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It wouldn't be so bad if only they hadn't all stared at me. I almost wish I had just said "Oh" and moved on. But he knew I'd already realized it and I wasn't about to pretend otherwise. He slept with her. I could see the pity behind both Buffy and Giles' eyes and I wanted to scream.




Is it so obvious that I still love him? Do they know me so well that they just assumed that the thought of him in some other woman's arms would hurt me? Do they understand that he gave the one thing I'd always hoped he'd saved for me away to someone who didn't even care?




Does he?




I realized it and all I could hear was a voice taunting me. "It could have been you…" over and over in my head. I've wanted Xander all of my life, not just sexually although that's come into it, but with every fiber of my being. I've spent years wanting him to notice me, to see me, to love me, to want something more from me. It looks like I keep waiting.




I sat in the bathroom crying, wondering if the moments we shared together meant anything. I wonder if I was anything more than an agreeable diversion. Someone who kissed him without berating him, someone who would forgive him his faults without finding more. Someone who wouldn't be so ashamed she'd only kiss him in a broom closet.




And I wondered if he even cared. Does he know he hurt me beyond measure? Does he know that he broke my heart?




Again.

***

I couldn't look at her. I couldn't see the betrayal in her eyes. I couldn't face the fact that I'd, once again, thrown Willow's emotions back in her face. I wish I could say my motives were pure. I wish I could say I just really wanted to help Faith. I wish I could say I was being the good Samaritan I was pretending to be.




But if I'm honest, which I'm not usually, I wanted to tell them. To tell her. I'm not good at keeping secrets from her. I tried it once and it resulted in the whole blowup about Cordelia. I don't want her to find out from someone else. I don't want Faith to decide that she needs to know. I want to tell her.




I also want to live through the day, so I tell her in front of people who can protect me. Not that they would. As soon as they both realized what I was talking about, all eyes turned to her. They didn't know what I knew. They didn't know that she knew exactly what I was talking about almost before the words were out of my mouth. They forgot that Willow knows me.




That she loves me.




I wasn't sure how she meant it that night when she told me she loved me. The night I broke her heart. But seeing her now, knowing what she's thinking - Xander broke my heart again - I realize that in spite of Oz, in spite of Cordelia, in spite of it all, she does still love me. She's still the girl down the street who forgives me anything. She's the same Willow who has loved me all her life.




The same Willow I keep hurting.




And I look over at her now and I know that she'll forgive me for this eventually. She can't stay mad at me. But the hurt won't ever quite go away. I'll never be able to repair this rift between us completely. And I'm scared to death of what she'll say to Faith when she sees her.




Willow can be very…not nice when she wants to be.

***

He's looking at me now while I'm talking about Faith. I hate to see the marks on his neck, the deep purple bruises that aren't going to fade any time soon. I want to admit that I hate her for what she took from me and I do in not so many words. I admit that I don't like sharing my "people", my friends. I don't like the fact that she shares something with Buffy that I can never understand. And I sure as hell hate the fact that she knows Xander in a way I'm beginning to believe I never will.




I can feel his eyes on me. He doesn't speak. I know his voice is barely a harsh rasp. She nearly killed him. If Angel hadn't been there, Xander would be dead. The relief in me almost washes away all the hurt and pain. Almost.




I wanted to hug him the moment I saw him come through the library doors. I wanted to take him in my arms and never let him go. But I didn't. I couldn't. Because if I did, I'd have to change everything. Because if I had held him, even for a second, if I had hugged him…I would have kissed him and it would have all started over again.




Which has its advantages.




I need to think about what and who I want. This has just reinforced to me that Oz was right. It's never going to be over between me and Xander. It's never going to be easy. I love him. But, other than guilty, I have no idea how he feels. For all I know, he thinks I was a pleasant distraction.




I'm not going to risk my heart on Xander Harris again. It can't take it anymore.

***

I can't talk. I can barely breathe. I've never hurt so badly. This is what I get for doing the right thing. This is what I get for being the good guy. I get saved by a vampire. Sheesh.




She's talking now and I can see her inner struggle. She wants to be helpful. She's the kind of person who saves stray animals. But she's talking about keeping Faith behind bars. And my neck certainly agrees with her.




She's defending me. Again.




I want nothing more than to hold her. The minute I saw her I wanted to beg her forgiveness for being such an insensitive clod and hurting her. I wanted to ask her to love me again.




But I can't. How many times have I taken the love she's offered me and pushed it aside? How many times have I hurt her? How many times have I just seen right through her? I always prided myself on saving our friendship. I always thought I was being so smart knowing Willow's friendship and love meant a lot more than sex. But I was fooling myself. Willow would never withhold friendship and love. With her the two go hand in hand.




And I can't ask her to give up Oz. It's obvious to me from the events after we got caught that Oz is who she wants. I have to respect that. She deserves someone who treats her like he does. She deserves someone who sees all the wonderful things about her.




She deserves someone who isn't me.

***

We split up and I know it's the last time I'll see him tonight. I touch his hand and smile. "Goodnight Xander."




He nods, saving his throat. I want to kiss the pain away. I want to throw everything to the wind and live in the moment. I want to live in his love.




He walks away, waving as he heads toward the Bronze.

***

She says goodnight and I want to grab her and keep her with me. She walks away and I can't help thinking this is not the way the night's supposed to end.




She heads toward one of the cemeteries, although we both know Faith's going to be headed out of town. She looks back over her shoulder and I can't help thinking I've never seen eyes so sad.




And I wonder if I'm ever going to be able to make this up to her.




I'm pretty sure the answer is no.



End
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The authors own nothing. Joss, UPN, WB, etc. own Buffy, the show, the characters, the places, and the backstory. The authors own any original plots.