Angel stood up, fast.  He hadn’t expected Buffy to show up; he’d thought
Willow had taken his advice to wait.  Apparently, her need to see Xander
was too strong.  He really couldn’t blame her; after meeting Xander,
nothing could’ve kept him away, either.

He watched as Xander stood up and took a slow step toward the group from Sunnydale.  “Willow?” Xander repeated, his voice stronger.  “Is that
really you?”

Willow stepped around Buffy, ignoring the blond girl’s small head shake.
“Yeah.  It’s me.  Is it you?”

Xander looked down at himself, and grinned.  “I sure as hell hope so.” 
And then they were hugging and laughing, with suspicious shines in their

Angel watched the reunion with a smile; he had his own demons, and he
could guess how Xander’s must have troubled him.  Reluctantly, he shifted
his glance over to Buffy.  The Slayer was watching the reunion as well,
but she looked pensive.  Her eyes moved past the two friends, and met his.
Angel could see hurt in her eyes, but it was old hurt, the same way that
his was old.  

He finally managed to drag his gaze away from her, and look at the people
who had come with her.  Willow, of course, and Giles, the older man
standing toward the back, watching over the young people with him.  Near
him stood Wesley; the young man had refused the call of the Watcher
Council to return to England after Buffy had resisted his role as Giles’
replacement.  Instead, he had chosen to stay in Sunnydale, to work with
the Slayer and her chosen Watcher, trying to keep the Hellmouth safe and

Just beyond them, Oz stood off to the side, gaze unflappably calm.  He had
come with Willow, of course; ever since they’d met, the werewolf and the
witch had been completely inseparable.  Beside Oz, and behind Buffy, was
Riley.  The former soldier stood ramrod straight and stiff, obviously not
looking at Angel.  He’d come to support his girlfriend, but was clearly
uncomfortable being so close to her ex.

Well, that was only fair.  Angel was uncomfortable being so close to
Buffy, so maybe that made them even.  He wasn’t sure what to do; he was
excited about how things with Xander were progressing, but what would
happen now that Buffy was here?

His attention was tugged inexorably back to Xander.  The dark-haired man
had finally released Willow from their embrace, and the two old friends
were talking quickly at the same time, asking questions and answering them faster than Angel could understand them.  They seemed to be doing just fine, however.

Xander glanced back over Willow’s shoulder.  “And you brought your posse with you?”

She laughed.  “My friends, Xander.  They wouldn’t let me come up on my
own.” She pointed them all out, introducing them.  

Xander nodded politely to them all.  “Buffy, I remember you.  And Giles, I
guess.  I mean, it was only for a few days, but you sorta made an
impression. The rest of you, I’ve heard about from Angel and Cordelia.”

“That’s not fair,” Willow mock-complained.  “You know about us, but I
don’t know anything about you.  How are you doing?  What are you doing?”

“Less, now that classes are out for summer.  Just working and fighting the
forces of evil.  No big.”

“You decided to finish high school?  Xander, that’s great!” Willow

The smile slipped a little from Xander’s face.  “College, Wills.  I got my
GED years ago.  I’m taking classes at the community college, probably
working toward a degree in criminology.”

Willow flushed a little.  “Oh.  That’s great, too!”

Angel could see some of Xander’s enthusiasm had ebbed.  With a sudden
flash, he realized that the younger man was going through something he had faced, too:  he was being confronted by his past, faced with people who remembered a person that he really no longer was.  It made him want to reach out to Xander, to offer him some sort of comfort, but he wasn’t sure if he could, if his actions would be welcome.

“Yeah, congrats on the college thing,” Buffy echoed.  “But what’s this
about fighting evil?”  Her gaze cut over to Angel, even as she continued
to speak to Xander.  “I thought you left Sunnydale to get away from that.”
 There was accusation in her eyes, the suspicion that Angel had drawn
Xander into a life of which he wanted no part.

Xander’s laughter stopped Angel from responding.  “The best laid plans,
you know?  Turns out evil doesn’t just exist on the Hellmouth.”  He
shrugged, but grinned slightly, gaze resting on Angel.  “I seem to be
something of a demon-magnet.”

Angel returned the slight grin.  Demon-magnet?  He could see that.  He was definitely attracted, after all.  He was distracted by Buffy before he
could tease Xander back. 

“What this I heard about trouble, Angel?  Do you need my...our help?”

Angel hesitated.  “It’s more Xander’s story than mine.”  He didn’t miss
the surprise that crossed her face, or the fact that it was on Willow’s,
as well. He enjoyed a warm look from Xander, though.

“Well?” Buffy asked, transferring her attention to Xander.

“You might want to grab a seat.  This will take a little while.”  The
dark-haired man quickly explained the situation, including a brief history
of Wolfram and Hart and the monastery, as well.

When he finished, Giles blinked.  “I’ve heard rumors about that library. 
It’s said to be one of the most comprehensive in the world.”

Wesley nodded enthusiastically.  “Indeed.  I would like a chance to see it

Xander looked the young Watcher up and down.  “We can talk about that
later. I’m sure we can work something out,” he said, with a wink.

Angel fought down both the urge to laugh at Wesley’s sudden blush, and the urge to warn off the other man.  Xander was his.  

And he had it bad.  Angel knew he was in over his head, and he didn’t
care. It was refreshing, to suddenly realize this.  He wanted Xander, and
he was fine with it.

Buffy stood up.  “So, we have to go bash up a couple of really evil
lawyers, and convince some demons to use the public library, instead of
breaking into the monks’?”  She shrugged.  “A little busier than my usual
Saturday night, but I can handle it.”  

Xander shook his head.  “It’s not that easy.”

“Trust me.  I’ve got experience in this, Xander.  *I’m* a professional.”

Angel got ready to intercede, but Xander didn’t give him the chance.  

“No, you’re not.  When it comes to evil big city-style, you’re just a
sweet young thing from the country.”  Xander stood up and faced Buffy
squarely. “You go after Wolfram and Hart tonight and try to bash them, and you’ll go home and find your mother’s head set up on the mantle.”  He
silenced her retort with a raised hand.  “They’re not monsters like you
find on the Hellmouth.  Pounding on them won’t do you any good.  Kill some of them, and more will just rise up in their place.  They’re cold,
methodical, and going after them directly will just get you killed.”

“So what are you going to do?  Throw open the doors and invite them in to
kill the monks?”

“No.  I’m going to stop the demons, with or without you.  But I’m not
going to face off against an evil that will just get the people I care
about killed. And if you can’t accept that, go back to Sunnydale.”

Willow stared at him.  “Xander?”

“Sorry, Wills.  It’s good to see you, really it is, but this is serious.” 
He looked at Buffy.  “Well?”

She licked her lips, and turned to Angel.  “What do you think?”

“I think Xander’s right.  We can stop the attack without starting a war
and getting innocents killed.”

She nodded.  “Fine.  We do it your way, then.”

“Good.”  Xander stretched, then glanced at his watch.  “I gotta go to
work.” His eyes sought Angel’s.  “I need to let my boss know what’s up,
and then I’ll be back.”

Angel smiled a little.  “Promise?”

He was rewarded with a sly grin.  “Of course.  I’m not done with you yet.”

“A few things left uncrossed on that list of things to do?” Angel asked,
remember Xander’s half-joking threat from earlier that day.

“Oh, yeah.  And they’re the most important things on it.”  Xander grabbed
his jacket.  “So.  We’ve got a vampire, a visionary, a Slayer, two
Watchers, a soldier, a witch, a werewolf...and a cheerleader.”  He
smirked.  “It sounds like the lead-in to a bad joke, doesn’t it?  I’m sure
the big bads will be fleeing in terror once they find out.”  He sketched
out a wave, and walked toward the door.

“You didn’t say what you are,” Riley commented in a low voice.

“Me?  I thought it was obvious.” Xander asked from the doorway.  He shot a look, smoky with promise, at Angel.  “Sex kitten.”  Then he was gone,
leaving Angel to deal with the clamor of questions from the Sunnydale

“I don’t remember him being that rude,” Buffy said.

“He was probably just surprised,” Willow said, frowning.  “You know, and

“Surprised or not, he’s going to have to learn who’s in charge here.”

With a sigh, Angel began to try to restore order, and try to come up with
a plan.  It would help to keep his mind off of Xander for a little while,
at least.


Xander knew he was moving too fast, that he was making himself noticeable in doing so, but he couldn’t stop himself.  He was jittery, full of
nervous energy, and he had to get rid of it somehow.

Seeing Willow again had been...strange.  She looked great.  His best
friend had grown up into a beautiful woman.  She had a close group of
friends, if they were willing to come with her to see him.  He even
approved of Oz:  the way the quiet man had hung back and allowed Willow
space, and the way he had just as obviously been there to support her,
pleased Xander.

Somethings, however, didn’t please him, and those were the things causing
his overabundance of energy now.  They’d caused him to cut the reunion
short, and get out while he could still do so with a smile on his face.

The fact that Buffy thought she could just walk in and take over...she
might be the Slayer, but she was playing completely out of her league.  If
she didn’t watch it, she would end up getting herself killed, and probably
taking Willow and anyone else around her with her.

He shook his head.  He remembered Buffy as being so sure of herself back
in Sunnydale, this driving unstoppable force.  He’d thrown himself at her,
of course, as a part of his denial of his sexuality, which he’d just been
beginning to recognize.  She was still sure of herself, but now he saw it
as cockiness, rash foolishness in the face of danger she wasn’t prepared
to face.

Taking a deep breath, Xander slowed himself down.  He didn’t have time to lose it, not over this.  Besides, he had a policy of being honest with
himself, and he had to admit that some of his problem with the Slayer
stemmed from jealousy.  He hadn’t missed the way Angel had moved away from him when Buffy first appeared.  The taller man had made up for it by
continuing their flirtation as Xander left, but that initial withdrawal
had stung.  He’d gathered from talking to Doyle that Angel had been with
Buffy; that fact also explained some of JD’s more obscure complaints about his Sire.

So.  Buffy was pushy and over-confident, and she still had a hold over the
man Xander wanted.  He could deal.  He wasn’t going to let any of that
ruin seeing Willow again, or interfere with what he had going on with

Especially not what he had going on with Angel.  So far it had been fun,
but the kisses they’d exchanged had serious undertones.  There was
something between them, something deeper than just flirtation.  Something
deeper than just sex...although he wouldn’t object to sex.  He just wanted
a chance at that something more, as well.

With that resolved in his head, Xander arrived at The Other Side.  He
walked into the bar, which was liberally filled with the usual crowd.  He
slowly made his way to Tark’s office, stopping to talk to the beings he
knew as he passed them.  Once he reached the door, he knocked, and entered after Tark’s invitation.

“Hey,” he said, shutting the door behind himself, then moving to sit in
one of the chairs facing the desk.

“What’s up?” Tark asked, leaning forward across his desk.  

“Um, a lot, actually.  I’m going to have to skip work for a while, because
of time and to protect you.”  Xander quickly explained the situation with
Wolfram and Hart.  “I’ve gotta concentrate on this, and it’s going to go
down soon.”

Tark nodded.  “You need any help?”

“No.”  Xander fought the urge to grin; it was nice, seeing how much Tark
cared.  He wasn’t upset about losing his head bartender for an
indeterminate length of time; all that mattered was if Xander needed help.
 And there was no way he could ask for help.  Tark, and the patrons of The
Other Side, were settled:  they had lives, families, friends.  Xander
wasn’t going to drag them into anything that could get them killed or
marked for retribution.  “I’ve got more help than I can handle, actually.”


“A friend from before LA showed up, and brought along her posse.  Do you remember me telling you about Willow?”

Tark’s eyes narrowed.  “Yeah, I do, and you don’t sound all that thrilled
about her visit.  Is everything all right?”

Xander shrugged.  “It was a surprise,” he admitted.  He was quiet for a
moment, searching for the words he wanted.  “It’s like she expects me to
be the same guy she knew, you know?  And I’m not him, not anymore.  I’ve seen too much, learned too much.  I don’t want to be that kid anymore.” 

He didn’t want to go back to being the goofy kid spewing corny jokes to
hide the desperation inside.  The kid who rarely tried at anything,
because failing hurt too much to take the risks.  He’d outgrown the pain,
faced down the fear, and he wasn’t going back, not for Willow, not for

“There was nothing wrong with who you were,” Tark said gently.  “I liked
you when I met you.  I’ve liked you as you’ve grown up, and I like you
now.  Give her time to adjust.”

“I guess I’ll have to.”  Xander hesitated.  “There’s one more thing.  I’m
telling you because I know you’ll keep it quiet, but there’s a few people
you might want to let in on this.  The Slayer’s in town.”

“What?  Who’s she after?”

“No one.  Well, me, maybe.  She came up with Willow.  I think she’s been
roped into this Wolfram and Hart thing, so she should be concentrating on
it.  But taking chances with her doesn’t seem like a good idea.  She’s got
a real death-to-nonhumans attitude going on, so it would be best if she
didn’t run into anyone stupid enough to challenge her.”

“Shit.  I’ll pass the word on to keep the kids in off the streets until
she clears out.”  Tark leaned back.  “Are you sure you don’t need help?”

“You’d be the first one I’d ask if I did,” Xander promised.  He stood up.
“I’ve got to go.  I’m going to clear out of the monastery for a little
while, and try to gain some breathing room.”  If Wolfram and Hart didn’t
associate him with the compound, he’d have a better chance of moving about freely, without being under surveillance.

“Where are you going?”

“I’ve got a plan,” Xander smirked a little.  “But if it doesn’t work out,
can I crash here?”

“No.  You can crash with me if you have to.”  Tark stared seriously at
him. “Be careful.”

Xander nodded.  “Of course.”  He walked toward the door, then glanced back over his shoulder.  “Tark...thanks.”

