Title: Not Just Another Human (formally known as Xander in LA)
Author:  Kay
Email:  kaygrr@hotmail.com
Website:  ssfdu.tripod.com/kay/journal.htm  (thank you Sandy <g>)
Archive:  Angelslash <g>  Anyone else, just ask.  I'm easy
Feedback:  Oh, please.  I have a specific happy dance just for 
Fandom:  Buffy:  the Vampire Slayer, and Angel the Series
Pairing:  Xander/Angel...some other implied things later
Rating:  NC-17

Disclaimer:  Buffy:  the Vampire Slayer and Angel the Series and the
characters of the show don't belong to me in anyway whatsoever.  I'm not
that lucky.  This story is written for enjoyment, not for profit.  Again,
I'm not that lucky.  Litigation would be a waste of time, people.  I'm a
member of the Starving Student Sect. Spoilers:  The first couple episodes
of Buffy, the general state of the characters in the last seasons of both
Buffy and Angel.  Except Doyle is alive...alive, damn it! Summery:  A year
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 the fic. 
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 right
after Buffy hit town?  And then the rabid plot bunny was off and running
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 title, 
the one I used when talking about this fic, and it won't die.  If 
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 without
you putting up with my constant tangenty conversations about Xander and
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 any 
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 holding his
facial muscles still, of forcing that rigid mask to stay in place, was
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, the
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 want 
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.  The
last few people he'd been sent to save hadn't even hung around long enough
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 those
two, was what he figured.  The other had been a man unlucky enough to be
cornered by a fledging vampire.  The young vampire hadn't been very
strong, but he'd been ravenous, and Angel was lucky to have gotten there
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."  She began 
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?"  With
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 parts 
of your anatomy with you as trophies."  The half-demon entered
the office fully, walking over to his customary chair and collapsing into it.

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 ago, when 
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 nothing.

Maybe it just wasn't supposed to work out. Whatever the reason, Doyle had
toned down his clumsy flirtation with the actress, instead settling for
casting longing looks after her every time she left on another date with
another man.

Angel sat down a short distance away.  He felt restless, the need to be
moving eating at him.  He shifted in his chair, trying to resist the urge
to pace.

Doyle watched him sympathetically.  "You're fidgeting a bit there."

"I just can't figure it out.  Your visions lately haven't made any 
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 off. 


The half-demon shook his head, then gasped, hands flying up to clutch at
his temples.  He writhed in his chair, caught in the grip of a visitation
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 they
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.  It's the 
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 going
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  concentration, 
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 even 
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."  He 
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 now
three in the morning, and dawn was less than two hours away.  The subject
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 the street
matched the description Doyle had given him.

He didn't just match it; he surpassed it.  A long leather duster was 
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 
shouldn't have.

The dark-haired man changed the trajectory of his walking, angling 
over toward Angel.  As he did so, his posture changed subtly:  his 
shoulders straightened, his arms swung a little more widely, and his whole
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 I want. 
It's what you might need."  Had his voice really come out that low?

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 other 
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 the 
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 the mortal's
jacket, and then he was reeling back, hands clutching at the cross-shaped
burn seared across his face.  Seconds later, he too was reduced to little
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 the ground,
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 must be 
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 that.

"So since it's such a bad neighborhood, you should probably stay out of
it."  The mortal started to walk away.  He tossed over his shoulder, "It
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 on
his upper arm brought him back to himself.  He looked down at Doyle. 

"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.  Nothing 
about why the visions were concentrating on this area, nothing about what
he was supposed to be doing.  Nothing.  And now he had another problem.

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 anyone
else's?  What was it that made his laughter sound so wonderful? How was
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 destination
might be a sanctuary, but he was still out on the street.  It would be
embarrassing to be killed so close to safety.

He strode quickly up to the gate, pulling out a key as he approached.  A
few quick movements, and he had unlocked the massive lock and passed
through the gate.  As always, he shivered a little as he stepped onto the
threshold, aware of a subtle, questing probing from a massive force.  As
he was locking the gate from the inside, he heard something move behind

He froze.  “Uh, Brother Thom?  It’s me, Xander.  No spilling innocent
blood, remember?  You do that, and the Pope will take away your toys.”

“I’m not sure which is more amusing:  the thought that the Pope would
interfere with our guardianship, or that you are in any way innocent.”

“Hey!”  Xander turned around, but didn’t voice his objection any further.
When confronted by a man wielding a crossbow with a sword strapped to his
back, it didn’t matter if that man also sported a tonsure:  monk or no
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, after all.”
Thom grinned.  “How was work?”

“Work was work.”  He shrugged.  “I heard that there’s a tribe of Notal
demons moving through the city.  I haven’t come across them before, but
the Dankh talking about them seemed fairly nervous.  I think I’ll do some
reading up on them.  Who’s in the library tonight?”_ “Joseph, I believe.” 
Thom shifted the crossbow in his arms.  “So no excitement tonight?  It’s
been quiet here, too.”

“There was a little on the way home.”


“Major excitement.”

“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 at
the monk.

“Please, Alexander.  Spare me the details.  That was the excitement?”

