Beta read by Laura Smith.
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Joss Whedon, WB and Mutant Enemy. Ive just borrowed them.
Summary: Someone contemplates the value of friendship.
Rating: PG 13 (I guess!)
Authors notes: This is set in the future. Ive tampered with the time line a little but nothing major.
A big thank you to Laura Smith who beta read this story.
Feedback: Yes please!
What is friendship?
Thats a question Ive contemplated several times in my life, but Ive never truly found the answer.
I believe friendship is having someone to share your secrets with. Someone you enjoy spending time with. As a child it can easily be defined as having someone to play with, but as you grow older friendship can change. It can wither and die or grow stronger than any other relationship.
When I was four, I was a lonely child. Lost in a world of books. My parents loved me, but they didnt really understand how to relate to a child. They gave me knowledge, rather than helping me to develop relationships with other children. They drew me into a world of adults as soon as I could talk.
For the first four years of my life, I was encapsulated in a world where conversations were built on books that had been read, current affairs, or the latest topic my mother was researching. There was no room for laughter or play, only seriousness. I didnt understand what toys were. Yes I had dolls and stuffed animals, but I didnt know how to play, no one had ever taught me, until I met you. . . .
I sat in the corner watching the other children. They seemed happy, painting, playing and enjoying each others company.
As I looked around, I thought how strange this place was. I had never been anywhere with so many children or toys. I was nervous, frightened even. Scared that I wouldnt fit in. I had always been accepted by adults, but children were different.
The teacher, Miss Jones, smiled at me. I smiled back. She seemed really nice, she had taken time to speak to me, encouraging me to play with the other children. But I had spotted the book corner, filled with more books than I had ever seen in one place before. Unless you counted the book store. I eagerly left the hubbub of children behind for the safety of books, where I could lose myself into a world of mystical adventures, where the Princess was rescued by her Prince Charming.
I found my favourite book, Cinderella and began to read. As I read my surroundings faded and I was lost in the magical fairytale world.
I didnt notice your arrival, or sense you watching me until you came over and spoke.
"Hello" you said, your voice shaking slightly from nerves.
I raised my eyes from the page to look at you for the first time. Your chocolate brown eyes met mine. Your dark brown hair was slightly mussed, and your mouth turned into a small smile.
"Hello," I replied, unsure why you would want to speak to me when there were so many other children to talk and play with. But somewhere deep down inside I knew that you would be special to me.
"My names Alexander LaVelle Harris," you stated proudly.
"Im Willow Sarah Rosenberg," I replied politely, just as my parents had taught me.
"Willow." You said. I liked the way you said my name, no one had ever said my name like that before. "Its a very pretty name," you added.
I smiled, enjoying the fact that someone was talking to me. "Alexander is a nice name too, but you dont really look like an Alexander. I think you should be called. . . ." I thought for a moment. "Xander" I stated proudly.
You looked puzzled. My heart sank as I thought Id hurt you. I felt tears well up in the corner of my eyes. Just as I was about to cry, a huge grin lit up your face.
"No one has ever given me a new name before. Xander," you practised your new name "Xander. I like it. Willow, will you be my friend?" you asked hopefully.
I nodded, unaware then how important you were going to become to me.
December 24th 1985
I sat on the floor at your house watching you dance. Well, you thought you were dancing. Your parents had invited me over for Christmas. My parents had agreed, giving them an opportunity to spend time with other adults, without their four year old daughter interfering.
I couldnt help but laugh at the way you danced. Your hips and arms slightly out of sync with the rhythm of the music. You wore a pair of Snoopy shades and tried your best to emulate the Snoopy Dance. That was the night the tradition started and the night I fell in love with you.
When the music ended you sat down next to me. I had difficulty seeing you as the tears of laughter streamed from my eyes. "Thank you," I giggled, "for making me laugh."
You smiled, "I cant believe you havent seen the Snoopy dance before. Its on every Christmas."
"We dont celebrate Christmas, we have Hanukkah." I stated simply, a little confused as to why I couldnt celebrate both.