He made his way out of the club, knowing that Tark would begin to spread
the word.  Most of the demons at The Other Side weren’t the sort the
Slayer should notice, but better safe than sorry.  He didn’t want anyone
to get hurt because they’d startled Buffy.

The atmosphere at the compound had changed; he could feel it as soon as he entered the gate.  There was the feel of waiting, of gathering forces and
determination, stronger than he’d ever sensed before.  He explained his
plans to the first brother he came across, not wanting them to worry about
him when he didn’t come back.

Brother Thom shook his head dubiously.  “I’d feel better if you were here,
Alexander.  You’d be a great asset to us when the demons hit.”

“I’ll be helping, I’ll just be outside.”  He smiled a little.  “I can take
care of myself.”

“Yes, but who will take care of me?” the monk asked plaintively.

“I’m sure you and your favorite ax will be just fine.”  He was glad to
know his help was valued, but he really believed he could be of more help
on the outside.  He still had to meet up with his contact from Wolfram and
Hart, and someone had to watch Willow and Buffy and the rest of the gang
from Sunnydale.

Inside his room, he took the time to change his clothing, then pulled his
old clothes on over the new.  He made quick work of packing.  His favorite
weapons went into one bag, and into the other he tossed clothing and
anything else he might need.  He paused, and then with an evil grin he
tossed in a few CD cases as well.  That done, he made the trek back over
to Angel’s.  

He opened the office door, swinging his bag of weaponry in first.  He
blinked in surprise as he got a good look at the scene inside.  Doyle and
the young guy, Wesley, were reading through an enormous pile of dusty
books.  They were alone.

“What, you two are the last men standing?” he asked, dropping his bags on
the floor.

Doyle looked up at him and grinned.  “If only.  The others are downstairs,
probably still bickering.”

“Probably?” Wesley objected.  “Of course they are.  The end of their
incessant wrangling is a sign of an oncoming apocalypse.”

Xander laughed.  He liked this guy.  “We never got properly introduced.

“Wesley.  Pleased to meet you.”  The spectacled man extended his hand, and Xander shook it.  There was something in the length of the handshake, in the way the Englishman met his gaze, that made him smile.  Wesley had
definite possibilities.

“What’s with the bags?” Doyle asked.

“I decided I’d be better off out of the monastery until this thing is
over.  I need a place to stay.”  He batted his eyelashes at the Irishman. 
“Wherever shall I go?  Who will take me in?”

“Oh, I imagine you’ll find *someone*.  You might want to hurry up in the
asking, though.  Tempers are probably wearing out down there.”

“Right.  Good luck on research, guys.”  Xander made his way to the
elevator, taking a deep breath and holding it on the ride down.  He wasn’t
going to lose his temper; he was going to stay calm and in control.

The elevator opened on a completely silent room.  Xander stepped out
cautiously, not sure what to expect.  He discovered Cordelia, Willow and
Oz sitting together on the couch, while Giles had taken a chair.  They
were all watching Buffy cuddle with Riley, sitting on his lap while he sat
in the other chair.  Angel was leaning against the wall, pointedly staring
off into space.

Xander cleared his throat.  “I’m back.”  All attention immediately focused
on him, and he was warmed by the smile that crossed Angel’s face.

“How did the meeting with the boss go?” the vampire asked, standing up

“All right.  I told him I wasn’t going to be in to work for a while, and
he’s good with it.  He offered to help, but I turned him down, for now.  I
don’t want him involved.”

“Oh, why not?  The more the merrier, right?” Buffy asked sourly.  

Xander ignored her; she didn’t deserve an answer.  “I also stopped by my
place and grabbed some supplies.  I figured it would be better if I wasn’t
constantly coming and going.”

“Your place?” Willow asked.

“Yeah.  I live at the monastery.”

She giggled.  “Really?”

He smiled back at her.  “Really.  It’s a long story.”  He glanced at
Angel. “So now I just need a place to stay.”

The tall man grinned slowly.  “I’ve got a spare room.”

“Are you sure?”  He couldn’t just leap on the offer; he couldn’t look
*too* eager.  “Tark said I could crash with-”

“Where are your things?”  Angel headed for the elevator.

Xander followed him.  “In the office.  I’ll come with you.”

Once they were on the upper floor, Xander grabbed Angel before he could
exit the elevator.  “Look, I don’t want to put you in a weird place,” he
said quietly.  “I’d like to stay here, but if it’s going to make things
awkward or uncomfortable for you, I can make other arrangements.”

Cool hands brushed over his cheeks.  “I want you here,” Angel replied,
just as softly.  “*They* might be uncomfortable, but I won’t.”  He paused,
then leaned down and pressed a kiss to Xander’s lips.

The younger man responded with growing urgency, leaning into the kiss,
hands fisting in the material of Angel’s sweater.  As much fun as teasing
Angel was, it was also damn frustrating.  He pulled away only at the sound
of a strangled gasp.

He glanced out of the elevator, and saw Doyle grinning at them, while
Wesley gaped openly.  “Hey.  You guys find anything?”

“N-no.  Not yet.”  Wesley was recovering fast.  A small smile crept across
his face.  “I take it you will be staying here?”

“Just have to grab my things.”  Xander picked up his bag containing
weapons, leaving the other for Angel.  He froze as a sudden thought struck
him. “Um...where is everyone else staying?”

“Not here,” Angel promised.  “A hotel nearby.”

“Good.  I’ve got you all to myself, then.”  He winked, then smirked. 
“Does this mean Cordelia will be hanging around the hotel, then?”

“Oh, good Lord, I hope not,” Wesley said.

Doyle laughed out loud.  “Just stay at an unfashionable one,” he
suggested. He and Wesley grinned at each other.

Xander watched them, then shared a speculative glance with Angel.  “Let’s
get this stuff put away,” he suggested.

Back downstairs, Xander nodded at the others as he followed Angel into the spare bedroom.  He dropped his bag onto the bed, ignoring the resounding clank that resulted.  

Willow didn’t.  She’d trailed in after him, Oz at her side.  “What’s in
the bag?”

“Toys,” he said.  He unzipped it and began to unpack.  The clothes could
wait; this was the important stuff.  He laid out each item carefully,
smiling at the sound of Angel’s low whistle of appreciation.

Willow’s eyes widened as she watched.  “Xander!  Those things are
dangerous!” Her exclamation brought the rest of the Sunnydale group into
the room.

“Impressive collection,” Giles noted.

“Yeah, but what are you doing with it?” Buffy asked, reaching toward the
silver dagger on the bed.

Xander’s hand shot out and caught her wrist before she could make contact. “Tsk-tsk.  It’s not nice to play with other people’s toys without
permission,” he chided, drawing her hand away.  “I’m sure you’ve got your

“I do - because *I’m* the *Slayer*.  I need them.”  She crossed her arms
over her chest.

“I live in LA and I walk to work,” Xander shot back, placing the dagger
and the other weapons he’d brought in a drawer.  “They come in handy.”

“They seem to be of quite high quality,” Giles commented.  “Not what I
would expect from, er...”

“A runaway coward?” Xander asked.  He hated this.  He wasn’t who they
remembered, not any more.  He’d grown up.  He’d changed.  “They were

“Who gives out stakes as gifts?” Riley asked, gaze resting on the
specialized cross/stakes Xander had left out.

“The monks.”  He traced his finger over one of the stakes.  “Seventeenth
birthday.”  He scooped up the stakes and the dagger, then hid them away
inside his jacket.  “One more errand, and I’ll be back for the night,” he
told Angel.

“What else do you have to do?”

“Talk to my contact at Wolfram and Hart.  I want to know when they’re
planning the hit, take away the element of surprise.”

“I’m coming with you.”  Angel and Buffy spoke in unison.

Buffy glared at Angel.  “If we have to work together, then we work
together. You’re not leaving me out of the loop.”

“It’s dangerous,” Angel added, eyes on Xander.  “You should have someone to back you up.”

“It’s dangerous for my source, too.  I’m not going to jeopardize him by
revealing him.”

“You’re not going to leave me behind.”  The Slayer’s voice was determined.

“Fine.  Everybody who wants to can come a point.  You can wait
outside for me.  He won’t talk to any of you, anyway.”

Angel nodded reluctantly.  “All right.”  Buffy agreed as well.  Riley,
Willow, Oz, and Giles also wanted to come.  Cordelia had plans for the
evening, and Doyle and Wesley opted to stay behind and watch the office
and do research.

Xander exchanged another speculative glance with Angel after talking to
Doyle and Wesley.  Those two were definitely getting along well, bonding
quickly through the sport of Cordelia-bashing.

“We’re going to look like a damn parade,” he sighed.  “Is everyone ready?
Let’s go.”


Angel cast an irritated glance behind him.  He wanted to focus on the area
around them, on watching for danger since they were moving through
progressively worse areas of town, but he couldn’t.  Not with the
Slayerettes and their running commentary and complaint festival following
along behind him.

As he watched, Buffy glared down a blind alley, her hand that clenched a
stake rising slightly, and then relaxing as nothing came flying out at
her.  She was focused on being alert, on operating at the peak of her
Slayer abilities, as if to prove her superiority to Angel and Xander both.

Too bad for her that he was the only one noticing, and he wasn’t
impressed. Xander hadn’t bothered to turn around since the neighborhoods
had begun to deteriorate into slums.  He’d spoken to Willow at the
beginning, but after the redhead had constantly sided with Buffy’s every
derogatory observation of LA and Xander’s ability to take care of himself
in the city, he’d gradually given up and moved to walk alone.  Willow only
seemed to be worried about Xander’s safety, but her worry came through as doubt in him.

Angel could sympathize.  He knew about change; not just from the
transition from being Angelus, but even from the first time he’d met
Buffy.  He’d grown in the past few years, changed from the man he’d been
just six years ago.  The same thing had happened to Xander; the man
walking confidently in front of him had to be a far cry from the high
school boy he had been, but the group from Sunnydale had yet to realize

Xander seemed to be dealing with that by ignoring Willow and the others;
apparently, if they weren’t willing to relate to him on his terms, then
they didn’t have to relate to him at all.

Angel only wished he could get away with that.

Pushing the problem to the back of his mind, Angel quickened his pace so
he could walk beside Xander.  “We’re getting into the real demon part of
LA,” he observed quietly.

“Mm.  That’s where I meet him.”  Xander’s eyes constantly roamed the
street’ his entire attitude was one of casual alertness.

“Not many humans come down here.  I don’t come here often.”

“Neither do I, really.  Just often enough to be known a bit.”  Xander
started to say something else, then cut himself off, becoming tense and

Angel felt it, too.  Something was about to happen.  Before he could call
out a warning, demons boiled out of an alley up ahead of them.  Angel
threw himself forward, aware that Xander was doing the same, and dimly
hearing Buffy’s shouts behind him.  Then he had no attention left to spare
as he engaged the demon closest to him.

They were a mixed group; unusual for demons fighting in packs.  Angel
didn’t allow himself to dwell on this; he was too busy seeking out weak
points, causing enough damage to take them down and out of the fight.  He
tore his way through their ranks.

Then he was finished; there was no one left to fight.  He wheeled about,
searching out another opponent.  His attention was caught by the sight of
Xander, who was battling the only demon who had not yet fallen or fled.

The dark-haired man flowed gracefully from attack to defense, face set in
lines of concentration as he gradually forced his scaled opponent back.
Clinically, Angel noted that Xander fought with an eclectic mixture of
styles: a result of having so many different teachers, no doubt.  It worked; he countered the moves of the demons, blocking the majority of blows, and
landing even more.  Finally, the demon broke and ran, leaving Xander
panting and staring after him.

Angel was at his side in a moment, eyes searching for any hidden injury. 
“Are you all right?”

Xander nodded.  “Yeah.  He barely touched me.”  He drew in a few deep
breaths, and met Angel’s eyes.

The vampire could feel the heat coming off of the younger man’s body,
smell the excitement and adrenaline coursing through him.  He leaned
forward, helpless to resist the siren call of that heady scent.

Xander swayed forward as well, head tilting back as he stared up at Angel.
His eyes were wide and dark, alive as his gaze met Angel’s.

“What the hell was that?”  Buffy’s strident voice ripped between them,
ending the moment.

When Xander leaned back, Angel repressed a disappointed growl.  Not very well, apparently, judging by the rueful laughter in Xander’s eyes.

“What the hell was what?” Xander asked, glancing away, to look at Buffy.

The Slayer was standing in front of the Slayerettes, stake held loosely in
her hand.  She’d obviously been trying to join in the fray, but hadn’t had
a chance.  Angel and Xander had taken care of them too quickly.  “Those
demons! How did they know we’d be here?”

Xander shook his head.  “They didn’t.  They weren’t looking for us,
specifically.”  He looked pointedly at the run-down building surrounding
them. “This is nearly the heart of the nonhuman slums.  They were muggers; they would’ve attacked anyone.”

“Um, you were pretty good,” Willow offered, standing close to Oz.

“Thanks,” the dark-haired man said.  “Practice makes perfect.  Or at least
a lot less likely to die.”

“I didn’t recognize the forms you were using,” Riley commented.

“Neither did I,” added Giles.

“I’ve had mostly nonhuman trainers,” Xander admitted.  His gaze slid over
toward Angel.  “Nonhumans are usually great teachers.  The melding of
human and demon learning, the coming together of their skills, usually has
fairly amazing results, I’ve found.”  His face remained utterly blank.

Angel wanted to shake him.  Or maybe kiss him.  Maybe both.  Xander was deliberately baiting him, and Angel wasn’t quite sure how to react.  He
wasn’t ashamed of his attraction to Xander, but he was hesitant to reveal
it to Buffy, unsure of how she would react to it.  He couldn’t risk a
fight, not now.

