|Title: Not Just Another Human (formally known as Xander in LA)
Website: ssfdu.tripod.com/kay/journal.htm (thank you Sandy
Archive: Angelslash <g> Anyone else, just ask.
Feedback: Oh, please. I have a specific happy dance just
Fandom: Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, and Angel the Series
Pairing: Xander/Angel...some other implied things later
Disclaimer: Buffy: the Vampire Slayer and Angel the Series
characters of the show don't belong to me in anyway whatsoever.
that lucky. This story is written for enjoyment, not for profit.
I'm not that lucky. Litigation would be a waste of time, people.
member of the Starving Student Sect. Spoilers: The first couple
of Buffy, the general state of the characters in the last seasons of
Buffy and Angel. Except Doyle is alive...alive, damn it! Summery:
after moving to LA, Angel meets someone: a man named Xander,
who moved to LA five years ago. Timeline: Basically, everything that
happened in Buffy, happened in this fic...just without Xander. Go
with it <g>. As for Angel, Doyle lived through the Scourge, and
he and Angel and Cordy have been fighting the good fight ever since, just
without any prophecies.
I think it'll be ok, and if it gets confusing, just let me know.
Hey, everyone. Just a couple of notes before I actually get to
Just to avoid any confusion, this story isn't related in any way to
"Matter of Control". There will be a sequel to that one, but this
story isn't it.
This story started as a what-if: What if Xander took off to LA
after Buffy hit town? And then the rabid plot bunny was off and
and nipping at my ankles from there. This makes it a bonafide
AU, so be
Oh, one other thing: I hate this title. It was my working
the one I used when talking about this fic, and it won't die.
anyone gets a better idea for one (or even an actual idea for one
<g>), please let me know.
Finally, this story is for Sandy, who let me ramble on about it and
helped me work it through. I really appreciate it, chica.
Who could ask
for a better almost-fiancee? It's also for Karen - what would I do
you putting up with my constant tangenty conversations about Xander
boybands and anything else that pops into my head. You rock <g>
I think that's all. Thanks for your patience with all the
explanations and begging for help.
--Note-- This story is in 2 parts due to it's length
The trick of it was to keep his face utterly blank. To reveal
sort of expression at all would be his downfall, and he wasn't
going to lose this battle.
It was difficult. It was near impossible. The strain of
facial muscles still, of forcing that rigid mask to stay in place,
nearly more than he could bear.
He'd faced demons without number.
He'd faced the demon within himself.
He'd faced the torments of hell.
He could handle this.
His voice level, expressionless, Angel shook his head firmly.
"No, Cordelia. I can't afford to give you a raise."
Cordelia's eyes narrowed dangerously. "I deserve a raise. No other
assistant would put up with any of the things I have. The hours,
location, the mucus-spewing demons-of-the-week. You try finding
someone else to do this job!"
"I don't want anyone else to do this job," he said calmly. "I
you to continue. But you know there isn't any money for a raise."
It was true. None of Doyle's visions lately had led them to any
clients capable of paying them. Angel resisted the urge to grimace.
last few people he'd been sent to save hadn't even hung around long
to say thank you. Not that he blamed them. He'd pulled
one couple out of
the clutches of a Grommorgh demon, and they'd never even turned around
to see who had rescued them. A well-developed survival instinct in
two, was what he figured. The other had been a man unlucky enough
cornered by a fledging vampire. The young vampire hadn't been
strong, but he'd been ravenous, and Angel was lucky to have gotten
when he did. That victim also had strong survival instinct.
And a good
pair of running shoes; Angel had never even gotten a look at his face.
The vampire realized his attention was wondering, and snapped his
focus back to Cordelia. Too late; she'd noticed.
"Fine! No raise for me. Be that way, you undead miser."
to gather her things together.
"Going somewhere, princess?" Doyle lounged against the door frame,
arms crossed loosely over his chest.
"I'm going home. I've got a date tonight, and since I'm not being
paid enough as it, no way I'm staying late. You two have a fun
night sitting around and brooding and not earning any money, K?"
a flourish of her tiny leather purse, she was gone.
Angel watched Doyle's expression tighten as she swept past him, and
then he was grinning at Angel. "You wouldn't give her a raise?"
"No. And I started thinking about something else while she was
yelling at me."
"Ouch. You're lucky she just left. She could've taken vital
of your anatomy with you as trophies." The half-demon entered
the office fully, walking over to his customary chair and collapsing
Even though Doyle was smiling, Angel could see he didn't much feel
like it. He couldn't blame the other man. A few months
Doyle had almost died during their encounter with the Scourge, it had
seemed like the relationship he'd been hoping for so badly with Cordelia
just might happen. Angel didn't know what had gone wrong.
Maybe it just wasn't supposed to work out. Whatever the reason, Doyle
toned down his clumsy flirtation with the actress, instead settling
casting longing looks after her every time she left on another date
Angel sat down a short distance away. He felt restless, the need
moving eating at him. He shifted in his chair, trying to resist
Doyle watched him sympathetically. "You're fidgeting a bit there."
"I just can't figure it out. Your visions lately haven't made
sense. I'm not doing any long term good, beating up on demons
and dusting vampires, but I can't see any pattern behind the attacks
I've been breaking up."
"There is the location," Doyle offered. "That area is a big nonhuman
hangout. Hell, most of the demon tribes in the city live in the
tenements near there."
"Yes, but if something was going down in that area, either your
contacts or mine should've come up with something now. Lately,
things have been really quiet."
"But not that eerie quiet, so not even that's helpful." Doyle sighed.
"I guess the only thing to do is wait for another..." his voice trailed
The half-demon shook his head, then gasped, hands flying up to clutch
his temples. He writhed in his chair, caught in the grip of a
from the Powers That Be.
Angel moved to his side, hovering, knowing that he wouldn't be able
to do anything to help until the vision was over. He reached
over to the
cabinet and pulled out the bottle of water and the bottle of aspirin
kept on hand at all times.
Finally, Doyle was sitting relaxed in the chair, knocking back aspirin
as fast as he could. "Ah, that one sucked," he griped.
"What was it?"
"More of the same. Some guy in an alley, with a couple of vamps
following him. Same area of town - I recognize the alley.
one that last guy took off running down."
Angel groaned. "This time, you're going to concentrate on our
victim. When he makes a break for it, you stop him. I'm
to start getting some answers from *someone*."
Doyle nodded slowly. "I'll do what I can. There was something
familiar about this guy, though." His face screwed up in
he was silent for several minutes. "No good. The headache's
just getting worse."
"You didn't get any information besides the location?"
"That's it. No name, no extenuating circumstances. I'm not
sure of the time, but it looks like early morning. Before sunrise,
but not by much."
Angel sighed. "Let's get going. I want to be ready for this."
stood up and caught up his coat. With a sigh, Doyle hauled himself
to his feet.
Angel stood in the shadows, watching the deserted street. It was
three in the morning, and dawn was less than two hours away.
of Doyle's vision had better show soon.
Down the alley, he could see Doyle huddled in his jacket, hands
jammed deep into his pockets. He didn't look directly at Doyle;
the half-demon was sending - not a death glare, more of a intense pain
glare - in his direction, and he didn't want to get caught by it.
The sound of distant footsteps came to his ears, and he prepared
himself. This time, for a reason: the person coming down
matched the description Doyle had given him.
He didn't just match it; he surpassed it. A long leather duster
wrapped lovingly around the lean man approaching him. For a moment,
that coat threatened to deluge Angel with memories, but then he caught
sight of the dark hair, curling softly as it fell forward, tumbling down
a broad forehead.
The young man looked up, and Angel was lost in dark eyes that had
seen too much, but still sparkled wearily. His eyes saw too much,
the vampire realized. The victim-to-be had seen him, and he
The dark-haired man changed the trajectory of his walking, angling
over toward Angel. As he did so, his posture changed subtly:
shoulders straightened, his arms swung a little more widely, and his
body took on the relaxed pose of a warrior ready for battle.
The vampire began to believe that he'd have to reassess his
expectations for the evening. This was no unwary mortal, no hapless
The young man stopped walking a few feet away from Angel, his hands
loose and ready at his sides. "Something you want?" he asked,
raising one eyebrow as his gaze raked over the man facing his.
Angel hesitated a moment. How to answer? "It's not what
It's what you might need." Had his voice really come out that
Amused laughter drifted toward him in the chilly air. "Nice line,
but I don't need or want anything." He turned as if to go, then
paused. "This isn't a good neighborhood for cruising, you know."
"I'm not cruising," Angel protest, feeling absurdly grateful for the
fact he couldn't blush. "I-" He stopped speaking as the
looked past him, expression hardening in anger even as his eyes lit
with fierce anticipation.
"Down," the young man shouted, roughly shouldering Angel aside as he
moved past him. The vampire was so surprised that he did fall,
turning as he did so. He watched as the other man ran to meet
two vampires who had been sneaking up behind them, hands darting
beneath his coat. When they reemerged, the leather-clad man was
armed with a cross in each hand. The base of each one had been
elongated and sharpened to a point.
The first vampire was dusted before he had time to register that the
mortal was going to resist. The second managed to latch onto
jacket, and then he was reeling back, hands clutching at the cross-shaped
burn seared across his face. Seconds later, he too was reduced
pieces wafting toward the ground.
The modified crosses disappeared into the jacket, which the young man
dusted off with a muttered curse. He caught sight of Angel on
and approached him slowly. "Sorry about that," he said.
"Um, you know.
Gangs. This is a bad neighborhood." He extended a hand.
Angel took it, and was soon hauled to his feet. "Yeah. It
really bad, to have gangs like that." He couldn't stop staring.
This mortal had just taken out two vampires as casually as Buffy
would have, and neither of them had managed to do any damage.
"Yeah," the young man agreed. Angel realized he was still holding
onto his warm hand, and dropped it quickly. A warm chuckle followed
"So since it's such a bad neighborhood, you should probably stay out
it." The mortal started to walk away. He tossed over his
would be a shame to lose you. There aren't as many cute guys
in LA as TV
makes it seem." And then he was gone, down a side street.
Angel stared after him, completely lost in thought until a light blow
his upper arm brought him back to himself. He looked down at
"What do you mean, what? You talked to him, didn't you? What did
you find out?"
The vampire froze. He'd found out...absolutely nothing.
about why the visions were concentrating on this area, nothing about
he was supposed to be doing. Nothing. And now he had another
Who the hell was that? Where did he learn to fight vampires like
that? Why did the touch of his hand seem so much warmer than
else's? What was it that made his laughter sound so wonderful?
Angel going to find him again?
With a frustrated growl, Angel slammed his fist into the wall, then
stalked off toward the car, with Doyle following and demanding an
Eyes constantly scanning the street and alleys that connected to it,
Xander kept moving at a steady pace. He’d nearly reached his
goal, but he
couldn’t relax yet. The enormous stone building that was his
might be a sanctuary, but he was still out on the street. It
embarrassing to be killed so close to safety.
He strode quickly up to the gate, pulling out a key as he approached.
few quick movements, and he had unlocked the massive lock and passed
through the gate. As always, he shivered a little as he stepped
threshold, aware of a subtle, questing probing from a massive force.
he was locking the gate from the inside, he heard something move behind
He froze. “Uh, Brother Thom? It’s me, Xander. No spilling
blood, remember? You do that, and the Pope will take away your
“I’m not sure which is more amusing: the thought that the Pope
interfere with our guardianship, or that you are in any way innocent.”
