long engagement? I think I can live with that."
"And no taunting Spike or Angel."
"Why would I do that?"
She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. "Really?"
Xander laughed. "Okay fine. I promise not so much as a ha ha she's marrying me."
Buffy reached behind her neck unclasping the gold chain the ring was around. "Okay well than Xander Harris you still have one thing left to do." She pulled the ring off the chain the put the chain in her pocket. She held the ring in front of Xander. "Xander Harris I want a good proposal."
Xander took the ring and smiled he stepped in front of her and looked in her eyes. "Buffy I have loved you from the moment I saw you. I love your smile. I love your laugh. I love every moment I get to spend with you and I want a promise of all the moments you have to give me. I promise that I will always stand by your side, I promise you if you live to be 10,000 no one will ever love you more than I do." With that Xander dropped down to a single knee He looked up at Buffy's eyes and took her hand in his. "Buffy Summers will you be my wife?"
Buffy fought back the tears. She wanted to say yes but the tears in her throat made it hard to speak so instead she just nodded and held out her hand. As she did so he slid the ring on her finger. She squeaked out. "I love you so much Xander."
With that Xander got up and pulled her in to his arms kissing her. They held the embrace for what seemed like forever. Xander just held on to her.
Passing by the front window Faith and Willow stopped looking at the embrace on the front school lawn. Tears could be seen running down Buffy's checks. Faith stopped and looked at Willow. "What do you think is going on?"
Willow shrugged. "With those two you never can tell."
"Well Buffy is crying? Do you think they are breaking up?"
Willow shook her head "Not likely for 2 reasons."
"And those 2 reasons are?"
"1 those are happy tears. It's obvious. I mean Buffy is smiling and two if they were breaking up Xander would be crying harder than Buffy."
"Well you are the best friend to them aren't you supposed to be inside man to everything?"
"Trust me when I tell you Buffy tells me more than I already want to know."
Willow shook her head "Not going there." Willow looked back at Buffy and Xander. "If they have something they want us to know I'm sure we'll figure it out in our own time."
The next morning the 6:00 AM alarm woke both Buffy and Xander up for the morning jog. Buffy smiled getting out of bed. "Rise and shine sleepy head time to run."
Xander rolled over on his other side groaning "Don't want too."
"Come on Xander. Where is Mister every day is fresh sheet of paper and the morning is a fresh start."
Xander just groaned "That guy has been replaced with a guy who loves his sleep."
Buffy leaned down to his ear whispering. "The sooner you get up the sooner we can get back from the run and do that one exercise you like."
Xander rolled over looking at her "Exercise i like?"
"You know the naked exercise."
Xander jumped up and out of bed "Alright lets get this run done." She laughed and grabbed her work out clothes. Xander went to dresser grabbing a pair of shorts and a t shirt. He had been back 2 weeks and the old Xander Harris was starting to show in every way, He caught his reflection in the mirror. Buffy caught him staring and came behind him. "You know I like you better this way. I mean those 6 pack abs were nearly as comfortable to sleep on."
He slapped his belly and looked at Buffy "Hope you mean that cause I think the photo shopped Xander Harris is gone for good."
Buffy kissed the side of his face. "That's just fine with me cause I'm not really keen on you being all sexy to other women." She smacked his butt. "Now get a move on. I don't want A squad waiting on us. Remember we have to set an example. It wasn't just the muscles that were gone. At one point he had downloaded the entire library by simply touching all of the books. He had a vast wealth of information at his disposal. As the muscles faded so did the memories
He was back to where he started. All of the slayer were running well in front of him. His legs felt like they were going to cramp up. HIs ankles hurt, his knees were killing him and his lungs felt like they were ready to explode. He struggled for every breath as he ran, Despite all of the pain and struggling he loved it. He loved his old life. In years to come people would ask if he regretted giving it all up. There would be things he would miss. The feeling of the wind in your hair as you soar among the clouds, hearing Buffy's heart beat faster as he held her close. In the end though he was happy. He had learned so much about himself. For years people had looked at him as the normal one. The one who stood on the outside. He had no powers or strength but for a brief moment all of it had changed He had learned that real strength came from with in, He could still be Superman being nothing more than who he alway was.
