Diana (butterfly) wrote in ship_manifesto,

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Buffy Summers/Xander Harris (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Title: Heart and Hand -- Inspiration and Action
Author: butterfly
Spoilers: Up to the end of BtVS, 7x22 -- Chosen
Email: butterflydm@gmail.com
Personal Website: http://dianamichelle.5u.com

"You're my hero."
Xander Harris; 'The Freshman'

I fell in love with Buffy and Xander in the very first episode that I ever saw. That was the Pack, back during its first summer airing. I fell in love with the two of them and with the show itself. But my love for those two characters has driven my love for the show in many ways, and even symbolizes my love. Just as I see BtVS as a show about possibility and trying to reach potential, I see the friendship between Buffy and Xander laden with possibility. Buffy and Xander continually challenge each other to grow and climb closer to what they could be. And just as the show ends with an open road, so does the Buffy and Xander relationship -- they're both alive and they both still care about each other, which is all I needed.

A. The Blonde and the Boy

Buffy Summers started out as a simple overturning of a cliché -- she was the blonde who walked into an alley and kicked the ass of the monster who jumped her. Over a period of seven years, the audience gets to see the depths of her humanity and the true horror that lies in any prophecy and in any fight.

Xander Harris is a normal guy. He has no supernatural strength, no magic, and no mass stores of knowledge about the occult. What he does have is a hell of a lot of heart and enough faith to stop the mountains from crumbling.

When Xander first saw Buffy Summers, she knocked him off his feet -- literally, as just the sight of her caused him to run his skateboard into a railing, and figuratively, as we see in his Buffy-focused view for most of the episode. He falls in lust, puts her on a pedestal, and spends years trying to keep her on it. In the end, he does figure out that she can be his hero and still make mistakes. He loves Buffy, but he also admires her. More than that, he's always willing to stand up to her if he thinks that she's wrong.

Buffy's relationship with Xander is a little less complicated. She thinks of him as a friend, though she has, on occasion, shown flashes of attraction. Xander is, in many ways, her touchstone to 'normality', as she expresses after he leaves Anya at the altar -- they were her 'light at the end of the tunnel'. If Xander got it right, so could she. She was Xander's hero, but he was often her inspiration. In the end, they both always got it over and became friendly again soon after the air was clear. They don't give up on each other.

B. Seven Years of Bondage

In the first season, the relationship between Buffy and Xander is fairly simple -- he has a crush on her from the very start, while she works fairly hard at creating a friendship only between them.

From The Witch --
Buffy: "I just got kicked off the team, didn't I?"
Xander: "I don't think it was your fault."
Buffy: "Hmm, I know you don't, that's 'cause you're my friend. You're my Xander-shaped friend! Do you have any idea why I love you so, Xander?"
Willow: "We gotta to get her to a..."
Xander: "Let her speak!"
Buffy: "I'll tell you! You're not like other boys at all."
Xander: "Well..."
Buffy: "You are totally, and completely one of the girls! I'm that comfy with him."

Buffy herself develops an interest in dark, cryptic, and brooding -- Angel, who ends up being her first 'immortal' boyfriend. A trio is created with Buffy, Xander and Xander's childhood friend, Willow, whom Buffy had already established an immediate rapport with.

Though at first it does seem like Xander's feelings for Buffy are a crush, just lust at first sight, it doesn't take long before it's apparent that Xander's feelings run more deeply than that. As early as Teacher's Pet (the fourth episode), some part of Xander already knows that he loves her. This is reaffirmed in Nightmares, when Xander says that he's still attracted to a Buffy that's been artificially vamped out -- something that he doesn't feel when he later (season six) thinks about his fiancée with a demonic face. At the end of this season, Xander asks Buffy out, and she turns him down as gently as possible.

