Xander sat sleepily at the kitchen table, watching as Willow drank her morning orange juice. The barbeque meet-and-greet the previous night had gone late, and Xander was glad he didn’t have to be at work the next morning, like all the other adults had to.
As it was, he and Willow had slept in later than what was usual for them and, as a bonus, their sleep had been uninterrupted by nightmares for what seemed like the first time in weeks.
The house was quiet and empty, compared to what it had been like the previous night, and Xander was pleased to note that the house was clean and there wasn’t any trash lying around or anything. Obviously Air Force personnel cleaned up after themselves a lot better than Tony Harris’ friends ever had after having a party, which wasn’t difficult. Xander shuddered at the memory of having to clean up the cans and bottles that had once contained alcohol, the trash, the vomit and the burnt cigarette butts that had littered the family while both his parents slept.
“What do you want to do today?” Xander asked. Willow paused, chewing her lip thoughtfully.
“Please don’t say we could start studying for our senior year… please?”
Willow smiled. “I wasn’t going to suggest it, although now you mention it…”
“Willow,” Xander groaned. Willow shook her head.
“Just kidding. I was just thinking, maybe we could go for a long walk or maybe a run around the local area.”
“Why?” Xander said.
Willow shifted her feet and glanced around. “I was thinking, we’ve put a lot of effort into making sure we’re in shape for you know, slaying, it would be shame to put all that effort to waste. Besides, we can talk.”
Xander groaned wearily and finished off his breakfast before he headed upstairs and put shoes on, knowing that Willow was right. Willow met up with him back at the bottom of the stairs.
“So, we should head to that park that we went past last time, there was a running track around it, and some fitness equipment we could use for a added workout,” he told her as they left the house, locking the door behind them and taking a key. Willow nodded, knowing that Xander was letting the soldier left inside him on Halloween to plan an appropriate training session.
They set off at a quick walk and soon reached the park and did some stretches. Xander set the pace at a steady jog and they did three laps of the park, not wanting to overdo it since it had been awhile before they both had worked out like this. Not since before Willow’s coma and the attack on the library.
By the time they reached the starting point again, they were breathing heavily (It was a pretty big park) and Willow’s legs had begun to ache, so they sat down ad stretched some more.
“So, what did you think of Jack’s friends last night?” Xander asked as they stretched.
“They were alright, I guess. Murray was a little odd. There’s something about him that, I don’t know, hints demon but not a demon, if you know what I mean,” Willow replied, glancing around to ensure that they were alone.
“I think you’ve picked up on Buffy’s spidey sense but you’re right. There was something a little… odd about him, wasn’t there?” Xander agreed
“Maybe he’s one of those benign, vegetarian demons, the ones who can live peacefully with humans, you know, without killing any,” Willow said hopefully
Xander snorted. “Is there such a thing?”
“Giles told me about some, they live in Sunnydale. I even met a couple one day when Giles needed to borrow a book off them.”
“Oh, right, maybe, I guess.” Xander frowned.
“What’s wrong?” Willow asked, seeing his frown.
“I kind of just wished, that we’d gotten away from all this… you know, demons and vampires and stuff, and especially demons that are supposedly good.”
Willow nodded, knowing that Xander was referring to Angel and the whole saga with Angelus.
“I know, but hopefully it won’t be an issue, and if it becomes an issue, well, we’ve got a good supply of demon slaying stuff, thanks to Giles. We’ll handle it. Once a Scooby, always a Scooby.”
“I guess, I just don’t want to lose Jack like we lost our parents. He… he feels more like my dad than Tony Harris ever did.”
Willow nodded. She’d begun to quite like Jack and she would be very sad if something happened to him.
“Enough about Murray, what did you think about Sam and Daniel and Janet and Cassie?” she asked. Xander shrugged.
“Daniel just made me think of Giles. A younger, American Giles, but Giles all the same. Sam made me think of what I imagine older you to be like, and Janet made me think of Joyce, and Cassie made me think of a mash of Buffy and Cordelia, or what I think Buffy would have been like if she wasn’t a Slayer.”
Willow nodded sadly in agreement. “There were lots of reminders of what we left behind, you know, in Sunnydale.”
“I think Sam and Daniel like you, though.”
“Only because you said I was good at languages.” Willow shrugged. “Dr. Jackson… Daniel, he probably can fluently speak, read and write, like, ten ancient languages,”
“So, I think he was impressed. You have to admit, Willow, after only eighteen months, you’ve learned a heap of stuff.”
“So have you. Eighteen months ago, we didn’t even know about vampires or anything like that. We were just plain old Willow and Xander and Jesse. Now, you’re all military guy and you can stake a vampire easy. All I’ve picked up is some languages.”
“Er, Willow, I think you’ve forgotten the magic. You did attempt a pretty huge spell the other week and something definitely happened, if the glowy eyes and the lights were anything to go by,” Xander argued.
“A load of good that did Buffy though,” Willow said, tears rolling down her face. “She was relying on me to save Angel and I failed, and now she’s gone and she could be trapped in some hell dimension with Angelus and they hate each other, so they’ll die, and I was reading with Giles about it one day before we came here and time passes differently in hell dimensions than it does here,” Willow tearfully babbled.
“That a month our time could be like, a thousand years for Buffy. I know it doesn’t matter for Angel, because he’s immortal, but Buffy’s human and it’s not like we can use the Slayer line to see if she’s still alive because the line doesn’t go through Buffy anymore—it went through Kendra and now it goes through the new Slayer,” Willow cried. Xander shifted closer and pulled Willow into a hug.
“Buffy’s strong, she’ll be okay. Maybe… maybe the spell worked and she and Angel ended up in a dimension where he can’t lose his soul, and so they can… do whatever they like with no fear of repercussions.”