"Oh."You looked puzzled. "Well I got you a Christmas present. If you dont celebrate Christmas, do you think I could have your Christmas present?" you asked hopefully.
"Alexander LaVelle Harris."Your mothers voice surprised us both as she walked into the living room. "You can not ask Willow for her Christmas present. You bought it for her, even though she doesnt celebrate Christmas, you are still allowed to give her a present."
You thought about it for a minute, then nodded your head. "Can I give it to her now?" You asked your mother eagerly.
"No. You will both have to wait until the morning. Now come on, its getting late and I know two children who will be really tired in the morning if they dont go and get some sleep."
We looked at each other and smiled. We were going to spend our first Christmas day together.
I looked in the mirror. I smiled at my reflection. I was wearing my new Tigger Footie pyjamas and your Mom had carefully braided my hair. I left the safety of the bathroom and entered your room.
Your room was filled with toys and games, they were scattered on the floor and table. You hadnt learned yet how to tidy up after yourself and you still havent! You sat on your bed in your Batman pyjamas with your favourite stuffed dog tucked under your arm. You grinned as I entered. This was our first official sleep over.
I walked over to your bed and sat next to you. We waited patiently for your Mom to come and tuck us in for the night.
A couple of minutes later the door opened and she walked in, smiling as she saw us perched on the edge of the bed waiting patiently.
She hurried over to the bed and pulled back your Scooby Doo duvet cover and waited for us to climb into bed. I clung to my teddy bear and scrambled under the covers, waiting for you to climb in after me.
Your Mom pulled the duvet up to our chins and kissed us both lightly on our foreheads before saying "Goodnight, sleep tight and make sure the bed bugs dont bite!"
You giggled in response, your eyes and nose scrunching up with happiness. "I love you Mommy," you said happily.
"I love you too Alex. Goodnight Willow," she added, smiling at me.
"Goodnight Mrs Harris," I said quietly.
She smiled and walked towards the door, turning out the light before leaving. Closing the door quietly behind her.
"Im not sleepy," you said, with a yawn. "Im going to stay awake all night and try and spy Santa."
"Youll be asleep before Santa comes. You know he wont come unless youre asleep. Miss Jones told us," I stated, remembering exactly what our teacher had told us before the holiday.
"But I want to see him," you stated sullenly.
"You did see him, at the Mall last Saturday when we went shopping with your Mom. He asked you what you wanted for Christmas and you whispered it in his ear," I replied.
"Well yes, but I really wanted to see him in his sleigh with his reindeer."
I could imagine you pouting with your last statement and I nearly began to laugh. "Well you never know. If we were really quiet, I suppose we might hear him come," I said, letting you win again. I had learned very quickly that I would do anything to make you happy. Our friendship had started that way, making sure the other was happy. Seeing you happy always made me feel kind of special inside.
Your hand found mine under the duvet and we fell asleep that way. Our hands entwined and happy knowing that we were together.
Christmas Day 1985
I felt someone tugging on my teddy. For a moment as I opened my eyes I didnt know where I was. I suddenly felt very scared until I saw a familiar face lean over and look into mine.
"Merry Christmas, Willow," you spoke happily, my teddy grasped between your hands.
"Merry Christmas, Xander," I replied still a little confused as to why I was asleep in your bed. Then I remembered I was sleeping over.
The sun was just beginning to rise and the darkness of night was fading into a distant memory. "What time is it?" I asked. I knew Id never been awake this early before.
"Time to go and see if Santa brought the Christmas presents," you replied a huge grin on your face.
You tugged my hand, pulling me gently from the warmth of the duvet. "Your Mom and Dad wont be awake yet," I replied, not wanting to get into trouble.
"No problem." You grinned and your eyes twinkling with mischief "Well wake them up on the way!" With that you turned and ran out of the room into your parents room.
"Merry Christmas, Mommy and Daddy," your voice resounded through the stillness of the house.
I heard your parents groan, and then I heard them reply "Merry Christmas, Alex."