From Prophecy Girl --
Xander: "Um... You know, Buffy, uh, Spring Fling is a... time for students to gather and... Oh, God! Buffy, I want you to go to the dance with me. You and me, on a date."
Buffy: "I-I don't know what to say."
Xander: "Well, you're not laughing. So that's a good start. Buffy, I like you. A lot. And I know we're friends, and we've had experiences... We've fought some blood-sucking fiends, and that's all been a good time. But I want more. I wanna dance with you."
Buffy: "Xander, you're one of my best friends. You and Willow..."
Xander: "Well, Willow's not looking to date you. Or if she is, she's playing it pretty close to the chest."
Buffy: "I don't want to spoil the friendship that we have."
Xander: "Well, I don't want to spoil it either. But that's not the point, is it? You either feel a thing or you don't."
Buffy: "I don't. Xander, I'm, I'm sorry. I-I just don't think of you that way."
Xander: "Well, try. I'll wait."
Buffy: "Xander..."
Xander: "Nah. Forget it. I'm not him. I mean, I guess a guy's gotta be undead to make time with you."
Buffy: "That's really harsh."
Xander: "Look, I'm sorry. I don't handle rejection well. Funny! Considering all the practice I've had, huh?"
Buffy: "Xander, I'm sorry, I don't know..."
Xander: "You know what? Let's just not."

He's miserable and mad, and he's also the only person to go after her when he's found out that she's going to her prophesied death. In fact, he's the one who enlists her love interest into helping him save her, and Xander is the one to bring Buffy back to life, thus fulfilling yet overturning the prophecy about her death.

Xander: "Buffy, she's gone to fight the Master."
Angel: "He'll kill her."
Xander: "Rumor has it. Only we're not gonna let it happen."
Angel: "Well, what do you propose we do about it?"
Xander: "Look, I know you can find this Master guy. He's underground, right? Take me to him. Angel: You're way outta your league, kid. The Master'll kill you before you can even breathe. If you're lucky."
Xander: "How can I say this clearly? I don't like you. At the end of the day, I pretty much think you're a vampire. But Buffy's got this big old yen for you. She thinks you're a real person. And right now I need you to prove her right."
Angel: "You're in love with her."
Xander: "Aren't you?"

Second season starts out with a bang when Buffy acts out in pain and grief -- hurting Angel, Xander, and Willow all in one fell swoop when she asks Xander to dance. She makes it deliberately and cruelly erotic, teasing him and then leaving him alone on the dance floor -- Xander's desire to dance with her fulfilled in the most painful way possible. And Xander's the one who is able to confront her, after Willow and the others have been stolen by vampires.

From When She Was Bad --
Buffy: "Xander. What happened?"
Xander: "Vampires. The ones you could handle yourself."
Buffy: "Where are the others?"
Xander: "I don't know. I don't know what your problem is, what your issues are. But as of now, I officially don't care. If you'd worked with us for five seconds, you coulda stopped this."
Buffy: "We, we just have to think. Where would they have taken them?"
Xander: "If they hurt Willow, I'll kill you."

Despite his anger here, he's also the one who understands later when she feels the need to smash the bones of the vampire who almost killed her friends.

The Buffy/Angel relationship hits its peak and the plot twist occurs, Buffy's boyfriend Angel becoming the evil and twisted Angelus after their lovemaking leaves him without a soul, leaving Buffy and Xander in a position to become even closer friends. One moment in particular happens in Phases -- a vampire sent by Angel attacks and Buffy is momentarily overcome. Xander stakes the vampire and Buffy and Xander share a hug of comfort that last just a little bit too long, leaving Xander to say, "Oh, no, my life's not too complicated."

Xander stumbles into a relationship with Cordelia and suddenly, a new facet of the Buffy/Xander friendship develops -- just as he is jealous of her love interests, she consistently downplays the importance of his and is quick to say that she thinks that Xander deserves better.

From Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered --
Xander: " When are you guys gonna stop making fun of me for dating Cordelia?"
Buffy: "I'm sorry. But never. I just think you could find somebody more... better."
Xander: "Uh, parallel universe, maybe. Here the only other person I'm interested in is, um... unavailable."

When a lust spell causes every woman in the area (except Cordelia) to fall 'in love' with him, we once again see the depth of Xander's love for Buffy.

