A/N This is just a bit of an introduction to the series. Everything has to start somewhere, and so here is the start. As always, I have no proprietary claim on BTVS or any of it's related enterprises.
Change is said to be the only constant in the Universe. It is not a great leap, therefore to assume that we as a species are aware of it, even on a virtually subconscious level. People who can spot liars may simply be tuning in to the change in the other persons voice or body language. We can usually tell when a significant other is cheating, or thinking about it simply by a change in the way they relate to us; we can tell when the weather changes or when someone is really out to get us. Thousands of years surviving whatever the world could throw at us had given mankind a finely honed instinct for detecting change. The real question is can we tell what change is coming, and will we be able to deal with it if it is not for the better.
It was movie night, a tradition that had been re-instituted in Scotland once everything settled down. This night was a bit unusual because all three of the founding Scoobies were in attendance, cracking jokes and playing off each other as only longtime friends can. The newbie slayers thought it was neat, but if Cordelia or Anya or maybe even Oz had been there then they would have commented on the almost perfunctory nature of Xander’s comments. It was like he was responding from instinct rather than actually thinking about his quips and comments. It would have been clear to them that he had something else on his mind. Both Buffy and Willow did notice that there was something up with Xander, but wrote it off as his still being twisted up about Rene’s death.
The last movie of the night was “The Shawshank Redemption”, a movie that Xander had never seen before. The reason behind that was simple, it was based on a Stephen King story, and Xander figured he had enough horror in his life without reading about it or seeing it on the screen. But from the first he had been entranced by the movie; by the characters and the atmosphere that surrounded their lives. Towards the end, Morgan Freeman’s character restates something one of the other characters said earlier, a comment about the need to “get busy living, or get busy dying”. As those words echoed in Xander’s mind, one of the baby slayers made a comment that had Buffy laughing out loud. As his gaze darted from the movie, to his friend’s laughing face, something clicked in Xander’s head; there was a moment of clarity. He realized that she cared for him; he didn’t doubt that for a second; but that she would never feel for him, what he felt for her. He knew, without a shadow of a doubt that she would ever see him as anything other than a friend. In her eyes he was ‘Xander, one of the girls that happens to be a guy’; and he always would be. And since that was the case, well it was about time he started getting busy with living.
The thing was, he was torn. He had loved, lived and bled with these people for over eight years, the mere thought of leaving them made him feel like his guts were imploding. But the moment of clarity struck again and he realized that he would never realize just who he was and what he could do until he was just Xander Harris, and not ‘Xander Harris of the Watcher’s Council’. So that meant leaving. The questions that he now had to wrestle with were; when and how.
Buffy’s senses gave her a little nudge; something wasn’t quite right. Still laughing at a comment one of the baby slayers had made, she gave the room a quick scan. Her eyes soon settled on Xander. He was looking at her, but at the same time he wasn’t. His gaze was fixed on her, but it wasn’t so much that he was looking at her as he was looking right into her. She almost felt like his gaze was scourging her soul and didn’t like what it was finding. The look on his face was an odd mixture of sadness, pity, resignation and mild disgust. The closest she could come to it was her memory of the look on his face when he had found out about her and Spike. Now there was a memory that she didn’t want to re-live. Sneaking peaks at him every now and again, she noticed when his gaze changed to something much more usual, he was thinking about something. Then she saw his body relax and Buffy realized that Xander had come to some sort of a decision about whatever had been holding his attention, something that had come to him while he was looking at her. Buffy vowed then and there to keep a closer than usual eye on her best guy friend.
When Xander fell off the grid three months later, Buffy was as shocked and surprised as anyone; but a little voice in her head kept whispering that she’d known it was coming.