“Well, that and the two vampires I dusted.”  He winked at Thom.  “But I
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, a
massive compound built of thick stone, surrounded by high walls and iron
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 close

In the heart of the main building, he came to a small, unassuming door,
guarded by two men, both carrying large, prepossessing arsenals.  “Hey,
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 show me
where the dirty books section is.  That’s the only reason I can figure for
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 so boring,
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 stood in
ordered ranks on pristine shelves, stretching from one dimly lit corner of
the enormous underground room to the other.  Other sets of shelves
contained all sorts of other objects:  weapons and statues and jewels 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 them,
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 the
hairs on the back of his neck rising, along with those on his arms.  There
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 in
front of him.  He looked up as Xander approached.  “Ah, Alexander.  What
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 the cards

“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 out of
place,” the monk countered.  “Too young.”  A few minutes more of
searching, and then he said, “I’ve found it.”  He glanced up at Xander. 
“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 volume
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 was a
collection of small bedrooms that shared a common bathroom.  He entered
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.  He
glanced at his walls.  There were a few movie posters up, along with a
couple for bands he liked.  He had a stereo, but no TV.  With clothing
strewn around the room and clutter filling up all available surfaces, he
figured it looked like a normal room.  Really, it was just like he was
living in a dorm.  Only his neighbors never woke him up with loud drunken

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 books out
from under a pile of clothing.  It was near the end of the semester, so
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, but
there was no time.  His first class started at eight, and he’d be cutting
it close to finish all his reading before then.

It wasn’t a bad schedule.  He worked from about ten until three in the
morning, then came home and studied.  After then, he was in class for
three hours starting at eight.  That left him with enough time to sleep
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 book for
one of his law classes and began to read.  It was slow going; he was

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 he
skulking in the shadows?  He pictured him again in his mind:  tall and
dark, with strong regular features, handsome and mysterious.  His eyes
were so dark, so compelling.  They were wise and despairing and hopeful
and confused all at the same time, inviting Xander to come closer, stare
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 fail his

He smiled a little.  Nope, he didn’t believe that threat; he’d have to
come up with something else.  The brothers cared about him.  Ever since
he’d run into two of them during a battle with a Cralt demon that had gone
bad, they’d been intent on taking care of him.  That had been four years
ago, and he was grateful every night that he came home to his room that
he’d met them.  Once they’d found out that he was involved the nonhuman
culture of LA, they’d taken him in, trying to give him some measure of
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 his
life on his own terms, understanding rather than condemning his
differences from them.  The fact that they’d become a surrogate family to
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.  He could
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 any time


“Seriously, Angel.  I’m sure I could be doing more good back at the
office.  I could be online, looking up the history of that section of
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.  “I need
to you to come with me, Doyle.  Besides, Cordelia invited both of us.”

“Yeah, well, I’m sure she wouldn’t notice if I didn’t show up.”  The
half-demon gave up on pleading, and sank down into the passenger seat of
Angel’s car.  “Like she really wants me anywhere near a party she’s at.”

“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 to change
that.  He understood how Doyle felt, and sympathized, but this was
business.  The law student Cordelia was dating had told her about seeing
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 it.
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, the
fact that they still hadn’t figured out what the Oracles’ interest was in
that one section of the city was making Angel crazy, and this would be a
good distraction.

Not that he needed another distraction.  With a resigned sigh, Angel felt
his thoughts drift back to the encounter in the alley two weeks ago.  Once
more, every detail was lovingly recreated by his memory:  the steady, sure
gait of the stranger; the fear and determination on his face as he faced
the vampires; the hidden depths in his eyes, covered by a veneer of humor.

With a determined shake of his head, Angel pulled his attention back to
the coming meeting.  “We won’t be at the party for that long,” he
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 fearless
heroes of Angel Investigations.”

“There’s going to be free beer,” Angel said.  “That’s the one thing that
never changes about college parties:  there’s always lots of free beer.”

“American beer,” the green-eyed man groused, but there was a slight smile
on his lips.

Angel relaxed.  He didn’t want to upset his friend, but he really needed
him. The vampire was still uneasy when confronted with large groups of
mortals, thrown completely out of his element.  Doyle’s presence would
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 guess she
does.”  He led the way to the front door, then waited for Doyle to enter
the open doorway.

The Irishman grinned at him.  “Why don’t I go check out the bar, and you
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 a little.
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 in
this crowd.

Luckily, she found them.  “Angel, Doyle,” she called, making her way
through the milling mass of people.  A tall young man followed in her
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 man behind
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 it’s
beginning to freak me out a little.  But before we get into that, there’s
something I need to check on.  Can I get you a drink before we talk?”

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 his throat.
“Some of the people here are underage, so that makes things sticky.  I
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 easier than
the version offered at the U, so my friends and I enrolled in it.  He
always shows up at eight in the morning, reeking of cigarette smoke and
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 he’s even
twenty-one yet.  But he said he could handle the job, and I figured why
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 out
yet. I want to see how he’s doing.  If it’s really pathetic, maybe I’ll
have someone videotape it, or something.  Even if he’s half-way good,
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 be, Chad
was an asshole.  Only the fact that Cordelia had asked them to help was
preventing the vampire from walking out. 