My heart ached. My parents spent most of their time ignoring me, unless I had a relevant comment to make on the topic of conversation. How I wanted to have a family like yours, with parents who played with you, talked to you like a child, and made me feel welcome.
You came back to your room, pulling your Mom behind you. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and stifled a yawn as she came into the room. "Good morning, Willow. I see Alex woke you up first."
You began to jump up and down eagerly. "Can we go and see if Santa came? Please! Please!"
Your Mom giggled, I think she had forgotten how much energy you could have at this time on Christmas morning.
"Ok, but dont forget Willow. Remember shes not celebrated Christmas before, so shes probably a little unsure." she smiled tenderly at me. My mother had never smiled at me like that. My heart sank again, being with you and your family was fun, but it showed me what I was missing.
You bounded across the room and grasped my hand, gently guiding me out of your room towards the stairs. We walked quickly down the stairs and into the living room. The glinting lights of the Christmas tree welcomed us. I felt my mouth drop open at the sight of the brightly decorated packages under the tree. I had never seen so many packages before in one place.
You dropped my hand and dashed towards the tree. Dropping to your knees, you skidded to a halt inches from the base of it. You turned and smiled at me, your face filled with excitement and joy.
I stood in the doorway, a little unsure as to what to do. Your Mom came up behind me and took my hand, she led me towards you and motioned for me to sit down.
I did as she asked and sat there quietly, watching and waiting.
Your Dad finally came into the room and sat in his chair, a camera in his hands, ready to record your family Christmas.
Your Mom smiled at your Dad and then turned towards us. "Ok, you can open your presents now," she said, moving to perch on the arm of her husbands chair.
I watched as you dived under the Christmas tree, desperate to find your name written on a present. Eventually you came out with a present. It was wrapped in Winnie the Pooh wrapping paper, a little white bow stuck in the corner. You sat down and turned to me, "Heres your Christmas present Willow. Merry Christmas." You gave me the package and I held it for a moment in my arms. My heart swelled with happiness. Youd found my present first before looking for your own. I smiled.
"Thank you Xander." I carefully opened the wrapping paper, not wanting to tear it, as I wanted to keep this moment special forever. When I removed the wrapping paper a cardboard box greeted me. I placed the box on the floor and carefully opened the lid. Inside was a beautiful Cinderella doll. I pulled her carefully out of the box. Her beautiful blue dress sparkled in the fairy lights. I smiled, Id never seen such a beautiful doll before. You knew that Cinderella was my favourite story. Id read it to you every day since we met at Kindergarten. You knew the story inside out and backwards now.
It was your turn to open your presents, I watched and enjoyed your happiness.
You shared everything with me that day. Sharing is one of the most important parts of friendship. Ive learned that in my life and you were the one who taught it to me.
That was the year when everything changed for you. You came to me the week after Christmas, my parents were home for once. I was reading The Chronicles of Narnia, the set of books youd bought me for Christmas. When I heard a familiar knock on my door. I waited for you to bound through it as youd done virtually every day since Id known you. But today was different. You walked in solemnly, your face didnt contain the usual sparkle, your eyes were red from crying.
I dropped the book Id been reading and ran to you, holding you tightly in my arms. I could feel my own tears welling in my eyes, built from fear and concern. "Xander, whats wrong?" I asked, desperate to find out what could have caused the boy Id virtually known all of my life to change in an instant.
I guided you to my bed, and we sat down. You refused to let go of my hand. We sat there a long time, waiting for you to finally tell me what was wrong.
"He left us Willow." You spoke suddenly, your voice filled with pain and sadness.
"Who?" I asked.
"My Father, he finally left." The tears began to flow from your eyes again. Id never seen you cry before, unless you counted the time you fell over and broke your arm. You were always the brave one, the one who stood up for me when Cordelia decided to taunt me with her snide comments.
I did what I knew you needed and I hugged, you trying to make everything better, although I knew I couldnt. I felt my heart break as your warm tears rolled down my neck and onto my shirt.
"Why?" I finally asked, when your tears stopped falling.
