Stand With You

"Want me to put a new tape in?"

"Nah. I'm good."

"Cool."

Oz came back to the rear of the van and sat down. The rear doors were open, and Xander was sitting on the tailgate, feet dangling. It was warm, middle of summer in the valley. The air was clean, and there was no one else for miles. Or at least not within earshot. Same difference.

He glanced back at Oz, who was settling himself back into a reclining pose of immeasurable comfort. As if moving hadn't even disturbed him enough to recover from not-sitting, not-relaxing, Oz sat and stared and become one with the silence again.

Xander smiled.

They'd been here for a while. He wasn't sure how long, maybe all day, maybe just all morning. They'd been nibbling on candy bars and chips and soda and each other, so there was no reason to think not being hungry for lunch was any indicator of time passing. It didn't matter, there was no place either of them had to be.

This was the road trip he'd meant to take. High school was over, just him and the open road... somehow that had segued into this. His failure to get out of the area, much less out of his inability to find a purpose in life, had been left far, far behind. Now it was he and Oz, living on the road, living in the moment. Living for each other.

They went, and did, whatever they wanted. No destinations, no requirements to want anything more than this.

Solitude. Peace. Each other.

Xander leaned back against the door where it met the van's frame, leaning against the crevasse with only mild discomfort. He looked at Oz, found Oz looking at him. They shared a smile that meant nothing.

"Hey, Oz," Xander broke the silence, after a moment or century of staring.

"Yeah?"

"You wanna head for Sunnydale? Visit everyone?"

"Sure."

But neither moved. Xander turned to look out at the field, again. This road was a small state highway, out in the middle of nowhere. No traffic, little enough wildlife. It didn't bother Xander that they weren't getting up to head for the front of the van, acting on his sudden plan to see their old friends. It didn't have to happen now. He knew that eventually they would get up and start driving again.

Even then they might not head for Sunnydale today, or even this week, going instead in whichever direction they wanted to go before turning around and heading back. He knew they eventually would. Eventually they'd head for what had once been home, and they'd see Buffy and Willow and Giles. Catch up on the news, find out how Cordelia and Angel and anyone else was doing.

Then they'd leave again, and hit the road, and spend some days like this. Sitting, and watching nothing at all, listening to the world go by. Just the two of them, together.

It was heaven.


She was standing there, just staring. She was supposed to be on patrol, but Giles didn't blame her lack of attention. Walking up beside her, she said nothing, gave no indication she even knew he was there.

"Buffy," he began, and she still didn't look up. He sighed, and laid a hand on her shoulder. "I know this won't help now, but... he is in a better place. One where no more harm can come to him."

Slowly, she turned to face him. In a quivering voice, she said, "I know."