Remember When
by Judy

Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy...
~Prayer of St. Francis

For all of his life, Xander felt like he walked around wearing a poofy Xander suit. A clumsy, gigantic costume paired with a gigantic tongue that sometimes he wanted to rip off - but never did, because it offered him some kind of metaphysical protection from the outside. He spends the days feeling guilty about one thing or another, not having enough skills, or brains, or muscles, or audacity. Those attributes that would allow him to protect the women he loved instead of having them protect him while he perfected the art of running away.

He was good at that, killer good, which was why he was beside Dawn, along with the two evil flunkies that his best friend wanted to kill. Dawn, who was a child, but not a child, who sometimes acted older than Xander did. Of course she used to be this large blob of energy before being turned into a human, but she was adorable, so Xander could forgive her for that.

He was running, running and hearing each thud of his heart predicting a certain doom. Inept Xander, who can't even run away right, whose residence is this hellhole - sorry, hellmouth opening, called Sunnydale. The Cemetery seemed a good place to go at the time, but now, with a flaming fireball in their direction, the Buffster leaping over the headstones like hurdles, and then everything seemed to go into chaos after that. His thoughts were screaming at him in every direction. Smart move, Harris, place filled with dead bodies, and there was a big gaping hole containing the only person who could save the world, and Anya who miraculously appeared out of nowhere. He couldn't even get married right, for God's sakes, and now it was coming back to haunt him. Oh yeah, and his best friend is bent on destroying the world, you should see her on a bad day.

He ran then, towards the big satanic temple of doom, thinking he was going to miss the Scooby Gang when he died. He ran faster.


Pant. Pant pant pant. He needed to get in shape.

At least, after he was gone, he wouldn't have to watch the girls he loved grow into women, the women he loved fall in love with someone else. Desperate Xander, that was him. After the "let's just be friends" speech that Buffy, along with the others had given him countless times, he decided that hey - it was fine with him. He stopped caring, stopped feeling anything in the love department anymore, because, simple, you grow desensitized to pain from one direction. Let's take Buffy for example. Buffy only gives and gives, and never takes and never asks for anything in return. He has stood around while she gave pieces of her heart to one of the mopey undead, or super-soldier man, or Mr. Nice-Guy-Doctor who turns out to have a serious case of split personalities and ends up being a woman vengeful goddess thing. He must be the first guy in the history of the world to be rejected because he wasn't weird enough. So he had flings, even with Faith, who scared the hell out of him, but had reminded him of Buffy. It was an ever so remote connection, since she was a Slayerette, and that was close enough to having the real thing, right? How could you be so stupid, Xander?


Existence as he knows it was about to cut short by his purple veiny friend who was the uber dark witch intent on saving all our sorry asses by sending them straight to the afterlife. Well, he was cool with that, except for the maiming and destruction part. He was playing dodge with the pillars that were rising from the hill like demons from the very belly of that you-know-what place. And Willow was doing all of her magically delicious tricks, while Xander was trying hard not to laugh hysterically about Lucky Charms.

And he wasn't trying to be funny at all.


It was then that Xander remembered.

The way his heart wrenched when he saw her kissing Oz even though he was supposed to be happy for her. That was what best friends are for right? To hold their hands when they're crying and to hug them and to put cotton balls between their toes when they're painting them and to allow them to try their make up on you 'just this once'.

Ok, let's not go there. He was a push over, that's what he was.

He wanted to stay on that memory, a Willow who was in love and happy, but the memories took a different turn. Back to a laughing Willow, holding a baseball bat, a cap shading her eyes from the sun. A scared Willow, grip crushing his hand at a horror movie, while he hid his own eyes under his hand. Then to the Willow he remembered the best, the one dressed in overalls, who celebrated when she completed her first database, when she finished a hard hack. The Willow he used to believe had all of the answers...

The words came. Hesitant at first, but grew stronger with every passing minute. The pain fuelled his words, his belief that his Willow could never willingly maim him, and that was she was trapped somewhere inside a witch with black eyes. Xander, who was trying not to throw up because he was afraid.

I'll still love you.
Did he really say it?
I love you.
The second time was easier.
I love you, Willow.
He meant it.
I love you.
With every bone in his body.
I love you.
With every breath he takes.

He found the strength to look into her face, even though it scared him. He found the courage to look at her because she was his best friend, and his love. She looked back, back at him with those old, but young eyes. Frighteningly vulnerable eyes. Willow's eyes. She was crying, he was crying; he held her, she held him. Xander suddenly recalled what he had felt when they kissed that day, when Cordelia caught them together. Like finding a piece of himself, like something that should have happened long ago.

"Do you remember?" He murmured into her hair, "The day that you kicked George Abbey for stealing your seat?"

She gasped in laughter, and it was a sign the old Willow was back.

"Do you remember when we went down to the beach, and you said there's no better day than this one? Do you remember when we tried to..." Faster and faster, he reminisced. There were happy times, sad times, ridiculously silly times, but Willow was intertwined in them, all the good and bad times. Together, Willow and Xander.

"And there was that time when you really really liked that guy in seventh grade, but he-"

Willow looked up at him. "Shut up, Xander" But she was smiling. And Xander did.

Somehow he knew then, they would be ok. He was there in a body that hurt, and a girl in his arms that had been through so much, and there were so many wounds to heal, but he would be there... to pick her up, to hold her hand, to catch her when she falls...

Add another name to the list. Xander, who saved the world.


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