Buffy sat on the beach basking in the moonlight with her knees gathered to her chest. Small waves lapped quietly at her feet occasionally touching the tips of her bare toes. The house was dark except the exterior light that would guide her to the front door when she was ready to go inside.
With Angel she had wished for nights like the ones she had been having the past few months. She was able to be a woman and simply just be. How she had craved that when she was sixteen years old. At that time she just wanted more time with Angel, she would have killed for it.
With Spike her feelings usually ran the opposite, craving the daylight he claimed she did not belong to. Nights with Spike until this year had been filled with violence or sex that resulted in her hating herself in the morning. She liked to think the friendship they had established since his return made up for all of the times she had used him. She believed he knew she was sorry. She had spent his last night with him and just held him, as he had done for her when everyone else had told her to leave.
"Hey, Buff, whatcha doing sitting out here all by your lonesome?"
Buffy turned her head, her cheek resting against her knee and shrugged. "Just doing some stargazing."
"Mind if I join you? Three eyes are better than one I've been told."
Buffy lifted her head and shook it slightly at Xander's joke. How could he be so lighthearted about losing an eye? Seven years the four of them had gone without anyone getting seriously injured aside from her dying twice.
It was one of the reasons she had left the house on Revello Drive without much of an argument the night Dawn told her to go if she could not be with them. She knew she had been out of control, but she did not know what else to do. For years she had acted on instinct and it had always worked out in the end without much for consequences. Her hastiness had cost Xander his eye and some of the SITs their lives; this after he had given a speech in her honor that still made her get weepy.
"Well then I guess since I don't know a Cyclopes you will have to be my third eye."
"Those Cyclopes' have nothing on me anyway."
Buffy chuckled and went back to staring at the stars and the ocean. It looked so dark and foreboding under the moonlit sky. She could see how both Angel and Spike could succumb to the First's urgings if this was all they ever saw of life anymore.
"So what are we looking at?"
"Nothing, just looking. Why are you awake?"
He took a seat in the sand next to her after he slid his brown leather Birkenstock's off. "I don't know, just couldn't sleep. You know how that is."
"Yeah," she said simply.
"At least you're not having your dreams."
"No, no dreams for Buffy," she quipped.
She expected to have dreams about Spike similar to those that she had after sending Angel to hell. It was hard to believe he was truly gone. Spike had been bigger than life from the moment she had laid eyes on him. He had been full of boastful swaggering yet was capable of treating Drusilla like a princess. She took the absence of dreams to mean that while she loved Spike she was not in love with him. Dreams about Angel or Spike were not the dreams that Xander was referring to anyway. He was referring to the Slayer-y, prophetic dreams she had. She did not miss them and she took the lack of them to mean that evil was on a temporary vacation.
"So, there's no dreams, no evil's afoot, but you can't sleep and you're out here being mopey Buffy?"
"I'm not being mopey Buffy," she said with a shrug. "I'm just enjoying having nothing to do." She came out here almost every night and watched the stars over the ocean. There were nights she was exhausted and still could not get to sleep until after she had come out. Giles was curious about this and told her to exercise caution. If there was some sort of powerful force causing her to need to sit under the stars each night she liked to believe it was not something evil.
"What's the difference?"
"The difference is for the first time in years I can come out here and just sit. You of all people should be able to understand that."
"I guess I just worry sometimes when you stay to yourself like this."
"Xander, I'm with you guys every day, all day. The only time I'm by myself is at night."
"Okay. I'm just making sure you know I have no problem with you knocking on my door if you need a shoulder."
"And there is no one else's shoulder I'd think about using, Xander. But you've got your own stuff to deal with."
Both were quiet for a while after that, lost in their own thoughts and apparently happy just to have company for a little while. Buffy knew Xander was happy for Willow, too, but it was a little strange for it to be the two of them with no one while Willow had someone. So conversing about in depth things was a foreign thing to them. Not that Buffy had ever been in depth girl with Xander anyway.
"Do you think she's up there?"
Buffy looked at the stars and shrugged. Spike sure was not up there. There was no going up for vampires even with redemption, only down. "I don't know, Xander," she replied honestly. Anya had been a vengeance demon for crying out loud and had reveled in hurting people.
"I never knew she had it in her to think of anyone but herself."
"Who did?" Buffy laughed lightly. "But you were engaged to her, Xander."
"And didn't marry her. I loved her, but I just knew it wouldn't have worked."
"I'm glad you went with your instincts on this one, Xander. We've got big enough odds against us as it is."
"I know I hurt her, but I think we would have hurt one another more later."
"I wonder if they forgive us?" Buffy could not help but ask. Xander was quiet, seemingly thinking about the implications of her statement. She was talking about Cordelia, Angel and Riley as well as Anya and Spike and Xander seemed to know this. They both had been hurtful to those they loved, including one another.
"It's hard to say, but I like to think they do, Buff. Life sucks, but dying would suck even more if you had to hold onto all the garbage from this life."
"You don't," she said softly.
"I'm sorry, Buff, I'm so stupid. It's so easy to forget sometimes."
"No big, I'm over it now, Xander. You're fine, but I just wanted you to know that it is happier there. There's nothing to worry about or be upset about."
"That's assuming they're in the same place you were."
"That's assuming," she said with a shrug. She did not like to think of where Spike might be. Angel had not described what the hell dimension he had been sucked into was like, but he was more beast than man when he returned. Buffy had experienced a hell dimension herself and remembered it had not been pleasant.
"Yeah," Xander said quietly, which was followed by another bout of silence between the two of them.
Buffy placed her hand over Xander's and gave his hand a gentle squeeze in comfort. She suspected he needed the comfort right now more than she did. She felt calmer, more peaceful than she had when she came out here. This was the case most nights, but tonight with Xander sitting next to her it seemed more pronounced. She was with friends here and that was what mattered most.
"You ready to go back inside?" Xander asked.
"Yeah, I think I am."
"I for one am glad because I'm getting tired."
"You could have gone on without me."
"And looked like I couldn't keep up or that I was lame. How pathetic do you think I am?"
She laughed as they both stood and brushed the sand off of themselves. "I've never thought of you as pathetic, Xander."
"Never?" he asked, offering her his hand once they had cleaned themselves up. He seemed almost hesitant, as if he was afraid she would reject him. Once upon a time she would have equated his offering her his hand to affections she did not return and would have brushed him off. She took his hand without hesitation, getting comfort from the fact Xander knew her so well and still cared for her. She realized, too, that she was answering his question without words, giving him some assurance. "Thanks, Buff," he said softly in response.
"You don't have to thank me, but you're welcome. That's what friends are for after all."
"We're pretty lucky then I think because all of us have the best friends we could ask for."
"I think you're right," she said simply as she took one last look at the stars before heading back to the house for the night.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com