Disclaimer: No owny. Just feelin' in the W/X friendship mood. Isn't it strange how you can love a friendship so dearly despite it's, uh…fictionalness?

A/N: The dialogue from scenes that actually exist were not meant to be exact. If I were feeling in a researchy mood as well as my W/X friendship mood, I might be willing to track down transcripts or even to scour my own brain for quotes—but I'm not. Sorry if that annoys anyone.

Year 1

First day of school.

Okay, so it wasn't exactly the first day, Willow Rosenberg told herself with a smile as she trotted up the stairs leading to Sunnydale High. Still, the sun was bright (granted, a normal thing for southern California), the students were milling about (not exactly a bizarre event when it came to a high school of any kind), and she was feeling optimistic about the day ahead (also not a rarity when one was Willow). Everything felt good.

And it all got better the moment she saw Xander Harris crash his skateboard into a rail and land on his back.

A broad grin crossed the redheaded sophomore's face as she watched her best friend sprawl across the steps, groaning and gripping the railing with one hand in a half-hearted attempt to stop his fall. It wasn't that she wanted to see him get hurt, of course, but the look on his face was just so adorable—sort of a mix of pain, humiliation and, weirdly enough, amusement at himself.

Moving at a speed that she hoped wouldn't look too rushed, Willow came past him, offering a sympathetic smile. Just as she'd anticipated, a wide returning grin split Xander's face.

"Willow! My bestest of buds! Just the person I wanted to see!"

She lifted an eyebrow, waiting for the words she knew from experience were coming.

"I've been having some trouble with the math," he announced, pulling himself unsteadily to his feet and draping an arm around her shoulders. As if that would help his cause.

Although, hey, not complaining. "Which part?"

"The math." Bestowing another wicked Xander-smile upon her, he shook her shoulders amiably. "Come on, tutor me please. I beg of you."

Yes sir. "What's in it for me?"

His grin grew, if possible, even larger. "A shiny nickel!"

She shook her head. God, he is such a little boy sometimes…which, heaven help me, is why I love him so much. "All right, Xand. Tonight, my place. Sound good?"

His other arm went around her and her knees nearly buckled with the effort of walking, holding her books, and being hugged by her long-time crush all at the same time. "Sounds awesome," he answered cheerfully. "Can we order Chinese too?"

"With fortune cookies?" she finished, feeling happier than ever. The Xand-man's cheer was catching.

Another reason I love him.

"Vampires. Exist. Vampires. Are real."

The words sounded absolutely sick to Xander's ears. Yet, somehow, they also seemed perfectly ordinary.

"Vampires. Are. Real."

He uncertainly dragged both hands through his mop of brown hair and turned his eyes toward his bedroom ceiling. "How could we not have noticed this, Will? We've lived here our whole lives. How could we not have—"

She shook her head, staring unblinkingly at a stain on his carpet. He knew, without asking, what she was thinking.

"Jesse's dead," he stated, feeling number than ever. "Jesse's dust. And he's never coming back."

Her eyes closed and she leaned back against the headboard of his bed. The arms that hugged his favorite pillow to her chest suddenly looked much smaller and more fragile than Xander remembered. He strode to the bed and plopped down beside her, repeating himself one more time.

"Vampires are real and Jesse's dead." A wry, humorless smile stole across his face. "Does anyone else feel like they've been thrown onto a movie set without a script or any cues?"

"We shouldn't worry," Willow said in a small, hollow voice. "We've got Buffy now. Buffy will protect us."

"Buffy shouldn't have to protect us," Xander replied, feeling a strange burst of indignation in his chest. It was incredibly wiggy, true, but he felt as if he should be the one to protect Willow. This beautiful new blond girl—hot and wicked strong though she is—shouldn't be the one to watch them at all times. And, from the sound of it all, it seemed like she would have a whole lot more on her plate than just following the two of them around with a stake in hand and a bodyguard sign attached to her shirt.

"She's the Slayer," he murmured. "And here I thought I might have a chance."

Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw Willow flinch. She burrowed her face into his pillow and took a deep breath.

Several minutes passed in silence, during which Xander got up from the bed and resumed his pacing around the room. His eyes flicked from artifact of his life to artifact of his life. His skateboard rested in one corner underneath a practically-unused basketball and a small stack of Marvel comics. A dusty acoustic guitar lay half-buried under several unwashed flannel shirts and a holey pair of jeans. Posters of favorite rock bands and signs bearing useless sayings adorned every wall. Everything seemed brilliantly new and, at the same time, painfully like a mark of his mediocrity and laziness.

I never took the time to learn all the guitar chords, he found himself thinking wildly. I could die tomorrow—tonight—and I never bothered to learn that lousy F chord.

"What are we going to do?" Willow's voice sounded like she looked: tiny, broken. Terrified. He went to her again and instinctively pulled her into a tight embrace.

"Same thing as always, Wills," he said with more confidence than he could really muster. "We'll go to school. You'll tutor me, I'll keep just on the brink of failing to keep the teachers on their toes. We'll meet up with Buffy and see what's what. Hell, maybe I'll get a chance to poke a bit of fun at that Giles guy. He seemed like a laugh a minute, didn't he?"

She made a muffled sound into his chest that could've been a giggle or a sob. Emboldened by the thought that he might, just might be cheering her up, Xander went on.

"I'll keep you away from the influence of your parents, like usual. If your father were to get the chance to brainwash you into thinking the Snoopy dance was of the devil, I don't know what I'd do. And you'll continue to hide me from my folks with the cover of late-night movie-fests, Bronze trips, and lots of pizza.

"As for the rest…well, I guess we'll just have to wing it."

She made another little sound and, from the way her shoulders were shaking, he guessed she wasn't cackling at his wit. Sighing, he gripped her more tightly to him, pressing his face into her vibrant hair and inhaling the scent of Willow. The scent of protection.

Deep down, he wasn't sure he could continue to walk the walk and talk the talk of the normal world. Not after what he'd witnessed, not after knowing what he knew. Not after staking one of the best friends he'd ever had. But something told him weakness was not an option. Not anymore.

Xander Harris, coward no more, he thought dryly.

A/N: Short, kinda fluffy. I dunno, I just felt like writing short little blurbs about the sidekicks. I'm pretty sure—no promises now—that this will continue through the years, cataloguing the strengthening of the Will/Xand friendship. Who knows? Maybe some nice reviews will help bolster my writing abilities.