Title: Hindsight [1/1]

Series: None.

Author: Sonya

Email: sonyajeb@swbell.net

Timeline: Late S7

Spoilers: Dirty Girls

Summary: "He said I was the one who sees everything. So why does it feel like I've been blind for years?"

POV: Xander Harris

Archive: Regulars are welcome to it. Newbies must ask first. But no worries, because I almost always say yes.

Disclaimer: Not mine. Joss owns all. Though after what he did to Xander, I don't think he really deserves them anymore. *sniffles*

Author's Note: I was devastated by what happened to Xander in Dirty Girls. This was my therapy via fanfic.

Feedback: Please. Good or bad. I'll take it all! *g*


For as long as I can remember, I've spent my life on the sidelines. There was always somebody smarter than me. Somebody faster, stronger or better looking. Somebody who simply mattered more.

When I told Dawnie how hard it is to watch your friends growing stronger each day, with their own battles to fight and their own destinies to fulfill, I wasn't exaggerating. I've been wishing and hoping for something to happen to bring me into the spotlight for years now. Late night fantasies where I'd swoop in like some James Bond-ish type hero, looking all sauve and slick in my fancy suit, guns blazing as I stopped the bad guy, rescued the damsel in distress and saved the day.

But that's all they were, really. Fantasies. Because being in the spotlight isn't all about the honor and the glory. It's about the pain. Something I always knew in theory, but never quite understood until now.

This is my shining moment. I am the center of attention. Everyone's worried about me, checking up on me, focusing all their energy on helping me. They all tell me how brave I am, how strong. Willow cried on my shoulder, telling me between sobs that she didn't think she could use magic to fix my eye. She never had been able to do big things like that without tapping into the dark arts. Faith and Spike, of all people, haven't left my room for more than a few minutes at a time since we got to the hospital. I think they felt bad that I'd gotten hurt and they hadn't been able to stop it, even with all their super powers. Dawnie told me that I was her hero. The other potentials, the ones who'd been in the fight, have all started looking to me for strength and support, instead of Buffy or Giles. And in the midst of all this Xander-lovin' that's surrounding me, I can only think one thing...

I don't want the spotlight anymore.

I feel more tired now than I ever have in my entire life. And it's got nothing to do with the morphine the hospital staff's been giving me for the pain. No, this is a different kind of tired. It's a bone weariness that settled in when I wasn't looking and took me by surprise.

I looked at my reflection in the mirror just a little while ago and I could hardly recognize myself. Not because of the bandages and bruises, either. The difference was in the lines around my mouth and remaining eye. The paleness of my skin. The way my hands aren't quite as steady as they used to be. It's the look that could only belong to somebody who's seen too much evil, somebody who will never be able to find peace again. I recognize that look, though it's never been on my face before. It's the same look that's been in Buffy's eyes ever since we brought her back to life two years ago.

She comes in my room when she thinks I'm sleeping. Never says a word. She just stands beside my bed, watching me, like she's afraid that if she doesn't keep checking on me, I might up and vanish on her. And then, after a long moment of silence, she sighs deeply and slowly walks away. I don't call her on it. I can sense that these quiet moments are something that she needs. So I give them to her. It's become like our little routine over these past few days. She silently watches, I pretend to sleep, and we both know deep down that eventually one of us will give in and say something.

I was just surprised that the one who cracked first wasn't me.

"I'm sorry, Xander."

Her words were spoken so softly, I almost thought I'd imagined them.

I opened my good eye and focused on her pale figure, which sat slouched in the chair next to my bed. She wouldn't meet my gaze. Instead, she kept staring at her hands as they rested lightly in her lap.

Sighing, I reached out a hand and placed it atop hers, startling her into looking up at last. "Don't," I told her, my voice gentle but firm. "Don't blame yourself."

"But, Xander... it was my decision. I led us there. He never would have gotten anywhere near you if I had stopped to listen to reason. I might as well have taken your eye myself."

I shook my head. "That's not true, Buffy, and you know it. I place myself in danger. I have for years. Hell, it's amazing I held out as long as I did without any really big scars. You can't take responsibility for what happened to me because I choose my own fate, just like everybody else does. I choose to fight. Not you. Me."

"But, Xander," she whispered brokenly, "You lost your eye! And people died!"

"Not your fault," I insisted without a moment's hesitation. I smiled at her. It was a small smile, not quite up to my old standards, and it was slightly lopsided. My smile was imperfect. Just like me. But it was all I had to give.

Buffy smiled back, giving my hand a squeeze, and I felt a little bit of the tiredness leave me at last. My best, while messy and imperfect, was enough this time. And that was when it hit me.

I don't have to be the smartest or the fastest or the strongest. I don't have to stand in the spotlight. I just have to be there for Buffy. I just have to be as strong as I can be for her, even if it's only Xander-sized strength that I have to offer. Being strong for Buffy makes me stronger as well.

That's my gift. It's not my witty one-liners or my ability to fix broken windows. It's not my proficiency with a crossbow or my frequent trips to get jelly donoughts for the gang. It's not my ability to see, like Caleb thought.

My power lies in helping Buffy on her journey for as long as I'm able. I've done it for seven years and I'll keep doing it until the day I die. When she's weak, that is when I am strongest. When she falls down, that's when I pick her back up. When she needs a friend, that's when I tell her she's my hero, my everything.

I was wrong when I told Dawnie that being on the sidelines is the hardest thing. It's not. Not when you have someone to be strong for.

Buffy's hands were warm under mine. I eventually started getting a cramp in my arm from holding it out like that for so long, but I didn't say anything. I just kept holding her hand. And when she smiled again, it was like the sun had parted the clouds and chased all the shadows away. God, what a smile. It had been a while since I'd seen it.

Caleb said I was the one who sees everything. So why does it feel like I've been blind for years?