Title: "6 Months"

Chapter 3/7

Written by: Shawn

 

Summary: Angel returns with a revelation that shocks Buffy. Xander's anger leads to a complicated encounter with Willow. Faith makes an instant connection with a stranger. Buffy makes a confession to Xander.

Category: Romance/Humor

Rated: R mostly, but eventually NC-17. There is a NC-17 version of this chapter available.

Ship: Buffy/Xander

Timeline/Spoilers: Everything up to the BtVS series finale "Chosen" is canon except Xander losing his eye. Outside of that it's my AU. Everything’s explained in the story.

My personal archive: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ShawnsLibrary/

Disclaimer: Joss owns it all. I just let them out to play once in a while.

Email: DayShawn1974@hotmail.com

Authors Notes 1: Willow, Buffy, Xander, Faith, and Dawn live in Cleveland, watching over the as-of-yet unopened Hellmouth. They are currently retired and living normal lives for once. Of course every now and then a vamp sighting might spur a patrol, but for the most part they're fighting the same every day struggles and frustrations as you or I.

Authors Notes 2: This story is for fun and laughs. Taking it any deeper will detract from enjoying it. In other words, read it when you're in a good mood or if you need to be put in one.

Authors Notes 3: This chapter begins seven weeks after Buffy and Xander were married.

~~~~~~

A great marriage is not when the 'perfect couple' come together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.

- Dave Meurer

You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest, that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.

--Jan Glidewell

The magic of the first love is the ignorance that it can never end.

--Disraeli

I love you not as something private and personal, which is my own, but as something universal and worthy of love which I have found.

--Henry David Thoreau

~~~~~~

 

 

******

Week 7

******

 

Buffy and Xander Harris's Apartment

321 Winchester Dr

Friday, November 4, 2005 2:00 AM

Cleveland, Ohio

 

 

Despite her warm and comfy position, Buffy's sleep-addled mind struggled to figure out why her bed felt so small and lumpy.

She stretched her legs and yawned as her eyes slowly fluttered open. She tried to stretch out a bit more only to find herself being firmly held in place. The familiar scent attached to the larger-than-normal pillow lying underneath her head was unexpected. It just didn't feel like her pillow for some strange reason.

One of her arms dangled off the side of... her bed? That couldn't be right. Her fingertips were touching the floor.

And then there was this big 'thing' draped over her back.

Big thing draped over her back?

Yawning again, Buffy swallowed as her eyes quickly adjusted to the dimly lit room around her. She noticed the TV was on mute with a late-night rerun of 'The Facts of Life' playing. What was that doing on? She hated that show as a kid. She routinely dodged its reruns like the plague. Then again, the television in her bedroom was much smaller than the one in front of her. And that long oak table belonged in her living room, not her bedroom.

Her bedroom? Just like that mental fog began to lift from her mind as her memory kicked in at last.

Tonight was the Harris movie night.

On her living room oak inn table sat a half-eaten popcorn bowl. Next to it was a Giovanni’s deep-dish pizza box and an empty bottle of wine. The 'thing' draped over her back had to be her husband, whose arm was tucked snuggly around her waist. The soothing warmth of his breath softly caressed the back of her neck as she realized his face was pressed into her hair.

It occurred to Buffy that there wasn't any space separating them at all as Xander had essentially molded himself to her figure. And she had to admit that felt so good to be held by him.

That's why it also felt so scary.

Hazel eyes scanned the time display on the DVD player. It read 2:00 AM. She's got to be at work at 8:00 AM and could use a good nights sleep in her own bed. No matter how deliciously toasty she felt lying in her husband's arms under this oversized, faded blanket with a caricature of some superhero she could no longer make out, she missed her bed.

While thinking of the best escape route out of this predicament that wouldn’t wake Xander up, Buffy couldn't deny how warm and cozy she felt sleeping with him like this. The solid weight of him resting over her, cuddling her closer as he slept was sweet. She tried to remember the last man she only slept with and failed to come up with anyone who she felt as comfortable or... gulp, as loved with.

Her relationship with Xander was as different as night and day compared to any of the men before

him. Being older aside, marriage was a new wrinkle for sure. It was true that tons of marriages failed each year, so a sheet of paper with their names on it didn't guarantee happiness.

But having someone to talk to about all the facets of your life and all the things that happened to you during the day was simply priceless. To be able to share your thoughts and opinions on everything from what cereal you buy to the latest celebrity scandal was something extra that she wasn't used to.

Buffy's life before Sunnydale's destruction and after have appeared at times to be two separate lives

altogether. The Slayer was more or less retired and only to be called upon in the event of a severe crisis. Buffy Anne Summers had to contend will real life here in Cleveland. One that didn't include late night patrols through dark cemeteries. She didn't hunt demons anymore.

Living a new lifestyle changed you. Everyone evolved over time. Nothing remained the same. Buffy was no different.

And now she's married to Xander.

Oddly enough, they merged their lives with the greatest of ease, despite their many differences. They still got on each other’s nerves daily and would argue, storm out of the room, and slam doors.

Only to kiss and make up less than an hour later. A nice enjoyable make-up/make out session that settled all their differences.

They married each other for Xander's inheritance and yet their marriage worked so far because... Buffy was still working that one out in her own head. All she knew was that she didn't seem to have any interest in flirting or the attention of other men. She found herself smiling on her drive home despite the traffic. Eating alone sometimes wasn't fun, and she hadn't done that since the day she was married. Then there was the laughing.

God, how they laughed with each other. Xander was a big kid by nature and his quirky outlook on life complimented her own. He was so much fun to be around. Messing with him, teasing him, and playing jokes on him gave Buffy such satisfaction it surprised even her.

Of course all the kissing played a part as well.

Tender pecks before they left the house in the morning and when they arrived home became longer, slower, and deeper as of late. Their kisses spoke of a greater emotion than they've verbally expressed thus far. In the seven weeks since they were married they've gotten along so well, no matter their minor stumbling blocks and disagreements that Buffy had to admit to herself she's never been happier.

And that was because she was in...

"How long have you been awake?"

Taking that as her cue to move, Buffy shifted around on her side to face her sleepy-Xander rather than leave the

couch right away. "Not to long," she whispered for some reason. Whispering to him felt intimate. The way he was staring at her felt intimate. "We fell asleep."

"You're amazing with the obvious, Buff." Xander rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand while his other arm was still around her waist. "Popcorn, pizza, and wine are a deadly combination. We indulged big time."

He had a scruffy appeal tonight. Buffy reasoned that stubble looked good on him even in the dark. And that his sleepy voice had a lazy-sexy quality going for it. "All I remember is lying my head on your shoulder and resting my eyes."

"So you don't remember all the wild passionate lovemaking?"

Playfully, Buffy glanced down at her oversized 'Sunnydale High' shirt and checkered gray pajama pants. "So you dressed me after the wild passionate lovemaking?"

He leaned in a bit closer and tangled his hand through her silky blonde strands. "I'm a gentleman."

"And it was so good I don't even remember it?"

"You passed out at one point," he explained much to her chagrin. "I'm sure it'll come back to you in flashes. I was epic tonight."

Closing the short gap between them, her lips hung a breath away from his. "So was I whimpering how much I love you while we were making love?" she dared to ask as her arm slowly lifted between them from under the blanket, and gently ghosted over his partial erection to slip around his neck. His sharp intake of air was met with a

smirk. She had him and she knew it.

"You are so evil."

"No, I'm Buffy."

They met halfway, kissing softly in the dark for a lengthy time. Nestled in each other’s arms the outside world faded away to nothingness. Being together was more than enough. Each passing day brought them closer. And even though they're going about this romance thing backwards, it's working out better than they could have possibly imagined.

Buffy giggled against his lips when she found herself lying on top of him now. He had easily maneuvered her slim form over and now had both his arms locked over her lower back, clutching her to his chest. Their lips chased and swayed with a faint taste of pizza sauce and white wine lingering on their tongues.

Panting breathlessly, Buffy sat back on his thighs before things spun out of control. "Now who's evil?"

"I couldn't help myself," Xander defended his actions. "That lovely way you're wearing your hair with one side mashed down, coupled with that three sizes to big shirt you sleep in and your checkerboard PJ's were simply to much for me to resist."

She's so used to his teasing these days. What she's not used to is having him look at her with such love and adoration in his eyes, and having it mean so much to her. Suddenly she needed to change the subject. Grabbing the raggedy hem of his blanket, she frowned. "This is old."

"It was a gift from Willow. Darkwing Duck was a hot commodity once upon a time. I think he retired from the superhero business. I've had it since I was 15."

"And you still have it," she teased.

"I'm a creature of habit. If I'm used to something, I keep it around."

"Just like those old gym shoes with the holes in both heels?"

"I play basketball in them."

"You can't play basketball."

"Oz and I are slowly learning the game."

"Dawn beat you one on one last week."

"I thought we agreed to never discuss that?" Verbally sparing with her while she's perched over his lap wasn't conclusive to him remaining coherent for very long.

With a smidgen of mean gleaming in her eyes, Buffy adjusted her position over him ever so gently while gauging the expression on his face. This was a war he couldn't win. "What's wrong?"

"You need a bigger couch."

"So buy one?"

"You bought this couch. You should get rid of it and buy a bigger and longer one."

"Since you sleep on it why don't you get rid of it and buy a new one?"

"Because I have no intention of sleeping out here forever." Defying Buffy was as much fun as surprising her. "So until then you should provide your husband with a larger place to sleep."

"I hear the YMCA just renovated its facility down the street."

"If you keep addressing the lord and master of this house that way I'll give all your fancy imported coffee away."

"If you do that I'll give Mrs. Wilkes down the hall all of your Spiderman comics to line her five birdcages. And be happy I chose to ignore that lord and master crap," she laughed.

"Don't force me to make copies of your driving record and show them to our friends. No one knows exactly how many accidents you've had but me. They would never let you hear the end of it."

"How about I take Faith, Willow, Oz, and Dawn down to Johnny's Video Shack and introduce them to old lady at the counter who used to rent you adult movies a year ago." Xander's appalled-face signaled her victory. "She even remembers the titles."

"You wouldn't!"

Buffy gave a triumphant shrugged. When she tried to stand Xander hauled her back down as he sat up, still holding her in his arms. "I need to get to sleep."

"Sleep here with me?" he whined a little while slowly massaging her lower back with his fingertips. Before she could answer he brushed a gentle kiss onto her lips and then another. "I've never slept with you before. And... you know... this was..." he stumbled over his words a bit. "This was really nice, Buff. Waking up with you next to me and all."

Buffy felt the sincere gravity of his words warm her all over. She smiled and then pressed her forehead to his. "This couch is too small."

"Then let's move to your bed." God, she's so beautiful to him.

Buffy quirked a brow. "And just sleep?"

"If that's all you want," he replied with a series of soft caresses on her lips. Her arms slipped around his neck as brown eyes gazed into hazel. "I love... being with my wife."