“How much longer is this going to take?” Buffy asked.

“Not much.  We’re almost there.”

“Almost where?” Angel asked.  “There’s nothing around here, except more
slums. Well, nothing except Berkhout’s, and...”  His voice trailed away as
realization dawned.  “You’re not going to Berkhout’s.”

“I kinda have to; that’s where I’m meeting him.”  Xander’s face was too

“What’s Berkhout’s?”  Buffy stepped forward.

“A bar,” Xander answered.

“A bar?” Angel demanded.  “A bar?  It’s a bar like the Hellmouth is a
little creepy!”  Berkhout’s was probably the roughest demon hang-out on
the coast. Sex and pain and evil and death were commonplace there.  Angel
had never visited there, not even as Angelus.  It was too intimidating,
too blatantly dangerous.  “I didn’t know humans were even allowed inside,
except as snacks.”

“There are always exceptions,” Xander counted.  “I’m not a regular, but
I’m known.  I can get in.  The rest of you can’t.”

“You’re not going in alone,” Buffy objected.

“Buffy, if you walk in there, you will be dead within minutes.  Slayer or
not, you’ll be swarmed under.”

Giles cut off Buffy’s attempt to object further.  “Xander is right.  I’ve
heard of Berkhout’s.  I don’t even like the thought of being this close to

“I’ll go in with you,” Angel asserted.

“No.”  Xander’s tone was final.  “I go in alone.  You coming with me will
just get us both killed.  No way you’ll be welcome.”  His gaze was hard. 
“I didn’t want any of you along with me for this, anyway.  I handle it my
way, or we call this off, and I’ll meet my contact another time.”

Angel locked stares with him, but could tell the mortal wasn’t going to
back down.  “Fine,” he said, after long moments passed.  “Play it your

Xander nodded.  “This is actually about as close to Berkhout’s as you all
should come.  Stay here, stay alert.  I shouldn’t be long.”  He shrugged
out of his jacket and handed it to Angel.  “I’ll be back for this.”  He
ducked down an alley and was gone.

Angel stalked away, fighting down the need to follow after him. 
Berkhout’s was dangerous, too dangerous for Xander to go in alone.  He
should be with him, there to protect him.  He slammed his fist into the
wall in frustration.

“Got it!”  Willow’s triumphant explanation drew his attention.  He turned
around, and saw the Slayerettes gathered around a puddle, staring down at
it intently.  Curious, Angel walked over and glanced down.  

“How?” he asked, eyes widening as he took in the sight:  the pool
contained not a reflection, but rather an image.  He watched as Xander
walked quickly down an alley.

“A new spell I’ve picked up,” Willow explained proudly.  “This way, we can keep an eye on him without him knowing.  We can even here what goes on around him.”

Angel figured Xander would probably be pissed if he found out, but he
didn’t care.  Now he could watch over him, and be ready to act if Xander
needed help.

As he watched, Xander paused in the alley.  The dark-haired young man
looked around himself carefully, then pulled off the loose cotton shirt
he’d been wearing.  Underneath, he wore a black mesh top.  He then dropped his hands to the button of his jeans.

“What is he doing?” Buffy asked.

It was obvious:  Xander was taking off his clothes.  Under the jeans he
shimmied off, Xander wore black leather pants.  He tossed his discarded
clothing off to the side, then stepped out of the alley.  His method of
walking changed as he headed down the street:  it became a challenging
saunter, oozing naughty promises and inviting admiration.

What the hell was he up to?

Xander walked up to a building whose door was guarded by a pair of
enormous demons.  They looked him up and down, and one snarled at him

Xander grinned up at it.  “Xan,” he said.  “I remember you...Nar, isn’t
it?” He exchanged pleasantries with the demon, then was allowed to enter.

Inside was a vision of chaos.  Nonhumans of every variety were talking and laughing and arguing and flirting and fighting and dancing in a furious
mix of sight and sound.  It was dizzying, even as a reflection.

Angel tried to relax the fists his hands had clenched into, but he
couldn’t. That was no place for Xander; it was too violent.  It was too
far away.

The mortal didn’t seem intimidated; after a moment’s pause, he launched
himself onto the dance floor, moving hedonistically to the driving music
blaring in the bar.  His head tilted back, his movements flowed together
seamlessly in an erotic twisting of arms, legs, torso, hips.  He was soon
surrounded by admirers, demons who jostled for position and proximity to

“Xander?”  Willow’s whisper was tiny, and her eyes huge, as she watched
her friend seem to lose himself in the moment, oblivious to the number of
tentacles his current partner might have...or what those tentacles might
be doing.

Xander stayed on the dance floor, ignoring invitations to get a drink, or
to leave.  Instead, he just moved from partner to partner, his skin now
sheened with a light coating of sweat, hair damp as he continued to make
his way around the dance floor.  

Finally, he accepted an invitation for a drink.  As he followed the demon
toward the bar, he walked into a table, his hip catching the edge of it. 
The table rocked, causing the drinks on it to slop over the edge of their

“Oops.  I’m sorry about that,” Xander said, glancing down at the men
seated around the table.  “Let me buy you another...Lindsey.”  His smile
widened as he recognized one of the humans sitting at the table.

Angel jerked.  Lindsey?  Xander knew Lindsey?  He hadn’t seen the lawyer since he’d gone back to Wolfram and Hart.  He’d given up on the other man, sure he’d never find redemption, that he’d gone over to the side of evil too far to return.  He must’ve been wrong.  Lindsey had to be Xander’s contact; it was too great a coincidence, otherwise.

“Xander.”  Lindsey’s tone was amused, with a faint edge of hunger.  His
gaze crawled over the standing man’s damp body.  “I haven’t see you in a

Xander was now completely ignoring the demon he’d followed off the floor.  He shifted, his entire stance becoming a blatant invitation as his stare burned into Lindsey’s.  “Yeah, it has been awhile.  I know you haven’t forgotten me, though.”  His voice had dropped, becoming throatier, with a husky edge that Angel could practically feel.

“Confident,” Lindsey said, leaning forward across the table.

“Common sense,” Xander countered.  “I know I haven’t forgotten you.  I
haven’t forgotten any of it.”  He also leaned forward, placing his face
near Lindsey’s.  “I know you remember, Lindsey.  I know you remember

“What do you remember, Xander?”  The seated man reached up and brushed a finger down Xander’s cheek.  He moved it ever so slowly toward Xander’s mouth. When it reached his lips, the brown-eyed man parted them, tongue snaking out to flick at its tip.

The dark-haired man’s eyes half-closed, and he stared at the lawyer with
heavy-lidded seduction.  “You taste the same,” he breathed.  “I remember
the taste of you.  I remember the feel of you.  Your weight, pressing me
down, holding me still.  The slide of your cock as you entered me, and the
way it felt to be filled by you.  The span of your hands as they encircled
my throat, so warm and hard against my skin.  The way you squeezed, oh so slowly, even as you thrust faster and faster.  The way you took me to the
edge of pleasure and pain and held me there while I begged you for more.” 
Xander’s eyes closed. “The way the pressure increased, until I couldn’t
breathe, until all I could see was darkness and stars, until all I could
feel was the burn in my lungs and the ache in my throat and you driving
into me harder and faster, until all that was left in the world was your
hands and your cock, and that was all I could ever want or need.”  Slowly,
brown eyes opened.  “I remember everything.”  

Lindsey was frozen, hand still resting lightly on Xander’s face.  He
swallowed hard and opened his mouth, but made no reply.

Xander turned his head and nuzzled at the lawyer’s hand for a moment. 
“Too bad it’s over,” he whispered.  He straightened.  “See you around,
Lindsey.” He sauntered away, swallowed back up by the crowd, leaving a
stunned looking table, Lindsey included, behind.

Angel could relate.  He was reminding himself that he didn’t have to
breathe, so panting was entirely unnecessary.  He was also convincing
himself that Lindsey was a valuable contact, so hunting him down and
killing him was out of the question.

Willow was gulping in breaths of air, leaning into Oz’s embrace.  “Oh, my
god,” she said faintly.  “Oh, Xander.”  She looked completely shocked, an
expression shared by the rest of the group from Sunnydale.  Buffy was
staring down into the pool, but her gaze was unseeing.  Riley looked
uncomfortable, and Giles’ breathing was none too steady.

“How could he say those things?” Willow asked.  “You don’t think he meant them, do you?”

No one answered her.

Angel turned away and ran a hand through his hair.  Once again, his
emotions were completely out of control, and it was all due to Xander.  He
was torn between the need to go find Xander and make sure he was safe, and the need drag him off somewhere and finally lay claim to him.  He wasn’t sure he had the attention span to control himself and deal with the
reactions of the Slayerettes.  

A small scuff drew his attention.  He turned, and watched as Xander
appeared at the end of the street, walking up behind the Sunnydale group. 
The vampire took in the sight of long, leather-encased legs, mesh shirt
clinging to damp, muscled skin, and dark tousled hair.  His mouth went

Xander grinned at him, but didn’t say anything.  The younger man frowned
at the silent group of people.  One brow quirked questioningly, he walked
up behind them and peered down at the ground, as they were.  

“What are we looking at?” he asked.  Angel watched as Xander realized what he was seeing in the puddle:  himself.  “What the hell?”  He threw an
accusing glare at Willow.  “Did you do this?  Cast a spell on me?  Spy on

With a quick gesture, the redhead dissolved the spell.  “I just wanted to
make sure you were all right.  You wouldn’t let us come with you-”

“Because it was dangerous!”  Xander shook his head.  “I can’t believe you
did that.”

“Why?” Buffy asked.  “Was there something you didn’t want us to see?”

“I’ve got nothing to hide.  I just don’t like not being trusted.”

“I’m glad Willow did it.”  Buffy tossed her hair over her shoulder.  “I
don’t know what you think you’re doing, but I’ve learned that consorting
with demons always leads to disaster.”

Angel didn’t think he flinched.  He knew what he had done; he didn’t need
to have it flung in his face.

“Consort?  *Consort*?”  Xander laughed.  “You’ve been hanging out with the British guys too long, Buffy.  And if you were paying attention, you’d
have figured out that I’ve done a hell of a lot more than just *consort*
with demons in the past six years, and it hasn’t ruin my life; it’s saved
it.”  He took a step forward, invading her space.  “If you don’t like it,
then stay out of it.  It’s *my* life.”

Riley took a step forward.  “Back off, Harris.”

“Do you want to go, soldier?”  Xander bounced lightly on the balls of his
feet.  “It’s been awhile since I’ve taken down a human.”

“Enough!”  Willow pulled away from Oz and stepped in front of Riley. 
“We’ve got enough problems without fighting among ourselves.”  After a
moment, both men backed down.

“Xander, we were all just a little...shocked,” Willow said quietly.  “I
mean, I never imagined you, I never thought of you...” her voice trailed
away, and she shrugged helplessly.

The dark-haired man nodded.  “I understand.  You were supposed to be
shocked. That was the point; I wanted people so distracted by what I was
doing that they wouldn’t see Lindsey give me the information.”

“He gave you information?”  Angel frowned.  He couldn’t remember seeing any sort of exchange.  Of course, he’d been incredibly focused on Xander at the time.  He wasn’t sure that he would’ve noticed the apocalypse.

Xander grinned, and reached into his back pocket, pulling out a sheet of
paper.  “He gave me the day and time of the attack.”  He met Angel’s eyes
seriously.  “We’ve got three days.”

“That’s more than we usually get,” Buffy said.  “Lucky us.”

“I need to call the brothers.  Can I have my jacket?”

Angel handed over the duster with a certain amount of regret.  As Xander
slid it on, his mesh shirt was concealed beneath the dark leather.  He
watched as Xander pulled out a cell phone and called the monastery,
warning the monks of the time set for the upcoming attack.  That done, the
dark-haired man met the vampire’s gaze.  “Is that all for tonight?”

Angel nodded.  “I think you’ve done enough.”

“Great.  I’m tired.”  Xander looked over at Willow, and his expression
gentled.  “Wills?  Do you need us to walk you back to your hotel?”

“That’d be nice,” she answered, smiling hesitantly.  She seemed to be
getting over her shock.

“We can just take a cab,” Buffy said.

Xander laughed.  “Right.  Cabs come to this neighborhood all the time.” 
He started walking back the way they’d come.  “Where are you staying?”

Angel followed after him, knowing that the others would follow.  They’d
have to; they had no choice.  He hurried a little, catching up with
Xander.  He walked beside him, trying not to invade his space.  He could
smell Berkhout on Xander, the smoke and alcohol and darker scents of the
demons that frequented the bar.  Beneath that, he could smell Xander, the
clean scent of sweat still clinging to him.  There was something else
there, too, something that Angel didn’t like, but now wasn’t the time to
try to identify it. 

“Are you all right?” Angel asked in a low voice.

“I will be.”  Xander shot him a troubled glance.  “It’s just a little
hard.  I didn’t want Willow to see that.  I don’t want to lose her before
I even have her again, you know?”

“You won’t.  Willow’s grown up a lot, too.  She’s shocked now, but she’s a
big girl.  She’ll get over it.”

“What about you?”

“Me?”  Angel slowed his pace a little.  “It takes an awful lot to shock
me.” He paused.  “You and Lindsey were just distracting people, weren’t

Xander’s laughter seemed out of place in the drab street.  “Jealous,

“Should I be?”  Angel stayed focus on Xander, but he was distracted by the
feel of eyes upon him.  He glanced back, and saw Willow staring at him. 
He could almost see her taking in how close he and Xander were to each
other, almost hear her coming to conclusions she didn’t like.  He looked
back to Xander quickly.  This was something they wree going to have to
deal with...but later.