“Hey!” Xander turned around, but didn’t voice his objection any
When confronted by a man wielding a crossbow with a sword strapped
back, it didn’t matter if that man also sported a tonsure: monk
monk, Xander wasn’t going to mouth off.
Well, not much. “I thought I was always welcome here.”
“You are, Alexander. You are. Our mission is to save souls,
Thom grinned. “How was work?”
“Work was work.” He shrugged. “I heard that there’s a tribe
demons moving through the city. I haven’t come across them before,
the Dankh talking about them seemed fairly nervous. I think I’ll
reading up on them. Who’s in the library tonight?”_ “Joseph,
Thom shifted the crossbow in his arms. “So no excitement tonight?
been quiet here, too.”
“There was a little on the way home.”
“What was it?”
“He was tall, buff with dark hair. He had the most adorable confused
expression on his face, and did I mention he was built?” He smirked
“Please, Alexander. Spare me the details. That was the excitement?”
“Well, that and the two vampires I dusted.” He winked at Thom.
was more interested in the buff guy.” He walked past the monk.
“Have fun on sentry duty.”
“You have fun studying.” Thom resumed walking, gaze searching
the shadows as he patrolled.
Xander walked further into the monastery grounds, entering the main
building. The religious sanctuary was almost as old as the city itself,
massive compound built of thick stone, surrounded by high walls and
gates. All standard for a monastery.
The armed monks, hidden library, and encompassing warding spell were
a bit on the unorthodox side.
As he made his way through the building, Xander nodded at the other
monks he passed, but didn’t stop to talk. They had business to take
care of, as so did he. The encounter with the handsome man and the
vampires hadn’t taken that much time, but he’d gotten off work late, so
it had put him more behind schedule than he could really afford to be.
Throw in an
unanticipated trip to the library, and he’d be cutting things very
In the heart of the main building, he came to a small, unassuming door,
guarded by two men, both carrying large, prepossessing arsenals.
guys. I need to borrow a couple things from the library.”
One of them nodded. “One of these days, you’re going to have to
where the dirty books section is. That’s the only reason I can
you spending so much time down there.” The other man grinned,
and opened the door.
Xander tsk-tsked as he stepped through the doorway. “Now, now.
You know I don’t read dirty books.” He grinned wickedly. “They’re
absolutely nothing new in them. That’s why I’m writing my own.”
The door shut behind him, cutting off the sound of their laughter.
Descending the stairs, Xander entered the reason for the monastery’s
existence, the reason for its difference. Thousands of books
ordered ranks on pristine shelves, stretching from one dimly lit corner
the enormous underground room to the other. Other sets of shelves
contained all sorts of other objects: weapons and statues and
things for which Xander knew no name. Everything in the room
was a part
of a huge repository of all things related to demons: books about
objects that could counter them, and things whose purpose he couldn’t
guess at. It was a closely guarded secret, one in which he felt
privileged to share.
As he moved toward the desk in the center of the room, he could feel
hairs on the back of his neck rising, along with those on his arms.
was power in this room, protective wards so strong he could feel their
force thrumming through his body.
At the desk sat an older man, his tonsured head bent low over the book
front of him. He looked up as Xander approached. “Ah, Alexander.
have you come to plunder my library of today?”
“I need some information on Notal demons,” the young man answered.
“Please please please tell me you’ve got some in English.”
The monk laughed. “Let me see.” He stood and walked over
to a massive
cabinet and pulled open a drawer. He then began to flip through
“You know, I’m glad you haven’t gotten around to computerizing the index.
A brand new Mac just wouldn’t look right down here. An outdated card
catalog? That fits right in.”
“A brand new anything wouldn’t look right down here. You look
place,” the monk countered. “Too young.” A few minutes
searching, and then he said, “I’ve found it.” He glanced up at
“How’s your classical Latin?”
The brown-eyed man groaned. “No English? My Latin’s getting
better. I’m using it class now, so it’s staying fresh.”
The monk nodded. “Good. You’re going to need it.”
He disappeared off
into the shadowed shelves, returning a short time later with a slim
in his hand. “Enjoy,” he said, handing the book over to Xander.
“I’ll try. Thanks, Joseph.” Xander made the trip back up
to the ground
floor the same way he had come. Once there, he walked over to
one of the
out buildings that encircled the main house. This smaller building
collection of small bedrooms that shared a common bathroom. He
the first doorway that led to the first bedroom.
As always, he grinned to himself as he entered his room. Here
he was, a
healthy twenty year old male, and where did he live? In a monastery.
glanced at his walls. There were a few movie posters up, along
couple for bands he liked. He had a stereo, but no TV.
strewn around the room and clutter filling up all available surfaces,
figured it looked like a normal room. Really, it was just like
living in a dorm. Only his neighbors never woke him up with loud
So it was like living in an honors dorm.
Shutting the door firmly behind him, he pulled off his jacket and tossed
it over a chair. After pulling off his boots, he pulled a few
from under a pile of clothing. It was near the end of the semester,
mostly all he had to do was review in preparation for class discussions
and for the final exams.
Sighing, he sat down on his bed. He would’ve liked to grab a shower,
there was no time. His first class started at eight, and he’d
it close to finish all his reading before then.
It wasn’t a bad schedule. He worked from about ten until three
morning, then came home and studied. After then, he was in class
three hours starting at eight. That left him with enough time
and pursue a few other activities before going back to work.
In just a
couple weeks, the community college would be on summer break, so he’d
have more time on his hands.
But not for a couple weeks. With a sigh, Xander opened up the
one of his law classes and began to read. It was slow going;
That guy in the alley...what had he been doing? Despite his teasing,
Xander didn’t seriously believe he’d been cruising. So why was
skulking in the shadows? He pictured him again in his mind:
dark, with strong regular features, handsome and mysterious.
were so dark, so compelling. They were wise and despairing and
and confused all at the same time, inviting Xander to come closer,
deeper, and try to learn more...
Realizing how completely his thoughts were wandering, the brown-eyed
man forced them back to the matter of legalities. He had to study.
The monks were letting him live here, but they wouldn’t if he started to
He smiled a little. Nope, he didn’t believe that threat; he’d
come up with something else. The brothers cared about him.
he’d run into two of them during a battle with a Cralt demon that had
bad, they’d been intent on taking care of him. That had been
ago, and he was grateful every night that he came home to his room
he’d met them. Once they’d found out that he was involved the
culture of LA, they’d taken him in, trying to give him some measure
protection with a place to live that no demon could enter, and information
to use in his encounters. They’d accepted his insistence on living
life on his own terms, understanding rather than condemning his
differences from them. The fact that they’d become a surrogate
him was a side-effect, but it was one he wouldn’t give up for the world.
He returned his attention to his text book. He needed to study.
daydream over the mystery man in the alley later.
Xander snorted quietly. Right. He was just going to have
to hope his
professors left him alone. Like he could forget about that guy
“Seriously, Angel. I’m sure I could be doing more good back at
office. I could be online, looking up the history of that section
town. Bet I’d find out exactly what’s going on. I’m sure.
I’m so sure,
I’m thinking my surety must be a vision of sorts.”
Earnest green eyes stared imploringly at Angel. He ignored them.
to you to come with me, Doyle. Besides, Cordelia invited both
“Yeah, well, I’m sure she wouldn’t notice if I didn’t show up.”
half-demon gave up on pleading, and sank down into the passenger seat
Angel’s car. “Like she really wants me anywhere near a party
“We’re not going there for the party,” Angel said, knowing that it would
do no good. Doyle didn’t want to come, and nothing was going
that. He understood how Doyle felt, and sympathized, but this
business. The law student Cordelia was dating had told her about
strange things in his father’s office, and she had volunteered Angel
Investigations for the job of checking them out.
The party seemed like the best cover for bringing them in, so that was
Never mind that Doyle wanted to continue his campaign of avoiding
Cordelia. Never mind that Angel was incredibly uncomfortable at parties.
There was a job to be done, and they could use the money. Besides,
fact that they still hadn’t figured out what the Oracles’ interest
that one section of the city was making Angel crazy, and this would
Not that he needed another distraction. With a resigned sigh,
his thoughts drift back to the encounter in the alley two weeks ago.
more, every detail was lovingly recreated by his memory: the
gait of the stranger; the fear and determination on his face as he
the vampires; the hidden depths in his eyes, covered by a veneer of
With a determined shake of his head, Angel pulled his attention back
the coming meeting. “We won’t be at the party for that long,”
promised. “We’ll meet him, find out what he’s seen, then take the chance
and get into his father’s office.”
“Oh, yeah,” Doyle agreed. “Just another routine B&E for the
heroes of Angel Investigations.”
“There’s going to be free beer,” Angel said. “That’s the one thing
never changes about college parties: there’s always lots of free
“American beer,” the green-eyed man groused, but there was a slight
on his lips.
Angel relaxed. He didn’t want to upset his friend, but he really
him. The vampire was still uneasy when confronted with large groups
mortals, thrown completely out of his element. Doyle’s presence
help to buffer him, help to make the whole thing endurable until they
could get down to business.
Once parked and at the house, the two men walked up the long driveway.
As they walked, the sounds of music and talking were clearly audible.
Doyle whistled appreciatively. “Looks like our princess knows how
to pick’em.” His tone was faintly admiring as he took in the palatial
home, surrounded by new sports cars and luxury vehicles.
Angel shrugged. “If all you’re interested in is money, then I
does.” He led the way to the front door, then waited for Doyle
the open doorway.
The Irishman grinned at him. “Why don’t I go check out the bar,
can stay out here, do your own thing-”
“Oh, you mean you want to come in? Then by all means, Angel, please
The vampire nodded shortly and crossed the threshold. He winced
The music had only gotten louder, and as far as he could tell the house
was crammed full of people. It would take forever to find Cordelia
Luckily, she found them. “Angel, Doyle,” she called, making her
through the milling mass of people. A tall young man followed
wake. “I was beginning to worry you weren’t going to show.”
“We’re here,” Doyle responded shortly.
“I can see that. Guys, this is Chad,” she gestured toward the
her. “Chad, these are the detectives I was telling you about.”
“Glad you could come,” Chad said, flashing a toothy smile at them.
“Cordelia said you needed help,” Angel prompted.
“Yeah, I do. There’s some weird shit going down with my dad, and
beginning to freak me out a little. But before we get into that,
something I need to check on. Can I get you a drink before we
Doyle nodded. “Lead the way.”
As they followed him through the crowd, Chad spoke back over his shoulder.
“The bartender is actually what I want to check out. I’d been having
a lot of problems finding anyone to work this party. It’s an
end-of-the-semester, finals-are-over celebration.” He cleared
“Some of the people here are underage, so that makes things sticky.
was talking it over with some friends, when this guy handed me his
business card.” His lips twisted in an unpleasant smirk.
“He’s in this class I’m taking at the community college. It’s
the version offered at the U, so my friends and I enrolled in it.
always shows up at eight in the morning, reeking of cigarette smoke
alcohol. I don’t know why the prof lets him stay in the class.
So when I
called him, I wasn’t sure if was a joke or not. I don’t think
twenty-one yet. But he said he could handle the job, and I figured
not, right? If nothing else, it’d be good for a laugh.
“The bar’s set up downstairs, but I haven’t had a chance to check it
yet. I want to see how he’s doing. If it’s really pathetic, maybe
have someone videotape it, or something. Even if he’s half-way
watching him freak at the sight of the house has got to be worth the
Angel exchanged a disgusted look with Doyle. Rich as he might
was an asshole. Only the fact that Cordelia had asked them to
preventing the vampire from walking out.