Buffy: "Alone at last."
Xander: "Buff, give me a heart attack!"
Buffy: "Oh, I'm gonna give you more than that."
Xander: "Buff, for the love of God, don't open that raincoat."
Buffy: "Come on! It's a party! Aren't you gonna open your present?"
Xander: "It's not that I don't want to. Sometimes the remote impossible possibility that you might like me was all that sustained me. But not now. Not like this. This isn't real to you. You're only here because of a spell. I mean, if I thought you had one clue what it would mean to me... But you don't. So I can't."

At the end of second season, Xander lies to Buffy, chooses the fate over the world over her right to know the truth.

In the third season, Buffy concentrates on Angel, while Xander finds himself momentarily overcome with a newfound attraction to Willow. Their affair destroys his relationship with Cordelia, but he ends third season as a 'key' player and as somewhat satisfied in himself.

Fourth season is Xander's lost year, but even while he founders about trying to find his place in the world, we're continually hit with reminders of how important his friendship is to Buffy. In the very first episode of the season, Buffy is lost and foundering herself, wondering how she can ever make it in college. Xander's been off on his 'road trip' and she's obviously very happy and surprised when she sees him at their old high school hangout, the Bronze. And after some mutual greeting and teasing, they move on to actual inspiration.

From The Freshman --
Xander: "Buffy, I've gone through some fairly dark times in my life, faced some scary things, among them the kitchen at 'The Fabulous Ladies Night Club.' Let me tell you something, when it's dark and I'm all alone and I'm scared or freaked out or whatever, I always think, 'What would Buffy do?' You're my hero. Okay, sometimes when it's dark and I'm all alone I think, 'What is Buffy wearing?'"
Buffy: "Can that be one of those things you never, ever, tell me about?"
Xander: "It's a deal. Let's put this bitch in the ground! What do you say?"
Buffy: "I think I say thank you."
Xander: "And nothing says thank you like dollars in the waistband."

He develops a relationship with Anya, the ex-demon that attempted to curse him for betraying Cordelia with Willow, while Buffy begins her attempt to date a 'normal guy' -- one doomed to failure, as she unknowingly picks an undercover government demon fighter, Riley.

Even in their limited time together in fourth season, there are moments where Xander's devotion to Buffy shines through everything else.

From Where the Wild Things Are --
Anya: "Xander, let's get out of here."
Xander: "You wanna bail, fine. I'm going back in there, and I'm not coming out till I bring my friend with me."

The final episode of fourth season, Restless, is a dream episode. Buffy is one of the central figures in Xander's dream, and Xander is the only one of the other dreamers to appear in Buffy's dream at all. In Xander's dream, Buffy called him 'big brother', and it's something that he again, always, questions. In Buffy's dream, Xander is leaving, going up a flight of stairs, and she leaves her mother trapped in a wall in order to follow him.

Through-out fifth season, Xander's relationship with Anya seems solid, even while Buffy's relationship with Riley falls apart and Spike, a vampire of Angel's line, begins to stalk her and try to convince her to love him. One big development of fifth season is the introduction of Dawn, Buffy's sister and energy made flesh.

The big Buffy/Xander episode of the season is I Was Made To Love You, which is the episode before Buffy's mom dies, which is where everything starts to break apart for Buffy.

From I Was Made to Love You --
Buffy: "That's my secret to attracting men. You know, it's simple really, you slap 'em around a bit, you torture 'em, you make their lives a living hell…"
Xander: "Buff..."
Buffy: "…and sure, the nice guys, they'll run away, but every now and then you'll meet a real prince of a guy like Spike who gets off on it."
Xander: "Buffy... Stand me up. The problem is not you. Don't do this to yourself, please."
Buffy: "It's just... I just wanna know that there's gonna be another good one. One that I won't chase away."
Xander: "There will be. Promise. He's out there, he could come along any minute."
Buffy: "Yeah, and the minute after that I can terrify him with my alarming strength and remarkable self-involvement."
Xander: "What? I don't think you're like that."
Buffy: "Maybe I could change. You know, I could, I could work harder. I could spend less time slaying, I could laugh at his jokes, I mean, men like that, right, the, the joke-laughing-at?"
Xander: "Or maybe you could just be Buffy, he'll see your amazing heart, and he'll fall in love with you."
Buffy: "Xander, that's... aw!"

