Disclaimer: Still no owny. Strange, ain't it?

Year 2

Can't believe…can't believe…oh, God, I can't breathe

Willow Rosenberg wanted very much to throw up. Her breath was coming in sharp pants, painful, agonizing, and she wasn't sure how much further she could go. Stumbling in the dark wasn't much fun under the best of circumstances, but on a night like this one, in a town like Sunnydale…

Thank God this is my house.

Her brain couldn't process the events of the evening. She was trying, she really was, but—but what is there to say? What is there to think

Okay, Willow. Okay. One thing at a time.

Angel is evil.

He has no soul.

He tried to kill me.

Ms. Calendar is a gypsy spy.

Can we trust her?

Buffy is the reason Angel is evil.

How do I help her?


She stopped herself there, unable to reply to the hideous scene that kept going in her mind, as if it were on repeat. The image of Xander, the guy she loved, the guy she had depended on for basically her whole life, swapping spit with Cordelia Chase, of all people…

I'm going to be sick.

Her legs gave out as soon as she reached her room. Her butt hit the floor first; then she slumped forward, doing a sort of faceplant into her carpet. It was the sort of fall that would have made Xander laugh and laugh—if he were here. If he was with her.

If he wasn't with Cordelia Chase.

Oh, God, why Cordelia, of all people?

Maybe he was brainwashed.

Yes, yes, that had to be it, she reasoned with all the illogic of a person who had very nearly been killed quite shortly after seeing the boy she loved making out with a girl they both hated. Yes, she brainwashed him. That's all. It's all her fault, she really is evil, spat out by the Hellmouth to make my life an absolute living Hell—

This was all wrong, she thought crazily. Everything was wrong. Perhaps she had accidentally worked her way into a different dimension entirely, one where Cordelia was perfectly nice, where Angel was perfectly homicidal, where Xander was perfectly insane—

A tear slipped down her cheek. This wasn't another world. This was her world, the one she'd grown up in.

When did it change so much?

Xander Harris was fuming.

Okay, yes, Willow technically had a right to be thinking of someone other than Xander himself. In fact, this was preferable. He had a girlfriend of his very own to be concerned with; the last thing he wanted was to worry constantly about smashing his best friend's heart into a million tiny Willow-heart-shaped pieces. And the fact that she had Oz now was…was…

He swallowed hard, forcing himself to think it.


That's what it was. It was good. Wasn't it?

Of course it was.

Gritting his teeth, he allowed his gaze to sneak across the bleachers to where the boy called Oz—Oz, what the hell kind of name is Oz, anyway?—was smiling a shy smile at his Willow, gently tucking the tag back into her shirt.

"He's all over her," he muttered angrily, ignoring the look Cordy shot him. "Look at him. Can't you keep your paws to yourself for five minutes?"

Cordelia shook her head, clearly irritated. He continued to ignore her. Hey, plan of action that worked for the past twelve years. Why change it if it works?

The worst part was the way Willow, his Willow, grinned sappily back at the boy. Xander couldn't believe how crass—and don't think I don't know how proud Giles would be of me for using the word 'crass'—she was being. Didn't she know he was watching? Couldn't she feel his eyes on her? Couldn't she see that her actions were tearing him up inside.

Get a hold of yourself, Harris, a little voice barked inside his head. What are you thinking, you fool? This is Willow. Doesn't Willow deserve to be happy? Doesn't she deserve someone who loves her?

I love her, he shot back. I've always loved her. She's my best friend. Why should she need anyone else?

That is so unfair, that little voice complained. And you know it.

He sighed. It seemed he'd been arguing with this little voice for quite some time, and, truth be told, it was starting to worry him. The last thing a person living on a Hellmouth needs is to develop a split personality disorder, he thought idly. With my luck, that personality would probably pop out of my forehead like some kind of horrible clone-zit and start taking over my life…

He didn't even want to think about the possibilities.

Instead, he focused on Oz. The boy was quite a bit shorter than Xander himself—shorter than Will, even. His hair was dark brown and spiked up at the moment, but Xander was sure he'd seen it in a variety of colors over the past two months. What did that mean? Did that suggest Oz was a creative type or simply someone easily bored with things? Willow didn't need someone who would stick around for a week or two, then run off. If that was Oz's intention, Xander intended to beat it out of him.

Probably best to figure this out for sure first, he reminded himself, relaxing the hand that had instinctively curled into a fist against his knee.

He seems nice, that annoyingly-rational little voice observed. He seems like the kind of sweet, smart, sensitive guy that the Willster deserves, doesn't he?