Once they reached downstairs, Chad froze, forcing the rest of them to
as well. Angel and Doyle stepped around the college student,
see what had surprised him. When Angel realized what he was seeing,
froze as well.
There, behind the bar, was the man from the alley.
Dark blue button-down shirt fitting him like a second skin, lips curled
an inviting grin, he was holding court behind a temporary bar, ruling
his small domain with absolute authority. Everyone around him
was focused on him, and him alone, caught by the absolute confidence and
skill he exuded.
Laughing, teasing, talking with everyone who approached him, the
dark-haired man was in constant motion, pouring drinks, gesturing to
illustrate a story, accepting payments and tips and small slips of
that no doubt contained phone numbers. He flirted with everyone,
women, and people of both genders were willingly held in the web of
charisma he wove.
Angel was no exception. Everything he’d been feeling since first
the brown-eyed man came rushing back, stronger than ever. The
fought the urge to push his way through the crowd and reach the bar,
gain the attention of the bartender and learn more about him.
everything about him.
In a distant way, he was aware of some of the techniques the bartender
using in order to hold the attention of the people watching him.
dark-haired man often moved as though to touch a customer, but his
always hovered a fraction of an inch away, a teasing near-contact that
drew people closer to him in the hopes of actually feeling his skin
theirs. The bartender also spoke in a low voice, inviting people
in and listen closely. Pair that with the intense, direct eye
with which he gifted them, and how could anyone resist him?
“What the fuck?” Chad’s unbelieving oath surprised Angel, enough
he was able to pull his eyes away from the young man. He shook
What was it about him? How could the mere sight of him effect
Probably because it conjured up the memory of his scent when he drew
near to Angel in the alley, and the way his hand had felt, warm and strong
and hard, when he’d offered it to the vampire after killing the two
fledglings. Doyle’s hand on his arm drew his attention.
Doyle spoke quickly in a low voice. “I know why he looked familiar
to me. I recognize him, now. I didn’t in the vision, or in the alley.”
How could he ever have forgotten him? “Who is he?”
“I don’t remember his name right now. He’s the bartender at a
used to drop by, before I got rather unwelcome in certain circles,
account of a slight misunderstanding about a few outstanding debts.”
“So he’s a bartender?”
“Yeah, but that’s not the important part. The place he works at?
well-run, popular. But not only is it near the area we’ve been
trouble with, but also every night in that place, there’s never a full
human in sight, except for him. You’ve probably heard of it -
Angel nodded slowly. He had heard of the bar, although he had
there. It had a relatively good reputation, not known for causing
trouble. A human bartender at a nonhuman bar? It didn’t
make sense. But
here he was, in a house where a new case might be starting up, and
connections to the mysterious section of the city.
It sounded like a good reason to go up to the bar and order a drink.
Xander looked up as someone new sat down at the bar, smile ready to
flashed, charm ready to be turned on. So far, tonight had been
profitable; he’d made more in tips then he usually did at The Other
Considering that he had only taken this job as a cover for doing recon
the house, it was a nice surprise.
Green eyes met his, and Xander’s grin widened. The guy was cute.
Leaning across the bar, he asked, “What can I get you?”
“Whiskey, neat.” Ooh, nice accent. Not often he heard an
Irish lilt in
As Xander poured the drink, he realized that he was feeling some dim
flickering of memory over the accent. He realized that he’d served
guy before - he might have some trouble with connecting names and faces,
but he rarely forgot a face and the drink that went with it.
Interesting. That meant Mr. Cute-and-Irish wasn’t as human as
Xander turned back around, placing the drink in front of the green-eyed
man. “Can I get you anything else?” he asked, raising one eyebrow
“No, I think I’m good for right now.” The other man glanced back
shoulder. “You want anything, Angel?”
“Not right now,” answered the tall man standing behind him.
Xander automatically shifted his gaze to check the speaker out.
as he stared into familiar dark eyes. Familiar, because he’d
daydreaming over them for weeks, ever since seeing them one night in
alley. He remained motionless for a few seconds, falling into
a gaze that
seemed timeless, eternal.
Someone dropped a bottle, and the sound of glass shattering brought
Xander back to himself. With a small shake of his head, he leaned
across the bar once more. “Fancy meeting you here,” he said, hoping
he sounded more casual than he felt. No need to come across as creepily
interested, now was there. “Are you sure I can’t get you anything?”
He felt his smile
grow. “Anything at all?” Casual was overrated.
The other man, Angel, seemed a little flustered, but then leaned in
him, an answering smile on his face. “Not right now,” he repeated,
I’ll be sure to let you know.”
Xander laughed. “You do that.” Warning bells started to
go off in his
mind. He wanted to ignore them, and listen to the lusting voice describing
Angel in minute detail instead, but couldn’t. Survival instinct
bitch to suppress.
What was giving him a wiggins? Wiping the bar with a damp cloth
to cover his inner investigation, Xander tried to figure it out.
It was Angel.
Seeing him here was not a good coincidence. Oh, it was great
fantasy file, he was getting another chance to build up his memories
this guy, but outside of his solitary sexual adventures, it was no
First he’d seen Angel in an alley on his way home from work. The
tall man had been waiting, but for what, Xander didn’t know. His
presence here suggested that he might have been waiting for Xander.
Not that the
bartender objected to being pursued by handsome men, but he preferred
know them before they started to follow him. And then he shows
in a house that Xander had plans for.
Damn it. And Angel just kept getting more attractive every time
him. Life just wasn’t fair.
Deciding it was time for a break, Xander slipped out from behind the
and made his way over to the storage room where the reserve alcohol
being stored. Once he had some privacy, he pulled out his cell
After dialing, he waited impatiently for the other line to pick up.
on, come on,” he muttered impatiently under his breath.
Finally, he heard his boss pick up. //Yeah?//
“Tark? It’s Xan. I need some information from you.”
//You aren’t in trouble, are you?// Concern was clear in the voice
“I don’t think so. I’m not going to do anything illegal for another
couple hours, yet. I need to know if you know anything about
a guy named
Angel. Tall, dark hair, very fuckable. Runs with an Irish guy
to the bar a few times.”
//Angel? Pale, right?//
“He doesn’t look like a beach guy, no.”
//Sounds like you’ve run into *the* Angel, then. He’s a vampire.//
Xander’s stomach dropped. “Damn it.”
//You mean you didn’t know? You’re slipping, boy. Are you
sure you don’t want me to send anyone to back you up?//
“No, no, I’m fine. I just can’t believe I didn’t realize.
I mean, yeah,
he has a great ass, but I should’ve known.” Damn it, he should’ve.
spent too many years learning about demons, living and working and
fighting with them, to be so blind.
//Don’t beat yourself up, Xan. This one, it’s OK to relax a bit.
is, he’s got a soul.//
“Uh, Tark? A vampire by definition doesn’t have a soul.
The two concepts are mutually exclusive.”
//Exception that proves the rule, kid. He’s got a soul, and he’s
LA for a year now, basically kicking Evil’s ass. I can’t believe
don’t know this. He created that blond psychopath you keep dragging
Xander laughed incredulously. “He’s JD’s Sire?” Come to
think of it,
Angel did look like he had brooding tendencies. He grinned.
a good thing JD always calls him ‘great bleeding pouf’, eh? Means
got a chance.”
//That’s my boy - think with the wrong head.// Sarcasm and concern
equally strong in Tark’s voice.
“I’ve got it under control,” Xander assured him, sobering quickly.
stay out of this - I don’t want you involved.” It was one thing
himself in this; he wasn’t going to drag any of his friends with him.
//If you need any help...//
“I’ll call you. I’ll be find, Tark. Thanks for the info.
hung up swiftly, and tucked away his cell phone.
A souled vampire? Xander had heard of stranger things. It
Angel hadn’t tried to rip out his throat when they’d met before.
was on a crusade against Evil? Things were definitely looking
The brown-eyed man grinned. He had his mind on business...but
that didn’t mean he couldn’t look out for the future, too.
When he made his way back behind the bar, Xander was pleased to see
Angel was still there. The vampire was talking to the green-eyed
to another man and a girl. Xander groaned quietly as he recognized
the guy was a prick, and Xander hated having to take this job.
no other way to get such easy access to the house, though, so he’d
have to put up with him. Smiling at Angel and his friend, he
hands. “What can I do for you?”
“You can keep your ass behind that bar, Harris,” Chad said. “I’m
paying you to bother my friends; I’m paying you to work.” The
him laughed, but her eyes were uneasy. Angel and the Irishman
Xander had a brief internal debate with himself. He could throttle
jerk; there were other ways to get into the house. He fought
homicidal urge and raised an eyebrow. “You’re also paying me
not to check anyone’s ID. However, you’ve neglected to also pay me to not
call the cops on this illegal gathering. Watch it, Chad, or the price
will go up.” He had the asshole’s check already; the threat was empty,
but it was fun to
watch him turn pale and struggle to find a reply.
The girl with him stared down her nose at Xander. “You’re trying
squeeze more money out of Chad? How low can you get?” There
something familiar about her, too, Xander realized, but it was a dimmer
memory than before, older...
Angel looked like he was fighting to suppress laughter, and the Irishman’s
shoulders were shaking a little as he ducked his head to hide his face.
The girl continued. “I think grubbing for money is about as low
can get, and extortion is just the lowest.”
Yeah, Angel was definitely fighting laughter, and the green-eyed man
completely lost the battle. “Sometimes, Cordy...” the Irishman
before his words dissolved into chuckles.
Cordy...suddenly, it all came together: the perfect hair, stylish
clothing, the voice, the way she treated him like a lower life form.
There she was, right in front of him: Cordelia Chase. Xander
knew he was
staring, but he couldn’t help it. She was like a ghost, risen
past and back to haunt him.
He knew there was no way she’d recognize him. He’d never mattered
enough to her to register in her memory. What was she doing in LA?
How long ago had she left Sunnydale? Did she know anything about
Xander turned to the person standing next to the Irishman, who wasn’t
part of the group. He took his drink order, and struck up a conversation
about high school. It wasn’t difficult; five years of bartending
make anyone an expert in the art of manipulating a conversation.
Sure enough, Cordelia and Chad picked up on the conversation beside
them, and it influenced their own. Even as he continued to entertain
the people at the bar, flirting and mixing drinks with equal skill, Xander
listened in greedily, hoping to hear something about his once-best friend.
He heard what Cordelia said; more importantly, he heard what she didn’t
say. The odd pauses and blatant gaps in her story told him that there
things she was leaving out. Since she’d gone to school on the
there was no telling what she might have been editing out of her
Xander’s worry grew. What had he abandoned Willow to? He
concern down. There was no changing the past. He had to
tonight, and get out of there with everything he came for. After
done, he could worry himself into an ulcer. Still, Xander couldn’t
but subtly force the conversation to stay on the topic of high school,
more than he could help his careful, desperate eavesdropping.
Angel tried to concentrate on what Cordelia and Chad were saying, tried
to stay a part of the conversation. Maybe an aloof part of the conversation,
but still a part of it.
Unfortunately, the man behind the bar was distracting him far too much.
Harris...could that really be his name? It didn’t seem right for him, somehow.
Too ordinary, too everyday. Too working a nine-to-five job in the bank.
It didn’t fit the brown-eyed man, hanging wrong on his frame.
