“‘What am I going to do with forty subscriptions to Vibe?’”

“Office Space…okay…um…oh! ‘And this one time, at band camp…’”

“Hardy-har har,” Willow groaned, slapping Xander playfully on the arm. “American Pie, one or two.”

“You’re too good at this now,” he replied with a grin. “I used to dominate you.”

Willow grinned at him saucily. “You wish.”

He raised his eyebrows ala Groucho Marx and they continued down the street, the crisp fall leaves crunching under their feet.

“Okay…me. Um… ‘To infinity and beyond!’”

“Toy Story,” he told her. “One or two.”

Willow took a sip of her cocoa. “We’re running out of quotes.”

“Well, when you’ve been playing the game for two hours solid, yeah, you’re likely to run out of material.” He paused. “Unless you’d like me to quote the entire script of Return of The Pink Panther.

“Once was enough, thanks.”

They continued to walk in silence until Willow looked up and noted the full moon.

“Wonder what he’s doing?” Xander asked her quietly.

She nodded. “Sometimes.”

“Think he’ll ever come back this way?”

Now she shrugged. “Dunno. I got a postcard from him a while back…to tell me that he heard about…you know…and that he was sorry. I don’t know how he heard about it…her…but it was nice.”

Xander nodded. “That’s Oz. Always the coolest…even when people done him wrong.”

They shuffled along, lost in their own thoughts as the wind picked up now and then, causing them to wrap more tightly in their jackets.

“So…do you have Dawn-duty tomorrow, or do I?” he asked her finally.

Willow flinched. “You. Dawn’s still…it’s taking her a while to get used to me being back.”

“She’ll come around,” Xander told her confidently. “She’s just…it was a rough year for her, for everyone. But Giles says you’re good as new…and if anyone would know, it’s the Watcher.”

She nodded uncertainly. “I stayed with her last week though, for a few hours while Buffy hit that nest of Traja demons, and that went okay.”

“See?” he said brightly. “Things, looking up.”

They paused now, coming along the stone wall of the Ever Rest Cemetery, and as per their tradition, hopped up to sit and chat.

“You think you’ll start classes again next semester?”

Willow nodded. “I’d like to…this semester was just…” she shook her head violently. “Wasn’t going to happen. But I’ve almost finished…and I’ll only be a semester behind if I go back in January, so…”

Xander put his hand over hers and squeezed. “You can do it. And we’re all here to help you.”

She looked down at their entwined fingers for a moment before offering him a small smile of agreement.

“I never really thanked you, did I?” she whispered after a while.

“For what?”

She turned to him, looked into his dark, velvety eyes. “For saving my life.”

“You know? Buffy said the exact same thing to me once…think I can get a lap dance out of this?” he teased softly.

“I’m serious, Xander,” she said, her expression earnest. “I…I could have killed you. I wanted to kill you…and everyone else. Especially myself. And…and you forgave me. Even then. You said…”

“I love you, Will,” he murmured. “It was true then, it’s true now…I’d never let anything happen to you if I could help it. I’m just sorry that I didn’t see it…that I was wrapped up in my own stuff…in Anya…the wedding…”

“But...no, Xander. You couldn’t have known. I’m not your responsibility.”

He let out a short laugh. “Yeah…I know. But I also know this…in the past year you, me…Buffy…we spent a lot of time hiding things from each other. And look where it got us.”

“Right back to the beginning,” she agreed.

Now he chuckled. “God, I hope not. Can you imagine if we had to start all over right now?”

“I’m not going back to high school,” she told him, shuddering.

“You’d have to grow your hair long again, and I can’t remember the last time I saw you in tights and saddle shoes.”

“I burned them,” she said, wryly. “And look who’s talking! You’d have to send out a search party so you can hook up with the nearest bug lady.”

“Oh, that hurt!” he cried, clasping a hand to his chest. “Any chance you’ll be dressing up as a sexy, sexy Eskimo this Halloween?” he teased.