Once they reached downstairs, Chad froze, forcing the rest of them to stop
as well.  Angel and Doyle stepped around the college student, wanting to
see what had surprised him.  When Angel realized what he was seeing, he
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 in
an inviting grin, he was holding court behind a temporary bar, ruling over
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 paper
that no doubt contained phone numbers.  He flirted with everyone, men and
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 seeing
the brown-eyed man came rushing back, stronger than ever.  The vampire
fought the urge to push his way through the crowd and reach the bar, to
gain the attention of the bartender and learn more about him.  Learn
everything about him.

In a distant way, he was aware of some of the techniques the bartender was
using in order to hold the attention of the people watching him.  The
dark-haired man often moved as though to touch a customer, but his hand
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 on
theirs.  The bartender also spoke in a low voice, inviting people to lean
in and listen closely.  Pair that with the intense, direct eye contact
with which he gifted them, and how could anyone resist him?

“What the fuck?”  Chad’s unbelieving oath surprised Angel, enough so that
he was able to pull his eyes away from the young man.  He shook his head. 
What was it about him?  How could the mere sight of him effect him so

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.  “What?”

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 place I
used to drop by, before I got rather unwelcome in certain circles, on
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?  Quiet,
well-run, popular.  But not only is it near the area we’ve been having
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 - The Other

Angel nodded slowly.  He had heard of the bar, although he had never been
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 he had
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 be
flashed, charm ready to be turned on.  So far, tonight had been very
profitable; he’d made more in tips then he usually did at The Other Side.
Considering that he had only taken this job as a cover for doing recon on
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 this
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 he looked.

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 over his
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.  He froze
as he stared into familiar dark eyes.  Familiar, because he’d been
daydreaming over them for weeks, ever since seeing them one night in an
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 toward
him, an answering smile on his face.  “Not right now,” he repeated, “but
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 was a
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 for his
fantasy file, he was getting another chance to build up his memories of
this guy, but outside of his solitary sexual adventures, it was no good.

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 to
know them before they started to follow him.  And then he shows up here,
in a house that Xander had plans for. 

Damn it.  And Angel just kept getting more attractive every time he saw
him. Life just wasn’t fair. 

Deciding it was time for a break, Xander slipped out from behind the bar
and made his way over to the storage room where the reserve alcohol was
being stored.  Once he had some privacy, he pulled out his cell phone.

After dialing, he waited impatiently for the other line to pick up.  “Come
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 on the
other end.

“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 who’s been
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.  He’d
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.  Word
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 been in
LA for a year now, basically kicking Evil’s ass.  I can’t believe you
don’t know this.  He created that blond psychopath you keep dragging into
my bar.//

Xander laughed incredulously.  “He’s JD’s Sire?”  Come to think of it,
Angel did look like he had brooding tendencies.  He grinned.  “Guess it’s
a good thing JD always calls him ‘great bleeding pouf’, eh?  Means I’ve
got a chance.”

//That’s my boy - think with the wrong head.//  Sarcasm and concern were
equally strong in Tark’s voice.

“I’ve got it under control,” Xander assured him, sobering quickly.  “You
stay out of this - I don’t want you involved.”  It was one thing to risk
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.  Later.”  He
hung up swiftly, and tucked away his cell phone. 

A souled vampire?  Xander had heard of stranger things.  It explained why
Angel hadn’t tried to rip out his throat when they’d met before.  And he
was on a crusade against Evil?  Things were definitely looking better. 
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 that
Angel was still there.  The vampire was talking to the green-eyed man, and
to another man and a girl.  Xander groaned quietly as he recognized Chad: 
the guy was a prick, and Xander hated having to take this job.  There was
no other way to get such easy access to the house, though, so he’d just
have to put up with him.  Smiling at Angel and his friend, he spread his
hands.  “What can I do for you?”

“You can keep your ass behind that bar, Harris,” Chad said.  “I’m not
paying you to bother my friends; I’m paying you to work.”  The girl with
him laughed, but her eyes were uneasy.  Angel and the Irishman looked
definitely unamused.

Xander had a brief internal debate with himself.  He could throttle the
jerk; there were other ways to get into the house.  He fought down the
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 to
squeeze more money out of Chad?  How low can you get?”  There was
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 as you
can get, and extortion is just the lowest.”

Yeah, Angel was definitely fighting laughter, and the green-eyed man had
completely lost the battle.  “Sometimes, Cordy...” the Irishman said,
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 from his
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 Willow?

Xander turned to the person standing next to the Irishman, who wasn’t a
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 would
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 were
things she was leaving out.  Since she’d gone to school on the Hellmouth,
there was no telling what she might have been editing out of her

Xander’s worry grew.  What had he abandoned Willow to?  He forced his
concern down.  There was no changing the past.  He had to get through
tonight, and get out of there with everything he came for.  After that was
done, he could worry himself into an ulcer.  Still, Xander couldn’t help
but subtly force the conversation to stay on the topic of high school, no
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 party
began to wind down, dying the mysterious natural death that was the end of
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 a wad
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 when
you’ve moved yourself out of here, so he can lock up.”  He glanced at
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 you

“It’s up on the second floor,” the student said.  “But we can’t go up
there.” He turned his attention to his lingering guests, chatting idly as
he wished them good night.

