Buffy sat in the waiting room of the dentist's office idly flipping through an ancient copy of Sports Illustrated for want of anything better to do. Seems kind of lame to be stopped in my tracks by a toothache rather than something a little more Hellmouthy, but what are you going to do? she thought as she waited for her name to be called. Can't believe I lost a filling eating soup... I just can't get a break these days.

Her mind wandered as she gazed unseeingly at pictures from a baseball game played a year and a half ago. Then her ears perked up as she caught a line from a song she didn't know she was listening to on the dental feel-good soundtrack.

"She's living in LA, with my best old ex-friend Ray, a guy she said she knew well and sometimes hated..." Buffy felt her stomach drop. She knew this song, her mom had had an album by this dead guy that she used to listen to when Buffy was little.

Buffy used to think that the song was a bit pathetic - the guy pretending that he was really over the girl who had run off with his best friend. But her mom had loved it, called it sad and sweet. Buffy thought it was just lame - in the end the guy tries to chat up the operator even.

But now, well with a little rewording it had apparently turned into her life. Substitute "he" for "she," and "Xander" for "Ray," and it was getting close. Wonderful.

Of course, she was the Slayer and this was Sunnydale, so some bits needed to be added for "best old vampiric ex-boyfriend" Angel and "best old ex-competitor" Cordelia... She listened to the words as the familiar feelings of failure and jealousy washed over her.

"So I can call just to tell them I'm fine and to show I've overcome the blow, I've learned to take it well. I only wish my words could just convince myself that it just wasn't real - but that's not the way it feels."

No, it doesn't feel that way at all, Buffy mused as the song continued. Though she wasn't really quite sure just what "it" the song meant. She did know that she wished none of it had been real - not what she felt for him or what happened after.

Images raced through her mind as the song played on. How he looked when he first came back from Africa and was living in the basement of the school, having found his soul but lost his marbles. How he'd withstood the tortures of the First and the übervamp. He'd looked so hot all wounded and beaten and looking to her for help...

It had been good... with the soul he was firmly on the side of the good, safe, but once they got the government guys to take the chip out his demon could be strong again as well. He would be perfect for her, could understand her and help her in the fight and be strong for her.

So it had been a surprise when he had started turning away from her. The more she pushed forward, the more he pulled back. She didn't understand why, why he wouldn't want to make things work out between them after all they'd been through, why he'd moved out of the basement and back in with Xander.

Xander. The thought was still crazy. A crowning achievement of crazy in a long line of insane life moments. Xander had always been the one among them with no tolerance for vampires. They had hated each other. And hey, both guys. But apparently Xander had changed his mind. Both their minds. About a lot of things.

It was strange, seeing them walking back to Xander's apartment together after patrolling or just hanging out at the house with the girls. It took some definite getting used to, watching them become friends the way only she had been friends with him before.

But nothing could have prepared her for the sight of the two of them together - really together. She hadn't ever realized just how fragile he seemed until she saw him with Xander wrapped all around him, taller and broader and darker... standing in the shadows outside The Magic Box one night, Xander with one arm around his back and one hand cupping his ass and pulling him in tight.

No, she was most definitely surprised to see him looking at Xander as if he could never get enough of him, clutching him as if he were something truly precious. Surprise was an understatement, actually, watching them move even closer together and kiss in a way that had made her hot and not just in the sense of wanting to kill them in fury, though that was there too.

And then they were gone. Gone off to LA, to be good guys with Angel and Cordy and the rest of their gang. They just couldn't stay, they said. They just couldn't be part of Buffy's backing band anymore, they said. They were crazy and they were cowards, she said.

And now they had each other, and she had no one... well, no one but a house full of crazed girls.

Maybe it isn't really real after all - it's just too damned weird to be real, she thought with a grimace.

"Ms Summers? You can come on back now." The receptionist's brisk and artificially perky voice startled her and grated on her ears.

"Are you OK?" the receptionist asked, seeing the look of anger and disgust still on Buffy's face.

"I'm fine. It's nothing," she answered blandly.

"Well don't worry, it won't hurt a bit," the woman assured her as Buffy followed her through the door and out of the waiting room.

Of course it will, Buffy thought, rolling her eyes at the woman's oblivious back. What doesn't?





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