With an sigh of absolute frustration, Angel realized that his attention
had been hijacked once again by Harris. He forced his eyes away from the
dark-haired man, and his gaze fell upon Doyle. The half-demon was concentrating
on his drink determinedly, refusing to be a part of the conversation. Not
that Angel could really blame him. He didn’t want to listen to Chad go
on and on about how great high school had been for him. Not when the memories
of the hell that was high school for Cordelia and Buffy and every other
kid who lived in Sunnydale were still so fresh.
He frowned a little. Why were they talking about high school, anyway?
He knew that Cordelia didn’t want to talk about it, and he himself really
couldn’t. He began to pay closer attention to the flow of the conversation.
He slowly came to realize that Chad’s ego wasn’t dictating the direction
of conversation; Harris was.
Why did Harris care so much about high school?__Angel didn’t get the
chance to spend any time trying to figure out what was going on; the
began to wind down, dying the mysterious natural death that was the
all parties. As his guests slowly departed, Chad glanced over at Harris.
“I have to hand it to you, Harris. You didn’t suck. I was pleasantly
surprised.” The law student reached into his pocket and pulled out
of bills. He peeled a few off, and handed them to the dark-haired man.
“You earned a tip.”
Harris took the bills with a huge smile on his face. “Sixty whole dollars.
Gee, thanks, Chad. I really appreciate it.”
Angel could tell his gratitude was entirely faked, but the sarcasm was
lost on Chad. He just nodded at Harris. “Be sure to let the doorman know
you’ve moved yourself out of here, so he can lock up.” He glanced
Angel and Doyle, then gestured over toward a door. “C’mon. Let’s get
down to business.”
The vampire glanced back regretfully at Harris, but work called. Besides,
he now knew where to find the other man. The bartender was looking at him,
and their gazes locked. Oh, yeah. Angel was definitely going to have
to go to The Other Side soon.
He followed Chad out into the main foyer. “Where is the office
“It’s up on the second floor,” the student said. “But we can’t
there.” He turned his attention to his lingering guests, chatting idly
he wished them good night.
The vampire restrained an impatient sigh, but barely. He didn’t
listen to more vacuous conversation between Chad and his friends; he
wanted to get down to business. More honestly, he wanted to finish
business, so he could get over to The Other Side as soon as possible.
Angel found this mildly surprising, and a little alarming. He
this sort of attraction in a long time. With Buffy, it had been
a sort of
combination of awe and admiration, mixed in a need for redemption.
was simpler, purer. It was attraction, lust and interest, nothing
Nothing less. It had possibilities, and Angel hadn’t felt such
the future in a long time. He wasn’t sure why Harris was the
one to make
him feel this way, but he wasn’t going to fight it. This feeling
attraction was clean, exciting. He felt alive again, and never
than when his gaze was locked with Harris’s.
None of which he’d get to feel anytime soon, if Chad concentrated on
saying good-bye to his friends rather than getting down to business.
Impatience propelled him forward to the student’s side. “Why
can’t we go
“He keeps his office locked,” Chad explained. “I’ve tried to get
way, and it’s never going to happen. The way to do it is through
“Yeah, there’s a tree that grows beside the house. I’ve used it
to get in
and out a few times.” He shrugged when he caught Angel’s look.
was curious about what was in there. And after what I’ve started
I’m even more curious. I just don’t want to go in on my own any
He led them outside, where more guests were milling around in the
driveway, saying their farewells.
“What have you seen?” Doyle asked, irritation bleeding through his tone.
He was as anxious as Angel to get on with things, although for different
The vampire cast a sympathetic glance at him, then watched in disbelief
Chad wandered off to talk to other people. He grabbed Cordelia’s
before she could follow him. “What’s going on?”
“He’s saying good-bye,” she explained, staring at him, perplexed.
“I thought he was worried about the things he’s seen.”
“He is,” she said with exaggerated patience. “No one likes demons
creeping their houses, Angel. But as host, he has responsibilities,
Angel gave up and released her arm. There was no point to arguing.
jammed his hands deep into his pockets and walked over to stand beside
Doyle. “We’re wasting time.”
The half-demon shot him an amused look. “He works most every night,
Angel. You can catch him at the bar tomorrow.”
Angel refused to ask Doyle how he’d known what he was thinking about.
It had to be a lucky guess. He wasn’t visibly obsessing, was he?
Finally, everyone was gone. Chad led them around the house.
to a window on the second floor, overshadowed by the branches of the
that grew beside the house. “That’s it. That’s his office.”
“What have you seen, exactly?” Angel asked.
Chad hesitated. “This is going to sound crazy, but Cordy tells
you guys deal with crazy everyday.”
“Oh, yeah,” Doyle said. He held up his hand and crossed his fingers.
and crazy? We’re like *this*.”
The student shot him a strange glance, and then continued. “I’ve
weird lights in his office; some of them are colors I’ve never seen
before. Sometimes he has visitors, and they don’t look right.”
“Don’t look right how?” Angel prompted.
“I never see them clearly; usually they show up late at night, and I
sight of them by accident. But sometimes they’re too tall, or
don’t bend right. A couple of times, I think I’ve seen people
or with scales instead of skin.” He laughed shakily. “Crazy,
Angel nodded. “Crazy. But Cordelia told you the truth -
we do know how
to deal with crazy. Do you think that any of those visitors you
will be coming by tonight?”
“No. My parents are out of town, and I’ve only ever seen them
dad’s ar-” His words broke off abruptly, and he pointed over
shoulder, toward the window. “There! Look!”
Angel turned, and watched as green light pulsed rhythmically on the
side of the glass inside the office. “Do you see that often?”
“I’ve never seen it before. Well? Do you know what it is?”
“Not off hand, no.” Angel watched the light. Any number
of things could
be causing it. There was only one way to find out which of them
He started to walk toward the tree.
A hand on his shoulder stopped him. “Where are you going?” Chad
“You wanted me to take a look at the weird shit, right? I’m going
a look,” Angel answered, glancing back over his shoulder.
“Angel? Be careful.” Doyle was close, obviously ready to
help back him
up from the ground.
“I will.” The vampire turned his attention back to the window.
could take another step forward, he saw that the green light had stopped.
He hesitated - what did that mean? Was it good or bad?
He had no more time to wonder. The window of the office slid up,
from inside. A dark figure slid smoothly out of the small opening,
outstretched. A short burst of energy, and the figure was hanging
hand from a tree branch. With the other, the stranger closed
That done, the figure, wrapped in a long coat, began to swing back
forth. When enough momentum was built up, the person let go of
the branch and fell toward the ground, landing lightly on his feet and
forward, rolling onto his shoulder and smoothly rising back to his
One hand clasping a sleek automatic pistol, Harris stared at the four
people facing him, one eyebrow raised. “So, what did you think?
9.9? I think it was a ten, myself, but then I’m biased.”
Angel stared at him, unable to reply. What the hell was going
“What the hell is going on?” demanded Chad. “What were you doing
in my father’s office?”
“I got lost?” Harris didn’t seem particularly interested providing
“What’s the gun for?” Trust Doyle to get right to the point.
grateful that the half-demon asked, since he couldn’t seem to make
react, beyond staring at the bartender.
“Protection. I’m carrying quite a bit of cash on me, and I feel
with a way to defend myself.” Harris nodded toward them pleasantly.
“Well, it’s been a long night. I think it’s about time a ran
His gaze met Angel’s. “Maybe I’ll see you around.”
“Maybe you’ll stay here and answer some damn questions,” Chad countered.
Harris gestured minutely with the gun. “Nah. I think I’ll
Cordelia shook her head. “That gun isn’t going to do you any good.
isn’t fazed by guns. They mean nothing to him. You should
just give up
Before Angel could tell Cordelia to stop helping him, Harris laughed
her. “This gun isn’t for Angel, Cordelia.” His free hand dipped
his jacket and reappeared a moment lately, a second weapon in its grasp.
“*This* one is.” Muzzle pointed at the sky, he pulled the trigger.
small pulse of liquid shot upward.
“Holy water.” Angel’s voice was flat. How had Harris discovered
he was a vampire? How long had he known?
“Blessed by the best,” Harris agreed. “I’ve got a gun for each
The bullets are for anyone else who might be feeling muscular.
I don’t know if even silver bullets can stop a ravening cheerleader,
won’t have find out if you all just get out of the way.” He tilted
head to one side, waiting for an answer. His dark hair and duster
stirred gently by the night’s breeze, and his skin stood out, pale
by moonlight. His hands were steady, their aim unwavering as
one pistol at Angel and the other at Cordelia.
Angel wasn’t sure what to do next. He needed to know if Harris
was mixed up with what Chad had seen in his father’s office; it seemed
he must be. The vampire didn’t want that. He didn’t want the
young man to be on the wrong side of justice. He was held prisoner
by indecision, not wanting to proceed and lose what chance he might have
with Harris, but not willing to simply back down, either.
The frozen moment was broken by the sound of multiple vehicles pulling
up behind Angel and his group. Doyle turned, leaving Angel free to
continue to watch Harris.
“Company,” the Irishman said unnecessarily. “Of the nonhuman variety,”
Damnit. Angel watched as Harris’s gaze moved past him, and the
relaxed slightly, his posture becoming less rigid. That meant
recognized the new arrivals.
The sound of engines didn’t end; the vehicles idled. “Hey, Xan!”
thick voice. “You need some help?”
The bartender grinned. “You guys load up the booze?”
“All ready to go here, Xan. We’re just waiting on you.”
“I’m just making my good-byes, Relk.” Harris grinned at them.
going now. I had a lovely time, Chad. Anytime you need
someone to tend
bar at a party, you know who to call.” He circled around them,
keeping them covered with both weapons as he did so.
Angel turned with him, maintaining eye contact. He only looked
see who the new arrivals were. One eyebrow climbed upward in
Seven Klortor demons in two cars and a van were watching them.
Interesting friends Harris had. While not aggressive, Klortors
deadly fighters. He wouldn’t want to take them on.
Harris backed toward the demons. His eyes caught Angel’s, and
the vampire thought he could read confusion in them. “I thought you
were one of the good guys, Angel,” the dark-haired man said. “That’s
what I felt, and that’s what I was told. So how can you be working
for this guy, with his father being who he is?”
One of the Klortors glared suspiciously at Angel. “You sure you’re
“I’m fine.” With a final look at Angel, Harris climbed into the
seat of one of the cars. Within moments, all the vehicles were
“What the hell was that?” Chad asked.
“I don’t know,” Doyle said. “Angel?”
The vampire shook his head. “Who’s your father, Chad?”
“Why are you asking Chad questions?” Cordelia demanded.
“Who’s your father?” Angel repeated.
“He’s a lawyer.” Chad shrugged. “He works for a firm in
the city -
Wolfram and Hart.”
Angel shook his head. He should have known.
Cordelia looked shaken by the surprise, but she rallied quickly.
cares who his father is? Why are you listening to that guy?
hell was his name, anyway? Harris? Xan? What kind
of name is Xan?” She froze, and her eyes widened. “Xan...Harris,”
she whispered. “It couldn’t be.”
“Are you all right, princess?” Doyle asked.
She ignored him, looking up at Angel. “I have to call Willow,”
***Spoilers for the first two episodes of Buffy***
Xander pulled himself up on top of the bar, sitting cross-legged with
stack of papers in his lap. He hadn’t had a chance to read them
lawyer’s office; after breaking into the second-floor office, he hadn’t
wanted to take any extra time to look through them. With the
copy machine working, so the theft of information wouldn’t be obvious,
he’d been nervous, but he’d made it out. Sure, he’d gotten caught,
but he was safe, and he had the information he’d gone in after.