And then, after the climax of the episode, Buffy watches as Xander repairs the damage caused by the week's fights --
Buffy: "No… people are the strangest people. I mean, look at me obsessing about being with someone. It's like... I don't need a guy right now. I need me. I need to get comfortable being alone with Buffy."
Xander: "Well, I'll say this, she's a pretty cool person to be alone with."
Buffy: "Thank you."

In sixth season, Buffy and Xander confront the worst parts of themselves. Buffy died in the season five finale and in the season six opener, Xander and Willow head up a plan to bring her back, bringing Anya and Tara along with them. She's dead and they can't accept it, can't live in a world without her.

From After Life --
Spike: "Listen. I've figured it out. Maybe you haven't, but I have. Willow knew there was a chance she'd come back wrong. So wrong that you'd have to-- that she'd have to get rid of what came back. And she knew I wouldn't let her. If any part of it was Buffy, I wouldn't let her. That's why she shut me out."
Xander: "What are you talking about? Willow couldn't do that!"
Spike: "That right?"
Xander: "Look, you're just covering. You can't tell me you're not happy. Look me in the eyes. Tell me that seeing Buffy alive wasn't the happiest damn second of your whole existence."

Buffy herself is bitter about being brought back for quite some time. She hates herself and hates the people that she loves for bringing her back to an existence that is painful and exhausting.

In Dead Things, her self-hate reaches a climax when she beats Spike, with whom she has been conducting a secret sexual relationship, to a bloody pulp. After realizing the full horror of what she has done, she breaks off the damaging relationship and starts the slow road to recovery.

In Hell's Bells, Xander leaves Anya at the altar out of fear of hurting her. Yeah, that works out well. In the completely not at all way. Anya and Spike end up sharing a moment together, trying to move on, and when they're caught post-act, the truth of Buffy's involvement with Spike comes out. Where the news that his ex-fiancée had slept with something he considered to be pure evil caused him to try to kill Spike in a rage, the news that his hero had done the same left him depressed and lost, and he walks away from the scene.

From Entropy --
Anya: "It was just, it... it was just a thing. I... I felt bad, and he was just... there."
Buffy: (to Spike) "Didn't take long, did it?"
Xander: "Oh, oh, oh, okay! You had to do it. Because he was there. Like Mt. Everest. Like I used to be."
Anya: "And then you weren't. You left *me*, Xander. At the altar. I don't owe you anything."
Xander: "So you go out and bang the first body you can find? Dead or alive?"
Anya: "Where do you get off judging me?!"
Xander: "When this is your solution to our problems. I hurt you, and you hurt me back? Very mature."
Anya: "No, the mature solution is for you to spend your whole life telling stupid, pointless jokes, so that no one will notice that you are just a scared, insecure little boy!"
Xander: " I'm not joking now. You let that evil, soulless thing touch you. (pointing at Spike) You wanted me to feel something? Congratulations, it worked. I look at you... and I feel sick. 'Cause you had sex with that."
Spike: "It's good enough for Buffy."
Xander: "Shut up and leave her out of..."
Anya: "Buffy?"
Buffy: "Xander..."
Xander: "I don't want to know this."
*Xander drops his stake.*
Xander: "I don't want to know any of this."

Buffy tries to reach out to him and he rebuffs her in pain, explaining why her choice to sleep with Spike hurt more than Anya's.