The vampire restrained an impatient sigh, but barely.  He didn’t want to
listen to more vacuous conversation between Chad and his friends; he
wanted to get down to business. More honestly, he wanted to finish with
business, so he could get over to The Other Side as soon as possible. 
Angel found this mildly surprising, and a little alarming.  He hadn’t felt
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.  This
was simpler, purer.  It was attraction, lust and interest, nothing more.

Nothing less.  It had possibilities, and Angel hadn’t felt such hope for
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 of
attraction was clean, exciting.  He felt alive again, and never more so
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 in that
way, and it’s never going to happen.  The way to do it is through the

“The window?”

“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.  “Hey, I
was curious about what was in there.  And after what I’ve started seeing,
I’m even more curious.  I just don’t want to go in on my own any more.” 
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 as
Chad wandered off to talk to other people.  He grabbed Cordelia’s arm
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, too.”

Angel gave up and released her arm.  There was no point to arguing.  He
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.  He pointed
to a window on the second floor, overshadowed by the branches of the tree
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 me that
you guys deal with crazy everyday.”

“Oh, yeah,” Doyle said.  He held up his hand and crossed his fingers.  “Us
and crazy?  We’re like *this*.”

The student shot him a strange glance, and then continued.  “I’ve seen
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.”  He stopped

“Don’t look right how?” Angel prompted.

“I never see them clearly; usually they show up late at night, and I catch
sight of them by accident.  But sometimes they’re too tall, or their legs
don’t bend right.  A couple of times, I think I’ve seen people with horns,
or with scales instead of skin.”  He laughed shakily.  “Crazy, right?”_
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 mentioned
will be coming by tonight?”

“No.  My parents are out of town, and I’ve only ever seen them when my
dad’s ar-”  His words broke off abruptly, and he pointed over Angel’s
shoulder, toward the window.  “There!  Look!”

Angel turned, and watched as green light pulsed rhythmically on the other
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 it was. 
He started to walk toward the tree.

A hand on his shoulder stopped him.  “Where are you going?” Chad asked.

“You wanted me to take a look at the weird shit, right?  I’m going to take
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.  Before he
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, opened
from inside.  A dark figure slid smoothly out of the small opening, arms
outstretched.  A short burst of energy, and the figure was hanging by one
hand from a tree branch.  With the other, the stranger closed the window. 
That done, the figure, wrapped in a long coat, began to swing back and
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 tumbling
forward, rolling onto his shoulder and smoothly rising back to his feet.

One hand clasping a sleek automatic pistol, Harris stared at the four
people facing him, one eyebrow raised.  “So, what did you think?  9.8? 
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 on?

“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 an

“What’s the gun for?”  Trust Doyle to get right to the point.  Angel was
grateful that the half-demon asked, since he couldn’t seem to make himself
react, beyond staring at the bartender.

“Protection.  I’m carrying quite a bit of cash on me, and I feel better
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 along home.”
 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 just go.”

Cordelia shook her head.  “That gun isn’t going to do you any good.  Angel
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 at
her. “This gun isn’t for Angel, Cordelia.”  His free hand dipped inside
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.  A
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 of you. 
The bullets are for anyone else who might be feeling muscular.  Of course,
I don’t know if even silver bullets can stop a ravening cheerleader, but I
won’t have find out if you all just get out of the way.”  He tilted his
head to one side, waiting for an answer.  His dark hair and duster were
stirred gently by the night’s breeze, and his skin stood out, pale and lit
by moonlight.  His hands were steady, their aim unwavering as he pointed
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,” he clarified.

Damnit.  Angel watched as Harris’s gaze moved past him, and the human
relaxed slightly, his posture becoming less rigid.  That meant he
recognized the new arrivals. 

The sound of engines didn’t end; the vehicles idled.  “Hey, Xan!” called a
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.  “I’ll be
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, carefully
keeping them covered with both weapons as he did so. 

Angel turned with him, maintaining eye contact.  He only looked away to
see who the new arrivals were.  One eyebrow climbed upward in surprise. 
Seven Klortor demons in two cars and a van were watching them. 
Interesting friends Harris had.  While not aggressive, Klortors were
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 OK,

“I’m fine.”  With a final look at Angel, Harris climbed into the front
seat of one of the cars.  Within moments, all the vehicles were gone. 

“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.  “Who
cares who his father is?  Why are you listening to that guy?  What the
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,” she said


***Spoilers for the first two episodes of Buffy***

Xander pulled himself up on top of the bar, sitting cross-legged with a
stack of papers in his lap.  He hadn’t had a chance to read them in the
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 something to
clear up with his boss.  “Tark?”

The big man behind the bar looked up.  Except for the smooth protrusion of
bone in the center of his forehead, he looked like a massively muscled
human. “What?”

“Why did the Klortors show up at the party?”  Xander cocked his head to
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 get one,
I got a whole damn tribe.”

Tark stepped closer, crossing his arms over his chest.  “The way I hear
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 be, what
with him pointing a gun at his latest lust object, and all.  Xander hoped
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 weapons.

“Never doubted it, Xan.  I just worry.”  The tall demon smirked.  “Do you
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 an
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 him
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 hungry,
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 on
his own.  Still, he didn’t have any trouble telling himself that he’d done
the right thing.

