Xander ran through the common room, where two girls were catching up on a couple of months of Dr. Who. He ran through the gym, where another couple of girls were sparring, and one more was hanging upside down from a rope. He jogged into the kitchen and waved to Andrew.
“Xander!” Andrew called. “I need to tell you that –”
“Not now, Andrew,” Xander said as he passed through.
“But it’s really imp –”
“It can wait!” Xander called back at him.
He ran up two flights of stairs in the back of the house, down a hallway and into his room. Clothes were strewn about the place, and his drawers were open and empty. He was about to go yell at Andrew when his bathroom door opened. He stopped dead in his tracks.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” Lucy said, coming out of the bathroom.
“I um. Uh. Sorry, this is… how are you?”
“Good,” she said. “You?”
“Definitely confused,” he said. “You know I never wanted to –”
“I know,” Lucy said. “It’s… I’ve come to grips with it. I understand.”
“Why did you come back?” he asked.
“I got your letters,” Lucy said. She reached into her bag and pulled out a bundle of letters secured together with a rubber band. “After a couple of weeks of them, Lois finally convinced me to open one. And I was so angry at you. But, you kept sending them. Every other day. Eventually, I just, I wasn’t mad anymore. And for about two weeks, every day, I wanted you to come for me. But you didn’t, so I had to come find you.”
“You told me not to,” he said.
“I know. I changed my mind.”
“I’m glad you did,” he said, reaching out to her. She held her hand out and he took it gently. He pulled her close and wrapped his arms around her. “I missed you so much.”
“I missed you, too,” she said. She stepped away. “Now we need to get you packed.”
“Packed?” he asked. “Why?”
“Chloe and Clark are missing,” she said. “And I can’t leave my sister alone. She needs me. You can do your job from anywhere in the world, but I need to be in Smallville.”
Xander nodded. “Okay. I’ll have to make arrangements, it might take a day or so.”
“Andrew said he can handle it,” Lucy told him. “Our car leaves for the airport in twenty minutes. Oliver has a plane waiting.”
Xander smiled at her. “You thought of everything.”
“It’s what I do,” she said.
“Buffy told me something tonight.”
“She likes you, I know,” said Lucy.
“Everybody knows, Xander. Faith knows. Andrew knows. Hell, Riley knows, and he’s only been here once.”
“She kissed me,” he said. “I… didn’t push her away.”
Lucy sighed. “Okay,” she said. “You’re clearly not focusing here. I’ll tell you what, you go say goodbye to your friends, and I’m going to finish packing your bags.”
“You’re not upset?”
Lucy tilted her head sideways. “Are you the one who wrote me these letters?” she asked.
“And you meant what you said?”
“Every word,” he said.
“Then I’m not upset. I love you, Xander, and I know that you love me, too.”
“But lie to me again like you did and you’ll wake up no longer a man, are we clear?”
“Crystal,” he said.
“Okay,” she said. She pecked him on the cheek, then turned around and started packing his bags. “Go say goodbye to your friends. We need to go.”
Xander nodded. “Okay.” He stepped out of his room, sighed happily, and headed downstairs.
He found Andrew in the kitchen alone, cleaning up. He looked up at Xander and grinned.
“Best ever,” Xander said. “Have you seen Buffy or Giles?”
“They were in here a minute ago, I think they headed up to Giles’s study,” Andrew said. “With ice cream.”
Xander nodded. “I need you to do something for me.”
“Anything,” said Andrew.
“Don’t let Buffy retreat into her shell,” he said. “Make her go out and have fun sometimes.”
“But she can beat me up,” Andrew said, “and she is technically my boss.”
“I know,” Xander said. “But I have faith that you’ll think of something. Promise me?”
Andrew nodded. “I’ll do my very best.”
“Thanks,” Xander said. “Ice cream, huh?”
“Double fudge,” Andrew said.
“Damn,” said Xander. “I’ve been incredibly blind, haven’t I?”
“Oh,” said Andrew. “Yes.”
Xander patted him on the shoulder and headed towards Giles’s study. He stood outside for a minute, listening at the door. He heard both Buffy and Giles laughing, took a deep breath and knocked.
“Who is it?” Giles asked.
“Xander,” he said.
“One moment,” Giles said. He heard some shuffling and clinking, and then footsteps approaching. The door was unlocked and unlatched and then opened. “Come in. We were just reminiscing. I take it you found your guest.”
“I did,” he said.
“And?” Buffy asked, rising to her knees on the couch.
“We uh… we’re leaving, actually,” he said. “She needs to be with Lois, and I…”
“Need to be with her,” Buffy said.
“I’ll still be able to do all my work,” he said. “I’ve got the Blackberry and the laptop, and all my phone lists.”
Giles nodded. “Of course. When do you leave?”
“About fifteen minutes, actually. Ollie has apparently sent a car and an airplane.”
“So, you are here to say goodbye, then,” Giles said.
“I am,” Xander said. “I’m sure we’ll… revisit the subject when we find Clark and Chloe.”
“Very good,” Giles said. “Well, have Andrew send you any papers you need. You have… is there anything you need?”
“I don’t think so. You’ve um…. Well. I uh.” He chuckled and glanced down at the floor for a moment before looking up into Giles's eyes “You’ve done so much for me. Changed my life, maybe in more ways than we know. So. Thank you.”
“You’ve taught me more than you know as well, Xander,” Giles said. “And any time you need anything…”
Xander nodded. The two men embraced, patting each other on the back.
“Well,” Giles said. He glanced back at Buffy and then smiled at Xander. “I’ll um… leave you to it, then.”
Giles stepped out of his study and closed the door behind him.
“She moved up the list real fast,” Buffy said.
“Tied for first with the rest of you,” Xander said.