"Because he realised he didnt want my Mother or me anymore. He wanted his new friend, the one he introduced me to at his works Christmas Party. My Mom is so upset Willow, her smiles gone. Her eyes dont sparkle anymore, all she does is cry. I never want to hurt anyone like he hurt her."
I spent all day with you, helping you come to terms with your family. It was a rough year, your Mother turning to alcohol, and you found out that families can turn from a realm of happiness into one of hurt and pain.
But we had each other. Together we made the world a little better for each other. Spending more and more time together, playing games, talking about everything we did at school together.
That was another important lesson you taught me, how to care for someone, share their pain, be there for them. You were there for me when I needed you, and I hope I was there for you when you needed me.
We were still as close as ever, although I noticed that you were beginning to change. You and Jesse were talking more and more about girls and ignoring me. Jesse had become obsessed with Cordelia, you and I couldnt really understand why he liked her. He used to be one of the three founding members of the We Hate Cordelia Society, but now he was more interested in getting her to go out with him.
You began to talk to me about the girls you liked, whether it be Jennifer from Chemistry or Lucy from English Lit. I always sat there patiently and listened to you, offering you my advice when you asked for it. The one thing I waited for though was for you to notice me. Well, notice me as a girl rather than just being your best friend, which was really special. But I wanted more.
That summer was fun, the Three Musketeers taking on the world, enjoying each others company. Preparing to attend High School in the fall, a new world would be opening up to us, more interesting than either of us ever imagined.
Buffys arrival changed everything again. My friendship with you included. You lusted after Buffy from the moment she arrived in Sunnydale. You would spend hours talking to me about her, how you would ask her out. I sat there and listened, helping you in anyway I could, because making you happy made me happy too. Although that wasnt true anymore. Watching you lust after Buffy made my heart ache, you couldnt see I loved you more than Ive loved anyone else. You didnt even notice I was a girl, just your best friend. Which would have been fine but, I so desperately wanted the happy ending just like the fairytales I read as a child.
Jesses death changed us both. We realised for the first time how precious life was and how easily it could disappear. We also faced something more frightening than ever before, the realisation that Sunnydale was built on a Hellmouth, and that vampires were real- very real, allowed us to change again.
I developed a new friendship with Buffy, which gave me the opportunity to talk about things that I could never talk about with you. Buffy knew how I felt about you, encouraged me to tell you, but I was scared. Scared that if I told you our friendship, something that I cherished, would disintegrate into dust.
That was the night that you saw me, really saw me, for the first time. It was the moment our friendship changed for ever. When I stepped out from behind the screen, wearing the dress Id saved for last, your eyes looked at me as if you were seeing someone different, someone who hadnt been your best friend for the past twelve years, someone who was new, interesting.
I couldnt believe that we were standing in my room getting ready for Homecoming. Seeing you in your tux took my breath away. In that moment I glimpsed the man that you were to become and I loved you even more.
I became jittery, babbling about dancing, or rather not being able to dance in my dress.
You looked a little puzzled and then we moved closer, that beautiful song playing in the background. We began to dance. You danced! Your dancing was perfect, and your hand on the small of my back sent shivers up and down my spine.
As we danced, our heads became closer, the distance between our lips diminishing until they met. The kiss made every part of my body and soul feel alive.
That kiss changed everything. Especially our friendship. I knew then that every time I was close to you Id think of the kiss, the sensations I felt, the way my heart pounded. That kiss, in a way, was the unspoken message of love both of us had tried to hide. A moment of weakness that allowed our barriers to collapse.
We had moments of snatched pleasure after the clothes fluke, but everything wed known and cherished changed. A barrier neither of us could move grew between us.
2002, the year I graduated from college.
Oz and I broke up in my first year of college and as much as I hate to admit it, I changed. That first year of college I was amazed at how I fitted in, no longer regarded as an outsider but part of the crowd. For the first time I could be me. The only problem was that I wasnt really me, I was trying to be the me I thought I should be. And in the process I hurt you. I didnt mean to, but I did. For that I am sorry, I can never apologise enough, but I know you understand. You always do. I wish I could take that year away, but I cant, its a part of my history just like every other moment in my life.