He almost said it. She hated that he felt he had to wait to say what was so obvious in the way he looked

at her. In the way he talked to her and listened and treated her every day. "I know you want to make love to me."

"What I don't know is why you won't let me." With their foreheads still touching, Xander squeezed her waist and sighed.

"I think I'm afraid."

A devilish smiled curled his lips. "Do I exude 'Sex-God' that much? If you're worried about your performance, don't be. I'm easy to please. Just think of it the way we share housework. You do the dishes. I'll do you. It's a partnership, only minus the clothes and plus all the hot loving." His eyebrow wiggles amused her to no end. When she tugged at her bottom lip with her teeth he desired to kiss it all better. "You mean the world to me, Buffy," he confessed, watching her eyes soften. "Sometimes I can't stand not touching you. And I hate that this feels like I'm putting pressure on you, but..."

"No," she stated with a finger covering his lips. "I want you," she revealed at long last. "I do want you so bad."

"But?"

"For the first time I feel like I'm in no rush to make things perfect. I don't feel like you're going to leave me and I don't want to go anywhere. I love how we are together. I love how we relate to each other and how much fun we have and how good you make me feel. I love how different I feel with you, and how I think about you all the time and how we fit our schedules together. I even love paying bills with you."

"My wallet doesn't."

"I'm being serious."

"My wallet is ser..."

"XANDER!"

"Okay, alright," he grinned.

Buffy stole another kiss to his lips. "I've never felt this way before with a man in my life. I feel like I'm finally mature enough to see a good thing and hold onto. But for me, I've always jumped into the sex stuff pretty quickly and it's never ended well. Sex pretended to solve a lot of problems I had with Riley towards the end and sex was just something to get my mind off my life with Spike." Her small hands lifted to frame his handsome face. "I want us to be different than any relationship either of us have had before. I want to fall in love over time and have it be sweet and romantic and strong enough to last. I want something that's not going to hurt me or end with me hurting someone. I want to have an adult relationship that has sex as the cherry on top and not become what we do to avoid talking or the other million and one problems we have."

Loving her would require patience. Luckily, he loved her enough to give her whatever she needed. Xander kissed her forehead so tenderly. "I understand a lot of that, you know. Anya and I had some of those issues."

"When we make love," Buffy assured him with a long bathing her tongue around his in a surprisingly lustful kiss, "It'll be wonderful and it won't be a long time away. For now though, I'm just enjoying falling in love with you. That's why I'm holding off until it feels right to me."

Xander hugged her tighter and nodded against her shoulder. He shifted them sideways on the couch and then pulled her down with him under the covers. "If you're going to make me wait on sex then you're at least going to let me hold you while we sleep."

That's why she loved him already. "I think a little Summers-Harris snuggle time is a’ okay with me." She did just that, resting her head on his chest while slipping her leg between his. Xander switched off the TV. "Don't forget to mail those six letters in the morning."

"I won't."

"And you have to pick up my dry cleaning before 5:30 PM. I won't be back in the city to do it myself."

"Okay honey."

"And we need some milk."

"Cow sauce. Gotcha, honey."

"Don't forget to call Oz and get the address for where his band's playing this weekend. I accidentally erased it off the answering machine."

"I'll remember honey."

"What would you say if I told you I was thinking of going back to my natural hair color?"

"Honey, go to sleep. Please." She chuckled in his arms.

"Okay, honey."

 

 

******

Week 7

******

 

"Rumors"

A pool hall/lounge

1717 West Pullman Place

Monday, November 7, 2005 8:30 PM

Cleveland, Ohio

 

With Stone Temple Pilots providing the background noise, Jared Kohl settled in at the bar.

The kindly old landlord of his new Brownstone apartment building told him that 'Rumors' had a dark, smoky, laid-back kind of mood to it. Just what he was looking for tonight. The pool hall was well known for its bartending, cheap food, good-looking women, and lots of suspicious looking characters. It's spacious quarters housed six 9-foot Gold Crown tables with Simonis 860 cloth, leather furniture, and 2 big screen TVs with either videos or sports playing all the time.

Nursing a beer at the bar, Jared scanned his surroundings for the evening and felt right at home. He wasn't one for big crowds so this place was right up his alley. His first night in Cleveland was supposed to be spent preparing for his newest assignment, but the very long flight from the West Coast left him restless and needing to unwind.

He wasn't exactly looking forward to spending the next four and a half months in Cleveland, Ohio. Especially with a predicted brutally cold winter on the horizon. Alas, the 26-year-old California native would just have to make

due. At least this job would compensate him very well for his troubles.

Emerald green eyes closely observed the people around him. He always had a knack for being able to keep his eyes on multiple things at the same time. He had a good focus that way. And while he enjoyed the appreciative stares of two lovely ladies at the end of the bar, it was the ravishing long dark hair of woman ruling over the pool table by the wall that drew his undivided attention.

Thirty minutes passed as he watched her.

She was captivating.

Ever since he arrived he's listened to her daring anyone around to play a game. Twenty-dollar bets had already netted her a couple of hundred dollars stacked in a neat pile no one had the balls to touch. Jared saw that she knew how to play a good game, but the vast majority of her opponents were men who were spellbound by her blunt sex appeal before they even picked up their stick.

She had game. That was for sure.

She'd flirt at first just to make them miss a shot or two. Other times the sight of her tight jeans as she bent over took the guys completely out of their game. Skill blended with her mental edge to insure success left her the winner every time.

That was obviously her plan all along.

There was just something about the way she walked... the way she threw her head back after drinking a shot... she had a fire in her belly. Jared knew it. He could see it in her dark eyes. And he was drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

After she brushed off her latest mark, a biker type who seemed to take it all in stride, Jared rose to his full 6'3 height and walked over to her table. It was now or never and he just had to meet her. "Can I have next?"

"Treat the table like a stripper. Slap your twenty right there," Faith pointed with her pool cue without

looking up. When she finished adding her latest winnings to the pile she took in the sight of her newest challenger.

Damn, she thought when she got a good look at him.

If that deliciously muscular frame weren’t on full display beneath the gray sweatshirt he wore, those killer dimples would have just about killed her. He had a young Clive Owens thing going for him. His unruly short dark hair had a lawbreaker quality to it. He wore a killer smile and had gentle green eyes that seemed as kind as they were passionate. He moved like a man that knew how to please a woman all night long.

He definitely had her attention. Faith knocked back another shot before speaking again. "What's your name?"

"Jared."

"Faith," she replied in kind, exhaling a drag. "What's your game?"

"Cutthroat."

Faith nodded. She was familiar with that variation of pool. "Call it."

"Odd numbers," Jared replied while grabbing a pool cue from the wall rack.

"You can go first."

"Are you feeling that lucky?" Her smirk said it all.

"That stack of money over there don't lie, now does it?"

Cutthroat pool was a simple enough game. The two players choose the odd or even numbered balls. Once you rack the table as you would for a traditional game of 8-ball, the object was to eliminate all the balls on the table that weren't yours. Easier said than down and not a game to be played by amateurs.

Jared broke the table first while Faith watched him with a cancer stick dangling from her lips. He seemed focused on the game and not on her. Unlike the other men she played tonight, she might not be able to sway him with her sexuality. At least not yet. She briefly wondered if he was gay, then dismissed that thought. She had some gay buddies at the bike shop she worked at and her gaydar was on point.

Jared was all man and played to win. She knew it would only feel more satisfying when he lost.

"I haven't seen you around here before."

Jared set up the 2-ball and knocked it down. "I'm from California. My flight landed earlier today." He searched for his next shot, rounding the table.

"Business of pleasure?"

"Business," he groaned after missing the 4-ball. "I'm going to be in Cleveland for a couple of months."

"I used to live in Cali myself."

"Where?" He watched her set up her first shot and was determined to focus on her strategy and not how damn sexy she looked. That wasn't an easy task.

"Sunnydale." People’s reactions never ceased to amuse her when she mentioned her once upon a time stomping ground. They all got that mystified look in their eyes.

"The city that sank into the ground?"

"The one and only." Faith nailed the 5-ball in the corner pocket. She noticed how into the game he way. He wasn't staring holes in her... yet. "You single?"

Blunt and straight forward. He instantly liked that about her. "It's not gonna work."

Faith didn't look up. "What isn't?"

"You trying to flirt with me to get me off my game," he smiled, as it seemed to annoy her just a bit. "I saw how you won those other games. I'm not so easily taken."

Faith nailed the 7 ball. "It doesn't matter to me. I'll win one way or another."

And she did just that, winning that first game without yielding the stick again. Jared slipped her a twenty and asked for a rematch. Of course she accepted. Same rules only they switched numbers. This time she broke the table.

After nailing the 6-ball Faith noticed Jared bending down beside the table. "What's up?"

Angling his head under the huge table, he replied, "My cell phone fell under th..." He didn't get the chance to finish as one side of the huge table simply lifted up. His eyes widened when he saw that Faith was holding it up with one hand. Furthermore, she wasn't struggling in the least. "Let me guess. Steroids?"

"Budweiser. Now get your phone. I want my twenty bucks." Yeah, she was showing off and she knew it. She was having fun and Jared certainly wasn't hard on the eyes. "So what do you do for a living?"

He hesitated for a moment. His mom hated his job as much as his sister did. "I'm in the information business."

"Professional stalker?"

"Investigator," he added.

Faith's brows narrowed. "You a cop?" He shook his head.

"Private. Hired by clients for all those not so savory reasons."

"You not after me, are you? I made all my parole hearings." His eyes seemed to question if she were joking or telling the truth. What was cool was that he didn't seem to care either way. "I did a two and a half year bid back in Cali."

He hadn't seen that one coming. "What for?"

"Bad shit from another lifetime," Faith revealed in a far away tone while nailing the 2-ball. "So what's your newest case, Perry Mason?”

And he thought his last girlfriend was funny with the P.I jokes. Then again that was three years ago. "I can't tell you."

"Why not?" she smiled wickedly his way. The kind of smile that usually made men do whatever she wanted. "I promise I won't tell."

She was bad news and he knew it. Problem was that he liked bad news. "A married couple," he simply stated, not thinking that small nugget of information was all that specific. "That's all you're getting."

"That's usually my line to the boys."

"Why am I not surprised?”

Jared took game number 2, much to Faith's annoyance. After the game he couldn't take his eyes off her and she enjoyed that a bit more than she wanted too. When he offered to buy a round of drinks and a plate of hot wings, she accepted.

It was on his dime after all.

And he was nice. As far as Faith was concerned, nice guys were in very short supply. They ended up talking and playing three more games before calling it a night...

... and exchanging phone numbers.

 

 

******

Week 8

******

 

Abbey Market Grocery

1922 Abbey Avenue

The parking lot

Thursday, November 10, 2005 4:30 PM

Cleveland, Oh

 

"Excuse you!" Buffy grumbled as she walked out of the grocery store after almost being run over by baseball cap wearing teenager on a skateboard. As if that wasn't annoying enough after having waited in the worlds longest line due to only one electronic cash register was working, Cleveland's version of Fall weather chilled her sleeveless arms as she made her way to the car.