Buffy sat down on the couch and patted the cushion next to her. Xander walked over and sat down, his arm around her. Buffy rested her head on his shoulder.
“This feels like goodbye. Like a real goodbye, you know?”
“It does,” Xander agreed. “Weird.”
“You’re moving on,” she said. “I guess it’s natural.”
“I’m not moving on.”
“Yes you are,” Buffy said. “This is going to be a big change, a new chapter in the life of Xander Harris.”
“It’s not like I’m abandoning you guys.”
“I know, Xander. You’d never do that. But Lucy’s going to take precedence now, and that’s going to change things.”
Xander sighed. “I suppose it will.”
There was a knock at the door. “It’s open!” Buffy called.
The door opened a crack and Andrew stuck his head inside. “Xander? The car is here for you.”
Xander nodded. “I’ll be down in a minute.”
Andrew shut the door, and Xander turned back to Buffy. “So,” he said.
“Well, just promise me that you won’t be a stranger.”
“I promise,” Xander said. He turned and pulled her into a hug, his eyes wet with tears. “And call me anytime. All the time. About anything. Everything. Not just Council stuff. I need my Buffy stories.”
“You too,” she said, hugging him back hard, crying as she did so. “You call too.” She pulled back from him and wiped at her tears. “And you better send me an invitation to the wedding, or I will be very upset.”
Xander laughed and wiped away his own tears. “It is way too early to start thinking about marriage, Buffy.”
Buffy smiled. “No. It’s not.”
Xander had nothing to say to that. Instead he stood up and walked over to the door. “Not coming down?”
She shook her head. “I got a private goodbye,” she said. “I don’t think I can take a public one.”
Xander nodded. “I um…”
“I know,” she said. “Me too. Go.”
Xander nodded and shut the door behind him. He went downstairs and into the foyer where Andrew, Giles and a half-dozen slayers were waiting for him. Xander gave all of them hugs, even Andrew. Lucy came back inside, having finished loading the bags.
“Ready?” she asked, taking his hand in hers.
“Ready,” he said.
They looked up at the balcony and saw Buffy leaning against the railing.
“What?” Lucy yelled back at her.
“He’s yours now,” she said. “Take care of him.”
Lucy used her index finger to draw an X over her heart. Buffy nodded at her once and then walked away. Lucy squeezed his hand.
“Okay,” Xander said. “Well… it appears we have a plane to catch.”
With one final smile, Xander and Lucy went out into night, got into the waiting car and drove away. Together.
* * * * *Epilogue
Two Years Later
“Sorry about that arm,” Clark said.
“Not your fault,” Xander said, waving his broken right arm around. The cast was dark blue. “No way you could have known that guy would throw you into me. I should have stayed out of your way.”
“I think I look weird.”
“I’ve always thought you looked weird,” Xander said. “Now you just also look blue.”
Clark looked at himself in the mirror. “You don’t think it’s too… cheesy?”
“Clark, you’ve got on a tight, blue, full-body suit, red underwear outside the suit, a big, flowing red cape and a big yellow diamond on your chest with an S inside. Cheesy is not the word I would use.”
“Flamboyant, maybe,” Lucy said from the doorway.
“Lu,” Xander said, chastising her.
“No, no, I want to hear everyone’s opinion,” Clark said.
“It’ll take some getting used to,” Xander said. “But to me? It looks honest. And heroic.”
Clark took a deep breath. “Okay,” he said. “Let her in.”
Lucy rolled her eyes and waved down the hallway. A moment later Lois stepped into the room.
“Well?” Clark said.
“Has anybody told you that you have the most amazing abs?” she asked.
Clark rolled his eyes. “Lois, the suit?”
“It looks hot,” she said. “But besides that … the colors, the way you’re basically not hiding anything. It looks good, Clark. It looks… super.” She smiled earnestly at him.
Clark nodded. “Good,” he said.
The four of them walked to the front of the Kent farmhouse and stood in the sun. Clark seemed to be soaking in the rays.
“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” Xander asked.
Clark took a deep breath. “Lex has just surfaced after being missing for two years. He claims he has no memory of Smallville, but already we’ve linked him to a half-dozen crimes, not the least of which is murder. With his resources, brains and ego, the things he can accomplish are just scary. He’s driving Metropolis into the ground and making its people afraid. They need something to look up to, an example of how they can fight back at him and take control of their lives.”
“And that’s my baby,” Lois said, twining her fingers with Clark’s and leaning up to give him a kiss on the cheek.
Xander and Lucy looked at them and linked their hands as well.
“Okay,” Clark said. “You guys stand back a couple feet, I’ve only done this a couple of times.”
Everybody took a few steps backward, and Lucy grabbed her sister’s hand.
Clark bent at the knees just slightly, and time seemed almost to stand still for a second. An instant later, he was airborne, a blue and red streak flashing through the sky.
Xander released his breath. “I hope I don’t ever get used to that,” he said.
“I never will,” said Lois. Lucy and Xander shared a look.
“He’ll be fine,” Lucy said. “And he’ll be back before you know it.
“I know. Go on inside, I’ll be there in a minute.”
Xander and Lucy went back in the farmhouse, and Lois stood there, watching the sky.
“I forgot something.”
She nearly jumped out of her skin, and turned to find Clark standing behind her.
“What was it?” she asked.
He stepped up to her and pulled her into a deep kiss. “I love you,” he said, when the kiss ended.
“I love you, too,” she said.
Clark grinned and stepped out into the yard. “I’ll be fine,” he said.
“Go,” she said.
He tilted his head just a little, a tiny smirk showing at the edge of his lips.
“Off you go!” she waved him away with her hand. He bent slightly again and rocketed into the sky.
“Up, up,” she whispered, “and away.”