He closed his eyes against the memory rising up within him, knowing that
it would do no good.  It was fruitless denial; the memory would never
leave him, he knew it.

Once again, he is back in the Bronze, facing Jesse.  Staring down his best
friend, a stake pointed squarely at the other boy’s chest.  Feeling
disbelief as Jesse is pushed forward.  The sickening sensation of weight
and resistance as the wood slides into Jesse’s chest.  The incredulous
look in Jesse’s eyes, just before he transforms.  The barely-there brush
of dust against his skin as the remains of his friend drift down to the

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 best friend,
his brother, his refuge, was gone.  Who was he going to hang out with? 
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 fear and
sorrow were threatening to overwhelm him.  Predictably, his brain dredged
up a new question for him:  what if the same thing happened to Willow?

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.  When
he’d finally stopped dry heaving, he sank down onto the floor, laying his
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 the other
way, and she had to kill him, he couldn’t do it, couldn’t cause her pain
like that.

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 a
good-bye/apology letter in Willow’s mailbox on his way.  In LA, he was
alone, with no hope for help from anyone.  His first few nights in
homeless shelters had been enough to send him back out on the streets.  He
was running out of options; he was too young to work, and he didn’t know
what else to do.  Still, he felt better.

In his mind, he might starve, but at least there weren’t any demons in LA.

He had to learn to stop listening to his mind.

He was currently cowering in an alley because he’d spotted a vampire in
full game face a few blocks away.  He’d run away, hoping that he’d moved
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 lips
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 to be.

He wasn’t going to get any of that, but he could at least make sure he
died on his feet, instead of hiding behind a dumpster.  Pulling out the
stake he’d carried with him ever since the Bronze as a sort of penance, he

At the mouth of the alley, backlit by the street light, stood the vampire.
Yellow eyes stared at him.  “Are you through running?  This is getting

“Through running?  I’m just getting started.”  Xander sprinted toward the
vampire, stake held low and ready at his side.  He plowed into the
startled vampire, knocking him back into the street.  Before the demon
could react, Xander plunged the stake into his chest, dusting him

Panting, Xander could hardly believe he was still alive.  For that reason,
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 man
holding onto him, not even really reacting much to the odd thing on his

“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 Xander
inside, then propelled him into a chair.  “Stay there until I figure out
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, and he
realized he was in a bar.  A rundown, empty bar, but it was definitely a

A bar with a scaly blue bartender. 

The guy who grabbed him off the street leaned across the bar.  “Hey,
Jlarn? Fix me a White Russian.”

The blue guy stared at him for a second, then scuttled away and began to
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?”

Xander shrugged. 

“How did you learn how to do that?”

Xander shrugged again.  He really didn’t feel obligated to tell this guy
about his parents, about the way they’d get drunk and force him to read
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 other

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 refocused his
attention on Xander.  “What do you say?  You don’t look like you’ve got
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.”

*****Present Day*****

Tark had taken good care of him over the years.  It hadn’t been an
auspicious beginning, but the deal had worked out well for both of them. 
Tark got a popular bartender, and Xander got a job, place to live, and
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 to
fight *by* them.  The Klortor tribe that had come after him tonight had
sparred with him on several occasions; he was no Slayer, but he could hold
his own.

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 his brow.

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.

But what?


Angel paced impatiently back and forth, prowling around the desk at which
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 out.

Which left him pacing and staring at the long-haired woman, willing her to
hurry up and tell him what she knew. 

Cordelia, steadfastly ignoring him, continued her conversation.  “No,
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.”  She was
silent for a long time.  “Yes, that’s what I thought, too.  Here, I’m
going to let you talk to Angel.  His busy trying to glare a hole into my
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 phone
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 couple of

Speaking quickly, Willow told him about Xander and Jesse, and the
circumstances of Jesse’s death.  //We were close, but Xander and Jesse
were inseparable.  He seemed all right after all that happened at the
Bronze, but that night he disappeared.  Xander left me a letter before he
disappeared, telling me that he was sorry, but he couldn’t take it any
more, that he had to get away.//  She drew in a shuddering breath.  //If
that’s really him...oh, God, Angel.  What if it’s really him?  I haven’t
heard from him since he left. I’m coming up there.  I need to see him.//

Angel hesitated.  “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea, Willow.  I
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, Angel. 
I have to know he’s all right.//

“I’ll let you know as soon as I find anything out, all right?”  He said
good-bye, and hung up the phone.  He looked over at Cordelia.  “You
remember this Xander, too?”

“Oh, yeah.  Complete and total loser.  He ran away during high school.” 
She shrugged a little.  “I really didn’t pay much attention - Willow was
the one who missed him, and talked about him sometimes.  That’s the only
reason I recognized the name.”  She pursed her lips speculatively.  “He
certainly doesn’t look like I remember.  He grew up nicely.”

Angel fought down a surge of jealously.  It was unreasonable.  It was

Xander was *his*.

Shaking his head hard, Angel was distracted when Doyle hunched over and
collapsed into a chair.

“Shit,” the half-demon spat out, even as he began to jerk.  “Aspirin, damn

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 longer,
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 the
favor, like.”