Dark eyes laughed up at him, but Xander didn’t answer.  Instead, the
younger man glanced back over his shoulder and called, “There should be a
few cabs up at this next street.”

Buffy just nodded, but Willow smiled.  “Thanks, Xander.  I’m tired - I
can’t wait to get to the hotel.”  She looked at him hopefully.

Xander dropped back to walk beside her, a pleased smile on his face.

Angel wasn’t upset about having to walk alone.  He was glad Xander and
Willow were talking again.  He wouldn’t want to interfere with their
friendship, although he was mildly worried about what she might say.

It really didn’t matter.  *He* got to take Xander home.

By the time the Slayer and her friends were on their way to their hotel,
and Angel and Xander were back at Angel’s, the vampire was beginning to
feel more nervous than anticipatory.  Xander had become more and more
subdued, especially after speaking with Willow on the way to a cab.  What
if all the flirting before had been no more than a game to Xander?  Sure,
Angel had thought it meant something more, but what if he’d read the other
man all wrong?

Inside his apartment, Angel searched for something to say in the face of
Xander’s uncharacteristic silence.  “I guess Doyle must’ve given Wesley a
ride to the hotel,” he commented, since both men had disappeared.

“I guess,” Xander answered.  “Is it all right with you if I grab a

“Of course it is.”  Angel watched him walk away, and knew that he couldn’t let him go.  Not without finding out what was wrong.  “Wait.  Xander, please.”

Troubled brown eyes met his as Xander turned and walked back over to him. “What?”

“What’s wrong?  Everything was going so well, and then you got so
quiet...” Angel shrugged hopelessly.

Xander sighed.  “I had a talk with Willow.”

Angel stared at him blankly.

“She told me everything, Angel.  I knew you used to be with Buffy, I knew
that you had lost your soul at one point.  I was fine with that; the past
is the past.  But then she let me in on a little tidbit you didn’t
mention:  how you lost your soul.  You never told me about that important
little clause tacked onto your curse.”  Xander stared up at him
challenging, faint flickers of angry hurt in his eyes.  “I don’t like be
played with.  I thought there might be a chance for something between us,
and now I know there isn’t.  You never had any intention of taking this
thing between us anywhere, and you should’ve let me know that.”

“No, it’s not like that.”  Angel cursed inwardly.  He hadn’t bothered to
fill Buffy or the Slayerettes in on everything that had happened to him in
LA, and now he was paying for it.  “Yes, I lost my soul when I slept with
Buffy.  But that can’t happen again.  The Oracles changed the curse, so I
won’t have to worry about losing it again.”  He reached out and pulled the
resisting body to him, wrapping his arms around Xander even as he
maintained eye contact.  “I have every intention of taking this
relationship as far as it can go.”  

He watched as the distrust faded from Xander’s gaze, to be replaced by
pleasure and happiness.  “Really?”

“Really.”  Angel lowered his head and captured Xander’s lips in a kiss. 
He intended it to be reassuring, but it soon became hungry, consuming.  He
lost himself in the wet friction between them, in the incredible taste and
heat of the other man, in the feel of strong arms roaming eagerly over his

After long moments, Xander wrenched his face away, panting heavily. 
“Since we’re taking this new places, how about to the bedroom?”

“I’m good here.”  Angel began to lick his way down Xander’s jaw line.  He
was startled by teeth closing sharply on his earlobe.  He jerked away, to
stare into laughing dark eyes.

“You’ll be even better in the bedroom.”  Xander began to pull Angel toward the vampire’s bedroom.  “I am *not* facing down evil while suffering from rug burn.”

Angel relented and followed, his gaze roaming over the other man’s body. 
Once inside the bedroom, he made short work of Xander’s coat and shirt,
stripping them away and tossing them aside.  His own shirt disappeared
with similar effort from Xander.  

As he was pulled back into Xander’s arms, he noticed again that strange
scent clinging to the dark-haired man’s skin.  Inhaling deeply, he
suddenly realized what it was:  Lindsey’s scent, lingering from earlier
that evening.  Angel couldn’t stop the growl that welled up within his

Xander looked up at him, the beginnings of worry on his face.  “Angel?”

“It’s nothing.”

“Vampires don’t growl at nothing.”

Angel knelt and worked at removing Xander’s boots.  “I can smell him on
you,” he admitted quietly.


The vampire nodded as he tugged off his own shoes.  “I don’t like it,” he
said, then glanced up to meet Xander’s eyes.

If anything, the desire in them had grown.  “A little possessive, aren’t
you?” Xander sounded pleased, and more than a little excited.  “Why don’t you do something about it, then?”

That was all the invitation Angel needed.  He surged upwards, tumbling
Xander backwards onto the bed.  He followed him down, blanketing the warm body with his own, even as he claimed that infuriating mouth in another frenzied kiss. The mortal didn’t seem to mind; he respond
enthusiastically, even as his hands worked frantically at Angel’s pants.

Being around for two hundred and fifty years tended to make some tasks
easier, and removing the pants from a squirming partner was no exception. 
Angel soon had both of them stripped, and he swallowed Xander’s gasp at
the first experience of the meeting of their naked flesh.  

His hands wandering freely over the heated skin, Angel set himself to
making Xander scream, to making him *his*.  He trailed his lips down the
mortal’s throat, resisting the urge to linger at his neck.  That was for
later, after he’d thoroughly replaced all other scents with his own.  He
laved his way over the hollow of Xander’s throat, then moved onto the rosy
nipples, using lips and tongue and teeth to bring them both to aching
points of pleasure.

Strong hands clenched in his hair, and he looked up at Xander.  The other
man’s cheeks were flushed, and his breath was coming hard and fast.
“Angel...”  His voice was pleading.  “Do you have anything?  Any lube?”

Angel nodded, and tore open his night stand drawer, resenting any moment
spent not touching his lover.  He grabbed the tube and set it on the bed. 
“Are you sure?”

“Just hurry,” Xander suggested, pulling Angel up for another heated kiss. 
His hands wandered down the vampire’s body, seeking and finding his
erection. Long fingers explored Angel’s hardness, their confident teasing
bringing Angel dangerously close to the edge.

Angel grabbed Xander’s hands and pressed them to the mattress.  “If you
keep that up, this will be over before it really begins.”

“I’ll be a good boy.”

“God, I hope not.  That’ll ruin the rest of my plans.”  Angel shared a
grin with him, then opened up the packet of lube.  Coating one of his
fingers, he crawled down Xander’s body, until he was facing the other
man’s erection. Locking his gaze with his lover’s, he laved the tip with
his tongue, reveling in the breathy appreciative moans his actions
produced.  He took more of the aching hardness into his mouth, and at the
same time began to carefully prepare Xander.

He quickly came to crave the small cries and gasping moans that poured
forth from the other man, loving the way Xander encouraged his actions
with abortive thrusts and frantic caresses over his hair and shoulders. 
Finally, he decided Xander was ready.  He slid a hand under his hip,
trying to persuade him to roll over.

“No,” Xander protested.  “I want to see you.”

Angel nodded, and then closed his eyes in bliss as warm hands coated his
erection with the lube.  The clever fingers disappeared just before the
feel of them became too much.  

There was only one thing stopping him.  Angel hesitated.  “Xander, there
is one thing you should know.  I’m probably going to lose control-”

“Good.  I’m already there.”

“No, I mean I’ll lose control, and-”

“And you’ll get all pointy.”  Xander’s gaze dipped down, then back up to
Angel’s eyes.  “Pointy-er.  I know, Angel.  I work at a demon bar.  I
share drunken sex stories with JD.”  He wriggled invitingly.  “Now finish

Angel didn’t need anymore urging.  He entered Xander in one long glide,
shuddering at the feel of tight heat surrounding him.  He held himself
absolutely still for a moment, then pulled back and thrust once more.

Beneath him, Xander tilted his head back, his face set in lines of
near-painful ecstasy.  He wrapped his legs around Angel, pulling the other
man even closer to him.  His mouth fell open as he panted out his
pleasure. “More...”

Angel slid one arm underneath his lover’s back, pulling him closer so he
could taste his mouth once more.  He sped up his thrusts, meeting the
frantic rocking of Xander’s hips, wanted completion, wanting that

He felt his features begin to slip out of their disguising human lines,
and tried to pull away.  Xander refused to let him go, wrapping his arms
around him and holding him in place.  Angel lost the battle for control,
and felt his face slide into its demonic visage.

Xander broke the kiss, and his eyes slowly opened.  His gaze wandered over
Angel’s face, and he smiled.  “And you’re still fucking sexy,” he
murmured. He pulled himself closer, slowly tracing the brutal ridges with
lips and tongue, before once more joining his mouth to Angel’s.  His
tongued explored the sharp fangs carefully, teasing them with tentative

The trust, the absolute acceptance, broke the rest of Angel’s control.  He
began to thrust harder and harder, and he reached down to stroke Xander in
time with his quickening pace.  With a gasp, Xander came, hot seed
spilling between them.  Angel followed him into completion, shaking with
the power of his release.

Together, they collapsed back onto the bed.  Angel gathered Xander close
into his arms, scattering frantic kisses across his face, even as his own
features slipped back into their semblance of humanity.  The mortal
stroked his back in long calming sweeps, slowly bringing Angel back from
the sensual heights he had reached.

“Xander...” he whispered brokenly, unable to say anything more, to explain
what he had felt.  For the first time, he had truly felt completed by
another person.

“I know,” Xander whispered back.  “I don’t have the words, but I felt it,
too.”  He wrapped his arms around Angel and held him as though he would
never let go.

Burying his face in Xander’s hair, Angel held his lover, until the sounds
of the other man’s measured breaths carried him off to join Xander in


Xander bopped around Angel’s spare room, roughly toweling his hair dry. 
When he passed by the stereo he had appropriated, he jacked up the volume of the CD he was listening to.  He tossed the towel across the bed and pulled on a pair of jeans.  Spotting his shoes across the room, he did his own patented “I got me some shimmy” over to them.

He grinned to himself.  Waking up sprawled all over Angel was a great way to start the day.  He was going to have to try it out as often as

Last night had been amazing.  The connection he’d felt with Angel had only gotten deeper...and the fact that the sex was terrific was an added bonus.

 He shivered a little, remembering the sensation of having all of the
other man’s attention focused upon him, of being the center of his desire.
The taste of him, the feel of him...Xander shook himself.  He had to get
a hold of himself.

Better yet, he could get a hold of Angel.

No!  He’d taken a shower because Willow and the others were coming over. There wasn’t time for him to go and jump Angel and take another one.  Although that might be the way to let them know what was going on; actions speak louder than words, after all.

He shook his head.  He didn’t trust Buffy to react well at all.  He’d
rather not have to face an angry Slayer while naked.  Besides, he’d be too
distracted by Angel to do any good.  Xander accepted the path his thoughts
were taking with resignation.  His concentration was going to be shot; it
was just so much nicer to contemplate last night than to think about the
coming day.  To remember the taste of Angel’s skin, the smooth feel of it
under his hands; to lose himself in the memory of the shattering climax
he’d reached, and the way the other man had been right there with him.

Xander forcibly pulled his thoughts away from that.  He wanted his jeans
to remain comfortable, thank you.  Instead, he pulled on his boots and
smiled a little as he thought about how incredibly close he felt to the
vampire, how close he continued to feel.  Sleeping through most of the day
with his body entwined with Angel’s just deepened the connection he’d felt
for the other man.  Judging by how reluctant Angel had been to let him get
up, he felt the same way.

Xander finished with his shoes and stood, looking for a shirt.  Maybe he
and Angel could fit in some mild groping before the others got there.

His speculation was interrupted by his door slamming open.  Xander slid
into fighting mode, relying on training and instinct, reacting before he
was even really aware of what was happening.  He grabbed the first
intruder and used its momentum against it, jerking toward and then past
himself, flinging it into the wall.  He then spun around, kicking the
second squarely in the midsection before tossing it over his shoulder and
on top of the other one as the first rebounded off the wall.  He then
leaned over and retrieved a pistol from the hiding place he’d devised by
the door.  The muzzle pointed toward the beings he’d just tossed about, he
finally began to process what had occurred in the past few second.

Lying in a tangled heap, Buffy and Riley glared death at him.  

He decided to keep the gun trained on them.  “What the hell was that?”

“That’s what I want to know!”  Buffy stood up, and pulled Riley to his
feet. “We get here and hear what sounds like demons eating an entire town
in this room, so we come in to rescue you, and you attack us!”

“Are you all right?”  Xander lowered the gun, but kept a hold of it. 
Buffy looked *pissed*, and Riley wasn’t thinking any good thought about

“Fine.  It takes more than you to hurt either of us.”  Buffy glared at him
harder.  “And what the hell is that noise?”

Noise?  “Oh.  That.  It’s music.”  Xander walked over and turned the
volume down.  

“It’s not any kind of music I’ve ever heard,” Riley commented.

“They’re sort of underground,” Xander hedged.

“They’re not human,” Giles said, from the doorway.  “Buffy, Riley, are you all right?”

“Fine, Giles,” Buffy answered.  “And what did you mean, not human?”

“That is nonhuman music on the CD player.  Throsh demons, aren’t they?”

“The bass player’s Nokkan, but yeah.  The rest of them are Throsh.” 
Xander walked past Giles to check out the living room.  Yep, there was
Willow, with Oz.  “Hey, Willow.  How are you doing?”

“I’m good,” she answered.  Her eyes were shadowed with concern.  “How are you?”

Xander realized she was thinking about her warning to him last night, when
she’d called him on his flirtation with Angel.  She still thought he was
disappointed.  “I’m good.  Really good.  Turns out, that particular clause
you warned me about isn’t in effect any more.”  He couldn’t just come out
and say, ‘Oh, no worries, Wills, the mad monkey love wasn’t canceled due
to threat of soullessness’.  Buffy was already looking for a reason to
pound him into the ground; he didn’t need to give her an excuse by letting
her know he was making moves on her ex.