Aside from the endless array of vampires, demons, witches, shape-shifters, cults, and the traditional end-of-the-world apocalypse you could mark your calendar by every May; she really missed Sunnydale

sometimes. Or maybe it was just California's gorgeous warm weather and clear skies.

Nonetheless, she reached her car and tossed her bags in the back seat before climbing in the driver’s side. With work behind her and the food shopping done, Buffy felt as if the day had finally ended. She smiled as this evenings prospects loomed before her. And she definitely had plans for this evening.

The soft hum of her 2004 Maxima's engine came to life as the heater's soothing warmth lifted about. Her cell phone's 'Jingle Bells' ring tone suddenly echoed from her purse. Why oh why did her normal-challenged husband add that to her phone as his personal ring tone yesterday? Grinning despite the silliness of it, she attached her earpiece and answered the call. "One question. Why 'Jingle Bells'?"

"One answer. The holidays are near and it was free after the other three ring tones I had already purchased for my cell phone."

"So you took the cool ones and I was the freebie?"

"It was either 'Jingle Bells' or the 'Terminator' theme song. I chose the happier of the two."

"You cheap bastard."

"Only for a couple more months, oh wonderful wife of mine."

Compliments were cute. Especially when they alluded to the millions they woulkd be collecting in a couple of months. Pulling into traffic, Buffy felt the stress of her day slowly fade. "Are you on your way home?" His sigh on the other end wasn't as unwelcome as he probably thought it would be. "What is it?"

"I'm waiting on three important faxes that I have to sign and make copies of. Then I have a foreman’s meeting in an hour. I'm sure some of those guys are going to be late due to most of them being stationed all over the

place. At best I'll be home sometime before 7:00 PM." With his eyes shut, seated at his desk inside his office, Xander groaned his frustration.

Buffy thought her husband sounded as if his day hadn't been a particularly good one. All the better for what she had planned tonight. "I get the feeling your day was craptacular."

"I think we can safely add the label 'pyschic' to your pedigree of abilities right alongside beheading demons and lifting heavy objects," he half-joked while staring at his accursed fax machine. Going home right now would be a blessing if for no other reason than to see his wife. Lately they've been so much more affectionate and have found that meshing their lives together wasn't as hard a task as he thought it would be. "My office got chewed out but good today because of blah, blah, blah reasons that are mostly crap to begin with. I worked right through lunch so I'm starving and my dear sweet in-her-last-trimester secretary just can't do much. I spilled coffee on my pants so now I look oh so mature, and I have a headache."

"Poor baby," Buffy purred compassionately. She really wanted to give him a hug.

"How was your day Mrs. Harris?"

Buffy knew how much he absolutely loved calling her that. She took great pride in it as well. "Putting together the multiple grant proposals for the counseling center's funding for next year is always fun," she added sarcastically while weaving through traffic. She accidentally ran a stop sign, but luckily no cops were near by. No one would ever know. "I talked to two girls today who are being physically abused by their boyfriends. Both detailed reasons why their boyfriends aren't really bad guys and how they could be better girlfriends. Unfortunately, it was a typical day."

Xander sympathized with what she dealt at work. Especially those days when the help she extended wasn't

taken. "Do you think you'll leave that job when we... you know?"

"Honestly, no." In a strange way Buffy's quick response suprised even her. "The pay isn't very good but I like helping young people. I seem to, for whatever reason, be good at it. It fulfills something in my life. And it's work that matters and makes me feel good at the end of the day. Plus, I got that snazzy computer in my office."

Tossing a glare at his sucktastic E-Machines computer, Xander muttered, "I am suffering from a severe case of computer envy. Your Gateway rocks."

"Yes it does," she agreed. No doubt he was glaring at his work computer. He often said it hated him from the moment he turned it on. It amused her to no end how Xander felt some devices or appliances simply did not like him if it didn't work right.

"So where's my girl off too?"

Sparing a glance at the wedding band, Buffy challenged, "Your girl?"

"Yeah," Xander declared manlier tone of voice, puffing his chest out. "My girl. You are my girl. Now where are you going, oh girl that is mine?"

He had some nerve, even if it was true. "To my Latin lover's penthouse for some hot evening bang-bang."

"That was evil and cruel. Especially seeing as how I am bored out of my mind and have been devoid of bang-bang for months now."

That could be changing in a matter of hours, Buffy thought wickedly to herself. She hoped her voice didn't betray hr enthusiasm for tonight. "I just left the grocery store. I bought some stuff so that I could cook us dinner tonight. And since you're going to be late it gives me ample time to prepare a feast." His silence preceded the reaction she knew was to come. He was as predictable as ever.

"Uhm Buff. The police don't like it when you cook."

"That was in Paris and I blame the World War 1 stove I had."

"You've caused kitchen fires in three different countries."

"The past is the past. I don't talk about your high school wardrobe."

"Hey," he said defensively. "My wardrobe was indicative of the style at the time."

"If that style was 1960."

"At least I can make biscuits."

"Biscuits are overrated anyway."

"Unlike my old apartment, your apartment lease has a clause about you cooking."

"It doesn't have a clause, only a suggestion that I not do it often. Those two fires were not my fault. No charges were ever filed."

"Do I have to bring up the infamous 'pie fiasco' that sent me to the ER?"

Even Buffy had to admit her contribution to the '04' Thanksgiving dinner had its problems. "It's not my fault you have a 'My Little Pony' digestive track."

"I have a cast iron stomach. What you made should have been sent to the Department of Homeland Security for investigation."

"I am not a terrorist cooker."

"Honey, you were born to kill things, save the world, and look good doing it. You were not born to baste, bake, fry, bar-b-que, boil, or grill anything for human consumption."

For that knock alone he's not going to get to see her in her old cheerleading outfit tonight. "I have improved a great deal with cooking. You even said so yourself last week. I haven't had a fire in weeks and I'm slowly mastering certain dishes. I may not be Martha Stewart, but I'm not the Unabomber of the kitchen either."

Buffy pouted behind the wheel and even though Xander couldn't see her he knew she was pouting. It was a married thing. "Yeah, you have gotten better. I was just teasing you. I'm very proud you haven't set off one fire alarm in thirty four straight days."

"Exactly." Happy to have hit the expressway just before rush hour traffic, Buffy gunned the gas on her way

home. "Tonight I want to make us a home cooked meal. I want to have a traditional evening with my husband."

"Why when we're the masters of takeout and the king and queen of pick-up?"

"I'm making spaghetti and sausage, your favorite. I promise it'll be great."

She avoided the question altogether. As Xander mentally went over all the important dates in her, his, and their lives he couldn't come up with today being anything special or romantic. "You don't have to do this Buff."

This morning when she was out of their apartment building and was already behind the wheel of her car about to pull off to go to work, fresh from the shower robe-wearing Xander came barreling out of the building entrance toward her. She had forgotten one of her work folders. He handed it to her and then gave her a kiss before she drove off. That was as small and simple a gesture as one could be a yet she found it sweet and endearing just the same. In that one little moment something became so crystal clear she knew she had to do something special tonight to celebrate it.

Something she hadn't done before.

"You there honey?"

"Yeah, Xan. Sorry," Buffy offered apologetically as she made a right turn. "Tonight's a special night. Just trust me, okay?"

"Always."

Buffy smiled. "Good."

"Soooo," he just had to try this. "Care to give your hubby a hint?" He imagined her beautiful smile and longed to see it. The clock just wasn't moving fast enough.

"When dinners over... and the candles have been blown out... and the music goes off," she spoke softly for his ears alone, "There might be some love making involved." His loud gulp left her a little light-headed with glee. She took a deep breath as the moment sunk in. "You there honey?" she returned to him.

"Just for my sanity's sake, you didn't say there might be some cake making involved, right?"

"Not at all," she assured him.

"You said love making?"

The vocal change in his voice was obvious. He sounded as if Christmas had come early this year. Buffy loved the sound of that. "Finish up all your work, bring that legendary appetite of yours home, and prepare for a night you'll never forget. Bye sweetheart." Buffy pressed end on the phone and then parked. Finally at home she grabbed her bags and ran up the steps to her apartment buildings entrance.

After tossing a couple of polite hello's to neighbors on her way to the elevator, she rode it to her floor, exited and walked down the hell with purpose in her every step.

Then her heart stopped at the sight just down the hall. The tall, handsome man standing in front of the hallway window's sunny glow, facing the east side of the building just outside her apartment. She thought she was seeing things. She had to be. And then she blinked and realized that as unbelievable as the sight before her was, it was real.

One name fell softly from her lips. "Angel."

His eyes softened the moment he caught sight of her. "Buffy."

She dropped her bags.

 

 

******

30 Minutes Later

******

The present seemed to eerily resemble the fairytale dream she once hoped for in her heart of hearts. A beloved dream from her past that had gently faded into a fond memory, now stood before her in stark reality. And for the life of her nothing had ever felt so surreal.

Buffy sat on the armrest of the couch in the living room, hands clasped in her lap as Angel circled the room while detailing the amazing last six months of his life. For the friends and family he'd lost due to Wolfram and Hart he'd dedicated himself to erasing the Senior Partners from existence or die trying. Funny how things turned out in reverse.

Angel was now human. 100% human in every way. And Buffy was as freaked out by that fact as she was pleased that he had earned his long sought after reward.

When the last surviving Senior Partner was killed Angel regained his humanity. The great and ancient evil had finally been vanquished. Buffy listened closely as his story took on a life of its own. Such a sad tale had thankfully come to an end. The joy and wonder he spoke with when he described his first breath of clean air stirred something emotionally powerful inside her. The first warm meal he enjoyed after the transformation and his first good nights sleep in well over a century were conveyed with a sense of genuine appreciation for life.

Had she ever seen him so filled with hope?

Sparing Buffy a quick glance from the corner of his eye, Angel took her silence as the shock of his news and presence settling in. He understood the feeling. He was still experiencing it days later himself. That aside, she was as painfully beautiful as ever. And he knew that his heart didn't beat because of the blood now rushing through it. It beat because of her. "I saw Giles in Europe."

Buffy lifted her head, looking his way as she ran her fingers through her hair. A force of habit when she had a lot on her mind. Angel stood with his back to the wall next to the window. The suns golden rays seemed to illuminate his return to the land of the living. "I'm sure he was as surprised to see you as I am."

"I wanted him to know what happened. With Wolfram and Heart disbanded and the Senior Partners all dead that's one less threat the Watchers Council has to worry about."

"Until new Senior Partners emerge."

"I'm trying to think on the positive side," he noted sarcastically while enjoying the grin that curled her lips. He truly lived in the moment he saw that. "I asked him where you were and how you were doing. I hope you don't mind."