“What did you see?” Cordelia asked, handing him the aspirin and a glass of

“Not much.  No people, no action, just a building.  That big monastery on
the east side.”

“The same east side where all your other visions have taken us?”  Angel
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 to his
feet. “Guess we should get going.”

“No, you stay here.”  Angel needed a chance to be alone, to get his head
straight.  He was too caught up in Xander, in trying to figure out the
other man.  He had to get away, and force himself back to thinking about

“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 to
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 reason
for him to be a part of things.  Catching his thoughts as they began to
wander, Angel forced them back onto the problem, but didn’t come to any

At the walls surrounding the religious compound, Angel paused.  He could
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, and there
was no telling what the wards would do to him if he did manage to cross
the threshold. 

On his second circuit around the walls, he heard a noise behind him.  He
slid into the shadows and traced his way back.  The gate of the monastery
was open, and someone was standing just outside of it, talking to a hooded
monk inside. Someone in a leather jacket, with dark hair falling in his


Angel leaned closer, grateful for vampiric hearing as he eavesdropped

“Alexander,” the monk said.  “I didn’t expect to see you again tonight.”

Xander shrugged.  “I canceled the sparring session.  I’ve got some
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 out of.”

The dark-haired man grinned at him.  “You’re just hoping that someday I’ll
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 for help.”

“I’ll be here.”  The cowled man stood aside, and allowed Xander to pass
through the gate, before swinging the massive iron bars shut and locking
it once more.  Xander disappeared into the compound, and the monk went
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 three
times. Too many to be coincidence, but what did it mean?

During his fourth circuit, he began to lose hope.  The vampire had
half-convinced himself that he just had to go to The Other Side the next
night, and question Xander there.  The plan sounded good, so he turned to

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 of his
mouth.  “You seemed rather lost in thought,” he offered.  His expression
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.  “This
might sound a little strange, but bear with me, all right?”  He explained
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 do here.”

“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 know?”

“That you were here?  As unbelievable as it may seem, attractive men don’t usually prowl around this place.  I mean, besides the usual hordes,
desperate to catch a glance of me.  You got noticed.”

Angel didn’t bother to fight his smile.  “No.  That I’m a vampire.”

“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 the subject
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 helpful.
There are whole books about you.  I know - I read most of them last night
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 were
still on the side of the, well, angels.”  He firmed his grip on the weapon
he held once more.

Angel felt despair twist through him.  Xander knew about his time as
Angelus; there was no hope, then.  How could anyone get around his
vampirism and his evil past both?  “Not Angelus,” he promised softly.

“Good.  I don’t really think I’d want to meet him.  All instability and
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 the
welcoming glint in his eye.

The vampire couldn’t believe it.  Xander was still interested in him, even
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 I don’t
want to stake you.  I can think of plenty of other things to do to you
that would be far more fun.”  Xander’s gaze wandered down Angel’s body,
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 come later.
“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 did.”

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 from
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 was
pressing threateningly into his chest. 

“How do you know Willow?” Xander demanded, eyes narrowed with renewed suspicion.


Xander pressed forward with his stake; just a little, though.  Just enough
to get his intentions across.  “How do you know Willow?” he repeated. 

It didn’t matter how nicely things had been progressing with Angel.  It
didn’t matter how nice the vampire looked in leather.  Angel had said
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, voice

“I think you’d better, don’t you?”  Xander held himself ready.

“I met Willow in Sunnydale.  I moved there six years ago, waiting for the
Slayer to show up.”  The vampire quietly explained how he had helped the
Slayer, and her friends. 

Xander stared down at the man beneath him.  He could hardly believe what
he was hearing.  He knew Willow would stand by a friend, but the point of
facing down creatures of evil?  Battling to stop the apocalypse?  Becoming
a witch?

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 move to
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 in
their hidden pockets within his duster.  He sat back, so he was sitting on
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.  Right. 
“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 or
not. It had been a long time...what if she hated him?  What if he’d
changed so much that she couldn’t like him anymore?  “I’ll think about

“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 did
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 pleasure
later. “I told you, he works for Wolfram and Hart.”

“But why does that make any difference to you?  I know who they are; I’ve
gone up against them several times.  But you, you’re a...”

“Bartender?” Xander helpfully supplied.  “In a demon bar, remember?  I
have friends who’ve been hurt by them, screwed over by them.  I know
they’re evil; I think they’re a bigger threat then most people give them
credit for.”

“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 weird
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 he watched
Angel nod slowly.  The demons he had named were traditionally enemies,
more likely to try to dismember each other on sight instead of talking. 

He continued with his explanation.  “The humans the vampires were with
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.”  Xander
winked at him, then sobered.  “The papers I got out of the office clinched
it. They describe a bunch of treaties between the different tribes of demons,
all mediated by Wolfram and Hart.  To go through all that negotiation, they
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 take
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 being
out and all, I’ve got some free time on my hands.  I need something to
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 a degree
in criminology. If I decide to take that route, it’d be nice to see what
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 suppressing
his laughter.  Could he throw any more low-grade innuendo into his pitch? 
“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 you tomorrow.
Where’s your office?”  After Angel gave him directions, Xander laughed. 
“I can’t wait.  I’m finally going to get to see if all those stories about
you are true.”  He knew Angel was interested, that he didn’t have to tease
him anymore, but it was too much fun to stop.  Baiting the vampire was
turning out to be almost as much fun as the other plans Xander had for

“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 place.  Once
I get a couple of shots into JD, he loosens up and starts talking.  He
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, British,
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 yelp.