As he turned the corner on mile 4 he knew was almost done. He knew the other slayers were most likely done by now. He knew jokes were coming but he also knew he would be prouder today than his past runs. He had earned it. This was who he was. No power ups or cheat codes or mystical enhancements. Just a man an old pair of running shoes and the wind in his face. Both he and Buffy had agreed they would wait a while to tell the others of the engagement. They weren't hiding from the reaction. It was more that they wanted there own time where they could just enjoy being the engaged couple. It was their own secret world. They would eventually let others in to that world but for now it was nice just keeping it to themselves.
As he made the final turn to the last stretch the school could be seen. He pushed himself with his last bit of energy wanting to finish strong. He knew the jokes would be coming. Always coming in last. He was fine with that. He had learned a lot recently. He had a new found respect for the rightful place he had. The place he had earned. As he ran past the monkey bars and the quad he could see the girls waiting. He could see Buffy holding the stop watch. He gave one final push and touched the wall signifying the end of the 5 miles.
All of the girls applauded as he crossed the line ending the journey. Buffy looked at at the stop watch than at Xander. "Xander Harris your time is 43 minutes 38 seconds."
Xander sighed feeling a little ashamed. "Damn."
Bethany came up behind him slapped him on the back. "Hey don't be so hard on yourself. Most guys I know can't run 5 miles period."
Xander went to the cooler grabbing a bottled water. He unscrewed the top drinking the wonderful cold beverage. He shook his head. "It's just before all of this started I mean when we started running I was doing better than this. It just feels like I'm starting over."
Buffy came to him and took his hand. "Xander you'll get there. Don't be so hard on yourself. You finished Xander. You didn't give and you didn't quit. You will get to where you want to be."
Xander guzzled the last of the water from the bottle and looked to the girls. "Thank you Buffy." He looked around at all the girls who offered him congratulations at what he considered the pathetic race time. "Thank all of you. For the record though I want everything back to normal tomorrow. All the Xander the turtle jokes everything."
As the girls dispersed Xander slid down the wall sitting on his butt. Buffy came over taking the spot next to him. She smiled. "Ready to hit the showers?"
"I think you might have to carry me cause my legs are simply for decoration at this point."
She just smirked. "You'll be fine. You are strong." She unscrewed the top to her own bottle of water and took a sip. "Don't forget Andrew is having his big party at the comic shop."
"Oh yeah." He sighed feeling less than enthused. "This is the whole meet the creator of the new Factor X comic right."
"Something like that."
"And we have to go?"
"From what I understand it's going to be catered, There should be food."
"I guess we should show Andrew our support"
Buffy just laughed and shook her head, She took one final sip of water and pulled herself up. "Come on. You are going to cramp up if you sit for to long after running."
Knowing she was right he groaned as he pulled himself up. "Okay but I might need help in the shower." He smirked his lopsided grin.
"Harris some things about you will never change. I don't need super powers to know what is on your mind."
"Well maybe after the shower we can grab a bite to eat."
"You are such a man food and sex." She rolled her eyes.
"I'm not hearing an objection."
"So what do you have in mind?"
Xander thought for a second than smiled. "How about some shawarma?"
(I want to thank all of you for taking the time to read this. Week in and week out. Between Fragments of Me and Touch I have been writing this over a year. As I write this I see at least one more follow up story I will come back to but I need time away from this. I have other ideas in my head and want to put a few of them to paper. I think I am going to give myself at least a month or 2 before I publish anything on here again. I started this story because a year ago someone wrote a piece stating the things in the Buffyverse fanfic world that annoy people the most. One of the points this writer made and I kind of agreed with was everyone wants to write a Xander gets a power story and put him on equal footing with Buffy or Angel Spike Willow etc. I saw the point the writer was making and wanted to write a story that said Xander Harris doesn't need powers to be on equal footing with the champions of the world. He is a champion of the world and feels strongly that his journey or path or what ever lies ahead of him he's ready for just being who he is. The idea of a souped up Xander never really sat well with me. In a group where everyone has something supernatural being the regular guy is kind of a power unto itself. More than that he keeps them all grounded and I don't think he could do that if he was super powered. If it feels like there are loose ends I did that for a reason. Again I see this story as at least one more sequel and promise I'll get to it some day. Lastly they say any joke you have to explain is a bad joke but I am going to point out the shawarma ending. Joss Whedon said that the ending of The Avengers where they all go out for shawarma was actually based around Nicolas Brendon. On his Buffy audition he was joking around and saying lets wrap this up and all go out for shawarma. So I figured it was fitting. Anyways thank you all again so much. Good or bad I enjoyed all the reviews and hope you will follow me on to my next adventure.)