Respectfully, he's kept his distance the whole time. But she can feel what his hopes are in the way his stare drank in the sight of her. He longed to reach for her, or for her to come to him. She felt that and oh what she would have given for this moment years ago. Her conflicted feelings felt like water through her hands. "It's okay. I wasn't exactly hiding."

"Or alone," he added calmly, lifting a picture frame of Xander holding Buffy in his arms from a desk. There were other pictures of her friends; those he recognized and new ones, but no less than five were of her and Xander alone. Pictures that weren't in platonic in the least. To say he feared this might happen someday was correct. Buffy's neutral expression offered no explanation as of yet. "Can I assume things have changed between you two?"

What he hoped to ask in his best whimsical tone didn't fool Buffy. Hurt laced the tenor of his voice. She hated

that. "Yes," she acknowledged. "Things are very different now." His acceptance came with a look and then he turned away. That was as much as he could concede right now. "I'm happy."

"That's all I've ever wanted," he sighed, hands in his pockets. He fought hard not to look at her and failed. Her beauty hadn't waned in the least. Tempered by age she was far lovelier now than even he had remembered. Through blood, sweat, and tears she had earned her shot at a real life and he couldn't be happier for her. His dream of someday sharing that with her... He ached to hold what he had always hoped would be his one day. He had questions and yet feared the answers. "Spike said to tell you hi?"

Buffy realized she hadn't thought of him in months. "How's he doing?"

"He opened up a demon bar in Wales," Angel said, hoping that small talk might ease the tension between

them. "It's called 'The Bloody Hell'."

"Spike the businessman?" Buffy took the title out for a spin and then laughed. "I never saw that one coming."

Angel knew the feeling. “He said he ate one once and that it must have rubbed off on him."

"His humor just isn't normal humor, is it?"

"No, but then again, who's normal?"

"I am," Buffy announced as the present and not the way things were in the past. Summoning her fortitude, she approached Angel at last; arms crossed, and said, "I'm so proud of you. I knew you would earn your humanity and I never doubted that you would. You deserve this."

"Thank you." The rosy scent of her perfume clouded his senses with an air of need. Standing by the window with her as the sun slowly fell on another day seemed so right. And yet those pictures of her and Xander, with Buffy wearing that joyous smile of hers, tore at his soul. "So what's new with you?"

He had to begin somewhere, she surmised. Conversation would take her mind off the fact that in some insane, inexplicable way she still felt something... "I'm... I'm busy with work and all," she began softly. "Xander and I are doing well. Everyone else is too."

She could tell he wasn't interested in anyone else. Not because he was a jackass, but because he had flown across the ocean for her. It wasn't ego that led her to that conclusion. It was all in the way he looked at her. His haunting eyes filled with such longing.

"Why are you here?" Buffy asked at last.

Angel peered at the pictures and then the woman before him. "Apparently I'm a few years late."

The edge to his voice was unmistakable. "Do better than that."

For some reason a small part of him flared angrily at her tone, and then he humbled himself. "I just had to see you."

"You could have called. We could have set up a get together or something. Faith would love to hear your news. Does she know you're in town?"

How had things changed so much, Angel thought to himself? Where were the kisses without end at the news that his curse was broken and the life they had both wanted more than anything else was finally within their

grasp? Didn't she still ache for him the way he did for her? "I haven't called her yet."

Buffy insisted, "You should."

"I couldn't stop thinking about you," he finally confessed. Something warm stirred behind her lovely hazel

eyes. Something he so desperately needed to see again. "As badly as I have wanted this humanity, you made it worth something at the end of the day."

Unsettled by his words, Buffy lifted her eyes and met his gaze. 'Alive. My God he's alive and here and he still wants me,' she couldn't help thinking those thoughts no matter what. She took a deep breath for perspectives

sake. "Things are different now."

"How?"

"You don't want to know."

"Are you in love with Xander?"

"That's none of your business," was her spontaneous, defensive reply. She wanted nothing more than to take those words back. They weren’t the right answer. "My life is my own now. You need to find one for yourself."

"I know the one I want," he stated while taking a step toward her. When she took a step backward she found the couch behind her blocking her escape. "I don't want to step on anyone’s toes, but after wanting this for so long I have to at least let you know I'm still in love with you." Moisture seemed to fill her eyes so he pressed

onward. "And that I want us. Or at least the chance to try."

"It's been years, Angel. Nothing is the way it was when we used to be together."

"Of course it isn't. But some things... some feelings remain no matter what happens to us in life."

Buffy swallowed hard as his intense presence loomed over her. "And what about what I want?"

"Tell me what that is and I'll move heaven and earth to give it to you."

'I already have it', died on her tongue as her lips quivered. Her mouth parted slightly and she whimpered in an intimate breath as the moment charged with something old and hoped for. Something past tense that used to mean the world to her.

And then his warm hands found her face and he kissed her that very instant.

And for a brief moment Angel drowned in the sweetness of her lips. In the thrall of the moment, only to find Buffy unresponsive. And yet she didn't shove him away. That had to mean something.

The front door opened... and then violently slammed shut.

Pulling away from the kiss, Buffy gasped sharply and then rushed from Angel's embrace. "Xander..." she was barely able to utter his name as the horrified picture of her husband standing there with a bouquet of roses crumbled something inside her. That expression soon turned to a building rage.

"What the hell is going on here?"

A mounting swell of anger came over Xander that Buffy knew was justified and yet she still hoped to somehow quell. Rounding the couch quickly, she knew excuses were useless here. How in the hell could she have let this happen? "I'm sorry, but please let me explain. Please," she pleaded with him.

Glancing from his wife to the brooding Angel standing in the corner, the only thing Xander wanted to do was throw him out the window he stood next to. He tossed the bouquet across the room. They landed in the dining room, splintering from the bouquet across the floor. "What is there to explain when I come home and you're kissing another man in our apartment? I'd love to see you try and explain that."

Nothing but the straight truth would do any good here and Buffy knew it. "Angel stopped by half a hour ago. He came to tell me that he regained his humanity after he killed Wolfram and Harts last Senior Partner. He went to see Giles directly after that and found out where I lived."

None of that mattered to her husband and Buffy knew it. Especially after the 'he regained his humanity' part. A hurt began to set in as she dreaded what he must be assuming.

"We were talking and..." Buffy paused, trembling as tears began to moisten her eyes. Dammit, how could she have allowed this to take place? "Something happened and he kissed me. I didn't push him away and it only just happened before you opened the door. I don't return his feelings and I am so, so sorry, Xander."

Angel looked on without saying a word. There was more to learn from his silence then anything else.

"So you finally traded blood for V-8 juice, huh? You're sunlight friendly and curse free now. Pardon me if I don't care." Brushing past his wife, Xander's fury carried him to Angel, now standing before him. "You have a lot of nerve coming into my home and kissing my wife."

Angel's brows knitted tight as he swore he could not have heard what he did. "Wife?" he uttered as if it were the most foreign thing he had ever said. Xander's glare intensified as did his, only now focused on Buffy. "Buffy never mentioned it."

A bitter laugh came as Xander could only nod slowly. And then he turned around. This was damn familiar, the black feeling he had in his gut. So fucking familiar and still as painful as he remembered. "So he's here half an hour and standing right next to a desk filled with pictures of us and yet you don't mention one time we've been married for almost two months?"

Xander wasn't looking at her because he probably couldn't. At the moment Angel's hurt expression couldn't matter to her. Buffy made her way to Xander's side and reached for his arm, only to have it snatched away as he put distance between them. She felt horrible that instant. Her voice cracked sadly. "I should have said something and I didn't. But not for the reasons you might think."

"Oh really?" Xander fired back. "To me it sounds like the last thing you wanted was for the love of your life to know that you married another man. That's how it sounds to me. And since you were kissing him just now how else am I supposed to take it?"

Buffy's voice cracked, "You could try and listen to me."

"I thought I meant more to you than this."

"You have to know what you mean to me," Buffy pleaded with him, though he wouldn't let her get any closer. She bravely fought off a wave of tears. "My present and future is with you. I don't have any regrets."

"You just kissed Angel and couldn't tell him you were married to me. That speaks volumes."

It was vastly disrespectful to him and them. Buffy could only lower her head in shame. "I am so sorry, Xander. I never purposely left that out. He's only been here thirty minutes. Please sit down so we can talk."

"Talk to him. I don't have one fucking thing to say to you right now." Xander stormed out of the apartment, leaving Buffy staring at the door slammed shut a moment ago.

 

 

******

 

******

Willow's apartment

1700 Clairmont

Thursday, November 10, 2005 6:45 PM

Cleveland, Ohio

 

"People actually threw chairs?"

"Not because of the music."

"Of course not. Perish the thought." Willow grinned at Oz's need to reassure her of that obvious fact. With her legs crossed comfortably after work, she relaxed on her couch with the phone to her ear and a pillow beneath

her head. "But still, people actually threw chairs?"

"I surprised myself with how swiftly I dodged the one thrown at the stage. My drummer wasn't so lucky."

"Talk about an energetic crowd."

"Apparently chair-thrower number one was enjoying a drink at the bar with chair-thrower number two's girlfriend, who I believe wasn't supposed to be there. Chair-thrower number two didn't take to kindly to that. Ten minutes later my band and I were scrambling off stage for our lives. It was quite disturbing to say the least."

"Were you hurt?"

Her concern was cute. "Not even my pride."

Willow breathed a sigh of relief. "Look at it this way. Maybe your bands music was so spectacular that... Uhm... Okay, perhaps... on second thought, while it was probably great it might have been to great." Oz made a sound that closely resembled a laugh. With him you were never to sure.

"The song we were playing was a very lively, crowd pleasing tune."

"What was the name of the song?"

"Dead and buried."

Oz. A complex man indeed. "Hmm... Such a cheerful title."

"Was that a mock?"

"Of course not. I don't mock. I have no part in the mocking of anything. I'm anti-mock. I was born devoid of mock."

While loading his van with the bands equipment, Oz felt he was pretty darn lucky to be able to enjoy Willow-babble. It was one of his most favorite things to do. "I retract the question." Interesting sounds of clatter came from her end of the phone. "What are you up to?"

Willow looked on as dishes and cups were washed by a floating towel, and then were spun rapidly from the sink on their way to the open coverts above it. They settled in an orderly fashion. "I'm washing dishes," she explained and then with a silently mouthed spell that sent her broom from its corner perch to sweeping the kitchen floor. "I'm quite domestic these days."

"Why do I smell magic brewing? You've been watching Bewitched reruns again, haven't you?"

Quickly changing the channel to hide her guilt, she added, "Now who's mocking whom?"

"Touché." Flirting, or at least what Oz hoped would become flirting was the goal at hand. His brilliant, quirky, mystically-inclined good friend was also a very beautiful woman he's fought his attraction to her ever since she moved to Cleveland. Time has passed and he feels they've reconnected enough to maybe try that crazy dating thing again.

"You're quiet."

"I'm always quiet," Oz replied a bit nervously. "I was just thinking."