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 coffee
brew, wanting it to be just right.

Xander would be there soon.  Xander, the source and cause of the trouble
in which Angel found himself.  Xander, the person who had been the focus
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 the
complicated documents; the mortal had put the legal courses he’d taken to
good use.

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 intense
regret as the other man disappeared into the night.  Fortunately, Xander
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 he
shook his head.  He’d been getting distracted far too easily, lately. 
True, he had been working hard on the question of what the treaties could
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 thing
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 else.

Like the way Xander could always make him laugh.  The bartender cracked
jokes constantly: sly one-liners, satirical asides, and sarcastic
comments.  There was a dark edge to his humor, an acknowledgment of the
presence of death and danger in his life, but it was tempered with a
sincere enjoyment of life.  It reminded Angel of Buffy and her friends,
and saddened him: as he had watched, they’d slowly lost that spark Xander
still had, giving themselves over to the darkness that the young man still
resisted.  Sometimes Angel thought that was part of what made him leave
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.  But
that could wait - right now he had to get Xander’s coffee ready, so it
would be waiting for him.  Angel was determined to find out how the
bartender knew Spike, and he figured coffee could help convince the other
man to talk.  Xander loved coffee, and would do anything for
it...including talk.

As Angel finished adding sugar and cream, transforming the coffee into a
light brown sweet concoction, the door to the office opened.  Xander
stepped inside, glancing about the room eagerly.  When his gaze fell on
Angel, a wide grin stretched his lips. “Angel, hey.”

“Hey,” Angel said back, holding out the steaming mug of coffee.  Xander
took it from him and sipped at it, an expression of bliss crossing his
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 been
wondering how long it was going to take for you to ask that.”  He walked
over to Angel’s chair and sat down in, making himself comfortable.  With a
rueful shake of his head, Angel settled in another chair.

The bartender sipped his coffee.  “I met JD about four years ago.  He was
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 shot
after shot of Jack Daniels, and complained about his girlfriend leaving
him.  I’d just had a break-up, so I commiserated.  We got talking, and
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 of jealousy. 
Just how close were Xander and Spike? 

“I guess.  It doesn’t make any sense to me, but that’s why I’m not
involved with either of them.  Getting between crazy vampires is high up
on my list of nevers.”  Xander smirked.  “He also tells great stories
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, as though
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 crazy
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 Cordelia
showing up; with Xander spending so much time at the office, the actress
was only putting in the absolute minimum of appearances herself.  She and
Xander still didn’t get along, bickering and mocking each other as if they
were still in high school; apparently, neither one of them was willing to
forgive and forget the past.  Doyle and Xander got along just fine,

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 me a
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 backwards.

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.  Xander
flirted with everyone; it was a game to him.  A game that was slowly
making Angel crazy, but still just a game.  He couldn’t go locking his
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,” Angel
said shortly, heading for the stairs.  Xander was right behind him.

Doyle was sitting at the kitchen table, massaging his temples.  “I swear
to God, one day I’m going after the Oracles with a shovel.”

Angel gathered up the usual post-vision supplies.  “What did you see?” 

“Some sort of demon.  Didn’t recognize it.  It was in a warehouse, the one
where we cleaned out that Krill nest - on the east side.”

Of course.  Everything happened on the east side.  “How much time?”

“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 are so
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 means it’s
like the other visions, which means it’s about Wolfram and Hart.”  He
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 to
do today, kicking it isn’t one of them.”  Despite the joke, his eyes were
intent, serious.

“Fine,” Angel said. “Let’s go.”  He led the way, with Xander close behind.
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 risk
to Angel.  Strangely, the center of the warehouse had been obviously swept
clean of dust and dirt.  The three men spread out cautiously, looking for
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 is
motivation to remember.  This is the place,” Doyle shot back snarkily.

Before Angel could try to break them up, the demons rushed them from out
of the darkness.  Angel struck the one that went after him with a
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 and
knocking him to the ground.  As he fell, he saw Doyle go down as well. 
And Xander...

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; the
creatures were stronger than he, and seemed impervious to his blows.  The
vampire could feel himself weakening, and he was nearly frantic with worry for Doyle.  He doggedly fought on, refusing to give up or give in.

Something dry and scratchy hit him in the back of the neck, and struck his
opponents in their faces.  Angel ignored it, continuing to fight.  The
demons, however, reacted:  they leapt backwards, clapping their hands over
their extraordinarily-sized noses.  Another gust of the something struck
Angel and the demons once more, and the creatures actively began to

The vampire risked a glance back over his shoulder.  Xander stood there,
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 its

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 the hell
was that?”

Xander grinned.  “Aletas.  Bastards are damn near invincible, except for
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 run
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
believe it.”

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 to
Xander, streaking his face and coating his hair.  Under the smell of dust,
he could smell Xander, smell his adrenaline and heat, the excitement from
the encounter still unfaded. 