He didn’t start to read the stack, though, not yet; first he had
clear up with his boss. “Tark?”
The big man behind the bar looked up. Except for the smooth protrusion
bone in the center of his forehead, he looked like a massively muscled
“Why did the Klortors show up at the party?” Xander cocked his
one side, raising an eyebrow interrogatively.
“You said you needed help loading up the liquor and getting back here.”
Tark spread his hands innocently.
“Yeah, and *one* of them could’ve taken care of it. But I didn’t
I got a whole damn tribe.”
Tark stepped closer, crossing his arms over his chest. “The way
it, the Klortors found you facing off against a group of people, with
*both* your guns drawn.”
“Oh. Well, there was that.” Xander grinned unabashedly at
his boss. “I
had it under control, you know.” As under control as it could
with him pointing a gun at his latest lust object, and all. Xander
that Angel really hadn’t known who Chad’s father was. He hoped
that he’d get to see the vampire again, without there being a need for
“Never doubted it, Xan. I just worry.” The tall demon smirked.
know how hard it is to find a decent bartender for a place like this?”
Xander laughed. He knew Tark cared about him, beyond him being
employee. Ever since they’d met five years ago, the demon had treated
Xander like a wayward child, with a mixture of protectiveness, affection,
and exasperation. Xander didn’t want to get him involved in anything
dangerous, but he appreciated the fact that Tark would refuse to let
go it alone, if there was any way his boss could help.
Considering the way they had met, it was nearly a miracle.
*****Five years ago*****
Crouching in the shadow of the dumpster, Xander tried to quiet his
breathing, but he wasn’t having any luck. He was too tired, too
too damn scared to be able to calm himself down.
A week on the streets of LA sorta did that to you.
He’d bought a bus ticket, as far as his money could take him from
Sunnydale. The end of the line had been LA, so here he was, broke and
his own. Still, he didn’t have any trouble telling himself that
the right thing.
He closed his eyes against the memory rising up within him, knowing
it would do no good. It was fruitless denial; the memory would
leave him, he knew it.
Once again, he is back in the Bronze, facing Jesse. Staring down
friend, a stake pointed squarely at the other boy’s chest. Feeling
disbelief as Jesse is pushed forward. The sickening sensation
and resistance as the wood slides into Jesse’s chest. The incredulous
look in Jesse’s eyes, just before he transforms. The barely-there
of dust against his skin as the remains of his friend drift down to
He’d managed to hold it together until he got home, putting on a joking
bravado facade as he and Willow and Buffy had left the club.
Once he was
inside his house, inside his room, he’d fallen apart.
Jesse was dead, and Xander had killed him.
The walls started to close in on him. Jesse was dead. His
his brother, his refuge, was gone. Who was he going to hang out
Who was he going to joke with?
Who was he going to run to when his parents got to be too much, when
they went too far?
Xander was sure he couldn’t possibly feel any worse. Guilt and
sorrow were threatening to overwhelm him. Predictably, his brain
up a new question for him: what if the same thing happened to
That thought was enough to send him running to the bathroom, where he
fell to his knees in front of the toilet, vomiting in wracking spasms.
he’d finally stopped dry heaving, he sank down onto the floor, laying
face against the cool tile.
He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t even think of killing Willow, of
destroying what was left of his world. Even if it worked out
way, and she had to kill him, he couldn’t do it, couldn’t cause her
He had to get out.
That was when he’d taken all the money he’d managed to save and run
to the bus station, taking the first bus out. He only paused to shove
good-bye/apology letter in Willow’s mailbox on his way. In LA,
alone, with no hope for help from anyone. His first few nights
homeless shelters had been enough to send him back out on the streets.
was running out of options; he was too young to work, and he didn’t
what else to do. Still, he felt better.
In his mind, he might starve, but at least there weren’t any demons
He had to learn to stop listening to his mind.
He was currently cowering in an alley because he’d spotted a vampire
full game face a few blocks away. He’d run away, hoping that
before the demon had seen him, but he wasn’t hopeful. Luck wasn’t
running in his favor at all.
A muted shuffle sounded from the mouth of the alley. Xander’s
tightened. He wasn’t going to go down like this. He wanted a
hot meal, a hotter shower, and a bed of his own to sleep in. He wanted
Jesse to be alive again. He wanted his world back the way it used
He wasn’t going to get any of that, but he could at least make sure
died on his feet, instead of hiding behind a dumpster. Pulling
stake he’d carried with him ever since the Bronze as a sort of penance,
At the mouth of the alley, backlit by the street light, stood the vampire.
Yellow eyes stared at him. “Are you through running? This
“Through running? I’m just getting started.” Xander sprinted
vampire, stake held low and ready at his side. He plowed into
startled vampire, knocking him back into the street. Before the
could react, Xander plunged the stake into his chest, dusting him
Panting, Xander could hardly believe he was still alive. For that
the large hand that grabbed him by the neck and hauled him to his feet
really wasn’t much of a surprise. He stared dazedly at the huge
holding onto him, not even really reacting much to the odd thing on
“What the hell did you just do?” the man demanded.
“Um, a magic show? That was the finale. Come back in a few
minutes, and we’ll start again from the top.” Xander could see the
guy wasn’t buying it.
The man shook his head. “Come on.” He didn’t give Xander
much of a
choice as he hauled him along to a building nearby. He dragged
inside, then propelled him into a chair. “Stay there until I
what to do with you.”
The dark-haired boy huddled in on himself in the high-rise chair, which
was beside a high counter. His gaze wandered around the room,
realized he was in a bar. A rundown, empty bar, but it was definitely
A bar with a scaly blue bartender.
The guy who grabbed him off the street leaned across the bar.
Jlarn? Fix me a White Russian.”
The blue guy stared at him for a second, then scuttled away and began
flip through an ancient copy of the bartender’s bible.
“You don’t know how to make a White Russian?” the big man asked
“I’m new at this,” the bartender protested peevishly.
Xander watched bemusedly as the two nonhumans began to bicker.
He was getting bored, waiting for the first demon to make up his mind about
what to do with him. He stood up and wandered around behind the bar.
Poking through the disorganized collection of bottles, he pulled out a
bottle of vodka, and one of Kahlua. He managed to find a mini-fridge
and freezer, and liberated some milk. Ice cubes, vodka, Kahlua, milk.
He swirled the mixture around for a moment, then poured it into a glass.
He shoved it gently, and watched it slide down the bar to end up in front
of the demon who’d dragged him into the building.
The big man looked down at the drink, and then over at Xander, abruptly
cutting off the argument with the blue guy. “You made this?”
“How did you learn how to do that?”
Xander shrugged again. He really didn’t feel obligated to tell
about his parents, about the way they’d get drunk and force him to
drink-making guides, claiming that one day they’d be rich, and could
afford to ‘drink the fancy stuff’, rather than the cheap wine and cut-rate
beer they did drink. When they did, they figured on having their own
private bartender, trained and ready to go.
The demon looked at him speculatively. “Do you know how to mix
Where was this going? Xander nodded slowly. “You name it,
I can mix it.”
The big man hesitated a moment, then asked, “How would you like a job?”
“Hey!” the blue demon objected.
“Shut up, Jlarn. You’ve been useless for months now.” He
attention on Xander. “What do you say? You don’t look like
any where else to go.”
“I’m fifteen,” Xander said. “Underage.”
“So what? Do I look like the kind of guy who has a liquor license?”
Xander had to concede that point. “What would the job involve?”
“Just bartending. I’ll give you room and board in exchange.”
“I keep the tips?”
“They’re all yours.”
Xander considered the offer for all of three seconds. What did
he have to
lose? “It’s a deal.”
Tark had taken good care of him over the years. It hadn’t been
auspicious beginning, but the deal had worked out well for both of
Tark got a popular bartender, and Xander got a job, place to live,
opportunity to learn more about demons than he ever thought he would.
The best way to learn to fight them, he’d discovered, was to be taught
fight *by* them. The Klortor tribe that had come after him tonight
sparred with him on several occasions; he was no Slayer, but he could
As Tark got back to his own work, Xander ducked his head and concentrated
on the sheaf of papers in his lap. As he read, a puzzled frown creased
Wolfram and Hart were negotiating a complex series of treaties and
agreements between tribes of demons that traditionally feuded with
and warred against each other, but the documents didn’t say why.
The firm was definitely up to something, something big.
Angel paced impatiently back and forth, prowling around the desk at
Cordelia sat. He caught her irritated glare, but he couldn’t
stop himself. He wanted to know what Willow was saying, wanted to know
what she knew about Xan, or Harris, or whatever his name was.
After Xan had disappeared with the Klorters, Angel, Doyle and Cordelia
had left Chad at his house and returned to the office. Cordelia had
clammed up, refusing to talk about why she wanted to call Willow.
Of course, she hadn’t been able to reach the red-head until the following
evening, so Angel had been forced to stay at the office instead of going
Which left him pacing and staring at the long-haired woman, willing
hurry up and tell him what she knew.
Cordelia, steadfastly ignoring him, continued her conversation.
that’s not why I’m calling. We ran into someone tonight.
He knew who I
was, knew I was a cheer leader. People called him Xan Harris.”
silent for a long time. “Yes, that’s what I thought, too.
going to let you talk to Angel. His busy trying to glare a hole
skull, which isn’t actually one of his vampy powers. Yeah.
I’ll talk to
you later, all right?” She looked up at Angel, and extended the
toward him. “Here.”
He barely restrained himself from snatching it from her. “Willow?”
//Angel?// Her voice sounded odd; high, tight with emotion.
“Yes. Do you know this guy?”
//I think so. Before I met you, I had a friend. Well, a
Speaking quickly, Willow told him about Xander and Jesse, and the
circumstances of Jesse’s death. //We were close, but Xander and
were inseparable. He seemed all right after all that happened
Bronze, but that night he disappeared. Xander left me a letter
disappeared, telling me that he was sorry, but he couldn’t take it
more, that he had to get away.// She drew in a shuddering breath.
that’s really him...oh, God, Angel. What if it’s really him?
heard from him since he left. I’m coming up there. I need to
Angel hesitated. “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea, Willow.
don’t think he’s the same boy you remember. Showing up here and
surprising him probably would be really...dangerous.”
//If it really is Xander, then I’m coming up. I have to see him,
I have to know he’s all right.//
“I’ll let you know as soon as I find anything out, all right?”
good-bye, and hung up the phone. He looked over at Cordelia.
remember this Xander, too?”
“Oh, yeah. Complete and total loser. He ran away during
She shrugged a little. “I really didn’t pay much attention -
the one who missed him, and talked about him sometimes. That’s
reason I recognized the name.” She pursed her lips speculatively.
certainly doesn’t look like I remember. He grew up nicely.”
Angel fought down a surge of jealously. It was unreasonable.
Xander was *his*.
Shaking his head hard, Angel was distracted when Doyle hunched over
collapsed into a chair.
“Shit,” the half-demon spat out, even as he began to jerk. “Aspirin,
As Cordelia scrambled for the bottle of pain-relievers, Angel moved
forward and grabbed Doyle’s shoulders, holding him steady as best he
could. The smaller man jerked spasmodically for a few moments
then relaxed bonelessly into his chair. “Remind me if I ever
see one of
those Oracle bastards to kosh’em over the head with an ax. Return
“What did you see?” Cordelia asked, handing him the aspirin and a glass
“Not much. No people, no action, just a building. That big
the east side.”