"About?"

"Uhm, if you were planning on eating dinner Friday night?"

Interesting... And not all together surprising in the least. They've been building toward this ever so slowly for months now. A giddiness swept over Willow, causing her to sit up on the couch. "I do usually eat dinner in the evening time on Fridays, so the prospect seems good that I will." Teasing him was one of the fun parts of

her day. "Do you usually eat dinner on Friday evenings?"

"It's become a habit."

"Cool. We have a habit we share."

That seemed like a good enough segue way if there ever was one. Oz took a deep breath. "Speaking of sharing, what would you say to us sharing the habit of eating dinner on Friday night by doing it together at the same time?"

Dear, sweet, charming Oz. Willow had waited so long for this she wondered if she was going to have to make the first move. Thankfully, she doesn't. "I am more than a little agreeable to that." If you think you can hear someone smile on the other end of a phone then Willow felt she just did. "How about this Friday? Is 6:30 PM okay."

"I'll be there with bells on." He then continued oh so calmly, "The phrase being I'll be there and not that I will actually be wearing bells."

"I should hope so for the future rock star. Bells are to gypsy-ish."

"Your support is endearing." Slamming the vans side door, Oz leaned against it, pleased that he now had a date with Willow etched in stone. The tough part was over. "So how are Buffy and Xander doing? I haven't spoken to them in a week." Her slightly annoyed sigh quickly caught his attention. That was fast becoming the expected response to any questions about her two closest friends. "What is it?"

"Nothing," Willow replied a little to hastily on the heels of her mood taking a downturn. "I guess their okay. I mean, I spoke to Xander twice this week, but only for like five minutes. Buffy keeps him busy I suppose."

Knowing her well enough to know when something was bothering her, Oz pressed forward gently. "They seemed pretty happy to me last time they saw me play at the Basement."

"There was a lot of alcohol involved that night as well. Dawn was their designated driver."

"Wills, can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

"What is your problem with Buffy and Xander?"

"I don't have a ..."

"Yes, you do. Everyone can tell except them, but no one knows why."

"You all talk behind my back?"

"Faith started it."

"You obviously participated."

"I listened."

"Just listened?"

"Willow, you're changing the subject."

A sudden, faint throb of a headache coming on seemed like the perfect precursor to talking about her two best friends. Or was it former friends? "I just think they married entirely to fast. And now Buffy acts like Xander can't do anything without her. They acting weird sometimes. Like they're keeping secrets."

"Well, they are married now."

There was no one in the room to see her eyes roll. "I know that," she conceded. "It's just so strange and I'm having a hard time adjusting to how things are now versus the way they used to be."

"Are you sure it isn't something else?"

Oz rarely alluded to anything, so his question came as a surprise. "Like?"

He's dreaded this topic for a while now. "Something to do specifically with Xander?"

Wherever would he get that idea? Then again, she couldn't fool herself that Xander didn't play a part in her frustration. The problem was... even she wasn't exactly sure why she felt the way she did. "There used to be three of us, Oz. The Scooby Gang three plus our mentor and no dog. We didn't have a van either. And even when the old gang grew the three of us were a constant no matter who came into our lives."

Willow continued, "All of a sudden, poof, there's just me. One big poof and the three of us are all gone without even a hint that it would happen. And now I don't get my late night phone calls or secret sharing sessions or anything like that with either of them because they have that with each other."

"So you're feeling left out?"

"I feel like he was taken from..." she started to say quickly, and then paused when she realized what she was about to say. Oz probably wouldn't like how she would have finished that sentence, and even where she left it was clear enough.

A knock at the door suddenly drew her attention. "Hold on a second."

"K."

Hopping off the couch, she walked to the door and looked through the peephole. Xander stood alone in the hallway looking every bit as lost as she had ever seen him. Her heart sank. "Oz, I have to go. Can I call you back later?"

"Sure," he replied a bit dejected.

"Thanks, bye." Pressing end, she tossed the phone on the couch and then swung the door open. "Hey," she offered in greeting. Xander strolled past her without a word, hands in his pockets, face scowled darkly. She shut the door, and then stood with her back to it, watching him closely.

This was bad.

Real bad.

Raking his fingers through his hair was a clear sign of severe Xander distress. Willow followed him as he paced a circle around her living room. "What happened?"

Xander stopped cold and laughed bitterly. He turned around, shaking his head. "Only the inevitable in my life. If the worst case scenario exists it’ll be tested out on me."

"You're not making any sense."

"And that's new?"

"Is someone sick or hurt?"

"Not in the physical sense, Wills."

Willow could all but see the angry vibs lifting off of him. "Start from the beginning."

"Well, lets see. My day sucked on the scale of a Las Vegas hooker. Everything that could go wrong did, but then the sun came out this evening when Buffy told me she was going to make us dinner and then we were going to... relax.. So at least I could look forward to that, you know." He wasn't about to tell her that he hadn't even made love to his wife yet. As it stood now it looked like that might never take place. "So I manage to get off an hour earlier than I thought. Instead of calling Buffy to let her know that I was coming home early I decide to surprise her with a bouquet of roses."

Willow considered complimenting him for being so thoughtful until she caught sight of the somberness clouding his eyes. "That doesn't sound so bad so far."

"Oh, it gets better." He strolled around the room again with her following behind him. "So there I was riding the elevator up to my apartment about to surprise my wife with an expensive bouquet of roses for no reason other than I love her and what do I see when I open the front door?" He looked her dead in the eyes. "Go ahead, Willow. Guess?"

"Xander, don't do this. Just tell me what happened."

Anger so painful it left his hands trembling crawled through him as he stood before her. "I opened my front door and I saw Buffy and Angel kissing in the sunlight." His stoic delivery matched her expression until she seemed to take it as a joke, but only for a moment. When he didn't flinch he was sure she was waiting for the punch line. "Angel got his big Shansu. He's human and he's here in Cleveland. Apparently he found out where Buffy lived from Giles and came to visit her today."

"What?" Willow exclaimed as she tried to wrap her mind around what he said. Angel in Cleveland? He's human

now? Kissing Buffy? "How did he Shansu? It never really came with detailed directions."

"I don't know or care, Wills." Labored breathing saw Xander struggle to even get the words out. "He had his hands on her face and was kissing her. She was letting him kiss her. I... I just..."

This was all too much to take in. Willow gently grasped his forearm and led him over to the couch to sit down before he fell down. She sat on the small table in front of him. "Did they see you?"

"Yeah, they saw me. Buffy even tried to explain," Xander seethed in uttering every word. "Wait, it gets better. Angel had been there for thirty minutes before I arrived and at no time did Buffy even tell him we were married. How's that for the ole dagger to the heart, and then the gut, and then the heart a second time for good measure?"

As complex as her feelings have been concerning their marriage, Willow couldn't believe what she was

hearing. "What did Buffy say specifically to you?"

"It doesn't matter."

Willow ducked her head away from the pain she saw written all over his face. She struggled to reign in her own emotions while trying to decide the best way to help him with his. "Was Buffy kissing him back or did he just grab her?"

"THEY WERE KISSING! THAT'S ALL I SAW!" After shouting at her Xander quickly turned apologetic. "I'm sorry."

Lifting her hand, she brushed his hair affectionately while leaning in closer. "It's okay. I can see how hurt you are."

"I just don't understand," came as soft as a whisper. He sat partially hunched over, with Willow sitting in front of him. "I thought we were happy. It felt like we were in a really good place, you know? But to see her kissing Angel of all people, and to hear that she didn't even tell him we were married just... I don't get it."

As complicated as whatever happened at his apartment was, Willow felt something similar happening here. Her heart went out to her best friend, and even more than that as she cupped his face tenderly. "Are you absolutely sure you couldn't have misinterpreted anything?"

"My vision has been perfect since the first time I ever opened my eyes." She seemed on the verge of tears over what he was going through and her compassion was sorely needed and appreciated. "Not that seeing Buffy kiss anyone wouldn't kill me, but why did it have to be Angel?"

"They had such a..." She stopped right there, offering no excuses for Buffy. The Slayer didn't deserve it. Or Xander. Or anything else if she could break his heart like this. "I don't know what to say."

"Yeah, well, join the clu..."

She kissed him... softly... the simple press of her lips to his, deepening just a little until he drew away, and then so did she. All the way to the other side of the room.

Xander stumbled up against the wall, swallowing hard for his breath, eyes bugged out. "I have officially entered the Twilight Zone."

Willow couldn't blink. She was stuck in blah blah blah land. Her brain tried to figure out why she did what

she did. Her heart was just shrugging its non-answer. "I... I..."

Xander loudly pointed out, "We haven't fluked in years."

"I don't want to fluke you," she replied in a little voice, hands in her lap. "At least, I don't think I do." She pondered the thought of her and Xander fluking again and shuddered. "I'm pretty sure I don't. And it's not because of your penis. I kinda like those again. I just don't want to fluke with yours."

"Why not," came rushing from his mouth until he realized how he said what he did. "I didn't mean it like that. Its just, I only want to fluke my wife."

"I know, I know. And I'm kinda leaning toward fluking Oz again."

"Good for you."

"Thanks," Willow nodded. When she looked up Xander had begun to smile, and then so did she. Soon they were laughing at the lunacy of what had just happened. Xander made his way back to her and sat down on the couch again.

"You've been acting a bit peculiar for a while now, Ms Rosenberg."

He always used her last name when he wanted to have a serious talk in their special way. "I know, Mr. Harris."

"What's the what?" She paused, searching for the words and seemed to come up empty. "Have I done anything to offend you?"

"No, of course not. It's just... I guess I feel like I'm in the backseat these days." Xander eyed her curiously, apparently lost on her meaning. "I feel like the person left off the soccer team because all the teams already have enough players." He kept staring and then scratched his head, tilted to the side. "I feel like the fourth Stooge when they can be only three." He didn't look any closer to figuring out where she was going with this. "I feel like the third wheel, alright."

"Oh..." Leaning forward, he took her hand in his. "So we're riding a unicycle?"

"Yeah, and it was always you, me, and Buffy. In that order," she tried to explain so that it made some sense even to her. "And its like when I wasn't looking or prepared for it you both decided to sell your stock in the unicycle and buy a two-seater bike and leave me on the side of the road in skates or something."

Xander kind of stared at her. "Wills, you've taken this train waaaayyyyy off the tracks."

She smiled at him. "I have always been a little possessive of you," she confessed while squeezing his hand. "I'm used to being number one to you and I always thought that when it was time to step aside and be number two it would happen very slowly and I'd have time to adjust. Then all of a sudden you tell me you're getting married to Buffy and then do it the next day. I didn't have time to adjust. And I've been holding in some resentment over that."

"You mean the world to me."

"But I'm not number one anymore. And even though I knew I was going to be number two someday I never thought it would be to Buffy. I always imagined us brooding over you being all husbandy with someone else, but being really happy for you. And then you married her and you spend all your time with her and share all your secrets and I used to have that with both of you. Minus the sex of course."