Although I had a chance to mend our friendship and strengthen it. It happened the night of Buffys twenty first birthday.
Angel and Cordy had returned from L.A for Buffys party. We sat in Buffys apartment waiting for Buffy and Giles to return from patrol. The four of us didnt know what to talk about, our lives had changed so much since High School. But we started to talk, clear the air and rebuild friendships.
Buffy and Giles returned and for once, Buffy had an uneventful birthday. We all became closer, realising that wed survived five years on the Hellmouth. We remembered those who hadnt made it and we all promised that we would stay in touch, whatever the future held.
You sat on the couch opposite me and I could feel your eyes glancing at me, studying me. I wanted to look, take in your handsome face as I had secretly before. But if Id have looked at you then, I would have shown you how much I still loved you, as I always loved you. I couldnt stop.
That night you offered to walk me home. I hadnt felt so nervous being alone with you since the clothes fluke. We walked in silence for a while, neither of us willing to take the first move, frightened we might say the wrong thing.
Id hurt you by being so horrible to you and everyone, being selfish, ignoring what had always been so important to me, my friends. When Anya and Oz left everything became clearer. I realised just how important my friends were, and I realised that I would love you forever and it scared me, really scared me, more than any vampire or demon wed ever fought.
Walking home with you that night gave me an opportunity to talk to you. An opportunity I hadnt had in such a long time. I started talking about Barbie. Your eyes glinted with laughter as you recalled her fate. It was the start we needed to talk again, really talk.
When we reached my apartment door, we stood on the doorstep for the longest time. Our eyes locked, holding a silent conversation. Before I knew it, our lips met again, this time in a kiss that was honest, pure and filled with more love than Id experienced in my life. For the first time in my life I felt complete.
You made me complete.
That was the beginning, when our friendship became even stronger. It contained a love that was pure and strong and which would survive everything, even living on a Hellmouth.
When the kiss ended, you spoke to me, and Ill remember your words forever. "I love you Willow. I always have and I always will." Your eyes showing me you meant every word.
My heart filled, almost burst with the amount of love I felt. As the happiness swirled through me. I uttered the words Id dreamt of saying my whole life, declaring them with the force of every part of my body and soul, "I love you Xander." We kissed again, sealing our declaration.
Finally we moved inside my apartment away from the dangers of the night.
That was our first night together and the start of our future.
August 12th 2004 Our Wedding Day
I waited nervously outside the church. My stomach churned at the thought of all of the people waiting inside, waiting to watch me exchange vows with you.
As soon as the door opened, and I saw you waiting with Angel at the altar, my nervousness vanished. Your smiled made everything better. As I walked up the aisle with Giles holding my arm, my eyes were locked onto yours, I didnt even notice our family and friends who had come to witness our marriage. All I could see was you and our future together. I knew together we would be happy, and I hoped it would last forever.
Exchanging our vows was perfect, our friends sharing the moment with us. As we exchanged rings I glanced over at Buffy, she was crying with happiness. Giles looked so proud, I think he thought of us as his children, and giving me away was a big honour for him.
That day was one of the happiest days of my life, although everyday I spend with you makes me happier than I can ever tell you.
September 26th 2006
That was the day I found out I was pregnant. We were going to have a baby.
I had everything prepared. A romantic dinner, candles, your favourite meal. I had practised my speech, slightly nervous at how you would react, but deep down inside - knowing you as I do, I knew youd be ecstatic.
You came in from work and kissed me, just as you had every day since wed moved in together. Your face filled with a puzzled expression at the sight of the table, the candles light flickering and causing shadows on the wall. A brief look of panic washed over you as you checked the date to make sure it wasnt our anniversary.
"I just wanted tonight to be special," I smiled reassuringly.
We sat, talked and ate. I waited for the right time to tell you. But somehow you knew there was something on my mind. You always did.
"Will is something wrong?" you asked, your eyes filled with concern.
"No. Why?" I replied, still unsure how to tell you.
