I remember the day I received the invitation in the mail. It was a beautiful envelope…one of those peach frosty colors. Obviously, Xander hadn't picked it out, but there was my name, Buffy Anne Summers, in that familiar Xander penmanship…a little neater than usual, of course. It had been awhile since I had seen the Xander-scrawl that had grown familiar to my eyes in past years. Even though I heard he was getting married months earlier, I hadn't expected an invitation…I hadn't thought much of his getting engaged at all. I didn't even know anything about the bride except that Willow had mentioned that she was some rich debutante from New York or something. I didn't bother in finding out. Maybe the fact that she was a rich debutante was enough to make me not want to find out.
We all went our separate ways after college ended, but we all kept in touch in some way or another. It was Xander that really went off on his own when he joined the military. He was always in some foreign country and no one ever really knew where he was…except me.
Everywhere he went he sent me something. Sometimes there was a note, but most of the time there was just his simple, messy scrawl of "Alexander L. Harris." And as time passed there was a ranking in front of his name. The last packages were marked with "Captain Alexander L. Harris" and that's how he told me his progress in the military…his progress in life after the Hellmouth. A type of life I'll probably never know.
At first I tried to write to him, but anything I sent was always returned back to me. So I stopped trying, but the packages never stopped coming.
I never found out why he sent them to me. Even when we met those few times he found himself here, we never talked about them. It seemed too special to talk about. It was almost as if, if we did, it would lose its meaning - whatever that was. And so he never told me why he sent me them and I knew better than to ask.
I have my guesses.
I remember telling him to see the world for me that day he left for training, and he promised and said something about wishing I could see it with him. But I didn't really hear him and before he could say anything more, he had to leave. That was the last time we ever really talked. I didn't know it that day, but when he left he was leaving for more than just training…he was leaving my world to try and find his own.
About a year or so after, the first package came. It was the only one that ever had anything that held semblance to a letter. It wasn't even that long. It just said he was stationed in France for awhile and that he found that high school French - the little he remembered - didn't help him at all. And that was it. He didn't write anything about the gift, which was a beautiful snow globe with a little silver Eiffel Tower in the middle. It played a little tune I didn't recognize, but from then on, every time I thought of him, it lingered in my mind and sometimes it lingered on my lips. Without thinking, sometimes I just hum the melody without a name.
I remember him looking at it when he first came back to see me. We were going to head out to dinner. I had finished changing and came out into the living room. He just stood by the mantle staring at it. Maybe he was surprised I kept it there. Maybe he thought I just put his presents wherever - although I still don't know where to put that rainmaker - but he just looked amazed that it was there. I pretended to cough and he turned around. He didn't say anything. He just smiled. I just smiled. Then we went to dinner and talked about everything else.
The other packages came sporadically after the first. Every few months…sometimes a year…it seemed he was somewhere else. Once in awhile there was a picture…sometimes it was for when he figured I wouldn't know what the heck it was that he was sending. There was one of those for the rainmaker, but other times it was just to show me what he was seeing and who he was meeting. I guess he wanted me to see and know them too.
I almost could.
Three of those pictures came from China and they all had nothing to do with the gold and jade bracelet that came with them - I think he figured I knew a bracelet when I saw it. One picture was of an old temple fringed with overgrown green trees. One was of him and an elderly woman - apparently a retired Watcher from China. In the back he also wrote, "Gileses…even She-Gileses…they're everywhere." And the third one was a waterfall and he wrote the first thing that came to my mind when I saw it, "Beautiful…"
Yet, out of all those presents and out of all those pictures, there's one thing that remains dearest to my heart. The very fact that in his crazy Xander way…he really did bring the world to me.
I just wish that he never took it back.
Right after I heard about his engagement, Giles told me that Xander was stationed for a few days in Peru. He was supposed to send Giles some books from a Watcher living there and he did, but nothing ever came for me. Nothing has come since. I never anticipated any of his packages except for that one. I guess it was because I never knew what and when something was coming next. But when I heard he was in Peru, I felt anticipation and I wondered what could be next. I still don't know why there was that rush of emotion. Maybe it was because my mind somehow knew that next was nothing, but my heart really wanted there to still be something.