Willow sat up.  “Really?  That’s great!”  She glanced over at Angel, who
was leaning against the wall, then back to Xander.  “So you could...”  Her
cheeks began to flame.  

“Yeah, Wills.  But thanks for the heads up, just the same.”

She nodded, still blushing.

The music cut off behind him, and he turned.  “Hey, that was my favorite

Riley shook his head as he and Buffy exited the bedroom.  “I don’t know
that I’d call it a song.  I didn’t know demons played music.”

“Some of my favorite bands are nonhumans.”  None of the people from
Sunnydale seemed to know much about nonhuman culture; most of their
knowledge seemed to be concentrated on how to kill demons.  Of course,
living on the Hellmouth made that information important, but still.

“What was it about?” Oz asked.

That’s right; Willow mentioned he was a musician.  “It doesn’t translate
that well,” Xander equivocated.

“Your love is my reality; the touch of your hands gives me life.  Hold me
close this night, and bring me back to life.  Your mouth intoxicates me,
and I want to drink forever...” Giles’ voice trailed away.  “It became
quite a bit more explicit after that.”

Xander kept his eyes on Angel, and smiled a little as the vampire shifted.
Their gazes met, and Angel returned the small smile.  The taller man’s
gaze then dropped, wandering down over Xander’s body.  The bartender
decided to delay putting on a shirt for a little while longer; the hungry
appreciation in Angel’s dark eyes was *very* nice.

“Very pretty,” said a hoarse voice.  Xander glanced over to one of the
chairs, and saw Wesley hunched over in it, cradling his head in his hands.
 “But thank god it is off.”  His eyes were bloodshot, and he was squinting.

“What happened to you?” Xander asked.  The poor guy looked like he had a raging hangover.

“Doyle wanted to ask a friend of his some questions last night, and I
offered to accompany him.  We visited several pubs during our search for
him, and since it was only polite to buy a drink when asking around for
him, one thing led to another.”

“What happened to Doyle?”

“If he’s lucky, his head exploded before he woke up this morning.”  Wesley shrugged.  “He went home after the cab dropped me off.”

So no drunken sex, then.  Apparently Wesley and Doyle were going to dance around each other for a little while longer.  Xander knew they were
interested; working at a bar had taught him to see that.

It had also taught him something else.  Xander headed for the kitchen and
rooted around in the cabinets, compiling ingredients.  “What’s on the
agenda for tonight?” he asked.

“I wanted to see the monastery,” Buffy answered.  “If I’m going to be
fighting there, I’ll need to know the layout.”

Xander hesitated, then nodded.  “There’s a way to sneak us in, so any
surveillance won’t see us.  I’ll have to call the abbot and ask his
permission to bring you in, though.”  He quickly combined the different
liquids he’d gathered in a glass, then stirred them.

“Ask his permission?  Does he want my help, or doesn’t he?  He’s got the
chance to have the Slayer save his monastery, so he’d better give his

Something in her voice, a note of arrogance, the way she dismissed the
abbot, caused Xander’s temper to flare.  He stalked back into the living
room and shoved the glass into Wesley’s hands.  “Drink it,” he ordered,
and nodded as the Watcher did so.

He snapped his attention over to Buffy.  “Does he want your help?  Of
course. He’ll take just about any help he can get.  Is he going to crawl
and grovel and beg for it?  Of course not.  None of them are.  These men
have faced off against evil for two hundred years, ever since the
monastery was founded. They don’t just guard the library; they go out into
the city and face the monsters down, protecting the innocent.  Only a few
of them have any sort of aptitude for magic.  The rest of them walk
through the night with nothing more than their faith and their courage to
protect them.  No super powers.  No ancient heritage.  Just a cross and a
sword and the will to serve their god. They were fighting and believing
and praying and surviving long before you were born, and they’ll be here
long after we’re all gone.  So I’ll be asking his permission, and you
*will* wait for his answer.”  He held her gaze, refusing to look away
until she nodded.  

He looked back over at Wesley, who had drained the glass.  “How do you

“My tongue feels like I’ve been licking a shag carpet, but other than
that, I’m fine.”  Wesley blinked.  “The hangover’s gone.”

“Old bartender’s trick.  The only down side is that shag carpet thing, and
you can clear that up by rinsing your mouth with water.”

“You can cure a hangover?” Riley asked.

“Soldier, I can do a hell of a lot more than that.”  He threw in a wink
for good measure.

Buffy glared at him and moved closer to Riley, who wrapped his arms around her possessively.

Xander ignored them, grabbing Angel’s phone instead.  He quickly dialed
the monastery, and relayed Buffy’s request to the abbot.  After some
hesitation, the leader said yes.  With a teasing, “Thanks, Pop,” he hung
up.  “We’re good to go,” he said.  “As soon as the sun goes down, we can
head over.”

“All of us?” Willow asked.  “I want to see where you live.”

“Everyone’s invited.”  Xander kept his eyes on Angel.  He walked past the
vampire to put the phone away, brushing up against him as he did so.  He
moved to stand beside Angel.  “Doyle should be here by then.”

“Shouldn’t you put some clothes on?” Riley asked.

“Can’t handle the view?  I’ll grab shirt, man - I wouldn’t want to get you
in trouble with your girlfriend.”  Xander sauntered back into his room,
and pulled on a shirt.  He also retrieved his duster, and restocked it
with weapons.  He was going to need them; baiting Riley was amusing, and
it was a way to pass the time, but it was also dangerous.

Oh, well.  Everyone needed a hobby, right?

That reminded him of the other hobby he’d recently discovered: 
Angel-baiting. He turned to the vampire with an overly innocent expression.  “We’ve got some time to kill.  Do you want to head to your room, and you can show me your stuff?”

He watched with hidden glee as Angel dropped the careful pose of casual
indifference he’d been keeping up, and openly gaped at him.  “What?”  He
looked past Xander, glancing frantically at Buffy and her friends.

“You do keep your weapons there, don’t you?  I want to see what we’ve got to work with.”

Angel glared at him. 

Xander shrugged.  “Hey, if you don’t want to share, you don’t have to. 
I’ve got tools of my own I can use, and there are plenty of people out
there who’d be happy to let me get my hands on theirs.”

“No!”  He watched Angel pull himself together.  “You can use my tools. 
You don’t need anyone else’s.”  The taller man reached out and grabbed
Xander by the shirt, hauling him over into his bedroom.  After partially
closing the door, he spun Xander around, keeping a hold of him by his
shoulders.  “It’s not nice to tease,” he said quietly.

“I thought you liked it when I was bad.”  Xander leaned in toward him.

Angel tried to keep glaring, but failed utterly.  “I like you any way I
can get you,” he admitted softly.

That definitely deserved a reward.  Xander pressed his lips to Angel’s,
then began to lap at them with delicate cat-licks.  The other man moaned
softly and pulled him closer, which allowed Xander to wind his arms around Angel and feel the solid strength of him.

After long moments, the young man finally pulled back.  “We could lock the door, tell them we’re, um, sparring,” he suggested.

“No.  They’re way too nosy to accept that.  We’ll just have to settle for
finishing this later.”

Xander nodded, and stepped back.  Just in time, it turned out, as the door
slowly swung open.  

Doyle poked his head in, eyes closed.  “Is it safe to look?”

“Depends on what you want to see,” Xander shot back.  He grinned at the
Irishman.  “You look better than Wes advantage of a mixed

“One of the few,” Doyle agreed.  “I came to see if you’re ready to go. 
The natives are getting restless.”

“Fine.  Oh, but before we go, what happened last night?  Wes went home
alone?” Xander waggled his eyebrows.

Doyle flushed.  “We both had a little too much.  I didn’t just want a
drunken tumble.”  More quietly:  “I think he’s worth more than that.”

“You both are,” Angel said firmly, as he followed Xander out of the room. 

“Both are what?” Buffy asked.

“Welcome to come to the monastery,” Xander answered easily.  “You all are; the abbot extended the invitation that far.”  He glanced at his watch. 
“Sun’s down by now.  Let’s go.”

He led the way out of the office and through the city, taking a
round-about route to the next block over from the monastery.  He walked
through the partially boarded up door of a condemned building, motioning
for the others to follow.  As he led the way into the basement, he said,
“There’s a short passage from here to the compound.  This way Wolfram and Hart don’t know we’re here.”  

The passage was short, and bypassed the sewer system.  As they walked
through it, Xander felt the hair on the back of his neck rise as they
neared the boundaries of the protective wards.  Seeing Willow shiver, he
quickly explained what she was feeling.  “They’re there to keep out evil,”
he concluded.

Soon they were at a barred door.  Xander rapped on it in a short code, and
it swung open.  The monk behind it smiled.  “Alexander.  We’re expecting
you.” He glanced up at the people behind Xander.  “Please, come in.  All
of you,” he added, gaze resting on Angel.

Buffy caught the look, and shook her head.  “Angel can’t go in.  The wards
won’t let him.”

“Of course he can go in,” Xander countered.  “He’s been invited.”

“The wards are there to keep him out.  You’ll get him fried.”

“They work against evil.  Angel will be fine.”

“He’s a vampire!  He’s killed hundreds of people!  He had a demon inside
him! He.  Is.  Evil.”

“Haven’t you ever heard of redemption?  Of remorse?”  Xander shook his
head, and turned to face Angel.  “You are a force for right.  For Good.”

“There is a demon within me,” Angel said quietly.

Xander hated the self-doubt in the other man’s voice.  “There’s darkness
inside everyone.  Your past doesn’t matter, not in this.  All that matters
is the present, and the future.  You control that demon now, not the other
way around.”  He deliberately crossed the threshold, and held his hand out
to Angel.  “Please, Angel.  Come in.”

The vampire glanced over at Buffy, and flinched away from her.  Eyes
locked on Xander’s, Angel slowly reached out and took his hand, then moved to cross the threshold.  His entire body was tensed in preparation for the wards’ reactions.

There weren’t any.  Xander grinned in triumph.  “Welcome.”  He smiled up into Angel’s eyes, squeezing his hand.

“Thank you,” the vampire whispered, hope flaring brightly behind his eyes.

Buffy walked through the door, an aggrieved expression on her face.  “Can
we hurry this up?  I want to scope out the layout, and then we’ve got plans to make.”

Xander inclined his head.  “Let’s move, then.”  He led them through the
monastery, giving them a tour and a strategic layout at the same time. 
Even as he did so, he made sure to stay close to Angel, to offer
reassurance through his presence.  He didn’t think Angel needed his hand
held, but he purposefully walked beside the vampire, close enough so that
their shoulders brushed as they made their way through the narrow

The clearing of a throat pulled his attention away from his new lover. 
Wesley smiled at him hopefully.  “Is there any chance we might see the

Xander grinned at the spectacled man.  “You want to see it?”

“Oh, yes.”

“How bad?”  He raised an eyebrow suggestively.

Wesley’s cheeks pinked, but he held Xander’s gaze.  “Very bad,” he
replied, with an arch look of his own.

Xander laughed out loud, ignoring the odd looks the others were giving him and Wesley.  “Congrats; that’s the right answer.”  They were very near the entrance to the library, so he led them over to it, and then down inside
of library.

He hung back, near the stairway, just watching the faces of the others. 
Giles and Wesley were wide-eyed with wonder, and Willow and Angel were nearly as bad.  Their eyes roamed over the endless rows of shelves, filled with books and mysterious artifacts.  

Giles hesitantly approached a shelf and pulled a book off, cradling it in
his hands reverently.  “This is a copy of the Hercallian Oracles.  I’ve
heard it existed, but I never thought I’d see it.”  He opened the cover
and traced out the lines of the first page with a finger that shook
slightly.  “Tremon fredic mornlan di...die...dia...” he stumbled over a

Xander walked over and peered over his shoulder.  “Tremon fredic mornlan diestic glan Hercallian.  Herein lies the tale of the high sacred prophecy of Hercallian.”  He met Giles’s surprised look with a mild look of his own. “What?  I’ve been studying.”

“Good for you.”  Buffy’s comment drew all attention to her.  “Now that
we’ve had the tour, we need to start planning.  I think we need to head
back to the hotel.”

Giles nodded.  “That would be wise.”

“Angel, Xander, Doyle - we’ll see you tomorrow.”  She stared at Angel,
waiting for him to react to their deliberate exclusion.

Xander didn’t give him the chance.  “Great,” he said, speaking quickly.
“We’ve got a ton of things to coordinate.  Call before you come over, K?”

Buffy blinked rapidly.  “All right.”

“Ah, before we all scatter,” Wesley said, stepping forward, “I had planned
to return to Angel’s office.  There is some research there that I wish to
finish, and I could stay abreast of any news of which you should be aware. Act as liaison, if you will.”

Xander managed to hide his grin.  Wesley wanted to act as liaison.  Right.
He just wanted to *liase* with Doyle.  He didn’t say anything, and led
the others out of the monastery, back through the secret entrance.  They
split up after that.

As they walked back to Angel’s, Xander looked over at Doyle and Wesley. 
“Not to be rude, guys, because you know how much I love you, but there is
no way in hell you’re going back to Angel’s to do research.”  He moved
closer to Angel. “I’ve got plans, and you aren’t invited.”

Doyle laughed.  “Don’t worry about it.  I have no intention of going to
Angel’s for research.”  His eyes met Wesley’s.  I’ve got more important
things on my mind.” 

Xander watched them walk off together.  “They’re cute.”

“So are you.”

“Cute?  I am not cute.”

“Oh, right.  I’m sorry.  Please forgive me, *sex kitten*.”