Willow rolled her eyes, slapping him on his leg. “Unfair! All I can say is if you turn into a hyena again, I’m having you stuffed and put over the mantle.”

“And in turn, I’m going to have to ban you from all computers, lest you try online dating again and unleash a demon that can take out the world wide webrything.”

Now she was laughing. “You’d have to go pining over Buffy, or worse, Cordelia again, and I’d have to be gaga for you--” she stopped abruptly and her cheeks flushed.

He watched her, delighted with her blush. “Would that be so bad?” he asked softly, half-teasing.

“Yeah well…heh. That’s a scary thought! I mean…hello! Certainly not one for the boys…or the…you know…living, these days.”

“I was stupid, Willow,” Xander admitted good-naturedly. “I didn’t see it until it was just too late…you were always right there.”

She shrugged. “Water…bridge.”

They sat, legs swinging side by side, until Xander jumped down, grabbing the hot chocolate out of her hand and taking a sip. “Okay…back to quotes.” His forehead scrunched as he thought, staring into the cup of steaming liquid, then his expression brightened suddenly. “And a memory for ya,” he grinned, advancing on her with a gleam in his eye. He held the cup up and swiped at her nose, leaving a dot of whipped cream on its tip. “You’re Amish, you can’t fight back…’cause you’re Amish.”

Her breathing hitched as she remembered back, five years earlier…sitting in the same spot, ice cream on her nose rather than the current whipped variety.

“Witness,” she told him with a smile.

He grinned and held up a napkin to wipe her nose, their faces inches from each other. Their eyes locked briefly.

“I remember this part too,” he murmured, suddenly feeling an unfamiliar, and unexpected, ball of warmth in his stomach.

She nodded, imperceptibly, a sudden fluttering taking over as butterflies began dancing on her nerves. He carefully dotted the napkin over her face. “We got attacked by a vampire…Buffy showed up and saved us…” she whispered.

He shook his head. “No…before that,” he said, his voice husky with emotion and fear.

Her eyes went from his to his lips, then back again. “Oh…that part…”

In what seemed to both to be slow motion, they moved in, closer and closer, eyes checking for certainty in the other, for a hint of confidence about what they were doing, until that moment when their lips finally met, and the sizzle of the kiss shot through them. It started slow, exploring, testing the waters, before his hand snaked up through her hair and pulled her closer still, closing the distance between them.

Her own hands clung to his back as her mind raced, frazzled and aroused at the same time.

“God,” he moaned. “You—you feel--”

“What—what are we doing?” she asked finally, pulling back mere inches, not letting go.

He smiled lazily as his forehead touched hers and his eyes closed. “Something we should have done a long time ago.”

“But…we did. We did do this…and badness! Heartache! Pain…and evil vengeance demons,” she told him, beginning to panic. “And werewolves.”

“Willow,” he murmured, kissing her again. “We’re…free. No hurt here. Nothing to feel guilty about.”

The touch of his lips made her lose all reason again, but only for a moment. “But—but Anya! What about Anya?” she cried softly, again pushing at him.

Reluctantly he pulled away and took a step back, running a shaky hand through his hair. “It’s been months…it’s still the same. She hates me. I think she’s past the wanting me dead part…but it doesn’t change that she doesn’t want anything to do with me. Or that she and…that she slept with…” The pain of Anya’s fling with Spike was still raw in his heart.

He moved to her again, his hands on either side of her face. “Willow…if you want me to stop…I will…” he told her, his lips dancing over hers. “But…I can’t explain it…”

“Maybe it’s nostalgia,” she suggested headily, her mind completely fuzzy.

“Maybe,” he agreed, nuzzling her neck.

“Or we’re lonely.”

He moved up her neck and back to her lips. “Most definitely.”

“We’re…Xander…I’m gay…” she started to protest until her lips found his and once again every thought flew out of her mind. He pulled her down off the wall so she was standing, clutching her completely against his rapidly warming body. They gripped one another, desperate, hungry. The moon shone high above, reflecting down on them, two lovers finding each other in the night.