“The same east side where all your other visions have taken us?”
paced away in irritation.
“The very same. Do you know the place?”
“Yeah. I’ve seen it, but never gone any where near it. I
don’t mix well
with holy objects.”
“That would be a problem, yeah.” Doyle shoved himself wearily
feet. “Guess we should get going.”
“No, you stay here.” Angel needed a chance to be alone, to get
straight. He was too caught up in Xander, in trying to figure
other man. He had to get away, and force himself back to thinking
“Are you sure?” Doyle’s green eyes were concerned.
“I’m sure. If I need any help, I’ll call you.” He grabbed
his jacket and
headed for the door. “How much trouble can a bunch of monks be?”
During the short trip across town, Angel tried to discover the pattern
Doyle’s visions. They all concerned a part of LA with a high
concentration of demons, but other than that, he could see no connection.
Xander apparently fit in because of his job, but there was no other
for him to be a part of things. Catching his thoughts as they
wander, Angel forced them back onto the problem, but didn’t come to
At the walls surrounding the religious compound, Angel paused.
feel power emanating from them; the entire area was ringed in protective
spells and wards.
He might have to worry about these monks, after all.
The vampire slowly made his way around the walls, looking for a reason
for Doyle’s vision. He couldn’t just go inside; he wasn’t invited,
was no telling what the wards would do to him if he did manage to cross
On his second circuit around the walls, he heard a noise behind him.
slid into the shadows and traced his way back. The gate of the
was open, and someone was standing just outside of it, talking to a
monk inside. Someone in a leather jacket, with dark hair falling in
Angel leaned closer, grateful for vampiric hearing as he eavesdropped
“Alexander,” the monk said. “I didn’t expect to see you again
Xander shrugged. “I canceled the sparring session. I’ve
research to do that’s more important.”
“Anything you need help with?” The monk held up a hand.
“Unless this is
another of your amorous adventures. Those, I want to be left
The dark-haired man grinned at him. “You’re just hoping that someday
admit that my heart belongs to you.” He sobered. “Right
now, I don’t
even know what I’ve got. As soon as I know, I’ll come to you
“I’ll be here.” The cowled man stood aside, and allowed Xander
through the gate, before swinging the massive iron bars shut and locking
it once more. Xander disappeared into the compound, and the monk
back to what looked like patrolling.
Angel shook his head, baffled. What was Xander doing in a monastery?
From what Angel had seen, the bartender wasn’t exactly religious order
material. Was this why the Oracles had sent him here?
He continued to pace along the walls, thinking as much as looking for
some hint of what his purpose was supposed to be. He’d seen Xander
times. Too many to be coincidence, but what did it mean?
During his fourth circuit, he began to lose hope. The vampire
half-convinced himself that he just had to go to The Other Side the
night, and question Xander there. The plan sounded good, so he
And almost walked into Xander.
The vampire took a startled step back. “How...?”
The mortal gave a one-shoulder shrug, a smile tugging at the corner
mouth. “You seemed rather lost in thought,” he offered.
hardened slightly, and he readjusted his grip on a familiar looking
pistol. “Is there something I can help you with?”
“I hope so.” Angel knew he had to choose his words carefully.
might sound a little strange, but bear with me, all right?” He
about working for the Powers That Be, and about the visions Doyle had
been having. “That’s why I’m here, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to
“So this isn’t stalking behavior?” Xander hadn’t put away the
gun, but he
seemed more relaxed.
“Just coincidence.” Angel hesitated, then asked, “How did you
“That you were here? As unbelievable as it may seem, attractive
men don’t usually prowl around this place. I mean, besides the usual
desperate to catch a glance of me. You got noticed.”
Angel didn’t bother to fight his smile. “No. That I’m a
“You’re not exactly unknown in LA, Angel. Word about you has gotten
around. I called my boss for the low-down.” Xander smiled back.
“He filled you in?” Angel wasn’t sure how he felt about being
of discussion. Came with the territory, he supposed, but he wasn’t
entirely comfortable with the idea.
“Tark gave me the basics, yeah. The library here was even more
There are whole books about you. I know - I read most of them
and this morning. That’s why I was worried about potential stalking
occurring. Sort of a Angelus-y thing to do; I wanted to make sure you
still on the side of the, well, angels.” He firmed his grip on
he held once more.
Angel felt despair twist through him. Xander knew about his time
Angelus; there was no hope, then. How could anyone get around
vampirism and his evil past both? “Not Angelus,” he promised
“Good. I don’t really think I’d want to meet him. All instability
excess. I like you the way you are. No evil intentions
means we can
talk.” There was no mistaking the appraising tone in his voice, or
welcoming glint in his eye.
The vampire couldn’t believe it. Xander was still interested in
knowing what he did. “What if I had evil intentions?”
“Then I’d be brushing bits of you off my jacket, wouldn’t I? But
want to stake you. I can think of plenty of other things to do
that would be far more fun.” Xander’s gaze wandered down Angel’s
and then back up to meet his eyes once more.
Angel forced himself to think, to stay rational. He had a job
to do. He
had to finish the job. Do the job. *Then* do Xander.
No! Concentrate on the task at hand. Personal pursuits could
“That’s a good reason not to stake me.”
“There are others?” Xander’s grin was flirtatious, challenging.
“Yeah. Another one is that Willow really wouldn’t like it if you
Angel didn’t get the chance to say anymore before he found himself lying
flat on his back on the sidewalk, after his legs had been swept out
underneath him. Xander was crouched over him, the muzzle of the
gun was jammed up under his chin, and one of those cross-tipped stakes
pressing threateningly into his chest.
“How do you know Willow?” Xander demanded, eyes narrowed with renewed
Xander pressed forward with his stake; just a little, though.
to get his intentions across. “How do you know Willow?” he repeated.
It didn’t matter how nicely things had been progressing with Angel.
didn’t matter how nice the vampire looked in leather. Angel had
Willow’s name. Vampires weren’t allowed to say her name. She
was supposed to be safe. He’d left so she’d be safe from him; she
had to be all right.
Angel lay completely still beneath him. “Can I explain?” he asked,
“I think you’d better, don’t you?” Xander held himself ready.
“I met Willow in Sunnydale. I moved there six years ago, waiting
Slayer to show up.” The vampire quietly explained how he had
Slayer, and her friends.
Xander stared down at the man beneath him. He could hardly believe
he was hearing. He knew Willow would stand by a friend, but the
facing down creatures of evil? Battling to stop the apocalypse?
He was glad to hear that she was alive, that she had managed to make
herself happy without him there. That she’d found new friends,
made a new life for herself, pleased him, and comforted him. He’d
made the right
decision after all. She had been better off with him gone.
Angel fell silent, and took on an air of patience. He made no
push Xander off him, instead waiting for him to come to a decision.
The mortal man relaxed, putting away his gun and stake, replacing them
their hidden pockets within his duster. He sat back, so he was
Angel’s stomach. “So you and Wills got to be friends?”
The vampire stared up at him, a puzzled frown creasing his brow.
“We did. I talked to her tonight, actually. About you.”
“Me?” How had Angel connected him to Angel...oh. Cordelia.
“What did she say?”
“She wants to come see you.”
Xander shook his head. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to see Willow
not. It had been a long time...what if she hated him? What if
changed so much that she couldn’t like him anymore? “I’ll think
“I told her that it would be a good idea to wait, to talk to you first.”
Angel paused. “Are you going to get off me any time soon?”
Xander smiled at him. “I don’t know. I’m awfully comfy.”
He bounced up and down experimentally. “Someone’s been working out.”
He grinned at the sound of the vampire’s irritated sight. “What’s
the matter? You’re not one of those guys who always has to be on
top, are you?”
He gasped a little when, in a move too fast for him to see, Angel grasped
him by his upper arms and pushed him up, the vampire standing as he
so. Xander dangled in his grip for a moment, then was lowered to the
ground. Wow. As little as he disliked being manhandled, there
was something undeniably sexy about having all that power concentrated
and focused on him.
Angel was apparently also affected, judging by the way he swayed forward,
leaning in toward Xander. He seemed to abruptly regain control of
himself, and he straightened, clearing his throat a little as he did so.
“So. What was your interest in Chad’s father’s office?”
Xander smiled slowly. Angel wanted to do business? Fine.
He could do
business. Get it out of the way, so they could concentrate on
later. “I told you, he works for Wolfram and Hart.”
“But why does that make any difference to you? I know who they
gone up against them several times. But you, you’re a...”
“Bartender?” Xander helpfully supplied. “In a demon bar, remember?
have friends who’ve been hurt by them, screwed over by them.
they’re evil; I think they’re a bigger threat then most people give
“You’d be right,” Angel agreed.
“So when I find out that they’re up to something big, I’m not just going
to sit and let it go down, not without making sure my friends are
“They’re up to something? How do you know?” Angel didn’t
sound doubtful; he looked intent, interested.
“I didn’t know until I got into the office. But I’ve been hearing
rumors for weeks now; stories about Gnorl demons being spotted with
Fritans, Lras talking to Nerkins, vampires, the non-souled variety,
playing nice with humans.” He ran a hand through his hair as
Angel nod slowly. The demons he had named were traditionally
more likely to try to dismember each other on sight instead of talking.
He continued with his explanation. “The humans the vampires were
were suits. Lawyers. Want to guess which firm?”
“Wolfram and Hart,” Angel answered grimly.
“Exactly. If you’re a good boy, I might even give you a prize.”
winked at him, then sobered. “The papers I got out of the office
it. They describe a bunch of treaties between the different tribes
all mediated by Wolfram and Hart. To go through all that negotiation,
must be planning something huge.”
The vampire nodded, then shot a hopeful glance at Xander. “Could
I get a
look at those papers?”
Xander hesitated. He wanted to trust Angel; he felt that he could.
Stopping Wolfram and Hart from hurting his friends was important to
him - could he trust Angel to help him, and not risk them? He looked
up at the
vampire, and saw the hope in his eyes, the honest desire to help, to
a stand against evil.
Taking a deep breath, he said, “You can...conditionally.”
“What are the conditions?”
Xander didn’t bother trying to fight his smile. “Well, with school
out and all, I’ve got some free time on my hands. I need something
do...and I could learn a lot from you. I figure I can follow
you, see how
you do your thing. The classes I’ve been taking could go toward
in criminology. If I decide to take that route, it’d be nice to see
I’m getting into.”
The vampire stared at him. “You want to follow me?”
“Work with you. See how you do it.” He was having trouble
his laughter. Could he throw any more low-grade innuendo into
“Get some hands-on experience.” Oh, look, he could. “What
do you say?”
Angel’s slow grin told him the taller man had picked up on the game
he was playing. “I say you’ve got a deal.”
“Great.” Xander grinned hugely. “I’ll bring the copies to
Where’s your office?” After Angel gave him directions, Xander
“I can’t wait. I’m finally going to get to see if all those stories
you are true.” He knew Angel was interested, that he didn’t have
him anymore, but it was too much fun to stop. Baiting the vampire
turning out to be almost as much fun as the other plans Xander had
“I didn’t know people spent that much time talking about me,” Angel
“People? Oh, no. I’ve only really heard about you from one
I get a couple of shots into JD, he loosens up and starts talking.
loves to dish on you.”
