"Xander? I don't care if you want to be alone or hate me or are mad at me because of Spike. Would you just listen to what I have to say? Terrible things are happening. Really bad things. Tara's dead and...and maybe if things had worked out differently then she'd still be dead but she wouldn't have got back together with Willow and have been happy. She'd just have died. There's a difference, see, a big difference. I know we're supposed to apologise and these silly mortal customs but...it's not important anymore. Tara's dead." I repeat it as though saying it a thousand times will change things. Make her alive.
"An Ð " He interrupts, reaching a hand out to touch my shoulder. I pull away because I have to say this.
"Buffy's been shot. Spike's left town. Willow is shattered and heartbroken and angry. You, you don't look like you're doing so great. Everything's fallen apart." I take a breath.
"Tara came to see me the other day, she told me that she was going to see Willow and make things right. Wanted my opinion, advice." I laugh suddenly.
"First time anyone's ever asked me for advice." A smile almost forms on my lips but it's only to keep from crying.
"She said that things fall apart, that everything happens too quickly. It's all so sudden. I can't believe that this won't happen again, that everything's going to be fine and peachy. Life's not fine and peachy, it's a big screwed up mess and you were the only thing that made sense in that mess. But you left and things went wrong and I wish they hadn't. Wishing doesn't help though. It can't change anything." I'm crying now but I carry on all the same.
"It was Tara and it's terrible and awful and if it helped I'd wish her back to life. I'd cast spells and magic her back except she wouldn't have liked that plus it went really badly the last time." I remember - hugs and smiles and reassurances and a motherly quality I'd only ever noticed before in Joyce - and I sigh and make a few more silent pointless wishes.
"But it could have been any of you there. You or Willow or Buffy. There's no rule to these things, it just happens. You could have died and I'd never have been able to tell you how much I love you. Or apologise and all of the silly customs that we do. I love you. I'm sorry about Spike, I really am but you just left. I thought you didn't want to marry me or be with me and maybe you didn't love me. I didn't understand why you walked out and I thought it was the most important thing in the world. But it's not, now there are more important things. Getting married doesn't matter. It's just a ring and some words on a certificate. Although you will be marrying me one day of course." I add on hastily, gaining a little control of my emotions.
Xander smiles and suddenly he's holding me and I've lost all control of these pesky emotions. I'm crying against him and his face is pressed tightly against my neck but I can tell he's crying too. He pulls his face away so it's opposite mine and looks at me.
"An, I'm sorry for all of this. God, I love you, don't ever doubt that." He presses a kiss lightly against my lips and I close my eyes.
"And you'll marry me someday?"
"Yes." Xander says with a smile and I pull his face against mine again, kissing him softly.
After a while we disentangle from one another. He wipes the tears from my face and I wipe the tears from his face.
Life's not peachy or fine. But right now it's almost okay. It's almost okay and that's good.