I've never felt that Xander was obligated to bring me the world. I still don't feel that way, but I miss it. I miss the weird and beautiful objects and more of the pictures I look at every time life seems so ugly, but most of all…I miss Xander. Somehow knowing that he was thinking about me half-way across the world made me feel less alone…made me almost believe that he was still here…still protecting me even when I didn't need to be protected and making me smile even when I felt like dying.
As quickly and unexpectedly as my window to the world opened, it closed and disappeared…taking Xander with it…taking the remainder of our friendship and making it nothing more than a memory.
A memory that I'm now thinking about as I sit here and watch him dance the first dance with a beautiful woman in a white gown that now calls herself, Mrs. Alexander L. Harris.
"Our love is here to stay…" the singer sang as the couple danced around the floor.
I almost didn't come today. I almost threw away the RSVP to one of New York's biggest galas. I didn't feel that I should attend this wedding. I didn't fit into Xander's present life…I was a figment of his past…and I know it was selfish of me, but I felt that he had forgotten me…forgotten our friendship. I knew he talked to Willow and Oz. He even talked to Giles at times, but it seemed that I was just a nobody. That I just wasn't worth communicating to anymore.
But then I heard that Xander had to pull a few strings to get the old gang invited. Somehow his in-laws needed reasons for inviting each guest. Apparently he couldn't tell them that this was the team of Slayerettes that had saved the world a few dozen times over. I heard that he really wanted all of us to be there - to be together after all these years, and I heard this all from Xander, himself. He called me when I didn't RSVP a few weeks before the wedding. We talked for a long time. It was good to hear his voice. It was nice to know he cared. It was like old times. Almost. It was nice not to be forgotten…if only for a moment.
And so here I am. Miserable as hell, but happy just to see that Xander was happy. I haven't talked to him. I don't think he's even seen me this entire day. I don't blame him…his wife is beautiful, his wedding is beautiful, and his world just seems so set for success. It made me know that his days as "Xander the Slayerette" had ended long ago…it made me admit that after all these years. It made me miss it.
"Gibraltar may tumble…the Rockies may crumble…they're only made of clay, but our love is here to stay…"
And as I see him laughing and dancing, I can't help but think about the days of yesterday. I can't help but remember how we used to laugh and dance at the Bronze. For a second, I wasn't at the wedding. For a second, we were all at our favorite Sunnydale hangout having fun even though we knew that at any unspoken minute we might be risking our lives…again. And in that second, I knew I had to leave.
I didn't belong…or they didn't belong.
It was one of the two.
Maybe it was both.
I looked at him for awhile before I finally left…not in any hopes the he'd see me…not in any hopes that he'd talk to me. Just to remember him because I had the world's emptiest feeling inside that this would be the last time I would see him and as much as that hurt, I was glad that it would be the image of him being happy.
He showed me the world and in that I had found love…I'll never tell him. He'll never know. It doesn't matter. He has a beautiful wife to love. He doesn't need me. I don't think he even wanted me here.
The warm thoughts of our phone call grew cold. Of course…it made sense…he called to be nice…he called because it would have been rude not too ask. He never really expected me to go.
I shouldn't have come.
I absently hummed the tune of the first dance as I left. I walked out to the lobby and I closed my eyes and saw him smiling. There was so much life ahead of him. And I had my own life ahead of me and both lives didn't mesh as much as I might have wanted them to. We had parted paths long ago, but somehow I never let go.
Somehow he did.
Somehow I don't think I ever will.
I heard once again the tune from a snow globe that held a silver Eiffel Tower, and then I realized that I was really hearing it…from a far-distant speaker that was still continuing the first dance I couldn't finish seeing.
Instead, I heard it finish. I heard my heart break as I mouthed the words as the tears burned my dry eyes.
"Our love is here to stay…"
I finally knew the title.
I felt numb as I walked out of the hotel. I felt the tune ring in my ears. It sounded crackled and garbled.
He had forgotten France…he had forgotten me…
He had given me the world. I had silently given him my heart.
He took the world away, but I never wanted the world. I only wanted him to remain in mine, and to somehow take me into his and never let me go.
Part Two...get your hankies ready, people...