“JD?” Hell, the man even looked sexy when he was completely bewildered.
Xander started to head toward the gate. “Yeah, JD. Blond,
annoying as hell. You should know him.” He opened the gate,
and stepped half inside. “You Sired him.”
Grinning evilly, he swung the iron bars shut on the sound of Angel’s
Angel was in trouble. He knew it, acknowledged it as a fact.
He was in
over his head, and there didn’t seem like there was any hope of rescue.
He really didn’t mind. Grinning at his thoughts, Angel watched the
brew, wanting it to be just right.
Xander would be there soon. Xander, the source and cause of the
in which Angel found himself. Xander, the person who had been
of his attention and confusion and attraction for the last week.
After leaving Angel astounded and bewildered by mentioning Spike, Xander
had been true to his word, showing up at the office the next afternoon,
bringing the papers with him. He had gone over them with Angel, and
together they’d traced out the complicated trail of treaties and
non-aggression pacts contained within them. The vampire had been
impressed by how easily Xander was able to negotiate his way through
complicated documents; the mortal had put the legal courses he’d taken
The dark-haired young man had stayed until the late evening, when he’d
said that he had to go to work. Angel had watched him go, feeling
regret as the other man disappeared into the night. Fortunately,
had shown up the next afternoon, and the next. They’d gotten
no closer to
discovering the purpose behind Wolfram and Hart’s activities, but they’d
gotten closer to each other.
The gurgling of the coffee pot distracted Angel from his memories, and
shook his head. He’d been getting distracted far too easily,
True, he had been working hard on the question of what the treaties
be leading up to, and it seemed to be the right path, since Doyle hadn’t
had any more visions. On the other hand, he’d hadn’t gotten any
else done. He hadn’t even managed to ask Xander just how he knew
Spike; somehow, he always ended up with his thoughts focused on something
Like the way Xander could always make him laugh. The bartender
jokes constantly: sly one-liners, satirical asides, and sarcastic
comments. There was a dark edge to his humor, an acknowledgment
presence of death and danger in his life, but it was tempered with
sincere enjoyment of life. It reminded Angel of Buffy and her
and saddened him: as he had watched, they’d slowly lost that spark
still had, giving themselves over to the darkness that the young man
resisted. Sometimes Angel thought that was part of what made
Sunnydale; it had hurt, watching that spark slowly die.
The ping of the coffee maker brought Angel’s attention back to the
present. He was really going to have to work on his attention span.
that could wait - right now he had to get Xander’s coffee ready, so
would be waiting for him. Angel was determined to find out how
bartender knew Spike, and he figured coffee could help convince the
man to talk. Xander loved coffee, and would do anything for
As Angel finished adding sugar and cream, transforming the coffee into
light brown sweet concoction, the door to the office opened.
stepped inside, glancing about the room eagerly. When his gaze
Angel, a wide grin stretched his lips. “Angel, hey.”
“Hey,” Angel said back, holding out the steaming mug of coffee.
took it from him and sipped at it, an expression of bliss crossing
features. Figuring now was his chance, Angel asked, “So, how do you
know Spike?” There. He’d asked, before he could get too distracted
by that barely-there trace of coffee clinging to Xander’s upper lip.
Xander choked a little, then smiled up into Angel’s eyes. “I’ve
wondering how long it was going to take for you to ask that.”
over to Angel’s chair and sat down in, making himself comfortable.
rueful shake of his head, Angel settled in another chair.
The bartender sipped his coffee. “I met JD about four years ago.
just passing through town, and made some noise about maybe snacking
on me. Fortunately, we were in front of The Other Side, so he was dissuaded
by friends of mine. He followed me into the bar, and began ordering
after shot of Jack Daniels, and complained about his girlfriend leaving
him. I’d just had a break-up, so I commiserated. We got
ended up friends. I don’t see JD all that often, but he stops by the
bar any time he’s in the city.”
“Why do you call him JD?”
“Come on, am I really supposed to call him ‘Spike’?” Xander snorted.
“Spike. What the hell kind of name is that? All he ever orders
is Jack Daniels, so JD it is.” The dark-haired man leaned forward.
“And what is up with his girlfriend? I’ve never met her, but she
sounds flakier than a biscuit. Why does he stay with her?”
Angel hesitated. “It’s complicated.” He fought down a wave
Just how close were Xander and Spike?
“I guess. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but that’s why I’m
involved with either of them. Getting between crazy vampires
is high up
on my list of nevers.” Xander smirked. “He also tells great
about you when he’s a few sheets to the wind.”
“What kind of stories?”
“I don’t know if I believe them, though.” The young man said,
Angel hadn’t spoken. He stood and sauntered around the desk,
so he was
right in front of Angel. “For example, he says you’ll go absolutely
if I-” he stretched out a hand toward Angel’s face, but before he could
finish the action or the sentence, the office door opened.
“Er...I’m not interrupting anything, am I?” asked Doyle._
Yes! “No,” Angel sighed. “Come in.” He watched as
Xander sat back.
The vampire reminded himself that it was wrong to have the urge to hustle
Doyle downstairs and lock him in the bathroom, so there wouldn’t be
anymore interruptions. At least he didn’t have to worry about
showing up; with Xander spending so much time at the office, the actress
was only putting in the absolute minimum of appearances herself.
Xander still didn’t get along, bickering and mocking each other as
were still in high school; apparently, neither one of them was willing
forgive and forget the past. Doyle and Xander got along just
Xander grinned at the half-demon. “Hey, D.” His hand darted
out as Doyle walked past him, and he pinched the other man’s ass.
Doyle yelped, and turned around to mock-glare at Xander. “Hey!”
“Sorry, man. I just couldn’t let that pass me by without getting
piece.” His grin was completely unrepentant.
Doyle smiled back at him. “You just watch yourself, now.
I’ll be wanting
some of my own back.” He continued his way downstairs, walking
Xander effected surprise. “But of course. Everyone wants
a little.” As
he spoke, he cut his glance over to Angel.
Maybe he could just lock Doyle in the bathroom for a little while...no!
Angel shook his head. He had to get himself under control.
flirted with everyone; it was a game to him. A game that was
making Angel crazy, but still just a game. He couldn’t go locking
friends away just because they were a part of it.
He didn’t have any more time to try to talk himself out of his jealousy;
there was a muffled cry of “Christ!” from downstairs. “Vision,”
said shortly, heading for the stairs. Xander was right behind
Doyle was sitting at the kitchen table, massaging his temples.
to God, one day I’m going after the Oracles with a shovel.”
Angel gathered up the usual post-vision supplies. “What did you
“Some sort of demon. Didn’t recognize it. It was in a warehouse,
where we cleaned out that Krill nest - on the east side.”
Of course. Everything happened on the east side. “How much
“I get the feeling it’s urgent.”
“The sun’s still up,” Xander said.
“We’ll take the sewers, then. It’s about as fast as dealing with
traffic,” Angel explained.
The bartender wrinkled his nose. “If this kills my shoes, you
buying me a new pair.”
Angel stared at him. “You’re not coming.”
The smile slid off Xander’s face. “It’s on the east side. That
like the other visions, which means it’s about Wolfram and Hart.”
shook his head. “Don’t try to shut me out of this, Angel.
While your ass
is definitely an integral part of several things on my list of things
do today, kicking it isn’t one of them.” Despite the joke, his
“Fine,” Angel said. “Let’s go.” He led the way, with Xander close
Doyle, still swallowing aspirins, trailed along behind them.
The tension between Angel and Xander faded away during the underground
trek; Xander seemed to forgive the vampire his over-protective instincts
as soon as he managed to restrain them. When they reached the warehouse,
Angel still insisted on going in first, though. The over-protection
was under control, not banished.
The warehouse was abandoned, filled with long-forgotten junk and trash.
Dim light filtered in through dirty windows, thin enough to be of no
to Angel. Strangely, the center of the warehouse had been obviously
clean of dust and dirt. The three men spread out cautiously,
the demons in Doyle’s vision.
“Are you sure this is the place?” Xander hissed.
“I’m the one who had the vision, all right? The excruciating pain
motivation to remember. This is the place,” Doyle shot back snarkily.
Before Angel could try to break them up, the demons rushed them from
of the darkness. Angel struck the one that went after him with
devastating backhanded blow.
Well, it was meant to be devastating. The demon, which Angel didn’t
recognize, hardly slowed down. It kept coming, plowing into him
knocking him to the ground. As he fell, he saw Doyle go down
Xander was running off, heading for the outer recesses of the warehouse.
Abandoning them. Running away.
Surprised and disappointed, Angel focused his attention on the demons
attacking him, trying to fend them off. Nothing he tried work;
creatures were stronger than he, and seemed impervious to his blows.
vampire could feel himself weakening, and he was nearly frantic with
worry for Doyle. He doggedly fought on, refusing to give up or give
Something dry and scratchy hit him in the back of the neck, and struck
opponents in their faces. Angel ignored it, continuing to fight.
demons, however, reacted: they leapt backwards, clapping their
their extraordinarily-sized noses. Another gust of the something
Angel and the demons once more, and the creatures actively began to
The vampire risked a glance back over his shoulder. Xander stood
coated in dirt and dust. Even as Angel watched, the bartender
beat at his
shirt, knocking off the dust clinging to his clothing toward the demon
that had pinned Doyle. That one also backed up quickly, protecting
The brown-eyed young man spoke in a growling language, his tone clearly
a threat. As he finished what he was saying, he shook his head vigorously,
sending up a fresh cloud of dust.
The demons backed away even more. When Xander advanced on them,
hand raised to shake off more dust, they broke, turning and running.
Doyle stared up at Xander from his place on the ground. “What
Xander grinned. “Aletas. Bastards are damn near invincible,
one thing: killer allergies.” He reached down and hauled
Doyle to his
“Allergies?” Angel asked, incredulous.
“*Killer* allergies. An Aleta can sneeze itself to death.
I’m told it’s
not a pretty sight.”
“So you took off to go get dusty...” Angel realized his mistake.
“Instead of taking off to save my ass? Yeah. Sorry ‘bout
that, but I
didn’t exactly have time to explain.”
Angel stepped closer to Xander. “I couldn’t believe that you had
away.” He felt like he needed to explain, be sure that the young man
understood him. “I never thought you would, which is why I couldn’t
Xander nodded, accepting his words. He smiled slowly, and Angel
realized just how close he was standing to the other man; he was invading
his space, nearly touching him. He could see the dust particles clinging
Xander, streaking his face and coating his hair. Under the smell
he could smell Xander, smell his adrenaline and heat, the excitement
the encounter still unfaded.
“I’m just glad I recognized them. They-” Angel stopped his
with a kiss. Xander responded eagerly, hot mouth seeking Angel’s
lips. The vampire could taste coffee, and some sort of confection,
most of all he could taste Xander.
After a moment, Angel broke the kiss, barely pulling away, keeping his
face inches from Xander’s. “They what?” he asked.
“Hm?” Xander stared up at him dreamily. “Oh. The Aletas.
they actually almost never enter into any point of human civilization.”
The dark-haired man leaned up, initiating another kiss. He tongued
demanded entrance into Angel’s mouth, and the taller man first acquiesced,
then retaliated, turning the caress into a playful, pleasurable duel.
Once again, Angel pulled away. “If they’re so rare, how did you
them?” he asked, surprised by the huskiness he could hear in his own
voice. He was vaguely aware of spluttering noises coming from Doyle’s
direction, but he ignored that in favor of concentrating on the man
front of him and the delicious interrogation he was conducting.
with that concentration, he pulled Xander into his arms.