Xander leaned over toward Angel, as if angling for kiss.  At the last
moment, he turned his head and caught Angel’s earlobe between his teeth. 
He bit down, then whispered into the abused ear, “Don’t you forget it.” 
He walked away, counting down internally.  Five, four, three, two...

Strong arms surrounded him from behind.  “I didn’t forget,” breathed a
thick voice.

Xander pushed himself backwards, rocking against Angel.  “Then why aren’t we moving?”  He gasped and laughed as he was hoisted over a broad
shoulder.  “In a bit of a hurry, aren’t you?”

“Damn right.”  Angel walked faster.  They reached the office in record
time. Angel didn’t put Xander down until they were in the taller man’s
bedroom, where he lightly tossed Xander down onto the bed.  He bent down over Xander, but was prevented from moving closer by Xander’s hand on his chest, pushing him back.

“Not so fast, tall dark and eager,” Xander said with a wicked grin.  “It’s
my turn, this time.”  He watched in delight as Angel’s eyes took on a
golden undertone.

“Whatever you want,” the vampire said in a near-growl.

Xander responded by pulling Angel down onto the bed and rolled on top of
him. He took his time removing Angel’s clothing, allowing teasing fingers
to roam over the pale flesh that was gradually revealed.  He then removed
his own clothing with equal leisure, holding Angel’s gaze the entire time.

He straddled Angel, settling himself down onto his lover’s flat stomach. 
He leaned down and trailed his lips over the smooth skin of Angel’s face,
nipping at his ears, dragging his teeth down the line of his jaw.  

Beneath him, Angel hissed quietly, and his hands came up to wander over
Xander’s back, then slid down to cup his ass.

Xander rocked against Angel, then sat back.  “My turn, remember?”  He
leaned over and retrieved the lube, then scooted down the bed.  He slowly
prepared the vampire.  As he did so, he laved his lover’s erection with
his tongue, before turning his head and dragging his teeth across the
delicate skin of Angel’s inner thigh.

A muted growl drew his attention upwards.  Angel’s head was thrown back, but his vampiric features were clearly in place.

Good.  He liked knowing that he made Angel lose control.  It evened things
up, since he was so far gone over the other man.  He finished his
preparations, then stroked his hands gently over Angel’s stomach.  He
waited for the vampire to meet his gaze, then said, “Up on your knees.” 
He leaned down for a lingering kiss.

Angel nodded, and climbed to his knees, his back to Xander.  Xander
quickly slicked his own erection.  Moving with aching slowness, he pressed himself inside of Angel, holding the other man possessively at the hips.  Once he was completely within Angel, he paused, reveling in the feeling of being so close to his lover.

“Xander...”  Angel’s growled plea, so clearly filled with desire and lust
and need and something more, was all it took to break his control.

Xander began to thrust into the vampire with increasing speed.  He snaked
one hand around Angel’s body to grasp his lover’s erection with his
still-slick hand.  At the same time, he fastened his lips to the juncture
of Angel’s neck and shoulder.  He sucked hard at the pale flesh, timing it
to his quickening thrusts and strokes of Angel’s cock.  Angel howled and
came, and took Xander with him over the edge, screaming as well.

They collapsed together into a sweaty, panting heap.  Fine, the sweating
and panting was all Xander, but he was doing them enough for both of them. He withdrew from Angel, then pulled the vampire into his arms.  He ran his fingers through Angel’s hair and buried his face in Angel’s shoulder.

“I am not going to lose you,” Angel said fiercely.

Xander looked up and met his eyes seriously, knowing the path his thoughts had taken.  “I don’t want to lose you, either.  The next few days are going to be dangerous, but our whole damn lives are dangerous.  I’ll watch your ass, and you’ll watch mine, and we’ll make it together.”

Angel kissed him hard.  “Together.”

Xander felt weariness tugging at him, and he let his eyes slip closed. 
“Like Mulder and Krycek.”

Angel twisted a little in his arms.  “Like who?”

“Mulder and Krycek.  On the X-Files.  If they ever pulled their heads out
of their asses and got their acts together, they’d figure out they’re in
love. They could kick alien ass together, then go home and make love like
crazed weasels.”

“Weasels?”  Angel sounded bemused, but Xander was drifting farther away, and didn’t answer except for a soft snore.


Angel shook his head and straightened up.  He’d spent the past few minutes looking over the plans the Sunnydale group had drawn up, and he didn’t think it was going to work.  “We’ll be spread too thin.”

“No, we won’t,” Buffy disagreed.  “With the monks and you added in, we’ve got way more people then we usually do, and *we* have to save the world most weekends.  We’ll be fine.”

Angel bit back a reply.  He knew there was no use in replying.

The abbot didn’t.  “This monastery may not be the world, but I happen to
consider it important.”  He looked over the plans laid out on the table. 
“I appreciate the offers of Giles, Willow, and Wesley to help to maintain
our magical defenses.  Only a few of the brothers are trained in magic,
and they’ll be hard pressed, if all the information on our attackers is
correct. If you all agree, I’ll ask that you stay in the library.”  He
raised his eyes to find Oz.  “I believe that you would be happiest near
Willow, but no nonhumans can be down there.  Some spells that may be used will target nonhumans, and I don’t want you to be hurt by them.”

Oz nodded.

“We’ll be spread thin on the grounds.  The attack must be focused on the
library, so we’ll have the bulk of the brothers concentrated in there.  I
agree with Angel...I don’t know if there are enough of us to withstand a
determined assault.”

“Have some faith, Pop.”  Xander was leaning against a wall, hanging around the fringes of the meeting.  He’d said strategy wasn’t his strong point, so he was listening, rather than suggesting.

The abbot smiled.  “Always, Alexander.  But it would be nice to have

“Who needs numbers when you have me?”  The grin that crossed Xander’s face was insolent.  

And sexy as hell, as far as Angel was concerned.  He knew he was biased,
but the man was looking good.  Wearing a green silk shirt and dark jeans,
his gaze rested constantly on Angel, following him wherever he moved.  

Angel could sympathize.  He wanted to watch Xander constantly; he caught himself doing so.  After last night, he wanted nothing more than to watch Xander, touch Xander, taste, hold, lick, laugh with, talk with, *be* with Xander.  He was falling in love, he knew it, and there was nothing that he wanted to do about it.  He could tell by the way Xander watched him, by
the way he touched him, that the younger man felt the same way.

He pulled his attention back to the discussion.  This was their last night
for planning; the attack would come tomorrow.  Everyone involved had
gathered at the monastery to make the final plans, and be in place for the
attack.  At least they all knew their places; Willow, Giles, and Wesley
would be in the library, while the rest of them would be in the outer
parts of the compound, ready to fight.

Buffy shook her head.  “I still think we’ll be all right.  Maybe it won’t
come down to a huge fight.  Maybe they’ll just try to sneak in.”

“And maybe we’re wrong, and they really just want to come by to invite us
over for tea and crumpets.”  Xander stood up straight.  “You’ve heard the
demons involved.  This is going to be bloody.  You don’t involve vampires
unless there’s killing to be done.”  He glanced over at Angel.  “Present
company most definitely excluded.  But, excluding Angel and JD, most of
the ones I’ve come across are good for violence, not stealth.”

“JD?” Buffy asked.

“I’d like to see the armory,” Angel interrupted.  Now was not the time to
get into that.  “I’ve got my own weapons, but I’d like to see what else
there is to work with.”

The abbot nodded.  “Alexander knows where it is.”

Xander nodded.  He walked over to the door.  “Follow me.”

Angel couldn’t resist.  “Anywhere.”

“I *knew* blowing in your ear was a good idea.”  

Angel knew the others were staring, knew that he was following Xander too closely if they wanted to keep their involvement a secret, but he didn’t
really care.  He loved Xander, and loved the games they played between
them. So what if the others knew?

Once inside the armory, the odd glances from the Scooby Gang stopped as
they all concentrated on choosing weapons to use.  Angel looked over the
inventory, and decided to stick with his own tools, which he’d brought
with him.  The ones here were of top quality; he just felt more
comfortable using his own.  

Xander walked over to stand in front of him.  “Not picking anything else?”

“I like to stick with the things that are mine.”

“Ooh, possessive.”  Brown eyes laughed up at him, and Xander leaned in
even closer.  

“Yes.”  Angel leaned forward as well.  “I don’t share well with others.”  

“So once you’ve gotten your hands on something...”

“Once I’ve made it mine.”  He watched in pleasure as Xander shivered at
his interruption.

“Once you’ve made it yours, you’re reluctant to give it up?”

“I wouldn’t say reluctant.  I’d say it never happens.  I never let go.”


“Never.”  At this point, only inches separated them.  Angel stared down at
Xander challengingly, knowing that Xander wasn’t going to back down.  He didn’t want him to.

“Good.”  Xander fisted his hand in Angel’s coat.  “Neither do I.”  He
pushed himself forward and bit down lightly on Angel’s chin.  Gaze locked
on Angel’s, he pulled back and whispered, “Mine.”

Angel’s hands closed on Xander’s upper arms convulsively, shocked by the
sudden strength of the feelings coursing through him.  He wanted to claim
Xander right then, bear him down to the floor and let him know he was well and truly owned.  Xander wasn't just another human, a diversion or even a longer affair.  Xander was his future, and he was ready to claim it, to claim him. To hell with who might be watching; he wanted to make Xander his, for now and for all time.

But people *were* watching.  Angel forcibly brought himself back under
control.  He leaned down and spoke into Xander’s ear.  “As soon as this is
over, you’re *mine*.”  He then stepped away from his lover, wanting to
break the moment before it got too intense and they drew attention.

Too late.  Both Willow and Riley were staring at them, eyes wide and
mouths open.  Buffy, Oz, and Giles were oblivious, and Doyle and Wesley
were nowhere to be found.  Angel wasn’t sure what to do; he wasn’t ashamed of his relationship with Xander, but he didn’t want to deal with anyone else’s reactions.

Xander didn’t seem to be at a loss.  He raised an eyebrow at Riley.  “That
an invitation there, soldier?”

Riley snapped his mouth closed and glared at Xander.  Still, with his
mouth shut, he wasn’t saying anything, and Angel really couldn’t ask for
anything more.  Well, he could ask for Xander, naked and writhing
underneath him, but first things first.  “Where’s the abbot?  There are a
few more questions I’d like to ask him.”

“I’ve got a few of my own,” Buffy said.  

“I’ll take you to his office.”  Xander led the way to the door, with Angel
right behind him.  Because of this, Angel got an equally good view as
Xander did when they stepped out into the hall and found Wesley and Doyle.

At first, the vampire didn’t even see Doyle; all he registered at first
was Wesley’s back.  As he moved further into the hall, he saw that Wesley
wasn’t facing the wall - he was facing Doyle, who he had pressed up
against the wall. The two men were oblivious to their company, oblivious to anything except what they were doing. 

Doyle’s hands were buried in Wesley’s hair, and his eyes were closed as he
pushed off against the wall, driving himself closer to the taller man.
Wesley’s arms were around the Irishman’s waist, and he looked to be
attempting to eat Doyle alive...starting with his mouth.  

Angel instinctively moved closer to Xander.  He could smell the arousal
pouring off of both of them, and it caused him to seek out the focus of
his own.  

Xander leaned back against him, hard.  Hard enough to make Angel take a
step back, and block the doorway.  “Doyle!” Xander exclaimed loudly. 
“There you are!”

The two men jumped apart, eyes wide, cheeks flushed.  Both shot thankful,
rueful grins at Xander as they straightened their clothing and put themselves back in order.

Angel lingered in the doorway, buying them time, until Buffy poked him in
the back.  “What’s the hold up?” she demanded.

Seeing that the two men were ready to be seen, Angel got out of the way. 
“We found Wesley and Doyle,” he explained.

“Whoopee.  Now can we go see the abbot?”

“Sure,” Xander answered.  “His office is right over-”

“Alexander!”  A monk hurried over to him, an expression of stunned
disbelief on his face.

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing’s the matter, exactly.  It’s just...there are some people that
you need to come see.”  The cowled man turned and hurried back the way he had come.

Angel laid a hand on Xander’s shoulder.  “The abbot can wait.”

Xander nodded, and they all followed him after the monk.  Angel soon
realized that they were heading toward the hidden passage that they had
used to gain access to the monastery earlier.  He wondered who else had
known about it, and had decided to show up.

His questions were answered when he spotted a familiar-looking group of
Klortors lounging about the entrance.  One of them stood up when he saw
Xander and spoke rapidly to him in his native dialect.

Xander listened with an expression of growing exasperation on his face,
asking a few questions now and then in the same language.  Finally, he
turned back to Angel, shaking his head.  “It looks like we’re going to
have a few more people around to help with defense.  Tark let it slip that
I was getting in over my head, and they’re here to back me up.”

“What?  Who are they?”  Buffy moved to stand between the Sunnydale group and the demons.

“Regulars at the bar where I work.  My boss apparently passed the word
around that I needed help, and Relk and his clan decided to volunteer.” 
He glared over at the Klortors.  “You guys are idiots.”

“We’re your friends,” the demon corrected.  “Tark said you need help, and
here we are.  We’re not the only ones, either.  We didn’t want to come in
a rush, so more will be trickling in before tomorrow.”

“How did you find the entrance?”

“We managed to find one of the monks, and he brought us here.”

Xander shook his head.  “I’m not paying you guys for this.”  His tone was
stern, yet teasing.

“That’s fine.  We’ll settle for sexual favors.”

“Oh.  The usual arrangement, then.”

Buffy held up her hands.  “More demons?  Demons to fight demons?”

“Can you think of a better arrangement?” Angel asked.

“Yeah - no demons at all.  We can handle this!”

“I’m grateful for any help we can get.  These are friends of Xander’s,
Buffy. We can trust them.”