If only she knew, Xander thought in anything but a good mood. "I felt the same way when you were with Tara."

"You did?" He nodded. "I never knew that."

"For the longest time, before there was anyone else, there was us. It's not easy for me to think of someone being more important to you than I am. It never will be. But I know that doesn't mean you don't love me. And I could never, ever, ever, ever in a million years stop loving you with all my heart."

"But you're not in love with me," she stated rather than asked. "And I'm not in love with you either."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I am. I guess for one brief moment I just wanted something back that I never really lost. Hence the awkward, fluke-like smooch."

"So we're cool?"

"Of course we are. And we always will be." Oddly enough, Willow felt as if a weight had been lifted. As if she finally understood what she had been feeling for the last two months. Now she could focus on her very best

friend. "Xander, you told me the day before you married Buffy that you trusted me. Do you remember that?"

"Yeah." He had a feeling he knew where this was headed.

"What we just shared was a very weird moment, but it didn't mean anything."

"Don't defend her."

"I'm not defending her. I just want you to get your answers. You know why we kissed. You understand it. Now go find Buffy. Find out what her answers are. Listen to her."

"What if she..." Being without Buffy now, even the fear of it tore at his heart.

"You've survived everything life's thrown at you so far. And you'll never be alone because you have me. But before the doom and gloom sets in you need to find out what really happened and why. You need to let Buffy have her say and then decide from there with all the facts laid out. You owe her that much. Especially now."

It's going to be so wonderful in a couple of months when he can shock her with a brand new car. She deserved no less for always making sense of his life. He didn't feel all that much better, but at least he knew what he had

to do. As always, Willow righted the Xander ship. "I love you like a fat kid loves cake."

"Obesity is not to be made fun of, mister. Skinny kids love cake too." Willow hugged him tightly, "I love you so much," and then promptly kicked him out of her apartment so he could go get his answers. When he left she called Oz back.

She had a date to plan.

 

 

******

 

******

Hicksmore Recreational Basketball Court

880 Winchester Dr

Thursday, November 10, 2005 9:30 PM

Cleveland, Ohio

 

 

Warm rain began to fall...

Misty sprinkles of moisture accompanied Buffy Harris as she walked the few short blocks toward the basketball court not far from her apartment building. The dark, foreboding skies above matched her somber mood. The unseasonably balmy temperatures seemed the perfect compliment to the mystical curveballs she's had to deal with today.

Angel's unexpected return to the land of the living and her life were shocking to say the least. The timing could not have possibly been worse. Years and a lifetime ago to late, the back of her mind whispered. It wasn't that she never thought of him. She did fondly from time to time. Only now, she's moved on. The past was behind her. Dead and buried as so much of her history. To see him again shook the foundation of her heart.

But Xander's crestfallen, and then angry face broke it down completely.

Through the haze of drizzling rain and the streetlights glow she saw the basketball court ahead. The man in the gray sweatshirt moved like the man she loved. Tall and handsome. Solitary tonight. All alone shooting hoops to get his mind off the pain he can't run from.

Pain she is soley responsible for.

The weatherman predicted tonight’s severe thunderstorm this morning, so it seemed people heeded the

warning. Buffy had the sidewalk all to herself as the streets were clearing of cars. People were going home to their loved ones, settling in peacefully for the night. Loud thunder rumbled a rhythm through the heavens. Sure signs of Mother Nature's imminent arrival.

Buffy didn't care that her blue jean coat was slowly being soaked through, or that her hair was limply

drenched. She paid no attention to the discomfort of her skirt clinging to her skin. The most important person in the world to her has endured the last few hours thinking he meant far less than that to her. Nothing she had to go through to get to him mattered at all until she set things right.

Reaching the basketball court on the other side of the park, Buffy tucked her hands inside her jacket pockets while making her way across the court to the far end where Xander was shooting and rebounding his own shots. She recognized the small earphones and MP3 player she bought him for his birthday. He was probably zoning out as the sky streaked lightening for a brief moment.

Xander was playing himself to exhaustion. Buffy had gotten used to his special brand of dealing with pressure or frustration. Normally he'd hit the gym for a hard workout. That helped more than anything else. That's what he's doing now and she hated it. She could sense the misery surrounding him.

The kiss she shared with Angel was a single act and by itself a betrayal, but not enough for him to be in this much pain.

Kissing Angel in particular and what that meant to him caused all of this.

Walking along the gate that surrounded the court, Buffy stopped short to watch over Xander. He hadn't noticed her yet, and for that she was grateful. Her mind was a whirl of thoughts all centered on him. What was meant to be a whimsical plot to get rich with a little romance on the side had somehow become the very foundation of her life.

Being married to Xander was the most fun she's ever had. No man has ever treated her as well as he does. No man's been so patient, or dependable, or worked so hard to include her in everything he did. She never had to reach for his hand when they went out. She never longed to hear of his attraction and desire for her. He adored making her blush whenever he made it crystal clear how bad he wanted her. And what he would do to her when she finally gave in.

Xander was the one all along who knew the Slayer was only a job and no more than that. He reminded her that her destiny was time sensitive and there would be a life for her removed from the insanity one day. He knew all of those things well before she did. He reiterated in a jokingly sincere manner that she hadn't reached her potential yet. That she hadn't peeked. That being the Slayer wasn't all there was to Buffy Summers, and that the world was beckoning her to come kick it's ass in any way she chose.

He knew her better than she knew herself. He loved her more than anyone ever had before. And he did it exactly how she had always wanted a man too.

Hot tears trickled down her cheeks as the rain fell. She struggled to reign in her regret, looking on as he took shot after shot. With a heavy heart she considered all he nights he's wanted her with his kisses and hands all over her body, only to be turned away time after time because she wanted to enjoy falling in love. She wanted to take her time with him and not rush into things like she had every other relationship before this one.

She denied him what she desperately wanted to give him. To give in to what she desired as well, and now he has the memory of her kissing another man in their home. The thought that he might feel like he's been made a fool of her made Buffy feel sick. When all day long she's thought of nothing else but making love to him tonight, all night, and now this.

Sometimes Buffy wondered if her luck in love weren't bad she wouldn't have any at all.

This loving, strong, wonderful man still hadn't heard her say the words that she knew he longed for. That he deserved. That she surely felt. Guilt ate away at her with each step she took; especially now when he finally turned around, staring at her like she's a ghost and not his wife.

Thunder rumbled in the distance as the muggy rainfall intensified, pelting the court in rapid succession. The salty air hung around them like a third party. They squared off without making a move closer to one another.

Xander wished her away in his mind while his heart ached for her. Buffy sensed she was on the verge of letting the most precious thing in her life slip through her fingers.

So she took those first careful steps toward him, taking the lead because al of this was her fault. The hard expression he wore didn't resemble the man she loved. She wasn't greeted with his familiar smile, or taken into his arms as soon as she was near. The thought of losing that caused her to shiver with fear.

Xander's sweatshirt turned a darker shade, now soaked clean through. Buffy wondered how long he'd been out in the rain, while hating she sent him there. "I'm sorry."

Words. They were just words. No matter how much he loved her, or how gorgeous she looked even now in the pouring rain, he couldn't let go of his anger. "I left our apartment an hour ago. I stayed for forty minutes. I was waiting for you, but obviously you had other more important things to do than work things out with me. You never came home. You never called my cell."

Her shoulders shuddered at the implication of what he might be imagining she's done in the last couple of hours. "I was with Angel."

"Why am I not surprised?” He moved away from her and took another shot. The ball careened off the rim and into the grass. He let it be. There was no avoiding this confrontation. "Why are you here?"

"Because I love you."

"Really?" he asked, wearing a bitter smirk that curled his lips. "Kissing another man in our home is a funny way of showing that."

His painful accusation was warranted. Buffy took it in stride. Since she caused the pain he's in she had to be the one to erase it. "The kiss was a huge mistake, Xander." She took a tentative step toward him, only to have him take one further away. The distance amplified how screwed up things were between them. Buffy pressed on carefully. "I told Angel everything about our marriage and the inheritance."

Throwing his hands up in the air as if his day couldn't possibly get any worse, he said over his shoulder, "I'm sure old Former Fangie got a real kick out of hearing that I had to offer you a couple of million dollars to get you to marry me. Boy oh boy I must look like tough competition for him now."

"Why we got married and why we're staying married are two totally different things," she confessed as the fabric of her blue jean jacket darkened from the showers. She walked up behind him, longing to reach out to him, but declined. His wounded pride wasn't something she ever intended to happen, but she did understand it. "I told him that we were close to dating before we got married and that now..." Her heart pounded inside her chest. It was time to put it all on the line. "Now I'm in love with you."

Laughing softly to himself, Xander wiped his face with the back of his hand while gazing at drops of liquid cascading down the side of her neck. The vision alone made him hungry for her even when his anger still burned. "Am I the only one who finds it amazingly ironic that the first time you tell someone you are in love with me it's not me?"

Buffy sighed as the storm poured down over them. "Does it even matter to you that I feel that way?"

"Did you feel that way when he was kissing you?"

"The kiss lasted barely four seconds. I didn't feel a thing. I didn't even return it."

"YOU STILL DID IT!" he shouted at her, his eyes narrowed tight. He hurt her and knew it. She was forced to look away. Good. And bad because he hated himself for it. "You kissed another man in our home, Buffy. One that is in love with you and probably wants you back."

"He does."

Xander didn't need to hear that. Then again, when was he spared anything? "Do you want him?"

"No," Buffy answered emphatically and final. She walked around him so that he had to face her. "I'm Mrs. Alexander Harris. That's who I am. Your wife. That's what matters to me most."

The heart inside his chest that she owned reveled in her words, though outwardly Xander refused to give her the pleasure of seeing it. "Am I enough for you?"

Her sadly hitched voice revealed, "More than enough. You're my everything."

"Are you sure?"

She had to talk a bit louder over the storm itself. "I am sure enough that after Angel and I left Faith's apartment because he wanted to see her, I dropped him off at the airport. I told him my life is with you because I want it to be. He knows I am only in love with you. I'm committed to us. I told him there was nothing for him in Cleveland. He's on a plane as we speak back to Europe." She finished after a deep, cleansing breath. "Again, I am so sorry."

"Willow and I kissed," Xander admitted out of the blue, his arms crossed his chest. Her neutral expression didn't change. He never expected it to. Of course she wouldn't believe him at first. Who would dare cheat on her? The arrogance of that statement was in the quiet way she saw things.

Buffy's jaw clinched hard. She waited and waited for him to take it back. He didn't. "Are you saying that to get back at me?" Her hope faded the longer he held his peace.

"I went to her place after I left our apartment. I talked to her and something happened between us."

What he said made no sense at all. Willow and Xander kissing? No... Buffy crossed her arms, looking away for a moment as she considered Willow's less than enthusiastic mood when she's been around them in recent weeks. The looks that borderline on resentful she tried to ignore. But at no time did she feel Xander was holding a torch

for her. "Wh... why did you kiss her?"