"Youve got that look on your face. The one that clearly says you have something to say but youre not sure how to. Ive known you too long, Will." You smiled as you spoke, trying to reassure me that I could tell you anything.
I inhaled deeply, knowing it would be now or never. "I went to see the doctor this morning." I started.
A look of concern washing over your face. "Are you alright?"
I shook my head. Relief evident in your face. "Im pregnant. Were going to have a baby."
Your face exploded with happiness. You jumped out of your chair and dashed to me. Embracing me, kissing me.
"A baby?" you asked, still trying to take in the news.
"In seven months were going to be parents!"
That night was almost as special as our first kiss, but it couldnt match the night our daughter was born.
April 24th 2007
We sat watching re-runs of Star Trek when I realised Id gone into labour. When I told you your face turned white, a sheer look of panic in your eyes. You dashed around the house, looking for my bag and car keys. I just stood there and watched you. I couldnt believe that in a few hours everything would change again, we would have a baby to care for. When you finally found your keys, you rushed me to the hospital. Id never seen you panic as much as you did that night. You had always been so calm, but when I mentioned I was in labour, every ounce of sense left you. If I hadnt been in so much pain, Id probably have laughed.
When we got to the hospital, you never left my side. Holding my hand, wiping my forehead, telling me how much you loved me.
Im sorry for what I said to you that night, the pain clouded my sense of reason.
I remember looking into your eyes as the doctor told me to push, they were filled with concern, excitement and love. Without you Im sure I would have given up. When Ellen was born, you cried with happiness. As you held her, your eyes filled with amazement and wonder at our precious daughter.
We were finally a family. We had promised ourselves a long time ago that our children would never experience what we did as children. They would have parents who loved them, care for them and enjoyed spending time with them.
Thats a promise weve kept not only to Ellen but also to Josh, our son.
As I write this, I know I havent got a great deal of time. I am determined to see Christmas with you, Ellen and Josh. Our final one as a family.
This is the hardest thing Ive ever had to write, but I needed to tell you how important our friendship and love has been to me. Without you, I wouldnt have had such a perfect life.
You taught me how to love, care and share. The twenty six years Ive known you havent always been easy, but every day has been very special to me Xander.
Ive finally decided what friendship is Xander. Its the life Ive had with you. You were first my friend, then my lover, but you will always be the one person in this world I love more than anyone else. The person who knows me as well as I know myself, the person who listens to me and understands, even when its hard to.
I want you to go on Xander, watch Ellen and Josh grow. Be there for them, help them with their problems, help them to build friendships and to find love like ours. Teach them everything you know about friendship, if you do that I know they will be happy.
Tell them how much I love them and you. One day show them this book, let them know how much loving you, being your friend meant to me.
I have to stop now. I can hardly see the page because of my tears.
I love you Xander, I will love you forever. I wont be there to help you when you need a friend most, but remember Ill always be with you in your heart, just as youre in mine.
Xander closed the book. A book which was filled with every memory he and Willow had made together. It was the most precious gift Willow had given him. It contained their life, love and friendship. He couldnt stop the tears flowing freely from his eyes. His hand wiped them away as he looked at the framed photograph of Willow. The one hed taken the night theyd found out she was pregnant with Ellen.
He tried to smile, remember Willow before her illness, but his heart had broken in two.
He heard the door to their bedroom open, and turned to see their daughter standing in the doorway. Her long auburn hair flowed around her shoulders, her hand held her teddy firmly.
She walked towards his open arms. He lifted her onto his lap. She reminded him so much of Willow. Her emerald green eyes gazed at him just as her mothers had done.
"Wheres Mommy?" the four year old asked innocently.
Xander inhaled deeply, not wanting to upset his daughter by crying. "Asleep with the Angels honey."
"When is she coming home?"
"She cant sweetheart, but she asked me to tell you how much she loves you, Josh and me."
Xander cradled his daughter. His heart aching at Willows death, but somehow he knew shed always be with him. In his heart and memories hed see her, remember her. And watching their children grow up he would be reminded of her always.
He knew that their friendship would last forever.