“I don’t think Acathla meant for his Hell dimensions to be a nice place to go to, somehow,” Willow said into Xander’s shoulder.
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Xander admitted.
Willow and Xander took a longer route back to Jack’s house before they went into the backyard and sat on the deck together, watching the clouds drift by. Willow remembered back when they were small and they would lay in her backyard and try to pick what the clouds looked like.
“Do you think the new slayer will be sent to Sunnydale?” Xander asked. Willow glanced around again.
“Yeah, I guess so,” she quietly replied. “I mean, the Hellmouth is still active and the vamps still treat it as their hunting ground, and Giles never mentioned anywhere else in the world that had such high levels of demon activity as we did, so guess she’d go there. I wonder if Giles will still be the Watcher?”
“I guess it will depend on if she already has a Watcher or not.”
“Probably not. I mean, Kendra had her own Watcher that had raised her from childhood and Buffy did have a Watcher before Giles, so I doubt it. I hope he stays in Sunnydale though, for Oz and Cordelia’s sake and when Buffy comes back. She’ll need Giles, with us gone and Angel… not there.”
Xander nodded in agreement. “Buffy and Kendra always got along though, hopefully she and the new Slayer will become friends, and Cordy will be happy to be able to pull Buffy away from her geeky friends.”
“Oz is still there,” Willow pointed out.
“Yeah, but he’s also in a band, so it cancels out all of his weirdness. He’s cool by default,” Xander replied. Willow smiled wistfully as she remembered how Oz’s lips had felt against hers during their short-lived romance. She’d dated a cool guy and she’d enjoyed it.
“You never know, the new Slayer might be even geekier than us,” Willow joked. Xander coughed.
“I take offense to that comment; no one could be geekier than us. We are the geekiest. The only thing that could make us any geekier would be if we started saying that there is life on other planets.”
Both of them burst into gales of laughter at Xander’s words before they sat in a comfortable silence.
“It’s been ages since we laughed like that,” Willow commented. Xander nodded. It felt like it had been years, not just weeks, since they’d been able to laugh, really laugh. Ever since the loss of their parents, there hadn’t been any real reason to laugh. Now though, Xander found himself thinking that maybe there was a light at the end of the tunnel. He and Willow were together, in a home where it appeared they were both cared about much more than either of them ever had been before, in a town with little supernatural activity, and Angelus had been defeated. Sure, there was a question mark hanging above Buffy’s head regarding where she was, and if she was coming back, or even if she could go back to Sunnydale and Giles had lost the love of his mid-life, but then, Xander hadn’t trusted Jenny ever since it was revealed that she had been lying to them and knew all about Angel’s curse, although he knew Willow felt differently about that compared to what he thought.
“Cassie asked me if we wanted to come shopping with her and Janet at some point,” Willow said. Xander nodded. He’d gone shopping on a couple of occasions with Buffy and Cordelia and he’d survived, if only just. He was pretty sure he could handle Cassie.
“Sounds good, we’ve got to learn where all the good shops are.”
“What, the comic book and DVD shops for you, and the computer and book shops for me.”
“Exactly. Who cares about wearing fashionable clothes?” Xander smiled. Willow giggled, eying Xander’s t-shirt, which was slightly sweaty from the work out. At least it wasn’t one of Xander’s bright Hawaiian shirts. As much as she had tried, Buffy had never been able to get Xander out of those and into something a little more… normal.
“I can’t imagine Cassie agreeing with you,” Willow pointed out, rolling onto her side and propping her head up with her hand.
Xander chuckled. “I can’t imagine many teenaged girls would,” he commented. “Present company excluded, of course.”
“Gee, thanks. If I’m not a teenaged girl, what am I, a little green man from outer space or something?”
“No, you’re Willow,” Xander said with a smirk, which Willow instantly recognized as one that she had seen so many times on Xander’s face and one she had also seen on Jack’s face.
“Cute, Xander.” She smiled before stretching her legs out and flexing her toes, feeling the sunlight being absorbed by her pale skin.
“I should go inside, I’m going to burn out here,” she told him and Xander nodded in agreement, knowing how easily his best friend burnt in the summer sun. Almost as easily as a vampire, except without the actual physically bursting into flame. The pair got up and headed for the comparative shade provided inside the house and Xander slung his arm over Willow’s shoulder.
“I think we’re going to be okay,” Xander said and Willow stopped, turning to face her best friend. Her green eyes rose, meeting his deep brown eyes, so filled with emotions. Six months ago being this close to Xander would have made Willow’s heart race, but not now. She wasn’t sure when it had happened, but at some point Willow was pretty sure she’d stopped crushing over Xander, as if she had fallen out of love with him in the romantic sense, and instead had fallen in love with him as the protective brother and best friend that he’d always been for her.
“How can you be so sure, Xander?” Willow asked, allowing her feelings to show on her face. Xander wiped the few tears that had escaped from Willow’s eyes away with his thumb.
“Because we’re together. Xander and Willow. Willow and Xander, we’re two of the three musketeers. As long as we’re together we can do anything.”
Willow smiled and then hugged Xander tightly. In her heart, she knew he was right. They were going to be just fine. A.N. Hi all. I'm sorry it's been such a long time between updates, but I've just been very busy with University and family dramas, but hopefully next time there won't be so long between updates. I hope you all liked the fluffiness at the end, and for those of you who are hankering for a bit of Hellmouth action...we'll see. There will be Stargate type action before any Hellmouth type action.
Thanks to everyone who has been reviewing. I'm glad so many of you are enjoying this story, and i really appreciate the feedback I've been getting.
A special call out to all of those who have been affected by the events of September 11 2001, and the War that has followed. My deepest sympathies and respect to you all on this year's tenth anniversary.