He closed the distance between them, calm and collected in the face of her moody hazel eyes. "She kissed me. Don't worry. It only lasted a few seconds."

"And I suppose you felt you deserved that?" Buffy snarled at him, swallowing hard before she choked on the swell of pain that flared inside her chest at the thought of Xander kissing another woman. Or that he might of liked it. Or wanted more.

Giving her a taste of her own medicine felt pretty damn good. "It was a mistake. I'm sorry."

A mock of her apology and with no more details offered. His need to hurt her underscored their relationship ever since day one. They could go from love to hate in a heartbeat. "Does she want you?"

"Does it matter?"

"Why did it happen?"

"Right place, right time."

"GO TO HELL XANDER!" she yelled at him, her fists balled tight. Her minds eye assaulted her with images of them kissing furiously. Is he telling her the whole truth? Could he have been so angry with her that he... She felt like walking away because the longer she stayed the more she would want to hit him. Or cry.

"Willow doesn't want me," Xander explained despite himself. Despite wanting her to feel what he felt and yet hating to see her hurting. "It was a moment and then it was over. I'm not at all interested in her either."

"Whatever," Buffy replied under her breath, and then out the corner of her eye saw him wearing a devilish smirk on his face. "I can't stand it."

"Now you know how I felt." His height towered over her and he loved it. "Now you get why it kills me to think of you kissing another man." When she ducked her head away from him he tipped her chin softly. "I've built my whole world around you. The thought of losing that terrifies me."

"You won't lose me."

"When you didn't tell Angel about us being married a part of me felt that you were ashamed of it. Or that just cared more about sparing his feelings than mine."

And to think one stupid kiss created all this. Buffy shook her head, and then wiped away a stray tears that fell over having ever made him doubt what he meant to her.

"I can't stop telling people I'm married to you, Buffy. That's how happy I am."

She felt worse than terrible. She felt sick with regret. "I have pictures of us on my desk at work, Xander. I have your picture in my purse. I love talking about being married to you." She held up her hand, exposing his gaze to her wedding band. "Wearing this means I'm bonded to you and I don't want anything else in the world. I am so sorry for ever making you doubt that, but I swear it won't happen again."

Drenched down to the t-shirt he wore beneath the sweatshirt, Xander still ached for his wife. "I believe you."

"I don't want Angel. I don't want Spike. I don't want Riley. I don't love any of them or anyone else." Finally she reached out and grabbed his sweatshirt with both hands. "I'm in love with you. And I know you're in love with

me." She pulled him closer, staring in his brown eyes. "The only man I want touching me is you."

"I still want to break his neck."

Even his jealousy turned her on, politically incorrect as that was to say. Here they were standing in this pouring rainstorm working out the angst of their lives.

Buffy moved against his chest, slipping her arms around his waist until their bodies pressed together. "I want you," she confessed seriously, resting her head against his chest. His hands circled her waist at last, squeezing her

tight. They held on in the rain, resting as one. "I need you."

Her lips were caressed deeply that very instant, taken sensuously without warning. Something hot swept over her insides, and when their mouths opened, their tongue massaged erotically. The heat of his erection throbbed against her stomach. The gentle swells of her ass where his hands groped unconsciously left her needy. The hard smacking sounds their lips produced couldn’t grow any more intense, and so they broke apart last...

Buffy's hands were under his shirt, greedy for his bare flesh, pupils dilated fully. "Take me home now!"

 

 

******

 

******

 

Buffy and Xander Harris's Apartment

321 Winchester Dr

Thursday, November 10, 2005 10:35 PM

Cleveland, Ohio

 

Pitch-black empty best described their apartment building when they ran inside, dying to escape the raging storm.

A solitary flickering light greeted them when they reached the elevator at the end of the dark hallway. The bulb inside was nearly out, sparking from its perch above them as the doors shut, locking them inside.

All the air fled Buffy's lungs when she was pushed forcibly against the wall. Xander inhaled her exhale, and then hungrily attached his lips to hers. Her hands went after him, fingers raking through his wet hair, anchoring him to her. She couldn't get close enough. She felt like she was on fire, and the same was reflected in his eyes, and then his lips as they traveled across her cheek.

She moaned in a rough whisper when his lips nibbled the tender flesh of her neck, his tongue chasing the bite mark his teeth left. One arm clutched the back of his head, holding him to her. Craving more contact with his body, she ground herself against the thick ridge of his hard cock through his jeans. The contact made her body hum.

Xander groaned his approval.

The mingled scent of their moist flesh sent heat searing through her belly. She felt absolutely sick with desire as the deep female instinct to be filled saw her right leg tangle around his left calf. "Xan, yes..." she whimpered at the feel of his large hands kneading her backside over and over, his face now pressed into her damp hair.

Finally living the dream of having her, Xander plundered her sweet mouth again as the flashes of light died out, bathing the cramp elevator in darkness. Neither noticed as the wet, smacking sounds filled the area around

them.

When his hands squeezed her hips he felt her torso tremble violently. His erection strained painfully in its confines, the need overwhelming his thoughts with her as the sole center of his universe.

Her breath made a harsh sound in the back of her throat when he slipped a hand past the front of her skirt, down inside her panties, and began stroking her softness in time with sucking her pulse point. Two fingers massaged her swollen clit as she unconsciously urged her body closer to his exquisite touch. With her head bowed, lips parted, and her eyes shut he worked a torturous rhythm. When her hips lifted towards the pleasure assailing her he couldn't take his eyes off her. The firm circles he twirled over her sensitive clit forced tiny whimpering sounds from her lips.

She was so slick Xander wanted to fall to his knees to taste her that very second. To bury his tongue inside her until she screamed that she was his. All coherent thought fled when her small hand began rubbing his aching cock through his jeans; causing a sharp intake of air she had to have heard.

The elevator door opened.

When she gave a cute, mischievous dip of her head Xander beheld the limitless wonder that was a severely aroused Buffy. The fingers that had stroked her lifted to his lips, eyes focused on hers as he licked them dry. She didn't blink one time.

Despite being awestruck watching him lick her juices from his fingers, the hot wildfire flooding her senses saw her duck past him out of the elevator and into the hallway.

Buffy walked with purpose down the corridor towards their apartment. A strong arm grabbed her forearm from behind, spinning her around until her back was against the door. One arm snuck around her, just under her backside, and lifted her until she was braced in mid air on the flat apartment lettering. Her belly muscles quivered when he tore her blouse open with his free hand, ruining the garment as the buttons fell to the floor. Pushing her jacket off one shoulder, his adoration over her bra-less state ended when he caught the closest pebbled nipple in his mouth and sucked enthusiastically.

She bit at her trembling lips, whimpering as his mouth paid homage to the hardened tip of her breast, tugging ever so slightly with his teeth, and then harder until she couldn't breathe. The increased suction he administered caused her eyes to shut as her head rolled back against the door.

It didn't matter that they were in a dark hallway where they could be spotted or heard at any time. In fact, the danger of being caught made it all the more exciting.

The scent of her perfect skin assaulted his senses when he brushed his open mouth across her cleavage, lavishing her chest with heated kisses until he captured the other nipple. A choked gasp escaped her throat when he suckled her. That sound alone crippled his sanity. He needed to be inside her and... Good God she was even more desirable than he had ever imagined.

He had to have her... now!

After a lasting nip, Xander released her. As soon as her feet hit the ground Buffy spun and quickly unlocked the door. Once inside the thunderstorm boomed so loud it shook the windows on the other side of the room and set off car alarms nearby.

Breathing so hard it felt like her heart wanted to burst through her chest, Buffy couldn't have cared less about the storm, tossing her sodden jacket towards the dining room, and then kicking off her shoes. Xander heel-shut the door behind him and was dragging his sweatshirt off his back, and then the t-shirt beneath it, joining what was left of her torn blouse on the floor.

They wanted each other so bad they couldn't talk. Couldn't even say a word. They didn't have a damn thing they wanted to know other than what they could kiss, caress, and arouse.

Lightening illuminated the apartment in a sudden rush of light, coinciding with Xander's violent one-arm swipe of everything off the three-foot high Vancouver end table by the wall. A cordless telephone, lamp, three mystery novels, two family pictures, and a couple of womens magazines went crashing to the floor just as swiftly as he had lifted his wife onto the table, his hands greedy in their efforts up her bare thighs to tear off her skirt.

Their breathing turned ragged as they worked in desperate tandem, jeans unbuttoned and panties shoved down and off until she had him... Jesus, she had him pulsing and thick in the palm of her hand, and could feel the blood pounding through the column of his shaft.

Her mouth was moist against his neck, nibbling and pinching the skin with her teeth while stroking him from root to tip. His eyes shut tight, fighting off the delirious sensation of her hand until he needed more... needed her at long last and forever and oh God...

Her legs spread as he invaded the space between them. He wasted no time pressing at her entrance and took a long, unhurried thrust inside the slick, humid confines of her body. Stormy spasms swept through them both, lost in the moment as her fingers dug into the flesh of his forearms, urging him on.

Buffy panted after the heated intrusion, "Fuck me now." Thick and so hard inside her, the honey-warm rush of shivers she experienced made this so worth the wait. The table was wide and comfortable enough, though she didn't care about anything except the man finally claiming her with long, graceful thrusts that robbed her mind of anything but him. His kiss came suddenly, devouring her lips while now driving into her with a fury neither of them could abate.

Her hands grabbed at his moving hips, holding on. She bit at his bottom lip, and then suckled it. Her inner muscles clenched around him every time he bottomed out. Her tongue sought the roof of his mouth, lashing about, wrenching labored gasps from him as he fucked her deeper, slamming a pace so wicked it saw his hands grip her hips to hold her steady.

Heady moans of "ahs," and "ohs'" were music to Xander's ears while Buffy clung to him, loving what he was doing to her. Drenching satisfaction slicked around his every thrust. Her cheeks were flushed a deep red. He was fucking her so good her arms locked tight around his neck. Her stomach muscles tensed powerfully and all of a sudden she cried out, wincing in a heated mixture of pleasure and pain that was a soul-wrenching climax.

Having waited a lifetime to see this, Xander drank in the flushed, writhing sight of Buffy, her silent body language broken in a fit of full body trembles. He didn't just make her cum. He made her cum hard. And before he did, which if he could focus would be worth cheering about, only he was still harder than he had ever been, buried deep inside the love of his life, his control hanging on by the barest hint of a thread.

Buffy struggled to catch her breath, having lived through one of the hardest, most delicious orgasms of her entire life. "That was..."

"Mine," chanted from his lips. His movements were without thought, slipping free from the heaven of her body and falling before her until his face was inches from her rosy, glistening pussy. And when his tongue brushed her clit once... she jumped... and then again, causing her to groan softly. Her hand caressed the back of his head as her thighs closed around him, his mouth around her.

