Title: Darkest Day
Summary: It's time to move on, two friends say goodbye.
Pairing: BX friendship
Notes: I was listening to a CD I hadn't heard for years and something about the lyrics actually put the picture of these two sitting in an airport in my head. Unusually for me, the dialogue was the first thing to be written and I spent the next few days filling in the blanks. wanna know what song it was? Here you go!
Thanks to Missy for the amazingly quick beta! You guys put me to shame at how quickly you get things back to me!
Feedback: is always appreciated! Onlist or off, your choice!
Disclaimer: Don't own them, never will. I'm just playing in a pretty big sandbox.
He wandered aimlessly around the bookstore, not sure what he was looking for or even if he was looking for anything at all. His flight wouldn't be called for another half hour and he didn't especially want to sit waiting on the benches that were arrayed in front of the departure board. If he sat, he'd end up thinking. He might even regret his decision and head back to the hotel. If he did that he knew he'd never leave - this was definitely a now or never deal.
Moving along the shelves he picked up books at random, scanning the covers before putting them back, not really taking any of the information in. At the end of the aisle he turned towards the next range and stopped abruptly. Barely three feet away, standing with her back to him, was Buffy.
For a brief second he considered turning back the way he'd come hoping that she hadn't noticed him but he dismissed that thought quickly. Instead he took a couple of steps towards her and said softly, "Looking for something?"
She turned slowly and smiled sweetly at him. Even in the harsh fluorescent lighting of the airport bookstore she was radiant. From the very first moment he laid eyes on her he'd been smitten. She had a beauty that went much deeper than a few epidermal layers. Her unique blend of strength and vulnerability shone through…always. He'd seen her at her very best and at her lowest ebb, and never had she been anything less than beautiful to him.
"Xander." The affirmation of his name tugged at his heart. Of all the people he loved, she was the one who was most likely to succeed in getting him to change his mind. Why did it have to be her who found him?
"Hey Buff." He closed the remaining space between them and enfolded her in a hug, marvelling, yet again, at how petite she was. How perfect.
They hugged for what felt like far too long and at the same time nowhere near long enough, neither of them willing to be the one to end the comfortable embrace. Eventually he said with a smile, "Not that I'm opposed to public displays of affection, but d'you think this is really the place for it?"
"It's an airport, Xander. There's probably no place in the world more appropriate." She didn't release him straight away but they both knew the moment was gone.
Sighing a little, he pulled away slowly and looked down into her hazel eyes. There was a deep sadness there that he knew was a reflection of his own. They had both lost so much, endured more that anyone should ever have to and yet they'd survived.
For weeks now there had been a counsellor, sponsored by the Council, holding group sessions at the hotel for those who'd made it out of Sunnydale. Mandatory attendance was expected - no exceptions.
There had been much tossing about of terms like Post Traumatic Stress and Survivor Guilt and everyone had laughed. After all, every single one of them had faced far more stress and for far longer than any normal person would see in their lives. And what was there to be guilty about? They'd saved the world - where was the bad?
The only people who didn't laugh - who barely even smiled anymore - were Xander and Buffy.
They shared a common bond, yes they'd made it out - survived - but they'd each lost someone they cared deeply for. Xander had finally accepted that he would probably never really know what had actually happened to Anya at the end but the details didn't matter, the fact was she was gone. And so was Spike.
Shared grief had brought the two friends closer than ever before. They could relate in ways the others couldn't understand and gradually the two of them had drawn back from everyone else. Comfortable only in each other's company they would spend nearly every waking moment together, often just sitting in silence, just thinking.
Eventually they'd been able to make it through the day without breaking down. They'd been able to get through hours at a time without seeking the other out. And that's when he'd realised, it was time to make a clean break, not from her - never from her - but from the rest of the world. It had moved on, reminding him of everything he'd lost. It was time for a fresh start and so he'd booked a ticket to the first place that caught his eye.
He'd packed quickly and quietly, there wasn't a lot to take after all, and had left in the dark of night. The plan had been to email them when he got to his destination but with his own personal brand of luck the flight had been delayed and he'd been forced to spend the time watching the clock knowing that every minute ticking past was another minute for them to discover his absence and come looking for him. He shouldn't have been surprised that Buffy was the one to find him really.
They moved out of the bookstore and back into the terminal proper. Finding a quiet corner, they sat on one of the uncomfortable benches and stared straight ahead.
"Don't try to talk me into going back," he began.
"'Cause I'm not going. I've got to get away for a bit… What did you say?" he asked, not sure if he'd heard her right.
"I said, I'm not going to try to talk you into going back."
"Is there any point?" she shrugged, "You've obviously made up your mind."
"Yeah, I have."
"So that's it then."
"I guess it is."
They sat in silence for a while.
"Why did you come looking for me then?"
"Who said I was looking for you?" She smiled a little sadly and held up a red and white boarding pass. "Great minds think alike." She began.
"And fools seldom differ." He finished with a small smile.
"Why did you decide to leave, Xan? Why now?"
"I'm tired, tired of fighting, tired of getting kicked in the teeth, and tired of always feeling like I'm running a few steps behind everyone else. I need to find something new."
She said nothing, after all what was there to say? He was just giving voice to the thoughts they'd both been having for weeks now. Since Sunnydale.
"What about you? Why now?"
"I guess it's just time," she looked wistful as she answered and he wondered what she was thinking, what faces from the past she was seeing. "I'm tired too."
There was nothing more to be said. The two friends sat in silence, as comfortable as ever, remembering, watching the parade of friends and comrades lost through the years. Jesse, Jenny, Tara, Chloe, Amanda, Anya, Spike… countless more names and faces, each of them had a place in their hearts and would never be forgotten. Both Xander and Buffy recognised that to dwell on those lost moments would be to lose themselves in the past. They had come to this conclusion individually but Xander wasn't in the slightest surprised that they had come to it at the same time, they'd been so in synch recently that on reflection he would have been more surprised if it hadn't happened this way.
Around them the world moved on, and they were both ready to rejoin it. Glancing up at the departure board, Xander realised his flight was boarding. Turning to her he saw her still watching the board scanning for her own flight details. It was time for him to leave. Wishing she were coming with him, he stood slowly and turned to face her. She rose to stand beside him and they walked slowly to the departure gate, neither of them wanting to say goodbye.
He handed his boarding pass to the attendant and again turned to Buffy, for the first time words failed him. She had been part of his life for so long now that he couldn't remember a time when she hadn't. And now he was leaving her. She met his gaze and smiled, "I'm not going to say it and I don't want you to either." Saying goodbye was too hard, too final, he wouldn't do it.
Instead he grinned and tossed off a two fingered salute borrowed from Patrick McGoohan's Prisoner, "Be seeing you."
She smiled and returned the salute, and he walked away feeling calmer than he had in days. Just before he went through the door separating the gate from the terminal proper, he glanced back. She was still smiling, beautiful as always, confidant in herself again. He knew at that point that she'd be fine and realised that he would as well. He had no idea what the future held, what he did know was that some day soon they'd both see the light in the darkest day.