The Slayer shook her head.  “Trust demons.  Right.  Something good
*always* comes of that.”

“Play nice,” Xander said, not bothering to turn around.  “Now, come meet
your new playmates.”  His posture clearly stated that he was willing to
wait the others out.  When Buffy finally sighed, he began to introduce the
Klortors to the Slayer and her friends.  That done, he fixed Relk with a
direct stare. “Who else is coming?”

Relk rattled off a long list.  

“Why?” Giles asked.  “I would imagine most demons couldn’t care less about the fate of this monastery.”

“I personally don’t care,” Relk admitted.  “But there’s a chance Xander
could be hurt, and that matters.  If I have to keep this place standing in
order to make sure he’s back behind the bar soon, then I’ll do it.  It’s
worth it.”

“I make a really mean martini,” Xander said with a grin.

“You make a really mean friend,” Relk rejoined seriously.  “None of us are
willing to lose you, especially not to those lawyer dicks.”

“You do know who we’re up against, right?  This isn’t a game.”

“Tark made sure we knew.  Doesn’t matter.  Those pricks aren’t going to
win, not this time.”

Angel was pleased and a little amazed by the show of friendship.  He’d
known Xander had ties to the nonhuman underground in LA, but hadn’t
realized just how strong those ties were.  He was glad to know that Xander
had friends who were willing to protect him.  Not that they were needed. 
Angel planned to make sure that Xander lived through the next few days. 
He had some plans of his own, and they required Xander to be alive.  And
actively participating. And maybe retaliating.  And then reenacting.

Demons arrived in sporadic groups the rest of the night.  Xander greeted
all of them by name, greeted all of them as friends.  He ignored the
stares of the Sunnydale group as he walked through the nonhuman crowd,
laughing and joking and thanking and flirting.

At one point, Willow walked over to Xander while he was teasing a
pulsating Hrot demon.  Looking askance at the slick film covering the
demon, she asked, “What are you doing?  You’re flirting with all of them.”
 Her gaze slid over to Angel.  “I thought...”

“You thought right,” he assured her.  He gestured widely, including all
the nonhumans gathered at the compound.  “These are my friends, Wills. 
This is how we talk with each other.”  He shrugged.  “I’ve been told I’m a
bit of a flirt.”

“A bit?” Angel questioned, coming to stand beside Xander.  

Xander grinned up at him.  “I’m only a bit of a flirt.  I’m a *huge*
cocktease, though.”

“Xander!”  Willow’s cheeks flamed once more.  “This is going to take some getting used to.”


“You being different.”  She smiled.  “I like the changes, though.  You
seem happier.”  She lowered her voice.  “I’m a little iffy on the demons

“They’re people, Willow.  They just look different.”

“Buffy says-”

“It doesn’t matter what Buffy says.”  Xander leaned over against Angel,
his warmth and wieght welcome against the vampire’s side.  Angel slid one
arms around Xander, pulling him closer.  “I don’t live my life by her
rules.  I’ve made my own path, and I like it.”

Angel could feel Buffy staring at him, but he didn’t care.  Like Xander,
he’d made his own path.  He pulled Xander even closer, inhaling deeply to
catch the other man’s scent.  He felt eagerness rise up within him.  Not
for the coming battle, exactly, but for it to be over, so he could
concentrate on claiming Xander.  He was never giving this man up.



Xander ducked into a doorway, taking a moment to catch his breath.  
The fighting raged on around him and he knew he needed to get back to it, but first he had to breathe.  Breathing was good.

The attack had come when Lindsey had warned.  It began with a massive
surge of energy channeled into the wards that shielded the monastery.  For
a moment they flared to power levels of amazing strength and then they
overloaded and burned out.  The moment they fell, Wolfram and Hart's
forces spilled over the walls, invading the compound in a rush of violence
and rage.

The monks and nonhumans inside were ready for them and that was all 
that had saved them.  If the attack had come as a surprise, the monks would 
have been overwhelmed.  Now the two groups fought, with the nonhumans on the  monks' side wearing yellow strips of cloth around their limbs to distinguish them from the invaders.

Xander drew himself up, getting ready to plunge back into the fray.  A
skirmish across the way caught his attention and he was off and running.
Wesley and Doyle were encircled by a group of demons and looked to be in trouble.  Even as Xander made his way over to them, Doyle slipped into his demon guise, needing the advantage of strength and speed that it brought in order to protect both himself and Wesley.  

With Xander's help, the attacking demons were soon driven off,  fleeing across the  compound.  Xander watched as Doyle shifted back to human form, embarrassment clear  in every line of the half-demon's face.  He had  no idea if Doyle had told Wesley about  himself before that or not.  Groping for a way to help the moment pass, Xander smiled and  asked, "So...just how far down do those spikes go?"  Doyle choked, and cast a desperate glance  over at Wesley. 

The spectacled man met his gaze evenly.  He hesitated for a moment,  then said, "I have no idea.  But I can't wait to find out."  There was the suggestion of a leer in his expression.

Pleased by the look of stunned happiness on Doyle's face, Xander figured
they'd be all right.  Wesley was going to handle Doyle's heritage just fine. 
Which was great, because they were so damn *cute* together.  

Confident that all would be well for them, he turned his attention to the fight,  looking for another place he was needed.  One area came to his attention and for a moment all he could do was stare incredulously at the fighters, unable to believe what he was seeing.  Muttering curses under his breath, he sprinted across the compound, twisting his way past struggling knots of bodies.  Finally, he reached the people whom he had notice.

Buffy.  The Slayer.  Getting her ass kicked by three *humans*.

She was fighting, but not anywhere near her full strength.  Xander 
could see that she was pulling her blows, avoiding unleashing her true 
capabilities and skills against them.  Because of this, the three of them had 
managed to back her into a corner.  Penned in, she was sustaining heavy blows  as she worked to hold them off, but made no real moves against them.

He plowed into the closest of them, forcing him into the wall with  devastating force.  Stunned, the man dropped to the ground.  Xander kicked him in the head, and the fallen man was down for the count.  One of the others turned on Xander, so the dark-haired man hit him in the head with one of his modified crosses.  Vampire or not, that much iron slammed into one's head was bound to do some damage.

Facing only one opponent, Buffy still remained on the defensive.  It was
as if she was unwilling to take any actual action against him.

Xander grabbed the last man by the back of the neck and ran him into the
wall. The guy ended up wobbly, but he wasn't quite out.  Holding him up 
with a fist knotted in the collar of his shirt, Xander rounded on Buffy.  "What  the hell was that?"

Breathing hard, she glared at him.  "What are you talking about?"

"You're the Slayer, and you can't handle these guys?"

"They're humans," she said, as if that explained everything.

"They attacked you!"

"They're *humans*."

Xander stared at her for a moment, then nodded to himself.  "Oh, I 
get it.  Now I know what you are.  You're a bigot."

"I'm a what?"

"You heard me.  A bigot.  You're a speciesist."


"Speciesist."  He raised his voice into a falsetto.  "Oh, I can't hurt these 
guys - they're *human*.  I can beat the shit out of nonhumans,  because they're evil.  Not humans, though.  They're not evil.  No evil in my species.  Only in others."  Dropping the falsetto he added, "No wonder you're dating the ex-nazi."

"What did you call Riley?"

"Ex-nazi.  I've heard about that Initiative outfit he was hooked up 
with. They sound like a bunch of nazis to me - out to exterminate the 
lesser beings, confident in their supremacy.  They even performed 
experiments on  some beings, as if being human gave them some sort of 
special righteousness."

"That's how it works on the Hellmouth," she said defensively.  "The 
demons there are the ones I fight in order to protect the humans."

"Right.  Well, in the rest of the world, things aren't so easy, all right? 
Species doesn't matter.  Actions do."  He shook the dazed man in his grip.
"This guy attacked the monastery."  Xander slammed him into the wall.  "He tried to kick your ass."  Slam.  "I don't care how closely related he is
to monkeys, he" slam "is" slam "the bad guy."  After a final slam, Xander
dropped his captive, unconscious at last, to the ground.  He stared at
Buffy.  "Get your head on straight, or you're going to get someone
killed."  He didn't give her any chance to reply as he darted off to
rejoin the fight.

He dusted a vampire with almost no effort, then was drawn into an 
Extended scuffle with blue-horned Lanert.  Xander blocked most of the blows  directed at him, waiting for his chance to strike a death blow with his drawn  dagger. 

Fighting for his life, Xander felt exhilarated.  He was alive, his senses
heightened and focused, his entire body working at its peak level of
performance.  All his training and skills came together to transform him
into a smooth-running fighting machine, confident in his power and his
ability. Even as he fought to end the conflict, he didn't want to lose
that feeling. The closest he came to it outside of fighting was when he
was with Angel. Angel...

Past the Lanert, he caught sight of Angel struggling with a larger demon. 
That was it:  he didn't have any more time to play around.  Angel 
need him. 

In a flurry of movement, he knocked the Lanert out of position and 
slammed his blade into its chest, not bothering to watch as it shuddered back  into its death throes.  Xander jerked his dagger free and ran a few steps  forward.

He drew up short at the sight of Angel, who was doing the exact same
thing: running toward him past a fallen opponent.

"Xander!  Are you all right?"  Angel's gaze moved over him avidly.  
The vampire glanced over at the dead Lanert, hate clear in his expression.

"Fine.  I was just coming to help you."  Xander shared a grin with Angel;  
it was nice to be cared for, nice to know that he had someone who was 
willing to fight for him, to come to his defense.

He stayed close to Angel after that, fighting at his side as they worked to
repel the invaders.  He had plans for the vampire that would be seriously
hampered if the other man ended up as free floating dust particles.  

The fact that he was rapidly falling in love with Angel also made him a
bit protective as well.

Snapping a quick glance around the compound, Xander saw that his side
seemed to be gaining the upper hand.  The monks and friendly nonhumans
definitely outnumbered the invaders now.  He and Angel made their way over to the entrance of the library.  The casualties were heavier there; injured monks  lay groaning along the walls, and demon bodies littered the hallways.

Xander was relieved to see Brother Thom still standing sentry at the door
to the library.  "Brother Thom!  Is everything all right?"

"Aside from the fact that we're under attack?  Things are just peachy!" the
monk shot back.  "We're fine.  They haven't broken through."

If they hadn't yet, then they weren't going to.  Xander felt an overwhelming
wave of relief; Willow was in the library, so Willow was safe.  Him 
getting involved in her life hadn't resulted in disaster, after all.

Xander could feel the hairs on the back of his neck rising as magical
forces gathered around the monastery.  The people in the library were re-
erecting the protective wards once more.

They were going to win.

Xander shared a victorious glance with Angel, then led the way back to the 
main part of the compound.  The fighting still raged on there, but it was
in smaller and smaller pockets as an increasing number of Wolfram and
Hart's forces fled the monastery.  

Xander made his way around the fighting, lending a hand to send the final
remnants of the invading force fleeing.  Finally, the last one of them was
sent scurrying back over the wall.  After that, all that was left to do
was place the unconscious and wounded outside in the street, along with
the dead.

The monks were charitable, but not that charitable.  These people had hurt
them; they would receive no help.  They had known the risks they incurred
by participating in the attack.

Xander watched as the injured monks were attended to.  He could cure a
hangover, but he wouldn't be much help here, so he held himself back and
stayed out of the way.  These men were his friends, his family, and he
dreaded the moment when he would see that one of them was dead rather than just injured.  

He didn't realize his hands were clenched into fists until Angel reached out
and took them in his own and gently forced them to open and relax.  

He stared up at the vampire.  "Wolfram and Hart are going to pay for this."

Angel nodded.  "They'll pay for everything they've done."  He moved to hold Xander, to off his support through physical contact.  Xander embraced him fiercely, glad that Angel had survived the fight, that he was still there to hold.  

He saw the abbot walking towards them, but made no move to leave Angel's arms. This was where he wanted to be, and he was under no obligation to apologize for it.  The monks knew about his life, and accepted it.  "What's the score, Pop?"

"The library held secure," the older man replied.  "The rest of the monastery suffered minor damage, but nothing serious.  Nothing we can't rebuild."

"How many dead?"  Xander forced the question out.


"None?"  Giles's voice was disbelieving as he and the rest of the Sunnydale
people approached.  "That's impossible.  An attack like that, for there to be
no deaths, it would take a miracle."

The abbot smiled.  "Yes."  He transferred his attention back to Xander.  "Go on.  We can handle it from here.  You have things to do."  He glanced
around the gathering crowd of humans and demons as the remaining defenders congregated in the courtyard.  "Thank you all for your aid.  If there is every any way that I or my brothers can repay you, please let us know."

Xander grinned and stepped out of Angel's embrace so he could face the demons. "There are definitely free drinks for all of you next Friday at The Other Side.  They'll all be on me.  Just let me warn Tark."

As his friends cheered, a familiar voice said, "That's going to be expensive,

Xander turned to stare at his boss, who was leaning against the gateway
leading into the monastery.  "Tark?  What are you doing here?"

"I decided to stay outside with the rest of the reinforcements.  I wanted a
little more room to maneuver while we took the sons of bitches out here in the streets."

"I am so getting you a gift for Boss's Day this year."

"Yes, you are," Tark agreed.  "You're also showing up for work again soon,

"Absolutely."  Xander moved to talk to the demons as they left, to thank them for their help.  The miracle of the monks extended to them as well:  while some had been hurt, there had been no fatalities.  Xander was greatly relieved; he didn't want the deaths of any more friend's on his conscience. After the last nonhuman was gone, he turned to the group from Sunnydale.

If looks could kill, Buffy's glare would have reduced him to a smoldering
puddle of Xander.  Looked like she had finally clued into his involvement with Angel.

This could get interesting.  

