Xander continued to travel deeper and deeper into the cemetery. "Damn this fog! Not only can I not find what I came here for, but there are probably a couple dozen bad guys just laying in wait for someone stupid enough to wonder about in this haze."

After a few more minutes of fruitless wondering, Xander finally reached the newer part of the cemetery. "You know, with the death rate being like it is in good old SunnyHell, we might just have to start stacking the bodies on top of one another." Damn, I'm still talking to myself. This whole situation with Cordy is going to drive me to the brink of insanity.

Finally when Xander realized which section of the cemetery he was in, he quickly reached his goal. Out of reverence for his fallen friend, Xander reached into a pocket of his commando pants, and withdrew a small picture. "Well, Jesse it's been a while hasn't it? I thought I would bring you a picture of the gang. Well, not that you can look at it or anything..." Xander sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "It's not just me, Buffy, and Willow anymore, we've added a couple of new members. I know that Willow comes by here fairly often to talk to you, so I'm sure you already know about her boyfriend Oz. And I'm also fairly sure that she's told you about Ms. Calendar, the computer teacher and techno-pagan. You see, I don't know every thing that she's told you, because Wills and I don't speak that often anymore...Well, not like we used to anyway, and I miss that."

Xander sat down next to the tombstone and leaned his back up against it. "I'll bet you're thinking, 'Xander! I know you're not here to talk about Willow, so spill already!'. But, you see, the problem between me and Wills is really a part of what I came to talk to you about. I came to talk to you about that other member that joined our team, Cordelia. Well, right after the Master rose from his prison, Cordelia just seemed to be spending more and more time with us. And the next thing we knew, she was just another member of the Scooby Gang, although we did have to listen to her bitch when we asked her to do anything. Right about then, everything just got turned upside down."

A few tears began to form in Xander's eyes as he prepared himself to relay the next part of his story. "You see, this new enemy of Buffy's up and decided that he needed her REALLY dead. So he hired three members of this elite assassins guild to kill her. We hadn't heard from Buffy in several hours, so Willow and I got worried. Giles, told me to get Cordelia to drive me over to Buffy's house to see if we could find her. As we usually did, Cordy and I traded a few insults as we walked up to the house."

Xander began to grin as he remembered that day. "I'm only human Jesse, because I couldn't help but notice how beautiful Cordelia looked that day. Hell, Jesse, you know as well as I do how beautiful Cordy looks *every* day. Well, one of those Order of Teraka guys cornered me and Cordelia in Buffy's basement."

Xander sighed and smiled broadly. "Before I go on Jesse I have to tell you that I am sorry for all the times that I made fun of you for being interested in her. Maybe, just like me, you saw something inside of her that was worth fighting for. The reason I say that Jesse is because of what happened between us in the next few seconds. We started to really fight and get into each other's faces, and the next thing we knew, we were kissing. And Jesse, it was the sweetest, most wonderful kiss I had ever experienced up to that point. Her lips were so soft and sweet, when they touched mine, everything else just faded away."

Xander leaned forward and arched his back, stretching his stiff and aching muscles. He began to rub his arms up and down his lower back, groaning as he settled back into place against the granite stone. "You know, that almost wasn't the first time we kissed. There was this thing with Giles's past catching up to him, in a BIG way. As with all things unnatural, it all started with school on a Saturday. Unfortunately, I was such an overachiever that they absolutely required my presence there. Or, it just might have been the sweet D- I was earning. The next thing I knew, class had started, and good old Cordelia sat down right next to me. Now, admittedly, Cordelia is gorgeous to say the least, but never had her very proximity caused my temperature to rise. I thought that the rise in temperature was just a side effect of having Saturday school, but I found out otherwise later that day. We were just entering the library when Buffy yelled for us to stop some guy, and Cordy did just that. By kneeing the guy square in the crotch!" Xander started to laugh in earnest remembering the look on Ethan's face when she kicked him.

"Anyway, a few minutes after that, Cordelia snuggled right into my arms for comfort. God, nothing had ever felt so right in my whole life. She fit so perfectly in my arms, almost as if she had always belonged there. She was just so soft and warm, and as I held her close to me, I knew deep down inside me, that I couldn't settle for just this one time. So, I enjoyed the warmth of her body and our embrace until she slowly let go of me. But, our encounter wasn't finished that day, nosiree. Later that day, Cordy tossed of an insult to me, and I just snapped. I told her to throw down, and we got into each other's faces. Our lips were just inches apart and were getting closer by the second. Even as I was tossing insults her way, all I could think about was how her lips might taste and how soft, full, and red they were...And just as I was about to kiss her, Willow had to jump i-"

Xander's expression became somewhat morose as he prepared to relate to Jesse the recent events in his relationship with Cordelia. "Well Jesse, needless to say, that that wasn't our last kiss. Not by a long shot. We spent the next few weeks stealing kisses together in the school broom closet, and sharing secret moments of passion when we could be alone." A few small tears pooled in the corner of Xander's eyes as one trailed its was down his face. "And therein lies the problem Jesse. Our entire relationship has been kept a secret like National Security depended on it. And don't think it's because I never wanted to take it public, my God I wanted to shout from the rooftops that I was dating Cordelia Chase. And not because she was the most popular girl in school, or that she is stunningly beautiful, but for a deeper reason that until recently I was unable to admit to myself. But every time I broached the subject, she quickly and firmly told me absolutely not."

Another few tears began to roll down Xander's cheeks bitterly as he ran his hands up and down his arms, warding off the shivers that these memories evoked in him.

In the midst of his tears and pain, Xander failed to notice Buffy walking towards him, a look of concern written on her face. She was about to announce her presence to Xander when he began to speak again, the tears choking his voice. "She's ashamed of me Jesse. She's afraid that if everyone knows that she's going out with me, she'll become just like me...a loser outcast. And up until tonight, I never really felt like a loser outcast. I mean I knew what everyone else thought about me, it's just that I never felt that way about myself. Tonight was the final straw for me Jesse, I don't have anything left now Jesse. Willow has Oz now, and hates me for dating Cordelia and not realizing that she's always Jonesed for me. Buffy is too involved with her psycho-boyfriend problems to worry about the rest of the Slayerette's problems."

Buffy inhaled a silent breath of air cursing herself for being so self- absorbed that her friends thought she didn't have time for them. But, while Buffy had this moment of introspection, Xander continued on...

"And you know My parents Jesse, when they're not abandoning me to an empty house, they're drinking and yelling at me and each other. The only spark in my life lately was Cordy, I felt like a million bucks when I was with her, like everybody was wrong about me...only to find out she agreed with them." Xander laid his head on his knees and began to quietly sob as he muttered, "Now I'm all alone Jesse...I'm 17 and I'm so alone."

A growling voice caught both him and Buffy unawares. Xander looked up with tear-stained eyes to see four vampires looming over him. "You're not alone anymore now, meat."