But he's a musicianXander argued ignoring his own brush with music. A guitar player. Practically a rock star. Totally untrustworthy.

You're just jealous, the voice replied snidely.

Jealous? Of him? Why, 'cause he can play guitar? Pfft. Who cares?

The voice fell silent, but Xander knew exactly what it had been getting at. All their lives, it had been just the two of them. Willow and the Xand-man, 'till the end. He'd always protected her, she'd always helped him. And that was all they needed.

Well, us and Jesse. But, let's be honest, he was never really part of the Will and Xand Show.

Now, though…now everything was so different. Buffy had come to Sunnydale and brought with her so much demonic baggage that sometimes Xander thought privately that she had been the one to activate the Hellmouth.

Then, of course, he tended to feel guilty. If it weren't for Buffy, he reasoned, both he and Willow would probably be as dead as Jesse. The girl had done a hell of a lot more good than bad since coming to this town and he was nothing but grateful for it.

Most of the time.

Still, as he watched Oz give his Willow's shoulder a friendly pat, Xander couldn't help but think that everything would be so much better if it was still all about the Will and Xand Show.

I guess it's too late for that.

If she doesn't wake up…

Xander cut himself off before the thought could run it's course. He couldn't think that way, he chided himself, couldn't even think about thinking that way. No way.

Willow was going to wake up.

She had to. He wasn't going to give her a choice. True, she was Buffy's best friend and, yeah, Oz's girlfriend, but to him, she was so much more. She was the most important thing in the world, when it came down to it, and he wasn't going to let her go without a fight.

Sitting there, beside her bed in that terribly-happy hospital room, Xander cradled his head in his hands and held back tears. He was alone in the room, excepting the inert form of his best friend; there was no reason he couldn't cry and still come off looking like a manly man to the outside world.

But tears would mean something to cry about. If he allowed himself to finish that thought, the one that had been racing around his brain again and again since he found her under that bookcase…

"Come on, Will," he croaked, reaching out and taking her still hand. "Come on. Don't do this to me. Please, Will, you've always been there. Don't…don't change now."

She, predictably, said nothing. Her chest continued to rise and fall and the monitor she was hooked up to gave off a steady string of beeps, but her eyes refused to open and her fingers didn't tighten around his. Xander drew in a breath.

"Willow…I don't…you can't do this to me, Will. I don't know what I'd do without you. You're the best person I've ever known, the only one who has always accepted me. You shielded me from my parents, you comforted me when I felt unbearably stupid…you even watched all those dumb kung-fu movies with me. You can't leave me now. I've still gotta pay you back for all that you've done for me."

Still no response. His heart ached unpleasantly to see her like this, so still and—well, unconscious. His Willow was normally such a happy person, so full of goofy energy and huge, catchy smiles. To see her here, in a hospital bed, unable to move or talk or even hear him…

When he swallowed this time, he thought the lump in his throat would dissolve for sure.

"Will…Willow, come on. You have to wake up. You have to. You're my best friend. The best friend I will ever have. You've had so many chances to desert me, to come to your senses and walk away…and you never have. You're the best person I've ever had in my life.

"I love you."

The words slipped past his lips before he had a chance to really think them through, but as soon as they were out in the open, he knew they were true. No second thought was needed: he loved Willow. And she loved him too, he knew it. For so long, they were all each other had...

And he was determined to keep it that way.

"I love you," he repeated, squeezing her hand.

She squeezed back.

He jumped, thoroughly surprised. Did she just…

Her lips were moving and a faint groan escaped. A faint groan that repeated itself, becoming more understandable.

"Oz," she muttered. "Oz."

And, somehow, he was there. Short, spiky-haired, in all his wolfy-glory, Oz was by her side, taking her hand as soon as Xander released it, kissing her forehead and basking in the Willow-love.

Smiling tightly, Xander got up from the chair he'd been stationed in for hours and began to back toward the door. She was awake. This was by far the best thing that could have happened.

So why did he feel so terrible all of a sudden?

Because, that nasty little voice spoke up, you were the one to pull her back into this world. Your words brought her back. And she'll never know.

Maybe that's for the best.

A/N: Okay, so no reviews yet. I can work with that. Really. It's not making me feel like I can't write worth jack or anything…

Kidding. I know the Buffy scene has slowed down. I know there probably aren't hundreds of people lining up to read these fics anymore…but, y'know, if you happen to stumble into the fluffyness and it's not too much trouble…reviews are always a nice thing to get, aren't they?