Xander wrapped his own arms around Angel’s waist in a strong embrace.
“I read about them, in a book.” Once again, he captured Angel’s mouth,
exploring its cool depths with an avid tongue, searching out all its
hidden places. His hands roamed over the vampire’s back slowly,
abstract designs over lines of muscle.
Angel made a disapproving noise low in his chest when Xander pulled
away. It took him a few moments to come up with the next question;
the feeling of Xander against him was playing hell with his thought process.
He just wanted more of the sensation, more of *Xander*, who was everything
and more than what Angel had fantasized. The question he finally
asked barely qualified as one: “Book?”
“Yeah, a book. It had pictures of them, and described how to fend
off. It even gave a short phrase in their language, guaranteed to make
them give up.” Then Xander’s lips were on his once more, his
pressing closer, warmth seeping into Angel’s flesh, into his soul.
This time, Angel didn’t pull away; he just broke the kiss more a moment.
Lips still brushing over Xander’s, he asked, “What did the phrase mean?”
“That I had a massive case of dandruff, and I wasn’t afraid to use it.”
Angel swallowed Xander’s laughter, delighting in the way it caused the
dark-haired man to move against him, the way it rumbled in his chest.
hands mapped Xander’s back, his shoulders, the back of his neck.
vampire only ended the caress when he began to worry about Xander
breathing. “And where did you find this book?”
“In a library.” His grin was deliberately insolent. “A big
filled with all sorts of demony things.” Xander leaned forward.
his lips brushed Angel’s, he gasped.
Angel immediately stopped and stared at him in concern. “What?”
“The library!” Xander exclaimed. “The library. Why the hell
think of that before?” He stopped, and glanced down at his arms
Angel. “Oh. Distracted. Wrong head.”
“What?” Angel asked, in honest confusion.
“Well, not really the wrong head, more like the right head at the wrong
time. But that’s not what’s important.” Xander pressed a hard
“What’s important is that I know what Wolfram and Hart are up to.
what they’re planning.”
Xander reluctantly pulled away from Angel, stepping away from the strong
circle of the vampire’s arms. He didn’t want to move, but he
had to. The
other man was just to distracting - the feel of him, the taste of him,
way he moved against Xander when he pulled him closer...
Xander shook his head. There, he was at it again: completely
by Angel. It was just so damn easy, though. There was so
*much* of Angel to be distracted by; Xander’s hands had mapped what felt
like acres of muscled flesh.
The dark-eyed man laughed at himself, then looked up and caught Angel’s
confused gaze. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just trying to
keep my mind on
business.” He smirked. “It’s *hard*.” He watched
in delight as Angel
took a step toward him. It was good to know that he wasn’t the
feeling so affected.
A strangled snort behind him drew his attention. Xander turned,
caught Doyle laughing openly at him.
“You’re distracted? You don’t say!” The Irishman shook his
Xander good-naturedly flipped him off. “Yeah, I am. Sue
me. At least
I’ve got good reason: look at him. It’s not like I’m distracted
shoes or something; it’s not like I’m Cordelia.” He grinned at
Doyle snickered at the jab toward the cheerleader. He wasn’t
lay between Doyle and Cordelia, but since he really hadn’t had any
to change his opinion of her from high school, he wasn’t going to complain
about having someone to join him in mocking her.
Angel cleared his throat, and Xander transferred his attention back
him. The vampire raised an eyebrow. “You said you figured everything
“I think I have. What could be big enough that Wolfram and Hart
would go to all this trouble? What possible prize could make all
And what could they need all these different demons for?”
“The library you were talking about?”
“Exactly - the one in the monastery. It is filled with books about
demons; I think it’s the most comprehensive collection on this continent.”
He began to pace as he spoke, the energy in him needing some
outlet. “But it isn’t just books - there are all sorts of relics and
magical objects there. Some of these things, the monks have guarded
centuries, making sure they stay out of the wrong hands.”
He glanced at Angel. “You’ve been to the compound; you’ve felt
warding spells that surround it. There’s no way that a single
on theft could make it through. I bet that Wolfram and Hart has
way to get around it, but that it takes all those different demons
order to implement their plan.”
Angel nodded slowly. “That makes sense. It would be a good
such a large-scale effort.”
Xander felt a flush of pleasure; Angel agreed with him. He was
was right, but it was nice to have confirmation. The fact that
listened to him said good things about the vampire, as well.
“Now that we
know what they ‘re up to, we’ve got to move. We still don’t know
they’re going to make their move.”
“How could we find out?” Doyle asked. His cheeks were still slightly
pink. “The visions I’ve been getting are even more vague than usual;
doubt they’ll be any help.”
“I’ve got a source inside Wolfram and Hart,” Xander admitted.
He held up
a hand to stop their questions. “I’m not going to say any more.
It’s worth both our lives if anyone finds out, and I’m not going to
it. No matter how much I trust you.”
Angel nodded slowly. “I can understand that. How soon can
“It’ll take me at least until tomorrow to reach him. Right now,
I want to
let the brothers know what’s up. They need time to prepare.”
“Right.” Angel stepped toward the sewer entrance.
“Not that way. There isn’t any underground access to the compound;
brothers made sure of that. I’ll have to go topside.”
Doyle squinted up at the dust-smeared windows. “The sun’s still
“So you two go back to the office, and I’ll see you back there.”
grinned. “I’m a big boy. I’ll be fine.”
“You’d better be,” Angel muttered. His gaze was warm as he stared
In deference to Doyle’s blushing, Xander restrained the size queen
“I’ll be back at your place soon,” he promised. “I just need to
they’ll be ready.”
He watched Doyle jump down in the sewer, then quickly stepped forward
as Angel moved to follow him. He grabbed the taller man’s arm, and
pulled him around.
“Wha-” Xander cut off Angel’s question with a kiss. Soft
against his as Angel gave in and responded eagerly.
After a long, leisurely exploration, Xander pulled back. He smiled
Angel’s eyes. “Just wanted to be sure you were thinking about
me while I
“Like I’ve been thinking about anything else since meeting you,” Angel
Wow. The man had learned some nice lines in his hundreds of years.
still gave Xander a little thrill. “So...I’ll see you later.”
Before he could step away, Angel pulled him close again, firmly anchoring
Xander against his body. He leaned down and claimed a kiss, which
young man gladly gave him. He gasped against Angel’s lips as
broad hands cupped his ass and pulled him even closer.
With Doyle down in the sewer, they *were* technically alone...
Before Xander could rationalize his way into anything more, Angel released
him. With a truly evil smile, Angel winked at him. “Just to
make sure you come back quickly,” he said, before disappearing down into
Xander stared after him, then laughed appreciatively. It looked
Angel could give as good as he got.
The dark-haired man swiftly made his way to the religious compound.
Once admitted, he requested an audience with the abbot who ran the monastery.
He was led to the man’s office, and left to fidget nervously and await
the abbot’s arrival. He jittered his way around the office, fighting
the urge to toy with the various objects on the desk.
When the door opened, he approached the lean old man entering with a
smile. “Hey, Pop.”
“Are you ever going to stop calling me that?” asked the abbot, an
exasperated smile on his face.
“Nope.” Xander was completely unrepentant. Ever since hearing
other monks refer to each other as ‘Brother’, he’d labeled the abbot
‘Pop’. The older man said he hated the nickname, but he always
with a grin.
“You have something to tell me?”
“Yeah. It’s pretty big.” Xander quickly outlined the situation,
nothing out. Well, almost nothing. He was fairly certain
that Pop didn’t
want to hear all about him and Angel.
When he was done, the abbot sat down behind his desk, eyes serious.
“You’re sure about this? The situation and Angel both?”
Xander nodded. “Too much fits together for the plot not to be
And I’m sure about Angel, too. Even JD says he’s fighting for
The abbot still looked a little skeptical, but he nodded. “I’ll
the others and tell them this, then. I assume you have something
“I’m going back to Angel’s. See if I can’t find out some more
information.” Not to mention trying to get some of his own back against
Angel. Maybe fit in some quality groping time, too.
Hey, all work, no play, yadda yadda.
“I’d fell better if you were here, protected.”
“Sorry, Pop. Can’t do it. I’ll be more useful outside, anyway.”
true. The brothers would be focusing on bolstering their magical
defenses, as well as maintaining their physical ones. Xander
had no real
talent for magic, so he’d be better off outside, exercising his talents
where they’d be most needed. Xander met his friend’s eyes.
the sentiment, though.”
“Be careful, Alexander. And thank you.”
Xander nodded, and left. Night had fallen while he was explaining
situation to the abbot, so he took extra care in crossing the city.
streets were strangely quiet, and the silence felt unnatural.
was up, and the city’s nocturnal denizens knew it.
Time was definitely running short.
When he reached the office, Angel opened the door before he could knock.
Xander restrained a smirk; it looked like the other man *had* been
thinking about him. Of course, he didn’t have any room to talk,
he’d practically run over to reach Angel, but still.
He could see Doyle and Cordelia within the office. Grinning, he
his lips across Angel’s cheek. “Miss me?” His gaze slid
just for a moment; Doyle was shaking his head, but with a smile on
face. Cordelia was staring, looking like someone had just told
the world didn’t revolve around her. He looked back at Angel,
innocently at him.
Angel’s sigh told him that the vampire knew what he had done.
The sudden grin and kiss in return were unexpected. Unexpected, but
Still standing close to Xander, Angel broke the kiss. “Of course.”
Xander laughed and walked into the office. “Hey, D.”
“Xander,” Doyle nodded at him, eyes sparkling with suppressed laughter.
“How did the monks take the news?”
“They’ll be ready. Did you guys find out anything?”
“Not really. The Oracles are being their usual inscrutable selves,
“And Xander just kissed Angel!” Cordelia broke in. “Did everyone
else not catch that?”
Doyle turned at blinked at her. “What about it?” His tone
surprise at her surprise.
She stared at him, then met the questioning looks of Xander and Angel
well. Xander knew Cordelia, even after all the years had past, he knew
that she hated to be left out, hated to be the last one to know something.
shock was slowly forced away, hidden behind a bright, false smile.
was just surprising, because...Angel isn’t really one for PDAs, that’s
“Ah,” Doyle said, accepting her explanation. He moved into the
office with Cordelia, and Xander motioned for Angel to precede him.
trailed after the vampire, just enjoying the view. Angel had
usual coat, so there was nothing but slacks obscuring the sight.
Once inside the office, Xander waited for Angel to sit down, and sat
beside him. He was tempted to park himself in Angel’s lap, but
work to do. He began to lay everything he knew out for the others,
bringing everyone up to speed. He concluded, saying, “So now
are working on sealing up any chinks that might exist in their defenses,
and getting ready to do battle if necessary.”
“It’s going to come down to a fight,” Angel agreed. He met Xander’s
and leaned toward him a little.
Xander decided scooting his chair closer to Angel was perfectly
acceptable. He had to be sure that he was hearing him all right, after
all. “It’s going to be bad. Don’t get me wrong, the brothers
baddest tonsure-wearing guys around, but I still would feel better
had some help.”
“It’s a good thing the Slayer’s in town, then, isn’t it?”
Xander jerked around in surprise. There, in the outer office,
group of people, with a blond girl slightly in front. Just behind
spotted a redhead he recognized.
“Willow?” he breathed, barely audible to himself.