I have no proprietary claim on anything to do with BTVS except my DVD's. Just a mood piece. Enjoy.
COUNTING THE DAYS
The little electric clock silently proclaimed that it was 2:45 in the morning and Xander was sitting on the edge of his bed. He was bent slightly at the waist eye not really seeing the moon cast shadows on the floor. He was trapped, well and truly trapped; and he knew it. What sucked was that it was a trap that he had built himself. He turned slightly and looked at the other figure that was in his bed and his features softened but then he resumed his intense study of the floor.
All he had ever wanted to do was keep his friends safe and happy. He would have loved to have been able to do more, to directly shoulder part of their burden; but he couldn’t. So he had cheerfully done everything that he could and that had brought him to this moment.
After Sunnydale had gone the way of the Dodo, the group had scattered. Each one of them doing their part to make up for the life that they had inflicted on unsuspecting girls. Part of Xander had resented the others for taking the easy routes, but he kept his thoughts to himself and had done the best he could in hunting down slayers across the continent of Africa. After four years he had set up a reliable system of identification and a good team to handle most of what was thrown at them. He had then gone back to them and it was like he had never left. Africa had hardened him, put a layer of callous over his conscience, but after only five minutes with his old friends and he could feel that starting to melt away. They pulled him back to who he had been with an effortless ease, he loved them for that. They still parted ways, traveled to various hot spots or spent some extended time in places that needed it, but they always came back to each other.
It had started soon after they had first re-united. Kennedy finally left and Willow was devastated. She had shown up at Xander’s door, a weeping red haired mess; and once more, Xander the Comfortador had ridden to the rescue. For the next few weeks he and Willow were inseparable as he sought to heal his friend’s heart. They watched bad movies and ate way too much junk food and talked endlessly about the days when pain had only meant a scraped knee and Cordelia was the evilest creature that they knew. Willow recovered, buoyed by her best friend. And then she felt ready to interact with the world again. She had a date less than two weeks after the rebuilding project was completed and Xander’s life went back to what passed for normal.
That ended two weeks later when Buffy showed up on his doorstep at 1:30 in the morning, crying her eyes out. It seemed as though Spike, who had survived Angel’s suicide run and been turned human as a result, couldn’t handle the fact that Buffy was super powered and he wasn’t any more and had finally buggered off. Xander thought that the dirtbag was simply showing his true colors, but he managed to keep that thought to himself. Before this had all gone down, Xander had actually offered to train Spike; admittedly the opportunity to kick the crap out of the self absorbed asshole had played a factor in the offer, but the bleached blunder had just sneered at the offer and still tried to fight the way he had back when he was a vampire. This had led to a lot of worry on Buffy’s part as well as Spike breaking Giles’ record for concussions. Xander walked the crying Slayer over to his couch and started to work his magic. Soon Buffy had given him the whole story and had fallen asleep in his arms. The next couple of weeks were similar to the ones that he had spent with Willow, except that the movie fests were cheesy horror flicks instead of incomprehensible Bollywood musicals; and like Willow, Buffy was soon ready to rejoin the world. Once again Xander’s world reverted to some semblance of normality, which lasted for almost four months until Faith showed up at his door, crying her eyes out.
Since then, Xander had put the three originals plus Dawn, Rona, Vi and even Andrew back together at least once. One part of him knew that this wasn’t healthy behavior for either him or for them, but he couldn’t stop himself. For the girls, and Andrew; it kept them from having to change their ways. They would go out and fall for the same kind of guy and then get their hearts smashed to pieces; then Xander would put them back together and the cycle would repeat itself. For himself, it prevented him from having any kind of a relationship outside his circle of friends. He’d tried of course, but nothing serious had ever evolved and one night stands just weren’t his thing.
Getting dates wasn’t the problem; he was funny and surprisingly articulate. Combine that with a fairly rugged physique and the eye patch and women seemed almost eager to date him. This would last right up until they would meet any of his friends and then it was all over. Not that Buffy and company would threaten anyone, they didn’t have to. When Xander’s date met his “friends”, and the young woman realized that any of them could be movie stars, well their egos just weren’t able to compensate for that and the dates ended right there.
Once, just once, Xander had openly lamented his lack of companionship. He had made the mistake of doing so when Dawn, Buffy and Willow were all within listening range. They all walked into the room with three different hurt looks, not quite believing what they’d just heard. “But you’ll always have us, Xander;” Dawn murmured, her eyes suspiciously wet.
“I know,” Xander replied immediately. He knew it to be true, that he would always have them and they would always have him and it was both the most joyous and depressing thought he’d ever had. He had gathered them in then just to re-assure them that he wasn't going anywhere and they'd just sat on the couch together for almost an hour. He'd loved it and hated it at the same time.
He still tried to date, hoping to find that one woman out there that wouldn’t be intimidated by his girls. But he knew in his heart that it was a quest doomed to failure.
It was like a Greek Tragedy, he thought as the late autumn cold seeped through the floor and into his feet. Despite his less than stellar academic accomplishments, he did indeed know what Greek Tragedy was. Its sense of structure appealed to him. The whole concept of how some noble or honorable trait could cause someone’s downfall had seemed absurd back in high school but now he was living proof of its veracity. His tragic flaw was that he cared, cared for his friends as he would his family, because in the end; that is exactly what they were. And because of that he was trapped.
He looked back over his shoulder as Buffy shifted on the bed. She’d been in a bad way when she’d shown up tonight. Xander moved to get back in bed and froze as a thought hit him. ‘Maybe,’ he thought. ‘Maybe someday when things get settled down I can hang up my spurs and walk away. Go back to being a carpenter and doing fine work and making small pieces from my own shop.’ He slid under the covers and Buffy instantly latched onto him, pulling herself close. ‘Maybe have a chance at a relationship that lasts more than two dates,’ Xander mused as he looked at his friends hurt visage. ‘Maybe someday,’ he thought again as he got comfortable and his eye shut; ‘but not today.’