From Seeing Red --
Buffy: "Xander, she loves you. You know that. What Anya did... She was just hurting, Xander. She was hurting and she did this really stupid thing."
Xander: "With your boyfriend."
Buffy: "He's not my boyfriend."
Xander: "I know why Anya did... I understand that. I do. But you... All those times I told Spike to get lost, that he didn't have a chance with a girl like you..."
Buffy: "You don't know how hard it's been."
Xander: "Lying to me?"
Buffy: "Being here. After I was brought back... You have no idea how hard it is just being here."
Xander: "You could have told me."
Buffy: "You didn't want to know."
Xander: "So you went to him instead?"
Buffy: "What I do with my life is none of your business."
Xander: "It used to be."
Buffy: "It just happened, okay."
Xander: "Oh, like, "Say, you're evil. Get on me."?"
Buffy: "Xander, you fought side by side with him when I was gone. You let him take care of Dawn."
Xander: "But I never forgot what he really is. God, what were you thinking?"
Buffy: "You're asking me that? Right, 'cause your decision making skills have really sparkled lately."
Xander: "I'm not saying I haven't made mistakes. But the last time I checked slaughtering half of Europe wasn't one of them. He doesn't have a soul, Buffy. Just a leash they jammed in his head. You think he'd still be all snuggles if that chip ever stopped working? Would you still trust him with Dawn then?"
Buffy: "It doesn't matter. I'm not seeing him anymore. It's over."
Xander: "Yeah. Lot of that going around."

Later in the episode, he goes to her house to apologize and it is coded by Willow's girlfriend, Tara, as 'making up', a clear reference to Willow and Tara doing just that in the previous episode and romanticizing what otherwise might have been a pure friendship moment.

Xander: "These last few weeks..."
Buffy: "I know."
Xander: "I thought I hit bottom, but... It hurt. That you didn't trust me enough to tell me about Spike. It hurt."
Buffy: "I'm sorry. I should have told you."
Xander: "Maybe you would have. If I hadn't given you so many reasons to think I'd be an ass about it."
Buffy: "Guess we've both done a lot of things lately we're not proud of."
Xander: "Think I got you beat."
Buffy: "Wanna compare?"
Xander: "Not so much. I don't know what I'd do... without you and Will."
Buffy: "Let's not find out."
*they hug*
Buffy: "I love you. You know that, right?"

Then, mere seconds later, one of the antagonists of the season, Warren, bursts into Buffy's backyard with a gun, setting off a chain of events that ends with Willow trying to destroy the world.

In seventh season, with Willow off in England for the first couple of episodes, Buffy and Xander have created their own new trio with Buffy's kid sister Dawn. In Lessons, we see one of my favorite moments of the series, when Buffy checks the time by grabbing Xander's arm and looking at his watch, instead of finding the kitchen clock or just asking Xander -- it's such a wonderfully casual gesture.

From Lessons --
Xander: "Morning."
Buffy: (calls to Dawn) "Well, you gotta eat something. I made cereal."
Dawn: "Okay!"
Buffy: (to Xander) "You're unconscionably spiffy."
Xander: "Client meeting. How exactly do you *make* cereal?"
Buffy: "Ah. You put the box near the milk. I saw it on the Food Channel."

The 'family' vibe dims a bit as the season progresses, but Xander is the one person who believes in Buffy's abilities without question, the one who inspires Buffy at a low moment.

From Dirty Girls --
Xander: "I've been through more battles with Buffy than you all can ever imagine. She's stopped everything that's ever come up against her. She's laid down her life, literally, to protect the people around her. This girl has died two times and she's still standing. You're scared, that's smart. You've got questions, you should. But if you doubt her motives -- you think Buffy's all about the kill -- and you take the little bus to battle. I've seen her heart -- and this time not literally -- and I'm telling you right now she cares more about your lives than you will ever know. You gotta trust her. She's earned it."

It's Xander who is injured by the monster of the episode, because only something as horrific as losing an eye could even momentarily shake his confidence in following her lead. After he's been injured, she's obviously distraught, still not thinking clearly.

From Empty Places, Caleb, the man who attacked Xander, has shown up while she's holding an older picture of the three original Scoobies, tenderly touching the image of Xander's face and looking very close to tears. They start fighting and we get this fierce exchange --
Caleb: "Wouldn't do that were I you, sweet pea. Fightin' back didn't do you much good last time, did it? And how is poor, sweet Xander? Let him know he's in my prayers and any time he's willin', I'm ready to finish the job."
Buffy: "Go near Xander again and I will end you."

Xander is the one that Buffy goes to when she wants someone to take Dawn to safety.