When they parted, collecting themselves as best they could, they clasped hands. “We’ve gotta get out of here,” Xander told her, looking around.

She nodded. “Can we get your car, go for a drive?”

“You bet. Driving is—safer.”

Ten minutes later they were safely ensconced inside his car, driving out of Sunnydale.

“Where are we going?” Willow asked him.

“Just around,” he told her. “Blow off some steam.”

“Oh,” she murmured, nodding, and turned to watch the night go by.

“Do you…did you ever think about this?” he asked her minutes later, when the silence began to claw at him.

She turned to look at him. “Sometimes. But…I figured it was just…you know…good memories. And some regret…things I didn’t get to have.”

That seemed to satisfy him, but only for a moment. “’Cause, I haven’t. I’m sorry. Since we…since Cordelia and Oz…it just…well, and then there was Tara.”

“What are you saying?”

“Nothing! Just that…this is a complete surprise to me, Willow. You’re my bud. My best-bud. I didn’t expect this to ever happen again. And…here we are…and it’s huge! And it’s scary…and I don’t know what to do, but all I can think about is pulling over and kissing you again.”

Her eyes flew wide. She swallowed. “O-okay,” she offered.

His head turned to her, amazed, then moved back to the road. In a moment he’d pulled over into a road-side stop and had her in his arms again. Their kisses were fervent, pleading, passionate.

“Xander! Wait!” came her muffled cry a few moment later, and she pushed him back as best she could. “We have to…we have to talk about this. We can’t just…”

“I know, I know,” he admitted, shuffling back behind the steering wheel, his hands gripping either side of it.

“What are we doing? Is this for real?” she asked. “Are you—are you in love with me?”

The question was one he hadn’t considered and it took him by surprise. “Are you in love with me?” he shot back.

She considered. “I—I don’t know. I mean…I love you, yeah…I just…like you said. Been years. Haven’t gone there…to you or that side of the gender pool…”

“You did. Once. For years it was me…and I was too stupid to see it.” He sounded angry, realized it, and softened. Neither spoke for a moment until Xander let out a deep breath. “This is all new to me, too, Will. I didn’t plan it. And…I don’t know if I want to stop it.” He paused. Then—“You know when I first realized I loved you? In the hospital. After Angel’s gang attacked us…the night Kendra died. You were there…lying on the bed, so still…and I begged you to come back to me. I told you that I couldn’t live without you, and then I told you I loved you. And right when I said that, you started to move…first your fingers, then your eyes fluttered…and your head moved. And you called for Oz.”

She sat across from him, half-turned on the bench-seat, staring at him.

“I knew then…he was the one for you. Like with Buffy…it just wasn’t going to happen with me. You two had it for other guys…and then me and Cordelia hooked up.”

“Until Homecoming,” she finished.

“We’ve had to bury feelings for each other so long…what if they’ve been alive down there and we just didn’t know it?” he asked.

“Do you really think that?”

His heart was hurting. “I don’t know…maybe…”

“This is big, Xander. This is huge. This is…it’s us.”

He turned to her again. “Are you afraid to see? What if it’s real? Do we just push it away again? ‘Cause in the last hour…my mind’s gone completely bye-bye. And my heart is racing. And it’s all over Willow,” he told her gently. “Everything in my head and in here,” he placed her hand on his chest, “it’s just screaming ‘Willow.’”

Tears sprang to her eyes. “Oh…wow…”

“I don’t know what I’m doing here, Willow…an hour ago it was movie quotes and brisk fall breezes…and now it’s…you. You’re the one I turn to when I don’t know what to do. So…I’m asking you. What should I do?”

Willow met his eyes and searched them, hoping to find something of herself in their reflection. Her mind raced until…Xander’s mouth quirked into his trademark half-smile, and her heart lurched.

“I’d tell you to kiss the girl, Xander.”

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