Xander quickly transferred his attention to Willow.  "Wills, are you all

"Fine.  I'm just a little tired from getting the wards back up."  She
smiled wearily at him, leaning against Oz as he held her close.

"Speaking of, we'd better head out.  They're going to want to extend the
wards beyond the library, and I've had my quota of exposure to magic

"Oh yeah," Buffy agreed.  "Let's head out.  We've got so much to talk
about." Her glare was now fixated on Angel.

Xander waited for his lover to meet his eyes, and what he saw in them made him grin again.  Love and hunger and confidence...all for Xander.  Buffy's disapproval wasn't going to change anything between them.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw an extremely rumpled Doyle and an equally disheveled Wesley discreetly join the group.  With a nod, he led the way out of the gate.  Time to go home, get rid of everyone for the rest of the night and the next day, and do something about the hunger in Angel's gaze.


Angel kept his hands to himself through sheer force of will.  It was
difficult; Xander was walking beside him, and the vampire’s hands fairly
itched to reach out and touch, to pull him close and reaffirm again
through touch that he was all right.  He could’ve lost him in the fight,
could’ve lost him in depression over hurt and killed friends, but that
hadn’t happened.  He just wanted to have Xander back in his arms and feel
the warm strength of him and be sure he was whole, and his.

Of course, that would probably push Buffy over the edge of decorum on
which she was teetering, and he really didn’t have the energy to deal with
that.  He could feel her gaze drilling in between his shoulder blades. 
She had seen him and Xander in each other’s arms in the monastery, and he
knew she wasn’t just going to let it go.  So far she was holding her
peace, but he knew that wouldn’t last once they got back to the office. 
She might draw the line at confrontations on the street, but as soon as
they were behind closed doors, all bets would be off.

Xander glanced up at him, and Angel was warmed by the weary sparkle of
humor in the mortal’s eyes.  Xander rolled his eyes back toward Buffy and
grimaced a little, but the sparkle remained in his gaze.  “The sooner we
get this over with,” he said quietly, “the sooner we can get rid of them.”

“I thought you’d want them around,” Angel said.  “You haven’t seen Willow in years.”

“I don’t want them to go forever.  I just need them gone for a day or so.”

“Or so?”

A sly twist of lips.  “There’s a lot of ravishment I want to get done. 
It’s going to take a while.”  Xander’s expression grew serious.  “I love
Willow. She’s the one bright spot in my past.  I’m beginning to believe
that you’re going to be the light in my future.”

Angel missed a step, recovered, and managed to continue on without anyone noticing.  Well, anyone except Xander, but the affectionate amusement the dark-haired man was directing toward him made it ok.  Angel was more concerned with what Xander had just said.  Besides giving him the sensation that he was fairly certain was known as “warm fuzzies”, they also filled him with hope. He wasn’t alone in what he was feeling.  Xander had fallen just as hard.

Angel forced himself to slow down.  He’d begun walking faster.

Yeah, Xander was laughing at him again.  That was just fine.  Angel would
make him pay for it later.

Finally, they reached the office.  Just in time, because the vampire was
beginning to worry about that spot between his shoulder blades.  Buffy’s
glare had to be doing permanent damage to it.

Cordelia jumped up from the chair in which she’d been sitting.  “Finally! 
As much as I didn’t want to do any fighting, I really hate being left
behind, too.  Do none of you think to call?  What’s the point of owning
cell phones if you’re never going to use them?”

Angel raised his hands placatingly.  “Sorry, Cordelia.  We’re just tired. 
We came back here as soon as it was over.”

“Everyone’s all right?”  Her gaze traveled quickly around the room,
looking them all over.

“Fine.  Maybe a little battered, but we’re fine.”

She nodded and picked up her purse.  “I’m exhausted.  Waiting for the damn phone to ring wears a girl out.  Well, me at least.  I’ve never had to do that much before.  I’ll catch you all later.”  She made her way to the

Angel wasn’t fooled.  He knew Cordelia could read people.  She’d taken one look at the way Buffy was staring at him and Xander, and all of a sudden she could hardly stay awake.  She was making a break for it before the fireworks started.

She so wasn’t getting a raise.

As the door swung shut, Xander leaned back against the desk, perched
lightly on it.  “I can’t wait to get to bed.  I don’t even want to think
about getting out of it until sometime next week.”  

How did he keep a  straight face when he did that?  Someday Angel was
going to make him reveal the trick to it.  The vampire turned his
attention back to Buffy, and watched as her brow furrowed dangerously. 
That look on her face did not bode well for anyone.  He jumped in with a
comment before Xander could try to bait her any more.  “Thank you so much for your help,” he said sincerely.

Xander nodded.  “Thank you.  Willow, are you sure you’re all right?”

The redhead was being mostly supported by Oz.  She nodded and snuggled
closer to her boyfriend.  “I’m just wiped, that’s all.  Spell casting is
almost as tiring as watching the phone.”

“We should get back to the hotel,” Giles said, removing his glasses and
wiping at them nervously.  “I’m sure we could all do with some rest.”

“Not so fast.”  Buffy held up a hand, and pinned Xander and Angel with her gaze.  “I’ve got  a few questions to ask.”

“Can’t they wait?” Doyle asked.  “I really just want to take a shower and
sleep for a week.”

“Nope.  They can’t.”  Buffy looked from Angel to Xander and back again. 
“What is this?”  Tension thickened in the atmosphere; everyone could feel
it.  Oz shifted nervously, and Giles removed his glasses and began to wipe

“This?”  Xander sounded honestly surprised.  He glanced down at the desk
he was half-sitting on.  “It’s a desk.  I’m pretty sure they have them in

“Cut the crap.  What’s going on with you and Angel?”

Angel hesitated.  He knew she wasn’t going to take this well.  What did
Xander want to do?  He looked over at his lover, and the quiet confidence
he saw on his face was all he needed.  “Not that it’s any of your
business,” he turned to meet Buffy’s gaze, “but Xander and I are

“Oh good lord.”  Giles began to wipe at his glasses even faster, polishing
them furiously.

“None of my business?”  Her eyes narrowed dangerously.

“You’ve moved on.”  Angel glanced over at Riley, who was standing behind Buffy, just at her shoulder.  “Why can’t I?”

“Because if you move on, I’ll have to clean up the mess.  Remember?  Or
were you two planning on some sort of platonic relationship?”

Angel was saved from replying by Xander’s snort of laughter.  “Oh, yeah. 
All look and no touch.  That’s exactly what I’m looking for.”  He grinned
at Angel.  “Right after our next date, I’ll be heading over to the
monastery to join up.  I want to get me one of those cool haircuts.”

“This isn’t a joke, Xander,” Buffy said.  “You weren’t there.  You don’t
know how bad things can get when Angelus is around.”  The shadows in her eyes were matched by those in Giles’, in Willow’s, in Oz’s, in Wesley’s.

“That’s not going to happen,” Angel said, fighting down the guilt and
remorse again.  He couldn’t change the past.  He could only try to atone
by serving the Powers That Be.  “The curse doesn’t work like that, not any

“How?  Why didn’t you tell me?”

“The Powers That Be changed it, I don’t know how.  I didn’t tell you
because it didn’t matter any more.  You’d moved on.  There was nothing
left between us but regret.  What would be the point?”

She shook her head.  “You should have told me.”

“It wouldn’t have made any difference.”  Angel was stopped from explaining by Xander’s hand on his shoulder.

The dark-haired man had stood up and moved to stand beside him.  “You’re never going to win this,” he said quietly.  “I’ve had enough conversations after bad breaks to know.”  He looked at Buffy.  “Buffy, thank you for your help.  I appreciate it, and I know the monks do too.”  His gaze traveled over the other people in the room.  “Thank you all.”

Willow smiled at him.  “We were glad to help.”  Her smile grew.  “Just
don’t wait until another demony disaster to get in contact again.”

“Definitely not.”  Xander walked over and gave her a hug.  “Not now that I
know you again.”  He mock-glared at Oz.  “Hurt her, and I’m so turning you into a rug.”  The two friends held each other tightly for a few more
minutes, then Xander moved to stand by Angel again, leaning against him.

Angel leaned against him as well, enjoying the warmth from the other man’s skin that radiated through his clothing.  The vampire echoed Xander’s thanks, then looked seriously at Buffy.  “Thank you, Buffy.”

She nodded shortly.  “Right.  I guess we should be going now.”

Wesley cleared his throat delicately.  “I’ll be staying behind, actually.
There is some fairly intensive research that I wish to do, so I’ll be
extending my stay.”

Angel kept a straight face, but he heard a strangled noise come from
Xander. Intensive research.  Right.  On the mating habits of Bracchen
half-demons, no doubt.

“Fine.”  Buffy glanced briefly at Angel and Xander.  “Bye.”  Then she was
gone, with the rest of the people from Sunnydale trailing after her.

Once they were gone, Angel sighed.  “That went better than I thought it
would. No yelling, no flourishing of stakes.  A downright success.”

Xander grasped his hand in his.  “No stakes definitely constitutes a
success.” He leaned in closer.  “She’ll get over it.”

Angel nodded.  He pushed all thoughts of Buffy out of his mind.  He had
more important things to worry about.  He lifted an eyebrow at Wesley and
Doyle. “Don’t you two have some research to be doing?”

Doyle grinned at him.  “You got something you’d rather do then hang out
with us?  I thought we could order a pizza, rehash the fighting...”  He
looked startled at the low growl that answered his words.

Xander was the one growling.

Wesley grabbed a hold of Doyle.  “Right.  We’ll be going, then.”  He
dragged the Irishman out of the office.

Alone at last.  Angel didn’t wait to hear the words waiting behind
Xander’s teasing grin.  He grabbed the other man and pulled him close,
covering those smirking lips with his own.  He sought out the warmth of
Xander’s mouth, tongue tangling wetly with the mortal’s.  

After long moments, the kiss finally broke.  Gasping a little for breath,
Xander stared up at him with dilated eyes.  “What was that?”

“Making you mine.”  Angel grinned and pulled Xander into the elevator and then into his bedroom.  He began to divest the other man of his clothing.  Xander wasn’t idle; he was working just as hard to remove Angel’s clothing.  Finally, they were both free of clothes.

Angel took a moment to allow his gaze to wander possessively over Xander’s body; the lean lines of his body, the dark lines of hair, the smooth
muscles. All his.  He pushed Xander back onto the bed and crawled on top
of him, delighting in the feel of so much warm skin against his own.

Beneath him, Xander reached up to run long-fingered hands over Angel’s
skin, trailing his fingers down the vampire’s flanks, reaching for the
erection that was standing proudly from his body.

Angel straddled Xander’s hips, sitting up.  As he did so, he grabbed
Xander’s wrists, imprisoning his hands.  “No.”

“No?” Xander panted.

“I told you, I’m going to make you mine.”  Angel raised Xander’s hands to
his lips and dragged his blunt teeth across the back of one of them.

Xander shuddered, and thrust upward hard.  “Hurry up.”

“Hurry up?”  Angel grinned as he pressed Xander’s wrists into the mattress
over his head and held them there with one hand.

“Yeah.  ‘Cause then it’s going to be my turn to claim *you*.”

Angel lunged forward and captured that infuriating, arousing mouth with
his own.  He released Xander’s wrists and ran possessive hands over
Xander’s body, claiming it with his touch.  He had no patience, no ability
to wait.  He wanted Xander, needed him, and needed him right then.

One groping hand found the bottle of lube, and be prepared Xander quickly, not willing to take any chances of hurting him.  Xander writhed beneath him, head thrown back and muscles tense as he struggled to keep his hands on the bed and obey Angel.

Then Angel was thrusting into him with a single powerful motion, then
sensation of being inside his lover causing him to cry out sharply.  He
moved in a relentless rhythm designed to drive Xander out of his mind.

The younger man reached up and caught Angel’s shoulders, pulling himself up to kiss him desperately.  Angel returned the kiss, controlling it, and he pushed Xander back down onto the bed, following him as he went, never breaking the kiss.  

Feeling himself begin to slip toward the edge, Angel licked his way down
Xander’s jaw, then down the line of his throat until he came to the
juncture of neck and shoulder.  Fighting for control, he scraped blunt,
human teeth over the delicate skin.

Xander immediately tilted his head to one side, offering himself up even
as he thrust up against Angel faster, harder.

“Are you sure?” Angel whispered into his ear.

“Please,” Xander gasped out, hands cradling Angel’s head and pulling him
closer.  “Do it, do it now.”

Angel didn’t need a second invitation,  He slipped into gameface and
carefully bit into Xander’s skin.  Warm blood, sweet with arousal and
love, rose to meet his mouth and he drank hungrily, needing the connection
for more than the liquid.  He sped up the speed of his thrusts, and with a
shuddering wail Xander came.  His lover’s release triggered his own and
Angel lifted his head from Xander’s mouth and cried out in love and
triumph and ownership.

He pulled Xander into his arms and licked at the twin wounds in his neck,
knowing they would heal without scars thanks to their connection.  Xander
murmured contentedly into his chest, snuggling even closer.  

After a few moments, he lover opened his eyes.  “Give me about a week, and I’ll be up to moving and returning the favor.”  He tilted his head and
kissed Angel deeply.  “I love you.”

Angel’s arms tightened around him.  “I love you.  You’re mine.”

“Hey, the ownership’s mutual.”  Xander’s eyes were dark with emotion. 
“But yeah, I’m yours.”  He began to murmur sleepily, the muttered babble
that signaled he was approaching sleep.

Angel held him close, listening with affection.  He could barely
understand, but thought he caught a few words:  return, shit, brick, and

Angel laughed quietly.  Oh, yeah.  He couldn’t wait for Spike to return to
town.  Wrapped around his lover, Angel joined him in sleep.



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