“I’m just glad I recognized them.  They-”  Angel stopped his explanation
with a kiss.  Xander responded eagerly, hot mouth seeking Angel’s cool
lips.  The vampire could taste coffee, and some sort of confection, but
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’re rare;
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 recognize
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 in
front of him and the delicious interrogation he was conducting.  To help
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, tracing
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 them
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 body
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.  His
hands mapped Xander’s back, his shoulders, the back of his neck.  The
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 library,
filled with all sorts of demony things.”  Xander leaned forward.  Just as
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 didn’t I
think of that before?”  He stopped, and glanced down at his arms around
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 kiss to
Angel’s lips.

“What’s important is that I know what Wolfram and Hart are up to.  I know
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, the
way he moved against Xander when he pulled him closer...

Xander shook his head.  There, he was at it again:  completely distracted
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 only one
feeling so affected.

A strangled snort behind him drew his attention.  Xander turned, and
caught Doyle laughing openly at him. 

“You’re distracted?  You don’t say!”  The Irishman shook his head and

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 by his
shoes or something; it’s not like I’m Cordelia.”  He grinned at the way
Doyle snickered at the jab toward the cheerleader.  He wasn’t sure what
lay between Doyle and Cordelia, but since he really hadn’t had any reason
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 to
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 this worthwhile? 
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 and by
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 sort of
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 for
centuries, making sure they stay out of the wrong hands.”

He glanced at Angel.  “You’ve been to the compound; you’ve felt the
warding spells that surround it.  There’s no way that a single demon bent
on theft could make it through.  I bet that Wolfram and Hart has found a
way to get around it, but that it takes all those different demons in
order to implement their plan.”

Angel nodded slowly.  “That makes sense.  It would be a good reason for
such a large-scale effort.”

Xander felt a flush of pleasure; Angel agreed with him.  He was sure he
was right, but it was nice to have confirmation.  The fact that Angel
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 when
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; I
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.  Sorry. 
It’s worth both our lives if anyone finds out, and I’m not going to risk
it.  No matter how much I trust you.”

Angel nodded slowly.  “I can understand that.  How soon can you contact
your source?”

“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; the
brothers made sure of that.  I’ll have to go topside.”

Doyle squinted up at the dust-smeared windows.  “The sun’s still up.”

“So you two go back to the office, and I’ll see you back there.”  He
grinned. “I’m a big boy.  I’ll be fine.”

“You’d better be,” Angel muttered.  His gaze was warm as he stared at

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 make sure
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 lips moved
against his as Angel gave in and responded eagerly. 

After a long, leisurely exploration, Xander pulled back.  He smiled into
Angel’s eyes.  “Just wanted to be sure you were thinking about me while I
was gone.”

“Like I’ve been thinking about anything else since meeting you,” Angel
said softly.

Wow.  The man had learned some nice lines in his hundreds of years.  It
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 the
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 the
underground tunnels.

Xander stared after him, then laughed appreciatively.  It looked like
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 all the
other monks refer to each other as ‘Brother’, he’d labeled the abbot as
‘Pop’.  The older man said he hated the nickname, but he always said it
with a grin.

“You have something to tell me?”

“Yeah.  It’s pretty big.”  Xander quickly outlined the situation, leaving
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 aimed here.
And I’m sure about Angel, too.  Even JD says he’s fighting for the light

The abbot still looked a little skeptical, but he nodded.  “I’ll convene
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.”  It was
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.  “I appreciate
the sentiment, though.”

“Be careful, Alexander.  And thank you.”

Xander nodded, and left.  Night had fallen while he was explaining the
situation to the abbot, so he took extra care in crossing the city.  The
streets were strangely quiet, and the silence felt unnatural.  Something
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, since
he’d practically run over to reach Angel, but still.

He could see Doyle and Cordelia within the office.  Grinning, he brushed
his lips across Angel’s cheek.  “Miss me?”  His gaze slid past Angel’s
just for a moment; Doyle was shaking his head, but with a smile on his
face.  Cordelia was staring, looking like someone had just told her that
the world didn’t revolve around her.  He looked back at Angel, and blinked
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 delicious. 
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-”

“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 indicated
surprise at her surprise.

She stared at him, then met the questioning looks of Xander and Angel as
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.  Her
shock was slowly forced away, hidden behind a bright, false smile.  “It
was just surprising, because...Angel isn’t really one for PDAs, that’s

“Ah,” Doyle said, accepting her explanation.  He moved into the inner
office with Cordelia, and Xander motioned for Angel to precede him.  He
trailed after the vampire, just enjoying the view.  Angel had shed his
usual coat, so there was nothing but slacks obscuring the sight.

Once inside the office, Xander waited for Angel to sit down, and sat down
beside him.  He was tempted to park himself in Angel’s lap, but there was
work to do.  He began to lay everything he knew out for the others,
bringing everyone up to speed.  He concluded, saying, “So now the monks
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 gaze,
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 are the
baddest tonsure-wearing guys around, but I still would feel better if we
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, stood a
group of people, with a blond girl slightly in front.  Just behind her, he
spotted a redhead he recognized.

“Willow?” he breathed, barely audible to himself.


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