Lost in the wanton abandon of his tongue ravishing her, Buffy arched her back off the table, straining her hips toward the soft flesh lashing her clit crazily. Perspiration glistened her belly. She swallowed hard, staring mute at the sight of her husband's head between her thighs, his mouth sampling her charms, eating her

ravenously. It felt so good she was grinding his face, rolling her hips toward his hungry mouth.

Buffy wanted to compliment his ability to give incredible head, but speaking was currently an unavailable skill. Her lips parted, panting loudly from the surge of his tongue inside her. His hands held her slim waist as the heat of his mouth suckled her tender flesh, nipping and then consuming her sensitive clit over and over...

As the agony-ecstasy rose within her again, she wanted his end to come next and what a glorious end she had planned.

With her blood pounding hard in her ears, Buffy locked her fingers behind his neck and lowered her long lashes, gazing at this incredible man that was turning her inside out. Her hands crossed his neck, and then yanked his face to hers, parting his lips and then dragging his tongue in her mouth. She bathed it with her own, tasting them, and then gently pushed him away from her. She calmly slipped off the table.

Shoved three steps backwards, Xander's backside hit the rear of their couch. Buffy yanked his jeans and boxers off his legs. And then his world ended as he knew it when she quickly fell to her knees on the carpet, took his sticky cock by the base with her hand and slipped her lips over the head. "Buff...oh my..."

The blood-filled organ pulsed and jerked in her palm as she concentrated on the swollen head of his shaft. The tip received the full suction, tasting them while she pleased him. She found it to her liking, now taking her time lapping up and down the length with her acrobatic tongue, rolling it all around. He shook and shuddered, his fists gripping the couch when she took him deep again. Hollowing her cheeks for the sake of pressure, she held him trapped in the moist heaven of her mouth, now bobbing her head furiously over his lap. Her right hand steadied his trembling thighs, muscles tensing beneath her fingertips.

The long tendons in his legs constricted whenever she took him to the back of her throat. Buffy loudly inhaled a lungful of air and then swallowed him again. She pulled her lips snug around the center of his shaft and sucked harder, all the while pumping him in milking strokes that she knew would give him the release she was dying for.

"Buffy, I'm... I'm... Ohgod..."

Though appreciated, his warning only intensified her focus. She increased the pressure while stroking him

faster. The knob pulsed, rippled and then her name rushed from his lips in worshipful praise when he erupted in her mouth. A series of powerful, warm spurts of cum were swallowed greedily and without thought. His entire body shook uncontrollably. She enjoyed the hint of awe laced in his voice while he quietly repeated her name over and over.

"You can thank me later." All he could do was nod. Her hands rose up over his shuddering thighs, past his stomach to his broad, sweaty chest. They rested over his rapidly beating heart. His eyes were shut, but hers weren't. She reveled in having pleasured him so thoroughly. And she wanted more.

His hands found hers, pulling her back to her feet. And then he kissed her again, passionately loving her mouth. He pulled her flush to his chest, her hardened nipples grazing over his skin. His arms secured around her slender waist, and then he sat up on the back of the couch. Giving gravity it's due, he allowed himself to collapse over the side with her in his arms, falling down on couch seat with her beneath him.

The heavy, solid feel of his larger frame covering hers only enhanced the insatiable kissing they were

engaged in. Finally free of their ruined clothing, they groped and caressed, taking their fill of each other’s body. Her nails dragged over the muscles in his back. He loved the way her stomache fluttered when he massaged her thighs. Her hands squeezed his ass hard, pulling him to her. She liked having her ears bit lightly. He was ticklish on his right side.

While kneading her slender thighs, Xander's right hand trailed ever so slowly between her legs, then he gently dipped two fingers inside her, slowly thrusting them in and out.

Buffy's hand closed around his wrist briefly, and then she let go, whining against the arm slung over her head. Her back arched off the couch, her nails clawing at the pillows. Her belly rippled when the fingers delved

faster. Reaching knuckle-deep until she rolled over onto her side almost in a fetal position when his thumb began grounding against her clit in time with his fingers twisting inside her.

The way her inner self rhythmically squeezed his fingers was signal enough this wouldn't take long. He searched, and found the right angle that made her shiver all over. Heat emanated from her skin.

Devouring her neck while stroking her, Xander felt her body convulse powerfully as the intensity of her climax left her sobbing against his shoulder, straining against his hand through the rolling waves of pleasure coursing through her.

His kisses cooled, calmed her down from on high, ghosting all over her shoulders.

When he gently slipped free the sticky moisture clung to his fingers and left traces of dampness along her hip and thigh. He embraced her tightly, and then he turned her in his arms, facing her, and stole a kiss. One solid press of his lips to hers until the pecks dissolved into raspy breathing around the rigorous tongue workout they were giving each other.

"I love you so much," Buffy declared the truth of her heart. She skimmed her hand along the side of his face, and before he could reply she kissed him again, the sheer need welling up inside her so fast that she couldn't fight it anymore. A need she refused to deny ever again.

Using her superior strength, Buffy rolled them off the couch right onto the floor. With a one-handed shove she pushed the couch away about a foot, and then settled over his lap, grinding her clit along the newly hardened length of his cock.

Thundering rain pelted the windows furiously, signaling the storm hadn't lost any of its veracity. Gray shadows played over their nude forms as they gazed at one another, and then kissed again.

Buffy reached down between them, wrapped her fist around his cock, and carefully rocked back until he slid inside her. Xander's hands fell to her slim hips that rode a careful rhythm until he was embedded fully within her. Until he could feel the very beat of her heart from where they were connected. God, she was such a dream come true...

His erection felt inflamed inside her, thick and hot as she rolled her hips about, squeezing him with her inner muscles on every descent. She leaned over, her nipples brushing his chest, and claimed his lips again. The angle ground her clit and that alone set her off. With her hands holding his face she swiveled her hips in hard circles over his lap, clamping down around him while pumping her hips ever so slightly. He moaned, breathing through his mouth with his eyes rolled back. She loved his reaction to her riding him. She loved him.

"I can't get enough of you." His voice was a thick whisper in the dark. She was a Goddess above him, now sliding down and then back up, riding his aching cock while pecking little kisses over his lips, neck, and chest.

"How many nights have you dreamed of me riding you like this?"

"Countless."

"Good." Rocking her hips in quick, sharp circles; she ran her nails down his chest while fucking him. The lustful heat of her sex expanding and contracting around him sent tingles up and down her spine. He was hers now. Hers and hers alone.

Her back snapped in a rigid arch as she rode him onward, loving him with her body, erasing any bad memories this apartment held forever. This was their time. Their love. And nothing else in the world mattered.

Suddenly, Xander sat up and kissed her hard. He massaged her lower back while she rose and fell over him, so slick and heated he buried his face in her shoulder and closed his eyes. She was killing him and bringing him to life all at the same time.

Buffy knew what was coming before it happened. Knew it because of what happened today and what had never happened before. A part of her feared if he thought this might never happen again.

She quickly found herself rearranged on the floor, with him on top this time. He lifted her legs over his shoulders and spread his knees on the floor for leverage. The look he fixed her with left her liquid and ripe.

And then he fucked her.

He fucked her so hard...

She swallowed deep in the back of her throat, now whining softly as the man she loved asserted his claim. Her body gripped wildly at him, pulling him deeper while she held on, taking the aggression he needed to unleash upon her. Surely he loved her with all his heart, but she was his and this was his way of making sure she knew it. This was her Xander trapped inside her slick, warm tightness. The sweat dripping from his face onto her skin, his strong thighs pumping fast, their bellies slapping with his every thrust as the thunderstorm raged outside the apartment building.

They were rutting like animals, kissing hard and fucking harder.

"So good," he grunted, his voice husky with need. "... feel so good."

"I'm yours, Xander," Buffy conceded, giving herself over to his primal urges as even the slap of his balls against her ass left her quivering. Tonight he would never again doubt her love. Never again. Her fingernails raked through his hair when he circled her nipple round and round with his tongue, suckling her into a whimpering state. Her soft, smooth thighs locked around his back. She's writhing beneath him now, moving her hips with him, and clutching him tightly in her arms. A tide's building in her soul, threatening to send her flying to parts unknown.

"I belong to you," she bit at his ear, and then kissed him again. "I only want you inside me... No one can ever have me like this again." The gliding skin on skin contact curled her toes. Every nerve ending in her body strung tight. The feverish passion he took her with left her writhing and bucking under him. Her body welcomed every aggressive thrust. The echoes of heated flesh slapping together filled the room.

She was so small beneath him, taking him deeper than any woman had before. She was the missing piece of his life, and now he was complete inside her. With her. Finally she was his!

Sweat soaked, they were screwing like mad on the carpet. Never mind the rug burn her back endured, Buffy drummed the heels of her feet on his backside, forcing him deeper. Her hips rose to meet his thrusting shaft as they were fucking so frantically they were barely thrusting at all. More like grinding into each other across the floor. Right over the spot she kissed Angel at earlier in the day.

Now her husband was fucking her brains out right there, forever marking his territory.

And then it happened.

"Xannnderr!!!! Ahhhh!!! Yesss...Godyesss!!!!"

Buffy screamed... screamed his name in one blood curdling yell of unintelligible sounds deep in her throat. Her nipples tightened, as did her hold on his entire body as the heated orgasm seared through her. Her body pulled and pulled around him in heavenly agony, convulsing in thunderous waves of pleasure raining down around him all over again.

This was surely nirvana. Xander gaped at her beautiful face distorted with lust and pleasure and love for him and him alone. She had screamed his name, and was still shaking even now as he erupted joyfully inside her, his sobs buried in the golden tresses of her hair, his body wrung dry after a series of truly savage ejaculations.

They laid there, just breathing, holding each other, and listening to the softening rainfall outside.

And then they heard someone banging loudly at their front door.

"Hey, are you two all right in there? I thought I heard someone screaming like they were dying."

Nosy old Mrs. Davis who lived next door and made it her business to know everyone else’s. Buffy was mortified by what the neighbor might of heard while Xander laughed on her shoulder, feeling every bit as proud as a man could feel.

"It's okay, Mrs. Davis. My wife stubbed her toe in the dark." He bent down and pressed another kiss to his wife's lips. Her blush charmed him all over again.

"Okay, I was just checking. Goodnight."

They heard the door to her apartment shut. Sighing happily, Buffy hugged her husband to her chest. "I love you and I love our life together. That's what I am most proud of in my life. Please don't ever doubt that and I promise not to give you a reason to."

"I promise the same. And of course I love you more than words can say."

"You made me scream, baby." Oh yeah, stroking his ego was of the good. Especially after today. And he most certainly deserved it. His smile couldn't be any brighter. He earned that smile. Good God did her ever earn that smile. Her legs were still shaking because of that smile.

"Yes, I am the man."

"No. You're my husband first," she kissed him softly, " Last," she kissed a little longer, "And always."

 

 

******

 

The End of Chapter 3