From End of Days --
Buffy: "You got it?"
Xander: "Wait. I'm not to the "got it" place yet. I'm still in the neighborhood of "you gotta be kidding"."
Buffy: "You know it's for the good."
Xander: "I don't. Buffy, do you get that? If I do this, that's it for me for this fight. I feel like you're putting me out to pasture."
Buffy: "Of course I'm not putting you out to pasture. What does that even mean?"
Xander: "Well, you know, it's like... when a cow gets old and loses an eye or its ability to be milked. The farmer takes it and puts it in a different pasture so it won't have to... fight... with the priests. Look, I don't need you to protect me."
Buffy: "I'm not."
Xander: "I got hurt but I'm not done. I can still fight."
Buffy: "I know. That's why I need you to do this. Xander, I need someone that I can count on no matter what happens."
Xander: "I just always thought that I would... that I would be there with you, you know, for the end."
Buffy: "Hey!"
Xander: "Not that this is the end!"
Buffy: "Thanks a lot."
Xander: "No, no, no... by "the end" I meant in a heroic, uplifting way. See I'm still optimistic. You're just thrown off a little by this gritty-looking eye patch."
Buffy: "I know what you meant."
Xander: "I should be at your side. That's all I'm saying."
Buffy: "You will be. You're my strength, Xander. You're the reason I've made it this far. I trust you with my life. That's why I need you to do this for me."
Xander: "Okay."
Buffy: "Also, you can't shoot a bow and arrow anymore and every time you pick up a sword, I worry that you're going to break one of our good lamps."
Xander: "Hey!"
Buffy: "Don't look at me. You're the one who said I'm gonna die."
Xander: "I never said that you were going to die. I implied that you were going to die. It's totally different."
Buffy: "Yeah, okay. Sure."
Xander: "Besides, if you die, I'll just bring you back to life. That's what I do."

Xander provides key emotional motivation for Buffy throughout the season. When they part before the last battle, they squeeze hands for a moment and back away from each other, holding each other's eyes until the last possible moment.

C. End of Days

The Buffy and Xander relationship is what drew me to the show. To me, their friendship always felt like it was the most equal -- they gave each other shit, but they were always willing to apologize, to clear the air and start over again.

In many ways, they're a lot alike. They're both often impulsive. They fight best when they lead with their hearts. Emotion is both their greatest strength and greatest weakness. In the end, they see each other clearly and have share a huge amount of faith and trust -- Xander is the person that Buffy will trust with Dawn, her greatest treasure. Buffy's no longer on a pedestal, but she's still Xander's hero.

Something that I've always found interesting is hearing Spike/Buffy or Wes/Lilah being referred to as 'slash-like' pairings. And it is true that the dynamics of those relationships are similar to that of many antagonistic slash pairings (though with, one should note, actual sex in canon, which makes it rather less like slash). Buffy/Xander always struck me as much like the traditional 'partners' slash (such as the original, Kirk/Spock, and like Jack and Daniel, Angel and Wes, Blair and Jim), a friendship that treads closely on the line between friendship and something different. The things that I find appealing about Jack and Daniel are very similar to what I find appealing about Buffy and Xander.

Another thing I adore about the Buffy/Xander friendship is how it consistently overturns gender assumption -- Buffy is the one who tries to keep Xander out of the fight, while he's the supporter, the 'comfortador'. They're also a matched set, which is why they work so well together. And for my own personal amusement, together, they make up one complete Christ figure -- she's got the coming back from the dead covered and he's a carpenter. She's supernatural while he's completely natural -- his foundation helps her reach further than she could otherwise. He helps her fly.

D. Places To Go
B/X Fanfiction sites:
Buffy's White Knight has some fun things to read about the potential pairing.

Lori Bush has some interesting Buffy/Xander stories.

The Buffy/Xander section of Buffonia Public Library hosts around 185 stories.

More general BtVS Sites:
All Things Philosophical on BtVS -- a brilliant, wonderful site.

The Sunnydale Slayers -- a comprehensive and funny review site.
Tags: buffy the vampire slayer
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